MEMOIRS OF LIFE AND LITERATURE
Books by W. H. MALLOCK
Memoirs of Life and Literature The Limits of Pure Democracy 5th Edition Religion as a Credible Doctrine The Reconstruction of Belief
The Individualist 3rd Edition The Heart of Life 3rd Edition A Human Document 9th Edition
MEMOIRS OF LIFE AND LITERATURE
W. H. MALLOCK
"RECONSTRUCTION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF" ETC.
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON MCMXX
MEMOIRS OF LIFE AND LITERATURE
Copyright, 1920, by Harper & Brothers Printed in the United States of America Published September, 1920
PAGE CHAPTER I
FAMILY ANTECEDENTS 1
The Mallocks of Cockington—Some Old Devonshire Houses—A Child's Outlook on Life
THE TWO NATIONS 20
The Rural Poor of Devonshire—The Old Landed Families—An Ecclesiastical Magnate
A PRIVATE TUTOR DE LUXE 9
Early Youth Under a Private Tutor—Poetry—Premonitions of Modern Liberalism
WINTER SOCIETY AT TORQUAY 53
Early Acquaintance with Society—Byron's Grandson, Lord Houghton—A Dandy of the Old School, Carlyle—Lord Lytton, and Others—Memorable Ladies
EXPERIENCES AT OXFORD 68
Early Youth at Oxford—Acquaintance with Browning, Swinburne, and Ruskin—Dissipations of an Undergraduate—The Ferment of Intellectual Revolution—The New Republic
THE BASIS OF LONDON SOCIETY 92
Early Experiences of London Society—Society Thirty Years Ago Relatively Small—Arts and Accomplishments Which Can Flourish in Small Societies Only
VIGNETTES OF LONDON LIFE 113
Byron's Grandson and Shelley's Son—The World of Balls—The "Great Houses," and Their New Rivals—The Latter Criticized by Some Ladies of the Old Noblesse—Types of More Serious Society—Lady Marian Alford and Others—Salons Exclusive and Inclusive—A Clash of Two Rival Poets—The Poet Laureate—Auberon Herbert and the Simple Life—Dean Stanley—Whyte Melville—"Ouida"—"Violet Fane"—Catholic Society—Lord Bute—Banquet to Cardinal Manning—Difficulties of the Memoir-writer—Lord Wemyss and Lady P—— —Indiscretions of Augustus Hare—Routine of a London Day—The Author's Life Out of London
SOCIETY IN COUNTRY HOUSES 142
A Few Country Houses of Various Types—Castles and Manor Houses from Cornwall to Sutherland
FROM COUNTRY HOUSES TO POLITICS 168
First Treatise on Politics—Radical Propaganda—First Visit to the Highlands—The Author Asked to Stand for a Scotch Constituency
A FIVE MONTHS' INTERLUDE 194
A Venture on the Riviera—Monte Carlo—Life in a Villa at Beaulieu—A Gambler's Suicide—A Gambler's Funeral
"THE OLD ORDER CHANGES" 209
Intellectual Apathy of Conservatives—A Novel Which Attempts to Harmonize Socialist Principles with Conservative
CYPRUS, FLORENCE, HUNGARY 226
A Winter in Cyprus—Florence—Siena—Italian Castles—Cannes—Some Foreign Royalties—Visit During the Following Spring to Princess Batthyany in Hungary
TWO WORKS ON SOCIAL POLITICS 255
The Second Lord Lytton at Knebworth—"Ouida"—Conservative Torpor as to Social Politics—Two Books: Labor and the Popular Welfare and Aristocracy and Evolution—Letters from Herbert Spencer
RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY AND FICTION 270
The So-called Anglican Crisis—Doctrine and Doctrinal Disruption—Three Novels: A Human Document, The Heart of Life, The Individualist—Three Works on the Philosophy of Religion: Religion as a Credible Doctrine, The Veil of the Temple, The Reconstruction of Belief—Passages from The Veil of the Temple
From the Highlands to New York 292
Summer on the Borders of Caithness—A Two Months' Yachting Cruise—The Orkneys and the Outer Hebrides—An Unexpected Political Summons
POLITICS AND SOCIETY IN AMERICA 308
Addresses on Socialism—Arrangements for Their Delivery—American Society in Long Island and New York—Harvard—Prof. William James—President Roosevelt—Chicago—Second Stay in New York—New York to Brittany—A Critical Examination of Socialism—Propaganda in England
THE AUTHOR'S WORKS SUMMARIZED 335
A Boy's Conservatism—Poetic Ambitions—The Philosophy of Religious Belief—The Philosophy of Industrial Conservatism—Intellectual Torpor of Conservatives—Final Treatises and Fiction
LITERATURE AND ACTION 343
Literature as Speech Made Permanent—All Written Speech Not Literature—The Essence of Literature for Its Own Sake—Prose as a Fine Art—Some Interesting Aspects of Literature as an End in Itself—Their Comparative Triviality—No Literature Great Which Is Not More Than Literature—Literature as a Vehicle of Religion—Lucretius—The Reconstruction of Belief
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE Frontispiece
ROBERT BROWNING Facing p. 30
THOMAS CARLYLE " 64
JOHN RUSKIN " 86
OUIDA " 126
CARDINAL MANNING " 134
HERBERT SPENCER " 266
THEODORE ROOSEVELT " 318
MEMOIRS OF LIFE AND LITERATURE
The Mallocks of Cockington—Some Old Devonshire Houses—A Child's Outlook on Life
"Memoirs" is a word which, as commonly used, includes books of very various kinds, ranging from St. Augustine's Confessions to the gossip of Lady Dorothy Nevill. Such books, however, have all one family likeness. They all of them represent life as seen by the writers from a personal point of view; and in this sense it is to the family of Memoirs that the present book belongs.
But the incidents or aspects of life which a book of memoirs describes represent something more than themselves. Whether the writer is conscious of the fact or no, they represent a circle of circumstances, general as well as private, to which his individual character reacts; and his reactions, as he records them, may in this way acquire a meaning and unity which have their origin in the age—in the general conditions and movements which his personal recollections cover—rather than in any qualities or adventures which happen to be exclusively his own. Thus if any writer attempts to do what I have done myself—namely, to examine or depict in books of widely different kinds such aspects and problems of life—social, philosophical, religious, and economic—as have in turn engrossed his special attention, he may venture to hope that a memoir of his own activities will be taken as representing an age, rather than a personal story, his personal story being little more than a variant of one which many readers will recognize as common to themselves and him.
Now for all reflecting persons whose childhood reaches back to the middle of the nineteenth century, the most remarkable feature of the period which constitutes the age for themselves cannot fail to be a sequence of remarkable and momentous changes—changes alike in the domains of science, religion, and society; and if any one of such persons should be asked, "Changes from what?" his answer will be, if he knows how to express himself, "Changes from the things presented to him by his first remembered experiences, and by him taken for granted," such as the teaching, religious or otherwise, received by him, and the general constitution of society as revealed to him by his own observation and the ways and conversation of his elders. These are the things which provide the child's life with its starting point, and these are determined by the facts of family tradition and parentage. It is, therefore, with a description of such family facts that the author of a memoir like the present ought properly to begin.
The Mallocks, who have for nearly three hundred years been settled at Cockington Court, near to what is now Torquay, descend from a William Malet, Mallek, or Mallacke, who was, about the year 1400, possessed of estates lying between Lyme and Axmouth. This individual, according to the genealogists of the Heralds' College, was a younger son of Sir Baldwyn Malet of Enmore, in the county of Dorset. His descendants, at all events, from this time onward became connected by marriage with such well-known West Country families as the Pynes, the Drakes, the Churchills, the Yonges of Colyton, the Willoughbys of Payhembury, the Trevelyans, the Tuckfields (subsequently Hippesleys), the Strodes of Newnham, the Aclands, the Champernownes, and the Bullers. Between the reigns of Henry VII and Elizabeth they provided successive Parliaments with members for Lyme and Poole. One of them, Roger, during the reign of the latter sovereign, found his way to Exeter, where, as a banker or "goldsmith," he laid the foundations of what was then a very great fortune, and built himself a large town house, of which one room is still intact, with the queen's arms and his own juxtaposed on the paneling. The fortune accumulated by him was, during the next two reigns, notably increased by a second Roger, his son, in partnership with Sir Ferdinando Gorges, military governor of Plymouth, who had somehow become possessed of immense territories in Maine, and was a prominent figure in the history of English trade with America.
The second Roger, about the year 1640, purchased the Cockington property from Sir Henry Cary, a Cavalier, who appears to have been a typical sufferer from his devotion to the royal cause. Roger Mallock was, indeed, so far Royalist himself that he entered a protest against the execution of Charles; but both he and his relatives also were evidently in sympathy otherwise with the Parliamentary party; for, during the Protectorate, Elizabeth Mallock, his cousin, married Lord Blayney, an Irishman, who was personally attached to Cromwell; while Rawlin Mallock, this second Roger's son (who had married Susannah, Sir Ferdinando Gorges's daughter), was Whig member for Totnes, twice Whig member for Ashburton, and was one of the small group of peers and country gentlemen who welcomed William of Orange when he disembarked at Brixham. Rawlin's heir was a boy—beautiful, as a picture of him in the guise of a little Cavalier shows—who died a minor in the year 1699, but who, during his brief life, as a contemporary chronicler mentions, had distinguished himself by an accomplishment extremely rare among the young country gentlemen of his own day—indeed, we may add of our own—that is to day, a precocious knowledge of Hebrew.
