1843, when the last edition of the Author's poems was printed, the idea of
a republication has scarcely occurred to his mind. The book then
produced was noticed in various publications at the time, and was, with
few exceptions, favourably commented upon. Twenty-one years have
elapsed, and it now appears that another edition of his rhymes and poems
may find a place in the public attention. Twenty-one years have not,
however, passed without leaving marks of the flight of time. The
Author now finds his task beset by difficulties which in his last essay he
did not expect meeting so soon. The reading and revising of proofs
must now be left to other hands, whilst corrections and emendations of
former productions have to be made on the moment from memory and from the
reading of another person, which the Author's imperfection of hearing
renders still more difficult aptly to understand and proceed upon.
An extension of life such as that which has fallen to the Author's lot,
must, of necessity, have brought its infirmities, and from these he has
not been exempted. Such is one of the conditions of human existence,
and he has endeavoured, under all circumstances, to meet it in a becoming
spirit. His present task is entered upon, and will, he trusts, be
completed under the influence of a like feeling. The poems
themselves he leaves to be judged by his readers, and he is not in the
least hopeless that if some be thought lightly of, others will receive
their just need of approval. It may be thought by some, that the
tone of these poems is at times too rude or too mournful; the Author
cannot be responsible for that—it is an accident of his life—"The headlong
waters will roar; the strong winds will speak, fiercely or mournfully; so
the feelings of the human heart, when deeply moved, will seek utterance in
terms which wait not to be measured; in words too fervid for the ears of
the gentle graces." In youth the Author was as blithe as any, as wild and
as jocund as the wind; but time has sprinkled hoar on his head, and if
some of it has fallen on his heart it is no wonder. Men call it
sternness, coolness, reservation; it may be all or any of these, but the
result is the same, and the shadows and darkenings must be accepted as
part of our being.
The Author's first attempt at versification was made whilst
he was in the employ of Messrs. Hole, Wilkinson, and Gartside,
Manchester, and "The Snowdrop" was the first of his productions which
appeared in print. He had then become a weaver at Middleton, and his
daily and hourly connections with his neighbours opened to him a true
knowledge of their local and trade oppressions. The voice of the
whole country at this time resounded with complaints against outrages
which were sanctioned by forms of law, and approved of by an executive
which was probably as much detested as it was feared. Under these
circumstances many of the most impressive verses were conceived or
written, and for their justly indignant tone the rulers of those days were
responsible. Love, Honour, Freedom, it may be observed, were the
most frequent themes of his verse. Love led him to themes of
endearment and the contemplation of beauty; Honour—the old Homeric and
Ossianic romance of his youth—beguiled him to the worship of heroic feats;
and Freedom inspired him with emotions ennobling even to the hero.
His love was that of truthful hearts in their happy wanderings and their
humble homes; his honour comprehended rectitude, equity; hence his heroism
was the combat of right against wrong, in whatever form it appeared; and
his freedom was that which sanctioned the resistance of wrong, peaceably
if it could be resisted, and forcibly if no other alternative was at hand.
Thus, freedom of expression, with severe reprehension when justified,
became habitual; whilst undisguised hatred of oppressors—the down-treaders
of his brother men—was a natural consequence.
Almost twenty years ago, the Author, in a letter to Mr. John
Wood, chairman of the Board of Excise, stated his conviction that the
great bulk of disaffection which then existed among the working classes
had its origin in arbitrary trade oppressions; and that the working
classes never would imbibe a feeling of respectful attachment towards
their employers and the middle classes, until the legislature enacted such
laws as would effectually protect the wages of honest labour, and render
it too sacred for violation under any pretence whatever; but of late he
has become painfully aware of the underhand and stealthy continuance of
trade oppressions in obscure places and on favourable occasions. He
now, therefore, warns his countrymen, tradesmen, legislators, and nobles,
that until the poor man's wages for honest labour are rendered secure and
inviolable by the strictest laws and must solemn declarations, there will
always remain a canker-spot—an ulcerous sore in the heart of Old England,
which shall render "its bold peasantry, once their country's pride," no
longer to be relied upon in times of emergency.
