LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Prelude 1

Contents Vol. I
‣ Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
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A Prelude.

Section I.

ON the night of the thirty-first of December, 1800, I had gone to bed with a vague fear that I should be awakened by a terrific noise which would shake the house more than the loudest thunder-clap, and would produce such a concussion of the air as would break every window-pane in Windsor town. The house in which my father lived, and in which I was born, was close to the great entrance to the lower ward of Windsor Castle, called, after its builder, Henry the Eighth’s gateway. I crept down in the dawning of that first day of the year to a sitting room which commanded a view of the Round Tower. The aspect of that room was eastern. I watched the gradual reddening of the sky; and I momently expected to see a flash from one of the many cannon mounted on the Tower, and to hear that roar from those mighty pieces of ordnance which was to produce such alarming consequences. I knew not then that these guns were only four-pounders, and that if all the seventeen had been fired at once the windows would most probably have been safe. I watched and watched till the sun was high. It was
then reported that the King had ordered there should be no discharge of the cannon of the keep, for the new painted window by
Mr. West, at the east end of St. George’s Chapel, might be broken by the concussion. There was no boom of artillery; but the bells of the belfry of St. George’s Chapel and the bells of the parish church rang out a merry peal—not so much to welcome the coming of the new year and beginning of the new century (for the learned had settled, after a vast deal of popular controversy, that the century had its beginning on the 1st of January, 1801, and not on the 1st of January, 1800), but to hail the legal commencement of the Union with Ireland. The sun shone brilliantly on a new standard on the Round Tower. I had often looked admiringly upon the old standard, tattered and dingy as it sometimes was; but I now beheld that this new standard was not only perfect in its shape and bright in its colours, but was wholly of an unaccustomed pattern. There were the arms of England in the first and fourth quarterings; the arms of Scotland in the second quartering; and the arms of Ireland in the third. But where had vanished the fleur-de-lys? Was his gracious majesty no longer King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, as his style had run in all legal instruments in the memory of man, and a good deal beyond? The newspapers said he was now to be styled “George the Third, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith.” The good folks of Windsor argued that the change was ominous of the departing glory of Old England.

It is not to be supposed that I knew much of such matters in this tenth year of my life; but,
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 19
nevertheless, I knew something of what was going on in my little world of Windsor, in connexion with the doings of the great world beyond the favoured home of the king. I was the only child of a widowed
father; his companion in his few leisure hours; the object of his incessant solicitude. I cannot remember myself as I was painted at two years old, in a white frock with a black sash—the indication that I had lost my mother. She was, as I was told by those who knew her and loved her, a most amiable woman, whose society my father had enjoyed only for a few years—the daughter of a wealthy yeoman, of Iver, in Buckinghamshire. The “yeoman” of those days, although a landed proprietor, did not aspire to be called “esquire.” He would now be recognised as “gentleman-farmer.” My white frock and black sash had given place to jacket and trowsers. But still I can call to remembrance the unjoyous head of the desolate household; his passionate caresses of his boy; his long fits of gloom and silence. We had little talk of childish things. Of his own childhood he never spake to me. I came to know, in after years, that he had been brought up by his relative, the Rev. James Hampton, who subsequently earned an honourable fame as the translator of Polybius. This learned man died in 1778. In 1780, my father was settled at Windsor; for I have heard him relate with some complacency how he had asserted his political independence, by voting for Admiral Keppel in that year; “though,” according to Horace Walpole, “all the royal bakers, and brewers, and butchers voted against him.” My father had qualified himself for his trade of a bookseller, by his experience in the house of —— Hors-
field, the successor of the Knaptons, both of which publishers were very eminent in their day. He had moreover a taste for literary composition, which he professionally indulged in the useful labour of compiling a little work which held its place in many editions for half a century as “
The Windsor Guide.” I find copper-plate views accompanying this handbook which bear the inscription: “Published as the Act directs by Charles Knight, Windsor, March 31st, 1785.” In 1786 and 1787 he published the first celebrated periodical written by Etonians. I possess an interesting document, being the receipt to Charles Knight for fifty guineas “in full for the copyright of ‘The Microcosm,’a periodical work carried on by us, the undermentioned persons, under the name and title of Gregory Griffin. Received for John Smith, Robert Smith, John Frere, and self, George Canning.” Of this school-boys’ production, remarkable for its intrinsic merits, but more so for the subsequent eminence of its writers, Canning was the working Editor. He was thus brought into friendly communication with my father. It was not only when the brilliant supporter of Pitt was rising into political importance, but when he had taken his place among the foremost men of his time, that he had a kindly feeling towards his first publisher, often calling upon him with a cordial greeting when he visited Windsor.

As I recollect my father when I was a child of seven or eight years, he was much occupied by his business, for he had become a printer in addition to his trade of stationer and bookseller. A considerable portion of his time was also spent on public affairs, first of the Parish, and then of the Corporation. I
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 21
was left much to myself, except when I listened to the old-world stories of the faithful servant to whose charge I was committed by my dying mother—how like she was to the Peggotty of
Dickens! It was fortunate, therefore, that I acquired very early a taste for reading. I had access to a large collection of books, and I quickly found abundant consolation for my solitary hours in that reading which, somewhat unwisely I think, has now been supplanted by what is held to be directly instructive. To the child, Robinson Crusoe is, happily, not a sealed book in an educational age; but the “Seven Champions of Christendom,” the “Arabian Nights,” the “Arabian Tales,” with their wonders of the “Dom Daniel” (which, looking back upon, seem to me to have as much poetry in them as “Thalaba”), the “Tales of the Genii,” “Gullivers Travels,” “Philip Quarll,” “Peter Wilkins,” and a dozen others, now vanished, were not then superseded, either in their original seductions or in safer abridgments, by the tamer fictions in which moral and religious truths are inculcated. My avidity for reading, and, perhaps, the dangerous locality in which I lived—an open sewer from the Castle creeping at the back of my fathers house—made my constitution feeble; and the feebleness ended in typhoid fever. I recovered slowly, and was taken for the establishment of my health to a farm which was tenanted by the father of my good nurse. I have described what was the life of a small farmer when I was playing at “Farmer’s Boy” at Warfield—one of the parishes comprised in Windsor Forest.* My host was a

* “Once upon a Time.”—The Farmer’s Kitchen.

shrewd Yorkshireman, from whom I learnt more than I could have obtained from many books. He was a tenant on the Walsh estate, having been placed in this farm as a reward for his faithful service with the Governor of Pennsylvania,
Sir John Walsh, before the War of Independence. He would discourse to me of the wonderful man who drew lightning from the skies—the friend of his own scientific master (whose papers about the Torpedo and other curious matters may be read in the Philosophical Transactions), and he told how Benjamin Franklin became a great instrument in accomplishing that change which had separated the American States from their parent country. He would relate to me incidents of the war about taxing the colonists, speaking rather from the revolutionist than the loyal point of view. Altogether, a plain good man of simple habits and large intelligence. He and his bustling wife lived in the usual style of the southern farmer of the days of Arthur Young, before he was pampered by war-prices into luxury and display. The greater war-time of the French Revolution had in twenty years extinguished much of the immediate interest of the half-forgotten era of the American war. My experienced friend would make the stirring passing events of the week known to his household, in reading aloud the “Reading Mercury” which was duly delivered at his door by an old newsman on a shambling pony. How eagerly we looked for this messenger, whose budget would provide occupation for many a dull evening! Pitt and Fox, Nelson and Bonaparte, were familiar names. Dibdin’s songs had found their way to this solitary inland place. Invasion was a threat we
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 23
despised; for within a couple of miles of our farm was a summer-camp of regular soldiers. I have walked wonderingly through the lines of tents which stretched across the sandy plain near Swinley, and have lingered among the pickets till the evening gun warned us to move homeward. But our country had other protectors from our great enemy. It was satisfactory to learn, from a popular song which our ploughmen trolled out, that—
“Should their flat-bottoms in darkness come o’er,
Our brave Volunteers would receive them on shore.”
There were, indeed, Volunteers before the close of the eighteenth century, and though they were somewhat disparagingly called “Loyal Associations,” as though they were not soldiers, I can bear my testimony that at Windsor in their blue coats, black belts, and round hats with a bear-skin over the crown, they looked very formidable, although perhaps not quite equal to suppress a riot for cheap bread.

