Memoirs of a Brother
ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON
But there is more than I can see, And what I see I leave unsaid, Nor speak it, knowing Death has made His darkness beautiful with thee.
Longmans, Green, and Co. Fourth Avenue & 30th Street, New York 1916
This book was begun with no hope or intention of making a formal and finished biography, but only to place on record some of my brother's sayings and doings, to fix scenes and memories before they suffered from any dim obliteration of time, to catch, if I could, for my own comfort and delight, the tone and sense of that vivid and animated atmosphere which Hugh always created about him. His arrival upon any scene was never in the smallest degree uproarious, and still less was it in the least mild or serene; yet he came into a settled circle like a freshet of tumbling water into a still pool!
I knew all along that I could not attempt any account of what may be called his public life, which all happened since he became a Roman Catholic. He passed through many circles—in England, in Rome, in America—of which I knew nothing. I never heard him make a public speech, and I only once heard him preach since he ceased to be an Anglican. This was not because I thought he would convert me, nor because I shrank from hearing him preach a doctrine to which I did not adhere, nor for any sectarian reason. Indeed, I regret not having heard him preach and speak oftener; it would have interested me, and it would have been kinder and more brotherly; but one is apt not to do the things which one thinks one can always do, and the fact that I did not hear him was due to a mixture of shyness and laziness, which I now regret in vain.
But I think that his life as a Roman Catholic ought to be written fully and carefully, because there were many people who trusted and admired and loved him as a priest who would wish to have some record of his days. He left me, by a will, which we are carrying out, though it was not duly executed, all his letters, papers, and manuscripts, and we have arranged to have an official biography of him written, and have placed all his papers in the hands of a Catholic biographer, Father C. C. Martindale, S.J.
Since Hugh died I have read a good many notices of him, which have appeared mostly in Roman Catholic organs. These were, as a rule, written by people who had only known him as a Catholic, and gave an obviously incomplete view of his character and temperament. It could not well have been otherwise, but the result was that only one side of a very varied and full life was presented. He was depicted in a particular office and in a specific mood. This was certainly his most real and eager mood, and deserves to be emphasized. But he had other moods and other sides, and his life before he became a Catholic had a charm and vigour of its own.
Moreover, his family affection was very strong; when he became a Catholic, we all of us felt, including himself, that there might be a certain separation, not of affection, but of occupations and interests; and he himself took very great care to avoid this, with the happy result that we saw him, I truly believe, more often and more intimately than ever before. Indeed, my own close companionship with him really began when he came first as a Roman Catholic to Cambridge.
And so I have thought it well to draw in broad strokes and simple outlines a picture of his personality as we, his family, knew and loved it. It is only a study, so to speak, and is written very informally and directly. Formal biographies, as I know from experience, must emphasise a different aspect. They deal, as they are bound to do, with public work and official activities; and the personal atmosphere often vanishes in the process—that subtle essence of quality, the effect of a man's talk and habits and prejudices and predispositions, which comes out freely in private life, and is even suspended in his public ministrations. It would be impossible, I believe, to make a presentment of Hugh which could be either dull or conventional. But, on the other hand, his life as a priest, a writer, a teacher, a controversialist, was to a certain extent governed and conditioned by circumstances; and I can see, from many accounts of him, that the more intimate and unrestrained side of him can only be partially discerned by those who knew him merely in an official capacity.
That, then, is the history of this brief Memoir. It is just an attempt to show Hugh as he showed himself, freely and unaffectedly, to his own circle; and I am sure that this deserves to be told, for the one characteristic which emerges whenever I think of him is that of a beautiful charm, not without a touch of wilfulness and even petulance about it, which gave him a childlike freshness, a sparkling zest, that aerated and enlivened all that he did or said. It was a charm which made itself instantly felt, and yet it could be hardly imitated or adopted, because it was so entirely unconscious and unaffected. He enjoyed enacting his part, and he was as instinctively and whole-heartedly a priest as another man is a soldier or a lawyer. But his function did not wholly occupy and dominate his life; and, true priest though he was, the force and energy of his priesthood came at least in part from the fact that he was entirely and delightfully human, and I deeply desire that this should not be overlooked or forgotten.
A. C. B.
Tremans, Horsted Keynes,
December 26, 1914.
HARE STREET PAGES
Garden—House—Rooms—Tapestry—Hare Street Discovered—A Hidden Treasure 1-14
Birth—The Chancery—Beth 15-24
Lessons—Early Verses—Physical Sensitiveness—A Secret Society—My Father—A Puppet-Show 25-41
First Schooldays—Eton—Religious Impressions—A Colleger 42-51
Sunday Work—Artistic Temperament—Liturgy—Ritual—Artistic Nature 52-65
Mountain—climbing—Genealogy—Economy—Hypnotism—The Call—My Mother—Nelly 66-81
Dean Vaughan—Community Life—Ordained Deacon 82-88
THE ETON MISSION
Hackney Wick—Boys' Clubs—Preaching—My Father's Death 89-99
KEMSING AND MIRFIELD
Development—Mirfield—The Community—Sermons—Preaching 100-113
Leaving Mirfield—Considerations—Argument— Discussion—Roddy—Consultation 114-129
Anglicanism—Individualism—Asceticism—A Centre of Unity—Liberty and Discipline— Catholicism—The Surrender—Reception—Rome 130-151
Llandaff House—Our Companionship—Rudeness—The Catholic Rectory—Spiritual Direction— Mystery-Plays—Retirement 152-167
The Light Invisible—His Books—Methods of Writing—Love of Writing—The Novels 176-187
Illness—Medical advice—Pneumonia 188-195
Manchester—Last Illness—Last Hours—Anxiety—Last Words—Passing on 196-208
His Papers—After-Thoughts—The Bond of Love 209-215
Courage—Humour—Manliness—Stammering— Eagerness—Independence—Forward 216-230
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Robert Hugh Benson in 1912, aged 40. In the Robes of a Papal Chamberlain Frontispiece From copyrighted Photo by Sarony, Inc., New York.
Hare Street House Facing page From the front, 1914 2 From the garden, 1914 4
The Master's Lodge, Wellington College, 1868 16
Robert Hugh Benson and Beth at the Chancery, Lincoln, in 1876, aged 5 20
The Three Brothers, 1882 44
Robert Hugh Benson in 1889, aged 17. As Steerer of the St. George, at Eton 48
Robert Hugh Benson in 1893, aged 21. As an Undergraduate at Cambridge 68
Mrs. Benson 76
Robert Hugh Benson in 1907, aged 35 158
At Hare Street, 1909 168
Hare Street, in the Garden, July 1911 174
Robert Hugh Benson in 1910, aged 39 184
At Tremans, Horsted Keynes, December, 1913 188
Bishop's House, Salford 200
The Calvary at Hare Street, 1913 208
Robert Hugh Benson in 1912, aged 40 250
Robert Hugh Benson in 1912, aged 41 258
"Then said Great-heart to Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, Thou hast worthily behaved thyself. Let me see thy Sword. So he shewed it him. When he had taken it in his hand, and looked thereon a while, he said, Ha, it is a right Jerusalem Blade!"
The Pilgrim's Progress.
How loudly and boisterously the wind roared to-day across the low-hung, cloud-smeared sky, driving the broken rack before it, warm and wet out of the south! What a wintry landscape! leafless trees bending beneath the onset of the wind, bare and streaming hedges, pale close-reaped wheat-fields, brown ploughland, spare pastures stretching away to left and right, softly rising and falling to the horizon; nothing visible but distant belts of trees and coverts, with here and there the tower of a hidden church overtopping them, and a windmill or two; on the left, long lines of willows marking the course of a stream. The road soaked with rain, the grasses heavy with it, hardly a human being to be seen.
I came at last to a village straggling along each side of the road; to the right, a fantastic-looking white villa, with many bow-windows, and an orchard behind it. Then on the left, a great row of beeches on the edge of a pasture; and then, over the barns and ricks of a farm, rose the clustered chimneys of an old house; and soon we drew up at a big iron gate between tall red-brick gateposts; beyond it a paling, with a row of high lime trees bordering a garden lawn, and on beyond that the irregular village street.
