Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

. (page 15 of 32)
Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 15 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you in my lecture. I know the ladies present mostly liked it ;
but (bless their hearts) they know less about humour than about
most things, and the expression of a male verdict is to me more
valuable — (Don't shew this to Mrs, Donne !)

'If I had not known before that you had the '''root of the
matter" in you, I should discover it from your remark on the
Ingoldsby Legends, with which I entirely agree. Indeed, I am
vexed with myself now that it never occurred to me to instance
that work as a specimen of a pai'ticular sort of bastard humour.
I believe with you that its influence has been wholly bad — and
this apart from the fact that it is, aufond, vulgar and irreverent.

' Your wife will have told you that we are moving house (only
"42 inches farther from town") — and where we shall still look
for those visits from our friends, whether on Boxing Day or any
other National or Private Festival, which it shall ever be our
study to deserve. — Our best regards ; ever yours,

'Alfred Ainger.'


To Mr. Dykes Campbell, who had just settled at
St. Leonard's.

'The Glade,
' Branch Hill, Hampstead, June 4, 1889.

' My dear Campbell, — It was a real pleasure to see your hand-
writing again. I could have wished, however, that you had shown
a less indecent precipitance in having your notepaper stamped
Avith your new address, thereby crowing over your poor friend
whose "gaiter-buttons" are not to that degree perfect. But the
Herald's College shall turn me out some Paper with a " Head-
line " soon ; and then your hour of triumph will be gone ! In the
matter of Posts and Postmen we are lucky in being on the same
Beat as we were before, so that our lettei's addressed to the old
house are brought naturally by the old men. We are by this
time very fairly settled, and are delighted with the size and
spaciousness and accommodation such as we have never known in
our lives before. Is there any chance of your being in town again
this month ? We could give you a bed at any time. And it
would save (to put it on no higher ground) so much description —
so much "gilding the western hemisphere," as Mr. Puff says in
the Critic. By the way, I heard the other day of a young Army
Examination Candidate (in the Modern Languages Paper), who
translated the Eastern Hemisphere " Le Demi-monde Oriental "
— which is curiously literal. But this is a digression. Our house-
hold happiness is still marred by the absence of my elder niece,
Maggie. Our kind friends, the Walter Evanses, of Darley Abbey,
have been in town for three weeks at the Burlington Hotel,
Mrs. Evans in daily attendance on the dying bed of her sister.
Lady Evans of Allestree — and Maggie is so useful and such a
comfort to them that we cannot find it in our hearts to have her
home, until the end comes, which may be any day or hour.
Sir W. Evans's house is in the St. James' Park neighbourhood, hard
by — and Mrs. Evans is there almost all day, and Ada and I go
into town constantly and make company for poor Walter Evans.
But any day, as I have said, all may be over, and we shall be all
three at home again, and glad to see our friends as usual. The
weather is superb and the glade (literally a glade — no deception !)
on which we look from our Drawing-room windows is really de-
lightful. We could act As You Like It in it (with two property
Deer and a Clown).

* You see I am getting frankly egotistical, so I go on to tell you


that I am much better than I have been all spring. The warm
weather always sets me up in a wonderful way ; but alas ! our
days in Hampstead for this summer are numbering — for on July 1,
I am due as usual in Bristol — and this year, I would ftiin have had
another mouth in Hampstead.

'Yes — the great Knight's great work (I may call it great) —
three volumes, stout extra octavo (price 4as.), has reached me ;
and I wish it had not ! Not that I don't want to have it, but as
I hope to get it by and by for Review, I might have saved 45s.
which would have bought me some new art fire-irons and a chair
or two for my new house. Moreover, I rather think Knight will
get rather abused by some subscribers to his edition of the Poems,
who indeed knew that they were in for a single-volumed (one-horse)
memoir at the end, but were hardly prepared to have three volumes
thrust upon them — literally " Gi'eatness " thrust upon them !

'The book is "without form" though by no means "void.". . .
Yet (malice apart — and the 45s.) there is much in the book that
one likes to have, and notably Doi-othy's Journals. Those at
Alfoxden made me sigh to be there again with another Lake- Poet-
Fanatic whom I knowj by my side.

' . . . And now I am fresher to express some interest in you and
yours — to say how glad I am for every reason (save my own loss),
that you are in such a fine and healthy retreat, to which I hope
Mrs. Campbell will by and by supply the best of testimonials by
getting quite well again, for the sake of her husband and her
many other friends. But beware that nndow ! For you can see
through a " window," as the boy said, but you can't see
through . . . Ever yours, Alfred Ainger.'

