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Title: The Old Church Clock

Author: Richard Parkinson

Contributor: William Wordsworth

Release date: March 8, 2020 [eBook #61587]

Language: English


This etext was transcribed by Les Bowler

Public domain book cover

Old Church Clock


Canon of Manchester.







The Collegiate Church and Victoria Bridge


Broughton Church

Following xviii

Ulverstone Church

Following 64

View of Scaw Fell

Following 68




Memoir of Robert Walker


The Old Church Clock

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


The Collegiate Church and Victoria Bridge


A BRIEF history of the following homely little tale may perhaps be not less interesting, and more edifying, than the tale itself.  It was written originally for the pages of The Christian Magazine, (a cheap monthly publication, intended for circulation especially in the manufacturing districts,) which is under the management of a young clerical friend, who deserves the highest praise for the energy with which he commenced, and the zeal and judgment with which he has hitherto conducted it.

Like many more important events, the following story, which commenced almost in jest, has ended almost in earnest.  It was not at first proposed that it should extend beyond three or four chapters; but having nearly by accident carried his hero (so to style him) into the North for a birth-place, a train of associations was awakened of which the author could not forego the record.  Though by birth and descent a native of Lancashire, he had resided long p. vienough in the region of the English Lakes to become enamoured with its wild and romantic scenes, and intimately acquainted with the manners and mode of thinking of its inhabitants; and, among other charms of that sequestered district, not the least grateful to his imagination was the character of Robert Walker, for so long a period incumbent of one of the most retired and romantic portions even of that primitive country.  Nor was it merely as an exemplary parish priest, (and well does Robert Walker deserve the title of Priest of the Lakes, as that of Apostle of the North has been assigned to Bernard Gilpin,) that the character of this good man is to be regarded, but as one striking instance out of many (if the history of our Parish Priesthood could now be written) in which the true liturgical teaching of the Church was strictly maintained in the lower ranks of the ministry, when it had been either totally discontinued or had withered down into a mere lifeless form, in the higher.  It cannot be denied that corruption began from above,—secular patronage and loose foreign notions and manners first influencing those in station and authority, and then naturally descending downwards into the ranks of the Church; thus gradually corrupting the whole mass to such an extent, that the chastisements which she has since received from the whips p. viiand scorns of dissent became as wholesome as it was deserved.  Now, in the author’s mind, there was an apostolical succession of duty as well as office in Robert Walker, which convinced him,—and consoled him with the thought,—that there was nothing in the Church system itself which necessarily led to that deadness in herself and activity and success in those who dissented from her, which it was too often his lot to witness during the first days of his ministry. [vii]  No doubt, hundreds of p. viiihis brethren can look back, each to his Robert Walker in his own district, by whose light his p. ixpath was cheered when all else seemed dark around him.

The history of Robert Walker, however, is calculated to teach a much more important lesson than p. xthis; although it be one which seems so obvious to reason, that it could hardly have been expected that any example should be required, even to enforce it.  It appears quite evident, at the first glance, that as Faith can only be illustrated, proved, and confirmed by good works, so Doctrine can only be impressed, ingrafted, and made practical by discipline.  It is true that it may be conveyed into the mind, and painted on the imagination, by distinct and impressive oral teaching alone; but it can only become useful and even intelligible to the great masses of men, by their being required to show, by some outward act of their own, that they understand its utility, and make a personal application of the truths which it conveys.  When our Saviour Himself combined—never to be separated—outward acts and observances with inward graces in the two holy Sacraments of His religion, He taught us, at once by precept and example, that even the most solemn and mysterious doctrines of His Church can only be properly impressed on the heart and understanding by the observance of some corresponding and outward act, as at once a sign of obedience, and a channel of further grace.  This is the system on which our Prayer Book is constructed.  Are men to pray?—it tells them when and how.  Are they to believe certain facts in their religion?—it p. xiimpresses them on the heart and memory by periodical commemorations.  Are they to believe certain doctrines?—it brings these prominently forth at fixed times and seasons.  And so on.  Doctrine and discipline, with the Church, go hand in hand, like faith and practice, the result of both.  Now all this seems so reasonable, that it might hardly appear to require the test of experience to give it further sanction; yet to that test we may fairly appeal; and the author has, in his own mind, been constantly in the habit of doing so by the cheering history of Robert Walker.  Let us first look at the opposite side of the picture, in the illustrious instance of Newton, the pious, laborious, and eloquent minister of Olney.  Here is a favourable specimen of the system of spreading the Gospel by instructing the mind, and sanctifying the feelings of the hearer, principally by oral teaching, without laying much stress upon the necessity for prescribed outward observances.  Yet what is the result?  No one can read Cowper’s beautiful letters with regard to that place and time, and not be painfully convinced of the evanescent nature of all impressions which are merely made by individual teaching on individual minds, without some external bond of union by which a religious society may be held together when the hand that first combined it has been p. xiiwithdrawn; and some supply of fuel to rouse and rekindle the slumbering embers, when the first light has been extinguished or removed.  Thus, nearly all traces of the teaching of that good man disappeared almost as soon as his warning voice had ceased to sound in the ears of his at the time willing hearers. [xii]  But how different has been the p. xiiiresult in the case of the liturgical teaching and Prayer-Book discipline of the humble Robert Walker!  Even in his native valleys, not only a pious remembrance of his character, but a willing obedience to his precepts, still lingers.  But especially in his descendants, numerous, and scattered, and often in humble circumstances as they are found to be, it is there that we find,—as we might most expect to find,—the impress of his character, deeply, the author hopes, indelibly impressed; and showing itself in a manner most edifying to the observer, and most confirmatory of the far-seeing wisdom with which our own Church’s system of discipline has been constructed.  It has been the author’s good fortune, at different periods of his life, to see, or to hear of-various members of this favoured family, in almost every variety of station p. xivto which one single race can well be supposed liable; but the result of his observation has been always the same.  Walker’s great-grandson, the Rev. Robert Bamford, Vicar of Bishopton, who first brought this venerable patriarch into notice beyond the boundaries of his native hills, by a sketch of his character in the columns of the Christian Remembrancer, (though partial attention had many years previously been drawn to him by some letters in the Annual Register) was himself a clergyman of the highest character and promise.  One of Walker’s daughters, Mrs. Borrowdale, who became a resident of Liverpool, retained to the last the habits of obedience to the Prayer Book which she had been taught in youth, and attended the daily service of St. Thomas’s in that town, till it finally expired for want of the rubrical number of worshippers.  But, by a singular coincidence, the author was brought into contact with this family in a way still more interesting to himself; and gladly would he wish to convey to his readers’ mind that sympathy with his feelings, which is necessary to enter fully into the moral of this little narrative.  The author, some years ago, was presented by a friend to a living, and found there as curate one who had married the great-grand-daughter of Robert Walker.  Here generations had passed away between the early stock p. xvand the last shoot of the tree; yet the connexion between the two was by no means dissevered.  The tree might still be known by its fruit!  She was one—(we may speak freely of the dead, as they then become the common property of the Church)—she was one whom it was not possible to know and not to love.  With the liberal education which a town residence affords, she yet retained much of the freshness of manner and unaffected simplicity of address which belong to the better-educated class of females in a country place, and which win the heart more than the finest polish of artificial manners.  Her real anxiety for the comfort and pleasure of others, and total forgetfulness of self, formed that highest species of flattery which no one can resist; while her attention to domestic duties, her care for the poor, and her punctual observance of religious services, combined to render her all that one wishes to find in that most important of all stations—a curate’s wife.  She was proud—in the best sense of the word—of her descent from Robert Walker; and Robert Walker would have been proud of her.  She was so attached to the place—and a less promising or more laborious post could hardly be conceived—that she had often been heard to declare that nothing should remove her from it, even should any chance deprive them of the curacy.  At length p. xvithe author resolved to resign the living; and among other reasons for doing so, one (of which he has the least reason to be ashamed) was that he might be instrumental in procuring the succession to it for those who were so well worthy to hold it.  But, alas! how mysterious are the ways of Providence!  She, who had looked up to this event as the highest point of her earthly ambition, was destined never to enjoy the object of her hopes.  Within a very few weeks after this resignation, she was taken off by the immediate stroke of death, by a complaint of which she had long entertained reasonable fears.  Yet she died, as she had lived, in the service of her Master and His Church.  She was found by her husband dead on the sofa, with the Prayer Book beside her, open at the place where she had just been hearing her only child, a boy of about eight years of age, read aloud to her, according to her custom, the service for the day.  Thus departed a true descendant of Robert Walker!  Thus the author’s leave-taking of his late flock was converted into her funeral sermon.  He need not add what topics would naturally suggest themselves as appropriate to the melancholy occasion!

The author has thus put the reader in possession of some of the reasons why the character of Robert Walker should have been one of especial interest p. xviito himself: and he has now only to explain the artifice which has been employed, in order that the public might have it before them in all its beauty.

It is well known to all the readers of Wordsworth, that in addition to the sketch which he has drawn of this primitive pastor in his great poem of the Excursion, he has, in his notes to his sonnets on the River Duddon, given a prose history of his life, from materials supplied by the family, in language of the utmost simplicity and beauty.  This little memoir is, of course, locked up from the generality of readers in the somewhat costly volumes of Mr. Wordsworth’s works; and the author has often wished that it were reprinted in a separate form, for general perusal, as a great man’s “Records of a Good man’s life.”  Happening then, as has already been said, to place the birth of his hero in the North, the thought occurred to him so far to attempt a sketch of the character of Robert Walker, as to justify him, in his own eyes, in presenting to the Poet the request (even now an unreasonable one) that he would permit his own true history of the Patriarch to accompany this little narrative into the world.  With this request Mr. Wordsworth has kindly complied; thus conferring on the author a favour in addition to many others previously received; and affording to his reader the comfortable assurance p. xviiithat, in purchasing this otherwise meagre production, he will at least receive, in the following memoir alone, something well worth his money.

The author has only to add, that the little sketch, at the conclusion of the tale, of the late Rev. Joshua Brooks, Chaplain of the Collegiate Church, may probably look like a caricature to all except those who knew him; and, (now that the publication is no longer anonymous) that the two characters in the dialogue are both alike imaginary.

Broughton Cliff, March 25, 1843.

Broughton Church

p. xix[From Mr. Wordsworth’s notes to his series of sonnets on the river Duddon.]

The reader who may have been interested in the foregoing Sonnets, (which together may be considered as a Poem,) will not be displeased to find in this place a prose account of the Duddon, extracted from Green’s comprehensive Guide to the Lakes, lately published.  “The road leading from Coniston to Broughton is over high ground, and commands a view of the River Duddon; which, at high water, is a grand sight, having the beautiful and fertile lands of Lancashire and Cumberland stretching each way from its margin.  In this extensive view, the face of nature is displayed in a wonderful variety of hill and dale; wooded grounds and buildings; amongst the latter, Broughton Tower, seated on the crown of a hill, rising elegantly from the valley, is an object of extraordinary interest.  Fertility on each side is gradually diminished, and lost in the superior heights of Blackcomb, in Cumberland, and the high lands between Kirkby and Ulverstone.

“The road from Broughton to Seathwaite is on the banks of the Duddon, and on its Lancashire side it is of various elevations.  The river is an amusing companion, one while brawling p. xxand tumbling over rocky precipices, until the agitated water becomes again calm by arriving at a smoother and less precipitous bed, but its course is soon again ruffled, and the current thrown into every variety of foam which the rocky channel of a river can give to water.”—Vide Green’s Guide to the Lakes, vol. i. pp. 98–100.

After all, the traveller would be most gratified who should approach this beautiful Stream, neither at its source, as is done in the Sonnets, nor from its termination; but from Coniston over Walna Scar; first descending into a little circular valley, a collateral compartment of the long winding vale through which flows the Duddon.  This recess, towards the close of September, when the after-grass of the meadows is still of a fresh green, with the leaves of many of the trees faded, but perhaps none fallen, is truly enchanting.  At a point elevated enough to show the various objects in the valley, and not so high as to diminish their importance, the stranger will instinctively halt.  On the foreground, little below the most favourable station, a rude foot-bridge is thrown over the bed of the noisy brook foaming by the way-side.  Russet and craggy hills, of bold and varied outline, surround the level valley, which is besprinkled with grey rocks plumed with birch trees.  A few homesteads are interspersed, in some places peeping out from among the rocks like hermitages, whose site has been chosen for the benefit of sunshine as well as shelter; in other instances, the dwelling-house, barn, and byre, compose together a cruciform structure, which, with its embowering trees, and the ivy p. xxiclothing part of the walls and roof like a fleece, call to mind the remains of an ancient abbey.  Time, in most cases, and nature every where, have given a sanctity to the humble works of man, that are scattered over this peaceful retirement.  Hence a harmony of tone and colour, a perfection and consummation of beauty, which would have been marred had aim or purpose interfered with the course of convenience, utility, or necessity.  This unvitiated region stands in no need of the veil of twilight to soften or disguise its features.  As it glistens in the morning sunshine, it would fill the spectator’s heart with gladsomeness.  Looking from our chosen station, he would feel an impatience to rove among its pathways, to be greeted by the milkmaid, to wander from house to house, exchanging “good-morrows” as he passed the open doors; but, at evening, when the sun is set, and a pearly light gleams from the western quarter of the sky, with an answering light from the smooth surface of the meadows; when the trees are dusky, but each kind still distinguishable; when the cool air has condensed the blue smoke rising from the cottage-chimneys; when the dark mossy stones seem to sleep in the bed of the foaming Brook; then, he would be unwilling to move forward, not less from a reluctance to relinquish what he beholds, than from an apprehension of disturbing, by his approach, the quietness beneath him.  Issuing from the plain of this valley, the Brook descends in a rapid torrent, passing by the church-yard of Seathwaite.  The traveller is thus conducted at once into the midst of the wild and beautiful scenery which gave occasion to the Sonnets from the 14th to p. xxiithe 20th inclusive.  From the point where the Seathwaite Brook joins the Duddon, is a view upwards, into the pass through which the River makes its way into the Plain of Donnerdale.  The perpendicular rock on the right bears the ancient British name of The Pen; the one opposite is called Walla-barrow Crag, a name that occurs in several places to designate rocks of the same character.  The chaotic aspect of the scene is well marked by the expression of a stranger, who strolled out while dinner was preparing, and at his return, being asked by his host, “What way he had been wandering?” replied, “As far as it is finished!”

The bed of the Duddon is here strewn with large fragments of rocks fallen from aloft; which, as Mr. Green truly says, “are happily adapted to the many-shaped waterfalls,” (or rather water-breaks, for none of them are high,) “displayed in the short space of half a mile.”  That there is some hazard in frequenting these desolate places, I myself have had proof; for one night an immense mass of rock fell upon the very spot where, with a friend, I had lingered the day before.  “The concussion,” says Mr. Green, speaking of the event, (for he also, in the practice of his art, on that day sat exposed for a still longer time to the same peril,) “was heard, not without alarm, by the neighbouring shepherds.”  But to return to Seathwaite Church-yard: it contains the following inscription.

“In memory of the Reverend Robert Walker, who died the 25th of June, 1802, in the 93rd year of his age, and 67th of his curacy at Seathwaite.

p. xxiii“Also, of Anne his wife, who died the 28th of January, in the 93rd year of her age.”

In the parish-register of Seathwaite Chapel, is this notice:

“Buried, June 28th, the Rev. Robert Walker.  He was curate of Seathwaite sixty-six years.  He was a man singular for his temperance, industry, and integrity.”

This individual is the Pastor alluded to, in the eighteenth Sonnet, as a worthy compeer of the Country Parson of Chaucer, &c.  In the Seventh Book of the Excursion, an abstract of his character is given, beginning—

“A Priest abides before whose life such doubts
Fall to the ground;—”

and some account of his life, for it is worthy of being recorded, will not be out of place here.


In the year 1709, Robert Walker was born at Under-Crag, in Seathwaite; he was the youngest of twelve children.  His eldest brother, who inherited the small family estate, died at Under-Crag, aged ninety-four, being twenty-four years older than the subject of this Memoir, who was born of the same mother.  Robert was a sickly infant; and, through his boyhood and youth continuing to be of delicate frame and tender health, it was deemed best, according to the country phrase, to breed p. xxivhim a scholar; for it was not likely that he would be able to earn a livelihood by bodily labour.  At that period few of these Dales were furnished with schoolhouses; the children being taught to read and write in the chapel; and in the same consecrated building, where he officiated for so many years both as preacher and schoolmaster, he himself received the rudiments of his education.  In his youth he became schoolmaster at Lowes-water; not being called upon, probably, in that situation, to teach more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.  But, by the assistance of a “Gentleman” in the neighbourhood, he acquired, at leisure hours, a knowledge of the classics, and became qualified for taking holy orders.  Upon his ordination, he had the offer of two curacies; the one, Torver, in the vale of Coniston,—the other, Seathwaite, in his native vale.  The value of each was the same, viz. five pounds per annum: but the cure of Seathwaite having a cottage attached to it, as he wished to marry, he chose it in preference.  The young person on whom his affections were fixed, though in the condition of a domestic servant, had given promise, by her serious and modest deportment, and by her virtuous dispositions, that she was worthy to become the helpmate of a man entering upon a plan of life such as he had marked out for himself.  By her frugality she had stored up a small sum of money, with which they began housekeeping.  In 1735 or 1736, he entered upon his curacy; and nineteen years afterwards, his situation is thus described, in some letters to be found in the Annual Register for 1760, from which the following is extracted:—

p. xxvTo Mr. —

Coniston, July 26, 1754.


“I was the other day upon a party of pleasure, about five or six miles from this place, where I met with a very striking object, and of a nature not very common.  Going into a clergyman’s house (of whom I had frequently heard) I found him sitting at the head of a long square table, such as is commonly used in this country by the lower class of people, dressed in a coarse blue frock, trimmed with black horn buttons; a checked shirt, a leathern strap about his neck for a stock, a coarse apron, and a pair of great wooden-soled shoes, plated with iron to preserve them, (what we call clogs in these parts,) with a child upon his knee, eating his breakfast: his wife, and the remainder of his children, were some of them employed in waiting upon each other, the rest in teazing and spinning wool, at which trade he is a great proficient; and moreover, when it is made ready for sale, will lay it, by sixteen or thirty-two pounds weight, upon his back, and on foot, seven or eight miles will carry it to the market, even in the depth of winter.  I was not much surprised at all this, as you may possibly be, having heard a great deal of it related before.  But I must confess myself astonished with the alacrity and the good humour that appeared both in the clergyman and his wife, and more so, at the sense and ingenuity of the clergyman himself.” * *

Then follows a letter, from another person, dated 1755, from which an extract shall be given.

p. xxvi“By his frugality and good management, he keeps the wolf from the door, as we say; and if he advances a little in the world, it is owing more to his own care, than to any thing else he has to rely upon.  I don’t find his inclination is running after further preferment.  He is settled among the people, that are happy among themselves; and lives in the greatest unanimity and friendship with them; and, I believe, the minister and people are exceedingly satisfied with each other; and indeed how should they be dissatisfied, when they have a person of so much worth and probity for their pastor?  A man, who, for his candour and meekness, his sober, chaste, and virtuous conversation, his soundness in principle and practice, is an ornament to his profession, and an honour to the country he is in; and bear with me if I say, the plainness of his dress, the sanctity of his manners, the simplicity of his doctrine, and the vehemence of his expression, have a sort of resemblance to the pure practice of primitive Christianity.”

We will now give his own account of himself, to be found in the same place.

From the Rev. Robert Walker.


“Yours of the 26th instant was communicated to me by Mr. C—, and I should have returned an immediate answer, but the hand of Providence then lying heavy upon an amiable p. xxviipledge of conjugal endearment, hath since taken from me a promising girl, which the disconsolate mother too pensively laments the loss of; though we have yet eight living, all healthful, hopeful children, whose names and ages are as follow:—Zaccheus, aged almost eighteen years; Elizabeth, sixteen years and ten months; Mary, fifteen; Moses, thirteen years and three months; Sarah, ten years and three months; Mabel, eight years and three months; William Tyson, three years and eight months; and Anne Esther, one year and three months; besides Anne, who died two years and six months ago, and was then aged between nine and ten; and Eleanor, who died the 23rd inst., January, aged six years and ten months.  Zaccheus, the eldest child, is now learning the trade of tanner, and has two years and a half of his apprenticeship to serve.  The annual income of my chapel at present, as near as I can compute it, may amount to about £17 10s., of which is paid in cash, viz. £5 from the bounty of Queen Anne, and £5 from W. P., Esq., of P—, out of the annual rents, he being lord of the manor, and £3 from the several inhabitants of L—, settled upon the tenements as a rent-charge; the house and gardens I value at £4 yearly, and not worth more; and I believe the surplice fees and voluntary contributions, one year with another, may be worth £3; but, as the inhabitants are few in number, and the fees very low, this last-mentioned sum consists merely in free-will offerings.

“I am situated greatly to my satisfaction with regard to the conduct and behaviour of my auditory, who not only live in p. xxviiithe happy ignorance of the follies and vices of the age, but in mutual peace and good-will with one another, and are seemingly (I hope really too) sincere Christians, and sound members of the Established Church, not one dissenter of any denomination being amongst them all.  I got to the value of £40 for my wife’s fortune, but had no real estate of my own, being the youngest son of twelve children, born of obscure parents; and, though my income has been but small, and my family large, yet by a providential blessing upon my own diligent endeavours, the kindness of friends, and a cheap country to live in, we have always had the necessaries of life.  By what I have written (which is a true and exact account, to the best of my knowledge) I hope you will not think your favour to me, out of the late worthy Dr. Stratford’s effects, quite misbestowed, for which I must ever gratefully own myself,


“Your much obliged and most obedient humble Servant,
R. W., Curate of S—.

“To Mr. C., of Lancaster.”

About the time when this letter was written, the Bishop of Chester recommended the scheme of joining the curacy of Ulpha to the contiguous one of Seathwaite, and the nomination was offered to Mr. Walker; but an unexpected difficulty arising, Mr. W., in a letter to the Bishop, (a copy of which, in his own beautiful hand-writing, now lies before me,) thus expresses himself, “If he,” meaning the person in whom the p. xxixdifficulty originated, “had suggested any such objection before, I should utterly have declined any attempt to the curacy of Ulpha: indeed, I was always apprehensive it might be disagreeable to my auditory at Seathwaite, as they have been always accustomed to double duty, and the inhabitants of Ulpha despair of being able to support a schoolmaster who is not curate there also; which suppressed all thoughts in me of serving them both.”  And in a second letter to the Bishop he writes:—

My Lord,

“I have the favour of yours of the 1st instant, and am exceedingly obliged on account of the Ulpha affair: if that curacy should lapse into your Lordship’s hands, I would beg leave rather to decline than embrace it; for the chapels of Seathwaite and Ulpha, annexed together, would be apt to cause a general discontent among the inhabitants of both places; by either thinking themselves slighted, being only served alternately, or neglected in the duty, or attributing it to covetousness in me; all which occasions of murmuring I would willingly avoid.”

And, in concluding his former letter, he expresses a similar sentiment upon the same occasion, “desiring, if it be possible, however, as much as in me lieth, to live peaceably with all men.”

The year following, the curacy of Seathwaite was again augmented; and, to effect this augmentation, fifty pounds had p. xxxbeen advanced by himself; and, in 1760, lands were purchased with eight hundred pounds.  Scanty as was his income, the frequent offer of much better benefices could not tempt Mr. W. to quit a situation where he had been so long happy, with a consciousness of being useful.  Among his papers I find the following copy of a letter, dated 1775, twenty years after his refusal of the curacy of Ulpha, which will show what exertions had been made for one of his sons.

May it please your Grace,

“Our remote situation here makes it difficult to get the necessary information for transacting business regularly; such is the reason of my giving your Grace the present trouble.

“The bearer (my son) is desirous of offering himself candidate for deacon’s orders at your Grace’s ensuing ordination; the first, on the 25th instant, so that his papers could not be transmitted in due time.  As he is now fully at age, and I have afforded him education to the utmost of my ability, it would give me great satisfaction (if your Grace would take him, and find him qualified) to have him ordained.  His constitution has been tender for some years; he entered the college of Dublin, but his health would not permit him to continue there, or I would have supported him much longer.  He has been with me at home above a year, in which time he has gained great strength of body, sufficient, I hope, to enable him for performing the function.  Divine Providence, assisted by liberal benefactors, has blest my endeavours, from a small income, to rear p. xxxia numerous family; and as my time of life renders me now unfit for much future expectancy from this world, I should be glad to see my son settled in a promising way to acquire an honest livelihood for himself.  His behaviour, so far in life, has been irreproachable; and I hope he will not degenerate, in principles or practice, from the precepts and pattern of an indulgent parent.  Your Grace’s favourable reception of this, from a distant corner of the diocese, and an obscure hand, will excite filial gratitude, and a due use shall be made of the obligation vouchsafed thereby to

“Your Grace’s very dutiful and most obedient

“Son and Servant,

Robert Walker.”

