Francis Hindes Groome.

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Transcribed from the 1895 William Blackwood and Sons edition by David
Price, email [email protected]




_All Rights reserved_


{Robert Hindes Groome: p0.jpg}


Published originally in 'Blackwood's Magazine' four and six years ago,
and now a good deal extended, these two papers, I think, will be welcome
to many in East Anglia who knew my father, and to more, the world over,
who know FitzGerald's letters and translations. I may say this with the
better grace and greater confidence, as in both there is so much that is
not mine, and both have already brought me so many kindly letters - from
Freshwater, Putney Hill, Liverpool, Cambridge, Aldeburgh, Italy, the
United States, India, and "other nations too tedious to mention." All
the illustrations have been made in Bohemia from photographs taken by my
elder sister, except Nos. 6, 8, and 9, the first of which is from the
well-known photograph of FitzGerald by Cade of Ipswich, whilst the other
two I owe to my friend, Mr Edward Clodd.

F. H. G.


The chief aim of this essay is to present to a larger public than the
readers of a country newspaper my father's Suffolk stories; but those
stories may well be prefaced by a sketch of my father's life. Such a
sketch I wrote shortly after his death, for the great 'Dictionary of
National Biography.' It runs thus: -

"Robert Hindes Groome, Archdeacon of Suffolk, was born at Framlingham
in 1810. Of Aldeburgh ancestry, he was the second son of the Rev.
John Hindes Groome, ex-fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and
rector for twenty-six years of Earl Soham and Monk Soham in Suffolk.
From Norwich school he passed to Caius College, Cambridge, where he
graduated B.A. in 1832, M.A. in 1836. In 1833 he was ordained to the
Suffolk curacy of Tannington-with-Brandish; in 1835 travelled through
Germany as tutor to Rafael Mendizabal, the son of the Spanish
ambassador; in 1839 became curate of Corfe Castle, Dorsetshire; and in
1845 succeeded his father as rector of Monk Soham. Here in the course
of forty-four years he built the rectory-house and school, restored
the fine old church, erected an organ, and re-hung the bells. He was
Archdeacon of Suffolk from 1869 till 1887, when failing eyesight
forced him to resign, and when the clergy of the diocese presented him
with his portrait. He died at Monk Soham, 19th March 1889. Archdeacon
Groome was a man of wide culture - a man, too, of many friends. Chief
among these were Edward FitzGerald, William Bodham Donne, Dr Thompson
of Trinity, and Henry Bradshaw, the Cambridge librarian, who said of
him, 'I never see Groome but what I learn something new.' He read
much, but published little - a couple of charges, a sermon and lecture
or two, some hymns and hymn-tunes, and a good many articles in the
'Christian Advocate and Review,' of which he was editor from 1861 to
1866. His best productions are his Suffolk stories: for humour and
tenderness these come near to 'Rab and his Friends.'"

An uneventful life, like that of most country clergymen. But as
Gainsborough and Constable took their subjects from level East Anglia, as
Gilbert White's Selborne has little to distinguish it above other
parishes in Hampshire, {5} so I believe that the story of that quiet life
might, if rightly told, possess no common charm. I have listened to my
father's talks with Edward FitzGerald, with William Bodham Donne, and
with two or three others of his oldest friends; such talks were like
chapters out of George Eliot's novels. His memory was marvellous. It
seems but the other day I told him I had been writing about Clarendon;
and "Clarendon," he said, "was born, I know, in 1608, but I forget the
name of the Wiltshire parish his birthplace. Look it up." I looked it
up, and the date _was_ 1608; the parish (Dinton) was, sure enough, in
Wiltshire. Myself I have had again to consult an encyclopaedia for both
date and place-name, but he remembered the one distinctly and the other
vaguely after possibly thirty years. In the same way he could recall the
whole plot of a play which he had not seen for half a century. Holcroft's
'Road to Ruin,' thus, was one that he once described to me. He was a
master of the art, now wellnigh lost, of "capping verses"; and he had a
rare knowledge of the less-known Elizabethan dramatists. In his first
Charge occurs a quotation from an "old play"; and one of his hearers,
Canon "Grundy," inquired what play it might be. "Ford's," said my
father, "''Tis pity she's no better than she should be.'" And the good
man was perfectly satisfied. But stronger than his love of Wordsworth
and music, of the classics and foreign theology, was his love of
Suffolk - its lore, its dialect, its people. As a young man he had driven
through it with Mr D. E. Davy, the antiquary; and as archdeacon he
visited and revisited its three hundred churches in the Norwich diocese
during close on a score of years. I drove with him twice on his rounds,
and there was not a place that did not evoke some memory. If he could
himself have written those memories down! He did make the attempt, but
too late. This was all the result: -

"_Oct._ 23, 1886.

