Page images

but quite the contrary ; still, however, I have not the experience in that sort of work, nor the perfect familiarity with my grammar requisite to make a good master, and I cannot teach Homer as well as my friends Herodotus and Livy, whom I am now reading, I suppose, for about the fiftieth time.

Nov. 30th.--I was interrupted last night in the middle of my letter, and as the evening is my only time for such occupations, it cannot now go till to-morrow. You shall derive this benefit, however, from the interruption, that I will trouble you with no more details aboui the trade ; a subject which I find growing upon me daily, from the retired life we are leading, and from my being so much engrossed by it. There are some very pleasant families settled in this place besides ourselves ; they have been very civil to us, and in the holidays I dare say we shall see much of them, but at present I do not feel I have sufficient time to make an acquaintance, and cannot readily submit to the needful sacrifice of formal visits, &c., which must be the prelude to a more familiar knowledge of any one. As it is, my garden claims a good portion of my spare time in the middle of the day, when I am not engaged at home or taking a walk ; there is always something to interest me in the very sight of the weed and litter, for then I think how much improved the place will be when they are removed; and it is very delightful to watch the progress of any work of this sort, and observe the gradual change from disorder and neglect to neatness and finish. In the course of the autumn I have done much in planting and altering, but these labours are now over, and I have now only to hope for a mild winter as far as the shrubs are concerned, that they may not all be dead when the spring comes. Of the country about us, especially on the Surrey side, I have explored much ; but not nearly so much as I could wish. It is very beautiful, and some of the scenes at the junction of the heath country with the rich valley of the Thames are very striking. Or if I do not venture so far from home, I have always a resource at hand in the bank of the river up to Staines; which, though it be perfectly flat, has yet a great charm from its entire loneliness, there being not a house any where near it; and the river here has none of that stir of boats and barges upon it, which makes it in many places as public as the high road.. Of what is going on in the world, or any where indeed out of Laleham, I know little or nothing. I can get no letters from Oxford, the common complaint I think of all who leave it; and if Penrose did not bring us sometimes a little news from Eton, and Hull from London, I should really, when the holidays begin, find myself six months behind the rest of the world.

Don Juan has been with me some weeks, but I am determined not to read it, for I was so annoyed by some specimens that I saw in glancing over the leaves, that I will not worry myself with any more of it. I have read enough of the debates since parliament met to make me marvel at the nonsense talked on both sides, though I am afraid the opposition have the palm out and out. The folly or the mischievous obstinacy with which they persist in palliating the excesses of the Jacobins is really scandalous, though I own I do not wish to see Carlton House trimming up the constitution as if it were an huzzar's uniform. ... I feel, however, growing less and less political.

[blocks in formation]

Laleham, February 23, 1820. You must know that you are one of three persons in the world to whom I hold it wrong to write short letters; that is to say, you are one of three on whom I can find it in my heart to bestow all my tediousness; and therefore though February 23rd stands at the top of the page, I do not expect that this sheet will be finished for some time to come. The first thing I must say is to congratulate you on Charles's appointment. If this letter reaches you amid the pain of parting, congratulation will indeed seem a strange word ; yet it is, I think, a matter of real joy after all ; it is just what Charles seems best fitted for; his principles and character you may fully depend on, and India is of all fields of honourable ambition that this world offers, to my mind the sairest. You know I always had a sort of hankering after it myself, and but that I prefer teaching Greek to learning Hindoostanee, and fear there is no immediate hope of the conquest of China, I should have liked to have seen the Ganges well. To your family India must seem natural ground; and for the separation, painful as it must be, yet do we not all in reality part almost as decisively with our friends when we once settle in life, even though the ocean should not divide us ? How little intercourse may I dare to anticipate in after days with those who for so many years have been almost my constant companions; and how little have I seen for several years past of my own brother! But this is prosing. If Charles be still with you, give him my kindest remembrances, with every wish for his future happiness; it already seems a dream to look back on the time when he used to come to my rooms to read Herodotus. Tell him I retain some of his scribbling on the pages of my Hederic's Lexicon, which may many a time remind me of him, when he is skirmishing perhaps with Mahrattas or Chinese, and I am still going over the old ground of loropins drooctis ndé. You talk to me of “cutting blocks with a razor ;" indeed it does me no good to lead my mind to such notions ; for to tell you a secret, I am quite enough inclined of myself to feel above my work, which is very wrong and very foolish. I believe I am usefully employed, and I am sure I am employed more safely for myself than if I had more time for higher studies ; it does my mind a marvellous deal of good, or ought to do, to be kept upon bread and water. But be this as it may, and be the price I am paying much or little, I cannot forget for what I am paying it. (After speaking of his future prospects.) Here, indeed, I sympathize with you in the fear that this earthly happiness may interest me too deeply. The hold which a man's affections have on him is the more dangerous because the less suspected ; and one may become an idolater almost before one feels the least sense of danger. Then comes the fear of losing the treasure, which one may love too fondly ; and that fear is indeed terrible. The thought of the instability of one's happiness comes in well to interrupt its full indulgence ; and if often entertained must make a man either an Epicurean or a Christian in good earnest. Thank eleven o'clock for stopping my prosing! Good night, and God bless you !

