A Writer's Recollections — Volume 1 by Ward, Humphry, Mrs.
A WRITER'S RECOLLECTIONS (IN TWO VOLUMES), VOLUME I
BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Published November, 1918
[Illustration: DR. THOMAS ARNOLD OF RUGBY]
T. H. W.
(In memory of April 6, 1872)_
I. EARLY DAYS
II. FOX HOW
III. THE FAMILY OF FOX HOW
IV. OTHER CHILDREN OF FOX HOW
V. THE FRIENDS OF FOX HOW
VI. YOUNG DAYS AT OXFORD
VII. BALLIOL AND LINCOLN
VIII. EARLY MARRIED LIFE
IX. THE BEGINNINGS OF "ROBERT ELSMERE"
DR. THOMAS ARNOLD OP RUGBY _Frontispiece_
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN J
FOX HOW, THE WESTMORLAND HOME OF THE ARNOLDS
A WRITER'S RECOLLECTIONS
Do we all become garrulous and confidential as we approach the gates of old age? Is it that we instinctively feel, and cannot help asserting, our one advantage over the younger generation, which has so many over us?--the one advantage of _time!_
After all, it is not disputable that we have lived longer than they. When they talk of past poets, or politicians, or novelists, whom the young still deign to remember, of whom for once their estimate agrees with ours, we can sometimes put in a quiet, "I saw him"--or, "I talked with him"--which for the moment wins the conversational race. And as we elders fall back before the brilliance and glitter of the New Age, advancing "like an army with banners," this mere prerogative of years becomes in itself a precious possession. After all, we cannot divest ourselves of it, if we would. It is better to make friends with it--to turn it into a kind of _panache_--to wear it with an air, since wear it we must.
So as the years draw on toward the Biblical limit, the inclination to look back, and to tell some sort of story of what one has seen, grows upon most of us. I cannot hope that what I have to say will be very interesting to many. A life spent largely among books, and in the exercise of a literary profession, has very obvious drawbacks, as a subject-matter, when one comes to write about it. I can only attempt it with any success, if my readers will allow me a large psychological element. The thoughts and opinions of one human being, if they are sincere, must always have an interest for some other human beings. The world is there to think about; and if we have lived, or are living, with any sort of energy, we _must_ have thought about it, and about ourselves in relation to it--thought "furiously" often. And it is out of the many "thinkings" of many folk, strong or weak, dull or far-ranging, that thought itself grows. For progress surely, whether in men or nations, means only a richer knowledge; the more impressions, therefore, on the human intelligence that we can seize and record, the more sensitive becomes that intelligence itself.
But of course the difficulty lies in the seizing and recording--in the choice, that is, of what to say, and how to say it. In this choice, as I look back over more than half a century, I can only follow--and trust--the same sort of instinct that one follows in the art of fiction. I shall be telling what is primarily true, or as true as I can make it, as distinguished from what is primarily imagination, built on truth. But the truth one uses in fiction must be interesting! Milton expresses that in the words "sensuous" and "passionate," which he applies to poetry in the _Areopagitica_. And the same thing applies to autobiography, where selection is even more necessary than in fiction. Nothing ought to be told, I think, that does not interest or kindle one's own mind in looking back; it is the only condition on which one can hope to interest or kindle other minds. And this means that one ought to handle things broadly, taking only the salient points in the landscape of the past, and of course with as much detachment as possible. Though probably in the end one will have to admit--egotists that we all are!--that not much detachment _is_ possible.
For me, the first point that stands out is the arrival of a little girl of five, in the year 1856, at a gray-stone house in a Westmorland valley, where, fourteen years earlier, the children of Arnold of Rugby, the "Doctor" of _Tom Brown's Schooldays_, had waited on a June day, to greet their father, expected from the South, only to hear, as the summer day died away, that two hours' sharp illness, that very morning, had taken him from them. Of what preceded my arrival as a black-haired, dark-eyed child, with my father, mother, and two brothers, at Fox How, the holiday house among the mountains which the famous headmaster had built for himself in 1834, I have but little recollection. I see dimly another house in wide fields, where dwarf lilies grew, and I know that it was a house in Tasmania, where at the time of my birth my father, Thomas Arnold, the Doctor's second son, was organizing education in the young colony. I can just recall, too, the deck of a ship which to my childish feet seemed vast--but the _William Brown_ was a sailing-ship of only 400 tons!--in which we made the voyage home in 1856. Three months and a half we took about it, going round the Horn in bitter weather, much run over by rats at night, and expected to take our baths by day in two huge barrels full of sea water on the deck, into which we children were plunged shivering by our nurse, two or three times a week. My father and mother, their three children, and some small cousins, who were going to England under my mother's care, were the only passengers.
I can remember, too, being lifted--weak and miserable with toothache--in my father's arms to catch the first sight of English shores as we neared the mouth of the Thames; and then the dismal inn by the docks where we first took shelter. The dreary room where we children slept the first night, its dingy ugliness and its barred windows, still come back to me as a vision of horror. Next day, like angels of rescue, came an aunt and uncle, who took us away to other and cheerful quarters, and presently saw us off to Westmorland. The aunt was my godmother, Doctor Arnold's eldest daughter--then the young wife of William Edward Forster, a Quaker manufacturer, who afterward became the well-known Education Minister of 1870, and was Chief Secretary for Ireland in the terrible years 1880-82.
To my mother and her children, Fox How and its inmates represented much that was new and strange. My mother was the granddaughter of one of the first Governors of Tasmania, Governor Sorell, and had been brought up in the colony, except for a brief schooling at Brussels. Of her personal beauty in youth we children heard much, as we grew up, from her old Tasmanian friends and kinsfolk who would occasionally drift across us; and I see as though I had been there a scene often described to me--my mother playing Hermione in the "Winter's Tale," at Government House when Sir William Denison was Governor--a vision, lovely and motionless, on her pedestal, till at the words, "Music! awake her! Strike!" she kindled into life. Her family were probably French in origin. Governor Sorell had been a man of promise in his youth. His father, General William Alexander Sorell, of the Coldstream Guards, was a soldier of some eminence, whose two sons, William and Thomas, both served under Sir John Moore and at the Cape. But my great-grandfather ruined his military career, while he was Deputy Adjutant-General at the Cape, by a love-affair with a brother officer's wife, and was banished or promoted--whichever one pleases to call it--to the new colony of Tasmania, of which he became Governor in 1816. His eldest son, by the wife he had left behind him in England, went out as a youth of twenty-one or so, to join his father, the Governor, in Tasmania, and I possess a little calf-bound diary of my grandfather written in a very delicate and refined hand, about the year 1823. The faint entries in it show him to have been a devoted son. But when, in 1830 or so, the Governor left the colony, and retired to Brussels, my grandfather remained in Van Diemen's Land, as it was then generally called, became very much attached to the colony, and filled the post of Registrar of Deeds for many years under its successive Governors. I just remember him, as a gentle, affectionate, upright being, a gentleman of an old, punctilious school, strictly honorable and exact, content with a small sphere, and much loved within it. He would sometimes talk to his children of early days in Bath, of his father's young successes and promotions, and of his grandfather, General Sorell, who, as Adjutant of the Coldstream Guards from 1744 to 1758, and associated with all the home and foreign service of that famous regiment during those years, through the Seven Years' War, and up to the opening of the American War of Independence, played a vaguely brilliant part in his grandson's recollections. But he himself was quite content with the modest affairs of an infant colony, which even in its earliest days achieved, whether in its landscape or its life, a curiously English effect; as though an English midland county had somehow got loose and, drifting to the Southern seas, had there set up--barring a few black aborigines, a few convicts, its mimosas, and its tree-ferns--another quiet version of the quiet English life it had left behind.
But the Sorells, all the same, had some foreign and excitable blood in them. Their story of themselves was that they were French Huguenots, expelled in 1685, who had settled in England and, coming of a military stock, had naturally sought careers in the English army. There are points in this story which are puzzling; but the foreign touch in my mother, and in the Governor--to judge from the only picture of him which remains--was unmistakable. Delicate features, small, beautifully shaped hands and feet, were accompanied in my mother by a French vivacity and quickness, an overflowing energy, which never forsook her through all her trials and misfortunes. In the Governor, the same physical characteristics make a rather decadent and foppish impression--as of an old stock run to seed. The stock had been reinvigorated in my mother, and one of its original elements which certainly survived in her temperament and tradition was of great importance both for her own life and for her children's. This was the Protestant--the _French_ Protestant--element; which no doubt represented in the family from which she came a history of long suffering at the hands of Catholicism. Looking back upon her Protestantism, I see that it was not the least like English Evangelicalism, whether of the Anglican or dissenting type. There was nothing emotional or "enthusiastic" in it--no breath of Wesley or Wilberforce; but rather something drawn from deep wells of history, instinctive and invincible. Had some direct Calvinist ancestor of hers, with a soul on fire, fought the tyranny of Bossuet and Madame de Maintenon, before--eternally hating and resenting "Papistry"--he abandoned his country and kinsfolk, in the search for religious liberty? That is the impression which--looking back upon her life--it often makes upon me. All the more strange that to her it fell, unwittingly, imagining, indeed, that by her marriage with a son of Arnold of Rugby she was taking a step precisely in the opposite direction, to be, by a kind of tragic surprise, which yet was no one's fault, the wife of a Catholic.
And that brings me to my father, whose character and story were so important to all his children that I must try and draw them, though I cannot pretend to any impartiality in doing so--only to the insight that affection gives; its one abiding advantage over the critic and the stranger.
He was the second son of Doctor Arnold of Rugby, and the younger brother--by only eleven months--of Matthew Arnold. On that morning of June 12, 1842, when the headmaster who in fourteen years' rule at Rugby had made himself so conspicuous a place, not merely in the public-school world, but in English life generally arose, in the words of his poet son--to tread--
In the summer morning, the road-- Of death, at a call unforeseen-- Sudden--
My father, a boy of eighteen, was in the house, and witnessed the fatal attack of _angina pectoris_ which, in two hours, cut short a memorable career, and left those who till then, under a great man's shelter and keeping, had--
Rested as under the boughs Of a mighty oak.... Bare, unshaded, alone.
[Footnote 1: At the moment of correcting these proofs, my attention has been called to a foolish essay on my grandfather by Mr. Lytton Strachey, none the less foolish because it is the work of an extremely clever man. If Mr. Strachey imagines that the effect of my grandfather's life and character upon men like Stanley and Clough, or a score of others who could be named, can be accounted for by the eidolon he presents to his readers in place of the real human being, one can only regard it as one proof the more of the ease with which a certain kind of ability outwits itself.]
He had been his father's special favorite among the elder children, as shown by some verses in my keeping addressed to him as a small boy, at different times, by "the Doctor." Those who know their _Tom Brown's Schooldays_ will perhaps remember the various passages in the book where the softer qualities of the man whom "three hundred reckless childish boys" feared with all their hearts, "and very little besides in heaven or earth," are made plain in the language of that date. Arthur's illness, for instance, when the little fellow, who has been at death's door, tells Tom Brown, who is at last allowed to see him: "You can't think what the Doctor's like when one's ill. He said such brave and tender and gentle things to me--I felt quite light and strong after it, and never had any more fear." Or East's talk with the Doctor, when the lively boy of many scrapes has a moral return upon himself, and says to his best friend: "You can't think how kind and gentle he was, the great grim man, whom I've feared more than anybody on earth. When I stuck, he lifted me, just as if I'd been a little child. And he seemed to know all I'd felt, and to have gone through it all." This tenderness and charm of a strong man, which in Stanley's biography is specially mentioned as growing more and more visible in the last months of his life, was always there for his children. In a letter written in 1828 to his sister, when my father as a small child not yet five was supposed to be dying, Arnold says, trying to steel himself against the bitterness of coming loss, "I might have loved him, had he lived, too dearly--you know how deeply I do love him now." And three years later, when "little Tom," on his eighth birthday, had just said, wistfully--with a curious foreboding instinct, "I think that the eight years I have now lived will be the happiest of my life," Arnold, painfully struck by the words, wrote some verses upon them which I still possess. "The Doctor" was no poet, though the best of his historical prose--the well-known passage in the Roman History, for instance, on the death of Marcellus--has some of the essential notes of poetry--passion, strength, music. But the gentle Wordsworthian quality of his few essays in verse will be perhaps interesting to those who are aware of him chiefly as the great Liberal fighter of eighty years ago. He replies to his little son:
Is it that aught prophetic stirred Thy spirit to that ominous word, Foredating in thy childish mind The fortune of thy Life's career-- That naught of brighter bliss shall cheer What still remains behind?
Or is thy Life so full of bliss That, come what may, more blessed than this Thou canst not be again? And fear'st thou, standing on the shore, What storms disturb with wild uproar The years of older men?
* * * * *
At once to enjoy, at once to hope-- That fills indeed the largest scope Of good our thoughts can reach. Where can we learn so blest a rule, What wisest sage, what happiest school, Art so divine can teach?
The answer, of course, in the mouth of a Christian teacher is that in Christianity alone is there both present joy and future hope. The passages in Arnold's most intimate diary, discovered after his death, and published by Dean Stanley, show what the Christian faith was to my grandfather, how closely bound up with every action and feeling of his life. The impression made by his conception of that faith, as interpreted by his own daily life, upon a great school, and, through the many strong and able men who went out from it, upon English thought and feeling, is a part of English religious history.
[Illustration: MATTHEW ARNOLD.
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. From a drawing in possession of H. E. Wilberforce, Esq.]
But curiously enough the impression upon his own sons _appeared_, at any rate, to be less strong and lasting than in the case of others. I mean, of course, in the matter of opinion. The famous father died, and his children had to face the world without his guiding hand. Matthew and Tom, William and Edward, the eldest four sons, went in due time to Oxford, and the youngest boy into the Navy. My grandmother made her home at Fox How under the shelter of the fells, with her four daughters, the youngest of whom was only eight when their father died. The devotion of all the nine children to their mother, to one another, and to the common home was never weakened for a moment by the varieties of opinion that life was sure to bring out in the strong brood of strong parents. But the development of the elder two sons at the University was probably very different from what it would have been had their father lived. Neither of them, indeed, ever showed, while there, the smallest tendency to the "Newmanism" which Arnold of Rugby had fought with all his powers; which he had denounced with such vehemence in the Edinburgh article on "The Oxford Malignants." My father was at Oxford all through the agitated years which preceded Newman's secession from the Anglican communion. He had rooms in University College in the High Street, nearly opposite St. Mary's, in which John Henry Newman, then its Vicar, delivered Sunday after Sunday those sermons which will never be forgotten by the Anglican Church. But my father only once crossed the street to hear him, and was then repelled by the mannerism of the preacher. Matthew Arnold occasionally went, out of admiration, my father used to say, for that strange Newmanic power of words, which in itself fascinated the young Balliol poet, who was to produce his first volume of poems two years after Newman's secession to the Church of Rome. But he was never touched in the smallest degree by Newman's opinions. He and my father and Arthur Clough, and a few other kindred spirits, lived indeed in quite another world of thought. They discovered George Sand, Emerson, and Carlyle, and orthodox Christianity no longer seemed to them the sure refuge that it had always been to the strong teacher who trained them as boys. There are many allusions of many dates in the letters of my father and uncle to each other, as to their common Oxford passion for George Sand. _Consuelo_, in particular, was a revelation to the two young men brought up under the "earnest" influence of Rugby. It seemed to open to them a world of artistic beauty and joy of which they had never dreamed; and to loosen the bands of an austere conception of life, which began to appear to them too narrow for the facts of life. _Wilhelm Meister_, read in Carlyle's translation at the same time, exercised a similar liberating and enchanting power upon my father. The social enthusiasms of George Sand also affected him greatly, strengthening whatever he had inherited of his father's generous discontent with an iron world, where the poor suffer too much and work too hard. And this discontent, when the time came for him to leave Oxford, assumed a form which startled his friends.
He had done very well at Oxford, taking his two Firsts with ease, and was offered a post in the Colonial Office immediately on leaving the University. But the time was full of schemes for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein should dwell equality and righteousness. The storm of 1848 was preparing in Europe; the Corn Laws had fallen; the Chartists were gathering in England. To settle down to the old humdrum round of Civil Service promotion seemed to my father impossible. This revolt of his, and its effect upon his friends, of whom the most intimate was Arthur Clough, has left its mark on Clough's poem, the "Vacation Pastoral," which he called "The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich," or, as it runs in my father's old battered copy which lies before me, "Tober-na-Fuosich." The Philip of the poem, the dreamer and democrat, who says to Adam the Tutor--
Alas, the noted phrase of the prayer-book Doing our duty in that state of life to which God has called us, Seems to me always to mean, when the little rich boys say it, Standing in velvet frock by Mama's brocaded flounces, Eying her gold-fastened book, and the chain and watch at her bosom, Seems to me always to mean, Eat, drink, and never mind others--
was in broad outline drawn from my father, and the impression made by his idealist, enthusiastic youth upon his comrades. And Philip's migration to the Antipodes at the end--when he
rounded the sphere to New Zealand, There he hewed and dug; subdued the earth and his spirit--
was certainly suggested by my father's similar step in 1847, the year before the poem appeared. Only in my father's life there had been as yet no parallel to the charming love-story of "The Bothie." His love-story awaited him on the other side of the world.
At that moment, New Zealand, the land of beautiful mountain and sea, with its even temperate climate, and its natives whom English enthusiasm hoped not only to govern, but to civilize and assimilate, was in the minds of all to whom the colonies seemed to offer chances of social reconstruction beyond any that were possible in a crowded and decadent Europe. "Land of Hope," I find it often called in these old letters. "The gleam" was on it, and my father, like Browning's Waring, heard the call.
After it; follow it. Follow the gleam!
He writes to his mother in August, 1847, from the Colonial Office:
Every one whom I meet pities me for having to return to London at this dull season, but to my own feelings, it is not worse than at other times. The things which would make me loathe the thought of passing my life or even several years in London, do not depend on summer or winter. It is the chronic, not the acute ills of London life which are real ills to me. I meant to have talked to you again before I left home about New Zealand, but I could not find a good opportunity. I do not think you will be surprised to hear that I cannot give up my intention--though you may think me wrong, you will believe that no cold-heartedness towards home has assisted me in framing my resolution. Where or how we shall meet on this side the grave will be arranged for us by a wiser will than our own. To me, however strange and paradoxical it may sound, this going to New Zealand is become a work of faith, and I cannot but go through with it.
And later on when his plans are settled, he writes in exultation to his eldest sister:
The weather is gusty and rainy, but no cheerlessness without can repress a sort of exuberant buoyancy of spirit which is supplied to me from within. There is such an indescribable blessedness in looking forward to a manner of life which the heart and conscience approve, and which at the same time satisfies the instinct for the heroic and beautiful. Yet there seems little enough in a homely life in a New Zealand forest; and indeed there is nothing in the thing itself, except in so far as it flows from a principle, a faith.
And he goes on to speak in vague exalted words of the "equality" and "brotherhood" to which he looks forward in the new land; winding up with an account of his life in London, its daily work at the Colonial Office, his walks, the occasional evenings at the opera where he worships Jenny Lind, his readings and practisings in his lodgings. My poor father! He little knew what he was giving up, or the real conditions of the life to which he was going.
For, though the Philip of "The Bothie" may have "hewed and dug" to good purpose in New Zealand, success in colonial farming was a wild and fleeting dream in my father's case. He was born for academic life and a scholar's pursuits. He had no practical gifts, and knew nothing whatever of land or farming. He had only courage, youth, sincerity, and a charming presence which made him friends at sight. His mother, indeed, with her gentle wisdom, put no obstacles in his way. On the contrary, she remembered that her husband had felt a keen imaginative interest in the colonies, and had bought small sections of land near Wellington, which his second son now proposed to take up and farm. But some of the old friends of the family felt and expressed consternation. In particular, Baron Bunsen, then Prussian Ambassador to England, Arnold of Rugby's dear and faithful friend, wrote a letter of earnest and affectionate remonstrance to the would-be colonist. Let me quote it, if only that it may remind me of days long ago, when it was still possible for a strong and tender friendship to exist between a Prussian and an Englishman!
Bunsen points out to "young Tom" that he has only been eight or nine months in the Colonial Office, not long enough to give it a fair trial; that the drudgery of his clerkship will soon lead to more interesting things; that his superiors speak well of him; above all, that he has no money and no practical experience of farming, and that if he is going to New Zealand in the hope of building up a purer society, he will soon find himself bitterly disillusioned.
Pray, my dear young friend, do not reject the voice of a man of nearly sixty years, who has made his way through life under much greater difficulties perhaps than you imagine--who was your father's dear friend--who feels deeply attached to all that bears the honored and blessed name of Arnold--who in particular had _your father's promise_ that he would allow me to offer to _you_, after I had seen you in 1839, something of that care and friendship he had bestowed upon Henry [Bunsen's own son]--do not reject the warning voice of that man, if he entreats you solemnly not to take a _precipitate_ step. Give yourself time. Try a change of scene. Go for a month or two to France or Germany. I am sure you wish to satisfy your friends that you are acting wisely, considerately, in giving up what you have.
_Spartam quam nactus es, orna_--was Niebuhr's word to me when once, about 1825, wearied with diplomatic life, I resolved to throw up my place and go--not to New Zealand, but to a German University. Let me say that concluding word to you and believe me, my dear young friend,
Your sincere and affectionate friend
P.S.--If you feel disposed to have half an hour's quiet conversation with me alone, pray come to-day at six o'clock, and then dine with us quietly at half-past six. I go to-morrow to Windsor Castle for four days.
Nothing could have been kinder, nothing more truly felt and meant. But the young make their own experience, and my father, with the smiling open look which disarmed opposition, and disguised all the time a certain stubborn independence of will, characteristic of him through life, took his own way. He went to New Zealand, and, now that it was done, the interest and sympathy of all his family and friends followed him. Let me give here the touching letter which Arthur Stanley, his father's biographer, wrote to him the night before he left England.
UNIV. COLL., OXFORD, _Nov. 4, 1847._
Farewell!--(if you will let me once again recur to a relation so long since past away) farewell--my dearest, earliest, best of pupils. I cannot let you go without asking you to forgive those many annoyances which I fear I must have unconsciously inflicted upon you in the last year of your Oxford life--nor without expressing the interest which I feel, and shall I trust ever feel, beyond all that I can say, in your future course. You know--or perhaps you hardly can know--how when I came back to Oxford after the summer of 1842, your presence here was to me the stay and charm of my life--how the walks--the lectures--the Sunday evenings with you, filled up the void which had been left in my interests, and endeared to me all the beginnings of my College labors. That particular feeling, as is natural, has passed away--but it may still be a pleasure to you to feel in your distant home that whatever may be my occupations, nothing will more cheer and support me through them than the belief that in that new world your dear father's name is in you still loved and honored, and bringing forth the fruits which he would have delighted to see.
Farewell, my dear friend. May God in whom you trust be with you.
Do not trouble yourself to answer this--only take it as the true expression of one who often thinks how little he has done for you in comparison with what he would.
A. P. STANLEY.
[Footnote 1: By the sudden death of Doctor Arnold.]
But, of course, the inevitable happened. After a few valiant but quite futile attempts to clear his land with his own hands, or with the random labor he could find to help him, the young colonist fell back on the education he had held so cheap in England, and bravely took school-work wherever in the rising townships of the infant colony he could find it. Meanwhile his youth, his pluck, and his Oxford distinctions had attracted the kindly notice of the Governor, Sir George Grey, who offered him his private secretaryship--one can imagine the twinkle in the Governor's eye, when he first came across my father building his own hut on his section outside Wellington! The offer was gratefully refused. But another year of New Zealand life brought reconsideration. The exile begins to speak of "loneliness" in his letters home, to realize that it is "collision" with other kindred minds that "kindles the spark of thought," and presently, after a striking account of a solitary walk across unexplored country in New Zealand, he confesses that he is not sufficient for himself, and that the growth and vigor of the intellect were, for him, at least, "not compatible with loneliness."
A few months later, Sir William Denison, the newly appointed Governor of Van Diemen's Land, hearing that a son of Arnold of Rugby, an Oxford First Class man, was in New Zealand, wrote to offer my father the task of organizing primary education in Van Diemen's Land.
He accepted--yet not, I think, without a sharp sense of defeat at the hands of Mother Earth!--set sail for Hobart, and took possession of a post that might easily have led to great things. His father's fame preceded him, and he was warmly welcomed. The salary was good and the field free. Within a few months of his landing he was engaged to my mother. They were married in 1850, and I, their eldest child, was born in June, 1851.
And then the unexpected, the amazing thing happened. At the time of their marriage, and for some time after, my mother, who had been brought up in a Protestant "scriptural" atmosphere, and had been originally drawn to the younger "Tom Arnold," partly because he was the son of his father, as Stanley's _Life_ had now made the headmaster known to the world, was a good deal troubled by the heretical views of her young husband. She had some difficulty in getting him to consent to the baptism of his elder children. He was still in many respects the Philip of the "Bothie," influenced by Goethe, and the French romantics, by Emerson, Kingsley, and Carlyle, and in touch still with all that Liberalism of the later 'forties in Oxford, of which his most intimate friend, Arthur Clough, and his elder brother, Matthew Arnold, were to become the foremost representatives. But all the while, under the surface, an extraordinary transformation was going on. He was never able to explain it afterward, even to me, who knew him best of all his children. I doubt whether he ever understood it himself. But he who had only once crossed the High Street to hear Newman preach, and felt no interest in the sermon, now, on the other side of the world, surrendered to Newman's influence. It is uncertain if they had ever spoken to each other at Oxford; yet that subtle pervasive intellect which captured for years the critical and skeptical mind of Mark Pattison, and indirectly transformed the Church of England after Newman himself had left it, now, reaching across the world, laid hold on Arnold's son, when Arnold himself was no longer there to fight it. A general reaction against the negations and philosophies of his youth set in for "Philip," as inevitable in his case as the revolt against St. Sulpice was for Ernest Renan. For my father was in truth born for religion, as his whole later life showed. In that he was the true son of Arnold of Rugby. But his speculative Liberalism had carried him so much farther than his father's had ever gone, that the recoil was correspondingly great. The steps of it are dim. He was "struck" one Sunday with the "authoritative" tone of the First Epistle of Peter. Who and what was Peter? What justified such a tone? At another time he found a _Life of St. Brigit of Sweden_ at a country inn, when he was on one of his school-inspecting journeys across the island. And he records a mysterious influence or "voice" from it, as he rode in meditative solitude through the sunny spaces of the Tasmanian bush. Last of all, he "obtained"--from England, no doubt--the _Tracts for the Times_. And as he went through them, the same documents, and the same arguments, which had taken Newman to Rome, nine years before, worked upon his late and distant disciple. But who can explain "conversion"? Is it not enough to say, as was said of old, "The Holy Ghost fell on them that believed"? The great "Malignant" had indeed triumphed. In October, 1854, my father was received at Hobart, Tasmania, into the Church of Rome; and two years later, after he had reached England, and written to Newman asking the new Father of the Oratory to receive him, Newman replied:
How strange it seems! What a world this is! I knew your father a little, and I really think I never had any unkind feeling toward him. I saw him at Oriel on the Purification before (I think) his death (January, 1842). I was glad to meet him. If I said ever a harsh thing against him I am very sorry for it. In seeing you, I should have a sort of pledge that he at the moment of his death made it all up with me. Excuse this. I came here last night, and it is so marvelous to have your letter this morning.
So, for the moment, ended one incident in the long bout between two noble fighters, Arnold and Newman, each worthy of the other's steel. For my father, indeed, this act of surrender was but the beginning of a long and troubled history. My poor mother felt as though the earth had crumbled under her. Her passionate affection for my father endured till her latest hour, but she never reconciled herself to what he had done. There was in her an instinctive dread of Catholicism, of which I have suggested some of the origins--ancestral and historical. It never abated. Many years afterward, in writing _Helbeck of Bannisdale_, I drew upon what I remembered of it in describing some traits in Laura Fountain's inbred, and finally indomitable, resistance to the Catholic claim upon the will and intellect of men.
And to this trial in the realm of religious feeling there were added all the practical difficulties into which my father's action plunged her and his children. The Tasmanian appointment had to be given up, for the feeling in the colony was strongly anti-Catholic; and we came home, as I have described, to a life of struggle, privation, and constant anxiety, in which my mother suffered not only for herself, but for her children.
But, after all, there were bright spots. My father and mother were young; my mother's eager, sympathetic temper brought her many friends; and for us children, Fox How and its dear inmates opened a second home, and new joys, which upon myself in particular left impressions never to be effaced or undone. Let me try and describe that house and garden and those who lived in it, as they were in 1856.
The gray-stone house stands now, as it stood then, on a "how" or rising ground in the beautiful Westmorland valley leading from Ambleside to Rydal. The "Doctor" built it as a holiday paradise for himself and his children, in the year 1833. It is a modest building, with ten bedrooms and three sitting-rooms. Its windows look straight into the heart of Fairfield, the beautiful semicircular mountain which rears its hollowed front and buttressing scaurs against the north, far above the green floor of the valley. That the house looked north never troubled my grandfather or his children. What they cared for was the perfect outline of the mountain wall, the "pensive glooms," hovering in that deep breast of Fairfield, the magic never-ending chase of sunlight and cloud across it on fine days, and the beauty of the soft woodland clothing its base. The garden was his children's joy as it became mine. Its little beck with its mimic bridges, its encircling river, its rocky knolls, its wild strawberries and wild raspberries, its queen of birch-trees rearing a stately head against the distant mountain, its rhododendrons growing like weeds on its mossy banks, its velvet turf, and long silky grass in the parts left wild--all these things have made the joy of three generations.
