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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM was born on December 6, 1788, in Canterbury, were his family had for many generations resided. His father, dying in 1795, bequeathed a moderate estate to his only son, then about five or six years of age. A portion of this property consisted of the manor known as Tappington, or Tapton Wood, so often alluded to in The Ingoldsby Legends. The boy was sent to St. Paul’s School, of which he was for two years ‘captain.’ He then entered at nineteen as a gentleman commoner at Brazenose College, and was speedily elected a member of the well-known Phoenix Common Room, at that time one of the ‘crack’ university clubs. Here he found a kindred spirit in the gay and gifted Lord George Grenville (afterwards Lord Nugent). Here, too, be was again thrown into contact with one whom he had known in earlier days, Cecil Tattersall, the friend of Shelley and Lord Byron, and, like most of that misguided party, but too well known by his abused talents and melancholy end. And here also his intimacy with Theodore Hook took rise.
College life, more especially at that day, was likely to present numerous and sore temptations to one who was overflowing with good-nature and high spirits, and whose early loss had not only placed a perilous abundance of funds at his disposal, but also left him utterly unchecked by parental counsel and authority. His reply to Mr. Hodson, his tutor, afterwards principal of Brazenose, will convey some notion of the hours he was wont to keep. This gentleman, on one occasion, demanded an explanation of his continued absence from morning chapel.
‘The fact is, sir,’ urged his pupil, ‘you are too late for me.’
‘Too late!’ repeated the tutor, in astonishment.
‘Yes, sir. I cannot sit up till seven o’clock in the morning: I am a man of regular habits; and unless I get to bed by four or five at latest, I am really fit for nothing next day.’
The habit was one for ‘time to strengthen, not efface.’ No one might have quoted the old Scotch ballad with greater feeling and sincerity:
‘Up in the morning’s nae for me,
Up in the morning airly:
I’d rather watch a winter’s night
Than up in the morning airly.’
With him a strong natural bent supplied the place of caprice or love of singularity, and he sat up because he found, as the morning advanced, his ideas flowed more freely, and his mental energies became in every way more active than at any other period of the twenty-four hours. It could hardly fail of exciting a considerable degree of astonishment, to mark how, after a day spent without one moment’s rest or relaxation, in the intricacies of business, often of a harassing and momentous nature, his eye would light up and his spirits overflow as the chimes of midnight were approaching; an entirely new set of faculties seemed to come into play, and if there was no one at hand to benefit by his conversation — to listen to his inexhaustible fund of anecdote and observation, he would devote himself to the investigation of some obscure genealogical point, or the perusal of some treasured volume in black letter, with a freshness and vigour not to be surpassed by the most orderly of mortals. At these times, too, his powers of composition reached their culminating point, and he wrote with a facility which not only surprised himself, but which he actually viewed with distrust; and he would not unfrequently lay down his pen, from an apprehension that what was so fluent must of necessity be feeble also. Indeed, he was no adept in the art of cudgelling the brain, and, in respect of poetry at all events, he wrote easily or not at all. The slightest check would often delay the publication of an article of this kind for months, and numbers of manuscripts remained at his death, whose unfinished state could be attributed only to some trifling stumbling-block, which a little labour might have levelled or avoided.
It was during the course of a short but severe illness, that Mr. Barham first entertained the notion of becoming a candidate for holy orders; and, though he so far prosecuted his original design of preparing for the bar as to become a pupil of an eminent conveyancer, he soon relinquished the profession of law. Having passed his examination with sufficient credit to entitle him to a place in the ‘second class,’ Mr. Barham was in due time admitted to the curacy of Ashford, in Kent. Thence he proceeded to Westwell, a small parish some few miles distant. In 1814 he married Caroline, third daughter of Captain Smart, of the Royal Engineers, and shortly afterwards, on being presented to the living of Snargate, he removed to Warehorn, the curacy of which was at the same time offered him. These parishes were about two miles apart, and situated, the former in, the latter on the verge of Romney Marsh; and, as may be expected, they abounded in desperadoes, engaged in what by technical euphemism was termed the ‘Free Trade.’ But, notwithstanding the reckless character of these men, the new rector met with nothing of outrage or incivility at their hands. Many a time and oft indeed, on returning homewards late at night, he was challenged by some half-seen horseman; but on making known his name and office, he was invariably allowed to pass on with a ‘Good night — it’s only parson!’ while a long and shadowy line of mounted smugglers, each with his led horse laden with tubs, filed silently by. Nay, they even extended their familiarity so far as to make the church itself a dépôt for contraband goods; and on one occasion a large seizure of tobacco had been made in the Snargate belfry — calumny contended for the discovery of a keg of hollands under the vestry-table.
It was scarcely to be expected that the pursuit of literature should flourish in so uncongenial an atmosphere, however favourable it might prove for the development of that ‘holy vegetation’ of which Mr. Peter Plymley pleasantly discourses. It was reserved for an accident, no other than the breaking of one leg, and the spraining of its fellow, occasioned by the overturn of a gig, to bring a taste into play which might otherwise have lain dormant for years, or died for lack of exercise. A novel, entitled Baldwin,1 rapidly thrown off in a few weeks, was the result; a work which fell stillborn from the Minerva Press, under the management of the matrons of that establishment.
Scarcely was his restoration to health complete, than he went to London to consult Abernethy about the illness of one of his children. He chanced to encounter an old friend, at whose suggestion he became candidate for a minor canonry then vacant at St. Paul’s, to which in 1821 he was duly elected. It has been said that literature is ‘an excellent walking-stick, although a bad crutch;’ doubtless at this period of his life it proved a serviceable auxiliary to Mr. Barham, who found his income diminished at a time when an increasing family and a residence in London would admit of no curtailment of expenditure. Accordingly, while articles of the lighter sort, mostly bearing on the events of the day, were struck off in rapid succession, he devoted considerable time and industry towards the completion of a book then in progress, called Gorton’s Biographical Dictionary, and about one-third of which was contributed by him. His professional duties, however, soon precluded his continuing any regular literary engagement, or undertaking any work of importance. Poetical trifles, indeed, fell as usual from his pen, and together with an occasional review, &c., made their appearance in Blackwood, the John Bull, the Globe, and sundry other periodicals. We find, for example, the following passage in his diary, entered about this time:— ‘My wife goes to bed at ten to rise at eight, and look after the children, and other matrimonial duties; I sit up till three in the morning working at rubbish for Blackwood — she is the slave of the ring, and I of the lamp.’
In 1824 he received the appointment of a priest in ordinary of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, and was shortly afterwards presented to the incumbency of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Gregory by St. Paul. In the pulpit he was not remarkable, less, perhaps, from the want of power, than from a rooted disapproval of anything like oratorical display in such a place, — anything, in short, that might seem calculated to convert the house of prayer into a mere theatre for intellectual exhibition. It was not, then, as a popular preacher, ‘pleasant to sit under,’ that he was beloved, still less as a party one; he published no pamphlets, got up no petitions, nor was his voice to be heard at Exeter Hall; but he was ever watchful over the welfare of his people, temporal and eternal.
His appointment in the Chapel Royal led to an acquaintance which quickly ripened into a warm friendship with the Rev. Edward Cannon, also one of the priests of the household, and who for many years had been on intimate terms with the family of Mrs. Barham — the singular being introduced to the world under the name of Godfrey Moss, in Theodore Hook’s novel, Maxwell.
About 1826 Mr. Barham commenced a diary, which for some time he continued with considerable spirit and regularity, and from this some excerpts may be made.
‘August l6th. — Received a letter from Blackwood, with a copy of numbers 115 and 116 of his Magazine, thanking me for “The Ghost, a Canterbury Tale,” which appeared in the first of the two numbers, and which Mr. John Hughes (son of our Residentiary) had transmitted to him from me, informing him, at the same time, of the fact of their having appeared in sections, in three successive numbers of the London Chronicle just before that paper was merged in the St. James’s Chronicle. Of this journal Dr. Johnson was the first editor, and I the last. The causes of its decline may be inferred.’
‘November 26th. — Dined at Doctor Hughes’s. Sir Walter Scott had been there the day before: and the Dr. told me the following anecdote, which he had just heard from the “Great Unknown.” — A Scottish clergy man, whose name was not mentioned, had some years since been cited before the Ecclesiastical Assembly at Edinburgh, to answer to a charge brought against him of great irreverence in religious matters, and Sir Walter was employed by him to arrange his defence. The principal fact alleged against him was his having asserted, in a letter which was produced, that “he considered Pontius Pilate to be a very ill-used man, as he had done more for Christianity than all the other nine apostles put together.” The fact was proved, and suspension followed.’
