Soon after the publication of "Dreams and Realities" Prince wrote the
following letter to the late Lord Leigh:—
HENRY SQUARE, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
November 20, 1847.
My Lord—Understanding that you are a Patron of Literature and the Fine
Arts, I trust I may be pardoned the liberty I take in soliciting your
Lordship's patronage of a little work I have just published, entitled 'Dreams and Realities.' Perhaps your Lordship may have seen, or heard of,
a former work of mine, entitled 'Hours with the Muses.' It has been very
favourably reviewed by all sorts of journals, both in this country and
America, and is now going through a fourth edition. Should your Lordship
feel disposed to honour me by purchasing from me a copy, or copies, of one
or both of the works, I will forward them according to your direction. 
For a knowledge of the quality of the work I beg to refer you to Mr.
Frederick Enoch, Corn Market, Warwick, or to the enclosed Opinions of the
I am a very poor man, and unable to follow my employment in consequence
of a severe attack of rheumatism, which incapacitates me for action; I am,
therefore, with my family, depending solely for support on my pen.
Craving pardon for troubling your Lordship with this
note, and most respectfully soliciting a reply when convenient, I beg to
subscribe myself your Lordship's most obedient, humble servant,
JOHN C. PRINCE.
In reply to this letter Lord Leigh thus cordially wrote to Mr: F. Enoch,
of Warwick, in Prince's behalf:—
5 EASTERN TERRACE, BRIGHTON,
November 24, 1847.
Dear Sir—Will you have the kindness to transmit a five-pound note to Mr.
Prince. I have a great desire to have both his works, as, judging from the
high encomiums on his first work in the newspapers, his poems must be of a
first-rate character! It is delightful to see that men in his class of
society can produce such admirable poetry, and that England can produce
her Burns to 'take the shine' out of us 'mob of gentlemen who write with
ease.' Pray send me both works as soon as you can, as I pant to read them.
I am, dear sir, your obedient servant, LEIGH.
Mr. Frederick Enoch.
In 1848 Prince left Henry Square, Ashton, and resided
on the opposite side of the town, at a place called Penny
Meadow. It seems as if he had counted upon the success of " Dreams and
Realities," and about the time of its publication had given up his work as
a reed-maker. This idea is supported by the fact that he had worked for
Mr. Moorhouse, and lived close to the manufactory up to the end of 1847,
when " Dreams and Realities" was published, and when, in all probability,
he abandoned his regular employment. In a letter to his friend Mr. G. M.
Tweddell the evidence is still more conclusive:—
September 28, 1848.
Dear Tweddell—I was both pleased and surprised to hear from you;
surprised, because I deemed you had shifted your whereabouts. Myself and
Mr. Smith have been anxious to know what had become of you, and whether
the world wore a brighter or a gloomier aspect to you. While I sympathise
with you, I am sorry to hear that your circumstances are none of the most
comfortable or promising. How like are the fates of literary men! I hope
you may succeed in getting a situation soon; but, between ourselves,
there exists among men of business a strong prejudice against men of
literary habits as men of business.
I have been twelve months away from my trade, anxious and essaying to
procure something else to do, but in vain. The precarious sale of my last
work, 'Dreams and Realities,' is all we have to depend upon for support,
and the future looks gloomy enough. But let us not despair.
. . . . I do not envy you your literary drudgery, but hope you may
extract something out of it in the end. Publishers and booksellers, by the
way, have most accommodating consciences; but, as Byron said of women,
'there is neither doing with them nor without them!'
. . . . Write again
when convenient, and believe me to be sincerely and faithfully yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
We thus see that Prince had relinquished reed-making about the
time of the publication of "Dreams and Realities," changing his residence
at the same time; also that the success of his second volume had not by
any means realised his expectations; although the work certainly could not
have been regarded as a failure if the proceeds of sales supported Prince
and his family for twelve months. Be this as it may, we cannot but share
the opinion entertained by many of the poet's friends, that he trusted too
implicitly to the success of his works for that independence which he
should rather have sought as the reward of thrift and industry. His
temperament and the weaknesses of his character, taken in conjunction with
the public favour accorded to "Hours with the Muses," and the
circumstances arising out of its popularity, combined to unfit him for
working steadily and determinedly towards some definite aim in life; and
the irresolution and improvidence thus developed could not but terminate
in disappointment and disaster.
Prince was still the editor of the "Ancient Shepherds' Magazine," but this
only brought him in about three pounds per quarter; and beyond the sale of
odd copies of "Dreams and Realities," he seems to have had nothing else
to depend upon at this time for a livelihood. In another letter to Mr. Tweddell, dated from Penny Meadow, October 11th, 1848, Prince says:—
. . My new volume does not contain 'Zorah.' I may work the
subject into a ballad some time. The price of the book is
five shillings. It has not circulated among the booksellers, as,
myself and family being unemployed, I have sold them myself, in order to save the 25 per cent. I
will contrive to present you with a copy through the post. It will go at
the cost of sixpence. I shall then be glad if you can procure me a few
purchasers. I will forward it to any subscriber, at five shillings,
of carriage to him.
He thus writes to Mr. G. Richardson on the same
I think you
have not had my last little book. I am too poor, and have nothing else to
depend upon but the precarious sale of this volume, or I should have had
pleasure in presenting you with a copy. As it is, I must solicit your
patronage, and beg of you to become
a purchaser, if you feel so disposed. If not, of course I cannot press
you. We have been much put to it of late for want of work, and this volume
has been our chief means of support. It is nearly exhausted, I think not
above a dozen copies or so remaining.
My daughter will show you the work. . . . . I should be glad to see you
among our hills this summer. A railway will be open through the Valley of Saddleworth in a few weeks. Believe me to be sincerely yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
After this time Prince's circumstances, it is to be feared, grew gradually
worse and worse, and during the year 1849 he was probably dependent upon
occasional employment at his trade, in Ashton, or short engagements here
and there about the country when "on tramp." A letter to Mr. Tweddell,
bearing only the date April 10th, and directed from 29 Newhall Street,
Birmingham, was probably written in this year. In this Prince says:—
letter has followed me here, to which place I am come in the hope of
finding some occupation; whether
I shall succeed or not I cannot tell. I am popular here
as a poet, but that says nothing. If I go back to Ashton
I shall be in danger of imprisonment. I do not know
what I shall do. I am poor enough, Heaven knows!
and I daresay you might be better off. Nil desperandum be our motto. . . .
