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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
Chapter IV.

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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During Mr. Harness’s residence at Hampstead, in what may be termed the holiday period of his life, he occasionally indulged his fancy in the composition of short poems, such as were then in fashion and were considered to add grace and sentiment to the routine of correspondence. In his intercourse with his friends he also found another way of contributing to the entertainment and sociability of those around him. Many of his young lady acquaintances were proficient in acting charades, and found much pleasure in such exercises of ingenuity. As he was known to be a man of taste, he was soon called upon to use his skill for their benefit, and he accordingly planned a somewhat more elaborate performance than they had hitherto tried, by the introduction of a little dramatic scene and dialogue to represent each word. The attempt was successful,
and Mr. Harness’s charades met with considerable approbation.

Miss Mitford was one of those who were most pleased with his idea, and as she was then writing for the magazines, requested permission to publish some of his charades in Blackwoods. This was granted; for, although Mr. Harness wished to keep them for the use of his own friends, he was unwilling to lose any opportunity of affording pecuniary assistance to his early companion. They accordingly appeared in the year 1826; Miss Mitford adopting Mr. Harness’s plans, and developing them with her own facility of expression. “I enclose my charades,” she writes to him, “which, in all but their faults, might more properly be called yours.” In a letter written at this time, Mr. Harness thus alludes to them, and gives some interesting details about his interview with Deville the phrenologist:—

“My dear Miss Mitford,

“Send me the charades, and I will forward them to Blackwood. I have not a doubt of their doing your opera at Covent Garden, if Charles find it likely to succeed—which, from the nature of the story, must, I should think, be the case. I really think Deville was right about my head; and right, in fact, even when he appeared to be wrong in his description. For instance, he said that I should be offended by
glaring colours, which is not the case. I have the eyes of colours, but am extremely annoyed by colours that don’t harmonize, though I am rather fond of strong colours. I forget whether, in my hurry of writing to you, I told you of his extraordinary exposition of the character of my friend Newman’s little boy. The child went with me; and Deville having told me the propensities of the child’s character, said, ‘There is one thing very remarkable in this boy’s head; I never saw any English child with the perceptive organs so strongly marked. In general, the English have strong reflection, and the Foreigners strong perception; but in this boy there is an exact and beautiful equality subsisting between the two.’ His mother is, as you know, a Portuguese. This was an admirable hit.

By-the-by, would it not be better to reserve your charades for your novel? They would take as new, and, at the present time, novelty of incident is the very thing that novels want.

“With kindest remembrances to Dr. and Mrs. Mitford.

Best love,
Yours ever most faithfully,

One of these charades formed a complete little drama of the time of the Commonwealth. The word
was “Match-lock,” and the persons a Puritan’s daughter, a Cavalier, and the irritable old Puritan himself. The last of the series published was composed entirely by
Miss Mitford. It was on “Blackwood,” and gave an exquisite specimen of the authoress’s poetic talent, and of her power in describing sylvan scenery.

In the following year (1827) Mr. Harness published in Blackwood’s Magazine a little story, possessing interest as advocating that cheerful view of life which was so congenial to his temperament. The hero of the tale commences in the following joyous mood:—

“I was alone; my heart beat lightly; my pulse was quickened by the exercise of the morning; my blood flowed freely through my veins as meeting with no checks or impediments to its current, and my spirits were elated by a multitude of happy remembrances and of brilliant hopes.” Everything seemed to him delightful; even the fire at which he sat. “‘What capital coals these are’ (he breaks forth), ‘there is nothing in the world so cheering—so enlivening—as a good hot, blazing sea-coal fire.’ I broke a large lump into fragments with the poker as I spoke. ‘It’s all mighty fine,’ I continued, ‘for us travellers to harangue the ignorant on the beauty of foreign cities, of their buildings without dust, and their skies without a cloud; but
for my own part, I like to see a dark, thick, heavy atmosphere hanging over a town. It forewarns the traveller of his approach to the habitations, the business, and the comforts of his civilized fellow-creatures. It gives an air of grandeur and importance and mystery to the scene. It conciliates our respect: we know that there must be some fire where there is so much smoke.’ I confirmed my argument in favour of our metropolitan obscurity by another stroke of the poker against the largest fragment of the broken coal; and then, letting fall my weapon and turning my back to the fire, I exclaimed, ‘Certainly—there’s no kind of furniture like books; nothing else can afford one an equal air of comfort and habituality. Such a resource too! A man never feels alone in a library. He lives surrounded by companions who stand ever obedient to his call, coinciding with every caprice of temper, and harmonizing with every turn and disposition of the mind. Yes! I love my books; they are my friends—my counsellors—my companions! Yes! I have a real personal attachment, a very tender regard for my books!’”