The young scholar was succeeded by a third Rawlin, his cousin, a personage of a very different type, who, in concert with his next-door neighbor, Mr. Cary of Torre Abbey, added to the pursuits of a Squire Western the enterprise of a smuggler in a big way of business. He was, moreover, a patron of the turf, having a large stud farm on Dartmoor, with results which would have been disastrous for himself if the wounds inflicted by the world had not been healed through his connection with the Established Church. He was fortunately the patron of no less than sixteen livings, or cures of souls, by the gradual sale of most of which he managed to meet, as a Christian should do, the claims of his lay creditors. Of the bottles of port with which he stocked the Cockington cellars two, bearing the date of 1745, still remain—or till lately remained—unopened. Through the successor of this typical Georgian the property passed to my grandfather, of whom my father was a younger son.
Like many other younger sons, my father, to use a pious phrase, suffered himself to be "put into the Church," where two of the livings still owned by his family awaited him. These, to his temporal advantage, he presently exchanged for another. His health, however, since I can remember him, never permitted him to exert himself in the performance of divine service. Indeed, his ecclesiastical interests were architectural rather than pastoral. He accordingly, after a brief acquaintance with his new parishioners, committed them to the spiritual care of a stalwart and well-born curate, and bought a picturesque retreat about ten or twelve miles away, embowered in ivy, and overlooking the river Exe, where he spent his time in enlarging the house and gardens, and in planting slopes and terraces, about a quarter of a mile in length, with what were then very rare trees. He was subsequently given for life the use of another house, Denbury Manor, of which I shall speak presently, which I myself much preferred, and with which my own early recollections are much more closely associated.
My mother was a daughter of the Ven. Archdeacon Froude, and sister of three distinguished brothers—Hurrell Froude, prominent as a leader of the Tractarian movement, Antony Froude the historian, and William Froude, who, though his name is less generally known, exercised, as will be shown presently, an influence on public affairs greater than that of many cabinet ministers. The Archdeacon of Totnes, their father, was a Churchman of a type now extinct as the dodo. Born in the early part of the reign of George III, and inheriting a considerable fortune, he was in his youth addicted to pursuits a proficiency in which is now regarded by no one as absolutely essential to a fitness for Holy Orders. He was famous for his horses, and also for his feats of horsemanship, one of these being the jumping of a five-barred gate without losing either of two guinea pieces which were placed at starting between his knees and the saddle. To the accomplishments of an equestrian he added those of a dilettante. He was an architect, a collector of pictures, a herald and archaeologist, and also (as Ruskin declared, to whom some of his drawings were exhibited) an artist whose genius was all but that of a master. Like other young men of fortune, he made what was then called the "grand tour of Europe," his sketchbooks showing that he traveled as far as Corfu, and subsequently, when he settled for life as the vicar of Dartington parish, he was regarded as one of the most enlightened country gentlemen of the district, active in improving the roads, which, till his time, were abominable, and in bringing poachers to punishment if not to repentance.
Within a short walk of the parsonage, over the brow of a wooded hill, is another house, which in the scenery of my childhood was an object no less familiar—Dartington Hall, the home of the Champernowne family, with which, by marriage and otherwise, my father's was very closely connected. Yet another house—it has been mentioned already as associated with my childhood also—is Denbury Manor, with its stucco chimneys and pinnacles, its distance from Dartington being something like eight miles. These four houses—Denbury Manor, Dartington Parsonage, Dartington Hall, and Cockington Court—all lying within a circle of some twelve miles in diameter, represent, together with their adjuncts, the material aspects of the life with which I was first familiar. Let me give a brief sketch of each, taking Denbury first.
Denbury Manor at the end of the eighteenth century was converted and enlarged into a dower-house for my mother's grandmother, but was occupied when first I knew it by my great-aunt, her daughter, an old Miss Margaret Froude. To judge from a portrait done of her in her youth by Downman, she must have been then a very engaging ingenue; but when I remember her she looked a hundred and fifty. She was, indeed, when she died very nearly a hundred, and her house and its surroundings now figure in my recollections as things of the eighteenth century which, preserved in all their freshness, had hardly been touched by the years which by that time had followed it. The house, which was of considerable antiquity, had been, for my great-grandmother's benefit, modernized or Elizabethanized under the influence of Horace Walpole and Wyat. It was backed by a rookery of old and enormous elms. It was approached on one side by a fine avenue of limes, and was otherwise surrounded by gardens with gray walls or secretive laurel hedges. Here was a water tank in the form of a Strawberry Hill chapel. Here was a greenhouse unaltered since the days of George II. Everywhere, though everything was antique, there were signs of punctilious care, and morning by morning a bevy of female villagers would be raking the gravel paths and turning them into weedless silver. The front door, heavy with nails, would be opened by an aged footman, his cheeks pink like an apple, and his white silk stockings and his livery always faultless. Within were old Turkey carpets, glossy, but not worn with use, heavy Chippendale chairs, great Delf jugs with the monogram of George II on them, a profusion of Oriental china, and endless bowls of potpourri. On the shelves of whatnots were books of long-forgotten eighteenth-century plays. In one of the sitting rooms was a magnificent portrait by Reynolds of Miss Froude's mother. It represented her playing on a guitar, and on a table beneath it reposed the guitar itself. Here and there lay one of the ivory hands with which powdered ladies once condescended to scratch themselves. There were shining inkstands whose drawers were still stocked with the wafers used for sealing letters in the days of Lydia Languish. In another room, called "the little parlor," and commonly used for breakfast, an old gentleman by Opie smiled from one of the walls, and saw one thing only which he might have seen there in his boyhood—a small piano by Broadwood, always fastidiously polished, as if it had just come from the shop, and bearing the date of 1780. Many houses abound in similar furnishings. The characteristic of Denbury was that it contained nothing else. These things were there, not as survivals of the past, but as parts of a past which for the inmates had never ceased to be the present. They were there as the natural appurtenances of a lady who, so far as I knew, had never been near a railway till a special train was run to convey mourners to her funeral.
Miss Froude matched her surroundings. During her later years she was never visible till midday, by which time she would, in an upstairs drawing room, be found occupying a cushionless chair at a large central table, with a glass of port at her right hand and a volume of sermons at her left. On either side of her stood a faithful attendant, one being a confidential maid, the other a Miss Drake—an old, mittened companion, hardly younger in appearance than herself—both of whom watched her with eyes of solicitous reverence, and seemed always ready to collapse into quasi-religious curtsies. Here she would receive such visitors as happened to be staying in the house, and subsequently reverential villagers, who appealed to her for aid or sympathy.
Dartington Parsonage was in one sense more modern than Denbury, having been for the most part constructed by the Archdeacon himself. Originally a diminutive dwelling—a relic of medieval times—he enlarged it to the dimensions of a substantial country house, surrounding a court, and connected with a medley of outbuildings—servants' offices, stables, barns, and coach houses, one of these last containing as a solitary recluse a high-hung yellow chariot, lined with yellow morocco, in which the Archdeacon had been wont to travel before the battle of Waterloo, and in which his grandchildren were never weary of swinging themselves. If the parsonage and its appurtenances can in any sense be called modern, they represented ideas and conditions which are far enough away now. There was nothing about them more modern than the early days of Miss Austen. The dining-room sideboard, with its long row of knife boxes, whose sloping lids when lifted showed a glimmering of silver handles, would have seemed familiar to Mr. Knightly, Mr. Woodhouse, and Sir Thomas Bertram. Opposite the dining room was a library, very carefully kept, the contents of which were a curious mixture. Besides great folio editions of the classics and the Christian Fathers, were collections of the ephemeral literature of the days of Charles II, notable among which were lampoons on Nell Gwyn and her royal lover—works which the Archdeacon certainly never bought, and which must have come to him through his mother from the Cavalier family of Copplestone. In the hall was a marble table bearing a bust of Demosthenes. In the drawing-room were watercolor drawings by artists such as Prout and Stansfield; a group of Dutch paintings, including a fine Van Ostade; sofas, on which Miss Austen might, have sat by the Prince Regent; and scrap-work screens on which faded portraits and landscapes were half eclipsed by quotations from Elegant Extracts. From the drawing-room windows, in my mother's earlier days, might often have been seen the figure of an old head gardener and factotum, George Diggins by name, bending over beds of geraniums, who was born in the reign of George II, who had passed his youth as a charcoal burner in woods not far from Ugbrooke, the seat of the Catholic Cliffords, and who often recounted how, on mysterious nights, "four horses and a coach, with the old Lord Clifford inside it, would come tumbling out of the woods into the road like so many packs of wool."
Dartington Hall—very well known to architects as the work of John Holland, Duke of Exeter, in the reign of Richard II—passed by exchange to the Champernownes in the reign of Henry VIII, and was originally an enormous structure, inclosing two quadrangles. A large part of it, as may be seen from old engravings, was falling into ruins in the days of George II, but its principal feature was intact till the beginning of the nineteenth century. This was one of the finest baronial halls in England, seventy feet by forty, with a roof resembling that of the great hall at Westminster. The roof, however, at that time showing signs of impending collapse, it was taken down by my grandfather in the year 1810, and only the bare walls and the pointed windows remain. The inhabited portion, however, is still of considerable extent, one of its frontages—two hundred and thirty feet in length—abutting so closely on a churchyard that the dead need hardly turn in their graves to peer in through the lower windows at faded wall-papers, bedroom doors, and endless yards of carpet. The interior, as I remember it, did not differ from that of many old country houses. There were one or two great rooms, a multitude of family portraits, and landscapes, marbles and coins brought from Italy by a traveled and dilettante ancestor. It was a great rendezvous for numerous Buller relations. It was, as was the parsonage also, a nest of old domestics, all born in the parish, and it included among its other inmates a ghost, who was called "the Countess," and who took from time to time alarming strolls along the passages.