My pleasant months at Brock Hill Farm came to an end; and I went home to begin the dreary life of a day-school. Dreary, indeed, it was; for the education was altogether rote-work; without the slightest attempt to smooth over the difficulties that presented themselves in geographical names held together by no thread of description, and in rules of arithmetic, to be regularly worked through without the slightest endeavour to explain their rationale. The beginning of the century found me at this school. I was one of the few who learnt Latin and French. The same emigré of the Revolutionary times taught both tongues. I have no doubt his French accent was perfect; but his Latin, if I may judge from the way
in which he read the first line of the
Æneid, was not the Latin of Eton “I do trow.”
“Arma veeroomque cano, Trojæ quee preemus ab orees.”

My language-master was a pleasant gentlemanly person who hated England thoroughly. I have looked with him upon our illuminations of tallow candles for some naval victory, and have been dashed in my confident belief that our town guns, and our bells, and the “Reading Mercury” told the truth, when he assured me that this rejoicing was only a false pretence; that it was vain to expect that a trumpery island would ever be able to contend against France; and that assuredly George III. would soon resign Windsor Castle to the First Consul. Nevertheless, he prayed that he might not see the downfall of another monarchy.

The misery of the poor in my native town at the beginning of the century was sufficiently visible even to my childish apprehension. On an evening of the previous autumn, when I was returning homeward from a game in the Park, I heard the distant shouts of a multitude, and saw a furious mob gathering at the junction of the streets near the market-place. I got into the safety of my home not too soon, for the mob was coming towards the baker’s shop that was next door. They had smashed the windows of several bakers in the lower part of the town. They believed, as the greater number of people everywhere believed, that the high price of corn was wholly occasioned by combinations of corn-factors, meal-men, millers, and bakers; and that if these oppressors of the nation could be compelled to bring their stores to market, there would be abundance and cheapness, and no
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 25
possible chance of the supply falling short. Our neighbour the baker hid himself. He cared little if his door were forced, and his loaves stolen, provided the heavy box under his bed were safe. That box, as he more than once showed me, was full of crowns and half crowns, with some bright guineas, which he had long hoarded. The reputed money-hoarders were many in our town—men and women who had no faith in the Funds or the Bank of England. The baker hid himself in the back bed-room where his treasure was. My father from his window exhorted the people to go home. I stood trembling behind him, and was somewhat astonished to see how powerful was the influence of firmness and kindness in turning aside the wild but unpremeditated excitement of unhappy and ignorant men, who were not without a sense of justice even in their anger. There were a few more outbreaks as the winter drew on; for the price of bread continued to rise. In January the price of the quartern loaf of 4 lbs. 5½ ozs. was 1s. 9d. Windsor was always famous for its charities, which, no doubt, were often improvidently bestowed; but this, at any rate, was not a time in which the rich could shrink from helping the poor, even if they had known that the gratuitous distribution of provisions had really a tendency to raise the price of food. And so I looked upon crowds bringing daily their tickets to a great empty house, which had been fitted up with coppers, wherein unlimited shins of beef became reduced into savoury soup, and bushels of rice were boiled into a palatable mess. The work of distribution was performed under the inspection of a committee, who laboured with zeal, if not always with judgment. One benefit they effected in addition
to that of saving the humbler population from the pains of hunger. They gave time for them to ask themselves whether any good would be accomplished by threatening millers and bakers with summary vengeance if they did not lower the price of meal and bread. It was a hard lesson to learn, when there were few sound teachers. Not many of the working people could then read the newspapers; but some who did read them might tell their neighbours that it was argued that the excessive price of meal and bread was a hard thing to bear, but that it was less terrible than the famine which would ensue, if farmers and millers and bakers could be compelled to sell from their small stores at a price at which every mouth could be fed as in years of plenty. Nevertheless, the educated and the ignorant would equally learn from the newspapers, that great peers and wise judges did not altogether disapprove of the principles that led to mill-burning and window-breaking. They would learn how a corn-factor named Rusby had been found guilty of the crime of having purchased by sample in the corn-market at Mark Lane 90 quarters of wheat at 41s. per quarter, and sold 30 of them in the same market, on the same day, at 44s.; and how the Lord
Chief Justice Kenyon had said to the jury, “You have conferred, by your verdict, almost the greatest benefit on your country that ever was conferred by any jury.” They would learn how this wicked corn-factor met with his deserts, even before his sentence for the crime of regrating had been passed upon him; for that his house in Blackfriars Road had been gutted by an enraged populace. They would learn how the earl of Warwick in the House of Lords had recommended the adoption of a maximum, by which
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 27
no wheat should be sold at a higher price than ten shillings the bushel; and how his lordship had rejoiced that no less than four hundred convictions had taken place throughout the country for forestalling, regrating, and monopolising. And why did he rejoice? When the man Rusby, he said, was convicted, the price of oats was fifty shillings per quarter; but such was the effect of his conviction, that the price of oats fell from day to day till it came as low as seventeen shillings and sixpence. Such were the economic doctrines proclaimed sixty years ago in high places! Can we wonder that the ignorance of the people was in perfect concord?

It was a gloomy season, but nevertheless we went on with our usual course of social observances. Valentine’s Day was well kept amongst us. It was a serious affair then for a bachelor to send a letter embellished with hearts and darts to a lady; for it was held to have a solemn meaning. But children innocently played at Valentines. I have been led blindfolded to the mistress of my affections in the early morn, that no meaner divinity might meet my eyes: no vulgar chance should interfere with our deliberate choice. On St. Valentine’s eve some would draw lots, to determine which pair should be registered in “Cupid’s Kalendar.” Old customs linger about my early memories, like patches of sunlight in a sombre wood. On the Saturday before mid-lent Sunday, the farmers’ wives who kept their stalls in our market would exhibit their well-known preparation of boiled wheat, which few old housewives would neglect to purchase. On that fourth Sunday in Lent, I regularly feasted on Furmety, with a lady who was carefully observant of ancient usages. Does
any one in the southern counties now know the taste of this once famous dish, made of boiled wheat prepared in the farmer’s household, and having been a second time boiled in milk with plums, was served sugared and spiced in a tureen? In the West, the custom is still as duly regarded as the rite of the pancake on Shrove Tuesday. The first of May was scarcely saluted “with our early song.” But in this May of 1801, there was a great ceremony at Windsor, in which I bore a humble part. On the 10th of May the custom of perambulating the parish, which had been in disuse since 1783, was revived, with wondrous feastings. The printed record of these doings for three days takes me back into the scenes of my childhood. There, still, my “little footsteps lightly print the ground.” The population of Windsor gave themselves up for three days to singing psalms at boundary oaks, and carousing at boundary houses. A good deal of the winter’s gloom was passing away. The spring was fine. The price of the quartern loaf had been rapidly falling from the 1s. 10½d. of the 5th of March (the highest price it ever attained), to the 1s. 6¼d. of the 7th of May. The king,—who had been shut up in the queen’s lodge from the 14th of February to the 16th of March, with what the physicians called “cold and fever,” but which we now know to have been insanity,—was again trudging early to the dairy at Frogmore; or riding at a very gentle pace after his harriers; or travelling once a week to London to meet his Council, where
Mr. Pitt was no longer the presiding genius. Our loyal people said that the minister had justly forfeited the favour of “the best of kings,” by trying to make him violate his coro-
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 29
nation oath. To me, as to much older persons, the removal of a great statesman from the government of the kingdom was less important than the things which concerned our borough and parish; and of such was our Perambulation.

Great were the preparations for our “Rogation days of Procession.” Mindful of the order of Queen Elizabeth, that the curate on such occasions “shall admonish the people to give thanks to God in the beholding of God’s benefits,” our vicar and churchwardens were solicitous that there should be unusual store of benefits to behold. And so it is recorded in the churchwardens’ “Book of Benefactions and Charities,”* how sundry letters were written to the owners and occupiers of boundary houses, to remind them that, in former times, entertainment, whether of a barrel of ale and bread and cheese, or a “genteel” dinner, with wine to correspond, was provided for the wayfarers, rich and poor, who thus laboured to preserve their parish rights and liberties. Generous were the answers from all, except from the treasurer to the College of Windsor, “who cast a damp upon the business, observing that it was a waste of victuals and viands when everything was dear.” The chronicle of the perambulation was duly printed for the edification of those who were partakers of the solemnity, and for the bewilderment of all future topographers. It was a glorious tenth of May, when, after morning service at our old church, we marched from the Town Hall—mayor, vicar, curate, charity children, inhabitants—two and two; boys like myself clinging to their fathers’ skirts.

