Billeder på siden

a first-rate rough-rider; and I gathered manifold experiences amongst the horses so different from the wild, hard-mouthed horses at Westport, that were often vicious, and sometimes trained to vice. Here, though spirited, the horses were pretty generally gentle, and all had been regularly broke. My education was not entirely neglected even as regarded sportsmanship; that great branch of philosophy being confided to one of the keepers, who was very attentive to me, in deference to the interest in myself expressed by his idolized mistress, but otherwise regarded me probably as an object of mysterious curiosity rather than of sublunary hope.

Equally, in fact, as regarded my physics and my metaphysics, in short, upon all lines of advance that interested my ambition, I was going rapidly ahead. And, speaking seriously, in what regarded my intellectual expansion, never before or since had I been so distinctly made aware of it. No longer did it seem to move upon the hour-hand, whose advance, though certain, is yet a pure matter of inference, but upon the seconds'-hand, which visibly comes on at a trotting pace. Everything prospered, except my own present happiness, and the possibility of any happiness for some years to come. About two months after leaving Laxton, my fate in the worst shape I had anticipated was solemnly and definitively settled. My guardians agreed that the most prudent course, with a view to my pecuniary interests, was to place me at the Manchester Grammar School; not with a view to further improvement in my classical knowledge, though the head-master was a sound scholar, but simply with a view to one of the school

exhibitions.* Amongst the countless establishments, scattered all over England by the noble munificence of English men and English women in past generations, for connecting the provincial towns with the two royal universities of the land, this Manchester school was one; in addition to other great local advantages (namely, inter alia, a fine old library and an ecclesiastical foundation, which in this present generation has furnished the materials for a bishopric of Manchester, with its deanery and chapter), this noble foundation secured a number of exhibitions at Brasenose College, Oxford, to those pupils of the school who should study at Manchester for three consecutive years. The pecuniary amount of these exhibitions has since then increased considerably through the accumulation of funds, which the commercial character of that great city had caused to be neglected. At that time, I believe each exhibition yielded about forty

"Exhibitions."-This is the technical name in many cases, corresponding to the burse or bursaries of the continent; from which word bursæ is derived, I believe, the German term Bursch,—that is, a bursarius, or student, who lives at college upon the salary allowed by such a bursary. Some years ago the editor of a Glasgow daily paper called upon Oxford and Cambridge, with a patronizing flourish, to imitate some one or more of the Scottish universities in founding such systems of aliment for poor students otherwise excluded from academic advantages. Evidently he was unaware that they had existed for centuries before the state of civilization in Scotland had allowed any opening for the foundation of colleges or academic life. Scottish bursaries, or exhibitions (a term which Shakspeare uses, very near the close of the first act in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," as the technical expression in England), were few, and not generally, I believe, exceeding ten pounds a-year. The English were many, and of more ancient standing, and running from forty pounds to one hundred pounds a-year. Such was the simple difference between the two countries otherwise they agreed altogether.

guineas a-year, and was legally tenable for seven successive years. Now, to me this would have offered a most seasonable advantage, had it been resorted to some two years earlier. My small patrimonial inheritance gave to me, as it did to each of my four brothers, exactly one hundred and fifty pounds a-year: and to each of my sisters exactly one hundred pounds a-year. The Manchester exhibition of forty guineas a-year would have raised this income for seven years to a sum close upon two hundred pounds a-year. But at present I was half-way on the road to the completion of my sixteenth year. Commencing my period of pupilage from that time, I should not have finished it until I had travelled half-way through my nineteenth year. And the specific evil that already weighed upon me with a sickening oppression was the premature expansion of my mind; and, as a foremost consequence, intolerance of boyish society. I ought to have entered upon my triennium of school-boy servitude at the age of thirteen. As things were,- a delay with which I had nothing to do myself,- this and the native character of my mind had thrown the whole arrangement awry. For the better half of the three years I endured it patiently. But it had at length begun to eat more corrosively into my peace of mind than ever I had anticipated. The head-master was substantially superannuated for the duties of his place. Not that intellectually he showed any symptoms of decay: but in the spirits and physical energies requisite for his duties he did not so much age, as disease, it was that incapacitated him. In the course of a long day, beginning at seven A. M. and stretching down to five P. M., he succeeded in reaching the further end of his

duties. But how? Simply by consolidating pretty nearly into one continuous scene of labor the entire ten hours. The full hour of relaxation which the traditions of this ancient school and the by-laws had consecrated to breakfast was narrowed into ten, or even seven minutes. The two hours' interval, in like manner prescribed by the old usages from twelve to two P. M., was pared down to forty minutes, or less. In this way he walked conscientiously through the services of the day, fulfilling to the letter every section the minutest of the traditional rubric. But he purchased this consummation at the price of all comfort to himself: and, having done that, he felt himself the more entitled to neglect the comfort of others. The case was singular: he neither showed any indulgence to himself more than to others (which, however, could do nothing towards indemnifying others for the severe confinement which his physical decay inflicted upon them-a point wholly forgotten by him); nor, secondly, in thus tenaciously holding on to his place did he (I am satisfied) govern himself by any mercenary thought or wish, but simply by an austere sense of duty. He discharged his public functions with constant fidelity, and with superfluity of learning; and felt, perhaps not unreasonably, that possibly the same learning united with the same zeal might not revolve as a matter of course in the event of his resigning the place. I hide from myself no part of the honorable motives which might (and probably did) exclusively govern him in adhering to the place. But not by one atom the less did the grievous results of his inability to grapple with his duties weigh upon all within his sphere, and upon

myself, by cutting up the time available for exercise, most ruinously.

Precisely at the worst crisis of this intolerable darkness (for such, without exaggeration, it was in its effects upon my spirits) arose, and for five or six months steadily continued, a consolation of that nature which hardly in dreams I could have anticipated. For even in dreams would it have seemed reasonable, or natural, that Laxton, with its entire society, should transfer itself to Manchester? Some mighty caliph, or lamp-bearing Aladdin, might have worked such marvels: but else who, or by what machinery? Nevertheless, without either caliph or Aladdin, and by the most natural of mere human agencies, this change was suddenly accomplished.

Mr. White, whom I have already had occasion to mention elsewhere, was in those days the most eminent surgeon by much in the north of England. He had by one whole generation run before the phrenologists and craniologists, — having already measured innumerable skulls amongst the omnigenous seafaring population of Liverpool, illustrating all the races of men, and was in society a most urbane and pleasant companion. On my mother's suggestion, he had been summoned to Laxton, in the hope that he might mitigate the torments of Mrs. Schreiber's malady. If I am right in supposing that to have been cancer, I presume that he could not have added much to the prescriptions of the local doctor. And yet, on the other hand, it is a fact - so slowly did new views travel in those days, when scientific journals were few, and roads were heavy — that ten years later than this period I knew a case, namely, the case of a

« ForrigeFortsæt »