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The Recreations of A Country Parson
by A. K. H. Boyd
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A very subdued mood of thought and feeling, I think, creeps gradually over a man living such a solitary life. I mean a man who has been accustomed to a house with many inmates. There is something odd in the look of an apartment in which hardly a word is ever spoken. If you speak while by yourself, it is in a very low tone; and though you may smile, I don't think any sane man could often laugh heartily while by himself. Think of a life in which, while at home, there is no talking and no laughing. Why, one distinctive characteristic of rational man is cut off when laughing ceases. Man is the only living creature that laughs with the sense of enjoyment. I have heard, indeed, of the laughing hyena; but my information respecting it is mainly drawn from Shakspeare, who was rather a great philosopher and poet than a great naturalist. 'I will laugh like a hyen,' says that great man; and as these words are spoken as a threat, I apprehend the laughter in question is of an unpleasant and umnirthful character. But to return from such deep thoughts, let it be repeated, that the entire mood of the solitary man is likely to be a sobered and subdued one. Even if hopeful and content, he will never be in high spirits. The highest degree in the scale he will ever reach, may be that of quiet lightheartedness; and that will come seldom. Jollity, or exhilaration, is entirely a social thing. I do not believe that even Sydney Smith could have got into one of his rollicking veins when alone. He enjoyed his own jokes, and laughed at them with extraordinary zest; but he enjoyed them because he thought others were enjoying them too. Why, you would be terrified that your friend's mind was going, if before entering his room you heard such a peal of merriment from within, as would seem a most natural thing were two or three cheerful companions together. And gradually that chastened, subdued stage comes, in which a man can sit for half an hour before the fire as motionless as marble; even a man who in the society of others is in ceaseless movement. It is an odd feeling, when you find that you yourself, once the most restless of living creatures, have come to this. I dare say Robinson Crusoe often sat for two or three hours together in his cave, without stirring hand or foot. The vital principle grows weak when isolated. You must have a number of embers together to make a warm fire; separate them, and they will soon go out and grow cold. And even so, to have brisk, conscious, vigorous life, you must have a number of lives together. They keep each other warm. They encourage and support each other. I dare say the solitary man, sitting at the close of a long evening by his lonely fireside, has sometimes felt as though the flame of life had sunk so low that a very little thing would be enough to put it out altogether. From the motionless limbs, from the unstrung hands, it seemed as though vitality had ebbed away, and barely kept its home in the feeble heart. At such a time some sudden blow, some not very violent shock, would suffice to quench the spark for ever. Reading the accounts in the newspapers of the cold, hunger, and misery which our poor soldiers suffered in the Crimea, have you not thought at such a time that a hundredth part of that would have been enough to extinguish you? Have you not wondered at the tenacity of material life, and at the desperate grasp with which even the most wretched cling to it? Is it worth the beggar's while, in the snow-storm, to struggle on through the drifting heaps towards the town eight miles off, where he may find a morsel of food to half-appease his hunger, and a stone stair to sleep in during the night? Have not you thought, in hours when you were conscious of that shrinking of life into its smallest compass—that retirement of it from the confines of its territory, of which we have been thinking—that in that beggar's place you would keep up the fight no longer, but creep into some quiet corner, and there lay yourself down and sleep away into forgetfulness? I do not say that the feeling is to be approved, or that it can in any degree bear being reasoned upon; but I ask such readers as have led solitary lives, whether they have not somelimes felt it? It is but the subdued feeling which comes of loneliness carried out to its last development. It is the highest degree of that influence which manifests itself in slow steps, in subdued tones of voice, in motionless musings beside the fire.

Another consequence of a lonely life in the case of many men, is an extreme sensitiveness to impressions from external nature. In the absence of other companions of a more energetic character, the scenes amid which you live produce an effect on you which they would fail to produce if you were surrounded by human friends. It is the rule in nature, that the stronger impression makes you unconscious of the weaker. If you had charged with the Six Hundred, you would not have remarked during the charge that one of your sleeves was too tight. Perhaps in your boyhood, a companion of a turn at once thoughtful and jocular, offered to pull a hair out of your head without your feeling it. And this he accomplished, by taking hold of the doomed hair, and then giving you a knock on the head that brought tears to your eyes. For, in the more vivid sensation of that knock you never felt the little twitch of the hair as it quitted its hold. Yes, the stronger impression makes you unaware of the weaker. And the impression produced either upon thought or feeling by outward scenes, is so much weaker than that produced by the companionship of our kind, that in the presence of the latter influence, the former remains unfelt, even by men upon whom it would tell powerfully in the absence of another. And so it is upon the lonely man that skies and mountains, woods and fields and rivers, tell with their full effect; it is to him that they become a part of life; it is in him that they make the inner shade or sunshine, and originate and direct the processes of the intellect. You go out to take a walk with a friend: you get into a conversation that interests and engrosses you. And thus engrossed, you hardly remark the hedges between which you walk, or the soft outline of distant summer hills. After the first half-mile, you are proof against the influence of the dull December sky, or the still October woods. But when you go out for your solitary walk, unless your mind be very much preoccupied indeed, your feeling and mood are at the will of external nature. And after a few hundred yards, unless the matter which was in your mind at starting be of a very worrying and painful character, you begin gradually to take your tone from the sky above you, and the ground on which you tread. You hear the birds, which, walking with a sympathetic companion, you would never have noticed. You feel the whole spirit of the scene, whether cheerful or gloomy, gently pervading you, and sinking into your heart. I do not know how far all this, continued through months or years of comparative loneliness, may permanently affect character; we can stand a great deal of kneading without being lastingly affected, either for better or worse; but there can be no question at all, that in a solitary life nature rises into a real companion, producing upon our present mood a real effect. As more articulate and louder voices die away upon our ear, we begin to hear the whisper of trees, the murmur of brooks, the song of birds, with a distinctness and a meaning not known before.

The influence of nature on most minds is likely to be a healthful one; still, it is not desirable to allow that influence to become too strong. And there is a further influence which is felt in a solitary life, which ought never to be permitted to gain the upper hand. I mean the influence of our own mental moods. It is not expedient to lead too subjective a life. We look at all things, doubtless, through our own atmosphere; our eyes, to a great extent, make the world they see. And no doubt, too, it is the sunshine within the breast that has most power to brighten; and the thing that can do most to darken is the shadow there. Still, it is not fit that these mental moods should be permitted to arise mainly through the mind's own working. It is not fit that a man should watch his mental moods as he marks the weather; and be always chronicling that on such a day and such another he was in high or low spirits, he was kindly-disposed or snappish, as the case may be. The more stirring influence of intercourse with others, renders men comparatively heedless of the ups and downs of their own feelings; change of scenes and faces, conversation, business engagements, may make the day a lively or a depressed one, though they rose at morning with a tendency to just the opposite thing. But the solitary man is apt to look too much inward; and to attach undue importance to the fancies and emotions which arise spontaneously within his own breast; many of them in great measure the result of material causes. And as it is not a healthy thing for a man to be always feeling his pulse, and fearing that it shows something amiss; it is not a healthy thing to follow the analogous course as regards our immaterial health and development. And I cannot but regard those religious biographies which we sometimes read, in which worthy people of little strength of character record particularly from day to day all the shifting moods and fancies of their minds as regards their religious concerns, as calculated to do a great deal of mischief. It is founded upon a quite mistaken notion of the spirit of true Christianity, that a human being should be ever watching the play of his mind, as one might watch the rise and fall of the barometer; and recording phases of thought and feeling which it is easy to see are in some cases, and in some degree, at least, the result of change of temperature, of dyspepsia, of deranged circulation of the blood, as though these were the unquestionable effects of spiritual influence, either supernal or infernal. Let us try, in the matter of these most solemn of all interests, to look more to great truths and facts which exist quite independently of the impression they may for the time produce upon us; and less to our own fanciful or morbid frames and feelings.

It cannot be denied that, in some respects, most men are better men alone than in the society of their fellows. They are kinder-hearted; more thoughtful; more pious. I have heard a man say that he always acted and felt a great deal more under the influence of religious principle while living in a house all by himself for weeks and months, than he did when the house was filled by a family. Of course this is not saying much for the steadfastness of a man's Christian principle. It is as much as to say that he feels less likely to go wrong when he is not tempted to go wrong. It is as though you said in praise of a horse, that he never shies when there is nothing to shy at. No doubt, when there are no little vexatious realities to worry you, you will not be worried by them. And little vexatious realities are doubtless a trial of temper and of principle. Living alone, your nerves are not jarred by discordant voices; you are to a great degree free from annoying interruptions; and if you be of an orderly turn of mind, you are not put about by seeing things around you in untidy confusion. You do not find leaves torn out of books; nor carpets strewn with fragments of biscuits; nor mantelpieces getting heaped with accumulated rubbish. Sawdust, escaped from maimed dolls, is never sprinkled upon your table-covers; nor ink poured over your sermons; nor leaves from these compositions cut up for patterns for dolls' dresses. There is an audible quiet which pervades the house, which is favourable to thought. The first evenings, indeed, which you spent alone in it, were almost awful for their stillness; but that sort of nervous feeling soon wears off. And then you have no more than the quiet in which the mind's best work must be done, in the case of average men.

