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SOME
LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS



BY

JAMES PAYN

AUTHOR OF
LOST SIR MASSINGRERD ' 'BY PROXY' ETC.



LONDON
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE

1884

t^// rights reserved]



55



TO

LESLIE STEPHEN

A CRITIC BLIND TO NO LITERARY MERIT SAVE HIS OWN
THESE RECOLLECTIONS ARE DEDICATED
BY HIS OLD FRIEND

JAMES PAYN



4958v^0



PREFACE.

The substance of this book has already
appeared under the same title in the ' Cornhill
Magazine,' but the work has been recast, and
now appears, with additions, in a somewhat differ-
ent, and, it is hoped, an improved form.



CHAP.



CONTENTS.

PAGE



I. BOYHOOD — ETON — WOOLWICH ACADEMY — AT A

PRIVATE tutor's— GETTING INTO PRINT . . I

11. COLLEGE LIFE— W. G. CLARK DR. WHEWELL— DE

QUINCEY— GEORGE BRIMLEY 44



III. MISS MITFORD



74



IV. MISS MARTINEAU— WILLIAM ARNOLD. . • • 97

V. THE BROTHERS CHAMBERS— ALEXANDER RUSSEL—

DEAN RAMSAY — HILL BURTON — ALEXANDER
SMITH— EDITORIAL EXPERIENCES . . -137

VI. FIRST MEETING WITH DICKENS— CALVERLY— MY

FIRST BOOK— A LION TAMER ^79

VII. LONDON— THE VALUE OF A TITLE— PERSONAL NAR-
RATIVES— AN EXECUTION- LEECH— GILBERT A
BECKETT— JAMES WHITE — READE— TROLLOPE—
THACKERAY— DICKENS ^97

VIII. PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS-ANONYMOUS PUBLICA-
TIONS — LITERARY GAINS — TWO IMPOSTORS —
WHIST— FAME ...•••• ^34-



-rf



SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.



CHAPTER I.

BOYHOOD — ETON — WOOLWICH ACADEMY — AT A PRIVATE
tutor's — GETTING INTO PRINT.

Above all writers, I envy and admire autobiogra-
'' phers. Unhappily the feat of narrating one's own
life in print can only be performed once. I should
like to do it ever so many times, regarding myself
in each case from a new standpoint ; but to me it
is marvellous how it can be done at all. It doubt-
less arises from modesty and the total absence of
egotism, but for my part I don't remember more
than half-a-dozen things that ever happened to
me, and still less ivhen they happened. There is
Scriptural authority for not thinking very highly
of the individuals who make a practice of observ-
ing ' days and months and times and years,' and

B



2 ' ■■ sbk'E' LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

so far at least I am a Christian man ; but to be
able to put every event of one's life into the proper
pigeon-hole is nevertheless a gift I envy.

It is necessary, even for the autobiographers,
however, to have kept a diary, which unhappily I
never did, except for a week or two. I retain a
fragment written in boyhood : genuine, but for any
benefit I derive from it in the way of assistance to
the memory, it might be the Shapira manuscript.

Sunday, — Twice to church. Revs. Jones and
Robinson preached. A collection. Sixpence >
(I wonder why this note of interrogation.)

Monday. — Wet Improved my mind. Duck
for supper. Tommy. (Who was Tommy ? Or
was it an ejaculation } The name of a place never
mentioned to ears polite is sometimes associated
with the word Tommy to express a catastrophe.
Perhaps this was an abbreviation.)

Tuesday. — Called on Uncle B. ; grumpy and
unsociable. Accounts : lucifers and sundries, four
pounds.

I suppose I had always a distaste for detail ;
at all events I seem to have very soon ' dropped
off gorged ' from these personal memoranda, the
perusal of which makes turbid the stream of life
from its very source. I can't even remember who



A DIARY. 3

Uncle B. was ; it was probably a pseudonym for
some person in authority of business habits, whose
individuality I have forgotten. In the next entry
I find a Bishop mentioned.

Wednesday. — (No month, or even year, are ever
stated ; the diary seems, like Shakespeare, to have
been ' for all time.') The Bishop called.

