Philip Gilbert Hamerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al

Part 3 out of 11

Windermere and Derwentwater. It was an inexpressible pleasure to see
these lakes, and a mental torment not to be able to paint them better.

My first sight of Windermere (or of any natural lake, for I had hitherto
seen nothing but fish-ponds and reservoirs) was enjoyed under peculiarly
impressive circumstances. I had been riding alone or walking by the side
of my horse during the night, and arrived at the lake shore by the
guidance of a star. I wrote down my first impression next day, and have
kept the words.

"I could not find the way to the little harbor of Bowness, and so went
on for a considerable distance till I came to a gate which, as I knew,
from the position of the north star, would lead directly to the lake
across the fields. There was a small and scarcely traceable footpath,
and a board to warn trespassers. However, I fastened the horse to the
gate and proceeded. I soon arrived at the shore, and was overawed by a
scene of overpowering magnificence. The day was just dawning. The water
mirrored the isles, except where the mist floated on its surface and
wreathed round their bases. The trees were massed by it into domes and
towers that seemed to float on the cloudy lake as if by enchantment. The
stars were growing pale in the yellowing east; the distant hills were
coldly blue, till far away lake and hill and sky melted into cloud.

"Opposite, I saw the dark form of an island rising between me and the
other shores, strongly relieved against the mist which crept along the
base of the opposite mountain and almost clambered to its dark summit.
The reflection of the dark upper part of the mountain (which rose clear
of the mist) fell on the lake in such a manner as to enclose that of the
island. In another direction an island was gradually throwing off its
white robe of mist, and the light showed through the interstices of the
foliage that I had taken for a crag.

"I had a pistol with me, and tried the echo, though it seemed wrong to
disturb a silence so sublime. I fired, and had time to regret that there
was no echo before a peal of musketry came from the nearer hills and
then a fainter peal from the distance, followed by an audible

This is the kind of travel for the enjoyment of natural beauty. One
should be either quite alone, or have a single companion of the same
tastes, and one should be above all commonplace considerations about
hours. Samuel Palmer often walked the whole night alone, for the
pleasure of observing the beautiful changes between sunset and sunrise.

In the evening there was a fine red sunset followed by moonlight, so I
took a boat and rowed out in the moonlight alone. This first experience
of lake scenery was an enchantment, and it had a great influence on my
future life by giving me a passion for lakes, or by increasing the
passion that (in some inexplicable way) I had felt for them from
childhood. One of the earliest poems I had attempted to compose began
with the stanza,--

"A cold and chilly mist
Broodeth o'er Winandermere,
And the heaven-descended cloud hath kissed
The still lake drear."

I had already tried to paint lake scenery, in copying a picture, and my
favorite illustrations in the Abbotsford edition of Scott's works were
the lochs that I was now to see for the first time.

After a night at Ambleside I saw Rydal Water in sunshine and calm, with
faint breezes playing on its surface, and rode on to Keswick through the
Vale of St. John. The only way in which it was possible to ride the
brute I possessed was in putting him behind a carriage, which he
followed as if he had been tied to it. In this manner I reached Keswick,
after apologizing to a family party for dogging their carriage so
closely. As soon as the vehicle came to a stop opposite the hotel, my
horse, Turf, threw out his heels vigorously in the crowd. Luckily he
hurt nobody, but the bystanders told me that one of his shoes had been
within six inches of a young lady's face. A vicious horse is a perpetual
anxiety. Turf kicked in the stable as well as out of it, and hit a groom
on the forehead a few days later. The man would probably have been
killed without the leather of his cap.

Finding an artist at Keswick, Mr. J. P. Pettitt, I asked his advice and
became his pupil for a few days. I climbed Skiddaw during the night with
one of Mr. Pettitt's sons, who was a geologist and a landscape-painter
also. When we got to the top of the mountain we were enveloped in a
thick mist, which remained till we descended; but I lay down in my
waterproof on the lee side of the cairn, and slept in happy oblivion of

Mr. Pettitt's lessons were of some use to me, but as all my serious
education hitherto had been classical, I was not sufficiently advanced
in practical art to prepare me for color, and I ought to have been
making studies of light and shade in sepia.

There was nothing more difficult in those days than for a young
gentleman to become an artist, because no human being would believe that
he could be serious in such an intention. As I had a fine-looking horse
in the stable at the hotel, Pettitt of course took me for an amateur,
and only attempted to communicate the superficial dexterity that
amateurs usually desire. It was my misfortune to be constantly
attempting what was far too difficult for me in art, and not to find any
one ready and willing to put me on the right path. I was very well able,
already, to make studies in sepia that would have been valuable material
for future reference, whereas my oil studies were perfectly worthless,
and much more inconvenient and embarrassing.

I was enchanted with the Lake District, seeing Windermere, Derwentwater,
and Ulleswater, besides several minor lakes; but although I delighted in
all inland waters and the Lake District was so near to my own home, I
never revisited it. The reason was that, after seeing the grander
Highlands of Scotland, I became spoiled for the English Lakes. There was
another reason,--the absence of human interest on the English lakes
except of a quite modern kind, there being no old castles on shore or
island. Lyulph's Tower, on Ulleswater, though immortalized by
Wordsworth, is nothing but a modern hunting-box. Nevertheless, I have
often regretted that I did not become more familiar with Wordsworth's
country in my youth.

The mention of Lyulph's Tower reminds me that when I landed there after
a hard pull of seven miles against a strong wind, I was kindly invited
to take part in a merry picnic that was just being held there by some
farmers of the neighborhood. A very pretty girl asked me to dance, and I
afterwards played the fiddle. The scene with the dancers in the
foreground on the green sward, and the lake and mountains in the
distance, was one of the most poetical I ever beheld.

Turf had been ridden from Keswick to Penrith by the horse-breaker
already mentioned, and with infinite difficulty. I would have left him
in the breaker's hands, but he refused to mount again, saying that he
had done enough for his credit, and so had I for mine. By his advice I
took the same resolution, and as nobody in Penrith would ride the brute,
he was left to grow still wilder in a green field whilst I went on to
Scotland by the train.

I had a cousin at Greenock who was learning to be a marine constructing
engineer. He was a young man of remarkable ability, who afterwards
distinguished himself in his profession, and might no doubt have made a
large fortune if his habits had not been imprudent and unsettled. At
that time he was tied to Greenock by an engagement with one of the great
firms where he was articled. He had rooms in a quiet street, and offered
me hospitality. One day I came in unexpectedly and found a baby in my
bed, when the door opened suddenly, and a very pretty girl with dark
eyes came and took the baby away with an apology. I immediately said to
myself: "My cousin has been privately married, that pair of dark eyes
has cost him his liberty, and that child is an infantine relation of
mine!" This discovery remained a long time a secret in my own breast,
and I affected a complete absence of suspicion during the rest of my
stay at Greenock, but it was afterwards fully confirmed. My cousin had,
in fact, married at the early age of nineteen, when he was still an
articled pupil with Messrs. Caird, and living on an allowance from his
father, whom he dared not ask for an increase. He was therefore obliged
to eke out his means by teaching mechanical drawing in the evenings; but
though his marriage had been an imprudence, it was not a folly. He had,
in fact, shown excellent judgment in the choice of a wife. The dark eyes
were not all. Behind them there was a soul full of the most cheerful
courage, the sweetest affection, the most faithful devotion. For
thirty-seven years my cousin's wife followed him everywhere, and bore
his roving propensity with wonderful good humor. What that propensity
was, the reader may partly realize when I tell him that in those
_thirty_-seven years my cousin went through _eighty_-seven removals,
some of them across the greatest distances that are to be found upon the
planet. The only reason why he did not remove to all the different
planets one after another was the absence of a road to them. This
tendency of my cousin Orme had been predicted by a French phrenologist
at Manchester when he was a boy. The phrenologist had said, after
examining his "bumps," that Orme would settle in a place for a short
time and appear satisfied at first, as if it were for good, but that
very soon afterwards he would go elsewhere and repeat the process. I
never met with any other human being who had such an unsettled
disposition. The consequence was that he often quitted places where he
was extremely prosperous, and people who not only appreciated his
extraordinary talents, but were ready to reward them handsomely, in
order to go he knew not whither, and undertake he knew not what.

I left Greenock by an early steamer for Glasgow, and remember this one
detail of the voyage. The morning air was brisk and keen, so I was not
sorry to breakfast when the meal was announced, and did ample justice to
it with a young and vigorous appetite. Having eaten my third poached
egg, and feeling still ready for the more substantial dishes that
awaited me, I suddenly recollected that I had already disposed of an
ample Scotch breakfast at my cousin's. Can anything more conclusively
prove the wonderful virtue of early hours and the healthy northern air?

After visiting Glasgow and the Falls of Clyde in drenching rain, I saw
Loch Lomond, which was my first experience of a Highland lake, and
therefore memorable for me. The gradual approach, on the steamer,
towards the mountains at the upper end of the lake was a revelation of
Highland scenery. The day happened to be one of rapidly changing
effects. A rugged hill with its bosses and crags was one minute in
brilliant light, to be in shade the next, as the massive clouds flew
over it, and the colors varied from pale blue to dark purple and brown
and green, with that wonderful freshness of tint and vigor of opposition
that belong to the wilder landscapes of the north. From that day my
affections were conquered; as the steamer approached nearer and nearer
to the colossal gates of the mountains, and the deep waters of the lake
narrowed in the contracting glen, I felt in my heart a sort of
exultation like the delight of a young horse in the first sense of
freedom in the boundless pasture.

The next sunrise I saw from the top of Ben Lomond, but will spare the
reader the description. It was a delight beyond words for an
enthusiastic young reader of Scott to look upon Loch Katrine at last.
Thousands of tourists have been drawn to the same scenes by their
interest in the same poet, yet few of them, I fancy, had in the same
degree with myself the three passions for literature, for nature, and
for art. If little has come of these passions, it was certainly not from
any want of intensity in _them_, but in consequence of certain critical
influences that will be explained later. I will only say in this place,
that if the passion for art had been strongest of the three the
productive result would have been greater.

From Tarbet on Loch Lomond I went to Inverary, and the first thing I did
there was to hire a sailing-boat and go beating to windward on Loch
Fyne. I made a sketch of the ruined castle of Dundera, which stands
between the road and the loch on a pretty rocky promontory. For some
time I had a strong fancy for this castle, and wanted to rent it on
lease and restore three or four rooms in it for my own use. The choice
would have been in some respects wiser than that I afterwards made, as
Dundera has such easy access to Inverary by a perfectly level and good
road on the water's edge, and by the water itself; but the scenery of
Loch Fyne is not as attractive as that of Loch Awe, and there is always
a certain inevitable dreariness about a salt-water loch which, to my
feeling, would make it depressing for long residence.

I had travelled from Tarbet with a rather elderly couple who were very
kind to me, and afterwards invited me to their house in Yorkshire. The
lady was connected with Sir James Ross, the Arctic discoverer, and her
husband had been a friend of Theodore Hook, of whom he told me many
amusing anecdotes. They were both most amiable, cheerful people, and we
formed a merry party of three when first I saw Loch Awe, as the carriage
descended the road from Inverary to Cladich on the way to Dalmally. As I
kept a journal of this tour, I find easily the account of my first
boating on Loch Awe. It was in the month of August when we had come to a
halt at Cladich:--

"In the afternoon I made a sketch of the bridge taken from the ravine.
It occupied me four hours, as the scene was of the most elaborate
character. We dined at four o'clock, and then strolled to the lake,
which was at some distance. Two boats were lying in a small stream which
emptied itself into the lake, so I pressed one of them into my service,
and was soon out upon the water. The boat was old, badly built, and
rickety. The starboard oar was cracked, and the port oar had been broken
in two and mended with bands of iron. The bottom was several inches deep
in water, the thwarts were not securely fastened, nor were they at right
angles to the keel. Out in the loch the waves were high, and the crazy
craft rolled and pitched like a beer-barrel, the water in her washing
from side to side. However, I reached the island called 'Inishail.' It
was a striking scene. Around me were the tombs of many generations. In
the far distance the dark ruin of Kilchurn was reduced almost to
insignificance by its background of rugged hills towering into the

"Night was coming on quickly as I rowed back to the mouth of the little
river. On reaching the inn I found that the people were getting anxious
about me."