The same man, who was thus liberal in the education of his numerous family, was even munificent in hospitality as a parish priest.  Every Sunday, were served, upon the long table, at which he has been described sitting with a child upon his knee, messes of broth, for the refreshment of those of his congregation who came from a distance, and usually took their seats as parts of his own household.  It seems scarcely possible that this custom could have commenced before the augmentation of his cure; and what would to many have been a high price of self-denial, was paid, by the pastor and his family, for this gratification; as the treat could only be provided by dressing at one time the whole, perhaps, of their weekly allowance of fresh animal food; consequently, for a succession of days, the p. xxxiitable was covered with cold victuals only.  His generosity in old age may be still further illustrated by a little circumstance relating to an orphan grandson, then ten years of age, which I find in a copy of a letter to one of his sons; he requests that half-a-guinea may be left for “little Robert’s pocket-money,” who was then at school; intrusting it to the care of a lady, who, as he says, “may sometimes frustrate his squandering it away foolishly,” and promising to send him an equal allowance annually for the same purpose.  The conclusion of the same letter is so characteristic, that I cannot forbear to transcribe it.

“We,” meaning his wife and himself, “are in our wonted state of health, allowing for the hasty strides of old age knocking daily at our door, and threateningly telling us, we are not only mortal, but must expect ere long to take our leave of our ancient cottage, and lie down in our last dormitory.  Pray pardon my neglect to answer yours: let us hear sooner from you, to augment the mirth of the Christmas holidays.  Wishing you all the pleasures of the approaching season, I am, dear Son, with lasting sincerity, yours affectionately,

Robert Walker.”

He loved old customs and usages, and in some instances stuck to them to his own loss; for, having had a sum of money lodged in the hands of a neighbouring tradesman, when long course of time had raised the rate of interest, and more was offered, he refused to accept it; an act not difficult to one, who, while he was drawing seventeen pounds a year from his p. xxxiiicuracy, declined, as we have seen, to add the profits of another small benefice to his own, lest he should be suspected of cupidity.—From this vice he was utterly free; he made no charge for teaching school; such as could afford to pay, gave him what they pleased.  When very young, having kept a diary of his expenses, however trifling, the large amount, at the end of the year, surprised him; and from that time the rule of his life was to be economical, not avaricious.  At his decease he left behind him no less a sum than £2000; and such a sense of his various excellencies was prevalent in the country, that the epithet of WONDERFUL is to this day attached to his name.

There is in the above sketch something so extraordinary as to require further explanatory details.—And to begin with his industry; eight hours in each day, during five days in the week, and half of Saturday, except when the labours of husbandry were urgent, he was occupied in teaching.  His seat was within the rails of the altar; the communion-table was his desk; and, like Shenstone’s schoolmistress, the master employed himself at the spinning-wheel, while the children were repeating their lessons by his side.  Every evening, after school hours, if not more profitably engaged, he continued the same kind of labour, exchanging, for the benefit of exercise, the small wheel, at which he had sate, for the large one on which wool is spun, the spinner stepping to and fro.  Thus was the wheel constantly in readiness to prevent the waste of a moment’s time.  Nor was his industry with the pen, when occasion called for it, less eager.  Intrusted with extensive management p. xxxivof public and private affairs, he acted, in his rustic neighbourhood, as scrivener, writing out petitions, deeds of conveyance, wills, covenants, etc., with pecuniary gain to himself, and to the great benefit of his employers.  These labours (at all times considerable) at one period of the year, viz. between Christmas and Candlemas, when money transactions are settled in this country, were often so intense, that he passed great part of the night, and sometimes whole nights, at his desk.  His garden also was tilled by his own hand; he had a right of pasturage upon the mountains for a few sheep and a couple of cows, which required his attendance: with this pastoral occupation, he joined the labours of husbandry upon a small scale, renting two or three acres in addition to his own less than one acre of glebe; and the humblest drudgery which the cultivation of these fields required was performed by himself.

He also assisted his neighbours in haymaking and shearing their flocks, and in the performance of this latter service he was eminently dexterous.  They, in their turn, complimented him with the present of a haycock, or a fleece; less as a recompense for this particular service than as a general acknowledgment.  The Sabbath was in a strict sense kept holy; the Sunday evenings being devoted to reading the Scripture and family prayer.  The principal festivals appointed by the Church were also duly observed; but through every other day in the week, through every week in the year, he was incessantly occupied in work of hand or mind; not allowing a moment for recreation, except upon a Saturday afternoon, when he p. xxxvindulged himself with a Newspaper, or sometimes with a Magazine.  The frugality and temperance established in his house, were as admirable as the industry.  Nothing to which the name of luxury could be given was there known; in the latter part of his life, indeed, when tea had been brought into almost general use, it was provided for visiters, and for such of his own family as returned occasionally to his roof and had been accustomed to this refreshment elsewhere; but neither he nor his wife ever partook of it.  The raiment worn by his family was comely and decent, but as simple as their diet; the homespun materials were made up into apparel by their own hands.  At the time of the decease of this thrifty pair, their cottage contained a large store of webs of woollen and linen cloth, woven from thread of their own spinning.  And it is remarkable that the pew in the chapel in which the family used to sit remained a few years ago neatly lined with woollen cloth spun by the pastor’s own hands.  It is the only pew in the chapel so distinguished; and I know of no other instance of his conformity to the delicate accommodations of modern times.  The fuel of the house, like that of their neighbours, consisted of peat, procured from the mosses by their own labour.  The lights by which, in the winter evenings, their work was performed, were of their own manufacture, such as still continue to be used in these cottages; they are made of the pith of rushes dipped in any unctuous substance that the house affords.  White candles, as tallow candles are here called, were reserved to honour the Christmas festivals, and were perhaps produced p. xxxviupon no other occasions.  Once a month, during the proper season, a sheep was drawn from their small mountain flock, and killed for the use of the family; and a cow towards the close of the year, was salted and dried, for winter provision: the hide was tanned to furnish them with shoes.—By these various resources, this venerable clergyman reared a numerous family, not only preserving them, as he affectingly says, “from wanting the necessaries of life;” but afforded them an unstinted education, and the means of raising themselves in society.

It might have been concluded that no one could thus, as it were, have converted his body into a machine of industry for the humblest uses, and kept his thoughts so frequently bent upon secular concerns, without grievous injury to the more precious parts of his nature.  How could the powers of intellect thrive, or its graces be displayed, in the midst of circumstances apparently so unfavourable, and where to the direct cultivation of the mind, so small a portion of time was allotted?  But, in this extraordinary man, things in their nature adverse were reconciled; his conversation was remarkable, not only for being chaste and pure, but for the degree in which it was fervent and eloquent; his written style was correct, simple, and animated.  Nor did his affections suffer more than his intellect; he was tenderly alive to all the duties of his pastoral office: the poor and needy “he never sent empty away,”—the stranger was fed and refreshed in passing that unfrequented vale—the sick were visited; and the feelings of humanity found further exercise among the distresses and p. xxxviiembarrassments in the worldly estate of his neighbours, with which his talents for business made him acquainted; and the disinterestedness, impartiality, and uprightness which he maintained in the management of all affairs confided to him, were virtues seldom separated in his own conscience from religious obligations.  Nor could such conduct fail to remind those who witnessed it of a spirit nobler than law or custom: they felt convictions which, but for such intercourse, could not have been afforded, that, as in the practice of their pastor, there was no guile, so in his faith there was nothing hollow; and we are warranted in believing, that upon these occasions, selfishness, obstinacy, and discord would often give way before the breathings of his good-will and saintly integrity.  It may be presumed also, while his humble congregation were listening to the moral precepts which he delivered from the pulpit, and to the Christian exhortations that they should love their neighbour as themselves, and do as they would be done unto, that peculiar efficacy was given to the preacher’s labours by recollections in the minds of his congregation, that they were called upon to do no more than his own actions were daily setting before their eyes.

The afternoon service in the chapel was less numerously attended than that of the morning, but by a more serious auditory; the lesson from the New Testament, on those occasions, was accompanied by Birkett’s Commentaries.  These lessons he read with impassioned emphasis, frequently drawing tears from his hearers, and leaving a lasting impression upon their p. xxxviiiminds.  His devotional feelings and the powers of his own mind were further exercised, along with those of his family, in perusing the Scriptures; not only on the Sunday evenings, but on every other evening, while the rest of the household were at work, some one of the children, and in her turn the servant, for the sake of practice in reading, or for instruction, read the Bible aloud; and in this manner the whole was repeatedly gone through.  That no common importance was attached to the observance of religious ordinances by his family, appears from the following memorandum by one of his descendants, which I am tempted to insert at length, as it is characteristic, and somewhat curious.  “There is a small chapel in the county palatine of Lancaster, where a certain clergyman has regularly officiated above sixty years, and a few months ago administered the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the same, to a decent number of devout communicants.  After the clergyman had received himself, the first company out of the assembly who approached the altar, and kneeled down to be partakers of the sacred elements, consisted of the parson’s wife, to whom he had been married upwards of sixty years; one son and his wife; four daughters, each with her husband; whose ages, all added together, amounted to above 714 years.  The several and respective distances from the place of each of their abodes to the chapel where they all communicated, will measure more than 1000 English miles.  Though the narration will appear surprising, it is without doubt a fact that the same persons, exactly four years before, met at the p. xxxixsame place, and all joined in performance of the same venerable duty.”

He was indeed most zealously attached to the doctrine and frame of the Established Church.  We have seen him congratulating himself that he had no dissenters in his cure of any denomination.  Some allowance must be made for the state of opinion when his first religious impressions were received, before the reader will acquit him of bigotry, when I mention, that at the time of the augmentation of the cure, he refused to invest part of the money in the purchase of an estate offered to him upon advantageous terms, because the proprietor was a Quaker;—whether from scrupulous apprehension that a blessing would not attend a contract framed for the benefit of the Church between persons not in religious sympathy with each other; or, as a seeker of peace, he was afraid of the uncomplying disposition which at one time was too frequently conspicuous in that sect.  Of this an instance had fallen under his own notice; for, while he taught school at Loweswater, certain persons of that denomination had refused to pay annual interest due under the title of Church-stock; [xxxix] a great hardship upon the incumbent, for the curacy of Loweswater was then scarcely less poor than that of Seathwaite.  To what degree this prejudice of his was blameable need not be determined;—certain it is, that he was not only desirous, as he himself says, p. xlto live in peace, but in love, with all men.  He was placable, and charitable in his judgments; and, however correct in conduct and rigorous to himself, he was ever ready to forgive the trespasses of others, and to soften the censure that was cast upon their frailties.—It would be unpardonable to omit that, in the maintenance of his virtues, he received due support from the Partner of his long life.  She was equally strict in attending to a share of their joint cares, nor less diligent in her appropriate occupations.  A person who had been some time their servant in the latter part of their lives, concluded the panegyric of her mistress by saying to me, “she was no less excellent than her husband; she was good to the poor, she was good to every thing!”  He survived for a short time this virtuous companion.  When she died, he ordered that her body should be borne to the grave by three of her daughters and one grand-daughter; and, when the corpse was lifted from the threshold, he insisted upon lending his aid, and feeling about, for he was then almost blind, took hold of a napkin fixed to the coffin; and, as a bearer of the body, entered the Chapel, a few steps from the lowly Parsonage.

What a contrast does the life of this obscurely-seated, and, in point of worldly wealth, poorly-repaid Churchman, present to that of Cardinal Wolsey!

“O ’tis a burthen, Cromwell, ’tis a burthen,
Too heavy for a man who hopes for heaven!”

We have been dwelling upon images of peace in the moral p. xliworld, that have brought us again to the quiet enclosure of consecrated ground, in which this venerable pair lie interred.  The sounding brook, that rolls close by the church-yard without disturbing feeling or meditation, is now unfortunately laid bare; but not long ago it participated, with the chapel, the shade of some stately ash-trees, which will not spring again.  While the spectator from this spot is looking round upon the girdle of stony mountains that encompasses the vale,—masses of rock, out of which monuments for all men that ever existed might have been hewn, it would surprise him to be told, as with truth he might be, that the plain blue slab dedicated to the memory of this aged pair, is a production of a quarry in North Wales!  It was sent as a mark of respect by one of their descendants from the vale of Festiniog, a region almost as beautiful as that in which it now lies.

Upon the Seathwaite Brook, at a small distance from the Parsonage, has been erected a mill for spinning yarn; it is a mean and disagreeable object, though not unimportant to the spectator, as calling to mind the momentous changes wrought by such inventions in the frame of society—changes which have proved especially unfavourable to these mountain solitudes.  So much had been effected by those new powers, before the subject of the preceding biographical sketch closed his life, that their operation could not escape his notice, and doubtless excited touching reflections upon the comparatively insignificant results of his own manual industry.  But Robert Walker was not a man of times and circumstances: had he lived at a p. xliilater period, the principle of duty would have produced application as unremitting; the same energy of character would have been displayed, though in many instances with widely-different effects.

Having mentioned in this narrative the vale of Loweswater as a place where Mr. Walker taught school, I will add a few memoranda from its parish register, respecting a person apparently of desires as moderate, with whom he must have been intimate during his residence there.

“Let him that would, ascend the tottering seat
Of courtly grandeur, and become as great
As are his mounting wishes; but for me
Let sweet repose and rest my portion be.

Henry Forest, Curate.

Honour, the idol which the most adore,
Receives no homage from my knee;
Content in privacy I value more
Than all uneasy dignity.

Henry Forest came to Loweswater, 1708, being 25 years of age.”

“This Curacy was twice augmented by Queen Anne’s bounty.  The first payment, with great difficulty, was paid to Mr. John Curwen, of London, on the 9th of May, 1724, deposited by me, Henry Forest, Curate of Loweswater.  Ye said 9th of May, ye said Mr. Curwen went to the office, and saw my name registered there, &c.  This, by the Providence of God, came by lot to this poor place.

Hæc testor H. Forest.”

p. xliiiIn another place he records, that the sycamore-trees were planted in the church-yard in 1710.

He died in 1741, having been curate thirty-four years.  It is not improbable that H. Forest was the gentleman who assisted Robert Walker in his classical studies at Loweswater.

To this parish register is prefixed a motto, of which the following verses are a part.

“Invigilate viri, tacito nam tempora gressu
Diffugiunt, nulloque sono convertitur annus;
Utendum est ætate, cito pede preterit ætas.”

With pleasure I annex, as illustrative and confirmatory of the above account, Extracts from a Paper in the Christian Remembrancer, October, 1819: it bears an assumed signature, but is known to be the work of the Rev. Robert Bamford, vicar of Bishopton, in the county of Durham; a great-grandson of Mr. Walker, whose worth it commemorates, by a record not the less valuable for being written in very early youth.

“His house was a nursery of virtue.  All the inmates were industrious, and cleanly, and happy.  Sobriety, neatness, quietness, characterised the whole family.  No railings, no idleness, no indulgence of passion, were permitted.  Every child, however young, had its appointed engagements; every hand was busy.  Knitting, spinning, reading, writing, mending clothes, making shoes, were by the different children constantly performing.  The father himself sitting amongst them, and guiding their thoughts, was engaged in the same occupations.

*     *     *

p. xliv“He sate up late, and rose early; when the family were at rest, he retired to a little room which he had built on the roof of his house.  He had slated it, and fitted it up with shelves for his books, his stock of cloth, wearing apparel, and his utensils.  There many a cold winter’s night, without fire, while the roof was glazed with ice, did he remain reading or writing, till the day dawned.  He taught the children in the chapel, for there was no school-house.  Yet in that cold, damp place he never had a fire.  He used to send the children in parties either to his own fire at home, or make them run up the mountain’s side.

*     *     *

“It may be further mentioned, that he was a passionate admirer of nature; she was his mother, and he was a dutiful child.  While engaged on the mountains, it was his greatest pleasure to view the rising sun; and in tranquil evenings, as it slided behind the hills, he blessed its departure.  He was skilled in fossils and plants: a constant observer of the stars and winds: the atmosphere was his delight.  He made many experiments on its nature and properties.  In summer he used to gather a multitude of flies and insects, and, by his entertaining description, amuse and instruct his children.  They shared all his daily employments, and derived many sentiments of love and benevolence from his observations on the works and productions of nature.  Whether they were following him in the field, or surrounding him in school, he took every opportunity of storing their minds with useful information.—Nor p. xlvwas the circle of his influence confined to Seathwaite.  Many a distant mother has told her child of Mr. Walker, and begged him to be as good a man.

*     *     *

“Once, when I was very young, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing that venerable old man in his 90th year, and even then, the calmness, the force, the perspicuity of his sermon, sanctified and adorned by the wisdom of grey hairs, and the authority of virtue, had such an effect upon my mind, that I never see a hoary-headed clergyman, without thinking of Mr. Walker * * * *.  He allowed no dissenter or methodist to interfere in the instruction of the souls committed to his cure: and so successful were his exertions, that he had not one dissenter of any denomination whatever in the whole parish.—Though he avoided all religious controversies, yet when age had silvered his head, and virtuous piety had secured to his appearance reverence and silent honour, no one, however determined in his hatred of apostolic descent, could have listened to his discourse on ecclesiastical history, and ancient times, without thinking, that one of the beloved apostles had returned to mortality, and in that vale of peace had come to exemplify the beauty of holiness in the life and character of Mr. Walker.

*     *     *

“Until the sickness of his wife, a few months previous to her death, his health and spirits and faculties were unimpaired.  But this misfortune gave him such a shock, that his constitution gradually decayed.  His senses, except sight, still p. xlvipreserved their powers.  He never preached with steadiness after his wife’s death.  His voice faltered: he always looked at the seat she had used.  He could not pass her tomb without tears.  He became, when alone, sad and melancholy, though still among his friends kind and good-humoured.  He went to bed about twelve o’clock the night before his death.  As his custom was, he went, tottering and leaning upon his daughter’s arm, to examine the heavens, and meditate a few moments in the open air.  ‘How clear the moon shines to night!’  He said those words, sighed, and laid down.  At six next morning he was found a corpse.  Many a tear, and many a heavy heart, and many a grateful blessing followed him to the grave.”



Trouble is a thing that will come without our call: but true joy will not spring up without ourselves.

Bishop Patrick’s “Heart’s Ease.”

One fine day last spring—(and fine days are not so common in Manchester, at that season of the year, as to make them easily forgotten)—one fine day I was crossing the new Victoria bridge, from the Manchester to the Salford side of the river, when my attention was arrested by a middle-aged person, (I had nearly written gentleman, but that word would not have conveyed quite an accurate idea to the reader,) who was gazing very steadily over the battlements, at the Old Church Clock.  He was a person whom I had often remarked strolling about the streets of the town, and whom I felt myself to be perfectly acquainted with, by sight, though I had no idea whatever of his name or occupation.  Occupation, indeed, I felt almost assured he had none, or at least not one which demanded any considerable portion of his time; for, besides his age, which was evidently too advanced to permit him to discharge any very laborious duties, he was more p. 2abroad in the open air, than was consistent with any constant or indispensable calling.  His dress was of a description which implied something above want, though not much; for, like its wearer, it had seen better days; moreover, it showed its owner to be a man not given to change; for it was of a fashion more in vogue thirty years ago, than at the present time.  Over a coat that had once been of a blacker dye than now, he wore a spencer, or short great-coat, buttoned up to the chin.  His small-clothes were strictly what their name implies, closely buttoned at the knees.  His legs were comfortably encased in thick woollen stockings, which received additional warmth from a pair of short black gaiters, which clothed his ancles.  Altogether he had rather the air of a country schoolmaster, with more scholars than fees, taking the air on a half-holiday.  This respectable personage was (as I said) gazing steadfastly at the Old Church Clock, over the battlements of the bridge: he had his own watch in his hand, of ample size and antique appearance; and I saw that he was going to regulate its time by that of the venerable old time-teller in the tower of the Collegiate Church.  Knowing that at that moment the Old Church clock was not, as they say “quite right,” (for friend Peter Clare is sometimes much more attentive to the accuracy of his own external appearance, than to the correctness of those measurers of time, which her majesty’s subjects have committed to his regulation,) I could not resist the inclination to caution one, whom I almost considered an old acquaintance, against being led into error, by setting his own watch to a clock which was at least five minutes behind the hour.

“My friend,” said I, (taking out my own watch at the same time, to give some force to my words,) “that clock is six minutes too slow.”  “It may be so, sir,” said he, looking at me quite in the way that I had looked at him, viz. as an old acquaintance, “it may be so, but I always set my watch by that clock, every week, whether it be right or wrong!”  “Indeed!” exclaimed I, “that seems a strange fancy.”  “It may be so,” said he, “and perhaps it is.  But, sir, I know that clock of old; five and p. 3forty years I have gone by it, and it has never led me far wrong yet.  It has saved me some good thrashings, and more hard money; to say nothing of better things it has done for me.  It is now the oldest friend I have in Manchester, and I keep up my acquaintance with it, by setting my watch by it every Saturday; and, with God’s blessing, so long as I live in Manchester, (and it is very likely, now, that I may live here till I die,) I will set my watch by that clock, be it right or wrong!”  There was a mixture of joke and earnest in the old man’s manner, as he said this, like one who feels that what he says seriously may yet be open to ridicule; and I could not help replying, in a tone somewhat similar to his own—“Well, I never heard so much said in favour of the Old Church clock before!  As we are walking in the same direction, perhaps you will give me some particulars as to your acquaintance with that old clock, and of the good which you have had out of it.”

“It will be rather a long story, sir: but I am getting to an age when it is a pleasure to me to tell long stories, especially about myself—I have little else to do.”

Here there was a pause of some duration; and I saw an anxious expression on the old man’s features, either as if he was somewhat startled with the task which he had undertaken, or did not quite know where to begin: probably both feelings were in his mind, for in about half a minute, he raised his eyes a little, which had been, till then, fixed on the ground, and said, as if half to me and half to himself, “I think it will be best to begin at the beginning.  He will like to hear of my young days, and it is a pleasure to me to go over them again.  I was not, sir, born in Manchester; indeed, I hardly ever knew any body that was!  Many come from Ireland, like pigs, and they live like pigs; and many from the north, like woodcocks and fieldfares,—some grow fat like fieldfares, and some grow lean like woodcocks!”

I now found that my new friend had some humour in his conversation; and I confess, I did not like him the worse for it.  He continued:—“I am from the north.  p. 4I was born in one of the wildest parts of the country you ever saw, in the midst of lakes and mountains.  It has been fashionable lately to visit the lake country, but most persons go in their carriages or on horseback, and they miss the very finest parts and the grandest scenes.  I did not think much of the beauties of the country then; but since I left it, and came to live in this smoky dungeon, my heart has often gone back to the place of my birth; and it now looks much more beautiful in my mind than it did then to my eyes, or than it probably would if I were ever to see it again.—I wonder if that will ever be!”—he here half whispered to himself—“Sir, the house in which I was born stood in one of the most retired parts of the lake country—a spot, I dare say, never visited at all by strangers.  They call it Yewdale.  The house (I see it now!) was low, and built of cobbles, but firm as a rock; one end, indeed, had fallen in, and was used as a hen-roost and cart-house, but the main part of the house was well slated with good brown flat stones, out of Coniston Old Man, and had two chimneys at the top as tall and round as a churn.  The house stood on the side of the hill, just where the road makes a turn to run right down upon Coniston Water Head.  There was a great broad plane tree at the end of it,”—“and a large thorn before the door,” interrupted I, “with the top of it cut into the shape of a cock.”

“Exactly so!” exclaimed he, looking up into my face with much surprise, “why you have seen the very place!”

“To be sure I have, and that the very last summer, when I was strolling about Yewdale and Tilberthwaite, the finest part of all the lake country.”

“Eh, sir!” said he, his native dialect unconsciously returning with his early recollections,—“Eh, sir, and is it not a bonny bit?—and so the old cock is still crowing on the top of the old thorn!”

“Indeed it was,” said I; “but as I passed by, I saw a ladder reared up to its side, and a decent looking man, apparently the owner, diligently employed, with a pair of shears, in cutting off the cock’s tail!”