Nearly the whole of the Author's life, since he attained
years of reflection, may be viewed as a protest of right against wrong.
His political tendencies have the same direction, and met with the fate
which, with few exceptions, has been the lot of all who plead for mere
justice against brutal strength. An instance of this may be found in
what occurred during the remarkable trial of "Hunt and others," at York,
during the Lent Assizes of 1820. They were accused of having
assembled at a meeting on St. Peter's Field Manchester, on the 16th
August, 1819, to petition for a reform of the Commons House of Parliament,
and for a repeal of the Corn Laws, and, in the indictment, they were
further charged with—"A conspiracy to alter the legal frame of the
government and constitution of these realms, and with meeting tumultuously
at Manchester, on the 16th of August last (1819), with 60,000 persons,
many armed with sticks which they carried on their shoulders like
firearms, and with bearing flags and banners, on which were inscriptions
and devices calculated to inflame the minds of His Majesty's subjects
against the constituted authorities of the state."
Such was the charge made against them, whilst, on the second
day of the trial, the evidence of William Morris, a witness for the crown,
showed that—"In the course of the month of August last (1819), I saw many
groups of people near Middleton, Samuel Bamford (one of the defendants)
used to be among them. On the 16th of August, about nine or ten
o'clock, I saw many hundreds of people put in regular form at Middleton,
with two flags; twenty-five men were in each section. I know not who
formed them into sections, nor how many there were, but there certainly
was a large number collected that day in the township—2,000 or 3,000 at
least. They marched off four abreast, after being first drawn in the
form of a square, in the inside of which was placed a chair, on which
Samuel Bamford stood, and said:—' Friends and neighbours,—I have a few
words to relate; you will march off this place quietly, not to insult
anyone, but rather take an insult. I do not think there will be any
disturbance or any to do; if there is it will be after we come back; there
is no fear, for the day is our own.' I did not hear him say anything
more. He got off the chair and spread laurel among the men who were
to command the sections; they put some into their breasts, and others in
their hats. It was after this they marched off four abreast."
William Hulton, Esq., who acted as chairman of the
magistrates on the 16th of August, in his examination by Mr. Scarlett on
the third day of the trial, said in reference to the appearance of the
Middleton party: "They first came by Mosley-street towards St.
Peter's Square, with banners and music; they were apparently divided into
sections, and had persons walking at the side, who, from time to time,
seemed to give the word of command. This observation more
particularly applied to the first body, for the others were too far off
to be so minutely observed. All the bodies, however, proceeded
regularly, and in a remarkable manner, for they did not march straight to
the hustings, but wheeled when they received the word of command.
The men appeared to be beautifully exact in coming up to the hustings, but
I could not mark their motions afterwards." ……In his
cross-examination by Mr. Hunt, Mr. Hulton said: "Neither I nor any of my
brother magistrates attempted to persuade the people to disperse…..
I saw some of the parties march into the field in beautiful order…….
That body which marched so beautifully created great alarm in the town."
Such was the evidence for the crown, which in reference to
Bamford was adduced to prove the charge laid in the indictment.
James Dyson, a witness for the defence, said: "I am a weaver,
and reside at Middleton. I was on the Barrowfield on the 16th of
August last, between nine and ten o'clock in the morning. There were
600 or 700 people, both men, women, and children; I saw you (Bamford)
there: you were walking about when first I saw you. I did not hear
you say anything until you got upon a chair and addressed the people; you
said 'Friends and neighbours—those of you who wish to join in the
procession will endeavour to conduct yourselves orderly and peaceably, so
that you may go as comfortably as possible. If any person insult you
or give you offence, take no notice of them. I make no doubt but
there will be persons who will make it their business to go about in order
to disturb the peace of the meeting. If you should meet with any
such, endeavour to keep them as quiet as possible; if they strike you,
don't strike them again, for it would serve as a pretext for dispersing
the meeting. If the peace officers come to arrest me, or any other
person, offer them no resistance, but suffer them to take us quietly.