‘October 6th, 1827. — Mr. Attwood, who had set to music my lines entitled “Too Late,” and published them in the Harmonicon last year, gave me to-day some verses, written, on perusing them, by a lady, a friend of his.’
The song in question was elicited by an expression in a letter, from a dear and near relative. He was in the army, and had struggled on, many a weary year, unnoticed and a subaltern, happy, however, in the cheering companionship of an affectionate wife; at length the partner of his toils and hopes sank by the way, and was taken from him; then, in quick succession, came wealth, honours, promotion; but they had been ‘delayed till be was indifferent, and did not care for them, till he was solitary, and could not impart them ‘ — in his own words, it was —
Too late! though flowerets round me blow,
And clearing skies shine bright and fair;
Their genial warmth avails not now —
Thou art not here the beam to share.
Through many a dark and dreary day,
We journeyed on ‘midst grief and gloom;
And now at length the cheering ray
Breaks forth, it only gilds thy tomb.
Our days of hope and youth are past,
Our short-lived joys for ever flown;
And now when Fortune smiles at last,
She finds me cheerless, chilled — alone!
Ah! no; too late the boon is given,
Alike the frowns and smiles of Fate;
The broken heart by sorrow riv’n,
But murmurs now, ‘Too late! Too late!’
About this time Mr. Barham found opportunities of renewing his acquaintance with Theodore Hook. To say nothing of this gentleman’s unequalled happiness in impromptu versification, to pass by that particular province of practical humour 2 with which his name is so commonly associated, and in which be was facile princeps, Hook yet possessed depth and originality of mind, little dreamed of, probably, by those who were content to bask in the sunshine of his wit. It is noted in the diary that Hook ‘spoke one evening of his two eldest daughters, of whom Mary, the senior, bad just turned twenty-one; the name of the second was Louisa, and he designated them accordingly as “Vingt-un” and “Loo!” He gave me on this occasion the proofs of all be ever wrote of his last novel, Peregrine Bunce, which I brought away with me.’
As was not unfrequently the case with Mr. Hook’s writings, the earlier portions of this novel were forwarded to his friend for inspection, previous to publication; the following note accompanied the proofs of the second volume:—
‘DEAR CARDINAL, — When you have run through Peregrine, will you send him in pacquet to me at the Athenaeum. I have no other “document” wherewith to refresh my memory as to his progress. If you like it, put on it (G.); if you don’t, put (B.); if mediocre (T.). If none of these should express your opinion, I shall expect to see (D. B.) or (D.B.) as the case may be.
‘Yours most truly,
The address here refers to the senior cardinal’s stall, a relic of the ancien régime, which Mr. Barham had for some time held in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
‘November 6th. — Passed one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent at Lord — ‘s. The company, beside the host and hostess, consisted of Mr. Cannon, Mr. C. Walpole, Mr. Hill, generally known as “Tom Hill,”3 Theodore Hook, and myself. While at dinner, Hook began to be excessively amusing. He took occasion to repeat part of a prologue which he once spoke as an amateur, before a country audience, without one word being intelligible from the beginning to the end. He afterwards preached part of a sermon in the style of the Rev. — of Norwich, of whom he gave a very humorous account; not one sentence of the harangue could be understood, and yet you could not help, all through, straining your attention to catch the meaning. He then gave us many absurd particulars of the Berriers Street hoax, which he admitted was contrived by himself and Henry H — who was formerly contemporary with me at Brazenose, and whom I knew there, now a popular preacher. He also mentioned another of a similar character, but previous in point of time, of which he had been the sole originator. The object of it was a Quaker who lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Among other things brought to his house were the dresses of a punch and nine blue devils, and the body of a man from Lambeth bonehouse, who had the day before been found drowned in the Thames.
‘In the evening, after Lady — had sung “I’ve been roaming,” Hook placed himself at the pianoforte, and gave a most extraordinary display of his powers, both as a musician and an improvisatore. His assumed object was to give a specimen of the burlettas formerly produced at Sadler’s Wells, and he went through the whole of one which he composed upon the spot.’
‘March 13, 1828. — Lord — Sir A. B — Theodore Hook, Stephen Price, and Cannon dined here. Cannon told a story of a manager at a country theatre, who, having given out the play of “Douglas,” found the whole entertainment nearly put to a stop, by the arrest of “Young Norval” as he was entering the theatre. In this dilemma, no other performer of the company being able to take the part, he dressed up a tall, gawkey lad who snuffed the candles, in a plaid and philabeg, and pushing him on the stage, advanced himself to the footlights, with the book in his hand, and addressed the audience with, “Ladies and Gentlemen —
“This young gentleman’s name is Norval. On the Grampian hills
His father feeds his flock, a frugal swain,
Whose constant care was to increase his store,
And keep his only son (this young gentleman) at home.
For this young gentleman had heard,” &c.
And so on through the whole of the play, much to the delectation of the audience.’
‘March 23. — Dined at Sir A. B— ‘s. An unpleasant altercation took place between Cannon and Hook, owing to an allusion, somewhat ill-timed, made by the former to “treasury defaulters.” This circumstance interrupted the harmony of the evening, and threw a damp upon the party. Hook made but one pun: on Walpole’s remarking that, of two paintings mentioned, one was “a shade above the other in point of merit,” he replied, “I presume you mean to say it was a shade over (chef d’oeuvre).”
‘May 14. — Acted as one of the stewards to the Literary Fund dinner. Fitzgerald, the poet, spouted as usual, and broke down. Cannon observed “Poeta nascitur non Fitz.”’
With his vivid imagination, and strong passion for the marvellous, it is not to be altogether wondered at if Mr. Barham appeared a little disposed to give credence to the existence of things undreamed of in our philosophy. He seemed at times to endeavour to persuade himself into credulity, much in the way that some people strive to convict themselves of a bodily ailment. Unlike poor Lady Cork, whose enjoyment of ‘her murders’ sensibly declined, he never lost his relish for a ‘good ghost story;’ nothing delighted him more than to listen to one of those ‘true histories,’ properly fitted with the regular complement of names, dates, and locale, attested by ‘living witnesses of unblemished reputation,’ and hedged in on all sides by circumstantial evidence of the most incontrovertible nature; one, in short, of those logical culs de sac, which afford no exit, but by unceremoniously kicking down the opposing barrier. It was Sir Walter Scott, we believe, who was thus driven to extricate himself from a similar dilemma, when, on being asked ‘how he accounted’ for some strange tale he had related, on no less authority than that of his own grandmother, he was forced to reply, after some deliberation, ‘Aiblins my grandmither was an awfu’ leear.’
It was Mr. Barham’s happiness to form an intimate friendship with the Hughes family. His duties at St. Paul’s were necessarily the means of bringing him under the frequent observation of Dr. Hughes, who was canon residentiary of that cathedral. To Mrs. Hughes, more especially, the correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, Southey, and other ornaments of the age, Mr. Barham was indebted, not only for a large proportion of the legendary lore which forms the groundwork of the Ingoldsby effusions, but also for the application of a stimulus that induced him to complete many papers, which diffidence, or that aptitude, previously spoken of, to turn aside at the faintest suspicion of ‘a lion in the way,’ would have left unattempted or unfinished. The distich, inscribed in a copy of The Ingoldsby Legends, presented to the lady in question, implies no more than the actual fact
‘To Mrs. Hughes who made me do ’em,
Quod placeo est — si placeo — tuum.’
To her activity, indeed, it may be said, the publication of My Cousin Nicholas 4 was mainly owing. The MS., which had been laid aside in an imperfect state for some years, being placed in her hands, so favourable was her opinion of its merits, that, acting ‘with a friendly vigour beyond the law,’ she submitted it forthwith to the inspection of Mr. Blackwood; the first intimation the author received of the circumstance being the appearance of the introductory chapters in the pages of that gentleman’s magazine. Retreat was of course impossible; the difficulties, if difficulties there were, were speedily surmounted, and the catastrophe worked up in a manner which certainly brought no discredit on the earlier portions of the work.
His letters to Mrs. Hughes well illustrate that happy temperament with which he was endowed, and that almost involuntary flow of humour which distin guished his conversation and correspondence, not lest than his more elaborate efforts.
