LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter IX

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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THE amended Reform Bill was passing through Committee in the House of Commons in February, 1832. There seemed to be little doubt that a Ministerial majority would be too strong in the Lower House to allow any re-actionary measure in the House of Lords to be successful. The new Government officials were settling themselves to the discharge of their administrative duties as if a long and quiet possession of place had been won. On the 13th of February, I received a note from Lord Auckland, the President of the Board of Trade, expressing his desire for a few minutes’ conversation with me in the course of the afternoon. The interview was a very brief one, but its importance to me was not to be measured by its duration. The Cabinet Minister offered me a new office, which it was proposed to create at the Board of Trade, for digesting and arranging Parliamentary and other official documents for the information of members of the Government, and possibly for publication. This duty would have involved a regular attendance at Whitehall; the salary proposed was not a tempting one; but the offer seemed to open the way for a more ambitious career than that of a publisher. I requested time for deliberation. Having consulted a distinguished friend, he advised me to decline the
proposal, however flattering. Lord Auckland was surprised but not displeased at my rejection of his kind overture. He asked me to recommend some gentleman fitted for the post. There was one with whom I had recently formed an acquaintance,
Mr. George Richardson Porter. He had written a paper on Life Assurance for the “Companion to the Almanac,” and he was the author of a volume on the Silk Manufacture, published in Lardner’sCyclopædia.” Mr. Porter received the appointment. The experiment was perfectly successful, and much of its success may be attributed to the ability and industry of him whom, so fortunately for the public good, I had recommended. Mr. Porter became the head of the statistical department of the Board of Trade, and in 1841 he was promoted to be one of the joint-secretaries of that board. Till the time of his lamented death in 1852, we were mutually attached friends, and he was one of the most valuable contributors to several of my publications.

Had I accepted the appointment of the Board of Trade in that February, it is probable that the whole course of my future life would have been changed. It was upon the cards that either I should have been sitting in an office at Whitehall from ten till four, cramming Ministers and Members of Parliament with statistical facts, or become identified with the most successful experiment in popular literature that England had seen. On March 31st, 1832, appeared the first number of “The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.”

In a debate in the House of Commons on the 22nd of May, 1834, on a motion for the Repeal of the
Stamp Duty on Newspapers,
Mr. M. D. Hill, then member for Hull, in reply to Mr. Bulwer who moved the Repeal, thus described the origin of that work: “The Honourable Gentleman was pleased to characterize ‘The Penny Magazine,’ as affording a trumpery education to the people, because he says it deals in accounts of birds and insects, and such matters. I certainly was a little astonished to find my Honourable Friend scout an insight into the wonders of creation, as a trumpery affair. I should be sorry if his designation of that little work were correct, because the blame of its existence rests with myself, it being a project of my own; neither am I innocent of the course it has pursued; which from first to last has had, and still has, my hearty concurrence.” The circumstances connected with this “project” were these. The town in that time of political excitement abounded with unstamped weekly publications, which in some degree came under the character of contraband newspapers, and were nearly all dangerous in principle and coarse in language. Mr. Hill and I were neighbours on Hampstead Heath, and as we walked to town on a morning of the second week in March, our talk was of these cheap and offensive publications. “Let us,” he exclaimed, “see what something cheap and good can accomplish! Let us have a Penny Magazine!” “And what shall be its title?” said I. “The Penny Magazine.” We went at once to the Lord Chancellor. He cordially entered into the project. A committee of the Society was called, and such a publication was decided upon after some hesitation. There was a feeling amongst a few that a penny weekly sheet would be below the dignity of the
Society. One gentleman of the old Whig school, who had not originally belonged to the Committee, said again and again, “It is very awkward.” Lord Brougham, however, was not accustomed to let awkward things stand much in his way. “The Penny Magazine” was decided upon. I undertook the risk of the publication, and was appointed to be its editor. The task was not a very easy one in the onset, for it was impossible to say, before the issue of a few numbers, whether the periodical sale would be twenty thousand or a hundred thousand, and whether a large demand would be a permanent one. It was therefore necessary to have a due regard to economy; and thus the attraction of expensive woodcuts could scarcely be ventured upon in the early days of the experiment. It was imperative also to proceed very cautiously in treading near the ill-defined line that separated the essayist from the newspaper writer. I have a letter before me from the Solicitor of Stamps, in which he says he has perused the specimen numbers (1 and 2) of the Magazine intended to be published by the Society, and that he sees nothing in these numbers that will render the publication liable to stamp duty. So I went confidently to my work. Perhaps no circumstance gave me greater encouragement than a letter from
Francis Place, who knew more about the working classes, and had probably more influence with them, than any man in London. He describes his pleasure at seeing the prospectus. He begs me to let him have a quantity, which he would cause “to be usefully dispersed in the houses of call for journeymen, in workshops, and factories.” Mr. Place united to his business of master-tailor, at Charing Cross, an intense devotion
to all the leading questions of politics that had been agitating the world since the time of the French Revolution. His collection of contemporary pamphlets was as extensive and complete as any man could have formed. I believe it was dispersed at his death, but it ought to have gone to the British Museum.

