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Title: A Memoir of Thomas Bewick - Written by himself
Author: Bewick, Thomas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Memoir of Thomas Bewick - Written by himself" ***


  _DRAWN by JOHN BEWICK, 1781_





                             THOMAS BEWICK,

                          WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.

                             EMBELLISHED BY

                       NUMEROUS WOOD ENGRAVINGS,



                      FOR JANE BEWICK, GATESHEAD.

                      AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.

               [_The Right of Translation is Reserved._]


“While speaking of the English school, I must not omit to notice a truly
original genius, who, though not a painter, was an artist of the highest
order in his way—Thomas Bewick, the admirable designer and engraver on
wood. His works, indeed, are of the smallest dimensions, but this makes
it only the more surprising that so much interest could be comprised
within such little spaces. The wood cuts that illustrate his books of
natural history may be studied with advantage by the most ambitious
votary of the highest classes of art—filled as they are by the truest
feeling for nature, and though often representing the most ordinary
objects, yet never, in a single instance, degenerating into
common-place. The charming vignettes that ornament these books abound in
incidents from real life, diversified by genuine humour, as well as by
the truest pathos—of which the single figure of a shipwrecked sailor
saying his prayers on a rock, with the waves rising round him, is an
instance. There is often in these little things a deep meaning that
places his art on a level with styles which the world is apt to consider
as greatly above it, in proof of which I would mention the party of boys
playing at soldiers among graves, and mounted on a row of upright
tombstones for horses; while for quaint humour, extracted from a very
simple source, may be noticed a procession of geese which have just
waddled through a stream, while their line of march is continued by a
row of stepping-stones. The student of landscape can never consult the
works of Bewick without improvement. The backgrounds to the figures of
his Quadrupeds and his Birds, and his vignettes, have a charm of nature
quite his own. He gives us, in these, every season of the year; and his
trees, whether in the clothing of summer, or in the nakedness of winter,
are the trees of an artist bred in the country. He is equally true in
his little home scenes, his farm-yards and cottages, as in the wild
coast scenery, with the flocks of sea birds wheeling round the rocks. In
one of these subjects there stands a ruined church, towards which the
sea has encroached, the rising tide threatening to submerge a tombstone
raised “to perpetuate the memory,” &c. Bewick resembles Hogarth in this,
that his illustrations of the stories of others are not to be compared
with his own inventions. His feeling for the beauties of nature as they
were impressed on him directly, and not at second-hand, is akin to the
feeling of Burns, and his own designs remind me, therefore, much more of
Burns than the few which he made from the poet.”—_Leslie’s Hand Book for
Young Painters._




The anxiety necessarily attendant upon the publication of this volume
being now brought to a close, it only remains to apologise for the
delay, for which many reasons might be adduced, and to express a hope
that it may be received with the same favour which has for so long a
period been kindly extended to the works of Thomas Bewick. It may be
matter of interest to many of his admirers to learn that the whole of
the wood cuts now in the hands of the family are in as good preservation
as when they left the graver.[1]

Footnote 1:

  As evidence of which, it is impossible to distinguish the cuts
  introduced into the last edition of “Birds” from those previously
  published. This is due to the well-known fact, as mentioned at page
  243, that an immense number of impressions may be taken from a wood
  block; and to the system, peculiar to Thomas Bewick, of lowering all
  the more delicate parts.

This volume was considerably advanced at press before it was decided to
append the cuts of the Fishes; an arrangement which it is hoped may meet
with general approbation—more particularly as, by that means, the cuts
and the vignettes[2] engraved for the History of Fishes will thus go
together. Much additional matter respecting the Fishes, which had
occupied so much time and attention, would doubtless have found a place
in the pages of the Memoir, had not the hand of Death so suddenly
arrested the labours of the Author. From the ample materials which
exist, the Appendix might have been greatly extended, but it is now felt
to be desirable to bring the publication to a termination as speedily as

                                                                   J. B.

Gateshead-on-Tyne, May, 1862.

Footnote 2:

  The vignette placed at page 286—a view of Cherryburn, with Mickley
  Bank in the distance, and a funeral procession descending the sloping
  pasture towards the boat, waiting to convey it across the Tyne to the
  last resting-place of the family at Ovingham—appears, from the date
  attached, to be the last vignette ever executed by Thomas Bewick.



It is at this period when the full value of a well-spent life will shine
with full effulgence upon the mind, and spread over it a
self-approbation of more worth than all the riches of the world. An
ill-spent life, on the contrary, will bring forward its recollections,
and send the guilty and polluted body unregretted to the grave, and the
degraded soul to the Giver of it, to be disposed of, in the justice and
mercy it will be found to deserve.—_Loose Note._

                                                                   T. B.




                               CHAPTER I.

 Introductory—Parentage—Birth, 1753—Mickley School—Ovingham       1–13
   School—First attempts at drawing—Hunting
   parties—Sheep—Shelter for sheep in snow
   storms—Birds—Border songs and laments—Earl of
   Derwentwater—Whins food for cattle

                              CHAPTER II.

 Employments in spring—Angling—Mischievous pranks—Floggings      14–31
   at school—Ghosts and Boggles—Change in the
   mind—Man-fights, dog-fights, cock-fights—Fear of ghosts
   entertained by the bulk of the people—Meet the Devil going
   a-guising—Miss Gregson’s reproof—Mr. Gregson’s
   lecture—Birds and their nests—Ants—Bees

                              CHAPTER III.

 Description of Cherryburn—The surrounding common—The            32–49
   peasantry—Will Bewick—Anthony Liddell—Thos. Forster—John
   Chapman—Their peculiarities and way of life—The very old
   men—Their avidity for news—Old Soldiers—John Cowie—Ben
   Garlick—Their enthusiastic description of the battles they
   had fought—The Borderers—Their propensity for war and
   rapine—Their names—The farmers of Tyneside—The lairds—The
   gentry—Plan of the late Duke of Northumberland for raising
   the character of the peasantry—Parish relief
   degrading—Proposed iron works at Eltringham—Failure of the

                              CHAPTER IV.

 Sent on trial to Ralph Beilby, engraver—Day of the binding      50–61
   arrives—Grief on leaving the country—Call at the
   parsonage, Ovingham—Assembling of the villagers at the
   church-yard gates—Betty Kell’s luck penny—Journey to
   Newcastle, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Gregson and his
   son—Lecture—Christopher Gregson bound on the same
   day—Scrape at King Jamie’s Well—New master and his
   discipline—Sketch of the Family—Copy Copeland’s
   Ornaments—Block out the diagrams for Charles Hutton’s
   work—Etch sword-blades for W. and N. Oley, of Shotley
   Bridge—Coarse work of the shop—Silversmiths’ work—Wood cut
   of George and the Dragon—Cuts for Children’s books—Story
   Teller—Gay’s Fables—Select Fables—Obtain a premium for the
   cut of the old hound—Mr. Gregson’s congratulations

                               CHAPTER V.

 Lodge with Mrs. Blackett—Gilbert Gray—His excellent             62–79
   character—Lodge at Hatfields—Scamps and tramps—Rise early
   and obtain access to my master’s books, and to those at
   the workshop of Wm. Gray—Religious books—Become unwell—Dr.
   Bailes prescribes—Recommends temperance and exercise—Walks
   to Elswick Whey-house—Bread and milk diet—Walks to
   Cherryburn after shop hours—Reflections on getting into
   debt—William Bulmer, printer—Robert Pollard,
   engraver—Thomas Spence—His vagaries—George Gray—His worthy
   character—Engrave cuts for Dr. Hutton’s Mathematical
   Works, 1773, and for Dr. Horsley’s edition of Sir Isaac
   Newton’s works, 1778—Bird catchers and bird
   dealers—Profligate men—Serjeant Hymers—Whittaker
   Shadforth—Practise the manual exercise—Miss Beilby—Her

                              CHAPTER VI.

 Expiration of apprenticeship, 1774—Return to                    80–93
   Cherryburn—Employed on wood cuts for printers—Remain at
   Cherryburn till 1776—Beauty of
   Tyneside—Hunting—Angling—Northumberland pipes—Pedestrian
   tour to Cumberland—Carlisle—Langholm—Hawick—
   Selkirk—Dalkeith—Edinburgh—Border scenery—Auld Reekie—Walk
   to Glasgow—To Dumbarton—Smollett’s monument on the side of
   the Leven—Walk through the Highlands of Scotland—Grandeur
   of the scenery—Admiration of the people—Their
   dwellings—Their loyalty to Prince Charles—Their
   hospitality—Fairs and trysts—Scotch music and
   dancing—Leave the Highlands with regret—Walk to
   Stirling—Thence by Linlithgow to Edinburgh—Return to
   Newcastle by sea

                              CHAPTER VII.

 Visit London, 1776—Meeting with friends and                    94–104
   schoolfellows—Execute wood cuts for Isaac Taylor—Meet with
   Serjeant Hymers—Wood cuts for Thomas Hodgson—Work for Mr.
   Carnan and Mr. Newberry—Fallen women and their
   misery—Reverse of the picture—Celebrated
   preachers—Religions of different sects—Preference for the
   Church of England—Offer of procuring employment with Mr.
   Pingo of the Mint—Surplus cash, how disposed of—Dislike to
   London—Determine to leave it—Mr. Taylor remonstrates on
   the subject—Mr. Hodgson’s kind offer to furnish
   employment—His legacy—Leave London by sea—Arrive at
   Newcastle, 1777

                             CHAPTER VIII.

 Fit up a work bench at Hatfields—Offer of partnership with    105–114
   Mr. Beilby—Reflections thereon—Brother John Bewick—His
   amiable disposition—His talent—Visits to Cherryburn with
   him—His early death, 1795—Angling—River-side
   scenery—Change of the seasons—Reflections—Hardy

                              CHAPTER IX.

 Presentiment of a change at Cherryburn—Death of father,       115–123
   mother, and sister, 1785—Sketches of their
   characters—Visits to Cherryburn cease—George
   Parkin—Diabolical attempt on his life

                               CHAPTER X.

 Isaac Hymen—Mr. Langlands—Matthew Prior—American war—Alfred   124–134
   the Great—Become acquainted with a society of literary
   young men—Their dinners—Their songs—Northumberland pipes
   introduced at the Theatre—Peacock—Cant—John Bowman—His
   skill on the fife

                              CHAPTER XI.

 Thomas Lawson—Walk to York with Philip Gregson—Return by      135–143
   Borough Bridge—Darlington—Westward by Bowes—Over
   Stainmore—To Penrith and Ainstable—To Cherryburn and
   Newcastle—Perambulation to Berwick—Stop at Elwick—Nearly
   swept away by the tide in crossing to Holy Island—Speeches
   delivered at Alnwick—Swarley’s Club—Wood cuts for
   Hutchinson’s History of Durham—For Walker, of Hereford—For
   Nicholson, of Ludlow—For Bulmer’s publications of
   Parnell’s Hermit and Goldsmith’s Deserted Village—Copper
   plates for Sir Harry Liddell’s tour to Lapland—Canal
   plates, 1796

                              CHAPTER XII.

 Commence the History of Quadrupeds with the wood cut of the   144–152
   Dromedary, 1785—Rev. R. Oliphant—Rev. T. Hornby—Marriage
   with Miss Elliot—Her death, 1826—Visit to Chillingham,
   1789—Large wood cut of the Chillingham Bull—Visit John
   Bell at Eslington—Make a drawing there of a Newfoundland
   dog—Illness of Rev. C. Gregson—His death, 1790—His
   estimable character

                             CHAPTER XIII.

 Commence first volume of the History of Birds—Charmed with    153–165
   the subject—Ornithological works of that
   day—Correspondence with friends and amateurs on the
   subject—Visit Mr. Tunstal’s museum at Wycliffe, 1791—Make
   drawings of birds there—Lodge with John Goundry—Rev. Dr.
   Zouch—His hospitality—His liberality of
   sentiment—Christians and Christianity—Thoughts on the
   Deity—Man in Society—Genus homo—Canine race—Their
   instincts—Return from Wycliffe—Visit an old
   schoolfellow—Preserved birds superseded by birds newly
   shot—Birds sent by General Dalbiac, Lieutenant-Colonel
   Dalton, Major Shore, Major H. F. Gibson, and from all
   parts of the kingdom—First volume of History of Birds
   finished at press, 1797—Mr. Beilby retires—Gratitude a
   rare virtue—Carelessness in money matters—Second volume of
   the Birds published, 1804—Additions to the first
   volume—Severe confinement and application—Motives for
   labours—Encouraged by amateurs

                              CHAPTER XIV.

 Natural History retarded by the work of the shop—Writing      166–171
   engraving—Plates for bank notes—Prevention of
   forgery—Carlisle bank note—King George III. approves of
   this note—Correspondence with S. Thornton, Esq., 1801—Ends
   in nothing—Commission appointed to investigate the subject
   of forgery, 1818—Engrave plates for the Berwick Bank—The
   Northumberland Bank—Gave in a plan to the
   commissioners—The leading objects permanency,
   &c.—Correspondence with Sir Joseph Banks on the
   subject—Fairman, Perkins, and Heath—Their
   specimens—Opinions of the commissioners delivered in the
   House of Commons by Mr. Pierce—Sir William Congreve a
   commissioner—His successful operations

                              CHAPTER XV.

 Illness, 1812—Æsop’s Fables commenced—An arduous              172–184
   undertaking—Published, 1818—Remarks on the French
   Revolution, 1789—Causes of it—War declared by England,
   1793—Waste of life and treasure—Apathy of country
   gentlemen—Remarks on the loyalty of that day—Valour of
   British seamen—Rise in the value of land—Incites to
   agricultural improvements—Messrs. Bailey and Culley—Their
   agricultural reports—Mr. Smith’s Cheviot sheep—Make a
   drawing of a ram—Sagacity of the shepherd’s dog—Fat cattle
   for Durham report

                              CHAPTER XVI.

 Further remarks on the measures and supporters of Mr.         185–189
   Pitt—Witches—Their treatment—Consequences of ignorance—Mr.
   Pitt’s motives—General Bonaparte’s victories—His ambition
   and consequent ruin—Reflections on war and its
   horrors—What might have been done with the men and the
   money—The moss-troopers—Their ferocity

                             CHAPTER XVII.

 Gifts of Omnipotence to the human race—Duty of man to         190–199
   cultivate these gifts—Consequences of neglecting these
   duties—Education to be given to every one—An imperative
   duty upon the community—To check the reasoning power a
   crime—Masters and servants—Equality impossible—Patriotism
   a first duty—Alfred the Great—Foundation of England’s
   glory laid by him—Free discussion should be
   encouraged—Review of past transactions—Foreign despots and
   demi-oligarchs—Loans wrung from the people—Jacobins,
   Levellers, and Radicals—Fears for the safety of Great
   Britain—The King can settle this question, and entitle
   himself to the gratitude of posterity

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

 Major Cartwright—Disapprove of his scheme of universal        200–207
   suffrage—Elections may be simplified—Wasteful expenditure
   to be avoided—Holy Alliance—Spain and
   Italy—Superstition—Society for the Suppression of
   Vice—Constitutional Association—Its object—Betrayers of
   innocence, robbers of widows—Tattoo their
   backs—Criminals—Plan to redeem their characters—Laws of
   England—Need of revision—The learned
   professions—Preference for medical men

                              CHAPTER XIX.

 Remarks on the education of children—Their health and         208–217
   pursuits—Education of girls—Horticulture and Floriculture
   recommended to ladies—Freeholders—Their
   duties—Oaths—Immorality—Profligacy—Thoughts on
   marriage—Education of boys

                              CHAPTER XX.

 The game laws—Riflemen—The fisheries—Grants in feudal         218–230
   times—A change necessary—The way to effect
   this—Remuneration to the present owners—Salmon formerly
   abundant in the Tyne—Spawning places—Weirs and dams—Impure
   water—Appointment of vigilant guards—Destruction of Salmon
   by the porpoise—Suggestions for catching the porpoise—Uses
   to which they may be applied—Necessity of protecting the
   parent fishes—Incredible number of the fry—The
   angler—Angling ought to be unchecked—Preserved waters
   debar the angler—Formation of Waltonian Societies
   recommended—Their duties—Constant beating of the streams
   to be discountenanced—Pought nets—Catching the fry in
   mill-races, and liming the burns, to be prohibited—Angling
   and its delights—Beautiful scenery—Permanent pools may be
   stocked with eels—Further reflections on the subject

                              CHAPTER XXI.

 Visit Edinburgh, 1823—Kind attentions shown—Morning walks to  231–236
   Elswick Lane—Contemplations in church-yards—Thoughts on
   monuments—Inscriptions on rocks—Erection of pillars over
   copious springs

                             CHAPTER XXII.

 First efforts in engraving on wood—Progress—Difficulties to   237–244
   contend with—Albert Durer—His cross-hatching and drawings
   on the wood—Printing from two or three blocks—Artists of
   the present day—Improved methods of Printing wood
   blocks—Attempt at colour on the wood—Lowering the
   back-ground—Stronger lines left to protect the cut—A
   delicate _fac_ known to have printed above 900,000

                             CHAPTER XXIII.

 Prints from large blocks formerly in use in cottages—Great    245–250
   variety of the subjects—Blocks printed in colours—Gubitz
   of Berlin—Impressions from duplicate and triplicate
   blocks, by J. B. Jackson—Stroke engraving—Its capabilities
   in landscape—William Woollett—His unequalled landscapes on
   copper—His probable excellence as a wood engraver, so as
   to rival copper—Further notice of John Bewick and R. E.

                             CHAPTER XXIV.

 Advice to artists—Difficulties of choosing a                  251–257
   profession—Study of nature to be preferred—Old
   masters—Their varied excellences—Poetry and
   painting—Musical talent—Beauty of wild
   scenery—Thompson—Allan Ramsay

                              CHAPTER XXV.

 The Bible—The sublime precepts it contains—The                258–264
   Israelites—Intentions of Omnipotence—Wonders of the
   universe—The deluge—Early history of mankind—The Bible the
   first instrument of knowledge—A future state

                             CHAPTER XXVI.

 Interpretation of the Scriptures—The mind, the soul, and the  265–270
   reasoning powers of man—Religion natural and necessary to
   man—The inspired Author of Christianity—His pure and
   perfect doctrines

                             CHAPTER XXVII.

 The miracle of creation—Adoration due to the great Author of  271–277
   the whole—Paganism and succeeding errors—Evils of
   intolerance—Good effected by monks of old—The
   Reformation—American institutions—Established clergy—Their
   learning and acquirements—Fanaticism—Ravings of Ranters

                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

 Religion and philosophy conjoined necessary to human          278–285
   happiness—Selection of clergymen—Wonders of the
   universe—Intended for the contemplation of every human
   being—Revenues of the clergy—More equal division
   recommended—Ireland and the Irish-Catholic
   emancipation—Absentees—Protestants and
   Catholics—Reflections on the value of religious
   education—Colleges for the purpose—No limit to the
   improvement of the human mind—Nor to the capabilities of
   the human frame

 FINAL                                                             286

 APPENDIX                                                      289–344



                        MEMOIR OF THOMAS BEWICK.


                               CHAPTER I.

                                              Tynemouth, November, 1822.


It is in compliance with your wish that I have, after much hesitation
and delay, made up my mind to give you some account of my life, as it
may at a future day amuse you and your brother and sisters in your
passage through the crooked as well as the pleasant paths of the world.
I will commence by giving you some account of your pedigree as far back
as I can.

My grandfather, Thomas Bewick, farmed the lands of Painshaw Field and
Birches Nook, near Bywell, and also the Colliery on Mickley Bank, or
Mickley Common—how long since I know not, but it might probably be about
the year 1700. He had the character of being one of the most
intelligent, active, and best farmers on Tyneside, and it was said that,
by his good management and great industry, he became very rich; but,
except his being an expert angler, I know little more about him. My
grandmother’s maiden name was Agnes Arthur, the daughter of a laird of
that name at Kirkheaton, at which place my father was born in the year
1715, while his mother was there (I believe) on a visit to her friends.

My maternal grandfather, Thomas Wilson, and my grandmother, whose maiden
name was Hannah Thompson, lived at Ainstable, in Cumberland; but whether
he was curate of the parish of that place, or parish clerk, I do not
know. It is certain, however, that he was one or the other, and that he
taught a school there; and, from the circumstance of his teaching his
sons, and some of his daughters, Latin, I conclude he taught some of his
scholars the same language. When he died, his eldest son, Christopher,
became possessed of his freehold property, consisting of a house, &c.,
and a few fields adjoining. The rest of his family were left little
beside a good education, and were spread abroad in the world to do the
best they could for themselves. In this state of their affairs, my
mother, Jane, and her youngest sister, Hannah, were taken by a distant
relation, a Mrs. Gregson, of Appleby, to remain with her until she could
get them places to live at. About this time, the Rev. Christopher
Gregson had been appointed to the curacy of Ovingham, and wanted a
housekeeper; and my mother, though young, was thought able to undertake
that office, and accordingly engaged to perform it.

Your maternal grandfather’s name was Robert Elliot, and your
grandmother’s Jane Forster. He farmed the land of Woodgate, near Bill
Quay, where your mother was born. He afterwards removed to a farm at
Ovingham, where he died in 1777, leaving the character of a sensible,
honest, and industrious man.

How long my mother lived with Mr. Gregson, before her marriage, I know
not; but from him I afterwards learned that she was a valuable servant
to him, both with respect to his house-keeping concerns, and for the
occasional assistance she afforded him in hearing his pupils their Latin
tasks. From Ovingham, in the year 1752, she married my father, and went
to live with him at Cherryburn House, near the small village or Hamlet
of Eltringham, where all their family, of which I was the eldest, were
born. The family consisted of myself and brothers, John and William; and
my sisters Hannah, Agnes, Ann, Sarah, and Jane. Sarah died at the age of
16; the rest were reared to maturity, and were sent off, one way or
another, into the world.

In August, 1753, I was born, and was mostly entrusted to the care of my
aunt Hannah, (my mother’s sister), and my grandmother, Agnes Bewick; and
the first thing I can remember was, that the latter indulged me in every
thing I had a wish for; or, in other words, made me a great “pet.” I was
not to be “snubbed” (as it was called), do what I would; and, in
consequence of my being thus suffered to have my own way, I was often
scalded and burnt, or put in danger of breaking my bones by falls from
heights I had clambered up to.

The next circumstance, which I well remember, was that of my being sent
to Mickley School when very young; and this was not done so much with a
view to my learning, as to keep me out of “harm’s way.” I was some time
at this school without making much progress in learning my letters or
spelling small words; the master, perhaps, was instructed not to keep me
very close at my book; but, in process of time, he began to be more and
more severe upon me; and I see clearly at this day, that he frequently
beat me when faultless, and also for not learning what it was not in my
power to comprehend. Others suffered in the same way. He was looked upon
as a severe, or “cross,” man, and did not spare his rod. He was tall and
thin; and, with a countenance severe and grim, he walked about the
school-room, with the tawse or a switch in his hand. He, no doubt,
thought he was keeping the boys to their lessons, while the gabbering
and noise they made, was enough to stun any one, and impressed the
people passing by with the idea that Bedlam was let loose. How long he
went on in this way, I do not recollect; but, like many others of his
profession, who were at that time appointed to fill the most important
office of a teacher, no pains had been taken to enquire whether he
possessed the requisite qualifications befitting him for it. He went on
with a senseless system of severity, where ignorance and arrogance were
equally conspicuous. Conduct like this, sours the minds of some boys,
renders others stupid, and serves to make all more or less disgusted
with learning. Upon some occasion or other, he ordered me to be flogged;
and this was to be done by what was called “hugging,” that is, by
mounting me upon the back of a stout boy, who kept hold of my hands over
his shoulders while the posteriors were laid bare, where he supposed he
could do the business freely. In this instance, however, he was
mistaken; for, with a most indignant rage, I sprawled, kicked, and
flung, and, I was told, bit the innocent boy, on the neck, when he
instantly roared out, and threw me down; and, on my being seized again
by the old man, I rebelled, and broke his shins with my iron-hooped
clogs, and ran off. By this time, the boy’s mother, who was a spirited
woman, and lived close by, attracted by the ferment that was raised,
flew (I understood) into the school-room, when a fierce scold ensued
between the master and her. After this I went no more to his school, but
played the truant every day, and amused myself by making dams and
swimming boats, in a small burn, which ran through a place then called
the “Colliers Close Wood,” till the evening, when I returned home with
my more fortunate or more obedient school-fellows.

How long it was before my absence from school was discovered, I know
not, but I got many severe beatings from my father and mother, in the
interval between my leaving the school and the old master’s death. As
soon as another schoolmaster (James Burn) was appointed, I was sent to
him; and he happened to be of a directly opposite character to the late
one. With him I was quite happy, and learned as fast as any other of the
boys, and with as great pleasure. After the death of this much respected
young man, who lived only a very few years after his appointment, my
learning any more at Mickley school was at an end.

Some time after this, my father put me to school under the care of the
Rev. C. Gregson, of Ovingham; and well do I remember the conversation
that passed between them on the occasion. It was little to my credit;
for my father began by telling him that I was so very unguidable that he
could not manage me, and he begged of my new master that he would
undertake that task, and they both agreed that “to spare the rod was to
spoil the child.” This precept was, I think, too severely acted upon,
sometimes upon trivial occasions and sometimes otherwise.

I was for some time kept at reading, writing, and figures,—how long, I
know not, but I know that as soon as my question was done upon my slate,
I spent as much time as I could find in filling with my pencil all the
unoccupied spaces, with representations of such objects as struck my
fancy; and these were rubbed out, for fear of a beating, before my
question was given in. As soon as I reached Fractions, Decimals, &c., I
was put to learn Latin, and in this I was for some time complimented by
my master for the great progress I was making; but, as I never knew for
what purpose I had to learn it, and was wearied out with getting off
long tasks, I rather flagged in this department of my education, and the
margins of my books, and every space of spare and blank paper, became
filled with various kinds of devices or scenes I had met with; and these
were accompanied with wretched rhymes explanatory of them. As soon as I
filled all the blank spaces in my books, I had recourse, at all spare
times, to the gravestones and the floor of the church porch, with a bit
of chalk, to give vent to this propensity of mind of figuring whatever I
had seen. At that time I had never heard of the word “drawing;” nor did
I know of any other paintings besides the king’s arms in the church, and
the signs in Ovingham of the Black Bull, the White Hare, the Salmon, and
the Hounds and Hare. I always thought I could make a far better hunting
scene than the latter: the others were beyond my hand. I remember once
of my master overlooking me while I was very busy with my chalk in the
porch, and of his putting me very greatly to the blush by ridiculing and
calling me a conjurer. My father, also, found a deal of fault for
“mispending my time in such idle pursuits;” but my propensity for
drawing was so rooted that nothing could deter me from persevering in
it; and many of my evenings at home were spent in filling the flags of
the floor and the hearth-stone with my chalky designs.

After I had long scorched my face in this way, a friend, in compassion,
furnished me with some paper upon which to execute my designs. Here I
had more scope. Pen and ink, and the juice of the brambleberry, made a
grand change. These were succeeded by a camel-hair pencil and shells of
colours; and, thus supplied, I became completely set up; but of
patterns, or drawings, I had none. The beasts and birds, which enlivened
the beautiful scenery of woods and wilds surrounding my native hamlet,
furnished me with an endless supply of subjects. I now, in the
estimation of my rustic neighbours, became an eminent painter, and the
walls of their houses were ornamented with an abundance of my rude
productions, _at a very cheap rate_. These chiefly consisted of
particular hunting scenes, in which the portraits of the hunters, the
horses, and of every dog in the pack, were, in their opinion, _as well
as my own_, faithfully delineated. But while I was proceeding in this
way, I was at the same time deeply engaged in matters nearly allied to
this propensity for drawing; for I early became acquainted, not only
with the history and the character of the domestic animals, but also
with those which roamed at large.

The conversations of the Nimrods of that day, in which the instincts and
peculiar properties of the various wild animals were described in
glowing terms, attracted my keenest attention; and to their rude and
lengthened narratives I listened with extreme delight. With me they made
a winter’s evening fly fast away. At holiday times,—and at other times
when prevented by the floods of the Tyne from getting across to
school,—I was sure, with the most ardent glee, to make one of the number
in the hunting parties which frequently took place at that time; whether
it might be in the chase of the fox or the hare, or in tracing the
foumart in the snow, or hunting the badger at midnight. The pursuing,
bating, or killing, these animals, never at that time struck me as being
cruel. The mind had not as yet been impressed with the feelings of
humanity. This, however, came upon me at last; and the first time I felt
the change happened by my having (in hunting) caught the hare in my
arms, while surrounded by the dogs and the hunters, when the poor,
terrified creature screamed out so piteously,—like a child,—that I would
have given anything to have saved its life. In this, however, I was
prevented; for a farmer well known to me, who stood close by, pressed
upon me, and desired I would “give her to him;” and, from his being
better able (as I thought) to save its life, I complied with his wish.
This was no sooner done than he proposed to those about him, “to have a
bit more sport with her,” and this was to be done by first breaking one
of its legs, and then again setting the poor animal off a little before
the dogs. I wandered away to a little distance, oppressed by my own
feelings, and could not join the crew again, but learned with pleasure
that their intended victim had made its escape.

The “musical din” of the hounds still continued to have its charms, and
I still continued to follow them; but from that day forward, I have ever
wished that this poor, persecuted, innocent creature might escape with
its life. The worrying of foxes, the baiting of foumarts, otters,
badgers, &c., did not awaken in me similar feelings; for in the fierce
conflicts between them and the dogs, there was something like an
exchange of retaliation, and not unfrequently the aggressors were
beaten; and I have with pleasure seen that wonderfully courageous
animal, the badger (with fair play), beat the dogs of a whole
neighbourhood, one after another, completely off.

In the vermin-hunting excursions in the depth of winter, while the whole
face of nature was bound in frost and covered with deep snow, in
traversing through bogs, amidst reeds and rushes, I have often felt
charmed with the sight of birds,—flushed, and sometimes caught, by the
terrier dogs,—which I had never seen or heard of before; and I am still
in doubt whether some of them have not escaped being noticed as British

These were the diversions of the winter months, which I enjoyed in an
extreme degree, amidst the storm and the tempest. In that season I was
also sometimes better employed in looking after a small flock of sheep
on the fell, a part of which was my own.[3] The extremity of the weather
had taught them to seek a place of shelter under a steep but low “brae,”
overhung with whins, under which, in such weather, I was almost certain
to find them and their associates all huddled together. To this place,
through wreaths of snow, I early bent my way, with a bundle of hay on my
back, and my pockets sometimes filled with oats, which I distributed
amongst them. Upon these occasions, though at other times extremely
wild, they were quite tame, and seemed to know me.

Footnote 3:

  They were of the long-legged, black-faced kind, which were almost the
  only sort at that time kept in this part of the country. The _improved
  breed_, with their fatting qualities, were then not known. The mutton
  of the former eats like dark, juicy venison, while that of the latter
  puts one in mind of blubber.

From my sheep thus drawing into shelter, gave rise to an opinion I
formed, and which has been confirmed by long reflection, that much may
yet be done to protect the larger flocks from being over-blown and lost
on the bleak moors, in great snow storms. Were long avenues made by
double rows of whin hedges, planted parallel to each other at about six
feet asunder, and continued in the form of two sides of a square, with
the whins of each side drawn together, and to grow interplatted at the
tops, so as to form an arched kind of roof, the sheep would, on
instinctively seeing the coming storm, immediately avail themselves of
such asylums, and particularly in the lambing season. In the corner of
the angle of this square, the shepherd might have his hovel, thatched
with heather and ling, and his beds for himself and his dogs, made of
the same materials; and the whole of this “bield” might be rendered so
snug as greatly to defy the severity of the winter’s drifting blasts and
wreaths of snow.

At that time of life, every season had its charms; and I recollect well
of listening with delight, from the little window at my bed-head, to the
murmuring of the flooded burn which passed my father’s house, and
sometimes roused me from my bed, to see what it was like. After this, my
first and common employment was to “muck” the byer; and, when the
servant girl did not come soon enough, I frequently tried my hand at
milking the cows; and I was always particularly keen of being there in
snow storms. When this was the case, within the byer door, I snugly
watched the appearance of various birds, which passed the little dean
below, and which the severity of the weather drove from place to place,
in search of shelter. With the sight of my intimate acquaintances, the
robins, wrens, blackbirds, sparrows, a solitary crow, and some others, I
was not much attracted, but always felt an extreme pleasure and
curiosity in seeing the more rare visitants,—such as the woodcock, the
snipe, and other waders, with the red wings, fieldfares, &c.,—make their

The winter evenings were often spent in listening to the traditionary
tales and songs, relating to men who had been eminent for their prowess
and bravery in the border wars, and of others who had been esteemed for
better and milder qualities, such as their having been good landlords,
kind neighbours, and otherwise in every respect bold, independent, and
honest men. I used to be particularly affected with the warlike music,
and with the songs relative to the former description of characters; but
with the songs regarding the latter, a different kind of feeling was
drawn forth, and I was greatly distressed, and often gave vent to it in
tears. These songs and “laments” were commemorative of many worthies;
but the most particular ones that I now remember were those respecting
the Earl of Derwentwater, who was beheaded in the year 1715, and was
looked upon as having been a victim to the cruelty of the reigning
family, and who was venerated as a saint upon earth. It was said that
the light from Heaven attended his corpse to the vault at Dilston Hall,
and that prosperity would shine no more upon Tyneside. Then followed the
sorrowful remembrances of those that were dead and gone. To sigh over
them was unavailing; they had filled the space allotted to them on this
side of Time, and the winds had blown over their silent graves for ages
past. The predictions that the mansions of those that remained would
soon, for want of heirs, become desolate—these and such like melancholy
reflections made a deep impression on my mind; and I have often since,
with feelings of extreme regret, beheld these mansions, once the seats
of hospitality, dilapidated, and the families which once occupied them
extinct and forgotten.

When the winter began somewhat to abate of its rigours, or in the early
spring, it was a common job for me, before setting off to school, to
rise betimes in the morning,—as indeed I was always accustomed to
do,—and equipt with an apron, an old dyking mitten, and a sharpened
broken sickle, to set off amongst the whin bushes, which were near at
hand, to cut off their last year’s sprouts. These were laid into a
corner till the evening, when I stript, and fell to work to “cree” them
with a wooden “mell,” in a stone trough, till the tops of the whins were
beaten to the consistency of soft, wet grass; and, with this mess, I fed
the horses before I went to bed, or in the morning as occasion might
require. They were shy about eating this kind of provender at first, and
I was obliged to mix oats with it; but they soon became so fond of it,
alone, that there was no need of any mixture. I know not whether a
scarcity of fodder first gave rise to the suggestion of using this
expedient, or it was tried as an experiment; but certain it is that this
kind of food agreed so well with the horses that they became soon very
sleek, and cast their winter coats of hair long before other horses that
were fed in the common way. Cows would not eat the whin tops thus
prepared, but, in a winter of scarcity, I have known all hands at work
in cutting ivy from the trees, and even small ash twigs, to be given to
the cattle as fodder.


                              CHAPTER II.

FROM the little window at my bed-head, I noticed all the varying seasons
of the year; and, when the spring put in, I felt charmed with the music
of birds, which strained their little throats to proclaim it. The chief
business imposed upon me as a task, at this season, was my being set to
work to “scale” the pastures and meadows; that is, to spread the
mole-hills over the surface of the ground. This, with gardening, and
such like jobs, was very hungry work, and often made me think dinner was
long in coming; and, when at last it was sent to me, be it what it
might, I sat down on the “lown” side of a hedge and eat it with a relish
that needed no sauce.

As soon as the bushes and trees began to put forth their buds, and make
the face of nature look gay—this was the signal for the angler to
prepare his fishing tackle. In doing this I was not behind hand. Fishing
rods, set gads, and night lines were all soon made fit for use, and with
them, late and early, I had a busy time of it, during the summer months,
until the frosts of autumn forbid me to proceed. The uneasiness which my
late evening wadings by the waterside gave to my father and mother, I
have often since reflected upon with regret. They could not go to bed
with the hopes of getting to sleep, while haunted with the apprehension
of my being drowned; and well do I remember to this day my father’s
well-known whistle, which called me home. He went to a little distance
from the house, where nothing obstructed the sound, and whistled so
loud, through his finger and thumb, that in the still hours of evening
it might be heard echoing up the vale of the Tyne, to a very great
distance. This whistle I learned to imitate, and answered it as well as
I could, and then posted home.

From early in the morning till night, I was scarcely ever out of an
action either good or bad; or, when not kept close at school, or in
doing jobs such as those I have described, I was almost constantly
engaged in some mischievous prank or other; but with a detail of these
it would be wearisome to load my narrative: they were occasioned by the
overflowings of an active, wild disposition. At one time, in imitation
of the savages described in “Robinson Crusoe,”—or some other savages,—I
often, in a morning, set off _stark naked_ across the fell, where I was
joined by some associates, who, in like manner, ran about like mad
things, or like Bedlamites who had escaped. Climbing the tall trees at
Eltringham for rook nests, at the hazard of breaking our necks or our
bones, was another piece of business which employed our attention. I was
also engaged in another equally dangerous. Having formed the resolution
of curing a vicious, “runaway” horse belonging to my father, which no
one durst mount, I, however, took the opportunity, when out of sight of
any of the family, to do so. With my hand entwined in his mane, and
bare-backed, I set him a-going, and let him run over “sykes” and burns,
up hill and down hill, until he was quite spent. In a short time I
discovered that, to make him run at all, he must be whipt to it. At
other times I swam him in the river. This, and such like treatment, made
him look ill, and quite tamed him.

I have often since shuddered at the thoughts of doing these and such
like desperate acts, and wondered how I escaped; but neither caution nor
fear had at that time taken a place in the mind; on the contrary, any
uncommon or frightful exploit had charms in it that I could not resist.
One of these pranks, however, attracted the attention of the
neighbourhood, brought me into a great dilemma, and occasioned me a
severe beating. I engaged a constant associate, who was ever ready at my
command to help me, as soon as I communicated any design to him. I had
discovered two oxen in a little savannah, or bit of grazing ground,
surrounded with hazel and other bushes, near the brink of the river.
Thither we went in order to enjoy so tempting a sight as to see them
plunge overhead into the flood. When all was ready, we suddenly, with
long branches in our hands, sprang upon them from the bushes overhanging
the precipice, the danger of which they did not see; and they were
plunged, with such a _delightful dash_, overhead into the river! They,
however, happened to be no worse for it; for they were driven down by
the rapid current of the flood, and landed safely at a distance below.
This exploit, happening on a Sunday forenoon, was an aggravation of the

After this my father mostly took me with him to church, where I
frequently employed myself in drawing figures upon the soft, painted
book-board with a pin. In doing this, no one noticed me, especially as I
held down my head; and, having got the church service off, I repeated it
the same as the congregation. This apparently regular behaviour was not,
however, of long duration, and was broken in upon at last. Sunday after
Sunday a clownish fellow had obtruded himself into our pew. I did not
think this quite right, and wished to put an end to it; and this
happened in a very rude way in the end. A dumb man (“Dummy, of Wylam”),
a constant church-goer, had a seat in a pew before ours, where,
regularly during the service, he fell fast asleep. When in that state,
and sitting right before our obtruder, I reached aside, and gave “Dummy”
a smart blow on the head, and instantly, as if I knew nothing of the
matter, I seemed to be quite grave, and intent on looking on my prayer
book, while the obtruder was putting on a broad grin. At this poor Dummy
was enraged, and with a distorted countenance, he kept thumping the man
on the face and head, at the same time making a hideous noise, which was
heightened by the fellow’s shouting, and calling him “fool,” at the same
time assuring him that it was I who gave the blow, and not he. To the
deaf man this was a waste of words. It need not be added that the
congregation was greatly disturbed, while perhaps none knew or suspected
the cause except my father and my preceptor in the pulpit.

Sometimes the lads in the same class I belonged to, when we had been
doing amiss, were sent to cut birch rods to whip us with. At other times
we were locked into the belfry, where we often amused ourselves by
drawing each other up by the bell ropes to the first floor; but one of
our comrades having (by the rope slipping through the hands of those who
held it), been precipitated to the ground, by which he was a good deal
hurt, that mode of punishment was altogether dropped. The parson, poor
man, had a troublesome time of it with one or other of us; and I
remember, once in particular, of putting him into very great pain and
distress of mind. After a great flood, a large piece of ice, about the
size of the floor of a room, had been left in a place called “Ned’s
Hole,” by the side of the river. This I got upon, and persuaded several
others to do the same, and we then set to work with a “boat stower” to
push it off shore; and, in this manner, we got some distance up the
river, opposite to the parsonage garden, where our master happened to
be, and saw us. I could see by his agitated motions, and his uplifted
hands, that he was put into a state much easier to be felt than
described. After having been guilty of misdemeanors of this kind, I did
not go back to school for the remainder of the day; but waded, or
otherwise crossed, the river, and sat down or amused myself among the
bushes, on the water banks, until the rest of the scholars left school,
when I joined them and went home. But as it would not have been safe for
me to go to bed (if conscious of guilt, or if otherwise betrayed) for
fear of a visit from my father, I always took up my abode for the night
in the byer loft, among the hay or straw, knowing well that, when his
passion subsided, I should escape a beating from his hands.

The first cause of my preceptor beginning a severe system of flogging
(beside the quantum I received for mischievous acts), was for not
getting off my Latin tasks. When this was not done to his mind, he, by
way of punishment, gave me another still worse to do, and still longer,
till at length I gave up even attempting to get through them at all, and
began to stand a flogging without being much put about by it. I think
(at this day) my very worthy preceptor, in following this rather
indiscriminate system of severe punishments, was wrong. He often beat
his own son,[4] a youth of an uncommonly mild, kind, and cheerful
disposition, whom I felt more distressed at seeing punished than if it
had been myself; for I mostly considered that I richly deserved the
stripes inflicted upon me, and that he did not.

Footnote 4:

  Christopher Greason, of Apothecaries Hall, London. He died 181—, and
  was buried at Ovingham.

There was a misdemeanor for which, above all the rest, I was more
severely punished, both at school and at home, than for any other fault;
and that was for fighting with other boys. To put a stop to this
practice, was the particular request of my mother. To her it was odious
in the extreme. Her reasons I do not forget. She quoted Scripture in
support of them. Therein, she said, we were directed “if we were struck
on one cheek, to turn the other also,” (I forget the exact words): it is
a portion of Scripture I did not obey. She also maintained that the
business of fighting was degrading to human nature, and put a man that
practised it on a level with dogs. I am conscious that I never sought a
quarrel with any one; but I found an insult very bad to bear, and
generally in the most secret manner contrived “to fight it out.”

When the floggings inflicted upon me had in a great measure begun to
lose their effect, another mode of punishment was fallen upon; and that
was, after the school hours were over, to lock me into the church, where
I was kept till the dusk of the evening. This solitary confinement was
very irksome to me; as I had not at that time got over a belief in
ghosts and boggles, for the sight of which I was constantly upon the
look out. Oppressed with fear, I peeped here and there into every
corner, in dread of seeing some terrible spirit. In time, however, this
abated, and I amused myself, as well as I could, in surveying the
surrounding objects, and in climbing up the pillars, with the help of a
rope or a handkerchief, as I used to do in getting up large trees. It
happened one evening, when my master, as usual, came to let me out, that
I was sitting astride upon the capital of one of the pillars, where he
did not see me. He called on me, but I made no answer, and he then
posted off to see if the door was fast, and having ascertained that it
was, he marched along the aisles in great perturbation of mind,
frequently exclaiming “God bless me!” &c. When he was gone, I slipped
down, and found the choir door only bolted on the inside, so I waded the
river and posted home, and slept in my old asylum the hay loft. I have
frequently bitterly repented of having given a man I afterwards so
highly respected through life so much pain and trouble.

I have before noticed that the first time I felt compassion for a dumb
animal, was upon my having caught a hare in my arms. The next occurrence
of the kind happened with a bird. I had no doubt knocked many down with
stones before, but they had escaped being taken. This time, however, the
little victim dropped from the tree, and I picked it up. It was alive,
and looked me piteously in the face; and, as I thought, could it have
spoken, it would have asked me why I had taken away its life. I felt
greatly hurt at what I had done, and did not quit it all the afternoon.
I turned it over and over, admiring its plumage, its feet, its bill, and
every part of it. It was a bullfinch. I did not then know its name, but
I was told it was a “little Matthew Martin.” This was the last bird I
killed; but many, indeed, have been killed since on my account.

I had been at man-fights, dog-fights, and cock-fights, without feeling
much compassion. Indeed, with the last of these exhibitions, I was more
entertained at seeing the wry faces, contortions, and agitations of the
clowns who surrounded the cock-pit, or circle, than I was with the cocks
fighting. It was long before I felt disgusted at seeing men fight. This,
however, happened at last. A travelling merchant, or respectable
pedlar,—a slim-made, genteel-looking man,—had perhaps forgotten himself
over a glass, and not minded what company he was in. He could not,
however, be long in such society without being insulted; but, be that as
it might, a fight ensued, in which the stranger was over-matched. I saw
only the concluding part, and was extremely shocked; for the stranger
was sitting propped up with his arms behind him, quite spent and
speechless, and looked like a corpse. After sitting a short time in this
helpless state, his opponent walked coolly up to him, and with a blow on
the face or head laid him flat on the ground. I thought he was killed,
at which I became so frantic with rage and indignation, that I believe,
at the moment, if I had had a pistol at hand, I would have shot the
sturdy barbarian.