* “Annals of Windsor;” by Mr. Tighe and Mr. Davis. Vol. II., pp. 556 to 563.

We came to the first boundary house, at the bottom of Peascod Street. The psalm was sung; the wine was drunk “by the respectable parts of the company,” according to the record. Then comes an entry, which, even at this distance of time, produces a qualm in my stomach: “We proceeded northward, along the west side of the ditch; crossed the road in Goswell Lane and the ditch at the bottom of George Street on planks, and kept the drain that runs from the houses in Thames Street.” All the lower parts of Windsor were then drain or ditch. The ditch—the black ditch—predominated. Never was there such a sink of impurity as my native town. Those pleasant fields, the Goswells, which in winter were flooded, were in spring, summer, and autumn, pestilent with black ditches. The railroad has there swept away these horrors. The authorities have also found out that the smaller black ditches of every alley have a tendency to increase the poors rate. But in my early days these things were unheeded. In the Bachelor’s Acre the “little victims” played by the side of a great open cesspool, kept brimming and overflowing by drains disgorging from every street. The Court sniffed this filthy reek. In the fields around Frogmore it tainted the cowslip and the hawthorn blossom. Municipal or royal dignitaries never interfered to abate or remove the nuisance. In truth, the word nuisance had scarcely then found a place in our language in a sanitary sense. Foul ditches, crossed on planks, scarcely disturbed the usual complacency of the perambulators, for there was a dinner in prospect, at her majesty’s house at Frogmore. I was with my father, as one of the fa-
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 31
voured guests in the “state parlour,” where
Major Price presided. The churchwardens’ book records that “a gentleman who accompanied us sung a song or two, by permission.” How well I remember that facetious song of the “learned pig;” how often has it been brought to my mind in recent years, in the acquaintance of the very gentleman who sang a song or two—the indefatigable, good-tempered, self-satisfied, pushing and puffing John Britton, who, then in his thirtieth year, was at Windsor, occupied in a topographical work which was commencing to be published, “The Beauties of England and Wales.” He is gone, having done good service in his day by wedding archaeology to a high style of illustrative art. The Frogmore dinner was over. I was tired; but perambulating was too pleasant to be readily relinquished. The next day I was tramping by the side of a “bosky bourn” to Cranbourn, then a lodge, which I had been told had as many windows as there are days in the year. How changed is all this forest scene! The lodge has been demolished. Many of the grand old sapless oaks have been hewn down. New plantations cover the plain which was sixty years ago a wilderness of fern. The beauty of the district is more ornate than of old. But nothing can destroy the noble features of the site of Cranbourn, whether called Great Park or Forest. Another royal dinner solaced our second day’s march. The third day’s perambulation took us to Surly Hall and The Willows—familiar scenes to every Etonian. The Church was not as bountiful as the Crown when we had returned to the boundary house at the foot of the Hundred Steps. The dean and canons had provided, it is chronicled, “a dinner and a dozen of wine.”
Our way to the Town Hall was up the narrow Thames-street, the whole castle side of the road from the Hundred Steps to Henry the Eighth’s gateway being then, and long after, crowded with houses. Some of the meanest character, and with the most disreputable occupiers, were the property of no one, but were tenanted under what was termed “key-hold.” They have all been swept away. The rubbish that grew up under the castle walls has been cleared, even as the social rubbish has been cleared which hid a good deal of the grandeur of our Constitutional Monarchy.

About this period my father took me to London. The journey from our town to the White Horse Cellar in Piccadilly was satisfactorily performed in the usual time of five hours, and a little more. As the night had closed in, I stood at the door of the well-accustomed hotel, and looked with unspeakable wonder upon the long line of brilliancy to the east and to the west. Our lamps, few and far between, were as farthing rushlights compared to this blaze from patent reflectors. I knew not that even this radiance would, like the glowworm in the matin light, “pale its uneffectual fire,” by the side of the illumination without oil or wick. I saw the sights which most boys were then taken to see, such as the jewels in the Tower, and the wax-work in the Abbey. But for one sight I was unprepared. I was led along a somewhat dark passage up a narrow stair; and there—(oh! that my mind could ever again feel, at the contemplation of the most sublime or the most beautiful object of nature, as it felt at that moment)—there lay my beloved Windsor, stretched at my feet. I screamed with an agony of pleasure. I
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 33
knew that I was in London; but there were spread before me the park, where I was wont to play; the terraces, where I had used to gaze upon the distant hills; the river, whose osier bowers were as familiar to me as my own little garden; the steep and narrow streets, which I then thought the perfection of architecture; the very house in which I was born. I rubbed my eyes; I was awake; the scene was still there. I strained my ears, and I fancied I could hear the cawing of the rooks in those old towers. It was with difficulty that I could be dragged away; and when I came out into the garish sunshine of Leicester Square, and saw the bustling crowds, and heard the din of the anxious city, I was reluctantly convinced that I had looked upon a picture, called a panorama. The bird’s-eye representation, in one compact grouping, of objects which I had previously looked upon singly, has left an impression upon my memory which will assist me in tracing one of my own boyish perambulations about Windsor Castle.

It is the Saturday half-holiday at my day-school. The afternoon is bright and frosty. The rains which have flooded the low lands of the Thames have ceased. I can again ramble in the upper park. Castle Street, in which I live, has a continuation of houses up to the Queen’s Lodge, in which the King dwells at his Castle foot. There is nothing to separate the Castle Hill from the town but a small gateway, which bears the inscription, “Elizabethæ Reginæ, xiii., 1572.” Beyond the gate are substantial houses, inhabited by good families. In one of those near the Lodge once dwelt Mrs. Delany, at whose door the King would unceremoniously enter, as he entered in a December twilight and caught Fanny
Burney playing at puss-in-the-corner. This house is shut up in these my early school days. It is haunted, and the fact is proved by a broken window-pane, through which the sentry had thrust his bayonet when he saw the apparition. I pass the railings which enclose the lawn before the Lodge, and I reach the iron gates which terminate the road. No gate-keeper is there to bar the entrance even of beggars and vagrants. There is an old half-crazy woman in an oil-skin coat, who opens the gate in the hope of a halfpenny. Such is the “state and ancientry” upon which the inmates of the royal Lodge look out. School boys, with their kites and hoops and cricket-bats, have free admission through these gates. It is the common footpath to Datchet. There is another footpath which leads to the dairy at Frogmore, of which I may hereafter speak. I walk by the well-trodden Datchet path to the edge of the table-land forming the north side of the upper park, and I reach the descent, winding amidst old thorns and oaks, called Dod’s Hill. My onward walk is stopped, for the lower park is flooded. I turn back and mount the broad flight of steps which lead to the south terrace. This is no privileged region for maids of honour and lords of the bedchamber alone to enjoy. The entire terrace is free to the commonalty. The town boys here play at follow my leader, and fearlessly run along the parapet, whether on the south, the east, or the north sides. No one looks out of windows draperied or undraperied, for no one dwells there, except, on the north side, Mr. James Wyatt, the Surveyor-General. He has been busy about the Castle for a year or two. A few of the mean circular-headed windows—by which the
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 35
upper court was deformed, when
Wren, at the command of Charles II., tried to obliterate the old fortress character of the buildings—are being gothicised. The Star building on the north terrace is undergoing the same process. The patchwork system of improvements which is going forward, a window at a time, appears very unlike the exercise of a royal will. The war absorbs the revenues of the State, leaving little or nothing for art. I come up the paltry wooden stairs that lead from the north terrace. I look into the Quadrangle, which is solitary and silent, except where a stonemason or two are at work. I pass through the Norman gateway, by the brick wall of the Round Tower garden, to a pile of ugly buildings—the guard-house, and its canteen, the Royal Standard. Adjoining the Deanery is a ruinous building called Wolsey’s Tomb-house. St. George’s Chapel has been restored and beautified; but this building has been neglected since the days of James the Second, when it was a Roman Catholic Chapel. I come home through Henry the Eighth’s gateway, the rooms of which, then, or a little before, were used as a Court of Record, whose jurisdiction extended over the forest of Windsor comprising many parishes. Here, under the arch, was the prison of this “Castle Court,” which in 1790 was described as a disgrace to the sight and to the feelings. I have seen the grated windows of this prison, which was called “the Colehouse.” At the beginning of the century it was converted into a guard-room.