"I cannot see to read, but as yet I can see to write. That is, I can see
the continuous grey line of writing, and can mechanically write one word
after another. But if I leave off abruptly, I cannot always remember
what was the last word that I wrote, and read it generally I cannot.

{Monk Soham Church: p6.jpg}

"I should be thankful for being able to write at all, and I hope I am;
but I am not enough thankful. The failure of my sight has been very
gradual, but of late it has been more sudden. Three months ago I could
employ myself in reading; now I cannot, save with a book, such as the
Prayer-book, with which I am well acquainted, and which is of clear large
type. So that as yet I can take my duty.

"I was born at Framlingham on January 18, 1810, so that I am now nearly
seventy-seven years old. The house still stands where I was born, little
if at all changed. It is the first house on the left-hand side of the
Market Hill, after ascending a short flight of steps. My father, at the
time of my birth, was curate to his brother-in-law, Mr Wyatt, who was
then rector of Framlingham. I was the younger of two sons, my brother
Hindes being thirteen months older than I was.

"As we left Framlingham in 1813, my recollections of it are very
indistinct. I have an impression of being taken out to see a fire; but
as I have since been told that the fire happened a year before I was
born, I suppose that I have heard it so often spoken of that in the end I
came to believe that I myself had seen it. Yet one thing I can surely
remember, that, being sent to a dame's school to keep me out of mischief,
I used to stand by her side pricking holes in some picture or pattern
which had been drawn upon a piece of paper.

"In 1813, after the death of Mr Wyatt, my father took the curacy of
Rendlesham, where we lived till the year 1815. The rector of Rendlesham
at that time was Dr Henley, {8} who was also principal of the East India
College of Haileybury, so that we lived in the rectory, Dr Henley rarely
coming to the parish. That house remains unchanged, as I shall have
occasion to tell. Lois Dowsing was our cook, and lived nearly forty
years in my father's service - one of those faithful servants who said
little, but cared dearly for us all.

"Of Rendlesham I have clear recollection, and things that happened in it.
It was there I first learnt to read. My mother has told me that I could
not be taught to know the letter H, take all the pains she could. My
father, thinking that the fault lay in the teacher, undertook to
accomplish the task. Accordingly he drew, as he thought, the picture of
a hog, and wrote a capital H under it. But whether it was the fault of
the drawing - I am inclined to think that it was - or whether it was my
obstinacy, but when it was shown me, I persisted in calling it 'papa's
grey mare.'

"There was a high sandbank not far from the house, through which the
small roots of the bushes growing protruded. My brother and I never
touched these. We believed that if we pulled one of them, a bell would
ring and the devil would appear. So we never pulled them. In a ploughed
field near by was a large piece of ground at one end, with a pond in the
middle of it, and with many wild cherry-trees near it. I can remember
now how pretty they were with their covering of white blossoms, and the
grass below full of flowers - primroses, cowslips, and, above all,
orchises. But the pond was no ordinary one. It was always called the 'S
pond,' being shaped like that letter. I suspect, too, that it was a pond
of ill repute - perhaps connected with heathen worship - for we were warned
never to go near its edge, lest the Mermaid should come and _crome_ us
in. _Crome_, as all East Anglians know, means 'crook'; and in later
years I remember a Suffolk boy at Norwich school translated a passage
from the 'Hecuba' of Euripides, in which the aged queen is described as
'leaning upon a crooked staff,' by 'leaning upon a _crome_ stick,' which
I still think was a very happy rendering.

"Not far also from the rectory was a cottage, in which lived a family by
the name of Catton. Close to the cottage was a well, worked by buckets.
When the bucket was not being let down, the well was protected by a cover
made of two hurdles, which fell down and met in the middle. These
hurdles, be it noted, were old and apparently rotten. One day I was
playing near the well, and nothing would, I suppose, satisfy me but I
must climb up and creep over the well. In the act of doing this I was
seen by Mrs Catton, who saved me, perhaps, from falling down the well,
and carried me home, detailing the great escape. Well do I remember, not
so much the whipping, as the being shut up in a dark closet behind the
study. So strong was and is the impression, that, on visiting Rendlesham
as archdeacon, when I was sixty years old, on going up to the rectory-
house I asked especially to see this dark closet. There it was, dark and
unchanged since fifty-six years ago; and at the sight of it I had no
comfortable recollection, nor have I now.

