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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
Chapter IX.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
‣ Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
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In 1844 Mr. Harness, under the name of “Presbyter Catholicus,” wrote a pamphlet which attracted considerable attention. It was called forth by a proposal on the part of the Bishop of London to establish a “Metropolitan Visiting and Relief Association.” Mr. Harness was strongly opposed to such a measure. He considered that charitable relief could be more advantageously bestowed in private, to those with whose wants and characters we are personally acquainted, than by the means of the agency of any public society. “The private course,” he remarks, “is safest for ourselves, without desiring to derogate from the praise of those who extend themselves beyond the bounds of their ordinary duties to set on foot schemes of distant charity, and who are led by an ardent zeal for the welfare of their race to divert the streams of their benevolence into channels far wider and more
remote than those in which they would naturally flow. I cannot help observing that there are very few who venture, without danger, to emulate their conduct. Before a man devotes his time, his faculties, and his fortune to the benefit of strangers, he ought to occupy a situation absolutely free from the responsibility of all the claims of relatives, friends, and neighbours.

“Public charities,” he observes, “create the necessity they relieve, but do not relieve all the necessity they create;” and he strongly objects to money being distributed in that way, except under the careful supervision of a responsible and well qualified Government officer. This opinion he corroborates by facts, in the following terms:

“Pray, my Lord, allow me to call your attention for a moment to the consequences which, from the natural course of things, might have been expected, and which in fact have, to a certain degree, followed the institution of this society.

“In the midst of the mildest Winter we ever happen to remember, when the poor at the north of London were perhaps better off than they had been for years; during a Christmas which, it is said, witnessed the dressing of more meat dinners in St. Giles’s than its cellars and its garrets had for a long time rejoiced in the savour of; at this moment—when such a measure was perfectly uncalled-
for by any extraordinary emergency—there appeared a public announcement in all the newspapers of a new association for promoting the Relief of the Destitution in the Metropolis. These very advertisements were pregnant with immediate evil. No sooner had they made it known over the kingdom that such a scheme of ill-judging philanthropy, supported by Royal patronage, and managed by Patrician Directors, was in agitation, than multitudes of the labouring classes who were not so well off as might be desired in the country, begged their way to London, to participate in the distribution of the funds. The sum already collected appeared to be immense. New subscribers were daily adding to its amount. What it might eventually become, none could calculate; far less could any calculate, or even think of calculating, what would be the numbers likely to apply to it for succour, or what the infinitesimal portion of relief which would fall to the lot of each, when the advertised thousands were subjected to the process of reduction and division to answer the demands of its claimants. At once London was looked upon as the El Dorado of the indigent; and thither every adventurous pauper within a practicable distance bent his way. The march of intellect had disabused them of the idle notions which existed in the days of
Whittington; they no longer believed that the Metropolis
was paved with gold, and that there any man might fill his purse by picking up the stones; but they believed, and they had high, royal, noble, episcopal authority for believing, that there no one, except a madman or an idiot, need ever be in want, and that all might fill their bellies by applying to the stores of ‘The Metropolitan Visiting and Relief Association.” If there was distress before—as there was, and always will be—the announcement of this institution doubled and trebled it. There was not sufficient work in London to occupy all the hands which were stretching out their fingers for employment; and thousands of additional hands were summoned,* as if by a stirring reveillé, to join the scramble, and increase the difficulty of obtaining any odd job that might happen to occur. At the outset, a great injury was thus done to the labouring poor of London. A multitude of strangers was introduced to compete with them for employment. But this was not all. These emigrants from the country came, with their wants and appli-

* “This circumstance is alluded to, but very tenderly, in the last Report of the Mendicity Society: ‘The managers are of opinion, that the great facility now afforded the idle and profligate to obtain food and shelter has greatly diminished their anxiety to seek for employment; and that very many have been drawn to London who would never have ventured to come there, without the security now afforded to them against the evils to which improvidence would formerly have exposed them.’—Report for 1844.”

