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Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), English educator and historian.

IT does one's heart good to contemplate the life of such a man as Dr. Arnold of Rugby.  He possessed that quality of earnestness which gives force to every purpose in life.  He was full of strong sympathy for all that was true and good in our modern social movements, and of as strong antipathy for all that he conceived to be false and unjust.  He did battle in the cause that he conscientiously felt to be right, with his whole heart and soul; and waged as uncompromising war against what seemed to him to be shams and falsities.  He was of the stern stuff of which martyrs are made; for when he saw his way clear, and his conscience approved, he never hesitated at once to act boldly and energetically.  We may not agree with him in all the views that he held and advocated; but we never fail to admire the undeviating and high-minded consistency of his life, and the purity of the motives on which he acted.

    The history of Dr. Arnold contains comparatively few incidents.  He was a scholar and a thinker, acting upon the world through his school and his study, rather than taking an active part in its practical movements and struggles.  He influenced it from without, and spoke to the men in action, as if from a higher sphere.  Thomas Arnold was born at West Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, in 1795.  His father, who was the collector of customs at that place, died suddenly in 1801, and left a large family to be provided for, Thomas (the youngest) being then only six years old.  His aunt undertook the care of his education, and sent him to Warminster School in 1803, where he remained four years, and then removed to Winchester, leaving that seminary in 1811.  As a boy, he was shy and retiring, but he then formed numerous warm friendships, which continued through life.  He was fond of ballad poetry, and while at Winchester wrote a long poem on the subject of Simon de Montfort, which obtained for him the appellation of "Poet Arnold."  But in his school career there was, on the whole, nothing remarkable.

    He entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1811; was elected a Fellow of Oriel College, in 1815; and subsequently obtained the Chancellor's prize for the University essays in Latin and English.  He often looked back with delight to his residence at Oxford, and trod over again in fancy the beautiful scenery of the neighbourhood,—Bageley Wood, and Shotover, with Horspath nestling under it; Elsfield, with its green slope; and all the variety of Cumnor Hill.  He had an intense love of nature in all its aspects, and quite revelled amongst the beautiful scenery of Westmoreland, where he had his rural home during the later years of his life.  While at College, his inquiries became directed upon religious subjects, and he was early beset by doubts and scruples, through which most strong minds have vigorously to struggle.  But Arnold succeeded in at length reaching what he felt to be firm ground, his nature strengthened by the struggles which he had undergone.

    In December, 1818, he was ordained deacon at Oxford; in 1819, he settled at Laleham with his mother, aunt, and sister, taking in pupils to prepare them for the Universities; and in 1820, he married Mary Penrose, the youngest daughter of the Rector of Fledborough, Lincolnshire.  He remained at Laleham for nine years, diligently improving his mind, engaged in the study of Greek and Roman history, learning German in order to read Niebuhr, searching out the deep meaning of the Scriptures, and devoting himself to the improvement and culture of the minds of his pupils.  He loved teaching, and seemed to live for it, entering into the pursuits of his scholars, making them feel in love with knowledge and virtue, giving them new views of life and action, and discovering to them the means of being useful and truly happy.  He loved his pupils, and they loved him warmly in turn.  He bathed with them, leaped with them, sailed and rowed with them, and entered into all their amusements, as well as intellectual occupations.

    His success at Laleham, and the high opinion which began to be entertained of him by leading minds, directed attention to Dr. Arnold as the proper person to fill the office of Head Master of Rugby School, on the resignation of Dr. Wool, for a long time master of that academy; and on presenting himself as a candidate, he was at once elected to the office in December, 1827.  In the following year he received Priest's orders; shortly after, he took his degree of B.D., and D.D., and entered upon his duties in August, 1828.  He commenced his work with the ardent zeal of a reformer.  He had long deplored the state of the public schools of England, holding many of them to be seminaries of vice rather than of virtue, and he longed to try "whether his notions of Christian education were really impracticable, and whether our system of public schools had not in it some noble elements which might produce fruit, even to life eternal."

    Many have expressed a regret that Arnold, with his fine powers of mind, should have devoted his main energies through life to the performance of the duties of a schoolmaster.  But he himself had the proper notions of this high calling, and he felt that in forming, influencing, and directing the minds of hundreds of young men, who were to occupy, many of them, prominent places in society, at the same time that he was labouring to reform and to elevate the entire system of school education, he was really engaged in a noble and elevating work.  He threw himself into this work with great zeal, at first feeling his way, but gradually acting with greater boldness and decision.  He succeeded in enlisting the boys themselves in his labours, made them co-operators with himself in the improvements he sought to introduce, and the result was, that, in the course of a very few years, Rugby School was rendered one of the most famous and successful in England.

    It would occupy too much space to detail the tenderness, the firmness, the judgment, the kindness, and the Christian zeal which the master displayed in carrying out his great purpose, and to exhibit by what means he fired his pupils with the love of truth, virtue, and integrity,—teaching them to do for themselves rather than to depend upon others for success,—treating them as gentlemen, and thus making them such,—trusting them, confiding in them, stimulating them, and encouraging them.  But, as was to have been expected, there were many unruly spirits to be dealt with among an indiscriminate mass of three hundred boys; and mischievous tendencies and bad feeling could not be altogether repressed among them.  On one of these occasions he exclaimed: "Is this a Christian school?  I cannot remain here if all is to be carried on by constraint and force; if I am to be here as a jailer, I would rather resign my office at once."  And on another occasion, when he had found it necessary to send away some unruly boys, he said: "It is not necessary that this should be a school of three hundred, or of one hundred, or of fifty boys; but it is necessary that it should be a school of Christian gentlemen."  And such stirring appeals to the generous nature of his boys rarely failed in their effect.

    What Dr. Arnold mainly aimed at, was to promote the self-development of the young minds committed to his charge, by encouraging them to cultivate their own intellects.  "I am sure," he used to say, "the temptations of intellect are not comparable to the temptations of dullness;" and he often dwelt on "the fruit which he above all things longed for,—moral thoughtfulness,—the engrossing love of truth going along with the devoted love of goodness;" and again he said: "I am quite sure that it is a most solemn duty to cultivate our understandings to the uttermost, for I have seen the evil moral consequences of fanaticism to a greater degree than I ever expected to see them realized; and I am satisfied that a neglected intellect is far oftener the cause of mischief to a man than a perverted or overvalued one."  He longed to train men so that they should form their own opinions honestly, and entertain them decidedly.  He could not bear that nondescript in society,—the neutral character.  "Neutrality, however," he observed, "seems to me a natural state for men of fair honesty, moderate wit, and much indolence; they cannot get strong impressions of what is true and right, and the weak impression, which is all that they can take, cannot overcome indolence and fear: I crave a strong mind for my children, for this reason,—that they then have a chance, at least, of appreciating truth keenly, and when a man does that, honesty becomes comparatively easy."  "I would far rather," he said, "send a boy to Van Diemen's Land, where he must work for his bread, than send him to Oxford to live in luxury, without any desire in his mind to avail himself of his advantages.  Childishness in boys, even of good abilities, seems to me to be a growing fault, and I do not know to what to ascribe it, except to the greater number of exciting books of amusement, like 'Pickwick' and 'Nickleby,' 'Bentley's Miscellany,' &c., &c.  These completely satisfy all the intellectual appetites of a boy, which is rarely very voracious, and leave him totally palled, not only for his regular work, which I could well excuse in comparison, but for good literature of all sorts, even for history and poetry."

    At the same time, for mere cleverness, whether in men or boys, without moral goodness and mental strength, he had very little esteem.  "Mere intellectual acuteness," he used to say, in speaking of lawyers, for example, "divested as it is, in too many cases, of all that is comprehensive and great and good, is to me more revolting than the most helpless imbecility, seeming to be almost like the spirit of Mephistopheles."  Again, "If there be one thing on earth which is truly admirable, it is to see God's wisdom blessing an inferiority of natural powers, where they have been honestly, truly, and zealously cultivated."  In speaking of a pupil of this character, he said, "I would stand to that man hat in hand."  Once, at Laleham, when teaching a rather dull boy, he spoke rather sharply to him, when the pupil looked up in his face and said, "Why do you speak angrily, sir? indeed I am doing the best that I can."  Years afterwards he used to tell the story to his children, and said, "I never felt so much in my life,—that look and that speech I have never forgotten."  In such a spirit did Dr. Arnold enter and proceed upon his work of educating young minds, and the success that attended his efforts was immense.  He excited quite an enthusiastic admiration among his pupils, and many there are who confess that they owe to him the main bent of their lives and actions, and all the good which they have accomplished.  This feeling has by no means been exaggerated by Mr. Hughes in his celebrated "Tom Brown's School Days."

    While thus diligently occupied among his pupils, and superintending, with an anxious eye, the whole business of his great school, Dr. Arnold took the most eager interest in the ongoings of the busy world without.  He followed the public movements of the day with enthusiasm: he was a man who could not possibly be neutral, and he at once took his side with the cause of progress.  In his youth, Arnold had been a conservative; but the reading of history, of the Bible, and Aristotle, with a free mind, soon led him entirely the other way.  His feelings were most intense, as to the neglect of the poor by the rich, and the injustice and want of sympathy ,exercised towards the multitudinous classes.  "It haunts me," he said, "almost night and day.  It fills me with astonishment to see anti-slavery and missionary societies so busy with the ends of the earth, and yet all the worst evils of slavery and heathenism existing among ourselves."  Again, in 1840, he says: "The state of the times is so grievous, that it really pierces through all private happiness, and haunts me daily like a personal calamity."  Again and again does he give expression to similar desponding views in his letters to his intimate friends.  "It seems to me," he said, "that people are not enough aware of the monstrous state of society, absolutely, without a parallel in the history of the world; with a population poor, miserable, and degraded, both in body and mind, as much as if they were slaves, and yet called freemen, and having a power as such of concerting and combining plans of risings, which makes them ten times more dangerous than slaves.  And the hopes entertained by many, of the effects to be wrought by new churches and schools, while the social evils of their condition are left uncorrected, appear to me to be utterly wild."  The Corn Laws and the Debt, the increasing mortgages on land and industry, oppressed his mind like a nightmare.  He could not rid himself of the thought of these things.  He feared that "too late" were the words which must be affixed to every plan of reforming society in England.  "The English nation" he observed, "are like a man in a lethargy; they are never roused from their conservatism till mustard poultices are put to their feet."  The conduct of the higher classes, at the same time, roused his extreme ire.  "There is," said he, "no earthly thing more mean and despicable in my mind than an English gentleman destitute of all sense of his responsibilities and opportunities, and only revelling in the luxuries of our high civilization, and thinking himself a great person."

    He endeavoured to give his views on these subjects a practical direction, and laboured to organize a society "for draw- in public attention to the state of the labouring classes labouring throughout the kingdom." But the plan never came to maturity. He tried to establish a newspaper, but it failed after a few numbers. He wrote letters in the Sheffield Courant and the Herts Reformer, and thus endeavoured to rouse the public attention. "I have a testimony to deliver," he said; "I must write or die."  His scholastic studies were all prosecuted with the same views.  His Greek and Roman History was "not an idle inquiry about remote ages and forgotten institutions, but a living picture of things present, fitted not so much for the curiosity of the scholar, as for the instruction of the statesman and the scholar."  "My abhorrence of conservatism," he observed at another time, "is not because it checks liberty,—in an established democracy it would favour liberty; but because it checks the growth of mankind in wisdom, goodness, and happiness, by striving to maintain institutions which are of necessity temporary, and thus never hindering change, but often depriving the change of half its value."  Yet Dr. Arnold, decided though his views were, might be said to belong to no "party," either in the State or in the Church.  His independence was too great,—his opinions were so entirely self-formed and elaborated, and held with such tenacity, that he was not a man who could jog quietly along in the train of any "party."  He was strongly in favour of Catholic emancipation, and wrote an eloquent pamphlet in its favour; but strange to say, for reasons which he stated equally strongly, he was opposed to the emancipation of the Jews.

