The tract appended to this preface has been chosen to accompany this reprint of Alton Locke in order to illustrate, from another side, a distinct period in the life of Charles Kingsley, which stands out very much by itself. It may be taken roughly to have extended from 1848 to 1856. It has been thought that they require a preface, and I have undertaken to write it, as one of the few survivors of those who were most intimately associated with the author at the time to which the works refer.
No easy task; for, look at them from what point we will, these years must be allowed to cover an anxious and critical time in modern English history; but, above all, in the history of the working classes. In the first of them the Chartist agitation came to a head and burst, and was followed by the great movement towards association, which, developing in two directions and by two distinct methods — represented respectively by the amalgamated Trades Unions, and Co-operative Societies — has in the intervening years entirely changed the conditions of the labour question in England, and the relations of the working to the upper and middle classes. It is with this, the social and industrial side of the history of those years, that we are mainly concerned here. Charles Kingsley has left other and more important writings of those years. But these are beside our purpose, which is to give some such slight sketch of him as may be possible within the limits of a preface, in the character in which he was first widely known, as the most outspoken and powerful of those who took the side of the labouring classes, at a critical time — the crisis in a word, when they abandoned their old political weapons, for the more potent one of union and association, which has since carried them so far.
To no one of all those to whom his memory is very dear can this seem a superfluous task, for no writer was ever more misunderstood or better abused at the time, and after the lapse of almost a quarter of a century the misunderstanding would seem still to hold its ground. For through all the many notices of him which appeared after his death in last January, there ran the same apologetic tone as to this part of his life’s work. While generally, and as a rule cordially, recognizing his merits as an author and a man, the writers seemed to agree in passing lightly over this ground. When it was touched it was in a tone of apology, sometimes tinged with sarcasm, as in the curt notice in the “Times”—“He was understood, to be the Parson Lot of those ‘Politics for the People’ which made no little noise in their time, and as Parson Lot he declared in burning language that to his mind the fault in the ‘People’s Charter’ was that it did not go nearly far enough.” And so the writer turns away, as do most of his brethren, leaving probably some such impression as this on the minds of most of their readers —“Young men of power and genius are apt to start with wild notions. He was no exception. Parson Lot’s sayings and doings may well be pardoned for what Charles Kingsley said and did in after years; so let us drop a decent curtain over them, and pass on.”
Now, as very nearly a generation has passed since that signature used to appear at the foot of some of the most noble and vigorous writing of our time, readers of today are not unlikely to accept this view, and so to find further confirmation and encouragement in the example of Parson Lot for the mischievous and cowardly distrust of anything like enthusiasm amongst young men, already sadly too prevalent in England. If it were only as a protest against this “surtout point de zèle” spirit, against which it was one of Charles Kingsley’s chief tasks to fight with all his strength, it is well that the facts should be set right. This done, readers may safely be left to judge what need there is for the apologetic tone in connection with the name, the sayings, and doings of Parson Lot.
My first meeting with him was in the autumn of 1848, at the house of Mr. Maurice, who had lately been appointed Reader of Lincolns Inn. No parochial work is attached to that post, so Mr. Maurice had undertaken the charge of a small district in the parish in which he lived, and had set a number of young men, chiefly students of the Inns of Court who had been attracted by his teaching, to work in it. Once a week, on Monday evenings, they used to meet at his house for tea, when their own work was reported upon and talked over. Suggestions were made and plans considered; and afterwards a chapter of the Bible was read and discussed. Friends and old pupils of Mr. Maurice’s, residing in the country, or in distant parts of London, were in the habit of coming occasionally to these meetings, amongst whom was Charles Kingsley. He had been recently appointed Rector of Eversley, and was already well known as the author of The Saint’s Tragedy, his first work, which contained the germ of much that he did afterwards.
His poem, and the high regard and admiration which Mr. Maurice had for him, made him a notable figure in that small society, and his presence was always eagerly looked for. What impressed me most about him when we first met was, his affectionate deference to Mr. Maurice, and the vigour and incisiveness of everything he said and did. He had the power of cutting out what he meant in a few clear words, beyond any one I have ever met. The next thing that struck one was the ease with which he could turn from playfulness, or even broad humour, to the deepest earnest. At first I think this startled most persons, until they came to find out the real deep nature of the man; and that his broadest humour had its root in a faith which realized, with extraordinary vividness, the fact that God’s Spirit is actively abroad in the world, and that Christ is in every man, and made him hold fast, even in his saddest moments — and sad moments were not infrequent with him — the assurance that, in spite of all appearances, the world was going right, and would go right somehow, “Not your way, or my way, but God’s way.” The contrast of his humility and audacity, of his distrust in himself and confidence in himself, was one of those puzzles which meet us daily in this world of paradox. But both qualities gave him a peculiar power for the work he had to do at that time, with which the name of Parson Lot is associated.
It was at one of these gatherings, towards the end of 1847 or early in 1848, when Kingsley found himself in a minority of one, that he said jokingly, he felt much as Lot must have felt in the Cities of the Plain, when he seemed as one that mocked to his sons-in-law. The name Parson Lot was then and there suggested, and adopted by him, as a familiar nom de plume, He used it from 1848 up to 1856; at first constantly, latterly much more rarely. But the name was chiefly made famous by his writings in “Politics for the People,” the “Christian Socialist,” and the “Journal of Association,” three periodicals which covered the years from ‘48 to ‘52; by “Alton Locke”; and by tracts and pamphlets, of which the best known, “Cheap Clothes and Nasty,” is now republished.
In order to understand and judge the sayings and writings of Parson Lot fairly, it is necessary to recall the condition of the England of that day. Through the winter of 1847–8, amidst wide-spread distress, the cloud of discontent, of which Chartism was the most violent symptom, had been growing darker and more menacing, while Ireland was only held down by main force. The breaking-out of the revolution on the Continent in February increased the danger. In March there were riots in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and other large towns. On April 7th, “the Crown and Government Security Bill,” commonly called “the Gagging Act,” was introduced by the Government, the first reading carried by 265 to 24, and the second a few days later by 452 to 35. On the 10th of April the Government had to fill London with troops, and put the Duke of Wellington in command, who barricaded the bridges and Downing Street, garrisoned the Bank and other public buildings, and closed the Horse Guards.
When the momentary crisis had passed, the old soldier declared in the House of Lords that “no great society had ever suffered as London had during the preceding days,” while the Home Secretary telegraphed to all the chief magistrates of the kingdom the joyful news that the peace had been kept in London. In April, the Lord Chancellor, in introducing the Crown and Government Security Bill in the House of Lords, referred to the fact that “meetings were daily held, not only in London, but in most of the manufacturing towns, the avowed object of which was to array the people against the constituted authority of these realms.” For months afterwards the Chartist movement, though plainly subsiding, kept the Government in constant anxiety; and again in June, the Bank, the Mint, the Custom House, and other public offices were filled with troops, and the Houses of Parliament were not only garrisoned but provisioned as if for a siege.
From that time, all fear of serious danger passed away. The Chartists were completely discouraged, and their leaders in prison; and the upper and middle classes were recovering rapidly from the alarm which had converted a million of them into special constables, and were beginning to doubt whether the crisis had been so serious after all, whether the disaffection had ever been more than skin deep. At this juncture a series of articles appeared in the Morning Chronicle on “London Labour and the London Poor,” which startled the well-to-do classes out of their jubilant and scornful attitude, and disclosed a state of things which made all fair minded people wonder, not that there had been violent speaking and some rioting, but that the metropolis had escaped the scenes which had lately been enacted in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and other Continental capitals.
It is only by an effort that one can now realize the strain to which the nation was subjected during that winter and spring, and which, of course, tried every individual man also, according to the depth and earnestness of his political and social convictions and sympathies. The group of men who were working under Mr. Maurice were no exceptions to the rule. The work of teaching and visiting was not indeed neglected, but the larger questions which were being so strenuously mooted — the points of the people’s charter, the right of public meeting, the attitude of the labouring-class to the other classes — absorbed more and more of their attention. Kingsley was very deeply impressed with the gravity and danger of the crisis — more so, I think, than almost any of his friends; probably because, as a country parson, he was more directly in contact with one class of the poor than any of them. How deeply he felt for the agricultural poor, how faithfully he reflected the passionate and restless sadness of the time, may be read in the pages of “Yeast,” which was then coming out in “Fraser.” As the winter months went on this sadness increased, and seriously affected his health.
“I have a longing,” he wrote to Mr. Ludlow, “to do something— what, God only knows. You say, ‘he that believeth will not make haste,’ but I think he that believeth must make haste, or get damned with the rest. But I will do anything that anybody likes — I have no confidence in myself or in anything but God. I am not great enough for such times, alas! ‘nè pour faire des vers,’ as Camille Desmoulins said.”
This longing became so strong as the crisis in April approached, that he came to London to see what could be done, and to get help from Mr. Maurice, and those whom he had been used to meet at his house. He found them a divided body. The majority were sworn in as special constables, and several had openly sided with the Chartists; while he himself, with Mr. Maurice and Mr. Ludlow, were unable to take active part with either side. The following extract from a letter to his wife, written on the 9th of April, shows how he was employed during these days, and how he found the work which he was in search of, the first result of which was the publication of “those ‘Politics for the People’ which made no small noise in their times”—
“April 11th, 1848. — The events of a week have been crowded into a few hours. I was up till four this morning — writing posting placards, under Maurice’s auspices, one of which is to be got out tomorrow morning, the rest when we can get money. Could you not beg a few sovereigns somewhere to help these poor wretches to the truest alms? — to words, texts from the Psalms, anything which may keep even one man from cutting his brother’s throat tomorrow or Friday? Pray, pray, help us. Maurice has given me a highest proof of confidence. He has taken me to counsel, and we are to have meetings for prayer and study, when I come up to London, and we are to bring out a new set of real “Tracts for the Times,” addressed to the higher orders. Maurice is à la hauteur des circonstances— determined to make a decisive move. He says, if the Oxford Tracts did wonders, why should not we? Pray for us. A glorious future is opening, and both Maurice and Ludlow seem to have driven away all my doubts and sorrow, and I see the blue sky again, and my Father’s face!”
The arrangements for the publication of “Politics for the People” were soon made; and in one of the earliest numbers, for May, 1848, appeared the paper which furnishes what ground there is for the statement, already quoted, that “he declared, in burning language, that the People’s Charter did not go far enough” It was No. 1 of “Parson Lot’s Letters to the Chartists.” Let us read it with its context.
