Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[ocr errors]

a degree which could hardly be imagined, having regard to their own attitude and activities in matters appertaining to religion. I recall the instance of a fox-hunting country gentleman, in many ways an excellent man, but who never attended any place of worship, and whose conversation was anywhere but in heaven. His eldest son was more seriously-minded, and became a Catholic. His father excommunicated him, not exactly with bell, book, and candle, but in a thoroughly efficient manner. The father's friends were bewildered, the son much surprised; but there it was; Mr. had got the thing up, and he justified bis action on grounds which would have commended themselves to a Dissenting minister or a Low Church Bishop. But speaking generally, Catholics at that time were imperfectly understood. We were regarded as a strange and mischievous people who worshipped images, went to church at odd hours and on incomprehensible days, practised ineffable rites, and were not sound on Sunday roast beef and plum-pudding. In this connexion let me quote Canon Oakeley?:

It must be very difficult for those who are sons of the Church, not by adoption but by inheritance, to realise, even by a strong effort of imagination, the depth and extent of the ignorance which prevailed among members of the Anglican Establishment at the beginning of the Tractarian Movement with regard to the state and feelings of the Catholic community in England. It is no exaggeration to say that many of us knew far more about the manners and customs of the ancient Egyptians or Scythians than of the characters and doings of this portion of our fellow-countrymen.

I have no reason to think that I was myself at all behind the general run of my contemporaries in the advantages of education or in knowledge of the world, so that my own ideas, in early youth, of the subject in question may be received as a fair sample of the average opinions of young people at the time.

I thought that the Roman Catholics of England did not at the most number more than about eighty or one hundred souls, who were distributed in certain great families over the midland and northern counties. I thought that each of these families lived in a large haunted house, embosomed in yew-trees, and surrounded by high brick walls. About the interior of these mansions I had also

my

ideas. I thought that they were made up of vast dreary apartments walled with tapestry, with state bedrooms, in which were enormous bedsteads, surmounted by plumes, and which only required horses to be put to them in order to become funeral cars. I fancied, of course, that there reigned around and within these abodes a preternatural silence, broken only by the flapping of bats, and the screeching of owls. And be goes on to say:

The strange thing is that although I have no reason to think that the subject was interdicted at home, somehow I never liked talking about it, or trying to clear up my notions by comparison with those of others.

The subject never seemed to come up naturally or to lie in anyone's way.

' Historical Notes on the Tractarian Movement, p. 34.

These things being so, my grandfather, who, having regard to his own evangelical opinions, could hardly have been expected to be sympathetic, was exceedingly upset by the step his son had seen fit to take. There was no real loss of affection, but it must have created a rather uncomfortable state of things at Swainston, and for two years my father went abroad with his wife and children. They lived in Italy, and divided the time between Rome, Naples, and Sorrento : a lengthy sojourn which the ladies and gentlemen of that day seem to have had the fortitude to go through with, but which with their English tastes and habits must at times have become very irksome.

But other things besides English habits had to be abandoned. It was stated baldly in a preceding page that my father had been returned for Parliament in 1849. Parliament had now to be given up. Later on he was to re-enter it, but in 1851 he felt that it would not do to stay on : that the honourable course was to resign. Thus the growing interests and prospects of an active Parliamentary career had to cease. This was sad, for he was getting on. From the first he had elected to follow, and had stuck to, Sir Robert Peel, and from the time that Mr. Gladstone joined Sir Robert Peel's Administration in the room of Lord Derby, in 1846, Mr. Gladstone secured my father's unwavering support.

In 1865 Dr. Newman and many other people began to get very uneasy over Mr. Gladstone's political proceedings. Writing from the Oratory on the 4th of August 1865 to Mr. Keble, Dr. Newman says :

A very painful separation—really he does go great lengths, and I cannot help feeling that the anxiety to keep him, on the part of such persons as yourself, was quite as much on his own account as on account of the University. He has lost his tether now that the Conservatives have got rid of him, and won't he go lengths! I should have been in great perplexity had I been an Oxford man how to vote. I suppose I should certainly in the event have voted for him, but most grudgingly. None of his friends seem to trust his politics ; indeed, he seems not to know, himself, what are his landmarks and his necessary limits. But Mr. Gladstone's Churchmanship and character kept my father faithful, just as they kept Keble, himself a high Tory, and many others who felt as puzzled and ill-at-ease as Dr. Newman. My father's connexion with Mr. Gladstone, however, was not only personal. He had much at heart the question of colonisation, and was associated with Lord Richard Cavendish, Lord Lyttelton, Mr. Godley, Mr. Beresford Hope and others in the foundation of the Settlement of Canterbury in New Zealand, which was intended to be a model Anglican colony. Some of the

• Mr. Gladstone had just been defeated for Oxford.

6

land then acquired has become valuable, and furnishes a revenue to the Church in New Zealand.

In 1854 my grandfather died, and Swainston became my father's home. The quiet and remote loveliness of the island in those days can hardly be conceived now. The prospect of the Isle of Wight in the haze of a summer's morning, as Wesley viewed it from Southampton, inspired the hymn 'There is a land of pure delight, and it was still a rural retreat eminently adapted--as advertisements would say-for poets, men of letters, and superior persons generally. Indeed, its high qualities in this respect have almost been over-treated by a flood of Tennysonian literature. Now motor vans of appreciative trippers, often accompanied by a cornet-player, enliven and enjoy its highways and byways; but in those days the wayfarer would only encounter a bell-team waggon pursuing its stately way along the Newport Road, and might bathe his soul in the simple sights and sounds of country life which Stevenson recommends to the town lady. The lines are so elegant as to be worth quoting :

Far have you come my lady from the town,
And far from all your sorrows if you please,
To smell the good sea air and hear the seas,
And in green meadows lay your body down.

