John Critchley Prince: Biography (3)
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CHAPTER III.


AFTER the publication of "Hours with the Muses," poor Prince "awoke to find himself famous;" from private as well as public sources came many flattering encomiums on his poems: and his little shop, over the counter in which he sold his book, was scarcely ever without a purchaser, an acquaintance, or a literary friend.  A small space farthest from the entrance had been partitioned off to form a little study, where, at a high office desk under the window, he would sit and write, when he was in a writing mood, and when in this sanctum chafed at any unwarrantable intrusion.  Some few of his literary friends found admission; but he was most genial when sitting by his own kitchen fire.

    In some personal reminiscences of the poet, with which we have been favoured by Mrs. G. Linnæus Banks, the accomplished and successful novelist (née Miss Isabella Varley), she says:—"I remember on one occasion finding Prince seated with a tall hulking fellow by his side, and whilst the visitor talked away, throwing in only an occasional monosyllable, but swaying uneasily on his seat, and rubbing both hands slowly up and down his knees.  Mrs. Prince whispered to me, 'You see how Prince is rubbing his knees?  He always does that when he does not like his company, and, getting vexed at their stay, he is wishing he could tell them to go.'  And then she went on to tell me how irritated he was by the impertinent intrusion of people who came to see and talk to him as if he were a curiosity for exhibition."

    Another source of vexation to Prince was some misunderstanding with Mr. J. P. Westhead concerning the supply of "Hours with the Muses" placed at the disposal of the author.  Mr. Westhead had publicly proclaimed himself as Prince's patron, and had been mainly instrumental in promoting the publication of the work; but it appears that he exercised a discretionary power in supplying Prince with copies beyond the number required for actual subscribers, whereas Prince expected to have had the whole issue placed at his disposal.  However, the unfortunate circumstances arising indirectly out of the success of the work, and to which we shall presently refer, were such as fully to justify Mr. Westhead in the course which he had found necessary to adopt.  That Mr. Westhead was a sincere friend and true benefactor to the poet, there can be no doubt; and that Prince heartily appreciated his generous aid and friendship, cannot be more fully attested than by quoting from a poem specially dedicated to his benefactor, and which appeared in each successive edition of "Hours with the Muses."  Mr. John Jellicorse had likewise been a liberal patron of Prince's, and his name is also embalmed in the fervent thrilling poem from which we extract the following verses:—


Before I lay my lowly harp aside,—
My constant hope, my solace, and my pride,
        Through all the changes of my grief or glee,—
Before its powers grow weaker and depart,
I weave the inmost feelings of my heart
        In one true song of thankfulness to thee.

But thou hast been a steadfast friend indeed,—
For ever ready in the hour of need
        To bid my sorrows and my wants depart;
Not with a haughty, patronising pride,
Taking a license to condemn and chide,
        But with a perfect sympathy of heart.
*            *            *            *            *            *
To thee and generous Jellicorse, I owe
Much; and my future gratitude shall show
        How well I can remember every debt;
The calm benevolence, the manly tone,—
The care, the kindly feeling ye have shown,
        Are things I cannot, if I would, forget.

May peace be with ye both! Should future time
Prosper my energies, and I should climb
        Where the far steep of glory proudly towers,
With what full pleasure I shall then look back
Along my perilous but upward track
        And bless the friends who cheered my darker hours!


    Prince being now fairly settled in Manchester, the local success of his poems secured, and his recognition as a poet established, it may not be here inappropriate to give an outline of his appearance and disposition, so that the reader may have a more vivid impression of his individuality.

    Prince was a man of slight physique, but wiry, and rather above the medium height, being about five feet ten.  His head was massive and striking, his forehead lofty and expansive, his face expressive, and a profusion of dark-brown silky hair, which he wore long and flowing behind, added much to the peculiarity of his appearance.  Although the various details of his features were of an ordinary character, yet the aspect of his head and face in the aggregate was certainly intellectual, and the general effect suggestive and remarkable.  The circumference of the head itself was twenty-three inches and a half, being about one inch above the average; and phrenologists would say that the perceptive range of faculties was very highly developed, and that he was amply endowed with veneration, while in self-esteem and firmness he was even below the average.

    His eyes were large, lustrous, and prominent, and seemingly farther apart than usual; and although he did not actually squint, yet, whilst the left eye seemed to look directly outwards, its fellow appeared to turn a little to the dexter side, which heightened the peculiar expression of his face, and was in all probability the result of habit.  His nose was large and prominent, his mouth weak and flexible, and his chin, curving inwards somewhat abruptly, gave the lower part of his face a somewhat shortened appearance, which was however relieved by full-grown whiskers; whilst the shoulders fell away obliquely from a narrow neck and throat, and his spare frame, and long loose-jointed limbs rendered his tall figure rather gaunt and ungainly.

    While it may thus easily be seen that the poet could lay little claim to personal grace, there was that about him which conveyed the impression of originality and superior intelligence; and although his characteristic manner was reserved almost to taciturnity, and the usual expression of his face thoughtful, if not melancholy, yet, when animated by emotion or convivial companionship, he was, as a contemporary describes him, "like another man," his face vividly reflecting every feeling and impulse of the active spirit within, and his unprepossessing features redeemed by eyes which glowed like living stars.  It must not therefore be supposed, because he was generally reticent, grave, and unobtrusive, and his countenance


"Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,"


that he was by any means misanthropic or unsocial.  Nor can it be any wonder that the hardships and privations through which he had passed had stamped his face with a pensive and pre-occupied expression; though, when he mixed with cultured minds and kindred spirits this wonted diffidence and reserve soon passed away, and he became as genial, cheerful, and companionable as any with whom he associated; nay, more, like all men gifted, as he was, with susceptibility, imagination, and innate sociability, he caught fire at every flush of conviviality; and herein is contained the saddest chapter in his sad, sad life, as we shall see ere long.

    Some one has said that the character of the poet is usually one of extremes—child-like docility and deep haughtiness; an expansion of heart that would embrace all humanity, and a shrinking sensitiveness that would prompt to perpetual seclusion. Prince was, indeed, as simple as a child, and as unaffected, tender-hearted, and unsuspicious ; but, as is generally the case in those who are capable of intense emotion, his innate pride was easily aroused by anything savouring of maliciousness or injustice, and his righteous indignation waxed strong and eloquent in defence of violated principles.

    No one, regarding merely the outer appearance of the modest meditative man, whose brow was furrowed with care and suffering, and whose face wore its wonted tranquil pensive aspect, could ever imagine that beneath his calm exterior there was a heart overflowing with human kindness and glowing with fervent love for all God's creatures; nor could they imagine that a storm of passion lay slumbering in his breast more deeply still.  But rarely, however, were the inner aspects of his being unveiled even to his most intimate friends, and it seemed as if, in intercourse with his associates, unless, perhaps, when under the spell of conviviality, he lacked the power to express all he thought or felt, and that it was only when in retirement, and either in prose or verse, that he could unburden himself of those feelings which now inspired him as a prophet now moved him like a child.  How deeply he thought, how enthusiastically he hoped, and how thoroughly in earnest was the outward expression of his inner life, is fully attested by his published works; and yet none but those who knew him intimately could ever conjecture that he possessed such cultivated taste and delicacy of feeling as his poems evince, or that he was qualified so enthusiastically to appreciate all that is noble, tender, or generous.

    When we contrast Prince's outward daily life with that inner life—his better self—which expressed itself for the most part in his poems, the strongly-marked duality of his nature becomes more and more apparent; and whilst the world regarded the former as weak, wayward, and eccentric, the latter only manifested itself and sought expression in solitude, and still lives on to gladden the hearts of the circle which will widen as he becomes known.