Inside, Fox How was comfortably spacious, and I remember what a palace it appeared to my childish eyes, fresh from the tiny cabin of a 400-ton sailing-ship, and the rough life of a colony. My grandmother, its mistress, was then sixty-one. Her beautiful hair was scarcely touched with gray, her complexion was still delicately clear, and her soft brown eyes had the eager, sympathetic look of her Cornish race. Charlotte Brontë, who saw her a few years earlier, while on a visit to Miss Martineau, speaks of her as having been a "very pretty woman," and credits her and her daughters with "the possession of qualities the most estimable and endearing." In another letter, however, written to a less familiar correspondent, to whom Miss Brontë, as the literary lady with a critical reputation to keep up, expresses herself in a different and more artificial tone, she again describes my grandmother as good and charming, but doubts her claim to "power and completeness of character." The phrase occurs in a letter describing a call at Fox How, and its slight pomposity makes the contrast with the passage in which Matthew Arnold describes the same visit the more amusing.
At seven came Miss Martineau, and Miss Brontë (Jane Eyre); talked to Miss Martineau (who blasphemes frightfully) about the prospects of the Church of England, and, wretched man that I am, promised to go and see her cow-keeping miracles to-morrow, I who hardly know a cow from a sheep. I talked to Miss Brontë (past thirty and plain, with expressive gray eyes, though) of her curates, of French novels, and her education in a school at Brussels, and sent the lions roaring to their dens at half-past nine.
No one, indeed, would have applied the word "power" to my grandmother, unless he had known her very well. The general impression was always one of gentle sweetness and soft dignity. But the phrase, "completeness of character," happens to sum up very well the impression left by her life both on kindred and friends. What Miss Brontë exactly meant by it it is difficult to say. But the widowed mother of nine children, five of them sons, and all of them possessed of strong wills and quick intelligence, who was able so to guide their young lives that to her last hour, thirty years after her husband's death had left her alone with her task, she possessed their passionate reverence and affection, and that each and all of them would have acknowledged her as among the dearest and noblest influences in their lives, can hardly be denied "completeness of character." Many of her letters lie before me. Each son and daughter, as he or she went out into the world, received them with the utmost regularity. They knew that every incident in their lives interested their mother; and they in their turn were eager to report to her everything that came to them, happy or unhappy, serious or amusing. And this relation of the family to their mother only grew and strengthened with years. As the daughters married, their husbands became so many new and devoted sons to this gentle, sympathetic, and yet firm-natured woman. Nor were the daughters-in-law less attached to her, and the grandchildren who in due time began to haunt Fox How. In my own life I trace her letters from my earliest childhood, through my life at school, to my engagement and marriage; and I have never ceased to feel a pang of disappointment that she died before my children were born. Matthew Arnold adored her, and wrote to her every week of his life. So did her other children. William Forster, throughout his busy life in Parliament, vied with her sons in tender consideration and unfailing loyalty. And every grandchild thought of a visit to Fox How as not only a joy, but an honor. Indeed, nothing could have been more "complete," more rounded, than my grandmother's character and life as they developed through her eighty-three years. She made no conspicuous intellectual claim, though her quick intelligence, her wide sympathies, and clear judgment, combined with something ardent and responsive in her temperament, attracted and held able men; but her personality was none the less strong because it was so gently, delicately served by looks and manner.
Perhaps the "completeness" of my grandmother's character will be best illustrated by one of her family letters, a letter which may recall to some readers Stevenson's delightful poem on the mother who sits at home, watching the fledglings depart from the nest.
So from the hearth the children flee, By that almighty hand Austerely led; so one by sea Goes forth, and one by land; Nor aught of all-man's sons escapes from that command.
* * * * *
And as the fervent smith of yore Beat out the glowing blade, Nor wielded in the front of war The weapons that he made, But in the tower at home still plied his ringing trade;
So like a sword the son shall roam On nobler missions sent; And as the smith remained at home In peaceful turret pent, So sits the while at home the mother well content.
The letter was written to my father in New Zealand in the year 1848, as a family chronicle. The brothers and sisters named in it are Walter, the youngest of the family, a middy of fourteen, on board ship, and not very happy in the Navy, which he was ultimately to leave for Durham University and business; Willy, in the Indian Army, afterward the author of _Oakfield_, a novel attacking the abuses of Anglo-Indian life, and the first Director of Public Instruction in the Punjab--commemorated by his poet brother in "A Southern Night"; Edward, at Oxford; Mary, the second daughter, who at the age of twenty-two had been left a widow after a year of married life; and Fan, the youngest daughter of the flock, who now, in 1917, alone represents them in the gray house under the fells. The little Westmorland farm described is still exactly as it was; and has still a Richardson for master, though of a younger generation. And Rydal Chapel, freed now from the pink cement which clothed it in those days, and from the high pews familiar to the children of Fox How, still sends the cheerful voice of its bells through the valley on Sunday mornings.
The reader will remember, as he reads it, that he is in the troubled year of 1848, with Chartism at home and revolution abroad. The "painful interest" with which the writer has read Clough's "Bothie" refers, I think, to the fact that she has recognized her second son, my father, as to some extent the hero of the poem.
Fox How, _Nov. 19, 1848._
My Dearest Tom,--... I am always intending to send you something like a regular journal, but twenty days of the month have now passed away, and it is not done. Dear Matt, who was with us at the beginning, and who I think bore a part in our last letters to you, has returned to his post in London, and I am not without hope of hearing by to-morrow's post that he has run down to Portsmouth to see Walter before he sails on a cruise with the Squadron, which I believe he was to do to-day. But I should think they would hardly leave Port in such dirty weather, when the wind howls and the rain pours, and the whole atmosphere is thick and lowering as I suppose you rarely or never see it in New Zealand. I wish the more that Matt may get down to Spithead, because the poor little man has been in a great ferment about leaving his Ship and going into a smaller one. By the same post I had a letter from him, and from Captain Daws, who had been astonished and grieved by Walter's coming to him and telling him he wished to leave the ship. It was evident that Captain D. was quite distressed about it.
She then discusses, very shrewdly and quietly, the reasons for her boy's restlessness, and how best to meet it. The letter goes on:
Certainly there is great comfort in having him with so true and good a friend as Captain D. and I could not feel justified in acting against his counsel. But as he gets to know Walter better, I think it very likely that he will himself think it better for him to be in some ship not so likely to stay about in harbor as the _St. Vincent_; and will judge that with a character like his it might be better for him to be on some more distant stations.
I write about all this as coolly as if he were not my own dear youngest born, the little dear son whom I have so cherished, and who was almost a nursling still, when the bond which kept us all together was broken. But I believe I do truly feel that if my beloved sons are good and worthy of the name they bear, are in fact true, earnest, Christian men, I have no wish left for them--no selfish longings after their companionship, which can for a moment be put in comparison with such joy. Thus it almost seemed strange to me when, in a letter the other day from Willy to Edward, in reference to his--E's--future destination--Willy rather urged upon him a home, domestic life, on _my_ account, as my sons were already so scattered. As I say, those loving words seemed strange to me; because I have such an overpowering feeling that the all-in-all to me is that my sons should be in just that vocation in life most suited to them, and most bringing out what is highest and best in them; whether it might be in England, or at the furthest extremity of the world.
* * * * *
_November 24, 1848._--I have been unwell for some days, dearest Tom, and this makes me less active in all my usual employments, but it shall not, if I can help it, prevent my making some progress in this letter, which in less than a week may perhaps be on its way to New Zealand. I have just sent Fan down-stairs, for she nurses her Mother till I begin to think some change good for her. She has been reading aloud to me, and now, as the evening advances I have asked some of them to read to me a long poem by Clough--(the "Bothie") which I have no doubt will reach you. It does not _look_ attractive to me, for it is in English Hexameters, which are to me very cumbrous and uninviting; but probably that may be for some want of knowledge in my own ear and taste. The poem is addressed to his pupils of last summer, and in scenery, etc., will have, I suppose, many touches from his Highland residence; but, in a brief Preface, he says that the tale itself is altogether fiction.
* * * * *
To turn from things domestic to things at large, what a state of things is this at Berlin! a state of siege declared, and the King at open issue with his representatives!--from the country districts, people flocking to give him aid, while the great towns are almost in revolt. "Always too late" might, I suppose, have been his motto; and when things have been given with one hand, he has seemed too ready to withdraw them with the other. But, after all, I must and do believe that he has noble qualities, so to have won Bunsen's love and respect.
_November 25._--Mary is preparing a long letter, and it will therefore matter the less if mine is not so long as I intended. I have not yet quite made up the way I have lost in my late indisposition, and we have such volumes of letters from dear Willy to answer, that I believe this folio will be all I can send to you, my own darling; but you do not dwell in my heart or my thoughts less fondly. I long inexpressibly to have some definite ideas of what you are now--after some eight months of residence--doing, thinking, feeling; what are your occupations in the present, what your aims and designs for the future. The assurance that it is your first and heartful desire to please God, my dear son; that you have struggled to do this and not allowed yourself to shrink from whatever you felt to be involved in it, this is, and will be my deepest and dearest comfort, and I pray to Him to guide you into all truth. But though supported by this assurance, I do not pretend to say that often and often I do not yearn over you in my thoughts, and long to bestow upon you in act and word, as well as in thought, some of that overflowing love which is cherished for you in your home.
And here follows a tender mother-word in reference to an early and unrequited attachment of my father's, the fate of which may possibly have contributed to the restlessness which sent him beyond the seas.
But, dear Tom, I believe that though the hoped for flower and fruit have faded, yet that the plant has been strengthened and purified.... It would be a grief to me not to believe that you will yet be most happy in married life; and when you can make to yourself a home I shall perhaps lose some of my restless longing to be near you and ministering to your comfort, and sharing in your life--if I can think of you as cheered and helped by one who loved you as I did your own beloved father.
_Sunday, November 26._--Just a year, my son, since you left England! But I really must not allow myself to dwell on this, and all the thoughts it brings with it; for I found last night that the contrast between the fulness of thought and feeling, and my own powerlessness to express it weighed on me heavily; and not having yet quite recovered my usual tone, I could not well bear it. So I will just try to collect for you a few more home Memoranda, and then have done.... Our new tenant, James Richardson, is now fairly established at his farm, and when I went up there and saw the cradle and the happy childish faces around the table, and the rows of oatmeal cake hanging up, and the cheerful, active Mother going hither and thither--now to her Dairy--now guiding the steps of the little one that followed her about--and all the time preparing things for her husband's return from his work at night, I could not but feel that it was a very happy picture of English life. Alas! that there are not larger districts where it exists! But I hope there is still much of it; and I feel that while there is an awful undercurrent of misery and sin--the latter both caused by the first and causing it--and while, on the surface, there is carelessness, and often recklessness and hardness and trifling, yet that still, in our English society, there is, between these two extremes, a strength of good mixed with baser elements, which must and will, I fully believe, support us nationally in the troublous times which are at hand--on which we are actually entered.
But again I am wandering, and now the others have gone off to the Rydal Chapel without me this lovely Sunday morning. There are the bells sounding invitingly across the valley, and the evergreens are white and sparkling in the sun.
I have a note from Clough.... His poem is as remarkable, I think, as you would expect, coming from him. Its _power_ quite overcame my dislike to the measure--so far at least as to make me read it with great interest--often, though, a painful one. And now I must end.
As to Miss Brontë's impressions of Matthew Arnold in that same afternoon call of 1850, they were by no means flattering. She understands that he was already the author of "a volume of poems" (_The Poems by A,_ 1849), remarks that his manner "displeases from its seeming foppery," but recognizes, nevertheless, in conversation with him, "some genuine intellectual aspirations"! It was but a few years later that my uncle paid his poet's homage to the genius of the two sisters--to Charlotte of the "expressive gray eyes"--to Emily of the "chainless soul." I often try to picture their meeting in the Fox How drawing-room: Matthew Arnold, tall, handsome, in the rich opening of his life, his first poetic honors thick upon him, looking with a half-critical, half-humorous eye at the famous little lady whom Miss Martineau had brought to call upon his mother; and beside him that small, intrepid figure, on which the worst storms of life had already beaten, which was but five short years from its own last rest. I doubt whether, face to face, they would ever have made much of each other. But the sister who could write of a sister's death as Charlotte wrote, in the letter that every lover of great prose ought to have by heart--
Emily suffers no more from pain or weakness now, she never will suffer more in this world. She is gone, after a hard, short conflict.... We are very calm at present, why should we be otherwise? The anguish of seeing her suffer is over; the spectacle of the pains of death is gone; the funeral day is past. We feel she is at peace. No need now to tremble for the hard frost and the keen wind. _Emily does not feel them_.--
must have stretched out spiritual hands to Matthew Arnold, had she lived to read "A Southern Night"--that loveliest, surely, of all laments of brother for brother.
THE FAMILY OF FOX HOW
Doctor Arnold's eldest daughter, Jane Arnold, afterward Mrs. W.E. Forster, my godmother, stands out for me on the tapestry of the past, as one of the noblest personalities I have ever known. She was twenty-one when her father died, and she had been his chief companion among his children for years before death took him from her. He taught her Latin and Greek, he imbued her with his own political and historical interests, and her ardent Christian faith answered to his own. After his death she was her mother's right hand at Fox How; and her letters to her brothers--to my father, especially, since he was longest and farthest away--show her quick and cultivated mind, and all the sweetness of her nature. We hear of her teaching a younger brother Latin and Greek; she goes over to Miss Martineau on the other side of the valley to translate some German for that busy woman; she reads Dante beside her mother, when the rest of the family have gone to bed; she sympathizes passionately with Mazzini and Garibaldi; and every week she walks over Loughrigg through fair weather and foul, summer and winter, to teach in a night school at Skelwith. Then the young Quaker manufacturer, William Forster, appears on the scene, and she falls happily and completely in love. Her letters to the brother in New Zealand become, in a moment, all joy and ardor, and nothing could be prettier than the account, given by one of the sisters, of the quiet wedding in Rydal Chapel, the family breakfast, the bride's simple dress and radiant look, Matthew Arnold giving his sister away--with the great fells standing sentinel. And there exists a delightful unpublished letter by Harriet Martineau which gives some idea of the excitement roused in the quiet Ambleside valley by Jane Arnold's engagement to the tall Yorkshireman who came from surroundings so different from the academic and scholarly world in which the Arnolds had been brought up.
Then followed married life at Rawdon near Bradford, with supreme happiness at home, and many and growing interests in the manufacturing, religious, and social life around the young wife. In 1861 William Forster became member for Bradford, and in 1869 Gladstone included him in that Ministry of all the talents, which foundered under the onslaughts of Disraeli in 1874. Forster became Vice-President of the Council, which meant Minister for Education, with a few other trifles like the cattle-plague thrown in. The Education Bill, which William Forster brought in in 1870 (as a girl of eighteen, I was in the Ladies' Gallery of the House of Commons on the great day to hear his speech), has been the foundation-stone ever since of English popular education. It has always been clear to me that the scheme of the bill was largely influenced by William Forster's wife, and, through her, by the convictions and beliefs of her father. The compromise by which the Church schools, with the creeds and the Church catechism, were preserved, under a conscience clause, while the dissenters got their way as to the banishment of creeds and catechisms, and the substitution for them of "simple Bible-teaching," in the schools founded under the new School Boards, which the bill set up all over England, has practically--with, of course, modifications--held its ground for nearly half a century. It was illogical; and the dissenters have never ceased to resent the perpetuation of the Church school which it achieved. But English life is illogical. It met the real situation; and it would never have taken the shape it did--in my opinion--but for the ardent beliefs of the young and remarkable woman, at once a strong Liberal and a devoted daughter of the English Church, as Arnold, Kingsley, and Maurice understood it, who had married her Quaker husband in 1850, and had thereby been the innocent cause of his automatic severance from the Quaker body. His respect for her judgment and intellectual power was only equaled by his devotion to her. And when the last great test of his own life came, how she stood by him!--through those terrible days of the Land League struggle, when, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, Forster carried his life in his hand month after month, to be worn out finally by the double toil of Parliament and Ireland, and to die just before Mr. Gladstone split the Liberal party in 1886, by the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, in which Forster would not have followed him.
I shall, however, have something to say later on in these Reminiscences about those tragic days. To those who watched Mrs. Forster through them, and who knew her intimately, she was one of the most interesting figures of that crowded time. Few people, however, outside the circle of her kindred, knew her intimately. She was, of course, in the ordinary social and political world, both before and after her husband's entrance upon office, and admission to the Cabinet; dining out and receiving at home; attending Drawing-rooms and public functions; staying at country houses, and invited to Windsor, like other Ministers' wives, and keenly interested in all the varying fortunes of Forster's party. But though she was in that world, she was never truly of it. She moved through it, yet veiled from it, by that pure, unconscious selflessness which is the saint's gift. Those who ask nothing for themselves, whose whole strength is spent on affections that are their life, and on ideals at one with their affections, are not easily popular, like the self-seeking, parti-colored folk who make up the rest of us; who flatter, caress, and court, that we in our turn may be flattered and courted. Their gentleness masks the indomitable soul within; and so their fellows are often unaware of their true spiritual rank.
It is interesting to recall the instinctive sympathy with which a nature so different from Charlotte Brontë's as that of Arnold's eldest daughter, met the challenge of the Brontë genius. It would not have been wonderful--in those days--if the quiet Fox How household, with its strong religious atmosphere, its daily psalms and lessons, its love for _The Christian Year_, its belief in "discipline" (how that comes out in all the letters!) had been repelled by the blunt strength of _Jane Eyre_; just as it would not have been wonderful if they had held aloof from Miss Martineau, in the days when it pleased that remarkable woman to preach mesmeric atheism, or atheistic mesmerism, as we choose to put it. But there was a lifelong friendship between them and Harriet Martineau; and they recognized at once the sincerity and truth--the literary rank, in fact--of _Jane Eyre_. Not long after her marriage, Jane Forster with her husband went over to Haworth to see Charlotte Brontë. My aunt's letter, describing the visit to the dismal parsonage and church, is given without her name in Mrs. Gaskell's _Life_, and Mr. Shorter, in reprinting it in the second of his large volumes, does not seem to be aware of the identity of the writer.
Miss Brontë put me so in mind of her own Jane Eyre [wrote my godmother]. She looked smaller than ever, and moved about so quietly and noiselessly, just like a little bird, as Rochester called her; except that all birds are joyous, and that joy can never have entered that house since it was built. And yet, perhaps, when that old man (Mr. Brontë) married and took home his bride, and children's voices and feet were heard about the house, even that desolate graveyard and biting blast could not quench cheerfulness and hope. Now (i.e. since the deaths of Emily and Anne) there is something touching in the sight of that little creature entombed in such a place, and moving about herself there like a spirit; especially when you think that the slight still frame incloses a force of strong, fiery life, which nothing has been able to freeze or extinguish.
This letter was written before my birth and about six years before the writer of it appeared, as an angel of help, in the dingy dock-side inn, where we tired travelers had taken shelter on our arrival from the other side of the world, and where I was first kissed by my godmother. As I grew up into girlhood, "Aunt K." (K. was the pet name by which Matthew Arnold always wrote to her) became for me part of the magic of Fox How, though I saw her, of course, often in her own home also. I felt toward her a passionate and troubled affection. She was to me "a thing enskied" and heavenly--for all her quick human interests, and her sweet ways with those she loved. How could any one be so good!--was often the despairing reflection of the child who adored her, caught herself in the toils of a hot temper and a stubborn will; but all the same, to see her enter a room was joy, and to sit by her the highest privilege. I don't know whether she could be strictly called beautiful. But to me everything about her was beautiful--her broad brow, her clear brown eyes and wavy brown hair, the touch of stately grace with which she moved, the mouth so responsive and soft, yet, at need, so determined, the hand so delicate, yet so characteristic.
She was the eldest of nine. Of her relation to the next of them--her brother Matthew--there are many indications in the collection of my uncle's letters, edited by Mr. George Russell. It was to her that "Resignation" was addressed, in recollection of their mountain walks and talks together; and in a letter to her, the Sonnet "To Shakespeare," "Others abide our question--thou art free," was first written out. Their affection for each other, in spite of profound differences of opinion, only quickened and deepened with time.
Between my father and his elder brother Matthew Arnold there was barely a year's difference of age. The elder was born in December, 1822, and the younger in November, 1823. They were always warmly attached to each other, and in spite of much that was outwardly divergent--sharply divergent--they were more alike fundamentally than was often suspected. Both had derived from some remoter ancestry--possibly through their Cornish mother, herself the daughter of a Penrose and a Trevenen--elements and qualities which were lacking in the strong personality of their father. Imagination, "rebellion against fact," spirituality, a tendency to dream, unworldliness, the passionate love of beauty and charm, "ineffectualness" in the practical competitive life--these, according to Matthew Arnold, when he came to lecture at Oxford on "The Study of Celtic Literature," were and are the characteristic marks of the Celt. They were unequally distributed between the two brothers. "Unworldliness," "rebellion against fact," "ineffectualness" in common life, fell rather to my father's share than my uncle's; though my uncle's "worldliness," of which he was sometimes accused, if it ever existed, was never more than skin-deep. Imagination in my father led to a lifelong and mystical preoccupation with religion; it made Matthew Arnold one of the great poets of the nineteenth century.
There is a sketch of my father made in 1847, which preserves the dreamy, sensitive look of early youth, when he was the center of a band of remarkable friends--Clough, Stanley, F.T. Palgrave, Alfred Domett (Browning's Waring), and others. It is the face--nobly and delicately cut--of one to whom the successes of the practical, competitive life could never be of the same importance as those events which take place in thought, and for certain minds are the only real events. "For ages and ages the world has been constantly slipping ever more and more out of the Celt's grasp," wrote Matthew Arnold. But all the while the Celt has great compensations. To him belongs another world than the visible; the world of phantasmagoria, of emotion, the world of passionate beginnings, rather than of things achieved. After the romantic and defiant days of his youth, my father, still pursuing the same natural tendency, found all that he needed in Catholicism, and specially, I think, in that endless poetry and mystery of the Mass which keeps Catholicism alive.
Matthew Arnold was very different in outward aspect. The face, strong and rugged, the large mouth, the broad lined brow, and vigorous coal-black hair, bore no resemblance, except for that fugitive yet vigorous something which we call "family likeness," to either his father or mother--still less to the brother so near to him in age. But the Celtic trace is there, though derived, I have sometimes thought, rather from an Irish than a Cornish source. Doctor Arnold's mother, Martha Delafield, according to a genealogy I see no reason to doubt, was partly of Irish blood; one finds, at any rate, Fitzgeralds and Dillons among the names of her forebears. And I have seen in Ireland faces belonging to the "black Celt" type--faces full of power and humor, and softness, visibly molded out of the good common earth by the nimble spirit within, which have reminded me of my uncle. Nothing, indeed, at first sight could have been less romantic or dreamy than his outer aspect. "Ineffectualness" was not to be thought of in connection with him. He stood four-square--a courteous, competent man of affairs, an admirable inspector of schools, a delightful companion, a guest whom everybody wanted and no one could bind for long; one of the sanest, most independent, most cheerful and lovable of mortals. Yet his poems show what was the real inner life and genius of the man; how rich in that very "emotion," "love of beauty and charm," "rebellion against fact," "spirituality," "melancholy" which he himself catalogued as the cradle gifts of the Celt. Crossed, indeed, always, with the Rugby "earnestness," with that in him which came to him from his father.
It is curious to watch the growing perception of "Matt's" powers among the circle of his nearest kin, as it is reflected in these family letters to the emigrant brother, which reached him across the seas from 1847 to 1856, and now lie under my hand. The _Poems by A._ came out, as all lovers of English poetry know, in 1849. My grandmother writes to my father in March of that year, after protesting that she has not much news to give him:
But the little volume of Poems!--that is indeed a subject of new and very great interest. By degrees we hear more of public opinion concerning them, and I am very much mistaken if their power both in thought and execution is not more and more felt and acknowledged. I had a letter from dear Miss Fenwick to-day, whose first impressions were that they were by _you_, for it seems she had heard of the volume as much admired, and as by one of the family, and she had hardly thought it could be by one so moving in the busy haunts of men as dear Matt.... Matt himself says: "I have learned a good deal as to what is _practicable_ from the objections of people, even when I thought them not reasonable, and in some degree they may determine my course as to publishing; e.g., I had thoughts of publishing another volume of short poems next spring, and a tragedy I have long had in my head, the spring after: at present I shall leave the short poems to take their chance, only writing them when I cannot help it, and try to get on with my Tragedy ('Merope'), which however will not be a very quick affair. But as that must be in a regular and usual form, it may perhaps, if it succeeds, enable me to use meters in short poems which seem proper to myself; whether they suit the habits of readers at first sight or not. But all this is rather vague at present.... I think I am getting quite indifferent about the book. I have given away the only copy I had, and now never look at them. The most enthusiastic people about them are young men of course; but I have heard of one or two people who found pleasure in 'Resignation,' and poems of that stamp, which is what I like."
"The most enthusiastic people about them are young men, of course." The sentence might stand as the motto of all poetic beginnings. The young poet writes first of all for the young of his own day. They make his bodyguard. They open to him the gates of the House of Fame. But if the divine power is really his, it soon frees itself from the shackles of Time and Circumstance. The true poet becomes, in the language of the Greek epigram on Homer, "the ageless mouth of all the world." And if, "The Strayed Reveller," and the Sonnet "To Shakespeare," and "Resignation," delighted those who were young in 1849, that same generation, as the years passed over it, instead of outgrowing their poet, took him all the more closely to their hearts. Only so can we explain the steady spread and deepening of his poetic reputation which befell my uncle up to the very end of his life, and had assured him by then--leaving out of count the later development of his influence both in the field of poetry and elsewhere--his place in the history of English literature.
But his entry as a poet was gradual, and but little heralded, compared to the debuts of our own time. Here is an interesting appreciation from his sister Mary, about whom I shall have more to say presently. At the time this letter was written, in 1849, she was twenty-three, and already a widow, after a tragic year of married life during which her young husband had developed paralysis of the brain. She was living in London, attending Bedford College, and F.D. Maurice's sermons, much influenced, like her brothers, by Emerson and Carlyle, and at this moment a fine, restless, immature creature, much younger than her years in some respects, and much older in others--with worlds hitherto unsuspected in the quiet home life. She writes:
I have been in London for several months this year, and I have seen a good deal of Matt, considering the very different lives we lead. I used to breakfast with him sometimes, and then his Poems seemed to make me know Matt so much better than I had ever done before. Indeed it was almost like a new Introduction to him. I do not think those Poems could be read--quite independently of their poetical power--without leading one to expect a great deal from Matt; without raising I mean the kind of expectation one has from and for those who have, in some way or other, come face to face with life and asked it, in real earnest, what it means. I felt there was so much more of this practical questioning in Matt's book than I was at all prepared for; in fact that it showed a knowledge of life and conflict which was _strangely like experience_ if it was not the thing itself; and this with all Matt's great power I should not have looked for. I do not yet know the book well, but I think that "Mycerinus" struck me most, perhaps, as illustrating what I have been speaking of.
And again, to another member of the family:
It is the moral strength, or, at any rate, the _moral consciousness_ which struck and surprised me so much in the poems. I could have been prepared for any degree of poetical power, for there being a great deal more than I could at all appreciate; but there is something altogether different from this, something which such a man as Clough has, for instance, which I did not expect to find in Matt; but it is there. Of course when I speak of his Poems I only speak of the impression received from those I understand. Some are perfect riddles to me, such as that to the Child at Douglas, which is surely more poetical than true.
_Strangely like experience!_ The words are an interesting proof of the difficulty we all have in seeing with accuracy the persons and things which are nearest to us. The astonishment of the sisters--for the same feeling is expressed by Mrs. Forster--was very natural. In these early days, "Matt" often figures in the family letters as the worldling of the group--the dear one who is making way in surroundings quite unknown to the Fox How circle, where, under the shadow of the mountains, the sisters, idealists all of them, looking out a little austerely, for all their tenderness, on the human scene, are watching with a certain anxiety lest Matt should be "spoiled." As Lord Lansdowne's private secretary, very much liked by his chief, he goes among rich and important people, and finds himself, as a rule, much cleverer than they; above all, able to amuse them, so often the surest road to social and other success. Already at Oxford "Matt" had been something of an exquisite--or, as Miss Brontë puts it, a trifle "foppish"; and (in the manuscript) _Fox How Magazine_, to which all the nine contributed, and in which Matthew Arnold's boyish poems may still be read, there are many family jests leveled at Matt's high standard in dress and deportment.
But how soon the nascent dread lest their poet should be somehow separated from them by the "great world" passes away from mother and sisters--forever! With every year of his life Matthew Arnold, besides making the sunshine of his own married home, became a more attached, a more devoted son and brother. The two volumes of his published letters are there to show it. I will only quote here a sentence from a letter of Mrs. Arnold's, written in 1850, a year after the publication of the _Poems by A._ She and her eldest daughter, then shortly to become William Forster's wife, were at the time in London. "K" had been seriously ill, and the marriage had been postponed for a short time.
