John Critchley Prince: Biography (1)
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LIFE

OF

JOHN CRITCHLEY PRINCE.

――――♦――――


CHAPTER I.


WHAT is Genius?  Numerous as have been the replies to this important question, we are, nevertheless, inclined to believe that but few of the so-called definitions can stand the test of systematic and logical inquiry.  Buffon says, "Genius is Patience;" Goethe, "Concentration;" Johnson, "A universal capacity accidentally taking a particular channel," etc.; but these must be regarded as almost equally superficial and imperfect; and although each may be said to contain a certain amount of truth, they all fall short of a satisfactory definition.  Absolutely rigid definitions are almost, if not quite, impossible in such a case, but a recent anonymous writer has at least succeeded in presenting a formula which is sufficiently satisfactory, when he says, "Genius is an ineradicable individual bent, necessarily tending towards one of certain exalted, well-recognised spheres of energy."

    In recording the life and character of one in whom genius was wedded to misfortune, we purpose to adopt this definition, if only on account of its intelligibility; but let us, as briefly as possible, consider the critic's further views on the subject generally, and carefully observe the results.  The bent must be native and ineradicable to constitute genius; and whilst it may be obeyed or disobeyed, infallible penalties are inevitably incurred by non-obedience.  It may be resisted, but it can never be suppressed; it may be ignored, but it will never be silent; for it is the body, soul, spirit, essence, of the individual in whom it dwells; in a word, it is the man.  It is a distinct vocation, an inner call, a still, small voice,—a first nature that no habit can wholly supplant, an impetus always urging him towards a certain goal, no matter how far he may be travelling from it in another direction.  "Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined;" and this bent, given before mortal hands have any chance of giving it, is henceforth ineradicable and irrepressible, inclines the man whom it has affected for the rest of his natural life, and neither he, nor his parents, nor his trainers, nor his circumstances, nor anything in life, can ever divest him of this native inclination.

    He, of whom this ineradicable bent may be predicated, is influenced by a life-long power which he cannot resist; more violent than his will, more enduring than his circumstances; and if he fails to bring himself, his life, and his circumstances into harmony with it, he must experience perpetual strife with self, a life of contradiction and discord, internal reproach, and not infrequently, external shame.

    If it be asked why this ineradicable bent, this predominant impulse, does not invariably obtain the mastery, and drive its subject along the path marked out for him from the beginning, the answer is to be found in the important distinction that exists between genius and character, which are totally independent of each other.  "A man of brilliant genius may, alas! have a most feeble character; and the world abounds in strong characters that have no genius; but a man must have not genius alone, but character as well; and the gods or his mother-womb have dealt unkindly by him who have given him the pure ore and none of the dross, unlimited canvas and no ballast to speak of; for, more than all others, men of genius require to possess strong resolute characters.  The winds are ever in the sails, and the heavenly barque will capsize to a certainty, unless there be a stout earthy bottom to it."  Genius, therefore, we regard as an ineradicable native bent, and as entirely distinct from and independent of Character.

    Poetic genius may be regarded as one of the most essentially divine gifts with which the Divine Giver has dowered humanity; yet the saddest and most harrowing pages in "the annals of the poor" are those which chronicle the sufferings, misfortunes, and privations of the God-gifted, but poor and lowly poet, who, amid the stern realities of life, stung by disappointment and neglect, goaded almost to madness by the pangs of penury, whilst the unquenchable fire of genius burns fiercely within him, relieves his breaking heart in outbursts of fervent song, while out of the travail of his soul are born inspired lays of freedom, truth, and right, which may hallow and beatify the nations through all time.

    Poets, however highly-gifted, are only human; and are subject to all the external conditions imposed upon humanity.  Genius, however, is no respecter of persons; the divine gift, in whatever degree, may be alike the heritage of the peasant as of the prince; and, as in the history of our English aristocracy, its brightest ornaments have been developed from the ranks of the people, so it is the proud boast of Britons that, of those who have contributed largely to our national greatness, whether in science, art, literature, commerce, or invention, those of lowly birth and obscure circumstances are they who have best proved the true nobility of mankind, and left indelible records of their real greatness in the history of human progress, and in the development of human knowledge.

    With regard, especially, to the literature of our country, whilst it contains a noble army of those who have been born amid all the advantages of social position, education, and refinement—and, still more, of those who, of humble birth and condition, have fought their way up to the topmost round in the ladder of Fame, subduing all things, achieving all things, by the innate power of their genius;—yet how many divinely-gifted sons of genius have toiled on through life unrecognised, unfriended, and unknown!  Again, how many have been compelled for very life's sake to labour at some daily, dreary, uncongenial drudgery, suffering always, sorrowing often; yet amid all the vicissitudes of their daily lives, enduring, hoping, despairing, yet striving to be resigned to the hardness of their fate, until at length the spark of divineness has burst into a living flame, the soul has leapt forth in song, the hearts of the people have been stirred, and the sweet singer has entered the outer Court of Fame amid the acclamations of sympathising thousands!  The poor artisan now claims kindred with the immortal sons of Song.  But alas!


"The lamp of genius, though by nature lit,
 If not protected, pruned, and fed with care,
 Soon dies, or runs to waste with fitful glare."


    A glowing passage from Carlyle's "Life of Schiller" will complete the picture.  He says, "Few spectacles are more afflicting than that of such a man, so gifted and so fated, so jostled and tossed to and fro in the rude bustle of life, the buffetings of which he is so little fitted to endure.  Cherishing, it may be, the loftiest thoughts, and clogged with the meanest wants; of pure and holy purposes, yet ever driven from the straight path by the pressure of necessity or the impulse of passion; thirsting for glory, and frequently in want of daily bread; hovering between the empyrean of his fancy and the squalid desert of reality; cramped and foiled in his most strenuous exertions, dissatisfied with his best performances, disgusted with his fortune,—this man of letters too often spends his weary days in conflicts with obscure misery; harassed, chagrined, debased or maddened,—the victim at once of tragedy and farce—the last forlorn outpost in the war of mind against matter.  Many are the noble souls that have perished bitterly, with their tasks unfinished, under corroding woes."

    To this sad category belonged the gifted but unfortunate subject of this memoir.


    JOHN CRITCHLEY PRINCE was born in Wigan, in Lancashire, on the 21st of June, 1808.  The only reliable account of Prince's earlier life is that written by his friend Mr. George Frederick Mandley, who, occasionally, contributed to literature under the nom de Plume of "Quintus Hortensius."  This memoir originally appeared in one of the provincial papers, and was afterwards inserted in "Hours with the Muses;" and as Prince himself supplied the materials, we make no apology in using it as the text for this part of our biographical notice.

    As Prince's father was a reed-maker, it may not be amiss to give some idea as to the nature of that trade, which is not by any means a laborious occupation, although a somewhat tedious and monotonous one.  A reed consists of two flat, pliant, wooden laths, each about one yard and a half in length, placed parallel to each other, and kept some two or three inches apart by means of closely-arranged transverse wires passing at right angles from one lath to the other, the respective ends of these wires being securely fixed to the laths by means of waxed binding; so that the whole, when completed, looks almost like a gigantic comb, only that the transverse wires, instead of presenting free ends, like the teeth of a comb, are connected to a lath or frame at both ends.  The labour, therefore, in their manufacture consists merely in fixing the wires to the laths by means of the waxed binding.  It may be necessary to state that these so-called reeds are used in weaving, for the passage of the threads or dents of the warp in one direction, whilst the shuttle shoots the weft or woof across in the other,—the warp and woof being thus bound together.

    Young Prince was born into poverty and all its concomitant evils.  His father had nothing but reed-making to depend upon, and this business, always fluctuating and uncertain, barely enabled him to provide for his increasing necessities.  He seems to have been a man whose character and disposition had little to recommend them, although the hopelessness of his condition and the monotony of his occupation may have done much to pervert the one and sour the other.  Unfortunately, he was also the victim of intemperance, and this vice in itself may have so debased his nature as to have counteracted any desire to rise superior to his circumstances, and fostered a spirit of recklessness and misanthropy which would render him indifferent to the higher impulses of his being.  Be this as it may, young Prince's parents were always in very straitened circumstances; so very poor, indeed, that they were unable to afford him the advantages of even the commonest education; and although school education can never supersede the necessity of vigilant parental teaching at the fireside, yet poor young Prince could profit little from the precepts or example of such a father.  Fortunately, however, his mother was a woman in whom strong maternal feeling, high principle, and good common sense were happily blended, and whilst the rectitude of her daily life gave force to the moral and religious principles which she never ceased to inculcate, her intelligence recognised the necessity of having her children instructed, while she herself did all she could to prepare their minds for the reception of knowledge; and to her fond solicitude, good example, and salutary influences, young Prince owed the security of those principles which were to guide him through life.

    Mrs. Prince, in her extremity, sent him to the Sunday school in connection with a Baptist Chapel in the neighbourhood, and here the future poet succeeded in mastering the preliminary difficulties in his education by learning to read and write, although very imperfectly; beyond the knowledge thus acquired he received no further teaching whatever, but his mind was so inquisitive, and his thirst for knowledge so keen, that he plodded on early and late in its pursuit with untiring patience and perseverance.

    Owing to his father's unsteady habits his mother had to struggle hard and endure much misery, and her abilities to supplement the father's earnings had to be brought to their aid in the shape of heald-knitting; but John, her oldest boy, would go through all uncomplainingly if he could only obtain a book.  At this time reed-making and heald-knitting were one business, the latter branch being entrusted to women and children, one frame requiring two pair of hands,—a woman or big girl at the frame, with a boy or girl sitting on a stool before her; and it was not an uncommon thing for children of even five years old to be thus employed.  These children were called "reachers," and had to sit with the yarn hung on the left arm while taking one thread off with the right hand, and give it to the operator.  Young John acted in the capacity of "reacher" to his mother, but on no condition could she keep him at work until she consented to have the book placed on her knee under the knitting-frame before him, so that he could read and "reach" at the same time.

    Young Prince was now barely nine years old, but so circumstanced that he must thus early have tried to look the stern realities of life boldly in the face. His father had no sympathies with intellectual culture, nor was the child capable of appreciating the irrepressible longing of his nature for pursuits which were strangely antagonistic to his circumstances. Cradled in poverty, and inured to privation from childhood, this poor boy must have soon learnt many a sad lesson in the rough school of adversity; and we can readily imagine how his young life was embittered by his father's selfish, unnatural disposition, and the oft-recurring consequences of his intemperate habits.

