Mary Louisa Bruce.

Anna Swanwick ; a memoir and recollections, 1813-1899 .. online

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a room in the Colonade (now demolished),
and here they held classes twice a week for


girls who were unable to go elsewhere to
school. She entered into the work with
characteristic energy and devotion, and the
influence she exercised over her pupils is thus
described by one of the few survivors of
those who were privileged to attend these

E. S., old pupil, writes : —

" My remembrance of dear Miss Anna
Swanwick dates back as far as 1847. In or
about that year, I was admitted as a pupil
in a school which she opened in conjunction
with other ladies. The classes were held in
a room over a shop in the Colonade (a
quaint old - world place now demolished).
The room was large, we were thirty-six in
number, that was our limit, and vacancies
were readily filled by waiting candidates.
Our curriculum was poor compared with the
present School Board Code, nevertheless what
we learnt was well learnt, and was worth
learning. We were taught self-reliance,
self-respect, courtesy, and good manners,
order and punctuality, a spirit of truthfulness,


and the habit of thinking for ourselves, not
of ourselves. I can see Miss Anna now with
her sweet smile and calm gentle voice, as she
taught us some new rule in arithmetic, or
explained something obscure in our reading
lesson. Then in our reading no monotonous
drawl, no dull meaningless uttering forth of
mere words, was permitted. She would
explain all that might seem obscure in the
language, would depict the circumstances
to which our reading referred, describe the
environment and scenery, and then bid us
read on, and we had to read a sentence or
paragraph again and again until the right
tone and emphasis had been given, showing
that we felt and understood the meaning of
what we were reading. . . .

" My almost hero-worship of dear Miss
Anna Swanwick lifted my heart and mind
into realms of thought and feeling which
saved me from sinking into morbid melan-
cholia during my sad life. . . . After long
years I met her again. How kind she was,
what delightful half hours I have had with


her ! This renewed intercourse was all too
brief — advancing age, increasing the frailty
of her bodily powers — but there still
remained the warm heart, the clear intellect,
the sweet smile and tender look."

This work exemplifies in a striking
manner the love of humanity which ran
like a golden thread through her whole life,
and was the essence of all her teaching.

A few years later these classes were
removed to Newman Street, and here she
also collected together young women from
the neighbouring shops for social evenings,
reading and recitation.

When Dr. Martineau came to settle in
London as Professor of Manchester College,
and subsequently as Minister of Little Port-
land Street Chapel, he was so much impressed
with the need of schools in that neighbour-
hood, that, together with a band of zealous
workers, he raised funds to build the
Portland British Schools, now transferred to
the School Board, and the girls' classes, above
mentioned, were then incorporated in this


school. Anna Swanwick took a warm
interest in the scheme from the first, and
soon turned her attention to the boys, who
on leaving school, drifted into undesirable
companionship. For these lads, she held
evening and Sunday classes, and she
frequently remarked that in order to hold
the attention of youths of that age, and to
make the lessons sufficiently interesting
to induce them to come voluntarily week
after week, required serious thought and
consideration on the part of the teacher.
Scenes from history were pictured by her so
graphically that they were listened to with
keen interest ; she inspired their imagina-
tions and made the great men she told them
about live and move before them as realities.
She used to relate how one day she met one
of her lads going to his work, and how he
touched his hat and said, " Please, mam, I'm
thinking as that Marcus Arelius, as you was
telling us about, was a fine fellow ! " showing
how completely her description had taken
hold of his mind and dwelt in his thoughts.


She gave them of her best, " good measure
pressed down and running over," and moving
on a higher plane herself she lifted them out
of their common-place surroundings.

It was her strong conviction that more
ought to be done by cultivated men and
women to influence boys and girls as they
leave school, and in a kindly way direct them
through that dangerous period of life. These
are her own words : —

" I much wish that those who are labouring
in the same field could know my experience
— how I always found that my lads
appreciated the best poetry, and any tale of
heroism and self-sacrifice won their hearts
and held their attention. I never knew at the
time that my teaching had so much influence
over them, but years afterwards letters have
come from distant parts, saying how my
former pupils remember my words, and
these have gratified me more than all my
literary success." She continued : " I consider
that this form of beneficent activity is
peculiarly important at the present time,



when multitudes of boys and girls are
annually leaving our schools, to whom the
kind and friendly advice of educated men and
women would be an incalculable blessing. I
earnestly hope that the various agencies
established with this object will meet with
generous and zealous support. . . ."