And there can be little doubt, that when you gird up the mind, and put it to its utmost stretch, it is best that you should be alone. Even when the studious man comes to have a wife and children, he finds it needful that he should have his chamber to which he may retire when he is to grapple with his task of head-work; and he finds it needful, as a general rule, to suffer no one to enter that chamber while he is at work. It is not without meaning that this solitary chamber is called a study: the word reminds us that hard mental labour must generally be gone through when we are alone. Any interruption by others breaks the train of thought; and the broken end may never be caught again. You remember how Maturin, the dramatist, when he felt himself getting into the full tide of composition, used to stick a wafer on his forehead, to signify to any member of his family who might enter his room, that he must not on any account be spoken to. You remember the significant arrangement of Sir Walter's library, or rather study, at Abbotsford; it contained one chair, and no more. Yes, the mind's best work, at the rate of writing, must be done alone. At the speed of talking, the case is otherwise. The presence of others will then stimulate the mind to do its best; I mean to do the best it can do at that rate of speed. Talking with a clever man, on a subject which interests you, your mind sometimes produces material which is (for you) so good, that you are truly surprised at it. And a barrister, addressing a judge or a jury, has to do hard mental work, to keep all his wits awake, to strain his intellect to the top of its bent, in the presence of many; but, at the rate of speed at which he does this, he does it all the better for their presence. So with an extempore preacher. The eager attention of some hundreds of his fellow-creatures spurs him on (if he be mentally and physically in good trim) to do perhaps the very best he ever does. I have heard more than two or three clergymen who preach extempore (that is, who trust to the moment for the words entirely, for the illustration mainly, and for the thought in some degree), declare that they have sometimes felt quite astonished at the fluency with which they were able to express their thoughts, and at the freshness and fulness with which thoughts crowded upon them, while actually addressing a great assemblage of people. Of course, such extemporaneous speaking is an uncertain thing. It is a hit or a miss. A little physical or mental derangement, and the extempore speaker gets on lamely enough; he flounders, stammers, perhaps breaks down entirely. But still, I hold that though the extempore speaker may think and say that his mind often produces extempore the best material it ever produces, it is in truth only the best material which it can produce at the rate of speaking: and though the freshly manufactured article, warm from the mind that makes it, may interest and impress at the moment, we all know how loose, wordy, and unsymmetrical such a composition always is: and it is unquestionable that the very best product of the human soul must be turned off, not at the rate of speaking, but at the much slower rate of writing: yes, and oftentimes of writing with many pauses between the sentences, and long musing over individual phrases and words. Could Mr. Tennyson have spoken off in half-an-hour any one of the Idylls of the Kingt Could he have said in three minutes any one of the sections of In Memoriam? And I am not thinking of the mechanical difficulty of composition in verse: I am thinking of the simple product in thought. Could Bacon have extemporized at the pace of talking, one of his Essays? Or does not Ben Jonson sum up just those characteristics which extempore composition (even the best) entirely wants, when he tells us of Bacon that 'no man ever wrote more neatly, more pressly; nor suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in that he uttered?' I take it for granted, that the highest human composition is that which embodies most thought, experience, and feeling; and that must be produced slowly and alone.

And if a man's whole heart be in his work, whether it be to write a book, or to paint a picture, or to produce a poem, he will be content to make his life such as may tend to make him do his work best, even though that mode of life should not be the pleasantest in itself. He may gay to himself, I would rather be a great poet than a very cheerful and happy man; and if to lend a very retired and lonely life be the likeliest discipline to make me a great poet, I shall submit to that discipline. You must pay a price in labour and self-denial to accomplish any great end. When Milton resolved to write something 'which men should not willingly let die,' he knew what it would cost him. It was to be 'by labour and intent study, which I take to be my portion in this life.' When Mr. Dickens wrote one of his Christmas Books, he shut himself up for six weeks to do it; he 'put his whole heart into it, and came out again looking as haggard as a murderer.' There is a substratum of philosophic truth in Professor Aytoun's brilliant burlesque of Firmilian. That gentleman wanted to be a poet. And being persuaded that the only way to successfully describe tragic and awful feelings was to have actually felt them, he got into all kinds of scrapes of set purpose, that he might know what were the actual sensations of people in like circumstances. Wishing to know what are the emotions of a murderer, he goes and kills somebody. He finds, indeed, that feelings sought experimentally prove not to be the genuine article: still, you see the spirit of the true artist, content to make any sacrifice to attain perfection in his art. The highest excellence, indeed, in some one department of human exertion is not consistent with decent goodness in all: you dwarf the remaining faculties when you develop one to abnormal size and strength. Thus have men been great preachers, but uncommonly neglectful parents. Thus have men been great statesmen, but omitted to pay their tradesmen's bills. Thus men have been great moral and social reformers, whose own lives stood much in need of moral and social reformation. I should judge from a portrait I have seen of Mr. Thomas Sayers, the champion of England, that this eminent individual has attended to his physical to the neglect of his intellectual development. His face appeared deficient in intelligence, though his body seemed abundant in muscle. And possibly it is better to seek to develop the entire nature—intellectual, moral, and physical-than to push one part of it into a prominence that stunts and kills the rest. It is better to be a complete man than to be essentially a poet, a statesman, a prize-fighter. It is better that a tree should be fairly grown all round, than that it should send out one tremendous branch to the south, and have only rotten twigs in every other direction; better, even though that tremendous branch should be the very biggest that ever was seen. Such an inordinate growth in a single direction is truly morbid. It reminds one of the geese whose livers go to form that regal dainty, the pate de foie gras. By subjecting a goose to a certain manner of life, you dwarf its legs, wings, and general muscular development; but you make its liver grow as large as itself. I have known human beings who practised on their mental powers a precisely analogous discipline. The power of calculating in figures, of writing poetry, of chess-playing, of preaching sermons, was tremendous; but all their other faculties were like the legs and wings of the fattening goose.

Let us try to be entire human beings, round and complete; and if we wish to be so, it is best not to live too much alone. The best that is in man's nature taken as a whole is brought out by the society of his kind. In one or two respects he may be better in solitude, but not as the complete man. And more especially a good deal of the society of little children is much to be desired. You will be the better for having them about you, for listening to their stories, and watching their ways. They will sometimes interrupt you at your work, indeed, but their effect upon your moral development will be more valuable by a great deal than the pages you might have written in the time you spent with them. Read over the following verses, which are among the latest written by Longfellow. I do not expect that men who have no children of their own will appreciate them duly; but they seem to me among the most pleasing and touching which that pleasing poet ever wrote. Miserable solitary beings, see what improving and softening influences you miss!

Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day's occupations That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me The patter of little feet, The sound of a door that is opened, And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight, Descending the broad hall-stair, Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence: Yet I know by their merry eyes They are plotting and planning together To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway, A sudden raid from the hall! By three doors left unguarded They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret, O'er the arms and back of my chair: If I try to escape, they surround me; They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses, Their arms about me entwine, Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti, Because you have scaled the wall, Such an old moustache as I am Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress, And will not let you depart, But put you down into the dungeons, In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever, Yes, forever and a day, Till the walls shall crumble to ruin, And moulder in dust away!

What shall be said as to the effect which a solitary life will produce upon a man's estimate of himself? Shall it lead him to fancy himself a man of very great importance? Or shall it tend to make him underrate himself, and allow inferior men of superior impudence to take the wall of him? Possibly we have all seen each effect follow from a too lonely mode of life. Each may follow naturally enough. Perhaps it is natural to imagine your mental stature to be higher than it is, when you have no one near with whom you may compare yourself. It no doubt tends to take down a human being from his self-conceit, to find himself no more than one of a large circle, no member of which is disposed to pay any special regard to his judgment, or in any way to yield him precedence. And the young man who has come in his solitary dwelling to think that he is no ordinary mortal, has that nonsense taken out of him when he goes back to spend some days in his father's house among a lot of brothers of nearly his own age, who are generally the very last of the race to believe in any man. But sometimes the opposite effect comes of the lonely life. You grow anxious, nervous, and timid; you lose confidence in yourself, in the absence of any who may back up your failing sense of your own importance. You would like to shrink into a corner, and to slip quietly through life unnoticed. And all this without affectation, without the least latent feeling that perhaps you are not so very insignificant after all. Yet, even where men have come well to understand how infinitely little they are as regards the estimation of mankind, you will find them, if they live alone, cherishing some vain fancy that some few people, some distant friends, are sometimes thinking of them. You will find them arranging their papers, as though fancying that surely somebody would like some day to see them; and marshalling their sermons, as though in the vague notion that at some future time mortals would be found weak enough to read them. It is one of the things slowly learnt by repeated lessons and lengthening experience, that nobody minds very much about you, my reader. You remember the sensitive test which Dr. Johnson suggested as to the depth of one mortal's feeling for another. How does it affect his appetite? Multitudes in London, he said, professed themselves extremely distressed at the hanging of Dr. Dodd; but how many on the morning he was hung took a materially worse breakfast than usual? Solitary dreamer, fancying that your distant friends feel deep interest in your goings-on, how many of them are there who would abridge their dinner if the black-edged note arrived by post which will some day chronicle the last fact in your worldly history?