    Owing to the destitute condition of the family, each of its members was compelled to earn a livelihood at the earliest possible age: thus we find that the boy was apprenticed to his father's trade at the early age of nine years, and was compelled to work at this tedious employment from fourteen to sixteen hours a day.  Arduous, indeed, must have been the toil imposed upon him at this time, and it is matter for wonderment how the child bore up through the ordeal.  The burning desire of his spirit was for knowledge; from books alone could he derive the mental food for which he craved, and in books alone was he enabled to find the happiness which was denied him from ordinary sources; yet was every indication of his love of knowledge sternly repressed by his unworthy parent.

    Nothing could have been more calculated to foster Prince's love of reading than this ill-advised opposition of his father: indeed it is difficult to imagine why the elder Prince should have thus sought to prevent the self-education of his son, but that he did so is unquestionable.  One would naturally think that, finding himself unable to give his boy even rudimentary education, he would have welcomed every indication on the part of the youth himself to develop his mind as he best could; but, whatever may have been the motive, he did his utmost to prevent the boy from intercourse with books, and not only forbade their use, but punished him if he transgressed.

    This cruel opposition not only defeated its object but rendered all the sweeter the pleasures denied; and no threatenings or punishment could subdue the ardour of the youth in his beloved pursuit.  Even in the midst of the severe duties of his employment he seized upon every momentary opportunity to taste the forbidden fruit.  That his father would keep him fully employed can easily be imagined; but the boy worked, and watched, and waited; and when his stern master was probably enjoying his own unworthy pleasures, the carefully secreted volume would be brought out of its hiding-place, while the youthful student, alternately reading and watching, surreptitiously engaged in the "pursuit of knowledge under difficulties."  Books were henceforth the joy of his life; although the supply was limited, yet stray volumes came in his way now and again, and with these he never willingly parted until he had mastered their contents.  This careful perusal of comparatively few books in all probability did more to develop his powers than any more extensive desultory reading; for, at his tender years, when the mind was impressionable and the memory retentive, the limitation of his reading to a few authors would naturally concentrate his capabilities, and thus aid his mental development, while he at the same time acquired real knowledge, and a proportionate stimulus to reflection.

    As Mr. Mandley says, "All the adverse circumstances that surrounded Prince were unable to 'freeze up the genial current of his soul;' the passion was intense, and would be gratified.  When the family had retired to rest, full oft would young Prince, at the witching hour of night, leave his bed, and with furtive steps (and slow) creep downstairs, and, by the light of the 'slacked' fire, revel in the charms of 'Robinson Crusoe,' or the horrible and mysterious grandeur of Ann Radcliffe and 'Monk Lewis.'  The native longings of his heart found a rich banquet in the wild and wondrous of these tales; and the beautiful descriptions of natural scenery which give such a charm to the 'Mysteries of Udolpho,' and the free scope for inventive genius in the solitariness of Defoe's 'Shipwrecked Mariner,' fed the enthusiasm of the embryo bard, and made him sigh to visit foreign lands and meet with 'moving incidents by flood and field."'

    Mr. James Dawson—a local poet of more than local reputation—has well said, "Prince's early history unquestionably furnishes another proof that the poet is born, and not made.  There can be no doubt whatever but that he had breathed into him at his birth the mysterious and miraculous breath of song, had inherent in him the germs of the unteachable and incommunicable gift of the true poet."  It has been stated that the same tastes are common to all men at their birth, and that education has been the sole factor in developing these in a remarkable degree in some individuals, while they have been suppressed in others.  Education can do a great deal, and accident, instead of education, may sometimes "foster the germ of some noble power, which afterwards expands into full vigour; but that some are actually born with a latent power, ready to burst forth, must surely be acknowledged by any one who has inquired into the dawnings of genius."

    From his ninth to his thirteenth year Prince toiled on at his father's side as an apprentice, working and suffering, yet buoyed up by undefinable self-communings and irrepressible aspirations.  During these years the condition of this poor lad was indeed deplorable; bound down as he was to uncongenial and uninterrupted drudgery from early morning to late at night, without any educational advantages, scantily clothed and as scantily fed, and with no future to look forward to, surely no circumstances could have been more calculated to cloud even the strongest intellect or to damp the most ardent aspirant.  How earnest then, must have been intellectual longings which bore him up determinedly through all the vicissitudes of his unhappy lot!  This is the more surprising when we consider the keen perceptivity, the intuitive refinement, and the exquisite sensibility which he possessed in no ordinary degree; there can be little doubt, however, that these adverse circumstances may have repressed the full growth of his poetic genius; and that opposition, privation, and punishment had their due effect in the development of his mind, influencing his mode of thought, and generating peculiarities in his mental character.

    As Mr. Mandley says, "A mind skilled in tracing moral effects to their causes, might, perhaps, be able to prove that the strong love of freedom, which so nobly characterises the poet's compositions, was in a large measure developed by the harsh treatment to which, in his early youth, he was subjected; and that the ardent love of nature which breathes through his strains was brightened by contrasting the gay and joyous life of the inhabitants of woods and wilds, and the beauty and harmony of trees, streams, and flowers, with the unrelieved and still-recurring toil of his own occupation, carried on


" 'Where the pale artist plies his sickly trade.' "


    What a sad autobiographical sketch is that afterwards drawn by Prince himself, in a poetic epistle to his patron, in which, in allusion to this earlier period of his life, he says,


"When I was yet an unsuspecting child
 I was not thoughtless, frolicsome, or wild,
     To sport and pastime, or to mischief, prone:
 A moody, melancholy, wordless boy,
 I always felt a strange and quiet joy
     In wandering companionless and lone.

"But poverty, and pain, and darker things,
 Threw much of withering poison in the springs
     Of bitter feeling, in my youthful breast;
 In every season, and in every place,
 I wore a shade of sorrow on my face,—
     For I had troubles not to be expressed.

"With none to strengthen and to teach my mind,
 I groped my way like some one, lost and blind,
     Within the windings of a tangled wood;
 But still, by wakeful and inquiring thought,
 My watchful spirit, in its musings, caught
     A partial glimpse of what was true and good."


    Prince was now in his thirteenth year, but the flight of time brought him little comfort or consolation.  From his earliest childhood he had been surrounded by all that is abject and miserable in life, and year after year but aggravated the wretchedness of his condition.  No wonder, then, that as a child he was seldom actuated by the reckless gladsomeness, the sportive light-heartedness, of happy childhood.  No wonder that the "moody, melancholy, wordless boy" pined for solitude in the morning march of youth, and sought out the retreats of nature wherein to unburden his young, bursting heart, and to hold communion with his struggling, suffering soul.  On such occasions as these how he must have striven to solve the problem of his existence,—to lay bare the mighty mystery of life!  His had been a short, but a sad and gloomy experience; yet, even at this early age, he must have felt the pulsations of latent power; his young heart throbbing in unison with the eloquence of nature, and visions of beauty passing before his eyes, filling his wondering soul with the all-subduing power of love.  When he contrasted the hopelessness of his daily life with that higher one of which even he had caught a glimpse in the realms of fancy, how mysterious must the vast problem of existence have appeared to him!  Yet, in thus pondering these infinite themes the poor boy's mind was unconsciously receiving far more salutary discipline than either school or college could have afforded him.

    We have little information of the additions he made to his literary knowledge during these years, but it is reasonable to suppose that "from books, as well as from the natural growth and invigoration of his faculties, quickened by adversity, his improvement had been singularly rapid."

    His father's circumstances, instead of improving, became worse; difficulties beset him on every side, until the year 1821, when he was compelled to leave Wigan, and search for employment in Manchester.  Young John accompanied him; and although we have no record as to how the boy contemplated such a change, yet he was old enough to know that the very subsistence of the family was endangered if they remained longer in Wigan; and we can readily conceive that his native town had not, up to this time, particularly endeared itself to him by any very pleasing associations.  He would mourn the loss of those solitary rural haunts wherein his young soul had first felt


.    .    .    "the voiceless eloquence on earth,
Telling of Him who gave her wonders birth;"


but the prospect of increased facilities for literary culture, afforded by such a city as Manchester, must, at such a time, have been both congenial to his taste and gratifying to his mind.

    Some time after their arrival in Manchester they obtained employment with the eminent machinists Messrs. Sharp and Roberts, then of Todd Lane, Deansgate.

    Prince was now a humble toiler amid the clang and the din of the mighty city wherein the myriads fight their life-battle day by day.  "What a glorious and heart-thrilling sight," observes Hugh Stowell Brown, "to see the commerce of a great city!  There is something solemn, and, beyond expression, grand, in the roar that reverberates for miles around the great field on which some are conquering and others being conquered."  The youth was now brought still more closely face to face with the stern realities of life; and as he mingled amongst the workers in the mighty hive, must have learned many a useful lesson, his mind gradually acquiring broader and deeper views of men and things.

    "It was about this time," says Mr. Mandley, "that Prince first obtained a copy of the works of Byron, which he read with the most intent and rapturous delight.  His mind had now met with its natural aliment; the strains of the noble poet awoke a kindred response in the breast of the obscure and humble boy, who, from that moment, became a worshipper at the fane of the Muses."  Hitherto he had found in poetry a joy in sadness, a solace in suffering, a comfort in misery, and a companion in solitude; it had cheered and encouraged him when all was dark and drear, and life itself was almost unendurable; but now a new light dawned upon his soul, and his whole being was quickened into newness of life by the glorious power of the noble bard.  He had instinctively sought out poetic joys from his childhood upwards, because in poetry alone could he find a congenial pursuit and surcease from the corroding influences which were prematurely drying up the joy-springs of his young life, but still more because the germs of poetic genius, with which he was dowered at his birth, were becoming developed with his years, and, although probably unrecognised even by himself, were silently but irresistibly influencing and controlling the development of his mind.  Byron's works were, at this time, at the zenith of their popularity, and we are told that Prince "drank of the seductive fountain which they furnished with a wild and inordinate delight."

