JULIANA HORATIA EWING
AND HER BOOKS.
HORATIA K.F. EDEN (nee GATTY).
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, LONDON: NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C. 43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C. BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET. NEW YORK: E. & J.B. YOUNG & CO.
[Published under the direction of the General Literature Committee.]
In making a Selection from Mrs. Ewing's Letters to accompany her Memoir, I have chosen such passages as touch most closely on her Life and Books. I found it was not possible in all cases to give references in footnotes between the Memoir and Letters; but as both are arranged chronologically there will be no difficulty in turning from one to the other when desirable.
The first Letter, relating Julie's method of teaching a Liturgical Class, should be read with the remembrance that it was written thirty-two years ago, long before the development of our present Educational System; but it is valuable for the zeal and energy it records, combined with the common incident of the writer being too ill to appear at the critical moment of the Inspector's visit.
In a later letter, dated May 28, 1866, there are certain remarks about class singing in schools, which are also out of date; but this is retained as a proof of the keen sense of musical rhythm and accent which my sister had, and which gave her power to write words for music although she could play no instrument.
It is needless to add that none of the letters were intended for publication; they were written to near relatives and friends currente calamo, and are full of familiar expressions and allusions which may seem trivial and uninteresting to ordinary readers. Those, however, who care to study my sister's character I think cannot fail to trace in these records some of its strongest features; her keen enjoyment of the beauties of Nature,—her love for animals,—for her Home,—her lares and penates;—and her Friends. Above all that love of GOD which was the guiding influence of everything she wrote or did. So inseparable was it from her every-day life that readers must not be surprised if they find grave and gay sentences following each other in close succession.
Julie's sense of humour never forsook her, but she was never malicious, and could turn the laugh against herself as readily as against others. I have ventured to insert a specimen of her fun, which I hope will not be misunderstood. In a letter to C.T.G., dated March 13, 1874, she gave him a most graphic picture of the erratic condition of mind that had come over an old friend, the result of heavy responsibilities and the rush of London life. Julie had no idea when she wrote that these symptoms were in reality the subtle beginnings of a breakdown, which ended fatally, and no one lamented the issue more truly than she; but she could not resist catching folly as it flew, and many of the flighty axioms became proverbial amongst us.
The insertion of Bishop Medley's reply to my sister, April 8, 1880, needs no apology, it is so interesting in itself, and gives such a charming insight into the friendship between them.
The List of Mrs. Ewing's Works at the end of the Memoir was made before the publication of the present Complete Edition; this, therefore, is only mentioned in cases where stories have not been published in any other book form. All Mrs. Ewing's Verses for Children, Hymns, and Songs for Music (including two left in MS.) are included in Volume IX.
Volume XVII., "Miscellanea," contains The Mystery of a bloody hand together with the Translated Stories, and other papers that had appeared previously in Magazines.
In Volume XII., "Brothers of Pity and other tales of men and beasts," will be found Among the Merrows; A Week spent in a Glass Pond; Tiny's Tricks and Toby's Tricks; The Owl in the Ivy Bush, and Owlhoots I. II., whilst Sunflowers and a Rushlight has been put amongst the Flower Stories in Vol. XVI., Mary's Meadow, etc.
The Letter with which this volume concludes was one of the last that Julie wrote, and its allusion to Gordon's translation seemed to make it suitable for the End.
After her death the readers of Aunt Judy's Magazine subscribed enough to complete the endowment (L1000) of a Cot at the Convalescent Home of the Hospital for Sick Children, Cromwell House, Highgate. This had been begun to our Mother's memory, and was completed in the joint names of Margaret Gatty and Juliana Horatia Ewing. So liberal were the subscriptions that there was a surplus of more than L200, and with this we endowed two L5 annuities in the Cambridge Fund for Old Soldiers—as the "Jackanapes," and "Leonard" annuities.
Of other memorials there are the marble gravestone in Trull Churchyard, and Tablet in Ecclesfield Church, both carved by Harry Hems, of Exeter, and similarly decorated with the double lilac primrose,—St. Juliana's flower.
In Ecclesfield Church there is also a beautiful stained window, given by her friend, Bernard Wake. The glass was executed by W.F. Dixon, and the subject is Christ's Ascension. Julie died on the Eve of Ascension Day.
Lastly, there is a small window of jewelled glass, by C.E. Kempe, in St. George's Church, South Camp, Aldershot, representing St. Patrick trampling on a three-headed serpent, emblematical of the powers of evil, and holding the Trefoil in his hand—a symbol of the Blessed Trinity.
HORATIA K.F. EDEN.
* * * * *
The frontispiece portrait of Mrs. Ewing is a photogravure produced by the Swan Electric Engraving Company, from a photograph taken by Mr. Fergus of Largs.
All the other illustrations are from Mrs. Ewing's own drawings, except the tail-piece on p. 136. This graceful ideal of Mrs. Ewing's grave was an offering sent by Mr. Caldecott shortly after her death, with his final illustrations to "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire."
All hearts grew warmer in the presence Of one who, seeking not his own, Gave freely for the love of giving, Nor reaped for self the harvest sown.
Thy greeting smile was pledge and prelude Of generous deeds and kindly words: In thy large heart were fair guest-chambers, Open to sunrise and the birds!
The task was thine to mould and fashion Life's plastic newness into grace; To make the boyish heart heroic, And light with thought the maiden's face.
* * * * *
O friend! if thought and sense avail not To know thee henceforth as thou art, That all is well with thee forever, I trust the instincts of my heart.
Thine be the quiet habitations, Thine the green pastures, blossom sown, And smiles of saintly recognition, As sweet and tender as thy own.
Thou com'st not from the hush and shadow To meet us, but to thee we come; With thee we never can be strangers, And where thou art must still be home.
"A Memorial."—JOHN G. WHITTIER.
JULIANA HORATIA EWING AND HER BOOKS.
SECOND DAUGHTER OF THE REV. ALFRED GATTY, D.D., AND MARGARET, HIS WIFE, BORN AT ECCLESFIELD, YORKSHIRE, AUGUST 3, 1841, MARRIED JUNE 1, 1867, TO ALEXANDER EWING, MAJOR, A.P.D., DIED AT BATH, MAY 13, 1885, BURIED AT TRULL, SOMERSET, MAY 16, 1885.
I have promised the children to write something for them about their favourite story-teller, Juliana Horatia Ewing, because I am sure they will like to read it.
I well remember how eagerly I devoured the Life of my favourite author, Hans Christian Andersen; how anxious I was to send a subscription to the memorial statue of him, which was placed in the centre of the public Garden at Copenhagen, where children yet play at his feet; and, still further, to send some flowers to his newly-filled grave by the hand of one who, more fortunate than myself, had the chance of visiting the spot.
I think that the point which children will be most anxious to know about Mrs. Ewing is how she wrote her stories. Did she evolve the plots and characters entirely out of her own mind, or were they in any way suggested by the occurrences and people around her?
The best plan of answering such questions will be for me to give a list of her stories in succession as they were written, and to tell, as far as I can, what gave rise to them in my sister's mind; in doing this we shall find that an outline biography of her will naturally follow. Nearly all her writings first appeared in the pages of Aunt Judy's Magazine, and as we realize this fact we shall see how close her connection with it was, and cease to wonder that the Magazine should end after her death.
Those who lived with my sister have no difficulty in tracing likenesses between some of the characters in her books, and many whom she met in real life; but let me say, once for all, that she never drew "portraits" of people, and even if some of us now and then caught glimpses of ourselves under the clothing she had robed us in, we only felt ashamed to think how unlike we really were to the glorified beings whom she put before the public.
Still less did she ever do with her pen, what an artistic family of children used to threaten to do with their pencils when they were vexed with each other, namely, to "draw you ugly."
It was one of the strongest features in my sister's character that she "received but what she gave," and threw such a halo of sympathy and trust round all with whom she came in contact, that she seemed to see them "with larger other eyes than ours," and treated them accordingly. On the whole, I am sure this was good in its results, though the pain occasionally of awakening to disappointment was acute; but she generally contrived to cover up the wound with some new shoot of Hope. On those in whom she trusted I think her faith acted favourably. I recollect one friend whose conscience did not allow him to rest quite easy under the rosy light through which he felt he was viewed, saying to her: "It's the trust that such women as you repose in us men, which makes us desire to become more like what you believe us to be."
