Autobiographical Sketches
Annie Besant

Part 1 out of 4

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Richard Prairie and PG Distributed







I am so often asked for references to some pamphlet or journal in which
may be found some outline of my life, and the enquiries are so often
couched in terms of such real kindness, that I have resolved to pen a few
brief autobiographical sketches, which may avail to satisfy friendly
questioners, and to serve, in some measure, as defence against unfair


On October 1st, 1847, I made my appearance in this "vale of tears",
"little Pheasantina", as I was irreverently called by a giddy aunt, a pet
sister of my mother's. Just at that time my father and mother were
staying within the boundaries of the City of London, so that I was born
well "within the sound of Bow bells".

Though born in London, however, full three quarters of my blood are
Irish. My dear mother was a Morris--the spelling of the name having been
changed from Maurice some five generations back--and I have often heard
her tell a quaint story, illustrative of that family pride which is so
common a feature of a decayed Irish family. She was one of a large
family, and her father and mother, gay, handsome, and extravagant, had
wasted merrily what remained to them of patrimony. I can remember her
father well, for I was fourteen years of age when he died. A bent old
man, with hair like driven snow, splendidly handsome in his old age,
hot-tempered to passion at the lightest provocation, loving and wrath in
quick succession. As the family grew larger and the moans grew smaller,
many a pinch came on the household, and the parents were glad to accept
the offer of a relative to take charge of Emily, the second daughter. A
very proud old lady was this maiden aunt, and over the mantel-piece of
her drawing-room ever hung a great diagram, a family tree, which mightily
impressed the warm imagination of the delicate child she had taken in
charge. It was a lengthy and well-grown family tree, tracing back the
Morris family to the days of Charlemagne, and branching out from a stock
of "the seven kings of France". Was there ever yet a decayed. Irish
family that did not trace itself back to some "kings"? and these
"Milesian kings"--who had been expelled from France, doubtless for good
reasons, and who had sailed across the sea and landed in fair Erin, and
there had settled and robbed and fought--did more good 800 years after
their death than they did, I expect, during their ill-spent lives, if
they proved a source of gentle harmless pride to the old maiden lady who
admired their names over her mantel-piece in the earlier half of the
present century. And, indeed, they acted as a kind of moral thermometer,
in a fashion that would much have astonished their ill-doing and
barbarous selves. For my mother has told me how when she would commit
some piece of childish naughtiness, her aunt would say, looking gravely
over her spectacles at the small culprit: "Emily, your conduct is
unworthy of the descendant of the seven kings of France." And Emily, with
her sweet grey Irish eyes, and her curling masses of raven-black hair,
would cry in penitent shame over her unworthiness, with some vague idea
that those royal, and to her very real ancestors, would despise her small
sweet rosebud self, as wholly unworthy of their disreputable majesties.
But that same maiden aunt trained the child right well, and I keep ever
grateful memory of her, though I never knew her, for her share in forming
the tenderest, sweetest, proudest, purest, noblest woman I have ever
known. I have never met a woman more selflessly devoted to those she
loved, more passionately contemptuous of all that was mean or base, more
keenly sensitive on every question of honor, more iron in will, more
sweet in tenderness, than the mother who made my girlhood sunny as
dreamland, who guarded me until my marriage from every touch of pain that
she could ward off, or could bear for me, who suffered more in every
trouble that touched me in later life than I did myself, and who died in
the little house I had taken for our new home in Norwood, worn out ere
old age touched her, by sorrow, poverty and pain, in May, 1874.

Of my father my memory is less vivid, for he died when I was but five
years old. He was of mixed race, English on his father's side, Irish on
his mother's, and was born in Galway, and educated in Ireland; he took
his degree at Dublin University, and walked the hospitals as a medical
student. But after he had qualified as a medical man a good appointment
was offered him by a relative in the City of London, and he never
practised regularly as a doctor.

In the City his prospects were naturally promising; the elder branch of
the Wood Family, to which he belonged, had for many generations been
settled in Devonshire, farming their own land. When the eldest son
William, my father, came of age, he joined with his father to cut off the
entail, and the old acres were sold. Meanwhile members of other branches
had entered commercial life, and had therein prospered exceedingly. One
of them had become Lord Mayor of London, had vigorously supported the
unhappy Queen Caroline, had paid the debts of the Duke of Kent, in order
that that reputable individual might return to England with his Duchess,
so that the future heir to the throne might be born on English soil; he
had been rewarded with a baronetcy as a cheap method of paying his
services. Another, my father's first cousin once removed, a young
barrister, had successfully pleaded a suit in which was concerned the
huge fortune of a miserly relative, and had thus laid the foundations of
a great success; he won for himself a vice-chancellorship and a
knighthood, and then the Lord Chancellorship of England, with the barony
of Hatherley. A third, a brother of the last, Western Wood, was doing
good service in the House of Commons. A fourth, a cousin of the last two,
had thrown himself with such spirit and energy into mining work, that he
had accumulated a fortune. In fact all the scattered branches had made
their several ways in the world, save that elder one to which my father
belonged. That had vegetated on down in the country, and had grown poorer
while the others grew richer. My father's brothers had somewhat of a
fight for life. One has prospered and is comfortable and well-to-do. The
other led for years a rough and wandering life, and "came to grief"
generally. Some years ago I heard of him as a store-keeper in Portsmouth
dock-yard, occasionally boasting in feeble fashion that his cousin was
Lord Chancellor of England, and not many months since I heard from him in
South Africa, where he has secured some appointment in the Commissariat
Department, not, I fear, of a very lucrative character.

Let us come back to Pheasantina, who, I am told, was a delicate and
somewhat fractious infant, giving to both father and mother considerable
cause for anxiety. Her first attempts at rising in the world were
attended with disaster, for as she was lying in a cradle, with carved
iron canopy, and was for a moment left by her nurse in full faith that
she could not rise from the recumbent position, Miss Pheasantina
determined to show that she was capable of unexpected independence, and
made a vigorous struggle to assume that upright position which is the
proud prerogative of man. In another moment the recumbent position was
re-assumed, and the nurse returning found the baby's face covered with
blood, streaming from a severe wound on the forehead, the iron fretwork
having proved harder than the baby's head. The scar remains down to the
present time, and gives me the valuable peculiarity of only wrinkling up
one side of my forehead when I raise my eyebrows, a feat that I defy any
of my readers to emulate. The heavy cut has, I suppose, so injured the
muscles in that spot that they have lost the normal power of contraction.

My earliest personal recollections are of a house and garden that we
lived in when I was three and four years of age, situated in Grove Road,
St. John's Wood. I can remember my mother hovering round the dinner-table
to see that all was bright for the home-coming husband; my brother--two
years older than myself--and I watching "for papa"; the loving welcome,
the game of romps that always preceded the dinner of the elder folks. I
can remember on the first of October, 1851, jumping up in my little cot,
and shouting out triumphantly: "Papa! mamma! I am four years old!" and
the grave demand of my brother, conscious of superior age, at
dinner-time: "May not Annie have a knife to-day, as she is four years

It was a sore grievance during that same year 1851, that I was not judged
old enough to go to the Great Exhibition, and I have a faint memory of my
brother consolingly bringing me home one of those folding pictured strips
that are sold in the streets, on which were imaged glories that I longed
only the more to see. Far-away, dusky, trivial memories, these. What a
pity it is that a baby cannot notice, cannot observe, cannot remember,
and so throw light on the fashion of the dawning of the external world on
the human consciousness. If only we could remember how things looked when
they were first imaged on the retinae; what we felt when first we became
conscious of the outer world; what the feeling was as faces of father and
mother grew out of the surrounding chaos and became familiar things,
greeted with a smile, lost with a cry; if only memory would not become a
mist when in later years we strive to throw our glances backward into the
darkness of our infancy, what lessons we might learn to help our
stumbling psychology, how many questions might be solved whose answers we
are groping for in vain.


The next scene that stands out clearly against the background of the past
is that of my father's death-bed. The events which led to his death I
know from my dear mother. He had never lost his fondness for the
profession for which he had been trained, and having many medical
friends, he would now and then accompany them on their hospital rounds,
or share with them the labors of the dissecting room. It chanced that
during the dissection of the body of a person who had died of rapid
consumption, my father cut his finger against the edge of the
breast-bone. The cut did not heal easily, and the finger became swollen
and inflamed. "I would have that finger off, Wood, if I were you," said
one of the surgeons, a day or two afterwards, on seeing the state of the
wound. But the others laughed at the suggestion, and my father, at first
inclined to submit to the amputation, was persuaded to "leave Nature

About the middle of August, 1852, he got wet through, riding on the top
of an omnibus, and the wetting resulted in a severe cold, which "settled
on his chest". One of the most eminent doctors of the day, as able as he
was rough in manner, was called to see him. He examined him carefully,
sounded his lungs, and left the room followed by my mother. "Well?" she
asked, scarcely anxious as to the answer, save as it might worry her
husband to be kept idly at home. "You must keep up his spirits", was the
thoughtless answer. "He is in a galloping consumption; you will not have
him with you six weeks longer." The wife staggered back, and fell like a
stone on the floor. But love triumphed over agony, and half an hour later
she was again at her husband's side, never to leave it again for ten
minutes at a time, night or day, till he was lying with closed eyes
asleep in death.

I was lifted on to the bed to "say good-bye to dear Papa" on the day
before his death, and I remember being frightened at his eyes which
looked so large, and his voice which sounded so strange, as he made me
promise always to be "a very good girl to darling Mamma, as Papa was
going right away". I remember insisting that "Papa should kiss Cherry", a
doll given me on my birthday, three days before, by his direction, and
being removed, crying and struggling, from the room. He died on the
following day, October 5th, and I do not think that my elder brother and
I--who were staying at our maternal grandfather's--went to the house
again until the day of the funeral. With the death, my mother broke down,
and when all was over they carried her senseless from the room. I
remember hearing afterwards how, when she recovered her senses, she
passionately insisted on being left alone, and locked herself into her
room for the night; and how on the following morning her mother, at last
persuading her to open the door, started back at the face she saw with
the cry: "Good God! Emily! your hair is white!" It was even so; her hair,
black, glossy and abundant, which, contrasting with her large grey eyes,
had made her face so strangely attractive, had turned grey in that night
of agony, and to me my mother's face is ever framed in exquisite silver
bands of hair as white as the driven unsullied snow.

I have heard that the love between my father and mother was a very
beautiful thing, and it most certainly stamped her character for life. He
was keenly intellectual, and splendidly educated; a mathematician and a
good classical scholar, thoroughly master of French, German, Italian,
Spanish, and Portuguese, with a smattering of Hebrew and Gaelic, the
treasures of ancient and of modern literature were his daily household
delight. Nothing pleased him so well as to sit with his wife, reading
aloud to her while she worked; now translating from some foreign poet,
now rolling forth melodiously the exquisite cadences of Queen Mab.
Student of philosophy as he was, he was deeply and steadily sceptical;
and a very religious relative has told me that he often drove her from
the room by his light playful mockery of the tenets of the Christian
faith. His mother and sister were strict Roman Catholics, and near the
end forced a priest into his room, but the priest was promptly ejected by
the wrath of the dying man, and by the almost fierce resolve of the wife
that no messenger of the creed he detested should trouble her darling at
the last.