    His better self, indeed, he lived alone; but in his daily relationships with the world there was much to commend and admire, however ungenial his manner may have seemed at first, or however rough and ungainly his appearance.  To those whom he knew and esteemed he was not only a steadfast friend but a genial companion; and his gratitude to those who had aided and encouraged him was unaffected and sincere.  That he was weak and easily led is, unfortunately, too true; and if he had possessed more decision of character, more firmness and self-esteem, his life probably would not have become the sad wreck which it afterwards proved; but as he had superior gifts, so had he weaknesses which the world knew not of, except in their effects, nor did even those who censured him most seek to inquire how far the agencies which caused them were beyond the limits of his self-control.

    Prince's want of resolution was a serious defect in his character, but still more unfortunate was the fact that, at the most critical juncture of his life, circumstances combined to develop his weaknesses even at the moment when his genius had triumphed over many obstacles, and when his long-sustained privations and sufferings had already placed within his grasp the substantial rewards which he had so justly earned.

    Even those who blame him most, however, admit that he himself was by far the greatest sufferer by his failings ; that his errors were those of judgment, in which his loving heart was never implicated, and that, whilst he ever aspired to do good, he never designed harm to any living creature. The higher life at which he aimed, and the true nobility of soul which was his, despite all, glow undimmed and untarnished in his verse. Many there are who still remember his tenderness of heart, his, gentleness of disposition, his unselfishness; and who, spite of all his imperfections, fondly cherish his memory.

    About this time, towards the latter end of 1841, Prince was in correspondence with Charles Davlin, the weaver-poet of Bolton, [7] whose mind was deeply imbued with the strongest political feeling of the Radical of that date, together with the socialist doctrines promulgated by Robert Owen.  Davlin was associated with some men who, animated with the same ideas, but whose restless and more violent spirits were not tempered with the same moderation and good sense, influenced him at least for a time, and gave an unhealthy tone to his otherwise naturally good understanding.  The mistaken opinions he adopted were aggravated by the hardship and poverty of his life, which he was never able to surmount.  He was a chartist and socialist when these political opinions were shared by thousands of his fellowmen in this country, and found more or less violent expression on every side; but in later life, although always a staunch Radical, his opinions became modified with the better legislation which later and more auspicious times brought with them.

    Davlin and Prince had much in common, in addition to the bond of sympathy formed by their respective poetic instincts; and there was a close analogy between their circumstances, both having been connected with the weaving industry, and compelled to work from childhood, and both having been brought up in dire poverty, as the children of drunken parents.  We have no wish, however, to pursue this subject further than to submit the two following letters written by Prince to Davlin, [8] which are extremely interesting, both being highly characteristic of the man and the poet, and one especially witnessing his generosity and good-nature:—


15 LONG MILLGATE, MANCHESTER,
6th December 1841.


My dear Davlin—I know how difficult it is to bear up against the accumulated evils of nakedness, want, and the world's vulgar scorn or pity.  I have felt, under similar circumstances, that I could have almost called into question the mercy and justice of the Deity himself; but this feeling has only been transient, and has given way to more cheerful emotions.  One strong feature of my mind is hope, and I have that trust in some unknown Ruling Power that there is some reward in store for our sufferings in this beautiful but strange world.

    I beg, therefore, my dear sir, that you will cease to despair, as you must be aware that it rather retards than accelerates the advancement of better days, by making us passive and (to coin a word) unendeavouring beings in the hands of what we are too apt to call Fate.

    I transcribe a sonnet from my book, which I hope may have the effect of inspiring you with happier feelings:—


HOPE.   A SONNET.


Veiled by the shadows of obscurest night,
All Dian's host are shining unrevealed,
Save one lone star on heaven's unbounded field,
All lonely, lovely, fascinating, bright.
How clearly tremulous it hails the sight
As though 'twould smile away the clouds that lie
Athwart its glorious sisters of the sky,
Prohibiting our earth their holy light.
So, as I stumble on the path of life,
Without one voice to cheer, one heart to love,—
When all is dark around me and above,
And every better feeling is at strife;
The Star of Hope can mitigate my doom,

And draw fresh lustre from surrounding gloom. [9]


I shall have great pleasure in coming to see you shortly, when we will talk over these worldly matters.  Till then, Peace be with you!  Your friend,


J. C. P
RINCE.


"P.S.—I will just inform you of a little circumstance which is illustrative of my doctrine, and which some would call a special act of Providence.  Not an hour after I sent your letter off, containing the Post Office Order, my wife was going up Oldham Street, Manchester, and picked up half a sovereign, which was double the money we had sent to you.  My remark to Mrs. Prince was, that when we do a good action from pure and benevolent motives it cannot be lost, but, like casting bread upon the waters, it is seen after many days.  Adieu!  The five shillings I gained by it I consider to belong to you."


That Prince in no way sympathised with Davlin's extreme political views, will be seen from the following letter:—


15 L
ONG MILLGATE, MANCHESTER,
16th December 1841.


Dear Davlin—I have read your sonnet with pleasure, for which I thank you.  The 'Push round the Bowl' is good, though not equal to many of your productions.  You will, perhaps, send me a copy of your verses on 'Napoleon,' and your 'Ode to Time.'  They are well written, and I should like to recite some of your best pieces for your own sake.  I am sorry to see you so ill off, and should have great pleasure in rendering you some essential service were it in my power.  You have that pride which all poets have; but, if you will allow me to take the liberty of a friend, I think that your pride is misplaced and misused.  You have no faith in the goodness of your species, which gives a misanthropic colouring to your thoughts, which, in some measure, destroy your peace.  You cling too tenaciously to low things and false doctrines and theories, such as Socialism, Chartism, and other equally impracticable schemes.  I do not deny that they ask for things for which they have an undoubted natural right, and things in which they stand much in need, but they do not take an elevated and moral line of action; they do not speak like men who have a claim on the fruits and enjoyments of the earth, but like restless and desperate banditti who have made up their minds to have something, whether lawfully or otherwise.  This remark will apply better to the Chartists than the Socialists; the latter being an intelligent and knowledge-seeking body of men, while the former are ignorant, intolerant, and ungenerous, and no way disposed to be different in mind and action.  Perhaps one cause of their being so is the deception practised upon them by designing soi-disant leaders.

    I must confess that Mr. Fergus O'Connor and others of the same stamp have retarded the cause of reform fifty years at least; they are the very worst enemies of the people.

    When I write in this way of the Chartists, I do not mean individually, but as a body.

    I have met with many of a very superior character amongst them, yourself amongst the number.  You will never rise as you deserve till you take a broader and less exclusive political creed.

    I know you will not be offended at the freedom of my remarks; your good sense will prevent that.  I am, with sincerity, yours,                                      J. C. P
RINCE.


    We have already directed attention to the evil arising from Prince's ever-open shop, but a still greater was its proximity to the "Sun Inn," almost opposite, of which William Earnshaw of Colne was the landlord.  He drew together, within the antiquated black and white pile, all the literary aspirants of the town and neighbourhood.  Thither Prince was almost sure to retreat to rid himself of the irritation caused by lion-hunting visitors, or by one or other hospitably inclined brother-poet; and flushed by the success of his work, and too often flattered, while under his new-born propensity, how little did he reckon that joys so sweet could ever bear such bitter fruit!

    To Mrs. G. Linnæus Banks, a devoted admirer of Prince's genius, we are indebted for the following particulars.  Self-taught himself, Prince's wife was utterly uneducated and prosaic, a good wife to the weaver but no companion to the poet; and, in the meantime, his two girls were growing up in ignorance as dense as her own.