The numbers of 'Shepherds' Magazine' shall be sent when I return,
do return. I have been so harassed that I could think of nothing.
That volume to which you allude has not appeared, nor will it now,
perhaps; I have been too busy with poverty for the business of poetry. I wish to
get settled, and then something may be done. . . . .
Excuse brevity this time, as I have a party of poets, artists, and other
characters to dine with at two o'clock, and it is now noon. Ever
How characteristic of Prince is the concluding paragraph! And, if the
truth were known, it is more than likely that a few hours spent in such
society dissipated every care and anxiety, and enabled him for a time to
forget his misfortunes and his poverty.
That he did return to Ashton is certain; and probably soon afterwards: at
any rate we find an unimportant note from him to Mr. Richardson, directed
from "Penny Meadow, Market Place," and bearing date June 29th, 1849; and
there can be little doubt but that at this time he was employed in
"jobbing" at his trade,—supplementing his earnings by contributing lyrics
to various periodicals, and in conducting the editorial department of the
On the 1st of June 1850, when he was in all probability living in
Catherine Street, Ashton, he thus again writes to Mr. Tweddell:—
certainly been culpably negligent in not writing to you. One neglects to
begin with, and then gets ashamed. But I have really been so harassed by
that harsh fiend Poverty, that I have had little heart for anything. I am
still so; but I have no wish to forfeit your good-will by not replying to
your last note . . . . And this reminds me of the copy of 'Dreams and
Realities' I should have sent you. Every copy has slipped out of my hands,
and it is out of print. I have not a copy of either of my books myself. If I can by any means beg or buy a copy back again, you shall have
it. I should like to reprint the work, or a selection from both works, but
cannot run the risk. I wish some spirited printer or bookseller would
print a selection, and allow me some moderate recompense. I am obliged to
you mentioning the tales—speculates upon. I have only three stories in
prose, viz., 'The Rector's Wife,' 'Pauline Peronne; a Reminiscence of
France in 1830;' and 'Philip Morley,' a moral tale just written. But I
could write more, I think,
if I set about it. The price—gives seems fair enough, but, if he accepted
anything of mine, I should like a trifle down; my circumstances
imperatively demand it. If you like to negotiate for me, you may, and I
shall be thankful. You will see by enclosed card that I have been trying
to do a little at my handicraft, reed-making, on my own account, but I have
been for many weeks jammed fast for want of a little capital wherewith to
purchase material. Such being the case, I am in a poor way, and hardly
know how to get on one day over the other. Pray, how are you getting on,
my friend? I hope better, and all your little household.
. . . . I expect you writing again, and I will reply immediately if
there be a penny at hand, which is not always the case lately. I enclose a
prospectus; can you procure me a subscriber or two without going out of
your way to do it? I am sorry I have not an envelope nor a stamp at
hand, and remain (spite of what you think), faithfully yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
Prince had at times a fancy for trying to make his friends believe that he
was a stranger, or, occasionally, a messenger, sent to his own house to
enquire for himself! Mr. Oldham, Prince's brother-in-law, has supplied the
following episode, which took place during the poet's residence in Ashton. On one occasion he knocked at his own door, which was opened by his wife. He politely asked if Mr. Prince resided there, saying he had been sent for
his overcoat, as he was going on a journey. His wife treated this as a
joke, and asked him to come in, but he persisted in saying he could not
come in, as he had been sent for Mr. Prince's overcoat! Notwithstanding
his persistence, his wife would not give it to him, and the end was that
he started off without it for London, which he reached in a very wretched
and forlorn condition; however, he sought out and found the residence of
a gentleman who had previously befriended him. When he reached the house
he rang the bell, and
the lodge-keeper answered the summons. Prince asked to see the master, but
the lodge-keeper, seeing the sorry plight he was in, refused to admit him. But Prince was not to be baulked, and emphatically told the porter that if
he would not open the gate for him he would climb over it, which he did at
once, and proceeded to the house, the lodge-keeper running in advance of
him to warn the servants of the character of their coming visitor. Prince,
nothing daunted, went to the hall-door, and again sought admittance, which
for a time was declined; but he refused to go away until he had seen the
master; who, hearing the altercation going on, put in an appearance, and
on seeing Prince received him with the greatest cordiality, and ordered
his butler to take him to the bath-room and to find him a suit of clothes. As soon as Prince was rehabilitated he appeared in the drawing-room, and
remained as a guest for two or three days. At the conclusion of the visit
the gentleman presented Prince with a cheque for £20, and the erratic poet
set out once more for Ashton, which, much to the relief of his relatives
and friends, he ultimately reached in safety.
In our quotation from the preface of "Dreams and Realities" it will be
remembered that Prince mentions the fact of his being engaged upon "a work
of greater pretensions, to which he was devoting more study and care in
the composition." This undoubtedly refers to "Zorah," which had been
talked of and written about for years, yet was destined never to appear in
public, at least not in the form originally intended. The prospectus
alluded to in the last letter refers to Prince's third volume, with which
"Zorah" was ultimately incorporated, and which he was now engaged in
preparing for the press.
At this time also he seems to have been negotiating for the reproduction
of his former works, as will be seen from the two letters to Mr. Tweddell
5th July 1850.
Dear Tweddell—I have been
prevented writing to you earlier; you will please pardon me. As respects
reprinting my works: When I do reprint 'Hours with the Muses,' I must make
a better thing of it than Mr.
P —'s plan will afford. The work is very much
called for here. An elegantly got up edition would sell well.