A few years before this period, in the year
1848, the Chartist movement, which was the
outcome of the revolutionary spirit in France,
created widespread alarm in London and
elsewhere. Hundreds of ignorant and excit-
able young men joined the agitation and
caused serious disturbances. It was clearly
seen, by those who studied the people, that
education should go hand in hand with
political enfranchisement, and the Rev. F. D.
Maurice, Ch. Kingsley, and others, impressed
with this important subject, worked zealously
to establish workmen's clubs and institutes,
and colleges for working men and women,
which before then had not been thought of.
In this movement Anna Swanwick joined
heartily. She lived to see many of her


dreams realised, the establishment of univer-
sity settlements, polytechnics, extension lec-
tures, evening recreation schools, and Morley
College, where eight hundred students are
enrolled from the working classes, — these were
some of the fruits of the labours of a few
zealous workers in the middle of the last

In the year 1849 great interest was excited
amongst educated women by the opening of
a college in Harley Street (Queen's College),
under the auspices of the Rev. F. D. Maurice
and other eminent men, to enable girls to
continue their studies after leaving school.
This was the first effort in the direction of
the higher education for women which has
since made such rapid strides. The following
year a second college was opened in Bedford
Square, now carried on in York Place, Baker
Street. Anna Swanwick sympathised warmly
in both these schemes, and rejoiced at the
prospect of new spheres of usefulness and
influence being opened for women in every
direction. She was intimately connected


with these two colleges for fifty years, watch-
ing their growth with keen interest, and assist-
ing in the deliberations of their governing

She lived to see a revolution in the educa-
tion of girls that far surpassed the brightest
dreams of her imagination, and to have the
pleasure of sympathising with those who were
organising the various schemes for promoting
the higher education of women which have
borne such abundant fruit.

Bedford College opened in 1850 with a
brilliant staff of professors. Amongst those
who first lectured there, are found such names
as Augustus de Morgan, Rev. A. J. Scott,
Dr. W. B. Carpenter, and Francis W.

Anna Swanwick was amongst the first to
enter her name as a student to encourage
others, and she also attended Professor F. W.
Newman's classes on mathematics as lady

She has thus described the work carried on
at Bedford College when it was first opened : —

> > > ! , ,


From a Daguerreotype of 1851.

To face paye 53,


" The lady visitors were required to sit by
during the lectures, and were responsible to
the council for the maintenance of order and
discipline. I had thus the opportunity of
becoming acquainted with the best methods
of instruction in various departments of
knowledge, and I shall always look back to
my experience at that time as a very great

" I remember being particularly impressed
by F. W. Newman's teaching of mathematics,
including geometry and algebra ; he saw at
a glance if one of his pupils in algebra was
not able to follow his calculations, which were
often very elaborate ; on such occasions
instead of endeavouring to explain the diffi-
culty to a single pupil, thus keeping the
entire class waiting, he would interest them
all by placing the subject in an entirely new
light, which was possible only to one who had
a complete mastery of his subject — one who,
looking down from a mental height, could
see the various paths by which the higher
eminence could be reached. He succeeded,


moreover, in solving that most difficult
educational problem, namely, how to awaken
in students a keen interest in their studies.
This he accomplished by telling them that if
they followed patiently his preliminary ex-
positions, he should be able to open to them
vistas of great interest, such, for example, as
the calculations of astronomers, by which they
had determined the size of the planets, their
orbits, and other interesting details. By these
means he awakened the enthusiasm of his
pupils, a result which I cannot but regard as
the most satisfactory evidence of a teacher's

In continuation of this subject she quoted
the following words from F. W. Newman : —

" Geometrical truth ought to be so culti-
vated as to impart a feeling of geometrical
beauty. Unless the imagination is stimulated
by the perception of beauty and symmetry, it
is more difficult for the memory to retain
mathematical truth. The teaching should so
exhibit the reasoning, as to be not only intel-
ligible but beautiful. . . ."


