Autobiography (2)
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I WENT to the Independent chapel, at the request of my friend Hough, so soon as I was able to attend a place of worship—that is to say, about a month before I opened school.  I was thoroughly intent on leading a religious life; but the problem was not solved with me as to what constituted religion, or rather, religious experience.  I did not continue for more than about three months to worship with the Independents.  The preaching—I forget the name of the preacher—was dry and dull; and it wearied me.  Nor was there warmth enough in the worship of the Independents for a nature like mine, while it was so full of the fire which it has taken time and experience to cool.

    While attending the Independent chapel on Sunday mornings and evenings I went always to the parish church in the afternoons.  The preaching of the young curate, Charles Hensley, gentle as it was, touched chords within me that the Independent minister could not reach.  The church service too, was associated with the happy feelings of boyhood, and memories that were wound about the heart; and so I left the chapel, and began to attend the church thrice each Sunday.  My friend Hough and the Independent minister rallied me on my "becoming an Episcopalian," as they phrased it.  "Nay, nay," said I, "you know I do not believe in Lord Bishops, or Right Reverend Fathers in God; but I want to find peace of mind, and I have not found it yet."

    Nor did I find it in attendance on the parish church.  I devoutly uttered all the words of the services, and I listened to the sermons.  I even partook of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because exhorted so to do.  But the contest within was becoming sorer and sorer.  Now I was exposed to trials of temper among the children, I was often troubled with anger.  My new commerce with the world—for I could no longer play the recluse with the care of so many pupils on my hands—my new intercourse with insincere and sinister people, inexperienced as I was, roused disgust and opposition in me, and made me feel I had great pride and a strong will of my own to contend with.  Prayer was often neglected, in the throng of occupation, and the heart became less and less devotional.  At the close of a long day, when I sank asleep, it was often with a heavy heart, and a sense of increasing sinfulness.

    By the end of that year, 1828, I was really wretched on account of my low spiritual state, when I had a few moments for reflection, and was not absorbed in the enthusiastic performance of my school duties.  And, at last, I said to myself, "I cannot live in this state.  The vows I made to God in sickness are yet unfulfilled.  I must either lead a devotedly religious life, or bear about with me a sense of degradation and falseness.  Those Methodists, I know from a child, have always professed to have the secret of true piety and true happiness.  I will go, and join them; and try if I can find the real cure for this heart-ache."

    So, on New Year's Day, 1829, I first went to a Wesleyan Methodist Class Meeting.  The leader, Edward Shipham, was a man of no more than ordinary powers of mind.  But I thought—to use a Lincolnshire expression—he was of the right breed.  I remembered the spiritual glance of his pious father's eyes, and the dear old man's gentleness and love, when I was a child in the Methodist Sunday-school; and, above all, the words I so often heard among the poor, when some one was ill and likely to die—"Go, and fetch Mr. Shipham to pray!"  I thought if the father had been in such request as a man of prayer, his son should have learnt something about spiritual religion.  These thoughts had determined me in selecting a class-leader.

    Four months of deep penitence passed away, amidst warnings against unbelief, and exhortations to faith, from the leader and the members of society; and I readily listened to advice, by whomsoever it was given.  I chiefly sought in the writings of Wesley himself—with which I had long been acquainted—an explication of the true mode of seeking the pardon of sin.  I was ever in dread of that old spiritual bugbear of my boyhood— pardoning myself, instead of receiving the pardon of the Almighty.  It was the pardon of the Almighty—"the witness of the Spirit"—so often, so invariably insisted upon in the writings of Wesley, and in all the Methodist sermons of my time—that I thirsted to receive.

    But the more I observed the conduct of penitents who were said to "find pardon," or "find peace," in the prayer-meetings, and the more I listened to the language of preachers and leaders who prayed with them, and guided them,—the clearer it became to me that what I had been looking for was ignored.

    "Do you feel you can rely on Christ ?  Can you confide in Him as your Saviour?  Do you believe He really died for you?"  Such were the questions put at the penitent-form.  And if the penitent said "Yes," "Then say, Lord I am Thine!" continued the spiritual director; say, "Lord, Thou hast died for me, and I believe Thou dost save me!"

    And when the mourning one ventured to follow the leader resolutely, in most instances joyous feeling sprang up, and the joyous feeling increased if it were indulged in.  But if the mourner only timidly followed the exhorter to believe, his mourning was not turned into joy; and he was told to keep on believing and joy would come.

    But no one who took the part of a spiritual director said, "Have you got the witness of the Spirit?"  I never heard such a question put to any penitent who professed to "find peace," in all my life; and I have been witness to scores of cases of professed deliverance from the burden of condemnation for sin.

    Having thus closely observed how that was ignored which I had been expecting, I was the more inclined to listen to two or three of the oldest and most intelligent members of the Society, who said to me, "You are cheating yourself out of peace by some mistake.  What are you expecting?  God's word teaches you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and affirms you shall thus be saved.  Do as you are directed, and trust God to do His own part, in His own way.  Don't bargain with God for anything extraordinary to follow.  Do your own part.  Believe with all your heart!"

    Gradually, I found courage to take their advice.  I relied—and was resolved I would rely—on the fact that Christ was any Saviour.  And I resolved to rely on it habitually.  I would be troubled with none of those absurd "actings of faith" I had learnt when a boy.  And peace of mind followed the calm and settled reliance that I practised.  I had no direct "witness of the Spirit" such as I had looked for.  I had expected a direct impression to be made on my mind by the Holy Spirit—an impression to be clearly distinguished from any act of my own mind.  Nothing of the kind followed my act of reliance on the atonement of Christ; and I refused to let myself be disturbed on account of that.  I was resolved to hold by the fact that Christ had died for me.

    Very soon, some one put into my hand Sigston's "Life of William Bramwell."  It proved to be a spark that, for a time, lit my whole soul into flame.  I had heard members of the Society talk of holiness of heart, and of "the blessing of sanctification," and of "a clean heart," and of "perfect love," or "the second blessing," as some called it.  I read again such of Wesley's own sermons as touched on the nature of holiness.  I found that Wesley taught "sanctification," but could never learn that Wesley himself professed to be sanctified.  Fletcher's experience was fully described and professed and taught as what all might experience.  The experience of Hester Ann Rogers—hers is a well-known book to Wesleyans—also seemed very full and clear.

    I had already been reasoning with myself—"What I want is to be holy.  I want to cease sinning.  The pardon of sin is really of imperfect value, if I continue to sin.  I shall need pardoning again.  It is entire devotedness to God that I need.  I ought to be devoted to Him.  It must be right to be so devoted; and it must be wrong to live without rendering God perfect obedience.  Does He not ask me for it, in His word?  Does He not say 'Be ye holy'?  If He commands it, it must be possible to obey.  God never mocks man.  He would not command it, if it were not possible.  But I am mocking God, if I profess to be His, and yet have not given Him my whole heart."

    I reasoned, further, that, as I had come out from the world, and joined myself to God's people, I should be acting insincerely if I did not live fully to God.  My plans of learning and study?  Alas! they had all been suspended.  And I reasoned that I must not resume them to kill my spirituality of mind.  I must have this holiness of heart.  All other acquirements were despicable, compared to it.  I had been taken out by a local preacher to begin to preach, and put on the plan as a prayer-leader.  And the earnestness of my prayers for holiness soon raised a flame around me.  Others began to pray for holiness.  And then, in company with a few earnest young men, I began to meet once a week in the house of a female class-leader who for many years had been noted for fervid devotion.

    I read Bramwell on my knees by three in the morning.  I was swallowed up with the one thought of reaching "perfect love,"—of living without sin—of feeling I was always and fully in God's favour.  I prayed for it—we all prayed for it—at the weekly meeting we held in the house of the devoted woman I spoke of.  One night we had sung "Wrestling Jacob," the hymn which has so often been styled the masterpiece in the Wesleyan Hymn Book, commencing—

"Come, O thou traveller unknown."

We had all sung the hymn with wrapt fervour, but I had sung one verse with an earnestness of feeling, and an agony of resolve, that I think I never sang another verse with in all my life—

"In vain Thou strugglest to get free—
 I never will unloose my hold!
 Art Thou the Man that died for me?
 The secret of Thy love unfold!
 Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
 Till I Thy Name, Thy Nature know."

    We sang over and over again, on our knees, "Wrestling I will not let Thee go!"—till at last I sprang upon my feet, crying, "I will believe!  I do believe!" and the very saying of the words, with all the strength of resolve, seemed to lift me above the earth.  And I kept on believing, according to the lesson I had learned in the Life of Bramwell.  No thought of consequences that might happen—no fear of the possibility of failure—could prevent me from confessing and professing, with impressive fervour, that God had sanctified my soul.  The example was wondrously infectious.  Hundreds in the town and circuit began to pray for holiness of heart; and many professed also to obtain it.

    How long I maintained the profession of it, I cannot say with exactness.  It was for but part of a year, perhaps not more than half a year.  But I remember well that I was in a religious state that I have never reached since.  For some months I never struck a boy in my school.  I felt that I could not strike; and told the children I should strike no more.  And the children used to look at me so wistfully, when I spoke to them tenderly and lovingly, if any had done wrong!  I instituted prayer four times a day, with singing, in my school; and I have had many testimonies, in afterlife, to the good impressions made on the minds of some of the children.

    If, throughout eternity in heaven, I be as happy as I often was for whole days during that short period of my religious life, it will be heaven indeed.  Often, for several days together, I felt close to the Almighty—felt I was His own, and His entirely.  I felt no wandering of the will—no inclination to yield to sin.  And when temptation came, my whole soul wrestled for victory, till the temptation fled.

    This was exhausting to the body, as well as to the soul.  The perpetual tension of the string of the will seemed, at last, to be more than I could sustain.  One day, when I was faint and weak in frame, I lost my temper under great provocation from a disobedient boy in the school, and suddenly seized the cane and struck him.  The whole school seemed horror-stricken.  The poor children gazed, as if on a fallen angel, with such looks of commiseration on my poor self, as I cannot describe.  I wished I was in a corner to weep, for I was choking with tears, and felt heart-broken.

    I tried to recover the lost holiness; and sometimes seemed to regain it, or something like it, for a few days; but I was sure to fail again.  And similar to my experience was that of scores of our members, in the town, and in the villages of the circuit.  And such is the experience in all circuits of the connexion.  Often, what is called a "Revival" begins with some one or more striving for holiness.  The theme kindles desire in others; and, soon, the theme becomes general, in the meetings of the classes, and the Public Bands, or weekly gatherings for telling of Christian experience.  Profession of holiness begins and extends, and sometimes fills a circuit with glowing excitement for many months.