To THE Same.

'Autumn, 1889.
' I am glad to hear of all your "finds," and shall look out for
you in this week's Athenceum ; you shall shew me the Bowles
some day. I have never agreed with you, as you know, about his
Sonnets. They must have come to many in that arid age (as they
came to S.T.C.) like water-cresses to a sailor after a sea-voyage,
... I had a prosperous journey (though melancholy) on Wednes-
day, and was at Charing Cross in ample time. The Glasgow Club
Dinner was very pleasant — for Jack and Craik, and J. J. Steven-
son and myself were all in a group ; and all in close touch with
the Chairman. The amateur Bagpipist performed during the
evening — and " Man ! it was 7wt juist Heeven ! " *


To THE Same.

' 33 Royal York Crescent,
' Clifton, Bristol, Dec. 12, 1889.

'. . . I am in "full song" as usual, not only preaching a good
deal, which is regular Canon's work, but presiding at meetings,
and giving away prizes, and keeping myself amazingly en evidence,
which, to a modest man like me, is distressing. Your Athenceum
Paper on the Englishvtans Magazine and the Reflector was most
interesting. I wonder if it will have the effect of bringing to
light the latter extinct Dodo. From the nature of the case, it
must be rare. For who would preserve three odd numbers of a
Periodical that had failed } Still, wonders never cease. I am
deeply distressed at this news of Browning. I have thought him
looking of late, when I have seen him at the Athenaeum, so pale
and thin and old, that it is alarming to hear of Bronchitis having
got hold of him. Wonderful man, how beautiful and fresh, and
even intelligible are the extracts from his new volume given in
the Times of to-day ! And old Tennyson follows suit on Saturday
next. Wonderful old men ! How strange that they should once
more be coming out at Christmas, like the waits. Do you remem-
ber Sambourne's Drawing that I have got — of the two, with
Swinburne singing in the snow ?

'I have chosen a Shakespeare subject after all for my Royal
Institution Lectures. I was obliged (the time being so short) to
take a subject of which I knew something and had thought some-
thing beforehand — for time is too cut up here by endless calls
upon it. The " Three Stages of Shakespeare's Art," I have called
it. The early, middle, and later plays, of course meant. I have a
good many MSS. Shakespeare papers by me, and I shall perhaps
publish them before long, with these new ones — if they please
me when finished. Write soon and illumine our apartments with
some electricity from the Southern Latitudes. " Flame," like
Ariel, "distinctly."

' Did you ever hear the following .'' some people I know declared
it happened to them once. Sitting in the pit of a Provincial
Theatre during the last Act of a great Shakespearian Tragedy,
an old lady, with tears coursing down her cheeks turns to her
next neighbour and says, "Eh mister! but them Amlits had a
deal o' trouble in their family!" It sounds to me too good to
be ne7v. If you have not heard it before I shall hand it over to


du Maurier. — Best regards to Mrs. Campbell and yourself from
us all. Ever yours, ' Alfred Ainger.'

To Mrs. Smith.

* 33 Royal York Crescent,
* Clifton, Bristol, Christmas 1889.

* " Here we are again !" — (Christmas Cloxim.)

' " Please, Mr. Hook, Mamma's compliments, and will you hejunny}"

— {Traditional Anecdote.)

' " It is ill jesting with an aching heart ! " — (Serjeant Btizfuz.)

* Ah ! my dear Friend, the truth of the last melancholy quota-
tion comes sadly home to me ! For indeed I am colded — an
interim Dividend of the Influenza to come — A Hair of the Dog
that is going to bite me — and as my Dean is 90 and my only
resident brother Canon, Archdeacon Norris, is disabled with
a sprained arm, I am indeed in a poor way — for the whole
weight of the interests of this great Cathedral rests on my
shoulders. I am indeed depressed. I went to a Medical man
here, who does not know me by sight, and detailed my sad case.
— "Oh!" he said, "you want rousing — amusing — taking out of
YOURSELF, I am told that Canon Ainger writes the most
amusing letters (especially at Christmas time) — go and see him ! "

'"Alas!" I cried, "I «?« that unhappy Being" — and immedi-
ately disappeared in Blue Flame — kindly provided by the Blue
Devils — (N.B.) this is the first appearance of this anecdote in
Literature. So, once more, dear Friend, accept the will for the
deed this time. I am sending you enclosed a little Paper of mine
lately contributed to the Bazaar News, at Glasgow University.
They have been having a gigantic Bazaar to help to endow a
" Union," such as they have at Oxford and Cambridge, for the
poor Glasgow Students. I am an unworthy Hon. LL.D. of that
University, and they asked me to write something for them — so
make Smith read it aloud to you over the Christmas fire. It is
all perfectly true ; I have a copy of the funny little Romance in
my own possession. The Bazaar is an enormous thing. They
took £6000 the first day, and hope to clear £10,000, altogether.'

