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men delivered her, put her rapidly into the carriage, and then joining the mob in their hootings, sent off the horses at a gallop. Such was the mode of her exit from Oxford. The accused gentlemen, one of whom has since published interesting memoirs, had been students in Oxford, and had many friends in that place.
Four years after my father's death, it began to be perceived that there was no purpose to be answered in any longer keeping up an expensive establishment. A headgardener, besides laborers equal perhaps to two more, were required for the grounds and gardens. And no motive existed any longer for being near a great trading town, so long after the commercial connection with it had ceased. Bath seemed, on all accounts, the natural station for a person in my mother's situation; and, thither, accordingly, she went. I, who from the year 1793 had been placed under the tuition of one of my guardians, remained some months longer under his care. I was then transferred to Bath. During this interval, however, the sale of the house and grounds took place. It may illustrate the subject of guardianship, and the ordinary execution of its duties, to mention the result. The year 1796 was in itself a year of great depression, and every way unfavorable to such a transaction. However, the sale was settled. The night, for which it was fixed, turned out remarkably wet; no attempt was made to postpone the sale, and it proceeded. Originally the house and grounds had cost nearly £6000. I have heard that only one offer was made, viz: of £2500. Be that as it may, for the sum of £2500 it was sold; and I have been often assured that by waiting a few years, four times that sum might have been obtained with ease. Meantime my guardians were all men of honor and integrity; but their hands were filled with their own affairs. One (my tutor) was a clergyman, rector of
a church, and having his parish, his large family, and three pupils to attend. He was besides a very sedentary and indolent man, loving books - hating business. Another was a merchant. A third was a country magistrate, overladen with official business: him I never so much as saw. Finally, the fourth was a banker in a distant county; having more knowledge of the world than all the rest united, but too remote to interfere effectually.
Reflecting upon the evils which befel me, and the gross mismanagement, under my guardians, of my small fortune, and that of my brothers and sisters, it has often occurred to me that so important an office, which, from the time of Demosthenes, has been ruinously administered, ought to be put upon a new footing, plainly guarded by a few obvious provisions. As under the Roman laws, for a long period, the guardian should be made responsible in law, and should give security from the first for the due performance of his duties. But, to give him a motive for doing this, of course he must be paid. With the new obligations and liabilities will commence commensurate emoluments. This is merely the outline: to fill up the whole scheme of the office and its functions would be a matter of time and skill. But some great change is imperatively called for: no duty in the whole compass of human life being so scandalously neglected as this.
At Bath, I, and one of my younger brothers, were placed at the grammar school, at the head of which was an Etonian. The most interesting occurrence during my stay at this school was the sudden escape of Sir Sidney Smith from the prison of the Temple in Paris. The mode of his escape was as striking as its time was critical and providential. Having accidentally thrown a ball over the wall in playing at tennis, or some such game, Sir Sidney was surprised to observe that the ball thrown back
was not the same. His presence of mind fortunately suggested the true interpretation. He retired, examined the ball, found it stuffed with letters; and, in the same way, he subsequently conducted a long correspondence, and arranged the whole circumstances of his escape; which, remarkably enough, was accomplished just eight days before the sailing of Napoleon with the Egyptian expedition; so that Sir Sidney was just in time to confront, and utterly to defeat Napoleon in the breach of Acre. But for Sir Sidney, it is certain that Bonaparte would have overrun Syria. What would have followed from that event, it is difficult to say.
Sir Sidney Smith, I must explain to readers of this generation, and Sir Edward Pellew, (afterwards Lord Exmouth,) were the two* Paladins of the first war with revolutionary France. These two names were never mentioned but in connection with some splendid and unequal contest. Hence the whole nation was saddened by the account of Sir Sidney's capture; and this must be understood to make the joy of his sudden return perfectly intelligible. Not even a rumor of Sir Sidney's escape had or could have run before him; for, his mother being at Bath, he had set off at the moment of reaching the coast of England with post horses to Bath. It was about dusk when he arrived: the postilions were directed to the square in which his mother lived: in a few minutes he was in his mother's arms, and in twenty minutes more the news had flown to the remotest suburb of the city. The agitation of Bath on this occasion was indescribable. All the troops of the line then quartered in that city, and a
* Sir Horatio Nelson being already an Admiral, was no longer looked to for insulated exploits of brilliant adventure: his name was now connected with larger and combined attacks, less dashing and adventurous, because including heavier responsibilities.
whole regiment of volunteers, immediately got under arms, and marched to the quarter in which Sir Sidney lived. The small square overflowed with the soldiery: Sir Sidney went out, and was immediately lost to us, who. were watching for him, in the closing ranks of the troops. Next morning, however, I, my younger brother, and a school-fellow of my own age, called formally upon the naval hero. Why, I know not, we were admitted without question or demur; and I may record it as an amiable trait in Sir Sidney, that he received us then with great kindness, and subsequently expressed his interest in all the members of that school to which he had himself once belonged. He was at that time slender and thin; having an appearance of extenuation and emaciation, as though he had suffered hardships, and ill-treatment, which however, I do not remember to have heard. Meantime, his appearance, connected with his recent history, made him a very interesting person to women. To this hour it remains a mystery with me, why and how it came about, that in every distribution of honors, Sir Sidney Smith was overlooked. In the Mediterranean he made many enemies; especially amongst those of his own profession; who used to speak of him as far too fine a gentleman, and above his calling. Certain it is, that he liked better to be doing business on shore, as at Acre. But however that may have been, surely the man whose name Napoleon could never pronounce without vexation, must have done good service. And, at that time, his connection, of whatsoever nature, with the late Queen Caroline, had not occurred. And altogether, to me, his case is inexplicable. About this time I first saw a person, whom afterwards I came to know- -one who interested me much more, and was indeed as interesting and extraordinary a man as any in my time—I mean the celebrated Walking Stewart.
From the Bath grammar school I was removed, in consequence of an accident, by which at first it was supposed that my skull had been fractured: and the able surgeon, Mr. Grant, who attended me, at one time talked of trepanning. This was an awful word: but I have always doubted whether in reality anything very serious had happened. In fact I was always under a nervous panic for my head; and certainly exaggerated my internal feelings without meaning to do so; and this misled the medical attendants. During a long illness which succeeded, my mother read to me, in Hoole's translation, the whole of the Orlando Furioso: and from my own experience at that time I am disposed to think that the homeliness of this version is an advantage from not calling off the atten tion at all from the narration to the narrator. At this time also I first read the Paradise Lost; but oddly enough in the edition of Bentley, that great agadi odwars (or pseudorestorator of the text). At the close of my illness, the headmaster called upon my mother, as did a certain Colonel B., who had sons at the school, requesting, with many compliments to myself, that I might be suffered to remain. But it illustrates my mother's sincere moral severity, that she was shocked at my hearing compliments to my own merits, and was altogether disturbed at what doubtless these gentlemen expected to see received with maternal pride. She declined to let me continue at the Bath school; and I went to another, in the county of Wilts, of which the recommendation lay in the religious character of the
Here I had staid about a year, or not much more, when I received a letter from a young nobleman of my own age, Lord W., the son of an Irish Earl, inviting me to accompany him to Ireland for the ensuing summer and autumn. This invitation was repeated by his tutor; and my mother after some consideration allowed me to accept it.