Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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*G. DU Maurier.'

'PS. — I think I've told you all the news — for there is none.
Happy families have no history.



' Easter Monday.

' Caro et molto reverato mio Alfreddo, — I was truly glad to
hear from you, as we were all wondering what had really become
of you ; it has not occurred to us that you were seedy, from seeing
your name among the preachers,

' You are a most imprudent youth, and always were, as I have
often told you, reckless of cold and fatigue. However, on the
9th jirox., this poor scribe returns to Hampstead and means to
look after you and speak to you with the wise severity of a

' I also have been seedy for the last month or more — a sup-
pressed cold I fancy, combined with London and much dining
about, and also (which is more creditable) a little overwork, for
I have managed to paint three portraits in the last six weeks — two
for love, namely Silvia and May — which you can see (along with
many beautiful works of art in water colour) at 5 Pall Mall East,
R.W.S. on payment of a shilling. The other (for love and money)
of Beatrix Phillips, the daughter of my Jewish friend, the alderman
sheriff; and so pleased are they that I am going to paint the
sister and then the mother (with a possible chance of the cousins
and the aunts — Baroness de Worms, perhaps) . . . Why were we
not advised of your lecture at the R. I. ? And could we have
been privileged to hear it .'' . . . We had the faithful Collins and
the brave Bret Harte, and spent a very pleasant evening. We
were sorry you were unable to dine, it was a capital party and
would have been capitaler if you had been one. . . .

' Yes, 'Appy 'Ampstead is dull, but 'elthy. . . .'

Du Maurier did not deal in good stories as much as his
correspondent. Ainger felt aggrieved if he did not hear one,
at least, a week — and if he could not hear a good one, he took
a bad or a ' middling one,' and fashioned it to his purpose.
His letters to du iVIaurier were, as we see, his chief vent for
them, and it is in his correspondence with his other friends
that we perceive the many sides of the man, though he seldom
gave expression to his serious thoughts and criticisms. Some
of these letters we are now about to give, as the best chronicle
of his thoughts and moods at this period.



The letters that follow cover the twelve years between 1880
and 1892. A good deal, as we know, had happened during
that time. Tiiey had seen the completion of his work, upon
Lamb, the chief literary accomplishment of his life, as well as
his promotion to the Canonry of Bristol, and the honour paid
him by Glasgow, They had also brougiit him a fresh sorrow,
for in 1885 his sister, Marianne, died almost as suddenly as
Mrs. Roscow.

' I was, as you may imagine, weary in lieart and body/ Ainger
writes, in September 1885, to his friend, Miss Flora Stevenson.
' My dear sister's death was teri*ibly sudden. She was on a visit
to a half-sister of hers, at Upper Norwood. She was sitting
quietly reading just before lunch on Saturday — when she broke
a blood-vessel on the lung and died in a few minutes. She had
been for years in very delicate health, but had been no worse than
usual of late, and had written happily to us all a day or two
before. Still we see abundant reason for thankfulness. She was
among kind friends, and not in a lonely lodging, or (as it might
easily have been) in a railway carriage, or out of doors, or among

Perhaps he felt her death more because of the separation
that distance had caused between them. Nor did trouble
come alone. A year before her death he had lost his friend,
Mimi von Glehn. And in 1889, Malcolm Macmillan perished
tragically on a mountain expedition in Greece, the victim, it
was practically certain, of the brigands who infested those
parts. Old comrades, too, were disappearing — among them
his loved teacher, Mrs. Menzies. After he had returned from
attending her funeral, he sat for some time immovable on
Hampstead heath, unconscious that a passer-by was watching



him. When he looked up and found himself observed — 'I
am sad to-day; I have lost one of my best friends' — was all
he said.

Happily, throughout all these troubles, his varied duties and
achievements were a source of help and satisfaction. They
added also to the claims on him. For his work upon Lamb
had brought him into contact with interesting new friends —
with Edmund Gosse, with Andrew Lang, with Sidney Lee,
with James Dykes Campbell. It is to an old comrade, Arch-
deacon Bather, who had a living near Shrewsbury, that the
first three of the following letters are addressed : —

' Hampstead,
' Monday, July 2G, 1880.

' My dear Henry, — ... I hope you like George MacDonald's
little book. It is curiously unequal, as a poem constructed on
such a system was sure to be ; but it is almost unique in modern
religious literature, for a kind of gentle, genuine revival of the
mysticism of the German mystics, and the conceits of Herbert and
Vaughan. By the way, you may be glad to know, in the interest
of friends, that his Disciple and other Poems is now to be got
separately (3s. 6d.), and not merely in the collected Edition.

