Charles L. (Charles Larcom) Graves.

The life & letters of Sir George Grove, Hon. D.C.L. (Durham), Hon. LL.D. (Glasgow), formerly director of the Royal college of music; by Charles L. Graves online

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Online LibraryCharles L. (Charles Larcom) GravesThe life & letters of Sir George Grove, Hon. D.C.L. (Durham), Hon. LL.D. (Glasgow), formerly director of the Royal college of music; by Charles L. Graves → online text (page 3 of 45)
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his sisters in his favourite pursuits. As Miss Eleanor Grove
says, the two boys George and Edmund were always
" stirring up " their sisters, impressing on them the value
of sincerity and thoroughness, denouncing shams in dress
and elsewhere, and infecting them with their enthusiasm
for books and music.

In the winter of 1837-38 George Grove got his first,
glimpse of the Continent. His experiences are best told
in the narrative dictated nearly sixty years later :

" While I was articled to Alexander Gordon, he was employed
by the Chevalier de Brouwer, a rich manufacturer at Malines
in Belgium, to survey the River Dyle with a view to see whether
a better access could not be obtained from the sea to the town.
The river being very sluggish and winding in its course, the
Chevalier's idea was that it might be straightened and so much
reduced in length. Accordingly, Gordon and his wife, with a man
named Atherton as his chief assistant, and his two pupils, Pattrick
and myself, migrated to Malines and took up our residence at
the Hotel de Malines. It was a very respectable hotel, though
probably far inferior to the best hotels there at the present time.
We contracted for our living, and I remember that we paid two
francs and a half a day for board and lodging, including half a
bottle of vln ordinaire for dinner. The living was an entire revela-
tion to us, and one or two things happened which were quite
novelties. Amongst other dishes we had (and I think it was
always before Pattrick) was a roasted hare. After a few days one
of us noticed the head of a pin at the bottom of each of the
long ears of the animal, and on investigation it turned out that
the hare was nothing but a cat, which had two long hare's ears
pinned on each time it was served up ! ... When we had been a
few weeks in the town the weather changed, and a very severe
frost came on. The railway had only just been opened from
Ghent by Brussels through Malines to Antwerp, and it was our
custom to go to church at Brussels on Sunday afternoons by the
train. . . . The third-class carriages were nothing but open trays
with no roofs, and, if I remember aright, with no seats ; and on
the first Sunday after the beginning of the frost, when we arrived
at Malines it was found that three men had been frozen to death
in one of these carriages. Next to the hotel was a baker's shop,
and so great was the cold that the baker's apprentice was actually
frozen to death in his bed ; in fact, the frost was so severe that it
completely put a stop to all out-of-door work."


Grove adds that the Royal Exchange in London was
burned down on the loth of January 1838, the progress
of the flames being much assisted by the extreme frost.
" There was a famous chime of bells at the Royal
Exchange, and the last tune played by them during the
fire was said to have been * There's no luck about the
house, there's no luck at all.' ' This was the great frost
which made the fame of Murphy, the weather-prophet
and almanac-maker, who happened to predict the day,
January 20, on which the greatest cold was experienced.
According to entries in a book belonging to his mother,
the period of Grove's stay in Belgium extended from
November 30, 1837, to January 17, 1838.

The minutes of the Institution of Civil Engineers for
February 26, 1839, record that "George Grove (of
Thurlow Terrace, Wandsworth Road) was admitted a
Graduate" ; and in February 1840 he migrated to
Glasgow to gain practical experience in the factory of
Robert Napier, on the Broomielaw. " I first went down
to Glasgow," he wrote in 1897, "in the year 1839
[Mr. Edmund Grove says it was 1840]. In those days
there was no railway further than Liverpool, and there one
took a steamer a miserable journey it was. Tom [his
elder brother] took me as far as Glasgow. I remember
that we had to leave the railway at Wolverton, and go for
twelve or fourteen miles to Denbigh Hall on coaches or
omnibuses, because there was no passage through the
Kilsby tunnel. We went down first-class, and I re-
member that our tickets were more like cheques than
tickets, and were torn out of a book, leaving a counterfoil
behind. Our seat was numbered, and we had to take our
numbered place."

