LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter V

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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AT this period, when I was working energetically at parish affairs in addition to my ordinary business, I was equally busied with literary schemes. The practical and the ideal had possession of my mind at one and the same time, and had no contention for superiority. I may truly say—and I say it for the encouragement of any young man who is sighing over the fetters of his daily labour, and pining for weeks and months of uninterrupted study—that I have found through life that the acquisition of knowledge, and a regular course of literary employment, are far from being incompatible with commercial pursuits. I doubt whether, if I had been all author or all publisher, I should have succeeded better in either capacity. It is true that these my occupations were homogeneous; but I question whether that condition is necessary in any case—in a lawyer’s, for example—where there is sufficient elasticity of mind to turn readily out of the main line to the loop-line (how could I have expressed this in the days before Stephenson?), and sufficient steadiness of purpose to return to it. In my time of humble journalism at Windsor, I was constantly devising some magnificent scheme of books that I thought the world wanted; in which opinion, it is most probable, I should have found no encourager in the cautious experience of “The Row” or
in the venturous liberality of Albemarle Street. One small project I earned out myself without commercial aid.

Keats has described his acquaintance with our grand old poets:
“Oft had I travell’d in the realms of gold.”
Now and then I came across a volume which I could take up again and again, even whilst
Byron was stimulating me with his “Corsair” and his “Giaour,” and whilst Wordsworth was awakening a more profound sense of the higher objects of poetry. Such a volume was Shakspere’sSonnets,” rarely published with the Plays, and known only to a few enthusiasts who did not believe, with Steevens, that they were sentimental rubbish. Such was “England’s Parnassus,” which I borrowed, and longed to appropriate. No publisher had then thought it worth while to reprint Drayton, or Wither, or Herrick, or Herbert. The delight which Keats expressed in his noble Sonnet upon the discovery of Chapman’s “Homer” was mine, when I first lighted upon Fairfax’sTasso.” I had entered a new realm of gold. To me that small folio—the first edition, revised by Fairfax himself—was a precious treasure. There had been no edition of the book for seventy years. Resolved that I would achieve the honour of reprinting it, I issued an Advertisement, in October, 1817, in which I said, “Dr. Johnson, with somewhat of his characteristic temerity, ventured to predict that the ‘Tasso’ of Fairfax would never be reprinted. If the national taste in poetry had not mended since the days of that critic, his prophetic flattery of Hoole would not yet have been disproved.” The produc-
tion of
two small volumes at our Windsor Press of the exquisite translation that had been forgotten since Collins had rejoiced to hear Tasso’s harp “by English Fairfax strung,” was received by a few critics as creditable to the taste of a country printer. The editing of this volume was a pleasant occupation to me. I prefixed to it a Life of Tasso, and a Life of Fairfax. In that of Fairfax I inserted an Eclogue which was first printed in Mrs. Cooper’sMuses’ Library”—a volume which had become scarce, and which I found at the London Institution. Mr. Upcott was then the librarian in the new building, which, in its handsome elevation and its judicious interior arrangements, did credit to the architect, then a young man—Mr. William Brooks, the father of Mr. Shirley Brooks. My reprint appeared a little before that of Mr. Singer; or probably I might have shrunk from the competition.