[blocks in formation]


(On the Death of his Brother.)

Laleham, December 6, 182). It is really quite an alarming time since I wrote to you in February ; for I cannot count as any thing the two brief letters that passed between us at the time of my marriage. I had intended, however, to have writien to you a good long one, so soon as the holidays came ; but, hearing from

-, a few days ago, that you had been expressing a wish to hear from me, I thought I would try to anticipate my intention, and despatch an epistle to you forthwith. It has been an eventful period for me in many ways, since February last,—more so, both for good and for evil, than I ever remember before. The loss which we all sustained in May, was the first great affliction that ever befell me ; and it has been indeed a heavy

At first it came so suddenly that I could not feel it so keenly; and I had other thoughts besides upon me, which would not then allow me to dwell so much upon it. But time has rather made the loss more painful than less so ; and now that I am married, and living here calmly and quietly, I often think how he would have enjoyed to have come to Laleham ; and all the circumstances of his death recur to me like a frightful dream. It is very extraordinary how often I dream that he is alive, and always with the consciousness that he is alive, after having been supposed dead; and this sometimes has gone so far, that I have in my dream questioned the reality of his being alive, and doubted whether it were not a dream, and have been convinced that it was not, so strongly, that I could hardly shake off the impression on waking. I have since that, lost another relation, my uncle Delafield, who died quite suddenly at Hastings, in September ; his death fell less severely on my mother and aunt, from following so near upon a loss still more distressing to them : but there was in both the same circumstance, which for the time made the shock tenfold greater, that my mother was expecting to see both my brother and my uncle within a few days at Laleham, when she heard of their respective deaths. I attended my uncle's funeral at Kensington, and never did I see greater affliction than that of his children, who were all present. I ought not, however, to dwell only on the painful events that have befallen us, when I have so much of a different kind to be thankful for. My mother is settled, with my aunt, and Susannah, in a more comfortable situation than they have ever been in since we left the Isle of Wight. My mother has got a very good garden, which is an amusement to her in many ways, but chiefly as it enables her to send little presents, &c., to her children ; and Susannah's crib lying in a room opening to the garden, she too can enjoy it; and she has been buying some flowering shrubs this autumn, and planting them where they will show themselves to her to the best advantage. My aunt is better, I think, than she commonly is; and she too enjoys her new dwelling, and amuses herself in showing Martha pictures and telling her stories, just as she used to do to me. Going on from my mother's house to Buckland's, you would find Frances, with two children more than you are acquainted with.

From about a quarter before nine till ten o'clock every evening, I am at liberty, and enjoy my wife's company fully: during this time I read out to her, (I am now read

ing to her Herodotus, translating it as I go on) or write my Sermons, when it is my fortnight to preach ; or write letters, as I am doing at this moment. And though the space of time that I can thus enjoy be but short, yet perhaps I relish it more keenly even on this very account; and when I am engaged, I ought to think how very many situations in life might have separated me from my wife's society, not for hours only, but for months, or even years; whereas now I have not slept from home once since I have been married ; nor am I likely for the greatest part of the year to do so. The garden is a constant source of amusement to us both ; there are always some little alterations to be made, some few spots where an additional shrub or two would be ornamental, something coming into blossom, or some crop for the more vulgar use of the table coming into season ; so that I can always delight to go round and see how things are going on. Our snowdrops are now just thrusting their heads out of the ground, and I to-day gathered a pink primrose. Trevenen comes over generally about twice a week to see us, and often stays to dine with us; Whately and Blackstone have also at different times paid us visits, and Mary was very much pleased with them both.