    The influence of such works on the plastic mind of the young dreamer must have been, indeed, extraordinary; nor is it difficult to conceive how the exquisite, mysterious sublimity of the noble poet's splendid genius, "the sententious force and elevation of his thoughts and language, his eloquent expression of sentiment," thrilled the soul of the embryo bard, vivifying and unfolding, as with glowing sunshine, the germs of genius which had already been watered by the tears of adversity.

    He found much in the life of the poet-peer which touched a responsive chord in his own breast, for, notwithstanding their relative differences as to age and rank, the seal of sorrow had been set upon each at his birth, and both were destined to drain her bitter cup to the very dregs.  Apart, however, from these analogies, which only served to bind the poor boy with stronger ties to the noble author, the poetry of Byron revealed to him the kindred power which he had himself inherited; his heart was no doubt captivated by the discovery, and, by degrees, he would be enabled to perceive that the problem, over which he had so often puzzled himself, as to the relationship between his intuitions and his circumstances, was being solved for him, and the seeming anomaly of his position accounted for.  And although still chafing under the galling yoke, which, unhappily he was ever to wear, we can fairly imagine that the hardness of his earthly lot was softened, and all feelings of repining and bitterness subdued, by the new sources of delight which had sprung up within his bosom.

    "To confirm the bent, he became acquainted, about 1822 or 1823, and formed an endearing intimacy with an old German, who had been wounded at Waterloo.  He had seen much of the world, and was withal of a well-cultured and communicative disposition; and in their summer evening rambles he stimulated the warm enthusiasm of his young companion, by the wild and mysterious legends of his fatherland, and nourished in him the germs of poesy with those overwrought colourings of the excited fancy with which the exile loves to paint the fondly-remembered scenes of his native land."  He was now at an age when the imagination is usually most vivid and the mind very impressionable, but his love for poetry at this period was vehement and all-absorbing.  In addition to the works of Byron, those of Thomson and Goldsmith were his especial favourites; the two latter particularly, inasmuch as they abound in exquisite descriptions of nature, and rural and village life.  In the words of Mr. Dawson, "Love of the country was, indeed, quite a passion with him, and though his lot was for the most part cast amid murky streets, he yet contrived to see much of nature in her purest aspects.  On Sundays, and in the long week-day evenings in summer, when the toil of the day was over, he would leave the smoky town, with its ceaseless bustle and turmoil, and hie away to some secluded spot in the quiet country, there to hold uninterrupted communion with his own soul, and fill his mind with felicitous images which were afterwards to be woven with rare tact into beautiful poems."

    The elder Prince was once more compelled to leave Manchester, and, with his family, took up his abode at Hyde, a small town some eight miles distant.  Here the future poet dragged on a miserable sort of life, through his father's continuous improvidence and dissipation.

    As might have been expected, Prince was very much impressed with the evils and suffering arising from the drunken habits of his father, and he at length determined to try if he could so far work upon his feelings as to induce him to flee from the intoxicating cup.  One night therefore, when his father was sound asleep, John wrote upon the bedroom wall, with phosphorus, the words "PRINCE, BEWARE!"  During the night the father awoke, and read, in letters of fire, the handwriting upon the wall, conveying the solemn warning!  The result was that, so long as his son kept the secret, the father continued a sober man.  Unfortunately, young John could not resist the desire to make known the prank he had so successfully played, and, when old Prince's mind was rid of the fear which had kept him in subjection, he returned again to his old courses more unremittingly than ever, so that literally "the last state of that man was worse than the first."

    The circumstances of the Prince family at this period were, indeed, wretched almost beyond expression, and the proud sensitive spirit of the future poet must have been stung to the quick by the suffering which his position involved.  The combined efforts of the household were barely sufficient to procure the means of subsistence, and the dissipated habits of the father, while destroying every possibility of a comfortable home, sank the family still deeper in misery and privation.

    Young Prince bore up bravely as long as he could; his affection for his mother, and her patient, heroic endurance, having doubtless nerved him to suffer, and to struggle on, if only for her sake. When we take into consideration the stern realities of his unhappy lot from childhood upwards, his peculiar temperament, and the utter hopelessness of his surroundings, we can form some idea of the daily warfare in which he had to engage, and realise the truthfulness of his own sad allusion to this period of his life:


                             .    .    .    "fear and strife,
With all the bitterest ills of human life,
        Beset me round with wretchedness and gloom;
So low, so hopeless, was my abject state,
I thought it vain to wrestle with my fate,
        And bowed in passive patience to my doom."


    But, as the proverb says, "Dark is the hour before the dawn," and so, through this dark, despairing experience of the desponding youth, glinted the soft, bright, glowing rays of Love's fair morning-tide.

    Hoping to better his condition, and in order to escape from the depressing influences of the paternal dwelling, Prince resolved to have a home of his own; and, as the first bold step in this direction, fell in love with a pretty fascinating girl named Orme, who lived with her father in Hyde.  The spell of love was now upon him, and life, which had erewhile appeared a barren wilderness, became a paradise brightened by the sunshine of affection, and glowing with the iris-tints of hope.  Truly has "the poet of all circles" said—


"There's nothing half so sweet in life
 As Love's young dream;"


and in the chequered experience of young Prince the joy-winged hours of his first courtship constituted, in all probability, the fairest oasis in the desert of his existence, and the greenest spot in the garden of his memory.
 
    In the latter end of 1826, or early in 1827, Prince married, whilst yet under nineteen years of age.  The long period of his apprenticeship had not yet terminated, so that he was precluded from even trying to gain a livelihood independently of his father, for whom he was still obliged to work.  "Under these circumstances his income was extremely limited, and when offspring came, the joint endeavours of both parents were barely sufficient to procure the necessaries of life."  They toiled on, however, in sorrow and suffering until the year 1830, when reports were freely circulated that English reed-makers were in requisition in France, and that many inducements were offered them to cross over and supply the demand.  Poor Prince's hopes were excited by this intelligence, and he quickly made arrangements for proceeding to St. Quentin, in Picardy.  He was of course compelled to leave his wife behind, and it was fortunate that she had acquired some knowledge of power-loom weaving, for by its means she was able, as best she could, to provide for herself and her three children, during his absence, and until he should obtain employment.  As he himself afterwards recorded the particulars of his journey, we cannot do better than quote his own graphic description.


    "In the month of July 1830, impelled by an accumulation of depressing circumstances, I resolved upon leaving my own for another country, in the full and confident hope of bettering my worldly condition.  Accordingly, one calm sunny day, at noon, I found myself cheerfully seated on the top of the 'Peveril of the Peak' stage-coach, bound for London.  I was full of spirits, and indulged a thousand pleasing anticipations of future success.  The novelty of the journey, too, for I had never been thirty miles from my home, added considerably to my satisfaction; and though my resources were barely sufficient to carry me to the north of France, my intended destination, I felt little anxiety, but, buoyed up by a sanguine temperament, scarcely dreamed of meeting with reverses in my wild speculation.  I was then young, and though I had previously suffered much, I knew little of the world and less of myself.  I had, however, a happy disposition for looking at the brightest side of life, giving, at the same time, credit to human nature for more virtue and sympathy, than, perhaps, was either just or wise.  I am now become, painful as is the confession, more suspicious of what appears promising fair, and expecting disappointments, I am seldom surprised or shocked when they throw their shadows o'er my worldly path.

    "For the first hour or two of my journey I felt exceedingly melancholy, as if a blank had been suddenly created in my heart; but when we fairly entered the country, the romantic beauty of the scenery, and the enlivening conversation of my fellow-travellers, relieved me, and I began to enter into the expedition with heart and soul; the more so, as I possessed a poetic turn of mind and a passionate love of external nature.  Passing into Derbyshire, I became deeply absorbed in the ever-changing panorama of mountain, vale, and river, which characterises that delightful county.  The bare and breezy heights of Buxton; the rude and rocky passes beyond; and, above all, that paradise of valleys, Matlock, wound me up to such a pitch of silent enthusiasm that my appetite failed me, and it was not until we had arrived at Derby, where the country becomes comparatively flat and uninteresting, that my mind came down to the level of every-day things.  In that few hours' ride it seemed as if a new world had been opened to me; for, having lived till then in dingy and populous regions of manufacture, my wild imagination had not conceived anything so wonderfully beautiful and sublime, as what I had just beheld.  It was then I began to feel the ambition to speak in poesy, to throw my thoughts and feelings into living language, and thereby to gain a place, happy if the humblest, among the bards of my own land.

    "About noon next day we entered the almost interminable wilderness of London, which astonished me with its vastness and its multitudinous life, its incessant din and incomparable splendour.  Shortly afterwards I was snugly located in a small, dim back parlour of a chop-house near the Thames.  Scarcely had I partaken of refreshment and settled myself to indulge a retrospective glance at the last twenty-four hours than mine host entered with the terrifying news that a Revolution had broken out in Paris, and that Charles X. had fled to England for protection.  I was paralysed at the intelligence, and for a considerable time I could not resolve on the course I should pursue.  I had left poverty behind, and I found that there was a dreadful alternative before me; but, flattering myself that the affairs of France were exaggerated, or, at all events, that the disturbance would be but of short duration, I determined to proceed, rather than return to the miseries from which I had escaped.

    "At an early hour next morning I embarked at the customhouse stairs for Calais, and as we floated down the noble river, with its thousand objects of interest, every apprehension of danger and distress vanished from my mind.  I felt as much calm indifference as if I was about to engage in some every-day occupation.  After we had passed the mouth of the river, and got fairly out upon the broad expanse of waters, my delight and admiration were indescribable.  The day was singularly clear; the sky, which was studded with some straggling clouds of snowy whiteness, wore a deep delicious blue, and the green transparent sea was sufficiently swelled by a fresh breeze, to give a graceful and exhilarating motion to the vessel.  I was in a quiet ecstasy; and as I leaned over the bulwarks, looking down on the weltering waves, I tried in fancy to penetrate their mysterious depths, and to gaze on their hidden wonders, beauties, and horrors.  A bustle on the deck aroused me from my reverie, and I observed that our captain was preparing to hail a packet returning from Calais.

    " 'Ahoy!  What news from France!' he demanded.

    "All communication between Paris and the provinces is stopped, and the people are in a state of great uncertainty and alarm!' was the disagreeable and ominous reply.

