[From Letters of T. E. Brown, 1900]
CHRIST CHURCH, January 26, 1851.
This morning the sermon was preached by Jowett (not of South Quay 2 , but) of Balliol College. This man has the reputation of being an infidel, simply because he has a profound contempt for show, and humbug, and external rites. His sermon was beautiful, and seemed to me to indicate a heart sincerely interested in the subject. He is a pale, boyish, almost effeminate-looking man, something like little Deemster Drinkwater.
I needn't bother you with any maudlin laments about Little-go; Stokes, indeed, tells me that he can't imagine such a thing as my being plucked, but stranger things have happened ere now. . . . There was such a row and bustle upon leaving Hugh's, that I forgot my black top-coat, the most indispensable garment 1 I possess here. But here I must stop.
1 Not without interest for those who remember the writer as they first knew him a quarter of a century later, The italics are mine.
[2(fpc: A G Jowett kept a lodging house & livery Stables in Douglas from c. 1840)]
CHRIST CHURCH, February 21, 1851.
. . . You've no idea how long the roads are drying here after a fall of rain: rain for five days is as good or bad as rain for twenty in the Isle of Man ; it continues near the surface, and is not drawn down by fine limestone strata such as we have....
A very gratifying incident occurred to me the other day. At an examination 1 which we had some time ago here I believe I did pretty well: shortly afterwards I was surprised by Stokes telling me that Dr. Jacobson [Regius Professor of Divinity, Canon of Christ Church, &c. ] wished me to call on him; well, I called twice, but he was out. Yesterday, however, as I was quietly reading in my rooms, ' tântârârârâ, came to the door,' and on my somewhat gruffly (as is my wont) bidding the intruder come in, in he came; and who should it be but old Jacobson himself, ushered in with profound reverence by an astounded scout.
He stayed some time, and proved one of the freest, heartiest, and jolliest old fellows I ever met with. I always thought so, in fact, by the cut of his gib.
He spoke about the examination', and told me that he begged I would accept a present of a book from him as a kind of memorial of the same. ' In course I hadn't no objections,' and shortly after called at his house where, after some conversation with him in his study (where, by-the-bye, he appeared in the graceful négligé of shirt-sleeves! !), he gave me the book, a copy of Baehr's Herodotus, beautifully and strongly bound in calf gilt, in 4 vols. This was a really kind and graceful act, and I feel much obliged to the Doctor as well as to the universally benevolent Stokes, who, I fancy, must have said something rather extra about me.
And so it was (as Mary Cowle would say [Is she alive or dead ?] ). And I scud across the quad with four goodly tomes under my arm; and as I write they face me, about the handsomest set of books in my case, but still more valuable on account of the interesting and pleasing associations connected with them.
D. will excuse my not coinciding with her in her view of the song she sent: I don't much like it (merely as poetry) ; and as for sentiment, I decidedly disagree with Herr Riickert : for I think there is nothing in any language so beautiful as the long-drawn sighs of passionate melancholy expressed in our most pathetic poets. Perhaps you may think me a ninny, but whoever wrote the pleasures of melancholy 2 (I don't remember now) just hit my notion, if he did it well....
1 The Craven Scholarship.2 Cf. Introduction, pp. 40,41.
CHRIST CHURCH, March 11, 1851.
I was very glad to get your letter, which reached me yesterday. I had rather expected to hear before, but (as Mr. Toots said) 'it's of no consequence in the world, thank 'ee.' My health (always the primary consideration) is still unimpaired: and in fact the other day I felt quite ashamed when, after a bit of a run in the wind, I found a most delicate crimson glow spreading over my exquisite features.
A fortnight ago last Monday I and another man walked about twenty-six miles; it was St. Matthias' Day (I'm much obliged to his saintship), and therefore we had no lectures; so we took the whole blessed day, and started about 10.15 a.m., after breakfast.
First we went through Cumnor, where an inn called the ' Bear and Ragged Staff' still purports to be kept by one Giles Gosling of Kenilworth celebrity. (This however I had been at before.) Thence we proceeded to Bablockhythe Ferry, where we crossed the Isis and kept on through very pleasant rural scenery to Stanton Harcourt, where there is a rum old Manor House, with a kitchen of earlier date than the rest of the building-being, in fact, the kitchen where good Queen Bess had her dinner cooked when staying at Stanton H. I never saw such an old thing. They were killing pigs in it when we were there.
