Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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We gathered from your beautiful cartoon in Punch that fish was
fau'ly cheap at your wateriug-place.

' We are all happy in our different occupations. 1 employ my
mornings in annotating Lamb's Essays, and my afternoons in pur-
suing the wily trout, who, though small in size (a half-a-pound
one causes an extraordinary sensation), are, by compensation,
rather plentiful and easy of capture.

' Have you seen and read a new story, published by your friend,
George Smith, called Vice Versa. It is one of the cleverest and
most humorous books I have read for many a long day. I wish
you would find out who wrote it. I presume the name given,
" F. Anstey," is a noni de plume merely. The man has extraordinary
talent, in my judgment.'

The following notes were also written — later — during an
absence from Hampstead : —

' Dear Boy, — Your letter did my heart good. I am glad you
like my Type Wnter notion. Why not have, the week following,
a companion picture.


' " Jones's letter does not produce a coiTesponding impression
on Miss Smith." She opens and reads : —


' My Angel

or something to this effect,

' Hotv good Punch is this week ! One of the very best I have
ever read — cuts and letter-press. Who wrote "A City Idyl"?
It is inimitably funny.

* I had quite forgotten " Past praying for," and it made me
laugh as if it had been some one else's. Ha ! Ha ! — Your own

'Alfred Ainger.

' I enclose a fragment of real type-writing as a pattern ! '

' Prospect House, Clifton Hill,
'Bristol, Dec. 26, 1888.

' Dear Friend, — Your long and most kind letter did me good !
All best wishes for you all for the blessed new year when it comes.
I hope to be back in Hampstead on Tuesday next, and shall lose
no time in seeing you — and if you have a vacant evening that week
I shall ask to come and spend it with you.

' I am charmed with the '' E minor Fugue " to-day, and shall
be anxious to know if it proves to be a Chestnut. If it does, you
will be roasted, instead of the Chestnut.

' (Ha ! Ha !— but no matter !)

' I heard a funny thing last evening from the same friend who
gave me the " bull's-eye" subject. It was overheard in a railway
carriage. Smith and Jones talking about a recently established
foreign Emperor — (German !) : —

' Jones. " They tell me that unfortunately he is very bellicose."

' Smith. " Dear me ! You surprise me ! I always understood he
was rather tall and slim ! "

' Is not this enlivening .-*

' I am glad to hear you have done the Type-writer. I had
thought of adding to the legend — " His fellow clerks cannot
quite make out what branch of the correspondence he is engaged

' I will bring you back Jusserand's book, which is excellent.
I mean to buy all his books. My dear friend. Ward, of Owens
College, tells me the book about the English Highways of the
fifteenth century is admirable. He is certainly a remarkable

* . . . A bientot — dear comrade and faithful friend.

' Best love to all. — Your own, Alfred Ainger.'


Sometimes in their walks they had a keen discussion upon
some unrecorded topic, at which we can easily guess by the
trials of skill which they engendered. Now it is Aingcr
who makes honourable amends for some error concerning a
French word : —

"18 jidllel 1858. Aujourd'hui j'ai ete remue jusqu'au fond par
la nostalgie du bonheur et par les appals du souvenir.

'(Fragment d'un Journal Intime — H. F. Atniel, ii. 135).

* Bully for you ! dear friend, A. Ainoer.

* My captious cavils I '11 henceforth retrench ;
Nor charge my frieud with ignorance of French.'

Now it is du Maurier who takes up the pen in praise of
classical metre : —

' O ! de'licieux anapeste ! elegant dactyle !

Doux sponde'e ! aimable trochee ! lambe de bouton !
Si le roi m'avait donue' Paris sa grand' ville,
Et qu'il fallut vous quitter, je lui dirais non !

' Vous combinez quelques mots — tant de pieds par ligne —
Sans cadence ou rythme aucuns — sans accents divers !
Et vous vous imaginez, O folie insigne !

Pourvu que le nonibre y soit, que <;'a fait un vers !

' Ou sout vos dactyles, done? ou sont vos spondees —

Tout cet attirail forge par la tradition ?
Comme en cet affreux latin qu'ou parle aux lyce'es,
Vous n'en faites cas aucun, plus qu'un pauvre pion ! '

Unimportant trifles, these rhymes of a moment — little
feathers of intercourse — yet more significant of happy com-
panionship than many pages of description. And, as in all his
other friendships, the intimacy was extended to du Manner's
family circle. It was one of the secrets of Ainger's charm that
his affections were not exclusive, and that when he made choice
of a comrade he included the comrade''s belongings. He was
welcome to all the du Mauriers, wife and girls and boys alike,
and a natural figure at their hearth, which counted among his
many homes.