    "A little before sunset we neared Calais, which, floating like a picture on the waters, its white towers and chimneys gleaming in the softened light, seemed to welcome me to a land of antiquity and romance.  We reached the pier, which was crowded to excess, and I struggled my way through a host of Commissionaires who deafened me with their clamour, in extolling the comforts and advantages of their respective hotels.

    "I was forced to remain in Calais three days, for want of a conveyance, during which time I employed myself in perambulating the town, and in visiting its places of public amusement, particularly its dancing-gardens, where everybody appeared so social, so full of vivacity, and so contented, that I was enraptured with the country and longed to proceed on my journey.  At length the diligences came rolling in from the capital, bringing the agreeable tidings that the 'three glorious days' were over, and that Louis Philippe had been elected King of the French.  The people were in raptures; the cafes became suddenly crowded, and nothing was to be heard, either in or out of doors, but 'Le brave François!'  'La Belle France!' and the Marseillaise Hymn, and various other vociferations, indicative of excessive vanity and exultation.

    "By the first conveyance into Picardy I set off, my coat bedecked with a national rosette, while the tricoleur banner, planted on the top of the diligence, floated gaily in the breeze.  On we went through Dunkirk, St. Omer, Douay, and Cambray, all of which towns were in a state of commotion, till we halted in the Grand Place of St. Quentin, where I intended to try my fortune as a British artisan.  I was doomed, however, to be woefully disappointed, for recent events had deadened and depressed commercial spirit and enterprise, in consequence of which my applications for employment were almost in every case unsuccessful.  Nevertheless, I contrived with great difficulty to sojourn in the town two months, till, finding my prospects becoming daily more gloomy, I hesitated whether I should return to England or proceed to some other manufacturing town of France.  I decided on the latter course, and fixed upon Mulhausen, in Alsace, as the second scene of my speculations.  Packing up a scanty wardrobe, I made my way to Paris, where business constrained me to remain some eight or ten days; and having idle time on my hands I employed it in making myself somewhat acquainted with the city and its attractions."


    While in Paris he visited the Theatres, the Church of Notre Dame, Père la Chaise, the Palais Royale, the Luxemburg, the Tuilleries, and the Gallery of the Louvre; and ascending the Place Vendôme viewed the "lions" in the French metropolis.  He continues his narrative by giving the following account of the state of Paris after the Revolution.


"Though Louis Philippe had scarcely taken his seat on the throne, and though the blood of her patriotic citizens was barely dry upon her streets, Paris appeared to retain all her life and splendour, all her fashion and frivolity.  The thoroughfares were thronged with people, as gay, as talkative, and as vain as ever; the theatres were crowded with pleased spectators of the indelicate and horrible; the public walks were brilliant with female beauty; the gambling-houses were still haunted by the infatuated votaries of gain; and every hotel, café, and cabaret, rang with its usual sounds of unrestrained enjoyment.  That noble city, over which but a few weeks before the angel of death hovered, making many a heart sick and many a home desolate, now seemed filled with laughter, music, and festivity, as if disaffection, riot, and murder, were things of everyday occurrence, and as if the crushing of crowns and the overturning of thrones were but common occasional pastime."


    Leaving Paris, he pressed on through the province of Champagne, to Mulhausen.  In continuation of poor Prince's wanderings, we quote from Mr. Mandley's sketch, "which," says a contemporary of Prince's, "is one of the most affecting stories of real life ever given to the world."  "On arriving at Mulhausen he found trade little better than at St. Quentin.  Many manufactories were shut up, and the people in great distress.  His means were completely exhausted.  In a land of strangers, ignorant of the language, with the exception of the few words he had picked up on the road, he was, indeed, forlorn.  Without the means to return, and in the hope of a revival in trade, he remained here five months in a state of comparative starvation, sometimes being two entire days without food.  During this time some trifling relief was afforded him by the generous kindness of Mr. Andrew Kechlin, a manufacturer, the mayor of the town."

    Finding that his hopes were fruitless, and the desire of again seeing his wife and children becoming insupportable, he at length determined to undertake the task of walking home, through a strange land, for many hundred miles, without a guide and without money.  Accordingly, in the middle of a severe winter (January 1831), with an ill-furnished knapsack on his back, and ten sous in his pocket, he set off from Mulhausen to return to Hyde, in Lancashire, with a heart light as the treasure in his exchequer.  His wants, his privations, damped not the ardour of his soul; his poetic enthusiasm, while it drove him into those difficulties which a more prudent and less sanguine temperament would have made him avoid, yet served to sustain the buoyancy of his spirits under the troubles which environed him, and which it had superinduced.

    "For a few days he kept along the beautiful and romantic banks of the Rhine, exploring its ruined castles, and visiting every scene of legendary lore that came in his path, exclaiming, in the words of his favourite poet, Goldsmith:—


" 'Creation's heir; the world, the world is mine!'


He journeyed through Strasburg, and admired its splendid Cathedral; through Nancy, Verdun, Rheims, Luneville, Chalons, and most of the principal cities that lay near his route, till he reached Calais once more, obtained from the British Consul a passage across the Channel, and again set foot on his native soil.

    "During this toilsome journey he subsisted on the charity of the few English residents whom he found on his way.  He lay in four different hospitals for the night, but not once in the open air, as he did afterwards in his own country.  The first night after his arrival he applied for food and shelter at a workhouse in Kent, and was thrust into a miserable garret, with the roof sloping to the floor, where he was incarcerated with twelve others—eight men and four women, chiefly Irish—the lame, the halt, and the blind!  Some were in a high state of fever, and were raving for drink, which was denied to them; for the door was locked, and those outside, like the bare walls within, were deaf to their cries.  Weary and way-worn, he lay down on the only vacant place amid this mass of misery, at the back of an old woman who appeared to be in a dying state; but he could get no rest for the groans of the wretched around him.  Joyfully, indeed, did he hail the first beam of morning that broke through the crannies of the chamber of famine and disease, and when the keeper came to let him out his bed-fellow was dead!

    "Released from this lazar-house he proceeded onward, penniless and shoeless, towards London, begging in the day-time, and lying in the open fields at night.  When he reached London he had been the whole day without food.  To allay the dreadful—but to him then familiar—cravings of hunger, he went to Rag Fair, and taking off his waistcoat sold it for eightpence.  He then bought a penny loaf to mitigate his hunger, and four pennyworth of writing-paper, with which he entered a tavern, and, calling for a pint of porter, proceeded to the writing of as much of his own poetry as his paper would contain, and this amid the riot and noise of a number of coal-heavers and others.  As soon as he had done his task he went round to a number of booksellers, hoping to sell his manuscript for a shilling or two, but the hope was vain.  The appearance and manners of the famishing bard, to these mercantile men, were against him; he could not succeed in finding a customer for his poetry, or sympathy for his sufferings.

    "He stayed in London during two days, wandering by day, foodless, through its magnificent and wealth-fraught streets, and pacing about, or lying on the cold stones in gateways, or on the bare steps of the affluent by night.  In despair, on the third day he left the metropolis of the land of his birth, where he was a greater stranger and less cared for than in a foreign land, and wended his way homeward, first applying for relief to the overseer of 'Merry Islington,' where, urged by the stings of famine, he was importunate when denied assistance, and was therefore, for his temerity, thrust into the streets to starve.  A youthful and unabused constitution, however, saved him from what might have befallen a less healthful frame and a less buoyant heart."

    On his homeward journey he slept by the way in barns, vagrant offices, under hay-stacks, and in miserable lodging-houses, with ballad-singers, match-sellers, and mendicants, fully realising the adage of Shakespeare that "Misery makes a man acquainted with strange bed-fellows."  At length, by untiring perseverance, he reached Birmingham, where he ground corn, but alas! the relief thus obtained was only temporary; so, almost despairingly, he plodded on with his sad heart until he entered Leicestershire.  Here a most touching incident occurred which, years afterwards, he graphically described in a contribution to a Lancashire newspaper, from which we now quote.  The article is entitled "The Tramp," and is written in the third person, though signed with his own name.

    We pass over a few introductory paragraphs bearing upon circumstances to which we have already referred. He says:—


    "With begging, and the filthy places, he (the tramp) had been thrust into during the night, he had become thoroughly disgusted, and determined to have no future recourse to them.  One night about ten o'clock he approached the town of Leicester.

    "He had walked all the previous night, and all day, and had been thirty hours without food.  He was famished and weary.  His mind was becoming unsettled and vindictive, and began to question the justness of the proverb—Honesty is the best policy.  Hunger is a poor reasoner, and necessity has a tendency to swamp our morals, as those who have been so circumstanced best know.

    "Our poor artisan was plodding sluggishly on in the dark, when he reached a small lonely toll-house.  Through the window, which was without shutters, shone a cheerful light.  The tramp stopped before it, and heard a man's voice within as if reading.  Peering through a narrow hole in the curtains he beheld an aged man and woman—no other being.  The man was reading in a Family Bible which lay before him on the table, and the woman was stooping near to listen.  A wicked thought suddenly floated through the wayfarer's mind.  How easy to pounce upon that lonely and feeble couple,—with the stout stick in his hand fell them to the ground, seize whatever he could lay his hands upon, and decamp undetected in the dark.  The place was so isolated, too,—there did not appear to be any other house within a long distance—there was no dog about the premises—all was in his favour!

    "While he was endeavouring to screw up his courage to do the deed, the old man closed the Bible and the aged pair knelt down to pray.

    "The old man prayed fervently and well, and our tramp listened in spite of himself.  He wavered in his cruel intentions, but the pangs of hunger and a recollection of his condition kept him undecided.

    "Their kneeling position (the devil prompted) gave him a better chance of overpowering them.  He slid towards the door, then stole back again to the window; good and evil were at conflict with him, which would have the mastership he did not yet feel.  The old toll-keeper went on with his prayer.  He returned thanks to God for past benefits, and implored His care and mercy for the future, when the attention of the outside listener was riveted by the following words:—'We beseech Thee, O Lord, to extend the shadow of Thy protecting wings over us this night.  Preserve us from disease, fire, and all dangerous casualties.  Let not wicked or desperate men violate our lonely dwelling, and startle our feeble and defenceless age with terror and danger.  If they follow the dictates of an evil heart, oh! change Thou their nature.  If they be poor, and necessity tempt them to do a wicked thing, oh! instil into their souls the belief that Thy protecting hand is over them, and that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.'

