Caroline Fox.

Memories of old friends : being extracts from the journals of Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall from 1835 to 1871 (Volume 1) online

. (page 15 of 19)
Online LibraryCaroline FoxMemories of old friends : being extracts from the journals of Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall from 1835 to 1871 (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to dogmatise; the wisest and best are divided con-
cerning its true meaning, so that each may take it
according to his own conscience.

July 19. — An interesting evening at the Ster-
lings'. Time spent in looking at Raphael's heads
from his frescoes in the Vatican. Certainly the
wondrous scope of vision and feeling displayed in
the infinite variety of type in these heads raises
Raphael far higher as a philosophical painter, that
is, possessing an open sense and a deep sympathy
with man in all his phases. Sterling-'s critique was
most interesting. He spoke of them being far in-
ferior in grandeur to Michael Angelo's, but then
Michael Angelo's were perpetual transcripts of him-
self. Now Raphael was able to look quite out of
himself, alike into the faces of his fellows and their
opposites, and to render them truly on the canvas.
He called Cruikshank the Raphael of Cockney-


dom. We examined a portrait of him which he
has just given forth. It is not known if it be a
genuine likeness or a capital joke, but it is quite
what one might fancy him to be.

Webster, the American, after being three months
in town, was asked what his feeling was about
London. ^'^The same as it was at first," he replied,
'' Amazement ! "

July 27. — The Doctor has brightened up a little
since the arrival of the Stangers,^ and to-day crept
out with us on " Z" to Penjerrick; he gave a
beautiful little glimpse of some of the analogies
between Society and the Individual. Each must,
he holds, be left more to itself and its God ; there
are epochs and diseases and difficulties through
which each must pass, but for these there is a
remedy deeper than restraining and constraining
laws. Plato discovered this analogy, and accord-
ingly created the words Microcosm and Macro-
cosm ; yet the world will not learn that Society
cannot fall to pieces if left to right itself. He went
into some of the intricacies of his own character —

^ Dr. Calvert's only sister and her husband, who now came to
nurse him in what proved his fatal illness.


his want of self-esteem^ which^ though it does not
hinder him from objecting to the theories of all
others,, prevents his confidence in his own^ vniless
built up on indisputable, reasonable, manifest truth.
Rumball, the Phrenologist, has been examining his
head, and he is quite willing that his character of
him should be seen, because he thinks it an instructive
one, just as he would have his body examined after
death for the benefit of medical science.

Plymouth, July 30. — Attended the British Asso-
ciation Meeting here. Sir Henry de la Beche
was President of the Geological Section, which was
by far the most popular, and certainly very inter-
esting. He was a most spirited president. This
evenincj, as we were takinsr tea at Colonel Mud2:e's,
he wandered in, and was forcibly reminded of
old times in seeing us all. On education in
general, and popular education in particular, he
spoke in a tone and dialect not foreign to Carlvle.
" Say honestly, education they want and education
they shall have, and the thing is done, but let it
be said honestly or not at all." He talked with
strong sympathy of Carlyle's " Chartism," and
remarked concerning the fallacies discoverable
therein, "Why, no perfect book, any more than


a perfect character, can exist whilst the world and
we are human."

August 3. — Dined at the W. S. Harris's, and
met a very pleasant party. My lot at dinner was
cast with Henry de la Beche. He talked of the
all-importance of an honest belief. I see he is
very careful not to give his opinion until he has
really studied the subject, he so dreads and depre-
cates untrue statements both of opinion and fact.
He was complimented on the way in which he
had performed his duties as chairman, and con-
fidentially told me that the secret of pleasing in
that department was to bring others forward and
keep yourself in the background.

Falmouth, August 7. — Professor Lloyd ^ and his
wife appeared after breakfast ; we took shipping
and went to Trelissick. Talked about Quetelet:
he is a sort of universal genius, his present object
the investigation of cycles. Babbage has been

1 Lloyd (Rev. Humphrey), D.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., born in
Dublin 1800. He was especially devoted to the sciences of
Light and Magnetism, and in 1838 the newly-founded Magnetical
Observatory in Dublin was placed under his direction. He was
made Provost of Trinity Colle.^e in 1867, and died in 18S1. He
wrote many valuable works on the .subjects in which he took so
especial an interest.


