The Project Gutenberg eBook of Fors Clavigera (Volume 3 of 8)

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Title: Fors Clavigera (Volume 3 of 8)

Author: John Ruskin

Release date: March 18, 2020 [eBook #61634]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at for Project
Gutenberg (This file was produced from images generously
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Newly Designed Front Cover.


Original Title Page.



Vol. III.





The Third Fors, having been much adverse to me, and more to many who wish me well, during the whole of last year, has turned my good and helpful printer adrift in the last month of it; and, with that grave inconvenience to him, contrived for me the minor one of being a fortnight late with my New Year’s letter. Under which provocation I am somewhat consoled this morning by finding in a cookery book, of date 1791, “written purely from practice, and dedicated to the Hon. Lady Elizabeth Warburton, whom the author lately served as housekeeper,” a receipt for Yorkshire Goose Pie, with which I think it will be most proper and delightful to begin my economical instructions to you for the current year. I am, indeed, greatly tempted to give precedence to the receipt for making “Fairy Butter,” and further disturbed by an extreme desire to tell you how to [2]construct an “Apple Floating-Island”; but will abide, nevertheless, by my Goose Pie.

“Take a large fat goose, split it down the back, and take all the bones out; bone a turkey and two ducks the same way, season them very well with pepper and salt, with six woodcocks; lay the goose down on a clean dish, with the skin-side down; and lay the turkey into the goose, with the skin down; have ready a large hare, cleaned well, cut in pieces, and stewed in the oven, with a pound of butter, a quarter of an ounce of mace, beat fine, the same of white pepper, and salt to your taste, till the meat will leave the bones, and scum the butter off the gravy, pick the meat clean off, and beat it in a marble mortar very fine, with the butter you took off, and lay it in the turkey; take twenty-four pounds of the finest flour, six pounds of butter, half-a-pound of fresh rendered suet, make the paste pretty thick, and raise the pie oval; roll out a lump of paste, and cut it in vine-leaves or what form you please; rub the pie with the yolks of eggs, and put your ornaments on the walls; then turn the hare, turkey, and goose upside down, and lay them in your pie, with the ducks at each end, and the woodcocks on the sides; make your lid pretty thick, and put it on; you may lay flowers, or the shape of the fowls in paste, on the lid, and make a hole in the middle of your lid; the walls of the pie are to be one inch and a half higher than the lid; then rub it all over with the yolks of eggs, and bind it round with threefold [3]paper, and lay the same over the top; it will take four hours baking in a brown-bread oven; when it comes out, melt two pounds of butter in the gravy that comes from the hare, and pour it hot in the pie through a tun-dish; close it well up, and let it be eight or ten days before you cut it; if you send it any distance, make up the hole in the middle with cold butter, to prevent the air from getting in.”

Possessed of these instructions, I immediately went to my cook to ask how far we could faithfully carry them out. But she told me nothing could be done without a “brown-bread oven;” which I shall therefore instantly build under the rocks on my way down to the lake: and, if I live, we will have a Lancashire goose-pie next Michaelmas. You may, perhaps, think this affair irrelevant to the general purposes of ‘Fors Clavigera’; but it is not so by any means: on the contrary, it is closely connected with its primary intentions; and, besides, may interest some readers more than weightier, or, I should rather say, lighter and more spiritual matters. For, indeed, during twenty-three months, I had been writing to you, fellow-workmen, of matters affecting your best interests in this world, and all the interests you had anywhere else:—explaining, as I could, what the shrewdest of you, hitherto, have thought, and the best of you have done;—what the most selfish have gained, and the most generous have suffered. Of all this, no notice whatever is taken. In my twenty-fourth letter, incidentally, [4]I mentioned the fact of my being in a bad humour, (which I nearly always am, and which it matters little to anybody whether I am or not, so long as I don’t act upon it,) and forthwith I got quite a little mailcartful of consolation, reproof, and advice. Much of it kind,—nearly all of it helpful, and some of it wise; but very little bearing on matters in hand: an eager Irish correspondent offers immediately to reply to anything, “though he has not been fortunate enough to meet with the book;” one working man’s letter, for self and mates, is answered in the terminal notes;—could not be answered before for want of address;—another, from a south-country clergyman, could not be answered any way, for he would not read any more, he said, of such silly stuff as ‘Fors’;—but would have been glad to hear of any scheme for giving people a sound practical education. I fain would learn, myself, either from this practical Divine, or any of his mates, what the ecclesiastical idea of a sound practical education is;—that is to say, what—in weekday schools (—the teaching in Sunday ones being necessarily to do no manner of work)—our clergy think that boys and girls should be taught to practise, in order that, when grown up, they may with dexterity perform the same. For indeed, the constant object of these letters of mine, from their beginning, has been to urge you to do vigorously and dextrously what was useful; and nothing but that. And I have told you of Kings and Heroes, and now am about to tell you what I can of a Saint, [5]because I believe such persons to have done, sometimes, more useful things than you or I: begging your pardon always for not addressing you as heroes, which I believe you all think yourselves, or as kings, which I presume you all propose to be, or at least, if you cannot, to let nobody else be. Come what may of such proposal, I wish you would consider with me to-day what form of “sound practical education,” if any, would enable you all to be Saints; and whether, such form proving discoverable, you would really like to be put through it, or whether, on the contrary, both the clergy and you mean, verily, and in your hearts, nothing by “practical education” but how to lay one penny upon another. Not but that it does my heart good to hear modern divines exhorting to any kind of practice—for, as far as I can make out, there is nothing they so much dread for their congregations as their getting into their heads that God expects them to do anything, beyond killing rabbits if they are rich, and being content with bad wages, if they are poor. But if any virtue more than these, (and the last is no small one) be indeed necessary to Saint-ship—may we not prudently ask what such virtue is, and, at this Holiday time, make our knowledge of the Hos more precise? Nay, in your pleading for perennial Holiday,—in your ten hours or eight hours bills, might you not urge your point with stouter conscience if you were all Saints, and the hours of rest you demanded became a realization of Baxter’s Saints’ Rest? [6]

Suppose we do rest, for a few minutes, from that process of laying one penny upon another, (those of us, at least, who have learned the trick of it,) and look with some attention at the last penny we laid on the pile—or, if we can do no better, at the first of the pile we mean to lay.

Show me a penny—or, better, show me the three pages of our British Bible—penny, shilling, and pound, and let us try what we can read on them together. You see how rich they are in picture and legend: surely so practical a nation, in its most valued Scriptures, cannot have written or pictured anything but with discretion, and to the benefit of all beholders.

We begin with the penny;—not that, except under protest, I call such a thing as that a Penny! Our farthings, when we were boys, were as big as that; and two-pence filled our waistcoat pockets. Who, then, is this lady, whom it represents, sitting, apparently, on the edge of a dish-cover? Britannia? Yes,—of course. But who is Britannia? and what has she got on her head, in her hand, and on her seat?

“Don’t I know who Britannia is?” Not I; and much doubt if you do! Is she Great Britain,—or Little Britain? Is she England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the Indies,—or a small, dishonest, tailoring and engineering firm, with no connection over the way, and publicly fined at the police court for sneakingly supplying customers it had engaged not to? Is she a Queen, or an Actress, or a slave? Is she a Nation, mother of nations; or a [7]slimy polype, multiplying by involuntary vivisection, and dropping half putrid pieces of itself wherever it crawls or contracts? In the world-feasts of the Nativity, can she sit, Madonna-like, saying: “Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me”? Or are her lips capable of such utterance—of any utterance—no more; the musical Rose of them cleft back into the long dumb trench of the lizard’s; her motherhood summed in saying that she makes all the world’s ditches dirtier with her spawn?

And what has she on her head, in her hand, or on that,—Shield, I believe it is meant for,—which she sits on the edge of? A most truly symbolic position! For, you know, all those armour-plates and guns you pay for so pleasantly are indeed made, when you look into the matter, not at all to defend you against anybody—(no one ever pretends to say distinctly that the newest of them could protect you for twelve hours); but they are made that the iron masters may get commission on the iron, and the manufacturers commission on the manufacture. And so the Ironmongering and Manufacturing Britannia does very literally sit upon her Shield: the cognizance whereof, or—now too literally—the “Bearing,”—so obscured, becomes of small importance. Probably, in a little while, a convenient cushion—or, what not—may be substituted for St. George’s Cross; to the public satisfaction.

I must not question farther what any of these symbols [8]may come to mean; I will tell you, briefly, what they meant once, and are yet, by courtesy, supposed to mean.

They were all invented by the Greeks; and all, except the Cross, some twelve hundred years before the first Christmas; they became intelligible and beautiful first about Theseus’ time.

The Helmet crest properly signifies the adoption by man of the passions of pride and anger which enable nearly all the lower creatures to erect some spinous or plumose ridge upon their heads or backs. It is curiously associated with the story of the Spartan Phalanthus, the first colonist of Tarentum, which might have been the port of an Italia ruling the waves, instead of Britannia, had not the crest fallen from the helmet of the Swabian prince, Manfred, in his death-battle with Charles of Anjou. He had fastened it that morning, he said, with his own hand,—you may think, if his armourer had fastened it, it would have stayed on, but kings could do things with their own hands in those days;—howbeit, it fell, and Manfred, that night, put off his armour for evermore, and the evil French King reigned in his stead: and South Italy has lain desert since that day, and so must lie, till the crest of some King rise over it again, who will be content with as much horse-hair as is needful for a crest, and not wear it, as our English Squires have done lately (or perhaps even the hair of an animal inferior to the horse), on their heads, instead of their helmets. [9]

Of the trident in Britannia’s hand, and why it must be a trident, that is to say, have three prongs, and no more; and in what use or significance it differs from other forks, (as for pitching, or toasting)—we will enquire at another time. Take up next the shilling, or, more to our purpose, the double shilling,—get a new florin, and examine the sculpture and legend on that.

The Legend, you perceive, is on the one side English,—on the other Latin. The latter, I presume, you are not intended to read, for not only it is in a dead language, but two words are contracted, and four more indicated only by their first letters. This arrangement leaves room for the ten decorative letters, an M, and a D, and three C’s, and an L, and the sign of double stout, and two I’s; of which ten letters the total function is to inform you that the coin was struck this year, (as if it mattered either to you or to me, when it was struck!) But the poor fifth part of ten letters, preceding—the F and D, namely—have for function to inform you that Queen Victoria is the Defender of our Faith. Which is an all-important fact to you and me, if it be a fact at all;—nay, an all-important brace of facts; each letter vocal, for its part, with one. F, that we have a Faith to defend; D, that our monarch can defend it, if we chance to have too little to say for it ourselves. For both which facts, Heaven be praised, if they be indeed so,—nor dispraised by our shame, if they have ceased to be so: only, if they be so, two letters are not enough to assert them clearly; [10]and if not so, are more than enough to lie with. On the reverse of the coin, however, the legend is full, and clear. “One Florin.” “One Tenth of a Pound.” Yes; that is all very practical and instructive. But do we know either what a pound is, or what a florin or “Fiorino” was, or why this particular coin should be called a Florin, or whether we have any right to call any coin of England, now, by that name? And, by the way, how is it that I get continually reproved for writing above the level of the learning of my general readers, when here I find the most current of all our books written in three languages, of which one is dead, another foreign, and the third written in defunct letters, so that anybody with two shillings in his pocket is supposed able to accept information conveyed in contracted Latin, Roman numerals, old English, and spoiled Italian?

How practical, and how sentimental, at once! For indeed we have no right, except sentimentally, to call that coin a florin,—that is to say, a “flower (lily-flower) piece,” or Florence-piece. What have we any more to do with Lilies? Do you ever consider how they grow—or care how they die? Do the very water-lilies, think you, keep white now, for an hour after they open, in any stream in England? And for the heraldry of the coin, neither on that, nor any other, have we courage or grace to bear the Fleur-de-Lys any more, it having been once our first bearing of all. For in the first quarter of our English shield we used to bear three golden lilies on a [11]blue ground, being the regal arms of France; (our great Kings being Frenchmen, and claiming France as their own, before England). Also these Fleur-de-Lys were from the beginning the ensigns of a King; but those three Lions which you see are yet retained for the arms of England on two of the shields in your false florin, (false in all things, for heaven knows, we have as little right to lions now as to lilies,) “are deduced onely from Dukedomes1: I say deduced, because the Kings of England after the Conquest did beare two leopards (the ensignes of the Dukedome of Normandy) till the time of King Henry the Second, who, according to the received opinion, by marriage of Eleanor, daughter and heire of the duke of Aquitaine and Guyon” (Guienne) “annexed the Lyon, her paternall coate, being of the same Field, Metall, and Forme with the Leopards, and so from thence forward they were jointly marshalled in one Shield and Blazoned three Lyons.” Also “at the first quartering of these coats by Edward the Third, question being moved of his title to France, the King had good cause to put that coat in the first ranke, to show his most undoubted Title to that Kingdom, and therefore would have it the most perspicuous place of his Escocheon.”

But you see it is now on our shield no more,—we having been beaten into cowardly and final resignation of it, at the peace of Amiens, in George III.’s time, and precisely in the first year of this supreme nineteenth century. [12]He, as monarch of England, being unable to defend our Lilies, and the verbal instruction of the pacific angel Gabriel of Amiens, as he dropped his lilies, being to the English accordingly, that thenceforward they were to “hate a Frenchman as they did the Devil,” which, as you know, was Nelson’s notion of the spirit in which England expected every man to do his duty.

Next to the three Lions, however (all of them, you find, French), there is a shield bearing one Lion, “Rampant”—that is to say, climbing like a vine on a wall. Remember that the proper sense of the word “rampant” is “creeping,” as you say it of ground ivy, and such plants: and that a lion rampant—whether British, or as this one Scotch, is not at all, for his part, in what you are so fond of getting into—“an independent position,” nor even in a specifically leonine one, but rather generally feline, as of a cat, or other climbing animal, on a tree; whereas the three French Lions, or Lioncels, are “passant-gardant,” “passing on the look out,” as beasts of chase.

Round the rampant Scottish animal (I can’t find why the Scotch took him for their type) you observe farther, a double line, with—though almost too small to be seen—fleur-de-Lys at the knots and corners of it. This is the tressure, or binding belt, of the great Charles, who has really been to both English and Scottish lions what that absent Charles of the polar skies must, I suppose, have been to their Bear, and who entirely therefore deserves to be stellified by British astronomers. [13]

The Tressure, heraldically, records alliance of that Charlemagne with the Scottish King Achaius, and the vision by the Scottish army of St. Andrew’s cross—and the adoption of the same, with the Thistle and Rue, for their national device; of all which the excellent Scotch clergyman and historian, Robert Henry, giving no particular account, prefers to note, as an example of such miraculous appearances in Scotland, the introduction, by King Kenneth, the son of Alpine, of a shining figure “clothed in the skins of dried fish, which shone in the dark,” to his nobility and councillors, to give them heavenly admonitions “after they had composed themselves to rest.” Of course a Presbyterian divine must have more pleasure in recording a miracle so connected with the existing national interests of the herring and salmon fisheries, than the tradition of St. Andrew’s cross; and that tradition itself is so confused among Rodericks, Alpines, and Ferguses, that the ‘Lady of the Lake’ is about as trustworthy historical reading. But St. Andrew’s Cross and the Thistle—(I don’t know when the Rue, much the more honourable bearing of the two, was dropped)—are there, you see, to this day; and you must learn their story—but I’ve no time to go into that, now.

For England, the tressure really implies, though not in heraldry, more than for Scotland. For the Saxon seven kingdoms had fallen into quite murderous anarchy in Charlemagne’s time, and especially the most religious [14]of them, Northumberland; which then included all the country between the Frith of Forth and the Cheviots commanded by the fortress of Edwin’s Burg, (fortress now always standing in a rampant manner on its hind-legs, as the Modern Athens). But the pious Edwin’s spirit had long left his burg, and the state of the whole district from which the Saxon angels—(non Angli)—had gone forth to win the pity of Rome, was so distracted and hopeless that Charlemagne called them “worse than heathens,” and had like to have set his hand to exterminate them altogether; but the Third Fors ruled it otherwise, for luckily, a West Saxon Prince, Egbert, being driven to Charles’s court, in exile, Charles determined to make a man of him, and trained him to such true knighthood, that, recovering the throne of the West Saxons, the French-bred youth conquered the Heptarchy, and became the first King of “England” (all England);—and the Grandfather of Alfred.

Such belt of lilies did the French chivalry bind us with; the “tressure” of Charlemagne.

Of the fourth shield, bearing the Irish Harp, and the harmonious psalmody of which that instrument is significant, I have no time to speak to-day; nor of the vegetable heraldry between the shields;—but before you lay the florin down I must advise you that the very practical motto or war-cry which it now bears—“one tenth of a pound,” was not anciently the motto round the arms of England, that is to say, of English kings, (for republican [15]England has no shield); but a quite different one—to wit—“Accursed (or evil-spoken of, maledictus, opposed to well-spoken of, or benedictus,) be He who thinks Evil;” and that this motto ought to be written on another Tressure or band than Charlemagne’s, surrounding the entire shield—namely, on a lady’s garter; specifically the garter of the most beautiful and virtuous English lady, Alice of Salisbury, (of whom soon); and that without this tressure and motto, the mere shield of Lions is but a poor defence.

For this is a very great and lordly motto; marking the utmost point and acme of honour, which is not merely in doing no evil, but in thinking none; and teaching that the first—as indeed the last—nobility of Education is in the rule over our Thoughts, on which matter, I must digress for a minute or two.

Among the letters just received by me, as I told you, is one from a working man of considerable experience, which laments that, in his part of the country, “literary institutes are a failure.”

Indeed, your literary institutes must everywhere fail, as long as you think that merely to buy a book, and to know your letters, will enable you to read the book. Not one word of any book is readable by you except so far as your mind is one with its author’s, and not merely his words like your words, but his thoughts like your thoughts.

For instance, the other day, at a bookstall, I bought a shilling Shakespeare. To such degree of wealth, ingenuity, [16]and literary spirit, has the nineteenth century reached, that it has a shilling to spare for its Shakespeare—can produce its Shakespeare in a pocketable shape for that sum—and is ready to invest its earnings in a literature to that extent. Good. You have now your Shakespeare, complete, in your pocket; you will read the greatest of dramatic authors at your leisure, and form your literary taste on that model.

Suppose we read a line or two together then, you and I;—it may be, that I cannot, unless you help me.

“And there, at Venice, gave

His body to that pleasant country’s earth,

And his pure soul unto his Captain, Christ,

Under whose colours he had fought so long.”

What do you suppose Shakespeare means by calling Venice a “pleasant” country? What sort of country was, or would have been, pleasant to him? The same that is pleasant to you, or another kind of country? Was there any coal in that earth of Venice, for instance? Any gas to be made out of it? Any iron?

Again. What does Shakespeare mean by a “pure” soul, or by Purity in general? How does a soul become pure, or clean, and how dirty? Are you sure that your own soul is pure? if not, is its opinion on the subject of purity likely to be the same as Shakespeare’s? And might you not just as well read a mure soul, or demure, or a scure soul, or obscure, as a pure soul, if you don’t know what Shakespeare means by the word? [17]

Again. What does Shakespeare mean by a captain, or head-person? What were his notions of head-ship, shoulder-ship, or foot-ship, either in human or divine persons? Have you yourselves ever seen a captain, think you—of the true quality; (see above, xxii. 18;) and did you know him when you saw him?

Or again. What does Shakespeare mean by colours? The “gaily decorative bunting” of Howe and Cushing’s American Circus? Or the banners with invigorating inscriptions concerning Temperance and Free-trade, under which you walk in procession, sometimes, after a band? Or colours more dim and tattered than these?

What he does mean, in all these respects, we shall best understand by reading a little bit of the history of one of those English Squires, named above, for our study; (xxii. 18,) Edward III. of England, namely; since it was he who first quartered our arms for us; whom I cannot more honourably first exhibit to you than actually fighting under captainship and colours of his own choice, in the fashion Shakespeare meant.


Under captainship, mark you, though himself a King, and a proud one. Which came to pass thus: “When the King of England heard these news” (that Geoffrey of Chargny was drawing near his dear town of Calais, and that Amery of Pavia, the false Lombard, was keeping him in play,) “then the King set out from England with 300 men at arms, and 600 archers, and took ship at Dover, and by vespers arrived at Calais, and put his people in ambush in [18]the castle, and was with them himself. And said to the Lord de Manny: ‘Master Walter, I will that you should be the head in this need, for I and my son will fight under your banner.’2 Now My Lord Geoffrey of Chargny had left Arras on the last day of December, in the evening, with all his gens-d’-armes, and came near Calais about one in the morning,—and he said to his knights3 ‘Let the Lombard open the gates quickly—he makes us die of cold.’ ‘In God’s name,’ said Pepin de Werre, ‘the Lombards are cunning folks;—he will look at your florins first, to see that none are false.’ ” (You see how important this coin is; here is one engraved for you therefore—pure Florentine gold—that you may look at it honestly, and not like a Lombard.) “And at these words came the King of England, and his son at his side, under the banner of Master Walter de Manny; and there were other banners with them, to wit, the Count of Stafford’s, the Count of Suffolk’s, My Lord John de Montagu’s, My Lord Beauchamp’s, and the Lord de la Werre’s, and no more, that [19]day. When the French saw them come out, and heard the cry, ‘Manny, to the rescue,’ they knew they were betrayed.4 Then said Master Geoffrey to his people, ‘Lords, if we fly, we are lost; it is best to fight with good will;—hope is, we may gain the day.’ ‘By St. George,’ said the English, ‘you say true, and evil be to him who flies.’ Whereupon they drew back a little, being too crowded, and dismounted, and let their horses go. And the King of England, under the banner of Master Walter de Manny, came with his people, all on foot, to seek his enemies; who were set close, their lances cut short by five feet, in front of them” (set with the stumps against the ground and points forward, eight or ten feet long, still, though cut short by five). “At the first coming there was hard encounter, and the King stopped under” (opposite) “My Lord Eustace of Ribaumont, who was a strong and brave chevalier. And he fought the King so long that it was a wonder; yes, and much pleasure to see. Then they all joined battle,” (the English falling on, I think, because the King found he had enough on his hands, though without question one of the best knights in Europe;) “and there was a great coil, and a hard,—and there fought well, of the French, My Lord Geoffrey of Chargny and My Lord John of Landas, and My Lord Gawain of Bailleul, and the Sire of Cresques; and the others; but My Lord Eustace of Ribaumont passed all,—who that day struck the King to his knees twice; but in [20]the end gave his sword to the King, saying, ‘Sire Chevalier, I render me your prisoner, for the day must remain to the English.’ For by that time they were all taken or killed who were with My Lord Geoffrey of Chargny; and the last who was taken, and who had done most, was Master Eustace of Ribaumont.

“So when the need5 was past, the King of England drew back into Calais, into the castle; and made be brought all the prisoner-knights thither. And then the French knew that the King of England had been in it, in person, under the banner of Master Walter de Manny. So also the King sent to say to them, as it was the New-year’s night, he would give them all supper in his castle of Calais. So when the supper time came,” (early afternoon, 1st January, 1349) “the King and his knights dressed themselves, and all put on new robes; and the French also made themselves greatly splendid, for so the King wished, though they were prisoners. The King took seat, and set those knights beside him in much honour. And the gentle6 Prince of Wales and the knights of England served them, at the first course; and at the second course, went away [21]to another table. So they were served in peace, and in great leisure. When they had supped they took away the tables; but the King remained in the hall between those French and English knights; and he was bare-headed; only wearing a chaplet of pearls.7 And he began to go from one to another; and when he addressed himself to Master Geoffrey of Chargny, he altered countenance somewhat, and looking askance at him, said, ‘Master Geoffrey,—I owe you by right, little love, when you would have stolen by night what had cost me so dear. So glad and joyous I am, that I took you at the trial.’ At these words he passed on, and let Master Geoffrey alone, who answered no word; and so came the King to Master Eustace of Ribaumont, to whom he said joyously, ‘Master Eustace, you are the chevalier whom in all the world I have seen most valiantly attack his enemy and defend his body: neither did I ever find in battle any one who gave me so much work, body to body, as you did to-day. So I give you the prize of the day, and that over all the knights of my own court, by just sentence.’ Thereupon the King took off the chaplet, that he wore, (which was good and rich,) and put it on the head of My Lord Eustace; and said, ‘My Lord Eustace, I give you this chaplet, for that you have been the best fighter to-day of all those without or within, and I pray you that you wear it all this year for the love of me. I know well that you are gay, and loving, and glad to be among dames and damsels. So [22]therefore say to them whither-soever you go, that I gave it you; and so I quit you of your prison, and you may set forth to-morrow if it please you.’ ”

Now, if you have not enjoyed this bit of historical study, I tell you frankly, it is neither Edward the Third’s fault, nor Froissart’s, nor mine, but your own, for not having cheerfulness, loyalty, or generosity enough in you to understand what is going on. But even supposing you have these, and do enjoy the story as now read, it does not at all follow that you would enjoy it at your Literary Institute. There you would find, most probably, a modern abstract of the matter given in polished language. You would be fortunate if you chanced on so good a history as Robert Henry’s above referred to, which I always use myself, as intelligent, and trustworthy for general reference. But hear his polished account of this supper at Calais.

“As Edward was a great admirer of personal valour, he ordered all the French knights and gentlemen to be feasted by the Prince of Wales, in the great hall of the castle. The king entered the hall in the time of the banquet, and discovered to his prisoners that he had been present in the late conflict, and was the person who had fought hand to hand with the Sieur Ribaumont. Then, addressing himself to that gentleman, he gave him his liberty, presented him with a chaplet adorned with pearls, which he desired him to wear for his sake, and declared him to be the most expert and valorous knight with whom he had ever engaged.”

Now, supposing you can read no other history than [23]such as this, you had—with profoundest earnestness I say it—infinitely better read none. It is not the least necessary for you to know anything about Edward III.; but quite necessary for you to know something vital and real about somebody; and not to have polished language given you instead of life. “But you do enjoy it, in Froissart?” And you think it would have been, to you also, a “pleasure to see” that fight between Edward and the Sieur de Ribaumont? So be it: now let us compare with theirs, a piece of modern British fighting, done under no banner, and in no loyalty nor obedience, but in the independent spirit of freedom, and yet which, I think, it would have been no pleasure to any of us to see. As we compared before, loyal with free justice, so let us now compare loyal with free fighting. The most active of the contending parties are of your own class, too, I am sorry to say, and that the ‘Telegraph’ (16th Dec.) calls them many hard names; but I can’t remedy this without too many inverted commas.

Four savages—four brute beasts in human form we should rather say—named Slane, Rice, Hays, and Beesley, ranging in age between thirty-two and nineteen years, have been sentenced to death for the murder on the 6th of November last, at a place called Spennymoor, of one Joseph Waine. The convicts are Irishmen, and had been working as puddlers in the iron foundries. The principal offender was the ruffian Slane, who seems to have had some spite against the deceased, a very sober, quiet man, about forty years of age, who, with his wife and son, kept a little chandler’s shop at Spennymoor. Into this shop Slane came one [24]night, grossly insulted Waine, ultimately dragged him from the shop into a dark passage, tripped him up, holding his head between his legs, and then whistled for his three confederates. When Rice, Hayes, and Beesley appeared on the scene, they were instructed by the prime savage to hold Waine down—the wretch declaring, “If I get a running kick at him, it shall be his last.” The horrible miscreant did get a “running kick”—nay, more than a dozen—at his utterly powerless victim; and when Slane’s strength was getting exhausted the other three wretches set upon Waine, kicking him in the body with their hob-nailed boots, while the poor agonized wife strove vainly to save her husband. A lodger in the house, named Wilson, at last interfered, and the savages ran away. The object of their brutality lived just twenty-five minutes after the outrage, and the post-mortem examination showed that all the organs were perfectly healthy, and that death could only have arisen from the violence inflicted on Waine by these fiends, who were plainly identified by the widow and her son. It may be noticed, however, as a painfully significant circumstance, that the lodger Wilson, who was likewise a labouring man, and a most important witness for the prosecution, refused to give evidence, and, before the trial came on, absconded altogether.

Among the epithets bestowed by the ‘Telegraph’,—very properly, but unnecessarily—on these free British Operatives, there is one which needs some qualification;—that of “Miscreant,” or “Misbeliever,” which is only used accurately of Turks or other infidels, whereas it is probable these Irishmen were zealously religious persons, Evangelical or Catholic. But the perversion of the better faith by passion is indeed a worse form of “misbelieving” than the obedient keeping of a poorer creed; and thus [25]the word, if understood not of any special heresy, but of powerlessness to believe, with strength of imagination, in anything, goes to the root of the matter; which I must wait till after Christmas to dig for, having much else on my hands.

The first quiet and pure light that has risen this many a day, was increasing through the tall stems of the trees of our garden, which is walled by the walls of old Oxford; and a bird,—(I am going to lecture on ornithology next term, but don’t know what bird, and couldn’t go to ask the gardener,) singing steady, sweet, momentary notes, in a way that would have been very pleasant to me, once. And as I was breathing out of the window, thrown up as high as I could, (for my servant had made me an enormous fire, as servants always do on hot mornings,) and looking at the bright sickle of a moon, fading as she rose, the verse came into my mind,—I don’t in the least know why,—“Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;”—which chanced to express in the most precise terms, what I want you to feel, about Edward III.’s fighting, (though St. Paul is speaking of prayer, not of fighting, but it’s all the same;) as opposed to this modern British fighting, which is the lifting up of unholy hands,—feet, at least,—in wrath, and doubting. Also, just the minute before, I had upset my lucifer-match box, a nasty brown tin thing, containing,—as the spiteful Third [26]Fors would have it—just two hundred and sixty-six wax matches, half of which being in a heap on the floor, and the rest all at cross purposes, had to be picked up, put straight and repacked, and at my best time for other work. During this operation, necessarily deliberate, I was thinking of my correspondent’s query, (see terminal notes,) respecting what I meant by doing anything “in a hurry.” I mean essentially doing it in hurry of mind,—“doubting” whether we are doing it fast enough,—not knowing exactly how fast we can do it, or how slowly it must be done, to be done well. You cannot pack a lucifer-box, nor make a dish of stir-about, nor knead a brown loaf, but with patience; nor meet even the most pressing need, but with coolness. Once, when my father was coming home from Spain, in a merchant ship, and in mid-bay of Biscay, the captain and passengers being at dinner, the sea did something or other to the ship which showed that the steersman was not minding what he was about. The captain jumped straight over the table, went on deck, and took the helm. Now I do not mean that he ought to have gone round the table, but that, if a good captain, as he took the wheel, he would not miss his grasp of the spokes by snatching at them an instant too soon.

And you will find that St. Paul’s “without doubting”—for which, if you like, you may substitute, “by, or in, faith,” covers nearly every definition of right action—and also that it is not possible to have this kind of faith unless one can add—as he does—“having faith and a good conscience.” [27]It does not at all follow that one must be doing a right thing; that will depend on one’s sense and information; but one must be doing deliberately a thing we entirely suppose to be right, or we shall not do it becomingly.

Thus, observe, I enter into no question at present as to the absolute rightness of King Edward’s fighting, which caused, that day, at Calais, the deaths of more than four hundred innocent men; nor as to the absolute wrongness of the four Irishmen’s fighting, which causes only the death of one, (—who also may, for aught I know, have done something really seeming evil to the dull creatures)—but there is no doubt that the King fought wholly without wrath, and without doubting his rightness; and they with vile wrath and miserable consciousness of doing wrong; and that you have in the two scenes, as perfect types as I can put before you of entirely good ancient French breeding, and entirely bad modern British breeding.

Breeding;—observe the word; I mean it literally; involving first the race—and then the habits enforced in youth: entirely excluding intellectual conclusions. The “breeding” of a man is what he gets from the Centaur Chiron; the “beastly” part of him in a good sense;—that which makes him courageous by instinct, true by instinct, loving by instinct, as a Dog is; and therefore felicitously above or below (whichever you like to call it,) all questions of philosophy and divinity. [28]

And of both the Centaur Chiron, and St. George, one, the typical Greek tutor of gentlemen, and the other, the type of Christian gentlemen, I meant to tell you in this letter; and the Third Fors won’t let me, yet, and I scarcely know when; for before we leave King Edward, lest you should suppose I mean to set him up for a saint instead of St. George, you must hear the truth of his first interview with Alice of Salisbury,—(he had seen her married, but not noticed her then, particularly,)—wherein you will see him becoming doubtful, and of little faith, or distorted faith, “miscreant”; but the lady Alice no wise doubtful; wherefore she becomes worthy to give the shield of England its “tressure” and St. George’s company their watchword, as aforesaid.

But her story must not be told in the same letter with that of our modern British courage; and now that I think of it, St. George’s had better be first told in February, when, I hope, some crocuses will be up, and an amaryllis or two, St. George having much interest in both. [29]



In an interesting letter “for self and mates” a Manchester working man asks me the meaning of “Fors Clavigera” (surely enough explained in II. 4?) and whether I mean by vulgarity “commonness,” and why I say that doing anything in a hurry is vulgar. I do not mean by vulgarity, commonness. A daisy is common; and a baby, not uncommon. Neither are vulgar. Has my correspondent really no perception of the difference between good breeding and vulgarity?—if he will tell me this, I will try to answer him more distinctly: meantime, if in the Salford Library there is a copy of my ‘Modern Painters,’ let him look at Vol. V., Part IX., Chap. VII.

He says also that he and his mates must do many things in a hurry.

I know it. But do they suppose such compulsion is a law of Heaven? or that, if not, it is likely to last?

I was greatly pleased by Mr. Affleck’s letter, and would have told him so; only he gave me his address in Gordon Street, without telling me of what town. His post-mark was Galashiels, which I tried, and Edinburgh; but only with embarrassment to Her Majesty’s service.

Another communication, very naïve and honest, came from a Republican of literary tastes, who wished to assist me in the development of my plans in ‘Fors;’ and, in the course of resulting correspondence, expressed his willingness to answer any questions [30]I might wish to put to him. I answered that I imagined myself, as far as I thought needful for me, acquainted with his opinions; but that perhaps he might wish to know something more definite about mine, and that if he liked to put any questions to me, I would do my best to reply intelligibly. Whereupon, apparently much pleased, he sent me the following eleven interrogations, to each of which I have accordingly given solution, to the best of my ability.

1. “Can the world—its oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, continents, islands, or portions thereof, be rightfully treated by human legislators as the ‘private property’ of individuals?”

Ans. Certainly. Else would man be more wretched than the beasts, who at least have dens of their own.

2. “Should cost be the limit of price?”

Ans. It never was, and never can be. So we need not ask whether it should be.

3. “Can one man rightfully tax another man?”

Ans. By all means. Indeed, I have seldom heard of anybody who would tax himself.

4. “Can a million men rightfully tax other men?”

Ans. Certainly, when the other men are not strong enough to tax the million.

5. “Should not each adult inhabitant of a country (who performs service equivalent in value to his or her use of the service of other inhabitants) have electoral rights granted equal to those granted to any other inhabitant?”

Ans. Heaven forbid! It is not everybody one would set to choose a horse, or a pig. How much less a member of Parliament?

6. “Is it not an injustice for a State to require or try to enforce, allegiance to the State from self-supporting adults, who have never been permitted to share in the framing or endorsing of the laws they are expected to obey?” [31]

Ans. Certainly not. Laws are usually most beneficial in operation on the people who would have most strongly objected to their enactment.

7. “The Parliament of this country is now almost exclusively composed of representatives of the classes whose time is mostly occupied in consuming and destroying. Is this statement true? If true—is it right that it should be so?”

Ans. The statement is untrue. A railway navvy consumes, usually, about six times as much as an average member of Parliament; and I know nothing which members of Parliament kill, except time, which other people would not kill, if they were allowed to. It is the Parliamentary tendency to preservation, rather than to destruction, which I have mostly heard complained of.

8. “The State undertakes the carriage and delivery of letters. Would it be just as consistent and advisable for the State to undertake the supply of unadulterated and wholesome food, clean and healthy dwellings, elementary, industrial, and scientific instruction, medical assistance, a national paper money, and other necessities?”

Ans. All most desirable. But the tax-gatherers would have a busy life of it!

9. “Should not a State represent the co-operation of all the people of a country, for the benefit of all?”

Ans. You mean, I suppose, by “a State” the Government of a State. The Government cannot “represent” such co-operation; but can enforce it, and should.

10. “Is the use of scarce metals as material of which to make ‘currency,’ economical and beneficent to a nation?”

Ans. No; but often necessary: see ‘Munera Pulveris,’ chap. iii.

11. “Is that a right condition of a people, their laws, and their money which makes ‘interest’ for use of money legal and possible to obtain?” [32]

Ans. See ‘Fors Clavigera,’ throughout, which indeed I have written to save you the trouble of asking questions on such subjects.

It might be well if my Republican correspondent for his own benefit, would write down an exact definition of the following terms used by him:—

  • 1. “Private property.”
  • 2. “Tax.”
  • 3. “State.”


1 Guillim, Ed. 1638. 

2 The reason of this honour to Sir Walter was that he had been the first English knight who rode into France after the king had quartered the Fleur-de-Lys. 

3 I omit much, without putting stars, in these bits of translation. By the way, in last ‘Fors,’ p. 21, note, for “insert,” read “omit.” 

4 Not unfairly; only having to fight for their Calais instead of getting in for a bribe. 

5 Besogne. “The thing that has to be done”—word used still in household service, but impossible to translate; we have no such concentrated one in English. 

6 The passage is entirely spoiled in Johnes’ translation by the use of the word ‘gallant’ instead of ‘gentle’ for the French ‘gentil.’ The boy was not yet nineteen, (born at Woodstock, June 15, 1330,) and his father thirty-six: fancy how pretty to see the one waiting on the other, with the French knights at his side. 

7 Sacred fillet, or “diadema,” the noblest, as the most ancient, crown. 




“By St. George,” said the English, “you say true!”

If, by the same oath, the English could still, now-a-days, both say and do true, themselves, it would be a merrier England. I hear from those of my acquaintance who are unhappy enough to be engaged in commercial operations, that their correspondents are “failing in all directions.”

Failing! What business has anybody to fail?

I observe myself to be getting into the habit of always thinking the last blockheadism I hear, or think of, the biggest. But this system of mercantile credit, invented simply to give power and opportunity to rogues, and enable them to live upon the wreck of honest men—was ever anything like it in the world before? That the wretched, impatient, scrambling idiots, calling themselves [2]commercial men, forsooth, should not be able so much as to see this plainest of all facts, that any given sum of money will be as serviceable to commerce in the pocket of the seller of the goods, as of the buyer; and that nobody gains one farthing by “credit” in the long run. It is precisely as great a loss to commerce that every seller has to wait six months for his money, as it is a gain to commerce that every buyer should keep his money six months in his pocket. In reality there is neither gain nor loss—except by roguery, when the gain is all to the rogue, and the loss to the true man.

In all wise commerce, payment, large or small, should be over the counter. If you can’t pay for a thing—don’t buy it. If you can’t get paid for it—don’t sell it. So, you will have calm days, drowsy nights, all the good business you have now, and none of the bad.

(Just as I am correcting this sheet I get a lovely illuminated circular, printed in blue and red, from Messrs. Howell, James, and Co., silk mercers, etc., to the Royal Family, which respectfully announces that their half-yearly clearance sale



and continues one month, and that the whole of the valuable stock will be completely overhauled, and large portions subjected to such reductions in price, as will ensure their being disposed [3]of prior to the commencement of the approaching spring season. Each department will present special attractions in the way of bargains, and ladies will have an opportunity of purchasing the highest class of goods at prices quite as low as those of inferior manufacture. What a quite beautiful and generally satisfactory commercial arrangement, most obliging H. and J.!)

If, however, for the nonce, you chance to have such a thing as a real “pound” in your own pocket, besides the hypothetical pounds you have in other people’s—put it on the table, and let us look at it together.

As a piece of mere die-cutting, that St. George is one of the best bits of work we have on our money.1 But as a design,—how brightly comic it is! The horse looking abstractedly into the air, instead of where precisely it would have looked, at the beast between its legs: St. George, with nothing but his helmet on (being the last piece of armour he is likely to want), putting his naked feet, at least his feet showing their toes through the buskins, well forward, that the dragon may with the greatest convenience get a bite at them; and about to deliver a mortal blow at him with a sword which cannot reach him by a couple of yards—or, I think, in George III.’s piece—with a field-marshal’s truncheon. [4]

Victor Carpaccio had other opinions on the likelihood of matters in this battle. His St. George exactly reverses the practice of ours. He rides armed, from shoulder to heel, in proof—but without his helmet. For the real difficulty in dragon-fights, as you shall hear, is not so much to kill your dragon, as to see him; at least to see him in time, it being too probable that he will see you first. Carpaccio’s St. George will have his eyes about him, and his head free to turn this way or that. He meets his dragon at the gallop—catches him in the mouth with his lance—carries him backwards off his fore feet, with the spear point out at the back of his neck. But Victor Carpaccio had seen knights tilting; and poor Pistrucci, who designed this St. George for us, though he would have been a good sculptor in luckier circumstances, had only seen them presenting addresses as my Lord Mayor, and killing turtle instead of dragon.

And, to our increasing sorrow, modern literature is as unsatisfactory in its picturing of St. George as modern art. Here is Mr. Emerson’s bas-relief of the Saint, given in his ‘English Traits,’ a book occasionally wise, and always observant as to matters actually proceeding in the world; but thus, in its ninth chapter, calumnious of our Georgic faith:

“George of Cappadocia, born at Epiphania in Cilicia, was a low parasite, who got a lucrative contract to supply the army with bacon. A rogue and informer; he got rich, and was forced to run from justice. He saved his [5]money, embraced Arianism, collected a library, and got promoted by a faction to the episcopal throne of Alexandria. When Julian came, A.D. 361, George was dragged to prison. The prison was burst open by the mob, and George was lynched, as he deserved. And this precious knave became, in good time, Saint George of England—patron of chivalry, emblem of victory and civility, and the pride of the best blood of the modern world!”

Here is a goodly patron of our dainty doings in Hanover Square! If all be indeed as our clear-sighted, unimaginative, American cousin tells us. But if all be indeed so, what conclusion would our American cousin draw from it? The sentence is amusing—the facts (if facts) surprising. But what is to follow? Mr. Emerson’s own conclusion is “that nature trips us up when we strut.” But that is, in the first place, untrue absolutely, for Nature teaches all cock-sparrows, and their like (who are many) to strut; and never without wholesome effect on the minds of hen-sparrows, and their like, who are likewise many. But in its relative, if not absolute, truth, is this the conclusion here wisely to be gathered? Are “chivalry, victory, civility, and the pride of the best blood of the modern world,” generally to be described as “strutting?” And is the discovery of the peculations of George of Cilicia a wholesome reproof, administered by Nature, to those unnatural modes of thinking and feeling?

Mr. Emerson does not think so. No modern person [6]has truer instinct for heroism than he: nay, he is the only man I know of, among all who ever looked at books of mine, who had nobleness enough to understand and believe the story of Turner’s darkening his own picture that it might not take the light out of Lawrence’s. The level of vulgar English temper is now sunk so far below the power of doing such a thing, that I never told the story yet, in general society, without being met by instant and obstinate questioning of its truth, if not by quiet incredulity. But men with “the pride of the best blood of England” can believe it; and Mr. Emerson believes it. And yet this chivalry, and faith, and fire of heart, recognised by him as existent, confuse themselves in his mind with effete Gothic tradition; and are all “tripped up” by his investigation, itself superficial, of the story of St. George. In quieter thought, he would have felt that the chivalry and victory, being themselves real, must have been achieved, at some time or another, by a real chevalier and victor,—nay, by thousands of chevaliers and victors. That instead of one St. George, there must have been armies of St. Georges;—that this vision of a single Knight was as securely the symbol of knights innumerable, as the one Dragon of sins and trials innumerable; and no more depended for its vitality, or virtue, on the behaviour of George of Cilicia than the terror of the present temptation depends on the natural history of the rattlesnake. And farther, being an American, he should have seen that the fact of the [7]Christian world’s having made a bishop of a speculating bacon-seller, and afterwards kept reverent record of this false St. George, but only obscure record of its real St. Georges, was by no means an isolated fact in the history of the Christian world,—but rather a part of its confirmed custom and “practical education;” and that, only the other day, St. James Fiske, canonised tearfully in America, and bestrewn with tuberoses and camellias, as above described, (xv. 14), was a military gentleman of exactly the type of the Cilician St. George.

Farther. How did it never occur to Mr. Emerson that, whether his story of the bookcollecting bishop were true or not, it was certainly not the story told to Cœur-de-Lion, or to Edward III., when they took St. George for their Master? No bookcollecting episcopal person, had he been ever so much a saint, would have served them to swear by, or to strike by. They must have heard some other story;—not, perhaps, one written down, nor needing to be written. A remembered story,—yet, probably, a little truer than the written one; and a little older.

It is, above all, strange that the confusion of his own first sentence did not strike him, “George of Cappadocia, born in Cilicia.” It is true that the bacon-selling and book-collecting Arian bishop was born in Cilicia, and that this Arian bishop was called George. But the Arians only contrived to get this bishop of theirs thought of as a saint at all, because there was an antecedent [8]St. George, with whom he might be confused; a St. George, indeed, “of Cappadocia;” and as it chanced that their own bishop came out of Cappadocia to his bishopric, very few years after his death sufficed to render the equivocation possible. But the real St. George had been martyred seventy years before, A.D. 290, whereas the Arian bishop was killed in 361. And this is the story of the real St. George, which filled the heart of the early Christian church, and was heard by Cœur-de-Lion and by Edward III., somewhat in this following form, it, luckily for us, having been at least once fairly written out, in the tenth century, by the best eastern scholar who occupied himself with the history of Saints. I give you an old English translation of it, rather than my own, from p. 132 of the ‘Historie of that most famous Saint and Souldier of Christ Jesus, St. George of Cappadocia, asserted from the fictions of the middle ages of the Church, and opposition of the present, by Peter Heylyn; printed in London for Henry Seyle, and to be sold at his shop the signe of the Tyger’s head in St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1631.’