From the gate a little flagged pathway leads up to the front of a long, low house, of mellow brick, with a solid cornice and parapet, over which the tiled roof is visible: a door in the centre, with two windows on each side and five windows above—just the sort of house that you find in a cathedral close. To the left of the iron gate are two other tall gateposts, with a road leading up to the side of the house, and a yard with a row of stables behind.
Let me describe the garden first. All along the front and south side of the house runs a flagged pathway, a low brick wall dividing it from the lawn, with plants in rough red pots on little pilasters at intervals. To the right, as we face the door, the lawn runs along the road, and stretches back into the garden. There are tall, lopped lime-trees all round the lawn, in the summer making a high screen of foliage, but now bare. If we take the flagged path round the house, turn the corner, and go towards the garden, the yew trees grow thick and close, forming an arched walk at the corner, half screening an old irregular building of woodwork and plaster, weather-boarded in places, with a tiled roof, connected with the house by a little covered cloister with wooden pillars. If we pass that by, pursuing the path among the yew trees, we come out on a pleasant orchard, with a few flower-beds, thickly encircled by shrubs, beyond which, towards the main road, lies a comfortable-looking old red-brick cottage, with a big barn and a long garden, which evidently belongs to the larger house, because a gate in the paling stands open. Then there is another little tiled building behind the shrubs, where you can hear an engine at work, for electric light and water-pumping, and beyond that again, but still connected with the main house, stands another house among trees, of rough-cast and tiles, with an open wooden gallery, in a garden of its own.
In the orchard itself is a large grass-grown mound, with a rough wooden cross on the top; and down below that, in the orchard, is a newly-made grave, still covered, as I saw it to-day, with wreaths of leaves and moss, tied some of them with stained purple ribbons. The edge of the grave-mound is turfed, but the bare and trodden grass shows that many feet have crossed and recrossed the ground.
The orchard is divided on the left from a further and larger garden by a dense growth of old hazels; and passing through an alley you see that a broad path runs concealed among the hazels, a pleasant shady walk in summer heat. Then the larger garden stretches in front of you; it is a big place, with rows of vegetables, fruit-trees, and flower-borders, screened to the east by a row of elms and dense shrubberies of laurel. Along the north runs a high red-brick wall, with a big old-fashioned vine-house in the centre, of careful design. In the corner nearest the house is a large rose-garden, with a brick pedestal in the centre, behind which rises the back of the stable, also of old red brick.
But now there is a surprise; the back of the house is much older than the front. You see that it is a venerable Tudor building, with pretty panels of plaster embossed with a rough pattern. The moulded brick chimney-stacks are Tudor too, while the high gables cluster and lean together with a picturesque outline. The back of the house forms a little court, with the cloister of which I spoke before running round two sides of it. Another great yew tree stands there: while a doorway going into the timber and plaster building which I mentioned before has a rough device on it of a papal tiara and keys, carved in low relief and silvered.
A friendly black collie comes out of a kennel and desires a little attention. He licks my hand and looks at me with melting brown eyes, but has an air of expecting to see someone else as well. A black cat comes out of a door, runs beside us, and when picked up, clasps my shoulder contentedly and purrs in my ear.
The house seen from the back looks exactly what it is, a little old family mansion of a line of small squires, who farmed their own land, and lived on their own produce, though the barns and rick-yard belong to the house no longer. The red-brick front is just an addition made for the sake of stateliness at some time of prosperity. It is a charming self-contained little place, with a forgotten family tradition of its own, a place which could twine itself about the heart, and be loved and remembered by children brought up there, when far away. There is no sign of wealth about it, but every sign of ease and comfort and simple dignity.
Now we will go back to the front door and go through the house itself. The door opens into a tiny hall lighted by the glass panes of the door, and bright with pictures—oil paintings and engravings. The furniture old and sturdy, and a few curiosities about—carvings, weapons, horns of beasts. To the left a door opens into a pleasant dining-room, with two windows looking out in front, dark as dining-rooms may well be. It is hung with panels of green cloth, it has a big open Tudor fireplace, with a big oak settle, some china on an old dresser, a solid table and chairs, and a hatch in the corner through which dishes can be handed.
Opposite, on the other side of the hall, a door opens into a long low library, with books all round in white shelves. There is a big grand piano here, a very solid narrow oak table with a chest below, a bureau, and some comfortable chintz-covered chairs with a deep sofa. A perfect room to read or to hear music in, with its two windows to the front, and a long window opening down to the ground at the south end. All the books here are catalogued, and each has its place. If you go out into the hall again and pass through, a staircase goes up into the house, the walls of it panelled, and hung with engravings; some of the panels are carved with holy emblems. At the foot of the stairs a door on the right takes you into a small sitting-room, with a huge stone fireplace; a big window looks south, past the dark yew trees, on to the lawn. There are little devices in the quarries of the window, and a deep window-seat. The room is hung with a curious tapestry, brightly coloured mediaeval figures standing out from a dark background. There is not room for much furniture here; a square oak stand for books, a chair or two by the fire. Parallel to the wall, with a chair behind it filling up much of the space, is a long, solid old oak table, set out for writing. It is a perfect study for quiet work, warm in winter with its log fire, and cool in summer heat.
To the left of the staircase a door goes into a roughly panelled ante-room which leads out on to the cloister, and beyond that a large stone-flagged kitchen, with offices beyond.
If you go upstairs, you find a panelled corridor with bedrooms. The one over the study is small and dark, and said to be haunted. That over the library is a big pleasant room with a fine marble fireplace—a boudoir once, I should think. Over the hall is another dark panelled room with a four-post bed, the walls hung with a most singular and rather terrible tapestry, representing a dance of death.
Beyond that, over the dining-room, is a beautiful panelled room, with a Tudor fireplace, and a bed enclosed by blue curtains. This was Hugh's own room. Out of it opens a tiny dressing-room. Beyond that is another large low room over the kitchen, which has been half-study, half-bedroom, out of which opens a little stairway going to some little rooms beyond over the offices.
Above that again are some quaint white-washed attics with dormers and leaning walls; one or two of these are bedrooms. One, very large and long, runs along most of the front, and has a curious leaden channel in it a foot above the floor to take the rain-water off the leads of the roof. Out of another comes a sweet smell of stored apples, which revives the memory of childish visits to farm storerooms—and here stands a pretty and quaint old pipe-organ awaiting renovation.
We must retrace our steps to the building at the back to which the cloister leads. We enter a little sacristy and vestry, and beyond is a dark chapel, with a side-chapel opening out of it. It was originally an old brew-house, with a timbered roof. The sanctuary is now divided off by a high open screen, of old oak, reaching nearly to the roof. The whole place is full of statues, carved and painted, embroidered hangings, stained glass, pendent lamps, emblems; there is a gallery over the sacristy, with an organ, and a fine piece of old embroidery displayed on the gallery front.
This is the house in which for seven years my brother Hugh lived. Let me recall how he first came to see it. He was at Cambridge then, working as an assistant priest. He became aware that his work lay rather in the direction of speaking, preaching, and writing, and resolved to establish himself in some quiet country retreat. One summer I visited several houses in Hertfordshire with him, but they proved unsuitable. One of these possessed an extraordinary attraction for him. It was in a bleak remote village, and it was a fine old house which had fallen from its high estate. It stood on the road and was used as a grocer's shop. It was much dilapidated, and there was little ground about it, but inside there were old frescoes and pictures, strange plaster friezes and moulded ceilings, which had once been brightly coloured. But nothing would have made it a really attractive house, in spite of the curious beauty of its adornment.
One day I was returning alone from an excursion, and passed by what we call accident through Hare Street, the village which I have described. I caught a glimpse of the house through the iron gates, and saw that there was a board up saying it was for sale. A few days later I went there with Hugh. It was all extremely desolate, but we found a friendly caretaker who led us round. The shrubberies had grown into dense plantations, the orchard was a tangled waste of grass, the garden was covered with weeds. I remember Hugh's exclamation of regret that we had visited the place. "It is exactly what I want," he said, "but it is far too expensive. I wish I had never set eyes on it!" However, he found that it had long been unlet, and that no one would buy it. He might have had the pasture-land and the farm-buildings as well, and he afterwards regretted that he had not bought them, but his income from writing was still small. However, he offered what seems to me now an extraordinarily low sum for the house and garden; it was to his astonishment at once accepted. It was all going to ruin, and the owner was glad to get rid of it on any terms. He established himself there with great expedition, and set to work to renovate the place. At a later date he bought the adjacent cottage, and the paddock in which he built the other house, and he also purchased some outlying fields, one a charming spot on the road to Buntingford, with some fine old trees, where he had an idea of building a church.
Everything in the little domain took shape under his skilful hand and ingenious brain. He made most of the tapestries in the house with his own fingers, working with his friend Mr. Gabriel Pippet the artist. He carved much of the panelling—he was extraordinarily clever with his hands. He painted many of the pictures which hang on the walls, he catalogued the library; he worked day after day in the garden, weeding, rowing, and planting. In all this he had the advantage of the skill, capacity, and invention of his factotum and friend, Mr. Joseph Reeman, who could turn his hand to anything and everything with equal energy and taste; and so the whole place grew and expanded in his hands, until there is hardly a detail, indoors or out-of-doors, which does not show some trace of his fancy and his touch.
There were some strange old traditions about the house; it was said to be haunted, and more than one of his guests had inexplicable experiences there. It was also said that there was a hidden treasure concealed in or about it. That treasure Hugh certainly discovered, in the delight which he took in restoring, adorning, and laying it all out. It was a source of constant joy to him in his life. And there, in the midst of it all, his body lies.
I very well remember the sudden appearance of Hugh in the nursery world, and being conducted into a secluded dressing-room, adjacent to the nursery, where the tiny creature lay, lost in contented dreams, in a big, white-draped, white-hooded cradle. It was just a rather pleasing and exciting event to us children, not particularly wonderful or remarkable. It was at Wellington College that he was born, in the Master's Lodge, in a sunny bedroom, in the south-east corner of the house; one of its windows looking to the south front of the college and the chapel with its slender spire; the other window looking over the garden and a waste of heather beyond, to the fir-crowned hill of Ambarrow. My father had been Headmaster for twelve years and was nearing the end of his time there; and I was myself nine years old, and shortly to go to a private school, where my elder brother Martin already was. My two sisters, Nelly and Maggie, were respectively eight and six, and my brother, Fred, was four—six in all.
And by a freak of memory I recollect, too, that at breakfast on the following morning my father—half-shyly, half-proudly, I thought—announced the fact of Hugh's birth to the boys whom he had asked in, as his custom was, to breakfast, and how they offered embarrassed congratulations, not being sure, I suppose, exactly what the right phrase was.
Then came the christening, which took place at Sandhurst Church, a mile or two away, to which we walked by the pine-clad hill of Edgebarrow and the heathery moorland known as Cock-a-Dobbie. Mr. Parsons was the clergyman—a little handsome old man, like an abbe, with a clear-cut face and thick white hair. I am afraid that the ceremony had no religious significance for me at that time, but I was deeply interested, thought it rather cruel, and was shocked at Hugh's indecorous outcry. He was called Robert, an old family name, and Hugh, in honour of St. Hugh of Lincoln, where my father was a Prebendary, and because he was born on the day before St. Hugh's Feast. And then I really remember nothing more of him for a time, except for a scene in the nursery on some wet afternoon when the baby—Robin as he was at first called—insisted on being included in some game of tents made by pinning shawls over the tops of chairs, he being then, as always, perfectly clear what his wishes were, and equally clear that they were worth attending to and carrying out.
Then I vividly recall how in 1875, when we were all returning en famille from a long summer holiday spent at Torquay in a pleasant house lent us in Meadfoot Bay, we all travelled together in a third-class carriage; how it fell to my lot to have the amusing of Hugh, and how difficult he was to amuse, because he wished to look out of the window the whole time, and to make remarks on everything. But at Lincoln I hardly remember anything of him at all, because I was at school with my elder brother, and only came back for the holidays; and we two had moreover a little sanctum of our own, a small sitting-room named Bec by my father, who had a taste for pleasant traditions, after Anthony Bec, the warlike Bishop of Durham, who had once been Chancellor of Lincoln. Here we arranged our collections and attended to our own concerns, hardly having anything to do with the nursery life, except to go to tea there and to play games in the evening. The one thing I do remember is that Hugh would under no circumstances and for no considerations ever consent to go into a room in the dark by himself, being extremely imaginative and nervous; and that on one occasion when he was asked what he expected to befall him, he said with a shudder and a stammer: "To fall over a mangled corpse, squish! into a pool of gore!"
When he was between four and five years old, at Lincoln, one of his godfathers, Mr. Penny, an old friend and colleague of my father's at Wellington College, came to stay at the Chancery, and brought Hugh a Bible. My mother was sitting with Mr. Penny in the drawing-room after luncheon, when Hugh, in a little black velvet suit, his flaxen hair brushed till it gleamed with radiance, his face the picture of innocence, bearing the Bible, a very image of early piety, entered the room, and going up to his godfather, said with his little stammer: "Tha-a-ank you, Godpapa, for this beautiful Bible! will you read me some of it?"
Mr. Penny beamed with delight, and took the Bible. My mother rose to leave the room, feeling almost unworthy of being present at so sacred an interview, but as she reached the door, she heard Mr. Penny say: "And what shall I read about?" "The De-e-evil!" said Hugh without the least hesitation. My mother closed the door and came back.
There was one member of our family circle for whom Hugh did undoubtedly cherish a very deep and tender affection from the time when his affections first awoke—this was for the beloved Beth, the old family nurse. Beth became nurse-maid to my grandmother, Mrs. Sidgwick, as a young girl; and the first of her nurslings, whom she tended through an attack of smallpox, catching the complaint herself, was my uncle, William Sidgwick, still alive as a vigorous octogenarian. Henry Sidgwick, Arthur Sidgwick, and my mother were all under Beth's care. Then she came on with my mother to Wellington College and nursed us all with the simplest and sweetest goodness and devotion. For Hugh, as the last of her "children," she had the tenderest love, and lavished her care, and indeed her money, on him. When we were all dispersed for a time after my father's death, Beth went to her Yorkshire relations, and pined away in separation from her dear ones. Hugh returned alone and earlier than the rest, and Beth could bear it no longer, but came up from Yorkshire just to get a glimpse of Hugh at a station in London as he passed through, had a few words with him and a kiss, and gave him some little presents which she thought he might like, returning to Yorkshire tired out but comforted. I have always thought that little journey one of the most touching and beautiful acts of love and service I have ever heard of. She was nearly eighty at the time.
In early days she watched over Hugh, did anything and everything for him; when he got older she used to delight to wait on him, to pack and unpack for him, to call him in the mornings, and secretly to purchase clothes and toilet articles to replace anything worn out or lost. In later days the thought that he was coming home used to make her radiant for days before. She used to come tapping at my door before dinner, and sit down for a little talk. "I know what you are thinking about, Beth!" "What is it, dear?" "Why, about Hugh, of course! You don't care for anyone else when he is coming." "No, don't say that, dear—but I am pleased to think that Master Hugh is coming home for a bit—I hope he won't be very tired!" And she used to smooth down her apron with her toil-worn hands and beam to herself at the prospect. He always went and sat with her for a little in the evenings, in her room full of all the old nursery treasures, and imitated her smilingly. "Nay, now, child! I've spoken, and that is enough!" he used to say, while she laughed for delight. She used to say farewell to him with tears, and wave her handkerchief at the window till the carriage was out of sight. Even in her last long illness, as she faded out of life, at over ninety years of age, she was made perfectly happy by the thought that he was in the house, and only sorry that she could not look after his things.
Beth had had but little education; she could read a little in a well-known book, but writing was always a slow and difficult business; but she used slowly to compile a little letter from time to time to Hugh, and I find the following put away among the papers of his Eton days and schoolboy correspondence:
[? Nov. 1887] Tuesday.
Dearest,—One line to tell you I am sending your Box to-morrow Wednesday. I hope you will get it before tea-time. I know you will like something for tea, you can keep your cake for your Birthday. I shall think about you on Friday. Everybody has gone away, so I had no one to write for me. I thought you would not mind me writing to you.—Dearest love from your dear
The dear Beth lived wholly in love and service; she loved just as she worked, endlessly and ungrudgingly; wherever Beth is, she will find service to render and children to love; and I cannot think that she has not found the way to her darling, and he to her.