From the circumstance that there was no carriage-road from the Castle or the Queen’s Lodge, except through the town, it resulted that the King and his family were for ever in the public eye. There was a
lawn behind the Lodge in which their privacy would be undisturbed; but there was no other place in which strangers or neighbours might not gaze upon them or jostle them. The propinquity of the town, and the constant passage of the royal carriages through the town, made every movement of the Court familiar to the lieges. Royalty lived in a glass house. There was no restraint in these movements. What the gossiping and inquiring gentleman who dwelt up the hill said and did; how his daughters were dressed, and how they nodded to their friend, the linen-draper, as he bowed at his shop-door; how the good man’s lady was somewhat more reserved, but always gracious—these matters mixed themselves up as familiarly with the town talk as if the personages were the squire of the village and his family, who sat in the great pew every Sunday. Out of the observation of this antiquated publicity was
Peter Pindar made.

“The works of the sublime bard are sold publicly at Windsor.” Thus writes this once-famous Dr. Wolcott of his own ribald lyrics, which he says “are now in the library at the Queen’s palace;” adding, “his Majesty has written notes on the odes.” As I remember, there was no secresy observed in the sale of these popular satires, although they might, perchance, come under the notice of the illustrious objects of their ridicule,
“Who down at Windsor daily go a-shopping,
Their heads, right royal, into houses popping.”
In my boyish experience I never saw the King accompanying the Queen and Princesses in their frequent visits to the shops of Windsor. The prints in which the royal pair are represented as haggling
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 37
with their tradesmen, and cheapening their merchandise, were the productions of fifteen years before the opening of the nineteenth century. But I have often bowed to
George III. in the upper park, as he walked to his dairy at Frogmore, and passed me as I was hunting for mushrooms in the short grass on some dewy morning. He had an extraordinary faculty of recognizing everybody, young or old; and he knew something of the character and affairs of most persons who lived under the shadow of his castle. There was ever a successor to the famous court barber,
“Ramus, called Billy “by the best of kings,”
who could retail the current scandal of our “Little Pedlington,” as he presided over the royal toilet, The scandal was forgotten with the laugh which it excited.

My early familiarity with the person of George III. might have abated something in my mind of the divinity which doth hedge a king; but it has left an impression of the homely kindness of his nature, which no subsequent knowledge of his despotic tendencies, his cherished political hatreds, and his obstinate prejudices as a sovereign, can make me lay aside. There was a magnanimity about the man in his forgetfulness of the petty offences of very humble people, who did not come across his will, although they might appear indiscreet or even dangerous in their supposed principles. Sir Richard Phillips, with somewhat of a violation of confidence, printed in his “Monthly Magazine” an anecdote of George III. which was told him by my father. Soon after the publication of Paine’sRights of Man,” in 1791,—before the work was declared libellous,—the King
was wandering about Windsor early on a summer morning, and was heard calling out “Knight, Knight!” in the shop whose shutters were just opened. My father made his appearance as quickly as possible, at the sound of the well-known voice, and he beheld his Majesty quietly seated, reading with marked attention. Late on the preceding evening a parcel from Paternoster Row had been opened, and its miscellaneous contents were exposed on the counter. Horror! the King has taken up the dreadful “Rights of Man,” which advocated the French Revolution in reply to
Burke. Absorbed Majesty continued reading for half an hour. The King went away without a remark; but he never afterwards expressed his displeasure, or withdrew his countenance. Peter Pindar’s incessant endeavours to represent the King as a garrulous simpleton were more likely to provoke the laughter of his family, than to suggest any desire to stifle the poor jests by those terrors of the law which might have been easily commanded. It was the same with the people. The amusements which the satirist ridiculed, when he told of a monarch
“Who rams, and ewes, and lambs, and bullocks fed,”
were pursuits congenial to the English taste, and not incompatible with the most diligent performance of public duty. The daubs of the caricaturist provoked no contempt for “Farmer George and his Wife.” The sneers of the rhymester at “sharp and prudent economic kings,”—at the parsimony which prescribed that at the breaking up of a royal card party “the candles should be immediately blown out,”—fell harmless upon Windsor ears. Blowing out of wax candles, leaving the guests or congre-
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 39
gation in the dark, was the invariable practice of royal and ecclesiastical officials. At St. George’s Chapel, the instant the benediction was pronounced, vergers and choristers blew out the lights. Perquisites were the law of all service. The good-natured King respected the law as one of our institutions. He dined early. The
Queen dined at an hour then deemed late. He wrote or read in his own uncarpeted room, till the time when he joined his family in the drawing-room. One evening, on a sudden recollection, he went back to his library. The wax-candles were still burning. When he returned, the page, whose especial duty was about the King’s person, followed his Majesty in, and was thus addressed, “Clarke, Clarke, you should mind your perquisites. I blew out the candles.” The King’s savings were no savings to the nation. In 1812 it was stated in the House of Commons that the wax lights for Windsor Castle cost ten thousand a year.

There were abundant opportunities for every stranger to gaze upon the King and his family. The opportunities were so abundant that his Majesty’s neighbours of Windsor did not manifest any great solicitude to look upon the royal person. Duly every Wednesday his travelling carriage passed down the Castle Hill, preceded and followed by some twenty light horse. A council or a levée at St. James’s demanded the royal presence. I remember that his Majesty’s saddler stood at his door in a cocked hat and bowed most reverentially, on these weekly journeyings. Once a month the King went to receive the recorder’s report,—that awful duty of which great statesmen and lawyers then thought so lightly.
Seldom were there fewer than four or six convicts, male and female, left for execution. That all should be respited is chronicled as a rare occurrence. The severe administration of the law produced no diminution of crime. In those days we lived in fear of highwaymen and footpads. Three gentlemen from the City—bearing the well-known names of Mellish, Bosanquet, and Pole, potentates in the money market—were flattered by his Majesty’s attention to them in commanding that a deer of much speed and bottom should be turned out for their diversion at Langley Broom. The party hilariously dined at Salt Hill, after a glorious run. On their return, when near the Magpies on Hounslow Heath they were robbed by three footpads. Not content with their plunder, one of the robbers fired a pistol into the carriage. The ball entered the forehead of
Mr. Mellish, and he died at the Magpies. Hounslow Heath, Maidenhead Thicket, Langley Broom, were the resorts of desperadoes, who clustered round Windsor as brigands still cluster round Rome. At the root of the evil in England was the inefficient and corrupt administration of the lesser functionaries. In the Papal States brigandage is only a part of the general misrule. Robbers, with us, escaped till the police-officer could obtain his “blood-money,” the measure of the marauder’s iniquity being full. Terror had no permanent influence. In the “Annual Register” for 1799 is this record: “Haines has been hung in chains on Hounslow Heath between the two roads.” In 1804, as I was riding home from school, the man who accompanied me proposed to show me something curious. Between the two roads, near a clump of firs, was a gibbet, on which two bodies hung in
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 41
chains. The chains rattled; the iron plates scarcely held the gibbet together; the rags of the highwaymen displayed their horrible skeletons. That was a holiday sight for a schoolboy, sixty years ago!

The most attractive of all the gatherings of crowds to gaze on royalty was the Terrace. Before the Castle was inhabited by the King and his family, the music-room on the eastern side had been fitted up, and here the Court repaired on Sunday evenings. Dr. Burney, writing to his daughter Fanny (then Madame D’Arblay) in July, 1799, has a most enthusiastic appreciation of the joys of Windsor Terrace. “I never saw it more crowded or gay. The Park was almost full of happy people—farmers, servants, tradespeople, all in Elysium.” On the Terrace he walked amidst a crowd of “the first people in the kingdom for rank and office. . . . . All was cheerfulness, gaiety, and good humour, such as the subjects of no other monarch, I believe, on earth enjoy at present.” Thus “voir tout couleur de rose” makes life move pleasantly even to such as Dr. Burney, who had been doomed “in suing long to bide.” He was perhaps seeking no advancement in 1799; but in 1786 he had been sagaciously advised to walk upon the Terrace. “The King will understand.” The crowd of “the first people in the kingdom” had many of them the same belief in the sagacity of the King. The dean was there, looking for a bishopric; the rich incumbent was there, looking for a deanery; the pluralist was there, looking for a richer benefice than his smaller one of poor five hundred a year. It was a time when the Crown had more to say in the choice of church dignitaries, and in the mode of disposing of rich livings, than in the present degenerate times,
when the chancellor and the prime minister have advisers to regulate their patronage upon parliamentary principles. The Terrace, at the beginning of the present century, was not strictly an institution that was in accordance with the ordinary religious habits of the King’s life. As carriage after carriage rolled up the Castle Hill, until a file of carriages, having discharged their aristocratic occupants, filled the space from the Terrace steps to the centre of the town, there were unquestionably such violations of Sunday observances as
Bishop Porteus remonstrated against and Wilberforce groaned over. There were many anomalies in those days, and this was one of them. I thought little then of such matters. I sat upon the low Terrace wall; listened to the two bands—the Queen’s and that of the Staffordshire Militia; wondered at garters upon gouty legs, and at great lords looking like valets in the Windsor uniform; saw the sun go down as the gay company dispersed, and was gratified, if not altogether “in Elysium.”