Matt [says Mrs. Arnold] has been with us almost every day since we came up--now so long ago!--and it is pleasant indeed to see his dear face, and to find him always so affectionate, and so unspoiled by his being so much sought after in a kind of society entirely different from anything we can enter into.
But, indeed, the time saved, day after day, for an invalid sister, by a run-after young man of twenty-seven, who might so easily have made one or other of the trifling or selfish excuses we are all so ready to make, was only a prophecy of those many "nameless unremembered acts" of simple kindness which filled the background of Matthew Arnold's middle and later life, and were not revealed, many of them, even to his own people, till after his death--kindness to a pupil-teacher, an unsuccessful writer, a hard-worked schoolmaster or schoolmistress, a budding poet, a school-boy. It was not possible to "spoil" Matthew Arnold. Meredith's "Comic Spirit" in him, his irrepressible humor, would alone have saved him from it. And as to his relation to "society," and the great ones in it, no one more frankly amused himself--within certain very definite limits--with the "cakes and ale" of life, and no one held more lightly to them. He never denied--none but the foolish ever do deny--the immense personal opportunities and advantages of an aristocratic class, wherever it exists. He was quite conscious--none but those without imagination can fail to be conscious--of the glamour of long descent and great affairs. But he laughed at the "Barbarians," the materialized or stupid holders of power and place, and their "fortified posts"--i.e., the country houses--just as he laughed at the Philistines and Mr. Bottles; when he preached a sermon in later life, it was on Menander's motto, "Choose Equality"; and he and Clough--the Republican--were not really far apart. He mocked even at Clough, indeed, addressing his letters to him, "Citizen Clough, Oriel Lyceum, Oxford"; but in the midst of the revolutionary hubbub of 1848 he pours himself out to Clough only--he and "Thyrsis," to use his own expression in a letter, "agreeing like two lambs in a world of wolves," and in his early sonnet (1848) "To a Republican Friend" (who was certainly Clough) he says:
If sadness at the long heart-wasting show Wherein earth's great ones are disquieted; If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed-- If these are yours, if this is what you are, Then I am yours, and what you feel, I share.
Yet, as he adds, in the succeeding sonnet, he has no belief in sudden radical change, nor in any earthly millennium--
Seeing this vale, this earth, whereon we dream, Is on all sides o'ershadowed by the high Uno'erleaped mountains of necessity, Sparing us narrower margin than we dream.
On the eagerness with which Matthew Arnold followed the revolutionary spectacle of 1848, an unpublished letter written--piquantly enough!--from Lansdowne House itself, on February 28th, in that famous year, to my father in New Zealand, throws a vivid light. One feels the artist in the writer. First, the quiet of the great house and courtyard, the flower-pricked grass, the "still-faced babies"; then the sudden clash of the street-cries! "Your uncle's description of this house," writes the present Lord Lansdowne, in 1910, "might almost have been written yesterday, instead of in 1848. Little is changed, Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf are still on the top of the bookcase, and the clock is still hard by; but the picture of the Jewish Exiles...has been given to a local School of Art in Wiltshire! The green lawn remains, but I am afraid the crocuses, which I can remember as a child, no longer come up through the turf. And lastly one of the 'still-faced babies' [i.e., Lord Lansdowne himself] is still often to be seen in the gravel court! He was three years old when the letter was written."
Here, then, is the letter:
LANSDOWNE HOUSE, _Feb. 8, 1848._
MY DEAREST TOM,--...Here I sit, opposite a marble group of Romulus and Remus and the wolf; the two children fighting like mad, and the limp-uddered she-wolf affectionately snarling at the little demons struggling on her back. Above it is a great picture, Rembrandt's Jewish Exiles, which would do for Consuelo and Albert resting in one of their wanderings, worn out upon a wild stony heath sloping to the Baltic--she leaning over her two children who sleep in their torn rags at her feet. Behind me a most musical clock, marking now 24 Minutes past 1 P.M. On my left two great windows looking out on the court in front of the house, through one of which, slightly opened, comes in gushes the soft damp breath, with a tone of spring-life in it, which the close of an English February sometimes brings--so different from a November mildness. The green lawn which occupies nearly half the court is studded over with crocuses of all colors--growing out of the grass, for there are no flower-beds; delightful for the large still-faced white-robed babies whom their nurses carry up and down on the gravel court where it skirts the green. And from the square and the neighboring streets, through the open door whereat the civil porter moves to and fro, come the sounds of vehicles and men, in all gradations, some from near and some from far, but mellowed by the time they reach this backstanding lordly mansion.
But above all cries comes one whereat every stone in this and other lordly mansions may totter and quake for fear:
"Se...c...ond Edition of the Morning _Herald_--L...a...test news from Paris:--arrival of the King of the French."
I have gone out and bought the said portentous _Herald_, and send it herewith, that you may read and know. As the human race forever stumbles up its great steps, so it is now. You remember the Reform Banquets [in Paris] last summer?--well!--the diners omitted the king's health, and abused Guizot's majority as corrupt and servile: the majority and the king grew excited; the Government forbade the Banquets to continue. The king met the Chamber with the words "_passions aveugles_" to characterize the dispositions of the Banqueters: and Guizot grandly declared against the spirit of Revolution all over the world. His practice suited his words, or seemed to suit them, for both in Switzerland and Italy, the French Government incurred the charge of siding against the Liberals. Add to this the corruption cases you remember, the Praslin murder, and later events, which powerfully stimulated the disgust (moral indignation that People does not feel!) entertained by the lower against the governing class.
Then Thiers, seeing the breeze rising, and hoping to use it, made most telling speeches in the debate on the Address, clearly defining the crisis as a question between revolution and counter-revolution, and declaring enthusiastically for the former. Lamartine and others, the sentimental and the plain honest, were very damaging on the same side. The Government were harsh-- abrupt--almost scornful. They would not yield--would not permit banquets: would give no Reform till they chose. Guizot spoke (alone in the Chamber, I think) to this effect. With decreasing Majorities the Government carried the different clauses of the address, amidst furious scenes; opposition members crying that they were worse than Polignac. It was resolved to hold an Opposition banquet in Paris in spite of the Government, last Tuesday, the 22d. In the week between the close of the debate and this day there was a profound, uneasy excitement, but nothing I think to appall the rulers. They had the fortifications; all kinds of stores; and 100,000 troops of the line. To be quite secure, however, they determined to take a formal legal objection to the banquet at the doors; but not to prevent the procession thereto. On that the Opposition published a proclamation inviting the National Guard, who sympathized, to form part of the procession in uniform. Then the Government forbade the meeting altogether--absolutely--and the Opposition resigned themselves to try the case in a Court of Law.
_So did not the people!_
They gathered all over Paris: the National Guard, whom Ministers did not trust, were not called out: the Line checked and dispersed the mob on all points. But next day the mob were there again: the Ministers in a constitutional fright called out the National Guard: a body of these hard by the Opéra refused to clear the street, they joined the people. Troops were brought up: the Mob and the National Guard refused to give them passage down the Rue le Pelletier, which they occupied: after a moment's hesitation, they were marched on along the Boulevard.
This settled the matter! Everywhere the National Guard fraternized with the people: the troops stood indifferent. The King dismissed the Ministers: he sent for Molé; a shade better: not enough: he sent for Thiers--a pause; this was several shades better--still not enough: meanwhile the crowd continued, and attacks on different posts, with slight bloodshed, increased the excitement: finally _the King abdicated_ in favor of the Count of Paris, and fled. The Count of Paris was taken by his mother to the Chamber--the people broke in; too late--not enough:--a republic--an appeal to the people. The royal family escaped to all parts, Belgium, Eu, England: _a Provisional Government named_.
You will see how they stand: they have adopted the last measures of Revolution.--News has just come that the National Guard have declared against a Republic, and that a collision is inevitable.
If possible I will write by the next mail, and send you a later paper than the _Herald_ by this mail.
Your truly affectionate, dearest Tom,
To this let me add here two or three other letters or fragments, all unpublished, which I find among the papers from which I have been drawing, ending, for the present, with the jubilant letter describing his election to the Poetry Professorship at Oxford, in 1857. Here, first of all, is an amusing reference, dated 1849, to Keble, then the idol of every well-disposed Anglican household:
I dined last night with a Mr. Grove, a celebrated man of science: his wife is pretty and agreeable, but not on a first interview. The husband and I agree wonderfully on some points. He is a bad sleeper, and hardly ever free from headache; he equally dislikes and disapproves of modern existence and the state of excitement in which everybody lives: and he sighs after a paternal despotism and the calm existence of a Russian or Asiatic. He showed me a picture of Faraday, which is wonderfully fine: I am almost inclined to get it: it has a curious likeness to Keble, only with a calm, earnest look unlike the latter's Flibbertigibbet, fanatical, twinkling expression.
[Footnote 1: Afterward Sir William Grove, F.R.S., author of the famous essay on "The Correlation of Physical Force."]
Did ever anybody apply such adjectives to John Keble before! Yet if any one will look carefully at the engraving of Keble so often seen in quiet parsonages, they will understand, I think, exactly what Matthew Arnold meant.
In 1850 great changes came upon the Arnold family. The "Doctor's" elder three children--Jane, Matthew, and my father--married in that year, and a host of new interests sprang up for every member of the Fox How circle. I find in a letter to my father from Arthur Stanley, his father's biographer, and his own Oxford tutor, the following reference to "Matt's" marriage, and to the second series of Poems--containing "Sohrab and Rustum"--which were published in 1854. "You will have heard," writes Stanley, "of the great success of Matt's poems. He is in good heart about them. He is also--I must say so, though perhaps I have no right to say so--greatly improved by his marriage--retaining all the genius and nobleness of mind which you remember, with all the lesser faults pruned and softened down." Matt himself wrote to give news of his wedding, to describe the bride--Judge Wightman's daughter, the dear and gracious little lady whom we grandchildren knew and loved as "Aunt Fanny Lucy"--and to wish my father joy of his own. And then there is nothing among the waifs and strays that have come to me worth printing, till 1855, when my uncle writes to New Zealand:
I hope you have got my book by this time. What you will like best, I think, will be the "Scholar Gipsy." I am sure that old Cumner and Oxford country will stir a chord in you. For the preface I doubt if you will care, not having much before your eyes the sins and offenses at which it is directed: the first being that we have numbers of young gentlemen with really wonderful powers of perception and expression, but to whom there is wholly wanting a "_bedeutendes Individuum"_--so that their productions are most unedifying and unsatisfactory. But this is a long story.
As to Church matters. I think people in general concern themselves less with them than they did when you left England. Certainly religion is not, to all appearance at least, losing ground here: but since the great people of Newman's party went over, the disputes among the comparatively unimportant remains of them do not excite much interest. I am going to hear Manning at the Spanish Chapel next Sunday. Newman gives himself up almost entirely to organizing and educating the Roman Catholics, and is gone off greatly, they say, as a preacher.
God bless you, my dearest Tom: I cannot tell you the almost painful longing I sometimes have to see you once more.
The following year the brothers met again; and there followed, almost immediately, my uncle's election to the Poetry Professorship at Oxford. He writes, in answer to my father's congratulations:
HAMPTON, _May 16, 1857._
MY DEAR TOM,--My thoughts have often turned to you during my canvass for the Professorship--and they have turned to you more than ever during the last few days which I have been spending at Oxford. You alone of my brothers are associated with that life at Oxford, the _freest_ and most delightful part, perhaps, of my life, when with you and Clough and Walrond I shook off all the bonds and formalities of the place, and enjoyed the spring of life and that unforgotten Oxfordshire and Berkshire country. Do you remember a poem of mine called "The Scholar Gipsy"? It was meant to fix the remembrance of those delightful wanderings of ours in the Cumner hills before they were quite effaced--and as such Clough and Walrond accepted it, and it has had much success at Oxford, I am told, as was perhaps likely from its _couleur locale_. I am hardly ever at Oxford now, but the sentiment of the place is overpowering to me when I have leisure to feel it, and can shake off the interruptions which it is not so easy to shake off now as it was when we were young. But on Tuesday afternoon I smuggled myself away, and got up into one of our old coombs among the Cumner hills, and into a field waving deep with cowslips and grasses, and gathered such a bunch as you and I used to gather in the cowslip field on Lutterworth road long years ago.
You dear old boy, I love your congratulations although I see and hear so little of you, and, alas! _can_ see and hear but so little of you. I was supported by people of all opinions, the great bond of union being, I believe, the affectionate interest felt in papa's memory. I think it probable that I shall lecture in English: there is no direction whatever in the Statute as to the language in which the lectures shall be: and the Latin has so died out, even among scholars, that it seems idle to entomb a lecture which, in English, might be stimulating and interesting.
On the same occasion, writing to his mother, the new Professor gives an amusing account of the election day, when my uncle and aunt came up to town from Hampton, where they were living, in order to get telegraphic news of the polling from friends at Oxford. "Christ Church"--i.e., the High Church party in Oxford--had put up an opposition candidate, and the excitement was great. My uncle was by this time the father of three small boys, Tom, Trevenen--_alias_ Budge--and Richard--"Diddy."
We went first to the telegraph station at Charing Cross. Then, about 4, we got a message from Walrond--"nothing certain is known, but it is rumored that you are ahead." Then we went to get some toys for the children in the Lowther Arcade, and could scarcely have found a more genuine distraction than in selecting wagons for Tom and Trev, with horses of precisely the same color, not one of which should have a hair more in his tail than the other--and a musical cart for Diddy. A little after five we went back to the telegraph office, and got the following message--"Nothing declared, but you are said to be quite safe. Go to Eaton Place." ["Eaton Place" was then the house of Judge Wightman, Mrs. Matthew Arnold's father.] To Eaton Place we went, and then a little after 6 o'clock we were joined by the Judge in the highest state of joyful excitement with the news of my majority of 85, which had been telegraphed to him from Oxford after he had started and had been given to him at Paddington Station.... The income is £130 a year or thereabouts: the duties consist as far as I can learn in assisting to look over the prize compositions, in delivering a Latin oration in praise of founders at every alternate commemoration, and in preparing and giving three Latin lectures on ancient poetry in the course of the year. _These lectures I hope to give in English_.
The italics are mine. The intention expressed here and in the letter to my father was, as is well known, carried out, and Matthew Arnold's Lectures at Oxford, together with the other poetic and critical work produced by him during the years of his professorship, became so great a force in the development of English criticism and English taste, that the lifelike detail of this letter acquires a kind of historical value. As a child of fourteen I first made acquaintance with Oxford while my uncle was still Professor. I remember well some of his lectures, the crowded lecture-hall, the manner and personality of the speaker, and my own shy pride in him--from a great distance. For I was a self-conscious, bookish child, and my days of real friendship with him were still far ahead. But during the years that followed, the ten years that he held his professorship, what a spell he wielded over Oxford, and literary England in general! Looking back, one sees how the first series of _Essays in Criticism_, the _Lectures on Celtic Literature_, or _On Translating Homer, Culture, and Anarchy_ and the rest, were all the time working on English taste and feeling, whether through sympathy or antagonism; so that after those ten years, 1857-1867, the intellectual life of the country had absorbed, for good and all, an influence, and a stimulus, which had set it moving on new paths to new ends. With these thoughts in mind, supplying a comment on the letter which few people could have foreseen in 1857, let me quote a few more sentences:
Keble voted for me after all. He told the Coleridges he was so much pleased with my letter (to the electors) that he could not refrain. ... I had support from all sides. Archdeacon Denison voted for me, also Sir John Yarde Buller, and Henley, of the high Tory party. It was an immense victory--some 200 more voted than have ever, it is said, voted in a Professorship election before. It is a great lesson to Christ Church, which was rather disposed to imagine it could carry everything by its great numbers.
Good-by, my dearest mother.... I have just been up to see the three dear little brown heads on their pillows, all asleep.... My affectionate thanks to Mrs. Wordsworth and Mrs. Fletcher for their kind interest in my success.
It is pleasant to think of Wordsworth's widow, in her "old age serene and bright," and of the poet's old friend, Mrs. Fletcher, watching and rejoicing in the first triumphs of the younger singer.
So the ten years of approach and attack--in the intellectual sense--came to an end, and the ten central years of mastery and success began. Toward the end of that time, as a girl of sixteen, I became a resident in Oxford. Up to then Ruskin--the _Stones of Venice_ and certain chapters in _Modern Painters_--had been my chief intellectual passion in a childhood and first youth that cut but a very poor figure, as I look back upon them, beside the "wonderful children" of this generation! But it must have been about 1868 that I first read _Essays in Criticism._ It is not too much to say that the book set for me the currents of life; its effect heightened, no doubt, by the sense of kinship. Above all it determined in me, as in many others, an enduring love of France and of French literature, which played the part of schoolmaster to a crude youth. I owe this to my uncle, and it was a priceless boon. If he had only lived a little longer--if he had not died so soon after I had really begun to know him--how many debts to him would have been confessed, how many things said, which, after all, were never said!
OTHER CHILDREN OF FOX HOW
I have now to sketch some other figures in the Fox How circle, together with a few of the intimate friends who mingled with it frequently, and very soon became names of power to the Tasmanian child also.
Let me take first Doctor Arnold's third son, "Uncle Willy"--my father's junior by some four years. William Delafield Arnold is secure of long remembrance, one would fain think, if only as the subject of Matthew Arnold's two memorial poems--"A Southern Night" and "Stanzas from Carnac." But in truth he had many and strong claims of his own. His youth was marked by that "restlessness," which is so often spoken of in the family letters as a family quality and failing. My father's "restlessness" made him throw up a secure niche in English life, for the New Zealand adventure. The same temperament in Mary Twining, the young widow of twenty-two, took her to London, away from the quiet of the Ambleside valley, and made her an ardent follower of Maurice, Kingsley, and Carlyle. And in Willy, the third son, it showed itself first in a revolt against Oxford, while he was still at Christ Church, leading to his going out to India and joining the Indian Army, at the age of twenty, only to find the life of an Indian subaltern all but intolerable, and to plunge for a time at least into fresh schemes of change.
Among the early photographs at Fox How there is a particularly fine daguerreotype of a young officer in uniform, almost a boy, slim and well proportioned, with piled curly hair, and blue eyes, which in the late 'fifties I knew as "Uncle Willy"; and there were other photographs on glass of the same young man, where this handsome face appeared again, grown older--much older--the boyish look replaced by an aspect of rather grave dignity. In the later pictures he was grouped with children, whom I knew as my Indian cousins. But him, in the flesh, I had never seen. He was dead. His wife was dead. On the landing bookcase of Fox How there was, however, a book in two blue volumes, which I soon realized as a "novel," called _Oakfield_, which had been written by the handsome young soldier in the daguerreotype. I tried to read it, but found it was about things and persons in which I could then take no interest. But its author remained to me a mysteriously attractive figure; and when the time came for me to read my Uncle Matthew's poems, "A Southern Night," describing the death at Gibraltar of this soldier uncle, became a great favorite with me. I could see it all as Matthew Arnold described it--the steamer approaching Gibraltar, the landing, and the pale invalid with the signs on him of that strange thing called "death," which to a child that "feels its life in every limb" has no real meaning, though the talk of it may lead vaguely to tears, as that poem often did with me.
Later on, of course, I read _Oakfield_, and learned to take a more informed pride in the writer of it. But it was not until a number of letters written from India by William Arnold to my father in New Zealand between 1848 and 1855, with a few later ones, came into my possession, at my father's death, that I really seemed to know this dear vanished kinsman, though his orphaned children had always been my friends.
[Illustration: FOX HOW, THE WESTMORELAND HOME OF THE ARNOLDS.]
The letters of 1848 and 1849 read like notes for _Oakfield_. They were written in bitterness of soul by a very young man, with high hopes and ideals, fresh from the surroundings of Oxford and Rugby, from the training of the Schoolhouse and Fox How, and plunged suddenly into a society of boys--the subalterns of the Bengal Native Infantry--living for the most part in idleness, often a vicious idleness, without any restraining public opinion, and practically unshepherded, amid the temptations of the Indian climate and life. They show that the novel is, indeed, as was always supposed, largely autobiographical, and the references in them to the struggle with the Indian climate point sadly forward to the writer's own fate, ten years later, when, like the hero of his novel, Edward Oakfield, he fell a victim to Indian heat and Indian work. The novel was published in 1853, while its author was at home on a long sick leave, and is still remembered for the anger and scandal it provoked in India, and the reforms to which, no doubt, after the Mutiny, it was one of the contributing impulses. It is, indeed, full of interest for any student of the development of Anglo-Indian life and society; even when one remembers how, soon after it was published, the great storm of the Mutiny came rushing over the society it describes, changing and uprooting everywhere. As fiction, it suffers from the Rugby "earnestness" which overmasters in it any purely artistic impulse, while infusing a certain fire and unity of its own. But various incidents in the story--the quarrel at the mess-table, the horse-whipping, the court martial, the death of Vernon, and the meeting between Oakfield and Stafford, the villain of the piece, after Chilianwallah--are told with force, and might have led on, had the writer lived, to something more detached and mature in the way of novel-writing.
But there were few years left to him, "poor gallant boy!"--to quote the phrase of his poet brother; and within them he was to find his happiness and his opportunity in love and in public service, not in literature.
Nothing could be more pathetic than the isolation and revolt of the early letters. The boy Ensign is desperately homesick, pining for Fox How, for his mother and sisters, for the Oxford he had so easily renounced, for the brothers parted from him by such leagues of land and sea.
The fact that one learns first in India [he says, bitterly] is the profound ignorance which exists in England about it. You know how one hears it spoken of always as a magnificent field for exertion, and this is true enough in one way, for if a man does emerge at all, he emerges the more by contrast--he is a triton among minnows. But I think the responsibility of those who keep sending out here young fellows of sixteen and seventeen fresh from a private school or Addiscombe is quite awful. The stream is so strong, the society is so utterly worldly and mercenary in its best phase, so utterly and inconceivably low and profligate in its worst, that it is not strange that at so early an age, eight out of ten sink beneath it. ... One soon observes here how seldom one meets _a happy man_.
I came out here with three great advantages [he adds]. First, being twenty instead of seventeen; secondly not having been at Addiscombe; third, having been at Rugby and Christ Church. This gives me a sort of position--but still I know the danger is awful--for constitutionally I believe I am as little able to stand the peculiar trials of Indian life as anybody.
And he goes on to say that if ever he feels himself in peril of sinking to the level of what he loathes--"I will go at once." By coming out to India he had bound himself to one thing only--"to earn my own bread." But he is not bound to earn it "as a gentleman." The day may come--
when I shall ask for a place on your farm, and if you ask how I am to get there, you, Tom, are not the person to deny that a man who is in earnest and capable of forming a resolution can do more difficult things than getting from India to New Zealand!
And he winds up with yearning affection toward the elder brother so far away.
I think of you very often--our excursion to Keswick and Greta Hall, our walk over Hardknot and Wrynose, our bathes in the old Allen Bank bathing-place [Grasmere], our parting in the cab at the corner of Mount St. One of my pleasantest but most difficult problems is when and where we shall meet again.
In another letter, written a year later, the tone is still despondent. "It is no affectation to say that I feel my life, in one way, cannot now be a happy one." He feels it his duty for the present to "lie still," as Keble says, to think, it may be to suffer. "But in my castle-buildings I often dream of coming to you." He appreciates, more fully than ever before, Tom's motives in going to New Zealand--the desire that may move a man to live his own life in a new and freer world. "But when I am asked, as I often am, why you went, I always grin and let people answer themselves; for I could not hope to explain without preaching a sermon. An act of faith and conviction cannot be understood by the light of worldly motives and interests; and to blow out this light, and bring the true one, is not the work of a young man with his own darkness to struggle through; so I grin as aforesaid." "God is teaching us," he adds--i.e., the different members of the family--"by separation, absence, and suffering." And he winds up--"Good-by. I never like finishing a letter to you--it seems like letting you fall back again to such infinite distance. And you are often very near me, and the thought of you is often cheery and helpful to me in my own conflict." Even up to January, 1850, he is still thinking of New Zealand, and signing himself, "ever, dear Tom, whether I am destined to see you soon, or never again in this world--Your most truly affectionate brother."
Alack! the brothers never did meet again, in this world which both took so hardly. But for Willy a transformation scene was near. After two years in India, his gift and his character had made their mark. He had not only been dreaming of New Zealand; besides his daily routine, he had been working hard at Indian languages and history. The Lawrences, both John and Henry, had found him out, and realized his quality. It was at Sir Henry Lawrence's house in the spring of 1850 that he met Miss Fanny Hodgson, daughter of the distinguished soldier and explorer, General Hodgson, discoverer of the sources of the Ganges, and at that time the Indian Surveyor-General. The soldier of twenty-three fell instantly in love, and tumult and despondency melted away. The next letter to New Zealand is pitched in quite another key. He still judges Indian life and Indian government with a very critical eye. "The Alpha and Omega of the whole evil in Indian Society" is "the regarding India as a rupee-mine, instead of a Colony, and ourselves as Fortune-hunters and Pension-earners rather than as emigrants and missionaries." And outside his domestic life his prospects are still uncertain. But with every mail one can see the strained spirit relaxing, yielding to the spell of love and to the honorable interests of an opening life.
"To-day, my Thomas [October 2, 1850], I sit, a married man in the Bengal army, writing to a brother, it may be a married man, in Van Diemen's Land." (Rumors of Tom's courtship of Julia Sorell had evidently just reached him.) He goes on to describe his married home at Hoshyarpore, and his work at Indian languages. He has been reading Carlyle's _Cromwell_, and marveling at the "rapid rush of thought which seems more and more to be engrossing people in England!" "In India you will easily believe that the torpor is still unbroken." (The Mutiny was only seven short years ahead!) And he is still conscious of the "many weights which do beset and embitter a man's life in India." But a new stay within, the reconciliation that love brings about between a man and the world, upholds him.
"'To draw homeward to the general life,' which you, and dear Matt himself, and I, and all of us, are--or at least may be--living, independent of all the accidents of time and circumstance--this is a great alleviation." The "_fundamentals"_ are safe. He dwells happily on the word--"a good word, in which you and I, so separated, as far as accidents go, it may be for all time, can find great comfort, speaking as it does of Eternity." One sees what is in his mind--the brother's "little book of poems" published a year before:
Yet they, believe me, who await No gifts from chance, have conquered fate, They, winning room to see and hear, And to men's business not too near Though clouds of individual strife Draw homeward to the general life. * * * * * To the wise, foolish; to the world Weak;--yet not weak, I might reply, Not foolish, Fausta, in His eye, To whom each moment in its race, Crowd as we will its neutral space, Is but a quiet watershed Whence, equally, the seas of life and death are fed.
Six months later the younger brother has heard "as a positive fact" of Tom's marriage, and writes, with affectionate "chaff":
I wonder whether it has changed you much?--not made a Tory of you, I'll undertake to say! But it is wonderfully sobering. After all, Master Tom, it is not the very exact _finale_ which we should have expected to your Republicanism of the last three or four years, to find you a respectable married man, holding a permanent appointment!
Matt's marriage, too, stands pre-eminent among the items of family news. What blind judges, sometimes, the most attached brothers are of each other!
I hear too by this mail of Matt's engagement, which suggests many thoughts. I own that Matt is one of the very last men in the world whom I can fancy happily married--or rather happy in matrimony. But I dare say I reckon without my host, for there was such a "_longum intervallum"_ between dear old Matt and me, that even that last month in town, when I saw so much of him, though there was the most entire absence of elder-brotherism on his part, and only the most kind and thoughtful affection, for which I shall always feel grateful, yet our intercourse was that of man and boy; and though the difference of years was not so formidable as between "Matthew" and Wordsworth, yet we were less than they a "pair of Friends," though a pair of very loving brothers.
But even in this gay and charming letter one begins to see the shadows cast by the doom to come. The young wife has gone to Simla, having been "delicate" for some time. The young husband stays behind, fighting the heat.
The hot weather, old boy, is coming on like a tiger. It is getting on for ten at night; but we sit with windows all wide open, the punkah going, the thinnest conceivable garments, and yet we sweat, my brother, very profusely.... To-morrow I shall be up at gun-fire, about half-past four A.M. and drive down to the civil station, about three miles off, to see a friend, an officer of our own corps ... who is sick, return, take my Bearer's daily account, write a letter or so, and lie down with _Don Quixote_ under a punkah, go to sleep the first chapter that Sancho lets me, and sleep till ten, get up, bathe, re-dress and breakfast; do my daily business, such as it is--hard work, believe me, in a hot sleep- inducing, intestine-withering climate, till sunset, when doors and windows are thrown open ... and mortals go out to "eat the air," as the natives say.
The climate, indeed, had already begun its deadly attack upon an organism as fine and sensitive as any of the myriad victims which the secret forces of India's sun and soil have exacted from her European invaders. In 1853, William Delafield Arnold came home invalided, with his wife and his elder two children. The third, Oakeley (the future War Minister in Mr. Balfour's Government), was born in England in 1855. There were projects of giving up India and settling at home. The young soldier whose literary gift, always conspicuous among the nine in the old childish Fox How days, and already shown in _Oakfield_, was becoming more and more marked, was at this time a frequent contributor to the _Times_, the _Economist_, and _Fraser_, and was presently offered the editorship of the _Economist_. But just as he was about to accept it, came a flattering offer from India, no doubt through the influence of Sir John Lawrence, of the Directorship of Public Instruction in the Punjaub. He thought himself bound to accept it, and with his wife and two children went out again at the end of 1855. His business was to organize the whole of native education in the Punjaub, and he did it so well during the short time that remained to him before the Mutiny broke out, that during all that time of terror, education in the Punjaub was never interrupted, the attendances at the schools never dropped, and the young Director went about his work, not knowing often, indeed, whether the whole province might not be aflame within twenty-four hours, and its Anglo-Indian administration wiped out, but none the less undaunted and serene.