    But the decline invariably sets in; and little is said about the doctrine of "sanctification" or "perfect love," it may be, for some years after, save and except when some aged and steady member of the society, or minister, rises to tell his grateful story, perhaps in a quarterly "Lovefeast."  Thus, I often heard venerable Henry Anderson, who was ordained by John Wesley, (and whose son and two grandsons are now in the Wesleyan Ministry,) declare his experience when he was eighty years old.  "For more than forty years," he used to aver,—and it was doubtless true, "I have not known a feeling contrary to love towards any human being, nor have I ever lost the sense of God's favour!"

    But the changes and fluctuations of experience in the circuits is the rule rather than the exception.  It was so in the lifetime of John Wesley.  He gives many striking relations of it in his "Journal"—the book so well worth reading, and so valuable, as one of the great keys to the knowledge of what was the religious state of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales in Wesley's own time.  He speaks, sometimes, of the flame of holiness pervading his Societies for a year, and then almost dying out.

    That a high degree of religious attainment might be the habitual condition of Methodists, or any other associations for piety, no Christian believer who diligently reads his New Testament can doubt.  Perhaps Christian ministers do not preach the doctrine of holiness with sufficient vigour and frequency.  I fear, the worldly spirit of professors of religion is the great hindrance to holiness.  I mean, more especially, their joining in the world's amusements, and following its fashions.  There may be many other reasons why a low standard of religious experience prevails in some societies, and why zeal for holiness, which often reaches intensity during a revival, is so commonly reduced to languor, and even indifference, after a time.  I do not feel that I ought to enter on the discussion of such a question here.  I barely state the sorrowful fact that great fluctuations in the state of their religious experience prevail in the Methodist societies, with all their manifold means of promoting spiritual growth.

    The revival in the Gainsborough circuit that I have spoken of was prolonged by the ministry of John Smith in the adjoining circuit of Lincoln; that ministry so fruitful in sound conversions, and in the quickening of the spirits of those who already professed religion.  But from one fearful cause I shall be compelled to relate, the religious feeling of the Gainsborough circuit was well-nigh quenched in the hearts of hundreds; and I became eager to get out of an atmosphere so chilling and mournful.



MY engagement in the office of local preacher was a source of rich delight to me.  When I first entered upon it, I was in the full tide of devotional feeling, and used to exhort and teach without any preparation of the thoughts I was to present to the people.  This passed off very well for a time; but when the fervour of devotion had somewhat cooled within me, I felt my talk in the village pulpits become vapid.  It wearied both myself and the people.  I had learned that a few of the local preachers wrote notes of their sermons, before they preached; but the older men did not.  I found, however, that the best preacher among them wrote his sermons out in full, and committed them to memory.  And I began to reason thus with myself,—"How can I, a comparatively inexperienced person, instruct men of age, some of whom have read their Bibles for threescore years, without I think, and think deeply, on the themes I have to address to them?  Am I really showing any respect to their understandings by merely talking thus shallowly to them ?  Am I showing respect to Christ, and to Divine Truth, by treating religion as if it were not deserving of serious thought; and as if any raw talker could deal with it worthily?"

    Reflection made me ashamed of my rashness, and I set about the preparation of written sermons; and got the greater part of each sermon well fixed in my mind before I ventured to deliver it.  The result was more cheering and gratifying than I can easily tell.  I had soon larger congregations than any other local preacher in the circuit; and grew into request for anniversary sermons in the surrounding circuits.  I threw my whole heart and soul into my preaching; and the effects were often of a rememberable kind.  Shouts of praise from believers often overpowered my voice; and I had to pause, and say, "Let us sing a verse, and then go on again."  And, not seldom, sobs and tears foreshowed what kind of work there would be for the prayer-leaders when the sermon was over.  That many received good by my preaching, I have not the least doubt; and some are living at the present moment, thank God! who declare I was the instrument of their conversion.

    I frequently held prolonged meetings in the Sunday evenings, and had to walk home, in all sorts of weather, a distance of from three to six or eight miles at a late hour.  When I visited villages or towns in the surrounding circuits, I was usually furnished with a horse; and had to ride back to Gainsborough on the Monday morning to be in time for opening my school at nine o'clock.  The rides and journeyings in themselves were often delightful; and I thoroughly enjoyed my outward work as a preacher.

    Nor could I continue to take a part in such work without endeavouring to make it serve my own intellectual culture.  The writing out of sermons was a noble induction to the art of expressing one's thought.  I strove to make my sermons worth listening to.  I had become master of a vocabulary of no mean order, by committing Milton and Shakspeare to memory and repeating them so often; and my reading of the old English divines enabled me to acquit myself in the pulpit with more than the ordinary ability of a Methodist local preacher.  I possess no copy of any of the sermons I preached in those years; but I know they contained passages of euphony, of pathetic appeal, of picturesque description, and power of argument and declamation, that I should not be ashamed of if I saw them now in print.

    Nor did I neglect attendance on any popular living example of eloquence and of the power of preaching that came within my hearing.

    The most memorable treat I ever had from the pulpit was in once seeing and hearing Rowland Hill.  He was over eighty when I heard him, but still possessed the vigour of ten ordinary preachers.  He, of all the preachers I ever heard, occupies the pedestal of veneration in the statue-gallery of my memory.  Other popular ministers of the time I also heard from the pulpit of the Independents in Gainsborough; such as Dr. Raffles, who was then young, and in the full exercise of his almost dramatic power in the pulpit; Dr. Bennett of London, "Silver-voiced Bennett" as he was called, than whom I never heard a more instructive preacher; Joseph Gilbert of Nottingham, and Winter Hamilton of Leeds, and Smith of Rotherham, and Dr. Pye Smith, and Ellis the great missionary, and others.

    Of all leading Methodist preachers, the wondrous voice and noble form and noble eloquence of Robert Newton were most familiar to me; for he was the favourite, because the most successful, anniversary preacher ever invited to Gainsborough.  We were favoured, less frequently with the stately form and high intellectuality of Richard Watson; but no one could ever forget him, who saw and heard him.  The poetic power of David McNicol, the spiritual power of Peter McOwan, the manly preaching of Thomas Galland, the stern and relentless scourging of sin by brave Daniel Isaac, the never-ending missionary tales of Joshua Marsden, are all enduringly associated in my memory with that Gainsborough Methodist pulpit.  But if I had the power to summon one from the dead, that I might hear him preach again in it—William Dawson of Barnbow should be the man.  For originality of conception, richness and variety of imagery, clearness of Scriptural illustration, pathos, humour, power of grappling with the conscience, and mastery in the art of winning a man—William Dawson was the preacher of preachers, in my humble judgment.

    If any young lady happens to be intent on the task of reading this Memoir, I imagine she will say, "You seem, sir, to think you have a right to talk about everybody and anything; but you have got into your ninth chapter without making even the slightest allusion to a certain subject!"

    And, no doubt, the greater number of readers expect a pretty early allusion to the sex and the tender passion, in every biography and autobiography.  But I had nothing to communicate, all this time; and therefore could not broach the thought.

    And, I suspect, few readers will be surprised that I say so.  They will understand that I was too fully absorbed in fervours and passions of one kind or other, to have many moments to think about the tender passion.  Indeed, I had never yet spoken a word to a woman, or given her a glance of the eye, that could be called, in our old Lincolnshire speech, "taking notice of her."

    But I may now say that I saw the dear one who has now been for thirty-seven years my companion in life, at Christmas of 1829, while on a visit to Lincoln, and conversed with herself and her sister, in the house of her brother.  The family were all born Methodists, so to speak, and I went to Lincoln on a Methodist visit, as I may say, for it was to see and hear the revivalist John Smith.  Yet although my heart said, "This is the woman I should like for a wife," I spoke not one word about it.  And when I saw her brother, in the following year, he told me she had lain months on a sick-bed, and was never expected to recover.  In the year following I heard that she was really recovering, and I went over to Lincoln, and, on the 1st of July, 1831, offered my heart and hand, and was accepted.

    During that visit to Lincoln, at Christmas of 1829, I also formed a friendship which, next to that of my wife, I deem the most valuable of my whole life.  Frederick James Jobson—who is now known as the Rev. Dr. Jobson by the religious world, and as an ex-President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference—was then but eighteen years old, and had only recently been converted, under the ministry of John Smith; and was "on trial" as a local preacher.  He was apprenticed, as an architect, to Edward James Willson, the most learned antiquary in Lincoln, and the best helper Britton could find in drawing up his account of the antiquities of Lincoln Cathedral.

    Jobson was full of passion for art, and of admiration for poetry, and had already displayed considerable eloquence as a preacher.  His nature was all earnestness; and it was not wonderful that two such earnest natures as his and mine should form a friendship from the moment that we met.  We often contrived to meet, even while I remained at Gainsborough—sometimes on a Sunday, that we might preach in the same village, and have time to converse on literary composition, and on our work as preachers.  My after-life has often separated me from my dear friend's companionship; but never, in any change of my opinions, or adverse turn of fortune, did he forsake me, or fail to help me in a difficulty.  And many a time I have had to rely on him, as my only human help.  Our friendship has now lasted, unbroken, for two-and-forty years; and I thank God that ever I had such a true, faithful, and unfailing friend as Frederick James Jobson.

    But, to return to my new passion of love.  Must I tell it?  It awoke my slumbering sense of poetry.  I had never attempted verse for, I think, six years.  But I wrote verses irresistibly, now; and enclosed them in my love-letters—of which, the reader may take it for granted that I wrote a very great number.  Soon, I thought of writing something that might be published.  And when I had struck off a number of short pieces, in blank verse and rhyme, the intended volume took a title that I had no thought of.  I was persuaded by my friend Charles Kelvey, whom I had brought over from Independency to Methodism, to place first in the volume a copy of verses that were only written in a whim, and never intended for publication.  "Place that first, and call the volume by that name," he insisted, "and it will sell the book!"

    Dear Charley! he wished it to be so; but he was mistaken.

    Some of my subscribers never paid their subscriptions, and the publication only increased the embarrassment I was experiencing from the cause I shall mention anon.  The unfortunate volume was entitled "The Wesleyan Chiefs:" many of the pieces were worthless, and none more so than the one that gave name to the unfortunate little book.  But I had one rich pleasure connected with my book, unfortunate as it was.  I was favoured with two interviews by James Montgomery of Sheffield—the first literary man of my time that I had ever seen; and he kindly undertook to read the proof-sheets while my volume was being printed.  He wrote words on one proof-sheet, at the bottom of the page that contained one little piece of blank verse—they were lines "To Lincoln Cathedral"—"These are very noble lines, and the versification is truly worthy of them."