‘April 15, 1828.
‘My DEAR MADAM, — . . . I have little news to tell you, except that Mrs. — the auctioneeress, if there be such a word, is likely to die, and that the sorrowing widower, in posse, is said to have already made arrange ments to take the beautiful (Oh! that I could add prudent) Miss Foote, as her successor. He, at least, says green-room scandal, wears a watch riband she has given him, as the decoration of a military order; while others add, that though the gentleman is unquestionably anxious to become a “Knight Companion,” the lady is still “Grand Cross.”
‘I enclose a set of rhymes, as yet in a chrysalis state; should John Bull get hold of them, after they have thrown off the grab, I am afraid they are too well adapted for his purpose for him to refrain from appropriating what is now a mere embryo.
WHENE’ER with pitying eye I view
Each operative sot in town.
I smile to think how wondrous few
Get drunk who study at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town,
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
What precious fools ‘The People’ grew,
Their alma mater not in town;
The ‘useful classes’ hardly knew
Four was composed of two and two,
Until they learned it at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
But now they’re taught by JOSEPH HU—
ME, by far the cleverest Scot in town,
Their items and their tottles too
Each may dissect his sister Sue,
From his instructions at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Then L— E comes, like him how few
Can caper and can trot in town,
In pirouette or pas de deux —
He beats the famed Monsieur Giroux,
And teaches dancing at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
And GILCHRIST, see, that great Gentoo
Professor, has a lot in town
of Cockney boys, who fag Hindoo,
And larn Jem-nasties at the U
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
SAM R— corpse of vampire hue,
Comes from its grave, to rot in town;
For Bays the dead bard’s crowned with Yew,
And chaunts the Pleasures of the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
FRANK JEFFREY, of the Scotch Review, —
Whom MOORE had nearly shot in town, —
Now, with his pamphlet stitched in blue
And yellow, d — ns the other two,
But lauds the ever-glorious U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Great BIRKBECK, king of chips and glue,
Who paper oft does blot in town,
From the Mechanics’ Institution, comes to prate of wedge and screw,
Lever and axle, at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
LORD WAITHMAN, who long since withdrew
From Mansion House to cot in town;
Adorn’d with chair of ormolu.
All darkly grand, like Prince Lee Boo,
Lectures on Free Trade at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Fat F — with his coat of blue,
Who speeches makes so hot in town,
In rhetoric, spells his lectures through,
And sounds the V for W,
The vay they speaks it at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Then H— e comes, who late at New —
gate-market — sweetest spot in town!
Instead of one clerk popped in two,
To make a place for his nephew,
Seeking another at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
There’s Captain Ross, a traveller true,
Has just presented. what in town
‘s an article of great virtu,
(The telescope he once peep’d through,
And ‘spied an Esquimaux canoe
On Croker Mountains), to the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Since MICHAEL gives no roast nor stew,
Where Whigs might eat and plot in town,
And swill his port, and mischief brew —
Poor CREEVY sips his water gru —
el as the beadle of the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
There’s JERRY BENTHAM and his crew,
Names ne’er to be forgot in town,
In swarms like Banquo’s long is-sue —
Turk, Papist, Infidel, and Jew,
Come trooping on to join the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
To crown the whole with triple queue
Another such there’s not in town,
twitching his restless nose askew,
Behold tremendous HARRY BROUGH—
— AM! Law Professor at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
Huzza! Huzza! for HARRY BROUGH—
— AM! Law Professor at the U—
— niversity we’ve Got in town.
‘I have room for no more than to say that I am most sincerely and truly yours,
As a pendant to the above may be subjoined the following hint to a rival establishment:—
Loquitur Discipulus Esuriens.
PROFFESORS, in your plan there seems
A something not quite right
’Tis queer to cherish learning’s beams,
By shutting out the light.
While thus we see your windows block’d,
If nobody complains;
Yet everybody must be shock’d,
To see you don’t take pains.
And tell me why should bodily
Succumb to mental meat?
Or why should eta, beta, pi
Be all the pie we eat?
No helluo librorum I,
No literary glutton,
Would veal with Virgil like to try,
With metaphysics, mutton.
Leave us no longer in the lurch,
With Romans, Greeks, and Hindoos:
But give us beef as well as birch,
And board us — not your windows.
The following note to Mrs. Hughes contains an acknowledgement of one of those beguiling Berkshire delicacies so fraught with peril to the inexperienced or unwary:—
‘St. Paul’s Churchyard, Jan. 5, 1830.
‘My DEAR MADAM, — I know not how to thank you; “rude I am in speech and manner; “never till this hour tasted I such a dainty!
‘But young Norval never had such a “pig’s head” to be thankful for: it is truly delicious, almost too much so, indeed, for it tempted me last night to do what I very seldom do, and never ought to do — viz., eat a hearty supper: the consequence was, that I “dreamt of the d — l, and awoke in a fright:" —
Methought I was seated at church,
With Wellington acting as clerk,
And there in a pew,
Was Rothschild the Jew
Dancing a jig with Judge Park:
Lady Morgan sat playing the organ;
While behind the vestry door,
Horace Twiss was snatching a kiss
From the lips of Hannah More.
‘In short, I cannot tell you half the vagaries I was carried through, at least within any moderate compass in a letter, but I mean to put as much of it down as I can call to remembrance, and, following the example of Mr. Bottom, the weaver, get some good-natured Peter Quince to “make a ballad of it,” and “it shall be called Barham’s dream,” not because “it hath no bottom,” but because it proceeded from a pig’s head, a metaphor in which Mrs. B. sometimes speaks of mine, when, more than usually persevering, I resist unto the death some measure which I consider wrong, and she right, or vice versa, as the case may be. Let me not forget to add, however, that in the present instance she is to the full as much inclined to be pig-headed as myself, and begs me to join her thanks to my own. .’
In the autumn of 1831, the appointment of Mr. Sidney Smith to one of the canonries of St. Paul’s proved the means of introducing Mr. Barham to the society of this distinguished individual. Differing, as they did, in political opinion, not less than in the character and subject-matter of their wit, there was, nevertheless, a sufficient appreciation of each other to induce a greater degree of intimacy than their relative positions might have called for. The first appearance of Mr. Smith at the cathedral, for the purpose of taking possession of his stall, is thus briefly noted: —
‘Oct. 2, 1831. — Rev. Sidney Smith read himself in as Residentiary at St. Paul’s; dined with him afterwards at Dr. Hughes’s. He mentioned having once half offended Sam Rogers by recommending him, when he sat for his picture, to be drawn saying his prayers, with his face in his hat.’
No one at all familiar with the writings of this extraordinary person can fail to have remarked the professional turn his wit is apt to take. In his bon mots this peculiarity is noticeable, most of those on record bearing some reference, more or less, to clerical matters. Perhaps no better illustration of this uniform flow of ideas can be adduced, than a description of an interview, furnished by himself, with a well-known fashionable publisher.
He said that the gentleman in question called upon him with an introduction from a certain literary baronet, and after hinting a condolence on his recent losses in the American funds, proposed, probably by way of repairing them, the production of a novel in three volumes.
‘Well, Sir,’ said Mr. Smith, after some seeming consideration, ‘if I do so I can’t travel out of my own line, ne sutor ultra crepidam; I must have an archdeacon for my hero, to fall in love with the pew-opener, with the clerk for a confidant — tyrannical interference of the churchwardens — clandestine correspondence concealed under the hassocks — appeal to the parishioners, &c., &c.’
‘All that, Sir,’ said Mr. — ‘I would not presume to interfere with; I would leave it entirely to your own inventive genius.’
‘Well, Sir,’ returned the canon with urbanity, ‘I am not prepared to come to terms at present, but if ever I do undertake such a work, you shall certainly have the refusal’.5
‘Oct., 1831. — Sir Walter Scott came to town and visited Dr. Hughes, is much sunk in spirits, but still retains gleams of his former humour, and he told, with almost his usual glee, the story of a placed minister, near Dundee, who, in preaching on Jonah, said:— “Ken ye, brethren, what fish it was that swallowed him? Aiblins ye may think it was a shark; nae, nae, my brethren, it was nae shark: or aiblins ye may think it was a saumon; nae, nae, my brethren, it was nae saumon: or aiblins ye may think it was a dolphin; nae, nae, my brethren, it was nae dolphin.”