At Glasgow, George Grove worked both in the pattern
and fitting shops like a common mechanic, and, as he told
Dean Bradley, had to wash his hands in oil every night
before touching his books. He made friends with a Mr.
Pellatt, a glassmaker, who had a good library ; and an old
note-book belonging to this period contains copious notes

c 2


on Hallam's History of the Middle Ages. He also read
and digested Robertson's Charles V., and was so diligent a
student of The Decline and Fall that, according to Mr.
Edmund Grove, who was then at work at Greenock, his
letters showed the influence of Gibbon's style. Another
friend who influenced him was the Rev. Mr. Symington,
who recommended him to read Coleridge's Aids to Re-

Towards the close of 1841, Alexander Gordon, having
received an order to erect a cast-iron lighthouse at Morant
Point, the eastern extremity of the island of Jamaica, sum-
moned George Grove from Glasgow to superintend the
construction of the plates in a yard on the Surrey side of
the Thames, and appointed him as Resident Engineer
during the erection of the lighthouse. In a memorandum
subsequently drawn up and preserved in an old note-book,
George Grove summarizes the causes which led to this
decision, and the progress and completion of his task :

" The eastern end of the island of Jamaica, as it is the most
beautiful so is it to navigators the most important and dangerous
part of that island important, inasmuch as that point is the one
c made ' in the inward voyage, and the one from which the home-
ward course is shaped ; and dangerous, from the numerous and
complicated shoals and strong and uncertain currents with which
it is surrounded. Not only has the want of a Lighthouse on this
Point occasioned delay and inconvenience to the shipping, but
many and serious losses have taken place, and have continued
to take place for many years. The coast for miles round Morant
Point is strewn with the wrecks of vessels of 200 to 400 tons.
But, notwithstanding the obvious want of some preventive measure,
the apathy which pervades the West India colonies prevented any-
thing being done till the loss of the New Grove, Cousens master,
a vessel of 500 tons, with a full cargo on her home voyage in 1839,
between Morant Kays and the main island, from the variableness
of the currents which drove her on the Kays, roused public
attention, and in the early part of 1840 an Act passed the island
Legislature entitled c An Act for erecting a Lighthouse on Morant
Point, and maintaining and keeping up the same.' Commissioners
being appointed to carry into effect the provisions of the Act,
these gentlemen, after visiting the Point and communicating with


Mr. Alexander Gordon, were by him furnished with designs for a
cast-iron Lighthouse. This tower was decided on at a meeting of
the Commissioners in March 1841, and having been shipped for
Jamaica in November arrived there in January 1842. As there
was no possibility of landing the parts of the Lighthouse at a spot
nearer to the proposed site than four miles, and even this landing
could not be approached by any vessel of greater tonnage than a
shallop, the ship containing the Lighthouse lay at Port Morant,
and much delay was incurred during the successive loadings,
passages, and unloadings to and from the ship to the shallop and
the wharf at Holland Bay. The first care of the resident engineer
on arriving at Morant Point was to see a good or at least a
serviceable line of road made between the wharf and the site. The
foundation was found to be of a good solid nature : coral, a
porous rock of which the whole of this end of the island would
seem to be composed, covered with a superstratum of loose sand to
the depth of 10 or 12 feet. The labourers procured for the
erection of the Lighthouse were of a better description than the
average of the negroes. They were Kroomen, and this tribe
being employed much on the coast of Africa as assistants to the
sailors of the timber vessels trading there, have more handy and
workmanlike habits than any other tribes. The bottom of the
bed of rock, having been excavated to an average depth of 18
inches and levelled, was covered with a coating of asphalte in order
effectually to prevent any percolation or rise of water to the
foundation. The first stone was laid on the 5th of March and
the first plate on the 8th of April. After the third tier had been
erected, the concrete was by sufficient tackle hoisted up and pitched
into the interior, the fourth, fifth, and sixth tiers being [then]
proceeded with. In fact, the filling in of the concrete was not
finished till all the tiers had been put up. The derrick, crab,
and tackle were the only means used in the erection of the plates
of the Tower. Not a single accident of any kind occurred during
the erection. On August I the shell of the Tower being
complete and closed in, and the revolving machinery and lamp put
up, a trial of the light was made, the curtains of the lantern being
drawn to seaward. At a meeting of the Commissioners held in
Kingston soon after this, the ist of November was fixed on as
the day for commencing the permanent lighting, and three light-
house-keepers were appointed. Cottages have been erected at the
foot of the Tower for the abode of the keepers, though the
interior might have been advantageously used for this purpose."

