OLD ELECTION PRACTICES
THE Ballot is said to have robbed the general
election of all its colour and picturesqueness. It is true. An
election now is a humdrum affair—tame, featureless, devoid of bustle and
animation. Of course I am speaking comparatively. Very
different were political contests when every man knew how every other man
voted, when candidates had to stand the ordeal of the hustings, when the
state of the poll was declared every hour of the day, and when the victor
was carried in triumph round the constituency that had chosen him.
But these were the days, too, when all manner of evils were
rampant—bribery, treating, intimidation, and violence. After all, the old
contests are pleasanter to remember than they were to witness.
Preparations for a contest were commenced, as a rule, long
before the contest itself would occur. Party paraphernalia, indeed,
were generally ready to be produced the moment they were wanted.
This especially was the case when aristocratic families supplied
hereditary candidates, as the Berkeleys did in Cheltenham. The
Berkeleys were Whigs, and the Whig colours were orange and green.
Flags and banners of these tints, and bearing the old Whig mottoes and
devices, were brought forth to do duty at every election, and stowed away
at the end of it in readiness for the next occasion. They made a
brave show, these flags and banners, as they were borne aloft through
streets and squares. Bands of music and processions of partisans
accompanied them in their peregrinations. Night after night for
weeks before the nomination the town was kept alive with party clamour.
Blue was the Tory colour; but as the Tories were not so well organized as
the Whigs, and, moreover, had no hereditary candidates, we usually saw
fewer of their banners and heard fewer of their bands. Party tunes
were not numerous, but they were sufficiently distinct and lively to set
the rival partisans at loggerheads. "Bonnets of Blue" was the
favourite tune of the Tories, "Old Dan Tucker" that of the Whigs.
Fights were frequent, while dissipation was general. Black eyes and
broken heads were more numerous at election times than at peace meetings
in war times. Terrible were the ructions when two processions met,
particularly in a narrow street, and when neither would give way to the
other. On these occasions, banners and trumpets, with the heads of
the men who carried or blew them, came to general grief. They were
stirring times, I tell you, the election times of other days.
The first formal business of the election took place in the
open—before all the people. This was the nomination at the hustings.
The hustings in our case were erected in Sandford Fields—a half-private,
half-common piece of property on the outskirts of the borough. There
a great structure of wood, divided into compartments for the opposing
candidates and their friends, with a compartment for the returning officer
and his assistants between them, was set up ready for the interesting
function. The supporters of the Whig candidate, all with favours and
many with banners, bands of music accompanying them, assembled opposite
the Whig compartment. The supporters of the Tory candidate,
distinguished in a similar way and cheered by similar devices and strains,
arranged themselves opposite the Tory compartment, so that a sharp line
divided the two forces. When the candidates appeared, wild shouts of
approval or hostility greeted them from the crowd beneath. Nor these
only; for rotten oranges and rotten eggs, and occasionally harder but less
unsavoury missiles, shot across the neutral zone to discompose one or
other of the parties on the hustings. The returning officer having
opened the proceedings, the proposers and seconders of the candidates
stepped forward, each being applauded by his own side, but howled at by
the other. This formality performed, often in dumb show, the
candidates themselves essayed to address the free and independent
electors. Meantime, there were free fights where the frontiers of
the two crowds joined. But the speaking was at length ended, though
hardly a word had been heard. And then the returning officer took a
show of hands. A mere formality this, also, for the proposer of the
candidate who lost it generally demanded a poll. All was over for
the day, except shouting and fighting, band-playing and processioning with
banners. Chartist candidates were often nominated, not with the idea
of going to the poll, which would have been useless in the then state of
the franchise, but for the purpose of making a speech, which pleased the
populace at all times. Mr. R. G. Gammage was so nominated at
Cheltenham in 1852. But as no compartment was provided for the
Chartists on the hustings, he and his proposer and seconder were invited
to speak from the place reserved for the returning officer.
Gammage's speech was good—we sent a deputation to thank him for it
afterwards—but the show of hands was not on this occasion in favour of the
Chartist, as it usually was on the like occasions in other boroughs, but
in favour of the Tory candidate.
It should have been said that the sharp electioneerer had
done a good stroke of business for his candidate before the rival parties
had been gathered round the hustings. Canvassers, messengers, watchers,
and so-called workers of all sorts had been engaged at high rates to
assist in the election. The number of persons—all voters—appointed to
these posts far exceeded the requirements of the candidate. But there was
method in the extravagance. It was simply an effective form of bribery.
The canvassers and messengers and watchers who were of real service in the
contest were early astir on the morning of the poll. Indeed, the
confidential men of the party had been at work all night—securing their
own voters or spiriting away the voters of the opposite side. For, be it
known, there was a great art in corruption. It was not enough to buy a
vote : the main thing was to see that the vote was recorded for the right
man. The cleverest electioneerer was the electioneerer who could bribe or
bottle up the biggest number of the enemy's supporters. And it was in
nefarious practices such as this that much of the night preceding the poll
was spent. Free breakfasts and free beer were the order of the polling
day. The candidate who was niggardly in providing these comforts for the
electors was voted shabby, and was generally defeated. Yes, a contested
election was a royal time for the mercenary, the corrupt, the creatures
without conscience. Even hired bravoes were sometimes paid to keep the
rival intimidators in check—loafers, pugilists, ruffians of every degree.
A noted prize-fighter was engaged to supply a band of men of the same
stamp as himself for one of the candidates at a Sunderland election,
because there was a rumour that the like thing was being done on the part
of the other candidate. When the fight was over and the noted
prize-fighter was being paid for his services, he quietly informed the
election agent that it was he who had set the rumour afloat!
But the poll has been opened. Exciting scenes took
place round the polling booths. Voters were brought up—sometimes in
batches, sometimes in single file. There was no doubt as to how they
voted, for their names and the disposition of their suffrages were
inscribed in the poll books. If popular feeling, stimulated by
popular treating and popular largesses, happened to run high, the free and
independent elector had to run the gauntlet of a turbulent mob.
Whether the voter had been bribed or not, he had still before him the risk
of intimidation, especially if he should have had the courage to wear the
unpopular colours. Fights of course were frequent in the
neighbourhood of the polling booths. Nor were they less frequent,
perhaps, around the centres at which the hourly returns of the state of
the poll were exposed. These hourly returns were the cause of great
excitement and speculation—never allayed all day till the last vote had
been recorded and the last return had been issued. Then came the
declaration of the poll—another lively performance, though the partisans
of the losing candidate generally left the field to the partisans of the
victor. Next day the successful candidate was chaired—that is to
say, carted in triumph round the constituency. The most animated and
picturesque chairing I recollect occurred in 1847. The Tories that
year made a tremendous effort to win the seat. Sir Willoughby Jones
was brought from Norfolk to perform the trick. Money was spent as it
had been spent in no previous election. Every man who had a vote and
was willing to sell it was passing rich for many days after, not to say
gloriously drunk also. As, in addition, the Norfolk baronet was a
presentable candidate—handsome, gracious, and a fair speaker—he succeeded
in ousting the sitting member, the Hon. Craven F. Berkeley, who had sat
for the borough ever since its enfranchisement in 1832. The
jubilation of the Tories found expression in the ceremony of chairing.