The excellent Dr. Arnold, some months after the “Penny Magazine” had appeared, described it as “all ramble-scramble.” It was meant to be so—to touch rapidly and lightly upon many subjects. In the introductory article of the first number, I wrote: “Whatever tends to enlarge the range of observation, to add to the store of facts, to awaken the reason, and to lead the imagination into agreeable and innocent trains of thought, may assist in the establishment of a sincere and ardent desire for information; and in this point of view our little miscellany may prepare the way for the reception of more elaborate and precise knowledge, and be as the small optic-glass called the finder, which is placed by the side of a large telescope, to enable the observer to discover the star which is afterwards to be carefully examined by the more perfect instrument.” I certainly never received any more striking testimony to the usefulness of the “ramble-scramble” in supplying a want to those who were striving to gain knowledge, but who were too poor to buy books, than the following passage in the “Autobiography of an Artisan,” published in 1847. Christopher Thomson, the author of this interesting book, had settled as a house-painter at Edwinstowe, a village in Nottinghamshire:—“Squatting down here penniless, without a table or three-legged stool to furnish
a cottage with, it may easily be imagined that I had tough work of it. My great want was books; I was too poor to purchase expensive ones, and the ‘cheap literature’ was not then, as now, to be found in every out-o’-the-way nooking. However,
Knight had unfurled his paper banners of free trade in letters. The ‘Penny Magazine’ was published—I borrowed the first volume, and determined to make an effort to possess myself with the second; accordingly, with January, 1833, I determined to discontinue the use of sugar in my tea, hoping that my family would not then feel the sacrifice necessary to buy the book. Since that period, I have expended large sums in books, some of them very costly ones, but I never had one so truly valuable as was the second volume of the ‘Penny Magazine;’ and I looked as anxiously for the issue of the monthly part as I did for the means of getting a living.” This then was the service which the “Penny Magazine” was rendering, at the beginning of 1832, to the general cause of letters. I must associate with it “Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal,” a publication which was established a few weeks before mine. They were making readers. They were raising up a new class, and a much larger class than previously existed, to be the purchasers of books. They were planting the commerce of books upon broader foundations than those upon which it had been previously built. They were relegating the hole-and-corner literature of the days of exclusiveness to the rewards which the few could furnish; preparing the way for writers and booksellers to reap the abundant harvest when the “second rain” of knowledge should be descending “uninterrupted, unabated, unbounded; fertilizing some grounds and
overflowing others; changing the whole form of social life.”*

The success of the “Penny Magazine” was an astonishment to most persons; I honestly confess it was a surprise to myself. It was not till the autumn that an attempt was made by the means of woodcuts to familiarise the people with great works of art. Then were presented to them engravings of a costly character, of such subjects as the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere, the Cartoons, and the great Cathedrals, British and Foreign. At the end of 1832, the “Penny Magazine” had reached a sale of 200,000 in weekly numbers and monthly parts. In the preface to the first volume, under the date of December the 18th, I thus wrote:—“It was considered by Edmund Burke, about forty years ago, that there were 80,000 readers in this country. In the present year it has been shown, by the sale of the ‘Penny Magazine,’ that there are 200,000 purchasers of one periodical work. It may be fairly calculated that the number of readers of that single work amounts to a million. If this incontestable evidence of the spread of the ability to read be most satisfactory, it is still more satisfactory to consider the species of reading which has had such an extensive and increasing popularity. In this work there has never been a single sentence that could inflame a vicious appetite; and not a paragraph that could minister to prejudices and superstitions which a few years since were common. There have been no excitements for the lovers of the marvellous—no tattle or abuse for the gratification of a diseased taste for personality, and, above all, no party politics.”