This scepticism of his was not wholly shared by his wife, who held to the
notion that women should be "religious," while men might philosophise as
they would; but it so deeply influenced her own intellectual life that
she utterly rejected the most irrational dogmas of Christianity, such as
eternal punishment, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the doctrine that
faith is necessary to salvation, the equality of Christ with God, the
infallibility of the Bible; she made morality of life, not orthodoxy of
belief, her measure of "religion"; she was "a Christian", in her own view
of the matter, but it was a Christian of the school of Jowett, of
Colenso, and of Stanley. The latter writer had for her, in after years,
the very strongest fascination, and I am not sure that his "variegated
use of words", so fiercely condemned by Dr. Pusey, did not exactly suit
her own turn of mind, which shrank back intellectually from the crude
dogmas of orthodox Christianity, but clung poetically to the artistic
side of religion, to its art and to its music, to the grandeur of its
glorious fanes, and the solemnity of its stately ritual. She detested the
meretricious show, the tinsel gaudiness, the bowing and genuflecting, the
candles and the draperies, of Romanism, and of its pinchbeck imitator
Ritualism; but I doubt whether she knew any keener pleasure than to sit
in one of the carved stalls of Westminster Abbey, listening to the
polished sweetness of Dean Stanley's exquisite eloquence; or to the
thunder of the organ mingled with the voices of the white-robed
choristers, as the music rose and fell, as it pealed up to the arched
roof and lost itself in the carven fretwork, or died away softly among
the echoes of the chapels in which kings and saints and sages lay
sleeping, enshrining in themselves the glories and the sorrows of the

To return to October, 1852. On the day of the funeral my elder brother
and I were taken back to the house where my father lay dead, and while my
brother went as chief mourner, poor little boy swamped in crape and
miserable exceedingly, I sat in an upstairs room with my mother and her
sisters; and still comes back to me her figure, seated on a sofa, with
fixed white face and dull vacant eyes, counting the minutes till the
funeral procession would have reached Kensal Green, and then following in
mechanical fashion, prayer-book in hand, the service, stage by stage,
until to my unspeakable terror, with the words, dully spoken, "It is all
over", she fell back fainting. And here comes a curious psychological
problem which has often puzzled me. Some weeks later she resolved to go
and see her husband's grave. A relative who had been present at the
funeral volunteered to guide her to the spot, but lost his way in that
wilderness of graves. Another of the small party went off to find one of
the officials and to enquire, and my mother said: "If you will take me to
the chapel where the first part of the service was read, I will find the
grave". To humor her whim, he led her thither, and, looking round for a
moment or two, she started from the chapel, followed the path along which
the corpse had been borne, and was standing by the newly-made grave when
the official arrived to point it out. Her own explanation was that she
had seen all the service; what is certain is, that she had never been to
Kensal Green before, and that she walked steadily to the grave from the
chapel. Whether the spot had been carefully described to her, whether she
had heard others talking of its position or not, we could never
ascertain; she had no remembrance of any such description, and the matter
always remained to us a problem. But after the lapse of years a hundred
little things may have been forgotten which unconsciously served as
guides at the time. She must have been, of course, at that time, in a
state of abnormal nervous excitation, a state of which another proof was
shortly afterwards given. The youngest of our little family was a boy
about three years younger than myself, a very beautiful child, blue-eyed
and golden haired--I have still a lock of his hair, of exquisite pale
golden hue--and the little lad was passionately devoted to his father. He
was always a delicate boy, and had I suppose, therefore, been specially
petted, and he fretted continually for "papa". It is probable that the
consumptive taint had touched him, for he pined steadily away, with no
marked disease, during the winter months. One morning my mother calmly
stated: "Alf is going to die". It was in vain that it was urged on her
that with the spring strength would return to the child. "No", she
persisted. "He was lying asleep in my arms last night, and William came
to me and said that he wanted Alf with him, but that I might keep the
other two." She had in her a strong strain of Celtic superstition, and
thoroughly believed that this "vision"--a most natural dream under the
circumstances--was a direct "warning", and that her husband had come to
her to tell her of her approaching loss. This belief was, in her eyes,
thoroughly justified by the little fellow's death in the following March,
calling to the end for "Papa! papa!" My brother and I were allowed to see
him just before he was placed in his coffin; I can see him still, so
white and beautiful, with a black spot in the middle of the fair waxen
forehead, and I remember the deadly cold which startled me when I was
told to kiss my little brother. It was the first time that I had touched
Death. That black spot made a curious impression on me, and long
afterwards, asking what had caused it, I was told that at the moment
after his death my mother had passionately kissed the baby brow. Pathetic
thought, that the mother's kiss of farewell should have been marked by
the first sign of corruption on the child's face.

And now began my mother's time of struggle and of anxiety. Hitherto,
since her marriage, she had known no money troubles, for her husband was
earning a good income; he was apparently vigorous and well: no thought of
anxiety clouded their future. When he died, he believed that he left his
wife and children safe, at least, from pecuniary distress. It was not so.
I know nothing of the details, but the outcome of all was that nothing
was left for the widow and children, save a trifle of ready money. The
resolve to which, my mother came was characteristic. Two of her husband's
relatives, Western and Sir William Wood, offered to educate her son at a
good city school, and to start him in commercial life, using their great
city influence to push him forward. But the young lad's father and mother
had talked of a different future for their eldest boy; he was to go to a
public school, and then to the University, and was to enter one of the
"learned professions"--to take orders, the mother wished; to go to the
Bar, the father hoped. On his death-bed there was nothing more earnestly
urged by my father than that Harry should receive the best possible
education, and the widow was resolute to fulfil that last wish. In her
eyes, a city school was not "the best possible education", and the Irish
pride rebelled against the idea of her son not being "a University man".
Many were the lectures poured out on the young widow's head about her
"foolish pride", especially by the female members of the Wood family; and
her persistence in her own way caused a considerable alienation between
herself and them. But Western and William, though half-disapproving,
remained her friends, and lent many a helping hand to her in her first
difficult struggles. After much cogitation, she resolved that the boy
should be educated at Harrow, where the fees are comparatively low to
lads living in the town, and that he should go thence to Cambridge or to
Oxford, as his tastes should direct. A bold scheme for a penniless widow,
but carried out to the letter; for never dwelt in a delicate body a more
resolute mind and will than that of my dear mother.

In a few months' time--during which we lived, poorly enough, in Richmond
Terrace, Clapham, close to her father and mother--to Harrow, then, she
betook herself, into lodgings over a grocer's shop, and set herself to
look for a house. This grocer was a very pompous man, fond of long words,
and patronised the young widow exceedingly, and one day my mother related
with much amusement how he had told her that she was sure to get on if
she worked hard. "Look at me!" he said swelling visibly with importance;
"I was once a poor boy, without a penny of my own, and now I am a
comfortable man, and have my submarine villa to go to every evening".
That "submarine villa" was an object of amusement when we passed it in
our walks for many a long day. "There is Mr. ----'s submarine villa",
some one would say, laughing: and I, too, used to laugh merrily, because
my elders did, though my understanding of the difference between suburban
and submarine was on a par with that of the honest grocer.

My mother had fortunately found a boy, whose parents were glad to place
him in her charge, of about the age of her own son, to educate with him;
and by this means she was able to pay for a tutor, to prepare the two
boys for school. The tutor had a cork leg, which was a source of serious
trouble to me, for it stuck out straight behind when we knelt down to
family prayers--conduct which struck me as irreverent and unbecoming, but
which I always felt a desire to imitate. After about a year, my mother
found a house which she thought would suit her scheme, namely, to obtain
permission from Dr. Vaughan, the then Head Master of Harrow, to take some
boys into her house, and so gain means of education for her own son. Dr.
Vaughan, who must have been won by the gentle, strong, little woman, from
that time forth became her earnest friend and helper; and to the counsel
and active assistance both of himself and of his wife, was due much of
the success that crowned her toil. He made only one condition in granting
the permission she asked, and that was, that she should also have in her
house one of the masters of the school, so that the boys should not
suffer from the want of a house-tutor. This condition, of course, she
readily accepted, and the arrangement lasted for ten years, until after
her son had left school for Cambridge.

The house she took is now, I am sorry to say, pulled down, and replaced
by a hideous red-brick structure. It was very old and rambling,
rose-covered in front, ivy-covered behind; it stood on the top of Harrow
Hill, between the church and the school, and had once been the vicarage
of the parish, but the vicar had left it because it was so far removed
from the part of the village where all his work lay. The drawing-room
opened by an old-fashioned half-window, half-door--which proved a
constant source of grief to me, for whenever I had on a new frock I
always tore it on the bolt as I flew through it--into a large garden
which sloped down one side of the hill, and was filled with the most
delightful old trees, fir and laurel, may, mulberry, hazel, apple, pear,
and damson, not to mention currant and gooseberry bushes innumerable, and
large strawberry beds spreading down the sunny slopes. There was not a
tree there that I did not climb, and one, a widespreading Portugal
laurel, was my private country house. I had there my bedroom and my
sitting-rooms, my study, and my larder. The larder was supplied by the
fruit-trees, from which I was free to pick as I would, and in the study I
would sit for hours with some favorite book--Milton's "Paradise Lost" the
chief favorite of all. The birds must often have felt startled, when from
the small swinging form perching on a branch, came out in childish tones
the "Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers", of Milton's
stately and sonorous verse. I liked to personify Satan, and to declaim
the grand speeches of the hero-rebel, and many a happy hour did I pass in
Milton's heaven and hell, with for companions Satan and "the Son",
Gabriel and Abdiel. Then there was a terrace running by the side of the
churchyard, always dry in the wettest weather, and bordered by an old
wooden fence, over which clambered roses of every shade; never was such a
garden for roses as that of the Old Vicarage. At the end of the terrace
was a little summer-house, and in this a trap-door in the fence, which
swung open and displayed one of the fairest views in England. Sheer from
your feet downwards went the hill, and then far below stretched the
wooded country till your eye reached the towers of Windsor Castle, far
away on the horizon. It was the view at which Byron was never tired of
gazing, as he lay on the flat tombstone close by--Byron's tomb, as it is
still called--of which he wrote:

"Again I behold where for hours I have pondered,
As reclining, at eve, on yon tombstone I lay,
Or round the steep brow of the churchyard I wandered,
To catch the last gleam of the sun's setting ray."

Reader mine, if ever you go to Harrow, ask permission to enter the old
garden, and try the effect of that sudden burst of beauty, as you swing
back the small trap-door at the terrace end.

Into this house we moved on my eighth birthday, and for eleven years it
was "home" to me, left always with regret, returned to always with joy.

Almost immediately afterwards I left my mother for the first time; for
one day, visiting a family who lived close by, I found a stranger sitting
in the drawing-room, a lame lady with, a strong face, which softened
marvellously as she smiled at the child who came dancing in; she called
me to her presently, and took me on her lap and talked to me, and on the
following day our friend came to see my mother, to ask if she would let
me go away and be educated with this lady's niece, coming home for the
holidays regularly, but leaving my education in her hands. At first my
mother would not hear of it, for she and I scarcely ever left each other;
my love for her was an idolatry, hers for me a devotion. [A foolish
little story, about which I was unmercifully teased for years, marked
that absolute idolatry of her, which has not yet faded from my heart. In
tenderest rallying one day of the child who trotted after her everywhere,
content to sit, or stand, or wait, if only she might touch hand or dress
of "mamma," she said: "Little one (the name by which she always called
me), if you cling to mamma in this way, I must really get a string and
tie you to my apron, and how will you like that?" "O mamma darling," came
the fervent answer, "do let it be in a knot." And, indeed, the tie of
love between us was so tightly knotted that nothing ever loosened it till
the sword of Death cut that which pain and trouble never availed to
slacken in the slightest degree.] But it was urged upon her that the
advantages of education offered were such as no money could purchase for
me; that it would be a disadvantage for me to grow up in a houseful of
boys--and, in truth, I was as good a cricketer and climber as the best of
them--that my mother would soon be obliged to send me to school, unless
she accepted an offer which gave me every advantage of school without its
disadvantages. At last she yielded, and it was decided that Miss Marryat,
on returning home, should take me with her.

Miss Marryat--the favorite sister of Captain Marryat, the famous
novelist--was a maiden lady of large means. She had nursed her brother
through the illness that ended in his death, and had been living with her
mother at Wimbledon Park. On her mother's death she looked round for work
which would make her useful in the world, and finding that one of her
brothers had a large family of girls, she offered to take charge of one
of them, and to educate her thoroughly. Chancing to come to Harrow, my
good fortune threw me in her way, and she took a fancy to me and thought
she would like to teach two little girls rather than one. Hence her offer
to my mother.

Miss Marryat had a perfect genius for teaching, and took in it the
greatest delight. From time to time she added another child to our party,
sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl. At first, with Amy Marryat and myself,
there was a little boy, Walter Powys, son of a clergyman with a large
family, and him she trained for some years, and then sent him on to
school admirably prepared. She chose "her children"--as she loved to call
us--in very definite fashion. Each must be gently born and gently
trained, but in such position that the education freely given should be a
relief and aid to a slender parental purse. It was her delight to seek
out and aid those on whom poverty presses most heavily, when the need for
education for the children weighs on the proud and the poor. "Auntie" we
all called her, for she thought "Miss Marryat" seemed too cold and stiff.
She taught us everything herself except music, and for this she had a
master, practising us in composition, in recitation, in reading aloud
English and French, and later, German, devoting herself to training us in
the soundest, most thorough fashion. No words of mine can tell how much I
owe her, not only of knowledge, bit of that love of knowledge which has
remained with me ever since as a constant spur to study.

Her method of teaching may be of interest to some, who desire to train
children with the least pain, and the most enjoyment to the little ones
themselves. First, we never used a spelling-book--that torment of the
small child--nor an English grammar. But we wrote letters, telling of the
things we had seen in our walks, or told again some story we had read;
these childish compositions she would read over with us, correcting all
faults of spelling, of grammar, of style, of cadence; a clumsy sentence
would be read aloud, that we might hear how unmusical it sounded; an
error in observation or expression pointed out. Then, as the letters
recorded what we had seen the day before, the faculty of observation was
drawn out and trained. "Oh, dear! I have nothing to say!" would come from
a small child, hanging over a slate. "Did you not go out for a walk
yesterday?" Auntie would question. "Yes", would be sighed out; "but
there's nothing to say about it". "Nothing to say! And you walked in the
lanes for an hour and saw nothing, little No-eyes? You must use your eyes
better to-day." Then there was a very favorite "lesson", which proved an
excellent way of teaching spelling. We used to write out lists of all the
words we could think of, which sounded the same but were differently
spelt. Thus: "key, quay," "knight, night," and so on; and great was the
glory of the child who found the largest number. Our French lessons--as
the German later--included reading from the very first. On the day on
which we began German we began reading Schiller's "Wilhelm Tell," and the
verbs given to us to copy out were those that had occurred in the
reading. We learned much by heart, but always things that in themselves
were worthy to be learned. We were never given the dry questions and
answers which lazy teachers so much affect. We were taught history by one
reading aloud while the others worked--the boys as well as the girls
learning the use of the needle. "It's like a girl to sew," said a little
fellow, indignantly, one day. "It is like a baby to have to run after a
girl if you want a button sewn on," quoth Auntie. Geography was learned
by painting skeleton maps--an exercise much delighted in by small
fingers--and by putting together puzzle maps, in which countries in the
map of a continent, or counties in the map of a country, were always cut
out in their proper shapes. I liked big empires in those days; there was
a solid satisfaction in putting down Russia, and seeing what a large part
of the map was filled up thereby.

The only grammar that we ever learned as grammar was the Latin, and that
not until composition had made us familiar with the use of the rules
therein given. Auntie had a great horror of children learning by rote
things they did not understand, and then fancying they knew them. "What
do you mean by that expression, Annie?" she would ask me. After feeble
attempts to explain, I would answer: "Indeed, Auntie, I know in my own
head, but I can't explain". "Then, indeed, Annie, you do not know in your
own head, or you could explain, so that I might know in my own head." And
so a healthy habit was fostered of clearness of thought and of
expression. The Latin grammar was used because it was more perfect than
the modern grammars, and served as a solid foundation for modern

Miss Marryat took a beautiful place, Fern Hill, near Charmouth, in
Dorsetshire, on the borders of Devon, and there she lived for some five
years, a centre of beneficence in the district. She started a
Sunday-school, and a Bible-class after a while for the lads too old for
the school, who clamored for admission to her class in it. She visited
the poor, taking help wherever she went, and sending food from her own
table to the sick. It was characteristic of her that she would never give
"scraps" to the poor, but would have a basin brought in at dinner, and
would cut the best slice to tempt the invalid appetite. Money she rarely,
if ever, gave, but she would find a day's work, or busy herself to seek
permanent employment for anyone asking aid. Stern in rectitude herself,
and iron to the fawning or the dishonest, her influence, whether she was
feared or loved, was always for good. Of the strictest sect of the
Evangelicals, she was an Evangelical. On the Sunday no books were allowed
save the Bible or the "Sunday at Home"; but she would try to make the day
bright by various little devices; by a walk with her in the garden; by
the singing of hymns, always attractive to children; by telling us
wonderful missionary stories of Moffat and Livingstone, whose adventures
with savages and wild beasts were as exciting as any tale of Mayne
Reid's. We used to learn passages from the Bible and hymns for
repetition; a favorite amusement was a "Bible puzzle", such as a
description of some Bible scene, which was to be recognised by the
description. Then we taught in the Sunday-school, for Auntie would tell
us that it was useless for us to learn if we did not try to help those
who had no one to teach them. The Sunday-school lessons had to be
carefully prepared on the Saturday, for we were always taught that work
given to the poor should be work that cost something to the giver. This
principle, regarded by her as an illustration of the text, "Shall I give
unto the Lord my God that which has cost me nothing?" ran through all her
precept and her practice. When in some public distress we children went
to her crying, and asking whether we could not help the little children
who were starving, her prompt reply was: "What will you give up for
them?" And then she said that if we liked to give up the use of sugar, we
might thus each save 6d. a week to give away. I doubt if a healthier
lesson can be given to children than that of personal self-denial for the
good of others.

Daily, when our lessons were over, we had plenty of fun; long walks and
rides, rides on a lively pony, who found small children most amusing, and
on which the coachman taught us to stick firmly, whatever his
eccentricities of the moment; delightful all-day picnics in the lovely
country round Charmouth, Auntie our merriest playfellow. Never was a
healthier home, physically and mentally, made for young things than in
that quiet village. And then the delight of the holidays! The pride of my
mother at the good report of her darling's progress, and the renewal of
acquaintance with every nook and corner in the dear old house and garden.


The strong and intense Evangelicalism of Miss Marryat colored the whole
of my early religious thought. I was naturally enthusiastic and fanciful,
and was apt to throw myself strongly into the current of the emotional
life around me, and hence I easily reflected the stern and narrow creed
which ruled over my daily life. It was to me a matter of the most intense
regret that Christians did not go about as in the "Pilgrim's Progress",
armed to do battle with Apollyon and Giant Despair, or fight through a
whole long day against thronging foes, until night brought victory and
release. It would have been so easy, I used to think, to do tangible
battle of that sort, so much easier than to learn lessons, and keep one's
temper, and mend one's stockings. Quick to learn, my lessons of Bible and
Prayer Book gave me no trouble, and I repeated page after page with
little labor and much credit. I remember being praised for my love of the
Bible, because I had learned by heart all the epistle of St. James's,
while, as a matter of fact, the desire to distinguish myself was a far
more impelling motive than any love of "the holy book;" the dignified
cadences pleased my ear, and were swiftly caught and reproduced, and I
was proud of the easy fashion in which I mastered and recited page after
page. Another source of "carnal pride"--little suspected, I fear, by my
dear instructress--was found in the often-recurring prayer meetings. In
these the children were called on to take a part, and we were bidden pray
aloud; this proceeding was naturally a sore trial, and being endued with
an inordinate amount of "false pride"--the fear of appearing ridiculous,
_i.e._, with self conceit--it was a great trouble when the summons came:
"Annie dear, will you speak to our Lord". But the plunge once made, and
the trembling voice steadied, enthusiasm and facility for cadenced speech
always swallowed up the nervous "fear of breaking down", and I fear me
that the prevailing thought was more often that God must think I prayed
very nicely, than that I was a "miserable sinner", asking "pardon for the
sake of Jesus Christ". The sense of sin, the contrition for man's fallen
state, which are required by Evangelicalism, can never be truly felt by
any child; but whenever a sensitive, dreamy, and enthusiastic child comes
under strong Evangelistic influence, it is sure to manifest "signs of
saving grace". As far as I can judge now, the total effect of the
Calvinistic training was to make me somewhat morbid, but this tendency
was counteracted by the healthier tone of my mother's thought, and the
natural gay buoyancy of my nature rose swiftly whenever the pressure of
the teaching that I was "a child of sin", and could "not naturally please
God", was removed.

In the spring of 1861, Miss Marryat announced her intention of going
abroad, and asked my dear mother to let me accompany her. A little nephew
whom she had adopted was suffering from cataract, and she desired to
place him under the care of the famous Duesseldorf oculist. Amy Marryat
had been recalled home soon after the death of her mother, who had died
in giving birth to the child adopted by Miss Marryat, and named at her
desire after her favorite brother Frederick (Captain Marryat). Her place
had been taken by a girl a few months older than myself, Emma Mann, one
of the daughters of a clergyman who had married a Miss Stanley, closely
related, indeed if I remember rightly, a sister of the Miss Mary Stanley
who did such noble work in nursing in the Crimea.

For some months we had been diligently studying German, for Miss Marryat
thought it wise that we should know a language fairly well before we
visited the country of which it was the native tongue. We had been
trained also to talk French daily during dinner, so we were not quite
"helpless foreigners" when we steamed away from St. Catherine's Docks,
and found ourselves on the following day in Antwerp, amid what seemed to
us a very Babel of conflicting tongues. Alas for our carefully spoken
French, articulated laboriously. We were lost in that swirl of disputing
luggage-porters, and could not understand a word! But Miss Marryat was
quite equal to the occasion, being by no means new to travelling, and her
French stood the test triumphantly, and steered us safely to a hotel. On
the morrow we started again through Aix-la-Chapelle to Bonn, the town
which lies on the borders of the exquisite scenery of which the
Siebengebirge and Rolandseck serve as the magic portal. Our experiences
in Bonn were not wholly satisfactory. Dear Auntie was a maiden lady,
looking on all young men as wolves to be kept far from her growing lambs.
Bonn was a university town, and there was a mania just then prevailing
there for all things English. Emma was a plump, rosy, fair-haired typical
English maiden, full of frolic and harmless fun; I a very slight, pale,
black-haired girl, alternating between wild fun and extreme pensiveness.
In the boarding-house to which we went at first--the "Chateau du Rhin", a
beautiful place overhanging the broad blue Rhine--there chanced to be
staying the two sons of the late Duke of Hamilton, the Marquis of Douglas
and Lord Charles, with their tutor. They had the whole drawing-room
floor: we a sitting-room on the ground floor and bedrooms above. The lads
discovered that Miss Marryat did not like her "children" to be on
speaking terms with any of the "male sect". Here was a fine source of
amusement. They would make their horses caracole on the gravel in front
of our window; they would be just starting for their ride as we went for
walk or drive, and would salute us with doffed hat and low bow; they
would waylay us on our way downstairs with demure "Good morning"; they
would go to church and post themselves so that they could survey our pew,
and Lord Charles--who possessed the power of moving at will the whole
skin of the scalp--would wriggle his hair up and down till we were
choking with laughter, to our own imminent risk. After a month of this,
Auntie was literally driven out of the pretty _Chateau_, and took refuge
in a girls' school, much to our disgust, but still she was not allowed to
be at rest. Mischievous students would pursue us wherever we went;
sentimental Germans, with gashed cheeks, would whisper complimentary
phrases as we passed; mere boyish nonsense of most harmless kind, but the
rather stern English lady thought it "not proper", and after three months
of Bonn we were sent home for the holidays, somewhat in disgrace. But we
had some lovely excursions during those months; such clambering up
mountains, such rows on the swift-flowing Rhine, such wanderings in
exquisite valleys. I have a long picture-gallery to retire into when I
want to think of something fair, in recalling the moon as it silvered the
Rhine at the foot of Drachenfels, or the soft mist-veiled island where
dwelt the lady who is consecrated for ever by Roland's love.

A couple of months later we rejoined Miss Marryat in Paris, where we
spent seven happy workful months. On Wednesdays and Saturdays we were
free from lessons, and many a long afternoon was passed in the galleries
of the Louvre, till we became familiar with the masterpieces of art
gathered there from all lands. I doubt if there was a beautiful church in
Paris that we did not visit during those weekly wanderings; that of St.
Germain de l'Auxerrois was my favorite--the church whose bell gave the
signal for the massacre of St. Bartholomew--for it contained such
marvellous stained glass, deepest purest glory of color that I had ever
seen. The solemn beauty of Notre Dame, the somewhat gaudy magnificence of
La Sainte Chapelle, the stateliness of La Madeleine, the impressive gloom
of St. Roch, were all familiar to us. Other delights were found in
mingling with the bright crowds which passed along the Champs Elysees and
sauntered in the Bois de Boulogne, in strolling in the garden of the
Tuileries, in climbing to the top of every monument whence view of Paris
could be gained. The Empire was then in its heyday of glitter, and we
much enjoyed seeing the brilliant escort of the imperial carriage, with
plumes and gold and silver dancing and glistening in the sunlight, while
in the carriage sat the exquisitely lovely empress with the little boy
beside her, touching his cap shyly, but with something of her own grace,
in answer to a greeting--the boy who was thought to be born to an
imperial crown, but whose brief career was to find an ending from the
spears of savages in a quarrel in which he had no concern.

In the spring of 1862 it chanced that the Bishop of Ohio visited Paris,
and Mr. Forbes, then English chaplain at the Church of the Rue
d'Aguesseau, arranged to have a confirmation. As said above, I was under
deep "religious impressions", and, in fact, with the exception of that
little aberration in Germany, I was decidedly a pious girl. I looked on
theatres (never having been to one) as traps set by Satan for the
destruction of foolish souls; I was quite determined never to go to a
ball, and was prepared to "suffer for conscience sake"--little prig that
I was--if I was desired to go to one. I was consequently quite prepared
to take upon myself the vows made in my name at my baptism, and to
renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, with a heartiness and
sincerity only equalled by my profound ignorance of the things I so
readily resigned. That confirmation was to me a very solemn matter; the
careful preparation, the prolonged prayers, the wondering awe as to the
"sevenfold gifts of the Spirit", which were to be given by "the laying on
of hands", all tended to excitement. I could scarcely control myself as I
knelt at the altar rails, and felt as though the gentle touch of the aged
Bishop, which fluttered for an instant on my bowed head, were the very
touch of the wing of that "Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove", whose presence
had been so earnestly invoked. Is there anything easier, I wonder, than
to make a young and sensitive girl "intensely religious".