‘Here an old woman, thinking to help her pastor out of a dead lift, cried out, “Aiblins, Sir, it was a dunter.” (The vulgar name of a species of whale common to the Scotch coast.)
‘“Aiblins, Madam, ye’re an auld witch for taking the word o’ God out of my mouth,” was the reply of the disappointed rhetorician.
‘Mr. L — late chaplain to the archbishop, dined there, and, in a conversation which ensued, mentioned his having, in a late tour, fallen in with the original Dominie Sampson. This gentleman was a Mr. Thompson, the son of the placed minister of Melrose, and himself in orders, though without a manse. He had lived for many years a chaplain in Sir Walter’s family, and was tutor to his children, who used to take advantage of his absence of mind, to open the window while he was lecturing, get quietly out of it, and go to play, a circumstance he would rarely perceive. Sir Walter had many opportunities of procuring him a benefice, but never dared avail himself of them, satisfied that his absence of mind would only bring him into scrapes, if placed in a responsible situation. Mr. T. was once very nearly summoned before the Synod for reading the “visitation of the sick” service from our Liturgy, to a poor man confined to his bed by illness.’
‘Feb. 11. — Dined with Sir George W— r. John Murray, the publisher, who was present, told me that Sir Walter Scott, on being taxed by him as the author of Old Mortality, not only denied having written it, but added, “In order to convince you that I am not the author, I will review the book for you in the Quarterly, — which he actually did, and Murray still has the MS. in his handwriting.’
From the publication of My Cousin Nicholas in Blackwood, to the establishment of Bentley’s Miscellany in 1837, nothing worthy of note in the way of literature engaged Mr. Barham’s attention. During this period his leisure was mainly directed to the prosecution of genealogical and archaeological inquiries, and more especially to the acquiring a knowledge of the various early editions of the Bible, in whole and in parts. He subsequently conceived the design, in which, by the liberal aid of the Chapter, he was enabled to make considerable progress, of restoring and re-arranging the valuable library of St. Paul’s. Meanwhile, he was not altogether unmindful of the Muse, but occasionally enlivened his friends and the public with ‘pieces didactic, descriptive,’ &c., as circumstances might call forth. Of these the ‘rough copy’ was usually forwarded to his kind friend, Mrs. Hughes, at Kingston Lisle.
‘St. Paul’s Churchyard, July 27, 1833.
‘MY DEAR MADAM, — Here we are at last, once more returned to the immediate vicinity of the “Wren’s Nest.” . . . I own I should not have been grieved at being able to run about a little longer among the groves of Summer Hill, which I think I described to you as the seat of Charles the Second, and since of Mr. James Alexander, the East India Director, and immediately adjoining our grounds. As you encourage me to bestow all my tediousness on your worship, I shall make no apology for enclosing a copy of “an effusion” which burst from a heart overflowing with nonsense when I quitted it, for the last time, on my return to the “Wells;” will it do for another number of Family Poetry?
O Summer Hill! if thou wert mine,
I’d order in a pipe of wine,
And ask a dozen friends to dine.
In faith, I would not spare the guineas,
But send for Pag and other ninies,
Flutes, hautboys, fiddles, pipes, and tabors,
Hussars with moustaches and sabres,
Quadrilles, and that grand waltz of Weber’s,
And give a dance to all my neighbours;
And here I’d sit and quaff my fill
Among the trees of Summer Hill.
Then with bland eye careering slowly,
O’er bush-crowned ridge end valley lowly;
I’d drain the cup to thee, old Rowley!
To thee, and to thy courtly train,
Once tenants of thy fair domain;
Soft Stewart, haughtiest Castlemaine,
Pert Nelly Gwynne, and Lucy Waters,
Old England’s fairest, frailest daughters.
E’en now, ‘midst yonder leafy glade,
Methinks I see thy Royal shade
In amplitude of wig arrayed;
Near thee thy rival in peruke,
Stands Buckingham, uproarious Duke,
With Tony Hamilton and Killegrew;
And Wilmot, that sad rake till ill he grew,
When to amend his life and turn it
He promised pious Doctor Burnet;
In time let’s hope to make old Nicholas
Lose all his pains, and look ridiculous!
Alexander! loftier far
Now culminates thy happier star
Than his of old, my ancient crony,
Thy namesake erst of Macedony,
Unrivalled, save, perhaps, by Boney.
Oh! happier far in thy degree
Art thou, although a conqueror he,
While thou art but an ex-M.P.
Yea, far more blessed my Alexander,
Art thou than that deceas’d commander;
Much though his name be honour’d, Fate,
Making thee Lord of this estate,
Dubbed thee in verity ‘The Great.’
Thou ne’er wert led through wanton revelling,
These sylvan scenes to play the devil in;
In these sweet shades so praised by Grammont,
Thou didst not call thyself ‘Young Ammon.’
And I, for one, wouldst thou invite us,
Would never fear the fate of Clytus.
No lady of too easy virtue
E’er made you think enough to hurt you,
And then with recklessness amazing,
Bade you set house and all a-blazing.
(’Tis hard to say which works the quicker,
To make folks blockheads, love or liquor.
But oh! it is an awful thing,
When both combine to make a king
Descend to play the part of Swing!)
Another world, thou dost not sigh
To conquer, much less pipe thine eye,
I dare be sworn — no! Alexander,
Thou art not half as great a gander:
This is thy globe — here toujours gai
Thy motto still, though, well-a-day,
Sarum be popp’d in schedule A.
O Summer, Summer, Summer Hill,
Fain would I gaze and linger still;
But see the moon her silver lamp
Uprears, the grass is getting damp.
And hark! the curfew’s parting knell
Is toll’d by Doctor Knox’s bell!
I go to join my wife and daughters,
Drinking these nasty-flavoured waters.
O Summer Hill! I must repine,
Thou art not, never will be mine
— I have not even got the wine.
‘And now having surfeited you with rubbish enough for one dose, let me conclude with my best acknowledgements, &c. ‘Your much obliged, ‘R. H. BARHAM.’
‘Nov. 1834. — You have, of course, heard of Tom D— ’s absurd challenge to F — for quizzing his liaison with Madame —; if not, the enclosed doggerel will make you au fait of the facts.’
(MAGAZINE PUBLISHER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT)
SAYS Tom D— to F— r
T’other morning, ‘I say, Sir,
You’ve call’d me a Roué, a Dicer, and Racer,
Now I’d have you to know, Sir,
Such names are “No Go,” Sir;
By Jove, Sir, I never knew anything grosser.
‘And then Madame —
Extremely distrest is
At your calling her Lais — she’s more like Thalestris,
As you’ll find, my fine joker,
If once you provoke her,
She’s a d — l if once she gets hold of a poker.
‘For myself, to be candid,
And not underhanded,
I write thus to say I’ll be hang’d if I stand it.
So give up the name
Of the man or the dame
Who has made this infernal attack on my fame,
And recall what you’ve said of
A man you’re afraid of,
Or turn out, my Trump, and let’s see what you’re made of.
‘I have “barkers” by Nock, Sir,
With percussion locks, Sir,
Will give you your gruel — hang me if I box, Sir,
And I’ve sent my old Pal in,
My “noble friend Allen,”
To give you this here, and to stop your caballing!’
Then says F— r, says he,
‘What a spoon you must be,
Tommy D — to send this here message to me:
Why if I was to fight about
What my friends write about,
My life I should be in continual fright about!
‘As to telling you, who
Wrote that thing about you,
One word’s worth a thousand — Blow me if I do!
If you will be so gay, Sir,
The people will say, Sir,
That you are a Roué, and I’m
Jemmy F— R.’
Taking no active part in polities himself, saving as regards the occasional sallies before alluded to, and scrupulously forbearing the exercise of any direct influence he might have held over others, Mr. Barham, nevertheless, remained a stanch and true Conservative, invariably recording his vote spite of any inconvenience to which it might subject him. He was wont to dwell with great gout upon the following amusing incident, as bearing so directly upon the general characteristics of the opposing parties:
— ‘I told you that we had been busy with the West Kent election . . . What amused me very much was, that on landing from the steamboat at Gravesend, where my vote was to be taken, the rain was falling pretty steadily, and every one of the passengers who boasted an umbrella, of course, had it in play. A strong detachment of the friends of all the candidates lined the pier, to see us come on shore, and loud cheers from either party arose as any one mounted the steps bearing their respective colours: with that modesty which is one of my distinguishing characteristics, I had endeavoured to decline the honour of a dead cat at my head, with which I was favoured on a previous occasion, by mounting no colours at all; but something distingué in my appearance, as self-complacency fondly whispered in my ear, made the Tory party roar out as I mounted the platform —
‘“Here comes von o’ hour side!”