We all went off again to Truro in 1877, when my father was made Bishop. The tradition was that as the train, leaving Lincoln, drew up after five minutes at the first small station on the line, perhaps Navenby, a little voice in the corner said: "Is this Truro?" A journey by train was for many years a great difficulty for Hugh, as it always made him ill, owing to the motion of the carriage.
At Truro he becomes a much more definite figure in my recollections. He was a delicately made, light-haired, blue-eyed child, looking rather angelic in a velvet suit, and with small, neat feet, of which he was supposed to be unduly aware. He had at that time all sorts of odd tricks, winkings and twitchings; and one very aggravating habit, in walking, of putting his feet together suddenly, stopping and looking down at them, while he muttered to himself the mystic formula, "Knuck, Nunks." But one thing about him was very distinct indeed, that he was entirely impervious to the public opinion of the nursery, and could neither be ridiculed nor cajoled out of continuing to do anything he chose to do. He did not care the least what was said, nor had he any morbid fears, as I certainly had as a child, of being disliked or mocked at. He went his own way, knew what he wanted to do, and did it.
My recollections of him are mainly of his extreme love of argument and the adroitness with which he conducted it. He did not intend to be put upon as the youngest, and it was supposed that if he was ever told to do anything, he always replied: "Why shouldn't Fred?" He invented an ingenious device which he once, and once only, practised with success, of goading my brother Fred by petty shafts of domestic insult into pursuing him, bent on vengeance. Hugh had prepared some small pieces of folded paper with a view to this contingency, and as Fred gave chase, Hugh flung two of his papers on the ground, being sure that Fred would stop to examine them. The ruse was quite successful, and while Fred was opening the papers, Hugh sought sanctuary in the nursery. Sometimes my sisters were deputed to do a lesson with him. My elder sister Nelly had a motherly instinct, and enjoyed a small responsibility. She would explain a rule of arithmetic to Hugh. He would assume an expression of despair: "I don't understand a word of it—you go so quick." Then it would be explained again: "Now do you understand?" "Of course I understand that." "Very well, do a sum." The sum would begin: "Oh, don't push me—don't come so near—I don't like having my face blown on." Presently my sister with angelic patience would show him a mistake. "Oh, don't interfere—you make it all mixed up in my head." Then he would be let alone for a little. Then he would put the slate down with an expression of despair and resignation; if my sister took no notice he would say: "I thought Mamma told you to help me in my sums? How can I understand without having it explained to me?" It was impossible to get the last word; indeed he used to give my sister Maggie, when she taught him, what he called "Temper-tickets," at the end of the lesson; and on one occasion, when he was to repeat a Sunday collect to her, he was at last reported to my mother, as being wholly intractable. This was deeply resented; and after my sister had gone to bed, a small piece of paper was pushed in beneath her door, on which was written: "The most unhappiest Sunday I ever spent in my life. Whose fault?"
Again, when Maggie had found him extremely cross and tiresome one morning in the lessons she was taking, she discovered, when Hugh at last escaped, a piece of paper on the schoolroom table, on which he had written
"Passionate Magey Toodle Ha! Ha! The old gose."
There was another story of how he was asked to write out a list of the things he wanted, with a view to a birthday that was coming. The list ended:
"A little compenshion goat, and A tiny-winy train, and A nice little pen."
The diminutives were evidently intended to give the requirements a modest air. As for "compenshion," he had asked what some nursery animal was made of, a fracture having displayed a sort of tough fibrous plaster. He was told that it was made of "a composition."
We used to play many rhyming games at that time; and Hugh at the age of eight wrote a poem about a swarm of gnats dancing in the sun, which ended:
"And when they see their comrades laid In thousands round the garden glade, They know they were not really made To live for evermore."
In one of these games, each player wrote a question which was to be answered by some other player in a poem; Hugh, who had been talked to about the necessity of overcoming some besetting sin in Lent, wrote with perfect good faith as his question, "What is your sin for Lent?"
As a child, and always throughout his life, he was absolutely free from any touch of priggishness or precocious piety. He complained once to my sister that when he was taken out walks by his elders, he heard about nothing but "poetry and civilisation." In a friendly little memoir of him, which I have been sent, I find the following passage: "In his early childhood, when reason was just beginning to ponder over the meaning of things, he was so won to enthusiastic admiration of the heroes and heroines of the Catholic Church that he decided he would probe for himself the Catholic claims, and the child would say to the father, 'Father, if there be such a sacrament as Penance, can I go?' And the good Archbishop, being evasive in his answers, the young boy found himself emerging more and more in a woeful Nemesis of faith." It would be literally impossible, I think, to construct a story less characteristic both of Hugh's own attitude of mind as well as of the atmosphere of our family and household life than this!
He was always very sensitive to pain and discomfort. On one occasion, when his hair was going to be cut, he said to my mother: "Mayn't I have chloroform for it?"
And my mother has described to me a journey which she once took with him abroad when he was a small boy. He was very ill on the crossing, and they had only just time to catch the train. She had some luncheon with her, but he said that the very mention of food made him sick. She suggested that she should sit at the far end of the carriage and eat her own lunch, while he shut his eyes; but he said that the mere sound of crumpled paper made him ill, and then that the very idea that there was food in the carriage upset him; so that my mother had to get out on the first stop and bolt her food on the platform.
One feat of Hugh's I well remember. Sir James McGarel Hogg, afterwards Lord Magheramorne, was at the time member for Truro. He was a stately and kindly old gentleman, pale-faced and white-bearded, with formal and dignified manners. He was lunching with us one day, and gave his arm to my mother to conduct her to the dining-room. Hugh, for some reason best known to himself, selected that day to secrete himself in the dining-room beforehand, and burst out upon Sir James with a wild howl, intended to create consternation. Neither then nor ever was he embarrassed by inconvenient shyness.
The Bishop's house at Truro, Lis Escop, had been the rectory of the rich living of Kenwyn; it was bought for the see and added to. It was a charming house about a mile out of Truro above a sequestered valley, with a far-off view of the little town lying among hills, with the smoke going up, and the gleaming waters of the estuary enfolded in the uplands beyond. The house had some acres of pasture-land about it and some fine trees; with a big garden and shrubberies, an orchard and a wood. We were all very happy there, save for the shadow of my eldest brother's death as a Winchester boy in 1878. I was an Eton boy myself and thus was only there in the holidays; we lived a very quiet life, with few visitors; and my recollection of the time there is one of endless games and schemes and amusements. We had writing games and drawing games, and acted little plays.
We children had a mysterious secret society, with titles and offices and ceremonies: an old alcoved arbour in the garden, with a seat running round it, and rough panelling behind, was the chapter-house of the order. There were robes and initiations and a book of proceedings. Hugh held the undistinguished office of Servitor, and his duties were mainly those of a kind of acolyte. I think he somewhat enjoyed the meetings, though the difficulty was always to discover any purpose for which the society existed. There were subscriptions and salaries; and to his latest day it delighted him to talk of the society, and to point out that his salary had never equalled his subscription.
There were three or four young clergy, Arthur Mason, now Canon of Canterbury, G. H. Whitaker, since Canon of Hereford, John Reeve, late Rector of Lambeth, G. H. S. Walpole, now Bishop of Edinburgh, who had come down with my father, and they were much in the house. My father Himself was full of energy and hopefulness, and loved Cornwall with an almost romantic love. But in all of this Hugh was too young to take much part. Apart from school hours he was a quick, bright, clever child, wanting to take his part in everything. My brother Fred and I were away at school, or later at the University; and the home circle, except for the holidays, consisted of my father and mother, my two sisters, and Hugh. My father had been really prostrated with grief at the death of my eldest brother, who was a boy of quite extraordinary promise and maturity of mind. My father was of a deeply affectionate and at the same time anxious disposition; he loved family life, but he had an almost tremulous sense of his parental responsibility. I have never known anyone in my life whose personality was so strongly marked as my father's. He had a superhuman activity, and cared about everything to which he put his hand with an intensity and an enthusiasm that was almost overwhelming. At the same time he was extremely sensitive; and this affected him in a curious way. A careless word from one of us, some tiny instance of childish selfishness or lack of affection, might distress him out of all proportion. He would brood over such things, make himself unhappy, and at the same time feel it his duty to correct what he felt to be a dangerous tendency. He could not think lightly of a trifle or deal with it lightly; and he would appeal, I now think, to motives more exalted than the occasion justified. A little heedless utterance would be met by him not by a half-humourous word, but by a grave and solemn remonstrance. We feared his displeasure very much, but we could never be quite sure what would provoke it. If he was in a cheerful mood, he might pass over with a laugh or an ironical word what in a sad or anxious mood would evoke an indignant and weighty censure. I was much with him at this time, and was growing to understand him better; but even so, I could hardly say that I was at ease in his presence. I did not talk of the things that were in my mind, but of the things which I thought would please him; and when he was pleased, his delight was evident and richly rewarding.
