Philip Gilbert Hamerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al

Part 2 out of 11

going to church, and the usher, who was preparing himself to enter Holy
Orders, would sometimes talk to us a little about theology. Once he said
that the establishment of religious toleration in England had been a
deplorable mistake, and that Dissent ought not to be permitted by the
Sovereign. This frank expression of perfect intolerance rather surprised
me even then, and I did not quite know whether it would be just to
extirpate Dissent or not. My principal feeling about the matter was the
prejudice inherited by young English gentlemen of old Tory families,
that Dissent was something indescribably low, and quite beneath the
attention of a gentleman. Still, to go farther and compel Dissenters by
force to attend the services of the Church of England did seem to me
rather hard, and on thinking over the matter seriously in my own mind, I
came to the conclusion that our usher must be wrong, unless Dissenters
were guilty of some crime I was not aware of; but this, after all,
seemed quite possible.

We were taken to the services in Doncaster old church, which was
destroyed by fire many years afterwards. Though not yet in my teens, I
had an intense delight in architecture, and deeply enjoyed the noble old
building, one of the finest of its class in England. Our pew was in the
west gallery, not far from the organ, and from it we had a good view of
the interior. The effect of the music was very strong upon me, as the
instrument was a fine one, and I was fully alive to the influence of
music and architecture in combination. The two arts go together far
better than architecture and painting; for music seems to make
architecture alive, as it rolls along the aisles and under the lofty
vaults. I well remember feeling, when some noble anthem was being
performed, as if the sculptured heads between the arches added a noble
animation to their serenity. Even now, the impression received in those
early days still remains in my memory with considerable clearness and
fidelity, and I believe that the habit of attending service in such a
beautiful church was a powerful stimulus to an inborn passion for

I had already taken lessons in drawing, of the kind which in those days
was thought suitable for boys who were not expected to be professional
artists, so the drawing-master at Doncaster had me amongst his pupils.
He was an elderly man, rather stout, and very respectable. His house was
extremely neat and tidy, with proper mahogany furniture, and no artistic
eccentricities of any kind whatever. He himself was always
irreproachably dressed, and he wore a large ruby ring on the little
finger of his left hand. To us boys he appeared to be a personage of
great dignity, but we were not afraid of him in spite of the dignity of
his manners, as he could not apply the cane. He was not unkind, yet in
all my life I never met with anybody concerned with the fine arts who
had so little sympathy, so little enthusiasm. On the whole, he was
distinctly gentle with me, but I made him angry twice. He had done me
the honor to promote me to water-color, and as I wanted a rag to wipe my
slab and brushes, I ventured to ask for one, on which he turned upon me
a glance of haughty surprise, and said, "Do you suppose, sir, that I can
undertake to supply you with rags?" This will give an idea of the
curiously unsympathetic nature of the man. On another occasion I was
drawing a house, or beginning to draw one, when the master came to look
over my shoulder and found great fault with me for beginning with the
upper part of the edifice. "What stonemason or bricklayer," said he,
"would think of building his chimney before he had laid the first row of
stones on the foundation?" A young pupil must not correct the bad
reasoning of his elders, but it seemed to me that the cases of a
bricklayer building a real house and an artist representing one on paper
were not precisely the same. Later in life I found that the best artists
brought their works forward as much as possible simultaneously,
sketching all the parts lightly at first, and keeping them all in the
same degree of finish till the end. [Footnote: The most rational way to
paint is first to paint all the large masses together, then the smaller
or secondary masses, and finally the details, bringing the picture
forward all together, as nearly as possible.]

Nevertheless, the drawing-lessons were always a delightful break in our
week's occupation, and I remember with pleasure the walk in the morning
down to the drawing-master's house, two days in the week, and the happy
hour of messing with water-color that followed it. In those days of
blissful ignorance I had, of course, no conception of the difficulties
of art, and was making that delusively rapid apparent progress which is
so very encouraging to all incipient amateurs. Not a single study of
those times remains in my portfolios to-day, and I know not what may
have become of them. This is the more to be regretted, that in the fine
weather our master took us into the fields round Doncaster and taught us
to sketch from nature, which we accomplished in a rudimentary way.

My dear, wise, and excellent guardian was always anxious that I should
receive as good an education as my opportunities would permit, so she
insisted on my learning French, and had herself taught me the elements
of that language, which she was able to read, though she did not pretend
to speak it. On going to Doncaster I found Latin and Greek so serious a
business that I wanted to lighten my burdens, and begged to be excused
from going on with French; but my guardian (who, with all her exquisite
gentleness, had a very strong will) would not hear of any such
abandonment, and wrote very determinedly on the subject both to me and
to Mr. Cape. It is extremely probable that this exercise of my
guardian's will may have had a great influence on my future life, as
without some early knowledge of French I might not have felt tempted to
pursue the study later, and if I had never spoken French my whole
existence would have been quite different.

Our French master at Doncaster was an Italian of good family named
Testa, one of the most perfect gentlemen I ever met, and an excellent
teacher. My deepest regret about him now is that I did not learn Italian
with him also, then or afterwards. [Footnote: It is astonishing how many
chances of improvement young men foolishly allow to slip by them. It
would have been quite worth while after I became a free agent to go and
spend six months or more at Doncaster, simply to read Italian with so
good a master as Testa.] I learned Italian later in life, and with a far
inferior master. Signor Testa was a tall, thin man, of rather cold and
stately manners, with a fine-looking, noble head covered with curly
brown hair. He was always exquisitely clean and orderly, both about his
person and the books and things that belonged to him in his rooms, where
there was an atmosphere of almost feminine refinement, though their
occupant was by no means effeminate in his thoughts or bearing. We
understood that he had left Italy in consequence of some political
difficulty, and we knew that he had still relations there. One day, as
we were engaged with our lesson at his lodgings, he took some leaves and
a faded flower or two that had just arrived in a letter from Italy, and
said, with tears in his eyes, "These have come from my father's place."
Now it so happened that the eldest boy in our class was liable to fits
of perfectly uncontrollable laughter (what the French call _le fou
rire_), and, as the reader is sure to know, if he has ever been troubled
with that disease himself, the fit very often comes on just at the
moment when the patient feels that he is called upon to look
particularly grave. This is what happened in the present case. Our
unlucky fellow-pupil was tickled with something in Testa's accent or
manner, or perhaps as he was an English boy the foreigner's tenderness
of feeling may have seemed to him absurd; but whatever may have been the
reason, his face became convulsed with suppressed laughter, which burst
forth at last uncontrollably. This made the rest of us laugh too--not at
poor Testa, but at our unworthy comrade. I shall never forget the
Italian gentleman's look on that occasion. His eyes were still brimming
with tears, but he laid down the flattened leaves and flowers and looked
at us all round with an expression that cut me, at least, to the quick.
"_Young gentlemen_," he said, "_I did not expect you to be so unkind_."
I longed to explain, but did not find words at the moment, and we went
on with our lesson. The fact was that Testa had not the least sense of
humor in his composition, and so he could not understand what had
happened. A humorous man, acquainted with the nature of boys, would have
understood the attack of _fou rire_, and forgiven it; but then a
humorous man would have thought twice before appealing to a set of
English boys for sympathy with the feelings of an exile. The incident
certainly increased my feelings of respect for Signor Testa, and made me
try to please him. The French lessons were very agreeable to me, and
besides duly preparing them, I read some French on my own account, and
acquired a liking for the language that has remained with me ever since.

If the reader has the sound old-fashioned notions about education by
which all subjects were strictly divided into the two classes of serious
and frivolous pursuits, he will already have suspicions about the
soundness of a training that included the two idle accomplishments of
Drawing and French, and what will he say, I wonder, when music is added
to the list? My initiation into music took place in the following
manner. We had a dancing-master who came regularly to Mr. Cape's house
to prepare us to shine in society, and his instrument was the convenient
dancing-master's pocket fiddle or kit. Although this instrument gives
forth but a feeble kind of music, I was far more enchanted with it than
by the dancing, and wrote a most persuasive letter to my good guardian
imploring her to let me study the violin. Those were the happy times
when one had energy for everything! I had already three languages on
hand, and the art of painting in water-colors, besides which I was in a
mathematical school where boys were prepared for Cambridge, [Footnote:
Doncaster School at that time was a sort of little nursery for
Cambridge. Mr. Cape was a Cambridge man, and so was his brother, the
able master of Peterborough School.] but there seemed to be no reason
why the art of violin-playing should not be added to these pursuits. My
guardian, before consenting, prudently wrote to Mr. Cape to ask if this
new accomplishment would not interfere too much with other matters, and
his answer was in these words: "The lad is getting on well enough with
his studies, so if he wants to amuse himself a little by scraping
catgut, even let him scrape away!" It will be seen that Mr. Cape did not
assign to music the high rank in education which has been attributed to
it by some famous thinkers in ancient and modern times. Few musical
sensations experienced during my whole life have equalled in intensity
the sensation of hearing our dancing-master play upon a full-sized
violin, after the weak and thin tones that our ears had been accustomed
to by his kit. I was so little in the way of hearing music at Doncaster
that the richer note of the violin seemed musical as the lyre of Apollo.
A contrast so striking made me more passionately eager to learn, but I
was informed by one of the private pupils who exercised considerable
authority over the younger boys, that although I might study the violin
with the dancing-master, I was never to practise it by myself. This
restriction was pardonable in one who might reasonably dread the
torturing attempts of a beginner, but it was certainly not favorable to
my progress. However, in course of time it came to be relaxed; that is,
as soon as I could play tunes.

It is very odd that any one who dislikes dancing as heartily as I have
always disliked it in manhood, should have been rather a brilliant
performer when a boy. Our dancing-master was extremely pleased with me,
and encouraged me by many compliments; nay, he even went so far as to
teach me a sailor's hornpipe, which I danced in public as a _pas seul_
when the school gave a theatrical entertainment on the approach of the
Christmas holidays. All this is simply inconceivable now, for there is
nothing which bores me so thoroughly as a ball, and I would at any time
travel fifty miles to avoid one.

At school the principal amusement was cricket, for which I soon acquired
an intense aversion. All games bore me except chess and billiards, and
it was especially hard to be compelled to field out to please the elder
boys, and so waste the precious holiday afternoons. Our cricket ground
was on the racecourse, and when I could get away I did so most joyfully,
and betook myself to a quiet place amongst the furze nearer to the Red
House than the Grand Stand. There my great delight was to read Scott's
poems, which I possessed in pocket volumes. The same volumes are in my
study now, and simply to handle them is enough to bring back many
sensations of long-past boyhood. Of all the influences that had sway
over me in those days and for long afterwards, the influence of Scott
was by far the strongest. A boy cannot make a better choice. Scott has
the immense advantage over dull authors of being almost always
interesting, and the equally great advantage over many exciting authors
that he never leaves an unhealthy feeling in the mind. I began with "The
Lady of the Lake," then read "Marmion," and "The Lay of the Last
Minstrel" and the Ballads, and finally "Rokeby." These were in separate
small volumes, which gave me a desire to possess other authors in the
same convenient form, so I added Goldsmith, Crabbe, Kirke White, and
Moore's "Irish Melodies." A prize for history gave me "Paradise Lost" in
two volumes of my favorite size, and two school-fellows, who saw that I
had a taste for such volumes, kindly gave me others. During the holidays
my guardian authorized the purchase of a Shakespeare in seven pocket
volumes, and the "Spectator" in eight, so I had quite a little library,
which became inexpressibly dear to me. It is very remarkable that for a
long time I knew Scott thoroughly as a poet without having read a single
novel by him. Having been invited by one of my school-fellows to a
country house not very far from Doncaster, I was asked by the lady of
the house what authors I had read, and on mentioning Scott's poems was
told that he was greater as a novelist than as a poet, and that the
Waverley novels were certainly his finest works. This seemed incredible
to me then, the poems being so delightful that they could not possibly
be surpassed. On another occasion I happened to be standing with Mr.
Cape in the little chapel at Conisborough Castle, and having heard from
an older school-fellow that Athelstane had died there, I asked Mr. Cape
if it was true. "Yes," he answered, "if you believe Sir Walter Scott."
Not having read "Ivanhoe," I was under the impression that the
Athelstane in question was an historical personage.