And when you get there, endeavour to keep yourselves as select as
possible, with your banners in your centre; so that if any of you should
straggle or get away you will know where to find each other by seeing your
banners; and when the meeting is dissolved keep close to your banners, and
leave the town as soon as possible. For if you should stay drinking
or loitering in the streets, your enemies might take advantage of it; and
if they could raise a disturbance, you would be taken to the New Bailey.'
That is as much as I recollect; it is to the best of my knowledge, the
substance of what you said. ….. I went to Manchester with the
procession. I saw nothing on the way but peace and good order.
We walked four abreast. There was no disagreement on the way.
Saw no insult offered to anyone; there were some Jeering words used, but
nothing worth notice; they were used by the bystanders who were looking
on. We went in this order to Peter's Field. You led the party
up, and got upon the hustings yourself. This was before Mr. Hunt's
arrival; I saw him arrive. You were then standing near me, about
forty yards from the hustings. You did not go upon the Hustings
afterwards to my knowledge. When Mr. Hunt arrived, I removed about
fifteen yards from the hustings, and I saw you no more that day."
On the ninth day of the trial, Mr. Scarlett, the leading
counsel for the crown, in commenting on the whole of the evidence for the
defence said: " When he mentioned the name of Bamford, he could not but
express his regret at the situation in which he saw him now placed.
He (Mr. Scarlett) admired his talents, and the respectful manner in which
he had conducted himself in the course of his defence; and probably others
as well as himself were sorry that he was not found in better company."
On the tenth day, the learned judge (Mr. Justice Bayley) in
summing up said: "The next evidence was that which related to Bamford, and
it only showed that he recommended peace and order; still he was
identified with the inscriptions on the banners, if they (the jury)
thought them illegal. If a meeting for considering a reform in
parliament be illegal, he is an offender; but it was his lordship's duty
to tell them it was not. There was no illegality in carrying sticks,
unless they were for an unlawful purpose; nor banners unless their tenour
was such as to excite suspicion of the objects of those who carried them
there, or concurred in bringing them there with an evil intention.
As to numbers, they alone did not make a meeting illegal, unless attended
with such circumstances as did actually excite terror, or were reasonably
calculated to excite terror." The learned judge also said: "All that
had been proved against Bamford in his speech was a recommendation to
peace and order. There were no sticks in his group, save a few
common walking-sticks carried by old men. There were women and young
persons in the throng, and it was for the jury to consider whether Bamford
and the people carrying their wives and daughters with them to such a
crowd meant to create, on that day, riot, tumult, and disorder; with such
an intention nothing was less likely than that they would carry to the
scene those who were the dearest objects of their affection.
According to the evidence for Bamford, the people in his party, so far
from being tumultuous, were peaceable and joyful, and the drilling, as it
was called, so far from being illegal and nocturnal was open and innocent.
The only object being merely to enable the people to attend the meeting as
conveniently for each other and the public as it was possible. The
learned judge then enumerated the names of the witnesses who swore that
the parties, on the 16th August, went to the meeting in the utmost peace,
and conducted themselves while there with equal tranquillity. There
was no act of violence, according to these witnesses, committed by them;
no violation of peace which would bring them under the reprehension of the
law. So far in favour of Bamford." The learned judge did not
say—an accidental omission, no doubt—that none of the evidence in favour
of Bamford had been questioned or contradicted.
Such was the evidence for the prosecution and for the
defence, so far as it related to Bamford's individual case, and such was
the spontaneous testimony awarded to him by the leading counsel for the
crown, and such the summing up of the judge in his favour; yet after all
this, the sapient and most righteous special jury, not one of whom during
ten days had been seen to take a single note of memoranda, returned the
Author's name amongst the guilty,—an act of perversity, to say the least
of it, which created astonishment in the whole court.