A brewer's dray, covered with blue cloth, surmounted by a throne
upholstered in blue silk, was drawn by a team of brewers' horses
caparisoned in blue trappings. Aloft was seated in imperial pomp and
isolation the victorious favourite, also arrayed in all the glory of the
party colour, smiling and bowing in acknowledgment of the loud hozannas of
the crowd below and around. The march through the town, with bands
blaring and banners waving, was a memorable spectacle. The Tories
that day painted the town blue. But the triumph, as we shall see,
was but short-lived.
The election usually ended with the chairing of of the
candidate, unless, as happened in 1847, there was a petition against his
return, in which case the venal voter got a chance of a free trip to
London, and free entertainment while there, with of course a handsome
douceur besides, in order to testify before a committee of the House
of Commons to the scandalous conduct of the agent who had corrupted him.
If the petition was dismissed, all was over save paying the piper.
But if the candidate was unseated, and the constituency was not
disfranchised, another election took place, though on this occasion,
should the agents have become more cautious, there was less treating and
less bribery, and consequently less violence and debauchery. The
triumph of the Tories in 1847 was, as I have said, short-lived.
Their candidate was unseated in the following year, when a new election
was held. This time it was the turn of the Whigs to crow, and the
turn of the Tories to petition. A local brewer, Mr. James Agg-Gardner,
who had been nominated by the Tories in 1841, was selected once more to
contest the seat against Mr. Craven Berkeley. The decision of the
previous year was reversed in 1848. Again there was a petition, and
again the petition was successful. Mr. Craven Berkeley was unseated.
Another election was held—the third within two years. Mr. Grenville
Charles Lennox Berkeley, nominated in the place of his cousin Craven, won
the seat and held it for four years. Then the old rivals confronted
each other again, with the result that Berkeley Castle resumed its
dominion. Thereafter a Berkeley succeeded a Berkeley for many
years—almost down to the time when Whig and Tory both changed sides.
Sir Willoughby Jones died at his seat, Cranmer Hall, Norfolk,
in 1884. Mr. Ruskin was writing his autobiography, "Præterita,"
in 1885. Some of his school-fellows came up for mention and
judgment, among them "A fine, lively boy, Willoughby Jones, afterwards Sir
W., and only lately, to my sorrow, dead." It was announced at his
death that the old Cheltenham candidate had long ago joined the Liberal
party, "with which he remained identified to the close of his career."
Two years later another conversion was announced. The newspapers of
August, 1886, proclaimed it thus: "The Berkeley family, whose residence is
the historic castle of that name in Gloucestershire, has for generations
been noted for its strong support of the Liberal cause. This state
of things has now been altered, Lord Fitzhardinge, the head of the
Berkeleys, having accepted the post of president of the Tewkesbury
Conservative Association." These were not the only transformations
that have been witnessed since the forties and fifties. Whigs have
become Liberals; Tories have become Conservatives; Liberals and
Conservatives have become Unionists. The hustings have disappeared;
successful candidates are no longer chaired; constituencies are not now
debauched; voters are seldom either bribed or brow-beaten. Here,
again, the old order hath yielded place to the new. The political
conditions described in this veracious chapter are matters—of ancient and
almost forgotten history.
CHARTISM was not satisfying. We were Chartists
and something more—we young men of Cheltenham. What that something
more was we probably could not at first, if we had been asked, have
clearly defined. The Charter, as a declaration of rights, was
excellent. It covered the whole ground of political demand.
But popular power proclaimed—what then? Even if roast beef came the
day after, it would be but a sorry triumph. A pitiful life, indeed,
is that which is content with beer and skittles. Higher aspirations
entered our heads, suffused our thoughts, coloured our dreams.
"Happiness," we had been told, "is a poor word: find a better." We
were trying to find a better. Some of us were Democrats, pledged to
afford material help and sympathy to the struggling peoples of the
Continent. George Julian Harney had founded the movement, which had
for its organ a monthly publication, edited by himself, called the
Democratic Review. This was better. But we longed for
something better still. We had found a programme, but we wanted a
religion. It came to us from Italy.
Another of Harney's publications bore a fierce and defiant
title—the Red Republican. We did not like the title. It
savoured of blood. Also it seemed to suggest a return of the Reign
of Terror, with new Marats and Couthons to horrify the world. We
were Republicans, but not Red Republicans. The title was altered to
the Friend of the People. The paper was the same, though the name
was changed. No paper then published so satisfied our longings for
an ideal. Presently there appeared in it a series of articles in
exposition of the principles of Republicanism. The writer was
W. J. Linton, poet, artist,
propagandist. The scheme Mr. Linton put before his readers was based
on a proclamation which the Central Democratic Committee had issued to the
peoples on the organization of Democracy. The proclamation, dated
London, July 22nd, 1850, was signed by Joseph Mazzini, as representing
Italy; Ledru Rollin, as representing France; Albert Darasz, delegate of
the Polish Democratic Centralization; and Arnold Ruge, member of the
National Assembly at Frankfort. It was the work of Mazzini, the
greatest teacher since Christ. As a declaration of principles, I do
not hesitate to say that it is loftier, broader, and more enduring than
even the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of
Independence was meant for a nation: the Proclamation to the People was
meant for mankind. Let me quote a few of its inspiring passages:—
We believe in the progressive development of human faculties and forces in
the direction of the moral law which has been imposed upon us.
We believe in association as the only regular means which can attain this
We believe that the interpretation of the moral law and rule of progress
cannot be confided to a caste or to an individual, but ought to be
confided to the people enlightened by national education, directed by
those among them whom virtue and genius point out to them as their best.
We believe in the sacredness of both individuality and society, which
ought not to be effaced, nor to combat, but to harmonise together for the
amelioration of all by all.
We believe in Liberty, without which all human responsibility vanishes:
In Equality, without which Liberty is only a deception:
In Fraternity, without which Liberty and Equality would be only means
In Association, without which Fraternity would be an unrealisable
In Family, City, and Country, as so many progressive spheres in which man
ought to grow in the knowledge and practice of Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity, and Association.
We believe in the holiness of work, in its inviolability, in the property
which proceeds from it as its sign and its fruit:
In the duty of society to furnish the element of material work by credit,
of intellectual and moral work by education:
In the duty of the individual to make use of it with the utmost
concurrence of his faculties for the common amelioration.
We believe, to resume, in a social state, having God and His law at the
summit—the People, the universality of the citizens, free and equal, at
its base—progress for rule, association as means, devotion for baptism,
genius and virtue for lights upon the way.
And that which we believe to be true for a single people we believe to be
true for all. There is but one sun in heaven for the whole earth : there
is but one law of truth and justice for all who people it.