    On Church questions, his views were equally bold and decided.  He stood quite aloof from High Church and Low Church alike.  He was strongly impressed with a sense of what he termed the "corruption of the Church," which, he maintained, had been "virtually destroyed; "for by the Church was now understood only "the Clergy," the Laity being excluded from all share in its administration.  He inveighed, in an article of his in the Edinburgh Review, "On the Fanaticism which has been the Peculiar Disgrace of the Church of England," a dress, a ritual, a name, a ceremony, a technical phraseology,—the superstition of priesthood without its power,—the gown of Episcopal government, without its substance,—a system imperfect and paralyzed, not independent, not sovereign,—afraid to cast off the subjection against which it was perpetually murmuring,—objects so pitiful, that, if gained ever so completely, they would make no man the wiser, or the better; they would lead to no good, intellectual, moral, or spiritual."  For this article, he was taken to task by Earl Howe, one of the trustees of Rugby School, and called upon to confess whether he were the author.  He replied, that the authorship of the article was well known,—that he had spoken undisguisedly of it to his friends; but he refused to give a direct answer to his Lordship's interrogatory, which would be "to acknowledge a right which I owe it," he said, "not only to myself, but to the master of every endowed school in England, absolutely to deny."  The result was a meeting of the trustees, but Dr. Arnold was retained in his office without any further communication being made to him.

    Dr. Arnold had an intense sense of the true religious life, and this it was which shocked him at its shams, and at the virtual Atheism in which men lived.  "I cannot," he said, "understand what is the good of a national Church, if it be not to Christianize the nation, and introduce the principles of Christianity into men's social and civil relations, and expose the wickedness of that spirit which maintains the Game Laws, and, in agriculture and trade, seems to think that there is no such sin as covetousness; and, that if a man is not dishonest, he has nothing to do but to make all the profit of his capital that he can."  He deplored that religion had become, among us, "an affair of clergy, not of people; of preaching and ceremonies, not of living; of Sundays and synagogues, instead of one of all days and all places, houses, streets, town, and country."  "Alas!" he exclaimed, "when will the Church ever exist more than in name, so that this profession might have that zeal infused into it which is communicated by an esprit de corps; and, if the 'Body' were the real Church, instead of our abominable sects, with their half-priestcraft, half-profaneness, its 'Spirit' would be one that we might receive into all our hearts and minds."

    Into the questions raised by the Oxford Controversy, also, he entered with great warmth.  He saw in it the essence of "priestcraft," which he hated, characterizing Newmanism as "the great Anti-Christian heresy;" but into his views on this subject we need not enter.  Speaking thus strongly, it will be obvious that he could not fail to rouse a strong feeling of hostility against himself.  At London, where he wished religious, not sectarian, examination to be introduced into the University, he was regarded as a bigot; while at Oxford he was regarded as an extreme latitudinarian.  "If I had two necks," said he, "I think I had a very good chance of being hanged by both sides."  Nor would he aid the Sabbatarians in stopping railway travelling on Sundays, holding that the Jewish law of the Sabbath was not binding on Christians.  Loud outcry was raised against him in many and various quarters, but still he was nothing daunted, even though old friends grew cool, and new ones fell away.  The truth which he felt, he uttered, and never ceased till his last breath to do so.  In course of time, however, as the rancour of the strife subsided, and the great success of his management and teaching at Rugby became apparent, and as his works on Greek and Roman history made their appearance, to show the magnificent calibre of his mind, new and powerful friends came around him, and his fame spread wider than before.  Lord Melbourne offered him the vacant chair of History at Oxford, in 1841, which he joyfully accepted, though he lived only to deliver the introductory course of lectures on his favourite theme.

    It will be observed, from what we have said, that the prominent characteristic of the man was intense earnestness.  He felt life keenly, its responsibilities as well as its enjoyments.  His very pleasures were earnest; he was indifferent or neutral in nothing.  He was always full of work, learning some new language, studying some fresh historical subject, or cheering on by his pen the progressive movements of the age.  "It boots not," he said, "to look backward: forward, forward, forward, should be our motto."  "I covet rest neither for my friends nor yet for myself, so long as we are able to work;" but, again he would say, "work after all is but half the man, and they who only work together, do not truly live together."  "Instead of feeling my mind exhausted," he would say, after the day's business in the school was over, "it seems to have quite an eagerness to set to work.  I feel as if I could dictate to twenty secretaries at once."  He was a thoroughly "go-ahead" man, and rejoiced at all the signs of work and progress in this busy age.  The delight with which he regarded the power of the railway was quite characteristic of him.  "I rejoice to see it," he said, as he stood on one of the arches of the London and Birmingham line, and watched the train flash along through the distant hedgerows,—"I rejoice to see it, and think that feudality is gone forever.  It is so great a blessing to think that any one evil is really extinct."

    He was a great lover of men.  When he met with one earnest and zealous as himself,—and such was rare,—he loved him with his whole heart.  Chevalier Bunsen and Niebuhr were objects of his high admiration.  Carlyle, too, was a great favourite.  "What I daily feel more and more to need," he said, "as life every year rises more and more before me in its true reality, is to have intercourse with those who take life in earnest.  It is very painful to me to be always on the surface of things, and I think that literature, science, politics, many topics of far greater interest than mere gossip, or talking about the weather, are yet, as they are generally talked about, still on the surface; they do not touch the real depths of life."  And again: "Differences of opinion give me but little concern; but it is a real pleasure to be brought into communication with any one who is in earnest, and who really looks to God's will as his standard of right and wrong, and judges of actions according to their greater or less conformity."  Hence Arnold disliked the mere theologians.  "There appears to me," he said, "in all the English divines a want of believing, or disbelieving anything, because it is true or false."  And again: "I have left off reading our divines, because, as Pascal said of the Jesuits, if I had spent my time in reading them fully, I should have read a great many very indifferent books.  But if I could find a great man amongst them, I would read him thankfully and earnestly.  As it is, I hold John Bunyan to have been a man of incomparably greater genius than any of them, and to have given a far truer and more edifying picture of Christianity.  His 'Pilgrim's Progress' seems to be a complete reflection of Scripture, with none of the rubbish of the theologians mixed up with it."

    Interested as Arnold was in the ongoings of the outer world, he intensely enjoyed his own family and fireside.  At Laleham, at Rugby, but above all, in his country home at Fox How, near Rydal, in Westmoreland, his heart ran over with expressions of joy and deep delight.  Fox How was the paradise to which he retreated from the turmoil of the world.  "It is with a mixed feeling of solemnity and tenderness," he said, "that I regard our mountain nest, whose surpassing sweetness, I think I may safely say, adds a positive happiness to every one of my waking hours passed in it."  When absent from Fox How, it "dwelt on his memory as a vision of beauty, from one vacation to another;" and when present there, he felt that "no hasty or excited admiration of a tourist could be compared with the quiet and homely delight of having the mountains and streams as familiar objects, connected with all the enjoyments of home, one's family, one's books, and one's friends."  Among the delicious scenery of Italy, he said, that "if he stayed more than a day at the most beautiful spot in the world, it would only bring on a longing for Fox How;" and it was his repeated wish that, when he died, "his bones should go to Grasmere churchyard, to lie under the yews which Wordsworth planted, and to have the Rotha, with its deep and silent pools, passing by."

    This true and noble man died too soon for himself and the world.  He was suddenly cut off, in the midst of his labours, on the morning of the 12th of June, 1842, in the forty-seventh year of his age.  He died, but he left a legacy of pure thoughts, earnest impulses, and noble aspirations to his race, and which, it is to be hoped, the world will not willingly let die.




Hugh Miller (1802-56): Scottish stone mason, self-taught geologist, writer and newspaper editor.

A Calotype by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, 1843.   Picture Wikipedia.

MEN may learn much that is good from each other's lives,—especially from good men's lives.  Men who live in our daily sight, as well as men who have lived before us, and handed down illustrious examples for our imitation, are the most valuable practical teachers.  For it is not mere literature that makes men,—it is real, practical life, that chiefly moulds our nature, enables us to work out our own education, and to build up our own character.

    HUGH MILLER has very strikingly worked out this idea in his admirable autobiography, entitled, "My Schools and Schoolmasters."  It is extremely interesting, even fascinating, as a book; but it is more than an ordinary book,—it might almost be called an institution.  It is the history of the formation of a truly noble and independent character in the humblest condition of life,—the condition in which a large mass of the people of this country are born and brought up; and it teaches all, but especially poor men, what it is in the power of each to accomplish for himself.  The life of Hugh Miller is full of lessons of self-help and self-respect, and shows the efficacy of these in working out for a man an honourable competence and a solid reputation. It may not be that every man has the thew and sinew, the large brain and heart, of a Hugh Miller,—for there is much in what we may call the breed of a man, the defect of which no mere educational advantages can supply; but every man can at least do much, by the help of such examples as his, to elevate himself, and build up his moral and intellectual character on a solid foundation.

    We have spoken of the breed of a man.  In Hugh Miller we have an embodiment of that most vigorous and energetic element of English national life,—the Norwegian and Danish.    In times long, long ago, the daring and desperate pirates of these nations swarmed along the eastern coasts.  In England they were resisted by force of arms, for the prize of England's crown was a rich one; yet, by dint of numbers, valour, and bravery, they made good their footing in England, and even governed the eastern part of it by their own kings until the time of Alfred the Great.  And to this day the Danish element amongst the population of the east and northeast of England is by far the prevailing one.  But in Scotland it was different. They never reigned there; but they settled and planted all the eastern coasts.  The land was poor and thinly peopled; and the Scottish kings and chiefs were too weak—generally too much occupied by intestine broils—to molest or dispossess them.    Then these Danes and Norwegians led a seafaring life, were sailors and fishermen, which the native Scots were not.  So they settled down in all the bays and bights along the coast of Scotland, and took entire possession of the Orkneys, Shetland, and Western Isles, the Shetlands having been held by the crown of Denmark down to a comparatively recent period.   They never amalgamated with the Scotch Highlanders; and to this day they speak a different language, and follow different pursuits.  The Highlander was a hunter, a herdsman, a warrior, and fished in the fresh waters only.  The descendants of the Norwegians, or the Lowlanders, as they came to be called, followed the sea, fished in salt waters, cultivated the soil, and engaged in trade and commerce.  Hence the marked difference between the population of the town of Cromarty—where Hugh Miller was born, in 1802—and the population only a few miles inland; the townspeople speaking Lowland Scotch, and being dependent for their subsistence mainly on the sea,—the others speaking Gaelic, and living solely, upon the land.

    These Norwegian colonists of Cromarty held in their blood the very same piratical propensities which characterized their forefathers who followed the Vikings.  Hugh Miller first saw the light in a long, low-built house, built by his great-grandfather, John Feddes, "one of the last of the buccaneers;" this cottage having been built, as Hugh Miller himself says he has every reason to believe, with "Spanish gold."  All his ancestors were sailors and seafaring men; when boys they had taken to the water as naturally as ducklings. Traditions of adventures by sea were rife in the family.  Of his grand-uncles, one had sailed round the world with Anson, had assisted in burning Paeta, and in boarding the Manilla galleon; another, a handsome and powerful man, perished at sea in a storm; and his grandfather was dashed overboard by the jib-boom of his little vessel when entering the Cromarty Firth, and never rose again.  The son of this last, Hugh Miller's father, was sent into the country by his mother to work upon a farm, thus to rescue him, if possible, from the hereditary fate of the family.  But it was of no use.  The propensity for the salt water, the very instinct of the breed, was too powerful within him.  He left the farm, went to sea, became a man-of-war's man, was in the battle with the Dutch off the Dogger Bank, sailed all over the world, then took "French leave" of the royal navy, returned to Cromarty with money enough to buy a sloop and engage in trade on his own account.  But this vessel was one stormy night knocked to pieces on the bar of Findhorn, the master and his men escaping with difficulty; then another vessel was fitted out by him, by the help of his friends, and in this he was trading from place to place when Hugh Miller was born.

   What a vivid picture of sea-life, as seen from the shore at least, do we obtain from the early chapters of Miller's life! "I retain," says he, "a vivid recollection of the joy which used to light up the household on my father's arrival, and how I learned to distinguish for myself his sloop when in the offing, by the two slim stripes of white that ran along her sides, and her two square topsails."  But a terrible calamity—though an ordinary one in sea-life—suddenly plunged the sailor's family in grief; and he, too, was gathered to the same grave in which so many of his ancestors lay,—the deep ocean.  A terrible storm overtook his vessel near Peterhead; numbers of ships were lost along the coast; vessel after vessel came ashore, and the beach was strewn with wrecks and dead bodies, but no remnant of either the ship or bodies of Miller and his crew was ever cast up.  It was supposed that the little sloop, heavily laden, and labouring in a mountainous sea, must have started a plank and foundered.  Hugh Miller was but a child at the time, having only completed his fifth year.  The following remarkable "appearance," very much in Mrs. Crowe's way, made a strong impression upon him at the time.  The house-door had blown open, in the gray of evening, and the boy was sent by his mother to shut it.