On one of these occasions—it was in 1804—I saw Mr. Pitt. He was waiting among the crowd till the time when the King and Queen should come forth from a small side-door, and descend the steps which led to the level of the Eastern Terrace. A queer position this for the man who was at that moment the arbiter of European affairs; who was to decide whether continental kings were to draw their swords at the magical word “Subsidy;” upon whom a few were looking with sorrow in the belief that he had forfeited the pledge he had given when England and Ireland became an United Kingdom, and whom the many regarded as the pilot who had come to his senses, and who could now be trusted with the vessel
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 43
of the state in the becalmed waters of intolerance. Soon was the minister walking side by side with the sovereign, who, courageous as he was, had a dread of his great servant till he had manacled him. It was something to me, even this once, to have seen Mr. Pitt. The face and figure and deportment of the man gave a precision to my subsequent conception of him as one of the realities of history. The immobility of those features, the erectness of that form, told of one born to command. The loftiness and breadth of the forehead spoke of sagacity and firmness—the quick eye, of eloquent promptitude—the nose (I cannot pass over that remarkable feature, though painters and sculptors failed to reproduce it), the nose, somewhat twisted out of the perpendicular, made his enemies say his face was as crooked as his policy. I saw these characteristics, or had them pointed out to me afterwards. But the smile, revealing the charm of his inner nature—that was to win the love of his intimates, but it was not for vulgar observation.

Loudly and rapidly did his Majesty always talk as the royal cortége moved up and down, amidst the double line of his subjects duteously bowing or curtseying, and graciously rewarded with nods and smiles from Queen and Princesses when any familiar face was recognised. “How do you do, Dr. Burney?” said the King, “Why, you are grown fat and young! Why, you used to be as thin as Dr. Lind.” What mattered it to Dr. Lind, who was close at hand, that crowds, noble or plebeian, should then direct their eyes to the tall gentleman, who is described by Dr. Burney as “a mere lath”? From my early years was the person well known to me of that good physician. He inter-
ested me, as I learnt that he had been round the world with
Captain Cook. He had stood at my bedside with another friend, Mr. Battiscomb, the royal apothecary, as I hovered between life and death; when, as my good nurse afterwards told me, she thought it was all over, for they shook their heads and talked Latin. Miss Burney writes of Dr. Lind, in 1785, “He is married and settled here, and follows, as much as he can get practice, his profession; but his taste for tricks, conundrums, and queer things, makes people fearful of his trying experiments upon their constitutions, and think him a better conjuror than physician.” He has often charmed me with a sight of his “queer things.” Mr. Hogg has, within the last few years, given currency to a somewhat incredible story that Shelley imputed to Dr. Lind his initiation, when an Eton boy, into the reasons for hating kings and priests, even as the Windsor physician hated them. Perhaps Shelley, who was credulous in worldly matters, as are most sceptics in religion, believed that the mysterious little books which Dr. Lind printed from characters which he called “Lindian Ogham,” cut by himself into strange fashions from battered printing types which my father gave him, were the secret modes by which the illuminati corresponded, even under the very eye of the Court. I doubt whether he were conjuror enough to make the shrewd George III. mistake covert Jacobinism for ostentatious loyalty.

There were eminent men living at Windsor and in the neighbourhood, from whom I occasionally obtained glimpses of knowledge beyond my ordinary routine of imperfect school instruction. My father took me to see the great telescope of Dr. Herschel at
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 45
Slough. The clear explanations of the celebrated astronomer filled me with wonder, if they went beyond my comprehension. The venerable philosopher,
Jean André de Luc (I believe it was somewhat later), showed me a galvanic pile which he had constructed, and astonished me by causing the mysterious agency to ring a little bell. M. Porny, who had been French master at Eton, and whose grammar and exercises my father printed for the London publishers, would occasionally come to see us, and would talk with a kindly interest about my small acquirements. I have an earlier remembrance of another amiable foreigner, the Rev. Charles de Guiffardiere, for whom my father was printing a French work on Ancient History for the private use of the Royal Family—a gentleman whom Miss Burney held up to ridicule in her Diary, as Mr. Turbulent. But—must I confess it?—I am inclined to believe that the stage did for the enlargement of my mind something more than school lessons—something more than these rare opportunities of listening to the conversation of men of learning and ability. From my eighth year upwards, I could always obtain a free admission to that smallest of playhouses, the Theatre Royal of Windsor, where Majesty oft was delighted to recreate itself with hearty laughs at the comic stars of sixty years since. Tragedy was not to the King’s taste. Miss Burney has recorded how he appreciated the dramatist whose Hamlet and Benedick were sometimes here personated by Elliston; and whose Richard III. Cooke coarsely but powerfully enacted on this stage: “Was there ever such stuff as great part of Shakspere? only one must not say so! But what think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? What?” George III. has had
supporters in this opinion where we might scarcely look for them. I have heard one such heretic, whose intellectual dimensions would appear gigantic in comparison with those of the King, say of the writer of the sad stuff, “D—— and I always call him Silly Billy.” The publicity of which I have spoken was, in the Windsor Theatre, carried to its extremest limit. That honoured playhouse no longer exists. The High Street exhibits a dissenting chapel on its site, whose frontage may give some notion of the dimensions of that cosy apartment, with its two tier of boxes, its gallery, and its slips. It was not an exclusive theatre. Three shillings gave the entrance to the boxes, two shillings to the pit, and one shilling to the gallery. One side of the lower tier of boxes was occupied by the Court. The King and Queen sat in capacious arm-chairs, with satin playbills spread before them. The orchestra, which would hold half a dozen fiddlers, and the pit, where some dozen persons might be closely packed on each bench, separated the royal circle from the genteel parties in the opposite tier of boxes. With the plebeians in the pit the Royal Family might have shaken hands; and when they left, there was always a scramble for their satin bills, which would be afterwards duly framed and glazed as spoils of peace. As the King laughed and cried, “Bravo,
Quick!” or “Bravo, Suett!”—for he had rejoiced in their well-known mirth-provoking faces many a time before,—the pit and gallery clapped and roared in loyal sympathy: the boxes were too genteel for such emotional feelings. As the King, Queen, and Princesses retired at the end of the third act, to sip their coffee, the pot of Windsor ale, called Queen’s ale, circulated in the gallery. At eleven o’clock the
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 47
curtain dropped. The fiddles struck up “God save the King;” their Majesties bowed around as the house clapped; and the gouty manager,
Mr. Thornton, leading the way to the entrance (carrying wax-lights and walking backward with the well-practised steps of a Lord Chamberlain), the flambeaux of three or four carriages gleamed through the dimly lighted streets, and Royalty was quickly at rest.

