Edith Helen Sichel.

The life and letters of Alfred Ainger online

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splendours whereof more, I trust, when we meet on many a
sunny afternoon in May on Hampstead Heath. We have come
upon many English friends and acquaintances, but have not made
any new ones of any quality. We are in a first-rate Steamer (one
of Mr. Cook's), with every luxury and comfort, and only some
thirty-five passengers, the boat being constructed to take twice
that number, so that we are not crowded, and life is very easy.
Of the thirty-five, only about half are English speaking, of these
a few are Scotch, and a few American. There are some rare
specimens of the British Philistine. We heard something to-day
that we thought might suit you. A very gentlemanly young
Dane, on board, was confiding to a very vulgar Englishwoman
that he found such difficulty in the pronunciation of certain
English letters, especially the " R." She expressed much
sympathy, but added, " You surprise me. I should have thought
our ' H ' would have been much more difficult for you." (She
probably spoke from bitter personal experience !)

' I have been to the Pyramids, and penetrated to the interior
of the big one — to the King's Chamber — where the sarcophagus
of Cheops still remains. Three stalwart Bedouin Arabs hoisted
and pulled and pushed me through the difficult passages, and
as I was nearly out again, very much perspiring, one addressed
me, and said, " You know Mark Twain's book } Yes .'' " So that
you see our great English and American humorists are doing
their civilising work even in the Deserts of Libya. The same as
another Bedouin, who was our Cicerone for the day, and had a


number of cards on which our predecessors had written friendly
words as to his qualities as Guide, He shewed me one of the
last he had received, and which he seemed much to value. He
asked me if I knew the gentleman in England. I took the card
and read " Mr. Clement Scott." I told him that that was his
Arabic name, but that in England we pronounced it " T-ommy
R-t." I have no doubt that the columns of the Daily Telegraph
have long ago sounded the praises^ and described the dress and
bearing of our friend " Isa Abdul," for such was his name.

* I hope you and your dear ones are all well and thriving, and
that your Irish journey was pleasant and prosperous, and brought
you both money and friends, and a store of good Irish stories.
I have not seen the last two Punches, and every Tuesday I am
perfectly miserable. If you should be bursting with a desire to
write me a line or two, address " Care of T. Cook & Sons, Cairo,
Egypt." Best love and regards to all, your ever faithful,

'Alfred Ainger.'

To Miss Thompson.

* Hotel d'Angleterre,
'Athens, Sunday, March 19, 1893.

'. . . But oh, my dearest Mary, I cannot even attempt to
describe to you the beauty and the inspiration of this city, which
it has been the dream of my life to behold. I have just been this
afternoon, for the second time, to the Areopagus, and stood again
on the very spot where St. Paul stood, on the slope of the hill,
with the Athenians before him, and the whole city lying at his
feet — the most superb panorama — , with the mountains beyond
and around, and the Parthenon and other temples to his right
and left. It is the loveliest, most touching spectacle my eyes
ever beheld — and I am most thankful to have been spared to see
it. I went to church, like a good Englishman, this morning, but
all through the sermon I was listening to St. Paul on the neigh-
bouring hill, and hearing him quote Menander about " We also "
being " His offspring." '

After two months' absence, he returned much the better for
his trip. He was very glad to be back in familiar surroundings.
' I am not happy in places where I do not get my letters and
the newspaper,' he said. May and June passed pleasantly, and
July saw him once again in Bristol. He did not lose many


days before resuming his relations with Punch and his corre-
spondence with du Maurier. The letters continue as usual.

' Richmond House,
' Clifton Hill, Bristol, July 19, 1893.

'Why. Oh! WHY — does not my "Kicky" consult his
" Chanoine " before he " does " a joke sent him ? The " nothing
to nobody " is as old as Hood, who tells the story (I think, for I
am away from my books) in a note to some Papers of his on
" Copyright." In any case he tells it as of some miserly old man,
whose liberality is in question.

'How are the dear family at N.G. House ? I have no news for
them, save that I do my daily and weekly duties with meekness —
and go out to dinner sometimes — and behave myself decorously to
my fellow-man. . . . — Your own attached (though critical)

*A. AiNGER.'

'Richmond House,
' Clifton Hill, Bristol, Sept. 15, 1893.