* Scott. “Quentin Durward.”


Although the “Penny Magazine” has a peculiar interest as a subject of literary history, it would be tedious if I were to attempt any minute notice of its contributors; but I may mention a few whose names occur to me as I turn over its early pages. There were members of the Committee who had a very just conception of what writing for the people meant. An article by Mr. Long, in the seventh number, on the value of a penny, is as clear and impressive as any statement from the pen of Cobbett. Mr. De Morgan wrote mathematical papers, in which the rationale of Fractions was exhibited, and the fallacy of such notions as squaring the circle was pointed out. Mr. Craik could be depended upon for enlightened as well as familiar expositions of the value of standard works, under the head of “The Library.” Mr. Charles Macfarlane, of whom I shall have subsequently to speak, wrote most amusing accounts of his travelling experiences. There were authors not regularly engaged as contributors, who furnished valuable papers of marked ability. I had been in the habit of familiar intercourse with Allan Cunningham, even before the time when he wrote a paper in the “Quarterly Magazine.” For the “Penny Magazine” he furnished a series of articles on “The Old English Ballads.” I must not omit to mention the interesting relations of his South African experience, contributed by Thomas Pringle, one of the most amiable of men, with whom I had cultivated something higher than mere intimacy, when our friendly relations were cut short by his death in 1834. His biography of Sir Walter Scott, was called forth by the great novelist’s lamented death on the 21st of September, 1832. It occupied an entire
number of the “Penny Magazine,” and contains some valuable facts regarding Mr. Pringle’s personal intimacy with
Scott in 1819.

It may not be without an interest of no transient nature that I proceed to notice the beginnings of my intercourse with a man who left his mark upon his time, but who, when I first knew him, was not only under the check of “poverty’s unconquerable bar,” but was suffering under a great physical privation which appeared likely to disqualify him for any prosperous career in life. On the 18th of July, 1833, a short stout man, of about thirty years of age, presented himself to me at my place of business in Ludgate Street, to which premises, nearer the great hive of “the Trade” I had found it indispensable to remove. He tendered me a note from Mr. Coates, at the same time uttering some strange sounds, which could scarcely be called articulate. The few lines of introduction said that the bearer, Mr. Kitto, laboured under the misfortune of nearly absolute deafness, and that I must therefore communicate with him in writing. Mr. Coates enclosed me a letter from Mr. Woollcombe, the chairman of our local committee at Plymouth. That letter is now before me, dated the 10th of July. This gentleman—who appears to have been peculiarly fitted, by his compassion for misfortune and his sympathy with talent, to rescue a pauper boy from the misery and degradation of a parish workhouse—pleaded the claims of the unknown John Kitto for literary employment in a way so interesting that I cannot hesitate to transcribe his words: “He is a native of this town, and became known to us by his misfortunes, as a lad of extraordinary capacity, though reduced by the vices of
his father to the condition of an inhabitant of our workhouse, and by an accident to an almost entire loss of the sense of hearing. He has subsequently been employed as a printer at Malta, by a religious society. But he is now just returned from a residence of some years at Bagdad; having embarked from England for Petersburg, and descended from thence through Russia to Moscow and other towns, entering Persia by the Desert; of that country he has acquired considerable information, which he is ready to communicate through your publications. He returned to England in June last.   *   *   *   His appearance is not prepossessing; his deafness is somewhat embarrassing; his talents are considerable, memory retentive, observation quick, and undivided as other men’s are. His life is a series of extraordinary incidents, such as one is unwilling to acknowledge as being natural. I laugh and tell him the world is to be now indebted to two Devonshire men for the information it is to receive of distant countries. The one a blind man (
Lieut. Holman), who is to publish what he has seen in his progress round the world. And (John Kitto) a deaf man, of what he has heard in Persia!”