We set off for Fledborough so soon as the holidays begin, which will be next Wednesday week, and think of staying there almost to the end of them ; only allowing time for a visit to dear old Oxford, when I will try hard 10 get Mary to Bagley Wood, and show her the tree where you and Tucker and I were once perched all together.

I am now far better off than I formerly was in point of lectures ; for I have one in Thucydides, and another in Aristotle's Ethics ; if you dive in the former of these, as I suppose you do, it will be worth your while to get Poppo's “ Observationes Criticæ in Thucydidem,” a small pamphlet published at Leipzig, in 1815, and by far the best thing-indeed one may say the only good one —that has ever yet been written on the subject. I have been very highly delighted with it, and so I think would any one be, who has as much interest in Thucydides as we have, who have been acquainted with him so long. Another point concerning my trade has puzzled me a good deal. It has been my wish to avoid giving my pupils any Greek to do on a Sunday, so that we do Greek Testament on other days ; but on the Sunday always do some English book; and they read so much, and then I ask them questions in it. But I find it almost impossible to make them read a mere English book with sufficient attention to be able to answer questions out of it ; or if they do cram themselves for the time, they are sure to forget it directly after. I have been thinking, therefore, of making them take notes of the Sermon, after our Oriel fashion ; but this does not quite satisfy me ; and as you are a man of experience, I should like to know what your plan is, and whether you have found the same difficulty which I complain of. I have a great deal to hear about you all, and I shall be very glad to have tidings of you, and especially to know how Charles is going on, if you have yet heard from him ; and also how Hubert is faring, to whom I beg you will give my love. It is idle to lay schemes for a time six months distant,-but I do hope to see you in Devopshire in the summer, if you are at home, as we have something of a plan for going into Cornwall to see my innumerable relations there. I heard from Tuck about a week since,-perhaps his last letter from Oxford ; it quite disturbs me to think of it. And so he will set up at Malling after all, and by and by perhaps we shall see the problem solved, whether he has lost his heart or no. I cannot make out when we are all to see one another, if we all take pupils, and all leave home in the vacations. I think we must fix some inn on some great road, as the place where we may meet en passant once a year. How goes on poetry? With me it is gone, I suppose for ever, and prose too, as far as writing is concerned ; for I do nothing now in that way, save sermons and letters. But this matters little. Have you seen or heard of Cramer's book about Hannibal's passage of the Alps ? It is, I think, exceedingly good, and I rejoice for the little club's sake. I have been this day to Egham, to sign my name to a loyal address to the king from the gentlemen and householders of this neighbourhood, expressing our confidence in the wisdom and vigour of the constituted authorities. I hope this would please Dyson. I must now leave off scribbling. Adieu, my dear Cornish : Mary begs to join me in all kind wishes and regards to you and yours; and so would all at the other two houses, if they were at hand.

[ocr errors][merged small]

(In answer to criticisms on a review of Poppo's Observationes Criticæ.)

Laleham Garden, April 25, 1821. Now for your remarks on my Poppo. All clumsiness in the sentences, and want of connexion between the parts, I will do my best to amend; and the censure on verbal criticism I will either soften or scratch out entirely, for J. Keble objected to the same part. The translations also I will try to improve, and indeed I am aware of their baldness. The additions which you propose I can make readily ; but as to the general plainness of the style, I do not think I clearly see the fault which you allude to, and to say the truth, the plainness, i. e. the absence of ornament and long words, is the result of deliberate intention. At any rate, in my own case, I am sure an attempt at ornament would make my style so absurd that you would yourself laugh ai it. I could not do it naturally, for I have now so habituated myself to that unambitious and plain way of writing, and absence of Latin words as much as possible, that I could not write otherwise without manifest affectation. Of course I do not mean to justify awkwardnesses and clumsy sentences, of which I am afraid my writings are too full, and all which I will do my best to alter wherever you have marked them ; but any thing like puff, or verbal ornament, I cannot bring myself to. Richness of style 1 admire heartily, but this I cannot attain to for lack of power. All I could do would be to produce a bad imitation of it, which seems to me very ridiculous. For the same reason, I know not how to make the review more striking ; I cannot make it so by its own real weight and eloquence, and therefore I think I should only make it offensive by trying to make it fine. Do consider, what you recommend is απλώς άριστον, but I must do what is άριστον έμοι. You know you always told me I should never be a poet, and in like manner I never could be really eloquent, for I have not the imagination or fulness of mind needful to make me so.

« PreviousContinue »