John Critchley Prince: Biography (4)
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CHAPTER IV.
(con't)


    From a letter to a friend and brother-bard, Mr. James Burgess of Hyde, we find that he was in Coventry on June 14, 1842, from which place he went direct to London.  After about a week's sojourn in the metropolis he had occasion to go down to Southampton, where he remained only a few days, and "having transacted his business," as he says himself, he determined returning to London on foot, in order that he might have an opportunity of taking a more leisurely survey of the intervening country.  Before noticing the particulars of his return journey, as contained in the concluding portion of this ninth letter, let us inquire into the nature of his mission to Southampton.

    Some influential friends and admirers of the poet had been co-operating for his welfare, and earnestly striving to obtain for him some permanent appointment, if possible under Government, which, while ensuring him a moderate competency, would still enable him to exercise his genial fancy and to indulge himself in literary pleasures.  It was mainly in connection with these efforts that he was unexpectedly summoned home from Chipping Norton whilst on his tour.  Of course all possible influence and pressure were brought to bear upon those most competent to promote the poet's interests in this direction; and after the usual amount of circumlocution, much correspondence, and the wonted tardiness and vagueness of official processes generally, the worthy endeavours of those interested in Prince were rewarded by his obtaining the promise of an appointment under Government, although its first announcement did not reveal its precise character.  Those who had so creditably striven to obtain it rejoiced at their success; and poor Prince, as we may readily believe, was highly elated with the bright and cheerful prospect which was now presented to him.

    Alluding to this, with quiet satire, Mr. Procter says, "Of course we all knew what a post under Government was—ample salary with ample leisure, and, finally, a retiring pension as a reward for public services." But alas ! as if he had not suffered disappointments enough already, poor Prince's fondest hopes were again doomed to perish, and he was destined to endure what was, perhaps, one of the greatest disappointments in his sadly eventful life. With many misgivings, however, he set out for his new appointment, probably hoping that it might turn out better than he had been led to believe by particulars which had but recently reached him; and whilst on his way, we find him writing the following letter to his friend and admirer, Mr. R. W. Procter:—


L
ONDON, 22d June 1842.


    .     .     .    .You will forgive me not answering your letter earlier, as I have been so unsettled.   .   .   . I find my earliest friends the most faithful after all.  Is it not lamentable that, after being feasted, flattered, lionised, and promise-crammed for twelve months, I am now compelled to sink down into a penny postman, at fifteen shillings per week?  It stings me to the quick.  I have, however, learned a lesson I shall not soon forget, and by which I hope ultimately to profit.  I am grieved that I shall have to tear myself away from many in Manchester whom I respect, but there are others from whom it is well to part.

    I go to my new appointment [at Southampton] tomorrow.  I do not know how I shall like it, not very well I am sure, though I shall then be really and truly a man of letters!  I trust you still occasionally find solace in the exercise of your fancy and imagination.  Let me tell you that you are happy in the possession of a calling which yields you bread, independent of the pen.  You will excuse my brevity, as I am not 'i' the vein.'  Remember me to—, and believe me, yours faithfully,


J. C. P
RINCE.


    It appears that on reaching Southampton he found that his duties compelled him to attend at five o'clock each morning, and that the monotony of sorting letters was occasionally relieved by his having to drag a letter-waggon from one room to another!  Almost as soon, however, as he had assured himself of the true character of his new position, of which he failed to perceive the advantages, he resolved to release himself from the fostering wing of the State, and very soon put his resolution into effect by throwing up his "Government appointment" in anger and disgust.  To several of his friends he wrote most indignant letters, as he considered that he had been deceived and humiliated; and so acutely did he feel the effects of this bitter disappointment that in many respects he was an altered man ever afterwards.

    Many of his patrons and admirers considered Prince's conduct most reprehensible and ungrateful in thus relinquishing a post which it had cost them such efforts to obtain; but, although he knew to a great extent what he might expect in his situation at Southampton, and his spirit scornfully resented what he could not fail to look upon as an insult to his accomplishments, yet, to please those who had so earnestly sought to serve his interests, he actually accepted the distasteful duties with the best possible grace, until, exasperated beyond endurance by the false position in which he found himself, he determined to brook anything rather than submit to such humiliation.

    As to the circumstances under which the actual offer of this situation took place, we are happy in being able to give Prince's own statement to one of his most devoted friends. [12]  He says—"Lord Francis Egerton, afterwards Lord Ellesmere, ordered some of my books, and I was to take them myself to Worsley Hall.  I did take them myself, and saw his lordship personally.  We had a long conversation; he asked me many questions, and in the end gave me a letter to Lord Lowther, then the Postmaster-General; and I was to go and see Lord Lowther himself, at Bristol, Lord Francis paying expenses.  Well, I went to Bristol, saw Lord Lowther, and delivered Lord Francis' letter to him.  He hesitated some time, and went about the place as if making some inquiries, came back to me and said, 'Mr. Prince, are you the Prince whose poems I sometimes read?'  'I suppose I am, my lord.'  'Well, Mr. Prince, Lord Francis is making a mistake in this business, I am sure, to send you here for the situation which is now vacant.  Do you know, Prince, what it is?'   'I do not.'  'Well,' said Lord Lowther, 'it is to draw a waggonful of letters, the day through, from one room to another, to be sorted, the pay being fifteen shillings per week.  I am sure Lord Francis is not aware this is the vacant situation, or he would not have sent you here.  Take this letter back to his lordship; and here are your expenses back (handing me one or two sovereigns).  You will do more good at home, Mr. Prince.  Good-bye."'

    This, then, is the story of the covetable situation offered to and resigned by Prince in the midst of his great poverty—a situation which those who had the power to bestow it regarded as an insult to him who was sent to seek it !

    From Southampton Prince walked to London, and, as we have already said, the concluding portion of the last of the series of letters, entitled "Rambles of a Rhymester," contains an account of what impressed him by the way.  Smarting under a deep sense of disappointment, as he undoubtedly was, and feeling bitterly the slight which he considered had been put upon him, it is surprising to find this last chronicle of his tour written as cheerfully and as light-heartedly as ever, and without even a word of repining or resentment.  But, from the indignant letters which at this time he addressed to several of his friends, we know that beneath this calmness and equanimity, there was a very storm of suppressed passion raging in his bosom—feelings of anger, injured pride, and disappointment burning deeply into his soul.

    Sadly, however, he plodded on his homeward way, while Nature ministered to his wounded spirit, and, calling forth his fervent love for humanity, enabled him to forget his own sufferings, and to dwell with true sympathy upon those which are the heritage of mankind.  Now he enters a charming wood, and gentle Fancy, ever active, even in his darkest moods, peoples the sylvan shades with red-deer bounding afar into the hidden depths of their romantic homes, and glancing down the long twilight glades he sees Rufus with all his royal retinue rushing down the verdant vistas in full chase, whilst the branches tremble with the voice of the echoing horn.  Anon, as he quits the leafy aisles, his mind reverts to the past, and he thinks of life and its vicissitudes, of time and its changes, until the mists of former ages are again dissipated by the glowing Now, as he finds himself in the midst of a charming English village, when thought rejoices in the peaceful joys of rural homes; until his mind becomes once more saddened amid the numberless graves in the adjoining churchyard, wherein
 

"The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."


    Onwards again, until he plunges amid the sins and the sorrows of the mighty metropolis, where every chord upon the many-stringed lyre of Life vibrates with no uncertain sound,—amid the waves of humanity which, upheaved and depressed by every variety of human circumstance, surge through its mighty thoroughfares, until, perplexed and bewildered by the inscrutable mysteries surrounding man and his dwelling-place, he seeks the sacred solitude of St. Paul's Cathedral, and, surrendering himself to the peaceful holy influences which descend upon his excited spirit, bows in reverence and submission to Him in whose hands are the issues of all things—even of Life and Death.

    Prince went almost directly from London to Manchester, and returned to his shop in Long Millgate, where, for a time, he resumed his literary associations in the adjoining little sitting-room, "while," says Mr. Procter, "his leading patrons stood aloof with offended dignity, resolving to exert themselves no further on behalf of ungrateful genius.  In rejecting a certainty, however small or hardly earned, they pronounced him foolish, and we may assume they were in the right, as losers are always fools; it is only your winners who are wise men.  Be that as it may, in relying so entirely upon others he was weaned, though unintentionally, from his own exertions, and the self-dependent power was lost, which Goldsmith truly tells us 'can defy time!' "

    At this crisis in his life a little real sympathy, kindly counsel, and friendly ministration, might have done much to heal his heart-wounds and to renew his spirit; and if a small pension had now been bestowed upon him it is more than probable that, freed from the dreadful fear of want and poverty assailing himself and his family, futurity might have reaped the advantages of a more mature manifestation of his genius.  But most of his friends and patrons now treated him coldly, and regarded him as one who, by his so-called ingratitude, had forfeited their esteem, and who, on account of his inconsistency and imprudence, was no longer worthy of their counsel or companionship.