It remains to add a word or two with regard to Cockington Court. At the time when my father was born in it, it was the heart of a neighborhood remotely and even primitively rural, and fifty years later, when I can first remember it, its immediate surroundings were unchanged. A few miles away the modern world had, indeed, begun to assert itself in the multiplying villas of Torquay, but on the Cockington property, which includes the district of Chelston, few dwellings existed which had not been there in the days of Charles II. Torquay, which at the beginning of the Napoleonic wars was nothing more than a cluster of fishermen's huts, owed its rise to the presence of the British fleet in Torbay, and the need of accommodation on shore for officers' wives and families. My grandfather built two houses, Livermead House and Livermead Cottage, in answer to this demand. Both were for personal friends, one of them being the first Lord St. Vincent, the other being Sir John Colbourne, afterward Lord Seaton. But though elaborate plans were subsequently put before him for turning the surrounding slopes into a pretentious and symmetrical watering place, the construction of no new residence was permitted by himself or his successor till somewhere about the year 1865, when a building lease was granted by the latter to one of his own connections.
Meanwhile, on adjacent properties, belonging to the Palks and Carys, Torquay had been developing into what became for a time the most famous and fashionable of the winter resorts of England, Cockington still remaining a quiet and undisturbed Arcadia.
But the real or nominal progress of five-and-forty years has brought about changes which my grandfather, blind to his own interests, resisted. To-day, as the train, having passed the station of Torre, proceeds toward that of Paignton, the traveler sees, looking inland at the Cockington and Chelston slopes, a throng of villas intermixed with the relics of ancient hedgerows. If, alighting at Torquay station, he mounts the hill above it by what in my childhood was a brambled and furtive lane, he will find on either side of him villas and villa gardens, till at length he is brought to a ridge overlooking a secluded valley. For some distance villas will still obscure his view, but presently these end. Below him he will see steep fields descending into a quiet hollow, the opposite slopes being covered or crowned with woods, and against them he will see smoke wreaths straying upward from undiscerned chimneys. A little farther on, the road, now wholly rural, dips downward, and Cockington village reveals itself, not substantially changed, with its thatch and its red mud walls, from what it had been more than two hundred years ago. Its most prominent feature is the blacksmith's forge, which, unaltered except for repairs, is of much greater antiquity. It is said that, as a contrast between the old world and the new, few scenes in England have been more often photographed than this. Passing the blacksmith's forge, and mounting under the shade of trees, the road leads to a lodge, the grounds of Cockington Court, and the church which very nearly touches it.
The house as it now stands—a familiar object to tourists—is merely a portion of what once was a larger structure. It was partly built by the Carys in the year of the Spanish Armada. Roger Mallock reconstructed it some seventy years later. It formed in his days, and up to those of my grandfather, one side of a square, entered between two towers, and was surrounded by a deer park of four or five hundred acres. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, however, agricultural land then rising in value, my grandfather, who threw away one fortune by refusing to have a town on his property, had been shrewd enough to get rid of his deer, and turned most of his parkland into farms. He also destroyed the forecourt of his house and a range of antique offices, considerably reducing at the same time the size of the main building by depriving it of its top story and substituting a dwarfish parapet for what had once been its eight gables. The interior suffered at his hands to an even greater extent. A hall with a minstrels' gallery was turned by him into several rooms as commonplace as it is possible to imagine. Indeed little of special interest survived him but some fine Italian ceilings, the most curious of which exists no longer, a paneled dining-room of the reign of William and Mary, a number of portraits dating from the days of James I onward, and a wall paper representing life-size savages under palm trees, which was part of the plunder of a French vessel during the time of the Napoleonic wars. To this meager list, however, up to my father's time might have been added another item of a more eloquent and more unusual kind—namely, a gilded coach, in which, according to village tradition, an old Madam Mallock (as she was called) used to be dragged by six horses along the execrable lanes of the neighborhood for her daily airing in the early part of the reign of George III. It is a great pity that, of all the appliances of life, carriages are those which are least frequently preserved. The reason doubtless is that they take up a good deal of room, and become absurdly old-fashioned long before they become interesting. The old coach of which I speak was bequeathed, with other heirlooms, to my father, who, I may say without filial impiety, proved altogether unworthy of it. He left it in a shed near a pond, into which it subsequently fell, its disjecta membra being presumably at the bottom still.
But whatever the house may have lost in the way of hereditary contents, the church contained, in my childhood, other symbols of the past—they have now likewise vanished—which spoke of "the family" rather than the mysteries of the Christian faith. The family shrouded its devotions, and sometimes its slumbers, in a pew which was furnished with a large fireplace, and eclipsed with its towering walls something like half the altar. All the panels of the western gallery were emblazoned with coats of arms and quarterings, and all the available wall space was dark with family hatchments. One afternoon, some five-and-forty years ago, a daughter of the house, who happened to be alone indoors, was alarmed by a summons to show herself and receive the Queen of Holland, who was then staying at Torquay, and who wished to inspect an old English house and its appurtenances. My cousin, who took her into the church, and who was somewhat confused by the presence of so august a visitor, explained the hatchments, with regard to which the queen questioned her, by saying that one was put up whenever a member of the Mallock family married.
As for myself, these solemn heraldic objects vaguely imbued me with a sense, of which I took long in divesting myself, that my own family was one of the most important and permanent institutions of the country. They were otherwise associated in my memory with a long succession of Christmases, when holly berries enlivened their frames and peeped over the walls of the pew where my elders drowsed, and my coevals were sustained during the sermon by visions of the plum pudding and crackers which would reward them in a near hereafter. I can still remember how, before these joys began, we would group ourselves in the dining-room windows, peering at distant woods, in which keepers still set man traps, or watching the village schoolchildren on their way from church homeward, making with their crimson cloaks a streak of color as they followed one another across slopes of snow.
The feelings excited by a landscape such as this bore a subtle resemblance to those produced in myself by the heraldries which thronged the church. From the windows, indeed, of all the houses of which I have just been speaking the prospect was morally, if not visually, the same. They all looked out, as though it were the unquestioned order of things, on wooded seclusions pricked by manorial chimneys or on lodges and gray park walls, while somewhere beyond these last lurked the thatch of contented cottages, at the doors of which, when a member of "the family" passed, women and children would curtsy and men touch their forelocks.
Here some persons may be tempted to interpose the remark that the aspect which things thus wore for ourselves was in one respect quite illusory. They may say that the idyllic contentment which we thus attributed to the cottagers was the very reverse of the truth, and that the thatch of their dwellings, however pleasing to the eye, really shrouded a misery to which history shows few parallels. Such an objection, even if correct, would, however, be here irrelevant; for I am dealing now not with things as they actually were, but merely with the impressions produced by them on childish minds, and more particularly on my own. Nevertheless, the objection in itself is of quite sufficient importance to call, even here, for some incidental attention; and how far, in this respect, our impressions were true or false will appear in the following chapter.
THE TWO NATIONS
The Rural Poor of Devonshire—The Old Landed Families—An Ecclesiastical Magnate
Our impressions of the cottagers, to which I have just alluded—and for us the cottagers represented the people of England generally—were not, it is true, derived from our own scientific investigations; they were derived from the conversation of our elders. But the knowledge which these elders possessed as to the ways, the temper, and the conditions of the rural poor was intimate, and was constantly illustrated by anecdotes, to which we as children were never weary of listening. The descriptions so often given of the misery of the agricultural laborers and the oppression of the ruling class from the beginning of the nineteenth century up to the abolition of the Corn Laws may be correct as applied to certain parts of the kingdom; but, in the case of Devonshire at all events, they are, it would appear, very far from the truth. The period more particularly in question, including the decade known as "the hungry 'forties," is precisely the period with which these elders of ours were most closely acquainted; and, though we occasionally heard of disturbances called "bread riots" as having occurred in Exeter and Plymouth, no hint reached us of such outbreaks having ever taken place in the country, or of any distress or temper which was calculated to provoke protests of any sort or kind against the established order. On the contrary, between the rural poor and the old-fashioned landed aristocracy, lay and clerical alike, the relations were not only amicable, but very often confidential also.
This fact may be illustrated by the case of old Miss Froude, the "Lady Bountiful" of her immediate neighborhood, who was constantly appealed to by its inhabitants, not only for material aid, but for religious guidance as well, and appreciation of their religious experiences. Thus on one occasion an old woman was ushered into Miss Froude's presence who had evidently some fact of great importance to communicate. The fact turned out to be this: that she had spent the whole of the previous night in a trance, during which she had ascended to heaven, and been let in by "a angel." "Well," said Miss Froude, "and did they ask you your name?" "No, ma'am, not my name," was the answer; "they only asked me my parish." "And do you," Miss Froude continued, "remember what the angel's name was?" The old woman seemed doubtful. "Do you think," said Miss Froude, "it was Gabriel?" "Iss, fay (yes, i' faith)," said the old woman. "Sure enough 'twas Gaburl." "And did you," said Miss Froude, finally, "see anybody in heaven whom you knew?" The old woman hesitated, but caught herself up in time, and solemnly said, "I seed you, ma'am."