“Confound Tom Hebblethwaite,” said my companion, more seriously p. 5vexed than I thought it possible for him to be,—“I wish—but I am a fool for being angry with him—what better could be expected from him?  At school he was always a stupid fellow; he never could catch a trout out of the lake in his life, and whenever he tried to rob a hen-roost, he was sure to tumble down the ladder, and waken all the cocks and hens in the parish!”

I was much amused at the reasons which the old man assigned why nothing good could be expected from Tom Hebblethwaite, but said nothing more to provoke his indignation, which I saw he soon became rather ashamed of.  After a pause he regained his wonted composure, and proceeded:—“In that house I was born.  My earliest recollection is the death of my grandmother.  I do not know how old she was, but she must have been near a hundred years old.  I yet remember her calling me to her bed side, just before her death, giving me a shilling, which she seemed to have concealed somewhere about the bed-clothes, and saying, in a deep and earnest tone, ‘God bless you.’  She died that night.  I have never forgotten her blessing, and I have never parted with her shilling—I never will!”  There was a tear in his eye as he said this, and he paused for a few moments in his narrative.


“Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber; 
Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sounds of sweetest melody!”


My early days,” the old man continued, “were, as all the rest have been, a mixture of happiness and troubles.  I believe the troubles were, at the time, rather the more abundant part, though, in looking back on my past days I remember the bright spots more distinctly than the dark: just as, in youth, I have stood on Yewdale crag, and distinctly seen the distant top of Snafell in the Isle of Man, because a sunbeam happened to fall on it, while all was dark and indistinct around it.  My father was a little Statesman; by which, as you know, is not meant, in Cumberland, any thing like Lord John Russell, as such a term would be understood in Manchester; for he never, I believe, read a newspaper in his life; nay, probably never saw one, unless it might be upon Lady le Fleming’s hall table, when he went, as he did, once a year, to Rydal, to pay his boon rent to her, as lady of the manor.  A statesman, in Cumberland, is the owner of a little land; and as proud he is of his little holding, as Sir Robert Peel can be (and proud indeed he may be!) of governing the state.  How long we had lived upon this little estate, I cannot tell, nor, I suppose, any body else.  There were no title deeds in existence; nor, I believe, many wills, if any.  When the father p. 7died, the son quietly buried him in Hawkshead church-yard, and then as quietly stepped into his shoes, wore out his old coats, (if they could be worn out,) and every thing went on just as before.  My father was the most silent man I ever met with in my life.  He never spoke unless he had something to say, and that seemed to be only once or twice in the course of the day.  He was always the first up in the morning, and the last in bed at night, and worked like a slave on his farm from sunrise to sunset.  Of course I could not understand his character then, but I have often tried to understand it since he was taken away, and I became capable of reflection.  He never shewed me much kindness, but was never harsh, though always firm.  I had great respect for him, because I saw my neighbours had; and I believe it is true, generally, that children learn to value their parents a good deal by the way in which they see them treated by indifferent persons.  All my life I have always treated parents with respect in the presence of their children.”

“Thank you, my good friend,” interrupted I, “for that hint; I will put that down in my memorandum book.”

“As you please,” said he, smiling, “it will at least do no harm there; nor, I believe, would it do any, if you were to put it into practice!  But to go on with my long story.  My mother,—sir, I do not know how I shall get on now.  I feel a rising in my throat at the recollection of her very name; and though she has been dead and gone many a long year, yet every thing that she said, and every thing that she did—her quiet smile—her linsey-woolsey petticoat—her silver shoe-buckles—her smooth gray hair turned back in a roll over her calm forehead—her soft voice, making the broad Cumberland dialect sweeter, even to the ear of a stranger, than the richest music—her patience in pain—her unchanging kindness to me in all my wayward moods and fits of passion—her regularity in all her devotions, public and private, come at this moment as fresh into my mind, as if she were sitting now in the corner of my little dwelling in Salford, instead of sleeping as she has p. 8done for many a long year, quietly and peaceably, in the south-east corner of Hawkshead church-yard.  There is no stone over her grave; but I could find it blind-fold even now, though it is many a day since I have stood beside it—and it concerns no one else to know where it is but myself.  I sometimes wish to be buried beside her—but what does it signify? we could not know each other in the grave—we shall know each other, with joy shall meet again hereafter!”

There was a passionate earnestness in the old man’s manner as he uttered these last words, which differed strongly from the general quiet tone of his narrative.  I kept silence when he paused, out of respect for his feelings, and waited for the return of his wonted calmness, which he was not long in regaining.

“My mother taught me to read almost as soon as I could speak.  The book she used for that purpose was the Testament.  It was almost the only book in the house, except the Whole Duty of Man, and four or five black-letter volumes, tinged with smoke from having lain for ages in the chimney corner, the contents of which not the oldest man in all Yewdale even pretended to understand.  By the time I was five years old, being a strong, hale boy, my father tried to make me useful about the farm, in feeding the cows, or looking after the sheep; but it would not do.  I had hardly strength for the former task; and as to looking after the sheep, the temptation of joining two or three similar shepherds in an expedition of bird-nesting or nut-gathering, was always too strong to be resisted.  Proving thus unequal to these important duties, my father determined to find me one which required, (in public opinion at that time,) abilities of a narrower range.  I heard him say one night to my mother, after I had gone to my snug roost in the loft, where I generally slept like a top,—‘I think there is nothing for it but to make the lad a scholar—may be a parson.’  To this my mother readily consented; and the day after, I was furnished with a satchel, and sent off, with two or three other boys of the dale, to Hawkshead school, to be made a scholar!


“And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.”


“I BELIEVE,” continued the old man, “that if a man were to live an hundred years,—so long as to forget every thing else that ever happened to him, he would never forget the first day of his going to school!  I am sure I never shall.  I recollect at this moment, as well or better than if it had taken place yesterday, every thing that happened, every thing that I did and saw, nay, every thing that I thought on that all-important day.  When I first woke in the morning, I knew, before I opened my eyes, that something particular was going to happen, though it was some time before I was sufficiently wide awake to call to mind exactly what it was.  When it at last flashed across me that I was that day going for the first time to school, I jumped into the middle of the floor, and was dressed, (and in my best suit of fustians,) in half my usual time.  I shall never forget the care with which my good mother packed up my little dinner in my bag, putting my spelling-book carefully on the top of it, nor the pleased look with which she put my new hat on my head, and bid me to ‘be a good boy.’  I recollect I thought at that time, as I started off—‘to be sure I shall; how could any one doubt it!’ but I said nothing: I was in too great haste to join my young companions, whom I heard hallooing out for me from the top of the hill.  What a glorious morning it was!  I told you that p. 10I did not care, then, much about the scenes of nature; nor did I ever much think or talk about them.  It is not the custom in that country; for men are there too familiar with them to make them the subject of their daily conversation.  But the impression which they made on me shows that I felt them; for there was not a beam of sunshine or a cloud that crossed my path on that morning, which I do not recollect, at this moment, as distinctly as the everlasting hills over which they passed—never to visit them again!”  A shade passed over the old man’s countenance, and I fancied he was thinking, that he himself might be compared to the cloud and the sunshine, never more to visit his native hills.  “The sun was rising right over the top of Penigent, as I and my young companions reached the brow of the hill from which the road descends down upon the quiet village of Hawkshead.  His rays just crossed the point on which we stood, and stretched across, like so many golden rules or lines of light, to the top of Coniston Old Man, and the side of Bowfell, leaving Yewdale and Coniston Water Head lost in mist and darkness.  The birds were singing on the heights, the cattle lowing to be milked in the valleys below, and the sheep bleating on a thousand hills The whole air was filled, as far as the eye could reach, with the glittering spider’s web, or gossamer, of which nobody, I believe, could ever yet give a clear account; and every bunch of heath and whin-bush was sparkling with drops of dew so full and large, as to seem ready to fall like a shower of rain upon the ground.  There stood we, three raw lads of the dale, setting out in the world for the first time, and certainly looking out upon as bright a prospect before us, as ever cheered the sight of any adventurous youths, going forth to seek their fortunes in the world!  Alas! the prospect has often been sadly dimmed since then!  On many a dark scene have I looked, and many a melancholy pang has shot through my heart since I gazed down, as I did then, in such bright hopes and high spirits, from the top of that hill, upon the lowly roof of Hawkshead School!  But p. 11what of that?  Sorrow would have come, even if joy had not come before it! and the recollections of my youth, instead of being a ground of repining at my after-lot, have a thousand times been a subject of heartfelt comfort; as I have ever felt that God did not intend me to be miserable; but that all my sorrow has arisen, either from my own vices and follies, or from those of my brother-men.  I have often thought, sir, what a contrast does my first school-day present with that of thousands of the poor children in this wretched town of ours, who go for the first time to their Infant or Sunday school, with no such brilliant sun to light them on their way,—with no such mountain prospects and bracing air to gladden their hearts, and breathe health into their sickly frames,—with no such well-filled satchel prepared by the hands of a watchful and pious mother; but through dingy and soot-discoloured streets, without a single ray of the sun, unless it be as yellow as a marigold, with but a crust of dry bread for breakfast, which the mother puts into her child’s hand that she may at once indulge herself in her bed, and get rid of the care of her offspring for the remainder of the day.—Oh, sir! too truly has it been said by the poet,

“‘God made the country, but Man made the town.’”

“I fear, my good friend,” said I, “that your recollections of early youth have prejudiced you against the manifold benefits arising to society from the manufacturing system.”

“By no means,” said he, “by no manner of means; as you shall hear by and by.  But here have I been talking about myself in a most unreasonable way, and kept you waiting all the while, at the door of Hawkshead school!  Let us walk in, if you please!”


But come,—I have it: Thou shalt earn thy bread
Duly and honourably, and usefully.
Our village schoolmaster hath left the parish,
Forsook the ancient school-house with its yew-trees,
That lurk’d beside a church two centuries older,—
So long devotion took the lead of knowledge;
And since his little flock are shepherdless,
’Tis thou shalt be promoted in his room;
And rather than thou wantest scholars, man,
Myself will enter pupil.

The Ayrshire Tragedy.

The old gentleman’s narrative had, I confess, grown interesting to me.  I am always anxious, not only to study characters as they exist, but to learn how characters have been formed.  I believe we all pay too little attention to this, when we blame men for their vices, or praise them for their virtues.  If we find an oak in the forest knotted and gnarled, with his limbs distorted, and his trunk bending down to the ground instead of towering majestically to the sky, we blame not the old oak for his deformity, nor reproach him with the waste of many a long year in which he has been visited by the refreshing dews of the heaven above, and the fatness of the earth beneath.  We are sure that there were causes, though we do not now perceive them, which obstructed and stunted his early growth, and made him what he is, and must now ever remain.  The natural soil might be barren, his early shoots might have been cropped by the browzing sheep, or his top might be overshadowed, and the beams of the sun prevented from cherishing his growth, by some more fortunate tree, which has long since fallen before the woodman’s axe, but not till it had dried up all the vital p. 13energies of the withered old stump before us.  And as it is with oaks, so, in some respects, with men.  The soil in which they first strike root, the sunshine under which they grow, the influence of other minds on their early habits and opinions, are all to be considered when we sit in judgment on men in after life, and attempt to measure the praise or blame which is due to their moral or religious conduct.  It is true, that man differs from the oak in this, that he can take an active part in forming his own character.  He can change his soil, seek the sunshine, remove from evil neighbourhood, and fly from the influence of dangerous example.  But how seldom has he firmness and grace for this!  How truly does he resemble the oak in this, that he becomes, through life, what the early circumstances of his youth have made him!  Hence, I am always anxious to know men’s histories from the very beginning.  Even slight matters, in childhood, produce permanent effects; and I like to hear little anecdotes of youth, which some men regard as trivial, because I know (as a great poet has said) that “the child is father to the man,” and that education begins even with life itself.  A certain French lady wished to consult a philosopher about the best mode of educating her child, and said that she was commencing at a very early period, as her child was but three years old:—“Madam,” said the philosopher, “you are beginning three years too late!”

Hence, as I said, I was glad to find the old man so willing to narrate his history, and to have so perfect a memory of his early days, as I expected thus to learn a lesson in the formation of human character, the most important study to which the human mind can be directed.  But I confess I was somewhat startled when he invited me, as he termed it, to “walk with him into Hawskhead school,” as I dreaded what is commonly called a long yarn, more especially as the course of our walk together was now drawing to a termination.  “My good friend,” said I, “I would listen to you with the greatest pleasure, but there is one school-boy taste which we never lose sight p. 14of as long as we live, viz., an accurate knowledge of the dinner hour; and mine, I feel, is approaching.  I shall be most happy to resume our walk and our talk together to-morrow morning, when I hope we shall be able to get through your first school-day with mutual pleasure and satisfaction.”

“I beg your pardon,” said the old man, smiling, “but a full stomach has seldom much feeling for an empty one.—Mine happens to be in that more favourable condition at the present moment, and thankful am I to God for it, for I can remember the day when I have been reduced to feed my eyes instead of my mouth at the butcher’s shop?  But I am really anxious to give you a specimen of my early school-days, because I was brought up under a system of instruction which is now rapidly passing away.  At every town, and almost every village in the north of England, there was, and indeed still is, a grammar school; generally pretty well endowed as to income, and under the management of a master and usher, one if not both, educated at one of the universities of Oxford or Cambridge.  All the learning required at the time when they were founded was Latin and Greek, and the masters of these schools were full of both.  The schools were free to all who came to them, so that the little statesman or farmer, who happened to live near one of them, could give his son as good an education as the first nobleman in the land, and at no further expense than providing his child with meat and clothing.  These lads were brought up with frugal and industrious habits, and told from their very childhood, that if they made themselves good scholars, they might hereafter become bishops, or judges of the land, which in those days often came to pass.  One or two of the oldest bishops on the bench at this moment, sprang out of these grammar schools; and many of our most distinguished lawyers.  But they are now, most of them, I hear, at a very low ebb.  The school-house is falling down, and the little village around it, which was supported by the pupils and boarders, is pining away.  This p. 15is a sad blow, sir, to the poor north.—The farmer’s son gets not that good education that he used to have, and is bound down for ever to his plough and his flail, instead of rising to be one of the ornaments of his country, and a benefactor to his poor native land.  Pray, sir, can you account for the falling off in these good old schools?”

“There are many reasons for it,” said I, “some of which might be removed, and some not.  One reason is, that noblemen and gentlemen now send their sons to be educated either at the great public schools, or at private academies, where they meet only with persons of their own rank, and escape the mischiefs which are supposed to arise from mixing with persons beneath them in birth or station.—Great folly this.  The best part of education consists in becoming acquainted, in early life, when the passions and perceptions are strong, with persons of every class, and all degrees of talents and opinions.  Thus, asperities are softened, and a knowledge of men and manners is obtained, which can be acquired so easily in no other way.  England is what it is, by this early admixture of high and low, rich and poor, one with another; and it will cease to be old England, free, liberal, and religious England, when men are taught to consider each other as almost belonging to a different race of beings from their very cradles.  Every man is an ignorant man who only knows his own class.”

“You are quite right there sir,” said the old man, “and all the experience of my long life proves it.  I have seen a thousand times, that if men knew a little more of each other, half their prejudices on the subjects of religion, politics, and other causes of division, would vanish away at once: and these good old schools were great helps in making youths of all classes know and understand each other.”

“Another reason for their falling away,” said I, “was their standing still while the world went on.  They taught Latin and Greek, when Latin and Greek were the only necessary knowledge, and the only passports to p. 16wealth and distinction; and so long as that was the case, all classes were satisfied with them.—But the world soon wanted other knowledge.—It wanted arithmetic, land-surveying, engineering, and a thousand other things by which men make money, and get on in the world.  But these things grammar schools could not or would not teach.  So boys were sent to other places, where wise men, or pretenders to wisdom, professed to teach all that is necessary for these very enlightened times; and the old school benches soon became empty.  There, grammar schools were wrong;—they should have adapted themselves more to the wants of the times; and then they might have flourished as of old, to the great benefit of the whole nation.  But I am forgetting your story, and what is more, forgetting my dinner.  Till we meet to-morrow, farewell!”


You call this education, do you not?
Why, ’tis the forced march of a herd of bullocks
Before a shouting drover.  The glad van
Move on at ease, and pause a while to snatch
A passing morsel from the dewy greensward;
While all the blows, the oaths, the indignation,
Fall on the troupe of the ill-fated laggard
That cripples in the rear.

Old Play.

Well, sir,” said the old man, smiling, as we met at the appointed spot about one o’clock, “now for Hawkshead school!  I hope you have brought all your stock of patience with you, and no appetite for any thing beyond my little adventures on my first appearance under the frown of a schoolmaster.”

“Speaking of appetites,” said I, interrupting him, “and seeing what I now see before me, reminds me of a good joke against myself, which took place when I first knew Manchester.  I was standing upon this bridge, (or rather its predecessor the old bridge, for the Victoria was not then built,) at this hour of the day, when suddenly I saw a rush of men, women, and children upon it, from the Manchester side, which astonished me not a little.  I should think there could not be fewer than three or four hundred of them: all posting along at a great pace, with a good deal of anxiety and determination written on their countenances; and, though they said not a word to each other, with evidently one common object in view.  They were rather shabbily dressed, and clearly belonged to one class of society.  The imagination immediately conjured up various startling reasons for this unexpected concourse, such as a fire, a fight, or a radical meeting.  Seeing one solitary individual who p. 18was standing still, like myself, to let the crowd pass by, and whose countenance seemed to express that he was quite aware of the cause of this irruption into Salford, I could not resist the temptation of speaking to him, and said—‘My good friend, where are all these people going to!’  ‘To their dinners,’ said he, quietly and with a grin on his face, that made me ashamed of my ignorance, and which raises a smile on my cheek every time I see the same sight, which any man may do who stands here at one o’clock in the day, and sees the workmen of Manchester hasten home to their dinners in Salford.”

“Many a marvellous story,” said the old man, “has arisen out of a much less plausible foundation.

“Well, sir, to my tale.—There stood I, an anxious and trembling little boy, for the first time in my life at the door of a school.  What a large and awful place I thought it!  The very outside frightened me almost beyond endurance, and then, I thought, what is going on within!  My fears were more than realized on entrance; for the first thing that caught my eye was the head master himself,—old Bowman, sitting in awful state at the head of the school, with a great buzz wig on his head, and a most formidable ferula lying on the desk before him.  The old oak benches, cut and carved with names, some of which, insignificant as they then were, are now recorded in the history of our country, seemed formidable in my eyes, as compared with the smaller articles of the same kind in my own home; and the sight of so many boys all gathered together, and all busy at their own occupations, made my poor little head almost spin round in confusion.  I and my companions were, of course, as new comers, placed on the lowest form, and had to wait our turn to be called upon by the master of the lower school.  During that time I had leisure to look around me, which I did with fear and trembling.  At the head of the school, next to the master, sat Joshua Prince, of whom I had often heard as the first boy in the school, and a great favourite with the master.  With what a feeling of admiration did I regard him!  He was p. 19the son of a miller in the neighbourhood; but having shown great talents in early life, his parents determined to give him a good education and send him to college, in hopes that he might hereafter rise to eminence and distinction.  Nor did he disappoint their expectations.  He carried off the highest honours of his university, and is now one of the proudest boasts of Hawkshead school—thanks to good old archbishop Sandys for having built and endowed it!  I don’t know how it is, sir, but I am as proud of Joshua Prince, and my old school, as if I had succeeded like Joshua in the world, instead of being what I am!  Well, at last we were called up; and never shall I forget the anxiety of that moment!  Of course, I was at the bottom of my class, and some boys much older and bigger than myself were at the top.  But I now found the advantage of my good mother’s early care, and soon discovered that I was by no means the worst scholar among them.  At last we came to spelling:—‘Spell kingdom,’ said the master to the first boy in the class, in a voice of thunder.—‘K, i, n, d, o, m,’ said the boy; (and that boy, you must know, was Tom Hebblethwaite, the very person whom you saw last summer cutting off the old cock’s tail—I dare say he was thinking of me at the very time)—‘k, i, n, d, o, m,’ said Tom: ‘g,’ exclaimed I from the bottom of the class.  ‘That’s right,’ said the master, ‘stand up!’  So there was I, raised at once from the bottom to the top, covered with glory!  Tom made room for me very slowly, but the eye of the master was upon him, and he gave way.  At last the day was over, and, as I thought, most triumphantly for myself: but I was wofully mistaken!  No sooner had the school broken up, and the masters left for their own homes, than I saw Tom approaching me in the school-yard, evidently with no friendly intentions.  ‘So!’ said he, ‘you think yourself, I dare say, a very fine fellow—I think you a mother’s darling,’—accompanying this very civil speech with a box on the ear.  My blood was roused at this, more especially as he sneered at my mother, which to my feelings was past endurance; p. 20and, though scarcely half his size, I turned fiercely round upon him, and fairly knocked him down!  ‘A battle! a battle!’ was immediately the cry through the school-yard; and though half the boys had seemed to be dispersed for their homes, yet somehow their ears seemed to catch this delightful sound in a most extraordinary manner, and the whole school was round us in an incredibly short space of time.  A ring was immediately formed, and due preparations were made for the contest, according to the laws of that brutal sport which had prevailed in the school from time immemorial,—Joshua Prince being at the head.  How I felt the injustice of that moment! and though I have in some degree changed my opinion on the subject since, yet I feel much of that injustice to the present day.  My opponent, as I have said, was almost twice my size and strength, and was actuated by the worst and most malignant feelings,—jealousy and revenge: I had nothing to support me, except a sense of injustice done me, and a resolution to obtain a character for manliness which I knew to be essential to a school-boy.  I hoped, therefore, that the bystanders would see the unfairness of such a contest, and interfere in my behalf.  But no; they were too anxious for what they called ‘the sport,’ to give one thought to the merits of the case.  I looked imploringly at Joshua Prince, expecting to see a friend in him at least; but his eye was inexorable, and, like the rest, he was eager for the battle.  We fought—he for revenge, I for honour—but in despair!  As might be expected, I was severely bruised and beaten, yet I scorned to yield the victory as long as I was able to resist, and the issue was what neither of the combatants expected.  In his eagerness to secure the victory, Tom at last struck me when I was on the ground.  A cry of ‘foul, foul,’ was immediately raised, and I was taken up from the ground and carried round the yard by my schoolfellows, and formally proclaimed victor by the whole school!  Tom was forced to admit the justice of this decision, and slunk away full of shame and disappointment.  So there was I, like many another conqueror, p. 21with no other laurels to show as the fruit of my victory than the injuries which I had received during the contest.  It is true I had gained the respect of my schoolfellows, but I had paid dearly for it, both in body and mind.  A cloud had been cast over the sunshine of my first school-day; and what was worse, I had, in this plight, to face the anger of my father, and the anxious looks of my poor expecting mother.”


I’ve wander’d far, I’ve wander’d near,
   I’ve liv’d with low and high,
But ne’er knew I a thing so dear
   As my own Mother’s eye!

It swell’d with grief, when grief was mine;
   It beam’d, when joy was given;
On earth no sun like it could shine—
   How glows it now, in Heaven!