“I am not one of those who laugh at your petition of the 10th of April: I have no patience with those who do. Suppose there were but 250,000 honest names on that sheet — suppose the Charter itself were all stuff — yet you have still a right to fair play, a patient hearing, an honourable and courteous answer, whichever way it may be. But my only quarrel with the Charter is that it does not go far enough in reform. I want to see you free, but I do not see that what you ask for will give you what you want. I think you have fallen into just the same mistake as the rich, of whom you complain — the very mistake which has been our curse and our nightmare. I mean the mistake of fancying that legislative reform is social reform, or that men’s hearts can be changed by Act of Parliament. If any one will tell me of a country where a Charter made the rogues honest, or the idle industrious, I will alter my opinion of the Charter, but not till then. It disappointed me bitterly when I read it. It seemed a harmless cry enough, but a poor, bald constitution-mongering cry as ever I heard. The French cry of ‘organization of labour’ is worth a thousand of it, but yet that does not go to the bottom of the matter by many a mile.” And then, after telling how he went to buy a number of the Chartist newspaper, and found it in a shop which sold “flash songsters,” “the Swell’s Guide,” and “dirty milksop French novels,” and that these publications, and a work called “The Devil’s Pulpit,” were puffed in its columns, he goes on, “These are strange times. I thought the devil used to befriend tyrants and oppressors, but he seems to have profited by Burns’ advice to ‘tak a thought and mend.’ I thought the struggling freeman’s watchword was: ‘God sees my wrongs.’ ‘He hath taken the matter into His own hands.’ ‘The poor committeth himself unto Him, for He is the helper of the friendless.’ But now the devil seems all at once to have turned philanthropist and patriot, and to intend himself to fight the good cause, against which he has been fighting ever since Adam’s time. I don’t deny, my friends, it is much cheaper and pleasanter to be reformed by the devil than by God; for God will only reform society on the condition of our reforming every man his own self — while the devil is quite ready to help us to mend the laws and the parliament, earth and heaven, without ever starting such an impertinent and ‘personal’ request, as that a man should mend himself. That liberty of the subject he will always respect.”—“But I say honestly, whomsoever I may offend, the more I have read of your convention speeches and newspaper articles, the more I am convinced that too many of you are trying to do God’s work with the devil’s tools. What is the use of brilliant language about peace, and the majesty of order, and universal love, though it may all be printed in letters a foot long, when it runs in the same train with ferocity, railing, mad, one-eyed excitement, talking itself into a passion like a street woman? Do you fancy that after a whole column spent in stirring men up to fury, a few twaddling copybook headings about ‘the sacred duty of order’ will lay the storm again? What spirit is there but the devil’s spirit in bloodthirsty threats of revenge?”—“I denounce the weapons which you have been deluded into employing to gain you your rights, and the indecency and profligacy which you are letting be mixed up with them! Will you strengthen and justify your enemies? Will you disgust and cripple your friends? Will you go out of your way to do wrong? When you can be free by fair means will you try foul? When you might keep the name of Liberty as spotless as the Heaven from which she comes, will you defile her with blasphemy, beastliness, and blood? When the cause of the poor is the cause of Almighty God, will you take it out of His hands to entrust it to the devil? These are bitter questions, but as you answer them so will you prosper.”
In Letter II. he tells them that if they have followed, a different “Reformer’s Guide” from his, it is “mainly the fault of us parsons, who have never told you that the true ‘Reformer’s Guide,’ the true poor man’s book, the true ‘Voice of God against tyrants, idlers, and humbugs, was the Bible.’ The Bible demands for the poor as much, and more, than they demand for themselves; it expresses the deepest yearnings of the poor man’s heart far more nobly, more searchingly, more daringly, more eloquently than any modern orator has done. I say, it gives a ray of hope — say rather a certain dawn of a glorious future, such as no universal suffrage, free trade, communism, organization of labour, or any other Morrison’s-pill-measure can give — and yet of a future, which will embrace all that is good in these — a future of conscience, of justice, of freedom, when idlers and oppressors shall no more dare to plead parchments and Acts of Parliament for their iniquities. I say the Bible promises this, not in a few places only, but throughout; it is the thought which runs through the whole Bible, justice from God to those whom men oppress, glory from God to those whom men despise. Does that look like the invention of tyrants, and prelates? You may sneer, but give me a fair hearing, and if I do not prove my words, then call me the same hard name which I shall call any man, who having read the Bible, denies that it is the poor man’s comfort and the rich man’s warning.”
In subsequent numbers (as afterwards in the “Christian Socialist,” and the “Journal of Association”) he dwells in detail on the several popular cries, such as, “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” illustrating them from the Bible, urging his readers to take it as the true Radical Reformer’s Guide, if they were longing for the same thing as he was longing for — to see all humbug, idleness, injustice, swept out of England. His other contributions to these periodicals consisted of some of his best short poems: “The Day of the Lord;” “The Three Fishers;” “Old and New,” and others; of a series of Letters on the Frimley murder; of a short story called “The Nun’s Pool,” and of some most charming articles on the pictures in the National Gallery, and the collections in the British Museum, intended to teach the English people how to use and enjoy their own property.
I think I know every line which was ever published under the signature Parson Lot; and I take it upon myself to say, that there is in all that “burning language” nothing more revolutionary than the extracts given above from his letters to the Chartists.
But, it may be said, apart from his writings, did not Parson Lot declare himself a Chartist in a public meeting in London; and did he not preach in a London pulpit a political sermon, which brought up the incumbent, who had invited him, to protest from the altar against the doctrine which had just been delivered?
Yes! Both statements are true. Here are the facts as to the speech, those as to the sermon I will give in their place. In the early summer of 1848 some of those who felt with C. Kingsley that the “People’s Charter” had not had fair play or courteous treatment, and that those who signed it had real wrongs to complain of, put themselves into communication with the leaders, and met and talked with them. At last it seemed that the time was come for some more public meeting, and one was called at the Cranbourn Tavern, over which Mr. Maurice presided. After the president’s address several very bitter speeches followed, and a vehement attack was specially directed against the Church and the clergy. The meeting waxed warm, and seemed likely to come to no good, when Kingsley rose, folded his arms across his chest, threw his head back, and began — with the stammer which always came at first when he was much moved, but which fixed every one’s attention at once —“I am a Church of England parson”— a long pause —“and a Chartist;” and then he went on to explain how far he thought them right in their claim for a reform of Parliament; how deeply he sympathized with their sense of the injustice of the law as it affected them; how ready he was to help in all ways to get these things set right; and then to denounce their methods, in very much the same terms as I have already quoted from his letters to the Chartists. Probably no one who was present ever heard a speech which told more at the time. I had a singular proof that the effect did not pass away. The most violent speaker on that occasion was one of the staff of the leading Chartist newspaper. I lost sight of him entirely for more than twenty years, and saw him again, a little grey shrivelled man, by Kingsley’s side, at the grave of Mr. Maurice, in the cemetery at Hampstead.
The experience of this meeting encouraged its promoters to continue the series, which they did with a success which surprised no one more than themselves. Kingsley’s opinion of them may be gathered from the following extract from a letter to his wife:—
“June 4, 1848, Evening. — A few words before bed. I have just come home from the meeting. No one spoke but working men, gentlemen I should call them, in every sense of the term. Even I was perfectly astonished by the courtesy, the reverence to Maurice, who sat there like an Apollo, their eloquence, the brilliant, nervous, well-chosen language, the deep simple earnestness, the rightness and moderation of their thoughts. And these are the Chartists, these are the men who are called fools and knaves — who are refused the rights which are bestowed on every profligate fop. . . . It is God’s cause, fear not He will be with us, and if He is with us, who shall be against us?”
But while he was rapidly winning the confidence of the working classes, he was raising up a host of more or less hostile critics in other quarters by his writings in “Politics for the People,” which journal was in the midst of its brief and stormy career. At the end of June, 1848, he writes to Mr. Ludlow, one of the editors —
“I fear my utterances have had a great deal to do with the ‘Politics” unpopularity. I have got worse handled than any of you by poor and rich. There is one comfort, that length of ears is in the donkey species always compensated by toughness of hide. But it is a pleasing prospect for me (if you knew all that has been said and written about Parson Lot), when I look forward and know that my future explosions are likely to become more and more obnoxious to the old gentlemen, who stuff their ears with cotton, and then swear the children are not screaming.”
“Politics for the People” was discontinued for want of funds; but its supporters, including all those who were working under Mr. Maurice — who, however much they might differ in opinions, were of one mind as to the danger of the time, and the duty of every man to do his utmost to meet that danger — were bent upon making another effort. In the autumn, Mr. Ludlow, and others of their number who spent the vacation abroad, came back with accounts of the efforts at association which were being made by the workpeople of Paris.
The question of starting such associations in England as the best means of fighting the slop system — which the “Chronicle” was showing to lie at the root of the misery and distress which bred Chartists — was anxiously debated. It was at last resolved to make the effort, and to identify the new journal with the cause of Association, and to publish a set of tracts in connection with it, of which Kingsley undertook to write the first, “Cheap Clothes and Nasty.”
So “the Christian Socialist” was started, with Mr. Ludlow for editor, the tracts on Christian Socialism begun under Mr. Maurice’s supervision, and the society for promoting working-men’s associations was formed out of the body of men who were already working with Mr. Maurice. The great majority of these joined, though the name was too much for others. The question of taking it had been much considered, and it was decided, on the whole, to be best to do so boldly, even though it might cost valuable allies. Kingsley was of course consulted on every point, though living now almost entirely at Eversley, and his views as to the proper policy to be pursued may be gathered best from the following extracts from letters of his to Mr. Ludlow —
“We must touch the workman at all his points of interest. First and foremost at association — but also at political rights, as grounded both on the Christian ideal of the Church, and on the historic facts of the Anglo–Saxon race. Then national education, sanitary and dwelling-house reform, the free sale of land, and corresponding reform of the land laws, moral improvement of the family relation, public places of recreation (on which point I am very earnest), and I think a set of hints from history, and sayings of great men, of which last I have been picking up from Plato, Demosthenes, &c.”
1849. —“This is a puling, quill-driving, soft-handed age — among our own rank, I mean. Cowardice is called meekness; to temporize is to be charitable and reverent; to speak truth, and shame the devil, is to offend weak brethren, who, somehow or other, never complain of their weak consciences till you hit them hard. And yet, my dear fellow, I still remain of my old mind — that it is better to say too much than too little, and more merciful to knock a man down with a pick-axe than to prick him to death with pins. The world says, No. It hates anything demonstrative, or violent (except on its own side), or unrefined.”