' My dear Kicky, — It is no use ! I can hold out no longer ! !
I must have the original of the " Doocid fine Chappie ! " and
enclose what I believe to be the usual cheque. I have long been
on the look-out for a "du Maurier," in his "later" period, and
now I have hit it exactly. Please (if you will let me have it), let
it be enclosed between two cardboards and forwarded to me here.
I hope you have got my two last letters. — Your own and faithful,
and admiring Canon, Alfred Ainger.'

November found him back once more at the Glade, which
happily had found no tenant.

' No, Mr. Ignoramus ' (he wrote thence to du Maurier), 'it's a
Latin Ode, and runs thus : —

***Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis.
Quae nunc abibis in loca.''"

* You see, dear Scholiast, that "abibis " being a verb of motion
takes in with our accusative after it ; note also that loca is a
frequent alternative for locos — there being a form " locum," as well

as " locus."

'(Were you only jocose,
You miglit use locos —
But being a joker.
You may rise to loca !)


' I shall not improbably lunch with you (in accordance with your
sweet invitation) on Tuesday next.

' How are you after looking at 's drawing in this week's

Punch — as well as can be expected ? — Your own fondly attached^

* Canon.'

To Mrs. Smith.

' Christmas, 1893.

'. . . This is the most ungenial weather for Xmas I ever
recollect, it is cold and damp, and windy, and gloomy — so sit
with your back to the window while you read this and keep one
eye on the fire ; which reminds me of what Heinrich Heine said —
" that ladies who write books always write with one eye on their
Paper, and another on a man — except " (he added) " the Countess
Hahn-Hahn, who had only one eye." Talking of the fire, you
seem to have been breaking the record in conflagrations this
week at Sheffield. A poor linen-draper too — I hope he is insured.
I remember one night some years ago, from Hampstead Heath,
looking forth upon a great Fire at Maple's, the Furniture people
in Tottenham Court Road. I was unfeeling enough to quote
Tennyson, " That Maple burn itself away ! " {In Memoriam.
Remind Smith to look it up.)

' This subject of puns reminds me of a very pretty edition of
Hood's humorous Poems, Macmillan, published this Christmas,
with some very charming illustrations by a new Ai'tist, who was
introduced to my notice by Dinham Atkinson. The Publishers
asked me to write the Introduction, and if it falls in your way
you may possibly (but not likely) recognise some sentences
out of a lecture on Hood that I once gave at your Literary and

' Oh ! you dislike Puns, do you .^ So do I generally — (see my
Preface, passim). But sometimes one is irresistible. . . .

* As Artemus Ward used to say — " A joke noAv and then
improves a comic paper," and it may also improve a Christmas

X^cTLcF* • • •

' One piece of frivolity brings on another. Ah ! I remember a
Christmas years ago at the old Atkinsons' at Kingsley, a sad case of
one thing biinging on another. I hope it won't occur again (history
repeating itself) at your hospitable board. A poor young lady
was taking a sausage from a dish handed round, to go with her
turkey, but the sausage (alas !) had not been severed from its
companion — nor the companion (Horror !) from the next one —


and so they poured on to her plate — like " linked sweetness long
drawn out" — until she was ready to fall through the floor with
nervousness and mortification. " One thing drawing on another "
— Ah ! my Brethren — how often — but I forget myself ! . . .

' Be sure you answer all my questions when you write — and
about your visit at Birmingham, and everything concerning 'em, and
if every Knyvett is right as a trivet^ and if dear Katie is in judgment
more weighty — and if our dear Lily is ever known to be silly — alas !
for the Rhyme — it has done me this time : but I hope her dear
To7n will not judge me therefrom: I feared lest the shock tvonld
dismay every Lochvood — at this awful profanity as to dear Lily's
sanity. (You will observe that I am in training for the Laureate-
ship, which Mr. Gladstone has now decided that he will fill up
at the opening of the coming Century). I wonder, by the way,

if you heard what is reported to have said of the Grand

Old Man : that he " combined the eloquence of a St. Paul with
the — inaccuracy of an Ananias."