    That consoled me a little for my want of success.  And my failure only made the resolve sink the deeper and become the firmer in my mind, that I would, one day, write a poem that should not fail.

    Our Gainsborough Circuit, under the two ministers who were stationed in it when I joined the Methodist Society, had an increase of between four and five hundred members in their last year.  John Chettle, the superintendent, (whose son, Henry Hulbert Chettle, is now an honoured minister in the same religious body,) was unsurpassed as a theologian by any Wesleyan minister I ever listened to.  And his appeals to the understanding, the conscience, and the heart, were often irresistible.  William Ash, his colleague, was a man of lowly abilities as a preacher, but greatly beloved for his piety and pastoral qualities; and he was of incalculable value in our prayer-meetings, during the continuance of "the revival."  The superintendent who succeeded Mr. Chettle was a heavy man, troubled with liver disease, and died in the circuit.  He had, unfortunately, checked rather than encouraged our fondness for devotional and protracted meetings.  His colleague, Jonathan J. Bates, was an excellent preacher; but neither did he readily enter into the "revival" spirit.  Yet we loved him; and the circuit steadily prospered when he was left at its head, alone.

    The coming of a new superintendent, whose name I shall not record here, began to bring disaster on the circuit.  He would not work.  The members fell off.  The monies fell off.  And it was resolved, by a very large majority of the official members in the circuit, not to invite him to remain after his first year.  He was crafty, as well as idle; and he tricked us.  He told us he meant to leave our circuit at the next Conference, and get a circuit in the South of England.  And he told us so, openly, in the regular quarterly meeting.  We were taken by surprise; but as we did not wish to make any representation in his disfavour to the Conference, we resolved to let him go away quietly.

    When the Conference met, and issued the "rough stations," his name was put down for a circuit in the South of England, as we had expected it would be.  But when the Conference broke up, he came back upon us, as our superintendent for another year.  We learned, by one of the ministers (Mr. Harrison) who was appointed to Doncaster, that the trick had been fixed upon from the first, and that this man had voluntarily lied to us.  We wrote, at once, to the President of Conference for the year, 1833, Rev. Richard Treffry; and to the chairman of our district, Rev. John Stephens of Hull.  They answered us very promptly and very kindly; but told us there was no remedy, as we had not sent to Conference to say we desired his removal, and they could not remove him: they had not the power to do it, by the laws and constitution of Wesleyan Methodism—which was undoubtedly true.

    He persecuted us because of these letters.  He suspended myself (who had written the letters, which were signed by forty official persons) and another young local preacher (who had taken the letters round the circuit for signature) from our offices as preachers, without either charge or trial—by a few lines of writing.  The society in town and circuit was all discontent, and all discord.  The chairman of the district came to Gainsborough, and held a "special district meeting," with the aim of setting all right again; and the two suspended local preachers were restored to the "preachers' plan."  But he who had been the cause of the discord maintained the defiant and persecuting spirit still.  He prevented us from taking any part in the public prayer-meetings; and he preached at us, in terms that made our skin creep!  The misery of remaining in Gainsborough was now so great that I set myself in pursuit of a school in some other town, and prepared for removal.

    It was time that I left Gainsborough.  I had been foolish enough to leave my school often an hour before the time of proper conclusion in the evening, that I might walk to some part of the circuit, sometimes in the snow, to supply deficiencies of the superintendent, who shirked his work.  My school fell off in consequence, and I began to be in difficulties.  I grew weary also of the drudgery of teaching, now my first scholars were gone, and the parents of those that remained, or the majority of them, were unwilling for me to follow my own plans in the tuition of the children.

    I sought a school in Sheffield and elsewhere; but there seemed no opening, and I was becoming very restless and weary, when a letter suddenly informed me of the death of a schoolmaster in Lincoln—a relative of her to whom I had pledged heart and hand.  So I left Gainsborough, took the school at Lincoln, in November, 1833; and on the 16th day of February, 1834, we were married.  After a time, my dear mother gave up work, and came to live with us at Lincoln.

    When we were married, my beloved wife and I resolved to lead holy and devoted lives.  But our resolve was frustrated.  The Gainsborough superintendent met the Lincoln superintendent in the house of a Methodist class-leader at Scotton—where the two circuits join—and there gave earnest charge to the Lincoln superintendent to get me out of the Methodist Society as soon as possible.  He was bent on stern revenge for the part I had taken in exposing his falseness.  I was informed of it, fully, by the person in whose house this revengeful counsel was given—a good devoted man, whose son (Rev. Edward Bramford) is now in the Wesleyan Ministry.

    The Lincoln superintendent had no craft or guile about him.  But he was a rude, rash man; and was easily impelled to act rashly.  He began to talk against me in Methodist houses, before he had spoken one word to me!  And soon he began to deal roughly with me, for an omission to preach, when I was too ill to walk to the place.  I had also very unexpected unkindness and very unchristian dealing from a leading member of the Society in Lincoln; and the Lincoln superintendent took this person's side.  That person has now gone to his account, and I shall not say more about him.

    The Lincoln superintendent continued his rough treatment of me, and at last threatened to suspend me from my office as a local preacher.  "Nay," I said to him, "I was suspended once; but I will not be hung a second time.  Take my name out of the class book,—I am no longer a member of your Society." "That will do!" said he, with a look of satisfaction; "good morning!"

    And so they had their will!  But the Gainsborough superintendent, who advised this rough man to get me out of the Society, was ejected from the Society (or "left out of the Minutes of Conference") a few years afterwards, himself.  He also has gone to his account; and so has the Lincoln superintendent.  I trust I pray from the heart, when I cry, "God forgive them all!"  But my being thus driven to cut myself off from Methodism was a source of the bitterest agony to my dear wife, for years afterwards; I know it caused bitter grief to the dear friend I have mentioned in this chapter—the best and truest friend, I repeat, that I have ever had in the world; and it soured my own mind against religious professors, and raised within me a wrong, rebellious spirit.  My mind grew angry whenever I thought of my ill-treatment; and I soon left off my habit of attendance on public worship.  I feel, now, I was very guilty in this: guilty in forsaking God because man had been unkind and unjust to me.

    And now, at sixty-six, I see what I did not see, or reflect upon when I was younger: that it is irrational to expect every man to be perfect in a ministerial body composed of a thousand members.  I have no doubt, too, that I was often chargeable with a wrong spirit, and most likely uttered tart and provoking observations during the altercations I had with the Gainsborough and Lincoln superintendents.  But it must be remembered that I was very inexperienced—ten times more inexperienced at eight-and-twenty, than thousands of lads often are at eighteen; while these Christian ministers were mature men in years, and the Gainsborough minister had not only been long in public life, but was one who had a shrewd knowledge of the world.  I cannot help thinking that if I had had to deal with men who had more of "the milk of human kindness" in them, the result and conclusion would have been less disastrous to myself.

    I am not yet come to the later period of my life when I fell into an awful alienation of the mind from the faith of Christ; but I cannot help tracing that alienation to its root in these harsh dealings from ministers and professors of religion.  I have felt compelled to state the truth, in order that all who read these pages to the end may have some key to unlock what they might otherwise deem very mysterious changes of character in me.  And having said so much, I purpose now to leave the entire subject, for the present, in this Memoir.  When the step of separating myself from Methodism was taken, the die was cast anew for my Future—whatever it was to be—and I sought occupation for thought that should not awake tormenting remembrances, and soon found it.



I SOON found myself in a new world at Lincoln; and now, first, may be said to have mingled with the real world, and to have begun to understand that I really belonged to it.  The Mechanics' Institute was being formed in the ancient city just at the time that I settled in it.  I immediately became a member of the Institute, and was elected on its first Committee: our President being Sir Edward Ffrench Bromhead, and our Secretary the well-known political agent, William Spencer Northhouse.  The Institute was started with great enthusiasm.  Many young working men in the city had great expectations of learning; and the list of members was very numerous.

    The Committee assigned the Curatorship of the Institute to Mr. John Boole, my wife's uncle, who had for many years followed the business of a master shoemaker; but who had, by self-instruction, made considerable progress in mathematics, and who was in high reputation in the city as a man of great intelligence and general information.  He opened classes for students in geometry and in algebra; Dr. William Cookson opened a botany class; Mr. W. A. Nicholson a class for drawing; and I opened a class for Latin.  A library was formed, lectures commenced; and there were soon very busy doings at the Institute.

    My connection with the Institute led to an acquaintanceship with persons of influence to whom I might otherwise have remained unknown; and was the source of some valuable and hearty friendships.  But my first most earnest business, when I settled at Lincoln, was to set about the renewal of my studies.  What though I was on the verge of twenty-nine years of age?  Surely, I thought, I had yet time to make considerable acquirements.  I forgot to say that I had been compelled, while at Gainsborough, to attend a little to my Greek,—although absorbed so much in preaching, and entangled with so many other cares,—in order to keep up with, or rather in advance of, my two elder scholars.

    When they had finished Cæsar, and gone through a few books of the Eneid, their father wished them to begin Greek.  So I, very soon, had to put one into the Anabasis of Xenophon, and the other into the Cyropædia.  In Lincoln, I now took up the Memorabilia of Xenophon, ran through the Odes of Anacreon, and then commenced the Iliad.  I worked hard at Greek, and also at the Hebrew Genesis, for some time; not suffering my new engagements at the Institute to rob me of the hours I knew I must employ for my own mental advancement, now or never.

    But there was no one to teach French in the Mechanics' Institute; and the members of my Latin class, with others, were eager to learn French.  I told them I could read it, but could not pronounce it.  I very soon learned, however, that I could have a most competent instructor, on terms that I could afford to pay; so I soon secured his aid.

    Signor D'Albrione, my new instructor, was a very noble-looking Italian gentleman, a native of Turin, who had been a cavalry officer in the armies of Napoleon, had endured the retreat from Moscow, was at the defeat of Leipzig, and had seen other service under the first Emperor of the French.  He was now a refugee in England, on account of his participation in the conspiracy of the Carbonari; and gained his support by teaching languages.  Under his instruction—while we read together part of Voltaire's "Charles the Twelfth," and "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" of Moliere—I caught such hold of good French pronunciation as would have enabled me soon to converse very pleasantly in the language, could I have found a companion.