“St. George was born in Cappadocia, of Christian parents, and those not of the meanest qualitie: by whom he was brought up in true Religion, and the feare of God. Hee was no sooner past his Childhood, but hee lost his father, bravely encountring with the enemies of Christ; and thereupon departed with his afflicted Mother into Palestine, whereof she was a native; and where great [9]fortunes and a faire inheritance did fall unto him. Thus qualified in birth, and being also of an able bodie, and of an age fit for employment in the warres; hee was made a Colonell.” (This word is explained, above, xv. 15.) “In which employment hee gave such testimonies of his valour, and behav’d himselfe so nobly; that forthwith Diocletian, not knowing yet that he was a Christian, advanc’d him to the place and dignitie of his Councell for the warres; (for so on good authoritie I have made bold to render ‘Comes’ in this place and time). About this time his Mother dyed: and hee, augmenting the heroicke resolutions of his mind, with the increase of his revenue, did presently applie himselfe unto the Court and service of his Prince; his twentieth yeere being even then compleat and ended.”

“But Diocletian being soon after compelled into his persecution of the Christians” (Heylyn now gives abstract of his author,) “and warrants granted out unto the officers and rulers of the Provinces to speed the execution, and that done also in frequent senate, the Emperour there himself in person, St. George, though not yet sainted, could continue no longer, but there exposed himself unto their fury and his owne glory:” (Translation begins again.)

“When therefore George, even in the first beginnings, had observ’d the extraordinarie cruelty of these proceedings, hee presently put off his military habiliments, and, making dole of all his substance to the poore, on the [10]third Session of the Senate, when the Imperiall decree was to be verified, quite voide of feare, he came into the Senate-house, and spake unto them in this manner. ‘How long, most noble Emperour and you Conscript Fathers, will you augment your tyrannies against the Christians? How long will you enact unjust and cruell Lawes against them, compelling those which are aright instructed in the faith, to follow that Religion, of whose truth your selves are doubtfull. Your Idols are no Gods, and I am bold to say againe, they are not. Be not you longer couzned in the same errour. Our Christ alone is God, he only is the Lord, in the glory of the Father. Eyther do you therefore acknowledge that Religion which undoubtedly is true: or else disturbe not them by your raging follies, which would willingly embrace it.’ This said, and all the Senate wonderfully amazed at the free speech and boldnesse of the man;” (and no wonder;—my own impression is indeed that most martyrs have been made away with less for their faith than their incivility. I have always a lurking sympathy with the Heathen;) “they all of them turn’d their eyes upon the Emperour, expecting what hee would reply: who beckoning to Magnentius, then Consull, and one of his speciall Favourites, to returne an answere; hee presently applyed himselfe to satisfie his Prince’s pleasure.”

“Further” (says Heylyn) “we will not prosecute the storie in our Authors words, which are long and full of needlesse conference; but will briefly declare the substance [11]of it, which is this. Upon St. George’s constant profession of his Faith, they wooed him first with promises of future honours, and more faire advancements: but finding him unmoveable, not to be wrought upon with words, they tried him next with torments: not sparing anything which might expresse their cruelty or enoble his affliction. When they saw all was fruitlesse, at last the fatall Sentence was pronounced against him in this manner: that, beeing had againe to prison, hee should the following day be drawne through the City and beheaded.

“Which sentence was accordingly performed, and George invested with the glorious Crowne of Martyrdome upon the 23. day of April, Anno Domini nostri, 290.”

That is St. George’s “true” story, how far literally true is of no moment; it is enough for us that a young soldier, in early days of Christianity, put off his armour, and gave up his soul to his Captain, Christ; and that his death did so impress the hearts of all Christian men who heard of it, that gradually he became to them the leader of a sacred soldiership, which conquers more than its mortal enemies, and prevails against the poison, and the shadow, of Pride, and Death.

And above all, his putting off his knight’s armour, especially the military belt, as then taking service with Christ instead of the Roman Emperor, impressed the minds of the later Christian knights; because of the law referred to by St. Golden-Lips (quoted by Heylyn farther [12]on), “No one, who is an officer, would dare to appear without his zone and mantle before him who wears the diadem.” So that having thus voluntarily humbled himself, he is thought of as chiefly exalted among Christian soldiers, and called, not only “the great Martyr,” but the “Standard Bearer,” (Tropæophorus). Whence he afterwards becomes the knight bearing the bloody cross on the argent field, and the Captain of Christian war.

The representation of all his spiritual enemies under the form of the Dragon was simply the natural habit of the Greek mind: the stories of Apollo delivering Latona from the Python, and of Perseus delivering Andromeda from the sea monster, had been as familiar as the pitcher and wine-cups they had been painted on, in red and black, for a thousand years before: and the name of St. George, the “Earthworker,” or “Husbandman,”2 connected him instantly, in Greek thoughts, not only with the ancient dragon, Erichthonius, but with the Spirit of agriculture, called “Thricewarrior” to whom the dragon was a harnessed creature of toil. Yet, so far as I know, it was not until the more strictly Christian tradition of the armed archangel Michael confused its symbolism with that of the armed saint, that the dragon enters definitely into the story of St. George. The authoritative course of Byzantine painting, sanctioned and restricted by the Church in [13]the treatment of every subject, invariably represents St. George as the soldier Martyr, or witness, before Diocletian, never as victor over the dragon:3 his story, as the painters tell it, corresponds closely with that of St. Catherine of Sinai;4 and is, in the root of it, truth, and in the branching of it, beautiful dream, of the same wild and lovely character. And we might as well confuse Catherine of Sinai with Catherine of Siena (or for that matter, Catherine de Medicis!), as St. George of the Eastern Church with George the Arian. And this witness of painting remains simple and unbroken, down to the last days of Venice. St. Mark, St. Nicholas, and St. George are the three saints who are seen, in the vision of the Fisherman, delivering Venice from the fiends. St. George, first “of the seaweed,” has three other churches besides in Venice; and it will be the best work I have ever done in this broken life of mine, if I can some day show you, [14]however dimly, how Victor Carpaccio has painted him in the humblest of these,—the little chapel of St. George on the “Shore of the Slaves.” There, however, our dragon does not fail us, both Carpaccio and Tintoret having the deepest convictions on that subject;—as all strong men must have; for the Dragon is too true a creature, to all such, spiritually. That it is an indisputably living and venomous creature, materially, has been the marvel of the world, innocent and guilty, not knowing what to think of the terrible worm; nor whether to worship it, as the Rod of their lawgiver, or to abhor it as the visible symbol of the everlasting Disobedience.

Touching which mystery, you must learn one or two main facts.

The word ‘Dragon,’ means “the Seeing Creature,” and I believe the Greeks had the same notion in their other word for a serpent, “ophis.” There were many other creeping, and crawling, and rampant things; the olive stem and the ivy were serpentine enough, blindly; but here was a creeping thing that saw!

The action of the cobra, with its lifted and levelled head, and the watchfulness of the coiled viper impressed the Egyptians and Greeks intensely. To the Egyptian the serpent was awful and sacred, and became the ornament on the front of the King’s diadems (though an evil spirit also, when not erect). The Greeks never could make up their minds about it. All human life seems to them as the story of Laocoon. The fiery serpents slay us for our [15]wisdom and fidelity;—then writhe themselves into rest at the feet of the Gods.

The Egyptians were at the same pause as to their Nile Dragon, for whom I told you they built their labyrinth. “For in the eyes of some of the Egyptians, the crocodiles are sacred; but by others they are held for enemies. And it is they who dwell by the Lake Mœris, who think them greatly sacred. Every one of these lake people has care of his own crocodile, taught to be obedient to the lifting of finger. And they put jewels of enamel and gold into their ears, and bracelets on their forefeet, and feed them with the sacred shew-bread daily, and attend upon them, that they may live beautiful lives; and, when they die, bury them, embalmed, in holy tombs.” (Thus religion, as a pious friend, I observe, writes in a Devonshire paper the other day, leads to the love of Nature!) “But they of the city Elephantine eat their crocodiles, holding them nowise sacred. Neither do they call them crocodiles, but champsæ; it is the Ionians who call them “crocodiles,” because they think them like the little crocodiles that live in the dry stone walls.”

I do not know if children generally have strong associative fancy about words; but when I was a child, that word “Crocodile” always seemed to me very terrific, and I would even hastily, in any book, turn a leaf in which it was printed with a capital C. If anybody had but told me the meaning of it—“a creature that is afraid of crocuses!”

That, at least, is all I can make of it, now; though I [16]can’t understand how this weakness of the lizard mind was ever discovered, for lizards never see crocuses, that I know of. The next I meet in Italy, (poor little, glancing, panting things,—I miss them a little here from my mossy walls)—shall be shown an artificial crocus, Paris-made; we will see what it thinks of it! But however it came to be given, for the great Spirit-Lizard, the name is a good one. For as the wise German’s final definition of the Devil (in the second part of Faust) is that he is afraid of roses, so the earliest and simplest possible definition of him is that in spring time he is afraid of crocuses; which I am quite sure, both our farmers and manufacturers are now, in England, to the utmost. On the contrary, the Athenian Spirit of Wisdom was so fond of crocuses that she made her own robe crocus-colour, before embroidering it with the wars of the Giants; she being greatly antagonistic to the temper which dresses sisters of charity in black, for a crocus-colour dress was much the gayest—not to say the giddiest—thing she could possibly wear in Athens.

And of the crocus, vernal, and autumnal, more properly the enchanted herb of Colchis, (see, by the way, White’s ‘History of Selborne’ at the end of its 41st letter) I must tell you somewhat more in next letter; meantime, look at the saffron crest in the centre of it, carefully, and read, with some sympathy, if you can, this true story of a crocus, which being told me the other day by one who, whether I call him friend or not, is indeed friendly to me, [17]and to all whom he can befriend, I begged him to write it for your sakes, which he has thus graciously done:—


“It is impossible to describe the delight which I took in my first flower, yet it was only a poor peeky, little sprouting crocus. Before I begin the story, I must, in two lines, make known my needy state at the time when I became the owner of the flower. I was in my eleventh year, meanly clothed, plainly fed, and penniless; an errand boy in receipt of one shilling and sixpence a week, which sum I consumed in bread and shoe leather. Yet I was happy enough, living in a snug cottage in the suburbs of Oxford, within sight of its towers, and within hearing of its bells. In the back yard of my home were many wonders. The gable end of a barn was mantled with ivy, centuries old, and sparrows made their home in its leafage; an ancient wall, old as the Norman tower at the other end of the town, was rich in gilly-flowers; a wooden shed, with red tiles, was covered by a thriving “tea tree,” so we called it, which in summer was all blossom, pendant mauve coloured blossoms. This tree managed to interlace its branches among the tiles so effectively as in the end to lift off the whole roof in a mass, and poise it in the air. Bees came in swarms to sip honey at the blossoms: I noted civilised hive bees, and large ones whose waxen cells were hidden in mossy banks in the woods—these had [18]crimson and saffron tinted bodies, or, for variety, hairy shapes of sombre green and black. I was never weary of my wall-flowers, and bees, and butterflies. But, so it is, I happened one day to get a glimpse of a college garden about the end of February, or the beginning of March, when its mound of venerable elms was lit up with star-like yellow flowers. The dark earth was robed as with a bright garment of imperial, oriental splendour. It was the star-shaped aconite, as I believe, but am not sure, whose existence in flower is brief, but glorious, when beheld, as I beheld it, in masses. Henceforth, if Old Fidget, the gardener, was not at the back gate of St. J—— I peeped through the keyhole at my yellow garden bed, which seemed flooded with sunlight, only broken by patches of rich black earth, which formed strange patterns, such as we see on Japanese screens of laquer and bronze, only that the flowers had a glory of their own. Well, I looked through the keyhole every time I passed, and that was four times daily, and always with increased interest for my flowering aconite. But oh! trouble upon trouble, one day I found the keyhole stopt, and there was an end of my daily joy, and of the interest which had been awakened in me, in a new way, for the wonders of nature. My love of flowers, however, increased, and I found means to feed my love. I had often observed Old Fidget, the head gardener, and his mates, bring out wheelbarrow loads of refuse from the shrubbery and flower beds, and throw them [19]in a heap along the garden wall without, where a long, deep trench had become the well-known receptacle for rubbish. Such places were common in town suburbs in those days. The rubbish consisted of cuttings of shrubs and plants, and rakings of flower-borders, but more bountifully, of elm leaves, and the cast off clothing of chestnut trees, which soon lay rotting in flaky masses, until I happened to espy a fragment of a bulb, and then, the rubbish of the garden, which concealed sprouting chestnuts, knew no rest. I went, one holiday, and dug deep, with no other implement than my hands, into this matted mass. I laboured, till at length, in a mass of closely pressed leaves, I came upon a perfect crocus. It lay like a dead elfin infant in its forest grave. I was enchanted, and afraid to touch it, as one would fear to commit a piece of sacrilege. It lay in its green robes, which seemed spun from dainty silken threads unsoiled by mortal hands. Its blossom of pale flesh tint lay concealed within a creamy opalescent film, which seemed to revive and live when the light penetrated the darksome tomb, contrasting with the emerald robes, and silken, pliant roots. At length I lifted the flower from its bed, and carried it to my garden plot with breathless care. My garden plot, not much larger than a large baking dish, was enclosed by broken tiles, a scrubby place, unsuited to my newly discovered treasure. I broke up the earth and pulverised it with my fingers, but its coarseness was incurable. I abandoned it as I thought [20]of some mole hills in a neighbouring copse, and soon my plot was filled deeply with soft sandy soil, fit for my flower. And then came the necessity of protecting it from the searching March winds, which I did effectually by covering it with a flower pot, and the season wore on, and soft, mild days set in apace, and my flower, which was ever uppermost in my thoughts, whether sleeping or waking, began to show signs of life, as day by day I permitted the sun to look at it, until at length, one sunny, silent, Sunday morning, it opened its glowing, golden, sacramental cup, gleaming like light from heaven—dropt in a dark place, living light and fire. So it seemed to my poor vision, and I called the household and the neighbours from their cares to share my rapture. But alas! my dream was ended; the flower had no fascination for those who came at my call. It was but a yellow crocus to them—some laughed, some tittered, some jeered me, and old Dick Willis, poor man, who got a crust by selling soft water by the pail, he only rubbed his dim eyes, and exclaimed in pity, “God bless the poor boy!”

Little thinking how much he was already blessed,—he—and his flower!

For indeed Crocus and Carduus are alike Benedict flowers, if only one knew God’s gold and purple from the Devil’s, which, with St. George’s help, and St. Anthony’s,—the one well knowing the flowers of the field, and the other those of the desert,—we will try somewhat to discern. [1]

1 The best is on George III.’s pound, 1820, the most finished in work on George IV.’s crown-piece, 1821. 

2 More properly ‘named from the husbandman.’ Thus Lycus is ‘a wolf,’ Lycius, ‘named from the wolf,’ or ‘wolfish.’ So, Georgus is ‘a husbandman,’ Georgius, ‘named from the husbandman,’ or ‘husbandmannish.’ 

3 See the complete series of subjects as given by M. Didron in his ‘Iconographie Chrétienne’ (8vo. Paris, 1845, p. 369), and note the most interesting trace of the idea of Triptolemus, in the attendant child with the water-pitcher behind the equestrian figure of the Saint. 

4 You will find that in my 19th letter, p. 11, I propose that our St. George’s Company in England shall be under the patronage also of St. Anthony in Italy. And in general, we will hold ourselves bound to reverence, in one mind, with Carpaccio and the good Painters and Merchants of Venice, the eight great Saints of the Greek Church,—namely (in the order M. Didron gives them)—the Archangel Michael, the Precursor (John Baptist), St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Nicholas, St. George, Ste. Catherine of Sinai, and St. Anthony, these being patrons of our chief occupations, (while, over our banking operations we will have for patron or principal manager, the more modern Western Saint, Francis of Assisi;) meaning always no disrespect to St. Jerome or Ste. Cecilia, in case we need help in our literature or music. 




“If it were not so, I would have told you.”

I read those strange words of St. John’s gospel this morning, for at least the thousandth time; and for the first time, that I remember, with any attention. It is difficult, if not impossible, to attend rightly without some definite motive, or chance-help, to words which one has read and re-read till every one of them slips into its place unnoticed, as a familiar guest,—unchallenged as a household friend. But the Third Fors helped me, to-day, by half effacing the n in the word Mona, in the tenth century MS. I was deciphering; and making me look at the word, till I began to think of it, and wondered. You may as well learn the old meaning of that pretty name of the isle of Anglesea. “In my Father’s house,” says Christ, “are many monas,”—remaining-places—“if it were not so, I would have told you.” [2]

Alas, had He but told us more clearly that it was so!

I have the profoundest sympathy with St. Thomas, and would fain put all his questions over again, and twice as many more. “We know not whither Thou goest.” That Father’s house,—where is it? These “remaining-places,” how are they to be prepared for us?—how are we to be prepared for them?

If ever your clergy mean really to help you to read your Bible,—the whole of it, and not merely the bits which tell you that you are miserable sinners, and that you needn’t mind,—they must make a translation retaining as many as possible of the words in their Greek form, which you may easily learn, and yet which will be quit of the danger of becoming debased by any vulgar English use. So also, the same word must always be given when it is the same; and not in one place translated “mansion,” and in another “abode.” (Compare verse 23 of this same chapter.1) Not but that “mansion” is a very fine Latin word, and perfectly correct, (if only one knows Latin,) but I doubt not that most parish children understand by it, if anything, a splendid house with two wings, and an acre or two of offices, in the middle of a celestial park; and suppose that some day or other they are all of them to live in such, as well as the Squire’s children; whereas, if either “mona” or “remaining” were put in both verses, it [3]is just possible that sometimes both the Squire and the children, instead of vaguely hoping to be lodged some day in heaven by Christ and His Father, might take notice of their offer in the last verse I have quoted, and get ready a spare room both in the mansion and cottage, to offer Christ and His Father immediately, if they liked to come into lodgings on earth.

I was looking over some of my own children’s books the other day, in the course of rearranging the waifs and strays of Denmark Hill at Brantwood; and came upon a catechism of a very solemn character on the subject of the County of Kent. It opens by demanding “the situation of Kent;” then, the extent of Kent,—the population of Kent, and a sketch of the history of Kent; in which I notice with interest that hops were first grown in Kent in 1524, and petitioned against as a wicked weed in 1528. Then, taking up the subject in detail, inquiry is made as to “the situation of Dover?” To which the orthodox reply is that Dover is pleasantly situated on that part of the island of Great Britain nearest the Continent, and stands in a valley between stupendous hills. To the next question, “What is the present state of Dover?” the well-instructed infant must answer, “That Dover consists of two parts, the upper, called the Town, and the lower, the Pier; and that they are connected by a long narrow street, which, from the rocks that hang over it, and seem to threaten the passenger with destruction, has received [4]the name of Snaregate Street.” The catechism next tests the views of the young respondent upon the municipal government of Dover, the commercial position of Dover, and the names of the eminent men whom Dover has produced; and at last, after giving a proper account of the Castle of Dover and the two churches in Dover, we are required to state whether there is not an interesting relic of antiquity in the vicinity of Dover; upon which, we observe that, about two miles north-west from Dover, are the remains of St. Radagune’s Abbey, now converted into a farm-house; and finally, to the crucial interrogation—“What nobleman’s seat is near Dover?” we reply, with more than usual unction, that “In the Parish of Waldershaw, five miles and a half from Dover, is Waldershaw Park, the elegant seat of the Earl of Guildford, and that the house is a magnificent structure, situated in a vale, in the centre of a well-wooded Park.” Whereat I stopped reading; first, because St. Radagune’s Abbey, though it is nothing but walls with a few holes through them by which the cows get in for shelter on windy days, was the first “remaining” of Antiquity I ever sketched, when a boy of fourteen, spending half my best BB pencil on the ivy and the holes in the walls; and, secondly, the tone of these two connected questions in the catechism marks exactly the curious period in the English mind when the worship of St. Radagune was indeed utterly extinct, so that her once elegant mansion becomes a farm-house, as in that guise fulfilling [5]its now legitimate function:—but the worship of Earls of Guildford is still so flourishing that no idea would ever occur to the framers of catechism that the elegant seats of these also were on the way to become farm-houses.

Which is nevertheless surely the fact:—and the only real question is whether St. Radagune’s mansion and the Earl of Guildford’s are both to be farm-houses, or whether the state of things at the time of the Dover Catechism may not be exactly reversed,—and St. Radagune have her mansion and park railed in again, while the Earl’s walls shelter the cows on windy days. For indeed, from the midst of the tumult and distress of nations, fallen wholly Godless and lordless, perhaps the first possibility of redemption may be by cloistered companies, vowed once more to the service of a divine Master, and to the reverence of His saints.

You were shocked, I suppose, by my catalogue, in last Fors, of such persons, as to be revered by our own Company. But have you ever seriously considered what a really vital question it is to you whether St. Paul and St. Pancras, (not that I know myself at this moment, who St. Pancras was,—but I’ll find out for next Fors,)—St. George and St. Giles, St. Bridget and St. Helen, are really only to become the sponsors of City parishes, or whether you mean still to render them any gratitude as the first teachers of what used to be called civilization; nay, whether there may not even be, irrespective of what we now [6]call civilization—namely, coals and meat at famine prices,—some manner of holy living and dying, of lifting holy hands without wrath, and sinking to blessed sleep without fear, of which these persons, however vaguely remembered, have yet been the best patterns the world has shown us.

Don’t think that I want to make Roman Catholics of you, or to make anything of you, except honest people. But as for the vulgar and insolent Evangelical notion, that one should not care for the Saints,—nor pray to them,—Mercy on us!—do the poor wretches fancy that God wouldn’t be thankful if they would pray to anybody, for what it was right they should have; or that He is piqued, forsooth, if one thinks His servants can help us sometimes, in our paltry needs.

“But they are dead, and cannot help us, nor hear!”

Alas; perchance—no. What would I not give to be so much a heretic as to believe the Dead could hear!—but are there no living Saints, then, who can help you? Sir C. Dilke, or Mr. Beales, for instance? and if you don’t believe there are any parks or monas abiding for you in heaven, may you not pull down some park railings here, and—hold public meetings in them, of a Paradisiacal character?

Indeed, that pulling down of the Piccadilly railings was a significant business. “Park,” if you will look to your Johnson, you will find is one of quite the oldest words in Europe; vox antiquissima, a most ancient word, and now a familiar one among active nations. French, Parc, [7]Welsh, the same, Irish, Pairc, “being” a piece of ground enclosed and stored with wild beasts of chase. Manwood, in his Forest Law, defines it thus, “A park is a place for privilege for wild beasts of venery, and also for other wild beasts that are beasts of the forest and of the chase, and those wild beasts are to have a firm peace and protection there, so that no man may hurt or chase them within the park, without licence of the owner: a park is of another nature than either a chase or a warren; for a park must be enclosed, and may not lie open—if it does, it is a good cause of seizure into the King’s hands.” Or into King Mob’s for parliamentary purposes—and how monstrous, you think, that such pleasant habitations for wild beasts should still be walled in, and in peace, while you have no room to—speak in,—I had like to have said something else than speak—but it is at least polite to you to call it ‘speaking.’

Yes. I have said so, myself, once or twice;—nevertheless something is to be said for the beasts also. What do you think they were made for? All these spotty, scaly, finned, and winged, and clawed things, that grope between you and the dust, that flit between you and the sky. These motes in the air—sparks in the sea—mists and flames of life. The flocks that are your wealth—the moth that frets it away. The herds upon a thousand hills,—the locust,—and the worm, and the wandering plague whose spots are worlds. The creatures that mock you, and torment. The creatures that serve and love [8]you, (or would love if they might,) and obey. The joys of the callow nests and burrowed homes of Earth. The rocks of it, built out of its own dead. What is the meaning to you of all these,—what their worth to you?

No worth, you answer, perhaps; or the contrary of worth. In fact, you mean to put an end to all that. You will keep pigeons to shoot—geese to make pies of—cocks for fighting—horses to bet on—sheep for wool, and cows for cheese. As to the rest of the creatures, you owe no thanks to Noah; and would fain, if you could, order a special deluge for their benefit; failing that, you will at all events get rid of the useless feeders as fast as possible.

Indeed, there is some difficulty in understanding why some of them were made. I lost great part of my last hour for reading, yesterday evening, in keeping my kitten’s tail out of the candles,—a useless beast, and still more useless tail—astonishing and inexplicable even to herself. Inexplicable, to me, all of them—heads and tails alike. “Tiger—tiger—burning bright”—is this then all you were made for—this ribbed hearthrug, tawny and black?

If only the Rev. James McCosh were here! His book is; and I’m sure I don’t know how, but it turns up in re-arranging my library. ‘Method of the Divine Government Physical and Moral.’ Preface begins. “We live in an age in which the reflecting portion of mankind are much addicted to the contemplation of the works of Nature. It is the object of the author in this Treatise to [9]interrogate Nature with the view of making her utter her voice in answer to some of the most important questions which the inquiring spirit of man can put.” Here is a catechumen for you!—and a catechist! Nature with her hands behind her back—Perhaps Mr. McCosh would kindly put it to her about the tiger. Farther on, indeed, it is stated that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite, and I observe that the author, with the shrinking modesty characteristic of the clergy of his persuasion, feels that, even the intellect of a McCosh cannot, without risk of error, embrace more than the present method of the Divine management of Creation. Wherefore “no man,” he says, “should presume to point out all the ways in which a God of unbounded resources might govern the universe.”

But the present way—(allowing for the limited capital,)—we may master that, and pay our compliments to God upon it? We will hope so; in the meantime I can assure you, this creation of His will bear more looking at than you have given, yet, however addicted you may be to the contemplation of Nature; (though I suspect you are more addicted to the tasting of her,) and that if instead of being in such a hurry to pull park railings down, you would only beg the owners to put them to their proper use, and let the birds and beasts, which were made to breathe English air as well as you, take shelter there, you would soon have a series of National Museums more curious than that in Great Russell Street; and with something better worth looking at in them than the sacred [10]crocodiles. Besides, you might spare the poor beasts a little room on earth, for charity, if not for curiosity. They have no mansions preparing for them elsewhere.

What! you answer; indignant,—“All that good land given up to beasts!” Have you ever looked how much or little of England is in park land? I have here, by me, Hall’s Travelling Atlas of the English Counties; which paints conveniently in red the railroads, and in green the parks (not conscious, probably—the colourist—of his true expression of antagonism by those colours).

The parks lie on the face of each county like a few crumbs on a plate; if you could turn them all at once into corn land, it would literally not give you a mouthful extra of dinner. Your dog, or cat, is more costly to you, in proportion to your private means, than all these kingdoms of beasts would be to the nation.

“Cost what they might, it would be too much”—think you? You will not give those acres of good land to keep beasts?

Perhaps not beasts of God’s making; but how many acres of good land do you suppose, then, you do give up, as it is, to keep beasts He never made,—never meant to be made,—the beasts you make of yourselves?

Do you know how much corn land in the United Kingdom is occupied in supplying you with the means of getting drunk?

Mind, I am no temperance man. You should all have as much beer and alcohol as was good for you if I [11]had my way. But the beer and alcohol which are not good for you,—which are the ruin of so many of you, suppose you could keep the wages you spend in that liquor in the savings bank, and left the land, now tilled to grow it for you, to natural and sober beasts?—Do you think it would be false economy?—Why, you might have a working men’s park for nothing, in every county, bigger than the Queen’s! and your own homes all the more comfortable.

I had no notion myself, till the other day, what the facts were, in this matter. Get, if you can, Professor Kirk’s ‘Social Politics,’ (Hamilton, Adams, and Co.,) and read, for a beginning, his 21st chapter, on land and liquor; and then, as you have leisure, all the book, carefully. Not that he would help me out with my park plan; he writes with the simple idea that the one end of humanity is to eat and drink; and it is interesting to see a Scotch Professor thinking the lakes of his country were made to be ‘Reservoirs,’ and particularly instancing the satisfaction of thirsty Glasgow out of Loch Katrine; so that, henceforward, it will be proper in Scotch economical circles not to speak of the Lady of the Lake, but of the Lady of the Reservoir. Still, assuming that to eat and drink is the end of life, the Professor shows you clearly how much better this end may be accomplished than it is now. And the broad fact which he brings out concerning your drink is this; that about one million five hundred thousand acres of land in the United Kingdom are [12]occupied in producing strong liquor (and I don’t see that he has included in this estimate what is under the wicked weeds of Kent; it is curious what difficulty people always seem to have in putting anything accurately into short statement). The produce of this land, which is more than all the arable for bread in Scotland, after being manufactured into drink, is sold to you at the rates,—the spirits, of twenty-seven shillings and sixpence for two shillings’ worth; and the beer, of two shillings for threepence-halfpenny worth. The sum you spend in these articles, and in tobacco, annually, is ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX MILLIONS OF POUNDS; on which the pure profit of the richer classes, (putting the lower alehouse gains aside) is, roughly, a hundred millions. That is the way the rich Christian Englishman provides against the Day of Judgment, expecting to hear his Master say to him, “I was thirsty—and ye gave me drink—Two shillings’ worth for twenty-seven and sixpence.”

Again; for the matter of lodging. Look at the Professor’s page 73. There you find that in the street dedicated in Edinburgh to the memory of the first Bishop of Jerusalem, in No. 23, there are living 220 persons. In the first floor of it live ten families,—forty-nine persons; in the second floor, nine families—fifty-four persons; and so on, up to six floors, the ground-floor being a shop; so that “the whole 220 persons in the building are without one foot of the actual surface of the land on which to exist.” [13]

“In my Father’s house,” says Christ, “are many mansions.” Verily, that appears to be also the case in some of His Scotch Evangelical servants’ houses here. And verecund Mr. McCosh, who will not venture to suggest any better arrangement of the heavens,—has he likewise no suggestion to offer as to the arrangement of No. 23, St. James’s Street?

“Whose fault is it?” do you ask?

Immediately, the fault of the landlords; but the landlords from highest to lowest, are more or less thoughtless and ignorant persons, from whom you can expect no better. The persons really answerable for all this are your two professed bodies of teachers; namely, the writers for the public press, and the clergy.

Nearly everything that I ever did of any use in this world has been done contrary to the advice of my friends; and as my friends are unanimous at present in begging me never to write to newspapers, I am somewhat under the impression that I ought to resign my Oxford professorship, and try to get a sub-editorship in the ‘Telegraph’. However, for the present, I content myself with my own work, and have sustained patiently, for thirty years, the steady opposition of the public press to whatever good was in it, (said ‘Telegraph’ always with thanks excepted) down to the article in the ‘Spectator’ of August 13th, 1870, which, on my endeavour to make the study of art, and of Greek literature, of some avail in Oxford to the confirmation of right principle in the minds of her youth, [14]instantly declared that “the artistic perception and skill of Greece were nourished by the very lowness of her ethical code, by her lack of high aims, by her freedom from all aspirations after moral good, by her inability even to conceive a Hebrew tone of purity, by the fact that she lived without God, and died without hope.”

“High aims” are explained by the ‘Spectator,’ in another place, to consist in zeal for the establishment of cotton mills. And the main body of the writers for the public press are also—not of that opinion—for they have no opinions; but they get their living by asserting so much to you.

Against which testimony of theirs, you shall hear, to-day, the real opinion of a man of whom Scotland once was proud; the man who first led her to take some notice of that same reservoir of hers, which Glasgow,—Clyde not being deep enough for her drinking, or perhaps, (see above, xvi. 16) not being now so sweet as stolen waters,—cools her tormented tongue with.

“The poor laws into which you have ventured for the love of the country, form a sad quagmire. They are like John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, into which, as he observes, millions of cart-loads of good resolutions have been thrown, without perceptibly mending the way. From what you say, and from what I have heard from others, there is a very natural desire to trust to one or two empirical remedies, such as general systems of education, and so forth. But a man with a broken constitution [15]might as well put faith in Spilsburg or Godbold. It is not the knowledge, but the use which is made of it, that is productive of real benefit.

“There is a terrible evil in England to which we are strangers” (some slight acquaintance has been raked up since, Sir Walter,) “the number, to wit, of tippling houses, where the labourer, as a matter of course, spends the overplus of his earnings. In Scotland there are few; and the Justices are commendably inexorable in rejecting all application for licences where there appears no public necessity for granting them. A man, therefore, cannot easily spend much money in liquor, since he must walk three or four miles to the place of suction, and back again, which infers a sort of malice prepense of which few are capable; and the habitual opportunity of indulgence not being at hand, the habits of intemperance, and of waste connected with it, are not acquired. If financiers would admit a general limitation of the alehouses over England to one-fourth of the number, I am convinced you would find the money spent in that manner would remain with the peasant, as a source of self-support and independence. All this applies chiefly to the country; in towns, and in the manufacturing districts, the evil could hardly be diminished by such regulations. There would, perhaps, be no means so effectual as that (which will never be listened to) of taxing the manufacturers according to the number of hands which they employ on an average, and applying [16]the produce in maintaining the manufacturing poor. If it should be alleged that this would injure the manufacturers, I would boldly reply,—‘And why not injure, or rather limit, speculations, the excessive stretch of which has been productive of so much damage to the principles of the country, and to the population, whom it has, in so many respects, degraded and demoralized?’ For a great many years, manufacturers, taken in a general point of view, have not partaken of the character of a regular profession, in which all who engaged with honest industry and a sufficient capital might reasonably expect returns proportional to their advances and labour,—but have, on the contrary, rather resembled a lottery, in which the great majority of the adventurers are sure to be losers, although some may draw considerable advantage. Men continued for a great many years to exert themselves, and to pay extravagant wages, not in hopes that there could be a reasonable prospect of an orderly and regular demand for the goods they wrought up, but in order that they might be the first to take advantage of some casual opening which might consume their cargo, let others shift as they could. Hence extravagant wages on some occasions; for these adventurers who thus played at hit or miss, stood on no scruples while the chance of success remained open. Hence, also, the stoppage of work, and the discharge of the workmen, when the speculators failed of their object. All this while the country was the sufferer;—for whoever [17]gained, the result, being upon the whole a loss, fell on the nation, together with the task of maintaining a poor, rendered effeminate and vicious by over-wages and over-living, and necessarily cast loose upon society. I cannot but think that the necessity of making some fund beforehand, for the provision of those whom they debauch, and render only fit for the almshouse, in prosecution of their own adventures, though it operated as a check on the increase of manufacturers, would be a measure just in itself, and beneficial to the community. But it would never be listened to;—the weaver’s beam, and the sons of Zeruiah, would be too many for the proposers.

“This is the eleventh of August; Walter, happier than he will ever be again, perhaps, is preparing for the moors. He has a better dog than Trout, and rather less active. Mrs. Scott and all our family send kind love. Yours ever. W. S.”

I have italicized one sentence in this letter, written in the year 1817 (what would the writer have thought of the state of things now?)—though I should like, for that matter, to italicise it all. But that sentence touches the root of the evil which I have most at heart, in these letters, to show you; namely, the increasing poverty of the country through the enriching of a few. I told you, in the first sentence of them, that the English people was not a rich people; that it “was empty in purse—empty in stomach.” The day before yesterday, a friend, who [18]thinks my goose pie not an economical dish! sent me a penny cookery book, a very desirable publication, which I instantly sat down to examine. It starts with the great principle that you must never any more roast your meat, but always stew it; and never have an open fire, but substitute, for the open fire, close stoves, all over England.

Now observe. There was once a dish, thought peculiarly English—Roast Beef. And once a place, thought peculiarly English—the Fireside. These two possessions are now too costly for you. Your England, in her unexampled prosperity, according to the ‘Morning Post,’ can no longer afford either her roast beef—or her fireside. She can only afford boiled bones, and a stove-side.

Well. Boiled bones are not so bad things, neither. I know something more about them than the writer of the penny cookery book. Fifty years ago, Count Rumford perfectly ascertained the price, and nourishing power, of good soup; and I shall give you a recipe for Theseus’ vegetable diet, and for Lycurgus’ black and Esau’s red pottage, for your better pot-luck. But what next?

To-day, you cannot afford beef—to-morrow, are you sure that you will be still able to afford bones? If things are to go on thus, and you are to study economy to the utmost, I can beat the author of the penny cookery book even on that ground. What say you to this diet of the Otomac Indians; persons quite of our present English character? “They have a decided aversion to cultivate the land, and live almost exclusively on hunting and fishing. [19]They are men of a very robust constitution, and passionately fond of fermented liquors. While the waters of the Orinoco are low, they subsist on fish and turtles, but at the period of its inundations, (when the fishing ceases) they eat daily, during some months, three quarters of a pound of clay, slightly hardened by fire”2—(probably stewable in your modern stoves with better effect).—“Half, at least” (this is Father Gumilla’s statement, quoted by Humboldt) “of the bread of the Otomacs and the Guamoes is clay—and those who feel a weight on their stomach, purge themselves with the fat of the crocodile, which restores their appetite, and enables them to continue to eat pure earth.” “I doubt”—Humboldt himself goes on, “the manteca de caiman being a purgative. But it is certain that the Guamoes are very fond, if not of the fat, at least of the flesh, of the crocodile.”

We have surely brickfields enough to keep our clay from ever rising to famine prices, in any fresh accession of prosperity;—and though fish can’t live in our rivers, the muddy waters are just of the consistence crocodiles like: and, at Manchester and Rochdale, I have observed the surfaces of the streams smoking, so that we need be under no concern as to temperature. I should think you might produce in them quite ‘streaky’ crocodile,—fat and flesh concordant,—St. George becoming a bacon purveyor, as well as seller, and laying down his dragon in salt; [20](indeed it appears, by an experiment made in Egypt itself, that the oldest of human words is Bacon;) potted crocodile will doubtless, also, from countries unrestrained by religious prejudices, be imported, as the English demand increases, at lower quotations; and for what you are going to receive, the Lord make you truly thankful. [21]



I hope, in future, to arrange the publishing and editing of ‘Fors,’ so that the current number may always be in my readers’ hands on the first of the month: but I do not pledge myself for its being so. In case of delay, however, subscribers may always be secure of its ultimate delivery, as they would at once receive notice in the event of the non-continuance of the work. I find index-making more difficult and tedious than I expected, and am besides bent at present on some Robinson Crusoe operations of harbour-digging, which greatly interfere with literary work of every kind; but the thing is in progress.

I cannot, myself, vouch for the facts stated in the following letter, but am secure of the writer’s purpose to state them fairly, and grateful for his permission to print his letter:—

My dear Mr. Ruskin,—I have just finished reading your ‘Munera Pulveris,’ and your paragraph No. 160 is such a reflex of the experience I have of City business that I must call your attention to it.

I told you that I was endeavouring to put into practice what you are teaching, and thus our work should be good work, whether we live or die. [22]

I read in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science’ that the waste of the Metropolitan sewage is equivalent to three million quartern loaves floating down the Thames every day. I read in the papers that famine fever has broken out in the Metropolis.

I have proved that this bread can be saved, by purifying sewage, and growing such corn with the produce as amazes those that have seen it. I have proved this so completely to capitalists that they have spent £25,000 in demonstrating it to the Metropolitan Board of Works.

‘But nothing of this work will pay.’3

We have never puffed, we have never advertised, and hard work I have had to get the Board of Directors to agree to this modest procedure—nevertheless they have done so.

Now, there is a band of conspirators on the Stock Exchange bound to destroy the Company, because, like Jezebel, they have sold a vineyard that does not belong to them—in other words, they have sold ‘bears,’ and they cannot fulfil their contract without killing the Company, or terrifying the shareholders into parting with their property.

No stone is left unturned to thwart our work, and if you can take the trouble to look at the papers I send you, you will see what our work would be for the country, and how it is received.

We are now to be turned out of Crossness, and every conceivable mischief will be made of the fact.

I have fought the fight almost single-handed. I might have sold out and retired from the strife long ago, for our shares were 800 per cent. premium, but I prefer completing the work I have begun, if I am allowed.

From very few human beings have I ever received, nor did I [23]expect, anything but disapproval; for this effort to discountenance the City’s business way of doing things, except Alfred Borwick, and my Brother, R. G. Sillar; but we have been repeatedly told that we must abandon these absurd principles.…

However, with or without encouragement, I shall work on, though I have to do it through a mass of moral filth and corruption, compared with which a genuine cesspit is good company.

Believe me sincerely yours,
W. C. Sillar.

The Third Fors puts into my hand, as I correct the press, a cutting from the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ of September 13th, 1869, which aptly illustrates the former ‘waste’ of sewage referred to by Mr. Sillar:—

“We suffer much from boards of guardians and vestries in and about London, but what they must suffer in remote parts of the country may be imagined rather than described. At a late meeting of the Lincoln board of guardians Mr. Mantle gave a description of a visit he paid with other gentlemen to the village of Scotherne. What they saw he said he should never forget. The village was full of fever cases, and no wonder. The beck was dried up and the wells were filled with sewage matter. They went to one pump, and found the water emitted an unbearable stench. He (Mr. Mantle) asked a woman if she drank the water from the well, and she replied that she did, but that it stank a bit; and there could be no doubt about that, for the well was full of ‘pure’ sewage matter. They went to another house, occupied by a widow with five children, the head of the family having died of fever last year. This family was now on the books of the union. The house was built on a declivity; the [24]pigsty, privy, vault, and cesspool were quite full, and after a shower of rain the contents were washed up to and past the door. The family was in an emaciated state, and one of the children was suffering from fever. After inspecting that part of the village, they proceeded to the house of a man named Harrison, who, with his wife, was laid up with fever; both man and wife were buried in one grave yesterday week, leaving five children to be supported by the union. When visited, the unfortunate couple were in the last stage of fever, and the villagers had such a dread of the disease that none of them would enter the house, and the clergyman and relieving officer had to administer the medicine themselves. Harrison was the best workman in the parish. The cost to the union has already been £12, and at the lowest computation a cost of £600 would fall upon the union for maintaining the children, and probably they might remain paupers for life. This amount would have been sufficient to drain the parish.”




As it was told at FLORENCE


1 “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Our mona,—as in the 2nd verse (John xiv.) 

2 Humboldt, Personal Narrative, London, 1827, vol. v., p. 640 et seq. I quote, as always, accurately, but missing the bits I don’t want. 

3 The saying is only quoted in ‘Munera Pulveris’ to be denied, the reader must observe. 




I was again stopped by a verse in St. John’s gospel this morning: not because I have not thought of it before, often enough; but because it bears much on our immediate business in one of its expressions,—“Ye shall be scattered, every man to his own.”

His own what?

His own property, his own rights, his own opinions, his own place, I suppose one must answer? Every man in his own place; and every man acting on his own opinions; and every man having his own way. Those are somewhat your own notions of the rightest possible state of things, are they not?

And you do not think it of any consequence to ask what sort of a place your own is?

As for instance, taking the reference farther on, to the one of Christ’s followers who that night, most distinctly of all that were scattered, found his place, and stayed in it,[2]—“This ministry and Apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” What sort of a place?

It should interest you, surely, to ask of such things, since you all, whether you like them or not, have your own places; and whether you know them or not, your own opinions. It is too true that very often you fancy you think one thing, when, in reality, you think quite another. Most Christian persons, for instance, fancy they would like to be in heaven. But that is not their real opinion of the place at all. See how grave they will look, if their doctor hints to them that there is the least probability of their soon going there.

And the ascertaining what you really do think yourself, and do not merely fancy you think, because other people have said so; as also the ascertaining, if every man had indeed to go to his own place, what place he would verily have to go to, are most wholesome mental exercises; and there is no objection whatever to your giving weight to that really ‘private opinion,’ and that really ‘individual right.’

But if you ever come really to know either what you think, or what you deserve, it is ten to one but you find it as much the character of Prudence as of Charity, that she “seeketh not her own.” For indeed that same apostle, who so accurately sought his own, and found it, is, in another verse, called the “Son of Loss.” “Of them whom Thou gavest me, have I lost none, but the Son of Loss,” says Christ (your unlucky translation, again, quenches the whole [3]text by its poor Latinism—“perdition”). Might it not be better to lose your place than to find it, on such terms?

But, lost or found, what do you think is your place at this moment? Are you minded to stay in it, if you are in it? Do you mind where it is, if you are out of it? What sort of creatures do you think yourselves? How do those you call your best friends think of you, when they advise you to claim your just place in the world?

I said, two letters back, that we would especially reverence eight saints, and among them St. Paul. I was startled to hear, only a few days afterwards, that the German critics have at last positively ascertained that St. Paul was Simon Magus;—but I don’t mind whether he was or not;—if he was, we have got seven saints, and one of the Magi, to reverence, instead of eight saints;—plainly and practically, whoever wrote the 13th of 1st Corinthians is to be much respected and attended to; not as the teacher of salvation by faith, still less of salvation by talking, nor even of salvation by almsgiving or martyrdom, but as the bold despiser of faith, talk-gift, and burning, if one has not love. Whereas this age of ours is so far contrary to any such Pauline doctrine that, without especial talent either for faith or martyrdom, and loquacious usually rather with the tongues of men than of angels, it nevertheless thinks to get on, not merely without love of its neighbour, but founding all its proceedings on the precise contrary of that,—love of itself, and the seeking of every man for his own,—I should say of every [4]beast for its own; for your modern social science openly confesses that it no longer considers you as men, but as having the nature of Beasts of Prey;1 which made me more solicitous to explain to you the significance of that word ‘Park’ in my last letter; for indeed you have already pulled down the railings of those small green spots of park to purpose—and in a very solemn sense, turned all England into a Park. Alas!—if it were but even so much. Parks are for beasts of the field, which can dwell together in peace: but you have made yourselves beasts of the Desert, doleful creatures, for whom the grass is green no more, nor dew falls on lawn or bank; no flowers for you—not even the bare and quiet earth to lie down on, but only the sand-drift, and the dry places which the very Devils cannot rest in. Here and there, beside our sweet English waters, the sower may still send forth the feet of the ox and the ass; but for men with ox’s heads, and ass’s heads,—not the park, for these; by no manner of means the Park; but the everlasting Pound. Every man and beast being in their own place, that you choose for yours.