If her universal sympathy sometimes led her to what we might hastily consider "waste her time" on the petty interests and troubles of people who appeared to us unworthy, what were we that we should blame her? The value of each soul is equal in God's sight; and when the books are opened there may be more entries than we now can count of hearts comforted, self-respect restored, and souls raised by her help to fresh love and trust in God,—ay, even of old sins and deeds of shame turned into rungs on the ladder to heaven by feet that have learned to tread the evil beneath them. It was this well-spring of sympathy in her which made my sister rejoice as she did in the teaching of the now Chaplain-General, Dr. J.C. Edghill, when he was yet attached to the iron church in the South Camp, Aldershot. "He preaches the gospel of Hope," she said—hope that is in the latent power which lies hidden even in the worst of us, ready to take fire when touched by the Divine flame, and burn up its old evil into a light that will shine to God's glory before men. I still possess the epitome of one of these "hopeful" sermons, which she sent me in a letter after hearing the chaplain preach on the two texts: "What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God"; "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
It has been said that, in his story of "The Old Bachelor's Nightcap," Hans Andersen recorded something of his own career. I know not if this be true, but certainly in her story of "Madam Liberality" Mrs. Ewing drew a picture of her own character that can never be surpassed. She did this quite unintentionally, I know, and believed that she was only giving her own experiences of suffering under quinsy, in combination with some record of the virtues of One whose powers of courage, uprightness, and generosity under ill-health she had always regarded with deep admiration. Possibly the virtues were hereditary,—certainly the original owner of them was a relation; but, however this may be, Madam Liberality bears a wonderfully strong likeness to my sister, and she used to be called by a great friend of ours the "little body with a mighty heart," from the quotation which appears at the head of the tale.
[Footnote 1: Reprinted in "A Great Emergency and other Tales."]
The same friend is now a bishop in another hemisphere from ours, but he will ever be reckoned a "great" friend. Our bonds of friendship were tied during hours of sorrow in the house of mourning, and such as these are not broken by after-divisions of space and time. Mrs. Ewing named him "Jachin," from one of the pillars of the Temple, on account of his being a pillar of strength at that time to us. Let me now quote the opening description of Madam Liberality from the story:—
It was not her real name; it was given to her by her brothers and sisters. People with very marked qualities of character do sometimes get such distinctive titles to rectify the indefiniteness of those they inherit and those they receive in baptism. The ruling peculiarity of a character is apt to show itself early in life, and it showed itself in Madam Liberality when she was a little child.
Plum-cakes were not plentiful in her home when Madam Liberality was young, and, such as there were, were of the "wholesome" kind—plenty of breadstuff, and the currants and raisins at a respectful distance from each other. But, few as the plums were, she seldom ate them. She picked them out very carefully, and put them into a box, which was hidden under her pinafore.
When we grown-up people were children, and plum-cake and plum-pudding tasted very much nicer than they do now, we also picked out the plums. Some of us ate them at once, and had then to toil slowly through the cake or pudding, and some valiantly dispatched the plainer portion of the feast at the beginning, and kept the plums to sweeten the end. Sooner or later we ate them ourselves, but Madam Liberality kept her plums for other people.
When the vulgar meal was over—that commonplace refreshment ordained and superintended by the elders of the household—Madame Liberality would withdraw into a corner, from which she issued notes of invitation to all the dolls. They were "fancy written" on curl-papers, and folded into cocked hats.
Then began the real feast. The dolls came and the children with them. Madam Liberality had no toy tea-sets or dinner-sets, but there were acorn-cups filled to the brim, and the water tasted deliciously, though it came out of the ewer in the night-nursery, and had not even been filtered. And before every doll was a flat oyster-shell covered with a round oyster-shell, a complete set of complete pairs which had been collected by degrees, like old family plate. And, when the upper shell was raised, on every dish lay a plum. It was then that Madam Liberality got her sweetness out of the cake. She was in her glory at the head of the inverted tea-chest, and if the raisins would not go round the empty oyster-shell was hers, and nothing offended her more than to have this noticed. That was her spirit, then and always. She could "do without" anything, if the wherewithal to be hospitable was left to her.
When one's brain is no stronger than mine is, one gets very much confused in disentangling motives and nice points of character. I have doubted whether Madam Liberality's besetting virtue were a virtue at all. Was it unselfishness or love of approbation, benevolence or fussiness, the gift of sympathy or the lust of power, or was it something else? She was a very sickly child, with much pain to bear, and many pleasures to forego. Was it, as the doctors say, "an effort of nature" to make her live outside herself, and be happy in the happiness of others?
All my earliest recollections of Julie (as I must call her) picture her as at once the projector and manager of all our nursery doings. Even if she tyrannized over us by always arranging things according to her own fancy, we did not rebel, we relied so habitually and entirely on her to originate every fresh plan and idea; and I am sure that in our turn we often tyrannized over her by reproaching her when any of what we called her "projukes" ended in "mulls," or when she paused for what seemed to us a longer five minutes than usual in the middle of some story she was telling, to think what the next incident should be!
It amazes me now to realize how unreasonable we were in our impatience, and how her powers of invention ever kept pace with our demands. These early stories were influenced to some extent by the books that she then liked best to read—Grimm, Andersen, and Bechstein's fairy tales; to the last writer I believe we owed her story about a Wizard, which was one of our chief favourites. Not that she copied Bechstein in any way, for we read his tales too, and would not have submitted to anything approaching a recapitulation; but the character of the little Wizard was one which fascinated her, and even more so, perhaps, the quaint picture of him, which stood at the head of the tale; and she wove round this skeleton idea a rambling romance from her own fertile imagination.
I have specially alluded to the picture, because my sister's artistic as well as literary powers were so strong that through all her life the two ever ran side by side, each aiding and developing the other, so that it is difficult to speak of them apart.
[Footnote 2: Letter, May 14, 1876.]
Many of the stories she told us in childhood were inspired by some fine woodcuts in a German "A B C book," that we could none of us then read, and in later years some of her best efforts were suggested by illustrations, and written to fit them. I know, too, that in arranging the plots and wording of her stories she followed the rules that are pursued by artists in composing their pictures. She found great difficulty in preventing herself from "overcrowding her canvas" with minor characters, owing to her tendency to throw herself into complete sympathy with whatever creature she touched; and, sometimes,—particularly in tales which came out as serials, when she wrote from month to month, and had no opportunity of correcting the composition as a whole,—she was apt to give undue prominence to minor details, and throw her high lights on to obscure corners, instead of concentrating them on the central point. These artistic rules kept her humour and pathos,—like light and shade,—duly balanced, and made the lights she "left out" some of the most striking points of her work.
But to go back to the stories she told us as children. Another of our favourite ones related to a Cavalier who hid in an underground passage connected with a deserted Windmill on a lonely moor. It is needless to say that, as we were brought up on Marryat's Children of the New Forest, and possessed an aunt who always went into mourning for King Charles on January 30, our sympathies were entirely devoted to the Stuarts' cause; and this persecuted Cavalier, with his big hat and boots, long hair and sorrows, was our best beloved hero. We would always let Julie tell us the "Windmill Story" over again, when her imagination was at a loss for a new one. Windmills, I suppose from their picturesqueness, had a very strong attraction for her. There were none near our Yorkshire home, so, perhaps, their rarity added to their value in her eyes; certain it is that she was never tired of sketching them, and one of her latest note-books is full of the old mill at Frimley, Hants, taken under various aspects of sunset and storm. Then Holland, with its low horizons and rows of windmills, was the first foreign land she chose to visit, and the "Dutch Story," one of her earliest written efforts, remains an unfinished fragment; whilst "Jan of the Windmill" owes much of its existence to her early love for these quaint structures.
It was not only in the matter of fairy tales that Julie reigned supreme in the nursery, she presided equally over our games and amusements. In matters such as garden-plots, when she and our eldest sister could each have one of the same size, they did so; but, when it came to there being one bower, devised under the bending branches of a lilac bush, then the laws of seniority were disregarded, and it was "Julie's Bower." Here, on benches made of narrow boards laid on inverted flower-pots, we sat and listened to her stories; here was kept the discarded dinner-bell, used at the funerals of our pet animals, and which she introduced into "The Burial of the Linnet." Near the Bower we had a chapel, dedicated to St. Christopher, and a sketch of it is still extant, which was drawn by our eldest sister, who was the chief builder and caretaker of the shrine; hence started the funeral processions, both of our pets and of the stray birds and beasts we found unburied. In "Brothers of Pity" Julie gave her hero the same predilection for burying that we had indulged in.
[Footnote 3: "Verses for Children, and Songs for Music."]
[Footnote 4: "Brothers of Pity, and other Tales of Beasts and Men."]
She invented names for the spots that we most frequented in our walks, such as "The Mermaid's Ford," and "St. Nicholas." The latter covered a space including several fields and a clear stream, and over this locality she certainly reigned supreme; our gathering of violets and cowslips, or of hips and haws for jam, and our digging of earth-nuts were limited by her orders. I do not think she ever attempted to exercise her prerogative over the stream; I am sure that, whenever we caught sight of a dark tuft of slimy Batrachospermum in its clear depths, we plunged in to secure it for Mother, whether Julie or any other Naiad liked it or no! But "the splendour in the grass and glory in the flower" that we found in "St. Nicholas" was very deep and real, thanks to all she wove around the spot for us. Even in childhood she must have felt, and imparted to us, a great deal of what she put into the hearts of the children in "Our Field." To me this story is one of the most beautiful of her compositions, and deeply characteristic of the strong power she possessed of drawing happiness from little things, in spite of the hindrances caused by weak health. Her fountain of hope and thankfulness never ran dry.
[Footnote 5: "A Great Emergency, and other Tales."]