‘“You be blowed!” said a broad-faced gentleman in sky-blue ribbons, “I say he’s our’n.”
‘“Be blowed yourself,” quoth one of my discriminating friends opposite, “Why, don’t you see the gemman’s got a silk umbrella?”
‘The conclusion was irresistible — Tory I must be, and the “I know’d it” which responded to my “Geary for ever” was truly delicious.’
‘Nov. 17, 1832. — Dined with Mr. Smith, He told me of the motto he had proposed for Bishop B— ‘s arms, in allusion to his brother, the well-known fish-sauce projector,
‘Gravi jampridem saucia cura.’
In a few days afterwards, Mr. Barham received the following invaluable recipe; it was forwarded by post without signature or comment of any kind.
Two large potatoes passed through kitchen sieve,
Unwonted softness to the salad give;
Of ardent mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment which bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt;
Three times the spoon with oil of Lucca crown,
And once with vinegar, procured from town,
True flavour needs it, and your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two well-boiled eggs;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, scarce suspected, animate the whole;
And, lastly, on the flavoured compound toss
A magic teaspoon of anchovy sauce.
Then, though green turtle fail, though venison’s tough,
And ham and turkey are not boiled enough,
Serenely full, the epicure may say, —
‘Fate cannot harm me, — I have dined to-day.’
N.B. — As this salad is the result of great experience and reflection, it is to be hoped young salad-makers will not attempt any improvements upon it.
The following letter refers principally to a change of abode, which, by the kindness of Mr. Smith, who placed a residentiary house in Amen Corner at his disposal, Mr. Barham was enabled to make. The building, coeval with the cathedral itself, having remained for a considerable time unoccupied, or tenanted only by rats and cats, ‘and such small deer,’ its condition will readily be understood by those conversant in such matters; to the uninitiated, the description here given will suffice:—
Sept. 17, 1889.
‘MY DEAR MADAM, — Delightful as it always is to hear from you, I do not hesitate to say that your last is the most agreeable letter I have yet been favoured with from Kingston Lisle, and that from its announcing your determination to quit those delicious “green fields” which Falstaff babbled of, and like his antitype Morris, to take up again with “the sweet shady side of Pall Mall.” Not that I have any objection to the country, in summer, or even in autumn — quite the reverse — but then I manage my enjoyment of it, as Lady Grace says, “soberly.” “When through the hawthorn blows the cold wind” I confess I like London as well as Lady Townley herself.
‘As to ourselves we are literally “moving,” and moving we shall be for this month to come. Never before did I fully comprehend the bitterness of David’s curse, “Make them like unto a wheel;” he had certainly a “flitting” in his eye at the time he uttered it. By the way, the Scotch, who are usually very happy in their terms, are singularly infelicitous in this. To flit gives one the idea of light and airy locomotion, such as befits a ghost or a gossamer, it speaks of light clouds, thistledown, and shadows by moonlight; not chests of drawers, warming-pans, and crockery, with all the ten thousand nondescripts of domestic economy — flit? A bat may flit, or perhaps a bachelor, but not a middle-aged gentleman of fourteen stone six; his “desert is too heavy to mount.” Then as to the invasion and its consequences, I protest I can scarcely think of it at times without compunction; it almost seems like Cortez and his ruffians “wading through slaughter to a throne,” and shutting the gates of mercy on ten thousand unoffending aborigines, who have grown old in the peace and tranquillity of half a century. Do not suppose that the S— s are the only animals who will bewail our avatar. “What millions died that Caesar may be great!” My heart sickens at the thought of this wholesale massacre — this sacrifice to Moloch, for I grieve to say, that, denied the tender mercies of the thumb and finger, wives, husbands, fathers, and “all, all their pretty ones” perished, like so many Suttees, in the flames. As I heard the one exterminating crackle, I could not help feeling for the moment that a Thug was a respectable member of society in comparison with myself. That their progeny, if not their ghosts, will “murder sleep” hereafter I cannot but fear.
‘To turn from so painful a subject, as extremes always meet, I jump at once from the lowest to the highest in the scale of created beings, from the meanest retainer of the crown to the crown itself. What think you of a visit from, and confabulation with, the Queen of the Belgians! On Saturday, I was in the library at St. Paul’s, my “custom always of an afternoon,” with a bookbinder’s ‘prentice and a printer’s devil, looking out fifty dilapidated folios for rebinding; I had on a coat which, from a foolish prejudice in the multitude against patched elbows, I wear nowhere else, my hands and face encrusted with the dust of years, and wanting only the shovel —— I had the brush — to sit for the portrait of a respectable master chimney-sweeper, when the door opened, and in walked the Cap of Maintenance bearing the sword of, and followed by, the Lord Mayor in full fig, with the prettiest and liveliest little Frenchwoman leaning upon his arm. Nobody could get at the “Lions” but myself; I was fairly in for it; and was thus presented in the most recherché, if not the most expensive court dress that I will venture to say the eyes of royalty were ever greeted withal. Heureusement pour moi, she spoke excellent English, and rattled on with a succession of questions, which I answered as best I might — they were sensible, however, showed some acquaintance with literature, and a very good knowledge of dates.
‘My gaucherie afforded her one opportunity of displaying her acquaintance with chronology which she did not miss. The date of a MS. was the question; I unthinkingly referred to that of the Battle of Agincourt, an allusion which a courtier would have shunned as a rock ahead, considering the figure an Orleans cut in that fight. It was not quite so bad certainly as the gentleman telling Prince Eugene that “a certain event took place in the year the Countess of Soissons (his mother) poisoned her husband,” but it was enough to have made poor Colonel Dalton faint. She relieved me, however, in an instant by saying, “Ah! 1415,” while George C — who was with her, coolly asked, “when it was printed?” She turned to him briskly and said at once, “You see it is a manuscript,” which satisfied the gentleman of the bedchamber, and saved my reply. More of this when we meet, but my paper, like Macheath’s courage, “is out,” so for the present, believe me as ever, ‘Yours, most faithfully, ‘R. H. B.’
By way of postscript, another anecdote anent royalty may be added:—
‘I must tell you one of his (Moore’s) stories, because, as Sir Walter Scott is the hero of it, I know it will not be unacceptable to you. When George IV went to Ireland, one of the “pisintry,” delighted with his affability to the crowd on landing, said to the toll-keeper as the king passed through,
‘“Och, now! an’ his Majesty, God bless him, never paid the turnpike, an’ how’s that?”
‘“Oh! kings never does, we let’s ’em go free:” was the answer.
‘“Then there’s the dirty money for ye,” says Pat. “It shall never be said that the king came here, and found nobody to pay the turnpike for him.”
‘Moore, on his visit to Abbotsford, told this story to Sir Walter, when they were comparing notes as to the two royal visits.
‘“Now, Mr. Moore,” replied Scott, “there ye have just the advantage of us; there was no want of enthusiasm here; the Scotch folk would have done anything in the world for his Majesty, but — pay the turnpike.”’
In 1837, Mr. Bentley published the first number of his Miscellany; having engaged the services of Mr. Charles Dickens, then rising rapidly in public estimation, and an ample staff of regular collaborateurs, he sought to secure any occasional auxiliaries whose assist ance might be of value; among others he applied to Mr. Barham, who entered at once and very warmly into the design, promising such aid as more important avocations might allow.
Up to this time he had been an anonymous and comparatively unknown writer. The popularity, however, of The Ingoldsby Legends, which now appeared in rapid succession in the pages of the new periodical, rendered the pseudonym he had, for obvious reasons, assumed, a very insufficient disguise, and though he never entirely abandoned it, he was soon pretty generally known to be their author. Hamilton Tighe was the first subject derived from the inexhaustible stores of Mrs. Hughes and her son. ‘The Original Ghost Story,’ writes Mr. Hughes, ‘was said to have occurred in the family of the late Mr. Pye, the Poet Laureate, a neighbour and brother magistrate of my maternal grandfather, and the date of it was supposed to be connected with the taking of Vigo.’ Patty Morgan, the Milk-maid’s Story, and The Dead Drummer, were transmitted also through the same medium; the former having been recounted by Lady Eleanor Butler6 as a whimsical Welsh Legend, the latter by Sir Walter Scott, who, having better means than most men of ascertaining facts and names, believed in their authenticity.