    Many true friends and sincere admirers he had no doubt; but he had attracted around him all kinds of literary danglers, who shone in the light of his genius like gnats in the sunshine, and who, when the clouds of adversity once more darkened his prospects, not only forsook him but stung him as they fled.  These had, at first, drawn him from his retirement, and gained an influence over him by flattering the better whilst developing the weaker qualities of his nature; and now, when hardship once more assailed him, and the moral balance of his life had become disturbed and disarranged, he found few disposed to minister to his wants or to sympathise with his weaknesses.

    Prince had now little to depend upon but the sale of his poems; nothing to look forward to but what might result from his own exertions; and whilst habits of thrift and judicious management were almost unknown in his household, the promiscuous pecuniary gifts which he occasionally received were but temporary breaks in his downward course once more towards poverty and its concomitants.

    Some six months after his return from Southampton, and probably about the end of 1842, Prince relinquished his little shop in Long Millgate, and removed to 82 Hanover Street, Manchester, where, with his wife and family, he occupied part of what had been a good house at the beginning of the century, and where the heart-stricken and broken-spirited artisan sat down on a low stool, in a large bare room, lighted back and front, to gain a precarious livelihood by following the trade he had learned at his father's side.

    In the reminiscences with which we have been favoured by Mrs. G. Linnæus Banks, alluding to this period, she says: "He was a reed-maker once more; but his soul sang even as he adjusted the slight wires within their frame, and in the intervals of moody bitterness a poem would well forth.  Now and then a poetical friend would drop in upon him; I used to call as I went to town, and sit down on an old stool or rush-bottomed chair, and chat with him by the hour, as he worked away.  I think at that period, and for some time previously, Mrs. Prince helped him with her needle, if not with some other handicraft of which I knew nothing; and I never went into any other part of the domicile than that bare room, with its one chair and stool, and its gaunt and ungainly, but intellectual inmate, who had ever a book or a paper by his side; and, unless in one of his moody veins, was glad to hold converse with any friend of congenial taste who was not too proud to visit the reed-maker."

    At the suggestion of his constant friend Mr. George Falkner, Prince began a series of papers in "Bradshaw's journal," under the title of "Random Readings from the poets of the nineteenth century," only one of which, however, he completed, that of John Keats, whom he highly venerated and passionately loved, perhaps, next, of all the poets, to Goldsmith.  But Prince was little qualified for criticism, and he abandoned the series by a kindly and enthusiastic notice of Ebenezer Elliott, with whom both Prince and Mr. Falkner were personally acquainted.

    Fortunately for Prince he was comparatively happy in his domestic arrangements; and however we may doubt the frugality of the household's management, we are at least assured of his deep attachment to his home, and that his strong natural affection revealed itself in tender and devoted love for his wife and daughters, who, in return, always manifested towards him an affectionate regard.  The little family had suffered much from the caprices and vicissitudes of fickle Fortune, but, through weal and woe, they were bound together by indissoluble bonds of affection; and however tried, disappointed, or depressed, poor Prince was always sure to find, beneath his own humble roof, the sympathy and consolation of loving hearts, however incompetent they may have been to understand the depth and intensity of his feelings or aspirations.

    Day after day Prince plodded on at his uninteresting handicraft, solacing his sorrow in song, the monotony of his occupation being occasionally relieved by the welcome visit of some sympathising or congenial friend.

    One morning the postman brought him a letter, the envelope of which was rather larger than the ordinary size.  He took it, and examined it carefully, when he found that it had a grating, crackling sound, as if it contained burnt wood.  He gave it to his wife, told her to take it to the post-office and to say that he declined to receive it.  His wife, however, who evidently possessed her share of feminine curiosity, determined to open it, and on doing so found that the envelope contained a burnt crust of bread.  She took out the crust; and broke it, when a sovereign dropped on the floor.  She at once acquainted Prince with the circumstance, and on again examining the address on the envelope he decided that the present had been sent to him by a lady residing in Wales, to whom he at once wrote, thanking her for the gift.  On the receipt of Prince's letter the lady replied that the burnt crust had two sovereigns in it!  Fortunately the crust had been preserved, and on further examination the other sovereign was found.
 
    About this time application had been made to Sir Robert Peel, in the hope of obtaining for Prince employment as a librarian, or in some similar capacity; to which Sir Robert kindly replied as follows:—


W
HITEHALL, October 15 [1842].


    "Sir—I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and of the volume which accompanied it.  It does not occur to me that I have the means of procuring for Mr. Prince any situation of the description to which you refer.  I transmit to you, from a fund which I am at liberty to apply to such a purpose, the sum of fifty pounds, and request you to apply it in such a manner as may be most for the interest of Mr. Prince.  I am, sir, etc.

ROBERT PEEL.


    This courteous letter must have been deeply gratifying to Prince, being a graceful recognition of the poet's deserts from one occupying such an exalted position as the illustrious writer; and the enclosure accompanying it must have been peculiarly acceptable, inasmuch as Prince was thus enabled to extricate himself from pecuniary difficulties which were now a source of much anxiety.  It is much to be regretted that no such suitable vacancy existed as might have been placed at Prince's disposal, especially as regular, congenial employment, with fixed remuneration, would, in all likelihood, have given him a firmer foothold, whilst tending to foster a higher development of his poetic gift: but he had at least the satisfaction of knowing that his powers were appreciated in high places, and, although no definite promise was now held out to him, he was still free to hope for better fortune in the future.

    Prince remained in Hanover Street until early in July, 1843, when, the united efforts of the family barely enabling them to procure the necessaries of existence, he left Manchester, and removed for a time to Blackburn, where he was employed as a journeyman reed-maker, having in the meantime left his wife and family behind him, with the intention of returning for them when he had succeeded in obtaining permanent employment.  He had become restless, however, and after a few weeks' residence in Blackburn, left rather abruptly, and returned to Manchester, leaving a number of copies of "Hours with the Muses" behind him.  These were afterwards found at the bottom of a cellar, and Mr. Parkington, his employer, took care of them until he had an opportunity of handing them over to their owner.

    Mr. George Markham Tweddell, of Stokesley, had about this time invited Prince to contribute to a literary undertaking in which he was interested, and Prince's reply was as follows:—


82 H
ANOVER STREET, MANCHESTER,
10th September 1843.


    Dear Sir—Your little publication came to hand, for which I thank you, and must apologise for not writing sooner.  My 'Hours with the Muses' is not now in my hands, but I will speak to the proper parties respecting forwarding you some copies for sale.  I will try (though my mind, from harassing domestic circumstances is not in the mood) to write something for your paper.

    I am now preparing a new work, which I expect will be ready at Christmas, entitled 'Zorah; and other poems,' price five shillings.  Perhaps you can obtain a few subscribers for me.  Please to excuse brevity, and believe me, yours respectfully,                                                                                                              J. C. P
RINCE.


    We see, therefore, that however harassed and depressed, Poesy had lost none of her charms for the poor reed-maker.  All that he had suffered and was suffering was still unable to subdue his passion for poetical composition; he was preparing another volume of poems, and, in November 1843, we again find him taking the first place, value three pounds, in the prizes offered by the "Oddfellows' Magazine," the judges being Messrs. C. Swain, S. Bamford, and William Mort.

    About this time he may have again visited Blackburn for a few weeks, but, at any rate, he left for Ashton-under-Lyne early in December 1843, and soon afterwards sent the following note to Miss Varley:—


Saturday, H
ODGSON STREET, ASHTON.


    Dear Miss Varley—I am indeed sorry that I cannot avail myself of the pleasure of meeting—, yourself, and the other friend of yours to-morrow.

    Like an insect who has fluttered his season in the sunshine; and whose winter hour is come, I must keep within my cell till brighter hours and better days call me forth into the busy world.  A 'change has come o'er the spirit of my dream,' and what the next change may be is alone known to the Disposer of events.  Please to tell your friends that I should have been happy to have cultivated their acquaintance, and even friendship, but, as things are, it will be difficult for me to meet them.  I shall be glad to hear from them at any time.  Best love to—.  Please send the Bible.  Your friend,

 J. C. PRINCE.


    Mrs. Banks says this must have been written shortly after the removal of the Princes to Ashton.  The Bible referred to was one left by Prince's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, at school.

    In reply to a letter from his sympathising friend, Mr. George Richardson, Prince thus wrote soon after his location in Ashton:—


S
TAMFORD STREET, NEAR NEW CHURCH,
A
SHTON-UNDER-LYNE, 10th December 1843.


    Dear Richardson—Like a sudden and unexpected gleam of sunshine in November, or a precious current coin found on the road by a hungry wayfarer, your communication flashed before my eyes this morning.

    I am glad to find that, in spite of my errors, which have exiled me for a time from my former friends of Manchester, one has the kind consideration to write to me.  I was getting misanthropical, but to the honour of human nature I must myself again become human.