My mother came over for the confirmation and for the "first communion" on
Easter Sunday, and we had a delightful fortnight together, returning home
after we had wandered hand-in-hand over all my favorite haunts. The
summer of 1862 was spent with Miss Marryat at Sidmouth, and, wise woman
that she was, she now carefully directed our studies with a view to our
coming enfranchisement from the "school-room." More and more were we
trained to work alone; our leading-strings were slackened, so that we
never felt them save when we blundered; and I remember that when I once
complained, in loving fashion, that she was "teaching me so little", she
told me that I was getting old enough to be trusted to work by myself,
and that I must not expect to "have Auntie for a crutch all through
life". And I venture to say that this gentle withdrawal of constant
supervision and teaching was one of the wisest and kindest things that
this noble-hearted woman ever did for us. It is the usual custom to keep
girls in the school-room until they "come out"; then, suddenly, they are
left to their own devices, and, bewildered by their unaccustomed freedom,
they waste time that might be priceless for their intellectual growth.
Lately, the opening of universities to women has removed this danger for
the more ambitious; but at the time of which I am writing no one dreamed
of the changes soon to be made in the direction of the "higher education
of women".

During the winter of 1862-1863 Miss Marryat was in London, and for a few
months I remained there with her, attending the admirable French classes
of M. Roche. In the spring I returned home to Harrow, going up each week
to the classes; and when these were over, Auntie told me that she thought
all she could usefully do was done, and that it was time that I should
try my wings alone. So well, however, had she succeeded in her aims, that
my emancipation from the school-room was but the starting-point of more
eager study, though now the study turned into the lines of thought
towards which my personal tendencies most attracted me. German I
continued to read with a master, and music, under the marvellously able
teaching of Mr. John Farmer, musical director of Harrow School, took up
much of my time. My dear mother had a passion for music, and Beethoven
and Bach were her favorite composers. There was scarcely a sonata of
Beethoven's that I did not learn, scarcely a fugue of Bach's that I did
not master. Mendelssohn's "Lieder" gave a lighter recreation, and many a
happy evening did we spend, my mother and I, over the stately strains of
the blind Titan, and the sweet melodies of the German wordless orator.
Musical "At Homes", too, were favorite amusements at Harrow, and at these
my facile fingers made me a welcome guest.

A very pleasant place was Harrow to a light-hearted serious-brained girl.
The picked men of the Schools of Oxford and Cambridge came there as
junior masters, so that one's partners at ball and croquet and archery
could talk as well as flirt. Never girl had, I venture to say, a brighter
girlhood than mine. Every morning and much of the afternoon spent in
eager earnest study: evenings in merry party or quiet home-life, one as
delightful as the other. Archery and croquet had in me a most devoted
disciple, and the "pomps and vanities" of the ballroom found the happiest
of votaries. My darling mother certainly "spoiled" me, so far as were
concerned all the small roughnesses of life. She never allowed a trouble
of any kind to touch me, and cared only that all worries should fall on
her, all joys on me. I know now what I never dreamed then, that her life
was one of serious anxiety. The heavy burden of my brother's school and
college-life pressed on her constantly, and her need of money was often
serious. A lawyer whom she trusted absolutely cheated her systematically,
using for his own purposes the remittances she made for payment of
liabilities, thus keeping upon her a constant drain. Yet for me all that
was wanted was ever there. Was it a ball to which we were going? I need
never think of what I would wear till the time for dressing arrived, and
there laid out ready for me was all I wanted, every detail complete from
top to toe. No hand but hers must dress my hair, which, loosed, fell in
dense curly masses nearly to my knees; no hand but hers must fasten dress
and deck with flowers, and if I sometimes would coaxingly ask if I might
not help by sewing in laces, or by doing some trifle in aid, she would
kiss me and bid me run to my books or my play, telling me that her only
pleasure in life was caring for her "treasure". Alas! how lightly we take
the self-denying labor that makes life so easy, ere yet we have known
what life means when the protecting mother-wing is withdrawn. So guarded
and shielded had been my childhood and youth from every touch of pain and
anxiety that love could bear for me, that I never dreamed that life might
be a heavy burden, save as I saw it in the poor I was sent to help; all
the joy of those happy years I took, not ungratefully I hope, but
certainly with as glad unconsciousness of anything rare in it as I took
the sunlight. Passionate love, indeed, I gave to my darling, but I never
knew all I owed her till I passed out of her tender guardianship, till I
left my mother's home. Is such training wise? I am not sure. It makes the
ordinary roughnesses of life come with so stunning a shock, when one goes
out into the world, that one is apt to question whether some earlier
initiation into life's sterner mysteries would not be wiser for the
young. Yet it is a fair thing to have that joyous youth to look back
upon, and at least it is a treasury of memory that no thief can steal in
the struggles of later life.

During those happy years my brain was given plenty of exercise. I used to
keep a list of the books I read, so that I might not neglect my work; and
finding a "Library of the Fathers" on the shelves, I selected that for
one _piece de resistance_. Soon those strange mystic writers won over me
a great fascination, and I threw myself ardently into a study of the
question: "Where is now the Catholic Church?". I read Pusey, and Liddon,
and Keble, with many another of that school, and many of the seventeenth
century English divines. I began to fast--to the intense disapproval of
my mother, who cared for my health far more than for all the Fathers the
Church could boast of--to use the sign of the cross, to go to weekly
communion. Indeed, the contrast I found between my early Evangelical
training and the doctrines of the Primitive Christian Church would have
driven me over to Rome, had it not been for the proofs afforded by Pusey
and his co-workers, that the English Church might be Catholic although
non-Roman. But for them I should most certainly have joined the Papal
Communion; for if the Church of the early centuries be compared with Rome
and with Geneva, there is no doubt that Rome shows marks of primitive
Christianity of which Geneva is entirely devoid. I became content when I
found that the practices and doctrines of the Anglican Church could be
knitted on to those of the martyrs and confessors of the early Church,
for it had not yet struck me that the early Church might itself be
challenged. To me, at that time, the authority of Jesus was supreme and
unassailable; his apostles were his infallible messengers; Clement of
Rome, Polycarp, and Barnabas, these were the very pupils of the apostles
themselves. I never dreamed of forgeries, of pious frauds, of writings
falsely ascribed to venerated names. Nor do I now regret that so it was;
for, without belief, the study of the early Fathers would be an
intolerable weariness; and that old reading of mine has served me well in
many of my later controversies with Christians, who knew the literature
of their Church less well than I.

To this ecclesiastical reading was added some study of stray scientific
works, but the number of these that came in my way was very limited. The
atmosphere surrounding me was literary rather than scientific. I remember
reading a translation of Plato that gave me great delight, and being
rather annoyed by the insatiable questionings of Socrates. Lord Derby's
translation of the Iliad also charmed me with its stateliness and melody,
and Dante was another favorite study. Wordsworth and Cowper I much
disliked, and into the same category went all the 17th and 18th century
"poets," though I read them conscientiously through. Southey fascinated
me with his wealth of Oriental fancies, while Spencer was a favorite
book, put beside Milton and Dante. My novel reading was extremely
limited; indeed the "three volume novel" was a forbidden fruit. My mother
regarded these ordinary love-stories as unhealthy reading for a young
girl, and gave me Scott and Kingsley, but not Miss Braddon or Mrs. Henry
Wood. Nor would she take me to the theatre, though we went to really good
concerts. She had a horror of sentimentality in girls, and loved to see
them bright and gay, and above all things absolutely ignorant of all evil
things and of premature love-dreams. Happy, healthy and workful were
those too brief years.


My grandfather's house, No. 8, Albert Square, Clapham Road, was a second
home from my earliest childhood.

That house, with its little strip of garden at the back, will always
remain dear and sacred to me. I can see now the two almond trees, so rich
in blossom every spring, so barren in fruit every autumn; the large
spreading tufts of true Irish shamrock, brought from Ireland, and
lovingly planted in the new grey London house, amid the smoke; the little
nooks at the far end, wherein I would sit cosily out of sight reading a
favorite book. Inside it was but a commonplace London house, only one
room, perhaps, differing from any one that might have been found in any
other house in the square. That was my grandfather's "work-room", where
he had a lathe fitted up, for he had a passion and a genius for inventive
work in machinery. He took out patents for all sorts of ingenious
contrivances, but always lost money. His favorite invention was of a
"railway chair", for joining the ends of rails together, and in the
ultimate success of this he believed to his death. It was (and is) used
on several lines, and was found to answer splendidly, but the old man
never derived any profit from his invention. The fact was he had no
money, and those who had took it up and utilised it, and kept all the
profit for themselves. There were several cases in which his patents
dropped, and then others took up his inventions, and made a commercial
success thereof.

A strange man altogether was that grandfather of mine, whom I can only
remember as a grand-looking old man, with snow-white hair and piercing
hawk's eyes. The merriest of wild Irishmen was he in his youth, and I
have often wished that his biography had been written, if only as a
picture of Dublin society at the time. He had an exquisite voice, and one
night he and some of his wild comrades went out singing through the
streets as beggars. Pennies, sixpences, shillings, and even half-crowns
came showering down in recompense of street music of such unusual
excellence; then the young scamps, ashamed of their gains, poured them
all into the hat of a cripple they met, who must have thought that all
the blessed saints were out that night in the Irish capital. On another
occasion he went to the wake of an old woman who had been bent nearly
double by rheumatism, and had been duly "laid out", and tied down firmly,
so as to keep the body straight in the recumbent position. He hid under
the bed, and when the whisky was flowing freely, and the orgie was at its
height, he cut the ropes with a sharp knife, and the old woman suddenly
sat up in bed, frightening the revellers out of their wits, and, luckily
for my grandfather, out of the room. Many such tales would he tell, with
quaint Irish humor, in his later days. He died, from a third stroke of
paralysis, in 1862.

The Morrises were a very "clannish" family, and my grandfather's house
was the London centre. All the family gathered there on each
Christmastide, and on Christmas day was always held high festival. For
long my brother and I were the only grandchildren within reach, and were
naturally made much of. The two sons were out in India, married, with
young families. The youngest daughter was much away from home, and a
second was living in Constantinople, but three others lived with their
father and mother. Bessie, the eldest of the whole family, was a woman of
rigid honor and conscientiousness, but poverty and the struggle to keep
out of debt had soured her, and "Aunt Bessie" was an object of dread, not
of love. One story of her early life will best tell her character. She
was engaged to a young clergyman, and one day when Bessie was at church
he preached a sermon taken without acknowledgment from some old divine.
The girl's keen sense of honor was shocked at the deception, and she
broke off her engagement, but remained unmarried for the rest of her
life. "Careful and troubled about many things" was poor Aunt Bessie, and
I remember being rather shocked one day at hearing her express her
sympathy with Martha, when her sister left her to serve alone, and at her
saying: "I doubt very much whether Jesus would have liked it if Martha
had been lying about on the floor as well as Mary, and there had been no
supper. But there! it's always those who do the work who are scolded,
because they have not time to be as sweet and nice as those who do
nothing." Nor could she ever approve of the treatment of the laborers in
the parable, when those who "had borne the burden and heat of the day"
received but the same wage as those that had worked but one hour. "It was
not just", she would say doggedly. A sad life was hers, for she repelled
all sympathy, and yet later I had reason to believe that she half broke
her heart because none loved her well. She was ever gloomy,
unsympathising, carping, but she worked herself to death for those whose
love she chillily repulsed. She worked till, denying herself every
comfort, she literally dropped. One morning, when she got out of bed, she
fell, and crawling into bed again, quietly said she could do no more; lay
there for some months, suffering horribly with unvarying patience; and
died, rejoicing that at last she would have "rest".