1849. —“The question of property is one of these cases. We must face it in this age — simply because it faces us.”—“I want to commit myself — I want to make others commit themselves. No man can fight the devil with a long ladle, however pleasant it may be to eat with him with one. A man never fishes well in the morning till he has tumbled into the water.”
And the counsels of Parson Lot had undoubtedly great weight in giving an aggressive tone both to the paper and the society. But if he was largely responsible for the fighting temper of the early movement, he, at any rate, never shirked his share of the fighting. His name was the butt at which all shafts were aimed. As Lot “seemed like one that mocked to his sons-in-law,” so seemed the Parson to the most opposite sections of the British nation. As a friend wrote of him at the time, he “had at any rate escaped the curse of the false prophets, ‘Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.’” Many of the attacks and criticisms were no doubt aimed not so much at him personally as at the body of men with whom, and for whom, he was working; but as he was (except Mr. Maurice) the only one whose name was known, he got the lion’s share of all the abuse. The storm broke on him from all points of the compass at once. An old friend and fellow-contributor to “Politics for the People,” led the Conservative attack, accusing him of unsettling the minds of the poor, making them discontented, &c. Some of the foremost Chartists wrote virulently against him for “attempting to justify the God of the Old Testament,” who, they maintained, was unjust and cruel, and, at any rate, not the God “of the people.” The political economists fell on him for his anti-Malthusian belief, that the undeveloped fertility of the earth need not be overtaken by population within any time which it concerned us to think about. The quarterlies joined in the attack on his economic heresies. The “Daily News” opened a cross fire on him from the common-sense Liberal battery, denouncing the “revolutionary nonsense, which is termed Christian Socialisms”; and, after some balancing, the “Guardian,” representing in the press the side of the Church to which he leant, turned upon him in a very cruel article on the republication of “Yeast” (originally written for “Fraser’s Magazine”), and accused him of teaching heresy in doctrine, and in morals “that a certain amount of youthful profligacy does no real permanent harm to the character, perhaps strengthens it for a useful and religious life.”
In this one instance Parson Lot fairly lost his temper, and answered, “as was answered to the Jesuit of old —mentiris impudentissime.” With the rest he seemed to enjoy the conflict and “kept the ring,” like a candidate for the wrestling championship in his own county of Devon against all comers, one down another come on.
The fact is, that Charles Kingsley was born a fighting man, and believed in bold attack. “No human power ever beat back a resolute forlorn hope,” he used to say; “to be got rid of, they must be blown back with grape and canister,” because the attacking party have all the universe behind them, the defence only that small part which is shut up in their walls. And he felt most strongly at this time that hard fighting was needed. “It is a pity” he writes to Mr. Ludlow, “that telling people what’s right, won’t make them do it; but not a new fact, though that ass the world has quite forgotten it; and assures you that dear sweet ‘incompris’ mankind only wants to be told the way to the millennium to walk willingly into it — which is a lie. If you want to get mankind, if not to heaven, at least out of hell, kick them out.” And again, a little later on, in urging the policy which the “Christian Socialist” should still follow —
1851. —“It seems to me that in such a time as this the only way to fight against the devil is to attack him. He has got it too much his own way to meddle with us if we don’t meddle with him. But the very devil has feelings, and if you prick him will roar . . . whereby you, at all events, gain the not-every-day-of-the-week-to-beattained benefit of finding out where he is. Unless, indeed, as I suspect, the old rascal plays ventriloquist (as big grasshoppers do when you chase them), and puts you on a wrong scent, by crying ‘Fire!’ out of saints’ windows. Still, the odds are if you prick lustily enough, you make him roar unawares.”
The memorials of his many controversies lie about in the periodicals of that time, and any one who cares to hunt them up will be well repaid, and struck with the vigour of the defence, and still more with the complete change in public opinion, which has brought the England of today clean round to the side of Parson Lot. The most complete perhaps of his fugitive pieces of this kind is the pamphlet, “Who are the friends of Order?” published by J. W. Parker and Son, in answer to a very fair and moderate article in “Fraser’s Mazagine.” The Parson there points out how he and his friends were “cursed by demagogues as aristocrats, and by tories as democrats, when in reality they were neither.” And urges that the very fact of the Continent being overrun with Communist fanatics is the best argument for preaching association here.
But though he faced his adversaries bravely, it must not be inferred that he did not feel the attacks and misrepresentations very keenly. In many respects, though housed in a strong and vigorous body, his spirit was an exceedingly tender and sensitive one. I have often thought that at this time his very sensitiveness drove him to say things more broadly and incisively, because he was speaking as it were somewhat against the grain, and knew that the line he was taking would be misunderstood, and would displease and alarm those with whom he had most sympathy. For he was by nature and education an aristocrat in the best sense of the word, believed that a landed aristocracy was a blessing to the country, and that no country would gain the highest liberty without such a class, holding its own position firmly, but in sympathy with the people. He liked their habits and ways, and keenly enjoyed their society. Again, he was full of reverence for science and scientific men, and specially for political economy and economists, and desired eagerly to stand well with them. And it was a most bitter trial to him to find himself not only in sharp antagonism with traders and employers of labour, which he looked for, but with these classes also.
On the other hand many of the views and habits of those with whom he found himself associated were very distasteful to him. In a new social movement, such as that of association as it took shape in 1849–50, there is certain to be great attraction for restless and eccentric persons, and in point of fact many such joined it. The beard movement was then in its infancy, and any man except a dragoon who wore hair on his face was regarded as a dangerous character, with whom it was compromising to be seen in any public place — a person in sympathy with sansculottes, and who would dispense with trousers but for his fear of the police. Now whenever Kingsley attended a meeting of the promoters of association in London, he was sure to find himself in the midst of bearded men, vegetarians, and other eccentric persons, and the contact was very grievous to him. “As if we shall not be abused enough,” he used to say, “for what we must say and do without being saddled with mischievous nonsense of this kind.” To less sensitive men the effect of eccentricity upon him was almost comic, as when on one occasion he was quite upset and silenced by the appearance of a bearded member of Council at an important deputation in a straw hat and blue plush gloves. He did not recover from the depression produced by those gloves for days. Many of the workmen, too, who were most prominent in the Associations were almost as little to his mind — windy inflated kind of persons, with a lot of fine phrases in their mouths which they did not know the meaning of.
But in spite of all that was distasteful to him in some of its surroundings, the cooperative movement (as it is now called) entirely approved itself to his conscience and judgment, and mastered him so that he was ready to risk whatever had to be risked in fighting its battle. Often in those days, seeing how loath Charles Kingsley was to take in hand, much of the work which Parson Lot had to do, and how fearlessly and thoroughly he did it after all, one was reminded of the old Jewish prophets, such as Amos the herdsman of Tekoa —“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go prophesy unto my people Israel.”
The following short extracts from his correspondence with Mr. Ludlow, as to the conduct of the “Christian Socialist,” and his own contributions to it, may perhaps serve to show how his mind was working at this time:—
Sept., 1850. —“I cannot abide the notion of Branch Churches or Free (sect) Churches, and unless my whole train of thought alters, I will resist the temptation as coming from the devil. Where I am I am doing God’s work, and when the Church is ripe for more, the Head of the Church will put the means our way. You seem to fancy that we may have a Deus quidam Deceptor over us after all. If I did I’d go and blow my dirty brains out and be rid of the whole thing at once. I would indeed. If God, when people ask Him to teach and guide them, does not; if when they confess themselves rogues and fools to Him, and beg Him to make them honest and wise, He does not, but darkens them, and deludes them into bogs and pitfalls, is he a Father? You fall back into Judaism, friend.”
Dec., 1850. —“Jeremiah is my favourite book now. It has taught me more than tongue can tell. But I am much disheartened, and am minded to speak no more words in this name (Parson Lot); and yet all these bullyings teach one, correct one, warn one — show one that God is not leaving one to go one’s own way. ‘Christ reigns,’ quoth Luther.”
It was at this time, in the winter of 1850, that “Alton Locke” was published. He had been engaged on it for more than a year, working at it in the midst of all his controversies. The following extracts from his correspondence with Mr. Ludlow will tell readers more about it than any criticism, if they have at all realized the time at which it was written, or his peculiar work in that time.
February, 1849. —“I have hopes from the book I am writing, which has revealed itself to me so rapidly and methodically that I feel it comes down from above, and that only my folly can spoil it, which I pray against daily.”
1849. —“I think the notion a good one (referring to other work for the paper which he had been asked to do), but I feel no inspiration at all that way; and I dread being tempted to more and more bitterness, harsh judgment, and evil speaking. I dread it. I am afraid sometimes I shall end in universal snarling. Besides, my whole time is taken up with my book, and that I do feel inspired to write. But there is something else which weighs awfully on my mind —(the first number of Cooper’s Journal, which he sent me the other day). Here is a man of immense influence openly preaching Strausseanism to the workmen, and in a fair, honest, manly way which must tell. Who will answer him? Who will answer Strauss? [Footnote: He did the work himself. After many interviews, and a long correspondence with him, Thomas Cooper changed his views, and has been lecturing and preaching for many years as a Christian.] Who will denounce him as a vile aristocrat, robbing the poor man of his Saviour — of the ground of all democracy, all freedom, all association — of the Charter itself? Oh, si mihi centum voces et ferrea lingua! Think about that.”
January, 1850. —“A thousand thanks for your letter, though it only shows me what I have long suspected, that I know hardly enough yet to make the book what it should be. As you have made a hole, you must help to fill it. Can you send me any publication which would give me a good notion of the Independents’ view of politics, also one which would give a good notion of the Fox–Emerson-Strauss school of Blague–Unitarianism, which is superseding dissent just now. It was with the ideal of Calvinism, and its ultimate bearing on the people’s cause, that I wished to deal. I believe that there must be internecine war between the people’s church —i.e., the future development of Catholic Christianity, and Calvinism even in its mildest form, whether in the Establishment or out of it — and I have counted the cost and will give every party its slap in their turn. But I will alter, as far as I can, all you dislike.”
