[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
THAT our friend had a wholesome vein of humour and an ever ready fund of choice repartee, like those often displayed by her hero, Rob Roy Macgregor, is apparent by her apt classical reference when picturing in her letter to Mrs. Weatherell the condescending, half-grudging, yet gratified smile of her sedate man-servant, Kelly, on being complimented on his "varied and versatile talents."
This graceful liveliness in one who had grieved so much was like the outbreak of sunshine amid darkness and storm, all the more beautiful and welcome because unexpected, and by reason of contrasting light and shade, brilliancy and gloom.
These gleams and quiet sallies of fun were very frequent, but the writer in after years remembers on one occasion a ready retort, which especially fastened itself on her recollection. Mrs. Elliott was told of a certain gentleman who in ignorance spoke somewhat slightingly of a lady of her acquaintance, asking in a supercilious sort of way, "pray who is Miss ?"
The lady in question being a person of undoubted consideration, and proud of her standing and antecedents, Mrs. Elliott, highly amused, replied, with a rare smile upon her lips, and suiting the action to the words exactly as Miss herself would have done in more mundane language, had she been confronted with the electrifying question
"Know ye not me?
Ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar:
Not to know me argues yourself unknown.
And the manner and the tone in which she spoke the lines were inimitable, and as if taking in the whole position of the question with unerring accuracy and keen relish of comprehension.
Her. range of literature was extraordinary, quotations from authors of strangely divers orders fell from her lips almost insensibly; and it was well nigh impossible to allude to any writer of note, sacred or profane, but what she was thoroughly up in his works, and able to expatiate on his style and general characteristics. To attain to this profuse as well as profound knowledge it was necessary for her to spend much of her sleeping hours, even into early morning, poring over books. Her thirst for reading, along with the bitter tears she had shed, tended to affect her sight very considerably, and often caused her husband to implore of er to desist from this unnatural practice of night-study; more especially now that her body was so weakened by crow and recent illness not to speak of the hard usage had to undergo from long abstinence from food when ting among the poor, and often from voluntary fasting, ;for, without doubt, she fasted as a means of bringing her dy in subjection to the spirit. Of this perhaps more anon. In the meantime we must regard her as evidencing by the grace of God a marvellous mastery over personal afflition, and resolving to give herself up if possible more unreservedly than ever to the service of the King, glorying in her trials if by them she could honour Him the more.
Amongst the books she carefully read and considered about the period that she was, so to speak, recovering from her repeated blows of grief, was Newman's " Apologia Pro Vita Sum,
Writing to Mrs. Weatherell she says: " This morning in reading some pages of Newman's curious Apologia, I felt inclined to read aloud to Robert (as when he was here) some passages, but no speaking-trumpet could convey the words so far over sea and land."
Curious indeed must this work have appeared to her whose theological views were so distinct and well formulated in their clear utterance and expression of Truth. She could not have regarded it as anything else than a display of misguided intelligence and erratic imagination. Yet that she could admire the genius of the author, at the same time that she sadly smiled at his audacious whimsicality of sentiment and declaration, is without doubt. Prone rather to pity than censure, many a prayer would she offer during the perusal of the volume for the genius that was too evidently doomed to singe its wings and destroy its true spiritual usefulness in the idolatrous flame of its own kindling.
Her knowledge of Scripture was so profound and extensive that she may be almost said to have known it, chapter and verse throughout, by heart; and did she hear a sermon faulty in doctrine or in spiritual tendency, she was miserable, and could not rest until she had pointed out the error to the preacher, however painful the effort to do so might be. It was laid upon her conscience, and she must speak. Life or death might depend upon the utterance. The Rev. A. Hoskins, Vicar of St. James's, Cheltenham, her old friend of bygone days, writes: "She was a woman of unusual intellectual power, of much reading, of clearest theological views and those well established, and above all of sincere and exalted piety; and though not censorious, yet as a candid friend, would deal with the erring one."