You get, living alone, into little particular ways of your own. You know how, walking along a crowded street, you cannot keep a straight line: at every step you have to yield a little to right or left to avoid the passers by. This is no great trouble: you do it almost unconsciously, and your journey is not appreciably lengthened. Even so, living in a family, walking along the path of life in the same track with many more, you find it needful scores of times each day to give up your own fancies and wishes and ways, in deference to those of others. You cannot divide the day in that precise fashion which you would yourself like best. You must, in deciding what shall be the dinner-hour, regard what will suit others as well as you. You cannot sit always just in the corner or in the chair you would prefer. Sometimes you must tell your children a story when you are weary, or busy; but you cannot find it in your heart to cast a shadow of disappointment on the eager little faces that come and ask you. You have to stop writing many a time, in the middle of a sentence, to open your study door at the request of a little voice outside; and to admit a little visitor who can give no more definite reason for her visit than that she has come to see you, and tell you she has been a good girl. And all this is well for you It breaks in hour by hour upon your native selfishness. And it cosfs you not the slightest effort to give up your own wish to that of your child. Even if to middle age you retain the innocent taste for sweetmeats, would you not have infinitely greater pleasure in seeing your little boy or girl eating up the contents of your parcel, than in eating them yourself? It is to me a thoroughly disgusting sight to see, as we sometimes do, the wife and children of a family kept in constant terror of the selfish bashaw at the head of the house, and ever on the watch to yield in every petty matter to his whims and fancies. Sometimes, where he is a hard-wrought and anxious man, whose hard work earns his children's bread, and whose life is their sole stay, it is needful that he should be deferred to in many things, lest the overtasked brain and overstrained nervous system should break down or grow unequal to their task. But I am not thinking of such cases. I mean cases in which the head of the family is a great fat, bullying, selfish scoundrel; who devours sullenly the choice dishes at dinner, and walks into all the fruit at dessert, while his wife looks on in silence, and the awe-stricken children dare not hint that they would like a little of what the brutal hound is devouring. I mean cases in which the contemptible dog is extremely well dressed, while his wife and children's attire is thin and bare; in which he liberally tosses about his money in the billiard-room, and goes off in autumn for a tour on the Continent by himself, leaving them to the joyless routine of their unvaried life. It is sad to see the sudden hush that falls upon the little things when he enters the house; how their sports are cut short, and they try to steal away from the room. Would that I were the Emperor of Russia, and such a man my subject! Should not he taste the knout? Should not I make him howl? That would be his suitable punishment: for he will never feel what worthier mortals would regard as the heavier penalty by far, the utter absence of confidence or real affection between him and his children when they grow up. He will not mind that there never was a day when the toddling creatures set up a shout of delight at his entrance, and rushed at him and scaled him and searched in his pockets, and pulled him about; nor that the day will never come when, growing into men and women, they will come to him for sympathy and guidance in their little trials and perplexities. Oh, woful to think that there are parents, held in general estimation too, to whom their children would no more think of going for kindly sympathy, than they would think of going to Nova Zembla for warmth!

But this is an excursus: I would that my hand were wielding a stout horsewhip rather than a pen! Let me return to the point of deviation, and say that a human being, if he be true-hearted, by living in a family, insensibly and constantly is gently turned from his own stiff track; and goes through life sinuously, so to speak. But the lonely man settles into his own little ways. He is like the man who walks through the desert without a soul to elbow him for miles. He fixes his own hours; he sits in his own corner, in his peculiar chair; he arranges the lamp where it best suits himself that it should stand; he reads his newspaper when he pleases, for no one else wants to see it; he orders from the club the books that suit his own taste. And all this quite fitly: like the Duke of Argyle's attacks upon Lord Derby, these things please himself, and do harm to nobody. It is not selfishness not to consult the wishes of other people, if there be no other people whose wishes you can consult. And, though with great suffering to himself, I believe that many a kind-hearted, precise old bachelor, stiffened into his own ways through thirty solitary years would yet make an effort to give them up, if he fancied that to yield a little from them was needful to the comfort of others. He would give up the corner by the fire in which he Las sat through the life of a generation: he would resign to another the peg on which his hat has hung through that long time. Still, all this would cost a painful effort; and one need hardly repeat the common-place, that if people intend ever to get married, it is expedient that they should do so before they have settled too rigidly into their own ways.

It is a very touching thing, I think, to turn over the repositories of a lonely man after he is dead. You come upon so many indications of all his little ways and arrangements. In the case of men who have been the heads of large families, this work is done by those who have been most nearly connected with them, and who knew their ways before; and such men, trained hourly to yield their own wishes in things small and great, have comparatively few of those little peculiar ways in which so much of their individuality seems to make its touching appeal to us after they are gone. But lonely men not merely have very many little arrangements of their own, but have a particular reserve in exhibiting these: there is a strong sensitiveness about them: you know how they would have shrunk in life from allowing any one to turn over their papers, or even to look into the arrangements of their wardrobe and their linen-press. I remember once, after the sudden death of a reserved old gentleman, being one of two or three who went over all his repositories. The other people who did so with me were hard-headed lawyers, and did not seem to mind much; but I remember that it appeared to me a most touching sight we saw. All the little ways into which he had grown in forty lonely years; all those details about his property (a very large one), which in life he had kept entirely to himself—all these we saw. I remember, lying on the top of the documents contained in an iron chest, a little scrap of paper, the back of an ancient letter, on which was written a note of the amount of all his wealth. There you saw at once a secret which in life he would have confided to no one. I remember the precise arrangement of all the little piles of papers, so neatly tied up in separate parcels. I remember the pocket-handkerchiefs, of several different kinds, each set wrapped up by itself in a piece of paper. It was curious to think that he had counted and sorted those, handkerchiefs; and now he was so far away. What a contrast, the little cares of many little matters like that, and the solemn realities of the unseen world! I would not on any account have looked over these things alone. I should have had an awe-stricken expectation that I should be interrupted. I should have expected a sudden tap on the shoulder, and to be asked what I was doing there. And doubtless, in many such cases, when the repositories of the dead are first looked into by strangers, some one far away would be present, if such things could be.

Solitary men, of the class which I have in my mind, are generally very hard-wrought men, and are kept too busy to allow very much time for reverie. Still, there is some. There are evening hours after the task is done, when you sit by the fire, or walk up and down your study, and think that you are missing a great deal in this lonely life; and that much more might be made of your stay in this world, while its best years are passing over. You think that there are many pleasant people in the world, people whom you would like to know, and who might like you if they knew you. But you and they have never met; and if you go on in this solitary fashion, you and they never will meet. No doubt here is your comfortable room; there is the blazing fire and the mellow lamp and the warmly-curtained windows; and pervading the silent chamber, there is the softened murmur of the not distant sea. The backs of your books look out at you like old friends; and after you are married, you won't be able to afford to buy so many. Still, you recall the cheerful society in which you have often spent such hours, and you think it might be well if you were not so completely cut off from it. You fancy you hear the hum of lively conversation, such as gently exhilarates the mind without tasking it; and again you think what a loss it is to live where you hardly ever hear music, whether good or bad. You think of the awkward shyness and embarrassment of manner which grows upon a man who is hardly ever called to join in general conversation. Yes, He knew our nature best who said that it is not good that man should be alone. We lean to our kind. There is indeed a solitariness which is the condition of an individual soul's being, which no association with others can do away; but there is no reason why we should add to that burden of personality which the Bishop of Oxford, in one of his most striking sermons, has shown to be truly 'an awful gift.' And say, youthful recluse (I don't mean you, middle-aged bachelor, I mean really young men of five or six and twenty), have you not sometimes, sitting by the fireside in the evening, looked at the opposite easy chair in the ruddy glow, and imagined that easy chair occupied by a gentle companion—one who would bring out into double strength all that is good in you—one who would sympathize with you and encourage you in all your work—one who would think you much wiser, cleverer, handsomer, and better than any mortal has ever yet thought you—the Angel in the House, in short, to use the strong expression of Mr. Coventry Patmore? Probably you have imagined all that: possibly you have in some degree realized it all. If not, in all likelihood the fault lies chiefly with yourself.