Had all Miss Froude's dependents been of an equally communicative disposition, there would indeed in the confessions of two of them have been matter of a less peaceful character. It had for some time been whispered among her indoor servants—this is before I can remember—that horses, after days of idleness so far as carriage work was concerned, would on certain mornings be found covered with sweat, and other signs of mysteriously hard usage. It was ultimately found out that an enterprising coachman and groom had been riding them periodically to Teignmouth, and playing a nocturnal part in the landing of smuggled cargoes, these being stowed in the cellars of a decaying villa, which for years had remained tenantless owing to persistent rumors that it was haunted by a regiment of exceedingly savage ghosts. The only other approach to anything like rural violence which reached our ears through the channel of oral tradition was an event which must have occurred about the year 1830, and was reported to the Archdeacon by George Diggins, his old factotum. This was the plunder of a vessel which had been wrecked the night before somewhere between Plymouth and Salcombe. The Archdeacon asked if no authorities had interfered. "I heard, sir," said George Diggins, "that a revenue officer did what he could to stop 'un, but they hadn't a sarved he very genteel." This statement meant that they had pushed him over the cliffs.
Otherwise the stories of rural life that reached me, though relating to times which have in popular oratory been associated with the rick-burnings and kindred outrages "by which the wronged peasant righted himself," were pictures of a general content, broken only by individual vicissitudes, which were accepted and bewailed as part of the common order of nature. Of such individual afflictions the larger part were medical. The women, even the most robust, would rarely confess to the enjoyment of anything so uninteresting as a condition of rude health. The usual reply made by them to the inquiries of any lady visitant was, "Thankee, ma'am, I be torrable" (tolerable); but, if conscious of any definite malady, their diagnosis of their own cases would, though simple, be more precise. One of them told my mother that for days she'd been terrible bad. "My inside," she said, "be always a-coming up, though I've swallowed a pint of shot by this time merely to keep my liver down."
In cottage households, though occasionally there might be some shortage of food, there were no indications of anything like general or chronic want. Indeed, if delicacies which the inmates had never seen before were brought them as a present from this or from that "great house," they would often eye them askance, and make a favor of taking them. That the ordinary diet of the Devonshire cottagers of those days contented them is shown by the dinner prepared for a man who worked at a limekiln by his wife, which she complacently exhibited to my mother as at once appetizing and nutritious. It was a species of dumpling with an onion, instead of an apple, in the middle of it, the place of the customary crust being taken by home-baked bread.
On the whole, however, the cottagers, no less than their richer neighbors, were preoccupied by interests other than those of mere domestic economy. Their gossip would accordingly take a wider range, as when one of them announced to an aunt of mine that a son and a daughter who had emigrated to the United States had "got stuck in the mud just outside America."
Often their discourses would relate to domestic discipline and theology. There was a certain Mrs. Pawley whose dwelling was widely celebrated as the scene of almost constant strife between herself and her husband, and who, on being asked by one of her lady patronesses if she could not do something to make matters run more smoothly, replied: "That's just what I tries to do, ma'am. I labor for peace, but when I speak to he thereof, he makes hisself ready for battle direckly."
Another good woman again had acquired an unenviable fame by some petty act of larceny which the magistrates had been bound to punish, and was explaining in tears on her doorstep to some lady's sympathetic ears that she had done the unfortunate deed merely because she was "temp'ed," on which a neighbor, who had no need for repentance, promptly appeared on the scene and said to her: "My dear crachur (creature), why be you temp'ed to do sich thing? I be never temp'ed to do nothing but what's good."
Passing one day through an orchard, Mr. Froude the historian encountered a man who was contemplating a heap of apples. The man looked up as though about to speak of the crop, but instead of doing so he gave vent to the following reflection: "Pretty job, sir," he said, "there was about a apple one time. Now the De-vine, He might have prevented that if He'd had a mind to. But com', sir, 'tis a mystery:"
Moral theology would sometimes take a more skeptical turn. A certain Mr. Edwardes—a most amusing man—used to describe a call which he paid one Sunday afternoon to a farmer near Buckfastleigh, whom he found reading his Bible. Mr. Edwardes congratulated him on the appropriate nature of his studies. The farmer pushed the book aside, and, pointing to the open pages, which were those containing the account of the fall of Jericho, said: "Do 'ee believe that, sir? Well—I don't." Mr. Edwardes, with becoming piety, observed that we were bound to believe whatever the Scriptures told us. "Well," the farmer continued, "when I was a boy they used to bake here in the town oven, and whenever the oven was heated, they sounded a sheep's horn. Some of the boys Sundays would get hold of that horn, just for the fun of the thing, and blaw it for all it was worth. If that there story was true, there wouldn't be a house in Buckfastleigh standing."
Independent, if not skeptical, thought was represented even by one of the members of Archdeacon Froude's own domestic establishment—a house carpenter, who was a kind of uncanonical prophet. He would see in the meadows visions of light and fire like Ezekiel's, and convert his commonest actions into means of edification. On one occasion, when he was constructing a bedroom cupboard, a daughter of the house remarked, as she paused to watch him, "Well, John, that cupboard is big enough." "It," said the prophet, reflectively, "is immense, but yet confined. I know of something which is immense, but not confined." On being asked what this was he answered, "The love of God."
Yet another story told by Mr. Antony Froude illustrates rural mentality in relation to contemporary politics. Mr. Froude was the tenant of a well-known house in Devonshire, and had come to be on very friendly terms with Mr. Emmot, his landlord's agent, a typical and true Devonian. One day Mr. Emmot came to him in a condition of some perplexity. He had been asked an important question, and was anxious to know if the answer he had given to it was satisfactory. It appeared that a cottager who had a bit of land of his own had been saying to him, "Look here, Mr. Emmot: can you tell us rightly what the difference be between a Conservative and a Radical?" "Well, Mr. Froude," said Mr. Emmot, "I didn't rightly knaw the philosophy of the thing, so I just said to 'un this: 'You knaw me; well, I be a Conservative. You knaw Jack Radford—biggest blackguard in the parish—well, he be a Radical. Now you knaw.'"
Chance reminiscences such as those which have just been quoted will be sufficient to indicate what, so far as a child could understand them, the conditions and ways of thinking of the rural population were, and how easy and unquestioning were the relations which then subsisted between it and the old landed families. These relations were easy, because the differences between the two classes were commonly assumed to be static, one supporting and one protecting the other, as though they resembled two geological strata. In slightly different language, society was presented to us in the form of two immemorial orders—the men, women, and children who touched their hats and curtsied, and the men, women, and children to whom these salutations were made.
I am not, however—let me say it again—attempting to write a chapter of English history, or to give a precise description of facts as they actually were so much as to depict the impressions which facts, such as they were, produced on children like myself through the medium of personal circumstances. At the same time, in the formation of these impressions we were far from being left to our own unaided intelligence. Our impressions, as just depicted, were sedulously confirmed and developed by carefully chosen governesses. One of these, young as she was, was a really remarkable woman, for whom English history had hatched itself into something like a philosophy. Her philosophy had two bases, one being the postulate of the divine right of kings, the other being her interpretation of the victory of the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons. Charles I she presented to our imaginations as a martyr; and, what was still more important, she seriously taught us that the population of modern England was still divided, so far as race is concerned, precisely as it was at the time of the completion of the Domesday Book; that the peers and the landed gentry were more or less pure-blooded Normans, and the mass of the people Saxons; that the principal pleasure of the latter was to eat to repletion; that their duty was to work for, that their privilege was to be patronized by, Norman overlords and distinguished Norman Churchmen; and finally, that of this Norman minority we ourselves were distinguished specimens. All this we swallowed, aided in doing so by books like Woodstock and Ivanhoe. But grotesque as such ideas seem now, they were not more grotesque than those shadowed forth in some of the novels of Lord Beaconsfield, and more particularly in Sybil, or The Two Nations. Had we indeed been set to compose an essay on the social conditions, as we ourselves understood them, "The Two Nations" would have been the title which we could most appropriately have selected for it.
When, however, forgetting our general principles, we gave our attention to the adult relations and connections who, through personal acquaintance or otherwise, constituted for us what is commonly called society, our respect for many of them as "Normans" was appreciably tempered by a sense of their dullness as men and women. They were nearly all of them members of old Devonshire families, beyond the circle of which their interests did not often wander. But certain of them in my own memory stand out from the rest as interesting types of conditions which by this time have passed away. Of these I may mention four—Emma and Antony Buller, son and daughter of Sir Antony Buller of Pound; Lord Blatchford, a Gladstonian Liberal, and the celebrated Henry Philpotts, the then Bishop of Exeter.
Antony Buller, who was my godfather, was vicar of a parish on the western borders of Dartmoor. In the fact that "remote from towns he ran his godly race" he resembled the vicar described in "The Deserted Village," but except for his godliness he resembled him in little else. A model of secluded piety, he was educated at Eton and Christchurch; unquestioning in his social as well as his Christian conservatism, and expressing in the refinement of his voice and the well-bred quasi-meekness of his bearing a sense of family connection, tempered by a scholarly recognition of the equality of human souls. Lord Blatchford, his not very distant neighbor, was in many ways an Antony Buller secularized. His piety, polished by the classics and Oxford chapels, was what was in those days called Liberal, rather than Tory. What in Antony Buller was a conservative Christian meekness was in Lord Blatchford a progressive Christian briskness; but his belief in popular progress was accompanied by a smile at its incidents, as though it were a kind of frisking to which the masses ought to be welcome so long as it did not assume too practical a character or endanger any of the palings within the limits of which it ought to be confined.