If Mr. — thinks proper to give me a few pounds for the
privilege of printing an edition of 1000 or 2000 copies of 'Dreams and
Realities,' I will bargain. I should not want an exorbitant sum, but
whatever sum we agreed for I should like to receive on delivery of a copy
of the book, and a written paper authorising—to print the edition for his
own benefit; the copyright still to be mine.
If he likes to give me for my three tales,—'The Rector's Wife,' 'Pauline Peronne,' and
'Philip Morley,'—three pounds, he may take them as his
exclusive property. They would make a nice little book, as regards size; I
mean such an one, I suppose, as he would sell for sixpence; but I do not
know the size of type he uses. But this £3 I must have at once, or a pound
for each tale as I deliver it to him. I am sorry to be so strict about
these matters, but my poverty compels me. Of course he can please himself
about the matter entirely. I enclose a list of the contents of 'Dreams and
Realities,' which is now out of print. 1250 copies have been sold in and
about Manchester, but I have been sadly fleeced by printers.
I hope, my dear fellow, that both our prospects will brighten up, for it
is time . . . Believe me faith fully yours,
JOHN C. PRINCE.
note is dated "Ashton-under-Lyne, July 24, 1850," and is as follows:—
Dear Tweddell—Mr. P— has allowed me £5 for an edition of 'Dreams and
Realities,' when he really
should have given me £6, the sum I asked. Had I had the means of printing
myself I could have made
£50 instead of £5 by it. I cannot think that I am
paid. You can read the copy I sent him, which I had
to re-buy from a neighbour of mine. Will write again
shortly. Am busy with my new book in the press. Faithfully,
J. C. PRINCE.
Prince's third volume, "The Poetic Rosary," appeared' in September 1850,
and was dedicated by special permission to Charles Dickens, the wide and
generous sympathies of whose writings he highly esteemed; and it is to be
regretted that the correspondence which must necessarily have passed
between Prince and Dickens is not now in existence, at least so far as we
have been able to ascertain. The work does not appear to have met with any
marked success; and, whether or not, owing to the expenses of printing and
publication, does not seem to have much benefited Prince in a pecuniary
sense. It is very likely, however, that the public were at this time
rather out of patience with Prince, and indisposed to take much interest
either in him or his works, as they considered he had neglected many
opportunities which he might have readily turned to good account. Many
efforts had been made in his behalf without any appreciable improvement in
his condition; those who had helped him considered he had made a poor
return for their endeavours; and he certainly laid himself open to censure
by his aimless apathy, indecision, and unsteadiness.
The volume itself consists principally of lyrics, a few narrative poems,
and prose miscellanies, characterised by delicacy of sentiment and
gracefulness of composition; and, without containing much of special
importance, it fairly sustains the reputation of the poet. Prince's
circumstances were now such that it is to be feared he
regarded each new volume of poems more as a means of subsistence than as
an opportunity of manifesting the highest capabilities of his genius.
Of the lyrical poems, "The Desert and the City," "The Stream and the
Vine," "The Three Angels," "The Winter's Walk," "The Golden Land of
Poesy," and "The May-day Walk," are perhaps especially worthy of mention. Two sonnets, entitled respectively "June" and "Spring," are exquisite
examples of this class of composition; and the duty of resignation is
sweetly and effectively taught in "The Household Jewels." But
Where all are fair, 'tis difficult to choose
The fairest blossom from a choice bouquet,
and although it may be easy to detect weak and diffuse passages here and
there—probably the result of writing against time, and for the sake of
pence—yet it would be indeed difficult to point out anything in the
volume altogether unworthy of his muse.
Of the narrative poems the two principal ones are "Pleurs; or The Town of
Tears," founded on a paragraph from Cheever's "Pilgrim in the Jungfrau,"
and "Zoana," a metrical version of the story of Gilbert
à Beckett, which
is, to all intents and purposes, the "Zorah" already referred to more
than once. These will both, we think, bear comparison with almost anything
Prince has written. The tales are told in choice and appropriate language,
the interest being well-sustained in each, and, whilst deeply tender and
pathetic, abound in passages of great power and beauty.
That the publication of the "Poetic Rosary" did little to improve
Prince's condition is attested by a letter of his own:—
2 BRADGATE STREET, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
July 26, 1851.
Dear Tweddell—I am in receipt of your note of the 15th. Your fortunes
and mine are very much alike, and, therefore, do I regret to hear that the
world does not smile upon you as it ought. Alas! I am in a like
predicament. Three months since, for not great arrears of rent, I was sold
up, dish and spoon, goods, working-tools, everything. I have had great
difficulty in escaping
a jail, and I have not altogether escaped privation. I am now living with
my eldest daughter, who is married.
I obtained a situation as a
journeyman reed-maker, but for the last four weeks have not been able to
work, owing to a severe inflammation of the eyes. Bleeding and blistering
have benefited me a little, but my sight is far from good. I am now
forty-three years of age; and neither so strong nor so hopeful as I was;
yet have the heart to write such verses as are herein enclosed. They will
be as applicable to you as to myself.
Mr. P—, I am aware, drives a hard bargain, and seems to have an idea
that authors were made for the benefit of speculating publishers. Between
ourselves, I think I shall suffer through my connection with him in the
end. We shall see. Necessity compelled.
I have now no connection with the 'Shepherds' Magazine.' They have taken
it into their own hands; from what cause I know not. Mr. Smith, whom I
now seldom see, has, I believe, something to do with a portion of the
present management, he being a member of the Order;
I am not. . . . . I have had many a try to get on with the periodicals as
a paid contributor, but they are very shy. I have now and then got a
shilling or two from 'Household Words' and 'Eliza Cook's journal,' but
such things are few and far between.
Trusting that your family are well, and sincerely
hoping that both of us may see better days, I remain, faithfully yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
The verses alluded to were entitled "Look Up,"  from which we quote:—
'Look up!' moody man, by adversity brought
From high unto lowly
Yield not to the pressure of profitless thought,
Nor murmur at chance and
Recall thy first hopes; look the world in the face,
For it helpeth not those who repine,—
Press on, 'twill applaud thee, and steady thy pace,—
Succeed, and its
homage is thine.