Their relations became less frequent after 1887. At this
date Alfred Ainger was given a Canonry at Bristol, which


involved his residing there for three months of every year. It
was not perhaps the place he would have chosen, or that
others would have chosen for him. A canonry at Westminster
was what he most desired. ' If I were only a Canon at
Westminster my highest ambition would be attained,' he wrote
six years later to a friend. Failing that, the cool cloisters
of Canterbury, the old-world precincts of Wells, the storied
purlieus of York or Lincoln, would have been a fitter back-
ground for his figure than the great commercial town, in
spite of St. Mary RedclifFe and the ghosts of Chatterton
and Coleridge. But after he had gone to live there, after
Bristol had grown to mean human beings and become a city
of friends, he quickly learned to look on it as home, and to
find happiness both in his Avork and his surroundings.
And he had other consolations : —

' I owe you many thanks for many things always — and not least for
your kind congratulations on the Canonry/ he wrote to Mr. Dykes
Campbell. ' I am afraid (so strong is my «?i-professional bias) that
when I was offered this distinguished honour my first thought was
" How nice it will be to explore old Bristol some day with Dykes
Campbell, and hunt up the houses and other relics of Southey,
Cottle, and the rest." And so we will, please God, some day —
and you shall take me over to Clevedon and Nether Stowey.'

' Canonries do not come every day, nor jubilees eithei',' he said
to another correspondent. ' I have had so many kind letters on
the occasion (so rich am I in friends) that I have not begun to
think of the possibility of acknowledging them in order.'

He liked tiie recognition of his services, even if it were not
the ideal one. It was not the first tribute received by him.
Already in 1885, the University of Glasgow had made him an
honorary LL.D. — an additional proof, if one were needed, of
the effect produced by his lectures, given from time to time
both in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He greatly enjoyed the
journey to Scotland on this occasion.

' I got your pleasant letter from Syracuse on the papier dii pays^
he wrote to Malcolm Macmillan ' . . . and deciphered it in the
railway-carriage going down to Glasgow — where I have been
LL.D.'d, if you please — and if you ask me what led the Glasgovians


to think of " poor little me " for such an honour^ I can only say
I 'in (LL.)D.'d if I know. . . .

' When I came down from Glasgow town
I was a comely sicht to see.
My Hood was made of black velvet,
And deftly lined with Cramoisie.

' (Old Scot.s- Ballad.)'

These were, perhaps, his busiest years. In 1881, Alexander
Macmillan asked him to undertake the Life of Lamb for the
Men of Letters Series; in 1883, he set to work upon his
edition of Lamb's Essays ; and, in 1887, upon that of Lamb's
Letters, in two volumes — all for the same publisher. These
tasks were the mainspring of his fame as a writer ; they com-
prised his chief literary achievement ; they gave him his
niche in the field of literature, and marked him out as the
lover of Elia, with whose name his was henceforth associated.
In this way they made an epoch in his life, and deserve to
be fully chronicled in a separate chapter.

Meanwhile he took a house every year at Bristol, or to
speak more accurately, at Clifton, the high -lying suburb of
the town ; and here, when his time came round, he installed
himself and his family. The upheaval from Hampstead, at
first disturbing, soon became a habit, and it certainly had
one advantage for his friends — it compelled him to write
more letters. Du Maurier got the most of them and, after
1888, the correspondence was further increased, for then the
du Mauriers also moved from Hampstead into town. ' I am
glad to hear of the Mansion— but " Oh, the difference to
me ! ■" ' wrote Ainger, then at Clifton ; and he felt it sadly
when he came back to Upper Terrace and missed the daily
walks on the Heath. But he was constantly at ' the Mansion '
in Porchester Terrace, and distance did not weaken his

A list of the endings to Ainger's letters to ' his Artist ' is
in itself an epitome of their mutual relations : * Your own
Canon,' 'Your love-sick Canon,' 'Your own Canon in (unde-
sirable) residence,' ' Your Canon in partibus,' * Your own
flippant Canon,' or ' A Continuance of power to your elbow is


the earnest wish of, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant,
Samuel Johnson ' — these are a few among many, and the letters
themselves, which cover fourteen years, always remain equally
expansive. The earlier ones that follow tell their own

PS. — A Canon has no special costume, but should look severely
ecclesiastical — and have a syfiall Rosette in the front of his hat-

Drawbacks to the Position.