Emma Buller, too, was typical, but in a totally different way. She was a type of that county life which railways have gradually modified, and by this time almost obliterated. She was a woman remarkable for her vivacity, wit, and humor. At county balls she was an institution. At country houses throughout Devonshire and Cornwall she was a familiar and welcome guest, and to half of her hosts and hostesses she was in one way or another related. Among her accomplishments was the singing of comic songs, in a beautifully clear but half-apologetic voice, so that while gaining in point they lost all trace of vulgarity, her eyes seeming to invite each listener on whom she fixed them to share with her some amusement which was only half legitimate. At the Duke of Bedford's house, near Tavistock, she exercised this magic one evening on Lord John Russell. The song which she sang to him was political. It began thus, each verse having the same recurring burden:
"Come, listen while I sing to you, Lord John, that prince of sinisters, Who once pulled down the House of Lords, The Crown and all the ministers. That is, he would have if he could, But a little thing prevented him."
For many years she spent a large part of every winter with Lady (then Miss) Burdett-Coutts, who had in those days a large villa at Torquay, generally filled with visitors. Emma Buller's allusions to these, many of whom were notabilities, enlarged, as I listened to them in my childhood, my conception of the social world, and made it seem vaguely livelier and more fruitful in adventure than the hereditary circle with which alone I was so far familiar.
This result was accentuated by the stories told in my hearing of another personage well known to my family likewise, to which I listened with a yet keener appreciation. Bishop Philpotts—for it is of him I speak—holding till the day of his death a "golden stall" at Durham, the emoluments of which amounted to L5,000 a year, interested me rather as a lay magnate than as a clerical. Among the many villas then rising at Torquay the Bishop built one of the largest. This agreeable residence, in the designing of which he was helped by my father, and which overlooked extensive glades and lawns sloping down toward the sea, enabled him to enjoy a society more entertaining than that of his own cathedral close; and the anecdotes current in my family as to his ways and his mundane hospitalities were as familiar to me as those of any character in the novels of Miss Austen—a writer whose social discrimination delighted and appealed to me before I was ten years old.
The Bishop was renowned for his suave and courtly manners, his charming voice, and the subtle precision of its modulations; and the following stories of him are still fresh in my memory.
At one of his luncheon parties he was specially kind to a country clergyman's wife, who knew none of the company, and he took her out on a terrace in order to show her the view—a view of the sea shut in by the crags of a small cove. "Ah, my lord," gasped the lady, "it reminds one so much of Switzerland." "Precisely," said the Bishop, "except that there we have the mountains without the sea, and here we have the sea without the mountains."
He was somewhat less urbane to an ultra-fashionable lady, his neighbor, who had developed a habit, in his opinion objectionable, of exhibiting his views to her visitors by way of passing the morning. This lady, with a bevy of satellites, having appeared one day in his drawing room about the hour of noon, the Bishop, with the utmost graciousness, took them into a conservatory, showed them some of his plants and then, opening a door, invited them to go outside. As soon as they were in the outer air, he himself retreated, saying, as he closed the door, "We lunch at one."
On another occasion at a dinner party a shy young lady was present, whose mother, with maternal partiality, admitted that her daughter sang. After dinner the Bishop had candles placed on the piano, and begged the shrinking vocalist to give them an exhibition of her skill. The luckless victim protested that she could not sing at all, but presently, despite her objections, she was blushing on the fatal music stool, and was faltering out a desperate something which was at all events intended to be a song. "Thank you," said the Bishop, benignly, as soon as the performance was ended. "The next time you tell us you cannot sing we shall know how to believe you."
On yet another occasion two intrepid females, armed with guidebooks, and obviously determined to see whatever they could, had entered the Bishop's carriage drive, and were considering which way they would take, when their ears were caught by a sound like that of an opening window. They discovered, on looking about them, that the drive was commanded by a summerhouse, and, framed in an open window, was the visage of the Bishop himself. "Ladies," he said, blandly, "these grounds are private, as the gate through which you have just passed may in part have suggested to you. The turn to the left will bring you in due time to the stables. If you should go straight on you will presently reach the house. Should you inspect the house, may I mention to you that in one of the bedrooms is an invalid? You will perhaps pardon my servants if they do not show you that. Good morning."
But my boyish appreciation of the Bishop's mundane qualities was equaled by my faith in the sacrosanctity of his office. I never for a moment doubted that men like Henry of Exeter were channels through which the Christian priesthood received those miraculous powers by their exercise of which alone it was possible for the ordinary sinner to be rescued from eternal torment. Of the structural doctrines of theology which were then the shibboleths of English Churchmanship generally, I never entertained a doubt. That the universe was created in the inside of a week four thousand and four years before the birth of Christ, and that every word of the Bible was supernaturally dictated to the writer, were to me facts as certain as the fact that the ear this globular or that the date of the battle of Hastings was 1066. They belonged to the same order of things as the "two nations"; and the attempts of certain persons to discredit the former and to disturb the reciprocal relations of the latter represented for me a mood so blasphemous and absurd as not to be worthy of a serious man's attention.
And yet in certain ways by the time I was twelve years old I was something of a revolutionary myself. Like the majority of healthy boys, I had tastes for riding and shooting, and to such things as rooks and rabbits my rifle was as formidable as most boys could desire. But long before I was conscious of any passion for sport I found myself beset by another, which was very much more insistent—namely, a passion for literary composition—I cannot say a taste for writing, for I dictated verses to the nursery-maids before I could hold a pen. As soon as I was able to read I came across the works of Fielding, whose style I endeavored to imitate in a series of lengthy novels, deriving as I did so a precocious sense of manhood from the eighteenth-century oaths with which I garnished the conversation of my characters. My ambitions, however, as a writer of fiction were on the whole less constant than those which I entertained as a poet. By governesses and other instructors, Wordsworth and Tennyson were obtruded on me as models of beauty and edification. Wordsworth I thought ridiculous. Tennyson seemed to me unmanly and mawkish. The poets I found out for myself were Dryden and, more particularly, Pope; and when I was about fourteen I imagined myself destined to win back for Pope, as a model, the supremacy he had unfortunately lost, while the sentimentalities of Tennyson and his followers would disappear like the fripperies of faded and outworn fashions.
When my father and his family migrated from the banks of the Exe to Denbury these literary projects found fresh means of expanding themselves. Opposite the front door of the Manor House was a large and antique annexe, once occupied by a bailiff who managed the home farm. This my grandfather had intended to connect with the main building, by which means the Manor House would have been nearly doubled in size. His scheme was not carried out. The annexe, covered with increasing growths of ivy, remained locked up and isolated, and for many years stood empty. But on the Archdeacon's death, and the removal of his household from Dartington, a use was at last found for it. The upper rooms were converted into a temporary storehouse for his library—large rooms which now were lined with shelves, and in which fires were frequently lighted to keep the volumes dry. In a moment of happy inspiration I obtained permission to look after the fires myself. The key was placed in my possession. Day by day I entered. I locked myself in, and all the world was before me.
I had often before been irritated, and my curiosity had been continually piqued, by finding that certain books—most of them plays of the time of Charles II—would be taken away from me and secreted if I happened to have abstracted some such stray volume from a bookcase; but here I was my own master. My grandfather's library was, as I have said already, particularly rich in literature of this semiforbidden class, and rows of plays and poems by Congreve, Etheridge, Rochester, Dryden, and their contemporaries offered themselves to my study, as though by some furtive assignation. Among other wrecks of furniture with which the worm-eaten floors were encumbered was an old and battered rocking-horse, bestriding which I studied these secret volumes, and found in it an enchanted steed which would lift me into the air and convey me to magically distant kingdoms.
Inspired by these experiences, and fancying myself destined to accomplish a counter-revolution in the literary taste of England, I endeavored night by night to lay the foundations of my own poetic fame. My bedroom was pungent with the atmosphere of a pre-Tennysonian world. Its floor, uneven with age, was covered with a carpet whose patterns had faded into a dim monochrome, and its walls were dark with portraits of Copplestone forefathers in flowing wigs and satins. My bed was draped with immemorial curtains, colored like gold and bordered with black velvet. Close to the bed was a round mahogany table, furnished with pens and paper, and night by night, propped up by pillows, I endeavored to rival Dryden and Pope, by means of a quill wet with the dews of Parnassus—dews which, having sprinkled the bedclothes, would scandalize the housemaids the next morning by their unfortunate likeness to ink.
My father had originally meant to send me to Harrow, but, on the recommendation of one of the sons of the Bishop of Exeter, he first tried on me the effects of a school which had just been established for the purpose of combining the ordinary course of education with an inculcation of the extremest principles of the High Church Anglican party. I was, however, deficient in one of the main characteristics on which a boy's suitability to school life depends: I had an ingrained dislike, not indeed of physical exercise, but of games. Football to me seemed merely a tiresome madness, and cricket the same madness in a more elaborate form. Instead, therefore, of promoting me to Harrow, where two of his brothers had been educated, he took, after many delays, a step for which I sincerely thanked him—he transferred me, by way of preparation for Oxford, to the most congenial and delightful of all possible private tutors, at whose house I spent the happiest years of my life.
