« ElőzőTovább »
my promise to the letter to the Archbishop, by issuing forth at midnight with a lantern to meet the last cart, with the cook and the cat, which had stuck in the mud, and fairly established them before twelve o'clock at night in the new parsonage-house-a feat, taking ignorance, inexperience, and poverty, into consideration, requiring, I assure you, no small degree of energy.
"It made me a very poor man for many years, but I never repented it. I turned schoolmaster, to educate my son, as I could not afford to send him to school. Mrs. Sydney turned schoolmistress, to educate my girls, as I could not afford a governess. I turned farmer, as I could not let my land. A man-servant was too expensive; so I caught up a little garden-girl, made like a milestone, christened her Bunch, put a napkin in her hand, and made her my butler. The girls taught her to read, Mrs. Sydney, to wait, and I undertook her morals; Bunch became the best butler in the county.
"I had little furniture, so I bought a cart-load of deals; took a carpenter (who came to me for parish relief, called Jack Robinson), with a face like a full-moon, into my service; established him in a barn, and said, ‘Jack, furnish my house.' You see the result!
"At last it was suggested that a carriage was much wanted in the establishment; after diligent search, I discovered in the back settlements of a York coachmaker an ancient green chariot, supposed to have been the earliest invention of the kind. I brought it home in triumph to my admiring family. Being somewhat dilapidated, the village tailor lined it, the village blacksmith repaired it; nay (but for Mrs. Sydney's earnest entreaties), we believe the village painter would have exercised his genius upon the exterior; it escaped this danger, however, and the result was wonderful. Each year added to its charms: it grew younger and younger; a new wheel, a new spring; I christened it the Immortal; it was known all over the neighbourhood; the village boys cheered it, and the village dogs barked at it; but Faber meæ fortunæ' was my motto, and we had no false shame.
"Added to all these domestic cares, I was village parson, village doctor, village comforter, village magistrate, and Edinburgh Reviewer; so you see I had not much time left on my hands to regret London.
"My house was considered the ugliest in the county, but all admitted it was one of the most comfortable; and we did not die, as our friends had predicted, of the damp walls of the parsonage."
The establishment, with its farm appurtenances, into which Sydney Smith thus inducted himself, cost him some four thousand pounds in all, and of course seriously hampered his fortunes during his protracted, involuntary, though not unhappy residence. The income of Foston was five hundred pounds; increased for the last two or three years to eight hundred.*
Lady Holland, with a woman's feeling for the details of domestic life, has given a genial sketch of this new flitting-it was in the spring of 1814-with the accessories of character and homely incident.
"It was a cold, bright March day, with a biting east wind. The beds we left in the morning had to be packed up and slept on at night; wagon after wagon of furniture poured in every minute; the roads were so cut up that the carriage could not reach the door; and my mother lost her shoe in the mud, which was ankledeep, while bringing her infant up to the house in her arms.
"But oh, the shout of joy as we entered and took possession!— the first time in our lives that we had inhabited a house of our own. How we admired it, ugly as it was! With what pride my dear father welcomed us, and took us from room to room; old Molly Mills, the milk-woman, who had had charge of the house, grinning with delight in the background. We thought it a palace; yet the drawing-room had no door, the bare plaster walls ran down with wet, the windows were like ground-glass, from the moisture which had to be wiped up several times a day by the housemaid. No carpets, no chairs, nothing unpacked; rough men bringing in * First Letter to Archdeacon Singleton.
rougher packages at every moment. But then was the time to behold my father!-amidst the confusion, he thought for everybody, cared for everybody, encouraged everybody, kept everybody in good humour. How he exerted himself! how his loud, rich voice might be heard in all directions, ordering, arranging, explaining, till the household storm gradually subsided! Each half-hour improved our condition; fires blazed in every room; at last we all sat down to our tea, spread by ourselves on a huge package before the drawing-room fire, sitting on boxes round it; and retired to sleep on our beds placed on the floor-the happiest, merriest, and busiest family in Christendom. In a few days, under my father's active exertions, everything was arranged with tolerable comfort in the little household, and it began to assume its wonted appearance.
