LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
‣ Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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Returning to town, one of the first friends I called upon was Campbell. It was subsequent to his return from Algiers. I was much struck with his altered appearance after two years that I had not seen him. He seemed in low spirits, and was very glad to see me again. I agreed to dine with him the next day in St. James’s Street, tête-à-tête. I asked him if he felt indisposed. He replied, that he had never felt well since an attack of fever in Algiers, which had “shaken his constitution greatly.” I observed that he had lost all that “spruce” appearance, as Byron characterised it, which marked him before, and he was depressed in spirits. Wine did not seem to elevate him as it did once. Some of his remarks were touching—“all things were rapidly changing, we could never be again as we once were.” He was certain he should not live long. I attempted to change his mood by observing that his father and sister had lived to a very advanced age. “No matter,” he replied, “I am convinced of it—you will outlive me.” I remarked that I was
younger, that the longevity of his family was in his favour. He became taciturn, without making reference to the cause of the silence, so unusual in his case, for before then he would combat such a state of feeling often too artificially. He still harped on the effect of the fever upon him. He did not seem to like my quitting town. I had been two years absent, he said, and now was going away for I knew not how long. He repeated his allusion to the changes time operated, and then said, “When I am gone you will write my life?” I replied, “I feared that would be as bad an affair as his own
with Mrs. Siddons, there would be no materials, he had prepared no notes of his life unless he had done so recently.” I knew pretty well that he had nothing by him relative to himself when we ceased our joint labours. He replied, “I will write some—I will very shortly go about it.” I left him at eleven o’clock, feeling much affected with the idea that he was no longer the Thomas Campbell of the old literary time, and of preceding years. I heard that he had ceased to visit many old friends, even Lord Holland. He did “not like to dress for dinner.” Then he got into company, often indifferent to that with which he had usually intermixed before. I left town again soon afterwards, with the painful impression that he was fast breaking.

The truth was that his expectations of future good had began to fail, neither the world nor his hopes of it, getting brighter. As we proceed into age this is natural with all, but Campbell’s main star was here. Upon the traditions of the past and his own recollections he built little, clinging more to the probable possible to
come, than to what in the past was utterly gone. He also lived more freely, too much so for his health.

Campbell always aspired after what was more perfect. and was disappointed at not finding it. Not at all romantic, he lived less than he once did in the region of fancy, as he grew older; and, in running after shadows, he become more restless and dissatisfied. He shifted the subject of his studies, when he did study. He often now left books half-perused, to seek new ones, hunting some ideal object never overtaken—ever seeking, and not finding. Often abstracted, he had never mentally travelled towards the elevated in subject, so much as towards the tranquil and beautiful. His selfishness of mind, if I may so call it, prevented him from troubling others with his joys or sorrows. He shrank from rude and stern appearances. He showed no great acquaintance with the deep things of the human heart. He lived among his own fruits and flowers—fruits and flowers of unquestionable loveliness, of which he was the creator, particularly in his “Gertrude.” He once asked me which I liked best of his poems, and’I replied, “Gertrude,” and he replied, “So do I.” His better scenes there have a Claude-like beauty, unruffled, sweet, and soothing. He rarely becomes himself identified with his subject, and yet one of his excellencies is, that he treats his subject as no one besides himself could do, in consequence of which Scott made him an exception from the modern poets, whose works, he said, he would undertake to parody. He pleases through his own perception of his subject, rather than of his reader. He delights, rather than astonishes, wooing our admiration with the graces and elegancies of his verse, and that
affectionate tenderness in his “Gertrude,” more particularly, which raises analogous pleasure in others, and is, therefore, more enduring in its effect. There are few salient points in his delineations to break the uniformity of their moral grace. Yet there is no coldness—no want of excitement—genius in him vindicates its power to perform what it may require, without those extensive aids, destitute of which the superficial in judgment consider it incapable of acting. The odes of Campbell, worthy of the best days of Greece, were flung off at moments of an impulse, which, from his nature, admitted not of more than momentary action.

I was again absent from London for several years, working hard for the free-trade cause, during which period, if I ran up to town, time pressed upon me so as to allow me to make only a short call upon the poet. When I came back permanently, we visited each other as before, but the poet had then lamentably changed in person, become thinner, and stricken with an unusually aged appearance. I visited him both in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where I once more met the Archdeacon Strachan, of Toronto, now become a bishop, and in Victoria Square, his latest residence in London. The poet took occasion to allude to our old breakfast scene at his house in Upper Seymour Street, West, by saying, “Here, my lord bishop is an old acquaintance of yours, I believe.” The doctor was full of good-humour, though priestly as becomes one of the cloth; and the little annoyance I gave him was forgotten. He is since dead.

Before he went to Boulogne to reside, Campbell used to come up to Baker Street, North, where I lodged, to
breakfast, and would generally sit for several hours—the last time, from half-past nine till four o’clock. I saw him just before his departure from England, and shook hands with him for the last time. I had promised to go over to Boulogne and see him; but was prevented. Hearing of his illness, I wrote to inquire how he was. My letter only anticipated his death by two or three days. He sent me through his niece; his “kind remembrances;” they were his last. At his funeral, in Westminster Abbey, I was struck with the recollection that, where the
Rev. Mr. Millman read the funeral service at the foot of Dr. Barrow’s monument, Dr. Johnson was seen weeping at the funeral of Garrick, near to whose remains those of Campbell lie, just sixty-five years before.

When I saw the poet laid in that antique locality, I thought it was not the proper place, doing all honour at the same time to the intention of those who so ordered it. His wishes in his better days would have been to lie by the Clyde, covered with the wild flowers of his natal soil. As his body lay in the Jerusalem Chamber, the recognition of those attending the funeral, interrupted the gloomy retrospections, that pressed heavily on my mind. I recalled the poet’s words in St. James’ Street, now verified, that he should go before me to the land of darkness and shadow, of rest and forgetfulness. While the service was reading in the Abbey, my thoughts, for they were not to be restrained by the service, so familiar, with the occasion so rare, my thoughts ran back to an acquaintance and joint labours of nearly thirty years, to labour and relaxation together in social hours, and to individuals who intermingled with all. Many of
these individuals had preceded the poet. Here, then, had terminated, in the customary mode, the history of another who had made himself a never-dying name! Then came a recurrence to scenes, in relation to the perished past, some of which were now known to myself alone. There were the remembrances of conversations and incidents, that, but for such an event as the present, could never, it is probable, have been again drawn from the store-house of memory—things that before seemed nothing, now appeared to be of moment. With these feelings, the funeral spoke indifferently to the eye, on my part, for the mind was in other places and times, travelling among the wrecks of departed years, and with no little poignancy, making even shadowy images turn the past to painful realities.
Campbell had once said to me he would die directly for such a fame as that of Napoleon I. I smiled, and told him it was a small temptation to a philosophic mind, to give up time for the insensibility to its gifts. What did it matter now! As the old divine wrote, what does it matter to “our wives, dead and asleep in charnel-houses, they are not troubled when we laugh loudly at the songs sung at the next marriage feast?” Such were my ideas when in the venerable Abbey, amid the dust of the wise and great, I saw the last of my old friend now insensible to fame. A crowd of all degrees in life, whom respect or curiosity had drawn to witness the interment, stood beneath the many-coloured windows, under the pointed) arches, reared by the hands of generations long passed away, to witness their own antecedent.

How should I look back without sadness at such a moment—despite all my philosophy and a proper re-
signation to that inevitable course of mundane things, which it has pleased the supreme to allot for human destiny—how should I look back without sadness, upon a long friendship, and labours that strengthened it, with a poet of so high an order. The little failings of his human nature had perished with his body; the fruits of his inspiration were more glorious than ever; the few failings were forgotten and finite; the fruits of his mind imperishable. The burial service, the venerable Abbey, the crowd that attended, the sable bier, none fixed my attention a moment. I became abstracted. The service seemed over, when I thought it had scarcely began. The crowd was dispersing. The world’s custom of forgetfulness of him who once breathed life around, had commenced, and
Campbell was to be remembered only by a few in his delightful works. Poetry was to change to the fashion of the populace, and to be forgotten with the fashion of the season. Such has since become the order of custom, the science of folly and ignorance. Be it so: the educated few will still preserve the vestal fire. The multitude cannot comprehend the productions of high genius, and can no more permanently depreciate them, than it can fathom the depths of the science which is elevating the intellectual man yet higher above the counterfeit wisdom that masks its existence. By the multitude, a taste like its own motley garb, is assumed to keep up appearances, and
Savoir vivre, c’est savoir peindre.