    It rejoices me much (for envy of another's talents, thank God! was never one of my vices), that you are about to enter the arena of literary, but bloodless, conflict. May you profit by the recent career of others, and heed not the voice of thoughtless Flattery, 'charm she never so wisely.'  I prognosticate a respectable fame for you; your subject will command a temporary one, your manner of treating it a temporary or lasting.  That you may obtain the latter is my sincere wish. . . . . "  Business, on account of the late 'turn-out,' now at an end, has been very limited, and for so far I have been unable to get more than the common necessaries of life.  I anticipate better things; but reed-making is not to my taste, and when a favourable opportunity occurs I shall leave it.

    'Zorah' is getting on slowly, but surely; but I am afraid that the market will be overstocked, if they go on at the present rate of production.  At all events, when the work is finished, I shall try my chance.

    . . . . I shall be happy to spend a few hours with you, and a selection of 'the old sort,' somewhere about Christmas, if I know where to find them.  There is no 'Poets' Corner' here, nor any kindred spirits; neither do I want the former.  It has been my bane and my stumblingblock.  I should, nevertheless, be glad to make a Poets' Corner of my house, if a few of you would think it worth while to pay me a visit. . . . . I am ever faithfully,

J. C. PRINCE.


    As far back as 1840, Prince made the acquaintance of Mr. George Smith—himself a poet and prose-writer of no mean order—who was manager of the spinning department in the then largest cotton manufacturing establishment in the neighbourhood of Ashton-under-Lyne—that of Messrs. Robert Lees and Sons.  To Mr. Smith (also to Mr. Rogerson, as already mentioned) Prince had dedicated his well-known and much admired "Epistle to a brother poet," and thus began an intimacy which lasted many years, and which was only severed by death.  Mr. Smith's friendship proved of great service to Prince; and when the latter had incurred the censure of his friends, the large-hearted charity of Mr. Smith always found a kind excusing word for his aberrations and shortcomings.  He was, indeed, unceasing in his acts of benevolence and kindness towards Prince; and it is more than probable that Mr. Smith's kindly interest in him procured him employment as a reed-maker with Mr. Edwin Moorhouse, of Henry Square, Ashton-under-Lyne, and induced him eventually to settle there.

    On Christmas Eve, 1843, Mr. Smith introduced Prince to Mr. Brooks and family, then residing in Ashton; a circumstance which Prince must have ever regarded with pleasure and gratitude, as the Messrs. Brooks, father and son, afterwards became, through evil and good report, his sincere and attached friends.   Alluding to this occasion, Mr. John Brooks says:—


    "I discovered that evening that Prince was a man of extraordinary genius; that he was not merely a poet, but a well-read man, and a good singer.  He sang for us, with excellent voice, taste, and feeling, amongst others, his own song—'My Country and my Queen.'  The tune to which he sang it was 'The good old English Gentleman,' and for the chorus, at the end of each verse, used the words,—


'Then raise a song for Liberty,
 Our Country, and our Queen.'


    The conversation of the evening was animated and impressive; the subjects being poetry, politics, and religion.


    Mr. Brooks continues:—


    Ashton-under-Lyne is but a short distance from the mountain range that in that neighbourhood divides Lancashire from Yorkshire; and my father, in the course of the conversation spoke of a mountainous country as being most favourable to poetic thought and feeling, and said—'I have often wondered that no poet has made the hill country about Mossley—(meaning Saddleworth, which lies high on the borderland, having Yorkshire on one side, and parts of Lancashire and Cheshire on the other)—'classic ground.'  Mr. Prince replied, 'I should like to see Greenfield in a snowstorm.'

    The Corn Laws had then but recently been repealed, and, as we had all felt deeply interested in the movement, that event came under review.  Passing from politics to religion, a discussion ensued as to whether the judicial infliction of death could be justified on Christian principles—Prince maintaining the negative.  When I recall the topics and incidents of that evening, which evidently made a deep impression upon Prince, I cannot but conclude that they led to the production of three effusions from his pen which may well rank among the best efforts of his genius.  I allude to his 'New Year's Day Aspirations,' his 'Winter Sketch from Oldermann,' and his 'Rhyme for the Time.'  With regard to the first of these, he sent the original manuscript to my sister, then Miss Brooks (the late Mrs. Marshall), who had been present and taken part in the conversation of the evening; and the production of the second came about in the following way:—

    Remembering what Prince had said that evening about seeing the Saddleworth hills in a snowstorm—it so happening that snow fell rather heavily some two or three weeks afterwards,—I sent him word that I should be happy to drive him and his friend Mr. Smith to Saddleworth on the next following Sunday.  They accepted my invitation, and Mr. Smith arranged with Mr. John Smith of Saddleworth, an elder brother of his, to receive and entertain us.  It turned out to be a delightful excursion.  Having driven the two poets from Ashton to Oak Vue (Mr. John Smith's residence), about seven miles, on a sharp, bracing winter morning, I left my horse to the care of his stable attendants, and joined the party at a one o'clock dinner, which had been provided thus early in order that we might have time to mount the highest hill before nightfall.  Ner Chapman, a woollen stubber, had been selected as our guide, and after dinner we hastened, under his guidance, to scale the high hill known by the name of Oldermann or Oddermann, on the summit of which there are some scooped stones, supposed to be Druidical remains.

    During the ascent Prince seemed like one inspired.  He lay down under the fir-trees which skirted the mountain, clothed as they were with spangled snow, crisp from the frost that had followed its fall; and as he lay, he shook the overhanging branches, enjoying with poetic ecstasy the white winter covering that fell in shivering particles over him.  It was evening before we returned to Oak Vue, and the stars were coming out; and on a fine moonlight night we drove back to Ashton, pleased and invigorated in no ordinary degree.  A few days afterwards I received from Mr. Prince his original MS. of those three beautiful sonnets, 'A Winter Sketch from Oldermann,' which were manifestly the result of his inspiration of that day.


    Prince was now regularly employed in the manufactory of Mr. Moorhouse, as a reed-maker.  His chequered experiences in Manchester had made him "a sadder, if not a wiser man:" and as he plodded on at his work from day to day, how often must his thoughts have dwelt upon the varied scenes through which he had already passed!  His pride had been wounded and his spirit crushed, and nothing but time could heal them; but hope had not entirely deserted him, the power of song was still his own; and however chastened and subdued, he could still forget his sorrows and his cares by spending his leisure hours in the ever-attractive society of the Muses.  How calmly he regarded his position, and how painfully he reviewed the past, will be seen from the subjoined extract from a letter to Mr. G. M. Tweddell:—


S
TAMFORD STREET, NEAR NEW CHURCH,
A
SHTON-UNDER-LYNE, January 7, 1844.


    .    .    .    .    I must apologise for not writing sooner.  The fact is my present employment as a journeyman reed-maker allows me little time for correspondence.  I will not fail, however, to send a contribution in time for the February number of your journal.  As respects publishing a biographical sketch, I am very indifferent about it myself, though I feel obliged by your good wishes and intentions.  You may, if you please, publish one, the particulars of which you will find at the beginning of my volume of poems.  There is nothing else to say save that I have lived upon the profits of the work upwards of two years in Manchester; and after some unsuccessful attempts to rise in business have been thrown back to my former position of a hard-working artisan, earning with my hands and long hours twenty shillings per week.  I could say much, but I cannot yet open my mind to the public.

    I know not what you have heard respecting me, but I know that I have been much misrepresented.  Much truth has been spoken, probably, but garnished with much calumnious falsehood.  They have sported with me like a toy, and cast me away because I got partially soiled in the handling. [The italics are Prince's] . . . . Believe me to be most sincerely yours,                                                  J. C. P
RINCE."


    Prince being in indigent circumstances, Mr. George Smith, ever anxious to improve his position, drew up and printed an appeal on his behalf for aid from a literary fund in London.  This was in May 1844.  Prince being furnished with his travelling expenses, went round to friends in Manchester, whose names were likely to have influence, to obtain their signatures.  We have reason to believe that the appeal was successful, and that Prince received a pecuniary grant, but of what amount cannot now be ascertained.

    Writing to Mr. Tweddell, in a note dated 13th September 1844, Prince says:—"I intended sending you a poem or something, but am not yet prepared.  I may send you something from Bath, where I should go next week to negotiate for the sale of the copyright of 'Hours with the Muses.'  In the event of its being sold a cheap edition for the people will appear."

    That he did go to Bath is evident from the beginning of another note to Mr. Tweddell, dated from Ashton, October 20, 1844, which he commences by saying:—"I am very sorry I have not been able to write to you sooner.  In fact I was laid up by illness at Bath, as also a week since my return."  But it is not probable that the negotiations referred to were satisfactory, as we shall see hereafter.  He seems, however, to have had a relapse of his illness, for, on the 20th of November, he again writes:—"Four weeks of severe illness, a great part of the time in bed, with bleeding, blistering, low diet, and nervousness, have incapacitated me for writing you before this.  I am now, thank God, getting better."