This business-like record of the undertaking may be


supplemented by reference to the full diary which he kept
during his stay in Jamaica, some details communicated to
Mr. Edwards for the biographical sketch in the Musical
Times, and several unpublished reminiscences dictated in
1897. He went out in a sailing-ship, and was met ofFPort
Royal by the secretary to the Lighthouse Commissioners,
who was astonished and somewhat dismayed to find that the
engineer had as yet " no sign of whiskers." On the I3th
of November 1841, he arrived at Golden Grove Estate,
St. Thomas in the East, and started work on the following
day. The diary prefaced with a quotation from Bacon's
Advancement of Learning : " It is yet a use well received in
enterprises memorable, as expeditions of war, navigations
and the like, to keep Diaries of that which passeth
continually " is a plain unvarnished engineer's log. The
entries, with hardly an exception, relate to the business in
hand, and convey no indications of the other interests of the
writer. But they give a striking picture of George Grove's
indefatigable energy, his close and constant supervision of
his subordinates, and the obstacles thrown in his way by
the climate, inadequate transport, the temperament of the
coloured workmen, and "the slowness natural to the island."
Grove never spared himself. He habitually rose between
five and six, and there seems to have been hardly a single
detail in the erection of the structure on which at one time
or another he did not bestow actual manual labour. For
example, the entry for February 16, 1842, runs as follows :
" Got the framework of the house up. I did it all
myself, with a little help from one of the masons, and very
hard work it was. I had to cut the tenons in the joists
for the floor myself." Similar entries occur with regard to
the making of asphalte, concrete, &c. Of the steadiness
and efficiency of his skilled white labourers he speaks in
high terms, but the gang of Kroomen from Kingston gave
him a good deal of trouble by their fits of laziness,
culminating once in a strike. In the diary itself no hint is
discernible of his literary tastes, but a clue as to the way in
which he spent some of his leisure moments is to be found


at the other end of the same note-book, where he has
copied out a number of poems by Moore, Wordsworth,
Herrick, Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge. A -promos of
Coleridge, it should be mentioned that he met in Jamaica

O ' ?

a young doctor named Porter, who had been a pupil of
Mr. Oilman's at Highgate, and was full of anecdotes of
the poet. Porter had also some pieces of unpublished verse
by Coleridge, which Grove copied and embodied in a com-
munication to the Athen<iim for April 14, 1888, including
therewith the story of Lamb and the pudding, also told him
by Porter. It is characteristic of Grove's considerateness
that he was most anxious to get his white men away from
the spot on the earliest possible opportunity before the
setting in of the unhealthy season, while the last entry in
the diary contains a copy of a letter, urging on the Com-
missioners the desirability of securing another assistant to
relieve the strain on the two lighthouse-keepers in attend-
ance. Another letter of an earlier date conveys to the
Commissioners his grateful sense of the manner in which
they had been pleased to acknowledge his services.

In spite of the arduous and often discouraging nature of
his task, Grove thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Jamaica,
where he was most hospitably entertained by the planters
of the old regime^ already past the meridian of their
prosperity, but still much addicted to feasting and revelry.
TheCreole ladies in particular he found charming. A propos
of his stay in Jamaica I may draw upon the following
reminiscence of 1897 :

" The mango, though plentiful in Jamaica, is not an indigenous
fruit there, and oddly enough the best mangoes are known as
' No. ii ' and, I think, c No. 132' ; all the others had so strong
a taste of turpentine that they were uneatable. But no finer
fruit can be imagined than a fine 4 No. n.' I was told in
Jamaica how the name originated. In one of his actions Rodney
had taken a French ship, which was coming from a French settle-
ment in India with a fine botanical collection for the public garden
at Martinique or Guadeloupe. The ship was brought to Kingston,
Jamaica, and no doubt the collection suffered extremely, but the


two mangoes noted above were still known by their numbers in
the catalogue."