In going along with my narrative, I have noticed some of the first
impressions which produced a change, and left a strong effect on my
mind. In some of these, the change was quick and decisive; in others of
a more tardy nature; and prejudices which were early rooted were not
easily removed. Among the worst, was that of a belief in ghosts,
boggles, apparitions, &c. These wrought powerfully upon the fears of the
great bulk of the people at that time, and, with many, these fears are
not rooted out even at this day. The stories so circumstantially told
respecting these phantoms and supernatural things, I listened to with
the dread they inspired, and it took many an effort, and I suffered
much, before it could be removed. What helped me greatly to conquer
fears of that kind was my knowing that my father constantly scouted such
idle, or, indeed, such pernicious tales. He would not allow me to plead
fear as any excuse, when he had to send me an errand at night; and,
perhaps, my being frequently alone in the dark might have the effect of
enabling me greatly to rise superior to such weakness.

I have known men, both old and young, who dared to encounter almost any
danger, yet _were afraid of their own shadows_; and I remember well of
trying the experiment, one night, upon a servant man of my father’s, who
was a kind of village Cæsar, and feared not to stand the most desperate
battles with others of the same cast, upon any occasion. I began by
sneering at his courage, and then bet him a penny that I durst do what
he dared not. All I intended to do I set about rather deliberately, and
then rose to perform _my feat_, which was to walk along the dark passage
to the back door, and to repeat something (rather ominous, indeed) about
“Silky” and “Hedley Kow.” After performing my task, I returned with
apparent agitation and fear, and sat down in silence close beside him
for some time, and then asked him if he durst do the like. I, however,
saw, by his hesitation, that the performance by him was given up, and he
only remarked that “one may soon get what one’ll never cast.”

At another time, in broad day light, I took it into my head to make
another trial of this kind upon my father’s pitmen. For this purpose I
detained our cur dog, until I buckled him up in a pair of old “sods,”
which covered him beyond both head and tail, and set him off to the pit,
knowing well that he would go straight there; for he was accustomed
every day to leave the pit lodge, and go home, where he waited until he
saw that dinner was ready, and then his reappearance at the pit was as
good as telling my father and his servants to come home. I durst not
have thus amused myself if I had not known that my father was out of the
way. I set off on the inside of the hedge, keeping pace with the dog all
the way up to the pit heap, near which I stopped, and peeped to see the
effect that would be produced; and this was really curious. One of the
men, seeing the odd appearance of something alive, with a long body,
without either legs, head, or tail, moving straight forward towards him,
knew not what to make of it; and, after rubbing his eyes, he ran off to
his companions, who, when they had taken a peep, all set off, with
speed, on their way home.

In a business of a similar kind, which happened not long after, it was
my lot to be the sufferer. A few companions used to come at nights to
our house to play at cards with me, and I, in turn, visited them for the
same purpose. We were, however, taken to task by a bigotted old woman in
the neighbourhood, who called the cards the “devil’s books.” She told me
one night before setting off to play with my companions, as usual, that,
if I looked under the table, I would see the devil; and I recollect that
I several times peeped to see if he were indeed there. When we were done
playing, two of the gamesters, as was customary, set me across part of
the fell towards home. I was, however, much surprised at their suddenly
leaving me without saying good night, or making any reply to my shouting
after them, and they were soon out of sight. This was at a place called
the “Sand Holes,” which I then left, and was turning towards home, when,
behold! to my utter amazement, I saw the devil! It was a clear moonlight
night; I could not be mistaken—his horns—his great white, goggle eyes,
and teeth, and tail—his whole person stood fairly before me! As I gazed,
I thought the hair lifted the hat on my head. He stood, and I stood, for
some time; and, I believe, if he had then come up to me, I must have
dropped down. Certain it is, however, that desperation succeeded fear. I
moved aside, and he did the same. I involuntarily got my “jackleg
knife,” and, if he had then approached me, he to a certainty would have
been stabbed. I slipped off my clogs, made a start in a bending
direction, and at full speed ran home. He pursued me nearly to the door,
but I beat him in the race. I had always understood that any person who
had seen a ghost, or evil spirit, would faint on coming into a house
with a fire in it. I feared this, but I fainted none! and when my father
asked me what was the matter, I told him I had seen the devil. He,
perhaps without thinking, gave me a slap on the head. It was not long,
however, till the following affair transpired. The man who personated
the devil, when he met me, had been on his way to a “kirn supper,” and
was going “a guising.” When my father heard the whole transaction, he
wrought himself up into a great rage; and very shortly after, meeting
the man, in the street at Corbridge, who had frightened me, he instantly
paid him off by giving him a sound beating. When the people, who always
considered my father as a remarkably peaceable man, saw him thus
engaged, they expressed their surprise; but, as soon as they heard the
reason for what had been done, they were also exasperated, and, I was
given to understand, the man was obliged to leave the village.

The first time I took notice of any of my female school-fellows arose
from a reproof I met with, and the manner it was given, from one of
them. The amiable person alluded to, was Miss Betty Gregson, my
preceptor’s daughter, and somewhere about my own age. She kept a messet
dog, and the sleek, fat, useless animal was much disliked by me as well
as by some of the other boys. When it made its appearance in the
churchyard, which it sometimes did, we set about frightening it; and,
for this purpose, some of us met it at every gate and outlet, and
stopped its retreat till it became quite distressed. The last time that
this kind of sport was practised on her little dog, I happened to be the
only actor. Having met with it at a little distance from its home, I had
stopped it from entering the house, and had pursued it about and about,
or met it at the end of every avenue, till it was put into great “bodily
fear!” This behaviour towards her little favourite, was very offensive
to Miss Gregson. She could endure it no longer, and she called me to
account for it. I can never forget her looks upon the occasion. She no
doubt intended to scold me, but the natural sweetness of her disposition
soon showed itself in its true colours. She did not know how to scold;
for, after some embarrassing attempts at it, and some hesitation, she
put me in mind of my being related to her, and of her uniform kindness
to me, and with irresistible arguments and persuasions made me see the
impropriety of my conduct. With me this left its mark; for from that
time forward I never plagued any of the girls at school, nor did any
thing that might give them offence; nor has this impression ever been
effaced from my mind, but has been there fostered through life and
settled into a fixed respect and tender regard for the whole sex.

Hitherto my life at school and at home might be considered as a life of
warfare, and punishments of various kinds had been inflicted upon me
apparently with little effect. As a cure for my misdeeds, my worthy
master, however, at length found out a better and more effectual way. He
one day invited me to dine with him, and after showing me the greatest
kindness, he followed this up in a friendly, plain, and open way, by
remonstrating with me on the impropriety of my past conduct, the evil
tendency of it, and the pain and trouble it had given him; urging me, at
the same time, in such a persuasive tone, instantly to desist from it,
that I felt quite overpowered with his discourse, and fell into a flood
of tears. The result was, I never dared to encounter another of these
friendly meetings; and, while I remained at his school, he never again
had occasion to find fault with me.

The transactions in which I afterwards became engaged, afforded me more
real enjoyment. As silent time stole away, in the varied seasons of the
long-measured years, changes gradually took place in many of the
erroneous notions I had formed of things. As the mind became more
expanded, curiosity led me to enquire into the nature of the objects
which attracted my attention. Among the first was that of birds, their
nests, their eggs, and their young. These to me were long a source of
great delight, and many a spring morning I watched and looked after
them. I also spent many a summer evening, on my way home from school,
lost in wonder in examining the works going forward among a nation of
ants. The place they occupied was on the top of the “Boat Hill,” near
Eltringham, and the colony was the largest I had ever seen. From it
their narrow roads, through the grass, radiated in various directions to
a great distance. These were like as many turnpike roads, and as busily
crowded as any among men, leading to or from a great fair. I have
sometimes with a stick overturned their accumulated gatherings, when it
was curious to observe the effect produced. The greatest bustle and
confusion ensued; and yet I have observed with surprise, that next
morning every thing was restored to the same order as before. I noticed
that they had other enemies that broke in upon them, and which perhaps
injured them more than I did; and these were the turkeys from the
village, where great numbers were bred every year. As soon as the young
brood were able to walk abroad, the mother led them every day to this
great ant hill, were they no doubt made terrible havoc among the
inhabitants and their works.[5]

Footnote 5:

  The history and economy of these very interesting insects are, I
  think, not well known. They appear to manage their affairs with as
  much forethought and industry as mankind; but to what degree their
  reasoning and instinctive powers extend is yet a mystery. After they
  have spent a certain time toiling on earth, they get wings, and soar
  aloft into the atmosphere. What change they undergo before they assume
  this new character, or what becomes of them afterwards, seems

Bees also attracted much of my attention. I could not see into the
interior of their works, but I made every inquiry of those who had long
kept them, and gathered, in this way, as good a knowledge of their
history and economy as I could. One of my morning jobs was to sit before
the hives, with a stick like a spatula, to kill the wasps as they
alighted to enter and rob them. I could see the bees enter, loaded with
what they had culled from every flower, but never could see them attack
or repel their enemies.

I frequently amused myself in observing the murders of a large spider,
which had placed its web in a corner of the little window at my bed
head. Being wishful to see how it managed its affairs, I prevented the
servant girl from brushing the web away. Its proceedings did not excite
in me any favourable opinion. Having seen it seize every innocent fly
that set foot upon its snares, I had a mind to try how it would conduct
itself towards a more powerful opponent. For this purpose, I caught a
wasp, which I held by its wings upon the web until its feet got
entangled, when out came the hitherto unthwarted tyrant; and, after some
apparent hesitation, it at length was tempted to pounce upon the
obtruder. The struggle was, however, very short. I soon perceived the
wasp double itself up and dart its sting into the body of its enemy,
which instantly retired, and never afterwards returned. This is only one
experiment, but further trials of the kind might be made to come at



                              CHAPTER III.

CHERRYBURN House, the place of my nativity, and which for many years my
eyes beheld with cherished delight, is situated on the south side of the
Tyne, in the county of Northumberland, a short distance from the river.
The house, stables, &c., stand on the west side of a little dean, at the
foot of which runs a burn.[6] The dean was embellished with a number of
cherry and plumb trees, which were terminated by a garden on the north.
Near the house, were two large ash trees growing from one root; and, at
a little distance, stood another of the same kind. At the south end of
the premises, was a spring well, overhung by a large hawthorn bush,
behind which was a holly hedge; and further away was a little boggy
dean, with underwood and trees of different kinds. Near the termination
of this dean, towards the river, were a good many remarkably tall ash
trees, and one of oak, supposed to be one of the tallest and straightest
in the kingdom. On the tops of these was a rookery, the sable
inhabitants of which, by their consultations and cawings, and the bustle
they made when building their nests, were among the first of the
feathered race to proclaim the approaching spring. The corn-fields and
pastures to the eastward were surrounded with very large oak and ash
trees. Indeed, at that time, the country between Wylam and Bywell was
beautified with a great deal of wood, which presented the appearance of
a continued forest; but these are long since stubbed up. Needy gentry
care little about the beauty of a country, and part of it is now,
comparatively, as bare as a mole-hill.

Footnote 6:

  This, formerly, was supplied by a copious spring of fine water, which
  having found its way into some pit workings and disappeared, the burn
  is now only fed by day water from the fields.

To the westward, adjoining the house, lay the common or fell, which
extended some few miles in length, and was of various breadths. It was
mostly fine, green sward or pasturage, broken or divided, indeed, with
clumps of “blossom’d whins,” foxglove, fern, and some junipers, and with
heather in profusion, sufficient to scent the whole air. Near the burns,
which guttered its sides, were to be seen the remains of old oaks,
hollowed out by Time, with alders, willows, and birch, which were often
to be met with in the same state; and these seemed to me to point out
the length of time that these domains had belonged to no one. On this
common,—the poor man’s heritage for ages past, where he kept a few
sheep, or a Kyloe cow, perhaps a flock of geese, and mostly a stock of
bee-hives,—it was with infinite pleasure that I long beheld the
beautiful wild scenery which was there exhibited, and it is with the
opposite feelings of regret that I now find all swept away.[7] Here and
there on this common were to be seen the cottage, or rather hovel, of
some labouring man, built at his own expense, and mostly with his own
hands; and to this he always added a garth and a garden, upon which
great pains and labour were bestowed to make both productive; and for
this purpose not a bit of manure was suffered to be wasted away on the
“lonnings” or public roads. These various concerns excited the attention
and industry of the hardy occupants, which enabled them to prosper, and
made them despise being ever numbered with the parish poor. These men,
whose children were neither pampered nor spoiled, might truly be called—

Footnote 7:

  This fell, or common, containing about 1852 acres, was divided in
  1812. By this division, the poor man was rooted out, and the various
  mechanics of the villages deprived of all benefit of it. The
  neighbouring farmers who reared their young cattle, and kept as many
  sheep upon it as they pleased, must now pay rent for the allotments
  laid to their farms. The wisdom which dictated this change is
  questionable, but the selfish greediness of it is quite apparent.

               “A bold peasantry, their country’s pride;”

and to this day I think I see their broad shoulders and their hardy
sun-burnt looks, which altogether bespoke the vigour of their

These cottagers (at least those of them I knew) were of an honest and
independent character, while at the same time they held the neighbouring
gentry in the greatest estimation and respect; and these, again, in
return, did not overlook them, but were interested in knowing that they
were happy and well. Most of these poor men, from their having little
intercourse with the world, were in all their actions and behaviour
truly original; and, except reading the Bible, local histories, and old
ballads, their knowledge was generally limited. And yet one of
these—“Will Bewick”—from being much struck with my performances, which
he called pictures, became exceedingly kind to me, and was the first
person from whom I gathered a sort of general knowledge of astronomy and
of the magnitude of the universe. He had, the year through, noticed the
appearances of the stars and the planets, and would discourse “largely”
on the subject. I think I see him yet, sitting on a mound, or seat, by
the hedge of his garden, regardless of the cold, and intent upon viewing
the heavenly bodies; pointing to them with his large hands, and eagerly
imparting his knowledge to me with a strong voice such as one now seldom
hears. I well remember being much struck with his appearance—his
stern-looking brows, high cheek bones, quick eye, and longish visage;
and at his resolution (upon another occasion) when he determined upon
risking his own life to save that of another man. The latter, in the
employ of my father, while at work as a pitman, had lost his way in the
coal workings, and was missing for perhaps a day or two, (my father
being from home), when our old neighbour, just described, who was also a
pitman and knew the workings, equipped himself with everything he
thought necessary for so hazardous an undertaking; and, when he was
about to go down the pit shaft, I felt much distressed at seeing my
mother trembling in great agitation of mind for his safety and that of
his lost associate. After traversing through the old workings of the
colliery for a long time,—so long, indeed, that it was feared he had
also lost himself,—he found the man alive, when, with his well-known
thundering voice, he called from the bottom of the shaft, “all’s well,”
to the inexpressible joy of all who crowded the pit’s mouth.

Another of our fell-side neighbours, Anthony Liddell, was a man of a
very singular character, and was noticed as such by the whole
neighbourhood; but a full account of him would far exceed the bounds I
wish to set to my narrative. He might, indeed, be called the “village
Hampden.” The whole cast of his character was formed by the Bible, which
he had read with attention, through and through. Acts of Parliament
which appeared to him to clash with the laws laid down in it, as the
Word of God, he treated with contempt. He maintained that the fowls of
the air and the fish of the sea were free for all men; consequently,
game laws, or laws to protect the fisheries, had no weight with him. He
would not, indeed, take a salmon out of the locks on any account, but
what he could catch with his “click-hook,” in the river, he deemed his
own. As to what he could do in shooting game, he was so inexpert, that
he afforded to sportsmen many a hearty laugh at his awkwardness; for he
could shoot none till he fixed a hay-fork in the ground to rest his
piece upon. Indeed, the very birds themselves might, by a stretch of
imagination, be supposed also to laugh at him; but his deficiencies did
not deter him from traversing over the country-side as eagerly as other
sportsmen, notwithstanding his want of success. Whatever he did was
always done in open day; for, as he feared no man, he scorned to skulk
or to do anything by stealth. The gaol had no terrors for him, for he
lived better there than he did at home; and, on one occasion of his
being confined, when he returned home he expressed his surprise to his
neighbours, that all the time “he had not had a single hand’s turn to
do,” and exulted not a little that the opportunity had thus been given
him of again reading the Bible through. He was a great reader of
history, especially those parts where wars and battles were described;
and, in any meetings with his neighbours, he took the lead in discourses
founded on knowledge of that kind. After the Bible, “Josephus” was his
favourite author, next the “Holy Wars”—these and “Bishop Taylor’s
Sermons” composed his whole library; and his memory enabled him nearly
to repeat whatever he had read. His deportment and behaviour were
generally the reverse of anything like sauciness; but, except in ability
and acquirements,—which, indeed, commanded his respect,—he treated all
men as equals. When full-dressed, he wore a rusty black coat. In other
respects he was like no other person. In what king’s reign his hat had
been made was only to be guessed at, but the flipes of it were very
large. His wig was of the large curled kind, such as was worn about the
period of the revolution. His waistcoat, or doublet, was made of the
skin of some animal. His buckskin breeches were black and glossy with
long wear, and of the same antiquated fashion as the rest of his
apparel. Thus equipt, and with his fierce look, he made a curious figure
when taken before the justices of the peace; and this, together with his
always—when summoned before them—undauntedly pleading his own cause,
often afforded them so much amusement that it was difficult for them to
keep their gravity.

Thomas Forster was a man of a different character from the last, but
singular enough in his way. He was distinguished for his frugality and
industry, and always showed a wish to be looked upon in a respectable
light. He used to call at our house on a Sunday afternoon, for the
purpose of having a bit of chat with my father and mother. He took a
liking to me, and would observe that, though I was mischievous enough,
yet he never could find that I was “parrentory,”—that is, impudent or
saucy with any one. Besides this part of the good opinion he had formed,
he must have had confidence as to my keeping any secrets he might impart
to me. He kept a few sheep on the fell; but his secret and main business
there was looking after his bees. He had a great number of hives placed
in very hidden and curious situations. Some of them were concealed under
the boundary hedge of the common, and were surrounded by a great extent
of whin bushes. Other hives were sheltered under the branches of old
thorns, and almost covered or overhung by brambles, woodbine, and hip
briars, which, when in blossom, looked beautifully picturesque, while at
the same time they served to keep the eye from viewing the treasures
thus concealed beneath. Others, again, were placed in the midst of a
“whin rush”—that is, a great extent of old whins, the stems of which
were about the thickness of a man’s arm. The entrance to these last was
always by a “smout hole,” or small opening, through which we crept on
hands and knees to the hives, and which, on leaving, was stopped up by a
bushy-topped whin. By way of taking off the attention of the
“over-inquisitive” as to his stock of honey, he kept hives in his garden
at home, and sold the produce of these to his neighbours; but the
greater part of his stock was sold at distant parts of the country. In
this way, and by his industry and good management, he became what was
accounted very rich; and, as prosperity excites envy, some people, in a
kind of derision (his mother being a midwife), called him “Tom Howdy.”

I might swell the list of such like characters (among the unnoticed
poor) as those I have described, but it would perhaps be tedious,
although, I think it is to be regretted that they are not better known
to some of the unthinking _great_; as it might serve to take off the
hauteur, which is too often shown towards them.

Another of these uncultivated, singular characters which exhibit human
nature left to the guidance of its uncontrolled will, but which,
sometimes, may be found—from the force of innate natural pride—to soar
above every meanness, was John Chapman. This man, though clothed in
rags, was noticed for his honour and integrity; and his word was
considered to be as good as one thousand pounds bond. He was one of my
father’s workmen,—either as a pitman, a labourer, or a sinker,—and was
of so strong a constitution that he thought it no hardship, on a cold,
frosty morning, to be let down to the bottom of a sinking pit, where he
was to be up to the middle, or perhaps to the breast, in water, which he
was to lave into buckets, to be drawn up to the top. He endured the
labour of every job he undertook without grumbling or thinking it hard.
His living was of the poorest kind. Bread, potatoes, and oatmeal, was
the only provender he kept by him; and with milk or water he finished
his repasts. When, by this mode of living, he had saved the overplus
money of his wages for a month or six weeks, he then posted off to
Newcastle to spend it in beer; and this he called “lowsening his skin.”
I was at this time located in Newcastle, and when the misguided man had
spent all his money, he commonly borrowed two shillings of me to set him
home again. In this irrational way of life he continued for many years.
On one occasion, when changing his beer house, and taking up his
quarters in another, he had made no stipulation with his new landlord as
to the place where he was to sleep at night; and, judging from his
ragged appearance, he was thought unfit to be trusted as an inmate
without inquiry being made into his character. I was, therefore, applied
to by the landlord, whom I satisfied by assuring him that,
notwithstanding the outward appearance of his singular-looking guest, he
might be trusted safely even with untold gold. I further told him that
the man who could sleep upon the fallen leaves in a wood wanted no bed
in his house better than a wooden seat, which would be as comfortable a
bed as he would wish for. Matters being now perfectly settled, he was
permitted, during his rambles, to make this house his home. He had been
but a short time in this asylum until he got a pretty numerous
acquaintance amongst the tradesmen who frequented the house, to whom his
singularity, his droll and witty stories, and his songs, afforded great
entertainment. Old age, however, overtook him at last, and he was then
obliged to seek parish relief. On this occasion, a neighbouring laird
persuaded him that his settlement was upon Eltringham, and prevailed on
him to swear to it. When he called upon the farmers there for his
pittance, and they convinced him that he had sworn to what was false, he
was much shocked, and never called upon them again for his pay. On being
asked why he had not done so, he said, “I would sooner have my hand cut
off, or be found dead on the highway through want, than claim or receive
money to which I am not justly entitled.” After this he wandered away
from Eltringham, and took up his abode in the glass house at Bill Quay,
where he did any little jobs in his power, and at the same time made
himself very agreeable and often very entertaining to the workmen, who
long remembered “Johnny Chapman.” From this place he set off on a visit
to a friend, at some distance, when he was rather unwell, and not very
able to undertake the journey, and was found dead on the road between
Morpeth and Newcastle.

Before taking leave of these hardy inhabitants of the fells and wastes,
whose cottages were surrounded with whins and heather, I must observe
that they always appeared to me, notwithstanding their apparent poverty,
to enjoy health and happiness in a degree surpassing that of most other
men. Their daily fare was coarse bread, potatoes, oatmeal porridge, and
milk, only varied by their boiling the pot with animal food, cabbage, or
other succulent vegetables, and broth, on Sundays. When tired, at night,
with labour, having few cares to perplex them, they lay down and slept
soundly, and arose refreshed from their hard beds early in the morning.
I have always felt much pleasure in revisiting them, and, over a tankard
of ale, in listening to their discourse. It was chiefly upon local
biography, in which they sometimes traced the pedigree of their
neighbours a long way back. With the aged men I felt much amused. From
the avidity with which they gathered news, they seemed to live upon it.
Several of them met every day at the lodge,[8] or earth-built hovel,
close by my father’s pit, for the purpose of being gratified in this
way. The carts and wains came in all directions, and many of them from a
great distance, for coals, the drivers of which imparted to them all
they knew of what was going on in their several neighbourhoods. The
information thus obtained was then speedily given in detail at the
smith’s shop at Mickley, whence it was spread over the neighbouring
country. One of these old men, John Newton (the laird of the Neuk),
almost every morning, while I was young, met me and my schoolfellows at
or near the Haly Well (Holy Well) as we were going to Mickley School,
and he seldom passed me without clapping my head, accompanied with some
good wishes. Many years after this, while I lived at the Forth,
Newcastle, I met a little boy, one morning coming to school there, when
I clapped his head, and hoped he was a good boy. I had not long passed
him, till I was rather struck with the coincident recollection of his
grandfather’s grandfather (above named) so long before having passed me
in the same way.

Footnote 8:

  This lodge having always a good fire kept on in it, with a bed of
  straw on each side, bounded by the trunks of two old trees, to answer
  the double purpose of bed-stocks and seats, often proved a comfortable
  asylum to the benighted, weary, shivering traveller wandering on the

To these I must add another description of men scattered about the
neighbourhood, with whose histories and narratives I at that time felt
greatly interested. Their minute account of the battles they had been
engaged in, with the hardships they had endured, and their hairbreadth
escapes, told with so much enthusiasm and exultation, imparted the same
kind of feeling to me. This was long before I had reasoned myself into a
detestation of war, its cruelty, its horrors, and the superlative
wickedness of the authors of it. I had not pictured to my mind the
thousands and tens of thousands of men in their prime being pitted
against a like number of others towards whom they could have no
enmity—to murder each other!!—for what? It is foreign to my purpose to
enlarge upon this subject: I must leave that to others; and there is an
abundant scope to dilate upon, and to depicture, the horrors of war in
their true colours. The old soldiers, above alluded to, were mostly the
descendants of the Borderers, whose propensity for war might, perhaps,
be innate. I think, however, that the breed is thinned, from the numbers
that have been killed off in our wars. One of these—a near
relative—would describe how he had had his knapsack, as well as his coat
laps and the cocks of his hat, shot through and through, and yet had
escaped unhurt. Others of them would give similar descriptive accounts;
and, when a party of them met over their ale, it is not easy to
depicture the warmth with which they greeted each other, and prided
themselves on the battles they had won. One of these, during a walk, in
which I fell in with him, from Newcastle to Ovingham, described the
minute particulars of the battle of Minden; and how, in the absence of
Lord Sackville, they shook hands the whole length of the line, vowing to
stand by each other without flinching. This tall, stout man, John Cowie,
though old, appeared to be in all the vigour of youth. He lived at
Ovington. His associate, Ben Garlick, of Prudhoe, appeared as if his
constitution had been broken down. They had served in a corps called
Napier’s Grenadiers. Cowie appeared occasionally in his old military
coat, &c. After he died, this coat, which had been shot at at Minden and
elsewhere, was at last hung up on a stake on the corn rigs as a

The ferocious people from whom, as I have intimated, the above
individuals were probably descended, bore nearly the same names on both
sides of the Border; their character seemed to have been distinct from
both their English and Scottish neighbours; and war and rapine had long
been their almost constant employment. Many of these—the retainers of
the chieftains of old, whose feet were swift to shed blood—were called
by names descriptive of their characters and persons, and which were
mostly continued by their offspring. These consisted of a great variety
of names of cunning or ferocious birds and beasts, as well as some
others, the meaning of which is now unknown. There were among them the
Hawk, Glead, Falcon, Fox, Wolf, Bloodhound, Greyhound, Raven, Crow,
Gorfoot, Crowfoot, &c., &c.

The farmers of the neighbourhood, at the early period which I have been
describing, always appeared to me to be not of so intelligent a cast as
the poor labouring men. Their minds being more exclusively occupied with
the management of their farms, they read but little. They were mostly of
a kind and hospitable disposition, and well-intentioned, plain, plodding
men, who went jogging on in their several occupations as their fathers
had done before them.

The next advance in society were the Lairds, who lived upon their own
lands. I have always, through life, been of opinion that there is no
business of any kind that can be compared to that of a man who farms his
own land. It appears to me that every earthly pleasure, with health, is
within his reach. But numbers of these men were grossly ignorant, and in
exact proportion to that ignorance they were sure to be offensively
proud. This led them to attempt appearing above their station, which
hastened them on to their ruin; but, indeed, this disposition and this
kind of conduct invariably leads to such results. There were many of
these lairds on Tyneside; as well as many who held their lands on the
tenure of “suit and service,” and were nearly on the same level as the
lairds. Some of the latter lost their lands (not fairly I think) in a
way they could not help; many of the former, by their misdirected pride
and folly, were driven into towns, to slide away into nothingness, and
to sink into oblivion, while their “ha’ houses” (halls), that ought to
have remained in their families from generation to generation, have
mouldered away. I have always felt extremely grieved to see the ancient
mansions of many of the country gentlemen, from somewhat similar causes,
meet with a similar fate. The gentry should, in an especial manner,
prove by their conduct that they are guarded against showing any symptom
of foolish pride, at the same time that they soar above every meanness,
and that their conduct is guided by truth, integrity, and patriotism. If
they wish the people to partake with them in these good qualities, they
must set them the example, without which no real respect can ever be
paid to them. Gentlemen ought never to forget the respectable station
they hold in society, and that they are the natural guardians of public
morals, and may with propriety be considered as the head and the heart
of the country, while “a bold peasantry” are, in truth, the arms, the
sinews, and the strength of the same; but when these last are degraded,
they soon become dispirited and mean, and often dishonest and useless.

I think the late Duke of Northumberland must have had an eye to raising
the character of the peasantry when he granted them small portions of
land at a reasonable rate. If so, in my way of judging, he was an honour
to the peerage, and set an example worthy of himself and worthy of
imitation. By going a step further, and planting healthy, strong, men
and women on these spots, his patriotism would have been crowned with
immortality; for I cannot help thinking that, if the same pains were
taken in breeding mankind that gentlemen have bestowed upon the breeding
of horses and dogs, human nature might, as it were, be new modelled,
hereditary diseases banished, and such a race might people the country
as we can form no conception of. Instead of a nation of mongrels, there
would in time appear a nation of “Admirable Chrichtons.” If the lands
commonly attached to townships had been continued as such, and let in
small portions to mechanics and labourers (as the late Duke did),
instead of dividing them by act of Parliament among those who already
had too much, the good effects to the community at large would have been
soon felt; and, in addition to this, if savings banks and benefit
societies were encouraged by every possible means, there would be little
occasion for poor laws except as a provision for helpless children, and
the lame and the blind. By such means as these, perhaps, this national
evil might be done away. All men ought to provide for the necessities of
old age, and be made sensible of the manly pleasure of being
independent. It is degrading, and in most cases disgraceful, to those
who look to parish assistance after a life spent in laziness and

I must not omit mentioning a circumstance that happened to Eltringham
while I was a boy. It was to have been called “Little Birmingham,” but
this was not accomplished. In 17—, a person of the name of Laidler, who
was said to have amassed a large fortune in London, came to the North,
and established the Iron Works at Busy Cottage, near Newcastle; and, on
his taking a view of Tyneside, he fixed upon Eltringham as a place at
which he could carry on works to a much greater extent. He set about
this business in great haste. All kinds of workmen were gathered
together for the purpose of speedily accomplishing what he had in view;
and, while some of them were busy in making the mills and machinery,
others were digging a mill-race of about a quarter of a mile in length.
But lo! when this was done,—not being permitted to encroach on the bed
of the river,—it was found they had not much more than a foot of
waterfall; and, as the sides of the mill-race were cut perpendicularly,
about two yards deep, through the dark fine soil, the first great flood
of the Tyne nearly levelled and filled it up. The people in and about
the place, including my father, who had got licenses to sell ale, &c.,
were obliged to decline, and the sign of my father’s house,—the Seven
Stars,—which hung up between the two ash trees, was taken down. The
projector made our house his home while the works were going on, and the
men were paid their wages there. All was as suddenly sold off as it was
begun, and my father came to some loss after all the trouble and turmoil
he had been put to.


                              CHAPTER IV.

BEING now nearly fourteen years of age, and a stout boy, it was thought
time to set me off to business; and my father and mother had long been
planning and consulting, and were greatly at a loss what it would be
best to fix upon. Any place where I could see pictures, or where I
thought I could have an opportunity of drawing them, was such only as I
could think of. A Newcastle bookseller, whose windows were filled with
prints, had applied to Mr. Gregson for a boy; and, when I was asked if I
would like to go to him, I readily expressed my hearty consent; but,
upon my father making enquiry respecting him, he was given to understand
that he bore a very bad character: so that business was at an end. The
same year—1767—during the summer, William Beilby and his brother Ralph
took a ride to Bywell, to see their intimate acquaintance, Mrs. Simons,
who was my godmother, and the widow of the late vicar there. She gave
them a most flattering account of me; so much so, that they, along with
her and her daughter, set off that same afternoon to Cherryburn to visit
us, and to drink tea. When the Newcastle visitors had given an account
of their enamellings, drawings, and engravings, with which I felt much
pleased, I was asked which of them I should like to be bound to; and,
liking the look and deportment of Ralph the best, I gave the preference
to him. Matters bearing upon this business were slightly talked over,
and my grandmother having left me twenty pounds for an apprentice fee,
it was not long till a good understanding between parties took place,
and I soon afterwards went to R. Beilby upon trial.


  was Bound October the first 1767

The first of October was the day fixed upon for the binding. The
eventful day arrived at last, and a most grievous one it was to me. I
liked my master; I liked the business; but to part from the country, and
to leave all its beauties behind me, with which I had been all my life
charmed in an extreme degree,—and in a way I cannot describe,—I can only
say my heart was like to break; and, as we passed away, I inwardly bade
farewell to the whinny wilds, to Mickley bank, to the Stob-cross hill,
to the water banks, the woods, and to particular trees, and even to the
large hollow old elm,[9] which had lain perhaps for centuries past, on
the haugh near the ford we were about to pass, and which had sheltered
the salmon fishers, while at work there, from many a bitter blast. We
called upon my much-esteemed schoolfellow, Christopher Gregson, at
Ovingham, where he and his father were waiting to accompany us to
Newcastle—all on the same errand—(we were both bound on that day). While
we were condoling:—comforting each other—I know not what to call it—at
the parsonage gates, many of the old neighbours assembled at the
churchyard wall, to see us set off, and to express their good wishes;
and, amongst the rest, was a good, sensible old woman of the village,
named Betty Kell, who gave us her blessing, and each a penny for good
luck. This being done, our horses were mounted, and we commenced our
journey. The parties kept at a little distance from each other. I
suppose our late preceptor was lecturing his son, and my father was
equally busied in the same way with me. He had always set me the example
and taken every opportunity of showing how much he detested meanness,
and of drawing forth every particle of pride within me, for the purpose
of directing it in the right way. He continued a long while on subjects
of this kind, and on the importance and inestimable value of honour and
honesty; and he urgently pressed upon me to do my duty to my master, in
faithfully and obediently fulfilling all his commands, to be beforehand
in meeting his wishes, and, in particular, to be always upon my guard
against listening to the insinuations and the wicked advice of worthless
persons, who I would find ever ready to poison my ear against him. He
next turned his discourse on another topic—new to me from him—of great
importance—religion—and pressed this also upon me in a way I did not
forget. He begged I would never omit, morning and evening, addressing
myself to my Maker, and said that if I ceased to do so, then he believed
and feared every evil would follow. I was greatly surprised to hear him
dwell on this subject; for I think it was the first time. He used,
indeed, to go to church; but I do not recollect his ever commenting upon
the sermons he heard there, further than that, the good man’s discourse
from the pulpit seemed to him to be wasted upon the majority of his
congregation, and of his calling some of them “holy professors.” My
mother, who was of a religious turn, had, indeed, all her life
endeavoured to make me so too; but, as I did not clearly understand her
well-intended lectures, they made little impression. My father’s pithy
illustrations, as before hinted at, were much more forcibly and clearly
made out: I understood them well, and they operated powerfully upon
me.[10] I have often reflected since upon the very high importance, and
the necessity, of instilling this species of education into the minds of
youth; for, were pains taken to draw forth the pride naturally implanted
in their minds for the wisest and best purposes, if properly directed,
it would exalt human nature, and be of the utmost importance to
individuals and to society. It is the want of this education, and the
want of industry, that occasions and spreads misery over the land. How
can I doubt that, if my father had been a thief, I would have been one
also, or, if a highwayman or robber, as expert as himself. In my
opinion, there are two descriptions of persons who ought to forbear, or
be prevented, from marrying—viz., those of a base, wicked, and dishonest
character, and those who have broken down their constitutions and
debased both mind and body by dissipation. The latter entail misery upon
their innocent offspring: the children of the former, by the bad example
shown to them, become a curse to the community in which they live.

Footnote 9:

  This old tree was swept away by the great flood of the 17th November,

Footnote 10:

  I recollect one instance where I felt the force of this species of
  education. I might enumerate some others, but this left its mark upon
  me. Having fallen in with, and joined, two untutored lads, in Prudhoe
  “lonning,” they jumped over the hedge and filled their pockets with
  potatoes. The farmer was watching, but they escaped. Not having
  followed their example, I did not offer to fly, but he seized me, and
  threatened what he would do. At this I was extremely distressed, and
  had it not been that I consoled myself with the certainty that my
  father and mother would believe me, on my asserting that I had not
  stolen any of his potatoes, I believe I would have drowned myself.

When we arrived at Newcastle, the documents were soon made ready to bind
my companion and myself. He was bound to Messrs. Doughty and Wiggins,
chemists and druggists; but Mr. Beilby (perhaps from his having heard
some unfavourable account of me) and my father not readily agreeing upon
the exact terms of my servitude, some fears were entertained that the
business between us might be broken off. On this occasion my preceptor
interfered very ardently, spoke warmly in my praise, and dwelt forcibly,
in particular (notwithstanding my wild, boyish behaviour at school),
upon my never being saucy or sulky, nor in the least indulging in
anything like revenge. In this business, Mr. Gregson was ably seconded
by his relation and my kind friend, Mr. Joseph Langstaff, of Newcastle,
who was also acquainted with my new master; and so the business of
binding was settled at last.

My new master, who, I believe, had laid down plans for the regulation of
his own conduct, began with me upon a system of rigid discipline, from
which he never varied or relaxed, and it was not long before I gave
occasion to his putting it in force. Having walked out on a Sunday
afternoon to see the environs of the town, the first place that
attracted my attention was “King Jamie’s Well.” There I fell in with bad
company, consisting of three low blackguard ’prentice lads, from the
Close. Having no wish to have anything to say to them, I endeavoured to
shun their company; but they, seeing me in a strange and perhaps
somewhat clownish dress, followed and insulted me; and this they
persisted in till I could bear it no longer, when, turning upon one of
the sauciest of them, I presently levelled him, and was about serving
the second in the same way, when they all three fell upon me and showed
no mercy, so that, in the end, I went home to my master’s house with a
scratched face and black eyes. This was an abominable sight to the
family, which no excuse could palliate. After this, I was obliged to
attend my master to church twice a day, every Sunday, and, at night, to
read the Bible, or some other good book, to old Mrs. Beilby and her
daughter, or others of the family; and this continued during the time of
the term I boarded in the house with them.

The father of Mr. Beilby followed the business of a goldsmith and
jeweller in Durham, where he was greatly respected. He had taken care to
give all his family a good education, His eldest son, Richard, had
served his apprenticeship to a die-sinker, or seal engraver, in
Birmingham. His second son, William, had learned enamelling and painting
in the same place. The former of these had taught my master
seal-cutting, and the latter taught his brother Thomas and sister Mary
enamelling and painting; and, in this way, this most respectable and
industrious family lived together and maintained themselves. But, prior
to this state of things, while the family were more dependant upon the
industry of their father, he had failed in business, left Durham, and
begun business in Gateshead, where he and his eldest son Richard died.

I have been informed that the family had to struggle with great
difficulties about this period, and that, by way of helping to get
through them, their mother taught a school in Gateshead. But this state
of things could not have lasted long; for the industry, ingenuity, and
united energies of the family must soon have enabled them to soar above
every obstacle. My master had wrought as a jeweller with his father
before he went to his brother Richard to learn seal-cutting, which was
only for a very short time before his death. He had also assisted his
brother and sister in their constant employment of enamel painting upon
glass. At this time a circumstance happened which made an opening for my
future master to get forward in business unopposed by any one. An
engraver of the name of Jameson, who had the whole stroke of the
business in Newcastle, having been detected in committing a forgery upon
the old bank, he was tried for the crime. His life was saved by the
perjury of a Mrs. Grey; but Jameson left the town.

For some time after I entered the business, I was employed in copying
“Copeland’s Ornaments;” and this was the only kind of drawing upon which
I ever had a lesson given to me from any one. I was never a pupil to any
drawing master, and had not even a lesson from William Beilby, or his
brother Thomas, who, along with their other profession, were also
drawing masters. In the later years of my apprenticeship, my master kept
me so fully employed that I never had any opportunity for such a
purpose, at which I felt much grieved and disappointed. The first jobs I
was put to do was blocking-out the wood about the lines on the diagrams
(which my master finished) for the “Ladies Diary,” on which he was
employed by Charles Hutton,[11] and etching sword blades for William and
Nicholas Oley, sword manufacturers, &c., at Shotley Bridge. It was not
long till the diagrams were wholly put into my hands to finish. After
these, I was kept closely employed upon a variety of other jobs; for
such was the industry of my master that he refused nothing, coarse or
fine. He undertook everything, which he did in the best way he could. He
fitted-up and tempered his own tools, and adapted them to every purpose,
and taught me to do the same. This readiness brought him in an overflow
of work, and the work-place was filled with the coarsest kind of steel
stamps, pipe moulds, bottle moulds, brass clock faces, door plates,
coffin plates, bookbinders letters and stamps, steel, silver, and gold
seals, mourning rings, &c. He also undertook the engraving of arms,
crests and cyphers, on silver, and every kind of job from the
silversmiths; also engraving bills of exchange, bank notes, invoices,
account heads, and cards. These last he executed as well as did most of
the engravers of the time; but what he excelled in was ornamental silver
engraving. In this, as far as I am able to judge, he was one of the best
in the kingdom; and, I think, upon the whole, he might be called an
ingenious, self-taught artist. The higher department of engraving, such
as landscape or historical plates, I dare say, was hardly ever thought
of by my master; at least not till I was nearly out of my
apprenticeship, when he took it into his head to leave me in charge of
the business at home, and to go to London for the purpose of taking
lessons in etching and engraving large copper plates. There was,
however, little or no employment in this way in Newcastle, and he had no
opportunity of becoming clever at it; so he kept labouring on with such
work as before named, in which I aided him with all my might. I think he
was the best master in the world for teaching boys, for he obliged them
to put their hands to every variety of work. Every job, coarse or fine,
either in cutting or engraving, I did as well as I could, cheerfully;
but the business of polishing copper plates, and hardening and polishing
steel seals, was always irksome to me. I had wrought at such as this a
long time, and at the coarser kind of engraving (such as I have noticed
before), till my hands had become as hard and enlarged as those of a
blacksmith. I, however, in due time, had a greater share of better and
nicer work given me to execute; such as the outside and inside mottos on
rings, and sometimes arms and crests on silver, and seals of various
kinds, for which I made all the new steel punches and letters. We had a
great deal of seal-cutting, in which my master was accounted clever, and
in this I did my utmost to surpass him.

Footnote 11:

  Afterwards the great Dr. Hutton. He died 27th January, 1823, in the
  86th year of his age.

While we were going on in this way, we were occasionally applied to by
printers to execute wood cuts for them. In this branch my master was
very defective. What he did was wretched. He did not like such jobs; on
which account they were given to me; and the opportunity this afforded
of drawing the designs on the wood was highly gratifying to me. It
happened that one of these,—a cut of the “George and Dragon” for a bar
bill,—attracted so much notice, and had so many praises bestowed upon
it, that this kind of work greatly increased, and orders were received
for cuts for children’s books; chiefly for Thomas Saint, printer,
Newcastle, and successor of John White, who had rendered himself famous
for his numerous publications of histories and old ballads. With the
singing of the latter, the streets of Newcastle were long greatly
enlivened; and, on market days, visitors, as well as the town’s people,
were often highly gratified with it. What a cheerful, lively time this
appeared to me and many others! This state of things, however, changed
when public matters cast a surly gloom over the character of the whole
country; and these singing days, instead of being regulated by the
magistrates, were, in their wisdom, totally put an end to.

My time now became greatly taken up with designing and cutting a set of
wood blocks for the “Story-teller,” “Gay’s Fables,” and “Select Fables,”
together with cuts of a similar kind, for printers. Some of the Fable
cuts were thought so well of by my master that he, in my name, sent
impressions of a few of them to be laid before the Society for the
Encouragement of Arts, &c., and I obtained a premium. This I received
shortly after I was out of my apprenticeship, and it was left to my
choice whether I would have it in a gold medal, or money, (seven
guineas). I preferred the latter; and I never in my life felt greater
pleasure than in presenting it to my mother. On this occasion, amongst
the several congratulations of kind neighbours, those of Mr. Gregson, my
old master, stood pre-eminent. He flew from Ovingham, where the news
first arrived, over to Eltringham, to congratulate my father and mother;
and the feelings and overflowings of his heart can be better imagined
than described.



                               CHAPTER V.

DURING the time I was an inmate in my master’s house, along with his
mother, brothers, and sister, I attended his brother’s horse, and made
myself as useful to the family as I could. At that time I had no
acquaintances,—at least none to be very intimate with. I needed none. I
wandered in the fields, and on the Town Moor, alone, and amused myself
with my own thoughts. When the time arrived that I was to cater for
myself upon four shillings and sixpence per week, I went to lodge with
my aunt Blackett, who, being the widow of a freeman,[12] kept a cow upon
the Town Moor, and I was abundantly supplied with milk, which was the
chief thing I lived upon.

Footnote 12:

  Thomas Blackett, silversmith. He was one of my godfathers, and had
  been foreman to the late John Langlands, by whom he was much noticed
  as a man of a most intrepid spirit. He was remarkable for his honour,
  honesty, and punctuality.