cations, to drain those charitable supplies of coal and bread, of flannels and blankets, of soup and potatoes, which rightfully belonged to our resident mendicants, and which they had calculated upon as part of their Winter resources. When we consider the loss thus incurred by our own poor, and add to it all the wretchedness which must have been suffered, both on their journey and after their arrival, by those deluded persons who flocked to London on seeing the advertisement of the “Metropolitan Relief Association,” we can have no doubt but that for the £20,000 worth of good which its directors promised to do, according to their widely promulgated subscription list, they must have inflicted at least double that amount of misery; and this, probably, before their plans were sufficiently matured to have enabled them to disburse a farthing for its relief. So impossible is public charity! So indispensable is it that in alms-giving the left hand should not know what the right doeth.’”

Mr. Harness proceeds to trace the probable course of the movement in a particular parish:—“Let us look at the working of the scheme. The Rev. Mr. A., Incumbent of B., is anxious to show his respect for his diocesan, by acting in correspondence with your Lordship’s views. He is also not unwilling to possess himself of a portion of the funds, which he finds are at the disposal of the General Committee, and
which he thinks may be very well expended on some of his more indigent parishioners. Stimulated by this compound motive, he summons a certain number of his more steady churchgoers and frequent communicants to meet him in his school-room; reads Mr. ——’s circular to them; lays before them as much as he can collect of the scheme proposed; states his intention of adopting it in his own parish; and requests the favour of their co-operation as visitors. Now, who are these visitors to be? The noblemen and gentlemen of the General Committee do not seem to have contemplated any difficulty on this score. Every obstacle is evaporated before the glowing heat of their enthusiasm, like clouds before the sun. Speak to them of visitors; and—it matters not where the parish, or what the population—their active fancy instantly conjures up a group of Christian ladies and self-denying Christian gentlemen, with knowledge equal to their zeal, and zeal proportioned to their knowledge, with plenty of time at their disposal, and willingness (at a hint from their pastor) to spend it all in the service of the poor; with humility which can meet every man on terms of equality as a brother; with gentleness which can never offend; with charity which can sympathize with every description of distress; with a quick insight into character which intuitively distinguishes the true from the false—the sufferer
from the impostor; and with a nice tact and judgment which, apprehending at a glance the nature of the ill to be relieved, never allow them to be mistaken as to the best mode of administering the relief required.

“Such are the qualities necessary to form a good visitor of the poor—who is to go, a stranger among strangers, to deal with affliction in all its variety of forms, and with imposture in all its Protean transformations. Can the General Committee really suppose that the characters fitted for such an office are readily to be met with? or that, when met with, they will require no discipline and education to prepare them for its duties? Talk of the imaginative powers of the lover, the lunatic, or the poet! Why, such persons are not half so ‘compact of imagination’ as the staid members of this new Joint Stock Charity Association! A very few days since, one of its zealous supporters told your Lordship’s correspondent that ‘nothing was easier to be met with than men and women calculated to act as district visitors, for the only qualities required were sincere religious principles and sound common sense!’ Nothing more! The two rarest qualities in the world to be found—apart; and, of course, still more rare to be met with—in union! But supposing the Parish of B. should be most highly blest, and be peculiarly rich in individuals of this happy
religious and mental constitution; they are precisely the individuals whom the Rev. Mr. A. will, on establishing his Visiting Society, endeavour in vain to press into his service. The man of sincere religious principles and sound common sense is, of all others, the least ready to take such charges upon himself. He has his own business to attend to; he has his duty to fulfil in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call him; he is alive to all its weighty responsibilities; he does not do all he ought, and heartily desires to do more; he knows that in taking upon himself the charge of families with which he has no connexion, but the very loose ties of the same parochial tenancy, he thrusts himself into the responsibilities of those relations or friends, neighbours or employers, who are morally and religiously bound to render them what assistance may be required; and he conscientiously objects to undertake such offices, and thus to violate the Apostle’s precepts by ‘stretching himself beyond his measure.’

