Wednesday, August 30, 2006

31 July: Boreham on William Knibb

The Champion of the Slaves
The thirty-first of July was far and away the greatest day in the colourful life of William Knibb. It is by no means certain that Knibb has ever been given his just place in the brave records of the emancipation movement. He was born in those momentous days in which Lord Nelson was passing from one magnificent victory to another, and in which the dread of a Napoleonic invasion hung like a dark cloud over the Homeland, and the abject condition of the coloured slaves of the West Indies nearly broke his heart. Jamaica was usually described in those days as the loveliest land on the face of the earth. But to Knibb it appeared, not as Paradise, but as Paradise Lost. Everything impressed him, when he landed, as being revolting, hideous, abominable. The plains were fruitful, it is true, and the valleys wonderfully fair, and yet, from the whole island, there seemed to rise, not a song of gladness, but a cry of anguish. For Jamaica was pre-eminently the abode of slavery.

The people were not their own; and they knew it. Masters might be kind or cruel; it made little difference. Life was destitute of security. Among the ebony-skinned, thick-lipped, woolly-haired creatures who swarmed around Knibb on his arrival in 1825, there was no such thing as marriage: any unions that the coloured people contracted among themselves were subject to the exigencies of future sales. Children with laughing eyes and pearly teeth were scampering about everywhere: but they had all been bred for the market and would be auctioned as soon as their limbs were set. Stalwart youths saw their dusky sweethearts grow in shapeliness and charm; but trembled lest their comeliness should catch the eye of the overseer or the owner. Dreading the worst, they hoped for the best; and the best for which they could hope was that they and their chosen partners might be permitted to live together for a few years in some little hut among the bushes, producing children for the monthly sales. And if any slave dared to lift a hand or raise a voice in protest, they were but inviting the horrors of the treadmill and the lash. The only thing that stood between the slave and unbridled cruelty was their market value.

One Brother Takes The Other's Place
Jamaica found no place on William Knibb's original programme. He and his elder brother, Thomas, were apprenticed to a printer at Bristol. Thomas set his heart on being a missionary, but William resolved to follow a commercial career to the end of the chapter. In due course Thomas realised his aspiration; was trained as a missionary; was designated to Jamaica; arrived there in January, 1823, and died of malaria three months later. The news profoundly affected William. It seemed to him not only a calamity but a challenge. He recalled the talks in which Thomas had outlined his dreams. William could not bear to think that death had cheated the world of such superb gains. He resolved to take his dead brother's place. He would evangelise the oppressed people for whom Thomas had surrendered his life, and, perhaps, break their chains. The change was all to the good. Thomas could never have done the work that William did. Thomas was frail and shrinking, William was lion-like and determined. He was, as somebody said, made to mount the whirlwind and to ride the storm. Thomas was a grassy knoll: William was a volcano in eruption.

As soon as he arrived in Jamaica, he resolved that, at any cost, slavery must go; and the cost was heartbreaking. His work involved him in the most excruciating sacrifices. In that fever-laden climate he buried his children almost as soon as they were born. He was persecuted; charged with rebellion; dragged about the island, and subjected to every conceivable indignity. He was spared no humiliation that could tend to his embarrassment and discomfiture. He visited England, stirring the country with righteous indignation. The entire nation was moved by the passion and the pathos of those tremendous appeals. And at last, he won.

A Short Life But A Triumphant One
Few scenes in history are more dramatic than the scene witnessed in Jamaica on the night of July 31, 1838, the night on which the emancipation of the slaves came into force. The slaves dug a grave. Preparing a most exquisitely carved and polished coffin, they flung into it a slave chain, a slave whip, a slave hat—all the insignia of their degradation. "The monster is dying!" cried William Knibb as the hour approached; as the clock struck, he shouted: "The monster is dead!" The coffin was lowered into the yawning grave whilst the immense concourse of excited coloured people sang exultantly:

Now, Slavery, we lay thy vile form in the dust,
And, buried for ever; there
let it remain,
And, rotted and covered with infamy's rust,
Be every
man's whip and his fetter and chain.
The land rang with doxologies. The
beautiful island had been delivered from its hideous curse. The chains were
shattered: the slaves were free.

Surrounded by the people to whom he had been so passionately attached and for whom he had given unstintingly the full measure of his devotion, Knibb died a few years later at the age of 42. On his death bed he was able to reflect with gratification on the circumstance that, he had not only secured the emancipation of the West Indian slaves, but had inspired a hatred of slavery in the hearts of all the people of the world. The fact that he had moved the British Government to introduce an act voting £20,000,000 to meet the cost of the liberation of those for whom he pleaded, is evidence in itself of the influence that he wielded. He died, conscious of having followed the gleam in scorn of consequence: he knew that he had earned the devoted gratitude of the people whose fetters he had broken: and he was happy in having brought to completion the work that he had accepted from his dead brother's hands.

F W Boreham

Image: William Knibb

30 July: Boreham on Emily Bronte

The Bravest of the Brontes
On July 30, 1818, Emily Bronte was born. Thirty years later, she died of consumption, cherishing no suspicion of the honours that coming generations were to weave about her name. She had written a novel, "Wuthering Heights." Mr. H. W. Garrod says that, if this novel cannot be called the greatest in our language, it can at least claim to be the most purely inspired. Yet neither "Wuthering Heights" nor any other romance furnishes us with a story as thrilling and as touching as the actual life story of Emily Bronte herself. It is one of the most amazing records of courage and achievement that our annals can produce. Of the three famous sisters, she was the most electric, the most passionate, and the most intense. Although she spent most of her time coughing, and was obviously under sentence of death, she stands as one of the most carefree and daredevil figures in the republic of English letters.

In those dark days in which everything was going tragically in the old rectory at Haworth, it was Emily's dauntless courage that held the household together. The mother and two children already slept in the tomb beneath the aisle of the little church; the father was rapidly becoming blind; the only son reduced the place to a state of pandemonium by his wild and dissolute outbursts; and the three girls worked day and night at manuscripts which, they had too much reason to fear, were never likely to be published. And, all the while, they were racked by a pitiless disease that eventually dragged them all down to early graves. But Emily's stout heart never wavered. The picture left upon the mind after reading the numerous sketches of her is the impression of a vivacious, laughing, unconquerable girl racing across the moors with Keeper, her big bulldog, at her heels; delighting in the fresh air and the wild winds and the dark nights; and, when at home, compelling her sisters to frolic and to dance with her when they were in no mood for frivolities.

Is The Book Out Of Keeping With Its Writer?
Known as "The Major," Emily was always resourceful, quick-witted, self-reliant. A strange dog bites her; and she says not a word, but, slipping away to the kitchen, thrusts a skewer into the fire, waits until it is white hot, and then, with one untrembling hand, cauterises the bleeding tooth wounds on the other. Discovering, when retiring for the night, that her brother, in a fit of drunkenness, has set the house on fire, she gives no alarm, but works away with pails of water until she has extinguished the last spark, and then, quite unruffled, goes off to bed. The same confident and independent spirit characterises her conduct at every turn.

It affected her literary work. Her sisters, when they finished a manuscript, sent it to Southey or to Coleridge or to Wordsworth, craving their expert opinion. Emily would do nothing of the kind. She kept her folios locked in her own desk until she was ready to post them to the publishers. Emily was mistress of her own mind; she was captain of her own soul. How came so singular a girl to write so terrible a story? Dante Rossetti called it, "a fiend of a book; an incredible monster; its action is laid in hell." The question has been endlessly discussed, and, as a desperate loophole of escape from the mystery, it has been suggested that Branwell, the sinister brother, must have been responsible. Some say that he actually wrote it; some that he wrote the opening chapters and that Emily finished it; some that he told her the story and that she committed it to paper. But is the problem as baffling as these theorists make it?

The Genesis Of A Tragic Romance
In their earlier days the rector delighted in telling the children tales of the wild life of their Irish ancestors. A friend of the family says that the girls used to sit in breathless silence, their prominent eyes starting from their heads, whilst their father unfolded one vivid scene after another. But the greatest effect was produced upon Emily, who seemed to be dead to everything but her father's narrative. The atmosphere was painful in its very tenseness. The outline of "Wuthering Heights" was recited in this way so often that Branwell, in his drunken stupors, used to brag that he himself could have written the novel if Emily hadn't. When "Wuthering Heights" was published, Mr. E. P. Whipple, one of the most trusted critics of his day, said that the book was evidently written by "a man of uncommon talents, but dogged, brutal, and morose." Charlotte read the harsh sentence to Emily, who dying, smiled a wan, brave smile, but said nothing. Not long afterwards, Branwell passed away; and a few weeks later, Emily followed him. Keeper, the ferocious but faithful bulldog, insisted on standing as chief mourner at the foot of the grave.

Keeper had come to the rectory, Mr. Gaskell says, in the vigorous strength of his youth. Sullen and savage, he had met his master in the indomitable Emily. After the fashion of dogs, he feared, respected, and deeply loved the strange, strong creature who had subdued him. On returning from the funeral, he lay down at Emily's door, whining piteously, and refusing to be comforted. He lived for exactly three years afterwards, and died just as the health of Charlotte, the last of the three famous sisters, was beginning to fail. Charlotte felt a special grief in burying the bulldog. It was her last point of contact with Emily; the animal had seemed a living embodiment of his mistress' dauntless spirit. "I have never seen her parallel in anything," Charlotte exclaimed. "Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone." Matthew Arnold said of her that, for passion, vehemence, sorrow, and daring, she ranked with Byron, and that the two made an incomparable pair. She had no inkling that her work would be immortal, and, partly because this gratification was denied her, posterity, reading her masterpiece with unstinted admiration, will cherish her name with a tenderness that almost amounts to personal devotion.