' Inaccuracy is so curiously like " in a curacy " that I naturally
begin to think of my dear godson Jim, who is, I trust, covering
himself with glory — and reflecting some upon his godfather —
in our University Town, It is a horrid climate and no mistake,
and it had much to do with my not finally accepting St. Edward's.
I hope the boy's health will not suffer. If it does, don't let him
stay. It is so awfully depressing to some constitutions. Talking
of depressing — there we go again — did you hear of the Stage
Manager at the Lyceum drilling the Witches in the great Brocken
Scene (Infernal Regions) in Faust } They came on hopping and
skipping, and as merry as you like, when he sternly checked
them — " That wont do at all ! You musn't look ' appij ! you musn't
look 'appy ! You're not on 'Ampstead 'Eath — you 're in 'Ell !"
It was also at the Lyceum that one of the carpenters was one day
seen hunting about for something, with a very discontented and
melancholy air, and was heard to mutter — " Dear ! dear ! dear !
eveiything 's gone wrong with me this week ; I buried my wife
yesterday — and now I can't find my bradawl anywhere ! "

' But come, come, there are limits to this style of letter-writing,
even at festal seasons, and this epistle is only too like the mis-
directed humour (so called) of those I used to write in the old^
old days, before years had brought the philosophic mind. ... So
let me apologise for this temporary relapse into the childish
gambols that once could please : and whatever you do — do7it
forbid me your house, for I shall take no notice if you do !


' God bless youj dear old friends. We all send love and regards
and best wishes^ and you know — so don't pretend you don't — that
I am always, — Your affect^ and faithful, Alfred Ainger.'

1894, which was to be so momentous a year for him, opened
with a press of business.

' I hope you can forgive my great discourtesy in not sooner
thanking you for the letter of Charles Lamb's that you were so
kind as to send me some weeks since. The only excuse I can
offer is an accidental and inevitable conflux of engagements that
has been mine the last month. A visit to Bristol, for a chapter
meeting, a visit to Manchester to lecture at Owens College, and
stay with my old friend, A. W. Ward, a sermon at Oxford, and
three lectures at the Royal Institution ; these are among the
"circumstances over which I have had no control," and I feel
sure you will judge me gently.'

So he writes to Mr. Sidney Lee, his friend, and by now his
editor, for Ainger had already written his article on Lamb in
the Dictionmy of National Biography. And the fragments
that follow are addressed to the same correspondent.

' Has it ever occurred to you that Meres, in using the phrase
"among his private friends," meant something more than that
the Sonnets were still in manuscript ? Does not the particularity
of the phrase point to the fact that the Sonnets were in truth
largely "pieces de circonstance," and were written at the I'equest
or suggestion of many and various friends who wanted expression
given, in verse, to some incident or experience of their own ?

''I was reading last night Charles Knight on the subject of
begetter, etc. It strikes me that he is (for once) very acute. He
is not in general very much of a commentator.

'Are you quite right in instancing "Shoal," for school, as a happy
emendation of Theobald's ? Are they not the same word origin-
ally, and did not mariners commonly talk of a " School of Por-
poises," for instance ? has not returned to the charge. I

should say, with the American in the story, that I would not
willingly call him, or any man, a " liar," but that if I met him
walking down Waterloo Place arm in arm with Ananias and
Sapphira, I should say it was quite a. family party ! ' . . .

' June 14.
' I am so glad the dinner last week went off so successfully, and
I thank you very much for mentioning my name among those who


most cordially recognise Mr. Smith's great services to English
History in what he is doing. I noticed that my friend Bishop
Creighton spoke of them as services " to Literature," but they are
far more than that.'

In the early summer, Dean Vaughan's resignation of the
Mastership was finally announced, and in June, Lord Rosebery
offered the post to Alfred Ainger. He could not have found
a fitter person for the office, nor one who delighted in it


' June 28, 1894.

* Dear Horace (wrote the new Master to his old friend), — You
must be among the first to hear that Lord Rosebery has offered
me the Mastership, and that I have accepted it. . . . — Your ever
affectionate, A. Ainger.'

The appointment gave universal satisfaction.

' Of Canon Ainger,' said the Times, ' we may almost say that he
has become prominent in his own despite. So far has he been
from unduly pushing himself to the front that he might be
blamed, if at all, for keeping too much in the background. Lord
Rosebery has been too keen-sighted for him, and has picked him
out for the office which he is now to fill, and, we doubt not, to
adorn. His appointment is a recognition.'

And in all the letters that he had from friends and
strangers the refrain is the same, only warmer. ' I think
your appointment will be received in this way wherever
you are known, since where you are known you are beloved.'
These words from one of the notes epitomise the general

Ainger's summer migration to his Canonry and the closing
of the Temple for vacation prevented his immediate assump-
tion of his new duties. It is from Bristol that he writes the
next letter, again to Horace Smith (whose son had been dis-
tinguishing himself) — and the rest follow in due sequence.

