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very young man upon some abstruse mathematical subjects ; later in life he had published a learned commentary on the dialogues of Plato; and he was now, in his green and vigorous old age, hurling his thunderbolts at the Church of Rome, and rousing the Protestant spirit of the country to resist the admission of Roman Catholics into the legislature. Nor ought it perhaps to be left altogether out of account that the D was supposed (as we have already intimated) to have pretty fair prospects of advancement to a bishopric, which could not but be a joyful event to all his kindred and connexions in holy orders.
Happy it unquestionably would have been for the Vicar's son, had some hard-headed man like Doctor Wyndham been the director of his studies and the moulder of his character. For the early education of our hero was a curious hash of all conceivable methods, systems, theories and régimes. In short there was no system in it at all, or it had the defects and inconveniences of all systems. This misfortune would probably not have befallen him, had either the Vicar, or his wife ruled the roast, for then the ideas of one or the other would have prevailed, and something like a system, right or wrong, would have been the result; but the energies of this respactable couple were so nearly balanced that neither had the ascendancy for any considerable length of time; now the father was supreme, now the mother had her way; in fact the scale of authority and influence went up and down like a game of see-saw played by two urchins in a saw-pit. When Mr. Medlicott was up, Latin and Greek went up with him, grammar and prosody, Alexander, Scipio, Scylla and Charybdis. When the mother's end of the beam was aloft, came the turn of modern languages and what she called the arts and sciences; a splash of French, an occasional twist at German, sometimes even à bout of geology and astronomy, and every now and then a great hullabulloo for a few days about arithmetic. Mrs. Medlicott had a crotchet in her head (which she got from the Phrenologists, who were great oracles with her), that as the organs or the faculties were many in number, the provisions or exercises for them ought to be equally numerous : in fact that the best system of instruction was the most diffused and multifarious. Mr. Medlicott on the other hand was all for concentration ; and each had a copious collection of authorities and dogmas,
wise saws and modern instances,” in support of the doctrine that each held. Thus the boy was in fact pulled backwards and forwards, from one parent to the other, the lessons of neither making an
impression of much value or permanence; except that between them both he early laid in a wonderful stock of words and phrases, the foundation of the character he subsequently acquired as a talker of the first magnitude. And there was just the same regular irregularity in hours and habits. In the dark n: onths, Mrs. Medlicott would sometimes conceive a sudden and irresistible passion for early rising, and the maids were called up at cockcrow of frosty mornings, to kindle the school-room fire, or a fire in some other part of the house, for not even the room where Reuben received his education was a settled place. He remembered having learned his Latin grammar in all manner of chambers, and he recollected having once been lectured on geography in the kitchen, the cook asking his father to show her one of the West Indian islands on the globe, where her son who was a soldier, was serving in his regiment. On the other hand, in the middle of summer, the business of the day would often not commence until the dew was off the grass. Then, there was a continual shifting of Reuben's meal-times; the hours that suited the mother's convenience never accommodating the father, and the regulations insisted on by him during his brief period of authority, being invariably reversed the moment the next counterrevolution placed the dynasty in her hands. The effect of all this was that to the eye of a visitor in the house for a short period, it seemed the very model of order and discipline, so that people who were not deep in the secrets of the Vicarage used to leave it mightily pleased ; extol Mr. and Mrs. Medlicott highly, and wish they could manage things with half the regularity in their own houses.
But the education of Reuben was at the mercy of other influences besides those already mentioned, and still with the same unlucky tendency to distraction. At certain intervals his parents would both suddenly discover that neither one nor the other was the proper person to conduct his education,
and that he ought to go to school, or have a tutor or governess. Between eight and nine he was the scholar of an old Quaker schoolmistress, named Hannah Hopkins, who kept an infant seminary in Chichester, where she taught small children of both sexes to knit and sit as mute as if they were at meeting. She may have taught Reuben the former art, but as to silence, he never was very proficient at it, either under her or any of his other instructors. Then Mrs. Winning, of Sunbury, a lady of considerable fortune in the parish, had a tutor at one time for her nephew, Henry Winning,
upon forms, and she was glad to allow Reuben to join him in his studies, partly out of friendship for the Vicar, and partly to afford her nephew the advantage of a companion, although Reuben was his junior by two or three years. This was a very desirable arrangement (particularly as Henry Winning was a boy of great promise), but it did not last many months; Mrs. I.Iedlicott interfered in the course of tuition in a way that Mrs. Winning disapproved, and the wind also happening to shift to the rainy point, Reuben caught a cold one day, returning from Sudbury, and domestic education was resumed again.