F W Boreham

Image: Emily Bronte

29 July: Boreham on William Wilberforce

The Centenary of William Wilberforce
Exactly a hundred years ago today—on July 29, 1833—the most notable and most picturesque of civilisation's social reformers passed away. Some men are extraordinarily fortunate in the hour of their appearance: the stage seems set for them: the world appears to be breathlessly awaiting their advent. So was it with William Wilberforce. It is scarcely too much to say that when he was born the Empire was born. The two sprang into existence simultaneously. A few months before the birth of Wilberforce, Lord Clive, at the battle of Plassey, had presented England with a vast Asiatic dominion. While Wilberforce was still a baby in long clothes, General Wolfe, by his tragic but immortal victory on the Heights of Abraham, had wrested Canada from the French. In Wolfe’s army at Quebec, moreover, there was a young sailor—afterwards known to fame as Captain Cook—who was already dreaming of setting out in search of new Britains beneath the Southern Cross. It was an age of thrills. "Never," says Green, in his "Short History of the English People," "never had England played so great a part in the history of mankind as in the year 1759"—the year in which Wilberforce was born. "It was a year of triumphs in every quarter of the world. In September came the news of Minden and of a victory off Lagos. In October came tidings of the capture of Quebec. November brought word of the French defeat at Quiberon." Such sensational developments led Horace Walpole to exclaim that he was forced to ask every morning what fresh victory there was for fear of missing one. Thackeray says that during those memorable months every Englishman was drunk with the intoxication of exciting news. In one crowded and epoch-making year, the civilisations alike of the East and of the West were entirely recast and remodelled. It was as if the world were being made all over again. Such was the tornado of military conquest and international reconstruction that raged about the cradle of the future abolitionist!

The child was scarcely out of that cradle, however, before it was realised that he was not as other children are. Weak and puny from his birth, his parents were horrified at the discovery that his frame was stunted and misshapen. For it is one of the marvels of history that the hand that struck the shackles from the galled limbs of our British slaves was the hand of a hunchback. One of the triumphs of statuary in Westminster Abbey is the seated figure that, while faithfully perpetuating the noble face and fine features of Wilberforce, skilfully conceals his frightful physical deformities. From infancy he was an elfish, unsightly little figure. At the Grammar School at Hull the other boys would lift his tiny, twisted form on to the table and make him go through all his impish tricks.

For, though so pitifully twisted and distorted, he was amazingly sprightly, resourceful and clever. A master of mimicry, a born actor, an accomplished singer and a perfect elocutionist, he was as agile also as a monkey and as full of mischief. Every day his genius enlivened his quaint performance by the startling introduction of some fresh antics. His schoolfellows and his teachers were invariably convulsed by the whimsical audacity of each new turn. He is the most striking illustration that history can offer of a grotesque and insignificant form glorified by its consecration to an illustrious and noble cause. Recognising the terrible handicap that Nature had so harshly imposed upon him, he set himself to counter-balance matters by acquiring a singular graciousness and charm of manner. Bacon once affirmed that "he that hath, fixed upon his person, some quality that exposes him to derision, is under an imperative obligation to develop such beauty of mind and loftiness of character as shall lift him beyond the range of contempt." Bacon's axiom has never been more finely illustrated than in the case of William Wilberforce. He set himself to redeem his dwarfish proportions from ignominy, and he succeeded so brilliantly that his grace and courtliness became proverbial. It was said of him that, if you saw him in conversation with a man, you would suppose that the man was his brother, or, if with a woman, that he was her lover. He compelled men to forget his unshapely appearance: the splendour of his intellect eclipsed the ugliness of his body.

This extraordinary effect was doubtless produced in large measure by the purity of the cause that he espoused. On the occasion of the centenary it is pleasant to recall that memorable day on which the two friends—Wilberforce and Pitt—lay sprawling on the grass under a grand old oak tree in the beautiful park at Holwood in Kent. A solid stone seat now stands beside the tree, bearing an inscription commemorative of the historic occasion. For it was then—and there—that Wilberforce solemnly devoted his life to the emancipation of the slaves. He had introduced the subject with some diffidence; was delighted at Pitt's evident sympathy; and, springing to his feet, he declared that he would set to work at once to abolish the iniquitous traffic. Few of us nowadays realise the immense proportions that the British slave trade had then assumed. During the eighteenth century, nearly a million blacks were transported from Africa, with much less consideration than would have been shown to cattle, to Jamaica alone. From his earliest infancy, the horror of the traffic preyed upon the sensitive mind of William Wilberforce. When quite a boy he wrote to the papers protesting against "this odious traffic in human flesh." In the twenties, he embraced the cause as distinctively his own and made the extinction of slavery the supreme purpose of his life. For fifty years he never rested. Through evil report and through good, he tirelessly pursued his ideal. At times the opposition seemed insuperable. But Pitt stood by him, the Quakers and a few others encouraged him to persist: John Wesley, in his last hours of consciousness, wrote from his deathbed begging the reformer never to give up. After twenty years of incessant struggle, it was enacted that the exportation of slaves from Africa should cease; but no relief was offered to those already in bondage. A quarter of a century later, as Wilberforce lay dying, messengers from Westminster entered his sickroom to tell him that, at last, the Emancipation Bill had been passed; the slaves were free! "Thank God," exclaimed the expiring dwarf, "that I have lived to see this day!" Like Wolfe at Quebec, like Nelson at Trafalgar, like John Franklin in the North-West Passage, he died in the flush of triumph. His vivid fancy had involved him in all the tortures that oppressed the slaves; but he passed away rejoicing that their fetters were all broken and gone.

The record of William Wilberforce presents us with the paramount example of a man, terribly handicapped, who, fighting against terrific odds, bears down all opposition by the sheer force of his own unselfish passion. His transparent earnestness transfigured him. When he rose to address the House of Commons, he looked like the dwarf that had jumped out of a fairy-tale: when he resumed his seat he looked like the giant of the self-same story. His form, as “The Times” said, was like the letter S; it resembled a stick that could never be straightened. Yet his hearers declared that his face, when pleading for the slave, was positively seraphic; it resembled the face of an angel. The repulsiveness of his little frame seemed to disappear; and, under the magic of his inspired eloquence, his form became sublime.

When, just a century ago, he passed away, such a funeral procession made its way to Westminster Abbey as even London had rarely witnessed. He was borne to his last resting-place by the Peers and Commoners of England with the Lord Chancellor at their head. In imperishable marble it was recorded of him that “he had removed from England the guilt of the slave-trade and prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony in the Empire.” If that epitaph were recast in the perspective of history, it would be made to read that Wilberforce pioneered the emancipation of all slaves, not only throughout the Empire, but throughout the world. But the people of that day could not anticipate the American movement. They only knew that a man had passed who had served his country and his generation with sublime devotion and with dramatic effect. And it is said that, as the cortege made its sombre way through the crowded streets, all London was in tears, and one person in every three was garbed in deepest black.

F W Boreham

Image: William Wilberforce

28 July: Boreham on Johann Sebastian Bach

A Master Maestro
Two hundred years ago, there passed from the scene of his triumphs an irresistible master of men.[1] To look upon the face and form of Johann Sebastian Bach was to become instantly conscious of his extraordinary magnetism. Those who met him on the street instinctively turned to enjoy a second and lengthier glance. Wherever he came, he conquered. Frederick the Great commanded him to visit him at Potsdam. Bach, who was 62, regarded the invitation as the climax of his renown. "Here comes old Bach," exclaimed the King, under his breath, as the gallant figure was ushered into his presence. But a day or two later, having cultivated his guest's acquaintance and been held spellbound by his artistry, he shouted amidst the applause: "There is only one Bach! There is only one Bach!" The episode is typical of the impression that the eminent organist invariably created.

Bach was a gigantic human. He loved life, he loved men and women; he loved boys and girls; he loved congenial company, convivial conversation, hearty laughter, woodland scenery, fragrant gardens, and he dearly loved a good square meal. It goes without saying that he loved music. He was drenched in it. Coming of a long line of musicians, sweet sounds were to him the light of his eyes and the breath of his nostrils. He thought musically; he talked musically; he walked as if he were marching through this world to the music of some fair world unseen.

At His Best At His Own Fireside
He was essentially a home-bird. Twice married, he had seven children by his first wife and thirteen by the second. As was usual in those days of prodigious families, many of these youngsters died; but their father dearly loved and cherished the survivors. One or two of them involved him in heartache and heartbreak; but his affection never wavered. His golden hours were the hours in which he sat with them at meals: chatted with them by the fireside; played and sang with them in their domestic concerts; or picnicked with them in the primrosed woods. Although the image of gravity and even severity on serious occasions, he secretly overflowed with fun. When he married his second wife, she begged him to teach her music that her life might be the more perfectly attuned to his. "My dear," he replied, "there's nothing to learn. You merely strike the right note at the right moment and the organ does the rest!"

Sometimes his sense of humour invaded his art, as in The Coffee Cantata, based on the story of a girl who was so addicted to coffee that her father swore that he would never consent to her marriage till she gave it up, a threat which the daughter countered by saying that she would never accept a proposal unless her lover promised that she should always have her coffee. And, in the home, Sebastian composed all sorts of quodlibets, gay little minuets, and catchy snatches of nonsense-song for the delectation of the bairns. But he knew how to be stern. As a teacher, he was a benevolent tyrant. A student one day rejected his advice. "I think it sounds better this way," the youth explained. "Sir," Bach replied, "thou art too advanced for my teaching; we must part!" And they did. But he knew also how to be gentle. If he found a student doing his best, but doing it badly, he would say: "My son, suppose you were to try it this way!" And he would play it himself with the air of a fellow-learner who was making a modest suggestion. Is it any wonder that his students worshipped him? "Master," burst out one of them, "when I hear you play, I feel that I cannot do anything wrong for at least a week!"