But in these days he began to have a peculiar and touching affection for Hugh, and hoped that he would prove the beloved companion of his age. Hugh used to trot about with him, spudding up weeds from the lawn. He used, when at home, to take Hugh's Latin lessons, and threw himself into the congenial task of teaching with all his force and interest. Yet I have often heard Hugh say that these lessons were seldom free from a sense of strain. He never knew what he might not be expected to know or to respond to with eager interest. My father had a habit, in teaching, of over-emphasising minute details and nuances of words, insisting upon derivations and tenses, packing into language a mass of suggestions and associations which could never have entered into the mind of the writer. Language ought to be treated sympathetically, as the not over-precise expression of human emotion and wonder; but my father made it of a half-scientific, half-fanciful analysis. This might prove suggestive and enriching to more mature minds. But Hugh once said to me that he used to feel day after day like a small china mug being filled out of a waterfall. Moreover Hugh's mind was lively and imaginative, but fitful and impatient; and the process both daunted and wearied him.
I have lately been looking through a number of letters from my father to Hugh in his schooldays. Reading between the lines, and knowing the passionate affection in the background, these are beautiful and pathetic documents. But they are over-full of advice, suggestion, criticism, anxious inquiries about work and religion, thought and character. This was all a part of the strain and tension at which my father lived. He was so absorbed in his work, found life such a tremendous business, was so deeply in earnest, that he could not relax, could not often enjoy a perfectly idle, leisurely, amused mood. Hugh himself was the exact opposite. He could work, in later days, with fierce concentration and immense energy; but he also could enjoy, almost more than anyone I have ever seen, rambling, inconsequent, easy talk, consisting of stories, arguments, and ideas just as they came into his head; this had no counterpart in my father, who was always purposeful.
But it was a happy time at Truro for Hugh. Speaking generally, I should call him in those days a quick, inventive, active-minded child, entirely unsentimental; he was fond of trying his hand at various things, but he was impatient and volatile, would never take trouble, and as a consequence never did anything well. One would never have supposed, in those early days, that he was going to be so hard a worker, and still less such a worker as he afterwards became, who perfected his gifts by such continuous, prolonged, and constantly renewed labour. I recollect his giving a little conjuring entertainment as a boy, but he had practised none of his tricks, and the result was a fiasco, which had to be covered up by lavish and undeserved applause; a little later, too, at Addington, he gave an exhibition of marionettes, which illustrated historical scenes. The puppets were dressed by Beth, our old nurse, and my sisters, and Hugh was the showman behind the scenes. The little curtains were drawn up for a tableau which was supposed to represent an episode in the life of Thomas a Becket. Hugh's voice enunciated, "Scene, an a-arid waste!" Then came a silence, and then Hugh was heard to say to his assistant in a loud, agitated whisper, "Where is the Archbishop?" But the puppet had been mislaid, and he had to go on to the next tableau. The most remarkable thing about him was a real independence of character, with an entire disregard of other people's opinion. What he liked, what he felt, what he decided, was the important thing to him, and so long as he could get his way, I do not think that he troubled his head about what other people might think or wish; he did not want to earn good opinions, nor did he care for disapproval or approval; people in fact were to him at that time more or less favourable channels for him to follow his own designs, more or less stubborn obstacles to his attaining his wishes. He was not at all a sensitive or shrinking child. He was quite capable of holding his own, full of spirit and fearless, though quiet enough, and not in the least interfering, except when his rights were menaced.
He went to school at Clevedon, in Somersetshire, in 1882, at Walton House, then presided over by Mr. Cornish. It was a well-managed place, and the teaching was good. I suppose that all boys of an independent mind dislike the first breaking-in to the ways of the world, and the exchanging of the freedom of home for the barrack-life of school, the absence of privacy, and the sense of being continually under the magnifying-glass which school gives. It was dreadful to Hugh to have to account for himself at all times, to justify his ways and tastes, his fancies and even his appearance, to boys and masters alike. Bullying is indeed practically extinct in well-managed schools; but small boys are inquisitive, observant, extremely conventional, almost like savages in their inventiveness of prohibitions and taboos, and perfectly merciless in criticism. The instinct for power is shown by small boys in the desire to make themselves felt, which is most easily accomplished by minute ridicule. Hugh made friends there, but he never really enjoyed the life of the place. The boys who get on well at school from the first are robust, normal boys, without any inconvenient originality, who enjoy games and the good-natured rough and tumble of school life. But Hugh was not a boy of that kind; he was small, not good at games, and had plenty of private fancies and ideas of his own. He was ill at ease, and he never liked the town of straggling modern houses on the low sea-front, with the hills and ports of Wales rising shadowy across the mud-stained tide.
He was quick and clever, and had been well taught; so that in 1885 he won a scholarship at Eton, and entered college there, to my great delight, in the September of that year. I had just returned to Eton as a master, and was living with Edward Lyttelton in a quaint, white-gabled house called Baldwin's Shore, which commanded a view of Windsor Castle, and overlooked the little, brick-parapeted, shallow pond known as Barnes' Pool, which, with the sluggish stream that feeds it, separates the college from the town, and is crossed by the main London road. It was a quaint little house, which had long ago been a boarding-house, and contained many low-coiled, odd-shaped rooms. Hugh was Edward Lyttelton's private pupil, so that he was often in and out of the place. But I did not see very much of him. He was a small, ingenuous-looking creature in those days, light-haired and blue-eyed; and when a little later he became a steerer of one of the boats, he looked very attractive in his Fourth of June dress, as a middy, with a dirk and white duck trousers, dangling an enormous bouquet from his neck. At Eton he did very little in the way of work, and his intellect must have been much in abeyance; because so poor was his performance, that it became a matter of surprise among his companions that he had ever won a scholarship at all.
I have said that I did not know very much about Hugh at Eton; this was the result of the fact that several of the boys of his set were my private pupils. It was absolutely necessary that a master in that position should avoid any possibility of collusion with a younger brother, whose friends were that master's pupils. If it had been supposed that I questioned Hugh about my pupils and their private lives, or if he had been thought likely to tell me tales, we should both of us have been branded. But as he had no wish to confide, and indeed little enough to consult anyone about, and as I had no wish for sidelights, we did not talk about his school life at all. The set of boys in which he lived was a curious one; they were fairly clever, but they must have been, I gathered afterwards, quite extraordinarily critical and quarrelsome. There was one boy in particular, a caustic, spiteful, and extremely mischief-making creature, who turned the set into a series of cliques and parties. Hugh used to say afterwards that he had never known anyone in his life with such an eye for other people's weaknesses, or with such a talent for putting them in the most disagreeable light. Hugh once nearly got into serious trouble; a small boy in the set was remorselessly and disgracefully bullied; it came out, and Hugh was involved—I remember that Dr. Warre spoke to me about it with much concern—but a searching investigation revealed that Hugh had really had nothing to do with it, and the victim of the bullying spoke insistently in Hugh's favour.
Hugh describes how the facts became known in the holidays, and how my father in his extreme indignation at what he supposed to be proved, so paralysed Hugh that he had no opportunity of clearing himself. But anyone who had ever known Hugh would have felt that it was the last thing he would have done. He was tenacious enough of his own rights, and argumentative enough; but he never had the faintest touch of the savagery that amuses itself at the sight of another's sufferings. "I hate cruelty more than anything in the whole world," he wrote later; "the existence of it is the only thing which reconciles my conscience to the necessity of Hell."