Nothing in the retrospect of life strikes me as more astonishing than
the rapid mental growth that must have taken place between the date of
my father's death and its second or third anniversary. When my father
died I was simply a child, though rather a precocious one, as the
journal in Wales testifies; but between two and three years after that
event the child had become a boy, with a keen taste for literature,
which, if it had been taken advantage of by his teachers, ought to have
made his education a more complete success than it ever became.

The misfortune was that the classics were not taught as literature at
all, but as exercises in grammar and prosody. They were dissected by
teachers who were simply lecturers on the science of language, and who
had not large views even about that. Our whole attention being directed
to the technicalities of the pedagogue, we did not perceive that the
classic authors had produced poems which, as literature, were not
inferior to those of our best English poets. So it happened that those
of us who had literary tastes were content to satisfy them in reading
English authors, and left them, as it were, at the door of the
classroom. I worked courageously enough at the Latin books which were
set before me, but never found the slightest enjoyment in them; indeed,
it was only much later, and through the medium of French and Italian,
that I gained some partial access to the literary beauty of Latin. As
for Greek, I began it vigorously at Doncaster, but I did not get beyond
the rudiments during my stay there.



Early attempts in English verse.--Advantages of life at Doncaster.--A
school incident.--Fagging.--Story of a dog.--Robbery.--My schoolfellow,
Henry Alexander.--His remarkable influence.--Other schoolfellows.
--Story of a boat.--A swimming adventure.--Our walks and battles.

The love of literature was naturally followed by some early attempts at
versification in English, which is generally looked upon as a silly
waste of time in a boy, though if he writes Latin verses, which we were
taught to do, he is thought to be seriously occupied. Prom the age of
eleven to that of twenty-one I wrote English verses very frequently, and
am now very glad I did so, being quite convinced that it was a most
profitable exercise in the language. My early verses were invariably
echoes of my dearly beloved Sir Walter Scott, a master whom it is not
very difficult to imitate so far as mere versification is concerned. One
little incident about this early verse-making is worth mentioning in
this place. I was staying for a few days with a school-fellow at a house
near Doncaster, when I dreamed a new ballad about a shipwreck, and on
awaking wrote it down at once. The thing would not be worth quoting, if
it were possible to remember it; but it was correct enough in rhymes and

My life at Doncaster was not on the whole unhappy, and the steady
discipline of the school was doing me much good. Mr. Cape was a very
severe master, and he used the cane very freely; but to a boy who had
lived under the tyranny of my father Mr. Cape's severity seemed a light
affliction. He kept up his dignity by seldom appearing in the
schoolroom; he sat in his library or in the dining-room in a large
morocco-covered arm-chair, holding a book in one hand whilst the other
was always ready to clasp the cane that he kept close by. Any failure of
memory would cause him to dart a severe look at the delinquent, a false
quantity made him scowl, and when he suspected real carelessness the
cane was resorted to at once. Unfortunately he could not apply it and
keep his temper at the same time. The exercise roused him to fury, and a
punishment which in his first intention was to have been mild became
cruel through the effect of his own rapidly increasing irritation. Mr.
Cape's health was not good, and no doubt this added to the natural
irritability of his temper. There was one unfortunate youngster whose
hands were covered with chilblains, and who was constantly displeasing
Mr. Cape by inattention or inaccuracy, so he incurred such perpetual
canings that his hands were pitiable to see, and must have been
extremely painful. Our head-master was no doubt laudably, or selfishly,
anxious that we should get on with our work so as to do him credit at
Cambridge, where most of us were expected to go; but he seemed almost
incapable of pity. I remember having the intense pleasure of playing him
a little trick just after he had been caning a lad who was a very good
friend of mine.

It happened in this way--but first I must describe the topography of the
place. Mr. Cape's house was a tall brick building that looked upon the
street on one side, and on our playground (which had formerly been a
garden) on the other. At the other end of the garden was a wash-house
with the schoolroom over it, and in the wash-house there was a large
copper for boiling linen. In the house the dining-room looked over the
play-ground, and it somehow happened (perhaps it was in the Easter
holidays) that there were no pupils left in the place but my friend
Brokenribs and I. [Footnote: We always called him Brokenribs, which
recalled his real name by a sort of imitation; besides which, though his
ribs had not actually been broken, he had suffered from a good many
bruises.] Mr. Cape called him up into the dining-room after dark, and
began to thrash him. Brokenribs, after some time, began to think that a
sufficient number of strokes had been administered, and put the
dining-table between himself and his adversary, who could not get at him
any longer. I was in the playground, and understood all that was passing
by the shadows on the window-blinds.

It was most amusing to me, as a spectator, to see the shadow of
Brokenribs flit rapidly past, and still better perhaps to see it
followed by that of Mr. Cape, with bald head and uplifted cane. When
this entertainment had lasted some time I heard a great banging of doors,
and Brokenribs issued from the house, rushing like a hunted deer the whole
length of the playground. "Cape's after me!" he said. "Where shall I hide?"
"In the copper!" I answered with a sudden inspiration, and ran into the
wash-house with him, where I lifted the lid and stowed him away in
safety. The lid had but just been replaced when Mr. Cape appeared in the
playground and asked if I had seen Brokenribs. "Yes, sir, certainly; he
was running this way, sir." I accompanied Mr. Cape into the wash-house,
which had an outer door giving access to a lane, and observed with
pleasure that he was forced to the irresistible conclusion that
Brokenribs had taken flight. The lad's parents lived at an accessible
distance (perhaps twenty miles), so Mr. Cape was tormented with the
unpleasant idea that the lad had gone home to tell his own story. He
therefore ordered a gig and drove off so as to catch Brokenribs during
his flight. As my friend had been sitting in cold water, I got him out
when the coast was clear, and made him go to bed, where the housekeeper
sent him a treacle posset. After driving many a mile in vain, Mr. Cape
returned very late, and never said a word on the subject to either of

Poor Brokenribs was not only very often caned, but he was fag to a
tyrannical private pupil, who made him suffer severely. The private
pupils upheld the sacred institution of fagging, which gave them a
pleasant sense of authority, and as they sat like gods above us, they
were not in danger of retaliation. Brokenribs was fag to a young man who
determined that he should learn two things,--first, to endure pain
without flinching, and secondly, to smoke tobacco. To achieve the first
of these great purposes, he used to twist the lad's arms and administer
a certain number of hard blows upon them. This he did every day so long
as the whim lasted. As for the smoking, poor Brokenribs had to smoke a
certain number of pipes every day. A single pipe made him look ghastly,
and the whole series made him dreadfully ill. I remember his white face
at such times; but he attained his reward in becoming an accomplished
and precocious smoker.

I was fag myself at one time to a private pupil; but he was not very
tyrannical with me, and only ordered me to light fires, which was a
valuable element in my education.

It gives one a fine independence of servants to be able to light a fire
quickly and well. This accomplishment enables a man to get up as early
he chooses, even in winter, and I have never forgotten it; indeed, I
lighted a fire an hour before writing this page. In my opinion, it would
be wise to teach every boy the art of doing without servants on

The private pupils exercised authority in other ways than by converting
us into fags. It so happened that I became possessor of an unfortunate
tawny dog. How one boy should be owner of a dog at school when the
others had nothing to do with him may be difficult to understand; and
indeed my ownership did not last for very long, but it was pleasant to
me whilst it lasted. The poor beast, if I remember rightly, belonged to
somebody who did not want him, and was going to have him slain. I had
always an intense affection for dogs, and begged Mr. Cape to let me keep
this one, promising that it should not be a nuisance. I was rather a
favorite with the head-master, so he granted this very extraordinary
request, and it was understood that the dog was to lodge in a box in the
wash-house. I bought some fresh straw for him, and took the greatest
care of him, so that he soon became strongly attached to me. Had there
been no private pupils the creature would have been safe enough, as I
would have fought any lad of my own age in his behalf, and Brokenribs,
who was older, would have fought the bigger boys; but we none of us
dared to resist the privates, who were grown men. One of the privates
thought that a small boy ought not to possess a dog, and began to affirm
that the animal was a nuisance. He then said it would be an improvement
to cut off its tail, which he did accordingly, in spite of all my
remonstrances. I pitied the poor beast when it lay suffering with its
bleeding stump, and did all that affection could suggest for its
consolation; but shortly afterwards the same private pupil, who had a
taste for pistol-shooting, thought it would be good fun to shoot at a
living target, so he took my dog away into a field and shot him there. I
knew what he was going to do, but had no power to prevent it, as he had
begun by persuading Mr. Cape that the poor beast was a nuisance, which
he certainly was not. He was a very quiet, timid dog, of an anxious,
apprehensive temperament, having probably never had reason to place much
trust in the human species.

There was one lad at the school who was a coarse bully, and I remember
his playing a trick on me which was nothing less than pure brigandage.
He ordered me to give him my keys, and rummaged in my private box. He
found a small telescope in it which was to his liking, and took it. I
never got any redress about that telescope, as the bully coolly said it
had always belonged to him, and he was powerful enough to act on the
great principle that _la force prime le droit_.

It is most astonishing how some boys gain a great ascendency over others
when there seems to be no substantial reason for it. One of my
school-fellows, who was cousin to some of my cousins, and bore my
surname as one of his Christian names, had quite a remarkable ascendency
over boys, and yet he had not the physical size and strength which
usually impose upon them. He was slight and small, though he had a
handsome face; but he had an aristocratic temperament, which inspired a
sort of respect, and a governing disposition, which made other boys
yield to him. Nothing was more curious than to see how completely the
bully effaced himself before that young gentleman's superiority. The
bully was also a snob, and probably believed that Henry Alexander
belonged to the highest aristocracy. He was well descended and well
connected (there was an abeyant peerage in his family), but in point of
fact, his social position was not better than that of some other boys in
the school. I remember well the intense astonishment of the bully when
he found out one day that Alexander bore my name as a Christian name,
and learned the reason.

Alexander was a perfect little dandy, being at all times exceptionally
well dressed for a schoolboy, and on Sundays he came out with remarkable
splendor. In spring and summer he wore a jacket and trousers of the most
fashionable cut and of the very finest blue cloth, with a gloss upon it,
and a white waistcoat adorned with a bunch of valuable trinkets to his

His hat, his gloves, his wonderfully small boots, were all the pink of
perfection. He smoked very good cigars, and talked about life with an
air of the most consummate experience, that gained him profound respect.
Most boys hesitate about the choice of a profession, but Alexander had
no such indecision. He had made up his mind to be an officer, with his
father's consent, and guided by a sure instinct, as he had exactly the
qualities to make himself respected in a regiment. It does a young
officer no harm to be rather a dandy and to shine in society, whilst the
extreme decision and promptitude of Alexander's peremptory will, and the
natural ease with which he assumed authority, would be most useful in
command. A few years later he joined the 64th Regiment and went to
India, where in spite of his rather delicate frame he became an active
sportsman. One day, however, the surgeon of the regiment saw him by
accident in his bath, and declared that he was too thin to be well, so
he examined him, and found that consumption had begun. Alexander
returned to England, where he lingered a few months, and then died. He
came to see me not very long before his death, not looking nearly so ill
as I had expected, but the doctor knew best. With better health he might
have had a brilliant career, and was certain, at least, to be an
efficient and popular officer, with the right degree of love for his

Another of my fellow-pupils who died early was the eldest son and heir
of a country squire, and one of the handsomest and most able young men I
ever met. He was a private pupil, yet not at all disliked by the younger
boys, as he was always kind and friendly towards us. There was a project
for his going out to India, and he talked over the matter with his
father one evening at his own home. A dispute arose between father and
son as they sat talking late, and when they separated for the night they
were not on good terms. The next morning the young gentleman was found
dead in bed under circumstances which led to a very strong suspicion of
suicide. We were all deeply grieved by his death, as he seemed to have
the best gifts of Nature, and life was opening so brightly before him;
but he had a very high spirit, and if he really did commit suicide,
which is not improbable, it is very likely that his pride had been
wounded. Whenever I read in the poets or elsewhere of gifted young men
who have ended sadly and prematurely, his image rises before me, though
it is now forty years since we met. Poor Brokenribs is gone too, though
he lived long enough to be a clergyman for some years. He was a
thoroughly good fellow, bearing all his hardships with admirable

Before quitting the history of my school-days, I ought, perhaps, to tell
the story of a great swimming exploit whereof I was the hero. The
reader, after this expression, will count upon some display of prowess
and of vanity at the same time, but there is neither in this case.