How changed to my eye was now that mountain road, by which, in the early morning, I had hastened, full of joy and expectation, to Hawkshead School!  Not that there was any change in reality; for the evening sun shone as bright in the West over my returning path, as its morning beams had gilded my eastern track.  The cows were once more lowing in the valleys for the evening milking.  The cuckoos were shouting to each other from glen to glen, as if they alone had a right to be heard in their own domain.  The lark was whistling a highland fling in the sunbeams, and dancing to his own merry music in the very centre of the sky.  But all this was lost upon me; for my spirits had sunk to the very lowest point of despair, and I was thinking, in melancholy sadness, of the reception I should meet with at home, all black and bruised as I was; and of the blank which would sadden my poor mother’s face, when she hastened to meet me, and hear my account of the adventures of the day.  My little companions, to do them justice, sympathized with my feelings; for though they said little to comfort me, yet they restrained their boyish mirth within a reasonable compass; and tried to conduct themselves as if nothing particular had happened—all that could be expected from youths like them.  I shall never forget my p. 23feelings when Dash rushed out, wagging his tail, and bounding with joy at my approach, and then, suddenly looking me in the face, turned round with his tail between his legs, and ran into the house as though he had been guilty of some serious doggish fault, and expected instant chastisement!  ‘Surely,’ thought I, ‘if Dash does not know me, my own mother wont!’ and so it proved; for at first sight she hardly recollected who it was, so changed was I in appearance.  But her experience in the history of schoolboys was much greater than my own; and I saw at once that she comprehended the whole matter before I had said a word to her.  She looked deadly pale for a moment; but all she said was,—‘My dear boy, are you to blame for this?’  ‘No, mother, I am NOT,’ said I, with a firmness which I saw at once carried conviction to her heart, and I felt I had made peace with one of my parents.  But the worst, I knew, and so did my mother, was yet to come.  My father was of another stamp, and viewed matters in another light.  He saw, too, and comprehended at a glance what had happened; but, quite independent of the right or wrong of the question, his determination was that all such proceedings should be put down with the strong hand.  I saw, therefore, that I was to be severely beaten; for my father was not one who did these things by halves.  It was not anger, it was not want of feeling, that impelled him to this course; it was a strong, though in this case surely a mistaken, sense of duty.  My mother and I, both knowing his character and feelings, knew it was in vain to remonstrate; so I stood with terror, and my poor mother stood as pale as death, prepared for the worst.  Just at that moment, and when the feelings of all the party, my father’s included, were almost past endurance, the door flew open with some violence, and Joshua Prince stood in the middle of the room!  ‘Dont strike the boy,’ said he, in a firm voice that seemed resolved to be listened to, ‘dont strike the boy, for he does not deserve it.’  Had an angel from heaven appeared to us at that moment, my mother and I could not have been more p. 24delighted, nor hardly more startled than we at first were at his most unexpected and most timely appearance; and in truth, I believe my father was not the least relieved of the whole party.  The uplifted rod dropped by his side, as it were by instinct; and he looked at Joshua with an expression of respect which led me to hope that the crisis of my fate was past.  In the neighbourhood of large grammar schools there is always much interest felt in their proceedings among those inhabitants of the district who have little or no immediate connexion with them.  They are proud of the success of the best scholars—even those who are no scholars whatever themselves—and the head boy of a school is always spoken of with great respect, especially by those who are in any way connected with the place, either through their children or their own early education.  My father, therefore, had a strong feeling of almost reverence for Joshua Prince, though he had hardly ever seen him before; and would have at once obeyed him, even in a matter less agreeable to his feelings.  The rod, therefore, at once fell idly to his side.

“‘I thought it possible,’ continued Joshua, ‘that you might beat him, and so I came to tell you that he does not deserve it.  He was ill-used by Tom Hebblethwaite, and he fought like a man.  Send him to school to-morrow, and I will see that he comes by no harm—good night!’—and Joshua disappeared in the gloom.  Now, sir, you may talk of great and generous actions, but I do not think you will easily mention one which, as far as it goes, will surpass this of Joshua Prince.  You will recollect that he was, after all, but a boy; young and thoughtless; delighted with the battle, and pleased that he had done justice to the conqueror, if such I could be called.  He lived down the valley towards Newby Bridge, nearly four miles from school, and in almost an opposite direction to Yewdale.  Yet all at once, when more than half way home, and with the prospect of supper before a hungry boy brightening as he goes, it flashes across his mind that I may possibly be chastised undeservedly for the day’s occurrences, and he hesitates not a p. 25moment as to what steps he should take.  He turns aside across hill and valley, bog and stream, where there is no footpath even for the goat, forgets his supper and his evening fishing-rod, and all to save a little boy whom he never saw before from a beating which, from its frequency at school, and from the way in which he had encouraged the battle, he might have been expected to care very little about.  Nor was it the beating that he cared about.  It was its injustice that dwelt upon his mind.  The brave have an instinctive admiration of bravery; and he did not like to think that the little boy should be ill-used, or rather misunderstood, who had shown such firmness and courage in the school-yard.  These were Joshua’s motives; and verily he had his reward.  The gratitude towards him of our whole family, including my sister, (of whom I shall speak by and by,) was such that there was nothing that we would not have done for his sake.  Yet he never seemed to expect any thing; or to show that he thought himself to have done any thing extraordinary.  He paid me very little attention at school; none, in fact, beyond what he showed to most of the younger boys; except that when any injury was attempted towards me by any of those who were stronger than myself, he was always ready to see justice done me.  Favouritism he scrupulously avoided.  An acquaintance between us thus commenced, which ripened almost into friendship as I grew older, and before he left us for college.  But, what is most remarkable, his kindness towards me seemed to increase, rather than diminish, by absence.  Many a kind message of advice did he send me by fellow-pupils while I remained at school; and he has more than once visited me in my quiet dwelling in Salford, though he has had an earl’s son under his care; and has brought him to see the ways of Manchester, and taught him to sympathize with its toiling population.  These, sir, are the links, which bind all the parts of English society together, stronger than chains of brass!  These good old schools are like rivets which run through the whole body politic; hence it was that the earl’s son, p. 26Joshua Prince, and your humble servant, became fast friends for life!”

The old man’s face glowed as he said this, with a feeling which showed that he was a patriot to the back bone.  His poverty, and his age, in the ardour of the moment, were quite forgotten.—His school-days were as fresh on his mind as if they had hardly yet passed away; and I felt thankful to Providence as I experienced how deeply he has infused happiness into natures and conditions where the hasty observer might scarcely be able to observe a trace of it.

He continued—“I will not detain you longer with the history of my school-days; I have something far more important, and I hope, more interesting to speak of,—my first religious impressions.  But I cannot help just mentioning one early companion who was soon lost to us all, but whose character made a deep impression upon myself and many of my school-fellows.  He was but the son of a poor labourer, but showed an early talent for poetry, and produced some pieces of very great merit, which I wish I could recollect now, as they would be a comfort to me in my solitary hours; but he sank, in decline, to an early grave; and all his verses, I fear, died with him; for though many of his poems were committed by his school-fellows to memory, yet none have recorded any of them in writing.”

“Your story,” said I, “reminds me of an exactly similar case, (and doubtless there are hundreds such,) which happened nearly thirty years ago, at a school very like your own,—that of Richmond, in Yorkshire.  Poor Herbert Knowles was, like your young companion, taken from one of the lowest stations in life, and sent by kind friends to Richmond school, with the intention of his being afterwards removed to college.  But the hand of death was upon him.  He was of a gentle and pious mind, and of a sickly frame.  He knew that his days were fast drawing to a close, and a few weeks before he died he wrote the following verses at night in Richmond Church-yard, which show the way in which he looked p. 27death in the face, and the faith and hope which pointed beyond the grave.  As you are fond of poetry, I will repeat the verses to you, and they may perhaps somewhat console you for the loss of your friend’s:—


It is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt let us make here three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  Matthew, xvii. 4.

      Methinks it is good to be here;
         If Thou wilt, let us build: but for whom?
      Nor Elias nor Moses appear,
But the shadows of eve that encompass the gloom,
The abode of the dead, and the place of the tomb.

      Shall we build to Ambition!  Oh, no!
         Affrighted he shrinketh away:
      For see, they would pin him below
In a small narrow cave, and begirt with cold clay,
To the meanest of reptiles a peer and a prey.

      To Beauty!  Ah, no! she forgets
         The charms which she wielded before;
      Nor knows the foul worm that he frets
The skin which but yesterday fools could adore
For the smoothness it held, or the tint which it wore.

      Shall we build to the purple of Pride,
         The trappings which dizen the proud?
      Alas! they are all laid aside;
And here’s neither dress nor adornment allow’d
But the long winding-sheet, and the fringe of the shroud.

      To Riches?  Alas! ’tis in vain;
         Who hid, in their turns have been hid:
      The treasures are squandered again,
And here in the grave are all metals forbid
But the tinsel that shone on the dark coffin-lid.

      To the pleasures which Mirth can afford?
         The revel, the laugh, and the jeer?
      Ah! here is a plentiful board,
But the guests are all mute at their pitiful cheer,
And none but the worm is a reveller here.

      p. 28Shall we build to Affection and Love?
         Ah no! they have wither’d and died,
      Or fled with the spirit above:
Friends, brothers, and sisters are laid side by side,
Yet none have saluted, and none have replied.

      Unto Sorrow?  The dead cannot grieve,
         Not a sob, not a sigh meets mine ear,
      Which compassion itself could relieve:
Ah, sweetly they slumber, nor hope, love, nor fear;
Peace, peace is the watch-word, the only one here.

      Unto Death, to whom monarchs must bow?
         Ah, no! for his empire is known;
      And here there are trophies enow:
Beneath, the cold dead, and around, the dark stone,
Are the signs of a sceptre that none may disown.

      The first Tabernacle to Hope we will build,
         And look for the sleepers around us to rise;
      The second to Faith, which insures it fulfill’d;
And the third to the Lamb of the great sacrifice,
Who bequeath’d us them both when He rose to the skies!’”

“This is poetry,” exclaimed the old man, when I had finished reciting the above beautiful lines,—“and piety as well as poetry.  The youth who, with his own death full in view, could give utterance to such holy thoughts, and in the darkness of the night, with the dead of old lying around him and beneath his feet, must surely be gone to heaven!”


         —As in those days
When this low pile a Gospel Teacher knew,
Whose good works form’d an endless retinue:
Such priest as Chaucer sang in fervent lays;
Such as the heaven-taught skill of Herbert drew;
And tender Goldsmith crown’d with deathless praise!


“I AM now,” the old man continued, “approaching the most important period of my life.  My school-days glided away peaceably, and in some measure, profitably.  I was quite able and willing to learn every thing required of me by my masters, and had plenty of time to spare to follow all those various sports and amusements which occupy the time and thoughts of rustic lads in mountain regions.  Bird-nesting, fishing, wrestling, hunting, came each in their turn with the change of the seasons; and I was growing up a hale, strong youth, happy in my home, and in good humour with myself and all the world: and, sir, I cannot help remarking, by the way, that good humour, like charity, ‘begins at home;’ for I never knew any one yet who was dissatisfied and out of sorts with persons or things around him, who had not first quarrelled with himself.”

“I really think there is much truth in that remark of yours,” said I.

“Depend upon it there is,” he continued.  “Well, my happiness at that period of my life might be said, as far as human happiness could be,—to be perfect.  But yet the religious state of my mind was not quite satisfactory.  I had learned, and not only well remembered, but understood, every thing with regard to religion which p. 30was taught us at school; and that, believe me, was not little.  We were taught to repeat our Catechism, with Archbishop Wake’s explanation of it, every week.  We read the Bible as a school-book, till we could almost repeat it from beginning to end; and every story in it was as familiar to my mind as the Lord’s Prayer.  I know many have a strong objection to the use of the Bible as a school-book, but I confess I am not among the number.  On the contrary, I hold that familiarity with the Scriptures in childhood is the only way in which a knowledge of them can be so deeply impressed upon the memory, as that the passages which we want shall always be at hand to serve us at every turn.  As we get older we may understand what we read better, but we do not remember it so clearly or so long.  What I read now, slips away almost as soon as the book is laid down; but what I learned then, is as fresh in my memory as my school-day sports, or my first companions in life.  I know it is objected, that an early familiarity with the Scriptures is apt to bring them into contempt, and that we are liable to attach false meanings to passages, which sometimes cling to us through the rest of our lives.  But surely, if this be the effect, the fault is rather in those who put the Scriptures into our hands, than in our early youth, in which we first begin to read them.  I only know that I learned to reverence even the outside of the book of God’s Word from my poor mother’s reverent manner of using it.  She never opened the volume without an expression of countenance which showed that she felt herself at that moment to be in the more immediate presence of her Maker; and I still look upon the corner in which it was always put aside, and call to mind its black cover, with her horn spectacles resting upon it, with as much respect as the Roman Catholic is said to regard the image of his saint.  Mine, however, is no superstitious reverence, but a pious regard for the Word of God, and her from whose lips I was first taught it; and, sir, when I read my Bible now, which I hope I do not much neglect, I combine pleasure as well as well as profit,—it p. 31brings back to me the happy recollections of my youth, as well as affords the consolations of old age.”

“I quite agree with you,” said I, “as to the advantages of an early acquaintance with the Bible.  Whether it should be made a school-book or not, depends entirely upon the capabilities and sound principles of the teacher.”

“There you are right,” said he; “but mine were like the ‘words of king Lemuel, which his mother taught him:’ and old Bowman, to do him justice, drilled the somewhat dry catechism of the good Archbishop pretty soundly into my memory.  Yet, as far as I can recollect, I had not at that time any very distinct notions of the value of the Gospel, as distinct from natural religion, and the obvious duty of doing as I was taught.  I knew all the facts of Christianity perfectly.  I could tell all the events of our Saviour’s life, and enumerate accurately every doctrine taught by Himself and His apostles.  I knew the necessity of unity in the Catholic Church, and understood the Creeds by which that unity was intended to be secured.  But I did not see how these things applied to myself, as guides for my own thoughts and actions.  My real religion, I believe, as far as I can call back my thoughts at this distance of time, consisted a good deal in fear, both of God and man.  My father, as I have said, was a strict disciplinarian; his word was law: and my fear of God, I cannot help thinking, arose almost naturally out of the situation in which nature had placed me.  In very early life,—as far back as I can recollect anything,—I underwent great alarm from what is a common occurrence in that mountain range—a terrific thunder storm.  The effect of the lightning in that land of hill and valley, is very striking; and was never more so than on that well-remembered day!  Sometimes it seemed to dance in wanton playfulness on the side of the mountain, and sometimes to split it from the top to the bottom.  Then the echoing thunder ran up one valley and down another in that land of seams and ridges, coming back again to the place which it had left, with a voice hardly weakened by its circuit; and there, joining p. 32a new and equally loud report, the bellowing became as confused and endless as it was startling.  Then came the thunder-shower, not in drops of rain, but solid sheets of water.  The white cataracts began foaming and rushing down the side of every hill, and gushing out of every opening in the valleys, till they swelled our little stream that winds beneath the house into a mighty and irresistible torrent, sweeping every thing before it towards the lake with rapid and resistless fury.  But what most impressed my mind at the moment, was to see a poor innocent sheep, as well known to me by face as Dash himself, hurled down by the current, and bleating piteously, but in vain, for help!  This scene, and scenes like these, made a deep impression on my mind; and I began to entertain a constant and solemn feeling of the continual presence and irresistible power of God.  This thought was uppermost in my mind from morning till night; in the fields and on my bed.  It was doubtless valuable to me as a guide to duty, but it gave a gloomy turn to my thoughts which was inconsistent with the buoyant feelings of youth, and, as I have since discovered, not in harmony with the true spirit of the Gospel.”

But I must now introduce to you another member of our family, to whom I have as yet hardly alluded, for many painful reasons, but whose history now begins to be blended with mine in a manner which renders all farther avoidance of her tale impossible.  I refer to my poor sister Martha!  She was several years older than myself; and at the time I am now speaking of, had arrived at woman’s estate.  She was a splendid specimen of a fine well-grown mountain girl, except that she was rather paler than exactly suits the taste of the hardy mountaineer; her paleness, however, arose, I believe, not from any delicacy of frame, but from habitual thoughtfulness.  How she was admired and sought after by the shy rustics of the neighbourhood! and, above all, how she was beloved by myself!  Alas!—in the language of a friend of mine, who, though unknown to fame, is a true poet—at that period of her short life,

   p. 33‘The liquid lustre of her eye
Had ne’er been dimm’d by fond hopes blighted;
   The halo of serenity
Still kept her marble forehead lighted!’

“Her kindness to me seemed to arise from her having united the feelings of a sister and a mother towards me.  She was so much older than myself as to be justified in using, as she sometimes did, the language of authority; and yet not so far removed from me in years, but that she could look upon me as a brother, and that I could treat her (as I too often did) with at least a brother’s freedom.  Thus, as I grew older, and my mind expanded from the instruction I received at Hawkshead, I became more and more to be regarded by her as a companion and less as a child.  Thus she, who had been a check upon me and a teacher, now began at times to learn something from me, of which you may well suppose that I was very proud; whilst I was daily growing in admiration of her industry, piety, and patience.  She assisted her mother in all the female labours of the house and the little farm, and yet always kept herself as neat and nice as if she had nothing else to do.  All at once, her manner began to change.  Instead of her constant cheerfulness, she became anxious and absent, though by no means fretful or impatient.  Her paleness visibly increased, and her step grew less elastic and light.  She occasionally absented herself from home without mentioning where she had been, or asking me, as she used formerly to do, to accompany her.  This was noticed by myself long before it was perceived, or at least mentioned, by either my father or my mother; for I began to entertain a jealous feeling that her affections were, from some cause or other, weakening towards me; yet, as she never mentioned the subject herself, a feeling of pride or obstinacy checked me from being the first to seek an explanation.

“We stood in this situation with regard to each other just at the time when I was approaching fourteen years of age, and a rumour ran through the country that the Bishop was about to visit Ulverston for the purpose of p. 34holding a Confirmation.  This, as you may suppose, caused a great sensation among the youths of my age in that retired neighbourhood, for visitations were not so frequent then as they fortunately are now, though surely if they were still more frequent, it would be a great blessing to the country.  For this solemn rite it was necessary that I should be prepared.  But we were a long way from our parish church of Seathwaite, and we had been in the habit, for nearness, of frequenting Torver chapel, though not resident in the district.  I confess I looked forward to this preparation with a mixed feeling of alarm and curiosity.  I was alarmed for fear that I should be found sadly deficient in the information necessary to justify me in appearing before the Bishop; and I was curious to know what steps my parents proposed to take to have me trained for the proper participation in this solemn rite.  I confess that a willingness to postpone what I considered a somewhat evil day prevented me from asking any questions on this subject.  At last I overheard a conversation between my parents one night after we had retired to rest (for our rooms were so near, and the doors and walls so full of chinks, that everything that passed was distinctly heard from one room to another) which led me to expect that the very day after, I was to be put in a train for preparation; but how, I had no means of gathering.  Accordingly, after the usual morning’s work of the farm was over, my father (which was very unusual with him) went to his room to put on his Sunday’s clothes; and my mother, with a pleased yet anxious expression on her countenance, directed me to do the same.  I asked no questions, for the reason I have just mentioned, but quietly obeyed.  We were soon on the way together.

“It was a fine bright autumn morning, when we set off on this remarkable pilgrimage; I feeling that nothing but a most important matter could have induced my father to lose a day’s work at this season of the year; and my father and mother observing a perfect silence, both apparently wrapped up in their own thoughts.  p. 35Our way lay by a cart-track that led right up to the top of Walna Scar, a fine bold cliff, which I dare say you have climbed, for sight-seers find it a noble point for a prospect on their way between Coniston and Seathwaite.  It was the time of the year when the farmers in that country cut their turf for their winter stock of firing, and all the able-bodied population are then to be found assembled at their work on the hills.  I felt assured therefore, that my parents were seeking some labourer in the place where he was sure, at that season, to be found; but how this could possibly concern me, I could not conjecture.  At last, after a toilsome climb, we reached to the top of Walna; and there lay before us a prospect, such as the eye can command, I should think, in few other regions of the globe!  Mountains of all shapes and sizes lay tossed in wild confusion around us, like the billows of a stormy sea!  Lakes sparkled at our feet like looking-glasses for the giants; while the mighty western ocean bounded almost half the prospect round, as with a silver girdle.  But this prospect had nothing to do with our visit here; nor I believe did it once cross the mind of either my father or my mother.

“They were anxiously looking out among the groups of turf-getters with which the top of the hill was dotted, for some one who was apparently the object of this unusual visit.  As we went along, the labourers stopped to speak and to gaze, for a country man in a holiday dress at that busy season, was to them a rare sight.  A few enquiries directed my father to the object of his search: and we soon approached a group of labourers who seemed so intent upon their work, that we stood close to them before we were observed.  They differed little from the little bands that were toiling around them, except that the eye at once detected that they were all of one family.  There were four able-bodied men who wheeled the turf, when cut, in barrows, to the ground where they were spread out to dry, and three girls, somewhat younger, who laid them flat on the ground for that purpose.  The turf-cutter was evidently the father of all the rest.  He p. 36was a short and stout man, with ruddy cheeks, and hair as white as snow.  He was obviously very far advanced in years, but as active in his occupation as if he had been a much younger man.  He had on a check shirt, and a coarse blue frock trimmed with black horn buttons, something like the dress of a charity boy at Chetham’s Hospital, and not very unlike a parson’s cassock.  He was so intent upon his work that he did not perceive our approach till my father spoke to him, when the little old man turned suddenly round, with his spade uplifted in the air, as if he was impatient of being interrupted in his labour.  To my surprise, my father immediately took off his hat, and my mother made a curtsey, actions so unusual that I began to feel an involuntary respect for him to whom such honours were paid.  He returned the salute with a friendly bow and smile which showed that such attentions were not new to him: and my father taking me by the hand said, almost in the words of Scripture, ‘Sir, this is our son of whom I spake unto you.’  The old man stepped forward, and laid his hand on my head, and said, with an expression of countenance which I shall never forget—‘God be gracious unto thee, my son!’  Had the hand of a patriarch of old been then upon me, it could not have affected me more.  It was ‘Wonderful Walker;’ did you ever hear, sir, of Wonderful Walker?”


   “You, Sir, know that in a neighbouring vale
A Priest abides before whose life such doubts
Fall to the ground; whose gifts of nature lie
Retired from notice. . . .
In this one man is shown a temperance proof
Against all trials; industry severe
And constant as the motion of the day. . . .
Preaching, administering, in every work
Of his sublime vocation, in the walks
Of worldly intercourse between man and man,
And in his humble dwelling, he appears
A labourer, with moral virtue girt,
With spiritual graces, like a glory, crown’d.”
   “Doubt can be none,” the Pastor said, “for whom
This portraiture is sketch’d.  The great, the good,
The well-belov’d, the fortunate, the wise,
These titles emperors and chiefs have borne,
Honour assumed or given: and him, the Wonderful,
Our simple shepherds, speaking from the heart,
Deservedly have styled.”

Wordsworth’s Excursion.

Hear of Wonderful Walker?” said I, “to be sure I have! and have honoured and revered his memory as one of the bright lights of the Church, shining in a dark age, and in a remote corner of the world, where it might have been feared that light would hardly have extended.  Why, my good friend, I once walked to the quiet and retired village of Seathwaite that I might make a pilgrimage to his grave; and though I have gazed upon the tombs and monuments of many of the most renowned heroes and sages of days gone by, none of them filled my mind with such deep sensations of awe and reverence as the quiet and unpretending tomb of Robert Walker!  I yet see the inscription as freshly as if I had read it yesterday—the villagers point it out with pride and pleasure, as an honour to their rustic church-yard, and preserve it from all profanation, as a treasure above all price.  How p. 38humble is the inscription engraved on that modest tombstone!  What a couple of saints are there recorded, reposing in peace and union after a long life of pious usefulness, and awaiting the sound of the archangel’s trumpet with a faith as firm as their sleep is tranquil!  Thus runs the record:—

“‘In memory of the Reverend Robert Walker, who died the 25th of June, 1802, in the 93rd year of his age, and 67th of his curacy at Seathwaite.

“‘Also, of Anne his wife, who died the 28th of January, in the 92nd year of her age.’

“Truly were they ‘lovely in their lives, and in death not divided.’  How I envy you, my friend, to have been taught by the honest voice, and to have gazed on the honest face of Robert Walker!”

“Truly, sir, you are quite enthusiastic about my old pastor, and I suspect you have read the poet Wordsworth’s delightful sketch of his character, with the materials for which he was supplied by some of his surviving descendants; if not, I recommend you to lose no time in doing so.  My recollections of him are of a humbler kind, but perhaps not less interesting; to me he has been more than a father.  His divine words yet live in my memory—I wish I had always followed his good advice, and good example!

“His habits, as you know, were quite upon a level with the plain and homely rustics of the village.  He lived as they lived, and worked as they worked.  But he lost no spiritual influence, or even worldly respect by this; on the contrary, by excelling them all in those pursuits of which they could judge, he gained credit among them for being always right in matters wherein they were less informed.  I believe the clergy, by their too frequent ignorance of, or contempt for, common things, often lose an influence among the uneducated, which all their knowledge of divinity can never make amends for.  Walker was the best shepherd on the mountains, and was not the less qualified thereby for being the spiritual shepherd of his people.”

p. 39“You remind me,” said I, “of a good old parson of Buttermere, who was really a learned and sound divine, but was most esteemed by his flock as being the best wrestler in all the country side!”

