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the promotion of popular education ; and he was proud in
after-life to allude to these his early labors, by which he
was enabled at the same time to cultivate his love of the
beautiful, to diffuse a taste for art among the people, and to
replenish his own purse, while he promoted the prosperity
of his friend and benefactor.

Engaged in such labors as these, for several years Flax-
man executed but few works of art, and then at rare
intervals. He lived a quiet, secluded, and simple life,
working during the day, and sketching and reading in the
evenings. He was so poor that he had as yet been only
able to find plaster of Paris for his works, marble was
too dear a material for him. He had hitherto executed
only one statue in the latter material, and that was a com-

At length, in the year 1782, when twenty-seven years of
age, he quitted his father's roof and rented a small house
and studio in TVardour Street, Soho ; and what was more,
he married, Ann Denman was the name of his wife,
and a cheery, bright-souled, noble woman she was. He
believed that in marrying her he should be able to work
with an intenser spirit ; for, like him, she had a taste for
poetry and art, and besides was an enthusiastic admirer of
her husband's genius. Yet when Sir Joshua Reynolds
himself a bachelor met Flaxman shortly after his mar-
riage, he said to him, " So, Flaxman, I am told you are
married ; if so, sir, I tell you you are ruined for an artist."
Flaxman went straight home, sat down beside his wife, took
her hand in his, and said, " Ann, I am ruined for an artist"
" How so, John ? How has it happened ? and who has
done it ? " " It happened," he replied, " in the church, and
Ann Denman has done it" He then told her of Sit
Joshua's remark, whose opinion was well known, and had
often been expressed, that if students would excel they must
bring the whole powers of their mind to bear upon their art,


from the moment they rise until they go to bed ; and u'so,
that no man could be a great artist unless he studied the
grand works of Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, and others, at
Rome and Florence. " And I/' said Flaxman, drawing up
his little figure to its full height, "/would be a great artist."
" And a great artist you shall be," said his wife, " and visit
Rome too, if that be really necessary to make you great."
" But how ? " asked Flaxman, " Work and economize"
rejoined the brave wife ; " I will never have it said that
Ann Denman ruined John Flaxman for an artist." And
so it was determined by the pair that the journey to Rome
was to be made when their means would admit. " I will go
to Rome," said Flaxman, " and show the President that
wedlock is for a man's good rather than his harm ; and you,
Ann, shall accompany me."

Patiently and happily this affectionate couple plodded on
during five years in that humble little home in Wardour
Street ; always with the long journey to Rome before them.
It was never lost sight of for a moment, and not a penny
was uselessly spent that could be saved towards the neces-
sary expenses. They said no word to any one about their
project, solicited no aid from the Academy, but trusted
only to their own patient labor and love to pursue and
achieve their object. During this time Flaxman exhibited
very few works. He could not afford marble to experiment
in original designs ; but he obtained frequent commissions for
monuments, by the profits of which he maintained himself.
He still worked for the Messrs. Wedgwood, who proved
good paymasters; and, on the whole, lie was thriving,
happy, and hopeful. He was not a little respected by his
neighbors, and those who knew him greatly estimated his
sincerity, his honesty, and his unostentatious piety. His
local respectability was even such as to bring local honors
and local work upon him ; so much so that he was on one
occasion selected by the rate-payers to collect the watch-


rate for the parish of St. Anne, when he might be seen
going about with an ink-bottle suspended from his button-
hole, collecting the money.

At length Flaxman and his wife, having thriftily accumu-
lated a sufficient store of savings, set out for Rome. Arrived
there, he applied himself diligently to study, maintaining
himself, like other poor artists, by making copies from the
antique. English visitors sought his studio and gave him
commissions ; and it was then that he composed his beautiful
designs, illustrative of Homer, JEschyluS, and Dante. The
price paid, for them was moderate, only fifteen shillings
apiece ; but Flaxman worked for art as well as money, and
the beauty of the designs brought him new friends and
patrons. IJe executed Cupid and Aurora for the munificent
Thomas Hope, and the Fury of Athamas for the Earl of
Bristol. He then prepared to return to England, his taste
improved and cultivated by careful study; but before he
left Italy, the Academies of Florence and Carrara recog-
nized his merit by electing him a member.