I left the Abbey, to shut myself up for the day, that I might for a moment be out of the perpetual masquerade. The unavailing nature of the moody thoughts
which haunted me, now came to my aid, and the fact that I must soon lie in the lap of earth, as well as the poet. I went to the British Museum. There I encountered that remarkable bust of
C. J. Cæsar, which is so striking. “Is the likeness all that remains of the greatest scholar and conqueror of antiquity?” thought I; “well may humble men bend before the reflection, and write ‘Resignation’ on their minds.”

But I must drop the curtain, lifted prematurely, in relation to the precise order of events, and return to the details of the quick, in place of the dead.

I did not foresee I should be tempted to quit London again; but an offer, which I judged it not prudent to refuse, of going into Staffordshire, was made to me. The locality was the city renowned for a cruel martyrdom of certain saints, if legends are to be credited, more worthily for the literary or professional names of Ashmole, Johnson, Darwin, Garrick, Seward, Harwood, and Salt, in connection with it either by birth or domicile. In that part of Staffordshire, and particularly in Lichfield, the cathedral city, the opposition to what was called “innovation” was indomitable. Sir Robert Peel, at that time, and for some years afterwards, championed against free-trade, “to the knife.” The Reform Act had been carried mainly in consequence of his resistance to throwing open the borough of Retford. A member of some note on the Conservative side, said to me, that the only vote he ever repented giving in Parliament, was the vote against a change at East Retford, “for,” said he, “had we given way in isolated points, a general reform would not have been carried.” The Reform Act then had passed, and the municipal bill had neutralized many sources of
borough influence, when I went into the county. I had just quitted one city where the reform of the representation had taken place, and now my services were sought in another. Somehow, I was destined for uphill work. The municipal reform had made almost as great an alteration in the return of members, as the Parliamentary Reform Bill. There was something too attractive, at such a moment, in the duties I had to perform, under the circumstances, for they were to be carried on in the midst of that “stillness of stagnation,” which prevails in places where local intelligence is everything, and the welfare of the entire body of the people is deemed of no moment. It is astonishing how little the interests or welfare of the whole community is regarded in towns of some importance, compared to that of its own petty and obscure circle. We are miserably selfish in our political views, which we conceal under general avowals of the reverse character. In country newspapers, people only desire to see repeated what is happening every day before their eyes. It is only now and then they want an editor. They wish for a record only of what they already know, and seek to learn nothing further. Some, indeed, who are the actors in the scenes described, feel their pride flattered by the hebdomedal notice of their small deeds; but the obscure many can have no such motive, and must be judged in the matter according to the stinted dimensions of their minds, which are content with that which limits their sympathies. Thus, too, many of our country papers take care their readers shall not find in their columns anything that will touch upon the common run of the intellect to which they address themselves. My task
was to arouse the slumberer, and to prevent those opposed to the principles of free-trade from having the laugh wholly on their own side. There was something exciting in such combats for principles. I went down with the same determination with which I went to Bath, not to pay regard to men, but to things. My course, therefore, must have surprized those papers, which, like Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, were accustomed to meet all objections from “great” people, by “booing.” It is true I was unlucky in having, both here and at Bath, to commence the undertaking, complete the rough work, organize, and then, when the smoother labour came, quit my task, that, having been set going, it might be done cheaper without an editor. No matter, the moment of the battle was mine, and a state of comparative peace would have been less to my taste. Unfortunately, in going away for so long a time to serve a public cause, I severed myself from town connections, of no small private advantage, impossible to be renewed.

Party spirit ran high. The interest of a nobleman who possessed much property in the city, had been successful in the return of one Liberal member. The other was neither Tory, Whig, nor Radical; but as much of either, or of all three, or of neither, as the Close dictated for the time being. The Close meant the cathedral circle, within which the church politico-militant ruled despotically. It was walled, except where a friendly piece of impassable water reflected mitre and shovel-hat alike, on its serene bosom. Three spires overtopped all, from the loftiest of which Lord Brooke was shot. An individual, named Dyott, an ancestor of a family of that name, yet in the vicinity, while it was besieged by the Parliament,
mounted the great tower, made an invocation there for good luck to some saint of the upper or nether sphere, and then fired his matchlock, the ball from which, hitting a brick wall, glanced off at an angle, and struck Lord Brooke, mortally. Maister Dyott took great credit for the exploit, though it resembled much the story of shooting at a pigeon and killing a crow. With such “sacred “historical recollections, the holy place was now garrisoned by a dean and his subalterns, defended by canons and serving men, not altogether destitute of cavalry, for horses were kept there, not precisely to lay aside on that hallowed spot, “the sin which doth so easily beset us,” but to secure good fortune on the course, by first breathing the air of the saintly enclosure. Long had the holy garrison ruled the city. I was told by one who knew the Sunderland and Anson families well, that both had expended large sums to overturn the influence of the Close, but in vain. It remained a species of clerical Sevastopol. Had they not a “vested right” to return one of the members? The Close might have served for the residence of the hero of the
Dunciad, for all the political wit or wisdom it produced at that precise moment. It was a happy exemplification of ecclesiastical idleness, as if from the world being so holy, its admonishers had nothing left to do, but to eat, drink, and sleep. Thus nestled the superia in delicias cathedra, brooding over resistance to free-trade and progress. Doubtless, it had once brooded over the enviable days of Charles I. and Laud, some within the precinct flirting occasionally with the scarlet lady, and snatching a stolen Babylonian kiss. The cathedral worship was ill-attended, the people going to their parish churches, in some of
which clergymen of a truly Christian character did the duty.

At that moment Sir Robert Peel, at Drayton in Warwickshire, hard by, was a sturdy protectionist. The northern and southern divisions of Stafford returned an equal force pro and con. The Honourable G. Anson, and the present Earl Talbot, sat for the southern division. General Sir George Anson and Sir Edward Scott represented Lichfield, which city was in that part of the county, though a city or county in itself, its limits extending seven miles around the Guildhall.

The Anson family had a noble property in and near the city, which, when the late Earl of Lichfield came into it, was one of the finest in the kingdom. Given to play, a propensity which made him his own enemy, for he had no foe but himself in the world, and deserved to have none. He was one of the kindest, best tempered men of his day, a martyr to the tortures of the gout, yet never suffering them to destroy his equanimity. He one day asked me if I could give him a receipt to cure his disorder—he was then drinking red wine at dinner. I told him to drink white wine only, to rise at six o’clock, and ascend and descend the cathedral tower three or four times every morning before breakfast, I would answer for it his gout would vanish. I had known an officer cured by excavating a cave in a rocky cliff, beginning early in the morning.

“I have no doubt of that, Mr. Redding,” he replied, “but I fear the remedy to me would be worse than the disease.”

“Your lordship is the best judge of that,” I observed
“I only give a prescription never known to fail, and one I should be inclined to try, for I hate pain.”

“So do I, but I must bear mine.”

“That is want of faith.”

“No, I dare say it would cure me, but consider what a task it would be.”

“I have no other receipt,” I replied, “mine was Dr. Franklin’s, who cured himself that way.”

Sir Charles Wolsely told me that when the earl was a youth at Shuckborough, both the late Lord Lichfield’s father and himself had often cautioned him against play. The great navigator, Lord Anson, had a propensity that way, and was plundered by sharpers. It would be curious to know whether the example of the great navigator, and the parental cautions might not have acted as temptations. Stolen water is sweet. What is forbidden in early life most strenuously, becomes afterwards an apple of Eve to us. We long to taste, taste, and fall.