This first row on Loch Awe has a pathetic interest for me to this day.
It was like one's first meeting with a friend who was destined to become
very dear and to exercise a powerful influence on the whole current of
one's life.

As my first impression of London had been, "This is a place an
Englishman ought to see once, but I will never come to it again," so my
first impression about Loch Awe was a profound sort of melancholy
happiness in the place and a longing to revisit it. I never afterwards
quitted Loch Awe without the same longing to return, and I have never
seen any place in the world that inspired in me that nostalgia in
anything like an equal degree.

There is an affinity between persons and places, but the Loch Awe that
won my affection exists no longer. What delighted me was the complete
unity of character that prevailed there, the lonely magnificent
mountains, the vast expanse of water only crossed occasionally by some
poor open boat, the melancholy ruins on island or peninsula, the
wilderness, the sadness, the pervading sense of solitude, a solitude
peopled only with traditions of a romantic past. It was almost as lonely
as some distant lake in the wilds of Canada that the Indian crosses in
his canoe, yet its ruined castles gave a poetry that no American waters
can ever possess. Such was Loch Awe that I loved with the melancholy
affection of youth before the experience of life had taught me a more
active and practical philosophy than the indulgence in the sweet sadness
of these reveries. But Loch Awe of to-day and of the future is as modern
and practical as the sea-lochs that open upon the Clyde. On my first
visit in 1852 there was neither steamer nor sailing-boat; now there are
fourteen steamers on the lake, four of them public, and the railway
trains pass round the skirts of Cruachan and rush through the Brandir
Pass. There is a big hotel, they tell me, just opposite Kilchurn, from
which place, by express train, you can get to Edinburgh in four hours.

The day after our arrival at Loch Awe turned out to be most beautiful (a
fine day in the Highlands seems, by contrast, far more beautiful than
elsewhere), and I shall never forget the enchantment of the head of Loch
Awe as our carriage slowly descended the hilly road from Cladich towards
Dalmally, stopping frequently for me to look and sketch. When we got
near the island, or peninsula, of Innistrynich, with its dark green oaks
and pasture-laud of a brighter green in the sunshine, and gray rocks
coming down into the calm, dark water, it seemed to my northern taste
the realization of an earthly paradise. I have lived upon it since, and
unwillingly left it, and to this day I have the most passionate
affection for it, and often dream about it painfully or pleasurably, the
most painful dream of all being that it has been spoiled by the present
owner, which happily is quite the contrary of the truth.

I went to Oban on the top of the coach in the most brilliant weather
that ever is or can be, alternate sunshine and rain, with white clouds
of a dazzling brightness. Under this enchantment, the barren land of
Lorne seemed beautiful, and one forgot its poverty. For the first time,
I saw the waters of Loch Etive, then a pale blue, stretching far inland,
and the distant hills of Morven were, or seemed to be, of the purest

When my new friends had left me at Oban, I hired a sailing-boat and two
men for a voyage amongst the Western Isles; but as she was an open boat,
the men did not like the idea of risking our lives in her on the exposed
waters of the Atlantic, so the voyage was confined to the Sound of Mull,
and I crossed the island to its western shore on foot. That voyage left
permanent recollections of grand effects and wild scenery of the kind
afterwards described by William Black in his "Macleod of Dare." As we
sailed across the Sound in the evening from Oban to Auchincraig, the sky
was full of torn rain-clouds flying swiftly and catching the lurid hues
from the sunset, whilst the distant mountains and cliffs of Mull were of
that dark purple which seems melancholy and funereal in landscape,
though it is one of the richest colors in the world. It was dangerous
weather for sailing, being very squally, and in the year 1852 I knew
nothing about the management of sailing-boats; but the men were not
imprudent, and after coasting under the cliffs of Mull we landed at
Auchincraig, where at that time there was a miserable inn. The next day
we had a glorious sail up the sound to the Bay of Aros, stopping only to
see Duart Castle. In walking across the island to Loch na Keal, we
passed through a most picturesque camp, that would have delighted
Landseer. There were hundreds of horses and innumerable dogs of the
picturesque northern breeds. It was the half-yearly market of Mull.

I shall never forget my first sight of Ulva, as we sat on the shore of
Mull waiting for the ferry-boat. Ulva lay, a great dark mass, under the
crimson west, reflected in a glassy sea. We had already seen Staffa and
Iona, pale in the distant Atlantic. Then the boat fetched us, and we
floated as in a poet's dream, till the worst of inns brought one back to
a sense of reality.

The boatman who accompanied me, whose name was Andrew, amused himself by
telling lies to the credulous inhabitants of Ulva, and one of his
inventions was that I was going to purchase the island. The other
boatman, Donald, slept in the boat at Salan, wrapped up in a sail. The
return voyage to Oban is thus described in my journal:--

"A fine young man asked me for a seat in the boat, which I granted on
condition that he would perform his share of the work. A favorable wind
carried us well over fifteen miles, half our distance, and the rest had
to be rowed. The sun set in crimson, and the crescent moon arose behind
the blue hills of Mull, over the dark tower of Duart. The scene was
shortly a festival of lights with stars in the sky and the water
brilliantly phosphorescent, so that the oar seemed to drip with fire.
Lastly, when we entered the smooth bright bay of Oban, a crescent of
lights shone around it, reflected in columns of flame upon the surface."

These were my chief experiences of the West Highlands during that first
tour, and they left what I believe to be an indelible impression, for to
this day I remember quite distinctly under what kind of effect each of
these scenes presented itself. The artistic results of the tour
consisted of sketches in oil and pencil, quite without value except to
remind me of the scenes passed through, and of the most decidedly
amateur character. I also wrote a journal, interesting to me now for the
minute details it contains, which bring the past back to me very
vividly, but utterly without literary merit. The wonder is how a youth
with so little manifest talent as may be found in these sketches and
journal could indulge in any artistic or literary ambition. My
impression is that the dull year of heavy work that I had gone through
with the Yorkshire tutor had done positive harm to me. Besides this, I
was living, intellectually, in great solitude. My guardian was very
kind, and she was a woman of sterling good sense, but she knew nothing
about the fine arts, nor could she afford me much guidance in my
reading, her own reading being limited to the Bible, and to some English
and French classics. My uncles were both extremely reserved men who did
not encourage my questions, so I was left for a while to get on without
other intellectual assistance than that afforded by books. My eldest
uncle, the owner of Hollins, said one day to my guardian, "Buy him the
'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' it will prevent him from asking so many
questions;" so she made the purchase, which gave me a large pasture, at
least for facts, and as for good literature, my little library was
beginning to be well stocked. I made no attempt at that time to keep up
my Latin and Greek, nor did I work seriously at painting, but read,
drew, and wrote very much as it happened, not subjecting myself to any
rigorous discipline, yet never remaining unoccupied.



A journal.--Self-training.--Attempts in periodical literature.--The time
given to versification well spent.--Practical studies in art.--Beginning
of Mr. Ruskin's influence.--Difficulty in finding a master in
landscape-painting.--Establishment of the militia.--I accept a
commission.--Our first training.--Our colonel and our adjutant.--The
Grand Llama.--Paying off the men.

On January 1, 1853, I began to keep a journal, and continued it, with
some intermissions, till June, 1855. The journal is long and minute in
detail, and affords me a very clear retrospect of my life in those
years; but it will be needless to trouble the reader with quotations
from it.

The title page of the diary is a clear indication of my pursuits. It is
called an "Account of time spent in Literature, Art, Music, and
Gymnastics." The reader may observe that Literature comes before Art, so
that if I am now an author rather than an artist, the reason may be
found in early studies and inclination. Music and gymnastics were, in my
view, only a part of general culture, yet of considerable importance in
their way.

As a scheme of self-training, this seems sufficiently comprehensive, and
to this day I feel the good effects of it. My reading was not badly
chosen, the drawing gave some initiation into art, and exercise
developed physical activity, not yet altogether lost in mature age.

Still, the experienced reader will see at a glance that this was not the
training of a young painter who, in a craft of such great technical
difficulty and in an age of such intense competition, must give himself
up more completely to his own special pursuit.

On the first page of this diary I find an entry about an article for the
"Westminster Review." I offered two or three papers to the
"Westminster," which were declined, and then I wrote to the editor
asking him if he would be so good as to explain, for my own benefit and
guidance, what were the reasons for their rejection. His answer came,
and was both kind and judicious. "An article," he told me, "ought to be
an organic whole, with a pre-arranged order and proportion amongst its
parts. There ought to be a beginning, a middle, and an end." This was a
very good and much-needed lesson, for at that time I had no notion of a
synthetic _ordonnance_ of parts. There was, no doubt, another reason,
which the editor omitted out of consideration for the feelings of a
literary aspirant, who was too young and too insufficiently informed to
write anything that could interest readers of the "Westminster."

I worked rather hard at writing English verse, and do not at the present
time regret a single hour of that labor. My general habit was to write a
poem, sometimes of considerable length, and then destroy it; but I kept
some of these compositions, which were afterwards published in a volume.
Verse-writing was good for me at that time for a particular reason. I
did not understand the art of prose composition, which is much less
obvious than that of poetry; but being already aware that verse-writing
was an art, approached it in the right spirit, which is that of
ungrudging labor and incessant care. The value or non-value of the
result has nothing to do with the matter; the essential point is that
verse was to me a discipline, coming just at a time of life when I had
much need of a discipline. Besides, the mind of a young man is not ripe
enough in reflection or rich enough in knowledge to supply substantial
and well-nourished prose; but the freshness and keenness of his feelings
may often give life enough to a few stanzas, if not to a longer poem.

It may be objected to this advocacy of verse, that as the poet's gift is
excessively rare, the probability is that a youth who writes verse
attacks an art that he can never master. No doubt the highest degree of
the poetic gift is most rare, and so, according to Christine Nilsson,
are the gifts needed to make a _prima donna_, yet many a girl practises
singing without hoping to be a Nilsson; and there are many poets in the
world whose verses have melody and charm though their brows may never be
"cooled with laurel." The objection to verse as a trifling occupation
comes really from that general disinclination to read verse which
excuses itself by the rarity of genius. Rossetti, who had genius in his
own person, was always ready to appreciate good poetical work that had
no fame to recommend it. [Footnote: Since the above was written I have
met with an address delivered by Mr. Walter Besant, the novelist, in
which he recommends the continuous practice of versification as a
discipline in the use of language most valuable to writers of prose.]

In the way of art at this time I painted three portraits and some
landscapes that were merely studies. It is needless to enumerate these
attempts, all of no value, and generally destroyed afterwards.

An important event occurred on March 22,1853. Being in Manchester, I
bought the first volume of Ruskin's "Modern Painters." In this way I
came under the influence of Mr. Ruskin, and remained under it, more or
less, for several years. It was a good influence in two ways, first in
literature, as anything that Mr. Ruskin has to say is sure to be well
expressed, and after that it was a good influence in directing my
attention to certain qualities and beauties in nature; but in art this
influence was not merely evil, it was disastrous. I was, however, at
that time, just the young man predestined to fall under it, being very
fond of reading, and having a strong passion for natural beauty. In the
course of the year 1853 I corresponded with Mr. Ruskin about my studies,
and I have no doubt of the perfect sincerity of his advice and the
kindness of intention with which it was given; but it tended directly to
encourage the idea that art could be learned from nature, and that is an
immense mistake. Nature does not teach art, or anything resembling it;
she only provides materials. Art is a product of the human mind, the
slow growth of centuries. If you reject this and go to nature, you have
to begin all over again, the objection being that one human life is not
long enough for that.