'Oh ! such weather again — wet and dull and warm, and wholly
un-Christmaslike —

" Now Slave, joke on pain of instant death " —


' Let me look around me — Ha ! Tennyson's new Volume, and
some charming things in it. The Papers full of nothing but the
Gas Strikes, and the Coal Strikes — and every other Strike. Ha !
I have it !

" One Strike at least we all admire
The Laureate once more 'strikes the Lyre' !"

' It is nice to hear of that dear boy Jim beginning his new life
under such favourable auspices. But I trust he will not (like so
many young Curates) take to Vestments and other Ritualistic
vanities. Send him the following anecdote (true) as an awful
warning. A clergyman^ fond of artistic church-furniture, lately
gave out the following among the Notices for the week : —

' " I hereby give notice that on Sunday next the offertory will
be collected in a new Pair of Bags, expressly worked for me by a
lady of the Congregation ! " The image suggested is indeed too
terrible to be described save by the Pencil of the Artist.

' Well, dear old Friends, let me stop these frivolities and
ribaldries, and wish one another all good and best things this
Christmas time — I wish I was with you, for your northern air has
more life in it than this soft western clime. " Dark and true
and tender is the north," and I have always found it so, especially
in Hallamshire.

' So best love to you all — and induce the Government (through
William's well-known influence with the Conservative Party) to
give me a Canonry north of the Trent. — Your fond but foolish,

' Alfred Ainger.'

The New Year opens with a letter to Mr. Dykes Campbell.

' The Glade,
' Branch Hill, Jan. 8, 1890.

* My dear Campbell, — You have been wonderfully good to me
in the matter of writing, and your little note that I found awaiting
me this afternoon on my return from a flying visit to Bristol (for
Chapter purposes) interested me deeply — and I shall fasten that
page about Browning's words concerning his Epilogue into my
copy (a First Edition, I am glad to think) of Asolando. — The
Times of that day — the 13th — was the only London Daily
Paper that contained the news. I walked into George's shop on


my way down to the Cathedral in the afternoon, and found that
even he had not heard it. I then said " Have you got the
volume?" — and finding they had, I bought it and carried it off.
Bain tells me that the whole of the Edition had passed out of
Smith and Elder's hands by four o'clock on the afternoon of the
12th — that the fact was telegraphed out to Venice — and (as we
know) he died at 10 p.m. — most touching of incidents. I have been
reading the volume again all this evening. How full of imagina-
tion, poetry, picturesqueness and above all Spiritual Wisdom it is !
a prodigious effort for a man of seventy-seven. I wish the tribu-
tary verse of his admirers since had been less terribly inadequate.
Swinburne's I have not yet seen, but I thought young S.'s in the
Athenceum the worst memorial verses I had ever read — until I

came upon 's Sonnet in the Pall Mall, and then I felt that

even the former must be content to " take a back seat." Well
might the poet say : —

" The glory is fled — and we 've only glitter —
The Gold is all spent — and we 've only Brass —
The Nightingale 's dead — and the Tom-tits twitter —

Alas! Alas!"

I 've been a wanderer since I last wrote. When I left Bristol on
Tuesday of last week, I went for three nights to Torquay, to some
old friends. And the change, and the rest, and the appetising
food did me much good — though I gave a Reading for a Local
Charity in a great big room one afternoon. Among other things,
I read " Owd Roa" out of Tennyson's new volume, and fetched
the Torquay-ans very much. (By the way, did Torquemada come
from that now fashionable Watering Place }) Then I came up to
town on the Friday, preached twice on Sunday (once for Farrar
at St. Margaret's) then next day to Bristol again for our meeting
— and Dividends. The other day I came upon this French Idiom
in Bellew. " Vie de Chanoine— Easy Life "—Ha ! Ha ! Ha !

' And now I have got to work out my lectures for the R.
Institution, on which I have been musing much of late. When
are you coming up to town } When are we to meet .'' — Ever
yours, Alfred Ainger.'