It must be a dismal thing for a solitary man to be taken ill: I mean so seriously ill as to be confined to bed, yet not so dangerously ill as to make some relation or friend come at all sacrifices to be with you. The writer speaks merely from logical considerations: happily he never experienced the case. But one can see that in that lonely life, there can be none of those pleasant circumstances which make days in bed, when acute pain is over, or the dangerous turning-point of disease is happily past, as quietly enjoyable days as any man is ever likely to know. No one should ever be seriously ill (if he can help it) unless he be one of a considerable household. Even then, indeed, it will be advisable to be ill as seldom as may be. But to a person who when well is very hard-worked, and a good deal worried, what restful days those are of which we are thinking! You have such a feeling of peace and quietness. There you lie, in lazy luxury, when you are suffering merely the weakness of a serious illness, but the pain and danger are past. All your wants are so thoughtfully and kindly anticipated. It is a very delightful sensation to lift your head from the pillow, and instantly to find yourself giddy and blind from loss of blood, and just drop your head down again. It is not a question, even for the most uneasily exacting conscience, whether you are to work or not: it is plain you cannot. There is no difficulty on that score. And then you are weakened to that degree that nothing worries you. Things going wrong or remaining neglected about the garden or the stable, which would have annoyed you when well, cannot touch you here. All you want is to lie still and rest. Everything is still. You faintly hear the door-bell ring; and though you live in a quiet country house where that phenomenon rarely occurs, you feel not the least curiosity to know who is there. You can look for a long time quite contentedly at the glow of the fire on the curtains and on the ceiling. You feel no anxiety about the coming in of the post; but when your letters and newspapers arrive, you luxuriously read them, a very little at a time, and you soon forget all you have read. You turn over and fall asleep for a while; then you read a little more. Your reviving appetite makes simple food a source of real enjoyment. The children come in, and tell you wonderful stories of all that has happened since you were ill. They are a little subdued at first, but soon grow noisy as usual; and their noise does not in the least disturb you. You hear it as though it were miles off. After days and nights of great pain, you understand the blessing of ease and rest: you are disposed to be pleased with everything, and everybody wants to please you. The day passes away, and the evening darkness comes before you are aware. Everything is strange, and everything is soothing and pleasant. The only disadvantage is, that you grow so fond of lying in bed, that you shrink extremely from the prospect of ever getting up again.

Having arrived at this point, at 10.45 on this Friday evening, I gathered up all the pages which have been written, and carried them to the fireside, and sitting there, I read them over; and I confess, that on the whole, it struck me that the present essay was somewhat heavy. A severe critic might possibly say that it was stupid. I fancied it would have been rather good when it was sketched out; but it has not come up to expectation. However, it is as good as I could make it; and I trust the next essay may be better. It is a chance, you see, what the quality of any composition shall be. Give me a handle to turn, and I should undertake upon every day to turn it equally well. But in the working of the mental machine, the same pressure of steam, the same exertion of will, the same strain of what powers you have, will not always produce the same result. And if you, reader, feel some disappointment at looking at a new work by an old friend, and finding it not up to the mark you expected, think how much greater his disappointment must have been as the texture rolled out from the loom, and he felt it was not what he had wished. Here, to-night, the room and the house are as still as in my remembrance of the Solitary Days which are gone. But they will not be still to-morrow morning; and they are so now because sleep has hushed two little voices, and stayed the ceaseless movements of four little pattering feet. May those Solitary Days never return. They are well enough when the great look-out is onward; but, oh! how dreary such days must be to the old man whose main prospect is of the past! I cannot imagine a lot more completely beyond all earthly consolation, than that of a man from whom wife and children have been taken away, and who lives now alone in the dwelling once gladdened by their presence, but now haunted by their memory. Let us humbly pray, my reader, that such a lot may never be yours or mine.



CHAPTER VIII.

CONCERNING GLASGOW DOWN THE WATER.



Upon any day in the months of June, July, August, and September, the stranger who should walk through the handsome streets, crescents, and terraces which form the West End of Glasgow, might be led to fancy that the plague was in the town, or that some fearful commercial crash had brought ruin upon all its respectable families,—so utterly deserted is the place. The windows are all done up with brown paper: the door-plates and handles, ere-while of glittering brass, are black with rust: the flights of steps which lead to the front-doors of the houses have furnished a field for the chalked cartoons of vagabond boys with a turn for drawing. The more fashionable the terrace or crescent, the more completely is it deserted: our feet waken dreary echoes as we pace the pavement. We naturally inquire of the first policeman we meet, What is the matter with Glasgow,—has anything dreadful happened? And we receive for answer the highly intelligible explanation, that the people are all Down the Water.

We are enjoying (shall we suppose) our annual holiday from the turmoil of Westminster Hall and the throng of London streets; and we have taken Glasgow on our way to the Highlands. We have two or three letters of introduction to two or three of the merchant-princes of the city; and having heard a great deal of the splendid hospitalities of the Western metropolis of the North, we have been anticipating with considerable satisfaction stretching our limbs beneath their mahogany, and comparing their cuisine and their cellar with the descriptions of both which we have often heard from Mr. Allan M'Collop, a Glasgow man who is getting on fairly at the bar. But when we go to see our new acquaintances, or when they pay us a hurried visit at our hotel, each of them expresses his deep regret that he cannot ask us to his house, which he tells us is shut up, his wife and family being Down the Water. No explanation is vouchsafed of the meaning of the phrase, which is so familiar to Glasgow folk that they forget how oddly it sounds on the ear of the stranger. Our first hasty impression, perhaps, from the policeman's sad face (no cold meat for him now, honest man), was that some sudden inundation had swept away the entire wealthier portion of the population,—at the same time curiously sparing the toiling masses. But the pleasant and cheerful look of our mercantile friend, as he states what has become of his domestic circle, shows us that nothing very serious is amiss. At length, after much meditation, we conclude that the people are at the sea-side; and as that lies down the Clyde from Glasgow, when a Glasgow man means to tell us that his family and himself are enjoying the fresh breezes and the glorious scenery of the Frith of Clyde, he says they are Down the Water.

Everybody everywhere of course longs for the country, the sea-side, change of air and scene, at some period during the year. Almost every man of the wealthier and more cultivated class in this country has a vacation, longer or shorter. But there never was a city whence the annual migration to the sea-side is so universal or so protracted as it is from Glasgow. By the month of March in each year, every house along the coast within forty miles of Glasgow is let for the season at a rent which we should say must be highly remunerative. Many families go to the coast early in May, and every one is down the water by the first of June. Most people now stay till the end of September. The months of June and July form what is called 'the first season;' August and September are 'the second season.' Until within the last few years, one of these 'seasons' was thought to furnish a Glasgow family with vigour and buoyancy sufficient to face the winter, but now almost all who can afford it stay at the sea-side during both. And from the little we have seen of Glasgow, we do not wonder that such should be the case. No doubt Glasgow is a fine city on the whole. The Trongate is a noble street; the park on the banks of the Kelvin, laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton, furnishes some pleasant walks; the Sauchyhall-road is an agreeable promenade; Claremont, Crescent and Park Gardens consist of houses which would be of the first class even in Belgravia or Tyburnia; and from the West-end streets, there are prospects of valley and mountain which are worth going some distance to see. But the atmosphere, though comparatively free from smoke, wants the exhilarating freshness of breezes just arrived from the Atlantic. The sun does not set in such glory beyond Gilmore-hill, as behind the glowing granite of Goatfell; and the trunks of the trees round Glasgow are (if truth must be spoken) a good deal blacker than might be desired, while their leaves are somewhat shrivelled up by the chemical gales of St. Rollox. No wonder, then, that the purest of pure air, the bluest of blue waves, the most picturesque of noble hills, the most purple of heather, the greenest of ivy, the thickest of oak-leaves, the most fragrant of roses and honeysuckle, should fairly smash poor old Glasgow during the summer months, and leave her not a leg to stand on.

The ladies and children of the multitudinous families that go down the water, remain there permanently, of course: most of the men go up to business every morning and return to the sea-side every night. This implies a journey of from sixty to eighty miles daily; but the rapidity and the cheapness of the communication, render the journey a comparatively easy one. Still, it occupies three or four hours of the day; and many persons remain in town two or three nights weekly, smuggling themselves away in some little back parlour of their dismantled dwellings. But let us accept our friend's invitation to spend a few days at his place down the water, and gather up some particulars of the mode of life there.

There are two ways of reaching the coast from Glasgow. We may sail all the way down the Clyde, in steamers generally remarkably well-appointed and managed; or we may go by railway to Greenock, twenty-three miles off, and catch the steamer there. By going by railway we save an hour,—a great deal among people with whom emphatically time is money,—and we escape a somewhat tedious sail down the river. The steamer takes two hours to reach Greenock, while some express trains which run all the way without stopping, accomplish the distance in little more than half an hour. The sail down the Clyde to Greenock is in parts very interesting. The banks of the river are in some places richly wooded: on the north side there are picturesque hills; and the huge rock on which stands the ancient castle of Dumbarton, is a striking feature. But we have never met any Glasgow man or woman who did not speak of the sail between Glasgow and Greenock as desperately tedious, and by all means to be avoided. Then in warm summer weather the Clyde is nearly as filthy as the Thames; and sailing over a sewer, even through fine scenery, has its disadvantages. So we resolve to go with our friend by railway to Greenock, and thus come upon the Clyde where it has almost opened into the sea. Quite opened into the sea, we might say: for at Greenock the river is three miles broad, while at Glasgow it is only some three hundred yards.