As it is possible that some critic may say that Mr. Ruskin's influence
was not so much opposed to the tradition of art as I am representing it
to be, and considering that I shall be dead when this is published, I
quote the following passage from a memorandum found amongst the papers
of Mr. Leitch, the water-color painter, and printed in his biography:--

"I knew a young man of talent, ardent and energetic, and anxious to be a
landscape-painter, who went to Mr. Ruskin and asked his advice as to
what he should do, what school he should follow, how he should practise,
and what master he should put himself under. I was told that the answer
he got was to this effect: 'Have nothing to do with schools; put
yourself under no master. Both the one and the other are useless. As
soon as you can draw a tree, or a tower, or a rock, in an ordinary
drawing-master way, that is sufficient. Take your materials then out to
nature, and paint in _her_ school. It is the only school I know of where
you can't go wrong.'"

I had asked Mr. Ruskin to recommend me some landscape-painter in London
with whom I could study for six months. His answer was: "There is no
artist in London capable of teaching you and at the same time willing to
give lessons. All those who teach, teach mere tricks with the brush, not
true art, far less true nature." He then recommended me to "go to
William Turner, of Oxford, not for six months, but for six weeks." I was
prevented from following this advice by a technical difficulty. Turner
of Oxford was a water-color painter. I had learned water-color with two
masters, but had never liked it or felt the slightest impulse to
continue it. One man is naturally constituted for one process, another
for another. There is something in my idiosyncrasy repugnant to the
practice of water-color and favorable to oil, and this in spite of the
greater convenience of water-color, and the facility with which it may
be left off and instantaneously resumed. In after-life I learned
water-color a third time with a very able artist, and now I am able to
paint studies in that medium from nature which are truthful enough, and
people seem to like them; but hitherto I have had no enjoyment whatever
in the work. The reader will please understand that this implies no want
of appreciation of the art when it is skilfully practised by others.
There are certain instruments of music that one may listen to with
pleasure without having the slightest desire to perform upon them.
[Footnote: My estimate of the rank of water-color amongst the fine arts
has steadily risen as the true technical relations of the graphic arts
have become clearer to me. Water-color is quite as great an art as
fresco, whilst it is incomparably more convenient.]

This being so, the reader will understand how I felt about going to
William Turner of Oxford. Hour for hour, I would as willingly have read
Greek as practise water-color washes. Not to trouble Mr. Ruskin,
however, any further with my affairs, I tried to induce several
well-known oil-painters to accept me as a pupil, but always met with the
same answer, that they "did not teach." It was rather a matter of pride
in those days for a successful painter to decline to give lessons; it
proved him to be above the grade of a drawing-master.

On March 29, 1853, a little event occurred which was one of the numerous
causes that turned me aside from the steady practice of art. One of our
friends called about the impending establishment of the militia, and
offered to use his influence with Colonel Towneley to get a commission
for me in the 5th Royal Lancashire, the regiment that was to have its
headquarters at Burnley. My guardian much wished me to accept, and I did
so to please her, as I had not been able to please her by going to
Oxford. There was nothing in a military life, even for a short time
every year, that had the slightest attraction for me. The notion of
rendering a patriotic service did not occur to me, for nobody in those
days looked upon the militia seriously. We were only laughed at for our
pains, and we had a great deal of trouble and hard work in getting the
regiment, including ourselves, into something distantly resembling
military order. Before we were called up for training I got some
initiation with a line regiment.

Our colonel was the representative of a very old Catholic family, the
Towneleys of Towneley. This family had been, skilful enough to avoid
shipwreck during the contests that attended the establishment of
Protestantism in England. It had survived in increasing wealth and
prosperity, and had now reached the calm haven of a civilized age, with
tolerant and liberal institutions. Everything promised a long
continuance. The head of the family had no male heir, but his brother
John, who was a major in our regiment, had one son, a cousin of Roger
Tichborne, and on this son the hopes of continuance rested. Those hopes
have not been realized. The young man died in his youth; his father and
his uncle also died; the property is divided amongst three heiresses,
and now for the first time, since surnames were invented, there is no
longer a Towneley of Towneley.

The colonel was a man of the kindest disposition and the most gentle
manners, without much confidence in himself. For all regimental matters
he trusted the adjutant, Captain Fenton, an officer who had seen much
active service in India. Fenton had by nature the gifts of a ruler of
men. When not on duty he was as gentle as a lady, a pleasant and amiable
talker, but on the parade-ground he ruled us all like a Napoleon. He had
lost one eye; people always believed in battle, but in fact, the loss
had occurred in a tennis-court since his return from India. The other
eye seemed to have gained, in consequence, a supernatural degree of
penetration. It looked you through! One day, on the parade-ground, that
eye glared at me in such a manner that I was quite intimidated, and said
what I had to say in rather a low tone of voice. "Speak up, sir! can't
you?" thundered the adjutant. "Mister Hamerton, I tell you to speak up!"

Fenton had an extremely pretty little bay horse, that had been in a
circus, so when he rode past the companies on parade, and the band
struck up, the horse used to begin dancing, keeping time beautifully,
and indeed danced all the way from company to company. This used to put
Fenton out of temper, and as soon as ever military usages permitted it,
he would stop the band with a gesture, even in the middle of a tune; in
fact, no matter at what moment. To such of us as had a musical
disposition, this was perhaps as difficult to hear as the dancing of
Fenton's horse could be to him. [Footnote: We had a major who did not
much like the band, and when he could stop it, he would say, "Tell that
band to hold its tongue."]

During our first training there were not billets enough in Burnley to
lodge all our men, so one company had to be sent to Padiham, and mine
was selected. I was a lieutenant, and had neither captain nor ensign,
being quite alone as a commissioned officer, but we possessed an
excellent old sergeant, who had seen active service, and, of, course, he
taught me what to do. My "mess" consisted of a solitary dinner in the
inn at Padiham, sufficient, but not luxurious. My guardian had wished me
to go into the militia to live rather more with young gentlemen, and my
only society was that of the old sergeant, who punctiliously observed
the difference of rank. On account of the distance from Padiham to
Burnley (rather more than three miles), we were excused the early
parade, but went through the two others. The consequence was, that at
the end of the training, although we had marched more than the other
companies, we had had only two-thirds of their drill, and when the grand
inspection by a general took place, it was thought advisable to hide my
company and another, that was also weak in drill, though for a different
reason. Luckily, there was a sort of dell in the parade-ground, and we
were ordered to march down into it. There we stood patiently in line
during the whole time of the review, and the inspecting general never
looked at us, which was what the colonel desired. Being destitute of
military ambition, I was quite contented to remain down in the hollow.
The most modest and obscure positions are sometimes the most agreeable.

We had a major who had been a colonel in the Guards. It was whispered
that he did not know very much about drill, having probably forgotten
his acquirements. One day, however, he commanded the regiment, and I
ventured to ask him a question. He answered with a good-humored smile,
that the commanding officer was like the Grand Llama of Thibet,--he
could not be approached directly, but only through the adjutant. My
belief was, and is, that my question puzzled him, for he was far too
good-natured not to have answered it at once if he had been able. I told
the story to my brother officers, who were amused by the comparison with
the Grand Llama, and we sometimes called the major by that high-sounding
title afterwards.

As a perfectly inexperienced young officer, without anybody but an old,
over-worked and used-up sergeant to help him, and a number of drunken
Irishmen in the company to vex and trouble him by day and by night, I
had as much to do during the first training as could be expected of a
youth in my situation. The last day of the training I committed the
blunder of advancing small sums of money to a number of men, who, of
course, immediately got drunk. My ignorance of popular manners and
customs had made me unable to realize the lamentable fact that if you
pay five shillings to a man in the improvident class he will at once
invest it in five shillings' worth of intoxication. I was still in
Padiham at two in the afternoon, finishing accounts, and I had to be in
Burnley with my men in time to get them off by the evening trains. When
we started many of them were so drunk that they could not walk, and I
requisitioned a number of empty carts, and so got the drunken portion of
the company to headquarters. Then there came the final settlement of
more than eighty separate accounts. Without the adjutant, Fenton, I
should never have got through it. He was a methodical man, who
understood the business. He got a quantity of small change, piled it in
separate heaps upon a table, had each man brought up before him, and
said authoritatively, "So much is owing to you--there it is!" In this
way we got through the payments, and the drunken men were lodged in
prison for the night.

I was glad to get back to my quiet literary and artistic occupations,
and my country home. We had been so busy during our first training, and
I had been so much separated from the other officers by my duty at
Padiham, that so far as society was concerned, I might almost as well
have been on the top of Pendle Hill. Besides that, Englishmen are slow
to associate--they are shy, and they look at each other a long time
before getting really acquainted.



A project for studying in Paris.--Reading.--A healthy life.--Quinsy.
--My most intimate friend.

If there is any good in an autobiography it ought to be as an example or
a warning to others; so at the risk of seeming to moralize, which,
however, is far from my intention, I will say something in this place
about my manner of life in those days.

First with regard to art, it was not my fault if all the painters I had
applied to said that they did not take pupils. There was a young
gentleman in our neighborhood who, though a rich man's son, worked
seriously at painting, and put himself every year under the direction of
a French artist in Paris, where he studied in an atelier. I had an idea
of joining him, but my guardian (who with all her sweetness of
disposition could be authoritative when she liked) put a stop to the
project by saying that she refused her consent to any plan involving
absence from England before the expiration of my minority. She had the
usual English idea that Paris is a more immoral place than London.
Perhaps it may be, but great capitals such as Paris, London, and Vienna
have this in common, that you may be moral in them, or immoral, as you
like; and if we are to avoid a town because immorality is practised
there, we must avoid all the great and most of the smaller centres of

For the present I worked from nature, but not with sufficient energy or
regularity. I had not found my path, and was always dissatisfied with my
studies. In literature my reading was abundant, and included the best
English poets and essayists. I had entirely given up reading Latin and
Greek at that time, and was not just then studying any modern language
in their place. Young men both over-estimate and under-estimate their
own gifts,--they do not know themselves, as indeed how should they? I
had an impression that Nature had not endowed me with a gift for
languages. This impression was not only erroneous, but the exact
contrary of the truth, for I am a born linguist.

My life in general was healthy and active. It included a great deal of
walking exercise, sometimes five hours in a day. This, with bathing,
kept me in fair health, though I never had what is called robust health,
that which allows its possessor to commit great imprudences with
impunity. I was once near losing life altogether by an odd result from a
small accident. My horse, which was a heavy and large animal, put his
foot accidentally on mine. The accident did not prevent me from riding
out on the moors, but when I got there the pain became so violent that I
held my foot in a cold rivulet. During the night the pain returned, and
then I foolishly plunged the foot into a cold bath. The result was that
the inflammation flew to the throat, and I had a quinsy which nearly
carried me off. I remember asking for everything by writing on a slate,
and the intense longing I had for lemonade.

My most intimate friend in those days was a young solicitor in Burnley,
a man of remarkable ability and naturally polished manners. His
professional duties did not leave him very much time for reading, but he
had a mind far above the common Philistinism that cannot appreciate
literature. I must have wearied him sadly sometimes by reading my own
verses,--always a most foolish thing to do, and at this day quite
remote from my notions of an author's dignity. Handsley was wisely
indifferent to literary fame, and never wrote anything himself except
his letters, which were those of a clear-headed man of business. He took
upon himself great labors and great responsibilities, which ripened his
faculties at a very early age, and he bore them with uncommon firmness
and prudence. I never met with his superior in the practical sense that
seizes upon opportunities, and in the energy which arrives in time.
"Opportunity is kind," said George Eliot, "but only to the industrious."
Handsley was always one of those to whom Opportunity is kind. If his
career had been in Parliament I am convinced that he would have risen
high. His merits were exactly those that are most valued in an English
Cabinet Minister. At the present time he has under his management some
of the largest collieries in Lancashire, and has been for many years one
of the most influential men in the neighborhood.



London again.--Accurate habits in employment of time.--Studies with Mr.
Pettitt.--Some account of my new master.--His method of technical
teaching.--Simplicity of his philosophy of art.--Incidents of his
life.--Rapid progress under Pettitt's direction.