Our theatre was only open at the Eton vacations. But there, whether the King and Queen were present or not, I obtained something like a peep into the outer world—the world beyond the little orb of my country town. For the Royal Windsor was essentially a country town of the narrowest range of observation, and the tiniest circle of knowledge. The people vegetated, although living amidst a continual din of Royalty going to and fro—of bell-ringing for birthdays—of gun-firing for victories—of reviews in the Park—of the relief of the guard, with all pomp of military music—of the chapel bell tolling twice a day, unheeded by few besides official worshippers—of crowding to the Terrace on Sunday evenings—of periodical holidays, such as Ascot races and Egham races—of rare festivities, such as a fête at Frogmore. The “loyal,” or the “independent” voters of Windsor, as they were styled in election bills by rival candidates, were fierce in their partisanship, but there was no real principle at the root of their differences. Through 1801 they were preparing, by rounds of treating, for an expected election, which occurred in 1802; when the Court candidate was returned by a large majority, and the one who bribed highest of two “independent” candidates was also returned, but was finally unseated by a parliamentary com-
mittee. Those who did not receive bribes were never scrupulous about administering them. Corruption was an open and almost a legitimate trade, as I occasionally learnt from the talk of those around me. The Court was an indirect party to the corruption, by installing two of the most influential of the plebeian partisans into the snug retirement of the ancient foundation of the Poor Knights of Windsor. The institution had lost its character of “Milites Pauperes;” and tailors and victuallers were not held to desecrate it. In spite of all this laxity of political morals, the people amongst whom I was thrown were, for the most part, of honourable private character. It was a period when there was less competition amongst tradesmen than in the present day. There were, consequently, fewer of what we now regard as the common tricks of trade. They sold the article which they professed to sell; and were offended if they were asked to abate their price. The few gentry were patronising, with a certain friendliness. The many clergy of the two colleges had somewhat haughty brows under their shovel hats, but were charitable and not very intolerant. The distinction between the trading and the professional classes was not so nicely preserved as it is now. Respectability was the quality more aimed at by the attorney and the doctor than what we call gentility; and respectability did not mean the pretension of keeping a gig or a footman—display for the world, and meanness for the household.

One of the most vivid of my recollections of this period, and indeed of some years after, is that of the extremely easy mode in which the majority of the trading classes struggled with the cares of obtain-
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 49
ing a livelihood. It is not within my remembrance that anybody worked hard. The absence of extreme competition appeared to give the old settlers in the borough a sort of vested interest in their occupations; and if sometimes a stranger came amongst them, with lower prices and lower bows, he would be regarded as an intruder on the fertile close, who would soon come to the end of his tether. It was the same with the attorneys and the apothecaries. Those who had to preserve a genteel appearance spent an hour each day under the hands of the hair-dresser. Every morning the hair was powdered, the queue was unrolled and rolled up again, the gossip was talked, the evening paper was glanced at, and by eleven the good man was behind his counter. There were a few of the oldest school who closed their hatch when they went to their noonday dinner, and no importunity would induce them to open it. When the baker had drawn his afternoon batch, he took off his red cap and washed his bald head, put on his flaxen wig, and sallied forth to spend his long evening in his accustomed chair at the alehouse, which had become his second home. Some had a notion that they secured custom to the shop by a constant round among the numerous hostelries. I knew a most worthy man, occupying a large house which his forefathers had occupied from the time of
Queen Anne, who, when he gave up the business to his son, who, recently married, preferred his own fireside, told the innovator that he would infallibly be ruined if he did not go out to make friends over his evening glass. The secret of these worthy people keeping their heads above water, in this laissez faire sort of existence, was, that their ordinary habits were frugal, that
they rarely drank wine; never occupied the best room except on Sunday, and on that day alone had the “added pudding” of time immemorial. The frugal habits of all of the middle classes, and the want of education of many, did not abate anything of their importance when they were chosen to fill public offices. Under the guidance of the Town Clerk, corporate magistrates generally got through their business decently. Sometimes they made little slips. Late in the evening an offender was brought before one of our mayors, having been detected in stealing a smock-frock from a pawnbroker’s door. “Look in ‘
Burn’s Justice,’” said his worship to his son; “look in the index for smock-frock.” “Can’t find it, father. Not there.” “What! no law against stealing smock-frocks? D—— my heart, young fellow, but you’ve had a lucky escape.” (Even justices in those times might incur the penalties against profane oaths.) The constable demurred at the discharge of the prisoner. “Well, well! Lock him up, and we’ll see the Town Clerk in the morning.”

Peter Pindar wrote an ode on “Frogmore Fête,” in which he describes the “Pair of England” with “The family of Orange by their side.” This would take us to 1796 or 1797. It was about the beginning of the century that I was present at one of these fêtes, at which, as on previous occasions, however sneered at, there was a real desire to promote the pleasures of their neighbours and dependents on the part of the Royal Family. Amongst other delights of that occasion, there was a play, or rather scenes of a play, acted before the mansion, in the colonnade of which the Court stood, whilst the common spectators were grouped on the lawn below. The
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 51
scenes were from the “
Merry Wives of Windsor.” The critical faculty had not then been developed to stand in the way of my perfect enjoyment. I believed then in the real existence of Slender and Anne Page; of the French doctor and the Welsh parson; of mine host of the Garter, who was undoubtedly the host of the White Hart. I then knew an old house at the corner of Sheet Street (alas! it is pulled down) where Mr. and Mrs. Ford once dwelt, and whence Falstaff was carried in the buck-basket to Datchet Mead. I could then tell the precise spot where the epicurean knight went hissing hot into the Thames. Herne’s Oak was then to me an undeniable memorial of centuries past. Forty years afterwards, I went over the footsteps of my childhood with Mr. Creswick, and we tried to verify the sites of these immortal scenes. The pencil of my eminent friend has shadowed forth some aids to the imagination of the readers of the “Merry Wives of Windsor,” in my “pictorial” edition. But to my mind there were no realities such as I had pictured when, after the Fête at Frogmore, I wandered about, book in hand, to the fields where Sir Hugh Evans sang “To shallow rivers,” and looked for the “oak with great ragg’d horns,” near the pit where the fairies danced. Diligent antiquarianism has pointed out a mistake or two in my conjectural sites. It is of little moment. It was with a pang that I gave up my boyish conviction that I had gathered acorns beneath “Herne’s Oak,” and yielded to the evidence that it had been cut down. The “undoubting mind” is a youthful possession beyond all price; and though the Winter of scepticism may have come, it is still pleasant to look back upon the Spring of belief.


There are some things that are prominent among the recollections of my nonage, in which the faith of my inexperience and the doubts of my small knowledge, were curiously blended. I was a frequent visitor to the State Apartments and the Round Tower. I sometimes accompanied friends who came to see Windsor; sometimes was permitted by the kind and intelligent keeper of the pictures in the Castle to linger about and look my fill. The State Rooms now are very different from the State Rooms as I remember them. There had been little change, I apprehend, in the architectural character of the rooms since the period of Anne and George I., when Sir James Thornhill painted new allegories to supplement the old flatteries of Charles II. by Verrio. We entered by a staircase under a dome gaudily decorated with the story of Phaeton and with lady-like representatives of the four elements, Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. The pictures in the apartments had received a large addition to their number after George III. came to reside at Windsor. Amongst these additions were the Cartoons. At the period of which I speak, and during several succeeding years, an artist was employed in making the most elaborate pencil-drawings of these bold designs for tapestry, which, perpetuated in the most exquisitely finished engravings, gave a very adequate notion of the skill of Mr. Holloway, but very little of the grandeur of Raffaelle. That grandeur I could even then comprehend in the Ananias, and Paul Preaching at Athens; I could feel the exquisite tenderness of the charge to Peter; but I could not quite understand the large men in the little boat in the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. The most interesting
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 53
room, at the beginning of the century, was that known as Queen Elizabeth’s, or the Picture Gallery. In a few years it was dismantled of its somewhat choice collection, and became a lumber-room, into which no one looked. There I once gazed upon the Misers of
Quintin Matsys—well-fed misers, gloating over their money-heaps, with a joyous expression quite incompatible with the ordinary notion of the self-denying misery of avarice. At the end of this long and narrow room, looking out on the North Terrace, hung a wonderful Boy and Puppies, by Murillo. In this gallery were the three grand ancient paintings of the Battle of Spurs, the Embarkation of Henry the Eighth, and the Field of the Cloth of Gold. They first went away to the Society of Antiquaries, who were forced to acknowledge that they were only a loan; and they are now among the heir-looms of the people at Hampton Court. I hope that I had not faith enough in the ideal of Lely and Wissing to believe that the profuse display of their charms by most of King Charles’s “beauties” was an adequate representation of female loveliness. In the same spirit of incredulity I was not quite content to believe that the Roman Triumph which Verrio had painted in St. George’s Hall—in which Edward the Black Prince and his royal prisoner of France were the principal personages—was a faithful representation of the costume and manners of the fourteenth century. The Round Tower, whose rooms, now private, were then open to the public gaze at the price of a shilling, was a miserably-furnished, dreary place, which had little charm for me, except in the noble view from its leads. One of these dingy rooms was hung with faded tapestry, delineating the piteous
story of Hero and Leander. Long ago I related the discourse of the fair guide, who aroused my critical scepticism in my boyhood, and who was a perpetual source of enjoyment to me when I could beguile some unsuspecting stranger into a patient attention to her learned volubility. “Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the whole lamentable history of Hero and Leander. Hero was a nun. She lived in that old ancient nunnery which you see,” &c., &c. We have gained many great and good things through the Education of the People; but what have we not lost, in losing the humorous contrasts of society which were presented in the days of the Horn-Book.