I may have had something like an anticipation of this poor man’s future eminence, judging from the unusual care with which I appear to have preserved some memoranda of our intercourse. I find a paper dated July the 21st, headed “Conversation with Mr. Kitto,” of which the following is the substance of half a dozen pages of my notes. I asked him what European languages he knew. He said Italian, French perfectly, not German. He had proposed a new project, into which I thought the Society would
not at present enter; but, I should be glad to endeavour to arrange for his employment in the “
Penny Magazine” and “Penny Cyclopædia.” I asked if he could undertake to give a personal narrative of his travels in Persia. That would show what he could do, and he might be afterwards engaged on geographical articles for the “Cyclopæia,” requiring more precise and systematic information. I then arranged with him to furnish a few articles of the nature I had mentioned, to be paid for at the rate of a guinea and a half a page. And so John Kitto, the future Biblical critic and commentator, went away perfectly happy, to produce the first number of “The Deaf Traveller,” which appeared in “The Penny Magazine” of the 10th of August. A month of experiment had passed, and I then engaged Kitto at a regular salary, to work in my own room in Fleet Street. I could thus assist him whenever he had any question to propose, and to me he was no interruption, for our golden silence was rarely broken. He writes to a friend on the 18th of August, after he had been regularly employed for a week:—“I have little doubt that, through Mr. Knight’s indulgence, I shall be able to keep this situation; the rather, as whatever spare time ‘The Penny Magazine’ does not require, is spent in perfecting my knowledge of French and Italian, and in acquiring the German. I do thank God for this relief from a state of great anxiety, in which I had begun to entertain the most melancholy view of the things before me, and saw possible consequences that I could not bear steadily to contemplate.” Sitting, as he describes, “in Mr. Knight’s room, with plenty of books about me, and more below,” authors, printers,
country agents, and other men of business come and go to impart something to my private ear. They addressed me in whispers, when they saw a somewhat dwarfish man of sallow complexion, bright eyes, and lofty forehead, sitting close to my table at a separate desk, writing incessantly. To some he might have looked as a very suspicious person, who was placed there to note down their conversation. They soon became accustomed to this companionship, and learnt that he would be the most faithful depository of their spoken secrets, whether they were to roar as loud as Bully Bottom when he desired to play the lion, or spake “in a monstrous little voice,” as when the same actor of all-work would have played “Thisby dear.”

It appears from the correspondence of Dr. Arnold, that in the early stages of “The Penny Magazine” he felt a strong desire to see something of the religious spirit imparted to the works of the Useful Knowledge Society. His views upon the subject were so just and reasonable, that it is to me a matter of the deepest regret that I was never brought into direct communication with him in my editorial capacity. He says: “It does seem to me as forced and unnatural in us now to dismiss the principles of the Gospel and its great motives from our conversation,—as is done habitually, for example, in Miss Edgeworth’s books,—as it is to fill our pages with Hebraisms, and to write and speak in the words and style of the Bible. The slightest touches of Christian principle and Christian hope in the Society’s biographical and historical articles would be a sort of living salt to the whole; and would exhibit that union which I never will consent to think unattain-
able, between goodness and wisdom; between everything that is manly, sensible, and free, and everything that is pure and self-denying, and humble, and heavenly.”* Dr. Arnold’s strong desire was that of being able to co-operate with a body which he “believed might, with God’s blessing, do more good of all kinds, political, intellectual, and spiritual, than any other society in existence.”† He was anxious, he wrote, “to furnish them regularly with articles of the kind that I desire.” For myself I can distinctly state that no expression of such a desire ever reached me; nor do I know that any communication to such an effect was ever formally put before the sub-committee for “The Penny Magazine.” Dr. Arnold’s nephew,
Mr. John Ward, a solicitor in Bedford Row, to whom he writes in 1832, about “your Useful Knowledge Society Committee,” was a member of that committee, and he contributed some very useful but rather dry “Statistical Notes” to “The Penny Magazine.” These certainly were not calculated to carry out Dr. Arnold’s views. But he himself has borne the most cordial testimony to one circumstance in the conduct of “The Penny Magazine,” which shows that there was no settled purpose to exclude from that work “the slightest touches of Christian principle.” I have said with reference to the religious articles of the “Plain Englishman,” that Dr. Arnold wrote “in terms of somewhat extravagant commendation of a short article on Mirabeau which I had written.”‡ The letter was to Mr. Tooke, the treasurer of the