Did he t And if so, what did he want ? And
who was he } Our home was not so overrun with
Bishops but that I should have remembered him
had he been a real one. My conviction is that
this also was a pseudonym. Out of such materials
as these, though no doubt attractive to the com-
mentator, it is obviously impossible to construct
an autobiography. However * keen to track sug-
gestion to her inmost cell ' might be the writer, he
could not compress the thing within reasonable
limits : if, as usual, there is to be prefixed a narrative
of his ancestors during the civil wars (mine were
all there) and an ample description of his great-
grandmother — from whom he inherited his genius
— the work would assume portentous dimensions.

For these reasons, an autobiography (which
has been more than once requested from my
humble pen) is out of the question. On the other
hand, I have certain recollections. My mind,



4 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

though a blank as to dates and even ordinary
details, retains personal impressions vividly enough;
and it is possible in the case of certain noteworthy
persons, with whom during a life of letters I have
come in contact, that my reminiscences of them
may have some interest They extend, alas ! over
many years, but I must premise that I have no
• scandal about Queen Elizabeth,' nor anyone else,
to communicate. This is, I feel, a drawback.

The cry —

Proclaim the faults they would not show !
Break lock and seal ; betray the trust ;
Keep nothing sacred —

goes forth stronger than ever. But unhappily my
memory is so defective that I recollect nothing
against these good folk. There were matters amiss
with them, doubtless, for they were mortal ; but so
far as I was concerned— a very young aspirant to
fame — they gave me of their best. People talk of
the vanity of authors ; of their selfish egotism ;
of their crying out ' Whip behind ! ' when some
poor fellow would hang on to the footboard of the
chariot in which they themselves ride forth so
triumphantly. But then some people lie. My ex-
perience of men and women of letters— which has
been continuous and extends over thirty years— is



KINDNESS OF LITERARY MEN 5

that for kindness of heart they have no equals.
The profession of heaHng comprehends, it is true,
natures as generous and as gentle, but in that
there is (technically speaking) a mixture. I have
never known but one absolutely offensive man of
letters ; and even he was said to be pleasant when
sober ; though, as I only met him some half-a-
dozen times, and his habits were peculiar, I never
had a fair chance of finding him in that condition.
As a very young man I remember expressing
this rose-coloured view of the calling I had made
up my mind to follow to Charles Dickens. He put
on that comical look of his — every feature full of
humorous significance — and turned to John Forster
with ' It is plain our young friend has yet to

know ' And it so happened that I never did

know , a circumstance which one can hardly

regret. ' But,' as the old novelists used to say,
' I am anticipating ' — I suppose I must begin at
the beginning, and give some account of my early
predilection for story-telling and a literary life ;
though, for my part, I confess that, in perusing the
early chapters of similar biographies, I have gene-
rally had a tendency to * skip ;' the life of * literary '
boys being very much like that of other boys, with
the disadvantage of being generally a miserable



6 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

one. Boys with a turn for humour (unless of the
practical joke description) fare worst of all, for
your average boy hates wit even more than other
kinds of intelligence, and licks its possessor with a
wicket, for being ' facetious.'

It was my unhappy lot in youth to have a
lively fancy, and to be much addicted to reading
works of the imagination ; and though I hated
lessons of all kinds as much as any of my con-
temporaries, they never forgave me this, and it
made me a very unpopular boy. It was hard upon
me, for I suppose in some sort I inherited these
disadvantages. My father was of a genial nature,
very well read, and with a turn for practical matters
also which I never possessed. He had led a life of
leisure for many years, but when it became neces-
sary for him to exert himself for the sake of his
family, he buckled to his work with amazing dili-
gence and success. The necessity I believe arose
from something like disinheritance. In the Town
Hall at Maidenhead there hangs a picture of my
paternal grandfather, in a stiff wig, and with a very
' disinheriting countenance.' He was, at all events,
very rich, and left his only son very far from rich.
At his death my father bestirred himself, and by
help of troops of friends (for he was very popular)



MY FATHER. 7

obtained certain appointments ; among them the
clerkship to the Thames Commissioners, at that
time an important post with large emoluments
attached to it. He could not, however, have been
entirely absorbed in business, for at the same time
he kept the Berkshire Harriers. I was so young
when I lost him that I have scarcely any remem-
brance of my father ; but he must have been an
attractive man.