    As I thought I could easily learn Italian, I took lessons from Signor D'Albrione also in the pronunciation of that language—believing I should not be likely to have so good an opportunity of learning it, perhaps, to the end of life, as I had now.  So we read together part of one of the comedies of Goldoni, and then a part of the beautiful "Gerusalemme Liberata," of Tasso, in that most beautiful tongue.

    I opened an elementary French Class in the Mechanics' Institute very soon; but it was not until D'Albrione had left Lincoln, and I could have no more instruction from him in French and Italian pronunciation, that I determined to begin German, of which I was very eager to know something.  I was soon able to make my way in a volume of tales by Herder, Lessing, and others.  My school prospered, for I took care to attend to its duties assiduously; and yet kept firm hold of my studies, rising early in the morning, and, with my book in my hand, as of old, walked from our little home in St. Mary's Street, along the Sincil Dyke, and on to Canwick Common, whenever the weather permitted me to do so.

    My attendance on a series of most excellent lectures on Chemistry, by Mr. Murray—a well-known lecturer of the time—at the Institute, opened my way, most unexpectedly, to a new kind of life.  I took it into my head to write a paragraph descriptive of the lectures, and sent it to the Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury, a weekly newspaper of great business character, and understood to be one of the oldest in the kingdom.  About a month after the insertion of the paragraph, Richard Newcomb, Esq., of Stamford, proprietor of the paper, called upon me and thanked me for the paragraph; and offered me £20 a year "to collect," as he said, "a few items of market and other news, and send them to him weekly."  I accepted the offer, for I understood that it would not occupy much of my time; and I was resolute in keeping hold of my studies, during the first two years that I lived in Lincoln.

    But a new attraction arose at last; and all resolves about study, and purposes of intellectual progress, and interests however important, were sacrificed for my new passion.  A few young men wished to form a Choral Society, and asked me to allow them the use of my school-room for rehearsals.  I consented readily, and became a member of the new society—taking my stand, weekly, as a tenor singer in the choruses.  My heart and brain were soon on flame with the worship of Handel's grandeur, and with the love of his sweetness and tenderness.  They made me their secretary; and my head went to work to make the music of the Choral Society worth hearing in old cathedralled Lincoln.

    I planned, I visited, I wooed, I entreated, till I obtained the aid and co-operation of the best musicians and the best singers in the ancient city.  Like every true reformer, I had to put down the authority of the imperfect, and put the authoritative perfect in its place.  Over the company of raw amateurs—de-spite some grumbling—I succeeded in placing the most perfect "singer at sight," and most thoroughly experienced person in the music of Handel, to be found in the whole city, as conductor; the best violinist in the city, as leader; the best alto and tenor singers in the city, as leaders of their parts in the choruses, and as principal solo singers; the organist of the cathedral, as leader on the viola; the best violoncello player in Lincoln, as leader on his instrument; while I also secured the aid of an experienced trumpeter.  We already had the aid of a good double-bass player, who was also a sound timist.  And I may also say that I had most valuable aid, by way of counsel and advice, from that most accomplished musician, the late Rev. George S. Dickson, Incumbent of St. Swithin's, Lincoln.

    The next step was to obtain funds, that professional men might be remunerated, and the society held together by something more than mere enthusiasm.  I wrote to the nobility, gentry, and clergy of the county and the city, and to all members of Parliament for Lincolnshire; and was successful in almost every case.  I raised an income of £200 for the society's first year.  Then I besought the Dean, the Precentor, and Subdean to lend their powers of persuasion; and the incumbent of the most central church in the city granted us the use of it for our public concerts of sacred music.  Mr. Whall, the most thoroughly competent organist in Lincoln, presided at the organ; and, before a crowded audience, the transcendent "Messiah," the noble "Dettingen Te Deum," the brilliant and warlike "Judas Maccabæus," the gorgeous "Solomon," the sublime "Israel in Egypt," and other oratorios of Handel, were performed with an enthusiasm that had never before been witnessed in Lincoln.  The "Creation" of Haydn, and scattered choral pieces of Mozart and Beethoven, were also given.

    Nor was the solo singing of a mean character.  Our conductor, George Brooke, of the cathedral choir, would have attracted admiration, as a bass singer of great original powers of expression, and great capability of execution, with the most critical audience in the kingdom.  The tenor singing of dear departed Charles Ashton—a universal favourite in Lincoln—was the sweetest I ever heard, except Braham's.  Mr. Knowles, our alto solo singer, was not only a very pleasing vocalist, but a competent musician; and is, at the moment I write, a member of the choir in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

    I raised a separate subscription of twenty guineas, for the purchase of concert drums; bought a chromatic slide trumpet at the urgent request of our trumpeter; formed a rich musical library, comprising the forty thick folio volumes of Arnold's complete score of Handel, with German scores of the "Creation," the "Requiem," and the "Mount of Olives"—for the use of the society.  I say, I did all this—for, although I met a committee of the performers, that conferred together about the selection of choruses and solos for each concert, as it drew nigh, they took no part in the real business of the society.  I had all that to plan and execute for myself.

    What mad enthusiasm I felt for music!  I often sat up the greater part of a night to transact the writing necessary for the furtherance of the prosperity of that Choral Society.  I walked, I ran, I jumped, about the city—I climbed its "steep hill" often half a dozen times in a day—to win subscribers and collect subscriptions, and get performers to be punctual at the rehearsals, and to reconcile their petty animosities and keep them united; and I also spent some little money on the darling project of making music successful in Lincoln.  I was ever striving to obtain more subscriptions, that our best performers might be better paid—though I would have scorned to take one farthing myself.  The enjoyment—the rapture—I had in listening to the music, was more than a reward for whatever time I gave to the society, or interest I sacrificed for it.

    But the check to my enthusiasm came; and the end of all this passionate indulgence of the one sense of hearing—did I say?  Nay, if there were not mind in music, it could not master us in this way, and to the degree that it masters many.  A passion for music is something far above the mere indulgence of feeling.  Oh, how easily I could again yield to it!  But I dare not.  Thank God! we shall have music in heaven; and I can wait for it, till I get thither, remembering that the music of heaven will unspeakably transcend all the music of earth.

    I say the end came.  What no one had thought of trying to do till I did it—and what all acknowledged I had done so well—was deemed, at first, in whispers, an assumption of authority, and, at last, and aloud, and to my face, a most shameful tyranny!  I was opposed,—I was thwarted,—I was "called to account,"—I was advised to resign,—I was threatened with dethronement;—and so, eventually, I abdicated, and left the Lincoln Choral Society, which had been my idol and my passion, to conduct itself.


IT was well that I broke my connection with music, for my passion would have been ruinous to me had I continued to let it sway me in the manner I have described.  The proprietor of the newspaper, by whom I had been engaged, at first, at £20 a year, to furnish weekly trifles in the way of news, made larger demands now upon my time and attention.  The need of keeping up, in some degree, with the spirit of the age, made him desirous of having reports of the new municipality of Lincoln, and of the various important meetings which took place in the old city—naturally, one may say, as the capital of the shire.  He gradually advanced me to £60, and at last to £100 per annum.  Of course I ceased to be a schoolmaster; and began now to be regarded by some with strong dislike, and by others with no little fear and dread, as the powerful correspondent of the Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury!

    I wrote paragraphs on abuses that raised up enemies against me; but many of these, when they saw I did not fear them, became my friends.  The paper rose in circulation; and the excitement was great every Friday morning, in old Lincoln, to get a sight of their old business paper, which had now become enlivened with such bristling criticisms and startling revelations of abuses.  A series of short articles entitled "Lincoln Preachers," was, perhaps, the cause of more excitement than anything beside that I wrote for the Mercury.

    The Dean, the Precentor, the Chancellor, the Subdean, and the Vicars of the Cathedral, all had their likenesses drawn as preachers and men—according to the presumptuous judgment of him who drew them.  Nor were their incomes, their pluralities, and temporalities, any more than their spiritualities, omitted in the brief and summary descriptions given of them.  The Dissenting and Wesleyan ministers, as well as the parochial clergy of the city, were also presented with their portraits—very much to their chagrin, vexation, and mortification, in many cases.  Some of them made ludicrous attempts, in a secret way, to secure a favourable picture for themselves; and others blustered and threatened.

    Let me confess what regret I feel now for much of my newspaper life; for this was by no means the end of it.  If I could live over again, and choose the kind of life I would live, it would not be that of a writer for newspapers, although I enjoyed a great part of my employment.  I am sure it was the cause to me of real corruption of the heart, and hardening of the feelings.  To hear your criticisms quoted with a relish; to know that your sarcasms do really sting and torment people filling important and responsible stations; to know that hundreds like all this, rub their hands with glee, and look eagerly for more of it; to see and hear yourself named as the cleverest fellow in the place, and the man most to be dreaded!  There is much that tickles fallen human nature in all this; but I would get out of the way of it, rather than write for it, if I had life to come over again.

    Often, it is true, I wrote the sharp criticisms I speak of a thousand times more for mirth than for mischief.  But to turn the laugh against a man is often a sorer punishment to him than to whip his back with a cato'-nine-tails.  My merriest articles for the general reader were, I doubt not, a real source of grief to the party against whom they were pointed.  I had proof of this, more than once.  But some new temptation was sure to impel me, very soon, to perpetrate a similar evil joke in another direction.

    I resumed the composition of verses in Lincoln.  "The Daughter of Plantagenet," and some of the songs in my "Baron's Yule Feast," were written in Lincoln.  I also began an historical romance, and wrote about one volume of the three intended volumes; but I did not finish the romance till a later period, that I shall have to speak of.  Keeping in my heart of hearts the resolve that I would one day write a poem that should not fail, I used often to ask myself, "What shall the subject be, when the time comes?"  But I could not determine, although I mused on many subjects.

    The answer came suddenly to my mind, one day, as I sat in one of the recesses of the windows of the old Guildhall, attending a meeting of the town council, in my office of reporter to the Stamford Mercury, I conceived, as it seemed in a moment, the creation of either a drama, or an epic, wherein the spirits of suicidal kings, and other remarkable personages, should be interlocutors on some high theme, or themes; and resolved to call it "The Purgatory of Suicides."  I wrote down, on one of the leaves of my reporting book, the names of Demosthenes, and Hannibal, and Brutus, and Cassius, and Cato, and Nero, and Achitophel, and Judas Iscariot, and Castlereagh, and others, at the time, and preserved the leaf.  I also kept the title before me, and never thought of changing it for one moment.