Those who knew Mr. Harness’s cheerful temperament, and remember how well the walls of his rooms were lined with the works of great men, may easily imagine that he was here speaking his own sentiments. The story, which is named “Reverses,”
proceeds to narrate that the joyous bachelor has just sold his estates for £80,000, and is about to be married to the most lovely and accomplished of woman-kind. After a delicious dream about white favours and bridal festivities, he is awakened next morning by his valet, who is the bearer of the overwhelming intelligence that his solicitor, into whose hands the £80,000 had just been paid, had absconded during the night. Our jubilant hero is in a moment prostrated. He betakes himself to his solicitor’s partner, but finds him only full of his own misfortunes. He calls upon his old schoolfellow, Fraser, but finds he has left town, and the servant intimates that his friend went off in haste on hearing of the disaster. Luttrell—such was our hero’s name—returns to his lodgings in the lowest despondency. Everything seemed lost; but still, as he pondered over his misfortunes, one bright image presented itself to him. “My fortune is gone,” he exclaimed; “my friend has deserted me; but Maria! thou, dearest, still remainest true to me! I’ll tranquillize my mind with the sweet counsel of your daily letter, and then proceed to deliberate and act for myself.” To his dismay, no letter arrived! Maria, then, had deserted him in his distress, and had been unable to bear so severe a test! His misery was now at its height; but as he strode about his room he caught the eye of his Newfound-
land dog fixed wistfully and tenderly upon him. “Yes, Neptune,” he cried, “everything on earth has forsaken me, except you—you, alone, my good and faithful dog are constant to me in my hours of affliction.”

He now began to take a misanthropic view of life, and in his fever of excitement thanked Heaven for the calamity which had befallen him, as it had shown him the true character of those he had unwisely trusted. He meditated suicide, and actually left his home with a pistol in his pocket. Having been accustomed to row on the river he went down to his boat, as he thought he should thus escape from observing eyes. His dog alone accompanied him, and he pulled rapidly past Chelsea. Ceasing to row, and beginning again to declaim against the depravity of the world, he at length so much irritated his canine friend, who was lying in the bottom of the boat, that the dog growled. “Right! right!” he exclaimed. “My very dog turns against me!” In his desperation he seized the animal and attempted to fling him into the water: he lost his balance in the attempt, and being unable to swim would have been inevitably drowned but for the assistance of his belied companion. Thus preserved from a watery grave, and somewhat sobered by the cold immersion, he began, when seated on the bank, to take a more moderate view of the world in
general. The noble act of his dog, whom he intended to shoot, caused him to feel humbled and self-condemned. He made his way home in a different mood from that in which he had started, and on his arrival found a note from his Maria, explaining why she had not written on the previous day, and saying that, although their income would be greatly diminished, there would, she was sure, be no diminution of their united happiness. Soon afterwards, a knock came at the door. It was no other than Fraser, whose sudden disappearance was owing to his having started in pursuit of his friend’s absconding attorney. He had overtaken him, horsewhipped him, and recovered the money. The tale ends in the same genial tone with which it commenced, and Luttrell exclaims enthusiastically. “The world’s a good world—the women are all true, the friends are all faithful, and the dogs are all attached and staunch; and if any individual is induced at any moment to hold an opposite opinion, depend upon it that unhappy man is deluded by false appearances, and that a little inquiry would convince him of his mistake.”

Speaking of this story, Miss Mitford remarks, “How capital ‘Reverses’ was! I don’t know when I have been so delighted with anything. The tone of fashion, and the little air of laughing at fashion even whilst adopting it, were admirable,
and you and your books are done to the life; only you should not have thought of shooting the Newfoundland. But the conclusion makes amends for all, and is so like your own real manner that I should have known it for yours anywhere.”

Mr. Harness entirely sympathised with Miss Mitford in her warm feelings towards her friends, and indeed towards mankind in general, but did not follow her in her devotion to animals. He was wont to say that we should not bestow upon the lower creation what was rightly due to the higher; and for this reason he objected to Byron’s epitaph on his dog, saying that it was an unfair aspersion on mankind, and that we received from our friends fully as much regard as our own conduct towards them deserved.