Hugh speaks in his book, The Confession of a Convert, about the extremely negative character of his religious impressions at school. I think it is wholly accurate. Living as we did in an ecclesiastical household, and with a father who took singular delight in ceremonial and liturgical devotion, I think that religion did impress itself rather too much as a matter of solemn and dignified occupation than as a matter of feeling and conduct. It was not that my father ever forgot the latter; indeed, behind his love for symbolical worship lay a passionate and almost Puritan evangelicalism. But he did not speak easily and openly of spiritual experience. I was myself profoundly attracted as a boy by the aesthetic side of religion, and loved its solemnities with all my heart; but it was not till I made friends with Bishop Wilkinson at the age of seventeen that I had any idea of spiritual religion and the practice of friendship with God. Certainly Hugh missed it, in spite of very loving and earnest talks and deeply touching letters from my father on the subject. I suppose that there must come for most people a spiritual awakening; and until that happens, all talk of emotional religion and the love of God is a thing submissively accepted, and simply not understood or realised as an actual thing.
Hugh was not at Eton very long—not more than three or four years. He never became in any way a typical Etonian. If I am asked to say what that is, I should say that it is the imbibing instinctively of what is eminently a fine, manly, and graceful convention. Its good side is a certain chivalrous code of courage, honour, efficiency, courtesy, and duty. Its fault is a sense of perfect rightness and self-sufficiency, an overvaluing of sport and games, an undervaluing of intellectual interests, enthusiasm, ideas. It is not that the sense of effortless superiority is to be emphasized or insisted upon—modesty entirely forbids that—but it is the sort of feeling described ironically in the book of Job, when the patriarch says to the elders, "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you." It is a tacit belief that all has been done for one that the world can do, and that one's standing is so assured that it need never be even claimed or paraded.
Still less was Hugh a typical Colleger. College at Eton, where the seventy boys who get scholarships are boarded, is a school within a school. The Collegers wear gowns and surplices in public, they have their own customs and traditions and games. It is a small, close, clever society, and produces a tough kind of self-confidence, together with a devotion to a particular tradition which is almost like a religious initiation. Perhaps if the typical Etonian is conscious of a certain absolute rightness in the eyes of the world, the typical Colleger has a sense almost of absolute righteousness, which does not need even to be endorsed by the world. The danger of both is that the process is completed at perhaps too early a date, and that the product is too consciously a finished one, needing to be enlarged and modified by contact with the world.
But Hugh did not stay at Eton long enough for this process to complete itself. He decided that he wished to compete for the Indian Civil Service; and as it was clear that he could not do this successfully at Eton, my father most reluctantly allowed him to leave.
I find among the little scraps which survive from his schoolboy days, the following note. It was written on his last night at Eton. He says: "I write this on Thursday evening after ten. Peel keeping passage." "Peel" is Sidney Peel, the Speaker's son. The passages are patrolled by the Sixth Form from ten to half-past, to see that no boy leaves his room without permission. Then follows:
My feelings on leaving are— Excitement. Foreboding of Wren's and fellows there. Sorrow at leaving Eton. Pride as being an old Etonian. Certain pleasure in leaving for many trivial matters. Feeling of importance. Frightful longing for India. Homesickness. DEAR ME!
It was characteristic of Hugh that he should wish both to analyse his feelings on such an occasion, and to give expression to them.
Hugh accordingly went to Mr. Wren's coaching establishment in London, living partly at Lambeth, when my family were in town, and partly as a boarder with a clergyman. It was a time of hard work; and I really retain very few recollections of him at all at this date. I was myself very busy at Eton, and spent the holidays to a great extent in travelling and paying visits; and I think that Christmas, when we used to write, rehearse, and act a family play, was probably the only time at which I saw him.
Hugh went abroad for a short time to learn French, with a party of Indian Civil Service candidates, and no doubt forgot to write home, for I find the following characteristic letter of my father's to him:
Lambeth Palace, S.E., 30th June 1889.
My dearest Hughie,—We have been rather mourning about not hearing one word from you. We supposed all would be right as you were a large party. But one word would be so easy to those who love you so, who have done all they could to enable you to follow your own line, against their own wishes and affection!
We hope at any rate you are writing to-day. And we have sent off "Pioneers and Founders," which we hope will both give you happy and interesting Sunday reading, and remind you of us.
Mr. Spiers writes that you are backward in French but getting on rather fast.
I want you now at the beginning of this cramming year to make two or three Resolutions, besides those which you know and have thought of often and practised:
1. To determine never to do any secular examination work on Sundays—to keep all reading that day as fitting "The Lord's Day" and the "Day of Rest."
I had a poor friend who would have done very well at Oxford, but he would make no difference between Sunday and other days. He worked on just the same and in the Examination itself, just as the goal was reached, he broke down and took no degree. The doctors said it was all owing to the continuous nervous strain. If he had taken the Sundays it would just have saved him.
Lord Selborne was once telling me of his tremendous work at one time, and he said, "I never could have done it, but that I took my Sundays. I never would work on them."
2. We have arranged for you to go over to the Holy Communion one day at Dinan. Perhaps some nice fellow will go with you—Mr. Spiers will anyhow. Tell us which Sunday, so that we may all be with you [Greek: en pneumati].
Last night we dined at the Speaker's to meet, the Prince and Princess of Wales. It was very interesting. The Terrace of the House of Commons was lighted with electric light. A steamer went by and cheered!
The Shah will fill London with grand spectacles, and I suppose his coming will have much effect on politics—perhaps on India too.
All are well.—Ever your most loving father,
I am going to preach at the Abbey to-night.
Hugh failed, however, to secure a place in the Indian Civil Service, and it was decided that he should go up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and read for classical honours.
Up to this date I do not think that anything very conscious or definite had been going on in Hugh's mind or heart. He always said himself that it astonished him on looking back to think how purely negative and undeveloped his early life had been, and how it had been lived on entirely superficial lines, without plans or ambitions, simply taking things as they came.
I think it was quite true that it was so; his emotions were dormant, his powers were dormant. I do not think he had either great affections or great friendships. He liked companionship and amusement, he avoided what bored him; he had no inclinations to evil, but neither had he any marked inclinations to what was good. Neither had any of his many and varied gifts and accomplishments showed themselves. I used to think latterly that he was one of the most gifted people I had ever seen in all artistic ways. Whatever he took up he seemed able to do, without any apprenticeship or drudgery. Music, painting, drawing, carving, designing—he took them all up in turn; and I used to feel that if he had devoted himself to any one of them he could have reached a high excellence. Even his literary gifts, so various and admirable, showed but few signs of their presence in the early days; he was not in the least precocious. I think that on the whole it was beneficial to him that his energies all lay fallow. My father, stern as his conception of duty was, had a horror of applying any intellectual pressure to us. I myself must confess that I was distinctly idle and dilettante both as a boy at Eton and as a Cambridge undergraduate. But much as my father appreciated and applauded any little successes, I was often surprised that I was never taken to task for my poor performances in work and scholarship. The truth was that my eldest brother's death at Winchester was supposed partly to have been due to his extraordinary intellectual and mental development, and I am sure that my father was afraid of over-stimulating our mental energies. I feel certain that what was going on in Hugh's case all the time was a keen exercise of observation. I have no doubt that his brain was receiving and gaining impressions of every kind, and that his mind was not really inactive—it was only unconsciously amassing material. He had a very quick and delighted perception of human temperament, of the looks, gestures, words, mannerisms, habits, and oddities of human beings. If Hugh had been born in a household professionally artistic, and had been trained in art of any kind, I think he would very likely have become an accomplished artist or musician, and probably have shown great precocity. But he was never an artist in the sense that art was a torment to him, or that he made any sacrifice of other aims to it. It was always just a part of existence to him, and of the nature of an amusement, though in so far as it represented the need of self-expression in forms of beauty, it underlay and permeated the whole of his life.