'Meet me at Bridge-street station at five minutes to four,' says Mr. B—, after we have agreed to spend a few days on the Clyde. There are a couple of hours to spare, which we give to a basin of very middling soup at McLerie's, and to a visit to the cathedral, which is a magnificent specimen of the severest style of Gothic architecture. We are living at the Royal Hotel in George Square, which we can heartily recommend to tourists; and when our hour approaches, Boots brings us a cab. We are not aware whether there is any police regulation requiring the cabs of Glasgow to be extremely dirty, and the horses that draw them to be broken-winded, and lame of not more than four nor less than two legs. Perhaps it is merely the general wish of the inhabitants that has brought about the present state of things. However this may be, the unhappy animal that draws us reaches Bridge-street station at last. As our carriage draws up we catch a glimpse of half-a-dozen men, in that peculiar green dress which railway servants affect, hastening to conceal themselves behind the pillars which decorate the front of the building, while two or three excited ticket-porters seize our baggage, and offer to carry it up-stairs. But our friend with Scotch foresight and economy, has told us to make the servants of the Company do thein work. 'Hands off,' we say to the ticket-porters; and walking up the steps we round a pillar, and smartly tapping on the shoulder one of the green-dressed gentlemen lurking there, we indicate to him the locality of our port-manteau. Sulkily he shoulders it, and precedes us to the booking-office. The fares are moderate; eighteen-pence to Greenock, first class: and we understand that persona who go daily, by taking season tickets, travel for much less. The steamers afford a still cheaper access to the sea-side, conveying passengers from Glasgow to Rothesay, about forty-five miles, for sixpence cabin and three-pence deck. The trains start from a light and spacious shed, which has the very great disadvantage of being at an elevation of thirty or forty feet above the ground level. Railway companies have sometimes spent thousands of pounds to accomplish ends not a tenth part so desirable as is the arranging their stations in such a manner as that people in departing, and still more in arriving, shall be spared the annoyance and peril of a break-neck staircase like that at the Glasgow railway station. It is a vast comfort when cabs can draw up alongside the train, under cover, so that people can get into them at once, as at Euston-square.

The railway carriages that run between Glasgow and Greenock have a rather peculiar appearance. The first-class carriages are of twice the usual length, having six compartments instead of three. Each compartment holds eight passengers; and as this accommodation is gained by increasing the breadth of the carriages, brass bars are placed across the windows, to prevent any one from putting out his head. Should any one do so, his head would run some risk of coming in collision with the other train; and although, from physiological reasons, tome heads might receive no injury in such a case, the carriage with which they came in contact would probably suffer. The expense of painting is saved by the carriages being built of teak, which when varnished has a cheerful light-oak colour. There is a great crowd of men on the platform, for the four o'clock train is the chief down-train of the day. The bustle of the business-day is over; there is a general air of relief and enjoyment. We meet our friend punctual to the minute; we take our seat on the comfortable blue cushions; the bell rings; the engine pants and tugs; and we are off 'down the water.'

We pass through a level country on leaving Glasgow: there are the rich fields which tell of Scotch agricultural industry. It is a bright August afternoon: the fields are growing yellow; the trees and hedges still wear their summer green. In a quarter of an hour the sky suddenly becomes overcast. It is not a cloud: don't be afraid of an unfavourable change of weather; we have merely plunged into the usual atmosphere of dirty and ugly Paisley. Without a pause, we sweep by, and here turn off to the right. That line of railway from which we have turned aside runs on to Dumfries and Carlisle; a branch of it keeps along the Ayrshire coast to Ardrossan and Ayr. In a little while we are skimming the surface of a bleak, black moor; it is a dead level, and not in the least interesting: but, after a plunge into the mirk darkness of a long tunnel, we emerge into daylight again; and there, sure enough, are the bright waters of the Clyde. We are on its south side; it has spread out to the breadth of perhaps a couple of miles. That rocky height on its north shore is Dumbarton Castle; that great mass beyond is Ben Lomond, at whose base lies Loch Lomond, the queen of Scottish lakes, now almost as familiar to many a cockney tourist as a hundred years since to Rob Roy Macgregor. We keep close by the water's edge, skirting a range of hills on which grow the finest strawberries in Scotland. Soon, to the right, we see many masts, many great rafts of timber, many funnels of steamers; and there, creeping along out in the middle of the river, is the steamer we are to join, which left Glasgow an hour before us. We have not stopped since we left Glasgow; thirty-five minutes have elapsed, and now we sweep into a remarkably tasteless and inconvenient station. This is Greenock at last; but, as at Glasgow, the station is some forty feet above the ground. A railway cart at the foot of a long stair receives the luggage of passengers, and then sets off at a gallop down a dirty little lane. We follow at a run; and, a hundred and fifty yards off, we come on a long range of wharf, beside which lie half-a-dozen steamers, sputtering out their white steam with a roar, as though calling impatiently for their passengers to come faster. Our train has brought passengers for a score of places on the Frith; and in the course of the next hour and a half, these vessels will disperse them to their various destinations. By way of guidance to the inexperienced, a post is erected on the wharf, from which arms project, pointing to the places of the different steamers. The idea is a good one, and if carried out with the boldness with which it was conceived, much advantage might be derived by strangers. But a serious drawback about these indicators is, that they are invariably pointed in the wrong direction, which renders them considerably less useful than they might otherwise be. Fortunately we have a guide, for there is not a moment to lose. We hasten on board, over an awkward little gangway, kept by a policeman of rueful countenance, who punches the heads of several little boys who look on with awe. Bareheaded and bare-footed girls offer baskets of gooseberries and plums of no tempting appearance. Ragged urchins bellow 'Day's Penny Paper! Glasgow Daily News!' In a minute or two, the ropes are cast off, and the steamers diverge as from a centre to their various ports.

We are going to Dunoon. Leaving the ship-yards of Greenock echoing with multitudinous hammerings, and rounding a point covered with houses, we see before us Gourock, the nearest to Greenock of the places 'down the water.' It is a dirty little village on the left side of the Frith. A row of neat houses, quite distinct from the dirty village, stretches for two miles along the water's edge. The hills rise immediately behind these. The Frith is here about three miles in breadth. It is Renfrewshire on the left hand; a few miles on, and it will be Ayrshire. On the right are the hills of Argyleshire. And now, for many miles on either side, the shores of the Frith, and the shores of the long arms of the sea that run up among those Argyleshire mountains, are fringed with villas, castles, and cottages—the retreats of Glasgow men and their families. It is not, perhaps, saying much for Glasgow to state that one of its greatest advantages is the facility with which one can get away from it, and the beauty of the places to which one can get. But true it is, that there is hardly a great city in the world which is so well off in this respect. For six-pence, the artisan of Bridgeton or Calton can travel forty miles in the purest air, over as blue a sea, and amid as noble hills, as can be found in Britain. The Clyde is a great highway: a highway traversed, indeed, by a merchant navy scarcely anywhere surpassed in extent; but a highway, too, whose gracious breezes, through the summer and autumn time, are ever ready to revive the heart of the pale weaver, with his thin wife and child, arid to fan the cheek of the poor consumptive needlewoman into the glow of something like country health and strength.

After Greenock is passed, and the river has grown into the Frith, the general features of the scene'remain very much the same for upwards of twenty miles. The water varies from three to seven or eight miles in breadth; and then suddenly opens out to a breadth of twenty or thirty miles. Hills, fringed with wood along their base, and gradually passing into moorland as they ascend, form, the shores on either side. The rocky islands of the Great and Little Cumbrae occupy the middle of the Frith, about fourteen or fifteen miles below Greenock: to the right lies the larger island of Bute; and further on the still larger island of Arran. The hills on the Argyleshire side of the Frith are generally bold and precipitous: those on the Ayrshire side are of much less elevation. The character of all the places'down the water' is almost identical: they consist of a row of houses, generally detached villas or cottages, reaching along the shore, at only a few yards' distance from the water, with the hills arising immediately behind. The beach is not very convenient for bathing, being generally rocky; though here and there we find a Btrip of yellow sand. Trees and shrubs grow in the richest way down to the water's edge. The trees are numerous, and luxuriant rather than large; oaks predominate; we should say few of them are a hundred years old. Ivy and honeysuckle grow in profusion; for several miles along the coast, near Largs, there is a perpendicular wall of rock from fifty to one hundred feet in height, which follows the windings of the shore at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards from the water, enclosing between itself and the sea a long ribbon of fine soil, on which shrubs, flowers, and fruit grow luxuriantly; and this natural rampart, which advances and retreats as we pursue the road at its base, like the bastions and curtains of some magnificent feudal castle, is in many places clad with ivy, so fresh and green that we can hardly believe that for months in the year it is wet with the salt spray of the Atlantic. Here and there, along the coast, are places where the land is capable of cultivation for a mile or two inland; but, as the rule, the hill ascends almost from the water's edge, into granite and heather.