Every now and then, however, my newspaper opened subjects of a new and interesting character, which engaged my attention for a time. Such was the question of inquiry into the Endowed Charities of the country, which in 1818 had assumed a national importance. By the strenuous exertions of Mr. Brougham a Commission was appointed—first to inquire into charities connected with Education, and then into all charities. Pending the results of this investigation, a volume was published by a member of the Bar, Mr. Francis Charles Parry, on the Charities of Berkshire. Such an account as this gentleman collected, somewhat too full of vague charges of abuses, determined me to undertake a really useful labour—that of carefully searching all the documents relating to the charities
of Windsor, and of publishing them in the most complete form in my newspaper. It was an honour to my native town that no information was withheld from me; and that I could discover no misappropriation of bequests, and no violation of “the will of the founder.” Nor was there any example of that species of legal construction of “the will of the founder” which has built up the magnificence of many of the London Companies. Vast are their rent-rolls. In days when houses and lands were not worth a twentieth part of their present nominal value, these magnates became the inheritors of many a fertile acre and many an improveable tenement, in trust that they should pay, for defined charitable purposes, a particular amount of pounds sterling, annually and for ever—probably the then rent of those lands and houses leaving something for needful charges. The rents of the fourteenth, or fifteenth, or sixteenth centuries—the defined sums—are justly paid. The surplus of the rents of the nineteenth century, increased twenty-fold or even fifty-fold, are partially employed for useful purposes; but they go very far towards the cost of the turtle and loving-cups upon which so much of the public welfare depends. Though Windsor had no flagrant abuses, a few of our charities furnished an example of the necessity of giving large powers to Charity Commissioners, if not for authorizing the Government, to deal with some benevolent provisions of ancient times in a way better adapted to the wants of modern society. But the greater number were not wholly for past generations in their usefulness. There was a Free School, with a considerable permanent income, where fifty boys and girls were educated and clothed.
It did not belong to the then much abused class of Grammar Schools—of which there were several specimens within my knowledge—where the clergyman, who was also the schoolmaster, put the funds into his pocket because the farmers’ and labourers’ sons did not want to learn Latin. The poor children of our borough were taught those humble accomplishments which
Sir William Curtis eulogised as the three Rs—Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic. With the aid of supplementary endowments for Apprenticing Poor Boys and Rewarding Diligent Apprentices, many of these lads became thriving tradesmen. I could point to one man whom I am proud to call my friend, who came to my father to be apprenticed with his blue livery on his back; received the reward upon the faithful completion of his indentures; pursued the trade on his own account in which he had been a valuable assistant; is now not unknown to the world, as having, before the days of railroads, organised a newspaper-system which fought against space and time to give the earliest intelligence to the Liverpool Exchange; and has become himself a newspaper proprietor, and one of the chief mediums for the journalistic communication between England and her Colonies as well as with North and South America. Honoured be the memory of Archbishop Laud, who by his will thus made provision not only for the apprenticeship of “children of honest poor people;” but laid the foundations of their future prosperity. Many a young woman, through his provident care, has kept her position in “the faithful service of the antique world,” and has not rushed into premature wedlock, sustained by the hope of receiving a marriage-portion on the condition of having
served the same master or mistress for three years. Let us cherish the memory of Laud for the sake of his Berkshire Charities. What matters it to us that we have outgrown his politics and his polemics! May we never, in dreams of universal philanthropy, believe that we are growing in true philosophy when we attempt to exclude individual sympathies for the lowly by larger aspirations for the human race. Above all, let us not presume to obliterate the Past, by turning aside from those who have helped, each according to his lights, to build up a wider Present—erring men—short-sighted—enemies to progress in the abstract, but nevertheless, in their practical benevolence, working for the “one increasing purpose” of human improvement. The time, I trust, is very distant, when some pragmatical reformer, armed with mere utilitarian weapons of tables and estimates, may persuade the Legislature that it can do better than continue such bequests as those of Laud, conceived in the ancient spirit of making charitable provision for the few. The prizes, however unequally distributed, are the best encouragements for the many. I used to compare the beneficial effects of Laud’s benevolence, with the positively injurious results of doles of bread “after Sunday morning service.” We had nine different bequests for giving bread to the poor—five of them willed in the seventeenth century, and four in the eighteenth. There were two centuries between the first endowment for “bread to the poor” in 1603 and the last in 1803. Had the loaves at the church-door succeeded the dole at the Monastery-gate? These periods did not embrace the golden age of abundance for all, which some imagine was once the condition of a happy
people. Forty-eight poor persons regularly attended our parish church on the Sunday morning, drawn thither, I fear, more by the prospect of the half-quartern loaf than by a hungering for “the bread of life.” Such almsgiving is, of all others, the most destructive of the self-respect of the recipients. I would not care to preserve these endowments; nor that other very perplexing one of Six Pounds, to be distributed amongst twelve of “the godliest poor of Windsor.” Our Spinning Charity, which had endured for two centuries, has, I find, come to an end, as it was difficult to obtain people to work at spinning. (“
Annals of Windsor,” vol. ii. p. 425.) Year after year the old spinners had died out; there were no young spinners to succeed; and the very name of “spinster” had become obsolete, except in the publication of banns of marriage. The almswomen, inhabiting five or six different blocks of houses in various parts of the town, kept up as well as they could this unprofitable labour. The words of the first bequest of 1621 were, that “the poor might be continually employed in the making of cloth.” The convictions of the pious persons who bequeathed their lands and houses for an artificial stimulus of industry furnish a sufficient example of the state of the country, when the ordinary operations of capital were insufficient to adjust the relations of demand and supply. The age of domestic manufactures was certainly not one of general prosperity. The machinery in our town for prolonging the primitive system was curious. Imagine a busy corporator, even forty years ago when all worked less, occupied, first, in buying a store of flax; secondly, in giving it out, pound by pound, to the old crones who could still keep the
wheel at work; thirdly, in weighing the yarn when returned, and paying at a fixed rate, however ill the labour was performed; fourthly, in making the best arrangement he could for having it woven, in a part of the country where the weaver’s shuttle had gone out even before the spinning-wheel. Lucky was the almswoman who enjoyed a bequest omitted in the charity records. An ancient lady was inspired to accomplish one of the objects of
Pope’s satire—
“Die and endow a college or a cat.”
The cat had lived through nine lives in my time; but I presume she is not immortal.