His Finest Music Was Mere Self-Expression
An intensely devout man, his great religious masterpieces were the natural outpouring of his inmost soul. In her "Little Chronicle of Magdalena Bach," Esther Meynell credits Magdalena with saying that, "deep down in his great heart he always carried his crucified Redeemer, and his noblest music is his secret cry for a clearer vision of his risen Lord. In his lullaby in the Christmas Cantata he could write music tender enough for the Babe of Bethlehem; in the Crucifixion of his Great Mass he could find strains grand enough for the Saviour of Calvary. At the end of his earlier scores he always inscribed the letters S.D.G.—To God be the glory!" It mirrored the motive of the man.

One of the most fascinating realms of biographical conjecture is presented by the speculation as to what would have happened if Bach and Handel had met and formed each other's friendship. It is passing strange that they never did. Each talked of it; planned for it; but let it go at that. Born within a month of one another, their lives ran along parallel lines. They were moved by the same lofty ideals; each admired the other's work; both became blind and both were operated upon by the same surgeon. Bach did even more than Handel to lay the massive foundations on which much of our modern music securely rests. Masters like Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, and Brahms have gratefully and eloquently acknowledged the incalculable debt that they owed to that lovable creator of a million harmonies who, amidst the tears of his admiring contemporaries, died suddenly of apoplexy.

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury, on July 29, 1950.

F W Boreham

Image: Johann Sebastian Bach

27 July: Boreham on Thomas Campbell

A Rousing Battle-Laureate
We celebrate today the birthday of the most incorrigible lazybones in our literary history. Rejoicing in the nickname of Procrastination Tom, Thomas Campbell never worked if he could possibly help it, and never tackled on Monday a job that, by any twist of ingenuity, he could postpone until Tuesday. This explains the slender volume of his published work. As a boy he displayed no special brilliance beyond the cunning that indolent people often develop in evading unwelcome tasks. It was part of Tom's daily duty to visit the home of his mother's bedridden cousin to inquire after her health. This necessity soon became extremely irksome to the boy, who, as a laboursaving device, determined to exercise his imagination instead of his legs. He therefore assured his mother each day, in appropriate accents either of condolence or of gratification, that her relative was extremely poorly, or very much better, just as the fancy took him. This scheme served in excellent stead until one dismal day when, shortly after he had congratulated his mother on the satisfactory condition of the invalid, the funeral invitations arrived!

A day soon dawned, however, that challenged all his sluggish powers. His soul was stirred by the epoch-making events that provided each successive dawn with some new excitement. The dramatic and spectacular developments of the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, the war with France, the startling emergence of the younger Pitt, the earlier naval victories of Lord Nelson, the heroic resistance of the Poles under Kosciusco to the partitioning of their country, and the strengthening agitation for the emancipation of the British slaves. It was in the stimulating atmosphere created by these epic conditions that Campbell's genius awoke.

World In Tumult Stirred Indolence To Brilliance
He was only eighteen when his lyrical impulse first seized him. He was acting as a private tutor in Edinburgh, and was, he says, doing fairly well as long as he remained industrious. But the trouble was that his spasms of industry were so shockingly brief. In 1795, however, he came upon some verses entitled, "The Pleasures of Solitude." He recalled famous poems on "The Pleasures of Imagination" and "The Pleasures of Memory." But nobody had written on "The Pleasures of Hope." Why shouldn't he? The haunting phrase took complete possession of his fancy. Leaving his pupils to follow their own inclinations, he abandoned himself without reserve to this new infatuation. Whether in the Hebrides or in the city, he could think of nothing else. His pupils fell off but the poem went on. It was completed in 1798, shortly after his twenty-first birthday, and was published the following year.

From every point of view it was a classic. With the possible exceptions of Chatterton and Byron, no youthful poet has ever enriched our literature with a work of such elegance and finish. Prof. Aytoun regards it as, without exception, the finest didactic poem in the language. The tuneful stanzas were penned whilst Europe was a cauldron of seething agitation, and it was the provocation of the stirring events around him that moved the poet's mind to such lofty forms of melodious inspiration.

Content To Do Little And Do It Well
Most young fellows of two and twenty, having made such a hit, would have surveyed the horizon in search of further worlds to conquer. But the phenomenal success of "The Pleasures of Hope" had no such effect upon Procrastination Tom. With the first £50 that he received from his publishers, he set out on a tour of the Continent. When, after a few weeks of globe-trotting, his pockets were all but empty, he scurried homewards but, before actually crossing the Channel, he received a letter from his publishers telling of the continued demand for his poem and enclosing a further £50. Campbell thereupon unpacked his trunks and settled down to enjoy a protracted sojourn overseas. Glutted with novelty, he eventually returned to England, and, in 1803, at the age of twenty-six, even ventured to marry, although he had, in all conscience, little enough to offer the lady of his choice. The trouble still arose from his irresolution and caprice rather than from any lack of ability or opportunity. Several publishing houses, charmed by "The Pleasures of Hope," made handsome offers for his forthcoming manuscripts. But the manuscripts were never forthcoming! Campbell signed the contract and pocketed the money; but that was as far as it went!

It would have gone hardly with his young wife and himself had not a benevolent Government two years after the wedding, come to the rescue with a pension of £200 a year. Ten years later he inherited a legacy of £5,000, whilst, five years later still, he was appointed editor of the "New Monthly" at a salary of £600 a year. Campbell laughed at his own rare fortune. Why should a man make a slavery of life when, if he reclined at his ease and threw care to the winds, a silver spoon would, sooner or later, be lifted to his lips by other hands? It may be that there is another side to all this. Prof. Aytoun praises Campbell's refusal to become a literary hack, but he admits that it is the duty of a true poet to woo the muse and to await impatiently the falling of the celestial fire. There is, unhappily, very little evidence that Campbell exhibited any such passionate desire for inspiration. As a consequence, he has left us a niggardly heritage. His best work is to be found in the robust war-songs that won for him the title of the Battle-Laureate of the Napoleonic Era. Sir Walter Scott loved to recite "Hohenlinden" in a fine poetic frenzy, whilst Carlyle thought it incomparable and unsurpassable. Campbell died in 1844 and was buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, close to the tomb of Addison. On the day of the funeral, some representatives of Poland brought a handful of earth from Kosciusco's grave at Cracow and sprinkled it on the coffin. It was a tribute to the affection that Campbell had awakened, not only among his own people, but throughout the world.

F W Boreham

Image: Thomas Campbell

26 July: Boreham on Edward Poynter

A Domestic Triumph
The anniversary of the death, in 1919, of Sir Edward Poynter, the famous president of the Royal Academy, may serve to remind us of one of the greatest domestic triumphs of which we have any record. It stands as one of the nation's real romances. George Browne Macdonald, a Methodist minister, inherited from his remote ancestors the traditions of the Scottish highlands, and from his immediate progenitors the traditions of the Methodist parsonage. Hannah, his wife, was a Welsh girl, the daughter of a native of the Vale of Clwyd. To this pair were born seven children and those seven children form as remarkable a group as ever graced a single household.

The first crepuscular gleam of coming magnificence appeared when Alice, the eldest daughter, married a young art master from India, Jack Kipling by name, and, a year or two later, at Bombay, gave birth to a son whom she named Rudyard, after the beautiful English lake on the banks of which she and her husband first met. To have become the grandparents of the most popular poet of the period would have satisfied the vanity of any ordinary mortals; but this was merely a drop in the ocean of the glory of the Macdonalds. For, a little later, Alice's sister Georgina married a young painter, Edward Burne-Jones. "At the time of our marriage," says Lady Burne-Jones in her "Memorials," "neither my father nor my brother had any idea of Edward's genius; the only thing they troubled about was character." Yet Sir Edward Burne-Jones, largely inspired by his beautiful and brilliant wife, rose to the highest possible pinnacle of fame in his profession. The triumphs of his skill adorn the classical salons of the old world, whilst our Australian galleries proudly boast several valuable specimens of his exquisite handicraft.

One Family Enjoys A Feast Of Fame
As a boy, nothing excited Rudyard Kipling more than the prospect of a visit to Aunt Georgie (Lady Burne-Jones) at The Grange. He derived an extraordinary thrill from having to stand at the iron gate and from having to await, after ringing the open-work iron bell-pull, the arrival of the liveried servant who admitted him into the realm of so much felicity. Later on, when the author of "Kim," "The Jungle Book," and the "Recessional" set up house for himself, he craved and obtained the bell-pull from The Grange in order that other boys visiting him might know the ecstasy that he once enjoyed.

In 1866 the Macdonalds tasted the excitement of three weddings within three days. These included a double wedding, each, from a historical point of view, a wedding deluxe. Agnes, far-famed for her beauty, became the bride of Edward Poynter, destined, as Sir Edward Poynter, to become President of the Royal Academy, and one of the most eminent painters of all time. On the same day, Louise, the fourth daughter, allowed herself to be led to the altar by Mr. Alfred Baldwin, and lived to see the child of their union, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, twice become Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Nor is this all. Strangely enough, most of Lord Baldwin's biographers—Mr. Wickham Steed, Mr. John Smith, Mr. A. G. Whyte, and the rest—aver that the Macdonald family consisted of four girls and two boys. Such a misstatement does the greatest injustice to one of the most vivacious, one of the most radiant and one of the most lovable ladies of her time. There were, to be sure, two brothers—Harry, who, after a distinguished career at Oxford, went to America, and Frederick, who, following the footsteps of his sires, entered the Methodist ministry. But, unlike his sires, he became world famous in the ministry, was President of the British Conference in 1899 and visited Australia in 1908.

