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Sarah Martin (1791-1843): English prison visitor and philanthropist.

AMONG the distinguished women in the humble ranks of society, who have pursued a loving, hopeful, benevolent, and beautiful way through life, the name of Sarah Martin will long be remembered.  Not many of such women come into the full light of the world's eye.  Quiet and silence befit their lot.  The best of their labours are done in secret, and are never noised abroad.  Often the most beautiful traits of a woman's character are confided but to one dear breast, and lie treasured there.  There are comparatively few women who display the sparkling brilliancy of a Margaret Fuller, and whose names are noised abroad like hers on the wings of fame.  But the number of women is very great who silently pursue their duty in thankfulness, who labour on,—each in their little home-circle,—training the minds of growing youth for active life, moulding future men and women for society and for each other, imbuing them with right principles, impenetrating their hearts with the spirit of love, and thus actively helping to carry forward the whole world towards good.  But we hear comparatively little of the labours of true-hearted women in this quiet sphere.  The genuine mother, wife, or daughter is good, but not famous.  And she can dispense with the fame, for the doing of the good is its own exceeding great reward.

    Very few women step beyond the boundaries of home and seek a larger sphere of usefulness.  Indeed, the home is a sufficient sphere for the woman who would do her work nobly and truly there.  Still, there are the helpless to be helped, and when generous women have been found among the helpers, why should we not rejoice in their good works, and cherish their memory?  Sarah Martin was one of such,—a kind of Elizabeth Fry, in a humbler sphere.  She was born at Caister, a village about three miles from Yarmouth, in the year 1791.  Both her parents, who were very poor people, died when she was but a child; and the little orphan was left to be brought up under the care of her poor grandmother.  The girl obtained such education as the village school could afford,—which was not much,—and then she was sent to Yarmouth for a year, to learn sewing and dressmaking in a very small way.  She afterwards used to walk from Caister to Yarmouth and back again daily, which she continued for many years, earning a slender livelihood by going out to families as an assistant dressmaker at a shilling a day.

    It happened that, in the year 1819, a woman was committed to the Yarmouth jail for the unnatural crime of cruelly beating and ill-using her own child.  Sarah Martin was at this time eight and twenty years of age, and the report of the above crime, which was the subject of talk about the town, made a strong impression on her mind.  She had often, before this, on passing the gloomy walls of the borough jail, felt an urgent desire to visit the inmates pent up there, without sympathy, and often without hope.  She wished to read the Scriptures to them, and bring them back lovingly—were it yet possible—to the society against whose laws they had offended.  Think of this gentle, unlovely, ungifted, poor young woman taking up with such an idea!  Yet it took root in her and grew within her.  At length she could not resist the impulse to visit the wretched inmates of the Yarmouth jail.  So one day she passed into the dark porch with a throbbing heart, and knocked for admission.  The keeper of the jail appeared.  In her gentle, low voice, she mentioned the cruel mother's name, and asked permission to see her.  The jailer refused.  There was "a lion in the way,"—some excuse or other, as is usual in such cases.  But Sarah Martin persisted.  She returned; and at the second application she was admitted.

    Sarah Martin afterwards related the manner of her reception in the jail.  The culprit mother stood before her.  She was surprised at the sight of a stranger.  "When I told her," says Sarah Martin, "the motive of my visit, her guilt, her need of God's mercy, &c., she burst into tears, and thanked me!"  Those tears and thanks shaped the whole course of Sarah Martin's subsequent life.

    A year or two before this time Mrs. Fry had visited the prisoners in Newgate, and possibly the rumour of her labours in this field may have in some measure influenced Sarah Martin's mind; but of this we are not certain.  Sarah Martin herself stated that, as early as the year 1810 (several years before Mrs. Fry's visits to Newgate), her mind had been turned to the subject of prison visitation, and she had then felt a strong desire to visit the poor prisoners in Yarmouth jail, to read the Scriptures to them.  These two tender-hearted women may, therefore, have been working at the same time, in the same sphere of Christian work, entirely unconscious of each other's labours.  However this may be, the merit of Sarah Martin cannot be detracted from.  She laboured alone, without any aid from influential quarters; she had no persuasive eloquence, and had scarcely received any education; she was a poor seamstress, maintaining herself by her needle, and she carried on her visitation of the prisoners in secret, without any one vaunting her praises: indeed, this was the last thing she dreamt of.  Is there not, in this simple picture of a humble woman thus devoting her leisure hours to the comfort and improvement of outcasts, much that is truly noble and heroic?

    Sarah Martin continued her visits to the Yarmouth jail.  From one she went to another prisoner, reading to them and conversing with them, from which she went on to instructing them in reading and writing.  She constituted herself a schoolmistress for the criminals, giving up a day in the week for this purpose, and thus trenching on her slender means of living.  "I thought it right," she says

"to give up a day in the week from dressmaking to serve the prisoners.  This, regularly given, with many an additional one, was not felt as a pecuniary loss, but was ever followed with abundant satisfaction, for the blessing of God was upon me."

    She next formed a Sunday service in the jail, for reading of the Scriptures, joining in the worship as a hearer.  For three years she went on in this quiet course of visitation, until, as her views enlarged, she introduced other ameliorative plans for the benefit of the prisoners.  One week, in 1823, she received from two gentlemen donations of ten shillings each, for prison charity.  With this she bought materials for baby-clothes, cut them out, and set the females to work.  The work, when sold, enabled her to buy other materials, and thus the industrial education of the prisoners was secured; Sarah Martin teaching those to sew and knit who had not before learnt to do so.  The profits derived from the sale of the articles were placed together in a fund, and divided amongst the prisoners on their leaving the jail to commence life again in the outer world.  She, in the same way, taught the men to make straw hats, men's and boys' caps, gray cotton shirts, and even patchwork,—anything to keep them out of idleness, and from preying upon their own thoughts.  Some, also, she taught to copy little pictures, with the same object, in which several of the prisoners took great delight.  A little later on, she formed a fund out of the prisoners' earnings, which she applied to the furnishing of work to prisoners upon their discharge; "affording me," she says, "the advantage of observing their conduct at the same time."