Let us try to remember the names of the places which reach along the Frith upon either hand: we believe that a list of them will show that not without reason it is said that Glasgow is unrivalled in the number of her sea-side retreats. On the right hand, as we go down the Frith, there are Helensburgh, Row, Roseneath, Shandon, Gareloch-head, Cove, Kilcreggan, Lochgoil-head, Arrochar, Ardentinny, Strone, Kilmun, Kirn, Dunoon, Inellan, Toward, Port Bonnatyne, Rothesay, Askog, Colintrave, Tynabruach. Sometimes these places form for miles one long range of villas. Indeed, from Strone to Toward, ten or twelve miles, the coast is one continuous street. On the left hand of the Frith are Gourock, Ashton, Inverkip, Wemyss Bay, Skelmorlie, Largs, Fairlie: then comes a bleak range of sandy coast, along which stand Ardrossan, Troon, and Ayr. In the island of Cumbrae is Millport, conspicuously by the tall spire which marks the site of an Episcopal chapel and college of great architectural beauty, built within the last few years. And in Arran are the villages of Lamlash and Brodick. The two Cumbrae islands constitute a parish. A simple-minded clergyman, not long deceased, who held the cure for many years, was wont, Sunday by Sunday, to pray (in the church service) for 'the islands of the Great and Little Cumbrae, and also for the adjacent islands of Great Britain and Ireland.'

But all this while the steam has been fiercely chafing through the funnel as we have been stopping at Gourock quay. We are away at last, and are now crossing the Frith towards the Argyleshire side. A mile or two down, along the Ayrshire side, backed by the rich woods of Ardgowan, tall and spectral-white, stands the Cloch lighthouse. We never have looked at it without thinking how many a heart-broken emigrant must be remembering that severely simple white tower as almost the last thing he saw in Scotland when he was leaving it for ever. The Frith opens before us as we advance: we are running at the rate (quite usual among Clyde steamers) of sixteen or seventeen miles an hour. There, before us, is Cumbrae: over Bute and over Cumbrae look the majestic mountains of Arran; that great granite peak is Goat-fell. And on a clear day, far out, guarding the entrance to the Frith, rising sheer up from the deep sea, at ten miles' distance from the nearest land, looms Ailsa, white with sea-birds, towering to the height of twelve or thirteen hundred feet. It is a rocky islet of about a mile in circumference, and must have been thrown up by volcanic agency; for the water around it is hundreds of feet in depth.

Out in the middle of the Frith we can see the long, low, white line of buildings on either side of it, nestling at the foot of the hills. We are drawing near Dunoon. That opening on the right is the entrance to Loch Long and Loch Goyle; and a little further on we pass the entrance to the Holy Loch, on whose shore is the ancient burying-place of the family of Argyle. How remarkably tasteful many of these villas are! They are generally built in the Elizabethan style: they stand in grounds varying from half an acre up to twenty or thirty acres, very prettily laid out with shrubbery and flowers; a number (we can see, for we are now skirting the Argyleshire coast at the distance of only a few hundred yards) have conservatories and hot-houses of more or less extent: flagstaffs appear to be much affected (for send a landsman to the coast, and he is sure to become much more marine than a sailor): and those pretty bow-windows, with the crimson fuchsias climbing up them—those fantastic gables and twisted chimneys—those shining evergreens and cheerful gravel walks—with no lack of pretty girls in round hats, and sportive children rolling about the trimly-kept grass plots—all seen in this bright August sunshine—all set off against this blue smiling expanse of sea—make a picture so gay and inviting, that we really do not wonder any more that Glasgow people should like to 'go down the water.'

Here is Dunoon pier. Several of the coast places have, like Dunoon, a long jetty of wood running out a considerable distance into the water, for the accommodation of the steamers, which call every hour or two throughout the day. Other places have deep water close in-shore, and are provided with a wharf of stone. And several of the recently founded villages (and half of those we have enumerated have sprung up within the last ten years) have no landing-place at which steamers can touch; and their passengers have to land and embark by the aid of a ferry-boat. We touch the pier at last: a gangway is hastily thrown from the pier to the steamer, and in company with many others we go ashore. At the landward end of the jetty, detained there by a barrier of twopence each of toll, in round hats and alpaca dresses, are waiting our friend's wife and children, from whom we receive a welcome distinguished by that frankness which is characteristic of Glasgow people. But we do not intend so far to imitate the fashion of some modern tourists and biographers, as to give our readers a description of our friend's house and family, his appearance and manners. We shall only say of him what will never single him out—for it may be said of hundreds more—that he is a wealthy, intelligent, well-informed, kind-hearted Glasgow merchant. And if his daughters did rather bore us by their enthusiastic descriptions of the sermons of 'our minister,' Mr. Macduff, the still grander orations of Mr. Caird, and the altogether unexampled eloquence of Dr. Gumming, why, they were only showing us a thoroughly Glasgow feature; for nowhere in Britain, we should fancy, is there so much talk about preaching and preachers.

In sailing down the Frith, one gets no just idea of the richness and beauty of its shores. We have said that a little strip of fine soil,—in some places only fifty or sixty yards in breadth,—runs like a ribbon, occasionally broadening out to three or four times that extent, along the sea-margin; beyond this ribbon of ground come the wild moor and mountain. In sailing down the Frith, our eye is caught by the large expanse of moorland, and we do not give due importance to the rich strip which bounds it, like an edging of gold lace (to use King James's comparison) round a russet petticoat. When we land we understand things better. We find next the sea, at almost any point along the Frith, the turnpike road, generally nearly level, and beautifully smooth. Here and there, in the places of older date, we find quite a street of contiguous houses; but the general rule is of detached dwellings of all grades, from the humblest cottage to the most luxurious villa. At considerable intervals, there are residences of a much higher class than even this last, whose grounds stretch for long distances along the shore. Such places are Ardgovvan, Kelly, Skelmorlie Castle, and Kelburne, on the Ayrshire side; and on the other shore of the Frith, Roseneath Castle, Toward Castle, and Mountstuart. [Footnote: Ardgowan, residence of Sir Michael Shaw Stewart; Kelly, Mr. Scott; Skelmorlie, the Earl of Eglinton; Kelburne, the Earl of Glasgow; Roseneath, the Duke of Argyle; Toward, Mr. Kirkwall Finlay Mountstuart, the Marquis of Bute.] And of dwellings of a less ambitious standing than these really grand abodes, yet of a mark much above that suggested by the word villa, we may name the very showy house of Mr. Napier, the eminent maker of marine steam-engines, on the Gareloch, a building in the Saracenic style, which cost we are afraid to say how many thousand pounds; the finely-placed castle of Wemyss, built from the design of Billings; and the very striking piece of baronial architecture called Knock Castle, the residence of Mr. Steel, a wealthy shipbuilder of Greenock. The houses along the Frith are, in Scotch fashion, built exclusively of stone, which is obtained with great facility. Along the Ayrshire coast, the warm-looking red sandstone of the district is to be had everywhere, almost on the surface. One sometimes sees a house rising, the stone being taken from a deep quarry close to it: the same crane often serving to lift a block from the quarry, and to place it in its permanent position upon the advancing wall. We have said how rich is vegetation all along the Frith, until we reach the sandy downs from Ardrossan to Ayr. All evergreens grow with great rapidity: ivy covers dead walls very soon. To understand in what luxuriance vegetable life may be maintained close to the sea-margin, one must walk along the road which leads from the West Bay at Dunoon towards Toward. We never saw trees so covered with honeysuckle; and fuchsias a dozen feet in height are quite common. In this sweet spot, in an Elizabethan house of exquisite design, retired within grounds where fine taste has done its utmost, resides, during the summer vacation (and the summer vacation is six months!), Mr. Buchanan, the Professor of Logic in the University of Glasgow. It must be a very fair thing to teach logic at Glasgow, if the revenue of that chair maintains the groves and flowers, and (we may add) the liberal hospitalities, of Ardflllane.

One pleasing circumstance about the Frith of Clyde, which we remark the more from its being unhappily the exception to the general rule in Scotland, is the general neatness and ecclesiastical character of the churches. The parish church of Dunoon, standing on a wooded height, rising from the water, with its grey tower looking over the trees, is a dignified and commanding object. The churches of Roseneath and Row, which have been built within a year or two, are correct and elegant specimens of ecclesiastical Gothic: indeed they are so thoroughly like churches, that John Knox would assuredly have pulled them down had they been standing in his day. And here and there along the coast the rich Glasgow merchants and the neighbouring proprietors have built pretty little chapels, whose cross-crowned gables, steep-pitched roofs, dark oak wood-work, and stained windows, are pleasant indications that old prejudice lias given way among cultivated Scotchmen; and that it has come to be understood that it is false religion as well as bad taste and sense to make God's house the shabbiest, dirtiest, and most uncomfortable house in the parish. Some of these sea-side places of worship are crowded in summer by a fashionable congregation, and comparatively deserted in winter when the Glasgow folks are gone.