    "Day had not wholly disappeared, but it was fast posting on to night, and a gray haze spread a neutral tint of dimness over every more distant object, but left the nearer ones comparatively distinct, when I saw at the open door, within less than a yard of my breast, as plainly as ever I saw anything, a dissevered hand and arm stretched towards me.  Hand and arm were apparently those of a female: they bore a livid and sodden appearance; and directly fronting me, where the body ought to have been, there was only blank, transparent space, through which I could see the dim forms of the objects beyond.  I was fearfully startled, and ran shrieking to my mother, telling what I had seen; and the house-girl, whom she next sent to shut the door, affected by my terror, also returned frightened, and said that she, too, had seen the woman's hand; which, however, did not seem to be the case.  And finally, my mother going to the door, saw nothing, though she appeared much impressed by the extremeness of my terror, and the minuteness of my description.  communicate the story as it lies fixed in my memory, without attempting to explain it: its coincidence with the probable time of my father's death, seems at least curious."

    The little boy longed for his father's return, and continued to gaze across the deep, watching for the sloop with its two stripes of white along the sides.  Every morning he went wandering about the little harbour, to examine the vessels which had come in during the night; and he continued to look out across the Moray Forth long after anybody else had ceased to hope.  But months and years passed, and the white stripes and square topsails of his father's sloop he never saw again.   The boy was the son of a sailor's widow, and so grew up, in sight of the sea, and with the same love of it that characterized his father.  But he was sent to school; first to a dame school, where he learnt his letters; he then worked his way through the Catechism, the Proverbs, and the New Testament and emerged into the golden region of "Sinbad the Sailor," "Jack the Giant-Killer," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp."  Other books followed,—the Pilgrim's Progress, Cook's and Anson's Voyages, and Blind Harry the Rhymer's History of Wallace; which first awoke within him a strong feeling of Scottish patriotism.  And thus his childhood grew, on proper child-like nourishment.  His uncles were men of solid sense and sound judgment, though uncultured by scholastic education.  One was a local antiquary, by trade a working harness-maker; the other was of a strong religious turn: he was a working cartwright, and in early life had been a sailor, engaged in nearly all Nelson's famous battles.  The examples and the conversation of these men were for the growing boy worth any quantity of school primers: he learnt from them far more than mere books could teach him.

    But his school education was not neglected either.  From the dame's school he was transferred to the town's grammar school, where, amidst about one hundred and fifty other boys and girls, he received his real school education.  But it did not amount to much.  There, however, the boy learnt life,—to hold his own,—to try his powers with other boys,—physically and morally, as well as scholastically.  The school brought out the stuff that was in him in many ways, but the mere book-learning was about the least part of the instruction.

    The school-house looked out on the beach, fronting the opening of the Frith, and not a boat or a ship could pass in or out of the harbour of Cromarty without the boys seeing it.   They knew the rig of every craft, and could draw them on their slates.  Boats unloaded their glittering cargoes on the beach, where the process of gutting afterwards went busily on; and to add to the bustle, there was a large killing-place for pigs not thirty yards from the school door, "where from eighty to a hundred pigs used sometimes to die for the general good in a single day; and it was a great matter to hear, at occasional intervals, the roar of death rising high over the general murmur within, or to be told by some comrade, returned from his five minutes' leave of absence, that a hero of a pig had taken three blows of a hatchet ere it fell, and that, even after its subjection to the sticking process, it had got hold of Jock Keddie's hand in its mouth, and almost smashed his thumb." Certainly it is not in every grammar-school that such lessons as these are taught.

    Miller was put to Latin, but made little progress in it,—his master had no method, and the boy was too fond of telling stories to his schoolfellows in school hours to make much progress.  Cock-fighting was a school practice in those days, apparently the master having a perquisite of two-pence for every cock that was entered by the boys on the days of the yearly fight.  But Miller had no love for this sport, although he paid his entry money with the rest.  In the mean time his miscellaneous reading extended, and he gathered pickings of odd knowledge from all sorts of odd quarters,— from workmen, carpenters, fishermen and sailors, old women, and, above all, from the old boulders strewed along the shores of the Cromarty Frith.  With a big hammer, which had belonged to his great-grandfather, John Feddes, the buccaneer, the boy went about chipping the stones, and thus early accumulating specimens of mica, porphyry, garnet, and such like, exhibiting them to his uncle Alexander, and other admiring relations.   Often, too, he had a day in woods to visit his uncle, when working as a sawyer,—his trade of cartwright having, failed. And there, too, the boy's attention was excited by the peculiar geological curiosities which lay in his way.  While searching among the stones and rocks on the beach, he was sometimes asked, in humble irony, by the farm servants who came to load their carts with sea-weed, whether he "was gettin' siller in the stanes," but was so unlucky as never to be able to answer their question in the affirmative.  Uncle Sandy seems to have been a close observer of nature, and in his humble way had his theories of ancient sea beaches, the flood, and the formation of the world, which he duly imparted to the wondering youth.  Together they explored caves, roamed the beach for crabs and lobsters, whose habits Uncle Sandy could well describe; he also knew all about moths and butterflies, spiders, and bees,—in short, was a born natural-history man, so that the boy regarded him in the light of a professor, and, doubtless, thus early obtained from him the bias toward his future studies.


A Calotype by Hill and Adamson (ca. 1843-47).

    There was the usual number of hair-breadth escapes in Miller's boy-life.  One of them, when he and a companion had got cooped up in a sea cave, and could not return because of the tide, reminds us of the exciting scene described in Scott's Antiquary.  There were school-boy tricks, and schoolboy rambles, mischief-making in companionship with other boys, of whom he was often the leader.  Left very much to himself, he was becoming a big, wild, insubordinate boy; and it became obvious that the time was now come when Hugh Miller must enter that world-wide school in which toil and hardship are the severe but noble masters.  After a severe fight and wrestling-match with his schoolmaster, he left school, avenging himself for his defeat by penning and sending by the teacher, that very night, a copy of satiric verses, entitled "The Pedagogue," which occasioned a good deal of merriment in the place.

    His boyhood over, and his school training ended, Hugh Miller must now face the world of toil.  His uncles were most anxious that he should become a minister; and were even willing to pay his college expenses, though the labour of their hands formed their only wealth.  The youth, however, had conscientious objections: he did not feel called to the work; and the uncles, confessing that he was right, gave up their point.  Hugh was accordingly apprenticed to the trade of his choice,—that of a working stone-mason; and he began his labouring career in a quarry looking out upon the Cromarty Firth.  This quarry proved one of his best schools.  The remarkable geological formations which it displayed awakened his curiosity.  The bar of deep-red stone beneath, and the bar of pale-red clay above, were noted by the young quarryman, who, even in such unpromising subjects, found matter for observation and reflection.  Where other men saw nothing, he detected analogies, differences, and peculiarities, which set him a-thinking.  He simply kept his eyes and his mind open; was sober, diligent, and persevering; and this was the secret of his intellectual growth.

    Hugh Miller takes a cheerful view of the lot of labour.  While others groan because they have to work hard for their bread, he says that work is full of pleasure, of profit, and of materials for self-improvement.  He holds that honest labour is the best of all teachers, and that the school of toil is the best and noblest of all schools, save only the Christian one,—a school in which the ability of being useful is imparted, and the spirit of independence communicated, and the habit of persevering effort acquired.  He is even of opinion that the training of the mechanic, by the exercise which it gives to his observant faculties, from his daily dealings with things actual and practical, and the close experience of life which he invariably acquires, is more favourable to his growth as a Man, emphatically speaking, than the training which is afforded by any other condition of life.  And the array of great names which he cites in support of his statement is certainly a large one.  Nor is the condition of the average well-paid operative at all so dolorous, according to Hugh Miller, as many modern writers would have it to be.  "I worked as an operative mason," says he, "for fifteen years,—no inconsiderable portion of the more active part of a man's life; but the time was not altogether lost.  I enjoyed in those years fully the average amount of happiness, and learned to know more of the Scottish people than is generally known.  Let me add, that from the close of the first year in which I wrought as a journeyman, until I took final leave of the mallet and chisel, I never knew what it was to want a shilling; that my two uncles, my grandfather, and the mason with whom I served my apprenticeship—all working-men—had had a similar experience; and that it was the experience of my father also.  I cannot doubt that deserving mechanics may, in exceptional cases, be exposed to want; but I can as little doubt that the cases are exceptional, and that much of the suffering of the class is a consequence either of improvidence on the part of the completely skilled, or of a course of trifling during the term of apprenticeship,—quite as common as trifling at school,—that always lands those who indulge in it in the hapless position of the inferior workman."

    There is much honest truth in this observation.  At the same time, it is clear that the circumstances under which Hugh Miller was brought up and educated are not enjoyed by all workmen,—are, indeed, experienced by comparatively few.  In the first place, his parentage was good, his father and mother were a self-helping, honest, intelligent pair, in humble circumstances, but yet comparatively comfortable.  Thus his early education was not neglected.  His relations were sober, industrious, and "God-fearing," as they say in the north.  His uncles were not his least notable instructors.  One of them was a close observer of nature, and in some sort a scientific man, possessed of a small but good library of books.  Then Hugh Miller's own constitution was happily trained.  As one of his companions once said to him, "Ah, Miller, you have stamina in you, and will force your way; but I want strength; the world will never hear of me."  It is the stamina which Hugh Miller possessed by nature, that were born in him, and were carefully nurtured by his parents, that enabled him as a working-man to rise, while thousands would have sunk or merely plodded on through life in the humble station in which they were born.    And this difference in stamina and other circumstances is not sufficiently taken into account by Hugh Miller in the course of the interesting, and, on the whole, exceedingly profitable remarks, which he makes in his autobiography on the condition of the labouring poor.

    We can afford, in our brief space, to give only a very rapid outline of Hugh Miller's fifteen years' life as a workman.  He worked away in the quarry for some time, losing many of his finger-nails by bruises and accidents, growing fast, but gradually growing stronger, and obtaining a fair knowledge of his craft as a stone-hewer.  He was early subjected to the temptation which besets most young workmen,—that of drink.  But he resisted it bravely.  His own account of it is worthy of extract:—

"When overwrought, and in my depressed moods, I learned to regard the ardent spirits of the dram-shop as high luxuries; they gave lightness and energy to both body and mind, and substituted for a state of dulness and gloom one of exhilaration and enjoyment.  Usquebhae was simply happiness doled out by the glass, and sold by the gill.  The drinking usages of the profession in which I laboured were at this time many; when a foundation was laid, the workmen were treated to drink; they were treated to drink when the walls were levelled for laying the joists; they were treated to drink when the building was finished; they were treated to drink when an apprentice joined the squad; treated to drink when his 'apron was washed;' treated to drink when his ' time was out;' and occasionally they learnt to treat one another to drink.  In laying down the foundation stone of one of the larger houses built this year by Uncle David and his partner, the workmen had a royal 'founding-pint,' and two whole glasses of the whiskey came to my share.  A full-grown man would not have deemed a gill of usquebhae an overdose, but it was considerably too much for me; and when the party broke up, and I got home to my books, I found, as I opened the pages of a favourite author, the letters dancing before my eyes, and that I could no longer master the sense.  I have the volume at present before me, a small edition of the Essays of Bacon, a good deal worn at the corners by the friction of the pocket, for of Bacon I never tired.  The condition into which I had brought myself was, I felt, one of degradation.  I had sunk, by my own act, for the time, to a lower level of intelligence than that on which it was my privilege to be placed; and though the state could have been no very favourable one for forming a resolution, I in that hour determined that I should never again sacrifice my capacity of intellectual enjoyment to a drinking usage; and, with God's help, I was enabled to hold my determination."

    A young working mason, reading Bacon's Essays in his by-hours, must certainly be regarded as a remarkable man; but not less remarkable is the exhibition of moral energy and noble self-denial in the instance we have cited.

