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captive. You have bathed with stillness. O when
the spirit is sore fretted, even tired to sickness of
the janglings, and nonsense-noises of the world,
what a balm and a solace it is, to go and seat your-
self, for a quiet half hour, upon some undisputed
corner of a bench, among the gentle Quakers !

Their garb and stillness conjoined, present an
uniformity, tranquil and herd-like as in the pasture
" forty feeding like one."

The very garments of a Quaker seem incapable
of receiving a soil; and cleanliness in them to be
something more than the absence of its contrary.
Every Quakeress is a lily ; and when they come up
in bands to their Whitsun-conferences, whitening
the easterly streets of the metropolis, from all parts
of the United Kingdom, they show like troops of
the Shining Ones.


MY reading has been lamentably desultory and
immethodical. Odd, out of the way, old English
plays, and treatises, have supplied me with most of
my notions, and ways of feeling. In every thing
that relates to science, I am a whole Encyclopaedia
behind the rest of the world. I should have scarcely
cut a figure among the franklins, or country gen-
tlemen, in king John's days. I know less geography
than a school-boy of six weeks' standing. To me a
map of old Ortelius is as authentic as Arrowsmith.
I do not know whereabout Africa merges into Asia ;
whether Ethiopia lie in one or other of those great
divisions; nor can form the remotest conjecture of
the position of New South Wales, or Van Diemen's
Land. Yet do I hold a correspondence with a very
dear friend in the first-named of these two Terrae
Incognitas. I have no astronomy. I do not know
where to look for the Bear, or Charles's Wain ; the
place of any star ; or the name of any of them at


sight. I guess at Venus only by her brightness
and if the sun on some portentous morn were to
make his first appearance in the West, I verily be-
lieve, that, while all the world were gasping in
apprehension about me, I alone should stand unter-
rified, from sheer incuriosity and want of observa-
tion. Of history and chronology I possess some
vague points, such as one cannot help picking up in
the course of miscellaneous study; but I never de-
liberately sat down to a chronicle, even of my own
country. I have most dim apprehensions of the four
great monarchies ; and sometimes the Assyrian,
sometimes the Persian, floats as first in my fancy.
I make the widest conjectures concerning Egypt,
and her shepherd kings. My friend M. 9 with great
pains -taking, got me to think I understood the first
proposition in Euclid, but gave me over in despair
at the second. I am entirely unacquainted with the


modern languages ; and, like a better man than my-
self, have " small Latin and less Greek." I am a
stranger to the shapes and texture of the commonest
trees, herbs, flowers not from the circumstance of
my being town- born for I should have brought
the same inobservant spirit into the world with me,
had I first seen it in " on Devon's leafy shores, '
and am no less at a loss among purely town- objects,
tools, engines, mechanic processes. Not that I affect
ignorance but my head has not many mansions.


nor spacious; and I have been obliged to fill it
with such cabinet curiosities as it can hold without
aching. I sometimes wonder, how I have passed
my probation with so little discredit in the world,
as I have done, upon so meagre a stock. But the
fact is, a man may do very well with a very little
knowledge, and scarce be found out, in mixed com-
pany; every body is so much more ready to pro-
duce his own, than to call for a display of your
acquisitions. But in a tete-a-tete there is no shuf-
fling. The truth will out. There is nothing which
I dread so much, as the being left alone for a quarter
of an hour with a sensible, well-informed man, that
does not know me. I lately got into a dilemma of
this sort.

In one of my daily jaunts between Bishopsgate
and Shacklewell, the coach stopped to take up a
staid-looking gentleman, about the wrong side of
thirty, who was giving his parting directions (while
the steps were adjusting), in a tone of mild au-
thority, to a tall youth, who seemed to be neither
his clerk, his son, nor his servant, but something
partaking of all three. The youth was dismissed,
and we drove on. As we were the sole passengers,
he naturally enough addressed his conversation to
me ; and we discussed the merits of the fare, the
civility and punctuality of the driver; the circum-
stance of an opposition coach having been lately set


