Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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'Thank you for your occasional papers in the Athenceum; let us
have some more of them. I wonder if you chanced to read
Besant's onslaught in the last Guardian (but one) on the S.P.C.K.
for " sweating " their authors. It was a splendid bit of invective,
and will leave them badly off for an adequate reply, I think.' . . .

To Mr. Cave,

'Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, August 28, 1890.

' Mv DEAR Dan, — ... I congratulate you on your first " Fish."
For, as you are by this time well aware, a " Fish " is a salmon, and


all others are counterfeits. You don't mention his age or weight,
and how long you were a-killing him, I see from a poem in this
week's Punch that the irrepressible has been again taking up his
Parable against Sport. But as " 'Arry," the writer of the Poem,
with justice remarks, it is not that 'Arrison so much loikes the poor
grouse and salmon, but that he hates the " Bloomin' Toffs." . . .

'. . . Yes — I said a few woi'ds about Newman, for whose char-
acter and piety I had always great respect, though not so much
for his logic. How strangely the same book affects diff'erent
people ! I must confess that the Apologia utterly failed to move
me in the direction of Rome, for its very frankness showed the
singulaily superstitious bias of Newman's mind. Do you remem-
oer how he found some school-boy pictures in an old grammar of
his, and thought they looked like a Rosary — that this made him
think he was destined to join the true Church. "Ex pede ! " I have
lately been reading a number of our '•' All Saints' " Parish Maga-
zine, and this has also failed to draw me in the direction of High
Ritual. There is something to me almost appalling in the fact of
a teacher returning again and again, as to a sin of alarming danger,
to the practice of communicating at the mid-day Service instead
of at one before breakfast. And this is Christianity after eighteen
centuries ! No, my Protestantism (in these respects at all events),
does not become weaker with time, I find. I have been reading
again Stanley's Christian Institutions since I have been here. They
are most interesting reading — though one is not bound to accept
all his deductions from his facts.'

To Mk. Smith of Brocco Bank, Sheffield.

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

* My dear Smith, — I found your welcome letter in the Canon's
Vestry at the Cathedral this morning, and I hasten to answer it to
the best of my ability.

' If you take my advice, you will not injure Elliot's fame by
ranking him too high. He is not a Wordsworth, or a Burns, or
anything like it ; but none the less is he a gemiiiie Avriter, in this
respect that he is no ''Echo," but a "Voice" — (to borrow
Goethe's famous distinction). Of course he owes much to Words-
worth and Burns, and probably much also to Cowpei*, but every
true poet owes much to his predecessors. But he is no copyist or
imitator, but a genuine poetic mind working upon the scenery and


the characters, and the necessities, of his own countrymen and

' His defects are the defects of not being an artist ; I mean that
his poetry, even at its best, is rarely perfect in form, but has
poor lines, and poor thoughts (even), side by side with those that
are most choice and charming. I am writing from memory — for
I am without my library — but you will find that out of all his
lyrics there are hardly more than three or four that would pass
muster in an anthology of the best. Remember how lovely cei'tain
stanzas of " Hannah Ratcliffe " are, and how tender and pathetic ;
but, if I remember, the standard is not kept up throughout. One
or two of the verses are commonplace. Then of course he wi-ote
too much — or rather published too much, for his reputation. The
half, in his case, would certainly have been "greater than the
whole." But I know his fame may safely be left in your hands.
It was you who first shewed me (what was new to me) that the
Corn Law Rhymes were quite the least worthy part of the work he
did, and that it is when he was able to forget social and political
animosities that he found his truest strength.

' I wish your Society would ask me again to lecture, for it gives
me a wholesome excuse for visiting Sheffield, a place and people I
dearly love.

' I remain in Residence till the end of September, and if you
could have come to me here from Saturday to Monday, any time
that month, when I shall be a lonely Bachelor, I would give you a
hearty welcome, and two Cathedral services, and a sermon, and a
good glass of wine {hut don't mention this last). I have been in
Llangollen once. I went to visit the Theodore Martins at Brinty-
silio — or some such name. Do you remember Sir Francis Head
saying of some Welsh village — "Grdllemngr" — where he spent
the night, that he slept "undisturbed by vowels." — With best
love, ever, dear Smith, most yours, Alfred Ainger.

' If you fail to see what I mean by not being an artist, think of
Gray's Elegij, in which there is hardly a thought that rises
above mediocrity, and yet which, by virtue of the poet's art, is,
and will remain, one of the chiefest glories of English Poetry.'