    It was while working as a mason's apprentice, that the lower Old Red Sandstone along the Bay of Cromarty presented itself to his notice; and his curiosity was excited and kept alive by the infinite organic remains, principally of old and extinct species of fishes, ferns, and ammonites, which lay revealed along the coasts by the washings of waves, or were exposed by the stroke of his mason's hammer.  He never lost sight of this subject; went on accumulating observations and comparing formations, until at length, when no longer a working mason, many years afterwards, he gave to the world his highly interesting work on the Old Red Sandstone, which at once established his reputation as an accomplished scientific geologist.  But this work was the fruit of long years of patient observation and research.  As he modestly states in his autobiography, "the only merit to which I lay claim in the case is that of patient research, —a merit in which whoever wills may rival or surpass me; and this humble faculty of patience, when rightly developed, may lead to more extraordinary developments of idea than even genius itself."  And he adds how he deciphered the divine ideas in the mechanism and framework of creatures in the second stage of vertebrate existence.

    But it was long before Hugh Miller accumulated his extensive geological observations, and acquired that self-culture which enabled him to shape them into proper form.  He went on diligently working at his trade, but always observing and always reflecting.  He says he could not avoid being an observer; and that the necessity which made him a mason, made him also a geologist.  In the winter months, during which mason-work is generally superseded in country places, he occupied his time with reading, sometimes with visiting country friends,—persons of an intelligent caste,—and often he strolled away amongst old Scandinavian ruins and Pictish forts, speculating about their origin and history.  He made good use of his leisure.  And when spring came round again, he would set out into the Highlands, to work at building and hewing jobs with a squad of other masons,—working hard, and living chiefly on oatmeal brose. Some of the descriptions given by him of life in the remote Highland districts are extremely graphic and picturesque, and have all the charm of entire novelty.  The kind of accommodation which he experienced may be inferred from the observation made by a Highland laird to his uncle James, as to the use of a crazy old building left standing beside a group of neat modern offices.  "He found it of great convenience," he said, "every time his speculations brought a drove of pigs, or a squad of masons, that way."  This sort of life and its surrounding circumstances were not of a poetical cast; yet the youth was now about the poetizing age, and during his solitary rambles after his day's work, by the banks of the Conon, he meditated poetry, and began to make verses.   He would sometimes write them out upon his mason's kit, while the rain was dropping through the roof of the apartment upon the paper on which he wrote.  It was a rough life of poetic musing, yet he always contrived to mix up a high degree of intellectual exercise and enjoyment with whatever manual labour he was employed upon; and this, after all, is one of the secrets of a happy life.  While observing scenery and natural history, he also seems to have very closely observed the characters of his fellow workmen, and he gives us vivid and life-like portraits of some of the more remarkable of them in his Autobiography.  There were some rough and occasionally very wicked fellows among his fellow-workmen, but he had strength of character, and sufficient inbred sound principle, to withstand their contamination.  He was also proud,—and pride in its proper place is an excellent thing,—particularly that sort of pride which makes a man revolt from doing a mean action, or anything which would bring discredit on the, family.  This is the sort of true nobility which serves poor men in good stead sometimes, and it certainly served Hugh Miller well.

    His apprenticeship ended, he "took jobs" for himself,—built a cottage for his Aunt Jenny, which still stands, and after that went out working as journeyman-mason.  In his spare hours, he was improving himself by the study of practical geometry, and made none the worse a mason on that account.  While engaged in helping to build a mansion on the western coast of Ross-shire, he extended his geological and botanical observations, noting all that was remarkable in the formation of the district.  He also drew his inferences from the condition of the people,—being very much struck, above other things, with the remarkably contented state of the Celtic population, although living in filth and misery.  On this he shrewdly observes: "It was one of the palpable characteristics of our Scottish Highlanders, for at least the first thirty years of the century, that they were contented enough, as a people; to find more to pity than to envy in the condition of their Lowland neighbours; and I remember that at this time, and for years after, I used to deem the trait a good one.  I have now, however, my doubts on the subject, and am not quite sure whether a content so general as to be national may not, in certain circumstances, be rather a vice than a virtue.  It is certainly no virtue, when it has the effect of arresting either individuals or peoples in their course of development; and is perilously allied to great suffering, when the men who exemplify it are so thoroughly happy amid the mediocrities of the present that they fail to make provision for the contingencies of the future."

    Trade becoming slack in the North, Hugh Miller took ship for Edinburgh, where building was going briskly on (in 1824), to seek for employment there as a stone-hewer.  He succeeded, and lived as a workman at Niddry, in the neighbourhood of the city, for some time; pursuing at the same time his geological observations in a new field, Niddry being located on the carboniferous system.  Here also he met with an entirely new class of men,—the colliers,—many of whom, strange to say, had been born slaves; the manumission of the Scotch colliers having been effected in comparatively modern times,—as late as the year 1775!  So that, after all, Scotland is not so very far ahead of the serfdom of Russia.

    Returning to the North again, Miller next began business for himself in a small way, as a hewer of tombstones for the good folks of Cromarty.  This change of employment was necessary, in consequence of the hewer's disease, caused by inhaling stone-dust, which settles in the lungs, and generally leads to rapid consumption, afflicting him with its premonitory symptoms.  The strength of his constitution happily enabled him to throw off the malady, but his lungs never fairly recovered their former vigour.  Work not being very plentiful, he wrote poems, some of which appeared in the newspapers; and in course of time a small collection of these pieces was published by subscription.  He very soon, however, gave up poetry writing, finding that his humble accomplishment of verse was too narrow to contain his thinking; so next time he wrote a book it was in prose, and vigorous prose too, far better than his verse.  But Miller had meanwhile been doing what was better than either cutting tombstones or writing poetry: he had been building up his character, and thereby securing the respect of all who knew him. So that, when a branch of the Commercial Bank was opened in Cromarty, and the manager cast about him to make selection of an accountant, whom should he pitch upon but Hugh Miller, the stone-mason?  This was certainly a most extraordinary selection; but why was it made?  Simply because of the excellence of the man's character. He had proved himself a true and a thoroughly excellent and trustworthy man in a humble, capacity of life; and the inference was, that he would carry the same principles of conduct into another and higher sphere of action.  Hugh Miller hesitated to accept the office, having but little knowledge of accounts, and no experience in book-keeping; but the manager knew his pluck and determined perseverance in mastering whatever he undertook; above all, he had confidence in his character, and he would not take a denial.  So Hugh Miller was sent to Edinburgh to learn his new business at the head bank.

    Throughout life, Miller seems to have invariably put his conscience into his work.  Speaking of the old man with whom he served his apprenticeship as a mason, he says: "He made conscience of every stone he laid.  It was remarked in the place, that the walls built by Uncle David never bulged nor fell; and no apprentice nor journeyman of his was permitted, on any plea, to make 'slight work.'"  And one of his own Uncle James's instructions to him on one occasion was, "In all your dealings, give your neighbour the cast of the baulk,—'good measure, heaped up and running over,'—and you will not lose by it in the end."  These lessons were worth far more than what is often taught in schools, and Hugh Miller seems to have framed his own conduct in life on the excellent moral teaching which they conveyed.  Speaking of his own career as a workman, when on the eve of quitting it, he says: "I do think I acted up to my uncle's maxim; and that, without injuring my brother workmen by lowering their prices.  I never yet charged an employer for a piece of work that, fairly measured and valued, would not be rated at a slightly higher sum than that at which it stood in my account."

    Although he gained some fame in his locality by his poems, and still more by his "Letters on the Herring Fisheries of Scotland," he was not, as many self-raised men are, spoilt by the praise which his works called forth.  "There is," he says, "no more fatal error into which a working-man of a literary turn can fall, than the mistake of deeming himself too good for his humble employments; and yet it is a mistake as common as it is fatal.  I had already seen several poor wrecked mechanics, who, believing themselves to be poets, and regarding the manual occupation by which they could alone live in independence as beneath them, had become in consequence little better than mendicants,—too good to work for their bread, but not too good virtually to beg it; and looking upon them as beacons of warning, I determined that, with God's help, I should give their error a wide offing, and never associate the idea of meanness with an honest calling, or deem myself too good to be independent."  Full of this manly and robust spirit, Hugh Miller pursued his career of stone-hewing by day, and prose composition when the day's work was done, until he entered upon his new vocation of banker's accountant.  He showed his self-denial, too, in waiting for a wife until he could afford to keep one in respectable comfort,—his engagement lasting over five years, before he was in a position to fulfil his promise.  And then he married, wisely and happily.

   At Edinburgh, by dint of perseverance and application, Mr. Miller shortly mastered his new business, and then returned to Cromarty, where he was installed in office.  His "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland" were published about the same time, and were well received; and in his leisure hours he proceeded to prepare his most important work, on "The Old Red Sandstone."  He also contributed to the "Border Tales," and other periodicals.  The Free-Church movement drew him out as a polemical writer: and his Letter to Lord Brougham on the Scotch Church Controversy excited so much attention, that the leaders of the movement in Edinburgh invited him to undertake the editing of the Witness newspaper, the organ of the Free-Church party.  He accepted the invitation, and continued to hold the editorship until his death, in 1856.

    The circumstances connected with his decease were of a most distressing character.  On entering his room one morning, he was found lying dead, shot through the body, and under circumstances which left no doubt that he had died by his own hand.  He had for some time been closely applying himself to the completion of his "Testimony of the Rocks," without rest or relaxation, or due attention to his physical health.  Under these circumstances, overwork of the brain speedily began to tell upon him.  He could not sleep,—if he lay down and dozed, it was only to wake in a start, his head filled with imaginary horrors; and in one of these fits of his disease he put an end to his life;—a warning to all brainworkers, that the powers of the human constitution may be strained until they break, and that even the best and strongest mind cannot dispense with the due observance of the laws which regulate the physical constitution of man.

Extract from Miller's obituary in
THE TIMES, 29 Dec 1856.




Richard Cobden (1804-65),
Manufacturer, Radical and Liberal statesman.

RICHARD COBDEN was born on the 3d of June, 1804, at Dunford farm-house, near Medhurst, a village in Sussex, far from the noise and bustle of towns.  When a little boy, he tended his father's sheep in the fields, and helped to do the usual work of the farm as he grew older.  His grandfather, who was head bailiff of Medhurst, carried on business as a maltster there, and he is still spoken of by the old people in the village as "Maltster Cobden."  The family must have been long settled in the neighbourhood, "Cobden's Lane" and "Cobden's Farm" being still remembered places.  Indeed, many of these old English farmers have a very ancient ancestry,—older than the Norman Conquest; for when the Normans came, the Cobdens, and such as they, were already settled cultivators of the soil.  Richard Cobden, however, cares little about ancestry, and thinks mainly of the duties which each man owes to the generation in which he lives, and of the manner in which he performs them.

    Maltster Cobden did not succeed in life; and his son, Richard's father, eventually gave up farming, when the old house at Dunford was pulled down, and the family left the neighbourhood.  Richard had meanwhile acquired the very slenderest possible rudiments of education, when he was sent to be employed as a boy in a London warehouse extensively engaged in the cotton-print trade.  He there drudged his way upward from the lowest point, training himself in habits of industry, as well as in self-culture.  He was very diligent, very observant, and very well conducted.  In a properly-managed house of business, promotion in such cases follows as a matter of course; and Richard Cobden was gradually advanced from the lowest towards the highest offices in the firm.

    Circumstances occurred which led his employers to send him into the North of England, as traveller for the firm; and then it was that he made his first acquaintance with Manchester.  He observed the abundant opportunities which the district presented for business, and the scope which it afforded for enterprise and energy; and he determined, when the opportunity should offer, to begin there on his own account.  Two of his fellow-servants, Messrs. Sherroff and Foster, shortly after offered to join him, and in a few years we find them engaged in a calico-printing business at Sabden, in the neighbourhood of Clitheroe, in Lancashire.  The firm prospered, and subsequently Cobden separated from his first partners, and began the same business on a larger scale, in company with his elder brother, at Chorley, also in Lancashire.

    Meanwhile Richard settled in Manchester, and conducted the warehouse branch of the business there.  The Cobden prints became celebrated for their taste, as well as quality; they competed successfully with the best quality of London goods, and soon fetched the highest prices in the market.  An instance of their success may be incidentally mentioned.  A gentleman who happened to visit Mr. Cobden's warehouse in Manchester was there favoured with the sight of some new printed muslin of a peculiar pattern, about three days before they were issued to the public.  In less than a week from the day these dresses were despatched from the warehouse, the same gentleman was at Chichester, and, walking in the direction of Goodwood, he met some ladies of the Duke of Richmond's family wearing the identical prints; and, in a few days after, the same gentleman was at Windsor, and saw the Queen walking on the slopes wearing a dress of the same kind,—so instantly did the "Cobden prints" take the lead in the fashionable world.  For Mr. Cobden studied public taste, as he has since studied public opinion, and he rarely, if ever, made a speculation (and this branch of trade is always exceedingly precarious and hazardous) in which he was not completely successful.  He had, indeed, been so successful as a man of business at the time when the Anti-Corn-Law agitation commenced, that, had he retired then, he could have done so with a saved capital of about £60,000.