A PRIVATE TUTOR DE LUXE
Early Youth Under a Private Tutor—Poetry—Premonitions of Modern Liberalism
The tutor of whom I have spoken was the Rev. W. B. Philpot, a favorite pupil of Doctor Arnold's at Rugby, an intimate friend of Tennyson's, and himself a devotee of the Muses. His domed forehead was massive, his features were delicately chiseled, and his eyes were a clear gray. His back hair—the only hair he had got—showed a slight tendency to assume picturesque and flowing curves on the collars of his well-made coats; and, having heard from my father that I, too, was a poet, he declared himself eager to welcome me, not only as a disciple, but also as a valued friend. Mr. Philpot lived at Littlehampton, where he occupied a most capacious house. It was the principal house in a very old-fashioned terrace, which faced a sandy common, and enjoyed in those days an uninterrupted view of miles of beach and the racing waves of the sea. Mr. Philpot's disciples numbered from ten to twelve. They had, for the most part, been removed from Harrow or Eton, by reason of no worse fault than a signal inclination to indolence; and though, even under their preceptor's genial and scholarly auspices, none of them except myself showed much inclination for study, we formed together an agreeable and harmonious party, much of its amenity being due to the presence of Mrs. Philpot, his wife, whose brother, Professor Conington, was then the most illustrious representative of Latin learning at Oxford.
We enjoyed, under Mr. Philpot's care, the amplest domestic comforts, and we enjoyed, under our own care, almost unlimited credit at every shop in the town. We had carriages, the hire of which went down in Mr. Philpot's account, whenever we wanted them for expeditions; and we would often drive out in the warm after-dinner twilights to a tea garden three miles away, where we lingered among the scent of roses till the bell of some remote church tower sounded, through the dewy quiet, its nine notes to the stars. We had boats on the Arun, a stream on which our oars would take us sometimes beyond Amberly, and not bring us back till midnight. On other occasions we would, like Tennyson's hero, "nourish a youth sublime" in wandering on the nocturnal beach, and, pre-equipped with towels, would bathe in the liquid moonlight.
The Littlehampton season, so far as visitors were concerned, was summer, and from the middle of May onward various ladies of ornamental and interesting aspect would make their appearance on the pavement of Beach Terrace, or, seen on the balconies of houses which had just unclosed their shutters, would trouble and enliven the atmosphere with suggestions of vague adventures. Some of these we came to know, as Mr. Philpot and his wife had many mundane acquaintances. Others—and indeed most of them—remained tantalizing mysteries to the end. At all events they filled the air with the subtle pollen of a romance which a closer familiarity with them might very possibly have destroyed.
The effect on myself of such influences was presently betrayed by the fact that poetry, as understood by Pope, no longer satisfied me. I gradually submitted to the dominion of Keats, Browning, and Matthew Arnold. Even at Denbury, in my most conservative days, I had so far escaped from the atmosphere of Pope's Pastorals that I had described a beautiful valley in which I would often sequester myself as a place—
Where no man's voice, or any voice makes stir, Save sometimes through the leafy loneliness The long loose laugh of the wild woodpecker.
One of my fellow pupils, whose youth had an air of manhood, and who played with much expression on the cornet, confided to me, on returning from a summer holiday, his adventures on the Lake of Como, where, resting on his oars, he had agitated with his musical notes the pulses of a fair companion. "Now there," he said, "you have something which, if you tried, you might manage to make a verse about." I tried, and the result was this:
The stars are o'er our heads in hollow skies, In hollow skies the stars beneath our boat, Between the stars of two infinities Midway upon a gleaming film we float.
My lips are on the sounding horn; The sounding horn with music fills. Faint echoes backward from the world are born, Tongued by yon distant zone of slumbering hills.
The world spreads wide on every side, But cold and dark it seems to me. What care I on this charmed tide For aught save those far stars and thee?
I accomplished, however, such feats of imagination, not on my friend's behalf only, but on my own also. Readers of Martin Chuzzlewhit will remember how "Baily Junior," who was once bootboy at Mrs. Todger's boarding-house, imagined that Mrs. Gamp was in love with him, and that her life was blighted by the suspicion that such a passion was hopeless. I, in common with other imaginative boys, was frequently beatified by the magic of a not unlike illusion. My practical hopes for the future, so far as I troubled to form any, were to enter the diplomatic service as soon as I left Oxford, and it seemed to me that this or that distinguished and beautiful lady, old enough to be my mother, would meanwhile be blighted by some hopeless passion for myself, or else—what, in my opinion, was a still more exciting alternative—that I should, like another Byron, be blighted into renown through her treachery by a misplaced passion for her. As I paced the sands at Littlehampton, I pictured myself as having discovered her faithlessness on the eve of my own departure for the Embassy at Constantinople, and I addressed to her the following epistle, which I could not, with all my ingenuity, manage to protract beyond the two opening stanzas:
For you the ballroom's jaded glow— The gems unworthy of your hair. For me the milk-white domes that blow Their bubbles to the orient air.
Your heart at dawn in curtained ease Shall ache through dreams that are not rest. But mine shall leap to meet the seas That broke against Leander's breast.
Such dreams are not more absurd than those of the French Jacobins, who thought themselves Gracchus or Brutus; and they were accompanied when I was at Littlehampton by the growth of other preoccupations, which related to matters very different from the romance of individual adolescence. Mr. Philpot, in his own tastes, and also in his choice of pupils, was fastidious to a degree, which perhaps would be out of date to-day, and had actually been known to apologize, under his breath, for the fact that one of his flock—a singularly handsome youth and heir to an enormous fortune—came of a family which "was still distinctly in business." But he betrayed, at the same time, strong Radical leanings. Indeed, through him I first became aware that Radicalism meant more than some perverse absurdity of the ignorant. He completely bewildered and at the same time amused his pupils by taking in a paper called The Beehive, one of the earliest of the "Labor organs" of England; and from this mine of wisdom he would on occasion quote. To most of us the views expressed by him seemed no more than comic oddities, but they were to myself so far a definite irritant that I devised, though I never showed them to him, a series of pictures called "The Radical's Progress," in which the hero began as a potboy in a public house, and ended as an overdressed ruffian, waving a tall silk hat and throwing rotten eggs at Conservative voters from a cart. A taste of Mr. Philpot's equalitarian sentiments was given to us one day at luncheon, the occasion being his wife's commendation of a celebrated Sussex bootmaker who had just called for orders. "I like that man," she said. "He is always so civil and respectful." "Mary Jane! Mary Jane!" said Mr. Philpot, clearing his throat, and speaking from the other end of the table, "that respectfulness of yours is a quality to which I myself attach very little importance." In view of this speech we felt considerable satisfaction when, a few hours later, the day being the 5th of November, a disturbance was made by some boys at the front door, and Mr. Philpot, snatching up a tall hat, went out to appease the storm by the serene majesty of his presence. He was far from gratified when the immediate result of his intervention was to elicit the disrespectful cry of "Hit 'n on the bloody drum."
But, besides the novelty, as we thought it, of his vague democratic opinions, he exhibited what to me was at least equally novel—namely, a liberalism before unknown to me with regard to theological doctrine. He never obtruded this on us in any systematic way; but on not infrequent occasions he solemnly gave us to understand that dissenters enjoyed the means of salvation no less fully than Churchmen; that sacraments were mere symbols useful for edification according to varying circumstances; that sacerdotal orders were mere certificates of the fitness of individuals for the office of Christian ministers, and that everything in the nature of dogmatic authority was due to, and tainted with, the apostacy of Babylonian Rome. To myself all this was shocking in an extreme degree, and I began to ask myself the question, which might otherwise not have occurred to me, of whether the Church of Rome was not perhaps the one true religion, after all.
These movements of the spirit on my part led to the following incident. Among Mr. Philpot's pupils was a shy and very delicate boy, whose parents took a house at Littlehampton, and with whom he lived. His father was a fire-eating Irish baronet, who might have walked out of the pages of one of Lever's novels. His diet was as meager as that of an Indian fakir, though not otherwise resembling it. It consisted of rum and milk; and his favorite amusement was lying down on his bed and shooting with a pistol at the wick of a lighted candle. His wife—a lady of gentle and somewhat sad demeanor—one day took it into her head to join the Catholic Church; and Mr. Philpot hastened, as soon as he heard the news, to ask her, in the name of common sense and of conscience, what could have induced her to take a step so awful. Her answer, so he informed me afterward, was that I had told her that it was the best thing she could do. I had no recollection of having tendered to her any such momentous advice, and Mr. Philpot, who hardly could help smiling, acquitted me of playing intentionally the part of a disguised Jesuit. I must, however, have said something on behalf of the mystical Babylon, for not long afterward I was busy with a theological poem, prominent in which were the two following lines:
Oh, mother, or city of the sevenfold throne, We sit beside the severing sea and mourn—
and by way of correcting such defects in my sentiments Mr. Philpot lent me a work by Archer Butler, a Christian Platonist, who would provide me, in his opinion, with a religious philosophy incomparably more rational than the Roman. This work had the result of directing me to certain old translations of Plotinus and other Neoplatonists of Alexandria; and my dominant idea for a time was that in Alexandrian mysticism Anglicans would discover a rock, firmly based, on which they would bring Rome to her knees, and conquer the whole world.