“That sounds ridiculous enough,” said he, “but what good thing is there which does not become ridiculous in its excess?  Good Mr. Walker, however, was of a different stamp.  He was at peace with himself and all the world.  He ne’er had changed nor wished to change his place.  Where he was born, there he lived, and there he died.  He baptized, married and buried, almost every individual of at least two generations in his parish; and where he laid them in their last resting-place, there he lay down himself, waiting his final reward.  I have myself always much respect for a dead body, knowing that it shall live for ever; and I always think that he who cares little for the bodies of them that sleep in Jesus, is often little better than an infidel.  It is not the soul only that is immortal, the body is immortal also!

“But, sir, to my tale.  My father continued—‘Hearing that a confirmation is about to be held, we are anxious to put this our boy under the care of your Reverence, that he may be duly prepared.  We think, from what his master, Mr. Bowman, says of him, that he is a good scholar, and well-informed in matters of religion; we know that he is a tolerably good boy at home,’ (here my father spoke with a half-smile on his face, as if unwilling to allow so much in my favour in my presence; and indeed, though much delighted, for I had never heard him say so much good of me before, I fear the effect was in some degree to feed my vanity:) ‘generally speaking,’ my father continued, with an emphasis on the phrase, ‘generally speaking his conduct is very fair.  But we know that you always wish to prepare the young of your own parish for confirmation; and so we have brought him to you that you may give us your advice as to what he is to do to prepare himself, and you may depend upon it that we will see that it is done.’

“‘Thank you, my good friend,’ said the Pastor, p. 40highly delighted, ‘thank you!  You have done what all parents ought, but not more than I expected from you.  I remember well, when I prepared you,—now forty years ago,—when I prepared you for the same solemn rite, I remember I told you not to forget to bring up your children in the way they should go, and thankful to God am I, that the seed sown so long since has lived in your hearts, and has shot up at the proper time as fresh as if it had been sown last spring!  Truly the seeds of grace are as immortal as the seeds of nature.  See you that violet?’ said he, pointing to a little simple pansy that was bending its graceful flower close to the spot on which the old man stood,—‘look at it, and think, how came it there?  Last autumn, this spot was covered with bog-earth, which had probably rested on this bleak and barren moor ever since the deluge.  It was disturbed last year by the spade of the turf-getter, and now, this beautiful little flower has sprung up in this place!  For ages and ages its seed must have remained embedded in this sour and barren bog; yet, once disturbed by the hand of man, it springs up fresh and lively, to show that God can keep alive what to the eye of man may seem to perish, and can deck with grace and beauty even the most unpromising spots of creation!  So be it with Thy WORD,’ said he, looking devoutly upwards.  Now, I had observed the pansy growing on the portions of heath which had been moved by the spade a thousand times, yet never till now did I think that such a moral could be drawn from so simple a fact.  And, sir, I believe that there is no fact, in nature or in art, from which a devout and observant mind may not learn similar lessons of devotion.  I never see a violet now, that I do not think on Robert Walker, and the power of the grace of God.’

“The old man paused a little, and then continued: ‘My boy,’ said the Pastor, addressing himself to me, ‘are you ready to learn?’  ‘As ready as you to teach,’ said I, firmly but respectfully.  I have often thought since, that such a reply might, in the ears of some pastors, have sounded something like a reproach; but in the ears of Robert p. 41Walker, whose ‘aptness to teach’ was as well known as his other good qualities, it was a most agreeable answer.  ‘Sharp and ready, I see,’ said he, turning to my father with a smile; ‘but most of Bowman’s lads are pretty well trained.  I wish you to come to my church next Sunday morning, when I propose to commence a course of lectures to the candidates for confirmation; and I trust your parents will accompany you.  They must present you in the temple, as Joseph and Mary did their Holy Child.  I shall expect you all to “dine with me at noon,” with the rest of the parish.’  This must sound in your ears as a large invitation from a poor pastor (his income was not more than £20 a year) to a whole parish.  But, sir, it is no exaggeration; every Sunday did this good man keep open house to his flock, and all were welcome who chose to partake of his boiled beef or mutton, and a bason of broth.

“At this point in our conversation a young man joined our party, whom I had for some time observed strolling about, and occasionally addressing some of the various parties engaged in cutting turf on the fell.  He was good looking, and dressed in the prevailing fashion of the time, that is, very much as I am at present, for my outward man has stood still in its attire for the last forty years.  It was evident that he was no native of the north, and might be one of those Lakers, who, in that early period, though not in such numbers as at present, visited the lakes during the summer season, to enjoy the beauties of their scenery, and imbibe health and strength from the pure breath of their mountain breezes.  He evidently eyed our Reverend friend with much curiosity; and respectfully touching his hat, said with a smile, ‘Your outward attire, father, has in my eyes a somewhat primitive appearance.’  Mr. Walker, if he felt the sneer, did not seem to notice it, but replied with plain simplicity, ‘I flatter myself, sir, that my dress is such as at once becomes my character, and bespeaks my office.  It is coarse in its texture, for the materials of it were spun by my own hand; but its form is such as has been handed p. 42down from time immemorial as belonging to the priest’s office, and I see no reason, sir, why the priest’s vesture should not be as unchangeable as his creed.’

“‘Unchangeable! venerable sir, what is unchangeable?  Is not the human mind, in our days, gradually but irresistibly marching onwards, from the darkness of ignorance to the broad daylight of liberty and knowledge?  Is not this an age of new light?”  “It may be so,” said the priest, “but if my creed be true, the last new light from heaven came in the days of our Saviour—any new light since then, must, I fear, have a different origin!’

“The stranger did not seem disposed to pursue the conversation further, but, slightly touching his hat, took his leave.  We also paid our parting respects to the pastor, and commenced our journey home.  The stranger joined us before we had advanced far on our return, and certainly we found him a most intelligent and agreeable companion.  He had seen much of foreign countries, and mentioned many circumstances with regard to them and their customs, which made a deep impression on my youthful imagination.  He accompanied us to the door of our house, which was opened by my sister; and, much to my surprise, she received him with an expression of countenance, and a conscious blush on her cheek, which showed that it was not the first time that they had met.  My curiosity was excited, and I resolved, if possible, to find out the stranger’s history and occupation.”


Would that our scrupulous sires had dared to leave
Less scanty measure of those graceful rites
And usages, whose due return invites
A stir of mind too natural to deceive;
Giving the Memory help when she would weave
A crown of hope!  I dread the boasted lights
That all too often are but fiery blights,
Killing the bud o’er which in vain we grieve.


“I am afraid sir,” continued the old man, as we resumed our walk and our conversation, “that you will begin to think my tale of things gone by both tiresome and unprofitable.  To me it is interesting, because, as I tell my story, my mind goes back to the days of my youth, and the early feelings, both of joy and sorrow, return to my heart as my narrative calls them up, almost as freshly as when the scenes were acting before my eyes.  But that the task is unprofitable, I cannot help sometimes confessing to myself, however pleasing it may be to my feelings.  Walker, and all that concerned him, are gone to the grave.  The world has marched on with wonderful strides since his day; his clumsy spinning wheel is now rendered useless by machinery; and even in his own little vale, a child’s hand can, in one short week, produce a greater quantity and a much finer quality of well spun yarn than he, poor man, twisted together during the long and laborious years of his whole life!  Why, then, should one look to him, and not to that child, as a model?  I feel that it would be absurd to take the latter rather than the former as an example, yet I confess I cannot assign the reason for it: and thus it is, that when I am told that the present age is in advance of the last, and ought rather to be my guide than the ways of antiquity, I am p. 44often driven into a difficulty, though never convinced;—what think you of the matter?”

“Your difficulty,” said I, “seems to arise from confounding progress in arts and sciences with progress in moral and mental power.  The one is as different from the other as possible, nor does the existence of the one at all imply the presence of the other.  The child you have referred to as being able to spin so much better than Walker,—could it reason like Walker? would it act and feel like him?—By no means; and so neither may an age, distinguished for mechanical progress, excel one of darkness with regard to such matters, and yet devoted to pursuits and studies which call forth the powers of the mind, and exercise the best qualities of the heart.  Shakspere and Milton might have made sorry cotton-spinners; no farmer now would plough, like Elisha, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, yet where is the farmer who would surpass the prophet in zeal, and eloquence, and devotion to his Master’s service?  Never fear, then, my friend, that the example of good Mr. Walker can grow old and useless; we can easily cut better peats than he did by the help of better tools, but when shall we surpass him in shrewd observation of the face of nature, in industry, in devotion to God, in kindness and good-will to man!  Hear what is said of him by a great-grandson, who may well be prouder of being a descendant of Robert Walker, than if he had come of the purest blood in Europe:—

“‘His house was a nursery of virtue.  All the inmates were industrious, and cleanly, and happy.  Sobriety, neatness, quietness, characterized the whole family.  No railings, no idleness, no indulgence of passion were permitted.  Every child, however young, had its appointed engagements; every hand was busy.  Knitting, spinning, reading, writing, mending clothes, making shoes, were by the different children constantly performed.  The father himself sitting amongst them and guiding their thoughts, was engaged in the same operations.

*     *     *

“‘He sat up late and rose early; when the family were at rest, he retired to a little room which he had built on the roof of his house.  He had slated it, and fitted it up with shelves for his books, his stock of cloth, wearing apparel, and his utensils.  There many a cold winter’s night, without fire, while the roof p. 45was glazed with ice, did he remain reading or writing till the day dawned.  He taught the children in the chapel, for there was no school house.  Yet in that cold damp place he never had a fire.  He used to send the children in parties either to his own fire at home, or make them run up the mountain’s side.

*     *     *

“‘It may be further mentioned, that he was a passionate admirer of nature; she was his mother, and he was a dutiful child.  While engaged on the mountains, it was his greatest pleasure to view the rising sun; and in tranquil evenings, as it slided behind the hills, he blessed its departure.  He was skilled in fossils and plants; a constant observer of the stars and winds.  The atmosphere was his delight: he made many experiments on its nature and properties.  In summer, he used to gather a multitude of flies and insects, and, by his entertaining descriptions, amuse and instruct his children.  They shared all his daily employments, and derived many sentiments of love and benevolence from his observations on the works and productions of nature.  Whether they were following him in the field or surrounding him in school, he took every opportunity of storing their minds with useful information.—Nor was the circle of his influence confined to Seathwaite.  Many a distant mother has told her child of Mr. Walker, and begged him to be as good a man.

*     *     *

“‘Once, when I was very young, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing that venerable old man in his 90th year, and even then, the calmness, the force, the perspicuity of his sermon, sanctified and adorned by the wisdom of grey hairs, and the authority of virtue had such an effect upon my mind, that I never see a hoary-headed clergyman without thinking of Mr. Walker.

*     *     *

“‘He allowed no dissenter or methodist to interfere in the instruction of the souls committed to his care: and so successful were his exertions, that he had not one dissenter of any denomination whatever in the whole parish.—Though he avoided all religious controversies, yet when age had silvered his head, and virtuous piety had secured to his appearance reverence and silent honour, no one, however determined in his hatred of apostolic descent, could have listened to his discourse on ecclesiastical history and ancient times, without thinking that one of the beloved apostles had returned to mortality, and in that vale of peace had come to exemplify the beauty of holiness in the life and character of Mr. Walker.

*     *     *

“‘Until the sickness of his wife, a few months previous to her death, his health and spirits and faculties were unimpaired.  But this misfortune gave him such a shock, that his constitution gradually decayed.  His senses, except sight, still preserved their powers.  He never preached with steadiness after his p. 46wife’s death.  His voice faltered: he always looked at the seat she had used.  He could not pass her tomb without tears.  He seemed when alone sad and melancholy, though still among his friends kind and good-humoured.  He went to bed about twelve o’clock the night before his death.  As his custom was, he went loitering and leaning upon his daughter’s arm, to examine the heavens, and meditate a few moments in the open air.  “How clear the moon shines to-night!”  He said those words, sighed, and lay down: at six next morning he was found a corpse.  Many a tear, and many a heavy heart, and many a grateful blessing followed him to the grave.’

“My good friend,” said I, when I had finished reading to him the above beautiful extract, “I beg pardon for interrupting your narrative, but I am sure you will forgive me on account of the subject, and because I think what I have just read contains an answer to your question,—Why should we imitate the ancients rather than the moderns?  When the moderns set us a better example than this, we will follow them with pleasure; but they must excuse us if we wait till then.  I would say, to those who are anxious to set one age against another, and especially to magnify our own at the expense of the past, (in the lines of a great and good man,)

“‘Oh! gather whencesoe’er ye safely may
The help which slackening Piety requires;
Nor deem that he perforce must go astray
Who treads upon the footmarks of his sires.’”

“They must take long strides,” replied the old man with a smile, “who put their feet in the marks left by old Robert Walker!  However, to my tale once more.

“As I told you, I had for some time observed a change in the conduct and spirits of my poor sister Martha, and the looks exchanged between the good-looking stranger and herself led me to suspect, with the ready feeling of jealousy, that he might be, in some way or other, the cause of this great alteration.  Yet I had never seen or heard of him before, as being either a resident or a visitor in the neighbourhood; nor could I conjecture how or where they had ever met.  I determined, however, to fathom the mystery, for my sister’s welfare was as dear to me as my own, and I had at least as firm a reliance p. 47on her virtuous resolutions as I had of mine.  Nothing, indeed, could make me for a moment suspect (and the event shows that it would have been criminal to suspect) that an improper thought or design had ever crossed her well-regulated mind.  Observing her, one fine evening, during the week that these events occurred, quietly leave the house after the labours of the day were concluded, I determined to track her footsteps, though at such a distance as carefully to avoid her observation.  What a path did she select for her evening’s ramble!  Sir, you know the majestic shoulder of old Wraynos, out of which the river Duddon takes its rise, a little silver stream.—How it winds its way past the groves of Birker, under the gigantic heights of Walla-Barrow Crag, and through the delicious plain of Donnerdale, gathering up the little mountain rivulets as it hurries on towards the sea, till, at Seathwaite, it becomes a bold and brawling stream, battling with the vast masses of fallen rock that encumber its bed, and sprinkling the bushes that stand gazing into its current with a perpetual dew.  Down this romantic track did my sister haste with a step as light and as timid as a mountain deer,—and, sir, the race of the red deer of the mountain was not extinct in my day, but you often saw their antlered heads gazing down upon you from heights which the most experienced shepherd did not dare to climb.  She did not, however, pursue the Duddon as far down as Seathwaite, but turning up to her left, by the side of a little feeder to the stream, entered the circular plain of a small valley, which is one of the most retired and beautiful in the whole region of the lakes.  Every thing in it, houses, trees, and even men, seem as old, and grey, and peaceful, as the hills which surround it!  Here my suspicions of the object of her journey were at once confirmed.  At the moment she entered the little circular plain of smooth green-sward from below, the stranger whom we had encountered on the fell was seen to issue from the shrubs that clothed the upper termination of the valley; and they met in the centre with a punctuality which p. 48showed—though my poor sister’s step seemed to slacken a little as they approached—that the time and place of meeting were by no means accidental.  As I gazed on his manly form and graceful air, I could not but hope that all this augured well for my sister’s future happiness, though there was an impression on my mind, from whence gathered I could not explain, not altogether favourable to the stranger.  Perhaps, thought I, it arises from that jealousy which is always felt towards those who are found to share in those affections which we wish, however unreasonably, to keep solely to ourselves.  But what right had I to expect that my sister’s affections should all her life be confined to her own domestic fire-side?  I watched them, therefore, with a mingled feeling, retire into one of the most secluded parts of the glen, and hastened to ascend the rock under which they had placed themselves as if to catch the last rays of the sun as they threw a parting glance up the western opening of the dale.  All besides was black with shadow, and every singing-bird in the valley was silent, except a solitary blackbird, who had taken his stand on the highest twig of a towering birch that was still gilded with the light of the sun.  He whistled a few fine farewell notes to the day, and then darted down into his thicket for the night.  At that moment I heard my sister’s well-known voice from below, soft and sweet, as if taking up the song where the blackbird had left off his melody.  The air was one well-known in our valleys, but has not, I dare say, attracted the attention of those caterers for the mart of music who gather up our native melodies as men buy up our virgin honey, at a low rate, and dress them out for higher prices, and a more fashionable circle.  The words were, I believe, her own; for she possessed a remarkable taste for mountain ballads; or they might perhaps have been prepared for her by the native poet, of whom I before spoke to you; for they conveyed a sentiment which strangely harmonized with my own feelings with regard to the stranger, and seemed to show that she, too, had her suspicions as to his character, and was probably almost as ignorant as p. 49myself of his history.  Never did notes sound so sweetly on mine ear as at that moment did my poor sister’s song!  The time—the place—the feeling that the lines were dictated by the true sentiments of the heart, all conspired to impress them on my memory, and to convince me that there was a power in music to reach the heart, which no other charm possesses, when the words, the air, and the feeling are in perfect harmony with each other.  I have prepared for you a copy of the verses, but I cannot convey to you that which is their greatest charm to me—the occasion on which they were first sung.  They have also been harmonized by a friend, who, like myself, has smelt the heather in his youth, and has infused into the instrumental portion, some of the feeling and spirit which breathed in my poor sister’s melody.  You are heartily welcome to both.


‘O speed not to our bonny braes
   To cool dark Passion’s heat;
Nor think each stream, that wildly strays,
   To every eye is sweet:

The fairest hues yon mountain wears
   No sunshine can impart;
The brightest gleams, the purest airs,
   Flow from a pious heart!

Clear be thy breast as summer breeze,
   And tender be thy feeling,
’Twill give fresh verdure to the trees,
   ’Neath winter’s snow congealing!

Then speed not to our bonny braes
   To cool dark Passion’s heat;
The glittering stream, that wildly strays,
   Is sweet—but to the sweet!’

p. 50“How shall I paint to you the feelings which crowded upon my mind as I wended my way homewards on that memorable evening!  The darkening scene, as I crossed the rugged crest of Walna, was magnificent; and I have always felt that the heart and imagination expand with the prospect.  How the littleness of human possessions strikes the mind, when we look over the successive boundaries of a hundred lordships, and feel for the moment permitted to possess, or at least to enjoy them, as much as their legal owners!  How do human passions die away under the balmy breath of heaven; and the soul feel its original relationship to its eternal Author.  Yet anxiety for my sister’s welfare pressed upon my mind at that moment with double force, because I alone was privy to her secret, and as yet only knew it in a way which prevented me from employing my knowledge for her good.  Yet why should I interfere? was she not capable of regulating her own conduct, and was there anything in what I had discovered inconsistent with the prospect of a long course of happiness before her?  With these thoughts I reached home, and was soon after followed by my sister, whose unusual absence had been quite unobserved by any other part of the family, nor did I give any token that it had been noticed by myself.”


The sun is bright, the fields are gay
With people in their best array,
Through the vale retired and lowly
Trooping to the summons holy.
And up among the woodlands see
What sparklings of blithe company!
Of lasses and of shepherd grooms
   That down the steep hills force their way,
Like cattle through the budded brooms;
   Path or no path, what care they?

White Doe of Rylstone.

“You recollect that in our interview with Robert Walker on the top of Walna, we were directed by him to assemble at his church on the following Sunday, the children to commence their preparation for Confirmation, and the parents to present their offspring and themselves to derive comfort and instruction from the occasion.  Never did a brighter sun shine on the world than that which rose on that memorable morning!  Why, sir, does the sun shine brighter on a Sunday than on any other day in the week?”

“I cannot,” said I, sniffing, “give a reason for that which does not exist; but I can see a reason why good men should sometimes think so, from their mistaking the warmth and light of gratitude springing up in their own hearts on that holy day, for the rays of the sun above them!”

“It may be so,” said the old man, “but I shall live and die in the belief that there was something warmer and brighter in the sun on that blessed morning, than I ever felt either before or since.  The early work of the day, (and in a farm like ours there is always some labour which must necessarily be attended to even on the Sunday,) was finished p. 52long before the usual hour, and we were all dressed in our very best and on our way for Seathwaite Chapel, soon after nine o’clock.  The early rays of the sun lighted up Coniston Old Man, [52] so that you might count every stone in his body.  As we descended the slope of the mountain side for the vale of the Duddon, you might see a thousand white threads of water pouring down from every height that surrounded the valley, (for there had been a heavy shower of rain in the night,) and all rushing, with headlong impetuosity, into the brawling stream below.  Then you could trace that stream, winding its beautiful way, now in sunshine, and now in shadow, till it gradually widened into a broad estuary, and lost\ itself in the bay of Morecambe, the dark mass of Peel Castle standing calmly amidst the waves, as if to mark the boundary between the broad river and the ocean.  This sight of itself prepared the mind for the religious impressions which were to follow; even a child like me seeing in the picture before him an emblem of the hasty bustle of time and the quiet repose of eternity; and I could not resist putting up a silent prayer to God, that the light of His Grace might continue to shine upon the days of my short and feverish life as the sun in heaven was then glittering upon the mountain rills, now so bright and busy, and in a few hours doomed to become silent and still, as though they had never been.  But another sight, still more impressive, broke on our view as we turned the crest of the little hill from which we first looked down on the chapel to which we were tending.  Nothing, I believe, puzzles strangers so much, on visiting our Lake country, as to find out where all the people live.  The houses of the district are placed in such odd nooks and corners, so buried under little knolls or spreading trees, and so like the old grey rocks about them in colour and shape, that an inexperienced traveller might roam through half that mountainous region, and fancy that its only inhabitants were sheep, rooks, p. 53and wanderers like himself.  In the mining districts, too, one half of the inhabitants live under ground during the week, and it is only on a Sunday, when they come up to worship God with their brethren, that they see the light of the blessed day.  Hence it is on Sundays only, that any man, native or stranger, can get a real sight of the whole population.  Now, at the moment I speak of, just as we got a first view of the whole valley round Mr. Walker’s chapel, the whole population of the district burst on our sight at once.  They were seen pouring over every height, and hurrying down the breast of every hill, of all ages, and in dresses of almost every variety of hue.  The matrons, in their scarlet cloaks, which shone brightly among the green heather, were walking carefully along in groups of two or three, talking over, no doubt, the events of the week since they last met, the occasion that now more especially brought them together, and, it must be confessed, perhaps now and then mixing with more serious topics a little of the passing scandal of the country-side.  The old grey-coated farmers, with stout sticks in their hands, said a few words on the subject of prices at the last Broughton sheep and wool fair; while the young men and maidens, laughing a little more loudly than the day justified, and walking a little nearer each other than their elders always quite approved, seemed to select, by way of preference, the most rugged and slippery paths they could find.  In front of all rushed on the children and dogs, the latter, even at church, the better behaved if not the more intelligent party of the two.  I would rather take my chance in the next world with some of the good dogs that I knew in Seathwaite, than some of the beasts in human shape that I have met with since I left it!  Well, sir, all these were seen pouring at once down the hill sides, as lighthearted and cheerful as the larks over their heads.  There could be no mistake as to the point to which, straggling as they seemed to be in their course, they were all finally aiming; for the little chapel-bell of Seathwaite was sending forth its sharp sound, not much louder than a mountain cuckoo, but still distinctly enough to be heard throughout p. 54the whole region in that still and silent air.  What a picture had we then before us of the UNITY of the Church of Christ!  Though the paths of these men, in the world, might be different, yet they all met together in harmony in the House of God—they all aimed at one point—they all hoped to be saved by the same faith.  Here there was indeed ‘one house appointed for all living’—to pray in during life, to rest in after death.  They all took Seathwaite chapel on their road to heaven!  The bell which called them together to prayer was not much larger than a sheep bell, but it was obeyed by all the flock with a readiness which shewed how anxious they all were to be included within the fold of the Good Shepherd of their souls.  Doubtless He was present in spirit.  His minister on earth, as far as that little flock was concerned, was there in person; ready, as he always was, to see his flock, and administer to their spiritual comforts.  There he stood, at the door of his humble parsonage, in his stuff gown and cassock, and his silver locks streaming in the wind, greeting every one as he passed by his door on the way to the chapel, and listening kindly to any little intelligence, either of joy or of sorrow, which the events of the last week might have brought forth.  What a crowd there was assembled within and around that humble chapel, on that Sunday morning!  There was not sitting or rather kneeling room for one half of the congregation.  For though probably the number of candidates for Confirmation did not much exceed a dozen, yet Mr. Walker’s expressed wish, (and his wish was law,) had brought together all the parents, god-fathers and god-mothers, and elder brothers and sisters of every candidate, that they might be, on that occasion, reminded of their own Christian duties.  These, together with a number of strangers attracted by the unusual circumstances, swelled the congregation to an amount far exceeding what the little chapel could contain; and so they stood about the door, or sat upon the walls and grave-stones of the church-yard, which, to a mountain-race on a fine autumn morning, formed quite as agreeable a temple of worship as the close-packed and somewhat p. 55mouldy space within.  We, as being somewhat visitors and I a candidate, were civilly accommodated with seats by one to whom we were well known, and so heard and saw every thing that passed.  There was no distinction of seats, or rather forms, in that little house of prayer.  The forms all looked to the east, being entered from one small aisle which ran up from the west door to the altar.  The people sat in families, but without distinction as to rank, all going to the place where their fathers had worshipped before, from time immemorial.  The only difference was, that as each by degrees grew old and deaf, they advanced a step nearer the altar, that they might be able better to hear and see the clergyman.  Thus the more sacred part of the building was surrounded by those who from age and spiritual experience deserved to be exalted in the Church of Christ—they were, as it were, the Elders round about the throne—they were a connecting link between minister and people—they were looked up to by those who sat behind, as their parents and examples; and no doubt it was an ambitious wish in the hearts of many of the younger, that as they advanced in years they might be thought worthy to fill that honoured circle, and receive the respect which they were then paying to their elders.  Surely, sir, this is a more becoming way of encircling the altar of our God, than by crowding its steps with idle and ill-mannered boys, as is too often the case in town churches, putting those at the head who ought to be but at the entrance of the Church of Christ, and filling our minds, as we think of that sacred portion of the House of God, with the image of a school-master with his ferula instead of a priest in his holy vestments!”

