ulation. Respectable newspapers there were, but too dear to find their way into the hands of artisans; tracts there were, written by the religious, but for the most part too dull or puerile to be read with profit by the profane. Mr. Knight, whose ambition it had long been to become a popular educator, determined to try and supply more healthful food for the growing appetite of the people for knowledge. He met with a sympathizing colleague in Edward Hawke Locker, "a true gentleman, intelligent, well-read, energetic, charitable, religious, tolerant. His hospitable home was always open to me; his active friendship was never withheld; his judicious advice was my stay in many a doubt and difficulty." With the help of this excellent man, Mr. Knight started the Plain Englishman, a monthly serial of what would now be called Liberal Conservative opinions.

The new periodical dealt chiefly with social and religious questions. It was tended to be "the Christian Monitor; the Fireside Companion." The great ques tions of Reform and Catholic Emancipation, which were beginning to be stirred, were left unnoticed in the "Monthly Retrospect of Public Affairs." While "Public Affairs were seething in a witch's cauldron with the scum uppermost,' "9 and Radical reformers were behaving like Irish rioters, silence was the best and only discreet policy for the editor of a family newspaper. But there was abundant room for advocacy of sound principles on other than political subjects. Dr. John Bird Sumner's "Conversations with an Unbeliever," are good examples of the persuasive power of genuine piety. Mr. John Cole, a London surgeon, contributed a series of capital articles on social science, containing some singular illustrations of the change in our habits which the lapse of forty years has wrought. Thus, in an essay on "Cleanliness and Ventilation," he says: "Those who can be brought to venture on so unheard-of a thing as to wash the whole of their bodies will generally be induced to repeat the experiment from the comfort it affords." The bath had not then become as necessary a domestic institution as a hand-basin. "You have killed my mother," said a housewife of the Lake District to Miss Martineau; "she never had washed her feet till you persuaded her, and this is the end on't." Even a Wiltshire peasant would not make a similar

observation now, although in agricultural districts the duty of cleanliness is still ill understood. Entertainment was provided as well as solid information for "plain Englishmen." Mr. Knight wrote some simple tales, and Mr. Locker some pleasant recollections of his own early life. His memoir of his father, one of the bravest of our naval captains, the gallant sailor who taught Nelson how to board a French man-of-war-"Lay a Frenchman close and you will beat him"--has a lightness of touch suggestive of Sterne. The picture of the veteran in the retirement of Greenwich Hospital, with a faithful servant of the stamp of Corporal Trim to anticipate his wishes, is worth preserving:


"The chief person in his confidence was old Boswell-the self-invested minister of the extraordinaries of the family-who looked on the footman as a jackanapes, and on the female servants as incapable of "understanding his Honor." Boswell had been in his time a smart young in-seaman, and formerly rowed the stroke oar in the captain's barge. After many a hard gale and long separation, the association was renewed in old age, and to a bystander had more of the familiarity of ancient friendship than the relation of master and servant. Has your Honor any further commands?' said Boswell, as he used to enter the parlor in the evening, while throwing his body into an angle, he made his reverence, and shut the door with his opposite think not; unless, indeed, you are disposed for extremity at the same time. 'No, Boswell, I a glass of grog before you go.' 'As your Honor pleases,' was the established reply. The grog is produced, and the two veterans spin yarns about their adventures in the Nautilus up the Mississippi; the poor Indians who won all their hearts; the great black snake, that nearly throttled the sergeant of marines; and the rattlesnake, too, that your Honor killed with your cane, five and forty feet.' Avast, Boswell, mind your reckoning there; 'twas but twelve, you rogue, and that is long enough in all conscience.'"


Notwithstanding, however, these efforts to please all classes of readers, the Plain Englishman closed its career after a three years' life. As Mr. Knight frankly acknowledges, men were not in the mood to appreciate its "benevolent optimism."