After I had been at Doncaster about a year, one of the private pupils
came to me one day with a pencil and a piece of paper in his hand, and
said, "We are going to buy a boat at Cambridge; will you subscribe?" Now
it so happened that I was born a boating creature, just as decidedly as
I was _not_ born to be a cricketing creature, and such a question
addressed to me was much as if one said to a young duck, "Would you like
to go on the pond, or would you prefer being shut up in a cage?" Of
course I said "yes" at once, and wrote an artful letter to my dear
guardian begging for the four guineas which were to constitute me a
shareholder in the expected vessel.

The future captain of the boat took my money very readily when it came,
and nobody could have felt more certain of a boating career than I did;
but just before the arrival of the vessel itself, it occurred to Mr.
Cape (rather late in the day) that he would take a prudent precaution,
so he issued a ukase to the effect that none but good swimmers were to
make any use of the boat. Now I had often heard, and read too in books,
that man was naturally a swimming animal, and that any one who was
thrown into water would swim if only he was not afraid, so I said
inwardly, "It is true that I never _did_ swim, but that is probably
because I have only bathed in shallow water; I have courage enough, and
if they pitch me into the river Don, most probably I shall swim, as man
is naturally a swimming animal and fear is the only impediment." One day
at dinner Mr. Cape asked all the subscribers, one after another, if they
could swim. There was a boy of about fourteen who was a splendid
swimmer, and well known for such both to the masters and his
school-fellows, but Mr. Cape did not omit him, and I envied the simple
ease of his "Yes, sir." When it came to me, I too said "Yes, sir,"
affecting the same ease, and Mr. Cape looked at me, and the
assistant-master looked at me, and every one of the fellows looked at
me, and then a slight smile was visible on all their countenances. After
dinner the fine swimmer expressed his regret that he had not known
sooner about my possession of this accomplishment, as we might have
enjoyed it together in the Don. The next Saturday afternoon was fine, so
the swimmers went to the river with the assistant-master, and I was very
politely invited to accompany them. On this an older boy, who had always
been kind to me, said privately, "You can't swim, I know you can't, and
you'd better confess it, for if you don't, you run a good chance of
being drowned this afternoon; the water is thirty feet deep." I
answered, with cold thanks, that my friend's apprehensions were
groundless; and we set off.

On our way to the river the unpleasant reflection occurred to my mind,
that possibly the books and the people might be wrong, and that mere
courage might _not_ enable me to dispense with acquired skill.
[Footnote: The doctrine that courage is enough is most mischievous and
perilous nonsense. I have become a good swimmer since those days, and
have taught my sons: but we had to learn it as an art, just as one
learns to skate.] But I put away this idea as too disagreeable to be
dwelt upon. Unfortunately the disagreeable idea that we set aside is
often the true and the wise one.

As we went through the town to the water the boy who had expressed his
scepticism disappeared for a moment in a rope-maker's shop, and soon
emerged with a long and strong cord over his shoulder. I guessed what
that was for, and felt humiliated, but said nothing. The swimmers
stripped and plunged, but just at the moment when I was going to plunge
too I felt the strong hand of the assistant-master on my shoulder, and
he said, "Wait one moment," The moment was employed by my school-fellow
in fastening the cord round my waist, "Now, plunge as much as you like!"

I was soon in the depths and struggling to get to the surface, but,
somehow, did _not_ swim. My preserver on the bank thought it would be as
well to convince me of my inability by a prolonged immersion, so he let
me feel the unpleasant beginning of drowning. They say that the
sensation is delightful at a later stage, and that the patient dreams he
is walking in flowery meadows on the land. The first stage is
undoubtedly disagreeable,--the oppression, the desire to breathe, are
horrible,--but I did not get so far as to fill the lungs with water.
Just in proper time there came a great tug at the cord, and I was fished
up. I dressed, and felt very small, looking with envy on the real
swimmers, and especially at the fat usher, who was rolling about like a
porpoise in the middle of the river.

The boat came, and I was allowed only to see her from the bank. How
lovely she looked with her outside varnish and her internal coat of
Cambridge blue! How beautiful were the light and elegant oars that I was
forbidden to touch!

Some time after that one of my school-fellows said: "You know, Hamerton,
you're just as well out of that boat as in her, for whenever we want to
go out on Wednesday or Saturday afternoons we always find that the
privates have got the start of us. The fact is, the boat is as if she
belonged to them." In a word, the private pupils looked on the
aspirations of the others with marked disapproval. There ought, of
course, to have been a plurality of boats; but Mr. Cape was not himself
a boating man, and did not encourage the amusement. He dreaded the
responsibility for accidents.

One result of my adventure was a firm resolution that I would learn to
swim, and not only that, but become really a good swimmer. I never
attempted anything that seemed so hopelessly difficult for me, or in
which my progress was so slow; but in course of time I did swim, and
many years afterwards, from daily practice in the longer and warmer
summers of France, I became an expert, able to read a book aloud in deep
water whilst holding it up with both hands, or to swim with all my
clothes on and a pair of heavy boots, using one hand only and carrying a
paddle in the other, whilst I drew a small boat after me. The
perseverance that led to this ultimate result is entirely due to that
early misadventure at Doncaster. I have learned one or two other things
in consequence of being stung with shame in a like manner, and am
convinced that there is nothing better for a boy than to be roused to
perseverance in that way.

I never felt the least shame, however, in not being able to play cricket
in a manner to please connoisseurs. I hated the game from the very
beginning, and it was pure slavery to me, and I never had the faintest
desire to excel in it or even to learn it. This dislike was a
misfortune, as not to love cricket is a cause of isolation for an
English boy.

A kind of exercise that I was fond of was ordinary walking. We often
took long walks on half-holidays that were delightful, and I have
escaped very early on the summer mornings and taken a walk round the
race-course, being back in time for the usual hour of rising. This,
however, was found out in course of time and put an end to; but I had
occasional headaches, so the doctor (who was a very kind friend of mine
and invited me to his house) told Mr. Cape that he must send me out for
a walk when I had a headache. "But how am I to know that his head really
aches?" inquired the head-master. I heard the reply and took note of it.
The doctor said it would usually be accompanied with flushing; so
whenever I thought I was sufficiently red in the face I applied for
leave to go to the race-course.

The doctor had a son who was a good-natured, pleasant boy about my own
age. There never was the slightest ill-feeling between us, but quite the
contrary; and yet we fought many a hard battle simply because the elder
boys backed us and set us on. They enjoyed the sport as they would have
enjoyed cock-fighting, though perhaps not quite so much, as it was not
quite so bloody and barbarous. This fighting was of no practical use;
but if I had been able to thrash the bully who took my telescope _that_
would have been of some use. Unfortunately he was my senior, and
considerably my superior in strength, so prudence forbade the combat.



Early interest in theology.--Reports of sermons.--Quiet influence of Mr.
Cape.--Failure of Mr. Cape's health.--His death.

During the time of my life at Doncaster I was extremely religious,
having a firm belief in providential interferences on my behalf, even in
trifling matters, such as being asked to stay from Saturday to Monday in
the country. My prayers had especial reference to a country house that
belonged to an old lady who was grandmother to a friend of mine, and
extended a sort of grandmotherly kindness to myself also. [Footnote: She
was a very remarkable and peculiar old lady. The house was very large;
but she would only use a few small rooms. She never would travel by
railway, but made long journeys, as well as short ones, in an old
carriage drawn by a pair of farm-horses. She had a much handsomer
carriage in the coach-house, a state affair, that was never used.]

At Doncaster we were always obliged to take notes of the sermons, and
write them out afterwards in an abridged form. As I had a theological
turn, I sometimes inserted passages of my own in these reports which
made the masters declare that they did not remember hearing the preacher
say that; and on one occasion, being full of ideas of my own about the
text which had effectually supplanted those of the preacher, I produced
a complete original sermon, which cost me a reprimand, but evidently
excited the interest of the master. Dr. Sharpe was Vicar of Doncaster in
those days, but after forty years I may be excused if I do not remember
much about what he preached. The pulpit was arranged in the
old-fashioned three stages, for preacher, reader, and clerk, and on one
occasion the highest of these was occupied by the famous Dr. Wolff, the
missionary to Bokhara. He was a most energetic preacher, who thumped and
pushed his cushion in a restless way, so that at last he fairly pushed
it off its desk. He was quick enough to catch it by the tassel, but he
did not catch his Bible, which fell on Dr. Sharpe's head or shoulder,
and thence to the floor of the church. It was impossible to keep quite
grave under the circumstances. Even the clergy smiled, the clerk sought
refuge in fetching the fallen volume, and a thrill of humorous feeling
ran through the congregation.

Mr. Cape did not say much to us about religion. He read prayers every
morning and evening, and once or twice I heard him preach when he took
duty in a village church not far from the famous castle of Conisborough.
There is an advantage to an active-minded boy in being with a quiet
routine-clergyman like Mr. Cape, who proposes no exciting questions. I
came under a very different influence afterwards, which plunged me into
the stormy ocean of theological controversies at a time of life when it
would have been better for me not to concern myself about such matters.
The religion of a boy should be quiet and practical, and his theology
should be as simple as possible, and quite uncontroversial in its
temper. That was my case at Doncaster; I was a very firm believer, but
simply a Christian not belonging to any party in the Church of England,
and hardly, indeed, in any but an accidental way to the Church of
England herself. Nothing could have been better. A boy is not answerable
for the doctrines which are imposed upon him by his elders, and if they
have a beneficial effect upon his conduct he need not, whilst he remains
a boy, trouble himself to inquire further.

Mr. Cape's health was gradually failing during the time of my stay at
Doncaster School, and on the beginning of my fourth half-year after a
holiday I found the house managed by his sister, and Mr. Cape himself
confined to his room with hopeless disease. Very shortly afterwards the
few boys who had come were sent home again, and Mr. Cape died. His
sister was a kind old maid, who at once conceived a sort of aunt-like
affection for me, and I remember that when I left she gave me a kiss on
the forehead. I was grieved to part with her, and showed some real
sympathy with her sorrow about her dying brother. I felt some grief on
my own account for Mr. Cape, though he had thrashed me many a time with
his ever-ready cane. Altogether the three half-years at Doncaster had
been well spent, and I had got well on with my work.

Mr. Cape's brother kept a good school at Peterborough, and wanted to
have me for a pupil, but as he was especially strong in mathematics, and
prepared young men for Cambridge, it was thought that, as I was to go to
Oxford, it would be better that I should study under an Oxford man. I
never had the slightest natural bent for mathematics, though I did the
tasks that were imposed upon me in a perfunctory manner, and with
sufficient accuracy just to satisfy my masters.



My education becomes less satisfactory.--My guardian's state of health.
--I pursue my studies at Burnley.--Dr. Butler.--He encourages me to
write English.--Extract from a prize poem.--Public discussions in
Burnley School.--A debate on Queen Elizabeth.

The story of my education becomes less satisfactory for me to write as I
proceed with it. At thirteen I was a well-educated boy for my age, at
fifteen or sixteen I had fallen behind, and if I have now any claim to
be considered a fairly well-educated man, it is due to efforts made
since youth was past.