“I am nearly of your mind,” said I, smiling at the quaintness of his notion, “but you must recollect that necessity has no law.”

“True,” said he, “most true.  Well, sir, there we were, waiting in anxious expectation for the stopping of the little tinkling bell, and the arrival of the clergyman, for no one thought of sitting down till he appeared.  At length he advanced, with a grave face, and placid countenance, p. 56bowing slightly to all as he passed, but with his eyes fixed right before him till he reached the little altar, over the rails of which hung the surplice.  This was reverently placed on his shoulders by a man almost as old and grey-headed as himself, and evidently dressed in some of the minister’s old raiment.  The effect of this robing in the sight of the congregation was very impressive.  You saw as it were with your eyes the putting off of the man and the putting on of the minister.  The world was lost for a time, and shrouded by the clean white robe of the messenger of God.  I have often thought that vestries, in and out of which the minister of a large town church pops as in a play, destroy the effect which was certainly produced on my mind by this robing of Robert Walker in the sight of the people.  The service began with a psalm, selected and given out by Walker himself.  His voice was rather thin from age, but clear and distinct, for he had lost none of his teeth, and his reading of the lines was like the sound of an instrument of music.  He read each verse separately, and separately they were sung.  The lines which he chose were the following from the Old Version of the Psalms, which he always used not only as being more near the original and more devotional in their spirit than the new, but as consisting mainly of words of one syllable, and expressly adapted to the plain-song of congregational singing.  When shall I forget the musical cadences with which he gave out the following simple lines from the 34th psalm?

‘Come neare to me my children deare,
   And to my words give eare:
I shall ye teach the perfect way
   How ye the Lord shall feare.

‘Who is the man that would live long,
   And lead a blessed life?
See thou refraine thy tongue and lips
   From all deceit and strife.

‘Turn back thy face from doing ill,
   And do the godly deed:
Inquire for peace and quietnesse,
   And follow it with speed.

p. 57‘For why? the eyes of God above
   Upon the just are bent:
His eares likewise do heare the plaint
   Of the poor innocent.’

“I wish, sir, you had heard the way in which the giving out of the first verse of this psalm was responded to by the congregation!  There was no praising God by deputy—no leaving this delightful part of the service to a few women in pink bonnets, and men in well-curled locks, stuck up in a gallery in front of a conceited organist, mincing God’s praise in softly warbled tones, and ready to sing to-morrow with just the same zeal and devotion in a Roman Catholic Chapel or an Italian Concert Hall, if they are equally well paid for their professional services.  No, sir! every man, woman, and child sung for themselves, lustily, and with a right good will.  They sung the air in a minor key, as is always the case among the inhabitants of mountain districts, perhaps because they learn to pitch their notes to the echoes of their native valleys; but it had from that circumstance a more solemn and devotional effect.  It was taken up by those without the doors with the same zeal as by those within, for all knew the air as familiarly as their own names.  Here was a strict compliance with David’s precept, ‘Young men and maidens, old men and children, praise ye the name of the Lord.’  The mighty sound rushed down the vale of Ulpha like the bursting of a mountain cataract; nor, for aught I can tell, was it checked in its onward course till it had scaled the heights of the surrounding mountains, and died away at last, in a gentle whisper, on the lonely summit of Black CombDied away, did I say?  Forgive me, sir, the lowly thought!  Far higher than the cliffs of Helvellyn did that holy psalm ascend; nor stayed it in its upward flight till it approached, as a memorial of sweet incense, the throne of God—there to be heard again when earthly sound shall be no more!”

There was a single tear on the old man’s withered cheek as he said this, and a twitching about the rigid muscles of his mouth, which showed that his iron frame p. 58could still vibrate to the gentle recollections of his youth.  He paused in his narrative; and there was a solemn silence between us of some minutes’ duration.  At length he resumed—

“The saying of the Church Service followed with the same calm solemnity and devotion with which it began.  It was clear that the object of the priest was to forget himself, and lead the worshippers to forget him, in the high service in which both were engaged; and in this he fully succeeded.  It was not till the worship prescribed by the Church was ended, and the last Amen had died on the ear, that a sensation of curiosity seemed to run through the assembly, and those without began to crowd nearer the door, as though something unusual was about to take place, and they were anxious to catch words less familiar to their ears than the well-known language of the Prayer Book.  There was little preparation necessary for the sermon.  The preacher did not leave his place to change his sacred vestments for a black gown, as is now the general fashion.  His place of prayer was also his place of preaching.  I should explain that what we call the reading-desk was placed in the north-east corner of the little chapel, having two ledges for his books, one looking to the south, and the other (which also formed the door) to the west.  On the former rested the Prayer Book, and on the latter the Bible; so that when he prayed, he naturally turned to the altar,—when he read the Scriptures, towards the people.  When he began to preach, therefore, he simply turned to the people as when he had read the lessons, resting his sermon on the Bible—no bad foundation, you will say,” added the old man with a smile, “for a scriptural discourse!  His text was a very short and simple one but had he sought the whole Bible through, he could not have found one better adapted to my state of mind than the one he chose—my disposition being at that time, as I before observed, to take a somewhat gloomy and severe view of the Gospel; it was ‘God is love.’  All my dark fears vanished at the p. 59sound; and I waited not to hear the reasons to be convinced that the essence of the Gospel is indeed ‘glad tidings’ to mankind.  There was an unwonted appearance of excitement about the preacher as he gave forth his text, and turned over the leaves of the manuscript which lay before him, looking first at it, and then at the crowd of upturned and expecting faces before him with an expression which I did not at first comprehend.  He paused before he commenced his sermon, as if he could hardly read his own hand-writing, and yet nothing could be plainer or more distinct than his penmanship, even to the end of his days.  At last he seemed to have made up his mind.  He closed his sermon with a force which seemed to shew that he had come to a final determination, and deliberately put it into the pocket of his cassock; he then cleared his voice, paused for an instant, and commenced as follows.  You will not expect me to remember every word of the discourse; indeed, perhaps you will be surprised that I should remember it at all; but the substance of it, and often the very words and looks of the preacher still cling to my memory, with a firmness of which nothing can deprive them but the coming grave!”


Even such a man (inheriting the zeal
And from the sanctity of elder times
Not deviating,—a priest, the like of whom,
If multiplied, and in their stations set,
Would o’er the bosom of a joyful land
Spread true religion and its genuine fruits)
Before me stood that day.

The Excursion.

“‘My brethren,’ said the priest, resting his hand on the Bible, and looking round upon the anxious audience with an expression which showed some degree of agitation of mind, mixed with his habitual calmness and self-possession,—‘My dear brethren, I am about to do what is quite unusual, and, I fear, wrong in me;—I am about to address you in language which I have not first carefully considered, and, word for word, committed to paper.  Though I have preached the blessed Gospel of our Lord to you and your fathers, from this place, for the long period of fifty years, I have never ventured to do this before.  I have had too much fear both for myself and you—too much anxiety that not a word should drop from me which was not agreeable to the language and spirit of the Gospel, to trust myself to unarranged thoughts, and unconsidered words.  But fifty years have given confidence to my mind, that nothing which is not of God can slip from me in this house, even in the warmth and heat of a moment like this; and thoughts arise now in my mind which seem fitted for the occasion, and yet which had not occurred to me in the silent meditation of my closet.  And surely I have experienced too long the full enjoyment of that holy truth that “God is love,” to shrink from speaking of it, (and especially before you, my children,) without shame, and without fear!  I call you my children; for many as are the p. 61grey heads that I now see before me, there is hardly one who has been born again into the blessed kingdom of our Lord without the ministration of these hands, unworthy as indeed they are to be made the instruments of so divine a thing!  There is one, indeed, now present,’—here his eye naturally turned to the seat almost close beside him, in which sat the venerable partner of his joys and cares, (sorrows, I believe, in the worldly sense, he was too good a man to have any,) in her little black silk quaker-like bonnet, and neat white cap; retaining on her cheeks much of the bloom and some of the beauty which had made her, between sixty and seventy years ago, the admiration of the parish:—‘There is one, indeed,’ he repeated; his voice faltered, and it was clear that he would have some difficulty in proceeding with his discourse: and here it was beautiful to observe what happened.  The old lady, seeing how matters stood, looked up to him from under her bonnet with a quiet smile, conveying at once an expression of kind encouragement and gentle rebuke, which is quite indescribable.  The effect was immediate.  A slight flush of shame crossed the old man’s brow, and he at once resumed his wonted composure.  There was something in that smile which had reminded him of the days of their youth—when she was the buxom maiden and he the gallant lover—and he doubtless felt some shame that he should not show himself at least as firm and as youthful as his dame; and so his face naturally took up an expression in quiet harmony with hers, and he became at once himself again.  Sir, it was beautiful!  I would not have missed observing it for the world.  Doubtless, these were mere human feelings intruding themselves into the house of God, but I cannot believe they were sinful.  It was like a gleam of earthly sunshine streaming through the painted windows of the chancel of a cathedral, glancing upon, and not polluting, the holy pavement of the sanctuary!”—The old man paused as if pleased with his own thoughts, and then proceeded with his recollections of the sermon.

“‘You,’ said the preacher, ‘have been my scholars, and p. 62sometimes, I confess, my teachers, for many a year; for while you have learned from me the truths of the Gospel, I have often drawn from you—your patience, your cheerfulness, your submission to the will of God—a lesson as to the right way of putting the Gospel into practice.  Much, too, have I learned from your sins, your negligences, and ignorances.  But all combines,—strength and weakness, life and death, the works of God and the Word of God,—to teach us all the great, the essential doctrine of the text, “God is love!”  See how He has shown it in our creation and our redemption, in the world around us, and in the world within us—the kingdom of earth, and the kingdom of heaven!  How like, too, are His bounties and loving-kindnesses in both these kingdoms!  It is indeed “the same God, that worketh all in all.”  Look around you, as I have often before told you to do, on human life, and especially on your own life, and the blessings which each of you possess.  God is with you in spiritual and temporal things, always turning upon you the same face of love.  He has given you an earthly world in which you are to live here below.  He gave you breath to begin life, and strength to continue it.  He gives you food in health, medicine in sickness, parents and friends to guard and instruct you in youth, companions in middle life, and children to be a comfort in old age.  He surrounds you with beauty to cheer your hearts on every side; sunshine and shadow, the fruitful plains and the everlasting hills, the fertilizing streams, and the bright and silent stars.  God, in short, shows Himself to you in love and beauty, through every stage of your mortal life; and so it is with your spiritual life,—that life which He has given you in His dear Son.  Love rules in grace as well as in nature.  Love brought down the Saviour to die for you when you were dead—all dead—in trespasses and sins.  Love sent down the Holy Spirit to earth, by Whom ye were born again into the kingdom of Christ, as ye were born into this world by the breath of the same Spirit when ye were but insensible dust.  And your spiritual life is surrounded with love and kindness like your natural life, p. 63from its beginning on earth to its consummation in heaven.  God’s Bible, like His world, is full of love and beauty.  It tells you to whom you are to listen, namely, His ministers; through what you are to seek grace, namely, His sacraments; through Whom alone you are to be saved, namely, His Son.’

“He then proceeded to show more especially how this love was shown in the institution of the rite of Confirmation, by which careful training of the youth of Christ’s Church in faith and practice was secured, and all ages taught how they must act together in furthering the common good, the older being bound to teach the young, and the young to listen to the old; while both learned to feel their submission to the rule of the Church, in having to submit to the Bishop, as its head, the test of their mutual obedience to her laws.  ‘But,’ he added, ‘I will not now dwell more on the rite of Confirmation, as the older have already had their instruction in it, and that of the younger will soon follow.  I wish to say a word to you all on another matter, which I confess weighs heavily on my mind, and no occasion may again occur on which I can do it so properly as at present.  You are surrounded with spiritual enemies on every side, and it is my particular duty to warn you of your danger.  God be thanked, the foe has not yet scaled the walls of this parish, but he is loudly battering at its ramparts!  Look at all the various kinds of dissent from the Church’s unity, which now stalk abroad with shameless front!  Now all dissent is sin, less or more.  If it differs not from the truth, it is the more unpardonable for its schism—if it does differ, so far as it differs it is the more sinful.  Look at popery, which is dissent in the mask of unity—error the more dangerous for boasting itself to be the truth.  Look, again, at infidelity—the blasphemies of Tom Paine; beware, my children, of this sin, for I hear it has come nigh you, even to your doors.’  (Here a sensation of wondering horror ran through the assembled crowd.)  ‘Do you ask me for a safeguard against these snares?  I answer, meddle not with them!  He that toucheth pitch will be defiled.  To be tempted of p. 64the devil is trial enough for poor mortals to endure, but to tempt the devil himself, is of all follies the most unpardonable!  It is not my duty, for it is impossible for me, to answer all the forms of error; but it is my duty to warn you against them all; and I do so by giving you one simple safeguard, which will apply to them all alike: it is this—take my word for it, that your Church is true.—Somebody’s word you must take, for you are too unlearned to judge of these deep matters for yourselves, and why not mine?  Have I any interest, have I any wish to deceive you?  Does not my salvation rest upon my securing your own?  Have I not given my nights and my days to the study of the truth?  Has not the Bishop, my spiritual head, commissioned me to preach it to you?  Have I any thing in this world that I can desire in comparison with the salvation of your souls?  Do not my hoary locks, and shrinking frame, proclaim that here I have no continuing city, but must soon give an account of my stewardship to Him that sent me?  Has not the Bible been my companion, and the wisest and best of all ages its interpreters for me, for nearly a century?  If these things cannot be spoken against, take my word for it, till you have that of one whom you have more reasons for believing, that if you take the Bible as your law, and the Prayer Book as your practical rule of life, living up to both with a good conscience, then, my life for yours—my eternal life for yours—you will at last find the path I now point out to you,—the path that leads to heaven!’

“The venerable preacher gave utterance to these words with a passionate earnestness which went to the hearts of all present, and very few who heard them will ever forget either their sound or their meaning.  He then proceeded more calmly to press on his hearers their several duties to God and to each other, and dismissed the vast assembly with his blessing, given with all the dignity of a patriarch.  I need not relate to you how crowded was his mid-day meal,—how attentively listened to his evening sermon.  Suffice it to say, that we were instructed in every point of the solemn vow which we were about to take, on our p. 65own behalf, before the Bishop, in such a manner as might be expected from Robert Walker.  I must, however, mention two events more, connected with this little history of our Confirmation, the one very ridiculous, the other almost sublime; because they have each their proper moral attached to them.  Among the other candidates for Confirmation was our old friend Tom Hebblethwaite, whom I have long since forgiven for the sound beating he gave me at Hawkshead, but whom I never can forgive for cutting off the old cock’s tail!  Tom was stupid and sullen as usual, but at the same time, thanks to old Bowman’s birch, had acquired information enough about his catechism to prevent Mr. Walker from absolutely refusing him his ticket.  Accordingly, he was one of the party who started off together from Yewdale to Ulverston on the morning on which the confirmation was to be held in the church of that town, by the Lord Bishop of Chester.  We were a sober and steady young party, attended by our parents, and one or two god-fathers and god-mothers who knew their duty; and the mirth, which generally attends such meetings of the youth of both sexes, was sobered down into quiet and decorous conversation by the seriousness of the occasion which had brought us together.  All except Tom, who, generally dull and stupid enough, seemed excited into a kind of perverse and ungainly liveliness, which increased into boisterous folly with every rebuke from those older than himself.  At length we arrived at Penny-Bridge, just below Mr. Machell’s house, when the stream was then crossed, (I know not how it is now,) not by a bridge, as one might expect from its name, but what are there called ‘hipping-stones,’ large blocks of rock placed at intervals, so that the passenger had to skip from one to another in order to cross the water.  Tom challenged his companions to go over on one leg,—a feat which many there could have performed, had they not one and all felt themselves restrained from such a childish frolic by the solemnity of the occasion.  Now it is a strange trait in human nature that the very feelings which held back the really brave, seemed to give a momentary courage to the p. 66coward; and Tom undertook to perform to-day what nobody would give him credit for ever thinking of on any other day in the year.  But the fate of all such rash adventurers—and which every one hoped rather than expected—on this occasion befell Tom Hebblethwaite.  Just when he came to the largest stone, and the deepest hole in the river, Tom’s courage and foot gave way together, and down he soused over head and ears into the water, nothing being seen of him, for a moment, but his hat, which, being the lightest part about him, (it was a new one for the occasion,) refused to sink with the rest of his body, and soon commenced a voyage towards Peel Castle and the Pile of Foudrey,—a voyage which nobody present seemed inclined to interrupt.  Tom himself, however, was kindly fished up out of an element which seemed to have been of service neither to his body nor to his mind; for, without staying to thank his deliverers, he immediately commenced a rapid retreat homewards, and, I dare say, remains unconfirmed, (except in his sullenness and obstinate temper,) to the present hour!  It was some time before we could recover our composure, which had been ruffled by this ludicrous event; but the sight of the assembly around the church and church-yard of Ulverston effectually sobered the thoughts of even the most volatile of our party; for there can be no sight more solemn than that of a Confirmation in a fine open country, and in a church situated like that of Ulverston, surrounded by scattered and towering hills, with the broad ocean in the distance.  There were the rural shepherds at the head of their flocks, hastening to present their young lambs to the Lord, that they might receive His blessing from the hands of His chief minister on earth.  Our own beloved pastor was already at his post, standing waiting for us at the church-door in his well-known gown and cassock, and ready to head us up to the rails of the altar.  Way was made for him by his younger brethren of the clergy, as he advanced steadily up the aisle, followed by his children; and what was our surprise and delight to see the Bishop himself, in his white robes, advance two or three steps to meet him, p. 67and shake him most affectionately by the hand.  There was a smile of approbation on the faces of the surrounding clergy as they witnessed this scene, which showed that no feeling of jealousy was excited in their minds by this kindness on the part of the Bishop, but that they all looked upon it in its true light—as a just reward of pious and unpretending merit.  How proud we all were at that moment of belonging to the flock of Robert Walker!  We each felt as if we had a personal share in his distinction, and many of us resolved then, I doubt not, to do nothing which should bring disgrace upon a teacher so honoured among his brethren as ours!  This, sir, I have learned since to believe, is a wrong feeling; we ought to follow the right path from higher motives than a feeling of pride, either in ourselves or others.  But surely our human passions may sometimes justly be employed for good ends.  What is it but taking one of the Devil’s strongest and most wiry snares, and twisting it into a three-fold cord to bind us faster to the altar?”

Ulverstone Church


Come on sir; here’s the place:—stand still.—How fearful
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs, that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles: Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head:
The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; and yon tall anchoring bark,
Diminish’d to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight: The murmuring surge
That on th’ unnumbered idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high:—I’ll look no more;
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.

King Lear.

You must prepare yourself,” continued the old man, to be somewhat surprised with what I am going to relate to you, if you have not (as I have) lived long enough in the world not to be much surprised at any thing.  Things are so mixed up in this world, and very trifling, or even absurd events so often lead to very serious consequences, that I can quite believe the stories one hears of the spilling of a cup of tea creating a war between two nations, or the boring of a rat-hole causing the inundation of Holland.

“One very fine morning, at this period of my narrative, Gawen Braithwaite, a stout young man of rather more than my own age, the son of a neighbouring statesman, and myself, sallied forth on an excursion of a character not uncommon among the young men of that country in my early days, and probably still prevailing,—which combined the three great excitements to youth for any similar undertaking, viz. pleasure, danger, and sometimes profit.  This was, the gathering ruddle in the Screes of Wastdale.  This operation will require some explanation to make it p. 69intelligible to you.  Ruddle is a stone strongly mixed with iron, which, by wetting and rubbing, produces a deep red paint which hardly any exposure to the weather can wash away, especially when stained upon an oily substance like wool.  Now this ruddle the shepherds of the mountains use to mark their sheep with, that it may be known to whom they belong.  As the sheep range over a wide and unenclosed extent of moor and fell, they often ramble far from home, and though each shepherd well knows every one of his own sheep by face, yet strangers could not know to whom a stray animal belonged, unless it bore some mark to point out its owner.  Hence the occupier of every sheep-farm has his own peculiar mark, which has been used on that farm time out of mind, by which his sheep are known all over the country-side; and at sheep-shearings, which are always times of great festivity and rejoicing, the shepherds assemble from all parts of the country, and choose out their own stray sheep from each flock as it is shorn, appealing to their well-known marks as proofs of ownership.  These marks, as I said, are made by the mineral called ruddle, which, being very scarce, has a considerable value in the market, fetching as much as at least sixpence a pound.  Now sixpences are not very abundant in the pockets of country lads; and they are very glad to secure them, even though it be but by one at a time, at the expense of wasting many hours, which they value little, and at much risk of their necks, which they value less.  It happens that this ruddle is principally to be found in the most dangerous place in all the lake country—a place which you must have seen, for it is visited by all tourists who wish to explore by far the finest part of all that beautiful district—the Screes of Wast-water.  These Screes are a long and lofty ridge of almost perpendicular rocks, running from Scaw-fell towards the sea, along the whole southern side of the lake of Wastdale, and are of so brittle and crumbling a nature, that almost the smallest pebble, set rolling from above, will gather a host of them as it goes, till a whole army of little stones rush pell-mell to p. 70the bottom of the rock and plunge headlong into the dark lake below, at least fifty fathoms deep!  It is on the face and half way down the side of this shivery rock that the little veins of ruddle are to be found, and you may guess the steady step and firm nerve which are required to descend the surface of the steep and loose declivity, and avoid any disturbance of that rolling mass, which, once commencing its movements, would to a certainty hurl the bold adventurer to the bottom.  Many lives have been lost in this perilous pursuit.  However, Gawen Braithwaite and I were not deterred by the danger, but rather impelled by it to encounter a risk which we had often before tried and escaped.  Up Langdale, then, we sallied; and crossing Stye-Head, made our way to the left under the peaks of Scaw-fell Pikes, through the stormy gap of Mickle-door, and descended the face of the Screes with that boldness of heart and step, which is the best pledge of safety.  We were on this day more than usually successful in the object of our search; and before the sun had descended between the double peaks of the Isle of Man, had filled our bags with the treasure which we so highly prized, and sat down on the top of the Screes to eat our first meal since we left home, and watch at the same time the last rays of the sun tingeing the sea with gold, and the top of Great Gavel with a deep purple—his base being already lost in shadow.  In the gaiety of our hearts we ended our repast by smearing our faces with the ruddle: and, having added a few dark lines to the portrait by the aid of some bastard coal which is there found, we were quite prepared to startle to our hearts’ content any rustic maiden that might have the misfortune to encounter us on our way home—a feat not very uncommon in a country where amusements are not so easily found as in towns like this.  The lengthening shadows of the evening soon warned us of the approach of night; and we commenced our return with light hearts and heavy sacks of ruddle, keeping the high ground and the slopes of the hill-sides rather than descending into the valleys below, both because the ground p. 71was there more solid to the step, and because—the truth must be confessed—we thought we were less likely to meet with ghosts on the open plain, than in the dark lurking-places and shadowy recesses of the glens, which have been supposed, from time immemorial, their favourite habitations!  Yet, strange as it may appear, this very avoidance of ghostly haunts led us not only into their chosen dwelling places, but converted us into ghosts ourselves; as you shall hear.  Gawen Braithwaite was somewhat in advance of me as we crossed the bold point of the crag which runs out between the vale of Langdale and the dale that leads towards the foot of Hardknot, when he suddenly disappeared among some close bushes of hazel, which here fringe the rock from the river below almost to the crown of the hill.  Conceiving that he had stumbled under his weight among the hidden stones (for it was now almost dark even on the hill tops) I hastened forward to his relief, when, to my great surprise, I found that he had disappeared altogether from view.  I called aloud, and, receiving no answer, I became dreadfully alarmed, thinking that he, who, I soon recollected, had no right to poor Gawen, had flown off with him bodily!  At last I heard his voice from below feebly calling on me to help him, and then found that he had fallen into a deep and unsuspected cavern, and was unable to get out without my assistance.  I descended carefully to the place where he was lying, and found him not at all hurt; but he trembled exceedingly, and putting his hand to his mouth as a signal for my silence, he pointed to an object below, which put me at once into as great a fright as himself.  We could both see distinctly a faint glimmering of light, though far beneath us; and as we held our breaths from very terror, sometimes fancied we could hear the sound of human voices in the very bowels of the hills.  At last our doubts were changed into certainty; and gathering courage by the assurance that the sounds which we heard were not inhuman, our curiosity began to get the better of our fears, and we quietly worked our way downwards among the rocks and closely-woven bushes, till the p. 72light grew brighter, and the sounds fell more distinctly on our ears.  At last a sight burst upon us which astonished us both not a little.  Stepping quietly down upon a jutting projection of rock, we obtained the full view of a large cavern, evidently the old working of a slate-mine which had been long deserted, and the entrance to which (at the opposite end from where we stood) had been almost forgotten even by the natives.  The hills thereabouts are, in fact, full of such old workings.  There, round a large fire, which answered the purpose both of light and heat, we saw arranged a large circle of men, some standing, some leaning against the rocks, and some sitting round the fire, while one stood in the middle addressing them with great earnestness, and much and very graceful action.  I immediately recognized the orator as one whom I had seen before, and much surprised and grieved was I to see him under such circumstances.  Have you any idea, sir, who he was?”