    Thus did humble Sarah Martin, long before the attention of public men had been directed to the subject of prison discipline, bring a complete system to maturity in the jail of Yarmouth.  It will be observed that she had thus included visitation, moral and religious instruction, intellectual culture, industrial training, employment during prison hours, and employment after discharge.  While learnèd men, at a distance, were philosophically discussing these knotty points, here was a poor seamstress at Yarmouth, who, in a quiet, simple, and unostentatious manner, had practically settled them all!

    In 1826 Sarah Martin's grandmother died, and left her an annual income of ten or twelve pounds.  She now removed from Caister to Yarmouth, where she occupied two rooms in an obscure part of the town; and from that time devoted herself with increased energy to her philanthropic labours in the jail.  A benevolent lady in Yarmouth, in order to allow her some rest from her sewing, gave her one day in the week to herself, by paying her the same on that day as if she had been engaged in dressmaking.  With that assistance, and a few quarterly subscriptions of two shilling and sixpence each, for Bibles, Testaments, tracts, and books for distribution, she went on, devoting every available moment of her life to her great purpose.  But her dressmaking business—always a very fickle trade, and at best a very poor one—now began to fall off, and at length almost entirely disappeared.  The question arose, Was she to suspend her benevolent labours, in order to devote herself singly to the recovery of her business?  She never wavered for a moment in her decision.  In her own words,

"I had counted the cost, and my mind was made up.  If, whilst imparting truth to others, I became exposed to temporal want, the privation so momentary to an individual would not admit of comparison with following the Lord, in thus administering to others."

Therefore did this noble, self-sacrificing woman go straightforward on her road of persevering usefulness.

    She now devoted six or seven hours in every day to her superintendence over the prisoners, converting what would otherwise have been a scene of dissolute idleness into a hive of industry and order.  Newly-admitted prisoners were sometimes refractory and unmanageable, and refused to take advantage of Sarah Martin's instructions.  But her persistent gentleness invariably won their acquiescence, and they would come to her and beg to be allowed to take their part in the general course.  Men old in years and in crime, pert London pickpockets, depraved boys, and dissolute sailors, profligate women, smugglers, poachers, the promiscuous horde of criminals which usually fill the jail of a seaport and county town, all bent themselves before the benign influence of this good woman; and under her eyes they might be seen striving, for the first time in their lives, to hold a pen, or master the characters in a penny primer.  She entered into their confidences, watched, wept, prayed, and felt for all by turns; she strengthened their good resolutions, encouraged the hopeless, and sedulously endeavoured to put all, and hold all, in the right road of amendment.

    What was the nature of the religious instruction given by her to the prisoners may be gathered from Captain Williams's account of it, as given in the "Second Report of the Inspector of Prisons" for the year 1836:

"Sunday, November 29, 1835.—Attended divine service in the morning at the prison.  The male prisoners only were assembled.  A female resident in the town officiated; her voice was exceedingly melodious, her delivery emphatic, and her enunciation extremely distinct.  The service was the Liturgy of the Church of England; two psalms were sung by the whole of the prisoners, and extremely well,—much better than I have frequently heard in our best-appointed churches.  A written discourse, of her own composition, was read by her; it was of a purely moral tendency, involving no doctrinal points, and admirably suited to the hearers.  During the performance of the service, the prisoners paid the profoundest attention and the most marked respect; and, as far as it was possible to judge, appeared to take a devout interest.  Evening service was read by her, afterwards, to the female prisoners."

    Afterwards, in 1837, she gave up the labour of writing out her addresses, and addressed the prisoners extemporaneously, in a simple, feeling manner, on the duties of life, on the connection between sin and sorrow on the one hand, and between goodness and happiness on the other, and inviting her fallen auditors to enter the great door of mercy which was ever wide opened to receive them.  These simple but earnest addresses were attended, it is said, by very beneficial results; and many of the prisoners were wont to thank her, with tears, for the new views of life, its duties and responsibilities, which she had opened up to them.  As a writer in the Edinburgh Review has observed, in commenting on Sarah Martin's jail sermons:

"The cold, laboured eloquence which boy-bachelors are authorized by custom and constituted authority to inflict upon us; the dry husks and chips of divinity which they bring forth from the dark recesses of the theology (as it is called) of the fathers, or of the Middle Ages, sink into utter worthlessness by the side of the jail addresses of this poor, uneducated seamstress."

    But Sarah Martin was not satisfied merely with labouring among the prisoners in the jail at Yarmouth.  She also attended in the evenings at the workhouse, where she formed and superintended a large school; and afterwards, when that school had been handed over to proper teachers, she devoted the hours so released to the formation and superintendence of a school for factory-girls, which was held in the capacious chancel of the old Church of St. Nicholas.  And after the labours connected with the class were over, she would remain among the girls for the purpose of friendly intercourse with them, which was often worth more than all the class lessons.  There were personal communications with this one and with that; private advice to one, some kindly inquiry to make of another, some domestic history to be imparted by a third; for she was looked up to by these girls as a counsellor and friend, as well as schoolmistress.  She had often visits also to pay to their homes; in one there would be sickness, in another misfortune or bereavement; and everywhere was the good, benevolent creature made welcome.  Then, lastly, she would return to her own poor, solitary apartments, late at night, after her long day's labour of love.  There was no cheerful, ready-lit fire to greet her there, but only an empty, locked-up house, to which she merely returned to sleep.  She did all her own work, kindled her own fires, made her own bed, cooked her own meals.  For she went on living upon her miserable pittance in a state of almost absolute poverty, and yet of total unconcern as to her temporal support.  Friends supplied her occasionally with the necessaries of life, but she usually gave away a considerable portion of these to people more destitute than herself.

Picture Internet Text Archive.

    She was now growing old; and the borough authorities at Yarmouth, who knew very well that her self-imposed labours saved them the expense of a schoolmaster and chaplain, (which they were now bound by law to appoint,) made a proposal of an annual salary of £12 a year!  This miserable remuneration was, moreover, made in a manner coarsely offensive to the shrinkingly sensitive woman; for she had preserved a delicacy and pure-mindedness throughout her life-long labours which, very probably, these Yarmouth bloaters could not comprehend.  She shrank from becoming the salaried official of the corporation, and bartering for money those labours which had, throughout, been labours of love.

