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Corporal punishment was used, and naturally had to 안성오피 be resorted to much more frequently by me than by my superior, whose work was concerned with the older and better conducted portion of the boys. In fact as far as my recollection at the present day goes, it seems to me that hardly any morning or afternoon passed without the application of the cane. And this corporal castigation, though devoid of all the judicial formality which might have made our Winchester “scourging” a really moral punishment if the frequency of it and the prevailing sentiment upon the subject both of masters and scholars had been other than it was, was in truth a very much severer infliction as regards the absolute pain to be suffered by the patient. Three or four strokes with the cane over the palm of the hand would be very much worse than the perfunctory swishing with the peculiar Winchester rod. I do not remember that this caning was ever judicially used as a sentence to be executed at any future time, or that it was ever, for the most part, used to punish the idleness which had prevented a boy from learning his lessons at his home. It was used almost exclusively, as far as I remember, for the preservation of order and silence during the school hours, and the correction of the offender followed instantly on the commission of the offence.

And this necessity of enforcing order among a very undisciplined crew of some forty or fifty lads of ages varying from perhaps twelve to about fourteen or fifteen was by far the most irksome and{352} difficult part of my duty. I was accustomed to tuition. But the cumulation of the office of beadle with that of teacher was new to me, and I did not like it. And still less did I like the constant tendency of the urgent duties of the first office to encroach upon those of the second.

My scholastic experiences had accustomed me to a state of things in which idleness, violence, daredevil audacity, and neglect of duty had been common enough, but in which organised trickery and deception had been rarely seen. And I felt myself unfitted for the duties of a policeman among these turbulent Birmingham lads. I never saw the face of any one of them save during the school hours; and I remember thinking at the time that, had this been otherwise, I might have obtained a moral influence over at least some of them, which might have been more useful than all my efforts during school hours to force the rules and principles of syntax into unwilling brains, accustomed to the habitual defiance of them during all the remainder of their lives.

It appeared to me that I was engaged in the perpetual, and somewhat hopeless, task of endeavouring to manufacture silk purses out of sows’ ears; and I confess that I never put on my academical gown to go into school without feeling that I was going to an irksome, and, I feared, unprofitable labour. I tried hard to do my duty; but I fear that I was by no means the right man in the right place.

No preparation of any kind, beyond assuming my{353} gown and trencher cap, before going into school was needed, and I had, therefore, abundance of leisure, during which I did a considerable quantity of miscellaneous reading, not perhaps altogether so unprofitable as the advocates of regular study devoted to some well-defined end might suppose.

We endeavoured—my colleague Mason and I—I remember, to get up a debating society among the few—very few—young men, with whom we had become acquainted. But it did not succeed. Young Birmingham, intent on making, and on its way to make, “plums” in hardware, did not think that “debating” was the best way of employing the hours that could be spared from the counting-house.

There might, no doubt, have been found a better element of social intercourse in the younger clergy of the town; but they were all strongly “evangelical,” which was at that time quite sufficient to entail an oil-and-vinegar-like mutual repulsion between them and the young Wykehamist. And this, involving as it does a confession of a discreditable amount of raw young-man’s prejudice, I mention as an illustration of the current opinions, feelings, and mental habits of the time, for, after all, I was not more prejudiced and more stupid than the rest of the world around me.

In fact my life at Birmingham was for the most part a very solitary one. I used to come home tired and worn out to my lodgings with Mrs. Clements in New Hall Street; and the prospect of a lonely evening with my book, my teapot, and my pipe, was{354} not unwelcome to me, for it was, at least, repose and quiet after noise and turmoil. Every now and then I used to dine and pass the evening with Dr. Jeune; and these were my red-letter days. Jeune had married the daughter of Dr. Symonds, the Warden of Wadham. She was a tall and very handsome woman, as well as an extremely agreeable one. At first, I remember, I used to think that if she had been the daughter of anybody else than the “Head of a House,” one just emerging from statu pupillari might have found her more charming. But this soon wore off as we got to know each other better. And long talks with Mrs. Jeune are the pleasantest—indeed, I think I may say the only pleasant—recollections of my life at Birmingham.{355}

I held my mastership in King Edward’s School at Birmingham a year and a half—from shortly after the first day of 1837 to the 19th of June, 1838.

At the end of that time I went back to my mother’s house at Hadley. She had in the meantime returned from Vienna, had completed her two volumes on that journey, and published them with such a measure of success as to encourage her in hoping that she might vary her never-ceasing labour in the production of novels by again undertaking other journeys. But for this, and still more for the execution of other schemes, of which I shall have to speak further on, my presence and companionship were necessary to her. And after much consultation and very many walks together round the little quiet garden at Hadley, it was decided between us that I should send in my resignation of the Birmingham mastership, defer all alternative steps in the direction of any other life career, and devote myself, for the present at least, to becoming her companion and squire.

The decision was a very momentous one. As{356} might have been anticipated, the “deferring” of any steps in the direction of a professional career of any sort turned out eventually to be the final abandonment of any such. It could hardly be otherwise in the case of a young man of twenty-eight, which was my age at the time. I was the son of a father who had left absolutely nothing behind him, and I had no prospect whatever of any independent means from any other source. It is true that property settled on my mother before her marriage would in any case suffice to keep me from absolute destitution, but that was about all that could be said of it. And certainly the decision to which my mother and I came during these walks round and round the Hadley garden was audacious rather than prudent.