We now approach one of the most interesting episodes of Mr. Knight's working life. In the latter half of September, 1820, he found, on his return from London to Windsor, two youths awaiting him, who proposed that he should print and publish an Eton magazine. Their names were Walter Blunt and Winthrop, Mack worth Braed. The result of the interview was

the appearance of the Etonian. Mr. Blunt acted as editor. Praed was the chief contributor, and, indeed, the very life and soul of the undertaking. He wrote under the signature of "Peregrine Court enay."

"The Etonian of 1820," says Mr. Knight of him, "was natural and unaffected in his ordinary talk; neither shy nor presuming; proud without a tinge of vanity; somewhat reserved, yet ever courteous; giving few indications of the susceptibility of the poet, but ample evidence of the laughing satirist; a pale and slight youth, who had looked upon the aspects of society with the keen perceptions of a clever manhood."

His poems, while he was still a schoolboy, have the same mingling of humor and sadness which distinguish his maturer efforts; his prose, we are told, was less remarkable. It was a happy time both for the publisher and the youthful writers, to whom the luxury of print was a new sensation. The breakfasts out of bounds-when talk about Queen Caroline and her wrongs, about Brougham and Copley and Canning, was mixed with the latest news from the cricket-field or football-ground; when opinions were discussed with the frankness and good temper happily characteristic of the generous and young, when the merry jest alternated with the most solemn argument must have been golden hours. Long afterwards Praed commemorated them in his favorite strain of mirth and melancholy:

"I wish that I could run away

From house, and court, and levee,
Where bearded men appear to-day
Just Eton boys grown heavy;
That I could bask in childhood's sun,
And dance o'er childhood's roses;
And find huge wealth in one pound one,
Vast wit in broken noses;
And play 'Sir Giles' at Datchet Lane,
And call the milk maids houris;
That I could be a boy again,

"the subject of the direst persecution" at
the hands of his school-fellows, who, with
the thoughtlessness rather than the cruelty
of boyhood, could not appreciate the ter-
rible sufferings their gibes and tricks in-
flicted on the delicate organization of their
victim. Sometimes he would flee from his
torturers to the private room of a master;
but such a haven was only a temporary
refuge. Mr. Derwent Coleridge speaks of
him as 66
one of the very largest natural
capacity, whose whole moral and intellec
tual nature had been dwarfed and distorted
by the treatment he received at school."
As in the case of Cowper, outrageous and
balance of his mind.
excessive bullying seriously shook the
Under the kindly
guidance of a private tutor he might have
become an ornament to society, instead of
being a grotesque and awkward figure
destined to excite no feelings but pity or
laughter. A profound admirer of female
beauty, his mode of showing his devotion
must have been rather alarming to the fair
sex. "When one of the most beautiful
women of her time appeared at a public
ball at Cambridge, he peered into her face
and clapped his hands in an ecstacy of de-
light.' "It was the joy of the savage,"
said Macaulay, "when he first sees a ten-
penny nail." Yet he could celebrate a
woman's charms with pathetic tenderness.
The last four lines of his "Lover's Song"
indicate the great things of which he might
have been capable had not he been wreck-
ed, partly by natural temperament, partly
by injudicious training:

"Too solemn for day, too sweet for night,
Come not in darkness, come not in light,
But come in some twilight interim
When the gloom is soft and the light is dim."

After the publication of nine or ten numbers, the Etonian ceased to exist. The members of its brilliant staff were scattered. But Mr. Knight's connection with some of A happy boy at Drury's." them was not at an end. After a second There were in all fifteen contributors to short experiment as the editor of a weekly the Etonian of whom, after Praed, John paper called the Guardian, he established Moultrie and Sidney Walker were the himself as a publisher in Pall Mall East, most remarkable. The former became and reopened communication with Mr. known in after life as the author of the Praed, now a distinguished Cambridge "Dream of Life." The latter is a singular undergraduate. He paid a week's visit to instance of wasted powers. A Fellow of Cambridge to renew old and make new Trinity College, Cambridge, a brilliant friendships. "In the mornings there were scholar, his career was marred by his irres-pleasant breakfasts and luncheons, in the olution and unconquerable timidity. The rough discipline of Eton was wholly unsuited to his morbid character. He was

evenings cheerful wine parties, and sometimes the famous milk punch of Trinity and King's. But there was no excess.