Street of fashionable Cathedral town. Cathedral Dignitary
walking out with two nieces. Little dog disappearing in the

Mildred (in agony). Oh ! Uncle ! do Avhistle to Flossy — she '11
be lost.

Cath. Dig. My love, I 'm the New Canon — and I daren't.

' Dearest of friends and correspondents ! — The climate is so hot
and relaxing that I am not up to much, but the sight of your
hand-writing helped me materially — so please repeat the pre-
scription. I was indeed delighted to hear that the R. incident
had (as you say) brought us all luck — I hope Miss R. (being
Scotch) can get the joke into her system without the well-known
operation. That naturally reminds me that Sydney Smith was
once a Canon here — before he was Canon of St. Paul's. So there
is precedent, Sir, for any flippancy that you may detect in my
words or conduct. We are all very happy here — save that the
air does tiot do after Hampstead. It is wonderfully pure and
sweet and delicious, but it lets me down any number of pegs.
All the neighbours and surrounding inhabitants are most kind.
They call upon us in their thousands, I hope Mr. and Mrs.
Evans may come to us for a few days at the end of next week.
Then the week after we have another old friend — then the first
fortnight of August I shall be able to get away a little, for the
Cathedral (Dom-Kirche) is closed for repairs. Then my girls go
to Scotland, and I shall be left rather too much to myself, but I
hope to persuade a few stray bachelor friends to come and pay
me a series of visits.

'What about the "Day in the Country".^ Shall I see it in
Punch } I hope so. What is Anstey Guthrie doing .'' I begin to
fear there are to be no more Amateur Reciters. I wish I could


have told you of something to draw concerning Miss Cass ! But I
never joke on such matters — never,

'. . . No more to-day — but more to come. I am going to send
you a Tailor's pattern-book of Ecclesiastical costumes for your
guidance in Punch. Love from us all — ever and ever yours,

'A. A.'

' Callander House,

' Clifton, Bristol, Friday, August 26, 1887.

' My dear Artist and Friend, — You are very good in writing
to me, and I have made but a bad return. But the weather has
been so hot — so hot — and I have had no sea-breezes to temper
the rays of the sun to the shorn priest. I am so glad to think of
you and the dear girls (to say nothing at all of Madame) getting
the bracing air and exercise I am sure they all needed ; and I
hope Silvia's (''Lovers" I was going to say)— but I mean
rheumatism — has become a thing of the past, and that in future
it will " toil after her in vain."

' Your picture of the family going to the sea-side is charmingly
conceived and drawn — but dear boy, has it not been done before ?
I am as sure as I am of most things that Leech (or yourself) had
a picture of a sneak of a husband getting " out of it " by going on
ahead, or staying behind, to avoid the luggage and the turmoil.
By my Halidome, but I will well nigh hazard my reputation for
accuracy on this.

' This is the dull season here — all Clifton being at the sea-side
or among the mountains. My Maggie is already in Scotland, and
Ada and Bentley follow next week. Then I shall have a male
friend or two staying with me for a few days at a time, till the
end of September is reached — and then I must get a little bra-
cing at the sea or among mountains for a week or two, to prepare
for the winter solstice. There really looks as if there were going
to be rain to-day. It will be abundantly welcome.

' I am very happy in my work here, and have leisure also to get
on with my edition of Charles Lamb's Letters, which is now
really on the way to be finished, health permitting, in another
six weeks or so — and will be out, I hope, on this side of

'Write again, dear boy. Your letters are always a delight to
me. Best love and regards to you all (not forgetting the dear
Don and the amiable '' Dachs")— Your own stern critic, but
affectionate friend, A. Ainger.'



' Perth, Scotland, I2th Sept. 1888.

' My dear Friend, — We have read in the Times with great
interest of the birth of another grandson, and we are anxious to
know that all is going well with the dear mother and her babe
— so, if this reaches you, please send me one line (or 7nore), with
news of you and yours, all round. Since writing to you last, I
paid an unexpected visit to Cornwall. The Lord Chancellor
very kindly asked me to come and spend a few days with him at
Launceston. I stayed there from last Saturday week till the
following Wednesday, and had a good time. They drove me to
the North Cornish Coast, Tintagel (King Arthur's birth-place),
Boscastle and other romantic spots.