To this day, three portrait medals in gold and silver are given every year to the best pupils in the schools of the Punjaub, the product of a fund raised immediately after his death by William Arnold's fellow-workers there, in order to commemorate his short heroic course in that far land, and to preserve, if they could, some record of that "sweet stateliness" of aspect, to use the expression of one who loved him, which "had so fascinated his friends."
The Mutiny passed. Sir John Lawrence paid public and flattering tribute to the young official who had so amply justified a great man's choice. And before the storm had actually died away, within a fortnight of the fall of Delhi, while it was not yet certain that the troops on their way would arrive in time to prevent further mischief, my uncle, writing to my father of the awful days of suspense from the 14th to the 30th of September, says:
A more afflicted country than this has been since I returned to it in November. 1855--afflicted by Dearth--Deluge--Pestilence--far worse than war, it would be hard to imagine. _In the midst of it all, the happiness of our domestic life has been almost perfect_.
With that touching sentence the letters to my father, so far, at least, as I possess them, come to an end. Alas! In the following year the gentle wife and mother, worn out by India, died at a hill-station in the Himalayas, and a few months later her husband, ill and heartbroken, sent his motherless children home by long sea, and followed himself by the overland route. Too late! He was taken ill in Egypt, struggled on to Malta, and was put ashore at Gibraltar to die. From Cairo he had written to the beloved mother who was waiting for him in that mountain home he so longed to reach, that he hoped to be able to travel in a fortnight.
But do not trust to this.... Do not in fact expect me till you hear that I am in London. I much fear that it may be long before I see dear, dear Fox How. In London I must have advice, and I feel sure I shall be ordered to the South of England till the hot weather is well advanced. I must wait too in London for the darling children. But once in London, I cannot but think my dearest mother will manage to see me, and I have even had visions of your making one of your spring tours, and going with me to Torquay or wherever I may go.... Plans--plans--plans! They will keep.
And a few days later:
As I said before, do not expect me in England till you hear I am there. Perhaps I was too eager to get home. Assuredly I have been checked, and I feel as if there were much trouble between me and home yet.... I see in the papers the death of dear Mrs. Wordsworth....
Ever my beloved mother ...
Your very loving son,
He started for England, but at Gibraltar, a dying man, was carried ashore. His younger brother, sent out from England in post haste, missed him by ill chance at Alexandria and Malta, and arrived too late. He was buried under the shelter of the Rock of Spain and the British flag. His intimate friend, Meredith Townsend, the joint editor and creator of the _Spectator_, wrote to the _Times_ shortly after his death:
William Arnold did not live long enough (he was thirty-one) to gain his true place in the world, but he had time enough given him to make himself of importance to a Government like that of Lord Dalhousie, to mold the education of a great province, and to win the enduring love of all with whom he ever came in contact.
It was left, however, for his poet-brother to build upon his early grave "the living record of his memory." A month after "Willy's" death, "Matt" was wandering where--
beneath me, bright and wide Lay the low coast of Brittany--
with the thought of "Willy" in his mind, as he turns to the sea that will never now bring the wanderer home.
O, could he once have reached the air Freshened by plunging tides, by showers! Have felt this breath he loved, of fair Cool northern fields, and grain, and flowers.
He longed for it--pressed on!--In vain! At the Straits failed that spirit brave, The south was parent of his pain, The south is mistress of his grave.
Or again, in "A Southern Night"--where he muses on the "two jaded English," man and wife, who lie, one under the Himalayas, the other beside "the soft Mediterranean." And his first thought is that for the "spent ones of a work-day age," such graves are out of keeping.
In cities should we English lie Where cries are rising ever new, And men's incessant stream goes by!-- * * * * * Not by those hoary Indian hills, Not by this gracious Midland sea Whose floor to-night sweet moonshine fills Should our graves be!
Some Eastern sage pursuing "the pure goal of being"--"He by those Indian mountains old, might well repose." Crusader, troubadour, or maiden dying for love--
Such by these waters of romance 'Twas meet to lay!
And then he turns upon himself. For what is beauty, what wisdom, what romance if not the tender goodness of women, if not the high soul of youth?
Mild o'er her grave, ye mountains, shine! Gently by his, ye waters, glide! To that in you which is divine They were allied.
* * * * *
Only a few days after their father's death, the four orphan children of the William Arnolds arrived at Fox How. They were immediately adopted as their own by William and Jane Forster, who had no children; and later they added the name of Forster to that of Arnold. At that moment I was at school at Ambleside, and I remember well my first meeting with the Indian children, and how I wondered at their fair skins and golden hair and frail, ethereal looks.
By this time Fox How was in truth a second home to me. But I have still to complete the tale of those who made it so. Edward Penrose, the Doctor's fourth son, who died in 1878, on the threshold of fifty, was a handsome, bearded man of winning presence and of many friends. He was at Balliol, then a Fellow of All Souls, and in Orders. But he first found his real vocation as an Inspector of Schools in Devon and Cornwall, and for eighteen years, from 1860 to 1878, through the great changes in elementary education produced by his brother-in-law's Education Act, he was the ever-welcome friend of teachers and children all over the wide and often remote districts of the West country which his work covered. He had not the gifts of his elder brothers--neither the genius of Matthew nor the restless energy and initiative of William Delafield, nor the scholarly and researching tastes of my father; and his later life was always a struggle against ill-health. But he had Matthew's kindness, and Matthew's humor--the "chaff" between the two brothers was endless!--and a large allowance of William's charm. His unconscious talk in his last illness was often of children. He seemed to see them before him in the country school-rooms, where his coming--the coming of "the tall gentleman with the kind blue eyes," as an eye-witness describes him--was a festa, excellent official though he was. He carried enthusiasm into the cause of popular education, and that is not a very common enthusiasm in this country of ours. Yet the cause is nothing more nor less than the cause of _the international intelligence_, and its sharpening for the national tasks. But education has always been the Cinderella of politics; this nation apparently does not love to be taught! Those who grapple with its stubbornness in this field can never expect the ready palm that falls to the workers in a dozen other fields. But in the seed sown, and the human duty done, they find their reward.
"Aunt Mary," Arnold's second daughter, I have already spoken of. When my father and mother reached England from Tasmania, she had just married again, a Leicestershire clergyman, with a house and small estate near Loughborough. Her home--Woodhouse--on the borders of Charnwood Forest, and the beautiful Beaumanoir Park, was another fairyland to me and to my cousins. Its ponds and woods and reed-beds; its distant summer-house between two waters, where one might live and read and dream through long summer hours, undisturbed; its pleasant rooms, above all the "tapestry room" where I generally slept, and which I always connected with the description of the huntsman on the "arras," in "Tristram and Iseult"; the Scott novels I devoured there, and the "Court" nights at Beaumanoir, where some feudal customs were still kept up, and its beautiful mistress, Mrs. Herrick, the young wife of an old man, queened it very graciously over neighbors and tenants--all these are among the lasting memories of life. Mrs. Herrick became identified in my imagination with each successive Scott heroine,--Rowena, Isabella, Rose Bradwardine, the White Lady of Avenel, and the rest. But it was Aunt Mary herself, after all, who held the scene. In that Leicestershire world of High Toryism, she raised the Liberal flag--her father's flag--with indomitable courage, but also with a humor which, after the tragic hours of her youth, flowered out in her like something new and unexpectedly delightful. It must have been always there, but not till marriage and motherhood, and F.D. Maurice's influence, had given her peace of soul does it seem to have shown itself as I remember it--a golden and pervading quality, which made life unfailingly pleasant beside her. Her clear, dark eyes, with their sweet sincerity, and the touch in them of a quiet laughter, of which the causes were not always clear to the bystanders, her strong face with its points of likeness to her father's, and all her warm and most human personality--they are still vividly present to me, though it is nearly thirty years since, after an hour or two's pain, she died suddenly and unexpectedly, of the same malady that killed her father. Consumed in her youth by a passionate idealism, she had accepted at the hands of life, and by the age of four and twenty, a lot by no means ideal--a home in the depths of the country, among neighbors often uncongenial, and far from the intellectual pleasures she had tasted during her young widowhood in London. But out of this lot she made something beautiful, and all her own--by sheer goodness, conscience, intelligence. She had her angles and inconsistencies; she often puzzled those who loved her; but she had a large brain and a large heart; and for us colonial children, conscious of many disadvantages beside our English-born cousins, she had a peculiar tenderness, a peculiar laughing sympathy, that led us to feel in "Aunt Maria" one of our best friends.
Susan Arnold, the Doctor's fourth daughter, married Mr. John Cropper in 1858, and here, too, in her house beside the Mersey, among fields and trees that still maintain a green though besmutted oasis in the busy heart of Liverpool, that girdles them now on all sides, and will soon engulf them, there were kindness and welcome for the little Tasmanians. She died a few years ago, mourned and missed by her own people--those lifelong neighbors who know truly what we are. Of the fifth daughter, Frances, "Aunt Fan," I may not speak, because she is still with us in the old house--alive to every political and intellectual interest of these darkened days, beloved by innumerable friends in many worlds, and making sunshine still for Arnold's grandchildren and their children's children. But it was to her that my own stormy childhood was chiefly confided, at Fox How; it was she who taught the Tasmanian child to read, and grappled with her tempers; and while she is there the same magic as of old clings about Fox How for those of us who have loved it, and all it stands for, so long.
THE FRIENDS OF FOX HOW
It remains for me now to say something of those friends of Fox How and my father whose influence, or whose living presence, made the atmosphere in which the second generation of children who loved Fox How grew up.
Wordsworth died in 1850, the year before I was born. He and my grandfather were much attached to each other--"old Coleridge," says my grandfather, "inoculated a little knot of us with the love of Wordsworth"--though their politics were widely different, and the poet sometimes found it hard to put up with the reforming views of the younger man. In a letter printed in Stanley's _Life_ my grandfather mentions "a good fight" with Wordsworth over the Reform Bill of 1832, on a walk to Greenhead Ghyll. And there is a story told of a girl friend of the family who, once when Wordsworth had been paying a visit at Fox How, accompanied him and the Doctor part of the way home to Rydal Mount. Something was inadvertently said to stir the old man's Toryism, and he broke out in indignant denunciation of some views expressed by Arnold. The storm lasted all the way to Pelter Bridge, and the girl on Arnold's left stole various alarmed glances at him to see how he was taking it. He said little or nothing, and at Pelter Bridge they all parted, Wordsworth going on to Rydal Mount, and the other two turning back toward Fox How. Arnold paced along, his hands behind his back, his eyes on the ground, and his companion watched him, till he suddenly threw back his head with a laugh of enjoyment.--"What _beautiful_ English the old man talks!"
The poet complained sometimes--as I find from an amusing passage in the letter to Mr. Howson quoted below, that he could not see enough of his neighbor, the Doctor, on a mountain walk, because Arnold was always so surrounded with children and pupils, "like little dogs" running round and after him. But no differences, great or small, interfered with his constant friendship to Fox How. The garden there was largely planned by him during the family absences at Rugby; the round chimneys of the house are said to be of his design; and it was for Fox How, which still possesses the MS., that the fine sonnet was written, beginning--
Wansfell, this household has a favored lot Living with liberty on thee to gaze--
a sonnet which contains, surely, two or three of the most magical lines that Wordsworth ever wrote.
It is of course no purpose of these notes to give any fresh account of Wordsworth at Rydal, or any exhaustive record of the relations between the Wordsworths and Fox How, especially after the recent publication of Professor Harper's fresh, interesting, though debatable biography. But from the letters in my hands I glean a few things worth recording. Here, for instance, is a passing picture of Matthew Arnold and Wordsworth in the Fox How drawing-room together, in January, 1848, which I find in a letter from my grandmother to my father:
Matt has been very much pleased, I think, by what he has seen of dear old Wordsworth since he has been at home, and certainly he manages to draw him out very well. The old man was here yesterday, and as he sat on the stool in the corner beside the fire which you knew so well, he talked of various subjects of interest, of Italian poetry, of Coleridge, etc., etc.; and he looked and spoke with more vigor than he has often done lately.
But the poet's health was failing. His daughter Dora's death in 1847 had hit him terribly hard, and his sister's state--the helpless though gentle insanity of the unique, the beloved Dorothy--weighed heavily on his weakening strength. I find a touching picture of him in the unpublished letter referred to on a previous page, written in this very year--1848--to Dean Howson, as a young man, by his former pupil, the late Duke of Argyll, the distinguished author of _The Reign of Law_--which Dean Howson's son and the Duke's grandson allow me to print. The Rev. J.S. Howson, afterward Dean of Chester, married a sister of the John Cropper who married Susan Arnold, and was thus a few years later brought into connection with the Arnolds and Fox How. The Duke and Duchess had set out to visit both the Lakes and the Lakes "celebrities," advised, evidently, as to their tour, by the Duke's old tutor, who was already familiar with the valleys and some of their inmates. Their visit to Fox How is only briefly mentioned, but of Wordsworth and Rydal Mount the Duke gives a long account. The picture, first, of drooping health and spirits, and then of the flaming out of the old poetic fire, will, I think, interest any true Wordsworthian.
On Saturday [writes the Duke] we reached Ambleside and soon after drove to Rydal Mount. We found the Poet seated at his fireside, and a little languid in manner. He became less so as he talked. ... He talked incessantly, but not generally interestingly.... I looked at him often and asked myself if that was the man who had stamped the impress of his own mind so decidedly on a great part of the literature of his age! He took us to see a waterfall near his house, and talked and chattered, but said nothing remarkable or even thoughtful. Yet I could see that all this was only that we were on the surface, and did not indicate any decay of mental powers. [Still] we went away with no other impression than the vaguest of having seen the man, whose writings we knew so well-- and with no feeling that we had seen anything of the mind which spoke through them.
On the following day, Sunday, the Duke with a friend walked over to Rydal, but found no one at the Mount but an invalid lady, very old, and apparently paralyzed, "drawn in a bath chair by a servant." They did not realize that the poor sufferer, with her wandering speech and looks, was Dorothy Wordsworth, whose share in her great brother's fame will never be forgotten while literature lasts.
In the evening, however--
... after visiting Mrs. Arnold we drove together to bid Wordsworth good-by, as we were to go next morning. We found the old man as before, seated by the fireside and languid and sleepy in manner. Again he awakened as conversation went on, and, a stranger coming in, we rose to go away. He seemed unwilling that we should go so soon, and said he would walk out with us. We went to the mound in front, and the Duchess then asked if he would repeat some of his own lines to us. He said he hardly thought he could do that, but that he would have been glad to read some to us. We stood looking at the view for some time, when Mrs. Wordsworth came out and asked us back to the house to take some tea. This was just what we wanted. We sat for about half an hour at tea, during which I tried to direct the conversation to interesting subjects--Coleridge, Southey, etc. He gave a very different impression from the preceding evening. His memory seemed clear and unclouded--his remarks forcible and decided--with some tendency to run off to irrelevant anecdote.
When tea was over, we renewed our request that he should read to us. He said, "Oh dear, that is terrible!" but consented, asking what we chose. He jumped at "Tintern Abbey" in preference to any part of the "Excursion."
He told us he had written "Tintern Abbey" in 1798, taking four days to compose it; the last twenty lines or so being composed as he walked down the hill from Clifton to Bristol. It was curious to feel that we were to hear a Poet read his own verses composed fifty years before.
He read the introductory lines descriptive of the scenery in a low, clear voice. But when he came to the thoughtful and reflective lines, his tones deepened and he poured them forth with a fervor and almost passion of delivery which was very striking and beautiful. I observed that Mrs. Wordsworth was strongly affected during the reading. The strong emphasis that he put on the words addressed to the person to whom the poem is written struck me as almost unnatural at the time. "My DEAR, DEAR friend!"--and on the words, "In thy wild eyes." It was not till after the reading was over that we found out that the poor paralytic invalid we had seen in the morning was the _sister_ to whom "Tintern Abbey" was addressed, and her condition, now, accounted for the fervor with which the old Poet read lines which reminded him of their better days. But it was melancholy to think that the vacant gaze we had seen in the morning was from the "wild eyes" of 1798.
... We could not have had a better opportunity of bringing out in his reading the source of the inspiration of his poetry, which it was impossible not to feel was the poetry of the heart. Mrs. Wordsworth told me it was the first time he had read since his daughter's death, and that she was thankful to us for having made him do it, as he was apt to fall into a listless, languid state. We asked him to come to Inverary. He said he had not courage; as he had last gone through that country with his daughter, and he feared it would be too much for him.
Less than two years after this visit, on April 23, 1850, the deathday of Shakespeare and Cervantes, Arnold's youngest daughter, now Miss Arnold of Fox How, was walking with her sister Susan on the side of Loughrigg which overlooks Rydal Mount. They knew that the last hour of a great poet was near--to my aunts, not only a great poet, but the familiar friend of their dead father and all their kindred. They moved through the April day, along the mountainside, under the shadow of death; and, suddenly, as they looked at the old house opposite, unseen hands drew down the blinds; and by the darkened windows they knew that the life of Wordsworth had gone out.
Henceforward, in the family letters to my father, it is Mrs. Wordsworth who comes into the foreground. The old age prophesied for her by her poet bridegroom in the early Grasmere days was about her for the nine years of her widowhood, "lovely as a Lapland night"; or rather like one of her own Rydal evenings when the sky is clear over the perfect little lake, and the reflections of island and wood and fell go down and down, unearthly far into the quiet depths, and Wansfell still "parleys with the setting sun." My grandmother writes of her--of "her sweet grace and dignity," and the little friendly acts she is always doing for this person and that, gentle or simple, in the valley--with a tender enthusiasm. She is "dear Mrs. Wordsworth" always, for them all. And it is my joy that in the year 1856 or 1857 my grandmother took me to Rydal Mount, and that I can vividly recollect sitting on a footstool at Mrs. Wordsworth's feet. I see still the little room, with its plain furniture, the chair beside the fire, and the old lady in it. I can still recall the childish feeling that this was no common visit, and the house no common house--that a presence still haunted it. Instinctively the childish mind said to itself, "Remember!"--and I have always remembered.
A few years later I was again, as a child of eight, in Rydal Mount. Mrs. Wordsworth was dead, and there was a sale in the house. From far and near the neighbors came, very curious, very full of real regret, and a little awe-stricken. They streamed through the rooms where the furniture was arranged in lots. I wandered about by myself, and presently came upon something which absorbed me so that I forgot everything else--a store of Easter eggs, with wonderful drawings and devices, made by "James," the Rydal Mount factotum, in the poet's day. I recollect sitting down with them in a nearly empty room, dreaming over them in a kind of ecstasy, because of their pretty, strange colors and pictures.
Fifty-two years passed, and I found myself, in September, 1911, the tenant of a renovated and rebuilt Rydal Mount, for a few autumn weeks. The house was occupied then, and is still occupied by Wordsworth's great-granddaughter and her husband--Mr. and Mrs. Fisher Wordsworth. My eldest daughter was with me, and a strange thing happened to us. I arrived at the Mount before my husband and daughter. She joined me there on September 13th. I remember how eagerly I showed her the many Wordsworthiana in the house, collected by the piety of its mistress--the Haydon portrait on the stairs, and the books, in the small low-ceiled room to the right of the hall, which is still just as it was in Wordsworth's day; the garden, too, and the poet's walk. All my own early recollections were alive; we chattered long and late. And now let the account of what happened afterward be given in my daughter's words as she wrote it down for me the following morning.
RYDAL MOUNT, _September 14, 1911._
Last night, my first at Rydal Mount, I slept in the corner room, over the small sitting-room. I had drawn up the blind about half-way up the window before going to bed, and had drawn the curtain aside, over the back of a wooden arm-chair that stood against the window. The window, a casement, was wide open. I slept soundly, but woke quite suddenly, at what hour I do not know, and found myself sitting bolt upright in bed, looking toward the window. Very bright moonlight was shining into the room and I could just see the corner of Loughrigg out in the distance. My first impression was of bright moonlight, but then I became strongly conscious of the moonlight striking on something, and I saw perfectly clearly the figure of an old man sitting in the arm-chair by the window. I said to myself, "That's Wordsworth!" He was sitting with either hand resting on the arms of the chair, leaning back, his head rather bent, and he seemed to be looking down straight in front of him with a rapt expression. He was not looking at me, nor out of the window. The moonlight lit up the top of his head and the silvery hair and I noticed that the hair was very thin. The whole impression was of something solemn and beautiful, and I was not in the very least frightened. As I looked-- I cannot say, when I looked again, for I have no recollection of ceasing to look, or looking away--the figure disappeared and I became aware of the empty chair.--I lay back again, and thought for a moment in a pleased and contented way, "That was Wordsworth." And almost immediately I must have fallen asleep again. I had not, to my knowledge, been dreaming about Wordsworth before I awoke; but I had been reading Hutton's essay on "Wordsworth's Two Styles" out of Knight's _Wordsworthiana_, before I fell asleep.
I should add that I had a distinct impression of the high collar and stock, the same as in the picture on the stairs in this house.
Neither the seer of this striking vision--unique in her experience--nor I, to whom she told it within eight hours, make any claim for it to a supernatural origin. It seemed to us an interesting example of the influence of mind and association on the visualizing power of the brain. A member of the Psychical Society, to whom I sent the contemporary record, classified it as "a visual hallucination," and I don't know that there is anything more to be said about it. But the pathetic coincidence remains still to be noted--we did not know it till afterward--that the seer of the vision was sleeping in Dorothy Wordsworth's room, where Dorothy spent so many sad years of death-in-life; and that in that very corner by the window Wordsworth must have sat, day after day, when he came to visit what remained to him of that creature of fire and dew, that child of genius, who had been the inspiration and support of his poetic youth.
In these rapid sketches of the surroundings and personal influences amid which my own childhood was passed I have already said something of my father's intimate friend Arthur Hugh Clough. Clough was, of course, a Rugbeian, and one of Arnold's ablest and most devoted pupils. He was about three years older than my father, and was already a Fellow of Oriel when Thomas Arnold, the younger, was reading for his First. But the difference of age made no difference to the friendship which grew up between them in Oxford, a friendship only less enduring and close than that between Clough and Matthew Arnold, which has been "eternized," to use a word of Fulke Greville's, by the noble dirge of "Thyrsis." Not many years before his own death, in 1895, my father wrote of the friend of his youth:
I loved him, oh, so well: and also respected him more profoundly than any man, anywhere near my own age, whom I ever met. His pure soul was without stain: he seemed incapable of being inflamed by wrath, or tempted to vice, or enslaved by any unworthy passion of any sort. As to "Philip," something that he saw in me helped to suggest the character--that was all. There is much in Philip that is Clough himself, and there is a dialectic force in him that certainly was never in me. A great yearning for possessing one's soul in freedom--for trampling on ceremony and palaver, for trying experiments in equality, being common to me and Philip, sent me out to New Zealand; and in the two years before I sailed (December, 1847) Clough and I were a great deal together.
It was partly also the visit paid by my father and his friend, John Campbell Shairp, afterward Principal Shairp of St. Andrew's, to Clough's reading party at Drumnadrochit in 1845, and their report of incidents which had happened to them on their way along the shores of Loch Ericht, which suggested the scheme of the "Bothie." One of the half-dozen short poems of Clough which have entered permanently into literature--_Qui laborat oral_--was found by my father one morning on the table of his bachelor rooms in Mount Street, after Clough had spent the night on a shake-up in his sitting-room, and on his early departure had left the poem behind him as payment for his night's lodging. In one of Clough's letters to New Zealand I find, "Say not the struggle nought availeth"--another of the half-dozen--written out by him; and the original copy--_tibi primo confisum_, of the pretty, though unequal verses, "A London Idyll." The little volume of miscellaneous poems, called _Ambarvalia,_ and the "Bothie of Tober-na-Vuo-lich" were sent out to New Zealand by Clough, at the same moment that Matt was sending his brother the _Poems by A_.
Clough writes from Liverpool in February, 1849--having just received Matt's volume:
At last our own Matt's book! Read mine first, my child, if our volumes go forth together. Otherwise you won't read mine--_Ambarvalia_, at any rate--at all. Froude also has published a new book of religious biography, auto or otherwise (_The Nemesis of Faith_), and therewithal resigns his Fellowship. But the Rector (of Exeter) talks of not accepting the resignation, but having an expulsion--fire and fagot fashion. _Quo usque_?
But when the books arrive, my father writes to his sister with affectionate welcome indeed of the _Poems by A_, but with enthusiasm of the "Bothie."
It greatly surpasses my expectations! It is on the whole a noble poem, well held together, clear, full of purpose, and full of promise. With joy I see the old fellow bestiring himself, "awakening like a strong man out of sleep and shaking his invincible locks"; and if he remains true and works, I think there is nothing too high or too great to be expected from him.
"True," and a worker, Clough remained to the last hours of his short life. But in spite of a happy marriage, the burden and perplexity of philosophic thought, together with the strain of failing health, checked, before long, the strong poetic impulse shown in the "Bothie," its buoyant delight in natural beauty, and in the simplicities of human feeling and passion. The "music" of his "rustic flute".
Kept not for long its happy, country tone; Lost it too soon, and learnt a stormy note Of men contention-tost, of men who groan.
The poet of the "Bothie" becomes the poet of "Dipsychus," "Easter Day," and the "Amours de Voyage"; and the young republican who writes in triumph--all humorous joy and animation--to my father, from the Paris of 1848, which has just seen the overthrow of Louis Philippe, says, a year later--February 24, 1849:
To-day, my dear brother republican, is the glorious anniversary of '48, whereof what shall I now say? Put not your trust in republics, nor in any constitution of man! God be praised for the downfall of Louis Philippe. This with a faint feeble echo of that loud last year's scream of "_À bas Guizot_!" seems to be the sum total. Or are we to salute the rising sun, with "_Vive l'Empereur!"_ and the green liveries? President for life I think they'll make him, and then begin to tire of him. Meanwhile the Great Powers are to restore the Pope and crush the renascent Roman Republic, of which Joseph Mazzini has just been declared a citizen!
A few months later, the writer--at Rome--"was in at the death" of this same Roman Republic, listening to the French bombardment in bitterness of soul.
I saw the French enter [he writes to my father]. Unto this has come our grand Lib. Eq. and Frat. revolution! And then I went to Naples-- and home. I am full of admiration for Mazzini.... But on the whole--"Farewell Politics!" utterly!--What can I do? Study is much more to the purpose.
So in disillusion and disappointment, "Citizen Clough," leaving Oxford and politics behind him, settled down to educational work in London, married, and became the happy father of children, wrote much that was remarkable, and will be long read--whether it be poetry or no--by those who find perennial attraction in the lesser-known ways of literature and thought, and at last closed his short life at Florence in 1862, at the age of forty-one, leaving an indelible memory in the hearts of those who had talked and lived with him.
To a boon southern country he is fled, And now in happier air, Wandering with the Great Mother's train divine (And purer or more subtle soul than thee, I trow the mighty Mother doth not see) Within a folding of the Apennine,
Thou hearest the immortal chants of old!--
But I remember him, in an English setting, and on the slopes of English hills. In the year 1858, as a child of seven, I was an inmate of a little school kept at Ambleside, by Miss Anne Clough, the poet's sister, afterward the well-known head of Newnham College, Cambridge, and wisest leader in the cause of women. It was a small day-school for Ambleside children of all ranks, and I was one of two boarders, spending my Sundays often at Fox How. I can recall one or two golden days, at long intervals, when my father came for me, with "Mr. Clough," and the two old friends, who, after nine years' separation, had recently met again, walked up the Sweden Bridge lane into the heart of Scandale Fell, while I, paying no more attention to them than they--after a first ten minutes--did to me, went wandering and skipping and dreaming by myself. In those days every rock along the mountain lane, every boggy patch, every stretch of silken, flower-sown grass, every bend of the wild stream, and all its sounds, whether it chattered gently over stony shallows or leaped full-throated into deep pools, swimming with foam-- were to me the never-ending joys of a "land of pure delight." Should I find a ripe wild strawberry in a patch under a particular rock I knew by heart?--or the first Grass of Parnassus, or the big auricula, or streaming cotton-plant, amid a stretch of wet moss ahead? I might quite safely explore these enchanted spots under male eyes, since they took no account, mercifully, of a child's boots and stockings--male tongues, besides, being safely busy with books and politics. Was that a dipper, rising and falling along the stream, or--positively--a fat brown trout in hiding under that shady bank?--or that a buzzard, hovering overhead. Such hopes and doubts kept a child's heart and eyes as quick and busy as the "beck" itself. It was a point of honor with me to get to Sweden Bridge--a rough crossing for the shepherds and sheep, near the head of the valley--before my companions; and I would sit dangling my feet over the unprotected edge of its grass-grown arch, blissfully conscious on a summer day of the warm stretches of golden fell folding in the stream, the sheep, the hovering hawks, the stony path that wound up and up to regions beyond the ken of thought; and of myself, queening it there on the weather-worn keystone of the bridge, dissolved in the mere physical joy of each contented sense--the sun on my cotton dress, the scents from grass and moss, the marvelous rush of cloud-shadow along the hills, the brilliant browns and blues in the water, the little white stones on its tiny beaches, or the purples of the bigger rocks, whether in the stream or on the mountain-side. How did they come there--those big rocks? I puzzled my head about them a good deal, especially as my father, in the walks we had to ourselves, would sometimes try and teach me a little geology.