    I have said that I felt as if really entering the world and beginning to belong to it, in Lincoln.  And how utterly new a great deal of the life I saw and joined in Lincoln, was to me!  My office on the newspaper brought me into the world of politics.  It will have been seen, already, that I had been a Radical from boyhood; and, now, of course, I belonged in Lincoln to the Lytton-Bulwer party.  For the great novelist, dramatist, and so on,—the present Conservative Lord Lytton, was then the Liberal Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer.  And when I asked him, one day, at the table of one of his principal supporters, what government he would prefer for England, if we could choose the kind of government, now?—he replied, without hesitation "A Republican Government."

    Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer was at one time in great favour in Lincoln; and, so far as I was able, I helped his cause by upholding it in the Mercury, and endeavouring to strengthen his interest with the Lincoln electors.  I had often to report his speeches, and have a most vivid remembrance of their eloquence, and of the remarkable energy with which, very often, they were delivered.

    Attendance at political meetings, public dinners, and concerts of music, involved the consumption of time, the consumption of wine, and late hours.  I became a social man, a "lover of good company," as men call it.  The religious seriousness was gone.  Yet my new friendships were all of the intellectual cast.

    There was one with whom I ought to have been better acquainted.  I lament, greatly, that I did not try to draw him nearer to me.  But sometimes the slender ties of half-relationship create family likes and dislikes that prevent the formation of what might otherwise be really valuable friendships.  I allude to one whose memory is already honoured by the very foremost mathematicians and deepest thinkers, but whose name will become truly illustrious in the wiser future, the late Dr. George Boole, professor of Mathematics in Queen's College, Cork (Ed - prophetic words indeed, for in the 20th Century Boole's algebra of logic—known now as "Boolean Algebra"—was to become an essential tool in the design of digital computers).

    My wife's mother was a Boole, and was sister to Dr. Boole's father—the curator of the Mechanics' Institute, whom I have already mentioned.  Young George came to see his cousins, one day, in that Christmas week of 1829, when I first went to Lincoln as a visitor.  He was then a boy of fourteen; had mastered Leslie's Geometry, under his father's teaching; was learning Latin, and thinking of Greek; and almost overwhelmed me with inquiries about the contents of books he had not read.

    I heard often of his intellectual progress during our courtship; but never saw him again until, in the first year of our marriage, he came to Lincoln, and read an encomium on Sir Isaac Newton, before a crowded audience, in the Mechanics' Institute.  The first Earl of Yarborough, who was present, had given a marble bust of the immortal one to the Institute; and it was unveiled before George began to read his paper.  The writing showed how his mind had expanded; but I drew a far larger conclusion, as to the growth of his intelligence, when he called to see his cousins (my wife and her sister), and I could converse with him.

    Some time afterwards, he settled in Lincoln, and opened a school.  I saw him now and then; but he was shy and formal.  I ,think I could have brushed away all his shyness, if I had set myself to do it.  But I, proudly, let the shyness grow between us, till it reached estrangement.  In after years, he called on me in London, and talked friendlily and freely; and I then felt that he had distanced me so far in his reach of mathematical science, and in his knowledge of languages—in fact, in all knowledge—that I was but a dwarf in his presence.  My acquaintance with some facts of his private life, and knowledge of his tenderness towards his parents and care of them in their age, warrant me in saying that he was as good as he was great.  I shall increasingly regret, to my life's close, that I did not strive to draw him towards me as a near and intimate friend.  I might have done it, if I had set about it aright.

    Gilbert Collins became my most frequent companion and closest friend in Lincoln.  He was, at first, a clerk in the Old Bank, and afterwards manager of the Hull Branch Bank, at Lincoln.  We were nearly of an age; had been attached to the same religious denomination, and had left it; and had an equally strong attachment to the study of languages.  Collins had learned Latin at school, and had taught himself Greek, and had translated for himself the entire Iliad and Odyssey.  Of the Greek Testament, he had a more perfect knowledge than any one I ever knew.  He was laboriously constructing a Harmony of the Four Gospels, in Greek, when I knew him; and you could not mention a Greek text in the Gospels, but he would give you the context, in a moment.  He was also a chess-player; and we sometimes spent an hour at the game; but I was never a proficient in it.

    Collins one day bought an old quarto Arabic Grammar which had been tumbled about for years in an old book shop.  There was a considerable vocabulary of Arabic words at the end; and the whim seized us both to set on and learn Arabic.  I copied the words from the vocabulary, in what we thought very pretty Arabic writing; and we were much taken with our project, when, one evening, George Boole suddenly stepped in, and found us earnestly bent over our new toy.  He examined the quarto book with interest; but seemed to have difficulty in restraining his laughter when he saw our Arabic writing, and heard us gravely say we were determined to learn the language.

    "But where will you get your Arabic books?" asked George; "and how can you read them without a dictionary?  You could not get a copy of Richardson's dictionary, I should think, under some twelve or fifteen pounds."  We felt ashamed of our thoughtlessness, and laid the project aside.

    It would please one's self, very much, to put the names of all one's friends in print: at any rate, such is my own feeling.  Yet the general reader might question, not only the propriety, but the sanity, of such an act.  Ergo, I shall leave many kind and hearty friendships that I formed in Lincoln uncommemorated.  I shall, for the present, mention one only, and then pass on to my more active history.  The most important friendship I formed in Lincoln, and, perhaps, the most influential on my own mind, at the time, was that with Charles Seely.

    He was then a rising young merchant; but has now for many years been M.P. for Lincoln; while his son—the little Charley whom I used to take on my knee—is M.P. for Nottingham.  Charles Seely selected me as an intellectual companion simply from the fact that he thought my company was worth having.  For when our friendship was first formed I was but a poor schoolmaster, and had no newspaper influence, or influence of any kind, in the city.  He would have me, almost every Sunday, at his table; and often we sauntered by the Witham, or along the Canwick fields, or by the venerable Minster, in the dusk of evening; and sometimes I rode with him, in his mercantile journeys, to Boston or Sleaford.  Our conversations were on politics, on human character and society, or on general literature; but how often, during the years that have passed since I left Lincoln, have I thought of the one strong, deep impression I caught of my friend's character—"This is the man whose purpose is formed, and he will accomplish it,"—and how completely that impression has been realised!

    My changeful life has separated me from my friend; but I have watched his patriotic course in Parliament, and out of it, with intense gratification.  I have seldom seen him during all these years, and our correspondence has necessarily been very limited; yet let me gratefully say that, in my season of sickness and helplessness, a very few years ago, I had substantial proof that my friend had not lost the remembrance of those dear old times in Lincoln.

    But my Lincoln chapters must come to an end.  In September, 1838, I asked leave of my patron, Mr. Richard Newcomb, to take a week's holiday, and go to see London.  He granted leave; but took alarm, and wrote to me, before I had been two days in the capital, desiring me not to look out for a better situation; but to call at Stamford on my way home, as he had something to offer me worth my acceptance.  I called; and he at once said, "Cooper, I want you to come and live at Stamford.  I mean to retire, and give the management of the paper up to yourself, after I have put you in the way of it a little.  You will live here, in this house, so as to be near to your business.  I mean to live at Rock Cottage.  So go and dispose of your things at Lincoln; and bring Mrs. Cooper with you, to live at Stamford"

    I took him at his word, and asked for no "terms," but assured him I would do what he wished me to do, for I felt really attached to him, and strongly desirous of serving him.  And as soon as I could accomplish it, I disposed of our little furniture, but not of my books; and my dear wife and I left Lincoln for Stamford.  My poor mother preferred to go back to Gainsborough.  We went and lived in the house in High Street, Stamford; but Mr. Newcomb did not go out of it.  He simply assigned us two apartments in it.  And I soon saw that he could not bring his mind to give up the management of his paper to another: it had become, as it were, a part of his existence.  He grew angry if I asked to take a larger share in the management; and, at last, kept me in the counting-house as his clerk, and would not let me write even one line for the Mercury!  He was giving me £250 a year, with coals and the two rooms rent-free, and I had other privileges which made my situation worth £300 per annum; but he shut me out of his company, and I had no society.  I wish I had cheerfully accepted the solitude, as of old, and worked hard to produce a book.  But I rashly gave notice to leave; and so, on the 1st of June, 1839, we got on the stage-coach, with our boxes of books, at Stamford,—and away I went to make my first venture in London.


I THOUGHT I might very fairly expect a little introductory help, in London, from the literary baronet and Liberal M.P. whom I had humbly striven to serve in Lincoln.  So I took the manuscript of my unfinished romance, and called upon him, at his house in Hertford Street, Mayfair.  He received me, smoking, with a thousand smiles; and assured me he would show the manuscript to his publishers.  I called at his door, once or twice, during the seven weeks that elapsed before I saw him again; and then wrote to tell him that I would wait upon him on such a day.  He came, hastily, into the room where I waited, put the manuscript into my hand, and said, "I regret to say that although Messrs. Saunders and Otley consider it a work of merit, they have so many other things in hand, that they cannot receive it at present.  Good morning, Mr. Cooper!"—and he bowed and disappeared through folding-doors into another room, in an instant.  His servant opened the door behind me, as I stood staring, and showed me the way into the street.

    I wish the literary baronet had either kindly told me one truth, that my writing was too faulty to offer for publication, and I had better try to achieve a more perfect work before I sought a publisher; or that he had honestly told me another truth, that he had never shown my poor manuscript to Messrs. S. and O., and did not choose to take any trouble on my behalf.  I speedily learned the truth; and it gave me poor hope of making my way by the help of friends in London.

    We lodged in St. George's Road, Southwark, that I might be near Thomas Miller, who then lived in Elliott's Row, in the same road.  He was writing "Lady Jane Grey," when I reached London.  It was the third romance he had written for Colburn, the publisher; but I found he only received small sums for his labour, and had to work hard to bring up his young family.  He declared himself to have no power whatever to help me to literary employ; but we again became companions, and he took me over his favourite walks to Sydenham, Dulwich, Greenwich, and other parts of Surrey and Kent, and we talked of old times.  At the very time I write, I learn that he is ill, and needs help.  He has written forty books, in his time—all tending to improve working men's minds.  Is it right that this industrious hard-worker should be left to want in his old age ?

    Before I left Lincolnshire I had corresponded with Sir Culling Eardley Smith, while he was sheriff of the county; and when he learned that I was in London and wanted employment, he wrote to request me to go over to Bedwell Park, Herts.  He thought I could assist the Herts Reformer, a Liberal paper in which he took an interest.  I went to Hertford, and saw the proprietor, but found that he really had no need of my services, although he was willing to oblige Sir Culling; but I would not impose myself upon him.