up, with the probabilities of its success to all which
I was enabled to return pretty satisfactory answers,
having been drilled into this kind of etiquette by
some years' daily practice of riding to and fro in the
stage aforesaid when he suddenly alarmed me by
a startling question, whether I had seen the show of
prize cattle that morning in Smithfield? Now as I
had not seen it, and do not greatly care for such
sort of exhibitions, I was obliged to return a cold
negative. He seemed a little mortified, as well as
astonished, at my declaration, as (it appeared) he
was just come fresh from the sight, and doubtless
had hoped to compare notes on the subject. How-
ever he assured me that I had lost a fine treat, as it
far exceeded the show of last year. We were now
approaching Norton Falgate, when the sight of some
shop-goods ticketed freshened him up into a disser-
tation upon the cheapness of cottons this spring. I
was now a little in heart, as the nature of my morn-
ing avocations had brought me into some sort of
familiarity with the raw material ; and I was surprised
to find how eloquent I was becoming on the state of
the India market when, presently, he dashed my
incipient vanity to the earth at once, by inquiring
whether I had ever made any calculation as to the
value of the rental of all the retail shops in London.
Had he asked of me, what song the Sirens sang, or
what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself


among women, I might, with Sir Thomas Browne,
have hazarded a "wide solution*." My companion
saw my embarrassment, and, the almhouses beyond
Shoreditch just coming in view, with great good-
nature and dexterity shifted his conversation to the
subject of public charities ; which led to the com-
parative merits of provision for the poor in past and
present times, with observations on the old monas-
tic institutions, and charitable orders ; but, finding
me rather dimly impressed with some glimmering
notions from old poetic associations, than strongly
fortified with any speculations reducible to calcula-
tion on the subject, he gave the matter up ; and,
the country beginning to open more and more upon
us, as we approached the turnpike at Kingsland (the
destined termination of his journey), he put a home
thrust upon me, in the most unfortunate position he
could have chosen, by advancing some queries rela-
tive to the North Pole Expedition. While I was
muttering out something about the Panorama of those
strange regions (which I had actually seen), by way
of parrying the question, the coach stopping relieved
me from any further apprehensions. My companion
getting out, left me in the comfortable possession of
my ignorance; and I heard him, as he went off,
putting questions to an outside passenger, who had
alighted with him, regarding an epidemic disorder,

* Urn Burial.


that had been rife about Dalston; and which, my
friend assured him, had gone through five or six
schools in that neighbourhood. The truth now flashed
upon me, that my companion was a schoolmaster;
and that the youth, whom he had parted from at our
first acquaintance, must have been one of the bigger
boys, or the usher. He was evidently a kind-
hearted man, who did not seem so much desirous of
provoking discussion by the questions which he put,
as of obtaining information at any rate. It did not
appear that he took any interest, either, in such
kind of inquiries, for their own sake ; but that he
was in some way bound to seek for knowledge. A
greenish-coloured coat, which he had on, forbade me
to surmise that he was a clergyman. The adventure
gave birth to some reflections on the difference be-
tween persons of his profession in past and present

Rest to the souls of those fine old Pedagogues ; the
breed, long since extinct, of the Lilys, and the Lin-
acres : who believing that all learning was contained
in the languages which they taught, and despising
every other acquirement as superficial and useless,
came to their task as to a sport ! Passing from in-
fancy to age, they dreamed away all their days as in
a grammar-school. Revolving in a perpetual cycle
of declensions, conjugations, syntaxes, and prosodies ;
renewing constantly the occupations which had


charmed their studious childhood ; rehearsing con-
tinually the part of the past ; life must have slipped
from them at last like one day. They were always
in their first garden, reaping harvests of their golden
time, among their Flori and their Spici-legia ; in
Arcadia still, but kings ; the ferule of their sway not
much harsher, but of like dignity with that mild
sceptre attributed to king Basileus ; the Greek and
Latin, their stately Pamela and their Philoclea ; with
the occasional duncery of some untoward Tyro, serving
for a refreshing interlude of a Mopsa, or a clown
Damsetas !