The authors of the proclamation proceeded in the same
document to apply to nations the principles they had laid down for
We believe, in a word, in a general organization, having
God and His law at the summit—Humanity, the universality of nations, free
and equal, at its base -common progress for end, alliance for means, the
example of those peoples most loving and most devoted for encouragement on
The French Revolution had deified Right, which, in a narrow
and restricted sense, meant selfishness, indulgence, mere material
comfort. It was reserved for Mazzini to preach the higher doctrine,
Duty, which meant sacrifice, service, endeavour, the devotion of all the
faculties possessed and all the powers acquired to the welfare and
improvement of humanity. The Duties of Man, in the great Italian's
conception of the revolutionary programme, were the necessary
accompaniment of the Rights of Man. Rights, indeed, took a secondary
place, being only, as the proclamation set forth, "the results of
accomplished duties"—of value only as enabling nations as well as
individuals to fulfil their obligations to each other. Decorations
are worthless shams that are not the symbols of honours bravely won.
So are rights the reward of enterprise and valour: nor reward only, but
the means and opportunity of doing our special work in the world, helping
the weak, consoling the afflicted, encouraging the reliant, paying tribute
to virtue and genius. This exalted idea runs all through Mazzini's
teachings; but it is perhaps best expounded in his masterly treatise on
the "Duties of Man." It found expression in his private letters as
well as in his public writings: it was part of himself; and it is the
legacy he left to mankind. "Life," he wrote to Henry Vincent, "life
is a mission, not a seeking for happiness." And the humble followers
of Mazzini adopted his motto of "God and the People," and drew solace from
the old Puritan consolation—"Let it not grieve you that you have been the
instruments to break the ice for others: the honour shall be yours to the
The exposition of the greatest democratic document of the
century fell upon the minds of some of the young men of the period like
fertilising rain upon a parching soil. Here was the "something more"
for which they had been yearning. Here, indeed, was a doctrine that
deserved their devotion. Here, in a word, was the religion for which
they were longing and pining and praying. Yes, they were
Republicans—these ardent youths—with a more definite notion of what the
word implied than the mere rejection of monarchy. The Republic, as
they understood it, was not so much a form of government as a system of
morals, a law of life, a creed, a faith, a new and benign gospel.
Uneffaced—perhaps ineffaceable too—is the recollection of the thrill of
delight that the revelation caused. And when the author, at the
close of his papers, asked all who approved of the principles he had
expounded to communicate with him at Miteside, Ravenglass, Cumberland, the
young enthusiasts rejoiced to believe that a chance might be given them to
participate in a propaganda that would and must end in the redemption of
The scheme put before them was that they should in their
different localities form associations for the "teaching of republican
principles." It was an educational, not a revolutionary work, to
which they were summoned. Along with a small band of ardent youths
in the town, I entered eagerly into the scheme—how eagerly, and with what
temerity and conceit, may be surmised from the fact that I accepted the
post of president of the local society months before I was out of my
teens. Part of our method of procedure was to hold family meetings,
after the manner of the old Methodists. These meetings, held weekly
in the homes of the members, were intended for instruction as well as
propagandism. The works of the revolutionary leaders were read and
discussed; candidates for membership were examined; the prospects of the
cause abroad and at home were pondered; plans were devised for making our
ideas known by personal canvassing and the circulation of tracts; and
occasionally essays by the members themselves on some point of doctrine or
practice were produced for consideration and debate. Old Chartists
looked askance at our proceedings, called us foolish striplings, and would
have nothing to do with us. When Ernest Jones, on a visit to the
town, was asked what he thought of the movement, he replied that it was
just another division in the ranks, and as such calculated to impede the
general advance of the popular cause. But we were never strong
enough to impede anything; for our rules were so strict and our demands on
the understanding of our associates were so exigent that our total
strength at the best of times could not have exceeded a score. I
have indicated that candidates for admission to our society had to undergo
an examination. It was no formal examination either. We
insisted that they should thoroughly comprehend the principles that they
were going to teach. It was not enough that they should call
themselves Republicans: we demanded that they should give good reasons for
the faith that was in them. There was therefore a catechism which
all candidates were required to master. So our comrades were few.
I find in an old diary for May, 1851, the following statement on the
subject:—"Our numbers have augmented considerably, amounting to twelve or
thirteen members, with great hopes of getting more." But we were not
only few in numbers—we were miserably poor in purse. A report of a
family meeting held in April of the same year records that "sixpence by
voluntary contribution was gathered." As a matter of fact, we were
as poor as the Apostles, and not much more numerous. Still, small as
was the contingent we could muster, we were young, earnest, and
enthusiastic, and, what was more, we knew we had got an idea which would
regenerate mankind if mankind would only accept it. One does not
need to say that the time for that acceptance seems as far off as ever.
THOUGHT AND ACTION
MAZZINI had taught us that "every divorce between
thought and action is fatal." Wherefore to the best of our modest
means we acted upon our thoughts. The idea of Fraternity was as
sacred to us as any other of the ideas expressed in our republican
formula. And Fraternity, if it meant anything, meant the offer of
such help as we could give to the struggling peoples of the Continent.
Help, however, by the time of which I am writing, could only take the form
of comfort and protection for the exile.
The Revolution, of February had been followed by
insurrections in almost all the countries of Europe—in Venice and Vienna,
in Rome and Berlin, in Pesth and Dresden. But all had failed, so
that the last state of the peoples was worse than the first. The
struggle in Hungary was longest sustained. We, who had followed with
absorbing interest the varying fortunes of the Magyars, and had read with
unbounded delight of the valiant feats of Bem and Dembinski, were cast
into the depths of dismay when we heard of the surrender of Georgey and
the flight of Kossuth. All was over. Despotism had once more
triumphed. Even France had chosen an adventurer who was afterwards
to seize her by the throat. It was no longer possible to encourage
insurgents in the field. The duty that now devolved upon us was to
clothe and feed the refugees who had sought our shores. They came in
great numbers—Poles and Hungarians chiefly. Every man of them was a
hero, and every one of them was destitute. If ever sympathy was
demanded, it was for these victims of fate and tyranny.
My first contribution to the press was written at this
time—May, 1851. It was an appeal on behalf of the fugitives who had
been landed in Liverpool. The printing of that letter produced an
exaltation that no similar honour has ever produced since. An
American authoress (Louisa M. Alcott) has described her own feelings when
she read that a little tale of hers was going to appear in a Boston
paper—one of the "memorable moments " of her life. She was on her
way to school. "It was late; it was bitter cold; people jostled me;
I was mortally afraid I should be recognised; but there I stood, feasting
my eyes on the fascinating poster, and saying proudly to myself, in the
words of the great Vincent Crummles, 'This, this is fame!' That day
my pupils had an indulgent teacher; for while they struggled with their
pothooks, I was writing immortal works." My own "memorable moment"
is still fresh in recollection. It seemed to me that everybody must
have read that letter, that everybody must be talking about it, that
everybody must be looking at the author as he passed down the street.