"Here lies the objection," she said,

"which oppresses me: I have found voluntary instruction, on my part, to have been attended with great advantage; and I am apprehensive that, in receiving payment, my labours may be less acceptable.  I fear, also, that my mind would be fettered by pecuniary payment, and the whole work upset.  To try the experiment, which might injure the thing I live and breathe for, seems like applying a knife to your child's throat to know if it will cut . . . . Were you so angry,"

—she is writing in answer to the wife of one of the magistrates, who said she and her husband would "feel angry and hurt" if Sarah Martin did not accept the proposal,—

"were were you so angry as that I could not meet you, a merciful God and a good conscience would preserve my peace; when, if I ventured on what I believed would be prejudicial to the prisoners, God would frown upon me, and my conscience too, and these would follow me everywhere.  As for my circumstances, I have not a wish ungratified, and am more than content."

    But the jail committee savagely intimated to the high-souled woman: "If we permit you to visit the prison, you must submit to our terms;" so she had no alternative but to give up her noble labours altogether, which she would not do, or receive the miserable pittance of a "salary" which they proffered her.  And for two more years she lived on, in the receipt of her official salary of £12 per annum,—the acknowledgment of the Yarmouth Corporation for her services as jail chaplain and schoolmaster!

    In the winter of 1842, when she had reached her fifty-second year, her health began seriously to fail, but she nevertheless continued her daily visits to the jail,—"the home," she says, "of my first interest and pleasure,"—until the 17th of April, 1843, when she ceased her visits.  She was now thoroughly disabled; but her mind beamed out with unusual brilliancy, like the flickering taper before it finally expires.  She resumed the exercise of a talent which she had occasionally practised during her few moments of leisure,—that of writing sacred poetry.  In one of these, speaking of herself on her sick-bed, she says:

                        I seem to lie
So near the heavenly portals bright,
I catch the streaming rays that fly
    From eternity's own light.

    Her song was always full of praise and gratitude.  As artistic creations, they may not excite admiration in this highly critical age; but never were verses written truer in spirit, or fuller of Christian love.  Her whole life was a noble poem,—full also of true practical wisdom.  Her life was a glorious comment upon her own words:—

The high desire that others may be blest
Savours of heaven.

    She struggled against fatal disease for many months, suffering great agony, which was partially relieved by opiates.  Her end drew nigh.  She asked her nurse for an opiate to still her racking torture.  The nurse told her that she thought the time of her departure had come.  Clasping her hands, the dying Sister of Mercy exclaimed, "Thank God! thank God!"  And these were her last words.  She died on the 15th of October, 1843, and was buried at Caister, by the side of her grandmother.  A small tombstone, bearing a simple inscription, written by herself, marks her resting-place; and, though the tablet is silent as to her virtues, they will not be forgotten:—

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust.



Harriet Martineau  (1802–1876): English auther and journalist.
Picture Internet Text Archive.

HARRIET MARTINEAU is one of the ablest and most vigorous of our living prose-writers.  We cannot call to mind any woman of modern or of past times, who has produced a larger number and variety of solid, instructive, and interesting books.  She has written well on political economy, on history, on foreign travel, on psychology, and on education; she has produced many clever tales and novels; her books for children and for men are alike good.  She has been a copious contributor to the monthly and quarterly reviews, and she is at present understood to be a regular writer of leading articles for one of the best-conducted of our morning daily papers.  Her life has been one of hard work, and she seems to work for the love of it, as well as for love of her kind.  Even when laid on her bed by sickness, she went on writing, as if it had become habitual to her, and then produced one of her most delightful books, her "Life in the Sick-room."

    Miss Martineau is a woman with a manly heart and head.  In saying this, we neither desire to cast a reflection on the sex to which she belongs, nor upon herself.  It would be well for women generally, did they cultivate as she has done the spirit of self-help and self-reliance.  We believe it would tend to their greater usefulness as well as happiness, and render them more efficient co-operators with men in all the relations of life.  In ordinary cases, unmarried daughters are a burden in a "genteel" family of slender means; but in Miss Martineau's case, she has throughout been a mainstay of support to herself and family.  Her father was a manufacturer at Norwich, descended from a French refugee family,—French Protestants having settled down there in considerable numbers after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  Commercial embarrassments having overtaken the Martineaus, the sons and daughters were under the necessity of bestirring themselves in aid of their family, which they did, honourably and successfully.  Miss Martineau, who had first taken to writing as a recreation, afterwards followed it as a pursuit and a profession; and in so doing she realized a competency.  What was more, she carefully cherished her independence as a writer; and when, overtaken by illness, her political friends, then in power, bestirred themselves to help her, and, in 1840, obtained for her the offer of a considerable government pension,—with a conscientious and high-minded feeling, which in these modern times finds few if any imitators, she declined to receive it,—holding it to be wrong that she, a political writer, should receive a pension which was not offered by the people, but by a government which, in her opinion, did not represent the people.  She sincerely preferred retaining her independence and entire freedom of speech with respect to government and all its affairs,—a decision which, however much it may be at variance with our ideas of worldly prudence, we cannot but respect and admire.  More recently, also, she has displayed her force of character in another direction; we mean by the publication, in conjunction with Mr. Atkinson, of the "Letters on Man's Development," &c. [p.500]  With her views, as set forth in that book, we have no sympathy; and we cannot but deplore, in common with her numerous friends, that she was so ill-advised as to publish it.  Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly honest act on her part: done at the risk of her popularity, reputation, and good name.  She had arrived at conclusions opposed to those generally entertained on certain points; and as a writer, she conceived that the "cause of truth" required that she should make a clean breast of it.  Here, we think, she committed a grievous mistake; for it can form no part of the duty of any public writer to publish whatever crude notions may get uppermost in her head.  The error has, however, been committed; and we merely allude to it here as furnishing a striking illustration of Miss Martineau's character; somewhat similar to her defence of Mesmerism in the Athenæum, when scarcely a voice, except that of Dr. Elliotson, had been raised in its favour.