But such juvenile theologies, and the secret troubles connected with them, did not seriously interfere with the adventurous optimism of youth. They did but give a special flavor to the winds blown from the sea, to the suggestions of the sunsets on which the eyes of youth looked, and mixed themselves with the verses of Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Shelley. But a yet more successful rival to the speculations of Archer Butler and Plotinus was, in my own case, another and a new poet, who had at that time just made himself famous. This poet was Swinburne, who had recently given to the world his first Poems and Ballads. That volume, on the ground that it was an outrage on morals and decency, had been received, when originally published, with such a howl of execration that the publishers hastily withdrew it, and for some time it was unobtainable; but at length another firm found courage enough to undertake its reissue. To Mr. Philpot, who knew it merely by extracts, the mere mention of this volume seemed to be something in the nature of an indecency. But there is always an attraction in the forbidden. I dreamed of this volume, from which I had seen extracts likewise; and at last a chance came to me of securing an apple from the boughs of this replanted tree of knowledge.
Among our various dissipations were occasional excursions to Brighton, and on one of these I was accompanied by a fellow pupil whose family had a house there in one of the then fashionable squares. The family was absent, but the house was open, and my friend proposed that we should sleep there and make a night of it. We accordingly telegraphed to Mr. Philpot that we should be back next day by breakfast time, and arranged to dine early, and spend the evening at the play. As we walked to the theater we found the shops still open, and we paused to look for a moment at the windows of Treacher's Library. In a long row of volumes I saw one bound in green. Its gilt lettering glittered, and the gaslight revealed to me the reissued poems of Swinburne. I went in and bought it and entered the dress circle hugging this priceless treasure. The play, I believe, had something to do with racing, but I hardly looked at the stage. My eyes and attention were magnetized by the green object on my knee. I occasionally peeped at its pages; but the light, while the play was in progress, was too dim to render the print legible. Between the acts, however, I began to decipher stanzas such as the following, and notes new to the world invaded my ears like magic:
The sea gives her shells to the shingle, The earth gives her streams to the sea,
As the waves of the ebb drawing seaward When their hollows are full of the night.
When had words, I asked myself, ever made music such as this? I felt by the time I got back to my friend's door that:
I on honeydew had fed, And drunk the milk of paradise.
This magic still remained with me when, my days at Littlehampton being ended, I went at length to Oxford. But meanwhile to my conditions at home a new element was added, by which the scope of my experiences was at once greatly enlarged.
I have mentioned already that, during the first sixty years of the growth of Torquay, the owners of Cockington had preserved their rural seclusion intact, having refused, during that long period, to permit the erection of more than two villas on their property. But somewhere about the year 1860 a solitary exception was made in favor of Mr. William Froude, my mother's eldest brother, to whom, by my paternal uncle, a lease was granted of a certain number of acres on the summit of what was then a wooded and absolutely rural hill. Here he erected a house of relatively considerable size, from which, as a distant spectacle, Torquay was visible beyond a tract of intervening treetops. It was nearing completion at the time when I was first under Mr. Philpot's care. My father, being a complete recluse, and my kindred, whether at Cockington Court or otherwise, confining their intimacies to hereditary friends and connections, I found few fresh excitements at their houses or his beyond such as I could spin for myself, like a spider, out of my own entrails. It was, therefore, for me a very agreeable circumstance that presently in Chelston Cross, while I was still under Mr. Philpot's care, I was provided with a second home during a large part of my holidays, and subsequently of my Oxford vacations, where the stir of the outer world was very much more in evidence.
Distinguished as a man of science, a mathematician, and a classical scholar, Mr. Froude possessed the most fascinating manners imaginable. His wife, the daughter of an old-world Devonshire notable who once owned the borough of Dartmouth, returning two members for it, he himself being always one, was a woman of remarkable intellect, of a singularly genial shrewdness, and of manners attractive to every one with whom she might come in contact. Indeed, no two persons could have been more happily qualified than Mr. and Mrs. William Froude, together with their daughter (subsequently Baroness A. von Hugel), to render their house a center of interesting and intellectual society, and their circle of friends was widened by two adventitious circumstances. Mrs. Froude, under the influence of Newman, who was her frequent and intimate correspondent, had entered the Catholic Church, her children following her example, and the freemasonry of a common faith resulted in closely connecting her and hers with various old Catholic families and many distinguished converts; while Mr. Froude, at the time to which I now refer, was becoming, through his indulgence in purely accidental taste, a figure in the world of national, and even of international, affairs.
His favorite recreation was yachting, and one of his possessions was a sailing yacht. He was thus, as a man of alert observation, led to pay special attention to the relation of a vessel's lines to its behavior under different conditions in respect of its stability and speed, and the project occurred to him of testing his rough conclusions by means of miniature models, these being placed in some small body of water and then submitted to systematic experiments. Accordingly, soon after he had settled himself at Chelston Cross, he proceeded to lease a field which adjoined his garden, and constructed in it a sort of covered canal, along which models of various designs were towed, the towing-machine recording the various results by diagrams. The discoveries which Mr. Froude thus made soon proved so remarkable that Edward, Duke of Somerset (then First Lord of the Admiralty), secured for him a government grant, in order that his operations might be extended, the whole of the earlier expenses having been borne by Mr. Froude himself. The enterprise soon attracted the attention of other governments also; Admiral Popoff, on behalf of the Tsar, having come all the way from Russia to visit Mr. Froude in connection with it. But the pilgrims to Chelston Cross were not naval experts only. Torquay was at that time nearing its social zenith, and the rumor that Mr. Froude was conducting a series of mysterious experiments which bade fair to revolutionize the naval architecture of the world stirred interest in many men of mark—statesmen and others who were far from being naval experts, and also of ladies, many of them with charming eyes whose attention alone was, in my opinion at all events, sufficient to throw a halo of success round any experiment which excited it.
All of these, masculine and feminine alike, were sensible of the charm of Mr. William Froude and his family; and for many years, even in London, it would have been difficult to find a house more frequented than Chelston Cross by a society of well-known and entertaining persons, not only English, but continental and American also. Thus, during the years of my tutelage at Littlehampton and Oxford, which comprised but occasional and brief visits to London, I acquired a considerable acquaintance, and what may be called some knowledge of the world, before I had entered the world as my own master and on my own account. Of the persons with whom I became, during that period, familiar some idea may be given by a mention of the names, or by brief sketches, of a few of them—those being selected who, whether as types or otherwise, may still have some meaning and interest for the social generation of to-day.
WINTER SOCIETY AT TORQUAY
Early Acquaintance with Society—Byron's Grandson—Lord Houghton—A Dandy of the Old School—Carlyle—Lord Lytton, and Others—Memorable Ladies
Of the men—the noteworthy men—with whom I thus became acquainted before I had escaped from the torture of my last examination at Oxford, most had a taste for literature, while some had achieved renown in it. Of these, however, the first with whom I became intimate was one whose literary connections were vicarious rather than personal. My friendship with him originated in the fact that he was an old friend of the Froudes, and, as soon as Chelston Cross was completed, he would pay them protracted visits there. This was the then Lord Wentworth, who for me was a magical being because he was Byron's grandson. Another acquaintance who brought with him a subtle aroma of poetry was Wentworth's remarkable brother-in-law, Wilfrid Blunt, then the handsomest of our younger English diplomatists, a breeder of Arab horses, and also the author of love poems which deserve beyond all comparison more attention than they have yet received. Others again were Robert Browning, Ruskin, Carlyle, and Swinburne. These I met either at Oxford or in London, but to those whom I came to know through the William Froudes at Torquay may be added Aubrey de Vere, the Catholic poet of Ireland, Lord Houghton, Lord Lytton, the novelist, and the second Lord Lytton, his son, known to all lovers of poetry under the pseudonym of "Owen Meredith." As figures then prominent in the winter society of Torquay, I may mention also a courtly cleric, the Rev. Julian Young, a great diner out and giver of dinners to the great, a raconteur of the first order, a very complete re-embodiment of the spirit of Sidney Smith, and, further, an old Mr. Bevan, who, sixty years before, when he occupied a house in Stratton Street, had flourished as an Amphitryon and a dandy under the patronage of the Prince Regent.
Of the ladies of Torquay who, together with men like these, were prominent in my social landscape as I to-day recollect it, it is less easy to speak, partly because they were more numerous, and partly because many of them impressed me in more elusive ways. I may, however, mention a few of them who were well known as hostesses—the Dowager Lady Brownlow, Mrs. Vivian, Lady Erskine of Cambo, Lady Louisa Finch-Hatton, Miss Burdett-Coutts, and Susan, Lady Sherborne. All these ladies were the occupants of spacious houses the doors of which were guarded by skillfully powdered footmen, and which, winter after winter, were so many social centers. Lady Sherborne, indeed, was far more than a hostess: she was unrivaled as a singer of simple English songs—songs which her low voice filled with every trouble of which the human heart is capable; and as such she was, under a thin disguise, celebrated by the first Lord Lytton in one of his latest novels. To these ladies might be added innumerable others whose claims on my memory do not in all cases lend themselves to very exact statement. Most of them were English, and some of them, then in the bloom of youth and beauty, have between that time and this played their parts in the London world and ended them. But not a few were foreign—vivacious Northerners from New York, with the sublimated wealth of all Paris in their petticoats; Southerners whose eyes were still plaintive with memories of the Civil War; Austrians such as the von Hugels; Germans such as Countess Marie and Countess Helen Bismarck; and Russians whose figures and faces I remember much more accurately than their names.