attempting to form statistics of suicides^ but re-
marked, "We must have many more examples
before we can get at an accurate result." When
the Franklins and Sabines were excursing in Ire-
land, they went through some difficult pass. Pro-
fessor Lloyd was with them, and vastly amused
at Lady Franklin again and again saying, " John,
you had better go back, you are certainly giddy."
At last, poor woman, she had to change her feint,
and could proceed no farther. Sir John found it
advisable to carry her back, and asked Colonel
Sabine to assist him. The Colonel thought it
nervous w^ork and hesitated, until encouraged in
a grave matter-of-fact way by the excellent hus-
band. " Don't be afraid, Sabine ; she never kicks
when she's faint ! "

Aumist 8. — Took a calm little walk with Pro-


fessor Lloyd, in which he beautifully analysed
Whewell's character, sermons, and scientific stand-
ing. To each the objections are rather negative
than positive, but nevertheless they are objections.
Charming evening over poetry, ghosts, &c. He
recommends Taylor's " Physical Theory of Another
Life." His own belief in ghosts extends thus far
— At the moment at which the soul is separated


from the body^ he thinks the spirit may range for
any definite purpose^ our comprehension of which
is by no means necessary for its reality,

August 10. — Went to Grove Hill, where we
found Ritter, a most remarkable object, with a
most Goethean countenance and grand forehead.
He was much interested in hearing Sterling talk
on Germany and the Germans. His own part in
the dialogue was very '' So ! So ! " Speaking of
Bettina's mode of bringing up her children, he
said, " She does no ting to dem, but let dem go,
and yet dey all turn out well." Professor Owen
was of our party. He said, with reference to an
analogy he spoke of last night, " It is only the
first step to a boundless field of analogies ; there
are many I have discovered of a most profound
nature, of which that is merely a hint." He is a
very interesting person, his face full of energetic
thought and quiet strength. His eye has in it a
fixedness of purpose, and enthusiasm for that pur-
pose, seldom surpassed.

ylugust 12. — Breakfast made most joyous by
Colonel Sabine^ announcing that he had got

1 Sahme (General Sir Edward), K.C.B., F.R.S., born 1788.
Took a pari in the explorations in the Northern Seas with Ross


glorious news for us, which he set us to guess.
His wife looked keenly at him, and asked, '' It
is about Captain Ross?" Such is the sympathy
between these married magnetists ; for in very
truth it was about Captain Ross — that he had
reached 78° South lat., being 11° further than any
one before him. He had discovered snow-capped
mountains. Twenty-two years since (in 181 8)
Colonel Sabine and he had stood upon the North
Pole Ice, and the former said, " Well, Ross, when
you become a post-captain and a great man, you
must go through the same work at the South Pole."
Colonel Sabine's excitement is delightful, and the
spirit of reverent thankfulness with which he re-
ceives the tidings truly instructive. They are so
charmed at the coincidence of the news arriving
here, when Lloyd, Sabine, and Fox are assembled

To Hunt's lecture in the evening, on ^^The
Influence of Poetry and Painting on Education."
John Sterling in the chair, where he sat with

and Parry in 1818. Was secretary to the Royal Society from
1827 to 1830, and to him we owe the establishment of Magnetic
Observatories. He succeeded Sir Benjamin Brodie as President
of the Royal Society in iS6i.



tolerable composure till the conclusion. He then
thanked our Lecturer for the pains he had taken
to instruct us^ and added a few impressive words :
" Guard against self-deception of every species.
True poetry is not the plaything of an idle fancy,
nor the pursuit of a vacant moment, but the result
of concentrated energy and the offspring of untiring

August 18. — Breakfasted at the Joseph Carne's
and met Conybeare, who was very interesting about
his theological lectures and some of their effects.
He once attended a Unitarian Chapel, and was
much astonished at their prayer at the end ; it was
no petition, but a sort of summary of the perfections
of the Deity. He went with Dr. Pritchard to one
of J. J. Gurney's meetings, and listened to a kind of
apologetic discourse for the peculiarities of our Body.
He was especially tickled at his mention of women's
preaching. " Shall we silence our women ? We
cannot do it ! Wc dare not do it ! " He takes a
very bright impression of the present race of scien-
tific men, so much religious feeling among them.
Told us of Sedgwick's listening to a party of ladies
talking phrenology. He joined in with, '^Do you
know I have been much interested in watching