[ocr errors]

"I beseech you, Tristram, if you can for a moment forget your omniscience, let us'. "I will endeavor. It is related of Zoroaster that".

Amongst my enjoyments, the general plan | of Russia prohibited round hats, and Chihu of of Knight's Quarterly Magazine was set- China denounced white teeth; but this is atrotled." Seldom has a magazine started un- cious. der more brilliant auspices. In addition to Praed, Moultrie, Walker, and Henry Nelson Coleridge, all of whom had written in the Etonian, there were, among many others, Mr. Derwent Coleridge, Mr. Malden, and Macaulay. The introductory prospectus was written by Praed, under his old signature of Peregrine Courtenay, in a humorous vein. It was addressed to "Lady Mary Vernon, the Mistress of all Harmony, the Queen of all Wits, the Brightest of all Belles." One by one the contributors are introduced to make their bow to her ladyship. Here is a portrait our readers will recognize:

""Tristram Merton (Macaulay), come into court.' There came up a short manly figure, marvellously upright, with a bad neckcloth, and one hand in his waistcoat pocket. Of regular beauty he had little to boast; but in faces where there is an expression of great power or of great good-humor, or of both, you do not regret its absence. They were glorious days,' he said, with a bend and a look of chivalrous gallantry to the circle around him, 'they were glorious days for Old Athens when all she held of witty and wise, of brave and beautiful, was collected in the drawing-room of Aspasia. In those, the brightest and noblest times of Greece, there was no feeling so strong as the devotion of youth,

no talisman of such virtue as the smile of beau

ty. Aspasia was the arbitress of peace and war, the queen of arts and arms, the Pallas of the spear and pen; we have looked back to those golden hours with transport and with longing. Here our classical dreams shall in some sort wear a dress of reality. He who has not the piety of a Socrates, may at least fall down be fore as lovely a divinity; he who has not the power of a Pericles may at least kneel before as beautiful an Aspasia.' His tone had just so much earnest that what he said was felt as a compliment, and just so much banter that it was felt to be nothing more. As he concluded, he dropped on one knee and paused.

"Tristram,' said the Attorney-General, we really are sorry to cramp a culprit in his line of defence, but the time of the court must not be taken up. If you can speak ten words to the purpose,


66 6

Prythee, Frederick,' retorted the other, 'leave me to manage my own course. I have an arduous journey to run; and in such a circle, like the poor prince in the Arabian tales, I must be frozen into stone before I can finish my task without turning to the right or the left.'

"For the love you bear us, a truce to your similes they shall be felony without benefit of clergy; and silence for an hour shall be the penalty.'

"A penalty for similes! Horrible! Paul

How admirably the great historian's peculiarities are indicated, and with what entire good temper! Those who have seen the self-absorbed orator rushing through Parliament-street on his way to the House of Commons, will easily recognize "the short manly figure, marvellously upright," of Tristram Merton, while the fortunate few who have listened to his endless flow of lively and elevated conversation, will understand how severe was the penalty of" silence for an hour."



Macaulay seceded for a short time after the publication of the first number, at his father's request. Some of the articles had given offence to the "Clapham sect," and gratitude, duty, and prudence," wrote Macaulay, "alike compel me to respect prejudices which I do not in the slightest degree share.” But he soon found it possible to resume his contributions, and became the leading spirit of the magazine. The "Songs of the Huguenots,' "Athenian Orators," "Conversation between Milton and Cowley," all first appeared in Knight's Quarterly. There, too, in an essay on "Mitford's History of Greece," is to be found the original sketch of the celebrated "New-Zealander." Mr. Malden, now Professor of Greek at University College, sent papers full of the ripe scholarship which distinguished him on classical subjects. He also wrote an Italian tale, reproducing the weird superstitions of the middle ages. "The power displayed in it," says Knight, "might almost lead one to lament that such qualities of genius should have merged into a life of unambitious usefulness, did we not know that in such a life, that of the trainer of the young to sound learning, that of a teacher commanding obedience through love, the truest happiness and honor are to be found." Those who have had the good fortune to be among Mr. Malden's pupils will heartily endorse these words. They and patient temper which turned their will never forget the winning courtesy master into a friend. Long may he be spared to pursue his important though unambitious vocation! May it still be