A very considerable number of the families that go 'down the water' occupy houses which are their own property. There must be, one would think, a special interest about a house which is one's own. A man must become attached to a spot where he himself planted the hollies and yews, and his children have marked their growth year by year. Still, many people do not like to be tied to one place, and prefer varying their quarters each season. Very high rents are paid for good houses on the Frith of Clyde. From thirty to fifty pounds a month is a common charge for a neat villa at one of the last founded and most fashionable places. A little less is charged for the months of August and September than for June and July; and if a visitor takes a house for the four months which constitute the season, he may generally have it for May and October without further cost, Decent houses or parts of houses (flats as they are called), may be had for about ten pounds a month; and at those places which approach to the character of a town, as Largs, Eothesay, and Dunoon, lodgings may be obtained where attendance is provided by the people of the house.

A decided drawback about the sea-side places within twenty miles from Greenock, is their total want of that fine sandy beach, so firm and dry and inviting when the tide is out, which forms so great an attraction at Ardrossan, Troon, and Ayr. At a few points, as for instance the West Bay at Dunoon, there is a beautiful expanse of yellow sand: but as a rule, where the shore does not consist of precipitous rocks, sinking at once into deep water, it is made of great rough stones, which form a most unpleasant footing for bathers. In front of most villas a bathing place is formed by clearing the stones away. Bathing machines, we should mention, are quite unknown upon the Frith of Clyde.

So much for the locality which is designated by the phrase, Down the Water: and now we can imagine our readers asking what kind of life Glasgow people lead there. Of course there must be a complete breaking up of all city ways and habits, and a general return to a simpler and more natural mode of living. Our few days at Dunoon, and a few days more at two other places on the Frith, were enough to give us some insight into the usual order of things. By seven or half-past seven o'clock in the morning the steam is heard by us, as we are snug in bed, fretting through the waste-pipe of the early boat for Glasgow; and with great complacency we picture to ourselves the unfortunate business-men, with whom we had a fishing excursion last night, already up, and breakfasted, and hurrying along the shore towards the vessel which is to bear them back to the counting-house and the Exchange. Poor fellows! They sacrifice a good deal to grow rich. At each village along the shore the steamer gets an accession to the number of her passengers; for the most part of trim, close-shaved, well-dressed gentlemen, of sober aspect and not many words; though here and there comes some whiskered and moustached personage, with a shirt displaying a pattern of ballet-dancers, a shooting coat of countless pockets, and trousers of that style which, in our college days, we used to call loud. A shrewd bank-manager told us that he always made a mental memorandum of such individuals, in case they should ever come to him to borrow money. Don't they wish they may get it! The steamer parts with her entire freight at Greenock, whence an express train rapidly conveys our friends into the heat and smoke of Glasgow. Before ten o'clock all of them are at their work. For us, who have the day at our own disposal, we have a refreshing dip in the sea at rising, then a short walk, and come in to breakfast with an appetite foreign to Paper Buildings. It is quite a strong sensation when the post appears about ten o'clock, bearing tidings from the toiling world we have left behind. Those families who have their choice dine at two o'clock—an excellent dinner hour when the day is not a working one: the families whose male members are in town, sometimes postpone the most important engagement of the day till their return at six or half-past six o'clock. As for the occupations of the day, there are boating and yachting, wandering along the beach, lying on the heather looking at Arran through the sun-mist, lounging into the reading-room, dipping into any portion of The Times except the leading articles, turning over the magazines, and generally enjoying the blessing of rest. Fishing is in high favour, especially among the ladies. Hooks baited with muscles are sunk to the ground by leaden weights (the fishers are in a boat), and abundance of whitings are caught when the weather is favourable. We confess we don't think the employment ladylike. Sticking the muscles upon the hooks is no work for fair fingers; neither is the pulling the captured fish off the hooks. And, even in the pleasantest company, we cannot see anything very desirable in sitting in a boat, all the floor of which is covered by unhappy whitings and codlings flapping about in their last agony. Many young ladies row with great vigour and adroitness. And as we walk along the shore in the fading twilight, we often hear, from boats invisible in the gathering shadows, music mellowed by the distance into something very soft and sweet. The lords of the creation have come back by the late boats; and we meet Pater-familias enjoying his evening walk, surrounded by his children, shouting with delight at having their governor among them once more. No wonder that, after a day amid the hard matter-of-fact of business life, he should like to hasten away to the quiet fireside and the loving hearts by the sea.

Few are the hard-wrought men who cannot snatch an entire day from business sometimes: and then there is a pic-nic. Glasgow folk have even more, we believe, than the average share of stiff dinner parties when in town: we never saw people who seemed so completely to enjoy the freshness and absence of formality which characterize the well-assorted entertainment al fresco. We were at one or two of these; and we cannot describe the universal gaiety and light-heartedness, extending to grave Presbyterian divines and learned Glasgow professors; the blue sea and the smiling sky; the rocky promontory where our feast was spread; its abundance and variety; the champagne which flowed like water; the joviality and cleverness of many of the men; the frankness and pretty faces of all of the women. [Footnote: We do not think, from what we hare seen, that Glasgow is rich in beauties; though pretty faces are very common. Times are improved, however, since the days of the lady who said, on being asked if there were many beauties in Glasgow, 'Oh no; very few; there are only THREE OF US.'] We had a pleasant yachting excursion one day; and the delight of a new sensation was well exemplified in the intense enjoyment of dinner in the cramped little cabin where one could hardly turn, And great was the sight when our host, with irrepressible pride, produced his preserved meats and vegetables, as for an Arctic voyage, although a messenger sent in the boat which was towing behind could have procured them fresh in ten minutes.

A Sunday at the sea-side, or as Scotch people prefer calling it, a Sabbath, is an enjoyable thing. The steamers that come down on Saturday evening are crammed to the last degree. Houses which are already fuller than they can hold, receive half-a-dozen new inmates,—how stowed away we cannot even imagine. We cannot but reject as apocryphal the explanation of a Glasgow tout, that on such occasions poles are projected from the upper windows, upon which young men of business roost until the morning. Late walks, and the spooniest of flirtations characterize the Saturday evening. Every one, of course, goes to church on Sunday morning; no Glasgow man who values his character durst stop away. We shall not soon forget the beauty of the calm Sunday on that beautiful shore: the shadows of the distant mountains; the smooth sea; the church-bells, faintly heard from across the water; the universal turning-out of the population to the house of prayer, or rather of preaching. It was almost too much for us to find Dr. Gumming here before us, giving all his old brilliancies to enraptured multitudes. We had hoped he was four hundred and odd miles off; but we resigned ourselves, like the Turk, to what appears an inevitable destiny. This gentleman, we felt, is really one of the institutions of the country, and no more to be escaped than the income-tax.

Morning service over, most people take a walk. This would have been regarded in Scotland a few years since as a profanation of the day. But there is a general air of quiet; people speak in lower tones; there are no joking and laughing. And the Frith, so covered with steamers on week-days, is to-day unruffled by a single paddle-wheel. Still it is a mistake to fancy that a Scotch Sunday is necessarily a gloomy thing. There are no excursion trains, no pleasure trips in steamers, no tea-gardens open: but it is a day of quiet domestic enjoyment, not saddened but hallowed by the recognized sacredness of the day. The truth is, the feeling of the sanctity of the Sabbath is so ingrained into the nature of most Scotchmen by their early training, that they could not enjoy Sunday pleasuring. Their religious sense, their superstition if you choose, would make them miserable on a Sunday excursion.

The Sunday morning service is attended by a crowded congregation: the church is not so full in the afternoon. In some places there is evening service, which is well attended. We shall not forget one pleasant walk, along a quiet road bounded by trees as rich and green as though they grew in Surrey, though the waves were lapping on the rocks twenty yards off, and the sun was going down behind the mountains of Cowal, to a pretty little chapel where we attended evening worship upon our last Sunday on the Clyde.

Every now and then, as we are taking our saunter by the shore after breakfast, we perceive, well out in the Frith, a steamer, decked with as many flags as can possibly be displayed about her rigging. The strains of a band of music come by starts upon the breeze; a big drum is heard beating away when we can hear nothing else; and a sound of howling springs up at intervals. Do not fancy that these yells imply that anything is wrong; t/tat is merely the way in which working folk enjoy themselves in this country. That steamer has been hired for the day by some wealthy manufacturer, who is giving his 'hands' a day's pleasure-sailing. They left Glasgow at seven or eight o'clock: they will be taken probably to Arran, and there feasted to a moderate extent; and at dusk they will be landed at the Broomielaw again. We lament to say that very many Scotch people of the working class seem incapable of enjoying a holiday without getting drunk and uproarious. We do not speak from hearsay, but from what we have ourselves seen. Once or twice we found ourselves on board a steamer crowded with a most disagreeable mob of intoxicated persons, among whom, we grieve to say, we saw many women. The authorities of the vessel appeared entirely to lack both the power and the will to save respectable passengers from the insolence of the 'roughs.' The Highland fling may be a very picturesque and national dance, but when executed on a crowded deck by a maniacal individual, with puffy face and blood-shot eyes, swearing, yelling, dashing up against peaceable people, and mortally drunk, we should think it should be matter less of assthetical than of police consideration. Unless the owners of the Clyde steamers wish to drive all decent persons from their boats, they must take vigorous steps to repress such scandalous goings-on as we have witnessed more than once or twice. And we also take the liberty to suggest that the infusion of a little civility into the manner and conversation of some of the steam-boat officials on the quay at Greenock, would be very agreeable to passengers, and could not seriously injure those individuals themselves.