To Mr. Du Maurier.


' Pali* Mall, Friday afternoon.
'Dear and honoured Poet, Artist, Humourist, and MAN.'


— Might not something (in the hands of the right man) be made
out of the following ? —

' In consequence of the new fashion of ladies riding outside the
omnibuses, a Gymnasium will shortly be opened at the West End
where they may practise getting up, and getting down. N.B. —
Each lady will bring her own conductor." — Your own,

'A I'eal "merry cuss." '

To THE Same.

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

* My own dear Artist — and Novelist of the Future ! — How
grieved and ashamed I was to leave Hampstead, for three months'
absence, without calling to wish you and yours good-bye, and take
a tender leave ! But I was so pressed for time when the end
came, and I know you will be tolerant and full of forgiveness.
My best love to you all.

' I cannot give a very good account of myself. I have placed
myself under my friend Dr. Fox's care, and he is giving me tonic-
pills and " Sprays " for my poor nose ; but seems to think it is a
matter of general health — and time. (I also want hot, diy weather,
but it does not come.) He says most men between fifty and fifty-
five years of age have a baddish time, and intimates that I must
not " vary from the kindly race of men." How are yott, and how
are you off for jokes. None at all are grown here, I am afraid,
but I am going to a few dinner parties this month, and will keep
my ears open. By the way, yours is a pretty picture in this week's
Punch, though somewhat unfair to the nobler sex. Surely you
have got a new Poet in Punch. The lines this week on the Sun-
day Holiday are very fresh and touching, and not by a known
hand that I can recognise.

' . . . The following translation by a recent undergraduate is
not amiss : —

'" Anlide tefama est venfo retinente morari."

'"There is a report, Aulidus, that you are dying from retention
of wind."

'. . . Write soon, and tell me I am forgiven, and that your
heart is still with your little A. A.

' Have you let your house ? and how is the young Advocate at
Liverpool ? '


To THE Same.

' Richmond House,
' Clifton Hiul, Bristol, Aug. 27, 1890.

' My dearest Artist, — It is long, too long, since I have heard
from you, or of you, or written to you. I have just been chuck-
ling over your drawings in this week's Punch ; may I remark that
" Euphemisms," not " Euphuisms " was the term you intended.
We will discuss the distinction when next we meet on " Hamp-
stead's breezy heath." By the way Guthrie's Foces Populi this
week is wonderfully funny, and I have been screaming over it.

' And now, how are you, and where are you .'' At Whitby, I
have some sort of idea, though I have not yet traced the fact in
your contributions to "the most wonderful Paper in the world."
. . . Resolve my doubts, as soon as may be.

' Can you recommend any books ? . . . I have just reviewed for
the Guardian the English Translation of Jusserand's English Novel
before Shakespeare. What an excellent and readable book it is. I
used to say of another French critic —

' Our English critics their dull wits keep straining.
When — Enter Taine ! — and all is entertaining.

' But the epigram would be far truer if it could be adapted to
Jusserand. For a taste —

' A Frenchman straying into English fields
Of letters, seldom has a locus standi.
But if there's one to whom objection yields,
'Tis Jusserand — he has the "jus errandi."

^Send this to him with my best respects. Write soon. Our
dear love and regards to you all, — Voire devout-, A. A.'

To Mr. Lathbury, then editor of The Oimrdian.

'The Glade,
'Branch Hill, Hampstead, November Z, 1890.

' Dear Mr. Lathbury, — Only too probably you have already
assigned Walter Scott's Diaries to their ajipropriate I'eviewer.
This is therefore merely an indication of one who would other-
wise have much liked the task of reviewing them.

' I have seen with my own eyes the precious originals. When
I was last in Edinburgh David Douglas showed me them, and I
can never forget the pathetic sight of the handwriting becoming
more than illegible, until it broke down altogether in that last
entry at Naples (or was it Florence ?). — Yours very sincerely,

' Alfred Ainger.'


To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

'The Glade,
'Branch Hill, Hampstead, April 6, 1891,

' My dear Campbell, — I have treated you very ungraciously,
but alas ! you are used to it by this time.

' If for nothing else, I should have thanked you for the epigram
on Lord Byron — which made me ivrithe with laughter all round
my dining-room when I read it about lunch-time. "Brutal," I
dare say it is, but how funny ! May you make many more such
''finds" in the Crabb Robinson MSS., and confide them only
to me, so that, like the gentleman who objected to the modernisa-
tion of Chaucer, you may keep them for yourself and " a few

' I am alone, my girls are at Darley Abbey, and I am in the
midst of a spring cleaning — the very uncertain glory of an April
day. — Yours always, Alfred Ainger.'