August, 1850. —“How do you know, dearest man, that I was not right in making the Alton of the second volume different from the first? In showing the individuality of the man swamped and warped by the routine of misery and discontent? How do you know that the historic and human interest of the book was not intended to end with Mackay’s death, in whom old radicalism dies, ‘not having received the promises,’ to make room for the radicalism of the future? How do you know that the book from that point was not intended to take a mythic and prophetic form, that those dreams come in for the very purpose of taking the story off the ground of the actual into the deeper and wider one of the ideal, and that they do actually do what they were intended to do? How do you know that my idea of carrying out Eleanor’s sermons in practice were just what I could not — and if I could, dared not, give? that all that I could do was to leave them as seed, to grow by itself in many forms, in many minds, instead of embodying them in some action which would have been both as narrow as my own idiosyncrasy, gain the reproach of insanity, and be simply answered by —‘If such things have been done, where are they?’ and lastly, how do you know that I had not a special meaning in choosing a civilized fine lady as my missionary, one of a class which, as it does exist, God must have something for it to do, and, as it seems, plenty to do, from the fact that a few gentlemen whom I could mention, not to speak of Fowell Buxtons, Howards, Ashleys, &c., have done, more for the people in one year than they have done for themselves in fifty? If I had made her an organizer, as well as a preacher, your complaint might have been just. My dear man, the artist is a law unto himself — or rather God is a law to him, when he prays, as I have earnestly day after day about this book — to be taught how to say the right thing in the right way — and I assure you I did not get tired of my work, but laboured as earnestly at the end as I did at the beginning. The rest of your criticism, especially about the interpenetration of doctrine and action, is most true, and shall be attended to. — Your brother,
The next letter, on the same topic, in answer to criticisms on “Alton Locke,” is addressed to a brother clergyman —
“EVERSLEY, January 13, 1851.
“Rec. dear Sir — I will answer your most interesting letter as shortly as I can, and if possible in the same spirit of honesty as that in which you have written to me.
“First, I do not think the cry ‘Get on’ to be anything but a devil’s cry. The moral of my book is that the working man who tries to get on, to desert his class and rise above it, enters into a lie, and leaves God’s path for his own — with consequences.
“Second, I believe that a man might be as a tailor or a costermonger, every inch of him a saint, a scholar, and a gentleman, for I have seen some few such already. I believe hundreds of thousands more would be so, if their businesses were put on a Christian footing, and themselves given by education, sanitary reforms, &c., the means of developing their own latent capabilities — I think the cry, ‘Rise in Life,’ has been excited by the very increasing impossibility of being anything but brutes while they struggle below. I know well all that is doing in the way of education, &c., but I do assert that the disease of degradation has been for the last forty years increasing faster than the remedy. And I believe, from experience, that when you put workmen into human dwellings, and give them a Christian education, so far from wishing discontentedly to rise out of their class, or to level others to it, exactly the opposite takes place. They become sensible of the dignity of work, and they begin to see their labour as a true calling in God’s Church, now that it is cleared from the accidentia which made it look, in their eyes, only a soulless drudgery in a devil’s workshop of a World.
“Third, From the advertisement of an ‘English Republic’ you send, I can guess who will be the writers in it, &c., &c., being behind the scenes. It will come to nought. Everything of this kind is coming to nought now. The workmen are tired of idols, ready and yearning for the Church and the Gospel, and such men as your friend may laugh at Julian Harney, Feargus O’Connor, and the rest of that smoke of the pit. Only we live in a great crisis, and the Lord requires great things of us. The fields are white to harvest. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He may send forth labourers into His harvest.
“Fourth, As to the capacities of working-men, I am afraid that your excellent friend will find that he has only the refuse of working intellects to form his induction on. The devil has got the best long ago. By the neglect of the Church, by her dealing (like the Popish Church and all weak churches) only with women, children, and beggars, the cream and pith of working intellect is almost exclusively self-educated, and, therefore, alas! infidel. If he goes on as he is doing, lecturing on history, poetry, science, and all the things which the workmen crave for, and can only get from such men as H— — Thomas Cooper, &c., mixed up with Straussism and infidelity, he will find that he will draw back to his Lord’s fold, and to his lecture room, slowly, but surely, men, whose powers will astonish him, as they have astonished me.
“Fifth, The workmen whose quarrels you mention are not Christians, or socialists either. They are of all creeds and none. We are teaching them to become Christians by teaching them gradually that true socialism, true liberty, brotherhood, and true equality (not the carnal dead level equality of the Communist, but the spiritual equality of the church idea, which gives every man an equal chance of developing and using God’s gifts, and rewards every man according to his work, without respect of persons) is only to be found in loyalty and obedience to Christ. They do quarrel, but if you knew how they used to quarrel before association, the improvement since would astonish you. And the French associations do not quarrel at all. I can send you a pamphlet on them, if you wish, written by an eyewitness, a friend of mine.
“Sixth, If your friend wishes to see what can be made of workmen’s brains, let him, in God’s name, go down to Harrow Weald, and there see Mr. Monro — see what he has done with his own national school boys. I have his opinion as to the capabilities of those minds, which we, alas! now so sadly neglect. I only ask him to go and ask of that man the question which you have asked of me.
“Seventh, May I, in reference to myself and certain attacks on me, say, with all humility, that I do not speak from hearsay now, as has been asserted, from second-hand picking and stealing out of those ‘Reports on Labour and the Poor,’ in the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ which are now being reprinted in a separate form, and which I entreat you to read if you wish to get a clear view of the real state of the working classes.
“From my cradle, as the son of an active clergyman, I have been brought up in the most familiar intercourse with the poor in town and country. My mother, a second Mrs. Fry, in spirit and act. For fourteen years my father has been the rector of a very large metropolitan parish — and I speak what I know, and testify that which I have seen. With earnest prayer, in fear and trembling, I wrote my book, and I trust in Him to whom I prayed that He has not left me to my own prejudices or idols on any important point relating to the state of the possibilities of the poor for whom He died. Any use which you choose you can make of this letter. If it should seem worth your while to honour me with any further communications, I shall esteem them a delight, and the careful consideration of them a duty. — Believe me, Rev. and dear Sir, your faithful and obedient servant,
By this time the society for promoting associations was thoroughly organized, and consisted of a council of promoters, of which Kingsley was a member, and a central board, on which the managers of the associations and a delegate from each of them sat. The council had published a number of tracts, beginning with “Cheap Clothes and Nasty,” which had attracted the attention of many persons, including several of the London clergy, who connected themselves more or less closely with the movement. Mr. Maurice, Kingsley, Hansard, and others of these, were often asked to preach on social questions, and when in 1851, on the opening of the Great Exhibition, immense crowds of strangers were drawn to London, they were specially in request. For many London incumbents threw open their churches, and organized series of lectures, specially bearing on the great topic of the day. It was now that the incident happened which once more brought upon Kingsley the charge of being a revolutionist, and which gave him more pain than all other attacks put together. One of the incumbents before referred to begged Mr. Maurice to take part in his course of lectures, and to ask Kingsley to do so; assuring Mr. Maurice that he “had been reading Kingsley’s works with the greatest interest, and earnestly desired to secure him as one of his lecturers.” “I promised to mention this request to him,” Mr. Maurice says, “though I knew he rarely came to London, and seldom preached except in his own parish. He agreed, though at some inconvenience, that he would preach a sermon on the ‘Message of the Church to the Labouring Man.’ I suggested the subject to him. The incumbent intimated the most cordial approval of it. He had asked us, not only with a previous knowledge of our published writings, but expressly because he had that knowledge. I pledge you my word that no questions were asked as to what we were going to say, and no guarantees given. Mr. Kingsley took precisely that view of the message of the Church to labouring men which every reader of his books would have expected him to take.”
Kingsley took his text from Luke iv. verses 16 to 21: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,” &c. What then was that gospel? Kingsley asks, and goes on —“I assert that the business for which God sends a Christian priest in a Christian nation is, to preach freedom, equality, and brotherhood in the fullest, deepest, widest meaning of those three great words; that in as far as he so does, he is a true priest, doing his Lord’s work with his Lord’s blessing on him; that in as far as he does not he is no priest at all, but a traitor to God and man”; and again, “I say that these words express the very pith and marrow of a priest’s business; I say that they preach freedom, equality, and brotherhood to rich and poor for ever and ever.” Then he goes on to warn his hearers how there is always a counterfeit in this world of the noblest message and teaching.
Thus there are two freedoms — the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.
Two equalities — the false, which reduces all intellects and all characters, to a dead level, and gives the same power to the bad as to the good, to the wise as to the foolish, ending thus in practice in the grossest inequality; the true, wherein each man has equal power to educate and use whatever faculties or talents God has given him, be they less or more. This is the divine equality which the Church proclaims, and nothing else proclaims as she does.
Two brotherhoods — the false, where a man chooses who shall be his brothers, and whom he will treat as such; the true, in which a man believes that all are his brothers, not by the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but by the will of God, whose children they all are alike. The Church has three special possessions and treasures. The Bible, which proclaims man’s freedom, Baptism his equality, the Lord’s Supper his brotherhood.
At the end of this sermon (which would scarcely cause surprise today if preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Chapel Royal), the incumbent got up at the altar and declared his belief that great part of the doctrine of the sermon was untrue, and that he had expected a sermon of an entirely different kind. To a man of the preacher’s vehement temperament it must have required a great effort not to reply at the moment. The congregation was keenly excited, and evidently expected him to do so. He only bowed his head, pronounced the blessing, and came down from the pulpit.
I must go back a little to take up the thread of his connection with, and work for, the Society for Promoting Working Men’s Associations. After it had passed the first difficulties of starting, he was seldom able to attend either Council or Central Board. Every one else felt how much more important and difficult work he was doing by fighting the battle in the press, down at Eversley, but he himself was eager to take part in the everyday business, and uneasy if he was not well informed as to what was going on.
Sometimes, however, he would come up to the Council, when any matter specially interesting to him was in question, as in the following example, when a new member of the Council, an Eton master, had objected to some strong expressions in one of his letters on the Frimley murder, in the “Christian Socialist”:—
1849. —“The upper classes are like a Yankee captain sitting on the safety valve, and serenely whistling — but what will be will be. As for the worthy Eton parson, I consider it infinitely expedient that he be entreated to vent his whole dislike in the open Council forthwith, under a promise on my part not to involve him in any controversy or reprisals, or to answer in any tone except that of the utmost courtesy and respect. Pray do this. It will at once be a means of gaining him, and a good example, please God, to the working men; and for the Frimley letter, put it in the fire if you like, or send it back to have the last half rewritten, or ‘anything else you like, my pretty little dear.’”
But his prevailing feeling was getting to be, that he was becoming an outsider —
“Nobody deigns to tell me,” he wrote to me, “how things go on, and who helps, and whether I can help. In short, I know nothing, and begin to fancy that you, like some others, think me a lukewarm and timeserving aristocrat, after I have ventured more than many, because I had more to venture.”
The same feeling comes out in the following letter, which illustrates too, very well, both his deepest conviction as to the work, the mixture of playfulness and earnestness with which he handled it, and his humble estimate of himself. It refers to the question of the admission of a new association to the Union. It was necessary, of course, to see that the rules of a society, applying for admission to the Union, were in proper form, and that sufficient capital was forthcoming, and the decision lay with the Central Board, controlled in some measure by the Council of Promoters.