With what a savour doth the Preface to Colet's, or
(as it is sometimes called) Paul's Accidence, set
forth ! " To exhort every man to the learning of
grammar, that intendeth to attain the understanding
of the tongues, wherein is contained a great treasury
of wisdom and knowledge, it would seem but vain
and lost labour; for so much as it is known, that
nothing can surely be ended, whose beginning is
either 'feeble or faulty ; and no building be perfect,
whereas the foundation and ground-work is ready to
fall, and unable to uphold the burden of the frame."
How well doth this stately preamble (comparable to
those which Milton commendeth as " having been
the usage to prefix to some solemn law, then first
promulgated by Solon, or Lycurgus") correspond
with and illustrate that pious zeal for conformity, ex-


pressed in a succeeding clause, which would fence
about grammar-rules with the severity of faith-arti-
cles ! "as for the diversity of grammars, it is well
profitably taken away by the king majesties wisdom,
who foreseeing the inconvenience, and favourably
providing the remedie, caused one kind of grammar
by sundry learned men to be diligently drawn, and
so to be set out, only everywhere to be taught for
the use of learners, and for the hurt in changing of
schoolmaisters." What a gusto in that which follows :
"wherein it is profitable that he [the pupil] can
orderly decline his noun, and his verb." His noun !

The fine dream is fading away fast ; and the least
concern of a teacher in the present day is to incul-
cate grammar-rules.

The modern schoolmaster is expected to know a
little of every thing, because his pupil is required not
to be entirely ignorant of any thing. He must be
superficially, if I may so say, omniscient. He is to
know something of pneumatics ; of chemistry ; of
whatever is curious, or proper to excite the attention
of the youthful mind; an insight into mechanics is'
desirable, with a touch of statistics; the quality of
soils, &c. botany, the constitution of his country,
cum multis aliis. You may get a notion of some
part of his expected duties by consulting the famous
Tractate on Education addressed to Mr. Hartlib.

All these things these, or the desire of them


he is expected to instil, not by set lessons from pro-
fessors, which he may charge in the bill, but at
school-intervals, as he walks the streets, or saunters
through green fields (those natural instructors), with
his pupils. The least part of what is expected from
him, is to be done in school-hours. He must insin-
uate knowledge at the mollia tempora fandi. He
must seize every occasion the season of the year
>/ the time of the day a passing cloud a rainbow
a waggon of hay a regiment of soldiers going by
to inculcate something useful. He can receive no
pleasure from a casual glimpse of Nature, but must
catch at it as an object of instruction. He must
interpret beauty into the picturesque. He cannot
relish a beggar-man, or a gypsy, for thinking of the
suitable improvement. Nothing comes to him, not
spoiled by the sophisticating medium of moral uses.
The Universe that Great Book, as it has been
called is to him indeed, to all intents and pur-
poses, a book, out of which he is doomed to read
tedious homilies to distasting schoolboys. Vacations
themselves are none to him, he is only rather worse off
than before ; for commonly he has some intrusive
upper-boy fastened upon him at such times; some
cadet of a great family ; some neglected lump of
nobility, or gentry; that he must drag after him to
the play, to the Panorama, to Mr. Bartley's Orrery,
to the Panopticon, or into the country, to a friend's


house, or his favourite watering-place. Wherever he
goes, this uneasy shadow attends him. A boy is at
his board, and in his path, and in all his movements.
He is boy-rid, sick of perpetual boy.

Boys are capital fellows in their own way, among
their mates ; but they are unwholesome companions
for grown people. The restraint is felt no less on
the one side, than on the other. Even a child, that
" plaything for an hour," tires always. The noises
of children, playing their own fancies as I now
hearken to them by fits, sporting on the green be-
fore my window, while I am engaged in these grave
speculations at my neat suburban retreat at Shackle-
well by distance made more sweet inexpressibly
take from the labour of my task. It is like writing to
music. They seem to modulate my periods. They
ought at least to do so for in the voice of that
tender age there is a kind of poetry, far unlike the
harsh prose-accents of man's conversation. I should
but spoil their sport, and dimmish my own sympathy
for them, by mingling in their pastime.