    "Our artisan on hearing these words, so applicable to himself, was astonished and humbled.  He was convinced, he was softened, he was saved from his contemplated deed of iniquity, and he went on his way invoking a blessing on the inmates of that lonely dwelling.  As he came within sight of the lights of the town of Leicester he overtook a well-dressed man, to whom he had the courage to make known his destitute condition.  'I am sorry for you,' said the man; 'you shall not want a supper at any rate if you will come along with me.'  Our tramp was very thankful, and accompanied the man into the heart of the town.  The stranger turned into a respectable-looking public house.  'I am landlord here,' said he; 'come in.'  He took the artisan into the kitchen, where there was a glowing fire, set a huge plate of cold meat before him, and a tankard of ale.  He set to work with right good will, stimulated by the encouraging words of the worthy host.

    "When he was satisfied, a pipe and tobacco were brought him, and a number of workmen coming in, the landlord stated the wayfarer's case.  Immediately, with a sympathy which the poor are seldom slow in manifesting towards each other, they made him up a little subscription, amounting to six or seven shillings.  He got a comfortable bed, a good breakfast next morning, free of cost, and went on his way light-hearted and refreshed.  When he got into the country he kicked something with his foot, which jingled and glistened.  He picked it up: it was a veritable five-shilling piece: when the old toll-keeper's words with double force flashed across his mind, 'The darkest hour is just before the dawn.'

    "How gratefully did he acknowledge their truth!  Since then," continues 'The Tramp,' "when any little vexation or gloom comes over himself and family, and his wife is apt to murmur, he quiets her with the indelible aphorism, 'The darkest hour is just before the dawn.'

    "The above facts, though simple, are not without their sympathetic use to the desponding, the fretful, or the despairing; they recall those cheering words, and awaken faith in an over-ruling Providence.  Whatever may happen to us, however cheerless may be our prospects, let us make the very best of the means within our reach, hope on and wait, comforting ourselves with the sweet assurance that 'The darkest hour is just before the dawn.' "


    What noble words are these from one whose life had hitherto been a continuous and unvarying struggle with privation and disappointment!  How strong must have been the faith that sustained and enabled him to endure, as comparatively few have done, while he at the same time sang Hope's cheerful song, and ever looked forward with undaunted heart to "changes for the better" in the vista of the Future.

    Leaving Leicester he once more directed his steps homewards, occasionally singing ballads in the streets in order to obtain a crust of bread, while it is recorded he lay under the trees in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham, lodged in a vagrant office at Derby, and made his bivouac at Bakewell, in Derbyshire, in a "lock-up."  But his cup of misery was not yet full.  At length, by indomitable perseverance, and almost worn out with hunger, he reached Hyde, but only to find that the home of his heart, to which he had fondly looked forward as a haven of rest, had been dismantled during his absence.  We continue our narrative in the words of Mr. Mandley: "Whilst poverty had thus brought suffering upon him, when in quest of better means to provide for his family, it had also brought woe and privation upon his wife and babes.  Unable to provide for her children by her labour, she had been compelled to apply for parish aid, and was, in consequence, removed to the poorhouse of Wigan.  After a night's rest Prince hurried off to that town, and brought them back to Manchester, where he took a garret in a dingy court off Long Millgate—without food and clothes, or furniture of any description.  On a bundle of straw did this wretched family, consisting of a man, and his wife, and three children, lie for several months.  During all this time Prince was unable, except at very long intervals, to obtain even ill-paid employment, and had it not been for the labour of his wife, who was withal a most industrious and striving woman, they would have starved outright.  At this period of severe privation their youngest child died."

    Poor Prince's heart was almost broken by this last terrible blow, for death had ruthlessly seized upon his only boy, on whom he had outpoured the fondest love of his affectionate nature.  We can imagine the poor stricken parents, bowed down in mute despair, kneeling beside the bundle of straw upon which lay the lifeless body of their only son, in that dingy garret with its bare walls and awful emptiness.  Tears may have brought no relief to their bursting hearts, and the pangs of suffering which they endured may have found no alleviation in expression, yet, when the terrible realities of their destitute condition crossed their minds, they must both have felt that the little soul which the Giver had taken was far happier in being away.  In a touching poem, entitled "A Father's Lament," Prince afterwards recorded the harrowing ordeal through which he passed, and we cannot refrain from quoting a few lines which show how fondly the father had cherished hopes as to the future of his son:—


" 'Twas sweet to kiss thy sleeping eyes at morn,
 And press thy lips that welcomed my return;
 'Twas sweet to hear thy cheerful voice at play,
 And watch thy steps the livelong Sabbath day ;
 'Twas sweet to take thee on my knee, and hear
 Thine artless narrative of joy or fear,
 To catch the dawning of inquiring thought,
 And every change that time and teaching wrought.
 This was my wish—to guard thee as a child,
 And keep thy stainless spirit undefiled;
 To guide thy progress upward unto youth,
 And store thy mind with every precious truth;
 Send thee to mingle with the world's rude throng
 In moral worth and manly virtue strong,
 With such rare energies as well might claim
 The patriot's glory, and the poet's fame;
 To go down gently to the verge of death,
 And bless thee with a father's parting breath,
 Assured that thou would'st duly come to lave,
 With filial tears, a parent's humble grave.
"


    It may appear surprising that Prince's taste for poetry should have continued to develop itself despite all he had suffered; nevertheless, the gratification of his passion for poetic composition was now, amid all circumstances, his unfailing source of enjoyment, enabling him to revel in pleasure in an ideal, when misery was nipping him keenly in the real, world. He was now about twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, yet had he been not only an ardent student of the poets for nearly ten years, but had also more recently written fugitive pieces to various Manchester papers and periodicals. He may, to a great extent, have


"Learned in suffering what he taught in song; "


but even in these earlier efforts there is no evidence of his harbouring a spirit of repining misanthropy or harsh hatred of those in better circumstances or occupying a higher rank.  Indeed, he seems to have risen above the associations and chilling influences of poverty, to have proved himself superior to them, and, with powerful insight, to have recognised in poverty herself one of the most effective teachers of humanity.  In harmony with this belief, one is reminded of the sympathising teachings of Mr. E. Paxton Hood, who, in his admirable "Peerage of Poverty," says:—"There are many natures not proof against poverty, and let us not speak too harshly of their failings; even these are high angels compared with many of the children of wealth and rank: but there are noble natures whose hearts have passed through the scorching fires unscathed: like the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, they beheld, and others beheld, "the likeness as of the Son of man" in their fire: the fires were fiercer, but they could not scorch away the true affections of their nature; they contracted no misanthropic hatred of their kind; they did not blasphemously blame the Father of all good, but looked up with the most reverent eye to His throne; and so, from that time forth, they came, harp in hand, qualified to be the ministers and instructors of their race; nay, sometimes from the very furnace of trial itself there came forth, as the wail of music, a strong spiritual nature battling with despair; light, as of old, contending with darkness."

    It has been already stated that the poetic temperament, however highly developed, is subject to all the conditions imposed upon human nature; but, in addition, the character of poetic genius receives a bias from the common propensities of the poet's impulses, notwithstanding he may strive to disguise or conceal them.  Thus we should expect to find the works of the poet in accord with, and to a great extent the natural expression of, his own individual feelings and emotions; and that they are so, as a rule, is conclusively shown by referring to the works of the most celebrated bards.  There can be no doubt that the poet is distinguished from ordinary men by a more refined sensibility and a more delicate nervous organisation: and the possession of these exquisite susceptibilities enables him to revel in joys which others can neither recognise nor appreciate.  In the common things which lie along life's way, and which we pass by unheeded, he will recognise beauties which set every chord of his soul in vibration, and discover charms so ethereal as altogether to defy our ordinary powers of perception.  We must not, however, fail to remember that the increased spirituality of his nature predisposes him to pangs and sufferings known only by himself, while his finely-strung organisation will be painfully sensitive to the inharmonious minor chords which echo, alas! too often, from the many-stringed lyre of life.

    It has been said by a recent anonymous writer that, "most poets appear to drift, under the force of some occult tendencies of temperament, to a sad and regretful tone of sentiment, and so to a pessimistic view of life and the world."  Yet, even although the burden of the poet's song is oftener sad and plaintive than joyous and cheerful, it cannot be denied that exceptions to the rule are very numerous.  That the poetic temperament predisposes to sadness may be readily admitted, and this is not surprising when are taken into consideration the broader sympathies and acuter sensitiveness of the poetic nature, and the sorrowful phases of daily life, which are continually presenting themselves before the mind of the poet.  When we remember how generally poets are handicapped in the race of life, by virtue of those very powers that constitute their genius and their superiority over ordinary mortals, it is obvious that they must suffer oftener and more keenly by reason of pains and heart-burnings from which less sensitive minds are exempt, and that the pain they suffer, the unsatisfied longings and aspirations, and the irrepressible unrest of their souls, should not only impel them to sing, but that the burden of their song should so frequently be a sorrowful dirge, bewailing the heartless selfishness and the hollow hypocrisy of life, while proclaiming a gospel of love and charity.

    Every aspect of life, not only as affecting himself but also his fellow-men, must inevitably influence the true poet's mind, and, in the labyrinths of thought, receives tone and colour according to the disposition of his genius.  That life presents more gloom than sunshine to the majority of mankind is, alas! too true; and that, perhaps, the majority of the poets are more impressed by its dark than its bright side may be true also; yet we venture to think that only the more philosophic and materialistic poets are, as a rule, inclined to pessimistic ideas; while the true high priests of nature are found amongst those whose hearts are attuned to the music of life,—who, under all circumstances recognise life and its conditions as hallowed and beneficent, while they regard its sorrows and its suffering as the inevitable effects of causes which proceed from the evil in men's hearts, and seek to lead their souls up to that higher and holier life which is divine.

    Many of the poets tell us that their poetry has been born out of the travail of their souls, that suffering and misery, scorn and neglect, wrong and oppression, have been the incentives of their noblest themes; Shelley says,


"Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought;"


and that singing brings relief to overburdened hearts is well-expressed by Heine:—


'"Ich, ein tolles Kind, ich singe,
 Ietzo in der Dunkelheit;
 Klingt das Lied auch nicht ergötzlich,
 Hat's mich doch von Augst befreit."