Madam Liberality was accustomed to disappointment.
From her earliest years it had been a family joke, that poor Madam Liberality was always in ill-luck's way.
It is true that she was constantly planning; and, if one builds castles, one must expect a few loose stones about one's ears now and then. But, besides this, her little hopes were constantly being frustrated by Fate.
If the pigs or the hens got into the garden, Madam Liberality's bed was sure to be laid waste before any one came to the rescue. When a picnic or a tea-party was in store, if Madam Liberality did not catch cold, so as to hinder her from going, she was pretty sure to have a quinsy from fatigue or wet feet afterwards. When she had a treat, she paid for the pleasurable excitement by a head-ache, just as when she ate sweet things they gave her toothache.
But, if her luck was less than other people's, her courage and good spirits were more than common. She could think with pleasure about the treat when she had forgotten the head-ache.
One side of her face would look fairly cheerful when the other was obliterated by a flannel bag of hot camomile flowers, and the whole was redolent of every possible domestic remedy for toothache, from oil of cloves and creosote to a baked onion in the ear. No sufferings abated her energy for fresh exploits, or quenched the hope that cold, and damp, and fatigue would not hurt her "this time."
In the intervals of wringing out hot flannels for her quinsy she would amuse herself by devising a desert island expedition, on a larger and possibly a damper scale than hitherto, against the time when she should be out again.
It is a very old simile, but Madam Liberality really was like a cork rising on the top of the very wave of ill-luck that had swallowed up her hopes.
Her little white face and undaunted spirit bobbed up after each mischance or malady as ready and hopeful as ever.
Some of the indoor amusements over which Julie exercised great influence were our theatricals. Her powers of imitation were strong; indeed, my mother's story of "Joachim the Mimic" was written, when Julie was very young, rather to check this habit which had early developed in her. She always took what may be called the "walking gentleman's" part in our plays. Miss Corner's Series came first, and then Julie was usually a Prince; but after we advanced to farces, her most successful character was that of the commercial traveller, Charley Beeswing, in "Twenty Minutes with a Tiger." "Character" parts were what she liked best to take, and in later years, when aiding in private theatricals at Aldershot Camp, the piece she most enjoyed was "Helping Hands," in which she acted Tilda, with Captain F.G. Slade, R.A., as Shockey, and Major Ewing as the blind musician.
The last time she acted was at Shoeburyness, where she was the guest of her friends Colonel and Mrs. Strangways, and when Captain Goold-Adams and his wife also took part in the entertainment. The terrible news of Colonel Strangways' and Captain Goold-Adams' deaths from the explosion at Shoebury in February 1885, reached her whilst she was very ill, and shocked her greatly; though she often alluded to the help she got from thinking of Colonel Strangways' unselfishness, courage, and submission during his last hours, and trying to bear her own sufferings in the same spirit. She was so much pleased with the description given of his grave being lined with moss and lilac crocuses, that when her own had to be dug it was lined in a similar way.
But now let us go back to her in the Nursery, and recall how, in spite of very limited pocket-money, she was always the presiding Genius over birthday and Christmas-tree gifts; and the true 'St. Nicholas' who filled the stockings that the "little ones" tied, in happy confidence, to their bed-posts. Here the description must be quoted of Madam Liberality's struggles between generosity and conscientiousness;—
It may seem strange that Madam Liberality should ever have been accused of meanness, and yet her eldest brother did once shake his head at her and say, "You're the most meanest and the generousest person I ever knew!" And Madam Liberality wept over the accusation, although her brother was then too young to form either his words or his opinions correctly.
But it was the touch of truth in it which made Madam Liberality cry. To the end of their lives Tom and she were alike, and yet different in this matter. Madam Liberality saved, and pinched, and planned, and then gave away, and Tom gave away without the pinching and the saving. This sounds much handsomer, and it was poor Tom's misfortune that he always believed it to be so; though he gave away what did not belong to him, and fell back for the supply of his own pretty numerous wants upon other people, not forgetting Madam Liberality. Painful experience convinced Madam Liberality in the end that his way was a wrong one, but she had her doubts many times in her life whether there were not something unhandsome in her own decided talent for economy. Not that economy was always pleasant to her. When people are very poor for their position in life, they can only keep out of debt by stinting on many occasions when stinting is very painful to a liberal spirit. And it requires a sterner virtue than good nature to hold fast the truth that it is nobler to be shabby and honest than to do things handsomely in debt.
But long before Tom had a bill even for bull's-eyes and Gibraltar rock, Madam Liberality was pinching and plotting, and saving bits of coloured paper and ends of ribbon, with a thriftiness which seemed to justify Tom's view of her character. The object of these savings was twofold,—birthday presents and Christmas-boxes. They were the chief cares and triumphs of Madam Liberality's childhood. It was with the next birthday or the approaching Christmas in view that she saved her pence instead of spending them, but she so seldom had any money that she chiefly relied on her own ingenuity. Year by year it became more difficult to make anything which would "do for a boy;" but it was easy to please Darling, and "Mother's" unabated appreciation of pin-cushions, and of needle-books made out of old cards, was most satisfactory.
Equally characteristic of Julie's moral courage and unselfishness is the incident of how Madam Liberality suffered the doctor's assistant to extract the tooth fang which had been accidentally left in her jaw, because her mother's "fixed scale of reward was sixpence for a tooth without fangs, and a shilling for one with them," and she wanted the larger sum to spend on Christmas-tree presents.
When the operation was over,
Madam Liberality staggered home, very giddy, but very happy. Moralists say a great deal about pain treading so closely on the heels of pleasure in this life, but they are not always wise or grateful enough to speak of the pleasure which springs out of pain. And yet there is a bliss which comes just when pain has ceased, whose rapture rivals even the high happiness of unbroken health; and there is a keen pleasure about small pleasures hardly earned, in which the full measure of those who can afford anything they want is sometimes lacking. Relief is certainly one of the most delicious sensations which poor humanity can enjoy!
The details which can be traced in Julie's letters after undergoing the removal of her tonsils read very much like extracts from Madam Liberality's biography. During my sister's last illness she spoke about this episode, and said she looked back with surprise at the courage she had exercised in going to London alone, and staying with friends for the operation. Happily, like Madam Liberality, she too earned a reward in the relief which she appreciated so keenly; for, after this event, quinsies became things of the past to her, and she had them no more.
On April 14, 1863, she wrote—
"MY DEAREST MOTHER,—I could knock my head off when I think that I am to blame for not being able to send you word yesterday of the happy conclusion of this affair!! * * I cannot apologize enough, but assure you I punished myself by two days' suspense (a letter had been misdirected to the surgeon which delayed his visit). I did intend to have asked if I might have spent a trifle with the flower-man who comes to the door here, and bring home a little adornment to my flower-box as a sugar-plum after my operation * * now I feel I do not deserve it, but perhaps you will be merciful!
"It was a tiresome operation—so choking! He (Mr. Smith, the surgeon) was about an hour at it. He was more kind and considerate than can be expressed; when he went I said to him, 'I am very much obliged to you, first for telling me the truth, and secondly for waiting for me.' For when I got 'down in the mouth,' he waited, and chatted till I screwed up my courage again. He said, 'When people are reasonable it is barbarous to hurry them, and I said you were that when I first saw you.'"
April 16, 1863. "Thank you so much for letting me bring home a flower or two! I do love them so much."
As Julie emerged from the nursery and began to take an interest in our village neighbours, her taste for "projects" was devoted to their interests. It was her energy that established a Village Library in 1859, which still remains a flourishing institution; but all her attempts were not crowned with equal success. She often recalled, with great amusement, how, the first day on which she distributed tracts as a District Visitor, an old lady of limited ideas and crabbed disposition called in the evening to restore the tract which had been lent to her, remarking that she had brought it back and required no more, as—"My 'usband does not attend the public-'ouse, and we've no unrewly children!"
My sister gave a series of Lessons on the Liturgy in the day-school, and on Sunday held a Class for Young Women at the Vicarage, because she was so often prevented by attacks of quinsy from going out to school; indeed, at this time, as the mother of some of her ex-pupils only lately remarked, "Miss Julie were always cayling."
[Footnote 6: Letter, August 19, 1864.]
The first stories that she published belong to this so-to-speak "parochial" phase of her life, when her interests were chiefly divided between the nursery and the village. "A Bit of Green" came out in the Monthly Packet in July 1861; "The Blackbird's Nest" in August 1861; "Melchior's Dream" in December 1861; and these three tales, with two others, which had not been previously published ("Friedrich's Ballad" and "The Viscount's Friend"), were issued in a volume called "Melchior's Dream and other Tales," in 1862. The proceeds of the first edition of this book gave "Madam Liberality" the opportunity of indulging in her favourite virtue. She and her eldest sister, who illustrated the stories, first devoted the "tenths" of their respective earnings for letterpress and pictures to buying some hangings for the sacrarium of Ecclesfield Church, and then Julie treated two of her sisters, who were out of health, to Whitby for change of air. Three years later, out of some other literary earnings, she took her eldest brother to Antwerp and Holland, to see the city of Rubens' pictures, and the land of canals, windmills, and fine sunsets. The expedition had to be conducted on principles which savoured more of strict integrity and economy than of comfort; for they went in a small steamer from Hull to Antwerp, but Julie feasted her eyes and brain on all the fresh sights and sounds she encountered, and filled her sketch-book with pictures.