Nor could there be any doubt that ample provision would now be made for
the destitute refugees. What else, I asked myself, could be the
result of that eloquent supplication of mine? Alas! we were too poor
in Cheltenham to do more than supplicate. All the same, we gave much
anxious thought and deliberation to the project of taking charge of at
least one of the exiles.
Friends of freedom were active in the same cause in other
parts of the country. Committees were formed in many of the large
towns to raise funds and locate the soldiers who had fought and failed on
the plains of Hungary. There was a public meeting in Newcastle, with
Sir John Fife in the chair, and Mr. Joseph Cowen as the chief speaker.
But the principal committee was established in Liverpool, with James Spurr
as secretary. A small publication, called the Refugee Circular,
issued from time to time between April 16th and August 19th, 1851, gave
particulars of the disposal of the unfortunates. From a complete
collection of these circulars, still preserved, I gather that the North of
England provided for no fewer than fifteen, some of whom became afterwards
well known in Newcastle and Gateshead. One of them, Constantine
Lekawski, was for years connected with the Tyne Ferry Company, but
returned to Poland in 1870 and died there; another, Marian Plotnicki, rose
to a good position in the firm of Hawks, Crawshay, and Co. Away in
Gloucestershire we could render no such help; but we did the next best
thing—we subscribed to the utmost of our small means to save the exiles
from want and beggary.
Other foreigners came in later years to need our
assistance—notably men who had fought with Garibaldi in Rome. Red
Shirts, indeed, were at one time as numerous as Poles in England.
Italy had claims on our sympathy as strong as Poland. And these
claims were kept constantly before the people by the publications of the
Society of the Friends of Italy. There was a Society of Friends of
Poland, too, with Lord Dudley Stuart at its head; but it, unfortunately,
laboured under the imputation of favouring only the exiled aristocracy of
that country. No such disability affected the Italian association.
Mazzini had won the admiration and the confidence, not only of his own
compatriots, but of many hundreds of conspicuous Englishmen. There
were, in fact, countrymen of ours who were as devoted to him as any native
of Italian soil. Mr. Sidney Milnes Hawkes, relating how he once
undertook a dangerous mission to Paris, assured me that he and others had
at that period so little doubt of Mazzini's absolute wisdom and judgment
that they would almost have slain their own kindred if he had told them to
do it. The Friends of Italy comprised many persons eminent in
learning and literature who did not ordinarily concern themselves with the
politics of the day. Douglas Jerrold, David Masson, George Dawson,
Walter Savage Landor, Francis William Newman—these are some of the names
I can recall. And then there were life-long associates with the work
which Mazzini was prosecuting—Joseph Cowen, James Stansfeld, and Peter
Alfred Taylor. We in Cheltenham were members of the society also.
Then and often afterwards we sent our small contributions to Mazzini's
special funds—the Shilling Subscription for European Freedom, the loan to
the Universal Republican Alliance, and so forth. But the influence
of the Friends of Italy far exceeded the value of the funds they could
collect; for there came a time when the very policy of England seemed to
be affected by it. When, for instance, Garibaldi made his descent
upon Sicily, it was the fortuitous interposition of a British squadron
between the Austrian fleet and the Thousand of Marsala that saved the
expedition, and so permitted the liberation of Southern Italy.
There were occasions, especially during the reign of Louis
Napoleon in France, when the claim of England to offer an asylum to the
fugitives from oppression appeared to be in danger. On all such
occasions we were instant in protest or denunciation. Out of our
scanty means we contrived to print little tracts or leaflets, which we
distributed wherever and whenever we had opportunity. One of these
tracts or leaflets, written by the present writer, was entitled the "Right
of Refuge." It was a vigorous attempt to warn the public of the
possible demand that would be made upon the British Cabinet for the
expulsion of foreign exiles. Turgid as was the style, and defective
as was the composition of the piece, it yet expressed the popular feeling
of the day. For once at all events the populace and the
propagandists occupied the same ground and entertained the same ideas.
Not long afterwards one of the most powerful Governments of the century
fell to pieces in a week over a dastardly attempt to truckle to imperial
intimidation on this very subject. England was the sanctuary of
nations. No political offender ever sought her protection in vain.
It was to maintain this sacred character and to preserve this sacred trust
that we poor propagandists spent our substance and exhausted our feeble
energies. Even to this day we may claim that herein we did the State
Ten or a dozen years before our small operations were
performed great disgrace had been brought upon our country by the
subservience of British Ministers to a foreign despotism. The
letters of Mazzini had been opened by their order in the Post Office, and
the contents had been communicated to the Austrian Government. It
was Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham who had authorised this infamy.
The information thus obtained was supposed to have been used by the
Austrians in procuring the capture and execution of the martyrs of
Cosenza—Attilio and Emilio Bandiera, together with seven of their
comrades. The indignation aroused against the Ministers was intense,
particularly against Sir James Graham, who was then Home Secretary.
Popular resentment found vent in various ways. Among others in
inscriptions on the envelopes of letters: "Not to be Grahamised."
Here was an earlier evidence of that reverence for the right and duty of
sheltering the exile which has always been a marked feature of the English
character. But it might not be improper in this place to record the
fact that certain investigations of Madame Jesse White Mario in Italy has
relieved the English Government of part of the odium it brought upon
itself. It is true that Mazzini's letters were opened; it is true
also that the information they contained was communicated to the Austrian
authorities; but it is not true that this information led to the tragedy
at Cosenza. Madame Mario, writing from Italy on July 14th, 1895,
showed that the Bandieras and their companions were the victims of an
Austrian plot. The intentions of the patriots had been made known by
a man who lived and moved among the Italian exiles in Paris, but who was
proved, when his papers came to be examined after his sudden death, to
have been a spy in the service of Prince Metternich and the Austrian
police in Milan. More than this, Metternich and the Austrian
Government were shown to have actually incited the patriots to land in
Calabria, providing them with money and a ship for the voyage, knowing
beforehand that the Neapolitan Government would be ready to capture and
execute them! Such is Madame Mario's revelation. It does not
relieve Aberdeen and Graham from the odium of having done a shameful
thing; but it at least discharges them of the crime of having been
instrumental in procuring the slaughter of a band of noble youths.
FOLLOWING hard upon the close of Mr. Linton's
exposition of republican principles came Mr. Linton's announcement of the
English Republic. The new publication took the form of a
monthly magazine. The editor was its chief contributor. Almost
all the original matter that appeared in it was written by him. With
the exception of the proclamations and other documents of the Democratic
Committee, a series of articles on Russia by Alexander Herzen, a series of
extracts from Theodore Parker's sermons, and a paper on Mary
Wollstonecraft by an anonymous writer, it may be said that the whole of
the contents of the four yearly volumes of the English Republic,
prose and poetry alike, was the result of one man's effort.
For the first year (1851) the Republic appeared in
monthly parts at sixpence. Now and then, but not often, there was
given a portrait or other engraving by the editor. But the first
year's venture was not a success, so a change was made in the second.
Retaining the same shape and size of page, the Republic was issued
during 1852 and 1853 in the form of a weekly tract. A further change
was made in 1854. The Republic reverted to the monthly issue,
with more portraits and engravings. And thus it continued during
that year and for two or three months in 1855, when it finally ceased.