He had now only to appear before the judges to receive
sentence, and on the last day of Easter Term, 1820, he was sentenced to
twelve months' imprisonment in Lincoln Castle, another instance of
abhorrent oppression of simple truthful right being trampled upon by
brutal wrong. In the eddies and whirlpools of a life so agitated,
many of the homely rhymes and poems were produced; and in noticing their
imperfections, it is hoped that their promptings will not be forgotten.
At Lincoln Castle the Author's imprisonment was made to bear as lightly as
possible, the county magistrates' indulgent orders being freely carried
out by the governor and principal turnkey. His journey to Middleton,
in company with his wife, was a pleasant walk of three days.
Meetings of old friends, and warm greetings by some, were all that could
be desired; whilst others, whose friendship had grown cold, or who, in the
season of the Author's adversity had proved faithless, viewed his return
with but faint tokens of satisfaction. In truth, his appearance in
outward habiliment was scarcely that of a sufferer. A friend had
helped him to new clothing, and these cold-hearted "know-him-nots"
suspected him of having been "saving money" during the time he was away.
A sad mistake that; for after paying the rent due, he had only a few
shillings left. Hunt, finding him no longer subservient, had ceased
to correspond; but Sir Charles Wolseley, with his nobly impulsive nature,
supplied him with a small sum to commence making goods on his own account.
This he found he could not do and compete with the large manufacturer,
without the dishonest means of purchasing cheap remnants of weavers'
material, and working them into his own goods. This he would not do.
He had never, as a weaver, been guilty of keeping back any of his
employer's property, and he would not taint his integrity by now
abandoning the self respect which he had won as a patriot.
An occurrence which took place about this time might seem to
indicate that his conduct was not always regulated by this just principle.
A beautiful peruche silk warp which, with shoot of the same colour, had
been given him to weave, was found to be streaked when the tab appeared
into cloth. His employer was concerned, and asked could it not be
mended. The Author said it could, and undertook to make a perfect
piece of cloth for a reasonable consideration. This the employer
gladly agreed to; and the weaver having a convenient length of "reach"
picked it well, passed the rods to the head, and drew the whole length
through the healds and reed upon the cloth-beam; making it even, at times,
with pasteboard. This he continued until the whole warp was
transferred from the yarn-beam to the cloth-beam; after which the beams
were transposed, and the warp was woven, and, in a beautiful piece of
cloth, replaced on the yarn-beam. Mr. M——, the employer, was quite
pleased, and, without asking how it had been done, gave the weaver ls. 2d.
per yard for the performance; a price which he never before nor since
received for any description of weaver's work. But this trifling
feat, though the weaver was as much pleased with it as the employer, was
followed by a circumstance which caused the workman considerable pain and
regret. The idea of thus amending striped work was a new one, and
the weaver was determined that it should remain with his own family until
he saw the result of the experiment. During its progress, therefore,
be took means for preventing the entrance of anyone not of the family into
his weaving room. It happened, however, that one day a dapper youth,
who was employed in Mr. M——'s "putting-out room," at Manchester, suddenly
made his appearance at the head of the stairs, and was, of course, as
suddenly desired to withdraw; which he did, in a not very pleasant frame
of mind, and the Author thought no more of the circumstance. Shortly
afterwards he was surprised on receiving from the warehouse an account of
materials in which it was said he was deficient, or, in other words, "
short of weight." He could not account for this, and it was a way of
balancing with a weaver which he had never heard of, the reckoning being
generally made at the end of every warp. Mr. M—— felt assured that
the materials had been given out to him, and the weaver was quite as
certain that he had not detained a single shred of cloth or a loop of
silk. His workshop, however, was in a chamber or upper room, and the
season having been very dry some weight might have been lost in
consequence. The winder, also, who was a boy, was found to have been
on one or two occasions careless, and this would seem further to account
for some additional loss. Still the circumstance, as a whole, was
inexplicable, and the weaver, feeling assured full well that if he, marked
character as he was, went before a magistrate, he would have something
more to pay, and perhaps be branded as one who had attempted to defraud
his employer, a charge which he could not contemplate without a shudder.
