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best of the sayings of Chesterfield, La Eochefoucauld,
Addison, and other famous masters of sentences, is
much that is nearer to the level of nursery common-
place. But then these commonplaces are new truths
to the young, and they are the unadorned, unseen
foundations on which character is built.

The home over which this excellent woman pre-

W. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 219

sided oftered an ideal picture of domestic felicity and
worth. The grave simplicity of the household, their
intellectual ways, the absence of display and even of
knick-knacks, the pale blue walls, the unadorned fur-
niture, the well-filled bookcases, the portrait of George
Washington over the chimney-piece, all took people
back to a taste that was formed on Mrs. Barbauld
and Dr. Channing. Stanley, afterwards Bishop of
Norwich, and father of the famou.s Dean of our own
day, was rector of the adjoining parish of Alderley.
Catherine Stanley, his wife, has left a charming
memorial of the home of the Gregs.

Have you ever been to Quarry Bank ? It is such a
picture of rational, happy life. Mr. Greg is quite a
gentleman ; his daughters have the delightful simplicity
of people who are perfectly satisfied in their place, and
never trying to get out of it. He is rich, and he
spends just as people do not generally spend their money,
keeping a sort of open house, without pretension. K he
has more guests than the old butler can manage, he has
his maid-servants in to wait. He seldom goes out, except
on journeys, so that with the almost certainty of finding
a family party at home, a large circle of connections, and
literary people, and foreigners, and Scotch and Irish, are
constantly dropping in, knowing they cannot come amiss.
You may imagine how this sort of life makes the whole
family sit loose to all the incumbrances and hindrances
of society. They actually do not know what it is to be
formal or dull : each with their separate pursuits and
tastes, intelligent and well-informed.

Mrs. Fletcher, again, that beautiful type of feminine
character alike as maiden and mother, whose auto-

220 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

biograpliy was given to the world a few years ago,
tells how the family at Quarry Bank struck and
delighted her. 'We stayed a week with them,' she
says, ' and admired the cultivation of mind and refine-
ment of manners which Mrs. Greg preserved in the
midst of a money-making and somewhat unpolished
community of merchants and manufacturers. Mr.
Greg, too, was most gentlemanly and hospitable, and
surrounded by eleven clever and well-conducted
children. I thought them the happiest family group
I had ever seen.' ^

Samuel Greg was one of thirteen children, and he
in his turn became the father of thirteen. W. R
Greg was the youngest of them. The brightness and
sweetness of his disposition procured for him even
more than the ordinary endearment of such a place
in a large family. After the usual amount of school-
ing, first at home under the auspices of an elder sister,
then at Leeds, and finally at Dr. Carpenter's at Bristol,
in the winter of 1826-1827 he went to the University
of Edinburgh, and remained there until the end of the
session of 1828. He was a diligent student, but we
may suspect, from the turn of his pursuits on leaving
the university, that his mind worked most readily
out of the academic groove. After the manner of
most young men with an aptitude for literature, he
competed for a prize poem in John Wilson's class,
but he did not win. When he was in low spirits — a

^ AutoUograitMj oj Mrs. Fletcher, p. 97. Edinburgh : Ed-
moustou and Douglas, 1876.


mood so much more common in early manhood than
we usually remember afterwards — he drove them
away by energetic bursts of work. On one occasion,
he says, ' When I was so bad that I thought I should
have gone distracted, I shut myself up, and for three
days studied all the most abstruse works that I could
find on the origin of government and society, such as
Godwin, Goguet, Kousseau, et ccetera, from seven in
the morning till twelve at night, which quite set me
up again.' ' Natural history,' at another time he tells
his sister, 'is my principal pursuit at present, and
from half-past six in the morning to twelve at night
I am incessantly at work, with the exception of about
two hours for exercise, and two more for meals.'