    Miss Martineau displayed reflective powers at an early age.  Possibly her deafness, to which she was subject as a child, by shutting her out to some extent from conversational intercourse with those about her, encouraged habits of reflectiveness.  She was a timid child, but a quick and accurate observer.  Her excellent work on "Household Education" contains some autobiographical revelations of her childhood, of a most curious and interesting character.  One of these—describing the feelings of wonder, and almost awe, with which she contemplated a newly-born sister, when she herself was about nine years of age—lets us into a remarkable phase of an observant and thoughtful child's mind.  Here is an account of her early reading, from the same interesting book:—

"One Sunday afternoon, when I was seven years old, I was prevented by illness from going to chapel,—a circumstance so rare, that I felt very strange and listless.  I did not go to the maid who was left in the house, but lounged about the drawing-room, where, among other books which the family had been reading, was one turned down upon its face.  It was a dull-looking octavo volume, thick, and bound in calf, as untempting a book to the eyes of a child as could well be seen: but, because it happened to be open, I took it up.  The paper was like skim-milk,—thin and blue, and the printing very ordinary.  Moreover, I saw the word 'Argument,'—a very repulsive word to a child.  But my eye caught the word 'Satan;' and I instantly wanted to know how anybody could argue about Satan.  I saw that he fell through Chaos; found the place in the poetry; and lived heart, mind, and soul in Milton from that day till I was fourteen.  I remember nothing more of that Sunday, vivid as is my recollection of the moment of plunging into Chaos: but I remember that from that time till a young friend gave me a pocket edition of Milton, the calf-bound volume was never to be found, because I had got it somewhere: and that, for all those years, to me the universe moved to Milton's music.  I wonder how much of it I knew by heart,—enough to be always repeating some of it to myself, with every change of light and darkness, and sound and silence,—the moods of the day and the seasons of the year.  It was not my love of Milton which required the forbearance of my parents,—except for my hiding the book, and being often in an absent fit.  It was because this luxury had made me ravenous for more.  I had a book in my pocket,—a book under my pillow; and in my lap as I sat at meals; or rather on this last occasion it was a newspaper.  I used to purloin the daily paper before dinner, and keep possession of it, with a painful sense of the selfishness of the act; and with a daily pang of shame and self-reproach, I slipped away from the table when the dessert was set on, to read in another room.  I devoured all Shakespeare, sitting on a footstool, and reading by firelight, while the rest of the family were still at table.  I was incessantly wondering that this was permitted; and intensely, though silently, grateful I was for the impunity and the indulgence.  It never extended to the omission of any of my proper business.  I learned my lessons; but it was with the prospect of reading while I was brushing my hair at bedtime; and many a time have I stood reading, with the brush suspended, till I was far too cold to sleep.  I made shirts with due diligence, being fond of sewing; but it was with Goldsmith, or Thomson, or Milton open on my lap, under my work, or bidden by the table, that I might learn pages and cantos by heart.  The event justified my parents in their indulgence.  I read more and more slowly, fewer and fewer authors, and with ever-increasing seriousness and reflection, till I became one of the slowest of readers, and a comparatively sparing one."

    Miss Martineau was born in June, 1802, and was already an author at twenty years of age, in 1822, when she published her first little volume, entitled "Devotional Exercises," for the use of young persons.  This book was soon followed by another of the same description, entitled "Addresses, with Prayers and Hymns, for the Use of Families and Schools."  These works were of the "Orthodox Unitarian" school, to which class of religionists the Martineau family belonged.  A number of minor publications followed, chiefly little tales,—some of them intended for children; but the writer's powers were growing apace, and when, in March, 1830, the Monthly Repository published an advertisement by the Committee of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association, offering premiums for the production of three tracts, the object of which should be the introduction and promotion of Christian Unitarianism amongst the Roman Catholics, the Mahometans, and the Jews respectively, she determined to compete for the prizes.  Three distinct sets of judges were appointed to adjudicate upon the essays sent in; and when their decision had been come to, much to their own surprise, they found that the same writer had won all the three prizes!  Miss Martineau was the successful essayist.  It is not our business to enter upon the subject of these essays, which were, perhaps, such as Miss Martineau herself would not now write.  They were, however, much praised at the time they appeared, and exhibit a vigour of thought and a finish of style remarkable in so young a writer.  But, previous to the production of these essays, Miss Martineau had been practising her hand extensively in the pages of the Monthly Repository, where we find her publishing "Essays on the Art of Thinking," in 1829, with numerous criticisms on books, articles on education, morals, and politics,—tales, chiefly religious, poems, and parables.

The house in which Harriet Martineau
was born at Norwich, England.
Picture Internet Text Archive.

    But Miss Martineau's name did not come prominently before the public as an author until the appearance of her "Illustrations of Political Economy," which originated in the following way.  A country bookseller asked her to write for him some little work of fiction, leaving the choice of subject to herself.  About that time machine-breaking riots were frequent in the manufacturing districts; and as the subject would doubtless be a good deal discussed in the Martineaus' home, the head of which was a manufacturer, an interesting plot was at once suggested.  "The Rioters," a story, was the result; and it was followed by another in the following year, entitled "The Turn Out."  In these tales the author afterwards confessed that she wrote Political Economy for the first time without knowing it.  Some time after, on reading Miss Marcet's "Conversations on Political Economy," the idea occurred to her of illustrating the principles of this science in a narrative form.  She repeatedly discussed the subject with her mother and brother, now the Rev. James Martineau.  She had neither authors nor booksellers to consult; nevertheless she began her series, and wrote her "Life in the Wilds," with which the series of proposed "Illustrations" commenced.  But the great difficulty was to find a publisher.  No bookseller would take the thing in hand; and many dissuaded her from the project, prophesying that it was sure to fail.  She endeavoured to raise a subscription amongst her friends for the purpose of publishing the first tale; but the subscription broke down.  She offered the tale to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, but they rejected it at once.  The work went "the round of the trade," but no bookseller of any standing would entertain the idea of publishing it.  At last, after great difficulty, Miss Martineau succeeded in inducing a comparatively unknown publisher to usher the first "Illustration" into the world; but not before she had surrendered to him those advantages which, in virtue of the authorship, she ought to have been able to retain for herself.  The book appeared, and its extraordinary success surprised everybody,—none more than the numerous publishers who had refused it.  Other and better tales followed, which sold in large editions; and their merit was extensively recognized abroad, where they were translated into French and German, and soon became almost as popular as they were at home.  The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge afterwards applied to Miss Martineau to write a series of tales illustrative of the Poor Laws; but they were not so successful as her earlier tales, perhaps on account of the nature of the subject.  Nor had she afterwards any difficulty in finding publishers for her numerous future works.