The Duke of Sutherland at Trentham, was little heard of in the county. Lord Harrowby, at Sandon, was then in advanced years. The Earl of Shrewsbury, at Alton Towers, distinguished himself on little but the affairs of the Catholic church, of which he was a member; he was not a strong-minded man. Lord Bagot, of Abbot’s Bromley, was not much heard of. Earl Talbot, lord-lieutenant of the county, was considered a good-natured man, devoted to conservative politics. Lord Hatherton, at Teddesley, who succeeded Lord Talbot as lord-lieutenant, was a liberal in politics, an excellent landlord, who understood better than any other individual in the county, how to manage an estate
both as a farmer and landlord, as well as a sound political economist.
Lord Wrottesley, then Sir John, I found an urbane business-like gentleman, who was thorough master of the county politics. Last, but not least, among the resident nobility of the county, was the mirror of chivalry and gallant-bearing, the Marquis of Anglesey, at Beaudesert. I have omitted Lord Dartmouth at Sandiwell, a high flyer in politics, furious in faith, and heroic in justice business. There were many old Roman Catholic families in the county. Some families had been residents there almost from the conquest, as the Giffards, Bagots and Wolselys, but all gentle and simple, were pretty equally divided between the Tory and Liberal interests. The obtaining a little local knowledge was my first step. It required activity and attention, for the county was large and populous, but I had introductions to the leading men of all ranks. The magnificent iron trade rendered the traffic and agriculture of the county flourishing. I found political opinions strong in some places, but with a much more tolerant feeling than I expected, or should have found in a county purely agricultural. The dependance of the two interests one upon another, seemed to be openly acknowledged. Birmingham belongs more to Staffordshire than Warwickshire. This last county and Worcestershire seemed to comprehend but little the true state of the relationship of trade to one another, being mostly of the old landed interest.

It is marvellous what wonders a little ink will do spilled judiciously over virgin paper. It will imbue the dead in soul with vitality. Alcohol is water to it as a stimulus with the many in similar times, while, unlike
that distilled liquid, it strengthens the reason, fixes the wavering, daunts the bully, and retains the timid in a useful neutrality. The press re-assures the desponding, and by its arguments prevents people from seeing things as if through a blanket. The animal spirits become cheered by the simple consciousness of sustentation, where reasoning would not be of service.

The paper was performing its duty, when the people resolved to have a representative of their own, in place of Sir Edward Scott, who feared to declare himself “to be or not to be,” the slave of the Close. That spot was now left to its own resources. It was not included within the city until the Reform Bill passed, but it had ruled notwithstanding. Prior to that time the party created forty shilling annuitants, and bought burgesses to swamp the legal votes. At one time they used to desire some nobleman, one of the Gower family, for example, to recommend them members. Efforts were made in vain to emancipate the voters. The good citizens now determined to try and return a second member in right earnest. They had made the attempt once before and failed. The municipal bill having passed, they had now a newspaper, whatever were its demerits, fearless and uninfluenced, to support their cause. It was a stirring time all over the nation from the effect of the parliamentary and municipal measures. Lord Lichfield having come down to command his regiment of yeomanry, I was requested to tell him of the determination of the citizens. I called upon him, and a long conversation ensued, in which, referring to the past contests for nearly a century, he stated that no
influence had been able to resist the artillery of the Close, He did not deem success possible. I represented that the municipal bill having passed, the case was greatly altered. He was still incredulous. What instructions he might have given to his agents in consequence was not so clear, as they themselves were, from similar doubts or some other cause, cold upon the matter. A proper candidate was to be found, and a particular individual who had met the views of the leading citizens was sought, but was absent from his domicile. While this matter was debating, I suggested one of
Lord Anglesey’s family. It was answered they had thought of that, but there was no son of the marquis at home except Lord George, who was not of age. The people would not have a member who had any property and influence in the town, while to meet other points it was desirable the candidate should belong to the aristocracy. Lord Anglesey had no property in Lichfield. I mentioned Lord Alfred Paget. It was objected that he was off Lisbon with his father on a pleasure excursion. That objection was over-ruled by the town clerk, Mr. Simpson, who was the soul of the affair, saying Lord Alfred might be represented on the canvass by his younger brother. The family was written to, and consented to his nomination. A brisk canvass commenced, and on the third day Sir Edward Scott bolted from the course, and left the Close in consternation. Lord Lichfield had returned to town, but I did not lose a post in letting him know that his own prognostications to me in St. James’ Square and elsewhere, were not verified, and he was highly pleased.


The vested rights of the Close, as they fancied them, were gone, and for ever. The Liberal principles of Lord Alfred Paget were those of the citizens, they only covenanted that his lordship should support the ballot on account of the protection it would afford to the poorer voters, for mechanics had been turned out of employment on voting for him, or work taken away from them. Some went to Australia in consequence. This was not done without exposure of the parties in the paper, nor did I suffer any consideration to stifle an expression of indignation at such proceedings. The Hon. George Anson was opposed for the county, and run close. Peel gave five hundred pounds towards the expences of the colonel’s adversary. The Lichfield election quickly over, I went to Wolverhampton. I found Colonel Anson awaiting the result with great equanimity. Every moment, as the balloting papers came in from different polling-places in the division, now making the result even, now adverse, it became a period of great excitement. I never saw any one behave in a calmer manner. Colonel Anson spoke so well, that I have often thought he might have made a figure in Parliament, superior to most men who sit there.

The Hon. C. P. Villiers and Mr. Thornley were safe in their seats for Wolverhampton. I visited Walsall, where Mr. Finch was successful; nor must I forget Tamworth, where Sir Robert Peel, secure in his own election, had declared he would not interfere in the case of a second candidate. Captain Townsend, R.N., now Marquis Townsend, had started for the second seat, and was opposed by Mr. A’Court, for whom Sir Robert’s committee, with one or two names only
changed, was acting, which Captain Townsend interpreted into an interference by Sir Robert, in the face of his avowal that he would not do so. This produced an altercation and explanations. I was much struck with Sir Robert’s want of tact, as to matter and manner, in presence of such an audience. He addressed clod-hopping farmers and rustics precisely as he would speak in the House of Commons. When the election was over, the friends of the defeated candidate had a dinner at the Town-hall, in Tamworth—the candidate in the chair. The captain had a great desire to sit for Tamworth; the castle, belonging to his family, seemed to bring touchingly into his mind, the recollections of the past. When Sir Robert Peel became a free-trader, some years afterwards, the captain was gratified, and he sat for Tamworth. Among the speakers on that occasion, I was one, who unworthily delivered myself in Tamworth Hall, at some length, on the captain’s side.

It was at this same election, that Sir Robert Peel produced a great laugh on the hustings at Tamworth. I have observed that he did not raise or lower himself according to the class of his auditory; he appeared to be destitute of the power of adaptation, and seemed insensible to effects that other speakers would have foreseen and avoided. Sir Robert said he had been charged with coercing his tenantry; then, with singular deficiency of tact, he singled out among the people beneath, a chubby-faced man, with a countenance of superlative vacancy, one of his tenants. The effect was ludicrous.

“I never coerced my tenantry. There is Peter Bird, one of my tenants; did I ever coerce you, Peter Bird?”


“No, Sir Robert, you never did,” said humble Peter, in a whining tone, which caused a general cachinnation, coupled with the expression of the man’s face, none could help laughing aloud.

I was then using my pen pretty strongly against Sir Robert, and wrote two or three stanzas on the subject, which the people got hold of, and with which they saluted round-faced Peter whenever he came to Tamworth market.* I met Sir Robert Peel in Baker Street, afterwards, and fancied there was a smile brought up by his recollection of the foregoing occurrence; but Sir Robert had then become a free-trader.

I had many opportunities of observing this lamented statesman in the country, and there recurs to my mind little regarding him, to account for the political course he pursued in the latter part of his life. One observation I made while resident near him, was that he had no great love for the aristocracy. The observation was recalled to my mind ten years afterwards, when his will was made public, as having been remarked to some gentlemen at Lichfield. It would be useless to recount the grounds on which I came to that conclusion, but I was right, without imagining my conjecture would be so well proved. I judged from what I had observed in a five years’ residence in his vicinity.

Old Sir Robert Peel was an acute money-scraping man, an enemy to the corn-law while his son supported it.

* One stanza I recollect ran:

“O where is the tenant will say I have threatened him?
I’ve tenants enough in the crowd there below—
Peter Bird, did I threaten you ever, my Peter?”
“Did you threaten me? Never—O no, my love no.”
Two stories will illustrate his character:
Colonel Peel, then, who was much and deservedly respected, kept racehorses during his father’s life-time, and the old gentleman frequently remonstrated with him on the subject in vain. “You cannot afford to keep them. What a heavy expense they must be! Why don’t you turn them into Drayton Park, the grass is growing to waste there? The man to whom I let it has gone off without paying me.”