his lot through many coming years to in- | acute. To use the expression of another spire in hundreds of young hearts the en- great man, who perhaps may at one time during affection created by respect! have been troubled with the same complaint, De Quincey was a martyr to the ignoble melancholy produced by pecuniary embarrassment.


In his fifth number, Mr. Knight gained a new and potent ally in Thomas De Quincey, the famous " opium-eater." Full justice has never yet been done to the splendid powers of this extraordinary man. His peculiarities have prevented his being thoroughly "popular." But in one department of literature he stands alone and unapproached. We have no other great master of rhythmical prose; we have nothing in our language, out of the fetters of metre, that can vie in wild sublimity or melodious cadence with the "Suspiria de profundis." And his genius was as varied as it was vast. Numberless essays and reviews attest his scholarship, while such a piece of extravagance as "Murder considered as one of the fine arts," proves him capable of humor. Yet with all his rare acquirements and profound knowledge of mankind, he was totally helpless in the common affairs of life.

Mr. Knight's venture as a publisher did not prove very successful. The financial crisis of 1825 told on the book trade as on all others. For a time he struggled on, but eventually his "boat was stranded." But his time had not been entirely lost. New friends had been made; new projects, usually for the advancement of education or popular improvement, had been ventilated. In the autumn of 1826 he was introduced to Mr. Brougham, who was then organizing the "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge." He went to the great orator's chambers in Lincoln's Inn, and found him sitting among his briefs, "evidently delighted to be interrupted for some thoughts more attractive." The results of the interview affected Mr. Knight's whole subsequent career. On the 26th of July in the year following, the Society over which Mr. Brougham presided resolved to accept Mr. Knight's offer to superintend their publications. His connection with them lasted for nearly twenty years. At last "the schoolmaster was abroad," and imtined to achieve. Mr. Murray was the mense were the triumphs he was despublisher of the Society for two years, but in 1829 he became uneasy at the extent of their enterprises, and Mr. Knight took his place, once more establishing himself in his old quarters in Pall Mall East.

"His sensitiveness was so extreme, in com

bination with the almost ultra courtesy of a gentleman, that he hesitated to trouble a servant with any personal request without a long prefatory apology. My family were in the country in the summer of 1825, when he was staying at my house in Pall Mall East. A friend or two had met him at dinner, and I had walked part of the way home with one of them. When I returned I tapped at his chamber door to bid him good-night. He was sitting at the open window, habited as a prize-fighter when he enters the ring. You will take cold,' I exclaimed; where is your shirt?' 'I have not a shirt; my shirts are unwashed.' 'But why not tell the servant to send them to the laun


dress? Ah, how could I presume to do that in Mrs. Knight's absence?"

Like many of his literary brethren, he was often without a sixpence in his pocket, but he did not bear his poverty with the air of calmness and complacency sometimes worn by penniless men. There was not a trace about him of what may be called the "Skimpole" temperament. If his purse was empty, he would creep off to some obscure lodging in Southwark, or pace the streets all night, or sleep on a doorstep with no covering but the sky. When brighter days came his spirits rose, and he would look back on his miseries with a mirthful smile. But in his earlier life the sufferings of his proud and sensitive spirit must often have been

[ocr errors]

Some of the most distinguished men in England gathered round Mr. Brougham to help on his great work. James Mill and Henry Hallam, the historians of India and England; Mr. Long, Mr. De Morgan, Mr. Key, and Mr. Malden, from University College, London; Sir George Lewis, Lord John Russell, and Lord Althorp, with a host of others of almost equal eminence, might be seen together at the monthly dinners of the committee. Men of the most opposite creeds, and agreed perhaps on nothing else, were all agreed in a wish to spread sound knowledge through the country. The Society contained nearly all the 'isms, yet there was no discord, for every one was in earnest. Of the president it may be truly said, that he, though the most busy, was the

most earnest. On circuit, in his home in Westmoreland, or while engaged in the fierce party strife which preceded the fall of the Wellington ministry, he never forgot the Society he had founded.