    "I had," says Mrs. Banks, "before my marriage, a school at Cheetham, whilst my parents resided in Market Street, Manchester.  Passing to and fro on my holiday afternoons I became a frequent and, I believe, a welcome visitor at the Princes', and was grieved to think that the children of such a man, who seemed destined to rise, should be unable even to read.  I could not insult him by offering to teach them gratuitously, as at that time he was touchily proud in some respects; but I pressed him to send them to my school, lowering my terms to meet as I thought his means.  He seemed very anxious to accept my offer, but his wife, who had not seen much good come of his learning, was not so willing.  However, the eldest daughter Elizabeth, then a tall gawkish girl about fourteen or fifteen, came to me in January 1842, and brought with her the following note:—


10th January 1842.


Dear Miss Varley—You will find that what my daughter at present wants is plain reading, writing, and sewing.  When she has made some progress in these things she can go to something higher.

    I shall not be able to spare my youngest girl till after the expiration of a few weeks, as her mother cannot well do without her.—I am faithfully yours,


J. C. P
RINCE.

Miss Varley.


    "Mrs. Prince, however, kept her daughter at home more than half her time, and gave neither pupil nor teacher any chance.  It was quite painful to see the great tall girl struggling to master and unite the syllables of simple words which little ones on the forms below her had long overcome; nor had she learned to read or write with fluency when she was removed altogether."

    We again find him writing to Miss Varley, in a note dated 4th March 1842:—"I send you by Elizabeth . . . . and the remainder you shall have in the course of a week.  Were my means equal to my wishes both of my daughters should undergo a high course of training in your establishment; but, as it is, I must keep an eye to economy. . . . Yours, very respectfully,  J. C. PRINCE."

    It may at first seem strange that Prince himself did not seek to impart to his children that elementary education which they so much required, and which he was quite competent to furnish, especially as he had so acutely felt the want of culture and instruction during his own earlier days; but it is not difficult to imagine that whilst straitened circumstances had previously prevented him from sending his daughters to school for any lengthened period, the exigencies of his daily employment frustrated any attempt on his part to teach them regularly or systematically.  Be this as it may, we cannot believe that Prince intentionally neglected the education of his children, to whom he was so devoted, and we are therefore disposed to think that the real secret is to be discovered in the circumstances just alluded to.

    In giving an outline of the poet's physique we mentioned the narrowness of his neck and throat, which was, indeed, so marked as to almost constitute a physical peculiarity.  This is all the more curious when we consider the character of his voice, which those of musical taste and knowledge describe as "a wonderful gift, exquisitely sweet, flexible, and powerful;" and one who has often sat spell-bound when the poet sang, says, "Such was the delicacy of his ear, and such the fineness of his voice, that there was no note in the chromatic scale which he could not produce with unerring skill and accuracy; and the pathos and power, the marvellous expression, the fire and energy, with which he interpreted his favourite themes were such as when once enjoyed could never be forgotten."

    His songs were few but select, and we believe they are nearly all comprised in the following five, viz., "Draw the sword, Scotland," "Woodman, spare that tree," "Though the trade of a soldier be honour and arms," "Oh speed o'er the desert, my camel, away," and Chevalier Sigismund Neukomm's spirited melody, "Oh who would be bound to the barren Sea," the two latter of which were his especial favourites.  It was, however, a matter of considerable difficulty to induce Prince to sing when in society, even when amongst his choicest friends, owing to the extreme modesty and diffidence of his disposition; nor would he consent at all until he felt himself, as it were, elevated to the sublimest heights, when he poured forth his song as one inspired, with a touching pathos that ravished the ear and melted the heart, or with a prophet-like utterance that thrilled the listener, and made him subject to his power.

    The exquisite modulation and subtle sweetness of every poem which Prince has written would lead us to expect that his ear was extremely sensitive to perfect harmony; and the following extract from a letter to Miss Varley, dated April 7, 1842, is not only interesting but peculiarly applicable.  After candidly criticising one of her earlier poems, he says, "Weigh the words you have chosen in your mind, when you have any doubt about them.  When you think a verse wants harmony, try to sing it, and you will soon find it out.  I have a method of humming my verses to myself, or of reading them in a solemn, deep tone.  By this means I can detect a harsh word or line immediately, and to this, I think I owe the euphony of my poetic trifles."  Thus we see how the melodiousness of his versification flowed from the music in his tuneful soul.

    Prince, at this time, wrote for the "Oddfellows' Magazine," amongst his contributions being, "The Spirit of Charity," also "The Inquiry," a fine poem on poesy, which, Mrs. Banks says...


    "I believe had its origin in some stray speech of mine, and which he read to me with considerable fervour during the progress of composition, whilst thought was hot on the anvil; in the same number of this Magazine I also had a poem; and the adjudication of the prizes, offered by the management for poetical contributions, dated August 13, 1842, was published in the October number, the adjudicators being Messrs. Charles Swain, Samuel Bamford, and George Falkner, then editor of 'Bradshaw's Journal.'  I need only add that to J. C. Prince was awarded the first prize for poetry, value six pounds; the second to Mr. J. Booth, value four pounds, and the third, of three pounds, to Miss Varley.  An earthquake could scarcely have surprised me more.  It was the first money I ever received for literature!

    That Prince should have carried off the first prize was only to be expected; but that I should come in for the crumbs I had not the most remote anticipation."


    Mr. George Falkner of Manchester, one of Prince's most sincere and ardent admirers, thus describes his first interview with the poet in 1841.  After alluding to the scantily-furnished little shop in Long Millgate, which afforded no retirement for visitors, he says:....


    "Prince was from home when I called by pre-arrangement, but his wife, a fair and comely woman, such as are to be found by hundreds in our Lancashire cotton mills, directed me to the 'Sun Inn,' on the other side of the way, where she believed her husband would be found.

    My first impressions of the poet were so much at variance with my preconceptions, that I doubted for a moment if the tall, ungainly, and untutored-looking being, who shook me by the hand, could indeed be the author of 'Hours with the Muses.'  The unkempt hair, the lean hand, the weary worn-out look, the ill-at-ease manners of my new acquaintance, all spoke of suffering and privation.  He was remarkably reserved, although he received me with kindly modesty, and thus began an acquaintance which ere long ripened into friendship, and led to long-continued intercourse.

    Such were his diffidence and reservedness that it became at times difficult to realise that, lying deep below these characteristics, there burned a flame which found vent only in verse, and shaped itself into those appeals on behalf of the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed, which stir the feelings and arouse the energies of his readers.  Still less easy was it, from his conversation and social intercourse, to accept the conviction of the inner man being moved with that tender love of Nature, that exquisite appreciation of beauty in every form, that felicitous power of discerning the poetic aspect of ordinary objects, which his poems reveal, or that melodious euphony with which he clothed every thought and intensified every aspiration.  Despite, however, these 'outward and visible signs,' the true motive influences of Prince's life were not to be deduced from his daily walk and conversation; they are to be found in his writings, and in his writings only; for he either lacked the power in conversation and intercourse with his fellowmen to unveil the deep springs of his spirit-life, or, as is much more probable, he preferred to conceal them from ordinary gaze, and lived his higher life alone.

    In proof of this, I recall an occasion when, after undue prolongation of social intercourse with I fear injudicious friends, Prince was missing for some days, and on his return we learnt that he had escaped alone to the hills beyond Glossop, where no doubt, in solitary musing, he sought the power of resisting temptation.  And many a time might the poet have prayed to be saved from his friends; for the witchery of his verse and the romance of his life attracted a motley circle of acquaintances, who not unfrequently drew him into temptation by carrying conviviality beyond the limits of propriety: for Prince was child-like and simple, and with all his reservedness was subject to social influences."