I have used the words "physical joy," because, although such passionate pleasure in natural things as has been my constant Helper (in the sense of the Greek [Greek: epikouros]) through life, has connected itself, no doubt, in process of time, with various intimate beliefs, philosophic or religious, as to the Beauty which is Truth, and therewith the only conceivable key to man's experience, yet I could not myself indorse the famous contrast in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," between the "haunting passion" of youth's delight in Nature, and the more complex feeling of later years when Nature takes an aspect colored by our own moods and memories, when our sorrows and reflections enter so much into what we feel about the "bright and intricate device" of earth and her seasons, that "in our life alone doth Nature live." No one can answer for the changing moods that the future, long or short, may bring with it. But so far, I am inclined to think of this quick, intense pleasure in natural things, which I notice in myself and others, as something involuntary and inbred; independent--often selfishly independent--of the real human experience. I have been sometimes ashamed--pricked even with self- contempt--to remember how in the course of some tragic or sorrowful hours, concerning myself, or others of great account to me, I could not help observing some change in the clouds, some effect of color in the garden, some picture on the wall, which pleased me--even for the moment--intensely. The impression would be gone, perhaps, as soon as felt, rebuked by something like a flash of remorse. But it was not in my power to prevent its recurrence. And the delight in natural things-- colors, forms, scents--when there was nothing to restrain or hamper it, has often been a kind of intoxication, in which thought and consciousness seemed suspended--"as though of hemlock one had drunk." Wordsworth has of course expressed it constantly, though increasingly, as life went on, in combination with his pantheistic philosophy. But it is my belief that it survived in him in its primitive form, almost to the end.
The best and noblest people I have known have been, on the whole--except in first youth--without this correspondence between some constant pleasure-sense in the mind, and natural beauty. It cannot, therefore, be anything to be proud of. But it is certainly something to be glad of--"amid the chances and changes of this mortal life"; it is one of the joys "in widest commonalty spread"--and that may last longest. It is therefore surely to be encouraged both in oneself and in children; and that, although I have often felt that there is something inhuman, or infrahuman, in it, as though the earth-gods in us all--Pan, or Demeter-- laid ghostly hands again, for a space, upon the soul and sense that nobler or sadder faiths have ravished from them.
In these Westmorland walks, however, my father had sometimes another companion--a frequent visitor at Fox How, where he was almost another son to my grandmother, and an elder brother to her children. How shall one ever make the later generation understand the charm of Arthur Stanley? There are many--very many--still living, in whom the sense of it leaps up, at the very mention of his name. But for those who never saw him, who are still in their twenties and thirties, what shall I say? That he was the son of a Bishop of Norwich and a member of the old Cheshire family of the Stanleys of Alderley; that he was a Rugby boy and a devoted pupil of Arnold, whose _Life_ he wrote, so that it stands out among the biographies of the century, not only for its literary merit, but for its wide and varied influence on feeling and opinion; that he was an Oxford tutor and Professor all through the great struggle of Liberal thought against the reactionary influences let loose by Newman and the Tractarian movement; that, as Regius Professor at Oxford, and Canon of Canterbury, if he added little to learning, or research, he at least kept alive--by his power of turning all he knew into image and color--that great "art" of history which the Dryasdusts so willingly let die; that as Dean of Westminster, he was still the life and soul of all the Liberalism in the Church, still the same generous friend and champion of all the spiritually oppressed that he had ever been? None of the old "causes" beloved of his youth could ever have said of him, as of so many others:
Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat--
He was, no doubt, the friend of kings and princes, and keenly conscious, always, of things long-descended, with picturesque or heroic associations. But it was he who invited Colenso to preach in the Abbey, after his excommunication by the fanatical and now forgotten Bishop of Cape Town; it was he who brought about that famous Communion of the Revisers in the Abbey, where the Unitarian received the Sacrament of Christ's death beside the Wesleyan and the Anglican, and who bore with unflinching courage the idle tumult which followed; it was he, too, who first took special pains to open the historical Abbey to working-men, and to give them an insight into the meaning of its treasures. He was not a social reformer in the modern sense; that was not his business. But his unfailing power of seeing and pouncing upon the _interesting_-- the _dramatic_--in any human lot, soon brought him into relation with men of callings and types the most different from his own; and for the rest he fulfilled to perfection that hard duty--"the duty to our equals"--on which Mr. Jowett once preached a caustic and suggestive sermon. But for him John Richard Green would have abandoned history, and student after student, heretic after heretic, found in him the man who eagerly understood them and chivalrously fought for them.
And then, what a joy he was to the eye! His small spare figure, miraculously light, his delicate face of tinted ivory--only that ivory is not sensitive and subtle, and incredibly expressive, as were the features of the little Dean; the eager, thin-lipped mouth, varying with every shade of feeling in the innocent great soul behind it; the clear eyes of china blue; the glistening white hair, still with the wave and spring of youth in it; the slender legs, and Dean's dress, which becomes all but the portly, with, on festal occasions, the red ribbon of the Bath crossing the mercurial frame: there are still a few pictures and photographs by which these characteristics are dimly recalled to those at least who knew the living man. To my father, who called him "Arthur," and to all the Fox How circle, he was the most faithful of friends, though no doubt my father's conversion to Catholicism to some extent, in later years, separated him from Stanley. In the letter I have printed on a former page, written on the night before my father left England for New Zealand in 1847, and cherished by its recipient all his life, there is a yearning, personal note, which was, perhaps, sometimes lacking in the much-surrounded, much-courted Dean of later life. It was not that Arthur Stanley, any more than Matthew Arnold, ever became a worldling in the ordinary sense. But "the world" asks too much of such men as Stanley. It heaps all its honors and all its tasks upon them, and without some slight stiffening of its substance the exquisite instrument cannot meet the strain.
Mr. Hughes always strongly denied that the George Arthur of _Tom Brown's Schooldays_ had anything whatever to do with Arthur Stanley. But I should like to believe that some anecdote of Stanley's schooldays had entered at least into the well-known scene where Arthur, in class, breaks down in construing the last address of Helen to the dead Hector. Stanley's memory, indeed, was alive with the great things or the picturesque detail of literature and history, no less than with the humorous or striking things of contemporary life. I remember an amusing instance of it at my own wedding breakfast. Stanley married us, and a few days before he had buried Frederick Denison Maurice. His historical sense was pleased by the juxtaposition of the two names Maurice and Arnold, suggested by the funeral of Maurice and the marriage of Arnold's granddaughter. The consequence was that his speech at the wedding breakfast was quite as much concerned with "graves and worms and epitaphs" as with things hymeneal. But from "the little Dean" all things were welcome.
My personal memory of him goes back to much earlier days. As a child at Fox How, he roused in me a mingled fascination and terror. To listen to him quoting Shakspeare or Scott or Macaulay was fascination; to find his eye fixed on one, and his slender finger darting toward one, as he asked a sudden historical question--"Where did Edward the First die?"--"Where was the Black Prince buried?"--was terror, lest, at seven years old, one should not be able to play up. I remember a particular visit of his to Fox How, when the dates and places of these royal deaths and burials kept us--myself in particular--in a perpetual ferment. It must, I think, have been when he was still at Canterbury, investigating, almost with the zest and passion of the explorer of Troy or Mycenae, what bones lie hid, and where, under the Cathedral floor, what sands--"fallen from the ruined sides of Kings"--that this passion of deaths and dates was upon him. I can see myself as a child of seven or eight, standing outside the drawing-room door at Fox How, bracing myself in a mixture of delight and fear, as to what "Doctor Stanley" might ask me when the door was opened; then the opening, and the sudden sharp turn of the slight figure, writing letters at the middle table, at the sight of "little Mary"--and the expected thunderbolt:
"_Where did Henry the Fourth die_?"
Confusion--and blank ignorance!
But memory leaps forward to a day four or five years later, when my father and I invaded the dark high room in the old Deanery, and the little Dean standing at his reading-desk. He looks round--sees "Tom," and the child with him. His charming face breaks into a broad smile; he remembers instantly, though it is some years since he and "little Mary" met. He holds out both his hands to the little girl--
"Come and see the place where Henry the Fourth died!"
And off we ran together to the Jerusalem Chamber.
YOUNG DAYS AT OXFORD
How little those who are school-girls of to-day can realize what it was to be a school-girl in the fifties or the early sixties of the last century! A modern girls' school, equipped as scores are now equipped throughout the country, was of course not to be found in 1858, when I first became a school boarder, or in 1867, when I ceased to be one. The games, the gymnastics, the solid grounding in drawing and music, together with the enormously improved teaching in elementary science, or literature and language, which are at the service of the school-girl of to-day, had not begun to be when I was at school. As far as intellectual training was concerned, my nine years from seven to sixteen were practically wasted. I learned nothing thoroughly or accurately, and the German, French, and Latin which I soon discovered after my marriage to be essential to the kind of literary work I wanted to do, had all to be relearned before they could be of any real use to me; nor was it ever possible for me-who married at twenty--to get that firm hold on the structure and literary history of any language, ancient or modern, which my brother William, only fifteen months my junior, got from his six years at Rugby, and his training there in Latin and Greek. What I learned during those years was learned from personalities; from contact with a nature so simple, sincere, and strong as that of Miss Clough; from the kindly old German governess, whose affection for me helped me through some rather hard and lonely school-years spent at a school in Shropshire; and from a gentle and high-minded woman, an ardent Evangelical, with whom, a little later, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, I fell headlong in love, as was the manner of school-girls then, and is, I understand, frequently the case with school-girls now, in spite of the greatly increased variety of subjects on which they may spend their minds.
English girls' schools to-day providing the higher education are, so far as my knowledge goes, worthily representative of that astonishing rise in the intellectual standards of women which has taken place in the last half-century. They are almost entirely taught by women, and women with whom, in many cases, education--the shaping of the immature human creature to noble ends--is the sincerest of passions; who find, indeed, in the task that same creative joy which belongs to literature or art, or philanthropic experiment. The schoolmistress to whom money is the sole or even the chief motive of her work, is, in my experience, rare to-day, though we have all in our time heard tales of modern "academies" of the Miss Pinkerton type, brought up to date--fashionable, exclusive, and luxurious--where, as in some boys' preparatory schools (before the war!) the more the parents paid, the better they were pleased. But I have not come across them. The leading boarding-schools in England and America, at present, no less than the excellent day-schools for girls of the middle class, with which this country has been covered since 1870, are genuine products of that Women's Movement, as we vaguely call it, in the early educational phases of which I myself was much engaged; whereof the results are now widely apparent, though as yet only half-grown. If one tracks it back to somewhere near its origins, its superficial origins, at any rate, one is brought up, I think, as in the case of so much else, against one leading cause--_railways_! With railways and a cheap press, in the second third of the nineteenth century, there came in, as we all know, the break-up of a thousand mental stagnations, answering to the old physical disabilities and inconveniences. And the break-up has nowhere had more startling results than in the world of women, and the training of women for life. We have only to ask ourselves what the women of Benjamin Constant, or of Beyle, or Balzac, would have made of the keen school-girl and college girl of the present day, to feel how vast is the change through which some of us have lived. Exceptional women, of course, have led much the same kind of lives in all generations. Mrs. Sidney Webb has gone through a very different sort of self-education from that of Harriet Martineau; but she has not thought more widely, and she will hardly influence her world so much as that stanch fighter of the past. It is the rank and file--the average woman--for whom the world has opened up so astonishingly. The revelation of her wide-spread and various capacity that the present war has brought about is only the suddenly conspicuous result of the liberating forces set in action by the scientific and mechanical development of the nineteenth century. It rests still with that world "after the war," to which we are all looking forward with mingled hope and fear, to determine the new forms, sociological and political, through which this capacity, this heightened faculty, must some day organically express itself.
In the years when I was at school, however--1858 to 1867--these good days were only beginning to dawn. Poor teaching, poor school-books, and, in many cases, indifferent food and much ignorance as to the physical care of girls--these things were common in my school-time. I loved nearly all my teachers; but it was not till I went home to live at Oxford, in 1867, that I awoke intellectually to a hundred interests and influences that begin much earlier nowadays to affect any clever child. I had few tools and little grounding; and I was much more childish than I need have been. A few vivid impressions stand out from these years: the great and to me mysterious figure of Newman haunting the streets of Edgbaston, where, in 1861, my father became head classical master of the Oratory School; the news of the murder of Lincoln, coming suddenly into a quiet garden in a suburb of Birmingham, and an ineffaceable memory of the pale faces and horror-stricken looks of those discussing it; the haunting beauty of certain passages of Ruskin which I copied out and carried about with me, without in the least caring to read as a whole the books from which they came; my first visit to the House of Commons in 1863; the recurrent visits to Fox How, and the winter and summer beauty of the fells; together with an endless storytelling phase in which I told stories to my school-fellows, on condition they told stories to me; coupled with many attempts on my part at poetry and fiction, which make me laugh and blush when I compare them to-day with similar efforts of my own grandchildren. But on the whole they were starved and rather unhappy years; through no one's fault. My parents were very poor and perpetually in movement. Everybody did the best he could.
With Oxford, however, and my seventeenth year, came a radical change.
It was in July, 1865, while I was still a school-girl, that in the very middle of the Long Vacation I first saw Oxford. My father, after some five years as Doctor Newman's colleague at the Oratory School, had then become the subject of a strong temporary reaction against Catholicism. He left the Roman Church in 1865, to return to it again, for good, eleven years later. During the interval he took pupils at Oxford, produced a very successful _Manual of English Literature,_ edited the works of Wycliffe for the Clarendon Press, made himself an Anglo-Saxon scholar, and became one of the most learned editors of the great Rolls Series. To look at the endless piles of his note-books is to realize how hard, how incessantly he worked. Historical scholarship was his destined field; he found his happiness in it through all the troubles of life. And the return to Oxford, to its memories, its libraries, its stately, imperishable beauty, was delightful to him. So also, I think, for some years, was the sense of intellectual freedom. Then began a kind of nostalgia, which grew and grew till it took him back to the Catholic haven in 1876, never to wander more.
But when he first showed me Oxford he was in the ardor of what seemed a permanent severance from an admitted mistake. I see a deserted Oxford street, and a hansom coming up it--myself and my father inside it. I was returning from school, for the holidays. When I had last seen my people, they were living near Birmingham. I now found them at Oxford, and I remember the thrill of excitement with which I looked from side to side as we neared the colleges. For I knew well, even at fourteen, that this was "no mean city." As we drove up Beaumont Street we saw what was then "new Balliol" in front of us, and a jutting window. "There lives the arch-heretic!" said my father. It was a window in Mr. Jowett's rooms. He was not yet Master of the famous College, but his name was a rallying- cry, and his personal influence almost at its zenith. At the same time, he was then rigorously excluded from the University pulpit; it was not till a year later that even his close friend Dean Stanley ventured to ask him to preach in Westminster Abbey; and his salary as Greek Professor, due to him from the revenues of Christ Church, and withheld from him on theological grounds for years, had only just been wrung--at last--from the reluctant hands of a governing body which contained Canon Liddon and Doctor Pusey.
To my father, on his settlement in Oxford, Jowett had been a kind and helpful friend; he had a very quick sympathy with my mother; and as I grew up he became my friend, too, so that as I look back upon my Oxford years both before and after my marriage, the dear Master--he became Master in 1870--plays a very marked part in the Oxford scene as I shall ever remember it.
It was not, however, till two years later that I left school, and slipped into the Oxford life as a fish into water. I was sixteen, beginning to be conscious of all sorts of rising needs and ambitions, keenly alive to the spell of Oxford and to the good fortune which had brought me to live in her streets. There was in me, I think, a real hunger to learn, and a very quick sense of romance in things or people. But after sixteen, except in music, I had no definite teaching, and everything I learned came to me from persons--and books--sporadically, without any general guidance or plan. It was all a great voyage of discovery, organized mainly by myself, on the advice of a few men and women very much older, who took an interest in me and were endlessly kind to the shy and shapeless creature I must have been.
It was in 1868 or 1869--I think I was seventeen--that I remember my first sight of a college garden lying cool and shaded between gray college walls, and on the grass a figure that held me fascinated--a lady in a green brocade dress, with a belt and chatelaine of Russian silver, who was playing croquet, then a novelty in Oxford, and seemed to me, as I watched her, a perfect model of grace and vivacity. A man nearly thirty years older than herself, whom I knew to be her husband, was standing near her, and a handful of undergraduates made an amused and admiring court round the lady. The elderly man--he was then fifty- three--was Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, and the croquet- player had been his wife about seven years. After the Rector's death in 1884, Mrs. Pattison married Sir Charles Dilke in the very midst of the divorce proceedings which were to wreck in full stream a brilliant political career; and she showed him a proud devotion till her death in 1904. None of her early friends who remember her later history can ever think of the "Frances Pattison" of Oxford days without a strange stirring of heart. I was much at Lincoln in the years before I married, and derived an impression from the life lived there that has never left me. Afterward I saw much less of Mrs. Pattison, who was generally on the Riviera in the winter; but from 1868 to 1872, the Rector, learned, critical, bitter, fastidious, and "Mrs. Pat," with her gaiety, her picturesqueness, her impatience of the Oxford solemnities and decorums, her sharp, restless wit, her determination _not_ to be academic, to hold on to the greater world of affairs outside--mattered more to me perhaps than anybody else. They were very good to me, and I was never tired of going there; though I was much puzzled by their ways, and--while my Evangelical phase lasted--much scandalized often by the speculative freedom of the talk I heard. Sometimes my rather uneasy conscience protested in ways which I think must have amused my hosts, though they never said a word. They were fond of asking me to come to supper at Lincoln on Sundays. It was a gay, unceremonious meal, at which Mrs. Pattison appeared in the kind of gown which at a much later date began to be called a tea-gown. It was generally white or gray, with various ornaments and accessories which always seemed to me, accustomed for so long to the rough-and-tumble of school life, marvels of delicacy and prettiness; so that I was sharply conscious, on these occasions, of the graceful figure made by the young mistress of the old house. But some last stubborn trace in me of the Evangelical view of Sunday declared that while one might talk--and one _must_ eat!--on Sunday, one mustn't put on evening dress, or behave as though it were just like a week-day. So while every one else was in evening dress, I more than once--at seventeen--came to these Sunday gatherings on a winter evening, purposely, in a high woolen frock, sternly but uncomfortably conscious of being sublime--if only one were not ridiculous! The Rector, "Mrs. Pat," Mr. Bywater, myself, and perhaps a couple of undergraduates--often a bewildered and silent couple--I see that little vanished company in the far past so plainly! Three of them are dead--and for me the gray walls of Lincoln must always be haunted by their ghosts.
The historian of French painting and French decorative art was already in those days unfolding in Mrs. Pattison. Her drawing-room was French, sparely furnished with a few old girandoles and mirrors on its white paneled walls, and a Persian carpet with a black center, on which both the French furniture and the living inmates of the room looked their best. And up-stairs, in "Mrs. Pat's" own working-room, there were innumerable things that stirred my curiosity--old French drawings and engravings, masses of foreign books that showed the young and brilliant owner of the room to be already a scholar, even as her husband counted scholarship; together with the tools and materials for etching, a mysterious process in which I was occasionally allowed to lend a hand, and which, as often as not, during the application of the acid to the plate, ended in dire misfortune to the etcher's fingers or dress, and in the helpless laughter of both artist and assistant.
The Rector himself was an endless study to me--he and his frequent companion, Ingram Bywater, afterward the distinguished Greek Professor. To listen to these two friends as they talked of foreign scholars in Paris or Germany, of Renan, or Ranke, or Curtius; as they poured scorn on Oxford scholarship, or the lack of it, and on the ideals of Balliol, which aimed at turning out public officials, as compared with the researching ideals of the German universities, which seemed to the Rector the only ideals worth calling academic; or as they flung gibes at Christ Church, whence Pusey and Liddon still directed the powerful Church party of the University--was to watch the doors of new worlds gradually opening before a girl's questioning intelligence. The Rector would walk up and down, occasionally taking a book from his crowded shelves, while Mr. By water and Mrs. Pattison smoked, with the after- luncheon coffee--and in those days a woman with a cigarette was a rarity in England--and sometimes, at a caustic _mot_ of the former's there would break out the Rector's cackling laugh, which was ugly, no doubt, but, when he was amused and at ease, extraordinarily full of mirth. To me he was from the beginning the kindest friend. He saw that I came of a literary stock and had literary ambitions; and he tried to direct me. "Get to the bottom of something," he would say. "Choose a subject, and know _everything_ about it!" I eagerly followed his advice, and began to work at early Spanish in the Bodleian. But I think he was wrong--I venture to think so!--though, as his half-melancholy, half-satirical look comes back to me, I realize how easily he would defend himself, if one could tell him so now. I think I ought to have been told to take a history examination and learn Latin properly. But if I had, half the exploring joy of those early years would, no doubt, have been cut away.
Later on, in the winters when Mrs. Pattison, threatened with rheumatic gout, disappeared to the Riviera, I came to know a sadder and lonelier Rector. I used to go to tea with him then in his own book-lined sanctum, and we mended the blazing fire between us and talked endlessly. Presently I married, and his interest in me changed; though our friendship never lessened, and I shall always remember with emotion my last sight of him lying, a white and dying man, on his sofa in London-- the clasp of the wasted hand, the sad, haunting eyes. When his _Memoirs_ appeared, after his death, a book of which Mr. Gladstone once said to me that he reckoned it as among the most tragic and the most memorable books of the nineteenth century, I understood him more clearly and more tenderly than I could have done as a girl. Particularly, I understood why in that skeptical and agnostic talk which never spared the Anglican ecclesiastics of the moment, or such a later Catholic convert as Manning, I cannot remember that I ever heard him mention the great name of John Henry Newman with the slightest touch of disrespect. On the other hand, I once saw him receive a message that some friend brought him from Newman with an eager look and a start of pleasure. He had been a follower of Newman's in the Tractarian days, and no one who ever came near to Newman could afterward lightly speak ill of him. It was Stanley, and not the Rector, indeed, who said of the famous Oratorian that the whole course of English religious history might have been different if Newman had known German. But Pattison might have said it, and if he had it would have been without the smallest bitterness as the mere expression of a sober and indisputable truth. Alas!--merely to quote it, nowadays, carries one back to a Germany before the Flood--a Germany of small States, a land of scholars and thinkers; a Germany that would surely have recoiled in horror from any prevision of that deep and hideous abyss which her descendants, maddened by wealth and success, were one day to dig between themselves and the rest of Europe.
One of my clearest memories connected with the Pattisons and Lincoln is that of meeting George Eliot and Mr. Lewes there, in the spring of 1870, when I was eighteen. It was at one of the Sunday suppers. George Eliot sat at the Rector's right hand. I was opposite her; on my left was George Henry Lewes, to whom I took a prompt and active dislike. He and Mrs. Pattison kept up a lively conversation in which Mr. Bywater, on the other side of the table, played full part. George Eliot talked very little, and I not at all. The Rector was shy or tired, and George Eliot was in truth entirely occupied in watching or listening to Mrs. Lewes. I was disappointed that she was so silent, and perhaps her quick eye may have divined it, for, after supper, as we were going up the interesting old staircase, made in the thickness of the wall, which led direct from the dining-room to the drawing-room above, she said to me: "The Rector tells me that you have been reading a good deal about Spain. Would you care to hear something of our Spanish journey?"--the journey which had preceded the appearance of _The Spanish Gypsy,_ then newly published. My reply is easily imagined. The rest of the party passed through the dimly lit drawing-room to talk and smoke in the gallery beyond, George Eliot sat down in the darkness, and I beside her. Then she talked for about twenty minutes, with perfect ease and finish, without misplacing a word or dropping a sentence, and I realized at last that I was in the presence of a great writer. Not a great _talker_. It is clear that George Eliot never was that. Impossible for her to "talk" her books, or evolve her books from conversation, like Madame de Staël. She was too self-conscious, too desperately reflective, too rich in second-thoughts for that. But in tête-à-tête, and with time to choose her words, she could--in monologue, with just enough stimulus from a companion to keep it going--produce on a listener exactly the impression of some of her best work. As the low, clear voice flowed on in Mrs. Pattison's drawing- room, I _saw_ Saragossa, Granada, the Escorial, and that survival of the old Europe in the new, which one must go to Spain to find. Not that the description was particularly vivid--in talking of famous places John Richard Green could make words tell and paint with far greater success; but it was singularly complete and accomplished. When it was done the effect was there--the effect she had meant to produce. I shut my eyes, and it all comes back--the darkened room, the long, pallid face, set in black lace, the evident wish to be kind to a young girl.
Two more impressions of her let me record. The following day, the Pattisons took their guests to see the "eights" races from Christ Church meadow. A young Fellow of Merton, Mandell Creighton, afterward the beloved and famous Bishop of London, was among those entertaining her on the barge, and on the way home he took her and Mr. Lewes through Merton garden. I was of the party, and I remember what a carnival of early summer it was in that enchanting place. The chestnuts were all out, one splendor from top to toe; the laburnums; the lilacs; the hawthorns, red and white; the new-mown grass spreading its smooth and silky carpet round the college walls; a May sky overhead, and through the trees glimpses of towers and spires, silver gray, in the sparkling summer air--the picture was one of those that Oxford throws before the spectator at every turn, like the careless beauty that knows she has only to show herself, to move, to breathe, to give delight. George Eliot stood on the grass, in the bright sun, looking at the flower-laden chestnuts, at the distant glimpses on all sides, of the surrounding city, saying little--that she left to Mr. Lewes!--but drinking it in, storing it in that rich, absorbent mind of hers. And afterward when Mr. Lewes, Mr. Creighton, she, and I walked back to Lincoln, I remember another little incident throwing light on the ever-ready instinct of the novelist. As we turned into the quadrangle of Lincoln--suddenly, at one of the upper windows of the Rector's lodgings, which occupied the far right-hand corner of the quad, there appeared the head and shoulders of Mrs. Pattison, as she looked out and beckoned, smiling, to Mrs. Lewes. It was a brilliant apparition, as though a French portrait by Greuze or Perronneau had suddenly slipped into a vacant space in the old college wall. The pale, pretty head, _blond-cendrée_; the delicate, smiling features and white throat; a touch of black, a touch of blue; a white dress; a general eighteenth-century impression as though of powder and patches--Mrs. Lewes perceived it in a flash, and I saw her run eagerly to Mr. Lewes and draw his attention to the window and its occupant. She took his arm, while she looked and waved. If she had lived longer, some day, and somewhere in her books, that vision at the window and that flower-laden garden would have reappeared. I seemed to see her consciously and deliberately committing them both to memory.
But I do not believe that she ever meant to describe the Rector in "Mr. Casaubon." She was far too good a scholar herself to have perpetrated a caricature so flagrantly untrue. She knew Mark Pattison's quality, and could never have meant to draw the writer of some of the most fruitful and illuminating of English essays, and one of the most brilliant pieces of European biography, in the dreary and foolish pedant who overshadows _Middlemarch_. But the fact that Mark Pattison was an elderly scholar with a young wife, and that George Eliot knew him, led later on to a legend which was, I am sure, unwelcome to the writer of _Middlemarch_, while her supposed victim passed it by with amused indifference.
As to the relation between the Rector and the Squire of _Robert Elsmere_ which has been often assumed, it was confined, as I have already said (in the introduction to the library edition of _Robert Elsmere_ published in 1909), to a likeness in outward aspect--"a few personal traits, and the two main facts of great learning and a general impatience of fools." If one could imagine Mark Pattison a landowner, he would certainly never have neglected his estates, or tolerated an inefficient agent.
Only three years intervened between my leaving school and my engagement to Mr. T. Humphry Ward, Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College, Oxford. But those three years seem to me now to have been extraordinarily full. Lincoln and the Pattisons, Balliol and Mr. Jowett, and the Bodleian Library, outside the influences and affections of my own home, stand in the forefront of what memory looks back on as a broad and animated scene. The great Library, in particular, became to me a living and inspiring presence. When I think of it as it then was, I am, aware of a medley of beautiful things--pale sunlight on book-lined walls, or streaming through old armorial bearings on Tudor windows; spaces and distances, all books, beneath a painted roof from which gleamed the motto of the University--_Dominus illuminatio mea_; gowned figures moving silently about the spaces; the faint scents of old leather and polished wood; and fusing it all, a stately dignity and benignant charm, through which the voices of the bells outside, as they struck each successive quarter from Oxford's many towers, seemed to breathe a certain eternal reminder of the past and the dead.