“But when these, the most valuable members of his congregation, have drifted off from him, where is the Rev. Mr. A. to look for his coadjutors? He may command the services of the morbid pietist—of the restless fanatic—of the idler who is weary of himself—and of the prying, curious, chattering busy-body who wants to know how everybody lives
and to settle everybody’s affairs according to her rule. Mr. Timmins has retired from business; he has always finished his newspaper by twelve; and, between that and his luncheon at one, he will have no objection to see a few poor families in his neighbourhood. Miss Yeddenly and her sister, Miss Laura, who have nothing in the world to do from breakfast to dinner—after they have watered the geraniums, cleaned the canary birds, and fed the cat—will be only too happy to undertake any charge to oblige the Rector. Miss Groves has a kind of penchant for the red-haired curate; and, though her mother (who is rather blind and very rheumatic) wishes her to remain at home and read
Ellen Middleton to her, she is altogether at the disposal of her spiritual guide. Mrs. Gilks, a widow of small independence and questionable gentility, is delighted to accept an avocation which promises to bring her into familiar contact with the more aristocratic portion of her neighbours. Mr. Docket, the little solicitor, hopes to obtain the advantages of being advertised all over the parish as ‘the Honorary Secretary’ of the charity, and volunteers the services of his wife and daughter; while Mr. Grills, the butcher, Mr. Allum, the baker, Mr. Crib, the grocer, Mr. Slate, the coal-merchant, Mr. Serge, the draper, and Mr. Spriggett, of the potato warehouse, are all ardent in the cause—partly with a
view of pleasing their excellent customer the Rector; partly on account of the beadle-like consequence to be derived from the office; and, partly, from a consideration of the amount to which their visits among the poor may be remunerated by tickets for articles on their respective shops.

“This is the class of persons, my Lord, on whom will devolve the most delicate charge that can be entrusted to the despatch of man—the charge of administering comfort to the desponding, the suffering, and the broken-hearted. At first, for a month or so, the Rev. Mr. A. may persuade a few more able hands to assist him in getting his scheme out of dock and setting it afloat. But these will one by one desert him, and eventually leave it to be worked by the sort of people I have described. At all events, from July to November, when every body is out of town, into such hands it must inevitably fall.

“But, however, after a little time, ‘The B. Visiting and Relief Society’ is formed. The President, the Treasurer, the Secretary, the Committee, are appointed; the number of visitors is complete; the grant from the great central fund has been paid, and is increased by a numerous list of annual subscriptions. The parish is divided into districts, and a certain number of ladies and gentlemen appointed as superintendents to each.


“You set up an office for the distribution of unearned food and fuel! Immediately, all the idle and improvident, the drunken and the dissolute, will flock to the scramble; and these will be followed, in rapidly increasing numbers, by others whom the display of the gifts bestowed upon the first applicants will tempt away from their daily labour, to try the chance of winning for themselves a share of those fruits of idleness which are, at first, so sweet in flavour, but which leave so bitter an after-taste.

“I cannot refrain from citing, on this subject, some cases described by Mr. Brushfield.* This gentleman was one of the parish officers of Christ Church, Spitalfields. He states: ‘My general mode of investigation was, not to make inquiries elsewhere, but to visit the residences of those persons whom I suspected—which, by the way, was most of the paupers—first on the Saturday, and next on the Sunday. On Saturday they expected me, and I had, generally, some cause to doubt the appearance of their dwellings on that day. In general, those who wanted to impose upon us over-coloured the picture; and certainly the pictures they drew were often very appalling. One Saturday, accompanied by one of the churchwardens, I visited ten places. The scenes of distress were

* In the same Parliamentary Paper, p. 279.