    The list of successful books rejected by publishers would be a curious one.  Milton could with difficulty find a publisher for his "Paradise Lost;" Crabbe's "Library," and other poems, were refused by Dodsley, Beckett, and other London publishers, though Mr. Murray many years after purchased the copyright of them for £3,000.  Keats could only get a publisher by the help of his friends.  That ever-wonderful book by De Foe, which is the charm of boyhood in all lands, "Robinson Crusoe," was refused by one publisher after another, and was at last sold to an obscure bookseller for a mere trifle; whereas if De Foe could have published it at his own risk, it would have made his fortune.  Bulwer's "Pelham" was at first rejected by Mr. Bentley's reader; but fortunately Mr. Bentley himself read it and approved, by mere accident.  The "Vestiges of Creation," which has passed through ten large editions within a few years, was repeatedly refused.  Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" was rejected by a magazine.  "Mary Burton" and "Jane Eyre" went the round of the trade.  Howitt offered his "Book of the Seasons" to successive publishers, and was at length so disgusted with their repeated refusals, that he was on the point of pitching the manuscript over London Bridge to sink or swim.  Even "Uncle Tom's Cabin" could scarcely find a publisher in London; but at last a respectable printer got hold of a copy, and was so riveted by it that he sat up half the night reading it, then woke up his wife, and made her read it too; after which he determined to reprint it, and his steam-engine and printing-presses were kept going by Uncle Tom for many months after.  It would thus appear that "the fathers," as Southey calls the publishers, are not always a wise and far-sighted race,—though the many failures of books accepted render them sometimes preternaturally cautious, as in the case of Miss Martineau's oft-rejected, but eventually highly successful "Illustrations of Political Economy."

Harriet Martineau, by Daniel Maclise from Fraser's Magazine's Gallery of
Illustrious Literary Characters.  Picture the Library of Congress.

    The number of excellent works which Miss Martineau has since produced has been very great, all of them indicating careful preparation and study, close observation, and conscientious thinking.  The two able works, in three volumes each, on "Society in America" and "Western Travel," contained the results of an extensive tour made by her in the United States, with a view to the improvement of her health, in the year 1834.  These works are still amongst the best of their kind, and have not been surpassed by later writers in description of scenery, manners, and incidents of travel, or in searching analyses of the social and domestic institutions of the United States.  A later work, of a somewhat similar character, published by Miss Martineau in 1848, on "Eastern Life," contained the results of her travels in the East; but it was nothing like so well received as her previous books, jarring strongly upon the religious sympathies and convictions of the majority of her readers; and also, as we cannot but think, perverting and misrepresenting many important events in Egyptian and Hebrew history.  The descriptive part of the work was, however, admirably executed; and there are many passages in it which will bear comparison with even the most graphic descriptions in the marvellous "Eothen."

    Between the appearance of these works, numerous other books from her pen were turned off, almost too numerous to mention.  Among her minor works we would particularly mention one comparatively little known, entitled "How to Observe—Morals and Manners."  In a small compass, it exhibits a prodigious amount of observation, as well as of reading and reflection.  It is a model of composition, full of wisdom, beauty, and quiet power.  We recommend those who have not yet seen it to read the book, and they will rise from its perusal with a better idea of the moral and intellectual powers of Miss Martineau than we can convey by any description of our own.

    To Knights series of Guide-books she contributed "The Maid of All Work," "The Lady's Maid," and "The Housemaid" (guides to service), and "The Dressmaker" (guide to trade).  She also found time to write several good novels,—"Deerbrook," "The Hour and the Man," and four volumes of "The Playfellow," a series of tales for children; besides numerous able articles in Tait's Magazine and the Westminster Review.  When the People's Journal was started, she became a copious contributor to it, and there published the principal portion of her excellent work on "Household Education."  Long illness confined her to her bed and her room, during which she wrote her "Life in the Sick-Room."  She then lived at Tynemouth, overlooking the sea, the coast, and the river, near Shields, the scenery about which, as viewed from her chamber window, she vividly describes in that book.  Take, for instance, the following charming passage:—

    "Between my window and the sea is a green down, as green as any field in Ireland; and on the nearer half of this down, hay-making goes forward in its season.  It slopes down to a hollow, where the prior of old preserved his fish, there being sluices formerly at either end, the one opening upon the river, and the other upon the little haven below the Priory, whose ruins still crown the rock.  From the prior's fish-pond the green down slopes upwards again to a ridge; and on the slope are cows grazing all summer, and half-way into the winter.  Over the ridge I survey the harbour and all its traffic, the view extending from the light-houses far to the right, to a horizon of sea to the left.  Beyond the harbour lies another country, with, first, its sandy beach, where there are frequent wrecks,—too interesting to an invalid,—and a fine stretch of rocky shore to the left; and above the rocks a spreading heath, where I watch troops of boys flying their kites: lovers and friends taking their breezy walks on Sundays; the sportsman with his gun and dog; and the washerwomen converging from the farm-houses on Saturday evenings to carry their loads, in company, to the village on the yet farther height.  I see them, now talking in a cluster, as they walk each with her white burden on her head, and now in file, as they pass through the narrow lane; and finally, they part off on the village green, each to some neighbouring house of the gentry.  Behind the village and the heath stretches the railroad, and I watch the train triumphantly careering along the level road and puffing forth its steam above hedges and groups of trees, and then labouring and panting up the ascent till it is at last lost between two heights, which at last bound my view.  But on these heights are more objects;—a windmill, now in motion and now at rest; a lime-kiln, in a picturesque rocky field; an ancient church-tower, barely visible in the morning, but conspicuous when the setting sun shines upon it; a colliery, with its lofty wagon-way, and the self-moving wagons running hither and thither, as if in pure wilfulness; and three or four farms, at various degrees of ascent, whose yards, paddocks, and dairies I am better acquainted with than their inhabitants would believe possible.  I know every stack of the one on the heights.  Against the sky I see the stacking of corn and hay in the season, and can detect the slicing away of the provender, with an accurate eye, at the distance of several miles.  I can follow the sociable farmer in his summer-evening ride, pricking on in the lanes where he is alone, in order to have more time for the unconscionable gossip at the gate of the next farm-house, and for the second talk over the paddock-fence of the next, or for the third or fourth before the porch or over the wall where the resident farmer comes out, pipe in mouth, and puffs away amidst his chat, till the wife appears, with a shawl over her cap, to see what can detain him so long, and the daughter follows, with her gown turned over her head (for it is now chill evening), and at last the sociable horseman finds he must be going, looks at his watch, and, with a gesture of surprise, turns his steed down a steep, broken way to the beach, and canters home over the sands, left hard and wet by the ebbing tide, the white horse making his progress visible to me through the dusk."