    Mr. Cobden was not for some time known in connection with public affairs in Manchester.  He was too modest and retiring to take a prominent part in the strife of politics, however much he may have felt interested in public questions.  One of the first movements to which he gave himself was the overthrowing of the old lord-of-the-manor government of Manchester, and its constitution as a municipal borough, under its present charter; and we may incidentally mention, that one of the first members of the Manchester Council was "Mr. Alderman Cobden."  He also appeared, on several occasions, as the advocate of public education free from sectarian bias, and made several public appearances as a supporter of the British and Foreign Society's schools.

    He was also mainly instrumental in establishing the Manchester Athenæum, an institution for the intellectual recreation and improvement of young men chiefly belonging to the mercantile class.  His project met with considerable opposition from the slow-going old merchants of the place; and many years after, at the meeting of a country Mechanics' Institute, he thus alluded to the subject.

    "It has," said he,

"been objected, that the poor may be too much educated.  But you may just as well be afraid of all the poor riding about in coaches and four, or playing the piano, as fear that they will be too well educated.  Admitting that it would be unwise to educate the poor as well as the rich are educated,—admitting it for argument's sake,—there are two great, and I fear wholly insuperable obstacles, to that state of things ever arriving; the one is the want of time, the other the want of means.  So long as these obstacles exist, the rich need be in no fear that the poor will be better educated than they are.  I remember waiting on a person holding this doctrine in Manchester about sixteen years ago, where I and others were engaged in the work of starting the Manchester Athenæum.  I was employed in waiting upon the principal merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen of the town, asking for subscriptions with that object.  One gentleman met me with this objection: 'I think the people are a good deal too much educated already.  I don't think we shall be safe if they are to be educated any more; and our property will be in danger if this goes on.'  I met him by putting to him this question: 'Will you tell me in what period of the world's history you would rather have lived than the present, in order to have had your vast fortune safer than it is now?'  Well, he could not answer me.  I urged him to point out the period he would have selected: 'Would you have preferred the last reign, or the reign before, or the reign of George I., or the reign of Queen Anne, or that of Queen Elizabeth, in order to have lived in greater security both as regards your person and property?'  Why, he could not tell me.  And so I answered my own question by saying: 'You would be much safer if you lived thirty or forty years hence; but not if you were to go back to any time, however remote.'  This is the tendency of those institutions; and yet people are to be found who charge against them that they produce disaffection, disloyalty, and revolution.  Now, disloyalty and revolution come to the people from misgovernment; and misgovernment is more likely to be attempted upon an ignorant than upon an educated people.  We have been well told that 'oppression makes wise men mad.'  And I remember this being very well applied by a man who was lecturing upon the Corn Laws at Bury,—a man perhaps not highly educated, yet by no means destitute of shrewdness.  The lecturer said, 'Oppression makes wise men mad.  If it maks "wise men mad," what mun it do wi' fooils then?'  I think, gentlemen, you will agree with the inference which the lecturer left his auditory to draw, that whatever effect misgovernment or oppression had upon wise men, it must produce worse and more disastrous effects when the ignorant and the fools come to deal with it.  Therefore, you cannot do a worse thing than to encourage ignorance."

    Such is an illustration of the homely yet forcible style in which Mr. Cobden is accustomed to fix important truths in the minds of the audiences he addresses.

    It was not until the year 1835—when he made a visit to Turkey and the East, partly with an eye to business—that Mr. Cobden became known beyond the bounds of his own district as a keen observer and an original thinker.  The result of this visit was the publication of the pamphlet entitled "England, Ireland, and America, by a Manchester Manufacturer."  In that little work, we find almost the whole policy of Mr. Cobden foreshadowed.  Peace, retrenchment, non-intervention, and free trade were there his first watchwords, and he did not abandon them.  He held that what England should do was, not to occupy herself with what Russia could or would do in the East, but to abolish the Corn Laws, stick to trade and commerce, and refuse to meddle with questions of foreign politics, in which, his opinion was, England could do no good, but might work infinite mischief.  The idea of a Free-Trade Association, such as was afterwards adopted by the Anti-Corn-Law League, seems, even at that early period, to have occurred to the mind of Mr. Cobden.

    "Here let us observe," said he, in the pamphlet referred to,

"that it is worthy of surprise how little progress has been made in the study of that science of which Adam Smith was, more than half a century ago, the great luminary.  We regret that no society has been formed for the purpose of disseminating a knowledge of the just principles of trade.  Whilst agriculture can boast almost as many associations as there are British counties, whilst every city in the kingdom contains its botanical, phrenological, or mechanics' institutions, and these again possess their periodical journals, (and not merely these, for even war sends forth its United Service Magazine,) we possess no association of traders, united together for the common object of enlightening the world upon a question so little understood, and so loaded with obloquy, as free trade.  We have our Banksian, our Linnæan, our Hunterian societies; and why should not at least our greatest commercial and manufacturing towns possess their Smithian societies, devoted to the purposes of promulgating the beneficent truths of the 'Wealth of Nations'?  Such institutions, by promoting a correspondence with similar societies, that could probably be organized abroad, (for it is our example in questions affecting commerce that strangers follow,) might contribute to the spread of liberal and just views of political science, and thus tend to ameliorate the restrictive policy of foreign governments, through the legitimate influence of the opinions of its people.  Nor would such societies be fruitless at home.  Prizes might be offered for the best essays on the corn question; or lecturers might be sent to enlighten the agriculturists, and to invite discussion upon a subject so difficult, and of such paramount importance to all."

    The views, thus enunciated in 1835, Mr. Cobden consistently pursued in his after career; and his last public act has been an effort to ameliorate the restrictive policy of the government of England's nearest neighbour, France,—with what good result yet remains to be seen.  But we anticipate.

    From this time forward Mr. Cobden was regarded as a leading public man in Manchester.  His judgment was sought after and valued; his eminent business talent was fully recognized; and he was usually invited to take part in any public movements of importance affecting the interests of the district.  Yet he never thrust himself on the attention of his fellow-citizens; rather shunning than courting the public applause.  Modesty, diffidence, and an entire absence of vanity and jealousy, have throughout distinguished his career as a public man.  In 1837 he was invited to stand as a candidate for the borough of Stockport, but on a contest his opponent was returned by a majority of votes.  It was probably better that he remained out of Parliament at the time, otherwise the organization and conduct of the Anti-Corn-Law League might not have been so successful as in his hands it subsequently proved to be.  The beginning of this celebrated movement was comparatively insignificant.  One Dr. Birney—who was never afterwards heard of—advertised a lecture against the Corn Laws in the Bolton Theatre, on the 4th of August, 1838, but his performance was so unsatisfactory that he was hissed off the stage; on which a gentleman named Paulton, who was sitting in one of the boxes, rushed forward to save the flying Doctor.  He himself undertook to deliver the lecture, and did so.  Next week, and the next again, he called the people together on the same subject; and the movement was thus born.  Mr. Paulton next gave his lectures at Manchester and Leeds, at which latter town we heard them, at the end of 1838, delivered before a very small and comparatively indifferent audience.  In the meantime a small number of persons at Manchester formed themselves into a Committee, and raised a fund in five-shilling subscriptions to support the movement.  The Manchester Chamber of Commerce met on the 13th of December, 1838, to discuss a motion of which notice had been given, relative to petitioning Parliament for a total repeal of the Corn Laws; and at that meeting Mr. Cobden took a bold and decided part as the advocate of the measure, and he submitted a petition which was carried by a great majority.  Larger subscriptions were raised; lecturers were sent out from Manchester to all parts of the kingdom; convocations of leading men were held in various towns; a special organ, the Anti-Bread-Tax Circular, was started to record progress and chronicle facts; and a Free-Trade Hall, capable of accommodating immense meetings, was erected on the site of the field of Peterloo, [p.109] to give force and energy to the movement.  The League had by this time also got its name.  At a meeting of three hundred delegates held in London about the beginning of 1839, when Mr. Cobden spoke of the Hanseatic League, and asked those present "why they should not have a League of the towns of England against the aristocracy who ruled them, ruined their trade, and had just refused them a hearing," some one called out, "An Anti-Corn-Law League!"  Mr. Cobden continued, "Yes!  An Anti- Corn-Law League!"  And thus the name was given.

    Though the League and its proceedings gave rise to much discussion in the public press and in Parliament, the number of those who actively directed the movement was at first very small, and their position comparatively insignificant.  Mr. Cobden himself thus described the early days of the League to the writer of this memoir in 1841:—

    "The work," said he,

"has been done by a very few,—so few that we have been the laughing-stock even of ourselves, as we sat and chuckled over the splutter we were making in the name of The League.  You have not an idea how insignificant a body the working members of the League really comprise.  Still we worked.  When we could not hold public meetings, we got up little hole-and-corner meetings.  Two years and a half ago we called a public meeting; the Chartist leaders attacked us on the platform at the head of their deluded followers.  We were nearly the victims of physical force.  I lost my hat, and all but had my head split with the leg of a stool.  In retaliation for this, we deluged the town with short tracts printed for the purpose.  We called meetings of each trade, and held conferences with them at their own lodges.  We found ready listeners and many secret allies, even amongst the Chartists.  We resolutely abstained from discussing the Charter or any other party question.  We stuck to our subject; and the right-minded amongst the working-men gave us credit for being in earnest, which is all that is necessary to secure the confidence of the people.  Our strength grew, and the result is that we can now hold a public meeting at any moment.  We shall work on in Manchester; there is much that remains to be done.  Why do I go over our exploits?  Not for egotistical display,—we have done no more than our duty,—but simply to give you the assurance that everything may be done in Leeds and elsewhere by working perseveringly in the cause of Corn-Law Repeal."

    In this earnest spirit did Richard Cobden labour for many years, Manchester being the centre of a series of operations which radiated therefrom unto the remotest districts of Britain.  It is impossible to describe the extent of his labours in connection with this great movement,—correspondence with the leaders of public opinion, encouragement to the desponding, help to the weak, and stimulus to the inert,—everywhere was his pen and voice at work.  At public meetings he was put in the front rank, for he never put himself there.  But, as he said, he was always ready to fill up any gap.  His enthusiastic belief in the economical truths which he advocated bore him up in the face of overwhelming opposition;—he hoped against hope, and was resolute when others were full of despair.  Yet even he was not without his moments of private doubt and fear.  Writing in November, 1841, he said:—

"I am told from all sides, that unless we do something, and strike a blow, we shall lose confidence.  What can we do?  There is always danger of being made ridiculous by showing one's teeth before one is able to bite.  If we were to attempt a coup, and it were to fail like the Chartist holiday, we should be laughed at forever.  Should some practical measures not be speedily carried, they will come too late,—and what rational man can say that we are in a fair way for doing anything very soon?  Still, what more can we do, than what we are doing?  At least, we are not standing in the way of a more hopeful movement; for of the three questions that now agitate the people,—Repeal of Corn Law, Repeal of Union, and Charter,—I can't help thinking that our question stands in the place of the favourite in the public mind.  Bad is the prospect even of the best; but so long as there is no better to which to resign the course, we must work away with whip and spur, keeping our head steadily towards the far-distant winning-post."

    Usually, however, Mr. Cobden was much more sanguine in his anticipations, and never allowed any exertions to flag for want of encouragement and stimulus on his part.

    At length Mr. Cobden was sent to Parliament to carry forward there the advocacy of the Repeal.  In 1840 he was invited to stand for Manchester, but declined to do so, on the ground that he was not to be allowed to enter Parliament a free man; the committee who waited on him having represented the expediency of letting principle be subservient to party arrangements,—a thing to which Mr. Cobden declared that his conscience would never allow him to give his assent.  But the Whig government, which he was expected to support, having fallen to pieces, and Peel having been made minister to maintain the Corn Laws, the ground was now clear, and Mr. Cobden offered himself again at Stockport, and this time he was returned.