The first sign of his artistic enthusiasm awakening was during his time in London, when he conceived an intense admiration for the music and ceremony of St. Paul's. Sir George Martin, on whom my father had conferred a musical degree, was very kind to him, and allowed Hugh to frequent the organ-loft. "To me," Hugh once wrote, "music is the great reservoir of emotion from which flow out streams of salvation." But this was not only a musical devotion. I believe that he now conceived, or rather perhaps developed, a sense of the symbolical poetry of religious rites and ceremonies which remained with him to the end. It is true to say that the force and quality of ritual, as a province of art, has been greatly neglected and overlooked. It is not for a moment to be regarded as a purely artistic thing; but it most undoubtedly has an attraction and a fascination as clear and as sharply defined as the attraction of music, poetry, painting or drama. All art is an attempt to express a sense of the overwhelming power of beauty. It is hard to say what beauty is, but it seems to be one of the inherent qualities of the Unknown, an essential part of the Divine mind. In England we are so stupid and so concrete that we are apt to think of a musician as one who arranges chords, and of a painter as one who copies natural effects. It is not really that at all. The artist is in reality struggling with an idea, which idea is a consciousness of an amazing and adorable quality in things, which affects him passionately and to which he must give expression. The form which his expression takes is conditioned by the sharpness of his perception in some direction or other. To the musician, notes and intervals and vibrations are just the fairy flights and dances of forms audible to the ear; to the painter, it is a question of shapes and colours perceptible to the eye. The dramatist sees the same beauty in the interplay of human emotion; while it may be maintained that holiness itself is a passionate perception of moral beauty, and that the saint is attracted by purity and compassion, and repelled by sin, disorder, and selfishness, in the same way as the artist is attracted and repelled by visible charm and ugliness.
Ritual has been as a rule so closely annexed to religion—though all spectacular delights and ceremonies have the same quality—that it has never been reckoned among artistic predilections. The aim of ritual is, I believe, a high poetry of which the essence is symbolism and mystery. The movement of forms solemnly vested, and with a background of architecture and music, produces an emotion quite distinct from other artistic emotions. It is a method, like all other arts, through which a human being arrives at a sense of mysterious beauty, and it evokes in mystical minds a passion to express themselves in just that way and no other, and to celebrate thus their sense of the unknown.
But there has always been a natural terror in the religious mind of laying too much stress on this, or of seeming to encourage too much an aesthetic emotion. If the first business of religion is to purify life, there will always be a suspicion of idolatry about ritual, a fear of substituting a vague desire for beauty for a practical devotion to right conduct.
Hugh wrote to me some years later what he felt about it all:
"... Liturgy, to my mind, is nothing more than a very fine and splendid art, conveying things, to people who possess the liturgical faculty, in an extraordinarily dramatic and vivid way. I further believe that this is an art which has been gradually brought nearer and nearer perfection by being tested and developed through nineteen centuries, by every kind of mind and nationality. The way in which it does, indisputably, appeal to such very different kinds of people, and unite them, does, quite apart from other things, give it a place with music and painting.
* * * * *
"I do frankly acknowledge Liturgy to be no more than an art—and therefore not in the least generally necessary to salvation; and I do not in the least 'condemn' people who do not appreciate it. It is only a way of presenting facts—and, in the case of Holy Week Ceremonies, these facts are such as those of the Passion of Christ, the sins of men, the Resurrection and the Sovereignty of Christ."
* * * * *
I have laid stress upon all this, because I believe that from this time the poetry and beauty of ritual had a deep and increasing fascination for Hugh. But it is a thing about which it is so easy for the enemy to blaspheme, to ridicule ceremonial in religion as a mere species of entertainment, that religious minds have always been inclined to disclaim the strength of its influence. Hugh certainly inherited this particular perception from my father. I should doubt if anyone ever knew so much about religious ceremonial as he did, or perceived so clearly the force of it. "I am almost ashamed to seem to know so much about these things," I have often heard him say; and again, "I don't ever seem able to forget the smallest detail of ritual." My father had a very strong artistic nature—poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, scenery, were all full of fascination to him—for music alone of the arts he had but little taste; and I think that it ought to be realised that Hugh's nature was an artistic one through and through. He had the most lively and passionate sensibility to the appeal of art. He had, too, behind the outer sensitiveness, the inner toughness of the artist. It is often mistakenly thought that the artist is sensitive through and through. In my experience, this is not the case. The artist has to be protected against the overwhelming onset of emotions and perceptions by a strong interior fortress of emotional calm and serenity. It is certain that this was the case with Hugh. He was not in the least sentimental, he was not really very emotional. He was essentially solitary within; he attracted friendship and love more than he gave them. I do not think that he ever suffered very acutely through his personal emotions. His energy of output was so tremendous, his power of concentration so great, that he found a security here from the more ravaging emotions of the heart. Not often did he give his heart away; he admired greatly, he sympathised freely; but I never saw him desolated or stricken by any bereavement or loss. I used to think sometimes that he never needed anyone. I never saw him exhibit the smallest trace of jealousy, nor did he ever desire to possess anyone's entire affection. He recognised any sign of affection generously and eagerly; but he never claimed to keep it exclusively as his own.
Hugh went then to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1890. He often talked to me in later days about his time there as an undergraduate. He found a number of his Eton contemporaries up there, and he had a very sociable time. A friend and contemporary of his at Trinity describes him as small, light, and boyish-looking. "He walked fast, and always appeared to be busy." He never cared much about athletics, but he was an excellent steerer. He steered the third Trinity boat all the time he was at Cambridge, and was a member of the Leander club. He was always perfectly cool, and not in the smallest degree nervous. He was, moreover, an excellent walker and mountain-climber. He once walked up to London from Cambridge; I have climbed mountains with him, and he was very agile, quick, surefooted, and entirely intrepid. Let me interpolate a little anecdote of an accident at Pontresina, which might have been serious. Hugh and I, with a practised Alpine climber, Dr. Leith, left Pontresina early one morning to climb a rock-peak. We were in a light carriage with a guide and porter. The young horse which drew us, as we were rattling down the high embanked road leading to Samaden, took a sharp turn to the right, where a road branched off. He was sharply checked by the guide, with the result that the carriage collided with a stone post, and we were all flung out down the embankment, a living cataract of men, ice-axes, haversacks, and wraps. The horse fortunately stopped. We picked ourselves ruefully up and resumed our places. Not until we reached our destination did we become aware that the whole incident had passed in silence. Not one word of advice or recrimination or even of surprise had passed anyone's lips!
But Hugh's climbing was put a stop to by a sharp attack of heart-failure on the Piz Palu. He was with my brother Fred, and after a long climb through heavy snow, he collapsed and was with difficulty carried down. He believed himself to be on the point of death, and records in one of his books that the prospect aroused no emotion whatever in his mind either of fear or excitement, only of deep curiosity.
While he was an undergraduate, he and I had a sudden and overwhelming interest in family history and genealogy. We went up to Yorkshire for a few days one winter, stayed at Pateley Bridge, Ripon, Bolton Abbey, Ripley, and finally York. At Pateley Bridge we found the parish registers very ancient and complete, and by the aid of them, together with the printed register of Fountains Abbey, we traced a family tree back as far as to the fourteenth century, with ever-increasing evidence of the poverty and mean condition of our ancestral stock. We visited the houses and cradles of the race, and from comfortable granges and farmsteads we declined, as the record conducted us back, to hovels and huts of quite conspicuous humility and squalor. The thermometer fell lower and lower every day, in sympathy with our researches. I remember a night when we slept in a neglected assembly-room tacked on to a country inn, on hastily improvised and scantily covered beds, when the water froze in the ewers; and an attempt to walk over the moors one afternoon from Masham into Nidderdale, when the springs by the roadside froze into lumpy congealments, like guttering candles, and we were obliged to turn back; and how we beguiled a ten-mile walk to Ripon, the last train having gone, by telling an enormous improvised story, each taking an alternate chapter, and each leaving the knots to be untied by the next narrator. Hugh was very lively and ingenious in this, and proved the most delightful of companions, though we had to admit as we returned together that we had ruined the romance of our family history beyond repair.
Hugh did very little work at Cambridge; he had given up classics, and was working at theology, with a view to taking Orders. He managed to secure a Third in the Tripos; he showed no intellectual promise whatever; he was a very lively and amusing companion and a keen debater; I think he wrote a little poetry; but he had no very pronounced tastes. I remember his pointing out to me the windows of an extremely unattractive set of ground-floor rooms in Whewell's Court as those which he had occupied till he migrated to the Bishop's Hostel, eventually moving to the Great Court. They look down Jesus Lane, and the long, sombre wall of Sidney Sussex Garden. A flagged passage runs down to the right of them, and the sitting-room is on the street. They were dark, stuffy, and extremely noisy. The windows were high up, and splashed with mud by the vehicles in the street, while it was necessary to keep them shut, because otherwise conversation was wholly inaudible. "What did you do there?" I said. "Heaven knows!" he answered. "As far as I can remember, I mostly sat up late at night and played cards!" He certainly spent a great deal of money. He had a good allowance, but he had so much exceeded it at the end of his first year, that a financial crisis followed, and my mother paid his debts for him. He had kept no accounts, and he had entertained profusely.