I have given you therefore, this month, for frontispiece, the completest picture I can find of that pound or labyrinth which the Greeks supposed to have been built by Daedalus, to enclose the bestial nature, engrafted on humanity. The Man with the Bull’s head. The Greek Daedalus is the power of mechanical as opposed to imaginative art;2 and this is the kind of architecture which [5]Greeks and Florentines alike represent him as providing for human beasts. Could anything more precisely represent the general look of your architecture now? When I come down here; to Coniston, through Preston and Wigan, it seems to me that I have seen that thing itself, only built a little higher, and smoking, or else set on its side, and spinning round, a thousand times over in the course of the day.

Then the very writing of the name of it is so like your modern education! You miss the first letter of your lives; and begin with A for apple-pie, instead of L for love; and the rest of the writing is—some little—some big—some turned the wrong way; and the sum of it all to you Perplexity. “Abberinto.”

For the rest, the old Florentine engraver took the story as it ran currently, that Theseus deserted Ariadne (but, indeed, she was the letter L lost out of his life), and besides, you know if he ever did do anything wrong, it was all Titania’s fault,—

“Didst thou not lead him through the glimmering night,

And make him with fair Ægle break his faith,

With Ariadne, and Antiopa?”

If you have young eyes, or will help old ones with a magnifying glass, you will find all her story told. In the front, Theseus is giving her his faith; their names, TESEO . ADRIANNA, are written beneath them. He leans on his club reversed. She brings him three balls of thread, in case one, or even two, should not be long [6]enough. His plumed cap means earthly victory; her winged one heavenly power and hope. Then, at the side of the arched gate of the labyrinth, Theseus has tied one end of the clue to a ring, and you see his back and left leg as he goes in. And just above, as the end of the adventure, he is sailing away from Naxos, with his black sail. On the left is the isle of Naxos, and deserted Adriane waving Theseus back, with her scarf tied to a stick. Theseus not returning, she throws herself into the sea; you can see her feet, and her hand, still with the staff in it, as she plunges in backwards. Whereupon, winged Jupiter, GIOVE, comes down and lifts her out of the sea; you see her winged head raised to him. Then he carries her up to heaven. He holds her round the waist, but, strangely, she is not thinking of Jupiter at all, but of something above and more than Jupiter; her hands and head raised, as in some strong desire. But on the right, there is another fall, without such rising. Theseus’ father throws himself into the sea from the wall of Athens, and you see his feet as he goes in; but there is no God to lift him out of the waves. He stays, in his place, as Adriane in hers.

“Such an absurd old picture, or old story, you never saw or heard of? The very blaze of fireworks, in which Jupiter descends, drawn with black sparks instead of white! the whole point of the thing, the ‘terrific combat,’ missed out of the play! and nothing, on the whole, seen, except people’s legs, as in a modern pantomime, only not to so much advantage.” [7]

That is what you think of it? Well, such as it is, that is ‘fine art’ (if you will take my opinion in my own business); and even this poor photograph of it is simply worth all the illustrations in your ‘Illustrated News’ or ‘Illustrated Times’ from one year’s end to another. Worth them all—nay, there is no comparison, for these illustrated papers do you definite mischief, and the more you look at them, the worse for you. Whereas, the longer you look at this, and think of it, the more good you will get.

Examine, for instance, that absurdly tall crest of Theseus. Behind it, if you look closely, you will see that he also has the wings of hope on his helmet; but the upright plumes nearly hide them. Have you never seen anything like them before? They are five here, indeed; but you have surely met with them elsewhere,—in number, Three—those curling, upright plumes?

For that Prince who waited on his father and the French Knights in the castle of Calais, bears them in memory of the good knight and king who fought sightless at Cressy; whose bearings they were, with the motto which you know so well, yet are so little minded to take for your own,—“I serve.” Also the cap of the Knights of St. George has these white plumes ‘of three falls,’ but the Prince of Wales more fitly, because the meaning of the ostrich feather is order and rule; for it was seen that, long and loose though the filaments seemed, no wind could entangle or make them disorderly. “So this plume betokeneth such an one as nothing can disturb his mind [8]or disquiet his spirits, but is ever one and the same.” Do you see how one thing bears out and fulfils another, in these thoughts and symbols of the despised people of old time? Do you recollect Froissart’s words of the New Year’s Feast at Calais?

“So they were served in peace, and in great leisure.”

You have improved that state of things, at any rate. I must say so much for you, at Wolverton, and Rugby, and such other places of travellers’ repose.

Theseus then, to finish with him for this time, bears these plumes specially as the Institutor of Order and Law at Athens; the Prince or beginner of the State there; and your own Prince of Wales bears them in like manner as the beginner of State with us, (the mocking and purposeful lawlessness, of Henry the Fifth when Prince, yet never indeed violating law, or losing self-command, is one of the notablest signs, rightly read, in the world’s history). And now I want you to consider with me very carefully the true meaning of the words he begins his State with:—

“I serve.”

You have, I hope, noticed that throughout these letters addressed to you as workmen and labourers,—though I have once or twice ventured to call myself your fellow-workman, I have oftener spoken as belonging to, and sharing main modes of thought with, those who are not labourers, but either live in various ways by their wits—as lawyers, authors, reviewers, clergymen, parliamentary [9]orators, and the like—or absolutely in idleness on the labour of others,—as the representative Squire. And, broadly speaking, I address you as workers, and speak in the name of the rest as idlers, thus not estimating the mere wit-work as work at all: it is always play, when it is good.

Speaking to you, then, as workers, and of myself as an idler, tell me honestly whether you consider me as addressing my betters or my worses? Let us give ourselves no airs on either side. Which of us, do you seriously think, you or I, are leading the more honourable life? Would you like to lead my life rather than your own; or, if you couldn’t help finding it pleasanter, would you be ashamed of yourselves for leading it? Is your place, or mine, considered as cure and sinecure, the better? And are either of us legitimately in it? I would fain know your own real opinion on these things.

But note further: there is another relation between us than that of idler and labourer; the much more direct one of Master and Servant. I can set you to any kind of work I like, whether it be good for you or bad, pleasant to you or painful. Consider, for instance, what I am doing at this very instant—half-past seven, morning, 25th February, 1873. It is a bitter black frost, the ground deep in snow, and more falling. I am writing comfortably in a perfectly warm room; some of my servants were up in the cold at half-past five to get it ready for me; others, a few days ago, were digging my coals near Durham, at the risk of [10]their lives; an old woman brought me my watercresses through the snow for breakfast yesterday; another old woman is going two miles through it to-day to fetch me my letters at ten o’clock. Half a dozen men are building a wall for me to keep the sheep out of my garden, and a railroad stoker is holding his own against the north wind, to fetch me some Brobdignag raspberry plants3 to put in it. Somebody in the east end of London is making boots for me, for I can’t wear those I have much longer; a washerwoman is in suds, somewhere, to get me a clean shirt for to-morrow; a fisherman is in dangerous weather somewhere, catching me some fish for Lent; and my cook will soon be making me pancakes, for it is Shrove Tuesday. Having written this sentence, I go to the fire, warm my fingers, saunter a little, listlessly, about the room, and grumble because I can’t see to the other side of the lake.

And all these people, my serfs or menials, who are undergoing any quantity or kind of hardship I choose to put on them,—all these people, nevertheless, are more contented than I am: I can’t be happy, not I,—for one thing, because I haven’t got the MS. Additional, (never mind what number,) in the British Museum, which they bought in 1848, for two hundred pounds, and I never saw it! And have never been easy in my mind, since.

But perhaps it is not the purpose of Heaven to make [11]refined personages, like me, easy in our minds; we are supposed to be too grand for that. Happy, or easy, or otherwise, am I in my place, think you; and you, my serfs, in yours?

‘You are not serfs,’ say you, ‘but free-born Britons’? Much good may your birth do you. What does your birth matter to me, since, now that you are grown men, you must do whatever I like, or die by starvation? ‘Strike!’—will you? Can you live by striking? And when you are forced to work again, will not your masters choose again, as they have chosen hitherto, what work you are to do? Not serfs!—it is well if you are so much as that; a serf would know what o’clock he had to go to his work at; but I find that clocks are now no more comprehensible in England than in Italy, and you also have to be “whistled for like dogs,” all over Yorkshire—or rather buzzed for, that being the appropriate call to business, of due honey-making kind. “Hark,” says an old Athenian, according to Aristophanes, “how the nightingale has filled the thickets with honey” (meaning, with music as sweet). In Yorkshire, your steam-nightingales fill the woods with—Buzz; and for four miles round are audible, summoning you—to your pleasure, I suppose, my free-born?

It is well, I repeat, if you are so much as serfs. A serf means a ‘saved person’—the word comes first from a Greek one, meaning to drag, or drag away into safety, (though captive safety), out of the slaughter of war. But alas, the trades most of you are set to now-a-days have no [12]element of safety in them, either for body or soul. They take thirty years from your lives here;—what they take from your lives hereafter, ask your clergy. I have no opinion on that matter.

But I used another terrible word just now—‘menial.’ The modern English vulgar mind has a wonderful dread of doing anything of that sort!

I suppose there is scarcely another word in the language which people more dislike having applied to them, or of which they less understand the application. It comes from a beautiful old Chaucerian word, ‘meinie,’ or many, signifying the attendant company of any one worth attending to; the disciples of a master, scholars of a teacher, soldiers of a leader, lords of a King. Chaucer says the God of Love came, in the garden of the Rose with ‘his many’;—in the court of the King of Persia spoke a Lord, one ‘of his many.’ Therefore there is nothing in itself dishonourable in being menial: the only question is—whose many you belong to, and whether he is a person worth belonging to, or even safe to be belonged to; also, there is somewhat in the cause of your following: if you follow for love, it is good to be menial—if for honour, good also;—if for ten per cent.—as a railroad company follows its Director, it is not good to be menial. Also there is somewhat in the manner of following: if you obey your Taskmaster’s eye, it is well;—if only his whip, still, well; but not so well:—but, above all, or below all, if you have to obey the whip as a bad hound, because you have [13]no nose, like the members of the present House of Commons, it is a very humble form of menial service indeed.

But even as to the quite literal form of it, in house or domestic service, are you sure it is so very disgraceful a state to live in?

Among the people whom one must miss out of one’s life, dead, or worse than dead, by the time one is fifty-four, I can only say, for my own part, that the one I practically and truly miss most, next to father and mother, (and putting losses of imaginary good out of the question,) was a ‘menial,’ my father’s nurse, and mine. She was one of our many—(our many being always but few), and, from her girlhood to her old age, the entire ability of her life was given to serving us. She had a natural gift and specialty for doing disagreeable things; above all, the service of a sick room; so that she was never quite in her glory unless some of us were ill. She had also some parallel specialty for saying disagreeable things; and might be relied upon to give the extremely darkest view of any subject, before proceeding to ameliorative action upon it. And she had a very creditable and republican aversion to doing immediately, or in set terms, as she was bid; so that when my mother and she got old together, and my mother became very imperative and particular about having her teacup set on one side of her little round table, Anne would observantly and punctiliously put it always on the other; which caused my mother to state to me, every morning after breakfast, [14]gravely, that, if ever a woman in this world was possessed by the Devil, Anne was that woman. But in spite of these momentary and petulant aspirations to liberality and independence of character, poor Anne remained verily servile in soul all her days; and was altogether occupied from the age of fifteen to seventy-two, in doing other people’s wills instead of her own, and seeking other people’s good instead of her own: nor did I ever hear on any occasion of her doing harm to a human being, except by saving two hundred and some odd pounds for her relations; in consequence of which some of them, after her funeral, did not speak to the rest for several months.

Two hundred and odd pounds;—it might have been more; but I used to hear of little loans to the relations occasionally; and besides, Anne would sometimes buy a quite unjustifiably expensive silk gown. People in her station of life are always so improvident. Two hundred odd pounds at all events she had laid by, in her fifty-seven years of unselfish labour. Actually twenty ten-pound notes. I heard the other day, to my great satisfaction, of the approaching marriage of a charming girl;—but to my dissatisfaction, that the approach was slow. “We can’t marry yet”—said she;—“you know, we can’t possibly marry on five hundred a year.” People in that station of life are always so provident.

Two hundred odd pounds,—that was what the third Fors, in due alliance with her sisters, thought fit to reward [15]our Annie with, for fifty years of days’ work and nights’ watching; and what will not a dash of a pen win, sometimes in the hands of superior persons! Surely the condition must be a degraded one which can do no better for itself than this?

And yet, have you ever taken a wise man’s real opinion on this matter? You are not fond of hearing opinions of wise men; you like your anonymous penny-a-liners’ opinions better. But do you think you could tolerantly receive that of a moderately and popularly wise man—such an one as Charles Dickens, for example? Have you ever considered seriously what his opinion was, about ‘Dependants’ and ‘Menials’? He did not perhaps quite know what it was himself;—it needs wisdom of stronger make than his to be sure of what it does think. He would talk, in his moral passages, about Independence, and Self-dependence, and making one’s way in the world, just like any hack of the ‘Eatanswill Independent.’ But which of the people of his imagination, of his own true children, did he love and honour most? Who are your favourites in his books—as they have been his? Menials, it strikes me, many of them. Sam, Mark, Kit, Peggoty, Mary-my-dear,—even the poor little Marchioness! I don’t think Dickens intended you to look upon any of them disrespectfully. Or going one grade higher in his society, Tom Pinch, Newman Noggs, Tim Linkinwater, Oliver Twist—how independent, all of them! Very nearly menial, in soul, if they chance on a good master; none of them brilliant in fortune, nor [16]vigorous in action. Is not the entire testimony of Dickens, traced in its true force, that no position is so good for men and women, none so likely to bring out their best human character, as that of a dependent, or menial? And yet with your supreme modern logic, instead of enthusiastically concluding from his works “let us all be servants,” one would think the notion he put in your heads was quite the other, “let us all be masters,” and that you understood his ideal of heroic English character to be given in Mr. Pecksniff or Sir Mulberry Hawk!

Alas! more’s the pity, you cannot all be dependants and menials, even if you were wise enough to wish it. Somebody there must be to be served, else there could be no service. And for the beatitudes and virtues of Masterhood, I must appeal to a wiser man than Dickens—but it is no use entering on that part of the question to-day; in the meantime, here is another letter of his, (you have had one letter already in last Fors,) just come under my hand, which gives you a sketch of a practical landlord, and true Master, on which you may meditate with advantage:

“Here, above all, we had the opportunity of seeing in what universal respect and comfort a gentleman’s family may live in that country, and in far from its most favoured district; provided only they live there habitually and do their duty as the friends and guardians of those among whom Providence has appointed their proper place. Here we found neither mud hovels nor naked peasantry, but snug cottages and smiling faces all about. Here there was [17]a very large school in the village, of which masters and pupils were, in nearly equal proportion, Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Protestant Squire himself making it a regular part of his daily business to visit the scene of their operations, and strengthen authority and enforce discipline by personal superintendence. Here, too, we pleased ourselves with recognising some of the sweetest features in Goldsmith’s picture of ‘Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain;’ and, in particular, we had ‘the playful children just let loose from school’ in perfection. Mr. Edgeworth’s paternal heart delighted in letting them make a playground of his lawn; and every evening, after dinner, we saw leap-frog going on with the highest spirit within fifty yards of the drawing-room windows, while fathers and mothers, and their aged parents also, were grouped about among the trees watching the sport. It is a curious enough coincidence that Oliver Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth should both have derived their early love and knowledge of Irish character and manners from the same identical district. He received part of his education at this very school of Edgeworthstown; and Pallasmore (the ‘locus cui nomen est Pallas’ of Johnson’s epitaph), the little hamlet where the author of the ‘Vicar of Wakefield’ first saw the light, is still, as it was in his time, the property of the Edgeworths.”

“Strengthen authority,” “enforce discipline”! What ugly expressions these! and a “whole hamlet,” though it be a little one, “the property of the Edgeworths”! How [18]long are such things yet to be? thinks my Republican correspondent, I suppose—from whom, to my regret, I have had no further dispatch since I endeavoured to answer his interrogations.4 Only, note further respecting this chief question of the right of private property, that there are two kinds of ownership, which the Greeks wisely expressed in two different ways: the first, with the word which brought me to a pause in St. John’s Gospel, ‘idios,’ signifying the way, for instance, in which a man’s opinions and interests are his own; ‘idia,’ so that by persisting in them, independently of the truth, which is above opinion, and of the public interest, which is above private, he becomes what we very properly, borrowing the Greek word, call an ‘idiot.’ But their other phrase expresses the kind of belonging which is nobly won, and is truly and inviolably ours, in which sense a man may learn the full meaning of the word ‘Mine’ only once in his life,—happy he who has ever so learnt it. I was thinking over the prettiness of the word in that sense, a day or two ago, and opening a letter, mechanically, when a newspaper clipping dropped out of it (I don’t know from what paper), containing a quotation from the ‘Cornhill Magazine’ setting forth the present privileges of the agricultural labourer attained for him by modern improvements in machinery, in the following terms:—

“An agricultural labourer, from forty to forty-five years of age, of tried skill, of probity, and sobriety, with £200 [19]in his pocket, is a made man. True, he has had to forego the luxury of marriage; but so have his betters.”

And I think you may be grateful to the Third Fors for this clipping; which you see settles, in the region of Cornhill, at least, the question whether you are the betters or the worses of your masters. Decidedly the worses, according to the ‘Cornhill.’ Also, exactly the sum which my old nurse had for her reward at the end of her life, is, you see, to be the agricultural labourer’s reward in the crowning triumph of his;—provided always that he has followed the example of his betters on the stock exchange and in trade, in the observance of the strictest probity;—that he be entirely skilful;—not given to purchasing two shillings’ worth of liquor for twenty-seven and sixpence,—and finally, until the age of forty-five, has dispensed with the luxury of marriage.

I have just said I didn’t want to make Catholics of you; but truly I think your Protestantism is becoming too fierce in its opposition to the Popedom. Cannot it be content with preaching the marriage of the clergy, but it must preach also the celibacy of the laity?

And the moral and anti-Byronic Mrs. B. Stowe, who so charmingly and pathetically describes the terrors of slavery, as an institution which separates men from their wives, and mothers from their children! Did she really contemplate, among the results contributed to by her interesting volumes, these ultimate privileges of Liberty,—that the men, at least under the age of forty-five, are not [20]to have any wives to be separated from; and that the women, who under these circumstances have the misfortune to become mothers, are to feel it a hardship, not to be parted from their children, but to be prevented from accelerating the parting with a little soothing syrup? [21]



I have kept by me, and now reprint from the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ of July 6th, 1868, the following report of a meeting held on the Labour Question by the Social Science Association in the previous week. It will be seen that it contains confirmation of my statement in p. 4 of the text. The passage I have italicized contains the sense of the views then entertained by the majority of the meeting. I think it desirable also to keep note of the questions I proposed to the meeting, and of the answers given in the ‘Gazette.’ I print the article, therefore, entire:—


There would be something touching in the way in which people discuss the question of labour and wages, and in the desperate efforts made by Mr. Gladstone and other persons of high position to make love to the workmen, if there was not almost always a touch of absurdity in such proceedings. Mr. Gladstone, in particular, never approaches such subjects without an elaborate patting and stroking of the working man, which is intelligible only upon the assumption that primâ facie the labourer and [22]the gentleman are natural enemies, and that they must be expected to regard each other as such, unless the higher class approaches the lower with the most elaborate assurances of goodwill and kindness. Such language as the following appears to us very ill-judged. After condemning in strong terms the crimes committed by some trade unions, Mr. Gladstone went on to say:—Some things the working men required at their hands. In the first place, it was required that they should be approached in a friendly spirit, that they should feel that they were able to place confidence in their good intentions, that they should be assured that they were not approached in the spirit of class, but in the spirit of men who were attached to the truth,” etc., etc. What can be the use of this sort of preaching? Does any human being suppose that any kind of men whatsoever, whether working men or idle men, are indifferent to being approached in an unfriendly spirit; or are disposed to deal with people whom they believe to entertain bad intentions towards them, or to be utterly indifferent to their interests, or to be actuated by interests opposed to their own? Such protestations always appear to us either prosy, patronizing, or insincere. No one suspects Mr. Gladstone of insincerity, but at times he is as prosy as a man must be, who, being already fully occupied with politics, will never miss an opportunity of doing a little philanthrophy and promoting peace and goodwill between different classes of the community. Blessed no doubt are the peacemakers, but at times they are bores.

After Mr. Gladstone’s little sermon the meeting proceeded to discuss a variety of resolutions about strikes, some of which seem very unimportant. One piece of vigorous good sense enlivened the discussion, and appears to us to sum up pretty nearly all that can be said upon the whole subject of strikes. It was uttered by Mr. Applegarth, who observed that “no sentiment ought to be brought into the subject. The employers were like the employed in trying to [23]get as much as possible for as little as they could” Add to this the obvious qualification that even in driving a bargain it is possible to insist too strongly upon your own interest, and that it never can be in the interest either of masters or of men that the profits of any given trade to the capitalist should be permanently depressed much below the average profits of other trades; and nearly all that can be said upon the subject will have been said. If, instead of meeting together and kissing each other in public, masters and men would treat each other simply as civilized and rational beings who have to drive a bargain, and who have a common interest in producing the maximum of profit, though their interests in dividing it when it is produced are conflicting, they would get on much better together. People can buy and sell all sorts of other things without either quarrelling or crying over the transaction, and if they could only see it, there is no reason why they should not deal in labour just as coolly.

The most remarkable feature of the evening was the attack made by Mr. Ruskin on this view of the subject. Replying to Mr. Dering, who had said that whenever it was possible “men would seek their own interests even at the expense of other classes,” he observed5 that many students of political economy “looked upon man as a predatory animal, while man on the contrary was an affectionate animal, and until the mutual interest of classes was based upon affection, difficulties must continue between those classes.” There are, as it appears to us, several weak points in this statement. One obvious one is that most animals are both predatory and affectionate. Wolves will play together, herd together, hunt together, kill sheep together; and yet, if one wolf is [24]wounded, the rest will eat him up. Animals, too, which as between each other are highly affectionate, are predatory to the last degree as against creatures of a different species or creatures of their own species who have got something which they want. Hence, if men are actuated to some extent at some times, and towards some persons, by their affections, and to a different extent at other times towards the same or other persons by their predatory instincts, they would resemble other animals. Mr. Ruskin’s opposition between the predatory and affectionate animal is thus merely imaginary. Apart from this, the description of man as “an affectionate animal” appears to us not merely incomplete but misleading. Of course the affections are a most important branch of human nature, but they are by no means the whole of it. A very large department of human nature is primarily self-regarding. A man eats and drinks because he is hungry or thirsty, and he buys and sells because he wants to get gain. These are and always will be his leading motives, but they are no doubt to a certain extent counteracted in civilized life by motives of a different kind. No man is altogether destitute of regard for the interests and wishes of his neighbours, and almost every one will sacrifice something more or less for the gratification of others. Still, self-interest of the most direct unmistakable kind is the great leading active principle in many departments of life, and in particular in the trading department: to deny this is to shut one’s eyes to the sun at noonday. To try to change is like trying to stop the revolution of the earth. To call it a “predatory” instinct is to talk at random. To take from a man by force what he possesses is an essentially different thing from driving the hardest of hard bargains with him. Every bargain is regarded as an advantage by both parties at the time when it is made, otherwise it would not be made at all. If I save a drowning man’s life on condition that he will convey to me his whole estate, he is better off than if I leave him to drown. [25]My act is certainly not affectionate, but neither is it predatory. It improves the condition of both parties, and the same is true of all trade.

The most singular part of Mr. Ruskin’s address consisted of a catechism which appears to us to admit of very simple answers, which we will proceed to give, as “the questions were received with much applause,” though we do not appreciate their importance. They are as follows:—

Question.—“1. It is stated in a paper read before the jurisprudence section of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and afterwards published at their office, that ‘without the capitalist labour could accomplish nothing,’ (p. 4). But for long periods of time in some parts of the world the accumulation of money was forbidden, and in others it was impossible. Has labour never accomplished anything in such districts?”

Answer.—Capital is not merely “an accumulation of money.” It is a general name for the whole stock by and out of which things are made. Labour never accomplished anything without materials or anything important without tools, and materials and tools are capital.

Question.—“2. Supposing that in the present state of England the capital is necessary, are capitalists so? In other words, is it needful for right operation of capital that it should be administered under the arbitrary power of one person?”

Answer.—Yes, it is, unless you do away with the institution of private property. It is necessary for the right operation of capital that some one or other should have arbitrary power over it, and that arbitrary power must either be lodged in individuals, who thereupon become capitalists, or else in the public or its representatives, in which case there is only one capitalist—the State.

Question.—“3. Whence is all capital derived?”

Answer.—From the combination of labour and material. [26]

Question.—“4. If capital is spent in paying wages for labour or manufacture which brings no return (as the labour of an acrobat or manufacturer of fireworks), is such capital lost or not? and if lost, what is the effect of such loss on the future wages fund?”

Answer.—In the case supposed the capital ceases to exist as capital, and the future wages fund is diminished to that extent; but see the next answer.

Question.—“5. If under such circumstances it is lost, and can only be recovered (much more recovered with interest) when it has been spent in wages for productive labour or manufacture, what labours and manufactures are productive, and what are unproductive? Do all capitalists know the difference, and are they always desirous to employ men in productive labours and manufactures, and in these only?”

Answer.—Generally speaking, productive labour means labour which produces useful or agreeable results. Probably no paid labour is absolutely unproductive; for instance, the feats of the acrobat and the fireworks amuse the spectators. Capitalists in general desire to employ men in labours and manufactures which produce gain to the capitalists themselves. The amount of the gain depends on the relation between the demand for the product and the cost of production; and the demand for the product depends principally upon the extent to which it is useful or agreeable—that is, upon the extent to which the labour is productive or unproductive. In this indirect way capitalists are generally desirous to employ men in productive labours and manufactures, and in them only.

Question.—“6. Considering the unemployed and purchasing public as a great capitalist, employing the workmen and their masters both, what results happen finally to this purchasing public if it employs all its manufactures in productive labour? and what if it employs them all in unproductive labour?”

Answer.—This is not the light in which we should consider the [27]“unemployed and purchasing public.” But if they are all to be considered in that light, it is obvious that the result of employing all manufacturers in doing what is useless or disagreeable would be general misery, and vice versâ.

Question.—“7. If there are thirty workmen, ready to do a day’s work, and there is only a day’s work for one of them to do, what is the effect of the natural laws of wages on the other twenty-nine?”

Answer.—The twenty-nine must go without work and wages; but the phrase “natural law” is not ours.

Question.—“8. (a) Is it a natural law that for the same quantity or piece of work, wages should be sometimes high, sometimes low? (b) With what standard do we properly or scientifically compare them, in calling them high or low? (c) And what is the limit of their possible lowness under natural laws?”

Answer.—(a) It is an inevitable result from the circumstances in which mankind are placed, if you call that a natural law.

(b) High wages are wages greater than those which have been usually paid at a given time and place in a given trade; low wages are the reverse. There is no absolute standard of wages.

(c) The limit of the possible lowness of wages is the starvation of the workman.

Question.—“9. In what manner do natural laws affect the wages of officers under Government in various countries?”

Answer.—In endless ways, too long to enumerate.

Question.—“10. ‘If any man will not work, neither should he eat.’ Does this law apply to all classes of society?”

Answer.—No; it does not. It is not a law at all, but merely a striking way of saying that idleness produces want.


1 See terminal notes. 

2 Compare XXIII. 12. 

3 See Miss Edgeworth’s Story, ‘Forgive and Forget,’ in the ‘Parents’ Assistant.’ 

4 21st March: one just received, interesting, and to be answered next month. 

5 I observed nothing of the kind. It was the previous speaker (unknown to me, but, according to the ‘Pall Mall’ Mr. Dering) who not merely ‘observed’ but positively affirmed, as the only groundwork of sound political economy, that the nature of man was that of a beast of prey, to all his fellows. 




It is a bright morning, the first entirely clear one I have seen for months; such, indeed, as one used to see, before England was civilized into a blacksmith’s shop, often enough in the sweet spring-time; and as, perhaps, our children’s children may see often enough again, when their coals are burnt out, and they begin to understand that coals are not the source of all power Divine and human. In the meantime as I say, it is months since I saw the sky, except through smoke, or the strange darkness brought by blighting wind (viii. 3), and if such weather as this is to last, I shall begin to congratulate myself, as the ‘Daily News’ does its readers, on the “exceptionally high price of coal,” indicating a most satisfactory state of things, it appears, for the general wealth of the country, for, says that well-informed journal, on March 3rd, 1873, “The net result of the exceptionally high price of coal is in substance this, that the coal owners and workers obtain an unusually large share in the distribution of the gross produce of the community, and the real capital of the community is increased!” [2]

This great and beautiful principle must of course apply to a rise in price in all other articles, as well as in coals. Accordingly, whenever you see the announcement in any shops, or by any advertising firm, that you can get something there cheaper than usual, remember, the capital of the community is being diminished; and whenever you have reason to think that anybody has charged you threepence for a twopenny article, remember that, according to the ‘Daily News,’ “the real capital of the community is increased.” And as I believe you may be generally certain, in the present state of trade, of being charged even as much as twenty-seven pence for a twopenny article, the capital of the community must be increasing very fast indeed. Holding these enlightened views on the subject of the prices of things, the ‘Daily News’ cannot be expected to stoop to any consideration of their uses. But there is another “net result” of the high price of coal, besides the increase of the capital of the community, and a result which is more immediately your affair, namely, that a good many of you will die of cold. It may console you to reflect that a great many rich people will at least feel chilly, in economical drawing-rooms of state, and in ill-aired houses, rawly built on raw ground, and already mouldy for want of fires, though under a blackened sky.

What a pestilence of them, and unseemly plague of builders’ work—as if the bricks of Egypt had multiplied like its lice, and alighted like its locusts—has fallen on the suburbs of loathsome London! [3]

The road from the village of Shirley, near Addington, where my father and mother are buried, to the house they lived in when I was four years old, lay, at that time, through a quite secluded district of field and wood, traversed here and there by winding lanes, and by one or two smooth mail-coach roads, beside which, at intervals of a mile or two, stood some gentleman’s house, with its lawn, gardens, offices, and attached fields, indicating a country life of long continuance and quiet respectability. Except such an one here and there, one saw no dwellings above the size of cottages or small farmsteads; these, wood-built usually, and thatched, their porches embroidered with honeysuckle, and their gardens with daisies, their doors mostly ajar, or with a half one shut to keep in the children, and a bricked or tiled footway from it to the wicket gate,—all neatly kept, and vivid with a sense of the quiet energies of their contented tenants,—made the lane-turnings cheerful, and gleamed in half-hidden clusters beneath the slopes of the woodlands at Sydenham and Penge. There were no signs of distress, of effort, or of change; many of enjoyment, and not a few of wealth beyond the daily needs of life. That same district is now covered by, literally, many thousands of houses built within the last ten years, of rotten brick, with various iron devices to hold it together. They, every one, have a drawing-room and dining-room, transparent from back to front, so that from the road one sees the people’s heads inside, clear against the light. They have a second story [4]of bedrooms, and an underground one of kitchen. They are fastened in a Siamese-twin manner together by their sides, and each couple has a Greek or Gothic portico shared between them, with magnificent steps, and highly ornamented capitals. Attached to every double block are exactly similar double parallelograms of garden, laid out in new gravel and scanty turf, on the model of the pleasure grounds in the Crystal Palace, and enclosed by high, thin, and pale brick walls. The gardens in front are fenced from the road with an immense weight of cast iron, and entered between two square gate-posts, with projecting stucco cornices, bearing the information that the eligible residence within is Mortimer House or Montague Villa. On the other side of the road, which is laid freshly down with large flints, and is deep at the sides in ruts of yellow mud, one sees Burleigh House, or Devonshire Villa, still to let, and getting leprous in patches all over the fronts.

Think what the real state of life is, for the people who are content to pass it in such places; and what the people themselves must be. Of the men, their wives, and children, who live in any of those houses, probably not the fifth part are possessed of one common manly or womanly skill, knowledge, or means of happiness. The men can indeed write, and cast accounts, and go to town every day to get their living by doing so; the women and children can perhaps read story-books, dance in a vulgar manner, and play on the piano with dull dexterities for exhibition; but not a member of the whole family can, in general, [5]cook, sweep, knock in a nail, drive a stake, or spin a thread. They are still less capable of finer work. They know nothing of painting, sculpture, or architecture; of science, inaccurately, as much as may more or less account to them for Mr. Pepper’s ghost, and make them disbelieve in the existence of any other ghost but that, particularly the Holy One: of books, they read ‘Macmillan’s Magazine’ on week days, and ‘Good Words’ on Sundays, and are entirely ignorant of all the standard literature belonging to their own country, or to any other. They never think of taking a walk, and, the roads for six miles round them being ancle deep in mud and flints, they could not if they would. They cannot enjoy their gardens, for they have neither sense nor strength enough to work in them. The women and girls have no pleasures but in calling on each other in false hair, cheap dresses of gaudy stuffs, machine made, and high-heeled boots, of which the pattern was set to them by Parisian prostitutes of the lowest order: the men have no faculty beyond that of cheating in business; no pleasures but in smoking or eating; and no ideas, nor any capacity of forming ideas, of anything that has yet been done of great, or seen of good, in this world.

That is the typical condition of five-sixths, at least, of the “rising” middle classes about London—the lodgers in those damp shells of brick, which one cannot say they inhabit, nor call their “houses;” nor “their’s” indeed, in any sense; but packing-cases in which they are temporarily stored, for bad use. Put the things on wheels [6](it is already done in America, but you must build them stronger first), and they are mere railway vans of brick, thrust in rows on the siding; vans full of monkeys that have lost the use of their legs. The baboons in Regent’s Park—with Mr. Darwin’s pardon—are of another species; a less passive, and infinitely wittier one. Here, behold, you have a group of gregarious creatures that cannot climb, and are entirely imitative, not as the apes, occasionally, for the humour of it, but all their lives long; the builders trying to build as Christians did once, though now swindling on every brick they lay; and the lodgers to live like the Duke of Devonshire, on the salaries of railroad clerks. Lodgers, do I say! Scarcely even that. Many a cottage, lodged in but for a year or two, has been made a true home, for that span of the owner’s life. In my next letter but one, I hope to give you some abstract of the man’s life whose testimony I want you to compare with that of Dickens, as to the positions of Master and Servant: meantime compare with what you may see of these railroad homes, this incidental notice by him of his first one:

“When we approached that village (Lasswade), Scott, who had laid hold of my arm, turned along the road in a direction not leading to the place where the carriage was to meet us. After walking some minutes towards Edinburgh, I suggested that we were losing the scenery of the Esk, and, besides, had Dalkeith Palace yet to see.

“ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘and I have been bringing you where there is little enough to be seen, only that Scotch cottage (one [7]by the roadside, with a small garth); but, though not worth looking at, I could not pass it. It was our first country house when newly married, and many a contrivance we had to make it comfortable. I made a dining-table for it with my own hands. Look at these two miserable willow trees on either side the gate into the enclosure; they are tied together at the top to be an arch, and a cross made of two sticks over them is not yet decayed. To be sure, it is not much of a lion to show a stranger; but I wanted to see it again myself, for I assure you that after I had constructed it, mamma (Mrs. Scott) and I both of us thought it so fine, we turned out to see it by moonlight, and walked backwards from it to the cottage door, in admiration of our own magnificence and its picturesque effect. I did want to see if it was still there.’ ”

I had scarcely looked out this passage for you, when I received a letter from the friend who sent me the penny cookery book, incidentally telling me of the breaking up of a real home. I have obtained her leave to let you read part of it. It will come with no disadvantage, even after Scott’s recording as it does the same kind of simple and natural life, now passing so fast away. The same life, and also in the district which, henceforward, I mean to call “Sir Walter’s Land”; definable as the entire breadth of Scots and English ground from sea to sea, coast and isle included, between Schehallien on the north, and Ingleborough on the south, (I have my reasons, though some readers may doubt them, for fixing the limit south of Skye, and north of Ashby-de-la-Zouche.) [8]Within this district, then, but I shall not say in what part of it, the home my friend speaks of stood. In many respects it was like the “Fair-ladies” in “Red Gauntlet”; as near the coast, as secluded, and in the same kind of country; still more like, in its mistress’s simple and loyal beneficence. Therefore, because I do not like leaving a blank for its name, I put “Fair-ladies” for it in the letter, of which the part I wish you to see begins thus:—

“Please let me say one practical thing. In no cottage is there a possibility of roasting more than a pound of meat, if any; and a piece of roast beef, such as you or I understand by the word, costs ten shillings or twelve, and is not meant for artisans. I never have it in this house now, except when it is full. I have a much sadder example of the changes wrought by modern wages and extravagance. Miss ——, who had her house and land for her home-farm expenses (or rather produce), and about —— hundred a year; who entertained for years all her women and children acquaintances; trained a dozen young servants in a year, and was a blessing to the country for miles round; writes me word yesterday that she hopes and intreats that we will go this summer to Fair-ladies, as it is the last. She says the provisions are double the price they used to be—the wages also—and she cannot even work her farm as she used to do; the men want beer instead of milk, and won’t do half they used to do; so she must give it up, and let the place, and come and live by me or some one to [9]comfort her, and Fair-ladies will know her no more. I am so sorry, because I think it such a loss to the wretched people who drive her away. Our weekly bills are double what they used to be, yet every servant asks higher wages each time I engage one; and as to the poor people in the village, they are not a bit better off—they eat more, and drink more, and learn to think less of religion and all that is good. One thing I see very clearly, that, as the keeping of Sunday is being swept away, so is their day of rest going with it. Of course if no one goes to worship God one day more than another,1 what is the sense of talking about the Sabbath? If all the railway servants, and all the post-office, and all the museum and art-collection servants, and all the refreshment places, and other sorts of amusement, servants are to work on Sunday, why on earth should not the artisans, who are as selfish and irreligious as any one? No! directly I find every one else is at work, I shall insist on the baker and the butcher calling for orders as usual. (Quite right, my dear.) The result of enormous wages will be that I rely more on my own boys for carpentering, and on preserved food, and the cook and butcher will soon be dismissed.”

My poor little darling, rely on your own boys for carpentering by all means; and grease be to their elbows—but you shall have something better to rely on than potted [10]crocodile, in old England, yet,—please the pixies, and pigs, and St. George, and St. Anthony.

Nay, we will have also a blue-aproned butcher or two still, to call for orders; they are not yet extinct. We have not even reached the preparatory phase of steam-butcher-boys, riding from Buxton for orders to Bakewell, and from Bakewell for orders to Buxton; and paying dividends to a Steam-Butcher’s-boy-Company. Not extinct yet, and a kindly race, for the most part. “He told me,” (part of another friend’s letter, speaking of his butcher,) “his sow had fourteen pigs, and could only rear twelve, the other two, he said, he was feeding with a spoon. I never could bear, he said, to kill a young animal because he was one too many.” Yes; that is all very well when it’s a pig; but if it be—Wait a minute;—I must go back to Fair-ladies, before I finish my sentence.

For note very closely what the actual facts are in this short letter from an English housewife.

She in the south, and the mistress of Fair-ladies in the north, both find “their weekly bills double what they used to be;” that is to say, they are as poor again as they were, and they have to pay higher wages, of course, for now all wages buy so much less. I have too long, perhaps, put questions to you which I knew you could not answer, partly in the hope of at least making you think, and partly because I knew you would not believe the true answer, if I gave it. But, whether you believe me or not, I must explain the meaning of this to you at once. The weekly bills [11]are double, because the greater part of the labour of the people of England is spent unproductively; that is to say, in producing iron plates, iron guns, gunpowder, infernal machines, infernal fortresses floating about, infernal fortresses standing still, infernal means of mischievous locomotion, infernal lawsuits, infernal parliamentary elocution, infernal beer, and infernal gazettes, magazines, statues, and pictures. Calculate the labour spent in producing these infernal articles annually, and put against it the labour spent in producing food! The only wonder is, that the weekly bills are not tenfold instead of double. For this poor housewife, mind you, cannot feed her children with any one, or any quantity, of these infernal articles. Children can only be fed with divine articles. Their mother can indeed get to London cheap, but she has no business there; she can buy all the morning’s news for a halfpenny, but she has no concern with them; she can see Gustave Doré’s pictures (and she had better see the devil), for a shilling; she can be carried through any quantity of filthy streets on a tramway for threepence; but it is as much as her life’s worth to walk in them, or as her modesty’s worth to look into a print shop in them. Nay, let her have but to go on foot a quarter of a mile in the West End, she dares not take her purse in her pocket, nor let her little dog follow her. These are her privileges and facilities, in the capital of civilization. But none of these will bring meat or flour into her own village. Far the contrary! The sheep and corn which the fields of her [12]village produce are carried away from it to feed the makers of Armstrong guns. And her weekly bills are double.

But you, forsooth, you think, with your beer for milk, are better off. Read pages 12 to 14 of my second letter over again. And now observe farther:—

The one first and absolute question of all economy is—What are you making? Are you making Hell’s articles, or Heaven’s?—gunpowder, or corn?

There is no question whether you are to have work or not. The question is, what work. This poor housewife’s mutton and corn are given you to eat. Good. Now, if you, with your day’s work, produce for her, and send to her, spices, or tea, or rice, or maize, or figs, or any other good thing,—that is true and beneficent trade. But if you take her mutton and corn from her, and send her back an Armstrong gun, what can she make of that? But you can’t grow figs and spices in England, you say? No, certainly, and therefore means of transit for produce in England are little necessary. Let my poor housewife keep her sheep in her near fields, and do you—keep sheep at Newcastle—and the weekly bills will not rise. But you forge iron at Newcastle; then you build an embankment from Newcastle to my friend’s village, whereupon you take her sheep from her, suffocating half of them on the way; and you send her an Armstrong gun back; or, perhaps not even to her, but to somebody who can fire it down your own throats, you jolterheads.

No matter, you say, in the meantime, we eat more, and [13]drink more; the housewife herself allows that. Yes, I have just told you, her corn and sheep all are sent to you. But how about other people? I will finish my sentence now, paused in above. It is all very well to bring up creatures with a spoon, when they are one or two too many, if they are useful things like pigs. But how if they be useless things like young ladies? You don’t want any wives, I understand, now, till you are forty-five; what in the world will you do with your girls? Bring them up with a spoon, to that enchanting age?

“The girls may shift for themselves.” Yes,—they may, certainly. Here is a picture of some of them, as given by the ‘Telegraph’ of March 18th, of the present year, under Lord Derby’s new code of civilization, endeavouring to fulfil Mr. John Stuart Mill’s wishes, and procure some more lucrative occupation than that of nursing the baby:—

“After all the discussions about woman’s sphere and woman’s rights, and the advisability of doing something to redress the inequality of position against which the fair sex, by the medium of many champions, so loudly protests and so constantly struggles, it is not satisfactory to be told what happened at Cannon-row two days last week. It had been announced that the Civil Service Commissioners would receive applications personally from candidates for eleven vacancies in the metropolitan post-offices, and in answer to this notice, about 2,000 young women made their appearance. The building, the courtyard, and the street were blocked by a dense throng of fair applicants; locomotion was impossible, [14]even with the help of policemen; windows were thrown up to view the sight, as if a procession had been passing that way; traffic was obstructed, and nothing could be done for hours. We understand, indeed, that the published accounts by no means do justice to the scene. Many of the applicants, it appears, were girls of the highest respectability and of unusually good social position, including daughters of clergymen and professional men, well connected, well educated, tenderly nurtured; but nevertheless, driven by the res angustæ which have caused many a heart-break, and scattered the members of many a home to seek for the means of independent support. The crowd, the agitation, the anxiety, the fatigue, proved too much for many of those who attended; several fainted away; others went into violent hysterics; others, despairing of success, remained just long enough to be utterly worn out, and then crept off, showing such traces of mental anguish as we are accustomed to associate with the most painful bereavements. In the present case, it is stated, the Commissioners examined over 1,000 candidates for the eleven vacancies. This seems a sad waste of power on both sides, when, in all probability, the first score supplied the requisite number of qualified aspirants.”

Yes, my pets, I am tired of talking to these workmen, who never answer a word; I will try you now—for a letter or two—but I beg your pardon for calling you pets,—my “qualified aspirants” I mean (Alas! time was when the qualified aspiration was on the bachelor’s side). Here you [15]have got all you want, I hope!—liberty enough, it seems—if only the courtyard were bigger; equality enough—no distinction made between young ladies of the highest, or the lowest, respectability; rights of women generally claimed, you perceive; and obtained without opposition from absurdly religious, moral, or chivalric persons. You have got no God, now, to bid you do anything you don’t like; no husbands, to insist on having their own way—(and much of it they got, in the old times—didn’t they?)—no pain nor peril of childbirth;—no bringing up of tiresome brats. Here is an entirely scientific occupation for you! Such a beautiful invention this of Mr. Wheatstone’s! and I hope you all understand the relations of positive and negative electricity. Now you may “communicate intelligence” by telegraph. Those wretched girls that used to write love-letters, of which their foolish lovers would count the words, and sometimes be thankful for—less than twenty—how they would envy you if they knew. Only the worst is, that this beautiful invention of Mr. Wheatstone’s for talking miles off, won’t feed people in the long run, my dears, any more than the old invention of the tongue, for talking near, and you’ll soon begin to think that was not so bad a one, after all. But you can’t live by talking, though you talk in the scientificalest of manners, and to the other side of the world. All the telegraph wire over the earth and under the sea, will not do so much for you, my poor little qualified aspirants, as one strong needle with thimble and thread. [16]

You do sometimes read a novel still, don’t you, my scientific dears? I wish I could write one; but I can’t; and George Eliot always makes them end so wretchedly that they’re worse than none—so she’s no good, neither. I must even translate a foreign novelette or nouvelette, which is to my purpose, next month; meantime I have chanced on a little true story, in the journal of an Englishman, travelling, before the Revolution, in France, which shows you something of the temper of the poor unscientific girls of that day. Here are first, however, a little picture or two which he gives in the streets of Paris, and which I want all my readers to see; they mark, what most Englishmen do not know, that the beginning of the French Revolution, with what of good or evil it had, was in English, not French, notions of “justice” and “liberty.” The writer is travelling with a friend, Mr. B——, who is of the Liberal school, and, “He and I went this forenoon to a review of the foot-guards, by Marshal Biron. There was a crowd, and we could with difficulty get within the circle, so as to see conveniently. An old officer of high rank touched some people who stood before us, saying, ‘Ces deux Messieurs sont des étrangers;’ upon which they immediately made way, and allowed us to pass. ‘Don’t you think that was very obliging?’ said I. ‘Yes,’ answered he; ‘but by heavens, it was very unjust.’