I would not be domesticated all my days with a
person of very superior capacity to my own not,
if I know myself at all, from any considerations of
jealousy or self-comparison, for the occasional com-
munion with such minds has constituted the fortune
and felicity of my life but the habit of too constant
intercourse with spirits above you, instead of raising


you, keeps you down. Too frequent doses of ori-
ginal thinking from others, restrain what lesser por-
tion of that faculty you may possess of your own.
You get entangled in another man's mind, even as
you lose yourself in another man's grounds. You
are walking with a tall varlet, whose strides out-pace
yours to lassitude. The constant operation of such
potent agency would reduce me, I am convinced, to
imbecility. You may derive thoughts from others;
your way of thinking, the mould in which your
thoughts are cast, must be your own. Intellect may
be imparted, but not each man's intellectual frame.

As little as I should wish to be always thus dragged
upwards, as little (or rather still less) is it desirable
to be stunted downwards by your associates. The
trumpet does not more stun you by its loudness,
than a whisper teases you by its provoking inaudi-

Why are we never quite at our ease in the presence
of a schoolmaster? because we are conscious that
he is not quite at his ease in ours. He is awkward,
and out of place, in the society of his equals. He
comes like Gulliver from among his little people,
and he cannot fit the stature of his understanding to
yours. He cannot meet you on the square. He
wants a point given him, like an indifferent whist-
player. He is so used to teaching, that he wants to
be teaching you. One of these professors, upon my


complaining that these little sketches of mine were
any thing but methodical, and that I was unable to
make them otherwise, kindly offered to instruct me
in the method by which young gentlemen in his
seminary were taught to compose English themes.
The jests of a schoolmaster are coarse, or thin. They
do not tell out of school. He is under the restraint
of a formal and didactive hypocrisy in company, as
a clergyman is under a moral one. He can no more
let his intellect loose in society, than the other can
his inclinations. He is forlorn among his co-evals ;
his juniors cannot be his friends.

" I take blame to myself," said a sensible man of
this profession, writing to a friend respecting a youth
who had quitted his school abruptly, " that your
nephew was not more attached to me. But persons
in my situation are more to be pitied, than can well
be imagined. We are surrounded by young, and,
consequently, ardently affectionate hearts, but we can
never hope to share an atom of their affections. The
relation of master and scholar forbids this. How
pleasing this must be to you, how I envy your feelings,
my friends will sometimes say to me, when they see
young men, whom I have educated, return after some
years absence from school, their eyes shining with "
pleasure, while they shake hands with their old mas-
ter, bringing a present of game to me, or a toy to
my wife, and thanking me in the warmest terms for


my care of their education. A holiday is begged for
the boys ; the house is a scene of happiness ; I, only,
am sad at heart. This fine-spirited and warm-
hearted youth, who fancies he repays his master with
gratitude for the care of his boyish years this young
man in the eight long years I watched over him
with a parent's anxiety, never could repay me with
one look of genuine feeling. He was proud, when
I praised ; he was submissive, when I reproved him ;
but he did never love me and what he now mis-
takes for gratitude and kindness for me, is but the
pleasant sensation, which all persons feel at revisiting
the scene of their boyish hopes and fears ; and the
seeing on equal terms the man they were accustomed
to look up to with reverence. My wife, too," this
interesting correspondent goes on to say, " my once
darling Anna, is the wife of a schoolmaster. When
I married her knowing that the wife of a school-
master ought to be a busy notable creature, and fear-
ing that my gentle Anna would ill supply the loss of
my dear bustling mother, just then dead, who never
sat still, was in every part of the house in a moment,
and whom I was obliged sometimes to threaten to
fasten down in a chair, to save her from fatiguing
herself to deat'i I expressed my fears, that I was
bringing her into a way of life unsuitable to her;
and she, who loved me tenderly, promised for my
sake to exert herself to perform the duties of her new


situation. She promised, and she has kept her word.
What wonders will not a woman's love perform ?
My house is managed with a propriety and decorum,
unknown in other schools; my boys are well fed,
look healthy, and have every proper accommoda-
tion ; and all this performed with a careful economy,
that never descends to meanness. But I have lost
my gentle, helpless Anna ! When we sit down to
enjoy an hour of repose after the fatigue of the day,
I am compelled to listen to what have been her use-
ful (and they are really useful) employments through
the day, and what she proposes for her to-morrow's
task. Her heart and her features are changed by
the duties of her situation. To the boys, she never
appears other than the master's wife, and she looks
up to me as the boys' 1 master ; to whom all show of
love and affection would be highly improper, and
unbecoming the dignity of her situation and mine.
Yet this my gratitude forbids me to hint to her.
For my sake she submitted to be this altered crea-
ture, and can I reproach her for it?" For the
communication of this letter, I am indebted to my
cousin Bridget.