At Mrs. Blackett’s I became acquainted with Gilbert Gray, bookbinder;
and this singular and worthy man was perhaps the most invaluable
acquaintance and friend I ever met with. His moral lectures and advice
to me formed a most important succedaneum to those imparted by my
parents. His wise remarks, his detestation of vice, his industry, and
his temperance, crowned with a most lively and cheerful disposition,
altogether made him appear to me as one of the best of characters. In
his workshop I often spent my winter evenings. This was also the case
with a number of young men, who might be considered as his pupils; many
of whom, I have no doubt, he directed into the paths of truth and
integrity, and who revered his memory through life. He rose early to
work, lay down when he felt weary, and rose again when refreshed. His
diet was of the simplest kind; and he eat when hungry, and drank when
dry, without paying regard to meal times. By steadily pursuing this mode
of life, he was enabled to accumulate sums of money—from ten to thirty
pounds. This enabled him to get books, of an entertaining and moral
tendency, printed and circulated at a cheap rate. His great object was,
by every possible means, to promote honourable feelings in the minds of
youth, and to prepare them for becoming good members of society. I have
often discovered that he did not overlook ingenious mechanics, whose
misfortunes—perhaps mismanagement—had led them to a lodging in Newgate.
To these he directed his compassionate eye, and for the deserving (in
his estimation), he paid their debt, and set them at liberty. He felt
hurt at seeing the hands of an ingenious man tied up in prison, where
they were of no use either to himself or to the community. This worthy
man had been educated for a priest; but he would say to me, “of a
‘trouth,’ Thomas, I did not like their ways.” So he gave up the thoughts
of being a priest, and bent his way from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, where he
engaged himself to Allan Ramsay, the poet, then a bookseller at the
latter place, in whose service he was both shopman and bookbinder. From
Edinburgh he came to Newcastle. Gilbert had had a liberal education
bestowed upon him. He had read a great deal, and had reflected upon what
he had read. This, with his retentive memory, enabled him to be a
pleasant and communicative companion. I lived in habits of intimacy with
him to the end of his life; and, when he died, I, with others of his
friends, attended his remains to the grave at the Ballast Hills.[13]

Footnote 13:

  He died on the 12th February, 1794, in the 86th year of his age.

How long I remained with my aunt, I have now forgotten. After I left her
house, I went to lodge with a person named Hatfield, whose wife was an
excellent cook and market woman, and who had long lived in the family of
“Willy Scott,” the father of the present Lord Chancellor of England. My
landlord afterwards got into a very unfortunate way of doing business.
Being a flax dresser, his brethren prevailed upon him and his wife to
permit the tramps—or scamps—in that line to take up their lodgings with
them. Here I was introduced, or at least had an opportunity of becoming
acquainted with them, and a pretty set they were. Their conduct was
wicked in the extreme. The proper effect, however, was produced upon me;
for I looked upon their behaviour with the utmost disgust. After my
landlord had for some time been cheated and defrauded by this set, he at
length got done with them, and boarded and lodged others of a better
cast of character.

Long before the death of my friend Gilbert, I had ceased to have the
privilege of reading his books, and what I could save out of my wages
only afforded me a scanty supply. I had, however, an opportunity, per
favour of my master’s servant, (who admitted me early in the morning
into his parlour), of reading through, with great attention, the then
new publication of “Smollett’s History of England;” and, for a long time
afterwards, I clearly remembered everything of note which it contained.
With some of the characters therein depicted, I was greatly pleased, but
with others I was shocked and disgusted. They appeared to me like fiends
obtruded upon the community, as a curse and a scourge; and yet how
surprising it is that some of these can be spoken of, by authors, with
complacency. Another source from whence to obtain a supply of books
presently fell in my way, through the kindness of William Gray, the son
of Gilbert. He was a bookbinder of some repute, and this led him into
employment of a superior cast to that of his father, and his workshop
was often filled with works of the best authors. To these, while
binding, I had ready access; for which purpose I rose early in the
morning; and to him my well-known whistle in the street was the signal
for his quickly preparing to get to his work, and I remained with him
till my work hour came.

I feel it as a misfortune, that a bias, somehow or other, took place in
my mind at this time, which led me deeply into the chaos of what is
called religious works; and, for the purpose of getting into a thorough
knowledge of all matters of this important kind, I spent much time, and
took great pains, to obtain information; but, instead of this, I got
myself into a labyrinth—bewildered with dogmas, creeds, and opinions,
mostly the fanatical reveries, or the bigoted inventions, of interested
or designing men, that seemed to me to be without end; and, after all my
pains, I left off in a more unsettled state of mind than when I began. I
may be mistaken; but I think, many a well-meaning man has spun out his
life, and spent his time, on subjects of this kind in vain. Waggon loads
of sermons have been published—some of them, perhaps, good—in order to
prove matters (in my opinion) of no importance either to religion or
morality. If it be true that every thing in perfection is simple, so it
must be with religion. There may be many moral and religious duties for
man to fulfil in his passage through life; but the rules for doing so
are so plain and easily understood that common sense only is necessary
for all that is required of us in the performance of them. The beauty
and simplicity of the doctrines laid down by the inspired and benevolent
Author of the Christian Religion, however they may have been distorted
and disfigured, are yet in themselves perfect. They may, indeed, be
compared to a mathematical point—a point of perfection for all men to
aim at, but to which none can fully attain. The inspired writings of the
prophets of old are also full of simplicity, as well as of indescribable
beauty, and may be read and considered with ever-increasing delight.
Poets and moralists, of more modern times, have also laboured most
clearly to point out the paths which lead to religion, to virtue, and to
happiness. As far as I am able to judge, all we can do is to commune
with and reverence and adore the Creator, and to yield with humility and
resignation to His will. With the most serious intention of forming a
right judgment, all the conclusion I can come to is, that there is only
one God and one religion; and I know of no better way of what is called
serving God than that of being good to his creatures, and of fulfilling
the moral duties, as that of being good sons, brothers, husbands,
fathers, and members of society.

At this time, I had few that I could call intimate acquaintances. My
almost only ones were books, over which I spent my time, mornings and
evenings, late and early. This too intense application to books,
together with my sedentary employment, and being placed at a very low
work bench, took away my healthy appearance, and I put on a more
delicate look, and became poorly in health. When my master saw this, he
sent for medical aid, and Nathaniel Bailes,[14] surgeon, was consulted.
But, before he uttered a word as to my ailment, he took me to his own
house, and there he stripped and examined me, and, looking me in the
face, told me “I was as strong as a horse.” He then made up some
medicine to cause expectoration. This was all soon done, but not so the
lecture he gave my master, whom he addressed in terms which I thought
both long and rude. “What!” said he, “have you no more sense than to set
a growing, country lad to work, doubled up at a low bench, which will
inevitably destroy him?” and, in his passion, he cursed Mr. Beilby for
his ignorance or something worse. From this time the Doctor took a
liking to me, and often criticised my work. He also took great pains to
direct me how to live and to manage myself, under so sedentary an
employment; and an intimacy commenced between us which lasted as long as
he lived. He urged upon me the necessity of temperance and exercise. I
then began to act upon his advice, and to live as he directed, both as
to diet and exercise. I had read “Lewis Cornaro,” and other books, which
treated of temperance; and I greatly valued the advice given in the
“Spectator,” which strongly recommended all people to have their days of
abstinence. Through life I have experienced the uncommon benefit derived
from occasionally pursuing this plan, which always keeps the stomach in
proper tone. I regularly pursued my walks, and, whilst thus exercising,
my mind was commonly engaged in devising plans for my conduct in life.

Footnote 14:

  He was commonly called Dr. Bailes. He was a Newcastle worthy, and was
  accounted a man of great skill in his profession, as well as eminent
  for his learning and other attainments. He was ingenious and
  enterprising, a tolerably good engraver, and a good mechanic. He was
  called the “Eloquent Sword-bearer.” He headed the committee of the
  Burgesses, in 17—, who tried and beat the magistrates of Newcastle
  respecting their exclusive claim to the Town Moor; and he was active
  in everything relative to the good of the town. He invented a harpoon
  for killing whales, for which he got a patent. It was of a triangular
  shape, or like three razors, back to back, and brought to a sharp
  point, and it was strongly barbed at its termination, towards the
  socket. By its use, lines and cords were saved. The price was three
  guineas, which, being deemed too high, was probably the cause of a
  confederacy of harpoon makers, sea-captains, and others (who knew not
  how to appreciate its value) to set their faces against using it. The
  Doctor, who did not like to be kept debating with ignorance and
  prejudice, and was not actuated by pecuniary motives, suffered the
  business to go to neglect. He died 16th July, 1791, aged 74, and was
  buried in St. Nicholas’ Church, Newcastle.

For a long time, both in summer and winter, I went to Elswick three
times a day, at the expense of a penny each time for bread and milk. I
had an hour allowed me for dinner; and, as to my mornings and evenings,
I could take a much longer time. A very small matter of animal food,
when I missed going to Elswick, was amply sufficient for me; for I think
my constitution did not require to be stimulated. By persevering in this
system of temperance and exercise, I was astonished to find how much I
improved in health, strength, and agility. I thought nothing of leaving
Newcastle after I had done work—7 o’clock—on a winter’s night, and of
setting off to walk to Cherryburn. In this I was stimulated by an ardent
desire to visit my parents as often as possible; and the desire
continued to act upon me as long as they lived.

In my solitary walks (as before noticed), the first resolution made was
that of living within my income; and another of similar import, was that
of never getting anything upon trust; but, indeed, my limited income, at
this time, led me carefully to observe these rules, and I have never
since forgotten them. The train of reflections they brought along with
them has also dwelt upon my mind. I could not help observing the
inevitable ill consequences which a contrary course (at first entered
upon, perhaps, unthinkingly) led thousands into, and the misery it
entailed. The more I have thought upon this subject, the more clearly I
have seen its importance. Getting into debt is followed by leading
people to live beyond their incomes; and this makes all who do so, soon
become demoralised and dishonest; and, when the mind has been thus
blunted and degraded, anxiety and trouble must be its attendants, till
vice and misery close the scene.

Amongst the acquaintances I made at the workshops of Gilbert and William
Grey, was William Bulmer, afterwards rendered famous as the proprietor
of the Shakespeare Printing Office, in Cleveland Row, London, who was
the first that set the example, and soon led the way, to fine printing
in England. He used, while he was an apprentice, to prove the cuts I had
executed. In this he was countenanced by his master, John Thompson, who
was himself extremely curious and eager to see wood engraving succeed;
for at that time the printing of wood cuts was very imperfectly known.

About this time I commenced a most intimate acquaintance and friendship
with Robert Pollard, afterwards an engraver and printseller of eminence
in London. He was bound apprentice to John Kirkup, a silversmith in
Newcastle; and, from his being frequently sent to our workshop with
crests, cyphers, &c., to engrave, he took a great liking to engraving,
and was indefatigable in his endeavours to become master of it. In
furtherance of this, we spent many of our evenings together at his
father’s house, which to me was a kind of home. On his master declining
business, my young friend was engaged for a term of years to learn
engraving with Isaac Taylor, of Holborn, London.

In my frequent visits to the workshops of Gilbert Grey, and to that of
his son William, I first fell in with Thomas Spence.[15] He was one of
the warmest philanthropists in the world. The happiness of mankind
seemed with him to absorb every other consideration. He was of a
cheerful disposition, warm in his attachment to his friends, and in his
patriotism to his country; but he was violent against people whom he
considered of an opposite character. With such he kept no bounds. For
the purpose chiefly of making converts to his opinion “that property in
land is everyone’s right,” he got a number of young men gathered
together, and formed into a debating society, which was held in the
evenings in his school-room, in the Broad Garth, Newcastle. One night
when his favourite question was to be debated, he reckoned upon me as
one of his “backers.” In this, however, he was mistaken; for,
notwithstanding my tacitly assenting in a certain degree to his
plan,—viz., as to the probability of its succeeding in some uninhabited
country or island,—I could not at all agree with him in thinking it
right to upset the present state of society, by taking from people what
is their own, and then launching out upon his speculations. I considered
that property ought to be held sacred, and, besides, that the honestly
obtaining of it was the great stimulant to industry, which kept all
things in order, and society in full health and vigour. The question
having been given against him without my having said a word in its
defence, he became swollen with indignation, which, after the company
was gone, he vented upon me. To reason with him was useless. He began by
calling me—from my silence—“a Sir Walter Blackett;”[16] adding, “If I
had been as stout as you are, I would have thrashed you, but there is
another way in which I can do the business, and have at you.” He then
produced a pair of cudgels, and to work we fell. He did not know that I
was a proficient in cudgel playing, and I soon found that he was very
defective. After I had blackened the insides of his thighs and arms, he
became quite outrageous and acted very unfairly, which obliged me to
give him a severe beating.

Footnote 15:

  Afterwards famous in London as at the head of the “Spenceans.” He was
  sent to Dorchester gaol for (I believe) some of his publications,
  promulgating his doctrines. He taught a school at the Broad Garth,
  Newcastle; afterwards writing and arithmetic in the great school at
  Haydon Bridge; and, lastly, he was master of St. Ann’s public school,
  Sandgate, Newcastle. At one time he was a member of a most respectable
  Literary and Philosophical society in Newcastle, one of the rules of
  which required that each member should read in turn a written lecture
  on any subject he pleased. Spence’s was, of course, on that of
  “Property in land,” &c. These lectures were, by the rules of the
  society, prohibited from publication; but Spence broke the rule and
  was expelled in consequence.

Footnote 16:

  Sir Walter Blackett, bart., was five times mayor of Newcastle, and
  represented the borough in seven Parliaments; having been fifty years
  a member. He died February 8th, 1777, aged 68. As an orator he made no
  figure in the House, and having changed his politics in his later
  years, he became rather unpopular. His public and private charities
  were on a munificent scale; for which, indeed, he was greatly

I cut the steel punches for Spence’s types, and my master struck them on
the matrices for casting his newly-invented letters of the alphabet, for
his “Spelling and Pronouncing Dictionary.” He published, in London, many
curious books in his peculiar way of spelling. Most of them, I believe,
on his favourite subject of property in land being everyone’s right.
However mistaken he might be in his notions on this subject, I am
clearly of opinion that his intentions were both sincere and honest.

The next most eccentric individual, and at the same time one of the most
worthy characters, I early became acquainted with was George Gray, son
of Gilbert, and half-brother of William Gray. He was bound apprentice to
a man of the name of Jones, a fruit painter. The latter, who, I believe,
was accounted eminent in his profession, lived beyond his income, and
departed from Newcastle. George being thus left to himself, commenced in
the same way of business, and became eminent as a fruit painter; but,
from his versatility of disposition, he dipped into almost every art and
science, and excelled in many pursuits. He was accounted one of the best
botanists and chemists in this part of the country. He was also a
geologist, and was fixed upon as a leader or director to a party
employed by Prince Poniatowsky, to take a survey of the various strata
of Poland; but George, being slovenly in his dress and negligent in his
person, felt himself slighted, and left those who put on a more
respectable appearance to profit by his superior knowledge, and to do
the best they could, and he returned home. Whether it was before or
after this time I have forgotten, but he visited North America, and
travelled in quest of knowledge pretty far into the interior of that
country. On his return he resumed his old employment, in a room never
cleaned or swept, and surrounded with models, crucibles, gallipots,
brushes, paints, palettes, bottles, jars, retorts, and distills, in such
a chaos of confusion as no words can describe. From this _sanctum
sanctorum_, he corresponded with gentlemen of science in London and
other parts. Few men were better liked by private friends—as well for
his knowledge as for his honesty, and the genuine simplicity of his

In addition to the various jobs already noticed as keeping my master and
myself fully employed, I had others which fell exclusively to my lot to
execute; and, amongst these were the mathematical works of Charles
Hutton, who frequently came into the room in which I worked, to inspect
what I was doing. He was always very civil, but seemed to me to be of a
grave or shy deportment. He lived in habits of intimacy with my master,
and used to write designs for him to engrave from, particularly for the
heads of invoices or bills of parcels; and I remember that he wrote them
with an ink, or preparation, which was easily transferred to the copper.
This was before his appointment in the royal military academy of
Woolwich, in 1773, and long before he had the well-merited title of
L.L.D. added to his respected name. Dr. Hutton was that kind of man, who
never forget old friends; and, some years after, when I was in
partnership with my old master, he recommended us to the notice of Dr.
Horsley,[18] who was commencing his publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s
works, the execution of the whole of the cuts for which devolved upon
me. This transaction took place in 1778.

Footnote 17:

  He died on the 9th December, 1819, aged 61 years, and was buried in
  St. John’s Church-yard, Newcastle.

Footnote 18:

  Afterwards Bishop of St. Asaph.

I continued to take up my abode with Hatfield, and, the spirits being
bouyant, everything pleased me. I cannot help noticing the happy time I
spent there. I was also entertained with the curious characters who
resorted to his house. These were mostly bird-catchers and bird-dealers,
to whose narratives respecting their pursuits I listened with interest.
My landlord was almost constantly busied in rearing a numerous brood of
canaries, which he sold to a bird merchant, who travelled with them to
Edinburgh, Glasgow, &c., for sale.

I also, at various periods of the time I remained under Hatfield’s roof,
got into a knowledge of the misguided ways which too many young fellows
pursued; and I watched, and saw the wretched consequences of the kind of
life they led. I felt grieved for them, and did all in my power to
dissuade them from pursuing such a course of life. For this advice they
laughed at me, and called me “the old man.” It was not very long,
however, till two of them sent for me to come and see them on their
death beds. The die was cast, and I cannot forget their thanks to me,
and the bitterness with which they reproached themselves for not
listening to what I had so sincerely recommended. Such conduct as I have
been alluding to appears to me to be of the very blackest die. It is
amongst the most shocking of murders. It is to be regretted that the
seducer and the seduced cannot be obliged to live together for life,
and, while they live, be allowed to herd only with such as themselves;
for they ought to be banished from the society of the modest and
virtuous part of the community. I think it a great omission in parents
and teachers not to make unguarded youth fully apprized of the risks
they run in towns of getting acquainted with the lost and polluted women
of this stamp. Nothing can be so sure a guard against this vice as that
of making young men see it in its true light—to be disgusted at it.
Magistrates, no doubt, have it in their power, in some degree, to lessen
this great evil, by preventing abandoned women from appearing in the
streets of a town; but I have often felt for magistrates on account of
the great and gratuitous trouble they take, and the difficulties they
must have to encounter, in their endeavours to keep the wicked within
due bounds.

My last fellow-lodgers, before I was out of my apprenticeship, were John
Hymers, who had been a sergeant in the Life Guards, and had retired upon
his pension, and Whittaker Shadforth, a watchmaker, and also a musician.
The latter was of a quite different character from those before noticed,
but was wild, enthusiastic, and romantic. Among the many whims and
fancies we indulged in, one of them was to learn the manual exercise.
The sergeant, who had often laughed at our follies, very readily agreed
to undertake this task, provided we would strictly obey the rules he
prescribed to us. This we agreed to. He began with a kind of lecture on
the necessity of soldiers being obedient to their officers, and standing
like a brick wall without flinching; adding that he would not use his
cane upon our backs, but only to put us in mind to be very attentive.
This being settled, we were in the mornings to appear before him in
“bare buff,” that is, without our shirts and upper-clothing. This
discipline was pursued steadily for some time, notwithstanding the
switches he gave us on our bare backs with his rod or cane, which we
bore with the utmost _sang froid_. I think the sergeant, notwithstanding
the entertainment we thus afforded him, began to tire first; for he at
last lay in bed while he was giving us our lessons, and at length gave
the business up.

From the length of time I had known and noticed Miss Beilby, I had
formed a strong attachment to her, but could not make this known to her
or to any one else. I could have married her before I was done with my
apprenticeship without any fears on my part, but I felt for her, and
pined and fretted at so many bars being in the way of our union. One of
the greatest was the supposed contempt in which I was held by the rest
of the family, who, I thought, treated me with great hauteur, though I
had done everything in my power to oblige them. I had, like a stable
boy, waited upon their horse; and had cheerfully done everything they
wanted at my hands till one of the brothers grossly affronted me in the
business of the stable. This I instantly resented, and refused
attendance there any more. Before I was out of my time, Miss Beilby had
a paralytic stroke, which very greatly altered her look, and rendered
her for some time unhappy. Long after this she went with her eldest
brother into Fifeshire, where she died.



                              CHAPTER VI.

THE first of October, 1774, arrived at last; and, for the first time in
my life, I felt myself at liberty. I worked a few weeks with my old
master, and then set off to spend the winter at Cherryburn. There I had
plenty of work to do, chiefly from Thomas Angus, printer, Newcastle. I
continued there, employed by him and others, till the summer of 1776.
This was a time of great enjoyment, for the charms of the country were
highly relished by me, and after so long an almost absence from it, gave
even that relish a zest which I have not words to describe. I continued
to execute wood cuts and other jobs, but often rambled about among my
old neighbours, and became more and more attached to them, as well as to
the country.

In the storms of winter, I joined the Nimrods as of old. In spring and
summer, my favourite sport of angling was pretty closely followed up.
About Christmas, as I had done before when a boy, I went with my father
to a distance to collect the money due to him for coals. In these
rounds, I had the opportunity of witnessing the kindness and hospitality
of the people. The countenances of all, both high and low, beamed with
cheerfulness; and this was heightened everywhere by the music of old
tunes, from the well-known, exhilarating, wild notes of the
Northumberland pipes, amidst the buzz occasioned by “foulpleughs”
(morrice or sword dancers) from various parts of the country. This
altogether left an impression on my mind which the cares of the world
have never effaced from it. The gentry, the farmers, and even the
working people, of that day had their Christmas home-brewed ale, made
only from malt and hops. This was before the pernicious use of chemical
compounds was known, or agricultural improvements had quickened the eyes
of landlords, banished many small farmers, soured their countenances,
and altered for the worse the characters of the larger ones that

Having all my life, at home, at school, and during my apprenticeship,
lived under perpetual restraints, when I thus felt myself at liberty, I
became, as I suppose, like a bird which had escaped from its cage. Even
angling, of which I was so fond, and of which I thought I never could
tire, became rather dull when I found I could take as much of it as I
pleased. While I was pursuing this sport on a hot day in June, I gave it
up; and, laying down my rod awhile, I then tied it up and walked home.
Having resolved to see more of the country, I requested my mother to put
me up some shirts, &c., and I told her I was going to see my uncle (her
brother) in Cumberland. She soon complied with my request, amidst
expressions of fear for my safety; showing the natural feelings of a
good mother. After sewing three guineas in my breeches waistband, I set
off that afternoon, and walked to Haydon Bridge. There I visited an old
acquaintance, Thomas Spence, then a teacher in Haydon Bridge school,
with whom I was a welcome guest, and stopped two days. Leave of absence
from school having been given to him, I rambled with him over the
neighbourhood, and visited everything worth notice. When I departed, he
accompanied me on the road nearly to Haltwhistle. After this, I met with
little to attract notice except Naworth Castle; and, when I left it, and
was proceeding across the country, I lost my way by following paths
which led only to holes that had been made by digging peats and turf,
and did not reach my uncle’s house at Ainstable till late in the
evening. I remained at Ainstable about a week, during which time I
rambled about the neighbourhood, visited my friends at Kirkoswald and
elsewhere, and spent what time I could spare in fishing for trout in the

After I had seen Armanthwaite and Penrith, I began to think of moving
further abroad; and my cousin having occasion to go to Carlisle, I went
with him there, where we parted. I wandered about the old city; and, in
the afternoon, looked into the shop of a watchmaker, to whom I was known
as having been employed, by my master, to engrave many clock faces for
him, during my apprenticeship. While I was in his shop, in came a man—a
kind of scamp—of the name of Graham, who asked me what road I was going?
“To Scotland,” I replied. “So am I,” said he; “and, if you can keep foot
with me, I will be glad of your company.” We had no sooner set off, than
I found he was a vapouring fop who was very vain of his great prowess as
a pedestrian. I could soon see that he wanted to walk me off my foot;
but, having been long practised in that way, he found himself mistaken,
and long before we reached Longtown, he had called in at several public
houses for refreshment, and invited me to do the same. I, however, was
not thirsty, and not being used to drink, I sat on the seats at the
doors until he came out. He kept on in this way till we reached
Langholm, when he surveyed me with an attentive eye, but said nothing.

At Langholm, my landlord, who was a Cumberland man and knew my relatives
there, was very kind to me; and, among many other matters concerning
them, told me that my cousin who had accompanied me to Carlisle had won
nine belts in his wrestling matches in that county. From Langholm, I set
off to Hawick and Selkirk, and from the latter place, next morning, by
Dalkeith, to Edinburgh. I had been, in this short tramp, particularly
charmed with the border scenery; the roads, in places, twined about the
bottoms of the hills, which were beautifully green, like velvet, spotted
over with white sheep, which grazed on their sides, watched by the
peaceful shepherd and his dog. I could not help depicturing in my mind
the change which had taken place, and comparing it with the times of old
that had passed away, and in inwardly rejoicing at the happy reverse. It
is horrid to contemplate the ferocious battles of that day, between men
descended from the same stock, and bearing the same names on both sides
of the border, only divided from each other by a river, a rivulet, a
burn, or a stripe of ground;—that they should have been, at the nod of
their chieftains, called out to the wild foray by the slogan horn, or
the shrill notes of the bugle; that they should have been led to meet
and slaughter each other, to manure the ground with their blood, amidst
the clash of arms and the thrilling music of the pipes, which helped to
excite them on to close their eyes in death. These transactions, which
are handed down to their descendants of the present generation in
traditionary tales, and kept in remembrance by the songs and tunes of
old times, serve now only as food for reflection or amusement.

On entering Edinburgh, having been recommended to the George Inn,
Bristoport, I halted there; but, being quite unacquainted with the
customs of living in such places, I knew not what to do, or how to
conduct myself. I, however, called for a pint of beer,—and I think it
was the first I ever called for in my life,—when, lo! a good-looking
girl, bare-footed and bare-legged, entered with a pewter pot, almost the
size of a half leg of a boot. This I thought I could not empty in a
week. As I found I could not remain in this place, I sought for another,
and luckily fell in with an old Newcastle acquaintance; and to her I
stated my case, went with her, and felt quite at home in her house.
After I had seen as much of “Auld Reekie” as I could, and been lost in
admiration at the grandeur of its situation, and of its old buildings, I
next day called upon Hector Gavin, an engraver, in Parliament Close.
This kind man—a stranger to me—after a bit of chat about the arts, &c.,
threw by his tools, and was quite at my service. The warmth of his
kindness I never can forget. He took me all over Edinburgh, and gave me
a history and explanation of everything he thought worthy of notice.
Having parted from him with his best and warmest wishes, I rose early on
the next morning and walked to Glasgow. After leaving my bundle at an
inn, to which I had been recommended, I took a ramble through the city.
There I fell in, by chance, with an old acquaintance, and who I supposed
was dead long ago. He was not like me; he could drink plenty; so that I
was at no loss what to do at this inn, as I had been in Edinburgh. He
called upon me next morning with a well-informed man, when they showed
me everything they thought worthy of notice in Glasgow, which, though a
large city, containing many handsome buildings, I was not so charmed
with as I had been with Edinburgh.

From Glasgow, I set off to Dumbarton; and, on my way, took as good a
survey of the country, and whatever was new to me, as I could. My
landlord at Dumbarton had seen a deal of the world, either as a soldier
or a gentleman’s servant, and was very communicative; and I think I
spent the next day with him, in walking about and viewing everything
that he could think of that might please or entertain me. After leaving
him, I wished much to see the printing at the cotton works, and the
print fields, as they were called, on the river Leven, near Dumbarton.
To these, however, I could not get admission; so I kept passing onward,
up the Leven, till Smollett’s monument, near the side of it, arrested my
attention. There I stopped, for I had read Smollett’s works, and almost
adored him as an author. On the pedestal of the monument, was a long
Latin inscription, which I was endeavouring to translate, but was
puzzled to make out; having never looked into a Latin book since I had
left school; and, for the first time, I felt mortified at not having
done so. While I was thus employed, up came a “lish,” clever young man,
a Highlander, smartly dressed in the garb of his country. He jumped down
beside me, and we together made out the translation. When this was done,
on learning from me that my sole object was to see Scotland, he pressed
me to accompany him to some place or other, the name of which I do not
now remember. We, however, walked a long way together on the western
side of Loch Lomond, and I know I did not visit Inverary, the seat of
Argyle, but stopped with my companion at a grazier’s, or farmer’s,
house, not a long way from it.

Having made up my mind not to visit any town, or put up at any inn, I
commenced my “wild-goose chase,” and bent my way, in many a zig-zag
direction, through the interior of part of the Highlands, by the sides
of its lakes and its mountains. The beauty and serenity of the former,
and the grandeur or terrific aspect of the latter, I gazed upon with
wonder, and with both was charmed to ecstacy. In moving forward, I was
often accompanied or directed to some farmer’s or grazier’s house, by
the herds or drovers, whom I fell in with; and, in some of these houses,
I took up my abode, and often, by the pressing solicitations of my host
or hostess, was prevailed upon to remain with them a day or two. These
kind—these hospitable people—I have never forgotten. Often the mistress
of the house in these remote places, never having seen any person from
England, examined my dress from head to foot, and in English—which, it
was easy to discover, had been imperfectly taught her—made many
enquiries respecting the country from whence I came; while the herds,
with their bare knees, sat listening around, very seldom knowing what we
were talking about. These herds, or some of the family, generally set or
directed me to the house of some other distant grazier; and I met with
the same kind and warm reception throughout my wanderings I had
experienced at first. It sometimes happened that, by my having stopped
too long on my way, in admiration of the varied prospects I met with,
that I was benighted, and was obliged to take shelter under some rocky
projection, or to lay myself down amongst the heather, till daylight. In
my traversings and wanderings, I called in at all the houses on my way,
whether situated in the beautiful little valleys, in the glens, or on
the sides of heathery hills. In these places it was common to see three
houses, one added to another. The first contained a young married couple
with their healthy-looking children; the next, or middle one, was
occupied by the father and mother, and perhaps the brothers and sisters,
of this couple; and, further on, at the end, was the habitation of the
old people. These places had always garths and gardens adjoining, with
peat stacks and other fuel at hand for the winter; and the whole was
enlivened with numbers of ducks, chickens, &c. On my getting some
refreshment of whey or milk in such places as these, I always found it
difficult to get payment made for anything, as it seemed to give
offence; and, when I could get any money slipped into the hands of the
children, I was sure to be pursued, and obliged to accept of a pocket
full of bannocks and scones.

On one occasion, I was detained all day and all night at a house of this
kind, in listening to the tunes of a young man of the family who played
well upon the Scottish pipes. I, in turn, whistled several Tyneside
tunes to him; so that we could hardly get separated. Before my departure
next day, I contrived by stealth to put some money into the hands of the
children. I had not got far from the house till I was pursued by a
beautiful young woman, who accosted me in “badish” English, which she
must have got off by heart just before she left the house, the purport
of which was to urge my acceptance of the usual present. This I wished
to refuse; but, with a face and neck blushed with scarlet, she pressed
it upon me with such sweetness—while I thought at the same time that she
invited me to return—that (I could not help it) I seized her, and
smacked her lips. She then sprang away from me, with her bare legs, like
a deer, and left me fixed to the spot, not knowing what to do. I was
particularly struck with her whole handsome appearance. It was a
compound of loveliness, health, and agility. Her hair, I think, had been
flaxen or light, but was tanned to a pale brown by being exposed to the
sun. This was tied behind with a riband, and dangled down her back; and,
as she bounded along, it flowed in the air. I had not seen her while I
was in the house, and felt grieved because I could not hope ever to see
her more.

After having wandered about in this way for some time longer, during
which I uniformly met with the same kind treatment among these
unpolluted, unspoiled, honourable, and kind people, I began to think of
the long way I had to get over on my return towards home; for, although
my money was not greatly diminished among the Highlanders, yet I knew
not how much I might want in or near towns, in the more _civilised_
districts; so I turned back in a south-easterly direction through the
country, where I met, in my various wanderings, the same warm and
friendly reception. From that time to this, I have ever felt pleased at
the name of Highlander. Were not these people proof against the
temptation of a bribe of thirty thousand pounds, held out to them to
betray the unfortunate Prince Charles Stuart. Is it not to be regretted
that agricultural improvements have taught the landlords, or chieftains,
to turn numerous farms into one, and to banish thousands of these hardy
descendants of the ancient Britons,—these brave race of men to whose
forefathers they owed so much,—to seek an asylum in foreign climes? In
exchange for _men_, they have filled the country with sheep! Property,
in every country, should be held sacred, but it should also have its
bounds; and, in my opinion, it should be, in a certain degree, held in
trust, jointly, for the benefit of its owners, and the good of society.
To exercise a right of property beyond this is despotism, the offspring
of misplaced aristocratic pride.

I have not noticed that I was sometimes, in passing along, detained at
fairs and “trysts.” These, with their merry-makings, were something like
the “hoppings” and “feasts” on Tyneside; and the girls had the same
ruddy look as the farmer’s servants who are put to do field work in
Northumberland and Durham. With the Scotch music and dancing, I was very
much pleased. They were certainly good dancers, and seemed quite wild,
or exhilarated to excess.

I left the Highlands with regret. The last day’s journey was a very long
one, and a very hungry one; after which I entered Stirling in the night.
I told the landlord of the public house there that I was almost
famished, not having stopped at any house on my very long journey to
that place; and I begged of him to hasten to get me something to eat. He
told me he had nothing left but eggs, as his company had eaten up
everything that had been in the house. I did not get my eggs till
midnight; for a quarrel, or an affray, happened in the house at the time
I ought to have had them. They were brought in to me at last, and were
boiled as hard as eggs could be. With them, in my eagerness to eat, I
was nearly choked.

I remained about two or three days at Stirling, chiefly on account of my
face having been so blistered by the heat of the sun that I thought it
best to halt till the effects of it could be removed. My landlord was
very kind. He had seen the world; and, when he found that I was an
engraver, he expressed his surprise that I had not carried my tools with
me; for, if I had done so, he said he had no manner of doubt, with my
knowledge of heraldry, &c., that I could have found plenty of employment
among the gentry and the lairds, in engraving their arms, crests, and
other devices, besides being handed from chieftain to chieftain, and
seeing the whole country in a very different way from that which I had,
through wildernesses, so wildly pursued. On my way to Edinburgh, by
Falkirk, I visited Carron Works, and passed under the canal, where, for
the first time, I saw vessels afloat that had passed over my head. I was
also shown the ground where the Battle of Bannockburn was fought.

As soon as I could, I made my way, by Linlithgow, to Edinburgh. I
engaged a passage by sea, in a ship belonging to Whitby, which had to
touch at Shields. I attended upon this vessel every tide, late and
early, for several days, notwithstanding which I missed my time, and was
left behind. In this emergency, I got on board a Leith sloop, bound for
Newcastle, then moving from the pier. We had no sooner got down the
Frith of Forth, to the open sea, than we met a heavy swell, and
presently encountered a violent gale which soon tore our sails to
shivers, drove us far out of sight of land, and put our crew in a great
bustle and dilemma. In this small vessel, the crew and passengers
amounted to twenty-six. For these latter there was no accommodation. The
boat upon deck was full of the sick, covered by an old sail, and the
rest were obliged to sit or lie down in any corner where they could find
room. The first night was a sickly, suffocating one; and for three more
nights and three days, there was little or no amendment of our
situation. On board this sloop there were only two beds that were not
stowed with goods; and, from my wanting rest so long before I left
Edinburgh, I crept into one of them as soon as I could, but found it so
low that I could not lie on my side, or easily turn over. So I could get
no sleep; and, to mend the matter, I had not been long in this wretched
bed till an infant was put in beside me, its mother being dismally sick
in the boat upon deck; and the child fell exclusively into my charge. I
nursed it as well as I could during the whole voyage; and, I think, had
I not done so, it must have died. After resting a day or two at South
Shields, I set off to Newcastle, where I arrived (in the assize week, I
think), on the 12th of August, 1776. After my long absence, I found I
had a few shillings left. On this occasion, my friends in Newcastle
quizzed me not a little for having, as they termed it, begged my way
through Scotland.



                              CHAPTER VII.

I REMAINED no longer in Newcastle than until I earned as much money as
would pay my way to London. I then took my passage on board a collier
bound to the great city; and, after beating about in good weather and
bad weather for about three weeks, I arrived in London on the first
October, 1776.

The first Cockney I met was the scullerman, who was engaged to land me
and my luggage near Temple Bar. I was amused at his slang and his
chatter all the way to London Bridge; and, on approaching it, he asked
me if I was “a-feared;” but, not knowing what I was to be afraid of, I
returned the question, at which he looked queer. We passed the gulf
about which he wanted to talk, and I again asked him if he was

It was not long before I found out my old school-fellows, Christopher
and Philip Gregson, my old companion, William Gray, then a bookbinder in
Chancery Lane, and my friend, Robert Pollard. The first had provided me
with a lodging, and the last—through the kindness and influence of his
master, Isaac Taylor—with plenty of work. Before commencing work, I
thought it best to take a ramble through the city and its environs. The
first day I went alone, and saw nobody I knew. On the second day, I fell
in—by chance—with Sergeant Hymers, in the Strand, who, on seeing me,
seemed quite surprised. He held up both his hands—he looked—he
laughed—shook me by the hand, over and over again, and seemed not to
know how to be kind enough. He then took me back with him till he got
dressed; and, when this was done, he made a very handsome appearance
indeed. The rest of the day he devoted wholly to my service. He first
took me to the blackguard places in London. I suppose this was done with
a view to corroborate the truth of the stories he had told me before, in
Newcastle. After I had seen enough of these places, he took me to others
better worth notice; and, having rambled about till I had seen a good
deal of the exterior as well as the interior of London—of which it would
be superfluous to give an account—I sat down closely to work until I got
through the wood cuts which, through Isaac Taylor’s kindness, had been
provided for me. I then called upon Thomas Hodgson, printer, George
Court, Clerkenwell, who had also provided work for me, to meet my
arrival in London, and who had impatiently waited for my assistance.[19]
I was subsequently employed by Mr. Carnan, and by Mr. Newberry, of St.
Paul’s Church Yard.

Footnote 19:

  Thomas Hodgson had served his apprenticeship as a printer to John
  White, Newcastle (before named); and, having taken a liking to wood
  engraving, he had employed most of his time in embellishing the
  endless number of old ballads and histories printed at that office,
  with rude devices, as head-pieces to them. He was a most assiduous,
  careful, and recluse man. What he published in London, I cannot
  enumerate; but I understood he employed some Germans, as well as
  myself, to cut blocks for him. He also employed me to make designs for
  many of these cuts. When he died, he left me a legacy of five pounds.
  This is the only money that I have ever received that I have not
  wrought for.

Having served my time as a kind of “Jack of all trades,” I felt desirous
to work amongst the Cockneys, to see if I could find anything amongst
them; but in this I was disappointed; for I was never permitted to see
any of them at work. They, indeed, seemed desirous of seeing what I was
doing, and occasionally peeped in upon me for that purpose. I thought
such of them as did so were a most saucy, ignorant, and impudent set.
Wherever I went, the ignorant part of the Cockneys called me
“Scotchman.” At this I was not offended; but, when they added other
impudent remarks, I could not endure them; and this often led me into
quarrels of a kind I wished to avoid, and had not been used to engage

It is not worth while noticing these quarrels, but only as they served
to help out my dislike to London. They were only trivial compared to
other matters. One of the first things that struck me, and that
constantly hurt my feelings, was the seeing such a number of
fine-looking women engaged in the wretched business of “street-walking.”
Of these I often enquired as to the cause of their becoming so lost to
themselves and to the world. Their usual reply was that they had been
basely seduced, and then basely betrayed. This I believed, and was
grieved to think that they were thus, perhaps, prevented from becoming
the best of mothers to an offspring of lovely and healthy children. I
often told them so; and this ended in their tears: and, if they were in
poverty, I contributed my mite to relieve them. What a pity it is that
this wretchedness is not prevented. Base men treat women as if they were
inferior beings, made only to be used like brutes and tyrannized over as
slaves. I have always beheld such conduct towards women with abhorrence;
for my conceptions of this wretched state of things are of the most
soul-harrowing description. It would be extreme weakness to maintain an
opinion that all women are good, and that the faults here noticed are
always ascribable to the men only. This is not the case; for I am
obliged to admit that there are good and bad of each sex. I have often
attempted to make an estimate of their comparative numbers, in which I
have felt some difficulties. Sometimes my barometer of estimation has
risen to the height of ten to one in favour of the fair sex; at other
times it has fluctuated, and has fallen down some degrees lower in the
scale; but, with me, it is now settled, and I cannot go lower than four
good women to one good man. I have often wondered how any man could look
healthy, beautiful, sensible, and virtuous women in the face without
considering them as the link between men and angels. For my part, I have
often felt myself so overpowered with reverence in their presence that I
have been almost unable to speak, and they must often have noticed my
embarrassment. I could mention the names of many, but it might offend
their delicacy. When a man can get such a helpmate for life, his
happiness must be secured; for such a one is of inestimable value: “Her
price is far above rubies.”

I often spent my evenings at the “George,” in Brook Street, kept by a
person of the name of Darby, whose wife, a Cumberland woman, claimed a
distant relationship to me. At this house, I met with some very
respectable and pleasant tradesmen. While I was there one evening, a
stranger to me joined us. I think he was a traveller. He had, however,
been in Scotland, and had a mighty itch to speak very disrespectfully of
that country, and was vociferous in attempting to entertain the company
with his account of the filth and dirt he had met with in it. This I
could not bear: their kindness was fresh in my memory; and I felt
resentment rising in me. I, however, quashed that feeling, and only told
him that I believed I had travelled on foot, perhaps, about three
hundred miles through Scotland, and had met with no such people there,
nor such dirtiness as he described. There might, indeed, be some such in
every country for aught I knew; but I was confident such might be found
without going much beyond the street we were in, and who, in addition to
their filthiness, were also the most wretched and abandoned of the human
race. Some of them, indeed, appeared to me to be scarcely human. I
concluded by observing that I was afraid he had been keeping very bad
company in Scotland. A laugh by this was raised against him, and he felt
him himself quashed by his own folly.

I very frequently visited Westminster Abbey, on some part of the Sunday;
and, on the forenoons of that day, I mostly went with my friend Pollard
to hear the Rev. — Harrison, at St. Andrew’s Church, Holborn. I
sometimes, also, went to hear eminent preachers at other places. I was
once invited by my friend William Watson, of the Treasury, who had
married the eldest Miss Beilby, to go with him to hear the Rev. Dr. Dodd
preach at the Magdalen Chapel. Whether this was at the time he was
arrested for forgery I am not certain, but I know I did not see him. I
also went with Mr. Watson to hear the Rev. — Maxwell, another eminent
divine; but, indeed, I believe I did not miss hearing any of the popular
preachers in London.

For many years after I left London, I went to hear the preachers of
various persuasions, and attempted to find out the general character of
their several congregations. Having been brought up under the creeds and
doctrines of the Church of England, I may, perhaps, have some
partialities about me respecting that church, but I have ever considered
that its clergy are the most learned of any, and that, excepting some of
the higher orders of them, they, as well as their hearers, are the most
tolerant. I have always felt grieved that a great number of them should
consist of very learned and good men with curacies or poor livings that
do not afford them a much better income than the wages of common
mechanics; and that, however great their abilities may be, it is only by
patronage that they can be advanced, while enormous stipends are
lavished upon others, very often for the most useless, or, perhaps, the
most corrupt purposes. I think it would be much better if the incomes of
the clergy could be equalized; for, so long as matters are managed
otherwise, so long will it be considered as a system of revenue of which
religion is only the pretext.

But it is unnecessary here to dwell on these opinions of mine. Every man
should be welcome to follow his own opinions on the all-important
subject of religion. If these are founded in truth, there can be no fear
of their being injured by unreserved discussion. Whatever the creed may
be, there can be no objection to the religion of a virtuous man; and it
is to be hoped that the distinctions and bickerings amongst different
denominations of Christians will cease, and the causes of them be
thought of no more importance than whether a man uses his quid of
tobacco in the right cheek or in the left.