Two other "Aunties" were my playfellows, and I their pet. Minnie, a
brilliant pianiste, earned a precarious livelihood by teaching music. The
long fasts, the facing of all weathers, the weary rides in omnibuses with
soaked feet, broke down at last a splendid constitution, and after some
three years of torture, commencing with a sharp attack of English
cholera, she died the year before my marriage. But during my girlhood she
was the gayest and merriest of my friends, her natural buoyancy
re-asserting itself whenever she could escape from her musical
tread-mill. Great was my delight when she joined my mother and myself for
our spring or summer trips, and when at my favorite St. Leonards--at the
far unfashionable end, right away from the gay watering-place folk--we
settled down for four or five happy weeks of sea and country, and when
Minnie and I scampered over the country on horseback, merry as children
set free from school. My other favorite auntie was of a quieter type, a
soft pretty loving little woman. "Co" we called her, for she was "such a
cosy little thing", her father used to say. She was my mother's favorite
sister, her "child", she would name her, because "Co" was so much her
junior, and when she was a young girl the little child had been her
charge. "Always take care of little Co", was one of my mother's dying
charges to me, and fortunately "little Co" has--though the only one of my
relatives who has done so--clung to me through change of faith, and
through social ostracism. Her love for me, and her full belief that,
however she differed from me, I meant right, have never varied, have
never been shaken. She is intensely religious--as will be seen in the
later story, wherein her life was much woven with mine--but however much
"darling Annie's" views or actions might shock her, it is "darling Annie"
through it all; "You are so good" she said to me the last time I saw her,
looking up at me with all her heart in her eyes; "anyone so good as you
must come to our dear Lord at last!" As though any, save a brute, could
be aught but good to "little Co".

On the Christmas following my eighteenth birthday, a little Mission
Church in which Minnie was much interested, was opened near Albert
Square. My High Church enthusiasm was in full bloom, and the services in
this little Mission Church were "high", whereas those in all the
neighboring churches were "low". A Mr. Hoare, an intensely earnest man,
was working there in most devoted fashion, and was glad to welcome any
aid; we decorated his church, worked ornaments for it, and thought we
were serving God when we were really amusing ourselves in a small place
where our help was over-estimated, and where the clergy, very likely
unconsciously, flattered us for our devotion. Among those who helped to
carry on the services there, was a young undermaster of Stockwell Grammar
School, the rev. Frank Besant, a Cambridge man, who had passed as 28th
wrangler in his year, and who had just taken orders. At Easter we were
again at Albert Square, and devoted much time to the little church,
decking it on Easter Eve with soft yellow tufts of primrose blossom, and
taking much delight in the unbounded admiration bestowed on the dainty
spring blossoms by the poor who crowded in. I made a lovely white cross
for the super-altar with camelias and azaleas and white geraniums, but
after all it was not really as spring-like, as suitable for a
"Resurrection", as the simple sweet wild flowers, still dewy from their
nests in field and glade and lane.

That Easter was memorable to me for another cause. It saw waked and
smothered my first doubt. That some people did doubt the historical
accuracy of the Bible I knew, for one or two of the Harrow masters were
friends of Colenso, the heretic Bishop of Natal, but fresh from my
Patristic studies, I looked on heretics with blind horror, possibly the
stronger from its very vagueness, and its ignorance of what it feared. My
mother objected to my reading controversial books which dealt with the
points at issue between Christianity and Freethought, and I did not care
for her favorite Stanley, who might have widened my views, regarding him
(on the word of Pusey) as "unsound in the faith once delivered to the
saints". I had read Pusey's book on "Daniel the prophet", and, knowing
nothing of the criticisms he attacked, I felt triumphant at his
convincing demonstrations of their error, and felt sure that none but the
wilfully blind could fail to see how weak were the arguments of the
heretic writers. That stately preface of his was one of my favorite
pieces of reading, and his dignified defence against all novelties of
"that which must be old because it is eternal, and must be unchangeable
because it is true", at once charmed and satisfied me. The delightful
vagueness of Stanley, which just suited my mother's broad views, because
it _was_ vague and beautiful, was denounced by Pusey--not unwarrantably--
as that "variegated use of words which destroys all definiteness of
meaning". When she would bid me not be uncharitable to those with whom I
differed in matters of religion, I would answer in his words, that
"charity to error is treason to truth", and that to speak out the truth
unwaveringly as it was revealed, was alone "loyalty to God and charity to
the souls of men".

Judge, then, of my terror at my own results when I found myself betrayed
into writing down some contradictions from the Bible. With that poetic
dreaming which is one of the charms of Catholicism, whether English or
Roman, I threw myself back into the time of the first century as the
"Holy Week" of 1866 approached. In order to facilitate the realisation of
those last sacred days of God incarnate on earth, working out man's
salvation, I resolved to write a brief history of that week, compiled
from the four gospels, meaning then to try and realise each day the
occurrences that had happened on the corresponding date in A.D. 33, and
so to follow those "blessed feet" step by step, till they were

"... nailed for our advantage to the bitter cross."

With the fearlessness which springs from ignorance I sat down to my
task. My method was as follows:

| | |
| | |
Rode into | Rode into | Rode into | Rode into
Jerusalem. | Jerusalem. | Jerusalem. | Jerusalem. Spoke
Purified the | Returned to | Purified the | in the Temple.
Temple. Returned | Bethany. | Temple. Note: |
to Bethany. | | "Taught daily |
| | in the Temple". |
| | |
| | |
Cursed the fig | Cursed the fig | Like Matthew. |
tree. Taught in | tree. Purified | |
the Temple, and | the Temple. | |
spake many | Went out of | |
parables. No | city. | |
breaks shown, | | |
but the fig tree | | |
(xxi., 19) did | | |
not wither till | | |
Tuesday (see | | |
Mark). | | |
| | |
| | |
All chaps, xxi., | Saw fig tree | Discourses. No |
20, xxii.-xxv., | withered up. | date shown. |
spoken on Tues- | Then discourses.| |
day, for xxvi., 2 | | |
gives Passover as | | |
"after two days". | | |
| | |
| | |
Blank. | | |
(Possibly remained in Bethany; the alabaster box of ointment.)
| | |
| | |
Preparation of | Same as Matt. | Same as Matt. | Discourses with
Passover. Eating | | | disciples, but
of Passover, | | | _before_ the
and institution | | | Passover. Washes
of the Holy Eu- | | | the disciples'
charist. Gesthse- | | | feet. Nothing said
mane. Betrayal | | | of Holy Eucharist,
by Judas. Led | | | nor of agony in
captive to Caia- | | | Gethsemane.
phas. Denied by | | | Malchus' ear.
St. Peter. | | | Led captive to
| | | Annas first. Then
| | | to Caiaphas. Denied
| | | by St. Peter.
| | |
| | |
Led to Pilate. | As Matthew, | Led to Pilate. | Taken to Pilate.
Judas hangs | but hour of | Sent to Herod. | Jews would not
himself. Tried. | crucifixion | Sent back to | enter, that they
Condemned to | given, 9 a.m. | Pilate. Rest as | might eat the
death. Scourged | | in Matthew; but | Passover.
and mocked. | | _one_ male- | Scourged by Pi-
Led to cruci- | | factor repents. | late before con-
fixion. Darkness | | | demnation, and
from 12 to 3. | | | mocked. Shown by
Died at 3. | | | Pilate to Jews
| | | at 12.

At this point I broke down. I had been getting more and more uneasy and
distressed as I went on, but when I found that the Jews would not go into
the judgment hall lest they should be defiled, because they desired to
eat the passover, having previously seen that Jesus had actually eaten
the passover with his disciples the evening before; when after writing
down that he was crucified at 9 a.m., and that there was darkness over
all the land from 12 to 3 p.m., I found that three hours after he was
crucified he was standing in the judgment hall, and that at the very hour
at which the miraculous darkness covered the earth; when I saw that I was
writing a discord instead of a harmony, I threw down my pen and shut up
my Bible. The shock of doubt was, however only momentary. I quickly
recognised it as a temptation of the devil, and I shrank back
horror-stricken and penitent for the momentary lapse of faith. I saw that
these apparent contradictions were really a test of faith, and that there
would be no credit in believing a thing in which there were no
difficulties. _Credo quia impossibile_; I repeated Tertullian's words at
first doggedly, at last triumphantly. I fasted as penance for my
involuntary sin of unbelief. I remembered that the Bible must not be
carelessly read, and that St. Peter had warned us that there were in it
"some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and
unstable wrest unto their own destruction". I shuddered at the
"destruction" to the edge of which my unlucky "harmony" had drawn me, and
resolved that I would never again venture on a task for which I was so
evidently unfitted. Thus the first doubt was caused, and though swiftly
trampled down, it had none the less raised its head. It was stifled, not
answered, for all my religious training had led me to regard a doubt as a
sin to be repented of, not examined. And it left in my mind the dangerous
feeling that there were some things into which it was safer not to
enquire too closely; things which must be accepted on faith, and not too
narrowly scrutinised. The awful threat: "He that believeth not shall be
damned," sounded in my ears, and, like the angel with the flaming sword,
barred the path of all too curious enquiry.


The spring ripened into summer in uneventful fashion, so far as I was
concerned, the smooth current of my life flowing on untroubled, hard
reading and merry play filling the happy days. I learned later that two
or three offers of marriage reached my mother for me; but she answered to
each: "She is too young. I will not have her troubled." Of love-dreams I
had absolutely none, partly, I expect, from the absence of fiery novels
from my reading, partly because my whole dream-tendencies were absorbed
by religion, and all my fancies ran towards a "religious life". I longed
to spend my time in worshipping Jesus, and was, as far as my inner life
was concerned, absorbed in that passionate love of "the Savior" which,
among emotional Catholics, really is the human passion of love
transferred to an ideal--for women to Jesus, for men to the Virgin Mary.
In order to show that I am not here exaggerating, I subjoin a few of the
prayers in which I found daily delight, and I do this in order to show
how an emotional girl may be attracted by these so-called devotional

"O crucified Love, raise in me fresh ardors of love and consolation, that
it may henceforth be the greatest torment I can endure ever to offend
Thee; that it may be my greatest delight to please Thee."

"Let the remembrance of Thy death, O Lord Jesu, make me to desire and
pant after Thee, that I may delight in Thy gracious presence."

"O most sweet Jesu Christ, I, unworthy sinner, yet redeemed by Thy
precious blood.... Thine I am and will be, in life and in death."

"O Jesu, beloved, fairer than the sons of men, draw me after Thee with
the cords of Thy love."

"Blessed are Thou, O most merciful God, who didst vouchsafe to espouse me
to the heavenly Bridegroom in the waters of baptism, and hast imparted
Thy body and blood as a new gift of espousal and the meet consummation of
Thy love."

"O most sweet Lord Jesu, transfix the affections of my inmost soul with
that most joyous and most healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene,
most holy, apostolic charity; that my soul may ever languish and melt
with entire love and longing for Thee. Let it desire Thee and faint for
Thy courts; long to be dissolved and be with Thee."

"Oh, that I could embrace Thee with that most burning love of angels."

"Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Thy love is better
than wine. Draw me, we will run after Thee. The king hath brought me into
his chambers.... Let my soul, O Lord, feel the sweetness of Thy presence.
May it taste how sweet Thou art.... May the sweet and burning power of
Thy love, I beseech Thee, absorb my soul."

To my dear mother this type of religious thought was revolting. But then,
she was a woman who had been a wife and a devoted one, while I was a
child awaking into womanhood, with emotions and passions dawning and not
understood, emotions and passions which craved satisfaction, and found it
in this "Ideal Man". Thousands of girls in England are to-day in exactly
this mental phase, and it is a phase full of danger. In America it is
avoided by a frank, open, unsentimental companionship between boys and
girls, between young men and young women. In England, where this wisely
free comradeship is regarded as "improper", the perfectly harmless and
natural sexual feeling is either dwarfed or forced, and so we have
"prudishness" and "fastness". The sweeter and more loving natures become
prudes; the more shallow as well as the more high-spirited and merry
natures become flirts. Often, as in my own case, the merry side finds its
satisfaction in amusements that demand active physical exercise, while
the loving side finds its joy in religious expansion, in which the
idealised figure of Jesus becomes the object of passion, and the life of
the nun becomes the ideal life, as being dedicated to that one devotion.
To the girl, of course, this devotion is all that is most holy, most
noble, most pure. But analysing it now, after it has long been a thing of
the past, I cannot but regard it as a mere natural outlet for the dawning
feelings of womanhood, certain to be the more intense and earnest as the
nature is deep and loving.