“We returned by the Boulevards, where crowds of citizens, in their holiday dresses, were making merry; the [17]young dancing cotillons, the old beating time to the music, and applauding the dancers. ‘These people seem very happy,’ said I. ‘Happy!’ exclaimed B——; ‘if they had common sense, or reflection, they would be miserable.’ ‘Why so?’ ‘Could not the minister,’ answered he, ‘pick out half-a-dozen of them if he pleased, and clap them into the Bicêtre?’ ‘That is true, indeed,’ said I; ‘that is a catastrophe which, to be sure, may very probably happen, and yet I thought no more of it than they.’

“We met, a few days after he arrived, at a French house where we had been both invited to dinner. There was an old lady of quality present, next to whom a young officer was seated, who paid her the utmost attention. He helped her to the dishes she liked, filled her glass with wine or water, and addressed his discourse particularly to her. ‘What a fool,’ says B——, ‘does that young fellow make of the poor old woman! if she were my mother, d—n me, if I would not call him to an account for it.’

“Though B—— understands French, and speaks it better than most Englishmen, he had no relish for the conversation, soon left the company, and has refused all invitations to dinner ever since. He generally finds some of our countrymen, who dine and pass the evening with him at the Parc Royal.

“After the review this day, we continued together, and being both disengaged, I proposed, by way of variety, to dine at the public ordinary of the Hôtel de Bourbon. He did not like this much at first. ‘I shall be teased,’ says [18]he, ‘with their confounded ceremony;’ but on my observing that we could not expect much ceremony or politeness at a public ordinary, he agreed to go.

“Our entertainment turned out different, however, from my expectations and his wishes. A marked attention was paid us the moment we entered; everybody seemed inclined to accommodate us with the best places. They helped us first, and all the company seemed ready to sacrifice every convenience and distinction to the strangers; for, next to that of a lady, the most respected character at Paris is that of a stranger.

“After dinner, B—— and I walked into the gardens of the Palais Royal.

“ ‘There was nothing real in all the fuss those people made about us,’ says he.

“ ‘I can’t help thinking it something,’ said I, ‘to be treated with civility and apparent kindness in a foreign country, by strangers who know nothing about us, but that we are Englishmen, and often their enemies.’ ”

So much for the behaviour of old Paris. Now for our country story. I will not translate the small bits of French in it; my most entirely English readers can easily find out what they mean, and they must gather what moral they may from it, till next month, for I have no space to comment on it in this letter.

“My friend F—— called on me a few days since, and as soon as he understood that I had no particular engagement, he insisted that I should drive somewhere into the [19]country, dine tête-à-tête with him, and return in time for the play.

“When we had driven a few miles, I perceived a genteel-looking young fellow, dressed in an old uniform. He sat under a tree on the grass, at a little distance from the road, and amused himself by playing on the violin. As we came nearer we perceived he had a wooden leg, part of which lay in fragments by his side.

“ ‘What do you do there, soldier?’ said the Marquis. ‘I am on my way home to my own village, mon officier,’ said the soldier. ‘But, my poor friend,’ resumed the Marquis, ‘you will be a furious long time before you arrive at your journey’s end, if you have no other carriage besides these,’ pointing at the fragments of his wooden leg. ‘I wait for my equipage and all my suite,’ said the soldier, ‘and I am greatly mistaken if I do not see them this moment coming down the hill.’

“We saw a kind of cart, drawn by one horse, in which was a woman, and a peasant who drove the horse. While they drew near, the soldier told us he had been wounded in Corsica—that his leg had been cut off—that before setting out on that expedition, he had been contracted to a young woman in the neighbourhood—that the marriage had been postponed till his return;—but when he appeared with a wooden leg, that all the girl’s relations had opposed the match. The girl’s mother, who was her only surviving parent when he began his courtship, had always been his friend; but she had died while he was abroad. The [20]young woman herself, however, remained constant in her affections, received him with open arms, and had agreed to leave her relations, and accompany him to Paris, from whence they intended to set out in the diligence to the town where he was born, and where his father still lived. That on the way to Paris his wooden leg had snapped, which had obliged his mistress to leave him, and go to the next village in quest of a cart to carry him thither, where he would remain till such time as the carpenter should renew his leg. ‘C’est un malheur,’ concluded the soldier, ‘mon officier, bientôt reparé—et voici mon amie!

“The girl sprung before the cart, seized the outstretched hand of her lover, and told him, with a smile full of affection, that she had seen an admirable carpenter, who had promised to make a leg that would not break, that it would be ready by to-morrow, and they might resume their journey as soon after as they pleased.

“The soldier received his mistress’s compliment as it deserved.

“She seemed about twenty years of age, a beautiful, fine-shaped girl—a brunette, whose countenance indicated sentiment and vivacity.

“ ‘You must be much fatigued, my dear,’ said the Marquis. ‘On ne se fatigue pas, Monsieur, quand on travaille pour ce qu’on aime,’ replied the girl. The soldier kissed her hand with a gallant and tender air. ‘Allons,’ continued the Marquis, addressing himself to me; ‘this girl is quite charming—her lover has the appearance [21]of a brave fellow; they have but three legs betwixt them, and we have four;—if you have no objection, they shall have the carriage, and we will follow on foot to the next village, and see what can be done for these lovers.’ I never agreed to a proposal with more pleasure in my life.

“The soldier began to make difficulties about entering into the vis-à-vis. ‘Come, come, friend,’ said the Marquis, ‘I am a colonel, and it is your duty to obey: get in without more ado, and your mistress shall follow.’

“ ‘Entrons, mon bon ami,’ said the girl, ‘since these gentlemen insist upon doing us so much honour.’

“ ‘A girl like you would do honour to the finest coach in France. Nothing could please me more than to have it in my power to make you happy,’ said the Marquis. ‘Laissez-moi faire, mon colonel,’ said the soldier. ‘Je suis heureuse comme une reine,’ said Fanchon. Away moved the chaise, and the Marquis and I followed.

“ ‘Voyez vous, combien nous sommes heureux nous autres François, à bon marché,’ said the Marquis to me, adding with a smile, ‘le bonheur, à ce qu’on m’a dit, est plus cher en Angleterre.’ ‘But,’ answered I, ‘how long will this last with these poor people?’ ‘Ah, pour le coup,’ said he, ‘voilà une réflexion bien Angloise;’—that, indeed, is what I cannot tell; neither do I know how long you or I may live; but I fancy it would be great folly to be sorrowful through life, because we do not know how soon misfortunes may come, and because we are quite certain that death is to come at last. [22]

“When we arrived at the inn to which we had ordered the postillion to drive, we found the soldier and Fanchon. After having ordered some victuals and wine, ‘Pray,’ said I to the soldier, ‘how do you propose to maintain your wife and yourself?’ ‘One who has contrived to live for five years on soldier’s pay,’ replied he, ‘can have little difficulty for the rest of his life. I can play tolerably well on the fiddle,’ added he, ‘and perhaps there is not a village in all France of the size, where there are so many marriages as in that in which we are going to settle; I shall never want employment.’ ‘And I,’ said Fanchon, ‘can weave hair nets and silk purses, and mend stockings. Besides, my uncle has two hundred livres of mine in his hands, and although he is brother-in-law to the bailiff, and volontiers brutal, yet I will make him pay it every sous.’ ‘And I,’ said the soldier, ‘have fifteen livres in my pocket, besides two louis that I have lent to a poor farmer to enable him to pay taxes, and which he will repay me when he is able.’

“ ‘You see, Sir,’ said Fanchon to me, ‘that we are not objects of compassion. May we not be happy, my good friend (turning to her lover with a look of exquisite tenderness), if it be not our own fault?’ ‘If you are not, ma douce amie!’ said the soldier with great warmth, ‘je serai bien à plaindre.’ ” [23]



As the circulation of “Fors” increases, the correspondence connected with it must of course, and that within no long time, become unmanageable, except by briefest reference to necessary points in letters of real value; many even of such may not be acknowledged, except with the general thanks which I render in advance to all who write either with the definite purpose of helping me, or of asking explanation of what I have said.

A letter of great interest has thus lain by me since Christmas, though the writer would know I had received it by my instant use of the book he told me of,—Professor Kirk’s. With reference to the statements therein made respecting the robbing of the poor by the rich, through temptation of drink, the letter goes on:—

“But to my mind the enquiry does not reach deep enough. I would know, first, why it is that the workers have so little control over their appetites in this direction? (a) and what the remedy? secondly, why is it that those who wish to drain the working men are permitted to govern them? (b) and what the remedy? (c)

“The answers to each question will, I think, be found to be nearly related. [24]

“The possibility of a watchful and exacting, yet respected, government within a government, is well shown by the existence and discipline of the Society of Friends, of which I am a member. Our society is, no doubt, greatly injured by narrow views of religious truth; yet may it not be that their change from an agricultural to a trading people has done the most to sap the vital strength of their early days? But the tree is not without good fruit yet. A day or two ago the following sentence was extracted by me from a newspaper notice of the death of Robert Charleton, of Bristol:—

“ ‘In him the poor and needy, the oppressed, the fallen and friendless, and the lonely sufferer, ever had a tender and faithful friend. When in trade, he was one of the best employers England could boast. He lived for his people, rather than expected them to live for him; and when he did not derive one penny profit from his factory, but rather lost by it, he still kept the business going, for the sake of his work-people’ ” (d).

The answers to my correspondent’s questions are very simple (a) The workers have in general much more control over their appetites than idle people. But as they are for the most part hindered by their occupation from all rational, and from the best domestic, pleasures, and as manual work naturally makes people thirsty, what can they do but drink? Intoxication is the only Heaven that, practically, Christian England ever displays to them. But see my statements on this point in the fourth lecture in the “Crown of Wild Olive,” when I get it out; (the unfinished notes on Frederick keeping it back a while). (b) Because, as the working men have been for the last fifty years taught that one man is as good as another, they never think of looking for a good man to govern them; and only those who intend to pillage or cheat them will ever come forward of their own accord to govern them; or can succeed in doing so, because as long as they trust in their [25]own sagacity, any knave can humbug them to the top of his bent; while no wise man can teach them anything whatever, contrary to their immediate notions. And the distrust in themselves, which would make them look for a real leader, and believe him, is the last sensation likely to occur to them at present; (see my republican correspondent’s observations on election, in the next letter.) (c) My correspondent twice asks what is the remedy? I believe none, now, but the natural one;—namely, some of the forms of ruin which necessarily cut a nation of blockheads down to the ground, and leave it, thence to sprout again, if there be any life left for it in the earth, or lesson teachable to it by adversity. But, through whatever catastrophes, for any man who cares for the right and sees it, his own duty in the wreck is always clear—to keep himself cool and fearless, and do what is instantly serviceable to the people nearest him, and the best he can, silently, for all. Cotton in one’s ears may be necessary—for we are like soon to have screaming enough in England, as in the wreck of the Northfleet, if that would do any good. (d) Yes, that is all very fine; but suppose that keeping useless work going on, for the sake of the work-people, be not the wisest thing to do for the sake of other people? Of this hereafter. The sentence respecting the corrupting power of trade, as opposed to agriculture, is certainly right, and very notable.

Perhaps some of my readers may be surprised at my giving space to the following comments of my inquisitive Republican acquaintance on my endeavours to answer his questions. But they are so characteristic of the genius of Republicanism, that I esteem them quite one of the best gifts of the Third “Fors” to us: also, the writer is sincere, and might think, if I did not print his answers, that I treated him unfairly. I may afterwards take note of some points in them, but have no time this month.

“We are all covetous. I am ravenously covetous of the means [26]to speak in such type and on such paper as you can buy the use of. ‘Oh that mine enemy would’ give me the means of employing such a printer as you can employ!” (Certainly, he could do nothing worse for you!)

“I find you have published my questions, and your criticism thereon. I thank you for your ‘good-will to man,’ but protest against the levity of your method of dealing with politics.

“You assume that you understand me, and that I don’t understand myself or you. I fully admit that I don’t understand you or myself, and I declare that neither do you understand me. But I will pass hyper-criticism (and, by-the-by, I am not sure that I know what that compound word means; you will know, of course, for me) and tackle your ‘Answers.’

“1. You evade the meaning—the question,—for I cannot think you mean that the ‘world’ or an ‘ocean,’ can be rightfully regarded by legislators as the private property of ‘individuals.’

“2. ‘It never was, and never can be.’ The price of a cocoa-nut was the cost of labour in climbing the tree; the climber ate the nut.

“3. What do you understand by a ‘tax’? The penny paid for the conveyance of a letter is not a tax. Lord Somebody says I must perish of hunger, or pay him for permission to dig in the land on which I was born. He taxes me that he may live without labouring, and do you say ‘of course,’ ‘quite rightfully’?

“4. ?

“5. You may choose a pig or horse for yourself, but I claim the right of choosing mine, even though you know that you could choose better animals for me. By your system, if logically carried out, we should have no elections, but should have an emperor of the world,—the man who knew himself to be the most intelligent of all. I suppose you should be allowed to vote? It is somebody else who must have no political voice? Where do you draw the [27]line? Just below John Ruskin?2 Is a man so little and his polish so much? Men and women must vote, or must not submit. I have bought but little of the polish sold at schools; but, ignorant as I am, I would not yield as the ‘subject’ of thirty million Ruskins, or of the king they might elect without consulting me. You did not let either your brain or your heart speak when you answered that question.

“6. ‘Beneficial.’ I claim the right of personal judgment, and I would grant the exercise of that right to every man and woman.

“7. ‘Untrue.’ Untrue. Lord Somebody consumes, with the aid of a hundred men and women, whom he keeps from productive industry, as much as would suffice to maintain a hundred families. A hundred—yes, a thousand navvies. ‘Destroying’? Did you forget that so many admirals, generals, colonels, and captains, were your law-makers? Are they not professional destroyers? I could fill your pages with a list of other destructive employments of your legislators.

“8. Has the tax gatherer too busy a time of it to attend to the duties added by the establishment of a National Post Office? We remove a thousand toll-bars, and collect the assessment annually with economy. We eat now, and are poisoned, and pay dearly. The buyers and sellers of bread ‘have a busy time of it.’

“9. Thank you for the straightforwardness. But I find you ask me what I mean by a ‘State.’ I meant it as you accepted it, and did not think it economical to bother you or myself with a page of incomplete definitions.

“10. ‘See Munera Pulveris!’ And, ye ‘workmen and labourers,’ go and consult the Emperor of China.

“You speak of a king who killed ‘without wrath, and without doubting his rightness,’ and of a collier who killed with ‘consciousness.’ [28]Glorious, ignorant brute of a king! Degraded, enlightened collier! It is enough to stimulate a patriot to burn all the colleges and libraries. Much learning makes us ignoble! No! it is the much labour and the bad teaching of the labourer by those who never earned their food by the sweat of their own brow.”


1 My dear friend, I can’t bear to interrupt your pretty letter; but, indeed, one should not worship God on one day more, or less, than on another; and one should rest when one needs rest, whether on Sunday or Saturday. 

2 My correspondent will perhaps be surprised to hear that I have never in my life voted for any candidate for Parliament, and that I never mean to. 




On the thirteenth shelf of the south bookcase of my home-library, stand, first, Kenelm Digby’s ‘Broad Stone of Honour,’ then in five volumes, bound in red, the ‘History of the Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote of La Mancha;’ and then, in one volume, bound in green, a story no less pathetic, called the ‘Mirror of Peasants.’

Its author does not mean the word ‘mirror’ to be understood in the sense in which one would call Don Quixote the ‘Mirror of Chivalry;’ but in that of a glass in which a man—beholding his natural heart—may know also the hearts of other men, as, in a glass, face answers to face.

The author of this story was a clergyman; but employed the greater part of his day in writing novels, having a gift for that species of composition as well as for sermons, and observing, though he gave both excellent in their kind, that his congregation liked their sermons to be short, and his readers, their novels to be long.

Among them, however, were also many tiny novelettes, [2]of which, young ladies, I to-day begin translating for you one of the shortest; hoping that you will not think the worse of it for being written by a clergyman. Of this author I will only say, that, though I am not prejudiced in favour of persons of his profession, I think him the wisest man, take him all in all, with whose writings I am acquainted; chiefly because he showed his wisdom in pleasant and unappalling ways; as, for instance, by keeping, for the chief ornament of his study (not being able to afford expensive books), one book beautifully bound, and shining with magnificence of golden embossing; this book of books being his register, out of which he read, from the height of his pulpit, the promises of marriage. “Dans lequel il lisait, du haut de la chaire, les promesses de mariage.

He rose always early; breakfasted himself at six o’clock; and then got ready with his own hands the family breakfast, liking his servants better to be at work out of doors: wrote till eleven, dined at twelve, and spent the afternoon in his parish work, or in his fields, being a farmer of shrewdest and most practical skill; and through the Sundays of fifteen years, never once was absent from his pulpit.

And now, before I begin my little story, which is a translation of a translation, for the original is German, and I can only read French, I must say a few serious words as to the sense in which I wish you to receive what religious instruction this romantic clergyman may sometimes mingle with his romance. He is an Evangelical [3]divine of the purest type. It is therefore primarily for my Evangelical readers that I translate this or others of his tales; and if they have read either former letters of ‘Fors,’ or any of my later books, they must know that I do not myself believe in Evangelical theology. But I shall, with my best care, represent and enforce this clergyman’s teaching to my said Evangelical readers, exactly as I should feel it my duty, if I were talking to a faithful Turk, to represent and enforce to him any passage of the Koran which was beyond all question true, in its reference to practical light; and with the bearings of which I was more familiar than he. For I think that our common prayer that God “would take away all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of His word, from all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics,” is an entirely absurd one. I do not think all Jews have hard hearts; nor that all infidels would despise God’s word, if only they could hear it; nor do I in the least know whether it is my neighbour or myself who is really the heretic. But I pray that prayer for myself as well as others; and in this form, that God would make all Jews honest Jews, all Turks honest Turks, all infidels honest infidels, and all Evangelicals and heretics honest Evangelicals and heretics; that so these Israelites in whom there is no guile, Turks in whom there is no guile, and so on, may in due time see the face, and know the power, of the King alike of Israel and Esau. Now, therefore, young ladies, I beg you to understand that I entirely sympathize with this Evangelical clergyman’s feelings [4]because I know him to be honest: also, that I give you of his teaching what is universally true: and that you may get the more good from his story, I will ask you first to consider with yourselves what St. James means by saying in the eighth verse of his general Epistle, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low;” and if you find, as you generally will, if you think seriously over any verse of your Bibles whatsoever, that you never have had, and are never likely to have, the slightest idea what it means, perhaps you will permit me to propose the following explanation to you. That while both rich and poor are to be content to remain in their several states, gaining only by the due and natural bettering of an honest man’s settled life; if, nevertheless, any chance should occur to cause sudden difference in either of their positions, the poor man might wisely desire that it should be some relief from the immediate pressure of poverty, while the rich should esteem it the surest sign of God’s favour, if, without fault of his own, he were forced to know the pain of a lower condition.

I have noticed, in ‘Sesame and Lilies,’ § 2, the frantic fear of the ordinary British public, lest they should fall below their proper “station in life.” It appears that almost the only real sense of duty remaining now in the British conscience is a passionate belief in the propriety of keeping up an appearance; no matter if on other people’s money, so only that there be no signs of their coming down in the world. [5]

I should be very glad therefore if any of my young lady readers, who consider themselves religious persons, would inform me whether they are satisfied with my interpretation of the text; and if so, then how far they would consent, without complaining, to let God humble them, if He wished to? If, for instance, they would, without pouting, allow Him to have His way, even to the point of forcing them to gain their bread by some menial service,—as, suppose, a housemaid’s; and whether they would feel aggrieved at being made lower housemaid instead of upper. If they have read their Bible to so good purpose as not to care which, I hope the following story may not be thought wholly beneath their attention; concerning, as it does, the housemaid’s principal implement; or what (supposing her a member of St. George’s Company) we may properly call her spear, or weapon of noble war.


Brooms are, as we know, among the imperious necessities of the epoch; and in every household, there are many needful articles of the kind which must be provided from day to day, or week to week; and which one accordingly finds, everywhere, persons glad to supply. But we pay daily less and less attention to these kindly disposed persons, since we have been able to get the articles at their lowest possible price.

Formerly it was not thus. The broom merchant, the egg merchant, the sand and rottenstone merchant, were, so to [6]speak, part of the family; one was connected with them by very close links; one knew the day on which each would arrive; and according to the degree of favour they were in, one kept something nice for their dinner; and if, by any chance, they did not come to their day, they excused themselves, next time, as for a very grave fault indeed. They considered the houses which they supplied regularly, as the stars of their heaven,—took all the pains in the world to serve them well,—and, on quitting their trade for anything more dignified, did all they could to be replaced either by their children, or by some cousin, or cousine. There was thus a reciprocal bond of fidelity on one side, and of trust on the other, which unhappily relaxes itself more and more every day, in the measure that also family spirit disappears.

The broom merchant of Rychiswyl was a servant of this sort; he whom one regrets now, so often at Berne,—whom everybody was so fond of at Thun! The Saturday might sooner have been left out of the almanack, than the broom-man not appear in Thun on the Saturday. He had not always been the broom-man; for a long time he had only been the broom-boy; until, in the end, the boy had boys of his own, who put themselves to push his cart for him. His father, who had been a soldier, died early in life; the lad was then very young, and his mother ailing. His elder sister had started in life many a day before, barefoot, and had found a place in helping a woman who carried pine-cones and turpentine to Berne. When she had won her spurs, that is to say, shoes and stockings, she [7]obtained advancement, and became a governess of poultry, in a large farm near the town. Her mother and brother were greatly proud of her, and never spoke but with respect of their pretty Babeli. Hansli could not leave his mother, who had need of his help, to fetch her wood, and the like. They lived on the love of God and good people; but badly enough. One day, the farmer they lodged with says to Hansli:

My lad, it seems to me you might try and earn something now; you are big enough, and sharp enough.

I wish I could, said Hansli; but I don’t know how.

I know something you could do, said the farmer. Set to work to make brooms; there are plenty of twigs on my willows. I only get them stolen as it is; so they shall not cost you much. You shall make me two brooms a year of them.1

Yes, that would be very fine and good, said Hansli; but where shall I learn to make brooms?

Pardieu,2 there’s no such sorcery in the matter, said the farmer. I’ll take on me the teaching of you; many a year now I’ve made all the brooms we use on the farm myself, and I’ll back myself to make as good as are made;3 you’ll want few tools, and may use mine at first.

All which was accordingly done; and God’s blessing [8]came on the doing of it. Hansli took a fancy to the work; and the farmer was enchanted with Hansli.

Don’t look so close;4 put all in that is needful, do the thing well, so as to show people they may put confidence in you. Once get their trust, and your business is done, said always the farmer,5 and Hansli obeyed him.

In the beginning, naturally, things did not go very fast, nevertheless he placed6 what he could make; and as he became quicker in the making, the sale increased in proportion. Soon, everybody said that no one had such pretty brooms as the little merchant of Rychiswyl; and the better he succeeded, the harder he worked. His mother visibly recovered liking for life. Now the battle’s won, said she; as soon as one can gain one’s bread honourably, one has the right to enjoy oneself, and what can one want more! Always, from that time, she had, every day, as much as she liked to eat; nay, even every day there remained something over for the next: and she could have as much bread as she liked. Indeed, Hansli very often brought her even a little white bread back from the town, whereupon7 how happy did she not feel herself! and how she thanked God for having kept so many good things for her old days.

On the contrary, now for a little while, Hansli was looking [9]cross and provoked. Soon he began actually to grumble. ‘Things could not go on much longer that way; he could not put up with it.’ When the farmer at last set himself to find out what that meant, Hansli declared to him that he had too many brooms to carry, and could not carry them; and that even when the miller took them on his cart, it was very inconvenient, and that he absolutely wanted a cart of his own, but he hadn’t any money to buy one, and didn’t know anybody who was likely to lend him any. You are a gaby,8 said the peasant. Look you, I won’t have you become one of those people who think a thing’s done as soon as they’ve dreamt it. That’s the way one spends one’s money to make the fish go into other people’s nets. You want to buy a cart, do you? why don’t you make one yourself.

Hansli put himself,9 to stare at the farmer with his mouth open, and great eyes.

Yes, make it yourself: you will manage it, if you make up your mind, went on the farmer. You can chip wood well enough, and the wood won’t cost you much—what I haven’t, another peasant will have; and there must be old iron about, plenty, in the lumber-room. I believe there’s even an old cart somewhere, which you can have to look at—or to use, if you like. Winter will be here soon; set [10]yourself to work, and by the spring all will be done, and you won’t have spent a threepenny piece,10 for you may pay the smith too, with brooms, or find a way of doing without him—who knows?

Hansli began to open his eyes again. I make a cart,—but how ever shall I,—I never made one. Gaby, answered the farmer, one must make everything once the first time. Take courage, and it’s half done. If people took courage solidly, there are many now carrying the beggar’s wallet, who would have money up to their ears, and good metal, too. Hansli was on the point of asking if the peasant had lost his head. Nevertheless, he finished by biting at the notion; and entering into it little by little, as a child into cold water. The peasant came now and then to help him; and in spring the new cart was ready, in such sort that on Easter Tuesday Hansli conducted it,11 for the first time, to Berne, and the following Saturday to Thun, also for the first time. The joy and pride that this new cart gave him, it is difficult to form anything like a notion of. If anybody had proposed to give him the Easter ox for it, that they had promenaded at Berne the evening before, and which weighed well its twenty-five quintals, he wouldn’t have heard of such a thing. It seemed to him that everybody stopped as they passed, to look at his cart; and, whenever he got a chance, he put himself to explain at length what advantages that cart had over every other cart that had [11]yet been seen in the world. He asserted very gravely that it went of itself, except only at the hills; where it was necessary to give it a touch of the hand.12 A cookmaid said to him that she would not have thought him so clever; and that if ever she wanted a cart, she would give him her custom. That cookmaid, always, afterwards, when she bought a fresh supply of brooms, had a present of two little ones into the bargain, to sweep into the corners of the hearth with; things which are very convenient for maids who like to have everything clean even into the corners; and who always wash their cheeks to behind their ears. It is true that maids of this sort are thin-sprinkled enough.13

From this moment, Hansli began to take good heart to his work: his cart was for him his farm;14 he worked with real joy; and joy in getting anything done is, compared to ill-humour, what a sharp hatchet is to a rusty one, in cutting wood. The farmers of Rychiswyl were delighted with the boy. There wasn’t one of them who didn’t say, ‘When you want twigs, you’ve only to take them in my field; but don’t damage the trees, and think of the wife sometimes; women use so many brooms in a year that the devil couldn’t serve [12]them.’ Hansli did not fail; also was he in great favour with all the farm-mistresses. They never had been in the way of setting any money aside for buying brooms; they ordered their husbands to provide them,15 but one knows how things go, that way. Men are often too lazy to make shavings,16 how much less brooms!—aussi the women were often in a perfect famine of brooms, and the peace of the household had greatly to suffer for it. But now, Hansli was there before one had time to think; and it was very seldom a paysanne17 was obliged to say to him, ‘Hansli, don’t forget us, we’re at our last broom.’ Besides the convenience of this, Hansli’s brooms were superb—very different from the wretched things which one’s grumbling husband tied up loose, or as rough and ragged as if they had been made of oat straw. Of course, in these houses, Hansli gave his brooms for nothing; yet they were not the worst placed pieces of his stock; for, not to speak of the twigs given him gratis, all the year round he was continually getting little presents, in bread and milk, and such kinds of things, which a paysanne has always under her hand, and which she gives without looking too close. Also, rarely one churned butter without [13]saying to him, Hansli, we beat butter to-morrow; if you like to bring a pot, you shall have some of the beaten.18

And as for fruit, he had more than he could eat of it; so that it could not fail, things going on in this way, that Hans should prosper; being besides thoroughly economical. If he spent as much as a batz on the day he went to the town, it was the end of the world.19 In the morning, his mother took care he had a good breakfast, after which he took also something in his pocket, without counting that sometimes here, and sometimes there, one gave him a morsel in the kitchens where he was well known; and finally he didn’t imagine that he ought always to have something to eat, the moment he had a mind to it.

I am very sorry, but find there’s no chance of my getting the romantic part of my story rightly into this letter; so I must even leave it till August, for my sketch of Scott’s early life is promised for July, and I must keep my word to time more accurately than hitherto, else, as the letters increase in number, it is too probable I may forget what I promised in them; not that I lose sight even for a moment of my main purpose; but the contents of the letters being absolutely as the Third Fors may order, she orders me here and there so fast sometimes that I can’t hold the pace. This unlucky index, for example! It is easy enough to make an index, as it is to make a [14]broom of odds and ends, as rough as oat straw; but to make an index tied up tight, and that will sweep well into corners, isn’t so easy. Ill-tied or well, it shall positively be sent with the July number (if I keep my health), and will be only six months late then; so that it will have been finished in about a fourth of the time a lawyer would have taken to provide any document for which there was a pressing necessity.

In the meantime, compare the picture of country life in Switzerland, already beginning to show itself in outline in our story of the broom-maker, with this following account of the changes produced by recent trade in the country life of the island of Jersey. It is given me by the correspondent who directed me to Professor Kirk’s book; (see the notes in last letter,) and is in every point of view of the highest value. Compare especially the operations of the great universal law of supply and demand in the article of fruit, as they affect the broom-boy, and my correspondent; and consider for yourselves, how far that beautiful law may affect, in time to come, not your pippins only, but also your cheese; and even at last your bread.

I give this letter large print; it is quite as important as anything I have myself to say. The italics are mine.

Dear Master,—The lesson I have gathered here in Jersey as to the practical working of bodies of small land-owners, [15]is that they have three arch-enemies to their life and well-being. First, the covetousness that, for the sake of money-increase, permits and seeks that great cities should drain the island of its life-blood—their best men and their best food or means of food; secondly, love of strong drink and tobacco; and thirdly, (for these two last are closely connected,) want of true recreation.

The island is cut up into small properties or holdings, a very much larger proportion of these being occupied and cultivated by the owners themselves than is the case in England. Consequently, as I think, the poor do not suffer as much as in England. Still the times have altered greatly for the worse within the memory of every middle-aged resident, and the change has been wrought chiefly by the regular and frequent communication with London and Paris, but more especially the first, which in the matter of luxuries of the table, has a maw insatiable.20 Thus the Jersey farmer finds that, by devoting his best labour and land to the raising of potatoes sufficiently early to obtain a fancy price for them, very large money-gains are sometimes obtained,—subject also to large risks; for spring frosts on the one hand, and being outstripped by more venturous farmers on the other, are the Jersey farmers’ Scylla and Charybdis.

Now for the results. Land, especially that with southern aspect, has increased marvellously in price. Wages have also risen. In many employments nearly doubled. Twenty [16]years ago a carpenter obtained 1s. 8d. per day. Now he gets 3s.; and field labourers’ wages have risen nearly as much in proportion. But food and lodging have much more than doubled. Potatoes for ordinary consumption are now from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per cabot (40 lb.); here I put out of court the early potatoes, which bring, to those who are fortunate in the race, three times that price. Fifteen years ago the regular price for the same quantity was from 5d. to 8d. Butter is now 1s. 4d. per lb. Then it was 6d.; and milk of course has altered in the same proportion. Fruit, which formerly could be had in lavish, nay, almost fabulous abundance, is now dearer than in London. In fact I, who am essentially a frugivorous animal, have found myself unable to indulge in it, and it is only at very rare intervals to be found in any shape at my table. All work harder, and all fare worse; but the poor specially so. The well-to-do possess a secret solace denied to them. It is found in the ‘share market.’ I am told by one employed in a banking-house and ‘finance’ business here, that it is quite wonderful how fond the Jersey farmers are of Turkish bonds, Grecian and Spanish coupons. Shares in mines seem also to find favour here. My friend in the banking-house tells me that he was once induced to try his fortune in that way. To be cautious, he invested in four different mines. It was perhaps fortunate for him that he never received a penny of his money back from any one of the four.

Another mode by which the earnings of the saving and [17]industrious Jerseyman find their way back to London or Paris is the uncalculated, but not unfrequent, advent of a spendthrift among the heirs of the family. I am told that the landlord of the house I live in is of this stamp, and that two years more of the same rate of expenditure at Paris that he now uses, will bring him to the end of his patrimony.

But what of the stimulants, and the want of recreation? I have coupled these together because I think that drinking is an attempt to find, by a short and easy way, the reward of a true recreation; to supply a coarse goad to the wits, so that there may be forced or fancied increase of play to the imagination, and to experience, with this, an agreeable physical sensation. I think men will usually drink to get the fascinating combination of the two. True recreation is the cure, and this is not adequately supplied here, either in kind or degree, by tea-meetings and the various religious ‘services,’ which are almost the only social recreations (no irreverence intended by thus classing them) in use among the country folk of Jersey.

But I had better keep to my facts. The deductions I can well leave to my master.

Here is a fact as to the working of the modern finance system here. There is exceedingly little gold coin in the island; in place thereof we use one-pound notes issued by the banks of the island. The principal bank issuing these, and also possessing by far the largest list of depositors, has just failed. Liabilities, as estimated by the accountants, not less than £332,000; assets calculated by the same authorities [18]not exceeding £34,000. The whole island is thrown into the same sort of catastrophe as English merchants by the Overend-Gurney failure. Business in the town nearly at a stand-still, and failures of tradesmen taking place one after another, with a large reserve of the same in prospect. But as the country people are as hard at work as ever, and the panic among the islanders has hindered in nowise the shooting of the blades through the earth, and general bursting forth of buds on the trees, I begin to think the island may survive to find some other chasm for their accumulations. Unless indeed the champion slays the dragon first. [As far as one of the unlearned may have an opinion, I strongly object both to ‘Rough skin,’ and ‘Red skin,’ as name derivations. There have been useful words derived from two sources, and I shall hold that the Latin prefix to the Saxon kin establishes a sort of relationship with St. George.]

I am greatly flattered by my correspondent’s philological studies; but alas, his pretty result is untenable: no derivation can stand astride on two languages; also, neither he, nor any of my readers, must think of me as setting myself up either for a champion or a leader. If they will look back to the first letter of this book, they will find it is expressly written to quit myself of public responsibility in pursuing my private work. Its purpose is to state clearly what must be done by all of us, as we can, in our place; and to fulfil what duty I personally acknowledge to the [19]State; also I have promised, if I live, to show some example of what I know to be necessary, if no more able person will show it first. That is a very different thing from pretending to leadership in a movement which must one day be as wide as the world. Nay, even my marching days may perhaps soon be over, and the best that I can make of myself be a faithful signpost. But what I am, or what I fail to be, is of no moment to the cause. The two facts which I have to teach, or sign, though alone, as it seems, at present, in the signature, that food can only be got out of the ground, and happiness only out of honesty, are not altogether dependent on any one’s championship, for recognition among mankind.

For the present, nevertheless, these two important pieces of information are never, so far as I am aware, presented in any scheme of education either to the infantine or adult mind. And, unluckily, no other information whatever, without acquaintance with these facts, can produce either bread and butter, or felicity. I take the following four questions, for instance, as sufficiently characteristic, out of the seventy-eight, proposed, on their Fifth subject of study, to the children of St. Matthias’ National School, Granby Street, Bethnal Green, (school fees, twopence or threepence a week,) by way of enabling them to pass their First of May pleasantly, in this blessed year 1873.

1. Explain the distinction between an identity and an equation, and give an easy example of each. Show [20]that if a simple equation in x is satisfied by two different values of x, it is an identity.

2. In what time will a sum of money double itself if invested at 10 per cent. per annum, compound interest?

3. How many different permutations can be made of the letters in the word Chillianwallah? How many if arranged in a circle, instead of a straight line? And how many different combinations of them, two and two, can be made?

4. Show that if α and β be constant, and φ and λ variable, and if StartFraction cosine squared alpha cosine squared beta left-parenthesis tangent squared alpha cosine squared lamda plus tangent squared beta sine squared lamda right-parenthesis Over tangent squared alpha cosine squared beta cosine squared lamda plus tangent squared beta cosine squared alpha sine squared lamda EndFraction equals StartFraction sine squared alpha cosine squared phi plus sine beta sine Superscript 8 Baseline phi Over tangent squared alpha cosine squared phi plus tangent squared beta sine squared phi EndFraction comma then cosine squared beta tangent phi equals cosine squared alpha tangent squared lamda, unless alpha equals beta plus-or-minus n pi.

I am bound to state that I could not answer any one of these interrogations myself, and that my readers must therefore allow for the bias of envy in the expression of my belief that to have been able to answer the sort of questions which the First of May once used to propose to English children,—whether they knew a cowslip from an oxslip, and a blackthorn from a white,—would have been incomparably more to the purpose, both of getting their living, and liking it. [21]



The following expression of the wounded feelings of the ‘Daily News’ is perhaps worth preserving:—

“Mr. Ruskin’s ‘Fors Clavigera’ has already become so notorious as a curious magazine of the blunders of a man of genius who has travelled out of his province, that it is perhaps hardly worth while to notice any fresh blunder. No one who writes on financial subjects need be at all surprised that Mr. Ruskin funnily misinterprets what he has said, and we have ourselves just been the victim of a misinterpretation of the sort. Mr. Ruskin quotes a single sentence from an article which appeared in our impression of the 3rd of March, and places on it the interpretation that ‘whenever you have reason to think that anybody has charged you threepence for a twopenny article, remember that, according to the “Daily News,” the real capital of the community is increased.’ We need hardly tell our readers that we wrote no nonsense of that kind. Our object was to show that the most important effect of the high price of coal was to alter the distribution of the proceeds of production in the community, and not to diminish the amount of it; that it was quite possible for real production, which is always the most important matter in a question of material wealth, to increase, even with coal at a high price; and that there was such an increase at the time we were writing, although coal was dear. These are certainly very different propositions from the curious deduction which Mr. Ruskin makes from a single short sentence [22]in a long article, the purport of which was clear enough. There is certainly no cause for astonishment at the blunders which Mr. Ruskin makes in political economy and finance, if his method is to rush at conclusions without patiently studying the drift of what he reads. Oddly enough, it may be added, there is one way in which dear coal may increase the capital of a country like England, though Mr. Ruskin seems to think the thing impossible. We are exporters of coal, and of course the higher the price the more the foreigner has to pay for it. So far, therefore, the increased price is advantageous, although on balance, every one knows, it is better to have cheap coal than dear.”

Let me at once assure the editor of the ‘Daily News’ that I meant him no disrespect in choosing a ‘long’ article for animadversion. I had imagined that the length of his articles was owing rather to his sense of the importance of their subject than to the impulsiveness and rash splendour of his writing. I feel, indeed, how much the consolation it conveys is enhanced by this fervid eloquence; and even when I had my pocket picked the other day on Tower Hill, it might have soothed my ruffled temper to reflect that, in the beautiful language of the ‘Daily News,’ the most important effect of that operation was “to alter the distribution of the proceeds of production in the community, and not to diminish the amount of it.” But the Editor ought surely to be grateful to me for pointing out that, in his present state of mind, he may not only make one mistake in a long letter, but two in a short one. Their object, declares the ‘Daily News,’ (if I would but have taken the pains to appreciate their efforts,) “was to show that it was quite possible for real production to increase, even with coal at a high price.” It is quite possible for the production of newspaper articles to increase, and of many other more useful things. The speculative public probably knew, without the help of the ‘Daily News,’ that they might still catch a herring, even [23]if they could not broil it. But the rise of price in coal itself was simply caused by the diminution of its production, or by roguery.

Again, the intelligent journal observes that “dear coal may increase the capital of a country like England, because we are exporters of coal, and the higher the price, the more the foreigner has to pay for it.” We are exporters of many other articles besides coal, and foreigners are beginning to be so foolish, finding the prices rise, as, instead of “having more to pay for them,” never to buy them. The ‘Daily News,’ however, is under the impression that over, instead of under, selling, is the proper method of competition in foreign markets, which is not a received view in economical circles.

I observe that the ‘Daily News,’ referring with surprise to the conclusions which unexpectedly, though incontrovertibly, resulted from their enthusiastic statement, declare they need hardly tell their readers they “wrote no nonsense of that kind.” But I cannot but feel, after their present better-considered effusion, that it would be perhaps well on their part to warn their readers how many other kinds of nonsense they will in future be justified in expecting. [26]



Facsimile of Chantrey’s sketch from life.


1 Far wiser than letting him gather them as valueless. 

2 Not translateable. In French, it has the form of a passionate oath, but the spirit of a gentle one. 

3 Head of house doing all he can do well, himself. If he had not had time to make the brooms well, he would have bought them. 

4 Do not calculate so closely how much you can afford to give for the price. 

5 Not meaning “you can cheat them afterwards,” but that the customer would not leave him for another broom-maker. 

6 Sold. 

7 “Aussi also how happy she felt. Aussi is untranslateable in this pretty use; so hereafter I shall put it, as an English word, in its place. 

8 “Nigaud,” good for nothing but trifles; worthless, but without sense of vice; (vaut-rien, means viciously worthless). The real sense of this word here would be “Handless fool,” but said good-humouredly. 

9 Se mit à regarder. I shall always translate such passages with the literal idiom—put himself. 

10 A single batz, about three halfpence in bad silver, flat struck: I shall use the word without translating henceforward. 

11 Pushed it. No horse wanted. 

12 Coup de main, a nice French idiom meaning the stroke of hand as opposed by that of a senseless instrument. The phrase “Taking a place by a coup de main” regards essentially not so much the mere difference between sudden and long assault, as between assault with flesh or cannon. 

13 Assez clair semées. 

14 He is now a capitalist, in the entirely wholesome and proper sense of the word. See answer of ‘Pall Mall Gazette,’ driven to have recourse to the simple truth, to my third question in last ‘Fors.’ 

15 See above, the first speech of the farmer to Hansli, “Many’s the year now,” etc. It would be a shame for a well-to-do farmer to have to buy brooms; it is only the wretched townspeople whom Hansli counts on for custom. 

16 Copeaux, I don’t understand this. 

17 The mistress of a farm; paysan, the master. I shall use paysanne, after this, without translation, and peasant, for paysan; rarely wanting the word in our general sense. 

18 “Du battu,” I don’t know if it means the butter, or the buttermilk. 

19 “Le bout du monde,” meaning, he never thought of going any farther. 

20 Compare, if you can get at the book in any library, my article on ‘Home and its Economies’ in the ‘Contemporary Review’ for May. 




Of the four great English tale-tellers whose dynasties have set or risen within my own memory—Miss Edgeworth, Scott, Dickens, and Thackeray—I find myself greatly at pause in conjecturing, however dimly, what essential good has been effected by them, though they all had the best intentions. Of the essential mischief done by them, there is, unhappily, no doubt whatever. Miss Edgeworth made her morality so impertinent that, since her time, it has only been with fear and trembling that any good novelist has ventured to show the slightest bias in favour of the Ten Commandments. Scott made his romance so ridiculous, that, since his day, one can’t help fancying helmets were always pasteboard, and horses were always hobby. Dickens made everybody laugh, or cry, so that they could not go about their business till they had got their faces in wrinkles; and Thackeray settled like a meatfly on whatever one had got for dinner, and made one sick of it. [2]

That, on the other hand, at least Miss Edgeworth and Scott have indeed some inevitable influence for good, I am the more disposed to think, because nobody now will read them. Dickens is said to have made people good-natured. If he did, I wonder what sort of natures they had before! Thackeray is similarly asserted to have chastised and repressed flunkeydom,—which it greatly puzzles me to hear, because, as far as I can see, there isn’t a carriage now left in all the Row with anybody sitting inside it: the people who ought to have been in it are, every one, hanging on behind the carriage in front.

What good these writers have done, is therefore, to me, I repeat, extremely doubtful. But what good Scott has in him to do, I find no words full enough to tell. His ideal of honour in men and women is inbred, indisputable; fresh as the air of his mountains; firm as their rocks. His conception of purity in woman is even higher than Dante’s; his reverence for the filial relation, as deep as Virgil’s; his sympathy universal;—there is no rank or condition of men of which he has not shown the loveliest aspect; his code of moral principle is entirely defined, yet taught with a reserved subtlety like Nature’s own, so that none but the most earnest readers perceive the intention: and his opinions on all practical subjects are final; the consummate decisions of accurate and inevitable common sense, tempered by the most graceful kindness.

That he had the one weakness—I will not call it fault—of desiring to possess more and more of the actual soil of [3]the land which was so rich to his imagination, and so dear to his pride; and that, by this postern-gate of idolatry, entered other taints of folly and fault, punished by supreme misery, and atoned for by a generosity and solemn courage more admirable than the unsullied wisdom of his happier days, I have ceased to lament: for all these things make him only the more perfect to us as an example, because he is not exempt from common failings, and has his appointed portion in common pain.

I said we were to learn from him the true relations of Master and Servant; and learning these, there is little left for us to learn; but, on every subject of immediate and vital interest to us, we shall find, as we study his life and words, that both are as authoritative as they are clear. Of his impartiality of judgment, I think it is enough, once for all, to bid you observe that, though himself, by all inherited disposition and accidental circumstances, prejudiced in favour of the Stewart cause, the aristocratic character, and the Catholic religion,—the only perfectly noble character in his first novel is that of a Hanoverian colonel,1 and the most exquisitely finished and heroic character in all his novels, that of a Presbyterian milkmaid.