The Glory Of A Maiden Aunt
But, Lord Baldwin's biographers notwithstanding, there were five girls. Little Aunt Edith was, in many respects, the most scintillating of them all. As a child, her sprightly movements and sparkling witticisms kept the entire household smiling. Devoting herself to the care of her aging parents, Edith never married. On the death of the old minister and his wife, she made her home with the Baldwins. Here, from time to time, came the Burne-Jones', the Kiplings and the Poynters, attracted in no small measure by the singular fascination of Aunt Edie. A lady of rare culture, infinite sweetness, and sterling strength of character, Edith filled every circle that she adorned with light and laughter. Like her sisters, she inherited from her mother a passion for music and poetry. Of literature, too, thanks to the mistress of the manse, all the girls were enamoured. Louise, the mother of Lord Baldwin, wrote a number of popular novels—"Where Town and Country Meet," "Richard Dare," "The Shadow on the Blind," "The Story of a Marriage," and several others.

Little Aunt Edith, the unmarried sister, also published a dainty brochure entitled "Thoughts on Many Themes." And in the pretty church near her home, in which every window was designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, there is an exquisite grape-vine altar frontal, perfectly worked in untarnishable gold thread, and looking for all the world like a sheet of beaten gold, to the weaving of which Edith Macdonald devoted ten happy years of her long and lonely life. She lived to be 88.

In its obituary notice on the death of Frederick Macdonald, the brother, "The Times" remarked that the parsonage from which the greatly gifted president and his five remarkable sisters sprang was a home in which there was very little money but any amount of goodness. As we survey the historic homes that were afterwards graced by the children of that modest Methodist minister and his gentle lady—the homes of the Poynters, the Kiplings, the Burne-Jones, the Baldwins, and the Macdonalds—it is pleasant to reflect that the fragrance of that simple goodness proved so penetrating and was blown so far.

F W Boreham

Image: Edward Poynter

25 July: Boreham on Abraham Cowley

A Pensive Bard
The anniversary, on the 28th July, of the death of Abraham Cowley, suggests an interesting question. Does anybody read him nowadays? And, if not, is there anything further to be said about him? To this there can be but one reply. Cowley sleeps beside Tennyson and Browning in the classical seclusion of Poets' Corner, and his epitaph grandiloquently proclaims him to be the Pindar, the Horace, and the Virgil of England. Yet, in spite of that noble and, on the whole faithful eulogy, the fact remains that his works are as undisturbed as are his bones. No poet borne to burial within the solemn splendours of the old Abbey was more loudly lamented than was he. His final resting place was watered by a nation's tears, and the King himself exclaimed that, in dying, Cowley had not left a better person behind him. Yet, strange to say, of all our English singers, none was more swiftly and completely forgotten.

From every point of view the career of Cowley was remarkable. He was but a small boy when his first work was published, but he knew his own mind, was sure of his destiny, and had addressed himself seriously to his life work. Greybeards marvelled at the confidence that seemed to be matched by rare ability, and the cynics, unable to deny the merit of the boy's productions, assured each other that it could only be a flash in the pan; such brilliance was too dazzling to last. It is true that, in respect of sheer precocity, our literary annals can produce nothing worthy of serious comparison with this bewildering phenomenon. Even Macaulay's startling record pales into insignificance. "Pyramus and Thisbe" was written before Cowley had attained his 10th birthday and "Constantius and Philetus" was produced just after he had passed his 12th, yet the most penetrating critic may search these poems in vain for any obvious trace of puerility. Cowley commenced his work very early and commenced it in deadly earnest. At 15 we find him sighing—

What shall I do to be for ever known
And make the age to come my very

An Eveless Eden A Doubtful Paradise
Does the question argue inordinate vanity, overweening ambition? Perhaps. But we are not inclined to quarrel with him on such grounds. Had that feeling, be it good or bad, never impelled him to that early start he would probably have missed the lustre he afterwards attained. His riper years were so clouded by countless and crushing disappointments that, had he not dedicated himself in childhood to the worship of the muse, he might not later on, have had the heart to strike his lyre. Living in England, he was mortified by his treatment at the hands of the English court. He went to France and, meeting with humiliating rebuffs, was subjected to bitter disillusionment at every turn. He dwelt in cities and, as a result, learned heartily to hate. He felt that his only course was to get away into the primrosed woods and quiet fields.

Well, then, I now do plainly see
This busy world and I shall ne'er
The very honey of all earthly joy
Does of all meats the sonnest
And they, methinks, deserve my pity,
Who, for it, can endure the
The crowd and buzz and murmurings
Of that great hive—the city!

Sad to say his sylvan retirement was no less a disappointment. The fragrance of the dew-drenched meadows; the shade of beeches, oaks, and elms; the murmur of brooks and trout streams; and the song of linnets and finches, all failed to satisfy him. The most delicious solitudes bored him. For what is Eden without Eve? And here we touch the inmost soul of his restlessness and discontent. He looked round upon a paradise that was unutterably idyllic and beautiful. But—

How happy here should I
And one dear she, live, and embracing, die!
who is all the world and can exclude
I should have then this only
Lest men, when they my pleasure see,
Should all commence to mimic me
And so make a city here!

But this, too, was a taunting illusion, a cruel chimera. Cowley never possessed that "dear she" for whom he sighed so ardently and so wistfully.

A Lone Star In An Empty Sky
It is an extraordinary circumstance that the one poet who, as Pope says, could speak most musically the language of the heart, had no personal experience of tumultuous passion. He knew neither love, courtship, nor marriage. There are those who aver that he did once meet a lady who seemed to him to be the angel of his dreams, the Leonora of his Chronicle, but he could not muster the courage to speak of his devotion. In consequence he has earned for himself, for all time, the pathetic sobriquet of "The melancholy Cowley." But his tongue was tied and the inward flames consumed him secretly. A strange and contradictory creature then, is Abraham Cowley. As a boy he has the audacity to proclaim himself, an immortal poet: as a man he lacks the fortitude to tell a pretty girl that he loves her. What is the extent of our obligation to this amazing oddity? We owe it to him that he gave to English poetry, which had been largely emotional and imaginative, a critical and analytical turn.

Inspired, it may be, by the temper of his time, he became practical, almost political. He did not, it is true, carry his Pindaric method to that perfection which it afterwards attained in the work of Dryden, but it was he who first broke from the old track and pointed out the possibilities of the new treatment. For many reasons, therefore, Cowley richly deserves to be remembered. If his own writings are now lost in obscurity and buried in oblivion, it is something to have influenced the thought and style of all his successors and to have left an indelible and valuable impress on the whole of our subsequent literature.

F W Boreham

Image: Abraham Cowley

24 July: Boreham on Thomas a Kempis

A Lover of Quiet Corners
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the death, in 1471, of the author of one of the most extraordinary books ever written. Thomas a Kempis was born in 1380. His masterpiece was published in the year in which he died, so he tasted nothing of fame. Yet, during the four centuries that followed, over 6,000 separate editions appeared, and, today, translated into every known language, it is being reprinted and distributed in every part of the world.

The first English version was, at the command of Margaret, mother of Henry VII, prepared by Canon Atkinson in 1502. For some strange reason that it is more easy to trace than to explain, the book has appealed to all sorts and conditions of men. Equally appreciated by Protestants and Catholics as well as by those who stand attached to neither faith, it gathers into itself, as Dean Milman says, all that is elevating, passionate, and profound in the older mystics, and touches real life at almost every point.

Unhappily very little is known about the author. Entering the old Augustinian monastery at Agnetenberg, in the Netherlands, at the age of 27, he lived there a life that was singularly colourless and uneventful. He describes himself as a lover of books and quiet corners. Although Europe was a cloud of dust, convulsed in storm and tumult, with wars raging and thrones tottering, he lived his patient life of introspection and contemplation.

He was, Prof. T. M. Lindsay says, a little fresh-coloured man, with soft brown eyes, who had a way of a stealing away to his silent cell whenever the conversation became too lively. Normally, his frame was bowed and bent, but he had a habit of standing bolt upright when the psalms were being chanted, and, under stress of spiritual elation, he would even rise on tiptoe till he appeared almost tall.

Yesterdays Hasten To The Succour Of Today
Lovers of "The Mill on the Floss" are not likely to forget George Eliot's description of the sensational experience that came to Maggie Tulliver at a most critical moment in her career. The chapter is appropriately entitled "A Voice from the Past." Maggie is in desperate straits. Her mind is in torture; her faith flags and almost fails. Woman-like, she attempts to steady her nerves by an orgy of tidying-up. In a high cupboard, long neglected, she chances upon a pile of musty-fusty old books, coated with dust and yellow with age. Picking one at random, Maggie finds it is a well worn copy of "The Imitation of Christ," by Thomas a Kempis. It has the corners turned down at many places, while every here and there passages are marked, underlined, and annotated. The ink has turned brown with the passing of the years but is still clear.

George Eliot says a strange thrill shot through Maggie's frame as she read these marked sentences, as if she had been wakened in the night by a strain of solemn music, telling of beings whose souls had been astir while hers was lost in stupor. Oblivious of time, oblivious of everything, Maggie passed from one brown mark to another, as the quiet hand pointed, hardly conscious that she was reading. She seemed to be simply listening to some still, small voice whispering to her out of the eternities. The words met her case and wonderfully soothed and fortified her broken spirit. She felt that, in company with some sturdy ancestor of her own, who had possibly slumbered in his grave for 100 years or more, she had been sitting at the feet of this devout old monk who, in the peaceful hush of his cloister, had conceived these gracious thoughts and committed them to paper half a thousand years ago.

A Golden Link Uniting The Ages
This episode from George Eliot is typical. For the really extraordinary thing about "The Imitation" is its ability to appeal to men and women of such vastly different types. In his "Sacred and Profane Love," Arnold Bennett pays tribute to the penetrating influence of the book upon the strange life of his beautiful heroine, Carlotta Peel. Ian Maclaren has testified to its hold on Scotland, and Mr. Wesley was deeply moved by it.