The "Sun Inn," referred to, is thus described in the preface to "The Festive Wreath," a little work which was the outcome of one especial literary meeting held within its walls:


    "Near to the gates of Chetham College, in Long Millgate, stands one of those ancient and picturesque houses which occasionally start to view like spectres of a bygone age, but are now fast disappearing before the levelling hand of improvement.  In external appearance it presents a singular contrast to the neat, uniform aspect of our modern mansions, being clumsily supported by irregular beams, and its walls being composed of clay and plaster.  As far back as we have traced its history, it has been occupied as an inn, but we have been unable to ascertain the date of its erection from any accessible records.  It exhibits evidence, however, of great antiquity, in one place bearing the date 1612, apparently inscribed to commemorate some alteration having taken place.

    The dwelling, which possesses a charm from its antiquity and the associations connected with its neighbourhood, is divided in the interior by awkward and ill-planned passages, such as are usually found in old habitations, though it contains one commodious apartment."


    The host of the "Sun Inn" at the time of which we now write was Mr. William Earnshaw, of whom it has been said that "he added to great urbanity of manner and kindness of disposition the attainments of a scholar and a gentleman, accomplishments rarely united in one of his calling;" and it appears that his knowledge of biblical literature was as extensive as remarkable, and that his admiration of literary men was warm and genuine.

    The "Sun Inn," says Mr. Falkner....


    ...."soon became, through Prince, Bamford, Rogerson, and other literary men, the rendezvous of the rhyming fraternity of the county, and to its quaint snug parlour, the 'commodious apartment' referred to, were attracted many a genial soul, poets and their satellites, who enjoyed the wit and humour, gossip and melody, which nightly made its walls vocal.

    Here Prince was wont to indulge in his long clay pipe, seated in an easy arm-chair near the cheering fire;—care and poverty it might be outside, but genial faces and warm hearts within,—listening with quick appreciation to every 'quip and crank, nod and beck,' noting with approving smile every stroke of fun or play of fancy, and mellowing as the evening advanced into occasional recitation or song.  Such gatherings were to him the off-set to plodding hours of mental labour, to driving hard bargains with publishers, to frequent unsuccessful efforts in selling his poems when printed, and, no doubt, to continuous struggles to meet the claims of those dependent upon him.

    That Prince should have courted the comfort of a warm, tidy, though quaint upper chamber in the 'Poets' Corner,' where he was sure to meet with people of more or less cultivated appreciation, was both natural and permissible.  His home, as has already been said, was cheerless and nearly furnitureless compared with the 'Sun Inn,' where he found everything congenial and inviting.  Here his pipe lay to his hand, his chair was generally a 'reserved seat,' and his wants were supplied whenever he expressed a desire.  In truth this preference for 'going abroad,' especially in the evenings, might, I venture to think, have been greatly modified, had it been his good fortune on the one hand to have been mated to a more frugal managing wife; or if, on the other, his domestic instincts had been judiciously developed and matured.  In the household, when means were at command, no luxury was spared; and when these failed the family fared indifferently.  As to economy, thrift, or laying-by for what is called a 'rainy day,' not even an umbrella was thought of!  Thus it came about that the household of Prince was a perpetual struggle between temporary affluence and the direst poverty; and as his simple-minded wife looked upon her husband as a 'mine of wealth,' every effort was put forth to convert his books into money, even through the degradation of sending out his daughter, basket in hand, to find customers where she could.  These things write I not without regret!

    That in the Poets' Corner what is called good-fellowship often prolonged the hours beyond reasonable limits, I am free to admit; and that on such occasions Prince was the most reluctant to take his leave is certain; and I can recall one forenoon, after a somewhat 'long-drawn out' evening, Mrs. Prince paying an unexpected visit to the Poets' Corner in quest of her husband's spectacles (which he invariably wore), and failing to find them on chair, nook, or mantel-shelf, some one vociferated, 'Have you looked under the table, Mrs. Prince, perhaps they may be there?'—where, sure enough, they were discovered, poor Prince having on the previous evening given in, and fallen asleep.

    It must not, however, be forgotten that in these days Manchester had not long been incorporated, neither did there exist around it that network of railways which now carry worthy citizens to rural residences at a distance from the city; and the present comprehensive system of omnibus conveyance, which embraces every outlying suburb, was wholly undeveloped.  Hence it was that professional men, merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen, resided principally within the town; and streets which now exhibit endless rows of warehouses and shops, were the private dwelling-houses of the inhabitants.  Social life presented at that time many phases different from what it does now.  For example, it was by no means considered incompatible, either with dignity or respectability, after the labours of the day, which were then much more onerous than now, to frequent a tavern or bar-parlour, and to take part in the gossip which was there indulged in without restraint.

    The inns, just blossoming into hotels, but still retaining some of the aspects of their stage-coach days, had each their distinctive class of habitués.  One might be noted as the centre of all commercial intelligence, of information regarding the ruling prices of goods, and as to buyers who had visited, or were expected to visit the markets; another was regarded as the recognised resort of political partisans, where, after the arrival in the evening of the London dailies, the acts of the Administration were enthusiastically discussed.  Still another drew together every description of betting men, who 'laid odds' and backed winning horses.  There were those 'parlours,' too, out of which have sprung Clubs, social and sectional, which possess their own distinctive houses to this day; and last, and not inappropriately, there was 'The Poets' Corner,' which attracted those who delighted not in talk savouring of cotton or business, who believed in books, in speech and song, and accepted Dr. Johnson's dogma of 'a tavern arm-chair being the summit of all earthly bliss;' and 'where,' as De Quincey says, 'men were not afraid to open their lips for fear they should disappoint expectation, nor strain for showy sentiments that they might meet them.'  Into such an arena as this, every new-comer had to win his spurs before being accepted within the inner circle of those who had made good their claims to literary acceptance; every visitor, however, was made welcome, and to each in turn were awarded opportunities, however informally, of proving their qualifications; and whilst the varying company included many whose credentials did not exceed the power of listening, and who, therefore, passed as 'wise men,' there were gathered together, in these days long gone by, many bright spirits, many men of masculine mould of mind, many ready-witted versifiers, and some who have left a name behind them.

    Poor Prince became, in time, the centre of this varying circle, and although his modesty prevented him from venturing to take the lead, his presence was always regarded as lending dignity and reality to the literary character of the gathering; and when he spoke, or was induced to sing, he held an admiring and sympathetic audience."


    In addition to this snug retreat, Prince and his friends often met at various lodges of Oddfellows—"The Shakespeare," Newton Heath, etc., the host of the latter being the venerable James Ridings, an old gentleman about eighty years of age, the father of Elijah Ridings the rhymester, and well known in the cathedral choir; but the "Sun Inn" was the established resort of the literary and dramatic coterie of Manchester, indeed of Lancashire, and Mr. Earnshaw soon instituted for it the appropriate appellation of "The Poets' Corner."
 
    Meetings at this quaint hotel were held frequently, generally on Saturday evenings, and were at first designed, as Mr. Procter says, "with the laudable intention of bringing together our local writers, of making them known to each other, and of linking them in a bond of good fellowship;" but from mere convivial re-unions they soon grew in importance, until it was ultimately decided to form a Literary Association, and the following notice contains the first practical suggestion as to its formation:—


SUN INN, LONG MILLGATE, MANCHESTER,
July 20, 1841.


    Sir—At a preliminary meeting held at the above house, for the purpose of taking into consideration the practicability of forming an association for the purpose of advancing the cause of literature, the following propositions were suggested:—

    1st.  That a Society be constituted, to be entitled 'The Literary Association,' for the protection and encouragement of British authors.

    2d.  That a certain number of gentlemen, known to be favourable to the promotion of literature, be invited to attend a meeting at the same place, on Wednesday the 28th inst., at half-past seven o'clock in the evening, at which meeting the nature and objects of the projected Society will be definitely brought forward and explained.