The success which attended Mr. Harness’s edition of Shakespeare, and the knowledge he possessed of the beauties of our earlier literature, induced Mr. Murray to propose that he should publish a family edition of the works of the elder dramatists. The merits of these writings had been long obscured, if not ignored, owing to the coarse expressions which occasionally disfigure their pages, and which were due to the rude vocabulary of that unrefined age. The fault was not, as Mr. Harness observes, properly attributable to the writers themselves, who merely adopted the ordinary phraseology: “The
old English dramatists, the friends and contemporaries of
Shakespeare, have contributed one of the most valuable portions to the poetic literature of our country. But, abounding as they do in wit and fancy, in force and copiousness of expression, in truth and variety of character, in rapid change of incident, in striking and interesting situations, and above all in justice and elevation of sentiment, their works are totally unknown to the generality of readers, and are only found in the hands of the adventurous few who have deviated from the beaten paths of study to explore for themselves less familiar and exhausted tracts of literary amusement. The neglect of these authors, in an age so favourable to works of imagination as the present, can only be ascribed to that occasional coarseness of language which intermixes with and pollutes the breath of their most exquisite scenes. For what may be termed the licentiousness of the stage, for immorality of principle, for that offence which was transplanted from France to England with the Court of Charles the Second, our old dramatists do not require the aid of any apologist. They are innocent of attempting to confound the notion of right and wrong, or of seeking to influence the bad passions of our nature against the first great principles of morals. These were the corruptions of a later and more vicious age.”


Mr. Harness never completed the work which he commenced. The duties of his large London parish now fully occupied his time; and although the remuneration was some object to him, he finally relinquished the undertaking, after the publication of the four first volumes of “Massinger’s Plays.”

To the love of more serious study Mr. Harness united an artist’s appreciation of the beauty of form and colour. When he closed his heavy tomes of learned theology and left their subdued light, he opened the more sunny pages of the Book of Nature and walked abroad by streams and mountain sides, with a heart full of fresh and joyous impulses. No one enjoyed his short holiday ramble more thoroughly than he; and whether he strolled along the banks of the legendary Loire, or through the intricate windings of some antique Dutch town, or, nearer home, explored the mountain regions of Wales or Cumberland, he always brought back some interesting sketches as remembrances of his summer excursion.

On one occasion, during his earlier London duty, he returned with an unusually rich collection from Holland, and in 1837 he composed a dramatic poem, the scenes of which were laid in Antwerp. The story was one of love; a silken and slightly-woven tissue, little valued or elaborated by its
author. It contained, nevertheless, some fine sentiments and graceful descriptions; as where, for instance, the happy old age of Kessel, a rich burgher of Antwerp is thus pictured:

Steinhault. Whose eye more bright, whose spirit in more gay.
Whose step more firm, whose heart more warm, than Kessel’s?
With you a green and vigorous old age
Throws off the burden of its many years,
Disdaining Time’s slight malice. Eighty winters,
As shadows on some noble monument,
Have fall’n and passed and done you no disservice!
Kessel. Mark me, my friend, my course of life has been
Most highly favoured, a serene repose,
Free from disturbing passions; a sweet calm
Of kindness and prosperity and honour;
A holiday voyage along a sunny stream;
A summer’s day, of which the moonlight eve
Wears the noon’s brightness, though the sun has set.
In this tranquillity the lamp of being
Burns with a steady and unvarying flame,
And none observes how wastes the oil within.
I—I alone—perceive the weakening force
Of life’s high energies—I only feel
The sense of my decline. Let all things rest
Prosperous and bright around me as they are,
And some years longer may old Kessel live
To welcome at his board the friends he loves:
But peace is now essential to existence;
I have no strength for conflict. Should affliction
Lay its hard hand upon me, I well know
The spirit’s gone which might have struggled with it,
And sorrow’s touch would be the stroke of death.