But before I press any of his opinions—or I ought [4]rather to say, knowledges—upon you, I must try to give you some idea of his own temper and life. His temper, I say; the mixture of clay, and the fineness of it, out of which the Potter made him; and of his life, what the power of the Third Fors had been upon it, before his own hands could make or mar his fortune, at the turn of tide. I shall do this merely by abstracting and collating (with comment) some passages out of Lockhart’s life of him; and adding any elucidatory pieces which Lockhart refers to, or which I can find myself, in his own works, so that you may be able to read them easily together. And observe, I am not writing, or attempting to write, another life of Scott; but only putting together bits of Lockhart’s life in the order which my side-notes on the pages indicate for my own reading; and I shall use Lockhart’s words, or my own, indifferently, and without the plague of inverted commas. Therefore, if anything is wrong in my statement, Lockhart is not answerable for it; but my own work in the business will nevertheless be little more than what the French call putting dots on the i’s, and adding such notes as may be needful for our present thought.

Sir Walter was born on the 15th August, 1771, in a house belonging to his father, at the head of the College Wynd, Edinburgh. The house was pulled down to make room for the northern front of the New College; and the wise people of Edinburgh then built, for I don’t know how many thousand pounds, a small vulgar Gothic steeple on the ground, and called it the “Scott Monument.” There seems, [5]however, to have been more reason than usual for the destruction of the College Wynd, for Scott was the first survivor of seven children born in it to his father, and appears to have been saved only by the removal to the house in George’s Square,2 which his father always afterwards occupied; and by being also sent soon afterwards into the open country. He was of purest Border race—seventh in descent from Wat of Harden and the Flower of Yarrow. Here are his six ancestors, from the sixteenth century, in order:—

  • 1. Walter Scott (Auld Wat) of Harden.
  • 2. Sir William Scott of Harden.
  • 3. Walter Scott of Raeburn.
  • 4. Walter Scott, Tutor of Raeburn.
  • 5. Robert Scott of Sandy-Knowe.
  • 6. Walter Scott, citizen of Edinburgh.

I will note briefly what is important respecting each of these.

I. Wat of Harden. Harden means ‘the ravine of hares.’ It is a glen down which a little brook flows to join the river Borthwick, itself a tributary of the Teviot, six miles west of Hawick, and just opposite Branxholm. So long as Sir Walter retained his vigorous habits, he made a yearly [6]pilgrimage to it, with whatever friend happened to be his guest at the time.3

Wat’s wife, Mary, the Flower of Yarrow, is said to have chiefly owed her celebrity to the love of an English captive,—a beautiful child whom she had rescued from the tender mercies4 of Wat’s moss-troopers, on their return from a Cumberland foray. The youth grew up under her protection, and is believed to have written both the words and music of many of the best songs of the Border.5

This story is evidently the germ of that of the ‘Lay of the last Minstrel,’ only the captivity is there of a Scottish boy to the English. The lines describing Wat of Harden are in the 4th canto,—

“Marauding chief; his sole delight

The moonlight raid, the morning fight.

Not even the Flower of Yarrow’s charms,

In youth, might tame his rage for arms;

And still in age he spurned at rest,

And still his brows the helmet pressed,

Albeit the blanchèd locks below

Were white as Dinlay’s spotless snow.”6


With these, read also the answer of the lady of Branksome, 23rd and 24th stanzas,—

“ ‘Say to your lords of high emprize,

Who war on women and on boys,—

For the young heir of Branksome’s line,

God be his aid; and God be mine:

Through me no friend shall meet his doom;

Here, while I live, no foe finds room.’

Proud she looked round, applause to claim;

Then lightened Thirlstane’s eye of flame;

His bugle Watt of Harden blew.

Pensils7 and pennons wide were flung,

To heaven the Border slogan rung,

‘St. Mary, for the young Buccleugh.’ ”

Let us stop here to consider what good there may be in all this for us. The last line, “St. Mary for the young Buccleugh,” probably sounds absurd enough to you. You have nothing whatever to do, you think, with either of these personages. You don’t care for any St. Mary; and still less for any, either young or old, Buccleugh? [8]

Well, I’m sorry for you:—but if you don’t care for St. Mary, the wife of Joseph, do you care at all for St. Mary-Anne, the wife of Joe? Have you any faith in the holiness of your own wives, who are here, in flesh and blood? or do you verily wish them, as Mr. Mill8 would have it—sacrifice all pretence to saintship, as to holy days—to follow “some more lucrative occupation than that of nursing the baby”? And you don’t care for the young Buccleugh? Cut away the cleugh, then, and read the Buc backwards. Do you care for your own cub as much as Sir Walter would have cared for his own beast? (see, farther on, how he takes care of his wire-haired terrier, Spice,) or as any beast cares for its cub? Or do you send your poor little brat to make money for you, like your wife; as though a cock should send his hen and chickens to pick up what they could for him; and it were the usual law of nature that nestlings should feed the parent birds? If that be your way of liberal modern life, believe me, the Border faith in its Mary and its master, however servile, was not benighted in comparison.

But the Border morals? “Marauding chief, whose sole delight,” etc. Just look for the passages indicated under the word ‘theft’ in my fine new index to the first two volumes of ‘Fors.’ I will come back to this point: for the present, in [9]order to get it more clearly into your minds, remember that the Flower of Yarrow was the chieftainess to whom the invention of serving the empty dish with two spurs in it, for hint to her husband that he must ride for his next dinner, is first ascribed. Also, for comparison of the English customs of the same time, read this little bit of a letter of Lord Northumberland’s to Henry VIII. in 1533.9

“Please it your most gracious Highness to be advertised that my comptroller, with Raynold Carnaby, desired licence of me to invade the realm of Scotland, to the annoyance of your Highness’s enemies, and so they did meet upon Monday before night, at Warhope, upon North Tyne water, to the number of 1500 men: and so invaded Scotland, at the hour of eight of the clock at night, and actively did set upon a town10 called Branxholm, where the Lord of Buccleugh dwelleth, albeit that knight he was not at home. And so they burnt the said Branxholm, and other towns, and had ordered themselves so that sundry of the said Lord Buccleugh’s servants, who did issue forth of his gates, were taken prisoners. They did not leave one house, one stack of corn, nor one sheaf without the gate of the said Lord Buccleugh unburnt; and so in the breaking of the day receded homeward. And thus, thanks be to God, your Highness’s subjects, about the hour of twelve of the [10]clock the same day, came into this, your Highness’s realm, bringing with them above forty Scotsmen prisoners, one of them named Scott, of the surname and kin of the said Lord of Buccleugh. And of his household they brought also three hundred nowte” (cattle), “and above sixty horses and mares, keeping in safety from loss or hurt all your said Highness’s subjects.”

They had met the evening before on the North Tyne, under Carter Fell; (you will find the place partly marked as “Plashett’s coal-fields” in modern atlases;) rode and marched their twenty miles to Branxholm; busied themselves there, as we hear, till dawn, and so back thirty miles down Liddesdale,—a fifty miles’ ride and walk altogether, all finished before twelve on Tuesday: besides what pillaging and burning had to be done.

Now, but one more point is to be noticed, and we will get on with our genealogy.

After this bit of the Earl’s letter, you will better understand the speech of the Lady of Buccleugh, defending her castle in the absence of her lord, and with her boy taken prisoner. And now look back to my 25th letter, for I want you not to forget Alice of Salisbury. King Edward’s first sight of her was just after she had held her castle exactly in this way, against a raid of the Scots in Lord Salisbury’s absence. Edward rode night and day to help her; and the Scots besiegers, breaking up at his approach, this is what follows, which you may receive on Froissart’s telling as the vital and effectual truth of the matter. A modern [11]English critic will indeed always and instantly extinguish this vital truth; there is in it something inherently detestable to him; thus the editor of Johnes’ Froissart prefaces this very story with “the romance—for it is nothing more.” Now the labyrinth of Crete, and the labyrinth of Woodstock, are indeed out of sight; and of a real Ariadne or Rosamond, a blockhead might be excused for doubting; but St. George’s Chapel at Windsor—(or Winde-Rose, as Froissart prettily transposes it, like Adriane for Ariadne) is a very visible piece of romance; and the stones of it were laid, and the blue riband which your queen wears on her breast is fastened, to this day, by the hand of Alice of Salisbury.

“So the King came at noon; and angry he was to find the Scots gone; for he had come in such haste that all his people and horses were dead-tired and toiled. So every one went to rest; and the King, as soon as he was disarmed, took ten or twelve knights with him, and went towards the castle to salute the Countess, and see how the defence had been made. So soon as the Lady of Salisbury knew of the King’s coming, she made all the gates be opened,” (inmost and outmost at once,) “and came out, so richly dressed that every one was wonderstruck at her, and no one could cease looking at her, nor from receiving, as if they had been her mirrors, the reflection of her great nobleness, and her great beauty, and her gracious speaking and bearing herself. When she came to the King, she bowed down to the earth, over against him, in thanking him for [12]his help, and brought him to the castle, to delight him and honour him—as she who well knew how to do it. Every one looked at her, even to amazement, and the King himself could not stop looking at her, for it seemed to him that in the world never was lady who was so much to be loved as she. So they went hand in hand into the castle, and the Lady led him first into the great hall, and then into her own chamber, (what the French now call a pouting-room, but the ladies of that day either smiled or frowned, but did not pout,) which was nobly furnished, as befitted such lady. And always the King looked at the gentle Lady, so hard that she became all ashamed. When he had looked at her a long while, he went away to a window, to lean upon it, and began to think deeply. The Lady went to cheer the other knights and squires; then ordered the dinner to be got ready, and the room to be dressed. When she had devised all, and commanded her people what seemed good to her, she returned with a gladsome face before the King,”—in whose presence we must leave her yet awhile, having other matters to attend to.

So much for Wat of Harden’s life then, and his wife’s. We shall get a little faster on with the genealogy after this fair start.

II. Sir William Scott of Harden.

Wat’s eldest son; distinguished by the early favour of James VI.

In his youth, engaging in a foray on the lands of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, and being taken prisoner, [13]Murray offers him choice between being hanged, or marrying the plainest of his daughters. The contract of marriage, written on the parchment of a drum, is still in possession of the family of Harden.11

This is Lockhart’s reading of the circumstances, and I give his own statement of them in the note below. But his assumption of the extreme plainness of the young lady, and of the absolute worldly-mindedness of the mother, are both examples of the modern manner of reading traditions, out of which some amusement may be gathered by looking only at them on the grotesque side, and interpreting that grotesqueness ungenerously. There may, indeed, be farther ground than Lockhart has thought it worth while to state for his colour of the facts; but all that can be justly gathered from those he has told is that, Sir Gideon having determined the death of his troublesome neighbour, Lady Murray interfered to save his life; and could not more forcibly touch her husband’s purpose than by reminding him that hostility might be better ended in alliance than in death.

The sincere and careful affection which Sir William of Harden afterwards shows to all his children by the Maid of Elibank, and his naming one of them after her father, [14]induce me still farther to trust in the fairer reading of the tradition. I should, indeed, have been disposed to attach some weight, on the side of the vulgar story, to the curiously religious tendencies in Sir William’s children, which seem to point to some condition of feeling in the mother, arising out of despised life. Women are made nobly religious by the possession of extreme beauty, and morbidly so by distressed consciousness of the want of it; but there is no reason for insisting on this probability, since both the Christian and surname of Sir Gideon Murray point to his connection with the party in Scotland which was at this time made strong in battle by religious faith, and melancholy in peace by religious passion.

III. Walter Scott, first Laird of Raeburn; third son of Sir William and this enforced bride of Elibank. They had four sons altogether; the eldest, William, becomes the second Sir William of Harden; their father settled the lands of Raeburn upon Walter; and of Highchester on his second son, Gideon, named, after the rough father-in-law, of Elibank.

Now about this time (1657), George Fox comes into Scotland; boasting that “as he first set his feet upon Scottish ground he felt the seed of grace to sparkle about him like innumerable sparks of fire.” And he forthwith succeeds in making Quakers of Gideon, Walter, and Walter’s wife. This is too much for Sir William of Harden, the eldest brother, who not only remains a staunch Jacobite, but obtains order from the Privy Council [15]of Scotland to imprison his brother and brother’s wife; that they may hold no further converse with Quakers, and also to “separate and take away their children, being two sons and a daughter, from their family and education, and to breed them in some convenient place.” Which is accordingly done; and poor Walter, who had found pleasantly conversible Quakers in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, is sent to Jedburgh, with strict orders to the Jedburgh magistrates to keep Quakers out of his way. The children are sent to an orthodox school by Sir William; and of the daughter I find nothing further; but the two sons both became good scholars, and were so effectually cured of Quakerism, that the elder (I don’t find his Christian name), just as he came of age, was killed in a duel with Pringle of Crichton, fought with swords in a field near Selkirk—ever since called, from the Raeburn’s death, “the Raeburn meadow-spot;”—and the younger, Walter, who then became “Tutor of Raeburn,” i.e., guardian to his infant nephew, intrigued in the cause of the exiled Stewarts till he had lost all he had in the world—ran a narrow risk of being hanged—was saved by the interference of Anne, Duchess of Buccleugh—founded a Jacobite club in Edinburgh, in which the conversation is said to have been maintained in Latin—and wore his beard unclipped to his dying day, vowing no razor should pass on it until the return of the Stewarts, whence he held his Border name of “Beardie.”

It is only when we remember how often this history [16]must have dwelt on Sir Walter’s mind that we can understand the tender subtlety of design with which he has completed, even in the weary time of his declining life, the almost eventless story of ‘Redgauntlet,’ and given, as we shall presently see, in connection with it, the most complete, though disguised, portion of his own biography.

IV. Beardie. I find no details of Beardie’s life given by Scott, but he was living at Leasudden when his landlord, Scott of Harden,12 living at Mertoun House, addressed to him the lines given in the note to the introduction to the sixth canto of ‘Marmion,’ in which Scott himself partly adopts the verses, writing from Mertoun House to Richard Heber.

“For course of blood, our proverbs dream,

Is warmer than the mountain stream.

And thus my Christmas still I hold

Where my great-grandsire came of old,13

‘With amber beard and flaxen hair,

And reverend apostolic air,

The feast and holytide to share,

And mix sobriety with wine,

And honest mirth with thoughts divine.’

Small thought was his, in after-time,

E’er to be hitched into a rhyme. [17]

The simple sire could only boast

That he was loyal to his cost,

The banished race of kings revered,

And lost his land—but kept his beard,—”

“a mark of attachment,” Scott adds in his note, “which I suppose had been common during Cromwell’s usurpation; for in Cowley’s ‘Cutter of Coleman Street’ one drunken cavalier upbraids another that when he was not able to pay a barber, he affected to ‘wear a beard for the King.’ ”

Observe, here, that you must always be on your guard, in reading Scott’s notes or private letters, against his way of kindly laughing at what he honours more deeply than he likes to confess. The house in which Beardie died was still standing when Sir Walter wrote his autobiography, (1808), at the north-east entrance of the churchyard of Kelso.

He left three sons. Any that remain of the family of the elder are long since settled in America (male heirs extinct). James Scott, well known in India as one of the original settlers of Prince of Wales Island, was a son of the youngest, who died at Lasswade, in Midlothian (first mention of Scott’s Lasswade).

But of the second son, Scott’s grandfather, we have to learn much.

V. Robert Scott of Sandy-Knowe, second son of Beardie. I cannot shorten Scott’s own account of the circumstances which determined his choice of life. [18]

“My grandfather was originally bred to the sea, but being shipwrecked near Dundee in his trial voyage, he took such a sincere dislike to that element, that he could not be persuaded to a second attempt. This occasioned a quarrel between him and his father, who left him to shift for himself. Robert was one of those active spirits to whom this was no misfortune. He turned Whig upon the spot, and fairly abjured his father’s politics and his learned poverty. His chief and relative, Mr. Scott of Harden, gave him a lease of the farm of Sandy-Knowe, comprehending the rocks in the centre of which Smailholm or Sandy-Knowe Tower is situated. He took for his shepherd an old man called Hogg, who willingly lent him, out of respect to his family, his whole savings, about £30, to stock the new farm. With this sum, which it seems was at the time sufficient for the purpose, the master and servant14 set off to purchase a stock of sheep at Whitsun-tryste, a fair held on a hill near Wooler, in Northumberland. The old shepherd went carefully from drove to drove, till he found a hirsel likely to answer their purpose, and then returned to tell his master to come up and conclude the bargain. But what was his surprise to see him galloping a mettled hunter about the race-course, and to find he had expended the whole stock in this extraordinary purchase! Moses’ bargain of green spectacles did not strike more dismay into the Vicar of Wakefield’s family than my grandfather’s rashness into the poor old shepherd. The thing, however, [19]was irretrievable, and they returned without the sheep. In the course of a few days, however, my grandfather, who was one of the best horsemen of his time, attended John Scott of Harden’s hounds on this same horse, and displayed him to such advantage that he sold him for double the original price. The farm was now stocked in earnest, and the rest of my grandfather’s career was that of successful industry. He was one of the first who were active in the cattle trade, afterwards carried to such an extent between the Highlands of Scotland and the leading counties in England, and by his droving transactions acquired a considerable sum of money. He was a man of middle stature, extremely active, quick, keen, and fiery in his temper, stubbornly honest, and so distinguished for his skill in country matters that he was the general referee in all points of dispute which occurred in the neighbourhood. His birth being admitted as gentle, gave him access to the best society in the county, and his dexterity in country sports, particularly hunting, made him an acceptable companion in the field as well as at the table.”

Thus, then, between Auld Wat of Harden, and Scott’s grandfather, we have four generations, numbering approximately a hundred and fifty years, from 1580 to 1730,15 and in that time we have the great change in national manners from stealing cattle to breeding and selling them, which [20]at first might seem a change in the way of gradually increasing honesty. But observe that this first cattle-dealer of our line is “stubbornly honest,” a quality which it would be unsafe to calculate upon in any dealer of our own days.

Do you suppose, then, that this honesty was a sudden and momentary virtue—a lightning flash of probity between the two darknesses of Auld Wat’s thieving and modern cozening?

Not so. That open thieving had no dishonesty in it whatsoever. Far the contrary. Of all conceivable ways of getting a living, except by actual digging of the ground, this is precisely the honestest. All other gentlemanly professions but this have taint of dishonesty in them. Even the best—the physician’s—involves temptation to many forms of cozening. How many second-rate mediciners have lived, think you, on prescriptions of bread pills and rose-coloured water?—how many, even of leading physicians, owe all their success to skill unaided by pretence? Of clergymen, how many preach wholly what they know to be true without fear of their congregations? Of lawyers, of authors, of painters, what need we speak? These all, so far as they try to please the mob for their living, are true cozeners,—unsound in the very heart’s core. But Wat of Harden, setting my farm on fire, and driving off my cattle, is no rogue. An enemy, yes, and a spoiler; but no more a rogue than the rock eagles. And Robert the first cattle-dealer’s honesty is directly inherited from his race, and notable [21]as a virtue, not in opposition to their character, but to ours. For men become dishonest by occult trade, not by open rapine.

There are, nevertheless, some very definite faults in our pastoral Robert of Sandy-Knowe, which Sir Walter himself inherits and recognizes in his own temper, and which were in him severely punished. Of the rash investment of the poor shepherd’s fortune, we shall presently hear what Sir Walter thought. Robert’s graver fault, the turning Whig to displease his father, is especially to be remembered in connection with Sir Walter’s frequent warnings against the sacrifice to momentary passion of what ought to be the fixed principles of youth. It has not been enough noticed that the design of his first and greatest story is to exhibit and reprehend, while it tenderly indicates the many grounds for forgiving, the change of political temper under circumstances of personal irritation.

But in the virtues of Robert Scott, far outnumbering his failings, and above all in this absolute honesty and his contentment in the joy of country life, all the noblest roots of his grandson’s character found their happy hold.

Note every syllable of the description of him given in the introduction to the third canto of ‘Marmion:’

“Still, with vain fondness, could I trace

Anew each kind familiar face

That brightened at our evening fire;

From the thatched mansion’s grey-haired sire, [22]

Wise without learning, plain, and good,

And sprung of Scotland’s gentler blood;

Whose eye in age, quick, clear, and keen,

Showed what in youth its glance had been;

Whose doom discording neighbours sought,

Content with equity unbought,

To him, the venerable priest,

Our frequent and familiar guest.”

Note, I say, every word of this. The faces “brightened at the evening fire,”—not a patent stove; fancy the difference in effect on the imagination, in the dark long nights of a Scottish winter, between the flickering shadows of firelight, and utter gloom of a room warmed by a close stove!

“The thatched mansion’s.”—The coolest roof in summer, warmest in winter. Among the various mischievous things done in France, apparently by the orders of Napoleon III., but in reality by the foolish nation uttering itself through his passive voice, (he being all his days only a feeble Pan’s pipe, or Charon’s boatswain’s whistle, instead of a true king,) the substitution of tiles for thatch on the cottages of Picardy was one of the most barbarous. It was to prevent fire, forsooth! and all the while the poor peasants could not afford candles, except to drip about over their church floors. See above, 6, 17.

“Wise without learning.”—By no means able, this Border rider, to state how many different arrangements may be [23]made of the letters in the word Chillianwallah. He contrived to exist, and educate his grandson to come to something, without that information.

“Plain, and good.”—Consider the value there is in that virtue of plainness—legibility, shall we say?—in the letters of character. A clear-printed man, readable at a glance. There are such things as illuminated letters of character also,—beautifully unreadable; but this legibility in the head of a family is greatly precious.

“And sprung of Scotland’s gentler blood.”—I am not sure if this is merely an ordinary expression of family pride, or whether, which I rather think, Scott means to mark distinctly the literal gentleness and softening of character in his grandfather, and in the Lowland Scottish shepherd of his day, as opposed to the still fiery temper of the Highland clans—the blood being equally pure, but the race altogether softer and more Saxon. Even Auld Wat was fair-haired, and Beardie has “amber beard and flaxen hair.”

“Whose doom discording neighbours sought,

Content with equity unbought.”—

Here you have the exactly right and wise condition of the legal profession.

All good judging, and all good preaching, must be given gratis. Look back to what I have incidentally said of lawyers and clergy, as professional—that is to say, as living by their judgment, and sermons. You will perhaps now [24]be able to receive my conclusive statement, that all such professional sale of justice and mercy is a deadly sin. A man may sell the work of his hands, but not his equity, nor his piety. Let him live by his spade; and if his neighbours find him wise enough to decide a dispute between them, or if he is in modesty and simplicity able to give them a piece of pious advice, let him do so, in Heaven’s name, but not take a fee for it.

Finally, Robert Scott is a cattle-dealer, yet a gentleman, giving us the exact balance of right between the pride which refuses a simple employment, and the baseness which makes that simple employment disgraceful, because dishonest. Being wholly upright, he can sell cattle, yet not disgrace his lineage. We shall return presently to his house; but must first complete, so as to get our range of view within due limits, the sketch of the entire ancestral line.

VI. Walter Scott, of George’s Square, Edinburgh, Scott’s father, born 1729.

He was the eldest son of Robert of Sandy-Knowe, and had three brothers and a sister, namely, Captain Robert Scott, in East India Service; Thomas Scott, cattle-dealer, following his father’s business; a younger brother who died early, (also) in East India Service; and the sister Janet, whose part in Scott’s education was no less constant, and perhaps more influential, than even his mother’s. Scott’s regard for one of his Indian uncles, and his regret for the other’s death, are both traceable in the development of the [25]character of Colonel Mannering; but of his uncle Thomas, and his aunt Jessie, there is much more to be learned and thought on.

The cattle-dealer followed his father’s business prosperously; was twice married—first to Miss Raeburn, and then to Miss Rutherford of Knowsouth—and retired, in his old age, upon a handsome independence. Lockhart, visiting him with Sir Walter, two years before the old man’s death, (he being then eighty-eight years old,) thus describes him:

“I thought him about the most venerable figure I had ever set my eyes on,—tall and erect, with long flowing tresses of the most silvery whiteness, and stockings rolled up over his knees, after the fashion of three generations back. He sat reading his Bible without spectacles, and did not, for a moment, perceive that any one had entered his room; but on recognizing his nephew he rose with cordial alacrity, kissing him on both cheeks, and exclaiming, ‘God bless thee, Walter, my man; thou hast risen to be great, but thou wast always good.’ His remarks were lively and sagacious, and delivered with a touch of that humour which seems to have been shared by most of the family. He had the air and manners of an ancient gentleman, and must in his day have been eminently handsome.”

Next read Sir Walter Scott’s entry made in his copy of the Haliburton Memorials:—

“The said Thomas Scott died at Monklaw, near Jedburgh, at two of the clock, 27th January, 1823, in the 90th [26]year of his life, and fully possessed of all his faculties. He read till nearly the year before his death; and being a great musician on the Scotch pipes, had, when on his deathbed, a favourite tune played over to him by his son James, that he might be sure he left him in full possession of it. After hearing it, he hummed it over himself, and corrected it in several of the notes. The air was that called ‘Sour Plums in Galashiels.’ When barks and other tonics were given him during his last illness, he privately spat them into his handkerchief, saying, as he had lived all his life without taking doctors’ drugs, he wished to die without doing so.”

No occasion whatever for deathbed repentances, you perceive, on the part of this old gentleman; no particular care even for the disposition of his handsome independence; but here is a bequest of which one must see one’s son in full possession—here is a thing to be well looked after, before setting out for heaven, that the tune of “Sour Plums in Galashiels” may still be played on earth in an incorrupt manner, and no damnable French or English variations intruded upon the solemn and authentic melody thereof. His views on the subject of Materia Medica are also greatly to be respected.

“I saw more than once,” Lockhart goes on, “this respectable man’s sister (Scott’s aunt Janet), who had married her cousin Walter, Laird of Raeburn, thus adding a new link to the closeness of the family connection. She also must have been, in her youth, remarkable for personal [27]attractions; as it was, she dwells on my memory as the perfect picture of an old Scotch lady, with a great deal of simple dignity in her bearing, but with the softest eye and the sweetest voice, and a charm of meekness and gentleness about every look and expression. She spoke her native language pure and undiluted, but without the slightest tincture of that vulgarity which now seems almost unavoidable in the oral use of a dialect so long banished from courts, and which has not been avoided by any modern writer who has ventured to introduce it, with the exception of Scott, and I may add, speaking generally, of Burns. Lady Raeburn, as she was universally styled, may be numbered with those friends of early days whom her nephew has alluded to in one of his prefaces as preserving what we may fancy to have been the old Scotch of Holyrood.”

To this aunt, to his grandmother, his mother, and to the noble and most wise Rector of the High School of Edinburgh, Dr. Adam, Scott owed the essential part of his “education,” which began in this manner. At eighteen months old his lameness came on, from sudden cold, bad air, and other such causes. His mother’s father, Dr. Rutherford, advised sending him to the country; he is sent to his grandfather’s at Sandy-Knowe, where he first becomes conscious of life, and where his grandmother and aunt Janet beautifully instruct, but partly spoil him. When he is eight years old, he returns to, and remains in, his father’s house at George’s Square. And now note the following sentence:— [28]

“I felt the change from being a single indulged brat, to becoming a member of a large family, very severely; for under the gentle government of my kind grandmother, who was meekness itself, and of my aunt, who, though of a higher temper, was exceedingly attached to me, I had acquired a degree of license which could not be permitted in a large family. I had sense enough, however, to bend my temper to my new circumstances; but such was the agony which I internally experienced, that I have guarded against nothing more, in the education of my own family, than against their acquiring habits of self-willed caprice and domination.”

The indulgence, however, no less than the subsequent discipline, had been indeed altogether wholesome for the boy, he being of the noble temper which is the better for having its way. The essential virtue of the training he had in his grandfather’s and father’s house, and his aunt Jessie’s at Kelso, I will trace further in next letter. [1]

1 Colonel Talbot, in ‘Waverley;’ I need not, surely, name the other:—note only that, in speaking of heroism, I never admit into the field of comparison the merely stage-ideals of impossible virtue and fortune—(Ivanhoe, Sir Kenneth, and the like)—but only persons whom Scott meant to be real. Observe also that with Scott, as with Titian, you must often expect the most tender pieces of completion in subordinate characters. 

2 I beg my readers to observe that I never flinch from stating a fact that tells against me. This George’s Square is in that New Town of Edinburgh which I said, in the first of these letters, I should like to destroy to the ground. 

3 Lockhart’s Life, 8vo. Edinburgh: Cadell, 1837. Vol. i. p. 65. In my following foot-notes I shall only give volume and page—the book being understood. 

4 i. 67. What sort of tender mercies were to be expected? 

5 His name unknown, according to Leyden, is perhaps discoverable; but what songs? Though composed by an Englishman, have they the special character of Scottish music? 

6 Dinlay;—where? 

7 Pensil, a flag hanging down—‘pensile.’ Pennon, a stiff flag sustained by a cross arm, like the broad part of a weathercock. Properly, it is the stiff-set feather of an arrow.

“Ny autres riens qui d’or ne fust

Fors que les pennons, et le fust.”

‘Romance of the Rose,’ of Love’s arrows: Chaucer translates,

“For all was gold, men might see,

Out-take the feathers and the tree.”


8 People would not have me speak any more harm of Mr. Mill, because he’s dead, I suppose? Dead or alive, all’s one to me, with mischievous persons; but alas! how very grievously all’s two to me, when they are helpful and noble ones. 

9 Out of the first of Scott’s notes to the Lay, but the note is so long that careless readers are sure to miss the points; also I give modern spelling for greater ease. 

10 A walled group of houses: tynen, Saxon, to shut in (Johnson). 

11 i. 68. “The indignant laird was on the point of desiring his prisoner to say a last prayer, when his more considerate dame interposed milder counsels, suggesting that the culprit was born to a good estate, and that they had three unmarried daughters. Young Harden, it is said, not without hesitation, agreed to save his life by taking the plainest of the three off their hands.” 

12 Eldest son, or grandson, of Sir William Scott of Harden, the second in our genealogy. 

13 Came, by invitation from his landlord, Scott of Harden. 

14 Here, you see, our subject begins to purpose! 

15 I give the round numbers for better remembering. Wat of Harden married the Flower of Yarrow in 1567; Robert of Sandy-Knowe married Barbara Haliburton in 1728. 




I do not know how far I shall be able in this letter to carry you forward in the story of Scott’s life; let me first, therefore, map its divisions clearly; for then, wherever we have to stop, we can return to our point in fit time.

First, note these three great divisions—essentially those of all men’s lives, but singularly separate in his,—the days of youth, of labour, and of death.

Youth is properly the forming time—that in which a man makes himself, or is made, what he is for ever to be. Then comes the time of labour, when, having become the best he can be, he does the best he can do. Then the time of death, which, in happy lives, is very short: but always a time. The ceasing to breathe is only the end of death.

Scott records the beginning of his own in the following entry in his diary, which reviews the life then virtually ended:—

December 18th, 1825.1—What a life mine has been!—[2]half educated, almost wholly neglected, or left to myself; stuffing my head with most nonsensical trash, and undervalued by most of my companions for a time; getting forward, and held a bold, clever fellow, contrary to the opinion of all who thought me a mere dreamer; broken-hearted for two years; my heart handsomely pieced again, but the crack will remain till my dying day. Rich and poor four or five times: once on the verge of ruin, yet opened a new source of wealth almost overflowing. Now to be broken in my pitch of pride.2

“Nobody in the end can lose a penny by me; that is one comfort. Men will think pride has had a fall. Let them indulge in their own pride in thinking that my fall will make them higher, or seem so at least. I have the satisfaction to recollect that my prosperity has been of advantage to many, and to hope that some at least will forgive my transient wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real wish to do good to the poor. Sad hearts, too, at Darnick, and in the cottages of Abbotsford. I have half resolved never to see the place again. How could I tread my hall with such a diminished crest?—how live a poor, indebted man, where I was once the wealthy, the honoured? I was to have gone there on Saturday, in joy and prosperity, to receive my friends. My dogs will wait for me in vain. It is foolish, but the thoughts of parting from [3]these dumb creatures have moved me more than any of the painful reflections I have put down. Poor things, I must get them kind masters! There may be yet those who, loving me, may love my dog because it has been mine. I must end these gloomy forebodings, or I shall lose the tone of mind with which men should meet distress. I feel my dogs’ feet on my knees; I hear them whining, and seeking me everywhere.”

He was fifty-four on the 15th August of that year, and spoke his last words—“God bless you all,”—on the 21st September, 1832: so ending seven years of death.

His youth, like the youth of all the greatest men, had been long, and rich in peace, and altogether accumulative and crescent. I count it to end with that pain which you see he remembers to his dying day, given him by—Lilias Redgauntlet, in October, 1796. Whereon he sets himself to his work, which goes on nobly for thirty years, lapping over a little into the death-time3 (‘Woodstock’ showing scarcely a trace of diminution of power).

Count, therefore, thus:—

Youth, twenty-five years 1771–1796.
Labour-time, thirty years 1796–1826.
Death-time, seven years 1825–1832.

The great period of mid-life is again divided exactly in the midst by the change of temper which made him [4]accurate instead of fantastic in delineation, and therefore habitually write in prose rather than verse. The ‘Lady of the Lake’ is his last poem, (1810). ‘Rokeby,’ (1812) is a versified novel; the ‘Lord of the Isles’ is not so much. The steady legal and historical work of 1810–1814, issuing in the ‘Essay on Scottish Judicature,’ and the ‘Life of Swift,’ with preparation for his long-cherished purpose of an edition and ‘Life of Pope,’4 (“the true deacon of the craft,” as Scott often called him,) confirmed, while they restrained and chastised, his imaginative power; and ‘Waverley,’ (begun in 1805) was completed in 1814. The apparently unproductive year of accurate study, 1811, divides the thirty years of mid-life in the precise centre, giving fifteen to song, and fifteen to history.

You may be surprised at my speaking of the novels as history. But Scott’s final estimate of his own work, given in 1830, is a perfectly sincere and perfectly just one; (received, of course, with the allowance I have warned you always to make for his manner of reserve in expressing deep feelings). “He replied5 that in what he had done for Scotland as a writer, he was no more entitled to the merit which had been ascribed to him than the servant who scours the brasses to the credit of having made them; that he had perhaps been a [5]good housemaid to Scotland, and given the country a ‘rubbing up;’ and in so doing might have deserved some praise for assiduity, and that was all.” Distinguish, however, yourselves, and remember that Scott always tacitly distinguishes, between the industry which deserves praise, and the love which disdains it. You do not praise Old Mortality for his love to his people; you praise him for his patience over a bit of moss in a troublesome corner. Scott is the Old Mortality, not of tables of stone, but of the fleshly tables of the heart.

We address ourselves to-day, then, to begin the analysis of the influences upon him during the first period of twenty-five years, during which he built and filled the treasure-house of his own heart. But this time of youth I must again map out in minor detail, that we may grasp it clearly.

1. From birth to three years old. In Edinburgh, a sickly child; permanent lameness contracted, 1771–1774.

2. Three years old to four. Recovers health at Sandy-Knowe. The dawn of conscious life, 1774–1775.

3. Four years old to five. At Bath, with his aunt, passing through London on the way to it. Learns to read, and much besides, 1775–1776.

4. Five years old to eight. At Sandy-Knowe. Pastoral life in its perfectness forming his character: (an important though short interval at Prestonpans begins his interest in sea-shore), 1776–1779.

5. Eight years old to twelve. School life, under the [6]Rector Adams, at High School of Edinburgh, with his aunt Janet to receive him at Kelso, 1779–1783.

6. Twelve years old to fifteen. College life, broken by illness, his uncle Robert taking good care of him at Rosebank, 1783–1786.

7. Fifteen to twenty-five. Apprenticeship to his father, and law practice entered on. Study of human life, and of various literature in Edinburgh. His first fee of any importance expended on a silver taper-stand for his mother. 1786–1796.

You have thus ‘seven ages’ of his youth to examine, one by one; and this convenient number really comes out without the least forcing; for the virtual, though not formal, apprenticeship to his father—happiest of states for a good son—continues through all the time of his legal practice. I only feel a little compunction at crowding the Prestonpans time together with the second Sandy-Knowe time; but the former is too short to be made a period, though of infinite importance to Scott’s life. Hear how he writes of it,6 revisiting the place fifty years afterwards:—

“I knew the house of Mr. Warroch, where we lived,” (see where the name of the Point of Warroch in ‘Guy Mannering’ comes from!) “I recollected my juvenile ideas of dignity attendant on the large gate, a black arch which lets out upon the sea. I saw the Links where I arranged my shells upon the turf, and swam my little [7]skiff in the pools. Many recollections of my kind aunt—of old George Constable—of Dalgetty” (you know that name also, don’t you?), “a virtuous half-pay lieutenant, who swaggered his solitary walk on the parade, as he called a little open space before the same port.” (Before the black arch, Scott means, not the harbour.) And he falls in love also there, first—“as children love.”

And now we can begin to count the rosary of his youth, bead by bead.

1st period—From birth to three years old.

I have hitherto said nothing to you of his father or mother, nor shall I yet, except to bid you observe that they had been thirteen years married when Scott was born; and that his mother was the daughter of a physician, Dr. Rutherford, who had been educated under Boerhaave. This fact might be carelessly passed by you in reading Lockhart; but if you will take the pains to look through Johnson’s life of Boerhaave, you will see how perfectly pure and beautiful and strong every influence was, which, from whatever distance, touched the early life of Scott. I quote a sentence or two from Johnson’s closing account of Dr. Rutherford’s master:—

“There was in his air and motion something rough and artless, but so majestic and great at the same time, that no man ever looked upon him without veneration, and a kind of tacit submission to the superiority of his genius. The vigour and activity of his mind sparkled visibly in his eyes, nor was it ever observed that any [8]change of his fortune, or alteration in his affairs, whether happy or unfortunate, affected his countenance.

“His greatest pleasure was to retire to his house in the country, where he had a garden stored with all the herbs and trees which the climate would bear; here he used to enjoy his hours unmolested, and prosecute his studies without interruption.”7

The school of medicine in Edinburgh owed its rise to this man, and it was by his pupil Dr. Rutherford’s advice, as we saw, that the infant Walter’s life was saved. His mother could not nurse him, and his first nurse had consumption. To this, and the close air of the wynd, must be attributed the strength of the childish fever which took away the use of the right limb when he was eighteen [9]months old. How many of your own children die, think you, or are wasted with sickness, from the same causes, in our increasing cities? Scott’s lameness, however, we shall find, was, in the end, like every other condition of his appointed existence, helpful to him.

A letter from my dear friend Dr. John Brown,8 corrects (to my great delight) a mistake about George’s Square I made in my last letter. It is not in the New Town, but in what was then a meadow district, sloping to the south from old Edinburgh; and the air of it would be almost as healthy for the child as that of the open country. But the change to George’s Square, though it checked the illness, did not restore the use of the limb; the boy wanted exercise as well as air, and Dr. Rutherford sent him to his other grandfather’s farm.

II. 1774—1775. The first year at Sandy-Knowe. In this year, note first his new nurse. The child had a maid sent with him to prevent his being an inconvenience to the family. This maid had left her heart behind her in Edinburgh (ill trusted),9 and went mad in the solitude;—“tempted by the devil,” she told Alison Wilson, the housekeeper, “to kill the child and bury it in the moss.”

“Alison instantly took possession of my person,” says Scott. And there is no more said of Alison in the autobiography.

But what the old farm-housekeeper must have been [10]to the child, is told in the most finished piece of all the beautiful story of ‘Old Mortality.’ Among his many beautifully invented names, here is one not invented—very dear to him.

“ ‘I wish to speak an instant with one Alison Wilson, who resides here,’ said Henry.

“ ‘She’s no at hame the day,’ answered Mrs. Wilson in propriâ personâ—the state of whose headdress perhaps inspired her with this direct mode of denying herself—‘and ye are but a mislear’d person to speer for her in sic a manner. Ye might have had an M under your belt for Mistress Wilson of Milnwood.’ ” Read on, if you forget it, to the end, that third chapter of the last volume of ‘Old Mortality.’ The story of such return to the home of childhood has been told often; but never, so far as I have knowledge, so exquisitely. I do not doubt that Elphin’s name is from Sandy-Knowe also; but cannot trace it.

Secondly, note his grandfathers’ medical treatment of him; for both his grandfathers were physicians,—Dr. Rutherford, as we have seen, so professed, by whose advice he is sent to Sandy-Knowe. There, his cattle-dealing grandfather, true physician by diploma of Nature, orders him, whenever the day is fine, to be carried out and laid down beside the old shepherd among the crags or rocks around which he fed his sheep. “The impatience of a child soon inclined me to struggle with my infirmity, and I began by degrees to stand, to walk, and to run. Although the limb affected was much shrunk and contracted, [11]my general health, which was of more importance, was much strengthened by being frequently in the open air; and, in a word, I, who in a city had probably been condemned to hopeless and helpless decrepitude, (italics mine,) was now a healthy, high-spirited, and, my lameness apart, a sturdy child,—non sine dîs animosus infans.”

This, then, is the beginning of Scott’s conscious existence,—laid down beside the old shepherd, among the rocks, and among the sheep. “He delighted to roll about in the grass all day long in the midst of the flock, and the sort of fellowship he formed with the sheep and lambs impressed his mind with a degree of affectionate feeling towards them which lasted throughout life.”10

Such cradle, and such companionship, Heaven gives its favourite children.

In 1837, two of the then maid-servants of Sandy-Knowe were still living in its neighbourhood; one of them, “Tibby Hunter, remembered the child Scott’s coming, well. The young ewe-milkers delighted, she says, to carry him about on their backs among the crags; and he was ‘very gleg (quick) at the uptak, and soon kenned every sheep and lamb by head-mark as well as any of them.’ His great pleasure, however, was in the society of the ‘aged hind’ recorded in the epistle to Erskine. ‘Auld Sandy Ormistoun,’ called, from the most dignified part of his function, ‘the cow-bailie,’ had the [12]chief superintendence of the flocks that browsed upon ‘the velvet tufts of loveliest green.’ If the child saw him in the morning, he could not be satisfied unless the old man would set him astride on his shoulder, and take him to keep him company, as he lay watching his charge.

“The cow-bailie blew a particular note on his whistle which signified to the maid-servants in the house below when the little boy wished to be carried home again.”

“Every sheep and lamb by head-mark;”—that is our first lesson; not an easy one, you will find it, if you try the flock of such a farm. Only yesterday (12th July, 1873,) I saw the dairy of one half filled with the ‘berry-bread’ (large flat-baked cakes enclosing layers of gooseberries) prepared by its mistress for her shearers;—the flock being some six or seven hundred, on Coniston Fells.

That is our first lesson, then, very utterly learned ‘by heart.’ This is our second, (marginal note on Sir Walter’s copy of Allan Ramsay’s Tea-table Miscellany, ed. 1724): “This book belonged to my grandfather, Robert Scott, and out of it I was taught ‘Hardiknute’ by heart before I could read the ballad myself. It was the first poem I ever learnt, the last I shall ever forget.”11 He repeated [13]a great part of it, in the forests of La Cava, in the spring of the year in which he died; and above the lake Avernus, a piece of the song of the ewe-milkers:—

“Up the craggy mountain, and down the mossy glen,

We canna’ go a-milking, for Charlie and his men.”

These I say, then, are to be your first lessons. The love, and care, of simplest living creatures; and the remembrance and honour of the dead, with the workmanship for them of fair tombs of song.

The Border district of Scotland was at this time, of all districts of the inhabited world, pre-eminently the singing country,—that which most naturally expressed its noble thoughts and passions in song.

The easily traceable reasons for this character are, I think, the following; (many exist, of course, untraceably).

First, distinctly pastoral life, giving the kind of leisure which, in all ages and countries, solaces itself with simple music, if other circumstances are favourable,—that is to say, if the summer air is mild enough to allow repose, and the race has imagination enough to give motive to verse.

The Scottish Lowland air is, in summer, of exquisite clearness and softness,—the heat never so great as to destroy energy, and the shepherd’s labour not severe enough to occupy wholly either mind or body. A Swiss herd may have to climb a hot ravine for thousands of [14]feet, or cross a difficult piece of ice, to rescue a lamb, or lead his flock to an isolated pasture. But the borderer’s sheep-path on the heath is, to his strong frame, utterly without labour or danger; he is free-hearted and free-footed all the summer day long; in winter darkness and snow finding yet enough to make him grave and stout of heart.

Secondly, the soldier’s life, passing gradually, not in cowardice or under foreign conquest, but by his own increasing kindness and sense, into that of the shepherd; thus, without humiliation, leaving the war-wounded past to be recalled for its sorrow and its fame.

Thirdly, the extreme sadness of that past itself: giving pathos and awe to all the imagery and power of Nature.

Fourthly, (this a merely physical cause, yet a very notable one,) the beauty of the sound of Scottish streams.

I know no other waters to be compared with them;—such streams can only exist under very subtle concurrence of rock and climate. There must be much soft rain, not (habitually) tearing the hills down with floods; and the rocks must break irregularly and jaggedly. Our English Yorkshire shales and limestones merely form—carpenter-like—tables and shelves for the rivers to drip and leap from; while the Cumberland and Welsh rocks break too boldly, and lose the multiplied chords of musical sound. Farther, the loosely-breaking rock must contain hard pebbles, to give the level shore of white shingle, through [15]which the brown water may stray wide, in rippling threads. The fords even of English rivers have given the names to half our prettiest towns and villages;—(the difference between ford and bridge curiously—if one may let one’s fancy loose for a moment—characterizing the difference between the baptism of literature, and the edification of mathematics, in our two great universities);—but the pure crystal of the Scottish pebbles,12 giving the stream its gradations of amber to the edge, and the sound as of “ravishing division to the lute,” make the Scottish fords the happiest pieces of all one’s day walk. “The farmhouse itself was small and poor, with a common kailyard on one flank, and a staring barn of the doctor’s (‘Douglas’) erection on the other; while in front appeared a filthy pond, covered with ducks and duckweed,13 from which the whole tenement had derived the unharmonious designation of ‘Clarty Hole.’ But the Tweed was everything to him: a beautiful river, flowing broad and bright over a bed of milk-white pebbles, unless where, here and there, it darkened into a deep pool, overhung as yet only by the birches and alders which had survived the statelier growth of the primitive forest; and the first hour that [16]he took possession he claimed for his farm the name of the adjoining ford.”14 With the murmur, whisper, and low fall of these streamlets, unmatched for mystery and sweetness, we must remember also the variable, but seldom wild, thrilling of the wind among the recesses of the glens; and, not least, the need of relief from the monotony of occupations involving some rhythmic measure of the beat of foot or hand, during the long evenings at the hearth-side.