"In speaking of the establishment of Foston, Annie Kay must not be forgotten. She entered our service at nineteen years of age, but possessing a degree of sense and lady-like feeling not often found in her situation of life-first as nurse, then as lady's-maid, then housekeeper, apothecary's boy, factotum, and friend. All who have been much at Foston or Combe Florey know Annie Kay; she was called into consultation on every family event, and proved herself a worthy oracle. Her counsels were delivered in the softest voice, with the sweetest smile, and in the broadest Yorkshire. She ended by nursing her old master through his long and painful illness, night and day; she was with him at his death; she followed him to his grave; she was remembered in his will; she survived him but two years, which she spent in my mother's house; and, after her long and faithful service of thirty years, was buried by my mother in the same cemetery as her master, respected and lamented by all his family, as the most faithful of servants and friends.
"So much for the interior of the establishment. Out-of-doors reigned Molly Mills-cow, pig, poultry, garden, and post-woman; with her short red petticoat, her legs like millposts, her high
check-bones red and shrivelled like winter apples; a perfect specimen of a 'yeowoman;' a sort of kindred spirit, too; for she was the wit of the village, and delighted in a crack with her master, when she could get it. She was as important in her vocation as Annie Kay in hers; and Molly here, and Molly there, might be heard in every direction. Molly was always merry, willing, active, and true as gold; she had little book-learning, but enough to bring up two fine athletic sons, as honest as herself; though, unlike her, they were never seen to smile, but were as solemn as two owls, and would not have said a civil thing to save their lives. They ruled the farm. Add to these the pet donkey, Bitty, already introduced to the public; a tame fawn, at last dismissed for eating the maid's clothes, which he preferred to any other diet; and a lame goose, condemned at last to be roasted for eating all the fruit in the garden; together with Bunch and Jack Robinson-and you have the establishment."
An anecdote of Smith's first visit to Foston, preserved by Lady Holland, is a good index of his character at all times, and of his subsequent position in the village. The house and grounds presented the most forbidding appearance. To shed light upon the scene: "The clerk, the most important man in the village, was summoned; a man who had numbered eighty years, looking, with his long gray hair, his threadbare coat, deep wrinkles, stooping gait, and crutch-stick, more ancient than the parsonage-house. He looked at my father for some time from under his gray, shaggy eyebrows, and held a long conversation with him, in which the old clerk showed that age had not quenched the natural shrewdness of the Yorkshireman. At last, after a pause, he said, striking his crutch-stick on the ground, Muster Smith, it often stroikes moy moind, that people as comes frae London is such fools. . . . But you,' he said (giving him a nudge with his stick), 'I see you are no fool."" The foraging accommodations of the parish were once feelingly described by Sydney Smith: "My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from
a lemon." In his jesting way, he said, "When I began to thump the cushion of my pulpit, on first coming to Foston, as is my wont when I preach, the accumulated dust of a hundred and fifty years made such a cloud, that for some minutes I lost sight of my congregation."
Sydney Smith was forty-three when he began his residence at Foston. He remained there fourteen years, until his appointment, by Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, to a vacant stall at Bristol. They were years of some privation, which was overcome by economy, and the incumbent's great mastery of the laws of human happiness. At one time, in a season of the failure of the harvest, the family, with their neighbours, were obliged to dispense with bread, and consume, as best they could, the damaged, sprouted wheat. A malignant fever in the parish was the consequence of this distress, which brought out the medical and humanitary resources of the rector. Courageous in risking life on this, as on similar occasions, he did much to alleviate the general misery. Inability to purchase books at this period, must have been a frequent annoyance. The omniscient Edinburgh Reviewer conscientiously abstained from running in debt for a cyclopædia. His friends, however, and the neighbouring library of Castle Howard, where he enjoyed a warm intimacy with the Earl of Carlisle, in a great measure supplied the deficiency.*
*The Earl of Carlisle of this period was Frederick (grandfather of the present Earl), the relative and guardian of Lord Byron. The poet dedicated to him his Hours of Idleness, vilified him in his famous satire, and apologized in Childe Harold. Lord Carlisle wrote tragedies: The Father's Revenge (which Dr. Johnson and Walpole praised), The Step-Mother, and various Poems. He came to America during the Revolutionary war, fellow-commissioner with William Eden (Lord Auckland), and Governor Johnstone, with offers of peace, and was challenged by La Fayette, for terms used in the Address to Congress, derogatory to France. In Jesse's "Selwyn and his Contemporaries," there are numerous agreeable letters of Carlisle - among them two, written from Philadelphia and New York, with notices of “Mr. Washington,' and the war, which were pleasantly introduced by Mr. Thackeray, in his recent lecture on George III. Lord Carlisle died in 1825. at the age of seventy-seven.