Gen. Gordon, too, made Thomas a Kempis his constant companion. However light he was compelled to travel, he would never leave "The Imitation" behind. And we all like to remember that, during those bleak October days of 1915, when Nurse Edith Cavell languished in her wretched prison at Brussels, awaiting execution, she cherished as her greatest solace her little copy of a Kempis. In her last moments she begged that, after her death, it might be sent to her cousin, Mr. E. D. Cavell, who received it three years later.

How are we to account for this universal appeal? Why is it, George Eliot asks, that this small, old-fashioned book, for which you need only pay 6d., works miracles in human lives, turning bitter water into sweetness, while expensive volumes, newly issued, leave all things as they were before? "It is," she says, "because it was written by a hand that waited for the heart's promptings. It is the chronicle of a solitary, hidden anguish with its struggle, its trust, and its triumph. It was not written on velvet cushions to teach endurance to those who are treading with bleeding feet life's jagged stones."

And just because it sprang from the throbbing depths of a noble soul, it will touch the hearts of all who read it as long as the world stands. The placid, kindly, fresh-coloured old man who wrote his book before Columbus discovered the Western world never dreamed that the songs of the birds in the trees around his 15th century convent would be broadcast through its pages to all the continents and islands, nor that the perfume of the flowers of his monastery garden would, by means of his manuscript, be wafted about the world till earth’s last sun shall set.

F W Boreham

Image: Thomas a Kempis

23 July: Boreham on Coventry Patmore

The Angel in the House
Happily married people all over the world gave a thought yesterday to the anniversary of the birth of a very pure poet. Like Tennyson, Coventry Patmore saw his goal shining clearly from the start. At the age of 15 he consulted a phrenologist who, perhaps with some inkling of the boy's passionate ambition, assured him that he was destined to wear the bays of Virgil. From that moment, even amidst the most depressing conditions, he never once wavered. A streak of Bohemian eccentricity and recklessness in his composition kept him, in his darkest hours, from blank despair. For a time, work as he might, he found it impossible to earn more than a few shillings a week. On one occasion his total wealth amounted to 3/6. His very impecuniosity appealed to his quenchless sense of humour. He entered a restaurant and spent the entire 3/6 at one stroke! Then, proceeding to his rooms, he found a letter containing payment for an article which, written months before, he had almost forgotten. He enjoyed a hearty laugh at the freaks of fortune; and, to the end of the chapter, never again found himself in a situation so dismal.

Indeed, it was about this time that he succeeded in attracting the notice of Browning and of Tennyson. "A very interesting young poet has blushed into bloom this season," wrote Browning to one of his most intimate friends in 1844, the year in which Coventry Patmore came of age. A year later he was introduced to Tennyson, became instantly enamoured of the future laureate, and, to use his own words, followed him about like a dog. A year later, still undaunted by his extreme poverty, he was married to Emily Andrews, and, with his marriage, the work on which his fame must permanently rest was immediately commenced. His happy union with the girl whom he had wooed with romantic devotion, inspired him with an aspiration to compose a monumental poem in praise of wedded love.

An Idyll Marked By Beauty And Brevity
Those who are eager for a more intimate acquaintance with the lady who moved her husband to the most stately epic on womanhood ever written, need not eat out their hearts in futile curiosity. The loveliness of Emily Patmore has not only been chanted in the most exalted strains by her proud and gifted husband; it has been immortalised by the brush of Millais, by the chisel of Woolner, and by the melody of Browning. But, as is natural, none of them can vie with Patmore himself :

The more I praised, the more, she shone,
Her eyes incredulously
And all her happy beauty blown
Beneath the beams of my

Unhappily, the felicity that has become so famous was destined to be brief. The transparent delicacy that is so much admired in the painting of Millais was the fatal delicacy of consumption, and, after 15 years of married bliss, in the course of which several children were born, the "Angel in the House" was cruelly snatched from the side of the husband who had so devotedly worshipped her.

But her monument endures. "You have begun an immortal poem," exclaimed Tennyson, when Coventry Patmore read to him some of his opening stanzas, "and if I am no false prophet, it will not be long in winning its way into the hearts of the people." Tennyson's confident prophecy was triumphantly vindicated. The "Angel in the House" was published in 1854, eight years after the poet's happy marriage:—

. . . What
For sweetness like the eight-year's wife
Whose customary love
is not
Her passion, or her play, but
When you into my arms it gave,
Left nought here after to be
But grace to
feel the good I have.

The exquisite little volume sold, first in hundreds, and then in thousands, until, before long, a quarter of a million copies had been demanded. And, whilst his dainty masterpiece forged its way to fame, the poet himself was rapidly acquiring a singular and growing ascendancy over the minds of his contemporaries.

A Knight Of The New Chivalry
People like Rossetti, Emerson, Ruskin, Dobell, Worsley, and Aubrey de Vere prized his friendship and luxuriated in his society. In his modesty he considered himself outclassed in such illustrious company. In one of his letters, he confesses to speechless bewilderment that men of outstanding eminence should not only treat him as an equal, but hang upon his lips as though it were in his power to teach them. Austere upon suitable occasions, he was nevertheless an extraordinarily tender hearted and affectionate man. He suffered agonies of remorse if he thought that any criticism of his had been unduly severe. In the literature of the period it is noticeable that those who knew him most intimately are warmest in their assessment of his qualities.

He stands, therefore, as one of the most kingly and authoritative personages of a very notable time; yet it is not on this account that he best deserves to be remembered. Travellers among the high altitudes declare that, in huge masses of glassy ice, they sometimes see, in a perfect state of preservation, the bodies of those who lost their lives among the glaciers many years before. Coventry Patmore has embalmed in a melodious and noble poem the beautiful image of a perfect wife; and as a result, his limpid, chaste and rhythmical verse, delighting the minds of men for centuries to come, will always constitute itself his own most imposing and most enduring monument. In working for the immortality of a very lovely lady, he has, in the process, secured his own.

F W Boreham

Image: Coventry Patmore

22 July: Boreham on Matthew Prior

A Gem of Many Facets
Now that we come to think about it, yesterday was the birthday of Matthew Prior, but why mention it? Who, nowadays, reads anything that Prior wrote? Yet he lies at the feet of Spenser in Westminster Abbey. Dr. Johnson said of him that he was one of the few poets of his time in whose work a lady could delight; and, whilst his works lie unread on dusty shelves, we today exult in countless poems that could never have taken so musical and felicitous a form, and that in all probability would never have been written at all, but for the infective example of his charm and genius. Prior's work is largely concerned with men and things that now hold for us no vestige of interest—dead frogs that no longer twitch. But Prior's spirit and Prior's style have been caught and reproduced by poets whose names will be mentioned with reverence, and whose works will be quoted with delight, as long as the world shall stand. In commenting on the tuneful and easy lilt of the lighter poems of Cowper, Byron, Lowell, and Tom Hood, Thackeray declared that Prior deserved immortality for having taught these singers to do such work with grace and dignity.

An exquisite, though unconscious tribute to the value and permanence of Prior's influence is embalmed in those affecting and classical pages in which Lockhart describes the last days of Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter and his biographer were taking a short stroll, the sick man leaning heavily on Lockhart's shoulder. As they made their way up the hill, they met two crippled soldiers—men who had fought under the great Duke. Sir Walter instantly drew out his purse and lavished his generous bounty on the maimed veterans. One of them recognised him, thanked him by name and went off murmuring a fervent: "God bless you." Bowed on his staff, Sir Walter followed them with his eye till they were out of sight, and then, turning to Lockhart, recited without the slightest break or hesitation, Prior's poem beginning: "Whate'er thy countrymen have done by law and wit, by sword and gun . . ." The verses not only hit off to perfection the immediate situation, but betrayed the extent to which Sir Walter Scott had saturated his mind in the work of that obscure predecessor of his to whom, although dying fifty years before he himself was born, he had so frequently and so generously expressed his obligations.

Potboy, Plenipotentiary, and Poet
Prior's pilgrimage to fame was made along a thorny path. In the 17th Century there was no way by which even the most brilliant versifier could earn his living by his pen. Prior's uncle kept a tavern at Westminster, and engaged Matthew, not only to serve behind the bar, but to make himself generally useful about the place. He did the work for which he was paid, and did it to his uncle's complete satisfaction; but his golden hours were those in which, escaping for a while from his menial duties, he could study the works of Ovid and Horace.

Fortunately for Prior, one or two of the masters of Westminster School were numbered among his uncle's patrons at the tavern. Recognising the boy's extraordinary talent, these gentlemen used their influence to obtain for him the priceless advantage of a university education. But even this boon, gladly as he welcomed it, brought Matthew no nearer to the goal of which he so fondly dreamed. Instead of being a potboy, he became a plenipotentiary. The one was as remote from the realisation of his aspirations as the other; he felt that he could never be satisfied until the world had acclaimed him as a poet. He became Secretary of State for Ireland, Ambassador to the French Court, Commissioner of Trades and Plantations, and the like, and, in each position, he excelled. Indeed, in drafting one of the most delicate and momentous agreements ever negotiated between England and France, one of her statesmen bluntly told Queen Anne that the discussion was foredoomed to failure unless Matthew Prior were invited to a seat at the council table.

Loved Alike By Princes And People
In spite of his triumphs in the halls of diplomacy, however, Prior was secretly eating out his heart. He would infinitely rather write a sheaf of poems that would be read by plough boys and servant girls than cover himself with glory at European Courts. To his chagrin and dismay, he found that the very efficiency with which he discharged the onerous responsibilities of his exalted offices, only strengthened the shackles that bound him to them. In his heart of hearts, he rebelled against the drudgery of it all; he hated the sight of the very parchments that enhanced his renown; he pined, like a caged bird, for some avenue of escape. What he might have achieved had he been free to woo the muse at leisure no man can say. We must be thankful that, in circumstances so unpropitious, he wove so fair a garland.