The son turned in his horses, and they were seized by the father for the rent due from the previous occupier. So, when the Tamworth bank had a run upon it, Sir Robert went behind the counter, and paid the notes himself. When this was observed, the country-people said, “Oh! there is the rich Sir Robert Peel paying away the money himself—I shan’t take out mine.” “Nor I,” said another; “nor I,” said a third. In less than a year afterwards, the bank broke, and much injured the people in the neighbourhood; but the old gentleman had no assets there. “My father was a plain man of business,” said the late minister. “He never aspired to anything beyond it.”

The change of Sir Robert Peel on the Catholic Question was singular. It is possible his final decision was effected by the influence of the Duke of Wellington, who swept away the barriers of intolerance, and made everything subservient to the due proceeding of the “Queen’s business,” as he used to phrase it. He did not exhibit a relish for the Lady of Babylon any more than Sir Robert; but, having averred that, knowing its miseries, “he would rather lay down his life than see six weeks’ civil war in Ireland,” it was natural he should pay small attention to the ana-
themas of
Sir Harcourt Lees and his Orangemen, on one side the water, or to the groans of Eldon and his friends, on the other. Sir Robert, educated in the narrow school of Perceval, had now to unlearn the lessons of a long official life, and to act according to circumstances. The Orangemen had been his friends and supporters. The Duke’s judgment decided according to the exigencies of the moment, for he regarded only the nation at large. Peel had followed the routine party, even after he had confessed the necessity of the measure, and resisted it. He had belonged to an intractable school, and could not, till too near the painful end of his career, divest himself of early errors, inculcated by education and party—those rulers of our destiny for good or evil. Everyone knows how difficult it is to eradicate a dogma in mature age, that has been long previously a favourite, however truth and reason may show its fallacy. Sir Robert Peel did not possess a mind that grasped truth intuitively. He was not profound, nor original, but timely and practical. He had much to gain, with the difficult task of overcoming early and deep-rooted prejudices in the very teeth of reproving partizans. On the question of free-trade, it was a self sacrifice, as before; but here there was the conviction of being right in place of the reluctant assent. His subsequent conduct spoke this fact. His speeches on the question showed a sincerity he had not exhibited on the Catholic Question, or on popular occasions before. “We love the treason, but detest the traitor,” said an M.P. free-trader. Now, what was called treason to his own party, was an enormous boon to his country; and all the world knows that Sir Robert’s party cared little
for him or the country. They cared only for themselves. If they had seen it self-advantageous, they would have flung him overboard without ceremony. Those who reprobated, slandered, and vituperated him most in Parliament, had been most conspicuous for their tergiversations. Notorious noonday apostates, as they were, ready to share the crumbs from a minister’s table, of any party, for an inch of place and power, they played off the buffoony of
Aristophanes against Socrates, with no augmentation of credit to themselves. Peel exhibited a dissent from all personal aims. He proved the truth of his convictions by the resignation, to an extent few ministers held before him, of a power, a tithe of which would have bought over his enemies. Was not this a proof of an honest, if a late, conviction? The man who lays down the government of a great people for the public benefit, is a great character, and justly entitled to the popular gratitude.

When Peel committed this crime of sacrificing power on the altar of his country, as his enemies have it—for it was a crime to their selfish optics—he, had for the first time, become a primary in place of a secondary. In addition to a defective political education, where obedience was the habit, and his mind credited anything without questioning, he was become responsible for all. He was not by nature a man of genius, to strike out new lights. His tendencies were never precedent, but consequential. In plentitude of power, conviction flashed upon him. He found himself in a new era—an age of new necessities—amid a generation with more enlightened views, than when he served his apprenticeship to stale political rules. He acquired the full conviction of
the necessity of a certain line of duty being necessary; and this was the more noble part of his conduct, when, that conviction becoming clear, he cast all save his country’s good to the winds. But his political friendships? He estimated them just at the value they showed they were worth. His old tenets? He mistook their solidity; we all err in our judgments upon an occasion. He betrayed those who selected him for a leader? The selection was a proof of his superior judgment; they should have followed him. Treachery? An army that forsakes its chief is mutinous; he is not treacherous, they, not he, lapse in duty. Then the sacrifice was his own; himself, place, long-cherished views, power that all men court, laid upon the altar of his country. Only ignoble minds denominated the sacrifice unworthy. Sir Robert felt he must stoop to conquer. What?—not a short term of power, that accident or caprice might destroy—a popular alarm—a prejudice—a church and king yell—or a two shilling loaf—no, not a chance medley tenure, but a name to be long fresh in his country’s history, when the form and pressure of the time should be no longer traceable. Perhaps he felt this heroic truth—I hope so. He did not reveal his feelings. His temperament was chill, abstracted, reserved. He had no power of attachment, and could not win hearts. Perhaps he had felt how little society will do spontaneously for the most ardent combatant in its cause; and, therefore, voluntarily abandoning the use of the common, time-worn political machinery, he bequeathed his character and motives to be judged by posterity, as his exceeding great reward.

I write thus full on the subject, because, for above
four years, near his own mansion, I had not a few opportunities of knowing something of
Sir Robert Peel, where he was at times imperious, and, then more kindly in his manners. I heard of him from friends and foes, tenants and neighbours, when he was so earnest against the great measure he afterwards supported, and I did not spare his hostility in my comments. Indeed, a noble lord, yet alive, said to me in the country—“I cannot help laughing at what you say about Peel; are you not going too far?” I replied: “I hope nothing personal will fall from my pen. As to sparing the arguments of a political character, publicly uttered, it is idle; Sir Robert Peel, or any one else, is upon a level in this respect. It is of little use to write unless what you say is of a character to make an impression. There can be no verbal compromise.”

I thought Sir Robert the last man to make the noble sacrifice he did for his country’s good. So opposed and so obnoxious was Sir Robert in Staffordshire, where the free-trade question was well understood by the people at an early period, that he could not venture to speak at a nomination of the members for South Staffordshire; and the Lichfield constables seized persons who had carried stones in their pockets, for the purpose of throwing, as the hustings were on a grassy spot. Seven or eight years afterwards, the people would have taken the horses from his carriage, meeting him with cheers. There was not a workman but well understood the question of free-trade; and many of the farmers were very reasonable upon it, knowing the value of the manufacturing districts as their best market.

While at Bath, in the field beyond his kitchen garden,
I once saw
Mr. Beckford alone with the instrument used for cutting up thistles. He was busily employed in this kind of labour. When I came up to him, I said that I had never read that Caliph Vathek was given to rustic labours; that, in the East, I imagined their gardens were formal luxuries. He said he had no idea of their style, but nothing could excel our English planting and fancy gardening; our woods and plantations were superior things. Speaking of woods, he added—“If you ever go into Derbyshire, see the woods of Ilam; I remember the impression they made upon me in early life.” I used to attend meetings at Uttoxeter connected with county business, and thought I would see the woods of Ilam. The road was pleasant, and one day I determined to prolong it to Ashbourn, a place noted for the best malt and worst ale in England. It was not far from Ham that the swift river Dove runs in its own romantic country, dividing Staffordshire from Derby. I first explored Dovedale. Romantic as it is, I think the pale blue colour of the rocks and waters there does not set them off to advantage. It is a singular solitude, far more interesting than Matlock. The streams of water at the opening of the dale, deep, narrow, and covered with broad-leaved aquatic plants, were new and pleasing. I crossed a number of little brooks, for which Derby is famous, no doubt full of the fish—the trout—in which good old Isaac Walton delighted, and for which the Peak is noted. I found the woods of Ilam fine, and a number of sweet places for meditation in the summer season were hard by. People flock to watering-places in the room of more attractive scenes. I was loth to leave a
spot so soothing, silent, and tranquil, at war with busy life, a haunt for meditation. The woods, separate from the vale scenery, did not appear to exceed many others in this country. After scenes in North Wales and the West of England, these struck me as being compact and snug—all on a less scale. Cheddar, in Somersetshire, has much of the character of Dovedale. I also visited the Shropshire side of the county, and ascended the Wrekin, from which the summit of Cader Idris, in Wales, is visible, faint and grey, from distance. I was much pleased, too, with the higher course of the Severn, which runs to the sea without an impediment almost all the way from its source. At Bridgnorth its sweep, after passing Colebrookdale downwards, round half the town, is majestic. I saw
Moore’s old residence, near Ashbourn, which the people did not seem to value in memory as the residence of a poet.