Sir William Hamilton was the chief intellectual
influence in Edinburgh at this time, and Greg fol-
lowed his lectures with lively interest. He was still
more attracted by the controversy that then raged in
Edinburgh and elsewhere on the value of Phrenology
and Animal Magnetism. Hamilton, as all students
of contemporary philosophy are aware, denounced the
pretensions of Phrenology with curious vehemence and
asperity. It was the only doctrine, his friends said,
that he could not even tolerate. On Animal Magnet-
ism he held a very difi"erent opinion, and he wrote to
Greg encouraging his enthusiasm in that direction.
' There has always,' he said, ' seemed to me a founda-
tion of truth in the science, however overlaid with a
superstructure of credulity and enthusiasm. ... I
foresee as great a clamour in favour of the science as

222 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

there is at present a contempt and prcjiidice against
it, and both equally absurd,'

It was in this field, and not in literature or philo-
sophy, that Greg's interests were most actively aroused
during his university career. When his life as a
student came to an end, he returned home with his
whole faculties of curiosity and enthusiasm concen-
trated upon natural history, phrenology, and animal
magnetism. 'I have a canine appetite for natural
history,' he told his brother in 1828. He describes
with all the zeal of a clever youth of nineteen how
busily he is employed in macerating skulls, dissecting
unsavoury creatures before breakfast, watching the
ants reduce a viper to a skeleton for him, and striving
with all his might to get a perfect collection of ani-
mal and human skulls. All this, however, was rather
an accidental outbreak of exuberant intellectual
activity than serious and well-directed study. He
was full of the vague and morbid aspirations of youth.

As for me [he writes to his elder brother], I am pining
after change, I am thirsting for excitement. When I
compare what I might be with what I shall be, what I
might do with what I shall do, I am ready to curse my-
self with vexation. ' Why had I, who am so low, a taste
so high V I know you are rather of a more peaceful
and quiet temper of mind than I, but I am much mis-
taken if you have not much of the same desire for some
kind of life more suited to man's lofty passions and his
glorious destiny. How can one bear to know how much
is to be seen and learned, and yet sit down content with-
out ransacking every corner of the earth for knowledge
and wonder and beauty ? And after all, what is picking


a few skulls (the occupation which gives me the greatest
pleasure now), when compared with gaining an intimate
and practical acquaintance with all the varieties of man,
all the varpng phases of his character, all the peculiari-
ties of his ever-changing situations V ^

We may smile at the youthful rhetoric, as the
writer proceeds to describe how shameful it would be
to remain inactive in the sight of exertion, to be satis-
fied with ignorance when in full view of the temple
of knowledge, and so forth. But it is the language
of a generous ardour for pure aims, and not the
commoner ambition for the glittering prizes of life.
This disinterested preference remained with Greg
from the beginning to the end.

William Greg's truest delight at this time lay in
his affectionate and happy intercourse with his
brother Samuel. There were three elder brothers.
One of them died comparatively young, but Robert
and John were eminently successful in the affairs
of life ; the former of them represented Manchester ;
they both lived to be octogenarians, and both left
behind them the beneficent traces of long years of
intelligent and conscientious achievement. In Samuel
Greg an interesting, clear, and earnest intelligence
w^as united to the finest natural piety of character.
Enough remains to show the impression that Samuel
Greg made even on those who were not bound to
him by the ties of domestic affection. The posthu-
mous memorials of him disclose a nature moulded

1 August 28, 1828.

224 w. n. GREG : A sketch.

of no common clay ; and Avhcn he was gone, even
accomplislied men of the world and scholars could
not recall without emotion his bright and ardent
spirit, his forbearance, his humility.^ The two
lirothers, says one who knew them, were 'now both
of them fresh from college : their interest was alike
keen in a great variety of subjects — poetry, philo-
sophy, science, politics, social questions. About these
the two brothers were never tired of talking together.
They would pace up and down all the evening under
the stars, and late into the night, discussing things
in heaven and earth with a keen zest that seemed
inexhaustible. Their appetite for knowledge was
insatiable, and their outlook over the rich life that
was opening before them was full of hope and

The energetic and high-minded mother of the
house died at the end of 1828, and the tenderness
and skill of her youngest son in the sickroom sur-
passed the devotion of women. In the following
year he went to manage one of his father's mills at
Bury, where he went to reside. The Gregs had
always been distinguished for their efforts to humanise
the semi-barbarous population that the extraordinary
development of the cotton industry was then attract-
ing to Lancashire. At Quarry Bank the sedulous
cultivation of their own minds had always been

1 See the little volume entitled A Laymani's Legacy ; pub-
lished in 1877 (Macmillan and Co.), with a prefatory letter by
tho late Dean of Westminster.