Social Science in 1818 had a very small attendance of disciples in her schools. For an inquiring few, she had her Primers and her Junior Class Books; and in her inner courts for the initiated, Bentham was preaching in a language the farthest removed from popular comprehension. Romilly, in the House of Commons, had been labouring for ten years to amend the Criminal Laws. His valuable life was closed prematurely before he had achieved any marked victory over the system under which the death penalty was capriciously enforced, to inspire “a vague terror” amongst the whole criminal population. The prisons were nurseries of crime. The detective police were amongst crime’s chief encouragers. Forgery nourished above all other crimes, for the Government offered the temptation whilst they unsparingly hanged the tempted. The Game Laws raised up pilfering peasants into gangs of brigands. Smuggling was nurtured into the dignity of commercial enterprise, by protective duties so absurdly high that a wall
of brass could not have kept out the brandies and lace and silk that the Continent was ready to pour in. The great bulk of the population was wholly ignorant and partly brutal. The Church had not awakened from its long sleep. If the schoolmaster was abroad, he was rather seeking for work than doing it. Looking as a journalist upon our social condition, I was sometimes unhappy and desponding. My dissatisfaction found a vent in letters from an imaginary correspondent:—

“The prevailing feeling which a newspaper excites in my breast, without the indulgence of any sickly sensibility, is that of melancholy. It presents a gloomy portrait of our species. It is a living herald of the bad passions of individuals and the mistakes of society. It discovers little of the better part of mankind, for the most elevated virtue is the most unobtrusive. The atmosphere of vice is a broad and visible darkness overspreading the land, through which the gaunt spectres of crime glare fearfully upon us. The newspaper applies its microscopic eyes to these miserable objects; like Tam O’Shanter, it looks upon their secret revels—it notes every movement of the infuriated dance; it traces the progress of evil from its mazy beginning to its horrible close; it anatomizes the deformities of the heart, and encases them for public exhibition. Should these spectacles be withheld from the general eye? Unquestionably not. They administer, indeed, to that love of strong excitement which characterizes the human mind in every state, but which operates most powerfully upon a highly refined community—and so far they are mischievous. But still they have a voice of edification. They
summon us all to the labour of opposing that flood of iniquity which threatens to break down the dykes and mounds of our social institutions; they call us to eradicate the canker which interrupts the natural spring of moral health. The evil is in the root. The institutions for the prevention and punishment of crime are founded upon a wrong view of human nature; they have a direct tendency to confirm and multiply the effects of depraved ignorance.

“Your weekly ‘map of busy life’ reaches me in the solitude of the most beautiful and the least visited part of Windsor Forest. This morning I rose ere the sun had lighted the autumnal foliage with a brighter yellow and a richer brown. My walk was in the silent woods. All around me was cheerfulness. The birds of song were pouring forth their instinctive gratitude for returning day—the noisy rooks had a spirit of gladness in their whirling flights—the graceful deer glided before me with fearless nimbleness. My heart expanded at the enjoyments of these humble beings. Surely, I exclaimed, every creature that lives in conformity to its nature is happy. I returned to my home. Your journal was on my breakfast-table. The calendar of the ‘Old Bailey’ met my view. I read of the condemnation of thirty-five persons to the penalty of death, and of nearly two hundred to lesser degrees of punishment. I considered that these scenes are repeated every six weeks!* The impressions of my morning walk had a redoubled force. I felt assured that man was not destined to crime and misery.

* The Central Criminal Court was not established till 1834. The Sessions of the Old Bailey, previous to that change, were held eight times a year for the trial of offences committed in Middlesex.

Are, then, these penal modes of counteracting the corruptions of society suggested by reason and benevolence?”

I believe that at this period I got into a morbid state of mind, by thinking too much of
“the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world.”
I had no large and definite object of ambition. My occupations were not engrossing enough to carry me away from dreamy speculations. I pored over the Platonic writers,
Proclus and Plotinus, in Taylor’s translations; and accepted the philosophy of which Coleridge was the modern expositor, as far nobler than the doctrine of ideas derived from sensation. I sometimes thought that the great mysteries of human life were clearing up; and then again I relapsed into bewilderment. May I venture to dig out from its recesses a sonnet which represents my state of mind at this crisis, when the blessing of the primal curse was not sufficiently laid upon me?—
“Unquiet thoughts, ye wind about my heart
In many-tangled webs. My daily toil,
The obstinate cares of life, the vain turmoil
Of getting dross and spending, bear their part
In this entanglement; and if my mind
Shake off its chains, and, free as mountain-wind,
Repose on Nature’s pure maternal breast,
Interpreting her fresh and innocent looks
Discoursing truth and love clearer than books,
Thoughts are still weaving webs of my unrest.
O grant me, Wisdom, to behold thee near,
Deep, clear, reveal’d as one all-perfect whole;
Or give me back the sleep to worldlings dear—
Thy glimmerings disturb my heated soul.”