I made one at the opening of Oscot Catholic College, between Lichfield and Birmingham, which had been just completed. I had an invitation from Dr. Weedal, the principal, an ecclesiastic of extensive acquirements and liberal opinions, who evinced towards me, on more than one occasion, the greatest politeness and confidence. Sir Charles Wolsely drove me over. I have lived too long not to discriminate between bigots in Catholic as well as Protestant churches, and those who have partaken in the advancement of the times under both creeds. I have lived among Catholics abroad, who never troubled me about my creed, nor did I them about theirs. That is the secret of peace, I believe. On the present occasion, a pontifical high mass was celebrated by a bishop and six clergymen. The “Kyrie”
Mozart, and the “Gloria” were sung; then a sermon was delivered by the principal. The music performed was mostly from Haydn and Mozart. The whole was impressive. I also attended an examination of the pupils, who were classed according to the date of sojourn in the college. There were examinations in Latin and English, in philosophy, rhetoric, poetry, history, and grammar. There were arithmetical examinations from common addition to algebra, and one in sacred literature, beginning with the necessity of revealed religion, and so down to early Catholicism, and the tenets of its church. The method of teaching was far more liberal than that in our old grammar schools. The sciences were not neglected, and connected, as much as possible, with situations where the pupils could be in contact with the objects of their studies. Botany and natural history, for example, being taught, when the weather admitted, in the open fields.

Having received an invitation from Mr. Phillips to Grace Dieu Manor, Leicestershire, I went over there to see the ceremony of the consecration of a new church. I believe young Henry Wolsely, of Wolsely, and myself, were the only Protestants present. That part of the ceremony which took place in the open air, reminded me of some scenes in old paintings. The day was fine; the rich colouring of the dresses of the ecclesiastics, and bishop in pontificalibus, the cross borne in front, all slowly pacing round the church, chanting the fiftieth psalm, the prelate sprinkling the walls, and reciting the part of the service which begins, “Asperge me domine hyssopo et mundabor,”. was peculiarly fine and striking. I fancied myself carried back to Catholic
times—in the middle ages—to the days when our fathers, prostrate in mind and body alike, before a religion of ceremonies, were content to be obedient. I do not wonder at the numerous converts made to the papal church, when the rites are so attractive and splendid. It is most assuredly the religion of the eyes.

I paid a visit to Bardon Hill, and the monastery of La Trappe, placed nearly upon its summit. The brothers came from Meillerie, for some unexplained reason being compelled to leave France. The prior was an agreeable and well-instructed personage, the Rev. Mr. Wolfrey. The brethren were simple-minded men. The site of the monastery was on one of the most barren spots of ground conceivable, covered with rock and wiry grass. It had been given or let to them for a very long term, by the owner, Sir G. Beaumont. No English farmer would have looked at the land, nor accepted it as a gift, high, miserable, and exposed as it was. The buildings were compact, not extensive, and very plain, except the chapel, which was remarkably neat, but without costliness. At an hour after midnight, the brothers of the order assembled at prayers, and worshipped for some hours, until breakfast, after which they worked, with an hour’s interval to dine. They went to bed at eight o’clock. An entrance, unornamented, led into a species of court, the chapel being on the right-hand side going in, and the dormitory over the refectory, on the left. The latter had small plain deal tables, with seats next the walls. Over each seat was an inscription in black letters, taken from some passage in the scriptures. The brothers never took animal food. Vegetables, eggs, fruit, butter, cheese, milk, and wine, the latter
from their place in France, comprised the material of their meals. They were also allowed fish. They had beer; and made their own bread. They did not wear any particular dress outside the walls, where those brethren laboured diligently, who were accustomed to out-door work. Others, who had no trade, were instructed in one, for there was no idleness within the walls, nor, indeed, outside, as was clear, from the wonderful change they had effected by their labour in that barren land. No woman was ever permitted to pass the gate. The story of the brethren being forbidden to converse is not true, unless they had special license from the superior; on the day I saw them I had much conversation, and found no restraint, except that, when I mounted the stairs to the dormitory, one of the brothers requested I would not speak there, as no human voice was ever to be heard in the apartment. The sleeping-places resembled the boxes on the sides of a coffee-room, supposing the bedding to occupy and fill up the whole space where the table is usually placed in each box. The beds were of coarse sackcloth, or some similar stuff, filled with chaff. There lay upon each of them a leathern girdle and buckle, with which, I presumed, they girt on this blanket at night; but of this I am not certain, as I could not ask questions in that voiceless apartment. One of the brothers was named Bernard, another Augustin. Two were absent, collecting aid from the faithful for the support of their establishment. Many stories told of them are untrue, but their order is very self-denying. The prior told me that few of the brethren were lettered men, but all worked hard, and were of good character. They were rigid in abiding by their rules. They all looked healthy on the bleak
spot where their habitation stood exposed to every cutting blast. I shuddered at the thought of their midnight prayers in winter, in their chapel, amid ice and snow. On the whole, the establishment and its rules were not so repulsive as report made them, at least nothing that I saw was so, and I visited every nook through the whole extent of the establishment. They had some books and work for in-door employment; they also read the newspapers. The prior told me he could not conjecture why they were expelled from France. They had never interfered with politics, nor with anything beyond their own walls.

It may be judged a matter of difficulty, for one circumstanced as I was, to steer clear of displeasing parties in the midst of conflicting religious opinions. I advocated perfect freedom, and took no part myself in any dispute that was not strictly lay, believing that the verb to tolerate implies a power of intolerance somewhere, and that the right to believe from conviction is inherent, and implies the right to disbelieve. I got, perhaps, the love of none for not playing the advocate of any, but of all; yet, I imagine, I secured their respect.

Sir Charles Wolsely, of Wolsely Hall, the well known radical, had embraced the Catholic faith. His family had been settled at Wolsely from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one branch had gone to Ireland and settled at Wolsely Bridge there. He had known in Milan my old friend Count Porro, and invited me over to the hall, within a few yards of the Trent, one of the most charming situations in the county. The high road from Rugeley to Stafford separated the deer park from the land near the baronet’s house. This last had
four fronts of about ninety feet each, turretted at the angles. The style imitation gothic. We had many discussions upon open trade, in which I found Sir Charles one of the old school, and no free trader. I told him I thought he was a liberal. He said he had supported the cause of the people, for they had been shamefully treated by a domineering faction down to the time of the Reform Bill. When that bill had passed, he had nothing more to do with politics, but as far as in him lay to see that the intentions of the law were fulfilled. He had laboured all he could in the popular cause, had suffered for it, and should do so again if it were necessary. He told me that
Sir Francis Burdett was a man of no sincerity, that when some poor men were arrested, who had got within the gripe of justice-law for what was really no crime at all, he offered to bail them, Sir Francis being with him at that moment, one of whose strong addresses had led to the mischief. Sir Francis refused to join him in getting the poor fellows their freedom. He, from that moment, thought Sir Francis had done all he had solely from the love of notoriety and nothing else. He was full of vanity, and had nothing sterling about him.

Walking with Sir Charles one morning by the Trent, he pointed to some meadows which were thrown upon his hands. “Yes, Sir Charles, but you let them from year to year. Who will improve land on that tenure? Give your tenant a lease, and you will have no trouble.”

“Yes, and have the land worked out.”

“Not at all,” I replied, “there is Sir Robert Peel, who has some odd notions about land, gives leases. The old plan won’t do now. The land would be
improved at the end of the lease, and you would get a higher rent.”