At the age of twelve a new life opened upon me. I was sent to a somewhat famous classical school—that of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas, at Ealing. Here, for the first time, I was stimulated into the ambition to excel. I had read a good deal for my own pleasure; but I had read little for solid improvement. My command of books had given me advantages over other boys; for, although it might have been deemed a waste of time that I had been devouring plays and novels without stint, I had thus acquired some command of my own language, and could write it with ease and correctness. But I soon found that my desultory knowledge would stand me in little stead when I had to construe Cæsar or Horace. There was a kind friend at hand in one of the masters—Joseph Heath, a Fellow of St. John’s, Oxford—whose memory I shall ever cherish. He helped me over the first difficulties of my advance in the routine of my class. I soon did my exercises quickly, and did them well; but the system of the school was not favourable to
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 55
steady and continuous exertion in climbing heights by other than beaten tracks. My memory enabled me readily to accomplish tasks which to others were severe labours. But I was very young and very small, so that I was kept too long amidst slow class-fellows. Whilst I should have been learning Greek, I was construing easy Latin authors, writing a weekly theme, and making verses which required little talent besides the careful use of the “Gradus ad Parnassum.” Nevertheless my school-life was a real happiness. My nature bourgeoned under kindness, and I received unusual favours from the friend I have mentioned. He treated me in some degree as his companion. At his house on a Saturday afternoon I have been admitted to the privilege of taking a glass of wine with scholars from London, who came to renew the associations of their Oxford undergraduate days. One of these was
Mr. Ellis, of the British Museum—the Sir Henry Ellis of the present time—whose genial courtesy still reminds me of the sixty years ago when, as a boy, I first made an acquaintance which I have never ceased to appreciate as a man. I was happy at Ealing school, and if I had been permitted to stay there long enough, I might have fought my way to some sound scholarship. After little more than two years I was uprooted from this congenial soil, to be planted once more in the arid sands of Windsor, my father’s apprentice; to become my own instructor; and, like too many self-teachers, to dream away the precious years of youth in desultory reading—purposeless, almost hopeless:
“Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books!”

When I left my home for the first time, I suddenly passed out of the excitements of my Windsor life into the school-boy’s ordinary abstraction from the outer world. I heard nothing of the stir of the great Babel, though I was within seven miles of Hyde Park Corner. The newspaper I now very rarely saw, instead of regularly reading our “Globe” aloud; for of that evening journal my father was then a shareholder. In April, 1802, I had gazed upon our town illuminations for the Peace of Amiens. They were resplendent. A wonderful opaque transparency of a hideous female with a cornucopia adorned the larger house in Castle Street to which we had moved a short time before. The classical horn of plenty could not, in those times of paper-currency and protection, have been superseded by a better emblem of peace, a big loaf labelled 8d., such as some lived to see. The people were, however, in raptures at the peace, for it freed them from the income-tax; but they soon began to doubt whether it would be an enduring peace; for they saw Bonaparte advancing towards a crown with “ravishing strides,” when in the autumn he was appointed First Consul for life. In March, 1803, a month before I went to my boarding-school, there was a general burst of indignation against the bravado of the French ruler that England alone could not encounter France. I had not been at Ealing a month when the two countries were at war. From the isolation of my school life I was truly glad to go home for my midsummer holidays,
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 57
to behold something of the patriotic enthusiasm of which Windsor, as I heard, gave an example which was rousing the whole land.

One of the first objects which met my eye was a caricature, by Gillray, of “The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver;” but it was a caricature which our King would not be displeased at. In the palm of his right hand George held Napoleon, intently viewing him through an opera-glass. The diminutive Corsican stood boldly on that broad palm, with cocked hat and sword drawn. The burly Englishman regarded the vapouring little man with something like the contempt which we felt, or affected to feel, for him who was threatening to exterminate us. He was a mere insect—a pigmy—a frog aping the ox. So went the loyal songs which were heard in every street. Others denounced him as the slaughterer in cold blood of thousands of prisoners of war, and the poisoner of his own soldiers. The old hatred towards the Jacobins of France had given place to a more concentrated hatred of the one man who was fighting his way to a throne by the force of his genius and the laxity of his principles, and whose restless ambition was now tending to universal empire. But the country did something more than ridicule and abuse their great enemy as “the butcher Bonaparte”—something more effective than joining in the chorus of “Huzza for the King of the Island.” In the three months from the beginning of May to the beginning of August, 300,000 volunteers had been enrolled. What mattered it, with such a spirit in the land, that 120,000 Frenchmen were encamped at Boulogne, ready for our invasion?

When my holidays were over, the echo came to our
quiet village that the invaders were quickly coming.
M. Thiers says that the threatened approach of 150,000 men, led by the victorious Bonaparte, produced a shiver of terror in every class of the English nation. Well do I remember how we school-boys shivered. Our games assumed a semi-military character. We had sham fights of French and English. We sang “Rule, Britannia” in our playground. In the same bedroom with me slept a son of Charles Incledon. He had inherited the glorious voice of his father, and nightly he kept us awake with some of Dibdin’s most stirring songs. One day the rumour came to us that the French had landed. The whole school was astir. Surely it was no time for lessons when all England was going forth to fight; so we boldly petitioned for a half-holiday. We obtained our request, upon the assurance of our good Doctor that he would go to London and ascertain the truth of the rumour. That plea would not serve us again; for those who said that Bonaparte had landed, or who believed that he could land,
“Now all the youth of England are on fire,”
were held to be little better than cowards, if not traitors.

Another year came. There had been deep depression at Windsor; for in February the King’s mind had been again affected, and it was not till the end of April that he was capable of transacting business in public. But when I came home for my midsummer holidays, he again appeared, as if with renewed vigour. Pitt had returned to office, under a pledge that he would not agitate for Catholic Emancipation. He had accepted power upon a system
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 59
of exclusion which
George III. required, but which left the great Minister weak in Parliament, though strong in the general belief of the people that his talent and energy were alone capable of resisting the ambition of the now Emperor of the French. The national hatred of Bonaparte had grown more intense after the murder of the Duc d’Enghien. The volunteer organization was complete. At Windsor, the chief business of life appeared to be volunteer drills and reviews. My father was a lieutenant in our local corps, and I was ever at his side in those midsummer marchings and counter-marchings. This volunteering was not altogether playing at soldiers. Our Volunteer had some work to perform wholly unknown to the Volunteer of the time of Queen Victoria. He had to pipe-clay his white breeches and gaiters. He had to polish the bright barrel of his musket till he could see his face in it—Brown Bess was a later invention. He had to grease and flour his hair, like a modern footman; and then to wash the grease and flour out, till he was fit to stand at the counter or sit at the desk, like an honest tradesman. He had no rail-road to carry him to a review; but marched through the night to Bulmarsh Heath, near Reading, to take his place amongst the other bold warriors of Berkshire. The discipline was not very exact. I have laughed, although I was scandalized, to see an impudent corporal play tricks with his lieutenant’s queue. Ramrods were sometimes left in the barrel when a volley was fired, to the no small danger of the colonel in front. We had a yeomanry corps composed of the choicest spirits of our town. It was commanded by a pursy wine-merchant, who was not so well mounted as his men.
On more than one occasion, when he headed a charge, they would open right and left, and leave him behind, whilst he roared, “Unparalleled in the annals of war, gentlemen.” Full of fun as they were, our Volunteers would have fought to the death if the necessity had come. The Volunteer of my boyhood was not altogether unprepared for war; for there was ball practice at a target fixed in a chalk-pit. But, as far as I recollect, the hits were as few as the ordinary calculation as to the musket-firing in a field of battle—that not one shot in a hundred told. But what of that? There was the same emulation as I have rejoiced to look upon in the noble rivalry of the Wimbledon meeting of 1863. Though sixty years have made all the difference between the musket and the rifle, and more difference in the skill of the Volunteer, the emulation both of one period and the other is derived from our ancestry. There is a brass plate in the parish church of Clewer, which was found in 1821, during some alterations of the old edifice. It bears the following inscription:—
“He that liethe under this stone
Shott with a hundred men himselfe alone
This is trew that I doe saye
The matche was shott in ould felde at Bray
I will tell you before you go hence
That his name was Martine Expence.”
We cannot tell the age in which Martin lived; we know not whether he excelled in the use of the long bow or the cross-bow, or challenged his hundred men with the harquebus or the musket. But he was one who has transmitted from the times of eld the conviction that the Englishman’s right arm is the best defence of his country.