But regions of the Bodleian were open to me then that no ordinary reader sees now. Mr. Coxe--the well-known, much-loved Bodley's Librarian of those days--took kindly notice of the girl reader, and very soon, probably on the recommendation of Mark Pattison, who was a Curator, made me free of the lower floors, where was the "Spanish room," with its shelves of seventeenth and eighteenth century volumes in sheepskin or vellum, with their turned-in edges and leathern strings. Here I might wander at will, absolutely alone, save for the visit of an occasional librarian from the upper floor, seeking a book. To get to the Spanish Room one had to pass through the Douce Library, the home of treasures beyond price; on one side half the precious things of Renaissance printing, French or Italian or Elizabethan; on the other, stands of illuminated Missals and Hour Books, many of them rich in pictures and flower-work, that shone like jewels in the golden light of the room. That light was to me something tangible and friendly. It seemed to be the mingled product of all the delicate browns and yellows and golds in the bindings of the books, of the brass lattice-work that covered them, and of reflections from the beautiful stone-work of the Schools Quadrangle outside. It was in these noble surroundings that, with far too little, I fear, of positive reading, and with much undisciplined wandering from shelf to shelf and subject to subject, there yet sank deep into me the sense of history, and of that vast ocean of the recorded past from which the generations rise and into which they fall back. And that in itself was a great boon--almost, one might say, a training, of a kind.
But a girl of seventeen is not always thinking of books, especially in the Oxford summer term.
In _Miss Bretherton_, my earliest novel, and in _Lady Connie_, so far my latest, will be found, by those who care to look for it, the reflection of that other life of Oxford, the life which takes its shape, not from age, but from youth, not from the past which created Oxford, but from the lively, laughing present which every day renews it. For six months of the year Oxford is a city of young men, for the most part between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. In my maiden days it was not also a city of young women, as it is to-day. Women--girls especially--were comparatively on sufferance. The Heads of Houses were married; the Professors were mostly married; but married tutors had scarcely begun to be. Only at two seasons of the year was Oxford invaded by women--by bevies of maidens who came, in early May and middle June, to be made much of by their brothers and their brothers' friends, to be danced with and flirted with, to know the joys of coming back on a summer night from Nuneham up the long, fragrant reaches of the lower river, or of "sitting out" in historic gardens where Philip Sidney or Charles I had passed.
[Footnote 1: These chapters were written before the appearance of _Missing_ in the autumn of 1917.]
At the "eights" and "Commem." the old, old place became a mere background for pretty dresses and college luncheons and river picnics. The seniors groaned often, as well they might; for there was little work done in my day in the summer term. But it is perhaps worth while for any nation to possess such harmless festivals in so beautiful a setting as these Oxford gatherings. How many of our national festivals are spoiled by ugly and sordid things--betting and drink, greed and display! Here, all there is to see is a competition of boats, manned by England's best youth, upon a noble river, flowing, in Virgilian phrase, "under ancient walls"; a city of romance, given up for a few days to the pleasure of the young, and breathing into that pleasure her own refining, exalting note; a stately ceremony--the Encaenia--going back to the infancy of English learning; and the dancing of young men and maidens in Gothic or classical halls built long ago by the "fathers who begat us." My own recollection of the Oxford summer, the Oxford river and hay-fields, the dawn on Oxford streets, as one came out from a Commemoration ball, or the evening under Nuneham woods where the swans on that still water, now, as always, "float double, swan and shadow"--these things I hope will be with me to the end. To have lived through them is to have tasted youth and pleasure from a cup as pure, as little alloyed with baser things, as the high gods allow to mortals.
Let me recall one more experience before I come to the married life which began in 1872--my first sight of Taine, the great French historian, in the spring of 1871. He had come over at the invitation of the Curators of the Taylorian Institution to give a series of lectures on Corneille and Racine. The lectures were arranged immediately after the surrender of Paris to the German troops, when it might have been hoped that the worst calamities of France were over. But before M. Taine crossed to England the insurrection of the Commune had broken out, and while he was actually in Oxford, delivering his six lectures, the terrible news of the last days of May, the burning of the Tuileries, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Cour des Comptes, all the savagery of the beaten revolution, let loose on Paris itself, came crashing, day by day and hour by hour, like so many horrible explosions in the heavy air of Europe, still tremulous with the memories and agonies of recent war.
How well I remember the effect in Oxford!--the newspaper cries in the streets, the fear each morning as to what new calamities might have fallen on civilization, the intense fellow-feeling in a community of students and scholars for the students and scholars of France!
When M. Taine arrived, he himself bears witness (see his published Correspondence, Vol. II) that Oxford could not do enough to show her sympathy with a distinguished Frenchman. He writes from Oxford on May 25th:
I have no courage for a letter to-day. I have just heard of the horrors of Paris, the burning of the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Hôtel de Ville, etc. My heart is wrung. I have energy for nothing. I cannot go out and see people. I was in the Bodleian when the Librarian told me this and showed me the newspapers. In presence of such madness and such disasters, they treat a Frenchman here with a kind of pitying sympathy.
Oxford residents, indeed, inside and outside the colleges, crowded the first lecture to show our feeling not only for M. Taine, but for a France wounded and trampled on by her own children. The few dignified and touching words with which he opened his course, his fine, dark head, the attractiveness of his subject, the lucidity of his handling of it, made the lecture a great success; and a few nights afterward at dinner at Balliol I found myself sitting next the great man. In his published Correspondence there is a letter describing this dinner which shows that I must have confided in him not a little--as to my Bodleian reading, and the article on the "Poema del Cid" that I was writing. He confesses, however, that he did his best to draw me--examining the English girl as a new specimen for his psychological collection. As for me, I can only perversely remember a passing phrase of his to the effect that there was too much magenta in the dress of Englishwomen, and too much pepper in the English _cuisine_. From English cooking--which showed ill in the Oxford of those days--he suffered, indeed, a good deal. Nor, in spite of his great literary knowledge of England and English, was his spoken English clear enough to enable him to grapple with the lodging-house cook. Professor Max Müller, who had induced him to give the lectures, and watched over him during his stay, told me that on his first visit to the historian in his Beaumont Street rooms he found him sitting bewildered before the strangest of meals. It consisted entirely of a huge beefsteak, served in the unappetizing, slovenly English way, and--a large plate of buttered toast. Nothing else. "But I ordered bif-tek and pott-a-toes!" cried the puzzled historian to his visitor!
Another guest of the Master's on that night was Mr. Swinburne, and of him, too, I have a vivid recollection as he sat opposite to me on the side next the fire, his small lower features and slender neck overweighted by his thick reddish hair and capacious brow. I could not think why he seemed so cross and uncomfortable. He was perpetually beckoning to the waiters; then, when they came, holding peremptory conversation with them; while I from my side of the table could see them going away, with a whisper or a shrug to each other, like men asked for the impossible. At last, with a kind of bound, Swinburne leaped from his chair and seized a copy of the _Times_ which he seemed to have persuaded one of the men to bring him. As he got up I saw that the fire behind him, and very close to him, must indeed have been burning the very marrow out of a long-suffering poet. And, alack! in that house without a mistress the small conveniences of life, such as fire-screens, were often overlooked. The Master did not possess any. In a pale exasperation Swinburne folded the _Times_ over the back of his chair and sat down again. Vain was the effort! The room was narrow, the party large, and the servants, pushing by, had soon dislodged the _Times_. Again and again did Swinburne in a fury replace it; and was soon reduced to sitting silent and wild-eyed, his back firmly pressed against the chair and the newspaper, in a concentrated struggle with fate.
Matthew Arnold was another of the party, and I have a vision of my uncle standing talking with M. Taine, with whom he then and there made a lasting friendship. The Frenchman was not, I trust, aware at that moment of the heresies of the English critic who had ventured only a few years before to speak of "the exaggerated French estimate of Racine," and even to indorse the judgment of Joubert--"_Racine est le Virgile des ignorants"!_ Otherwise M. Taine might have given an even sharper edge than he actually did to his remarks, in his letters home, on the critical faculty of the English. "In all that I read and hear," he says to Madame Taine, "I see nowhere the fine literary sense which means the gift--or the art--of understanding the souls and passions of the past." And again, "I have had infinite trouble to-day to make my audience appreciate some _finesses_ of Racine." There is a note of resigned exasperation in these comments which reminds me of the passionate feeling of another French critic--Edmond Scherer, Sainte-Beuve's best successor--ten years later. _À propos_ of some judgment of Matthew Arnold--whom Scherer delighted in--on Racine, of the same kind as those I have already quoted, the French man of letters once broke out to me, almost with fury, as we walked together at Versailles. But, after all, was the Oxford which contained Pater, Pattison, and Bywater, which had nurtured Matthew Arnold and Swinburne--Swinburne with his wonderful knowledge of the intricacies and subtleties of the French tongue and the French literature--merely "_solide and positif_," as Taine declares? The judgment is, I think, a characteristic judgment of that man of formulas--often so brilliant and often so mistaken--who, in the famous _History of English Literature_, taught his English readers as much by his blunders as by his merits. He provoked us into thinking. And what critic does more? Is not the whole fraternity like so many successive Penelopes, each unraveling the web of the one before? The point is that the web should be eternally remade and eternally unraveled.
I married Mr. Thomas Humphry Ward, Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College, on April 6, 1872, the knot being tied by my father's friend, my grandfather's pupil and biographer, Dean Stanley. For nine years, till the spring of 1881, we lived in Oxford, in a little house north of the Parks, in what was then the newest quarter of the University town. They were years, for both of us, of great happiness and incessant activity. Our children, two daughters and a son, were born in 1874, 1876, and 1879. We had many friends, all pursuing the same kind of life as ourselves, and interested in the same kind of things. Nobody under the rank of a Head of a College, except a very few privileged Professors, possessed as much as a thousand a year. The average income of the new race of married tutors was not much more than half that sum. Yet we all gave dinner-parties and furnished our houses with Morris papers, old chests and cabinets, and blue pots. The dinner-parties were simple and short. At our own early efforts of the kind there certainly was not enough to eat. But we all improved with time; and on the whole I think we were very fair housekeepers and competent mothers. Most of us were very anxious to be up-to-date and in the fashion, whether in esthetics, in housekeeping, or in education. But our fashion was not that of Belgravia or Mayfair, which, indeed, we scorned! It was the fashion of the movement which sprang from Morris and Burne-Jones. Liberty stuffs very plain in line, but elaborately "smocked," were greatly in vogue, and evening dresses, "cut square," or with "Watteau pleats," were generally worn, and often in conscious protest against the London "low dress," which Oxford--young married Oxford--thought both ugly and "fast." And when we had donned our Liberty gowns we went out to dinner, the husband walking, the wife in a bath chair, drawn by an ancient member of an ancient and close fraternity--the "chairmen" of old Oxford.
Almost immediately opposite to us in the Bradmore Road lived Walter Pater and his sisters. The exquisiteness of their small house, and the charm of the three people who lived in it, will never be forgotten by those who knew them well in those days when by the publication of the _Studies in the Renaissance_ (1873) their author had just become famous. I recall very clearly the effect of that book, and of the strange and poignant sense of beauty expressed in it; of its entire aloofness also from the Christian tradition of Oxford, its glorification of the higher and intenser forms of esthetic pleasure, of "passion" in the intellectual sense--as against the Christian doctrine of self-denial and renunciation. It was a gospel that both stirred and scandalized Oxford. The bishop of the diocese thought it worth while to protest. There was a cry of "Neo-paganism," and various attempts at persecution. The author of the book was quite unmoved. In those days Walter Pater's mind was still full of revolutionary ferments which were just as sincere, just as much himself, as that later hesitating and wistful return toward Christianity, and Christianity of the Catholic type, which is embodied in _Marius the Epicurean_, the most beautiful of the spiritual romances of Europe since the _Confessions_. I can remember a dinner-party at his house, where a great tumult arose over some abrupt statement of his made to the High Church wife of a well-known Professor. Pater had been in some way pressed controversially beyond the point of wisdom, and had said suddenly that no reasonable person could govern his life by the opinions or actions of a man who died eighteen centuries ago. The Professor and his wife--I look back to them both with the warmest affection--departed hurriedly, in agitation; and the rest of us only gradually found out what had happened.
But before we left Oxford in 1881 this attitude of mind had, I think, greatly changed. Mr. Gosse, in the memoir of Walter Pater contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography, says that before 1870 he had gradually relinquished all belief in the Christian religion--and leaves it there. But the interesting and touching thing to watch was the gentle and almost imperceptible flowing back of the tide over the sands it had left bare. It may be said, I think, that he never returned to Christianity in the orthodox or intellectual sense. But his heart returned to it. He became once more endlessly interested in it, and haunted by the "something" in it which he thought inexplicable. A remembrance of my own shows this. In my ardent years of exploration and revolt, conditioned by the historical work that occupied me during the later 'seventies, I once said to him in tête-à-tête, reckoning confidently on his sympathy, and with the intolerance and certainty of youth, that orthodoxy could not possibly maintain itself long against its assailants, especially from the historical and literary camps, and that we should live to see it break down. He shook his head and looked rather troubled.
"I don't think so," he said. Then, with hesitation: "And we don't altogether agree. You think it's all plain. But I can't. There are such mysterious things. Take that saying, 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden.' How can you explain that? There is a mystery in it--something supernatural."
A few years later, I should very likely have replied that the answer of the modern critic would be, "The words you quote are in all probability from a lost Wisdom book; there are very close analogies in Proverbs and in the Apocrypha. They are a fragment without a context, and may represent on the Lord's lips either a quotation or the text of a discourse. Wisdom is speaking--the Wisdom 'which is justified of her children.'" But if any one had made such a reply, it would not have affected the mood in Pater, of which this conversation gave me my first glimpse, and which is expressed again and again in the most exquisite passages of _Marius_. Turn to the first time when Marius--under Marcus Aurelius--is present at a Christian ceremony, and sees, for the first time, the "wonderful spectacle of those who believed."
The people here collected might have figured as the earliest handsel or pattern of a new world, from the very face of which discontent had passed away.... They had faced life and were glad, by some science or light of knowledge they had, to which there was certainly no parallel in the older world. Was some credible message from beyond "the flaming rampart of the world"--a message of hope ... already molding their very bodies and looks and voices, now and here?
Or again to the thoughts of Marius at the approach of death:
At this moment, his unclouded receptivity of soul, grown so steadily through all those years, from experience to experience, was at its height; the house was ready for the possible guest, the tablet of the mind white and smooth, for whatever divine fingers might choose to write there.
_Marius_ was published twelve years after the _Studies in the Renaissance_, and there is a world between the two books. Some further light will be thrown on this later phase of Mr. Pater's thought by a letter he wrote to me in 1885 on my translation of Amiel's _From Journal Intime_. Here it is rather the middle days of his life that concern me, and the years of happy friendship with him and his sisters, when we were all young together. Mr. Pater and my husband were both fellows and tutors of Brasenose, though my husband was much the younger, a fact which naturally brought us into frequent contact. And the beautiful little house across the road, with its two dear mistresses, drew me perpetually, both before and after my marriage. The drawing-room, which runs the whole breadth of the house from the road to the garden behind, was "Paterian" in every line and ornament. There were a Morris paper; spindle-legged tables and chairs; a sparing allowance of blue plates and pots, bought, I think, in Holland, where Oxford residents in my day were always foraging, to return, often, with treasures of which the very memory now stirs a half-amused envy of one's own past self, that had such chances and lost them; framed embroidery of the most delicate design and color, the work of Mr. Pater's elder sister; engravings, if I remember right, from Botticelli, or Luini, or Mantegna; a few mirrors, and a very few flowers, chosen and arranged with a simple yet conscious art. I see that room always with the sun in it, touching the polished surfaces of wood and brass and china, and bringing out its pure, bright color. I see it too pervaded by the presence of the younger sister, Clara--a personality never to be forgotten by those who loved her. Clara Pater, whose grave and noble beauty in youth has been preserved in a drawing by Mr. Wirgman, was indeed a "rare and dedicated spirit." When I first knew her she was four or five and twenty, intelligent, alive, sympathetic, with a delightful humor and a strong judgment, but without much positive acquirement. Then after some years she began to learn Latin and Greek with a view to teaching; and after we left Oxford she became Vice-President of the new Somerville College for Women. Several generations of girl-students must still preserve the tenderest and most grateful memories of all that she was there, as woman, teacher, and friend. Her point of view, her opinion, had always the crispness, the savor that goes with perfect sincerity. She feared no one, and she loved many, as they loved her. She loved animals, too, as all the household did. How well I remember the devoted nursing given by the brother and sisters to a poor little paralytic cat, whose life they tried to save-- in vain! When, later, I came across in _Marius_ the account of Marcus Aurelius carrying away the dead child Annius Verus--"pressed closely to his bosom, as if yearning just then for one thing only, to be united, to be absolutely one with it, in its obscure distress"--I remembered the absorption of the writer of those lines, and of his sisters, in the suffering of that poor little creature, long years before. I feel tolerably certain that in writing the words Walter Pater had that past experience in mind.
After Walter Pater's death, Clara, with her elder sister, became the vigilant and joint guardians of their brother's books and fame, till, four years ago, a terrible illness cut short her life, and set free, in her brother's words, the "unclouded and receptive soul."
BALLIOL AND LINCOLN
When the Oxford historian of the future comes across the name and influence of Benjamin Jowett, the famous Master of Balliol, and Greek professor, in the mid-current of the nineteenth century, he will not be without full means of finding out what made that slight figure (whereof he will be able to study the outward and visible presence in some excellent portraits, and in many caricatures) so significant and so representative. The _Life_ of the Master, by Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, is to me one of the most interesting biographies of our generation. It is long--for those who have no Oxford ties, no doubt, too long; and it is cumbered with the echoes of old controversies, theological and academic, which have mostly, though by no means wholly, passed into a dusty limbo. But it is one of the rare attempts that English biography has seen to paint a man as he really was; and to paint him not with the sub-malicious strokes of a Purcell, but in love, although in truth.
[Illustration: BENJAMIN JOWETT]
The Master, as he fought his many fights, with his abnormally strong will and his dominating personality; the Master, as he appeared, on the one hand, to the upholders of "research," of learning, that is, as an end in itself apart from teaching, and, on the other, to the High- Churchmen encamped in Christ Church, to Pusey, Liddon, and all their clan--pugnacious, formidable, and generally successful--here he is to the life. This is the Master whose personality could never be forgotten in any room he chose to enter; who brought restraint rather than ease to the gatherings of his friends, mainly because, according to his own account, of a shyness he could never overcome; whose company on a walk was too often more of a torture than an honor to the undergraduate selected for it; whose lightest words were feared, quoted, chuckled over, or resented, like those of no one else.
Of this Master I have many remembrances. I see, for instance, a drawing- room full of rather tongue-tied, embarrassed guests, some Oxford residents, some Londoners; and the Master among them, as a stimulating-- but disintegrating!--force, of whom every one was uneasily conscious. The circle was wide, the room bare, and the Balliol arm-chairs were not placed for conversation. On a high chair against the wall sat a small boy of ten--we will call him Arthur--oppressed by his surroundings. The talk languished and dropped. From one side of the large room, the Master, raising his voice, addressed the small boy on the other side.
"Well, Arthur, so I hear you've begun Greek. How are you getting on?"
To the small boy looking round the room it seemed as though twenty awful grownups were waiting in a dead silence to eat him up. He rushed upon his answer.
"I--I'm reading the Anabasis," he said, desperately.
The false quantity sent a shock through the room. Nobody laughed, out of sympathy with the boy, who already knew that something dreadful had happened. The boy's miserable parents, Londoners, who were among the twenty, wished themselves under the floor. The Master smiled.
"The Anábasis, Arthur," he said, cheerfully. "You'll get it right next time."
And he went across to the boy, evidently feeling for him and wishing to put him at ease. But after thirty years the boy and his parents still remember the incident with a shiver. It could not have produced such an effect except in an atmosphere of tension; and that, alas! too often, was the atmosphere which surrounded the Master.
I can remember, too, many proud yet anxious half-hours in the Master's study--such a privilege, yet such an ordeal!--when, after our migration to London, we became, at regular intervals, the Master's week-end visitors. "Come and talk to me a little in my study," the Master would say, pleasantly. And there in the room where he worked for so many years, as the interpreter of Greek thought to the English world, one would take a chair beside the fire, with the Master opposite. I have described my fireside tête-à-têtes, as a girl, with another head of a College--the Rector of Lincoln, Mark Pattison. But the Master was a far more strenuous companion. With him, there were no diversions, none!--no relief from the breathless adventure of trying to please him and doing one's best. The Rector once, being a little invalidish, allowed me to make up the fire, and, after watching the process sharply, said: "Good! Does it drive _you_ distracted, too, when people put on coals the wrong way?" An interruption which made for human sympathy! The Master, as far as I can remember, had no "nerves"; and "nerves" are a bond between many. But he occasionally had sudden returns upon himself. I remember once after we had been discussing a religious book which had interested us both, he abruptly drew himself up, in the full tide of talk, and said, with a curious impatience, "But one can't be always thinking of these things!" and changed the subject.
So much for the Master, the stimulus of whose mere presence was, according to his biographers, "often painful." But there were at least two other Masters in the "Mr. Jowett" we reverenced. And they, too, are fully shown in this biography. The Master who loved his friends and thought no pains too great to take for them, including the very rare pains of trying to mend their characters by faithfulness and plain speaking, whenever he thought they wanted it. The Master, again, whose sympathies were always with social reform and with the poor, whose hidden life was full of deeds of kindness and charity, who, in spite of his difficulties of manner, was loved by all sorts and conditions of men--and women--in all circles of life, by politicians and great ladies, by diplomats and scholars and poets, by his secretary and his servants-- there are many traits of this good man and useful citizen recorded by his biographers.
And, finally, there was the Master who reminded his most intimate friends of a sentence of his about Greek literature, which occurs in the Introduction to the _Phoedrus_: "Under the marble exterior of Greek literature was concealed a soul thrilling with spiritual emotion," says the Master. His own was not exactly a marble exterior; but the placid and yet shrewd cheerfulness of his delicately rounded face, with its small mouth and chin, its great brow and frame of snowy hair, gave but little clue to the sensitive and mystical soul within. If ever a man was _Gottbetrunken_, it was the Master, many of whose meditations and passing thoughts, withdrawn, while he lived, from all human ken, yet written down--in thirty or forty volumes!--for his own discipline and remembrance, can now be read, thanks to his biographers, in the pages of the _Life_, They are extraordinarily frank and simple; startling, often, in their bareness and truth. But they are, above all, the thoughts of a mystic, moving in a Divine presence. An old and intimate friend of the Master's once said to me that he believed "Jowett's inner mind, especially toward the end of his life, was always in an attitude of Prayer. One would go and talk to him on University or College business in his study, and suddenly see his lips moving, slightly and silently, and know what it meant." The records of him which his death revealed-- and his closest friends realized it in life--show a man perpetually conscious of a mysterious and blessed companionship; which is the mark of the religious man, in all faiths and all churches. Yet this was the man who, for the High Church party at Oxford, with its headquarters at Christ Church, under the flag of Doctor Pusey and Canon Liddon, was the symbol and embodiment of all heresy; whose University salary as Greek professor, which depended on a Christ Church subsidy, was withheld for years by the same High-Churchmen, because of their inextinguishable wrath against the Liberal leader who had contributed so largely to the test-abolishing legislation of 1870--legislation by which Oxford, in Liddon's words, was "logically lost to the Church of England."
Yet no doubt they had their excuses! For this, too, was the man who, in a city haunted by Tractarian shades, once said to his chief biographer that "Voltaire had done more good than all the Fathers of the Church put together!"--who scornfully asks himself in his diary, _à propos_ of the Bishops' condemnation of _Essays and Reviews_, "What is Truth against an _esprit de corps_?"--and drops out the quiet dictum, "Half the books that are published are religious books, and what trash this religious literature is!" Nor did the Evangelicals escape. The Master's dislike for many well-known hymns specially dear to that persuasion was never concealed. "How cocky they are!" he would say, contemptuously. "'When upward I fly--Quite justified I'--who can repeat a thing like that?"
How the old war-cries ring again in one's ears as one looks back! Those who have only known the Oxford of the last twenty years can never, I think, feel toward that "august place" as we did, in the seventies of the last century; we who were still within sight and hearing of the great fighting years of an earlier generation, and still scorched by their dying fires. Balliol, Christ Church, Lincoln--the Liberal and utilitarian camp, the Church camp, the researching and pure scholarship camp--with Science and the Museum hovering in the background, as the growing aggressive powers of the future seeking whom they might devour-- they were the signs and symbols of mighty hosts, of great forces still visibly incarnate, and in marching array. Balliol _versus_ Christ Church--Jowett _versus_ Pusey and Liddon--while Lincoln despised both, and the new scientific forces watched and waited--that was how we saw the field of battle, and the various alarms and excursions it was always providing.
But Balliol meant more to me than the Master. Professor Thomas Hill Green--"Green of Balliol"--was no less representative in our days of the spiritual and liberating forces of the great college; and the time which has now elapsed since his death has clearly shown that his philosophic work and influence hold a lasting and conspicuous place in the history of nineteenth-century thought. He and his wife became our intimate friends, and in the Grey of _Robert Elsmere_ I tried to reproduce a few of those traits--traits of a great thinker and teacher, who was also one of the simplest, sincerest, and most practical of men--which Oxford will never forget, so long as high culture and noble character are dear to her. His wife--so his friend and biographer, Lewis Nettleship, tells us--once compared him to Sir Bors in "The Holy Grail":
A square-set man and honest; and his eyes, An outdoor sign of all the wealth within, Smiled with his lips--a smile beneath a cloud, But Heaven had meant it for a sunny one!
A quotation in which the mingling of a cheerful, practical, humorous temper, the temper of the active citizen and politician, with the heavy tasks of philosophic thought, is very happily suggested. As we knew him, indeed, and before the publication of the _Prolegomena to Ethics_ and the Introduction to the Clarendon Press edition of Hume had led to his appointment as Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy, Mr. Green was not only a leading Balliol tutor, but an energetic Liberal, a member both of the Oxford Town Council and of various University bodies; a helper in all the great steps taken for the higher education of women at Oxford, and keenly attracted by the project of a High School for the town boys of Oxford--a man, in other words, preoccupied, just as the Master was, and, for all his philosophic genius, with the need of leading "a useful life."
Let me pause to think how much that phrase meant in the mouths of the best men whom Balliol produced, in the days when I knew Oxford. The Master, Green, Toynbee--their minds were full, half a century ago, of the "condition of the people" question, of temperance, housing, wages, electoral reform; and within the University, and by the help of the weapons of thought and teaching, they regarded themselves as the natural allies of the Liberal party which was striving for these things through politics and Parliament. "Usefulness," "social reform," the bettering of daily life for the many--these ideas are stamped on all their work and on all the biographies of them that remain to us.
And the significance of it is only to be realized when we turn to the rival group, to Christ Church, and the religious party which that name stood for. Read the lives of Liddon, of Pusey, or--to go farther back-- of the great Newman himself. Nobody will question the personal goodness and charity of any of the three. But how little the leading ideas of that seething time of social and industrial reform, from the appearance of _Sybil_ in 1843 to the Education Bill of 1870, mattered either to Pusey or to Liddon, compared with the date of the Book of Daniel or the retention of the Athanasian Creed? Newman, at a time when national drunkenness was an overshadowing terror in the minds of all reformers, confesses with a pathetic frankness that he had never considered "whether there were too many public-houses in England or no"; and in all his religious controversies of the 'thirties and the 'forties, you will look in vain for any word of industrial or political reform. So also in the _Life_ of that great rhetorician and beautiful personality, Canon Liddon, you will scarcely find a single letter that touches on any question of social betterment. How to safeguard the "principle of authority," how to uphold the traditional authorship of the Pentateuch, and of the Book of Daniel, against "infidel" criticism; how to stifle among the younger High-Churchmen like Mr. (now Bishop) Gore, then head of the Pusey House, the first advances toward a reasonable freedom of thought; how to maintain the doctrine of Eternal Punishment against the protest of the religious consciousness itself--it is on these matters that Canon Liddon's correspondence turns, it was to them his life was devoted.
How vainly! Who can doubt now which type of life and thought had in it the seeds of growth and permanence--the Balliol type, or the Christ Church type? There are many High-Churchmen, it is true, at the present day, and many Ritualist Churches. But they are alive to-day, just in so far as they have learned the lesson of social pity, and the lesson of a reasonable criticism, from the men whom Pusey and Liddon and half the bishops condemned and persecuted in the middle years of the nineteenth century.
When we were living in Oxford, however, this was not exactly the point of view from which the great figure of Liddon presented itself, to us of the Liberal camp. We were constantly aware of him, no doubt, as the rival figure to the Master of Balliol, as the arch wire-puller and ecclesiastical intriguer in University affairs, leading the Church forces with a more than Roman astuteness. But his great mark was made, of course, by his preaching, and that not so much by the things said as by the man saying them. Who now would go to Liddon's famous Bamptons, for all their learning, for a still valid defense of the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation? Those wonderful paragraphs of subtle argumentation from which the great preacher emerged, as triumphantly as Mr. Gladstone from a Gladstonian sentence in a House of Commons debate-- what remains of them? Liddon wrote of Stanley that he--Stanley--was "more entirely destitute of the logical faculty" than any educated man he knew. In a sense it was true. But Stanley, if he had been aware of the criticism, might have replied that, if he lacked logic, Liddon lacked something much more vital--i.e., the sense of history--and of the relative value of testimony!
Newman, Pusey, Liddon--all three, great schoolmen, arguing from an accepted brief; the man of genius, the man of a vast industry, intense but futile, the man of captivating presence and a perfect rhetoric-- history, with its patient burrowings, has surely undermined the work of all three, sparing only that element in the work of one of them-- Newman--which is the preserving salt of all literature--i.e., the magic of personality. And some of the most efficacious burrowers have been their own spiritual children. As was fitting! For the Tractarian movement, with its appeal to the primitive Church, was in truth, and quite unconsciously, one of the agencies in a great process of historical inquiry which is still going on, and of which the end is not yet.