"In the year 1814 was a great feast on the Green - a rejoicing for the
peace. One thing still sticks to my memory, and that is the figure of
Mrs Sheming, a farmer's wife. She was a very large woman, and wore a
tight-fitting white dress, with a blue ribbon round her waist, on which
was printed 'Peace and Plenty.'

"In the year 1815 we spent the summer in London, in a house in Brunswick
Square, which overlooked the grounds of the Foundling Hospital. Three
events of that year have always remained impressed on my memory. The
first was the death of little Mary, our only sister. She must have been
a strangely precocious child, since at barely three years old she could
wellnigh read. My mother, who died fifty-two years after in her eighty-
third year, on each year when Mary's death came round took out her
clothes, kept so long, and, after airing them, put them away in their own
drawer. The second event, which I well remember, was being taken out to
see the illuminations for the battle of Waterloo. I can perfectly
remember the face of Somerset House, all ablaze with coloured lamps. The
third event was the funeral of a poor girl named Elizabeth Fenning." {11}

And there those childish reminiscences broke off - never to be resumed.
But from recollections of my father's talk - and he loved to talk of the
past - I will attempt to write what he himself might have written; no set
biography, but just the old household tales.

After the visit to London the family lived a while at Wickham Market,
where my father saw the long strings of tumbrils, laden with Waterloo
wounded, on their way from Yarmouth to London. Then in 1818 they settled
at Earl Soham, my grandfather having become rector of that parish and
Monk Soham. His father, Robinson Groome, the sea-captain, had purchased
the advowson of Earl Soham from the Rev. Francis Capper (1735-1818),
whose long tenure {12} of his two conjoint livings was celebrated by the
local epigrammatist: -

"Capper, they say, has bought a horse -
The pleasure of it bating -
That man may surely keep a horse
Who keeps a Groome in waiting."

It was in the summer-house at Earl Soham that my father, a very small
boy, read 'Gil Blas' to the cook, Lois Dowsing, and the sweetheart she
never married, a strapping sergeant of the Guards, who had fought at
Waterloo. And it was climbing through the window of this summer-house
that he tore a big rent in his breeches (he had just been promoted to
them), so was packed off to bed. That afternoon my grandfather and
grandmother were sitting in the summer-house, and she told him of the
mishap and its punishment. "Stupid child!" said my grandfather; "why, I
could get through there myself." He tried, and he too tore his small-
clothes, but he was not sent to bed.

With his elder brother, John Hindes (afterwards Rector of Earl Soham), my
father went to school at Norwich under Valpy. The first time my
grandfather drove them, a forty-mile drive; and when they came in sight
of the cathedral spire, he pulled up, and they all three fell a-weeping.
For my grandfather was a tender-hearted man, moved to tears by the
Waverley novels. Of Valpy my father would tell how once he had flogged a
day-boy, whose father came the next day to complain of his severity.
"Sir," said Valpy, "I flogged your son because he richly deserved it. If
he again deserves it, I shall again flog him. And" - rising - "if you come
here, sir, interfering with my duty, sir, I shall flog you." The parent

The following story I owe to an old schoolfellow of my father's, the Rev.
William Drake. "Among the lower boys," he writes, "were a brother of
mine, somewhat of a pickle, and a classmate of his, who in after years
blossomed into a Ritualistic clergyman, and who was the son of a
gentleman, living in the Lower Close, not remarkable for personal beauty.
One morning, as he was coming up the school, the sound of weeping reached
old Valpy's ears: straightway he stopped to investigate whence it
proceeded. 'Stand up, sir,' he cried in a voice of thunder, for he hated
snivelling; 'what is the matter with you?' 'Please, sir,' came the
answer, much interrupted by sobs and tears, 'Bob Drake says I'm uglier
than my father, and that my father is as ugly as the Devil.'"

Another old Norwich story may come in here, of two middle-aged brothers,
Jeremiah and Ozias, the sons of a dead composer, and themselves
performers on the pianoforte. At a party one evening Jeremiah had just
played something, when Ozias came up and asked him, "Brother Jerry, what
was that _beastly_ thing you were playing?" "Ozias, it was our
father's," was the reproachful answer; and Ozias burst into tears.