    While Miss Martineau was thus confined to her sick-room, gazing upon such pictures as these, she heard at a distance of the wonders of Mesmerism, how it had raised the palsied from their couch, cured the epileptic, and soothed the nerves of the distracted.  Having tried every imaginable remedy, she determined to try this; and whether from the potency of the remedy or the force of the patient's imagination, certain it was that she was shortly after restored to health.  The cure has been variously accounted for, some avowing that Nature had accomplished a crisis, and worked out a remedy for herself; others, with Miss Martineau, insisting on the curative power of the mesmeric passes.  The subject was well discussed in the Athenæum a few years since, by Miss Martineau on the one side, and by the editor on the other; nor would it be an easy matter to sum up the net results of the controversy.  With all Miss Martineau's amount of unbelief on some points, we cannot but regard her as extremely credulous on others; and though she is liberal to the full on general questions, there are topics on which she seems to us (particularly in her book on "Man's Development") to be a considerable bigot.  It is quite possible to be bigoted against bigotry, and to be superstitious in the very avoidance of superstition.  There was a good deal of force in the rough saying of Luther, that the human mind is like a drunken peasant on horseback: set him up on one side and he falls down on the other.

    Miss Martineau's best book is the "History of England during the Peace," published by Charles Knight.  It is an extremely able, painstaking, and, we think, impartial history of England since 1815.  It exhibits the results of great reading and research, as well as of accurate observation of life and manners.  It is, unquestionably, the best work of the kind; indeed, it may be said to stand by itself as a history of our own times.  Its execution does the author much credit, and we trust she will long be spared to produce books of equally unexceptionable quality and character.



Caroline Chisholm [née Jones], (1808–77):
English philanthropist and immigration administrator.
Picture internet Text Archive.

HOW innumerable are the ways in which men and women can benefit their fellow-creatures!  There is not a human being, howsoever humble, but can dispense help to others.  It needs but the willing heart and the ready hand.  There is no want of opportunity for good works to those who will desire to perform them.  Where will you begin?  With your next-door neighbour?  This is what John Pounds did.  But if you wish for a larger theatre for your philanthropy, you need have no difficulty in finding it out.  Most of the genuine philanthropic workers have, however, been directed by no particular effort of choice.  The field of labour has lain in their way, and they have set to work forthwith.  It was the duty which lay nearest to them, and they set about doing it.  Many others had passed it by, and saw no field for exertion there; but the discerning eye of the true lover of men saw the work at a glance, and without the slightest hope or desire for fame, without any expectation of public recognition or eulogium, at once entered diligently and earnestly upon the performance of the duty.

    Such was the field of labour to which Mrs. Chisholm devoted herself.  She was residing in Sydney, New South Wales, when she was distressed by the sight of many young women arriving at that place without guide or protector, without any idea of the wants of the colony, or how to set about obtaining proper situations there; and often these poor girls, on landing at Sydney, thousands of miles from home, wandered about in the streets, homeless and destitute, for days together.  The heart of this good woman was moved by the sight, and she could not fail to see the moral evils that might arise from such a state of things.  She forthwith resolved to place herself in loco parentis to these helpless female emigrants, and to shelter and protect them until they could be comfortably provided for in the colony.  She applied to the Governor for the use of a government building, which was conceded to her, with the cautious red-tape proviso, that Mrs. Chisholm "would guarantee the government against any expense."  This she did, and the first "Female Emigrants' Home" was opened.  She then appealed to the public for support, and her appeal was liberally responded to.  She freely devoted her own time gratuitously to the protection of her humbler sisters.

    Great success attended the establishment of the Female Emigrants' Home.  It soon became crowded; and then she had to devote herself to obtaining situations for them, to make room for the fresh arrivals.  As many of the female emigrants (a considerable proportion of whom were Irish) were found unsuitable for service in Sydney, but were well adapted for the rough country work of the interior, Mrs. Chisholm proceeded to form branch establishments in the principal towns throughout the colony, and travelled into the interior with this view, taking a large number of the young women with her.  The great demand for female labour which everywhere existed enabled her to effect their settlement without much difficulty; and by forming committees of ladies, and opening many country depots, or homes, she provided for the settlement of many others who were to follow.  Mrs. Chisholm's exertions were cheerfully aided by the inhabitants of the country districts; for she was doing them a great service, at the same time that she was providing for the comfortable settlement of her young protégées.  In the first instance, she had to defray their travelling expenses, but these were afterwards refunded; the inhabitants of the districts providing supplies of the requisite food.  Where a District Emigrants' Home was established, handbills were distributed throughout the neighbourhood, announcing that "Persons requiring Servants are provided with them on applying at this Institution."  The young women were supported at the Emigrants' Home until places were found for them.  Shortly after, Emigrants' Homes for men were in like manner established, and Mrs. Chisholm's operations at length assumed a colonial importance; and when the success of her labours began to be apparent, she had no want of ardent co-operators and fellow-labourers.  The following is the account which she herself gave of the progress of her work, before the Lords' Committee on Colonization, in the year 1848.