“Not in the least,” said I.

“It was the handsome stranger, the lover and loved of my poor sister Martha!  The whole secret was now out; the mystery was now at an end.  This man, whose appearance and occupations among our quiet mountains no one could account for, was, in fact, a champion of the French Revolution, and a spreader of the pestilent doctrines of Tom Paine!  Whether he was employed by others, or whether he came impelled only by his own perverted zeal in this evil cause, was never known; but his object was to spread the principles of Infidelity and Revolution (and when were these principles ever separated?) among the miners of Cumberland, and, through them, among the peaceful and pious inhabitants of the north!  Can you, sir, conceive a design more fiendish than this?—well worthy the exploits of his first ‘father’ in the garden of Eden!  There, however, in that old and forgotten mine, he had secretly assembled the workmen and others together, and was in the very midst of his exhortation when Gawen Braithwaite and I became so unexpectedly a portion of his auditory.  As we recovered our p. 73self-possession, and found that we were completely screened from view by the shadows which filled the whole of the upper end of the cave, we could gradually trace out some faces that we knew; and amongst the rest one or two whose presence in such company caused us no little surprise.  How little, sir, do we know the real opinions, even of our next neighbours!  There we saw William Tyson,—no relation of old Tommy Tyson, king of Wastdale-Head—for he is as honest a king as ever reigned, and, at the same time, as good a subject to the Queen as ever lived.”

“Honest king Tommy,” said I, “is dead.”

“Is he indeed?” said the old man, in a lower tone than he had been speaking in just before; “I grieve to hear it; but all men, even kings, must die; and I trust he has left a successor to his humble throne among his native hills, as worthy to reign as himself and his ancestors.  William Tyson was a neighbour of our own, and owner of a very neat homestead and large sheep-farm in the vale of Tilberthwaite.  One could see no possible reason why one so well to do in the world should feel any dissatisfaction either with Church or State.  But, sir, what has reason to do with follies like these?  William was a man ‘wise in his own conceit,’ and I do not think Solomon was far wrong when he said of such a one, that ‘there is more hope of a fool than of him.’  Well, sir, Gawen and I lent our ears most attentively to catch the substance of the handsome stranger’s address, and soon found that he was speaking of the equality of civil rights, to which, he said, all men were born by nature.  ‘All men,’ cried he, ‘come into the world in precisely the same condition.’  ‘I do not see how that can well be,’ said a decrepid-looking wretch sitting close to the speaker, ‘when I came into the world with a withered arm and leg, which have hardly ever grown since, and Jack Strong there was born with the limbs of a giant, and the strength of a buffalo!’  ‘I speak not of natural, but of civil equality,’ said the stranger, somewhat puzzled by the objection; ‘I mean that one man has as much right to property as another.’  p. 74‘Aye, aye,’ said William Tyson, much pleased with this view of the subject, ‘I have long thought myself quite as much entitled to Coniston Hall as Sir Daniel le Fleming himself, and should much like to have the guiding of it for the rest of my days.’

“I wus ye may get it,’ said Peter Hoggarth, one of William’s own shepherds, who was standing unexpectedly near his master; ‘I shall be satisfied with your bonny holmes of Grey Goosthwaite, which I think I can farm quite as well as my master!’

“William Tyson was evidently by no means pleased with this intrusion of his own shepherd’s; for it was clear that he had no manner of intention of resigning Grey Goosthwaite to his herdsman when he took possession himself of the broad acres of Coniston Hall.  So true is it, that all men would level up to those above them, none down to those below them!

“The speaker now turned to the religious part of his subject, on which he expressed himself with great fluency and plausibility.  He stated that much, which was mistaken for religion, was in reality nothing more than early prejudice and weak superstition.  He instanced this, by ridiculing the strange belief in ghosts and spirits which was once so prevalent in these valleys, but was now fast disappearing before the light of advancing knowledge and science.  ‘The miner,’ said he, ‘used to hear the mysterious knocking, and the supernatural signals of the rock-demon, where he now only listens to the echoes of the strokes of his own pick-axe.’

“‘True,’ said a brawny miner, leaning upon his spade, ‘I used to be afraid of evil spirits in these dark holes of ours, and was driven to say my prayers in a morning before I came to work, to keep them away; but I am grown wiser now; and, for my part, I will never believe that there is a devil at all, until I see him.’

“‘You may see him NOW, then!’ exclaimed a voice from the lower end of the cave.  ‘There are two of them!’ cried another; upon which the whole assembly rose in the utmost terror, and rushed out of the cave, p. 75tumbling one over another into the darkness without, and some not recovering their feet till they had rolled to the very bottom of the hill.  The stranger was the last to lose his presence of mind; but even he, it seems, had some latent suspicions that there might be such a being as the devil, for he soon rushed after his audience towards the mouth of the cave, and was lost in the gloom.  This absurd termination of the meeting is easily accounted for.  The stone on which Gawen Braithwaite was standing had been gradually sinking under his weight, and at last gave way altogether, rolling half way down the upper part of the cave towards where the audience were assembled.  Gawen, of course, gave way with it, and in his fall dragged me after him.  The sight of two human beings making their entrance into the cave with such a clatter in a place where no entrance was known to exist, and the fiendish-looking figures which we had made ourselves by besmearing our faces with the ruddle and coal, were too much for the nerves of the valorous audience, who suspected, from what they heard and saw, that the devil was really looking after his own; and so they disappeared like magic, relieving us from the terror which we felt at making so untimely an entrance into the assembly, as we had reason to expect a by no means civil reception had we been discovered.  Having quite forgotten the disguised state of our faces, it was not till we approached the light of their fire that we found out the cause of their sudden terror; and you can well imagine how we enjoyed the success of our very involuntary exploit.  Yet there was indeed much to grieve my own heart in what I had learned, for the first time, that night.  My poor sister Martha was, it now appeared, engaged, probably heart and hand, certainly in her young affections, to one who was an enemy to God and man, a disbeliever of the truth of the Gospel, a disturber of the peace of his country!  What course lay before me I knew not.  I would not, for my poor sister’s sake, mention the sad truth to my father and mother; for I well knew that their indignation would know no bounds, and that they would p. 76probably at once expel her from her home, thus driving her directly into the arms of him, who would certainly be her ruin, both in body and soul.  I shrunk from mentioning the subject to my sister herself, for I recollected that I was younger than she, and felt that I had no authority to control her will, if, after knowing the character of the stranger, she should still resolve to cling faithfully to his fortunes.  At last, after a sleepless night, and much inward prayer for light to guide me, I determined to take the course which I am sure you will say was a wise one—I resolved to lay the whole case before my best friend and natural adviser, Robert Walker.”

View of Scaw Fell


—An unlessoned Girl, unschool’d, unpractis’d;
Happy in this she is not yet so old
But she may learn; and happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
Happiest of all, is, that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours, to be directed.


Robert Walker was less surprised at my history (which it took me a long time to tell) than I had expected him to be.  In fact he knew almost every thing that was going on in his parish, and people often wondered how he came to know so intimately matters concerning themselves, which they had supposed were closely locked up in their own breasts alone.  When I told him of the pestilent doctrines which the stranger was spreading among the miners and others of his flock, he immediately reminded me that he had darkly hinted at this in the sermon which he preached to us before our confirmation; the substance of which I have just related to you.  I thought he would have split his sides with laughing when I told him of the way in which Gawen Braithwaite and I had dispersed the assembly by our sudden and unintentional intrusion into their councils; and tapping me playfully on the cheek, while his eyes ran over with tears of mirth, he said, ‘Take care, my good lad, as long as you live, that you never play the devil in any other character than you did last night!  He is a kittle customer to deal with, and generally has the best of it in the end with those who meddle too much with his concerns.  Resist the devil,’ said he solemnly, ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you—aye,’ he added, smiling once more at the recollection, p. 78quite as fast as silly Willie Tyson and his man Peter!’

“‘And so they ran, did they?’ continued he, for he could not get the amusing notion out of his head, ‘very fast, eh?’

“‘Like rats out of a burning corn-stack,’ said I.

“‘I do wish I had been with you,’ said the old man; ‘I would have set up a halloo that would have rung in Willie’s ears till—till—till he gets Coniston Hall!’ and he laughed once more till his sides shook again.

“His mood, however, was soon changed into sober sadness, when I proceeded to explain to him how the handsome stranger had won the heart of my poor sister Martha, and how deeply and unchangeably I feared her affections were engaged.  Martha was a great favourite with Mr. Walker, as indeed she was with every one who knew her; and he saw at once the difficulty of her situation.  ‘Poor thing!’ said he, with a deep expression of melancholy foreboding on his countenance, ‘what is to become of her!  I know her well: she has not given her heart hastily, nor hastily will she withdraw it.  What a fiend he must be to steal the affections of one so good, so innocent, and so confiding!  Bad men are always selfish; and with all his professions of zeal for the liberty and instruction of mankind, he could not forget his own interests, or restrain his passions.  ’Tis always thus; they who deal with evil on a large scale, are almost sure to indulge in a little private vice on their own account!  Yet why condemn him hastily?  The man that could win the heart of our Martha must have in him something that is plausible at least, if not estimable.  She would not give away her diamonds for Irton pearls. [78]  Who knows but the believing maiden may be even now converting the unbelieving lover?  I will speak to her on the subject, and that before I am a day older.  I think, my young friend, she will not hesitate to confess to me her inmost thoughts?’

p. 79“‘I will answer for that,’ said I; ‘but how is the interview to be brought about?  I shrink from entering upon the subject with her myself, and should be the unwilling bearer of any message which might lead her to suspect that I had in any way played a false part towards her.’

“‘Leave that to me,’ said the old man, ‘I see no difficulty in the matter.’  He turned to his little writing-table, which drew out from beneath his book shelves, (for we were in his little room on the top of the house which he had fitted up for his private study,) and wrote as follows:

“‘My dear Martha,

I wish to see you tomorrow on particular business, and at eleven o’clock.  Bring your brother with you as a companion by the way.  Your affectionate Pastor,

Robert Walker.’

“This note removed every difficulty at once, as far as I was concerned.  I was thus not supposed to have any knowledge whatever of the occasion of this summons, but was merely to be an attendant on my sister’s steps.  Now, sir, it is very remarkable, and I have never since been able to account for it, that though I have generally well remembered (as you have heard) the state of the sky and weather, and the little incidents of the journey, on every other occasion that I have thought of sufficient importance to relate to you, (for such things always make a deep impression on the mind of a mountaineer,) yet, on this occasion—one of the last that I shall ever forget—the whole landscape is to me a perfect blank, and I have not the slightest recollection of any single event that occurred from the moment when poor Martha and I left our father’s door, to that when we stood before the parsonage of Seathwaite, and were welcomed by Robert Walker into his dark and spacious dining-room!  That welcome, and the soft yet somewhat melancholy smile on his countenance, I shall never forget.  As we stood together, looking out from the long low window on the rich landscape before us, we saw the p. 80handsome stranger cross the little foot-bridge that led from the other side of the Duddon to the Parsonage, and make his way directly for the door of the house.  Martha, who was the first to observe him, turned very pale, as if on the point of fainting, and said in an anxious low voice to Mr. Walker, ‘I cannot meet him here!’ and made for the door as if to escape.  The old man laid his hand gently on her arm and said, ‘You are too late to avoid him, but go behind the squab if you wish not to be seen; you will be safe enough there.’

“This squab was a long oaken seat, or settle, with a high wooden back, running from the fire-place half way down the middle of the room.  I dare say such seats (and very uncomfortable they are) are still to be found in most of the old farm-houses in the North.

“The stranger entered as Martha disappeared; and I was very much struck with the ease and grace of his manner.  He wore the look and air of one who was on the best possible terms with himself and all the world.  Much as I felt disposed to dislike him, I could not help admiring both his person and address.  There was an awkwardness and nervous action about Mr. Walker, which I now observed for the first time, that showed to great disadvantage when compared with the stranger’s ease and self-possession.

“After courteously placing a seat for his visitor, Mr. Walker took his accustomed place in his arm-chair in the corner, and then his wonted calmness and dignity at once returned.  The stranger was the first to break the silence.

“‘Well, reverend sir,’ said he, with a bland smile on his face, ‘I am here at your own request.  How you found out my place of abode I am at some loss to discover, and what your particular business may be with me, I can still less conjecture.  I shall doubtless learn both at your convenience.’

“There was nothing in the words of this address to give the slightest offence; yet there was something in the tone in which it was uttered, to excite uncomfortable feelings in my mind, and I saw Mr. Walker slightly p. 81colour, as if he felt somewhat nettled at the manner at least of the address.  Yet the feeling, if such existed, soon passed off; and he resumed his usual calm yet somewhat firm expression of countenance as he said:

“‘The second part of your difficulty, sir, you have a right to have solved, as it shall soon be; with regard to the first it seems less to the purpose.  I ought in the first place to say, that it is simply in my public character as the authorized preacher of the Gospel in this parish, that I have taken what would otherwise seem a great liberty with a perfect stranger, to request an interview with him, without first assigning grounds for the request.  That you have so readily complied with it, I beg to offer you my thanks.’

“I was much struck with the somewhat stately form of language which Mr. Walker in this case assumed—so different from his ordinary discourse with his plain country parishioners.  He took up the tone of the scholar and the gentleman with more ease than I had thought it possible for one whose course of life had been so long removed from the society of his equals.

“‘Sir,’ said the stranger, ‘before you proceed further, allow me to protest against your assumption, that in your public character you have a right to exercise over me any superintendence or control.  I belong not to your flock, I subscribe not to your creed.  Even the tyrannical Church of Rome professes to fetter the minds and torture the limbs of those only who have at some period professed allegiance to her doctrines; and these are not days when the Church of England can safely arrogate to herself a power (however anxiously she may long to do so) which would rouse the dormant spirit even of an Italian slave.’

“‘Pardon me,’ said Mr. Walker, with the utmost calmness; ‘over you I neither claim nor wish to exercise any authority whatever.  But there are those over whose religious condition the laws both of God and man have given me power and authority, and upon them I am bound to exercise it, both for their sakes and my own.  The Church has devised a certain system which she p. 82declares to be founded on Scripture, and propounds it to all her people as their rule of faith and life.  I, having given my full assent and consent to that system, have accepted the office, under her authority, of spreading and propagating that system among those committed by her (under the Bishop) to my care.  I am not, then, here to reason out, either with you or my people, a new system, but simply to enforce one long established by the Church at large.  I am bound by my oath “to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines,” and this by every means by which the laws of God and man may aid me.  While then you are at full liberty, as far as I am concerned, to entertain any notions you may please as to religion or politics; you are not, at the same time, equally at liberty to spread them abroad among my flock, if I can by fair means prevent it—and prevent it, by God’s blessing, I will!’

“The stranger smiled scornfully at the old man’s energy of expression, and said; ‘My venerable old friend, attempt not what you cannot accomplish.  The day is gone by, when recluses like you, ignorant of the world and of the strides which it has of late been making towards full liberty of thought and action, could keep men’s minds in darkness by the vain terrors of an expiring superstition.  Be content to lament in your chimney corner over the obstinacy of this perverse generation, and leave the course of events to march on towards that high destination which assuredly you cannot hinder.’

“‘You much mistake the matter,’ replied Mr. Walker, ‘if you suppose that we, in these remote regions of the globe, are necessarily ignorant of the on-goings of the world beyond our barren mountains.  Our books are our telescopes, which bring distant things distinctly before our observation; and history tells me the staleness and the vanishing nature of those theories which to you seem all novelty and permanence.  Nor think that I threaten without power to execute my threats.  I shall not wait to cure the evil which you may occasion; my duty is to prevent; and that I can do by a power of the extent of p. 83which you are probably little aware.  I thank God it is a moral power, but not, on that account, the more easy to be resisted.  Recollect how long I have presided over these few sheep in the wilderness, and then consider whether, by this time, they must not well know the voice of their master!  Why, sir, you could not hide your head in a cottage between Eskdale Moor and Muncaster Fell, but I, did I wish it, could know where it rested, and almost what it meditated, by next morning!  Take, then, my advice, and leave this country for ever.  I threaten you with no loss of life or limb; but if you are found within these bounds after this solemn warning, your movements will be watched and dogged by those who have it in their power most effectually to put a stop to your designs.  The mountain top will be no safeguard—the gloomy mine no security.  Nay, the very fiends themselves will rise in rebellion at my bidding, and fling dismay into the hearts of those who rashly deny their existence!’

“The stranger cast on the old man a look of the utmost surprise, as he gave utterance to these last words.  The scene in the mine, no doubt, rushed upon his recollection; and he looked hard at Mr. Walker, as if he wished to trace in his countenance some signs of his being privy to the ghostly visitation of the night before.  But nothing could be seen there but the proofs of a mind determined to carry through its high resolves; and it was with somewhat of a subdued tone that the stranger at last resumed the conversation.

“‘I doubt not,’ said he, ‘that you have it in your power fully to execute your threats.  I have heard and seen enough already to believe it.  But why, sir—pardon me, I cannot account for it—why should you show so much zeal in a cause which seems so little deserving of your support,—a Church, which has left merit like yours to pine in neglect amid these barren mountains; and a State, which binds you to keep the peace among these half-civilized barbarians, and does not reward your pains with even the barren smile of its countenance?’

“The old man turned upon the stranger a look in p. 84which a lurking smile was mixed up with much sternness of expression, and said: ‘Well may I be anxious to remove such a tempter as you from my unsuspecting flock, when you thus artfully assail what you doubtless deem the weak side of even the shepherd himself!  My lot indeed may seem to you to be somewhat hard; but I answer in one word—a stronger than which the king himself cannot use—I AM HAPPY.  I am where my Master placed me, and that of itself is enough for a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  But, sir, even in a worldly point of view I am happy, nay, to be envied by those who look with narrow views (pardon me) like yourself, at what makes happiness here below.  I suppose you think wealth, power, and fame to be the three things most to be desired to constitute a happy man; and in which of these am I so deficient, as to give me ground for repining at the lot which has been assigned me?  With regard to wealth–though I certainly can boast of none of the superfluities of life, yet by our own industry and occupation (without which even abundance cannot give enjoyment) I and my wife have acquired more of the good things of this life, than either of us, from the condition of our birth, had a reasonable right to look for; and who can justly complain, whose lot in life is better than his father’s?  As to power—I think you have already had abundant proof that I possess it, in my own sphere of action, in no ordinary degree.  What absolute monarch, or what turbulent populace (and they are much the same) reigns so uncontrolled as I over the hearts and wills (but, I am proud to add, through the affections) of the people of Seathwaite?  Power is mine, such as Rome only dreamt of; the greater because it is never exercised.  And as for fame—the desire of which is perhaps the least blameable of our earthly passions, because it springs out of our innate hope of immortality—who has it more, in possession and in prospect, than the old feeble individual before you?  These mountains are visited by tourists attracted by the beauty and splendour of our rural scenes; but the humble residence of Robert Walker is not passed by as the least interesting among them.  p. 85The Lord of Muncaster Castle doffs that hat to his country pastor, which he would not take off before his monarch on the throne. [85]  My children—and a fine healthy, though somewhat numerous race they are—will hand down my name to the next generation, I trust, as untarnished as they received it; and my children’s children, unless they are strangely forgetful of the pious lessons which their fathers have taught them, may hold it their highest honour to be descended from Robert Walker; and find that name of itself a passport and a recommendation even in what is called a cold and heartless world.  We have lived here, sir, my life-companion and I, so long, as almost to form part of the landscape.  Good Bishop Jeremy Taylor tells a story of an old couple in Ireland, who had resided so long in the same village that if they had given themselves out to be Adam and Eve, there was no one alive to contradict then.  We are almost in the same condition.  While, then, these rocks shall frown and that stream shall flow, my name, humble as it may be, is assured of its earthly immortality.  The future Poet, whom the spirit of the Church and these divine scenes shall inspire with strains that shall blend the music of earth with the higher notes of heaven, will not omit my name from his pictures, when he paints my beloved Duddon in colours which shall last for ever; and who knows but some more lowly historian, smit with the love of my most humble but sincere service to my Master, shall hold up my name as a watchword to the fire-side of the quiet cottager; and teach the farmer at his plough, and the weaver at his loom, to call to mind my history; recommending to their sons patience, and perseverance, and piety, by the example (oh, how weak, feeble, and failing!) of Robert Walker!’

“The old man had risen from his chair, and paced the room with rapid strides as he gave utterance to the last sentences of this prophetic vision of his future history; and it was some time before his eye, which was sparkling p. 86with pious gratitude to God for all His blessings, caught that of the stranger, as it was fixed on him with the expression of a cold and quiet sneer.  His countenance immediately changed, and he coloured slightly at having thus exposed himself, in his open-heartedness, to the charge of a vanity, which was surely, in this case, of a most pardonable nature.  ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I have become a fool in glorying—you have compelled me.  I have shown you that, on your own selfish principles, I have indeed much to be thankful for.  But we must bring this matter to a close.  I look for a promise from you, which you must see it would be useless to withhold, that you will vex this quiet district no longer with your presence.’

“‘I go,’ said he, ‘father; but I go not alone!  You, and this simple youth shall know that there is at least one heart here which sympathizes with my feelings, and will not shrink from sharing my fortunes.  Love, father, is stronger than’—

“‘I RENOUNCE HIM!’ exclaimed poor Martha, rushing forward from behind the screen under which she had been sheltered during this remarkable conversation, and standing erect in the middle of the room with her eye boldly fixed on the face of the wondering stranger—‘I renounce him, now and for ever!  Oh Frederick!’

“I shall never forget her expression at that moment.  ‘Father,’ she continued, ‘I love him’—

“‘Loved him, you would say, my child.’

“‘Nay, father, love him still dearly, and will for ever love him!’

“‘Then fly with me,’ said the stranger, ‘to a land less inhospitable than this’—

“‘No, Frederick! that cannot, shall not be.  At my baptism I was married to Another, and with one who has stained his baptismal robes will I never be united!’

“This is some plot.’

“‘No, Frederick, believe it not.  All is honourable, except—oh, Frederick, why did you not tell me the truth?  Begone; if you can, be happy; but never see me more!’

“And they parted, and they never did see each other more!”


   She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament. . . .
I saw her, upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty. . .
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of an angel-light.