Miss Mitford writes to me of him : ' Your father
and I were friends when I was a girl of fifteen, and
he a lad of your own age. I doubt if you know
the manner of man he was, for the cares of the
world had changed him much. In his brilliant
youth he was much like a hero of the fine old
English comedy (which you would do well to
read) ; the Archers and Mirabels of Farquhar and
Congreve ; not a poet, but a true lover of poetry,
with a faculty of reciting verse, which is amongst
the most graceful of all accomplishments.' Almost
my only recollection of my father is our reading
' Macbeth ' together ; it always fell to my part to
rehearse the dagger scene with a paper-knife. This
r greatly enjoyed, but not so another amusement
which he expected me to appreciate.

Twice a week I had to go hunting ; this I



8 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

abhorred. I had a nice Httle bay bony {^Flash of
Memory, ' Lightfoot '), and could ride well enough,
but the proceedings were too protracted for my
taste, and I wanted to be at home to finish the

* Mysteries of Udolpho ' by the fire. There was
one thing I disliked even more than hare-hunting.
This was fox-hunting. All my family, except
myself, had sporting proclivities, and many a time
through mistaken friendship have I been given
' a mount ' with ' The Craven,' or ' The South
Berks,' which I would much rather have declined,
had I dared to do so. It was not only my own
reputation, however, that was at stake, and I had
to go through with it. I remember on one occa-
sion getting some very bad language from a hunts-
man for feeding some young hounds with cake in
a wood. Sometimes the cold, and the waiting
about, and the having nothing to read, grew abso-
lutely intolerable ; there was then nothing for it
but to dismount, put clover or something in my
hair, smear my shoulder with mould, and ride home

* having met with rather a nasty tumble.' Of course
it was very wrong ; but why will people compel
poor boys to amuse themselves with things that
give them no pleasure? ,It would have been better
(and cheaper) to have let me enjoy * Peregrine



MISERIES OF SCHOOL. 9

Pickle,' * Captain Cook's Voyages,' and the ' Ara-
bian Nights,' all day, without the temptation of
practising duplicity. My dearest mother— kindest
of women, and at that time one of the most beau-
tiful — was the only human being who understood
me. I was a home bird in every feather, and her
pet.

Never shall I forget the wretchedness I endured
at my first school from home-sickness ; fox-hunting
was nothing to it. When I used to wake in the
mornings, and find myself, after happy dreams, in
that land of exile, I thought myself the most mise-
rable of human creatures. I have the keenest recol-
lection of it even now. Nothing that I ever suffered
since— and I have suffered like other men, in many
vv^ays — has been comparable with the misery of
that time. I am well aware, of course, that I was
not a fair specimen of the British schoolboy ; but
when I hear what he calls ' old buffers ' talk of the
delights of school, and wish themselves back there,
I think of the Cretans to whom the Apostle has
given the palm for Lying. The author of ' Vice
Versa ' has of late, with as much truth as wit, ex-
ploded the whole delusion, and I thank him for it.
I always learnt my lessons, but without the least
interest in them. I pitied and liked the ushers.



\^/



ro SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

The head-master I did not like ; he was a pom«
pous lethargic fellow. I remember on one occasion;
inquiring of him how Castor and Pollux could
have had immortality conferred upon them alter^
7iately. 'You young fool/ he replied, 'how could
they ever have had immortality conferred upon
them at all}'' I was but seven years old, or so,
but I perceived from that moment — for how could
he otherwise have missed the whole point of my
difficulty? — that it was possible for a man to be
at once a scholar and an ass. That view has on
more than one occasion been since corroborated.

I was only popular at this school for one reason :
it was unhappily discovered that I invented stories,,
and thenceforth — miserable Scheherazade ! — I was
compelled to narrate romances out of my own head,
at night, till the falling asleep of my last lord and
master permitted my weary little body and cud-
gelled brains to seek the same repose. I remained
at this establishment, which was preparatory for
Eton, for several years. It was so hateful to me
(from no fault of its own, I am bound to say ;
school was antipathetic to me, that was all), that,
when the holidays were over, I used to bury things,
which would otherwise have been useful to me, in
the garden, so that I might dig them up, when I



ETON. II

returned home, undefiled from any experience of
that classical seminary.

One morning, in the middle of the term, there
was a commotion in the house, to us smaller boys
unintelligible, except that there was no morning
school, which we appreciated as much as the big-
gest. A strange gentleman appeared at midday,
and informed us that the head-master had been
summoned abroad on urgent private affairs, and
that our parents and guardians had been communi-
cated with ; I knew nothing of what it all meant
except that the term had been miraculously and
providentially shortened, and that we were to go
home. Even when I got to learn that the 'urgent
private affairs ' meant bankruptcy and flight, I am
afraid I evinced a shocking equanimity, and only
thought of ' Lightfoot ' (for it was not the hunting
season) and my mother.