* “Life and Correspondence,” vol. i. p. 274.

Ibid., p. 275.

‡ “Passages,” vol. i. p. 243.

Society, and for the sake of clearing up this important question of principle, I must quote the passage to which I referred. “I cannot tell you how much I was delighted by the conclusion of an article on Mirabeau, in ‘The Penny Magazine’ of May 12. That article is exactly a specimen of what I wished to see, but done far better than I could do it. I never wanted articles on religious subjects half so much as articles on common subjects written with a decidedly Christian tone. History and Biography are far better vehicles of good, I think, than any direct comments on Scripture, or essays on Evidences.”* The conclusion of the article to which Dr. Arnold refers, is as follows:—“The career of Mirabeau offers a few consolatory remarks to those who are gifted with no extraordinary faculties, either for good or for evil. Mirabeau swayed the destinies of millions, but he was never happy; Mirabeau had almost reached the pinnacle of human power, and yet he fell a victim to the same evil passions which degrade and ruin the lowest of mankind. He could never be really great, because he was never freed from the bondage of his own evil desires. The man who steadily pursues a consistent course of duty, which has for its object to do good to himself and to all around him, will be followed to the grave by a few humble and sincere mourners, and no record will remain except in the hearts of those who loved him, to tell of his earthly career. But that man may gladly leave to such as Mirabeau the music, the torches, and the cannon, by which a nation proclaimed its loss; for assuredly he has felt that

* “Life and Correspondence,” vol. i. p. 299.

inward consolation, and that sustaining hope throughout his life, which only the good can feel; he has fully enjoyed, in all its purity, the holy influence of ‘the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.’”

I think that I may confidently say, that without attempting to impart to the “Penny Magazine” a distinctly religious character, I did not interpret in a too literal signification the original rule of the Society with reference to religion—that is, to abstain from publishing on that subject, “convinced that the numerous institutions already existing for the diffusion of religious knowledge in every shape will best advance that momentous end.”* That I might have been encouraged to do more in the incidental manner advocated by Dr. Arnold I cannot doubt, had his approval of what he had read been communicated to me. When I first saw the opinion of this good and great man in his “Life,” by the Rev. Arthur Stanley, published after his decease, I felt it was an injustice to myself on the part of the treasurer of the Society that this letter had been withheld from me.

After the “Penny Magazine” had been published during three years, I had the gratification of being able to offer a permanent situation to a gentleman for whom Dr. Arnold had a high esteem, to assist me in the conduct of that and other periodical works. Dr. Arnold in 1831 set up a weekly newspaper, “The Englishman’s Register,” which died a natural death in a few weeks. “Finding, however,” says Mr. Stanley, “that some of his articles had been

* First Annual Report of the Society, 1828.

copied into the ‘
Sheffield Courant,’ by its editor, Mr. Platt, he opened a communication with him in July, 1831, which he maintained ever afterwards, and commenced writing a series of letters in that paper, which, to the number of thirteen, were afterwards published separately, and constitute the best exposition of his views on the main causes of social distress in England.” The friendship which the head master of Rugby manifested for John Clarke Platt was fully warranted by his admirable qualities. We worked together in the most perfect harmony for more than ten years, until he quitted London, again to undertake the editorship of a Sheffield Journal. His sound knowledge, especially on political and social subjects, his clear style and his calm judgment, excellently fitted him to be a contributor to the “Companion to the Almanac” and the “Penny Cyclopædia.” There was another young man, whose imaginative turn of mind did not unfit him for dealing with matters of fact, historical or antiquarian, when he had passed through a course of training by diligent reading. John Saunders, having encountered much of the rough work, and sounded some of the perilous depths of journalism, has won a reputation as a novelist, at which no one can more truly rejoice than myself.