Some of the lines, interpreted by late events, seem almost prophetic:*

“Show me the city, howe’er rich and feared,
Secure in men and arms, fenced up to heaven,
And in her massive walls impregnable,
Which holy wedlock holds in slight respect;
And I, a sure interpreter of fate,
Judging the future by the past, will tell
“Where the foe lurks in subtle ambushment,
That shall her deep foundations undermine,
O’erclimb her lofty bulwarks, drain her wealth,
Quench in enervating licentiousness
The valour of her sons, to bondage lead them,
And on the barren plain or sounding shore
Leave her the ruined haunt of savage creatures!”

Further on the same subject is again touched upon:

“Of a fair tree the elder poets speak
Which—while it stands entire—bears lovely blossoms,
And fruit according; but, if haply thence
A branch, a bud, a leaf be broken off,
The whole plant withering dies: and even such—
So beautiful of growth, so frail of being—
Is marriage happiness. Its mutual trust
In the faith of each to each, firm and entire,
It is the sovereign gift of all the bounties
Heaven hath awarded man. But once impair,

* Speaking of France, Mr. Harness said that he did not enjoy Paris, as it seemed to be the city of the idle. “The French,” he added, referring to their civil commotions—“don’t know what they want, and will never be satisfied till they get it.”

E’en in the least degree, that confidence
Which is its vital principle, and straight
Earth’s fairest flower perishes away,
Never to bloom again.”

Mr. Harness read this poem to Lady Dacre, an intimate friend, and one of the literary authorities of the day. He probably preferred submitting it to a lady, as she would be a better judge in social matters. Lady Dacre desired to have the MS. for her private perusal, and having succeeded in deciphering the author’s enigmatical handwriting, sent him the following critique on the work.

“The Hoo, Nov. 8, 1832.

“If I had not known you had another copy of ‘The Wife of Antwerp,’ I should have been in a great fidget about keeping this so long. I always meant to send it to London by Mrs. Ellice, and her departure is fixed for next Tuesday. At her house then (57, Park Street, Grosvenor Square) you will find it; and she bids me say she will be delighted to see you, and that you must call for it, and that she will not send it to you. I studied the play and made myself mistress of the handwriting, and read it off like print to our party, who were all exceedingly pleased and interested by it. Have you made any alterations since you read it here? It is much
too good to be laid aside in disgust, as you seem half inclined to do. And yet I think you might improve it, in what I consider the mere drudgery of the business. You have poetry, passion, situation, and strong interest; only look to the dove-tailing, the accounting for things as they take place. You are quite right in avoiding divided affections in a woman who is to interest (her own sex at least), but any degree of timidity or female softness may be admissible in a very young girl. * * *

“These are merely loose suggestions for your better judgment. If they set you thinking your own thoughts (for they must be your own for you to express them effectively), I have done all I wished. We have so many heroines with grand characters and high sentiments, why not give interest to what is most weakly feminine? * * * Now, think away, and if anything should occur that may improve the mere management of the incidents of the play, don’t be idle. If you should be so kind as to write to say you have received the MS., and forgive all my nonsense, pray say a word of Mr. Kemble and others in the New World.

“Yours truly,
B. Dacre.

“Pray excuse this incoherent scrawl; I am in company, and talking to several others as well as to
you; and never could bring myself to write a letter over again in my life.”

Mr. Harness had not sufficient confidence or ambition to be induced to publish upon such uncertain commendation. He determined to commit the poem to the flames, but, in the act of destruction, his hand was fortunately arrested by his old friend, Mr. Dyce. This discriminating gentleman, familiarly versed in the beauties of the elder poets, saw much to admire in this composition, and at his request Mr. Harness had it printed for private circulation, and, as in duty bound, dedicated it to its preserver. Its title was changed to that of “Welcome and Farewell;” and it was reviewed in the “Quarterly,” where long extracts from it were given. The article terminated with the words:—

“Thus closes this very pleasing specimen—not indeed of the highest kind of drama—it is not tragedy, which ‘in her gorgeous pall comes sweeping by’—but of a simple and affecting household story thrown with great skill into a dramatic form. And we cannot conclude without remarking that which ought hardly to be, but unhappily, in the present state of our imaginative literature, is a distinctive excellence, the pure and healthful moral tone which prevails throughout the poem. There
is nothing of the cold and elaborate propriety of a writer wishing to create a favourable impression of his own character, and seizing every opportunity of inculcating trite and obvious truth; but the genuine and spontaneous impulse of a good and pure heart, speaking in every sentiment, and tempering every expression.”