    On the 18th day of December he again writes to Mr. Tweddell:—"I want to publish a volume of poems immediately, called 'Fireside Fancies.'  Do you think you would be able to print for me 750 copies if we could make some satisfactory arrangement as regards payment?  I have a good list of subscribers."  In his next letter, dated 25th January 1845, he is not so sanguine about this new venture; and says:—"I am at present undecided about the publication of my poems.  In truth, my constant labour of thirteen hours per day, to secure the 'bread that perisheth,' almost entirely unfits me for literary labour.  I have, however, as much manuscript as would make a volume, if I find it convenient to publish."  This volume, however, never saw the light; and the materials were, in all likelihood, incorporated with some of the others which he subsequently published.

    In 1845 Mr. Smith, who was principal Corresponding Secretary of the Order of Ancient Shepherds, induced Prince to become the editor of a serial which he and a few persons of influence in the Order had projected, to be called "The Loyal Ancient Shepherds' Quarterly Magazine."  Prince himself, alluding to this circumstance, thus writes to a friend:—


H
ENRY SQUARE, ASHTON,
April 5, 1845.


             . . . " I have been appointed to the editorship of the 'Ancient Shepherds' Quarterly Magazine,' the first number of which will appear in July next.  A slight salary [13] will be given for the first year, with an advance if the thing continues.  What I shall make of it I cannot tell, as the sort of tact or talent such a task requires will be new to me." . . . .


    Mr. Smith's object in asking Prince to edit this periodical was to stimulate him to increased literary exertions, to benefit him pecuniarily, and to wean him from habits to which he was now too prone.  Although the first number of the Magazine was not published until July 1845, Prince himself tells us that the introductory article was written in April of the same year.  This essay is couched in such good taste, and so characteristic of Prince's style, that we cannot refrain from quoting a rather long paragraph, revealing, as it does, the springs of thought which characterised the mind of the writer.

    He says:


    We shall endeavour to give an English character to our Magazine, English in its best sense, straightforward, good-humoured, generous, and honest.  By so doing we hope to produce an agreeable miscellany, as acceptable to the elegant parlour-circle of the capitalist, as to the humbler (we hope not less homely and happy) fireside of the self-taught or self-teaching artisan, for whose benefit and solace our pen and others will be chiefly exercised.  With regard to our editorial articles, however varying in manner, however different in spirit they may seem, our readers must be content to take them as they find them.  We will assure them that our satire shall never be wantonly or unjustly offensive, our sentiment never maudlin and querulous; but should a bitter thought sometimes infuse itself into the cup of our reflections, we trust that a drop of benevolence will be found at the bottom which has tempered the whole draught.  We cannot shut our eyes on what is beautiful and good in our common nature; we will not close them on what is evil and repulsive, but endeavour, in conjunction with greater minds, to enhance the one and neutralise the other.  Like the month in which we write this page (April), we may be cloudy and bright, gusty and calm, tearful and serene, as our mental moods influence outward expression; but we hope, also, to produce our flowers and verdure, our singing of birds, our babbling of pure waters, and our earnest of more glowing hours and more prolific seasons.  Our prevailing tone will be on the side of cheerfulness, hope, and outward endeavour; and happy shall we be if we waken a corresponding chord in the breast of any shepherd, any human brother.  After all, aware as we are of our comparative incapacity, we have not the presumption to imagine that we shall take a high position among our contemporaries; but the little good we may be able to effect, however insignificant in itself, will be added to the amount already done by others, and the end will be answered.  Enough for us if the little bias we give to the minds of our readers will be in the right direction, leaning towards virtue, truth, knowledge, and consequently towards freedom of soul and happiness of heart.


    On the cover of this first number we notice an announcement to the effect that " 'Zorah,' a metrical tale by the Editor, will shortly be published." As a matter of fact "Zorah" was never published, although we have evidence of the MS. having been prepared for printing; but, from some unknown reason, it was broken up into fragments, which were afterwards united and amplified under the title of "The Poetic Rosary," to which we shall hereafter allude.

    A soiree of some kind was arranged to be held at Stockton-on-Tees, on December 29, 1845, to which Prince had been invited; and on his intimating that so long a journey would put him to some inconvenience, the executive kindly and warmly offered to pay his expenses.  Alluding to this circumstance, in a letter to Mr. Tweddell, dated December 24, 1845, he says: "It being proposed by the Stockton people that I should respond to 'The Press,' and being a wretched hand at an extempore speech, I got some verses printed on the subject, intending them as a substitute for something better."

    In the same letter, referring to his editorial duties, also to the preparation of "Zorah," he continues:—


    I am obliged by your brief notice of the 'Shepherds' Magazine,' in which I do not take very much interest, as I cannot have my own way in the conduct of it.

    Officers and members of such societies like to see a good deal about themselves and their order, which has a tendency to make their journals uninteresting to general readers.

    I am almost tired of being asked the question 'When will "Zorah" be out?' but I trust it will not be long.  You shall know when it certainly appears. . . . .


    Prince's life at this time was fraught with comparatively little interest: he worked at his trade as a reed-maker for his daily bread; and as he manipulated the pliant wires, and placed them in the frames, his mind was busy in dreamland, culling sweets from the bowers of Fancy, or brooding sadly over the chequered Past, until ever-faithful Hope retold her flattering tale, and aided him anew to build airy castles in the vista of the Future.

    After the toil of the day was over, or during such intervals of leisure as might occasionally present themselves, his purest joys were still found amid the charms of poetical composition; and as Sunday came round he would ramble on the wild and rugged hills which lie between Stalybridge and Mossley, his companion in these pleasurable excursions being his faithful and favourite dog, "Fan."  The most noteworthy of these hills is known by the name of "The Brushes," and it was here, in solitude, that he found renewed expression in poems which may be numbered amongst the best he ever wrote.

    Sometimes admiring and appreciative friends would come from Manchester or elsewhere to visit the poet; and on one occasion at least a number of other "Knights of the Quill," from Manchester, came to Ashton for the express purpose of having a ramble and a day's diversion in the company of their old and esteemed friend, when Prince himself accompanied them on horseback through the mountainous district of Saddleworth, equipped in a white hat, and wearing a pair of green spectacles!  Alas, how seldom came these red-letter days, painful by contrast, on account of their rarity!  How buoyant must have been the spirit of the poor bard, who, notwithstanding all that he had suffered, and the depressing circumstances of his present condition and surroundings, could take part in and enjoy the pleasure of such an occasion with all the light-heartedness and abandon of a schoolboy!


 
CHAPTER V.


ON the 9th of September 1846 there appeared in the "Manchester Courier" a letter from the pen of Mr. D. Buxton, of London, signed "Young Manchester," on the neglect of literary men, and urging the claims of Prince.  With the exception of the omission of a few paragraphs referring to circumstances in Prince's life which have already been noticed, the letter is as follows:—


Sir—One of the greatest reproaches upon the character of this country is to be found in its neglect of literary men.  Before the Reformation learning was almost wholly confined to the cloister: nobles were unable to write their own names; a criminal who could 'write like a clerk' was exempted from the punishment of death on that account, so rare and valuable was the accomplishment; even priests were often satisfied with being able to read the breviary.  As for a popular literature—there was no such thing.  Readers were few; writers fewer; they did not write for their own times, but for posterity; and being monks they were supported by the monastic foundations, literary emolument being a thing almost unknown.  The only lay writers of any marked celebrity were Chaucer and Gower.  Chaucer was connected by marriage with a royal prince: Gower, too, was of good family; the noble Earl, lately member for South Lancashire, is a descendant of the poet, and not long ago he caused the tomb of his ancestor to be restored, with excellent taste, at his own expense; while, to the shame of the English nation, that of Chaucer is left to dilapidation and ruin, its beauty already visibly perishing, and its inscription almost entirely obliterated.  But the Reformation—following the invention of printing and the revival of learning—laid the foundation of a reading people, and made authors in great measure dependent upon public appreciation for support.  Tusser, a writer of the time of Henry the Eighth, and the author of the earliest didactic poem in the language, died in poverty.  Every subsequent age has furnished additional examples of similar neglect.  For a long period literary success could only be ensured by royal or noble patronage.  That system received its death-blow from Dr. Johnson.  It was impossible that it could survive his crushing letter to Lord Chesterfield, when he asks whether a patron is not 'One who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help.'  Under that regime authors were either fawning sycophants or miserable paupers.  If a man could live by his pen he must previously renounce integrity of principle and independence of character.  Dryden himself, like the Zimri of his great satire, was 'everything by turns and nothing long.'  The 'Epistles Dedicatory' and the Epitaphs which have come down to us from those days are nearly akin.  They would lead a credulous reader to imagine that the men they celebrate surpassed in excellence all other men before or since, and, perhaps, they might tempt him to repeat the question which Charles Lamb asked of his sister as they were walking through a churchyard crowded with eulogistic headstones—'Mary, where are all the wicked people buried?'