His tomb in Poets' Corner is adorned by the bust, executed by Coysevox, which was presented to Prior as a token of the esteem of Louis the Thirteenth. That marble says something for the magnanimity of France's monarch, since some of Prior's most audacious witticisms were perpetrated at His Majesty's expense. Louis seems to have relished rather then resented Prior's clever thrusts, for to no other Englishmam did he extend such cordial welcomes or such lavish hospitalities. In the end Prior not only attained a position of such regal authority that kings and statesmen deferred to his counsel, but in addition, won for himself in fullest measure the laurels on which his youthful eyes were so covetously cast. The ornate tomb in Poets' Corner conjures up the vision of the spare, frail, solemn-visaged man, perpetually coughing, who walked up and down the park seeking at one and the same time for poetic inspiration and for physical health; and every such vision compels us to thank him across two and a half centuries for having introduced into our English poetry a sparkle, a vivacity, and a sprightliness that until his day, it never knew.

F W Boreham

Image: Matthew Prior

21 July: Boreham on Robert Burns

The Soul of Scotland
A pensive mood will overtake every Scotsman today. It was on 21 July that Robert Burns passed from us. Since the world began no nation has ever become articulate in a single poet to anything like the degree in which Scotland has become articulate in Burns. Shakespeare is English, but not exclusively English; Moore is Irish, but not exclusively Irish; Dante is Italian but not exclusively Italian; but Burns is of the very stuff of Scotland. The fragrance of the heather is on every line that he penned.

He was, above everything else, a prophet of patriotism. He describes himself as "a Scottish bard, proud of the name, whose highest ambition is to sing in his country's service." He was only 25 when it occurred to him that he might become the laureate of Scotland.

E'en then a wish, I mind its power,
A wish that, to my latest hour,
strongly heave my breast—
That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
Some useful
plan or beuk could make
Or sing a sang at least.

All the world loves a lover, whatever may be the object that excite his passion. Burns was a lover par excellence. He loved men; he loved women; he loved horses; he loved dogs; he loved the world in which he lived; and, most devotedly, he loved Scotland. That sums up everything.

No stranger who watched him as his horny hand drove the quill across those prentice pages would have suspected him of having come straight from the plough. His frame, well-knit and of medium height, so far from having about it any trace of awkwardness or clumsiness, was borne with a certain indefinable stateliness and grace. He wore a plain but becoming suit of hodden grey. The most arresting features in his personal appearance were his shock of raven-black hair and his large dark eyes—the eyes that Sir Walter Scott declared to be the most glorious imaginable.

The Creation Of A National Sentiment
When the young ploughman-poet first set pen to paper, he had but 12 years in which to realise his proud ambition, for he died at 37. That he did realise it, nobody can doubt. He struck his lyre at a moment when the national spirit of his "poor auld Scotland" was at its lowest ebb. The romance of Scottish history seemed dead; the glory had departed. The Scottish people who remained in Scotland had ceased to feel an ardent pride in the land of their birth, while those who crossed the border and settled in other lands did all that was possible to conceal their nationality. As a mere youth, Burns deplored this lamentable tendency and blushed for it. In 12 short years he changed the national temper, lifted the Scottish tradition to the loftiest levels of romance, made every Scotsman proud of his native land, and gave a new impetus to patriotism throughout the whole empire.

Principal Shairp declares that if, today, Scotsmen love and cherish their country with a pride unknown to their ancestors of the 18th century, if strangers of all countries look on Scotland as a land of romance, this condition of affairs is due entirely to Robert Burns who first turned the tide of feeling, leaving it to Sir Walter Scott to carry it to full flood.

This brings into juxtaposition the two resounding names, Burns and Scott! The two need not be compared. A vast amount of time and energy has already been squandered on the ludicrous attempt. But beyond the shadow of a doubt, Burns created the atmosphere that made possible the work of his illustrious successor. Burns had been nine years in his grave before Sir Walter's first folios were given to the world.

Tardy Recognition Of Tremendous Obligation
One hates to reflect that, after having compassed an achievement of first-class national importance, Burns passed away amid every circumstance of poverty. Allan Cunningham tells us that, when the people heard that the poet was dying, everything else was forgotten. Knots of sorrow-stricken admirers gathered at every street-corner to gossip about his history, his person, his works, and the bitter loss that they were so soon to sustain. Principal Shairp significantly adds that, during those days of terrible suspense, and in the course of the universal lamentation and the imposing public funeral which followed, a certain poignant sense of self-reproach mingled with the general grief as men asked themselves whether they might not have done more to cherish and prolong that rarely gifted life.

There is one phase of the life of Robert Burns to which justice has never been done. We catch a glimpse of it in the memoirs edited by James Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, and William Motherwell. In the course of a journey, Burns and a friend were sharing a room for the night. The friend, retiring early, pretended to be asleep when Burns at length entered the apartment. With half-closed eyes he watched the poet. He saw him move restlessly about the room for a little, and then throw himself on his knees with his face leaning on his arms, which were across a chair. In this position he began to pray audibly, and by degrees became so fervid in his appeals for mercy and forgiveness that his friend crept out of bed and knelt down beside him. But Burns neither heard nor saw and continued his own devotions. "No man," said his friend afterwards, "could have prayed with such obvious passion and sincere contrition unless prayer had been a regular habit with him." When at last Burns stopped and looked about, and found his friend on his knees at his side, he shook his head and seemed displeased at having been observed and overheard.

In this atmosphere we take leave of him. Ever since his bones were laid to rest a century and a half ago, men have vaguely felt that something was owing to his memory. And every man who turns aside from the rush and bustle of life to pay some modest tribute to the lustre of his name makes his personal contribution to the discharge of that formidable debt.

F W Boreham

Image: Robbie Burns

20 July: Boreham on Sam Weller

The Best of the Bunch
It was July 20, 1836, that Sam Weller first made his appearance. In the judgment of most of those who smilingly and appreciatively survey the Dickens gallery, Sam Weller has taken his place as the best of the bunch. A recent plebiscite decided on Sam Weller, and those who voted for him have, by way of vindication, the judgment of John Forster, the biographer of Dickens. Forster admits that Mr. Pickwick comes a very close second but, he avers, Sam Weller takes the palm. His place is, Forster maintains, an absolutely pre-eminent and unrivalled one. Sam, he holds, is one of the supreme successes of the world's fiction, a character whom nobody ever saw yet everybody recognises at once perfectly natural and perfectly original.

It is eminently characteristic of Samuel Weller that he is in no hurry to put in an appearance. We have to turn more than a hundred pages of "Pickwick Papers" before we come upon him. There is nothing aggressive, nothing self-assertive, nothing unduly emphatic, nothing objectionably pushing about Sam. He does not burst upon us, turning a somersault like a clown at a circus. He is modest; knows his place and keeps it; does nothing to draw attention to himself. We are well into the tenth chapter of the famous novel before we make Sam's acquaintance. Even then there is no word to suggest that he is likely to become the most outstanding and memorable character in the entire volume.

A Cheerful, Witty Philosopher
We are at the White Hart Inn in the Borough. In the yard a man is busily employed brushing the dirt off a pair of boots. He is habited in a coarse striped waistcoat, with black calico sleeves and blue glass buttons, drab breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief is wound in a loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat is carelessly thrown on one side of his head. "Sam!" cries the maid-of-all-work. "Hullo!" replies the man with the white hat. "Number 22 wants his boots," explains the maid. "Ask number 22 whether he'll have 'em now or wait till he gets 'em!" answers Sam. With that introductory and characteristic speech Sam Weller inaugurates the career that has caused millions of readers sometimes to rock with merriment and sometimes to brush the moisture from their eyes.

As though he is still shrinking from prominence, we turn another hundred pages before Sam enters Mr. Pickwick's service and takes that place in literature from which he can never be expelled. He is still wearing the white hat that figured in the inn yard. "'Taint a werry good 'un to look at," he admits to his new master, and to the assembled Pickwickians, "but it's an astonishin' 'un to wear, and, afore the brim went, it was a werry handsome tile. Hows'ever, its lighter without it, that's one thing, and every hole lets in some air, that's another—wentilation gossamer, I calls it." Mr. Pickwick evidently felt that the company of so cheerful a philosopher would materially heighten the gaiety of existence, and he straightway bound him to his service at a salary of £12 a year, his keep and a new suit of clothes every six months.

When Master Obeys Servant
Sam was essentially "a character" but he has his serious side. He provokes gravity as well as gaiety, tears as well as smiles. Again and again his commonsense and quick wit save his master in situations of delicacy and of danger. Sam often commands while Mr. Pickwick obeys. He provides, indeed, a striking illustration of the fact that the voices that are most authoritative and most imperious, frequently come to us not from courts but from kitchens. Who does not remember the satisfying proportions of Richard Jefferies' Gamekeeper? Our prince of naturalists sketches him as he accompanies his master about the great estate. He is only a servant and his master is a lord. And yet "when a trusted servant like this accompanies his master, often in solitary rambles for hours together, dignity must unbend now and then, however great the social difference between them; and thus a man of strong individuality and a really valuable gift of observation insensibly guides his master." And so it comes to pass that the old gamekeeper rules the estate like a lord, and his master does the gamekeeper's will like a slave. Sir Walter Scott too, has accustomed us to the laird who lived in mortal terror of offending his old serving-man.