Writing of her remarkable acquaintance with Scripture, one is also reminded of her equally accurate knowledge of the "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Holy War": the first of these she could recollect almost word for word. A biography amongst a multitude of others, of which in later years she used to speak a great deal, was the " Life of James Hinton," in which altruism is the prevailing theme. The following extract from this work she would repeat, as if it were burnt into her heart as well as stamped upon her memory. "We see that if He sends us sorrows and difficulties, He only sends them because they are the true blessings, the things that are truly good, what He Himself took when He too was a man amongst us. He would have us like Himself with a happiness like His own, nothing below it, and so, as His own happiness is in sorrow and infirmity, and ever assisting and giving, and sacrificing Himself, He gives us sorrows too, which are not the ills we should think them, but are what we should be most happy in, if we were perfect, and had knowledge like Him. So there is a use and service in all which we bear in all we do, which we do not know but which He knows, and which in Christ He shows to us."
" In Memoriam," since she had passed through yet deeper waters of sorrow, ryas more than ever a text-book of her heart's most sacred feelings. How tenderly she would repeat those lines descriptive of Mary, the sister of Lazar as, in the presence of Jesus, after His raising of her brother from the dead :
" Her eyes were homes of silent prayer, Nor other thought her mind admits But, he was dead, and there he sits, And he that brought him back is there. Then one deep love doth supersede All other, when her ardent gaze Roves from the loving brother's face, And rests upon the Life indeed.
All subtle thought, all curious fears, Borne down by gladness so complete, She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet With costly spikenard and with tears. Thrice blest whose lives are faithful prayers, Whose loves in higher love endure ; What souls possess themselves so pure, Or is their blessedness like theirs ? "
We think we see her as, in after years, she used to murmur these lines half to herself and half to her hearer, her gaze meanwhile penetrating, as it were, a far off and holy region of thought and sight only discernible by herself.
Of missionary records, the lives of the heroes of the Gospel in distant uncivilised lands, the Life of Moffat held a foremost place in her estimation. Her love and admiration for him were unbounded; and were intensified from the fact that he was personally acquainted with Mrs. Deeping, an aunt of Mrs. Robert Weatherell's ; and from Mrs. Deeping she heard reminiscences of his life related by himself that drew him the closer to her heart.
Mrs. Deeping was a most holy woman, and an intimate friend of Mrs. Elliott's. She was a true missionary in spirit, and delighted in nothing more than opening her house and purse to the requirements of the soldiers of the cross. Moffat once stayed with her ; and it was for her album he composed, and with his own hand inscribed in it, the lines so often quoted since in missionary journals :
" My Album is the savage breast
Where darkness broods and tempests rest
Without one ray of light.
To write the name of Jesus there,
And point to worlds both bright and fair,
And see the savage bow in prayer,
Is my supreme delight."
The verses so delighted Mrs. Elliott that she never forgot them, and often referred to them.
When talking about her hero Moffat to her young nephews and nieces and others, she used to say. °` The young, grand man God's gentleman when only nineteen, left his post as gardener, and went forth to endure dreadful hardships among the Bechuanas for fifty years !"
And then, in her own graphic way, she would describe how he often had to tie a belt round his body to quell the pangs of hunger; and how the Bechuanas would roll upon the ground shrieking with laughter when he told them that God was love; their idea of love or anything nice being diseased meat.
Travel interested her intensely, and when reading the extraordinary adventures of Charles Waterton, she did not share the common belief that his accounts were for the most part over-coloured or altogether fabrications ; and that she was right, after confirmation of the narrator's statements very fully proved.
Prophecy, and conjointly with it astronomy, she studied largely, and conversed upon with her brother whenever they met.
Amongst prophetical works, she studied very closely, and with great delight, Elliott's "Horsae Apocalypticse." It was no doubt additionally attractive to her, being the production of one who was uncle to Sir Charles Elliott, the present Governor of Bengal, who married Louisa, one of the beautiful daughters of the late George William Dumbell, Esq. of Belmont, Douglas a family in whom Mrs. Elliott was always interested, on account of the affection she had had for their mother.