' Richmond House,
'Clifton Hill,Bristol, July 16, 9a.m.'

* Dear Horace, — My warmest congratulations to the dear boy,
and to ALL ! ! I knew it ! I knew it ! ! from the day he acted


umpire and declared me o^it (for stomach before wicket). I will
write you further in a day or two. I am off to London for the
day, so excuse haste. I never thanked you, dear H., for your
own felicitations on the Mastership, but up to present moment
have had 276 letters, and they take some time. What to call
me, quotha ? —

" Call me Lalage or Chloris
Perdita, Neaera, Doris !
Only, only, call me thine."

(CoLERinoE, not the lamented chief.)

' Love to all, your ever own, A. A.'

To Mil. GossE.

'Richmond Hoise,
' Clifton Hill, Bhistol, July 25, 1894.

' My dear Gosse, — I write this in case you should hear that I
had been seen in London last Monday week, the very day of the
Keats celebration. For as a fact I was up for one day — suddenly
and unexpectedly, to see my Dentist — and I was in the hands of
"kind heart" (as they called him euphemistically, in Shake-
speare's day) at the very 'witching hour of 4 p.m., when your
proceedings opened. So do not write me down perjured caitiff
because I had previously refused your committee's flattering

* I read the report of all your sayings and doings with great
interest, and in the main with great agreement, though to call
' Keats " one of the " loveablest " or most loved, of English poets,
as Palgrave did, seems to me to argue great perversity of judg-
ment, or infelicity of expression. I quite am with you in thinking
Keats on the whole the most ideally "poetical" of poets, as
regards expression, that ever lived.

' What I do think incongruous is putting him in a Chui'ch —
which seems to me on a par with placing a bust of the " Judicious
Hooker " (my eminent predecessor) in the Parthenon.

' For Johnny could not indeed be said so much to have "for-
gotten what the inside of a Church was like," as never to have
made the discovery.

' Many thanks again for your telegram, one of the first in time,
and certainly not one of the least valued, that I received. My
friends have been very kind ; nearly three hundred letters up to


last evening! and so little Romance about the thing— either for
myself or my hearers — seeing that we have known one another
for some eight and twenty years ! — Ever yours,

' Alfred Ainger.'

To Mr. dv Maurier (after the publication of Tr'ilhy).

' Richmond House,
*CuFTON Hill, Bristol, August 14, 1894.

' Dear Kicky, — I yearn for news of you and yours — but I don't
deserve any, for I have so long neglected your charming letter.
I have been very busy with Cathedral Work (md with corre-
spondence (arising out of the Mastership among other things),
and am still much in arrears. Then we had a week of the Doctors
(British Medical Association), and I preached to the Doctors, and
dined with them, and met them at Garden Parties, and alto-
gether had a high old time of it — and met many old, and made
some nice ?iew friends. More when we meet !

' I have been hoping to be able to write and say I had read
all Trilby. But as yet I have only managed to get the first three
numbers of Harper, but I have read these with astonishment and
delight. In the scene in which Trilby first discovers that her
calling (as nude model) is a shameful one, and does so through
her love and respect for these Englishmen, you have reached a
height that any novelist might envy. It is almost genius, and I
cried over it in bed, when I read it. And moreover, dear boy,
allow me to say that you there excelled yourself because you
forgot — in the intensity of your own feelings — to be consciously
witty and humorous. The fault of your style, I venture to say,
is that the love oi persiflage is too continuous — one longs sometimes
for a repose. But for the vivacity and brightness of your descrip-
tions and dialogue I have nothing but praise — and envy (" a little
friendly envy, gentlemen," said Mr. Pell). I hope to get the
remaining chapters in a few days, and shall eagerly read them.
I rather dread the hypnotic portion — I care nothing for these
things — and fear it may damage or discredit the verisimilitude of
the other portions of the story.

' I wish I had some stories for you, but I have none. I hope
soon to see Whitby appearing in Punch. Don't go tempting me
with any more "Deuced fine chappies." That reminds me — how
is the dear Gerald ?

'Punch is wretchedly bad just now. . . . Guthrie's ^or/e lies in


character and dialogue, not in plot-making or situation, I think.
I read an interesting article on Phil May in the Magazine of Art,
which was lent me. He is the genius among the coming men, I
think. I have just bought two little water colour sketches here,
by Wimperis. Do you know him ? He has got great charm.