HAIL to thy returning festival, old Bishop Valentine !
Great is thy name in the rubric, thou venerable Arch-
flamen of Hymen ! Immortal Go-between ! who and
what manner of person art thou? Art thou but a
name, typifying the restless principle which impels
poor humans to seek perfection in union? or wert
thou indeed a mortal prelate, with thy tippet and thy
rochet, thy apron on, and decent lawn sleeves?
Mysterious personage ! like unto thee, assuredly,
there is no other mitred father in the calendar; not
Jerome, nor Ambrose, nor Cyril ; nor the consigner
of undipt infants to eternal torments, Austin, whom
all mothers hate ; nor he who hated all mothers,
Origen; nor Bishop Bull, nor Archbishop Parker,
nor Whitgift. Thou comest attended with thousands
and ten thousands of little Loves, and the air is

Brush'd with the hiss of rustling wings.

Singing Cupids are thy choristers and thy precen-
tors ; and instead of the crosier, the mystical arrow
is borne before thee.


In other words, this is the day on which those
charming little missives, ycleped Valentines, cross
and intercross each other at every street and turn-
ing. The weary and all for-spent twopenny postman
sinks beneath a load of delicate embarrassments, not
his own. It is scarcely credible to what an extent
this ephemeral courtship is carried on in this loving
town, to the great enrichment of porters, and detri-
ment of knockers and bell-wires. In these little
visual interpretations, no emblem is so common as
the heart, that little three-cornered exponent of
all our hopes and fears, the bestuck and bleeding
heart ; it is twisted and tortured into more allegories
and affectations than an opera hat. What authority
we have in history or mythology for placing the head-
quarters and metropolis of God Cupid in this ana-
tomical seat rather than in any other, is not very
clear ; but we have got it, and it will serve as well as
any other. Else we might easily imagine, upon some
other system which might have prevailed for any thing
which our pathology knows to the contrary, a lover
addressing his mistress, in perfect simplicity of feeling,
u Madam, my liver and fortune are entirely at your
disposal ; " or putting a delicate question, " Amanda,
have you a midriff 'to bestow? " But custom has set-
tled these things, and awarded the seat of sentiment to
the aforesaid triangle, while its less fortunate neigh-
bours wait at animal and anatomical distance.

Not many sounds in life, and I include all urban


and all rural sounds, exceed in interest a knock at the
door. It "gives a very echo to the throne where
Hope is seated." But its issues seldom answer to
this oracle within. It is so seldom that just the
person we want to see comes. But of all the clam-
orous visitations the welcomest in expectation is the
sound that ushers in, or seems to usher in, a Valen-
tine. As the raven himself was hoarse that an-
nounced the fatal entrance of Duncan, so the knock
of the postman on this day is light, airy, confident,
and befitting one that bringeth good tidings. It is
less mechanical than on other days ; you will say,
"That is not the post, I am sure." Visions of Love,
of Cupids, of Hymens ! delightful eternal common-
places, which " having been will always be ; " which
no school-boy nor school-man can write away ; hav-
ing your irreversible throne in the fancy and affec-
tions what are your transports, when the happy
maiden, opening with careful ringer, careful not to
break the emblematic seal, bursts upon the sight of
some well-designed allegory, some type, some youth-
ful fancy, not without verses

Lovers all,
A madrigal,

or some such device, not over abundant in sense
young Love disclaims it, and not quite silly
something between wind and water, a chorus where
the sheep might almost join the shepherd, as they
did, or as I apprehend they did, in Arcadia,


All Valentines are not foolish ; and I shall not
easily forget thine, my kind friend (if I may have
leave to call you so) E. B. E. B. lived opposite a
young maiden, whom he had often seen, unseen,
from his parlour window in C e-street. She was

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 7 of 32)