    But now literary patronage is vested where favour is more difficult to gain, though it is as often capriciously bestowed.  The author of our times may 'scorn delights and live laborious days' to little or no purpose; or he may, as Byron did, wake some morning to find himself famous.  The public is the most magnificent patron which a successful writer can have; but if it enriches and ennobles two or three men in a generation it leaves meanwhile a busy meritorious crowd to exhausting, unrequited labour, until at last an arduous life is ended by a premature and embittered death.  This is the reproach which it behoves Englishmen to wipe away.  Some of the brightest ornaments of our national literature have lived lives and died deaths at which every one among us should blush.  Massinger was found dead in his bed, and was buried as 'Philip Massinger, a stranger.'  Otway is said to have met his death through swallowing, with the avidity of desperate hunger, the first piece of bread which he had tasted for two or three days.  Sir Richard Lovelace died of want.  Butler, the immortal author of 'Hudibras,' died miserably poor, and was indebted for a coffin and a grave to the charity of a friend.  Defoe, Steel, and Goldsmith died deeply in debt; so did Sheridan—he was put under arrest on his death-bed,—as his biographer, Moore, indignantly said:—


              Bailiffs will seize his last blanket to-day,
Whose pall shall be borne by proud nobles to-morrow.


Savage and Smart ended their lives in prison; Watt, Smollett, and a greater man than all these, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, spent their last years under the hospitable roofs of affluent friends.  Farquhar wrote himself to death: and, in our own times, the same thing has been done by Galt, Thomas Hood, William Maguire, J. C. Loudon, and others.  The distresses of Collins drove him mad.  And Chatterton,


                                   The marvellous boy,
The sleepless soul that perished in his pride,


after enduring the pangs of hunger for three days, spent his last penny in the purchase of the poison which cut short his romantic life before he was eighteen years of age."


    Here the writer refers to the harrowing circumstances of Prince's life, and having cited examples of his poetry and prose-writing thus continues:—


    Surely something may be done by a rich and generous community like that of Manchester and the neighbourhood to aid one of its distressed members, gifted, if not with worldly wealth, with that to which the gold of Ophir is but sordid dust.  Surely little can be required besides the statement of his circumstances, to induce the inhabitants of his own neighbourhood, and the natives of the same county, to give assistance to a man whose birth amongst them honours the scenes of their common nativity, and to place him beyond the reach of vulgar want.  It is a remarkable fact, which leads prima facie to what is probably a false conclusion, that nearly all the Manchester men who have become celebrated for their works in literature or the arts, have left Manchester in order to do so.

    The conclusion to which this fact would lead us is, that Manchester is indifferent to the possession of literary or artistic excellence by its own sons, and by its neglect thrusts them forth to seek that appreciation elsewhere which is denied them at home.  This inference will hardly stand, however, in the face of those magnificent honours which of late years have been paid to literature and art at the Annual Soiree of the Athenæum.  But the interpretation may be still more unequivocally repudiated by the fostering of local talent, and the reward of local excellence.  It may be done now by relieving John Critchley Prince from imminent distress, and enabling him to live comfortably and happily hereafter.  His trade, it has already been remarked, is that of an operative reed-maker.  Now surely the manufacturers of Manchester and Ashton could find him abundance of employment at his own or some kindred trade, or in some other way suited to his general abilities, and to place him in easy circumstances for the remainder of his life.  It is to be observed that there is often both a right and a wrong way of doing a very necessary and laudable thing.  In the assistance of literary men, the wrong way has been too frequently taken, and the right one but seldom.  It is not the right way to pension a man who has been brought up to a life of toil, and so make him independent of labour, and leave him to the temptations of idleness.  Nor is it the right way to thrust a man into any post which may chance to be vacant, without considering his fitness for the office, or its suitableness to his own idiosyncrasy.  For instance, Burns was taken from the plough into the excise, whereby he fell into the vices which deformed his character and shortened his life.  Bloomfield was taken from the shoemaker's stall into the Seal Office, where his occupation was irksome, laborious, and injurious to his health: he, therefore, resigned it, entered into other employments in which he also failed, and died poor and wretched.  John Clare was taken from the plough, and put in possession of a farm which he was incompetent to manage; misfortune ensued, and he became insane.  Thomas Miller was suddenly changed into a bookseller, but now you will not find his shop if you search Newgate Street through.  Thomas Moore and Theodore Hook are more exalted instances of the same unfortunate course of dealing with literary men.  Moore was appointed to an office in Bermuda, the duties of which were performed by a deputy; the subordinate betrayed his trust, entailed pecuniary losses to a very large amount upon the too-confiding poet, the whole of which he ultimately made good, with the exception of a small sum contributed by a relative of the delinquent.  Hook was appointed to a lucrative office in the Mauritius, but through negligence, suffered such irregularities in his accounts, that he was recalled, found a debtor to the Crown to the amount of £12,000 imprisoned, released, paid nothing, and died in debt and misery.  The right way of dealing with literary men is to give them the opportunity of doing what they are well able to do, and making their lives comfortable in that position.  Allan Cunningham had been a mason, he was made Clerk of the Works to Sir Francis Chantrey, and was thus enabled to unite his professional and literary associations.  If Prince be dealt with in this manner, he will see happier years than any he has yet seen, and be saved from exposure to many temptations.  A general appeal can only be based upon general grounds.  Otherwise the political services of Prince might be hinted at.  The advocates of free trade have fought their way through many and great difficulties to complete victory.  The earnest and persevering labours which have led to this important result are now exchanged for mutual congratulations and offerings of gratitude to their leaders.  Let them not forget, in their hour of exultation, that John Critchley Prince has been a long and faithful adherent—an earnest and talented advocate, of the cause they have so much at heart.  Surely the following powerful passage from his latest publication will plead with them in his favour:—


Farewell, thou lawless law! thou death in life!
Thou labour-lowering bread-curse, and thou bane
Of God's best bounty! thou remorseless knife
Held at the throat of enterprise! thou stain
On freedom's fairest page! thou gainless gain!
Thou nightmare of the nation!   We awake
And fling thee off; thy many-folded chain
Consumeth like the lightning-kindled brake
The far-off shores clap hands, and all thy champions quake.


    A powerful and triumphant party is distributing its honours and rewards amongst those whose boldness, sagacity, and skill have rendered its labours successful.  And herein it does well.  But will it not do better still, and add a further grace to its magnificent acknowledgments of great services, by not forgetting in his hour of need the poor man, whose labours in the cause were not perhaps less successful in his humble sphere?

    Look forward for twenty years.  Prince may then be no longer amongst us.  If we permit him to go down to the grave in poverty, we may then discover, when it is too late, that a bright light has been quenched in the earth.  Then all the honours we can pay—all the costly monuments we can raise, all the regret we can express, will be a poor and miserable atonement for the neglect which suffered him to live and die in distress.  He asks for bread during his life, and we shall perhaps offer a stone to his memory.  We have done so in too many cases already.  Contrast the life of Burns with the honours that have been paid to his great name since he was laid in the churchyard of Dumfries.  And to come to things of only yesterday—contrast the mental agony and desperate death of Haydon with the noble endeavour to make provision for his family.  Will you add the name of Prince to the numerous catalogue, which disfigures the page of our country's literary history?  Let us rather, one and all, rise up to better things, and not content ourselves with that bald, abortive virtue, which only consists in empty honour of the dead.  Truly, we may read our own condemnation in the solemn words of Holy Writ:—'Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.'

    Such is the appeal made from one proud to regard Manchester as his birthplace and his home, on behalf of a man whose talents he admires, and in whose distresses he deeply sympathises.  It is made without the knowledge of him whom it is hoped to benefit by it.  It is addressed to those energetic manufacturers and merchant princes of Manchester whose fame is borne on every breeze, and whose influence is felt and acknowledged in every corner of the earth.  Great as they are by their commerce, by their wealth, by their enterprise, they are greater far by their generosity and princely liberality.  This is a greatness which is less proclaimed by massy monuments of industry and skill than by the silent thankfulness of human hearts which they have helped in adversity and comforted in sorrow, and in whose rugged path they have caused to spring fair flowers of peace and happiness, as now once more they are implored to do.

"YOUNG MANCHESTER.
L
ONDON, September 4, 1846."


    This noble appeal having aroused and stimulated Prince's admirers to make an effort on his behalf, Mr. Buxton, gratified to find that his burning words had not fallen deadly into stony hearts, again wrote to the "Manchester Courier" as follows:—


To the Editor of the 'Manchester Courier.'


    Sir—The letter on the circumstances of John Critchley Prince, which you so promptly inserted in your paper of the 9th inst., having seemingly succeeded in awakening such attention and sympathy as it makes one proud to think Manchester never denies to a worthy cause, I beg to suggest that we should now cease talking, and begin to act.