[Footnote 7: Letters, September 1865.]
"It was at Rotterdam," wrote her brother, "that I left her with her camp-stool and water-colours for a moment in the street, to find her, on my return, with a huge crowd round her, and before—a baker's man holding back a blue veil that would blow before her eyes—and she sketching down an avenue of spectators, to whom she kept motioning with her brush to stand aside. Perfectly unconscious she was of how she looked, and I had great difficulty in getting her to pack up and move on. Every quaint Dutch boat, every queer street, every peasant in gold ornaments, was a treasure to her note-book. We were very happy!"
I doubt, indeed, whether her companion has experienced greater enjoyment during any of his later and more luxurious visits to the same spots; the first sight of a foreign country must remain a unique sensation.
It was not the intrinsic value of Julie's gifts to us that made them so precious, but the wide-hearted spirit which always prompted them. Out of a moderate income she could only afford to be generous from her constant habit of thinking first for others, and denying herself. It made little difference whether the gift was elevenpence three-farthings' worth of modern Japanese pottery, which she seized upon as just the right shape and colour to fit some niche on one of our shelves, or a copy of the edition de luxe of "Evangeline," with Frank Dicksee's magnificent illustrations, which she ordered one day to be included in the parcel of a sister, who had been judiciously laying out a small sum on the purchase of cheap editions of standard works, not daring to look into the tempting volume for fear of coveting it. When the carrier brought home the unexpectedly large parcel that night, it was difficult to say whether the receiver or the giver was the happier.
My turn came once to be taken by Julie to the sea for rest (June 1874), and then one of the chief enjoyments lay in the unwonted luxury of being allowed to choose my own route. Freedom of choice to a wearied mind is quite as refreshing as ozone to an exhausted body. Julie had none of the petty tyranny about her which often mars the generosity of otherwise liberal souls, who insist on giving what they wish rather than what the receiver wants.
I was told to take out Bradshaw's map, and go exactly where I desired, and, oh! how we pored over the various railway lines, but finally chose Dartmouth for a destination, as being old in itself, and new to us, and really a "long way off." We were neither of us disappointed; we lived on the quay, and watched the natives living in boats on the harbour, as is their wont; and we drove about the Devon lanes, all nodding with foxgloves, to see the churches with finely-carved screens that abound in the neighbourhood, our driver being a more than middle-aged woman, with shoes down at heel, and a hat on her head. She was always attended by a black retriever, whom she called "Naro," and whom Julie sketched. I am afraid, as years went on, I became unscrupulous about accepting her presents, on the score that she "liked" to give them!—and I only tried to be, at any rate, a gracious receiver.
There was one person, however, whom Julie found less easy to deal with, and that was an Aunt, whose liberality even exceeded her own. When Greek met Greek over Christmas presents, then came the tug of war indeed! The Aunt's ingenuity in contriving to give away whatever plums were given to her was quite amazing, and she generally managed to baffle the most careful restrictions which were laid upon her; but Julie conquered at last, by yielding—as often happens in this life!
"It's no use," Julie said to me, as she got out her bit of cardboard (not for a needle-book this time!)—"I must make her happy in her own way. She wants me to make her a sketch for somebody else, and I've promised to do it."
The sketch was made,—the last Julie ever drew,—but it remained amongst the receiver's own treasures. She was so much delighted with it, she could not make up her mind to give it away, and Julie laughed many times with pleasure as she reflected on the unexpected success that had crowned her final effort.
I spoke of "Melchior's Dream" and must revert to it again, for though it was written when my sister was only nineteen, I do not think she has surpassed it in any of her later domestic tales. Some of the writing in the introduction may be rougher and less finished than she was capable of in after-years, but the originality, power, and pathos of the Dream itself are beyond doubt. In it, too, she showed the talent which gives the highest value to all her work—that of teaching deep religious lessons without disgusting her readers by any approach to cant or goody-goodyism.
During the years 1862 to 1868, we kept up a MS. magazine, and, of course, Julie was our principal contributor. Many of her poems on local events were genuinely witty, and her serial tales the backbone of the periodical. The best of these was called "The Two Abbots: a Tale of Second Sight," and in the course of it she introduced a hymn, which was afterwards set to music by Major Ewing and published in Boosey's Royal Edition of "Sacred Songs," under the title "From Fleeting Pleasures."
The words of this hymn, and of two others which she wrote for the use of our Sunday school children at Whitsuntide in the respective years 1864 and 1866 have all been published in vol. ix. of the present Edition of her works.
Some years after she married, my sister again tried her hand at hymn-writing. On July 22, 1879, she wrote to her husband:
"I think I will finish my hymn of 'Church of the Quick and Dead,' and get thee to write a processional tune. The metre is (last verse)—
'Church of the Quick and Dead, Lift up, lift up thy head, Behold the Judge is standing at the door! Bride of the Lamb, arise! From whose woe-wearied eyes My God shall wipe all tears for evermore.'"
My sister published very few of the things which she wrote to amuse us in our MS. "Gunpowder Plot Magazine," for they chiefly referred to local and family events; but "The Blue Bells on the Lea" was an exception. The scene of this is a hill-side near our old home, and Mr. Andre's fantastic and graceful illustrations to the verses when they came out as a book, gave her full satisfaction and delight.
In June 1865 she contributed a short parochial tale, "The Yew Lane Ghosts," to the Monthly Packet, and during the same year she gave a somewhat sensational story, called "The Mystery of the Bloody Hand," to London Society. Julie found no real satisfaction in writing this kind of literature, and she soon discarded it; but her first attempt showed some promise of the prolific power of her imagination, for Mr. Shirley Brooks, who read the tale impartially, not knowing who had written it, wrote the following criticism: "If the author has leisure and inclination to make a picture instead of a sketch, the material, judiciously treated, would make a novel, and I especially see in the character and sufferings of the Quaker, previous to his crime, matter for effective psychological treatment. The contrast between the semi-insane nature and that of the hypocrite might be powerfully worked up; but these are mere suggestions from an old craftsman, who never expects younger ones to see things as veterans do."
[Footnote 8: Vol. xvii. "Miscellanea."]
In May 1866 my Mother started Aunt Judy's Magazine for Children, and she called it by this title because "Aunt Judy" was the nickname we had given to Julie whilst she was yet our nursery story-teller, and it had been previously used in the titles of two of my Mother's most popular books, "Aunt Judy's Tales" and "Aunt Judy's Letters."
After my sister grew up, and began to publish stories of her own, many mistakes occurred as to the authorship of these books. It was supposed that the Tales and Letters were really written by Julie, and the introductory portions that strung them together by my Mother. This was a complete mistake; the only bits that Julie wrote in either of the books were three brief tales, in imitation of Andersen, called "The Smut," "The Crick," and "The Brothers," which were included in "The Black Bag" in "Aunt Judy's Letters."
[Footnote 9: These have now been reprinted in vol. xvii. "Miscellanea."]
Julie's first contribution to Aunt Judy's Magazine was "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances," and between May 1866 and May 1867 the three first portions of "Ida," "Mrs. Moss," and "The Snoring Ghosts," came out. In these stories I can trace many of the influences which surrounded my sister whilst she was still the "always cayling Miss Julie," suffering from constant attacks of quinsy, and in the intervals, reviving from them with the vivacity of Madam Liberality, and frequently going away to pay visits to her friends for change of air.
We had one great friend to whom Julie often went, as she lived within a mile of our home, but on a perfectly different soil to ours. Ecclesfield stands on clay; but Grenoside, the village where our friend lived, is on sand, and much higher in altitude. From it we have often looked down at Ecclesfield lying in fog, whilst at Grenoside the air was clear and the sun shining. Here my sister loved to go, and from the home where she was so welcome and tenderly cared for, she drew (though no facts) yet much of the colouring which is seen in Mrs. Overtheway—a solitary life lived in the fear of God; enjoyment of the delights of a garden; with tender treasuring of dainty china and household goods for the sake of those to whom such relics had once belonged.
Years after our friend had followed her loved ones to their better home, and had bequeathed her egg-shell brocade to my sister, Julie had another resting-place in Grenoside, to which she was as warmly welcomed as to the old one, during days of weakness and convalescence. Here, in an atmosphere of cultivated tastes and loving appreciation, she spent many happy hours, sketching some of the villagers at their picturesque occupations of carpet-weaving and clog-making, or amusing herself in other ways. This home, too, was broken up by Death, but Mrs. Ewing looked back to it with great affection, and when, at the beginning of her last illness, whilst she still expected to recover, she was planning a visit to her Yorkshire home, she sighed to think that Grenoside was no longer open to her.
[Footnote 10: Letters, Advent Sunday, 1881, 25th November, 1881, January 18, 1884.]