Miss Mitford in the following letter speaks of her friend’s production with her characteristic enthusiasm:—

“Three Mile Cross, November 4th, 1839.
“My dear Friend,

“Let me thank you most sincerely and heartily for the thrice beautiful play. I have read it with equal pride and pleasure—a triumphant pleasure in such an evidence of the sweet and gentle power of my oldest and, I might almost say, my kindest friend. It breathes the spirit of the old dramatists from first to last, especially of Heywood, whose ‘Woman killed with Kindness’ is forcibly recalled; but by that sort of resemblance which springs from a congeniality of talent, and makes one say, ‘Heywood might have written this, although there is much more of the letter of poetry, more finished and beautiful passages, than can be found in any single play of the ‘Prose Shakespeare.’ I do not know when I have read a drama which bore such evi-
dence of the author’s mind, so good, so pure, so indulgent, so gentlemanly.
Lady Dacre told me that it was full of beauty; but I did not expect so much poetry, and I feel sincerely grateful to Mr. Dyce (whom I always liked very heartily on his own account) for rescuing this charming play from the flames. When I said that I had not for a long time seen a drama so full of the author, I fibbed unconsciously, for it is into plays that authors do put their very selves. The character of Kessel is very beautiful and original, and the high-minded Albert, and poor, poor Margaret, have made me cry more than I can tell. At all events, I rejoice to have it printed. It fixes you in the same high position poetically that you have always occupied socially and professionally. It is a thing for your friends to be proud of, in every sense of the word. If the tableaux go on, I shall come to you for a dramatic scene. Has that book been sent yet? You will be very much pleased with Miss Barrett’s ballad, in spite of a little want of clearness, and with Mr. Proctor’s spirited poem. In short, it is the only book bearing my name of which I was ever proud; but if we go on, I shall be still prouder next year to have you added to my list of poets and friends. What a thing it is, by mere self-postponement and sympathy in the claims of others, to have hidden such a gift! It is just like what your
sister does, who—cleverer and better than half her acquaintances—always speaks of herself as nobody.

“God bless you! A thousand thanks for all your kindness.

“Ever most faithfully yours,

On a later occasion, during an excursion in Wales in 1843, Mr. Harness composed a play, which on his return he printed and dedicated to Lord Lansdowne. This poem, although in a dramatic form, more resembles a Bucolic or Georgic, and is principally remarkable for the picturesque country sketches with which it abounds. Mr. Harness does not seem to claim for it any niche in the Temple of Thalia, when he merely refers to it as “Scenes written last Autumn during some solitary walks at the Lakes and in North Wales.” The dialogue commences in a harvest field when the work of the sickle is being suspended, owing to a contention between two young reapers—George and Walter. The immediate cause of the dissension is that George has been taunting Walter with his unknown parentage; but the true origin of the mischief is as usual—a woman. George has known and been devoted to his cousin Mary from childhood; and he thus touchingly records their intimacy:—

“When first my father
Purchased the farm hard by, she was an infant.
And I a boy not more than ten years old;
Yet then I loved her. When sent here,
As oft I was, on errands from my home,
‘Twas my delight to see that, as I entered,
She would spring forth and spread her little arms
And laugh aloud, and try to come to me,
Even from her mother’s lap. As she grew up,
And ‘gan to walk alone, she’d take my hand,
And stroll for hours about the fields arid lanes,
Gathering the wild rose and the eglantine,
As I bent down the branches to her reach.
In all my boyhood’s light and stirring hours,
There was no spot i’ th’ green, nor chase a-field—
Though well I loved them—gave me half the joy
I found in idling with that soft-eyed child.
And when with feigned reluctance I forbore,
She, with her pretty wiles and promised kisses,
Would woo me still to be her playfellow.
Then afterwards, in all her school-day troubles,
To me she ran to hide her bursting tears;
In all her school-day triumphs, first to me
Would run to show the prize she had obtained;
Nor did she wish for any living thing—
Kitten, or bird, or squirrel from the wood,
To cast her girlish care and fondness on,
But Cousin George must seek it. And, till Walter
Began to train his slight and delicate limbs
To our field labours, and to haunt the farm
With his soft voice and gently flowing speech,
His rhymes of love, to suit old scraps of tunes,
His tales of distant lauds and former times,
Conn’d from the Vicar’s book, her kindness never
Knew shadow of abatement or caprice.