    Where so many are animated by the same feelings, you only want a centre of communication in order to bring them into united action for the purpose they have each at heart.  I would most respectfully suggest, therefore, that if some gentleman would publicly make known his willingness to receive the names of any others disposed to concur with him in this object of beneficence to Prince, a working body would immediately be formed, and half the whole difficulty be surmounted by the very first step.  Only begin; and you are sure to go on.  It is a fact which holds good of more machines than railway locomotives, that it takes twice as much fuel to get an engine into motion after it has stopped than to keep it at full speed.  There is no lack of energy in Manchester, nor any want of the knowledge requisite to the orderly and effectual conduct of business.  There is, besides, a full measure of that blessed spirit which is ever ready to afford


An arm of aid to the weak:
A friendly hand to the friendless;
Kind words so short to speak;
But whose echo is endless.


And if these be only turned, by those who happily possess them, into means of assistance to their talented and distressed neighbour,—verily, they shall have their reward.

    I have but just learned that the chief encumbrance under which Prince labours is that of positive D
EBT.  This has been incurred during a period in which his sorrows and trials have been such as the world could neither see nor know; too intimate, deep, personal, and soul-felt to be publicly divulged; excluding, therefore, the consolation of sympathy and participation, and for that very reason driving the iron more cruelly deep into his sensitive soul.

    Now there is a nobleness in the labours of alleviating mental distresses such as these, which true-hearted men pant after, and are ambitious for.  It purchases a consciousness diviner than pleasure; it infuses a spirit more lofty and sublime than mere zeal or energy can ever give.

    Will Manchester cast away the opportunity thus afforded for the exercising of those qualities which the whole world rejoices to recognise in her?  Will she omit to take the initiative in a better mode of treating the men who give their days and nights to literature?  Will she deprive society and humanity of the benefit which would be conferred by her example in a work of this kind?  Will she suffer one of her own children to live neglected, and to die so?  I cannot,—I will not believe it.  All the heart within me cries out—No!

    I appeal to the men—my brother-men of Manchester: men whose position and character and endowments enable them to carry on to a successful completion whatever they undertake: I ask—who amongst them will devote themselves to this?  Who will feel proud of the labour?  Who will rejoice in the reward?  Some will: many will.  Let them vie with one another for precedence, and gather round them every one who will join with them in a work which, like all sweet mercy's holy deeds, both 'blesses him that gives and him that takes.'

    Prince has many friends and admirers in this part of the country who, there is little doubt, would cheerfully co-operate with those who might be willing to superintend a movement in his behalf.  Such a movement the press could most powerfully aid, either by copying in extenso the appeal which appeared in your paper, or by briefly bringing the simple facts before their readers.  You have most honourably taken the lead in a path wherein it is impossible to think any member of the English press would be reluctant to follow you.  Should any gentleman feel disposed to respond to this appeal, and make a beginning, you would probably give him the opportunity of declaring his intention, and inviting cooperation through your columns.  I have the honour to be, sir, yours very much obliged,


Y
OUNG MANCHESTER.
L
ONDON, September 17, 1846.


    Bearing the same date as this spirited plea, the subjoined letter from Prince's good friend Mr. John Brooks, of Ashton-under-Lyne, duly appeared in the "Courier."


Dear Sir—Your paper of the 9th inst. contains a most excellent letter, subscribed 'Young Manchester,' on the neglect of literary men, and urging the claims of Mr. John Critchley Prince, of this town.  A few gentlemen of this town and neighbourhood have met, and desired that I should communicate through your valuable columns their intention of assisting in carrying out the writer's views.  I am desired, also, to mention that a people's edition of that invaluable work, 'Hours with the Muses,' is now in the press, having been projected by Mr. Prince and a few of his friends, to be sold at two shillings and sixpence per copy.  We understand that he has another work now ready for publication.

    Fully concurring in the sentiments and kind wishes towards Mr. Prince expressed by your correspondent, I shall be happy to receive communications from him and any other gentlemen who may be disposed to enter into his views, and to assist in organising a Committee for the purpose of ameliorating the circumstances and promoting the further literary efforts of this extraordinary and highly-talented man.  Yours very truly,

J. BROOKS.

ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
September 17, 1846."


    A number of gentlemen in Ashton-under-Lyne, aware of Prince's poverty, at once met, and formed themselves into a Committee to collect subscriptions for his benefit.  Mr. John Mellor was appointed chairman of the Committee, Dr. S. D. Lees, Honorary Treasurer, and Mr. J. Brooks, Honorary Secretary.  They considered that the best way to benefit the unfortunate and erratic poet would be to print for him another edition of "Hours with the Muses," and, if sufficient funds could be obtained for the purpose, one or two other works which he intimated he could soon prepare for the press.

    The largest donor to the fund was the late Mr. John Mellor, brother of Mr. T. Walton Mellor, M.P. for Ashton-under-Lyne; the latter gentleman being also one of the principal contributors.  In October 1846 a sum of five pounds was forwarded by Mr. Serjeant, afterwards judge, Talfourd, who, in sending his subscription, thus wrote:—


    It has often been my painful duty to discourage aspiring men engaged in laborious occupations who have mistaken the love of literature for the power of enriching it, from quitting the humble paths of life for the vain pursuit of fame; but Mr. Prince is none of these.  He is a man endowed with true original power which has expanded into wisdom and beauty, and is attended by a robust and manly sense of the dignity of a poet's vocation, and of his high duties to mankind.  I rejoice, therefore, to see that the design of relieving his necessities, and setting free his genius from the trammels of poverty, has been conceived in the spirit of justice, not as dispensing alms to a man afflicted by undeserved sorrow, but as offering a tribute to faculties by which the hearts of the donors may be enriched and ennobled, and the obscure ways of life which the poet has sadly trodden may be gladdened for the multitudes from among whom he has arisen; but to whom he is linked by the most earnest sympathy. . . . .


    Such testimony surely reflects additional lustre upon the name of the learned and accomplished author of "Ion," and assigns to the name of Prince its true place in the poetic literature of our age.

    About the same time, also, a contribution of five guineas was sent by Lady Maria Donkin, niece of the Earl of Minto.  This kind and generous lady had read and admired Prince's "Hours with the Muses" when first published, and from that time had taken the kindest interest in the welfare of the author and his family: so much so, that she had on one occasion offered to take charge of the education of one of his daughters—an offer which Prince (as his best friends thought) very unwisely declined.  She had also manifested her kindness in various letters written to the poet on his position and prospects in life.  She was a pious, good woman, strictly orthodox in her opinions; and, having once written to Prince as to his religious tenets, and his reply not proving so satisfactory as she could have wished, she was much grieved and shocked, and wrote him a very pious letter, the spirit of which was no doubt admirable, but her arguments, we have reason to believe, utterly failed to influence his judgment.

    As a rule Prince was remarkably reticent in matters relating to religion, and rarely expressed his ethical opinions even to those with whom he was on terms of intimacy.  Thus challenged, however, by Lady Donkin, he felt constrained to open his mind freely, and as his views, albeit conscientious, were too liberal to suit all the requirements of orthodoxy, it may reasonably be assumed that his exposition, under the circumstances, would painfully shock the feelings of his pious inquirer.

    The Committee soon discovered that intemperance was poor Prince's besetting weakness, and that grants of money, to any considerable amount, instead of benefiting, would positively do him an injury.  Mr. Brooks, and many of Prince's own friends, were in favour of temperance rather than total abstinence, but as it soon became evident that no half measures would avail, Mr. Brooks at length persuaded him to accompany him to Bury, in Lancashire, on a visit to the Rev. Franklin Howorth, an enthusiastic teetotaller, whose saint-like character and enthusiasm in his crusade against drunkenness could not but exercise an influence over Prince.  Whilst at Mr. Howorth's house he was induced to sign the pledge—Mr. Brooks, solely in order to encourage him, signing also; and this pledge-taking led to the production of one of Prince's most fervent poems, "The Three Angels" (Peace, Mercy, and Temperance), which he wrote in the latter end of October 1 846.  The Testimonial Committee had then in the press for Prince a cheap edition—"The People's Edition," as it was called, of "Hours with the Muses" (published in January 1847), for which Mr. Brooks corrected the proofs, and in which Prince for the first time inserted the above-mentioned poem, and a lyric entitled "The Robin."

    In October Prince, in his editorial capacity, wrote the following letter to Mr. H. H. Horton, of Birmingham, a gentleman who was successively an engraver, an artist, and teacher of drawing, the author of a rhyming description of Birmingham, an occasional lecturer, and who finally entered the church:—


H
ENRY SQUARE, ASHTON,
October 31, 1846.


    My dear Sir—Your poem shall certainly appear in the January or April number of our Magazine, but I should generally prefer poetical pieces less lengthy.  Prose articles will be very acceptable, as we have very few persons connected with the Order who can write at all,—at least nothing fit for the public eye.  Thus I am obliged to make many extracts from books when I would rather have original matter, if it was only respectable in quality.  If you can assist me in this way I shall esteem it a favour.