Turning from metaphysics to hard realities, and looking upon the apparently interminable warfare
between Ignorance and Power, I could perceive very few reconciling principles of social policy, or influential mediators between the lawless and the governing classes. The King’s Proclamation was duly recited by the Town Clerk at our Borough Sessions; and as duly did our old Town-Serjeant produce a laugh when he called for silence whilst “his Majesty’s Proclamation against all Wice, Perfaneness, and Immorality, was openly read.” I doubt whether His Majesty’s Proclamation, which had been prescribed as a remedy for social evils at the beginning of his reign, was very effective after an experience of sixty years. Drunkenness in our humbler classes was not discouraged by any marked temperance of their superiors, especially of the elder generation. There was a whole street of a vicious population, where almost every house was a den of infamy. At the bottom of this foul quarter stood our gaol—a gaol built by
George the Third upon the most approved plans of the Surveyor-General,—which contained no means whatever of enforcing hard labour. Offenders were sometimes flogged at the cart-tail through our streets, amidst the hootings of the populace when the gaoler, who was the executioner, struck hard. There were no instruments for the prevention of crime but our ancient watchmen, and the one beadle, parading the town in his laced coat. In the open day, an informer—that most detestable to the mob of the instruments for enforcing our then abominable fiscal laws—was set upon, and nearly killed, whilst the constable’s staff hung quietly upon its peg in the shop of the annual officer. The law did little for the prevention of outrage and felony. Public opinion looked on, and held its tongue; for to attempt
the reform of abuses was the province only of wicked democrats called Radicals.

We had established an Auxiliary Bible Society, in which I felt it a duty to take an active part. I did so, not so much in the hope that the mere possession of the Scriptures would produce any signal good in an ignorant household, but in the persuasion that this union in a common endeavour would soften down some of the differences between Churchmen and Dissenters. In my earliest recollections, all Dissenters went by the generic name of “Methodists;” and the vulgar term of opprobrium for sectaries in the palmy days of “Church and King” was “Pantilers.” I saw the congregation of Independents gradually emerge from a miserable chapel in a squalid neighbourhood, and plant themselves in the principal street, having as their minister a sensible, humane, and tolerant man, not very learned, but something better. The Evangelical Clergy did not scruple to fraternise with the more respectable Dissenters in works of charity. The dignitaries of our colleges generally kept aloof, and looked upon the changing aspects of the times with something like dread.

Although, as a journalist, I was impartial towards the Dissenters, I had often to combat what I deemed their prejudices. I had been trained under George III. to regard the Sunday gatherings on the Terrace as not only innocent but useful. When the Terrace was shut up, and people of all ranks crowded to hear the bands in the Long Walk, I thought that this mode of enjoyment was a great deal better than the back parlour or noisy tap-room of the public-house. The Dissenters thought otherwise; and one of their body had
the indiscretion to circulate a hand-bill from house to house, denouncing us all as Sabbath-breakers and worse than heathens, in terms which, however familiar to Scotland, were comparatively new to Southern England. I got into a controversy on this question which might have been better avoided. But in other respects also I was a sinner. The congregation of Independents had not only established themselves in the High Street, but had done so by purchasing our little Theatre, endeared to us by so many recollections of the hearty merriment of the good old King. The building was quickly metamorphosed into a Meeting House. There was little encouragement for theatrical performances in Windsor, now there was an end of royal patronage; for the fact of the residence of the Court at the Castle brought us under the License of the Lord Chamberlain, which was granted only upon the condition that there should be no plays enacted except during the vacations at Eton College. Nevertheless we built a new Theatre at a large cost, with small dividends to the shareholders, of whom my father was the principal. It was opened in August, 1815; and I wrote a Prologue, which was not conciliatory towards the sectaries, who regarded our proceedings as highly criminal. The time was far distant when
Shakspere would be quoted in the Dissenter’s pulpit. Our theatre was pretty and commodious; but the manager could not draw audiences without stars. In 1817 I became acquainted with Edmund Kean, in his visits to Windsor at our Christmas season. I was an enthusiastic admirer of his genius; and wrote most elaborate criticisms on his Othello and Shylock, his Sir Giles Overreach and Sir Edward Mortimer. I
had often then what I considered the great privilege of supping with him after the play. He was always surrounded by two or three followers who administered to his insatiable vanity in the coarsest style; applauded to the echo his somewhat loose talk; and stimulated his readiness to “make a night of it.” My unbounded admiration for the talent of the actor was somewhat interrupted by a humiliating sense of the weakness of the man. Nevertheless the attraction was irresistible as long as he strove to make himself agreeable. How exquisitely he sang a pathetic ballad! The rich melody, the deep tenderness, of his “Fly from the world, O Bessie, to me,” were to live in my memory, in companionship with the exquisite music of his voice in his best days, when he uttered upon the stage, in a way which no other actor has approached, the soliloquy ending with “Othello’s occupation’s gone.”