    Sir Culling also gave me an introduction to Josiah Conder, who was then editor of the Patriot newspaper.  Mr. Conder was sure that he could make no room for me—they were quite full-handed; but he would give me a note to Alaric Watts.  I called on Alaric Watts, who was busy editing, I think, three or four papers, at that time—in one of the courts in Fleet Street.  He laid down his pen, and asked me a few questions, said he had no office vacant, in his own gift, and he did not know of anything—would I call again?  The interview did not last more than three minutes; and though I called again, several times, I was always told he was not in.  Mr. Conder next gave me a note to Mr. Southgate, a small publisher in the Strand, who issued the Sunbeam and the Probe; and I earned of him perhaps five pounds, by contributing reviews and prose sketches, till the two ephemeral papers ended.

    I had many other ventures and adventures, in a small way; but it would weary any mortal man to recite them; and the recital would only be an old story which has been often told already, by poor literary adventurers.  The very little money I could bring to London was soon gone; and then I had to sell my books.  I, happily, turned into Chancery Lane, and asked Mr. Lumley to buy my beautifully bound Tasso, which I had bought of D'Albrione, and "Don Bellianis of Greece," a small quarto blackletter romance, which I had bought from an auctioneer in Gainsborough, who knew nothing of its value.  Mr. Lumley gave me liberal prices, wished I could bring him more such books, and conversed with me very kindly.

    I had to visit him again and again, on the same needy errand; and, seeing my need, he asked if I would copy for him, at the British Museum, the oldest printed book in the Library—Caxton on Chess.  I undertook to do so; Miller procured for me William Jerdan's note of recommendation to Sir Henry Ellis, the librarian, and I was soon free of the Reading Room—a privilege I have always taken care to retain by getting my ticket renewed whenever I revisit London.  How I loved that old reading-room—so humble, when compared with the incomparable magnificent one erected by Panizzi!—and how well acquainted I grew with the varied contents of its shelves!

    When I had copied Caxton, Mr. Lumley told me, if I could not find more remunerative employ, he would get me to assist him in making catalogues of the old books he was sending to America—of which he despatched thousands of volumes, at that time.  Then he began to issue a Bibliographical journal, or monthly book advertiser, and I helped in some manner with that.  All this was very subordinate labour, and but little money could be afforded for it; but I was treated with such respectful kindness by Mr. Lumley, that I retain a very grateful remembrance of him.

    We were often at "low-water mark," now, in our fortunes; but my dear wife and I never suffered ourselves to sink into low spirits.  Our experience, we cheerily said, was a part of "London adventure;" and who did not know that adventurers in London often underwent great trials before success was reached?  We strolled out together in the evenings, all over London, making ourselves acquainted with its highways and byways, and always finding something to interest us in its streets and shop windows.

    I must not pass by a remarkable reminiscence of two Sundays in the year 1839.  I had gone with my dear wife to hear Thomas Binney, at the Weigh House Chapel; and Robert Montgomery, at St. Dunstan's in the West—(when I also heard Adams on the organ); and Caleb Morris, in Fetter Lane; and Melville, (afterwards the "Golden Lecturer") at Camberwell; and Dr. Leifchild, at Craven Chapel; Thomas Dale, at St. Bride's Church; and other preacher-notabilities of the time; but one Sunday, being alone in the street near Charing Cross, I met a literary man whom I had known in Lincoln—John Saunders, then employed on Charles Knight's Penny Magazine, and afterwards the author of "Abel Drake's Wife," and other novels; and he invited me to go with him to hear the celebrated Robert Owen open a new institution in John Street, Tottenham Court Road.  I went, and heard Mr. Owen deliver the opening address in that lecture-hall, little imagining that I should lecture there so often in the after-time.

    Seeing an advertisement in the Times the next day, that W. J. Fox would lecture, the following Sunday, at South Place, Finsbury Square, on the System of Robert Owen, I resolved to go thither.  As I came in sight of the chapel, I saw Robert Owen, walked close behind him, paid my shilling, like him, to sit in the strangers' gallery, and sat close by his side to listen to the lecture—little imagining that the lecturer would become my friend in the future, and I should often occupy his pulpit.  Such are the remarkable incidents in human life!

    I began a new story, during these months of unfruitfulness: a story which was intended to be autobiographical, in some degree.  But from the dissipating necessity of going hither and thither to seek employ, and the need of doing some kind of work, however humble, to earn part of a crust, I made but little progress with the sketch.  The fragment will be found at the end of two volumes of tales that were published for me some years afterwards, and were named "Wise Saws and Modern Instances."  During these months of London vicissitude I also tried to keep up my fragmentary reading of Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and German—until, at length, I had no grammar or dictionary left!  Every book I brought from Lincolnshire—and I had about five hundred volumes, great and small—had been sold, by degrees; and, at last, I was compelled to enter a pawnshop.  Spare articles of clothing, and my father's old silver watch, "went up the spout," as the expression goes of those who, most sorrowfully, know what it means.  Travelling cloak, large box, hat-box, and every box or movable that could be spared in any possible way, had "gone to our uncle's"—and we saw ourselves on the very verge of being reduced to threadbare suits—when deliverance came!

    I had, like thousands of poor creatures who follow the practice daily, in London, frequently answered advertisements in the daily newspapers, about editor-ships and reporterships, and contributing of leading or other articles to periodicals—but had no response: no, not one syllable!  I had been in London from the evening of the 1st of June, 1839, until near the end of March, 1840—when I answered an advertisement respecting the editorship of a country paper printed in London.  I went to the printing-office of Mr. Dougal Macgowan, in Great Windmill Street, Haymarket; and, after some conversation, was engaged, at a salary of three pounds per week, as editor of The Kentish Mercury, Gravesend Journal, and Greenwich Gazette,—a weekly newspaper which was printed in Great Windmill Street, but which must be published in Kent, to render it a Kentish paper, it was thought.

    So we gave up our London lodging, and went to live at Greenwich, in order that I might publish the paper there.  I remained in my new post only till the end of November in the same year; but I saw a great deal of the delightful county of Kent during that year 1840, having to visit all the towns of any size worth visiting, and some of them many times over, on errands connected with the business of the paper.  Our delectable walks in Greenwich Park, too, can never be forgotten by my dear wife or myself.  Every week-day that I was not journeying over Kent, I had to be in London, to get up the paper for the printer.  Do not let me fail to record that I had to perform my work on classic ground.  Mr. Macgowan's printing-office had formerly been the Anatomical Museum of the immortal John Hunter; and I did the work of my editorship, daily, in what had once been his study, or private sitting-room!

    I only twice or thrice saw the proprietor of the Kentish Mercury—Mr. Wm. Dougal Christie, then a young barrister in chambers, in the Temple—but who has since been distinguished as an M.P., Charge d'affaires at Rio Janeiro; and as the excellent editor of Dryden and Shaftesbury.  We did not agree in our notions respecting the management of the paper; and so I, again, "gave notice to leave."

    "Another act of rashness!" cries out the reader; but I say otherwise, this time.  In the course of fourteen days I had a letter from the Rev. S. B. Bergne, Independent minister of Lincoln, enclosing a letter from the manager of a Leicester newspaper, inquiring, "Can you inform us of the whereabouts of Thomas Cooper, who wrote the articles entitled 'Lincoln Preachers' in the Stamford Mercury?"

    I dropped the letter from my hands; and my wife remembers well my excited look, as I exclaimed, "The message has come at last!—the message of Destiny!  We are going to live at Leicester!"

    Don't say "Pooh! stuff and nonsense!" good reader.  Is there any one thing you can truly say you comprehend?  "No," you reply; "I can only apprehend things."  Just so.  And it is because I am deeply conscious of the same truth, that I have learned to be slower in crying out—"Superstition!" than I used to be.  I find there are mysteries in our existence that I cannot fathom; and I am compelled to leave them unfathomed, and go on with the duties of active and useful life.

    I left Leicester, my birthplace, when a year old, as I have told you, and had never seen the place again to the time I am now speaking of, although I was now thirty-five years old. Yet I tell you, reader, that I had a peculiar impression on my mind, for many years, that I had something to do of a stirring and important nature in Leicester.  I did not wish to go to Leicester, for all my aspirations, during many years, had centred in London.  And I had no presentation to the mind of the exact work I had to do in Leicester, nor anything resembling that.  When there was nothing in the employment of my thoughts, at the time, to lead to such an impression, it would frequently visit me—resting on my mind with a force that amazed me—until something summoned away my attention elsewhere.

    Instead of writing to tell the person who inquired for my "whereabouts," I went over to Leicester at once, by the railway.  The person who was entrusted with the management of the paper told me that it had but a limited circulation, and they could not afford me much money.  However, I took the situation at two pounds per week, and agreed to go and live at Leicester.  I remember that, as I had closed accounts at Great Windmill Street, had paid my last visit thither to say "good-bye" to Mr. Macgowan, on the Saturday afternoon, and was passing through the Strand on my way to take the steam-boat for Greenwich, I saw a large placard outside the office of the Sun newspaper, proclaiming, "Birth of the Princess Royal!"  So that it was on the 21st November.  On Monday, the 23rd, 1840, my dear wife and I left Greenwich and London, and took up our lodging in Leicester.


I FOUND a dear old friend in Leicester: that same energetic Joseph Foulkes Winks who had instituted our Mutual Improvement Society and adult school at Gainsborough.  I soon learned that he had not grown rich, except in the number of his children; but he was as merry-hearted as ever, and as full of energy; for, in addition to his business as printer and bookseller, he was a busy politician, Baptist preacher, and editor of three or four small religious periodicals.  My employment on the Leicestershire Mercury seemed to me very trifling.  I was simply expected to attend the petty sessions, or weekly magistrates' meeting, at Leicester and Loughborough, and to make paragraphs concerning lectures and occasional meetings.  I saw plainly that the manager of the paper did not wish me to do overmuch.  I expressed my discontent and impatience to my friend Winks; and he told me to wait, for something was about to be done with the paper that would effect a change favourable to myself.  But I was soon sent on the errand which led to the fulfilment of my "destiny."

    "There is a Chartist lecture to be delivered at All Saints' Open, to-night.  As there is nothing else for you to attend to, you may as well go and bring us an account of it.  We do not want a full report."—Such was the fiat of the manager of the Leicestershire Mercury, that sent me to hear the first words I ever heard spoken by a Chartist lecturer.