But to me, in my twenties, these great names were not merely names or symbols, as they are to the men and women of the present generation. Newman I had seen in my childhood, walking about the streets of Edgbaston, and had shrunk from him in a dumb, childish resentment as from some one whom I understood to be the author of our family misfortunes. In those days, as I have already recalled in an earlier chapter, the daughters of a "mixed marriage" were brought up in the mother's faith, and the sons in the father's. I, therefore, as a schoolgirl under Evangelical influence, was not allowed to make friends with any of my father's Catholic colleagues. Then, in 1880, twenty years later, Newman came to Oxford, and on Trinity Monday there was a great gathering at Trinity College, where the Cardinal in his red, a blanched and spiritual presence, received the homage of a new generation who saw in him a great soul and a great master of English, and cared little or nothing for the controversies in which he had spent his prime. As my turn came to shake hands, I recalled my father to him and the Edgbaston days. His face lit up--almost mischievously. "Are you the little girl I remember seeing sometimes--in the distance?" he said to me, with a smile and a look that only he and I understood.
On the Sunday preceding that gathering I went to hear his last sermon in the city he had loved so well, preached at the new Jesuit church in the suburbs; while little more than a mile away, Bidding Prayer and sermon were going on as usual in the University Church where in his youth, week by week, he had so deeply stirred the hearts and consciences of men. The sermon in St. Aloysius's was preached with great difficulty, and was almost incoherent from the physical weakness of the speaker. Yet who that was present on that Sunday will ever forget the great ghost that fronted them, the faltering accents, the words from which the life-blood had departed, yet not the charm?
Then--Pusey! There comes back to me a bowed and uncouth figure, whom one used to see both in the Cathedral procession on a Sunday, and--rarely-- in the University pulpit. One sermon on Darwinism, which was preached, if I remember right, in the early 'seventies, remains with me, as the appearance of some modern Elijah, returning after long silence and exile to protest against an unbelieving world. Sara Coleridge had years before described Pusey in the pulpit with a few vivid strokes.
He has not one of the graces of oratory [she says]. His discourse is generally a rhapsody describing with infinite repetition the wickedness of sin, the worthlessness of earth, and the blessedness of Heaven. He is as still as a statue all the time he is uttering it, looks as white as a sheet, and is as monotonous in delivery as possible.
Nevertheless, Pusey wielded a spell which is worth much oratory--the spell of a soul dwelling spiritually on the heights; and a prophet, moreover, may be as monotonous or as incoherent as he pleases, while the world is still in tune with his message. But in the 'seventies, Oxford, at least, was no longer in tune with Pusey's message, and the effect of the veteran leader, trying to come to terms with Darwinism, struggling, that is, with new and stubborn forces he had no further power to bind, was tragic, or pathetic, as such things must always be. New Puseys arise in every century. The "sons of authority" will never perish out of the earth. But the language changes and the argument changes; and perhaps there are none more secretly impatient with the old prophet than those younger spirits of his own kind who are already stepping into his shoes.
Far different was the effect of Liddon, in those days, upon us younger folk! The grace and charm of Liddon's personal presence were as valuable to his party in the 'seventies as that of Dean Stanley had been to Liberalism at an earlier stage. There was indeed much in common between the aspect and manner of the two men, though no likeness, in the strict sense, whatever. But the exquisite delicacy of feature, the brightness of eye, the sensitive play of expression, were alike in both. Saint Simon says of Fenelon:
He was well made, pale, with eyes that showered intelligence and fire--and with a physiognomy that no one who had seen it once could forget. It had both gravity and polish, seriousness and gaiety; it spoke equally of the scholar, the bishop, and the _grand seigneur_, and the final impression was one of intelligence, subtlety, grace, charm; above all, of dignity. One had to tear oneself from looking at him.
Many of those who knew Liddon best could, I think, have adapted this language to him; and there is much in it that fitted Arthur Stanley.
But the love and gift for managing men was of course a secondary thing in the case of our great preacher. The University politics of Liddon and his followers are dead and gone; and as I have ventured to think, the intellectual force of Liddon's thoughts and arguments, as they are presented to us now on the printed page, is also a thing of the past. But the vision of the preacher in those who saw it is imperishable. The scene in St. Paul's has been often described, by none better than by Doctor Liddon's colleague, Canon Scott Holland. But the Oxford scene, with all its Old World setting, was more touching, more interesting. As I think of it, I seem to be looking out from those dark seats under the undergraduates' gallery--where sat the wives of the Masters of Arts--at the crowded church, as it waited for the preacher. First came the stir of the procession; the long line of Heads of Houses, in their scarlet robes as Doctors of Divinity--all but the two heretics, Pattison and Jowett, who walked in their plain black, and warmed my heart always thereby! And then the Vice-Chancellor, with the "pokers" and the preacher. All eyes were fixed on the slender, willowy figure, and the dark head touched with silver. The bow to the Vice-Chancellor as they parted at the foot of the pulpit stairs, the mounting of the pulpit, the quiet look out over the Church, the Bidding Prayer, the voice--it was all part of an incomparable performance which cannot be paralleled to- day.
The voice was high and penetrating, without much variety, as I remember it; but of beautiful quality, and at times wonderfully moving. And what was still more appealing was the evident strain upon the speaker of his message. It wore him out visibly as he delivered it. He came down from the pulpit white and shaken, dripping with perspiration. Virtue had gone out of him. Yet his effort had never for a moment weakened his perfect self-control, the flow and finish of the long sentences, or the subtle interconnection of the whole! One Sunday I remember in particular. Oxford had been saddened the day before by the somewhat sudden death of a woman whom everybody loved and respected--Mrs. Acland, the wife of the well-known doctor and professor. And Liddon, with a wonderfully happy instinct, had added to his sermon a paragraph dealing with Mrs. Acland's death, which held us all spellbound till the beautiful words died into silence. It was done with a fastidious literary taste that is rather French than English; and yet it came from the very heart of the speaker. Looking back through my many memories of Doctor Liddon as a preacher, that tribute to a noble woman in death remains with me as the finest and most lasting of them all.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE
How many other figures in that vanished Oxford world I should like to draw!--Mandell or "Max" Creighton, our lifelong friend, then just married to the wife who was his best comrade while he lived, and since his death has made herself an independent force in English life. I first remember the future Bishop of London when I was fifteen, and he was reading history with my father on a Devonshire reading-party. The tall, slight figure in blue serge, the red-gold hair, the spectacles, the keen features and quiet, commanding eye--I see them first against a background of rocks on the Lynton shore. Then again, a few years later, in his beautiful Merton rooms, with the vine tendrils curling round the windows, the Morris paper, and the blue willow-pattern plates upon it, that he was surely the first to collect in Oxford. A luncheon-party returns upon me--in Brasenose--where the brilliant Merton Fellow and tutor, already a power in Oxford, first met his future wife; afterward, their earliest married home in Oxford so near to ours, in the new region of the Parks; then the Vicarage on the Northumberland coast where Creighton wrestled with the north-country folk, with their virtues and their vices, drinking deep draughts thereby from the sources of human nature; where he read and wrote history, preparing for his _magnum opus_, the history of the Renaissance Popes; where he entertained his friends, brought up his children, and took mighty walks--always the same restless, energetic, practical, pondering spirit, his mind set upon the Kingdom of God, and convinced that in and through the English Church a man might strive for the Kingdom as faithfully and honestly as anywhere else. The intellectual doubts and misgivings on the subject of taking orders, so common in the Oxford of his day, Creighton had never felt. His life had ripened to a rich maturity without, apparently, any of those fundamental conflicts which had scarred the lives of other men.
The fact set him in strong contrast with another historian who was also our intimate friend--John Richard Green. When I first knew him, during my engagement to my husband, and seven years before the _Short History_ was published, he had just practically--though not formally--given up his orders. He had been originally curate to my husband's father, who held a London living, and the bond between him and his Vicar's family was singularly close and affectionate. After the death of the dear mother of the flock, a saintly and tender spirit, to whom Mr. Green was much attached, he remained the faithful friend of all her children. How much I had heard of him before I saw him! The expectation of our first meeting filled me with trepidation. Should I be admitted, too, into that large and generous heart? Would he "pass" the girl who had dared to be his "boy's" fiancée? But after ten minutes all was well, and he was my friend no less than my husband's, to the last hour of his fruitful, suffering life.
And how much it meant, his friendship! It became plain very soon after our marriage that ours was to be a literary partnership. My first published story, written when I was eighteen, had appeared in the _Churchman's Magazine_ in 1870, and an article on the "Poema del Cid," the first-fruits of my Spanish browsings in the Bodleian, appeared in _Macmillan_ early in 1872. My husband was already writing in the _Saturday Review_ and other quarters, and had won his literary spurs as one of the three authors of that _jeu d'esprit_ of no small fame in its day, the _Oxford Spectator_. Our three children arrived in 1874, 1876, and 1879, and all the time I was reading, listening, talking, and beginning to write in earnest--mostly for the _Saturday Review_. "J.R.G.," as we loved to call him, took up my efforts with the warmest encouragement, tempered, indeed, by constant fears that I should become a hopeless bookworm and dryasdust, yielding day after day to the mere luxury of reading, and putting nothing into shape!
Against this supposed tendency in me he railed perpetually. "Any one can read!" he would say; "anybody of decent wits can accumulate notes and references; the difficulty is to _write_--to make something!" And later on, when I was deep in Spanish chronicles and thinking vaguely of a History of Spain--early Spain, at any rate--he wrote, almost impatiently: "_Begin_--and begin your _book_. Don't do 'studies' and that sort of thing--one's book teaches one everything as one writes it." I was reminded of that letter years later when I came across, in _Amiel's Journal_, a passage almost to the same effect: "It is by writing that one learns--it is by pumping that one draws water into one's well." But in J.R.G.'s case the advice he gave his friend was carried out by himself through every hour of his short, concentrated life. "He died learning," as the inscription on his grave testifies; but he also died _making_. In other words, the shaping, creative instinct wrestled in him with the powers of death through long years, and never deserted him to the very end. Who that has ever known the passion of the writer and the student can read without tears the record of his last months? He was already doomed when I first saw him in 1871, for signs of tuberculosis had been discovered in 1869, and all through the 'seventies and till he died, in 1883, while he was writing the _Short History_, the expanded Library Edition in four volumes, and the two brilliant monographs on _The Making of England_ and _The Conquest of England_, the last of which was put together from his notes, and finished by his devoted wife and secretary after his death, he was fighting for his life, in order that he might finish his work. He was a dying man from January, 1881, but he finished and published _The Making of England_ in 1882, and began _The Conquest of England_. On February 25th, ten days before his death, his wife told him that the end was near. He thought a little, and said that he had still something to say in his book "which is worth saying. I will make a fight for it. I will do what I can, and I must have sleeping-draughts for a week. After that it will not matter if they lose their effect." He worked on a little longer---but on March 7th all was over. My husband had gone out to see him in February, and came home marveling at the miracle of such life in death.
I have spoken of the wonderful stimulus and encouragement he could give to the young student. But he was no flatterer. No one could strike harder or swifter than he, when he chose.
It was to me--in his eager friendship for "Humphry's" young wife--he first intrusted the task of that primer of English literature which afterward Mr. Stopford Brooke carried out with such astonishing success. But I was far too young for such a piece of work, and knew far too little. I wrote a beginning, however, and took it up to him when he was in rooms in Beaumont Street. He was entirely dissatisfied with it, and as gently and kindly as possible told me it wouldn't do and that I must give it up. Then throwing it aside, he began to walk up and down his room, sketching out how such a general outline of English literature might be written and should be written. I sat by enchanted, all my natural disappointment charmed away. The knowledge, the enthusiasm, the _shaping_ power of the frail human being moving there before me--with the slight, emaciated figure, the great brow, the bright eyes; all the physical presence instinct, aflame, with the intellectual and poetic passion which grew upon him as he traced the mighty stream of England's thought and song--it was an experience never forgotten, one of those by which mind teaches mind, and the endless succession is carried on.
[Footnote 1: Since writing these lines, I have been amused to discover the following reference in the brilliant biography of Stopford Brooke, by his son-in-law, Principal Jacks, to my unlucky attempt. "The only advantage," says Mr. Brooke in his diary for May 8, 1899, "the older writer has over the younger is that he knows what to leave out and has a juster sense of proportion. I remember that when Green wanted the Primer of English Literature to be done, Mrs. ---- asked if she might try her hand at it. He said 'Yes,' and she set to work. She took a fancy to _Beowulf_, and wrote twenty pages on it! At this rate the book would have run to more than a thousand pages."]
There is another memory from the early time, which comes back to me--of J.R.G. in Notre Dame. We were on our honeymoon journey, and we came across him in Paris. We went together to Notre Dame, and there, as we all lingered at the western end, looking up to the gleaming color of the distant apse, the spirit came upon him. He began to describe what the Church had seen, coming down through the generations, from vision to vision. He spoke in a low voice, but without a pause or break, standing in deep shadow close to the western door. One scarcely saw him, and I almost lost the sense of his individuality. It seemed to be the very voice of History--Life telling of itself.
Liberty and the passion for liberty were the very breath of his being. In 1871, just after the Commune, I wrote him a cry of pity and horror about the execution of Rossel, the "heroic young Protestant who had fought the Versaillais because they had made peace, and prevented him from fighting the Prussians." J.R.G. replied that the only defense of a man who fought for the Commune was that he believed in it, while Rossel, by his own statement, did not.
People like old Delescluze are more to my mind, men who believe, rightly or wrongly (in the ideas of '93), and cling to their faith through thirteen years of the hulks and of Cayenne, who get their chance at last, fight, work, and then when all is over know how to die--as Delescluze, with that gray head bared and the old threadbare coat thrown open, walked quietly and without a word up to the fatal barricade.
His place in the ranks of history is high and safe. That was abundantly shown by the testimony of the large gathering of English scholars and historians at the memorial meeting held in his own college some years ago. He remains as one of the leaders of that school (there is, of course, another and a strong one!) which holds that without imagination and personality a man had better not write history at all; since no recreation of the past is really possible without the kindling and welding force that a man draws from his own spirit.
But it is as a friend that I desire--with undying love and gratitude--to commemorate him here. To my husband, to all the motherless family he had taken to his heart, he was affection and constancy itself. And as for me, just before the last visit that we paid him at Mentone in 1882, a year before he died, he was actually thinking out schemes for that history of early Spain which it seemed, both to him and me, I must at last begin, and was inquiring what help I could get from libraries on the Riviera during our stay with him. Then, when we came, I remember our talks in the little Villa St. Nicholas--his sympathy, his enthusiasm, his unselfish help; while all the time he was wrestling with death for just a few more months in which to finish his own work. Both Lord Bryce and Sir Leslie Stephen have paid their tribute to this wonderful talk of his later years. "No such talk," says Lord Bryce, "has been heard in our generation." Of Madame de Staël it was said that she wrote her books out of the talk of the distinguished men who frequented her _salon_. Her own conversation was directed to evoking from the brains of others what she afterward, as an artist, knew how to use better than they. Her talk-- small blame to her!--was plundering and acquisitive. But J.R.G.'s talk _gave_ perpetually, admirable listener though he was. All that he had he gave; so that our final thought of him is not that of the suffering invalid, the thwarted workman, the life cut short, but rather that of one who had richly done his part and left in his friends' memories no mere pathetic appeal, but much more a bracing message for their own easier and longer lives.
Of the two other historians with whom my youth threw me into contact, Mr. Freeman and Bishop Stubbs, I have some lively memories. Mr. Freeman was first known to me, I think, through "Johnny," as he was wont to call J.R.G., whom he adored. Both he and J.R.G. were admirable letter- writers, and a volume of their correspondence--much of it already published separately--if it could be put together--like that of Flaubert and George Sand--would make excellent reading for a future generation. In 1877 and 1878, when I was plunged in the history of West-Gothic Kings, I had many letters from Mr. Freeman, and never were letters about grave matters less grave. Take this outburst about a lady who had sent him some historical work to look at. He greatly liked and admired the lady; but her work drove him wild. "I never saw anything like it for missing the point of everything.... Then she has no notion of putting a sentence together, so that she said some things which I fancy she did not mean to say--as that 'the beloved Queen Louisa of Prussia' was the mother of M. Thiers. When she said that the Duke of Orleans's horses ran away, 'leaving two infant sons,' it may have been so: I have no evidence either way."
Again, "I am going to send you the Spanish part of my Historical Geography. It will be very bad, but--when I don't know a thing I believe I generally know that I don't know it, and so manage to wrap it up in some vague phrase which, if not right, may at least not be wrong. Thus I have always held that the nursery account of Henry VIII--
"'And Henry the Eighth was as fat as a pig--'
"is to be preferred to Froude's version. For, though certainly an inadequate account of the reign, it is true as far as it goes."
Once, certainly, we stayed at Somerleaze, and I retain the impression of a very busy, human, energetic man of letters, a good Churchman, and a good citizen, brimful of likes and dislikes, and waving his red beard often as a flag of battle in many a hot skirmish, especially with J.R.G., but always warm-hearted and generally placable--except in the case of James Anthony Froude. The feud between Freeman and Froude was, of course, a standing dish in the educated world of half a century ago. It may be argued that the Muse of History has not decided the quarrel quite according to justice; that Clio has shown herself something of a jade in the matter, as easily influenced by fair externals as a certain Helen was long ago. How many people now read the _Norman Conquest_-- except the few scholars who devote themselves to the same period? Whereas Froude's History, with all its sins, lives, and in my belief will long live, because the man who wrote it was a _writer_ and understood his art.
Of Bishop Stubbs, the greatest historical name surely in the England of the last half of the nineteenth century, I did not personally see much while we lived in Oxford and he was Regius Professor. He had no gifts-- it was his chief weakness as a teacher--for creating a young school around him, setting one man to work on this job, and another on that, as has been done with great success in many instances abroad. He was too reserved, too critical, perhaps too sensitive. But he stood as a great influence in the background, felt if not seen. A word of praise from him meant everything; a word of condemnation, in his own subjects, settled the matter. I remember well, after I had written a number of articles on early Spanish Kings and Bishops, for a historical Dictionary, and they were already in proof, how on my daily visits to the Bodleian I began to be puzzled by the fact that some of the very obscure books I had been using were "out" when I wanted them, or had been abstracted from my table by one of the sub-librarians. _Joannes Biclarensis_--he was missing! Who in the world could want that obscure chronicle of an obscure period but myself? I began to envisage some hungry German _Privatdozent_, on his holiday, raiding my poor little subject, and my books, with a view to his Doctor's thesis. Then one morning, as I went in, I came across Doctor Stubbs, with an ancient and portly volume under his arm. _Joannes Biclarensis_ himself!--I knew it at once. The Professor gave me a friendly nod, and I saw a twinkle in his eye as we passed. Going to my desk, I found another volume gone--this time the _Acts of the Councils of Toledo_. So far as I knew, not the most ardent Churchman in Oxford felt at that time any absorbing interest in the Councils of Toledo. At any rate, I had been left in undisturbed possession of them for months. Evidently something was happening, and I sat down to my work in bewilderment.
Then, on my way home, I ran into a fellow-worker for the Dictionary--a well-known don and history tutor. "Do you know what's happened?" he said, in excitement. "_Stubbs_ has been going through our work! The Editor wanted his imprimatur before the final printing. Can't expect anybody but Stubbs to know all these things! My books are gone, too." We walked up to the Parks together in a common anxiety, like a couple of school-boys in for Smalls. Then in a few days the tension was over; my books were on my desk again; the Professor stopped me in the Broad with a smile, and the remark that Joannes Biclarensis was really quite an interesting fellow, and I received a very friendly letter from the Editor of the Dictionary.
And perhaps I may be allowed, after these forty years, one more recollection, though I am afraid a proper reticence would suppress it! A little later "Mr. Creighton" came to visit us, after his immigration to Embleton and the north; and I timidly gave him some lives of West-Gothic Kings and Bishops to read. He read them--they were very long and terribly minute--and put down the proofs, without saying much. Then he walked down to Oxford with my husband, and sent me back a message by him: "Tell M. to go on. There is nobody but Stubbs doing such work in Oxford now." The thrill of pride and delight such words gave me may be imagined. But there were already causes at work why I should not "go on."
I shall have more to say presently about the work on the origins of modern Spain. It was the only thorough "discipline" I ever had; it lasted about two years--years of incessant, arduous work, and it led directly to the writing of _Robert Elsmere_. But before and after, how full life was of other things! The joys of one's new home, of the children that began to patter about it, of every bit of furniture and blue pot it contained, each representing some happy _chasse_ or special earning--of its garden of half an acre, where I used to feel as Hawthorne felt in the garden of the Concord Manse--amazement that Nature should take the trouble to produce things as big as vegetable marrows, or as surprising as scarlet runners that topped one's head, just that we might own and eat them. Then the life of the University town, with all those marked antagonisms I have described, those intellectual and religious movements, that were like the meeting currents of rivers in a lake; and the pleasure of new friendships, where everybody was equal, nobody was rich, and the intellectual average was naturally high. In those days, too, a small group of women of whom I was one were laying the foundations of the whole system of women's education in Oxford. Mrs. Creighton and I, with Mrs. Max Müller, were the secretaries and founders of the first organized series of lectures for women in the University town; I was the first secretary of Somerville Hall, and it fell to me, by chance, to suggest the name of the future college. My friends and I were all on fire for women's education, including women's medical education, and very emulous of Cambridge, where the movement was already far advanced.
But hardly any of us were at all on fire for woman suffrage, wherein the Oxford educational movement differed greatly from the Cambridge movement. The majority, certainly, of the group to which I belonged at Oxford were at that time persuaded that the development of women's power in the State--or rather, in such a state as England, with its far- reaching and Imperial obligations, resting ultimately on the sanction of war--should be on lines of its own. We believed that growth through Local Government, and perhaps through some special machinery for bringing the wishes and influence of women of all classes to bear on Parliament, other than the Parliamentary vote, was the real line of progress. However, I shall return to this subject on some future occasion, in connection with the intensified suffragist campaign which began about ten years ago (1907-08) and in which I took some part. I will only note here my first acquaintance with Mrs. Fawcett. I see her so clearly as a fresh, picturesque figure--in a green silk dress and a necklace of amber beads, when she came down to Oxford in the mid-'seventies to give a course of lectures in the series that Mrs. Creighton and I were organizing, and I remember well the atmosphere of sympathy and admiration which surrounded her as she spoke to an audience in which many of us were well acquainted with the heroic story of Mr. Fawcett's blindness, and of the part played by his wife in enabling him to continue his economic and Parliamentary work.
But life then was not all lectures!--nor was it all Oxford. There were vacations, and vacations generally meant for us some weeks, at least, of travel, even when pence were fewest. The Christmas vacation of 1874 we were in Paris. The weather was bitter, and we were lodged, for cheapness' sake, in an old-fashioned hotel, where the high canopied beds with their mountainous duvets were very difficult to wake up in on a cold morning. But in spite of snow and sleet we filled our days to the brim. We took with us some introductions from Oxford--to Madame Mohl, the Renans, the Gaston Parises, the Boutmys, the Ribots, and, from my Uncle Matthew, to the Scherers at Versailles. Monsieur Taine was already known to us, and it was at their house, on one of Madame Taine's Thursdays, that I first heard French conversation at its best. There was a young man there, dark-eyed, dark-haired, to whom I listened--not always able to follow the rapid French in which he and two other men were discussing some literary matter of the moment, but conscious, for the first time, of what the conversation of intellectual equals might be, if it were always practised as the French are trained to practise it from their mother's milk, by the influence of a long tradition. The young man was M. Paul Bourget, who had not yet begun to write novels, while his literary and philosophical essays seemed rather to mark him out as the disciple of M. Taine than as the Catholic protagonist he was soon to become. M. Bourget did not then speak English, and my French conversation, which had been wholly learned from books, had a way at that time--and, alack! has still--of breaking down under me, just as one reached the thing one really wanted to say. So that I did not attempt to do more than listen. But I seem to remember that those with whom he talked were M. Francis Charmes, then a writer on the staff of the _Débats_, and afterward the editor of the _Revue des deux Mondes_ in succession to M. Brunetière; and M. Gaston Paris, the brilliant head of French philology at the Collège de France. What struck me then, and through all the new experiences and new acquaintanceships of our Christmas fortnight, was that strenuous and passionate intensity of the French temper, which foreign nations so easily lose sight of, but which, in truth, is as much part of the French nature as their gaiety, or as what seems to us their frivolity. The war of 1870, the Commune, were but three years behind them. Germany had torn from them Alsace-Lorraine; she had occupied Paris; and their own Jacobins had ruined and burned what even Germany had spared. In the minds of the intellectual class there lay deep, on the one hand, a determination to rebuild France; on the other, to avenge her defeat. The blackened ruins of the Tuileries and of the Cour des Comptes still disfigured a city which grimly kept them there as a warning against anarchy; while the statue of the Ville de Strasbourg in the Place de la Concorde had worn for three years the funeral garlands, which, as France confidently hopes, the peace that will end this war will, after nearly half a century, give way once more to the rejoicing tricolor. At the same time reconstruction was everywhere beginning--especially in the field of education. The corrupt, political influence of the Empire, which had used the whole educational system of the country for the purpose of keeping itself and its supporters in power, was at an end. The recognized "École Normale" was becoming a source of moral and mental strength among thousands of young men and women; and the "École des Sciences politiques," the joint work of Taine, Renan, and M. Boutmy, its first director, was laying foundations whereof the results are to be seen conspicuously to-day, in French character, French resource, French patience, French science, as this hideous war has revealed them.
I remember an illuminating talk with M. Renan himself on this subject during our visit. We had never yet seen him, and we carried an introduction to him from Max Müller, our neighbor and friend in Oxford. We found him alone, in a small working-room crowded with books, at the College de France. Madame Renan was away, and he had abandoned his large library for something more easily warmed. My first sight of him was something of a shock--of the large, ungainly figure, the genial face with its spreading cheeks and humorous eyes, the big head with its scanty locks of hair. I think he felt an amused and kindly interest in the two young folk from Oxford who had come as pilgrims to his shrine, and, realizing that our French was not fluent and our shyness great, he filled up the time--and the gaps--by a monologue, lit up by many touches of Renanesque humor, on the situation in France.
First, as to literature--"No, we have no genius, no poets or writers of the first rank just now--at least so it seems to me. But we _work--nous travaillons beaucoup! Ce sera noire salut_." It was the same as to politics. He had no illusions and few admirations. "The Chamber is full of mediocrities. We are governed by _avocats_ and _pharmaciens_. But at least _Ils ne feront pas la guerre_!"
He smiled, but there was that in the smile and the gesture which showed the smart within; from which not even his scholar's philosophy, with its ideal of a world of cosmopolitan science, could protect him. At that moment he was inclined to despair of his country. The mad adventure of the Commune had gone deep into his soul, and there were still a good many pacifying years to run, before he could talk of his life as "_cette charmante promenade à travers la realité_"--for which, with all it had contained of bad and good, he yet thanked the Gods. At that time he was fifty-one; he had just published _L'Antichrist,_ the most brilliant of all the volumes of the "Origines"; and he was not yet a member of the French Academy.
I turn to a few other impressions from that distant time. One night we were in the Théâtre Français, and Racine's "Phèdre" was to be given. I at least had never been in the Maison de Molière before, and in such matters as acting I possessed, at twenty-three, only a very raw and country-cousinish judgment. There had been a certain amount of talk in Oxford of a new and remarkable French actress, but neither of us had really any idea of what was before us. Then the play began. And before the first act was over we were sitting, bent forward, gazing at the stage in an intense and concentrated excitement such as I can scarcely remember ever feeling again, except perhaps when the same actress played "Hernani" in London for the first time in 1884. Sarah Bernhardt was then--December, 1874--in the first full tide of her success. She was of a ghostly and willowy slenderness. Each of the great speeches seemed actually to rend the delicate frame. When she fell back after one of them you felt an actual physical terror lest there should not be enough life left in the slight, dying woman to let her speak again. And you craved for yet more and more of the _voix d'or_ which rang in one's ears as the frail yet exquisite instrument of a mighty music. Never before had it been brought home to me what dramatic art might be, or the power of the French Alexandrine. And never did I come so near quarreling with "Uncle Matt" as when, on our return, after having heard my say about the genius of Sarah Bernhardt, he patted my hand indulgently with the remark, "But, my dear child, you see, you never saw Rachel!"