On August 8, 1853, the writer of this book, who had promised and vowed
never to visit London again, went there to see the Royal Academy
Exhibition, and of course found it closed. If any one could have seen me
before the closed doors, knowing that I had come all the way from
Lancashire in the expectation of finding them open, he might have
derived some innocent mirth from my disappointment.

The Royal Academy being no longer accessible, I turned into the National
Gallery, and at once began to take notes in a pocket-book. This seems to
have been my habit at that time. I took notes about everything--about
painting, architecture, and even the Royal Mews. The notes are copious
and wordy. Though destitute of literary merit, they certainly serve
their purpose, for they recall things vividly enough, even in detail.
Nothing of any importance is omitted.

Although notes of that kind are unreadable, they are very useful
afterwards for reference, and my time could scarcely have been better
spent. I find I gave five hundred words to the description of Turner's
"Building of Carthage," and other pictures are treated with equal
liberality. I carried the same laborious system of note-making even into
exhibitions. In later life one learns the art of doing such work more

Having purchased a few prints for study, I returned to Lancashire and
resumed my strict division of time. Four hours a day were given to
practical drawing, but not invariably the entry is sometimes three or
two only. When art lost an hour, literature gained it, either in study
or practical writing. I was curiously accurate in my accounts of time,
and knew to half-an-hour what was spent on this pursuit or that. Here is
an extract in evidence of this tendency:--

"Thursday, August 13, 1853. Determined to-day to study the copper Albert
Duerer 80 hours, having given 83 to the wood-cuts. I have already given
the copper 101/2 hours, so that I have 691/2 to devote to it yet. I
shall also give 40 hours to Kreutzer's violin studies, and have already
practised them 24, which leaves 16. I shall now commence a course of
poetical reading, beginning with 50 hours of Chaucer, and as I gave him
11/2 last night it leaves me exactly 481/2."

This is carrying exactness to excess, and it is not given as an example
to be followed, but it had the advantage of letting me know how my time
expenditure was running. In this way it became clear that if I intended
to be an artist the time given to practical work was insufficient. As no
painter of eminence would take a pupil I bethought me of Mr. Pettitt,
who had given me lessons at Keswick. He consented to take me, but said
that he had left the north of England for London. In the Lake District
he had been earning a small income; in London he earned twice as much,
but his expenses increased in proportion. The change, however, was a
disappointment to me, as it would have been more profitable to study
from nature under my master's direction, than to copy pictures in a
London studio.

My new London life began at the end of December, 1853. It has always
been, in my case, an effort little short of heroic to go and stay in a
town at all. My dislike to towns increases in exact mathematical
proportion to their size. The notion of going to London to study
landscape-painting seemed against nature. The negotiations with Mr.
Pettitt had been begun with the hope of a return to Derwentwater.

However, one dark and drizzly evening in December I found myself seeking
the number my new master had given me, in Percy Street. He was not
there, that was his studio only; the house was in the suburbs. We met on
the following morning in the studio, where stood an enormous picture of
Nebuchadnezzar and the Golden Image. This was conceived on the
principles of John Martin, with prodigious perspectives of impossible
architecture, and the price was a thousand pounds. The labor involved
was endless, but the whole enterprise was vain and futile from beginning
to end. Pettitt could work honestly and laboriously from
nature,--indeed, he never stinted labor in anything,--but such a large
undertaking as this piece of mingled archaeology and art was alike
beyond his knowledge and outside the range of his imagination. He was
not to blame, except for an error of judgment. The demand for his work
was feeble and uncertain, so he thought it necessary to attract
attention by a sensation picture. To finish the history of this work
without recurring to it, I have only to add that it proved in all ways,
financially and otherwise, a failure.

Mr. Pettitt was a most devoted student of nature, and his best pictures
had the character of faithful studies. He would sit down in some rocky
dell by the side of a stream in Wales, and paint rocks and trees month
after month with indefatigable perseverance; but he had no education,
either literary or artistic, and very little imaginative power. His only
safety was in that work from nature, and he would have stuck to it most
resolutely had there been any regularity in the encouragement he
received; but his income, like that of all painters who are not
celebrated, was very uncertain, and he could not quietly settle down to
the tranquil studies that he loved. Anxiety had made him imprudent; it
had driven him to try for notoriety. The Nebuchadnezzar picture, and
other mistakes of a like magnitude, were the struggles of a disquieted
mind. Pettitt had a very large family to maintain, and did nothing but
paint, paint from morning till night, except for half-an-hour after his
light lunch, when he read the "Times." As the great picture did not
advance very rapidly, he worked by gaslight after the short London
winter day, and often pursued his terrible task till the early hours of
the morning, when exhausted nature could resist no longer, and be fell
asleep on a little iron bed in the studio. There were days when he told
me he had worked twenty hours out of the twenty-four. All this was a
perfectly gratuitous expenditure of time and health that could not
possibly lead to any advantage whatever.

Pettitt was a very kind and attentive teacher, and his method was this:
He would begin a picture in my presence, give me two white canvases
exactly the same size, and then tell me to copy his hour's work twice
over. Whilst he painted I watched; whilst I painted he did not look over
me, but went on with his own work. He was always ready to answer any
question and to help me over any difficulty. In this way he soon
initiated me into the processes of oil-painting so far as I required any
initiation, for most of them were familiar to me already. Unfortunately,
Pettitt had no conception of art. This needs a short explanation, as the
reader may allowably ask how a man without any conception of art could
be even a moderately successful artist.

The answer is that men like Mr. Pettitt regard painting simply as a
representation of nature, and their pictures are really nothing but
large and laborious studies. Pettitt was a most sincere lover of nature,
but that was all; he knew little or nothing of those necessities and
conditions that make art a different thing from nature. The tendency of
his teaching was, therefore, to lead me to nature instead of leading me
to art, and this was a great misfortune for me, as my instincts were
only too much in the same direction already. I could get nature in the
country, and that in endless abundance; what I needed at that time was
some guidance into the realm of art.

Pettitt taught me to draw in a hard, clear, scientific manner. He
himself knew a little geology, and one of his sons was a well-informed
geologist. I copied studies of cliffs that were entirely conceived and
executed in the scientific spirit.

The ideas of artistic synthesis, of seeing a subject as a whole, of
subordination of parts, of concentration of vision, of obtaining results
by opposition in form, light and shade, and color, all those ideas were
foreign to my master's simple philosophy of art. In his view the artist
had nothing to do but sit down to a natural subject and copy with the
utmost diligence what was before him, first one part and then another,
till the whole was done. My master, therefore, only confirmed me in my
own tendencies, which were to turn my back on art and go to nature as
the sole authority. Mr. Ruskin's influence had impelled me in the same
direction. Every one is the product of his time and of his teachers. It
is not my fault if the essentially artistic elements in art were hidden
from me in my youth. Had I perceived them at that time they would only
have seemed a kind of dishonesty.

If Mr. Pettitt had written an autobiography it would have been extremely
interesting. He was the twenty-fifth child of his father, and five were
born after him. He began by being apprenticed to a cabinet-maker, but
did not take to the work, and was put into a printing-office. Then he
served an apprenticeship to a japanner, and married very early on
incredibly small earnings, which, however, he increased by his rapidity
in work and his incessant industry. Before the expiration of his
apprenticeship he had a shop of his own, and sold japanned tea-trays and
bellows. When he was able to rent a house, he made all the furniture
with his own hands, and took a pride in having it very good, either
solid mahogany or veneered. He saved money in the japanning business,
and then on these savings undertook to teach himself painting. His
earliest works were sold for anything they would fetch. Whilst I was in
London he recognized one of them, a small picture that he immediately
bought back for sixpence. There had been a fall in its market value,
alas! for the original price was ninepence. Pettitt had a fancy for
collecting his early daubs, as they confirmed his sense of progress.
Having acquired some knowledge of painting, he engaged himself on weekly
wages as a decorator of steamboat panels. His employers wanted quantity
rather than finish, but Pettitt liked to finish as well as he could, and
recommended his fellow-workmen to study from nature. This led to his

During the time of his poverty, Pettitt made an excursion into France,
and being at Paris with a companion as penniless as himself, he had to
devise means for reaching England without money. The pair had nothing of
any value but a flute, and the flute had silver keys, so it was a
precious article. With the proceeds in their pockets the friends tramped
to Boulogne on foot, and there they arrived in the last stage of
poverty. They cleaned themselves as well as they could before showing
their faces at the hotel they had patronized when richer, and there they
stayed for some days in the hope of a remittance from an uncle. That
relative was of opinion that a little hardship would surely bring the
travellers back to England, and so he sent them nothing. What was to be
done? They avowed the whole case to the hotel-keeper, who not only made
no attempt to detain them, but filled their empty purses. The story
concludes prettily, for the obdurate uncle relented on their arrival,
and at once repaid the Frenchman.

Pettitt long preceded Mr. Louis Stevenson in the idea of travelling in
France with a donkey. He, too, explored some mountainous districts in
the centre or south of France with a donkey to carry his luggage, and
the two companions slept out at nights, as Mr. Stevenson did afterwards.
At last Pettitt met with an old woman whose lot seemed to him
particularly hard. She had to walk from a hill-village down to the
valley every day, nearly twenty miles going and returning; so Pettitt
made her a present of his donkey, and she prayed for him most fervently.

Another of my master's pedestrian rambles extended for fifteen hundred
miles along the coast of Great Britain. During this excursion he
accumulated a vast quantity of sketches, truthful memoranda, almost as
accurate as the photographs which have now superseded studies of that

Pettitt had made astonishing progress considering the humble position he
started from; but unfortunately for me he was not a man of culture, even
in art. One of his friends, a journalist, who often called at the
studio, and who saw a little deeper than most people, said to me one day
that the art of painting, as practised by many fairly successful men
(and he referred tacitly to my master), might be most accurately
described as "a high-class industry."

For my part I worked very steadily when in London, and made rapid
progress. It was not quite in the right direction, unfortunately.

No reader of these pages will be able to imagine what a sacrifice that
stay in London was for me. The studio was never cleaned, and very badly
ventilated. My master did not perceive this amidst the clouds of his own
tobacco smoke, but for me, who had come from perfect cleanliness and the
pure air of our northern hills, it was almost unbearable.



Acquaintance with R. W. Mackay.--His learning and accomplishments.--His
principal pursuit.--His qualities as a writer.--Value of the artistic
element in literature.--C. R. Leslie, R. A.--Robinson the
line-engraver.--The Constable family.--Mistaken admiration for minute
detail.--Projected journey to Egypt.--Mr. Ruskin.--Bonomi.--Samuel

My lodgings were at Maida Hill, and I soon became personally acquainted
with a writer whom I knew already by correspondence, Mr. R. W. Mackay,
author of "The Progress of the Intellect."

Mr. Mackay was for many years a kind friend of mine. An incident
occurred long afterwards which put an end to this friendship. I made
some reference to him in a review that was not intended to be unkind or
depreciatory in any way, as I always felt a deep respect for Mr. Mackay,
but unhappily he saw it in another light, and so it ended our
intercourse. In 1853, and for long afterwards, there was nothing to
foreshadow a rupture of this kind, and I am still able to write of my
old friend as if he had always remained so.

Mr. Mackay was primarily a scholar and secondarily an artist. He had
been educated at Cambridge, and being gifted with an extraordinary
memory, he accumulated learning in very abundant stores. As to his
memory, it is said that he once accepted a challenge to recite a
thousand lines of Virgil, and did it without error. He had a good
practical knowledge of French and German. He possessed a large
collection of water-color sketches made during his travels in Italy and
elsewhere, work of a kind that an amateur might judiciously practise, as
there was no false finish about them. They recalled scenes that had
interested him either by their natural beauty, which he appreciated, or
by association with classical literature.