On June 1, 1867, my sister was married to Alexander Ewing, A.P.D., son of the late Alexander Ewing, M.D., of Aberdeen, and a week afterwards they sailed for Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he was to be stationed.
A gap now occurred in the continuation of "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances." The first contributions that Julie sent from her new home were, "An Idyl of the Wood," and "The Three Christmas Trees." In these tales the experiences of her voyage and fresh surroundings became apparent; but in June 1868, "Mrs. Overtheway" was continued by the story of "Reka Dom."
[Footnote 11: Letter, 19th Sunday after Trinity, 1867.]
In this Julie reverted to the scenery of another English home where she had spent a good deal of time during her girlhood. The winter of 1862-3 was passed by her at Clyst St. George, near Topsham, with the family of her kind friend, Rev. H.T. Ellacombe, and she evolved Mrs. Overtheway's "River House" out of the romance roused by the sight of quaint old houses, with quainter gardens, and strange names that seemed to show traces of foreign residents in days gone by. "Reka Dom" was actually the name of a house in Topsham, where a Russian family had once lived. Speaking of this house, Major Ewing said:—On the evening of our arrival at Fredericton, New Brunswick, which stands on the river St. John, we strolled down, out of the principal street, and wandered on the river shore. We stopped to rest opposite to a large old house, then in the hands of workmen. There was only the road between this house and the river, and, on the banks, one or two old willows. We said we should like to make our first home in some such spot. Ere many weeks were over, we were established in that very house, where we spent the first year, or more, of our time in Fredericton. We called it "Reka Dom," the River House.
[Footnote 12: Letter, February 3, 1868.]
For the descriptions of Father and Mother Albatross and their island home, in the last and most beautiful tale of "Kerguelen's Land," she was indebted to her husband, a wide traveller and very accurate observer of nature.
To the volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1869 she only sent "The Land of Lost Toys," a short but very brilliant domestic story, the wood described in it being the "Upper Shroggs," near Ecclesfield, which had been a very favourite haunt in her childhood. In October 1869, she and Major Ewing returned to England, and from this time until May 1877, he was stationed at Aldershot.
[Footnote 13: Letter, December 8, 1868.]
Whilst living in Fredericton my sister formed many close friendships. It was here she first met Colonel and Mrs. Fox Strangways. In the society of Bishop Medley and his wife she had also great happiness, and with the former she and Major Ewing used to study Hebrew. The cathedral services were a never-failing source of comfort, and at these her husband frequently played the organ, especially on occasions when anthems, which he had written at the bishop's request, were sung.
To the volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1870 she gave "Amelia and the Dwarfs," and "Christmas Crackers," "Benjy in Beastland," and eight "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales." "Amelia" is one of her happiest combinations of real child life and genuine fairy lore. The dwarfs inspired Mr. Cruikshank to one of his best water-colour sketches: who is the happy possessor thereof I do not know, but the woodcut illustration very inadequately represents the beauty and delicacy of the picture.
[Footnote 14: Letter, Sexagesima, 1869.]
[Footnote 15: Letters, August 3, 1880.]
Whilst speaking of the stories in this volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine, I must stop to allude to one of the strongest features in Julie's character, namely, her love for animals. She threw over them, as over everything she touched, all the warm sympathy of her loving heart, and it always seemed to me as if this enabled her almost to get inside the minds of her pets, and know how to describe their feelings.
[Footnote 16: October 20, 1868.]
Another Beast Friend whom Julie had in New Brunswick was the Bear of the 22nd Regiment, and she drew a sketch of him "with one of his pet black dogs, as I saw them, 18th September, 1868, near the Officers' Quarters, Fredericton, N.B. The Bear is at breakfast, and the dog occasionally licks his nose when it comes up out of the bucket."
The pink-nosed bull-dog in "Amelia" bears a strong likeness to a well-beloved "Hector," whom she took charge of in Fredericton whilst his master had gone on leave to be married in England. Hector, too, was "a snow-white bull-dog (who was certainly as well bred and as amiable as any living creature in the kingdom)," with a pink nose that "became crimson with increased agitation." He was absolutely gentle with human beings, but a hopeless adept at fighting with his own kind, and many of my sister's letters and note-books were adorned with sketches of Hector as he appeared swollen about the head, and subdued in spirits, after some desperate encounter; or, with cards spread out in front of him, playing, as she delighted to make him do, at "having his fortune told." But, instead of the four Queens standing for four ladies of different degrees of complexion, they represented his four favourite dishes of—1. Welsh rabbit. 2. Blueberry pudding. 3. Pork sausages. 4. Buckwheat pancakes and molasses; and "the Fortune" decided which of these dainties he was to have for supper.
[Footnote 17: Letter, November 3, 1868.]
Shortly before the Ewings started from Fredericton they went into the barracks, whence a battalion of some regiment had departed two days before, and there discovered a large black retriever who had been left behind. It is needless to say that this deserted gentleman entirely overcame their feelings; he was at once adopted, named "Trouve," and brought home to England, where he spent a very happy life, chiefly in the South Camp, Aldershot, his one danger there being that he was such a favourite with the soldiers, they over-fed him terribly. Never did a more benevolent disposition exist, his broad forehead and kind eyes, set widely apart, did not belie him; there was a strong strain of Newfoundland in his breed, and a strong likeness to a bear in the way his feathered paws half crossed over each other in walking. Trouve appears as "Nox" in "Benjy," and there is a glimpse of him in "The Sweep," who ended his days as a "soldier's dog" in "The Story of a Short Life." Trouve did, in reality, end his days at Ecclesfield, where he is buried near "Rough," the broken-haired bull-terrier, who is the real hero in "Benjy," Amongst the various animal friends whom Julie had either of her own, or belonging to others, none was lovelier than the golden-haired collie "Rufus," who was at once the delight and distraction of the last year of her life at Taunton, by the tricks he taught himself of very gently extracting the pins from her hair, and letting it down at inconvenient moments; and of extracting, with equal gentleness from the earth, the labels that she had put to the various treasured flowers in her "Little Garden," and then tossing them in mid-air on the grass-plot.
A very amusing domestic story, called "The Snap Dragons," came out in the Christmas number of the Monthly Packet for 1870.
"Timothy's Shoes" appeared in AUNT JUDY'S volume for 1871. This was another story of the same type as "Amelia," and it was also illustrated by Mr. Cruikshank. I think the Marsh Julie had in her mind's eye, with a "long and steep bank," is one near the canal at Aldershot, where she herself used to enjoy hunting for kingcups, bog-asphodel, sundew, and the like. The tale is a charming combination of humour and pathos, and the last clause, where "the shoes go home," is enough to bring tears to the eyes of every one who loves the patter of childish feet.
The most important work that she did this year (1871) was "A Flat-Iron for a Farthing," which ran as a serial through the volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine. It was very beautifully illustrated by Helen Paterson (now Mrs. Allingham), and the design where the "little ladies," in big beaver bonnets, are seated at a shop-counter buying flat-irons, was afterwards reproduced in water-colours by Mrs. Allingham, and exhibited at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (1875), where it attracted Mr. Ruskin's attention. Eventually, a fine steel engraving was done from it by Mr. Stodart. It is interesting to know that the girl friend who sat as a model for "Polly" to Mrs. Allingham is now herself a well-known artist, whose pictures are hung in the Royal Academy.
[Footnote 18: The drawing, with whatever temporary purpose executed, is for ever lovely; a thing which I believe Gainsborough would have given one of his own pictures for—old-fashioned as red-tipped daisies are, and more precious than rubies.—Ruskin, "Notes on some of the Pictures at the Royal Academy." 1875.]
[Footnote 19: Published by the Fine Art Society, Bond-street.]
The scene of the little girls in beaver bonnets was really taken from an incident of Julie's childhood, when she and her "duplicate" (my eldest sister) being the nearest in age, size, and appearance of any of the family, used to be dressed exactly alike, and were inseparable companions: their flat-irons, I think, were bought in Matlock. Shadowy glimpses of this same "duplicate" are also to be caught in Mrs. Overtheway's "Fatima," and Madam Liberality's "Darling." When "A Flat-Iron" came out in its book form it was dedicated "To my dear Father, and to his sister, my dear Aunt Mary, in memory of their good friend and nurse, E.B., obiit 3 March, 1872, aet. 83;" the loyal devotion and high integrity of Nurse Bundle having been somewhat drawn from the "E.B." alluded to. Such characters are not common, and they grow rarer year by year. We do well to hold them in everlasting remembrance.
The meadows gleam with hoar-frost white, The day breaks on the hill, The widgeon takes its early flight Beside the frozen rill. From village steeples far away The sound of bells is borne, As one by one, each crimson ray Brings in the Christmas morn. Peace to all! the church bells say, For Christ was born on Christmas day. Peace to all.
Here, some will those again embrace They hold on earth most dear, There, some will mourn an absent face They lost within the year. Yet peace to all who smile or weep Is rung from earth to sky; But most to those to-day who keep The feast with Christ on high. Peace to all! the church bells say, For Christ was born on Christmas day. Peace to all.