After this digression, I must now turn my attention again to London. My
friend Mr. Watson was very desirous to get me work with Mr. Pingo, in
the Mint; and, from his being so well-known and respected by the
gentlemen in most of the government offices, he thought this might be
easily accomplished. My mind was, however, bent quite another way, and
no more was done for me in that business. The constant attention and
kindness of my London friends, whose company I enjoyed, was unabated.
They walked with me everywhere, and the house of William Gray was a home
to me. I met other Newcastle friends, every Monday night, at the
“Hole-in-the-Wall,” Fleet Street, where I went to see the Newcastle
newspapers. Some of these occasionally wanted assistance, and got my
last sixpence. At this time I earned a deal of money; and, from my
habits of temperance, I spent little for my own living, and thus
discovered what a small sum was sufficient to make me independent, and I
never lost sight of the inestimable value of being so. I, however, never
had a surplus of cash long in my possession; for one or another had
occasion for it, and I could not bear to see distress without relieving

Notwithstanding my being so situated amongst my friends, and being so
much gratified in seeing such a variety of excellent performances in
every art and science,—painting, statuary, engraving, carving, &c.,—yet
I did not like London. It appeared to me to be a world of itself, where
everything in the extreme might at once be seen: extreme riches, extreme
poverty, extreme grandeur, and extreme wretchedness—all of which were
such as I had not contemplated before. Perhaps I might, indeed, take too
full a view of London on its gloomy side. I could not help it. I tired
of it, and determined to return home. The country of my old friends—the
manners of the people of that day—the scenery of Tyneside—seemed
altogether to form a paradise for me, and I longed to see it again.
While I was thus turning these matters over in my mind, my warm friend
and patron, Isaac Taylor, waited upon me: and, on my telling him I was
going to Newcastle, he enquired how long it would be before I returned.
“Never,” was my reply; at which he seemed both surprised and displeased.
He then warmly remonstrated with me upon this impropriety of my conduct,
told me of the prospects before me, and, amongst many other matters,
that of his having engaged me to draw in the Duke of Richmond’s Gallery;
and he strenuously urged me to change my mind. I told him that no
temptation of gain, of honour, or of anything else, however great, could
ever have any weight with me; and that I would even enlist for a
soldier, or go and herd sheep at five shillings per week, as long as I
lived, rather than be tied to live in London. I told him how sensible I
was of his uncommon kindness to me, and thanked him for it. My kind
friend left me in the pet, and I never saw him more. He afterwards, when
an old man, visited Newcastle, but left it again without my knowing it
till after he was gone. At this I felt much grieved and disappointed. I
do not remember how long he lived after this; but a memoir of him was
published in the “Analytical Magazine” at the time, together with a
letter I had written to him sometime before his death, which he never
answered. He was, in his day, accounted the best engraver of
embellishments for books, most of which he designed himself. The
frontispiece to the first edition of “Cunningham’s Poems” was one of his
early productions; and at that time my friend Pollard and myself thought
it was the best thing that ever was done.[20]

Footnote 20:

  John Cunningham, the pastoral poet, died September, 1773, aged 43
  years, and was buried in St. John’s Church Yard, Newcastle.

The same kind persuasions were urged upon me by Mr. Hodgson, to remain
in London, as had been used by Mr. Taylor, which ended in a similar way.
The former, however, went further, and told me that, if I were
determined upon leaving London, and would continue to work for him in
Newcastle, he would furnish me with plenty of it; and that he would
begin by giving me as much as would keep me employed for two years. This
was particularly pleasing to me, because I could not bear the thoughts
of beginning business in Newcastle in opposition to my old master, for
whom I had the greatest respect.

Having spent the evening till a late hour with my friends at the
“George,” in Brook Street, and in the morning taken leave of my landlord
and landlady, Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, and their family, in Wharton’s Court,
Holborn, I then posted off to the Pool, and got on board a collier; and,
after a very short passage, arrived in sight of St. Nicholas’ Church
steeple, about the 22nd June, 1777.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

THE first thing after my arrival in Newcastle was to see my old master,
and the next to engage my old lodgings at Hatfields, and to fit up a
work bench there. I then set to work upon my wood cuts. This, however,
was interrupted by other jobs; and the first of the kind was that of
engraving a copper plate of the “Theban Harp,” for the Rev. James
Murray, for some of his publications.[21] Some of the silversmiths also
began to press their jobs upon me. I had not, however, been long at work
for myself till proposals were made to me to join in partnership with my
late master; and this was brought about by a mutual friend (?) This
proposal—which was to set me down at once in a well-established
business—I did not relish so warmly as our _mutual friend_ expected. I
had formed a plan of working alone, without apprentices, or being
interrupted by any one; and I am not certain, at this day, whether I
would not have been happier in doing so than in the way I was led to
pursue. I had often, in my lonely walks, debated this business over in
my mind; but, whether it would have been for the better or the worse, I
can now only conjecture. I tried the one plan, and not the other:
perhaps each might have had advantages and disadvantages. I should not
have experienced the envy and ingratitude of some of my pupils, neither
should I, on the contrary, have felt the pride and the pleasure I
derived from so many of them having received medals or premiums from the
Society for the Encouragement of Arts, and taken the lead, as engravers
on wood, in the Metropolis. Notwithstanding this pride and this
pleasure, I am inclined to think I should have had—balancing the good
against the bad—more pleasure in working alone for myself.

Footnote 21:

  The Rev. James Murray, a Church of Scotland minister, with whom I had
  been long acquainted. He was accounted one of the best Hebrew scholars
  of his day. His “Sermons to Asses” attracted much notice, and so did
  many of his other works. He was a keen, satirical writer, and, amongst
  his friends, he was of a lively, witty, and pleasant temper, and
  greatly valued by a numerous acquaintance for his humanity and good
  sense. He died in January, 1782, aged 50 years, and was buried in St.
  Andrew’s Church Yard, Newcastle.

During my absence in London, Mr. Beilby had taken an apprentice with a
premium; and, to make us equal, I took my brother John as mine. With him
I was extremely happy. He was constantly cheerful, lively, and very
active, and my friends were his friends. Mr. Beilby was as well pleased
with him as I could possibly be; for, besides his affable temper, he
took every kind of work in hand so pleasantly, and so very soon learned
to execute it well, that he could not miss giving satisfaction. This he
continued to do as long as he was with us; but other parts of his
conduct, when he arrived at manhood, was not so well, and gave me great
uneasiness; for he got acquainted with companions whom I thought badly
of, and my remonstrances respecting them proved in vain. He would not,
as he called it, be dictated to by me; but this I persisted in till it
made us often quarrel, which was distressing to me, for my regard for
him was too deeply rooted ever to think of suffering him to tread in the
paths which led to ruin, without endeavouring to prevent it. To the
latest day of his life, he repented of having turned a deaf ear to my
advice; and as bitterly and sincerely did he acknowledge the slighted
obligations he owed me. He _rued_; and that is as painful a word as any
in the English language.

As soon as I thought my brother might be able to work his way in the
world,—he having been, I think, about five years with me,—I gave him his
liberty, and he set off to London, where, being freed from his former
associates, his conduct was all that could be desired, and he was highly
respected and esteemed. He was as industrious in London as he had been
with us, and had plenty of work to do. He was almost entirely employed
by the publishers and booksellers in designing and cutting an endless
variety of blocks for them. He was extremely quick at his work, and did
it at a very low rate. His too close confinement, however, impaired his
health. He revisited Cherryburn, where he did not remain long till he
thought himself quite recovered, and he then returned to London, where
he continued a few years longer, and where the same kind of confinement
affected his health as before. A similar visit to his native air was
found necessary; his health was again restored to him; and again he
returned to London. He, however, found that he could not pursue the same
kind of close confinement, on which account he engaged to teach drawing
at the Hornsey Academy, then kept by Mr. Nathaniel Norton, which obliged
him to keep a pony to ride backwards and forwards; thus dividing his
time between his work-office in London and the school for some years,
when his health began again to decline, and he finally left London early
in the summer of 1795, and returned once more to the banks of the Tyne.
Here he intended to follow the wood engraving for his London friends,
and particularly for Wm. Bulmer, for whom he was engaged to execute a
number of blocks for the “Fabliaux” or “Tales of Le Grand,” and for
“Somerville’s Chace.” Many of the former he had, I believe, finished in
London, and had sketched others on the blocks, which he finished at
Cherryburn. He had also sketched the designs on the blocks for the
“Chace;” and to these I put the finishing hand, after his decease, which
happened on the 5th of December, 1795, aged 35 years. The last thing I
could do for him was putting up a stone to his memory at the west end of
Ovingham Church, where I hope, when my “glass is run out,” to be laid
down beside him.

While my brother was my apprentice, he frequently accompanied me on my
weekly visits to Cherryburn. He was then a clever, springy youth, and
our bounding along together was often compared to the scamperings of a
pair of wild colts. These journeys commenced while I was an apprentice.
I then mostly went and returned on the same day; but, when I became my
own master, for many years—in summer’s heat and winter’s freezing cold—I
did not miss a single week. When I was an apprentice, I had a few
holydays at Easter and Whitsuntide allowed me, according to promise; and
these were wholly employed in angling; but, after the time came when I
might do as I pleased, I mostly stopped, when the weather suited, in
spring and summer, and spent the Mondays in various streams, at this my
favourite—and, indeed, only—diversion. In this I was accompanied by my
cheerful associate, “Jack Roe,” with his flies and his tackle; and, when
we had got a sufficient number, I returned to Newcastle with my creel
well filled with fish, which I divided amongst my friends. With an
account of these hungry, stream-wading ramblings, and the days spent in
angling, and with a description of the beautiful scenery of water-sides,
and the renovating charms which these altogether inspired, a volume
might be filled, in imitation of the patriarch of anglers, Izaac Walton:
as might also one of a descriptive or sentimental journal of these my
weekly visits to my parents. These visits continued regularly from 1777
till 1785, in which year my mother, my eldest sister, and my father, all

It will readily be believed that, if I had not felt uncommon pleasure in
these journeys, I would not have persisted in them; nor in facing the
snow storms, the floods, and the dark nights of so many winters. This,
to some, appeared like insanity, but my stimulant, as well as my reward,
was in seeing my father and mother in their happy home. I always
reflected that this would have an end, and that the time would come when
I should have no feelings of warm regard called up on their account.
Besides these gratifications, I felt others in observing the weekly
changes of the long-lengthened and varied year, which, by being so
measured out, appeared like living double one’s time. The “Seasons,” by
the inimitable Thomson, had charmed me greatly; but, viewing nature thus
experimentally, pleased me much more. To be placed in the midst of a
wood in the night, in whirlwinds of snow, while the tempest howled above
my head, was sublimity itself, and drew forth aspirations to Omnipotence
such as had not warmed my imagination so highly before; but, indeed,
without being supported by ecstacies of this kind, the spirits, beset as
they were, would have flagged, and I should have sunk down.

As soon as the days began to lengthen, and the sprouting herbage had
covered the ground, I often stopped with delight by the sides of woods,
to admire the dangling woodbine and roses, and the grasses powdered or
spangled with pearly drops of dew; and also, week after week, the
continued succession of plants and wild flowers. The primrose, the wild
hyacinth, the harebell, the daisy, the cowslip, &c.,—these, altogether,
I thought no painter ever could imitate. I had not, at that time, ever
heard the name of the great and good Linnæus, and knew plants only by
their common English names. While admiring these beautifully-enamelled
spots on my way, I was also charmed with the equally beautiful little
songsters, which were constantly pouring out their various notes to
proclaim the spring. While this exhilarating season glided on by
imperceptible degrees, unfolding its blossoms till they faded into
summer, and as the days lengthened, my hours of rising became more and
more early. I have often thought, that not one half of mankind knew
anything of the beauty, the serenity, and the stillness of the summer
mornings in the country, nor have ever witnessed the rising sun’s
shining forth upon the new day.

I had often listened with great pleasure and attention to my father’s
description of the morning, with his remarks upon the various wild
quadrupeds and the strange birds he had seen or heard in these still
hours throughout the year; for he left his bed very early in summer, and
seldom later than four or five o’clock in the winter. The autumn I
viewed as the most interesting season, and, in its appearance, the most
beautiful. It is then that the yellow harvest of the fields, and the
produce of the orchards, are gathered in, as the reward of the labours
of the year; while the picturesque beauties and varying foliage of the
fading woods, with their falling leaves, and the assembling in flocks of
the small birds, put me in mind of the gloomy months with which the year
is closed.

This is the short account of many years of uninterrupted health, bouyant
spirits, and of great happiness to me. I had begun betimes, and by
degrees, to habituate myself to temperance and exercise, which hardened
the constitution to such a pitch that neither wet nor cold had any bad
effect upon me. On setting out upon my weekly pedestrian “flights” up
the Tyne, I never looked out to see whether it was a good day or a bad
one; the worst that ever fell from the skies never deterred me from
undertaking my journey. On setting out, I always waded through the first
pool I met with, and had sometimes the river to wade at the far end. I
never changed my clothes, however they might be soaked with wet, or
stiffened by the frost, on my returning home at night, till I went to
bed. I had inured myself to this hardship, by always sleeping with my
windows open, by which a thorough air, as well as the snow, blew through
my room. In this way, I lay down, rolled in a blanket, upon a mattrass
as hard as I could make it. Notwithstanding this mode of treating
myself, I never had any ailment, even in the shape of a cold, while I
continued to live in this way; nor did I experience any difference
until, when I married, I was obliged to alter my plans, and to live and
behave like other folks. If persons brought up and habituated to the
tender indulgences common in the world, and not trained by degrees to
bear the mode of life I have been describing, were to try it,
unprepared, the experiment would be at their peril. My travelling
expenses for the day, were commonly only a penny or twopence for
crossing the water. On the hottest day, I was never made violently to
perspire, but only felt a dampness on my brow. I carried no useless
weight of fat about me, and the muscular parts were as hard as it was
possible to be on any human being. On being asked by a gentleman—an
acquaintance whom I met at Ovingham—what I got to drink on such hot
days, on my road, my reply was—“Nothing.” He had not been used to such
doings himself; and was surprised, and could hardly believe me. He
earnestly persuaded me to try the experiment of the amazing good a glass
of brandy and water would do me in hot weather. This I took no notice of
for some time: at length, however, on a thundery, hot day, on being
scorched with heat, and in danger of being struck with lightning, which
darted from a sky almost as black as ink, I stepped into a public house,
and, for the first time in my life, called for a glass of brandy and
water. I was then about 28 years old. This would not be worth noticing,
but only on account of its being a beginning to me, and which I did not,
when occasion pressed me, leave off for some years afterwards.

This life of rapturous enjoyment has its acids, and at length comes to
an end; and so did my walks, and my reflections, or contemplations,
which passed through the mind while engaged in them. These, at the time,
were mostly communicated to a moralising, sensible, and religious
friend, who waited my return on the Sunday evenings, when, over our
supper, he, in return, detailed to me the import of the sermons he had
heard through the day.



                              CHAPTER IX.

IN Christmas week, 1784, while I was amusing myself with sliding on the
ice at Ovingham, which was as smooth almost as a looking glass, between
Eltringham and that place,—I know not what came over my mind, but
something ominous haunted it, of a gloomy change impending over the
family. At this I was surprised, for I had never before felt any such
sensation, and presently scouted it as some whim of the imagination. The
day was to be one of cheerfulness; for Mr. and Mrs. Storey—distant
relations of my father’s, and for whom my parents had the greatest
regard—had been, with other friends, invited to dine with us at
Cherryburn. At dinner all was kindness and cheerfulness, and my father
was, as usual, full of his jokes, and telling some of his facetious
stories and anecdotes. For two, or perhaps three Sundays after this, I
was prevented from getting over the water, by the ice and other floods,
and returned from Ovingham without seeing or hearing how all were at
home. The Sunday after, upon my making my usual call at the gardener’s
in Ovingham,—where, when at school, we always left our dinner poke, and
dined,—he informed me, with looks of grief, that my mother was very
unwell. I posted off, in haste, across the river, to see her. Upon my
asking her, earnestly, how she was, she took me apart, and told me it
was nearly all over with her; and she described to me how she had got
her death. She had been called up, on a severe frosty night, to see a
young woman in the hamlet below, who was taken ill; and, thinking the
bog she had to pass through, might be frozen hard enough to bear her,
she “slumped” deep into it, and, before she had waded through it, she
got very wet and a “perishment” of cold; and, in that state, she went to
give her advice as to what was best to be done with her patient. I
employed my friend, Dr. Bailes, to visit her; and I ran up from
Newcastle two or three times a week with his medicines for her; but all
would not do: she died on the 20th February, 1785, aged 58 years. She
was possessed of great innate powers of mind, which had been cultivated
by a good education, as well as by her own endeavours. For these, and
for her benevolent, humane, disposition, and good sense, she was greatly
respected, and, indeed, revered by the whole neighbourhood. My eldest
sister, who was down from London on a visit to her home, at the time of
my mother’s illness and death, by her over-exertion and anxiety, brought
on an illness; and, for the convenience of medical aid, and better
nursing, I brought her to my hitherto little happy cot, at the Forth,
where she died on the 24th June, 1785, aged 30 years. These were gloomy
days to me! Some short time before my sister died, upon her requesting
me, and my promising her, that I would see her buried at Ovingham, she
proposed to sing me a song. I thought this very strange, and felt both
sorrow and surprise at it; but she smiled at me, and began her song of
“All Things have but a Time.” I had heard the old song before, and
thought pretty well of it; but her’s was a later and a very much better
version of it.

During this time I observed a great change in the looks and deportment
of my father. He had, what is called, “never held up his head” since the
death of my mother; and, upon my anxiously pressing him to tell me what
ailed him, he said he had felt as if he were shot through from the
breast to the shoulders with a great pain that hindered him from
breathing freely. Upon my mentioning medical assistance, he rejected it,
and told me, if I sent him any drugs, I might depend upon it he would
throw them all behind the fire. He wandered about all summer alone, with
a kind of serious look, and took no pleasure in anything, till near the
15th November, which, I understand, was his birthday, and on which he
completed his 70th year, and on that day he died. He was buried beside
my mother and sister at Ovingham. After this, I left off my walks to
Cherryburn; the main attractions to it were gone; and it became a place
the thoughts of which now raked up sorrowful reflections in my mind.
Some particulars respecting my father, and illustrative of his
character, may, perhaps, be thought not uninteresting. I shall give a
few of such as I recollect them. In his person, he was a stout,
square-made, strong, and active man, and through life was a pattern of
health. I was told by some of my aunts, who were older than he, that he
was never ill from a disease in his life; and I have heard him say “he
wondered how folks felt when they were ill.” He was of a cheerful
temper, and he possessed an uncommon vein of humour and a fund of
anecdote. He was much noticed by the gentlemen and others of the
neighbourhood for these qualities, as well as for his integrity. He had,
however, some traits that might be deemed singular, and not in order. He
never would prosecute any one for theft; he hated going to law, but he
took it at his own hand, and now and then gave thieves a severe beating,
and sometimes otherwise punished them in a singular and whimsical way. I
have known him, on a winter night, rise suddenly up from his seat, and,
with a stick in his hand, set off to the colliery, in order to catch the
depredators whom he might detect stealing his coals. I remember one
instance of his thus catching a young fellow, a farmer, with his loaded
cart, and of his giving him a severe beating, or, what was called, a
“hideing,” and of his making him leave his booty and go home empty. The
thieves themselves were sure to keep the business secret, and he himself
never spoke of it beyond his own fireside. In these robberies, which he
saw with his own eyes, he conceived he did not need the help of either
witnesses, judge, or jury, nor the occasion to employ any attorney to
empty his pockets. I have sometimes heard him make remarks upon people
whom he knew to be hypocrites, and on their loud praying and holding up
their hands at church. After having noticed that one of these, one
Sunday, had acted thus, and remained to take the Sacrament, some person
called, in the afternoon, with the news that this very man had, on his
way home, caught a poor man’s galloway, which had entered through a gap
in the hedge into his field, and had driven it before him into the
pinfold. This was sufficient; this was the spark which kindled up and
increased to a blaze, which my father could not muster temper enough to
keep down. Next morning, he set off to the smith’s shop, and sent for
this choleric, purse-proud man, to whom, in rude terms, he opened out
upon his hypocrisy, and at length obliged him to release the galloway
from its hungry imprisonment. He recommended him to make his peace with
the poor but honest and respected man, and to go no more to church, nor
to take the Sacrament, till a change had taken place in his mind. He
also told him that he ought that very night, before he slept, to sit
down on his bare knees, and implore forgiveness of the God he had

The last transaction I shall mention, on this subject,—and which bore a
more serious complexion than the foregoing,—happened when I was an
apprentice. A pitman, George Parkin, who had long wrought in the
colliery, was highly valued by my father for his industry, sobriety, and
honesty. He would not do anything unfairly himself in working the coal
in the boards, nor suffer others to do so. For this conduct he became
deservedly a great favourite,—so much so that one of the old lodges had
been comfortably fitted up for him and his family to live in rent free;
and a garth, besides, was taken off the common for his use. For these he
often expressed himself so highly pleased that he used to say, he was
happier than a prince. My father, for many years, had made it a point to
let the men down to their work himself; so that he might see with his
own eyes that all was safe. All passed on pleasantly in this way for a
long while, till one morning, when thus employed letting the men down,
George, who was always the first at his work, having fixed himself on
the chain, with his son on his arm, to be both let down together, had
given the signal, “Wise-away,” and at the same time holding up his “low
rope,” he observed the pit rope which was to bear their weight had been
cut near the chain. On this he shouted “Stop,” and started back upon the
“seddle boards,” just in time to prevent himself and the boy from being
precipitated to the bottom of the pit. The poor man was almost
overpowered with the shock, when my father, keeping the “dreg” upon the
“start,” caught hold of him and the boy, and conducted both into the
lodge. On examining the rope, my father found it had been cut through to
the last strand. He then stopped the working of the pit for that day.
George, in great distress of mind, set off to Newcastle to inform me of
what had happened. I was grieved to hear his tale; and this was
heightened by his declaring that all his pleasures were at an end; for
he never could go back to his work, nor to his happy home again.

For some time, my father seemed lost in pondering over this mysterious
affair. He, however, at length began to be fixed in his suspicions, and,
as was usual on such occasions, his indignation, step by step, rose to
the greatest height. In this state of mind, he set off unusually soon in
the morning, to let the men down to their work; knowing that the object
of his suspicions,—a wicked, ignorant, young fellow—would be the first,
and alone. He began by accusing him of the horrid deed, and instantly to
beat and overpower him; threatening him that he would drag him to the
pit, and throw him down the shaft, if he did not confess. The threat
succeeded; he was afraid of his life, and confessed. My father instantly
dismissed him from his employment. When the rest of the men came to
their work, they saw, by the blood, and the retaliating blows on my
father’s face, that something unusual had occurred. He then told them
the particulars, at which they greatly rejoiced. In this state of
things, the _accusing culprit_, while he bore the marks of violence upon
him, set crippling off to lodge his complaint to the justices, and my
father was summoned to appear before them. When met together, the
justices (Captains Smith and Bainbridge,[22] of the Riding), heard the
charge of assault, which, from the first appearance of the complainant
before them, they had no reason to doubt. They both expressed their
surprise to find such a charge against my father, with whom they had
been in habits of neighbourly intimacy, and who was the last man on
earth they could suspect as capable of committing such an outrage. After
laying down the law in such cases, they wished to hear what he had to
say for himself. He readily acknowledged what he had done, and his
reasons for doing so. They seemed much shocked at the horrid narrative;
and, after conferring together in private a short time, the business was
resumed. “Pray,” said one of them to the culprit, “were not you the man
who robbed Bywell Lock, and”—looking him sternly in the face—“was not
this master of yours the very friend by whose unceasing endeavours and
influence you were saved from transportation? Begone! leave the country,
and never let us see you more.” The man left the country for many years,
and, on his return, I was both pleased and surprised to find he was much
reformed. In addition to this long account, I must add, that my father
could not be troubled to harbour ill-will in his mind, and that, if he
were passionate, he was equally compassionate.

Footnote 22:

  Now Major Bainbridge, who has been many years in the commission of the
  peace, in which he is much respected as a magistrate and a man.
  Without knowing what side he took in politics, I have always
  considered him as a local patriot, keen of promoting everything for
  the benefit of Tyneside. While I am writing this (23rd June, 1823) he
  is living, and in his 87th year. Captain Smith I did not know. Major
  Bainbridge died 6th December, 1826, in his 91st year.



                               CHAPTER X.

FOR many years, including a part of those of my apprenticeship, my
master and self were fully employed upon such work as I have named
before, from silversmiths, watchmakers, and hardwaremen; but a new
customer (Isaac Hymen, a Jew), came in the way with his seal-cutting
orders, which amounted to more, in that way, than all the rest put
together. This man, besides his box of watches, trinkets, &c., had
gathered together a large collection of impressions of well-cut seals;
and, being a man of good address, and a good singer, had introduced
himself into coffee-rooms frequented by gentlemen and respectable
tradesmen, where he exhibited his impressions as the work of his own
hands; and, by this management—for he knew nothing whatever of
engraving—he got orders. Somehow or other, it was propagated throughout
the town that his seals surpassed by far anything we ever did, or could
do; and, although we had done the whole of his orders, this was
believed, and there seemed to be only one opinion as to his very
superior excellence. I remember once rising early in the morning, and
working till late at night, and, on that day, cutting five steel seals
with cyphers and initials, for which our common wholesale charge was
3_s._ 6_d._, and to our private customers, 5_s._ For these he charged
12_s._ 6_d._ each to his friends. He observed to me, on my remarking to
him on his extravagant charges, “that it was foolish in us to do as we
did;” and, for himself, he said, “you know, I must live.” My wages for
the short time I worked for my master, after I was out of my
apprenticeship, was a guinea per week, but Isaac offered me two guineas
if I would travel with him. The travelling part I should have liked well
enough, but not to travel with a Jew. He went on in this way, with his
orders, till we had no other customer in that department; and my master
then, as well as when I became his partner, often expressed himself
highly chagrined that some of his old private friends went past him, and
even joined others in lessening our work. Our friend Isaac continued
long uninterruptedly thus to carry all before him, till some of our old
customers became irritated at him, and particularly a watchmaker, who
took great pains to open out and expose the business. Isaac then left
Newcastle, and report said he was found dead on the road between
Sunderland and Durham. I have often seen, in London,—and perhaps the
same may be observed in every large town,—“The pale artist ply his
sickly trade,” to keep in affluence such managing, money-making,
pretended artists as Isaac Hymen; and this must continue to be the case
so long as gentlemen will not go themselves to the fountain head, and be
at the pains to encourage merit.

Our main supporter in the silver engraving, was John Langlands, who was
of a cheerful, hospitable, and charitable disposition, full of stories
and anecdotes, and who greatly esteemed men of ability, integrity, and
industry. These he never forgot when age or infirmities brought them
down. He then shook hands with them as he had done before, but his own
mostly concealed his token of respect—a half guinea. I spent many a
cheerful evening in Mr. L.’s house, in company with others who also
partook of his hospitable board. The most remarkable of these was
Matthew Prior, who had the character of being one of the best mechanics
in the kingdom. He was assay master, a musical instrument maker, and a
turner, in which last he particularly excelled. The many remarkable
pieces of dexterous workmanship he had done in that way drew upon him
the notice of many gentlemen in the two northern counties, with whom
also, as an angler, a sportsman, and a jovial companion, he was a
welcome guest. It happened, on some pretence or other, that an attempt
was made to take away the assay business from Newcastle, which
occasioned Prior to be sent for, to be examined by (I believe) a
committee of the House of Commons, as to his ability in conducting that
business. The ease, the clearness, as well as the straight-forward way
in which he answered all questions excited some surprise, as well as
approbation. When questioned as to the accuracy of his scale-beam, he
said a hair clipped from the back of his hand would turn his scales
either way. For a wager, he turned two billiard balls of such equal
weights that the difference was as nothing. He was of a most independent
cast of character, and open and frank in his conversation. It had been
reported that Prior had said of a proud, high-minded gentleman that “he
durst do what neither the gentleman nor any of his family dared do.”
Prior had never said any such thing; but this gentleman took him to task
about it, and, with great indignation, accused him of saying so. At
this, Prior, in his turn, felt offended, and told him, though he had
never said so, he would now say so to his face. This produced a wager
between them; and Matthew told him he would double the bet if he
pleased. “Now,” said the gentleman, in high ill-humour, “what is it you
dare do?” “Do!” said Prior, “I dare spend the last shilling I have in
the world!”[23]

During a great part of the time I have been noticing, the American War
was going on. The “press” broke out just after I landed in London, and,
to escape the gang, one of our crew came and took refuge with me. This
poor fellow, a decent man, had in his youth been on board a ship of war;
and, as far as concerned himself, he said he did not mind going again;
but the thoughts of being dragged from his family threw him into very
great distress. Political writings and debatings sometimes ran very high
between those who were advocates for a system of corruption, and
profited by the taxes, and those who were advocates for the liberties of
mankind; but it always appeared to me that a very great majority of the
people were decidedly against the war. These writings and debatings,
which the war occasioned, certainly served greatly to alter the notions
and the opinions of the people respecting the purity of the British
government, and its representative system; and this attempt at doing it
away altogether in America seemed a prelude to the same system of
misrule, when, by slower degrees, a future opportunity offered for doing
it away at home. In these political debatings, the question was often
asked, “Whether the government was made for the people, or the people
for the government?” Great numbers, who hoped for the best, still clung
to the government under which they had been brought up, and had been
taught to revere as excellency itself. While others were contending
whether a kingly government or a republic was best, it was generally
admitted that a deal might be said _pro_ and _con_; for many examples
might be adduced of mal-administration under both forms. Some of these
disputants would repeat what Pope had said—

Footnote 23:

  Matthew Prior died June 15, 1800, aged 65, and was buried in St.
  Nicholas’ Church, Newcastle.

            “For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
              His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right;
              For forms of government, it is confest
              That which is best administered is best.”

In England the people may boast that their forefathers had a king, in
Alfred the Great, the wisest, the bravest, and the best the world ever
knew; by whose excellent conduct was laid the foundation of the
liberties of his country, and from the influence of which there can be
no doubt that the English language will be spoken over the whole Globe.
Were kings to endeavour to follow his example, and ever to keep in mind
that they and their ministers ought to consider themselves as a royal
society for the promotion of arts and sciences, and of everything that
can enlighten the minds and ameliorate the condition of mankind, they
would do right. Kings would then reign in the hearts of the great
overwhelming mass of the people, and no confederacy or conspiracy of
nobles or others could ever upset their rule. But, while they continue
to suffer themselves to be surrounded by flatterers, sycophants, and
selfish knaves, no good need be expected; for they are thus brought up,
like petted children, and have not the same chance of becoming wise as
other men. Thus situated, they are to be pitied. One would think that
the respectable part of the old nobility, or other opulent men of great
abilities, might be found with patriotism enough to perform the offices
of the ministry gratis, scorning high salaries, and only looking to
honourable distinction. This would of itself put an end to corruption.
Justices of the peace take the very great trouble of acting their parts
gratuitously; churchwardens and overseers do the same; and why do not
the great and rich men of the land follow the praiseworthy example?

In reverting back to take another look at the American war, one may
reckon to a certainty of its having been made the subject of debatings,
and of furnishing matter for the thinking part of mankind, over the
whole of the civilised world. George the Third and his advisers did not,
perhaps, think of this, nor its consequences; neither did they ever
contemplate the mighty events they were thus bringing about in rearing
and establishing the wisest and greatest republic and nation the world
ever saw. When its immense territory is filled with an enlightened
population, and its government, like a rock, founded on the liberties
and the rights of man, it is beyond human comprehension to foresee the
strides the nation will make towards perfection. It is likely they will
cast a compassionate eye on the rest of the world, grovelling under
arbitrary power, banish it from the face of the earth, and kill despots
with a frown. One would fain hope, however, that kings and their
advisers will coolly reflect upon the improving intellect of mankind,
and take measures to govern in a way more befitting the state of the
people over whom they are called upon to rule.

During the long continuance of this war, and the debatings as before
noticed, I became acquainted with a number of young men of a literary
turn, who had a library of books. I did not join their society, but I
sometimes dined with them at their annual, cheerful dinner. I was never
fond of public dinners or dining parties; and I think I would not have
partaken with them had I not been tempted to do so by way of bearing
their songs, with which I felt much charmed, but particularly with the
Scotch songs, with which one of the members (Walter Cannaway) used so
highly to delight the company on these occasions. He, according to my
notions, was the best singer I ever heard. I have always been more
charmed with the human voice, when well attuned, than with any
instrumental music whatever; and his voice was extremely good. Many
others, perhaps, might have as good a voice, and as correct an ear for
music as he, and would have been equally as charming had they not been
spoiled by the fashion they had got into to please the surfeited tastes
of coxcombical connoisseurs and a vitiated, aping public. I have ever
been much disgusted to hear and see these spoiled performers, quavering
and spinning out their unnatural falsetto voices until almost spent. It
showed well how long-winded these kind of performers were, but I never
could sit to hear any of them; as it appeared to me to be anything but
music, or music run mad.

On my first going to business, I had an opportunity of sometimes hearing
musical concerts. My master belonged to a musical society; and, when I
had any message to take to him, I was commonly invited to remain. The
two sons of Charles Avison, the musical composer, belonged to this
society, and Mr. Beilby and family were on terms of intimacy with them.
I also occasionally heard the band at the theatre, but I cannot say I
felt much pleasure in listening to them, and I well remember on one
occasion of setting them aside. The late Mr. Dibden, who often called
upon me, had some performance to exhibit at our theatre, and had
quarrelled with the theatrical band on account of their exorbitant
demands; and, in this dilemma, he expressed himself much disappointed,
and knew not what to do. I told him I thought, if he would leave the
matter to me, I could set all right; and I instantly applied to old Wm.
Lamshaw, the Duke of Northumberland’s piper, to play at the theatre. I
being well-acquainted with the old man, he readily assented. I then told
my friend Dibden what I had done, and satisfied him as to the preference
the audience would give to the piper. In this I was not mistaken; for
all went well off, and everyone expressed both pleasure and surprise at
the change.

Some time before the American war broke out, there had been a lack of
musical performers in our streets, and in this interval, I used to
engage John Peacock, our inimitable performer, to play on the
Northumberland or small pipes; and with his old tunes, his lilts, his
pauses, and his variations, I was always excessively pleased. At one
time I was afraid that these old times, and this ancient instrument,
might, from neglect of encouragement, get out of use, and I did
everything in my power to prevent this, and to revive it, by urging
Peacock to teach pupils to become masters of this kind of music; and I
flatter myself that my efforts were not lost. I was afraid that the
Northumberland family were beginning to feel indifferent, or to overlook
these their ancient minstrels, who had for ages past been much esteemed,
and kept in attendance by their forefathers. It was, however, with great
pleasure I found that they had appointed William Cant,[24] a pupil of
old William Lamshaw, to be piper to the Northumberland Regiment of
Militia; and he kept up with great spirit and effect this department of
their music while he remained in the regiment. Nor was the regiment
behind in the other departments of music; for it was allowed by judges
that their fifers and drummers were inferior to none in the kingdom. One
man, in particular—John Bowman—it was asserted, was the best performer
on the fife that was “known in the world.” Certain it is that every year
for twenty-two years, he challenged the fifers of every regiment
stationed in Newcastle, to a trial of skill on that instrument; but none
of them could compete with him. He could draw out tones from it the most
soft and graceful, as well as the most stunning and loud, such as the
ear could not endure in a room, and which were only fit to be heard in
the open air.

Footnote 24:

  On his death, I sent the following notice to Mr. Walker’s newspaper:—
  “July 15th, 1821, died, Mr. William Cant, of the Blue Bell Inn,
  Newcastle, aged 70 years. He was an excellent performer on the violin
  and the Northumberland pipes; and, like his great predecessors on the
  latter instrument—Turnbull, Gilley, Old Lamshaw, and Peacock—he kept
  up the ancient tunes with all their charming lilts and pauses,
  unspoiled by the _modern improvers_ of music, with their ‘Idiot notes
  impertinently long.’ He played ‘his native wood-notes wild,’ such as
  pleased the ears of the yeomanry of old at Otterburn, Hedgley Moor,
  and Flodden Field. For—

               ‘Whene’er his pipe did silence break
                You’d thought the instrument would speak.’”



                              CHAPTER XI.

I HAVE noticed several of my friends and acquaintances whose characters
stood high in my estimation. I have now another to introduce, the
play-fellow of my youth, Thomas Lawson, as remarkable as any of them. He
left Tyneside, his and my home, and came to Newcastle about 1777 or ’78,
to launch out into the world of exertion and turmoil; and, from his
abilities and integrity, he seemed well befitted to make a great figure
in it, and, had he been spared, he would, in my opinion, have shone out
like another Benjamin Franklin. He was for a short time one of my
schoolfellows at Ovingham; but, from his father having been beggared by
the failure of a coal-owner for whom he had been employed many years, my
young friend was obliged to leave school, and to seek out some
employment for himself. In the interim, he took up his abode in my
father’s house as a home. The first employment that my companion got was
that of a plough-driver. He next became a farmer’s servant, and
afterwards a manager of a farm and brewery. In all these departments, he
was distinguished for his industry, good sense, good management, and
great integrity. It happened, however, that he, being handsome in his
person and manly in his deportment, his employer began to suspect that
the young lady of the house was showing a marked partiality towards him;
and this having occasioned some frowns and hints which his spirit could
not brook, he gave up his place and set off to Newcastle, where he bound
himself to a printer, as a pressman; for which he was to be paid 8_s._
per week. With this wage, he contrived to maintain himself, and to pay
out of it for a night-school education. His progress was truly
astonishing in figures, languages, the use of the globes, &c.; but his
memory was so tenacious that he retained whatever he learned, and he
could repeat the longest harangue, (as far as I was able to judge)
verbatim. I once had an opportunity of witnessing this, in his repeating
the whole of a charity sermon, preached by the eloquent the Rev. Dr.
Scott, of Simonburn. While he was employed in the drudgery of the
printing press, he, at the same time, made himself master of the
business of a compositor. Shortly after, he left this employment, and
married a young woman of respectable parentage. It happened that the
printing of a Bible in numbers had been established; but the publisher,
either from mismanagement, or something amiss, was on the verge of a
failure. In this state of affairs, Lawson turned his attention to the
business, and applied to his wife’s friends for assistance, but they
could, at that time, only spare him about thirty pounds; and with this
sum in hand, he made a proposal for purchasing the types, and everything
belonging to the printing office. It is singular enough that the printer
referred to, having left Newcastle, lived and had his printing office in
the governor’s house at Tynemouth, whither I went with my friend when
the bargain was to be closed between them. He now commenced business on
his own account, but how long he had to struggle through difficulties,
before he got well established, I have forgotten. It is remarkable that
he met with unsolicited aid from many friends; for every one who knew
him became interested in his welfare. He lived till he surmounted every
obstacle to his prosperity; but, in doing this, his too great
application and exertion ruined his health. He pined away and died, in a
house close by mine at the Forth, on the 7th March, 1783, aged 31 years.
I, with many other of his friends, accompanied his remains to Ovingham,
where he was buried. This was the first time in my life that I felt
poignant grief.

My old schoolfellow and friend, Philip Gregson, of the Custom House,
London, being on a visit to his relatives and friends in the north, in
1780, I, being fond of rambling, proposed setting him on his return
home, as far as York, if he would walk with me to that city, to which he
agreed; and, after spending a day or two with him there, we parted. On
my return, I took the road by Boroughbridge to Ripon, where I stayed a
short time till I had viewed the country round it, and particularly
Studley Park and its beautiful scenery. I then returned to Darlington,
and changed my route to the westward, by Barnard Castle, Bowes, over
Stainmore to Brough, Appleby, and Penrith; and from thence to my uncle’s
at Ainstable. On leaving him and his family, I walked home that day to
Cherryburn, and so on the next to Newcastle.

I have not interlarded this journey with any of my remarks on the
road—on the grandeur of York Minster—the large upright stones called
“The Devil’s Arrows,” near Boroughbridge—the extensive prospects from
Cross Fell, &c.; and therefore the whole of this may be regarded as
merely one of my “tramps,” and a description of these places by others
may be referred to.

In another of my perambulations, I prevailed on an acquaintance to
accompany me to Berwick. We set off, on an Easter Sunday morning, in
1784, by the seaside, and our first halt was at Chevington, beyond
Widdrington. I had not broken my fast, and was quite ready to make a
hearty meal upon some dry barley cake and cheese, whilst my thirsty
companion, with equal pleasure, enjoyed himself with hearty draughts of
ale. We reached Lesbury in the afternoon, and, when my fellow-traveller
sat down, he observed, that I might go on if I pleased, but he would not
move a foot further that night. Next day, after sauntering about a
little in the villages on our road, we reached Elwick, the hospitable
mansion of my friend Thomas Younghusband, Esq., where we stopped that
night. Mr. Younghusband happened to have a few of his friends to spend
the evening with him. We got on to make merry and to sing songs; and,
when it came to my companion’s turn, the party were so agreeably
surprised and pleased at his performance that we did not separate till
the morning. My companion and I set off to Berwick, and, after seeing
the town, we returned to Elwick by Holy Island. In the performance of
this day’s journey we had to encounter some difficulties which might
have been attended with fatal consequences. We had been cautioned
against attempting, after a certain hour, to walk across the extensive
flat left bare by the ebb tide. We were beyond the time named, but
resolved to proceed, and had to run the greatest part of the way; and it
was well we did so; for, before we reached the Island, we found the tide
was rapidly advancing between us and the shore, and we had to wade
deeply before we reached it. On looking back, over the flat space we had
just left, we were surprised to view it as a sea. My companion, being
rather corpulent, was in a sad state of perspiration with over exertion,
and I think I was not much better, from the anxiety I felt for him,
while I was constantly urging him to mend his speed. We now hastened to
a public house, dripping with wet, where my companion took a few glasses
of gin, and prevailed on me to take one along with him; and this is the
first glass of that liquor I ever recollect taking. Our next business
was to get a boat to set us across the arm of the sea, between the
island and the nearest shore, towards Elwick. It was then nearly dark;
and, before the boatmen got us rowed across, it was quite so. Where they
landed us we knew not, but we had to wade to the dry beach. In shaping
our course to Elwick, we lost ourselves in the fields, and it was late
before we arrived there. We were in as dirty a state as wet and mire
could make us. Mrs. Younghusband, however, lost no time in fitting us up
with dry clothes, and in making us as comfortable as she could. My
companion having some business of his own to attend to, I remained a day
or two at Elwick, and made a few visits with Mr. Younghusband in the
neighbourhood. Mr. Y. had to attend a meeting of freeholders, on some
election business, at the town hall, Alnwick, and I accompanied him
thither. Never having before heard any speeches, I was much entertained
with those now made. This being about the time that Mr. Pitt came into
the administration, and being the son of the great Chatham, most people
hoped and expected he would follow the bright, the patriotic example
that had been set him; but one gentleman appeared to differ in opinion
from the majority, and, in what I conceived to be an eloquent speech,
foretold that he would turn out, in character, to be quite a different
kind of man.

About the year 1790, I became a member of “Swarley’s Club,” held in the
evenings, at the Black Boy Inn. This was the most rational society or
meeting I ever knew. The few rules which bound us together were only
verbal. The first was that every member should conduct himself with
decorum, and as a gentleman. If any one transgressed on this point, he
was immediately fined, and if he did not pay, he was sent to Coventry,
or dismissed. On entering the room, every member paid fourpence, which
was to be spent in refreshment. Any member might introduce his friend at
the same expense. There were no fines for non-attendance and no regular
debatings allowed on any subject but such as might occasionally arise
out of the passing conversation, and the company separated at ten
o’clock. Conversations amongst the friends thus associated,—consisting
of merchants, or respectable tradesmen,—were carried on without
restraint, and only interrupted for the moment while the president
claimed attention to any particular news of the day that might be worth
notice. Such a place of meeting proved convenient and pleasant to many a
stranger who visited the town, and the expense was as nothing. It may
seem strange that, out of a fourpenny club like this, there was commonly
an overplus left, to give away at Christmas and Easter to some
charitable purpose. I went to this club when I had time to spare in an
evening, and seldom missed a week to an end. This happy society was at
length broken up, at the time when war on behalf of despotism was
raging, and the spy system was set afloat. Some spies, and others of the
same stamp, contrived to get themselves introduced, and to broach
political questions, for the purpose of exciting debates, and feeling
the pulse of the members, who before this had very seldom touched upon
subjects of that kind.

Besides being kept busy with the routine business of our work-office, I
was often engaged in executing wood cuts for publishers and printers, at
various times from about the year 1788 to 1790. The first of any
importance was the wood cuts of Roman altars, and the arms of the
Bishops of Durham, for “Hutchinson’s History of Durham,” in which my
friend, the late George Allan, Esq., of the Grange, Darlington, took a
conspicuous part. A set of cuts was done for “Goldsmith’s Deserted
Village,” for Mr. Walker, printer, of Hereford. Mr. Nicholson, printer
of Ludlow and Poughnill, the publisher of “Elegant Selections from
Various Authors,” employed me to embellish some of these with wood cuts.
My old friend, William Bulmer, of the Shakespeare Printing Office,
London, also employed me to execute the cuts for “Parnell’s Hermit” and
“Goldsmith’s Deserted Village.” Many other cuts were done, from time to
time, for printers in various parts of the kingdom. These formed an
almost endless variety. I engraved a series of copper plates, at a low
rate, for Sir Harry Liddell’s and Captain Consett’s “Tour to Lapland,”
in 1786. My partner and self were busily engaged in engraving, about the
year 1796, the plan of the proposed canal from Newcastle to Carlisle, as
projected by Mr. Chapman, engineer, and plans of estates and views of
the mansion houses of a few gentlemen who opposed the canal, on the
north side of the Tyne. After a great deal of scheming and manœuvering,
under the management of an attorney of great ability, the whole of this
great, this important national as well as local undertaking was baffled
and set aside. Most men of discernment were of opinion that the
coalowners “below bridge” were the cause of it. The canal, as projected
by Mr. Dodd, in 1795, would have certainly opened out a territory of
coal that might have affected their interest. It would appear, at least,
that they dreaded it; and in this, as in almost every other case,
private interest was found to overpower public good.