'The Glasgow Bazaar took £13,000 in their four days. Pretty
well for a country where " Saxpence " is twice looked at before
" lavished." '


To THE Same.

' " Oh where, and O where — is my J. D. Campbell gone? "

' (Old song, adapted.)

" The Campbells are — going?" — (Do. do.)

' The GladEj
' Branch Hill, Hampsteap, Feb. 5, 1890.

' My dear Campbell, — What has become of my old and valued
correspondent ?

' Perhaps he asks, what has become of me, and I am stricken
dumb. But indeed, I have some shadow of excuse — not that I
have been Influenzaed — I almost wish I had — for I should then
have had, in an acute form, what I am sorry to say I have now
had for three weeks in a chronic form. ... I am thankful to say
it has not yet affected my voice at all, so that I have not been
seriously interfered with in my professional duties, though I am
much pulled down and weakened.

' Write me one of your familiar and cheering letters, and bear
with my stupidity for a while. ("We must," as Mrs. Quickly
says, " bear with one another's co«firmities ") — and tell me if Mrs.
Campbell is really better — and what you are both doing and

' How is Patmore ? I daily read his little volume of Prose
criticism, with most of which I am in exceeding great accord. I
have, by the same token, just picked up the first Edition of his
New Eros. — With best regards from us all, Yours ever,

'Alfred Ainger.'

To THE Same.

' February 1890.

'. . . A thousand thanks for your own most kind wish to have me.
But in any case I would not have come to you just yet, because I
want to rest while I am away, and tvith you I should have grudged
myself rest — for I should want to talk to you, and be talked to by
you, all day long, and a great part of the night ! I am no worse
in my general health, but the catarrh does not abate.

' I wish you well through your visitation of the Innocents, and
I hope you won't be tempted to try the Pied Piper over them,
and deposit them in an adjacent cliff — leaving yourself, however,


To Mr. Horace Smith.

'The Glade,
* Branch Hill, Hampstead, Feb. 20, 1890.

'My dear Horace, — ... I have just come back from deliver-
ing the second of three Lectures at the Royal Institution on
" Shakespeare's Art — its Thi'ee Stages." All the world and his
wife (chiefly the latter) were there — including your Brother
Bencher, Master Clark. I may perhaps some day publish them in
some form or other.

'. . . Last Sunday the coughing in Church was something
terrible. I deeply regret that its effect upon myself was even
worse, for " I pulled out my pencil and produced the following " :


' (Influenza-time).

' Your pity not in vain we seek

Who serve beneath your parish steeples ;
Our own coughs plague us all the week.
And on the Sunday — other people's.

' Ever your own,

'Alfred Ainger.'

To THE Same.

My Dean at Bristol is 90 years
old to-day. (Too long in bottle,
and going off.) But the other

day I dined with old V.C. Bacon 'The Glade, Branch Hill,

just entered his 95rrf year ! Dear 'Hampstead, J&arch 17, 1890.

old man ! a sweet and beautiful
old age-

'My dear Horace, — Very glad to get your "refresher" —
though without the customary fee. I ought long since to have
returned the Wykehamist which I now send along with this. The
dear boy's verse and prose are both most promising. Of course,
as you say, the criticism is crude enough ; but it is the bttd — dear
boy — it is the bud. You have indeed reason to be proud of such
"Three musketeers" — and I heartily congratulate you.

' By the way, tell Nowell I wrote a few lines the other night,
during a sleepless bout, suggested by the title of Browning's last


volume and its appearing on the day Browning died ; you may
send them to him, if you like : —

'("From Asolare — to disport in the open air." — Br.'s Preface.)

'Never more keen than M'hen his work was ending ;

Never more brave !
How sad, how sweet, when life and death were blending,

This name he gave.
Like Hamlet : " Will you walk from out the air ? "

" Into my grave." '

' . . . I wish you had heard me preach yesterday on the " Weak
Brother " ; there was a passage on Sentiment beginning: "Never
sneer at Sentiment,''^ which I think your soul would have approved.

' I applied a motto the other day happily. You know those
photographic reproductions that are now, in illustrated newspapers
and magazines, taking the place of the old wood-engravings —
" The thoughts of men are widened by a Process — of the Sun's ! "

(N.B. — These new methods are called Pi-ocesses in the profession,
as perhaps you may not know.) — Your own trifler,

'Alfred Ainger.'

' No ! I certainly never meant to raise the question of English
Literature as against Greek and Roman. My object was to point
out that the two chief objects of teaching English Literature at all,
were to teach us to enjoy the great writers, not to know who their
maiden aunts were, and where they were born ; and secondly to
know good literature from bad, when we come upon it in our
own times.'