Grove stated in the memorandum given above that no
accident of any kind occurred during the erection of 'the
lighthouse. But he himself had two remarkable escapes
from death. He was fond in after years of telling the
story, which can now be given in his own words :

" I was very anxious to show the light on my birthday, the
1 3th of August 1842, and to accomplish this, which / did y it
was necessary to hurry on the internal part of the tower, leaving
it to be finished afterwards. It was in completing the floors
that the first of these escapes occurred. I was on the top floor
giving instructions to a carpenter, when I trod upon a short board
and down I went. I struck the girder ten- feet below, and
bounded from that to the next one, ten feet lower still. There
I hung with sixty feet clear below me, and was on the point of
dropping ofF, when the negroes got a ladder up to me and took
me ofF. Except for the fright and a bruise where I had fallen on
the girder I was none the worse. But I remember'distinctly that
during the whole of the time that I was clinging to the second
girder and endeavouring to twist myself up upon it, I kept
repeating continually to myself the words :

" ' And we seem
In running to consume the way.'

" The second escape occurred a few days afterwards. The
lantern had been completed, and I, as was my duty, was in the
lantern with my eyes about me. At this time, somewhere in the
afternoon, a tremendous rain-storm came on, and a leak in the
copper of the top covering of the lantern manifested itself. I put
up a ladder and went up to discover where the leak in the copper
was, when all of a sudden there came a tremendous clap of
thunder and a flash of lightning at the same moment, and threw
me off the ladder on to the floor of the lantern, some fifteen or
eighteen feet. If the lantern roof had not been covered with
water, which no doubt carried ofF the lightning, the flash would
have certainly gone through my body."

With what pleasure Grove looked back on his sojourn
in Jamaica may be gathered from a letter written to Miss


Marie Busch on August 4, 1895 more than half a
century later :

" You told me nothing more about the Meerleuchten. I do
not know what is meant unless it is what we call phosphorescence
lovely trains and balls of light in the waves. That is familiar
to me. I have seen it in the West Indies in the greatest
perfection. There would be a train of twelve feet long behind
the boat (a small rowing-boat in the harbour). You could see
dozens of fish down in the depths, each one like a rocket, and
when the water was quite smooth there would be thousands of
fiery specks on the surface, like the images of stars in the heavens.
How bright those West Indian days come back to me ! Not
only the exquisite beauty of Nature mountains, woods, streams
but many such extra beauties as I describe above, all inspired
and enshrined by the charming feelings of youth (I was only
twenty-one) and novelty."

Grove seems to have remained some time in Jamaica
after the lighthouse was finished, for a note in his mother's
handwriting gives June 1 843 as the date of his return.
But his stay in England was short, for he was soon
despatched on a similar job to Bermuda, where the Govern-
ment decided to erect a lighthouse on Gibbs's Hill. Of
his stay in Bermuda I can find but little trace amongst his
papers beyond the following anecdote :

" When I was in Bermuda the 2Oth Regiment was quartered
there, as well as two companies of the Royal Engineers, with whom
I was in closer contact, as I was under Colonel Barry, the officer
in command. One day my inexperienced mind received con-
siderable amusement. I was talking to one of the officers of
which corps I forget and he had on some very nice white
clothes, made of duck, or drill, or some such material, and I said
to him, ' You don't get those clothes here, I suppose ? ' c Oh
yes,' he answered, ' the regimental tailor made them for me.'
* You don't mean to say that the regimental tailor can fit you
like that ? ' was my reply. ' I should think so ! He had better
fit me ; I would give him three days' heavy drill if he didn't ! ' ;

A drawing of the lighthouse will be found in the
Illustrated London News of April 20, 1 844. It was first


lighted on May i, 1846 ; and a Parliamentary Blue-
Book of the time records the fact that the Treasury paid
" George Grove, engineer, 315 4-S. 4^." The delays in
the erection of the lighthouse were tedious, and Grove,
who had a good deal of time on his hands, struck up a
close friendship with Dr. Field, the Bishop of Newfound-
land, a High Churchman of very saintly character, who
was much influenced by the Oxford movement. Field
in turn exercised a considerable influence on Grove, who
took a practical interest in .the Bishop's diocesan labours,
and designed him a church. Otherwise, Bermuda im-
pressed him much less favourably than Jamaica ; he
seldom referred to his stay there in after years, and left
without regrets in the summer of 1846, reaching home
on August 6.