    Many were the predictions of his political enemies, that his appearance in Parliament would be a failure.  Cobden was now to "find his level."  The poor farmer's son could never lift up his head amongst the proud lords of the soil, and dare to measure his strength with them, nor would his have been the first popular reputation of which St. Stephen's had been the death.  But Cobden was not a mere popular spouter.  He had been admirably disciplined by business, by reading, and by reflection; he was an apt and fluent speaker, full of treasured information; above all, he possessed great moral courage and earnestness, and deep-rooted convictions.  Such a man was sure of making himself heard by any audience.  The following is Mr. Bright's account of Cobden's first appearance in Parliament:—

"Mr. Cobden," said he,

"entered the House of Commons in the year 1841, two years before I became a member of that house.  I believe I was in the gallery on the night when he made his first speech.  I happened to sit close to a gentleman, not now living,—Mr. Horace Twiss,—who had once himself been a member of the House, but who was then occupied in the gallery, writing the Parliamentary summary of the proceedings which were published morning after morning in the columns of the Times newspaper.  Mr. Cobden had a certain reputation when he went into Parliament, from the course he had taken before the public in connection with the Corn Law out of doors.  There was great interest as to his first speech, and the position he would take in the House.  Horace Twiss was a Tory of the old school.  He appeared to have the greatest possible horror of anybody who was a manufacturer or calico-printer coming down into that assembly to teach our senators wisdom.  As the speech went on I watched his countenance and heard his observations, and when Mr. Cobden sat down he threw it off with a careless gesture, and said, 'Nothing in him; he is only a barker.'"

    In his first speech, as in his last, Mr. Cobden's object was to convince.  He never strove to triumph, but to persuade.  The things he said might be disagreeable, but he must say them quietly, winningly, and at length persuasively.  He secured the ear of the House, and steadily made his position good.  The Anti-Corn-Law movement came to be recognized as a great fact, even within the walls of Parliament.  It made its way there steadily, as well as throughout the country; and at length, in 1846, the long and arduous struggle was brought to a close,—Sir Robert Peel proclaiming that the person to whom the honour of the triumph was mainly due was Richard Cobden.

    We believe that Mr. Cobden was influenced by no narrow political motives in his great enterprise to secure freedom of trade for England with the nations of the world.  It was not a mere money question with him, but one of ultimate human happiness and civilization.  While he has a keen eye to the actual necessities of living men, he has also his eye directed towards the future, and sees in the consummation of the measure for which he so zealously laboured, the triumph of peace, and the prevalence of social happiness.  "I believe," said he, at a public meeting in Manchester, "that the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from its success.  I see in free trade that which shall act on the moral world as the law of gravitation in the universe,—drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race and creed and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace.  I believe that the desire and the motive for large and mighty empires, for gigantic armies and great navies, for those materials which are used for the destruction of life and the desolation of the rewards of labour, will die away.  I believe that such things will cease to be necessary, or to be used, when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man."  Mr. Cobden, we believe, sees as clearly as most thinking men, that the struggle for free commerce is only part of a struggle for a still larger freedom; and that beyond the question of political economy there is also the great problem of social economy to be solved,—how the means of happiness are to be the most equitably distributed for the well-being of those who produce them.

    On the fall of Peel's government, Lord John Russell communicated to Mr. Cobden his intention of offering him a seat in the new Cabinet; but, fearing lest the position should interfere with his independence of speech and action, Cobden declined the offer.  As a relief from the turmoil of public life, he proceeded to make a tour on the Continent, which was intended to be a holiday; but the ovations which he received during his journey made it rather appear the mission of a propagandist.  During his absence, the largest constituency in England—that of the West Riding of York—spontaneously elected him as their representative; and he accepted the honour.  One of the things which most struck him while abroad was the hosts of armed men, withdrawn from industry, who were kept up in every Continental nation,—men in the prime of life, assembled in immense armies, for the purpose of watching each other across their respective frontiers,—millions of idle soldiers, eating off the very head of industry, breeding future revolutions and convulsions, if not bringing political perdition upon the great states of Europe.  He saw too, that, in consequence of this vast armature of the Continental nations, England was, in a measure, compelled to maintain a similar attitude; and, desirous of abating the evil, he appealed to public opinion, and strongly pleaded for a general national disarmament.  A Peace Society was formed, and convocations were held in London, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin; but we need scarcely say that the movement was followed by no practical results, for Europe now bristles with bayonets more than ever, and all the European governments are sedulously arming their subjects with Enfields, Minies, and needle-guns, one of the chief topics of the day being the discussion of the respective merits of rifled cannon of recent invention.  Yet Mr. Cobden was right; and when reaction sets in,—as set in again it assuredly will,—the truth and the elevated consistency of his views will not fail to be extensively recognized.  The unpopularity, however, of Mr. Cobden's advocacy of peace principles, more especially in connection with the Russian war, lost him his seat in Parliament; and it was not until during his absence on a visit to America, in 1859, that he was returned without opposition for the borough of Rochdale.

    During Mr. Cobden's almost exclusive devotion to the cause of Free Trade for so many years, his extensive business was necessarily neglected, and when he proceeded to take stock at the close of the agitation which ended in the repeal of the Corn Laws, he found he was scarcely square with the world.  The nation whom he had served so well generously came forward to his assistance at this juncture, and a subscription of £70,000 was raised, which enabled him to pay off his debts, and to return to his little estate at Medhurst, which was purchased with a portion of the fund.  The greater part of the remainder was unhappily invested by his friends in Illinois Central Bonds, and there it remained unproductive.  A subsequent voluntary subscription has since been raised by his friends, and already amounts to about £40,000, which we trust Mr. Cobden will long live to enjoy.  Unquestionably the same amount of energy and devotedness applied to business, which Mr. Cobden gave to the cause of Free Trade, could not have failed to build up for him a gigantic fortune; and it is only right that so beneficent a worker should not suffer the loss of his fortune, through his devotion to a great public cause.

    Take him all in all, Mr. Cobden is a man of rare intelligence, of unswerving industry, and of spotless integrity.  In qualities of head and heart, we believe him to be excelled by few men.  His conscientiousness is of the highest order.  Though he has had much political enmity to encounter, no one has ever charged him with doing a mean thing, or prostituting the great power he unquestionably wielded to subserve any personal or selfish end.  His eloquence—or rather his persuasiveness—is remarkable.  He practises none of the graces of the orator.  His style is simple, almost homely, but thoroughly logical and convincing; and his matter is full always of facts.  He emphatically hits the nail on the head, clinching it at both sides.  In person he is pale, lean, and wiry, of melancholic features; and his voice is thin, and sounds somewhat nasal.  Yet, with these personal disadvantages, the influence which he exercises as a speaker is something extraordinary.  We believe the secret to lie in his immense fund of common sense, his great practical sagacity and shrewdness, his evident honesty of purpose and earnest straightforwardness, and, at the same time, the clearness and simplicity of speech which enables him to bring his reasonings and his facts completely home to the judgment, and appeal so powerfully to the silent judge in every man's bosom.  It matters not what description of audience he addresses,—be they members of Parliament, Manchester manufacturers, Stockport operatives, or Sussex ploughmen,—he invariably secures and rivets their attention.  He thoroughly knows the men he addresses; he adapts himself to them; he enters into their very minds and hearts; he carries them along with him entirely; and thus achieves triumphs as great as if he were the most accomplished of orators.



FEW living writers have done more, or achieved a higher standing in his own peculiar line of literature, than Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton has done.  That he has been a very hard worker, his numerous works bear ample witness.  When Sir Walter Scott died, Bulwer at once succeeded him in the living and hopeful interest of the readers of fiction, and he has since retained his supremacy over all writers of the same school.

    But not only has he succeeded as a novelist; he has been equally successful as a dramatist.  For, is not "The Lady of Lyons" the most popular of modern plays?  What modern drama is to be compared with it in point of attraction and living interest?  It may be open to the strictures of the critic, but it has been unequivocally successful, unprecedentedly productive to managers, and in the hands of a good company it is really an exceedingly beautiful play.

    But Bulwer has done more than this.  He has written a History, which may take its place on the same shelves with Gibbon and Arnold and Grote.  His "Athens, its Rise and Fall," has extorted praise from all quarters, and is a noble historical work, though but a fragment.  In this department of literature Bulwer has succeeded where even Scott failed; for the History of Napoleon of the latter will be forgotten, while his Waverley and Ivanhoe will continue the delight of thousands.

    Bulwer's success has been equally marked in other literary directions.  He has written essays which might take their place beside the choicest specimens of Charles Lamb or Leigh Hunt.  His leading articles in newspapers, and his reviews in the monthlies and quarterlies, have been mistaken for the productions of the most elegant living writers.  His political pamphlet, published on the death of Earl Spencer, was one of the most brilliant productions of its kind.

    His poems, also, have been eminently successful; and many of them are beautiful in a high degree.  Let any one read his "Lay of the Beacon," and say if Bulwer is not entitled to be called a successful poet, as well as a successful novelist, a successful dramatist, and a successful historian.

    Now, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton must unquestionably have worked hard to achieve success in these several paths of literature.  On the score of mere industry, there are few, if any, living English writers who have produced so much, and none who have produced so much of the same quality.  And when you consider that he was born to comparative ease, and did not need to work so hard, it will be admitted, we think, that his industry is entitled to all the greater praise.  Riches are quite as great a hindrance to intellectual labour as poverty can be; their temptations are difficult to be forborne, and they are often not resisted.  To hunt, and shoot, and live at ease,—to frequent operas, and clubs, and Almack's, enjoying the variety of London sight-seeing, morning calls, and Parliamentary small-talk, during "the season," and then off to the country mansion, with its well-stocked preserves and its thousand delightful pleasures, alternated with a few months on the Scotch moors, or a run across the Continent, to Venice or Rome,—all this is excessively attractive, and is not by any means calculated to make a man "scorn delights and live laborious days."

    And yet by Bulwer these pleasures, all within his reach, were to a great extent necessarily forborne, when he assumed the position and pursued the career of a literary man.  Though he did not require to do so, he yet volunteered to work hard; doubtless he must have taken a high pleasure in the work, otherwise we should have seen much less of him as an author than we have done.  Indeed, all his sympathies seem to be literary, as his labours mainly are.  His society is literary, and his public acts are identified with literature.  One of his earliest Parliamentary efforts was to obtain an Act enabling dramatic authors to receive benefit from the acting of their plays in provincial theatres, which formerly they were unable to do.  He also aided in the reduction of the stamp duty on newspapers, and in the improvement of the law of copyright.  And recently, we have seen him co-operating with a body of dramatists, artists, and literary men, in the philanthropic effort to establish a Guild of Literature and Art, in the shape of a Life Insurance Company, connected with other admirable arrangements, by which the independence and comfort of literary men and women in advanced years will be secured.

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-73):
English novelist, poet, playwright, and politician.

    Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton is the younger son of the late General Bulwer of Heydon Hall, in the county of Norfolk.  His elder brother, Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer, the author of "The Monarchy and Middle Classes of France," was for some time English Ambassador at Madrid,—he is now Ambassador at Washington,—and inherits the paternal family estate.  Sir Edward, on the death of his mother, in 1843, succeeded to the estate of Knebworth, of which she was heiress, and then he assumed the final name of Lytton.  The literary talent of the family seems to come mainly from the mother's side.  Her father was a great scholar, the first Hebraist of his day, and above Porson himself in the judgment of Dr. Parr.  He wrote dramas in Hebrew, but he neglected his estates, which were fast going to decay under the care of stewards, when Mrs. Bulwer, his daughter, whose husband died and left her a young widow, went back to reside at Knebworth, with her family.  She was a woman of great energy, and at once employed herself in the improvement of the Knebworth estate, and the preservation of what remained of the old hall.  In a beautiful paper, contained in the volume of essays called "The Student," Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton says, the old manorial seat was formerly of vast extent, "built round a quadrangle at different periods, from the date of the second crusade to that of the reign of Elizabeth.  It was in so ruinous a condition when my mother came to its possession, that three sides of it were obliged to be pulled down; the fourth, yet remaining, is in itself a house larger than most in the country, and still contains the old oak hall, with its lofty ceiling and raised music-gallery.  The park has something of the character of Penshurst; and its venerable avenues, which slope from the house down the gradual acclivity, giving wide views of the opposite hills, crowned with cottages and spires, impart to the scene that peculiarly English, half-stately and wholly cultivated character, upon which the poets of Elizabeth's day so much loved to linger."