One very practical and mischievous result of this religious feeling is
the idealisation of all clergymen, as being the special messengers of,
and the special means of communication with, the "Most High". The priest
is surrounded by the halo of Deity. The power that holds the keys of
heaven and of hell becomes the object of reverence and of awe. Far more
lofty than any title bestowed by earthly monarch is that patent of
nobility straight from the hand of the "King of kings", which seems to
give to the mortal something of the authority of the immortal, to crown
the head of the priest with the diadem which belongs to those who are
"kings and priests unto God". Swayed by these feelings, the position of a
clergyman's wife seems second only to that of the nun, and has therefore
a wonderful attractiveness, an attractiveness in which the particular
clergyman affected plays a very subordinate part; it is the "sacred
office", the nearness to "holy things", the consecration involved, which
seem to make the wife a nearer worshipper than those who do not partake
in the immediate "services of the altar"--it is all these that shed a
glamor over the clerical life which attracts most those who are most apt
to self-devotion, most swayed by imagination. I know how incomprehensible
this will seem to many of my readers, but it is a fact none the less, and
the saddest pity of it is that the glamor is most over those whose brains
are quick and responsive to all forms of noble emotions, all suggestions
of personal self-sacrifice; and if such later rise to the higher emotions
whose shadows have attracted them, and to that higher self-sacrifice
whose whispers reached them in their early youth, then the false
prophet's veil is raised, and the life is either wrecked, or through
storm-wind and surge of battling billows, with loss of mast and sail, is
steered by firm hand into the port of a higher creed.

My mother, Minnie, and I passed the summer holidays at St. Leonards, and
many a merry gallop had we over our favorite fields, I on a favorite
black mare, Gipsy Queen, as full of life and spirits as I was myself, who
danced gaily over ditch and hedge, thinking little of my weight, for I
rode barely eight stone. At the end of those, our last free summer
holidays, we returned as usual to Harrow, and shortly afterwards I went
to Switzerland with some dear friends of ours named Roberts.

Everyone about Manchester will remember Mr. Roberts, the solicitor, the
"poor man's lawyer". Close friend of Ernest Jones, and hand-in-hand with
him through all his struggles, Mr. Roberts was always ready to fight a
poor man's battle for him without fee, and to champion any worker
unfairly dealt with. He worked hard in the agitation which saved women
from working in the mines, and I have heard him tell how he had seen them
toiling, naked to the waist, with short petticoats barely reaching to
their knees, rough, foul-tongued, brutalised out of all womanly decency
and grace; and how he had seen little children working there too, babies
of three and four set to watch a door, and falling asleep at their work
to be roused by curse and kick to the unfair toil. The old man's eye
would begin to flash and his voice to rise as he told of these horrors,
and then his face would soften as he added that, after it was all over
and the slavery was put an end to, as he went through a coal-district the
women standing at their doors would lift up their children to see "Lawyer
Roberts" go by, and would bid "God bless him" for what he had done. This
dear old man was my first tutor in Radicalism, and I was an apt pupil. I
had taken no interest in politics, but had unconsciously reflected more
or less the decorous Whiggism which had always surrounded me. I regarded
"the poor" as folk to be educated, looked after, charitably dealt with,
and always treated with most perfect courtesy, the courtesy being due
from me, as a lady, to all equally, whether they were rich or poor. But
to Mr. Roberts "the poor" were the working-bees, the wealth producers,
with a right to self-rule, not to looking after, with a right to justice,
not to charity, and he preached his doctrines to me, in season and out of
season. "What do you think of John Bright?" he demanded of me one day. "I
have never thought of him at all," I answered lightly. "Isn't he a rather
rough sort of man, who goes about making rows?" "There, I thought so," he
broke out fiercely. "That's just what they say. I believe some of you
fine ladies would not go to heaven if you had to rub shoulders with John
Bright, the noblest man God ever gave to the cause of the poor." And then
he launched out into stories of John Bright's work and John Bright's
eloquence, and showed me the changes that work and eloquence had made in
the daily lives of the people.

With Mr. Roberts, his wife, and two daughters, I went to Switzerland as
the autumn drew near. It would be of little interest to tell how we went
to Chamounix and worshipped Mont Blanc, how we crossed the Mer de Glace
and the Mauvais Pas, how we visited the Monastery of St. Bernard (I
losing my heart to the beautiful dogs), how we went by steamer down the
lake of Thun, how we gazed at the Jungfrau and saw the exquisite
Staubbach, how we visited Lausanne, and Berne, and Geneva, how we stood
beside the wounded Lion, and shuddered in the dungeon of Chillon, how we
walked distances we never should have attempted in England, how we
younger ones lost ourselves on a Sunday afternoon, after ascending a
mountain, and returned footsore and weary, to meet a party going out to
seek us with lanterns and ropes. All these things have been so often
described that I will not add one more description to the list, nor dwell
on that strange feeling of awe, of wonder, of delight, that everyone must
have felt, when the glory of the peaks clad in "everlasting snow" is for
the first time seen against the azure sky on the horizon, and you whisper
to yourself, half breathless: "The Alps! The Alps!"

During that autumn I became engaged to the Rev. Frank Besant, giving up
with a sigh of regret my dreams of the "religious life", and substituting
for them the work which would have to be done as the wife of a priest,
laboring ever in the church and among the poor. A queer view, some people
may think, for a girl to take of married life, but it was the natural
result of my living the life of the Early Church, of my enthusiasm for
religious work. To me a priest was a half-angelic creature, whose whole
life was consecrated to heaven; all that was deepest and truest in my
nature chafed against my useless days, longed for work, yearned to devote
itself, as I had read women saints had done, to the service of the church
and the poor, to the battling against sin and misery. "You will have more
opportunity for doing good as a clergyman's wife than as anything else,"
was one of the pleas urged on my reluctance. My ignorance of all that
marriage meant was as profound as though I had been a child of four, and
my knowledge of the world was absolutely _nil_. My darling mother meant
all that was happiest for me when she shielded me from all knowledge of
sorrow and of sin, when she guarded me from the smallest idea of the
marriage relation, keeping me ignorant as a baby till I left her home a
wife. But looking back now on all, I deliberately say that no more fatal
blunder can be made than to train a girl to womanhood in ignorance of all
life's duties and burdens, and then to let her face them for the first
time away from all the old associations, the old helps, the old refuge on
the mother's breast. That "perfect innocence" maybe very beautiful, but
it is a perilous possession, and Eve should have the knowledge of good
and of evil ere she wanders forth from the paradise of a mother's love.
When a word is never spoken to a girl that is not a caress; when
necessary rebuke comes in tone of tenderest reproach; when "You have
grieved me" has been the heaviest penalty for a youthful fault; when no
anxiety has ever been allowed to trouble the young heart--then, when the
hothouse flower is transplanted, and rough winds blow on it, it droops
and fades.

The spring and summer of 1867 passed over with little of incident, save
one. We quitted Harrow, and the wrench was great. My brother had left
school, and had gone to Cambridge; the master, who had lived with us for
so long, had married and had gone to a house of his own; my mother
thought that as she was growing older, the burden of management was
becoming too heavy, and she desired to seek an easier life. She had saved
money enough to pay for my brother's college career, and she determined
to invest the rest of her savings in a house in St. Leonard's, where she
might live for part of the year, letting the house during the season. She
accordingly took and furnished a house in Warrior Square, and we moved
thither, saying farewell to the dear Old Vicarage, and the friends loved
for so many happy years.

At the end of the summer, my mother and I went down to Manchester, to pay
a long visit to the Roberts's; a very pleasant time we passed there, a
large part of mine being spent on horseback, either leaping over a bar in
the meadow, or scouring the country far and wide. A grave break, however,
came in our mirth. The Fenian troubles were then at their height. On
September 11th, Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasy, two Fenian leaders, were
arrested in Manchester, and the Irish population was at once thrown into
a terrible ferment. On the 18th, the police van containing them was
returning from the Court to the County Gaol at Salford, and as it reached
the railway arch which crosses the Hyde Road at Bellevue, a man sprang
out, shot one of the horses, and thus stopped the van. In a moment it was
surrounded by a small band, armed with revolvers and with crowbars, and
the crowbars were wrenching at the locked door. A reinforcement of police
was approaching, and there was no time to be lost. The rescuers called to
Brett, a sergeant of police who was in charge inside the van, to pass the
keys out, and, on his refusal, there was a cry: "Blow off the lock!". The
muzzle of a revolver was placed against the lock, and the revolver was
discharged. Unhappily, poor Brett had stooped down to try and see through
the keyhole what was going on outside, and the bullet, fired to blow open
the lock, entered his head, and he fell dying on the floor. The rescuers
rushed in, and one Allen, a lad of seventeen, opened the doors of the
compartments in which were Kelly and Deasy, and hurriedly pulled them
out. Two or three of the band, gathering round them, carried them off
across the fields to a place of safety, while the rest gallantly threw
themselves between their rescued friends and the strong body of police
which charged down after the fugitives. With their revolvers pointed,
they kept back the police, until they saw that the two Fenian leaders
were beyond all chance of capture, and then they scattered, flying in all
directions. Young William Allen, whose one thought had been for his
chiefs, was the earliest victim. As he fled, he raised his hand and fired
his revolver straight in the air; he had been ready to use it in defence
of others, he would not shed blood for himself. Disarmed by his own act,
he was set upon by the police, brutally struck down, kicked and stoned by
his pursuers, and then, bruised and bleeding, he was dragged off to gaol,
to meet there some of his comrades in much the same plight. The whole
city of Manchester went mad over the story, and the fiercest
race-passions at once blazed out into flame; it became dangerous for an
Irish workman to be alone in a group of Englishmen, for an Englishman to
venture into the Irish quarter of the city. The friends of the arrested
Irishmen went straight to "Lawyer Roberts", and begged his aid, and he
threw himself heart and soul into their defence. He soon found that the
man who had fired the fatal shot was safe out of the way, having left
Manchester at once, and he trusted that it would at least be possible to
save his clients from the death-penalty. A Special Commission was issued,
with Mr. Justice Blackburn at its head. "They are going to send that
hanging judge," groaned Mr. Roberts when he heard it, and we felt there
was small chance of escape for the prisoners. He struggled hard to have
the _venue_ of the trial changed, protesting that in the state of
excitement in which Manchester was, there was no chance of obtaining an
impartial jury. But the cry for blood and for revenge was ringing through
the air, and of fairness and impartiality there was no chance. On the
25th of October, the prisoners were actually brought up before the
magistrates _in irons_, and Mr. Ernest Jones, the counsel briefed to
defend them, after a vain protest against the monstrous outrage, threw
down his brief and quitted the Court. The trial was hurried on, and on
October 29th, Allen, Larkin, Gould (O'Brien), Maguire, and Condon, stood
before their judges.

We drove up to the court; the streets were barricaded; soldiers were
under arms; every approach was crowded by surging throngs. At last, our
carriage was stopped in the midst of excited Irishmen, and fists were
shaken in the window, curses levelled at the "d----d English who were
going to see the boys murdered". For a moment things were uncomfortable,
for we were five women of helpless type. Then I bethought myself that we
were unknown, and, like the saucy girl I was, I leant forward and touched
the nearest fist. "Friends, these are Mr. Roberts' wife and daughters."
"Roberts! Lawyer Roberts! God bless Roberts. Let his carriage through."
And all the scowling faces became smile-wreathen, and cheers sounded out
for curses, and a road was cleared for us to the steps.

Very sad was that trial. On the first day Mr. Roberts got himself into
trouble which threatened to be serious. He had briefed Mr. Digby Seymour,
Q.C. as leader, with Mr. Ernest Jones, for the defence, and he did not
think that the jurymen proposed were challenged as they should be. We
knew that many whose names were called were men who had proclaimed their
hostility to the Irish, and despite the wrath of Judge Blackburn, Mr.
Roberts would jump up and challenge them. In vain he threatened to commit
the sturdy solicitor. "These men's lives are at stake, my lord," he said
indignantly. At last the officers of the court were sharply told: "Remove
that man," but as they advanced reluctantly--for all poor men loved and
honored him--Judge Blackburn changed his mind and let him remain. At last
the jury was empanelled, containing one man who had loudly proclaimed
that he "didn't care what the evidence was, he would hang every d----d
Irishman of the lot". In fact, the verdict was a foregone conclusion. The
most disreputable evidence was admitted; the suppositions of women of
lowest character were accepted as conclusive; the _alibi_ for Maguire--
clearly proved, and afterwards accepted by the Crown, a free pardon being
issued on the strength of it--was rejected with dogged obstinacy; how
premeditated was the result may be guessed from the fact that I saw--with
what shuddering horror may be estimated--some official in the room behind
the judges' chairs, quietly preparing the black caps before the verdict
had been given. The verdict of "Guilty" was repeated in each of the five
cases, and the prisoners were asked by the presiding judge if they had
anything to say why sentence should not be passed on them. Allen spoke
briefly and bravely; he had not fired a shot, but he had helped to free
Kelly and Deasy; he was willing to die for Ireland. The others followed
in turn, Maguire protesting his innocence, and Condon declaring also that
he was not present (he also was reprieved). Then the sentence of death
was passed, and "God save Ireland"! rang out in five clear voices in
answer from the dock.