His fame had preceded him to England, and he soon
found abundant lucrative employment. While at Rome, he
had been commissioned to execute his famous monument
in memory of Lord Mansfield, and it was erected in the
north transept of Westminster Abbey shortly after his re-
turn. It stands there in majestic grandeur, a monument to
the genius of Flaxman himself, calm, simple, and severe.
No wonder that Banks, the sculptor, then in the heyday of
his fame, exclaimed when he saw it, " This little man cuts
us all out!"

When the bigwigs of the Royal Academy heard of Flax-
man's return, and especially when they had an opportunity
of seeing and admiring his noble portrait-statue of Mans-
field, they were eager to have him enrolled among their
number. The Royal Academy has always had the art of
running to the help of the strong ; and when an artist has


proved that he can achieve a reputation without the Acade-
my, then is the Academy most willing to " patronize " him.
He allowed his name to be proposed in the candidates' list
of associates, and was immediately elected. His progress
was now rapid, and he was constantly employed. Perse-
verance and study, which had matured his genius, had made
him great, and he went on from triumph to triumph. But
he appeared in yet a new character. The little boy who
had begun his studies behind the poor plaster-cast seller's
shop-counter in New Street, Covent Garden, was now a
man of high intellect and recognized supremacy in art, to
instruct aspiring students, in the character of Professor of
Sculpture to the Royal Academy! And no man better
deserved to fill that distinguished office ; for none is so able
to instruct others as he who, for himself and by his own
almost unaided efforts, has learned to grapple with, and
overcome difficulties. The caustic Fuseli used to talk of
the lectures as " sermons by the Reverend John Flaxmau " ;
for the sculptor was a religious man, which Fuseli was not.
But Flaxman acquitted himself well in the professorial
chair, as any one who reads his instructive " Lectures on
Sculpture," now published, may ascertain for himself.

Flaxman's monuments are known nearly all over Eng-
land. Their mute poetry beautifies most of the cathedrals,
and many of the rural churches. Whatever work of this
kind he executed, he threw a soul and meaning into it,
embodying some high Christian idea of charity, of love, of
resignation, of affection, or of kindness.



I SHALL not soon forget that sight :
The glow of Autumn's westering day,
A hazy warmth, a dreamy light,
On Raphael's picture lay.

It was a simple print I saw,
The fair face of a musing boy ;

Yet while I gazed a sense of awe
Seemed blending with my joy.

A simple print: the graceful flow
Of boyhood's soft and wavy hair,

And fresh young lip and cheek, and brow
Unmarked and clear, were there.

Yet through its sweet and calm repose

I saw the inward spirit shine ;
It was as if before me rose

The white veil of a shrine.

As if, as Gothland's sage has told,
The hidden life, the man within,

Dissevered from its frame and mould,
By mortal eye were seen.


Was it the lifting of that eye,

The waving of that pictured hand ?

Loose as a cloud-wreath on the sky,
I saw the walls expand.

The narrow room had vanished, space
Broad, luminous, remained alone,

Through which all hues and shapes of grace
And beauty looked or shone.

Around the mighty master came

The marvels which his pencil wrought,

Those miracles of power whose fame
Is wide as human thought.

There drooped thy more than mortal face,
Mother, beautiful and mild !

Enfolding in one dear embrace
Thy Saviour and thy Child !

The rapt brow of the Desert John ;

The awful glory of that day,
When all the Father's brightness shone

Through manhood's veil of clay.

And, midst gray prophet forms, and wild
Dark visions of the days of old,

How sweetly woman's beauty smiled
Through locks of brown and gold !

There Fornarina's fair young face
Once more upon her lover shone,

Whose model of an angel's grace
He borrowed from her own.


Slow passed that vision from my view,

But not the lesson which it taught ;
The soft, calm shadows which it threw

Still rested on my thought :

The truth, that painter, bard, and sage,
Even in Earth's cold and changeful clime,

Plant for their deathless heritage
The fruits and flowers of time.

We shape ourselves the joy or fear

Of which the coming life is made,
And fill our Future's atmosphere

With sunshine or with shade.

The tissue of the Life to be

We weave with colors all our own,
And in the field of Destiny

We reap as we have sown.

Still shall the soul around it call

The shadows which it gathered here,
And, painted on the eternal wall,

The Past shall reappear.

Think ye the notes of holy song

On Milton's tuneful ear have died ?
Think ye that Raphael's angel throng

Has vanished from his side ?