W. R, GEEG : A SKETCH. 225

subordinate to the constant and multifarious demands
of their duties towards their workpeople. One of
the curious features of that not very distant time
was the Apprentice House. The employer procured
children from the workhouse and undertook the
entire charge of them. The Gregs usually had a
hundred boys and girls between the ages of ten and
twenty-one in their apprentice house, and the care
of them was one of the main occupations of the
family. They came from the refuse of the towns,
yet the hai'mony of wise and gentle rule for the
young, along with dutifully adjusted demand and
compliance between the older hands and their em-
ployers, ended in the transformation of the thin,
starved, half-dazed creatures who entered the gates
of the factory into the best type of workpeople to
be found in the district. The genial side of the
patriarchal sj^stem was seen at its best. There is
a touch of grace about the picture of the pleasant
house with its old beech -trees and its steep grassy
lawns sloping to the river, with the rhythmic hum
of the mill, the loud factory bell marking the hours
like the voice of time itself, the workers pouring
through the garden in the summer morning on their
way to Wilmslow church, and receiving flowers and
friendly salutation from the group at the open door
of the great house. It was little wonder that these
recollections acquired a fascination for William Greg
that never passed away, and gave that characteristic
form to his social ideas which they never lost.


At Bury and at Quarry Bank the two brothers
were unresting in their efforts both to acquire know-
ledge for themselves and to communicate it to their
neighbours. They delivered courses of lectures, and
took boundless trouble to make them interesting and
instructive. In these lectures William Greg took
what opportunities he could find to enforce moral
and religious sentiment. ' I lay it down,' ho said,
' as an indubitable fact that religion has double the
effect on Saturday that it has on Sunday ; and week-
day morality, incidentally introduced, meets with
far more attention than the tautology of Sabbath
subjects, treated in the style in which they generally
are by professed teachers.' A more questionable
diligence displayed itself in the zealous practice of
experiments in animal magnetism and mesmerism.
With a faith that might have moved mountains the
two brothers laid their hands upon all sorts of sick
folk, and they believed themselves to have wrought
many cures and wonders. William Greg described
animal magnetism as a ' discovery bearing more
immediately and extensively on the physical happi-
ness of the world than any which the last three
centuries have witnessed.' The cowardice of doctors
and others, who believed but were afraid to speak,
stirred all the generous fire of youth. 'Here, of
itself,' he cries out to his sister (September 4, 1829),
' is a bitter satire upon human nature, and a sufficient
answer to all who moralise on the impropriety of
flying in the face of i^eceived opinions and public

W. R. GEEG : A SKETCH. 227

prejudice. I assure you it is a knowledge of how
often the ridicule and contempt of the world has
crushed truth in the embryo or stifled it in the
cradle, which makes me so eager to examine and
support those opinions which mankind generally
condemn as visionary and irrational.' In later times
these interests became a bond between W. E,. Greg
and Miss Martineau. He finally let the subject drop,
with the conviction that years of practice had brought
it no farther on its way either to scientific rank or
to practical fruitfulness. The time would have been
better spent in severer studies, though these were
not absent. From Green Bank he writes to his
sister in 1830 : —

Sam and I are at present engaged in some calculations
on population, which have brought us to a very curious,
beautiful, and important conclusion hitherto overlooked
by all writers on the subject whom I have consulted, and
which threatens to invalidate a considerable part of
Malthus's theory. It respects the increase or diminution
of fecundity ; but I will write you more fully when we have
quite established our facts. I have just finished a number
of very tedious tables, all of which confirm our conclusions
in a manner I had not ventured to anticipate. . . .

I am now (September 3, 1830) very busy reading
and arranging and meditating for my lectures on history,
which will be ten times the labour of my last ; also
collecting from all history and all science every fact, or
principle, or opinion, or admission, or event, which can
in any way bear upon magnetism, or suggest any argu-
ment for its correctness, whereby I have amassed a
profusion of ancient and modern learning, which I think
will astonish the natives when I bring it forward.