For one who was thus, naturally enough, considered by “the unco gude” as a profane Journalist, I became somewhat oddly mixed up with serious matters. The Church Building Society was at this period beginning to be active. We had to build a new Church at Windsor—but not an additional church. Our old fabric—to which the “Merry Wives” of the days of Elizabeth might have resorted with their pages to carry the Prayer Book—was in danger of falling on our heads, although we had spent large sums in vamping it up. Then, according to the fashion of that opening day for manufacturers of gaudy elevations, perplexing plans, and fallacious estimates, we determined upon an architectural competition. I was Secretary to our Church Building Committee. I there learnt—what will be a mystery
to future generations—how jobbery and presumption were covering the land with ecclesiastical edifices at once the most tasteless and the most expensive. The old style of the early days of the King, when four brick walls, pierced with half a dozen holes on each side for windows—the style that suited every public structure, whether church, barrack, or hospital—was really less offensive than the new style of the Regent, when the flimsy buttress was added to the bald shadowless walls, and the windows became a corrupt mixture of every period from the Norman to the Tudor. For the rage was now for Gothic, so called. We obtained one of this class of Churches, made to the received pattern, at a preposterous cost for Bath stone and corresponding frippery; when we might have had, for half the money, a plain erection of the heath stone of which Windsor Castle is built, with more claim to mediaeval character, in its lancet-windows, sturdy buttresses, and massive tower—altogether suited to the simple grandeur of the regal pile on our hill’s summit.

Society, as I then looked upon it with a very narrow range of view, was decidedly in a transition state. Compared with my earlier remembrances, the middle classes were becoming more refined and more luxurious. There was more elegance in their household arrangements, and more expense. Their manners were less formal, their dress more natural. Hair-powder had altogether gone out; the Hessian boot was in most cases superseded by the boot under the trousers. Even the Queen’s old-fashioned apothecary no longer wore his spencer, which I used to consider an essential part of the good man. There were only four queues left amongst us. The young
ladies had begun to be educated more with a view to accomplishments than housekeeping utilities. There was a good deal of fuss in most houses if the daughters were asked to play or sing; but some could go beyond “The Battle of Prague.” I have even heard
Haydn’s “Canzonets” given with taste and feeling. But it was not yet a musical age. The piano disturbed the solemn whist-players. At Church, none of the congregation, male or female, joined in the dull Psalmody, but left it all to the charity children. The young women tittered when the old clerk indulged in his established joke, by giving out the first words of the Psalm—“Lord I who’s the happy man,”—in compliment to a bride who hid her blushes under the white veil. Novel-reading was general. Miss Porter and Miss Edgeworth and Mrs. Radcliffe still held their ancient empire, and were not driven out by the Waverley Novels. Scott, as a poet, was almost forgotten in the passion for Byron; but Wordsworth was scarcely known popularly. Upon the whole, though young men from a supper-party were sometimes riotous in the streets, the old habit of drinking was yielding amongst the middle classes to better influences. I think I may venture to say that there was not a “fast” young lady amongst us; though there was a good deal of merriment, and a country dance upon the carpet would often follow “a round game.” The times, however, made most of us serious—more so than we used to be in the days when we defied only a foreign enemy.

To the old dwellers in Windsor it had altogether become a changed place. The Queen died in November, 1818. The Princesses—so endeared to their
humble neighbours by unceasing acts of kindness, and by a friendliness which took an interest even in the domestic circumstances of those around them—were then dispersed. The great household of the Castle was broken up. The walk to Datchet through the Upper Park was closed; and we sighed in vain for some sturdy patriot to resist the innovation, after the fashion of “Timothy Bennet, of Hampton Wick, in Middlesex, Shoemaker,” under whose engraved portrait, preserved in a few houses, was thus inscribed: “This true Briton (unwilling to leave the world worse than he found it), by a vigorous application of the laws of his country, obtained a free passage through Bushy Park, which had many years been withheld from the people.” The
Regent had been gradually patching up his Cottage in the Great Park, till his enormous thatched Palace might have suggested the notion that it was an immense tithe-barn converted into a workhouse or infirmary, had it not been for the forest of Gothic chimneys, and the colonnade of unhewn firs, which implied too much of grotesqueness to indicate any purposes of utility. This domain was as rigidly guarded from observation as Mr. Beckford’s gorgeous halls at Fonthill. The Windsor “purveyors” were very well satisfied with the change from the severe economy which the Queen had exercised at the Castle since the King’s illness, to the lavish housekeeping of the Cottage. Scandalous stories, such as a modern Brantôme might have recorded had he dared, were current in our town. But there was ever mixed up with them some anecdotes of the Regent’s kindness to his satellites and servants, amongst his frivolities and practical jokes—the sort of benevolence which the most selfish
show to those whom they consider as a part of themselves. I used to think it not an unamiable trait of a considerate host, when the court-butcher told me, “Old Bags has unexpectedly come down, and a special messenger has gone back to the Cottage as hard as he could gallop, with calves’ liver, which the old boy relishes better than all the cookery of my friend the Shef, as they call him.”