The three volumes of the publication are now literary curiosities.
But they bear traces on every page of a political earnestness and
elevation that contrasts strangely with the frivolous products of a later
period. We were dreamers, enthusiasts, fanatics, what you will—we
Republicans of the middle of the century; and yet, when one comes to
consider the matter, it will be admitted that we set before ourselves a
nobler ideal than that which was expressed in the clamour of the Roman
populace for bread and the circus—nobler even than the demand of the
present day for less work and more football.
The later issues of the English Republic (1854-55)
were printed at Brantwood—a mansion and small estate on Coniston Water
which the help of financial and political friends had enabled the editor
to acquire. The mansion was not large, ten or twelve rooms perhaps,
and the estate was not productive, being mostly fell; but the situation,
facing the lake and Coniston Old Man, and commanding views of other great
mountains, was delightful. There was at one time, I believe, a bench
in the gardens which was given the name of Wordsworth's Seat, because the
poet of Rydal had said that one of the loveliest prospects in the Lake
District could be obtained from the spot. Here a printing
establishment was set up for the purpose of producing the English
Republic. Types and presses had of course to be imported: so had
persons to use and work them. I was one of the imported persons.
Two other young men—Thomas Hailing and James Glover—were also imported
from Cheltenham. We were all members of the Republican Association,
and all ardent disciples of Mazzini. Our duties were evenly
distributed. I was the compositor of the small establishment,
Hailing the pressman, Glover (being a gardener) a sort of man-of-all-work.
Between us, labouring earnestly and harmoniously together, we produced the
English Republic, the Northern Tribune (the Newcastle
magazine of that name), and such other printed matter as was needed.
Press and cases were at first fixed in one of the bedrooms of
the mansion. This, however, was only a temporary arrangement,
pending the erection of a special building—rough, but suitable and
commodious—at the rear. Apart from its rude character (funds were
not available for architectural adornment), there was only one thing
peculiar to the Brantwood Printing House: it bore on its front, scratched
in the plaster-work, two inscriptions that must have puzzled the passing
country folks—"God and the People" and "Laborare est Orare." Years
afterwards, when I walked over to Brantwood, during a short holiday in the
Lake District, I noticed that the building had been pulled down.
This was not surprising, for the only excuse for its existence was its
usefulness, and Mr. Ruskin, who then owned the property, had all his
printing done in the South of England.
The sort of work we were doing in the printing office, as I
knew from my intercourse with the villagers in Coniston, caused us to be
eyed with suspicion. But it is perhaps a mistake to speak of
intercourse with the villagers. As a matter of fact, we succeeded in
establishing very little intercourse with them at all. Sometimes
they were hardly civil to us; at other times they were decidedly rude.
Once, during the severe winter of 1854-55, the winter of the Crimean War,
when the upper part of the lake was frozen over, and I ventured on to the
ice with the rest, there was a deliberate and apparently combined attempt
to trip me up. We were on intimate terms with nobody; on friendly
terms with the schoolmaster and schoolmistress only; on speaking terms
with scarcely a dozen people besides. The suspicions of the small
tradesmen of Coniston took the unpleasant form of hesitating to measure us
for clothes or boots before we could show the money to pay for the goods.
 But, as neither tailor nor shoemaker
was a penny the worse for our transactions with them, it must be presumed
that the veiled dislike of the neighbours arose from resentment at the
seclusion we deemed it proper to maintain in our printing operations.
Our life at Brantwood was of the most unconventional order.
We had no watches, knew no time, ate when we were hungry, and went home
when we were tired. It was a long way home, too. Two of us
lived at Yewdale Bridge, three or four miles from Brantwood, while the
third lived at Torver, two or three miles further still. Now and
then we had to work late into the night, and sometimes all night, to get
our publications into the market. On these occasions the journey
home seemed dreadfully long and wearisome. As part of our road lay
through woods and plantations, the intense darkness of the winter nights
made locomotion difficult. The hooting of the owls and the soughing
of the wind through the trees did not improve the walk, especially when,
as sometimes happened, one or other of us had to perform the journey
alone. Once I got a pretty fright myself. It was late at night
and pitch dark, the trees overhead hiding even the faint light from the
stars. Suddenly there was heard a tremendous clatter some distance
behind. Nothing but a herd of wild horses, I thought, could make
such a row. I got into a ditch out of the way of the phantom hoofs.
The terror was short-lived, for the alarming noise was caused by a
collection of dried leaves careering along the hard and frosty road driven
before a high wind!
The two of us who lived at Yewdale Bridge, being bachelors,
became tenants of a pretty cottage there. It was unfurnished.
Nor had we much furniture of our own besides books and boxes. The
window-sill was my desk and a wooden chest my only seat. There was
absolutely nothing else in the room except a heap of books and manuscripts
scattered over the floor. Our domestic arrangements were on a par
with these sumptuous surroundings. A row of bricks did duty for a
fender, a stick for a poker, and a sheet of brown paper for a tablecloth.
But we were young and hardy then, and our wants were few. The duties
of the household were divided between us. While one made the humble
beds, the other made the coffee and the porridge. I have no doubt we
performed our respective offices with satisfaction. At any rate we
found no fault with each other, nor threatened each other with a month's
notice. Having no artificial tastes in those days, whatever we may
have since acquired, we needed neither beer nor spirits, nor even tobacco;
and, being full of life and vigour and enthusiasm, we were healthy and
contented to boot.
For a short period at the commencement of our enterprise we
had the assistance in the printing-room of a staymaker—George Robert
Vine, a disciple like ourselves. Vine was vain—vainer even than the
rest of us. But vanity was not an undesirable quality in his case;
it gave him confidence. And confidence was essential for the mission
he was going to undertake. That mission was nothing less than the
conversion of England to Republican ideas. Vine thought himself
sufficiently equipped for the venture with a hand-cart and a load of
democratic publications, mostly copies of the English Republic.
The cart was decorated with a flag and a motto. The flag was blue,
white, and green, supposed to be the Republican colours; the motto was
"God and the People." We never saw the missionary again. Where
he got stranded, or how, I never knew, or at all events have forgotten.
I know he passed through Preston, because he wrote from that town about a
great strike of cotton-spinners that was then in progress.
Thereafter, so far as my recollection goes, silence. Vine started on
his mission in 1854. Nearly thirty years later the following curious
communication was received from him:—
To LINTON, NEW
May 20th, 1883.
I will just give you a few words about myself. I
am still working at my trade (stay business), and if not enjoying riches,
I am enjoying calm. I have been in my leisure hours building up a
fame in the scientific world, being recognised by men of science as one of
the chief authorities on the class of studies to which I have given
particular attention (palaeontology); and by my writings I am pretty well
known in scientific circles in America.