    I have but recently joined the crusade against intemperance, though I have always honoured the movement.  I wish I had done so sooner, for my character in this neighbourhood as a popular rhymester has exposed me to great temptations, for the want of resisting which I have suffered much in various ways.  I do not despair, however, of retrieving a good portion of what I considered lost.  I regret that I am not gifted with the faculty of extemporaneous speech, else I might make myself more useful in the cause.  I am exceedingly nervous and timid.  What I can do with my pen shall not be wanting.  I should like to join the Rechabites; do you know anything of their rules and regulations?  I am not now among the Oddfellows; I left them some three years since.

    Your mention of being with Mr.— in the Park, and taking your pipe beneath the trees is very refreshing.  I also am a smoker, a habit which, if not carried to excess, may be considered an innocent indulgence.  Apropos I shall ever regret having written that foolish article concerning Birmingham which appeared in "Bradshaw's Journal." [14]  I afterwards found that I was glaringly incorrect in my statements, and the whole was written in a bad temper.  I had suffered much from disappointment, and looked upon everything, save Nature, with a jaundiced eye.  Some writer in a Birmingham periodical severely retaliated upon me, and I must confess that I deserved it.  His attack, however, was written in a bitterly malicious spirit.  Have you any idea who was the writer?  I think it appeared about the close of 1842.  I wonder that your good town has not produced more poets; I don't see why it should not. . . . .

    Should Mr. Hutton not give readings from my poems in Birmingham, I should feel proud if you would do me that honour; but you must by no means risk any expense.  Leave it alone rather than do so.  I have not heard Mr. George Dawson, but have read the reports of the lectures in the 'Guardian' with great pleasure and profit.  As I am getting to the bottom, permit me to subscribe myself yours very faithfully,  J. C. P
RINCE.


    At this time, the latter end of November 1846, there was every prospect of a large sum being raised for Prince.  The late Rev. Hugh Hutton, M.A., author of "Songs of Liberty," etc.—(having first given two lectures in Birmingham in aid of the Fund,—the proceeds of which, with a few subscriptions he had procured there, amounted to above £20)—had volunteered to come over gratuitously from Birmingham to give readings from Prince's poems in Manchester, and the principal towns in the neighbourhood, in behalf of the Testimonial; and the late Mr. John Vandenhoff, the eminent tragedian, had voluntarily offered to come from Glasgow, where he was then performing, to give readings for the benefit of the Fund.

    Prince was present at the Manchester Athenæum when Mr. Vandenhoff gave a selection from his poems, including "The Poet's Sabbath," "The Captive's Dream," the "Sonnet on quitting North Wales," etc.  How poor Prince's heart must have rejoiced on such an occasion as this!  The great actor's elocutionary powers were, we are told, most effectively exercised in the interpretation of the poet's works, and the high eulogium which he subsequently, and publicly, paid to Prince must have been peculiarly gratifying to the poet, and in a pecuniary sense most acceptable, as it led to the disposal of a number of copies of "Hours with the Muses," at a guinea each!

    Mr. Brooks sen. had arranged that Mr. Hutton should be his guest for three or four weeks during December, in order that he might deliver his lectures and readings in the neighbourhood, whilst the Honorary Secretary of the Committee was arranging for Town-Halls and large rooms in Manchester, Oldham, Ashton, Bury, Wigan, Hyde, Stalybridge, and other towns, for both Mr. Hutton and Mr. Vandenhoff.  Prince himself had undertaken to go to Oldham to make necessary arrangements; and when all was thus hopeful for the poet's future, Mr. Brooks had the mortification to receive from him the following letter, which speaks for itself, and the receipt of which was one of the most painful occurrences during the labours of the Prince Testimonial Committee:—


November 29, 1846.


    Dear Sir—'Confession is good for the soul.'  I had better tell the truth.  The other day some fatal influence seemed to be at work to enslave me.  I met some old associates, and broke my pledge.  I need not enter into particulars which must be disagreeable to you, as they are hurtful to me.  The time has been lost. Mr.—'s letter you have, and I can only say that at Oldham, two or three days ago, the Town-Hall was not engaged for the night I asked them for. . . . . If, however, I may be permitted, I will go to Bury to-morrow, sign the pledge again with Mr. Howorth, and go the whole round with the quickest despatch, and get home again immediately, taking such precautions as will tend to prevent blunders; or, if it be preferred, I shall be glad if some one else could be a substitute.

    I am very very sorry for this sad affair, and beg to be forgiven, hoping that my firmness will increase with a new trial.  Perhaps the Athenæum had better first be secured and the intermediate towns can be arranged for the intermediate days.  Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, and Bury, may be all visited to-morrow, with determination.  I think my second trial of abstinence will not fail, and the attempt shall be made forthwith.  I cannot expect the indulgence of your Committee.  You may do with me as you please.  I am very censurable, I allow: but I require a considerable stretch of charity, that it may be extended to me for this time.

    I beg to be excused going up to-night to your house.  I am unequal to the task just now, and must beg to be tranquil to-day.  It would be torture to me to be talked to to-day.  You may make what use you please of the contents.  Your good sense will suggest what may be the best.  I am, sincerely yours, J
OHN C. PRINCE.


    Mr. Hutton came from Birmingham as he had appointed, and although he knew of Prince's break-down, tolerant and large-hearted as he was, he went through all the duties he had prescribed for himself, with the object of assisting the efforts of the Committee to benefit the unfortunate poet; and his readings from and comments upon Prince's poetry in Manchester, and the surrounding towns, had an astonishing effect in promoting a more extended knowledge of and admiration for Prince's poems.

    During Mr. Hutton's three weeks' stay with Mr. Brooks, he counselled and admonished Prince in the kindest and most affectionate terms, well worthy of his high repute as a faithful Christian minister.  Prince, however, even when Mr. Hutton was for him a self-constituted missionary, scarcely ever kept his appointments, and the interest of the Committee in him began to flag.  The public also heard of his defection from temperance principles, and ceased to give.  In a pecuniary sense the readings were not very successful; the necessary expenses of hiring rooms, advertising, printing, and attendance, being barely defrayed by the receipts taken at the doors; but with the subscriptions, obtained partly through the readings and in part independently of them, the Committee managed to pay Prince's arrears of rent; to provide him with money, in small payments, to meet pressing necessities; to print for him the people's edition of "Hours with the Muses," as well as in some degree to contribute to the publication of his second work, "Dreams and Realities," which he dedicated to the Testimonial Committee.

    In a letter to Mr. Ainsworth, Prince thus writes:—


H
ENRY HENRY SQUARE, ASHTON,
January 21, 1847.


    . . . . Should any of your friends wish for copies of my poems, will you have the goodness to refer them to me, and they shall be waited upon.  I have a small profit on each copy that goes through my hands, but the booksellers' percentage swallows that up.

    I am afraid that the Committee here are getting on but poorly; in the meantime my craft of reed-making is so bad that I am in great straits.  From the arrangements of the Committee I can expect no relief from them till their plans are more matured, or wound up altogether.  I believe it is in contemplation, if the funds will allow it, to establish me in a Temperance Coffee-House.  This, however, is yet uncertain.  I have few hopes; the 'Readings ' that were given were attended with considerable loss; though, doubtless, they have done good in making my name better known . . . .

    With my best wishes for your health and happiness, I am, sir, very respectfully yours,

 JOHN C. PRINCE.


    We have no evidence of the Coffee-House proposal having been carried out, and it is scarcely probable that the Committee would have felt justified in placing Prince in such a position, after the painful circumstances that we have already detailed.  When he could obtain employment he worked at his trade, and devoted much of his leisure to the editing of the "Shepherds' Magazine," and in poetic composition: and the Committee from time to time helped to relieve his most pressing necessities as far as possible.

    About the end of 1846 Mr. Brooks was dining with the late Mr. R. Ashton, of Hyde, when Mrs. Ashton, in the course of conversation, quoted some lines of Burns; and Mr. Brooks, in reply, quoted some of Prince's, which, he ventured to remark, were equally good.  Mr. Ashton said, "Do you know John Prince?  He used to work for me."  The efforts of the Committee in Ashton were then detailed, and Mr. Ashton, having promised a handsome subscription to the Fund, said—"There is one subject I should like Prince to write upon.  There are two very important engines, the Cannon, an engine of destruction;—and the Printing Press, an engine of quite another kind.  Tell Prince to write a few lines on these two engines, powerful as they are for good or for evil, and I will give him a five-pound note for them."  Mr. Brooks, of course, took an early opportunity of informing Prince of this offer, and the result was the production of the two poems—"The Press and the Cannon," and "The Pen and the Sword."  Prince forwarded the original MSS. to Mr. Brooks in January 1847, and afterwards sent him many letters referring to the urgency of his necessities, and fervently soliciting the promised reward.  We subjoin the last of these letters, dated February 20, 1847:—


    Dear Sir—You will pardon me sending up again to see whether you have yet had an opportunity of communicating with Mr. Ashton.  If you have, and successfully, the girl will safely bring what you have to send, and I will send up a receipt.  I wish I could get the money in a lump, as, otherwise, it cannot do what I wish it to do.