    "In this old place," Sir Edward says, "the happiest days of my childhood glided away."  In the course of his writings, he shows a tender regard for his mother, who educated him here, and he delights to acknowledge the deep obligations under which he lay to her, by the direction she gave to his taste and studies, and the beneficial influence which she exercised upon his character in early life.  In the beautiful dedication of his collected works to his mother, he says: "Left yet young, with no ordinary accomplishments and gifts, the sole guardian of your sons, to them you devoted the best years of your useful and spotless life; and any success it be their fate to attain in the paths they have severally chosen, would have its principal sweetness in the thought that such success was the reward of one whose hand aided every struggle, and whose heart sympathized with every care.  From your graceful and accomplished taste I early learned that affection for literature which has exercised so large an influence over the pursuits of my life; and you who were my first guide were my earliest critic."

    The boy began to write verses when five or six years old, which shows that early taste or early direction must have guided his hand.  Alluding to the gentle and polished verses of his mother, in the dedication referred to, he says, "It was those easy lessons, far more than the harsher rudiments learned subsequently in schools, that taught me to admire and to imitate."  And he adds to this a reverential acknowledgment of the qualities, compared with which all literary accomplishments are poor: "Happy, while I borrowed from your taste, could I have found it not more difficult to imitate your virtues,—your spirit of action and extended benevolence, your cheerful piety, your considerate justice, your kindly charity,—and all the qualities that brighten a nature more free from the thought of self than any it has been my lot to meet with."  One of the last works of her old age was the erection and endowment of an almshouse for the widows of the poor, which she just lived to complete, an example which her son is nobly imitating in the Guild of Literature and Art, which he is now exerting himself to establish.

    Bulwer's first appearance before the public was in the character of a poet.  At Cambridge, where he studied, he was the successful competitor for the prize poem of his year; and shortly after, in 1826, he published his first book, bearing the juvenile title of "Weeds and Wild-Flowers."  In the year following, he published "O'Neil, or the Rebel," a poetical tale, after the manner of Byron's "Corsair."  It resembled the verse of Byron, without the poetry.  The wings of the young writer were scarcely fledged yet, and it took him many efforts before he could rise above the imitative and commonplace.  "Falkland," his first novel, published in the same year (1827), was also a failure: it was decidedly Byronesque, and, but for the author's subsequent celebrity, would soon have been utterly forgotten.  He himself became ashamed of it, and refused to include it in his collected works since issued, characterizing it as "the crude and passionate performance of a mere boy, which I sincerely regret, and would willingly retract."  It was passionate and sentimental, to an extent that even went beyond the tastes of the circulating library, and so it died.  But Bulwer was made of the right stuff, and he worked on, determined to succeed.  He laboured pen in hand, was incessantly industrious, read prodigiously (as his writings show), and from failure went courageously onward to success.

    "Pelham" followed "Falkland" within a year, and it succeeded.  It was an immense improvement on its predecessor.  Though betraying occasional stiffness, it was on the whole a remarkably clever book; and before many months passed, a second edition was called for.  As in "Falkland" he had assumed the sentimentalist, so in "Pelham" he assumed the mere heartless worldling and man of fashion.  But the picture was powerfully drawn, and it proved irresistibly attractive, as the result showed.  "The Disowned" was sent to the press immediately after the publication of "Pelham," and came out at the end of 1828; and next year "Devereux" appeared, a still more finished performance; but both works still displaying the enthusiasm and inexperience of a comparatively young writer.  "Devereux" showed that he had been reading largely in the interval of his labours, for some admirable portraits of the wits of Bolingbroke's time pass across its pages.

    In 1830, another novel proceeded from the same fertile pen, and this time it was "Paul Clifford;" a novel that has been more praised and abused by turns than any other of his works.  Whatever may be said of the taste which induced him to choose a highwayman for his hero,—and Bulwer puts forward a plea in justification of his choice, namely, that he wanted to expose the errors of our vicious system of prison discipline, and also to show that vulgar vice was in no respect essentially different from fashionable vice,—whatever may be said of this, there can be no doubt as to the skill with which the plot is contrived, the brilliancy of the dialogue, and the intense interest of the story as a whole.

    In 1831, still hankering after poetic fame, he published "The Siamese Twins," a satire on fashion, London life, travellers, politicians, and such like; but the public did not yet award him the poetic wreath.  Later on in the same year, still working away as a novelist, he brought out his fine novel of "Eugene Aram," one of the most highly-finished of his works.  His early interest had been excited in the history of Eugene Aram [p.123] from the circumstance of his having, when a teacher, during his residence at Lynn, visited at his grandfather's house at Heydon, and given lessons to the younger members of the family there.  He proceeded to investigate the floating history of the man, collected anecdotes from the neighbourhood as to his life and manners, and these he weaved into the beautiful and affecting romance of the above name.  In the female characters of this work he surpassed himself.  Indeed, he has not in any succeeding work equalled the delineation of the noble Madeline, with which her sister Ellinor is so gracefully and tenderly contrasted.  The publication of this work placed him in the first rank as a novelist; and his talents and genius as a writer of fiction stood confessed by even the most captious critic.

    Campbell having vacated the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine, Bulwer undertook the office; and to the columns of that periodical he contributed some of his most effective papers.  These have since been collected and published under the title of "The Student;" and there are some of the essays that, for beauty and elegance of thought and language, we would not exchange for any others in English literature.  The paper entitled "The New Phædo" is certainly one of the most touching things we ever read.

    The author's diligence continued unabated.  In 1833 appeared his "England and the English;" a work unique of its kind, full of racy criticisms, and, though tinged with prejudice, still a valuable and able work.  "The Pilgrims of the Rhine" next came out; the greater part of which was written in the course of a pleasant excursion made up the Rhine, in the company of his brother Henry, some years before.  "The Last Days of Pompeii" came next, in 1834; "Rienzi" in 1835, at the steady rate of a novel yearly; exhibiting an amount of industry not often surpassed even by purely professional writers.

    It is scarcely necessary that we should do more than name the titles of his other numerous novels.  "Maltravers" and "Alice" were his next; two delightful works, containing some exquisite portraiture of character.  "Alice Darvil" is a fine creation, though not, in our opinion, equal to his "Madeline" in "Eugene Aram."  "The original conception of Alice," he says, in the preface to the edition of 1840, "is taken from real life, from a person I never saw but twice, and then she was no longer young; but her whole history made a deep impression on me."  Bulwer, in the same preface, warns the reader not to confound him with the hero of the story,—with whom some German critic had absurdly identified him.  But, from the style in which these novels are written, we confess it is difficult to detach the author from his hero, or to believe that it is any other character than his own that he is delineating.  This is peculiarly the case with "Pelham" and "Devereux."

    The next published work was his "Athens," which had occupied him for some time; a work exhibiting fine taste, extensive learning, and elaborate research; and in the same year he continued his novel publications, which he seemed to throw off like an annual exuvia,—this year it was "Leila, or the Seige of Granada," and "Calderon the Courtier."  "Night and Morning" succeeded; then "Zanoni," originally published as "Zicci" in the Monthly Chronicle, a clever periodical, with whose projection and editing Bulwer had, we believe, something to do.  "Eva and other Poems" appeared next; then "The Last of the Barons," in which he announced that he took his final leave of the public as a novel-writer.  But he could not hold his hand; for shortly after he wrote "Lucretia," the worst of his books, and which ought never to have been published.  Still there was no decay of powers,—his recent admirable works, "The Caxtons," "My Novel," and "What will he do with it?" originally published in Blackwood's Magazine, showing that he is still in the very maturity of his powers.  "My Novel" may indeed be pronounced the masterpiece of this great writer.

    There are some other of his works which we have not yet named.  "The New Timon," his best poem, was published anonymously some years ago, and "took the town by storm."  "Godolphin," a fine romance, also published anonymously, at once acquired a popularity equal to that of any other of his works.  There was also his excellent translation of the "Poems and Ballads of Schiller," a work deserving of very high praise.  "The Lady of Lyons," produced anonymously, at once leapt into the highest favour, and was pronounced the best drama of the day.  His drama of "Richelieu" is a grander work, full of power and energy; and those who enjoyed the pleasure of seeing Macready in the character of the old Cardinal, will never forget him.  "Money," and the "Duchesse de la Valliere "(his first play), have great merits; but are inferior as respects their acting qualities.  His last play, "Not so Bad as we Seem," contains some clever writing, and highly effective situations, though not by any means equal in interest to some of his earlier productions.

    To be a great and successful author was not, however, enough to satisfy the honourable ambition of Bulwer.  For he has recently appeared before the public in another capacity,—that of Orator,—and on two of such occasions,—at Edinburgh and at Leeds,—if he has not borne away the palm from all living competitors, he has at least delivered orations which for force, brilliancy, and truth axe of the very highest class of platform eloquence.

    The art of oratory has been gradually declining in Britain.  If we look to the legislature, the pulpit, the bar, or the lecture-room, we find that there are few, if any, of the performers there who can with truth be described as distinguished orators.  Your successful Parliamentary debater need not necessarily be eloquent.  Lord John Russell is not; neither is Graham, Palmerston, nor Disraeli.  They possess all the requisite skill in Parliamentary fencing,—are well-informed and full of facts,—can bring their arguments out in the most elaborate and telling style; and they are entirely successful as Parliamentary debaters.  But they do not pretend to be orators; if they did, they would probably be laughed down,—at least, a young member would.

    The oratory of the pulpit has fallen off still more.  One need only read the dreary platitudes which are published in sermons to see how low pulpit eloquence has fallen in our days.  The Times has spoken of preachers generally as a class of men who possess the privilege of talking drivel on the grandest and most inspiring of all conceivable themes.  The Rev. Sidney Smith held that the characteristic of modern sermons is "decent debility."  "Pulpit discourses," he says, "have insensibly dwindled from speaking to reading,—a practice of itself sufficient to stifle every germ of eloquence.  It is only by the fresh feelings of the heart that mankind can be very powerfully affected.  What can be more ludicrous than an orator delivering stale indignation and fervour of a week old; turning over whole pages of violent passions, written out in German text; reading the tropes and apostrophes into which he is hurried by the ardour of his mind; and so affected at a preconcerted line and page, that he is unable to proceed any further!"

    The oratory of the bar is also at a low ebb.  We cannot call to mind any living orator in that line,—no one to compare with what Brougham, or Denman, or Plunkett, or Shiel, or O'Connell was.  The bar has now become careful, precise, painstaking, and fully informed; it has ceased to be oratorical.  It is English, and aims to be practical.  It is clever at making out a case, and can carry through a piece of special pleading as well as at any period of its history.  But go into any of the law courts, and you will find that it is not eloquent.

    The oratory of the lecture-room and of the public platform is worst of all.  There is no want of words, indeed; but of ideas worth remembering there is the greatest scarcity.  Energetic commonplaces, pompous platitudes, are the resources of the Stump Orator.  The conjurer who draws endless yards of ribbons out of his mouth is nothing to him.  He can run on for an hour, without stopping to spit, or cough, or blow his nose, in an endless stream of talk.  He may know nothing of his subject; that is not necessary.  But he can talk; he is possessed with the gift of continuous speech; and the man is regarded by his fellows with wonder, and, strange to say, in many cases with envy.

    The gift of oratory is nevertheless a great gift; and when employed by a man of large intellect and generous feelings, it may be employed for the noblest purposes.  Among the Greeks and Romans oratory was regarded as one of the highest arts.  For the orator combined in himself the journalist, the debater, the critic, and the preacher, all in one.  There were no books, nor newspapers, nor reviews in those days.  The assembled crowds learnt their opinions, knowledge, and philosophy from the speeches of their orators.  In the portico, the forum, the garden, and the assembly, the Greeks stood face to face with their great men, and drank in their living thoughts as they fell warm from their lips.  It is our newspapers, and books, and reviews, that have tended to dull the oratory of modern times; for the mere speaker has ceased to exercise that exclusive ascendency over the minds of the masses, which he did in the times that preceded the invention of printing.  Nevertheless, oratory, as we have said, is a true and noble art still; and we are as ready to hail the true orator, as the true poet, painter, or dramatist.

    Oratory is the art of moving or convincing others by spoken words.  Different people require different modes of address, according to their temperament.  The style of oratory that is calculated to excite the enthusiasm of Frenchmen would often appear simply ludicrous to Englishmen.  Frenchmen admire manner, Englishmen matter; the former love style, the latter facts and things.  The French orator is all action; the English orator stands comparatively motionless, sometimes finding a refuge for his hands in his breeches-pockets.  Frenchmen will scarcely listen to a long speech, while Englishmen will patiently sit out a speech of two hours long.  The temperament of the two people is essentially different, and hence the different styles of French and English oratory.  The Irish—half Celtic and half Saxon, as the Irish people are—is a happy mixture of both; and we owe to Ireland our greatest orators,—Burke, Sheridan, Grattan, Plunkett, Flood, Curran, and O'Connell.