We had a sad scene that night; the young girl to whom poor Allen was
engaged was heartbroken at her lover's doom, and bitter were her cries to
"save my William!". No protests, no pleas, however, availed to mitigate
the doom, and on November 23rd, Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien were hanged
outside Salford gaol. Had they striven for freedom in Italy, England
would have honored them as heroes; here she buried them as common
murderers in quicklime in the prison yard.

I have found, with a keen sense of pleasure, that Mr. Bradlaugh and
myself were in 1867 to some extent co-workers, although we knew not of
each other's existence, and although he was doing much, and I only giving
such poor sympathy as a young girl might, who was only just awakening to
the duty of political work. I read in the _National Reformer_ for
November 24, 1867, that in the preceding week, he was pleading on
Clerkenwell Green for these men's lives:

"According to the evidence at the trial, Deasy and Kelly were illegally
arrested. They had been arrested for vagrancy of which no evidence was
given, and apparently remanded for felony without a shadow of
justification. He had yet to learn that in England the same state of
things existed as in Ireland; he had yet to learn that an illegal arrest
was sufficient ground to detain any of the citizens of any country in the
prisons of this one. If he were illegally held, he was justified in using
enough force to procure his release. Wearing a policeman's coat gave no
authority when the officer exceeded his jurisdiction. He had argued this
before Lord Chief Justice Erle in the Court of Common Pleas, and that
learned judge did not venture to contradict the argument which he
submitted. There was another reason why they should spare these men,
although he hardly expected the Government to listen, because the
Government sent down one of the judges who was predetermined to convict
the prisoners; it was that the offence was purely a political one. The
death of Brett was a sad mischance, but no one who read the evidence
could regard the killing of Brett as an intentional murder. Legally, it
was murder; morally, it was homicide in the rescue of a political
captive. If it were a question of the rescue of the political captives of
Varignano, or of political captives in Bourbon, in Naples, or in Poland,
or in Paris, even earls might be found so to argue. Wherein is our sister
Ireland less than these? In executing these men, they would throw down
the gauntlet for terrible reprisals. It was a grave and solemn question.
It had been said by a previous speaker that they were prepared to go to
any lengths to save these Irishmen. They were not. He wished they were.
If they were, if the men of England, from one end to the other, were
prepared to say, "These men shall not be executed," they would not be. He
was afraid they had not pluck enough for that. Their moral courage was
not equal to their physical strength. Therefore he would not say that
they were prepared to do so. They must plead _ad misericordiam_. He
appealed to the press, which represented the power of England; to that
press which in its panic-stricken moments had done much harm, and which
ought now to save these four doomed men. If the press demanded it, no
Government would be mad enough to resist. The memory of the blood which
was shed in 1798 rose up like a bloody ghost against them to-day. He only
feared that what they said upon the subject might do the poor men more
harm than good. If it were not so, he would coin words that should speak
in words of fire. As it was, he could only say to the Government: You are
strong to-day; you hold these men's lives in your hands; but if you want
to reconcile their country to you, if you want to win back Ireland, if
you want to make her children love you--then do not embitter their hearts
still more by taking the lives of these men. Temper your strength with
mercy; do not use the sword of justice like one of vengeance; for the day
may come when it shall be broken in your hands, and you yourselves
brained by the hilt of the weapon you have so wickedly wielded."

In October he had printed a plea for Ireland, strong and earnest,

"Where is our boasted English freedom when you cross to Kingstown pier?
Where has it been for near two years? The Habeas Corpus Act suspended,
the gaols crowded, the steamers searched, spies listening at shebeen
shops for sedition, and the end of it a Fenian panic in England. Oh,
before it be too late, before more blood shall stain the pages of our
present history, before we exasperate and arouse bitter animosities, let
us try and do justice to our sister land. Abolish once and for all the
land laws, which in their iniquitous operation have ruined her peasantry.
Sweep away the leech-like Church which has sucked her vitality, and has
given her back no word even of comfort in her degradation. Turn her
barracks into flax mills, encourage a spirit of independence in her
citizens, restore to her people the protection of the law, so that they
may speak without fear of arrest, and beg them to plainly and boldly
state their grievances. Let a commission of the best and wisest amongst
Irishmen, with some of our highest English judges added, sit solemnly to
hear all complaints, and then let us honestly legislate, not for the
punishment of the discontented, but to remove the causes of the
discontent. It is not the Fenians who have depopulated Ireland's strength
and increased her misery. It is not the Fenians who have evicted tenants
by the score. It is not the Fenians who have checked cultivation. Those
who have caused the wrong at least should frame the remedy."


In December, 1867, I was married at St. Leonards, and after a brief trip
to Paris and Southsea, we went to Cheltenham where Mr. Besant had
obtained a mastership. We lived at first in lodgings, and as I was very
much alone, my love for reading had full swing. Quietly to myself I
fretted intensely for my mother, and for the daily sympathy and
comradeship that had made my life so fair. In a strange town, among
strangers, with a number of ladies visiting me who talked only of
servants and babies--troubles of which I knew nothing--who were
profoundly uninterested in everything that had formed my previous life,
in theology, in politics, in questions of social reform, and who looked
on me as "strange" because I cared more for the great struggles outside
than for the discussions of a housemaid's young man, or the amount of
"butter when dripping would have done perfectly well, my dear," used by
the cook--under such circumstances it will not seem marvellous that I
felt somewhat forlorn. I found refuge, however, in books, and
energetically carried on my favorite studies; next, I thought I would try
writing, and took up two very different lines of composition; I wrote
some short stories of a very flimsy type, and also a work of a much more
ambitious character, "The Lives of the Black Letter Saints". For the sake
of the unecclesiastically trained it may be well to mention that in the
Calendar of the Church of England there are a number of Saints' Days;
some of these are printed in red, and are Red Letter Days, for which
services are appointed by the Church; others are printed in black, and
are Black Letter Days, and have no special services fixed for them. It
seemed to me that it would be interesting to take each of these days and
write a sketch of the life of the saint belonging to it, and accordingly
I set to work to do so, and gathered various books of history and legend
wherefrom to collect my "facts". I don't in the least know what became of
that valuable book; I tried Macmillans with it, and it was sent on by
them to someone who was preparing a series of church books for the young;
later I had a letter from a Church brotherhood offering to publish it, if
I would give it as an "act of piety" to their order; its ultimate fate is
to me unknown.

The short stories were more fortunate. I sent the first to the _Family
Herald_, and some weeks afterwards received a letter from which dropped a
cheque as I opened it. Dear me! I have earned a good deal of money since
by my pen, but never any that gave me the intense delight of that first
thirty shillings. It was the first money I had ever earned, and the pride
of the earning was added to the pride of authorship. In my childish
delight and practical religion, I went down on my knees and thanked God
for sending it to me, and I saw myself earning heaps of golden guineas,
and becoming quite a support of the household. Besides, it was "my very
own", I thought, and a delightful sense of independence came over me. I
had not then realised the beauty of the English law, and the dignified
position in which it placed the married woman; I did not understand that
all a married woman earned by law belonged to her owner, and that she
could have nothing that belonged to her of right.[1] I did not want the
money: I was only so glad to have something of my own to give, and it was
rather a shock to learn that it was not really mine at all.

[Footnote 1: This odious law has now been altered, and a married woman is
a person, not a chattel.]

From time to time after that, I earned a few pounds for stories in the
same journal; and the _Family Herald,_ let me say, has one peculiarity
which should render it beloved by poor authors; it pays its contributor
when it accepts the paper, whether it prints it immediately or not; thus
my first story was not printed for some weeks after I received the
cheque, and it was the same with all others accepted by the same journal.
Encouraged by these small successes, I began writing a novel! It took a
long time to do, but was at last finished, and sent off to the _Family
Herald._ The poor thing came back, but with a kind note, telling me that
it was too political for their pages, but that if I would write one of
"purely domestic interest", and up to the same level, it would probably
be accepted. But by that time I was in the full struggle of theological
doubt, and that novel of "purely domestic interest" never got itself

I contributed further to the literature of my country a theological
pamphlet, of which I forget the exact title, but it dealt with the duty
of fasting incumbent on all faithful Christians, and was very patristic
in its tone.

In January, 1869, my little son was born, and as I was very ill for some
months before,--and was far too much interested in the tiny creature
afterwards, to devote myself to pen and paper, my literary career was
checked for a while. The baby gave a new interest and a new pleasure to
life, and as we could not afford a nurse I had plenty to do in looking
after his small majesty. My energy in reading became less feverish when
it was done by the side of the baby's cradle, and the little one's
presence almost healed the abiding pain of my mother's loss.

I may pass very quickly over the next two years. In August, 1870, a
little sister was born to my son, and the recovery was slow and tedious,
for my general health had been failing for some time. I was, among other
things, fretting much about my mother, who was in sore trouble. A lawyer
in whom she had had the most perfect confidence betrayed it; for years
she had paid all her large accounts through him, and she had placed her
money in his hands. Suddenly he was discovered by his partners to have
been behaving unfairly; the crash came, and my mother found that all the
money given by her for discharge of liabilities had vanished, while the
accounts were unpaid, and that she was involved in debt to a very serious
extent. The shock was a very terrible one to her, for she was too old to
begin the world afresh. She sold off all she had, and used the money, as
far as it would go, to pay the debts she believed to have been long ago
discharged, and she was thus left penniless after thinking she had made a
little competence for her old age. Lord Hatherley's influence obtained
for my brother the post of undersecretary to the Society of Arts, and
also some work from the Patent Office, and my mother went to live with
him. But the dependence was intolerable to her, though she never let
anyone but myself know she suffered, and even I, until her last illness,
never knew how great her suffering had been. The feeling of debt weighed
on her, and broke her heart; all day long while my brother was at his
office, through the bitter winter weather, she would sit without a fire,
lighting it only a little before his home-coming, so that she might save
all the expense she could; often and often she would go out about
half-past twelve, saying that she was going out to lunch, and would walk
about till late in the afternoon, so as to avoid the lunch-hour at home.
I have always felt that the winter of 1870-1 killed her, though she lived
on for three years longer; it made her an old broken woman, and crushed
her brave spirit. How often I have thought since: "If only I had not left
her! I should have seen she was suffering, and should have saved her."
One little chance help I gave her, on a brief visit to town. She was
looking very ill, and I coaxed out of her that her back was always
aching, and that she never had a moment free from pain. Luckily I had
that morning received a letter containing L2 2s. from my liberal _Family
Herald_ editor, and as, glancing round the room, I saw there were only
ordinary chairs, I disregarded all questions as to the legal ownership of
the money, and marched out without saying a word, and bought for L1 15s.
a nice cushiony chair, just like one she used to have at Harrow, and had
it sent home to her. For a moment she was distressed, but I told her I
had earned the money, and so she was satisfied. "Oh, the rest!" she said
softly once or twice during the evening. I have that chair still, and
mean to keep it as long as I live.

In the spring of 1871 both my children were taken ill with hooping-cough.
The boy, Digby, vigorous and merry, fought his way through it with no
danger, and with comparatively little suffering; Mabel, the baby, had
been delicate since her birth; there had been some little difficulty in
getting her to breathe after she was born, and a slight tendency
afterwards to lung-delicacy. She was very young for so trying a disease
as hooping-cough, and after a while bronchitis set in, and was followed
by congestion of the lungs. For weeks she lay in hourly peril of death;
we arranged a screen round the fire like a tent, and kept it full of
steam to ease the panting breath, and there I sat all through those weary
weeks with her on my lap, day and night. The doctor said that recovery
was impossible, and that in one of the fits of coughing she must die; the
most distressing thing was that at last the giving of a drop or two of
milk brought on the terrible convulsive choking, and it seemed cruel to
torture the apparently dying child. At length, one morning when the
doctor was there, he said that she could not last through the day; I had
sent for him hurriedly, for her body had swollen up rapidly, and I did
not know what had happened; the pleura of one lung had become perforated,
and the air escaping into the cavity of the chest had caused the
swelling; while he was there, one of the fits of coughing came on, and it
seemed as though it would be the last; the doctor took a small bottle of
chloroform out of his pocket, and putting a drop on a handkerchief, held
it near the child's face, till the drug soothed the convulsive struggle.
"It can't do any harm at this stage," he said, "and it checks the
suffering." He went away, saying that he would return in the afternoon,
but he feared he would never see the child alive again. One of the
kindest friends I had in my married life was that same doctor, Mr.
Lauriston Winterbotham; he was as good as he was clever, and, like so
many of his noble, profession, he had the merits of discretion and of

That chance thought of his about the chloroform, verily, I believe, saved
the child's life. Whenever one of the convulsive fits was coming on I
used it, and so not only prevented to a great extent the violence of the
attacks, but also the profound exhaustion that followed them, when of
breath at the top of the throat showing that she still lived. At last,
though more than once we had thought her dead, a change took place for
the better, and the child began slowly to mend. For years, however, that
struggle for life left its traces on her, not only in serious
lung-delicacy but also in a form of epileptic fits. In her play she would
suddenly stop, and become fixed for about a minute, and then go on again
as though nothing had occurred. On her mother a more permanent trace was

Not unnaturally, when the child was out of danger, I collapsed from sheer
exhaustion, and I lay in bed for a week. But an important change of mind
dated from those silent weeks with a dying child on my knees. There had
grown up in my mind a feeling of angry resentment against the God who had
been for weeks, as I thought, torturing my helpless baby. For some months
a stubborn antagonism to the Providence who ordained the sufferings of
life had been steadily increasing in me, and this sullen challenge, "Is
God good?" found voice in my heart during those silent nights and days.
My mother's sufferings, and much personal unhappiness, had been,
intensifying the feeling, and as I watched my baby in its agony, and felt
so helpless to relieve, more than once the indignant cry broke from my
lips: "How canst thou torture a baby so? What has she done that she
should suffer so? Why dost thou not kill her at once, and let her be at
peace?" More than once I cried aloud: "O God, take the child, but do not
torment her." All my personal belief in God, all my intense faith in his
constant direction of affairs, all my habit of continual prayer and of
realisation of his presence, were against me now. To me he was not an
abstract idea, but a living reality, and all my mother-heart rose up in
rebellion against this person in whom I believed, and whose individual
finger I saw in my baby's agony.