The main cause of this retardation may be told before proceeding
further. I have already said what a strong affection I had for my
guardian. It was a well-placed affection, as she was one of the noblest
and best women who ever lived, and all my gratitude to her, though it
filled my heart like a religion, was not half what she deserved or what
my maturer judgment now feels towards her memory; but like all strong
affections, it carried its own penalty along with it. About the time of
Mr. Cape's death, I happened to be staying with some near relations, and
one of them made a casual allusion to my guardian's heart-disease. I had
never heard of this, and was inexpressibly affected by the news. My
informant said that the disease was absolutely incurable, and might at
any time cause sudden death. This was unhappily the exact truth, and
from that moment I looked upon my dear guardian with other eyes. The
doctors could not say how long she might live; there was no especial
immediate danger, and with care, by incurring no risks, her life might
be prolonged for years. After the first shock produced by this terrible
news, I quickly resolved that as Death would probably soon separate us,
and might separate us at any moment, I would keep as much as possible
near my guardian during her life. She may have been tempted to keep me
near her by the same consideration, but she was not a woman to allow her
feelings to get the better of her sense of duty, and if I had not
persistently done all in my power to remain at Burnley, she would have
sent me elsewhere. Some reviewer will say that these are trifling
matters, but in writing a biography it is necessary to take note of
trifles when they affect the whole future existence of the subject. The
simple fact of my remaining at Burnley for some years made me turn out
an indifferent classical scholar, but at the time left my mind more at
liberty to grow in its own way.

It is time to give some account of Dr. Butler, the headmaster of Burnley
Grammar School, who now became my master, and some time afterwards my
private tutor. He was a most liberal-minded, kind-hearted clergyman, and
a good scholar, but his too great tenderness of heart made him not
exactly the kind of master who would have pushed me on most rapidly.

I had a great affection for him, which he could not help perceiving, and
this completely disarmed him, so that he never could find in his heart
to say anything disagreeable to me, and on the contrary would often
caress me, as it were, with little compliments that I did not always
deserve. One tendency of his exactly fell in with my own tastes. He did
not think that education should be confined to the two dead languages,
but incited the boys to learn French and German, and even chemistry. I
worked at French regularly; German I learned just enough to read one
thin volume, and went no further. [Footnote: I resumed German many years
afterwards, and had a Bavarian for my master; but he was unfortunately
obliged to go back to his own country, and I stopped again, having many
other things to do. All my literary friends who know German say it is of
great use to them; but I never felt the natural taste for it that I have
for French and Italian.] As for the chemistry, I acquired some
elementary knowledge which afterwards had some influence in directing my
attention to etching; indeed, I etched my first plate when a boy at
Burnley School. It was a portrait of a Jew with a turban, and was
frightfully over-bitten.

Mr. Butler (he had not received his D.C.L. degree in those days) was a
very handsome man, with most gentlemanly manners, and all the boys
respected him. He governed the school far more by his own dignity than
by any severity of tone. He always wore his gown in school, and had a
desk made for himself which rather resembled a pulpit and was ornamented
with two carved crockets, that of the assistant-master (who also wore
his gown) being destitute of these ornaments. My progress in classics
and mathematics was now not nearly so rapid as it had been under the
severer _regime_ at Doncaster, but Mr. Butler thought he discovered in
me some sort of literary gift, and encouraged me to write English
essays, which he corrected carefully to show me my faults of style. This
was really good, as Mr. Butler wrote English well himself, and was a man
of cultivated taste. He even encouraged me to write verses,--a practice
that I followed almost without intermission between the ages of twelve
and twenty-one. I am aware that there are many very wise people in the
world who think it quite rational, and laudable even, to write verses in
the Latin language to improve their knowledge of that tongue, and who
think it is a ridiculous waste of time to do the same thing in English.
In my opinion, what holds good for one language holds good equally for
another, and I no more regret the time spent on English versification
than a Latin scholar would regret his imitations of Virgil. Perhaps the
reader may like to see a specimen of my boyish attempts, so I will print
an extract from one,--a poem that won a prize at Burnley School in the
year 1847.

The subject given us was "Prince Charles Edward after the Battle of
Culloden." The poem begins with a wild galloping flight of the Prince
from the battlefield of Culloden under the pale moonlight, and then of
course we come to the boat voyage with Flora Macdonald. Here my love of
boating comes in.

The lovely lamp of Heaven shines brightly o'er
The wave cerulean and the yellow shore;
As, o'er those waves, a boat like light'ning flies,
Slender, and frail in form, and small in size.
--Frail though it be, 'tis manned by hearts as brave
As e'er have tracked the pathless ocean's wave,--
High o'er their heads celestial diamonds grace
The jewelled robe of night, and Luna's face
Divinely fair! O goddess of the night!
Guide thou their bark, do thou their pathway light!
--Like sea-bird rising on the ocean's foam,
Or like the petrel on its stormy home,
Yon gallant bark speeds joyously along;
The wild waves roar, and drown the boatmen's song.
The sails full-flowing kiss the welcome wind,
And leave the screaming sea-gulls far behind!
Onward they fly. 'Tis midnight's moonlit hour!
When Fairies hold their court and Sprites have power.
And now 'tis morn! A fair Isle's distant strand
Tempts the tired fugitives again to land.
Fiercely repulsed, they dare once more the wave
Fired with undying zeal their Prince to save;
And when night flings her sable mantle o'er
The giant crags where sea-hawks idly soar,
They unmolested gain the wished-for land,
And soon with rapid steps bestride the strand.
To Kingsburgh's noble halls the path they gain
And leave afar the ever-murmuring main.

[Footnote: In the printed copies of the poem, the age of the writer was
given as thirteen, but I was only in my thirteenth year.]

Very likely this extract will be as much as the reader will have
patience for. I think the verses are tolerably good for a boy not yet
thirteen years old. The versification is, perhaps, as correct as that of
most prize poems, and there is some go in the poetry. It cannot,
however, lay claim to much originality. Even in the short extract just
given I see the influence of three poets, Virgil, Scott, and Byron. The
best that can be expected from the poetry of a boy is that he should
give evidence of a liking for the great masters, and in my case the
liking was sincere.

In later years Mr. Butler made me translate many of the Odes of Horace
into English verse. I did that work with pleasure, but have not
preserved one of the translations. I have said that he also encouraged
me to write essays. He always gave the subject, and criticized my
performance very closely. I wrote so many of these essays that I am
afraid to give the number that remains in my memory, for fear of
unconscious exaggeration.

Besides these exercises we had public discussions in the school on
historical subjects, and of these I remember a great one on the
character of Queen Elizabeth. I was chosen for the defence, and the
attack on Elizabeth's fame was to be made by the Captain of the school,
a lad of remarkable ability named Edward Moore, who was greatly my
superior in acquirements.

It happened, I remember, that my guardian was staying at a country house
(the Holme), which had formerly belonged to Dr. Whitaker, the celebrated
historian of Craven, Whalley, and Richmondshire, and this learned man
had left a good library, so I went to stay a few days to read up the
subject. Those days were very pleasant to me; the house is very
beautiful, with carved oak, tapestry, mullioned windows, old portraits,
and stained glass, and just the old-world surroundings that I have
always loved, and it nestled quietly in an open space in the bottom of a
beautiful valley, between steep hills, with miles of walks in the woods.
If ever I have been in danger of coveting my neighbor's house, it has
been there.

When we came to the debate, it turned out that my materials were so
abundant that I spoke for an hour and a half; Moore spoke about forty
minutes, and made a most telling personal hit when attacking Elizabeth
for her vanity. "She was vain of her complexion, vain even of her hair"
... (here the orator paused and looked at me, then he added, slowly and
significantly), "_which was red_." The point here was, that my hair was
red in those days, though it has darkened since. I need not add that the
allusion was understood at once by the whole school, and was immensely

After we had spoken, a youth rose to give his opinion, and as his speech
was sufficiently laconic, I will repeat it _in extenso_. The effect
would be quite spoiled if I did not add that he was suffering from a
very bad cold, which played sad havoc with his consonants. This was his
speech, without the slightest curtailment:--

"Id by opidiod Queed Elizabeth was to be blabed, because she was a proud

My opponent in the debate on Elizabeth was, I believe, all things taken
into consideration, the most gifted youth I ever knew during my boyhood.
He kept at the head of the school without effort, as if the post
belonged to him, and he was remarkable for bodily activity, being the
best swimmer in the school, and, I think, the best cricketer also. He
afterwards died prematurely, and his brother died in early manhood from
exhausting fatigue during an excursion in the Alps.

The school was in those days attended by lads belonging to all classes
of society, except the highest aristocracy of the neighborhood, and it
did a good deal towards keeping up a friendly feeling between different
classes. That is the great use of a good local school. Many of the boys
were the sons of rich men, who could easily have sent them to public
schools at a distance, and perhaps in the present generation they would
do so.



My elder uncle.--We go to live at Hollins.--Description of the place.--
My strong attachment to it.--My first experiment in art-criticism.--The
stream at Hollins.--My first catamaran.--Similarity of my life at
Hollins to my life in France thirty-six years later.

My elder uncle, the owner of my grandfather's house and estate at
Hollins, had been educated to the law, as the income of our branch of
the family was insufficient, and he had begun to practise as a solicitor
in Burnley, where at that time there was an excellent opening; but he
had not the kind of tact which enables lawyers to get on in the world,
so his professional income diminished, and he went to live in Halifax,
and let the house at Hollins.

His family was large, and for some years he did all in his power to live
according to his rank in society, for he had married a lady of good
family (they had thirty-six quarterings between them), and, like most
men in a similar position, he was unwilling to adopt the only safe plan,
which is to take boldly a lower place on the ladder. At Halifax he lived
in a large house (Hopwood Hall), which belonged to his father-in-law,
and there his wife and he received the Halifax society of those days, at
what, I believe, were very pleasant entertainments, for they had the
natural gift of hospitality, and lacked nothing but a large fortune to
be perfect in the eyes of the world.

My uncle's father-in-law was living in retirement at Scarborough when
Hollins happened to fall vacant, so he became the tenant; but as the
house was too large for him, my uncle divided it into two, and proposed
to let the other half to my guardian and her sister.

They accepted, and the consequence was that we went to live in the
country,--a most important change for me, as I soon acquired that
passion for a country life which afterwards became a second nature, and
which, though it may have been beneficial to my health, and perhaps in
some degree to the quality of my work, has been in many ways an all but
fatal hindrance to my success.

There are, or were, a great many old halls in Lancashire that belonged
to the old families, which have now for the most part disappeared. They
were of all sizes, some large enough to accommodate a wealthy modern
country gentleman (though not arranged according to modern ideas), and
others of quite small dimensions, though generally interesting for their
architecture,--much more interesting, indeed, than the houses which have
succeeded them. Hollins was between the two extremes, and when in its
perfection, must have been rather a good specimen, with its mullioned
windows, its numerous gables, and its formal front garden, with a
straight avenue beyond. Unfortunately, my grandfather found it necessary
to rebuild the front, and in doing so altered the character by
introducing modern sash windows in the upper story; and though he
retained mullioned windows on the ground floor, they were not strictly
of the old type. My uncle also carried out other alterations, external
and internal, which ended by depriving the house of much of its old
character, and still more recent changes have gone farther in the same

However, such as it was in my youth, the place inspired in me one of
those intensely strong local attachments which take root in some
natures, and in none, I really believe, more powerfully than in mine.
Like all strong passions, these local attachments are extremely
inconvenient, and it would be better for a man to be without them; but
all reasoning on such subjects is superfluous.