    You having been named as one of the parties to be requested to attend, your company on the occasion is respectfully solicited.  We are, Sir, your obedient servants,


J
OHN KERSHAW.                    GEORGE RICHARDSON.
J
OHN DICKINSON,                  JOHN BOLTON ROGERSON.
                         J
OHN CRITCHLEY PRINCE.


    This meeting was therefore convened for July 28, 1841, by circular, and the Literary Association was then formed, embodying the spirit of the foregoing notice, and it was further urged as follows, viz.—


"Many authors, though possessed of much latent talent, have perished in obscurity, or their powers have been known only in their own immediate locality, from the want of facilities which a Society such as the one now established will afford,"


And that—


"One of the most pleasing results of the Association will be the opportunities which it will afford for the meeting of men of congenial ideas and sentiments, and, on such occasions, an interchange of thought and feeling might take place which would tend to promote and consolidate habits of intimacy and friendship.


J
OHN BOLTON ROGERSON, President.
G
EORGE RICHARDSON, Vice-President.
J
OHN CRITCHLEY PRINCE, Secretary."


    Of course, such reunions were not infrequent at the Poets' Corner, although meetings of a special character were arranged to take place quarterly, and we find the following invitation issued on New Year's Day, 1842:—


SUN INN, LONG MILLGATE, MANCHESTER,
January 1, 1842.


    "Dear Sir—It is proposed, at the suggestion of a few gentlemen, admirers of the Manchester poets, that a friendly poetical soiree should be held at the Sun Inn, Long Millgate, on Friday, the 7th inst.

    A plain dinner will be provided at 3 o'clock precisely.  Messrs. Charles Swain, J. C. Prince, J. B. Rogerson, Robert Rose, Samuel Bamford, etc. etc., are expected to be present, and your company will be esteemed a favour by, dear sir, yours most respectfully,


W
ILLIAM EARNSHAW."


    On the 24th March 1842, the second quarterly meeting of contributors and friends to the poetic literature of Lancashire took place at the "Poets' Corner," when the chair was occupied by Mr. John Bolton Rogerson, the vice-chair by Mr. R. Rose, and upwards of forty guests were present.

    It would be out of place here to record the details of this "Poetic Festival," [10] but we may just mention that the principal attraction of the evening consisted of poetical communications, written expressly for the occasion by a large number of the authors of Lancashire, and that Prince's contribution was a most graceful and appropriate poem, entitled "The Poet's Welcome."  All these contributions were afterwards published in a charming little volume, happily named, "The Festive Wreath," which was edited by Mr. Rogerson, and formed a very pleasing souvenir of the auspicious occasion.

    The third quarterly meeting was held on July 26, 1842, Mr. George Falkner, then editor of "Bradshaw's Journal," occupying the chair, and Mr. George Richardson the vice-chair.  And so these merry meetings succeeded each other until time and circumstances broke up the gifted genial band.

    In the following year Prince left Manchester for Blackburn; Rogerson, whose health began to fail, was appointed registrar of the Harpurhey Cemetery; Mr. Earnshaw became the landlord of the "Cemetery Inn," and by degrees the circle became dispersed.  Of those who frequented this "Corner of Antiquity," the following have passed away to their last, silent home, viz.—Mr. John Hill (a sincere friend of Prince's), Alexander Wilson, artist, and one of the authors of "Songs of the Wilsons," Benjamin Stott, George Liddle, Thomas Arkell Tidmarsh, William Harper, William Earnshaw, Robert Rose, John Harland (of the "Manchester Guardian," and to whom Prince was much indebted), Samuel Bamford, William Taylor, Elijah Ridings, Edward Bond, John Dickinson, John Bolton Rogerson, etc. etc.; the only survivors being Messrs. George Falkner, William Gaspey, George Richardson, R. W. Procter ("Sylvan "), and John Mills.

    To the kindness of Mr. Falkner we are indebted for the following particulars of those of the above with whom Prince was most intimate, and which cannot but prove interesting at this period of our narrative.  "In addition" he says....


    ...."to the quarterly soirees already alluded to, frequent irregular social meetings took place at the 'Sun Inn,' at which assembled a circle of authors, rhymesters, literary amateurs, press-men, theatricals, and critics, who often kept up the round of talk, recitation, and song, to the small hours.  Amongst these, perhaps the most intimate and confidential with Prince was John Bolton Rogerson, already referred to—a man of simple confiding character, gentle in manner, and of easy persuasion; and who, perhaps, knew more of Prince's inner life than most of his companions.  Rogerson was at that time editor of 'The Oddfellows' Magazine,' and kept a small bookshop and circulating library in Bridge Street, where he resided.  He had published his first work, 'Rhyme, Romance, and Revery;' in which, besides many clever prose sketches and essays, were several songs and sonnets, breathing a spirit of tender domestic affection.  These appealed to Prince's own feelings, and an ardent friendship long existed between them, Rogerson holding Prince in high regard, and often, I believe, submitting his poems to Prince's judgment.  Rogerson's first book was followed by 'A Voice from the Town' and 'The Wandering Angel;' only moderate performances, which did not add much to his literary reputation.  Poor Rogerson forsook the Muses, underwent many trials in life, and eventually removed to the Isle of Man, where he died on 15th October 1859.

    A striking contrast to Rogerson was another of Prince's intimate friends, Samuel Bamford, a man of Herculean mould, iron will, and indomitable energy, whose 'Passages from the Life of a Radical' reveal the sufferings he had endured, and the penalties he had incurred on behalf of his political faith.  He spoke his thoughts with fearless straightforwardness, and was too earnest in all he said or did to study refinement in manner or persuasiveness in speech.  Underneath all this, however, there lay a gentle appreciativeness of all that was chaste and elevated in song or nervous in composition; and his admiration of Prince's powers, though tempered by a severe critical judgment, was always genial and unrestrained."


Mr. Falkner continues:—


    "Bamford's visits to the 'Poets' Corner' were only occasional, for he lived at Middleton, six miles from Manchester; but when he, Prince, and Rogerson met, the interchange of thought and sentiment was both interesting and instructive.  The latter sad days of Bamford were alleviated by the kind consideration of a few friends, and he lies in the churchyard of Middleton, where a 'monumental bust' distinguishes his grave.

    "Differing in every respect from these friends was Robert Rose, self-styled the Bard of Colour,—a Creole, of odd feature and character, who dabbled in rhyme, and was the willing butt of many a practical joke amongst the fraternity.  Prince regarded him for his transparent simplicity, his generous warm-heartedness, and his amusing vanity.  Rose had written 'occasional verses' for bazaars, now and then a prologue, and latterly had announced, in portentous phraseology, the publication of a great poem, to be called 'The Ocean Mystery.'  As previous works heralded by Rose had never made their appearance, it seemed likely, from long delay, that 'The Ocean,' like its predecessors, was indeed doomed to remain a 'mystery,' which it did; while one morning there appeared the following advertisement in a local print:—


'Shortly will be Published,

THE OCEAN—A MYSTERY,

By A. BLACK.

London, Blackwood; Glasgow, Blackie;
Edinburgh, Black.'


    Rogerson, Prince, and another were the concocters of this harmless practical joke, which Rose accepted with infinite good humour, never suspecting its authorship.  Poor Rose was a demonstrative admirer of Prince's powers, which the latter permitted to be expressed, with very tender indulgence of the weaknesses of his coloured friend, who, with all his faults and peculiarities, had an instinctive appreciation of English poetry and men of letters.  Hospitable and convivial beyond moderation, Rose died before his prime, under circumstances too sad to relate.

    To Thomas Arkell Tidmarsh, a young student of the law, Prince extended a kindly and encouraging friendship, recognising in him a promising votary of the Muses, and as possessing a mind cultivated by extensive reading and scholarly reflection.  Tidmarsh died before the completion of his articles, and his loss was sincerely lamented by the literary circle of the Poets' Corner.