O no ! We live our life again :

Or warmly touched or coldly dim
The pictures of the Past remain, -

Man's works shall follow him !



1 WONDER whether those little silver pencil-cases with
a movable almanac at the but-end are still favorite
implements with boys, and whether pedlers still hawk them
about the country ? Are there pedlers and hawkers still, or
are rustics and children grown too sharp to deal with them ?
Those pencil-cases, as far as my memory serves me, were
hot of much use. The screw upon which the movable
almanac turned was constantly getting loose. The 1 of the
table would work from its moorings, under Tuesday or
Wednesday, as the case might be, and you would find, on
examination, that Th. or W. was the 23 of the month
(which was absurd on the face of the thing), and in a word,
your cherished pencil-case an utterly unreliable timekeeper.
Nor was this a matter of wonder. Consider the position of a
pencil-case in a boy's pocket. You had hard-bake in it;
marbles, kept in your purse, when the money was all gone ;
your mother's purse knitted so fondly and supplied with a
little bit of gold, long since, prodigal little son ! scat-
tered amongst the swine, I mean amongst brandy-balls,
open tarts, three-cornered puffs, and similar abominations.
You had a top and string ; a knife ; a piece of cobbler's
wax ; two or three bullets ; a Little Warbler ; and I, for my
part, remember, for a considerable period, a brass-barrelled
pocket-pistol (which would fire beautifully, for with it I shot


off a button from Butt Major's jacket) ; with all these
things, and ever so many more, clinking and rattling in
your pockets, and your hands, of course, keeping them in
perpetual movement, how could you expect your movable
almanac not to be twisted out of its place now and again,
your pencil-case to be bent, your liquorice-water not
to leak out of your bottle over the cobbler's wax, your
bull's-eyes not to ram up the lock and barrel of your pistol,
and so forth?

In the month of June, thirty-seven years ago, I bought
one of those pencil-cases from a boy whom I shall call
Hawker, and who was in my form. Is he dead ? Is he a
millionnaire ? Is he a bankrupt now ? He was an immense
screw at school, and I believe to this day that the value of
the thing for which I owed and eventually paid three-and-
sixpence was in reality not one-and-nine.

I certainly enjoyed the case at first a good deal, and
amused myself with twiddling round the movable calendar.
But this pleasure wore off. The jewel, as I said, was not
paid for, and Hawker, a large and violent boy, was exceed-
ingly unpleasant as a creditor. His constant remark was,
" When are you going to pay me that three-and-sixpence ?
What sneaks your relations must be ! They come to see
you. You go out to them on Saturdays and Sundays, and
they never give you anything! Don't tell me, you little hum-
bug ! " and so forth. The truth is, that my relations were
respectable ; but my parents were making a tour in Scot-
land ; and my friends in London, whom I used to go and see,
were most kind to me, certainly, but somehow never tipped
me. That term, of May to August, 1823, passed in agonies
then, in consequence of my debt to Hawker. What was
the pleasure of a calendar pencil-case in comparison with
the doubt and torture of mind occasioned by the sense of
the debt, and the constant reproach in that fellow's scowling
eyes and gloomy, coarse reminders ? How was I to pay off


such a debt out of sixpence a week ? ludicrous ! "TCTiy did
not some one come to see me, and tip me ? Ah ! my dear
sir, if you have any little friends at school, go and see them,
and do the natural thing by them. You won't miss the
sovereign. You don't know what a blessing it will be tc
them. Don't fancy they are too old, try 'em. And thej
will remember you, and bless you in future days ; and theii
gratitude shall accompany your dreary after life and they
shall meet you kindly when thanks for kindness are scant.
O mercy ! shall I ever forget that sovereign you gave me,
Captain Bob ? or the agonies of being in debt to Hawker ?
In that very term, a relation of mine was going to India. I
actually was fetched from school in order to take leave of
him. I am afraid I told Hawker of this circumstance. I
own I speculated upon my friend's giving me a pound. A
pound? Pooh! A relation going to India, and deeply
affected at parting from his darling kinsman, might give
five pounds to the dear fellow ! . . . . There was Hawker
when I came back, of course, there he was. As he
looked in my scared face, his turned livid with rage. He
muttered curses, terrible from the lips of so young a boy.
My relation, about to cross the ocean to fill a lucrative
appointment, asked me with much interest about my pro-
gress at school, heard me construe a passage of Eutropius,
the pleasing Latin work on which I was then engaged,
gave me a God bless you, and sent me back to school ; upon
my word of honor, without so much as a half-crown ! It is
all very well, my dear sir, to say that boys contract habits
of expecting tips from their parents' friends, that they be-
come avaricious, and so forth. Avaricious ! fudge ! Boys
contract habits of tart and toffee eating, which they do not
carry into after life. On the contrary, I wish I did like
'em. What raptures of pleasure one could have now for
five shillings, if one could but pick it off the pastry-cook's
tray ! No. If you have any little friends at school, out


with your half-crowns, my friend, and impart to those little
ones the little fleeting joys of their age.