R.A. GATTY, 1873.
During 1871, my sister published the first of her Verses for Children, "The Little Master to his Big Dog"; she did not put her name to it in Aunt Judy's Magazine, but afterwards included it in one of her Verse Books. Two Series of these books were published during her life, and a third Series was in the press when she died, called "Poems of Child Life and Country Life"; though Julie had some difficulty in making up her mind to use the term "poem," because she did not think her irregular verses were worthy to bear the title.
She saw Mr. Andre's original sketches for five of the last six volumes, and liked the illustrations to "The Poet and the Brook," "Convalescence," and "The Mill Stream" best.
To the volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1872 she gave her first "soldier" story, "The Peace Egg," and in this she began to sing those praises of military life and courtesies which she afterwards more fully showed forth in "Jackanapes," "The Story of a Short Life," and the opening chapters of "Six to Sixteen." The chief incident of the story, however, consisted in the Captain's children unconsciously bringing peace and goodwill into the family by performing the old Christmas play or Mystery of "The Peace Egg." This play we had been accustomed to see acted in Yorkshire, and to act ourselves when we were young. I recollect how proud we were on one occasion, when our disguises were so complete, that a neighbouring farmer's wife, at whose door we went to act, drove us as ignominiously away, as the House-keeper did the children in the story. "Darkie," who "slipped in last like a black shadow," and "Pax," who jumped on to Mamma's lap, "where, sitting facing the company, he opened his black mouth and yawned, with ludicrous inappropriateness," are life-like portraits of two favourite dogs.
The tale was a very popular one, and many children wrote to ask where they could buy copies of the Play in order to act it themselves. These inquiries led Julie to compile a fresh arrangement of it, for she knew that in its original form it was rather too roughly worded to be fit for nursery use; so in Aunt Judy's Magazine (January 1884) she published an adaptation of "The Peace Egg, a Christmas Mumming Play," together with some interesting information about the various versions of it which exist in different parts of England.
She contributed "Six to Sixteen" as a serial to the Magazine in 1872, and it was illustrated by Mrs. Allingham. When it was published as a book, the dedication to Miss Eleanor Lloyd told that many of the theories on the up-bringing of girls, which the story contained, were the result of the somewhat desultory, if intellectual, home education which we had received from our Mother. This education Miss Lloyd had, to a great extent, shared during the happy visits she paid us; when she entered into our interests with the zest of a sister, and in more than one point outstripped us in following the pursuits for which Mother gave us a taste. Julie never really either went to school or had a governess, though for a brief period she was under the kind care of some ladies at Brighton, but they were relations, and she went to them more for the benefit of sea breezes than lessons. She certainly chiefly educated herself by the "thorough" way in which she pursued the various tastes she had inherited, and into which she was guided by our Mother. Then she never thought she had learned enough, but throughout her whole life was constantly improving and adding to her knowledge. She owed to Mother's teaching the first principles of drawing, and I have often seen her refer for rules on perspective to "My Childhood in Art," a story in which these rules were fully laid down; but Mother had no eye for colour, and not much for figure drawing. Her own best works were etchings on copper of trees and landscapes, whereas Julie's artistic talent lay more in colours and human forms. The only real lessons in sketching she ever had were a few from Mr. Paul Naftel, years after she was married.
[Footnote 20: Included in "The Human Face Divine, and other Tales." By Margaret Gatty. Bell and Sons.]
One of her favourite methods for practising drawing was to devote herself to thoroughly studying the sketches of some one master, in order to try and unravel the special principles on which he had worked, and then to copy his drawings. She pursued this plan with some of Chinnery's curious and effective water-colour sketches, which were lent to her by friends, and she found it a very useful one. She made copies from De Wint, Turner, and others, in the same way, and certainly the labour she threw into her work enabled her to produce almost facsimiles of the originals. She was greatly interested one day by hearing a lady, who ranks as one of the best living English writers of her sex, say that when she was young she had practised the art of writing in just the same way that Julie pursued that of drawing, namely, by devoting herself to reading the works of one writer at a time, until her brain was so saturated with his style that she could write exactly like him, and then passing on to an equally careful study of some other author.
The life-like details of the "cholera season," in the second chapter of "Six to Sixteen," were drawn from facts that Major Ewing told his wife of a similar season which he had passed through in China, and during which he had lost several friends; but the touching episode of Margery's birthday present, and Mr. Abercrombie's efforts to console her, were purely imaginary.
Several of the "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales" which Julie wrote during this (1872) and previous years in Aunt Judy's Magazine, were on Scotch topics, and she owed the striking accuracy of her local colouring and dialect, as well as her keen intuition of Scotch character, to visits that she paid to Major Ewing's relatives in the North, and also to reading such typical books as Mansie Wauch, the Tailor of Dalkeith, a story which she greatly admired. She liked to study national types of character, and when she wrote "We and the World," one of its chief features was meant to be the contrast drawn between the English, Scotch, and Irish heroes; thanks to her wide sympathy she was as keenly able to appreciate the rugged virtues of the dour Scotch race, as the more quick and graceful beauties of the Irish mind.
The Autumn Military Manoeuvres in 1872 were held near Salisbury Plain, and Major Ewing was so much fascinated by the quaint old town of Amesbury, where he was quartered, that he took my sister afterwards to visit the place. The result of this was that her "Miller's Thumb" came out as a serial in Aunt Judy's Magazine during 1873. All the scenery is drawn from the neighbourhood of Amesbury, and the Wiltshire dialect she acquired by the aid of a friend, who procured copies for her of Wiltshire Tales and A Glossary of Wiltshire Words and Phrases, both by J.Y. Akerman, F.S.A. She gleaned her practical knowledge of life in a windmill, and a "Miller's Thumb," from an old man who used to visit her hut in the South Camp, Aldershot, having fallen from being a Miller with a genuine Thumb, to the less exalted position of hawking muffins in winter and "Sally Lunns" in summer! Mrs. Allingham illustrated the story; two of her best designs were Jan and his Nurse Boy sitting on the plain watching the crows fly, and Jan's first effort at drawing on his slate. It was published as a book in 1876, and dedicated to our eldest sister, and the title was then altered to "Jan of the Windmill, a Story of the Plains."
[Footnote 21: Letter, August 25, 1872.]
Three poems of Julie's came out in the volume of Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1873, "The Willow Man," "Ran away to Sea," and "A Friend in the Garden"; her name was not given to the last, but it is a pleasant little rhyme about a toad. She also wrote during this year "Among the Merrows," a fantastic account of a visit she paid to the Aquarium at the Crystal Palace.
In October 1873, our Mother died, and my sister contributed a short memoir of her to the November number of Aunt Judy's Magazine. To the December number she gave "Madam Liberality."
[Footnote 22: Included in "Parables from Nature." By Mrs. Alfred Gatty. Complete edition. Bell and Sons.]
For two years after Mother's death, Julie shared the work of editing the Magazine with me, and then she gave it up, as we were not living together, and so found the plan rather inconvenient; also the task of reading MSS. and writing business letters wasted time which she could spend better on her own stories.
At the end of the year 1873, she brought out a book, "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, and other Tales," consisting of five stories, three of which—"Timothy's Shoes," "Benjy in Beastland," and "The Peace Egg,"—had already been published in Aunt Judy's Magazine, whilst "Old Father Christmas" had appeared in Little Folks; but the first tale of "Lob" was specially written for the volume.
[Footnote 23: Letter, August 10, 1873.]
The character of McAlister in this story is a Scotchman of the Scotch, and, chiefly in consequence of this fact, the book was dedicated to James Boyn McCombie, an uncle of Major Ewing, who always showed a most kind and helpful interest in my sister's literary work.
He died a few weeks before she did, much to her sorrow, but the Dedication remained when the story came out in a separate form, illustrated by Mr. Caldecott. The incident which makes the tale specially appropriate to be dedicated to so true and unobtrusive a philanthropist as Mr. McCombie was known to be, is the Highlander's burning anxiety to rescue John Broom from his vagrant career.
"Lob" contains some of Julie's brightest flashes of humour, and ends happily, but in it, as in many of her tales, "the dusky strand of death" appears, inwoven with, and thereby heightening, the joys of love and life. It is a curious fact that, though her power of describing death-bed scenes was so vivid, I believe she never saw any one die; and I will venture to say that her description of McAlister's last hours surpasses in truth and power the end of Leonard's "Short Life"; the extinction of the line of "Old Standards" in Daddy Darwin; the unseen call that led Jan's Schoolmaster away; and will even bear comparison with Jackanapes' departure through the Grave to that "other side" where "the Trumpets sounded for him."
In order to appreciate the end, it is almost necessary, perhaps, to have followed John Broom, the ne'er-do-weel lad, and McAlister, the finest man in his regiment, through the scenes which drew them together, and to read how the soldier, who might and ought to have been a "sairgent," tried to turn the boy back from pursuing the downward path along which he himself had taken too many steps; and then learn how the vagrant's grateful love and agility enabled him to awaken the sleeping sentinel at his post, and save "the old soldier's honour."