The following letter from my father to him refers to one of Hugh's attempts to economise. He caught a bad feverish cold at Cambridge as a result of sleeping in a damp room, and was carried off to be nursed by my uncle, Henry Sidgwick:
Addington Park, Croydon,
26th Jan. 1891.
Dearest Hughie,—I was rather disturbed to hear that you imagined that what I said in October about not needlessly indulging was held by you to forbid your having a fire in your bedroom on the ground floor in the depth of such a winter as we have had!
You ought to have a fire lighted at such a season at 8 o'clock so as to warm and dry the room, and all in it, nearly every evening—and whenever the room seems damp, have a fire just lighted to go out when it will. It's not wholesome to sleep in heated rooms, but they must be dry. A bed slept in every night keeps so, if the room is not damp; but the room must not be damp, and when it is unoccupied for two or three days it is sure to get so.
Be sure that there is a good fire in it all day, and all your bed things, mattress and all, kept well before it for at least a whole day before you go back from Uncle Henry's.
How was it your bed-maker had not your room well warmed and dried, mattress dry, etc., before you went up this time? She ought to have had, and should be spoken to about it—i.e. unless you told her not to! in which case it would be very like having no breakfast!
It has been a horrid interruption in the beginning of term—and you'll have difficulty with the loss of time. Besides which I have no doubt you have been very uncomfortable.
But I don't understand why you should have "nothing to write about" because you have been in bed. Surely you must have accumulated all sorts of reflective and imaginative stories there.
It is most kind of Aunt Nora and Uncle Henry—give my love and thanks to both.
I grieve to say that many many more fish are found dead since the thaw melted the banks of swept snow off the sides of the ice. It is most piteous; the poor things seem to have come to the edge where the water is shallowest—there is a shoal where we generally feed the swans.
I am happy to say the goldfish seem all alive and merry. The continual dropping of fresh water has no doubt saved them—they were never hermetically sealed in like the other poor things.
Yesterday I was at Ringwould, near Dover. The farmers had been up all night saving their cattle in the stalls from the sudden floods.
Here we have not had any, though the earth is washed very much from the hills in streaks.
We are—at least I am—dreadfully sorry to go to London—though the house is very dull without "the boys."
All right about the books.—Ever your loving father,
Hugh was much taken up with experiments in hypnotism as an undergraduate, and found that he had a real power of inducing hypnotic sleep, and even of curing small ailments. He told my mother all about his experiments, and she wrote to him at once that he must either leave this off while he was at Cambridge, or that my father must be told. Hugh at once gave up his experiments, and escaped an unpleasant contretemps, as the authorities discovered what was going on, and actually, I believe, sent some of the offenders down.
Hugh says that he drifted into the idea of taking Orders as the line of least resistance, though when he began the study of theology he said that he had found the one subject he really cared for. But he had derived a very strong half-religious, half-artistic impression from reading John Inglesant just before he came up to Cambridge. He could long after repeat many passages by heart, and he says that a half-mystical, half-emotional devotion to the Person of Our Lord, which he derived from the book, seemed to him to focus and concentrate all his vague religious emotions. He attended the services at King's Chapel regularly, but he says that he had no real religious life, and only looked forward to being a country clergyman with a beautiful garden, an exquisite choir, and a sober bachelor existence.
It was on an evening walk at Addington with my mother that he told her of his intention to take Orders. They had gone together to evensong at a neighbouring church, Shirley, and as they came back in the dusk through the silent woods of the park, he said he believed he had received the call, and had answered, "Here am I, send me!" My mother had the words engraved on the inside of a ring, which Hugh wore for many years.
By far the closest and dearest of all the ties which bound Hugh to another was his love for my mother. Though she still lives to bless us, I may say this, that never did a mother give to her children a larger and a wiser love than she gave to us; she was our playmate and companion, but we always gave her a perfectly trustful and unquestioning obedience. Yet it was always a reasonable and critical obedience. She never exacted silent submission, but gave us her reasons readily. She never curtailed our independence, or oppressed us with a sense of over-anxiety. She never demanded confidence, but welcomed it with perfect, understanding.
The result of this with Hugh was that he came to consult her about everything, about his plans, his schemes, his books, his beliefs. He read all his writings aloud to her, and deferred much to her frankly critical mind and her deeply human insight. At the time when he was tending towards Rome, she accompanied him every step of the way, though never disguising from him her own differences of opinion and belief. It was due to her that he suspended his decision, read books, consulted friends, gave the old tradition full weight; he never had the misery of feeling that she was overcome by a helpless distress, because she never attempted to influence any one of us away from any course we thought it right to pursue. She did not conceal her opinion, but wished Hugh to make up his own mind, believing that everyone must do that, and that the only chance of happiness lies there.
There was no one in the world whom he so regarded and admired and loved; but yet it was not merely a tender and deferential sentiment. He laid his mind open before her, and it was safe to do that, because my mother never had any wish to prevail by sentiment or by claiming loyalty. He knew that she would be perfectly candid too, with love waiting behind all conflict of opinion. And thus their relation was the most perfect that could be imagined, because he knew that he could speak and act with entire freedom, while he recognised the breadth and strength of her mind, and the insight of her love. No one can really understand Hugh's life without a knowledge of what my mother was to him—an equal friend, a trusted adviser, a candid critic, and a tender mother as well. And even when he went his own way, as he did about health and work, though she foresaw only too clearly what the end might be, and indeed what it actually was, she always recognised that he had a right to live as he chose and to work as he desired. She was not in the least blind to his lesser faults of temperament, nor did she ever construct an artificial image of him. My family has, I have no doubt, an unusual freedom of mutual criticism. I do not think we have ever felt it to be disloyal to see each other in a clear light. But I am inclined to believe that the affection which subsists without the necessity of cherishing illusions, has a solidity about it which more purely sentimental loyalties do not always possess. And I have known few relations so perfect as those between Hugh and my mother, because they were absolutely tender and chivalrous, and at the same time wholly candid, natural, and open-eyed.
It was at this time that my eldest sister died quite suddenly of diphtheria. I have told something of her life elsewhere. She had considerable artistic gifts, in music, painting, and writing. She had written a novel, and left unpublished a beautiful little book of her own experiences among the poor, called Streets and Lanes of the City. It was privately printed, and is full of charming humour and delicate observation, together with a real insight into vital needs. I always believe that my sister would have done a great work if she had lived. She had strong practical powers and a very large heart. She had been drawn more and more into social work at Lambeth, and I think would have eventually given herself up to such work. She had a wonderful power of establishing a special personal relation with those whom she loved, and I remember realising after her death that each of her family felt that they were in a peculiar and individual relation to her of intimacy and confidence. She had sent Hugh from her deathbed a special message of love and hope; and this had affected him very much.
We were not allowed to go back at once to our work, Fred, Hugh, and myself, because of the possibility of infection; and we went off to Seaford together for a few days, where we read, walked, wrote letters, and talked. It was a strange time; but Hugh, I recollect, got suddenly weary of it, and with the same decision which always characterised him, said that he must go to London in order to be near St. Paul's. He went off at once and stayed with Arthur Mason. I was struck with this at the time; he did not think it necessary to offer any explanations or reasons. He simply said he could not stand it, quite frankly and ingenuously, and promptly disappeared.
In 1892 Hugh went to read for Orders, with Dean Vaughan, who held the Deanery of Llandaff together with the Mastership of the Temple. The Dean had been a successful Headmaster of Harrow, and for a time Vicar of Doncaster. He was an Evangelical by training and temperament. My father had a high admiration for him as a great headmaster, a profound and accomplished scholar, and most of all as a man of deep and fervent piety. I remember Vaughan's visits to Lambeth. He had the air, I used to think, rather of an old-fashioned and highly-bred country clergyman than of a headmaster and a Church dignitary. With his rather long hair, brushed back, his large, pale face, with its meek and smiling air, and his thin, clear, and deliberate voice, he gave the impression of a much-disciplined, self-restrained, and chastened man. He had none of the brisk effectiveness or mundane radiance of a successful man of affairs. But this was a superficial view, because, if he became moved or interested, he revealed a critical incisiveness of speech and judgment, as well as a profound and delicate humour.