Amongst purely religious writings of the evangelical school, in addition to those of Neander and others already mentioned, our friend valued very highly the works of Pascal, M'Cheyne, Guthrie, Simeon of Cambridge, Chalmers, Monod, Adolphe Saphir, Punshon, Spurgeon, &c.
Amongst religious mystics, with whom she had a strong affinity, she delighted in Fënëlon, Madame Guyon, and others of the great Jansenist leaders and reformers of Roman Catholicism.
We remember with what intense interest she read the "History of Port Royal," by Mrs. Schimmelpenninck, in which the character of the Mëre Ångëlique is so ably depicted the young and beautiful abbess who, in her teens, set about the reformation of the great convent over which she presided, and brought all her family, the distinguished Arnaulds, under her powerful and regenerating influence.
Of philosophical writers she may have had her favourites, but of those who were not was Carlyle, to whom, or perhaps more particularly to his style, she had an unmeasured dislike.
" His style," said she, " is execrable; it reminds one of a heavy cart rumbling over a newly macadamised road/ " Style had an immense deal to do with her likes and dislikes of authors. It was no doubt the exquisite perfection of rhythm and polished refinement of diction generally that charmed her as much as anything in Tennyson. Any approach to incorrectness or uncouthness in speech or composition discomfited her almost visibly. Whereas a cultivated tone, harmony bf thought, and ease and grace of expression, as visibly enchanted her ear, put her at her ease, and met a response in her beaming countenance. In evidence of this, the Rev. E. W. Kissack, Rector of Ballaugh, Isle of Man, writes: " Mrs. Elliott was at Oxford during the great Oxford movement, and she has told me how she still remembered at St. Mary's the wonderful reading of the Scriptures by John Henry Newman, then Fellow of Oriel. She never, she said, could forget the power of his reading, and how it seemed to open out the Scriptures to her in a new light. The man's face and manner lingered in her memory like the effect of some great picture by a great master. He was a master of English, and knew how to render it; and in his own memory the echoes of the English Bible lingered like the sound of sweet bells of childhood to the end of his days."
The very soul of poetry herself, her knowledge of poets and their writings was such, that to measure it would be a puzzle as to where to begin and where to end.
Not to speak of Chaucer, Spenser, &c., of the remote English period she was perfectly familiar with the less noted celebrities of the Elizabethan age, Raleigh and others.
Then the great songsters of Latin and Greek antiquity,
she had a mind to appreciate, reading them of course in translations. Whereas with England's Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, and others that followed them down to modern times, she was unreservedly at home; and in each, at least with few exceptions, there were points at which mutual intelligence, fancy, or sentiment touched and were at one.
Herbert's quaint muse she loved; Moore's hymns, too, she was very fond of, especially the one beginning
"Thou art, O God, the life and light
Of all this wondrous world we see;
Its glow by day, its smile by night
Are but reflections caught from Thee.
Where'er we turn Thy glories shine,
And all things fair and bright are Thine."
Keble was at her fingers' ends; Scott was a joy and a day-dream to her; Byron she met on the descriptive ground, regarding his word painting of Nature as grand and true, and his Hebrew melodies in keeping with the sacred sublimity of his subject. Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett, and Felicia Hemans have already been noticed as especial favourites.
And as for the mighty geniuses who stand foremost on the poetical list of different climes, she trod with them the beauteous paths of fancy, and on the Olympian heights, feasted with them on the nectar of their glorious imagery, philosophic discernment, and exquisite diction; but wherein any failed in chastity of thought, truth, and reverence of feeling, she turned sorrowfully away, and could not participate in their glowing page. Not for her was the sweetest or noblest strain shorn of moral and spiritual significance and grace.
Though this omnivorous reader included amongst her literary bill of fare varied forms of fiction and secular products of many kinds, she had a habit both touching and beautiful, which she especially observed in the presence of
the young. It was to read, or cause to be read, a portion of the Divine Word before ever opening a secular volume emphasising by this practice the Scriptures, "The entrance of Thy word giveth light," and " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."