    "I met with great assistance from the country committees.  The squatters and settlers were always willing to give me conveyance for the people.  I never wanted for provisions of any kind; the country people always supplied them.  A gentleman who was examined before your Lordships the other day—Mr. William Bradley, a native of the colony—called upon me, and told me that he approved of my views, and that, if I required anything in carrying my country plan into operation, I might draw upon him for money, provisions, horses, or indeed anything that I required.  I had no necessity to draw upon him for a sixpence, the people met my efforts so readily; but it was a great comfort for me at the time to be thus supported.  I was never put to any expense in removing the people, except what was unavoidable.  At public inns the females were sheltered, and I was provisioned myself, without any charge: my personal expenses at inns during my seven years' service amounted only to £1 18s. 6d.  My efforts, however, were in various ways attended with considerable loss to myself: absence from home increased my family expenditure, and the clerical expense fell heavy upon me; in fact, in carrying on this work, the pecuniary anxiety and risk were very great.  I will mention one impediment in the way of forwarding emigrants as engaged servants into the interior: numbers of the masters were afraid, if they advanced the money for their conveyance by the steamers, &c., they would never reach their stations.  I met this difficulty,—advanced the money; confiding in the good feeling of the man that he would keep to his agreement, and in the principle of the master that he would repay me.  It is most gratifying to me to state, that although in hundreds of cases the masters were then strangers to me, I only lost throughout £16 by casualties.  Sometimes I have paid as much as £40 for steamers and land conveyance.

    "My object was always to get one placed.  I never attempted more than one at first.  Having succeeded in getting one female servant in a neighbourhood, I used to leave the feeling to spread.  The first thing that gave me the idea that I could work in this manner was this: with some persuasion I induced a man to take a servant, who said that it would be making a fine lady of his wife.  However, I spoke to him and told him the years his wife had been labouring for him; this had the desired effect.  The following morning I was told by a neighbouring settler: 'You are quite upsetting the settlement, Mrs. Chisholm; my wife is uncommonly cross this morning; she says she is as good as her neighbour, and she must have a servant; and I think she has as much right to one.'  It was amongst that class that the girls eventually married best.  If they married one of the sons, the father and mother would be thankful; if not, they would be protected as members of the family.  They slept in the same room with their own daughters.

    "One of the most serious impediments I met with in transacting business in the country, was the application made for wives.  Men came to me and said, 'Do make it known in Sidney what miserable men we are; do send wives to us.'  The shepherds would leave their sheep, and would come for miles with the greatest earnestness for the purpose.

    "I never did make a match, and I told them that I could not do anything of the kind; but the men used to say, 'I know that, Mrs. Chisholm, but it is quite right that you should know how very thankful we shall be;' and they would offer to pay the expense of conveyance, &c.  I merely mention this to show the demand made for wives in the interior.

    "Even up to this date they are writing to me, and begging that I will get their friends and relations to go.  I am constantly receiving letters from them; they say that, 'If my sister was here, she would do so well.'  Certainly I should not feel the interest I do in female emigration, if I did not look beyond providing families with female servants; if I did not know how much they are required as wives, and how much moral good may be done in this way."

    For six years Mrs. Chisholm was engaged in this admirable work, travelling many hundred miles to form branch committees and depots, sometimes convoying with her out of Sydney as many as one hundred and fifty females at one time.  During that period she succeeded in settling, throughout the colony, not fewer than eleven thousand immigrants of both sexes, and doing the work which ought properly to have been done by the colonial government.  She endeavoured to induce the government to take upon itself the management and superintendence of the office for the settlement of emigrants which she established in Sydney, but without effect.  The governor and the government emigration agent gave her great praise, and sent home reports glowing with gratitude for her philanthropic exertions in aid of the friendless emigrants; but they provided her with no substantial aid, confining themselves to empty words.  The noble woman persevered with her work, not at all disheartened by the result of her repeated applications.

    At length Mrs. Chisholm returned to England,—not to suspend her operations, but to extend them.  Having planted her Local Committees and Emigrants' Homes all over the colony, where they are carefully superintended by the inhabitants of the several districts, she could venture to leave them and visit England with another noble purpose in view.  Having provided the machinery for locating and settling emigrants on their arrival in New South Wales, she desired to rouse the mother country to send out its surplus labourers, its unemployed or half-employed, or greatly-underpaid women, to a country where they would be made welcome, and experience no difficulty in securing at least the means of comfort and physical well-being.

    The most recent scheme which Mrs. Chisholm has originated, in connection with the same movement, is the Family Colonization Loan Society, whose object it is to aid poor and struggling families to emigrate, by advancing small loans for the purpose, to be afterwards repaid by them after reaching the colony; and also to effect the reunion of the separated members of families—parents and children, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands—in the Australian colonies, by the same means.  For instance, by means of this society, servant-girls in Australia may remit through its agents their weekly contributions of two shillings towards the emigration of their parents, or for their support at home.  Assistance is also given by the society in enabling parties to trace out and communicate with their relatives who have emigrated, and in other ways to keep up family relationships and restore domestic ties.  And it is matter of gratification to know that the emigrants sent out by Mrs. Chisholm are more eagerly sought after and better liked in the colony than any that enter it.  One of the notable features of these detachments of emigrants is this, that they are arranged into groups, each member of which is, to a certain extent, responsible for every other, no one being admitted except after due inquiry.  Thus all immoral contamination is avoided, and a high standard of character is maintained, while a kind of family relationship is established among the members of the several groups.

    The practical good which Mrs. Chisholm is effecting, by her unwearied exertions in this cause, can scarcely be computed.  She is the happy means of introducing many worthy and industrious individuals to positions of competency and independence; and is engaged, in the most effective way, in extending the influence of civilization and Christian liberty to the remote ends of the earth.  What reward she may meet with among men maybe of small moment to her, but of her greatest reward she is certain.