{Monk Soham Rectory: p14.jpg}

When my father went up to Cambridge, his father went with him, and
introduced him to divers old dons, one of whom offered him this sage
advice, "Stick to your quadratics, young man. _I_ got my fellowship
through my quadratics." Another, the mathematical lecturer at
Peterhouse, was a Suffolk man, and spoke broad Suffolk. One day he was
lecturing on mechanics, and had arranged from the lecture-room ceiling a
system of pulleys, which he proceeded to explain, - "Yeou see, I pull this
string; it will turn this small wheel, and then the next wheel, and then
the next, and then will raise that heavy weight at the end." He
pulled - nothing happened. He pulled again - still no result. "At least
ta should," he remarked.

Music engrossed, I fancy, a good deal of my father's time at Cambridge.
He saw much of Mrs Frere of Downing, a pupil of a pupil of Handel's. Of
her he has written in the Preface to FitzGerald's 'Letters.' He was a
member of the well-known "Camus"; and it was he (so the late Sir George
Paget informed my doctor-brother) who settled the dispute as to
precedence between vocalists and instrumentalists with the apt quotation,
"The singers go before, the minstrels follow after." He was an
instrumentalist himself, his instrument the 'cello; and there was a story
how he, the future Master of Trinity, and some brother musicians were
proctorised one night, as they were returning from a festive meeting,
each man performing on his several instrument.

He was an attendant at the debates at the Cambridge Union, _e.g._, at the
one when the question debated was, "Will Mr Coleridge's poem of 'The
Ancient Mariner' or Mr Martin's Act tend most to prevent cruelty to
animals?" The voting was, for Mr Martin 5, for Mr Coleridge 47; and
"only two" says a note written by my father in 1877, "of the seven who
took part in the debate are now living - Lord Houghton and the Dean of
Lincoln. How many still remember kind and civil Baxter, the
harness-maker opposite Trinity; and how many of them ever heard him sing
his famous song of 'Poor Old Horse'? Yet for pathos, and, unhappily in
some cases, for truth, it may well rank even with 'The Ancient Mariner.'
And Baxter used to sing it so tenderly."

Meanwhile, of the Earl Soham life - a life not unlike that of "Raveloe" - my
father had much to tell. There was the Book Club, with its meetings at
the "Falcon," where, in the words of a local diarist, "a dozen honest
gentlemen dined merrily." There were the heavy dinner-parties at my
grandfather's, the regulation allowance of port a bottle per man, but
more _ad libitum_. And there was the yearly "Soham Fair," on July 12,
when my grandfather kept open house for the parsons or other gentry and
their womankind, who flocked in from miles around. On one such occasion
my father had to squire a new-comer about the fair. The wife of a
retired City alderman, she was enormously stout, and had chosen to appear
in a low dress. ("Hillo, bor! what are yeou a-dewin' with the Fat
Woman?" - one can imagine the delicate raillery.)

A well-known Earl-Sohamite was old Mr P - -, who stuttered and was
certainly eccentric. In summer-time he loved to catch small "freshers"
(young frogs), and let them hop down his throat, when he would stroke his
stomach, observing, "B-b-b-b-eautifully cool." He was a staunch believer
in the claims of the "Princess Olive." She used to stay with him, and he
always addressed her as "Your Royal Highness." Then, there was Dr
Belman. He was playing whist one evening with a maiden lady for partner.
She trumped his best card, and, at the end of the hand, he asked her the
reason why. "Oh, Dr Belman" (smilingly), "I judged it judicious."
"_Judicious_! JUDICIOUS!! JUDICIOUS!!! _You old fool_!" She never
again touched a card. Was it the same maiden lady who was the strong
believer in homoeopathy, and who one day took five globules of aconite in
mistake for three? Frightened, she sent off for her homoeopathic
adviser - he was from home. So, for want of a better, she called in old
Dr Belman. He came, looked grave, shook his head, said if people would
meddle with dangerous drugs they must take the consequences. "But,
madam," he added, "I will die with you;" and, lifting the bottle of the
fatal globules, swallowed its whole contents. {17}