An association of clay-pipe makers had applied for admission, and had been refused by the vote of the central board. The Council, however, thought there were grounds for reconsidering the decision, and to strengthen the case for admission, Kingsley’s opinion was asked. He replied:—
“EVERSLEY, May 31, 1850.
“The sight of your handwriting comforted me — for nobody takes any notice of me, not even the printers; so I revenge myself by being as idle as a dog, and fishing, and gardening, and basking in this glorious sun. But your letter set me thanking God that he has raised up men to do the work of which I am not worthy. As for the pipe-makers, give my compliments to the autocrats, and tell them it is a shame. The Vegetarians would have quite as much right to refuse the Butchers, because, forsooth, theirs is now discovered not to be a necessary trade. Bosh! The question is this — If association be a great Divine law and duty, the realization of the Church idea, no man has a right to refuse any body of men, into whose heart God has put it to come and associate. It may be answered that these men’s motives are self-interested. I say, ‘Judge no man.’ You dare not refuse a heathen baptism because you choose to think that his only motive for turning Christian is the selfish one of saving his own rascally soul. No more have you a right to refuse to men an entrance into the social Church. They must come in, and they will, because association is not men’s dodge and invention but God’s law for mankind and society, which He has made, and we must not limit. I don’t know whether I am intelligible, but what’s more important, I know I am right. Just read this to the autocrats, and tell them, with my compliments, they are Popes, Tyrants, Manichees, Ascetics, Sectarians, and everything else that is abominable; and if they used as many pipes as I do, they would know the blessing of getting them cheap, and start an associate baccy factory besides. Shall we try? But, this one little mistake excepted (though, if they repeat it, it will become a great mistake, and a wrong, and a ruinous wrong), they are much better fellows than poor I, and doing a great deal more good, and at every fresh news of their deeds I feel like Job’s horse, when he scents the battle afar off.”
No small part of the work of the Council consisted in mediating and arbitrating in the disputes between the associates and their managers; indeed, such work kept the legal members of the board (none of whom were then overburdened with regular practice) pretty fully occupied. Some such dispute had arisen in one of the most turbulent of these associations, and had been referred to me for settlement. I had satisfied myself as to the facts, and considered my award, and had just begun to write out the draft, when I was called away from my chambers, and left the opening lines lying on my desk. They ran as follows:—“The Trustees of the Mile End Association of Engineers, seeing that the quarrels between the associates have not ceased”— at which word I broke off. On returning to my chambers a quarter of an hour later, I found a continuation in the following words:—
“And that every man is too much inclined to behave himself like a beast,
In spite of our glorious humanity, which requires neither God nor priest,
Yet is daily praised and plastered by ten thousand fools at least —
Request Mr. Hughes’ presence at their jawshop in the East,
Which don’t they wish they may get it, for he goes out to-night to feast
At the Rev. C. Kingsley’s rectory, Chelsea, where he’ll get his gullet greased
With the best of Barto Valle’s port, and will have his joys increased
By meeting his old college chum, McDougal the Borneo priest —
So come you thief, and drop your brief,
At six o’clock without relief;
And if you won’t may you come to grief,
Says Parson Lot the Socialist Chief,
Who signs his mark at the foot of the leaf — thus”
and, at the end, a clenched fist was sketched in a few bold lines, and under it, “Parson Lot, his mark” written.
I don’t know that I can do better than give the history of the rest of the day. Knowing his town habits well, I called at Parker, the publisher’s, after chambers, and found him there, sitting on a table and holding forth on politics to our excellent little friend, John Wm. Parker, the junior partner.
We started to walk down to Chelsea, and a dense fog came on before we had reached Hyde Park Corner. Both of us knew the way well; but we lost it half a dozen times, and his spirit seemed to rise as the fog thickened. “Isn’t this like life,” he said, after one of our blunders: “a deep yellow fog all round, with a dim light here and there shining through. You grope your way on from one lamp to another, and you go up wrong streets and back again; but you get home at last — there’s always light enough for that.” After a short pause he said, quite abruptly, “Tom, do you want to live to be old?” I said I had never thought on the subject; and he went on, “I dread it more than I can say. To feel one’s powers going, and to end in snuff and stink. Look at the last days of Scott and Wordsworth, and Southey.” I suggested St. John. “Yes,” he said, “that’s the right thing, and will do for Bunsen, and great, tranquil men like him. The longer they live the better for all. But for an eager, fiery nature like mine, with fierce passions eating one’s life out, it won’t do. If I live twenty years I know what will happen to me. The back of my brain will soften, and I shall most likely go blind.”
The Bishop got down somehow by six. The dinner did not last long, for the family were away, and afterwards we adjourned to the study, and Parson Lot rose to his best. He stood before the fire, while the Bishop and I took the two fireside arm chairs, and poured himself out, on subject after subject, sometimes when much moved taking a tramp up and down the room, a long clay pipe in his right hand (at which he gave an occasional suck; it was generally out, but he scarcely noticed it), and his left hand passed behind his back, clasping the right elbow. It was a favourite attitude with him, when he was at ease with his company.
We were both bent on drawing him out; and the first topic, I think, raised by the Bishop was, Fronde’s history, then recently published. He took up the cudgels for Henry VIII., whom we accused of arbitrariness. Henry was not arbitrary; arbitrary men are the most obstinate of men? Why? Because they are weak. The strongest men are always ready to hear reason and change their opinions, because the strong man knows that if he loses an opinion today he can get just as good a one tomorrow in its place. But the weak man holds on to his opinion, because he can’t get another, and he knows it.
Soon afterwards he got upon trout fishing, which was a strong bond of union between him and me, and discoursed on the proper methods of fishing chalk streams. “Your flies can’t be too big, but they must be on small gut, not on base viol fiddle strings, like those you brought down to Farnham last year. I tell you gut is the thing that does it. Trout know that flies don’t go about with a ring and a hand pole through their noses, like so many prize bulls of Lord Ducie’s.”
Then he got on the possible effect of association on the future of England, and from that to the first International Exhibition, and the building which was going up in Hyde Park.
“I mean to run a muck soon,” he said, “against all this talk about genius and high art, and the rest of it. It will be the ruin of us, as it has been of Germany. They have been for fifty years finding out, and showing people how to do everything in heaven and earth, and have done nothing. They are dead even yet, and will be till they get out of the high art fit. We were dead, and the French were dead till their revolution; but that brought us to life. Why didn’t the Germans come to life too? Because they set to work with their arts, sciences, and how to do this, that, and the other thing, and doing nothing. Goethe was, in great part, the ruin of Germany. He was like a great fog coming down on the German people, and wrapping them up.”
Then he, in his turn, drew the Bishop about Borneo, and its people, and fauna and flora; and we got some delightful stories of apes, and converts, and honey bears, Kingsley showing himself, by his questions, as familiar with the Bornean plants and birds, as though he had lived there. Later on we got him on his own works, and he told us how he wrote. “I can’t think, even on scientific subjects, except in the dramatic form. It is what Tom said to Harry, and what Harry answered him. I never put pen to paper till I have two or three pages in my head, and see them as if they were printed. Then I write them off, and take a turn in the garden, and so on again.” We wandered back to fishing, and I challenged his keenness for making a bag. “Ah!” he said, “that’s all owing to my blessed habit of intensity, which has been my greatest help in life. I go at what I am about as if there were nothing else in the world for the time being. That’s the secret of all hard-working men; but most of them can’t carry it into their amusements. Luckily for me I can stop from all work, at short notice, and turn head over heels in the sight of all creation, and say, I won’t be good or bad, or wise, or anything, till two o’clock tomorrow.”
At last the Bishop would go, so we groped our way with him into the King’s Road, and left him in charge of a link-boy. When we got back, I said something laughingly about his gift of talk, which had struck me more that evening than ever before.
“Yes,” he said, “I have it all in me. I could be as great a talker as any man in England, but for my stammering. I know it well; but it’s a blessed thing for me. You must know, by this time, that I’m a very shy man, and shyness and vanity always go together. And so I think of what every fool will say of me, and can’t help it. When a man’s first thought is not whether a thing is right or wrong, but what will Lady A., or Mr. B. say about it, depend upon it he wants a thorn in the flesh, like my stammer. When I am speaking for God, in the pulpit, or praying by bedsides, I never stammer. My stammer is a blessed thing for me. It keeps me from talking in company, and from going out as much as I should do but for it.”
It was two o’clock before we thought of moving, and then, the fog being as bad as ever, he insisted on making me up a bed on the floor. While we were engaged in this process, he confided to me that he had heard of a doctor who was very successful in curing stammering, and was going to try him. I laughed, and reminded him of his thorn in the flesh, to which he replied, with a quaint twinkle of his eye, “Well, that’s true enough. But a man has no right to be a nuisance, if he can help it, and no more right to go about amongst his fellows stammering, than he has to go about stinking.”
At this time he was already at work on another novel; and, in answer to a remonstrance from a friend, who was anxious that he should keep ail his strength for social reform, writes —
1851. —“I know that He has made me a parish priest, and that that is the duty which lies nearest me, and that I may seem to be leaving my calling in novel writing. But has He not taught me all these very things by my parish priest life? Did He, too, let me become a strong, daring, sporting, wild man of the woods for nothing? Surely the education He has given me so different from that which authors generally receive, points out to me a peculiar calling to preach on these points from my own experience, as it did to good old Isaac Walton, as it has done in our own day to that truly noble man, Captain Marryat. Therefore I must believe, ‘si tu sequi la tua, stella,’ with Dante, that He who ordained my star will not lead me into temptation, but through it, as Maurice says. Without Him all places and methods of life are equally dangerous — with Him, all equally safe. Pray for me, for in myself I am weaker of purpose than a lost grey hound, lazier than a dog in rainy weather.”
While the cooperative movement was spreading in all directions, the same impulse was working amongst the trades unions, and the engineers had set the example of uniting all their branches into one society. In this winter they believed themselves strong enough to try conclusions with their employers. The great lock-out in January, 1852, was the consequence. The engineers had appealed to the Council of Promoters to help them in putting their case — which had been much misrepresented — fairly before the public, and Kingsley had been consulted as the person best able to do it. He had declined to interfere, and wrote me the following letter to explain his views. It will show how far he was an encourager of violent measures or views:—
“EVERSLEY, January 28, 1852.
“You may have been surprised at my having taken no part in this Amalgamated Iron Trades’ matter. And I think that I am bound to say why I have not, and how far I wish my friends to interfere in it.