    At one of the public meetings of emigrants in London, the Earl of Shaftesbury expressed his cordial admiration of the intelligent zeal and indefatigable exertions of Mrs. Chisholm.  The audience, said he, had probably heard something of Bloomerism, the highest order of which Mrs. Chisholm had attained; for she had the heart of a woman, and the understanding of a man.  He wished her "God speed," and prayed that she might be made more and more instrumental in carrying out her great and beneficent purposes.  To which we add a hearty Amen! [p.517]


Cambridge: Stereotyped and Primed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.




Since the more the pressure upon water is diminished, the lower the temperature at which it boils, water at any temperature less than 100° gives off vapour in the vacuum of the cylinder.


The expression "in great" means machines upon a large scale, instead of the small models with which his experiments had been made.


The fire-engine was the name given in those days to the atmospheric engines of Newcomen.  Watt says elsewhere that "he was concerned in making some," but whether previous or subsequent to this letter of September 20, 1769, does not appear.


Ed.—(source Wikipedia) from "A history of the growth of steam engine", by Robert H. Thurston, professor of mechanical engineering in the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hobroken, USA, published New York, 1878.  The sketch shows a steam engine designed by Boulton & Watt in 1784.  Labelling:

B steam valves (input),
C steam-cylinder,
E exhaust steam valves,
H Connecting rod link to beam
N cold water pump,
O connecting rod,
P piston,
Q regulator/governor,
R rod of the air-pump,
T steam input flap (controlled by governor (Q).
g link connecting piston (P) and beam via parallel motion g-d-c,
m steam inflow lever worked by the air-pump rod (R).


Ed.—(source Wikipedia) the Lunar Society was a dinner club and informal learned society of prominent industrialists, natural philosophers and intellectuals who met regularly between 1765 and 1813 in Birmingham, England.  At first called the Lunar Circle, 'Lunar Society' became the formal name by 1775.  The name arose because the society would meet during the full moon, when the extra light made the journey home easier and safer (in the absence of street lighting).  The members cheerfully referred to themselves as "lunaticks", a pun on lunatics.  Venues included Erasmus Darwin's home in Lichfield, Matthew Boulton's home, Soho House, and Great Barr Hall.


 See Memoir of Samuel Bamford.


A popular orator from the South once greatly disturbed the complacency of an Edinburgh audience, by addressing them as "Men of the Heart of Mid-Lothian"!


Ed.—see also Thomas Hood's "The Dream of Eugene Aram"


Ed.—Maynooth (Maigh Nuad in Irish) is a university town located in north County Kildare, Ireland, is the seat of the Roman Catholic college, established (1795) by the Irish parliament during Pitt's ministry, to meet a necessity created by the destruction, through the French Revolution, of the places of education in France, upon which the Irish Catholic clergy had been driven to rely.  The original endowment, an annual vote of £8928, was continued, although not without controversy and keen opposition on the part of zealous Protestants, by the imperial parliament after the act of union.  In 1846 Sir Robert Peel carried a bill for a permanent endowment of £26,000 a year, to which was added a grant of £30,000 for building purposes; in 1869 the endowment was withdrawn, a capital sum of £364,000 being granted in its stead.

    Gladstone resigned on the question of the Maynooth grant.  He voted for the grant, but thought that the views which he had published in his book on the church and state made it impossible for him to continue in office as a supporter of the measure.  He wrote a long letter to Peel explaining his position, on which Peel made the comment "I really have great difficulty sometimes in exactly comprehending what he means."  (Material based on "Chambers's Concise Gazetteer Of The World", "The Age of Reform", Woodward).


Ed.—In 1858 Gladstone took up the hobby of tree felling, mostly of oak trees, an exercise he continued with enthusiasm until he was 81 in 1891. Eventually, he became notorious for this activity, prompting Lord Randolph Churchill to snicker, "The forest laments in order that Mr. Gladstone may perspire." Less noticed at the time was his practice of replacing the trees he'd felled with newly-planted saplings.


Ed.—see also Joseph Skipsey on Edgar Allan Poe.


Theodore Hook: a Sketch. Murray.


Ed.—James Hook (1746-1827): a successful musician and composer in his time, Hook was friendly with Clementi and Haydn, and with his own contemporaries William Boyce and John Stanley. He was a generous and jovial man, devoted to his family.  Composer of many works he is remembered today for his attractive setting of "The Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill."


Ed.—". . . the tyrannous discipline of the 'Bastille,' or Union Workhouses erected under the New Poor Law of 1834 . . . the vengeful feeling created, in our starved manufacturing districts, towards the harsh provisions of that Law, was the fiercest and bitterest I ever heard expressed by working men."  Thomas Cooper, from his introduction to 'The Purgatory of Suicides'.


Times, December 28, 1851.


Ed.—Chadwick was extremely unpopular and in 1854 he was rather pointedly pensioned off on £1,000 a year.  His public career closed although he continued to campaign, particularly for competitive examinations in the British civil service (W. E. Gladstone implemented his recommendations in the 1871 Civil Service Reform Act: entry to all departments except the Foreign Office was by examination thereafter).


Ed.—After Chadwick's death in 1890, his determination to reform society through sanitary science was continued in perpetuity by a charitable trust in his will.  In 1898 his son, Sir Osbert Chadwick, was appointed the first Chadwick Professor of Municipal Engineering at University College London. To this day, the UCL's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has a Chadwick Professor.


Ed.—Smiles's brief biography of Massey was written prior to the publication of his "Ballad of Babe Christabel and other poems", which launched Massey's career as a poet, both in the UK and in North America.  See the American edition of "Christabel," published as "Poems and Ballads."


Ed.—"Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli"—Margaret Fuller, James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Henry Channing: this book is available online at the Internet Text Archive.


Ed.—"Women in the nineteenth century" by S. Margaret Fuller (1845): this book is available online at the Internet Text Archive.


Ed.—"Letters on the Laws of Man's Nature and Development" by Henry George Atkinson and Harriet Martineau: this book is available online at the Internet Text Archive.


Ed.—readers interested in this sketch of Caroline Chisholm might find interesting a fictional account of female emigration to Australia—"The Other Side of the World"—by Isabella Fyvie Mayo (1881), which recounts the 'outbound' end of the story.



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