But Walter, conscious of the untoward circum-
stances of his birth, has never dared to confess his love, although Mary, who loves George only as a brother, evidently favours him. Changing the scene, we have some rapid and telling repartee between Sir Charles Tracy and p his wife, because he will not allow her to frequent the gay Court of
Charles the Second. Lady Ellinor exhibits all the predilections and prejudices of a lady of fashion, and her worldly wisdom is a foil for Sir Charles’s unambitious contentment. Sir Charles remarks that the poor enjoy many blessings unknown to the rich, and in the following passage we observe some of Mr. Harness’s own sentiments:—

Lady Ellinor. Does your philosophy contemplate, then,
In its next transformation, to reduce
Our state to the condition you admire
And test their happiness?
Sir Charles. ‘Twere all in vain.
The simple bliss enjoyed by simple people,
Once forfeited, can never be reclaimed.
Learning, refinement, arts, inducing wants
Foreign to nature, opening a wider scope
For objects vague, for wishes infinite,
For aspirations after viewless things,
Teach us to scorn the blessings at our feet,
And long for some vast, undefined delights,
Which, if existent, never can be reached.
Knowledge, a doubtful acquisition, shedding
Its light upon our souls, like Psyche’s lamp,
Expels the good best suited to their nature,
And yields no reparation for its loss.

Walter is really their son, who is supposed to be dead. The discovery, and the meeting between him and Lady Ellinor’s son is drawn with great power and delicacy. She disapproves his engagement to Mary, a yeoman’s daughter, and wishes him to become the head of an abbey in France. He replies that his faith precludes him from such fulfilment.

Lady Ellinor. Deem you, then,
The church your glorious forefathers all died in,
And millions of your fellow-Christians live,
Is, as the shallow Puritan asserts,
A second Babylon—an Antichrist?
So young, a bigot!
Walter. I am not ignorant
She still maintains the faith, but so obscured
By the accumulated superstitions gathered
In the dark lapse of former centuries,
That truth lies hid beneath the crust of error,
Like a fair statue negligently kept,
Till overgrowing moss and envious lichens
Mar and conceal its beauty. I have never
Reproached her with hard epithets; but must
Avoid all falsehood, and adhere to Truth!

Further on, in the high sentiments expressed by Sir Charles, we trace the author’s free and natural turn of mind; and in the commendation of a retired country life we are reminded of his predilections:

Sir Charles. Oh, Ellinor, there’s a nobility—
Decked with no orders, by no titles marked—
Which far, in its essential excellence,
Transcends the paltry dignity conferred
By th’ herald’s blazoned scroll and doubtful lore.
Lady Ellinor. And resides where?
Sir Charles. Among our neighbours round.
Lady Ellinor. Indeed! so near at hand!
Sir Charles. For centuries
The families of these our villagers,
The honest son the honest sire succeeding,
In the same lowly tenements have dwelt,
And spent their lives in tilling the same fields.
Lady Ellinor. A novel patent of nobility!
Sir Charles. Age after age their line has been prolonged
From times beyond the date of history.
Lady Ellinor. A dull and spiritless herd unknown to fame,
Because they lacked the virtues that aspire!
Sir Charles. Rather, unknown to fame because their souls,
By vice unstained, from selfish passion free,
In humble occupations found content
And in the home-affections placed their joys!
I hold that honour honourably won,
* * * *
Titles and coronets, renown and station,
Afford the purest stimulants to action,
Which men, untouched by heavenward desires.
Can raise their hopes or bend their efforts to.
Bat glittering orders and proud appellations
Are but as stigmas when the unworthy wear them;
And to degenerate from a father’s greatness,
To soil the badge of honour with foul acts,
To shame by vice the rank by virtue won,
To have the state which speaks a gentleman,
Yet want the generous, humble, kindly spirit
Imported in the name—stamps a reproach
On the base scion of a noble stock,
Which sinks him so much lower than the people,
As were the heights above them whence he fell!

The engagement between Walter and Mary, though much against Lady Ellinor’s wishes, is finally agreed to, and Sir Charles assigns the young couple a residence at “Aber by the sea,” hard by

the Menai’s sparkling straits,
Where, with its satellite isle, fair Anglesea
Rests on a plain of waters, which beyond
Blend with the distant sky; while to the east,
Huge Penmaenmawr, and mountains further still,
That girdle in old Conway’s quiet bay,
Bask in the full light of the setting sun;
And Bangor’s hallowed towers and solemn woods
Rise in deep shade toward the glowing West.