I cannot conclude this notice of the early history of the “Penny Magazine” without adverting to one who first gave me the benefit of his assistance, in the office generally known as that of a sub-editor, soon after I became connected with the Useful Knowledge Society. Alexander Ramsay has been for five-and-thirty years my friend and fellow-labourer. He has worked with me in every undertaking in which I
have been engaged, from the second volume of the “British Almanac and Companion” for 1830, to the last for 1864. He has brought to this long course of duty not only the ministerial services which belong to a reader of manuscripts and a corrector of the press, but taste, and knowledge, and readiness of resource, well adapted for original composition, in the accustomed progress and occasional exigencies of periodical works. I think it is creditable to both of us that in a long struggle by societies and individuals for the establishment of cheap and wholesome literature, we have been labouring side by side—that
“In this glorious and well-foughten field,
We kept together in our chivalry!”

Having lingered, perhaps too long, around details that may be more interesting to myself than to others, I return to the point of time which I quitted at the close of the last chapter.

In September, 1832, when the whole country was alive with the “note of preparation” for elections to the Reformed Parliament, Mr. Hill was at Hull, ambitious of representing the fine old town which nearly two centuries before had Andrew Marvell for its member. He wrote to me to come down for a brief holiday, and to endeavour to form at Hull a Local Committee of our Society. The chief port of the Humber was not then so accessible as by the present railway journey of five hours. Leaving London by the night mail, I looked out as the morning dawned upon the beautiful western front of Peterborough, and had a somewhat dreary ride of nine hours in addition, until I reached the shore from which I was to cross to Hull in a ferry-boat.
I was in Hull, as I find recorded in a letter home, at ten minutes to four, and at a quarter past found myself seated in a room with two hundred people, of whom I knew not a face but Hill’s. I was somewhat amazed at his extraordinary power as a speaker over a mixed audience, and although I was not myself “quite unused to public speaking,” I was a little frightened when I had an opportunity of testifying to his zeal in the cause of education. That merit, I think, was as effectual a guarantee for his success as his political opinions—somewhat more advanced than those of the Whigs-proper, but avoiding many of the excesses of the extreme Radicals. I judged that my friend’s return as one of the members for Hull was perfectly certain, and the event proved that I was right. I stayed here three days, enjoying a most hospitable reception, in the society of merchants not less intellectual and refined than those of Liverpool. In the dwellings and household arrangements of the humbler classes of that busy port, there was an appearance of comfort and of regard for health which Liverpool did not exhibit.

My friend was about to proceed to Westmorland on a visit to Lord Brougham. I was desirous of a week’s ramble in the Lake District, although it might be a solitary one; for my life in the South, when I was rarely free to make holiday tours, had never allowed me to become familiar with mountain scenery. We went on together through Beverley and York to Penrith. While at breakfast on the morning: after our arrival, there came a letter from the Chancellor to Mr. Hill, insisting that I should not go on to Keswick, as I had proposed, but become his guest. I spent a week with him of no common
pleasure, of which I may note down a few remembrances without trespassing upon that sanctity of the family life which has too often been violated in “Pencillings” and other ministrations to a depraved curiosity.