228 W. E. GREG : A SKETCH.

My other occupations at present uie reading through
the Lest authors and orators of our country — to get a
perfect coinniand of language and style — -as Hooker,
Taylor, Burke, Canning, Erskine, Fox, etc., after which
I shall take to French literature, and make myself as
well acquainted with Voltaire, Moliere, Bossuet, Massillon,
Fiddlier, and Condorcet, as I am with Mdme. de Staiil
and Rousseau and Montesquieu and Volney. This will
be work enough for another year ; and what fit may
then come upon me, it is impossible to see. My views
on population are confirmed by every fresh calculation
I see, and Sadler's new work aftbrds me the means of
controverting his theory and establishing my own. The
moral, physical, and political influence of manufactures
and Poor Laws I must next examine.

A little later he wi'ites : —

Everything bears indications of some approaching
struggle between the higher and lower classes, and the
guilt of it, if it does come, will lie at the door of those
who, by their inflammatory speeches, public and private,
and by their constant and monotonous complaints, have
raised among the people a universal spirit of rebellion
and disaffection to everj'thing and everybody whom
Nature has ordained to rule over them. We are all
waiting in some alarm and much indignation for the
result, and in the meantime {entre nous) I have written
a small pamphlet, addressed to the higher classes on the
present state of public feeling among the lower, urging
them to moderate and direct it if they can. But sooner
than the present state of things should continue, I would
adopt any principles, conceiving it to be the duty of all
men, as Burke says, ' so to be patriots as not to forget
that we are gentlemen, to mould our principles to our
duties and our situations, and to be convinced that all
(public) virtue which is impracticable is spurious.' I


write to induce the people to leave politics to wiser
heads, to consent to learn and not endeavour to direct
or teach.

We here see that before he was one -and -twenty-
years old, Greg was possessed by the conception that
liaunted him to the very end. When the people
complain, their complaint savours of rebellion. Those
who make themselves the mouthpieces of popular
complaint must be wicked incendiaries. The privi-
leged classes must be ordained by Nature to rule over
the non- privileged. The few ought to direct and
teach, the many to learn. That was Greg's theory of
government from first to last. It was derived at this
time, I suppose, from Burke, without the powerful
correctives and indispensable supplements that are to
be found in Burke's earlier writings. Some one said
of De Tocqueville, who afterwards became Mr. Greg's
friend, and who showed in a milder form the same
fear of democracy, ' II a commence k penser avant
d'avoir rien appris ; ce qui fait qu'il a quelquefois
pens6 creux.' What is to be said for Mr. Greg, now
and always, is that he most honourably accepted the
obligations of his doctrine, and did his best to discharge
his own duties as a member of the directing class.

He did not escape moods of reaction. The truth
seems to be, that though his life was always well filled,
he inherited rather the easy and buoyant disposition
of his father than the energy and strenuousness of
his mother, though he too could be energetic and
strenuous enough upon occasion. Both William Greg

230 W. E. GREG : A SKETCH.

and his favourite brother were of what is called, with
doubtful fitness, the feminine temperament. It was
much less true of William than of Samuel Greg ; but
it was in some degree true of him also that, though
firm, tenacious, and infinitely patient, ' he rather
lacked that harder and tougher fibre, both of mind
and frame, which makes the battle of life so easy and
so successful to many men.' It may be suspected in
both cases that their excessive and prolonged devotion
to the practice of mesmerism and animal magnetism
had tended to relax rather than to brace the natural
fibre. Samuel Greg broke down at a comparatively
early age ; and though his brother's more vigorous
system showed no evil results for many long years to
come, there was a severe reaction from the nervous
tension of their mesmeric experimentation.