quite frightful. There were two cases which seemed to be cases of extreme misery. In one house a man named Bagg, who had a wooden leg, was found sitting as if sunk in despair. He said he had no work, and had no food that day, nor since the evening before. His wife was afflicted with a bad leg; she was in bed, and stated that she had not been able to get out of bed for six weeks. The room was in a miserable plight, dirty and wretched. I looked into the cupboard, and found no provisions there. The appearance of the place was such that the churchwarden could not forbear giving the man some pecuniary relief at once. The other case was that of a man named Anster, who had for some time before been chargeable to the parish as an out-pauper. The appearance of his room was most deplorable. There was no trace of any kind of food; and the children were ragged, dirty, squalid, and wretched. I desired the wife to tell her husband to apply to me for relief in the evening; when, as I was fully convinced of the necessity by the misery I witnessed, it had been my intention to give them some assistance. In the evening, the husband and wife called together. I expressed my regret that they should be obliged to come to the parish, and asked if the husband had any prospect of obtaining work? He declared that he had neither work, nor any prospect of getting any at
present. I judged by his appearance that he had been drinking, and said, ‘Well, call upon me on Monday morning, and I will see what I can do for you.’ They expressed themselves very much obliged to me, and went away apparently quite pleased; though, according to their representation, they were absolutely in a state of starvation.

“‘On the Sunday morning’ (continues Mr. Brushfield), ‘I renewed my visits. The first case I went to was that of this man, Anster. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when I called. I opened the door, and then knocked, when I found they were in bed. I saw the wife jump out of bed, and run in great haste to fling a cloth over a table which was standing in the middle of the room; but, in her haste to get away, and in her confusion, she pulled the covering off, and exposed to my view a large piece of beef, a piece of mutton, and parcels of tea, sugar, bread, butter, &c. The man called from the bed, ‘D—n them, never mind them; you know they belong to your father.’ I told them that was enough, and immediately left the place. They never afterwards applied for relief.

“‘When I visited the house of Bagg’ (continues Mr. Brushfield), ‘I found Mrs. Bagg out of bed and at breakfast; she had her tea, and he had his coffee. I saw a neck of mutton on one shelf, and two loaves
on another shelf of the cupboard, which was empty the day before. I went into his workshop—he was a silk-dresser—and found it full of work. The man swore horribly; and I left the place. I do not know that he ever asked for assistance again.’

“But,” resumes Mr. Harness, “I will take the very fairest view of the working of the B. Society, I will imagine the impossible case, that no imposition shall be practised on the visitors—or, at all events, that the plans of the Rev. Mr. A.—— and his Committee have been so well arranged as to crush it in the bud. The parish is split into such small and manageable portions that every visitor has only a very few houses under his superintendence. These he will call at from time to time; and, by personally making himself acquainted with the circumstances and wants of each family, will not only anticipate the necessity of any application for assistance, but preclude the possibility of fraud. Now, admirable as this scheme may appear to many, I beg leave to state, from my intimate knowledge of the best class of the labouring poor, that, though they may not exhibit any incivility to the strange lady or gentleman who thus—impertinently and without invitation—forces her or his way into their apartments, they feel, as they will very often express themselves, quite as much hurt by such an
indecent outrage on the sacred privacy of their home as that lady or gentleman visitor would feel if any poor person were to obtrude himself, uncalled for, into the boudoir of the one or the library of the other. When your correspondent, my Lord, once asked an old Scotchwoman ‘why she always locked her door against the visiting lady?’ her answer was, ‘She’s an idle, chattering body; and I’d rather want her coals than be fashed wi’ her questions!’

“The English population will be fallen low, indeed, when the industrious classes are so degraded as to have lost all sense of the reverence which is due to their own hearths, and not to feel the republican part of their national character rise indignantly against the arrogance which considers a better coat and a fuller purse as affording any one who may choose to enter upon the office a sufficient warrant for breaking in, at all times, however inconvenient, upon their families and interfering with their concerns. ‘Poverty has naturally a proud spirit: pauperism a base one—now servile, now insolent.’*

“But I will return to the Rev. Mr. A——, and the B. Visiting Society. It is now ready for business; the season for its operation has commenced. Work is slack; the snow is on the ground; and

* Walker’sOriginal,” page 195.