At this time I met a clergyman--I do not give his name lest I should
injure him--whose wider and more liberal views of Christianity exercised
much influence over me during the months of struggle that followed. Mr.
Besant had brought him to me while the child was at her worst, and I
suppose something of the "Why is it?" had, unconsciously to me, shown
itself to his keen eyes. On the day after his visit, I received from him
the following letter, in which unbeliever as well as believer may
recognise the deep human sympathy and noble nature of the writer:--

"April 21st, 1871.

"MY DEAR MRS. BESANT,--I am painfully conscious that I gave you but
little help in your trouble yesterday. It is needless to say that it was
not from want of sympathy. Perhaps it would be nearer the truth to say
that it was from excess of sympathy. I shrink intensely from meddling
with the sorrow of anyone whom I feel to be of a sensitive nature.

'The heart hath its own bitterness, and the stranger meddleth not

It is to me a positively fearful thought that I might await a reflection

'And common was the common place,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain'.

Conventional consolations, conventional verses out of the Bible and
conventional prayers are, it seems to me, an intolerable aggravation of
suffering. And so I acted on a principle that I mentioned to your
husband, that 'there is no power so great as that of one human faith
looking upon another human faith'. The promises of God, the love of
Christ for little children, and all that has been given to us of hope and
comfort, are as deeply planted in your heart as in mine, and I did not
care to quote them. But when I talk face to face with one who is in sore
need of them, my faith in them suddenly becomes so vast and
heart-stirring that I think I must help most by talking naturally, and
letting the faith find its own way from soul to soul. Indeed I could not
find words for it if I tried. And yet I am compelled, as a messenger of
the glad tidings of God, to solemnly assure you that all is well. We have
no key to the 'Mystery of Pain', excepting the Cross of Christ. But there
is another and a deeper solution in the hands of our Father. And it will
be ours when we can understand it. There is--in the place to which we
travel--some blessed explanation of your baby's pain and your grief,
which will fill with light the darkest heart. Now you must believe
without having seen; that is true faith. You must

'Reach a hand through time to catch
The far-oft interest of tears'.

That you may have strength so to do is part of your share in the prayers
of yours very faithfully, W. D----."

During the summer months I saw much of this clergyman, Mr. D---- and his
wife. We grew into closer intimacy in consequence of the dangerous
illness of their only child, a beautiful boy a few months old. I had
gained quite a name in Cheltenham as a nurse--my praises having been sung
by the doctor--and Mrs. D---- felt she could trust me even with her
darling boy while she snatched a night's sorely needed rest. My
questionings were not shirked by Mr. D----, nor discouraged; he was
neither horrified nor sanctimoniously rebuking, but met them all with a
wide comprehension inexpressibly soothing to one writhing in the first
agony of real doubt. The thought of hell was torturing me; somehow out of
the baby's pain through those seemingly endless hours had grown a dim
realisation of what hell might be, full of the sufferings of the beloved,
and my whole brain and heart revolted from the unutterable cruelty of a
creating and destroying God. Mr. D---- lent me Maurice and Robertson, and
strove to lead me into their wider hope for man, their more trustful
faith in God.

Everyone who has doubted after believing knows how, after the first
admitted and recognised doubt, others rush in like a flood, and how
doctrine after doctrine starts up in new and lurid light, looking so
different in aspect from the fair faint outlines in which it had shone
forth in the soft mists of faith. The presence of evil and pain in the
world made by a "good God", and the pain falling on the innocent, as on
my seven months' old babe; the pain here reaching on into eternity
unhealed; these, while I yet believed, drove me desperate, and I believed
and hated, instead of like the devils, "believed and trembled". Next, I
challenged the righteousness of the doctrine of the Atonement, and while
I worshipped and clung to the suffering Christ, I hated the God who
required the death sacrifice at his hands. And so for months the turmoil
went on, the struggle being all the more terrible for the very
desperation with which I strove to cling to some planks of the wrecked
ship of faith on the tossing sea of doubt.

After Mr. D---- left Cheltenham, as he did in the early autumn of 1871,
he still aided me in my mental struggles. He had advised me to read
McLeod Campbell's work on the Atonement, as one that would meet many of
the difficulties that lay on the surface of the orthodox view, and in
answer to a letter dealing with this really remarkable work, he wrote
(Nov. 22, 1871):

"(1) The two passages on pp. 25 and 108 you doubtless interpret quite
rightly. In your third reference to pp. 117, 188, you forget one great
principle--that God is impassive; cannot suffer. Christ, qua _God_, did
not suffer, but as Son of _Man_ and in his _humanity_. Still, it may be
correctly stated that He felt to sin and sinners 'as God eternally
feels'--_i.e., abhorrence of sin and love of the sinner_. But to infer
from that that the Father in his Godhead feels the sufferings which
Christ experienced solely in humanity, and because incarnate, is, I
think, wrong.

"(2) I felt strongly inclined to blow you up for the last part of your
letter. You assume, I think quite gratuitously, that God condemns the
major part of his children to objectless future suffering. You say that
if he does not, he places a book in their hands which threatens what he
does not mean to inflict. But how utterly this seems to me opposed to the
gospel of Christ. All Christ's reference to eternal punishment may be
resolved into reference to the Valley of Hinnom, by way of imagery; with
the exception of the Dives parable, where is distinctly inferred a moral
amendment beyond the grave. I speak of the unselfish desire of Dives to
save his brothers. The more I see of the controversy the more baseless
does the eternal punishment theory appear. It seems, then, to me, that
instead of feeling aggrieved and shaken, you ought to feel encouraged and
thankful that God is so much better than you were taught to believe him.
You will have discovered by this time, in Maurice's 'What is Revelation'
(I suppose you have the 'Sequel' too?) that God's truth _is_ our truth,
and his love is our love, only more perfect and full. There is no
position more utterly defeated in modern philosophy and theology, than
Dean Mansel's attempt to show that God's justice, love, etc., are
different in kind from ours. Mill and Maurice, from totally alien points
of view, have shown up the preposterous nature of the notion.

"(3) A good deal of what you have thought is, I fancy, based on a strange
forgetfulness of your former experience. If you have known Christ (whom
to know is eternal life)--and that you have known him I am certain--can
you really say that a few intellectual difficulties, nay, a few moral
difficulties if you will, are able at once to obliterate the testimony of
that higher state of being?

"Why, the keynote of all my theology is that Christ is loveable because,
and _just_ because, he is the perfection of all that I know to be noble
and generous, and loving, and tender, and true. If an angel from heaven
brought me a gospel which contained doctrines that would not stand the
test of such perfect loveableness--doctrines hard, or cruel, or unjust--I
should reject him and his trumpery gospel with scorn, knowing that
neither could be Christ's.

"Know Christ and judge religions by him; don't judge him by religions,
and then complain because you find yourself looking at him through a
blood-colored glass....

"I am saturating myself with Maurice, who is the antidote given by God to
this age against all dreary doubtings and temptings of the devil to

On these lines weary strife went on for months, until at last brain and
health gave way completely, and for weeks I lay prostrate and helpless,
in terrible ceaseless head-pain, unable to find relief in sleep. The
doctor tried every form of relief in vain; he covered my head with ice,
he gave me opium--which only drove me mad--he used every means his skill
could dictate to remove the pain, but all failed. At last he gave up the
attempt to cure physically, and tried mental diversion; he brought me up
books on anatomy and persuaded me to study them; I have still an analysis
made by me at that time of Luther Holden's "Human Osteology ". He was
wise enough to see that if I were to be brought back to reasonable life,
it could only be by diverting thought from the currents in which it had
been running to a dangerous extent.

No one who has not felt it knows the fearful agony caused by doubt to the
earnestly religious mind. There is in this life no other pain so
horrible. The doubt seems to shipwreck everything, to destroy the one
steady gleam of happiness "on the other side" that no earthly storm could
obscure; to make all life gloomy with a horror of despair, a darkness
that may verily be felt. Fools talk of Atheism as the outcome of foul
life and vicious thought. They, in their shallow heartlessness, their
brainless stupidity, cannot even dimly imagine the anguish of the mere
penumbra of the eclipse of faith, much less the horror of that great
darkness in which the orphaned soul cries out into the infinite
emptiness: "Is it a Devil who has made this world? Are we the sentient
toys of an Almighty Power, who sports with our agony, and whose peals of
awful mocking laughter echo the wailings of our despair?"


On recovering from that prostrating physical pain, I came to a very
definite decision. I resolved that, whatever might be the result, I would
take each dogma of the Christian religion, and carefully and thoroughly
examine it, so that I should never again say "I believe" where I had not
proved. So, patiently and steadily, I set to work. Four problems chiefly
at this time pressed for solution. I. The eternity of punishment after
death. II. The meaning of "goodness" and "love" as applied to a God who
had made this world with all its evil and its misery. III. The nature of
the atonement of Christ, and the "justice" of God in accepting a
vicarious suffering from Christ, and a vicarious righteousness from the
sinner. IV. The meaning of "inspiration" as applied to the Bible, and the
reconciliation of the perfection of the author with the blunders and the
immoralities of the work.

Maurice's writings now came in for very careful study, and I read also
those of Robertson, of Brighton, and of Stopford Brooke, striving to find
in these some solid ground whereon I might build up a new edifice of
faith. That ground, however, I failed to find; there were poetry, beauty,
enthusiasm, devotion; but there was no rock on which I might take my
stand. Mansel's Bampton lectures on "The Limits of Religious Thought"
deepened and intensified my doubts. His arguments seemed to make
certainty impossible, and I could not suddenly turn round and believe to
order, as he seemed to recommend, because proof was beyond reach. I could
not, and would not, adore in God as the highest Righteousness that which,
in man was condemned as harsh, as cruel, and as unjust.

In the midst of this long mental struggle, a change occurred in the
outward circumstances of my life. I wrote to Lord Hatherley and asked him
if he could give Mr. Besant a Crown living, and he offered us first one
in Northumberland, near Alnwick Castle, and then one in Lincolnshire, the
village of Sibsey, with a vicarage house, and an income of L410 per
annum. We decided to accept the latter.

The village was scattered over a considerable amount of ground, but the
work was not heavy. The church was one of the fine edifices for which the
fen country is so famous, and the vicarage was a comfortable house, with
large and very beautiful gardens and paddock, and with outlying fields.
The people were farmers and laborers, with a sprinkling of shopkeepers;
the only "society" was that of the neighboring clergy, Tory and prim to
an appalling extent. There was here plenty of time for study, and of that
time I vigorously availed myself. But no satisfactory light came to me,
and the suggestions and arguments of my friend Mr. D---- failed to bring
conviction to my mind. It appeared clear to me that the doctrine of
Eternal Punishment was taught in the Bible, and the explanations given of
the word "eternal" by men like Maurice and Stanley, did not recommend
themselves to me as anything more than skilful special pleading--
evasions, not clearings up, of a moral difficulty. For the problem was:
Given a good God, how can he have created mankind, knowing beforehand
that the vast majority of those whom he had created were to be tortured
for evermore? Given a just God, how can he punish people for being


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