'Look up!' toiling multitudes, doomed to be set
In the thick of the
battle of life;
Succumb not, relax not; to slacken and fret
Saps the strength which ye
need for the strife;
Look up, and beyond, where a guerdon is given
humble and earnest of heart,
The fruition of joys everlasting in Heaven,
Of peace that can never
'Look up!' noble spirit, by angels inspired,
Thou rare and superior soul!
Look up with endeavour, and courage untired,
And strive for the uttermost
Look up, and send down to the wondering throng,
Who mark thy brave march from behind,—
Pure knowledge, true wisdom, and exquisite song,
From the loftiest regions of mind.
Prince continued to edit the "Shepherds' Quarterly Magazine" from 1845
to 1851; and it may not be here amiss to briefly review his editorial
labours during this period. In point of literary merit, these volumes
bear witness to the tact, taste, and general capacity of the editor. Being
the medium of communication between the members of a fast-spreading
Friendly Society, and having for its object the inculcation and
dissemination of the principles of the Order, we cannot be surprised to
find the Magazine containing many special articles and notes on Shepherdy—reports
of Lodge Anniversaries and other meetings—correspondence on general and
special topics connected with the Society, etc.; but, notwithstanding all
these, its pages are varied by numerous contributions of a purely literary
character, amongst which the efforts of the editor, both in prose and
verse, are by no means inconsiderable.
In addition to the introductory article, from which we have already
quoted, we find some twelve or thirteen editorial essays, in some
instances referring especially to the Order and its members, but, for the
most part, affecting the grander order of humanity, and the welfare of
society in general. An editorial article usually occupied the place of
honour in each number of the Magazine, although the editor sometimes saw
fit to violate this rule, and substitute something else.
All these essays are fine examples of that simple, vigorous, dignified
style of prose-writing in which Prince had become so wondrous an adept;
and whether we estimate them from a literary or moral point of view, there
can be but one opinion as to their power and purity. The first volume
contains essays entitled "Union is Strength;—Harmony is Beauty,"
"Intellectual Progress," "Changes for the Better," "Society, a Necessity
and a Blessing," "Christmas—The New Year," "The Influence of Knowledge,"
and "Moral Reforms—Temperance." The first of these is a temperate appeal
to the Ancient Shepherds, striving to impress upon their minds
the necessity of strengthening, by every available means, their bonds of
union, especially at a time when discord had crept into the midst of a
sister society to such an alarming extent as almost to threaten its
disorganisation; and, for such a purpose, nothing could be more manly in
tone, more convincing in argument, or more charitable in spirit.
"A glance at Intellectual Progress in Manchester" is really a review of
three anniversary soirees in connection with the Manchester Athenæum, and
held respectively in 1843, 1844, and 1845. The first soiree took place in
October 1843, when "Mr. Charles Dickens presided over an audience,
composed of both sexes, of one thousand individuals." The second, in
October 1844, "under the presidency of Benjamin Disraeli, Esq.," when
upwards of three thousand were present. At the third, October 1845, Mr. Serjeant Talfourd, the accomplished author of "Ion," presided over a
mixed assemblage of nearly four thousand. This forms his text, and after
showing how distinguished men of various ranks, and every shade of
political opinion,—representatives from every grade of science, art, and
literature,— graced and enlivened these unparalleled meetings, differing in
many things, yet all agreeing that "the multitudes should be taught,
refined, considerately treated, and consequently, morally and physically
improved," he asks,
"And what did this mass of toiling, but orderly and
intelligent, people go to hear? No bewildering political dogmas; no
vindictive tirades against persons and events, that keep dangerous and
disappointed demagogues from power; no fierce denunciations of those laws
and institutions which time has honoured, and generations sanctioned, and
which experience shows to be necessary to the well-being of society; no
smooth and plausible, but pernicious creeds and sophistries which tend to degrade the human
being to the level of the sensual and irresponsible nature of inferior
creatures! No! none of
these did they nature to, but to the free yet purest doctrines; the most
captivating and exalted knowledge; the brightest wit and profoundest
wisdom, clothed in the most fascinating eloquence, as they bubbled up from
the hearts of benevolence, and winged from the lips of genius with power
and splendour which charmed and aroused, which convinced and encouraged,
the coldest and the humblest in that gratified and gratifying assembly.
Are not these meetings, where all are actuated by the common motive of
laying hold of healthful and elevating knowledge, and which are stirring
other towns to like endeavours,—are they not glorious indications of a
spirit which is urging us on to better things, to happier days? Do they
not strengthen the poet's faith in that earthly future
When man shall walk the fruitful sod
A being worthy of his God?"
Poor Prince! how hopeful was his spirit,—how his heart throbbed with
philanthropy,—how his soul longed for the happiness and welfare of
mankind. Again he says:—"To an ignorant man—ignorant in its proper
A primrose by a river's brim,
A yellow primrose is to him,
And it is nothing more.
But one who is capable of looking beyond the mere form, colour, and
sweetness of the flower, perceives the hand of that divine power and
wisdom which made and sustains all things, from a world to a weed,—from
man to the angels. The glorious spectacle of the heavens, sky,
star, and cloud;—the vast earth with its innumerable features of grace
and grandeur;—the unfailing interchange of its seasons, its storms, its
calms, its sounds of sweetness, and its tones of terror; the subtile
agencies and operations of visible nature, and the triumphant achievements
of human genius, are not to be looked upon with an indifferent eye, but as
stimulants to that spirit within us, which, if quickened by inquiry and
fed with wholesome knowledge, develops more and more the goodness of the
Creator, and feels more and more its fitness for that higher life which,
we are assured, awaits our seeking beyond
"The dust and dimness of our mortal state."'
We have quoted these paragraphs to show how fully Prince was capable of
appreciating not only the power of knowledge generally, and the
transcendent efficacy of nature as a teacher, but also the peculiar kind
of knowledge which his own class required, in order to elevate them in the
scale of manhood, and enable them to recognise the mighty power and grand
purposes of life itself, as well as the importance of all genuine efforts
made in their behalf.