There is a healthy tone in this poem; free and wide as are the views it advocates, it never tends to unsettle the mind, but teaches a wholesome lesson of contentment and moderation.

During the holiday excursion to the Lakes of Cumberland, in which the above “scenes” were written, Mr. Harness visited Southey and Wordsworth, with whom he had become previously acquainted. Southey he described to me as a man of middle height, with keen eyes and a large nose. His library presented a strange appearance, being full of books which his daughter had bound in stamped cotton
and inscribed with their names in marking ink. “He lived too much alone,”
Mr. Harness observed, “but in his state of softening of the brain was unfit to marry.” Wordsworth lived nearer Ambleside. Mr. Harness liked his old-fashioned residence. It had been a farm-house, added to, and in the dining-room the kitchen-range and oven remained.

One of the undertakings of Mr. Harness’s later years was the preparation, for private circulation, of the Memorials of Miss Catherine Fanshawe. This lady had been one of his most intimate friends, and had even proposed to make him her heir, but he refused the offer, averring that he could not endure the thought that he should in any way benefit by her death. He was often wont to say that he could not understand the desire which some persons evinced to obtain legacies; for, as he well observed, it was impossible to receive one without incurring the loss of a friend more valuable than any money thus acquired. Miss Fanshawe accordingly only made him the bequest of her etchings and manuscripts, which he gladly accepted. From these Mr. Harness compiled a small volume of “Memorials,” to rescue her memory from the oblivion which threatened it. Those who have only heard of her in connection with the riddle on the letter H, have little idea of the range of her endowments or the elegance
of her taste. Mr. Harness speaks with affectionate remembrance of “her varied accomplishments, her acute perception of the beautiful, her playful fancy, her charming conversation, her gentle and retiring manners, her lively sympathy with the sorrows and the joys of others, and, above all, her simple piety;” and he observes that she was a cherished member of that society, not very extended, but intimately united by a common love of literature, art, and science, which existed in London at the close of the last and the opening of the present centuries, and which, perhaps, “taken for all in all, has never been surpassed.”

Miss Fanshawe’s poems and sketches evince a considerable appreciation of humour. One of the latter, representing an evening party some eighty years since, with two politicians gesticulating before the fire-place, surrounded by a languid knot of fops and dandies, while the ladies are left to themselves, dosing and yawning behind their fans at the other end of the room, might, but for the quaintness of costume, remind us of many similar festivities at the present day. But Miss Fanshawe’s great success lay in her delineation of children, of whose varying moods and expressions of countenance she seems to have possessed an admirable perception. Many charming groups of them are here photographed from her sketches.


The celebrated riddle by which Miss Fanshawe is best known arose, Mr. Harness said, from an accidental conversation at the Deep Dene. Mr. Hope was at the time entertaining with his usual liberality a number of eminent and literary friends, and in the course of the evening some remarks turned the conversation upon the letter H, and the unworthy treatment it received in the centre of metropolitan civilization. The party retired soon afterwards, but the subject of discussion had touched Miss Fanshawe’s ingenious fancy, and while others slept her mind was busily employed. Next morning at breakfast she brought down the poem and read it to the delighted and astonished guests:—

“’Twas whispered* in heaven, ’twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth ‘twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed.
’Twill be found in the sphere when ’tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning, and heard in the thunder.
’Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
Attends at his birth, and awaits him in death;
Presides o’er his happiness, honour and health;
Is the prop of his house and the end of his wealth.
In the heaps of the miser ’tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost on his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
With the husbandman toils, with the monarch in crowned.

* Mr. Harness said that the original commenced: “Twas in Heaven pronounced.”

Without it the soldier, the seaman may roam,
But woe to the wretch that expels it from home!
In the whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e’en in the whirlpool of passion be drowned.
’Twill not soften the heart; but, though deaf be the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear.
Yet in shade let it rest, like a delicate flower;
Ah! breathe on it softly—it dies in an hour.”

These lines thus first introduced were soon well-known and admired throughout the country, and from their style and curious felicity were attributed to Byron, the popular poet of the age. They afterwards crept into some foreign editions of his works, and are even at the present day often ascribed to him.

