Obrazy na stronie

mankind, with whom Neale and myself constantly visited. When, two months after, 1 announced to this friend the fact that Neale had just obtained the Chancellor's gold medal, (he was second medallist,) thus adding classical to his mathematical honours, our friend after dinner drank “ Health and Humility” to him. Upon which one of his family took exception, as if it conveyed the notion that the object of this wish was a vain man, who wanted taking down.

Nay,” replied the gentleman, “Mr. Neale is not an assuming. man; but there is no knowing how soon Satan may filing a fiery dart into gunpowder.”

In the spring of 1813, he was elected Fellow of St. John's College. Having thus in the first instance obtained what is considered the highest honour which the University of Cambridge has to bestow upon her youthful scholars; and then added to it, by the gold medal, an established character for classical acquirements, my dear friend seemed now to have nothing to do, but to choose for himself the pursuit or profession upon which to throw forth all the powers of his mind. I find in my letters to him, for some years after, frequent reference to this important subject; inquiring, inviting, urging him, on the momentous topic of deciding on some practical course in life. It may, perhaps, be regarded by some as an unfortunate circumstance, that his means were too ample to require his applying himself to any profession from the motive which impels the majority of mankind to exert themselves. Owing to this in part, but probably far more to the secret consciousness that his Christian feelings were by no means settled agreeably to the Christian knowledge which he possessed, his purposes and plans became desultory. Thus for a period of eight years after he had taken his degree, he continued without any professional engagement, although some detached portions of that space of time were usefully employed.

About this period, though he had ever been a persevering student of his Bible, and a diligent reader of metaphysical, moral, and historical writers, yet his passion for works of imagination obtained such an ascendancy over him, that he read novels, plays, &c., insatiably; to a degree, in fact, that I had at the time little conception of, we having, during our College intimacy, nearly confined ourselves, in English, to Milton and Shakspeare. He himself also composed two plays, and printed one. He had such a facility in verse that I have known him compose thirty or forty lines in his own mind without writing them down, and then repeat them to me in our walks almost without an error or slip. His inordinate avidity for works of imagination was, as will hereafter. appear, the miserable refuge of a heart destitute of real happiness, aware of its own wretchedness, and yet reluctant to yield to the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, and to the convictions of conscience.

I would here notice, in the order of time, and as being due to the memory of my friend, that when, in the year 1813, my mind was turning towards Malta, his good sense assisted me materially, by confirming the persuasion that a short visit of two years in the Mediterranean, which was the plan originally proposed to me, would be a very imperfect scheme; since thus, by the time I might have in some degree qualified myself for missionary service, I should be on the point of retiring from it. Yet he was opposed to my leaving England in general. He was with me also when I quitted my curacy at Nottingham, in the Easter of 1814, and affectionately sustained my spirits at that season. But on my afterwards saying to him, that I trusted the time would come when the cause of the Heathen would be made out so strongly, that senior wranglers and medallists would see it to be their duty to go abroad on Missionary work, he coolly replied, “Well, it may be so; but I do not see it yet.” In reference to my going abroad, he amused himself with the idea that I should have a great advantage in translating the odes of Horace under an Italian sky. What a contrast was all this trifling to the desire which he subsequently manifested to promote, to the utmost of his power, the great cause of missions!

He began now to attribute the pleasure, which religious persons feel in their work, to a kind of natural turn in them; he saw them, he said, happy in the pursuit of their object, and supposed that the gratification they felt sufficiently accounted for their activity. His own heart being, as afterwards appeared, truly forlorn and destitute of the glow of Christian motives, he

inclined to infer that such motives have no existence in the breasts of others, and aimed at resolving the course they took into considerations of a more refined sort of selfishness.

In the midst of this darkening picture, it is still a pleasing recollection to the minds of his friends, that the one particular passion which predominated in his own breast, and which now began to be drawn out into operation, was such as is in its nature both amiable and highly useful. It was a taste for educating the young. In this he delighted and excelled. From an early period of my acquaintance with him I had the opportunity of observing, that he made it his study, even with the youngest children, to amuse them in such a way that it might also convey instruction. He would purchase for them instructive toys, making himself their companion and teacher in the use of them. He played with children; but never treated them as play-things : pleasantly to impress and instruct their minds was ever his aim : he loved to observe their artless ways; and his own observations upon them were as simple as that behaviour of theirs which drew forth his remarks. See," he said to me, as we stood with a group of children about us,“ see how natural all their attitudes are; whether they come when

you call, or listen, or start off to their play again, standing or moving, there is nothing affected in their manner. They move just as they feel.”

In the summer of the year 1814 he commenced house-keeper, living first at Lewisham, and, after a few months, removing to a house at Penge, near Sydenham. He now devoted himself in good earnest to the education of his two nephews, to whom were added two other young pupils. As I had quitted my curacy at Nottingham, and was engaged in a course of study preparatory to my going to Malta, he invited me to occupy a room in his house, and I was with him more than half a year. Though I had been in holy orders more than three years, yet, as he was master of the house, and as I anxiously wished to see him engaged in the actual exercise of something like a religious service, I, during this time, voluntarily ceded to him the performance of family-prayers; a concession, for which he expressed very grateful acknowledgments. Yet during all this time there was much that was to me very unsatisfactory.

On one occasion, at this time, I remember quitting him late at night, and, observing him to be about sitting down to the Greek tragedians, preparing the next day's lesson for the boys, I hinted the unfitness of such employment as closing the day, referring also to private devotions. His look, at once repulsive and ready to be angry, a look altogether so unusual towards me, intimated that I had touched upon a part of his mind where he chose not to be touched. I remembered his remark to me at Castleton.When I reflect, even at this distance of time, on such a scene as this, it is still embarrassing and painful to the mind. It naturally suggests the inquiry, “How are we to deal with closed

« PoprzedniaDalej »