    Then, oratory must adapt itself to its audience in all countries.  A speech addressed to the legislature will be one thing, and a speech addressed to the common people quite another.  In the former case, the speaker has to be precise, logical, demonstrative; in the latter, he must be striking, natural, and hearty.  The connection of ideas rather than of words, bold figures, rapid emotions, earnestness, and fire,—these always avail the most when addressed to the public assembly, in all countries.  Appeal to their common feelings, to their love of honour, to their pride of class, to their patriotism, to their liberties, and their history, and the orator will soon have firm hold of their heartstrings.  Therein he shows his skill and his power.  And in these respects, we have no hesitation in avowing that Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, in his two noble speeches some time since delivered at Edinburgh and Leeds, has shown himself to be possessed of high powers as an orator.

    Of his personal appearance we need say little; for in the true orator all personal peculiarities are soon forgotten.  He is somewhat tall, and very spare, almost attenuated.  He has a fine head and face, of which the portrait by Maclise gives a good representation.  His nose is large, sharp, and prominent, fulfilling Napoleon's requirement of a man with a large nose for great enterprises.  His action in speaking is good, though not perfect.  Sometimes it is a little "wild," as when he draws back his head and slim body, and extends his arms, making one feel uncomfortable lest he should lose balance and upset.  His voice is good,—strong, but not musical; and perhaps he is wanting in that delicate inflection of tone,—that variety, and light and shade, which the great orator is so careful to cultivate.  Had Bulwer's practice been greater, doubtless he would have remedied such defects; for we must not forget that his life has been that of a student and a literary man, rather than of a man of action and public enterprise.

    Leaving the manner of his speeches, we come to the matter of them; and here we have nothing but praise to offer.  In composition they are perfect.  They are varied, picturesque, graphic, moving, exciting, instructive, and always interesting.  The riveted attention of the hearer never flags for a moment.  At his great oration, delivered before the Associated Societies of the Edinburgh University, he was most happy in his opening sentence, in which he struck the chord of the nation's heart.  The audience was Scotch, and amongst them were some of the greatest living men in Scotland.  The effect of these introductory words may therefore well be imagined:—

"I may well feel overcome by the kindness with which you receive me, for I cannot disentangle my earliest recollections from my sense of intellectual obligation to the genius of Scotland.  The first poets who charmed me from play in the half-holidays of school were Campbell and Scott; the first historians who clothed for me with life the shadows of the past, were Robertson and Hume; the first philosopher who, by the grace of his attractive style, lured me on to the analysis of the human mind, was Dugald Stewart; and the first novel that I bought with my own money, and hid under my pillow, was the 'Roderick Random' of Smollett."  (Applause.)  "So, when later, in a long vacation from my studies at Cambridge, I learned the love for active adventure, and contracted the habit of self-reliance by solitary excursions on foot, my staff in my hand and my knapsack on my shoulders, it was towards Scotland that I instinctively bent my way, as if to the nursery-ground from which had been wafted to my mind the first germ of those fertile and fair ideas, which, after they have come to flower upon their native soil, return to seed, and are carried by the winds we know not whither, calling up endless diversities of the same plant, according to the climate and the ground to which they are borne by chance."  (Applause.)  "Gentlemen, this day I revisited, with Professor Ayton, the spot in which, a mere lad, obscure and alone, I remember to have stood one starlight night in the streets of Edinburgh, gazing across what was then a deep ravine, upon the picturesque outlines of the Old Town, all the associations which make Scotland so dear to romance, and so sacred to learning, rushing over me in tumultuous pleasure; her stormy history,—her enchanting legends,—wild tales of witchcraft and fairy land,—of headlong chivalry and tragic love,—all contrasting, yet all uniting, with the renown of schools famous for patient erudition and tranquil science.  I remember how I then wished that I could have found some tie in parentage or blood to connect me with the great people in whose capital I stood a stranger."  (Cheers.)  "That tie which birth denied to me, my humble labours, and your generous kindness, have at last bestowed; and the former stranger in your streets stands today in this crowded hall, proud to identify his own career with the hopes and aspirations of the youth of Scotland."  (Cheers.)

    This is beautifully said, and must have caused a thrill in the breasts of his audience, kindling, as with an electric flash, the "perfervidum ingenium Scotorum."  Passing in review the great literary men of Scotland, with a delicate and exquisite compliment to the absent Professor Wilson, ("Christopher North,") since deceased, he proceeded to discourse most eloquently upon the subject of Greek and Roman literature, and the proper methods of studying them, winding up with a most thrilling appeal to the spirit of national patriotism, in which he must again have effectually roused the Scottish heart.

    Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton's speech at Leeds was only the complement to that delivered at Edinburgh.  It was less learnèd, but equally philosophical; more varied, and, if possible, more interesting.  The audience was the best that Leeds could give him,—not mechanics or working-people, certainly, but the most highly educated ladies and gentlemen of that large manufacturing town.  At Edinburgh he had addressed scholars, students, and professors; here he addressed himself to "youths and mature men of every age, engaged in active, practical pursuits, snatching at such learning as books may give in the intervals of recreation or repose.  Knowledge there is the task-work; knowledge here is the holiday.  But in both these communities, in the quiet university and in the busy manufacturing town, I find," said he, "the same grand idea: I mean the recognition of Intelligence as the supreme arbiter of all those questions which, a century ago, were either settled by force or stifled by those prejudices which are even stronger than law."  Then he proceeded to survey the civilization of the world in past and in modern times, defending the too-often-sneered-at wisdom of our ancestors, whose intellect "has left us writers whom we may strive to emulate, but can never hope to surpass; a political constitution which we may enlarge or repair, but which we can never, perhaps, altogether change for the better; and an empire on which it is said that the sun never sets, though it commenced from these small northern islands, on which," said he, "I am sorry to say, the sun seldom condescends to shine."  But he did equal justice to the character of the age in which we live, to the progress made in all the industrial arts, to the milder spirit of humanity which distinguishes modem times when compared with the old, and to the constructive spirit which is at work in all our institutions.  Passing in review the three great races who now lead the civilization of the world, the Germans, the French, and the English,—he tested the elements of their respective greatness, finding in the German greater discipline, and in the Englishman greater freedom; while the Frenchman, being impulsive, and too little imbued with the spirit of religion, is headlong in his reforms and fanatical in his revolutions.  The English, though worse educated in schools, possess, according to the orator, a far better life-education, such as fits them for doing the work and acting the part of freemen.  "It seems," said he, "that there are two kinds of education: there is one I call life-education, which we acquire at home, in the streets, in the marketplace, behind the counter, the loom, the plough,—the education we acquire from life; and this I call life-education: there is, also, what I call school-education,—the education we acquire from books.  In the first kind of education—life-education—we are far in advance of all countries in the ancient quarters of the globe; but it appears we are behind some countries in school education. You, as Englishmen, will never consent to let this be so. You axe Englishmen, and I am sure will never consent to be beaten by any country whatever. Let us, then, put our shoulders to the wheel, and see that we are here also in our proper place in the world." Bulwer's pride as an Englishman will not admit of his yielding the palm to any other nation; and this pride embraces Englishmen of all classes and ranks, democratic as well as aristocratic. "I am here," said he,

"not only as the member of a class which must always have the deepest sympathy with every department of intellectual labour,—I mean the class of authors,—but I am here also as a member of another class, which is supposed to be less acceptable in manufacturing towns: I am one of the agricultural vampires; I am guilty of being a country gentleman, and even a county member; still, somehow or other, I feel quite at home here.  Now, shall I tell you the truth?  I dare say you and I may differ upon many political questions, but upon this neutral ground I am sure—no matter what books I had written—you would not be so kind to me, nor I feel so much at my ease with you, unless by this time we had both discovered that we have got sound English hearts; and that, though we may quarrel as to the mode of doing it, still we are all equally resolved to keep this England of ours the foremost country in the world.  In a free state, it will happen that every class will strive to press forward what it conceives, rightly or erroneously, its own claims and interests; but in proportion as we instruct all, each will, in time, acquire its due share of influence; and, far from that hypocritical cowardice which often makes a man throw over in one assembly the class which he is bound to advocate in another, I own to you, wherever I look I see so much merit in every division of our people, that, whatever class I had been born and reared in, of that class I should have been justly proud.  There is not a class of which I should not have said,' I belong to those who made England great.'  If I had been born a peasant, let me be but self-taught and self-risen, and I would not have changed my brotherhood with Burns for the pedigree of a Howard.  If I had been born a mechanic or manufacturer, for allow me to class together the employer and employed, they fulfil the same mission, and their interests ought to be the same,—I say, if I had been born one of these, I should have said, 'Mine is the class which puts nations themselves into the great factory of civilization.  Mine is the class which has never yet been established in any land but what it has made the poor state rich, and the small state mighty.'  If I had been born a trader, the very humblest of that order, I should have boasted proudly of the solid foundation of public opinion and of national virtues which rest upon the spirit and energy, upon the integrity and fair-dealing, by which that great section of our middle class have given a tone and character to our whole people.  Why, we have been called a nation of shopkeepers, and shopkeepers we are whenever we keep a debtor and creditor account with other nations, scrupulously paying our debts to the last farthing, and keeping our national engagements with punctuality and good faith.  But it is owing much to the high spirit and to the sense of honour which characterizes the British trader, that the word 'gentleman' has become a title peculiar to us,—not, as in other countries, resting only upon pedigrees and coats of arms, but embracing all who unite gentleness with manhood.  And nation of shopkeepers though we be, yet we all, from the duke in his robes to the workman in his blouse, become a nation of gentlemen whenever some haughty foreigner touches our common honour, whenever some paltry sentiment in the lips of princes rouses our generous scorn, or whenever some chivalrous action or noble thought ennobles the sons of peasants.  If I had been told that the habits of trade made men niggardly and selfish, I should have pointed to the hospitals, to the charities, to the educational institutions which cover the land, and which have been mainly founded or largely endowed by the munificence of traders.  If I had been told that there was something in trade which stinted the higher or more poetical faculty, I should have pointed to the long list of philosophers, divines, and poets that have sprung from the ranks of trade; and, not to cite minor names, I should have said, 'It is we who share with agriculture the glory of producing the wool-stapler's son, who rules over the intellectual universe under the name of Shakespeare.'  This pride of class I should have felt, let me only be born an Englishman, whether as peasant, mechanic, manufacturer, or tradesman; but being born and reared amongst those who derive their subsistence from the land, I am not less proud that I belong to that great section of our countrymen from whom have proceeded so large a proportion of those who have helped to found that union of liberty and intellect which binds together the audience I survey.  From whom came the great poets, Chaucer and Gower, Spenser and Dryden, and Byron and Scott?  From whom came the great pioneers of science, Worcester and Cavendish, Boyle and Bacon?  From whom came so large a number of the heroes and patriots who, in all the grand epochs of constitutional progress,—from the first charter wrung from Norman tyrants, from the first resistance made to the Roman pontiffs, down to the law by which Camden (the son of a country squire) achieved the liberty of the Press,—down to the Reform Bill, by which Russell, Grey; and Stanley, and Lambton connected Leeds forever with the genius of Macaulay—have furnished liberty with illustrious chiefs, and not less with beloved martyrs?  Out of that class of country gentlemen came the Hampden who died upon the field, and Sydney who perished on the scaffold."

    This is a noble and truly eloquent passage, going right to the heart of every Englishman; and delivered, as it was, with fire and energy, in the Music Hall at Leeds, it left an impression on the minds of his audience, of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton's power as a true orator, which will not soon be effaced.

    It will be observed that, in this rapid sketch, we have described a career full of hard work; the more honourable to Sir Edward, as he is rich, and in the enjoyment of ease and competence.  But he prefers to be laborious and perseverant; he is a man full purpose and earnestness; he works for the love of work, as well as because he desires the good of others.  Though he is not a very real writer, his writings, taken as a whole, have a highly beneficial tendency: they are humanizing, invigorating, and improving.  By dint of study and labour he has achieved his success.  His merit as a writer and an orator is all his own, and is infinitely superior to that transmitted merit which attaches to a man's far-back ancestry having fought at Crecy or Agincourt.  And, most probably, posterity will yet speak of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton with far greater admiration than if he had distinguished himself at Waterloo or Sobraon.




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