' Last Sunday we drove over to Dunkeld to Church, and whom
should I meet coming out but Sir John Millais. We i*ecognised
each other, and he was very kind and civil, and has asked me to
go over one day to lunch — so I have just written to propose a
day. Evans has a " Beat " (as it is called) on the same river, the
Tay. The fishing has not been very first-rate this season.
They want water, oddly enough. However, I believe Evans and
Ada and guests with him have already killed about twenty-three

* We were all inordinately delighted with '^ Awful Revela-
tions " and want to know whether, in a moment of inspiration,
you invented it. It is so good — it seems as if it must he old !
Does the following strike you as funny ? I should call it " a
little learning is a dangerous thing " ! A proud mother showing
her little boy to the clergyman. " You see. Sir — he was our
eighth child — and so we christened him Octopus." This did occur,
and is not a chestnut. Our best love and regards to all. Write
soon ; ever yours, Alfred Ainger.'

' 2 Royal York Crescent,
'Clifton, Brlstol, August 28, 1889.

' My Dear Kicky, — Your letter was welcome as the Flowers in
May ! I am so glad to think you are in La Belle France, and also
drinking in Ozone — which, in spite of Local Concerts, ought to
do you much good. My nephew Bentley is here with me for
a few days, and is in ecstatic delight with your treatment of " Our
Curates " which appears in to-day's Punch. You have indeed
done it admirably. The joke came originally from my nephew,
so he glows with honest pride.


' What do you think of the following ? Bishop's daughter
asked to valse, replies : —

' " Thanks ! But I never dance Round Dances in my father's
diocese." I should call it '' Filial Piety." Your sea-sick picture
is also very good. Bully for you ! By the way the ncAv man (who
is he.') is very clever surely in his ' 1789 and 1889 — the "Tale of
Two Cities." ' The faces are very good. Her Gracious Majesty
suffers High Treason at the hands of poor old .

' I never read anything funnier of Guthrie's than the "franche-
ment canaille " Music Hall song, a few weeks since about the
" Bloomin' 'orse."

' . . . When are you to be home again at Harapstead .'' I shall
be there very early in October if all goes well with life and health,
and our many schemes and projects.

' My old Dean (90 in the shade !) is very old and feeble of body,
but clear and keen of mind. But his life, I feel it, hangs on a
thread. The weather here is perfect just now, though a trifle
chill, becoming October; it reminds me that at church on Sunday
next at Birnam I may meet old Millais or some of his family. I
hope at least he is still at the old place. — Best love to all from
the " Strict Canon."

* PS. — Vivent Athos, Porthos et Aramis ! '

' 33 Royal York Crescent,
' Clifton, Bristol, December 9, 1889.

' My Dear Artist, — . . . What on earth has come to people's
sense of humour — or standard of it. The Times quotes extracts
[from the Christmas number of Punch'\ of "exceptional brilliancy "
— and one is, that a man says he could not ride through the
streets of Venice because they were so unusually wet, owing
doubtless to recent rains. Great Heavens ! and this is what we
are expected to worship as the cream of Humour in our day !

' Both your pictures in last week's Punch are much admired down
here. Have you heard much about them in London } What do
you think of this (a Fact) ? Professor Muffkins (the eminent
Ornithologist) to the lady next him at dinner : " I was afraid till
the last moment I might not have been able to come to-night, for
my colleague. Professor Snuffkins, and I have been taking it in
turns to lie in bed all day, hatching a very rare ^gg."

' We are having horrid weather, and are in lodgings where all
the meat is tough and the cooking very poor. But it is not for
very long.


' How are you all ? Best love to the whole dear circle. — Your
own (only genuine) Canon.'

Professor Muffkins and Professor Snuffkins, whether fact
or fancy, did not gain admittance into Punchy although most
of his suggestions did. Du Maurier delighted in them, and
his answers show an adequate exuberance, but unfortunately
few of his letters were preserved. Such as remain perhaps
find a fitting place here, in the record of the years that saw
their most frequent intercourse. The first was written early
in their friendship when du Maurier was in Scotland on a
holiday, the second, another summer, from Dieppe.

'St. AndrewSj September 21.

'My dear Ainger, — We have just returned from staying a few
days in Aberdeenshire (Haddo House), and I find your letter just
arrived, whereat I was most muchly delighted. Thanks for the
poin- manger joke, although I fancy it must have occurred before ;
I will try it on my blessed editor whom I shall probably see on
Wednesday, for lo ! we start to-morrow for Ramsgate where we
have appointed to meet Charlie and Trixie, who will not come all
the way here — we shall be there just one week, and then return
home after a very pleasant holiday. I hope you find it so like-
wise. Pray commend me to the Stephensons and give my love to
dear Charles Keene — whom you will love as I do, and as everybody
does — th oddest, kindest, nicest old boy in the world.