Here the old aristocratical prejudice was evident. Then a railway, no great distance from the hall, had caused the inn at Wolsely Bridge to be closed, by which he lost a hundred a year rent. I advised him to convert it into a dwelling-house, the site was charming, and I endeavoured to comfort him by stating that the conveyance by rail must be a great boon to the agricultural interest. I argued that rents had doubled, and people lived better than they ever did before. He seemed to think the manufacturers had taken a slice from the landed interest. I asked him where was there such a market for agricultural produce as Wolverhampton and the iron districts. “Ask Lord Hatherton, who understands this question better than any other proprietor in Staffordshire, if this is not the correct doctrine.”

“How then was it the landholders were so poor?”

I replied because they cultivated the land as they did of old, and would not, as they might, improve it to a double production.

“I can show you my family books,” said Sir Charles, “I remember my grandfather kept his four black coach horses, a couple of hacks for himself, and half a dozen hunters, besides others. I cannot do that. Cobden perhaps could.”

He told me he became a Catholic from conviction, and was not required to go through any ceremony on the occasion in the chapel at Tixall. A neighbouring clergyman, however, made a point of anathematizing, Sunday after Sunday, all the people in the parish who
were not of his own creed, and, therefore, he determined on making his abjuration openly, that Protestant and Catholic, of which there were many near, might discuss it. I several times went, with
Sir Charles and Miss Wolsely, to a nunnery of ladies of fortune, at Colwich, about a mile distant, of a Sunday before dinner, to hear the benediction sweetly sung, seated in the nuns’ parlour. I do not think I ever heard more charming devotional singing. This solemn service was always over by seven o’clock.

He was sincere in his opinions. On leaving Staffordshire to visit Italy, while I was in the county, he wrote to me from London, dated St. James’ Place.

“Dear Redding,

“I was so perplexed with business before I left, that I had not time to write to you. Pray send me one of your papers, if not two, if you think you have made a good critique which will suit the Pope and the Cardinals, I will then procure you absolution—unconditionally! Send one to Henry, and then if there is anything that will please the propaganda, he will forward it! I have not been once down at the club, so that I have heard no news.

“I believe about Rugeley they will miss me, for before I left, I gave up to Mr. G—— seven acres of potatoe ground, to let seventy-five per cent cheaper than the usual rent there. They make exactly fifty gardens for the poor, to be let indiscriminately to Catholics as well as Protestants. This will make the shovel-hat put on another cock—for it will be sending his parishioners
for favours to the Catholic priest—tempora mutantur! Adieu,

“Yours sincerely,
C. Wolsely.”

Speaking of the wisdom of our fathers as to law, he showed me the grant to his ancestors of a deer-leap for his park, dated in the reign of Edward II. in latin, about nine inches long, and four fingers wide, enough to throw a modern conveyancer into hysterics. One of the Wolselys had been a Baron of the Exchequer in 1300, and a descendant of this baron held the same office in the time of Edward IV. After I had quitted Staffordshire, in one of his letters he said, “Do you know Louis Bonaparte? what is that clever fellow about? He has got his two uncles in London, Murat’s son, and some old French officers, and if I am not mistaken, has an eye upon France. I bet either he or Henri against the Duke of Orleans when Louis Phillipe dies. At any rate there will be a try for it—that is my opinion. When I go to town I shall try and scrape acquaintance with him. He would have frightened the present government of France, had he got possession of Strasburgh. He was within an ace of it. What will your friend Peel do if Wellington goes off the stage before him?” This is a singularly prophetic letter, bearing date February 25, 1840. Sir Charles died in 1846, aged 78, a hale active man nearly to the last, and a protectionist I fear. He was undoubtedly a singular individual, energetic and straightforward in what he thought right. He was struck off the list of justices of the peace by Eldon, and the Whigs evaded
restoring him. The late
Lord Talbot declared that he was no impediment, as lord-lieutenant, and would do it with pleasure, but the deprivation having been the act of a chancellor, he had not authority to replace him. He once rode over all the way to Wolverhampton to meet the Honourable C. P. Villiers at my cottage at breakfast, whom he had a great desire to know. I was indebted to him for sundry haunches of fine venison. There were some beautiful landscape views from different points of his park, particularly over the Trent towards Shuckborough.

The paper having accomplished all that was possible at Lichfield was moved to Wolverhampton, and, in part, a new proprietary formed. There was no trade at Lichfield. The former was a place of much business, waxing rich and populous, but by no means so agreeable a residence as the latter city. The paper increased in circulation, but lost much of its county character. I have omitted to state that at Lichfield I wrote a “Life of William IV.” for a London house. It was undertaken in anticipation of the king’s death, finished, sent up to town and published so close upon the event that I never saw a proof. I laboured day and night upon it, besides doing my customary amount of other duty. It was published anonymously.

Marshal Soult, accompanied by Sir William Napier, whom I had the pleasure of knowing, stopped an hour or two at Wolverhampton to inspect the iron works of Mr. Barker, a leading ironmaster, on their way to the Menai Bridge. The printer told me that Sir William had enquired for me, but unluckily I was at the moment of their unexpected arrival soliloquizing at
Bushbury, far from the noisy town. As
Wilson translates, to—
Where neither suffering comes, nor woes,
To vex the genius of repose,
On death’s majestic shore.

In other words, I had taken a lone walk to that distant churchyard, and was copying quaint epitaphs, and I thus missed seeing Sir William. Twenty-two years before I had seen the marshal at morning parades with other celebrated soldiers, attending the Bourbons. A score of years had now nearly extinguished the royal race, to the regret of few but their dependants. The History of the Peninsular War, by Sir William Napier, is the only true military history we possess. The battles are given with uncommon clearness of detail. Thiers is praised for his details of combats, but if his land battles are not more correctly given than his naval, they are miserably defective. I translated the first seven volumes of his history, and am tolerably master of his details. I was told by an officer of the Guards, that Sir William Napier was favoured by Wellington with the loan of his papers relative to the Peninsular War, and that some one saying to the duke that Sir William was a radical, he replied, “What of that, he will tell the truth, which is all I want.” I have heard, too, that the duke said Southey’s History of the Peninsular War would do for the history of any war. This confirms me in what I never mentioned in print before, that Southey’s Life of Nelson, so much lauded at one time, is full of inexcusable blunders, showing that he knew little more of naval affairs than the critics who declared it the finest modern biography we possess.


When a youth I had read Shenstone with delight. Delias and Strephons were then the order of the day. I was now near the Leasowes, and having gone into the church of Hales Owen and seen the poet’s modest tomb, and that so much more pretending of Major Haliday, a subsequent possessor of the Leasowes, I continued my way on foot down to where a green lane on the right hand conducts to the precinct marked as the spot consecrated by genius. I found the place in possession of the anti-poetic family of Atwood. Across what were once the great fish ponds of the Abbey of Hales Owen, constituting the attraction of the place, a huge canal embankment has been reared, entirely destroying the view and ruining the charm to which all else was subsidiary. Inscriptions here and there remained, and the building, designed to represent a ruin on the right hand near the entrance, was now in greater perfection than ever, time having clothed it thickly with verdure. Shenstone’s house was long ago demolished, and a new, but plain, edifice erected on its site. All, however, was upon a small scale, which genius made interesting. Even the rigidity of Johnson softened before the exquisite tenderness and simplicity of some of the poet’s verses.

Major Haliday had a daughter to whom Henry Wolsely, the younger brother of Sir Charles, whom I have already mentioned, formed an attachment. She was an heiress. They agreed to elope. Henry had stowed the lady, abigail, and luggage safely in a carriage and four, at the witching hour of the night. Away they drove uninterruptedly until they arrived about half way between Birmingham and Litchfield, when the
postillions were ordered to stop by thieves. The carriage and lovers were plundered of their money and effects, in this peril, expecting pursuit from the family, they reached Lichfield in a forlorn state. Time was lost in endeavouring to get money to proceed, which at that hour, after great delay, was achieved; the runaways treading on thorns all the time. Love lent them aid. They contrived to pursue their way baggageless to their destination without being overtaken. Their trunks and such of their effects as the robbers did not choose to carry off, were afterwards found over the hedge in a field adjoining the road. Never was any accident more untoward.