                              CHAPTER XII.

HAVING, from the time that I was a school-boy, been displeased with most
of the figures in children’s books, and particularly with those of the
“Three Hundred Animals,” the figures in which, even at that time, I
thought I could depicture much better; and having afterwards very often
turned the matter over in my mind, of making improvements in that
publication—I at last came to the determination of making the attempt.
The extreme interest I had always felt in the hope of administering to
the pleasure and amusement of youth, and judging from the feelings I had
experienced myself that they would be affected in the same way as I had
been, whetted me up and stimulated me to proceed. In this, my only
reward besides was the great pleasure I felt in imitating nature. That I
should ever do anything to attract the notice of the world, in the
manner that has been done, was the farthest thing in my thoughts, and so
far as I was concerned myself at that time, I minded little about any
self-interested considerations. These intentions I communicated to my
partner; and, though he did not doubt of my being able to succeed, yet,
being a cautious and thinking man, he wished to be more satisfied as to
the probability of such a publication paying for the labour. On this
occasion, being little acquainted with the nature of such undertakings,
we consulted Mr. Solomon Hodgson, bookseller and editor of the
“Newcastle Chronicle,” as to the probability of its success, &c., when
he warmly encouraged us to proceed.

Such animals as I knew, I drew from memory on the wood; others which I
did not know were copied from “Dr. Smellie’s Abridgement of Buffon,” and
other naturalists, and also from the animals which were from time to
time exhibited in itinerant collections. Of these last, I made sketches
first from memory, and then corrected and finished the drawings upon the
wood from a second examination of the different animals. I began this
business of cutting the blocks with the figure of the dromedary, on the
15th November, 1785, the day on which my father died. I then proceeded
in copying such figures as above named as I did not hope to see alive.
While I was busied in drawing and cutting the figures of animals, and
also in designing and engraving the vignettes, Mr. Beilby, being of a
bookish or reading turn, proposed, in his evenings at home, to write or
compile the descriptions. With this I had little more to do than
furnishing him, in many conversations and by written memoranda, with
what I knew of animals, and blotting out, in his manuscript, what was
not truth. In this way we proceeded till the book was published in 1790.

The greater part of these wood cuts were drawn and engraved at night,
after the day’s work of the shop was over. In these evenings, I
frequently had the company of my friend the Rev. Richard Oliphant,[25]
who took great pleasure in seeing me work, and who occasionally read to
me the sermons he had composed for the next Sunday. I was also often
attended, from a similar curiosity, by my friend, the Rev. Thomas
Hornby,[26] lecturer at St. John’s Church. He would not, like my friend
Oliphant, adjourn to a public house, and join in a tankard of ale, but
he had it sent for to my workplace. We frequently disagreed in our
opinions as to religious matters, he being, as I thought, an intolerant,
high churchman; but, notwithstanding this, he was a warm well-wisher and
kind friend, and was besides of so charitable a disposition that his
purse was ever open to relieve distress, and he would occasionally
commission me to dispose of a guinea anonymously to persons in want.

Footnote 25:

  Afterwards curate of Longhorsley.

Footnote 26:

  The Rev. Thomas Hornby, son of Alderman Hornby, died in the prime of
  life, on the 28th August, 1798, and was buried at Gosforth.

As soon as the “History of Quadrupeds” appeared, I was surprised to find
how rapidly it sold. Several other editions quickly followed, and a glut
of praises was bestowed upon the book. These praises however, excited
envy, and were visibly followed by the balance of an opposite feeling
from many people at home; for they raked together, and blew up, the
embers of envy into a transient blaze; but the motives by which I was
actuated stood out of the reach of its sparks, and they returned into
the heap whence they came, and fell into dust. I was much more afraid to
meet the praises which were gathering around than I was of the sneers
which they excited; and a piece of poetry appearing in the newspaper, I
was obliged, for some time, to shun “Swarley’s Club,” of which the
writer, George Byles,[27] was a member, to avoid the warm and sincere
compliments that awaited me there.

Footnote 27:

  George Byles came from one of the southern counties, and commenced as
  a teacher in Newcastle. He was gentlemanly in his manners and
  conversation, and of a most lively and animated cast of character.

I had long made up my mind not to marry whilst my father and mother
lived, in order that my undivided attention might be bestowed upon them.
My mother had, indeed, recommended a young person in the neighbourhood
to me as a wife. She did not know the young lady intimately, but she
knew she was modest in her deportment, handsome in her person, and had a
good fortune; and, in compliance with this recommendation, I got
acquainted with her, but was careful not to proceed further, and soon
discovered that, though her character was innocence itself, she was
mentally one of the weakest of her sex. The smirking lasses of Tyneside
had long thrown out their jibes against me, as being a woman-hater, but
in this they were greatly mistaken. I had, certainly, been very guarded
in my conduct towards them, as I held it extremely wrong and cruel to
sport with the feelings of any one. In this, which was one of my
resolves, sincerity and truth were my guides. As I ever considered a
matrimonial connection as a business of the utmost importance, and which
was to last till death made the separation, while looking about for a
partner for life, my anxious attention was directed to the subject. I
had long considered it to be the duty of every man, on changing his
life, to get a healthy woman for his wife, for the sake of his children,
and a sensible one, as a companion, for his own happiness and
comfort,—that love is the natural guide in this business, and much
misery is its attendant when that is wanting. This being the fixed state
of my mind, I permitted no mercenary considerations to interfere.
Impressed with these sentiments, I had long, my dear Jane, looked upon
your mother as a suitable helpmate for me. I had seen her in prosperity
and in adversity; and in the latter state she appeared to me to the
greatest advantage. In this she soared above her sex, and my
determination was fixed. In due time we were married, and from that day
to this no cloud, as far as concerned ourselves, has passed over us, to
obscure a life-time of uninterrupted happiness.

                         MY DEAR ISABELLA DIED,
                      ON THE 1ST OF FEBRUARY, 1826,
                                AGED 72;
                     THE BEST OF WIVES AND VERY BEST
                               OF MOTHERS.

During the time I was busied with the figures of the “History of
Quadrupeds,” many jobs interfered to cause delay; one of which was the
wood cut of the Chillingham wild bull, for the late Marmaduke Tunstal,
Esq., of Wycliffe. This very worthy gentleman and good naturalist
honoured me with his approbation of what I had done, and was one of our
correspondents. He, or my friend George Allan, Esq., employed me to
undertake the job; and, on Easter Sunday, 1789, I set off, accompanied
by an acquaintance, on foot to Chillingham on this business. After
tarrying a little with friends at Morpeth and Alnwick, we took Huln
Abbey on our way across the country to the place of our destination.
Besides seeing the various kinds of pheasants, &c., at the last-named
place, little occurred to attract attention, except our being
surrounded, or beset, in passing over a moor, by burning heather, and
afterwards passing over the surface of immense old winter wreaths of
frozen snow. Arrived at Chillingham, we took up our abode with my kind
old friend John Bailey, and spent a cheerful evening with him after our
fatigue. Next day, Mr. B. accompanied me to the park, for the purpose of
seeing the wild cattle. This, however, did not answer my purpose; for I
could make no drawing of the bull, while he, along with the rest of the
herd, was wheeling about, and then fronting us, in the manner described
in the “History of Quadrupeds.” I was therefore obliged to endeavour to
see one which had been conquered by his rival, and driven to seek
shelter alone, in the quarryholes or in the woods; and, in order to get
a good look at one of this description, I was under the necessity of
creeping on my hands and knees, to leeward, and out of his sight; and I
thus got my sketch or memorandum, from which I made my drawing on the
wood. I was sorry my figure was made from one before he was furnished
with his curled or shaggy neck and mane.

On our return home, my companion and I took up our abode for two days
and nights, at Eslington, in the apartments of our kind and hearty
friend, John Bell, then steward to Sir Harry Liddell, Bart., and
afterwards a merchant at Alnmouth. Having made a drawing from the large
Newfoundland dog kept there, and rambled about visiting some of Mr.
Bell’s friends, we then bent our way homewards, highly gratified with
the journey, crowned as it was with hospitality and kindness which could
not be surpassed.

In the year 1790, I was employed much in the same way as I had been in
other years about that period; but this was besides marked by an event
which enwarped and dwelt on my mind. No doubt all thinking men in their
passage through life must have experienced feelings of a similar kind.
My old and revered preceptor, the Rev. Christopher Gregson, died this
year. No sooner did the news of his extreme illness reach me, than I set
off, in my usual way, and with all speed, to Ovingham. I instantly
rushed into his room, and there I found his niece in close attendance
upon him. With her, being intimately acquainted, I used no ceremony, but
pulled the curtain aside, and then beheld my friend, in his last
moments. He gave me his last look, but could not speak. Multitudinous
reflections of things that were passed away, hurried on my mind, and
these overpowered me. I knew not what to say, except “Farewell for ever,
farewell!” Few men have passed away on Tyneside so much respected as Mr.
Gregson. When he was appointed to the curacy of Ovingham, I understand
his income was not more than thirty pounds per annum. Thus set down, he
began by taking pupils to board and educate, chiefly as Latin scholars;
and Mrs. Gregson, after my mother left him, did everything in her power
to make the seminary respectable. He afterwards, however, commenced
teaching on a more extended scale, by taking in scholars of all kinds,
from their A, B, C’s, to the classics. In this, his task must have been
of the most arduous description, which he got through without any usher
or assistant. His assiduity must have attracted the notice of the late
Thomas Charles Bigge, Esq., of Benton, the lay rector, for he added some
land to the glebe, by way of bettering his condition. Little as this
farm was, as to its magnitude, it enabled him, by his good management
and unceasing industry, to show himself a good farmer, and he was not a
little vain on being complimented on this score. As a clergyman, he was
not one of the fittest for that very important office; but this was
chiefly owing to his defective voice, which was so low and raucous, that
his hearers could not so well profit by his sensible discourses. In
another way—I mean as a village lawyer—he stood pre-eminent. His pen was
ever ready at the service of his parishioners, and whatever dispute
arose amongst them there was never any objection to leave the matter to
the decision of Mr. Gregson; and, I have often heard it asserted that
there was not one lawsuit in the parish while he was minister there. He
set out in life on this poor curacy, upon a system of great economy, and
perhaps, like other frugal people, it grew upon him till he was accused
of “nearness;” but, be this as it may, he accumulated, after a life of
great good management, a sum of about nine hundred pounds. If his pen
was ever ready to serve his parishioners, so, on certain occasions was
his purse; for he eyed with great attention the situation of such of his
neighbours as were industrious; and, when he found these were struggling
under untoward circumstances, or unforseen losses, without being
solicited, he lent them money to ward off the evil, and to serve their



                             CHAPTER XIII.

WHILE the sale of edition after edition of the “Quadrupeds” was going on
with great success, I turned my thoughts to the “History of British
Birds.” I felt greatly charmed with, and had long paid great attention
to, the subject; and I had busied myself very much in reading various
works. As far as I can now recollect, the first books I had become
acquainted with were “Brookes and Miller’s Natural History,” and “Dr.
Smellie’s Abridgement of Buffon.” These were now thrown, as it were,
into the back-ground; having been succeeded by Pennant’s works. I might
name others I had perused, chiefly lent to me by my kind friend George
Allan, Esq. These consisted of “Albin’s History of Birds,” Belon’s very
old book, Willoughby and Ray, &c. Mr. John Rotherham[28] gave me
“Gesner’s Natural History.” With some of these I was in raptures.
Willoughby and Ray struck me as having led the way to truth, and to
British Ornithology. The late Michael Brian, Esq., of London, lent me
the splendid volumes, “Planche Enluminée,” of Buffon, and George
Silvertop, Esq., of Minsteracres, “Edward’s Natural History.” I was much
pleased with “White’s History of Selborne.” Pennant, however, opened out
the largest field of information, and on his works I bestowed the most
attention. Latham seems to have wound up the whole, and I have often
lamented that it was not—by being embellished with correct figures—made
a great national work, like the Count de Buffon’s. The last of our
Ornithologists, and one of the most indefatigable, was the late Col.
George Montagu,[29] author of the “Ornithological Dictionary.”

Footnote 28:

  Mr. John Rotherham, son of the late Dr. Rotherham, of Newcastle, who
  had been a pupil of the good and great Linnæus.

Footnote 29:

  George Montagu, Esq., died in July, 1815. I have heard that he was
  killed by the overturning of a carriage in which he was travelling.

As soon as it was spread abroad that I was engaged with the history of
birds and their figures, I was in consequence led into a seemingly
endless correspondence with friends and amateurs; so much so, that I
often felt myself unable duly to acknowledge the obligations I owed
them, and many a letter I have written after being wearied out with the
labours of the day.

At the beginning of this undertaking I made up my mind to copy nothing
from the works of others, but to stick to nature as closely as I could;
and for this purpose, being invited by Mr. Constable, the then owner of
Wycliffe, I visited the extensive museum there, collected by the late
Marmaduke Tunstal, Esq., to make drawings of the birds. I set off from
Newcastle on the 16th July, 1791, and remained at the above beautiful
place nearly two months, drawing from the stuffed specimens. I lodged in
the house of John Goundry, the person who preserved the birds for Mr.
Tunstal; and boarded at his father’s, George Goundry, the old miller
there. Whilst I remained at Wycliffe, I frequently dined with the Rev.
Thomas Zouch,[30] the rector of the parish. He watched my going out of
church on the Sundays, where I attended, accompanied by old Goundry, to
invite me to dine with him. On these occasions he often made the
character of his late neighbour, Mr. Tunstal, and of George Goundry, the
subject of his conversation, and dwelt with great pleasure on the
excellence of both. Mr. Tunstal was a Roman Catholic, and had a chapel
in his own house; Mr. Zouch was a Church of England minister; and George
Goundry was a Deist; and yet these three uncommonly good men, as
neighbours, lived in constant charity and goodwill towards each other.
One might dwell long with pleasure on such singularly good characters. I
wish the world was better stocked with them.

Footnote 30:

  The Rev. Thomas Zouch, D.D., F.L.S., prebendary of Durham, and rector
  of Scrayingham, Yorkshire. This venerable divine was born in 1737, at
  Sandal, and died there on the 17th Dec., 1813. He had been offered the
  bishopric of Carlisle, but refused it.

I have often reflected with pain on the asperity with which one
description of Christians has commonly treated others who differed from
them in opinion on religious matters; or, rather, as to their different
modes of faith; and I have thought that the time would come when that
cruel, bloody, and disgusting portion of history would not be believed,
which has recorded the fact that one denomination of Christians actually
burned others alive, who differed from them in opinion on matters which
ought to have been considered beneath contempt. But, judging from the
past, it is certain that, when men give up their reason, and substitute
faith, or anything else, in lieu thereof, there is nothing however
absurd that may not be believed, and no punishments, however cruel, that
may not be resorted to, to enforce that belief. Men thus degraded may
fairly be called _man-tigers_, being fitted for any cruel, wicked
purpose; and, under equally wicked governments, they have been guided
and commanded to deluge the earth with blood. It is strange to think
that this should have been the case, when it is considered that the
whole of the authorities are derived from one and the same pure source;
bewildered, indeed, by the twisted imaginations of ignorance, bigotry,
and superstition.

The inspired and benevolent Author of Christianity taught neither
intolerance nor persecution. The doctrines He laid down are plain, pure,
and simple. They hold out mercy to the contrite, aid to the humble, and
eternal happiness to the good. For my own part, it is long since I left
off bewildering myself with dogmas and creeds, and I feel pity for those
that do so. I am quite clear and willing to believe and to allow, that,
whatever modes of faith honest and well-meaning people think best to
adopt, they may in sincerity of heart, and to the best of their
judgments, be doing what is called serving God. They surely ought not to
interfere with the creeds of others, who are equally as sincere as
themselves in the means they pursue for the same end. However various
these modes of faith may be, there is one rule that ought to guide the
whole, and it appears to me to be simple and easy to comprehend,—and
that one is, that all men, to the utmost of their power, should
endeavour through life to steer clear of everything that may degrade
their own souls; that the mysterious, incorporated compound may not,
when summoned to leave this world, have to appear before Omnipotence
polluted and debased. The man who attends to this will fear nothing, but
that of erring and doing wrong. He will fear the face of no man. The
little, strutting authorities of despotism he will despise, and the
virtuous magistrate will ever be his friend. He will break no good laws
that have been made for the guidance of man in society; and, as to his
religion, that is an affair between himself and his Maker only. With the
Author of his Being he will, with unentangled mind, commune freely, at
all times, when his spirit moves him to do so; and no man ever did, or
ever will, feel himself happy that does not pursue this course through

Ever since I habituated myself to think, I have always seen, as clearly
as I could see anything, that, it is the intention of the Deity that
mankind should live in a state of civilised society, and that no period
of human existence can be comfortable without the pleasures and
endearments of social intercourse. Every object in nature that can be
contemplated shews this; and the full and exact fitness of all its
component parts clearly prove that man, from his social nature, is
destined to live in this state. He has been endowed with reason, as his
guide, for the purpose of regulating and conducting the whole; but, when
that guide is neglected, and he suffers his selfish propensities and bad
passions to _mis_lead him from the path of rectitude, from that moment,
everything, so far as this reaches, goes wrong. For reasons of this
kind, it is necessary that equitable and just laws should be made and
enforced, to restrain vice from breaking down the barriers that are
erected to protect virtue and patriotism. To break through these laws is
sin. But, in the present wretched state of society, it may be difficult
to bring about such a reformation of manners as would ensure the
accomplishment of so desirable an end; for it appears to me that the
character of mankind ought to be new modelled before this can
effectually be done.

Having long busied myself in wading through systems of natural
history,—the orders, genera, species and varieties,—the whim has often
struck me to lay down an imaginary one of classing mankind. The _genus
homo_ may be made to consist of three species and their varieties. The
first (including in one, the wise and the good) is honest men; the
second is knaves; and the third fools. These and their gradations and
varieties, gliding into each other, form the present jumbled mass of
society—the community of which we all form a part. As any of these may
happen to predominate in the government of society, so, in exact
proportion, will the good, bad, and indifferent effects of their
management be felt by the whole people. I think it will be admitted
that, out of the first species ought to be chosen the persons,—every man
according to his mental powers and the education he may have received to
call forth these powers,—to fill every public office from the constable
upwards. Out of the two latter species, when conjoined, are formed the
great mass of the wicked, gross, vulgar herd (high and low) of mankind.
Amongst these, knaves of great ability ought to be particularly guarded
against. They are a kind of splendid devils who have from time
immemorial spread abroad much misery in the world; but, notwithstanding
their abilities, they would not have got forward in their public
wickedness, nor have formed their majorities, had they not enlisted, as
tools, their ready-made auxiliaries—the fools; and, if we take only a
slight glance at individual misery, it will be seen that most of it is
inflicted by one man upon another:—

                   “Man’s inhumanity to Man
                    Makes countless thousands mourn.”

Could this be remedied, what a beautiful world would this appear to
thousands, instead of their being obliged to view it through the medium
of an almost perpetual cheerless gloom.

I have often amused myself in considering the character of the canine
species, and of comparing it, and its varieties, with those of the
untutored part of mankind; and it is curious and interesting to observe
the similarity between them. To his master the dog is an uncommonly
submissive, obedient, and faithful servant, and seems to look upon him
as if he were a god; his sagacity and his courage are equally
conspicuous; and, in defence of his master, he will suffer death. But to
his own species he is ill-behaved, selfish, cruel, and unjust; he only
associates with his fellows for the purpose of packing together to
destroy other animals, which cannot be effected otherwise. He will
sometimes, indeed, let a supplicating dog, into which he has inspired
terror, sneak off; and I have often watched to see the wary, circumspect
plan that a strange dog adopts on his being obliged to pass through a
village, or through amongst those of his equally ill-behaved brethren,
the butchers’ dogs in a town. It is curious to see the stranger, upon
these occasions, view his danger, and then affect lameness, and go
“hirpling” through amongst them unmolested. I knew their instinct was
surprising, but some of their reasoning powers I had not tried; and, for
this purpose, when a boy, I cut two thin slices of meat and plastered
the insides with mustard, and then threw it to one of my father’s dogs.
This, he being very apt at “kepping” caught in his mouth, and, as
quickly as he could, got quit of it again; and, from that time, he would
rather run the risk of losing it than “kep” any more. To prove how far
selfishness and malignity would operate upon him, I placed two basins
filled with very hot, fat broth, at a distance from each other, when he
ran from one to the other to prevent a spaniel bitch from partaking of
either of them. His attention was so taken up with thus watching her,
that at length his patience was exhausted, by going so often from one
basin to the other, that, with the utmost vengeance, he seized her, and
tore away his mouthful of skin from her side.

On my return from Wycliffe, being thoroughly drenched with an incessant
rain, I called upon an old and much-esteemed schoolfellow, at Bishop
Auckland, and spent a day or two with him, in busy converse about our
former transactions at school, &c. Perhaps few have passed through life
without experiencing the pleasure that a retrospect of the times gone by
thus afford to old cronies, in talking over the recollections of
youthful frolics, and even of the discipline which followed in
consequence of them.

As soon as I arrived in Newcastle, I immediately began to engrave from
the drawings of the birds I had made at Wycliffe; but I had not been
long thus engaged till I found the very great difference between
preserved specimens and those from Nature; no regard having been paid,
at that time, to fix the former in their proper attitudes, nor to place
the different series of the feathers so as to fall properly upon each
other. It has always given me a great deal of trouble to get at the
markings of the dishevelled plumage; and, when done with every pains, I
never felt satisfied with them. I was on this account driven to wait for
birds newly shot, or brought to me alive, and in the intervals employed
my time in designing and engraving tail-pieces, or vignettes. My
sporting friends, however, supplied me with birds as fast as they could;
but none more so than my kind friend the late Major H. F. Gibson, of the
4th Dragoons. Lieut.-Col. Dalton, Major Shore, Captain (now General)
Dalbiac, and other officers of the same regiment, also shewed great
attention to the growing work. Besides these, many birds were sent to me
by friends from various parts of the Kingdom, but the obligations I owe
are mostly acknowledged in their proper places in the work. After
working many a late hour upon the cuts, the first volume of the book was
at length finished at press in September, 1797. Mr. Beilby undertook the
writing or compilation of this the first volume, in which I assisted him
a great deal more than I had done with the Quadrupeds. After this, Mr.
Beilby gave up the engraving business, and dedicated his whole time to
the watch-crystal and clock manufactory, in which he had been long
engaged before our separation.

The printing of other editions of the first volume of the Birds still
met with a ready sale; but some disputes happening respecting the
printing of the Quadrupeds, Mr. Beilby, who now sought repose, and could
not be turmoiled with disputes of any kind, sold me his share of that
publication. Sometime before the second volume of the Birds was put to
press, he also sold me his share of the first volume. I had no sooner
agreed to give the price demanded than many recollections of the past
crowded upon my mind, and, looking at the unfavourable side, I could not
help thinking of the extra labour and time I had spent in the completion
of these works, wherein he had born comparatively a small part—not even
an equivalent in time and labour in the other department of our
business; and in this instance I could not help thinking that he had
suffered greediness to take possession of his mind; but, having promised
to pay the sum, I made no further observations to any one. On the other
side of this account, I called to my remembrance the many obligations I
owed him, for the wise admonitions he had given, and the example he had
set me, while I was only a wild and giddy youth. These I never could
forget, and they implanted so rooted a respect for him that I had
grudged nothing I could do to promote his happiness. I had noticed, for
some time past, that he had been led under a guidance and influence that
made an alteration in his conduct for the worse; and he appeared to me
not to be the Ralph Beilby[31] he had been. I used to think him careful
and sometimes penurious, and this disposition might indeed have crept
and increased upon him; but, whatever natural failings might be in his
composition, these had heretofore been checked and regulated by the
rules of morality and religion. It seemed to me that it must have been a
maxim with him to do justice to all, but not to confer favours upon any
one; and yet he often joined me in conferring such, in various ways,
upon our apprentices and others of our workpeople, for which we commonly
had dirt thrown in our faces.

Footnote 31:

  Ralph Beilby, engraver, Newcastle, died 4th Jan. 1817, aged 73, and
  was buried at St. Andrew’s.

It does not require any great stretch of observation to discover that
gratitude is a rare virtue, and that, whatever favours are conferred
upon an ungrateful man, he will conclude that these would not have been
bestowed upon him had he not deserved them. In these our gifts, I was to
blame in thus conferring favours that it would have been as well to let
alone. In other charities he was not backward in contributing his mite,
but in these matters he was led by wisdom. In the former case, mine, by
giving vent to my feelings, were led by folly; but, indeed, these
follies were trivial compared with others relative to money matters, in
which I had been led away by my feelings, in lending money to some, and
in being bound for the payment of it for others, which, if I had been
more of his disposition, would not have happened; and I now clearly see
and feel that, had it not been for these imprudences, I should, at this
day, have found myself in better and very different circumstances than
those I am in. My partner, indeed, often watched, and sometimes
prevented me, from engaging in such ruinous concerns, and would remark
to me that it was impossible to serve any man who would not serve

As soon as Mr. Beilby left me, I was obliged, from necessity, not
choice, to commence author. As soon as each bird was finished on the
wood, I set about describing it from my specimen, and at the same time
consulted every authority I could meet with, to know what had been said;
and this together with what I knew, from my own knowledge, were then
compared; and, in this way, I finished as truly as I could the second
volume of the History of Birds. I also examined the first volume, with a
view to correct its errors, and to add many new figures and descriptions
of them to it. Although all this could not be done but by close, and,
indeed, severe confinement and application, yet I was supported by the
extreme pleasure I felt in depicturing and describing these beautiful
and interesting aerial wanderers of the British Isles. I also hoped that
my labours might perhaps have the effect of inveigling my youthful
countrymen to be smitten with the charms which this branch,—and, indeed,
every other department of Natural History,—imparts, and with the endless
pleasures afforded to all who wish to “trace Nature up to Nature’s God.”

While I was thus proceeding, I was encouraged and flattered by amateurs,
who took a deep interest in my growing work, and seemed to partake of
the ardour in which I had long indulged. From them birds were sent to me
from far and near; but, to give a list of the names of these friends,
and to detail the kindness I experienced first and last, might indeed be
giving vent to my feelings of gratitude, but it would far exceed the
bounds prescribed to this Memoir.


                              CHAPTER XIV.

WHILST I was engaged with figures of the Water-Birds, and the Vignettes,
and writing the History, I was greatly retarded by being obliged often
to lay that work aside, to do various other jobs in the wood engraving,
and also the work of the shop, for my customers in the town,
particularly writing engraving, which, I may say, I was obliged to learn
and to pursue after Mr. Beilby left me. The most interesting part of
this kind of work was plates for bank notes; but, as one of the most
important of these was a five pound note for the Carlisle Bank, which
attracted much notice, it may be right to give some account of it. It
happened, one evening, that, whilst I was in company with George Losh,
Esq., who was in some way connected with that bank, he asked me if I
could engrave a bank note that could not be easily forged. In reply, I
told him I thought I could. “Then,” said he, “do it immediately;” and I
lost no time in beginning upon it. I had, at that time, never seen a
ruling machine, nor the beautiful engine-turning lately brought into use
by Perkins, Fairman, and Heath, which were at that time, I believe,
utterly unknown. I however, proceeded with my plate, and my object was
to make the device look like a wood cut; and in this, though a first
attempt, I succeeded; and the number of impressions wanted were sent to

Soon after this, I was told by Sir T. F—, Bart., that his brother, who
held some office under government, and was much with the King—George
III., whose curiosity was insatiable as to everything relative to the
arts—had got one of these bank notes. Sir T. F—’s brother showed it to
the King, who greatly admired and approved of it. About two years after
this, in the year 1801, Samuel Thornton, Esq., of the Bank of England,
wrote to me respecting this note, and wished to know how it was
executed, and whether it was done on wood or copper, &c. I was strongly
advised, by a friend, not to give the gentlemen of that bank any
information whatever about my plate; “for,” said he, “as soon as they
know the nature of what they are enquiring after, you will hear no more
from them.” I did not take his advice; and, after a deal of trouble in
writing to them, and stating amongst many other matters, that, “though
my plate would do well for country banks, it would not do for the great
number wanted for the Bank of England,” the business ended in nothing.
It may perhaps be well, while I am on the subject of bank notes, to pass
over a number of years, and come down to the year 1818, when a
commission was appointed to investigate the business of forgery, and to
endeavour to prevent it in future. Some time previous to this, I was
employed by my friend, John Bailey, Esq., of Chillingham, to engrave
plates to prevent a repetition of the pen-and-ink forgeries which had
been committed upon the Berwick Bank, which it was found had been better
imitations than could be made from copper plates. In this I succeeded;
and also, by a simple process, on the plates I engraved for the
Northumberland Bank. Immediately on the heel of this, and as soon as the
commissioners above-mentioned had commenced their enquiries, it seemed
as if the services and abilities of all the artists in the kingdom were
held in requisition, to give in their specimens and their schemes for
this purpose; and, willing to contribute, all in my power to accomplish
so desirable an end, I, amongst many others, gave in my plan. The
leading object with me was permanency, or, in other words, to aim at
executing a device that would _never_ need either alteration or repairs;
and the other part of my plan was, that the device should be of such a
nature, that all men of common discernment could easily recognize the
note as a legitimate one. In my letters to Sir Joseph Banks, I did not
mention anything about using types, or how highly I approved of their
use, because I knew that others had done so before, and to point out in
which way I conceived they would be of importance would now be useless;
since the commissioners, or the Bank, have rejected every scheme (so far
as I know) that has been laid before them. This to me has always
appeared strange; as, in my opinion, there have been several proposals
laid before them very efficient for the purpose of preventing forgeries,
if not for setting that nefarious work at rest.

The beautiful specimens first produced by Fairman, Perkins, and Heath,
from their steel plates or blocks, were, in my opinion, inimitable, and
quite sufficient to answer the end intended; and those afterwards
brought forward, under the auspices of Sir William Congreve, are nearly
of the same character and import. If an engine turner cannot set his
lathe, so as to trace or copy the delicate and truly exact curves,
lines, &c., which are shown in both, it is not likely that any forgery
would ever be attempted upon either of them. If they had been less
complex, I should have liked them better; but, as they are, the best
engravers on either copper, steel, or wood, will not attempt an
imitation. They may, indeed, gaze at them—_but that is all_.

It was always surprising to me that none of the ingenious schemes,—so
long under the consideration of the commissioners,—were adopted; but,
when I read, in a newspaper, that Mr. Pierce had stood up in the House
of Commons, and in answer to a question put to him there, had said, in
reply, “that the commissioners were of opinion that _nothing better than
the old bank note could be devised to prevent forgery_!”—then, indeed, I
could scarcely believe my own eyes,—my astonishment was complete, and my
opinion of the whole business of this “mountain in labour” was fixed.

During the time that the business of the commissioners seemed to me to
be hanging in suspense, I wrote a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, in which I
endeavoured to press upon his attention, and that of his colleagues, as
a means of preventing forgery, the necessity of having the blank paper
for country bank notes printed with a new device in lieu of the little
duty stamp then used, and which had simply in view the collection of the
government duty. Sometime after this, a long account of the inventions
of Sir William Congreve, Bart., were published in the “Repository of
Arts,” for March, 1822, setting forth how much country banks, and the
whole country was obliged to him, as the inventor of, or the person who
first suggested, a scheme so essentially important as this for
preventing forgery. As soon as I read this, I answered it in the
“Monthly Magazine,” of May, 1822, in which I quoted my letters to the
commissioners, with the dates bearing upon this very subject, and
claimed for myself the merit of having first suggested the scheme. At
the same time, I only requested Sir William Congreve would, on the word
of a gentleman, say whether or not the scheme was his or mine. Of this
neither Sir William nor any of the commissioners took any notice,
excepting, indeed, something _purporting to be an answer_ to what I had
said, by a person in the employ of Sir William, as an artist, which,
though it begun very impudently, did not answer my letter at all. This I
could not help treating with contempt. To enter into a paper war with
such a person, I thought would be great folly. Sir William appears to be
going on prosperously, by furnishing bankers with his stamped note
papers, and printing them in the way above described.

Sir William Congreve, as a commissioner, had the advantage of seeing the
various devices, and of knowing the opinions of the various artists upon
these devices, which enabled him to cull and select such as appeared to
him best calculated to prevent forgery; and, I think, as he was no
artist himself, he should not have taken the credit either of inventor
or executor of any of these devices, nor have turned the profit arising
from them to his own private account.



                              CHAPTER XV.

DURING a severe illness with which I was visited in 1812,—the
particulars of which I need not detail to you, my dear Jane, as the part
you and your mother and sisters took, in nursing me night and day, must
be fresh in all your memories, and which I only here mention on account
of its association,—I determined, if I recovered, to go on with a
publication of “Æsop’s Fables.” While I lay helpless, from weakness, and
pined to a skeleton, without any hopes of recovery being entertained
either by myself or any one else, I became, as it were, all mind and
memory. I had presented to my recollection almost everything that had
passed through life, both what I had done and what I had left undone.
After much debating in my own mind where I should be buried, I fixed
upon Ovingham; and, when this was settled, I became quite resigned to
the will of Omnipotence, and felt happy. I could not, however, help
regretting that I had not published a book similar to “Croxall’s Æsop’s
Fables,” as I had always intended to do. I was extremely fond of that
book; and, as it had afforded me much pleasure, I thought, with better
executed designs, it would impart the same kind of delight to others
that I had experienced from attentively reading it. I was also of
opinion, that it had (while admiring the cuts) led hundreds of young men
into the paths of wisdom and rectitude, and in that way had materially
assisted the pulpit.

As soon as I was so far recovered as to be able to sit at the window at
home, I began to draw designs upon the wood of the fables and vignettes;
and to me this was a most delightful task. In impatiently pushing
forward to get to press with the publication, I availed myself of the
help of my pupils—my son, William Harvey, and William Temple—who were
eager to do their utmost to forward me in the engraving business, and in
my struggles to get the book ushered into the world. Notwithstanding the
pleasurable business of bringing out this publication, I felt it an
arduous undertaking. The execution of the fine work of the cuts, during
day-light, was very trying to the eyes, and the compiling or writing the
book by candle-light, in my evenings at home, together injured the optic
nerve, and that put all the rest of the nerves “out of tune;” so that I
was obliged, for a short time, to leave off such intense application
until I somewhat recovered the proper tone of memory and of sight.
Indeed I found in this book more difficulties to conquer than I had
experienced with either the “Quadrupeds” or the “Birds.” The work was
finished at press on the first of October, 1818. It was not so well
printed as I expected and wished.

During the eventful period of the French Revolution, and the
wide-spreading war which followed in consequence of it, and in which our
government became deeply engaged, extending from 1793 to 1814—a time of
blood and slaughter—I frequently, by way of unbending the mind after the
labours of the day, spent my evenings in company with a set of staunch
advocates for the liberties of mankind, who discussed the passing events
mostly with the cool, sensible, and deliberate attention which the
importance of the subject required. In partaking in these debatings, I
now find I spent rather too much time. I fear it was useless; for it
requires little discernment to see that, where a man’s interest is at
stake, he is very unwilling to hear any argument that militates against
it; and people who are well paid are always very loyal. To argue on any
subject, unless a principle, or what mathematicians would call a datum,
is first laid down to go upon, is only gabble. It begins and must end in
nonsense; and I suspect that many of the long, wearisome speeches and
debatings, carried on for such a number of years in the Houses of Lords
and Commons, as well as many of the innumerable weekly or daily essays,
and some of the pamphlets which the revolution and the war gave rise to,
were devoid of a right principle—a principle of rectitude to guide them.
The causes of this Revolution, and the horrible war which ended it, will
form a most interesting subject for the head and the pen of some future
historian of a bold and enlightened mind—truly to depicture it in all
its bearings, perhaps long after the animosity of party feelings and the
parties themselves have passed away.

From the best consideration I have been able to give to the question, I
cannot help viewing it in this way. In the year 1789, the French
Revolution broke out, first of all from the income of the government not
being sufficient to defray its expenditure, or in other words, from its
finances having become deranged for want of money, and which the people,
having been taxed to the utmost and brought down to poverty, could no
longer supply. The aristocracy and the priesthood (the privileged
orders, as they were called) contributed little or nothing to support
the state; and, instead of being the natural guardians or depositories
of the honour and virtue of the nation, they were chiefly known as its
oppressors. By exaction, cruelty, and tyranny, the people had long been
borne down to the lowest pitch of degradation. They were considered, not
as rational human beings, equal in mind and intellect to their
oppressors, but as beings made for the purpose only of continually
labouring to support them in all their real and imaginary wants. This is
nearly the case in all countries where the aristocracy are kept up and
blinded by pride and guided by ignorance. In this they are supported by
what may be called their satellites—a kind of bastard breed, who, in
aping the worst part of the character of those exalted above them, show
themselves off as the opulent, aspiring, purse-proud gentry of a

             “If aught on earth th’ immortal powers deride,
              ’Tis surely this,—the littleness of pride.”

This kind of treatment, so long shown to the people of France, could be
endured no longer. They, indeed, seemed heartily disposed to settle a
rational and just representative government quietly themselves; but this
did not suit the views of the surrounding despots, to whom the very word
liberty was offensive, and it was determined, at once, that this attempt
of the people to resume their rights should instantly be overwhelmed.
For this purpose, immense armed and well-disciplined mercenaries were
gathered together, and almost surrounded the country. Thus situated, and
remembering the traditionary tales handed down to them of the cruelties
and oppressions under which their forefathers had groaned, the French
people could not bear their condition any longer. They were driven to
madness, and instantly retaliated upon their oppressors, who, they
conceived, meant that they and their children’s children should continue
to be doomed for ages to come. In this state of the public mind, the
French people rose simultaneously, as one man, and with unconquerable
energy and bravery, like a whirlwind, swept the advocates and the armies
of despotism from off the face of the earth. Thus roused, this
confederacy of Legitimates, finding or fearing that they might be
baffled in their attempts, looked to England for support; and grieved,
indeed, were the advocates of rational liberty to find that these
enemies to freedom had not looked in vain; for the government of this
free country and free people—long veering, indeed, from the line of
rectitude—had readily found pretexts for entering into a war in support
of despotism; and war was begun, in the year 1793, against the
republican government of France.

It had long been the settled opinion of many profound politicians, that
corruption had spread, and was spreading, its baneful influence among
the members of the government of this kingdom; and that the majority
cared nothing about maintaining the constitution in its purity, which to
them was become like an old song. In this state of things, with Mr. Pitt
at their head, and the resources of the British Isles in their hands, it
was calculated upon as a certainty that his weight, added to the already
powerful confederacy, would soon put a stop to the march of intellect,
and, if found necessary, put an extinguisher upon the rights of man.

It is horrible to contemplate the immense destruction of human beings,
and the waste of treasure, which followed and supported this
superlatively wicked war. Under the mask of patriotism, Mr. Pitt had
begun his career, but he soon changed sides, and, blinded perhaps by
ambition, became the powerful advocate of an opposite and perverted
order of things. Thus situated, nothing could to a certainty serve his
purpose so well as corruption; and the House of Commons had long been
growing into a state befitting his purpose; for its members had, in a
great degree, ceased to be the representatives of the people, and he had
now only to begin an invigorated, new, or more extended system of place
and patronage to have the majority at his nod; and, in aid of this, to
add an extension of the peerage. This demi-oligarchy, cemented together
by feelings of rapacious interests, in his hands was the best organised
system of extorting money that ever had appeared in the world. They met
together to tax—tax—tax; and, under various pretexts, to rob the people
“according to law,” and to divide the spoil amongst themselves and their
friends. Arbitrary laws were enacted, gagging bills were passed, and a
system of espionage spread over the kingdom to keep the people down,
many of whom seemed to have forgotten the exertions of their
forefathers, whose blood had been spilt to purchase a better order of
things. I felt particularly hurt at the apathy of country gentlemen in
these (politically considered) worst of times. Their faculties seemed
benumbed; but, indeed, most of them fell into the vortex of corruption
themselves. They appeared to me to have lost their former independent
character, and to be now looking out to that evil source as a provision
for the younger branches of their own families, unmindful of all other
ill consequences, which this selfishness blindly supported and
maintained. The minions of power were countenanced and protected, by
which they became insolent and impudent, and walked in stately array,
hand in hand, in safety. Although the friends of liberty and the
constitution were both numerous and intrepid, yet, for want of what they
termed respectable heads, they were widely spread and divided, and their
efforts proved in vain. There was also an intermediate or neutral race,
consisting of those who had not laid down any principle to guide them.
They were mostly such as advocated the cause of corruption; and, in
listening to them, I was disgusted at their senseless arguments. They
were proof against reasoning, and thoroughly convinced me that “a wise
man changes his opinion, but a fool never does.” They, however, kept on
the safe side; _they were loyal_; and the gist of their arguments, with
which they ended all their disputes, were summed up in this—“If you do
not like your country, leave it. What do you want? are not _we_ very
well off?” Their reflecting powers reached no further, and they could
not see by what slow degrees the arm of despotism had so often
circumspectly stretched its iron hand over the liberties of the people,
and then crushed them.

While bickerings and debatings were going on amongst politicians at
home, the Continent was deluged with the blood of many destructive
battles. The sea was also crimsoned in the same way; and it was on this
element that the tide of affairs was first turned in favour of Britain,
who now, by the valour of her seamen, reigned complete “mistress of the
deep,” and the commerce of the world seemed to be poured into her lap.
Estates rose in value to an extraordinary height, and the price of
grain, &c., still more so. The shipping interest wallowed in riches; the
gentry whirled about in aristocratic pomposity; they forgot what their
demeanour and good, kind, behaviour used to be to those in inferior
stations of life; and seemed now far too often to look upon them like
dirt. The character of the richer class of farmers was also changed.
They acted the gentleman very awkwardly, and many of them could not, in
these times, drink anything but wine, and even that was called “humble
port.” When these upstart gentlemen left the market, they were ready to
ride over all they met or overtook on the way; but this was as nothing
compared to the pride and folly which took possession of their empty or
fume-charged heads, when they got dressed in scarlet. They were then
fitted for any purpose, and were called “yeomanry cavalry.” Pride and
folly then became personified. When peace came, it brought with it a
sudden fall in the price of corn; but the taxes continuing the same to
them, and rents still keeping high, they, with few exceptions, suddenly
experienced a woful change. I cannot say, after seeing so much of their
folly, that I was sorry for them; for they mostly deserved this reverse
of fortune. Not so with the industrious labourer. His privations were
great, and he was undeservedly doomed to suffer for want of employment,
and often to waste away and die of hunger and want.

During the greater portion of the war, the landowners may be said to
have paid little or nothing to support it; for the extra rents paid
almost all their taxes; but at length the evils brought on by so long a
war fell also heavily upon numbers of them, who, on account of tithes
and taxes with which the land was loaded, could hardly get any rent at

It will seem a wonder to future ages how the British people could so
long have supported the squandered expenditure of the government; still
they were not like the long-worn-down subjects of continental despots;
for what the latter can get from their subjects is like clippings from
the back and sides of swine, while the ingenuity, the industry, and the
energy of the British people furnish the well-grown fleeces of sheep.
Pity it is that they should have been so often wickedly shorn to the
bare skin.

This state of temporary prosperity, to which I have alluded, incited to
agricultural improvements; and societies for the promotion, and premiums
for the encouragement, of various desiderata blazed forth over a great
part of the kingdom. Cattle, sheep, horses, and swine, all of which were
called “live stock,” occupied a great deal of attention, and in the
improvement of the various breeds agriculturalists succeeded to a
certain, and in some cases, perhaps, to a great extent. And yet I cannot
help thinking that they often suffered their whimsies to overshoot the
mark, and in many instances to lead them on to the ridiculous.

After all,—these enquiries having opened the eyes of the landlords to
their own interests,—it is not unlikely that the man of industry, the
plain, plodding farmer will, without receiving any reward, have to pay
for these improvements. My kind, my intimate friend, John Bailey, Esq.,
of Chillingham, in conjunction with another friend of mine, George
Culley, Esq., of Fowberry, were the active, judicious, and sensible
authors of many of the agricultural reports, in which they did not lose
sight of the farmer. They wished to inculcate the principle of “to live
and let live” between landlord and tenant.

It will readily be supposed, that, where such exertions were made, and
pains taken to breed the best kinds of all the domestic animals,
jealousy and envy would be excited, and contentions arise as to which
were the best; but for me to dilate upon this would only lead me out of
the way. I shall, however, notice an instance, as it happened to occur
between my two friends, Mr. Smith, of Woodhall, and Mr. Bailey. The
latter, in connection with his report on Cheviot sheep, had given a bad
figure of a ram of that breed. This was construed into a design to
lessen the character of Mr. Smith’s Cheviot sheep, on which, in April,
1798, the latter sent for me to draw and engrave a figure of one of his
rams, by way of contrasting it with the figure Mr. Bailey had given. The
colour Mr. Smith gave to the business was, not to find fault with Mr.
Bailey’s figure, but to show how much he (Mr. Smith) had improved the
breed since Mr. Bailey had written his report.