' I sometimes snigger at the comic column of our local press.
For a taste !

(1) "Yes, the horse cost me £500, and you shall have it for


{Suspicious friend.') "That's rather a curious reduction, is

it not ? "

" Well, the fact is, it bolted one day, and killed my poor wife —
and now I 've no further use for it ! "

(2) ' Two strangers contemplating " Niagara."

First S. " It seems a pity, does it not. Sir .^ this vast volume of
water running thus uselessly away."

Second S. " You speak. Sir, I presume, as an Engineer."

First S. " No, Sir— as a Milkman ! "

' Love to you all from self and nieces, yours affectionately,

'A. AiNGER.'

To THE Same.

' Richmond House,
' Clifton Hill, Bristol, Sept. 12, 1894.

'Dearest Kicky, — . . . There is not much news here. People
are beginning to come back, and things are livelier. Moreover,
the weather is really enchanting. The great Irving comes here
next week, and I am actually trying to get stalls to see him in a
new little one-act Piece by Conan Doyle, called the Waterloo
Veteran. He plays the Bells also, which oddly enough I have
never seen. "Ellen " is not with him this time — only " Marion."

' Well, I have finished Trilby. You know how little I care for
the supernatural in Fiction — so I don't mind telling you that I
love the first half of your book, and don't care for the second. Up
to the "hypnotism" incidents, I think your story charming and
beautifully true to nature and artistic — after that, as it seems to
me, a pathetic and deeply interesting and credible story of real
life degenerates into a Fairy-tale.

* I need not say that I don't care for your theological discus-
sions, not because they are unorthodox, but because they seem to
me irrelevant, and therefore inartistic ; and the speech about
" robbing me of my Saviour " should not have appeared at all.


It is a blot ; again, not because of bringing a Sacred Name into
a humorous story, but because it is ioo obviously lugged in, and
therefore again an offence against art.

' All through, save in one or two of the best passages, you are,
in my judgment, too perpetually upon the "humorous tiptoe."
You are nowhere so excellent and so strong, as when you forget
the persiflage-ic vein, and become serious. As I said in my last
letter, the whole situation, and the conduct of Ti-ilby after dis-
covering by the love and esteem of those three good fellows that
sitting for the nude is, to say the least, unwomanly — is just
admirable — and so are the conversations of Little Billee's mother
and uncle, when they beg Trilby to break the engagement.
Trilby's death scene I am less pleased with. It seems to me too
long, and would have been far more effective and pathetic if half
the length. But for all that, when the book comes out in one
volume form with the Pictures, I must have one, with an inscription
from the talented author and dear friend.

' By the way, why do you draw Little Billee, almost to the
life, from F. Walker, and then introduce F. Walker as a separate
individual ? Is this simply to perplex and hoax the gentle reader .''
A i^ropos de F. W., I fear you will call me an extravagant dog, but
I was tempted in our leading Art-shop here the other day, and
bought an etching by Macbeth, from F. W., A Rainy Day — do you
know it } Simply a dull bit of country town, with a pony cart,
and two umbrellas — and roads streaming with water, — but oh !
" the Poetry of it — the Poetry of it, lago !" How thankful I am
to you. Kicky, for having taught me, among other good things, to
know good art when I see it — though, as you see, the knowledge
is going far to land me in the Bankruptcy Com*t !

' I heard a story (to me) new, of Thompson of Trinity. He
remarked, that of the ordinary Undergraduate it might perhaps
be said, that he " hated knowledge for its own sake." . . . Love
and blessings to you all, including Trixy and Charley. Your
imbecile critic, but faithful friend, ' Alfred Ainger.'

In the autumn he returned to London, and later, together
with his family, moved into his new quarters. The dignified
Master's House, so long already a home to him, was now to
become really his. No other house in London would have
made so fit a setting for his figure, and he never ceased to
take pleasure in its four walls and all that surrounded them.


Henceforth his existence shaped itself, both in its work and
its play, as it was to remain to the end. Money difficulties
were by this time practically removed from his path, and the
obligation to write or to lecture was no longer pressing.
Thus, though the number of committees and public functions

Online LibraryEdith Helen SichelThe life and letters of Alfred Ainger → online text (page 24 of 32)