One day whilst attending Prof. Newman's
class on mathematics, she perceived that he
had made a slight error in the exposition of a
problem, and when the lesson was over she
ventured to call his attention to it. This
struck nim as a remarkable proof of her
interest in abstruse calculations, and after
thanking her for her correction, he offered to
take her through a course of higher mathe-
matics including the differential calculus,
privately at her own home. She eagerly
accepted the offer, having, as has been
mentioned before, as great a love of mathe-
matics as of poetry, and as she mastered the
more abstruse problems she often said she
realised, in some small degree, the truth of
the celebrated utterance of Kepler : " How
grand a thing it is to be able to think the
very thoughts of God in framing the

Greek was afterwards added to the lessons,
and she gratefully acknowledged that the
insight she gained into the intricacies of the
language under Prof. Newman's guidance,


materially assisted her in the work of trans-
lating iEschylus later on, although she did
not always agree with his reading of dis-
puted passages.

With these studies began an ideal friend-
ship lasting upwards of forty years, between
these two scholars, who, though widely
different in character, were one in earnestness
of purpose, and devotion to the highest
interests of mankind.

The Rev. W. H. Channing, speaking of
F. W. Newman, has well described him as
" one of the most genuine, guileless, and
variously gifted men I have met since I came
to Great Britain."

There were few subjects of interest, from
the oldest mythological lore, to the latest
Acts of Parliament, that did not come under
discussion by correspondence or in friendly
converse from time to time, between these
two gifted friends. Francis Newman's wide
scholarship, clear grasp of a subject, retentive
memory and reasoning faculty, and Anna
Swanwick's quick apprehension and sym-


pathetic response, made their conversation a
rare treat to those who were privileged to
listen. It must not be supposed that they
always agreed. In a letter to Dr. Martineau
she said : —

"Fortunately I have a combative element
in my nature which leads me to agree with
Emerson * that a little healthy opposition is
better than a mush of concession,' hence when
any principle is involved, I do not hesitate to
express my conviction. Social intercourse is
thus, I think, rendered more interesting. If
people are so wedded to their own views that
they cannot bear opposition, the only course
is to bring the discussion to a close with as
little irritation as possible. . . ."

They sympathised in politics, being both
Liberals from principle not from mere party
spirit. As has been truly said, " Newman's
politics were wholly based upon morality,
with a total absence of partisanship, his interest
in any political question being in exact pro-
portion to its moral tendency." Anna Swan-
wick soon discovered that her friend's attitude


towards religion had been misinterpreted, and
that although he refused to enrol himself as
a member of any Christian Church, far from
being an unbeliever {atheist as some then
falsely called him) he had a deeply religious
nature. She was of opinion that his book
entitled " The Soul ; her Sorrows and Aspira-
tions," was a work which would live, as Dean
Stanley is reported to have said, after all his
brother the Cardinal wrote, had been forgot-
ten. The following extract from a letter
written some years after this date shows her
wide catholicity of spirit. She writes : —

" With regard to our valued friend Pro-
fessor Newman, I know no one whose life
embodies more truly the grand principles of
unselfish love and allegiance to duty which
constitute, as it were, the life-blood of
Christianity, and which shine forth with such
surpassing lustre in the words and actions of
Jesus Christ — were He once more to tread
this earth, He would, I feel sure, hail Francis
Newman as one of His disciples — and it is
delightful to me to think how, when the veil


shall have fallen from the eyes of our friend,
he will love and venerate Him in whose foot-
steps he is unconsciously treading."

On the publication of " Faust " in 1851,
her society was sought by many interesting
men and women, and with her, acquaintance
rapidly ripened into friendship, when she
found a responsive soul.

She used to remark that one of the
pleasures of literary work was the oppor-
tunity it gave her of coming into contact
with so many kindred spirits whom she
would not otherwise have known.