Those who trace despondent speculations of the
mind to depressed or morbid conditions of body will
find some support for their thesis in Mr. Greg's case.
When he was only one-and-twenty he writes to his
sister (December 2, 1830) : —

I am again attacked with one of those fits of melancholy
indifference to everything, and total incapacity for exertion,
to which I am so often subject, and which are indeed the
chronic malady of my existence. They sometimes last
for many weeks, and during their continuance I do not
believe, among those whose external circumstances are
comfortable, there exists any one more thoroughly miser-
able. . . . For nearly four years these fits of melancholy
and depression have been my periodical torment, and as
yet I have found no remedy against them, except strong

W. K. GREG : A SKETCH. 231

stimulants or the society of intimate friends, and even
these are only temporary, and the latter seldom within
my reach, and the former I abstain from partly on prin-
ciple, but more from a fear of consequences. Every one
has a thorn in the flesh, and this is mine ; but I am
egotistical, if not selfish, in inflicting it upon others. I
begin to think I have mistaken my way both to my own
happiness and the affections of others. My strongest
passion has always been the desire to be loved — as the
French call it, 'le besoin d'etre aim^.' It is the great
wish, want, desire, necessity, desideratum of my life, the
source through which I expect happiness to flow to me,
the ultimate aim and object which has led me on in all
the little I have done, and the much that I have tried
to do.

From these broodings the young man was rescued
by a year of travel. It was one of the elements in
the domestic scheme of education that the university
should be followed by a year abroad, and in William
Greg's case it had been postponed for a season by the
exigences of business and the factory at Bury. He
went first through France and Switzerland to Italy.
At Florence he steeped himself in Italian, and read
Beccaria and Machiavelli ; but he had no daemonic
passion (like Macaulay's) for literature. ' Italian,' he
said, ' is a wonderfully poor literature in everything
but poetry, and the poets I am not up to, and I do
not think that I shall take the trouble to study them.'
When he reached that city which usually excites a
traveller as no other city on earth can excite him,
dyspepsia, neuralgia, and vapours plunged him into
bad spirits, and prevented him from enjoying either

232 W. R. GREG : A SKETCH.

Eome or his books. The siglits of Rome were very
(liflbrent fifty years ago from those that instruct and
fascinate ns to-day. Except the Colosseum, the
Pantheon, and a few pillars covered thick with the
filth of the modern city, the traveller found the
ancient Rome an undistinguishable heap of bricks.
Still, when we reflect on the profound and undying
impression that Rome even then had made on such
men as Goethe, or Winckelmann, or Byron, the short-
coming must have been partly in the traveller. In
truth, Mr. Greg was not readily stirred either by
Goethe's high artistic sense, or by Byron's romantic
sense of the vast pathos of Rome.

I pass my time here [he says] with extreme regularity
and quietness, not knowing, even to speak to, a single
individual in Eome ; and the direction to my valet when
I start on my perambulations, ' al Campidoglio,' ' al Foro,'
forms the largest part of my daily utterances. ... In a
fit of desperation I took to writing a kind of political
philosophy, in default of my poetical aim, which is quite
gone from me. Tt is a setting forth of tlie peculiar politi-
cal and religious features of the age, wherein it differs
from all preceding ones, and is entitled the Genius of the
Nineteenth Century. I do not know if I shall ever finish
it ; but if I could write it as I have imagined it, it will
at least be entitled to come under Mr. Godwin's definition
of eloquence. That gentleman being in a company of
literati, who were comparing their notions of what elo-
quence could be defined to consist in, when his opinion
was asked replied, 'Eloquence is truth spoken with fervour.'
I am going on witli it, tho'ugli slowly, and fill up the rest
of my leisure time with Dante and Machiavelli (with
which last author I am delighted) in the morning, and

W. E. GREG : A SKETCH. 233

with Boccaccio and our Englisli poets in the evening.
Sight-seeing does not occupy much of niy time.^

From Rome Mr. Greg and a companion went to
Naples, and from Naples they made their way to
Sicily. I have said that Mr. Greg had not Byron's
historic sense ; still this was the Byronic era, and no
one felt its influence more fervently. From youth to
the end of his life, through good and evil repute, Mr.
Greg maintained Byron's supremacy among poets of
the modern time. It was no wonder, then, that he
should write home to his friends, — ' I am tired of
civilised Europe, and I want to see a mid country if
I can.' Accordingly at Naples he made up his mind
to undertake what would be a very adventurous tour
even in our day, travelling through Greece and Asia
Minor to Constantinople, and thence northwards
through Hungary to Vienna. This wild and hazard-
ous part of his tour gave him a refreshment and
pleasure that he had not found in Swiss landscapes
or Italian cities, and he enjoyed the excitement of the
' wild countries ' as thoroughly as he had expected.
On his return to England he published anonymously

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