Few men knew the right better than Prince, and few were more fully
cognisant of the requirements of the working-classes. He aimed at teaching
their hearts, as nature had taught his own, and what a struggle he must
have endured all his life, between his propensities on the one hand, and
his impulses for good on the other!—between his weaknesses and
virtues,—between his capacity for noble achievements, and the remorse he
suffered so acutely when he proved false to the divine instincts of his
"Changes for the Better," which, he tells us elsewhere, was part of an
unpublished lecture, is characterised by
earnest thought, and glows with hope and joy on every page. In the
consideration of such a theme he seemed to forget the stern realities of
his own sad lot, and as his mind contemplated the duties and vicissitudes
of life, and dwelt upon the nature, condition, and destiny of mankind, he
seemed, with almost prophetic instinct, to gain a foretaste of universal
joys to come, as if his spirit had for a time emancipated herself from the
trammels of earth, and, soaring amid the glories of some more exalted
sphere, thrust every care into oblivion, and filled his being with
Amongst these "Changes for the Better" he contrasts our modern liberty
with the barbaric splendour, serfdom, and superstitions of the feudal
ages, and the absolute freedom of worship all now enjoy with that terrible so called religious persecution, when those who dared to assert liberty of
conscience dared even more than death. Farther on, speaking of the press,
Not five hundred, but fifty years will suffice to show the many
and mighty advances we have made towards the perfect liberty and happiness
it is man's nature to yearn after. The press has grown into a giant whose
arm of power and whose voice of thunder or persuasion nothing can
restrain. Daily, hourly, it is pouring forth terror to the evil-doer,
peace and promise to the lowly and sad of heart, knowledge to the
multitude, and with that knowledge imparting social harmony and moral
strength. It hath rooted up error after error, thrown down wrong after
wrong, and its hallowed crusade, its bloodless warfare of tongue and pen
against old and new abominations, will achieve yet greater victories, and
arrive at more humanising and enduring results, than the most poetical
imagination ever pictured, or the most prophetic voice ever foretold. By
its aid Science has
taken to itself more vigorous wings, soaring higher, and taking a more
discursive range than the prejudices of the past permitted. Nothing is too
elevated, nothing too humble for its assiduous search. No obstruction,
however formidable, can bar its way; no principle, however abstruse, it
does not attempt to elucidate; no point of grandeur and utility at which
it does not direct its energies. From the measurement of a star to the
cultivation of a plant, from the hewing of a mountain to the inspection of
a fossil, from the crossing of valleys with a span to the minutiæ
of microscopic search, from the mysteries of the human mind to the
instinct of the brute, from the illimitable vastness and magnificence of
the universe to the tiny beauty of a dewdrop, nothing escapes its
scrutinising glance, nothing but yields something to its devotion and its
With graphic power and much discrimination he reviews the progress of
literature, science, and art, comparing the past with the present in each
department of human knowledge; and after demonstrating the march of
intellect and the spread of refined taste, he points with pride to the
establishment and development of Athenæums, Lyceums, Libraries, and many
kindred institutions from which the labouring man may derive healthy and
elevating knowledge, refined and moral recreation. His heart is full of
joy as he writes; he is more than grateful for the increased advantages
all classes derive from the progress of the age; Hope is still by his
side, and points to the brightening dawn, to the increase of golden light
gleaming from the vista of the future; and, as if inspired anew, he
There is a good time coming; the ice of apathy is breaking and
drifting away before genial breezes, and a fair open sea is looming up,
radiant with the mind's
sunshine, and studded with beautiful isles, where the adventurous voyager
may rest and contemplate the ever-expanding, ever-brightening world of
intellect around him. God speed its coming!
We pass over the remaining essays in the first volume of the Magazine,
although a melancholy interest attaches itself to the last one on "Temperance." In the second and third volumes there are several editorial
papers on a variety of subjects, some especially referring to Shepherdy,
others of more general interest, but all characterised by chasteness and
simplicity of style, dignity of tone, and peculiar appropriateness of
illustration. Amongst those on general subjects we may mention
"The Pleasures of the Country," "Sabbath in the Country," and "Self-exertion." In the two former we find the bard in his true element,
his heart exultant, his mind cheered and refreshed, as memory reproduces
flowery lanes and lovely solitudes through which he traversed in "youth's
morning march," when he held converse with Nature in her every mood, and
thrilled his soul with her innumerable beauties. As the poet himself says,
Oh! Mother Earth! of love and wisdom born,
Nurse of all placid thoughts,
all pure desires,
Consoler of the weary heart forlorn,
Creator of the Poet's chastest fires—
How sweet to 'scape the thraldom of the town,
Whose feverish air with sin,
strife, sorrow rings,
On thy maternal breast to lay me down,
the joys thine unsoiled beauty brings,
And catch rare glimpses thence of God's diviner things!
We can only
mention a trenchant article entitled, with caustic satire, "Glorious
War," reprinted from the "Manchester Times;" also a very able and
on "Poetic Genius," which is not antagonistic to the views on this
subject already referred to, and which it would be unfair to mutilate by
mere quotation or condensation.
In addition to these prose essays Prince also contributed a number of
tales to the Magazine, some of them written to "point a moral " in
connection with Shepherdy; others of general interest, and in most
instances, reminiscential. Of the former, we may refer to "The Lost
Passport, or the Tramper in trouble," and "Will Woodward, the Hatter, and
the Benefit Society," the object of both being to show the utility and
importance of Friendly Societies to the artisan class, whether in or out
In our previous notices of Prince's volumes we have alluded to some of the
other tales, and we would only now add that all his compositions of this
class contain many exquisite touches of Nature and human nature, and are
characterised by purity of tone and sentiment: indeed, there can be little
doubt but that, under more propitious circumstances, and if he had
especially directed his mind to the task, Prince would have excelled in
narrative prose-writing. Although his mind was by no means critical, in
the highest sense of the term, yet he had keen perceptive faculties, vivid
powers of description, remarkable facility of expression, a chaste but
glowing style, and admirable taste.