“I do think that we, the Council of Promoters, shall not be wise in interfering between masters and men; because — 1. I question whether the points at issue between them can be fairly understood by any persons not conversant with the practical details of the trade . . .
“2. Nor do I think they have put their case as well as they might. For instance, if it be true that they themselves have invented many, or most, of the improvements in their tools and machinery, they have an argument in favour of keeping out unskilled labourers, which is unanswerable, and yet, that they have never used — viz.: ‘Your masters make hundreds and thousands by these improvements, while we have no remuneration for this inventive talent of ours, but rather lose by it, because it makes the introduction of unskilled labour more easy. Therefore, the only way in which we can get anything like a payment for this inventive faculty of which we make you a present over and above our skilled labour, for which you bargained, is to demand that we, who invent the machines, if we cannot have a share in the profits of them, shall at least have the exclusive privilege of using them, instead of their being, as now, turned against us.’ That, I think, is a fair argument; but I have seen nothing of it from any speaker or writer.
“3. I think whatever battle is fought, must be fought by the men themselves. The present dodge of the Manchester school is to cry out against us, as Greg did. ‘These Christian Socialists are a set of mediæval parsons, who want to hinder the independence and self-help of the men, and bring them back to absolute feudal maxims; and then, with the most absurd inconsistency, when we get up a corporation workshop, to let the men work on the very independence and self-help of which they talk so fine, they turn round and raise just the opposite yell, and cry, The men can’t be independent of capitalists; these associations will fail because the men are helping themselves’— showing that what they mean is, that the men shall be independent of every one but themselves — independent of legislators, parsons, advisers, gentlemen, noblemen, and every one that tries to help them by moral agents; but the slaves of the capitalists, bound to them by a servitude increasing instead of lightening with their numbers. Now, the only way in which we can clear the cause of this calumny is to let the men fight their own battle; to prevent any one saying, ‘These men are the tools of dreamers and fanatics,’ which would be just as ruinously blackening to them in the public eyes, as it would be to let the cry get abroad, ‘This is a Socialist movement, destructive of rights of property, communism, Louis Blanc and the devil, &c.’ You know the infernal stuff which the devil gets up on such occasions — having no scruples about calling himself hard names, when it suits his purpose, to blind and frighten respectable old women.
“Moreover, these men are not poor distressed needlewomen or slop-workers. They are the most intelligent and best educated workmen, receiving incomes often higher than a gentleman’s son whose education has cost £1000, and if they can’t fight their own battles, no men in England can, and the people are not ripe for association, and we must hark back into the competitive rot heap again. All, then, that we can do is, to give advice when asked — to see that they have, as far as we can get at them, a clear stage and no favour, but not by public, but by private influence.
“But we can help them in another way, by showing them the way to associate. That is quite a distinct question from their quarrel with their masters, and we shall be very foolish if we give the press a handle for mixing up the two. We have a right to say to masters, men, and public, ‘We know and care nothing about the iron strike. Here are a body of men coming to us, wishing to be shown how to do that which is a right thing for them to do — well or ill off, strike or no strike, namely, associate; and we will help and teach them to do that to the very utmost of our power.’
“The Iron Workers’ cooperative shops will be watched with lynx eyes, calumniated shamelessly. Our business will be to tell the truth about them, and fight manfully with our pens for them. But we shall never be able to get the ears of the respectabilities and the capitalists, if we appear at this stage of the business. What we must say is, ‘If you are needy and enslaved, we will fight for you from pity, whether you be associated or competitive. But you are neither needy, nor, unless you choose, enslaved; and therefore we will only fight for you in proportion as you become associates. Do that, and see if we can’t stand hard knocks for your sake.’— Yours ever affectionate, C. KINGSLEY.”
In the summer of 1852 (mainly by the continued exertions of the members of the Council, who had supplied Mr. Slaney’s committee with all his evidence, and had worked hard in other ways for this object) a Bill for legalizing Industrial Associations was about to be introduced into the House of Commons. It was supposed at one time that it would be taken in hand by the Government of Lord Derby, then lately come into office, and Kingsley had been canvassing a number of persons to make sure of its passing. On hearing that a Cabinet Minister would probably undertake it, he writes —
“Let him be assured that he will by such a move do more to carry out true Conservatism, and to reconcile the workmen with the real aristocracy, than any politician for the last twenty years has done. The truth is, we are in a critical situation here in England. Not in one of danger — which is the vulgar material notion of a crisis, but at the crucial point, the point of departure of principles and parties which will hereafter become great and powerful. Old Whiggery is dead, old true blue Toryism of the Robert Inglis school is dead too-and in my eyes a great loss. But as live dogs are better than dead lions, let us see what the live dogs are.
“1. — The Peelites, who will ultimately, be sure, absorb into themselves all the remains of Whiggery, and a very large proportion of the Conservative party. In an effete unbelieving age, like this, the Sadducee and the Herodian will be the most captivating philosopher. A scientific laziness, lukewarmness, and compromise, is a cheery theory for the young men of the day, and they will take to it con amore. I don’t complain of Peel himself. He was a great man, but his method of compromise, though useful enough in particular cases when employed by a great man, becomes a most dastardly “schema mundi” when taken up by a school of little men. Therefore the only help which we can hope for from the Peelites is that they will serve as ballast and cooling pump to both parties, but their very trimming and moderation make them fearfully likely to obtain power. It depends on the wisdom of the present government, whether they do or not.
“2. — Next you have the Manchester school, from whom Heaven defend us; for of all narrow, conceited, hypocritical, and anarchic and atheistic schemes of the universe, the Cobden and Bright one is exactly the worst. I have no language to express my contempt for it, and therefore I quote what Maurice wrote me this morning. ‘If the Ministry would have thrown Protection to the dogs (as I trust they have, in spite of the base attempts of the Corn Law Leaguers to goad them to committing themselves to it, and to hold them up as the people’s enemies), and thrown themselves into social measures, who would not have clung to them, to avert that horrible catastrophe of a Manchester ascendency, which I believe in my soul would be fatal to intellect, morality, and freedom, and will be more likely to move a rebellion among the working men than any Tory rule which can be conceived.’
“Of course it would. To pretend to be the workmen’s friends, by keeping down the price of bread, when all they want thereby is to keep down wages, and increase profits, and in the meantime to widen the gulf between the working man and all that is time-honoured, refined, and chivalrous in English society, that they may make the men their divided slaves, that is-perhaps half unconsciously, for there are excellent men amongst them — the game of the Manchester School.”
“I have never swerved from my one idea of the last seven years, that the real battle of the time is, if England is to be saved from anarchy and unbelief, and utter exhaustion caused by the competitive enslavement of the masses, not Radical or Whig against Peelite or Tory — let the dead bury their dead-but the Church, the gentlemen, and the workman, against the shop-keepers and the Manchester School. The battle could not have been fought forty years ago, because, on one side, the Church was an idle phantasm, the gentleman too ignorant, the workman too merely animal; while, on the other, the Manchester cotton-spinners were all Tories, and the shopkeepers were a distinct class interest from theirs. But now these two latter have united, and the sublime incarnation of shop-keeping and labour-buying in the cheapest market shines forth in the person of Moses & Son, and both cotton-spinners and shop-keepers say ‘This is the man!’” and join in one common press to defend his system. Be it so: now we know our true enemies, and soon the working-men will know them also. But if the present Ministry will not see the possibility of a coalition between them, and the workmen, I see no alternative but just what we have been straining every nerve to keep off — a competitive United States, a democracy before which the work of ages will go down in a few years. A true democracy, such as you and I should wish to see, is impossible without a Church and a Queen, and, as I believe, without a gentry. On the conduct of statesmen it will depend whether we are gradually and harmoniously to develop England on her ancient foundations, or whether we are to have fresh paralytic governments succeeding each other in doing nothing, while the workmen and the Manchester School fight out the real questions of the day in ignorance and fury, till the ‘culbute generale’ comes, and gentlemen of ancient family, like your humble servant, betake themselves to Canada, to escape, not the Amalgamated Engineers, but their ‘masters,’ and the slop-working savages whom their masters’ system has created, and will by that time have multiplied tenfold.
“I have got a Thames boat on the lake at Bramshill, and am enjoying vigorous sculls. My answer to ‘Fraser’ is just coming out; spread it where you can.”
In the next year or two the first excitement about the cooperative movement cooled down. Parson Lot’s pen was less needed, and he turned to other work in his own name. Of the richness and variety of that work this is not the place to speak, but it all bore on the great social problems which had occupied him in the earlier years. The Crimean war weighed on him like a nightmare, and modified some of his political opinions. On the resignation of Lord Aberdeen’s Government on the motion for inquiry into the conduct of the war, he writes, February 5, 1855, “It is a very bad job, and a very bad time, be sure, and with a laughing House of Commons we shall go to Gehenna, even if we are not there already — But one comfort is, that even Gehenna can burn nothing but the chaff and carcases, so we shall be none the poorer in reality. So as the frost has broken gloriously, I wish you would get me a couple of dozen of good flies, viz., cock a bondhues, red palmers with plenty of gold twist; winged duns, with bodies of hare’s ear and yellow mohair mixed well; hackle duns with grey bodies, and a wee silver, these last tied as palmers, and the silver ribbed all the way down. If you could send them in a week I shall be very glad, as fishing begins early.”
In the midst of the war he was present one day at a council meeting, after which the manager of one of the associations referring to threatened bread riots at Manchester, asked Kingsley’s opinion as to what should be done. “There never were but two ways,” he said, “since the beginning of the world of dealing with a corn famine. One is to let the merchants buy it up and hold it as long as they can, as we do. And this answers the purpose best in the long run, for they will be selling corn six months hence when we shall want it more than we do now, and makes us provident against our wills. The other is Joseph’s plan.” Here the manager broke in, “Why didn’t our Government step in then, and buy largely, and store in public granaries?” “Yes,” said Kingsley, “and why ain’t you and I flying about with wings and dewdrops hanging to our tails. Joseph’s plan won’t do for us. What minister would we trust with money enough to buy corn for the people, or power to buy where he chose.” And he went on to give his questioner a lecture in political economy, which the most orthodox opponent of the popular notions about Socialism would have applauded to the echo.
By the end of the year he had nearly finished “Westward Ho!”— the most popular of his novels, which the war had literally wrung out of him. He writes —
? “December 18, 1855.
“I am getting more of a Government man every day. I don’t see how they could have done better in any matter, because I don’t see but that I should have done a thousand times worse in their place, and that is the only fair standard.