To mention only a few : — She made
acquaintance at this time with Frederika
Bremer, whose pictures of life in Germany
were read in those days as a standard
work ; with Mrs. Jameson who wrote on
Italian Art, &c. ; with Gotfried Kinkel
and his wife, the Hungarian refugees ;
with Frances Power Cobbe, who was
working zealously in the cause of women's


advancement, and whose large-hearted en-
thusiasm for all good work gained her
the love and admiration of Anna Swanwick.

She was introduced to Thomas Carlyle,
and vividly described the conversations she
had with him, when the great spirit or
the man burst forth into forcible and rugged
expressions, like a mountain torrent breaking
its bounds, as some topic was touched upon
which excited his wrath. Regardless of the
susceptibilities of his hearers, he uttered
forth the truth that was in him, and no
one ventured to oppose him when in these

Very different was the temperament of
George Macdonald, with whom she
was intimately acquainted at this time.
His poetic nature and deep religious feel-
ing attracted her to him as with a
magnet, and he thus beautifully expresses
his affectionate regard for her — " There are
some of whom you are certain that if a
thousand years passed without a sign, they
would yet meet you at the end with the


same recognition and the same love, and
that is what I think of you "

In a letter written to Mrs. Speir about
this time acknowledging her book on
Ancient India, she said : —

" As a friend I thank you for so valuable
a token of your regard, and as a woman
I thank you for adding another name to
the list of those who have achieved literary
excellence, and who thus offer the best
argument for according to our sex a higher
culture than that which usually falls to
our lot."

Lady Bell, the widow of the great
anatomist, Lady Eastlake, Helen Faucit,
whose first appearance on the London
stage created a sensation rarely equalled,
and many more might be enumerated in
the list of her friends.

Her translations from the German poets
had made her acquainted with Mr. Crabb
Robinson, whose friendship she greatly
valued, and whose gift for conversation
was so well known fifty years ago, to a


large circle in London society. He much
enjoyed spending quiet evenings with her
and her sister, at a later date, in Cumber-
land Terrace, Regent's Park, relating inte-
resting anecdotes about Goethe, Schiller,
Klopstock, Madame de Stael, and numerous
other celebrities whom he had known
abroad. One day he did not appear as
expected, but sent word that he was laid
up with rheumatism and asking Anna
Swanwick to go and see him. She found
him suffering as he said, from some
temporary ailment, which was not to be
wondered at, as he was ninety-three years of
age — but he added that he did not think it
was possible for any one to be more content
than he was, nor to have lived a happier
life. Pointing to his bookshelves, he said
he was surrounded by his friends, he talked
with them, and was never dull. This was
the last time she saw him, the next
morning his servant brought the news
that he had passed away quietly in the

From a Photograph by Maull & Fox, 187a, Piccadilly.

To face p«je 6.

A Memoir and recollections 63

Dr. W. B. Carpenter was one of Anna
Swanwick's most valued and intimate friends.

Another friendship made about the time
of the publication of " Faust," and which
lasted for nearly thirty years, was that of
Mrs. Wood, of Eltham Lodge, sister of
Admiral Michell and aunt to General Sir
Evelyn Wood. She thus describes her first
introduction to her : —

" Having for many years enjoyed the
friendship of Mrs. Wood, of Eltham Lodge,
a most remarkable woman, a few particulars
respecting my first introduction to her may
not be uninteresting.

" I may mention that my dear mother
suffered so much from asthma that she
could not, with any comfort, spend Novem-
ber in London ; we were therefore accus-
tomed for that month, and indeed often
until Christmas, to repair to one of the
warmer localities on the southern coast.
On our proposal to visit Penzance, a friend
gave me a letter of introduction to Mrs.
Pascoe, wife of the rector of Marizion,