In the rude lines describing such passing of hours quoted by Scott in his introduction to the ‘Border Minstrelsy,’15 you find the grandmother spinning, with her stool next the hearth,—“for she was old, and saw right dimly” (fire-light, observe, all that was needed even then;) “she spins to make a web of good Scots linen,” (can you show such now, from your Glasgow mills?) The father is pulling hemp (or beating it). The only really beautiful piece of song which I heard at Verona, during several months’ stay there in 1869, was the low chant of girls unwinding the cocoons of the silkworm, in the cottages among the olive-clad hills on the north of the city. Never any in the streets of it;—there, only insane shrieks of Republican populace, or senseless dance-music, played by operatic-military bands.

And one of the most curious points connected with the [17]study of Border-life is this connection of its power of song either with its industry or human love, but never with the religious passion of its “Independent” mind. The definite subject of the piper or minstrel being always war or love, (peasant love as much honoured as the proudest,) his feeling is steadily antagonistic to Puritanism; and the discordance of Scottish modern psalmody is as unexampled among civilized nations as the sweetness of their ballads—shepherds’ or ploughmen’s (the plough and pulpit coming into fatalest opposition in Ayrshire); so that Wandering Willie must, as a matter of course, head the troop of Redgauntlet’s riotous fishermen with “Merrily danced the Quaker’s wife.” And see Wandering Willie’s own description of his gudesire: “A rambling, rattling chiel he had been, in his young days, and could play weel on the pipes;—he was famous at ‘Hoopers and Girders;’ a’ Cumberland could not touch him at ‘Jockie Lattin;’ and he had the finest finger for the back-lilt between Berwick and Carlisle;—the like o’ Steenie was na the sort they made Whigs o’.” And yet, to this Puritan element, Scott owed quite one of the most noble conditions of his mental life.

But it is of no use trying to get on to his aunt Janet in this letter, for there is yet one thing I have to explain to you before I can leave you to meditate, to purpose, over that sorrowful piece of Scott’s diary with which it began.

If you had before any thoughtful acquaintance with his [18]general character, or with his writings, but had not studied this close of his life, you cannot but have read with surprise, in the piece of the diary I quoted, the recurring sentences showing the deep wounds of his pride. Your impression of him was, if thoughtfully received, that of a man modest and self-forgetful, even to error. Yet, very evidently, the bitterest pain under his fallen fortune is felt by his pride.

Do you fancy the feeling is only by chance so strongly expressed in that passage?

It is dated 18th December. Now read this:—

February 5th, 1826.—Missie was in the drawing-room, and overheard William Clerk and me laughing excessively at some foolery or other in the back room, to her no small surprise, which she did not keep to herself. But do people suppose that he was less sorry for his poor sister, or I for my lost fortune? If I have a very strong passion in the world, it is pride; and that never hinged upon world’s gear, which was always, with me—Light come, light go.”

You will not at first understand the tone of this last piece, in which two currents of thought run counter, or, at least, one with a back eddy; and you may think Scott did not know himself, and that his strongest passion was not pride; and that he did care for world’s gear.

Not so, good reader. Never allow your own conceit to betray you into that extremest folly of thinking that you can know a great man better than he knows himself. He may not often wear his heart on his sleeve for you; but [19]when he does, depend upon it, he lets you see deep, and see true.

Scott’s ruling passion was pride; but it was nobly set—on his honour, and his courage, and his quite conscious intellectual power. The apprehended loss of honour,—the shame of what he thinks in himself cowardice,—or the fear of failure in intellect, are at any time overwhelming to him. But now, he felt that his honour was safe; his courage was, even to himself, satisfying; his sense of intellectual power undiminished; and he had therefore recovered some peace of mind, and power of endurance. The evils he could not have borne, and lived, have not been inflicted on him, and could not be. He can laugh again with his friend;—“but do people suppose that he was less sorry for his poor sister, or I for my lost fortune?”

What is this loss, then, which he is grieving for—as for a lost sister? Not world’s gear, “which was always, with me, Light come, light go.”

Something far other than that.

Read but these three short sentences more,16 out of the entries in December and January:—

“My heart clings to the place I have created: there is scarce a tree on it that does not owe its being to me.”

“Poor Will Laidlaw—poor Tom Purdie—such news will wring your hearts; and many a poor fellow besides, to whom my prosperity was daily bread.” [20]

“I have walked my last on the domains I have planted, sate the last time in the halls I have built. But death would have taken them from me if misfortune had spared them.—My poor people, whom I loved so well!”

Nor did they love him less. You know that his house was left to him, and that his “poor people” served him until his death—or theirs. Hear now how they served.

“The butler,” says Lockhart, visiting Abbotsford in 1827, “instead of being the easy chief of a large establishment, was now doing half the work of the house, at probably half his former wages. Old Peter, who had been for five-and-twenty years a dignified coachman, was now ploughman-in-ordinary, only putting his horses to the carriage upon high and rare occasions; and so on with all the rest that remained of the ancient train. And all, to my view, seemed happier than they had ever done before. Their good conduct had given every one of them a new elevation in his own mind; and yet their demeanour had gained, in place of losing, in simple humility of observance. The great loss was that of William Laidlaw, for whom (the estate being all but a fragment in the hands of the trustees and their agent) there was now no occupation here. The cottage which his taste had converted into a loveable retreat had found a rent-paying tenant; and he was living a dozen miles off, on the farm of a relation in the Vale of Yarrow. Every week, however, he came down to have a ramble with Sir Walter over their old haunts, to hear how the [21]pecuniary atmosphere was darkening or brightening, and to read, in every face at Abbotsford, that it could never be itself again until circumstances should permit his re-establishment at Kaeside.

“All this warm and respectful solicitude must have had a preciously soothing influence on the mind of Scott, who may be said to have lived upon love. No man cared less about popular admiration and applause; but for the least chill on the affection of any near and dear to him, he had the sensitiveness of a maiden. I cannot forget, in particular, how his eyes sparkled when he first pointed out to me Peter Mathieson guiding the plough on the haugh. ‘Egad,’ said he, ‘auld Pepe’ (this was the children’s name for their good friend), ‘auld Pepe’s whistling at his darg. The honest fellow said a yoking in a deep field would do baith him and the blackies good. If things get round with me, easy shall be Pepe’s cushion.’ ”

You see there is not the least question about striking for wages on the part of Sir Walter’s servants. The law of supply and demand is not consulted, nor are their wages determined by the great principle of competition—so rustic and absurd are they; not but that they take it on them sometimes to be masters instead of servants:—

March 21.—Wrote till twelve, then out upon the heights, and faced the gale bravely. Tom Purdie was not with me; he would have obliged me to keep the sheltered ground.”17 [22]

You are well past all that kind of thing, you think, and know better how to settle the dispute between Capital and Labour.

“What has that to do with domestic servants?” do you ask? You think a house with a tall chimney, and two or three hundred servants in it, is not properly a house at all; that the sacred words, Domus, Duomo, cannot be applied to it; and that Giotto would have refused to build a Buzzing Tower, by way of belfry, in Lancashire?

Well, perhaps you are right. If you are merely unlucky Williams—borrowing colossal planes—instead of true servants, it may well be that Pepe’s own whistling at his darg must be very impossible for you, only manufactured whistling any more possible. Which are you? Which will you be?

I am afraid there is little doubt which you are;—but there is no doubt whatever which you would like to be, whether you know your own minds or not. You will never whistle at your dargs more, unless you are serving masters whom you can love. You may shorten your hours of labour as much as you please;—no minute of them will be merry, till you are serving truly: that is to say, until the bond of constant relationship—service to death—is again established between your masters and you. It has been broken by their sin, but may yet be recovered by your virtue. All the best of you cling to the least remnant or shadow of it. I heard but the other [23]day of a foreman, in a large house of business, discharged at a week’s warning on account of depression in trade,—who thereupon went to one of the partners, and showed him a letter which he had received a year before, offering him a situation with an increase of his salary by more than a third; which offer he had refused without so much as telling his masters of its being made to him, that he might stay in the old house. He was a Scotchman—and I am glad to tell the story of his fidelity with that of Pepe and Tom Purdie. I know not how it may be in the south; but I know that in Scotland, and the northern Border, there still remains something of the feeling which fastened the old French word ‘loial’ among the dearest and sweetest of their familiar speech; and that there are some souls yet among them, who, alike in labour or in rest, abide in, or will depart to, the Land of the Leal.

“Sire, moult me plaist vostre escole

Et vo noble conseil loial,

Ne du trespasser n’ay entente;

Sans lui n’aray ne bien ne mal.

Amours ce vouloir me présente,

Qui veult que tout mon appareil

Soit mis à servir soir et main

Loiauté, et moult me merveil

Comment homs a le cuer si vain

Qu’il a à fausetié réclaim.”




I have been making not a few mistakes in Fors lately; and, indeed, am careless enough in it, not solicitous at all to avoid mistakes; for being entirely sure of my main ground, and entirely honest in purpose, I know that I cannot make any mistake which will invalidate my work, and that any chance error which the third Fors may appoint for me, is often likely to bring out, in its correction, more good than if I had taken the pains to avoid it. Here, for instance, is Dr. Brown’s letter, which I should not have had, but for my having confused George’s Street with George’s Square, and having too shortly generalized my experience of modern novel readers; and it tells me, and you, something about Scott and Dickens which is of the greatest use.

“My dear Friend,—I am rejoiced to see you upon Scott. It will be a permanent good, your having broken this ground. But you are wrong in two things—George’s Square is not in the detestable New Town, it is to the south of the very Old Town, and near the Meadows.

“Then you say ‘nobody now will read them’ (Miss Edgeworth and Sir Walter). She is less read than I think she should be, but he is enormously read—here and in America.

“In the twelve months ending June, 1873, Adam Black and his sons have sold over 250,000 Waverleys, and I know that when Dickens—that great master of fun and falsetto—went last [26]to America, and there was a fury for him and his books, the sale of them only touched for a short time the ordinary sale of the Scott Novels, and subsided immensely, soon, the Scotts going steadily on increasing. Our young ‘genteel’ girls and boys, I fear, don’t read them as the same class did thirty years ago, but the readers of them, in the body of the people, are immense, and you have only to look at the four or five copies of the whole set in our public libraries to see how they are being read. That is a beautiful drawing of Chantrey’s, and new to me,—very like, having the simple, childlike look which he had. The skull is hardly high enough.”

A subsequent letter tells me than Dinlay is a big hill in Liddesdale; and enclosed (search for it being made) the tune of Sour Plums in Galashiels, of which I will only at present bid you farther observe that it is the first “touch of the auld bread-winner” that Wandering Willie plays to Darsie.

Another valued correspondent reminds me that people might get hold of my having spoken, a good many numbers back, of low sunshine “at six o’clock on an October morning;” and truly enough it must have been well on towards seven.

A more serious, but again more profitable, mistake, was made in the June Fors, by the correspondent (a working man) who sent me the examination paper, arranged from a Kensington one, from which I quoted the four questions,—who either did not know, or did not notice, the difference between St. Matthew and St. Matthias. The paper had been set in the schools of St. Matthew, and the chairman of the committee of the schools of St. Matthias wrote to me in violent indignation—little thinking how greatly pleased I should be to hear of any school in which Kensington questions were not asked,—or if asked, were not likely to be answered.

I find even that the St. Matthias children could in all probability [27]answer the questions I proposed as alternative,—for they have flower shows, and prizes presented by Bishops, and appear to be quite in an exemplary phase of education: all of which it is very pleasant to me to learn. (Apropos of the equivoque between St. Matthew and St. Matthias, another correspondent puts me in mind of the promise I made to find out for you who St. Pancras was. I did; but did not much care to tell you—for I had put him with St. Paul only because both their names began with P; and found that he was an impertinent youth of sixteen, who ought to have been learning to ride and swim, and took to theology instead, and was made a martyr of, and had that mock-Greek church built to his Christian honour in Mary-le-bone. I have no respect whatever for boy or girl martyrs;—we old men know the value of the dregs of life: but young people will throw the whole of it away for a freak, or in a pet at losing a toy.)

I suppose I shall next have a fiery letter abjuring Kensington from the committee of the schools of St. Matthew:—nothing could possibly give me greater pleasure. I did not, indeed, intend for some time to give you any serious talk about Kensington, and then I meant to give it you in large print—and at length; but as this matter has been ‘forced’ upon me (note the power of the word Fors in the first syllable of that word) I will say a word or two now.

I have lying beside me on my table, in a bright orange cover, the seventh edition of the ‘Young Mechanic’s Instructor; or, Workman’s Guide to the various Arts connected with the Building Trades; showing how to strike out all kinds of Arches and Gothic Points, to set out and construct Skew Bridges; with numerous Illustrations of Foundations, Sections, Elevations, etc. Receipts, Rules, and Instructions in the art of Casting, Modelling, Carving, Gilding, Dyeing, Staining, Polishing, Bronzing, Lacquering, Japanning, Enamelling, Gasfitting, Plumbing, Glazing, [28]Painting, etc. Jewellers’ Secrets, Miscellaneous Receipts, Useful Tables, etc., and a variety of useful information designed specially for the Working Mechanic.—London: Brodie and Middleton, 79, Long Acre; and all Booksellers in Town and Country. Price, 2s. 6d.

From pages 11, 20, and 21 of the introduction to this work, I quote the following observations on St. Paul’s, the Nineveh sculptures, and the Houses of Parliament.


“Since London was first built, which we are led to believe was about the year 50, by the Romans, there has not been a more magnificent building erected in it than St. Paul’s—this stupendous edifice which absorbs the attention, and strikes with wonder all who behold it, was founded by Ethelbert, the fifth King of Kent, in the year 604 A.D. And it is certain that since the completion of this building succeeding generations have made no progress in the construction of public buildings.”


“There is one feature in the Nineveh sculptures which most beautifully illustrates and corroborates the truth of the Scriptures; any person who has carefully read the Scriptures, and has seen the Nineveh sculptures, cannot fail to see the beautiful illustration; it will be remembered that the king is spoken of in many places as riding in his chariot, and of the king’s armour-bearer following him to the battle. In the Nineveh sculptures you will see the fact exemplified—the king in his chariot, and his armour-bearer defending him with his shield.”


“Of all the Gothic buildings that we have in our country, both of ancient and modern date, the Houses of Parliament are the [29]best and most elaborate; the first step of its grandeur is, that it stands parallel to the majestic stream of the River Thames, and owing to its proximate distance to the river, there is no thoroughfare between it and the water; its open situation gives it a sublime view from the opposite side; but especially from Westminster Bridge its aspect is grand and magnificent in the extreme. Its superb tracery glitters in the distance, in the sight of the spectator, like the yellow autumnal foliage of some picturesque grove, which beautifies the verdant valleys and bedecks the silvery hills. The majestic figures in their stately order, encanopied in their Gothic palaces, bring to our remembrance the noble patriarchs of old, or the patriots of recent days. Its numerous pinnacles, turrets, and towers, rise up into the smoky and blue atmosphere like forest trees, which will stand as an everlasting memento of the great and noble-minded generation who raised this grand and magnificent structure, so that after-generations may say, ‘Surely our forefathers were great and illustrious men, that they had reached the climax of human skill, so that we cannot improve on their superb and princely buildings.’ ”

These three extracts, though in an extreme degree, are absolutely and accurately characteristic of the sort of mind, unexampled in any former ages for its conceit, its hypocrisy, and its sevenfold—or rather seventy times sevenfold—ignorance, the dregs of corrupted knowledge, which modern art-teaching, centralized by Kensington, produces in our workmen and their practical ‘guides.’ How it is produced, and how the torturing examinations as to the possible position of the letters in the word. Chillianwallah, and the collection of costly objects of art from all quarters of the world, end in these conditions of paralysed brain and corrupted heart, I will show you at length in a future letter. [1]

1 Vol. vi., p. 164. 

2 Portion omitted short, and of no moment just now. I shall refer to it afterwards. 

3 The actual toil gone through by him is far greater during the last years than before—in fact it is unceasing and mortal; but I count only as the true labour-time that which is healthy and fruitful. 

4 If my own life is spared a little longer, I can at least rescue Pope from the hands of his present scavenger biographer; but alas, for Scott’s loving hand and noble thought, lost to him! 

5 To the speech of Mr. Baillie of Jerviswoode; vol. vii., p. 221. 

6 Vol. vii., p. 213. 

7 Not to break away from my text too long, I add one or two farther points worth notice, here:—

“Boerhaave lost none of his hours, but when he had attained one science attempted another. He added physick to divinity, chemistry to the mathematicks, and anatomy to botany.

“He knew the importance of his own writings to mankind, and lest he might, by a roughness and barbarity of style too frequent among men of great learning, disappoint his own intentions, and make his labours less useful, he did not neglect the politer arts of eloquence and poetry. Thus was his learning at once various and exact, profound and agreeable.

“But his knowledge, however uncommon, holds in his character but the second place; his virtue was yet much more uncommon than his learning.

“Being once asked by a friend, who had often admired his patience under great provocations, whether he knew what it was to be angry, and by what means he had so entirely suppressed that impetuous and ungovernable passion, he answered, with the utmost frankness and sincerity, that he was naturally quick of resentment, but that he had, by daily prayer and meditation, at length attained to this mastery over himself.” 

8 See terminal notes. 

9 Autobiography, p. 15. 

10 His own words to Mr. Skene of Rubislaw, vol. i., p. 83, spoken while Turner was sketching Smailholm Tower, vol. vii., p. 302. 

11 The Ballad of Hardiknute is only a fragment—but one consisting of forty-two stanzas of eight lines each. It is the only heroic poem in the Miscellany; of which—and of the poem itself—more hereafter. The first four lines are ominous of Scott’s own life:—

“Stately stept he East the wa’,

And stately stept he West;

Full seventy years he now had seen,

With scarce seven years of rest.”


12 Lockhart, in the extract just below, calls them “milk-white.” This is exactly right of the pale bluish translucent quartz, in which the agatescent veins are just traceable, and no more, out of the trap rocks; but the gneissitic hills give also exquisitely brilliant pure white and cream-coloured quartz, rolled out of their vein stones. 

13 With your pardon, Mr. Lockhart, neither ducks nor duckweed are in the least derogatory to the purity of a pool. 

14 Vol. ii., p. 358; compare ii., 70. “If it seemed possible to scramble through, he scorned to go ten yards about, and in fact preferred the ford,” etc. 

15 8vo, 1806, p. 119. 

16 Vol. vii., pp. 164, 166, 196. 

17 Vol. vii., p. 9. 




I find some of my readers are more interested in the last two numbers of Fors than I want them to be.

“Give up your Fors altogether, and let us have a life of Scott,” they say.

They must please to remember that I am only examining the conditions of the life of this wise man, that they may learn how to rule their own lives, or their children’s, or their servants’; and, for the present, with this particular object, that they may be able to determine, for themselves, whether ancient sentiment, or modern common sense, is to be the rule of life, and of service.

I beg them, therefore, to refer constantly to that summary of modern common sense given by Mr. Applegarth, and quoted with due commendation by the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ (above, XXVIII., 22):—

“One piece of vigorous good sense enlivened the discussion. It was uttered by Mr. Applegarth, who observed that ‘no sentiment ought to be brought into the subject.’ ” [2]

No sentiment, you observe, is to be brought into your doing, or your whistling, according to Mr. Applegarth.

And the main purpose of Fors is to show you that there is, sometimes, in weak natural whistling quite as much virtue as in vigorous steam whistling. But it cannot show you this without explaining what your darg, or ‘doing,’ is; which cannot be shown merely by writing pleasant biographies. You are always willing enough to read lives, but never willing to lead them. For instance, those few sentences, almost casually given in last Fors, about the Scottish rivers, have been copied, I see, into various journals, as if they, at any rate, were worth extract from the much useless matter of my books. Scotchmen like to hear their rivers talked about, it appears! But when last I was up Huntly Burn way, there was no burn there. It had all been drawn off to somebody’s ‘works;’ and it is painful for me, as an author, to reflect that, “of all polluting liquids belonging to this category (liquid refuse from manufactories), the discharges from paper works are the most difficult to deal with.”1

At Edinburgh there is a railroad station instead of the North Loch; the water of Leith is—well, one cannot say in civilized company what it is;2 and at Linlithgow, of all the palaces so fair,—built for a royal dwelling, etc.,—the oil, (paraffin,) floating on the streams, can be ignited, burning with a large flame.3 [3]

My good Scottish friends, had you not better leave off pleasing yourselves with descriptions of your rivers as they were, and consider what your rivers are to be? For I correct my derivation of Clarty Hole too sorrowfully.4 It is the Ford that is clarty now—not the Hole.

To return to our sentimental work, however, for a while. I left in my last letter one or two of the most interesting points in the first year at Sandy-Knowe unnoticed, because I thought it best to give you, by comparison with each other, some idea of the three women who, as far as education could do it, formed the mind of Scott. His masters only polished and directed it. His mother, grandmother, and aunt welded the steel.

Hear first this of his mother. (Lockhart, vol. i., p. 78.)

“She had received, as became the daughter of an eminently learned physician, the best sort of education then bestowed on young gentlewomen in Scotland. The poet, speaking of Mrs. Euphemia Sinclair, the mistress of the school at which his mother was reared, to the ingenious local antiquary, Mr. Robert Chambers, said that “she must have been possessed of uncommon talents for education, as all her young ladies were, in after-life, fond of reading, wrote and spelled admirably, were well acquainted with history and the belles lettres, without neglecting the more homely duties of the needle and accompt-book, and perfectly well-bred in society.” Mr. Chambers adds, “Sir Walter further communicated that his mother, and many others of Mrs. [4]Sinclair’s pupils, were sent afterwards to be finished off by the Honourable Mrs. Ogilvie, a lady who trained her young friends to a style of manners which would now be considered intolerably stiff. Such was the effect of this early training upon the mind of Mrs. Scott, that even when she approached her eightieth year, she took as much care to avoid touching her chair with her back, as if she had still been under the stern eye of Mrs. Ogilvie.”

You are to note in this extract three things. First, the singular influence of education, given by a master or mistress of real power. “All her young ladies” (all, Sir Walter! do you verily mean this?) “fond of reading,” and so forth.

Well, I believe that, with slight exception, Sir Walter did mean it. He seldom wrote, or spoke, in careless generalization. And I doubt not that it is truly possible, by first insisting on a girl’s really knowing how to read, and then by allowing her very few books, and those absolutely wholesome,—and not amusing!—to give her a healthy appetite for reading. Spelling, I had thought was impossible to many girls; but perhaps this is only because it is not early enough made a point of: it cannot be learned late.

Secondly: I wish Mr. Chambers had given us Sir Walter’s words, instead of only the substance of what he “further communicated.” But you may safely gather what I want you to notice, that Sir Walter attributes the essentials of good breeding to the first careful and scholarly mistress; and only the formality, which he somewhat hesitatingly approves, to the finishing hand of Mrs. Ogilvie. He would [5]have paid less regard to the opinion of modern society on such matters, had he lived to see our languid Paradise of sofas and rocking-chairs. The beginning, and very nearly the end, of bodily education for a girl, is to make sure that she can stand, and sit, upright; the ankle vertical, and firm as a marble shaft; the waist elastic as a reed, and as unfatiguable. I have seen my own mother travel from sunrise to sunset, in a summer’s day, without once leaning back in the carriage.

Thirdly: The respectability belonging in those days to the profession of a schoolmistress. In fact, I do not myself think that any old lady can be respectable, unless she is one, whether she be paid for her pupils or not. And to deserve to be one, makes her Honourable at once, titled or untitled.

This much comes, then, of the instructions of Mrs. Sinclair and Mrs. Ogilvie; and why should not all your daughters be educated by Honourable Mrs. Ogilvies, and learn to spell, and to sit upright? Then they will all have sons like Sir Walter Scott, you think?

Not so, good friends. Miss Rutherford had not wholly learned to sit upright from Mrs. Ogilvie. She had some disposition of her own in that kind, different from the other pupils, and taught in older schools. Look at the lines in the Lay, where Conrad of Wolfenstein,

“In humour highly crossed

About some steeds his band had lost,

High words to words succeeding still, [6]

Smote with his gauntlet stout Hunthill;

A hot and hardy Rutherford,

Whom men call Dickon Draw-the-Sword.

Stern Rutherford right little said,

But bit his glove, and shook his head.—

A fortnight thence, in Inglewood,

Stout Conrad, cold and drenched in blood,

His bosom gored with many a wound,

Was by a woodman’s lyme-dog5 found;

Unknown the manner of his death,

Gone was his brand, both sword and sheath;

But ever from that time, ’twas said

That Dickon wore a Cologne blade.”

Such the race,—such the school education,—of Scott’s mother. Of her home education, you may judge by what she herself said of her father to her son’s tutor (whose exquisitely grotesque letter, for the rest, vol. i., p. 108,) is alone enough to explain Scott’s inevitable future perception of the weakness of religious egotism.

“Mrs. Scott told me that, when prescribing for his patients, it was Dr. Rutherford’s custom to offer up, at the same time, a prayer for the accompanying blessing of heaven,—a laudable practice, in which, I fear, he has not been generally imitated by those of his profession.”

A very laudable practice indeed, good Mr. Mitchell; perhaps even a useful and practically efficacious one, on [7]occasion; at all events one of the last remains of noble Puritanism, in its sincerity, among men of sound learning.

For Dr. Rutherford was also an excellent linguist, and, according to the custom of the times, delivered his prelections to the students in Latin, (like the conversation in Beardie’s Jacobite Club). Nowadays, you mean to have no more Latin talked, as I understand; nor prayers said. Pills—Morison’s and others—can be made up on cheaper terms, you think,—and be equally salutary?

Be it so. In these ancient manners, however, Scott’s mother is brought up, and consistently abides; doubtless, having some reverence for the Latin tongue, and much faith in the medicine of prayer;—having had troubles about her soul’s safety also; perhaps too solicitous, at one time, on that point; but being sure she has a soul to be solicitous about, which is much; obedient herself to the severest laws of morality and life; mildly and steadily enforcing them on her children; but naturally of light and happy temper, and with a strong turn to study poetry and works of imagination.

I do not say anything of his father till we come to the apprenticeship,—except only that he was no less devout than his mother, and more formal. Of training which could be known or remembered, neither he nor the mother give any to their boy until after the Sandy-Knowe time. But how of the unremembered training? When do you suppose the education of a child begins? At six months old it can answer smile with smile, and impatience with impatience. [8]It can observe, enjoy, and suffer, acutely, and, in a measure, intelligently. Do you suppose it makes no difference to it that the order of the house is perfect and quiet, the faces of its father and mother full of peace, their soft voices familiar to its ear, and even those of strangers, loving; or that it is tossed from arm to arm, among hard, or reckless, or vain-minded persons, in the gloom of a vicious household, or the confusion of a gay one? The moral disposition is, I doubt not, greatly determined in those first speechless years. I believe especially that quiet, and the withdrawal of objects likely to distract, by amusing the child, so as to let it fix its attention undisturbed on every visible least thing in its domain, is essential to the formation of some of the best powers of thought. It is chiefly to this quietude of his own home that I ascribe the intense perceptiveness and memory of the three-years’-old child at Sandy-Knowe; for, observe, it is in that first year he learns his Hardiknute; by his aunt’s help he learns to read at Bath, and can cater for himself on his return. Of this aunt, and her mother, we must now know what we can. You notice the difference which Scott himself indicates between the two: “My grandmother, who was meekness itself, and my aunt, who was of a higher temper.” Yet his grandmother, Barbara Haliburton, was descended from the so-called, in speciality of honour, ‘Standard-bearer’ of the Douglases; and Dryburgh Abbey was part of her family’s estate, they having been true servants to the monks of it, once on a time. Here is a curious little piece [9]of lecture on the duties of master and servant,—Royal Proclamation on the 8th of May, 1535, by James the Fifth:6 “Whereas we, having been advised, and knowing the said gentlemen, the Halliburtons, to be leal and true honest men, long servants unto the saide abbeye, for the saide landis, stout men at armes, and goode borderers against Ingland; and doe therefore decree and ordaine, that they shall be re-possess’d, and bruik and enjoy the landis and steedings they had of the said abbeye, paying the use and wonte: and that they sall be goode servants to the said venerabil father, like as they and their predecessours were to the said venerabil father, and his predecessours, and he a good master to them.” The Abbot of Dryburgh, however, and others in such high places, having thus misread their orders, and taken on themselves to be masters instead of ministers, the Reformation took its course; and Dryburgh claims allegiance no more—but to its dead.

You notice the phrase, “good borderers against England.” Lest I should have to put it off, too long, I may as well, in this place, let you know the origin of the tune which Scott’s uncle was so fond of. From the letter of one of his friends to Dr. Brown I gratefully take the following passage:—

“In the fourteenth century some English riders were slaking their thirst on the banks of the Tweed, nearly opposite Cartley Hole,—now Abbotsford,—where wild plums grew. The borderers came down upon them unexpectedly, [10]and annihilated them, driving some into the Tweed, at a place called the Englishman’s Dyke. The borderers accordingly thought their surprise sourer fruit to the invaders than the plums they went to pluck, and christened themselves by the soubriquet of ‘Sour Plums in Galashiels,’ which gave a text for the song and tune, and a motto for the arms of the town of Galashiels.”

There is something to think of for you, when next you see the blackthorn blow, or the azure bloom spread on its bossed clusters of fruit. I cannot find any of the words of the song; but one beautiful stanza of the ballad of Cospatrick may at least serve to remind you of the beauty of the Border in its summer time:—

“For to the greenwood I maun gae

To pu’ the red rose and the slae,

To pu’ the red rose and the thyme,

To deck my mother’s bour and mine.”

“Meekness itself,” and yet possibly with some pride in her also, this Barbara, with the ruins of her Dryburgh still seen grey above the woods, from the tower at whose foot her grandchild was playing. So short the space he had to travel, when his lameness should be cured,—the end of all travel already in sight!

Some pride in her, perhaps: you need not be surprised her grandchild should have a little left.

“Many a tale” (she told him) “of Watt of Harden, Wight Willie of Aikwood (Oakwood), Jamie Tellfer of the [11]fair Dodhead, and other heroes—merry men, all of the persuasion and calling of Robin Hood and Little John. A more recent hero, but not of less note, was the celebrated De’il of Little Dean, whom she well remembered, as he had married her mother’s sister. Of this extraordinary person I learned many a story—grave and gay, comic and warlike”—(dearest, meek, grandmamma!)

“Two or three old books which lay in the window-seat were explored for my amusement in the tedious winter days. Automathes7 and Ramsay’s Tea-table Miscellany were my favourites, although, at a later period, an odd volume of Josephus’s Wars of the Jews divided my partiality.”

“Two or three old books in the window-seat,” and “an odd volume of Josephus.” How entertaining our farm library! (with the Bible, you observe;) and think how much matters have changed for the better: your package down from Mudie’s monthly, with all the new magazines, and a dozen of novels; Good Words—as many as you choose,—and Professor Tyndall’s last views on the subject of the Regelation of Ice. (Respecting which, for the sake of Scott’s first love, and for the sake also of my own first love—which was of snow, even more than water,—I have a few words to say to Professor Tyndall, but they must be [12]for next month, as they will bitterly interrupt our sentimental proceedings.)

Nay—with your professional information that when ice breaks you can stick it together again, you have also imaginative literature of the rarest. Here—instead of Ramsay’s Tea-table Miscellany, with its Hardiknute and other ballads of softer tendency,—some of them not the best of their kind, I admit,—here you have Mr. Knatchbull-Huguessen, M.P.’s, Tales at Tea-time,8 dedicated to the schoolroom teapot, in which the first story is of the “Pea Green Nose,” and in which (opening at random) I find it related of some Mary of our modern St. Mary’s Lochs, that “Mary stepped forward hastily, when one of the lobsters sprang forward, [13]and seized her arm in his claw, saying, in a low, agitated tone of voice,” etc. etc.

You were better off, little as you think it, with that poor library on the window-seat. Your own, at worst, though much fingered and torn;—your own mentally, still more utterly; and though the volume be odd, do you think that, by any quantity of reading, you can make your knowledge of history, even?

You are so proud of having learned to read too, and I warrant you could not read so much as Barbara Haliburton’s shield: Or, on a bend azure, three mascles of the first; in the second quarter a buckle of the second. I meant to have engraved it, but shall never get on to aunt Jessie at this rate.

“My kind and affectionate aunt, Miss Janet Scott, whose memory will ever be dear to me, used to read these works to me, with admirable patience, until I could repeat long passages by heart.”

Why admirable, Sir Walter? Surely she might have spent her time more usefully—lucratively at least—than in this manner of ‘nursing the baby.’ Might you not have been safely left, to hunt up Hardiknute, in maturer years, for yourself?

By no manner of means, Sir Walter thinks; and justly. With all his gifts, but for this aunt Janet,—for his mother,—and for Lilias Redgauntlet,—he had assuredly been only a hunting laird, and the best story-teller in the Lothians. [14]

We scarcely ever, in our study of education, ask this most essential of all questions about a man, What patience had his mother or sister with him?

And most men are apt to forget it themselves. Pardon me for speaking of myself for a moment; (if I did not know things by my own part in them, I would not write of them at all). You know that people sometimes call me a good writer: others like to hear me speak. I seldom mis-spell or mis-pronounce a word, grossly; and can generally say what I want to say. Well, my own impression about this power, such as it may be, is that it was born with me, or gradually gained by my own study. It is only by deliberate effort that I recall the long morning hours of toil, as regular as sunrise,—toil on both sides equal,—by which, year after year, my mother forced me to learn all the Scotch paraphrases by heart, and ever so many chapters of the Bible besides, (the eighth of 1st Kings being one,—try it, good reader, in a leisure hour!) allowing not so much as a syllable to be missed or misplaced; while every sentence was required to be said over and over again till she was satisfied with the accent of it. I recollect a struggle between us of about three weeks, concerning the accent of the “of” in the lines

“Shall any following spring revive

The ashes of the urn?”

I insisting, partly in childish obstinacy, and partly in true instinct for rhythm (being wholly careless on the subject [15]both of urns and their contents), on reciting it, “The ashes of the urn.” It was not, I say, till after three weeks’ labour, that my mother got the accent laid upon the ashes, to her mind. But had it taken three years, she would have done it, having once undertaken to do it. And, assuredly, had she not done it, I had been simply an avaricious picture collector, or perhaps even a more avaricious money collector, to this day; and had she done it wrongly, no after-study would ever have enabled me to read so much as a single line of verse.

It is impossible, either in history or biography, to arrange what one wants to insist upon wholly by time, or wholly by rational connection. You must observe that the visit to England, of which I am now going to speak, interrupts, with a brilliant display of pyrotechnic light, the steady burning of the stars above Scott’s childhood. From the teaching of his aunt, before he could read, I should like, for several reasons, to go on at once to the teaching of his mother, after he could read; but I must content myself, for the moment, with adding the catalogue of mamma’s library to that of aunt Jessie’s. On the window-seat of Sandy-Knowe—only to be got at the pith of by help of auntie—we had the odd volume of Josephus, Automathes, and two or three old books not named. A year later, mamma provides for us—now scholars ourselves—Pope’s Homer, Allan Ramsay’s Evergreen, and, for Sundays, Bunyan, Gesner’s Death of Abel, and Rowe’s (Mrs.) Letters from the Other World. But we [16]have made our grand tour in the meantime, and have some new ideas of this world in our head; of which the reader must now consider.

“I was in my fourth year when my father was advised that the Bath waters might be of some advantage to my lameness. My affectionate aunt—although such a journey promised to a person of her retired habits anything but pleasure or amusement—undertook as readily to accompany me to the wells of Bladud, as if she had expected all the delight that ever the prospect of a watering-place held out to its most impatient visitants.”

And why should she not? Does it not seem somewhat strange to you, from what you know of young, or even middle-aged, aunt Jessies of the present day, that Miss Scott should look upon the journey to Bath as so severe a piece of self-denial; and that her nephew regards her doing so as a matter of course?

How old was aunt Jessie, think you? Scott’s father, the eldest of a large family, was born in 1729,—in this year, therefore, was forty-six. If we uncharitably suppose Miss Jessie the next oldest, she would be precisely of the age of Mrs. Tabitha Bramble; and one could fancy her, it seems to me, on the occasion of this unforeseen trip to the most fashionable watering-place in England, putting up her “rose-collard neglegay with green robins, and her bloo quilted petticot,” without feeling herself in the position of a martyr led to the stake. But aunt Jessie must really have been much younger than Mrs. Tabitha, and have had [17]the advantage of her in other particulars besides spelling. She was afterwards married, and when Lockhart saw her (1820?)—forty years or so after this—had still “the softest eye and the sweetest voice.” And from the thatched mansion of the moorland, Miss Jessie feels it so irksome and solemn a duty—does she?—to go to “the squares, the circus, and the parades, which put you” (Miss Lydia Melford) “in mind of the sumptuous palaces represented in prints and pictures; and the new buildings, such as Prince’s Row, Harlequin’s Row, Bladud’s Row, and twenty other rows besides,”—not to speak of a real pump in a pump-room, with a handle to it, and other machinery, instead of the unpumped Tweed!

Her nephew, however, judges her rightly. Aunt Jessie could give him no truer proof of faithful affection than in the serenity with which she resolves to take him to this centre of gaiety.

Whereupon, you are to note this, that the end of all right education for a woman is to make her love her home better than any other place; that she should as seldom leave it as a queen her queendom; nor ever feel entirely at rest but within its threshold.

For her boy, however, there are things to be seen in Bath, and to be learned. “I acquired the rudiments of reading from an old dame near our lodgings, and I had never a more regular teacher, though I think I did not attend her more than a quarter of a year. An occasional lesson from my aunt supplied the rest.” Yes, little Walter. [18]If we indeed have a mind to our book, that is all the teaching we want; we shall perhaps get through a volume or two in time.

“The circumstances I recollect of my residence in Bath are but trifling; yet I never recall them without a feeling of pleasure. The beauties of the Parade (which of them I know not), with the river Avon winding around it, and the lowing of the cattle from the opposite hills, are warm in my recollection, and are only rivalled by the splendours of a toy-shop somewhere near the Orange Grove. I had acquired, I know not by what means, a kind of superstitious terror for statuary of all kinds. No ancient Iconoclast or modern Calvinist could have looked on the outside of the Abbey Church (if I mistake not, the principal church at Bath is so called,) with more horror than the image of Jacob’s Ladder, with all its angels, presented to my infant eye. My uncle9 effectually combated my terrors, and formally introduced me to a statue of Neptune, which perhaps still keeps guard at the side of the Avon, where a pleasure-boat crosses to Spring Gardens.”

“A sweet retreat”—Spring Gardens (again I quote Miss Lydia)—“laid out in walks, and ponds, and parterres of flowers, and hard by the Pamprom is a coffee-house for the ladies, but my aunt says young girls are not admitted, inasmuch as the conversation turns upon politics, scandal, philosophy, and other subjects above our capacity.” Is aunt Janet old enough and clever enough for the company, [19]I wonder? And Walter—what toys did he mostly covet in the Orange Grove?

The passage about the effect of sculpture upon him is intensely interesting to me, partly as an indication of the state of his own nascent imagination, partly as illustrative of the power of religious sculpture, meant to terrify, on the minds of peasant children of high faculty. But I cannot dwell on this point here: I must get on to his first sight of a play. The third Fors—still favourable to him—appoints it to be “As you like it.”

A never-to-be-forgotten delight, influencing him in his whole nature thenceforward. It is uncle Robert’s doing this, aunt Jessie having been probably doubtful on the matter, but irresistibly coaxed. Uncle Robert has much to answer for! How much, I can’t tell you to-day; nor for a while now, for I have other matters on hand in the next Fors or two—Glacier theory, and on the road to it I must not let you forget the broom-market between Berne and Thun; and I’ve got to finish my notes on Friedrich and his father, who take more noticing than I expected; besides that I’ve Friedrich II. of Germany to give some account of; and all my Oxford work besides. I can only again and again beg the many valued correspondents whose letters I must abruptly answer, to remember that not one word on any of these subjects can be set down without care; and to consider what the length of a day is, under existing solar arrangements.

Meantime, here is a point for you to think of. The boy [20]interrupts the first scene of the play by crying aloud, “An’t they brothers?”—(the third Fors had appointed for him that one day he should refuse to speak to his own;)—and long remembers the astonishment with which he “looked upon the apathy of the elder part of our company, who, having the means, did not spend every evening at the theatre.”

How was it that he never could write a Play? [21]



I have mislaid, just when I wanted it, a valuable letter, which gave me the first name of Abbotsford accurately,—Clarty Hole being only a corruption of it, and the real name bearing no such sense. I shall come upon it some time or other: meantime, my Scottish readers must not suppose I mean that the treatment of rivers is worse in North than in South Britain,—only they have prettier streams in Scotland to float their paraffin, or other beautiful productions of modern art, or nature, on the top of. We had one or two clear streams in Surrey, indeed; but as I was investigating the source of one of them, only the other day, I found a police office had been built over it, and that the authorities had paid five hundred pounds to construct a cesspool, with a huge iron cylinder conducting to it, through the spring. Excavating, I found the fountain running abundantly, round the pipe.

The following paragraph, and the two subjoined letters, appeared in the same impression of the ‘Daily Telegraph,’ on the 12th January, 1871. I wish to preserve them in Fors; and I print them in this number, because the succession of the first four names in the statement of the journal, associated with that of the first magistrate of the City of London, in connection with the business in hand that day, is to me the [22]most pleasant piece of reading—and I think must be to all of us among the most significant—that has lately met our eyes in a public print; and it means such new solemn league and covenant as Scott had been fain to see. My letter about the Italian streams may well follow what I have said of Scottish ones.

The French Appeal to England.

“We are happy to announce farther contributions to the fund which is being raised in response to the appeal of the Bishop of Versailles and the clergy of the Seine-et-Oise department; and also to state that, in addition to those influential persons whom we named yesterday as being ready to serve on a committee, two other gentlemen of high official and social position have consented to join the body. The list at present is as follows: The Lord Bishop of London; Dr. Manning, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; the Rev. Dr. Brock, the Baptist minister; Mr. Alfred de Rothschild; and the Lord Mayor, who has courteously placed the Mansion House at the service of the committee. Besides these names, the members of the ‘Paris Food Fund,’ as will be seen from the subjoined letter, propose to join the more comprehensive organization.

To the Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

“Sir,—Acting on your suggestion that the ‘Paris Food Fund,’ which I yesterday described to you, might be advantageously united with that which has been suggested by the Bishop of Versailles, I beg to say that Archbishop Manning, Professor Huxley, Sir John Lubbock, and Mr. Ruskin will, with myself, have great pleasure in forming part of such a public committee as you have advised, and in placing the subscriptions already sent to us at its disposal.

“I am, sir, your obedient servant,

James T. Knowles.

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 12, 1871.


Roman Inundations.

To the Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

“Sir,—May I ask you to add to your article on the inundation of the Tiber some momentary invitation to your readers to think with Horace rather than to smile with him?

“In the briefest and proudest words he wrote of himself, he thought of his native land chiefly as divided into the two districts of violent and scanty waters:

Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus,

Et qua, pauper aquæ, Daunus agrestium

Regnavit populorum.

“Now the anger and power of that tauriformis Aufidus is precisely because regna Dauni præfluit—because it flows past the poor kingdoms which it should enrich. Stay it there, and it is treasure instead of ruin. And so also with Tiber and Eridanus. They are so much gold, at their sources,—they are so much death, if they once break down unbridled into the plains.

“At the end of your report of the events of the inundation, it is said that the King of Italy expressed ‘an earnest desire to do something, as far as science and industry could effect it, to prevent or mitigate inundations for the future.’

“Now, science and industry can do, not ‘something,’ but everything; and not merely to mitigate inundations—and, deadliest of inundations, because perpetual—maremmas; but to change them into national banks instead of debts.

“The first thing the King of any country has to do is to manage the streams of it.

“If he can manage the streams, he can also the people; for the people also form alternately torrent and maremma, in pestilential fury or pestilential idleness. They also will change into living streams of men, if their Kings literally ‘lead them forth beside [24]the waters of comfort.’ Half the money lost by this inundation of Tiber, spent rightly on the hill-sides last summer, would have changed every wave of it into so much fruit and foliage in spring, where now they will be only burning rock. And the men who have been killed within the last two months, and whose work, and the money spent in doing it, have filled Europe with misery which fifty years will not efface, had they been set at the same cost to do good instead of evil, and to save life instead of destroy it, might, by this 10th of January, 1871, have embanked every dangerous stream at the roots of the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Po, and left to Germany, to France, and to Italy an inheritance of blessing for centuries to come—they and their families living all the while in brightest happiness and peace. And now! Let the Red Prince look to it; red inundation bears also its fruit in time.

“I am, sir, your obedient servant,

John Ruskin.”

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 12, 1871.


Sunday Playthings.

Sunday Playthings.

The Superbe Suisse and his Bear.


1 Fourth Report of Rivers Pollution Commission, p. 52. 

2 See Analysis of Water of Leith, the Foul Burn, and Pow Burn, same Report, p. 21. 

3 Same Report; so also the River Almond, pp. 22–45. 

4 See terminal Notes. 

5 Blood-hound, from ‘lym,’ Saxon for leash. 

6 Introduction to Border Minstrelsy, p. 86. 

7 “The Capacity and Extent of the Human Understanding; exemplified in the extraordinary case of Automathes, a young nobleman who was accidentally left in his infancy upon a desolate island, and continued nineteen years in that solitary state, separate from all human society.” By John Kirkby. 1745. Small 8vo. 

