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The deficiency, however, was made up to me by the good-natured Sir Harry, who, amused and interested with my curiosity and love of reading, similar, he said, to what his had been at my age, had a sort of pleasure in fostering it, by allowing me the use of any books I wished in his library.
It was my evident passion for these, I believe, that made Sir Harry often tell my father he would do well to follow up this inclination of mine for books, by making me a scholar. “ That boy,” he used to say, “ for aught you or I know, may in time be a bishop.” This was not thrown away upon either niy
father or myself, and I was allowed full liberty in bestowing myself as I pleased in pursuit of study.
In this pursuit I ofttimes, when at fault myself, attacked our curate, Mr. Beardmore, where I hoped for what I did not always find, explanations in matters of history.
He, however, did me some service, by turning me over to his clerk, an old man of the name of Doughty, who, being lame, and a sort of scholar, kept a little children's school, and spent all his spare time in reading Baker's Chronicle, Gwillim's Heraldry, the Pilgrim's Progress, and other compositions of the same classical character. But what made him chiefly valuable to me was, that, from this turn of his, among other things, he knew all about the Cliffords and Bardolfes, who he said were formerly the best gentlemen in the land, only they lost their fortunes when York and Lancaster came up (such was his phrase) in the wars of which, and indeed the older English history in general, he was particularly knowing and voluble.
It was, no doubt, to this early director of my studies that I owe the veneration I have for ancient times, and ancient birth, of course not forgetting my own.
For when old Doughty told me these secrets about my ancestors, I felt my heart swell within me, and I sighed, and lamented to think that my father and brothers were reduced almost to follow the plough, instead of leading armies.
The effect of all this, if good, was by no means unmixed with what might be deemed evil. For I contracted such a liking for the old ruins at the Castle, with all its associations, connecting my family with ancient grandeur, that the contrast between that venerable spot, and my father's confined and crowded, though not uncomfortable dwelling, became comparatively disagreeable.
By degrees, too, my frequent brooding over the consequence which I always thought our forefathers had unjustly lost, generated a sort of consequence in myself, child as I was, that contrasted sadly with our present decayed situation; and grief at this produced in me a sensibility of disposition which operated in more ways
than For I was keenly alive to every thing that partook of high character, and high manners; and was quick in observing and appreciating the difference between persons of polish and education, when I happened to see them (which indeed was but rarely), and compared them with the homeliness of those who yet were my closest relatives.
This made me unhappy, and was a great disadvantage in after life, till experience of the real value of things, and the thought how little it always is, in comparison with our expectations here, and how ab
solutely nothing in comparison with what is to come, recovered my too sensitive mind, and “cleansed the foul bosom ” of much “perilous stuff.”
While my mind and temper were thus early forming, Sir Harry, who had a regard for my father, interested himself about me so much that, at his desire, instead of being apprenticed to some business, as was designed, I was sent to a considerable and well endowed school in the north of Yorkshire, with a view to become a scholar, and taking my chance of what scholarship might procure me by an exhibition at Oxford.
This delighted me, for I lived upon my books; and .my master, though of most homely manners, was fully capable of directing me: for though he joined the farmer to the schoolmaster, with a view to cheaper housekeeping, his studies at Queen's College, Oxford, had by no means been thrown away.
Mr. Ebenezer Crackenthorpe (for that was his northern name) was in fact an excellent classic, and though a rough yeoman in appearance, was also an excellent instructor. It was indeed wonderful sometimes to see him come reeking in a frieze coat and mud shoes, from his farm yard, to the schoolroom, to talk (as he did with spirit, and almost enthusiasm) of Homer's heroes, or Horace's rules of life, which he knew as well how to appreciate as any Professor of Oxford or Cambridge, or even a Quarterly or Edinburgh Reviewer.
To this was added instruction in writing, arithmetic, and even, for the upper boys, Euclid; and for all this, together with substantial and healthy, though homely, food, our fathers, some of them ranking among gentlemen, paid twenty pounds a year.
Here I ought, I know, to pause at the threshold of
my confessions. For what minion of the world, who measures every thing by expense, or what dandy schoolboy, who measures every thing by fashion, will be willing to look for either profit or improvement to be had for twenty pounds a year ? What either of scholarship or knowledge of mankind (the only knowledge perhaps worth having), can be acquired, as all public-school men will exclaim, in the wilds of Yorkshire, among boors and savages?
Yet both the scholastic knowledge and the real manliness of my Cumberland and Yorkshire brethren, in every thing that required it, were at least equal to any hero of Westminster or Eton ; though as to early knowledge of the world, if that mean dress and dandyism, getting drunk, or other precocious energies, they may, in this, but no other sense, be inferior to those boys who would be men before their time. The intrepidity and assurance, indeed, of modern manners may be sooner acquired; but even that depends so much upon nature, that the difference is trifling; and, as to expense, I have seen as many, perhaps I might say more, unlicked (certainly more untaught) cubs come out of the hands of private tutors, who received three hundred a year a piece for them, than I ever remember in the romantic and hardy regions of Sedbergh.*
To return to my progress at this my homely school, it was, in learning, considerable, and, but for one drawback, would have been so in happiness. My ambition (never great as to anything else) was much gratified in the one; but the content which our simple life might
* Sedbergh, in Yorkshire, was once, and perhaps is still, celebrated for its learning.
have generated was too much leavened with jealousy of one another's condition, to secure the enjoyment of the other. Most of us were, like myself, sons of decayed or decaying gentlemen, or yeomen, or topping tradesmen in the neighbouring towns; yet we were not without a sprinkling of gentry too, whom the reputation of the school had attracted to it; and with one of these I made a pleasing intimacy, which afterwards had a decided influence on my life.
My friendship, indeed, with Foljambe Hastings, led to what occasioned the most violent crisis, whether of pleasure or pain, which my heart ever knew. By what I thought an extraordinary coincidence, he was the son and heir of the gentleman whom I have mentioned as the owner of the old castle of Bardolfe, formerly possessed by my own ancestor, which at once threw a sort of interest about him, and also about me, which no others in the school could feel for one another.
Foljambe Hastings was descended, as his name indicates, from an illustrious family, and his father, one
old school, had notions of his own education, which, with the reputation of Sedbergh, induced him to place his son there previous to going to Eton, at which a year or two, by way of polishing off the Yorkshire roughness, would, he thought, suffice. As he wished him, he said, to be a real English country gentleman, in whose character a sort of sturdy hardibood formed a considerable ingredient, he sought to lay the foundation of it in this plain and homely academy, before he was exposed to the mischiefs of the too high refinement prevalent in higher seminaries.
If he contracted a little rust from blunter com
of a very