in the immediate neighbourhood of Pen-
zance. Mrs. Pascoe was one of the most
charming women whom it has been my
privilege to know ; full of wit, abounding
in energy and affection, and altogether de-
lightful. In the course of conversation she
spoke of her friend, Mrs. Wood, of Eltham
Lodge, whom she had not seen for many
years, and of whose mental powers she
spoke with enthusiasm. She expressed the
wish that, on my return to London, I
should make her acquaintance, and form a
connecting bond between them. Accord-
ingly soon after my return home, I received
an invitation from Mrs. Wood to pay her
a visit, of which I gladly availed myself,
and found that Mrs. Pascoe, far from
having exaggerated her mental powers, had
by no means estimated them at their true
value. She was a classical scholar, familiar
with the authors of Greece and Rome, and
being, moreover, gifted with a remarkable
memory, she could, if so disposed, support
her views, which were always original, by
some apt quotation."


Mrs. Wood conceived a warm love and
admiration for Anna Swanwick, as is shown
by the following extracts from her letters.
Speaking of sudden friendships, Mrs. Wood
says : —

" Does not the feeling arise from our all
being ' Harps with a thousand strings,' of
which some are awakened with music by
one hand, some by another. Many of the
chords lie dormant for so long a time
that we forget their sounds, and when they
are unexpectedly struck, we are not only
delighted by the silent melody, but grateful
to the person who recalls it again " (January,


" Had I written to you as often as
I have thought of you, you would have
had billets like snow-flakes fluttering about
your ears. I was going to make the
comparison of the flowers which Petrarch
recalls as falling in showers on Laura as
she sat ' meek-eyed ' in her bower, but the
snow-flakes seemed more appropriate to my
season, and to that of the year."



" You say it is delightful to live in an
atmosphere of love. It is so, but I think
you make the atmosphere, and therefore
live in it wherever you are."

Mrs. Wood lived to be upwards of ninety,
a great sufferer and nearly blind, clinging
more and more to her bright, loving, and
sympathetic friend, whom she addressed as
" Figlia Carissima.' ,

In the grounds at Eltham there was a
beautiful piece of water, upon which Mrs.
Wood had a boat. Many a delightful hour
was spent resting under the shade of the
overhanging trees, whilst she related
anecdotes about her family, of whom she
was justly proud. One of these was
written down by Anna Swanwick as
follows : — " On one occasion Mrs. Wood
told me the following story of her brother,
who afterwards became Admiral Michell.
As a midshipman he was about to sail to
Morocco in a vessel sent to put down the
pirates, who at that time infested the
Mediterranean and inflicted great injury


upon commerce. The press-gang was then
in full force, and young Michell was
ordered to keep guard over the men
impressed as they were brought on board.
It happened that on one occasion a re-
markably fine young man was consigned to
his keeping. Presently a boat was seen
approaching the ship containing a woman
and a boy ; these were the mother and
brother of the young man, who was allowed
to join them when they came on board.
The three were soon absorbed in discussing
some question of deep interest, and before
long the boy came to Michell, and after
explaining that for family reasons it was
most important that his brother should
return home for the night, he begged to
be allowed to remain as hostage. Michell
replied that a dozen boys such as he, would
not be as valuable to his Majesty as his
brother, and that he could not possibly
allow of his departure. The look of
distress on their countenances when the
boy returned with this message touched


the young midshipman, and he called the
elder brother to him and said : * I place
my commission in your hands ; I will allow
you to depart, but if you do not return
before six o'clock to-morrow morning, I
am a ruined man for life/ He had no
sooner spoken these words, than the young
man leaped over the side of the vessel into
the boat, helped down his mother and
brother, and pushed off. The retreat had
been executed so rapidly that Michell had
reason to feel great anxiety as to the result.
On the following morning, however, about
five o'clock, he saw in the distance a dark
spot upon the sea ; it grew larger and
larger, and at length he recognised in a
boat the young man whose departure he
had sanctioned the evening before, and who
had loyally returned to the ship. That
man became not only Michell's faithful
servant, but his life-long friend ; he was
thus amply rewarded for the generous
confidence which had marked the com-
mencement of their acquaintance."


In the midst of a life thus full of varied

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Online LibraryMary Louisa BruceAnna Swanwick ; a memoir and recollections, 1813-1899 .. → online text (page 3 of 12)