Vine's failure simply preceded our own. It could not be
said that the scheme of establishing a printing-office in a remote corner
of the country, seven or eight miles from the nearest railway station, was
a very prudent scheme. As all our materials had to be carted over
the mountains from Windermere to Brantwood, and all these same materials,
after we had converted them into magazines and pamphlets, had to be carted
over the mountains from Brantwood to Windermere back again, the whole
concern was burdened with unnecessary cost. So, in a little more
than a year, there came an end to our hopes and our enterprise together.
Brantwood for a time was rented by Gerald Massey, and at last
sold to Mr. Ruskin. But Mr. Ruskin had his doubts about the purchase
at one stage of the negotiations. The extension of the railway to
Coniston, with a distant view of the obnoxious train service from
Brantwood, caused him to hesitate. Ultimately, however, he overcame
his scruples, made the home of our experiment his home, and gave to the
old mansion on Coniston Water a unique place in the political and literary
history of England.
OUR little company at Brantwood was dispersed in the
spring of 1855. We had been working together for little more than a year. But the public not wanting our wares or our politics, the
expired. This, however, did not mean that we had lost faith in our
principles or intended to cease propagating them. Linton went to London to
try his fortune with Pen and Pencil, an ephemeral competitor of the Illustrated London News. I, being the youngest of the party and then
unmarried, left first, Hailing and Glover remaining behind to "sweep up."
Glover eventually resumed his old occupation of gardener in the
neighbourhood of London, while Hailing, before returning to establish the
reputation of the Oxford Press in Cheltenham, obtained employment at
Windermere. Mr. Garnett, stationer and stationmaster there, had also a
small printing-office. A rather large order had come to him from Harriet
Martineau, then residing at Ambleside. Mrs. Martineau—as she preferred to
be called, though she was never married—had received what she thought was
a warning to prepare for eventualities. Wishing that the public should
receive from herself after her death an account of the transactions in
which she had been concerned, rather than learn of them from anybody else
less qualified to tell the story, she set about writing her autobiography. And to guard against any tampering with the manuscript when she could no
longer prevent it, she wanted the work printed off at once—ready for
issue, precisely in the form she desired, as soon as she had departed
hence. Hailing was engaged for the job, worked at it for some months,
printed one volume and part of another, but, running aground for want of
copy, had to leave it for other hands to finish. This was in 1855; but the
careful authoress lived for two-and-twenty years after she had brought her
book to a conclusion! Creaking doors do sometimes hang long on their
As for myself, I had a journey of two hundred and
seventy-four miles before me, with only seventeen shillings in hand for
the undertaking—obviously too
small a sum even for a railway ticket. How came this lack of funds? Well,
wages were of no consequence to us, so long as we had enough to
pay our way. We hadn't come to Brantwood to make money, but to serve a
cause. Besides, we had been preaching the virtue of sacrifice, and now we
were practising it. So it never entered our heads to murmur, except,
perhaps, when the villagers seemed to doubt our honesty. If subscriptions
magazine were paid, we had our share of them. But if subscribers failed to
subscribe, we were at least testifying to the faith that was in us. Of
did not live like princes. But what did it matter? We gratefully ate our
porridge, and devoutly believed that we were beginning a great work.
When the dream was over—at all events for the present—the prospect of
having to take to the road did not alarm me. The loneliness would be
nor was I without apprehension that I might fall among thieves—as,
indeed, I did. But the tramp was nothing, since I had money enough for a
bed and a
crust on the way. During my apprentice days, I used to envy the ragged and
dusty wanderers who were to be seen passing through the town all
summer-time. The fields and the woods, the hills and the hedgerows, the
rills and the rivers, the songs of the birds and the odours of the
things, I thought, to say nothing of the chances of communing with
Nature, lent fascination to the life of a tramp. Yes, I hoped to be a
tramp myself some day. And now had come the opportunity. So I set off
from Coniston with a light heart and a bundle of tracts; for I reckoned
that our mission, though we had failed at Brantwood, was by no means
tracts were of course explanatory of republican principles. Some I gave to
school children to give to their teachers; some I hung on bushes by the
highway; others I distributed among the inmates of the common lodging-houses at
which I slept. I talked, too, with the tramps whom I overtook or who
on the road; and I even entered in my diary—now a stained and almost
obliterated record—that I thought I had converted
a militiaman! Also I called on Republicans whom I knew by name or repute
in the towns that lay on my route. There had been an association at
Macclesfield. This I endeavoured to resuscitate, but in vain. The efforts
that were thus made to spread the true political gospel, feeble and
fruitless as they
were, helped to relieve the tedium of the long journey. Only once, I
fancy, did I feel particularly sad and forlorn. It was on a fine Sunday
evening in April,
when, at the end of a dreary tramp, I entered Lancaster tired and
footsore. The good folks of that town were
enjoying their Sabbath strolls. Then I thought that my own people were at
that very hour sauntering through pleasant lanes and pastures at home,
while I, a
solitary wanderer on the face of the earth, knew not a soul that I met. For a time I felt melancholy and depressed, and wished the long tramp was
Besides the bundle of tracts, I was not burdened with much baggage. A
small parcel contained everything. Printers need to carry few tools. A
stick and an apron were all I required to begin work anywhere, and even
these were not indispensable. I called at all the newspaper offices on the
begging some brother man to give me leave to toil. Not an odd job
anywhere, nor any relief either except a shilling at Birmingham when I
my indentures, for I was not a member of the union, there being then no
branch at Cheltenham or Coniston. The times were out of joint. It was the
winter of the Crimean War—the severest as regards weather, the dreariest
as regards depression, the direst as regards distress, that we had had for
years. I find in my old diary a note on the state of the country:—"Everywhere the cry is want of work. In Macclesfield especially, steady
industrious men, have great difficulty in obtaining bread. The militia,
some of whom
may not perhaps be so steady, recently disbanded at Stockport, went home
to Macclesfield, failed to get work, and returned to re-enlist. The
nearly as often as they work, some of them oftener. 'I have never known
such a winter,' has been the expression of all with whom I talked at
One young man in Newcastle-under-Lyme, now compelled to seek bread by 'busking' (singing in public-houses), a thrower by trade, said he had been
offered 6s. 6d. a week at a factory in that town. Another man—a plasterer
by trade, who had been out of work for weeks—was offered 25s. to do a job
which he would have had to pay 15s. to his labourer. The number of tramps
I meet on the road—some limping with sore feet, others bending beneath
their burdens of care—is positively alarming. Every other man one meets
is almost sure to be in search of employment. But notwithstanding all this
distress, the beer shops are not without customers. Men come and spend
their last penny—in one particular case I saw at Preston leaving wife and
family at home to starve. In the midst of poverty there is still a deeper
degradation—the degradation of drunkenness." When this was the general
of things, it was not wonderful that the letters of introduction with
which I had been furnished availed nothing. Three
of these letters were to gentlemen of the press or having influence with
the press—Joseph Livesey, proprietor of the Preston Guardian, Edward
director of the Manchester Examiner, and George Dawson, lecturer and
preacher at Birmingham. Mr. Livesey and Mr. Peacock received me
but work there was none. Mr. Dawson was away from home; but Mrs. Dawson
saw me instead. She wanted to know what we had been doing at
Brantwood. I told her. "You are a pretty
lot," she said, laughing, "and we are not much better."