As regards the latter story, the main incidents are fully attested by a contemporary pamphlet, purporting to be a narrative of the ‘Life, Confession, and Dying Speech of Jarvis Matchan,’ and signed by the Rev, J. Nicholson, who attended him as minister, and another witness. The murder, however, was committed not on Salisbury Plain, but in the neighbourhood of Alconbury, in Huntingdonshire, and the culprit was accordingly, ‘on Wednesday the 2nd of August, 1786, executed at Huntingdon, and hung in chains in the parish of Alconbury, for the wilful murder of Benjamin Jones, a drummer boy in the 48th Regiment of Foot, on the 19th of August, 1780.’ Matchan’s escape to sea, and the subsequent vision on Salisbury Plain, which wrung from him his confession, and proved unquestionably the grounds of his conviction, are given with great minuteness, and though differing a little in detail, are to the full as marvellous as anything recorded in the poem.
The Hand of Glory also owes its origin to the same source. Nell Cook, Grey Dolphin, The Ghost, and The Smuggler’s Leap, are veritable Kentish Legends, a little renovated, perhaps, as regards ‘dresses and decorations,’ but, without doubt, sufficiently authentic for the purpose. Greater liberties have been taken with The Old Woman Clothed in Grey, who, for anything that appeared to the contrary, was a well-disposed ghost enough, haunting an old rectory within a few miles of Cambridge. it is represented to have been her custom to stroll about the house at dead of night, with a bag of money in her hand, of which she appeared exceedingly anxious to be relieved, offering it to whomsoever she happened to meet in the course of her peregrinations; no one, however, seems to have been bold enough to accept the gift. The principal improbability of the tale manifestly consists in the fact, that no one was found sufficiently enterprising to meet her wishes.
So strong was the belief that treasure was concealed about the building in question, that when it was taken down and the materials sold, on the erection of the present parsonage-house, the incumbent expressly stipulated for the right and title to all valuables that might be discovered, and he actually received, we believe, three battered half-pence in fulfilment of the agreement. As for the old lady, as she has never appeared since the destruction of her favourite ‘walk,’ it is conjectured, either that she has taken refuge in an old cellar which has been bricked over, and is likely to remain undisturbed for years, or that she has adopted an effectual method of disencumbering herself of all superfluous cash, by investing it in the scrip of some ‘great fen railroad company,’ and may even now be wandering an unhappy shade around the precincts of Capel Court.
The materials of most of the tales referring to Popish superstition were derived from a variety of monkish chronicles and writings, the Aurea Legenda among the rest, with which the library of Sion College abounds, and with most of which Mr. Barham was tolerably familiar. Of The Jackdaw of Rheims, he gives the following account:—
‘I have no time to do more for this number than scratch off a doggerel version of an old Catholic legend that I picked up out of a High Dutch author. I am afraid the poor “Jackdaw” will be sadly pecked at. Had I more time, I meant to have engrafted on it a story I have heard Cannon tell of a magpie of his acquaintance.
‘A certain notable housewife, he used to say, had observed that her stock of pickled cockles were running remarkably low, and she spoke to the cook in consequence, who alone had access to them. The cook had noticed the same serious deficiency, — “she couldn’t tell how, but they certainly disappeared much too fast!” A degree of coolness, approaching to estrangement, ensued between these worthy individuals, which the rapid consumption of the pickled cockles by no means contributed to remove. The lady became more distant than ever, spoke pointedly and before company, of “some people’s unaccountable partiality to pickled cockles,” &c. The cook’s character was at stake; unwilling to give warning, with such an imputation upon her self-denial, not to say honesty, she, nevertheless, felt that all confidence between her mistress and herself was at an end.
‘One day the jar containing the evanescent condiment being placed as usual on the dresser, while she was busily engaged in basting a joint before the fire, she happened to turn suddenly round, and beheld, to her great indignation, a favourite magpie, remarkable for his conversational powers and general intelligence, perched by its side, and dipping his beak down the open neck with every symptom of gratification. The mystery was explained — the thief detected! Grasping the ladle of scalding grease which she held in her hand, the exasperated lady dashed the whole contents over the hapless pet, accompanied by the exclamation — ‘“Oh, d — me, you’ve been at the pickled cockles, have ye?”
‘Poor Mag, of course, was dreadfully burnt; most of his feathers came off, leaving his little round pate, which had caught the principal part of the volley, entirely bare. The poor bird moped about, lost all his spirit, and never spoke for a year.
‘At length when he had pretty well recovered, and was beginning to chatter again, a gentleman called at the house, who, on taking off his hat, discovered a very bald head! The magpie, who happened to be in the room, appeared evidently struck by the circumstance; his reminiscences were at once powerfully excited by the naked appearance of the gentleman’s skull. Hopping upon the back of his chair, and looking him hastily over, he suddenly exclaimed, in the ear of the astounded visitor — ’“Oh, d — me, you’ve been at the pickled cockles, have ye?”’
In the same letter be goes on to say:— ‘I cannot sufficiently thank you for your story of the Virgin Unmasked; it is a most amusing one, and highly characteristic of the standard of morality too commonly found in “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain.” As to the communication of the gallivanting propensities of her husband to the dying woman, it is only to be paralleled by what Mr. — the conchologist, once told me, and which I think carries friendly consolation and good offices in extremis to even a higher pitch.
‘He was once a surgeon at W — in Kent, and said that in the course of his practice, he had to pay what he considered would be his last visit to au elderly labouring man on Adisham Downs. He had left him in the last stage of illness the day before, and was not surprised on calling again to find him dead, but did experience a little astonishment at seeing the bed on which he bad been lying now withdrawn from under the body, and placed in the middle of the floor. To his remarks, the answer given by her who had officiated as nurse(?) was — ‘“Dearee me, Sir, you see there was partridge feathers in the bed, and folks can’t die upon geame feathers no how, and we thought as how he never would go, so we pulled bed away, and then I just pinched his poor nose tight with one hand, and shut his mouth close with t’other, and, poor dear! he went off like a lamb!”’
The Singular Passage in the Life of the late Doctor Harris, though drawing not a little on the reader’s faith, certainly so far originated in fact that the strange details were communicated to Mr. Barham by a young lady on her sick-bed, and who herself was so impressed with their truth, as to urge most strongly the apprehension of the young man of whose horrible arts she believed herself to be the victim. The delusion only terminated with her life. It is worthy of remark that the very gentleman to whom she referred, and who was also well known to Mr. Barham, was shortly afterwards taken into custody on the charge of perpetrating a robbery at one of the theatres. His identity was sworn to most positively by the prosecutrix, but an alibi was so irrefragably established as to place his innocence beyond suspicion. This story, though printed in the first series of The Ingoldsby Legends, appeared originally in Blackwood, and has, indeed, little in common with the productions with which it is at present associated. As respects the poems, remarkable as they have been pronounced for the wit and humour which they display, their distinguishing attraction lies in the almost unparalleled flow and facility of the versification. Popular phrases, sentences the most prosaic, even the cramped technicalities of legal diction, and snatches from well-nigh every language, are wrought in with an apparent absence of all art and effort that surprises, pleases, and convulses the reader at every turn; the author triumphs with a master’s hand over every variety of stanza, however complicated or exacting; not a word seems out of place, not an expression forced; syllables the most intractable find the only partners fitted for them throughout the range of language, and couple together as naturally as those kindred spirits which poets tell us were created pairs, and dispersed in space to seek out their particular mates. A harmony pervades the whole, a perfect modulation of numbers never, perhaps, surpassed, and rarely equalled in compositions of this class. This was the forte of Thomas Ingoldsby; a harsh line or untrue rhyme grated like the Shandaean hinge upon his ear; no inviting point or alluring pun would induce him to entertain either for an instant; sacrifice or circumlocution were the only alternatives. At the same time, scarcely any vehicle could he better adapted for the development of his peculiar powers than that unshackled metre which admits of no laws save those of rhyme and melody; but which also, from the very want of definite regulations, presents no landmark to guide the poet, and demands a thorough knowledge of rhythm to prevent his becoming lost among a succession of confused and unconnected stanzas.