there is a considerable degree of distress among the inhabitants of the poorer districts. The visitor sets out upon his round, to do his best towards discovering where it presses most severely, and to apply, as judiciously as he can, the funds entrusted to him for its relief. I will put no imaginary case: I will only describe such circumstances as I have known to exist, and are fresh in my recollection. He comes to a house inhabited entirely by labouring people—a family in each room. On the first floor, in one apartment, he finds a man, his wife, and two children. They have every comfort about them. The husband is a shoe-maker; the wife helps at the binding; the eldest child is sent to school at two-pence a week; the other is too young to leave the mother. At present, their whole earnings do not exceed ten shillings a week; but they had saved some money in the summer, and they hope to be in receipt of better wages in the spring. In the other apartment, lives a man with his wife and one child. He is also a shoe-maker. His room is filthy, offensive in smell, and destitute of any furniture, except his bench, a black tea-kettle, two or three articles of damaged earthenware, and a lump of dirty shavings, which, with some old horse-cloths, are bundled up in a corner of the room by day, and spread out at night to serve the family as a bed. The circumstances of this man,
as to the amount of his weekly earnings, are precisely those of his neighbour in the next room; though in one sense he is better off, as he has only one child to feed, and no schooling to pay for. But he earns only ten shillings a week. This must supply him, his wife and child, with lodging, clothing, food, and firing. In the Spring, Summer, and Autumn, he had higher wages; but then he owed a large bill at the shop, and had spent the rest; so that, now, he is really in a state of poverty, having borrowed whenever he could find any neighbour to lend—run in debt wherever he could get credit—and pawned every article of dress or furniture on which a penny could be raised. “Here, then, are two cases, in which the visitor is called upon take an active part; they may be considered as fair representatives of nearly all the cases which he will meet with in the course of his perambulations. How is the visitor to deal with them? Will he not give to either? Then he may as well fling his Journal, and his relief tickets, and all the apparatus of a district-visitor into the fire; for he will very rarely meet with any necessity greater than that of the family I have last described. The distress, it is true, has been brought on by imprudence and vice; but if he refuses help to all the misery which originates in such causes, he will find very few claimants on his benevolence.


“Will he, then, assist this case? If he does, he will confer on the dissolute and imprudent that which his prudent and virtuous neighbour in the adjoining room is unable to purchase. The Visitor’s ticket for bread and coals renders this unworthy fellow’s income for the week far better than that of the industrious, independent, high-minded man who is bravely struggling against his difficulties on the other side of the partition which divides their rooms; and alms, so given, operate, to all intents and purposes, as a premium on vice and a great discouragement to virtue.

“I cannot, my Lord, help thinking that the experience of Mr. J. K. Barker might be very advantageously taken as a guide to the District Visitor on such an occasion. This gentleman had been most kindly active in the administration of the parochial affairs of Hambledon. He says:* ‘There were two labourers who were reported to me as extremely industrious men, maintaining large families. Neither of them had ever applied for parish relief. I thought it advisable that they should receive some mark of public approbation; and we gave them one pound apiece from the parish. Very shortly after this, they both became applicants for relief, and have continued so ever since. I am not aware that any other cause existed for this change in the con-

* “Administration of the Poor Laws,” page 85.

duct of the two men, except the above-mentioned gratuity.’

“Nothing can permanently better the condition of the working classes but an increase of prudence.” The Visiting Society has a direct tendency to destroy the exercise of this virtue. In addressing the labouring classes, it takes the care of themselves out of their own hands. Were the father of a family to say, ‘If, my lads, you are in any difficulty about paying your bills at Christmas, never mind, come to me, I’ll settle them for you,’ does not your Lordship think he would very soon find his lads always in difficulty about their Christmas bills, and that he would have more presented than he could conveniently pay? The case is precisely the same with Relief Societies. The effect which they have upon the poor population of a parish cannot be better illustrated than by an anecdote related by Thomas Walker, the late excellent Police Magistrate: ‘The founder of Guy’s Hospital left to the Trustees a fund to be distributed to such of his relations as should, from time to time, fall into distress. The fund, at length, became insufficient to meet the applications; and the Trustees, thinking it hard to refuse any claimants, trenched upon the funds of the Hospital; the consequence of which was that no Guy was ever known to prosper. So that if any individual

* Walker’sOriginal,” page 251.

could be wicked enough to wish the ruin of his posterity for ever, his surest means would be to leave his property in trust, to be distributed ‘to them only in distress.’