    Before I left Lincolnshire, and during the year and half I spent in London, I had read in the papers of the day, what everybody read, about the meetings of Chartists—from the great assemblage in Palace Yard, on the 17th September, 1838, when the high-bailiff of Westminster presided,—where the immortal Corn Law Rhymer advocated the political rights of the working classes, and where so many bold speeches were made by men of rank and station, as well as by working men—to the assembling of the "general Convention," and the breaking up of that political body; and the Monmouthshire riots and consequent banishment of Frost, Williams, and Jones, in February 1840.  I say I had read about these transactions in the newspapers; and of the fierce agitation against the cruel enactments of the new Poor Law, under Oastler and Stephens.  And I had seen mention of the Bull Ring meetings at Birmingham; and of the seizure and imprisonment of many of the Chartist leaders; and then of the release of some of them.  But I had never attended a Chartist meeting, or met with any one who maintained Chartist opinions.

    Doubtless, the necessity I was under of finding some employment that I might have bread, prevented me from feeling much curiosity about public meetings, during the earlier part of the time that I was in London.  And then, when I became editor of the Kentish paper, I was eager to get back to Greenwich every evening, when my work was done in London, and glad to take up some favourite book, or walk with my wife in the beautiful park, rather than seek out political meetings.

    The Chartist meeting, in Leicester, that I was now sent to report, gave very small promise of importance.  I discovered the small room in "All Saints' Open," after some inquiry, and found, at first, some twenty ragged men collected.  The place was filled in the course of about a quarter of an hour, with women as well as men; and all were, apparently, of the necessitous class, save, perhaps, half a dozen who were more decently dressed than the crowd.

    The lecturer entered, and, amidst eager clapping of hands, made his way to the small platform.  A working man told me his name was John Mason, and he was a  Birmingham shoemaker.  The lecture was delivered with great energy; but it was sober and argumentative, and often eloquent.  The political doctrines advocated were not new to me.  I had imbibed a belief in the justice of Universal Suffrage when a boy from the papers lent me by the Radical brushmakers.  I heard from John Mason simply the recital of the old political programme of the Duke of Richmond, and his friends, at the close of the last century; of noble, honest Major John Cartwright; of Hunt and later Radicals.  I had never had any doubt of the equity that demanded a redistribution of Electoral Districts, short Parliaments, the abolition of the property qualification for members of Parliament, and the payment of members.  Of all the "Six Points" of "the People's Charter," there was but one I did not like: the Ballot.  And I do not like it now.

    It will be seen that there was nothing to startle me in the lecturer's political doctrines.  And I discerned no tendency to violence in his address.  He was, indeed, as I thought, exceedingly temperate in his language; and it was only when he came to the wind-up that he struck the note that roused strong feeling.  He earnestly exhorted his hearers not to be led away from their adherence to the People's Charter by the Corn Law Repealers.

    "Not that Corn Law Repeal is wrong," said he; when we get the Charter, we will repeal the Corn Laws and all the other bad laws.  But if you give up your agitation for the Charter to help the Free Traders, they will not help you to get the Charter.  Don't be deceived by the middle classes again.  You helped them to get their votes—you swelled their cry of 'The bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill!'  But where are the fine promises they made you?  Gone to the winds!  They said when they had gotten their votes, they would help you to get yours.  But they and the rotten Whigs have never remembered you.  Municipal Reform has been for their benefit—not for yours.  All other reforms the Whigs boast to have effected have been for the benefit of the middle classes—not for yours.  And now they want to get the Corn Laws repealed—not for your benefit—but for their own.  'Cheap Bread!' they cry.  But they mean 'Low Wages.'  Do not listen to their cant and humbug.  Stick to your Charter.  You are veritable slaves without your votes!"

    Such was the strain of the peroration.  The speech was received with frequent cries of "Hear, hear," and "That's right!" and sometimes with clapping of hands and drumming of feet.

    Two or three of the better-dressed men, who sat on the platform, spoke, at the end, of the sufferings of those who were yet in prison for the People's Charter and then they gave three cheers for Feargus O'Connor, who was at that time a prisoner in York Castle; and three cheers for Frost, Williams, and Jones, whom they said they would have back again; and it was nearly eleven o'clock when the meeting broke up.

    As we passed out into the street, I was surprised to see the long upper windows of the meaner houses fully lighted, and to hear the loud creak of the stocking-frame.

    "Do your stocking weavers often work so late as this?" I asked of some of the men who were leaving the meeting.

    "No, not often: work's over scarce for that," they answered; "but we're glad to work any hour, when we can get work to do."

    "Then your hosiery trade is not good in Leicester?" I observed.

    "Good!  It's been good for nought this many a year," said one of the men; "We've a bit of a spurt now and then.  But we soon go back again to starvation!"

    "And what may be the average earning of a stocking weaver?" I asked,—"I mean when a man is fully employed."

    "About four and sixpence," was the reply.

    That was the exact answer; but I had no right conception of its meaning.  I remembered that my own earnings as a handicraft had been low, because I was not allowed to work for the best shops.  And I knew that working men in full employ, in the towns of Lincolnshire, were understood to be paid tolerably well.  I had never, till now, had any experience of the condition of a great part of the manufacturing population of England, and so my rejoinder was natural.  The reply it evoked was the first utterance that revealed to me the real state of suffering in which thousands in England were living.

    "Four and sixpence," I said; "well, six fours are twenty-four, and six sixpences are three shillings: that's seven-and-twenty shillings a week. The wages are not so bad when you are in work."

    "What are you talking about?" said they. "You mean four and sixpence a day; but we mean four and sixpence a week."

    "Four and sixpence a week!" I exclaimed.  "You don't mean that men have to work in those stocking frames that I hear going now, a whole week for four and sixpence.  How can they maintain their wives and children?"

    "Ay, you may well ask that," said one of them, sadly.

    We walked on in silence, for some moments, for they said no more, and I felt as if I could scarcely believe what I heard.  I knew that in Lincolnshire, where I had passed so great a part of my life, the farmers' labourers had wages which amounted to double the earnings these stockingers said were theirs.  I had heard of the suffering of handloom weavers and other operatives in the manufacturing districts, but had never witnessed it.  What I heard now seemed incredible; yet these spirit-stricken men seemed to mean what they said.  I felt, therefore, that I must know something more about the real meaning of what they had told me.  I began to learn more of the sorrowful truth from them; and I learned it day by day more fully, as I made inquiry.

    A cotton manufacturer builds a mill, and puts machinery into it; and then gives so much per week, or so much per piece of work, to the men and women and boys and girls he employs.  But I found that the arrangement in the hosiery trade was very different.  The stocking and glove manufacturers did not build mills, but were the owners of the 'frames' in which the stockings and gloves were woven.  These frames they let out to the 'masters,' or middlemen, at a certain rent, covenanting to give all the employ in their power to the said 'masters.'  The Messrs. Biggs, in my time, owned twelve hundred frames, it was said.  Perhaps, fifty of these would be let out to William Cummins, thirty to Joseph Underwood, and so on to other 'masters' or middlemen.  The 'masters' employed the working-hands, giving so much per dozen for the weaving of the stockings or gloves, and charging the man a weekly frame-rent—which was, of course, at a profit above the rent the 'master' paid the owner of the 'frame.'

    But it was by a number of petty and vexatious grindings, in addition to the obnoxious 'frame-rent,' that the poor framework-knitter was worn down, till you might have known him by his peculiar air of misery and dejection, if you had met him a hundred miles from Leicester.  He had to pay, not only 'frame-rent,' but so much per week for the 'standing' of the frame in the shop of the 'master,' for the frames were grouped together in the shops, generally, though you would often find a single frame in a weaver's cottage.  The man had also to pay threepence per dozen to the 'master' for 'giving out' of the work.  He had also to pay so much per dozen to the female 'seamer' of the hose.  And he had also oil to buy for his machine, and lights to pay for in the darker half of the year.  All the deductions brought the average earnings of the stocking-weaver to four and sixpence per week.  I found this to be a truth confirmed on every hand.

    And when he was 'in work,' the man was evermore experiencing some new attempt at grinding him down to a lower sum per dozen for the weaving, or at 'docking' him so much per dozen for alleged faults in his work; while sometimes—and even for several weeks together—he experienced the most grievous wrong of all.  The 'master' not being able to obtain full employment for all the frames he rented of the manufacturer, but perhaps only half employ for them—distributed, or 'spread' the work over all the frames.

    "Well," the reader will very likely say, "surely, it was better to give all the men half-work, than no work to some, and half-work to others."  But the foul grievance was this: each man had to pay a whole week's frame-rent, although he had only half a week's work!  Thus while the poor miserable weaver knew that his half-week's work, after all the deductions, would produce him such a mere pittance that he could only secure a scant share of the meanest food, he remembered that the owner of the frame had the full rent per week, and the middleman or 'master' had also his weekly pickings secured to him.

    Again: a kind of hose would be demanded for which the frame needed a deal of troublesome and tedious altering.  But the poor weaver was expected to make all the alterations himself.  And sometimes he could not begin his week's weaving until a day, or a day and a half, had been spent in making the necessary alterations.  Delay was also a custom on Monday mornings.  The working man must call again.  He was too early.  And, finally, all the work was ended.  The warehouses were glutted, and the hosiery firms had no orders.  This came again and again, in Leicester and Loughborough and Hinckley, and the framework-knitting villages of the county, until, when a little prosperity returned, no one expected it to continue.

    How different is the condition of Leicester now thirty years have gone over!  All who enter it for the first time are pleased with the air of thrift the town wears, and the moving population of the streets.  I saw lounging groups of ragged men in my time.  I hope what I saw will never be seen again.  And I heard words of misery and discontent from the poor that, I hope, are not heard now.  I should not like to hear them again, for I know not what they might again impel me to say or do.


I SAID in an earlier chapter that I found myself in a new world at Lincoln; but Leicester was a new world indeed to me, although I had been born in it, nearly thirty-six years before.  How unlike it was to the life I had just seen in London: that medley of experience of everything great and little which a man can scarcely have anywhere but in the capital.  How unlike it was to the life I knew in Lincoln, where I had mingled a good deal with the well-to-do circles of society, and shared in their enjoyments.  But how utterly unlike it was to the earlier old Lincolnshire life that I had known, wherein I mingled with the poor and saw a deal of their suffering,—yet witnessed, not merely the respect usually subsisting between master and servant, but in many instances the strong attachment of the peasantry to the farmers, and of the farmers to their landlords.

    Here, in Leicester, in my office of reporter, I soon was witness to what seemed to me an appalling fact: the fierce and open opposition, in public meetings, of working men to employers, manifested in derisive cries, hissing and hooting, and shouts of scorn.  The more I learned of the condition of the people, the more comprehensible this sad state of things seemed to me—but what was to be the remedy?  My old friend Winks believed in the justice of universal suffrage, with myself; but as he belonged to the party of the old political leaders, and they had decided to ask for the repeal of the Corn Laws, he kept aloof from the Chartists.  I got into talk with a few of the lesser employers, and they seemed at their wit's end for a remedy.