He felt assured that for such as him," twice charged with treason, and
already domiciled in some half dozen prisons, justices' law in Lancashire
would be a miracle in deed if it were just. He therefore paid Mr.
M——'s account, and went on working as before, and it was not until after
the lapse of some time that he found this account was made up of various
small fractions of ounces and drams which had occurred during some months,
and in the weaving of a number of warps. These added together made
out the account thus charged, a mode of reckoning not at all common to the
respectable fraternity of loomsters. The weaver always considered
Mr. M——, his employer, an honourable man, but the sequel of the account
made against him the workman always imputed to the dapper youth before
alluded to, and the experience of after years has not tended to erase the
In 1822, the Author removed to Stake Hill, where he wrote "A
Voice from Spain," "Stake Hill Ball," "My Wynder," and other pieces.
In 1826, whilst living at Middleton, he prevented a raid of steam-loom
breakers from visiting the towns of Heywood, Rochdale, and Middleton.
He thus preserved much property from destruction, and probably saved some
lives, thereby drawing upon himself the maledictions of persons who were
covertly waiting for an opportunity to plunder. During the same year
he became a correspondent of a London morning paper, and whilst he was so
engaged, he never omitted an opportunity of helping the right in its
resistance to wrong, and in supporting the weak against the unjustly
strong. He had now ceased to be a weaver, and many of the weavers,
some of them his old acquaintances, looked upon him as an alien to their
class, and their interests. He never was so, however, but always
upheld their cause, and pleaded for their rights whenever their conduct
was such as permitted him to do so with truth.
The Chartists having become a strong and daily increasing
party, under the guidance of Mr. Feargus O'Connor, agitation of a not very
temperate or rational kind became the order of the day. Richard
Oastler, calling himself "king of the factory children," appeared on the
stage, and delivered in various parts of the country numerous orations in
favour of a Factory Act, and against the New Poor Law. In one of his
perambulations he visited Middleton, and addressed a numerous assemblage
of his friend O'Connor's followers, Chartists, in a dissenters' chapel.
The Author attended to furnish a report for one of the Manchester
newspapers. Oastler, Hart, the Minister of the Chapel, and a
Chartist leader from Scotland occupied the pulpit. The reporter
stood on the top of the pulpit stairs outside. The place was densely
crowded, and Oastler was in the full enjoyment of an abusive speech
against the public press, its supporters and contributors. The
reporter, in order to catch light for the taking of his notes, stood with
his back to the orator, when the words "Scoundrels of the press!"
struck his ear; and turning suddenly lie found Oastler looking at him.
"Are those words addressed to me?" he demanded. "They are,"
were Oastler's reply. "Then I have to say that you are stating a
falsehood," was the instant rejoinder. This was a choker to the
orator, and he made a full stop, during which there was a dead silence.
"Then," he said, breaking the pause, "I will not speak another word until
that person," pointing to the reporter, "is turned out." The latter
amid indescribable confusion and cries of "pull him down!" "turn him
out!" and other menacing vociferations, eyed Oastler sternly, and
then putting his notebook in his pocket, he buttoned up his coat, and
speaking loudly above the uproar, he said — "Who is to begin, then?"
The noise subsided, and he repeated the question, "Who is to begin, then?"
"Who starts it?" Not a hand was raised; not a foot stepped forth.
The reporter stood there with an air of determined self-defence.
Oastler looked silly and embarrassed; and his friends in the pulpit,
feeling, no doubt, pained at the position in which he had placed himself,
pulled him by the button and whispered in his ear, and after a few coughs
and ahems, the orator made a finish of his address.
Incidents like the above tended to place the Author in a
light which seemed antagonistic to the Chartist body and their claims.
He never was so in reality, but he would maintain his right to freedom of
action, in thought and expression; and whilst he repelled every attempt by
individuals to coerce him, or arbitrarily to influence him, his greatest
contempt and repugnance was reserved for mob law and mob violence.