To THE Same.

' Bramshott Chase,
' LiPHOOK, Hants, April 16, 1890.

* My dear Horace, — I am indeed delighted, though not sui -
prised, to hear about Nowell. But you will do well not to be
over-much puffed up by this reflected glory: for remember that
Shakespeare's father was no one particular (and even constantly in
and out of the Bankruptcy Court), and as for Sir Isaac Newton,
his parentage is at this moment so obscure to me, that, for all I
know, he " growed." However, you are right to be proud of such
boys, and, dear Horace, I beg humbly to enter into your pride,
and to share it, as an old friend. (By the way, it will probably in
the remote future be as having sent me to the Temple Church,
that you will ultimately be famous !)


' It was the Globe, I think, who gave away my glory to oiir
Austm. But he is quite out of it ! In factj there are really only
four Alfreds — (the Saxon King, the Poet Laureate, Mr. Justice
Wills, and myself) — Avho are genuine — all others being counter-
feits. In calling my last two lines weak, they never said a truer
thing. The fact is that, reading the news of the County Council's
Decision in the Times on my way up to London from Bristol, a
fortnight ago, I suddenly thought of a Parody on Cowper's " God
made the country and man made the town " — which I altered to
'' God made the Heath: the L.C.C. the Park" out of which the
sonnet grew ; but as my view proved on the whole serious, I
thought the line, as it stood, a trifle flippant — besides being
" profane, too, o' my conscience " — so I watered it down, till the
alcohol became iinperceptible. But it don't matter. . . .

' . . . Come and dine on Grand Day, May 7th, and upset all
the arrangements by sitting next me. / saw you in the Illustrated
London News. Oh ! what a wolf in sheep's clothing ! — Your own^

' Alfred Ainger.'

' I am here till Friday — then Hampstead again.'

To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

' A2}ril 28, 1890.

' . . . Did you, I wonder, write that short notice of Dowden's
Edition in the Athcnceum ? I could not quite agree in the harsh
terms it applied to W. W. for not at once recognising the pro-
digious greatness of the Ancient Mariner. I am afraid that you
and I, had we been alive at the time, would have probably been
no less obtuse. We have had a hundred years to projit by I I have
lately obtained the second edition of theL./x, with Wordsworth's
singular note — W. Bell Scott's copy, which he had parted with to
Bain. I have got all three editions, and am highly pleased.

' I long to see you again, for I have much to talk about. Please
report yourself earl}'. I am still under the control of my ailment
in the nose, which my friend Dr. Bowles of Folkestone has now
charge of, and for which he is drenching me with quinine as my
best chance. But " the summer is coming, my dear — the summer

is coming." Who is a Dr. of the Browning Society.^ For

he has written the silliest and most arrogant book I ever read
about poor Browning. He says that until the Society put their
name to him, he was the laughing-stock of the public, and the


scorn of the critics. Why, why, can they not let him alone ? He
also calls In Mcmoriam a Magnum Opus.

' Come, Campbell, come, our heath as yet
Is just a trifle chill and wet.
But when the wreath of May has blossomed,
We will make tracks for it, you bet !

' Ever yours,

' Alfred Ainger.'

To THE Same.

'Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, Bristol, [Summer,] 1890.

' My dear Campbell, — Your last long and interesting letter
deserved a speedier reply ; but in truth it takes a long time for
any news here to " accumulate " (like the cream on the surface of
Mr. Cox's ha'porth of milk) — for this is the silly season, when
every one is away, and the newspapers have not even any local
gigantic gooseberries — though I did read the other day of the
return of our old friend, the shower of Frogs ! . . .

* I went up to London for one night on " urgent private affairs,"
as I told you I might ; and was lucky enough to come in for a
performance of ^^ Yott Like It, far from being satisfactory all round,
but having many points of interest. The wrestling was splendid.
They had the finest animal for "Charles, the Duke's wrestler"
that I ever saw, and yet, wonderful to relate, Mr. Drew, as
Orlando, "threw him" most cleverly. I called in at the
Athenaeum, and at Bain's, but thei'e was nothing much stirring. . . .

'Are you a strong admirer of the great Cardinal departed.''
Did you "collect" him in any form? Do you remember one of
dear Thomas Hood's Picture Puns where he represents certain
Tractarian doings at " No. 90, Newman Street, Oxford Street."

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 15 of 32)