My first night on the road was not comforting. It was spent at Kendal. I
knew nobody there: so I asked for accommodation at the sign of the Black
house seemed small and humble enough to suit my circumstances. I slept
with a double-thumbed musician—a drunken performer on the key-bugle who
shoved me out of bed. The company at the Black Bull was not much to my
liking. It was rowdier than any company I had ever been thrown into
before. Early in the evening every man in the tap-room (the only common
room in the inn) was maudlin drunk. And the language! Our army in
Flanders couldn't have sworn more horribly, not even if there had been a
competition in blasphemy. Tired of the men and their conversation, I went out and bought materials for next morning's
breakfast—coffee, sugar, bread, etc.—and then to rest. I was awoke at
midnight. The roisterers were
coming to roost, bringing bottles of beer with them. The key-bugler,
helplessly drunk by this time, was, much to my horror and disgust, put in
He stank like a fitchet, and snored like a saw-mill; but fortunately his
back was towards me, as of course mine was towards him. Soon he was fast
And then the trouble began. The strange bedfellow with whom poverty had
thus made me acquainted commenced to back himself like a stubborn horse.
I shouted to him to desist; but the more I shouted the more he
backed—the further I got away from him the nearer he came to me. I was on
edge of the bed by this time. To avert the prospect of a violent ejectment,
I reversed the order of things—got out on my side of the bed and got into
his. "Now, my friend," I thought, "if you go on backing, it is yourself, and
not me, that you'll back on to the floor." My scheme was successful. The
bothered me no more. I was glad, however, to take an early departure from
the Black Bull. Perhaps it should be added that the lodgings there, if
were at all events cheap; for I find a note in my diary, written at noon
next day, some miles
from Kendal, that my total expenses thus far had been one and threepence
The second night was connected in a rather curious way with the first. I
was overtaken on the road to Lancaster by another musician—a fiddler this
turned out that the fiddler had been travelling with the bugler—that they
had quarrelled and dissolved partnership. I was in luck's way now; for my
acquaintance, who had been a sailor on board the Imperatrice, and intended
to go back to the sea, would take me with him to a house where he was
known. The house, kept by one Bartholomew Kelly, was clean and orderly. The company also was an improvement on that of the Black Bull, though most
of the component parts of it were beggars and thieves. One of the men was chaffingly asked about his friend Captain Blank. "Oh yes," said he, "I
yesterday morning." Captain Blank was the governor of Lancaster Gaol! I
was seen to be writing—much to the wonderment of the company. "Ah!" said a man who was looking over my shoulder, "I'll put ye on to a
splendid lay." It was to start business as
a writer of begging letters! Beggars and thieves as they were, the men and
women in Bartholomew Kelly's lodging-house treated me as kindly as I had
ever been treated anywhere. This, perhaps,
was not an uncommon experience, since the very poorest of the people are
frequently the most generous. My friend the fiddler arranged for
paid for everything. We were going together to Preston next day—I bound
for Manchester, he for Blackburn. For some modest refreshment at Garstang
the road he insisted on paying also. Nor did his consideration end there;
for he took me to all the places I wanted to find in Preston—the
lodging-houses, etc. Here the lodging-houses were so filthy that I
preferred taking my chance at a tavern; but I had to sleep in the same
room with two
drunken market men. The following day I met my friend again. Again I
begged him to let me pay my share of our joint expenses. "No," said he, "I am
among friends; you are not." And we shook hands and parted. We shall
never meet more; but I should deem myself guilty of gross and contemptible
ingratitude if I did not retain in my memory to the last day a warm place
for John Connolly—sailor, fiddler, tramp.
But I had other experiences of life on the road—curious if not
edifying—that must be told in a new chapter.
THE lodging-houses of Preston were too filthy to be
trusted; but they could scarcely have been filthier than that which I had
the misfortune to sample at Chorley. This place--described in my
diary as "a small neat town, supported by its manufactories"--was only
nine miles from Preston. I was, however, weary and footsore when I
reached it at six o'clock in the evening, for I had been walking about
Preston for many hours before resuming my tramp at three o'clock in the
afternoon. "When in doubt, ask a policeman." Could he tell me
where I could get a bed for the night? My appearance, I dare say,
didn't suggest that I wanted one of the best hotels in the town.
Anyhow, he directed me to a lodging-house. The Chorley constable was
more helpful than a member of the same order whom I encountered when in
much the same difficulty some years later on a tour through the Scottish
Highlands. The encounter took place in Callander. Would the
policeman be kind enough to give me the name of a good hotel in the place?
The reply was not a bad example of Scottish discretion. He didna
ken, he said, as it behoved people in autho-rity to be cotious! But
the Chorley policeman could hardly be suspected of recommending one
fourpenny lodging-house more than another. All the same, I
ungratefully wished afterwards that he had sent me somewhere else.
The common room of the common lodging-house at Chorley--a
dingy, dirty, squalid apartment--was full of people when I entered it.
Most of them were of the tramp type; but one or two girls--probably
daughters of the proprietor--were apparently factory operatives. I
had not been much edified by the conversation I had heard in similar
places. Even that in the thieves' kitchen at Lancaster, though the
place was clean and its occupants considerate, was of a coarse and vulgar
character. Here, however, I could not qualify the conversation, for
the reason that I had not then made the acquaintance of the Lancashire
dialect, which, as I listened to it at Chorley, was as much like a foreign
language to me as anything I had heard before. Only a word dropped
here and there, such as "bobbin" and "mill," led me to infer that the
people, for part of the time, were talking about work at the factories.
It was my practice while on tramp to go to bed early--always, however, in
fear and trembling least I should have to put up with a bedfellow. I
had a couch to myself at Chorley, but I had more bedfellows than I quite
knew about at the time. The other three beds in the apartment were
occupied by a weaver, a tailor, two labourers, and a bookbinder turned
labourer. These five gentlemen combined to produce such a concert in
their sleep that night was made hideous. If by accident the
performers in the three beds took a short rest, my own bedfellows made the
most of the interval. Real repose was quite out of the question, so
that I fled from the abode of horrors as soon as daylight enabled me to
see that I was putting on my own clothes, and not somebody else's.
But my torments were not over when I had escaped from that registered
inferno; for, after all, though I was careful as to the garments I donned,
I carried off more than belonged to me. That day was the most
miserable I passed in the whole of my tramp. My ankles ached; my
feet were blistered; all the other unexposed parts of my unfortunate
anatomy were in a state of intolerable irritation. Overtaking a
waggon, I gave the waggoner twopence to let me ride into Bolton.
There the newspaper offices were visited, with of course the usual result.
Then I limped away to Manchester, calling as I passed through Salford at
Peel Park, with its Museum and Free Library, at that time an almost
isolated example of municipal enlightenment.
The freemasonry of the road is one of the charms of tramping.