8 It is impossible to concentrate the vulgar modern vices of art and literature more densely than has been done in this—in such kind, documental—book. Here is a description of the ‘Queen of the Flowers’ out of it, which is so accurately characteristic of the ‘imagination’ of an age of demand and supply, that I must find space for it in small print. She appears in a wood in which “here and there was a mulberry tree disporting itself among the rest.” (Has Mr. Huguessen, M.P., ever seen a mulberry tree, or read as much of Pyramus and Thisbe as Bottom?)

“The face was the face of a lady, and of a pretty, exceedingly good-humoured lady too; but the hair which hung down around her head”—(the author had better have written hung up)—“was nothing more or less than festoons of roses,—red, lovely, sweet-scented” (who would have thought it!) “roses; the arms were apparently entirely composed of cloves and” (allspice? no) “carnations; the body was formed of a multitude of various flowers—the most beautiful you can imagine, and a cloak of honeysuckle and sweetbriar was thrown carefully over the shoulders.” (Italics mine—care being as characteristic of the growth of the honeysuckle as disport is that of the mulberry.) 

9 Robert, who comes to visit them in Bath, to little Walter’s great joy. 




“Love, it is a wrathful peace,

A free acquittance, without release,

And truth with falsehood all a-fret,

And fear within secureness set;

In heart it is despairing hope;

And full of hope, it is vain hope.

Wise madness and wild reasonne,

And sweet danger, wherein to droune.

A heavy burden, light to bear;

A wicked way, away to wear.

It is discordance that can accord,

And accordance to discord;

It is cunning without science,

Wisdom without sapience,

Wit without discretion,

Having, without possession,

And health full of malady,

And charity full of envy,

And restraint full of abundance,

And a greedy suffisaunce.

Delight right full of heaviness,

And drearihood, full of gladness;

Bitter sweetness, and sweet error,

Right evil savoured good savour;

Sin, that pardon hath within,

And pardon, spotted outside with sin: [2]

A pain also it is joyous,

And cruelty, right piteous;

A strength weak to stand upright,

And feebleness full of might;

Wit unadvised, sage follie,

And joy full of tormentry.

A laughter it is, weeping aye;

Rest, that travaileth night and day;

Also a sweet Hell it is,

And a sorrowful Paradise;1

A pleasant gaol, and an easy prison,

And full of froste, summer season;

Prime-time, full of froste’s white,

And May devoid of all delight.”

“Mesment de ceste amour

Li plus sages n’y sceunt tour

Maiz ou entent je te diray

Une aût (outre) amour te descriray

De celle veuil je que pour t’ame

Tu aimes la tres-doulce dame.

Si com dist la ste escripture

Amours est fors, amours est dure,

Amours soustient, amours endure,

Amours revient, et tousjours dure;

Amours met en amer sa cure;

Amours loyal, amours seure

Sert, et de servise nacure.

Amours fait de propre commun,

Amours fait de deux cuers un;

Amours enchace, ce me semble,

Amours rent cuers, amours les emble,

Amours despiece, amours refait,

Amours fait paix, amours fait plait,

Amours fait bel, amours fait lait,

Toutes heures quant il lui plaist

Amours attrait, amours estrange

Amours fait de prive estrange; [3]

Amours seurprent, amours emprent,

Amours reprent, amours esprent,

Il n’est riens qu’amours ne face;

Amours tolt cuer, amours tolt grace,

Amours delie, amours enlace,

Amours ocist, amours efface,

Amours ne craint ne pic ne mace:

Amours fist Dieu venir en place,

Amours lui fist ûre (notre) char prendre,

Amours le fist devenir mendre,

Amours le fist en la croix pendre,

Amours le fist illec extendre,

Amours le fist le coste fendre,

Amours le fist les maulx reprendre,

Amours lui fist les bons aprendre,

Amours le fist a nous venir,

Amours nous fait a lui tenir.”

These descriptions of the two kinds of noble love are both given in the part of the Romance of the Rose which was written by Jean de Meung.2 Chaucer translated the first, and I have partly again translated his translation into more familiar English. I leave the original French of the other for you to work at, if ever you care to learn French;—the first is all that I want you to read just now; but they should not be separated, being among the most interesting expressions extant of the sentiment of the dark ages, which Mr. Applegarth is desirous of eliminating from modern business.

The two great loves,—that of husband and wife, representing generally the family affections, and that of mankind, to which, at need, the family affection must be [4]sacrificed,—include, rightly understood, all the noble sentiments of humanity. Modern philosophy supposes these conditions of feeling to have been always absurd, and at present, happily, nearly extinct; and that the only proper, or, in future, possible, motives of human action are the three wholly unsentimental desires,—the lust of the flesh, (hunger, thirst, and sexual passion), the lust of the eyes, (covetousness), and the pride of life, (personal vanity).

Thus, in a recent debate on the treatment of Canada,3 Sir C. Adderley deprecates the continuance of a debate on a question “purely sentimental.” I doubt if Sir C. Adderley knew in the least what was meant by a sentimental question. It is a purely “sentimental question,” for instance, whether Sir C. Adderley shall, or shall not, eat his mother, instead of burying her. Similarly, it is a purely sentimental question, whether, in the siege of Samaria, the mother who boiled her son and ate him, or the mother who hid her son, was best fulfilling her duty to society. Similarly, the relations of a colony to its mother-country, in their truth and depth, are founded on purely parental and filial instincts, which may be either sentimental or bestial, but must be one or the other. Sir Charles probably did not know that the discussion of every such question must therefore be either sentimental or bestial. [5]

Into one or other, then, of these two forms of sentiment, conjugal and family love, or compassion, all human happiness, properly so called, resolves itself; but the spurious or counter-happiness of lust, covetousness, and vanity being easily obtained, and naturally grasped at, instead, may altogether occupy the lives of men, without ever allowing them to know what happiness means.

But in the use I have just made of the word ‘compassion’, I mean something very different from what is usually understood by it. Compassion is the Latin form of the Greek word ‘sympathy’—the English for both is ‘fellow-feeling’; and the condition of delight in characters higher than our own is more truly to be understood by the word ‘compassion’ than the pain of pity for those inferior to our own; but in either case, the imaginative understanding of the natures of others, and the power of putting ourselves in their place, is the faculty on which the virtue depends. So that an unimaginative person can neither be reverent nor kind. The main use of works of fiction, and of the drama, is to supply, as far as possible, the defect of this imagination in common minds. But there is a curious difference in the nature of these works themselves, dependent on the degree of imaginative power of the writers, which I must at once explain, else I can neither answer for you my own question put in last ‘Fors,’ why Scott could not write a play, nor show you, which is my present object, the real nature of sentiment.

Do you know, in the first place, what a play is? or [6]what a poem is? or what a novel is? That is to say, do you know the perpetual and necessary distinctions in literary aim which have brought these distinctive names into use? You had better first, for clearness’ sake, call all the three ‘poems,’ for all the three are so, when they are good, whether written in verse or prose. All truly imaginative account of man is poetic; but there are three essential kinds of poetry,—one dramatic, one lyric, and one epic.

Dramatic poetry is the expression by the poet of other people’s feelings, his own not being told.

Lyric poetry is the expression by the poet of his own feelings.

Epic poetry is account given by the poet of other people’s external circumstances, and of events happening to them, with only such expression either of their feelings, or his own, as he thinks may be conveniently added.

The business of Dramatic poetry is therefore with the heart essentially; it despises external circumstance.

Lyric poetry may speak of anything that excites emotion in the speaker; while Epic poetry insists on external circumstances, and no more exhibits the heart-feeling than as it may be gathered from these.

For instance, the fight between the Prince of Wales and Hotspur, in Henry the Fourth, corresponds closely, in the character of the event itself, to the fight of Fitz-James with Roderick, in the Lady of the Lake. But Shakespeare’s treatment of his subject is strictly dramatic; Scott’s, strictly epic. [7]

Shakespeare gives you no account whatever of any blow or wound: his stage direction is, briefly, “Hotspur is wounded, and falls.” Scott gives you accurate account of every external circumstance, and the finishing touch of botanical accuracy,—

“Down came the blow; but in the heath

The erring blade found bloodless sheath,”—

makes his work perfect, as epic poetry. And Scott’s work is always epic, and it is contrary to his very nature to treat any subject dramatically.

That is the technical distinction, then, between the three modes of work. But the gradation of power in all three depends on the degree of imagination with which the writer can enter into the feelings of other people. Whether in expressing their’s or his own, and whether in expressing their feelings only, or also the circumstances surrounding them, his power depends on his being able to feel as they do; in other words, on his being able to conceive character. And the literature which is not poetry at all, which is essentially unsentimental, or anti-poetic, is that which is produced by persons who have no imagination; and whose merit (for of course I am not speaking of bad literature) is in their wit or sense, instead of their imagination.

The most prosaic, in this sense, piece I have ever myself examined, in the literature of any nation, is the Henriade of Voltaire. You may take that as a work of a man whose [8]head was as destitute of imaginative power as it is possible for the healthy cerebral organization of a highly developed mammalian animal to be. The description of the storm which carries Henry to Jersey, and of the hermit in Jersey “que Dieu lui fit connaitre,” and who, on that occasion, “au bord d’une onde pure, offre un festin champêtre,” cannot be rivalled, for stupor in conceptive power, among printed books of reputation. On the other hand, Voltaire’s wit, and reasoning faculties, are nearly as strong as his imagination is weak. His natural disposition is kind; his sympathy therefore is sincere with any sorrow that he can conceive; and his indignation great against injustices of which he cannot comprehend the pathetic motives. Now notice further this, which is very curious, and to me inexplicable, but not on that account less certain as a fact.

The imaginative power always purifies; the want of it therefore as essentially defiles; and as the wit-power is apt to develope itself through absence of imagination, it seems as if wit itself had a defiling tendency. In Pindar, Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Scott, the colossal powers of imagination result in absolute virginal purity of thought. The defect of imagination and the splendid rational power in Pope and Horace associate themselves—it is difficult to say in what decided measures—with foulness of thought. The Candide of Voltaire, in its gratuitous filth, its acute reasoning, and its entire vacuity of imagination, is a standard of what may perhaps be generally and fitly termed ‘fimetic literature,’ still capable, by its wit, and partial truth, of a [9]certain service in its way. But lower forms of modern literature and art—Gustave Doré’s paintings, for instance,—are the corruption, in national decrepitude, of this pessimist method of thought; and of these, the final condemnation is true—they are neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill.

It is one of the most curious problems respecting mental government to determine how far this fimetic taint must necessarily affect intellects in which the reasoning and imaginative powers are equally balanced, and both of them at high level,—as in Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Molière, Cervantes, and Fielding; but it always indicates the side of character which is unsympathetic, and therefore unkind; (thus Shakespeare makes Iago the foulest in thought, as cruelest in design, of all his villains,) but which, in men of noble nature, is their safeguard against weak enthusiasms and ideals. It is impossible, however, that the highest conditions of tenderness in affectionate conception can be reached except by the absolutely virginal intellect. Shakespeare and Chaucer throw off, at noble work, the lower part of their natures as they would a rough dress; and you may also notice this, that the power of conceiving personal, as opposed to general, character, depends on this purity of heart and sentiment. The men who cannot quit themselves of the impure taint, never invent character, properly so called; they only invent symbols of common humanity. Even Fielding’s Allworthy is not a character, but a type of a simple English gentleman; and Squire [10]Western is not a character, but a type of the rude English squire. But Sir Roger de Coverley is a character, as well as a type; there is no one else like him; and the masters of Tullyveolan, Ellangowan, Monkbarns, and Osbaldistone Hall, are all, whether slightly or completely drawn, portraits, not mere symbols.

The little piece which I shall to-day further translate for you from my Swiss novel is interesting chiefly in showing the power with which affectionate and sentimental imagination may attach itself even to inanimate objects, and give them personality. But the works of its writer generally show the most wholesome balance of the sentimental and rational faculty I have ever met with in literature;—the part of Gotthelf’s nature which is in sympathy with Pope and Fielding enables him to touch, to just the necessary point, the lower grotesqueness of peasant nature, while his own conception of ideal virtue is as pure as Wordsworth’s.

But I have only room in this ‘Fors’ for a very little bit more of the broom-maker. I continue the last sentence of it from page 13 of Letter XXX.:—

“And then Hansli always knew that as soon as he got home there would be enough to eat;—his mother saw faithfully to that. She knew the difference it makes whether a man finds something ready to eat, when he comes in, or not. He who knows there will be something at home, does not stop in the taverns; he arrives with an empty stomach, and furnishes it, highly pleased [11]with all about him; but if he usually finds nothing ready when at home, he stops on the road, comes in when he has had enough or too much; and grumbles right and left.

“Hansli was not avaricious, but economical. For things really useful and fit, he did not look at the money. In all matters of food and clothes, he wished his mother to be thoroughly at ease. He made a good bed for himself; and when he had saved enough to buy a knife or a good tool, he was quite up in the air. He himself dressed well, not expensively, but solidly. Any one with a good eye knows quickly enough, at the sight of houses or of people, whether they are going up or down. As for Hansli, it was easy to see he was on his way up—not that he ever put on anything fine, but by his cleanliness and the careful look of his things: aussi, everybody liked to see him, and was very glad to know that he prospered thus, not by fraud, but by work. With all that, he never forgot his prayers. On Sunday he made no brooms: in the morning he went to the sermon,4 and in the afternoon he read a chapter of the Bible to his mother, whose sight was now failing. After that he gave himself a personal treat. This treat consisted in bringing out all his money, counting it, looking at it,5 and calculating how much it had increased, and how much it would yet increase, etc. etc. In that money there were [12]some very pretty pieces,—above all, pretty white pieces” (silver among the copper). “Hansli was very strong in exchanges; he took small money willingly enough, but never kept it long; it seemed always to him that the wind got into it and carried it off too quickly. The new white pieces gave him an extreme pleasure,—above all, the fine dollars of Berne with the bear, and the superb Swiss of old time. When he had managed to catch one of these, it made him happy for many days.6

“Nevertheless, he had also his bad days. It was always a bad day for him when he lost a customer, or had counted on placing a dozen of new brooms anywhere, and found himself briskly sent from the door with ‘We’ve got all we want.’ At first Hansli could not understand the cause of such rebuffs, not knowing that there are people who change their cook as often as their shirt—sometimes oftener,—and that he couldn’t expect new cooks to know him at first sight. He asked himself then, with surprise, what he could have failed in,—whether his brooms had come undone, or whether anybody had spoken ill of him. He took that much to heart, and would plague himself all night to find out the real cause. But soon he took the thing [13]more coolly; and even when a cook who knew him very well sent him about his business, he thought to himself, ‘Bah! cooks are human creatures, like other people; and when master or mistress have been rough with them7 because they’ve put too much pepper in the soup, or too much salt in the sauce, or when their schatz” (lover,—literally, treasure) “is gone off to Pepperland,8 the poor girls have well the right to quarrel with somebody else.’ Nevertheless, the course of time needs brought him some worse days still, which he never got himself to take coolly. He knew now, personally, very nearly all his trees; he had indeed given, for himself alone, names to his willows, and some other particular trees, as Lizzie, Little Mary-Anne, Rosie, and so on. These trees kept him in joy all the year round, and he divided very carefully the pleasure of gathering their twigs. He treated the most beautiful with great delicacy, and carried the brooms of them to his best customers. It is true to say also that these were always master-brooms. But when he arrived thus, all joyous, at his willows, and found his Lizzie or his Rosie all cut and torn from top to bottom, his heart was so strained that the tears ran down his cheeks, and his blood became so hot that one could have lighted matches at it. That made him unhappy for a length of time; he could not swallow it, and all he asked was that the thief might fall into his grip, not for the value [14]of the twigs, but because his trees had been hurt. If Hansli was not tall, still he knew how to use his limbs and his strength, and he felt his heart full of courage. On that point he absolutely would not obey his mother, who begged him for the love of God not to meddle with people who might kill him, or do him some grievous harm. But Hansli took no heed of all that. He lay in wait and spied until he caught somebody. Then there were blows and formidable battles in the midst of the solitary trees. Sometimes Hansli got the better, sometimes he came home all in disorder. But at the worst, he gained at least this, that thenceforward one let his willows more and more alone, as happens always when a thing is defended with valour and perseverance. What is the use of putting oneself in the way of blows, when one can get things somewhere else without danger? Aussi, the Rychiswyl farmers were enchanted with their courageous little garde-champêtre, and if one or the other saw him with his hair pulled, they failed not to say, ‘Never mind, Hansli; he will have had his dance all the same. Tell me the next time you see anything—I’ll go with you, and we’ll cure him of his taste for brooms.’ Whereupon, Hansli would tell him when he saw anybody about that should not be; the peasant9 kept himself hid; Hansli began the attack; the adversary, thinking himself strongest, waited for him; once the thief seized, the peasant showed himself, and all was said. Then the marauder would have got away if he [15]could, but Hansli never let go till he had been beaten as was fitting.

“This was a very efficacious remedy against the switch-stealers, and Little Mary-Anne and Rosie remained in perfect security in the midst of the loneliest fields. Thus Hansli passed some years without perceiving it, and without imagining that things could ever change. A week passed, as the hand went round the clock, he didn’t know how. Tuesday, market-day at Berne, was there before he could think about it; and Tuesday was no sooner past than Saturday was there; and he had to go to Thun, whether he would or no, for how could the Thun people get on without him? Between times he had enough to do to prepare his cartload, and to content his customers,—that is to say, those of them that pleased him. Our Hansli was a man; and every man, when his position permits it, has his caprices of liking and disliking. Whenever one had trod on his toes, one must have been very clever afterwards to get the least twig of a broom from him. The parson’s wife, for instance, couldn’t have got one if she would have paid for it twice over. It was no use sending to him; every time she did, he said he was very sorry, but he hadn’t a broom left that would suit her.

“That was because she had one day said to him that he was just like other people, and contented himself with putting a few long twigs all round, and then bad ones in the middle.

“ ‘Then you may as well get your brooms from somebody [16]else,’ said he; and held to it too;—so well that the lady died without ever having been able to get the shadow of a broom from him.

“One Tuesday he was going to Berne with an enormous cartful of his prettiest brooms, all gathered from his favourite trees, that is to say, Rosie, Little Mary-Anne, and company. He was pulling with all his strength, and greatly astonished to find that his cart didn’t go of itself, as it did at first; that it really pulled too hard, and that something must be wrong with it. At every moment he was obliged to stop to take breath and wipe his forehead. ‘If only I was at the top of the hill of Stalden!’ said he. He had stopped thus in the little wood of Muri, close to the bench that the women rest their baskets on. Upon the bench sat a young girl, holding a little bundle beside her, and weeping hot tears. Hansli, who had a kind heart, asked her what she was crying for.

“The young girl recounted to him that she was obliged to go into the town, and that she was so frightened she scarcely dared; that her father was a shoemaker, and that all his best customers were in the town; that for a long time she had carried her bundle of shoes in, on market days, and that nothing had ever happened to her. But behold, there had arrived in the town a new gendarme, very cross, who had already tormented her every Tuesday she had come, for some time back; and threatened her, if she came again, to take her shoes from her, and put her in prison. She had begged her father not to send her any [17]more, but her father was as severe as a Prussian soldier, and had ordered her to ‘go in, always; and if anybody hurt her, it was with him they would have affairs;’ but what would that help her?—she was just as much afraid of the gendarme as before.

“Hansli felt himself touched with compassion; above all, on account of the confidence the young girl had had in telling him all this; that which certainly she would not have done to everybody. ‘But she has seen at once that I am not a bad fellow, and that I have a kind heart,’ thought he.

“Poor Hansli!—but after all, it is faith which saves, people say.”

My readers may at first be little interested by this uneventful narrative; but they will find it eventually delightful, if they accustom themselves to classic and sincere literature; and as an account of Swiss life now fast passing away, it is invaluable. More than the life of Switzerland,—its very snows,—eternal, as one foolishly called them,—are passing away, as if in omen of evil. One-third, at least, in the depth of all the ice of the Alps, has been lost in the last twenty years; and the change of climate thus indicated is without any parallel in authentic history. In its bearings on the water supply and atmospheric conditions of central Europe, it is the most important phenomenon, by far, of all that offer themselves to the study of living men of science: yet in Professor [18]Tyndall’s recent work on the glaciers,10 though he notices the change as one which, “if continued, will reduce the Swiss glaciers to the mere spectres of their former selves,” he offers no evidence, nor even suggestion, as to the causes of the change itself.

I have no space in this number of ‘Fors’ to say what reason there is for my taking notice of this book, or the glacier theory, in connection with the life of Scott. In the interests of general literature, it is otherwise fitting that the nature of the book itself should be pointed out.

Its nature, that is to say, so far as it has any. It seems to be written for a singular order of young people, whom, if they were older, Professor Tyndall assures them, it would give him pleasure to take up Mont Blanc; but whom he can at present invite to walk with him along the moraine from the Jardin, where “perfect steadiness of foot is necessary,—a slip would be death;” and to whom, with Mr. Hirsch, he can “confide confidently” the use of his surveying chain. It is, at all events, written for entirely ignorant people—and entirely idle ones, who cannot be got to read without being coaxed and flattered into the unusual exertion. “Here, my friend,” says the Professor, at the end of his benevolently alluring pages, “our labours close! It has been a true pleasure to me to have you at my side so long. You have been steadfast and industrious throughout.… Steadfast, prudent, without terror, though not at all times without awe, I have found you, on rock and [19]ice. Give me your hand—Goodbye.” Does the Professor count, then, upon no readers but those whom he can gratify with polite expressions of this kind? Upon none who perhaps unsteadfast, imprudent, and very much frightened upon rock and ice, have nevertheless done their own work there, and know good work of other people’s, from bad, anywhere; and true praise from false anywhere; and can detect the dishonouring of nameable and noble persons, couched under sycophancy of the nameless? He has at least had one reader whom I can answer for, of this inconvenient sort.

It is, I am sorry to say, just forty years (some day last month) since I first saw the Bernese Alps from above Schaffhausen. Since that evening I have never let slip a chance of knowing anything definite about glaciers and their ways; and have watched the progress of knowledge, and the oscillations of theory, on the subject, with an interest not less deep, and certainly more sincere, than it would have been if my own industry had been able to advance the one, or my own ingenuity to complicate the other. But only one great step in the knowledge of glaciers has been made in all that period; and it seems the principal object of Professor Tyndall’s book to conceal its having been taken, that he and his friends may get the credit, some day, of having taken it themselves.

I went to the University in 1836, and my best friend there, among the older masters, Dr. Buckland, kept me not ill-informed on my favourite subject, the geological, [20]or crystallogical, question. Nearly everything of which Professor Tyndall informs his courageous readers was known then, just as well as it is now. We all,—that is to say, all geologists of any standing, and their pupils,—knew that glaciers moved; that they were supplied by snow at the top of the Alps, and consumed by heat at the bottom of them; that there were cracks all through them, and moraines all down them; that some of their ice was clear, and other ice opaque; that some of it was sound, and some rotten; and that streams fell into them at places called mills, and came out of them at places called grottoes. We were, I am sorry to say, somewhat languidly content with these articles of information; we never thought of wading “breast-deep through snow” in search of more, and still less of “striking our theodolites with the feelings of a general who had won a small battle.”11 Things went on thus quietly enough. We were all puzzled to account for glacier motion, but never thought of ascertaining what the motion really was. We knew that the ice slipped over the rocks at some places, tumbled over them at others; gaped, or as people who wanted to write sublimely always said, yawned, when it was steep, and shut up again when it was level. And Mr. Charpentiêr wrote a thick volume to show that it moved by expansion [21]and contraction, which I read all through, and thought extremely plausible. But none of us ever had the slightest idea of the ice’s being anything but an entirely solid substance, which was to be reasoned about as capable indeed of being broken, or crushed, or pushed, or pulled in any direction, and of sliding or falling as gravity and smooth surfaces might guide it, but was always entirely rigid and brittle in its substance like so much glass or stone.

This was the state of affairs in 1841. Professor Agassiz, of Neuchâtel, had then been some eight or ten years at work on the glaciers: had built a cabin on one of them; walked a great many times over a great many of them; described a number of their phenomena quite correctly; proposed, and in some cases performed, many ingenious experiments upon them; and indeed done almost everything that was to be done for them—except find out the one thing that we wanted to know.

As his malicious fortune would have it, he invited in that year (1841) a man of acute brains to see what he was about. The invitation was accepted. The visitor was a mathematician; and after examining the question, for discussion of which Agassiz was able to supply him with all the data except those which were essential, resolved to find out the essential ones himself.

Which in the next year (1842) he quietly did; and in 1843 solved the problem of glacier motion for ever,—announcing, to everybody’s astonishment, and to the [22]extreme disgust and mortification of all glacier students,—including my poor self, (not the least envious, I fancy, though with as little right to be envious as anyone),—that glaciers were not solid bodies at all, but semi-liquid ones, and ran down in their beds like so much treacle.

Cela saute aux yeux,” we all said, as soon as we were told; and I well remember the intense mortification of first looking down on the dirt bands of the Mer-de-Glace, from the foot of the Little Charmoz, after I had read Principal Forbes’ book. That we never should have seen them before!—so palpable, so inevitable now, with every inch of the ice’s motion kept record of, in them, for centuries, and every curve pencilled in dark, so that no river eddies, no festooned fall of sweeping cascade, could be more conclusive in proof of the flowing current. And of course it flowed; how else could it have moved but by a series of catastrophes?12 Everything explained, now, by one shrewd and clear-sighted man’s work for a couple of summer months; and what asses we had all been!

But fancy the feelings of poor Agassiz in his Hotel des Neuchâtelois! To have had the thing under his nose for ten years, and missed it! There is nothing in the annals of scientific mischance—(perhaps the truer word would be scientific dulness)—to match it; certainly it would be difficult for provocation to be more bitter,—at least, for a man who thinks, as most of our foolish modern scientific [23]men do think, that there is no good in knowing anything for its own sake, but only in being the first to find it out.

Nor am I prepared altogether to justify Forbes in his method of proceeding, except on the terms of battle which men of science have laid down for themselves. Here is a man has been ten years at his diggings; has trenched here, and bored there, and been over all the ground again and again, except just where the nugget is. He asks one to dinner—and one has an eye for the run of a stream; one does a little bit of pickaxing in the afternoon on one’s own account,—and walks off with his nugget. It is hard.

Still, in strictness, it is perfectly fair. The new comer, spade on shoulder, does not understand, when he accepts the invitation to dinner, that he must not dig,—or must give all he gets to his host. The luck is his, and the old pitsman may very excusably growl and swear at him a little; but has no real right to quarrel with him,—still less to say that his nugget is copper, and try to make everybody else think so too.

Alas, it was too clear that this Forbes’ nugget was not copper. The importance of the discovery was shown in nothing so much as in the spite of Agassiz and his friends. The really valuable work of Agassiz on the glaciers was itself disgraced, and made a monument to the genius of Forbes, by the irrelevant spite with which every page was stained in which his name could be introduced. Mr. Desor found consolation in describing the cowardice of the Ecossais [24]on the top of the Jungfrau; and all the ingenuity and plausibility of Professor Tyndall have been employed, since the death of Forbes, to diminish the lustre of his discovery, and divide the credit of it.

To diminish the lustre, observe, is the fatallest wrong; by diminishing its distinctness. At the end of this last book of his, in the four hundred and tenth of the sapient sentences which he numbers with paternal care, he still denies, as far as he dares, the essential point of Forbes’ discovery; denies it interrogatively, leaving the reader to consider the whole subject as yet open to discussion,—only to be conclusively determined by—Professor Tyndall and his friends. “Ice splits,” he says, “if you strike a pointed pricker into it; fissures, narrow and profound, may be traced for hundreds of yards through the ice. Did the ice possess even a very small modicum of that power of stretching which is characteristic of a viscous substance, ‘such crevasses could not be formed.’ ” Professor Tyndall presumably never having seen a crack in clay, nor in shoe-leather, nor in a dish of jelly set down with a jerk; nor, in the very wax he himself squeezed flat to show the nature of cleavage,—understood that the cleavage meant the multiplication of fissure!

And the book pretends to be so explanatory, too, to his young friends!—explanatory of the use of the theodolite, of the nature of presence of mind, of the dependence of enjoyment of scenery upon honest labour, of the necessity that in science, “thought, as far as possible, should be wedded [25]to fact,” and of the propriety of their becoming older and better informed before they unqualifiedly accept his opinion of the labours of Rendu!

But the one thing which, after following him through the edification of his four hundred and ten sentences, they had a right to have explained to them—the one thing that will puzzle them if ever they see a glacier, “how the centre flows past the sides, and the top flows over the bottom,” the Professor does not explain; but only assures them of the attention which the experiments of Mr. Mathews, Mr. Froude, and above all Signor Bianconi, on that subject, “will doubtless receive at a future time.”

The readers of ‘Fors’ may imagine they have nothing to do with personal questions of this kind. But they have no conception of the degree in which general science is corrupted and retarded by these jealousies of the schools; nor how important it is to the cause of all true education, that the criminal indulgence of them should be chastised. Criminal is a strong word, but an entirely just one. I am not likely to overrate the abilities of Professor Tyndall; but he had at least intelligence enough to know that his dispute of the statements of Forbes by quibbling on the word “viscous” was as uncandid as it was unscholarly; and it retarded the advance of glacier science for at least ten years. It was unscholarly, because no other single word existed in the English language which Forbes could have used instead; and uncandid, because Professor Tyndall knew perfectly [26]well that Forbes was aware of the difference between ice and glue, without any need for experiments on them at the Royal Institution. Forbes said that the mass of glacier ice was viscous, though an inch of ice was not, just as it may be said, with absolute truth, that a cartload of fresh-caught herring is liquid, though a single herring is not. And the absurdity as well as the iniquity of the Professor’s wilful avoidance of this gist of the whole debate is consummated in this last book, in which, though its title is “The Forms of Water,” he actually never traces the transformation of snow into glacier ice at all—(blundering by the way, in consequence, as to the use of one of the commonest words in Savoyard French, névé). For there are three great “forms of water” by which the Alps are sheeted,—one is snow; another is glacier ice; the third is névé, which is the transitional substance between one and the other. And there is not a syllable, from the beginning of the book to the end, on the subject of this change, the nature of which is quite the first point to be determined in the analysis of glacier motion.

I have carried my letter to an unusual length, and must end for the time; and next month have to deal with some other matters; but as the Third Fors has dragged me into this business, I will round it off as best I may; and in the next letter which I can devote to the subject, I hope to give some available notes on the present state of glacier knowledge, and of the points which men who really love the Alps may now usefully work upon. [27]



I cut out of the ‘Morning Post’ of September 15th, 1873, the following piece of fashionable intelligence, as a sufficiently interesting example of the “Sorrowful Paradise” which marriage, and the domestic arrangements connected with it, occasionally construct in the districts of England where Mr. Applegarth’s great principle, “No sentiment ought to be brought into the subject,” would be most consistently approved in all the affairs of life. The inconvenience to his master of the inopportune expression of sentiment on the part of the dog, is a striking corroboration of Mr. Applegarth’s views:—“Charles Dawson, an ironworker, who had left his wife and cohabited with a young woman named Margaret Addison, attacked her in the house with a coal rake on the head and body. He then, when his victim screamed, pressed her neck down on the floor with one of his heavy boots, while with the other he kicked her. He jumped upon her, and finally seized a large earthern pan and dashed it upon her head, killing her on the spot. The whole of the attack was witnessed by a man who was deterred from interfering by a loaded revolver which Dawson held. Dawson decamped, and strong bodies of police guarded the different roads from the town, and searched several of his haunts. At three o’clock yesterday morning a dog recognised to be Dawson’s was followed, and Sergeant Cuthbert broke open the door where the animal was scratching to obtain admission, and captured Dawson, who was [28]sitting on a chair. Although he was armed with a loaded revolver, he offered no resistance.”

I ought to have noted in last ‘Fors,’ respecting the difficulty of spelling, some forms of bad spelling which result from the mere quantity of modern literature, and the familiarity of phrases which are now caught by the eye and ear, without being attentively looked at for an instant, so that spelling and pronunciation go to ruin together.

On the other hand, I print the following portions of a very graceful letter I received early this year, which indicates the diffusion of really sound education. I wish its writer would tell me her employment.

“And you will not again call yourself our friend, because you are disheartened by our regardlessness of your friendship, and still more, it may be, by the discouraging voice of some on whom you might perhaps more reasonably have counted.

“You say we have never written you a word of encouragement. But don’t you think the fault-finders would be sure to speak first, and loudest? I even, in my loneliness, am able to lend my copies to four, who all look forward to their turn with pleasure. (They get their pleasure for nothing, and I was not quite sure you would approve! until I found you would be willing to lend your Talmud!)

“On one point I grumble and find fault.

“Most of those works which you say you want us to read, I have read; but if I had had to pay the price at which you propose to publish them, they would have cost me £3 and I could not have afforded it; because, much as I delighted in them, I longed for certain other books as well. Many an intelligent working man with a family is poorer than I am. [29]

“I quite thoroughly and heartily sympathise with your contempt for advertising (as it is abused at present, anyway). But I think all good books should be cheap. I would make bad ones as dear as you like.

“Was it not Socrates alone of the great Greeks who would put no price on his wisdom?—and Christ ‘taught daily in their streets.’ I do assure you there are plenty of us teachable enough, if only any one capable of teaching could get near enough, who will never, in this world, be able to afford ‘a doctor’s fee.’

“I wonder—if it be wrong to take interest—of what use my very small savings could be to me in old age? Would it be worth while for working women to save at all?

(Signed) “A Working Woman.

No, certainly not wrong. The wrong is in the poor wages of good work, which make it impossible to buy books at a proper price, or to save what would be enough for old age. Books should not be cheaper, but work should be dearer.

A young lady writing to me the other day to ask what I really wanted girls to do, I answered as follows, requesting her to copy the answer, that it might serve once for all. I print it accordingly, as perhaps a more simple statement than the one given in ‘Sesame and Lilies.’

Women’s work is,—

I. To please people.
II. To feed them in dainty ways.
III. To clothe them.
IV. To keep them orderly.
V. To teach them.

I. To please.—A woman must be a pleasant creature. Be [30]sure that people like the room better with you in it than out of it; and take all pains to get the power of sympathy, and the habit of it.

II. Can you cook plain meats and dishes economically and savourily? If not, make it your first business to learn, as you find opportunity. When you can, advise, and personally help, any poor woman within your reach who will be glad of help in that matter; always avoiding impertinence or discourtesy of interference. Acquaint yourself with the poor, not as their patroness, but their friend: if then you can modestly recommend a little more water in the pot, or half an hour’s more boiling, or a dainty bone they did not know of, you will have been useful indeed.

III. To clothe.—Set aside a quite fixed portion of your time for making strong and pretty articles of dress of the best procurable materials. You may use a sewing machine; but what work is to be done (in order that it may be entirely sound) with finger and thimble, is to be your especial business.

First-rate material, however costly, sound work, and such prettiness as ingenious choice of colour and adaptation of simple form will admit, are to be your aims. Head-dress may be fantastic, if it be stout, clean, and consistently worn, as a Norman paysanne’s cap. And you will be more useful in getting up, ironing, etc., a pretty cap for a poor girl who has not taste or time to do it for herself, than in making flannel petticoats or knitting stockings. But do both, and give—(don’t be afraid of giving;—Dorcas wasn’t raised from the dead that modern clergymen might call her a fool)—the things you make to those who verily need them. What sort of persons these are, you have to find out. It is a most important part of your work.

IV. To keep them orderly,—primarily clean, tidy, regular in [31]habits.—Begin by keeping things in order; soon you will be able to keep people, also.

Early rising—on all grounds, is for yourself indispensable. You must be at work by latest at six in summer and seven in winter. (Of course that puts an end to evening parties, and so it is a blessed condition in two directions at once.) Every day do a little bit of housemaid’s work in your own house, thoroughly, so as to be a pattern of perfection in that kind. Your actual housemaid will then follow your lead, if there’s an atom of woman’s spirit in her—(if not, ask your mother to get another). Take a step or two of stair, and a corner of the dining-room, and keep them polished like bits of a Dutch picture.

If you have a garden, spend all spare minutes in it in actual gardening. If not, get leave to take care of part of some friend’s, a poor person’s, but always out of doors. Have nothing to do with greenhouses, still less with hothouses.

When there are no flowers to be looked after, there are dead leaves to be gathered, snow to be swept, or matting to be nailed, and the like.

V. Teach—yourself first—to read with attention, and to remember with affection, what deserves both, and nothing else. Never read borrowed books. To be without books of your own is the abyss of penury. Don’t endure it. And when you’ve to buy them, you’ll think whether they’re worth reading; which you had better, on all accounts.

(Glacier catastrophe, page 22.)

With the peculiar scientific sagacity on which Professor Tyndall piques himself, he has entirely omitted to inquire what [32]would be the result on a really brittle body,—say a sheet of glass, four miles long by two hundred feet thick, (A to B, in this figure, greatly exaggerates the proportion in depth,) of being pushed down over a bed of rocks of any given probable outline—say C to D. Does he suppose it would adhere to them like a tapering leech, in the line given between C and D? The third sketch shows the actual condition of a portion of a glacier flowing from E to F over such a group of rocks as the lower bed of the Glacier des Bois once presented. Professor Tyndall has not even thought of explaining what course the lines of lower motion, or subsidence, (in ice of the various depths roughly suggested by the dots) would follow on any hypothesis; for, admitting even Professor Ramsay’s theory, that the glacier cut its own bed—(though it would be just as rational to think that its own dish was made for itself by a custard pudding)—still the rocks must have had some irregularity in shape to begin with, and are not cut, even now, as smooth as a silver spoon.


1 See first terminal note. 

2 Or Méhun, near Beaugency, Loire. 

3 On Mr. M’Fie’s motion for a committee to consider the relations that subsist between the United Kingdom and the Colonies. On the varieties of filial sentiment, compare Herodotus, iii. 38; iv. 26. 

4 Much the most important part of the service in Protestant Switzerland, and a less formal one than in Scotland. 

5 Utmost wisdom is not in self-denial, but in learning to find extreme pleasure in very little things. 

6 This pleasure is a perfectly natural and legitimate one, and all the more because it is possible only when the riches are very moderate. After getting the first shilling of which I told you, I set my mind greatly upon getting a pile of new “lion shillings,” as I called them—the lion standing on the top of the crown; and my delight in the bloomy surface of their dead silver is quite a memorable joy to me. I have engraved, for the frontispiece, the two sides of one of Hansli’s Sunday playthings; it is otherwise interesting as an example of the comparatively vulgar coinage of a people uneducated in art. 

7 Has quarrelled with them. 

8Les ont brusquées.” I can’t get the derivation beyond Johnson: “Fr. brusque; Gothic, braska.” But the Italian brusco is connected with the Provençal brusca, thicket, and Fr. broussaille. 

9 Paysan—see above. 

10 ‘The Forms of Water.’ King and Co., Cornhill. 1872. 

11 When next the reader has an opportunity of repeating Professor Tyndall’s experiments (p. 92) in a wreath of dry snow, I recommend him first to try how much jumping is necessary in order to get into it “breast-deep”; and secondly, how far he can “wade” in that dramatic position. 

12 See the last terminal note. 




Looking up from my paper, as I consider what I am to say in this letter, and in what order to say it, I see out of my window, on the other side of the lake, the ivied chimneys (thick and strong-built, like castle towers, and not at all disposed to drop themselves over people below,) of the farmhouse where, I told you the other day, I saw its mistress preparing the feast of berry-bread for her sheep-shearers. In that farmhouse, about two hundred and fifty years ago, warmed himself at the hearth, ten feet across, of its hall, the English squire who wrote the version of the Psalms from which I chose for you the fourteenth and fifteenth, last November. Of the said squire I wish you, this November, to know somewhat more; here, to begin, is his general character, given by a biographer who may be trusted:—

“He was a true model of worth; a man fit for [2]conquest, plantation, reformation, or what action soever is greatest and hardest among men; withal such a lover of mankind and goodness, that whosoever had any real parts in him found comfort, participation, and protection to the uttermost of his power. The universities abroad and at home accounted him a general Mæcenas of learning, dedicated their books to him, and communicated every invention or improvement of knowledge with him. Soldiers honoured him, and were so honoured by him, as no man thought he marched under the true banner of Mars, that had not obtained his approbation. Men of affairs in most parts of Christendom entertained correspondency with him. But what speak I of these? His heart and capacity were so large, that there was not a cunning painter, a skilful engineer, an excellent musician, or any other artificer of extraordinary fame, that made not himself known to this famous spirit, and found him his true friend without hire, and the common rendezvous of worth, in his time.”

This being (and as I can assure you, by true report,) his character, and manner of life, you are to observe these things, farther, about his birth, fate, and death.

When he was born, his mother was in mourning for her father, brother, and sister-in-law, who all had died on the scaffold. Yet, very strangely, you will find that he takes no measures, in his political life, for the abolition of capital punishment.

Perhaps I had better at once explain to you the [3]meaning of his inactivity in that cause, although for my own part I like best to put questions only, and leave you to work them out for yourselves as you are able. But you could not easily answer this one without help. This psalm-singing squire has nothing to urge against capital punishment, because his grandfather, uncle, and aunt-in-law all died innocent. It is only rogues who have a violent objection to being hanged, and only abettors of rogues who would desire anything else for them. Honest men don’t in the least mind being hanged occasionally by mistake, so only that the general principle of the gallows be justly maintained; and they have the pleasure of knowing that the world they leave is positively minded to cleanse itself of the human vermin with which they have been classed by mistake.

The contrary movement—so vigorously progressive in modern days—has its real root in a gradually increasing conviction on the part of the English nation that they are all vermin. (‘Worms’ is the orthodox Evangelical expression.) Which indeed is becoming a fact, very fast indeed;—but was by no means so in the time of this psalm-singing squire. In his days, there was still a quite sharp separation between honest men and rogues; and the honest men were perfectly clear about the duty of trying to find out which was which. The confusion of the two characters is a result of the peculiar forms of vice and ignorance, reacting on each other, which belong to the modern [4]Evangelical sect, as distinguished from other bodies of Christian men; and date therefore, necessarily, from the Reformation.

They consist especially in three things. First, in declaring a bad translation of a group of books of various qualities, accidentally associated, to be the ‘Word of God.’ Secondly, reading, of this singular ‘Word of God,’ only the bits they like; and never taking any pains to understand even those.1 Thirdly, resolutely refusing to practise even the very small bits they do understand, if such practice happen to go against their own worldly—especially money—interests. Of which three errors, the climax is in their always delightedly reading—without in the slightest degree understanding—the fourteenth Psalm; and never reading, nor apparently thinking it was ever intended they should read, the next one to it—the fifteenth. For which reason I gave you those two together, from the squire’s version, last November,—and, this November and December, will try to make you understand both. For among those books accidentally brought together, and recklessly called the ‘Word of God,’ the book of Psalms is a very precious one. It is certainly not the ‘Word of [5]God’; but it is the collected words of very wise and good men, who knew a great many important things which you don’t know, and had better make haste to know,—and were ignorant of some quite unimportant things, which Professor Huxley knows, and thinks himself wiser on that account than any quantity of Psalmists, or Canticle-singers either. The distinction between the two, indeed, is artificial, and worse than that, non-natural. For it is just as proper and natural, sometimes, to write a psalm, or solemn song, to your mistress, and a canticle, or joyful song, to God, as to write grave songs only to God, and canticles to your mistress. And there is, observe, no proper distinction in the words at all. When Jean de Meung continues the love-poem of William de Loris, he says sorrowfully:—

“Cys trespassa Guilleaume

De Loris, et ne fit plus pseaume.”

“Here died William

Of Loris, and made psalm no more.”

And the best word for “Canticles” in the Bible is “Asma,” or Song, which is just as grave a word as Psalmos, or Psalm.

And as it happens, this psalm-singing, or, at least, exquisitely psalm-translating, squire, mine ancient neighbour, is just as good a canticle-singer. I know no such lovely love poems as his, since Dante’s.

Here is a specimen for you, which I choose because of [6]its connection with the modern subject of railroads; only note, first,

The word Squire, I told you, meant primarily a “rider.” And it does not at all mean, and never can mean, a person carried in an iron box by a kettle on wheels. Accordingly, this squire, riding to visit his mistress along an old English road, addresses the following sonnet to the ground of it,—gravel or turf, I know not which:—

“Highway, since you my chief Parnassus be;

And that my Muse, to some ears not unsweet,

Tempers her words to trampling horses’ feet,

More oft than to a chamber melody;

Now, blessed you, bear onward blessed me,

To her, where I my heart, safe left, shall meet;

My Muse and I must you of duty greet

With thanks and wishes; wishing thankfully—

Be you still fair, honour’d by public heed;

By no encroachment wrong’d, nor time forgot;

Nor blamed for blood, nor shamed for sinful deed;

And that you know, I envy you no lot

Of highest wish, I wish you so much bliss,—

Hundreds of years you Stella’s feet may kiss.’ ”

Hundreds of years! You think that a mistake? No, it is the very rapture of love. A lover like this does not believe his mistress can grow old, or die. How do you think the other verses read, apropos of railway signals and railway scrip? [7]

“Be you still fair, honour’d by public heed,2

Nor blamed for blood, nor shamed for sinful deed.”

But to keep our eyes and ears with our squire. Presently he comes in sight of his mistress’s house, and then sings this sonnet:—

“I see the house; my heart, thyself contain!

Beware full sails drown not thy tott’ring barge;

Lest joy, by nature apt spirits to enlarge,

Thee, to thy wreck, beyond thy limits strain.

Nor do like lords, whose weak, confused brain,

Not pointing to fit folks each undercharge,

While ev’ry office themselves will discharge,

With doing all, leave nothing done but pain.

But give apt servants their due place; let eyes

See beauty’s total sum, summ’d in her face;

Let ears hear speech, which wit to wonder ties;

Let breath suck up those sweets; let arms embrace

The globe of weal; lips, Love’s indentures make;

Thou, but of all the kingly tribute take!”