Hollins is situated in the middle of a small but very pretty estate,
almost entirely bounded by a rocky and picturesque trout-stream, and so
pleasantly varied by hill and dale, wood, meadow, and pasture, that it
appears much larger than it really is. In my boyhood it seemed an
immensity. My cousins and I used to roam about it and play at Robin Hood
and his merry men with great satisfaction to ourselves. We fished and
bathed in one of the pools, where our ships delivered real broadsides of
lead from their little cannons. These boyish recollections, and an early
passion for landscape beauty, made Hollins seem a kind of earthly
Paradise to me, and the idea of going to live there, instead of in a row
of houses in a manufacturing town, filled me with the most delightful
anticipations. My uncle put workmen in the house to prepare it, and on
every opportunity I walked there to see what they were doing. Even at
that age I knew much more about architecture than my elders, being
perfectly familiar with the details of the old halls, and so I was
constantly losing temper at what seemed to me the evident stupidity of
the masons. There was an old master-mason, who did not like me and my
criticisms, and he swore at me freely enough, in an explicit Lancashire
manner. One day, simply by the eye, I perceived that he was four inches
out in a measurement, and told him of it, when he swore frightfully. He
then took his two-foot rule, and finding himself in the wrong, swore
more frightfully than ever. This was my first experience in the
thankless business of art-criticism, and it was the beginning of a false
position, in which I often found myself in youth, from knowing more
about some subjects than is usual with boys.

The small estate on which Hollins is situated is divided from Towneley
Park by a road and a wall, and on the opposite side its boundary, for
most of the distance, is the rocky stream that has been already
mentioned. The stream had a great influence on my whole life, by giving
me a taste for the beauty of wild streams in Scotland and elsewhere. It
is called the Brun, and gives its name to Burnley. The rocks are a
sandstone sufficiently warm in color to give a very pleasant contrast to
the green foliage, and the forms of them are so broken that in sunshine
there are plenty of fine accidental lights and shadows. It was one of my
greatest pleasures to follow the course of this stream, with a
leaping-pole, up to the moors, where it flowed through a wide and
desolate valley or hollow in the hills. As the aspect of a stream is
continually changing with the seasons and the quantity of water, it is
always new. The only regret I have about my residence near the Brun is
that I did not learn at the right time to make the most of it in the way
of artistic study; but I did as much, perhaps, as was to be expected
from a boy who was receiving a literary and not an artistic education.

The defect of the Brun was the absence of pools big enough for swimming
and boating, but it gave a tantalizing desire for these pleasures, and I
was as aquatic as my opportunities would allow. In June, 1850, my first
catamaran was launched on a fish-pond. I built it myself, with an outlay
of one pound for the materials. It was composed of two floats or tubes,
consisting of a light framework of deal covered with waterproofed
canvas. These were kept apart in the water, but joined above by a light
open framework that served as a deck, and on which the passengers sat.
The thing would carry five people, and was propelled by short oars.
Being extremely light, it was easily drawn on a road, and was provided
with small wheels for that purpose. This boyish attempt would not have
been mentioned had it not been the first of a long series of practical
experiments in the construction of catamarans which have continued down
to the date of the present writing, and of which the reader will hear
more in the sequel. I promise to endeavor not to weary him with the

It is astonishing how very far-reaching in their effects are the tastes
and habits that we acquire in early life! The sort of existence that I
am leading here at Pre Charmoy, near Autun, in this year 1886, bears a
wonderfully close resemblance to my existence at Hollins in 1850. I am
living, as I was then, on a pretty estate with woods, meadows, pastures,
and a beautiful stream, with hills visible from it in all directions.
There is a fish-pond too, about a mile from the house, and I am even now
trying catamaran experiments on this pond, as I did on the other in
Lancashire. My occupations are exactly the same, and to complete the
resemblance it so happens that just now I am reading Latin. The chief
difference is that writing has become lucrative and professional,
whereas in those earlier days it was a study only.

It is very difficult for me to believe that thirty-six years separate me
from a time so like the present in many ways--like and yet unlike,--for
I was then in Lancashire and am now in France; but this is a fact that I
only realize when I think about it. The real exile for me would be to
live in a large town.



Interest in the Middle Ages.--Indifference to the Greeks and Romans.--
Love for Sir Walter Scott's writings.--Interest in heraldry and
illuminations.--Passion for hawking.--Old books in the school library
at Burnley.--Mr. Edward Alexander of Halifax.--Attempts in literary
composition.--Contributions to the "Historic Times."--"Rome in
1849."--"Observations on Heraldry."

The last chapter ended by saying that my occupations in early life were
the same as they are at present, but I now remember one or two points of
difference. In those days I lived, mentally, a great deal in the Middle
Ages. This was owing to the influence of Sir Walter Scott, certainly of
all authors the one who has most influenced me, and it was also due in
some measure to a romantic interest in the history of my own family, and
of the other families in the north of England with which mine had been
connected in the past. For the Greeks and Romans I cared very little;
they seemed too remote from my own country and race, and the English
present, in which my lot was cast, seemed too dull and un-picturesque,
too prosaic and commonplace. My imagination being saturated with Scott,
I had naturally the same taste as my master. I soon learned all about
heraldry, and in my leisure time drew and colored all the coats of arms
that had been borne by the Hamertons in their numerous alliances, as
well as the arms of other families from which our own was descended. I
wrote black-letter characters on parchment and made pedigrees, and
became so much of a mediaevalist that there was considerable risk of my
stopping short in the amateur practice of such arts as wood-carving,
illumination, and painting on glass. The same taste for the Middle Ages
led me to imitate our forefathers in more active pursuits; amongst
others I had such a passion for hawking that at one time I became
incapable of opening my lips about anything else. My guardian said it
was "hawk, hawk, hawking from morning till night." Not that I ever
possessed a living falcon of any species whatever. My uncle resigned to
me a corner of the outbuildings, on the ground-floor of which was a
loose-box for my horse, and above it a room that I set apart for the
falcons when they should arrive; but in spite of many promises from
gamekeepers and naturalists and others, no birds ever came! The hoods
and jesses were ready, very prettily adorned with red morocco leather
and gold thread; the mews were ready too, with partitions in
trellis-work of my own making,--everything was ready except the

I knew the coats-of-arms of all the families in the neighborhood, and of
course that of the Towneleys, who had a chapel in Burnley Church for the
interment of their dead, adorned with many hatchments. Those hatchments
had a double interest for me, as heraldry in the first place, and also
because the Towneleys had a peregrine falcon for their crest! I envied
them that crest, and would willingly have exchanged for it our own
"greyhound couchant, sable."

Burnley School possesses a library which is rich in old tomes that few
people ever read. In my youth these volumes were kept in a room entirely
surrounded with dark oak wainscot, that opened on the shelves where
these old books reposed. I read some of them, more or less, but have
totally forgotten them all except a black-letter Chaucer. That volume
delighted me, and I have read in it many an hour. It is much to be
regretted that I had not the same affectionate curiosity about the Greek
and Latin classics, but it was something to have a taste for the
literature of one's own country.

My uncle's brother-in-law, Mr. Edward Alexander, of Halifax, was a
lawyer of literary and antiquarian tastes, and a great lover of
books,--not to read only, but to have around him in a well-ordered
library. He was extremely kind to me, and now, when I know better how
very rare such kindness is in the world, I feel perhaps even more
grateful for it than I did then.

Mr. Alexander was the father of the young Alexander who was my
school-fellow at Doncaster, and I am hardly exaggerating his affection
for me when I say that he had a paternal feeling towards myself. He put
his library entirely at my disposal, and gave me a room in his house at
Heath Field, near Halifax, whenever I felt inclined to avail myself of
it, and had liberty to go there.

His library had cost him several thousand pounds, and was rich in
archaeological books. Mrs. Alexander was a charming lady, always
exquisitely gentle in her way, and gifted with a quiet firmness which
enabled her to match very effectually the somewhat irascible disposition
of my friend, who had the irritability as well as the kindness of heart
which, I have since observed, are often found together in Frenchmen.
With all his goodness he was by no means an indulgent judge; he could
not endure the slightest failure or forgetfulness in good manners, and
most of his young relations were afraid of him. I only offended him
once, and that but slightly. He was walking in his own garden with my
uncle, when I had to do something that required the use of both hands,
and I was encumbered with a book. I dared not lay the book on the
ground, as I should have done if it had been my own, so I asked my uncle
to hold it. I could see an expression on Mr. Alexander's face which said
clearly enough that I had taken a liberty in requesting this little
service from a senior, and it only occurred to me as an afterthought
that I might have put my hat on the ground and laid the book on the hat.
This little incident shows one side of my dear friend's nature, but it
was not at all a bad thing for me to be occasionally under the influence
of one who was at the same time kind and severe. In early life he had
been a dandy, and a local poet had called him,--

"Elegant Extracts, the Halifax fop."

[Footnote: "Elegant Extracts" was the title of a book of miscellaneous
reading which had an extensive sale in those days. The couplet related
to a public ball,--

"Elegant Extracts, the Halifax fop,
With note-book in hand, took coach for the hop."

Mr. Alexander sometimes alluded in a pleasant way to his early
foppishness, and told some amusing anecdotes, one of which I remember.
He and a young friend having adopted some startling new fashion before
anybody else in Halifax, were going to church very proud of themselves,
when they heard a girl laughing at them, on which her companion rebuked
her, saying, "You shouldn't laugh; you might be struck so!" She thought
the dandies were two misshapen idiots.]

In his maturity all that remained of early dandyism was an intolerance
of every kind of slovenliness. He rigorously exacted order in his
library; I might use any of his books, but must put them all back in
their places. Perhaps my present strong love of order may be due in a
great measure to Mr. Alexander's teaching and example. Amongst the
friends of my youth there are very few whom I look back to with such
grateful affection.

Like most boys who have become authors, I made attempts in literary
composition independently of those which were directly encouraged by my
master. In this way I wrote a number of articles that were accepted by
the "Historic Times," a London illustrated journal of those days which
was started under the patronage of the Church of England, but had not a
great success. My first articles were on the Universities, of which I
knew nothing except by hearsay, and on "Civilization, Ancient and
Modern," which was rather a vast subject for a boy whose reading had
been so limited. However, the editor of the "Historic Times" had not the
least suspicion of my age, so I favored him with a long series of
articles on Rome in 1849, forming altogether as complete a history of
the city for that year as could have been written by one who had never
seen it, who did not know Italian, and who had not access to any other
sources of information than those which are accessible to everybody in
the newspapers.

Under these circumstances, it may seem absurd to have undertaken such a
task, but the reader may be reminded that learned historians undertake
to tell us what happened long ago from much less ample material. I got
no money for these articles (there were twelve of them), and no
publisher would reprint them because there was no personal observation
in them which publishers always expect in a narrative of contemporary
events. The work had, however, been a good exercise for me in the
digesting and setting in literary order of a mass of confused material.

My passion for heraldry and hawking led to the production of a little
book on heraldry which was an imitation of Sir John Sebright's
"Observations on Hawking," a treatise that seemed to me simple, and
clearly arranged.

My little book had no literary value, and the publisher said that only
thirty-nine copies were sold; however, on being asked to produce the
remainder of the edition, he said he was unable to do so, as the copies
had been "mislaid." The printing and binding having been done at my
expense, I compelled the publisher to reprint the book, but this brought
me no pecuniary benefit, as the demand, such as it was, had been
satisfied by the first edition.

To this day I do not feel certain in my own mind whether the publisher
was dishonest or not. It would be quite natural that a book on heraldry
should have a very small sale, but on the other hand it is inconceivable
that more than four hundred copies of a book should have been simply
lost. [Footnote: There is a third possibility: the sale may have been
exactly what the publisher stated; but he may have had no belief in the
success of the work, and have printed only one hundred copies whilst
charging me for five hundred.]

It was a very good thing for me that the printing of this treatise on
heraldry was a cause of loss and disappointment, for if it had been
successful I might easily have wasted my life in archaeology, and
corrected pedigrees--those long lists of dead people of whom nobody
knows anything but their names, and the estates they were lucky enough
to possess.