In 1832, the Author was compelled to undertake the office of
constable. He evaded the oath until threatened with a prosecution,
and he was then sworn at the New Bailey—in that court where he had so
frequently appeared under charges of treason and misdemeanor. He
felt his position to be a singular one, and having taken the oath, he
determined faithfully to carry it into effect, according to the means he
had in hand. A faction was at that time appearing in Middleton,
which afterwards became the Chartist party, and when, at the expiration of
his year of office, he submitted his accounts, amounting to a matter of
fifteen shillings, they were, with the exception of one or two small
items, disallowed; and ever afterwards the Chartists of Middleton omitted
but few opportunities of acting towards him as if he had been their enemy.
In 1839 he was a leader of special constables, and took means for
rendering the party which he directed as efficient as possible. This
again was a cause of enmity on the part of the Chartists, who, with their
weak but mischievously minded leaders, were carried away by ideas of a
"national holiday" and a "sacred month"— matters entirely at variance with
the more sober aspirations of the old radical Reformers. About this
time he commenced publishing his " Passages in the Life of a Radical," and
shortly afterwards he went to reside in a cottage at Charlestown, in the
township of Blackley, where he memorialised the Postmaster-General for a
"receiving office" for letters, and it was granted.
In 1851, Mr. John Wood, chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue,
offered him employment at Somerset House, and he, considering that the
salary would be a means of subsistence for himself and wife as old age
advanced, accepted the offer; and he was placed in a situation in the
warehouse department, and afterwards in that of clerk in the "newspaper
and pamphlet registration" department, where having refused to apologise,
certainly in not a respectful manner, for words addressed to the head of
the department, Mr. Wood, with the Author's own consent, removed him to
the "voucher office," Broad-street, in the city. This department was
afterwards removed to offices in Norfolk-street, Strand, and was
ultimately placed in the new buildings fronting Wellington-street South,
where the Author was employed in arranging and making out a catalogue of
about 22,000 volumes of account books, some of them of very old dates, and
the whole comprising accounts of every imaginable description and
transaction relative to the revenues of the United Kingdom; besides these,
there were many tons weight of papers tied in bundles and labelled with
the years to which they referred. These books and papers had been
stored and crammed in a number of deep cellars in Somerset Place, and when
they were dragged out to open light in the new depository that had been
prepared for them, Bamford felt astonished at the fatuity which during two
centuries could have been accumulating such a mass of rubbish. His
friend, Mr. Wood, died in 1857. His own health, he found, was
becoming impaired; and the saddening reflection often occurred—what should
he do when old age rendered him no longer able to discharge the duties of
his situation? The consciousness of having a true friend at the head of
the commissioners had hitherto tranquillised his mind with respect to
future contingencies, but now that friend was gone, and he did not suppose
that he had another remaining either in or about the government
establishments. It seemed also that his position was one not
entirely worthy of his character or his antecedents, whilst it certainly
did not harmonise with his tastes; and he had only waited to see whether,
at the expiration of seven years, some change would not have been effected
which would reconcile him to a continuance of services under Mr. Wood.
That friend, however, was now gone; and he deemed it a duty owing to
himself to seek other occupation whilst he was yet able to do it. He
therefore once more turned his thoughts towards Lancashire, where he hoped
to be able to earn a livelihood by creditable and useful exertions, and he
wrote to the head of the department under which he was employed as
Depository of Books and Papers,
24th April, 1858.
Dear Sir,—On the
21st of this month was completed the seventh year since my honoured
friend, the late Mr. Wood, first gave me employment at Somerset House.