I hardly like to use the word "gentleman," because it is employed in so
many different senses, but I never knew anybody who realized my
conception of that ideal more perfectly than Mr. Mackay. In him, as
Prince Leopold said of another, all culture and all refinement met. He
was extremely simple in all his ways, and averse to every kind of vanity
and ostentation. He had a sufficient fortune for a refined life, and did
not care for any kind of wasteful extravagance. All belonging to him was
simple and in good taste. He did not see very much society; that which
he did see included several men and women of distinguished ability.

Mr. Mackay's chief pursuit was one to which I would never have devoted
laborious years--theology on the negative side. His idea was that the
liberation of thought could only be accomplished by going painfully over
the whole theological ground and _explaining_ every belief and phase of
belief historically and rationally. My opinion was, and is, that all
this trouble is superfluous. The true liberation must come from the
enlargement of the mind by wider and more accurate views of the natural
universe. As this takes place, the mediaeval beliefs must drop away of
themselves, and we now see that this process is actually in operation.
So far from devoting a life to the refutation of theological error, I
would not bestow upon such an unnecessary and thankless toil the labor
of a week or a day.

The habit of study and reflection had done Mr. Mackay some harm in one
respect; it had withdrawn him too much from commonplace reality. He
always seemed to be moving in a dream, and to recall himself to the
actual world by an effort. This is a result of excessive culture that I
have observed in other cases. My conclusion is that all the culture in
the world, all the learning, all the literary skill and taste put
together, are not so well worth having as the keen and clear sense of
present reality that common folks have by nature.

Mr. Mackay was a laborious and careful writer, and he had a good style
of its kind, though it was more remarkable for strength and soundness
than for vivacity and ease. It was too much of one texture to be
attractive, and so he never became a popular author. Of course the
heterodoxy of Mr. Mackay's opinions was one great cause of his failure
to catch the public ear in England, but even that difficulty can be got
over by a great literary artist. He tried to do his best, as to literary
form, but he never condescended to write for the market in any way, and
used to maintain that if a book was to be profitable it _must_ be
written for the market.

I do not quite agree with this opinion. I should say, rather, that
literature resembles painting in being one of the fine arts, and that
when a book, like a picture, is a fine work of art, it has a great
chance of being a commercial success.

Renan's books have been very successful literary speculations, because
Renan is a first-rate artist. Mackay would have been a better artist in
literature if he had not been so much overpowered by the immense masses
of his materials.

Amongst the new friends I gained at Mr. Mackay's house was C. R. Leslie,
the painter. I was charmed with him from the first, and retain to this
day the liveliest recollection of his exquisitely urbane manners, and
even of the tones of his voice. Leslie was a man of unquestionable
genius, but entirely free from the tendency to despise other people,
which so often accompanies genius. On first meeting with him I took him
for a clergyman, and told him of it later. He felt rather flattered than
otherwise by the mistake, and I have no doubt that his modest nature
would at once refer to points on which the average clergyman would
probably be his superior. Some artists are lost in admiration of their
own works, so that the way to please them is to praise what they have
done themselves; but the way to please Leslie was to praise what
Constable had done. His admiration for Constable was quite as strong a
passion as Mr. Ruskin's admiration of Turner, though it did not express
itself in such perfervid language. I might at that time have become
Constable's pupil, indirectly. Leslie would have educated me in the art
of that master. I had nothing to do but work by myself, copying studies
and pictures by Constable in a studio of my own within a short distance
of Leslie's house, and he would have come to me often to advise.
Robinson, the eminent line-engraver, strongly urged me to put myself
under Leslie's direction, and this, I believe, was the Academician's
kind, indirect way of offering it. On the other hand, I did not wish to
hurt Pettitt by leaving him, and Constable's choice of quiet rural
subjects was to me, at that time, uninteresting. I disliked tame
scenery, not having as yet the artistic perceptions which are needed for
the appreciation of it.

Leslie introduced me to Constable's family, who were very kind, and they
showed me all the sketches of his that remained in their possession. My
love for precise and definite drawing made me unable to see the real
merits of those studies, though I was not much mistaken in thinking that
drawing of the quality I then cared for was not to be found in them.
Constable was essentially what the French understand by the word
_paysagiste_; that is, an artist who studies the every-day aspects of
common nature broadly. He would have done me much good at that time, if
I had felt interested in him, but the lover of the Western Highlands
could not bring himself to care for the fields and hedgerows about
Flatford. Pettitt, at any rate, loved our Lake District and Wales.
Again, though I had a hearty and just admiration for Leslie's unrivalled
power of painting expression in the faces of ladies and gentlemen in
drawing-rooms, I had never seen any landscape by him except tame
backgrounds, which seemed to me quite secondary, as they were.

I had at that time a mistaken belief (derived originally from Mr. Ruskin
and confirmed by Mr. Pettitt) that there was something essentially
meritorious in bestowing great labor on a work of art. It is well for an
artist to be habitually industrious, because that increases his skill,
but it is a matter of indifference whether this or that picture has cost
much or little labor, provided that the artist has clearly expressed
what he desired. Mr. Robinson, the line-engraver, gave me a good lesson
on this subject. We were looking at a drawing by Millais in Indian ink
which was penned all over in minute hatchings. I was full of admiration
for the industry of the artist, but Robinson thought it labor thrown
away. I met Mr. Ruskin personally one evening, and we examined a
water-color by John Lewis which was on a table-desk. The drawing was
fortunately glazed, for as Mr. Ruskin was holding the candle over it the
composite dropped on the glass. He pointed out the minute beauties of a
camel's eye, which was painted so carefully that even the hairs of the
eyelash were given, and the reflections on the mirror of the eye. This
praise of minute detail was at that time only too much in accordance
with my own taste. I had an intense admiration for such feats of skilled
industry as the wonderful lattices that Lewis used to paint with the
eastern sunshine streaming through them on a variety of different
surfaces. I met John Lewis himself. He was a fine-looking man, with a
beard which at that time was of the purest silvery white. I afterwards
had the advantage of a little correspondence with Lewis. He wrote well,
and expressed his opinions about art-work very clearly in his letters.
They amounted chiefly to this: Work always as much from nature as
possible, and give all the care you can.

At that time I had a settled scheme for going to travel and work in
Egypt, and it would have been better for me than Scotland on account of
the greater sameness of the effects. I mentioned this project to Mr.
Ruskin, who said that he avoided travelling in countries where he could
not be sure of ordinary comforts, such as a white table-cloth and a
clean knife and fork; still, he would put up with a great deal of
inconvenience to be near a mountain. Talking of Turner's paintings in
comparison with his water-colors, he said he would rather have half the
drawings than all the oil pictures. He compared a drawing of Nemi with
an oil picture that we could see at the same time, two works almost of
the same date, and gave reasons for preferring the water-color.

My Egyptian scheme brought me into relations with Bonomi, who at that
time was a famous traveller. Bartlett, the artist-traveller, whose works
had been very widely spread abroad by engraving, told me that when he
was ill of a fever at Baalbec he was nursed by a sheik who wore a beard
and rode an Arab horse. This sheik spoke English, and was, in fact,
Bonomi, who had adopted the manners of the wandering Arabs, and would
have remained amongst them if his English friends had not persuaded him
to return.

Bonomi was one of the liveliest little men I ever met. I feel almost
guilty of a fraud with regard to him, for his amiability towards me was
due in great part to his belief of my statement that I was going to
Egypt; yet I never went there, and shall certainly not go now. My only
excuse is that I sincerely believed the same statement myself. He said
that the effects of color and light in Egypt at morning and evening were
perfectly inconceivable. He recommended me to travel, not on the Nile
itself, but on the bank with camels, as that gave a greatly superior
view, both of the country and the river.

Mr. Samuel Sharpe was a charming, straightforward old gentleman, who
said what he thought, without any feeble concession to other people's
opinions. He did not share the prevalent enthusiasm for Turner, which
was of course in great part factitious, as many of the people who
praised Turner so warmly then had laughed at his pictures a few years
before. Mr. Sharpe thought that Turner was an unsafe guide for a young
landscape-painter to imitate. It is remarkable, as a matter of fact, how
little practical influence Turner has had upon the progress of landscape
art. Another and a stronger proof of the independence of Mr. Sharpe's
judgment was his opinion about England and Russia. He did not think it
necessary to oppose Russia's progress towards Constantinople by force,
but thought there was room enough for the two empires without collision.
If Mr. Sharpe's opinion had prevailed, there would have been no Crimean
War, but he and those who thought with him were very much isolated at
that time.

I met at his house a cousin of Miss Martineau, who told us some good
stories, especially about Tennyson. On this a brother of our host said
that he was once travelling when he met with a party of tourists, among
whom he recognized the Laureate. "Who _is_ that gentleman?" said they.
"He has been the life and soul of our party, and we cannot get a clue to
his name, for he has baffled us in every way, tearing it off his luggage
and out of the book he was reading." Mr. Sharpe betrayed the secret, not
much to the Laureate's satisfaction. When travelling in Scotland some
time afterwards I myself met with Tennyson, so a tourist kindly
explained who he was in these words: "That's Alfred Tennyson, _the
American poet_."

Such is fame!



A visit to Rogers.--His home.--Geniality in poets.--Talfourd.--Sir
Walter Scott.--Leslie's picture, "The Rape of the Lock."--George
Leslie.--Robert Leslie.--His nautical instincts.--Watkiss Lloyd.--
Landseer.--Harding.--Richard Doyle.

Mr. Leslie took me one afternoon to see old Mr. Rogers, the poet. When
we arrived he was out for a drive, so we quietly examined the works of
art in the house until his return.

The interest of that house was quite peculiar to itself. Even the
arrangement of the furniture had been unaltered for years, and as the
rooms, just as we saw them, had been visited by most people of note
during nearly two generations, they had an interest from association
with famous names that could not be rivalled, at that time, by any other
rooms in London. The dining-room, for example, was exactly in the same
state as when Byron dined there, and would eat nothing but a biscuit.
Leslie said: "I have seen Mrs. Siddons sitting on the corner of that
sofa near the fire, and Walter Scott walk up to her and shake hands."
Leslie mentioned many other celebrities, but none of them were so
interesting to me as the authors of "Waverley" and "Childe Harold."

Many of the material objects about us had a history of their own. A
stand that carried an antique vase had been carved by Chantrey when a
young unknown furniture-carver, and so had the sideboard, as Chantrey
reminded Mr. Rogers long afterwards, when he was received as a guest in
the same room. The fender, chimney-piece, and ceiling had been designed
by Flaxman, the panels of a cabinet had been painted by Stothard.

We went upstairs to see some pictures in Rogers' bedroom, in itself a
very simple, homely place, with the old man's flannels warming before
the fire. The picture in that room which pleased me most was a subject
borrowed from Raphael, by Leslie,--a lady teaching her boy to read,--but
it was treated freely by Leslie from other models. The boy was his son
George (the future Academician) when young; he had already begun to be

As we were examining this picture, Mr. Rogers returned from his drive
and received us in the dining-room. He said, "Mr. Hamerton, I think I've
seen you before," but I said he was mistaken, so he held out his hand
and went on: "Well then, I'm very glad to see you now, especially so
well introduced. Have you been all over the house? You have the honor of
knowing a very distinguished artist. Look at that picture on the
sideboard, of the poor babes in the Tower! Don't you like it? I think it
is beautiful, beautiful. Nobody ought to be able to look at such a
picture without shedding tears. See the light on the heads--oh! it is
beautiful!" Then he began to ramble a little, but soon came back to
realities, and invited Leslie to dine the next day and meet two
distinguished friends. "I'd rather have you by yourself," he added; "you
and I could do very well without the others."

This was the Rogers of 1854,--senile, as was natural at the age of
ninety-one years and eight months, yet still retaining much of the old
Rogers, hospitable, sometimes caustic, sometimes pathetic, and always a
true lover and appreciator of the fine arts. Leslie declared him to be
the only amateur who had knowledge enough to form a good collection
without assistance.