Every tramp chums with every other tramp, just as if he had known him from
boyhood. What is more, almost every tramp thinks it his bounden duty
to do his best for his comrade of the hour. It is only the
curmudgeons of the profession who behave differently. I fell in with
the custom, and could therefore learn nearly all I wanted to know about a
place before I reached it. One result of the chumming process was
that I did not stop in Manchester, except to call at the newspaper
offices. A young fellow who overtook me drew so dismal a picture of
the lodging-houses there that I resolved to hurry on to Stockport.
But I was too tired and too miserable to walk the five miles further.
Consequently, I committed the extravagance of travelling by rail.
But I paid dearly for it; for, having to make the journey in an open
truck, which at the period did duty for a third-class carriage, I got "a
perishment of cold." Then followed a further extravagance. I
put up at a coffee-house. Here the bill for tea, bed, and breakfast
amounted to 1s. 8d. Fancy a tramp indulging in such luxuries!
However, I did not lament an expenditure that was so much out of keeping
with my financial resources. The comfort, the cleanliness, the
quietude of the coffeehouse made me a new man next day. All the
same, I felt like a criminal, because I feared that I must have left
behind many of the undesirable acquaintances I had made at Chorley.
Another adventure befell me at Newcastle-under-Lyme. On
the way thither I conferred with the brethren at Macclesfield.
There, being among friends, I fared very well. Arrived in Newcastle,
I inquired for accommodation at a small inn--the Antelope--but neglected
to stipulate for a single bed. That, however, did not matter, I
thought, since nobody else was in the house, except drinking people.
Even the appearance at a later hour in the evening of an old man and his
wife was not disconcerting, because of course the venerable tramps would
sleep together. Wherefore I retired to rest in an easy frame of
mind. Still I thought it desirable to prepare for the worst.
Instead of getting in between the sheets, I got in between in the sheet
and the blanket. "Now," I said to myself, "if, contrary to present
probabilities, anybody should share the bed with me, there will at least
be a sheet between us." Complacent and satisfied, I went speedily to
sleep. An hour or two afterwards I was aroused by the rest of the
inmates fumbling up the stairs. The bed was on a landing, with a
room beyond it. I listened. Yes, there were three voices--the
landlady's, the old man's, and the old woman's. Gracious! they were
not going to sleep together, were they? I pretended to be oblivious;
but I was wide enough awake when I heard the landlady solving the riddle.
"You get in there," she said to the old man; "and you," meaning the old
woman, "come in along of me." Sold! Still the sheet would be a
protection. I chuckled at my own cleverness and forethought.
What it was to anticipate things! The old man got into bed and blew
out the candle. Then--oh! horror!--I heard him mutter: "D! I'm in
the wrong place." And he got out of bed and got in again--this time
beside me. Sold again, and after all my precautions too! But I
fared better than I expected. My new bedfellow behaved better than
the drunken bugler at Kendal--better even than the weaver and tailor and
labourers at Chorley. I was neither kept awake nor kicked on to the
It was my last unpleasant adventure on the road. My
final night as a tramp was spent at Stratford-on-Avon, which was out of my
way, but I wanted to see Shakspeare's birthplace. Here the woman at
the inn, when I asked for a drink of water, was amazed. "What!" said
she, "can't ye afford a drink of beer?" Well, she would take pity on
my poverty. And she gave me a glass of fourpenny. It was vile
stuff; but I was thirsty, and the gift was kindly meant. Another
day's tramp--thirty two miles--and I was among friends again. These
thirty-two miles seemed shorter than any twenty I had previously walked.
Such is the happy effect of the prospect of once more mingling with dear
old folks at home.
Mark Twain knew something of the tramp in America--especially
the travelling "comp.," who "flitted by in the summer and tarried a day,
with his wallet stuffed with one shirt and a hatful of handbills; for if
he couldn't get any type to set, he would do a temperance lecture."
I also knew the character, long before I became a tramp myself. Some
of the fraternity came once and were seen no more; others came round as
often as the regulations of the trade society enabled them to draw relief.
A man belonging to the former class--this was in 1848--persuaded me to
give him a shilling for writing an acrostic, and next night was seen
gesticulating on a Chartist platform, partly for my edification. Two
members of the latter class were rather famous in their day. One was
the Bonny Light Horseman; another the Prince of Munster.
I had a pretty long acquaintance with the Prince of Munster.
Dominic Macarthy had worked for a few months on Galignani's Messenger
in Paris, and on the strength of this circumstance was considered a person
of some note in the trade. He was a good workman; he possessed
considerable intelligence; but he was afflicted with an incurable desire
for roaming about the country whenever the proper season came round.
Every year, or at least as often as relief could be obtained at the
societies in the various towns through which he passed, the Prince was
accustomed to make his appearance. It frequently happened that a job
was to be had in the office in which I was apprenticed, and Dominic in
this way became a familiar character in our establishment. As a lad,
I liked nothing better than a crack with the royal "comp." Not that
I think now that his habits or his influence were altogether wholesome for
a youth of an impressionable temperament; for I recollect that he used,
when he had the means, to bring into the office a supply of spirits to
serve him till he could visit the public-house again. Now and then
his royal highness would disappear beneath his "frame," and emerge from
his seclusion wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and discharging
through the office an odour of Old Tom.
During the few days he remained at a time--and he never
remained much longer than a week together--he had frequent "bouts."
I remember that he defended these weaknesses of his on the ground that
Buchan or some writer on hygienic matters contended that occasional
excesses in intoxicating drinks had a healthy effect on the person who
gave way to them. Dominic, as I have said, was never able to stay
long in one place. When he got his wages, or as much of them as he
had not anticipated, on a Saturday night, we could never be sure that he
would turn in again on the Monday morning. Indeed, if he had nothing
to draw, he was liable to disappear any day. When this happened, we
would see nothing more of him till he came his rounds again a year later.
The passion for roving was too strong to be resisted for many days
together. The Prince could no more settle in one town in summer-time
than a swallow can resist the impulse to seek another clime.
Later on in life I made Dominic's acquaintance in London.
There he invariably spent the winter months hanging about the office of
the society in Racquet Court, and getting an occasional job as a "grass
hand," until the return of spring enabled him to resume his vagabond life.
Some years passed. I was then in Newcastle. One
night, when leaving the office, I heard my name pronounced as I passed a
ragged figure standing near the door. Turning round, I discovered
that I had been accosted by my old friend the Prince of Munster. His
highness was raggeder, haggarder, and dirtier than I had ever seen him
before. A quarter of a century of wandering hither and thither,
together with the unknown quantity of spirits he must have consumed in
that time, had told heavily on the Prince. I took him home with me;
I gave him a good supper; I supplied him with a suit of old clothes; and I
set him on his way rejoicing with a few shillings in his pocket. I
never saw him again. The probability is that he died in some
workhouse hospital or other.
Dominic Macarthy always seemed to me a type of the vagabond
class. And I never think of him, and of my own feelings when I first
made his acquaintance, without believing that I had a narrow escape of
becoming a vagabond too.