Whilst I was at Woodhall, I was struck with the sagacity of a dog
belonging to Mr. Smith. The character for sagacity of the Shepherd’s Dog
was well-known to me, but this instance of it was exemplified before my
own eyes. Mr. Smith wished to have a particular ram brought out from
amongst the flock, for the purpose of my seeing it. Before we set out,
he observed to the shepherd, that he thought the old dog (he was
grey-headed and almost blind) would do well enough for what he wanted
with him. Before we reached the down, where the flock was feeding, I
observed that Mr. Smith was talking to the dog before he ordered him off
on his errand; and, while we were conversing on some indifferent
subject, the dog brought a ram before us. Mr. Smith found a deal of
fault with the dog, saying, Did I not order you so and so? and he
scolded him for bringing a wrong sheep, and then, after fresh
directions, set him off again to bring the one he wished me to see. We
then returned home, and shortly after our arrival there, the dog brought
the very ram wanted, along with a few other sheep, into the fold, where
I took a drawing of him.

Shortly after my return from Woodhall, I was sent for to Darlington, and
thence to Barmpton, to make drawings of cattle and sheep, to be engraved
for a Durham report. After I had made my drawings from the fat sheep, I
soon saw that they were not approved, but that they were to be made like
certain paintings shown to me. I observed to my employer that the
paintings bore no resemblance to the animals whose figures I had made my
drawings from; and that I would not alter mine to suit the paintings
that were shown to me; but, if it were wished that I should make
engravings from these paintings, I had not the slightest objection to do
so, and I would also endeavour to make _fac similes_ of them. This
proposal would not do; and my journey, as far as concerned these fat
cattle makers, ended in nothing. I objected to put lumps of fat here and
there where I could not see it, at least not in so exaggerated a way as
on the painting before me; so “I got my labour for my trouble.” Many of
the animals were, during this _rage_ for fat cattle, fed up to as great
a weight and bulk as it was possible for feeding to make them; but this
was not enough; they were to be figured monstrously fat before the
owners of them could be pleased. Painters were found who were quite
subservient to this guidance, and nothing else would satisfy. Many of
these paintings will mark the times, and, by the exaggerated productions
of the artists, serve to be laughed at when the folly and the
self-interested motives which gave birth to them are done away.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

FROM this time till the peace was concluded, the political debatings,
before noticed, continued, and were almost the constant subject of all
companies. I have often sat and listened with wonder to the jargon of
the protected fools, and heard them argue, if so it may be called, in
defence of all the measures then pursued; and I have seen with surprise
the impudence of those who lived upon the taxes. Knaves and their
abettors appeared to predominate in the land; and they carried their
subserviency to such a length that I think, if Mr. Pitt had proposed to
make a law to transport all men who had pug noses, and to hang all men
above 60 years of age, these persons (those excepted who came within the
meaning of the act) would have advocated it as a brilliant thought and a
wise measure.

If we examine the history of these times, and look back to those of old,
we shall find that the in-roads of ignorance have ever been the same.
The time was when the magistrates of Newcastle sent to Scotland for a
man who was reputed clever in discovering witches. He came, and easily
convicted many a fine woman, as well as those who were wrinkled by age
and wisdom, and they were by his means tried and put to death.[32]

Footnote 32:

  “He was for such like villainie condemned in Scotland, and upon the
  gallows he confessed he had been the death of two hundred and twenty
  women, in England and Scotland, for the gain of twenty shillings
  a-peece, and beseeched forgiveness and was executed.”—_England’s
  Grievance, by Ralph Gardner_, 1665.

I think, if there be a plurality of devils, ignorance must be their
king. The wretchedness which ignorance has, from time to time, spread
over the world is truly appaling. This is a king that should be deposed
without loss of time; and that portion of mankind who are under the
guidance of his imps should have nothing to do with the affairs of
society, and should be carefully looked to and kept out of every kind of
command. Even the poor, innocent, unreasoning animals should, in mercy,
not be allowed to be goaded, and to suffer under their ignorance, in the
shape of folly and cruelty.

To attempt giving anything like a detail of the history of this eventful
war would, in this place, be useless: that must be left to the
historian. It appears to me that Mr. Pitt was urged into it chiefly by
ambition, and that disappointment broke his heart. General Bonaparte,
from his unparalleled victories, became in his turn blinded by ambition,
which ended in his being conquered and banished to St. Helena for life.
He had divided and conquered almost all his continental enemies, one
after another, and then mostly reinstated them in their dominions. But
this generosity would not do. Despotism, urged on and supported by this
country, was rooted too deeply in the governments of Europe to think of
making any change to better the condition of the people. It would appear
that that is a business they cannot think of; and the old maxim, that
the many are made only to support the few, seems continually uppermost
in their resolves. If Bonaparte had been as good a man as he was a great
one, he had it in his power to settle all this, and to have established
the happiness of both the governors and the governed, over all the
civilised world, for ages to come. Although he had the example of the
incomparable Washington before him, he did not copy it. He ceased to be
first consul, managed to assume the title of emperor, married an
Austrian arch-duchess, and became one of the Legitimates. This added to
the stock of his ambition, and from that time he began to decline.
Fortune at length seemed to frown upon him, and the frost and snow of
Russia cut off and destroyed his immensely large and well-appointed
army. He was baffled in his strenuous efforts to repair his loss, and
his defeat at Waterloo sealed his ruin.

One would think that the gaining of worlds would not compensate for the
misery and the horrid waste of human life which are the certain
attendants of war; and one would wonder what kind of minds direct the
actions of the authors of it. Were they to reflect, it may be fairly
concluded that they could not bear their own thoughts, and that, after
taking a full survey of the wretchedness they had occasioned, they would
go immediately and hang themselves. They are perhaps not fitted for
reflection, or only for that kind of it which can look at nothing but
ambition or private gain. It would be well for the abettors and
advocates of war to try to weigh the profit and loss (setting aside the
inhumanity) attendant upon it. This we should do at home; and, instead
of celebrating the birthday of the “Heaven-born minister,” ask his
admirers how he deserves such a title, and compare it with his actions.
Might not the lives of, say, a million of men have been saved? Was it
necessary that they should have been sacrificed in such a way? Could he
have avoided it? With his consummate abilities, I humbly think he could.
Would not these men have been sufficient in number to colonize and to
civilize immense unoccupied territories? The money wasted would have
accomplished almost anything. The men and the money would have canaled
Britain and Ireland from end to end, and intersected them from side to
side; and also made piers, where wanted, at the mouths of the rivers of
the two islands; and, besides, would have converted both countries into
gardens. To point out more improvements would be a waste of words. With
such means in hand, they might have been almost endless. Then, per
contra:—What has been done in exchange for the millions of lives and the
millions of money thus spent? They have restored legitimacy; they have
restored “Louis the Desired,” and “Ferdinand the Beloved,” and the
Inquisition! Monarchs are still to be called “God’s vicegerents here on
earth!” When by their actions they shew themselves deserving of such
titles, mankind will not disturb them in these their dreams; but, till
then, they will continue to smile at the conceit, as well as the glitter
they keep up to dazzle the sight of their purblind “loving subjects.”
All wars, except defensive ones, are detestable; and, if governments
admitted morality into their institutions, and were guided by its
precepts, war would, in all probability, grow into disuse, and cease.
But hitherto that treasure of inestimable value, I think, has been
discarded from their councils, and I cannot discover much difference
between them and the lesser banditti of old; for each has been guided by
the strong disposition to rob, (as soon as they thought themselves able
successfully to do so), and to show that “might is right.” From the
feuds of the nobility down to “Rob-in-hood, Will Scarlet, and Little
John;” and from the ferocious combats of the Percy and Douglas, on the
Borders—of Johnny Armstrong and his eight score men, down to “Yeddy
(Adam) Bell,” “Clem of the Clough,” and “William of Cloudsley”—and the
Mosstroopers,—the same wicked principle has guided them and their
ferocious retainers to murder each other and to soak the earth with



                             CHAPTER XVII.

WITHOUT presuming to scan the intentions of Omnipotence, in His gifts to
the human race,—or to probe into the nature of His endless works of
wisdom,—or to grope into matters intended to be out of our reach, and
beyond our comprehension,—yet the reasoning power He has given us, we
cannot doubt, was meant to guide us in our researches to the extent for
which it is capacitated, and to which its uses are fitted to be applied.
In viewing man as connected with this world, and with his station in
society, I think it will appear clearly that the various degrees of his
intellectual and reasoning powers are the gift of Providence; and,
however high this boon may be, the possessor of it ought to be thankful,
but never vain. It is this innate power drawn forth and acted upon by
observation and industry, that enables the philosopher, the poet, the
painter, and the musician, to arrive at excellence; and the same remark
is more or less applicable to men bent upon any pursuit in the whole
round of the arts and sciences. Without using the means to cultivate
their powers, they will remain inert, and be of no use either to the
individual or to society; and men with innate qualifications, and men
without them, are brought down to a level of uselessness. It is greatly
owing to the want of effort that originates the inequalities of rank and
fortune of which the community is composed. The intelligent and
industrious man, guided by honour, will ever be aiming to rise in the
scale of eminence; while, on the contrary, the lazy, the ignorant, or
the wicked man, influenced by pride, dissipation and negligence, is
whirled into the vortex of disgrace, and is attended by poverty and
misery; and, if he cannot redeem his character, becomes abandoned. He is
then in his last stage; his days will be full of sorrow; and, if it be
true that “none are wretched but the wicked,” he will have his fill of

But to remedy these evils attendant upon ignorance, as far as possible,
and to give every man a fair chance, his reasoning powers ought to be
drawn forth by a rational and virtuous education, and it is a first and
imperative duty upon the community either to provide for, or to see that
it is given to, every one as far as his capacity will permit; for to the
neglect or omission of this kind of instruction may be traced almost all
the wickedness and misrule which disfigure the social compact and spread
misery over the world. To check the reasoning power is a public crime,
which, like individual crime, follows the perpetrators like a shadow. To
argue against the exercise of this gift is to attempt to thwart the
intentions of Omnipotence. It is blasphemy. It never will pollute the
tongues of good and wise men, and could only, like dregs, be reserved to
defile those of tyrants and fools. Men who are not actuated by the
principle of “doing as they would be done by”—governed by a twisted
imagination—would have their fellow men kept in ignorance,—to pass away
their lives like unreasoning animals, lest they might not have
sufficient homage paid to themselves, or that they should forget their
duty as servants, and cease to work for, or to wait upon, their
employers. A sensible servant will never omit doing his duty, but an
ignorant one will; and the reciprocal duties between master and servant
ought to be clearly defined. The former ought not to act the tyrant; the
latter should be obedient; and equal and just laws should guide and
govern them.

All men of sound understanding, and who are capable of reflection, will
clearly see that there is not, and cannot be, any such thing as
equality. There must, and ever will be, high and low, rich and poor; and
this inequality of rank and fortune, in civilized states, is necessary
for the comfort and happiness of all. A cement is thus formed, which
binds together in union the strength, the beauty, and the symmetry of
the whole. In the freest state, man must not expect to have the
unrestrained liberty of the savage, but must give up a part of his own
freedom for the good of the whole; for liberty consists in this, that
every man may do whatever he pleases, provided he does nothing to injure
his neighbour, or the community of which he is a member; and his
morality ought to be guided by the golden rule, of “doing unto all men
as he would they should do unto him.” Were men made sensible of the
rectitude of this order of things; were they to consider that, in
whatever station in society fortune may have placed them, it is the will
of Providence that it should be so, this reflection would greatly
contribute to their peace of mind and contentment; for no man should
think himself degraded by following an honest calling.

            “Honour and shame from no condition rise;
             Act well your part: there all the honour lies.”

Patriotism ought to direct every man to do honour to himself and to his
country; and it is in this that great national power principally
consists. It is also by the good conduct, and consequent character, of
the great mass of the people that a nation is exalted. The crown—the
richest diamond of our life—is the love of our country; and the man who
neglects this, and ceases to reverence and adore his Maker, is good for
nothing. “The country, surrounded by the briny deep, where all our
ancestors lie buried—in which from youth upwards we have felt the
benefit of equal laws, first acted upon and handed down to us by the
Great Alfred, and maintained from time to time amidst all the attempts
of despotism to overturn them,—by men famed for matchless wisdom and
virtue,—a country so renowned as England, so famous for all that most
strongly attracts the admiration of men,—a country whose genius and
power have, for ages, been such as to make her views and intentions an
object of solicitude with every nation, and with every enlightened
individual in the world,—a country famed for her laws, famed in arts and
arms, famed for the struggles which, age after age, her sons have held
with tyranny in every form it has assumed,—and, beyond all these, famed
for having given birth to, and reared to manhood, those men of matchless
wisdom and virtue whose memories will be held up to admiration, and
whose example will be followed in ages to come—who have rendered the
very name of Englishmen respected in every civilized country in the
world”—(may this be eternal!)—should this country ever sink into
despotism, its reputation will sink also, and with it the high name of
its once enlightened sons; for this renown and this exalted station
cannot be stable unless a pure representation of the people is kept up:
without that, justice will be perverted, and corruption will creep in
and in time overturn the best and wisest plans. Government will become
omnipotent, instead of being the umpire and standing by, like a strong
man, to see that justice is done. Lord Bacon says:—“The ultimate object
which legislators ought to have in view, and to which all their
enactments and sanctions ought to be subservient, is, that the citizens
may live happy. For this purpose it is necessary that they should
receive a religious and pious education; that they should be trained to
good morals; that they should be secured from foreign enemies by proper
military arrangements; that they should be guarded by an effectual
police against seditions and private injuries; that they should be loyal
to government, and obedient to magistrates; and, finally, that they
should abound in wealth, and other national resources.”

Well constituted governments, if occasionally revised, and as often as
necessary scrupulously amended, may be rendered as permanent as time. If
wisely and virtuously administered, they would be indestructible, and
incalculably contribute, by their vigour and uninterrupted duration, to
the mental and moral aggrandisement of man. It is a truth confirmed by
universal history, that the happiness or misery of a people almost
entirely depend upon the principles of their government, and the conduct
of their rulers. Where just and honourable intentions exist, there is
nothing to dread; but, when only the semblance of these are put on, to
cloak wicked and sinister ends, delusion and artifice of every kind must
be resorted to for their accomplishment. Thence follows the degradation
of man, and the consequent decay of states and nations. But it is not
for want of knowing better that governments get out of the path of
rectitude; it is by the individuals who compose its parts becoming
dishonest. To the sage advice of such men as Bacon and Locke they turn a
deaf ear; they are lost in considerations about their own private,
selfish concerns, or are blinded by a false ambition, regardless of
promoting the public good, or the happiness of mankind; and, until they
are checked in this career, by an enlightened people, it is in vain to
look for any amendment in them. But the great bulk of the people must be
enlightened and amended, before liberty, peace, and happiness, can be
spread over the world.

The first step preparatory to this desirable order of things, must be
that the people should learn to respect themselves, as reasoning beings,
which is the noblest privilege bestowed upon them by the Creator. To
slight this gift is to act ungratefully to the Giver; for it is only by
the free exercise of their understandings that men can see the face of
truth, or can have the full use of all the means of advancing in
knowledge, or are capable of religion, science, virtue, and rational
happiness, or can be enabled to look backward with comfort or forward
with hope. It is a sure sign that all is not right, or as it should be,
in governments, when they fear even the fullest investigation of any,
and of every, subject. Truth and honesty fear no discussion, and good
governments will freely encourage, instead of checking, them. There
ought to be no libels, but falsehoods. Can any man say, in the face of
the world, that truth ought not to prevail? It is owing to inquisitorial
checks and restraints, that two of the most important concerns to
mankind, Religion and Politics,—on which their happiness, and everything
of importance to them, so much depends,—is by the community, as a whole,
so imperfectly understood, and so blindly acted upon at this day. It is
only by seeing the conduct of public men in a clear light, that a just
judgment can be formed of them and their measures, and of their fitness
or unfitness to conduct the important concerns entrusted to their
control. It may, indeed, be feared that, if tried in the balance, they
will be found very light. Wise and honest councils must be resorted to
and adopted before Religion, Morality, and Politics, Arts and Sciences,
and a better knowledge of this world of wonders, can be developed and
appreciated. Till then no amendment need be expected: religion will not
be freed from superstition and bigotry, nor political institutions
purged from venality and corruption, and conducted by honesty and good
sense. Those who have fixed themselves, like a disease, upon the body
politic should have warning to depart.

In glancing back upon the transactions of the world, as they have
recently passed in review before us, how can it afford any matter of
wonder that the advocates of liberty should have entertained fears for
its safety, and have wished, as a check, the re-establishment of the
British constitution in its purity. There was, indeed, little hope of
this being acted upon, when foreign despots were leagued to enslave
their peoples; and our own government, supported by a demi-oligarchy,
was so deeply connected with them. Loan after loan was wrung from the
British people under various pretexts, but in reality to support
despotism under the disguise of legitimacy. Granted, that an honest
House of Commons might have supported legitimacy, they should have
openly expressed disapprobation at the lost liberties of nations of
enslaved people. Protests of this kind, however, did not fit with the
notions of the representatives of boroughmongers, who composed the
majority of the honourable House, and who had long been used to treat
the people and their petitions with unblushing neglect or contempt.

In this state of things, politics ran high; an unpleasant ferment soured
the minds of a great majority of the people; and it cannot be wondered
that they were, with difficulty, kept within bounds. Those who had been
used to batten on the wages of corruption became excessively alarmed,
and, under the pretence of preserving the constitution, resorted to a
system of espionage, and of gaols and bastilles, and left no stone
unturned to throw odium upon their opponents, the advocates of liberty,
who were branded with the nicknames of Jacobins, Levellers, Radicals,
&c., &c. The pen of literature was prostituted to overshade the actions
of good men, and to gloss-over the enormities of the base. The energies
of many members of both Houses of Parliament were unavailing against
this compact confederacy of undeserving placemen and pensioners, who
were bound together by fellow feelings of self-interest, in which all
ideas of public trust were lost in private considerations. They had
sinned themselves out of all shame. This phalanx have kept their ground,
and will do so till, it is to be feared, violence from an enraged people
breaks them up, or, perhaps, till the growing opinions against such a
crooked order of conducting the affairs of this great nation becomes
quite apparent to an immense majority, whose frowns may have the power
of bringing the agents of government to pause upon the brink of the
precipice on which they stand, and to provide in time, by wise and
honest measures, to avert the coming storm. It is appalling to think of
matters of this import being brought to extremities, especially when the
whole might so easily be settled without any convulsion at all. The king
(whose interests are the same as the people’s), if freed from the advice
of evil counsellors, and from the unfitting trammels by which they have
him bound, might insist upon having the constitution restored to its
purity. This would at once settle the business, and would cause him to
be adored by his whole people, and his name to be revered, by the
enlightened in every civilised country, to the latest posterity.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

I NEVER could agree in opinion with the philanthropic, and
well-intentioned, and honest, Major Cartwright,[33] in his unqualified
scheme of universal suffrage; because I conceive that the ignorant and
the wicked ought to be debarred from voting for anything; they should
neither be honoured with privileges nor employed in any office of public
trust; a virtual representation is all-sufficient for them. Could
matters be so managed that none but sensible, honest men should be
allowed to vote, either for members of Parliament, or for any other
public functionary, the country would, in a short time, put on a very
improved appearance. It is quite natural to suppose that, were elections
entrusted to this description of men, they would elect none but those of
similar character to their own. But, should it be found impracticable
thus to order public affairs, then the next best plan,—and which might
easily be accomplished,—would be to confer the additional elective
franchise upon householders of probity and honour,—that is, upon those
who, in their own spheres, by industry and intelligence, maintain
themselves respectably; for it must be admitted that the poor are
frequently as wise as the rich, and as remarkable for integrity.

Footnote 33:

  Major Cartwright, died 23rd Sep., 1824, aged 84,—an honour to his
  country and to human nature—an upright and inflexible patriot.

If an overwhelming mass of selfism did not paralyze every improvement,
how easily and how soon all this might be done. By making elections
simple, candidates would be spared the expense of a canvass, and
drunkenness and the base, wicked effects consequent thereon might be
avoided. This business through the whole kingdom might be done in a few
days, by summoning the electors (as soon as the candidates were
nominated) to attend at the several polling places, to vote by ballot or
otherwise as might be determined. The public should only be addressed
through the medium of the newspapers. What a real honour would it be to
be thus elected! What a saving of expense! What can any gentleman, after
spending thousands in the present mode, say for himself? Does he expect
to be repaid, somehow or other, by the nation? or, has he lavished away
such sums for the “honour of the thing,” and thus robbed his own family
by wasteful expenditure?

While sentiments of patriotism were entertained in our country,—clouded,
indeed, by fears of an opposite tendency, as noticed before,—the
attention of all was drawn aside to view the confederacy of despots
directed to shackle the understandings of mankind, and to keep them in
slavery and degradation. Would any man in his senses, in the present
enlightened state of the civilized world, have thought this possible?
And yet, as a finish, they have called it the “Holy Alliance.” My most
fervent prayer is, that no king of the British Isles will ever keep such
company; but that our sovereigns will ever stand firm, uncontaminated by
the infectious effluvia of arbitrary power, upon this proud ground—this
soil fitly tilled, but only wanting some weeding to render it perfectly
ready to produce a rich crop of liberty.

Most men were beginning to hope that emperors and kings had discovered
that, if the people were not enlightened, it was high time for them to
use their kingly influence to make them so; and that it is far safer and
better, as well as more honourable, to preside over an intelligent
people, than to govern men brought down to the level of unreasoning
brutes. The wretchedly bigoted, and consequently oppressed, people of
Spain will, no doubt, see things in their true light at some future day,
and free their fine country from misrule. The times in which Galileo
lived have passed away, but we still see the same kind of despotism and
superstition ready as ever to burn such men alive, and to strew their
ashes in the wind. The affairs of mankind, managed in this way, will be
likely at no distant period to put such kings and their priests out of
fashion. Superstition makes despots and tyrants of all the sovereigns
whom it influences: they become the confirmed enemies of knowledge. The
die is then cast. Superstition never did, nor ever will, listen to
reason; for credulity is the offspring of ignorance, and superstition is
the child of credulity; and this breed is nursed and kept up by
despotism, as its mainstay and darling. The sun of reason may be clouded
for a time. As long as falsehood in the garb of truth continues to lead
the great mass of mankind, so long will they struggle in vain to attain
the paths which lead to perfection and happiness.

“We should always repute it as our business in the world—the end and
purpose of our being—our duty to our kind—the natural use of the powers
we enjoy—and the suitable testimony of gratitude to our Maker, to
contribute something to the general good—to the common fund of happiness
to our species.”[34] Benevolent and patriotic sentiments of this kind
ought always to be kept up, and the mite of the humblest individual
ought to be received and acknowledged: the reveries of such ought not to
pass without being coolly examined by men of experience. I well remember
my name having been set down as that of a person who would, without
hesitation, become a member of a society in Newcastle, “for the
suppression of vice.” To this I decidedly objected, and told my
well-meaning neighbour,[35] who named the matter to me, that I thought
the magistrates were quite competent to manage that business; but that I
would have no hesitation in joining their society if they would change
their plan, and make it “a society for promoting and rewarding virtue.”
I have often thought since that, if such a society as the latter—to be
called “The Society of Honour”—were established in every parish, it
might, if well managed, do great good. The society ought not to annoy
any one, by being over officious, nor to meddle otherwise than by
quietly, and yet publicly, rewarding, or expressing the good opinion
they entertain of the conduct of the person honoured.

Footnote 34:

  Dr. F. Hutchinson.

Footnote 35:

  Mr. Benjamin Brunton. He was a popular man, and was often chairman at
  patriotic and charitable meetings, and had been one of the committee
  who sued the magistrate of Newcastle on the Town Moor business before

Another society of a very different character to the last-named is at
this time winked at in this land of liberty. I mean the present great
and mighty Inquisition, held under the denomination of “the
Constitutional Association.” These men—the secret admirers of “The Holy
Alliance”—may more properly be called the suppressors and dreaders of
truth. Acting, indeed, under the mask of advocating the cause of
religion and liberty, but in reality in lurking enmity to the latter,
and to all free enquiry and investigation, they have arrogated to
themselves the power of punishing a man for his unbiased opinions, even
on subjects which do not militate against good morals, or against the
happiness of society; thus taking the power out of the hands of the
national authorities, as if they were unfit and insufficient to do their
duty. A House of Commons ought to see this with indignation, and this
self-erected Inquisition, instead of ruining parties by their
prosecutions, should be invited to answer truth with truth, as well as
they can; leaving the world to judge how it stands between them and
their opponents.

When men break through laws, made with care for the good government of
the community, they ought, as at present, to forfeit their liberty, and
in some cases their lives. It is a pity that those who have betrayed the
innocent, and robbed the fatherless children and widows, cannot be sent
to live with savages, and to have their backs tattooed with
hieroglyphics, expressive of their crimes.

It has often been a matter of surprise, in the circle of my friends,
that criminals are not transported to the West Indies, there to undergo
a purgation till they have redeemed their characters, in which case they
should be allowed to return home. It has also appeared to us that the
law is defective, in not, somehow or other, protecting such men after
being released from prison. Some association should be formed—some
friends to them and to humanity might be invited forth to pass their
word, for a time, for their good behaviour, to prevent their being thus
cast friendless upon an unforgiving and censorious world; for it matters
not how fervently a man may wish to redeem his character, no one will
employ him, and he is thereby driven to the necessity of flying to some
villainous scheme to enable him to live.

It is painful to speak about punishments to be inflicted upon one’s
unfortunate fellow men: it is equally so to contemplate their
self-degradation. But, when it is considered what a voluminous mass of
laws we have, neither understood nor explained, we cannot wonder that
they are broken; they are so multifarious and complex, that, as to the
illiterate description of persons they are meant to keep in order, they
are almost useless. An abridgement of the laws of England would perhaps
fill fifty folio volumes. These laws, at the time they were made, might
be good and proper, but most of them are now inapplicable and obsolete.
To amend them seems impossible, and an act to amend or explain an act,
by adding confusion to confusion, is truly farcical. It is a pity that
the whole of them cannot be abolished at once, and short and clear new
ones substituted in their stead. As they stand at present, few men can
understand them, and to men of plain, good sense, or of ordinary
capacities, they appear altogether a great mass of unintelligible
matter, or a complete “riddle-me-ree.” This may, indeed, be intended or
winked at; for it gives employment to a great number of men of the law,
of all kinds of character, from the basest up to others who are
ornaments to their country. Indeed, were it not for the latter
description, the rest would not be endurable. They are more to be
dreaded than highwaymen and housebreakers, and as such are viewed by the
thinking part of the community; but the former find employment from
clients of their own character, who trust to them for their ability in
twisting, evading, and explaining the law away.

In passing through life, it has fortunately been my lot to have been
intimate with both military and naval gentlemen, as well as with those
of the learned professions; and, though several of each class have stood
high in the estimation of the world, for their gentlemanly manners and
unsullied worth—to which I may be allowed to add my testimony, as well
as to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe some of them for their
kindness and attention—yet, on taking a comparative survey of the whole,
I cannot help giving a preference to medical men; for, besides their
learning and attainments in common with other professions, they appear
to me, generally, to be further removed from prejudice, more
enlightened, and more liberal in their sentiments than the other
labourers in the vineyards of science and literature.



                              CHAPTER XIX.

IT is of the utmost importance to individuals and to society that
attention should be watchfully bestowed upon children, both with respect
to their health and their morals. Their future welfare in life depends
upon this, and the important charge falls greatly upon the mother. Her
first lesson—their talent being only imitation—should be that of
obedience, mildly enforced; for, reason being the faculty of comparing
ideas already presented to the mind, it cannot exist in a child, to whom
few or no ideas have been presented. Then follow lessons of truth,
sincerity, industry, honesty. It ought to be impressed upon their minds
that, though they are young, yet the longest life is only like a dream;
and, short as it is, it is rendered shorter by all the time lost in
wickedness, contention, and strife. They ought to be taught that all
they can do, while they sojourn in this world, is to live honourably,
and to take every care that the soul shall return to the Being who gave
it as pure, unpolluted, and spotless as possible; and that there can be
no happiness in this life, unless they hold converse with God.

With respect to the health of children, I fear the present management is
not right. The mistaken indulgence of parents, in pampering and spoiling
the appetites of children, lays the foundation of a permanent train of
diseases, which an endless supply of medicines and nostrums will never
restore to its pristine vigour. Skilful medical aid may, indeed, be of
use, but nothing is so sure as a recurrence to a plain diet, temperance,
and exercise. The next obstacle to remedy, I fear, will not be easily
removed; for it is built upon the prejudices of mothers themselves,
dictated by notions of fashion and gentility which have taken a deep
root. When folly has given the fashion, she is a persevering dame, and
“folly ever dotes upon her darling.” Instead of impressing upon the
minds of girls the importance of knowing household affairs, and other
useful knowledge, and cultivating cheerfulness and affability along with
the courtesies of life, they must undergo a training to befit them for
appearing in frivolous company. To insure this, the mother, or some
boarding school mistress, insists that these delicate young creatures be
tightened up in a shape-destroying dress, and sit and move in graceful
stiffness. They must not spring about or make use of their limbs, lest
it might be called _romping_, and might give them so vulgar, so robust,
and so red-cheeked a look that they would not appear _like ladies_. The
consequence of this is, that they become like hot-house plants;—the air
must not blow upon them;—and, in this state, they must attend routs and
balls, and midnight assemblies, which send numbers of them to an
untimely grave.[36] If they survive these trials, still they leave
behind a want of health and vigour, which hangs upon them through life,
and they become the nerveless outcasts of nature. They are then unfit to
become the mothers of Englishmen; they twine out a life of _ennui_, and
their generation dies out. I have all my life been grieved to find this
description too often realized. It is paying too dear for female
accomplishments. It is surely desirable that a change should take place,
by which fashionable follies may be narrowed in their boundaries, and a
better line drawn out; prescribed by propriety, affability, modesty, and
good sense, on which the courtesies of life, and the invaluable
embellishments of civilisation, and everything graceful and charming in
society, is founded. I wish the ladies of the British Isles may set the
example, and take the lead in this, so that ignorant rudeness and
vulgarity may be banished from the face of the earth.

Footnote 36:

  If these assemblies must be kept up—by the gentry who can afford
  it—they ought to be held in the day time, that those who attend them
  may get their natural rest at night.

If I could influence the fair sex, there is one thing to which I would
draw their attention; and that is Horticulture; and, connected with
this, I would recommend them, as far as convenient, to become Florists,
as this delightful and healthy employment,—which has been long enough in
the rude hands of men—would entice them into the open air, stimulate
them to exertion, and draw them away from their sedentary mode of life,
mewed up in close rooms, where they are confined like nuns. This would
contribute greatly to their amusement, and exhilarate their spirits.
Every sensible man should encourage the fair sex to follow this pursuit.
What would this world be without their help, to alleviate its burdens?
It would appear a barren waste. It would no longer be a wide-spread
garden of Eden, nor an earthly paradise within the reach of our
enjoyments. May the fruits and flowers of it, reared and presented by
their fair hands, ever operate as a charm in ensuring the attentions and
unabating regard of all men! And of all good men it will. In thus
dictating to them, no embarrassment can follow; and, if they ever know
of the liberty I thus have taken, it will probably be when all
embarrassments are, with me, at an end. And I can only further leave
behind me a wish that health may eternally blush their cheeks, and
virtue their minds.

Next in consideration to the ladies,—who they must in courtesy
follow,—are the freeholders of this favoured land. Such of these as, by
their attainments, arrive at the degree of gentlemen, are, or ought to
be, the pride and glory of every civilised country in the world. Placed
in opulence and independence, they are, and must be looked up to as, the
patrons of every virtue in the people, who, in their station of life,
may need such help to encourage them. May gentlemen never lose sight of
this important duty, and ever be able to stem the torrent of gambling
and dissipation; so that their ancient mansions may remain in their
names for ever, as pledges of their worth, and as ornaments to the
country. Without their countenance, arts and sciences, and artisans,
would languish, industry would be paralyzed, and barbarism again rear
its benumbed hands and stupid head. It is to be hoped that the business
of their wine vaults, their horses, and their dogs, may cease to be the
main business of their lives, and only be looked to as matters of
amusement wherewith to unbend their minds. And, as no man can, while he
is in possession of his faculties, rest in happiness unless he is
exercising them, and some hobby-horse must engage his attention, it
therefore becomes a question for their consideration in what way they
can best employ themselves. I would earnestly recommend that gentlemen
should endeavour to improve their lands, and lay the foundation of
fertilising them: and instead of spending—perhaps squandering—their
money in follies abroad, as far as possible, spend it at home. The late
good and wise first Lord Ravensworth used to say, there was nothing
grateful but the earth. “You cannot,” said he, “do too much for it; it
will continue to pay tenfold the pains and labour bestowed upon it.”
Estates so managed would then exhibit the appearance of clean-weeded
nurseries. As an act of justice due to the industrious farmer, he ought,
on entering upon his lease, to have his farm valued, and, when his lease
is out, valued again; and, whatever improvements he may have made, ought
to be paid for on his leaving. I am well aware that these remarks may
not be relished by those whose pride, dictated by the wish to domineer,
will not give in to this fair proposal, for fear of the independent
spirit it might rear; but it must be allowed that the landlord could
come to no loss by it, and that the community would be greatly benefited
by the adoption of such a plan. Those gentlemen who have moor lands,
however exposed and bleak they may be, may yet do something to make them
more productive, by enclosing them with dry stone dykes, beset and bound
with ivy, and intersected with whin hedges;[37] and this shelter would
form a bield for sheep and cattle, and besides would produce grass both
in quantity and quality such as never grew there before.

Footnote 37:

  The very clippings of which (as noticed before) would be healthful
  fodder for both sheep and cattle.

The chief offices which gentlemen and freeholders are called upon to
fulfil are, member of Parliament, magistrate, and juryman. The first is
the most important; but, indeed, in that as well as the others, the
requisite ingredients are honesty and intelligence. If we look at the
wretched tools which boroughmongers obtrude upon the nation, we may
anxiously look to the importance of electing gentlemen who will
unceasingly and boldly oppose such men ever being allowed to sit as
representatives. But these have already gone far on the road towards
paralysing the British constitution, and establishing on its ruins an
oligarchy, which is the worst and most odious of all governments.

In the troublesome and gratuitous office of magistrate, great sagacity
and penetration are requisite to enable the holders, in their political
capacity, to discriminate between stretching too far the, perhaps,
ill-defined, and often arbitrary laws, beyond the due bounds prescribed
by justice and mercy. They ought to detest being made the tools of
despotic acts of corruption, and being like Turkish Bashaws spread over
the provinces. In their civil capacities, matters come more nearly home
to them; and in this they have much need of cool deliberation, as well
as extreme vigilence, for without these there would be no such thing as
living in peace while such numbers of the dregs of the people remain in
ignorance and depravity. These latter do not know the meaning of either
religion or morality, and it is only the strong arm of the law that can
keep people of this description in order. Their evidence ought always to
be suspected. Oaths have little weight: they are so used to them. One of
our poets says,—

           “Of all the nauseous complicated crimes
           “Which both infest and stigmatise the times,
           “There’s none which can with impious oaths compare,
           “Where vice and folly have an equal share.”

But, bad as these reprobate oaths are, there are others which I think
are still worse; and these are the numerous oaths used, and indeed
imposed, on so many and on such improper occasions, where Omnipotence is
impiously appealed to in all the little dirty transactions between man
and man. It would be well to remember that an honest man’s word is as
good as his oath,—and so is a rogue’s too. Surely some remedy might be
fallen upon to check these swearing vices; especially perjury, bearing
false witness, as well as when a man is proved to have broken his word
and his honour.

There is another vice, of an odious complexion, advancing with rapid
strides to enormity, which cries aloud to be checked. Bad men, with
hardened effrontery, only laugh at their breaking down every barrier to
modesty and virtue, and thus disrobing innocence, and rendering deformed
that which ought to be the brightest feature of civilisation. The crime
to which I allude needs only to be examined to convince any one of its
cruelty to the fair sex, and its extensively demoralising influence on
society. Let any man ask himself how he would feel were his daughter or
his sister to be betrayed. This question ought to be fairly canvassed.
Although it will be allowed that men, devoid of honour and modesty, who
have let loose their unbridled, bad passions, will not be easily stopped
in their career, yet, notwithstanding, this evil may be, by the strong
arm of the law, greatly banished from the land, and innate modesty
planted in its stead.

All men and women in health, and of good character, ought to be
countenanced in marrying; and it is for them to consider whether they
can properly rear and educate a family; and, should there be an
over-abundant population, then colonisation might be resorted to at the
public expense; and this globe will be found large enough to hold
additional millions upon millions of people. There are few contracts
between human beings which should be more delicate than that of
marriage. It is an engagement of the utmost importance to individuals
and to society, and which of all others ought to be the most unbiased;
for it cannot be attended with honour, nor blessed with happiness, if it
has not its origin in mutual affection. The rules to be observed in thus
selecting and fixing the choice are few, simple, and easily understood.
Both males and females, if of unsound constitution, ought to forbear
matrimony. It is the duty of every man to endeavour to get a healthy
woman for the sake of his children, and an amiable one for his own
domestic comfort. The fair sex should observe the like rules. If a woman
marries a man who has broken down his constitution by his own
dissipation, or has imbibed a tainted one from his parents, she must not
be surprised at becoming a nurse to him and his nerveless, puny,
offspring. One cannot help wondering at the uncommon pains a gentleman
will take in buying a horse, to see that the animal is perfectly sound,
and without blemish, and that he should not take the same pains in
choosing a wife, which is of infinitely more importance to him. He,
perhaps to repair his shattered fortune, will marry any woman if she has
plenty of money. She may, indeed, be the innocent heir to the
full-charged hereditary diseases of a pair of voluptuous citizens, just
as that may happen to be. No gentleman need to look far from his home,
to be enabled to meet with an helpmate, possessing every requisite to
make him happy; but, if he cannot meet with such a one, or cannot please
himself in his own neighbourhood, he had better travel in search of one
from Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s House, than not get a proper partner
as the mother of his children.

I have often thought that the children of gentlemen—boys
particularly—are too soon put to school under improper restraints, and
harassed with education before their minds are fit for it. Were they
sent to the edge of some moor, to scamper about amongst whins and
heather, under the care of some good old man—some mentor—who would teach
them a little every day, without embarrassing them—they would there, in
this kind of preparatory school, lay in a foundation of health, as well
as education. If they were thus allowed to run wild by the sides of
burns—to fish, to wade, and to splash in—they would soon find their
minds intently employed in sports and pleasures of their own choosing.
It would be found that youth so brought up, besides thus working out any
little hereditary ailments, would never forget the charms of the
country, which would impart to them a flow of spirits through life such
as very few, or none, brought up in a town ever know, and, besides this,
lay in a strong frame work on which to build a nervous constitution,
befitting the habitation of an energetic mind and a great soul. Let any
one look at the contrast between men thus brought up, and the generality
of early-matured Lilliputian plants, and he will soon see, with very few
exceptions, the difference, both in body and mind, between them.


                              CHAPTER XX.

THE game laws have for ages past been a miserable source of contention
between those rendered unqualified by severe and even cruel game laws,
and parties who had influence to get these laws enacted for their own
exclusive privilege of killing the game. To convince the intelligent
poor man that the fowls of the air were created only for the rich is
impossible, and will for ever remain so. If it be pleaded that, because
the game are fed on the lands of the latter, they have the exclusive
right to them, this would appear to be carrying the notions of the
sacredness of property too far; for even this ought to have its bounds;
but were this conceded, as property is enjoyed by a rental, and as the
farmers feed the game, they would appear to belong to them more properly
than to any one else. I own I feel great repugnance in saying anything
that might have a tendency to curtail the healthy enjoyments of the
country gentleman, in his field sports, which his fortune and his
leisure enable him so appropriately to pursue; at the same time it is
greatly to be regretted that anything—any over-stretched
distinctions—should ever happen to make a breach between the poor and
the rich. It is, however, to be wished that the unqualified man may find
his attention engaged, and his mind excited in some other way (or by his
business) than that of becoming a poacher. The strange propensity,
however unaccountable, in almost all men TO KILL, and the pleasurable
excitement to do so, is equally strong in the poacher as in the
gentleman sportsman. This excitement, or an extreme desire to exhilarate
the spirits, and to give them energy, as well as pleasure, pervades more
or less, the minds of all mankind, and shows itself in every species of
gambling, from cock-fighting, dog and man fighting, hunting,
horse-racing, and even up to the acme of excitement—or excitement run
mad—that of horrid war. I wish something more rational and better could
be contrived to whet the mind and to rouse its energies; for certain it
is that “the heart that never tastes pleasure shuts up, grows stiff, and
incapable of enjoyment.” The minds of men ought therefore, to be unbent
at certain times,—especially in some constitutions,—to prevent their
becoming nerveless and hypochondriacal, the worst of all diseases, in
which the mind sees everything with an obliquity of intellect, and
creates numberless cruel and imaginary evils which continually surround
and embarrass it. Only let a man who cannot employ himself with some
hobby or other know that he is provided for, and has nothing to do, and
it will soon be seen how _ennui_, with benumbing steps, will thrust
itself upon him, and what a stupid and unhappy being he is.

If I have reasoned correctly in the foregoing observations, it is, then,
desirable that sports and pastimes should be resorted to that might, in
many cases, turn out to public good. For this purpose, I have often
thought that small sums might be subscribed and collected to be given as
a prize to the best shot at a mark. The utility and national purpose of
this scheme may at some time be felt; for, so long as surrounding
despots can gather together immense mercenary armies, they ought to be
effectually guarded against, and they certainly might be as effectually
checked by hundreds of thousands of riflemen, (including the militia),
thus trained for the defence of the kingdom, at a comparatively small
expense. They might have their bullets made of baked clay, which would
probably be as efficient as those made of lead, and cost almost nothing.

The last subject I shall notice, as being kept up by unequal and unjust
laws, is the fisheries, throughout the kingdom. The laws made respecting
them originated in the times of feudal tyranny, when “might was right,”
and everything was carried with a high hand. It was then easy for an
overbearing aristocracy, by their influence, to get grants and charters
made entirely on their own behalf. The rights of the community were set
at nought, or were treated with contempt. But those days are passed
away; the march of intellect is spreading over the world; and all public
matters are now viewed with feelings of a very different kind than when
such laws were made, and which ought to have been repealed long since;
but they are still in force, and will continue so as long as the potent
feelings of over-stretched self-interest are allowed to guide those who
have the power to keep the grasp of this their antiquated hold: for such
can hear no reason against their private interest, however unanswerable
it may be. No reasonable plea can ever be set up, to show that the fish
of rivers ought to be the private property of any one. Can it be
pretended that because a river or a rivulet, passes through an estate,
whether the owner of it will or not, that the fish which breed in it, or
which live in it, ought to be his? They are not like the game, which are
all fed by the farmer, for fish cost nobody anything; therefore, in
common justice, they ought to belong to the public, and ought to be
preserved for the public good, in every county through which the rivers
pass, and be let at a rental from the clerk of the peace, and the money
arising therefrom applied to making bridges and roads, or for county or
other rates. Stewards ought to be appointed to receive the rents, and a
committee of auditors elected annually, by ballot, as a check upon the
management of the whole. If the fisheries were not thus rented, the
public would derive little benefit from such an immense supply of food;
for without they were thus disposed of each county would soon be
over-run with such numbers of poachers as would become intolerable. All
this, however, ought to be well considered; for, notwithstanding the
selfish principle which dictated the original grants of the
fisheries,—long since obtained,—the present possessors are not to blame,
and suddenly to deprive any man of what he has been accustomed to
receive may be deemed a harsh measure, and in some cases a cruel one;
therefore some equitable sum should be paid to the owners at once, as a
remuneration in lieu of all future claims; as fish ought not to be
considered as an inheritance to descend to the heirs of any one.

From about the year 1760 to ’67, when a boy, I was frequently sent by my
parents to purchase a salmon from the fishers of the “strike” at
Eltringham ford. At that time, I never paid more, and often less, than
three halfpence per pound (mostly a heavy, guessed weight, about which
they were not exact). Before, or perhaps about this time, there had
always been an article inserted in every indenture in Newcastle, that
the apprentice was not to be obliged to eat salmon above twice a week,
and the like bargain was made upon hiring ordinary servants. It need not
be added that the _salmo_ tribe then teemed in abundance in the Tyne,
and there can be little doubt that the same immense numbers would return
to it again were proper measures pursued to facilitate their passage
from the sea to breed. All animals, excepting fish, only increase, but
they multiply, and that in so extraordinary a degree as to set all
calculation at defiance. It is well known that they ascend every river,
rivulet, and burn, in search of proper places to deposit their spawn;
and this is the case both with those kinds which quit the sea, and those
which never leave the fresh water. In their thus instinctively searching
for proper spawning places, they make their way up to such shallows as
one would think it impossible for any animal wanting legs and feet ever
to crawl up to; therefore every improper weir or dam that obstructs
their free passage ought to be thrown down, as they are one great cause
of the salmon quitting the proper spawning places in the river, to
return to spawn in the sea as well as they can; where, it is fair to
conclude, their fry, or their roe, are swallowed up by other fish, as
soon as they, or it, are spread abroad along the shores.