The Court had ceased to have any moral influence at Windsor. We had become as most other country towns. Groping their way in the labyrinth of social evils by which they were surrounded, most benevolent persons had come to the conclusion, that the Adults of their generation must take their chance of growing happier and better under our existing systems, but that improvements, to be real and permanent, must begin with the Young. The half-whispered cry was for Education. A good deal had been done since the introduction of the systems of Lancaster and Bell; but a great deal remained to be done. In Windsor we had no schools beyond those of the Endowed Charities and a Sunday School. In 1819 there was residing amongst us a gentleman of whom I shall have more particularly to speak—Mr. Edward Hawke Locker. He originated a well-considered plan for the establishment of a National School, which by the Christmas of that year was placed upon a solid foundation. The supporters of this institution had some prejudices to struggle against, and more indifference. The political aspects of the time not only diverted public attention from the social, but produced in many unreasoning persons a solemn conviction that the dozen years of reading and writing that had been imprudently bestowed upon a portion of
the manufacturing classes had made them discontented and seditious; whilst the agricultural labourers, upon whom only a few unwise friends of the poor had thought it necessary to shower such dangerous gifts, were as patient as the ox who knoweth his owner, and the ass his master s crib. Let me glance at these political aspects, which few could regard without serious fears of an unhappy future.

The demand for Parliamentary Reform, which the terror of the French Revolution had hushed for thirty years, occasionally now raised a feeble voice in a few legally constituted assemblies. Scouted by majorities of Lords and Commons, a handful of the old aristocratic denouncers of Rotten Boroughs still claimed for the people the right of efficient Representation. Bolder advocates rose up amongst the unrepresented classes themselves, who were taught by itinerant demagogues that every misery of the working man would vanish at the magical word of Universal Suffrage. In the autumn of 1819, these dangerous leaders persuaded their adherents that the time for action had arrived. Large multitudes assembled for the election of Legislatorial Attorneys.

There were riots and arrests; and at length came what is called “The Manchester Massacre.” The country was thoroughly frightened. Parliament was called together to make new laws; and it produced what Lord Campbell describes as “the unconstitutional code called the Six Acts.” At the Christmas of 1819 every journalist went about his work under the apprehension that if he wrote what, by the uncertain verdict of a jury, might be construed into a seditious libel, he would not only be subjected to
very terrible fine and imprisonment, but, if convicted a second time, would be liable to be transported beyond seas. I looked with dread towards a struggle which would end either in anarchy or military government. Like
Sydney Smith, I regarded democracy and despotism as equally dangerous results of a contest between power and mob violence. “In which of these two evils it terminates is of no more consequence than from which tube of a double-barrelled pistol I meet my destruction.”

The effect of these circumstances upon my political opinions, during several succeeding years, is not altogether satisfactory to look back upon. In my hatred and contempt of the demagogues and profligate writers who were stirring up the ignorant masses to revolt and irreligion, I turned somewhat aside from regarding the injustice that was at the root of a desire for change. I panted for improvement as ardently as ever. I was aspiring to become a Popular Educator. But I felt that one must be content for a while to shut one’s eyes to the necessity for some salutary reforms, in the dread that any decided movement towards innovation would be to aid in the work of lopping and topping the sturdy oak of the constitution till its shelter and its beauty were altogether gone. I believe this was a common feeling not only with public writers who did not address the passions of the multitude, but with statesmen who were not subservient partizans. Thence ensued a reticence in writing and in speaking, which looked like a distrust of the progress of improvement even with many of decided liberal opinions. I think this was amongst the worst results of those evil days in which we had fallen in the last months of the
reign of the old King. I had to drag this chain of doubtful timidity in my first attempt to address the humbler classes.