    Poor Prince's life had hitherto been a perpetual warfare with all the ills that afflict humanity; yet, up to this period, he seems to have striven boldly, bravely, and well, to have subdued, as far as possible, the innumerable evils besetting his path, and to have risen superior to the baneful circumstances with which he had been associated.

    There is, perhaps, nothing more striking in the life of Prince than his hopefulness and trust under adversity, although few have been more intimately associated with the elements of despair.  It appears, indeed, as if he had been endowed with a double nature—the one grosser, and characterised by propensities inherent as well as acquired—the other higher and spiritual, tranquil and invulnerable.

    In all probability Prince did not remain longer than he could help in the dingy court off Long Millgate, Manchester, to which he had brought his wife and children after his return from the Continent.  The death of his infant in this place, was, perhaps, the saddest blow he had received in his sadly eventful life, and, irrespective of the lowness and squalor of the locality, the painful circumstances of his little one's death would naturally induce him to remove elsewhere as soon as possible.  He may have sought and perhaps found employment in Manchester for a time, but it is much more likely that he went to Hyde, where his father still carried on his business of reed-making, and where he would at least be sure to receive the sympathy of his mother, to whom he was ever a devoted son.  Possessed of a warm-hearted and loving disposition, he was always deeply attached to his relatives and friends; and although, in the case of his unappreciative father, his filial attachment was naturally associated with fear, yet his devotion to his mother was invariably tender and affectionate.  It is little to be wondered at, therefore, that in the nadir of his misfortunes he should hasten to the only home that was now left to him—to the village where, but a few years ago, full of love and hope, he had espoused the loving, faithful wife who was now the partner of his sorrows, and where, after a long period of chequered experience, it was decreed he should sleep his last sleep.  Certain it is, however, that soon after the death of his child he was once more engaged in his old handicraft at his father's side in Hyde, where he remained for a number of years, toiling on and hoping ever, cultivating and refining his mind by all the means at his disposal, whilst his poetic soul burst out oftentimes into song, which was yet to gladden the hearts of many, and to leave a name worthy of remembrance.

    Prince early became connected with Friendly Societies; in fact, as we shall see presently, he was intimately and officially associated with some of them for several years, and, in all probability, many of his happiest hours, at this period of his life, were spent amongst his fellow-members, after the despatch of business, in harmless social enjoyment.  It must not, however, be inferred that at this time Prince neglected either his usual daily work, or the pre-eminent charms of poetic composition, for such festive reunions; as a matter of fact his duties now monopolised most of his time, and, judging from the amount of literary labour he must have undergone soon after rejoining his father, it is absolutely certain he could not have mis-spent many of his opportunities.

    This opinion is strengthened by the fact that, probably as far back as the year 1836, he had been in the habit of meeting a number of young men of literary taste, on Sunday afternoons, for the purpose of reading and discussing essays in prose and verse, which had been written by themselves during the foregoing week.  In the course of time these earnest young knowledge-seekers formed themselves into a little Association, which they named "The Literary Twelve," and held their meetings at each other's house in rotation,—at Hyde, Ashton, Dukinfield, Staleybridge, and the adjoining villages; the entertainer for the day providing a slight repast for the company.  How Prince's heart must have rejoiced to find himself amongst those whose tastes were in some degree similar to his own, and especially amongst those of his own class, meeting as they did on common ground and for the common purpose of mental culture.  These young men were for the most part employed in the various departments connected with the cotton manufacture in the district, others were schoolmasters, while all were anxious to cultivate their inherent literary tastes, and to vie with one another in literary composition.  Indeed, they were more ambitious still, for were any of the contributions submitted to the meeting deemed worthy by the majority, they were forwarded to some local newspaper or periodical for publication, and were often successful in obtaining insertion.

    We can easily imagine Prince as facile princeps at these reunions, for, irrespective of the early dawning of his poetic genius, he had been an earnest student from his earliest youth, and had actually published several poems in various periodicals, many years before.  We have already seen that from the time he was able to read, studying the works of the poets had been his ruling passion amid all the vicissitudes and privations of his youth and early manhood: and it may at first seem strange that he did not more fully engage in literary pursuits as a profession, or at any rate make an effort to publish more of his early writings than he did.  Mr. James Dawson, an ardent admirer of Prince's genius, alluding to this subject, says: "How or why it was has always seemed to us inexplicable; feeling sure, as we have ever done, that he must, like all men of real genius, have been conscious all along of being possessed of superior powers.  It has furthermore always been to us matter for surprise that, with the rare literary faculty with which he was unquestionably endowed, he did not in his early manhood write himself into something higher than a reed-maker for weavers.  We never could help thinking otherwise than that literature as a profession ought to have had possession of him at an early age.  Instead of occasionally permitting his mind to go a-gypsying, as it were, in the enchanted domain of letters, he ought to have seen that it was a constant dweller in the charmed realm.  Possessed of his undoubted capacity, he could surely have easily done what far inferior men had done,—gained a certain emolument by the pen.  Poetry with him was not only a predilection of his youth but a necessity of his nature; and we cannot see why literature in general should not have been the same.  He must have had inherent in him the express powers of the born littérateur, and the reason why he did not early cultivate those powers to the utmost, and exercise them far more frequently than he seems to have done, we have no means of ascertaining."

    That the majority of individuals, under similar circumstances, would have plunged boldly into the sea of literature is, we think, most probable; and that Prince published so little, and formed no connection with literature as a profession in the earlier part of his career, must always remain a matter for surprise; but when we consider the character of the man and the poet more minutely, we shall have less difficulty in accounting for this seeming anomaly.  From the fact that he had published so little it does not follow that he had not written a great deal, nor must we, on this account, infer that he had not, in the interim, earnestly striven to strengthen his mind and educate his taste by zealously making use of all the means at his disposal.  It must be borne in mind that, at the time of which we write, there were not the same facilities for literary pursuits as we now enjoy: newspapers were the principal channels through which literary productions were presented to the public, and even these were by no means so numerous fifty years ago as they are in our own energetic times, when almost every small town in the kingdom has its local political organ, and periodical literature of every description permeates the length and breadth of the land; nor were the high-class newspapers in those days at all eager for rhyming contributions from such as weavers' reed-makers: not that we think any production of Prince's pen, even at his worst, would have been "declined with thanks," owing to its having failed to reach any real or imaginary standard in point of literary excellence.  Local booksellers were few, local publishers were fewer, and none were disposed to face the responsibility, in a purely manufacturing district, of printing any poetical work however promising.  But other and more cogent reasons present themselves before our mind as to why Prince published so little during the first thirty years of his life, and these may be briefly summed up in a few words:—his extreme sensitiveness, and the want of some stronger and appreciative mind to aid and advise him;—his great want of confidence in himself; and his desire to prove himself a true poet to the world, by publishing an original work that would ensure his reputation, which he eventually accomplished.

    It is a curious fact that the first three poems he ever wrote, as he himself informs us, only appeared, so far as we know, in the last volume he ever published, viz. "Miscellaneous Poems," a few years before his death.  From the author's own statement it seems that his first verses were not written until 1827, and if this be correct, it is indeed curious that the strong poetic instinct which he had developed from childhood should not have found expression before his nineteenth year.

    The three poems alluded to were named "A Pastoral," "The Soldier of Progress," and "Sonnet to a Friend."  Although inferior to his maturer efforts, the fact of their being his first attempts makes them interesting, and we subjoin two verses from the second, and the whole of the last.  In the "Soldier of Progress," after enumerating his "glorious watchwords," and describing his mission as that of "achieving good for man," he says:—


"Come forth, thrice-tempered steel of Truth,
 And thou, stern Virtue, lend thy shield, immortal
 Freedom, strong in youth, Equip me for the field;
 Buckle thy corselet on my breast,
 Set thy unshivered lance in rest,
         Lend all thy panoply to-day;
 Plant thy bright casket on my brow,
 Crown me with snowy plumes.—
         Ah! now I'm ready for the fray.
 
 Come on, in all your banded power,
 Oppression, falsehood, error, wrong;
 If God but help in peril's hour,
         I in my cause am strong;
 Come in the darkness of your guiles,
 Lurk in the ambush of your wiles;
         Come in your bold and brazen strength,
 Come in the midnight or the day,
 March, menace, struggle, or waylay,
         I'll conquer ye at length."


    These stanzas are full of promise if not of power, and manifest not only purity of sentiment and dignity of tone, but genuine poetic expression.  The last poem of the three is the sonnet which follows:—


"Though fate has willed that thou must change thy home,
 To seek that bread which thou art here denied,
 Here where rank wealth can raise a lordly dome,
 By ill-fed worth, and groaning toil supplied,
 While we, alas! must bend to pampered pride,
 Reft of the guerdon labour ought to give,
 Submissive tremble when our tyrants chide,
 And lack the human privilege to live;
 Yet thou wilt not forget the pleasant hours
 Which we in social intercourse have spent,
 When Poesy has strewn her magic flowers,
 And calm  Philosophy his wisdom lent.
 Let memory its welcome missives send
To me, the youthful bard, who claims thee as his friend."


    We are unable to ascertain to whom this sonnet was addressed, but in all probability it was dedicated to some friend of kindred tastes and feeling, who had been compelled to leave the district in consequence of commercial depression.  The youthful bard was evidently smarting from the hopelessness and thraldom of his condition, when contrasted with the opulence and luxury of the classes above his own; and his generous and sympathetic nature was at this period readily enlisted on the side of the weak and suffering, and arrayed against the so-called privileged orders.  A little more experience, however, taught him that the great reforms for which he longed were not to be effected by setting class against class, but in recognising the interdependence of all grades of the community, and by the promotion of such social virtues as dignify manhood and ennoble their possessor.

    In 1828 Prince was an occasional contributor to the "Phoenix," a serial then edited by Messrs. J. B. Rogerson and Hewitt; and it is curious to observe that in these earlier pieces we often find him using not only various signatures, as "Britannicus," "Harold Hastings," "Walter Wellbrook," etc., but also altering his own name by omitting his second name "Critchley," and substituting some other for it.  For what purpose he indulged in these caprices can only be surmised; it may have been a mere whim, or he may have been anxious to conceal his identity; but it is not unlikely he thought that by these means, whilst he preserved his surname, he might the better challenge the criticism of his friends and indulge their curiosity.