There is perhaps no more beautiful exhibition of what has been called the delight of spontaneous existence than the daily life of a great statesman escaped from cabinets and courts, from rivalries and importunities, from scenes of perpetual turmoil and excitement, to sit down at peace in his own fields, like Chatham at Hayes, or Burke at Beaconsfield, or Fox at St. Ann’s Hill. I had been at Brougham Hall five days, when I wrote to my wife to convey some idea of that week of enjoyment—of relaxation mingled with serious employment—of anecdotical gossip and grave discussion. My sober reminiscences of that time are perfectly in unison with the warm expressions of the moment:—“Our course of life is this—We rise at seven. Hill and I walk, if it is fine, for an hour. Then come the letters and papers. At a quarter to ten we breakfast. At the head of the table sits the Chancellor’s mother—the most interesting old lady I ever saw in my life. Heavens, what he must owe to the care of that mother! Mr. William Brougham is of the party. At eleven we go up to the library—the Chancellor and we two—and there we discuss some point of national importance, with all sorts of documents before us, for three or four hours. We then start off for a drive amongst the Lakes—still we three—where the Chancellor delights to point out the beauties of the scenery, or tell us some local anecdote—ever and anon coming back to our morning’s labours upon Education, Poor Laws, Taxes, Tithes, &c. &c. At
half-past six or seven we dine—have a cheerful and animated talk for two or three hours—then the drawing-room and tea—and bed at eleven. I am quite sure this week will have a lasting effect upon my temper and modes of thought. It is impossible to be in company with Lord Brougham for a short time, and not feel wiser;—but to meet him in his daily life—to witness his regulated industry, to enjoy his constant good humour, to partake his high hopes for the improvement of his fellow creatures, and to have one’s own powers constantly called out by his wonderful talents, without being in the slightest degree under constraint—all this constitutes a rare enjoyment, and furnishes a powerful incentive to deserve the friendship of such a man.”

We had not only drives amongst the Lakes but long walks. How vividly some of the incidents of these rambles come before me! We descend from the Hall to the ruins of Brougham Castle, and I think of the Shepherd Lord, and of the Song that was sung at the feast when he was restored to the honours of his ancestors:—
“Love had he found in huts where poor men lie.”
He by whose side I was walking was intent upon raising “poor men” out of the degradations of poverty by wise employment of the funds that belonged to the helpless, and not to the idle. The Chancellor took an especial interest in the inquiries that were then proceeding under a Royal Commission as to the administration and operation of the Poor-Laws. Evening after evening would his Dispatch-box bring down some Report of the Assistant Commissioners. He occasionally gave me the task
of looking over these voluminous papers, and marking passages for his more careful perusal. This was some of the regular morning employment. But on one bright forenoon we sallied forth for a whole holiday. Our course was by the side of the little river under the high grounds of Lowther Castle. We came to the turnpike-gate. It suggested an anecdote which tells how much stronger is the sympathy of genius than the antagonism of party. After that Session of 1822, in which
Mr. Canning and Mr. Brougham had a painful difference of a personal nature in the House of Commons, they suddenly met here, riding alone in opposite directions. This gate was closed. They sat for a moment steadily looking at each other, then each burst into a laugh, and shook hands in parting. I doubt not that both were the happier for this meeting. That fine morning brought on a wet noon. We found refuge in a dalesman’s cottage; and, drying our coats over his peat fire, had a cheerful talk of an hour or two—but generally coming back to the one subject of Education in its various forms. The Diffusion of Useful Knowledge was of course a leading topic. The “Penny Cyclopædia” had been announced; and we had to settle principles and form plans for its conduct. We had to dwell also on the subject then constantly presenting itself to the Chancellor’s official mind—that of Education in relation to Pauperism. The conversations which arose upon the great question of the amendment of the Poor Laws were to me as stores of knowledge, when I had practically to deal with subjects of Local Administration.

I must not linger around the remembrances of this interesting visit. We parted from our friendly host on a
Monday morning, and travelled by chaise to Keswick. Here we stayed several days, making excursions to Buttermere; climbing Skiddaw; boating on Derwentwater; and not reaching Liverpool till Thursday night. As I read a letter which I then wrote home, I feel that I have often foolishly proposed to execute literary tasks, when travelling with the one true object—that of repose and change of scene. It is quite enough to give the mind renewed powers, in filling it with new associations of beauty and grandeur whether of Nature or of Art. “I am writing,” I said, “upon some large paper I bought at Keswick to complete an article which I am trying to accomplish for the ‘
Journal of Education,’ but it is impossible. The glorious magnificence of the mountains got such possession of my mind that I could think, and even dream, of nothing else. I do not wonder that men of lively imaginations are content to give up all worldly prospects for a bare maintenance amidst such scenes. I could almost be such an enthusiast myself, with six children, at forty.”