“Just so is it with all these public charities for the poor. Like Guy’s fund, they set before the eyes of the labouring classes an inducement to distress; and those classes will never prosper till such ill-judging friends as the ‘Metropolitan District Visiting and Relief Association’ can be persuaded to withdraw their pernicious protection from them. All these newly-invented benevolent Institutions, which are formed to help the poor through every difficulty of life, are framed in direct opposition to the counsels of Providence; for all those difficulties were designed by the Almighty as a part of a wise but severe discipline, to compel us to look beyond the present and provide for the future, by suffering from the idleness or imprudence of the past.

“Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need to be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good. In New England, they once thought blackbirds useless and mischievous to the corn; and they made efforts to destroy them. The consequence was the blackbirds were diminished; but a kind of worm which devoured their grass, and which the black-
birds used to feed on, increased prodigiously. Then, finding their loss in grass much greater than their saving in corn, they wished again for the blackbirds.’* Nothing can be more apt than this illustration. The corn represents the cardinal virtues—the blackbirds the ordinary exigencies of human life—the efforts to destroy them public charities—and the worms, which multiplied in proportion as the blackbirds were destroyed, are the vices, sloth, intemperance, and carelessness of the future.”

With reference to giving relief in kind instead of money, Mr. Harness adds: “A poor person will always make a shilling purchase twice as much again as a rich one will do for him. As one out of many cases which I could cite in proof of this, I will extract from the Journal of a Clergyman (who, by-the-by, is a London Curate of eighteen years’ standing, and identifies himself in all my views) what was done by one of his poor with the small sum of sixpence farthing:
1lb. of meat
½lb of flour
Carried forward

* A letter of Franklin’s, preserved in “The Diary of a Lover of Literature.” See Gentleman’s Magazine, New Series, Vol. I., page 12.

226A Clergyman's Journal.
Brought forward
71bs. of coals
The meat was the trimmings of tongues, excellent beef and no bone; the fat was used as suet to convert the flour into dumplings. The articles were all, except the meat, bought of the small dealers who alone will give themselves the trouble of selling such small quantities. ‘I never’, says my friend, ‘wish to taste better soup than this made. It dined the widow and her son, a lad of fifteen, for two days; and gave him a supper besides.’ Yet we are told the poor can’t manage their own affairs! They must be relieved with tickets, not with money! What could any visiting lady or gentleman have done with such a pittance?

“Besides, under this system of truck charity, how do we know that the visitor will always have the discretion to adjust properly the sort of relief which is required by the nature of the necessity? As an example of the egregious blunders committed in this way, we must give another extract from the Journal of our clerical friend: ‘Went to see Mrs. Cole.
The visiting gentleman from Chapel was in the room. This scene occurred. The visitor asked the poor woman, who was very ill, “Are you married?” “Yes.”—“Husband in work?” “No.”—“How many children have you?” “Six.”—“What provisions have you in the house?” “Only the loaf from the parish.”—“Husband out of work, wife ill in bed, six children, very little provisions.” This he said aloud while writing in a book; then giving a scrap of paper to Mrs. Cole, he added “Here’s an order for six yards of flannel,” and walked out of the room.’

“Again (I copy the words of the journal): ‘There is no creature in the world so hard-hearted as the woman who makes charity her business. This morning’s scene has annoyed and grieved me very much. I called on poor Mrs. Smart. She cannot have more than a day or two to live. The poor creature was, as usual, on the three chairs placed together, which form her only bed; but sitting up, and in a state of frightful nervous agitation. Her hands were clasped and pressed tight against her breast. She was rocking herself backward and forward as violently as her weakness would allow, and repeating with continually increased rapidity of utterance, till the words became confounded and were scarcely distinguishable, “Oh! Lord! take away my heart of stone, and give me a
heart of flesh!” Beside her, stood a tall, stout, bolt-upright woman, securely defended against the Winter’s cold by an impenetrable mass of shawls and furs, with a face rubicund and shining, and looking as if Providence had placed an ample supply of the treasures of this life at her disposal, of which she availed herself in three ample meals a day, with a pint of porter at each.