As early as 1814 I had the notion of becoming a Popular Educator. I have a letter before me, written on the 24th of January of that year to the more than friend to whom I laid open all my feelings and plans, in which I said—“I want to consult you about a cheap work we think of publishing in weekly numbers, for the use of the industrious part of the community, who have neither money to buy, nor leisure to read, bulky and expensive books. It will consist of plain Essays on points of duty; the Evidences of Christianity; Selections from the works of the most approved English Divines; Abstracts of the Laws and Constitution of Great Britain; History; Information on useful Arts and Sciences; and Select Pieces of Entertainment.” The scheme was constantly in my mind; and it was often present in day-dreams of a more extended area of employment than I then occupied, especially after I had acquired a little familiarity with the general ignorance of the working classes, knew something practical of their habits, saw in some few a desire for knowledge, and felt how ill their intellectual wants could be supplied. Now and then, on our market-day, in strange juxtaposition with the brown earthenware and the coarse brushes of the itinerant dealers, would be placed upon a stall the old dog’s-eared volume, and the new flimsy numbers of the book-hawker. I have seen with pity some aspiring artisan spend his sixpence upon an antiquated manual of history or geography, to which he would devote his brief and hard-earned hours of leisure, gaining thus the “two grains of
wheat hid in two bushels of chaff.” Or I have beheld some careful matron tempted to buy the first number of the “
Pilgrim’s Progress” or the “Book of Martyrs”—perhaps one less discreet bestowing her attention upon the “History of Witchcraft” or the “Lives of the Highwaymen”—each arranging with the Canvasser for a monthly delivery till the works should be completed, when they would find themselves in possession of the dearest books that came from the press, even in the palmy days of expensive luxuries. For the young, such stalls would offer the worst sort of temptations in sixpenny Novels with a coloured frontispiece; whose very titles would invite to a familiarity with the details of crime—of murders and adulteries, of violence and fraud, of licentiousness revelling in London, and innocence betrayed in the country—something much more harmful than the old-world stories, the dreams and divinations, of the ancient chap-books. Would the book-hawker of that time, with his costly, meagre, useless, and worse than useless, wares, be able to satisfy the intellectual cravings of any young man sincerely desirous profitably to exercise his newly-acquired ability to read?

I shall have to relate, in the next chapter, how, nearly six years after the idea of a Cheap Miscellany had been gradually shaping itself in my habitual thoughts, but still without any notion of an immediate practical result, I suddenly made my first excursion into the almost untrodden field of cheap and wholesome Literature for the People. The necessity for some educational efforts to counteract the influence of dangerous teachers had become more and more apparent. The Government was watchful. It had
the power of repressing tumult by the military arm, and of suspending the public liberty for the discovery of conspirators. But it did nothing, and encouraged nothing, that indicated a paternal Government. There were crafty men in most towns, who stimulated discontent into outrage, and for a sufficient motive would betray their associates. Such a man was living at Eton. Upon the trial of the wretched participators in the Cato-Street Conspiracy,
Arthur Thistlewood denounced this man, as “the contriver, the instigator, the entrapper.” We are told, from unquestionable authority, in the “Life of Lord Sidmouth,” that the principal informant of the Home-Office “was a modeller and itinerant vendor of images, named Edwards, who first opened himself at Windsor, as early as the month of November, to Sir Herbert Taylor, then occupying an important official situation in the establishment of George III.” This Edwards was not an itinerant vendor of images. I have spoken with him in his small shop in the High Street of Eton—perhaps at the very time when he was plotting and betraying. He had some ingenuity as a modeller; and produced a very tolerable statuette of Dr. Keate, in his cocked hat. His sale of this little model was considerable amongst the junior boys of Eton College—not exactly out of reverence for their head-master but as a mark to be pelted at. Does any copy exist of this historical Portrait? The subject of the little bust and its modeller are both historical They each belong to a state of society of which we have, happily, got rid. The schoolmaster, albeit a ripe scholar and a gentleman, belonged to the past times, when Education, like Government, was conducted upon that system of terror which was the
easiest system for the administrators. “The greatest happiness for the greatest number,” whether of boys or men, had to be discovered. In the scholastic, or political, exaltation of the aristocratic system, there was ample scope for the few clever and aspiring. To these the patrician and the pedagogue graciously afforded encouragement and substantial patronage. But the mass of the dull, the unambitious, and the reckless, were left to their own capacity for drifting into evil. If the misdoers came under the imperfect cognizance of the authorities, they were heavily punished as a salutary terror to others. The flogging-block was the first step to personal degradation in the school; the prison, in the State. If these did not answer, the school was ready with expulsion; the State with the gallows. One essential difference there was in the two systems. The honour of the Etonian was proof against spydom and treachery as regarded his fellows. In the terror-stricken politics of that time there was verge enough for the instigator and entrapper. I have written that Sir Herbert Taylor, whose honour was unimpeachable, was utterly incapable of suggesting to the spy that he should incite the wretched associates in the conspiracy to the pursuance of their frantic designs. (“
Popular History of England,” vol. viii. p. 160.) Yet, if I remember rightly the face of George Edwards, Sir Herbert Taylor might have seen that he was a rogue by nature. This diminutive animal, with downcast look and stealthy face, did not calculate badly when he approached one who, although bred in court-habits, had a solid foundation of honesty which made him unsuspicious. Sir Herbert was a man not versed in the common affairs of the outer world.
He had been the depository of many a political secret which he could confide to no friend. Shy, painfully cautious, I have heard him break down in the most simple address to the electors when he first stood for Windsor; and yet a man of real ability. Imagine a crafty mechanic procuring access to him at the Castle as the starving man of taste—a plaster cast of his workmanship carefully produced—the guinea about to be proffered—and then a whisper of some terrible Secret which he could disclose at the peril of his life—all the outer evidences of contrition, and the resolve to make a clean breast. Imagine this repeated day by day—with the plot-haunted
Lord Sidmouth eagerly calling for more evidence, and urging Sir Herbert Taylor to palter with this devil, and not hand him over to the Privy Council, who might have crushed the cockatrice before the egg was hatched. We may imagine all this; and yet acquit Sir Herbert Taylor of a participation in the guilt which too often attaches to those, in all ages, who have fostered treason in waiting for overt acts.