To the days of my father's first curacy belongs the story of the old
woman at Tannington, who fell ill one winter when the snow was on the
ground. She got worse and worse, and sent for Dr Mayhew, who questioned
her as to the cause of her illness. Something she said made him think
that the fault must lie with either her kettle or her tea-pot, as she
seemed, by her account, to get worse every time she drank any tea. So he
examined the kettle, turned it upside down, and then, in old Betty's own
words, "Out drop a big toad. He tarned the kittle up, and out ta fell
flop." Some days before she had "deeved" her kettle into the snow
instead of filling it at the pump, and had then got the toad in it, which
had thus been slowly simmering into toad-broth. At Tannington also they
came to my father to ask him to let them have the church Bible and the
church key. The key was to be spun round on the Bible, and if it had
pointed at a certain old woman who was suspected of being a witch, they
would have certainly ducked her.

A score of old faded letters, close-written and crossed, are lying before
me: my father wrote them in 1835 to his father, mother, and brother from
Brussels, Mainz, Leipzig, Dresden, Prague, Munich, &c. At Frankfurt he
dined with the Rothschilds, and sat next the baroness, "who in face and
figure was very like Mrs Cook, and who spoke little English, but that
little much to the purpose. For one dish I must eat because 'dis is
Germany,' and another because 'dis is England,' placing at the word a
large slice of roast-beef on my plate. The dinner began at half-past
two, and lasted three mortal hours, during the first of which I ate
because I was hungry, during the second out of politeness, and during the
third out of sheer desperation." Then there is a descent into a silver-
mine with the present Lord Wemyss (better known as Lord Elcho), a
gruesome execution of three murderers, and a good deal besides of some
interest, - but the interest is not of Suffolk.

During his six years' Dorset curacy my father was elected mayor of the
little borough of Corfe Castle; and it was in Dorset, on 1st February
1843, that he married my mother, Mary Jackson (1815-93), the youngest
daughter of the Rev. James Leonard Jackson, rector of Swanage, and of
Louisa Decima Hyde Wollaston. Her father, my grandfather, was a great
taker of snuff; and one blustery day he was walking upon the cliffs when
his hat blew off. He chased it and chased it over two or three fields
until at last he got it in the angle of two stone walls. "Aha! my
friend, I think I have you now," said my grandfather, and proceeded to
take a leisurely pinch of snuff, when a puff of wind came and blew the
hat far out to sea. There are many more Dorsetshire stories that recur
to my memory; but neither here is the interest of Suffolk. So to Suffolk
we will come back, like my father in 1845, in which year he succeeded his
father as rector of Monk Soham.

Monk Soham is a straggling parish of 1600 acres and 400 inhabitants. {20}
It lies remote to-day, as it lay remote in pre-Reformation times, when it
was a cell of St Edmundsbury, whither refractory monks were sent for
rustication. Hence its name (the "south village of the monks"); and
hence, too, the fish-ponds for Lenten fare, in the rectory gardens. Three
of them enclose the orchard, which is planted quincunx-wise, with yew
hedge and grass-walk all round it. The "Archdeacon's Walk" that grass-
walk should be named, for my father paced it morning after morning. The
pike and roach would plash among the reeds and water-lilies; and "Fish,
fish, do your duty," my father would say to them. Whereupon, he
maintained, the fish always put out their noses and answered, "If _you_
do your duty, _we_ do our duty," - words fully as applicable to parson as
to sultan.

{"Fish, fish, do your duty.": p20.jpg}

The parish has no history, unless that a former rector, Thomas Rogerson,
was sequestrated as a royalist in 1642, and next year his wife and
children were turned out of doors by the Puritans. "After which," Walker
tells us, "Mr Rogerson lived with a Country-man in a very mean Cottage
upon a Heath, for some years, and in a very low and miserable Condition."
But if Monk Soham has no history, its church, St Peter's, is striking
even among Suffolk churches, for the size of the chancel, the great
traceried east window, and the font sculptured with the Seven Sacraments.
The churchyard is pretty with trees and shrubs - those four yews by the
gates a present from FitzGerald; and the rectory, half a mile off, is
almost hidden by oaks, elms, beeches, and limes, all of my father's and
grandfather's planting. Else the parish soon will be treeless. It was
not so when my father first came to it. Where now there is one huge
field, there then would be five or six, not a few of them meadows, and
each with pleasant hedgerows. There were two "Greens" then - one has many
years since been enclosed; and there was not a "made" road in the entire
parish - only grassy lanes, with gates at intervals. "High farming" has

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