I have never regretted it during any part of the now well-nigh half a century of life that has elapsed since the resolution was taken. I have been, I have not the smallest doubt, a much happier man than I should have been, had I followed a more beaten track. My brother Anthony used to say of me that I should never have earned my salt in the routine work of a profession, or any employment under the authoritative supervision of a superior. I always dissented, and beg still to record my dissent, from any such judgment. But, as it is, I can say with sincerely grateful recognition in my heart, that I have been a very happy—I fear I may say an exceptionally happy—man. Despite this, I do not think that were I called upon to advise a young man{357} in precisely similar circumstances to mine at that time, I should counsel him to follow my example: for I have been not only a happy but a singularly fortunate man. Again and again at various turning points of my life I have been fortunate to a degree which no conduct or prudence of my own merited.

I was under no immediate obligation to work in any way, but I cannot say of myself I have been an idle man. I have worked much, and sometimes very hard.

Upon one occasion—the occasion was that of sudden medical advice to the effect that it was desirable that I should take my first wife from Florence for a change of climate, which I was not in funds to do comfortably—I planned and wrote from title-page to colophon and sold a two-volume novel of the usual size in four-and-twenty days. I had a “turn of speed” in those days in writing as well as walking. I could do my five miles and three-quarters in an hour at a fair toe and heel walk, and I wrote a novel in twenty-four days—it was written indeed in twenty-three, for I took a whole holiday in the middle of the work. Of course it may be said that the novel was trash. But it was as good as, and was found by the publisher to be more satisfactory than, some others of the great number I have perpetrated. And I should like those who may imagine that the arduous nature of the feat I accomplished was made less by the literary imperfection of the work to try the experiment of copying six hundred post octavo pages in the time. I{358} found the register of each day’s work the other day. The longest was thirty-three pages. It was no great matter to have written three-and-thirty pages in one day, but I am disposed to think that few men (or even women) could continue for as many days at so high an average of speed. My brother used to say that he could not do the like to save his life and that of 안성오피 all those dearest to him. And he was not a slow writer. Of course when my book was done I was nearly done too. But I do not know that I was ever any the worse for the effort. The novel in question was called Beppo the Conscript.

No, I have not been an idle man since the day when my mother and myself decided that I was to follow no recognised profession. The long, too long, series of works which have been published as mine will account for probably considerably less than half the printed matter which I am responsible for having given to the world. Nor can I say that I was driven to work “by hunger and request of friends.” During all my long career of authorship there was no period at which I could not have lived an idle man—not so well as I wished, certainly; but I was not driven by imperious necessity.

Yet I have a very pretty turn for idleness too. It is as pleasant to me “to smoke my canaster and tipple my ale in the shade,” as Thackeray says, as to any man. Anthony had no such turn. Work to him was a necessity and a satisfaction. He used often to say that he envied me the capacity for{359} being idle. Had he possessed it, poor fellow, I might not now be speaking of him in the past tense. And still less than of me could it be said of him that he was ever driven to literary work deficiente crumenâ. But he laboured during the whole of his manhood life with an insatiable ardour that (taking into consideration his very efficient discharge of his duties as Post Office surveyor) puts my industry into the shade.

Certainly we both of us ought to have inherited, and I suppose did inherit, an aptitude for industry. My father was, as I have said, a remarkably laborious, though an unsuccessful man, and my mother left a hundred and fifteen volumes, written between her fiftieth year and that of her death.

Shortly after my final return from Birmingham my mother had a bad illness. It could not have been a very long one; the record of her published work shows no cessation of literary activity. Whether this illness had anything to do with the resolution she came to much about the same time to change her residence, I do not remember, but about this time we established ourselves at No. 20, York Street.

Here, as everywhere else where my mother found or made a home, the house forthwith became the resort of pleasant people; and my time in York Street was a very agreeable one. Among other frequenters of it, my diary makes frequent mention of Judge Haliburton, of Nova Scotia, better known to the world as Sam Slick, the Clockmaker. He{360} was, as I remember him, a delightful companion—for a limited time. He was in this respect exactly like his books—extremely amusing reading if taken in rather small doses, but calculated to seem tiresomely monotonous if indulged in at too great length. He was a thoroughly good fellow, kindly, cheery, hearty, and sympathetic always; and so far always a welcome companion. But his funning was always pitched in the same key, and always more or less directed to the same objects. His social and political ideas and views all coincided with my own, which, of course, tended to make us better friends. In appearance he looked entirely like an Englishman, but not at all like a Londoner. Without being at all too fat, he was large and burly in person, with grey hair, a large ruddy face, a humorous mouth, and bright blue eyes always full of mirth. He was an inveterate chewer of tobacco, and in the fulness of comrade-like kindness strove to indoctrinate me with that habit. But I was already an old smoker, and preferred to content myself with that mode of availing myself of the blessing of tobacco.

“Highways and Byeways” Grattan we saw also occasionally when 안성오피 anything brought him to London. He also was, as will be readily believed, what is generally called very good company. He, too, was full of fun, and certainly it could not be said that his fiddle had but one string to it! His fault lay in the opposite direction. His funning muse “made increment of” everything. He was intensely Irish,{361} in manner, accent, and mind. He had a broken, or naturally bridgeless nose, and possessed as small a share of good looks or personal advantages as most men. He first urged me to try my hand at a novel. He had seen some of my early scribblings, but repeated that “Fiction, me boy, fiction and passion are what readers want!” But I did not at that time, or for many a long year afterwards, feel within myself any capacity for supplying such want.
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