In addition to these qualifications his love of Nature, his humanitarian
sympathies, and the richness of his fancy, would have enabled him to have
taken high ground in the portraiture of life and character, whilst the
optimistic tendencies of his disposition would have been kept in check by
the harrowing memories of his own sad individual experience; and his
instinctive veneration for all that was noble, true, and
beautiful—however he may
have failed to reach a high standard himself—the broad, deep sympathies
of his nature, would have peculiarly adapted him for tracing moral effects
to their causes, and impelled him to depict the heinousness of sin, whilst
holding out a loving hand for the reclamation of the sinner. These stories
can only be accepted as the first fruits of an undeveloped talent, but they
are nevertheless creditable alike to the head and heart of the author.
Of course Prince contributed many poems to the pages of the "Shepherds'
Magazine," but as these were nearly all incorporated in his published
volumes from time to time, it is here unnecessary to do more than mention
In looking over the reports of the meetings in connection with the Order
as published in the Magazine, it is curious to observe that on only one
occasion do we find Prince in attendance, although "The editor of the
Magazine" was often associated with the toast of "The Press;" and even
when a new Lodge was formed in Salford, on the 7th of May 1849, and called
in honour of the poet "The John Critchley Prince Lodge," a note was read
from Prince himself begging the members to excuse his absence. The only
occasion on which he was present at any of the meetings, so far as we can
ascertain, during the six years he was editor of the Magazine, was on the
1st of January 1846, when the annual tea-party of the Ancient Shepherds
was held in the Town Hall, Ashton, and when Prince read an address in
rhyme, which was composed by himself especially for the anniversary.
The annual meeting of the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds, for 1850, was
held in Bolton on the 1st of April; but, on the day previous (Easter
Sunday), the brethren, to the number of about two thousand, arrived
from Ashton, Stalybridge, etc., and marched in procession through the town
to the Temperance Hall, where an address was delivered by Mr. James Farron,
Corresponding Secretary. The hymns for this occasion were composed by
Prince, and were singularly beautiful and appropriate. Although Prince had
not sufficient confidence in himself to excel in public speaking or
reading, yet his pen was ever ready in serving a good cause; and it would
be no easy task to collect the numerous poetic addresses he wrote for both
public and private occasions; many of them being remarkable for playful
fancy, genial humour, true pathos, and exalted morality; independently of
their rhythmic sweetness, and genuine, if unambitious, poetry.
When we bear in mind the circumstances in which Prince was placed in
Ashton,—his daily struggle for bread, amid "the thousand ills" of
poverty and privation,—and also the class of Magazine which he conducted
for so long a period, we can readily believe that he did not find the
editorial chair a bed of roses: and when we review what he himself
contributed during the six years he was editor, and estimate the general
character and literary merit of the Magazine, we cannot but affirm that
the editorial duties were faithfully and ably performed, whilst the
specific nature of the publication was always, and uniformly, preserved.
PRINCE'S name is inserted in the Ashton Poors' Rate
Book, in the rate made May 8th, 1850, as the occupier of a cottage in
Penny Meadow, and it appears that the amount, in addition to arrears, was
at the close of the rate excused on the score of the poet's poverty.
The words of the collector on the margin of the book, written at the time
to authorise such excuser, being "Sold up." From the 1851 Rate-Book
we find him in the same cottage, and, like the former, the rate for this
year was never paid.
Prince was associated with "Currer Bell," Mr. Charles Swain,
Dr. Tyndall, Mr. J. E. Carpenter, the Hon. G. S. Smythe, M.P., Mr. Alfred
Tennyson, Mr. Philip James Bailey, Dr. Tupper, etc., in aiding the
Manchester Athenæum Bazaar, in 1850, the
contributions being published in a quarto volume, entitled "The Manchester
Athenæum Album." Prince sent three
stanzas or sonnets called "The Influence of External Nature," which were
very much admired at the time, and may still be considered as happy
efforts of his muse. About this time, also, Mr. Macready, the
eminent actor, [Ed.—William Charles Macready (1793-1873)] who was
fulfilling an engagement in Manchester, paid a special visit to Prince,
about whom he had read and heard, but had never seen. He not only
purchased some of his works, but left a substantial token of his
In 1852, or 1853, "The City Muse" was projected. This
was a volume of poems consisting of contributions by local poets,
including Messrs. Rogerson, Prince, Waugh, Procter, Richardson, Davlin,
etc.; the editor being a Mr. William Reid. This little work had a
very romantic history, into which, however, we cannot now enter further
than to say that each contributor was to receive a certain number of bound
copies as an honorarium, and that, owing to a variety of circumstances,
only these presentation copies were published until after the expiration
of about twelve years, when the stock of sheets was redeemed. Prince
had consented to contribute six poems, but it was only with great
difficulty that the management succeeded in obtaining these from him.
During 1852, and part of 1853, Prince lived in Dale Street,
but left Ashton altogether for a time, early in the latter year, when he
removed to Blackburn. Here he was employed as a journeyman
reed-maker for nearly two years, by Mr. David Carruthers, and resided in
the first instance, with a Mrs. Blakey, in Bent Street, afterwards in a
garret in Fleming Square, and lastly with Mr. Henry Liverseege, in Anvil
Whilst living in Bent Street, and probably soon after his
arrival, he sent the following characteristic letter to he editor of the
34 BENT STREET,
July 22 .
"Sir—I thank you for your note, and also for the insertion
of my verses. I send you another piece or two, in the hope that they
may be deemed worthy of aplace in your paper.
I purpose writing a few short moral tales, but I will give a
little more thought to the matter, and if I can produce anything brief and
piquant enough, I will submit it to you. It is unusual to ask an
editor to buy books, but please to pardon me. I know not if you have
seen any of my three volumes, respectively entitled—'Hours with the
Muses,' 'Dreams and Realities,' and the 'Poetic Rosary;'—the latter
dedicated to Charles Dickens.