X lecturing. He begins with rather a barren-
ness of ideas^ but as he proceeds his views enlarge
and spread themselves, till at last his wig becomes
quite uncomfortable.^'

August 30. — John Sterling is extremely pleased
with his visit to Carclew, and the society there of
two men of European celebrity. He characterises
Lloyd as a highly cultivated and naturally refined
abstract thinker, living and dreaming in his abstrac-
tions, feeling " the around him " as nothing, and
''the beyond him" everything; his course, there-
fore, very naturally takes the direction of pure
mathematics. Owen, with his strong perceptions,
vigorous energy, and active will, chooses organic
matter for his investigations, and dwells rather in
what is and what has been, than in what may be.
It is interesting to observe how these antithetical
characters have alike arrived at the fact of the
extreme importance of analogies,

A large party met on Meudon beach to draw
a seine for Professor Owen, the result of which was
one cuttle-fish, which he bore back in triumph on
his stick. We all lounged on the beach most
peacefully, John Sterling reading some of Tennyson
to us, which displays a poetical fancy and intense


sympathy with dreamy romance^ and withal a pure
pathos, drawn direct from the heart of Nature.

Owen was very deHghtful ; he is such a natural
creature, never affecting the stilted " philosophe/'
and never ashamed of the science which he so
ardently loves. He is passionately fond of scenen," ;
indeed, all that the Infinite Mind has impressed on
Matter has a charm and a voice for him. A truly
Catholic soul ! He is delighted with the Cornish
character of independence, kind-heartedness, intelli-
gence, and energy.

Interesting ride home; talked much of Sterling:
the struggle he had in his voyage from the West
Indies was an emancipation from the authority of
man, and a conviction that thenceforth he must
live according to conscience. Grandly as that
Divine fiat stands forth, " Let there he Light," by
which a material world was revealed, how infinitely
more sublime is the act of Deity when " Let there
be Light" is again spoken, and a human soul
beholds its Maker !

September i. — Went to the Sterlings', where he
talked of Poetry. Milton and Shakespeare, Schiller
and Goethe, arc illustrious antithetical examples of
Lyric and Dramatic Poets. John Milton was


legible throughout all his writings, and Schiller
painted himself in all his characters. The other
two are world-wide, addressing the sympathies of
the race. This higher tone of feeling, and expres-
sion of feeling, not to be attained by any cultiva-
tion, affectation, or sudden leap, but by a conscien-
tious and loving sympathy with all. Wilson, the
landscape-painter, when he first looked on Tivoli,
exclaimed, " Well done water — by God ! "

September 2. — With Sterling, who professes him-
self quite happy with society, philosophy, scenery,
and Cornish cream. He delights in Owfen, with all
his enthusiasm for fossil reptiles ; and then he so
cordially acknowledges Shakespeare as one of the
hugest amongst organised fossils ! Dora Lloyd
asked Sterling what Kant thought. " He thought
fifteen octavo volumes,'^ was the reply.

September 4. — Mrs. Owen gave us many sketches
of her own life and experiences. She has been a
great deal with the Cuvier family, and considers
Cuvier an infinitely great man — so great, indeed,
that you could never approach him without feeling
your own inferiority. Her husband strongly recom-
mends Cuvier's '^Eloges" as very beautiful pieces
of biography. He thinks him the greatest man


since Aristotle_, not to be repeated for two thousand
years. He has great faith in cycles applied to great
men^ such regular intervals occurred between the
Epic Poets. Mrs. Owen told us about her educa-
tion^ which was very much left to herself. She
said, " I determined to get to myself as much know-
ledge as possible, so I studied languages, even
Russian; music, drawing, and comparative anatomy.
My father being Curator at the College of Surgeons,
I had great facilities for this latter branch. I deter-
mined I would never love any but a very superior
man, and see how fortunate I have been." She is
a very perfect little Fact in the great history of the