Before the outbreak of the Conspiracy, an event occurred, which, although not unexpected, nor fraught with consequences unforeseen, opened a further certain prospect of political disquiet. The death of George the Third took place on the evening of Saturday, the 29th of January, 1820. The Duke of Kent, his fourth son, had died only six days before. The Regent became King; the Duke of York was the Presumptive Heir to the Throne; the Duke of Clarence the next in succession. The infant daughter of the Duke of Kent would succeed, if the three elder brothers of her father should die without issue. The position of George the Fourth and Queen Caro-
line might again open that miserable “Book” which the public welfare required to be for ever shut.

The Funeral of George the Third appeared to me like the close of a long series of reminiscences. Windsor had to me been associated with the loud talk and the good-natured laugh of a portly gentleman with a star on his breast, whom I sometimes ran against in my childhood; with a venerable personage, blind, but cheerful, who sat erect on a led horse, as I had seen him in my youth; with the dim idea of my manhood, that in rooms of the Castle which no curiosity could penetrate, there sat an old man with a long beard, bereft of every attribute of rank, who occasionally talked wildly or threw himself about frantically, and sometimes awoke recollections of happier days by striking a few chords on his piano. Then came the final pageant. It was a Poem rather than a show. The Lying-in-State was something higher than undertaker’s art. As I passed through St. George’s Hall, I thought of the last display of regal pomp in that room—the Installation of 1805—when at the banquet the Sovereign stood up and pledged his knights, and the knights, in full cups of gold, invoked health and happiness on the Sovereign. The throne on which George the Third then sat was now covered with funeral draperies. I went on into the King’s Guard-Chamber. The room was darkened—there was no light but that of the flickering wood-fires which burnt on an ancient hearth on each side. On the ground lay the beds on which the Yeomen of the Guard had slept during the night. They stood in their grand old dresses of state, with broad scarves of crape across their breasts, and crape on their halberds. As the red light of the burning brands
gleamed on their rough faces, and glanced ever and anon upon the polished mail of the
Black Prince, on the bruised armour of the soldiers of the Plantagenets, and on the matchlocks and bandoleers of the early days of modern warfare, some of the reality of the Present passed into visions of the Past. I thought of Edward of Windsor, the great builder of the Castle, deserted in his last moments. I thought of other “sad stories of the deaths of kings.” I came back to the immediate interest of the scene before me, by remembering that not one of the long line of English sovereigns before George the Third had died at Windsor. I passed on into the chamber of death. All here was comparatively modern. The hangings of purple cloth which hid West’s gaudy pictures of the Institution of the Order of the Garter; the wax-lights on silver sconces; the pages standing by the side of the coffin; the Lord of the Bedchamber sitting at its head; much of this was upholstery work, and did not affect the imagination, except in connexion with the solemn silence,—a stillness unbroken, even when rustic feet, unused to tread on carpets, passed by the bier, awe-struck.

One such Royal Funeral as I had previously seen was not essentially different from another. The outdoor ceremonial at the interment of George the Third was not readily to be forgotten. It was a walking procession. The night was dark and misty. Vast crowds were assembled in the Lower Ward of the Castle, hushed and expectant. A platform had been erected from the Grand Entrance of the Castle to the Western Entrance of St. George’s Chapel. It was lined on each side by a single file of the Guards. A signal-rocket is fired. Every soldier lights a torch,
and the massive towers and the delicate pinnacles stand out in the red glare. Minute guns are now heard in the distance. Will those startling voices never cease? Expectation is at its height. A flourish of trumpets is heard, and then the roll of muffled drums. A solemn dirge comes upon the ear, nearer and nearer. The funeral-car glides slowly along the platform without any perceptible aid from human or mechanical power. The dirge ceases for a little while; and then again the trumpets and the muffled drums sound alternately. Again the dirge—softly breathing flutes and clarionets mingling their notes with “the mellow horn”—and then a dead silence; for the final resting-place is reached. Heralds and banners and escutcheons touch not the heart. But the Music! That is something grander than the picturesque.