“As for a ballad — oh! my dear lad, there is no use fiddling while Rome is burning. I have nothing to sing about those glorious fellows, except ‘God save the Queen and them.’ I tell you the whole thing stuns me, so I cannot sit down to make fiddle rhyme with diddle about it — or blundered with hundred like Alfred Tennyson. He is no Tyrtæus, though he has a glimpse of what Tyrtæus ought to be. But I have not even that; and am going rabbit shooting tomorrow instead. But every man has his calling, and my novel is mine, because I am fit for nothing better. The book” (‘Westward Ho!’) “will be out the middle or end of January, if the printers choose. It is a sanguinary book, but perhaps containing doctrine profitable for these times. My only pain is that I have been forced to sketch poor Paddy as a very worthless fellow then, while just now he is turning out a hero. I have made the deliberate amende honorable in a note.”
Then, referring to some criticism of mine on ‘Westward Ho!’—“I suppose you are right as to Amyas and his mother; I will see to it. You are probably right too about John Hawkins. The letter in Purchas is to me unknown, but your conception agrees with a picture my father says he has seen of Captain John (he thinks at Lord Anglesey’s, at Beaudesert) as a prim, hard, terrier-faced, little fellow, with a sharp chin, and a dogged Puritan eye. So perhaps I am wrong: but I don’t think that very important, for there must have been sea-dogs of my stamp in plenty too.” Then, referring to the Crimean war —“I don’t say that the two cases are parallel. I don’t ask England to hate Russia as she was bound to hate Spain, as God’s enemy; but I do think that a little Tudor pluck and Tudor democracy (paradoxical as the word may seem, and inconsistently as it was carried out then) is just what we want now.”
“Tummas! Have you read the story of Abou Zennab, his horse, in Stanley’s ‘Sinai,’ p. 67? What a myth! What a poem old Wordsworth would have writ thereon! If I didn’t cry like a babby over it. What a brick of a horse he must have been, and what a brick of an old head-splitter Abou Zennab must have been, to have his commandments keeped unto this day concerning of his horse; and no one to know who he was, nor when, nor how, nor nothing. I wonder if anybody’ll keep our commandments after we be gone, much less say, ‘Eat, eat, O horse of Abou Kingsley!’”
By this time the success of “Westward Ho!” and “Hypatia” had placed him in the first rank of English writers. His fame as an author, and his character as a man, had gained him a position which might well have turned any man’s head. There were those amongst his intimate friends who feared that it might be so with him, and who were faithful enough to tell him so. And I cannot conclude this sketch better than by giving his answer to that one of them with whom he had been most closely associated in the time when, as Parson Lot, every man’s hand had been against him —
“MY DEAR LUDLOW,
“And for this fame, &c.,
“I know a little of her worth.
“And I will tell you what I know,
“That, in the first place, she is a fact, and as such, it is not wise to ignore her, but at least to walk once round her, and see her back as well as her front.
“The case to me seems to be this. A man feels in himself the love of praise. Every man does who is not a brute. It is a universal human faculty; Carlyle nicknames it the sixth sense. Who made it? God or the devil? Is it flesh or spirit? a difficult question; because tamed animals grow to possess it in a high degree; and our metaphysician does not yet allow them spirit. But, whichever it be, it cannot be for bad: only bad when misdirected, and not controlled by reason, the faculty which judges between good and evil. Else why has God put His love of praise into the heart of every child which is born into the world, and entwined it into the holiest filial and family affections, as the earliest mainspring of good actions? Has God appointed that every child shall be fed first with a necessary lie, and afterwards come to the knowledge of your supposed truth, that the praise of God alone is to be sought? Or are we to believe that the child is intended to be taught as delicately and gradually as possible the painful fact, that the praise of all men is not equally worth having, and to use his critical faculty to discern the praise of good men from the praise of bad, to seek the former and despise the latter? I should say that the last was the more reasonable. And this I will say, that if you bring up any child to care nothing for the praise of its parents, its elders, its pastors, and masters, you may make a fanatic of it, or a shameless cynic: but you will neither make it a man, an Englishman, or a Christian.
“But ‘our Lord’s words stand, about not seeking the honour which comes from men, but the honour which comes from God only!’ True, they do stand, and our Lord’s fact stands also, the fact that He has created every child to be educated by an honour which comes from his parents and elders. Both are true. Here, as in most spiritual things, you have an antinomia, an apparent contradiction, which nothing but the Gospel solves. And it does solve it; and your one-sided view of the text resolves itself into just the same fallacy as the old ascetic one. ‘We must love God alone, therefore we must love no created thing.’ To which St. John answers pertinently ‘He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ If you love your brethren, you love Christ in them. If you love their praise, you love the praise of Christ in them. For consider this, you cannot deny that, if one loves any person, one desires that person’s esteem. But we are bound to love all men, and that is our highest state. Therefore, in our highest state, we shall desire all men’s esteem. Paradoxical, but true. If we believe in Christmas-day; if we believe in Whitsunday, we shall believe that Christ is in all men, that God’s spirit is abroad in the earth, and therefore the dispraise, misunderstanding, and calumny of men will be exquisitely painful to us, and ought to be so; and, on the other hand, the esteem of men, and renown among men for doing good deeds will be inexpressibly precious to us. They will be signs and warrants to us that God is pleased with us, that we are sharing in that ‘honour and glory’ which Paul promises again and again, with no such scruples as yours, to those who lead heroic lives. We shall not neglect the voice of God within us; but we shall remember that there is also a voice of God without us, which we must listen to; and that in a Christian land, vox populi, patiently and discriminately listened to, is sure to be found not far off from the vox Dei.
“Now, let me seriously urge this last fact on you. Of course, in listening to the voice of the man outside there is a danger, as there is in the use of any faculty. You may employ it, according to Divine reason and grace, for ennobling and righteous purposes; or you may degrade it to carnal and selfish ones; so you may degrade the love of praise into vanity, into longing for the honour which comes from men, by pandering to their passions and opinions, by using your powers as they would too often like to use theirs, for mere self-aggrandisement, by saying in your heart —quam pulchrum digito monstrari el diceri hic est. That is the man who wrote the fine poem, who painted the fine picture, and so forth, till, by giving way to this, a man may give way to forms of vanity as base as the red Indian who sticks a fox’s tail on, and dances about boasting of his brute cunning. I know all about that, as well as any poor son of Adam ever did. But I know, too, that to desire the esteem of as many rational men as possible; in a word, to desire an honourable, and true renown for having done good in my generation, has nothing to do with that; and the more I fear and struggle against the former, the more I see the exceeding beauty and divineness, and everlasting glory of the latter as an entrance into the communion of saints.
“Of course, all this depends on whether we do believe that Christ is in every man, and that God’s spirit is abroad in the earth. Of course, again, it will be very difficult to know who speaks by God’s spirit, and who sees by Christ’s light in him; but surely the wiser, the humbler path, is to give men credit for as much wisdom and rightness as possible, and to believe that when one is found fault with, one is probably in the wrong. For myself, on Looking back, I see clearly with shame and sorrow, that the obloquy which I have brought often on myself and on the good cause, has been almost all of it my own fault — that I have given the devil and bad men a handle, not by caring what people would say, but by not caring— by fancying that I was a very grand fellow, who was going to speak what I knew to be true, in spite of all fools (and really did and do intend so to do), while all the while I was deceiving myself, and unaware of a canker at the heart the very opposite to the one against which you warn me. I mean the proud, self-willed, self-conceited spirit which made no allowance for other men’s weakness or ignorance; nor again, for their superior experience and wisdom on points which I had never considered — which took a pride in shocking and startling, and defying, and hitting as hard as I could, and fancied, blasphemously, as I think, that the word of God had come to me only, and went out from me only. God forgive me for these sins, as well as for my sins in the opposite direction; but for these sins especially, because I see them to be darker and more dangerous than the others.
“For there has been gradually revealed to me (what my many readings in the lives of fanatics and ascetics ought to have taught me long before), that there is a terrible gulf ahead of that not caring what men say. Of course it is a feeling on which the spirit must fall back in hours of need, and cry, ‘Thou, God, knowest mine integrity. I have believed, and therefore I will speak; thou art true, though all men be liars!’ But I am convinced that that is a frame in which no man can live, or is meant to live; that it is only to be resorted to in fear and trembling, after deepest self-examination, and self-purification, and earnest prayer. For otherwise, Ludlow, a man gets to forget that voice of God without him, in his determination to listen to nothing but the voice of God within him, and so he falls into two dangers. He forgets that there is a voice of God without him. He loses trust in, and charity to, and reverence for his fellow-men; he learns to despise, deny, and quench the Spirit, and to despise prophesyings, and so becomes gradually cynical, sectarian, fanatical.
“And then comes a second and worse danger. Crushed into self, and his own conscience and schema mundi, he loses the opportunity of correcting his impression of the voice of God within, by the testimony of the voice of God without; and so he begins to mistake more and more the voice of that very flesh of his, which he fancies he has conquered, for the voice of God, and to become, without knowing it, an autotheist. And out of that springs eclecticism, absence of tenderness for men, for want of sympathy with men; as he makes his own conscience his standard for God, so he makes his own character the standard for men; and so he becomes narrow, hard, and if he be a man of strong will and feelings, often very inhuman and cruel. This is the history of thousands-of Jeromes, Lauds, Puritans who scourged Quakers, Quakers who cursed Puritans; nonjurors, who though they would die rather than offend their own conscience in owning William, would plot with James to murder William, or to devastate England with Irish Rapparees and Auvergne dragoons. This, in fact, is the spiritual diagnosis of those many pious persecutors, who though neither hypocrites or blackguards themselves, have used both as instruments of their fanaticism.
“Against this I have to guard myself, you little know how much, and to guard my children still more, brought up, as they will be, under a father, who, deeply discontented with the present generation, cannot but express that discontent at times. To make my children ‘banausoi,’ insolent and scoffing radicals, believing in nobody and nothing but themselves, would be perfectly easy in me if I were to make the watchword of my house, ‘Never mind what people say.’ On the contrary, I shall teach them that there are plenty of good people in the world; that public opinion has pretty surely an undercurrent of the water of life, below all its froth and garbage; and that in a Christian country like this, where, with all faults, a man (sooner or later) has fair play and a fair hearing, the esteem of good men, and the blessings of the poor, will be a pretty sure sign that they have the blessing of God also; and I shall tell them, when they grow older, that ere they feel called on to become martyrs, in defending the light within them against all the world, they must first have taken care most patiently, and with all self-distrust and humility, to make full use of the light which is around them, and has been here for ages before them, and would be here still, though they had never been born or thought of. The antinomy between this and their own conscience may be painful enough to them some day. To what thinking man is it not a life-long battle? but I shall not dream that by denying one pole of the antinomy I can solve it, or do anything but make them, by cynicism or fanaticism, bury their talent in the earth, and not do the work which God has given them to do, because they will act like a parson who, before beginning his sermon, should first kick his congregation out of doors, and turn the key; and not like St. Paul, who became all things to all men, if by any means he might save some.