' Phillips Brooks has been in England, and preached in the
Abbey, on July 4th, the anniversary of American Independence.
I saw Stanley last Monday week, at the Grove Testimonial
Presentation, and he told me it was a magnificent sermon. I did
not hear he was to preach till it was all over. I hope I may have
another chance.'

' Dalness Lodgk,
' Taynuilt, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1880.

' Mv DEAR Henry,— . . . Did you read in the Times of Stopford
Brooke's secession from the Church, and union with the Unitarians.''
I confess I am very grieved. Not that I ever had any liking for him
as a theologian, and I always read his sermons with a feeling of
strong rejiulsion, but his change will bring great discredit upon
the Broad Church party, with which Stopford Brooke's name is so
intimately associated. I must say I think the open profession of
Unitarianism is to Stopford Brooke's credit, for it has always been
clear to me that — like Haweis, and I would add Stanley — there was
nothing in his teaching to distinguish him from that body. Is it not
true that there is that in a man's attitude towards sin, and way of deal-


ing with the subject, that tells one, (even when the divinity of our
Lord is not at all in question or even referred to), whether it is at
the root of a man's system or not ? One feels that Kingsley could
not be a Unitarian, on whatever religious subject he is writing;
while one feels that Stanley and Stopford Brooke are essentially so.
Won't the Record and the Church Times be in ecstasies ! I want
you to tell me if you have seen in the Spectator, or any other paper,
any comments on the event, or any manifesto from Stopford
Brooke himself.'

' Hampsteao, Feb. 22.

' My dear Henry, — A theological qtiestmi ! St. Paul — (Romans v.
and passim) says that between Adam's fall and the giving of
the Law on Sinai, there was no transgression (jrapd/SacrLs) only sin

' How do you imagine he conceived the moral government of
the world to have been carried on in that interval .'* Where (e.g.)
did a man like Joseph get his fine charity and goodness from —
from a direct personal inspiration, or how ? and how far was he
responsible ? — for certainly the people who perished in the flood
were taken very seriously indeed, in this matter of responsibility.
I have no doubt I am grossly ignorant, and that Hewin's favourite
sixth standard girl could put me right in a moment — but have
pity on the ignorance of a new Church Dignitary, and tell me your
opinion. I am thinking of preaching on the subject next Sunday.

* I hope you get on nicely with Archidiaconal work, and are
nicely clothed as well as being in your right mind.

' Have you seen my portrait and Memoir in Vanity Fair } It is
good to be kept humble. Please expend sixpence on me — and
hang me up (as high as Haman).'

To Mr. Malcolm Macmillan.

' 2 Upper Terrace,
' Habipstead, June 28, 1882.

' My dear Malcolm, — . . . I hope soon to write and propose a
day for coming down, when we will talk over a thousand things.
I have read a lot of Seeley's new book ; it is wonderfully stirring.
But I find myself stopping now and then with a feeling of
remonstrance — "Come, come, is not this a trifle too clever .-'"

" \V\\o wrote Democracy ?
Without namiug' names,

I say Henry J s

He wrote Democracy."


It is a brilliant assimilation of his style, in any case. . . . Goodbye,
old boy. I trust we shall soon meet face to face. Thanks for
recent flippancies upon Post-cards and other favours duly received.
— Yours ever affectionately, Alfred Ainger.

' There is some " fine confused feeding " upon Mozley's volumes.
James Bain is right.'

To Mr. Smith (of Brocco Bank, Sheffield).

* 2 Upper Terrace,
' Hampstead, October 1884.

' My dear Smith, — Thank you for sending me your eminently
sensible letter on Temperance v. Total abstinence. In support of
the former virtue as against the latter, allow me to send you four
admirable lines of Chaucer from Troylus and Cressida : —

" In everything, I wit, there lieth mesure ;
For though a man forbede drunkenness.
He not forbids that every creature
3e drinkeless for alway, as I guesse."

' So go on laying down a good sound claret for your friend A. A.
when he comes to see you. — Love to you all. — Ever yours affectly.,

' A. Ainger.'

To Miss Flora Stevenson.

' Knapdale, Upper Tooting,
' October 28, 1885.