The reader will see that up to this point my tastes had been
conservative and aristocratic. Then there came a revolution which was
the most important intellectual crisis of my life, and which deserves a
chapter to itself.



Political and religious opinions of my relations.--The Rev. James
Bardsley.--Protestant controversy with Rome.--German neology.--The
inspiration of the Scriptures.--Inquiry into foundation for the
doctrine.--I cease to be a Protestant.--An alternative presents
itself.--A provisional condition of prolonged inquiry.--Our medical
adviser.--His remarkable character.--His opinions.

All my relations were Tories of the most strongly Conservative type, and
earnestly believing members of the Church of England, more inclined to
the Evangelical than to the High Church party. In my early youth I
naturally took the religion and political color of the people about me.

There was at Burnley in those days a curate who has since become a
well-known clergyman in Manchester, Mr. James Bardsley. He was a man of
very strong convictions of an extreme Evangelical kind, and nature had
endowed him with all the gifts of eloquence necessary to propagate his
opinions from the pulpit. [Footnote: Since then he has become Canon and
Archdeacon.] He was really eloquent, and he possessed in a singular
degree the wonderful power of enchaining the attention of his audience.
We always listened with interest to what Mr. Bardsley was saying at the
moment, and with the feeling of awakened anticipation, as he invariably
conveyed the impression that something still more interesting was to
follow. His power as a preacher was so great that his longest sermons
were not felt to be an infliction; one might feel tired after they were
over, but not during their delivery. His power was best displayed in
attack, and he was very aggressive, especially against the doctrines of
the Church of Rome,--which he declared to be "one huge Lie."

Of course a boy of my age believed his own religion to be absolutely
true, and others to be false in exact proportion to their divergence
from it, as this is the way with young people when they really believe.
It was my habit to take an intensely strong interest in anything that
interested me at all, and as religion had a supreme interest for me I
read all about the Protestant controversy with Rome under Mr. Bardsley's
guidance, in books of controversial theology recommended by him. My
guardian, with her usual good sense, did not quite approve of this
controversial spirit; she was content to be a good Christian in her own
way and let the poor Roman Catholics alone, but I was too ardent in what
seemed to me the cause of truth to see with indifference the menacing
revival of Romanism.

A large new Roman Catholic church was erected in Burnley, and opened
with an imposing ceremony. There was at that time a belief that the
power of the Pope might one day be re-established in our country, and
the great results of the Reformation either wholly sacrificed or placed
in the greatest jeopardy. Protestants were called upon to defend these
conquests, and in order to qualify themselves for this great duty it was
necessary that they should make themselves thoroughly acquainted with
the great controversy between the pure Church to which it was their own
happiness to belong, and that corrupt association which called itself
Catholicism. I had rather a bold and combative disposition, and was by
no means unwilling to take a share in the battle.

All went well for a time. The spirit of inquiry is not considered an
evil spirit so long as it only leads to agreement with established
doctrines, and as an advanced form of Protestantism was preached in
Burnley Church, I was at liberty to think boldly enough, provided I did
not go beyond that particular stage of thought. Not having as yet any
disposition to go beyond, I did not at all realize what a very small
degree of intellectual liberty my teachers were really disposed to allow

One occasion I remember distinctly. Mr. Bardsley was at Hollins, where
he spent the evening with us, and in the course of conversation, as he
was leaning on the chimney-piece, he spoke about German Neology, which I
had never heard of before, so I asked what it was, and he described it
as a dreadful doctrine which attributed no more inspiration to sacred
than to profane writers. The ladies were shocked and scandalized by the
bare mention of such a doctrine, but the effect on me was very
different. The next day, in my private meditations, I began to wonder
what were the evidences by which it was determined that some writers
were inspired and infallible, and what critics had settled the question.
The orthodox reader will say that in a perplexity of this kind I had
nothing to do but carry my difficulty to a clergyman. This is exactly
what I did, and the clergyman was Mr. Bardsley himself.

He was full of kindness to me, and took the trouble to write a long
paper on the subject, which must have cost him fully two days' work,--a
paper in which he gave a full account of the Canon of Scripture from the
Evangelical point of view. The effect on me was most discouraging, for
the result amounted merely to this, that certain Councils of the Church
had recognized the Divine inspiration of certain books, just as certain
authoritative critics might recognize the profane inspiration of poets.
After reading the paper with the utmost care I felt so embarrassed about
it that (with the awkwardness of youth) I did not even write to thank
the amiable author who had taken so much trouble to help me, and I only
thanked him briefly on meeting him at a friend's house, where it was
impossible to avoid the interchange of a few words.

This autobiography is not intended to be a book of controversy, so I
shall carefully avoid the details of religious changes and give only
results. I do not think that anything in my life was ever more decisive
than the receipt of that long communication from Mr. Bardsley. The day
before receiving it I was in doubt, but the day after I felt perfectly
satisfied that the Divine inspiration of the books known to Englishmen
as the "Scriptures" rested simply on the opinion, of different bodies of
theologians who had held meetings which were called Councils. The only
difference between these Councils and those of the Church of Rome was,
that these were represented as having taken place earlier, before the
Church was so much divided; but it did not seem at all evident that the
members of the earlier Councils were men of a higher stamp,
intellectually, than those who composed the distinctly Roman Catholic
Councils, nor was there any evidence that the Holy Spirit had been with
those earlier Councils, though it afterwards withdrew itself from the

The Protestant reader will perhaps kindly bear with me whilst I give the
reasons why I ceased to be a Protestant, after having been so earnest
and zealous in that form of the Christian faith. It appeared to me--I do
not say it _is_, but it appeared to me, and appears to me still--that
Protestantism is an uncritical belief in the decisions of the Church
down to a date which I do not pretend to fix exactly, and an equally
uncritical scepticism, a scepticism of the most unreceptive kind, with
regard to all opinions professed and all events said to have taken place
in the more recent centuries of ecclesiastical history. The Church of
Rome, on the other hand, seemed nearer in temper to the temper of the
past, and was more decidedly a continuation, though evidently at the
same time an amplification, of the early Christian habits of thinking
and believing.

With this altered view of the subject the alternative that presented
itself to me was that which presented itself to the brothers Newman, and
if I had found it necessary to my happiness to belong to a visible
Church of some kind, and if devotional feelings had been stronger than
the desire for mental independence, I should have joined the Church of

There were, indeed, two or three strong temptations to that course. My
family had been a Catholic family in the past, and had sacrificed much
for the Church of Rome when she was laboring under oppression; for a
Hamerton to return to her would therefore have been quite in accordance
with those romantic sentiments about distant ancestors which were at
that time very strong in me. Besides this, I had all the feeling for the
august ceremonial of the Catholic Church which is found in the writer
who most influenced me, Sir Walter Scott; and there was already a
certain consciousness of artistic necessities and congruities which made
me dimly aware that if you admit the glories of ecclesiastical
architecture, it is only the asceticism of Puritan rebellion against art
that can deny magnificence to ritual. I had occasionally, though rarely,
been present at High Mass, and had felt a certain elevating influence,
and if I had said to myself, "Religion is only a poem by which the soul
is raised to the contemplation of the Eternal Mysteries," then I could
have dreamed vaguely in this contemplation better, perhaps, in the Roman
Catholic Church than in any other. But my English and Protestant
education was against a religion of dreaming. An English Protestant may
have his poetical side, may be capable of feeling poetry that is frankly
avowed to be such--may read Tennyson's "Eve of St. Agnes" or Scott's
"Hymn to the Virgin" with almost complete imaginative sympathy; but he
expects to believe his religion as firmly as he believes in the
existence of the British Islands. Such, at least, was the matter-of-fact
temper that belonged to Protestantism in those days. In more recent
times a more hazy religion has become fashionable.

My decision, therefore, for some time was to remain in a provisional
condition of prolonged inquiry. I read a great deal on both sides, and
constantly prayed for light, following regularly the external services
of the Church of England. Here the subject may be left for the present.

The reader is to imagine me as a youth who no longer believed in the
special inspiration of the Scriptures, or in their infallibility, but
who was still a Christian as thousands of "liberal" Church people in the
present day are Christians.

Before resuming my religious history, I ought to mention an influence
which was supposed by my friends to have been powerful over me, but
which in reality had slightly affected the current of my thinking. Our
medical adviser was a surgeon rather advanced in years, and whose
private fortune made him independent of professional success. As time
went on, he allowed himself to be more and more replaced by his
assistant, Mr. Uttley, one of the most remarkable characters I ever met
with. In those days, in a northern provincial town, it required immense
courage to avow religious heterodoxy of any advanced kind, yet Mr.
Uttley said with the utmost simplicity that he was an atheist, and the
religious world called him "Uttley the Atheist," a title which he
accepted as naturally as if it implied no contempt or antagonism
whatever. He was by no means devoid of physical courage also, for I
remember that at one time he rode an ugly brute that had a most
dangerous habit of bolting, and he would not permit me to mount her. He
was excessively temperate in his habits, never drinking anything
stronger than water, except, perhaps, a cup of tea (I am not sure about
the tea), and never eating more than he believed to be necessary to
health. He maintained the doctrine that hunger remains for a time after
the stomach has had enough, and that if you go on eating to satiety you
are intemperate. He disliked, and I believe despised, the habit of
stuffing on festive occasions, which used to be common in the wealthier
middle classes. I confess that Mr. Uttley's fearless honesty and steady
abstemiousness impressed me with the admiration that one cannot but feel
for the great virtues, by whomsoever practised; but Mr. Uttley had a
third virtue, which is so rare in England as to be almost unintelligible
to the majority,--he looked with the most serene indifference on social
struggles, on the arts by which people rise in the world. Perfectly
contented with his own station in life, and a man of remarkably few
wants, he lived on from year to year without ambition, finding his chief
interest in the pursuit of his profession, and his greatest pleasure in
his books. He so little attempted to make a proselyte of me that, when
at a later period I told him of a certain change of views, concerning
which more will be said in the sequel, he was unaffectedly surprised by
it, and said that he had never supposed me to be other than what I
appeared to the world in general, an ordinary member of the Church of
England. My intimate knowledge of Mr. Uttley's remarkable character must
have had, nevertheless, a certain influence in this way, that it enabled
me to estimate the vulgar attacks on infidels at their true worth; and
though my own theistic beliefs were very strong, I knew from this
example that an atheist was not necessarily a monster.

The only occasions that I remember in youth when Mr. Uttley might have
influenced me were these two. Being curious to know about opinions from
those who really held them, and being already convinced that we cannot
really know them from the misrepresentations of their enemies, I once
asked Mr. Uttley what atheism really was, and why it recommended itself
to him. He replied that atheism was, in his view, the acceptance of the
smaller of two difficulties, both of which were still very great. The
smaller difficulty for him was to believe in the self-existence of the
universe; the greater was to believe in a single Being, without a
beginning, who could create millions of solar systems; and as one or the
other must be self-existent the difficulty about self-existence was
common to both cases. The well-known argument from design did not
convince him, as he believed in a continual process of natural
adjustment of creatures to their environment,--a theory resembling that
of Darwin, but not yet so complete. I listened to Mr. Uttley's account
of his views with much interest; but they had no influence on my own, as
it seemed to me much easier to refer everything to an intelligent
Creator than to believe in the self-existence of all the intricate
organizations that we see. Still, I was not indignant, as the reader may
think I ought to have been. It seemed to me quite natural that
thoughtful men should hold different opinions on a subject of such
infinite difficulty.