It is idle, however, to say more of these, whose charms are with the last year's snows. And yet of these there were two of whom I may, for purposes of illustration, say something in detail. The two were sisters—we may call them Miss X and Miss Y—whose invalid father, a cadet of a well-known family, rarely left Torquay, where for some months of the year his daughters, otherwise emancipated from parental control, stayed with him. Both of these sisters were beautiful, and, so far as the resident ladies of Torquay were concerned, they received what is incomparably the sincerest form of homage that extraordinary beauty can elicit from ladies who do not possess it. Each of them was labeled as possessing that mysterious thing called "a history," or a shadow on her reputation of some sort, which my imagination, as soon as I heard of it (I was then about sixteen), turned into a halo iridescent with the colors of romance. For me, in Swinburne's words, they were "daughters of dreams and of stories" before I knew either by sight, or had any prospect of doing so. Dreams, except unpleasant ones, do not often fulfill themselves, but an exception to this rule was one day made in my favor.
As I was going home for my holidays from Littlehampton to Devonshire, my compartment at Eastleigh Junction was invaded by a feminine apparition, accompanied by a French poodle, which she placed on the cushion opposite to her. Her dress, though I divined its perfection, was quiet and plain enough; but the compartment, as soon as she entered it, seemed to be filled at once with the kind of fugitive flash which sunlit water sometimes casts on a ceiling. Acting, I suppose, on the principle of "Love me, love my dog," I had the temerity to express a commendation, entirely insincere, of hers; and this being received with a graciousness not perhaps unmixed with amusement, we were very soon in conversation. She talked of Nice, of Baden-Baden, and London; then she got to literature—I cannot remember how—and a moment later she was vouchsafing to me the intimate information that she was a poetess, and had contributed an anonymous poem to a certain lately published collection. Then, having caught my name on a printed label, she said, with a smile, "Is it possible that you are on your way to Torquay?" I answered that I should be there shortly, and, while elaborating this proposition, I managed to inspect the French poodle's collar, on which was engraved the name of the fair owner. In a flash the personality of this "daughter of dreams" was disclosed to me. This was Miss X, the most talked about of the two wonderful sisters. As I gathered that she herself would be soon at Torquay likewise, I tried, when she got out at some intermediate station, to express a hope that, if we met in the street, she would not have wholly forgotten me; but my modesty would not allow me to find adequate words. On the Parade, however, at Torquay, a fortnight later we did meet. She at once welcomed me with a laugh as though I were an old acquaintance, and my intimacy with her lasted so long, and to so much practical purpose, that it wrung from me at last a poem of which the concluding lines were these:
Pause not to count the cost; Think not, or all is lost— Fly thou with me.
But the "incident," in parliamentary language, was soon afterward "closed," partly because of her marriage to a very sensible husband, and partly because, having become acquainted with her sister, I began to look on the sister as the more romantic figure of the two.
The most successful rival, however, to the excitements of young romance is to be found by some natures in the more complex stimulations of society. In these the feminine element plays a conspicuous part; but a part no less conspicuous is that played by the masculine. Moreover, as the object of the social passion, unlike that of the romantic, is not identified with the vagaries of any one individual, society for those who court it is a corporation that never dies. It is for each individual what no one individual ever can be—namely, a challenge to faculties or acquirements which are coextensive with life. I will, therefore, turn from Miss X, and the lines in which I suggested an elopement with her as a project desirable for both of us, to some of the male celebrities whose names I have just mentioned, and describe how they impressed me when I first made their acquaintance.
Of the well-known visitors who wintered at Torquay none was more punctual in his appearance than Lord Houghton, who found an annual home there in the house of two maiden aunts. Through these long-established residents he had for years been familiar with my family, and from the first occasion on which I met him he exhibited a friendship almost paternal for myself. Lord Houghton was a man who, as Dryden said of Shadwell, would have been the wittiest writer in the world if his books had been equal to his conversation. Certainly nothing which he wrote, or which a biographer has written about him, gives any idea of the gifts—a very peculiar mixture—which made him a marked figure in any company which his ubiquitous presence animated. He knew everybody of note in the fashionable and semifashionable world, and many who belonged to neither, such as the Tichborne Claimant, and Calcraft, the common hangman; and his views of life, from whatever point he looked at it, were expressed with a weighty brilliance or a subcynical humor. One day when lunching at Chelston Cross he was asked by Mrs. William Froude if he was, or had ever been, a Mason. "No," said Lord Houghton, "no. I have throughout my life been the victim of every possible superstition. I am always wondering why I have never been taken in by that." He was once sitting at dinner by the celebrated Lady E—— of T——, who was indulging in a long lament over the social decadence of the rising male generation. "When I was a girl," she said, "all the young men in London were at my feet." "My dear lady," said Lord Houghton, "were all the young men of your generation chiropodists?" Mr. C. Milnes Gaskell of Thornes told me of a perplexing situation in which he had once found himself, and of how he sought counsel about it from Lord Houghton, his kinsman. Gaskell's difficulty was this. A friend for whom he was acting as trustee had, without imposing on him any legal obligations in the matter, begged him with his dying breath to carry out certain instructions. These seemed to Gaskell extremely unwise, and objectionable, "and yet," he said to Lord Houghton, "of course a peculiar sanctity attaches, itself to dying wishes. What would you do in such a situation as mine?" For a little while Lord Houghton reflected, and then answered, with an air of grave detachment, "I always tell my family totally to disregard everything I say during the last six months of my life."
Of his social philosophy otherwise he gave me in the days of my youth many pithy expositions, with hints as to what I should do when I entered the world myself. One of his pieces of advice was especially appropriate to Torquay. This was to make the acquaintance of old Mr. Bevan, a lifelong intimate of his own. Accordingly my introduction to this mysterious personage was accomplished.
Mr. Bevan lived in a large villa close to that which was occupied by Miss Burdett-Coutts. Its discreetly shuttered windows, like so many half-closed eyelids, gave, when viewed externally, the impression that it was asleep or tenantless; but to ring the front-door bell was to dissipate this impression immediately. The portals seemed to open by clockwork. Heavy curtains were withdrawn by servitors half seen in the twilight, and the visitors were committed to the care of an Austrian groom of the chambers, who, wearing the aspect of a king who had stepped out of the Almanach de Gotha, led the way over soundless carpets to a library. This was furnished with a number of deep armchairs; and I recollect how, on the first occasion of my entering it, each of these chairs was monopolized by a drowsy Persian cat. For a moment, the light being dim, these cats, so it seemed to me, were the sole living things present; but a second later I was aware that a recumbent figure was slowly lifting itself from a sofa. This was Mr. Bevan. His attire was a blue silk dressing-gown, a youthfully smart pair of black-and-white check trousers, varnished boots, and a necktie with a huge pearl pin in it, the pearl itself representing the forehead of a human skull. His hands were like ivory, his face was like a clear-cut cameo. With the aid of a gold-headed cane that had once belonged to Voltaire he gently evicted a cat, so that I might occupy the chair next to him, and said, in the language of Brummell's time, that he was "monstrous glad to see me." He pointed to objects of interest which adorned his walls and tables, such as old French fashion-plates of ladies in very scanty raiment; to musical clocks, of which several were presents from crowned heads; to sketches by d'Orsay, and to framed tickets for Almack's. "Whenever the dear lady next door," he said, with a glance at the seminudities of the French fashion-plates, and alluding to Miss Burdett-Coutts, "comes to have a dish of tea with me, I have to lock those things up. I fear," he said, presently, "I'm in a shocking bad odor with her now." Only last night, he explained, he had received from one of the French Rothschilds a magnificent pate de foie gras; and, having himself no parties in prospect, he sent this gastronomical treasure to Miss Coutts, who was about to entertain, as he knew, a large company at luncheon. There was one thing, however, which he did not know—the luncheon was to be given to the members of a certain society which had for its object the protection of edible animals from any form of treatment by which they might be needlessly incommoded. What, then, were the feelings of the hostess when she suddenly discovered that a dish which, with Mr. Bevan's compliments, had been solemnly placed before her was the most atrocious of all the abominations which the company had assembled to denounce! "It was sent back to me," said Mr. Bevan, "as though it were the plague in person. It's a pity that you and I can't eat it together. I'd ask you to dinner if only I were sure of my new cook. My last cook was with me for twenty years. Shall I tell you what he wrote in a letter when he had left me to join the army during the Franco-German War? 'Alas! monsieur,' he said, 'I must now make sorties instead of entrees.'" The banquet, however, which Mr. Bevan had suggested—and it was followed by others—took place before many days were over. The guests numbered eight or nine. I cannot recollect who they were; but the cooking, the wines, and the decorations of the table would have satisfied Ouida herself. The china, covered with royal crowns, was a gift from Louis Philippe. The wines, of which the names and dates were murmured by the servants who dispensed them, seemed all to have come from the cellars of a Rothschild or an Austrian emperor, while every dish was a delicacy unique in its composition and flavor, the last of them being a sort of "trifle," which the artistry of a chef had converted into the form of a pope's tiara. Mr. Bevan, in short, was a model of the ultrafastidious man of the world as he figures in the novels of Bulwer Lytton and Disraeli. I mentioned this impression of him some time afterward to Lord Houghton, and he said: "There's a very good reason for it. When Bulwer Lytton and Disraeli entered the London world, Mr. Bevan was one of their earliest friends. He privately helped Disraeli in social and other ways. To him Bulwer Lytton owed his first personal knowledge of the then world of the dandies; and Mr. Bevan," said Lord Houghton, "was the actual model from which, by both these writers, their pictures of the typical man of the world were drawn."