.

Here in this sea-board land of old renown,
In meadow grass go wading to the knees,
Bathe your whole soul awhile in simple ease,
There is no sorrow but the sea can drown,
Far have you come my lady from the town.

[ocr errors]

My father all along liked London : his cultivated and agreeable friends, his clubs, the vicissitudes and surprises of the town. Its main currents, art, literature, politics, society, all these good things he enjoyed and valued to the full, but still at heart he was a country gentleman, zealous and versed in local affairs, taking a personal and active interest, which it was much easier to do in those days than it is now, in all the proceedings of his tenantry; farming in a biggish way himself, shooting a good deal, and proficiently, at home and abroad, hunting within the limits which precipitous downs and sea-mists impose, and himself keeping the hounds as long as he could afford it. At this time Tennyson wrote to him :

It is no more than probable that I cannot be with you to see the hounds throw off, which yet I should well like to see, for though no huntsman I love all country sights and sounds.

But all this peace was to be broken by trumpet and drum. In 1859 the dread of a French invasion led to the Volunteer Movement. The Isle of Wight did not like the look of things. Its inhabitants felt that any day they might wake up, not perhaps with their throats cut, but to find the enemy scrambling up their cliffs. Punch, the best serio-comic history of those or any days, does ample justice to the Volunteers. Patriotic ardour pervaded the vulnerable island, and my father threw himself with zest into the general call to arms. He used to say, but quite cheerfully,

There might be many a worse end than to die fighting for one's country on Afton Down.'

However, quite pacific people used to come to Swainston : there were shooting friends, but he had a good many visitors who did not shoot and paid him visits for the sake of good talks about books, politics and poetry, and long walks seem to have been their chief recreation. It was the fashion of those days. Jowett, Mr. Gladstone, Leslie Stephen, the Master of Trinity, E. Bowen, Bradley, Charles Kingsley, Wordsworth and all the Lakeists appear to have been nearly always walking. Leslie Stephen, we are told, stalked like fate in a recuperative silence. Mr. Jowett did much of his Socratic and more gentle admonishing afoot. Bowen tired out two or three Harrow boys during the Christmas and Easter holidays on walking tours.

Walks are responsible for at least a third of Grant Duff's copious diaries, and always with more or less eminent persons. My mother told me that she was often impressed by the grim resolution which impelled my father and his cultivated friends to face any weather, muddy roads, and long miles, without any of those special preparations in the way of dress which everybody considers necessary now. As the devoted little party mustered in the hall I even seem to remember the thin elasticside boot popular with early Victorians, and the light, dingy grey overcoats optimistically known as waterproofs. Yes, indeed, an occasional bout of serious walking seems to have been of physical, intellectual, and moral necessity to the thinkers, poets, and men of letters of those days. Now, perhaps, it is only their writings that are pedestrian.

So much for country life. In 1857 and in 1859 my father had been invited to stand for Parliament, but declined in favour of Mr. Clifford. However, in 1865, he consented to stand, and both then and three years later he was returned. It was a great triumph, in a constituency largely Protestant and Conservative, and he was the first Catholic to represent a county in Parliament since the Reformation. To my mind a great honour. Before the election Tennyson wrote to him :

Let us hope that the greatest of all triumphs for yourself awaits you, a personal triumph, not because people agree with you, but in spite of all

disagreement. I hope we shall prove ourselves sensible that you are the man who has had the best interests of the Island most at heart, and has worked hardest to promote them.

6

To glance for a moment at his active interest in letters, I am pleased to see that Mr. Edmund Gosse, in his Life of Dr. Donne, writes : 'Serious attention to the bibliography of the poems of Donne was first called by Sir John Simeon in the treatise founded on a rather late MS. which he printed for the Philobiblon Society in 1856,' and he refers to an 'interesting find’ which my father made of some manuscript poems of Donne's at Swanley. As Honorary Secretary of the Philobiblon Society he made various contributions to its records, wrote many articles himself in the British Critic and in the Rambler, ranging over various topics from ballad poetry to the philosophy of language, and kept in constant touch with polite letters. Referring to The Ring and The Book, Browning wrote to him (the 28th of December 1868) :

I rejoice that you like my poem so far, and are prepared to encounter thə rest, which is all I want, as whatever effect will be, will result from the whole, though the parts go for something, too. A critic regrets I have not enlivened what you have seen by a few songs or lyrics.' Did not an Irish reporter once under the impulse of a good dinner call-in the pause of Parliamentary debate-for 'a song from the Speaker'?

As a regular attendant of the Breakfast Club he was one of the party, who, meeting at Mr. Gladstone's house, found themselves without butter. Domestic interruptions of any kind were sternly forbidden on these occasions. However, the need was grave. Mr. Gladstone himself left the room to report the circumstance to Mrs. Gladstone, who, like another, but a benevolent, Jael, quickly brought forth butter in a lordly dish.

His particular friends at the Breakfast Club were George Trevelyan, Henry Bruce, Lord Dufferin, J. A. Froude, Thackeray, Mr. Grant Duff, Sir Thomas Erskine May, Henry Cowper and Lord Houghton. Edward Lear was another great ally. The name alone calls up delightful memories : indeed, this was 'a fellow of infinite jest.' I possess lots of queer drawings he made for me as a child in his best Book of Nonsense manner and vein. As an artist Lear perhaps errs in the direction of panorama, but he was a beautiful draughtsman, and my father, who admired his work, became the possessor of what was considered his best picture, The Crag that Fronts the Even.

My father's health, which for some time past had given anxiety, began to fail in 1870, and in the April of that year, when speaking in the House of Commons, he was attacked by slight hemorrhage. He was ordered complete rest, and left London immediately. After spending Easter in Paris with his friends

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »