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Title: Chantry House
Author: Charlotte M. Yonge
Release Date: January, 2005 [EBook #7378]
[This file was first posted on April 22, 2003]
Character set encoding: US-ASCII
Transcribed from the 1905 edition by David Price,
CHAPTER I - A NURSERY PROSE
'And if it be the heart of man
Which our existence measures,
Far longer is our childhood's span
Than that of manly pleasures.
'For long each month and year is then,
Their thoughts and days extending,
But months and years pass swift with men
To time's last goal descending.'
The united force of the younger generation has been brought upon me
to record, with the aid of diaries and letters, the circumstances
connected with Chantry House and my two dear elder brothers. Once
this could not have been done without more pain than I could brook,
but the lapse of time heals wounds, brings compensations, and, when
the heart has ceased from aching and yearning, makes the memory of
what once filled it a treasure to be brought forward with joy and
thankfulness. Nor would it be well that some of those mentioned in
the coming narrative should be wholly forgotten, and their place
know them no more.
To explain all, I must go back to a time long before the morning
when my father astonished us all by exclaiming, 'Poor old James
Winslow! So Chantry House is came to us after all!' Previous to
that event I do not think we were aware of the existence of that
place, far less of its being a possible inheritance, for my parents
would never have permitted themselves or their family to be
unsettled by the notion of doubtful contingencies.
My father, John Edward Winslow, was a barrister, and held an
appointment in the Admiralty Office, which employed him for many
hours of the day at Somerset House. My mother, whose maiden name
was Mary Griffith, belonged to a naval family. Her father had been
lost in a West Indian hurricane at sea, and her uncle, Admiral Sir
John Griffith, was the hero of the family, having been at Trafalgar
and distinguished himself in cutting out expeditions. My eldest
brother bore his name. The second was named after the Duke of
Clarence, with whom my mother had once danced at a ball on board
ship at Portsmouth, and who had been rather fond of my uncle.
Indeed, I believe my father's appointment had been obtained through
his interest, just about the time of Clarence's birth.
We three boys had come so fast upon each other's heels in the
Novembers of 1809, 10, and 11, that any two of us used to look like
twins. There is still extant a feeble water-coloured drawing of the
trio, in nankeen frocks, and long white trowsers, with bare necks
and arms, the latter twined together, and with the free hands,
Griffith holding a bat, Clarence a trap, and I a ball. I remember
the emulation we felt at Griffith's privilege of eldest in holding
The sitting for that picture is the only thing I clearly remember
during those earlier days. I have no recollection of the disaster,
which, at four years old, altered my life. The catastrophe, as
others have described it, was that we three boys were riding cock-
horse on the balusters of the second floor of our house in Montagu
Place, Russell Square, when we indulged in a general melee, which
resulted in all tumbling over into the vestibule below. The others,
to whom I served as cushion, were not damaged beyond the power of
yelling, and were quite restored in half-an-hour, but I was
undermost, and the consequence has been a curved spine, dwarfed
stature, an elevated shoulder, and a shortened, nearly useless leg.
What I do remember, is my mother reading to me Miss Edgeworth's
Frank and the little do Trusty, as I lay in my crib in her bedroom.
I made one of my nieces hunt up the book for me the other day, and
the story brought back at once the little crib, or the watered blue
moreen canopy of the big four-poster to which I was sometimes lifted
for a change; even the scrawly pattern of the paper, which my weary
eyes made into purple elves perpetually pursuing crimson ones, the
foremost of whom always turned upside down; and the knobs in the
Marseilles counterpane with which my fingers used to toy. I have
heard my mother tell that whenever I was most languid and suffering
I used to whine out, 'O do read Frank and the little dog Trusty,'
and never permitted a single word to be varied, in the curious
childish love of reiteration with its soothing power.
I am afraid that any true picture of our parents, especially of my
mother, will not do them justice in the eyes of the young people of
the present day, who are accustomed to a far more indulgent
government, and yet seem to me to know little of the loyal
veneration and submission with which we have, through life, regarded
our father and mother. It would have been reckoned disrespectful to
address them by these names; they were through life to us, in
private, papa and mamma, and we never presumed to take a liberty
with them. I doubt whether the petting, patronising equality of
terms on which children now live with their parents be equally
wholesome. There was then, however, strong love and self-
sacrificing devotion; but not manifested in softness or cultivation
of sympathy. Nothing was more dreaded than spoiling, which was
viewed as idle and unjustifiable self-gratification at the expense
of the objects thereof. There were an unlucky little pair in
Russell Square who were said to be 'spoilt children,' and who used
to be mentioned in our nursery with bated breath as a kind of
monsters or criminals. I believe our mother laboured under a
perpetual fear of spoiling Griff as the eldest, Clarence as the
beauty, me as the invalid, Emily (two years younger) as the only
girl, and Martyn as the after-thought, six years below our sister.
She was always performing little acts of conscientiousness, little
as we guessed it.
Thus though her unremitting care saved my life, and was such that
she finally brought on herself a severe and dangerous illness, she
kept me in order all the time, never wailed over me nor weakly
pitied me, never permitted resistance to medicine nor rebellion
against treatment, enforced little courtesies, insisted on every
required exertion, and hardly ever relaxed the rule of Spartan
fortitude in herself as in me. It is to this resolution on her
part, carried out consistently at whatever present cost to us both,
that I owe such powers of locomotion as I possess, and the habits of
exertion that have been even more valuable to me.
When at last, after many weeks, nay months, of this watchfulness,
she broke down, so that her life was for a time in danger, the lack
of her bracing and tender care made my life very trying, after I
found myself transported to the nursery, scarcely understanding why,
accused of having by my naughtiness made ray poor mamma so ill, and
discovering for the first time that I was a miserable, naughty
little fretful being, and with nobody but Clarence and the housemaid
to take pity on me.
Nurse Gooch was a masterful, trustworthy woman, and was laid under
injunctions not to indulge Master Edward. She certainly did not err
in that respect, though she attended faithfully to my material
welfare; but woe to me if I gave way to a little moaning; and what I
felt still harder, she never said 'good boy' if I contrived to
I hear of carpets, curtains, and pictures in the existing nurseries.
They must be palaces compared with our great bare attic, where
nothing was allowed that could gather dust. One bit of drugget by
the fireside, where stood a round table at which the maids talked
and darned stockings, was all that hid the bare boards; the walls
were as plain as those of a workhouse, and when the London sun did
shine, it glared into my eyes through the great unshaded windows.
There was a deal table for the meals (and very plain meals they
were), and two or three big presses painted white for our clothes,
and one cupboard for our toys. I must say that Gooch was strictly
just, and never permitted little Emily, nor Griff - though he was
very decidedly the favourite, - to bear off my beloved woolly dog to
be stabled in the houses of wooden bricks which the two were
continually constructing for their menagerie of maimed animals.
Griff was deservedly the favourite with every one who was not, like
our parents, conscientiously bent on impartiality. He was so bright
and winning, he had such curly tight-rolled hair with a tinge of
auburn, such merry bold blue eyes, such glowing dimpled cheeks, such
a joyous smile all over his face, and such a ringing laugh; he was
so strong, brave, and sturdy, that he was a boy to be proud of, and
a perfect king in his own way, making every one do as he pleased.
All the maids, and Peter the footman, were his slaves, every one
except nurse and mamma, and it was only by a strong effort of
principle that they resisted him; while he dragged Clarence about as
his devoted though not always happy follower.
Alas! for Clarence! Courage was not in him. The fearless infant
boy chiefly dwells in conventional fiction, and valour seldom comes
before strength. Moreover, I have come to the opinion that though
no one thought of it at the time, his nerves must have had a
terrible and lasting shock at the accident and at the sight of my
crushed and deathly condition, which occupied every one too much for
them to think of soothing or shielding him. At any rate, fear was
the misery of his life. Darkness was his horror. He would scream
till he brought in some one, though he knew it would be only to
scold or slap him. The housemaid's closet on the stairs was to him
an abode of wolves. Mrs. Gatty's tale of The Tiger in the Coal-box
is a transcript of his feelings, except that no one took the trouble
to reassure him; something undefined and horrible was thought to wag
in the case of the eight-day clock; and he could not bear to open
the play cupboard lest 'something' should jump out on him. The
first time he was taken to the Zoological Gardens, the monkeys so
terrified him that a bystander insisted on Gooch's carrying him away
lest he should go into fits, though Griffith was shouting with
ecstasy, and could hardly forgive the curtailment of his enjoyment.
Clarence used to aver that he really did see 'things' in the dark,
but as he only shuddered and sobbed instead of describing them, he
was punished for 'telling fibs,' though the housemaid used to speak
under her breath of his being a 'Sunday child.' And after long
penance, tied to his stool in the corner, he would creep up to me
and whisper, 'But, Eddy, I really did!'
However, it was only too well established in the nursery that
Clarence's veracity was on a par with his courage. When taxed with
any misdemeanour, he used to look round scared and bewildered, and
utter a flat demur. One scene in particular comes before me. There
were strict laws against going into shops or buying dainties without
express permission from mamma or nurse; but one day when Clarence
had by some chance been sent out alone with the good natured
housemaid, his fingers were found sticky.
'Now, Master Clarence, you've been a naughty boy, eating of sweets,'
exclaimed stern Justice in a mob cap and frills.
'No - no - ' faltered the victim; but, alas! Mrs. Gooch had only to
thrust her hand into the little pocket of his monkey suit to convict
him on the spot.
The maid was dismissed with a month's wages, and poor Clarence
underwent a strange punishment from my mother, who was getting about
again by that time, namely, a drop of hot sealing-wax on his tongue,
to teach him practically the doom of the false tongue. It might
have done him good if there had been sufficient encouragement to him
to make him try to win a new character, but it only added a fresh
terror to his mind; and nurse grew fond of manifesting her
incredulity of his assertions by always referring to Griff or to me,
or even to little Emily. What was worse, she used to point him out
to her congeners in the Square or the Park as 'such a false child.'
He was a very pretty little fellow, with a delicately rosy face,
wistful blue eyes, and soft, light, wavy hair, and perhaps Gooch was
jealous of his attracting more notice than Griffith, and thought he
posed for admiration, for she used to tell people that no one could
guess what a child he was for slyness; so that he could not bear
going out with her, and sometimes bemoaned himself to me.
There must be a good deal of sneaking in the undeveloped nature, for
in those days I was ashamed of my preference for Clarence, the
naughty one. But there was no helping it, he was so much more
gentle than Griff, and would always give up any sport that
incommoded me, instead of calling me a stupid little ape, and
becoming more boisterous after the fashion of Griff. Moreover, he
fetched and carried for me unweariedly, and would play at
spillekins, help to put up puzzles, and enact little dramas with our
wooden animals, such as Griff scorned as only fit for babies. Even
nurse allowed Clarence's merits towards me and little Emily, but
always with the sigh: 'If he was but as good in other respects, but
them quiet ones is always sly.'
Good Nurse Gooch! We all owe much to her staunch fidelity, strong
discipline, and unselfish devotion, but nature had not fitted her to
deal with a timid, sensitive child, of highly nervous temperament.
Indeed, persons of far more insight might have been perplexed by the
fact that Clarence was exemplary at church and prayers, family and
private, - whenever Griff would let him, that is to say, - and would
add private petitions of his own, sometimes of a startling nature.
He never scandalised the nursery, like Griff, by unseemly pranks on
Sundays, nor by innovations in the habits of Noah's ark, but was as
much shocked as nurse when the lion was made to devour the elephant,
or the lion and wolf fought in an embrace fatal to their legs.
Bible stories and Watt's hymns were more to Clarence than even to
me, and he used to ask questions for which Gooch's theology was
quite insufficient, and which brought the invariable answers, 'Now,
Master Clarry, I never did! Little boys should not ask such
questions!' 'What's the use of your pretending, sir! It's all
falseness, that's what it is! I hates hypercriting!' 'Don't
worrit, Master Clarence; you are a very naughty boy to say such
things. I shall put you in the corner!'
Even nurse was scared one night when Clarence had a frightful
screaming fit, declaring that he saw 'her - her - all white,' and even
while being slapped reiterated, 'HER, Lucy!'
Lucy was a kind elder girl in the Square gardens, a protector of
little timid ones. She was known to be at that time very ill with
measles, and in fact died that very night. Both my brothers
sickened the next day, and Emily and I soon followed their example,
but no one had it badly except Clarence, who had high fever, and
very much delirium each night, talking to people whom he thought he
saw, so as to make nurse regret her severity on the vision of Lucy.
CHAPTER II - SCHOOLROOM DAYS
'In the loom of life-cloth pleasure,
Ere our childish days be told,
With the warp and woof enwoven,
Glitters like a thread of gold.'
Looking back, I think my mother was the leading spirit in our
household, though she never for a moment suspected it. Indeed, the
chess queen must be the most active on the home board, and one of
the objects of her life was to give her husband a restful evening
when he came home to the six o'clock dinner. She also had to make
both ends meet on an income which would seem starvation at the
present day; but she was strong, spirited, and managing, and equal
to all her tasks till the long attendance upon me, and the
consequent illness, forced her to spare herself - a little - a very
Previously she had been our only teacher, except that my father read
a chapter of the Bible with us every morning before breakfast, and
heard the Catechism on a Sunday. For we could all read long before
young gentlefolks nowadays can say their letters. It was well for
me, since books with a small quantity of type, and a good deal of
frightful illustration, beguiled many of my weary moments. You may
see my special favourites, bound up, on the shelf in my bedroom.
Crabbe's Tales, Frank, the Parent's Assistant, and later, Croker's
Tales from English History, Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, Tales of
a Grandfather, and the Rival Crusoes stand pre-eminent - also Mrs.
Leicester's School, with the ghost story cut out.
Fairies and ghosts were prohibited as unwholesome, and not unwisely.
The one would have been enervating to me, and the other would have
been a definite addition to Clarence's stock of horrors. Indeed,
one story had been cut out of Crabbe's Tales, and another out of an
Annual presented to Emily, but not before Griff had read the latter,
and the version he related to us probably lost nothing in the
telling; indeed, to this day I recollect the man, wont to slay the
harmless cricket on the hearth, and in a storm at sea pursued by a
gigantic cockroach and thrown overboard. The night after hearing
this choice legend Clarence was found crouching beside me in bed for
fear of the cockroach. I am afraid the vengeance was more than
proportioned to the offence!
Even during my illness that brave mother struggled to teach my
brothers' daily lessons, and my father heard them a short bit of
Latin grammar at his breakfast (five was thought in those days to be
the fit age to begin it, and fathers the fit teachers thereof). And
he continued to give this morning lesson when, on our return from
airing at Ramsgate after our recovery from the measles, my mother
found she must submit to transfer us to a daily governess.
Old Miss Newton's attainments could not have been great, for her
answers to my inquiries were decidedly funny, and prefaced sotto
voce with, 'What a child it is!' But she was a good kindly lady,
who had the faculty of teaching, and of forestalling rebellion; and
her little thin corkscrew curls, touched with gray, her pale eyes,
prim black silk apron, and sandalled shoes, rise before me full of
happy associations of tender kindness and patience. She was wise,
too, in her own simple way. When nurse would have forewarned her of
Clarence's failings in his own hearing, she cut the words short by
declaring that she should like never to find out which was the
naughty one. And when habit was too strong, and he had denied the
ink spot on the atlas, she persuasively wiled out a confession not
only to her but to mamma, who hailed the avowal as the beginning of
better things, and kissed instead of punishing.