    Of the other social companions of Prince, George Richardson, the brothers Wilson, 'true-hearted Dickinson,'


"The Mecænas of poets, and binder of books,"


Benjamin Stott, R. Story, W. Gaspey, and many others, living and departed, little may be said, beyond recording the warm and enthusiastic appreciation which one and all of us acknowledged of the poet who wrote so wisely and so well, and of the man who had fought the battle of life so manfully and unrepiningly."


    Perhaps it might be added that there was no one who manifested a higher devotion to the genius of Prince than the present Mrs. George Linnæus Banks, then Miss Isabella Varley, a young lady in her teens, who had contributed to local literature several very delightful sonnets and verses, and whose veneration for Prince led her, on one evening at least, to pay a visit to the "Poets' Corner," in order that, behind the arras, she might survey the gathering of his friends and companions.

    Dr. Spencer T. Hall, alluding to Prince, Bamford, and Ebenezer Elliott, in his "Biographical Sketches," says:—


    "There was one rather large tea-gathering which I can never forget.  It was when Samuel Bamford and John Critchley Prince, in the zenith of their popularity, came on a kindly visit to some literary confreres in Sheffield, where an evening was appointed to give them a fitting welcome.  Elliott was a warm admirer of Bamford, and reviewed his works admirably in 'Tait's Magazine,' could recite his 'Pass of Death,' and 'Hours in the Bowers,' without the book, and on this occasion acted not as chairman, for the chair was occupied by some one else, but more as a sort of patriarchal host.  Bamford's own recital, by request, of the two poems mentioned, told well, as did one or two of poor Prince's songs, and the recitation of his 'Epistle to a Brother Poet,' at the end of which Elliott shouted, 'Ay! while we can have young poets among us like this, some of us may yet live to see the Corn Laws abolished!" [11]


    A remarkable circumstance occurred in the "old retreat " one Saturday evening, when Prince was present with many literary and other friends.  The conversation was of an interesting and general character, interspersed with speeches, and a variety of quotations from living and deceased authors.  Early in the evening, gentlemen of dramatic note from the Theatre Royal made their appearance, including Mr. Waldron, the late tragedian, and several of his colleagues, and forming altogether a goodly company.  Presently a stranger, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, entered who had heard of Prince, and was desirous to see him.  The new-comer was a man of imposing stature and majestic presence, reminding those who saw him of the eminent statesman Charles James Fox, and for a time he sat silent, whilst many regarded his ponderous form and intelligent face with admiration.  His name, for the nonce, was Foley, and his striking individuality only added to the mystery which surrounded him.  Prince was in an excellent humour, and sung, amongst others, the impassioned love-song, entitled "O speed o'er the desert, my camel, away!" which was always received with much enthusiasm.

    Shortly after this, Foley stood up and made a most eloquent address to the company, and finally proposed the health of Prince, in a eulogy of fervid and masterly eloquence which electrified all present.

    On another occasion, some twenty of Prince's friends, including Prince himself and J. B. Rogerson, met Foley at the "Garrick's Head," near the old Theatre Royal.  The conversation turned upon great tragedians of the past and later periods, when, after again eulogising Prince, Foley spoke in glowing terms of Kemble, Edmund Kean, Charles M. Young, Macready, and others, supplementing his observations by giving extraordinary imitations of all the actors named, insomuch that many of those present who had seen and heard the originals, were for the time spell-bound by the thrilling realism of the impersonations.  Although generally known by the name of Foley, the real name of this gifted but eccentric individual was Thorpe, and it appears that he had some time previously been a clergyman.  He was the author of the masterly criticism of Prince's poems, from which liberal quotations have been made in the present biography; and also wrote the notice of Rose's 'Ocean,' in 'Bradshaw's Journal.'

    At the great bazaar held in Manchester in the beginning of 1842, in aid of the funds of the Anti-Corn Law League, Prince, who was always ready and willing to help forward any good movement, contributed to the bookstall two copies of his "Hours with the Muses," with an autograph poem on the fly-leaf of each, entitled "Lines respectfully inscribed to the Virtuous and Patriotic Wives and Mothers of England," and which will be found in the present re-issue of his works.  To the "Bazaar Gazette," published during the continuance of the bazaar, Prince also contributed, to what was called "Our Poetical Scrap-Book," a poem entitled "An Anti-Corn Law Lyric;" and amongst the many other literary men who helped this effort, it is gratifying to find the names of Ebenezer Elliott, Campbell, Rogers, Thomas Moore, Samuel Lover, Miss Martineau, etc.; and how successful these and other efforts were is best shown by the fact that, although the bazaar lasted only seven days, the large sum of £8,000 was realised.

    The success of the publication of "Hours with the Muses," as already stated, was very satisfactory, many subscribers to the first edition having to wait until a second was issued, and yet another being called for within a period of about two years.  Many a friend stepped in to help Prince, notably amongst them being the late Lord Ellesmere—then Lord Francis Egerton—Joshua Procter Westhead, M.P. for York, etc.; but it must be confessed that the poet was disappointed and embittered because only few and futile efforts had been made to place him in a somewhat better position.  In his own clear words, all he desired was, "to be raised above the fear of poverty, while pursuing, for its own sweet sake, the exalted and refining profession of Song;" and although the popularity of his poems cannot be denied, yet there is no doubt but that the poet was still placed in miserable circumstances, notwithstanding the great success of his first venture.

    He had his wife and two daughters entirely dependent upon him, and had nothing now to fall back upon himself but the disposal of the few trivial odds and ends in his little shop, and such occasional sums as resulted from the sale of his own book.  His mind had become unsettled by the general recognition of his poetic power, and the notoriety which he had thus acquired led him into temptations which he had not the moral courage to resist.  From being an obscure artisan he had elevated himself into the world of letters as an unpretentious but genuine poet; and, like mounting into a rarer atmosphere, this elevation had not been without its pernicious effects.  He had not sufficient penetration to foresee the dangers of his new position, nor had he such strength of character as was calculated to avoid or overcome them.  Elated with popularity, and peculiarly susceptible to social influences, his ear listened too readily to the flattering encomiums bestowed upon him, and he was too easily induced to participate in injudicious and too often prolonged conviviality.

    After the excitement of his success came a period of reaction, fraught with many difficulties and keenly-felt disappointments.  Hope had told a too flattering tale, and the over-sensitive poet, wounded by the non-fulfilment of many fondly-cherished desires, not unfrequently sought to drown his sorrows and forget his cares by giving way to habits which neutralised the power of his self-control.

    Prince was in a considerable degree subject to the influences which affected the peace of Burns and Tannahill; and to which every man is exposed who rises into notice from a very humble condition; and, as Dr. Currie says in his life of Burns, "The occupations of a poet are not calculated to strengthen the governing powers of the mind or to weaken that sensibility which requires perpetual control, since it gives birth to the vehemence of passion as well as the higher powers of the imagination."

    The poems of his after years contain many and impassioned allusions to his weakness and its consequences; many glowing pictures of his remorse, many fervent prayers for strength to overcome; but, whilst it is our duty as his biographer to record his failings as well as his virtues, far be it from us to linger over them, or to add one stain to his sorrowful but loving memory.


 
CHAPTER IV.


AT this critical period of his life, fortunately, one of his truest and most devoted benefactors came to his rescue, in the person of Mr. George Falkner, who, from the purest and kindest of motives, induced Prince to withdraw himself from Manchester for a season, and proposed to him that he should undertake a journey on foot to London, recording, as he passed along, his impressions of scenery, with such incidents and episodes as might arise, in a series of letters to be addressed to Mr. Falkner, at that time editor of "Bradshaw's Journal"; the latter, in return, contracting to take charge of Prince's household, and to make remittances to him on the way, so that he might repay the expenses of each succeeding stage with a descriptive letter,—as Procter beautifully says, "as the robin pays his way with a welcome song."