I did not leave Hagley unvisited. It is a fine seat, undoubtedly, but there are others in my view equal to it in the sister counties. Beaudesert is much more princely, but it wants the foliage of Hagley—the “shades of Hagley,” as Lord Littleton wrote it. It was necessary I should sometimes visit the surrounding towns. It was then I availed myself of all worthy sight-seeing. Even the maiden castle of Ashby-de-la-Zouch did not escape me. At Burton I used to lunch with old Sir John Foster, on my desultory and rambling way. He was the Marquis of Anglesey’s agent for Burton on Trent, which place returned a rent roll of twenty-two thousand a year, Sir John at his death was succeeded by Mr. Richardson. The Trent flows very sweetly by the town, and perhaps contributes to the excellence of Bass’s ale.

I was amused by a new theological dispute. The hatred of theologists to each other, has long been proverbial, one of the strongest proofs that neither
party is right, if the sacred volume goes for anything. In that there is but one ladder to heaven, which is charity, with all due respect to old Jacob. The assumption of right by both parties may generally be taken as a proof of wrong, reason being by both treated as if its eyes were out. A Roman Catholic priest went to the funeral of one of his congregation in a Spanish cloak, such as may often be seen worn in the streets of London in winter. Heaven knows I no more credit transubstantiation than that chalk is cheese, or that the Yankee
Joseph Smith, the Latter Day Saint impostor, found gold plates in a language that never existed. Yet I can forgive those who through fallibility of understanding are credulous enough to make similar things matters of conscientious belief. But to my tale. The priest followed his disciple’s coffin to the burying ground at the Protestant church in a Spanish cloak. The rector or vicar persuaded his attorney, or the attorney persuaded the rector or vicar, I forget which, that the priest was breaking the Emancipation Act, which enacts that no priest shall wear his canonicals in processions out of his church or chapel. Letter after letter came to me on this desecration of the churchyard by popish garments. The priest must be indited. The proper documents were laid before the Bishop of Lichfield, an excellent prelate, who would have dismissed the matter, but he had no choice. He was obliged to request Lord Normanby to institute an enquiry. The good bishop died in the midst of the affair. Here the matter had dropped, but the priest was seen again with the horrible papal garment on his shoulders. The prosecution was renewed. It became
whispered about, at last, that the garment was not canonical at all. The spirit of vengeance was stifled by its own ignorance, and the pitiable, ridiculous, laughable affair terminated. Such disputes remind one, as to triviality, of those described by Canning, as occupying the fathers—the settlement of how many angels could dance upon the point of a fine needle without jostling each other.

The members for Wolverhampton in parliament, were the Honourable C. P. Villiers and T. Thornley, Esq., both ardent advocates for free trade. The former may be said to have first embodied the question in parliament, and led the front of the battle. Mr. Cobden came in second, and obtained more of the praise than he merited, though the desire of Sir Robert Peel to give to Manchester all praise in the way of conciliation, or rather so, I believe, than to a member of the aristocracy. Earnest, well read on the question, eloquent, and gentlemanly, never intrusive on the patience of the house, Villiers obtained its ear before Cobden became the champion, interested as well in pocket as in principle in the measure. The constituency of Wolverhampton clung to their representatives, for they were really their choice. There is a straightforwardness in the inhabitants and workmen of the iron districts over the cotton workers, of course I do not include the colliers in either category. I have never known a more correct and constitutional intercourse to exist between a very large constituency, in which there must be many shades of opinion, and its representatives in parliament, than that of Wolverhampton.

I have not noticed the “potteries,” a district till
recently little spoken about in other parts of England, an astonishing evidence of the extent and skill of British industry. There was a strike among the men, and I believe they had justice on their side. With that feeling it was impossible to convince them they were acting foolishly. Abstract truth is always supposed, by the ignorant, to be capable of realization, and justice to be attainable because injustice is felt. They cannot be convinced, were that the case the world would be perfect, and that human life is destined, for all we know, to be never more than a race towards realization without the attainment. “I told them that they spent large sums of money, and suffered great straits, thinking to force their masters to measures which they might not choose to adopt. Their masters could live without labour ten times as long as they could. Their masters could take their manufactories elsewhere. Their being right gave them nothing more than the moral power; and the physical, which might have no regard to the moral, would beat them, as it did everywhere in similar cases. I advised them to go to work, save their money, and beat their masters by establishing a manufactory themselves, the profits of which would establish more. They admitted that it would answer, and that the idea was not new, but impracticable. Why? Because they could not trust one another, and if they could they would disagree about management, there would be defalcations. Then, my good Sirs, if you cannot trust one another, there is end of the matter. You may drive the trade elsewhere and starve yourselves and families, but you cannot gain what you want by strikes. You may by
integrity. Many of the honest men saw this, but where the multitude rules at its own wild will, wisdom is scared. Yet a part of the press affects to credit the infallibility of the multitude, in rectitude, judgment, and capacity for government. The waters, it is true, have expanded in our day; they have increased in superfices, but not in volume. This may continue, but nature has confined wisdom and discretion to the few, for like genius these will ever be spare and peculiar gifts.

While on this topic, I wanted a professional instrument, difficult to make, and went over to Birmingham for the purpose of obtaining it. I was told only one man there could make it. I got his address, entered a narrow passage into a small square dingy court, and mounted a step ladder into a sort of loft. There I saw a middle-aged, plain, working man reading a newspaper, a curious silver tool lay before him. He told me he had lost nearly all the morning trying to find out its use. He was not content to do his work and get his money, he should learn nothing that way, and he did not like to be foiled. He told me he could do what I wanted, or else he believed I must send to London. I was surprised, as I thought anything could be made in Birmingham. He replied:

“We have capital men here, but they can only do one thing. They cannot invent, to add but a little, if that little is new to them.”

“Then they are only able to execute what they have learned?”

“In the best or worst manner, according to the price, and to improve it when carefully directed how,
but they cannot go out of the way. We have not one inventer or improver to a thousand working men—not to ten thousand.”

“Then you do not think the advancement of the times has increased the inventive faculty?”

“I do not think it has—but the advance of the times has made us perfect in many things, that till now could not be executed.”

“You mean that you dare more now?”

“Yes, Mr. Watt knew of high pressure steam, so did Hornblower, but neither dared to use it—we do use it—as you know in every railroad engine, and even in mines.”

“How is that?”

“Because our tools are more perfect, and we carry workmanship and castings to a size and perfection of which they did not dream.”

“In the same things?”

“Yes, workmanship was rude sixty years ago to what it is now.”

“Then in the workmanship lies the great improvement?”

“Yes, we can now perfect inventions, that were long laid by as impracticable for want of more perfect tools and higher skill in finishing. Things common now were then thought impracticable.”

“Who are the best workmen of all the three kingdoms?”

“Englishmen, for nice finish.”

Mr. Watt said that no Scotchman ever becomes a first-rate artisan—is that true of his countrymen?”

“Well, I believe it is; our finishers are mostly En-
lish; we have one or two nice French hands at fancy things.”

This man satisfactorily completed what I wanted him to do. He was continually consulted about difficult matters, yet he did not make money proportionable to his abilities. He had to think as well as work, and that was the impediment. Thinking required leisure, and leisure gained him no direct profit. People applied to him in difficult cases only. No instructions could have formed him: nature was his master and inspirer. He found in the talents in which he outshone his fellow workmen, the impediment to a money elevation, for he made no gains adequate to his ability, although he doubled and sometimes tripled the gains of his fellow workmen; but he could not work with his mind and hands at the same time. Such is the advantage common drudges in life have over the superior capacities, that really give themselves up for all, and receive little in return. I was astonished at the things I saw in the “Toy-shop of Europe,” to which I used frequently to go by the Manchester and Birmingham railroad, to amuse myself by seeing the wonderful processes followed there. I saw that railroad opened—a scene I shall never forget. It was the first completed after the Liverpool and Manchester, in which last Mr. Huskisson was killed. The amazing display of population on this occasion beggared description, seeming the greater novelty of the whole—it was astounding.