What sort of men are the Glasgow merchants? Why, courteous reader, there are great diversities among them. Almost all we have met give us an impression of shrewdness and strong sense; some, of extraordinary tact and cleverness—though these last are by no means among the richest men. In some cases we found extremely unaffected and pleasing address, great information upon general topics—in short, all the characteristics of the cultivated gentleman. In others there certainly was a good deal of boorishness; and in one or two instances, a tendency to the use of oaths which in this country have long been unknown in good society. The reputed wealth of some Glasgow men is enormous, though we think it not unlikely that there is a great deal of exaggeration as to that subject. We did, however, hear it said that one firm of iron merchants realized for some time profits to the extent of nearly four hundred thousand a year. We were told of an individual who died worth a million, all the produce of his own industry and skill; and one hears incidentally of such things as five-hundred-pound bracelets, thousand-guinea necklaces, and other appliances of extreme luxury, as not unknown among the fair dames of Glasgow.

And so, in idle occupations, and in gleaning up particulars as to Glasgow matters according to our taste wherever we go, our sojourn upon the Frith of Clyde pleasantly passed away. We left our hospitable friends, not without a promise that when the Christmas holidays come we should visit them once more, and see what kind of thing is the town life of the winter time in that warm-hearted city. And meanwhile, as the days shorten to chill November,—as the clouds of London smoke drift by our windows,—as the Thames runs muddy through this mighty hum and bustle away to the solitudes of its last level,—we recall that cheerful time with a most agreeable recollection of the kindness of Glasgow friends,—and of all that is implied in Glasgow Down the Water.



CHAPTER IX.

CONCERNING MAN AND HIS DWELLING-PLACE



When my friend Smith's drag comes round to his door, as he and I are standing on the steps ready to go out for a drive, how cheerful and frisky the horses look! I think I see them, as I saw them yesterday, coming round from the stable-yard, with their glossy coats and the silver of their harness glancing in the May sunshine, the May sunshine mellowed somewhat by the green reflection of two great leafy trees. They were going out for a journey of twenty miles. They were, in fact, about to begin their day's work, and they knew they were; yet how buoyant and willing they looked! There was not the faintest appearance of any disposition to shrink from their task, as if it were a hard and painful one. No; they were eager to be at it: they were manifestly enjoying the anticipation of the brisk exertion in the midst of which they would be in five minutes longer. And by the time we have got into our places, and have wrapped those great fur robes comfortably about our limbs, the chafing animals have their heads given them; and instantly they fling themselves at their collars, and can hardly be restrained from breaking into a furious gallop. Happy creatures, you enjoy your work; you wish nothing better than to get at it!

And when I have occasionally beheld a ploughman, bricklayer, gardener, weaver, or blacksmith, begin his work in the morning, I have envied him the readiness and willingness with which he took to it. The plough-man, after he has got his horses harnessed to the plough, does not delay a minute: into the turf the shining share enters, and away go horses, plough and man. It costs the ploughman no effort to make up his mind to begin. He does not stand irresolute, as you and I in childish days have often done when taken down to the sea for our morning dip, and when trying to get courage to take the first plunge under water. And the bricklayer lifts and places the first brick of his daily task just as easily as the last one. The weaver, too, sits down without mental struggle at his loom, and sets off at once. How different is the case with most men whose work is mental; more particularly how different is the case with most men whose work is to write—to spin out their thoughts into compositions for other people to read or to listen to! How such men, for the most part, shrink from their work—put it off as long as may be; and even when the paper is spread out and the pen all right, and the ink within easy reach, how they keep back from the final plunge! And after they have begun to write, how they dally with their subject; shrink back as long as possible from grappling with its difficulties; twist about and about, talking of many irrelevant matters, before they can summon up resolution to go at the real point they have got to write about! How much unwillingness there is fairly to put the neck to the collar!

Such are my natural reflections, suggested by my personal feelings at this present time. I know perfectly well what I have got to do. I have to write some account, and attempt some appreciation, of a most original, acute, well-expressed, and altogether remarkable book—the book, to wit, which bears the comprehensive title of Man and his Dwelling-Place. It is a metaphysical book; it is a startling book; it is a very clever book; and though it is published anonymously, I have heard several acquaintances say, with looks expressive of unheard-of stores of recondite knowledge, that they have reason to believe that it is written by, this and that author, whose name is already well known to fame. It may be so, but I did not credit it a bit the more because thus assured of it. In most cases the people who go about dropping hints of how much they know on such subjects, know nothing earthly about the matter; but still the premises (as lawyers would say) make it be felt that the book is a serious one to meddle with. Not that in treating such a volume, plainly containing the careful and deliberate views and reflections of an able and well-informed man, I should venture to assume the dignified tone of superiority peculiar to some reviewers in dissecting works which they could not have written for their lives. There are not a score of men in Britain who would be justified in reviewing such a book as this de haut en has. I intend the humbler task of giving my readers some description of the work, stating its great principle, and arguing certain points with its eminently clever author; and under the circumstances in which this article is written, it discards the dignified and undefined We, and adopts the easier and less authoritative first person singular. The work to be done, therefore, is quite apparent: there is no doubt about that. But the writer is most unwilling to begin it. Slowly was the pen taken up; oftentimes was the window looked out of. I am well aware that I shall not settle steadily to my task till I shall have had a preliminary canter, so to speak. Thus have I seen school-hoys, on a warm July day, about to jump from a sea-wall into the azure depths of ocean. But after their garments were laid aside, and all was ready for the plunge, long time sat they upon the tepid stones, and paddled with idle feet in the water.

How shall I better have that preliminary and moderate exercitation which serves to get up the steam, than by talking for a little about the scene around me? Through diamond-shaped panes the sunshine falls into this little chamber; and going to the window you look down upon the tops of tall trees. And it is pleasant to look down upon the tops of tall trees. The usual way of looking at trees, it may be remarked, is from below. But this chamber is high up in the tower of a parish church far in the country. Its furniture is simple as that of the chamber of a certain prophet, who lived long ago. There are some things here, indeed, which he had not; for yesterday's Times lies upon the floor drying in the morning sunbeams, and Fraser's Magazine for May is on a chair by the window. Why does that incomparable monthly act blisteringly upon the writer's mind? It never did so till May, 1859. Why does he put it for the time out of sight? Why, but because, for once, he has read in that Magazine an article—by a very eminent man, too—written in what he thinks a thoroughly mistaken spirit, and setting out views which he thinks to be utterly false and mischievous. Not such, the writer knows well, are the views of his dear friend the Editor; not such are the doctrines which Fraser teaches to a grateful world. In the latter pages of his review of Mill on Liberty, Mr. Buckle spoke golely for himself; he did not express the opinions which this Magazine upholds, nor commit for one moment the staff of men who write in it; and, as one insignificant individual who has penned a good many pages of Fraser, I beg to express my keen disapprobation of Mr. Buckle's views upon the subject of Christianity. They may be right, but I firmly believe they are wrong; they may be true, but I think them false. I repudiate any share in them: let their author bear their responsibility for himself. Alas, say I, that so able a man should sincerely think (I give him credit for entire sincerity) that man's best refuge and most precious hope is vain delusion! Very jarringly to my mind sound those eloquent periods, so inexpressibly sad and dreary, amid pages penned in many quiet parsonages, by many men who for the truth of Christianity would, God helping them, lay down their lives. So, you May magazine, get meanwhile out of sight: I don't want to think of you. Rather let me stay this impatient throbbing of heart by looking down on the green tops of those great silent trees.

Thick ivy frames this mullioned window, with its three lance-shaped lights. Seventy feet below, the grassy graves of the churchyard swell like green waves. The white headstones gleam in the sun. Ancient oaks line the lichened wall of the churchyard: their leaves not yet to thick as they will be a month hereafter. Beyond the wall, I see a very verdant field, between two oaks; six or seven white lambs are lying there, or frisking about. The silver gleam of a river bounds the field; and beyond are thick hedges, white with hawthorn blossoms. In the distance there is a great rocky hill, which bounds the horizon. There is not a sound, save when a little flaw of air brushes a twig against the wall some feet below me. The smoke of two or three scattered cottages rises here and there. The sky is very bright blue, with many fleecy clouds. Quiet, quiet! And all this while the omnibuses, cabs, carriages, drays, horses, men, are hurrying, sweltering, and fretting along Cheapside!

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