    To this arrangement Prince consented, and the result was the appearance of the nine letters, under the title of "Rambles of a Rhymester," which were published in the miscellany referred to, commencing in April and ending in July.  Mr. Falkner says:—"Re-reading these letters, after an interval of thirty-six years, one is struck with the ready power which Prince had acquired as a prose writer, despite an education in youth which was little more than rudimentary; they attest the perseverance of his self culture, the wide range of at least his poetic reading, the wealth of his vocabulary, and the happy facility with which he could convey the impressions created in his mind by the charms of natural scenery.  I recall that in very few instances was it necessary for me to amend his grammar or to correct his spelling.  As they reached me, so they appeared.  It is only, however, when he succeeds in unburdening himself in verse that the higher manifestation of his natural endowments reveal themselves; then we realise the acuteness of his sympathies, the mournful tenderness of his susceptibilities, the veiled sorrows of his heart, and the lofty aspirations of his spirit.  The lyrical grace of many of the poems and sonnets scattered throughout these letters, some of them written in roadside inns, amidst the gossip of country idlers, is at once marvellous and captivating."

    Most of these poems are reproduced in his published works, such as "The Banks of Conway," "The Grave of Shakespeare," "The Rhaidr Mawr," etc., as were also some prose extracts from the letters themselves; but, as the letters were only fully published in "Bradshaw's Journal," and as this serial has long been out of print, we now propose to follow the Rambler through his tour, and to make such excerpts from his epistles as may enable the reader to form a just estimate of Prince's powers as a writer of prose.

    His first letter is from Newcastle, Staffordshire, and bears date April 20, 1842, and his introduction is as follows:—"On the 18th of this month I set out from Manchester, partly on business and partly for pleasure, to perform a pedestrian journey to the great metropolis and back again.  I had built up some wild but indistinct schemes of stepping out of the main track, so far as my limited means would permit, to look upon the beautiful and the picturesque: to gaze upon all which, from its loveliness or associations, might be deemed worthy of the notice of the poet or the painter.  I thought of meditating amid the walls of time-shattered castles, and beneath the roof-trees of old baronial halls, of reflecting and moralising on the evils of populous cities, of scaling the summits of lonely mountains, loitering in cultivated vales, and threading the leafy labyrinths of dark majestic woods.  I contemplated lingering on all kinds of imaginable places, of penetrating rocky and savage passes, of traversing wild and irreclaimable moors, of dreaming on the banks of song-celebrated streams, of resting during the night in snug wayside hostelries, and rising in the morning, with renewed mental and bodily vigour, to look for fresh charms and undiscovered sources of pure intellectual pleasure.

    "How far my wishes may be realised, or my intentions carried out, is yet uncertain; but I will transmit to you, from time to time, the thoughts and feelings resulting from my peregrinations, wherever circumstances or the impulses of my own fancy may lead me."

    Accompanied by his wife, and a much-valued friend, he went by rail from Manchester to Stockport; and thence they walked on to Cheadle, where after a short rest they parted, and with a cheerful heart he set off alone on his journey.  Passing on through Wilmslow, Congleton, the Potteries, etc., he at length reached Newcastle; and his notes by the way on the many subjects which presented themselves to his mind, are not only full of vivid description but teem with glowing thought and interest.

    The second letter, dated 25th April 1842, recounts his impressions and experiences in his journey from Newcastle to Birmingham, and, when referring to the neighbourhood of Trentham, we find one of the few touches of humour occasionally apparent in his letters, where he says:—"The high road and the branching lanes are shadowed by a broad mass of old trees, amongst whose branches a commonwealth of rooks kept up a ceaseless clamour, as if some transmigrated chartist was sowing among them the seeds of disaffection and disorder."  In this letter there are some pleasing well-expressed thoughts on reverence for the dead, which may be taken as a fair specimen of Prince's prose, and which we here transcribe.

    After some remarks as to the neighbourhood of Trentham, and special allusion to the monumental column erected to the memory of one of the Dukes of Sutherland, he says:—


    "Were I in the possession of broad beautiful lands, and the decrees of Providence bereaved me of some beloved object, I would deposit its dust in some secluded spot, in some quiet and all but inaccessible valley, or in the twilight labyrinths of some forest solitude.  I would build over it a small simple Gothic temple, which I would store with such cherished things as would conjure up remembrances of the worth, intellect, or loveliness of the being I mourned for.  There, at the first wakening of the day, at mid-noon, at the hallowed hour of evening, and in the impressive silence of the middle night, would I retire to commune with the departed spirit, not with the violence of impious and unavailing sorrow, but in the calm consciousness that, though our earthly intercourse was cut off by the chasm of the grave, our love was not utterly extinguished, but would be renewed in exalted purity, and in a region where it would exist for ever.

    Were the lost one a parent, whose power of mind or goodness of heart had been so beneficially exercised and so widely extended as to win the esteem and admiration of the world, then should the world come and render proper homage at the tomb of its benefactor, while I would stand a silent witness of its sincerity, and bless God that I was the son of a parent so honoured and so beloved.  Were it a child—a young and yet unpolluted child—which Providence in His wisdom had taken from me, then should happy children, with whom heaven is peopled, bring offerings of wild flowers wherewith to deck my darling's resting-place, and I would watch them, with their tiny hands linked together, look down with puzzled and anxious faces on the grassy mound, and wonder why their little brother-mortal and former playmate was covered up there, and whether he would come up again, and roam with them as was his wont through pleasant fields and woodside haunts all day long.  I would not talk to them of the awful and mysterious coming of death to throw a shadow over their joy; I would not purposely bring tears into those bright eyes which after years might cause to weep too soon and without measure, for assuredly the gladness of children is more pleasing in the sight of God than their sorrow.

    Why should such young creatures, whose souls have not been darkened by the wings of sin, whose hearts have not been awakened to a sense of the ills incident to human life, be banished before their time from the little Eden that surrounds them?  No; I would let them laugh, and leap, and sing, according to the impulses of their nature, and love them for his sake whose ashes lay undisturbed beneath their frolic feet.  But were it a wife over whom I had raised a sanctuary for sorrow, then would selfishness enter into my grief.  No rude voice of cold condolence should break the silence of the hallowed spot; no obtrusive eye should gaze within its walls; no profane foot should trample on the sacred sward; no unfeeling multitude desecrate the treasure-house of my buried joys.  That wife might have been nothing to the world though all the world to me; then how could it partake of my luxury of sorrow?

    To a man in any condition of life, a constant, affectionate, and much-enduring woman is the most inestimable blessing which God has given him.  Who may tell the bitter ordeal through which many women have to pass on their journey to the grave?  Who may recount the patience, the privation, the self-denial, the disinterested devotion through good and ill, which a faithful partner feels for a too often unworthy husband?  Her sphere of useful action is certainly limited; but does she not, by her exemplary conduct, enable the object of her love to become more useful than he would otherwise be?  Is he rich—does not her sweet companionship give him a purer relish for the enjoyment of riches?  Is he poor—does not her gentle and enduring affection, and unrepining behaviour, make him less regret his poverty?  Has he difficulties to contend with—does she not arm him to meet them?  And is he intoxicated with success—does she not remind him that he is a man?  She adds to his pleasures; she lightens his distresses; she watches over him, and prays for him in sickness; she rejoices in his health; glories in his honour; and should disgrace overtake him, and he is shunned by all men, she clings to him with a tenacity of love as enduring as life.  She is the first to discover his good qualities, and when the world proclaims his faults she is the last to believe them; and shrining him, as it were, in her heart's core, she worships him with an inward fervour which not even despair can destroy!  She lives for him and his offspring, and for them only; and should it be his sad lot to see her consigned to the grave, he should be the deepest, truest mourner, for if he loved her as she deserved, all other sorrow compared with his would be an insult and a mockery."