The bearer, my wife, has all the books with her. . . . . If
you would be pleased to take any of them you would render me a service for
which I should feel grateful, as I am poor and far from being well in
health. I am residing here, and working at my own trade, as a
journeyman reed-maker. I shall be happy to contribute now and then
to your paper; and if you could afford to pay me two or three shillings a
week, I will engage to supply you with lyrics (weekly), on moral,
elevating, and cheerful subjects. They shall be written expressly
for your journal.
I intend publishing shortly a fourth work, price five
shillings. Besides many of our commercial gentry, the following
noblemen are subscribers, namely, Carlisle, Shaftesbury, Ellesmere,
Brackley, Stamford, etc.
Craving pardon for the liberty taken, and hoping for a kindly
response, I am, sir, your respectful servant,
"Can you set me a literary task? I will do the best I can."
We are unable to state the result of this appeal, but from
the fact of Prince having published many of his minor poems in the
"Preston Guardian," we may reasonably surmise that the editor did not turn
a deaf ear to his entreaty.
His love of the beautiful in Nature induced him to take long
walks into the country, and in this way he visited every part in the
suburban districts of any note around Blackburn, viz.—Pendle Forest, Sawley and Whalley Abbeys, Ribchester, Whitewell, Samlesbury, Hoghton
Tower, Stoneyhurst, Mytton, etc.; his boon companion on these excursions
being Mr. John Baron, a devoted admirer of the poet, and to whom Prince
was deeply attached. Mr. Baron says:—
Prince wrote many poems
whilst with Mr. Carruthers. He was the most delightful shopmate in the
world, as he was always singing. I have seen him many times empty his
pocket of coppers into the laps of children, when he knew not from whence
the next would come; and he was so popular with every one, from the
spindle to the forge, that the temptations to which he was exposed would
have overwhelmed a Titan, had his determination been as fixed as adamant. He was not a prince of this world; and few men of his mental calibre cared
less for the dross that causes so wide a gulf between all classes of
society, The garret or the cellar, with a favourite friend or author, was
a paradise to Prince. Had he been possessed of the wealth of Samuel
Rogers he would have spread joy on many a desolate hearth and in many a
Prince left Blackburn about the end of 1854, and from the
following letter to Mr. Thomas Syms, which tells its own sad tale, we find
him once more located in Ashton. Prince's father had died during
this year, and Prince himself had now been summoned from Blackburn to see
one of his daughters die [Ed.—from what Lithgow says later, this
was his youngest daughter]:—
HILL STREET WEST, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
July 3, 1855.
Sir—I trust you will pardon my troubling you, who are a stranger to me
save in name.
Last Thursday I met, by mere accident, your brother,
at Bamber Bridge, who took a photographic portrait of my homely visage. On
the same day I met at Chorley your other brother, whom I knew in former
days. I was in distress, and he behaved very kindly to me. I will explain.
For two or three years past we have had much affliction. Death in my
family, my own ill-health, and scantiness of employment, have pained and
impoverished me. For six months past I have been without work,
and half of the time severely ill. I have twice traversed, on foot, the
whole of Lancashire and Yorkshire in search of work, but in vain; so
depressed is my handicraft. . . . . I believe it is going to the dogs. It
was on returning from my last 'tramp' that I met with your brother. In
consequence of these harsh circumstances we are in distress, nor do I see
how we shall be effectually extricated from it. Would I had some other
occupation, however humble the wages.
Doubtless, sir, you have enough to do with your own affairs; but if you
could afford me a small trifle of assistance, by postage stamps or
otherwise, I and my family would feel exceedingly grateful. I know not
that I could make any other return for your kindness, save in the shape of
some of my books. There are some half-dozen copies only remaining in the
hands of the publishers in London. I should have to pay for
them beforehand. I do not myself possess a line of all
my three volumes. If I can write anything for you I will willingly do it,
even for the sake of your brother's kindness.
Craving your pardon, and hoping for a kindly response, I am, sir,
J. C. PRINCE.
Mr. T. Syms.
On the 5th of July he again wrote to Mr. Syms:—
Dear Sir—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of . . . . I thank you with
the deepest feelings of gratitude for your liberal assistance. I am sorry
to hear of your bereavement. The loss of a good wife is a great loss. Would you like me to write a few lines for you, to her memory? If so,
inform me, and state if you have any children. I remain, dear sir, yours
J. C. PRINCE.
In accordance with the above suggestion, Prince wrote some memorial
verses, which he afterwards published in "Autumn Leaves," under the title
of "The Lost One."
In the following letter to Mr. Tweddell he is still more sadly explicit as
to his circumstances:—
HILL STREET WEST, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
July 6, 1855.
Dear Tweddell—You will think me very disrespectful in not answering
your letter, but in truth it is not so. Circumstances have prevented me. .
. . . I was in Blackburn nearly two years, but came over here to see one
of my daughters die, who has left two infant children to our care. . . . .
I never knew reed-making so depressed. My tramp lasted twenty-six days,
'mid misery, hunger, and some times want of shelter for the night. I
passed through Bury, weary and hungry, on the very day you wrote your
letter to me. I can assure you that we are in want of
the common bread of life at this moment. Unfortunately I have none of my
books, or they would have been a resource.
Am I in time for the little publication you mentioned? If so I will willingly contribute. I am, dear Tweddell,
J. C. PRINCE.
Prince was now at a very low ebb, yet has
he the heart to offer to write something in order to help a poor literary
brother, whom, by the way, he had never seen! He was ever ready to
sympathise with the misfortunes of others, and to alleviate them as far as
possible; and this uniform unselfishness, under such circumstances, forms,
perhaps, one of the brightest traits in his disposition. There is nothing
tries the metal of which any man is made like tribulation: for either it
dwarfs his intellect, and confines his love to his own domestic circle,
causing him to perpetually brood over his own sufferings, and to study how
best to promote his own selfish interests; or it clears away the mists
from his perceptive faculties, and enlarges his sympathies until they
embrace the whole family of man. In his gloomiest moments Prince is never
a moody misanthropist. He never loses sight of the "silver lining" which
he well knew there is "to every cloud." Not only is this hopefulness fully
developed in all his poetry, but even in his private letters to his
friends. As an example of the latter we must refer to Prince's
correspondence with Mr. George Markham Tweddell, whose ill-requited
labours for the elevation of the people had won our poor poet's admiration
to such an extent as to cause him, in the most unselfish manner, and
notwithstanding his own extreme poverty, to contribute some of his
sweetest verses both to Mr. Tweddell's "Stokesley News" and "Yorkshire
Miscellany," without other hope of reward than the sublime pleasure of
aiding a poor, struggling brother-bard in his spirited efforts to sow
broadcast higher thoughts and nobler feelings among
his fellowmen. Up to 1855 Prince and Tweddell did
not even know one another personally; and we need have no diffidence in
thus alluding to a circumstance so creditable to two struggling authors
whose friendship continued uninterrupted for twenty-three years.