The other occasion was, when in the vigor of youthful Protestantism I
happened to say something against the Church of Rome. Mr. Uttley very
quietly and kindly told me that I was unjust towards that Church, and I
asked him where the injustice lay. "It lies in this," he replied, "that
you despise the dogmas of the Church of Rome as resting only on the
authority of priests, whereas the case of that Church is not exceptional
or peculiar, as _all_ dogmas rest ultimately on the authority of
priests." To this I naturally answered that Scriptural authority was
higher; but Mr. Uttley answered,--"The Roman Catholics themselves
appeal to Scriptural authority as the Protestants do; but it is still
the priests who have decided which books are sacred, and how they are to
be interpreted." His conversation was not longer than my report of it,
and it occurred when I met Mr. Uttley accidentally in the street; but
though short, it was of some importance, as I happened at that time to
be exercised in my mind about what Mr. Bardsley had told us concerning
"German Neology." Subsequent observation has led me to believe that Mr.
Uttley attributed more originating authority to priests than really
belongs to them. It seems to me now that they take up and consecrate
popular beliefs that may be of use, and that they drop and discard,
either tacitly or openly, those beliefs which are no longer popular.
Both processes have been going on, for some years very visibly in the
Church of Rome, and the second of the two is plainly in operation in the
Church of England.



First visit to London in 1851.--My first impression of the place.--
Nostalgia of the country.--Westminster.--The Royal Academy.--Resolution
never to go to London again.--Reason why this resolution was afterwards

In the year 1851 I went to London for the first time, to see the Great
Exhibition. Our little party consisted only of my guardian, my aunt, and

My first impression of London was exactly what it has ever since
remained. It seemed to me the most disagreeable place I had ever seen,
and I wondered how anybody could live there who was not absolutely
compelled to do so. At that time I did not understand the only valid
reason for living in London, which is the satisfaction of meeting with
intelligent people who know something about what interests you, and do
not consider you eccentric because you take an interest in something
that is not precisely and exclusively money-making.

My aunts knew nobody in London except one or two ladies of rank superior
to their own, on whom we made formal calls, which was a sort of human
intercourse that I heartily detested, as I detest it to this day.

Our lodgings were in Baker Street, which, after our pure air, open
scenery, and complete liberty at Hollins, seemed to me like a prison.
The lodgings were not particularly clean--the carpets, especially,
seemed as if they had never been taken up. The air was heavy, the water
was bad (our water at Hollins was clearer than glass, and if you poured
a goblet of it beady bubbles clung to the sides), there was no view
except up street and down street, and the noise was perpetual. A
Londoner would take these inconveniences as a matter of course and be
insensible to them, but to me they were so unpleasant that I suffered
from nostalgia of the country all the time.

The reader may advantageously be spared my boyish impressions of the
Great Exhibition and the other sights of London. Of course we fatigued
our brains, as country people always do, by seeing too many things in a
limited time; and as we had no special purpose in view, we got, I fear,
very little instruction from our wanderings amidst the bewildering
products of human industry. I remember being profoundly impressed by
Westminster Abbey, though I would gladly have seen all the modern
monuments calcined in a lime-kiln; and Westminster Hall affected me even
more, possibly because one of our ancestors, Sir Stephen Hamerton, had
been condemned to death there for high treason in the time of Henry
VIII. I was also deeply impressed by the grim, old Tower of London, and
only regretted that I did not know which cell the unlucky Sir Stephen
had occupied during his hopeless imprisonment there.

The rooms of the Royal Academy left a more durable recollection than the
contents of the great building in Hyde Park. Those are quite old times
for us now in the history of English art. Sir Frederick Leighton was a
young student who had not yet begun to exhibit; I think he was working
in Frankfort then. Millais was already known as the painter of strange
and vivid pictures of small size, which attracted attention, and put the
public into a state of much embarrassment. There were three of these
strange pictures that year,--an illustration of Tennyson, "She only
said, 'My life is dreary,'" the "Return of the Dove to the Ark," and the
"Woodman's Daughter." I distinctly remember the exact sensation with
which my young eyes saw these works; so distinctly that I now positively
feel those early sensations over again in thinking about them. All was
so fresh, so new! This modern art was such a novelty to one who had not
seen many modern pictures, and my own powers of enjoying art were so
entirely unspoiled by the effect of habit that I was like a young bird
in its first spring-time in the woods. I much preferred the beautiful
bright pictures in the Academy, with their greens and blues like Nature,
to the snuffy old canvases (as they seemed to me) in the National

The oddest result for a boy's first visit to London was a quiet mental
resolution of which I said nothing to anybody. What I thought and
resolved inwardly may be accurately expressed in these words: "Every
Englishman who can afford it ought to see London _once_, as a patriotic
duty, and I am not sorry to have been there to have got the duty
performed; but no power on earth shall ever induce me to go to that
supremely disagreeable place again!"

Of course the intelligent reader considers this boyish resolution
impossible and absurd, as it is entirely contrary to prevalent ideas;
but a man may lead a very complete life in Lancashire, and even in
counties less rich in various interest, without ever going to London at
all. A man's own fields may afford him as good exercise as Hyde Park,
and his well-chosen little library as good reading as the British
Museum. It was the Fine Arts that brought me to London afterwards; the
worst of the Fine Arts being that they concentrate themselves so much in
great capitals.



The love of reading a hindrance to classical studies.--Dr. Butler
becomes anxious about my success at Oxford.--An insuperable
obstacle.--My indifference to degrees.--Irksome hypocrisy.--I am nearly
sent to a tutor at Brighton.--I go to a tutor in Yorkshire.--His
disagreeable disposition.--Incident about riding.--Disastrous effect of
my tutor's intellectual influence upon me.--My private reading.--My
tutor's ignorance of modern authors.--His ignorance of the fine
arts.--His religious intolerance.--I declare my inability to sign the
Thirty-nine Articles.

The various mental activities hinted at in the preceding chapters had
naturally a retarding effect upon my classical studies, which I had
never greatly taken to. It seemed then, and it seems to me still, that
for one who does not intend to make a living by teaching them, the dead
languages, like all other pursuits, are only worth a limited amount of
labor. It may appear paradoxical at first, but it is true, that one
reason why I did not like Latin and Greek was because I was extremely
fond of reading. The case is this: If you are fond of reading and have
an evening at your disposal, you will wish to read, will you not? But
_construing_ is not reading; it is quite a different mental operation.
When you _read_ you think of the scenes and events the author narrates,
or you follow his reasoning; but when you _construe_ you think of cases
and tenses, and remember grammatical rules. I could read English and
French, but Latin and Greek were only to be construed _a coups de

The case may be illustrated by reference to an amusement. A man who is
indifferent to rowing cares very little what sort of boat he is in, and
toils contentedly as peasants do in their heavy boots, but a lover of
rowing wants a craft that he can move. This desire is quite independent
of the merits of the craft itself, considered without reference to the
man. A sailing yacht may he a beautiful vessel, but an Oxford oarsman
would not desire to pull one of her cumbersome sweeps.

I was at that time a private pupil of Dr. Butler's, and was getting on
at such a very moderate pace that he began to be anxious about his
responsibility. My guardian and he had decided together that I was to be
sent to Oxford, and it was even settled to which college, Balliol; and
my dear guardian expected me to come out in honors, and be a Fellow of
my college and a clergyman. That was her plan; and a very good scheme of
life it was, but it had one defect, that of being entirely inapplicable
to the human being for whom it was intended. I looked forward to Oxford
with anything but pleasure, and, indeed, considered that there was an
insuperable obstacle to my going there. In those days most of the good
things in life were kept as much as possible for members of the Church
of England, and it was necessary to sign the Thirty-nine Articles on
entering the University. This I could not do conscientiously, and would
not do against the grain of my conviction. I looked upon this obstacle
as insuperable; but if I had been as indifferent on such questions as
young men generally are, there would still have remained a difficulty in
my own nature, which is a rooted dislike to everything which is done for
social advancement. I might possibly have desired to be a scholar, but
cannot imagine myself desiring a degree. However, I might have taken the
trouble to get a degree, simply to please my guardian, if there had not
been that obstacle about the Thirty-nine Articles.

From this time, during a year or two, there was a sort of game of
cross-purposes between me and my guardian, as I had not yet ventured to
declare openly my severance from the Church of England, and my
consequent inability to go to one of her universities. The enormous
weight of social and family pressure that is brought to bear on a youth
with reference to these matters must be my excuse for a year or two of
hypocrisy that was extremely irksome to me; but besides this I have a
still better excuse in a sincere unwillingness to give pain to my dear
guardian, and in the dread lest the declaration of heresy might even be
dangerous to one whom I knew to be suffering from heart disease. I
therefore lived on as a young member of the Church of England who was
studying for Oxford, when in fact I considered myself no longer a member
of that Church, and had inwardly renounced all intention of going to
either of the Universities, which she still kept closed against the

The inward determination not to go to Oxford or Cambridge had a bad
effect on my classical studies, as I had no other object in view whilst
pursuing them than the intellectual benefit to be derived from the
studies themselves, and I had not any very great faith in that benefit.
The most intelligent men I knew did not happen to be classical scholars,
and some men of my acquaintance who _were_ classical scholars seemed to
me quite impervious to ideas concerning science and the fine arts. Even
now, after a much larger experience, I do not perceive that classical
scholarship opens men's minds to scientific and artistic ideas, or even
that scholarship gives much appreciation of literary art and excellence.
Still, it is better to have it than to be without it. There is such a
thing as a scholarly temper,--a patient, careful, exact, and studious
temper,--which is valuable in all the pursuits of life.

Mr. Butler had been for some time my private tutor--which means that I
prepared my work at Hollins in the morning, and went to read with Mr.
Butler in the afternoon. The plan was pleasant enough for me, but it was
not advantageous, because what I most wanted was guidance during my
hours of study,--such guidance as I had at Doncaster. However, I read
and wrote Latin and Greek every day, and learned French at the same
time, as Mr. Butler had a taste for modern languages. This went on until
he became rather alarmed about my success at Oxford (which for reasons
known to the reader troubled me very little), and told my guardian that
she ought to send me to some tutor who could bestow upon me more
continuous attention. I was as near as possible to being sent to a tutor
at Brighton,--a reverend gentleman with aristocratic connections,--but
he missed having me by the very bait which he held out to attract my
guardian. He boasted in a letter of the young lords he had educated, and
said he had one or two still in the house with him. We had a near
neighbor and old friend who was herself very nearly connected with two
of the greatest families in the peerage, and as she happened to call
upon us when my guardian received the letter, it was handed to her, and
she said: "That bit about the young lords is not a recommendation; the
chances are that P. G. would find them proud and disagreeable." As for
me, the whole project presented nothing that was pleasant. I disliked
the south of England, and had not the slightest desire to make the
acquaintance of the young noblemen. It was therefore rather a relief
that the Brighton project was abandoned.

It happened then that my dear guardian did the only one foolish and
wrong thing she ever did in her whole life. She sent me to a clergyman
in Yorkshire, who had been a tutor at Oxford, and was considered to be a
good "coach,"--so far he may seem to have been the right man,--but he
was unfortunately exactly the man to inspire me with a complete disgust
for my studies. He had no consideration whatever for the feelings of
other people, least of all for those of a pupil. He treated me with open
contempt, and was always trying to humiliate me, till at last I let him
understand that I would endure it no longer. One day he ordered me to
clean his harness, with a peremptoriness that he would scarcely have
used to a groom, so I answered, "No, sir, I shall not clean your
harness; that is not my work." He then asked whether I considered myself
a gentleman. I said "yes," and he retorted that it would be a good thing
to thrash the gentility out of me; on which I told him that if he
ventured to attempt any such thing I should certainly defend myself. I
was a well-grown youth, and could have beaten my tutor easily. One day
he attempted to scrape my face with a piece of shark's skin, so I seized
both his wrists and held them for some time, telling him that the jest,
if it was a jest, was not acceptable.

As my tutor was very handsomely paid for the small amount of trouble he
took with me, my guardian had inserted in the agreement a clause by
which he was either to keep my horse in his stable, or else let me have
the use of one of his own. He preferred, for economy's sake, to mount
me; so in accordance with our agreement I innocently rode out a little
in the early mornings, long before the hour fixed for our Greek reading
together. As my tutor rose late, he was not aware of this for some time;
but at length, by accident, he found it out, and then an incident
occurred which exactly paints the charming amenity of the man.