To Mr. Edmund Gosse.

'The GiiADE,
'Branch Hill, Hampstead, Aprils, 1891.

' My dear Gosse, — Very many thanks for the kind thought
that sent me Mary Wilkins. I have already read two or three
of her sketches, and they have a rare feeling and truth — notably
the one of the two old sisters who were taken away to a charitable
" home." Perfect, it seems to me, is the treatment here — and
of a kind beyond Mrs. Gaskell even.

' I am going to give a Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal
Institution on the 24th. I always remember how you came and
comforted me last time, when I was a novice. I shall not feel
so lonely this second time. By the way, I shall have to refer to
a recent essay ^ of yours, I think — not wholly to agree with it,
but not in any way that would displease you, I think. — Yours
most truly, Alfred Ainger.'

To the Same.

' The Glade,
'Branch Hill, Hampstead, April 2Q, 1891.

' My dear Gosse, — Thanks for your most kind note. I am
truly sorry to hear of the cause of your absence the other even-
ing, and hope you are all right again.

* The essay was one on ' The Tyranny of the Novel,' afterwards included in
Mr. Gosse's Questions at Issue (1893).


'Your cousin's version of what I said fills me, I confess, with
amazement and despair ! What I hammered at all evening was
the difference between the original men and their imitators. I
maintained that every fresh and original mind set going a whole
school of copyists — and that the copyists, from the very nature
of the case, were doomed to death sooner or later. I enumerated
various euphuisms, as I called them, of this nature. I said there
had been Carlyle euphuisms, Dickens, Macaulay euphuisms, in
prose ; and in poetry a Pope euphuism in past days, and in our
own, Tennyson, Swinburne, Rossetti, etc., ditto. The "echoes"
of these various men^ I said, would not live — and I quoted
Tennyson's own . . . fable of "The Flower and the Weed."

' I expressly, and in so many words, distinguished the originals
from the copies — saying that the former were worthy, and the
latter worthless : and lo and behold, one of my audience goes
away and says that I swept all the originals away as irorthless. I
cannot conceive, unless I am already far gone in softening of the
brain, how I could have so failed to make my meaning clear ! If
by any chance you hear any different versions of what I said, it
would be a comfort to me to know the fact.

' Let me thank you again and again for Mary Wilkins — at her
best she seems to me almost without a rival. Always, my dear
Gosse, most truly yours. Alfred Ainger.

'Among those writers whom I am reported to have "swept
off the board" ai-e men from whom I have learned much, and
whom I deeply reverence — Patmore, Arnold, Miss Rossetti, etc.
. . . Woe, woe, is me ! Please show this to your cousin ; for if
I have so debauched the taste of a whole audience, I would fain
recover one little /«e-lamb from the flock.'

To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

'July 30, 1891.

' Of literary news I have nothing particular. I have been
keenly interested in L. Oliphant's Life. Did you ever know
him ? It is a strange story, but I think I see keys to it. Both he
and his wife tried to get "better bread than is made of wheat" —
as the Spanish proverb has it.

'"Puns I have not made many, nor Punch much" since we
met. But the other day my neighbour, Mrs. Fox, was describing
the voice of a very deep contralto we know. " It seems to come,"
she said, "from the very bottom of her boots." "Ah!" I said,


" I suppose you mean she throws a great deal of Sole into her
singing." But she did not take it, so I send it on to you — a
virgin jest.

'Best regards. Forgive me, and write soon again. — Yours
ever, A. Ainger.'

To Mil. Du Maurier.

' Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill, Bristol, August 2, 181)1.

' Dear Novelist of the Season, and artist of all time !

' How are you ? Are you going to keep your Bank Holiday
alone ? And have you got any new subjects for drawings, and
are you going to break some new ground, and why have you
never done the " Soldier and his Kennel," and /.v not Anstey
Guthrie excellent in his two friends on their travels? This last
instalment (with the American and his daughter) is surely the
very finest and truest comedy. What a play he would write if
he could only construct a good plot on a genial theme.

' This next fortnight I am going ta jyo^ away *i4#fr for a day
or two at a time, for we close our Cathedral for cleaning — the
" Priest-like task of pure ablution," as Keats calls it.

' Have you seen a book called a Group of Noble Dames by
Hardy .'*... Oh, that men would beware of sensationalism and
seeking for new and startling subjects and situations !