Had there been coercion in any of these diversified processes, our hero would probably have hated books of all kinds, and disliked all his teachers in turn; but his love of learning escaped this very common danger. He was of so teachable and ductile a disposition that he profited to some extent by all the lessons he received, and bent like an osier to all the shifting breezes to which parental vacillation exposed him. It was equal to Reuben whether the parlour was his study, or the pantry; he got up cheerfully at six, and he got up cheerfully at nine; he could conjugate amo, or decline musa, with Nell churning at his elbow, or copy a French exercise while Mopsa was making his mother's bed.
In truth, he had a strong natural appetite for knowledge, which made it the more deplorable that the craving was not satisfied with method and judgment. The system of variety and diffusion was unquestionably that for which the boy himself would have voted, for even his mother's range was not wide enough for his taste, or his ambition; he read, or dipped into every book within his reach, not positively interdicted ; and as to interdicts in such a disorderly place as the Vicarage, they were too often revoked, or modified, to be much respected, or very punctiliously obeyed.
In short, there was not a branch, or a twig, of the tree of knowledge, within the reach of his feeble wing, on which Reuben Medlicott had not perched and prattled long before he was fully fledged. Far from needing the stimulus of the least severity, he outran every expectation of diligence entertained by his friends. A still temperament and a delicate frame inclined him to prefer even a task by the fireside to almost any amusement out of doors. He made toys and bedfellows of his books, and, except to force him to take exercise absolutely necessary for his health, his parents had never occasion to say a cross word to him.
The sweetness and pliability of character which are so graceful in a child, and often so much commended, are virtues leaning to the side of faults, and beauties with a principle of weakness in them. There was visible early in Reuben's life a deficiency of the spirit, and daring so proper and so promising in boyhood ; there was more of the female than the masculine type in his constitution; his tongue was the most active of his members; he might rival his grandfather in his stores of learning, but, unless some signal revolution took place, there seemed very little prospect of his equalling either the mental energies, or the physical strength of Doctor Wyndham.
In person the boy, who was now in his thirteenth year, had not taken very decidedly after either of his parents. His mother was a tall woman, with a pretentious carriage, a high colour, and regular, though somewhat hard features, to which the blue spectacles she always wore gave a didactic, and decidedly masculine expression. The Vicar was a short, thick man, of a florid complexion, and slightly inclined to corpulence, both probably the effects of the healthy, but inactive life he led—a life in which it was hard to say whether his pastoral labours, his classical studies, or his gardening relaxations, were the most or the least fatiguing. Reuben, at the age we speak of, was disposed to be tall; but he had none of the father's or mother's florid complexe ion in his cheeks : he was pale, though the hue was not sickly; his face was long, and almost preternaturally placid ; for, instead of the hard expression which he might have taken from the female side of the house, Reuben's physiognomy had inherited a certain tone of indecision from his father's features, and particularly about the mouth, which was large and pendent. His hair was fair and abundant, still permitted to fall in girlish profusion on his shoulders : and his eyes were of his mother's speculative azure, with a touch there, too, of the Vicar's too quiet and indeterminate character.
IN WHICH SEVERAL FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY ARE INTRODUCED TO
It was not until Reuben had reached the age when, according to the custom of England, boys of his position in life are sent from home to receive the benefits, and run the risks of a public school, that his grandfather began to manifest any interest, either in Mrs. Medlicott, or her son. The Dean had, indeed, been gradually softening for some years, but it was a slow process; he sometimes invited the Vicar and bis wife to spend a dull Christmas or Easter with him, and occasionally paid them an abrupt visit, when his business brought him to Chichester and it suited his convenience to quarter himself somewhere in the vicinity. Latterly, however, the parties had been on more cordial terms. The Dean had the feelings of a father au fond, and he was also won by the simplicity of the Vicar's character, though he despised his abilities most heartily. What, however, had probably the greatest effect in reconciling him to Mr. Medlicott, was the veneration in which the latter held him. It was the delight of Doctor Wyndham to receive homage, and inspire awe; he was never very fond of anybody who did not either fear or flatter him, and the Vicar possessed the two passports to his favour.
The first concern the Dean showed in his grandson's welfare, betrayed itself in the curt postscript to a letter which the Vicar received from him on some indifferent matter of business. “So you have not sent your son to school yet, how long do you mean to coddle him at the fire-side? Send him to school at once, or you'll be sorry for it. There is a very good school at Hereford —kept by Mr. Brough, related to my friends the Barsacs—at least it is as good as any other I know."
The Dean's word was law, and it happened that the Hereford school was just the one his parents would probably have selected for Reuben, had they been left to themselves. It was not as expensive as the great seminaries, such as Eton and Winchester; the Dean had a living within ten miles of Hereford, which he had latterly favoured with his presence more than his other preferments; and, moreover, Mrs. Winning's nephew, who has been already mentioned, was a pupil of Mr. Brough's at present,