    You cannot believe how tired I am of writing poetry except for occasional solace and from my own impulses.  I have leaned on a reed, and it has pierced me instead of sustaining me.

    Forgive me troubling you, and believe me, ever sincerely, J
OHN C. PRINCE.


"Tim Bobbin," the Lancashire poet of the last century, says,


"But want of money makes me write:"


and this letter shows how Prince's spirit rebelled when he found himself constrained to exercise his pen for the same reason.  A tone of half-offended dignity seems to pervade the very receipt, which is as follows:—


    Received from Mr. Robert Ashton, through Mr. John Brooks, solicitor, the sum of five pounds, being payment for a certain work done.

JOHN C. PRINCE.


    "Perhaps," as Mr. Brooks says, "some of us at that time goaded Prince's muse too much.  We certainly thought that it would be better for the world, and best for himself, that we should keep him to the work he so much excelled in.  He seemed to stand in need of inducements to keep to it, and I am sure that by keeping before him the prospect of reward for his productions we secured the composition of some of his finest poems, gems of poetic pathos and power.  He was a man whom one could not well reprove; for he himself, in his better moments, was acutely sensitive, and evidently felt all, and more than all, that could be said to him in the way of reproach."

    During 1847 we find nothing sufficiently interesting to record until September, when, with the help of the Committee, Prince published his second volume, "Dreams and Realities."  In the preface to this work the author says:—


    Having a number of poems, and a few prose trifles, floating about in the periodicals and in the hands of friends, I was desirous of collecting and preserving them in this shape, previous to putting forth a work of greater pretensions, and to which I am devoting more study and care in the composition.

    I have no apology to offer for the publication of these 'Stray Leaves,' further than this,—the indulgence which was extended to my former effusions, both in this country and America, inspired me with a hope that these also might meet with a portion of the like public favour.

    Those poems which are occasional, and those which were written with a definite purpose, the reader will readily discover.  They have filled up my intervals of toil; they have tended to lighten my cares; and they are such, perhaps, from their spirit, as a poor man may be pardoned for putting into print.


    As a whole, this volume cannot, perhaps, be said to have reached so high a standard as "Hours with the Muses;" nevertheless we feel justified in asserting that it contains some of the choicest and most satisfactory efforts of his muse.  We find numerous instances of tender feeling, chaste fancy, and earnest if not profound reflection; his appreciation of life's sweetest music, and his intuitive perception of Nature's protean beauties, are manifested as much in the consideration of the most insignificant as in the sublimest themes:—and in such poems as "The Pen and the Sword," "The Press and the Cannon," "A Lay for the Printer," "A Rhyme for the Time," etc., we recognise at once not only the expansion of his heart and the elasticity of his mind, but also that purity of motive, moral fervour, and dignified teaching which, under more favourable circumstances, would have justified his acknowledgment as a true Poet of the People.  The concluding stanzas of the last-mentioned poem will serve as an example:—


Hail to the lofty minds, the truthful tongues
Linked in an universal cause, as now!
Which break no rights, which advocate no wrongs,
Firm to the loom, and faithful to the plough!
Commerce send out thy multifarious prow
Laden with goodly things for every land;
Labour, uplift thy sorrow-shaded brow,
Put forth thy strength of intellect and hand,

And, plenty, peace and joy may round thy homes expand.


Hail! mighty Science, nature's conquering lord!
Thou star-crowned, steam-winged, fiery-footed power!
Hail! gentle Arts, whose hues and forms afford
Refined enchantments for the tranquil hour!
Hail! tolerant teachers of the world, whose dower
Of spirit-wealth outweighs the monarch's might!
Blest be your holy mission, may it shower
Blessings like rain, and bring, by human right,

To all our hearts and hearths love, liberty, and light!


    The numerous and varied excellences of Prince's poetry are exemplified in such poems as "A Winter Sketch from Oldermann," "Winter Musings," "A Summer Evening's Sketch," "The Power of Pleasant Memories," "Sabbath Evening Thoughts," and several choice and appropriate lyrics on some of the months of the year; and his fervent " Hymn to the Creator," which perhaps approaches nearer to the sublime than any poem he ever wrote, is replete with well-sustained poetic power and imagery. We quote the two opening stanzas:—


Praise unto God! whose single will and might
Upreared the boundless roof of day and night,
    With suns, and stars, and glorious cloud-wreaths hung;
The blazoned veil that hides the Eternal's throne,
The glorious pavement of a world unknown,
    By angels trodden, and by mortals sung;
To God! who fixed old Ocean's utmost bounds,
And bade the moon, in her harmonious rounds,
    Govern its waters with her quiet smiles;
Bade the obedient winds, though seeming free,
    Walk the tumultuous surface of the sea,
And place man's daring foot upon a thousand isles!

Praise unto God! who thrust the rifted hills,
With all their golden veins and gushing rills,
    Up from the burning centre, long ago;
Who spread the deserts, verdureless and dun,
And those stern realms, forsaken of the sun,
    Where Frost hath built his palace-halls of snow!
To God! whose hand hath anchored in the ground
The forest-growth of ages, the profound
    Green hearts of solitude, unsought of men
God! who suspends the avalanche, who dips
    The Alpine hollows in a cold eclipse,
And hurls the headlong torrent shivering down the glen!


    In "New Year's Day Aspirations," which, it will be remembered, was the outcome of that first delightful evening Prince spent with Mr. Brooks' family, soon after his arrival in Ashton, we see the better self of the poet fully awakened, and fervidly supplicating for that divine aid which could alone enable him to live the higher life for which his soul longed so earnestly.  The entire poem is characterised by impassioned feeling and earnestness, and embodies the devout aspirations of the poet, under the influence of penitential submission.  The following lines will serve as an example:—


    Soul-searcher, Heart-sustainer! humbly now,
With the young year's first breathings on my brow,
With a fresh dawn expanding on my sight,
Melting the morning star's concentred light
I ask Thy holy benison, and pray
That Thou wilt watch me from this very day,
As wisdom watches o'er a wayward child,
Bidding me stand erect and undefiled!
Gird me with high resolves, and such desires
As fill the spirit with serener fires—
Which shine upon and warm, but not destroy,
The seeds of virtue, and the flowers of joy.
Let not the worldling, with insidious power,
Beguile me from Thee for a single hour;
Nor dim the 'magic mirror' of my mind,
Hoodwink my judgment, smite my reason blind;
Nor freeze the well of charity, that flows
Freighted with feelings for all human woes;
Nor stir my meaner passions, till I rise
A strange anomaly in good men's eyes.
*            *            *            *            *            *            *
Expunge my countless errors of the past,
Till my life's record, stainless at the last,—
The good acknowledged, and the ill forgiven,
Stand as my passport to Thy blessed Heaven!


    A devout and eloquent prayer is offered up in some lines entitled "Contrition;" and in "Vindicatory Stanzas" the poet, having been misunderstood and misrepresented, is at length stung into self-defence, and pleads his cause with becoming modesty, and in a spirit of fearless justice, as the following quotation makes manifest:—


There are who with a puny pride my outward errors scan,
Alas! what little power is theirs to judge the inner man!
They think that my poor yielding heart, that impulse still controls,
Is narrow as their sympathies, and niggard as their souls.

Could they but read the hidden book, the life-book in my breast,
With sorrows, which they never knew, a thousandfold impressed,
Could they but see its sentiments, its yearning, love, and trust,
And weigh its good against the ill, they could not but be just.

But that is not for them, and I dare not presume to claim
More virtues than the lowliest who bear a human name,
But in this world where men applaud, mistake, misjudge, condemn,
I only ask that charity which I would yield to them.


    Besides one or two graceful translations from Schiller, we find also some miscellanies in prose, including a well-told tale, entitled "Passion and Penitence;" a prose poem under the heading of "A Stray Leaf," and numerous extracts, here republished as "Rough Notes of a Rambler;" from the interesting series of Letters he contributed to "Bradshaw's Journal" as the "Rambles of a Rhymester."  One cannot read these prose, efforts of Prince's without a feeling of regret that he had not more earnestly and persistently devoted himself to literature as a profession.  His reputation depends almost entirely upon his poetry; but his writings in prose, although comparatively few, are not only chaste in style but remarkable for choice and power of language.  He was an acute observer, capable of deep feeling, and of interpreting and analysing what he saw and felt; and, in addition to these qualifications, he possessed in a great degree the power of adequate and forcible expression.  The elements of literary success were therefore at his disposal, and we can only deplore the causes which prevented his making use of them, if only for his own advancement.

 



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FOOTNOTES.


12.    Mr. James Travis, of Pant-y-Tan.

13.   From a reference to the books of the Society, we find that the editorial salary was £12 per annum!

14.   This article was one of Prince's series of Letters entitled "Rambles of a Rhymester," already referred to.

 



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