    The working men, I found, were divided.  One party believed in the justice of the demands made by the Chartists, but held that the repeal of the Corn Laws, would benefit them—and these supported the manufacturers at the public meetings.  The other party demanded the People's Charter as a first measure and they were the majority at public meetings.

    I often wished that some influential person—some one who had a character in the town for real goodness—would offer a compromise.   The three brothers, John, William, and Joseph Biggs, who were large employers, had such a character, in my time, and deserved it, too.   The compromise that I wished for was a proposal to demand both Charter and Corn Law Repeal, and take anything that could be got first.   But there was no spirit of compromise.   The manufacturers, to a man, stuck to one side, and would have no union for the Charter.

    As I considered the Chartist side to be the side of the poor and the suffering, I held up my hand for the Charter at public meetings.  Of course, I might have taken neither side—the custom which is most usual with reporters; but I was made of mettle that must take a side, and I could only take the side I did take.

    I soon learned that this was an offence in their eyes who supported the Leicestershire Mercury; and I speedily added to the offence.  The Chartists had started a penny weekly paper to which they gave the high-sounding title of The Midland Counties Illuminator.  It was mean in appearance, and the fine, intellectual old man, George Bown, who edited the paper, lacked assistance.  I wrote him a few articles under promise of secrecy; but soon found that everybody knew what I did.  I was, therefore, not surprised when the manager of the Leicestershire Mercury told me that I must seek a new situation, for that the paper had no sale sufficient to enable the proprietors to pay my salary.

    "Never mind, Tom," said my old friend Winks, when I told him that I had received notice to leave the Mercury in a month's time; "don't you leave Leicester.  There will be something for you to do soon."

    "Don't leave Leicester!" said a group of Chartists, whom I met in the street, and who had heard of my dismissal; "stay and conduct our paper; George Bown wants to give it up."

    And in a day or two a deputation from the Chartist committee came to offer me thirty shillings a week, if I would stay in Leicester to conduct their little paper.  My friend Winks shook his head at it.

    "Have nothing to do with them, Tom," said he; "you cannot depend on 'em. You'll not get the thirty shillings a week they have promised you."

    "I don't expect it," I replied; "but I think I can make the paper into something better, if they will give it into my hands; and I think I can do some good among these poor men, if I join them."

    My friend argued against me strongly, and at last angrily, declaring that I should ruin myself.  But my resolution was taken.  I felt I could not leave these suffering stockingers.  During the earlier weeks after I entered Leicester, I had so little to fill my mind, or even to occupy my time, that I purposed returning, in right earnest, to my studies, so soon as I could repossess myself of the requisite books.  But the more I learned of the state of the poor, the less inclined I felt to settle down to study.  The accounts of wretchedness, and of petty oppressions, and the fierce defiances of their employers uttered by working men at public meetings, kept me in perpetual uneasiness, and set me thinking what I ought to do.  The issue was that I resolved to become the champion of the poor.  "What is the acquirement of languages—what is the obtaining of all knowledge," I said to myself, "compared to the real honour, whatever seeming disgrace it may bring, of struggling to win the social and political rights of millions?"

    The day after they had sent to ask me to conduct their paper, I said to one of the Chartist Committee, "Cannot I have a meeting in your little room at All Saints' Open, next Sunday evening, that I may address your members?"

    "I am sure we shall be all glad to hear you," said he.

    And so, having respect to the day, I spoke to them for an hour, partly on a religious theme, and partly on their suffering and wrongs, and on the question of their political rights.  I offered a prayer—it was the prayer of my heart—at the beginning and close of the meeting.  This was in March, and I held these Sunday night meetings in the little room till the stirring events of the spring and summer of that year, 1841, compelled us to seek a much larger arena for our enterprise.

    The working men paid me thirty shillings for the first week; but could only raise half the sum the second week.  I found they were also in debt for paper.  So I proposed that they gave up their periodical to me entirely, and I would father their little debt.  I obtained twenty pounds of a friend whom I must not name, and made an engagement with Albert Cockshaw, the printer, to print the Midland Counties Illuminator on larger and better paper, and with better type.  And I also took a front room in the High Street, as an office for my paper.  The Chartists soon elected me their secretary; and a great number of them urged me to make my new place in the High Street a shop for the sale of newspapers—saying they would take their weekly Northern Star of me.  So I sold not only the Chartist Northern Star, but papers and pamphlets of various kinds, and my little shop became the daily rendezvous of working men.  The paper rose in sale—for some of the men, who had no work, took it into the villages, and thus added to its circulation.

    As soon as the weather permitted, I began to get the people together for meetings in the open air.  On Sunday mornings, I usually went to one of the neighbouring villages; but in the evening we held our meetings in some part of Leicester.

    The events of 1841 soon grew very exciting.  The death of Sir Ronald Ferguson, M.P. for Nottingham, reduced the Whig majority to one on great questions.  And the cry became loud through the land for a general election.  Notwithstanding that the Whig governments of Earl Grey and Lord Melbourne had won Parliamentary Reform, Municipal Reform, put the Church Revenues into the hands of Commissioners, and, above all, given a cheap postage to the people, every body said, "Let us have a change!"  But the wildest advice was given by some who professed the most ultra-democratic doctrines.  "Let us end the power of the Whigs—vote for Tories in preference to Whigs, the authors of the accursed Poor Law!" became the cry.  Colonel Perronet Thompson, the veteran advocate for Corn Law Repeal, kindly wrote me "Letters" for my paper.  But he advocated such measures!  That old and steady advocates of freedom should have recommended us to help the Tories, sounds very strange to me now.  But the poor took up the cry readily.  They remarked that the Whigs had banished John Frost and his companions, and had thrown four hundred and thirty Chartists into prison; and therefore the Whigs were their worst enemies.  "We will be revenged upon the Whigs," became the cry of Chartists.

    Mr. Walter, the well-known proprietor of the powerful Times, so long a determined foe of the New Poor Law, offered himself for Nottingham.  The Nottingham Chartists determined to support him, and wished some of us to go over from Leicester, to give what help we could.  I and John Markham went over, and spoke at a few meetings.  But I said to Mr. Walter, as we met him in the street, "Sir, don't have a wrong idea of the reason why you are to have Chartist support.  We mean to use your party to cut the throats of the Whigs, and then we mean to cut your throats also!"  I said it with a jocular air, and Mr. Walter laughed; but he understood that the joke was an earnest one.

    Mr. Walter was returned for Nottingham; but, in the course of a few weeks, the general election came on.  And, before it, came Sir John Easthope and Wynn Ellis, the members for Leicester, and a great meeting for Corn Law Repeal was held in Leicester market-place; and John Collins of Birmingham, and Markham and I, had to have our waggons for a platform opposed to the grand stand of the respectables; and the war was now fairly begun.  Meetings in the open air were kept up nightly—unless the weather forced us into the little room at All Saints' Open—until the day of nomination for members of parliament.

    John Swain, the person with whom I lodged, was very savagely opposed to the New Poor Law, and he proposed to me to meet, secretly, one of the influentials of the Tory party who had something to say to me concerning the approaching election.

    "I cannot advise any of our Chartists to vote for the Tories," I said to him.

    "The Chartists have not twenty votes among them all," said he; and no one is going to ask you to get the Chartists to vote for a Tory."

    I consented to see the Tory gentleman, and his proposal was that I should get the Chartists to hold up their hands, at the nomination, for the Tory candidate.

    "I believe," said I, "that the greater number of Chartists will do that for the sake of revenge on the Whigs, without my asking them."

    "I shall want to see you again," said he, "on the night before the nomination.  I shall have to ask a favour of you, and I hope you will not refuse me."

    The next step taken by our Leicester Chartists was a very flattering one to myself.  They proposed that I should be nominated by two Chartist "freemen" as the Universal Suffrage candidate for the parliamentary representation of my native town!

    But, behold! there was a sudden stoppage to the seemingly prosperous current of my new fortunes.  Mr. Cockshaw, the printer, told me he could not print another number of my paper.  I owed him a few pounds; but I did not believe—nor did he say—that this was his reason for discontinuing the printing of my paper.  "I am not at liberty to tell the reason," were his words.  There was but one interpretation put upon his conduct by our Chartists.  Mr. Cockshaw was printer for the Corporation, and I had written in what was deemed an unmannerly style of some of its members, and, doubtless, I had; and they wanted to end my paper, and also get me out of the town.

    I defeated the Whiggish stratagem, however.  There was not a printer in the whole town of Leicester who dared to print my paper, for fear of offending the Corporation dignitaries, or dignitaries of somekind—except Thomas Warwick, an honest, lowly man, although he voted for the Tories, who had a small quantity of type, and that but of a mean kind.  I bargained with him, however; and as I could no longer issue my smart-looking paper at three-halfpence, The Midland Counties Illuminator—we kindled a smaller refulgence, The Chartist Rushlight, at one halfpenny.  The fun of the thing pleased everybody but the Whigs; and the Tories bought our Rushlights as fast as the printer could throw them off, and our Chartists were very merry over it.

    The night before the nomination, the Tory gentleman sent for me.

    "All I ask of you," he said, "is that you will secure us as many resolute men of your party as possible, to keep a firm stand in the centre and immediately before the hustings.  They shall be paid for their work."

 "You think that will enable your party to get the show of hands?"

    "Exactly.  We feel sure that the Mayor will pretend that the Whigs have the show of hands—especially if he can say,—I could not see how the people voted who were not in front."

    "I do not see that it will be wrong to do what you ask," said I; "for even if they do really enable you to get the show of hands, that will not determine the election; and your money will do our poor fellows good."

    "There will be no polling," said he; "but keep that secret, please."

    The "Captain Forester" who had been announced as the Tory candidate had not yet made his appearance; and I knew, now, that he was only a dummy and so felt no hesitation whatever in promising the Tory gentleman that I would do what he wished.  And, accordingly, I summoned a few determined men, and they soon brought up scores of others; and I took care they were all paid before they went and took up their stand in front of the hustings.  Three small linen bags were given to me, on the nomination morning, each containing ten pounds in silver; and I paid away every coin to the poor ragged men, and wished I had ten times as much to give them.  The Tory gentleman did not give me the bags, nor was he present when I received them.  A Tory tradesman, who bore the highest character in Leicester for uprightness and kindness to the poor, handed me the bags—but I do not tell his name.

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