Clarence's queries had been snubbed into reserve, and I doubt
whether Miss Newton's theoretic theology was very much more
developed than that of Mrs. Gooch, but her practice and devotion
were admirable, and she fostered religious sentiment among us,
introducing little books which were welcome in the restricted range
of Sunday reading. Indeed, Mrs. Sherwood's have some literary
merit, and her Fairchild Family indulged in such delicious and
eccentric acts of naughtiness as quite atoned for all the religious
teaching, and fascinated Griff, though he was apt to be very
impatient of certain little affectionate lectures to which Clarence
listened meekly. My father and mother were both of the old-
fashioned orthodox school, with minds formed on Jeremy Taylor,
Blair, South, and Secker, who thought it their duty to go diligently
to church twice on Sunday, communicate four times a year (their only
opportunities), after grave and serious preparation, read a sermon
to their household on Sunday evenings, and watch over their
children's religious instruction, though in a reserved
undemonstrative manner. My father always read one daily chapter
with us every morning, one Psalm at family prayers, and my mother
made us repeat a few verses of Scripture before our other studies
began; besides which there was special teaching on Sunday, and an
abstinence from amusements, such as would now be called Sabbatarian,
but a walk in the Park with papa was so much esteemed that it made
the day a happy and honoured one to those who could walk.
There was little going into society, comparatively, for people in
our station, - solemn dinner-parties from time to time - two a year,
did we give, and then the house was turned upside down, - and now and
then my father dined out, or brought a friend home to dinner; and
there were so-called morning calls in the afternoon, but no tea-
drinking. For the most part the heads of the family dined alone at
six, and afterwards my father read aloud some book of biography or
travels, while we children were expected to employ ourselves
quietly, threading beads, drawing, or putting up puzzles, and listen
or not as we chose, only not interrupt, as we sat at the big,
central, round, mahogany table. To this hour I remember portions of
Belzoni's Researches and Franklin's terrible American adventures,
and they bring back tones of my father's voice. As an authority
'papa' was seldom invoked, except on very serious occasions, such as
Griffith's audacity, Clarence's falsehood, or my obstinacy; and then
the affair was formidable, he was judicial and awful, and, though he
would graciously forgive on signs of repentance, he never was
sympathetic. He had not married young, and there were forty years
or more between him and his sons, so that he had left too far behind
him the feelings of boyhood to make himself one with us, even if he
had thought it right or dignified to do so, - yet I cannot describe
the depth of the respect and loyalty he inspired in us nor the
delight we felt in a word of commendation or a special attention
The early part of Miss Newton's rule was unusually fertile in such
pleasures, and much might have been spared, could Clarence have been
longer under her influence; but Griff grew beyond her management,
and was taunted by 'fellows in the Square' into assertions of
manliness, such as kicking his heels, stealing her odd little
fringed parasol, pitching his books into the area, keeping her in
misery with his antics during their walks, and finally leading
Clarence off after Punch into the Rookery of St. Giles's, where she
could not follow, because Emily was in her charge.
This was the crisis. She had to come home without the boys, and
though they arrived long before any of the authorities knew of their
absence, she owned with tears that she could not conscientiously be
responsible any longer for Griffith, - who not only openly defied her
authority, but had found out how little she knew, and laughed at
her. I have reason to believe also that my mother had discovered
that she frequented the preachings of Rowland Hill and Baptist Noel;
and had confiscated some unorthodox tracts presented to the
servants, thus being alarmed lest she should implant the seeds of
Parting with her after four years under her was a real grief. Even
Griff was fond of her; when once emancipated, he used to hug her and
bring her remarkable presents, and she heartily loved her tormentor.
Everybody did. It remained a great pleasure to get her to spend an
evening with us while the elders were gone out to dinner; nor do I
think she ever did us anything but good, though I am afraid we
laughed at 'Old Newton' as we grew older and more conceited. We
never had another governess. My mother read and enforced diligence
on Emily and me, and we had masters for different studies; the two
boys went to school; and when Martyn began to emerge from babyhood,
Emily was his teacher.
CHAPTER III - WIN AND SLOW
'The rude will shuffle through with ease enough:
Great schools best suit the sturdy and the rough.'
At school Griffith was very happy, and brilliantly successful, alike
in study and sport, though sports were not made prominent in those
days, and triumphs in them were regarded by the elders with doubtful
pride, lest they should denote a lack of attention to matters of
greater importance. All his achievements were, however, poured