But the most interesting part of the ramble was yet to come. A few yards from the farm-house, just at the end of the garden, there is a beautiful old tower like the kitchen, one of the remains of the old Manor House or Castle: and in an upper chamber thereof for years dwelt no less a personage than Pope the poet. His name is said to be cut on a pane of glass in one of the windows; but we could not find it. In the basement of the tower is Pope's chapel (he was a Roman Catholic), the altar still standing, and the arms of the Harcourt family, with sundry griffins and cherubims painted around. Within a few yards of this tower is the churchyard; and on the wall of the extreme end of the south transept outside is the celebrated tablet erected by Pope in memory of the faithful rustic lovers killed by a flash of lightning in the harvest-field. I dare say you remember the lines 1 . I forget them just now: only I know one ends with the words-' the flash that melts the ball.' From Stanton Harcourt we rambled on to Eynsham, a small town on the banks of the Isis, whence, after some beer and biscuits, we proceeded to Woodstock, encountering some gipsies by the way, and skirting along Blenheim Park, leaving in the distance the ranger's lodge in the park where the celebrated infidel Rochester died. And so we came to Woodstock, and walked into Blenheim Park, and up to the house. The house is quite a palace; we only saw the exterior, but it looked like a pretty large village: a hatchment over the front recorded the death of the late Duchess of Marlborough. There is a very beautiful lake in the park; it was sunset, and the water was so quiet in its deep loveliness; swans were rowing along in stately pride, but some unfortunate fellows took it into their heads to have a fly, and made precious fools of themselves, I must say. On the northern shore of the lake, nearly opposite the house, is ' Fair Rosamond's' Well; a fine spring comes gushing out beneath the roots of the old trees, and here until of late years, I believe, there were some remains supposed to be those of the far-famed bower in which Henry II secluded his mistress.
The waters of the well, if you give your face a good wash with them, are said to call forth all manner of charms and make one quite irresistible: of course I scrubbed away vigorously. Well, we returned to our hostelry, not a little tired, and had tea in the good landlady's special little snuggery: and then a gloomy, weary walk in the dark of six or seven miles to Oxford. On the whole, I enjoyed the day very much. But, alas! we seldom taste unmingled pleasure in this world. The poor fellow who accompanied me was laid up that same night (not, I believe, through the fatigue, but from a disease which had been for some time slowly but certainly mustering its strength within) ; within ten days after our jolly ramble (last Wednesday) he had left us. He died in his own rooms; and you may imagine what a gloom it has thrown over us. His death was extremely sudden. Poor fellow, his life was almost a romance. He was the son of humble parents, but I believe was not on good terms with his family. However, I must not trouble you with such matters, or really a sketch of his biography would be interesting.
1 Pope had to write a prose epitaph to satisfy Lord Harcourt ; the phrase quoted in the next sentence is from the ' godly one,' the second of the poetical epitaphs Pope sent Lady Mary. Pope's Works, Globe edition, p. 485.
CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD, May 24, 1851.
You will be slightly surprised, I dare say, to see the name appended to this letter. Don't faint though there's no occasion in the world for that. The fact is that upon most mature consideration I have come to the irresistible conclusion that I must write a letter and it's so tiresome to be always writing to the same people, and I believe I never wrote to you before, and I hope you won't be angry, and-well, I think that will do, and my excuse is perfect. You can expect but little news from Oxford, for, notwithstanding the foolish hubbub that people make about us, we really are not fond of novelty: but here beneath our old grey walls, and by the pleasant watercourses, and underneath the shadow of ancient trees, we go quietly dreaming along, trying to nurse some healthy blossoms that may bear fruit hereafter. But this is all Greek (at least, I mean, I should think it must be so) to you, and so I must proceed to apprise you of some news which you cannot fail to appreciate. And first you must know that it's summer, and not winter; no, nor spring either; a fact of which I apprehend you may not be aware up in the North. But if you are, is it not delicious? Among the hills all kinds of weather are most blessed'. But in a lowlying place like Oxford give me summer, with all its glorious richness in sights and sounds and soft perfumes. The balmy gust from one bean-field is really almost enough to console me for the absence of those blue hills I love so much, and sometimes dream of: besides, you can always make hills out of the clouds, and to the latter phenomena we are most liberally treated in. England.
But here I am rambling (I was going to say, like a goose, but I will say, like a strayed donkey, grazing on moors, plucking at thistles, and hee-hawing at everything), while I have twice as good news still in store. It is nothing more or less than that Will has turned up again from Calcutta. Shall you see him?
Have you heard from the I. of Man lately ? I have not for three weeks! This is horrible! Really, if they are so negligent, I must cut them, I decidedly must.
1 Pictures in the margin : ' Landing at Douglas;' ' Mr. Brown and his Spying-glass;' 'Cumnor Church, Berkshire.
ORIEL COLLEGE, OXFORD February 4, 1854.