Well, then. At the beginning of August, 1823, Bartle-
my-tide holidays came, and I was to go to my parents,
who were at Tunbridge Wells. My place in the coach was
taken by my tutor's servants, Bolt-in-Tun, Fleet Street,
seven o'clock in the morning, was the word. My tutor, the

Rev. Edward P , to whom I hereby present my best

compliments, had a parting interview with me: gave me
my little account for my governor : the remaining part of the
coach-hire ; five shillings for my own expenses ; and some
five-and-twenty shillings on an old account which had been
overpaid, and was to be restored to my family.

Away I ran and paid Hawker his three-and-six. Ouf !
what a weight it was off my mind ! (He was a Norfolk
boy, and used to go home from Mrs. Nelson's Bell Inn,
Aldgate, but that is not to the point) The next morn-
ing, of course, we were an hour before the time. I and
another boy shared a hackney-coach; two-and-six: porter
for putting luggage on coach, threepence. I had no more
money of my own left. Rasher well, my companion, went
into the Bolt-in-Tun coffee-room, and had a good breakfast.
I could n't ; because, though I had five-and-twenty shillings
of my parents' money, I had none of my own, you see.

I certainly intended to go without breakfast, and still
remember how strongly I had that resolution in my mind.
But there was that hour to wait A beautiful August
morning, I am very hungry. There is Rasherwell
" tucking " away in the coffee-room. I pace the street, as
sadly almost as if I had been coming to school, not going
thence. I turn into a court by mere chance, I vow it
was by mere chance, and there I see a coffee-shop with
a placard in the window, Coffee Twopence. Round of but-
tered toast, Twopence. And here am I hungry, penniless,
with five-and-twenty shillings of my parents' money in my


What would you have done ? You see I had had my
money, and spent it in that pencil-case affair. The five-
and-twenty shillings were a trust, by me to be handed

But then would my parents wish their only child to be
actually without breakfast ? Having this money, and being
so hungry, so very hungry, might n't I take ever so little.
Might n't I at home eat as much as I chose ?

Well, I went into the coffee-shop, and spent fourpence.
1 remember the taste of the coffee and toast to this day,
a peculiar, muddy, not-sweet-enough, most fragrant coffee,
a rich, rancid, yet not-buttered-enough, delicious toast.
The waiter had nothing. At any rate, fourpence I know
was the sum I spent. And, the hunger appeased, I got on
the coach a guilty being.

At the last stage what is its name ? I have forgotten
in seven-and-thirty years there is an inn with a little
green and trees before it ; and by the trees there is an open
carriage. It is our carriage. Yes, there are Prince and
Blucher, the horses ; and my parents in the carriage. Oh !
how I had been counting the days until this one came.
Oh ! how happy had I been to see them yesterday ! But
there was that fourpence. All the journey down, the toast
had choked me, and the coffee poisoned me.

I was in such a state of remorse about the fourpence, that
I forgot the maternal joy and caresses, the tender paternal
voice. I pull out the twenty-four shillings and eightpence
with a trembling hand.

" Here 's your money," I gasp out, " which Mr. P

owes you, all but fourpence. I owed three-and-sixpence to
Hawker out of my money for a pencil-case, and I had none
left, and I took fourpence of yours, and had some coffee at a

I suppose I must have been choking whilst uttering this


" My dear boy," says the governor, " why did n't you go
and breakfast at the hotel ? "

" He must be starved," says my mother.