John Broom remained by his friend, whose painful fits of coughing, and of gasping for breath, were varied by intervals of seeming stupor. When a candle had been brought in and placed near the bed, the Highlander roused himself and asked:
"Is there a Bible on yon table? Could ye read a bit to me, laddie?"
There is little need to dwell on the bitterness of heart with which John Broom confessed:
"I can't read big words, McAlister!"
"Did ye never go to school?" said the Scotchman.
"I didn't learn," said the poor boy; "I played."
"Aye, aye. Weel ye'll learn when ye gang hame," said the Highlander, in gentle tones.
"I'll never get home," said John Broom, passionately. "I'll never forgive myself. I'll never get over it, that I couldn't read to ye when ye wanted me, McAlister."
"Gently, gently," said the Scotchman. "Dinna daunt yoursel' ower much wi' the past, laddie. And for me—I'm not that presoomtious to think I can square up a misspent life as a man might compound wi's creditors. 'Gin He forgi'es me, He'll forgi'e; but it's not a prayer up or a chapter down that'll stan' between me and the Almighty. So dinna fret yoursel', but let me think while I may."
And so, far into the night, the Highlander lay silent, and John Broom watched by him.
It was just midnight when he partly raised himself, and cried:
"Whist, laddie! do ye hear the pipes?"
The dying ears must have been quick, for John Broom heard nothing; but in a few minutes he heard the bagpipes from the officers' mess, where they were keeping Hogmenay. They were playing the old year out with "Auld Lang Syne," and the Highlander beat the time out with his hand, and his eyes gleamed out of his rugged face in the dim light, as cairngorms glitter in dark tartan.
There was a pause after the first verse, and he grew restless, and turning doubtfully to where John Broom sat, as if his sight were failing, he said: "Ye'll mind your promise, ye'll gang hame?" And after a while he repeated the last word "Hame!"
But as he spoke there spread over his face a smile so tender and so full of happiness, that John Broom held his breath as he watched him.
As the light of sunrise creeps over the face of some rugged rock, it crept from chin to brow, and the pale blue eyes shone tranquil, like water that reflects heaven.
And when it had passed it left them still open, but gems that had lost their ray.
Death-beds are not the only things which Julie had the power of picturing out of her inner consciousness apart from actual experience. She was much amused by the pertinacity with which unknown correspondents occasionally inquired after her "little ones," unable to give her the credit of describing and understanding children unless she possessed some of her own. There is a graceful touch at the end of "Lob," which seems to me one of the most delicate evidences of her universal sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men,—and women! It is similar in character to the passage I alluded to in "Timothy's Shoes," where they clatter away for the last time, into silence.
Even after the sobering influences of middle age had touched him, and a wife and children bound him with the quiet ties of home, he had (at long intervals) his "restless times," when his good "missis" would bring out a little store laid by in one of the children's socks, and would bid him "Be off, and get a breath of the sea air," but on condition that the sock went with, him as his purse. John Broom always looked ashamed to go, but he came back the better, and his wife was quite easy in his absence with that confidence in her knowledge of "the master," which is so mysterious to the unmarried.
* * * * *
"The sock 'll bring him home," said Mrs. Broom, and home he came, and never could say what he had been doing.
In 1874 Julie wrote "A Great Emergency" as a serial for the Magazine, and took great pains to corroborate the accuracy of her descriptions of barge life for it. I remember our inspecting a barge on the canal at Aldershot, with a friend who understood all its details, and we arranged to go on an expedition in it to gain further experience, but were somehow prevented. The allusions to Dartmouth arose from our visit there, of which I have already spoken, and which took place whilst she was writing the tale; and her knowledge of the intricacies of the Great Eastern Railway between Fenchurch Street Station and North Woolwich came from the experience she gained when we went on expeditions to Victoria Docks, where one of our brothers was doing parochial work under Canon Boyd.
[Footnote 24: Letter, July 22, 1874.]
During 1874 five of her "Verses for Children" came out in the Magazine, two of which, "Our Garden," and "Three Little Nest-Birds," were written to fit old German woodcuts. The others were "The Dolls' Wash," "The Blue Bells on the Lea," and "The Doll's Lullaby." She wrote an article on "May-Day, Old Style and New Style," in 1874, and also contributed fifty-two brief "Tales of the Khoja," which she adapted from the Turkish by the aid of a literal translation of them given in Barker's Reading-Book of the Turkish Language, and by the help of Major Ewing, who possessed some knowledge of the Turkish language and customs, and assisted her in polishing the stories. They are thoroughly Eastern in character, and full of dry wit.
[Footnote 25: "Miscellanea," vol. xvii.]
I must here digress to speak of some other work that my sister did during the time she lived in Aldershot. Both she and Major Ewing took great interest in the amateur concerts and private musical performances that took place in the camp, and the V.C. in "The Story of a Short Life," with a fine tenor voice, and a "fastidious choice in the words of the songs he sang," is a shadow of these past days. The want that many composers felt of good words for setting to music, led Julie to try to write some, and eventually, in 1874, a book of "Songs for Music, by Four Friends," was published; the contents were written by my sister and two of her brothers, and the Rev. G.J. Chester. This book became a standing joke amongst them, because one of the reviewers said it contained "songs by four writers, one of whom was a poet," and he did not specify the one by name.
[Footnote 26: H. King and Co.]
During 1875 Julie was again aided by her husband in the work that she did for Aunt Judy's Magazine. "Cousin Peregrine's three Wonder Stories "—1. "The Chinese Jugglers and the Englishman's Hand"; 2. "The Waves of the Great South Sea"; and 3. "Jack of Pera"—were a combination of his facts and her wording. She added only one more to her Old-fashioned Fairy Tales, "Good Luck is Better than Gold," but it is one of her most finished bits of art, and she placed it first, when the tales came out in a volume.
[Footnote 27: "Miscellanea," vol. xvii.]
The Preface to this book is well worth the study of those who are interested in the composition of Fairy literature; and the theories on which Julie wrote her own tales.
[Footnote 28: Letter, Septuagesima, 1869.]
She also wrote (in 1875) an article on "Little Woods," and a domestic story called "A very Ill-tempered Family."
The incident of Isobel's reciting the Te Deum is a touching one, because the habit of repeating it by heart, especially in bed at night, was one which Julie herself had practised from the days of childhood, when, I believe, it was used to drive away the terrors of darkness. The last day on which she expressed any expectation of recovering from her final illness was one on which she said, "I think I must be getting better, for I've repeated the Te Deum all through, and since I've been ill I've only been able to say a few sentences at once." This was certainly the last time that she recited the great Hymn of Praise before she joined the throng of those who sing it day and night before the throne of God. The German print of the Crucifixion, on which Isobel saw the light of the setting sun fall, is one which has hung over my sister's drawing-room fire-place in every home of wood or stone which she has had for many years past.
The Child Verse, "A Hero to his Hobby-horse," came out in the Magazine volume for 1875, and, like many of the other verses, it was written to fit a picture.
One of the happiest inspirations from pictures, however, appeared in the following volume (1876), the story of "Toots and Boots," but though the picture of the ideal Toots was cast like a shadow before him, the actual Toots, name and all complete, had a real existence, and his word-portrait was taken from life. He belonged to the mess of the Royal Engineers in the South Camp, Aldershot, and was as dignified as if he held the office of President. I shall never forget one occasion on which he was invited to luncheon at Mrs. Ewing's hut, that I might have the pleasure of making his acquaintance; he had to be unwillingly carried across the Lines in the arms of an obliging subaltern, but directly he arrived, without waiting even for the first course, he struggled out of the officer's embrace and galloped back to his own mess-table, tail erect and thick with rage at the indignity he had undergone.
"Father Hedgehog and his Friends," in this same volume (1876), was also written to some excellent German woodcuts; and it, too, is a wonderfully brilliant sketch of animal life; perhaps the human beings in the tale are scarcely done justice to. We feel as if Sybil and Basil, and the Gipsy Mother and Christian, had scarcely room to breathe in the few pages that they are crowded into; there is certainly too much "subject" here for the size of the canvas!—but Father Hedgehog takes up little space, and every syllable about him is as keenly pointed as the spines on his back. The method by which he silenced awkward questions from any of his family is truly delightful:
"Will the donkey be cooked when he is fat?" asked my mother.
"I smell valerian," said my father, on which she put out her nose, and he ran at it with his prickles. He always did this when he was annoyed with any of his family; and though we knew what was coming, we are all so fond of valerian, we could never resist the temptation to sniff, just on the chance of there being some about.
Then, the following season, we find the Hedgehog Son grown into a parent, and, with the "little hoard of maxims" he had inherited, checking the too inquiring minds of his offspring:
"What is a louis d'or?" cried three of my children; and "What is brandy?" asked the other four.
"I smell valerian," said I; on which they poked out their seven noses, and I ran at them with my spines, for a father who is not an Encyclopaedia on all fours must adopt some method of checking the inquisitiveness of the young.