It will readily be perceived, that the fishers’ weirs are made chiefly
with a view of preventing their neighbour fishers from coming in for
their due share; but, were the fisheries let, as before named, the
different fishing places would then be planned out by the stewards, as
well as remedying other faults with an impartial hand. There are,
besides weirs and dams, other causes which occasion the falling off of
the breed of salmon, by greatly preventing them from entering and making
their way up rivers for the purpose of spawning. They have a great
aversion to passing through impure water, and even snow-water stops
them; for they will lie still, and wait until it runs off. The filth of
manufactories is also very injurious, as well as the refuse which is
washed off the uncleaned streets of large towns by heavy rains. Were
this filth in all cases led away and laid on the land, it would be of
great value to the farmer, and persons should be appointed to do that
duty, not in a slovenly or lazy manner, but with punctuality and
despatch. In this the health and comfort of the inhabitants of towns
ought to be considered as of great importance to them, as well as that
of keeping the river as pure as possible on account of the fish.

Should the evils attendant upon weirs and dams, and other matters, be
rectified, then the next necessary step to be taken should be the
appointment of river conservators and vigilant guards to protect the
kipper, or spawning fish, from being killed while they are in this
sickly and imbecile state. They are then so easily caught, that,
notwithstanding they are very unwholesome as food, very great numbers
are taken in the night, which are eaten by poor people, who do not know
how pernicious they are. But, should all these measures be found not
fully to answer public expectation, the time now allowed for fishing
might be shortened, and in some years, if ever found necessary, the
fishing might be laid in for a season.

The next important question for consideration, is respecting what can be
done to prevent the destruction of salmon on their first entering a
river, and while they are in full perfection, by their most powerful and
most conspicuously destructive enemy, the porpoise.

I have seen a shoal of porpoises, off Tynemouth, swimming abreast of
each other, and thus occupying a space of apparently more than a hundred
yards from the shore, seawards, and crossing the mouth of the river, so
that no salmon could enter it. They went backward and forward for more
than a mile, along shore, and with such surprising rapidity that, in
their course, they caused a foam to arise, like the breakers of the sea
in a storm. Might not a couple of steam packets, with strong nets, sweep
on shore hundreds of these at a time? Perhaps by giving premiums for
catching them they might be greatly thinned, and their tough skins be
tanned, or otherwise prepared, so as to be applied to some use. Oil
might be obtained partly to pay for the trouble of taking this kind of
fish; and, lastly, they might be used as an article of food. They were
eaten formerly even by the gentry: and why not make the attempt to apply
them to that purpose again? Perhaps, by pickling or drying them, and by
other aids of cookery, they might prove good and wholesome; for every
animal in season is so, which, when out of season, is quite the reverse.

If the parent fishes of the _salmo_ tribe were protected, the fry would
soon be seen to swarm in incredible numbers, and perhaps a pair of them
would spawn more than all the anglers from the source to the mouth of
any river could fairly catch in one season. Having from a boy been an
angler, it is with feelings painfully rankling in my mind that I live in
dread (from hints already given) of this recreation being abridged or
stopped. Angling has from time immemorial been followed, and ought to be
indulged in unchecked by arbitrary laws, as the birthright of everyone,
but particularly of the sedentary and the studious. It is cruel to think
of debarring the fair angler, by any checks whatever; the salmon fishers
may, indeed, begrudge to see such fill his creel with a few scores of
the fry; because what is taken might in a short time return to them as
full-grown salmon (for all fish, as well as birds, return to the same
places where they were bred); but, for reasons before named, this
selfishness should not be attended to for a moment, and the fisheries
ought to be taken subject to this kind of toll or imaginary grievance.

I have always felt extremely disgusted at what is called preserved
waters (except fish ponds); that is, where the fish in these waters are
claimed exclusively as private property. The disposition which sets up
claims of this kind is the same as would—if it could—sell the sea, and
the use of the sun and the rain. Here the angler is debarred by the
surly, selfish owner of the adjoining land, the pleasure of enjoying the
most healthful and comparatively the most innocent of all diversions. It
unbends the minds of the sedentary and the studious, whether it may be
those employed at their desks, or “the pale artist plying his sickly
trade,” and enables such to return to their avocations, or their
studies, with renovated energy, to labour for their own or for the
public good. But as any thing, however good in itself, may be abused,
therefore some regulations should be laid down as a guide to the fair
angler in this his legitimate right, and some check imposed upon the
poacher, who might be inclined to stop at nothing, however unfair. I
think Waltonian societies would be all-sufficient to manage these
matters, if composed of men of good character and good sense. There
ought to be one of these societies established in the principal town in
each district, and to have its honorary members branched out into the
more distant parts. Perhaps a fine imposed, or even the frowns of the
society, might be sufficient to deter poachers. The object ought to be,
to regulate the times for angling, and to discountenance, or send to
Coventry, such as spend almost the whole of their time in “beating the
streams.” They ought also to keep a watchful eye over such as care not
how or in what manner they take fish, so as they may only get plenty of
them. The “Honourable Society of Waltonians” ought to use every means in
their power to protect the “glittering inhabitants of the waters” from
being unfairly taken or destroyed. Pought nets ought to be prohibited,
as well as all catching of the salmon fry in mill races, by putting
thorn bushes into them, to stop their passing through, and then letting
off the water. In this way, a cart load of these have often been known
to be taken at once. Another method, still more destructive than this,
is far too often put in practice; that is, what is called liming the
burns. This ought to be utterly put a stop to by severe punishments. A
clown, from ignorance,—but, perhaps, from something worse,—puts a few
clots of unslaked, or quick, lime into a pool, or hole, in a burn, for
the sake of killing a few trouts that he sees in it; and thus poisons
the water running down to the rivulet, or the river, destroying every
living creature to such a distance as may seem incredible. The attentive
angler must sometimes have observed the almost invisible, incipient,
living spawn in thousands, appearing only like floating mud, sunning
themselves on a shallow sand-bank, which, as soon as the water thus
poisoned reaches them, they drop down like mud indeed, and are no more

How vividly do recollections of the enjoyment angling has afforded me
return to the mind, now when those days have passed away, never more to
return. Like the pleasing volume of the patriarch of anglers—Izaac
Walton—volumes might yet be written to point out and to depicture the
beautiful scenery of woods and water sides, in the midst of which the
pleasures attendant upon this exhilarating and health-restoring, hungry,
exercise is pursued. How many narratives of the exploits of the days
thus spent might be raked up to dwell upon, when they are all over, like
a pleasing dream!

Well do I remember mounting the stile which gave the first peep of the
curling or rapid stream, over the intervening, dewy, daisy-covered
holme—boundered by the early sloe, and the hawthorn-blossomed hedge—and
hung in succession with festoons of the wild rose, the tangling
woodbine, and the bramble, with their bewitching foliage—and the fairy
ground—and the enchanting music of the lark, the blackbird, the
throstle, and the blackcap, rendered soothing and plaintive by the
cooings of the ringdove, which altogether charmed, but perhaps retarded,
the march to the brink of the scene of action, with its willows, its
alders, or its sallows—where early I commenced the days’ patient
campaign. The pleasing excitements of the angler still follow him,
whether he is engaged in his pursuits amidst scenery such as I have
attempted to describe, or on the heathery moor, or by burns guttered out
by mountain torrents, and boundered by rocks or grey moss-covered
stones, which form the rapids and the pools in which is concealed his
beautiful yellow and spotted prey. Here, when tired and alone, I used to
open my wallet and dine on cold meat and coarse rye bread, with an
appetite that made me smile at the trouble people put themselves to in
preparing the sumptuous feast; the only music in attendance was perhaps
the murmuring burn, the whistling cry of the curlew, the solitary water
ouzel, or the whirring wing of the moor game. I would, however,
recommend to anglers not to go alone; a trio of them is better, and
mutual assistance is often necessary.

It is foreign to my purpose to give any history, in this place, of the
various kinds of fishes which anglers pursue; of this there is no need,
for, I think, more treatises on this subject than on any other have been
printed, to direct the angler to perfection in his art. But I cannot
help noticing, as matter of regret, that more pains have not been taken
to multiply fish, and to increase the breed of eels, as every permanent
pool might so easily be fully stocked with them; and the latter are,
when properly cooked, the most delicious of all fish kind. Walton has
been particular in describing his mode of cooking them; but, unless he
killed them beforehand, his method is a very cruel one.

In thus dwelling on subjects which stimulate man eagerly to pursue the
work of destruction, and to extend his power over those animals of which
he considers himself as the lord and master, and that they are destined
to contribute to his pleasures or to his support, yet he ought not
totally to forget that what is sport to him is death to them, and that
the less of cruelty the better.

I think, had I not begun so early to be an angler, and before feelings
of tenderness had entered the mind, my eagerness for angling might have
been, on this score, somewhat abated; but I argued myself into a belief
that fish had little sense, and scarcely any feeling, and they certainly
have very much less of either than any of the land animals; but we see
through all nature that one kind of animal seems destined to prey upon
another, and fishes are the most voracious of all.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

NOT having seen Edinburgh since August, 1776, I longed to see it again,
and set out on this journey on the 11th August, 1823, and went through
by coach on that day. I always thought highly of Edinburgh and its bold
and commanding situation; but the new town, or city of palaces, as it is
sometimes called, had been added to it since I had seen it. But all
these splendid buildings are of trivial import compared with the mass of
intellect and science which had taken root and had been nurtured and
grown up to such a height as to rival, and perhaps to outstrip, every
other city in the world. My stay was only a fortnight; and this was a
busy time, both as to its being taken up with the kindness and
hospitality met with everywhere as well as in visiting its various
scientific and other establishments. It being at a vacation season, when
most of the learned professors were out of town, I saw only Professors
Jameson and Wallace, and was often at the table of the former, which was
surrounded by men of learning and science who visited him from all parts
of the world. The attentions of Professor Wallace were most friendly. He
shewed me the use of the Eidograph, an instrument which he had invented
for the purpose of either reducing or enlarging a drawing or design most
accurately to any size that might be required. I visited Patrick Neil,
Esq., and was much pleased with seeing the tamed birds and other
curiosities which embellished his little paradise. His uncommon kindness
will ever remain impressed upon my memory. I also often called upon my
friend, Mr. Archibald Constable, accounted the first bookseller in
Scotland; and, although he was unwell at the time, I partook of his kind
attentions. I visited the splendid exhibition of paintings of the late
Sir Henry Raeburn, Bart., the rooms of Mr. William Allan, historical
painter, Mr. Stewart, engraver, and those of several others who were
absent. With other artists, who were known to me, I spent some time in
several calls. These calls were upon my old friend, Mr. Nasmyth,
landscape painter; my townsman, Mr. Wm. Nicholson; Mr. James Kirkwood,
now up in years, but who had in his prime led the way to excellence in
engraving. I also paid my respects to the son and successor of my kind
friend of former days, the late Mr. Hector Gavin; and the same to the
sons and successors of the late Mr. D. Lizars. All these had attained to
that degree of excellence which did honour to Edinburgh, now the seat of
learning, and rendered brilliant by the gems of art, and by the science
with which it is adorned. I have almost forgotten to name my being
introduced to Messrs. Ballantyne and Robertson, lithographic printers.
Whilst I was in their office, the latter pressed me to make a sketch on
the stone for him. I was then preparing to leave Edinburgh, and the only
time left me was so short that I was obliged to draw this sketch before
breakfast the next morning, and the proofs were taken from it on the
same day. In doing this, though very slight, I could see what that
manner of making prints was capable of. I left Edinburgh on the 23rd
August, 1823, and I think I shall see Scotland no more.

After my journeys (long ago) to Cherryburn were ended, I used, as
formerly, seldom to miss going in the mornings to Elswick Lane, to drink
whey, or buttermilk, and commonly fell in with a party who went there
for the same purpose; and this kind of social intercourse continued for
many years. I also, at that time, on the Sunday afternoons, went to
visit and contemplate in the church-yards, and there give vent to my
mind, in feelings of regret, and in repeating a kind of soliloquy over
the graves of those with whom I had been intimate.

           “And then I lov’d to haunt lone burial places,
             Pacing the church-yard path with noiseless tread,
            To pore on new-made graves for ghastly traces,—
             Brown crumbling bones of the forgotten dead.”

I recounted in my memory the numbers of my friends thus put by to be
forgotten, amongst the millions of others who had been for longer or
shorter periods also in this world, and who have passed away into
Eternity. Even the “frail memorial”—erected to “_perpetuate_ the
_memory_” of those who had been esteemed—seemed to be of little avail,
and their mementos, as well as those decked out with ornamented
flatteries, would, in time, all go to decay, and be no longer remembered
than until all who once knew them were also dead; and the numbers of
both the one and the other appeared to me to be so immense that to
estimate them seemed impossible, and like attempting to count the grains
of sand on the sea beach. It is thus that the grave swallows all up
without distinction. The true estimate of their various merits can only
be known to the Creator of all. It appears clear to those whose souls
habitually adore and commune with Him, while they remain in this state
of probation, that He will, in His infinite goodness, wisdom, truth,
justice, and mercy—place everyone, on quitting this mortal abode, in the
unknowable worlds befitting their reception.

Besides the temporary mementos dedicated to private worth, others of a
different character may have their use. Monuments might therefore be
erected to those who have, by their virtues and patriotism, promoted the
happiness of mankind. It is a debt of gratitude due to the Author of our
being for the loan of departed worth, and may stimulate others “to do so
likewise.” The posthumous praise or blame of the world is to them of no
avail; they are done with all things on this side of Time, and are out
of the reach of both the one and the other.

While I was pursuing my ramblings in the Highlands, and beheld with
admiration the great projecting rocks so often to be seen holding up
their bare heads to the winds, it struck me that it was a great pity
they could not be converted to some use: and the best I could think of
was, that the illustrious names of Wallace and Bruce—as well as those of
their other worthies—should be inscribed upon them, to hold up their
heads with these names to the sun for ever. I have often thought since,
that the bare rocks in other parts of our islands might with good effect
be filled up in the same way. The first name to be fixed upon ought to
be that of Alfred the Great, followed by many others—statesmen,
patriots, philosophers, poets, &c.—who have shone out like polished
diamonds, and who have embellished and illumined this country, and
civilized the world. Their venerated names, with their maxims, or
quotations from their works, would fill up many of these rocks, which
are waiting for them, and might make all who beheld them inclined to
profit by, or to imitate, their virtues. How many incomparably good,
wise, and beautiful texts from the Bible might also with great propriety
be added to fill up every vacant spot. I often lamented that I had not
the means to enable me to be at the expense of getting such quotations
inscribed in this way. Often, while angling on a hot, sunny day, which
slackened my sport, I have sat down by the water side, and thought over
some of the beautiful lines of our poets, fit to be applied in this way;
and remember my having thought of those lines of Cunningham, which I
would, if I could have afforded it, have committed to the care of a
rock. He says:—

                   “How smooth that rapid river glides
                      Progressive to the deep!
                    The poppies pendent o’er its sides
                      Have lull’d the waves to sleep.

                   “Pleasure’s intoxicated sons!
                      Ye indolent! ye gay!
                    Reflect,—for as the river runs
                      Time wings his trackless way.”

How easy would it be for gentlemen to get the names of the illustrious
dead thus inscribed upon rocks; or, where that could not be done, to
erect pillars, or small obelisks, over copious springs (like the holy
wells of old), to contain such inscriptions as those I have hinted at,
and thus leave these their marks behind them; and which would long
continue to put the passing stranger in mind of some religious, moral,
or patriotic sentiment; and, while he was refreshing himself by
quenching his thirst, he might be put in mind that—

                    “Man wants but little here below,
                     Nor wants that little long.”



                             CHAPTER XXII.

HAVING already noticed my beginnings, or first efforts, in engraving on
wood; and as at that time this department of the arts was at the very
lowest ebb in this country, and, I believe, also in every other country
in Europe, it may perhaps be of some use, or at least may excite some
curiosity, to know the part I took in renewing, or bringing into use,
this to me new art, as far as I was able, with the slender means in my
hands, and the many difficulties I had to contend with and surmount,
before anything like an approach towards perfection could be arrived at.
I ought first distinctly to state that, at that time, it never entered
into my head that it was a branch of art that would stand pre-eminent
for utility, or that it could ever in the least compete with engraving
on copper. I ought also to observe that no vain notions of my arriving
at any eminence ever passed through my mind, and that the sole stimulant
with me was the pleasure I derived from imitating natural objects (and I
had no other patterns to go by), and the opportunity it afforded me of
making and drawing my designs on the wood, as the only way I had in my
power of giving vent to a strong propensity to gratify my feelings in
this way. In process of time, however, as I began to improve, and seeing
the practical use printers were making of wood cuts, the utility and
importance of them began to be unfolded to my view; and the more I have
since thought upon the subject, the more I am confirmed in the opinions
I have entertained, that the use of wood cuts will know no end, or, so
long as the importance of printing is duly appreciated and the liberty
of the press held sacred.

The first difficulty I felt, as I proceeded, was in getting the cuts I
had executed printed so as to look anything like my drawings on the
blocks of wood, nor corresponding to the labour I had bestowed upon the
cutting of the designs. At that time pressmen were utterly ignorant as
to any proper effect that was to be produced; or even, if one of them
possessed any notions of excellence beyond the common run of workmen,
his materials for working were so defective that he could not execute
even what he himself wished to accomplish. The common pelt balls then in
use, so daubed the cut, and blurred and overlapped its edges, that the
impression looked disgusting. To remedy this defect, I was obliged
carefully to shave down the edges round about; and this answered the end
I had in view. The next difficulty was worse to surmount, and required a
long time to get over it; and that was, to lower down the surface on all
the parts I wished to appear pale, so as to give the appearance of the
required distance; and this process will always continue to call forth
and to exercise the judgment of every wood engraver, even after he knows
what effect his _careful pressman_ maybe enabled to produce, from this
his manner of cutting. On this all artists must form their own ideas. I
think no exact description can be laid down as a rule for others to go
by: they will by practice have to find out this themselves. While I was
patiently labouring and contending with difficulties which I could not
overcome, I was shown some impressions from wood cuts done long ago,
with cross-hatching, such as I thought I should never be able to
execute. These were from wood cuts by Albert Durer, and perhaps some
others of his day, in the collection of the Rev. John Brand, the
Newcastle Historian; and from these I concluded that Albert Durer must
have had some very easy way of loading his blocks with such an useless
profusion of cross-hatching, or he would not have done them so, unless,
indeed, he had found out some easy means of etching the wood (or perhaps
metal plates), quite unknown to me; but, if otherwise, I then, in
changing my opinion, could think of no other way than that he must have
cut his blocks on the plank or side way of the wood, on which it would
be more easy to pick out the interstices between the squares, or the
lozenge-shaped lines, than as I (at that time) thought it possible to do
on the end way of the wood. One of these plank blocks, said to have been
drawn by Albert Durer, was shown to me by my kind friend George Allan,
Esq., of the Grange, Darlington. The drawing, which was done with great
accuracy, seemed to me to have been done by a crow-quill, with a kind of
varnish ink, the strokes of which, from their regularity, looked as if
they had been printed from a well-executed copper plate, and transferred
to the block. After labouring for some time, endeavouring to produce the
like effect on my blocks, on the end way of the wood, not indeed to my
satisfaction, I felt mortified in not succeeding to my wish; and I then
began to think the impressions must have been printed from two blocks.
This, indeed, I soon found to be quite easy to do, as well as being
beautifully correct; and any artist may see this in a few minutes, by
cutting parallel lines on a piece of wood, and from it taking, by his
hand, an impression on a piece of paper, and then again inking the same
cut, and printing it in the same way, either directly in a cross or in
an oblique direction, upon the first impression. This can also easily be
done, from two cuts, at a printing press, and is much easier to do, and
better than the labour necessarily bestowed upon one cross-hatched
block. When I had accomplished this, and satisfied myself that the
process was both simple and perfect, as to obtaining the object I so
much wanted, my curiosity on this score ceased, and I then concluded
that in this way the cross-hatching might be set aside as a thing of no
use at all. The artists indeed of the present day have brought it to
such a pitch of perfection that I do not know that it can be carried any
further; and in this they have also been so marvellously aided by the
improved methods now used in printing their cuts, that one would be led
to conclude that this department has also attained to perfection; and,
had this not been the case, the masterly execution of wood cuts, either
by crossed lines, or otherwise, would have continued to be beheld with
disgust or contempt. I have long been of opinion that the cross-hatching
of wood cuts, for book work, is a waste of time; as every desired effect
can be much easier obtained by plain parallel lines. The other way is
not the legitimate object of wood engraving. Instead of imitating the
manner of copper etchings, at a great cost of labour and time, on the
wood, such drawings might have been as soon etched on the copper at
once; and, where a large impression of any publication was not required,
the copper plate would have cost less, and lasted long enough for the
purpose intended. I never could discover any additional beauty or colour
that the crossed strokes gave to the impression, beyond the effect
produced by plain parallel lines. This is very apparent when to a
certainty the plain surface of the wood will print as black as ink and
balls can make it, without any further labour at all; and it may easily
be seen that the thinnest strokes cut upon the plain surface will throw
_some light_ on the subject or design: and, if these strokes are made
wider and deeper, it will receive more light; and if these strokes,
again, are made still wider, or of equal thickness to the black lines,
the colour these produce will be a grey; and the more the white strokes
are thickened, the nearer will they, in their varied shadings, approach
to white, and, if quite taken away, then a perfect white is obtained.
The methods I have pursued appear to me to be the simple and easy
perfection of wood engraving for book printing, and, no doubt, will
appear better or worse according to the ability of the artist who
executes them. The first time I ever heard anything about colour being
produced by plain engraving was in the compliments paid me by Dr. Thos.
Stout, for my engraving on his large silver box. The device, or design,
I have now forgotten, but never what he said on the occasion; and from
that time I attempted _colour_ upon the wood; and, though I felt much
difficulty in my attempts at producing it, yet the principle is there,
and will shine out under the skill and management of any eminent
engraver on wood who is gifted with a painter’s eye; and his work will
be complete if seconded by a pressman of ability, who may happen to have
a talent and fellow-feeling for the art.

I have before noticed my lowering down the surface of the wood, in order
to produce the effect of distance, and the same thing holds good with
every figure where different shades of colour is desired. Leaving the
surface of the block without being pared down at all, and relying only
on the lines being left thicker or smaller for producing the requisite
depth of shade, this surface thus left acts as a support to the more
delicate lines, which have been engraved on the lowered part of the cut.
After all the parts are thus lowered, a further paring down of the edges
of the various figures which the cut contains may be necessary to
prevent their appearing as if surrounded by a white line. The delicate
lines thus lowered, go as to print pale or distant parts, and thus
protected by the stronger lines left on the surface—a wood cut, with
care, will print an incredible number: how many it may be difficult
exactly to say; but it once happened that I had the opportunity given me
of guessing pretty nearly at this, from the calculation of the late Mr.
S. Hodgson, when he called upon me with a gentleman (a stranger to me)
who seemed extremely curious to know everything respecting engraving on
wood. One of his queries was made with a view of ascertaining how many
impressions a wood cut would print. Not having anything in mind at the
moment, to enable me to satisfy him, I began to consider, and it then
struck me that a little delicate cut—a view of Newcastle—was done for
Mr. H. many years before, as a _fac_ for his newspaper. I then turned to
the date in my ledger, when he calculated exactly, and found it had
printed above 900,000. This cut was continued in the newspaper several
years afterwards. It was protected in the manner before noticed by a
strong black line, or border, surrounding it, within which the surface
was lowered previous to cutting the view. This cut is still kept; and,
except being somewhat damaged by being tossed about amongst other
castaway cuts, might, by being a little repaired, yet print many
thousands. This is mentioned with a view to show the great length of
time that cuts done in this way will last, if they are carefully
adjusted to the height of the type, and kept out of the hands of
ignorant, rude pressmen.

I am of opinion that cuts done in the manner called surface-cutting
cannot stand anything like so large an impression as when they are
lowered thus; for the delicate lines, when left on the surface, must
soon break down from the heavy pressure to which they are exposed.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

IT is foreign to my purpose to criticize the works of brother artists of
the present day. I behold their excellent productions with pleasure; in
them there is no falling off: they surpass those of the artists of the
olden times. I cannot, however, help lamenting that, in all the
vicissitudes which the art of wood engraving has undergone, some species
of it is lost and done away: I mean the large blocks with the prints
from them, so common to be seen when I was a boy in every cottage and
farm house throughout the country. These blocks, I suppose, from their
size, must have been cut on the plank way on beach, or some other kind
of close-grained wood; and from the immense number of impressions from
them, so cheaply and extensively spread over the whole country, must
have given employment to a great number of artists, in this inferior
department of wood cutting; and must also have formed to them an
important article of traffic. These prints, which were sold at a very
low price, were commonly illustrative of some memorable exploits, or
were, perhaps, the portraits of eminent men, who had distinguished
themselves in the service of their country, or in their patriotic
exertions to serve mankind. Besides these, there were a great variety of
other designs, often with songs added to them of a moral, a patriotic,
or a rural tendency, which served to enliven the circle in which they
were admired. To enumerate the great variety of these _pictures_ would
be a task. A constant one in every house, was “King Charles’ Twelve Good
Rules.” Amongst others were representations of remarkable victories at
sea, and battles on land, often accompanied with portraits of those who
commanded, and others who had borne a conspicuous part in these contests
with the enemy. The house at Ovingham, where our dinner poke was taken
care of when at school, was hung round with views or representations of
the battles of Zondorf, and several others; also the portraits of Tom
Brown, the valiant grenadier, of Admiral Haddock, Admiral Benbow, and
other portraits of admirals. There was also a representation of the
“Victory” man-of-war, of 100 guns, commanded by Admiral Sir John
Balchen, and fully manned with 1,100 picked seamen and volunteers, all
of whom, with this uncommonly fine ship, were lost—_sunk to the bottom
of the sea_. This was accompanied by a poetical lament of the
catastrophe, part of which was—

               “Ah! hapless Victory, what avails
                Thy towering masts, thy spreading sails.”

Some of the portraits, I recollect, now and then to be met with, were
very well done in this way, on wood. In Mr. Gregson’s kitchen, one of
this character hung against the wall many years. It was a remarkably
good likeness of Captain Coram. In cottages everywhere were to be seen
the “Sailor’s Farewell” and his “Happy Return,” “Youthful Sports,” and
the “Feats of Manhood,” “The Bold Archers Shooting at a Mark,” “The Four
Seasons,” &c. Some subjects were of a funny—others of a grave character.
I think the last portraits I remember were of some of the rebel lords
and “Duke Willy.” These kind of wood cut pictures are long since quite
gone out of fashion, which I feel very sorry for, and most heartily wish
they could be revived. It is desirable, indeed, that the subjects should
be well chosen; for it must be of great importance that such should be
the case; as, whatever can serve to instil morality and patriotism into
the minds of the whole people must tend greatly to promote their own
happiness and the good of the community. All men, however poor they may
be, ought to feel that this is their country, as well as it is that of
the first nobleman of the land; and, if so, they will be equally as
interested in its happiness and prosperity.

There is another way, not yet indeed entered upon, of similar import to
the foregoing, in which prints might with good effect be made of
subjects fit to embellish almost every house throughout our country: and
that is from wood blocks printed in colours, like paper-hangings. Having
seen some such done by paper-stainers, so as almost to equal good
paintings, leads me to wish that this method could be pursued—for the
same ends as those already noticed. The most remarkable productions of
art of this kind from blocks done to print in colours, like beautiful
little paintings, were sent to me by Gubitz, of Berlin; they might
indeed be said to be perfection. Several impressions from duplicate or
triplicate blocks, printed in this way, of a very large size, were also
given to me, as well as a drawing of the press from which they were
printed, many years ago, by Jean Baptiste Jackson, who had been
patronized by the king of France; but, whether these prints had been
done with the design of embellishing the walls of houses in that
country, I know not. They had been taken from paintings of eminent old
masters, and were mostly Scripture pieces. They were well drawn, and
perhaps correctly copied from the originals, yet in my opinion none of
them looked well. Jackson left Newcastle quite enfeebled with age, and,
it was said, ended his days in an asylum, under the protecting care of
Sir Gilbert Elliot, bart., at some place on the border near the Teviot,
or on Tweedside.

Whether the speculations here noticed may be thought worthy of being
acted upon, I know not, but it is not to any of the above noticed ways
of wood cutting that my attention is directed: it is, in my ardent
desire to see the _stroke_ engraving on wood carried to the utmost
perfection, that I hope the world will be gratified; and I trust the
time is not distant when its superior excellence will be seen,
particularly in landscape scenery, so as to surpass bank notes
engravings. The effect to be produced by wood engraving has not, in that
way, yet been tried, nor its powers made apparent. This is, I think, to
be attained by two, or even more, blocks being employed, on one print,
so that a greater and more natural effect—as to colour and softness—may
be produced. I am well aware that some difficulty may arise, as to
bringing off a clear impression of fine strokes from so large a surface,
but in this age of mechanical improvement and invention, I think this
apparent difficulty will readily be got over. Perhaps printing from a
roller, instead of an even down pull, may easily accomplish this
business. I have often thought, had William Woollett been a wood
engraver, he would have shown its excellence long ago: his prints from
copper have not been equalled; but, from the nature of the wood, and the
effect it produces, he would have advanced a step further, and on it
have outdone his excellence on copper. If I live, health and sight
continued, I will make the attempt to show that all this is not a
visionary theory. Should I not live to get this Memoir printed under my
own inspection,—or whether it will ever be printed at all, I know
not,—but at any rate the manuscript itself will show, were that
necessary, how ardently I have ever wished well to arts and artists; and
though, in my endeavours to show this, I have often been thwarted and
disappointed, yet I never lost sight of my object, nor became
disheartened in my struggles to fight through, and surmount numberless
difficulties and bars thrown in my way.

I have already noticed my brother John, as my first pupil, and therefore
have little further to say respecting him, only, that Nature seemed to
have befitted him for becoming a first-rate artist; but, at the time he
was with me, the thoughts of arriving at excellence did not enter into
our heads, and he left the world at the time when wood engraving was
only beginning to be looked upon as a matter of any interest. And, now
when the time is fast approaching for my winding up all my labours, I
may be allowed to name my own son and partner, whose time has been taken
up with attending to all the branches of our business: and who, I trust,
will not let wood engraving go down; and, though he has not shown any
partiality towards it, yet the talent is there, and I hope he will call
it forth.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

HOW far I may venture further to obtrude my opinions, or advice, on the
notice of artists, particularly engravers on wood, I know not, but they
may readily imagine that I cannot help feeling a deep interest, and an
ardent desire, that the art may long flourish, and that those who follow
it may feel happy in the pursuit. Perhaps what I have already said may
not be uninteresting to some of them, and, if I knew how I could go
further, in any way that might urge or stimulate them to feel enthusiasm
for this art, it should not be wanting; for the wish, though tottering
on the down-hill of life, is extended beyond the grave.

The sedentary artist ought, if possible, to have his dwelling in the
country, where he can follow his business undisturbed, surrounded by
pleasing rural scenery, and the fresh air. He ought not to sit at work
too long at a time, but to unbend his mind with some variety of
employment; for which purpose it is desirable that artists, with their
_little cots_, shall also have each a garden attached, in which they may
find both exercise and amusement, and only occasionally visit the city
or the smoky town; and that chiefly for the purpose of meetings with
their brother artists, in which they may make an interchange of their
sentiments, and commune with each other as to whatever regards the arts.
Were I allowed to become their M.D., my prescription should cost them
nothing, and be easily taken—it being only attentively to observe two or
three rules, the first of which is, that they will contrive to be very
hungry once a day, never to overload the stomach, nor indulge to satiety
in eating anything. By persisting in this, they will find their reward
in great good health, and a vigorous, unclouded mind: by a little
observation they may clearly see that a great portion of mankind “live
to eat”—not eat to live.[38] To say more to men of sense and
artists,—which a desire to contribute everything in my power towards
their peace of mind and happiness prompts me to do,—I may be allowed to
add, that those of them who have attained to eminence will find
themselves pursued by envy; for “There is no species of hatred greater
than that which a man of mediocrity bears to a man of genius; his reach
of thought, his successful combinations, and his sudden felicities are
never forgiven by those whom nature has fashioned in a less perfect

Footnote 38:

  All youths, but especially those who follow sedentary employments,
  ought to exercise with dumb-bells half-an-hour or so before going to
  bed, and at other times when convenient. Were this more practised, we
  should hear of few dying of consumption.

It is the duty of parents and guardians to endeavour, with the utmost
care, to discover the capacities and fitness of youth for any business
before they engage in it; for, without they are innately gifted with the
power of becoming artists, the want of that power will cause the pursuit
to be felt by them as up-hill work, and be productive of unhappiness to
them through life. But the fondness of parents for their offspring is
mostly such as to blind them in forming a judgment, and disappointment
is sure to follow. It would be well for such parents to read Gay’s fable
of “The Owl, the Swan, the Cock, the Spider, the Ass, and the Farmer.”
It may indeed be conceded that there are some rare exceptions to this
general rule; for a man may be so formed in body and mind—with such
symmetry and health in the one, and such energy in the other—that he may
advance a great way towards perfection in anything he ardently pursues.
But an “Admirable Chrichton,” or a Sir Joshua Reynolds, does not often
appear. Men so gifted by nature, whether as artists, or in any other way
where intellectual powers are to be drawn forth, ought never to despair
of rising to eminence, or to imagine that they can never equal such men
as have excelled all others in their day. It ought to be kept in mind
that the same superintending Providence which gifted those men with
talents to excite wonder and to improve society from time to time, in
all ages, still rules the world and the affairs of mankind, and will
continue to do so for ever, as often as the services of such men are
wanted; and this consideration ought to act as a stimulant to their
successors, to endeavour to surpass in excellence the brilliant
luminaries who have only gone before them to pave the way and to
enlighten their paths. All artists—and indeed till men—ought to divide
their time by regularly appropriating one portion of it to one purpose,
and another part of it to the varied business that may be set apart for
another. In this way a deal of work may be got through; and the artist,
after leaving off his too intense application, would see, as it were,
what he had been doing with _new eyes_, and would thus be enabled to
criticize the almost endless variety of lights, shades, and effects,
which await his pencil to produce.

Had I been a painter, I never would have copied the works of “old
masters,” or others, however highly they might be esteemed. I would have
gone to nature for all my patterns; for she exhibits an endless variety
not possible to be surpassed, and scarcely ever to be truly imitated. I
would, indeed, have endeavoured to discover how those artists of old
made or compounded their excellent colours, as well as the disposition
of their lights and shades, by which they were enabled to accomplish so
much and so well.

The work of the painter may be said to be as endless as the objects
which nature continually presents to his view; and it is his judgment
that must direct him in the choice of such as may be interesting. In
this he will see what others have done before him, and the shoals and
quicksands that have retarded their progress, as well as the rocks they
have at last entirely split upon. On his taking a proper survey of all
this, he will see the “labour in vain” that has been bestowed upon
useless designs, which have found, and will continue to find, their way
to a garret, while those of an opposite character will, from their
excellence, be preserved with perhaps increasing value for ages to come.
In performing all this, great industry will be required, and it ought
ever to be kept in mind, that, as in morals, nothing is worth listening
to but truth, so in arts nothing is worth looking at but such
productions as have been faithfully copied from nature. Poetry, indeed,
may launch out or take further liberties to charm the intellect of its
votaries. It is only such youths as Providence has gifted with strong
intellectual, innate powers that are perfectly fit to embark in the fine
arts, and the power and propensity is often found early to bud out and
show itself. This is seen in the young musician, who, without having
even learned his A B C’s, breaks out, with a random kind of unrestrained
freedom, to whistle and sing. How often have I been amused at the first
essays of the ploughboy, and how charmed to find him so soon attempt to
equal his whistling and singing master, at the plough stilts, and who,
with avidity unceasing, never stopped till he thought he excelled him.
The future painter is shown by his strong propensity to sketch whatever
objects in nature attract his attention, and excite him to imitate them.
The poet, indeed, has more difficulties to contend with at first than
the others, because he must know language, or be furnished with words
wherewith to enable him to express himself even in his first essays in
doggrel metre and sing-song rhymes. In all the varied ways by which men
of talent are befitted to enlighten, to charm, and to embellish society,
as they advance through life,—if they entertain the true feeling that
every production they behold is created, not by chance, but by
design,—they will find an increasing and endless pleasure in the
exhaustless stores which nature has provided to attract the attention
and promote the happiness of her votaries during the time of their
sojourning here.

The painter need not roam very far from his home, in any part of our
beautiful isles, to meet with plenty of charming scenes from which to
copy nature—either on an extended or a limited scale—and in which he may
give full scope to his genius and to his pencil, either in animate or
inanimate subjects. His search will be crowned with success in the
romantic ravine—the placid holme—the hollow dell—or amongst the pendant
foliage of the richly ornamented dean; or by the sides of burns which
roar or dash along, or run murmuring from pool to pool through their
pebbly beds: all this bordered perhaps by a back-ground of ivy-covered,
hollow oaks (thus clothed as if to hide their age),—of elms, willows,
and birch, which seem kindly to offer shelter to an under-growth of
hazel, whins, broom, juniper, and heather, with the wild rose, the
woodbine, and the bramble, and beset with clumps of fern and foxglove;
while the edges of the mossy braes are covered with a profusion of wild
flowers, “born to blush unseen,” which peep out amongst the creeping
groundlings—the bleaberry, the wild strawberry, the harebell, and the
violet; but I feel a want of words to enable the pen to give an adequate
description of the beauty and simplicity of these neglected spots, which
nature has planted as if to invite the admiration of such as have hearts
and eyes to appreciate and enjoy these her exquisite treats, while she
may perhaps smile at the formal, pruning efforts of the gardener, as
well as doubt whether the pencil of the artist will ever accomplish a
correct imitation. But, be all this as it may, she has spread out her
beauties to feast the eyes, and to invite the admiration of all mankind,
and to whet them up to an ardent love of all her works. How often have
I, in my angling excursions, loitered upon such sunny braes, lost in
extacy, and wishing I could impart to others the pleasures I felt on
such occasions: but they must see with their own eyes to feel as I felt,
and to form an opinion how far the scenes depictured by poets fall short
of the reality. The naturalist’s poet—Thompson—has done much: so have
others. Allan Ramsay’s

                                           “Habbies Howe,
             Where a’ the sweets of spring and summer grow,”

may have exhibited such as I have noticed, but the man endued with a fit
turn of mind, and inclined to search out such “beauty-spots,” will not
need the aid of poets to help him on in his enthusiastic ardour.



                              CHAPTER XXV.

WHEN very young I read the Bible through and through, but I, at that
time, minded it no more than other histories with which my scanty
library was furnished. I could not then judge of it, nor properly
estimate the sublime precepts it contains. I felt, indeed, much pleased
and excited by the numerous battles therein described. Sober reflection,
however, respecting them quite altered the bent of my inclination that
way, and I began and continued to consider the political history of the
Israelites as very wicked; for they are so described as under the
direction of Moses, who, it is said, always obtained the command or
sanction of the Lord to set the people at work in the business of war,
at which they appear to have been very ready and very expert. It is,
however, evident that in the nation of the Israelites there were men of
great intellectual powers, and inspired with an ardent desire to trace
the Author of Nature through His works, as well as having a foresight of
their future destiny. It being clear to them that it was the intention
of Omnipotence that men should live in a state of civilized society,
under this impression they set to work, as well as they could with an
uncivilized people, to bring about such a desirable order of things, but
in which they must have felt great difficulties; the first of which was
to abolish Paganism, and to establish the pure religion of worshipping
one God only; thus, “Thou shalt have none other gods but me,” was the
first commandment, and which was most strenuously urged upon the
Israelites in every way, and in every transaction of their lives, while
they were kept together as a nation. Science, and a knowledge of nature,
on which science is founded, could not in those early times be expected
to be known, either by Moses or their other governers and teachers, who
could not explain such important matters to the people otherwise than
they did. The wonders of this world and the magnitude of the universe
were not then contemplated upon; neither was it perhaps necessary to
attempt any explanation of them in those dark ages: and, besides, it
appears it was not a leading object: civilization seems to have been the
first and perhaps the only important business they had at that time in
view. They therefore, in their endeavours to accomplish this, and to
govern and keep the people in awe, attempted to personify the Deity, and
to prescribe the boundary of time and space, as the theatre on which He
acted, that they, the people, might thus understand something of the
meaning of the commands so strenuously laid upon them; not a little of
which was delivered to them in allegory and fable. Moses began by
telling them of the beginning of the world, and the length of time it
took to make it, and the manner in which God created Adam and Eve as the
parents of the whole human race; of Paradise, or the Garden of Eden; of
the disobedience of our first parents in eating forbidden fruit, and
that this transgression entailed misery, sin, and death upon the whole
human race. This “Original Sin,” however strange it may appear to
thinking men, has been kept up _in terrorem_, with uncommon pains, for
hundreds of years past, and is continued with unabating fervency to the
present time. That mankind should suffer under this condemnation, for
the fault of these our first parents, seems impiously to set aside the
justice of an All-wise and Benevolent God.

As to the time it took to create this world, and the whirling, floating,
universe of which it is comparatively a speck or mote—that is beyond
human comprehension; and Time, Eternity—a Beginning and an End—are still
much more beyond the reach of thought; for the powers of the mind would
soon become bewildered and lost in attempting to form any conception, by
figures, of what is meant by innumerable millions of centuries: and here
on this subject we must rest! This sublime—this amazing—this mighty work
of suns and worlds innumerable is too much for the vision of a finite,
purblind, proud, little atom of the Creation, strutting or crawling
about in the shape of man. It is sufficient for the soul of man in this
life to reverence and adore the Omnipresent, and, except through his
works, the unknowable God, whose wisdom, and power, and goodness, has no
bounds, and who has been pleased to enable his reasoning creatures so
far to see that everything is made by design, and nothing by chance;
and, from the display of His infinite power, that everything in the
universe is systematic; all is connection, adhesion, affinity: hence we
may infer some principle of order, some moving power, some mighty
agent—but all this still ends in the name of Deity, and dwells awfully
retired beyond the reach of mortal eye.

What Moses has said about the deluge, and the destruction it occasioned
to every living creature, we are led to conclude must have been handed
down to him in ancient Eastern traditions, and it requires no
over-stretched credulity to believe that a deluge happened which
destroyed every living creature on that part of the earth over which its
devastations were spread; for it cannot be doubted that this globe has
undergone many such deluges, convulsions, and changes, equally difficult
to account for; and geologists at this day feel convinced of this, from
the changes which they see matter has undergone, but of which they are
still left greatly to conjecture as to the cause. They cannot, however,
doubt the power of a comet (if it be the will of the Mighty Director) to
melt the ices from the poles, and to throw the sea out of its place, or
to reduce this globe instantly to a cinder—a vitrifaction—to ashes, or
to dust; and that, in its near approach to this our world, it may have
occasioned the various changes and phenomena which have happened, and
may happen again. The marine productions found imbedded in the earth so
many fathoms below its surface, supplies another source of wonder, and
seems either to confirm the foregoing hypothesis, or to lead men to
conclude that a great portion of the earth has once been covered by the
sea; and it may, perhaps, not be carrying conjecture too far to suppose
that nations have been overflowed and sunk to its bottom, while others
have arisen out of it; and that, in the apparently slow changes which
are continually operating upon all matter, new nations may yet arise,
and be now in progress to take their turn on this globe.[39] Every
mountain and hill is becoming less and less, and is by little and little
apparently slowly sliding away into the ocean; and the same waste may be
seen in the many tons of earthy mud which every flooded river carries
off, and deposits in the sea. The lakes are also continually operated
upon, by the wasting or wearing away of the outlets that form the
barriers by which their waters were and are at present stayed, and it is
not unlikely that every valley was once a lake, till they were operated
upon like those still left, preparatory to their change to dry land.

Footnote 39:

  In my brother’s colliery at Mickley Bank, about 30 fathoms below the
  surface, perfect muscles have been found imbedded in ironstone. In
  appearance they differed not from those newly taken from the muscle
  scarp. The shells effervesced with acid, but the insides were
  ironstone, the same as that with which they were surrounded.