    After this, literature had evidently a strong hold upon him, for he now frequently contributed to various local periodicals, including the "Microscope," the "Companion," (the weekly literary supplement of the "Manchester Weekly Times"), the "Falcon," the "Regenerator," etc., all of which have long since ceased to exist; and thus he was not only fitting himself for the role of author, but also bringing his name before the public, and forming a circle of literary friends and associates.

    Indeed, from this period, he must have earnestly striven to improve his general education, and especially his poetic taste.  By degrees he found the power and grasp of his mind become stronger; whilst his desire for the acquisition of knowledge became proportionately intensified.  The poetic instincts of his nature were now irresistible, and he surrendered himself to the inexpressible charms of composition.  Henceforth he not only found renewed pleasure in the study of poetic literature, but greater facility in interpreting its beauties; and as, in addition to this increased power of appreciation, he, experienced a corresponding facility in poetical expression, it is not surprising to find him devoting every possible opportunity to pursuits which were now of all absorbing interest.  He had much to endure, many difficulties to overcome, yet nothing could damp his ardour; and, notwithstanding his long hours of daily labour, his scanty wages and consequent poverty, neither fatigue nor privation could restrain him from the companionship of books or neutralise the charms of literary effort.

    About this time the condition of the operative classes throughout the north of England was unusually distressing, owing to general commercial stagnation.  Into the causes of this disastrous mercantile depression it is not now our purpose to enter; but four successive bad seasons, the contraction of the currency and stoppage of credit, and the consequent decrease in the wages of labour, combined to produce an amount of distress seldom before witnessed in Great Britain, one seventh of the entire population having, according to the "Annual Register," become paupers.  The sufferings and privations of the working classes were indeed terrible; but perhaps there was no section of the community so deeply and lamentably affected by this industrial paralysis as those connected with the various branches of the cotton manufacture in Lancashire and Yorkshire; and what the poor weavers had to endure, the following extract from Mr, S. Laing's admirable Prize Essay "On the Distress of the Country" fully attests.  He says:—"It is established by incontestable facts that a large proportion of the dense mass of population, crowded together in the low districts of our large towns, have absolutely no regular and recognised occupations, and live, as it were, outlaws upon society.  The most unfortunate class of operatives is the hand-loom weavers, of whom, in 1841, there were upwards of 800,000.  It was found by inquiry at Huddersfield that the average earnings of 402 weavers, maintaining 1655 persons, was 5s. 6¼d. d, per week, or 2¼d. per day for each individual.  At Ashton-under-Lyne the average family earnings were 4s. 11¼d. per week.  At Wigan the average of 113 persons employed gave 3s. 11d. per week for each.  In the more favoured branches of handloom weaving, a wage of about 7s. 6d. was realised; but to earn this, or even an inferior sum, labour was protracted to 70 hours per week.  The employment in most instances was also irregular; and, all things considered, it was manifest that the bulk of the 800,000 persons depending on this precarious employment existed on the verge of extreme destitution.  Nearly the same remark might be applied to a large proportion of persons employed in the great national manufactures.  Of two and a half millions of individuals engaged in the woollen, linen, and silk trades, there are in ordinary circumstances about one-third plunged in extreme misery, and hovering on the verge of starvation; another third earning something better than the agricultural labourer, but under circumstances very prejudicial to health, morality, and domestic comfort; and, finally, a third earning high wages, amply sufficient to maintain them in respectability and comfort.  Since these facts were elicited wages have fallen 15 or 20 per cent, and distress has spread upwards, invading the condition of the highly-paid workmen connected with machinery."

    Up to 1838 Prince was for the most part engaged in assisting his father, but in that year, and probably owing to great depression in his own handicraft, we find him obtaining an appointment as yarn warehouseman in the extensive mills of Mr. Randall Hibbert, of Hyde; his duty being to weigh in the yarn from the spinners, and to give it out again to the winders and weavers.  He had also to keep an account of a portion of the stores used on the premises, and we are told that the desk at which he worked was generally filled with manuscripts; any spare time he might have being invariably devoted to writing.  Here he remained until about the end of 1840, during which time he was industriously preparing for the press the MS. of his first work, and occasionally contributing to some of the local periodicals.

    The attention of Mr. G. F. Mandley had been attracted by Prince's tentative contributions to periodical literature, and he was, perhaps, the first to claim for him public recognition.  Indeed, Prince afterwards designated him as his "earliest intellectual friend." [Ed.—see "To Quintus Hortensius"]  On receiving from Mr. Mandley one of the first, if not the very first letter that passed between them, Prince was sitting very poor and very dejected in his cottage in Hyde, writing or about to write, his "Farewell to Poesy."  This poem had in it originally a few verses which were afterwards suppressed on the suggestion of Mr. Mandley.  Two of such verses alluded to the receipt of Mr. Mandley's letter, and were as follows:—


"While thus bewailing all my woe,
 At length came in the postman, Joe,
         And handed me a letter.
 Ah! doleful tidings, I'm afraid;
 Perhaps some long account unpaid
         Which claims me for its debtor.

"At length to learn my woe or weal,
 With trembling hands I broke the seal,
         All doubtful and dejected:
 I read, and read with glad surprise,
 But scarce had faith to trust my eyes
         With words so unexpected."


    Mr. Procter says:—"When I first formed acquaintance with Mr. Prince's muse he was a noteless contributor to the poets' corner of a weekly periodical,—'The Regenerator,'—published in Manchester in 1839.  Dating from Hyde, he was a stranger to me, and the literary world knew nothing of him.  Two or three gentlemen of influence were, however, striving to make his merits known.  Being struck with the superiority of his verses, and youth being impulsive, I wrote a few complimentary lines to the 'Regenerator.'  Prince afterwards received many printed words of admiration, but as this was one of the earliest of the series, its revival may be excused on that account.  Here is the brief recognition and greeting:—


SONNET.

TO THE "BARD OF HYDE."


May pale disease and hateful strife,
Delightful Bard, ne'er compass thee;
But, from corroding sorrow free,
With health and peace may pass thy life.
Yet should affliction's arm descend,
    And ills, and fear of ills, assail,
    Yet may the muse o'er all prevail,
And sweet contentment be thy friend.
Then wilt thou find unclouded days,
    With bright, untroubled dreams by night,
And envy not the court's rich blaze,
    Nor e'en the monarch in his might;
But press the onward course of time,
As hopeful as thy heartfelt rhyme.


    "To this simple tribute Mr. Prince responded through the same channel of communication, and in a similar strain, which he thought worth preserving in 'Hours with the Muses.'

    "When, twenty years later, my volume of 'Literary Reminiscences' was issued, I had the pleasure of seeing Prince read therein, with quiet approval, a friendly account of the early days, which I have here slightly recalled."

    About this time we find Prince writing a poem to J. B. Rogerson, entitled "My Portrait: to a brother poet," which was published in "The Herald of the Future," a paper established for the advocacy of a repeal of the Corn Laws; also "The Factory Slave," in acknowledgment of the public services of Mr. Richard Oastler, the advocate of the "Ten Hours' Factory Act," whose ready purse had often assisted the struggling poet.  This latter poem afterwards appeared in Prince's first work, but, for obvious reasons, it was then simply entitled "The Slave," and had been altered considerably, so as to conceal in some degree the specific purpose for which it was originally written.

    Some time before leaving Hyde he wrote the following letter to his friend Mr. R. W. Procter:—


"HYDE, April 5, 1840.


.  .  .  .  "You will doubtless think me a sad negligent fellow that I have not answered your letter sooner.  A multiplicity of cares and little unimportant engagements have been the cause of my protracted silence.  How are you getting on in this beautiful but much abused world?  Does the ever-gentle muse still woo you to her exquisite embrace? . . . .

    "Let us commune with each other through the medium of verse occasionally, lest the Muses should punish us for our neglect by withholding their refining and harmonious influence.  You appear to think that my rambles (to St. Quentin, in Picardy, and to Mulhausen, on the Upper Rhine), would afford the ground-work of a lengthy, and, if managed with ability, an interesting poem.  I have serious thoughts of trying what I can do with it.  I think I shall postpone the publication of my effusions ('Hours with the Muses,') till the above is finished, which may be in a state of forwardness by next spring.  A gentleman [1] in London (author of 'The Revolt of the Bees') has suggested the propriety of my doing so, and has consulted Edward Moxon, the poets' bookseller, who is of opinion that such a poem, at the head of the rest, would most probably meet with success.  I have, accordingly, concluded to commence 'The Poor Man's Pilgrimage' immediately, if my wonted powers have not entirely forsaken me.

. . . . " I cannot tell when I shall come over to Manchester, probably not before Easter or Whitsuntide.
.  .  .  .
    "With the assurance that I shall be glad of a line from you at any time (oftener the better), I subscribe myself your sincere friend, " J. C. P
RINCE. "

P.S.—What kind of stanza would you recommend for my embryo epic?"


    "The Poor Man's Pilgrimage" was never completed, although, as Procter says, "'The Poet's Sabbath' is enriched with the memories of those foreign scenes, without there being any direct allusion to them.  The only poem containing personal reminiscences of that excursion is 'The Wanderer,' if we except a sonnet 'To France,' and a few incidental stanzas."

    In his interesting "Literary Reminiscences and Gleanings," Mr. Procter thus refers to his first meeting with Prince, which happened about this period:—"In the winter of 1840-1, was paid my first friendly visit to Mr. Prince, at Hyde.  The 'Bard of Hyde,' as Mr. Prince was styled, was then a factory operative, wearing the Cheadle swinger usually worn by his class in country towns and villages.  At that early time, and in that substantial garment, there was about the poet an air of sturdiness, of homely comfort, which shortly afterwards disappeared when broad-cloth came to supplant velveteen.  I found him engaged in the pleasant task of revising his manuscript for the press, being on the eve of publishing his maiden volume, 'Hours with the Muses.' "

    Prince was now about thirty-two years of age, but the flight of time had done little to advance his worldly interests, however it may have served to develop his genius.  During the last three years the permanent character of his situation in Mr. Hibbert's mills had conduced to his comparative comfort, and freed him from the irksomeness and anxiety of want of occupation, which, in his case, meant really want of bread.  Reed making, ebbing and flowing, was ever an uncertain employment; but as yarn warehouseman in the extensive mills referred to, Prince found in all probability not only more congenial occupation but also greater facilities for following the ineradicable bent of his nature.  His circumstances being thus comparatively easier, his mind was free to revel amongst his favourite pursuits; and whilst now, perhaps, happier than he had ever been, he devoted all his spare time to the preparation of his poems, and, doubtlessly, looked forward to an increase of joy and brighter hopes in the future.