The most intellectual and reflecting workmen, and at the same time the cleverest, or such men as those to whom I have just alluded, are not the men who render themselves conspicuous as political leaders, orators,
or the like. These are generally indifferent workmen, when not wholly of the idle, with little acquirements, many words, and bold fronts. The first-class men are solitary and retiring, rather than talkative and busy, feeling, though perhaps unconsciously, their own superiority. The self-conceited, half-educated idlers, are the foremost in tumultuous outpourings, and among them the Scotch are prominent, because they are constantly pondering how they shall make their market through other people. The mechanic of imagination, or rather of inventive power, in a certain way, follows the law of the more studious and thoughtful in learning and the arts, who rank highest in their departments. The minds of such have little in common with the stump orator and the chartist-leader. Even if their sentiments lead that way, and they do not feel their own superiority, they are so accustomed to find the difference between theory and practice in their mechanical labours, that they are aware of the hopelessness of realizing abstract truths. It is a pleasure to meet with this class of men, not the scholars of colleges or academies, but educated by nature, self-taught, rational, strong-minded, unobtrusive, of whom society would be prouder than it is, if society had but the true power of discrimination, and possessed sound judgment, or had perspicuity sufficient to perceive their inestimable worth in a country and generation like our own. The number of men of whom I speak is confined like all rare and inestimable things, and is not worldly in spirit. I would honour such men, however the unwise affect to look down upon them, for it is by them that nations like our own grow in greatness.


At Lichfield I had visited the sites connected with the history of Johnson. The house of his father, the bookseller, was inhabited by an ironmonger, and remains much as it was in his day. The stone placed over his father’s remains, in St. Michael’s church, is no longer to be seen, at least, I could not find it, nor get intelligence where it had gone. Chancellor Law munificently erected a statue of Johnson, just opposite the house of old Johnson, while I was in the country. The meadows below the east end of the cathedral, leading towards Stow Church, used to be my noon-day walk. No trace remains there of Johnson’s willow. Miss Porter’s house is still one of the best in the city, built of red brick. Miss Seward’s residence in the Close is near the north-east angle of the cathedral, a roomy old habitation. I met with no one who had a personal recollection of Johnson, although there were several ancient people alive there; but then half a century had elapsed since he died in London, and his later visits to the city were not frequent. I met with some who were acquainted with Darwin. Dr. Harwood, the venerable historian of Lichfield, I knew well. In that city, too, I conversed for the first time with a centenarian, by trade a mason; he was sitting by his fire, and complained only of deafness. He was fresh-coloured and healthy in appearance. I thought him likely to live some years longer; yet life to him seemed not of much moment. It is usually supposed that the love of life increases with years.

I returned to London. The proprietary, to lessen their current expences, proposed getting a reporter to look after the paper, at a low rate of income, and it
was now in a state to make its way; it had become plain sailing. My knowledge of politics, the county, and people, thus become superfluous in that trading sense, which regards the ledger alone. The paper, too, could not longer be considered as embracing the county at large.

Prior to leaving off my task, I had many gratifying expressions of regret at my departure. I was flattered on being unexpectedly addressed by a member of the lower House.

“You said the other day you were going to leave us. You have been working between thirty and forty years exactly on the same political side—few can say as much. Let me know in what we can be useful to you.”

This was the first time in my life that anything similar had been said to me. On the other hand, nothing like solicitation for anything of the kind had entered into my head. It was ever my fault to leave the future to take care of itself. An unusual flow of health and good spirits, and perhaps no little love of independence, caused in me too great a forgetfulness of that object which absorbs the souls of the mass of mankind. I thought it disgraceful to turn. From the day I set out in life, I had been steady, through evil and good report, to one point. I had seen the triumph of the principles with which I started. When not employed in my duties of reading and writing, exercise, and sometimes experimental essays in different sciences, constituted my amusement. I had none of what the world deems lofty aspirations; in other words, of the art of huckstering and money-making. Studying the old philosophers early in life, had made me regard the art
of cozening others for self-advantage as meanness. I considered the notions of the masses in worldliness as unworthy those who think and reason, never carrying their ideas above self-interest in anything, and moved alone by the desire to possess that which, in a few years, they must abandon. I did not square my ideas with the many upon some other subjects. I thought that what they deemed the end of existence, should only be the means.

It was not wonderful, therefore, that I was ignorant of any post in which I could be serviceable, while I was a perfect stranger to all intrigues for selfish purposes, and often when mingling in society, among men of title, fortune, or influence, my last idea had been how to turn them to a selfish account, being proud to maintain a species of social freedom, and even fearful lest my motives should be misconstrued. In pecuniary matters, I was ever economical. If I found my necessary expenses were met, I troubled my head no farther, throwing myself ardently into the business before me, which sometimes happened to be more attractive by being controversial, and from being frequently the leader in the contest on behalf of my own party. I now reflected seriously on the generous offer, and that my position was precarious after all. I had been seven years out of London, severing business connections there. At the same time, I had written one successful commercial work in my “History of Wine.” I had lived abroad in different places, for three years on a stretch, and to me, after my old friend Demaria’s simile, “a bale of goods from a cobbler’s green bag,” I did know, though I was never engaged in
trade of any kind. Why not then ask for a consulship? Such posts were given even to military officers, who knew nothing beyond regimental duty, and no language but the vernacular; in fact to those who could make interest for them. Two peers, and five members of the House of Commons, in consequence, applied for such an appointment in my behalf.
Lord Palmerston at once placed me upon his list. I had an interview with his lordship at the Foreign Office, in which, with great openness and candour, he explained that such appointments were limited, that vacancies where I should like to go rarely fell in, and were much contested, but that he would not fail to remember an application so strongly supported.

I called occasionally at the Foreign Office, nothing presenting itself for several months, when Lord Melbourne’s administration went out. If there was a post of the kind, for which I was a candidate, vacant at the moment, it was filled up by some name on the list with superior interest. Length of toil, honest service, necessity, go for nothing in place of being justly balanced in considering such claims. After all, I fear, not being a Scotchman, I was not sufficiently a plague to the Foreign Office by persevering solicitude. Under Sir Robert Peel, whose anti-free-trade efforts I had combated at his own door, I had no hope of any kind. I had, therefore, to return to my usual avocations, and falling back upon my labours, seek amusement in waking dreams, and substantial support in vain hopes.

The death of a friend, soon afterwards, cut once more into the circle of my acquaintance. Dr. Lord, of the Bom-
bay army, was killed in action with Dost Mahommed at Purwan. He was an excellent creature, in the prime and vigour of a promising existence, acting as political agent at Cabul. Just before quitting his country for ever, I had visited him, convalescent from the measles, a singular instance of the disease in one between thirty and forty years of age. Lord was an excellent scholar, and had been very diligent in the study of the Oriental tongues. He had a notion he could study anywhere, but he was often put out of the way in the attempt.

The best situation for a student, in the summer, to my liking, is some way in the suburbs, and not in London, the window facing the north, and open to the green fields. If it command an extensive landscape so much the better. The eyes may expatiate while the thoughts are far from the scene before them. The position must be noiseless. If the barking of the dog, the crowing of the cock, (which in London, all its good people know, have no discrimination as to day or night, noon or noontide,) if the low of kine be audible, it must be at such a distance as not to startle or visit the porches of the ear too roughly. The miserable kettle they call a bell in the later-built churches, and it is no better, must not be near to make a horrible ringing in the ears, very far from being like that which heard—
Over some wide watered shore
Swinging slow with sullen roar.
is so charming an accompaniment in rural sounds. Sudden noises are sad interruptions. Hence the back attic of the old authors, often attributed in jest and
earnest, to their poverty. I have had recourse to one myself, in houses where I have resided in town. Out of the inns of court, there is little peace, except at the top of the house. Even there, barrel organs, yelling brats, costermongers with cries not less musical than the howl of the savage, grinding carriage wheels, screaming fruit sellers, and vagabonds with blackened faces, semi-musical, playing childish antics, outdo, in the modern Babylon, all that the ancient could have produced to torment the student. With a thermometer ranging above 80°, the casement must be opened for all sort of noises, blacks, and blue-bottle flies. It is not easy to say how many worthy thoughts have become disconnected. and portions of them slipped away through “cracks and zigzags of the head,” which might hare been worth preservation, but for such vile interruptions. Some boast they can compose under any circumstances, and truly, there can be no works possessing more the tendency to “compose” others, than such as are put together where honest reflection is absent, and words stand for sense.
Socrates might have studied amid the thunder of Xantippe, but he would hardly have selected for that purpose the part of his domicile where the lady resided. Newton naturally took a different view upon the point, as his study on the roof of his house in St. Martyn’s Street, shows at this day, a building I never see without deep respect for that illustrious philosopher.