I have awaited the accomplishment of this date, as an approach to the term
of my servitude here; and I now beg to inform you that I wish to retire
from my present situation on the 1st of May, Saturday next. I shall
be pardoned perhaps for mentioning that, according to usual wont and
custom, several days are due to me as holidays; and if you would sanction
my letter to the Board for six days' leave of absence—which I understand
are due—I should perhaps not be required to attend on business after this
day.—I remain, dear sir, your obedient servant,
L. S. Lyne, Esq., Accountant-General.
Sir,—Mr. Lyne has
desired me to inform you that he has no objection to your taking the few
days' absence you wish to have now. It will however be right that
you should make application to him in the usual official manner,—I am,
sir, your obedient servant,
24th April, 1858.—Mr. Samuel Bamford.
the usual official form was accordingly made, and then came the
Dear Sir,—I regret to learn, by your note of this morning, that
you are about to leave us, and I trust that you will find the means of passing
the remainder of life in some pursuits more congenial to your philosophical
mind, than I am afraid your occupation here has been. Allow me to assure
you of my sincere respect for your character, and that it will be at all times
gratifying to me to hear of your welfare.—I remain, dear sir, always sincerely
L. S, LYNE.
Samuel Bamford, Esq., 24th April, 1858.
This was on a Saturday, and before the Author left Somerset House, Sir Alexander
Duff Gordon, one of the Honourable Commissioners of Inland Revenue, sent for
him, and in a very handsome and kind manner offered him an opportunity for
reconsidering the step lie had taken, intimating that possibly other employment
might be found if he chose to remain. His mind, however, was made up, his
determination taken, and with sincere thanks to the honourable baronet, he
expressed his wish not to remain in any employment under Government.
Contrary to the usual practice in such cases, he sent in the keys of his desk to
Mr. Lyne, and with them he forwarded a minute list of every article his desk
contained, or that was to be found in the rooms he and his assistants occupied.
He now breathed the air of freedom, and felt himself to be the arbiter of his
own fortunes, though the latter being unforeseen and unprovided for cast a
somewhat gloomy shade on his future advance; but
Endurance, with patience, must bear the strong part,
Sustain, when it could not give peace to the heart;
and courage, with a
determination that whatever might be his fate, he would deserve good fortune.
He flung present cares and anxieties to the winds. On the 24th of May lie
took a ticket at Euston Station for Manchester, and whilst waiting on the
platform he was joined by the son of an old friend at Manchester, who was also
going down, and who invited him to a seat in the carriage where his luggage and
a friend were already waiting. Bamford accepted the invitation, and a snug
little party of about eight spent the time comfortably and cheerfully until near
Attleborough, when there was a sudden jolt, of which not much notice was taken.
Then another jolt, gravel rattling against the window, and the carriage seeming
to dart across the rails. " We are off the rails!" Bamford said,
flinging himself at half length on the seat from which its occupant had rolled
to the floor. Direful screams and cries, with prayers for mercy and
protection, frantic and horror-stricken gesticulation, were now the distressing
evidence of intense fear. In a moment the carriage stopped, and Bamford,
addressing a lady who was opposite to him, assured her they were all safe, and
opening the door invited his fellow-passengers to alight. On doing so they
found the train was nearly a wreck. The carriage in which he and his
fellow-passengers were sitting, and which at starting was the third or fourth
from the engine, having broken loose, and being now the leading one, whilst many
of the carriages which followed it were completely smashed, and lay strewn in
splinters. Three persons were killed, and many were injured. A poor
cow had wandered on the line in search of its calf, the engine struck it, and
its mutilated carcase lay like a bloody trail on the line. After a delay
of some hours the remainder of the journey to Manchester was accomplished
without further accident. On the 8th of June the Author and his wife
arrived in that city, and on the 10th they took up their residence in a cottage
at Moston, and with abiding hope they entered on a new life in old age,
So, birds which have been wandering
Where storms have rudely blown
Are fain to rest their weary wing,
Before the sun goes down.