Sam was never a tyrant, but he kept a firm hand on his master, and Mr. Pickwick recognised his indebtedness to him. The two remain together to the end. "Every year"—so runs, the last sentence in the book—"Mr. Pickwick repairs to a large family merrymaking at Mr. Wardle's. On this, as on all other occasions, he is invariably attended by the faithful Sam, between whom and his master there exists a steady and reciprocal attachment which nothing but death will terminate." The world will be a poor place when Sam Weller makes no appeal to it. When we lose our relish for his native fun and irrepressible good spirits, his rich and ready illustration and his imperturbable self-possession; when we no longer appreciate his devotion to his master, his fine chivalry and his perfect gallantry; when we cease to admire these things and cease to believe that they exist in those about us, it will, as Forster suggests, be worse for us than for the fame of Charles Dickens. When that day comes, the works of Dickens will no longer be read and the essential spirit of the British people will have perished. But those who love Sam Weller, as Sam Weller has been loved for more than a century, will never bring themselves to believe that so dark a day will ever dawn.

F W Boreham

Image: Sam Weller

19 July: Boreham on Thomas Chalmers

A Maker of Men
The nineteenth of July! It was on the nineteenth of July that Thomas Chalmers and Queen Victoria met. He was the most commanding figure in the country—massive, mountainous and altogether majestic. She was a girl in her teens, having mounted the throne only a few days earlier. The great man was deeply moved by her girlish shyness. She was, he says, timid, tremulous and agitated, but he hastens to add that, infected by her modesty and embarassment, he himself left the royal apartment still nervously clutching the address that he had come from Scotland to present to her young majesty. Chalmers, according to Lord Rosebery, left a deeper impression on Scottish life than any man of his time. The fact that men of the stature of J. G. Lockhart, Thomas Carlyle, and W. E. Gladstone felt, in the presence of Thomas Chalmers, like schoolboys in the presence of a headmaster, sufficiently demonstrates the intellectual and moral grandeur of the man. These three were sympathisers and admirers; but men like Hazlitt, Jeffrey, Canning, and John Stuart Mill, surveying the scene with less impassioned and more critical eyes, were scarcely less impressed.

Canning was considered the most brilliant and most fastidious orator of the day; but when he listened to the rugged eloquence of Chalmers, he shook his head despairingly. "The tartan beats us all!" he exclaimed. Gladstone heard Chalmers at Oxford. The future Prime Minister, who had just come of age, listened spell-bound. He determined to cultivate the great man's intimate acquaintance, and, on being invited to breakfast, was positively embarrassed by the excessive modesty of his host. Gladstone was in his twenties; Chalmers in his fifties. Yet, Gladstone avers, the modesty of the elder man was so oppressive that it was impossible for his juniors to attune themselves to his transcendent superiority. He behaved to them as they expected to find themselves behaving to him. To the last day of his long life, Gladstone loved to salute the memory of Chalmers as one of the most formative influences in his own manhood.

Two Hemispheres Into One Globe
Born on St. Patrick's Day, 1780, Chalmers was in a desperate hurry to get going. The sixth of 14 children, favoured with no particular advantages, he matriculated at 12, became a divinity student at 15, and, at 19 received his preacher's licence. He settled at Kilmany in Fifeshire; and then his trouble began. For the story of Chalmers is the most intriguing record in our annals of the way in which the ethical and evangelical elements may be blended in the work of a great teacher. Chalmers began by stressing the ethical only. His people at Kilmany—folk of the flock and the field, men of the plough and the pasture—were very fond of their young minister and very proud of him. But why, they wondered, did he fulminate, Sabbath after Sabbath, on the heinous wickedness of theft, murder and adultery? Why did he constantly address them in a strain that implied that they ought all to be in gaol?

Then, after eight years at Kilmany, Chalmers became the victim of a serious illness. In the solitude of his room he saw the absurdity of his past behaviour. He passed through a profound spiritual crisis. The very fabric of his sturdy manhood was softened and sweetened and strengthened. Returning to his pulpit he blended the evangelical with the ethical and was amazed to find that his transformed ministry precipitated the results for which he had earlier struggled in vain. Four years later he was called to Glasgow, and, at Glasgow, he exercised an intensely evangelical ministry with a superbly ethical application and sweep. His work for the submerged masses in the slums of Glasgow is still cited as one of the highlights of the city's history.

Flinging Fragrance Across The World
The impact of Chalmers upon Glasgow awoke the enthusiasm of Carlyle. "I rejoice," wrote the sage, "that you, with your generous, hopeful heart, believe that there still exists in the churches enough of divine fire to awaken the supine rich and the degraded poor, and to act victoriously against such a mass of pressing and accumulating ills. With a Chalmers in every British parish, much might be possible." He continued his triumphant ministry until he felt it incumbent upon him to take a step that startled everybody. At the height of his resounding fame, he relinquished his great public work and plunged into the seclusion of a university professorship. He was 43 at the time and had the world at his feet. But, 30 years earlier, Carey had challenged the church to the conquest of the world, and Chalmers felt that Carey was right. He conceived the idea that the best way of realising Carey's dream was by firing the imagination of Scotland's most brilliant graduates. In his classroom he soon awoke the enthusiasm of men like Duff and Nesbitt, Mackay and Ewart—all now numbered among the immortals—and, within a few years, the students of Chalmers were bearing the torch to all earth's continents and islands.

The beauty of his death matched the nobility of his life. It was a Sunday evening. He, now 67, had remained at home, spending the twilight hours with his grandchildren. Immediately after prayers, he withdrew, smiling and waving his hand to them all. When they called him in the morning, there was no response. To this day, his lovely resting place in the Grange cemetery at Edinburgh is reverently visited by thousands of pilgrims who recognise the immensity of the debt that humanity owes him.

F W Boreham

Image: Thomas Chalmers

18 July: Boreham on William Thackeray

Genius and Generosity
This is Thackeray's birthday. A burly giant three inches over six feet, with a soul to match his massive body, the great man looms engagingly, if a trifle ponderously, against our literary skyline.

Born in India in 1811, his infancy was dominated by the excitements of Waterloo, and when, on his way to England in 1817, the ship called at St. Helena, the impressionable young six-year-old wondered if it would be possible to catch a glimpse of Napoleon. "Well," exclaimed a coloured servant, "he eats a sheep a day and as many children as he can catch; but if young master wants to see him, we'll manage it!" Is it any wonder that, after this, Waterloo and Napoleon figure so conspicuously in the Thackeray novels?

It took Thackeray many years to realise that literature was his life work. Able at a moment's notice to sing a good song or limn a clever cartoon, he started uncertainly upon his career, groping his way blindly among the intricate byways of London life.

Dickens and Thackeray were born within six months of each other. It was a case of the hare and the tortoise. Dickens shot away to a lightning start. Thackeray sought the privilege of designing the illustrations for "Pickwick Papers," but was rejected. Dickens had published "Pickwick," "Nicholas Nickleby," "The Old Curiosity Shop," "Barnaby Rudge," "Martin Chuzzlewit," and the "Christmas Stories" before, in giving "Vanity Fair" to the world, Thackeray, announced the advent of another first-class English novelist.

Making Up For Lost Time
Thackeray was 41 when, in 1852 he published "Henry Esmond." Dickens followed his earlier triumphs with "Bleak House." As soon as the public had devoured the two books, the star of Dickens was pronounced to be waning, whilst that of Thackeray was in the ascendant.

In "Bleak House," Dickens gave the first signs of fatigue. In "Henry Esmond," on the other hand, Thackeray rose to his full stature. He surpassed himself. It is easily his best work, and has rightly taken its place as one of the greatest novels in the language.

Although Thackeray lacks that elusive and magnetic quality possessed by Johnson, Lamb, Burns, Byron, and Stevenson, a quality that infects us with an insatiable hunger for every trivial detail in our author's life, he was, nevertheless, an attractive and lovable figure. Generous to a fault, and capable of the most splendid self-sacrifice, he had an uncanny knack of seeing the right thing to say or to do, and of saying and doing it with a bluff but delightful chivalry.

Nothing pleased him more than the sheepish gratitude of a schoolboy to whom he had given a sovereign, or the light in the eyes of a girl to whom he had handed a pair of gloves. Or being met in the street and told by a mutual friend of a struggling scribbler who was in desperate straits far the lack of £2,000, Thackeray promised half that sum on the spot. Everybody who knew him was intensely fond of him, and, to the last, little children revelled in his society. It was said at the time that his death, on December 24, 1863, cast a dark shadow over every Christmas party in England.

Enriched By Grief He Radiate
His masculine and masterful spirit was softened and sweetened by sorrow. On attaining his majority he had inherited a handsome fortune and lost it all. It was the best thing that could have happened to him, he used to say with a smile, for, if he had retained the money, he would never have done a stroke of work. Later on, his young wife lost her reason and was for 50 years under guard. But he bore this heavier grief as bravely as he had borne the earlier one. "My marriage is a wreck," he wrote, "but if life were repeated, I would do the same again, for love is the completion and the crown of all earthly good." Amidst the bludgeoning of circumstance, his head was bloody but unbowed.

He was only 52 when, very suddenly, he died in his sleep. "Poor Thackeray!" wrote Carlyle, with the Christmas bells ringing in his ears, "I saw him not 10 days ago. I was riding, heavy of heart, when some human brother, from a chariot with a young lady in it threw me a shower of salutations. I looked up; it was Thackeray with his daughter; the last time I was to see him in this world. A monstrous giant of a man, he was huge of soul, incapable of guile or malice, with a beautiful vein of genius struggling within him."

Thackeray admired Dickens and loved him. "Why don't you write books like those of Mr. Dickens," his daughter asked him. "I only wish I could!" replied her father, with a shrug of his huge shoulders. The two men met on the steps of the Athenaeum Club a day or two before that fatal Christmas. They passed each other with a nod. After they had each gone a few yards, Thackeray hurried back, overtook his friend and greeted him with heartfelt cordiality. A few days later Dickens recalled the incident with moist eyes.

Trollope thought Thackeray the greatest of the Victorian novelists. That, of course, is a matter of taste, but he certainly stands as one of the really Homeric figures of that singularly wealthy age.