' I am rejoiced to hear of that great success of your venture.
I await October, and the two handsome volumes — Od (oher-^avo),
as we write in mathematics. How are the dear family — and is
Sylvia once more in the bosom of that family ? And when do
you start for Whitby ? What will be your address ?

' Report yourselves to your lost and forlorn Canon. — Yours
always and devotedly, Alfred Ainger.

'. . . Many thanks for the Whitaker — next to my woollen
ovei'- waistcoat, my chief earthly comforter.'

To Mr. Edmund Gosse.

'The Glade,
'Branch Hill, Habipstead, December ZO, 1891.

' My dear Gosse, — I am truly ashamed of myself for not sooner
putting on paper my sincere thanks for your pretty book, the



greater portion of which I have now read with great pleasure,
the only drawback being that they (the essaylings) almost all
leave off too soon. Like Mr. Squeers's boys and the milk and
water, I had just drunk enough " to make me wish for more,"
when I found the chalice dashed from my lips. Many of them
awakened pleasant memories. I had long ago discovered (of
course through Wordsworth) the merits of Lady VVinchelsea ;
then it was John Buncle, you remember, that Charles Lamb
called a " healthy book," and the Scotch gentleman demurred,
having heard the term previously applied to a climate or situation,
but never to a hook.

'Then the account of the Barnacle Tree in Gerard's Herbal
recalled Hood's delightful fancy as to the origin of the XByth.
An old cobbler having pawned his gold-mounted spectacles to
purchase his Christmas dinner, a rumour got about that " Bar-
nacles produce geese." It is lovely, is it not ?

'Altogether your book is not only {pace the Scotchman)
'' healthy," but lively and stimulating. Give us some more out
of your eighteenth century stores. I know the quarry is in-

' I am not writing in very high spirits, for death and illness
are all around. May the coming year bring you all health and
prosperity, my dear Gosse ; and pray believe me, in spite of all
my waywardness, yours most sincerely, Alfred Aingeu.'

To Mr. Dykes Campbell.

'Athen^lm Club,
'Pi*LL Mall, S.VV^., February 10, 1892.

' Dear Campbell, — . . . You will be surprised to hear that
my "Picture" (so the editor calls it) is to be in Vanity jPotV this
week. The editor wrote to advise me of the fact, and to ask if
I would supply them with my age, and some other pathetic
details. Thinking it better, in dealing with such people, to
"take it lying down" rather than "fighting," I wrote civilly and
supplied them with a few facts — such as the length of time I
had been at the Temple (a touching and interesting theme which
may be trusted to waken up the Prime Minister, or other dis-
pensers of Patronage). But what will my " Picture " be like }
I know I shall have yours and Mrs. Campbell's deep sympathy
and good wishes for my recovery.


' I shall write again to-morrow, to send you two enclosures I
want you to see. — Yours ever, Alfred Aingeu.

' The pudding was prepared for yesterday's dinner — and a
solecism of deep enormity ensued. I had two helpings. It is
the orange, I have discovered, that gives it its sublimity of

To Mr. Horace Smith.

' The Gladk,
'Branch Hn,i,, Hampstead, March 16, 1892.

* Mv DEAREST HoRACE, — Indeed I had heard nothing of your
illness, or of course I should have written. How, indeed, should
I have heard, unless my dear neighbour, Mrs. Charles, had informed
me — and she did tiof. I do hope this blessed change of weather
to-day (" Each moment sweeter than before " — Wordsworth !
Ahem !) will speedily bring you round again — " solvitur acris
hiems grata vice veris et Favoni," as your namesake once
remarked — and

' " Wheu the wind blows, the fever will fall
And up will go stomach, liver, aud all."

' Nowell is a strange Oxonian, not even to know the Institutions
of his own University. My term of office as Select Preacher ^
does not even begin till next October, so that there has been
no ''postponement" whatever. I then hold office for two years,
during which time I shall probably have four or five turns (more
"select" therefore than "numerous" — hence the name).

' I hope Nowell will do well in his coming exam., and that, as
the Apostle (all but) said, " his ' Moderations ' will be known unto
all men." Give him my love when you write, and exhort him not
to do discredit to my friendship, or outrage to my hopes.