The gloom, which had for some time been lowering darkly round our house, now burst over our heads with the fury of a thunder-storm.  You must often have observed, sir, that as all the little ailments of a man’s body, which singly are insignificant enough, gradually combine together, and produce death; so the misfortunes of life, long kept at a distance, seem at last to come upon an individual or a family with one united assault, and press it with irresistible force to the very ground.  So it was with us.  My father, habitually silent and reserved, began to talk more, especially to strangers, and to show a greater liveliness of manner than we had ever observed in him before.  He spoke about the value of his land, and the produce of his crops, in a way to make me think that I had a very comfortable prospect of inheritance before me, and I considered myself already as one of the established statesmen of the valley.  Alas! how puzzling is poor human nature!  At the very time when my father seemed most to rejoice in his possessions, he had just come to the conviction that he could no longer retain them.  He had never really felt their value till they were about to pass away from him and his race for ever!  His p. 88father had been a somewhat expensive man in his habits, and had mortgaged his little estate to the father of Tom Hebblethwaite, in the hope, as times were then very good, of quickly redeeming it.  But worse times soon succeeded; and my poor father and mother, with all their care and industry, were not able even to pay the interest of the sum borrowed, so that the debt gradually increased in amount, and the unavoidable issue was clearly foreseen.  This disheartening news my father took a quiet opportunity of communicating to me, my poor mother standing by, and the silent tears rolling down her cheeks—not for herself, but for her children.

“‘My dear lad,’ said he, ‘you must fend for yourself.  I have engaged that you shall become apprentice to an engraver in Manchester, who is a distant relation of your mother’s, and, I am told, in a very thriving condition.  Your mother and I have given you learning, and we hope, good principles; we had wished to have given you more, but God’s will be done.’

“A change now came over the whole course of my thoughts.  It was like telling me that I was to pass my days in another world, so little notion had I of anything that was going on beyond the boundaries of my native mountains; and I speculated, and wondered, till my mind became confused and perplexed, and I was unable to attend to even the commonest concerns of life.  I will hasten over this distressing period, for it is too painful to dwell on, even at this distance of time.  I believe that age magnifies the anxieties that are far off, as much as it deadens the pain of those that are near.  The recollection to me now, is more grievous than was the reality at the time.  Robert Walker took leave of me with much sound advice, but with a cheerfulness that removed much of my horror—for that was what I felt—at leaving, probably for ever, my native hills.

“‘My good lad,’ said he, ‘you are only about to do what thousands have done before you—leave these barren mountains for a scene of usefulness to which you are evidently called by your heavenly Father.  Many of my p. 89flock have gone before you in the same path, and most of them, I thank God, have been highly successful in their labours.  Some of the highest and richest merchants in Manchester drew their first breath in these humble valleys, and were taught at my village school.  Having here been taught the lessons of frugality, industry, and attention to religious duties, they were thus trained for the after-toils of life, and have become an honour to their country and their Church.  But as for you, I would rather see you good than rich.  The one, with God’s grace, you can be; the other may depend on a thousand accidents.  I have prepared a little present for you, which I trust you will always cherish as proof of my good will.  The Bible I know you have, and its fitting companion and interpreter, the Prayer-book: here is ‘Nelson’s Companion to the Fasts and Festivals of the Church of England,’ the best book, next to the Prayer-book, that the uninspired mind of man ever compiled; full of learning, full of piety, full of prayer.  Know this book well, and you will be wiser than your teachers; for to understand and retain in one’s mind the contents of one such book as this, is better than to read whole libraries, and to have but a dim and misty recollection of them all; and here is another good book, which you will find a valuable companion to you in some of your silent and solitary hours—‘The Whole Duty of Man.’  Blessed be the memory of the pious lady who wrote it!  And may the blessing of God rest for ever on the family which sheltered the saintly Hammond in his persecutions, and produced her who left to the world this invaluable legacy! [89]  In these books you have a religious library which will meet all your spiritual wants.  Pray for me, as I shall not cease to pray for you—for this is the way to remember friends that are far off; and now go, and the Lord be with thee!’

“But I had another parting of a very different kind to encounter—with my poor sister Martha.  Since her separation from her lover, she had gone about her daily avocations with her usual, and even more than her usual p. 90cheerfulness and quiet alacrity.  Indeed her eye sparkled with more brilliance, and her spirits rose to a higher pitch of excitement than I had ever before observed.  She grew perceptibly thinner, but no alarm was thereby occasioned, as her colour was even heightened in brightness, and her mind seemed peaceful and happy.  Yet I had watched her with more than common anxiety, and felt much alarmed for her state, though I could hardly assign the grounds of my fears.  A few days before it was proposed that I should take my departure, she called me into her room after the rest of the family had retired to rest, and desired me to sit down by her side, with a seriousness of manner which seemed to show that she had some important communication to make.

“‘Brother,’ said she, ‘we part soon; it may be sooner than you expect.’

“‘How so?’ said I.

“‘You must listen to my tale.  We have never talked about him since we parted at Mr. Walker’s.  I have never repented what I did then.’

“‘Oh, how nobly you acted, dear sister,’ said I, ‘and how little you seem to have felt the shock of such a parting.  How I love you for your determination!  You have never seen him since?’

“‘I saw him last night!’


“‘Yes—last night.  He stood by my bed-side, looking most pale and ghastly; and reproached me with deserting him, and leaving him to his fate.  He said that I might have saved him by converting him from his evil ways, but now on me must rest the consequences of his ruin, both in body and soul.’

“‘It must surely have been a troubled dream!’

“‘No, brother, it was a sad reality.  I appeared to myself as wide awake as I am at this moment, and though my reason tells me that he could not be there, I saw him with as sober a mind, and an eye as steady as I see you now!’

“‘And how do you explain this strange delusion?’

p. 91“‘Easily—I am DYING!  Look at this hand,’ said she, holding up her taper fingers before the candle.  I could distinctly see the flame through the transparent skin, and trace the blue fret-work of the veins, as though they had been traced with a lead pencil on a sheet of white paper.  I saw that all was over!

“‘Brother,’ said she, ‘I do not regret my past conduct in this matter; on the contrary, I rejoice in it as the only proof of fidelity that I have been permitted to give to the law of my divine Master.  Could I believe that I might have saved him—but no, I will not think it possible!  I was not to do evil that good might come.  My Bible, Robert Walker, and my own heart approve of what I have done; and if I die for it, it may be that I shall live for it (through my Saviour’s Blood) hereafter.  Brother, pray for me!  I dread the coming night; but I trust to the Lord’s power to drive away from my pillow evil thoughts, and evil spirits.  My mind begins to wander—I must to prayer.  Come to me early to-morrow morning.  Good night, and God bless you!’

“I went early according to her request, anxious to hear her report of the past night, and sincerely praying that it might have been more peaceful than my own.  I stood by her bed-side, and called her name: all was still.  I opened her window-curtain (bed-curtain there was none) and gazed on her face.  She was dead!  Her hands were folded peacefully on her breast, showing that she had passed away in prayer, and there was a faint—a very faint—smile still lingering on her lips, as though at the very moment when she closed her eyes on earth she had just caught a glimpse of heaven.—Poor Martha!” [91]

After a pause, the old man proceeded—“I will say no more of my final parting, because I would avoid my p. 92mother’s name.  Behold me then in Salford!  Hard at work from morning till night, breathing the dense and foggy air of Hanging-ditch, instead of the pure and invigorating breezes of Tilberthwaite and Yewdale.  Much have I learnt, from sad experience, during my long life, of the condition of the labouring classes in this busy hive of men, and much could I tell you of cruelty on the part of masters, and of ingratitude and improvidence on the part of men.  But I will keep these matters for another occasion.  Suffice it to say, that I believe a manufacturing state may and will become (though it may be neither in my time nor yours) quite as happy and as healthy a one as that of the best-regulated agricultural district.  But, sir, the reformation must begin at the other end—it must be from the top first, and then to the bottom!  I will tell you a little secret—the men, as a body, are quite as well educated for their station in life, as the masters, as a body, are for theirs.  The next generation may see masters who have been brought up to the trade of masters, and not merely men who have become masters by good fortune; and then may we hope for a thorough reform in the whole system of conduct of masters and men towards each other; of which, till then, I almost despair.  Meantime, if the Church had fair play, she would throw her healing branch into the bitter waters which surround us, and teach mutual love and forbearance to ‘all sorts and conditions of men.’”

“I fully agree with you,” said I; “we have heard much of late of the want of education among the poor; I hope we shall hear, soon, of the necessity of a better system of education among the rich.  But, my good old friend, you are quite forgetting that your tale is about anything else than that with which it professed to begin, ‘The Old Church Clock.’”

“Right! my dear sir; like many other old men I have allowed my tongue to out-run my tale.  Well, sir, Sunday came—a day of joy to me, both as a rest from unusual labour, and as an opportunity of pouring out my soul p. 93in prayer in the manner that I used to do in my native mountains; so that I looked to be reminded of my temporal and eternal home, by joining once more in the same form of worship with my absent parents, and my good old pastor, Robert Walker.  Little do they know of the beauty of a prescribed form of prayer who have never offered it up in a distant land!  Alas! how were my hopes and expectations disappointed!  I naturally entered the first place of worship within my reach, expecting it to be, like Seathwaite chapel, free and open to all comers.  But I was woefully mistaken!  A well-cloaked and liveried beadle soon informed me that there was no room for strangers, and that the aisle was the only place for me.  It was true that I had this advantage over the sleepers in the well-cushioned pews around me, that I could kneel in prayer to God, whilst the rest were compelled to sit in His presence while they asked Him to forgive them their sins!  Still it was most painful to me to worship in communion with those to whom my joining with them in prayer was an unwelcome act; and I now felt myself really a solitary amidst crowds, when, not even in the presence of our common Father, had they any sympathy with their homeless brother!  Well, sir, time passed on; and among my smaller grievances was the occasionally receiving, and indeed deserving a reprimand from my over-looker, for having been behind my time in a morning, at the early hour at which the work of our establishment commenced.  Six was the precise hour; and even a minute behind that time subjected the truant to a serious fine.  I well remember, one cold wintry morning, looking anxiously for the first sight of the Old Church Clock, as I crossed the Salford bridge into Manchester, and saw, to my horror, that it pointed to exactly five minutes past that hour.  There seemed to my imagination an expression of strong displeasure in the hard outlines of that old clock’s face, which administered a far stronger rebuke to me than the violent and unfeeling language which was addressed to me by the over-looker; and I resolved, if it were possible, not to fall into the p. 94same disgrace again.  The next morning I was, by the same clock, ten minutes before my time.  The old clock seemed to smile at my punctuality, as I do now at the recollection.  How apt is the youthful mind to put a portion of its own overflowing life even into inanimate things!  And what dead thing is so like a living one as a clock?”


We talked with open heart, and tongue
Affectionate and true,
A pair of friends, though I was young,
And Matthew seventy-two.

*     *      *     *     *

And, ere we came to Leonard’s rock,
He sang those witty rhymes
About the crazy Old Church Clock,
And the bewildered chimes.


“I gradually established an acquaintance with this old Clock.  It had already proved itself a faithful friend—indeed the only one that I had yet found in Manchester; for my mother’s distant relation was too much involved in the all-absorbing pursuit of making money, to have any room in his thoughts for the wishes and feelings of a poor country cousin like myself.  The Clock, however, had grown to be so intimate an acquaintance, that I one day took advantage of a leisure hour to pay it a nearer visit; and was very attentively looking up into its face from the foot of the tower, in the space between it and the houses—which space was then exceedingly narrow, (the houses are now happily taken down,) when my shoulders were suddenly assailed by a very smart blow with a stick, from some person from behind!  I turned sharply round, as might be expected, and saw a little active old man, dressed in a suit of rusty black, with a hat somewhat of a clerical shape, and a pair of sharp grey eyes twinkling under very long and very shaggy eye-brows, in the very act of raising his cane for the purpose of repeating the salute.  I immediately twisted the offensive weapon out of his grasp, and seeing the reverend character of the assailant, exclaimed, ‘Nemo me impune’—flourishing, at the same time, the cane over his head, as if about to p. 96return the blow.  Nothing daunted with my threat, the little man stood his ground bravely; and said, with a look of mingled fun and fury, ‘Who beat that bit of Latin into your foolish head?’

“‘One,’ said I, ‘whose hand was quite as heavy as yours, though he did not lay on half so hard as you do!’

“‘All the worse—all the worse.  Had he struck harder then, you would have needed it less now!  But why do you stop up the way to church, and stand gazing up to that tower, as if you were planning to rob the belfry?’

“‘I was thinking,’ said I, for I began to be more amused than angry with the old man, ‘I was thinking, when your cane interrupted my meditations, why it was that men placed clocks in the towers of churches!’

“‘That is easily answered, man; to teach you that time is a sacred thing.’

“‘That is indeed an answer,’ I replied; ‘and one worthy of my old friend Mr. Walker of Seathwaite!’

“‘Mr. Walker!’ exclaimed the old gentleman, in great surprise, ‘what knowest thou of Mr. Walker? a very good man he is, and a very good scholar—not of the University, though—but a good scholar, and an old friend of mine; what knowest thou of him, man?’

“‘Know him!  Why he is my old pastor and master—the best friend I have in all the world!  Oh, sir!  If you know him, you must be a good man too!’

“‘Dont be too sure of that!’ said the old gentleman, somewhat pettishly; ‘there are two opinions on that subject, I promise you.  Which of them I may entertain, is no concern of yours!’

“‘Well, sir, but I am sure if you are a friend of Mr. Walker’s, you will do me one service for his sake—the greatest you ever did to a poor lad in your life—you will tell me where I may go to church on Sundays.’

“‘His cane, which I had restored to him, dropped to the ground, and he held up his hands in mute astonishment.  ‘The lad’s lost his wits,’ he said, as if to himself—‘clean gyte, as his old friend Robert Walker would p. 97say!  There he is, standing before a church door wide open to receive him, and high enough for even his long legs to stride under, and he coolly asks me where he may go to church on Sundays!  Why, man, there you may go to church, not only on Sundays, but every day in the week—and the oftener the better.’

“It was odd that this had never struck me before; but I had fancied, I suppose from its size and beauty, that this was a church intended, like those I had already tried, only for the accommodation of the rich; and I said so to him whom I was addressing.

“The old gentleman smiled at my simplicity, but there was more expression of kindness in his countenance than I had hitherto observed.  ‘The rich,’—said he, with a tone of contempt, ‘why, man, that is the Parish Church, free to all alike, rich and poor, good and bad.  The poor are by far the greater number, and, between ourselves, rather the better behaved and more attentive class, of the two.  The rich take liberties with me sometimes, which the poor dare not—if they did, I would break every bone in their skin!  But,’ said he in a lower tone, ‘I dont think any of them wish me much ill, after all.’

“Then, taking me by the hand, he said, ‘And so, my poor lad, you feared to come into this church because you thought it was the church only of the rich man!  Come along with me, and I will soon provide you with a sitting.’

“He dragged me with a rapid step through the church-door, and up the middle aisle, till he came to a place which he doubtless knew to be at that time unoccupied; and setting me down with great force in one corner of a bench, he said, ‘There! sit there!  That is your seat as long as you occupy it punctually.  If any one shall disturb you, say that old Rivers, the Reverend Joseph Rivers, placed you there; and I should like to see the man that dares disturb you after that!’ and he flourished his cane with an emphasis which seemed to show that p. 98the consequences of so rash an act would indeed be serious!

“Such, sir, was my introduction to the Parish Church, and such is the favour—the inestimable blessing—which I owe to the Old Church Clock!  How often have I wished that the same blessing could be extended to the multitudes of young men that pour annually from the country into this great metropolis of manufactures and commerce, even if it were accompanied with the sharp discipline of old Mr. Rivers’ cane, which I experienced!  Sir, thousands are lost—lost for ever—from the want which I felt, and from which the Old Clock delivered me—want of church-room!  It gives them first the plea to spend the Sunday in idleness; and a Sunday so spent is but a preface to one of vice and dissipation.  Would that there were a dozen Old Churches in this vast hive of human beings!  Well, sir, that seat I have occupied from that day to the present hour—full five-and-forty years!  They have been years of trial, and sometimes of trouble to me; but I have always found my best consolation there.  During my days of toil and labour I was never absent from the Sunday services; and now that a moderate competency and the advance of years give me grounds for retirement from busy life, the daily services find me a constant and delighted attendant.  I find the daily temple worship the best possible preparation for that service which I trust may soon be my occupation in a higher sphere; the best soother of the passions; the surest relief in sorrow.  Within those walls I have escaped all those anxieties which spring from religious doubts and differences, and have said the same prayers, and listened to the same doctrines during the lapse of half a century.  The daily service flows on, in my ears, like my native Duddon—always the same, yet ever fresh and new.  I have seen sects rise and fall, and various forms of dissent flourish and decay; but they have no more moved my mind than the fleeting lights and shadows, sunbeams and storms, which pass successively over that venerable fabric, p. 99can disturb its foundations, or even shake one pinnacle from its towers.  In those free sittings, so well thronged by pious worshippers, what changes have I lived to behold!  I have seen the grey head of many a faithful soldier of Christ laid low, while its place in the ranks has instantly been filled up by one as zealous and almost as grey as that which has been removed.  Nay, the shepherds of the flock have been smitten as well as the sheep.  I followed to the grave my old friend Mr. Joseph Rivers, to whose blunt kindness, and friendship for my master Robert Walker, I was so deeply indebted; and much was I gratified to see the flood of tears that was shed by the poor over the old man’s grave!  It was a proof to me that men know how to value honesty and integrity, even though it be clouded, as it sometimes is, by a hasty manner and a rough outside.  And I have followed to the grave one to whom I looked up with a feeling of deeper reverence and gratitude—the pious Christian—the courteous gentleman—the late venerable Head of our Church in this place.  He was to me not only a teacher, but, I may almost venture to say, a companion and friend.  How often have I hoped and prayed that he might be permitted to out-strip me in length of days as far as he did in his Christian walk!  But it was not so ordained!  Truly may I say of him, in the words of Scripture, ‘That other disciple did out-run Peter,—and I came first to the sepulchre!’”

The silent tears rolled down the old man’s cheek as he paused for a moment to meditate on the tomb of his pastor.

“My tale,” he soon added, “is now at an end.  It is probably, as I said, but of little interest to any one but myself, and you who have so kindly listened to it.  Yet I shall not have told it to you in vain, if it lead you to recollect that the poorest man you meet has his little history, could he be induced to tell it; and his deep interest in the Church, could he be led to think so.  At all events,” he concluded, with a smile, “you will not, I am p. 100sure, now blame me much, should you meet the Old Man once more on the Victoria-bridge, on a Saturday night, and find him setting his watch by—(even should it be a few minutes too slow)—the Old Church Clock.”


The End.




[vii]   It would be very interesting to trace the precise period when the late culpable neglect of Church discipline (more especially in observing the duty of daily prayer in churches) began to be generally prevalent.  It would seem to be soon after, and not before, the year 1720.  The author has now lying before him a daily journal kept by a collateral ancestor, who was curate of Garstang Church-Town, an agricultural district of this county, in the years 1723–4–5, from which it appears that, even in that retired district, prayers were then said in the church on all Wednesdays and Fridays, and all Saints’ days and Holydays throughout the year.  The labour of a curate then, (for the vicar was non-resident,) was such as is seldom surpassed even by the often almost intolerable toils of the present day.  The following is a specimen of the journal referred to:—

April, 1723.

“12.  Good Friday.  Read prayers, Mr. Hayward [the vicar] preached, and we administered the sacrament to 236 communicants.  After dinner I went into Claughton [two miles off] to visit the sick.

“13.  Mr. Hayward read prayers; I went into the parish, and administered the sacrament at three private houses to sick and aged people.

“14.  Easter Day.  I read prayers.  Mr. Hayward preached; and we administered the sacrament to 285 communicants.  Afternoon: Mr. Hayward read prayers, and I preached; and then went to visit a sick child.”

The reader will be struck with the large attendance at the communion.  We have had sad fallings-off since the year 1723!

I cannot resist making one or two other extracts, showing the general character of this curious little journal of the Rev. Thomas Parkinson:—

February, 1722.

“1.  Went to Street to visit Mrs. Salome, and administered the sacrament to her.  She is 103 years old, yet very perfect in memory, sight, and hearing to admiration.

April, 1723.

“30.  Studied hard yesterday in the afternoon and this morning, and finished the 103rd sermon.  At night I preached it for T. Raby, of Tarnaker, at St. Michael’s.  His son paid me 10s.  Mr. Crombleholm, the vicar there, came from London whilst I was there, who, in conjunction with three more, had bought Rawcliff Demain and Tenants, paying to the Board £11,260.  It cost them near £1000 more in hush-money, as they call it.

October, 1723.

“18.  In the morning I went to visit William Grayston, who seemed very penitent after an ill-spent life.  I pray God forgive him.

October, 1723.

“28.  In the morning I went to see W. Grayston, who had been perverted by a Romish priest in his sickness, but, by the blessing of God, I restored him to the Church, and administered the communion to him after he had begged pardon.  He gave me then £1. 18s. 6d. to distribute, in way of restitution, to some he had unjustly injured.

“Nov. 2.  Studied all the morning, and finished the 110th.  Afternoon: I went to see W. Grayston and old Mrs. Salome.”

P.S.  I ought to add that the number of attendants at the communion, above stated, was by no means unusual; for besides the communicants being, on ordinary Sundays, at least one hundred, I find the following entries in his next year’s Diary:—

April, 1724.

“3.  Good Friday.  I preached.  Mr. Hayward, [who seems always to have attended on these occasions,] read prayers, and consecrated.  We had a vast number of communicants, more than have been usually seen.

“4.  Mr. Hayward read prayers.  I went into the parish to visit sick and impotent people; that is, such as cou’d not come to church.

“5.  Easter-day.  I preached in the forenoon.  Mr. Hayward read prayers, and consecrated.  We had a great many communicants at those three days of sacrament.  [Palm Sunday was one.]  At church we had about 656 communicants, and I administered to about 60 impotent people in the parish.  I read prayers afternoon, and Mr. Hayward preached.”

[xii]  The following is Mr. Newton’s own account of the state of his late parish in the hands of his successor, and that successor such a man as Mr. Scott.  The narrative is a melancholy one.

“I was very cordially received at Olney; the heats and animosities which prevailed when I was there last, seemed in a great measure subsided.  There are, however, many who have left the Church, and hear among the Dissenters; but I hope they have not left the Lord.  Mr. Scott has some, and some of the best, who are affectionately attached to him.  Mr. Scott is a good and upright man, and a good preacher, but different ministers have different ways.  He met with great prejudices, and some very improper treatment, upon his first coming to Olney.  He found several professors who had more leaves than fruit, more talk than grace; his spirit was rather hurt by what he saw amiss, and by what he felt.  By what I can learn from those who love him best, he is very favourable and zealous in reproving what is wrong; but an unfavourable impression he has received, that the people at large do not like him, gives a sort of edge to his preaching which is not so well suited to conciliate them.  The best of the Olney people are an afflicted people, and have been led through great inward conflicts and spiritual distresses, and for want of some experience of the like kind, he cannot so well hit their cases,nor sympathize with them so tenderly as might be wished.  He has the best intentions, but his natural temper is rather positive, than gentle and yielding.  I was, perhaps, faulty in the other extreme; but they had been so long used to me, that a different mode of treatment does not so well suit them.”—Southey’s Life of Cowper, vol. ii. p. 46.

Here the different success of the two consecutive incumbents is made to turn entirely upon preaching, and that preaching entirely on difference of temper.  Would that they had both sought uniformity of preaching, and of temper too, in their Prayer Book!

[xxxix]  Mr. Walker’s charity being of that kind which “seeketh not her own,” he would rather forego his rights than distrain for dues which the parties liable refused to pay as a point of conscience.

[52]  An “Old Man” is a heap of stones, of which many are erected on the highest points of the loftiest mountains in the North of England.

[78]  Pearls are or used to be found in the shell-fish in the river Irt, on the west coast of Cumberland.  It is much to be feared that there are very few now left.

[85]  There is a tradition that this is one of the families which claim to wear a hat in the presence of Royalty.

[89]  The Packington family.

[91]  The history of Martha will remind some readers (though the facts are very different) of that of Mary Robinson, commonly called “The Beauty of Buttermere,” who was betrayed into a marriage by the notorious Hadfield, under the feigned name of Colonel Hope.  Hadfield was a man of good birth and education, and was afterwards hanged for forgery.  Mary died not long since, the mother of a large family, in a good old age, a subject of notoriety and curiosity to her dying day.  Yet Robert Walker loved his dead Martha quite as much as his living Mary!