'My dear Miss Flora, — You are quite too good to me. As
for the JAM, what can I say — but that I feel in Hamlet's lan-
guage like " my Lord Such-an-one, who praised my Lord Such-an-
one's horse, 7vhen he meant to beg it." How can I again ever order
the real thing, with any delicacj'. . . . Seriously, how good of you
— and if stolen sweets are proverbially sweet, how sweet will
these Brambles be. The wilderness will blossom like a rose . . .
Please tell Miss Louisa that I have not forgotten my promise to
pay interest on her loan of the Essays of E/ia, and that I have
directed my bookseller to send her jnjj Edition, in the Preface and
notes to which I think she may find some " fine confused feeding "
— as your countryman said of the sheep's-head, — Yours and hers,
always, Alfred Ainger.'

'August 188G.
' During my illness I read Miss Austen {Pride and Prejudice)


once more ; and now I am reading the Bride of Lammermoor, and
so you see I am true to the good old models. How utterly melo-
dramatic and stagey much of Scott's dialogue is — and how full of
charm and life and variety he is, in spite of it all.'

(After the gift of a book from Miss Stevenson.)

' You know how I love John Brown, and how I rank him with
the sweetest, purest, tenderest, as well as most poetic and graphic
and humorous of writers who adorn our literature ; and every fresh
help to knowing and understanding him better, I truly value.

' . . . Maggie was saying the other day that she had been very
remiss in never sending a definite message of thanks to you for
the Edinburgh Rock. (It sounds like the name of an Evangelical
newspaper.) '

To Mr. Malcolm Macmillan.

' 2 Upper Terrace, Hampstead,

'Saturday Afiernoon [Spring 1886].

' Dear Boy, — . . . I dreamed last night that you and a German
governess in your family made me a joint present of a very shabby
annotated edition of Izaak Walton. If incongruity can go farther
than this I trouble you ! Just before going to bed I had been
reading Andrew Lang's delightful little book Letters to Dead
Authors (sent me for Review), and in it is one addressed to the
" quaint old cruel coxcomb." Hiric, 1 presume, ilia somnia. . . .'

' The Vicarage, Meole Brace,
'Shrewsbury, May 6, 1886.

' My dear Malcolm, — All your post-cards with conundrums
and epigrams to hand, and duly noted ; one of the latter, oddly
enough, reminded me in its rhymes of an old one of my own
made years ago when R. H. Hutton praised some very mild piece
of acting at a Hamlet performance : —

''There was au old critic named Hutton
For whose judgment I 'd not give a button ;
For in saying, in fact.

That young can act.

He calls venison what /call hashed mutton."

" By a natural association of ideas, I must mention that I had
a note from Mary Dickens this morning to tell me of the next
Performance of the Dramatic Students next week (Thursday the


13th), at the Royalty : a play of the late James White's, The King
and the Commons, and to ask me if I would go. Will you go with
me, as before ? If so, will you take two stalls as soon as may be ?
... I must tell you an answer lately given in an examination to a
schoolmaster friend of mine.

' Q. — What was the Salic Law .''

' A. — It was a law that evei'y woman should have a male child
before she died.

' I am delighted to see that the Dramatic Students are going
to do Love's Labour Lost in June next. . . .'

' 1 Hervey Road,
'Cambridge, Thursday, Dec. 2.

' I am very glad that the Woman Killed with Kindness is finally
settled. It is crude, and often too short in the scenes for the
amount of action contained in them, but it ought to be capable
of being made very interesting, and marvellously pathetic. Lamb
called Heywood a " Prose Shakspeare." I think (to borrow what
James Smith said of Crabbe), he might be more justly called a
"Shakspeare in worsted stockings." '

To Mrs. Gelderd Somervell.

'Dec. 29, 188C.

* Have you read and mastered that noble new poem Locksley
Hall, Sixty Years After by the Laureate ? It is one of the most
touching things he ever did — and much of it, I have the best
reasons for knowing, was written in the first shock of the news of
the death of his son Lionel. . . .

'I think "the Angelus" very charming, though I can't quite
get over the words " ere I was dead." Where is the gentleman
supposed to be at the moment of uttering that remark } at C in
Alt, or de profundis, or in some neutral territory ? '

To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

' May 17, 1887.

' . . . Lose no time in getting Prof. Brandl's new book on
Coleridge, translated by Lady Eastlake. It is a perfectly wonder-
ful book for a foreigner to have written. It has some little
blemishes, and odd literalisms here and there, as was inevitable,
but taken altogether it is incomparably the best life of Coleridge,
and commentary on his poems, yet written. He anticipates me
(alas !) in one or two things I have said in a little Paper you will
find in the next Number of Macmillan.'