But the "weary wing" was not yet to have rest. After discharging all
expenses, a few pounds only were left for future requirements. He had long
felt confident that his case, if clearly stated, and, firmly supported, would,
if no other resource was available, induce government to grant him such
compensation for his past wrongful imprisonments and persecutions as would
prevent all further anxiety about the means of subsistence. Just
compensation he asked for, and nothing more. He had thought that he might,
with credit to himself, ask for this, and that meanwhile, until it was granted,
he might usefully and becomingly earn the means for thrifty requirements by
public "readings and recitations from his own works, and those of other
authors." Mr. Bazley, the member for Manchester, without his knowledge, at
once took up his case, and a gratuity of £50 from the Royal Bounty Fund was the
consequence. But other efforts for a permanent acknowledgment of his
claims were not, he soon found, to be responded to.
He had supposed that his claims might be brought before
parliament; and in a petition, drawn up for presentation to the House of
Commons, he trusted " that the honourable house, as the representative of the
greatest, the richest, and the most powerful nation known to man, would not
suffer the just claims of one of the humblest of its citizens to remain
The readings and recitations which he had supposed would meet
thrifty requirements for the present, proved but a weak staff to lean upon; and
though Mr. Benjamin Brierley on several occasions kindly lent his aid by giving
extracts from his "Sketches of Lancashire Life and Character," the proceeds on
the whole were but palliatives to a constantly recurring necessity. The
aged pair were often forced to those sad expedients, which are bitterly known to
the uncomplaining and self-respectant class; and it became apparent that in
writing that stanza of "God help the poor," beginning—"Another have I found," he
was but foreshadowing his own fate. Things had changed during his seven
years' absence from Lancashire. Of his old friends some were dead, some
had retired from business and the district altogether; some had imbibed
prejudice from his having taken employment under government, and thereby
abandoning, as they assumed, his reform principles; forgetting, or not choosing
to know, that a rule so applied would sever from the ranks of reform probably
one half of the best reformers they contained. Mr. Wood, Bamford's friend
and patron, though holding an important situation under the government, was as
thoroughly a parliamentary reformer as was Bamford himself. Some of his
friends also had become rich and high in the world, and these, though affable
and patronising if called upon, forbore to renew the friendship of former days.
They were probably fearful lest he should become troublesome and obtrusive—poor
fellows, but they were greatly mistaken in the man—their old friend.
Recurring from digression, a change in our Author's condition
suddenly and unexpectedly took place. The action of friends in Lancashire
(who, more than personal dues, were friends of truth and right) superseded the
necessity for awaiting the movement of dogged and stolid prerogative at London,
and all anxiety relative to means for subsistence was removed.
This was as it should be, unasked for, unexpected, honourable
to the donors, creditable to the receiver; and it was accepted with the grateful
satisfaction which such an acknowledgment was calculated to inspire.
The aged pair might now take their rest, and they did so.
But the strain on both had been severe, and frequent derangements of health
showed that weakness, a sure attendant of old age, was making way to his final
errand. Mr. Bamford first suffered from paralysis of the right leg and
foot, which was counteracted by prompt and energetic means, though to him it was
evident that both physically and mentally, he remained slightly affected.
At intervals, he took medicine under the direction of Dr. Pegge, of Newton
Heath, whose gratuitous attendance and advice could not be declined. His
kindness to many besides the Author, so long as he lived, was deeply
appreciated. He was a "good Samaritan" indeed: blessings on his memory!
After some time Mrs. Bamford had an attack of paralysis, and
the same means being applied as in her husband's case, she nearly recovered, but
was checked by a lameness, caused by accidentally falling down stairs. The
good doctor was again at hand. The use of the foot was restored, and she
went about her household duties, though with diminished aptitude for the
work. Several epileptic fits had also latterly caused her husband much anxiety,
as she might have fallen in dangerous positions, had he not prevented it.
Her health was now evidently impaired, and seriously giving way. On the
evening of the 15th of October she began to hiccough. Epileptic spasms
ensued, and she was never again conscious. The doctor once more attended
her, but he declined to administer remedies, saying they would be unavailing.
She continued breathing, but unconscious, until the evening of the 23rd October,
1862, when, in the 74th year of her age, life departed.