“On my entering the room, the Visitor noticed me with that air of formal and supercilious distance which party-spirited ladies are apt to exhibit towards those of the clergy whom they condemn as not sufficiently spiritual in their views. Pointing to the dying creature, she said: “A sad sight, Sir! A miserable end! No hope, I fear, here?” “Why, what has happened? There was none of this excitement when I left this morning.” “The heart of stone! The heart of stone! No answer to her prayers! No fruit of the Spirit! No joy!” “Oh! Madam! why do you pass so severe a sentence on our poor sister?” “Can you consider this anything but a state of reprobation? Where is the heart of flesh? Where is the joy?” “Joy! Madam!” “What! do you mean to assert, Sir, that joy is not an indispensable fruit of the Spirit?” “This is really no place or time for religious
controversy; when you have finished your visit, I will return to Mrs. Smart.” “I have done Sir! I am going; pray don’t let me drive you away.” And doubling her boa over her double chin, without deigning to look at the poor creature whom she had condemned to everlasting perdition, she stalked out of the room.

“As soon as the visiting lady left us, I sat down on a box beside poor, ignorant, inoffensive Mrs. Smart, and did my best to tranquillize her. I first induced her to stop the quick, anxious, hysterical repetition of the words which had been put into her mouth. When I had succeeded in this, and she became composed, I explained the nature both of “a heart of stone” and “a heart of flesh.” I showed her that the one signified a state of mind which was insensible to all religious impressions; the other, a state of mind which was open to such impressions. I, by my questions, led her back, through a calm course of self-examination on these important subjects, to the hopeful reliance on God’s mercy through Christ, which she had enjoyed in my previous visits; and then, after reading some prayers from the Visitation Service, I took my leave of her for to-day’.”

Mr. Harness proceeds to suggest that, instead of
lay-readers being employed, the number of the educated clergy should be increased. “My experience teaches me that the individuals on whom the office of lay-reader* is apt to fall, are the last, even among persons inadequately instructed, to whom it could be safely confided.

“By far the most creditable specimen of this class whom I have known employed in that part of London where I reside, was an Irishman, and not wanting in those gifts of fluency and quickness which are common to his nation. By trade he was a journeyman house-painter; but he had a spirit which disdained the fustian jacket and the paper cap. He cast about for some less humble and more lucrative mode of life; and, after absenting himself for a few weeks, he returned among us, in a full suit of mourning, and sent circulars round the neighbourhood to inform all those who were willing to trust their teeth in his hands, that he was practising as a ‘surgeon-dentist.’ This business he did not pursue for a much longer period than he had devoted to acquiring the knowledge of it.

“Not meeting with the success he had anticipated

* He proposed as a substitute to admit to Holy Orders men “who had retired from their profession or business, and desired to dedicate the remainder of their days to the service of God and the succour of His creatures.”

in this profession, he resumed the red pipkin and the paint brush, and did jobs, as his printed cards assured us, ‘on the most moderate terms and his own account.’ But Art proving as little productive to him as Science, he again appeared in his black habiliments, and was seen perambulating the streets of the next parish as the lay-reader, or, as he designated himself, the ‘acting minister,’ under the auspices of one of the Societies who have undertaken the supply of cheap religion to the poor. What has lately become of him I know not. The last time I saw him, he talked very seriously of offering himself, unordained as he was, to supply the vacant chaplaincy of one of the prisons. I know no harm of the man except his fickleness of purpose; but whether an individual in whose bonnet the bee buzzes so incessantly is exactly fitted for the very serious office of inculcating the truths of the Gospel beside the hearths of the afflicted or by the pillows of the dying, will, I believe, be doubted by everyone who does not consider fluency and excitability as better qualifications for a religious teacher than calm piety and enlightened judgment.”

The pamphlet from which the above extracts are taken was a development of an article which Mr. Harness had sent to Mr. Lockhart for insertion in
Quarterly Review. Mr. Lockhart declined it in the following terms:—

“I have read your MS. It is exceedingly able—most effective—most capital, in short; and I have no doubt you are right in the main.