To THE Same.

'Callander House,
'Clifton, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 1887.

' . . . Come to Bristol, get into a cab — and tell the cabman
" Callander House, Clifton Hill." If he does not know it — tell
him it is opposite Clifton Parish Church. If he still hesitates,
tell him that Shakespeare speaks of " plain as way to Parish
Church " — and ask him where on earth he was educated. But I
think your last detail will satisfy him.

' I have to thank you for two books. What a " snapper-up of
unconsidered trifles you are," and how boldly you practise your
skill under the very nose of a Sotheby, or a Wilkinson ! I only
hope I shan't be sent for some day, to bail you out. I am on the
point of getting copies of the Williams letters, etc., by a quite
different channel, which I will wait to tell you, face to face. —
Yours ever, Alfred Ainoer.'

To THE Same.

' July 25, 1888.

' I never in my life heard such a set of attempts at after-dinner
speaking as at the Mayor's luncheon. As was once before said
of a like occasion, there was ''evei-y luxury except the letter H."

' Do you know the Mirror in forty-eight volumes ? I suppose it
could easily be got hold of somewhere — short of the Museum, for
"that way madness lies," '

To THE Same,

' Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, Thursday, Aug. 30, 1888,

' My dear Campbell, — I have very nearly tried poetry on you,
in my scorn, and began two odes, — one opening thus :

' A Person of Tillingtou Terrace
Refused to accept of some " Sherris" ;
and the other :

'A Pitiful person of Hastings
AV'ouldn't hear of a few claret tastings,
Unless, if you please.
He contributed fees !
And hence these poetical bastings.

' But the Muse declines even to attend upon any such miserable
haii'-splittings — so please let us hear no more on the theme.
Meantime, if you love me, send me any scraps of information


about the Lyrical Ballads and their earliest reception by the
ignorant world.

' Excuse these hasty lines. You know what the week is, when
one has not only to pack, but to leave a house behind one in
something like the order in which one received it.

' From Saturday next I shall be at Lord Halsbury's till Wednes-
day probably. (" I remember dining with him once, Gentlemen,
there was only us two, but everything as grand as if twenty were
expected. The Great Seal guarded by a man in armour, with a
drawn sword and silk stockings, which is continually done,
Gentlemen, night and day." See your favourite author — next to
Coleridge). . . . Ever yours, Alfred Ainger.

To THE Same.


' Perth, Sunday, Sept. 9, 1888.

' ... In one of the letters of Wordsworth, Lamb tells him he
is quite wrong to wish that a definite profession, etc., had been
assigned to the venerable mariner. How curiously narrow and
limited Wordsworth was in his estimate of other men's work !
A more crude and incomplete account of the merits and defects
of Coleridge's poem can hardly be imagined ! By the way read
(if you have not seen it) Sidney Colvin's article on some new
Keats letters in the August Mac7nillan. There is one most in-
teresting bit, in which Keats tells of meeting Coleridge and Green
in one of the Highgate Lanes.

' Coleridge's own version of the same interview occurs in the
Table Talk, as you will remember. . . .'

To Mrs. Smith, at Christmas time, in his first year at BristoL

' Prospect House,
' CuFTON Hill, Bristol, Christmas 1888.

* My dear Friend, — The above address will strike you as some-
what unfamiliar, and will at the same time prepare you for an
entirely different style of composition from that frivolous one to
which you have been for so many years accustomed at this season.
It cannot be expected that a Canon in Residence should deal in such
ephemeral and flippant discourse as he is unfortunately liable to
at other times. For though a Canon cannot always be preaching,
and is sometimes a Canon "off the Cushion" (as Willie remarks,
who is always so full of his billiard slang), yet " noblesse oblige,"
and a little dignity is always becoming. Still, there 's " a deal of


human nature in a man " according to Artemus Ward — even in a
Dignitary of the Church — and if he should in any way offend by
a lapse or two into levity, he asks pardon of Convocation and the
Bench of Bishops. Let us be serious !

* I seem to see you, as of old, keeping up the good old Christmas
customs. William with his grandfatherly cares growing thick
upon him ; Lillie, with " news of all nations lumbering at her
back," as Cowper says of the postman ; and James (no longer Jun
after passing the awful Theological Special), propounding very
minute metaphysical problems that rivet you all with amusement
and gratitude. " In my mind's eye, Horatio," I see it all from
ray city by the West. Let us try, even without the phonograph,
to reproduce some scraps of the Westwood House conversation,
for the delight and impi-ovement of posterity. . . .