His stable-boy had brought the horse to the gate, and I was just
mounting when my tutor opened his bedroom window, and called out, "Take
that horse back to the stable immediately!" I said to the servant, who
hesitated, that it was his duty to obey his master's orders, and
dismounted; then I went to my lodgings in the village, and wrote a note
to the tutor, in which I said that I expected him to keep his agreement,
and in accordance with it I should ride out that day. I then left the
note at the house, saddled the animal myself, and rode a long distance.
From that time our relations were those of constrained formality, which
on the whole I much preferred. My tutor assumed an air of injured
innocence, and treated me with a clumsy imitation of politeness which
was intended to wound me, but which I found extremely convenient, as the
greater the distance between us the less intercourse there would be.
However, after that demonstration of my rights, I kept a horse of my
own--a much finer animal--at a farmer's.

The intellectual influence of my present tutor was disastrous, by the
reaction it produced. He was a fanatical admirer of the ancient authors
who wrote in Latin and Greek, and was constantly expressing his contempt
for modern literature, of which he was extremely ignorant. I was fond of
reading, and had English books in my lodgings which were my refuge and
solace after the pedantic lectures I had to undergo. My love for Scott
was still very lively (as indeed it is to this day), but I had now
extended my horizon and added Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, and other modern
authors to my list. My tutor had all the hatred for Byron which
distinguished the clergy in the poet's life-time, and he was constantly
saying the most unjust things against him; as, for example, that the
"Bride of Abydos" was not original, but was copied from the Greek of
Moschus. This clerical hatred for Byron quite prevented my tutor from
acquiring any knowledge of the poet; but he had seen a copy of his works
at my lodgings, and this served as a text for the most violent
diatribes. As for Shelley, he knew no more about him than that he had
been accused of atheism. He had heard of Moore, whom he called "Tommy."
I believe he had never heard of Keats or Tennyson; certainly he was
quite unacquainted with their poems. He had a feeble, incipient
knowledge of French, and occasionally read a page of Moliere, with an
unimaginable pronunciation; but he knew nothing really of any modern
literature. On the other hand, his knowledge of the Greek and Latin
classics was more intimate than that possessed by any other teacher I
had ever known. He was a thorough, old-fashioned scholar, with all the
pride of exact erudition, and a corresponding contempt for everybody who
did not possess it. I do not at this moment remember that he ever
referred to a dictionary. I only remember that he examined my Liddell
and Scott to see whether those modern lexicographers had done their work
in a way to merit his approval, and that he thought their book might be
useful to me. He had some knowledge of astronomy, and was building a
reflecting telescope which he never completed; but I remember that he
was often occupied in polishing the reflectors whilst I was reading, and
that his hand went on rubbing with a bit of soft leather, and a red
powder, when he would deliver the clearest disquisitions on the
employment of words by Greek authors, most of which I was not
sufficiently advanced to profit by. His manner with me was impatient,
and often rude and contemptuous. What irritated him especially in me was
the strange inequality of my learning, for I was rather strong on some
points, and equally weak on others; whilst he himself had an
irresistible regularity of knowledge, at least in Latin and Greek.

We did absolutely nothing else but Latin and Greek during my stay with
this tutor, and I suppose I must have made some progress, but there was
no _feeling_ of progress. In comparison with the completeness of my
master's terrible erudition it seemed that my small acquirements were
nothing, and never could be more than nothing. On the other hand, the
extreme narrowness of his literary tastes led me to place a higher value
on my own increasing knowledge of modern literature, and conclusively
proved to me, once for all, that a classical education does not
necessarily give a just or accurate judgment. "If a man," I said to
myself, "can be a thorough classical scholar as my tutor is, and at the
same time so narrow and ignorant, it is clear that a classical training
does not possess the virtue of opening the mind which is ascribed to

Besides his narrowness with regard to modern literature of all kinds, my
tutor had the usual characteristic of the classical scholars of his
generation, a complete ignorance and misunderstanding of the fine arts.
All that he knew on that subject was that a certain picture by Titian
was shameful because there was a naked woman in it; and I believe he had
heard that Claude was a famous landscape-painter, but he had no
conception whatever of the aims and purposes of art. One of his
accusations against me was that, from vanity, I had painted a portrait
of myself. As a matter of fact, the little picture was a portrait of
Lord Byron, done from an engraving; but any artist may, without vanity,
make use of his own face as a model.

In religion my tutor was most intolerant. He could not endure either
Roman Catholics or Dissenters of any kind, and considered no terms harsh
enough for infidels. He told with approbation the story of some bigot
like himself, who, when an unbeliever came into his house, had loudly
ordered the servant to lock up the silver spoons. He possessed and read
with approbation one of those intolerant books of the eighteenth century
entitled, "A Short Method with Deists," in which the poor Deists were
crushed beneath the pitiless heel of the dominant State Church. It
happened one day, by a strange chance, that an antiquary brought a
Unitarian minister, who also took an interest in archaeology, to visit
the church where my tutor officiated, in which, there were some old
things, and as they stayed in the church till our early dinner-time, my
tutor could hardly do otherwise than offer them a little hospitality.
When the guests had gone (I hope they enjoyed the conversation, which
seemed to me artificial and constrained) my tutor said to me: "That man,
that Unitarian, will go to hell! All who do not believe in the Atonement
will go to hell!" I said nothing, but thought that the mild antiquary
who sat with us at table might deserve a less terrible fate. My tutor
troubled me less, perhaps, about theology than might have been expected.
He intended to inflict much more theology upon me than I really had to
undergo, thanks to his indolence, and the craft and subtlety with which
I managed to substitute other work for it. Still, it was a trial to me
to have to look acquiescent, or at least submissive and respectful,
whilst he said the most unjust and intolerant things about those who
differed from him, and with whom I often secretly agreed. And of course
I had to listen to his sermons every Sunday, and to go through the
outward seemings of conformity that my master had power enough to exact
from me. Beyond the weekly services in the church he fulfilled scarcely
any of the duties of a parish clergyman. He rose about eleven in the
morning, and spent his time either in mechanical pursuits or in
desultory reading, often of the Greek and Latin classics. In fact, my
tutor's mind was so imbued with the dead languages that he was unable to
write his own, but had constant recourse to Greek and Latin to make his
meaning clear.

A year spent with this clergyman, with whom I had not two ideas in
common, produced an effect upon me exactly opposite to that which had
been intended. My feelings towards the ancient classics had grown into
positive repugnance when I saw the moderns so unjustly sacrificed to
them, and my love for the moderns had increased to the point of
partisanship. My tutor's injustice towards Dissenters and unbelievers
had also, by a natural reaction, aroused in me a profound sympathy for
these maligned and despised people, and I would willingly have joined
some dissenting body myself if I could have found one that had exactly
my own opinions; but it seemed useless to leave the Church of England
for another community if I were no more in accordance with the new than
with the old. The fact that my master had been a tutor at Oxford and was
always boasting about his university career--he openly expressed his
contempt for men who "had never seen the smoke of a university"--made me
sick of the very name of the place, and to this day I have never visited
it. In a word, my tutor made me dislike the very things that it was his
business to make me like, and if I had ever felt the least desire for a
degree he would have cured me of it, as it was impossible to desire
honors that were accessible to so narrow a mind as his, a mind fit for
nothing but pedagogy, and really unable to appreciate either literature
or art.

At the end of a year, therefore, I said plainly to my guardian that I
was doing no good, and that it was useless to prepare me any further for
Oxford, as I could not conscientiously put my name to the Thirty-nine

If, in those days, any human being in our class of society in England
had been able to conceive of such a thing as education not in clerical
hands, I might have gone on with my classical studies under the
direction of a layman; but education and the clergy were looked upon as
inseparable; even by myself. My education, therefore, came momentarily
to a stand-still, though it happened a little later that a sense of its
imperfection made me take it up again with fresh energy on my own
account, and I am still working at it, in various directions, at the
mature age of fifty-two.



Choice of a profession.--Love of literature and art.--Decision to make
trial of both.--An equestrian tour.--Windermere.--Derwentwater.--I take
lessons from Mr. J. P. Pettitt.--Ulleswater.--My horse Turf.--Greenock,
a discovery.--My unsettled cousin.--Glasgow.--Loch Lomond.
--Inverary.--Loch Awe.--Inishail.--Innistrynich.--Oban.--A sailing
excursion.--Mull and Ulva.--Solitary reading.

The question of a profession now required an immediate decision. My
guardian's choice for me had formerly been the Church, but that was not
exactly suited to my ways of thinking. The most natural profession for a
young man in my position would have been the law, but my father had
expressly desired that I should not adopt it, as he was sick of it for
himself, and wished to spare me its anxieties. The cotton trade required
a larger disposable capital than I possessed, to start with any chance
of success.

My own desires were equally balanced between two pursuits for which I
had a great liking, and hoped that there might be some natural aptitude.
One of these was literature, and the other painting. A very moderate
success in either of these pursuits would, it seemed to me, be more
conducive to happiness than a greater success in some less congenial
occupation. My fortune was enough for a bachelor, and I did not intend
to marry, at least for a long time.

There was no thought of ambition in connection with the desire to follow
one of these two pursuits, beyond that of the workman who desires to do
well. I mean, I had no social ambition in connection with them. It
seemed to me that the liberty of thought which I valued above everything
was incompatible, in England, with any desire to rise in the world, as
unbelievers lay under a ban, and had no chance of social advancement
without renouncing their opinions. This was an additional reason why I
should seek happiness in my studies, as a worldly success was denied to

The reader may perhaps think that I had not much, in the way of social
advancement, to renounce, but in fact I had a position remarkably full
of possibilities, that a man of the world could have used to great
advantage. I had independent means, enough to enable me, as a bachelor,
to live like a gentleman; I belonged to one of the oldest and
best-descended families in the English untitled aristocracy, had a
retentive memory, a strong voice, and could speak in public without
embarrassment. A man of the world, in my position, would have found his
upward course straight before him. He would simply have made use of the
Church as an instrument (it is one of the most valuable instruments for
the worldly), have given himself the advantages of Oxford, married for
money, offered his services to the Conservative party, and gone into
Parliament. [Footnote: The reader may wonder why the _Conservative_
party is specially mentioned. It is mentioned simply because all my
relations and nearly all my influential friends (who could have pushed
me) belonged to it. The Conservative party is also the one that gives
the best social promotion to those who serve it. There have been many
little Beaconsfields.]

It would have been much easier to do all that than to make a reputation
either in literature or painting,--easier, I mean, for a man starting in
life with so many good cards in his hand as I had.

I have been sometimes represented as an unsuccessful painter who took to
writing because he had failed as an artist. It is, of course, easy to
state the matter so, but the exact truth is that a very moderate success
in either literature or art would have been equally acceptable to me, so
that there has been no other failure in my life than the usual one of
not being able to catch two hares at the same time. Very few dogs have
ever been able to do that.

I decided to try to be a painter and to try to be an author, and see
what came of both attempts. My guardian always thought I should end by
being an author, and though she had no prejudice against painting, she
looked upon it as a pursuit likely to be very tedious, at times, to
those who practise it, in which she was quite right. It is generally a
hard struggle, requiring infinite patience, even in the clever and

One of the first things I did was to go on horseback to the English Lake
district in the summer of 1852, with the intention of continuing the
journey, still on horseback, into the mountainous regions of Scotland.
Unfortunately this project could not be executed with the horse I then
possessed, the most dangerous, sulky, resolute, and cunning brute I ever
mounted. I rode him as far as Keswick, where a horse-breaker tried him
and said his temper was incurable, recommending me to have him shot. The
advice was excellent, but I could not find it in my heart to destroy
such a fine-looking animal, so I left him in grass at Penrith, and went
on to Scotland by the usual means of travelling,--a change that I regret
to this day.

I had materials with me for painting studies in oil, and painted at


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