'. . . Do you want any papers or books to read during your
convalescence ? Let me know, and I will send you some. I have
made 7io jokes lately, or I would send them. Though I did make
a happy quotation at Marlborough ! The Head Master told me
that a neighbouring gentleman, who had been touring in Switzer-
land, gave a lecture on the subject to the boys, illustrated with

^ Ainger had this year been appointed as Select Preacher at Oxford.


magic lantern views. "Ah!" I said, "they used to do that in
Juvenal's day, you remember —

' " . . . I demens, curre per Alpes
Ut pueris placeas."

' But the neatest thing I ever heard was said by a member of
my cloth. Archdeacon Burney, the other day. He was at a
meeting at Rochester, when a list of subscriptions was being read

out: "Mr. : Fifty Pounds." "That's pretty good," he

whispered to his neighbour. Archdeacon Cheetham (who told me
the story). Cheetham, who knew the giver was excessively rich,
murmured, " It ought to have been £500 ! " to which Burney
instantly rejoined, " Ah ! he forgot the ought ! " It is perfect, is
it not } " It makes me so ?iild," as Mi'. Toole says, that I did not
say it myself! " Pereant qui ante nos." . . . Your affecK,

'Alfred Ainger.'

To THE Same.

' Dyrham Lodge,
' Clifton Park, Bristol, Sunday, [Sumjner 1892].

' I leave here on Friday next.
' Residence up.

' My dear Horace, — A thousand thanks for the little book, and
for your kind note. The verses are all charming to me — not less
so because I remember many of them so' well in their origin,
and they bring back many of the sweetest and saddest days of
my old life. I am so glad you included the "Little Curate." I
only wished I had been allowed to appear oftener, for there must
be many verses in your Portfolio, dating from college and Alrewas
days concerning both you and me, and I would gladly have gone
down to posterity, a fly in your amber. The word "fly" reminds
me of our joint poem :

"'Will you walk into my curacy."*
Said Haweis to A. A."

Where is that delightful lyric disappeared to .-*

*Your parodies are for the most part excellent. "Give that
Brief to me" — transcendent. I had forgotten it, though I
remember now your showing it to me when written. Really, they
touch me deeply — even the humorous verses — because they stir
such memories, and I find myself, like Mr. Augustus Moddle,
standing gazing with tears in my eyes — "especially when it's
anything of a comic nature ! " Mr. Todgers said.

' ... If I could forget for a moment that you were a Bencher


(and can ordei- me at any time to immediate execution) I would
explain that you are a hard body to please, or else I would ask for
six months leave of absence, which might set me up in health.
' God bless you, dear Horace. — Ever your affec*^^,


' Do you know this excellent French pun on Labby ?

' " Quelle est ' la Verite ? '
La boue chere a six sous." '

To Mk. du Maurier.

'Dyrham Lod«k,
'Clifton Park, Bristol, Juhj 22, 1892.

'My dear Kicky, — Your kindly letter was a generous return
for my scrimpy effusion. I hope you are all well, and that all
promises well for the 12th— for the happy pair, I mean, not for
the ?<«happy Braces who will also be despatched in divers parts
of the kingdom that morning ! Punch very good again this week
— Anstey Guthrie quite transcendejit. What a power he has got
of transcribing certain forms of seamy life, and what political
good sense and acumen there is in his satire.

' Is there anything new in the book world ? I wonder if you
were at the last Literary Society Dinner ? Some of the random
newspapers are saying that if Gladstone comes into office our
friend, the Chief, is to be Lord Chancellor, but I should doubt it.

' . . . I am going up to London, I expect, next week, for a
night, to see my doctor, but I shall not reach so far north as

' Best love to you all. — Your own Canon in Residence, A. A.

'I have told Frank that no doubt the G.O.M. will try to bear
his moderate majority with " Forty-two-d." '

To THE Same.

' Uyrham Lodge,
' Clifton Park, Feast oj St. Lubbock, 1892.

'Sea-Side Bookseller's Shop.

' Lady Visitor (in search of something to read). " Have you
Browning's Poems ? "

' Solemn Bookseller. "No! Ma'am. None of us down here can
understand him ! "

'Lady V. "Have you Praed?"

'.S. Bookseller. "Yes, ma'am. We tried that, but it was of
no use!"


' I read of this as having actually happened. This may be
doubted, but it is surely ben trovato.

' How good of you to flatter my vanity, both as a " Discourser "
and as a maji (for Canons after all are human !), by your report of
the two Divine Ladies who called on you. But why leave me
half unsatisfied by a too careless calligraphy ? Is it Jewell or
Jewett, or Jowett — or what other " J " ? I wonder if it was
yesterday week, July 24th, that they were here. I did preach

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 16 of 32)