And here is one more, written after a quarrel, which is the prettiest of all as a song; and interesting for you to compare with the Baron of Bradwardine’s song at Lucky M’Leary’s:—

“All my sense thy sweetness gained

Thy fair hair my heart enchained; [8]

My poor reason thy words moved,

So that thee, like heav’n, I loved.

Fa, la, la, leridan, dan, dan, dan, deridan;

Dan, dan, dan, deridan, dei;

While to my mind the outside stood,

For messenger of inward good.

Now thy sweetness sour is deemed;

Thy hair not worth a hair esteemed,

Reason hath thy words removed,

Finding that but words they proved.

Fa, la, la, leridan, dan, dan, dan, deridan;

Dan, dan, dan, deridan, dei;

For no fair sign can credit win,

If that the substance fail within.

No more in thy sweetness glory,

For thy knitting hair be sorry;

Use thy words but to bewail thee,

That no more thy beams avail thee;

Dan, dan,

Dan, dan,

Lay not thy colours more to view

Without the picture be found true.


Woe to me, alas! she weepeth!

Fool! in me what folly creepeth?

Was I to blaspheme enraged

Where my soul I have engaged?

And wretched I must yield to this?

The fault I blame, her chasteness is.

Sweetness! sweetly pardon folly;

Tie me, hair, your captive wholly;

Words! O words of heav’nly knowledge!

Know, my words their faults acknowledge;

And all my life I will confess,

The less I love, I live the less.”

Now if you don’t like these love-songs, you either have never been in love, or you don’t know good writing from bad, (and likely enough both the negatives, I’m sorry to say, in modern England). But perhaps if you are a very severe Evangelical person, you may like them still less, when you know something more about them. Excellent love-songs seem always to be written under strange conditions. The writer of that “Song of Songs” was himself, as you perhaps remember, the child of her for whose sake the Psalmist murdered his Hittite friend; and besides, loved many strange women himself, after that first bride. And these, sixty or more, exquisite love-ditties, from which I choose, almost at random, the above three, are all written by my psalm-singing squire to [10]somebody else’s wife, he having besides a very nice wife of his own.

For this squire is the, so called, ‘Divine’ Astrophel, ‘Astrophilos,’ or star lover,—the un-to-be-imitated Astrophel, the ‘ravishing sweetness of whose poesy,’ Sir Piercie Shafton, with his widowed voice,—“widowed in that it is no longer matched by my beloved viol-de-gambo,”—bestows on the unwilling ears of the Maid of Avenel.3 And the Stella, or star, whom he loved was the Lady Penelope Devereux, who was his first love, and to whom he was betrothed, and remained faithful in heart all his life, though she was married to Robert, Lord Rich, and he to the daughter of his old friend, Sir Francis Walsingham.

How very wrong, you think?

Well, perhaps so;—we will talk of the wrongs and the rights of it presently. One of quite the most curious facts bearing upon them is that the very strict queen (the mother of Cœur-de-Lion) who poisoned the Rose of Woodstock and the world for her improper conduct, had herself presided at the great court of judgment held by the highest married ladies of Christian Europe, which re-examined, and finally re-affirmed, the decree of the Court of Love, held under the presidency of Ermengarde, Countess of Narbonne;—decree, namely, that “True love cannot exist between married persons.”4 Meantime let [11]me finish what I have mainly to tell you of the divine Astrophel. You hear by the general character first given of him that he was as good a soldier as a lover, and being about to take part in a skirmish in the Netherlands,—in which, according to English history, five hundred, or a few more, English, entirely routed three thousand Dutchmen,—as he was going into action, meeting the marshal of the camp lightly armed, he must needs throw off his own cuishes, or thigh armour, not to have an unfair advantage of him; and after having so led three charges, and had one horse killed under him and mounted another, “he was struck by a musket shot a little above his left knee, which brake and rifted the bone, and entered the thigh upward; whereupon he unwillingly left the field,” (not without an act of gentleness, afterwards much remembered, to a poor soldier, wounded also;) and, after lingering sixteen days in severe and unceasing pain, “which he endured with all the fortitude and resignation of a Christian, symptoms of mortification, the certain forerunner of death, at length appeared; which he himself being the first to perceive, was able nevertheless to amuse his sick-bed by composing an ode on the nature of his wound, which he caused to be sung to solemn music, as an entertainment that might soothe and divert his mind from his torments; and on the 16th October breathed his last breath in the arms of his faithful secretary and bosom companion, Mr. William Temple, after giving this charge to his own brother: “Love my memory; cherish my friends. Their faith to [12]me may assure you they are honest. But above all govern your will and affections by the will and word of your Creator,5 in me beholding the end of this world, with all its vanities.”

Thus died, for England, and a point of personal honour, in the thirty-second year of his age, Sir Philip Sidney, whose name perhaps you have heard before, as well as that of his aunt-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, for whose capital punishment, as well as that of the Duke of Northumberland, (his grandfather,) his mother, as above stated, was in mourning when he was born.

And Spenser broke off his Faëry Queen, for grief, when he died; and all England went into mourning for him; which meant, at that time, that England was really sorry, and not that an order had been received from Court.

16th October. (St. Michael’s.)—I haven’t got my goose-pie made, after all; for my cook has been ill, and, unluckily, I’ve had other things as much requiring the patronage of St. Michael, to think of. You suppose, perhaps, (the English generally seem to have done so since the blessed Reformation,) that it is impious and Popish to think of St. Michael with reference to any more serious affair than the roasting of goose, or baking thereof; and yet I have had some amazed queries from my correspondents, touching the importance I seem to [13]attach to my pie; and from others, questioning the economy of its construction. I don’t suppose a more savoury, preservable, or nourishing dish could be made, with Michael’s help, to drive the devil of hunger out of poor men’s stomachs, on the occasions when Christians make a feast, and call to it the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind. But, putting the point of economy aside for the moment, I must now take leave to reply to my said correspondents, that the importance and reality of goose-pie, in the English imagination, as compared with the unimportance and unreality of the archangel Michael, his name, and his hierarchy, are quite as serious subjects of regret to me as to them; and that I believe them to be mainly traceable to the loss of the ideas, both of any ‘arche,’ beginning, or princedom of things, and of any holy or hieratic end of things; so that, except in eggs of vermin, embryos of apes, and other idols of genesis enthroned in Mr. Darwin’s and Mr. Huxley’s shrines, or in such extinction as may be proper for lice, or double-ends as may be discoverable in amphisbaenas, there is henceforward, for man, neither alpha nor omega,—neither, beginning nor end, neither nativity nor judgment; no Christmas Day, except for pudding; no Michaelmas, except for goose; no Dies Iræ, or day of final capital punishment, for anything; and that, therefore, in the classical words of Ocellus Lucanus, quoted by Mr. Ephraim Jenkinson, “Anarchon kai atelutaion to pan.”

There remains, however, among us, very strangely, some [14]instinct of general difference between the abstractedly angelic, hieratic, or at least lord- and lady-like character;—and the diabolic, non-hieratic, or slave- and (reverse-of-lady-) like character. Instinct, which induces the ‘London Journal,’ and other such popular works of fiction, always to make their heroine, whether saint or poisoner, a ‘Lady’ something; and which probably affects your minds not a little in connection with the question of capital punishment; so that when I told you just now who Sir Philip’s aunt was, perhaps you felt as if I had cheated you by the words of my first reference to her, and would say to yourselves, “Well, but Lady Jane Grey wasn’t hanged!”

No; she was not hanged; nor crucified, which was the most vulgar of capital punishments in Christ’s time; nor kicked to death, which you at present consider the proper form of capital punishment for your wives; nor abused to death, which the mob will consider the proper form of capital punishment for your daughters,6 when Mr. John Stuart Mill’s Essay on Liberty shall have become the Gospel of England, and his statue be duly adored.

She was only decapitated, in the picturesque manner represented to you by Mr. Paul de la Roche in that charming work of modern French art which properly companions the series of Mr. Gerome’s deaths of duellists [15]and gladiators, and Mr. Gustave Doré’s pictures of lovers, halved, or quartered, with their hearts jumping into their mistresses’ laps. Of all which pictures, the medical officer of the Bengalee-Life-insurance Society would justly declare that “even in an anatomical point of view, they were—per-fection.”

She was only decapitated, by a man in a black mask, on a butcher’s block; and her head rolled into sawdust,—if that’s any satisfaction to you. But why on earth do you care more about her than anybody else, in these days of liberty and equality?

I shall have something soon to tell you of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, no less than Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. The following letter, though only a girl’s, contains so much respecting the Arcadia of Modern England which I cannot elsewhere find expressed in so true and direct a way, that I print it without asking her permission, promising however, hereby, not to do so naughty a thing again,—to her, at least; new correspondents must risk it.

“I wish people would be good, and do as you wish, and help you. Reading ‘Fors’ last night made me determined to try very hard to be good. I cannot do all the things you said in the last letter you wanted us to do, but I will try.

“Oh dear! I wish you would emigrate, though I know you won’t. I wish we could all go somewhere fresh, and [16]begin anew: it would be so much easier. In fact it seems impossible to alter things here. You cannot think how it is, in a place like this. The idea of there being any higher law to rule all one’s actions than self-interest, is treated as utter folly; really, people do not hesitate to say that in business each one must do the best he can for himself, at any risk or loss to others. You do know all this, perhaps, by hearsay, but it is so sad to see in practice. They all grow alike—by constant contact I suppose; and one has to hear one after the other gradually learning and repeating the lesson they learn in town—to trust no one, believe in no one, admire no one; to act as if all the world was made of rogues and thieves, as the only way to be safe, and not to be a rogue or thief oneself if it’s possible to make money without. And what can one do? They laugh at me. Being a woman, of course I know nothing; being, moreover, fond of reading, I imagine I do know something, and so get filled with foolish notions, which it is their duty to disabuse me of as soon as possible. I should so like to drag them all away from this wretched town, to some empty, new, beautiful, large country, and set them all to dig, and plant, and build; and we could, I am sure, all be pure and honest once more. No, there is no chance here. I am so sick of it all.

“I want to tell you one little fact that I heard the other day that made me furious. It will make a long letter, but please read it. You have heard of ——,—the vilest spot in all the earth, I am sure, and yet [17]they are very proud of it. It is all chemical works, and the country for miles round looks as if under a curse. There are still some farms struggling for existence, but the damage done to them is very great, and to defend themselves, when called upon to make reparation, the chemical manufacturers have formed an association, so that if one should be brought to pay, the others should support him. Of course, generally it is almost impossible to say which of the hundreds of chimneys may have caused any particular piece of mischief; and further frightened by this coalition, and by the expense of law,7 the farmers have to submit. But one day, just before harvest-time this year, a farmer was in his fields, and saw a great stream, or whatever you would call it, of smoke come over his land from one of these chimneys, and, as it passed, destroy a large field of corn. It literally burns up vegetation, as if it were a fire. The loss to this man, who is not well off, is about £400. He went to the owners of the works and asked for compensation. They did not deny that it might have been their gas, but told him he could not prove it, and they would pay nothing. I dare say they were no worse than other people, and that they would be quite commended by business men. But that is our honesty, and this is a country where there is supposed to be justice. These chemical people are very rich, and could consume all this gas and smoke at a little more cost of working. I do believe it is hopeless to attempt to alter [18]these things, they are so strong. Then the other evening I took up a ‘Telegraph’—a newspaper is hardly fit to touch nowadays—but I happened to look at this one, and read an account of some cellar homes in St. Giles’. It sent me to bed miserable, and I am sure that no one has a right to be anything but miserable while such misery is in the world. What cruel wretches we must all be, to suffer tamely such things to be, and sit by, enjoying ourselves! I must do something; yet I am tied hand and foot, and can do nothing but cry out. And meanwhile—oh! it makes me mad—our clergymen, who are supposed to do right, and teach others right, are squabbling over their follies; here they are threatening each other with prosecutions, for exceeding the rubric, or not keeping the rubric, and mercy and truth are forgotten. I wish I might preach once, to them and to the rich;—no one ought to be rich; and if I were a clergyman I would not go to one of their dinner-parties, unless I knew that they were moving heaven and earth to do away with this poverty, which, whatever its cause, even though it be, as they say, the people’s own fault, is a disgrace to every one of us. And so it seems to me hopeless, and I wish you would emigrate.

“It is no use to be more polite, if we are less honest. No use to treat women with more respect outwardly, and with more shameless, brutal, systematic degradation secretly. Worse than no use to build hospitals, and kill people to put into them; and churches, and insult God by [19]pretending to worship Him. Oh dear! what is it all coming to? Are we going like Rome, like France, like Greece, or is there time to stop? Can St. George fight such a Dragon? You know I am a coward, and it does frighten me. Of course I don’t mean to run away, but is God on our side? Why does He not arise and scatter His enemies? If you could see what I see here! This used to be quite a peaceful little country village; now the chemical manufacturers have built works, a crowd of them, along the river, about two miles from here. The place where this hideous colony has planted itself, is, I am sure, the ugliest, most loathsome spot on the earth.” (Arcadia, my dear, Arcadia.) “It has been built just as any one wanted either works or a row of cottages for the men,—all huddled up, backs to fronts, any way; scrambling, crooked, dirty, squeezed up; the horrid little streets separated by pieces of waste clay, or half-built-up land. The works themselves, with their chimneys and buildings, and discoloured ditches, and heaps of refuse chemical stuff lying about, make up the most horrible picture of ‘progress’ you can imagine. Because they are all so proud of it. The land, now every blade of grass and every tree is dead, is most valuable—I mean, they get enormous sums of money for it,—and every year they build new works, and say, ‘What a wonderful place —— is!’ It is creeping nearer and nearer here. There is a forest of chimneys visible, to make up, I suppose, for the trees that are dying. We can hardly ever now see [20]the farther bank of our river, that used to be so pretty, for the thick smoke that hangs over it. And worse than all, the very air is poisoned with their gases. Often the vilest smells fill the house, but they say they are not unhealthy. I wish they were—perhaps then they would try to prevent them. It nearly maddens me to see the trees, the poor trees, standing bare and naked, or slowly dying, the top branches dead, the few leaves withered and limp. The other evening I went to a farm that used to be (how sad that ‘used to be’ sounds) so pretty, surrounded by woods. Now half the trees are dead, and they are cutting down the rest as fast as possible, so that they can at least make use of the wood. The gas makes them useless. Yesterday I went to the house of the manager of some plate-glass works. He took me over them, and it was very interesting, and some of it beautiful. You should see the liquid fire streaming on to the iron sheets, and then the sparkling lakes of gold, so intensely bright, like bits out of a setting sun sometimes. When I was going away, the manager pointed proudly to the mass of buildings we had been through, and said, ‘This was all corn-fields a few years ago!’ It sounded so cruel, and I could not help saying, ‘Don’t you think it was better growing corn than making glass?’ He laughed, and seemed so amused; but I came away wondering, if this goes on, what will become of England. The tide is so strong—they will try to make money, at any price. And it is no use trying [21]to remedy one evil, or another, unless the root is rooted out, is it?—the love of money.”

It is of use to remedy any evil you can reach: and all this will very soon now end in forms of mercantile catastrophe, and political revolution, which will end the “amusement” of managers, and leave the ground (too fatally) free, without “emigration.”

The Third Fors has just put into my hands, as I arrange my books here, a paper read before a Philosophical Society in the year 1870, (in mercy to the author, I forbear to give his name; and in respect to the Philosophical Society, I forbear to give its name,) which alleges as a discovery, by ‘interesting experiment,’ that a horizontal plank of ice laid between two points of support, bends between them; and seriously discusses the share which the ‘motive power of heat’ has in that amazing result. I am glad, indeed, to see that the author “cannot, without some qualifications agree” in the lucid opinion of Canon Moseley, that since, in the Canon’s experiments, ice was crushed under a pressure of 308 lb. on the square inch, a glacier over 710 feet thick would crush itself to pieces at the bottom. (The Canon may still further assist modern science by determining what weight is necessary to crush an inch cube of water; and favouring us with his resulting opinion upon the probable depth of the sea.) [22]But I refer to this essay only to quote the following passages in it, to prove, for future reference, the degree of ignorance to which the ingenuity of Professor Tyndall had reduced the general scientific public, in the year 1870:—

The generally accepted theory proved by the Rev. Canon Moseley to be incorrect.—Since the time that Professor Tyndall had shown that all the phenomena formerly attributed by Professor Forbes to plasticity could be explained upon the principle of regelation, discovered by Faraday, the viscous theory of glacier-motion has been pretty generally given up. The ice of a glacier is now almost universally believed to be, not a soft plastic substance, but a substance hard, brittle, and unyielding. The power that the glacier has of accommodating itself to the inequalities of its bed without losing its apparent continuity is referred to the property of regelation possessed by ice. All this is now plain.”

The present state of the question.—The condition which the perplexing question of the cause of the descent of glaciers has now reached seems to be something like the following. The ice of a glacier is not in a soft and plastic state, but is solid, hard, brittle, and unyielding.”

I hope to give a supplementary number of Fors, this winter, on glacier questions; and will only, therefore, beg my readers at present to observe that the opponents of Forbes are simply, in the position of persons who deny the flexibility of chain-mail because ‘steel is not flexible;’ [23]and, resolving that steel is not flexible, account for the bending of an old carving-knife by the theory of ‘contraction and expansion.’

Observe, also, that ‘regelation’ is only scientific language for ‘freezing again;’ and it is supposed to be more explanatory, as being Latin.

Similarly, if you ask any of these scientific gentlemen the reason of the forms of hoar-frost on your window-pane, they will tell you they may be all explained by the “theory of congelation.”

Finally; here is the first part of the question, in brief terms for you to think over.

A cubic foot of snow falls on the top of the Alps. It takes, more or less, forty years (if it doesn’t melt) to get to the bottom of them. During that period it has been warmed by forty summers, frozen by forty winters; sunned and shaded,—sopped and dried,—dropped and picked up again,—wasted and supplied,—cracked and mended,—squeezed together and pulled asunder, by every possible variety of temperature and force that wind, weather, and colossal forces of fall and weight, can bring to bear upon it.

How much of it will get to the bottom? With what additions or substitutions of matter, and in what consistence? [25]



I find an excellent illustration of the state of modern roads, ‘not blamed for blood,’ in the following “Month’s List of Killed and Wounded,” from the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’:—

“We have before us a task at once monotonous, painful, and revolting. It is to record, for the benefit of the public, the monthly list of slaughter by rail, for the last four weeks unprecedented in degree and variety. In August there were three ‘accidents,’ so called, for every five days. In the thirty days of September there have been in all thirty-six. We need not explain the dreary monotony of this work. Every newspaper reader understands that for himself. It is also painful, because we are all more or less concerned, either as travellers, shareholders, or workers on railways; and it is grievous to behold enormous sums of money thrown away at random in compensation for loss of life and limb, in making good the damage done to plant and stock, in costly law litigation, and all for the sake of what is called economy. It is, moreover, a just source of indignation to the tax-payer to reflect that he is compelled to contribute to maintain a costly staff of Government inspectors (let alone the salaries of the Board of Trade), and that for any practical result of the investigations and reports of these gentlemen, their scientific knowledge and ‘urgent recommendations,’ they might as well be men living in the moon. It is revolting because it discloses a miserable greed, and an entire callousness of conscience on the [26]part of railway directors, railway companies, and the railway interest alike, and in the Government and Legislature a most unworthy and unwise cowardice. It is true that the situation may be accounted for by the circumstance that there are between one and two hundred railway directors in the House of Commons who uniformly band together, but that explanation does not improve the fact.

Sept. 2.—North-Eastern Railway, near Hartlepool. Passenger train got off the line; three men killed, several injured. Cause, a defective wheel packed with sheet iron. The driver had been recently fined for driving too slowly.

Sept. 5.—Great Western. A goods train ran into a number of beasts, and then came into collision with another goods train.

Sept. 6.—Line from Helensburgh to Glasgow. A third-class carriage got on fire. No communication between passengers and guard. The former got through the windows as best they could, and were found lying about the line, six of them badly injured.

Sept. 8.—A train appeared quite unexpectedly on the line between. Tamworth and Rugby. One woman run over and killed.

Sept. 9.—Cannon Street. Two carriages jumped off the line; traffic much delayed.

Sept. 9.—Near Guildford. A bullock leaped over a low gate on to the line; seven carriages were turned over the embankment and shivered to splinters; three passengers were killed on the spot, suffocated or jammed to death; about fifteen were injured.

Sept. 10.—London and North-Western, at Watford. Passenger train left the rails where the points are placed, and one carriage was overturned; several persons injured, and many severely shaken.

Sept. 10.—Great Northern, at Ardsley. Some empty carriages were put unsecured on an incline, and ran into the Scotch express; three carriages smashed, several passengers injured, and driver, stoker, and guard badly shaken.

Sept. 11.—Great Eastern, near Sawbridgeworth. A goods train, to which was attached a waggon inscribed as defective and marked for repair, was proceeding on the up line; the waggon broke down, and caught a heavy passenger train on the down line: one side of this train was battered to pieces; many passengers severely shaken and cut with broken glass.

Sept. 12.—East Lancashire, near Bury. A collision between two goods trains. Both lines blocked and waggons smashed. One driver was very badly hurt. [27]

Sept. 13.—London, Chatham, and Dover, near Birchington station. Passenger train drove over a number of oxen; engine was thrown off the line; driver terribly bruised; passengers severely shaken. Cause, the animals got loose while being driven over a level crossing, and no danger signals were hoisted.

Sept. 15.—Caledonian line, near Glasgow. Passenger train ran into a mineral train which had been left planted on the line; one woman not expected to survive, thirteen passengers severely injured. Cause, gross negligence.

Same day, and same line.—Caledonian goods train was run into broadside by a North British train; great damage done; the guard was seriously injured. Cause, defective signalling.

Sept. 16.—Near Birmingham. A passenger train, while passing over some points, got partly off the line; no one severely hurt, but all shaken and frightened. Cause, defective working of points.

Sept. 17.—Between Preston and Liverpool, near Houghton. The express train from Blackburn ran into a luggage train which was in course of being shunted, it being perfectly well known that the express was overdue. About twenty passengers were hurt, or severely shaken and alarmed, but no one was actually killed. Cause, gross negligence, want of punctuality, and too much traffic.

Same day.—Great Eastern. Points not being closed, a cattle train left the metal and ploughed up the line, causing much damage and delay in traffic. Cause, negligence.

Same day.—Oxford and Bletchley Railway. Axle-wheel of waggon broke, and with seven trucks left the line. A general smash ensued; broken carriages were strewed all over the line, and a telegraph post was knocked down: blockage for four hours. Cause, defective axle.

Same day.—A goods train from Bolton to Manchester started so laden as to project over the other line for the down traffic. Encountering the express from Manchester near Stone Clough, every passenger carriage was in succession struck and injured. Cause, gross negligence of porters, station-master, and guard of goods train.

“Here, it will be observed, we have already got eighteen catastrophes within seventeen days. On September 18 and 19 there was a lull, followed by an appalling outbreak.

Sept. 20.—At the Bristol terminus, where the points of the Midland and Great Western meet, a mail train of the former ran full into a passenger train belonging to the latter. As they were not at full speed, no one was killed, but much damage was done. Cause, want of punctuality and gross negligence. Under a system where the trains of two large companies have a junction in [28]common and habitually cross each other many times a day, the block system seems impossible in practice.

Same day.—Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln line. A passenger train was unhooked from the engine at Peninstone, and ran down the incline at a fearful rate. A signalman, seeing something wrong, and naturally confused, turned it on to the Sheffield line. At Wortley it encountered a goods train laden with pig-iron. Smash in every direction, carriages and trucks mounting one on the top of the other. Fortunately there were only three passengers; but all were seriously injured. Cause, gross negligence.

Sept. 22.—Midland Railway, near Kettering. A train ran off the line; metals torn up; traffic delayed for two hours.

Same day.—Passenger train from Chester was descending the tunnel under Birkenhead; the engine ran off the line and dashed against the tunnel wall. Passengers much shaken, but not seriously maimed. Traffic stopped for several hours.

Sept. 23.—A lull.

Sept. 24.—North British Railway, at Reston Junction. The early express train which leaves Berwick for Edinburgh at 4.30 a.m. was going at full speed, all signals being at safety, but struck a waggon which was left standing a little on the main line over a siding; engine damaged, and the panels and foot-boards of ten carriages knocked to bits; no loss of life. Cause, gross negligence.

Sept. 25.—A Midland excursion train from Leicester got off the line near New Street station; the van was thrown across both lines of rails; great damage and delay. Cause, over-used metal.

Same day.—London and North-Western, between Greenfield and Moseley. A bundle of cotton which had fallen from a train pulled one waggon off the line; twenty other waggons followed it, and the line was ploughed up for two hundred yards; great damage, delay, and many waggons smashed: no loss of life. Cause, negligence.

Same day.—Great Eastern, St. Ives. Through carelessness a pointsman ran a Midland passenger train into a siding on to some trucks; passengers badly shaken, and a good many had their teeth knocked out. The account stated naïvely, “No passengers were seriously hurt, but they were nevertheless very much alarmed, and fled the carriages in the greatest state of excitement.” Cause, gross negligence.

Same day.—South Yorkshire, near Conisbro’. A mineral train (signals being all right) dashed full into a heavy coal train. Much damage, but no loss of life. Cause, gross negligence and over-traffic.

Sept. 26.—This was a very fatal day. At Sykes Junction, near Retford, the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln joins the Great Northern. A coal train of [29]the latter while passing the junction was run into at full speed by a cattle train of the former. The engine and fifteen carriages were thrown down the bank and smashed, and valuable cattle killed. Meanwhile a goods train drew up, the signal being for once at danger, and was immediately run into by a mineral train from behind, which had not been warned. Drivers, guards, firemen injured. A fog was on at the time, but no fog signals appear to have been used. Cause, negligence and over-traffic.

Same day.—North-Eastern passenger train from Stockton to Harrowgate ran into a heavy goods train near Arthington. The crash was fearful. About twenty passengers were injured; half that number very seriously. The signals contradicted each other. Cause, gross negligence.

Same day.—North-Eastern, Newcastle and Carlisle division. There was a collision between a mineral and a cattle train on a bridge of the river Eden more than 100 feet high. Part of the bridge was hurled down below; several waggons followed it, while others remained suspended. Cattle were killed; three men badly injured. Cause, gross negligence.

Same day.—Near Carnarvon. A passenger train ran over a porter’s lorry which had been left on the line; no one was injured, but damage ensued; passengers had fortunately alighted. Cause, negligence.

Same day.—Great Eastern. A train of empty carriages was turned on to a siding at Fakenham, and came into collision with laden trucks, which in their turn were driven into a platform wall; much damage done, but no personal injury. Cause, gross negligence.

Sept. 27.—The Holyhead mail due at Crewe at 5.30 was half an hour late; left standing on a curve, it was run into by a goods train; a number of carriages were smashed, and though no one was killed, nearly fifty persons were injured. The signals were against the goods train, but the morning being hazy the driver did not see them. Cause, negligence, unpunctuality, and want of fog signals.

Sept. 28.—South Devon Line, near Plymouth. A luggage train was set on fire, and a van laden with valuable furniture completely consumed.

Sept. 30.—The London and Glasgow express came up at full speed near Motherwell Junction, and dashed into a van which was being shunted on the main line; the engine was thrown down an embankment of thirty feet, and but for the accident of the coupling-iron breaking the whole train would have followed it. The fireman was crushed to death, the driver badly injured, and many passengers severely shaken. Cause, criminal recklessness in shunting van when an express is due.

Sept. 30.—Great Western. Collision at Uffington between a fish and luggage train; no loss of life, but engine shattered, traffic delayed, and damage done. Cause, negligence.

“Besides the above, two express trains had a very narrow escape [30]from serious collision on September 13 and September 26, the one being near Beverley station, and the other on the Great Western, between Oxford and Didcot. Both were within an ace of running into luggage vans which had got off the lines. It will be observed that in this dismal list there is hardly one which can properly be called an accident, i.e., non-essential to the existing condition of things, not to be foreseen or prevented, occurring by chance, which means being caused by our ignorance of laws which we have no means of ascertaining. The reverse is the true state of the case: the real accidents would have been if the catastrophes in question had not occurred.”

A correspondent, who very properly asks, “Should we not straightway send more missionaries to the Kaffirs?” sends me the following extracts from the papers of this month. I have no time to comment on them. The only conclusion which Mr. Dickens would have drawn from them, would have been that nobody should have been hanged at Kirkdale; the conclusion the public will draw from them will doubtless be, as suggested by my correspondent, the propriety of sending more missionaries to the Kaffirs, with plenty of steam-engines.


Yesterday, a lad named Joseph Frieman, eleven years of age, was charged before the Liverpool magistrates with cutting and wounding his brother, a child six years old. It appeared that on Saturday, during the absence of their mother, the prisoner threw the little fellow down and wounded him with a knife in a frightful manner, and on the return of the mother she found the lad lying in great agony and bleeding profusely. In reply to her questions the prisoner said that his brother “had broken a plate, and the knife slipped.” The woman stated that the prisoner was an [31]incorrigible boy at home, and stole everything he could lay his hands on. A few weeks ago, about the time of the recent execution at Kirkdale, he suspended his little sister with a rope from the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, nearly causing death. The prisoner was remanded for a week, as the injured boy lies in a very dangerous state.


A man, named Andrew Costello, 86, died in Halifax yesterday, from injuries committed on him by his daughter, a mill hand. She struck him on Monday with a rolling-pin, and on the following day tore his tongue out at the root at one side. He died in the workhouse, of lockjaw. [1]

1 I have long since expressed these facts in my ‘Ethics of the Dust,’ but too metaphorically. “The way in which common people read their Bibles is just like the way that the old monks thought hedgehogs ate grapes. They rolled themselves (it was said) over and over, where the grapes lay on the ground: what fruit stuck to their spines, they carried off and ate. So your hedgehoggy readers roll themselves over and over their Bibles, and declare that whatever sticks to their own spines is Scripture, and that nothing else is.” 

2 See terminal Notes, 1. 

3 If you don’t know your Scott properly, it is of no use to give you references

4 “Dicimus, et stabilito tenore firmamus, amorem non posse, inter duos jugales, suas extendere vires.” 

5 He meant the Bible; having learned Evangelical views at the massacre of St. Bartholomew. 

6 For the present, the daughters seem to take the initiative. See story from Halifax in the last terminal Note. 

7 Italics mine. 




Three years have passed since I began these letters. Of the first, and another, I forget which, a few more than a thousand have been sold; and as the result of my begging for money, I have got upwards of two hundred pounds. The number of the simple persons who have thus trusted me is stated at the end of this letter. Had I been a swindler, the British public would delightedly have given me two hundred thousand pounds instead of two hundred, of which I might have returned them, by this time, say, the quarter, in dividends; spent a hundred and fifty thousand pleasantly, myself, at the rate of fifty thousand a year; and announced, in this month’s report, with regret, the failure of my project, owing to the unprecedented state of commercial affairs induced by strikes, unions, and other illegitimate combinations among the workmen.

And the most curious part of the business is that I fancy I should have been a much more happy and agreeable [2]member of society, spending my fifty thousand a year thus, in the way of business, than I have been in giving away my own seven thousand, and painfully adding to it this collection of two hundred, for a piece of work which is to give me a great deal of trouble, and be profitable only to other people.

Happy, or sulky, however, I have got this thing to do; and am only amused, instead of discouraged, by the beautiful reluctance of the present English public to trust an honest person, without being flattered, or promote a useful work, without being bribed.

It may be true that I have not brought my plan rightly before the public yet. “A bad thing will pay, if you put it properly before the public,” wrote a first-rate man of business the other day, to one of my friends. But what the final results of putting bad things properly before the public will be to the exhibitor of them, and the public also, no man of business that I am acquainted with is yet aware.

I mean, therefore, to persist in my own method; and to allow the public to take their time. One of their most curiously mistaken notions is that they can hurry the pace of Time itself, or avert its power. As to these letters of mine, for instance, which all my friends beg me not to write, because no workman will understand them now;—what would have been the use of writing letters only for the men who have been produced by the instructions of Mr. John Stuart Mill? I write to the labourers of England; [3]but not of England in 1870–73. A day will come when we shall have men resolute to do good work, and capable of reading and thinking while they rest; who will not expect to build like Athenians without knowing anything about the first king of Athens, not like Christians without knowing anything about Christ: and then they will find my letters useful, and read them. And to the few readers whom these letters now find, they will become more useful as they go on, for they are a mosaic-work into which I can put a piece here and there as I find glass of the colour I want; what is as yet done being set, indeed, in patches, but not without design.

One chasm I must try to fill to-day, by telling you why it is so grave a heresy (or wilful source of division) to call any book, or collection of books, the ‘Word of God.’

By that Word, or Voice, or Breath, or Spirit, the heavens and earth, and all the host of them, were made; and in it they exist. It is your life; and speaks to you always, so long as you live nobly;—dies out of you as you refuse to obey it; leaves you to hear, and be slain by, the word of an evil spirit, instead of it.

It may come to you in books,—come to you in clouds,—come to you in the voices of men,—come to you in the stillness of deserts. You must be strong in evil, if you have quenched it wholly;—very desolate in this Christian land, if you have never heard it at all. Too certainly, in this Christian land you do hear, and [4]loudly, the contrary of it,—the doctrine or word of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy; forbidding to marry, recommending women to find some more lucrative occupation than that of nursing the baby; and commanding to abstain from meats, (and drinks,) which God has appointed to be received with thanksgiving. For “everything which God has made is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be sanctified by the Word of God.” And by what else?

If you have been accustomed to hear the clergyman’s letter from which I have just been quoting, as if it were itself the word of God,—you have been accustomed also to hear our bad translation of it go on saying, “If it be sanctified by the Word of God, and prayer.” But there is nothing whatever about prayer in the clergyman’s letter,—nor does he say, If it be sanctified. He says, “For it is sanctified by the Word of God, and the chance that brings it.”1 Which means, that when meat comes in your way when you are hungry, or drink when you are thirsty, and you know in your own conscience that it is good for you to have it, the meat and drink are holy to you.

But if the Word of God in your heart is against it, and you know that you would be better without the extra glass of beer you propose to take, and that your [5]wife would be the better for the price of it, then it is unholy to you: and you can only have the sense of entire comfort and satisfaction, either in having it, or going without it, if you are simply obeying the Word of God about it in your mind, and accepting contentedly the chances for or against it; as probably you have heard of Sir Philip Sidney’s accepting the chance of another soldier’s needing his cup of water more than he, on his last battle-field, and instantly obeying the Word of God coming to him on that occasion. Not that it is intended that the supply of these good creatures of God should be left wholly to chance; but that if we observe the proper laws of God concerning them, and, for instance, instead of forbidding marriage, duly and deeply reverence it, then, in proper time and place, there will be true Fors, or chancing on, or finding of, the youth and maid by each other, such in character as the Providence of Heaven appoints for each: and, similarly, if we duly recognize the laws of God about meats and drinks, there will for every labourer and traveller be such chancing upon meat and drink and other entertainment as shall be sacredly pleasant to him. And there cannot indeed be at present imagined a more sacred function for young Christian men than that of hosts or hospitallers, supplying, to due needs, and with proper maintenance of their own lives, wholesome food and drink to all men: so that as, at least, always at one end of a village there may be a holy church and vicar, so at the other end of the village [6]there may be a holy tavern and tapster, ministering the good creatures of God, so that they may be sanctified by the Word of God and His Providence.

And as the providence of marriage, and the giving to each man the help meet for his life, is now among us destroyed by the wantonness of harlotry, so the providence of the Father who would fill men’s hearts with food and gladness is destroyed among us by prostitution of joyless drink; and the never to be enough damned guilt of men, and governments, gathering pence at the corners of the streets, standing there, pot in hand, crying, ‘Turn in hither; come, eat of my evil bread, and drink of my beer, which I have venomously mingled.’

Against which temptations—though never against the tempters—one sometimes hears one’s foolish clergy timorously inveighing; and telling young idlers that it is wrong to be lustful, and old labourers that it is wrong to be thirsty: but I never heard a clergyman yet, (and during thirty years of the prime of my life I heard one sermon at least every Sunday, so that it is after experience of no fewer than one thousand five hundred sermons, most of them by scholars, and many of them by earnest men,) that I now solemnly state I never heard one preacher deal faithfully with the quarrel between God and Mammon, or explain the need of choice between the service of those two masters. And all vices are indeed summed, and all their forces consummated, in that simple acceptance of the authority of gold instead of the authority of God; [7]and preference of gain, or the increase of gold, to godliness, or the peace of God.

I take then, as I promised, the fourteenth and fifteenth Psalms for examination with respect to this point.

The second verse of the fourteenth declares that of the children of men, there are none that seek God.

The fifth verse of the same Psalm declares that God is in the generation of the righteous. In them, observe; not needing to be sought by them.

From which statements, evangelical persons conclude that there are no righteous persons at all.

Again, the fourth verse of the Psalm declares that all the workers of iniquity eat up God’s people as they eat bread.

Which appears to me a very serious state of things, and to be put an end to, if possible; but evangelical persons conclude thereupon that the workers of iniquity and the Lord’s people are one and the same. Nor have I ever heard in the course of my life any single evangelical clergyman so much as put the practical inquiry, Who is eating, and who is being eaten?

Again, the first verse of the Psalm declares that the fool hath said in his heart there is no God; but the sixth verse declares of the poor that he not only knows there is a God, but finds Him to be a refuge.

Whereupon evangelical persons conclude that the fool and the poor mean the same people; and make all the haste they can to be rich. [8]

Putting them, and their interpretations, out of our way, the Psalm becomes entirely explicit. There have been in all ages children of God and of man: the one born of the Spirit, and obeying it; the other born of the flesh, and obeying it. I don’t know how that entirely unintelligible sentence, “There were they in great fear,” got into our English Psalm; in both the Greek and Latin versions it is, “God hath broken the bones of those that please men.”

And it is here said of the entire body of the children of men, at a particular time, that they had at that time all gone astray beyond hope; that none were left who so much as sought God, much less who were likely to find Him; and that these wretches and vagabonds were eating up God’s own people as they ate bread.

Which has indeed been generally so in all ages; but beyond all recorded history is so in ours. Just and godly people can’t live; and every clever rogue and industrious fool is making his fortune out of them, and producing abominable works of all sorts besides,—material gasometers, furnaces, chemical works, and the like,—with spiritual lies and lasciviousness unheard of till now in Christendom. Which plain and disagreeable meaning of this portion of Scripture you will find pious people universally reject with abhorrence,—the direct word and open face of their Master being, in the present day, always by them, far more than His other enemies, “spitefully entreated, and spitted on.” [9]

Next for the fifteenth Psalm.

It begins by asking God who shall abide in His tabernacle, or movable tavern; and who shall dwell in His holy hill. Note the difference of those two abidings. A tavern, or taberna, is originally a hut made by a traveller, or sticks cut on the spot; then, if he so arrange it as to be portable, it is a tabernacle; so that, generally a portable hut or house, supported by rods or sticks when it is set up, is a tabernacle;—on a large scale, having boards as well as curtains, and capable of much stateliness, but nearly synonymous with a tent, in Latin.

Therefore, the first question is, Who among travelling men will have God to set up his tavern for him when he wants rest?

And the second question is, Who, of travelling men, shall finally dwell, desiring to wander no more, in God’s own house, established above the hills, where all nations flow to it?

You, perhaps, don’t believe that either of these abodes may, or do, exist in reality: nor that God would ever cut down branches for you; or, better still, bid them spring up for a bower; or that He would like to see you in His own house, if you would go there. You prefer the buildings lately put up in rows for you “one brick thick in the walls,”2 in convenient neighbourhood to your pleasant business? Be it so;—then the fifteenth Psalm [10]has nothing to say to you. For those who care to lodge with God, these following are the conditions of character.

They are to walk or deal uprightly with men. They are to work or do justice; or, in sum, do the best they can with their hands. They are to speak the truth to their own hearts, and see they do not persuade themselves they are honest when they ought to know themselves to be knaves; nor persuade themselves they are charitable and kind, when they ought to know themselves to be thieves and murderers. They are not to bite people with their tongues behind their backs, if they dare not rebuke them face to face. They are not to take up, or catch at, subjects of blame; but they are utterly and absolutely to despise vile persons who fear no God, and think the world was begot by mud, and is fed by money; and they are not to defend a guilty man’s cause against an innocent one. Above all, this last verse is written for lawyers, or professed interpreters of justice, who are of all men most villainous, if, knowingly, they take reward against an innocent or rightfully contending person. And on these conditions the promise of God’s presence and strength is finally given. He that doeth thus shall not be moved, or shaken: for him, tabernacle and rock are alike safe: no wind shall overthrow them, nor earthquake rend.

That is the meaning of the fourteenth and fifteenth Psalms; and if you so believe them, and obey them, you will find your account in it. And they are the Word of [11]God to you, so far as you have hearts capable of understanding them, or any other such message brought by His servants. But if your heart is dishonest and rebellious, you may read them for ever with lip-service, and all the while be ‘men-pleasers,’ whose bones are to be broken at the pit’s mouth, and so left incapable of breath, brought by any winds of Heaven. And that is all I have to say to you this year. [13]



As I send these last sheets to press, I get from the Cheap-Fuel Supply Association, Limited, a letter advising me that the Right Hon. Lord Claud Hamilton, M.P., and the late Director of Stores at the War Office, and Michael Angelo, Esq., of St. James’s Square, and the late Controller of Military Finance in Calcutta, with other estimable persons, are about to undertake the manufacture of peat into cheap fuel, for the public benefit; and promise a net profit on the operation, of six shillings and sixpence a ton; of which I am invited to secure my share. The manufacture of peat into portable fuel may, or may not, be desirable; that depends on what the British public means to do after they have burnt away all their bituminous and boggy ground in driving about at forty miles an hour, and making iron railings, and other such valuable property, for the possession of their posterity. But granting the manufacture desirable, and omitting all reference to its effect on the picturesque, why Lord Claud Hamilton and Michael Angelo, Esq., should offer me, a quiet Oxford student, any share of their six-and-sixpences, I can’t think. I could not cut a peat if they would give me six-and-sixpence the dozen—I know nothing about its manufacture. What on earth do they propose to pay me for?

The following letter from an old friend, whose manner of life, like my own, has been broken up, (when it was too late to mend [14]it again,) by modern improvements, will be useful to me for reference in what I have to say in my January letter:—

“About myself—ere long I shall be driven out of my house, the happiest refuge I ever nested in. It is again, like most old rooms, very lofty, is of wood and plaster, evidently of the Seventh Harry’s time, and most interesting in many ways. It belonged to the Radcliffe family,—some branch, as I understand, from the scanty information I can scrape, of the Derwentwater family. Lord —— owns it now, or did till lately; for I am informed he has sold it and the lands about it to an oil-cloth company, who will start building their factory behind it shortly, and probably resell the land they do not use, with the hall, to be demolished as an incumbrance that does not pay. Already the ‘Egyptian plague of bricks’ has alighted on its eastern side, devouring every green blade. Where the sheep fed last year, five streets of cheap cottages—one brick thick in the walls—(for the factory operatives belonging to two great cotton mills near) are in course of formation—great cartloads of stinking oyster-shells having been laid for their foundations; and the whole vicinity on the eastern side, in a state of mire and débris of broken bricks and slates, is so painful to my eyes that I scarce ever go out in daylight.

“Fifteen years ago a noble avenue of sycamores led to the hall, and a large wood covered the surface of an extensive plateau of red sandstone, and a moat surrounded the walls of the hall. Not a tree stands now, the moat is filled up, and the very rock itself is riddled into sand, and is being now carted away.” [15]



I have now published my Fors Clavigera during three years, at a price which (some of my first estimates having been accidentally too low) neither pays me, for my work, nor my assistant for his trouble. To my present subscribers, nevertheless, it will be continued at its first price. To new subscribers or casual purchasers, the price of each number, after the 31st December, 1873, will be tenpence, carriage paid as hitherto; and there will be no frontispieces.

Total Subscriptions to St. George’s Fund


(The Subscribers each know his or her number in this List.)

1. Annual, £4 0 0 (1871, ’72) £8 0 0
2. Annual, £20 0 0 (1871, ’72, ’73) 60 0 0
3. Gift 5 0 0
4. Gifts, (1871) £30 0 0
(1873) 20 0 0
———— 50 0 0
5. Gift, (1872) 20 0 0
6. Annual, £1 1 0 (1872, ’73) 2 2 0
7. Gift, (1872) 10 0 0
8. Annual, £20 0 0 (1872) 20 0 0
9. Annual, £25 0 0 (1872) 25 0 0
10. Annual, £5 0 0 (1872, ’73) 10 0 0
11. Annual, £1 1 0 (1873) 1 1 0
12. Gift, (1873) 4 0 0
13. Annual, (1873) 3 0 0
14. Gift, (1873) 13 10 0
15. Gift, (1873) 5 0 0
£236 13 0

1 The complete idea I believe to be “the Divine Fors,” or Providence, accurately so called, of God. “For it is sanctified by the Word of God, and the granting.” 

2 See p. 14 in the Notes. 

Table of Contents




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Overview of available volumes.

Volume Year PG ebook Scans
I 1871 59456 1
II 1872 61591 2
III 1873 This volume 3
IV 1874 In preparation 4
V 1875 In preparation 5
VI 1876 In preparation 6
VII 1877 In preparation 7
VIII 1878–’84 In preparation 8


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The following corrections have been applied to the text:

Page Source Correction Edit distance
9 Dioclesian Diocletian 1
13 Chretienne Chrétienne 1 / 0
16 saftron saffron 1
13 [Not in source] ’. 2
22 [Not in source] 1
8 1
26, 20, 21, 29, 26, 28, 4 [Not in source] . 1
15 Buccleuch Buccleugh 1
2 , . 1
28 [Not in source] ; 1
3, 22 [Not in source] 1
8 , [Deleted] 1
10 eferences references 1


Overview of abbreviations used.

Abbreviation Expansion
LL.D. Doctor of Laws
M.P. Member of Parliament