    April 25, 1842, is the date at the head of his third letter, which describes his journey from Birmingham to Stratford-on-Avon, by way of Coventry, Kenilworth, and Warwick, and contains many charming passages which we are almost tempted to quote, but must forbear in order to transcribe a paragraph from the succeeding letter which is really too good to be passed over in silence.  The fourth letter, written a few days after the foregoing, is directed from Chipping Norton, and in this he describes, in glowing words, as far as words could express such deep emotion, his feelings as he stood beside the grave of Shakespeare.  The passage to which we refer speaks for itself, and is as follows:—"On setting my foot on the floor of the sacred edifice, sacred in a double sense, I involuntarily uncovered my head, and paused for a moment ere I approached the poet's grave. . . . .


    "The window let fall no gorgeous hues upon the pavement, yet its light had a dim softness which fully compensated for their absence, giving a befitting religious twilight to the shrine of departed genius.  As I looked upon that narrow spot of earth I seemed to lose all sense of outward being.  My fancy peopled the solemn and silent aisles of the old church with a gathering crowd of those characters which that gigantic, all-sympathising mind had created.  Mournful and mirthful were there, of all sexes, aspects, and conditions.  The wicked and unfortunate monarch, the agonised murderer and his victims, the sternly-sedate wise, and the laughter-waking foolish, the ruthless conqueror and the cunning clown, the crafty statesman and the imperious priest, the honest soldier and the faithful follower, the injured queen and the love-sick maiden, the implacable Jew and the despairing Christian, the magician and the beldame, the dainty Ariel and the uncouth Caliban, the real of human life, and the spiritual of the imagination, all, all were there!  The type of every vice, the representative of every virtue, the embodiment of every passion, were before me, stalking and jostling, frowning and smiling, weeping and laughing, in one great and tumultuous medley.  The raging of remorse, and the singing of innocence, the wailing of sorrow, and the outburst of joy, the thunder-boom of war, and the sweet voice of peace, the fierce denunciation and the supplicating prayer, the obstreperous shouts of multitudes, and the soft melodies of unearthly spirits, arose simultaneously, shaking every rafter of the temple, and making a chorus at once so strange, so awful, so terrible, yet withal so entrancing, that I was compelled, as it were, to hear and see, to wonder at and endure, the vision my own busy fancy had conjured up."


    After his fourth letter from Chipping Norton, Prince's "rambles" were temporarily suspended, "owing," as he says himself, "to circumstances which called him suddenly home before he had completed his arrangements in the metropolis:" after the lapse of a few weeks, however, he resumed his tour, and determined to make his way to London by another and more interesting route.

    At the beginning of June 1842, therefore, he crossed from Liverpool to Birkenhead, and from the latter place proceeded to Chester, of which he gives a vivid description in his fifth letter.  Returning to Liverpool, he got on board the steamer for Rhyl, in North Wales, with the intention of making a brief tour through that Switzerland of Britain, and the letter just referred to is a record of his journey from Liverpool to Conway.  For the first time in his life, in his own country, he sees at Rhuddlan a ruined castle, and, enraptured with the sight, he dwells upon its past history and associations, until, spell-bound by fancy, he gradually becomes oblivious to everything save the chasming scene, and from out the mists of ages sees grim warriors and grey-headed minstrels troop before him, sages and lovers, the great in war, the wise in council, whilst he now hears the clang of war, anon the inspired strains of bards and minstrels, and yet again the loving voices of dear, gentle women, and the clear silvery tones of happy childhood.  At length the spell is broken, and he exclaims, "All these actors in the great drama of the past are gone!"  "Where are they?"  And in Fancy's ear Echo seemed to answer, "Where are they?"  While his mind was filled with crowding thoughts, he sat down upon a grey stone, heedless of the wild birds which clamoured o'er his head, and wrote a charming poem, entitled "Lines written in Rhuddlan Castle."  Descending from the castle, he went on to Abergele, and thence to Conway, the remainder of this letter containing a glowing description of the scenes through which he passed.

    The sixth letter describes his walk through the lovely Vale of Conway to Llanrwst, and contains, besides much vivid word-painting, some beautiful verses suggested by the Rhaidr Mawr, or Great Waterfall, also some stanzas entitled "The Banks of Conway," and an interesting legend connected with the life and history of Taliesin, the celebrated Welsh poet, which Prince purposed, at some future period, to weave into a metrical ballad, but alas! never accomplished.  This epistle is not without some gentle touches of humour, but some of the passages in which he describes the varied beauty and sublime grandeur of the locality, the rapturous emotions by which he was influenced in the contemplation of Nature's glorious presence, are really marvellous, and may worthily challenge comparison with the most accomplished writer.

    Some sage and pleasing reflections on the Welsh peasantry and traits of Welsh character are to be found in the beginning of Prince's seventh letter, which is a record of his tour from Llanberris, through the beautiful Gwydir woods, Bettws-y-Coed, and the lovely valley of the Lligwy towards Capel Cerrig; and of the latter he says, "All that can be imagined of the happy valley described by Dr. Johnson in his story of 'Rasselas' would be applicable to this exquisitely charming region."

    Pausing at the Fall of the Swallow, to which he addressed an exquisite sonnet, he gradually makes his way through Capel Cerrig, Bangor, Menai, and at length reaches Caernarvon, where he visits the Castle, and writes another sonnet occasioned by a view from the Eagle Tower.  The remainder of this letter is occupied by an animated account of his walk from Caernarvon to the vale of Llanberris, including the ascent and descent of Snowdon; and it would be difficult to conceive a more graphic description than that in which he expresses the tumultuous thoughts and emotions generated within him by the sublimity and grandeur of this region of unsurpassed majesty and loveliness.  We quote the following words almost at random:—"Taking a sweeping glance round the horizon, and into the valleys beneath my feet, I was spell-bound by the vastness and extent, the glory and the grandeur of a scene which is beyond the power of pen or pencil to describe, or the mind of genius to conceive, even in its wildest dreams.  The whole was fearfully sublime; and as I reflected on the immense height I was above my fellows, the abrupt and awful chasms which yawned on every side, the lonely character and almost unearthly silence of the place, I felt, as I never felt before, a sensation of mingled love, wonder, and terror, as if I had stood in the invisible presence of God himself!"

    In the eighth letter we find, besides the itinerary of his ramble from Snowdon to Llangollen, one or two legendary fragments, a beautiful poem on "The Mountain Spring," at which he had quenched his thirst on the summit of the mountain, a sonnet.  "On quitting North Wales," a song, and the exquisite lines already alluded to, "The Student of Nature."

    The ninth and concluding letter of the series records his departure from North Wales, and narrates the particulars of his journey through Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Shiffnall, Bilston, Birmingham, and Coventry, to the metropolis. (con't)

 



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FOOTNOTES.


7.    For these remarks on Davlin we are indebted to an interesting paper on the weaver-poet, by Mr. R. C. Alcock, read before the Manchester Literary Club, February 3, 1879.

8.    An interesting article on this unfortunate bard, written by Mr. W. E. A, Axon, appeared in "The Temperance Spectator " for 1866.

9.    Some verbal alterations occur in this sonnet as published in the third edition of "Hours with the Muses."

10.   An interesting report of the "Poetic Festival" was given in the "Manchester Guardian" of March 30, 1842.

11.   Prince alludes to this occasion in his biographical memoir of Elliott in "Bradshaw's Journal," vol. iii. p. 300.

 



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