Septemler 5. — Professor Owen talked about phre-
nology, which he considers the most remarkable
chimera which has taken possession of rational
heads for a long time ; his strongest argument was
that animals have no room for what are called the
animal organs, therefore the intellectual ought to be
placed at the back of the head. Talked enthusias-
tically of Whcwell and his '' Philosophy of the
Inductive Sciences," a book which he thinks will
live by the side of Bacon's " Novum Organum."
He considers him as deep as he is universal. A rare


eulogy. He is delighting in Carlyle's " French
Revolution." Carlyle reminds him of Milton in
his prose works^ whence he thinks he derived much
of the peculiarity of his style. Talking of Carlyle's
message of sympathy with the entire race^ Owen
dissents_, from adopting Johnson's principle^ " I like
a good hater." We battled this^ and the result did
not weaken my faith in the premises. In the
evening Owen gave us the individual adventures
of different specimens of heads and a foot of the
Dodo now existing in this country, the history of
the Oxford one traceable from Elizabeth's time. In
Ashmole's time it was a whole bird^ but his execu-
tors finding it dusty, broke off the head and burnt
the rest, and successive naturalists have chanted a
loud miserere. He gave a lecture on going to bed
early : the two hours before midnight the most
important for health.

Septemher 6. — On the Pennance Rocks in a dolce
far niente state ; the Professor perfectly happy. He
gave me lesson No. i on the primary divisions in
Natural History. John Sterling joined us there,
and we had some talk over Wordsworth, Carlyle,
and collateral subjects. Lady Holland has esta-
blished a sort of tyranny over matters of literature


and criticism. Henry Taylor, dining one day at
Holland House, Lady Holland asked him what he
was doing now. " I am writing a review of Words-
worth for the Quarterhj." "What!" exclaimed
her Ladyship, "absolutely busied about the man
who writes of caps and pinafores and that sort of
thing ! " Taylor replied in the gravest, quietest
way, '''That is a mode of criticising Wordsworth
which has been obsolete for the last ten years."
And Taylor has not since been asked to Holland

Sterling attributes the obscurity often met with
in Wordsworth to his unavailing attempt to recon-
cile philosophical insight with those forms of opinion,
religious and political, in which he had been edu-
cated, and which the majority around him held,
Ov/cn thinks that Coleridge had a bad effect on the
young literary men about him, in teaching them to
speak, instead of write, their thoughts. His delight
in Carlyle is refreshing to witness.

The Owens and Sterlings joined us this evening
to listen to a very beautiful lecture on Light which
Professor Lloyd was so good as to give us. He felt
great dilllculty in his task, being shut out from
mathematics for this evening, but told us wonderful


facts and exhibited beautiful phenomena, and gave
an interesting sketch of the progressive views of
Light which have been held by our greatest men.
Newton considered it to consist of an infinite number
of molecules fluns; in all directions from the brio;ht
body, and reflected or refracted according to the
nature of the substance with which they came in
contact. Huygens, on the other hand, discovered
the two-sidedness of light-beams, and hence got at
the true view of Light and its w\ave-like mode of
transmission. All experiment and analogy confirmed
this view, — the coincidence or interference of the
waves of light producing an intense light or dark-
ness analogous to the nodal points in sound ; the
interference of rings in water into which two stones
have been thrown ; the points of intense heat and
cold produced by fire ; and in fact all the phenomena
attendant on vibration. With reference to the
vastness of his subject, he quoted some one who
speaks of the Pendulum of Eternity which beats
epochs as ours do seconds. Sterling was greatly
struck with the magnificence of the conception, that
if the fixed stars were annihilated we should not be
conscious of it for many years, spite of the rapidity
with which light travels.


Professor Owen was busy taking notes; he is so
glad to have heard this lecture, for whenever he
got at strange phenomena, such as mother-of-pearl
appearances, and consulted Whewell, he was briefly-
assured that it arose from the polarisation of light,
which seemed a clear and conclusive answer to
every difficulty, whereas our dear Lecturer could
only view it as a monstrous bugbear which he could
not get hold of.

September 7. — The Owens started with us, and
we had an extremely pleasant drive to Heligan. He
told us some capital stories concerning Irish land-
lords and their clever methods of helping their
tenants ; also an amusing story of Lord Enniskillen,
who on his father's death found a piece of waste
land the subject of desperate contention between
him and an old lady. So he called on her, and
found her rather stiff and shy, as w^as natural. At
last conversation got to the Chancery suit in which
they were embarking. Lord Enniskillen took out
a sovereign, and remarking, '^'^ Well, I think this is
a better way of settling the business," tossed it up,
crying, " Heads or tails ? " " Tails ! " cried the old
lady, falling involuntarily into the humour; and
tails it was, and the land was hers! A few davs


after. Lord Enniskillen had to preside at a Dis-
pensary Meeting, when a very handsome sum was
sent in by this old lady, who had had the land
appraised, and feeling some misgivings, had sent
the exact amount to this charity.