One more quotation must be made from the end of the story, where Father Hedgehog gives a list of the fates that befell his children:
Number one came to a sad end. What on the face of the wood made him think of pheasants' eggs I cannot conceive. I'm sure I never said anything about them! It was whilst he was scrambling along the edge of the covert, that he met the Fox, and very properly rolled himself into a ball. The Fox's nose was as long as his own, and he rolled my poor son over and over with it, till he rolled him into the stream. The young urchins swim like fishes, but just as he was scrambling to shore, the Fox caught him by the waistcoat and killed him. I do hate slyness!
It seems scarcely conceivable that any one can sympathize sufficiently with a Hedgehog as to place himself in the latter's position, and share its paternal anxieties,—but I think Julie was able to do so, or, at any rate, her translations of the Hedgepig's whines were so ben trovati, they may well stand until some better interpreter of the languages of the brute creation rises up amongst us. As another instance of her breadth of sympathy with beasts, let us turn to "A Week Spent in a Glass Pond" (which also came out in Aunt Judy's Magazine for 1876), and quote her summary of the Great Water-beetle's views on life:
After living as I can, in all three—water, dry land, and air,—I certainly prefer to be under water. Any one whose appetite is as keen, and whose hind-legs are as powerful as mine, will understand the delights of hunting, and being hunted, in a pond; where the light comes down in fitful rays and reflections through the water, and gleams among the hanging roots of the frog-bit, and the fading leaves of the water-starwort, through the maze of which, in and out, hither and thither, you pursue and are pursued, in cool and skilful chase, by a mixed company of your neighbours, who dart, and shoot, and dive, and come and go, and any one of whom, at any moment, may either eat you or be eaten by you. And if you want peace and quiet, where can one bury oneself so safely and completely as in the mud? A state of existence without mud at the bottom, must be a life without repose!
I must here venture to remark, that the chief and lasting value of whatever both my sister and my mother wrote about animals, or any other objects in Nature, lies in the fact that they invariably took the utmost pains to verify whatever statements they made relating to those objects. Spiritual Laws can only be drawn from the Natural World when they are based on Truth.
Julie spared no trouble in trying to ascertain whether Hedgehogs do or do not eat pheasants' eggs; she consulted The Field, and books on sport, and her sporting friends, and when she found it was a disputed point, she determined to give the Hedgepig the benefit of the doubt. Then the taste for valerian, and the fox's method of capture, were drawn from facts, and the gruesome details as to who ate who in the Glass Pond were equally well founded!
This (1876) volume of the Magazine is rich in contributions from Julie, the reason being that she was stronger in health whilst she lived at Aldershot than during any other period of her life. The sweet dry air of the "Highwayman's Heath"—bared though it was of heather!—suited her so well, she could sleep with her hut windows open, and go out into her garden at any hour of the evening without fear of harm. She liked to stroll out and listen to "Retreat" being sounded at sundown, especially when it was the turn of some regiment with pipes to perform the duty; they sounded so shrill and weird, coming from the distant hill through the growing darkness.
We held a curious function one hot July evening during Retreat, when, the Fates being propitious, it was the turn of the 42nd Highlanders to play. My sister had taken compassion on a stray collie puppy a few weeks before, and adopted him; he was very soft-coated and fascinating in his ways, despite his gawky legs, and promised to grow into a credit to his race. But it seemed he was too finely bred to survive the ravages of distemper, for, though he was tenderly nursed, he died. A wreath of flowers was hung round his neck, and, as he lay on his bier, Julie made a sketch of him, with the inscription, "The Little Colley, Eheu! Taken in, June 14. In spite of care, died July 1. Speravimus meliora." Major Ewing, wearing a broad Scotch bonnet, dug a grave in the garden, and as we had no "dinner-bell" to muffle, we waited till the pipers broke forth at sundown with an appropriate air, and then lowered the little Scotch dog into his resting-place.
During her residence at Aldershot Julie wrote three of her longest books—"A Flat Iron for a Farthing," "Six to Sixteen," and "Jan of the Windmill," besides all the shorter tales and verses that she contributed to the Magazine between 1870 and 1877. The two short tales which seem to me her very best came out in 1876, namely, "Our Field" (about which I have already spoken) and "The Blind Man and the Talking Dog." Both the stories were written to fit some old German woodcuts, but they are perfectly different in style; "Our Field" is told in the language and from the fresh heart of a Child; whilst the "Blind Man" is such a picture of life from cradle to grave—aye, and stretching forward into the world beyond,—as could only have come forth from the experiences of Age. But though this be so, the lesson shown of how the Boy's story foreshadows the Man's history, is one which cannot be learned too early.
Julie never pictured a dearer dog than the Peronet whom she originated from the fat stumpy-tailed puppy who is seen playing with the children in the woodcut to "Our Field."
People sometimes asked us what kind of a dog he was, but we never knew, except that he was the nicest possible kind.... Peronet was as fond of the Field as we were. What he liked were the little birds. At least, I don't know that he liked them, but they were what he chiefly attended to. I think he knew that it was our field, and thought he was the watch-dog of it; and whenever a bird settled down anywhere, he barked at it, and then it flew away, and he ran barking after it till he lost it; by that time another had settled down, and then Peronet flew at him, all up and down the hedge. He never caught a bird, and never would let one sit down, if he could see it.
Then what a vista is opened by the light that is "left out" in the concluding words:—
I know that Our Field does not exactly belong to us. I wonder whom it does belong to? Richard says he believes it belongs to the gentleman who lives at the big red house among the trees. But he must be wrong; for we see that gentleman at church every Sunday, but we never saw him in Our Field.
And I don't believe anybody could have such a field of their very own, and never come to see it, from one end of summer to the other.
It is almost impossible to quote portions of the "Blind Man" without marring the whole. The story is so condensed—only four pages in length; it is one of the most striking examples of my sister's favourite rule in composition, "never use two words where one will do." But from these four brief pages we learn as much as if four volumes had been filled with descriptions of the characters of the Mayor's son and Aldegunda,—from her birthday, on which the boy grumbled because "she toddles as badly as she did yesterday, though she's a year older," and "Aldegunda sobbed till she burst the strings of her hat, and the boy had to tie them afresh,"—to the day of their wedding, when the Bridegroom thinks he can take possession of the Blind Man's Talking Dog, because the latter had promised to leave his master and live with the hero, if ever he could claim to be perfectly happy—happier than him whom he regarded as "a poor wretched old beggar in want of everything."
As they rode together in search of the Dog:
Aldegunda thought to herself—"We are so happy, and have so much, that I do not like to take the Blind Man's dog from him"; but she did not dare to say so. One—if not two—must bear and forbear to be happy, even on one's wedding-day.
And, when they reached their journey's end, Lazarus was no longer "the wretched one ... miserable, poor, and blind," but was numbered amongst the blessed Dead, and the Dog was by his grave:
"Come and live with me, now your old master is gone," said the young man, stooping over the dog. But he made no reply.
"I think he is dead, sir," said the gravedigger.
"I don't believe it," said the young man, fretfully. "He was an Enchanted Dog, and he promised I should have him when I could say what I am ready to say now. He should have kept his promise." But Aldegunda had taken the dog's cold head into her arms, and her tears fell fast over it.
"You forget," she said; "he only promised to come to you when you were happy, if his old master was not happier still: and perhaps—"
"I remember that you always disagree with me," said the young man, impatiently. "You always did so. Tears on our wedding-day, too! I suppose the truth is, that no one is happy."
Aldegunda made no answer, for it is not from those one loves that he will willingly learn that with a selfish and imperious temper happiness never dwells.
The "Blind Man" was inserted in the Magazine as an "Old-Fashioned Fairy Tale," and Julie wrote another this year (1876) under the same heading, which was called "I Won't."
She also wrote a delightfully funny Legend, "The Kyrkegrim turned Preacher," about a Norwegian Brownie, or Niss, whose duty was "to keep the church clean, and to scatter the marsh marigolds on the floor before service," but, like other church-sweepers, his soul was troubled by seeing the congregation neglect to listen to the preacher, and fall asleep during his sermons. Then the Kyrkegrim, feeling sure that he could make more impression on their hardened hearts than the priest did, ascended from the floor to the pulpit, and tried to set the world to rights; but eventually he was glad to return to his broom, and leave "heavier responsibilities in higher hands."
She contributed "Hints for Private Theatricals. In Letters from Burnt Cork to Rouge Pot," which were probably suggested by the private theatricals in which she was helping at Aldershot; and she wrote four of her best Verses for Children: "Big Smith," "House-building and Repairs," "An Only Child's Tea-party," and "Papa Poodle."
"The Adventures of an Elf" is a poem to some clever silhouette pictures of Fedor Flinzer's, which she freely adapted from the German. "The Snarling Princess" is a fairy tale also adapted from the German; but neither of these contributions was so well worth the trouble of translation as a fine dialogue from the French of Jean Mace called "War and the Dead," which Julie gave to the number of Aunt Judy for October 1866. "The Princes of Vegetation" (April 1876) is an article on Palm-trees, to which family Linnaeus had given this noble title.