§ I.] A PRELUDE. 61

The King, in this summer of excitement, was constantly to be seen in the cocked hat and jackboots of the Blues, in which regiment he had a troop of his own. He inspected this fine body of soldiers, and his equally favoured Stafford Militia (they were almost naturalized at Windsor), in the quadrangle of the Upper Ward, as he walked to church. He and his family had now quitted the Queen’s Lodge, and were established in far less comfortable apartments in the old Castle. He inspected the Volunteers, who were drawn up under the wall of the Round Tower. He invited their officers to be present at the Sunday evening performances of sacred music. He walked upon the Terrace—“every inch a king”—and would call, with a stentorian voice, for the band to play “Britons, strike home.” There was real grandeur in this patriotic excitement, which spread through the nation. Its effects sustained us during many subsequent years of doubtful fortune. Beneath this bold front of the Sovereign there was a little real alarm. I have an old manuscript purporting to be a copy of the King’s letter to the Bishop of Worcester: “My dear good Bishop,—It has been thought by some of my friends that it will be necessary to remove my family. Should I be under so painful a necessity, I do not know where I could place them with so much satisfaction to myself, and under Providence with so much security, as with yourself and my friends at Worcester. It does not appear to me probable that there will be any occasion for it; for I do not think the unhappy man who threatens us will dare to venture himself among us. Neither do I wish you to make any preparation for us, but I thought it right to give you this intimation.”


My holidays are over. My father writes to me, at the end of August, that he is busy; for the Royal Family are going to Weymouth. Every year did the King thus visit his favourite watering-place. This journey, actually exceeding a hundred miles, was the most arduous exploration of his dominions which George III. ever attempted. Wonderful to relate, this annual excursion was accomplished in one long summer’s day. At an early hour the royal carnages, and their escort of light dragoons, are clattering through the streets of Windsor. Away they dash, along turnpike roads, and sometimes through rough lanes. The people of the towns are out to gaze and shout. Villagers hear the rumour that the King, so rarely seen, is coming; and the thrasher ever and anon looks forth from his barn-door, whilst his wife sits at the cottage porch spinning in the sun. Majesty has the rapid question and the ready joke for the host of the roadside inn, as he bows to the ground whilst the horses are changing. Half a century almost would slip away before privileged directors, and smart ladies waving their handkerchiefs, would stand upon the railway platform, even for a passing look at the highest and the most beloved in the land. No corporations then thought it essential to their own dignity—if not to the comfort of the illustrious travellers—to weary them with tedious addresses. The huzza of a loyal crowd was quite as welcome as the bows of a mayor and aldermen. In these excursions to the coast, “Farmer George” would see many rural sights with which he was familiar. He might see five horses dragging a heavy plough over light land. The liquid muck would be ancle-deep in the yard of the untidy homestead. The bullocks would
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 63
be lean and lanky; and the half-starved pigs would be grubbing in the stubble of the field which was to lie fallow for a year, to recruit its strength without being troubled with turnip or mangel-wurzel. The King would shake his head, and think upon his own improvements at his Windsor farm. But would he dream of a time when the five plough-horses should be superseded by a steam-plough; when the thump of the flail in the barn should be exchanged for the hum of the thrashing-machine by the side of the rick; when the cultivator should be a great manufacturer, using every appliance of tool and machine with which science could furnish him, grumbling no longer at low prices, and fearless of foreign competition?

But I am wandering. Weymouth is reached without any fuss. The next morning the King is on the Esplanade, before breakfast has been thought of at the genteel hotels and boarding-houses; and the fishermen, who have just come in with the produce of their night’s labour, are rather puzzled to believe that the tall gentleman can be the King, who asks the price of a turbot and does not wait for an answer.

In the April of 1805 I went home for a week, that I might behold the grand ceremony of the installation of Knights of the Garter. I rather think I should have preferred going to London to witness the wonderful performance of Norval by the young Roscius, of whose acting my schoolfellows were the enthusiastic chroniclers when they returned from their Christmas holidays. London had forgotten that in the December of 1804 Bonaparte had been crowned by the Pope in Notre Dame, as a necessary preliminary to his conquest of England. What cared the Londoners? There
was a boy of fourteen on the boards of Drury; and at any cost, even at that of being crushed to death at the pit-door, they would look upon this prodigy of nature. The mania made
Sheridan rich for a while. The installation at Windsor a little diverted the attention of the denizens of the capital. At Windsor there was a procession to be looked upon, in which a real King, and a real Prince of Wales, with dukes and marquises and earls, wearing gorgeous mantles of blue velvet, would do their best to bring back the days of King Edward and his Knights of the Round Table, and thus hurl a chivalric defiance to the mushroom Court of the Tuileries. St. George’s Day was on a Tuesday. On the Monday, Windsor was in a tumult of excitement far greater than in the experience of the oldest inhabitant. The road from London presented the view of an almost endless succession of carriages. Hounslow could not meet the demand for change of horses. The inns of our town could not find standing for the carriages, so they blocked up the streets. Ladies in coal-scuttle bonnets, and gentlemen in monstrous Hessian boots, filled our narrow pavements. The bells rang; the foot Guards were inspected in the park; beds were occupied by the wealthy at extravagant prices, whilst the curious pedestrian paid half-a-guinea to stretch his limbs on a tap-room settle. At eight o’clock on the morning of the 23rd of April, the King presented, at the grand entrance to the Castle, a pair of silver kettle-drums to his favourite regiment, now called the Royal Horse Guards Blue. The drums were lifted upon a grey horse bestrid by a black man; the old walls resounded with “God save the King,” and “Britons, strike home.” I quickly took a seat that had been purchased for me
§ I.] A PRELUDE. 65
upon the broad parapet that looked down upon the road that led to St. George’s Chapel from the Norman Gateway. The procession was to pass beneath. I will not attempt a detailed description of impressions I have already briefly recorded. The old
King marched erect; and the Prince of Wales bore himself proudly (he did not look so magnificent as Kemble in Coriolanus); but my Lord of Salisbury, and my Lord of Chesterfield, and my Lord of Winchilsea, and half a dozen other lords,—what a frightful spectacle of fat, limping, leaden supporters of chivalry did they exhibit to my astonished eyes! The vision of “throngs of knights and barons bold” fled for ever. Were these the very “salt of the earth,” who were especially prayed for in St. George’s Chapel twice a day, as “the Knights Companions of the most honourable and noble Order of the Garter”?*

At this period my father was printing and publishing “The Miniature,”—a successor, after the lapse of sixteen years, to the “Microcosm.” One evening in my holidays—for I had read “The Miniature” in the weekly numbers, and had sent home my critical opinions upon its merits—my father took me to call upon the managing editor, Mr. Stratford Canning. How well I remember his tall figure and handsome face, with the down upon his chin. Some forty years afterwards, at an entertainment given upon a trial-trip of a frigate that had been built for the Sultan, I was introduced to Sir Stratford Canning. I had much talk with the great diplomatist about the progress of education and of popular literature, in the efficacy of which he did not appear to have any confident

* “Once upon a Time.”

belief. He talked, too, of that literary production of his boyhood with which he associated my name. Of course he spoke slightingly of it, as men who have made their mark in the world generally do of their juvenilia. There were, however, some literary matters of more importance arising out of the forgotten Eton periodical. “Your father,” said
Mr. Murray to me once after dinner, “helped to make my fortune. When I kept a little trumpery shop in Fleet Street, Dr. Rennell, the Master of the Temple, told me one day that his son and young Canning owed an account, for printing ‘the Miniature,’ to their publisher, who held a good many unsold copies. I took the stock; paid the account; made waste paper of the numbers; brought out a smart edition which had few buyers; got the reputation of being a clever publisher; was introduced to George Canning, in consequence of the service I had rendered to his cousin; and in a few years set up the ‘Quarterly Review.’”