' James. By the way, Papa, may I correct j-ou in one mistake (a
natural one, I admit) that you made in reading the second lesson
in Church a few Sundays ago. The passage was that of the blind
man who had received his sight. He remarks, you will re-
member, that he sees "men, as trees, walking." You read it " I
see men, as trustees walking," misled by the abbreviation (trees)
common in legal documents. May I suggest that you take an
early opportunity of returning to the authorised version .''

* W. Smith. Thank you, my son. The mistake, in my profession,
was, as you say, natural. Moreover I regret to say that I have too
often known "men who were trustees" walking (over to foreign
parts), and the "Settikies" (see Spectator) left lamenting. At
the same time I should recommend you on the Avhole not to
criticise your parent's reading, otherwise our relatioyis may be
becoming strained (as the Grand Inquisitor said when he put his
second cousin on the Rack). (Sensation).

' Lihj. Talking of riddles, my own turn being artistic, I am
anxious to propound the following, which is beautifully simple.
Don't all ffuess at once. " When is an artist 7iot an artist."

* Mary (flippantly, again). " When it 's a-jar " (groans and

'Everybody else. When he's a — ; When he's a — When he's
a — can't think ! Give it up !

'Lily (severely). I asked you "When is an artist not an
artist?" And I reply "Nine times out often."

^ Mamma. I think that at this charitable Christmas season, my
dear Lily, it would be better not to be cynical and scornful, even
at the expense of the Exhibitors at the Royal Academy !


' Lily. Oh ! Mamma, isn't that rather straining at a gnat ?
Talking of straining at a gnat, I heard a i-ather good story when
we were abroad. Tom^ was it in the Crater of Vesuvius, or at the
bottom of the Blue Goat Gulch in West Carolina? A rather
pious and particular lady who had lost all her teeth, consulted
her favourite clergyman as to whether it was consistent with
Christian simplicity to have a set of false ones. " Well, Madam,"
he replied, " no doubt you could s/vallow the camel better without

' Katie. Seymour, will you pull a cracker with me }

'Mr. Knyvett. I am afraid I must forgo the pleasure, Katie.
I cannot sanction the presence of gunpowder in an apartment not
constructed for the purpose, according to the Act — Twenty-fifth
of V^ictoria, chapter thirty-nine. The brother-in-law relents, but
the Inspector of Factories is Jixed.

' Mrs. Smith. I am sure, my dear children, that this example of
duty and conscientious attention to official instructions will bear
fruit among you all, during the year that is before us.'


' " What does little Birdie say
On the Card on Christmas Day?"
Birdie says " I think it hard
At this joyfullest of times
To be caged by Marcus Ward,
And linked to idiotic rhymes.
Were I loose, and on a tree.
Making my own melody,
I would sing so sweet and clear
To you, and all whom I hold dear,
And then I should not (Bird ill-starred).
Look foolish on a Christmas Card ! " '

To Mk. Dykes Campbell.

'Feb. 4, 1889.

' Your note, in spite of all previous fore-warnings, came on me
with a painful surprise. For I had come to fancy that you were
content to drift along for the present — and that the tide was
keeping indefinitely off London, and not carrying you down
Channel. I have no doubt that you are acting wisely, and for
the best — but it is a great blow to your London friends, and
not least to me, who will miss you terribly. I hardly like indeed


to dwell upon it. But you will be 7io}v and then in London, I feel
sure, and we must "gather up the fragments" — one of the
widest and most precious lessons of Holy Writ, I often think. . . .
' What a night of Rude Boreas and renewed Winter it has
turned out, — I came home in a storm of wind and snow, like a
shepherd on a Christmas card.'

In the spring of this year, 1889, Canon Ainger made a
move that added greatly to his comfort. His little home had
proved too cramped, the more so that he liked to entertain
guests, especially the Walter Evanses who were now constantly
with him. He therefore resolved to change his quarters, and
eventually took the neighbouring ' Glade,' a roomy house just
below Upper Terrace. Almost his first letter from this new
abode was written to his old friend, Mowbray Donne, whose
father, William Bodham Donne, was so intimate with Edward

To Mk. Mowbray Donne.

'2 Upper Terrace,
* Hampsteao, Friday, April 12, 1889.

' My dear Mowbray, — You are one of those men whose know-
ledge of literature, and of other things better than literature,
makes his approval of anything I do singularly gratifying to me —
and I am greatly pleased that you found something to interest

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 14 of 32)