One of the odes in this volume records the lecture delivered by Sydney Smith on “The Sublime,” and the gay dresses and toilettes of his fair audience. There is much wit and elegance in the poem, which is after the manner of Gray; but it was only suggested by Miss Fanshawe, and written by Miss Berry. (Mr. Harness often met this lady in society; she received the sobriquet of Blackberry from her dark eyes, and to distinguish her from her sister, who received the uncomplimentary title of Goose-berry).

The following specimen of Miss Fanshawe’s humorous talent was much admired by one of the late Prime Ministers:

Mr. Cobbett asked leave to bring in very soon
A Bill to abolish the sun and the moon.
The Honourable Member proceeded to state
Some arguments used in a former debate.
The heavenly bodies, like those upon earth,
Had, he said, been corrupt from the day of their birth;
With reckless profusion expending the light.
One after another, by day and by night.
And what classes enjoyed it? The upper alone,
Upon such they had always exclusively shone:
But when had they ever emitted a spark
For the people who toil underground, in the dark—
The people of England, the minors and borers,
Of earth’s hidden treasures the skilful explorers?
But their minds were enlightening; they learn every hour
That discussion is knowledge, and knowledge is power.
Long humbled and crushed, like a giant they rise,
And sweep off the cobwebs that darken the skies;
To sunshine and moonshine their duties assign,
And claim equal rights for the mountain and mine.
Turn to other departments. High time to inquire
What abuses exist in air, water, and fire.
Why keep up volcanoes? that idle display!
That pageant was all very well in its day;
But the reign of utility now has commenced,
And wisdom with such exhibitions dispensed.
When so many were starving with cold, it was cruel
To make such a waste of good fire and fuel.
As for Nature, how little experience had taught her
Appeared in the administration of water.
Was so noble a capital duly employed?
Or was it by few (if by any) enjoyed?
Poured on marshes and fens which were better without,
While pasture and arable perished for drought;
When flagrant injustice so often occurs
Abler hands must be wanted and younger than hers;
Not to speak of old Ocean’s insatiable needs,
Or of seas so ill-ploughed they bear nothing but weeds.
At some future day he perhaps should be able
To lay the details of their cost on the table.
At present, no longer the House to detain,
He’d confine his remarks to the subject of rain.
Was it wanted? A more economical plan,
More equably working, more useful to man,
In this age of improvement might surely be found,
By which all would be sprinkled, and none would be drowned.
He would boldly appeal to the nation’s good sense,
Not to sanction this useless, enormous expense.
If the wind did but shift, if a cloud did but lower,
What millions of rain-drops were spent in a shower?
Let them burst through the shackles of wind and of weather,
Do away with the office of rain altogether;
Let the whole be remodelled on principles new,
And consolidate half the old funds into dew.
* * * *
He hoped that the House a few minutes would spare
While he offered some brief observations on air.
Not the sun nor the moon, nor earth, water, or fire,
Nor Tories themselves when with Whigs they conspire,
Were half so unjust, so despotic, so blind,
So deaf to the cries and the claims of mankind,
As air and his wicked prime minister, wind.
Goes forth the despoiler, consuming the rations
Designed for the lungs of unborn generations!
What a waste of the elements made in a storm!
And all this comes on in the teeth of Reform!
Hail, lightning, and thunder, in volleys and peals!
The tropics are trembling, the universe reels;
Come whirlwind and hurricane, tempest, tornadoes,
Woe! woe! to Antigua, Jamaica, Barbadoes!
Plantations uprooted, and sugar dissolved;
Rum, coffee, and spice in ruin involved;
And while the Caribbees were ruined and rifled,
Not a breeze reached Guiana, and England was stifled!
Rate all that exists at its practical worth—
‘Twas a system of humbug from heaven to earth!
These abuses must cease—they had lasted too long;
Was there anything right? Was not everything wrong?
The crown was too costly, the Church was a curse;
Old Parliaments bad, Beformed Parliaments worse;
All revenues ill-managed, all wants ill-provided;
Equality, liberty, justice derided!
But the people of England no more would endure
Any remedy short of a Radical cure.
Instructed, united, a nation of Sages
Would look with contempt on the wisdom of ages;
Provide for the world a more just legislature,
And impose an agrarian law upon Nature.

In speaking of Cobbett’s private life, Mr. Harness observed that he was somewhat tyrannical in his own house, and not, as Sir H. Bulwer states, “under petticoat government.”