“I don’t doubt, however, that good has been and is daily done by the sort of Societies you are attacking, and I could not publish the article without several interpolations.

“But I couldn’t, were it one chrysolite, accept it for this number. I told you truly—I am full. I publish this month, and no article ever has much chance unless it comes to hand at a much earlier stage of my operations.

“I am sorry indeed, but can’t help this. I see you are in a hurry, and no wonder; for really much of it is as good as anything Sydney Smith ever wrote.

“Yours ever,
“H. L.”

On receiving the above letter, Mr. Harness published a considerable part of this article in the Times; and it was so well received that the editor wrote to him requesting further communications on the subject.


The year after this pamphlet appeared, Mr. Harness left St. Pancras. More than one reason induced him to seek a change. Twenty years of unremitting labour in a metropolitan district, which had meanwhile increased from 16,000 to 23,000, had rendered him less capable of bodily exertion; and an accident which had befallen him on a summer excursion, made his parochial duties more laborious to him. Notwithstanding his lameness from infancy—which always caused him more or less pain in walking—Mr. Harness was an active pedestrian, sometimes accomplishing as much as thirty miles in one day; and when on a tour in Wales, about ten years before this date, as he was descending a hill with a heavy knapsack on his back, his knee suddenly gave way, and he found that he had fractured the knee-pan. After this accident, he was always in danger of falling; he required the assistance of a stick; and the mounting steep and narrow stair-cases became a matter of difficulty, if not of danger, to him. To these reasons for resigning his London cure, we should add that he always loved the country, and now became unusually weary of his long confinement to town.

In a letter to Miss Mitford, written at this time, he thus expresses his feelings:—

“I wish I could get to Reading to visit you;
but alas I my every hour is fettered with occupations. Oh, country! country! country! Do you know the old play in which a lad, who had been a beggar, but became civilized and domesticated in the house of a county magistrate, grows wild for liberty every Spring, and flies from his quiet comfortable home to live at random in the fields, and under the shade of trees? I’m just like that man. The sun never shines upon a green twig in the Square* but I pine for the beauties and the calm of the country.”

Mr. Harness thought that now, in his fifty-fourth year, he might very suitably retire and accept a less onerous sphere of usefulness. He was never an ambitious man, and rather avoided than courted public commendation. But he loved those among whom he had laboured during the Spring and Summer-tide of his life, and was deeply touched at the concern they manifested on his departure; and in his farewell address he confessed that he should not even then have negotiated for an exchange, had he not been suffering from “some unaccountable languor and depression of spirits.” It was then too late for him to alter his determination; but his parishioners, in memory of his long and faithful ministry among them, subscribed for a

* Mecklenburgh Square. He then lived in Heathcote Street, just out of the Square.

handsome testimonial,* which was publicly presented to him by
Mr. Serjeant Talfourd.

The change proved truly unfortunate. Although Mr. Harness had constantly moved in what is called “the world” (it was his pride to say that he associated with all classes, from the highest to the lowest), there never was a man less imbued with its maxims, or less animated by its spirit. Generous and unsuspicious to a fault, he attributed to others the high motives by which he was himself actuated. As a consequence he was, therefore, generally unfortunate in business transactions; even to such an extent that his income would have been considerably diminished, had it not been from time to time unexpectedly supplemented by legacies from friends and strangers. In the present instance, without instituting the necessary inquiries, he accepted a retired living, in place of his London incumbency; and when he came to take possession of his rural retreat, he found to his cost that justice had now deserted not only the town, but also the country. The church and parsonage had been allowed to fall completely out of repair; and as he would have been personally liable for dilapidations, he finally resolved to adopt the advice of a friend and not to enter into possession.

Having thus lost his position, he was obliged to

* A massive silver candelebrum.

seek some other duty, and he became Minister of Brompton Chapel. Here he remained for three years, when, at the suggestion of his old friend,
Dean Milman, he commenced to collect funds and make arrangements for the building of All Saints, Knightsbridge.