I suppose I was about eleven years old when I
went to Eton. I was at a dame's house, and my
tutor was Cookesley, a very eccentric but capital
fellow. I was probably too young to properly
appreciate even Eton : the fagging, though not
severe, was very offensive to me, and I resented the
ridiculous airs and graces of the upper boys. I
remember a fifth-form young gentleman (looking



12 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

in his white tie like a miniature parson) inquiring
of me in a drawling voice, ' Lower Boy, what
anight your name be ? ' Though I never properly
understood the niceties of the Greek aorist, I did
understand the inflections of my native tongue, and
replied, ' Well, it might be Beelzebub, but it isn't,'
upon which the duodecimo divine altered his tone
very much, and even proceeded to blows. It was
only the proper punishment for ' cheek,' no doubt,
but I thought it hard that a repartee should be
so ill-received.

The fagging system of which Thackeray has
expressed such bitter scorn was at its height at
that time. Its defenders used to say that it pre-
vented bullying ; but, as a matter of fact, where
a fifth-form fellow was a brute, it authorised

it. One B , a boy at my dame's, was an

especial victim of this tyranny ; one of the heads
of the house had taken a particular antipathy to
him, and was always sending him on long errands
for mere cruelty. On one occasion, he sent him to
the end of the Long Walk (four miles away) to
fetch a brick from the statue of George III. A
moralist, or the gentleman in the Society journal
who solves the Hard Questions, may decide what
1^ ought to have done under such circum-



'FIRST FAULT.' 13

stances. What he did do, was to bring a brick
from a much less distant spot, and take his affidavit
that it came from His Majesty's statue. Whatever
virtues the fagging system may have inculcated, it
certainly taught the Art of Lying. In spite indeed
of the general contempt in which, upon the whole,
I think that vice was held at Eton, there were many
exceptions. Nobody got 'swished,' for example,
if he could evade it by a tarradiddle. Swishing
was, and is, a grossly indecent performance, which
one illustration in the ' London News,' or ' Graphic,'
would assuredly put an end to for ever. Dr. Haw-
trey, who was the head-master in my time, detested
it. I can see him now in his cassock and bands,
holding the birch (as Lamb says of his master)
'like a lily,' in his jewelled fingers, while some
young gentleman, in the presence of a troop of
friends, was undoing his braces. ' Please, sir, y^rj-^
faulty pleads the trembling boy (everybody was let
off the first time, unless for the most heinous
offences). ' I think I remember your name before,'
says the pedagogue in an awful voice.

' My brother, sir,' suggests the culprit. (It was
a happy thing to have had, as I had, a brother
before you — and not too good a boy — at Eton.)

' I'll look at my book,' was the stern rejoinder.



14 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

And in the meantime— unless, alas ! he had had no
brother before him — the culprit fastened his braces ;
he was at least reprieved. A humorous lad I will call
Vivian, who had reached the rather unfloggable age
of seventeen, and was upon the point of entering the
army, was ' swished,' as he thought unjustly, the very
week before his departure from the school. In
those days a perquisite— and a very large perquisite
—of the head-master's was a ten-pound note given
to him by every fifth-form boy on leaving. The
etiquette was to call at the lodge, and drop the
note into a jar, or anything handy, where the
doctor could find it, after his dear pupil had gone
away. It was something like the visit of a delicate-
minded patient to a doctor of medicine. But Vivian
only pretended to drop his ten-pound note into the
jar, and reserved it for more agreeable purposes.
He pictured to himself with great satisfaction the
head-master's fruitless hunt after that bit of tissue
paper, after he had got over the emotion of wishing
him farewell. ' I can't flog him for flogging me
unjustly,' was his reflection,' *but, dash it, I can
fine him!' I have narrated this incident in 'Less
Black than We're Painted,' but it is possible that
some people (Philistines) may not have read the
book.

The cruellest thing that happened to me at



A 'CRAMMING' SCHOOL. 15

Eton was a vain attempt to contribute to the school
magazine, called the ' Eton Bureau ; ' considering
my tender years, however, the disappointment was
hardly to be wondered at.