    Reverting to his boyhood, we find that, amid all the terrible disadvantages of his lot, the genius which nothing could restrain was whispering to this poor student of a higher life, and teaching him, in lessons which were never forgotten, to labour and to wait.  As years wore on, the sound principles which had been earnestly inculcated by his mother developed themselves with the growth of his inner being, and although his educational advantages were most meagre and elementary, heaven had implanted within him a light which no lack of education could darken, and which sustained him through all the trials of his earthly lot.  With the discovery and recognition of genius came the ardent desire for its exercise—brighter and more tangible hopes, stronger promptings, and higher impulses.  Life had been dreary, and his work hard, and so it probably would be to the end of his days; but he now saw farther, his vision was brighter, and he felt that the bliss of a higher life was already his: a life of dreams perhaps, yet sublime in its purposes, and in its power divine.

    In this dawning higher life Prince recognised his mission, and all the energy of his being was exerted to fulfil it.  He set himself the task of self-education, and by persistent application enriched his mind with a varied store of general knowledge, and drank deeply of "the well of English undefiled."

    All through life Prince was devoted to books; and he must indeed have toiled laboriously in the process of his self-education to have attained the results so manifest in his own works.  In addition to the respectable knowledge of English literature thus acquired, his sojourn on the Continent had enabled him to become tolerably proficient in the French language; enough, at any rate, to permit his enjoying the seductive brilliancy of the French writers; and that he had also some knowledge of German is evidenced by the translations which are scattered amongst his poems.

    But although books had done much to develop the powers of his mind, Nature was the "gentle monitress" who had educated his heart; and the lessons which he had learned out of her pages must have been graved indelibly upon the tablets of his memory, sustaining and encouraging him through his dreary life, and developing every impulse towards goodness and right.

    The Prince family were, for the most part, members of the Established Church, but John Critchley was not a regular attendant.  Six days out of the seven he toiled early and late for "the bread that perisheth," and on Sundays he was ever wont to wander through the fields and by-paths; his mind pensive and active, his heart rejoicing in the teeming eloquent beauties of "adoring Nature," while his thirsting soul became reinvigorated as with the dew of heaven, and thrilled with joys that were to him divine.  Nature was the temple in which he worshipped, and wherein his soul held devout communion with Nature's God; and we have ample evidence, scattered through his works, of how deeply he venerated and how enthusiastically he longed for the sacred day of rest.  Let him, however, speak for himself:—

Sabbath Sabbath! thou art my Ararat of life,
Smiling above the deluge of my cares,—
My only refuge from the storms of strife,
When constant Hope her noblest aspect wears,—
When my torn mind its broken strength repairs,
And volant fancy breathes a sweeter strain.
Calm season! when my thirsting spirit shares
A draught of joy unmixed with aright of pain,

Spending the quiet hours 'mid Nature's green domain.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *

God of the boundless universe! I come
To hold communion with myself and Thee!
And though excess of beauty makes me dumb,
My thoughts are eloquent with all I see;
My foot is on the mountains—I am free,
And buoyant as the winds that round me blow!
My dreams are sunny as yon pleasant lea,
And tranquil as the pool that sleeps below;

While, circling round my heart, a poet's raptures glow."


    Over hill and dale, into the valley and up the mountain, through flowery meadows, and by sparkling streams would he wander onward in angelic leisure to drink in the spirit of love and harmony, whilst his gifted soul, animated by influences "mystic and divine," and overflowing with gratitude and praise, received a baptism of renewed blessing, and the life of his genius was set in motion, "even as the wind breathes upon an Eolian harp—as the sun quickens the leaves, the trees, and the flowers."  Then, thrilled by "the voiceless eloquence on earth," and his heart overflowing with love and gratitude to Him


.    .    .     . Whose hidden but supreme control
Moves through the world, a universal soul,


he reclines upon the "lap of earth," and, deeply contemplative, surrenders himself to the divine agencies around and within him:—


While from the singing lark, that sings unseen
The minstrelsy that solitude loves best,
And from the sun, and from the breezy air,
Sweet influences trembled o'er his frame;
And he, with many feelings, many thoughts,
Made up a meditative joy, and found
Religious meanings in the forms of Nature!
And so, his senses gradually rapt
In a half-sleep, he dreams of better worlds.

COLERIDGE.


    We have already alluded to Prince's reflective, melancholy disposition as a boy; and still regarding Genius as an inherent, ineradicable bent, we cannot doubt but that its influences were manifesting themselves within him, even at this early period; and that the premature thoughtfulness thus engendered, especially when contrasted with the inferiority of his condition and circumstances, not only stamped him early with the brand of care, but rendered the problem of his own existence an inscrutable mystery.

    Poor Prince, as we have seen, received very little instruction during boyhood; and, in addition to the meagre elements taught at his mother's knee, and the short period of his attendance at Sunday School, he had since learnt little, and saw equally little, calculated to develop his latent energies, or to awaken within him dignified conceptions of the mighty power and ennobling purposes of life.  Fortunately, however, he found in Nature not only an unfailing source of sweetest joy but an unerring monitor, whose communicable influences elevated his aspirations, soothed his sorrows, and, whilst fostering within him those virtues which ennoble humanity, warned him to flee from the vices which degrade it, and sought ever to preserve his genius "unspotted from the world."  More than all this, while ever charming him with her beauty, and directing him with her ministry, she taught him to raise his aspirations beyond the fleeting phantasies of sense and time, and


"To look from Nature up to Nature's God."


    Much as he loved her in her every mood, it must not be imagined that the religion which she taught Prince was a mere inanimate godless pantheism, which worships the forms of nature as themselves the god, "and man himself, a part of the pantisocracy, as a leaf upon the tree, as a wave upon the ocean."

    "There is," says John Foster, "through all Nature, some mysterious element like soul, which comes with a deep significance, to mingle itself with the conscious being of the intent and devout observer."  And a man's heart must be in devout communion with God, or the higher lessons of Nature will be for ever beyond his ken.  She will not teach a prayerless mind, nor become the inspiration of religion, nor the light of life, when faith in that which is above her is weak or wanting; but, as Cheever says, "the man who can really, not with mere sentimentalism, but in living union of the mind and heart, converse with God through Nature, possesses, in material forms around him, a source of power and happiness inexhaustible, and like the life of angels."

    In Nature the poet sees a world of his own; he beholds what is reflected in the depths of his own being by the creative power of his imagination; and thus he stands, as it were, between earth and heaven, his heart enraptured with the beautiful, while the sublime intuitions of his genius recognise the mysterious analogies existing between the natural and the spiritual, and he pours forth his soul to God in prayer and praise.

    Communion, then, with God through the medium of Nature was the simple but sublime religious faith which Prince enshrined within his heart of hearts; and who can say that it was not higher and purer than more elaborate creeds, bristling with dogma and doctrine?

    As he himself says:—


My religion is Love,—'tis the noblest and purest;
And my temple, the universe,—widest and surest
.


    The sweet evangel of the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men," embodied the simple formula of his faith; whilst the moral virtues inculcated in the teaching, and exemplified in the glorious life of Him of whom the angels sang, took deep and abiding root within his soul, and found hallowed expression in his glowing numbers.  Right and liberty, truth and charity, winged every impulse of his better self, and swelled the burden of his impassioned song; and whilst every chord of his soul vibrated responsively to the spirit of Beauty, every beat of his heart throbbed in unison with the joys and sorrows, the virtues and weaknesses of poor humanity.

    Poverty, with all its ills, had taught him large-hearted, liberal ideas as to men and things; and knowing but too well the pains and penalties of self-restraint, he grew to feel animated by a tender, generous sympathy wit the frailties of others, but especially with those who like himself, belonged to the poorer section of the artisan class.  Whilst thus actuated, however, his spirit revolted against every manifestation of injustice or oppression; and his innate modesty was such as led many, whose knowledge of his true character was superficial, not only to misunderstand him, but to form erroneous and unjust opinions of his nature and disposition.  Those who judged Prince solely from appearances, and those who, seeing only his faults, allowed themselves to be blinded as to the good within him, were incompetent to form a just estimate of such a man, and could not, certainly, wash their hands of that for which they were not altogether irresponsible.

    Although highly gifted he was very human; and in regarding his weaknesses every allowance should be made for the circumstances of his life, and the peculiarity of his temperament. Simple-minded and highly sensitive, few had suffered more keenly from the natural foes of humanity; and his mental constitution was such as predisposed him to temptations and to influences which were calculated to weaken the power of his volition.

    In one of his admirable essays, A. K. H. B. has well observed that "'There is no reckoning up the manifold impedimenta by which human beings are weighted for the race of life; but all may be classified under the two heads of unfavourable influences arising out of the mental or physical nature of the human beings themselves, and unfavourable influences arising out of the circumstances in which the human beings are placed."  And another thoughtful writer [2] says: "One of the saddest things about human nature is, that a man may guide others in the path of life without walking in it himself; that he may be a pilot and yet a castaway."

    These opinions are especially applicable to Prince, and express those fundamental causes which resulted in his non-success as a citizen of the world.  He was not only peculiarly constituted, but the adverse influences arising out of the melancholy circumstances of his life, rendered all the more pernicious by a period of temporary success, must have overcome even those who were more capable of offering resistance.  In what Prince has written we have conclusive evidence of his power to teach his fellow-men, and to lead them into higher and better paths through


"Life's tangled maze."


    However he himself may have deviated from that "more excellent way," which he knew so well, it is only just to his memory that the influences against which he had to contend, and which eventually misled him, should be clearly indicated and enforced.  Those who knew him best, loved him most; and however he may have erred, however he was misjudged and misunderstood, the higher, better self of the man, and the genius of the poet, still survive in the rich legacy of song which he has bequeathed to posterity.



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FOOTNOTES.


1.    Mr. John Minter Morgan, died in London, in 1854, aged seventy-two.

2.    "Guesses at Truth."

 

 



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