If in the midst of literary and political excitement, in the midst of scenes not directly associated with our dear lost one, I still am often bowed to the earth with the burden of so great a sorrow 1 , how must it be with you, immediately surrounded as you are by a thousand objects connected (how dearly, yet how agonizingly) with her memory, and unrelieved by any excitement sufficiently unassociated with her to lead your mind in another direction ? My dearest mother, mine indeed is the fitful sorrow that comes and goes like shadows on the cornfields that still look forward to the harvest ; yours is the drear monotony of anguish, a leaden autumn sky, when the harvest is over.
You turn your gaze ever backward, backward; while the rude demands of actual life compel you to look (but with how diminished an interest) forward; I look backward too, but when the tears come the young heart rises in its happy elasticity, and the future beckons it to bliss-bliss, bliss! Ah, how uncertain! God grant me a humble share of happiness, and I am content.
I hold that the half of sorrow is unknown till we have passed the meridian of life, and there is no future to balance the past. But there is one consideration which equalizes us again, and that is the future beyond all. There you have a happiness beyond expression: and there, and there only, I know full well, can I look for true and lasting happiness. In this respect, young and old, we are all one, all alike. My earthly prospects, my earthly hopes, may be all before me yet; yours may be all buried in the grave of the past: but a few years, and my hopes, my loves, will be where yours are, and we shall both be (God grant the prayer) happy in the happy, happy future, the kingdom, the mansion, the bosom of our Father....
1 The death of his sister Dora.
CHRIST CHURCH, April 16, 1854.
The examination is to commence to-morrow. Well, I shall do my best; and should the result prove (as in all probability it will) unfavourable, I shall not be much put out of the way; for the distinction (which is very great) and a year or two of the emoluments (which are considerable) is all I look to; and perhaps, after all, it would be better for me to strike out into the world boldly, at once, without this interval of College preferment.
I am quite surprised to hear of your so speedy removal to Douglas. I'm sorry to hear that the expense has been so great; but I think you need not put yourself much out of the way about that. By all means make yourself easy on that score: spend what requires to be spent, and doubt not. Before this time next year, and I hope before Christmas bills come in, I shall be in a position to relieve you finally from all anxiety about money. Certainly the highest value that I set upon money, and the first aim that I propose to myself in making any, is that I may place it at your service.
This is Easter Sunday, and the writing of Latin letters, &c. , made it impossible for me to write last night. I cannot consent to deny myself the pleasure of going to church this morning, and therefore I must conclude.
45 ST. ALDATE'S, April 23, 1854
I am delighted to announce the fact of my success at Oriel. On Friday, I was elected Fellow along with a man of the name of Pearson 1. There were two vacancies and eleven competitors: the examination lasted four days. The glory of the thing is that to gain a Fellowship at Oriel is considered the summit of an Oxford man's ambition. The Fellows of Oriel are the picked men of the University; and this year there happened to be an unusually large number of very distinguished men in. This is none of your empty honours. It gives me an income of about £300 per ann., as long as I choose to reside at Oxford, and about £220 in cash if I reside elsewhere. In addition to this it puts me in a highly commanding position for pupils, so that on the whole I have every reason to expect that (except perhaps the first year) I shall make between £500 and £600 altogether per ann. So you see, my dear mother, that your prayers have not been unanswered, and that God will bless the generation of those who humbly strive to serve Him. You are now (it is unnecessary to say), if my life is spared, put out of the reach of all want, and, I hope, henceforth need never again give yourself a single anxious thought or care about money matters. And what a comfort this is, I'm sure I know from my own experience. I have now gained the very summit of my hopes at Oxford; and hope that I may be able to make good use of my position with a view to my future life. But my first thought was and is of you, and the pride which (though I say it) you may reasonably take in my success. . . . I hope you will accept the Oriel Fellowship as a proof that your son has not as yet lived quite in vain.
Best love to the girls. I hope they like Douglas. . . . I have not omitted to remark that the election took place on April 21, the anniversary of your birth and marriage.
1 C. H. Pearson, the historian and Australian statesman.
ORIEL COLLEGE, November 5, 1854.
Your account of poor little H. quite confirms the impression which I had of his state when I last saw him. I had no doubt that there was something serious the matter with the poor little fellow. For my own part, I have such confidence in these impressions that I do not feel any hope of his recovery. There is a certain look about the eye, a strange dreamy, unearthly look, a kind of stereotyped interrogation, a wonder and an awe which to me are infallible signs of the approach of Death. It was so with poor and I could not help feeling just the same almost as I did when I first came home from C.-town this time eight years ago, and found that all familiarity of intercourse was over between us, and felt that he was consecrated to higher destinies, and that there was a visible mark of separation in that fixed and strong look: something that bid me stand back, and look with reverence upon the change. I know it well, I should recognize that feeling under any circumstances. And you can't conceive how it pained me the other day to find that I was compelled as it were, whether I willed it or not, to recognize this awful mystery.