I had confessed ; I had been a prodigal ; I had been taken
back to my parents' arms again. It was not a very great
crime as yet, or a very long career of prodigality ; but don't
we know that a boy who takes a pin which is not his own,
will take a thousand pounds when occasion serves, bring his
parents' gray heads with sorrow to the grave, and carry his
own to the gallows? Witness the career of Dick Idle,
upon whom our friend Mr. Sala has been discoursing.
Dick only began by playing pitch-and-toss on a tombstone :
playing fair, for what we know ; and even for that sin he
was promptly caned by the beadle. The bamboo was in-
effectual to cane that reprobate's bad courses out of him.
From pitch-and-toss he proceeded to manslaughter if neces-
sary : to highway robbery ; to Tyburn and the rope there
Ah ! Heaven be thanked, my parents' heads are still above
the grass, and mine still out of the noose.

As I look up from my desk, I see Tunbridge "Wells Com-
mon and the rocks, the strange familiar place which I
remember forty years ago. Boys saunter over the green
with stumps and cricket-bats. Other boys gallop by on the
riding-master's hacks. I protest it is Cramp, Riding-Mas-
ter, as it used to be in the reign of George IV., and that
Centaur Cramp must be at least a hundred years old.
Yonder comes a footman with a bundle of novels from the
library. Are they as good as our novels ? Oh ! how de-
lightful they were ! Shades of Valancour, awful ghost of
Manfroni, how I shudder at your appearance ! Sweet
image of Thaddeus of Warsaw, how often has this almost
infantile hand tried to depict you in a Polish cap and richly
embroidered tights ! And as for Corinthian Tom in light
blue pantaloons and Hessians, and Jerry Hawthorn from
the country, can all the fashion, can all the splendor of real


life which these eyes have subsequently beheld, can all the
wit I have heard or read in later times, compare with your
fashion, with your brilliancy, with your delightful grace, and
sparkling vivacious rattle ?

Who knows ? They may have kept those very books at
the library still, at the well-remembered library on the
Pantiles, where they sell that delightful, useful Tunbridge
ware. I will go and see. I went my way to the Pantiles,
the queer little old-world Pantiles, where a hundred years
since so much good company came to take its pleasure. Is
it possible, that in the past century, gentlefolks of the first
rank (as I read lately in a Lecture on George II. in this
Magazine) assembled here and entertained each other with
gaming, dancing, fiddling, and tea? There are fiddlers,
harpers, and trumpeters performing at this moment in a
weak little old balcony, but where is the fine company?
Where are the earls, duchesses, bishops, and magnificent
embroidered gamesters ? A half-dozen of children and their
nurses are listening to the musicians ; an old lady or two in
a poke bonnet passes, and for the rest, I see but an unin-
teresting population of native tradesmen. As for the li-
brary, its window is full of pictures of burly theologians, and
their works, sermons, apologues, and so forth. Can I go in
and ask the young ladies at the counter for Manfroni, or the
One-Handed Monk, and Life in London, or the Adventures
of Corinthian Tom, Jeremiah Hawthorn, Esq., and their
friend Bob Logic ? absurd. I turn away abashed from
the casement, from the Pantiles, no longer Pantiles,
but Parade. I stroll over the Common and survey the
beautiful purple hills around, twinkling with a thousand
bright villas, which have sprung up over this charming
ground since first I saw it. What an admirable scene of
peace and plenty ! What a delicious air breathes over the
heath, blows the cloud shadows across it, and murmurs
through the full-clad trees ! Can the world show a land


fairer, richer, more cheerful ? I see a portion of it when I
look up from the window at which I write. But fair scene,
green woods, bright terraces gleaming in sunshine, and pur-
ple clouds swollen with summer rain nay, the very pages
over which my head bends disappear from before my
eyes. They are looking backwards, back into forty years
off, into a dark room, into a little house hard by on the
Common here, in the Bartlemy-tide holidays. The parents
have gone to town for two days : the house is all his own,
his own and a grim old maid-servant's, and a little boy is
seated at night in the lonely drawing-room, poring over
Manfrani, or the One- Handed Monk, so frightened that he
scarcely dares to turn round.



QUEEN of the stars ! so gentle, so benign,
That ancient Fable did to thee assign,
When darkness creeping o'er thy silver brow
Warned thee these upper regions to forego,
Alternate empire in the shades below,
A Bard, who, lately near the wide-spread sea
Traversed by gleaming ships, looked up to thee
With grateful thoughts, doth now thy rising hail
From the close confines of a shadowy vale.
Glory of night, conspicuous yet serene,
Nor less attractive when by glimpses seen
Through cloudy umbrage, well might that fair face,

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 34 of 66)