Of the unflagging spirit of fun which animates these productions there can be but one opinion; Mr. Barham was, unquestionably an adept in the mysteries of mirth, happy in his use of anachronism, and all the means and appliances of burlesque; he was skilled, moreover, to relieve his humour, however broad, from any imputation of vulgarity, by a judicious admixture of pathos and antiquarian lore. There are, indeed, passages in his writings, The Execution, for example, and the battle-field in The Black Mousquetaire, standing out in strong contrast from the ludicrous imagery which surrounds them, and affording evidence of powers of a very opposite and far higher order. That he had his faults is, of course, not to be denied; the digressions may sometimes appear too long or too frequent; the moral a little forced, and here and there an occasional objectionable expression might be discovered; but some indulgence may be claimed on the score of hurried composition and the very slight opportunity of correction afforded by the mode of publication. It would be improper, perhaps, to dismiss this subject without touching briefly upon a charge of coarseness and want of reverence which has been brought against the work in question, albeit few authors, upon the whole, have been more tenderly dealt with by the press than Thomas Ingoldsby.7 As regards the first moiety of this alleged offence against good taste, little need be said; it could only have been detected by one deeply imbued with that transatlantic spirit of delicacy, such singular instances of which have, from time to time, made their appearance in the papers; he must be sensitive overmuch, constituted
tremblingly alive all o’er,
To smart and agonize at every pore,
who fears to rub against the plain language of The Legends. No one who knew Mr. Barham would for a moment suspect him to be guilty of any intentional irreverence. Firmly and conscientiously opposed to avowed Popery, and not less so to that anomalous system which means Romanism if it means anything, he could not view the rapid propagation of these opinions with indifference. ‘Non ex quovis ligno fit Mercurius;’ he, perhaps, was not of the wood out of which schoolmen and controversialists are framed; but furnished with goodly weapons of the lighter sort, he did not hesitate to direct them against the errors in question. An occasional appeal to the nonsense of the public has its effect.
To return to the diary:—
‘August 21, 1839. — Hook drove me down to Thames Ditton, from his house at Fulham. Fished all day, and dined téte-a-téte at the “Swan.” Though not in health, his spirits were as good as ever. We caught eight dozen and a half of gudgeons, and he repeated to me almost as many anecdotes. Among the rest, one of a trick he played when a boy behind the scenes of the Haymarket. He was there one evening, during the heat of the Westminster election, at the representation of “The Wood Demon,” and observing the prompter with the large speaking-trumpet in his hand used to produce the supernatural voices incidental to the piece, he watched him for some time, and saw him go through the business more than once. As the effect was to be repeated, he requested of the man to be allowed to make the noise for him; the prompter incautiously trusted him with the instrument, when, just at the moment, the “Fiend” rose from the trap, and the usual roar was to accompany his appearance, “SHERIDAN FOR EVER!!!” was bawled out in the deepest tones that could be produced — not more to the astonishment of the audience than to the confusion of the involuntary partisan himself, from whom they seemed to proceed.
‘He mentioned also a reply that he made to the Duke of Rutland, who, observing him looking about the hall, as they were leaving the Marquis of Hertford’s, asked him what he had lost?
‘“My hat. If I had as good a beaver (Belvoir) as your Grace, I should have taken better care of it.”’
Whether Theodore Hook and his great rival, Mr. Sidney Smith, ever met in society, we do not know. An arrangement was made for the purpose of bringing them together at the table of a common friend, but, alas! a tailor —
What dire mishaps from trivial causes spring!
one to whom Hook owed a considerable sum, having failed in the interval, the latter was unable or indisposed to keep the appointment. The circumstance served to elicit one of those happy strokes of sarcasm which the Canon dealt so adroitly.
Mr. H — the host, not aware of the cause of his detention, delayed dinner for some time, observing that ‘he was sure Hook would come, as he had seen him, in the course of the afternoon, at the Athenaeum, evidently winding himself up for the encounter with tumblers of cold brandy and water.’
‘That’s hardly fair,’ said Smith, ‘I can’t be expected to be a match for him unless wound up too, so when your servant ushers in Mr. Hook, let Mr. H— ‘s Punch be announced at the same time.’
‘Dec. 5. — Met my old friend Charles D — who appears to have become quite a convert to phrenology; went with him to De Ville to have his head felt; scribbled the following lines during the “manipulation”:
Oh, my head! my head! my head!
Lack! for my poor unfortunate head!
Mister de Ville
Has been to feel,
And what do you think he said?
He felt it up, and he felt it down,
Behind the ears, and across the crown,
Sinciput, occiput, great and small,
Bumps and organs, he tickled ’em all;
And he shook his own, as he gravely said,
‘Sir, you really have got a most singular head!
‘Why here’s a bump,
Only feel what a lump;
Why the organ of “Sound” is an absolute hump;
And only feel here,
Why, behind each ear,
There’s a bump for a butcher or a bombardier;
Such organs of slaughter
Would spill blood like water;
Such “lopping and topping” of heads and of tails,
Why, you’ll cut up a jackass with Alderman S— .’
Among the various departments of literature in which Mr. Barham sought relaxation, the drama occupied a considerable portion of his attention; from the Greek tragedians to Shakespeare and the more modern playwrights, there was scarcely an author possessed of any pretensions to merit, with whose writings he was not familiar. His acquaintances indeed, with the works of the Swan of Avon was such as to enable him, at one time, when his memory was in its full vigour, to supply the context to any quotation that could be made from them, and to mention the play, the act, and generally the very scene from which it had been taken. Warmly attached to the cause of the drama, he looked with con siderable interest on the formation of ‘the Garrick Club8,’ which was established with some design of being made instrumental in bringing back the neglected Muse ‘to glory again.’
The death of Theodore Hook, which occurred on August 24, 1841, deeply affected Mr. Barham; a warm attachment had sprung up between them during an intimacy of twenty years, and be heard of the event that had dissolved it with the most heartfelt grief, not unmixed with something of a sinister foreboding as regarded himself. One of the last parties at which Hook was present was at Amen Corner; he was unusually late, and dinner was served before he made his appearance; Mr. Barham apologized for having sat down without him, observing that he had quite given him up, and had supposed ‘that the weather had deterred him.’
‘Oh!’ replied the former, ‘I had determined to come, weather or no.’
Like most men resident in London, however much its occupations may be in accordance with their taste, there was nothing Mr. Barham so thoroughly enjoyed as to snatch a hasty run into the country, more especially if, in addition to fresh breezes, green fields, and odorous flowers, there could be obtained what poor Cannon used to denominate a ‘sniff of the briny.’ He had started, about the middle of August, 1841, for Margate, full of spirits at the prospect of a longer holiday than usual, which was to embrace a week’s shooting among the Kentish hills, little dreaming of the evil tidings that were to follow him; immediately on his arrival he addressed the following amusing ‘log’ to his old schoollellow and valued friend Dr. Roberts:—
‘DEAR ROBERTS, — ‘August 16. — Nine A.M. — Two cabs, three trunks, one band-box, a wife, three girls, two carpet-bags, portfolio, and a Dick on the dickey.
‘Half-past Nine. — On board the Royal George; luggage safe stowed, all but the Dick, who quitted.
‘Three-quarters-past Nine. — Rum and milk, eggs, and cold beef.
‘Ten. — Off she goes; Times and Morning Herald.
‘Eleven. — Blackwall Railroad Company, all well.
‘Hall-past Twelve. — Off Gravesend.
‘Half-past One. — Off Sheppey, bell rings, dinner; “more mutton for the lady.”
‘Three. — Off Herne Bay, beautiful weather, sea like a duck-pond; gin-and-water.
‘Twenty minutes past Four. — Landed on Margate jetty, went to old lodgings, landlady moved and gone to America. — N.B. Husband has another wife there.
Forced to seek for quarters, old ones being laid into the hotel.
‘Hall-past Four. — Three bed-rooms and first-floor sitting-room at a hatter’s on Marine Parade. Don’t know whether engaged or not, depends on next post, which comes in at half-past six; old woman, former lodger, to send her answer by it; have tea there upon speculation.
‘Five. — Very good tea, ditto bread, ditto butter; hurdy-gurdy under window, “Nix my Dolly.”
‘Five minutes past Five. — Another cup. Bagpipes under window, “Jim Crow.”
‘Ten minutes past Five. — Conjuror under window, lots of tricks, three eggs out of a handkerchief.