I dined with Leslie the same day, and the talk turned upon the poets.
Leslie said that the virtue of geniality was of great value to a poet,
and that if Byron had possessed the geniality of Goldsmith, he would
have been as great a poet as Shakespeare, but that his misanthropy
spoiled all his views of life. In saying this, Leslie probably
underestimated the literary value of ill-nature. Much of Byron's
intensity and force is due to the energy of malevolence. The success of
Ruskin's earlier writings was due in part to the same cause. In
periodical literature, it was pure _mechancete_ that first made the
"Saturday Review" successful.

Talking of Talfourd (who had lately died on the bench) Leslie said that
he was a high liver, and that led him to give an account of Sir Walter
Scott's way of life. At dinner he would eat heartily of many dishes and
drink a variety of wines. At dessert he drank port; and last of all a
servant brought him a small wooden bowl full of neat whiskey, which he
drank off. He then either wrote or talked till midnight, and refreshed
himself with a few glasses of porter before going to bed. Leslie did not
mean to imply that Scott was intemperate for a man of a robust
constitution who took a great deal of exercise, but only that, like
Talfourd, he was a high liver. It is remarkable, in connection with the
subject of Scott's own habits, that eating and drinking are so often and
so minutely described in his novels. His heroes and heroines always have
hearty appetites, except when they are laid up with illness.

A few days after our visit to Rogers, I went to see Leslie's picture of
"The Rape of the Lock," and met Robinson, the engraver, on my way. He
told me to expect the finest modern picture I had ever seen. It was
certainly one of the most perfect works of its class. The action and
expression of the sixteen figures were as lively as in a Hogarth, with
more refinement. Leslie was completely in sympathy with Queen Anne's
time, and reproduced it with unfailing zest and knowledge. He had been
very careful about details. The interior at Hampton Court had been
painted on the spot, and all the still life in the picture, even to a
fan, had been studied with equal accuracy. Mrs. Leslie's mother sat
looking at the picture, and making the liveliest comments on the subject
and the actors. She would get up without hesitation to see something
more nearly, and turn round with perfect balance of body to make her
remarks to the company. She appeared to me then to be about sixty, but
the age of her daughter made that impossible. _Her real age was
ninety-three!_ It seemed incredible that she was older than Mr. Rogers.
Her grandchildren were playfully sarcastic at times, to draw her out in

"We know, grandmamma, that you are a dandy yourself, so no wonder that
you admire the dresses in the picture."

"Yes, yes, I _do_ like people to be dressed as well as possible,--as
well, I mean, as they can really afford. I like them to wear the very
best materials as tastefully as they can." Whilst she was looking at the
picture, Mr. Leslie sat down by her side and read the passage from "The
Rape of the Lock" that his painting illustrated. It was a very
interesting scene--the master with his children about him, and his wife
and her old mother all looking at his last and greatest work, whilst he
was reading Pope's perfect verses so beautifully.

I have scarcely mentioned Leslie's sons yet. George, the future
Academician, was an intimate friend of mine in those days. He was a
clever talker, and he had the advantage--often precious to a taciturn
companion like me--of never allowing the conversation to flag for a
single instant. I think I never knew any one of the male sex, with the
exception of Francis Palgrave, who could keep up such an abundant stream
of talk as George Leslie. This led some of his friends to think that he
would never have any practical success in art, but he afterwards proved
them to be in the wrong. He had a frank, straightforward, boyish nature,
with a fund of humor, and a healthy disposition to be easily pleased.
His philosophy of life, under an appearance of careless gayety, was,
perhaps, in reality deeper than that of my learned friend Mr. Mackay;
for whilst the elderly scholar was laboring painfully and thanklessly to
elucidate the past, the young artist was enjoying the present in his own
way, and looking forward hopefully to the future. The buoyancy of
spirits that George Leslie had in those days is an excellent gift for a
young artist, because it carries him merrily over the difficulties of
his craft. His brother Robert was older and graver. He painted landscape
and marine subjects; but though his pictures have been regularly
accepted at the Academy he has had no popular success. This may be
attributed in great part to his habit of living away from London. Robert
Leslie has all his life had very strong nautical instincts, and very
likely knows more about shipping than any other artist. My belief is
that one reason why he has not been a very successful painter is that
he knows too much about nature, and lives too much in the presence
of nature, which is always overwhelming and discouraging. After
I knew him in London, Robert Leslie indulged his nautical instincts
in sailing and yacht-building, as well as in painting marine pictures.
Aided only by a single workman, he constructed a vessel of thirty-six
tons. With this and other yachts he has made himself familiar with
the southern coasts of England, and has frequently crossed the
Atlantic both on steamers and sailing-vessels. Now that we are both
getting elderly men I heartily regret not to have seen more of Robert
Leslie; but so it is in life,--so it has been particularly in _my_
life,--we are separated by distance from those who might have been our
most intimate and most valued friends. [Footnote: Robert Leslie had a
literary gift, and wrote some clever papers, which have been collected
and published under the title of "A Sea Painter's Log."]

Another friend, gained during my first stay in London, was Mr. Watkiss
Lloyd, who has given up many of the best years of his life to
intellectual pursuits. He has been much devoted to ancient Greek
literature and history, and has studied Greek art with unflagging
interest at the same time, so that he possesses an advantage over most
scholars in knowing both sides of the Hellenic intellect. He has a
manly, frank, and generous nature, with cheerful, open manners. Watkiss
Lloyd is one of several superior men amongst my acquaintances who have
not achieved popularity as authors. The reason in his case may be that
as he has never been obliged to write for money, he has never cared to
study the conditions of success. I told him once, when we were talking
on this subject, that in my opinion it was most necessary to have a
clear and definite idea of the kind of public one is addressing, and
that we ought to write to an especial public, as St. Paul wrote to the
Ephesians. Failure may be caused by having confused ideas about our
public, or by writing only for ourselves, as if our works were destined
to remain in manuscript like a private journal. A man may write what is
clear for himself, when it will require to be read twice or three times
by another. Besides this reason, I am inclined to believe that the
constant study of ancient Greek is not a good preparation for popular
English authorship. The scholar and the successful writer are two
distinct persons. They may be occasionally combined in one by accident,
but if the reader will run over in his mind the names of popular modern
authors, he will find very few distinguished scholars amongst them.

However this may be, Watkiss Lloyd is something better than a popular
author; he is an intellectual man, truly a lover of knowledge and of
wisdom. Without shutting his eyes to the evils that are in the world, he
does not forget the good. On one occasion, after a terrible malady that
had occurred to one dear to him, I said that undeserved diseases seemed
to me clear evidence of imperfection in the universe. He answered, that
as we receive many benefits from the existing order of things that we
have not merited in any way, so we may accept those evils that we have
not merited either. This struck me as a better reason for resignation
than the common assertion that we are wicked enough to deserve the most
frightful inflictions. We do not really believe that our wickedness
deserves cancer or leprosy.

I never wished to push myself into the society of celebrated persons for
the purpose of getting acquainted with them, but I plead guilty to that
degree of curiosity which likes to see them in the flesh. I knew
Landseer by sight, and probably rather astonished him once in a London
street by taking my hat off as if he had been Prince Albert. He used to
pass an evening from time to time at Leslie's house, and I met him
there. He then seemed a very jovial, merry English humorist, with a
natural talent for satire and mimicry; but there was another side to his
nature. If he enjoyed himself heartily when in company, he often
suffered from deep depression when alone. I remember seeing him by
himself when he looked the image of profound melancholy. At that time I
had warmer admiration for his art than I have now, and the general
public looked upon him as the greatest artist in England. No doubt he
was very observant, and had a wonderful memory for animals and their
ways, as well as some invention; he had also unsurpassable technical
skill, of a superficial kind, in painting.

Harding was another very clever artist whom I met at Leslie's. I had
correspondence with him a little as a teacher, and had studied his
works. He had taught many amateurs, including Mr. Ruskin and a clever
friend of mine in the North. I admired his skill, but disliked his
extreme artificiality of style, and the more I went to nature the more
objectionable did it appear to me. The kind of success which is attained
by forcing nature into drawing-masters' set forms never tempted me in
the least. Harding was at one time probably the most successful
drawing-master in England. The word "clever" characterizes him exactly.
He was clever in the art of substituting himself for nature, clever in
the wonderful facility with which he used several graphic arts
technically very different from each other, and clever especially in
that supreme tact of the successful drawing-master by which he makes the
amateur seem to get forward rapidly. He had immense confidence in
himself, and in his own theories and principles.

Another well-known artist whom I met at Leslie's was Richard Doyle. He
had great gifts of wit and invention, with a curiously small fund of
science,--genius without the knowledge that might have given strength to
genius. It is impossible, however, to feel any regret on this account,
for if Doyle's drawings had been thoroughly learned they would have lost
their _naivete_. He was intelligent enough to make even his lack of
science an element of success, for he turned it into a pretended
simplicity. His own face was mobile and expressive, and it was evident
that he passed quickly from one idea to another without uttering more
than a small percentage of his thoughts.

I remember dancing "Sir Roger de Coverley" when Landseer and Richard
Doyle were of the set. They were both extremely amusing, but with this
difference: that whereas Landseer evidently laid himself out to be funny
in gesture and action, the fun in Doyle's case lay entirely in the play
of his physiognomy. Leslie, too, had a most expressive face--not
handsome (I mean, of course, the elder Leslie; his son George is
handsome), but most interesting, and full of meaning.



Miss Marian Evans.--John Chapman, the publisher.--My friend William
Shaw.--His brother Richard.--Mead, the tragedian.--Mrs. Rowan and her
daughter.--A vexatious incident.--I suffer from nostalgia for the

Mr. Mackay took me to one of the evening receptions that were given at
that time by Mr. John Chapman, the publisher. On our way he spoke of
Miss Marian Evans, then only known to a few as a translator from the
German, and to still fewer as a contributor of articles to the
"Westminster Review,"--a periodical that she partly directed. Neither
the translations nor the articles revealed anything beyond good ordinary
literary abilities. Mr. Mackay told me, however, that this Miss Evans
was a very accomplished lady, and played remarkably well on the piano.

She was at Mr. Chapman's little conversazione, and performed for us. I
remember being well pleased with the music, and thinking that she was
one of the best amateurs I had heard, but I cannot remember what she
played, nor anything about her talk, which would probably be a series of
little private conversations with people that she already knew.

Mr. John Chapman was young at that time, and a very fine-looking man. He
had entered upon the most unprofitable line of business that he could
have chosen in the England of those days, the trade in philosophic
free-thinking literature of the highest class. The number of buyers was,
of course, exceedingly limited, both by the thoughtful character of the
works published, and by the unpopularity of the opinions expressed in
them. The marvel is that such a speciality in publishing could be made
to support itself at all. As a matter of fact, some of the wealthier
free-thinkers published their works, or those of others, at their own
expense, and some helped to maintain the "Westminster Review." Things
have altered wonderfully since then. At the present day the literature
of free inquiry is presented to the world by the richest and most
eminent publishing firms, and free-thinkers have access to the most
influential and the most widely disseminated periodicals.

Some readers of this autobiography may still look upon John Chapman's
speciality with horror; but such a feeling would be unjust. The books he
published were generally high in tone, and they certainly never
condescended to the use of unbecoming language in dealing with matters
held sacred by the majority of the English people. The only object of
that modest propaganda was to win for Englishmen the right to think for
themselves, and also to express their thoughts. That battle has been
won, and, for my part, I feel nothing but respect for those who had
courage to confront the stern intolerance of the past.