As we listened to Sarah Bernhardt we were watching the outset of a great career which had still some forty years to run. On another evening we made acquaintance with a little old woman who had been born in the first year of the Terror, who had spent her first youth in the _salon_ of Madame Récamier, valued there, above all, for her difficult success in drawing a smile from that old and melancholy genius, Châteaubriand; and had since held a _salon_ of her own, which deserves a special place in the history of _salons_. For it was held, according to the French tradition, and in Paris, by an Englishwoman. It was, I think, Max Müller who gave us an introduction to Madame Mohl. She sent us an invitation to one of her Friday evenings, and we duly mounted to the top of the old house in the Rue du Bac which she made famous for so long. As we entered the room I saw a small disheveled figure, gray-headed, crouching beside a grate, with a kettle in her hand. It was Madame Mohl--then eighty- one--who was trying to make the fire burn. She just raised herself to greet us, with a swift investigating glance; and then returned to her task of making the tea, in which I endeavored to help her. But she did not like to be helped, and I soon subsided into my usual listening and watching, which, perhaps, for one who at that time was singularly immature in all social respects, was the best policy. I seem still to see the tall, substantial form of Julius Mohl standing behind her, with various other elderly men who were no doubt famous folk, if one had known their names. And in the corner was the Spartan tea-table, with its few biscuits, which stood for the plain living whereon was nourished the high thinking and high talking which had passed through these rooms. Guizot, Cousin, Ampère, Fauriel, Mignet, Lamartine, all the great men of the middle century had talked there; not, in general, the poets and the artists, but the politicians, the historians, and the _savants_. The little Fairy Blackstick, incredibly old, kneeling on the floor, with the shabby dress and tousled gray hair, had made a part of the central scene in France, through the Revolution, the reign of the Citizen king, and the Second Empire--playing the rôle, through it all, of a good friend of freedom. If only one had heard her talk! But there were few people in the room, and we were none of us inspired. I must sadly put down that Friday evening among the lost opportunities of life. For Mrs. Simpson's biography of Madame Mohl shows what a wealth of wit and memory there was in that small head! Her social sense, her humor, never deserted her, though she lived to be ninety. When she was dying, her favorite cat, a tom, leaped on her bed. Her eyes lit up as she feebly stroked him. "He is so distinguished!" she whispered. "But his wife is not distinguished at all. He doesn't know it. But many men are like that." It was one of the last sayings of an expert in the human scene.
Madame Mohl was twenty-one when the Allies entered Paris in 1814. She had lived with those to whom the fall of the _Ancien Régime_, the Terror, and the Revolutionary wars had been the experience of middle life. As I look back to the _salon_ in the Rue du Bac, which I saw in such a flash, yet where my hand rested for a moment in that of Madame Récamier's pet and protegée, I am reminded, too, that I once saw, at the Forsters', in 1869, when I was eighteen, the Doctor Lushington who was Lady Byron's adviser and confidant when she left her husband, and who, as a young man, had stayed with Pitt and ridden out with Lady Hester Stanhope. One night, in Eccleston Square, we assembled for dinner in the ground-floor library instead of the drawing-room, which was up-stairs. I slipped in late, and saw in an arm-chair, his hands resting on a stick, an old, white-haired man. When dinner was announced--if I remember right--he was wheeled into the dining-room, to a place beside my aunt. I was too far away to hear him talk, and he went home after dinner. But it was one of the guests of the evening, a friend of his, who said to me-- with a kindly wish, no doubt, to thrill the girl just "out": "You ought to remember Doctor Lushington! What are you?--eighteen?--and he is eighty-six. He was in the theater on the night when the news reached London of Marie Antoinette's execution, and he can remember, though he was only a boy of eleven, how it was given out from the stage, and how the audience instantly broke up."
Doctor Lushington, of course, carries one farther back than Madame Mohl. He was born in 1782, four years after the deaths of Rousseau and Voltaire, two years before the death of Diderot. He was only six years younger than Lady Hester Stanhope, whose acquaintance he made during the three years--1803-1806--when she was keeping house for her uncle, William Pitt.
But on my right hand at the same dinner-party there sat a guest who was to mean a good deal more to me personally than Doctor Lushington--young Mr. George Otto Trevelyan, as he then was, Lord Macaulay's nephew, already the brilliant author of _A Competition Wallah, Ladies in Parliament_, and much else. We little thought, as we talked, that after thirty-five years his son was to marry my daughter.
THE BEGINNINGS OF _ROBERT ELSMERE_
If these are to be the recollections of a writer, in which perhaps other writers by profession, as well as the more general public, may take some interest, I shall perhaps be forgiven if I give some account of the processes of thought and work which led to the writing of my first successful novel, _Robert Elsmere_.
It was in 1878 that a new editor was appointed for one of the huge well- known volumes, in which under the aegis of the John Murray of the day, the _Nineteenth Century_ was accustomed to concentrate its knowledge-- classical, historical, and theological--in convenient, if not exactly handy, form. Doctor Wace, now a Canon of Canterbury, was then an indefatigable member of the _Times_ staff. Yet he undertook this extra work, and carried it bravely through. He came to Oxford to beat up recruits for Smith's _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, a companion volume to that of _Classical Biography_, and dealing with the first seven centuries of Christianity. He had been told that I had been busying myself with early Spain, and he came to me to ask whether I would take the Spanish lives for the period, especially those concerned with the West-Goths in Spain; while at the same time he applied to various Oxford historians for work on the Ostrogoths and the Franks.
I was much tempted, but I had a good deal to consider. The French and Spanish reading it involved was no difficulty. But the power of reading Latin rapidly, both the degraded Latin of the fifth and sixth centuries and the learned Latin of the sixteenth and seventeenth, was essential; and I had only learned some Latin since my marriage, and was by no means at home in it. I had long since found out, too, in working at the Spanish literature of the eleventh to the fourteenth century, that the only critics and researches worth following in that field were German; and though I had been fairly well grounded in German at school, and had read a certain amount, the prospect of a piece of work which meant, in the main, Latin texts and German commentaries, was rather daunting. The well-trained woman student of the present day would have felt probably no such qualms. But I had not been well trained; and the Pattison standards of what work should be stood like dragons in the way.
However, I took the plunge, and I have always been grateful to Canon Wace. The sheer, hard, brain-stretching work of the two or three years which followed I look back to now with delight. It altered my whole outlook and gave me horizons and sympathies that I have never lost, however dim all the positive knowledge brought me by the work has long since become. The strange thing was that out of the work which seemed both to myself and others to mark the abandonment of any foolish hopes of novel-writing I might have cherished as a girl, _Robert Elsmere_ should have arisen. For after my marriage I had made various attempts to write fiction. They were clearly failures. J. R. G. dealt very faithfully with me on the subject; and I could only conclude that the instinct to tell stories which had been so strong in me as a child and girl meant nothing, and was to be suppressed. I did, indeed, write a story for my children, which came out in 1880--_Milly and Olly_; but that wrote itself and was a mere transcript of their little lives.
And yet I venture to think it was, after all, the instinct for "making out," as the Brontës used to call their own wonderful story-telling passion, which rendered this historical work so enthralling to me. Those far-off centuries became veritably alive to me--the Arian kings fighting an ever-losing battle against the ever-encroaching power of the Catholic Church, backed by the still lingering and still potent ghost of the Roman Empire; the Catholic Bishops gathering, sometimes through winter snow, to their Councils at Seville and Toledo; the centers of culture in remote corners of the peninsula, where men lived with books and holy things, shrinking from the wild life around them, and handing on the precious remnants and broken traditions of the older classical world; the mutual scorn of Goth and Roman; martyrs, fanatics, heretics, nationalists, and cosmopolitans; and, rising upon, enveloping them all, as the seventh and eighth centuries drew on, the tide of Islam, and the menace of that time when the great church of Cordova should be half a mosque and half a Christian cathedral.
I lived, indeed, in that old Spain, while I was at work in the Bodleian and at home. To spend hours and days over the signatures to an obscure Council, identifying each name so far as the existing materials allowed, and attaching to it some fragment of human interest, so that gradually something of a picture emerged, as of a thing lost and recovered-- dredged up from the deeps of time--that, I think, was the joy of it all.
I see, in memory, the small Oxford room, as it was on a winter evening, between nine and midnight, my husband in one corner preparing his college lectures, or writing a "Saturday" "middle"; my books and I in another; the reading-lamp, always to me a symbol of peace and "recollection"; the Oxford quiet outside. And yet, it was not so tranquil as it looked. For beating round us all the time were the spiritual winds of an agitated day. The Oxford of thought was not quiet; it was divided, as I have shown, by sharper antagonisms and deeper feuds than exist to-day. Darwinism was penetrating everywhere; Pusey was preaching against its effects on belief; Balliol stood for an unfettered history and criticism, Christ Church for authority and creeds; Renan's _Origines_ were still coming out, Strauss's last book also; my uncle was publishing _God and the Bible_ in succession to _Literature and Dogma_; and _Supernatural Religion_ was making no small stir. And meanwhile what began to interest and absorb me were _sources_--_testimony_. To what--to whom--did it all go back, this great story of early civilization, early religion, which modern men could write and interpret so differently?
And on this question the writers and historians of four early centuries, from the fifth to the ninth, as I lived with them, seemed to throw a partial, but yet a searching, light. I have expressed it in _Robert Elsmere_. Langham and Robert, talking in the Squire's library on Robert's plans for a history of Gaul during the breakdown of the Empire and the emergence of modern France, come to the vital question: "History depends on _testimony_. What is the nature and virtue of testimony at given times? In other words, did the man of the third century understand, or report, or interpret facts in the same way as the man of the sixteenth or the nineteenth? And if not, what are the differences?-- and what are the deductions to be made from them?"
Robert replies that his work has not yet dug deep enough to make him answer the question.
"It is enormously important, I grant--enormously," he repeated, reflectively.
On which Langham says to himself, though not to Elsmere, that the whole of "orthodoxy" is in it, and depends on it.
And in a later passage, when Elsmere is mastering the "Quellen" of his subject, he expresses himself with bewilderment to Catherine on this same subject of "testimony." He is immersed in the chronicles and biographies of the fifth and sixth centuries. Every history, every biography, is steeped in marvel. A man divided by only a few years from the bishop or saint whose life he is writing reports the most fantastic miracles. What is the psychology of it all? The whole age seems to Robert "non-sane." And, meanwhile, across and beyond the medieval centuries, behind the Christian era itself, the modern student looks back inevitably, involuntarily, to certain Greeks and certain Latins, who "represent a forward strain," who intellectually "belong to a world ahead of them." "You"--he says to them--"_you_ are really my kindred."
That, after all, I tried to express this intellectual experience--which was, of course, an experience of my own--not in critical or historical work, but in a novel, that is to say in terms of human life, was the result of an incident which occurred toward the close of our lives in Oxford. It was not long after the appearance of _Supernatural Religion_, and the rise of that newer school of Biblical criticism in Germany expressed by the once-honored name of Doctor Harnack. Darwinian debate in the realm of natural science was practically over. The spread of evolutionary ideas in the fields of history and criticism was the real point of interest. Accordingly, the University pulpit was often filled by men endeavoring "to fit a not very exacting science to a very grudging orthodoxy"; and the heat of an ever-strengthening controversy was in the Oxford air.
In 1881, as it happened, the Bampton Lectures were preached by the Rev. John Wordsworth, then Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose, and, later, Bishop of Salisbury. He and my husband--who, before our marriage, was also a Fellow of Brasenose--were still tutorial colleagues, and I therefore knew him personally, and his first wife, the brilliant daughter of the beloved Bodley's Librarian of my day, Mr. Coxe. We naturally attended Mr. Wordsworth's first Bampton. He belonged, very strongly, to what I have called the Christ Church camp; while we belonged, very strongly, to the Balliol camp. But no one could fail to respect John Wordsworth deeply; while his connection with his great-uncle, the poet, to whom he bore a strong personal likeness, gave him always a glamour in my eyes. Still, I remember going with a certain shrinking; and it was the shock of indignation excited in me by the sermon which led directly--though after seven intervening years--to _Robert Elsmere._
The sermon was on "The present unsettlement in religion"; and it connected the "unsettlement" definitely with "sin." The "moral causes of unbelief," said the preacher, "were (1) prejudice; (2) severe claims of religion; (3) intellectual faults, especially indolence, coldness, recklessness, pride, and avarice."
The sermon expounded and developed this outline with great vigor, and every skeptical head received its due buffeting in a tone and fashion that now scarcely survive. I sat in the darkness under the gallery. The preacher's fine ascetic face was plainly visible in the middle light of the church; and while the confident priestly voice flowed on, I seemed to see, grouped around the speaker, the forms of those, his colleagues and contemporaries, the patient scholars and thinkers of the Liberal host, Stanley, Jowett, Green of Balliol, Lewis Nettleship, Henry Sidgwick, my uncle, whom he, in truth--though perhaps not consciously-- was attacking. My heart was hot within me. How could one show England what was really going on in her midst? Surely the only way was through imagination; through a picture of actual life and conduct; through something as "simple, sensuous, passionate" as one could make it. Who and what were the persons of whom the preacher gave this grotesque account? What was their history? How had their thoughts and doubts come to be? What was the effect of them on conduct?
The _immediate_ result of the sermon, however, was a pamphlet called _Unbelief and Sin: a Protest addressed to those who attended the Bampton Lecture of Sunday, March 6th_. It was rapidly written and printed, and was put up in the windows of a well-known shop in the High Street. In the few hours of its public career it enjoyed a very lively sale. Then an incident--quite unforeseen by its author--slit its little life! A well-known clergyman walked into the shop and asked for the pamphlet. He turned it over, and at once pointed out to one of the partners of the firm in the shop that there was no printer's name upon it. The booksellers who had produced the pamphlet, no doubt with an eye to their large clerical _clientèle_, had omitted the printer's name, and the omission was illegal. Pains and penalties were threatened, and the frightened booksellers at once withdrew the pamphlet and sent word of what had happened to my much-astonished self, who had neither noticed the omission nor was aware of the law. But Doctor Foulkes, the clergyman in question--no one that knew the Oxford of my day will have forgotten his tall, militant figure, with the defiant white hair and the long clerical coat, as it haunted the streets of the University!--had only stimulated the tare he seemed to have rooted up. For the pamphlet thus easily suppressed was really the germ of the later book; in that, without attempting direct argument, it merely sketched two types of character: the character that either knows no doubts or has suppressed them, and the character that fights its stormy way to truth.
The latter was the first sketch of _Robert Elsmere_. That same evening, at a College party, Professor Green came up to me. I had sent him the pamphlet the night before, and had not yet had a word from him. His kind brown eyes smiled upon me as he said a hearty "thank you," adding "a capital piece of work," or something to that effect; after which my spirits were quite equal to telling him the story of Doctor Foulkes's raid.
* * * * *
The year 1880-81, however, was marked for me by three other events of quite a different kind: Monsieur Renan's visit to Oxford, my husband's acceptance of a post on the staff of the _Times_, and a visit that we paid to the W.E. Forsters in Ireland, in December, 1880, at almost the blackest moment of the Irish land-war.
Of Renan's visit I have mingled memories--all pleasant, but some touched with comedy. Gentle Madame Renan came with her famous husband and soon won all hearts. Oxford in mid-April was then, as always, a dream of gardens just coming into leaf, enchasing buildings of a silvery gray, and full to the brim of the old walls with the early blossom--almond, or cherry, or flowering currant. M. Renan was delivering the Hibbert Lectures in London, and came down to stay for a long week-end with our neighbors, the Max Müllers. Doctor Hatch was then preaching the Bampton Lectures, that first admirable series of his on the debt of the Church to Latin organization, and M. Renan attended one of them. He had himself just published _Marc Aurèle_, and Doctor Hatch's subject was closely akin to that of his own Hibbert Lectures. I remember seeing him emerge from the porch of St. Mary's, his strange, triangular face pleasantly dreamy. "You were interested?" said some one at his elbow. "_Mais oui_!" said M. Renan, smiling. "He might have given my lecture, and I might have preached his sermon! _(Nous aurions du changer de cahiers_!)" Renan in the pulpit of Pusey, Newman, and Burgon would indeed have been a spectacle of horror to the ecclesiastical mind. I remember once, many years after, following the _parroco_ of Castel Gandolfo, through the dreary and deserted rooms of the Papal villa, where, before 1870, the Popes used to make _villegiatura_, on that beautiful ridge overlooking the Alban lake. All the decoration of the villa seemed to me curiously tawdry and mean. But suddenly my attention was arrested by a great fresco covering an entire wall. It represented the triumph of the Papacy over the infidel of all dates. A Pope sat enthroned, wearing the triple crown, with angels hovering overhead; and in a huge brazier at his feet burned the writings of the world's heretics. The blazing volumes were inscribed--Arius--Luther--Voltaire--_Renan_!
We passed on through the empty rooms, and the _parroco_ locked the door behind us. I thought, as we walked away, of the summer light fading from the childish picture, painted probably not long before the entry of the Italian troops into Rome, and of all that was symbolized by it and the deserted villa, to which the "prisoner of the Vatican" no longer returns. But at least Rome had given Ernest Renan no mean place among her enemies--Arius, Luther, Voltaire--_Renan_!
But in truth, Renan, personally, was not the enemy of any church, least of all of the great Church which had trained his youth. He was a born scholar and thinker, in temper extremely gentle and scrupulous, and with a sense of humor, or rather irony, not unlike that of Anatole France, who has learned much from him. There was, of course, a streak in him of that French paradox, that impish trifling with things fundamental, which the English temperament dislikes and resents; as when he wrote the _Abbesse de Jouarre_, or threw out the whimsical doubt in a passing sentence of one of his latest books, whether, after all, his life of labor and self-denial had been worth while, and whether, if he had lived the life of an Epicurean, like Théophile Gautier, he might not have got more out of existence. "He was really a good and great man," said Jowett, writing after his death. But "I regret that he wrote at the end of his life that strange drama about the Reign of Terror."
There are probably few of M. Renan's English admirers who do not share the regret. At the same time, there, for all to see, is the long life as it was lived--of the ever-toiling scholar and thinker, the devoted husband and brother, the admirable friend. And certainly, during the Oxford visit I remember, M. Renan was at his best. He was in love-- apparently--with Oxford, and his charm, his gaiety, played over all that we presented to him. I recall him in Wadham Gardens, wandering in a kind of happy dream--"Ah, if one had only such places as this to work in, in France! What pages--and how perfect!--one might write here!" Or again, in a different scene, at luncheon in our little house in the Parks, when Oxford was showing, even more than usual, its piteous inability to talk decently to the great man in his own tongue. It is true that he neither understood ours--in conversation--nor spoke a word of it. But that did not at all mitigate our own shame--and surprise! For at that time, in the Oxford world proper, everybody, probably, read French habitually, and many of us thought we spoke it. But a mocking spirit suggested to one of the guests at this luncheon-party--an energetic historical tutor--the wish to enlighten M. Renan as to how the University was governed, the intricacies of Convocation and Congregation, the Hebdomadal Council, and all the rest. The other persons present fell at first breathlessly silent, watching the gallant but quite hopeless adventure. Then, in sheer sympathy with a good man in trouble, one after another we rushed in to help, till the constitution of the University must have seemed indeed a thing of Bedlam to our smiling but much- puzzled guest; and all our cheeks were red. But M. Renan cut the knot. Since he could not understand, and we could not explain, what the constitution of Oxford University _was_, he suavely took up his parable as to what it should be. He drew the ideal University, as it were, in the clouds; clothing his notion, as he went on, in so much fun and so much charm, that his English hosts more than forgot their own defeat in his success. The little scene has always remained with me as a crowning instance of the French genius for conversation. Throw what obstacles in the way you please; it will surmount them all.
To judge, however, from M. Renan's letter to his friend, M. Berthelot, written from Oxford on this occasion, he was not so much pleased as we thought he was, or as we were with him. He says, "Oxford is the strangest relic of the past, the type of living death. Each of its colleges is a terrestrial paradise, but a deserted Paradise." (I see from the date that the visit took place in the Easter vacation!) And he describes the education given as "purely humanist and clerical," administered to "a gilded youth that comes to chapel in surplices. There is an almost total absence of the scientific spirit." And the letter further contains a mild gibe at All Souls, for its absentee Fellows. "The lawns are admirable, and the Fellows eat up the college revenues, hunting and shooting up and down England. Only one of them works--my kind host, Max Müller."
At that moment the list of the Fellows of All Souls contained the names of men who have since rendered high service to England; and M. Renan was probably not aware that the drastic reforms introduced by the two great University Commissions of 1854 and 1877 had made the sarcastic picture he drew for his friend not a little absurd. No doubt a French intellectual will always feel that the mind-life of England is running at a slower pace than that of his own country. But if Renan had worked for a year in Oxford, the old priestly training in him, based so solidly on the moral discipline of St. Nicholas and St. Sulpice, would have become aware of much else. I like to think that he would have echoed the verdict on the Oxford undergraduate of a young and brilliant Frenchman who spent much time at Oxford fifteen years later. "There is no intellectual _élite_ here so strong as ours (i.e., among French students)," says M. Jacques Bardouz, "but they undoubtedly have a political _élite_, and, a much rarer thing, a moral _élite_.... What an environment!--and how full is this education of moral stimulus and force!"
Has not every word of this been justified to the letter by the experience of the war?
After the present cataclysm, we know very well that we shall have to improve and extend our higher education. Only, in building up the new, let us not lose grip upon the irreplaceable things of the old!
It was not long after M. Renan's visit that, just as we were starting for a walk on a May afternoon, the second post brought my husband a letter which changed our lives. It contained a suggestion that my husband should take work on the _Times_ as a member of the editorial staff. We read it in amazement, and walked on to Port Meadow. It was a fine day. The river was alive with boats; in the distance rose the towers and domes of the beautiful city; and the Oxford magic blew about us in the summer wind. It seemed impossible to leave the dear Oxford life! All the drawbacks and difficulties of the new proposal presented themselves; hardly any of the advantages. As for me, I was convinced we must and should refuse, and I went to sleep in that conviction.
But the mind travels far--and mysteriously--in sleep. With the first words that my husband and I exchanged in the morning, we knew that the die was cast and that our Oxford days were over.
The rest of the year was spent in preparation for the change; and in the Christmas vacation of 1880-81 my husband wrote his first "leaders" for the paper. But before that we went for a week to Dublin to stay with the Forsters, at the Chief Secretary's Lodge.
A visit I shall never forget! It was the first of the two terrible winters my uncle spent in Dublin as Chief Secretary, and the struggle with the Land League was at its height. Boycotting, murder, and outrage filled the news of every day. Owing to the refusal of the Liberal Government to renew the Peace Preservation Act when they took office in 1880--a disastrous but perhaps intelligible mistake--the Chief Secretary, when we reached Dublin, was facing an agrarian and political revolt of the most determined character, with nothing but the ordinary law, resting on juries and evidence, as his instrument--an instrument which the Irish Land League had taken good care to shatter in his hands. Threatening letters were flowing in upon both himself and my godmother; and the tragedy of 1882, with the revelations as to the various murder plots of the time, to which it led, were soon to show how terrible was the state of the country and how real the danger in which he personally stood. But, none the less, social life had to be carried on; entertainments had to be given; and we went over, if I remember right, for the two Christmas balls to be given by the Chief Secretary and the Viceroy. On myself, fresh from the quiet Oxford life, the Irish spectacle, seen from such a point of view, produced an overwhelming impression. And the dancing, the visits and dinner-parties, the keeping up of a brave social show--quite necessary and right under the circumstances!--began to seem to me, after only twenty-four hours, like some pageant seen under a thunder-cloud.
Mr. Forster had then little more than five years to live. He was on the threshold of the second year of his Chief-Secretary ship. During the first year he had faced the difficulties of the position in Ireland, and the perpetual attacks of the Irish Members in Parliament, with a physical nerve and power still intact. I can recall my hot sympathy with him during 1880, while with one hand he was fighting the Land League and with the other--a fact never sufficiently recognized--giving all the help he could to the preparation of Mr. Gladstone's second Land Act. The position then was hard, sometimes heartbreaking; but it was not beyond his strength. The second year wore him out. The unlucky Protection Act-- an experiment for which the Liberal Cabinet and even its Radical Members, Mr. Bright and Mr. Chamberlain, were every whit as chargeable as himself--imposed a personal responsibility on him for every case out of the many hundreds of prisoners made under the Act, which was in itself intolerable. And while he tried in front to dam back the flood of Irish outrage, English Radicalism at his heels was making the task impossible. What he was doing satisfied nobody, least of all himself. The official and land-owning classes in Ireland, the Tories in England, raged because, in spite of the Act, outrage continued; the Radical party in the country, which had always disliked the Protection Act, and the Radical press, were on the lookout for every sign of failure; while the daily struggle in the House with the Irish Members while Parliament was sitting, in addition to all the rest, exhausted a man on whose decision important executive acts, dealing really with a state of revolution, were always depending. All through the second year, as it seemed to me, he was overwhelmed by a growing sense of a monstrous and insoluble problem, to which no one, through nearly another forty years--not Mr. Gladstone with his Home Rule Acts, as we were soon to see, nor Mr. Balfour's wonderful brain-power sustained by a unique temperament--was to find the true key. It is not found yet. Twenty years of Tory Government practically solved the Land Question and agricultural Ireland has begun to be rich. But the past year has seen an Irish rebellion; a Home Rule Act has at last, after thirty years, been passed, and is dead before its birth; while at the present moment an Irish Convention is sitting. Thirty-six years have gone since my husband and I walked with William Forster through the Phoenix Park, over the spot where, a year later, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke were murdered. And still the Aeschylean "curse" goes on, from life to life, from Government to Government. When will the Furies of the past become the "kind goddesses" of the future--and the Irish and English peoples build them a shrine of reconciliation?
[Footnote 1: These words were written in the winter of 1917. At the present moment (June, 1918) we have just seen the deportation of the Sinn Feiners, and are still expecting yet another Home Rule Bill!]
With such thoughts one looks back over the past. Amid its darkness, I shall always see the pathetic figure of William Forster, the man of Quaker training, at grips with murder and anarchy; the man of sensitive, affectionate spirit, weighed down under the weight of rival appeals, now from the side of democracy, now from the side of authority; bitterly conscious, as an English Radical, of his breach with Radicalism; still more keenly sensitive, as a man responsible for the executive government of a country, in which the foundations had given way, to that atmosphere of cruelty and wrong in which the Land League moved, and to the hideous instances poured every day into his ears.
He bore it for more than a year after we saw him in Ireland at his thankless work. It was our first year in London, and we were near enough to watch closely the progress of his fight. But it was a fight not to be won. The spring of 1882 saw his resignation--on May 2d--followed on May 6th by the Phoenix Park murders and the long and gradual disintegration of the powerful Ministry of 1880, culminating in the Home Rule disaster of 1886. Mr. Churchill in the _Life_ of his father, Lord Randolph, says of Mr. Forster's resignation, "he passed out of the Ministry to become during the rest of Parliament one of its most dangerous and vigilant opponents." The physical change, indeed, caused by the Irish struggle, which was for a time painfully evident to the House of Commons, seemed to pass away with rest and travel. The famous attack he made on Parnell in the spring of 1883, as the responsible promoter of outrage in Ireland, showed certainly no lack of power--rather an increase. I happened to be in the House the following day, to hear Parnell's reply. I remember my uncle's taking me down with him to the House, and begging a seat for me in Mrs. Brand's gallery. The figure of Parnell; the speech, nonchalant, terse, defiant, without a single grace of any kind, his hands in the pockets of his coat; and the tense silence of the crowded House, remain vividly with me. Afterward my uncle came up-stairs for me, and we descended toward Palace Yard through various side- passages. Suddenly a door communicating with the House itself opened in front of us, and Parnell came out. My uncle pressed my arm and we held back, while Parnell passed by, somberly absorbed, without betraying by the smallest movement or gesture any recognition of my uncle's identity.
In other matters--Gordon, Imperial Federation, the Chairmanship of the Manchester Ship Canal, and the rest--William Forster showed, up till 1885, what his friends fondly hoped was the promise of renewed and successful work. But in reality he never recovered Ireland. The mark of those two years had gone too deep. He died in April, 1886, just before the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, and I have always on the retina of the inward eye the impression of a moment at the western door of Westminster Abbey, after the funeral service. The flower-heaped coffin had gone through. My aunt and her adopted children followed it. After them came Mr. Gladstone, with other members of the Cabinet. At the threshold Mr. Gladstone moved forward, and took my aunt's hand, bending over it bareheaded. Then she went with the dead, and he turned away toward the House of Commons. To those of us who remembered what the relations of the dead and the living had once been, and how they had parted, there was a peculiar pathos in the little scene.
A few days later Mr. Gladstone brought in the Home Rule Bill, and the two stormy months followed which ended in the Liberal Unionist split and the defeat of the Bill on June 7th by thirty votes, and were the prelude to the twenty years of Tory Government. If William Forster had lived, there is no doubt that he must have played a leading part in the struggles of that and subsequent sessions. In 1888 Mr. Balfour said to my husband, after some generous words on the part played by Forster in those two terrible years: "Forster's loss was irreparable to us [i.e., to the Unionist party]. If he and Fawcett had lived, Gladstone could not have made head."
It has been, I think, widely recognized by men of all parties in recent years that personally William Forster bore the worst of the Irish day, whatever men may think of his policy. But, after all, it is not for this, primarily, that England remembers him. His monument is everywhere--in the schools that have covered the land since 1870, when his great Act was passed. And if I have caught a little picture from the moment when death forestalled that imminent parting between himself and the great leader he had so long admired and followed, which life could only have broadened, let me match it by an earlier and happier one, borrowed from a letter of my own, written to my father when I was eighteen, and describing the bringing in of the Education Act.
He sat down amidst loud cheering.... _Gladstone pulled him down with a sort of hug of delight._ It is certain that he is very much pleased with the Bill, and, what is of great consequence, that he thinks the Government has throughout been treated with great consideration in it. After the debate he said to Uncle F., "Well, I think our pair of ponies will run through together!"
Gladstone's "pony" was, of course, the Land Act of 1870.
THE END OF VOL. I