“Yours ever affectionately, with all Christmas blessings,
“FARLY COURT, December 26, 1855.
“I should be very much obliged to you to show this letter to Maurice.”
One more letter only I will add, dated about the end of the “Parson Lot” period. He had written to inform me that one of the old Chartist leaders, a very worthy fellow, was in great distress, and to ask me to do what I could for him. In my reply I had alluded somewhat bitterly to the apparent failure of the Association movement in London, and to some of our blunders, acknowledging how he had often seen the weak places, and warned us against them. His answer came by return of post:—
“EVERSLEY, May, 1856.
“DEAR TOM — It’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest; and don’t cry stinking fish, neither don’t hollow till you’re out of the wood — which you oughtn’t to have called yourself Tom fool, and blasphemed the holy name thereby, till you knowed you was sich, which you wasn’t, as appears by particulars. And I have heard from T—— twice today, and he is agreeable, which, if he wasn’t, he is an ass, and don’t know half a loaf is better than no bread, and you musn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but all is as right as a dog-fox down wind and vi. millia passuum, to the next gorse. But this £25 of his is a grueller, and I learnt with interest that you are inclined to get the fishes nose out of the weed. I have offered to lend him £10 — hopes it may be lending — and have written a desperate begging letter to R. Monckton Milnes, Esq., which ‘evins prosper. Poor T—— says to-night that he has written to Forster about it — which he must have the small of his back very hard against the ropes so to do, so the sooner we get the ginger-beer bottle out the longer he’ll fight, or else he’ll throw up the sponge at once; for I know his pride. I think we can raise it somehow. I have a last card in old — — the judge who tried and condemned him, and is the dearest old soul alive, only he will have it T—— showed dunghill, and don’t carry a real game nackle. If I am to tackle he you must send me back those letters to appeal to his piety and ‘joys as does abound,’ as your incomparable father remarks. When will you give me that canticle? He says Tom Taylor (I believe all the world is called Thomas) has behaved to him like a brother, which, indeed, was to be expexed, and has promised him copying at a shilling an hour, and will give him a chop daily free gracious; but the landlord won’t wait, which we musn’t neither.
“Now, business afore pleasure. You are an old darling, and who says no, I’d kick him, if it warn’t for my cloth; but you are green in cottoning to me about our ‘48 mess. Because why? I lost nothing — I risked nothing. You fellows worked like bricks, spent money, and got midshipman’s half-pay (nothing a-day and find yourself), and monkey’s allowance (more kicks than halfpence). I risked no money; ‘cause why, I had none; but made money out of the movement, and fame too. I’ve often thought what a dirty beast I was. I made £150 by Alton Locke, and never lost a farthing; and I got, not in spite of, but by the rows, a name and a standing with many a one who would never have heard of me otherwise, and I should have been a stercoraceous mendicant if I had hollowed when I got a facer, while I was winning by the cross, though I didn’t mean to fight one. No. And if I’d had £100,000, I’d have, and should have, staked and lost it all in 1848–50. I should, Tom, for my heart was and is in it, and you’ll see it will beat yet; but we ain’t the boys. We don’t see but half the bull’s eye yet, and don’t see at all the policeman which is a going on his beat behind the bull’s eye, and no thanks to us. Still, some somedever, it’s in the fates, that Association is the pure caseine, and must be eaten by the human race if it would save its soul alive, which, indeed, it will; only don’t you think me a good fellow for not crying out, when I never had more to do than scratch myself and away went the fleas. But you all were real bricks; and if you were riled, why let him that is without sin cast the first stone, or let me cast it for him, and see if I don’t hit him in the eye.
“Now to business; I have had a sortér kindèr sample day. Up at 5, to see a dying man; ought to have been up at 2, but Ben King the rat-catcher, who came to call me, was taken nervous!!! and didn’t make row enough; was from 5.30 to 6.30 with the most dreadful case of agony — insensible to me, but not to his pain. Came home, got a wash and a pipe, and again to him at 8. Found him insensible to his own pain, with dilated pupils, dying of pressure of the brain — going any moment. Prayed the commendatory prayers over him, and started for the river with West. Fished all the morning in a roaring N.E. gale, with the dreadful agonized face between me and the river, pondering on THE mystery. Killed eight on ‘March brown’ and ‘governor,’ by drowning the flies, and taking ’em out gently to see if ought was there — which is the only dodge in a north-easter. ‘Cause why? The water is warmer than the air —ergo, fishes don’t like to put their noses out o’ doors, and feeds at home down stairs. It is the only wrinkle, Tom. The captain fished a-top, and caught but three all day. They weren’t going to catch a cold in their heads to please him or any man. Clouds burn up at 1 P.M. I put on a minnow, and kill three more; I should have had lots, but for the image of the dirty hickory stick, which would ‘walk the waters like a thing of life,’ just ahead of my minnow. Mem. — Never fish with the sun in your back; it’s bad enough with a fly, but with a minnow it’s strichnine and prussic acid. My eleven weighed together four and a-half pounds — three to the pound; not good, considering I had spased many a two-pound fish, I know.
“Corollary. — Brass minnow don’t suit the water. Where is your wonderful minnow? Send him me down, or else a horn one, which I believes in desperate; but send me something before Tuesday, and I will send you P.O.O. Horn minnow looks like a gudgeon, which is the pure caseine. One pounder I caught today on the ‘March brown’ womited his wittles, which was rude, but instructive; and among worms was a gudgeon three inches long and more. Blow minnows — gudgeon is the thing.
“Came off the water at 3. Found my man alive, and, thank God, quiet. Sat with him, and thought him going once or twice. What a mystery that long, insensible death-struggle is! Why should they be so long about it? Then had to go Hartley Row for an Archdeacon’s Sunday-school meeting — three hours useless (I fear) speechifying and ‘shop’; but the Archdeacon is a good man, and works like a brick beyond his office. Got back at 10:30, and sit writing to you. So goes one’s day. All manner of incongruous things to do — and the very incongruity keeps one beany and jolly. Your letter was delightful. I read part of it to West, who says, you are the best fellow on earth, to which I agree.
“So no more from your sleepy and tired — C. KINGSLEY.”
This was almost the last letter I ever received from him in the Parson Lot period of his life, with which alone this notice has to do. It shows, I think, very clearly that it was not that he had deserted his flag (as has been said) or changed his mind about the cause for which he had fought so hard and so well. His heart was in it still as warmly as ever, as he says himself. But the battle had rolled away to another part of the field. Almost all that Parson Lot had ever striven for was already gained. The working-classes had already got statutory protection for their trade associations, and their unions, though still outside the law, had become strong enough to fight their own battles. And so he laid aside his fighting name and his fighting pen, and had leisure to look calmly on the great struggle more as a spectator than an actor.
A few months later, in the summer of 1856, when he and I were talking over and preparing for a week’s fishing in the streams and lakes of his favourite Snowdonia, he spoke long and earnestly in the same key. I well remember how he wound it all up with, “the long and short of it is, I am becoming an optimist. All men, worth anything, old men especially, have strong fits of optimism — even Carlyle has — because they can’t help hoping, and sometimes feeling, that the world is going right, and will go right, not your way, or my way, but its own way. Yes; we’ve all tried our Holloway’s Pills, Tom, to cure all the ills of all the world — and we’ve all found out I hope by this time that the tough old world has more in its inside than any Holloway’s Pills will clear out.” A few weeks later I received the following invitation to Snowdon, and to Snowdon we went in the autumn of 1856.
Come away with me, Tom,
Term and talk is done;
My poor lads are reaping,
Busy every one.
Curates mind the parish,
Sweepers mind the Court,
We’ll away to Snowdon
For our ten days’ sport,
Fish the August evening
Till the eve is past,
Whoop like boys at pounders
Fairly played and grassed.
When they cease to dimple,
Lunge, and swerve, and leap,
Then up over Siabod
Choose our nest, and sleep.
Up a thousand feet, Tom,
Round the lion’s head,
Find soft stones to leeward
And make up our bed.
Bat our bread and bacon,
Smoke the pipe of peace,
And, ere we be drowsy,
Give our boots a grease.
Homer’s heroes did so,
Why not such as we?
What are sheets and servants?
Pray for wives and children
Safe in slumber curled,
Then to chat till midnight
O’er this babbling world.
Of the workmen’s college,
Of the price of grain,
Of the tree of knowledge,
Of the chance of rain;
If Sir A. goes Romeward,
If Miss B. sings true,
If the fleet comes homeward,
If the mare will do —
Anything and everything —
Up there in the sky
Angels understand us,
And no “saints” are by.
Down, and bathe at day-dawn,
Tramp from lake to lake,
Washing brain and heart clean
Every step we take.
Leave to Robert Browning
Beggars, fleas, and vines;
Leave to mournful Ruskin
Dirty Stones of Venice
And his Gas-lamps Seven;
We’ve the stones of Snowdon
And the lamps of heaven.
Where’s the mighty credit
In admiring Alps?
Any goose sees “glory”
In their “snowy scalps.”
Leave such signs and wonders
For the dullard brain,
As æsthetic brandy,
Opium, and cayenne;
Give me Bramshill common
(St. John’s harriers by),
Or the vale of Windsor,
England’s golden eye.
Show me life and progress,
Beauty, health, and man;
Houses fair, trim gardens,
Turn where’er I can.
Or, if bored with “High Art,”
And such popish stuff,
One’s poor ears need airing,
Snowdon’s high enough.
While we find God’s signet
Fresh on English ground,
Why go gallivanting
With the nations round?
Though we try no ventures
Desperate or strange;
Feed on common-places
In a narrow range;
Never sought for Franklin
Round the frozen Capes;
Even, with Macdougall,
Bagged our brace of apes;
Never had our chance, Tom,
In that black Redan;
Can’t avenge poor Brereton
Out in Sakarran;
Tho’ we earn our bread, Tom,
By the dirty pen,
What we can we will be,
Do the work that’s nearest,
Though it’s dull at whiles;
Helping, when we meet them
Lame dogs over stiles;
See in every hedgerow
Marks of angels’ feet,
Epics in each pebble
Underneath our feet;
Once a-year, like schoolboys,
Leaving fops and fogies
A thousand feet below.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56