When I had been at Eton a year or so, I
received a ' nomination ' to the Royal Military
Academy and was removed to a preparatory
■school at Woolwich, where I began my education
afresh, and remained many years. In the days
when I was young the word 'cramming,' as applied
to educational seminaries, was unknown, but the
thing itself was in existence, though not on so
large a scale as at present. When a boy received
■a nomination for the Military Academy, though the
interval, as in my case, before he could be qualified
for admission might be a long one, he was sent at
once to one of the many schools at Woolwich,
which professed to educate him for that purpose,
■and for nothing else. Some boys had very little
time to spare, and their education (especially if
they came from public schools, where little was
learnt at that date save Greek and Latin) was
necessarily carried on at high pressure. This
saved time, and to put the whole establishment on
the same footing saved trouble. I had never known
what work was till I went to Woolwich, and I had
much rather have remained in ignorance. We had



i6 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

really hardly any playtime, save on Wednesday and
Saturday afternoons, and yet our position was one
of ease and leisure compared with that of boys
at certain rival establishments. At one of them,
where the young gentlemen went especially late — at
fifteen, or fifteen and a half (the age of admission
to the Academy being sixteen) — they took their
lessons with their meals, like dinner pills, and
digested Euclid between the courses. It was taken
for granted (and I am bound to say in most cases
with good reason) that no one who came to Messrs.
Hurry and Crammem's had ever learnt anything
before : yet no explanation of anything was vouch-
safed to us. It was understood that we couldn't
swim, yet we were flung out of our depth into the
river of learning. I have tried all systems of educa-
tion, with the poorest results imaginable, but this one
was certainly the most hateful. For weeks I used
to learn Euclid by heart, without a soul to tell me
what was the meaning of it, or why I was punished
for my performances at the board. Languages
have been always as unattainable to me as the
science of music, and for many months I used to
copy my German exercises from a fellow-student*
till a catastrophe happened : I was so ignorant of
the German characters— in which they were written



AN INVOLUNTARY FORGERY. 17

— that I actually signed his name at the end of one
of them, instead of my own. Detection, of course,
would have taken place much earlier had I been
nearer my examination, for the elder boys were
looked after sharply enough. Heavens, what a life
it was ! If a boy had died there, his existence
would have ended like that of an ' habitual criminal,*
in penal servitude ; and his friends would doubtless
have remarked that he had passed away in happy
boyhood, before he had known the ills of life.
Indeed, I was often told by my elders that I was
' like a young bear, with all my troubles to come.'
It is difficult to decide whether your sanctimonious
fool, or your philosophic fool, deserves the palm for
folly.

What I especially resented at this place was
that, in the whirl and hurry of * cram,' there was
no time for reading and writing : for I was in
my youth an omnivorous reader, and, in spite of
the many mills of education through which (as
will be seen) I passed, contrived to learn some
things really worth knowing ; it is fair also to
say (though I derived little other benefit from
these seminaries) that their variety was very use-
ful to me, in the line of life I subsequently chose
for myself, and offered me a wide study of life

C



'V



1 8 SOME LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS.

at an unusually early age. As for writing, I was
never tired of setting down ' what I was pleased to
call my thoughts,' on paper, and generally in verse ;
and what is much more strange, I found a channel
(in the eye of the law at least) of ' publication ' for
them. A schoolfellow of mine, Raymond, had a
talent for drawing, and a third scarcely less gifted
genius, Jones, could write like print. These various
talents might have remained comparatively un-
known, but for one Barker, who had a genuine
turn for finance, and who hit upon a plan for
combining them. We were like poor and struggling
inventors, who in this young gentleman found their
capitalist, and thanks to him were enabled to
enlighten the world ; and the parallel, as will be
shown, went even further. His idea was that we
should start a weekly paper, full of stories and
poems. I was to compose the contents, Jones was
to write any number of fair copies, and Raymond
was to illustrate them.

' Of course,' said Barker, 'we shall not do it for
nothing,' which I thought (even then) a very just
observation. The price of each copy was accord-
ingly fixed at sixpence. It did not strike me that
anyone would refuse to give so small a sum for such
admirable literature (not to mention the pictures,



A FORCED CIRCULATION. 19

which indeed I did not think so highly of), but in
practice we found there were difficulties. Many-
boys were of so gross a nature that they preferred
to borrow their literature, and spend their sixpences
in the tuck shop ; and though the first number (as
often happens) was — to Barker — a financial success,
the second number fell flat, and there were several
surplus copies on our hands. Then came in our


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