F W Boreham

Image: William Thackeray

17 July: Boreham on Isaac Watts

Father of English Hymnody
On the seventeenth of July 1674 there was born at Southhampton one of the most extraordinary figures that ever adorned English life and English literature. The anniversary of that event is worth commemorating. As Dr. Isaac Watts neared his end, it occurred to the Right Hon. Arthur Onslow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, that he had never made it his business to meet a person with whose high repute everybody was familiar. He therefore resolved, before it was too late, to repair the omission. When the door of Dr Watts' room was thrown open, Mr. Onslow beheld a strange spectacle. For there, not in bed but hunched up in his big study chair, sat a tiny, bony, pinch-faced wisp of humanity, almost hidden in the ample folds of a gaily flowered dressing-gown and looking for all the world like a little wizened Chinese mandarin. As his visitor entered, the shrivelled and dwarfish creature looked up and smiled, not unpleasantly; and, although his voice was a trifle squeaky, the general impression was a distinctly agreeable one. This, if you please, was the poet whose stanzas are destined to be sung always.

To his lifelong chagrin, he was pitifully small. He loathed the sight of his diminutive figure whenever he glimpsed it in a mirror. Nothing stung him more than to hear himself referred to as "little Dr. Watts." He fairly squirmed. It was in self-defence that he sang—

Were I so tall to reach the Pole,
Or grasp the ocean in my
I must be measured by my soul,
The mind's the standard of the man.

The torture of his physical insignificance frayed his nerves. It wove itself into his dreams. And in times of serious sickness his delirium turned the horror topsy-turvy. He raved of his colossal proportions. He was too big to pass through a doorway! He could not squeeze himself into his pulpit! The chairs crumpled like match-wood under him whenever he sat down. His fevered brain had converted the pigmy into a giant!

The Genius That Set Ordinary Speech To Music
And, in some respects, a giant he was. "He stands absolutely alone," says Thomas Wright. "He has no peer; he is the greatest of the great. If nothing from his pen has attained to the popularity of Toplady's 'Rock of Ages,' or is quite so affecting as Cowper's 'God Moves in a Mysterious Way'; if he lacks the mellifluence of Charles Wesley or the equipoise of John Newton, the fact remains that he has written a larger number of hymns of the first rank than any other hymnist."

He was literally a born poet. Even as a small boy there were times when he could not express himself other than in verse. His father—a stern and puritanical soul who had endured several terms of imprisonment for conscience sake—looked askance on this propensity in his boy. But Isaac could not repress it. On one occasion the household was engaged in family worship. A mouse scampered across the floor and ran up the bellrope. Isaac burst into laughter. Prayers over, the father demanded an explanation. Isaac instantly exclaimed—

There was a mouse, for want of stairs,
Ran up a rope to say his prayers.

This was piling crime on crime. The father seized his rod and ordered Isaac to follow him out of the room. The boy threw himself on his knees. "O father," he cried:

O father, father, pity take
And I will no more verses make!

His mother, more sympathetic, once offered a farthing to the boy who should write the best verses. Isaac entered for the prize but attached to his manuscript—

I write not for a farthing, but to try
How I your farthing writers can outvie.

At the age of 21 he accompanied his father to a church service at Southampton. In discussing the experience on the way home, Isaac remarked that he had examined the hymn book and found it extremely disappointing; the hymns were utterly destitute of dignity and beauty. The father, who had by this time come to realise that his son's poetic impulses were incapable of restraint, advised him to write something better himself. And, that very afternoon, Isaac set to work.

A Singer Whose Voice Steadily Grows In Volume
No hymns have been more universal or more persistent in their appeal than those of Dr. Watts; they have been translated into countless languages. Novelists are generally supposed to portray the deeper instincts and impulses of human life, and, that being so, it is significant that men like Arnold Bennett and women like L. T. Meade have woven great works of fiction around one of Isaac Watts' best known hymns. Nor can we forget that Matthew Arnold, an hour or two before he so suddenly died, joined with a congregation at Liverpool in singing Dr. Watts' "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." A servant heard him crooning the words to himself as he went down to dinner. "Ah, yes," he remarked at table, "the Cross still stands, and, in the straits of the soul, makes its ancient appeal!" He hurried out to catch a tram, collapsed of heart failure, and was gone!

Isaac Watts was a choice spirit. Blaming his petite stature for his rejection at the hands of the beautiful blue-eyed and auburn-haired Elizabeth Singer, he remained a bachelor to the end. The finest testimony to the sweetness and charm of his disposition is found in the fact that, in 1714, he went to spend a week with Sir Thomas and Lady Abney. The visit extended until he died in 1748, and Lady Abney said that he became more honoured and beloved of the household with every day that passed. A monument marks his resting-place at Bunhill Fields; another is to be found in Westminster Abbey. Other statues stand at Southampton and elsewhere. But his most fitting memorial is the stained-glass window at Freeby in Leicestershire which represents him as still surveying the Cross—that wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died—around which all his minstrelsy had moved.

F W Boreham

Image: Isaac Watts

16 July: Boreham on Rudyard Kipling

The Romance of a Poem
We mark today, the anniversary of the birth of one of the most famous songs in the language—The Recessional. In an extraordinary degree, the career of Rudyard Kipling was dominated by his relatives. When, as a youngster, he was brought from Bombay, his birthplace, to England, nothing impressed him more than the multiplicity and variety of these connections of his. They seemed to be of all sorts and sizes, and, on the whole, he was not at all sure that he liked the breed. The trouble began, some years earlier, with a picnic on the beautiful banks of Rudyard Lake, near Burslem. There, amidst the frolics of the day, Alice Macdonald, the witty and pretty daughter of a Methodist minister, met Jack Kipling, on leave from India. Jack took the lovely Alice back to India with him, and, when their boy was born, nothing would do but that he must be named after the scene of the fateful picnic.

Impatient to show their treasure to their friends, they seized the first opportunity of a trip to the Homeland. Unhappily, Rudyard met all his relatives at once, a nerve-racking ordeal for any boy. A family reunion was arranged at Bewdley, a charming spot in the Severn Valley. Tired of being displayed like a waxworks exhibit, Rudyard sauntered off to explore by himself the stately old English home. Pitying his loneliness, a housemaid took him in hand, explaining to him the character of the various apartments. The small boy listened in silence and then, the tour of inspection completed, he rushed to his mother in the drawing room, exclaiming in fierce indignation: "Mummy, what do you think? They've tooken the very best bedroom in the house for themselves!" Relatives, he angrily concluded, were like that.

Bane And Boon Of Domesticity
Among the kinsfolk of about his own age, there was one young scallywag who got poor Rudyard into tons of trouble. This was cousin Stanley, the son of Uncle Alf Baldwin. The boy was destined to become Prime Minister and to negotiate the abdication of an English king; but at that stage he seemed to be heading straight for a felon's cell and a hangman's rope. Kipling used to say that whenever, as a boy, he was in serious trouble, it was always Stanley who had landed him in the ugly quandary. In due course, Kipling married Carrie Balestier, a charming American girl, and settled in the United States; but his English misfortunes still pursued him; his new relatives were even more troublesome than his earlier ones. His union with Carrie was an ideally happy one; but Carrie had a younger brother, Beatty Balestier, who, during Kipling's residence in America, nearly drove him to distraction. Sick to death of the everlasting squabble, Rudyard and Carrie left America and settled in England.

If, however, Rudyard's relatives sometimes occasioned him sleepless nights, they more than once rendered him valuable service. It is to them that we owe the most familiar, most majestic and most cherished of all Kipling's poems. The incident occurred just after Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897. Kipling was living in his beautiful home at Rottingdean. Sallie Norton, an American girl, the daughter of C. E. Norton, the renowned Dante scholar, was staying with him. With an hour to spare one morning, Kipling was amusing himself clearing up the litter of papers on his desk. Most of them went into the wastepaper basket. Suddenly, he came upon the rough draft of a poem entitled "After." It consisted of seven stanzas of four lines each, beginning:

God of our fathers, known of old
Lord of our farflung battleline,
Whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine.

Kipling's hand moved towards the basket. Sallie asked permission to see the poem. "You mustn't destroy this," she exclaimed, "it must be published!" Kipling shook his head negatively but Sallie insisted; and eventually they decided to submit the matter to arbitration.

A Treasure Presented To The Nation
Aunt Georgie, Lady Burne-Jones—the wife of the illustrious painter and the sister of Kipling's mother—was of that particular house party, and Kipling had implicit confidence in her literary judgment. Aunt Georgie was all for Sallie. Kipling insisted on deleting and destroying two of the seven verses, and, at Sallie's suggestion, added to all five verses the refrain:

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

On the manuscript, now in the British Museum, the addition is marked in Kipling's hand: "Written with Sallie's pen. R.K." and the entire poem is signed: "Done in council, July 16. Aunt Georgie, Sallie, Carrie, and me."

Kipling then wrote out a fresh copy, giving it the new title, "The Recessional," and posted it to the editor of "The Times." "Enclosed please find my sentiments on things, which I hope are yours," he wrote in the covering letter. "If you would like it; it is at your service. The sooner it is in print the better. Couldn't you run it tonight so as to end the week piously?" The letter was posted on the Friday morning and the poem appeared in "The Times" on the Saturday. Asked to name his own price for it, Kipling declined to accept any payment, and insisted that the verses should be subject to no copyright restrictions. He ordained that anybody who cared to do so should have the right to copy it. The original manuscript, thoughtfully returned to him by the proprietors of "The Times," he gave to Sallie, in recognition of her gallantry in saving it from destruction and insisting on its publication. She proudly kept the document for some years and then asked the Prime Minister, Lord Baldwin—the incorrigible Cousin Stanley of earlier days—to present it to the British Museum.

F W Boreham

Image: Rudyard Kipling