But the early history of mankind, nor the changes, the wonders, nor the
mighty events which have happened to this globe, cannot be known; and we
may reasonably suppose men must have long remained in darkness and
ignorance till rescued from such a state first by hieroglyphics and then
by letters. What they were before these enabled them to interchange
their thoughts, preparatory to a social intercourse, is involved in
darkness, on which conjecture may invent and exhaust itself in vain.
Nation after nation, in unknown ages past, may have glided away, or have
been by the accumulation of their own wickedness, more suddenly hurled
into oblivion, before the reasoning powers were drawn forth or men
bestowed the least thought upon the duties they had to perform, or the
business they had to fulfil, as the will of the Creator while they
sojourned here. But the providence of God is over all His creatures, and
it pleased Him that the reasoning powers should not remain longer
dormant, and the provision made for the change, in the natural order of
things, was placed in the latent intellectual powers gifted to man, and
drawn forth from his inspired mind, which thus put in action, as it may
be presumed, was the first effort of cause and effect that produced the
Bible, which, as far as we know, seems to have been the first instrument
of knowledge that shed its rays over and revealed to mankind the
accountable station they were destined to hold on this globe. Before the
religious and moral precepts of the venerable old Book made their way
over a more civilized world, and taught rational beings to worship one
God, the Father of All, and to consider each other as brethren, it does
not appear that the great mass of mankind had bestowed a thought upon
the astonishing miracles of creation by which they were surrounded, and
which were presented to their understanding and sight in so visible and
tangible a shape that it required no faith to believe in them, nor any
thing to raise doubts in their minds as to their reality. The
brilliantly studded canopy of suns and worlds above their heads, and, as
a part of these, the equally wonderful globe of this earth and sea,
which is allotted to them, they could not, with their clouded intellects
and want of science see nor appreciate, till the mind by research became
illumined by degrees, in the varied blaze of light spread abroad—which
will in some degree enable men to see the perfection of the Omnipotent
Author of the whole. Viewing the Bible as to it moral and religious
contents, in this way, the good old Book ought to be held in veneration
and esteem, as containing the most unequivocal marks of the most exalted
piety and the purest benevolence. Give it therefore, my dear children, a
place in your regards, to which it is entitled; and, amidst the
necessary cares of life, never lose sight of your destination for
another. An infinitely more important state awaits us beyond the grave.
It may be presumed that this original and sacred document will continue
to arrest the attention of reasoning beings as long as men continue to
reason, and be an eternal stimulant—together with other stimulants so
abundantly presented by the wonders of the universe—to lead the soul to
rest its hopes on the source from whence it derived its existence.


                             CHAPTER XXVI.

I HAVE before ventured my opinion on the political history of the
Israelites and their wars, and I wish I could not believe in them; but I
fear that portion of their history is too true. The example thus set has
been followed since by other nations, to wage the horrid wars in which
they have embarked on the most trivial pretences, whenever their rulers
found it convenient to give vent to their bad passions, wantonly to
engage in them. There are many other matters related in the Bible which
operate as stumbling-blocks to those who otherwise revere it for the
clear truths set forth in its texts. These consist in one part
contradicting, or apparently contradicting, another part, and, in some
cases, of making assertions which appear to be derogatory to the Majesty
of Omnipotence. There may, indeed, be two causes assigned as reasons for
these. The first is, in reading many portions of the Scriptures
literally which must have been intended to be understood allegorically.
It surely could never be meant to be literally understood that the sun
and moon stood still by the command of Joshua, till he was “avenged of
his enemies,” and that the regular order of nature and the universe was
set aside to please Joshua in his man-killing pursuits. That this was
the way by which Omnipotence willed the destruction of whole nations of
people, does not seem to accord with the reverence with which man ought
to view his Maker, when, had it been His will that such nations should
no longer inhabit the earth, the whole of such a people thus devoted
might have been annihilated by a puff of pestilential wind, if
Omnipotence had pleased to do so. Although it does not become us to scan
what was, or what was not, His will, as we can only judge of all such
matters according to our crude and weak conceptions.

The next cause for suspecting the accuracy of several parts of the
Sacred Book arises from the supposition that these may not have been
correctly translated.[40] All these seemingly contradictory passages,
not being clearly understood, have been a most fertile source of
employment for self-interested and bigoted men, who have attempted
giving their explanations and contradictory comments and annotations
upon them, and twisted them into meanings, often to bewilder the common
sense of mankind, to suit certain selfish purposes subservient to their
own ends. It would, I think, have been much better to have left people
to judge upon these texts as well as they could themselves, rather than
trust to such explanations, or to pin their faith on the sleeve of such
men. I fear they have done more harm than good.

Footnote 40:

  The Rev. James Murray (before mentioned) showed me a chapter of the
  Book of Job which he had translated. It was in poetry as near the
  original as he was able to make it. The sense and meaning was clear
  and easily to be understood, but not so that of the chapter from which
  he took it.

But all these and such like doubts seem trivial and light in the balance
when weighed against the solid, sublime truths and valuable instructions
contained in the ancient, venerable book. The mind of man thus prepared
by the sacred texts laid open to him by the Bible, as well as by the
help of other systems of morality, which all lend their help to lead him
in the paths of rectitude—in this state he sees himself surrounded by
the wonders of creation, and furnished with passions given him for the
wisest purposes, to spur him on to exertions without which the affairs
of this beautiful world would soon be at a stand-still, and he would
then soon revert to unintellectual apathy or savage barbarity, and would
cease to adore God, and seek His providential care and protection. But,
when the passions are not fully kept under by the reasoning guide, man
feels himself to be a strange compound—a heterogeneous mixture of pure
metal and base alloy, and placed in the infancy of an endless, and
therefore an infinitely important and mysterious, but conscious
existence. “Wonderfully and fearfully made,” he views with amazement
“this pleasing, anxious being”—this spirit confined in mortality with
Heaven’s own pilot placed within as its guide, and a soul, fed like the
flame of a lamp, to enlighten his path to eternity. Thus prepared by the
hand of Omnipotence, his reasoning powers commence their operations; his
mind is then his kingdom, and his will his law as to his deeds in this
life, but for which he must render an account before the justice of his
Maker, in another state of existence—in another world; otherwise he has
lived in vain in this. If he avails himself of the reasoning power,—the
choicest gift of his Maker, and by which He has revealed himself to
man,—then will he feel something of a foretaste of the future happiness
he is preparing for himself in eternity. But if he will perversely cease
to commune with his own soul, or reject its admonitions, and turn away
from them, he thus puts himself under another guide, and must then
become debased, degraded, and associated with sin; for he then suffers
his bad passions and gross appetites to overpower his reason, and thus
creates for himself an evil spirit, or a devil and a hell in his own
breast, that consumes or annihilates his good spiritual guide, and
disfigures the image of God within him, before it returns to whence it
came. Thus to appear before his Maker must be a hell of itself of
fearful import—not to be endured—and the greatest possible punishment
the debased and polluted soul can undergo; and it may be well for us all
to keep in remembrance that a year of pleasure can be outbalanced by a
day of pain. To judge simply of all this, it may be concluded that those
who, from pure motives, have shed abroad the greatest _quantum_ of
happiness to mankind, and to all God’s creatures, while they sojourned
here, will, according to our notions of justice (beside the pleasure
derived from self-approbation in this life), be rewarded, and entitled
to such like but more exalted happiness to all eternity.

Whatever weight these opinions of mine may have upon others, I know not;
they are given with the best intentions, and they concern all men. They
are on a subject which, in its own nature, forms a more sublime and
important object of enquiry than any to which our intellectual powers
can be applied. It is on them that religion, the life of the soul, is
built. Religion is both natural and necessary to man. Those who reject
this primary sentiment of veneration for the Supreme Being, only show
their inferiority to other men: like those born blind, they cannot
perfectly understand the nature of vision, and thence conclude there is
no such thing as light in existence.

Religion is of a pure and spotless nature; it is uniform, consistent,
and of the same complexion and character in all nations. Languages and
customs may greatly differ, but the language of the pure devotion of the
heart to its Maker is the same over the face of the whole earth.
Religion, therefore, demands our utmost reverence; and, as such, that
which was taught by Jesus of Nazareth. I revere the sublime, and yet
simple, plain doctrines and truly charitable principles which Christ
laid down, and enforced by his own example. His life was a continued
scene of active benevolence: no fatigue was too hard to be borne, no
inconvenience too great to be submitted to, provided he could instruct
the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, relieve the destitute, and comfort
the mournful. Such was the religion of Jesus Christ, “who went about
doing good!” He spoke only of one God, and of Him with the utmost
reverence, as his Heavenly Father and the Father of all mankind.
Christianity, in its purity, is the most liberal and best religion in
the world. Its inspired Author preached up the cheerful doctrine of
man’s reviving again after death, and of the certainty of his afterwards
living to eternity, and did his utmost to persuade all mankind to live
godly lives, that their souls might thereby be prepared to return to
God, the Author and the Giver of all Good, as unblemished as possible;
and thus, so far as his influence reached, and his commands were acted
upon, he may truly be said to be the Saviour of Mankind. But, there are
questions connected with this subject which none but the Almighty God
can solve. It was by the divine will, and by the providence of God, that
he appeared on earth. Gifted with inspired powers, his immaculate mind
thus made him the instrument befitting the mission he held, to teach
mankind, then lost and grovelling in wickedness and corruption, the
important lessons of religion and morality, and to reclaim such of the
lost flock, high and low, as had grown up and established themselves in



                             CHAPTER XXVII.

I NEVER read Hume on miracles; I did not need to do so; but I have
always thought that the man must be very difficult to please who could
not be thoroughly satisfied with the one—the unutterably great one—the
miracle of the universe: made up, indeed, of millions of other miracles
of its component parts, which will for ever excite the astonishment of
reasoning creatures, and draw forth their adoration to the Great Author
of the whole, as long as it shall please Him to gift them with the power
to do so.

Those who think for themselves, and can believe in one God, and
reverence, adore, and worship Him, must ever feel disgusted to dwell on
the endless modes of faith with which mankind have been pestered and
stultified for ages past, and also feel grieved to think upon the
evils—the persecutions—the wars—and the miseries, these have from time
to time inflicted upon the half-civilized world. Brother has been set in
enmity against brother, neighbour against neighbour, and nation against
nation, fully charged with vengeance to destroy each other, and by which
rivers of blood have been spilt. Jesus Christ, I believe, never said one
word that could be construed into any such meaning, or to countenance
any such doings; neither did any man possessed of the spirit of the
Christian religion and its attendant humanity ever view all this
otherwise than with horror.

It would be a tedious and an irksome task to give even a list of all the
religions, as they are called, from the days of Paganism, down to the
present time. Truth long struggled with error, before system after
system passed away. Notwithstanding the exertions of power to keep them
up, they exist now only in story. But do the laws of nature ever alter?
Do the sun, moon, and stars shine in any other way than they did to the
votaries of Jupiter? Do the human passions operate in any other manner
than they did thousands of years ago? No, indeed! Let us, then, rejoice
that true religion is independent of human caprice; it is founded upon
the immutable principles of truth, reason, and common sense, and
therefore must be durable as nature itself. It is not vague and mutable:
it is acquired by experience, not merely the creature of chance, habit,
and prejudice: it is capable of demonstration like the principles of
mathematics, and its necessity is evinced by the very nature of man in
society. There is a rational and an irrational belief, and how can we
distinguish the one from the other without reference to the reason of
the thing? If reason be abandoned, then sense and nonsense are just the
same: religion becomes a chaos, and faith has no merit. I therefore
believe that no faith can be acceptable to God which is not grounded on
reason; nothing but truth brings us lasting and solid advantage.

But it would appear that the teachers of mankind, in this important
concern, have too seldom been actuated by these pure principles, and the
“caring for men’s souls” has been made only a secondary consideration.
Their leading objects have been the establishment of a system of revenue
and aggrandisement; and, to ensure the accomplishment of these ends,
they began with children, well knowing that, when creeds and catechisms
were once instilled into the infant mind, they would grow with their
growth, and would acquire a firm-rooted footing; for, when early
impressions and prejudices are once fixed in the mind by ignorance, they
can seldom or ever be eradicated. In this state, these victims to
deception might have been made Pagans in India, Mahometans in Turkey, or
disciples of Confucius in China: or, have been moulded into any of the
various sects of misled Christians which have, like wens and carbuncles,
often disfigured the comely face of religion, and the pure and plain
doctrines of Christianity.

The next important step taken by these teachers, was to get this their
religion, of whatever kind it might be, interwoven deeply into all the
various governments of the different countries under their influence;
but, preparatory to their religion becoming firmly established, the
heads of it, who were called “saints” and “fathers of the Church,” were
gathered together to judge and determine upon the creeds and doctrines
which were to be obeyed. Some of them might, indeed, be actuated by good
and others of them by impure motives, but it always appeared to me like
their own “act of parliament” to oblige people to offer to Omnipotence
that kind of worship only which they had been pleased to dictate, and
which by many is considered as arrogant presumption. But, when these
doctrines were thus interwoven into all the different governments, they
then became “part and parcel of the law of the land;” and, thus fenced,
barricaded, and fortified, few ever dared to say that anything these
laws promulgated was wrong; and, if any man whose mind happened to rise
superior to superstition, ventured to publish his opinions of any of
them, to show that they were absurd, then racks, tortures, inquisitions,
and death, or fine and imprisonment, with attendant ruin, stared him in
the face in this world and threatenings of eternal misery in the next.
It is thus that the free exercise of the understanding, and the full use
of all the means of advancing in religion, virtue, and knowledge, is
checked and debarred; for, unless the free use of writing and publishing
the well-digested opinions and plans of the lovers of mankind is allowed
to go on without risk, all public improvement, which is or ought to be
the chief end of every government to promote, is for want of this
liberty, taken away. But in this business, government itself being
entangled and bound by oaths to support present establishments, may
perhaps be afraid to meddle or countenance any writing tending to a
reform, or that may have the appearance of militating against this order
of things.

But to dwell on this, the gloomy side of the picture, without noticing
the other side, may be unfair; for the framers of unaccountable creeds
set mankind a-thinking generally upon these and many other matters,
which perhaps they would not otherwise have done; and, besides this, it
is on all hands allowed that the monks and friars of old, amidst all
their superstitions, preserved in their monasteries many records and
much valuable knowledge, which, without their care, would have been lost
to the world. Add to these, their charities to the destitute and their
constant best endeavours to teach the grossly ignorant, and to reclaim
the equally grossly wicked, part of the community, and in examining
impartially into the change effected by the Reformation,—it amounts only
to a lessening or setting aside a portion of the bigotry and
superstition by which the old doctrines were enforced. Although one may
lament that a more rational view of religion, and its very important
concerns, had not been fully contemplated upon, yet even under its
guidance, and with all its defects before the mighty change of the
Reformation was effected, it would appear that the moral conduct of the
common people was generally good, and they were in some respects happier
and better off than they have ever been since. The Romish clergy, or
priests, in those times, though they took the tithes (according to an
old Jewish custom), yet these were more usefully and justly divided than
they are in the present time; for they in their day took only a third
part of these to themselves, and the other two-thirds were expended in
building and repairing their churches and supporting all the poor. There
was then no church cesses, nor poor laws, nor the sickening, harassing,
and continual gathering of the enormous sums of the poor-rate.

The established clergy are also bound, in a similar way, by old laws and
oaths which have been imposed upon them, to swear to their belief in a
certain string of creeds before they are allowed to enter upon the
clerical office; and all this, backed and encouraged by the lures of
enormous stipends or livings attached to their church, which is
furthermore made sure of by these livings being, as it were, held out as
a provision for the unprovided part of the younger branches of the
families of all the poor gentry of the land. Thus situated, any
alteration or improvement may be looked for in vain, while self-interest
and pride continue so powerfully to guide the actions of mankind.

Time, indeed, may bring about wonders, and the example and influence of
North America can perhaps alone be looked up to to lead the way as the
regenerator of the Old World. There they have none of the old protecting
laws, nor the old prejudices of Europe, Asia, and South America, to
contend against, and must see the errors these have fallen into, and may
move forward upon clear ground. “The Rites and Ceremonies of all
Nations” will serve them as a kind of text, and also as a beacon and a
guide-post, to show them the way they ought to pursue, so as to steer
clear of the absurdities—to say no worse of them—by which mankind have
been so long led, hoodwinked, into so many egregious follies.

It must, furthermore, be observed and conceded on behalf of the present
religious establishment of this enlightened and comparatively happy
land, notwithstanding the spots and blemishes which bar the approach to
rationality and perfection, that the regular clergy, with few
exceptions, and taken as a whole—from their learning, their
acquirements, and their piety—are real and valuable ornaments to our
country, without whose help and the example they set, it is to be feared
the people would soon retrograde into barbarism, or, into what is nearly
as bad—fanaticism. To keep down or prevent this latter growing evil from
rising to a height will require the utmost exertions of the regular
clergy, as well as the united wisdom and prudence of the legislature to
discountenance it. To attempt using force would only serve to unite its
votaries and increase their numbers; for as long as ignorance is
stalking abroad, multitudes will be found in every country who see
things with an obliquity of intellect, and are thus ready prepared to
adopt anything new, however stupid; and the reveries of Johanna
Southcote, and the ravings of Ranters, do not appear to them
sufficiently absurd.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

I HAVE, with all the consideration I have been able coolly to bestow
upon the subject, become clearly of opinion, that the highest character
a man can hope to attain to in this life is that of being a religious
philosopher; and he cannot be the latter without religion being deeply
impressed upon his mind; and, without the aid of religion and philosophy
conjointly, he need not hope to feel all the happiness in this world
attendant upon his approach towards perfection. The happiness derived
from ignorance is like that of unreasoning animals; and, in carrying
this a little further, or to the extreme, it is, comparatively, like the
happiness enjoyed by a gate-post.

It is from amongst men of this enlightened character only that all and
every clergyman ought to be selected, without permitting the least
interference of private patronage; for that has been, and will continue
to be, an evil of the most benumbing magnitude, which will—if not
stopped—upset the best laid plans, and render such nugatory, or null and
void. Could such a stride as this towards purity ever be accomplished,
then every village ought to have its church, and would thus become a
religious, a moral, and a patriotic little community, in which its
preceptors ought to teach youth the usual routine of their education
five days in the week, and those of all ages on the Sunday. This clergy
ought not to be sworn to any belief, nor trammeled with any creeds, but
only to promise, with the help of God, to instil into the minds of their
hearers the purest religious adoration of the Omnipotent, and the best
maxims of morality. In this the Scriptures would supply them with its
pure and sublime precepts, and, above all, the still more sublime and
amazing works contained in the great Book of the Creation is amply
spread out before them, and made up of the living, the visible, words of
God, so plainly to be seen, read, and felt, that howsoever miraculous
and astonishing they are, it would require no stretch of faith to
believe in them all. From these, such a clergy, one after another in
succession for ages, might take their texts, ever new, and preach from
them to all eternity; for, as to the number of subjects to preach from
and explain, they would be found to be endless even on this globe we
dwell upon, without soaring to those in the regions of immensity; and,
if its wonders were productive of disease, enlightened men would die of

Were a clergy of this description established, there could be no fears
entertained of their teaching anything wrong; they would, on the
contrary, from their knowledge and virtue, be the pillars of the state
and the mainstays and ornaments of civilization. Every church ought to
have its library of good books, and its philosophical apparatus, to
illustrate or explain the various phenomena of nature, and the amazing
magnitude and distances of the “Heavenly bodies;” or, rather, the
incalculable number of suns and worlds floating about with the velocity
of light, in immeasurable, endless space. It is from these
contemplations that something like the truest conception of the Adorable
Author of the whole can be formed; and it would soon be found that men
of common capacities, and without having even been taught to read and
write, would be at no loss to understand the clear lectures delivered on
this latter subject. I think it would be folly, or worse than folly, to
entertain any suspicion that poor men, thus enlightened, would forget
the station in which they are placed, and cease to work honestly to
maintain themselves, or to become bad members of society. On the
contrary, it is reasonable to conclude that such a universal spread of
knowledge as would follow this system of education, and this kind of
religious worship, would stamp the character of a whole people as
intelligent, good, subjects; and it appears to me certain that, until
such a mode of enlightened Christianity is adopted and acted upon,
mankind will continue to be torn asunder, as they have too long been,
and that, if it could quickly be spread over the partly civilized world,
there would never more be any religious bickerings or animosities on
that score, and that then, but not till then, all mankind would become
as brethren.

I am well aware that the pride and the fears of what are called the
dignified clergy, might operate powerfully against the purity and
simplicity of such a change. If so, they will then thus clearly and
decisively show that it is a system of revenue only, and not religion,
that they can be fearful of upsetting; but, if none of these are
deprived of their present livings (or an equivalent to their value),
which they hold only during their lives, what have they to be afraid of?
To sell their present enormous revenues, and fund the amount, and then
divide the interest equally amongst the newly-established clergy, would
be only fair and just; and they, above all other men, ought to be
perfectly independent,—amply provided for, without being obliged to
collect any other revenue,—and made as happy as men can be in this
world; and, whatever might be deemed sufficient, a certain sum taken
from this income ought also to be funded as a provision to support them
in their declining years. Such a body of men as this clergy could not
fail of being revered and held in the greatest respect and estimation by
all good and wise men; and what more any good and wise man can wish for
in this world, I am at a loss to know.

It is from government, with the aid of our own enlightened and
liberal-minded clergy, and other such like men, that this important
business, in my opinion, ought to be openly and boldly taken up. They
ought to have the honour to show the way, and not leave any other nation
to take the lead of them in such a mighty and momentous concern, in
which the happiness of the whole human race would become most deeply
interested; and, from the change in men’s minds which is now taking
place, and widely spreading, this change, by its own weight, will most
assuredly happen, perhaps at no very distant day.

Were our own government inclined to make this improvement in religion
and politics, they would assuredly see the happiest results from it: it
would soon be found that there would then be no need to keep Ireland in
subjection, like a conquered country, by an expensive military force.
The Irish, naturally acute, lively, generous, and brave, would soon feel
themselves, under our excellent constitution, as happy and loyal a
people as any in the world, and as much attached to their country,
which, for its healthy climate and fertile soil, may match with any
other on this globe. One would hope that the native gentry would at
length see the very reprehensible injustice of becoming absentees.
Landowners in all countries, as well as in Ireland, ought as far as
possible to spend their rents where they receive them. Where they do not
do so, any country is certain to become poor.[41] Ireland ought
instantly to be put upon a par, in every respect, with their fellow
subjects of the British Isles. To withhold Catholic emancipation from
Ireland appears to me to be invidious and unjust; and, if emancipated,
it would be found at no very distant period that they would, under the
foregoing tuition, individually become enlightened, think for
themselves, adopt a rational religious belief, and throw off the bigotry
and superstition taught them with such sedulous care from their infancy,
and by which they have so long been led blindfold. If they could be
brought to think, and to muster up so much of the reasoning power as to
do all this, they would soon emancipate themselves. But even on this
business it must be observed that the Protestant Establishment does not
interfere with the Catholic modes of faith; they may preach up and
believe in what they please. In this they are not only fully tolerated,
but are also protected in their worship, so that on this score they can
have nothing to complain of. But beyond this the Protestant ascendancy,
having all the rich church livings secured to themselves, are fearful
that the Catholics, ever watchful, and never ceasing in their struggles
to be at the head of all church affairs—they, the Protestants, have
become extremely jealous lest the emancipation now so eagerly wished for
may, if granted, be a prelude to further future strides, and that the
latent objects the Catholics have in view is to partake in these rich
livings, or to get them wholly to themselves. To dwell longer on these
matters seems to me useless; for, so long as rich livings are set apart
as a provision for those whose creeds continue in fashion, all the
various numerous sects who dissent will always be barking at them, until
the purity and simplicity of worshipping one God only can be
established, and which to a certainty will one day happen. Till then,
all arguments on this subject may seem to be in vain.

Footnote 41:

  In my ardent wish for the perfect happiness and union of the sister
  Isles, I have suffered my sanguine imagination to wish and hope that
  some great convulsion of nature might some day happen to throw up the
  bed of the sea between them, so as to unite them both in one; and
  present a south-western rocky front to the ocean. I see no harm in
  indulging in such reveries; they may, indeed, be visionary, but they
  are innocent ones.

Having given my opinion on religious matters freely and sincerely, and
with the best intentions, in which I do not wish to dictate, but only
wish mankind to think for themselves on such a momentous and important
affair as that of their present and their future eternal happiness, I
leave them to their own reflections, and shall only furthermore attempt
to show some of the salutary effects which I suppose would follow from
mine. I first picture to myself that I see such a body of learned,
rationally religious, moral, and patriotic men as this clergy spread
over our already matchless country: and that the effects of their
tuition and example, founded on honour and virtue, would very soon be
seen and felt amongst all ranks of society, and would further exalt the
character of our countrymen over the whole globe, as patterns for
imitation to the rest of mankind. It is only by an education like this,
that any country can hope that its institutions can remain unbroken up,
and endure as a nation for ever; but so it will be, if the government is
founded on wisdom and virtue, and backed by a whole people of the same
character. To rear up and establish such a renovated order of things as
I have with diffidence recommended, and coolly and deliberately to do
away with old errors, will not, perhaps, be soon or easily done; for
there are so many interests to consult, and so many men of the character
to doubt and despair of accomplishing anything, however good, that, if
they have influence over weak minds to help them out in this disposition
to despondency, it will have the direct tendency to realize such doubts,
and to throw a cold damp over the best and wisest plans. But we ought
never to despair of accomplishing anything where our objects in view are
good ones. To minds thus gifted, and such as this clergy it is hoped
would possess, there could be little need to dictate. Their own good
sense, aided by the gentry of the land, would constantly enable them to
see when anything was going wrong in each little community, and speedily
to rectify it. Such a number of little colleges spread over the land
would excellently prepare such youths as might be intended to finish
their education in colleges of a higher character, so as to fit them to
fulfil the various offices of the state, in any of its several
departments, as well as the many other employments they might be
destined to pursue; and in this the teachers would have it greatly in
their power to discover the talents or innate powers of mind of their
pupils, as well as the bent of their inclinations, so as to be enabled
to advise or direct inexperienced youths as to what might best suit
their several capacities; and to point out to them the proper course of
education that might lead to the calling or occupation in which they
might make the most respectable figure when they were launched into the
world. This duty of every teacher is an important one, and would require
the keenest observation to make the true discovery; for, after all, we
may be assured of this, that it is impossible to set bounds to the
improvement of the human mind, and it is also equally so to limit the
capabilities of the human frame when duly cultivated....

_November 1st, 1828._



IN offering these my sentiments and opinions, derived from the
observations I have made in my passage through life, I have never
intended to give offence to good men. With these sentiments some may be
pleased and others displeased, but, conscious of the rectitude of my
intentions, I do not covet the praises of the one nor fear the censures
of the other. It is at another tribunal that I, as well as all other
men, are to account for their conduct.



                              THOMAS BEWICK

                            AT HALF-PAST ONE
                          ON THE MORNING OF THE
                           8TH NOVEMBER, 1828.



AFTER Thomas Bewick retired from business in favour of his son, he
continued, till his death, to employ himself closely, at home, in
filling-up gaps in his History of British Birds; and, in conjunction
with his son, he also commenced a History of British Fishes. The
finished specimens of these, on the wood, are now for the first time
published in this Memoir. A portion of a series of appropriate
Vignettes, also executed by him for the work on Fishes, are now employed
as embellishments in the preceding pages. About twenty of the set,
together with six new birds, were printed in the last edition of the
History of Birds. It may be proper to add, that the late Robert Elliot
Bewick left about fifty highly-finished and accurately-coloured drawings
of fishes from nature, together with a portion of the descriptive matter
relating to the work.


                            BRITISH FISHES.


  (_Perca Labrax._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Gasterosteus spinachia._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Sparus Raii._—BLOCH.)



  (_Zeus faber._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Gobius niger._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Ballan Wrasse._—PENNANT.)



  (_Cyprinus barbus._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Cyprinus gobio._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Cyprinus Tinca._—BLOCH.)



  (_Cyprinus leuciscus._—BLOCH.)



  (_Esox Saurus._—PENNANT.)



  (_Esox Belone._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Salmo Fario._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Cyclopterus lumpus._—LINNÆUS.)



  (_Squalus Acanthias._—LINNÆUS.)






  (_Trachinus draco._—PENNANT.)





                             THE ALARM.[42]

Footnote 42:

  This fable was written and illustrated by T. Bewick, for his “Fables
  of Æsop,” and is now published for the first time.

THE hollow grumblings of the devils on earth having reached the infernal
regions, Satan ordered an enquiry immediately to be made into the cause
of their outcry, and commanded a trio of his choicest associates
forthwith to fly with the velocity of light to see, and to report to
him, what was the matter. On their arrival on earth, they were met,
during the night, when men were asleep, by a deputation selected from
innumerable hosts of imps from every kingdom and state of the
uncivilized as well as the civilized world. They soon were given to
understand, that an outrageous mutiny, amounting to rebellion, had been
going on for some time against their old king, Ignorance, who was
accused of having become very remiss and negligent of his duty. For this
they resolved to have him hurled from his high station, and to have
another ruler appointed in his stead. It was alleged that, owing to his
neglect, mankind had lately begun to use their intellectual faculties to
such a degree, that it was feared, if they were suffered to go on, Satan
would (though very unjustly) lay the blame on them for the loss of his
subjects. Old Ignorance was immediately brought to judgment, and at the
same time other candidates for his office offered their services to
succeed him. The voting instantly took place, and was decided in the
twinkling of an eye, when it was found that old Ignorance was re-elected
by a great majority; for, on casting up the votes, they stood thus:—

               PRINCIPALS.    SATELLITES.          IMPS.

                              {  Vanity.

               Ignorance.          {        300,000,000.
                            Superstition. }

                            {  Sensuality.

                             {  Arrogance.

               Pride.          {  Envy.     100,000,000.

                             {  Obstinacy.

                             {  Blasphemy.

                              {  Revenge.

               Malice.       {  Injustice.  100,000,000.

                              {  Cruelty.

                             Majority for    200,000,000
                             old Ignorance

The candidates who had lately contended with him in aspiring to supreme
command, having been appointed his chief ministers, he was sworn to
redouble his vigilence: in return for which it was finally decreed that
he should, in future, have seven links added to his tail, and his head
adorned with six horns, instead of two. His infernal honour being thus
pledged, the work of mischief was instantly begun, by his commanding his
ministers and their satellites to redouble their vigilence, by throwing
the mists of ignorance over the minds of the rulers and teachers of
mankind, and to fill their minds with superstition, bigotry, pride, and
arrogant zeal. All the imps of minor consideration were also ordered to
direct the unreasoning, lazy, envious, wicked, gross, vulgar herd of
mankind, high and low, into the paths which lead to misery. Having thus
concluded their mission, the innumerable host set off, like a whirlwind,
amidst the glare of lightning and the roar of thunder, to take up their
abode in the minds of men, where they had been nursed before; but
millions of their number, who had been dismissed from the minds of good
men, dropped behind, and, in their fall through endless space, by the
violence of their motion, ignited, were whirled into balls of fire, and
gravitated to the sun. The rest proceeded; their numbers eclipsed the
moon, and the effluvia which exhaled from them in their flight caused
plague, pestilence, and famine in the countries they passed over, and
the concussion they made in the air is said to have shaken the ices from
the poles.



IF there be a plurality of devils, Ignorance must be their king; and
through his influence only men are wicked; and, under him and his
satellites, the wretchedness they have dealt out to mankind ever since
their chequered reign began has disfigured the fair face of nature; and
they have too often succeeded, in the struggles between virtue and vice,
in obscuring the reasoning powers of man, and bringing him down to the
level of the brute. For no sooner was it decreed by Omnipotence that his
reasoning creatures should live in a state of civilized society,
suitable to their natures and befitting so high a behest, than these
enemies to this good order of things obtruded themselves upon it, and
have too long and too often succeeded in baffling the efforts of good
men in their aims at approaching towards perfection, and in thwarting
the progress of mental improvement, and the consequent happiness of the
human race. They have, with the glimmering light of their _ignis
fatuus_, led their devotees in zig-zag, backward and forward paths,
through misty bogs and quagmires, into the midnight glooms and chaotic
darkness which envelope their wretched dens. The bloody pages of history
have in part recorded some of the many miseries which have from time to
time been inflicted upon their victims; but to enumerate only a portion
would be an irksome as well as an endless task.



THE Author, at page 249 of this Memoir, in stating what he believes may
be done by the printing of large wood cuts from two or more blocks, so
as to rival the landscapes of William Woollett on copper, intimates his
intention of making the attempt, to show that it is not a visionary
theory. With this view, he executed a large wood cut, the subject being
an old horse “waiting for death.” A first proof was taken a few days
before his death. An impression at the same time was transferred to a
second block, the exact size of the first, and was intended to have been
engraved to heighten and improve the effect of the print; and a third
was prepared to be used if necessary. A few impressions of the first of
the series were printed in London in 1832, and were accompanied by a
descriptive history of the horse, written so far back as 1785. The print
(in a finished state) was intended to have been dedicated to the
“Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” and was also meant
to serve as one of a set of cheap embellishments for the walls of
cottages. The history of the old horse “waiting for death” is

Footnote 43:

  The vignette at page 53, vol. i, last edition of the “History of
  British Birds,” will be found printed with two additional blocks as a
  title page to the second edition of the “Quadrupeds,” quarto, without
  letterpress, 1824.


                           WAITING FOR DEATH.

In the morning of his days he was handsome, sleek as a raven, sprightly
and spirited, and was then much caressed and happy. When he grew to
perfection, in his performances, even on the turf, and afterwards in the
chase, and in the field, he was equalled by few of his kind. At one time
of his life he saved that of his master, whom he bore, in safety, across
the rapid flood; but having, in climbing the opposite rocky shore,
received a blemish, it was thought _prudent_ to dispose of him; after
which he fell into the hands of different masters, but from none of them
did he ever eat the bread of idleness; and, as he grew in years, his cup
of misery was still augmented with bitterness.

It was once his hard lot to fall into the hands of _Skinflint_, a
horse-keeper, an authorised wholesale and retail dealer in cruelty, who
employed him alternately, but closely, as a hack, both in the chaise and
for the saddle; for when the traces and trappings, used in the former,
had peeled the skin from off his breast, shoulders, and sides, he was
then, as his back was whole, thought fit for the latter; indeed, his
exertions, in this _service of unfeeling avarice_ and _folly_, were
great beyond belief. He was always, late and early, made ready for
action; he was never allowed to rest, even on the Sabbath day, because
he could trot well, had a good bottom, and was the best hack in town;
and, it being a day of pleasure and pastime, he was much sought after by
beings, _in appearance_, something like gentlemen; in whose hands his
sufferings were greater than his nature could bear. Has not the
compassionate eye beheld him whipped, spurred, and galloped beyond his
strength, in order to accomplish double the length of the journey that
he was engaged to perform, till, by the inward grief expressed in his
countenance, he seemed to plead for mercy, one would have thought most
powerfully, but, alas, in vain! In the whole load which he bore (as was
often the case), not an ounce of humanity could be found; and, his rider
being determined to have pennyworths for his money, the ribs of this
silent slave, where not a hair had for long been suffered to grow, were
still ripped up. He was pushed forward through a stony rivulet, then on
hard road against the hill, and having lost a shoe, split his hoof, and
being quite spent with hunger and fatigue, he fell, broke his nose and
his knees, and was unable to proceed;—and becoming greased, spavined,
ringboned, blind of an eye, and the skin, by repeated friction, being
worn off all the large prominences of his body, he was judged to be only
fit for the dogs:—however, one shilling and sixpence beyond the
dog-horse price saved his life, and he became the property of a poor
dealer and horse doctor.

It is amazing to think upon the vicissitudes of his life: he had often
been burnished up, his teeth defaced by art, peppered under his tail;
having been the property of a general, a gentleman, a farmer, a miller,
a butcher, a higgler, and a maker of brooms. A hard winter coming on, a
want of money, and a want of meat, obliged his poor owner to turn him
out to shift for himself. His former fame and great value are now, to
him, not worth a handful of oats. But his days and nights of misery are
now drawing to an end; so that, after having faithfully dedicated the
whole of his powers and his time to the service of unfeeling man, he is
at last turned out, unsheltered and unprotected, to starve of hunger and
of cold.




                              JOHN BEWICK.

THAT rare old book, “A Collection of all the Ancient Poems, Songs, and
Ballads, relative to Robin Hood,” published by Ritson, 1795, was
embellished by John Bewick. Three of the cuts are introduced in the
following pages. A comparison of them with the book itself, will show
the great improvement which has taken place in the printing of wood cuts
since that day. It may not, perhaps, be out of place to insert an
extract from a letter, on the subject of these cuts, written by the
antiquary to the artist, more than half a century ago.

                                                        “Gray’s Inn.

    “J. Ritson is sorry he was gone out when Mr. Bewick called; but
    hopes he will proceed with the other cuts, which shall be left
    entirely to his own fancy, and in which he will undoubtedly
    consult his own reputation.”…

Amongst the many books illustrated by John Bewick, now very scarce, a
few may be enumerated:—“The Looking Glass for the Mind,” “Proverbs
Exemplified,”[44] “The Progress of Man in Society,” “Blossoms of
Morality.” The last-named was published by Mr. Newberry, to whom, for
his charming little books, the rising generation of that day was under
great obligation. In his preface, dated October 6th, 1796, Mr. N. says:—

Footnote 44:

  The publisher, Dr. Trussler, quaintly observes, “It is a very proper
  book to amuse and instruct youth, and the price, viz. 3_s._,
  half-bound, will hurt no one.”

    “Much time has elapsed since the commencement of this edition,
    owing to a severe indisposition with which the artist was long
    afflicted, and which unfortunately terminated in his death. And
    sorry, very sorry, are we to be compelled to state, that this is
    the last effort of his incomparable genius.”







THE following letters are selected from a large correspondence,
extending over many years, and, from the matter they contain, may not be
thought uninteresting. The first is addressed to T. Bewick, on the
occasion of his brother’s death, by Mr. Wm. Bulmer, a native of
Newcastle, and who is mentioned at page 70 as the first typographer of
his day. A portrait of this gentleman is given in Dr. Dibdin’s
“Bibliomania” (?) in connection with the “Bodoni Hum.” Mr. Bulmer died
at his villa, Clapham Rise, Surrey, at the close of the year 1828.


                                   Cleveland Row, December 10, 1795.


    The death of your brother has hurt me much, I assure you. He was
    a young man whose private virtues and professional talents I
    equally admired; so much so, indeed, that as a grateful tribute
    to his memory, I have this day clothed myself in mourning. His
    death has affected me in a manner that has much depressed my
    spirits. If my opinion or assistance in your intended record of
    his worth, on the melancholy tombstone that is intended to mark
    the place of his interment, can be of any use, I beg you will
    command me. The blocks for Mr. Way’s work[45] have come safe to
    hand, but he informs me that you have omitted to send the
    head-piece to Tale Seventh, “The Mantle Made Amiss,” which I
    must beg you will send along with the first parcel of blocks for
    the Chase; and, in cutting the remainder of Mr. Way’s work, you
    will cut head and tail-piece in the regular succession,
    _agreeable to the numbers on the different sketches_, as any
    omission on this head causes an interruption in the printing. As
    to the blocks for “The Chase,” I have already told you my
    situation. I must, therefore, entirely rely on your making a
    _bold effort to finish them in the specified time_. The whole
    number is only twelve blocks, besides the vignette for the
    title. Many of the tail-pieces are small. I wish fine execution
    in them, I confess, but yet there must be that happy mixture of
    engraving in them that will at the same time produce a boldness
    of effect. Mr. Way particularly requests that I will inform you
    that the blocks last sent are perfectly to his wishes. Agreeably
    to your desire, I have sent the death of your brother to the
    London prints. And believe me,

         Yours, very sincerely,

              WILLIAM BULMER.

Footnote 45:

  “Fabliaux, or Tales abridged from French Manuscripts of the 12th and
  13th Centuries. By M. Le Grand. Translated into English verse, by G.
  L. Way, Esq.” 1796.


                          THOMAS BEWICK TO —.

                                       Newcastle, 4th October, 1794.

    DEAR SIR,[46]

    I received yours of the 17th ult., and thank you for the opinion
    you have given me of America. Before I get the Birds done, I
    have no doubt of matters being brought to such a crisis as will
    enable me to see clearly what course to steer. My fears are not
    at what you think will happen in America: it is my own
    much-loved country that I fear will be involved in the anarchy
    you speak of; for I think there is not virtue enough left in the
    country gentlemen to prevent it. I cannot hope for anything good
    from the violent on either side; that can only be expected from
    (I hope) the great majority of moderate men stepping manfully
    forward to check the despotism of the one party and the
    licentiousness of the other. A reform of abuses, in my opinion,
    is wanted, and I wish that could be done with justice and
    moderation; but it is because I do not hope or expect that will
    take place in the way I wish it that makes me bend my mind
    towards America....

Footnote 46:

  It appears from the autograph letter here copied, that Thomas Bewick
  at one time contemplated emigrating to America. The name of his
  correspondent is not known.


                     MRS. M—[47] TO THOMAS BEWICK.

                                                      April 4, 1805.

    I cannot resist the pleasure of thanking Mr. Bewick for the
    entertainment I have just experienced in looking over the second
    volume of the “British Birds.” The vignettes are incomparable.
    The one with the string of the kite over the poor man’s hat,—who
    cannot extricate himself, having to conduct his horse through
    the water,—and that of the man clinging to the arm of the tree,
    and, still more, the four little boys riding triumphant on the
    tombstones, without a moment’s reflection on the mementos of
    death around them, are, I think, excellently done. The little
    drawing Captain M— presented me with, from Mr. Bewick, will be
    placed in a book with the others I had given me at Newcastle,
    which I have the greatest value for, and shall be very happy, if
    either business or pleasure brought Mr. Bewick to London, to
    show them to him, in the highest preservation, and also to be
    introduced to his ingenious son, to whom I beg my compliments;
    and remain Mr. Bewick’s very great admirer and obliged

                                                              S. M—.

Footnote 47:

  The lady here indicated was the wife of an officer. She was an amateur
  artist, and was a frequent visitor when at Newcastle.


                       THOMAS BEWICK TO MRS. M—.

                                            Newcastle, May 20, 1805.


    Your very kind and flattering letter of the 4th ult. has reached
    me, and I am happy to find that the second volume of the Birds
    meets with your approbation, and that some of my little whimsies
    put into vignettes have afforded you any entertainment. Could I
    have forseen that the sketches, which your partiality makes you
    value, would ever have been thought worthy of your notice, I
    certainly would have saved more of them for you, and not have
    put so many of them into the fire. And now, if my time and
    attention were not so fully taken up with conducting other parts
    of my business, I could easily furnish such without end; but,
    when the fancies pop into my head, I have not time even to
    commit them to paper, and I am often obliged to sketch them at
    once upon the wood. A second edition of both volumes of the
    Birds is now at press; and, as I believe you wish me success, I
    cannot help informing you, that, in my opinion, Mr. Walker, the
    printer, is doing the work to look better than either of the
    volumes now before the public. He has seen some defects in his
    former mode of printing which he is remedying in this. I have
    just seen Aikin’s “Annual Review,” in which he dwells at large,
    in his criticism, upon the History of the Quadrupeds and the
    Birds. There are many misstatements, and some mistakes of the
    printer, but, otherwise, he has gone the utmost lengths in
    praise of the whole; and, if his praise be just, it is highly
    flattering to me. I never hoped to have any compliments paid to
    me as an author. I furnished all the original remarks, &c., for
    the Quadrupeds, and the first volume of the Birds; but, if I
    could have got any person to write a book for me, I would never
    have thought upon writing the second volume myself.
    Necessity—not choice—set me to work in this way. It was the work
    of the winter evenings, at my happy fireside, surrounded by my
    wife and girls at work, and cheered at intervals by many a wild
    tune on the Northumberland pipes, played by my now stout,
    healthy boy.

                              I am, Madam,
            With best wishes for your health and happiness,
                       Your much obliged servant,
                             THOMAS BEWICK.

    P.S.—Should business take me to London, I will certainly take
    the liberty to give you a call. My boy thinks himself much
    obliged to you for your attention and great kindness to him. I
    would fain indulge him with a visit to London, but I think he is
    too young yet, and I have some fears that I shall feel awkward
    at parting with him even for a short time.


                         THOMAS BEWICK TO —[48]

                                         Newcastle, 15th Nov., 1808.


    Your letter of the fourth inst., enclosing your promissory note
    at six months, came safe to hand. Having calculated upon being
    sooner paid, I was, I confess disappointed; but, however, on
    thinking all matters over respecting your present expenses in,
    as yet, an unproductive publication, and remembering your
    continual good wishes towards me, I now see that I have to thank
    you for the above remittance. You make me smile when you talk of
    my “accumulated wealth.” I might, indeed, have been, by this
    time, as rich as I ever wished to be, if my publications had
    been.... but that not being the case, that day must be longer
    put off. It may, indeed, happen all in good time, viz., when I
    am unable in the line of my business to be longer useful to the
    world. I may then, indeed, in the down hill of life, have it in
    my power to attain to the summit of my wishes, in retiring to a
    cottage, by a burn side, surrounded with woods and wilds, such
    as I was dragged from when young to exhibit myself upon the
    stage of the busy world. To such a place as this I hope to
    retire; and, if I am enabled to show kindness to old friends,
    and to be a good neighbour to those around me, and at the same
    time to fill up my leisure time in contemplation, and in the
    amusements of fishing and gardening, then I shall think that
    Providence has been pleased to single me out to be one of the
    happiest of men. I intend to go to press in the spring with a
    new edition of the Birds, printed with the same kind of small
    type as the Quadrupeds: the two volumes in one volume demy. I
    wish much to have one of your books, but I cannot engage in the
    sale of them, being sufficiently embarrassed with my own

                                                               T. B.

Footnote 48:

      An eminent publisher by whom he had been employed to embellish
      an extensive work.


  Thomas Bewick
  his mark




    ● Transcriber’s Notes:
       ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
       ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
       ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent
         only when a predominant form was found in this book.
       ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores

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