‘Six. — Post in, old woman don’t come, take the lodgings, three guineas a week, seem very comfortable, children at window looking at conjuror, hurdy-gurdy, “I’d be a butterfly;” fiddler, “College Hornpipe’; bagpipes, “Within a mile of Edinburgh Town;” wish they were! Post going off, God bless you, all well, and in screaming spirits.
‘R. H. B.’
In 1840, Mr. Barham succeeded, in course of rotation, to the presidency of Sion College; and in 1842, his long services at St. Paul’s were rewarded with the divinity readership in that Cathedral, and by his being permitted to exchange his living for the more valuable one of St. Faith, the duties of which were far less onerous than those he had fulfilled during well-nigh twenty years. He still continued under the bishop’s licence in his old abode in Amen Corner. This, indeed, be was enabled to do till his decease, although shortly after his induction, the death of Mr. Sidney Smith placed the residentiary house in other bands. The last communication he received from this gentleman runs as follows:—
‘Green Street, Monday.
‘Many thanks, my dear Sir, for your kind present of game. If there is a pure and elevated pleasure in this world, it is that of roast pheasant and bread sauce; — barn-door fowls for dissenters, but for the real church man, the thirty-nine times articled clerk, the pheasant, the pheasant!
A more laconic note, in acknowledgement of a similar arrival, was penned by Mr. Barham himself, but whether it ever reached the hands of the eminent individual to whom it appears to have been addressed, is doubtful:—
‘Many thanks, my dear Lord, for the birds of your giving, Though I wish with the dead, you had sent me the living.’
The first indications of Mr. Barham’s fatal disease exhibited themselves on October 28, 1844, the day of the Queen’s visit to the City, for the purpose of opening the Royal Exchange. He had accompanied his wife and daughters to a friend’s house to witness the procession, and had even remarked, as a cutting east wind whistled through the open windows, that, in all probability, that day’s sight-seeing would cost many of the imprudent gazers their lives. In the course of the evening he was attacked with a violent fit of coughing, the result of sudden and severe inflammation in the throat. It was found in the following June that recovery was impossible. To say that be received the intimation with fortitude, would afford but a very inadequate notion of the calmness and contentment with which he regarded his approaching end. Having arranged, with his usual perspicuity, all the details of his temporal affairs, be partook for the last time of the holy communion, in company with all his household, and set himself, in perfect sell-possession, to make final preparation for the awful change at hand.
His last lines, entitled As I laye a-thynkynge, were written but a few days before be quitted Clifton, where be had been for a change, and are of a more sombre hue, referring chiefly to the death of his youngest son, to whom his latest thoughts were constantly recurring. They were placed, at his express desire, in the bands of Mr. Bentley for publication.
On the morning of June 17, 1845, he expired in the fifty-seventh year of his age, without a struggle, in faith, and hope, and in charity with all men.
Independent of any admiration that Mr. Barham’s wit and talent might excite, there was a warmth of heart about him, and an amiability of disposition, which rendered him justly dear to many even beyond the pale of intimacy. His spirits were fresh and buoyant, his constitution vigorous, and his temperament sanguine. His humour never ranged ‘beyond the limits of becom ing mirth,’ and was in its essence free from gall. Where irony was his object, it was commonly just, and always gentle. On his writings might, in fairness, be inscribed:—
Non ego mordaci distrinxi carmine quenquam,
Nulla venenato est litera mixta joco.
Perhaps his virtues were of a kind especially adapted to win their own reward; certain it is, he had ever cause to view humanity under its fairest aspect. He never lost a friend: he never met with coldness or neglect. His family were devotedly attached to him; those upon whom he was instrumental in conferring benefits were rarely, if ever, wanting in gratitude: and his own claims to consideration were readily and liberally allowed. All these things pass away. But as an author, he can scarcely be forgotten. His productions, whatever may be their defects or blemishes, must occupy that niche in the literature of the country, which his originality has carved out.
1 The price he received for this work was twenty pounds, with additional advantages dependent on certain of those book-selling ‘contingencies,’ which Theodore Hook used to describe as things that never happen. The definition was not violated in the present instance.
2 Much as Mr. Barham, with all reasonable and right-thinking people, condemned this practice of playing practical jokes, there was something so original and irresistibly ludicrous in the positions brought about by Theodore Hook’s humour, as to draw a smile from the most unbending. The only thing of the kind in which Mr B. was ever personally engaged was as a boy at Canterbury, when, with a schoolfellow, later a gallant major, ‘famed for deeds of arms,’ he entered a Quakers’ meeting-house; looking round at the grave assembly, the latter held up a penny tart, and said solemnly, ‘Whoever speaks first shall have this pie.’ — ‘Go thy way,’ commenced a drab-coloured gentleman, rising, — ‘go thy way, and — ‘The pie’s yours, sir,’ exclaimed D — placing it before the astounded speaker, and hastily effecting his escape.
3 The Mr. Hill of Gilbert Gurney, who also furnished the idea of Mr. Poole’s Paul Pry.
4 In one of his letters to this lady, he observes of Nicholas, ‘Whatever his demerits may be, they must in fairness rest at your door, since you certainly, if you did not absolutely call him into life, prevented his being overlaid in his premiere jeunesse; but for your fostering care he had expired long since of laziness and indigestion.’
5 To this may be added the advice he is said to have given to the Bishop of New Zealand, previous to his departure, recommending him to have regard to the minor as well as to the more grave duties of his station — to be given to hospitality — and, in order to meet the tastes of his native guests, never to be without a smoked little boy in the bacon-rack, and a cold clergyman on the sideboard. ‘And as for myself, my Lord,’ he concluded, ‘all I can say is, that when your new parishioners do eat you, I sincerely hope you will disagree with them.’ Of Dean C— he said, his only adequate punishment would be, to be preached to death by wild curates.
6 The story, as told by Lady Eleanor Butler, one of the celebrated ‘Ladies of Llangollen,’ ran, that a young carpenter, residing in the valley, had married a girl to whom he was much attached, and they lived together for several years very happily, till the wife’s mother dying, bequeathed to her daughter some household furniture, and among other articles a clock. They had previously possessed a clock of their own, and the husband now proposed to sell the new one, which the wife objected to, as it had belonged to her mother, wishing on the other hand to dispose of their own. From this the husband was averse, from a similar reason. A dispute, the first they had ever known, followed, and, as he persisted in selling the legacy, was frequently renewed. From this moment they became as remarkable for living unhappily together, as they had previously been for the contrary. The husband occasionally even used blows, and either from the ill-treatment which she received, or from natural causes, the wife soon fell into a languishing, low way. At length she died; but whether any very recent injuries had been inflicted to hasten her decay does not appear. The carpenter, however, seems to have anticipated it, as a fortnight after her funeral he had engaged himself to a second wife.
Her betrothed was on his way along the mountain path which led to her cottage, the evening before the day fixed for the celebration of his second nuptials, when one of the fogs so common among the hills came suddenly on. Well acquainted with his road he felt no alarm, but some surprise at a singular sound which he heard behind him, as of some heavy body following. The fog for some time prevented his discovering what it was; but at length a gust of wind partially removing the mist, be distinctly perceived, at a distance of only a few yards, the clock which had been the cause of all his matrimonial strife. It came on apparently self-moved, and as he looked again, he beheld not the usual face, hut that of his deceased wife, which occupied the place generally allotted to the hours, minutes, and hands.
He uttered a loud scream and rushed forward, the clock still following him, and it was, as he fancied, on the point of overtaking him, when be fell exhausted against the cottage door. The sound of his fall attracted the attention of the inmates, who found him lying at the threshold in a swoon. After some time he recovered his senses, when he repeated this story with the strongest assertions of its truth in every particular. A fever was the consequence of the great mental excitement occasioned by the delusion, and he did not survive his adventure many days.
7 One of these attacks, not the wisest, and exhibiting, on the part of the writer, a most amusing imperviousness to the force of humour, was fairly met by the following retort from the assailed:—
For turning grave things to farce, Prior asserts,
A ladle once stuck in an old woman’s skirts;
My muse then may surely esteem it a boon,
if in hers there sticks only a bit of a spoon. — T. I
8 The following lines, composed by Mr. B., and set as a glee by Mr. Hawes, were sung at the opening dinner:
Let Poets of superior parts
Consign to deathless fame
The larceny of the Knave of Hearts
Who spoiled his Royal Dame.
Alack! my timid muse would quail
Before such thievish cubs,
But plumes a joyous wing to hail
Thy birth, fair Queen of Clubs!
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