September 9. — Sterling was asking this morning
what outward impulse A. B. had had to her deep
thoughtfulness. I could think of none, and queried
if any were necessary. " No," he said ; " George
Fox had his Bible to go to, and A. B. also has had
the Bible, and power to draw deeply from so pure
a well." He talked very impressively about work
and what we all had to do^ and the wasting
confusion which lasted until we found out what
our work was. With the majority, he thinks
philosophy rather likely to confuse than clear the
mind : spoke of some primary truths, on which the
most cloudy heads may see bright sunshine ; that
man is a religious animal, and must have a Higher
than himself to reverence ; that, spite of all cants,
there is such a thing as genuine love of Truth.
These are glorious and eternal facts in the life of
the Mind.

September 12. — Dr. Calvert so much better as
to be again in his garden. His state lately has


Ijcen distressing from extreme languor, weakness,
and depression. If he ever gave way to such
expressions as " I wish I were dead/' he always
suffered afterwards most bitterly from self-reproach.

September 14. — John Sterling said this morning
that he supposed Schiller was the only person who
could bear to have all his words noted down. Of
him, Goethe said to a friend of Sterling's, " I have
never heard from him an insisTnificant w ord." That
was high praise.

September 20. — Evening at Grove Hill ; met
John Sterling. Looked over multitudes of engrav-
ings in search of a head of Simonides, because
Sterling fondly hoped to find some likeness between
it and Goethe. Talked of Dante : he calls his poem
not an epic but a lyric, the head of the lyrics, on
account of its unhesitating subjectivity; the Poet not
only speaks his own thoughts but is his own hero.
Looking at a little alabaster Samuel praying, he
quoted Carlyle's criticism, "that it was dilettanti
prayer ! " Coleridge called a Gothic cathedral
" petrified religion," a striking term. Spoke of
the extreme reverence which the Germans entertain
for the antique. I objected that they showed little
mercy or veneration for the opinions and creeds of


their ancestors. " No/' he said ; " they strive to
remove every crust and encumbrance, that the form
may be perfectly preserved and restored."

September 21. — John Sterling talking of Emerson.
He thinks him a one-sided man, but that it is well
worth while to look thoroughly into his theory of
the world and its government. Talked character-
istically of Spinoza, a Dutch Jew : I had quite
fancied him an Italian ; also of the Jewish and
philosophical views of our dependence on a Higher
Power, which he thinks may coexist in the same
person — at least he says he feels it so himself, and
that it is viewing God as an intellectual as well as
a moral Being.

September 23. — John Sterling joined us. Spoke
of the different ages of the world : difficult to
be compared or dogmatised on as relatively good.
One age is concentrative, and its great men are
Titans ; another diffusive, and all men nearly alike.
No man ever grew to his spiritual height without
sympathy, nor can he ever. This is a most beauti-
ful and deep and universal fact of our nature. We
are intended to live in love one with another, and
any contradiction of this fundamental law entails
just so much halfncss and futility and narrowness


of insight. A Plato never rose amongst barbarians.
He thinks Barclay amazingly improved in his
poetry, and his admiration is great for one line —
"A plant that seeks the sun, yet grasps the soil/'
as being perfectly felicitous, simplicity and depth

Uncle Joshua remarked that the majority of
fashionable women keep themselves in tolerable
health by talking : they would die otherwise for
want of exercise.

September 30. — Saw Dr. Calvert again to-day,
who was quite his old self, talking on his old
subjects in his old way. He reads little now but
Chinese stories, which he thinks suit him well.
He defined Deism in its pure form as the Religion
of Christ towards God. Harriet Martineau's works
are pure Deism ; you would not look for Chris-
tianity from her pen, but as far as they go they are

October 5. — Colonel Sabine forwarded Captain
Ross's Journal to Papa, which is very interesting;
full of the spirit of British enterprise, and enthu-
siasm for his object, and intolerance towards all
other nations which attempt discovery, as though
it were the indisputable prerogative of England.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19

Online LibraryCaroline FoxMemories of old friends : being extracts from the journals of Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall from 1835 to 1871 (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 19)