'Sylvia md I enjoyed ourselves hugely at Millais' and I have
many amusing stories of him to tell you ; our stay with Lord and
Lady Aberdeen was also most pleasant. They are wonderfully
courteous and considerate people, and I don't wonder at their
great popularity in their part of the world.

* St. Andrews is a very nice place, given up to golfing. 1 am
not and never should be a golfer, nor you, I fancy. . . A bientiit,
cher ami , en vous serrant le main k vous demantibuler le meta-
carpe. — Je reste, tout k vous. G. du Maurier.

' PS. — I spent all yesterday afternoon in drawing Trevelyan in
the smoking-room at Haddo, but was not, I think, so successful
as with you — although his adoring wife was pleased to praise it.
He has a delightful face and is a delightful boy.

' Sylvia and May are both indignant at being called London-
lovers. Bonny Scotland for ever !



'Mes hommages k Miles vos nieces si elles sont toujours avec
vous. — Love to A. A.'

"fJu-'.^i^ ^«"/ - '

' 40 Rue Gambetta,
* Dieppe, Sunday (1889).

' My dear a. a,, — I was delighted to get your letter, to hear
that things are going fairly well with you and yours.

' First of all, let me reassure you on the subject of the Picture
Gallery picture. I did it and sent it in a month ago. It will no
doubt appear, unless Frank objects to a St. Sebastian put in (jvith-
out a halo — only arrows) ! There was also a Prodigal Son with
hogs, a Prometheus Vinctus with vulture and a centaur. By the
way, thanks for the little boy who begs his mother not to ask how
he behaved ; capital ! . . .

' We have been here since yesterday week. It is an agreeable
place, as lively as can be ; we are in the same house as fourteen
years ago. The weather has been very mixed — when it's fine
it's very very fine — when it 's not it 's horrid. There is a splendid
band twice a day, a great institution when it rains, but so good it
beguiles one into the Casino when it's fine and one ought to be
in the air. There is also a great gambol — "les petits ehevaux" —
of race horses racing round a round table ; one backs a number
and wins or loses accordingly ; I 'm sorry to say my young people




are gamblers — yesterday May and Gerald won 44 francs between
them !

' There are English residents who play lawn tennis — and call on
visitors. The two chaplains have already called (high and low)
and the consul, and the vice-consul, and others. There is no
Newman Hall here that I know of.

' The bathing, although most decent, is very amusing to watch
. — no " puris natui*alibus " as in Eastbourne or Shanklin.

' There is a dance at the Casino two or three times a week —
Hampstead could not produce anything duller or decorouser.
C'est un monde bourgeois — in beau, in laid ! As for the town
and plage, nothing can be livelier or more picturesque ; we never
tire of the long High Street, in spite of many smells. Everything
is above board in France — no deception. If one could only draw
these odours, on wood ! However, they would not be fit for

' Trixy and Chai'lie are coming over for two or three days next
week — race week ; then he is going to Canada, and she and the
children will come to us in Hampstead.


nUtDeu,^ e^r^i^

' I hope your pastel portrait will not efface those two famous


' When shall we meet again ?

' Kindest messages from all, and please commend us to your
nieces' recollections. — Yours ever sincerely, G. du Maurier.

' PS. — (afternoon) The weather to-day is simply lovely ; we are


going to the conceit. It may interest you to know that the food
is good here — "cuisine bourgeoise." '


* We are trying hard to let our house altogether, but I fear
with a slender chance of success. You are right — Hampstead is
lovely, but dull.

' I am hard at work on the Almanac, on the back edition of the
immortal P., on my lecture, which I am obliged to learn by heart
on account of my liability to " migraine," or temporary blindness,
which prevents me from reading, even the clearest and largest
print. I've got about 18 or 20 of these to deliver in England
and Scotland (always the same lecture of course) — an pere de
famille est capable de tout :

'Quand revenez-vous?
*' Reviens, amy — trop lougue est ta demeure."

(which is quoted from Ronsard — or else from Clement Marot — or
else from Charles D'Orleans).

' Forgive this hurried callygraphy (carography). Kind regards
to your nieces and to Mr. Evans. Love from all. — Yours ever,

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 13 of 32)