"I came here," writes Mr. M. D. Hill, in August, 1828, "with Mr. Brougham from Lancaster to-day." We presume the Northern Circuit was just over. "Scenery glorious, of course. But I fear we talked more about diffusion of knowledge than anything else. Mr. B. is delighted with all you have done." When he was made chancellor his zeal continued unabated. He had hardly been a week on the woolsack when he summoned Mr. Knight one afternoon to his private room in the House of Lords. The interview was hurried. "The Mace and Purse were in the passage; anxious ushers were about the door. I can only stay to say a word,' he exclaimed; advertise Paley to-morrow morning.'" And away he rushed. "I stepped out of the room, and saw the officials looking somewhat as the royal ushers at Versailles might have looked when shoe-strings heralded the Revolution and Bastilles and buckles were doomed. I ventured to say to one of these solemn men in black: 'Is that quite regular?' 'Regular, sir? oh dear! The last (Lord Lyndhurst) was bad enough, but this one-oh dear!' Chaos was come again."

While these peaceful educational schemes were steadily progressing, England was passing through a tremendous crisis. The ministry of Earl Grey had produced a reform bill which roused the Tories to a desperate and despairing resistance, and the Liberals to boundless enthusiasm. It would have been well for the opposition party had they not been led by statesmen who mistook obstruction for conservatism. But Wellington and Peel, anxious to atone to their reactionary supporters for the concession of Catholic Emancipation, resolved to offer nothing, and the nation thereupon determined to have all the Whigs ventured to give. "The bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill," was the cry which rang through the length and breadth of England. The issue could not be doubtful, when on the one side there was this trumpet-toned demand, and on the other "the whisper of a faction." We are not going to trace the progress of the struggle here. To many of our readers the story is as familiar as a

household word, and those who do not know it will find it well told in the eighth volume of the Popular History. The ministerial measure was passed in a form even more democratic than it had at first assumed; the Whigs were securely seated in Downing-street, and the Tories expiated a political blunder, as fatal to them as the famous coalition between Fox and North had been to their opponents, by an unpopularity they have never since been able to overcome.

Breathing the calm political atmosphere of 1864, we can afford to laugh over the consternation felt at the changes of 1832, not only by politicians of the school of Lord Eldon, but by bold and liberalminded men. But when Orator Hunt and demagogues of a similar stamp were haranguing angry mobs and inciting them to deeds of violence, when Bristol was in flames, and Clumber Castle had been gutted by the townsmen of Nottingham, when mechanics were smashing machines, and agricultural laborers were burning ricks-there was ample excuse for alarm. We know how entirely the legislation of the reform parliament has falsified the fears of one extreme party and disappointed the hopes of the other. One of the ablest radical writers recently denounced the Reform Bill as a gigantic piece of party imposture, and its authors as the "Thugs of Liberal principles !" On the other hand, the staunchest conservative among us must acknowledge that none of his gloomy prophecies of ruin have been accomplished. Pomp and form have perhaps lost a little of their importance, but "our old institutions" still flourish, although the Lord Chancellor sits in Lincoln's Inn without a full-bottomed wig, and the bishops preach with no wigs at all. No English sovereign was ever more honored than Queen Victoria, and that with no mere lip homage, but with the true loyalty which springs spontaneously from the hearts of a contented people. The House of Lords, too, has survived the storm. Only four years ago they successfully asserted an almost obsolete privilege, and they exercise, by their debates if not by their divisions, great influence in the State. Our progress, while it has been extraordinary, has been gradual and safe. The establishment of free trade; the suppression of slavery in our West Indian colonies; reforms which have cleared the criminal

« VorigeDoorgaan »