My society in London was not entirely confined to the pursuers of
literature and art. I had a few other friends, especially one old
school-fellow, William Shaw, afterwards an able London solicitor. His
mind was an odd compound of manly sense in everything connected with his
profession, and boyishness in other ways. He always retained that
boyishness, which was probably an excellent thing for him as a
relaxation from serious cares. He took little interest in the fine arts,
but at a later period he had the wonderful goodness to give house-room
to some of my unpopular and unsalable pictures, and went so far, in the
way of friendship, that he actually hung them in his dining-room! He was
very fond of recalling reminiscences of our childhood, especially what
he characterized as "the great Fulledge railway swindle." When we were
little boys we undertook the construction of a miniature railway on his
father's land, and issued shares to pay for the rolling plant and the
rails. We got together rather a handsome sum in this way from various
good-natured friends, and after the expiration of some weeks could show
them a rather long embankment. Then we got tired of spade work, and the
enterprise languished. Finally the works came to a standstill, and I
believe we spent the shareholders' money on something else, for
assuredly they never saw it again. After beginning so hopefully in the
art of getting up bubble companies, it is perhaps to be regretted that
we did not continue, as we might have been eminent financiers by this
time. My friend was very active in his youth. I have seen him run by the
side of a galloping horse in a field, holding by the mane, and vault on
the animal's back, after which it went on faster than ever and leapt a
little brook or a hedge. An odd incident occurs to my recollection just
now. My friend had a susceptible heart, and a ravishing beauty was
staying at a certain, country house, so we drove over to call there that
he might see her. I went with him, and we had a dog-cart with a very
lively horse. The drive was in the form of a great circle before the
front door, so he tried to turn to the left; but the horse had decided
for the right, and between them they effected a compromise by taking a
straight cut over the lawn and flower-beds, which presented a deplorable
appearance afterwards. Any one else would have felt a little confused
after such an accident, but Shaw relied upon the good-nature of the
ladies, who always forgave him everything in consideration for his
winning ways and his handsome face.

William Shaw's brother, Richard, was the first member of Parliament who
represented Burnley. I met him in London in 1854, and remember a
description he gave of an old gentleman who was then living permanently
at the Tavistock Hotel. That old gentleman was a perfect mystery; no one
knew where he came from: he never either wrote or received a letter, he
had no settled occupation, but read all the papers, and used to swear
aloud quite dreadfully when he found any fact or opinion that displeased
him. He compensated for this bad language by shouting "Bravo! bravo! Go
it, my boy!" when he found an article to his mind. He once rambled twice
round Covent Garden market without being able to find his way out, and
on discovering that he had got back to the Tavistock, attributed all his
difficulties to the waiter, and scolded him most furiously. The mystery
about him, and his odd manners, would have been an attraction for

Amongst other acquaintances that I made in London was Mead, the
tragedian of Drury Lane Theatre. I recollect admiring his "Iago" very
much. His countenance, which was agreeable and bland in private life,
could be made to express all the evil passions with astonishing power.
He was rather a skilful painter, having occasionally been able to sell a
picture for twenty pounds. When he had a little time to spare, Mead
would come and work on Pettitt's great picture of the Golden Image. He
once drew my portrait, and I drew his. My guardian was not quite pleased
that I should know an actor, but Mead attracted me by the superior tone
of his conversation. It was the first time in my life that I had met
with an accomplished talker; I had known plenty of talkers who were only
fluent, but Mead had always something interesting to say, and he
invariably said it with easy finish and good taste. In a word, he was a
master of spoken English, and did not fear to make use of his power, not
having the usual English false shame which prevents our countrymen from
saying things quite perfectly. Mead had tender feelings. Once after
reading in a newspaper the account of some battle of no great
importance, as we consider such events from a distance, he suddenly
realized, in imagination, the effect of the news on the relatives of the
killed and wounded, and burst into tears. Mead was good enough to accept
on one or two occasions the simple kind of hospitality that I could
offer him at my lodgings, and I find notes in the diary recording the
happy swiftness of the hours I spent with him.

I never made the slightest attempt to enter what is specially called
"London Society," though I had some friends or acquaintances who
belonged to it. My time was entirely taken up with work and visits to a
few houses. I am astonished on looking back to those days by the extreme
kindness of people who were much older than myself, and for whom my
society could have no other attraction than the opportunity it offered
for the exercise of their own goodness. I had one merit, that of being
an excellent listener, which has been a great advantage to me through
life. A distinguished Frenchman once said to me, "You are the best
listener I ever met;" but he had been accustomed to his own countrymen
who are not generally patient or attentive for more than a few seconds
at a time, and who have the habit of interruption.

It is possible, too, that my manners may have been good, for my dear
guardian, so kind and mild about most things, could not tolerate
anything like boorishness, and never hesitated to correct me. Another
effect of her influence upon me was that I liked the society of
well-bred ladies, and felt quite at ease in it. There was a most
intelligent Danish family of ladies, Mrs. Rowan and her daughters, who
received me very kindly. They spoke English wonderfully, with something
like a slight Cumberland accent, and I believe their German was as good
as their English. Mrs. Rowan had been a friend of Thorwaldsen the
sculptor, and possessed three hundred and fifty of his original
drawings, which I did not see, as she had lent them to Prince Albert. A
singular and most vexatious incident is associated in my memory with
those drawings, and I am sure Mrs. Rowan could never think of them
without remembering it. She had (too kindly) lent them to an artist, who
returned them, indeed, but not without having exercised his own talents
in improving them, as drawing-masters do to the work of their youthful
pupils. The reader may imagine the depth of Mrs. Rowan's gratitude. Her
daughter, Frederica, whose name afterwards became generally known, was
one of the most cultivated and agreeable women I ever met. Her nature
had been a little saddened by family misfortunes (the Rowans had been a
very wealthy family in Denmark), but her quiet gravity was of a noble
kind, and if she took life seriously she had sufficient reasons for
doing so.

My studies under Mr. Pettitt went on very regularly all this time, and I
made great _apparent_ progress, although, as will be seen later, it was
not progress in the right direction. One little incident may be
mentioned in proof that I could at least imitate closely. The reader is
already aware that my master's system of teaching consisted in bringing
a picture slowly forward in my presence, whilst I was to copy what had
been done. One day, when the picture had got well forward, Mr. Pettitt
took up my copy by mistake and put it on his own easel. After he had
worked upon it for a quarter of an hour I thanked him for the
improvement. He said he had been quite unconscious of the difference,
and told me to work on his own canvas to repay him for his labor on
mine. Critics will please understand that I know how little this proves
as well as they do. It proves nothing beyond a talent for imitation and
the possession of some manual skill. I have sometimes thought in later
life that if instead of going so much to nature I had mimicked some
particular painter I might have obtained recognition as an artist.

Notwithstanding so much that was agreeable in my London life, it was
still a hard trial of resolution for me to work in a close,
ill-ventilated, and gloomy studio without any view from its window, and
in the beginning of April I returned to the country. From that day to
this I have never lived in London, which has probably been a misfortune
to me, both as artist and writer. I have been there frequently on
business, but have never stayed a day or an hour longer than the time
necessary to get through what was most pressing. It is curious, but
perfectly true, that I have never in my life felt the slightest desire
to purchase or rent any house whatever in London, and there is not a
house in all "the wilderness of brick" that I would accept as a free
gift if it were coupled with the condition that I should live in it.



Some of my relations emigrate to New Zealand,--Difficulties of a poor
gentleman.--My uncle's reasons for emigration.--His departure.--Family
separations.--Our love for Hollins.

In the month of April, 1854, an event occurred which was of great
importance in our family.

My eldest uncle, Holden Hamerton, emigrated to New Zealand with all his
children, and a son and daughter of my uncle Hinde accompanied them.
This suddenly reduced our circle by eleven persons, without counting a
young family belonging to my cousin Orme.

My uncle, who was at that time a solicitor in Halifax, had reached a
very critical period in the life of a _pere de famille_. His children
were grown up and expensive, and he had tried various ways of
economizing without any definite result. Amongst others, he had given up
Hopwood Hall, his mansion in Halifax, and had converted the stabling at
Hollins into a residence for his wife and the children who remained with
her. The stables were large enough to make a spacious dwelling. I
remember the regret I felt on seeing the workmen pull down the handsome
oak stalls, and remove the beautiful pavement, which was in blocks of
smooth stone carefully bevelled at the angles. My unfortunate uncle
lived like a bachelor in a small house in Halifax to be near his office,
and only came to Hollins for the Sunday.

It is, of course, very easy to criticize a comparatively poor gentleman
with a large family who is trying not to be ruined. It is easy to say
that he ought to live strictly within his income, whatever it may be;
but to do that strictly would require an iron resolution. He must cut
short all indulgences, annihilate all elegancies, set his face against
all the customs of his class. His attitude towards his wife and children
must be one of stern refusal steadily and implacably maintained. If he
relaxes--and all the influences around him tend to make him relax--the
old habits of customary expense will re-establish themselves in a few
weeks. He must cut his family off from all society, and with regard to
himself he must do what is far more difficult--cut himself off from all
domestic affection, behave like a heartless miser, and, at the very time
when he most needs a little solace and peace in his own home, constitute
himself the executor of the pitiless laws that govern the human

My uncle was not equal to all this. He could make hard sacrifices for
himself, and, in fact, did reduce his own comforts to those of a poor
bachelor, but he could not find in his heart to refuse everything to his
family; so that although they made no pretension now to anything like an
aristocratic position, my uncle still found himself to be living rather
beyond his means, and the expense of establishing his sons and daughters
in England being now imminent, and avoidable only in one way, he spent
days, and I fear also nights, of anxiety in arriving at a determination.

A journey to Scotland settled the matter. My uncle visited his eldest
son Orme, who was then at Greenock, and he discovered, as I had done,
that my cousin was married. Of course I had kept his secret, having
found it out by accident when a guest under his roof. The young man
offered to accompany his father to New Zealand, and my uncle, who loved
his eldest son, thought that this would be some compensation for leaving
England. He did not know that Orme's irresistible instinct for changing
his residence would make the New Zealand expedition no more than a
temporary excursion for him.

Another reason for emigrating to New Zealand was this: My uncle's second
son, Lewis, had abandoned the profession of the law and gone to
Australia by himself, where he was now a shepherd in the bush. He would
rejoin his father, and they would be a re-united family. All of them
would be together in New Zealand except one, my cousin Edward, who lay
in the family vault in Burnley Church. I had feelings of the strongest
fraternal affection for Edward, and if the reader cares to see his
likeness, he has only to look at the engraved portraits of Shelley,
especially the one in Moxon's double-column edition of 1847. The
likeness there is so striking that, for me, it supplies the place of
any other.

Edward died at the age of seventeen. He had a gentle and sweet nature;
but although he resembled Shelley so closely in outward appearance, he
was without any poetical tendency. His gifts were arithmetical and
mathematical, and whenever he had a quarter of an hour to spare he was
sure to take a piece of paper and cover it all over with figures. His
early death certainly spared him much trouble that he was hardly
qualified to meet. He had that dislike to physical exercise which often
accompanies delicate health, though there was no appearance of weakness
till the beginning of his fatal illness.

I well remember my uncle's last visit to his sisters. He did not say
that it was his last, but left some clean linen in the house, saying he
would want it when he came again. In this way there was a little
make-belief of hope; but I doubt if my aunts were really deceived, and I
did not quite know what to think. My uncle seemed flushed and excited,
and contradicted me rather sharply because I happened to be in error
about something of no importance. It was a hard moment for him, as he
loved his sisters, and had the deepest attachment to Hollins, where he
was born, and where he had passed the happiest days of his life. His
last visit has remained so distinct in my memory that I can even now see
clearly his great stalwart figure in the chair on the right-hand side of
the fireplace. Then he left us and passed the window, and since that day
he never was seen again at his old place. I can imagine what it must
have been to him to turn round at the avenue gate, and look back on the
gables of Hollins, knowing it to be for the last time.

His wife and the rest of his family went away without inflicting upon
themselves and us the pain of a farewell. I was present, however, at
Featherstone when my cousin Hinde left for New Zealand. One of his
sisters accompanied him out of pure sisterly devotion. She thought he
would be lonely out in the colony, so she would go and stay with him
till he married. He did not marry, and she never returned.

The colonial strength of England is founded upon these family
separations, but they are terrible when they occur, especially when the
parents are left behind in the old country. To us who remained this
wholesale emigration in our family produced the effect of a great and
sudden mortality. For my part I have received exactly one letter from
the New Zealand Hamertons since they left. It was a very interesting
letter, interesting enough to make me regret "there was but one."

My uncle's property sold well, and on leaving England he had still a
balance of ten thousand pounds in his pocket, which was more than most
emigrants set out with; but he built a good house on the estate he
purchased, and it was ruined in the war. His wife was a woman of great
courage and wonderful constitutional cheerfulness, both severely tested
by three months of incessant sea-sickness on the outward voyage. They
met with one terrible storm, during which the captain did not hope to
save the vessel, and my uncle and aunt sat together in their cabin
clasping each other's hands, and calmly awaiting death.

After their departure my guardian and her sister remained at Hollins as
tenants of the new proprietor. We still clung to the old place, but it
did not seem the same to us. On the night of the sale by auction my aunt
said to me, sadly, as we took our candlesticks to go to bed: "It is
strange to think that we positively do not know under whose roof we are
going to sleep to-night." The change was felt most painfully by her. My
guardian had a more resigned way of accepting the evils of life; she had
a kind of Christian pessimism that looked upon terrestrial existence as
not "worth living" in itself, and a little less or more of trouble and
sorrow in this world seemed to her scarcely worth considering, being
only a part of the general unsatisfactoriness of things. Her sister had
intense local attachments, and the most intense of them all was for this
place, her birthplace, where she had passed her youth. This attachment
was increased in her case by a strong, deep, and poetic sentiment that I
hardly like to call aristocratic, because that word will have other
associations (of pride in expensive living) for most readers. My aunt
had the true sentiment of ancestry, and it was painful to her to see a
place go out of a family. I have the same sentiment, though with less
intensity, and there were other reasons that made me love Hollins
very much. At that time the natural beauty that surrounded it was
quite unspoilt. We were near to the streams and the moors that I
delighted in, and the idea of being obliged to leave, as we might be
at any time by the new proprietor, was painful to a degree that only
lovers of nature will understand.

Even now, in my fifty-fourth year, I very often dream about Hollins,
about the old garden there, and the fields and woods, and the rocky
stream. Sometimes the place is sadly and stupidly altered in my dream,
and I am irritated; at other times it is improved and enriched, and the
very landscape is idealized into a nobler and more perfect beauty.

I need only add to this account of my uncle's emigration, that when he
landed on the shores of New Zealand in much perplexity as to where he
should go to find a temporary lodging, a colonist met him, and said that
he had been told by the Masonic authorities to receive him fraternally.
This he did by taking the whole family under his roof and entertaining
them as if they had been old friends, thereby giving my uncle ample time
to make his own arrangements. In a later chapter of this autobiography I
intend to give a short account of what happened to the emigrants



Resignation of commission in the militia.--Work from nature.--Spenser,
the poet.--Hurstwood.--Loch Awe revisited.--A customer.--I determine to
learn French well.--A tour in Wales.--Swimming.--Coolness on account of
my religious beliefs.--My guardian.--Evil effects of religious
bigotry.--Refuge in work.--My drawing-master.--Our excursion in Craven.

After returning to the country I went through another militia training,
and soon afterwards resigned my commission. According to my present
views of things I should probably not have done so, as it would be a
satisfaction to me now to feel myself of some definite use to my
country, even in the humble capacity of a militia officer; but in those
days the militia was not taken seriously by the nation, so the officers
did not take it seriously either, and, after a brief trial, a great many
of them resigned. The recognized motive for going into the militia was a
social motive, and as I never had any social ambition it mattered
nothing to me that there were a few men of rank in the regiment. I had
not any real companions in it, for I was much younger than most of my
brother officers, and it is likely enough that the society of an
inexperienced youth could offer no attraction to them. My love of my
chosen studies was accompanied by a complete indifference to amusements,
so that the cards and billiards after mess were not an attraction for
me, and my ignorance of field sports has always made me feel rather a
"muff" and a "duffer" in the society of country gentlemen.

The Colonel was always kind to me, and as I looked older than my age, he
quite forgot how young I was and procured for me a captain's commission.
As a matter of fact, I believe that a minor cannot hold a militia
captaincy, because it requires a property qualification. Somehow, the
Colonel was afterwards reminded of my age, and then thought he had made
a mistake; however, my resignation rectified it. In fairness to myself
it may be added that my military work was always done in a manner that
gained the approval of our real master, the adjutant.

One cause that certainly influenced me in leaving the regiment was the
necessity for appearing to be either a member of the Church of England
or a member of the Church of Rome. As I belonged to neither, I felt it a
hardship to be compelled to march to church every Sunday, and go through
the forms of the service. It will, of course, seem absurd to any man of
the world that such a trifle should have any weight whatever. Nobody
endowed with what men of the world call "common-sense" ever hesitates
about going through forms and ceremonies, when he can maintain or
increase his worldly position by doing so. As for me, I make no claim to
superior virtue, but cannot help feeling an invincible repugnance to
these shams. My own line had been chosen when I refused to go to Oxford
and sign the Thirty-nine Articles; the forced conformity in the militia
was a deflection of the compass, but it has pointed straight ever since,
and may it point straight to the end!

When free again, I set to work from nature, applying what Pettitt had
taught me. I drew and painted studies of rocks with great fidelity, and
as rocks are hard things, and my work was as hard as possible, there can
be no doubt that so far it was like nature. Pettitt had strengthened the
positive and scientific tendency that there is in me, so that I was
quite ardent in the pursuit of the rigid and measurable truths, neither
knowing nor caring anything about those more subtle and less manifest
truths that the cultivated artist loves. However, I painted away
diligently enough from nature, giving two long sittings each day, and
writing only in the evenings. My readings at this time were chiefly in
Shakespeare and Spenser.

I may have been attracted to Spenser partly by the belief, greatly
encouraged by the local antiquaries, that the famous Elizabethan poet
lived for some time with relations of his at Hurstwood,--a hamlet by the
side of the same stream that passes by Hollins and a mile or two above
it. The old houses at Hurstwood remained as they were in Spenser's time,
and the particular one is known where his reputed family lived.
[Footnote: The presumptive evidence in favor of the theory that Spenser
stayed at Hurstwood is very strong, and of various kinds. The reader who
takes any interest in the subject is referred to the "Transactions of
the Burnley Literary and Scientific Club," vol. iv., 1886, where he will
find a wood-cut of the house that once belonged to the Spensers of
Hurstwood.] As you ascend the stream beyond Hurstwood, you approach the
open moors, which were always a delight to me. The love of the stream
and the hills beyond frequently led me to pass the little hamlet where
Spenser is said to have lived, and in this way he seemed to belong to
our own landscape, since he must have wandered by the same river, and
looked upon the same hills. So as a boy whose daily wanderings were by
the Avon might naturally think of Shakespeare more frequently than
another, my thoughts turned often to the author of the "Faerie Queene."
I never read that poem steadily and fairly through, but I strayed about
in it, which is the right way of reading it.

My own pursuit of poetry at that time led me to think of a poem founded
on the legends of Loch Awe. To penetrate my mind more completely with
the genius of the place, I went there in the summer of 1854, and worked
at the poem, besides drawing some illustrations, of which a few were
afterwards engraved. Notwithstanding a great liking for Loch Awe, my
stay there was not particularly agreeable. I lived, of course, at the
inns, which were not very good, and having no companion, not even a
servant, I felt rather dull and lonely, especially on the wet days. A
well-known London banker was staying at the inn of Cladich at the same
time with me, so we became acquainted, and he wished to purchase one of
my studies; but as I intended to keep them all, I declined. This was
very foolish, as it would have been easy to do another of the same
subject for myself, and the mere fact of selling would have been a
practical encouragement, especially as that purchase would probably have
been followed by others. The very smallest beginnings are of importance.
It is much for a young artist to get a few pounds fairly offered by a
customer who knows nothing about him except his work, and is actuated by
no motives of friendship.

Another visitor at the same inn exercised upon me an influence of a very
different kind. He had a young daughter with him, and to keep the girl
in practice he constantly spoke French to her. I had studied the
language more than most English boys do, and yet I found myself totally
unable to follow those French conversations. This plagued me with an
irritating sense of ignorance, so I looked back on my education
generally, and found it unsatisfactory. Being conscious that my
classical attainments were not very valuable, I determined to acquire
some substantial knowledge of modern languages, and to begin by learning
French over again, so as to write and speak it easily. This resolution
remained in my mind as irrevocably settled, and was afterwards
completely carried out.

As I shall have a good deal to say about Loch Awe in future pages of
this book, I omit all description of it here. Many of the days spent
there in 1854 were rainy, and I sat alone writing my poem in a little
bedroom on the ground-floor of the inn at Cladich. Of all literary work
versification is the most absorbing, and if it is good for nothing else,
it has at least the merit of getting one well through a rainy day.

On my return from Scotland, I accompanied my guardian and her sister on
a tour in Wales. We revisited Rhyl and some other places that I had seen
with my father, including Caernarvon. This tour was of no importance in
itself; but as from Scotland I had brought the resolution that made me
seriously study French, so from Caernarvon I brought a resolution to
master the art of swimming. Being in the water one morning, I suddenly
found that I could swim after a fashion, and this led to more serious
efforts. Our stream at home was delightful for mere bathing; but the
rocks were an impediment to active exercise. I afterwards became an
accomplished swimmer, and could do various tricks in the water, such as
reading aloud from a book held in both hands, or swimming in clothes and
heavy boots, with one hand out of the water carrying a paddle and
drawing a canoe after me. I have often carried one of my little boys on
my shoulders; but they are now better swimmers than myself, and the
eldest has saved several men from drowning. It is an immense comfort, if
nothing else, to be perfectly at home in the water, and it has increased
my pleasure in boating a hundred-fold.

There is nothing further of importance to be noted for the year 1854,
except that I began to perceive a certain coolness, or what the French
call _eloignement_, in our friends, which I attributed to my religious
opinions. I never obtruded my opinions on any one, but did not conceal
them beneath the usual conventional observances, so that our neighbors
became aware that I did not think in a strictly orthodox manner, though
they were in fact completely ignorant of the true nature of my beliefs.
I remember one interesting test of my changed position in society. There
was a certain great country house where I had been on the most intimate
terms from childhood, where the boys called me by my Christian name, as
I called them by theirs, and where my guardian and I were from time to
time invited to dine, and sometimes to spend a day or two. When our
militia regiment was in training, the owner of this house invited the
officers to a grand dinner, and I, an old intimate friend, was omitted.
It was impossible that this omission could have been accidental, and it
was impossible not to perceive it. I afterwards learned that my
religious views were regarded with disapproval in that house, and there,
of course, the matter rested. At the same time, or soon afterwards, I
noticed that invitations from certain other houses also came to an end,
a matter of little consequence to me personally; but I thought that it
might indirectly be injurious to my guardian and her sister, and began
to feel that I had become a sort of social disgrace and impediment for

It was probably about this time that my guardian bought for me some
religious books, in which heterodox opinions were represented as being
invariably the result of wickedness. I said it was a pity that religious
writers could not learn to be more just, as heterodoxy might be due to
simple intellectual differences. My guardian answered that she could
perceive no injustice whatever in the statement that I complained of.
This was infinitely painful to me, as coming from the person I most
loved and esteemed in all the world. Another incident embittered my
existence for some time. I had an intimate friend in Burnley, and my
guardian said that she regretted this intimacy, not for any harm that my
friend was likely to do me, but because with my "lamentable opinions" I
might corrupt his mind. My answer to attacks of this kind has always
been simple silence; when they came from other people I treated them
with unfeigned indifference; but when they came from that one dear
person, whose affection I valued more than all honors and all fame, they
cut me to the quick, and then I knew by cruel experience what a dreadful
evil religious bigotry is. For what had I ever said or done to deserve
censure? I had as good a right to my opinions as other people had to
theirs, yet I kept them within my own breast, and avoided even the
shadow of offence. My only crime was the negative one of nonconformity.


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