The poor dear little fellow looked so weary, and yet so uncomplaining, except so far as there was that same mute interrogation in his eye as though he wanted to ask us all something, God only knows what, poor darling! To all my caresses he returned nothing but the same look of speechless questioning; and it went to my heart like a dagger.
The poor little fellow looked so good too: really there was a kind of dignity and calmness in his every motion (never free though from that awestruck reverence), which seemed to proceed from a kind of half-born consciousness of what was coming upon him. I thought it better not to distress the family just then by any ill-timed surmises: but I have seldom in my life felt a keener pang; and you will scarcely believe me that even now as I write the tears blind my eyes. Poor little darling child! he has opened an old fountain; I scarcely thought it could have flowed for him: but these little things unconsciously, and by insensible degrees, twine themselves around our hearts ; and I had no idea till now that this little boy was so dear to me as he is. I can scarcely bear to think of him now that he has put down his little head,' as H. describes it. But the subject is inexpressibly painful to me; I must leave it 1.
1 With the exception of the three letters that follow there is a gap of nearly twenty years, which the relatives and friends known to me have been unable to fill up. [Brown once said to a friend-' For many years-I don't know how many-I gave myself up to domestic life and read and wrote practically nothing'. - fpc a recently published 2-vol 'Newly discovered letters of T. E. Brown' shows that H. G Dakyns had a stash, several pre 1881 when the bulk of them commence from]
PARLIAMENT STREET, RAMSEY, ISLE OF MAN, June 20, 1862.
You can hardly believe how absolutely barren and desolate the island appears to me coming from Gloucestershire. The farming looks just like a mere slight scratching on the surface, and as for the trees and hedges they look like unfledged starveling birds. I confess I never felt before the immense difference between our bare little island and the rich luxuriance of English vegetation, at least West of England vegetation.... K. told me such a capital story of Preaching upon the text, ' Demas hath forsaken me,' and trying to extemporize, he apostrophized an imaginary Demas, and exclaimed, ' Aw ! Demas man! Demas man! what did ye do yandhar for?' . . . A. has borne all her fatigues well, and Baby famously. . . . She is beginning to enjoy herself. The sea is to her, and indeed to me, a source of endless delight.
(GLOUCESTER?) September 21, 1862.
The Festival was a great treat. We enjoyed the Oratorio very much; we had excellent places, and could both see and hear to advantage. It was my favourite, the Elijah. . . . When H. and A. were in London, we had a geological excursion in the Dean Forest. The day was glorious: we got some specimens, and partially disinterred a very extraordinary skull, the teeth of which has taken to Cambridge. . . . Then we rambled out of the forest on to a common high up in the hills, where I had the inexpressible delight of lying down on a bed of heather in full bloom (! ! ! !), with harebells and even gorse close by. This was the crowning triumph. was ' visibly affected,' as I told him ; for he loves the I. of Man and the nature of its scenery. I only wish I had gone there earlier in the day, and by myself! What a treat it would have been, what inward communing, what memories, what dead hopes and fears, leaves that have faded from my tree of life!! And over all was the bright sky, blue as the harebell itself, and bluer; and, as it always is, circumscribing all our littleness of life, larger and better than it. Moreover I ate some blackberries: but they were poor and flavourless compared with the Manx ones.
And this reminds me that to-day we have had a mulberry pudding off our own tree. We thought to compare it with a blackberry one; but wae's me ! what a difference! We all agreed that it was immensely inferior to our old friend. . . . Baby is becoming a songstress ; perhaps the Festival has shed some occult influence upon her. . . . Your description of the view from Douglas Head makes my mouth water. Glorious, indeed, it must be now. Love to M.
(GLOUCESTER) September 24, 1862.
Forget and forgive As long as you live.
The discrepancy between the dates of our respective letters is something frightful. I can only trust, &c. , &c. I fear I cannot subscribe to your organ. And I will candidly tell you the reason. Your list of subscribers is really not the thing. Let the parish come out first as it ought to do, and then outsiders may be called on. But I think, from what I can see, that interesting crisis has not yet come. And now you will probably say I am a hypocrite of the most crocodilian stamp if I wish you every success in the undertaking. But remember I am ready to undergo any moderate amount of phlebotomy, provided that I can first see such an effort on the part of the parishioners as would indicate an effectual demand.
Is the Archdeacon at home? If so, will you present to him my kind remembrances. A young lady in Ramsey has just sent me his carte de visite. I fancy it is by Myers : it is very fair, and represents the archdeacon just as he must have looked after running across from the Mitre, whip in hand.