The influence of his association with Dr. Field showed
itself at this period in a pronounced leaning towards
Ritualism. He fasted regularly if not resignedly, insti-
tuted a system of doles for the benefit of the poor, and,
as a not unnatural consequence, was exposed to a certain
amount of not unfriendly domestic criticism. His brother
Edmund was at this time occupied in putting up gas-
works at Lincoln, and George Grove, whose health had
suffered from his stay in the West Indies, went down by
coach to pay him a visit, and in his company made a
tour of exploration amongst the Lincolnshire churches.
Looking back on this, the earliest of his architectural
excursions, many years afterwards, he said : " Lincoln was
a splendid place for churches. It contains some of the
finest in the country, and there had, as yet, been no
restorations ! " After this Lincoln period Edmund
Grove entered the office of Charles Heard Wild, in
Cannon Row, near the Colonial Office, and as his brother
George was out of employment, and looking for work,
recommended him to his chief, with the desired result.
Wild, who was one of Robert Stephenson's chief assist-
ants, and was especially entrusted with the work of laying
out stations, soon sent George Grove down to Chester to

i PARIS IN 1848 27

look after the erection of the " General Station " there. 1
Grove's stay in Chester left him nothing but pleasant
memories. He was interested in the town, in the
Cathedral and its services, and struck up a great friendship
with a pupil of Gunton's, the organist, named Ffoulkes,
whom he heard playing a Bach fugue in the Cathedral.
As a result of their association a singing-class was started,
with Ffoulkes as conductor, at which Grove had the
satisfaction of introducing, amongst other works new and
old, motets by Palestrina and part-songs by Mendelssohn.
From Chester he was moved on to Bangor, where he
served under Edwin Clark, Robert Stephenson's resident
engineer at the famous Britannia Bridge over the Menai
Straits, for eighteen months. His residence at Bangor,
however, was not continuous, seeing that in the autumn
of 1848 he made his second trip to the Continent. Wild,
who, according to Mr. Edmund Grove, was a " warm-
hearted man of the world," was so well pleased with
George and Edmund Grove, that in September of that
year he gave them each 15 to frank their expenses for a
holiday trip to Paris. More than that, he furnished
them with the most explicit instructions as to where they
should stop, how they should live even down to the
particular dishes and how much they should spend.
Accordingly, on September 15, the brothers set off on
what proved a most delightful tour, breaking their outward
journey at Abbeville and Amiens to see the cathedrals
and churches. On reaching Paris they found fresh traces
of the Revolution in the ubiquitous trees of liberty-
scraggy poplars planted in every square and vacant
space, in the remains of barricades and the unmistakable
signs of street-fighting. In Paris they were joined by a
London friend, Mr. J. W. Hawkins, subsequently one of
the Masters of the Supreme Court, who, in January 1901,

1 In his old age George Grove used to tell a story of an illiterate
Chester tradesman, who, when asked what the letters " G. S." (General
Station) stood for, replied " Julius Caesar."


kindly sent me the following lively reminiscences of his
stay :

"In the autumn of 1848 I joined George Grove and his
brother Edmund in Paris. Lamartine was then President
of the Republic, and considerable excitement prevailed in the
city. Sir George, who was perhaps the most versatile man
whom in a long life I have ever known, was full of eagerness
to see and hear everything, and one of the first things we did was
to go to the Embassy and endeavour to get admission to the
Assembly to hear Lamartine speak. The .Attache we saw gave
us no hope : we were ' nobodies in particular,' as Theodore Hook
said. He suggested the President's secretary as the most likely
person. To him we went. He shrugged his shoulders it was
impossible ; but George assured him that we should be desolated
if we were not permitted to hear the eloquent and poetic states-
man-President, and the secretary relented and said that if we
came to the Assembly half an hour before they sat he would ask
the President to allow one at least of the enthusiastic young
Englishmen to have admission. We went, and got the permit :
George, of course, was voted to be the one, and at night he gave
us a wonderful account of what he saw and heard.

" Another day we went to Notre Dame, and ascended the tower
into the belfry, where there is a bell with, so George told us, a
good deal of silver in it. He accordingly proposed that we should
try how our voices would sound in the bell, so we three crept
underneath it hung very low and when inside sang c God save
the Queen.' It was the dinner-hour of the workmen who were
repairing the tower, and while we were in the bell they returned
to their work. On our emerging we found a number of them
standing round who had heard us singing, and one of their
number asked what we had sung. George replied, * Our National
Anthem,' and asked some of them to get under the bell and sing

Online LibraryCharles L. (Charles Larcom) GravesThe life & letters of Sir George Grove, Hon. D.C.L. (Durham), Hon. LL.D. (Glasgow), formerly director of the Royal college of music; by Charles L. Graves → online text (page 3 of 45)