About the latter end of July 1855, Prince again set out in search of
employment, and eventually succeeded in Blackburn, where he obtained
temporary occupation in Mr. Parkington's manufactory, and resided once
more with Mr. H. Liverseege. He remained but a short time, however, as
will be seen from a note to his landlord:—
142 HILL STREET WEST,
August 13, 1855
My dear Sir—My wife being extremely ill, and I being without work, I was
obliged to go suddenly away on Saturday night. If you will send me word
what I owe
you I will send the money before Saturday. . . . . I intend to commence
reed-making on my own account, or have some other occupation more suitable
to my tastes. I am disgusted with journeyman reed-making. It is my feeling
that I was thrown overboard in Mr. Parkington's shop, not by him, but by
others. Had— been there I should not have been sent away.
Do not think that I had any intention to wrong you, and
believe me truly yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
Mr. Henry Liverseege.
What happened afterwards will be best explained by Prince himself in
August 25, 1855.
Dear Tweddell—Since I wrote you last I have had another month's tramp,
but only found twelve days' work in Blackburn. I am again idle and
miserable. Besides our trade being generally depressed, machines are
superseding manual labour therein. I have no hope from my trade, though I am
obliged to seek it.
I may in a few days come through Bury on my way to Chorley or Preston. I
will then call upon you; but you will only see an ordinary working-man
Do anything you please with my verses. Excuse brevity,
and believe me sincerely yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
The next note to Mr. Tweddell is dated September 11, but in the meantime Prince started off
again "on tramp," eventually reached Bury, where Mr. Tweddell resided, and
saw for the first time a friend with whom he had corresponded for many
years. Unfortunately the meeting took place under very unpropitious
circumstances, as Prince had fallen in with some convivial acquaintances
on his way, and was in rather a sorry plight on his arrival in the
evening. This did not, however, prevent his having a hearty reception; and
after partaking of some
refreshment his friend saw him safely to his room. Mr. Tweddell says:—
Just before getting into bed, much to my surprise, he knelt down by the
bedside and offered up the most beautiful prayer I ever heard in my life,
eloquently pleading for his wife and family, and for his own reformation.
It affected me to tears, and showed me more of his real struggles than
anything else I ever had the chance of witnessing; and I have ever since
loved poor Prince all the more for the moments we were then alone.
Prince evidently enjoyed his visit to Bury, and thus wrote on his return
to Ashton, the note being dated September 11:—
My dear Tweddell—I have reflected with great pleasure on the evening
spent with you last week. Mr, —'s excellent reading, the talk of kindred
and the kind and social converse of all, have revived within me my old
feelings and aspirations. I feel better for that meeting, and had I been
in a tranquil state of mind it would have been perfect enjoyment. I am
still without work. I think of going to Chorley again next Saturday, to
see if anything has turned up in my trade. . . . . faithfully yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
The next note was evidently conveyed by hand, and is, we believe,
the last of this interesting series of letters addressed to his literary
HILL STREET WEST, ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE,
September 28, 1855
My dear Tweddell—The bearer hereof is my only
daughter (married), with whom we reside. I am suffering from a pain in my
side, which often plagues me, and
which once caused me a long illness. I hope I may be better by Monday, as
I have got work at Stockport for a month . . . . .
I wish to publish, by way of temporary relief, a little book at about
one and sixpence a copy. All I want is a printer. The principal poem will
be on the
legend of 'St. Christopher.' I think of calling the book 'Autumn Leaves,'
a solemn and suggestive title to me . . . . .
Will you have the goodness to see that my daughter is not too late for a
train that will be in time for her to get home? With my sincere and hearty
wishes for the welfare of yourself, Mrs. Tweddell, and all connected with
you, I am, my dear fellow, faithfully yours,
J. C. PRINCE.
Probably circumstances prevented Prince from carrying out his idea of
publishing "Autumn Leaves," as referred to; at all events it did not
appear until nearly
a year afterwards, when he had evidently altered the arrangement, as well
as amplified the contents.
On the 15th of September 1855 the Oddfellows of the Bolton District
visited Whittle Springs, ostensibly for the purpose of presenting one of
the principal officers of the Order, a Mr. Settle, with a substantial
recognition of his services to Oddfellowship, in the form of a
testimonial. Prince wrote a poetic address for the occasion, and we refer
to this circumstance especially, because this address was afterwards
published in pamphlet form, in Chorley, and with it was incorporated
several other poems of Prince's, viz. "Whittle Springs; a Reminiscence,"
"A Rhyme for the Time," the well-known "Epistle to a Brother Poet," also a
sonnet addressed to Prince himself by his friend Mr. Tweddell, under his
nom de plume "Peter Proletarious." Prince so seldom indulges his
readers with anything humorous in poetry, that we feel constrained to
quote a few lines from the poetic address, in which he plays upon the name
of the guest of the evening:—
Here's a health to our brother, our host, and our friend!
virtues and pleasures harmoniously blend;
May he settle in peaceful and
Revered by his offspring, beloved by his wife;
May he always be able to
settle his bills
(For so, I am sure, his stern honesty wills),
And when, at the finish, he
settles his books,
May his Maker receive him with merciful looks,
And sweetly say to him—'Good servant, content thee,
Thou hast used, and
abused not, the talent I lent thee.
We subjoin Mr. Tweddell's sonnet, which Prince appears to have much
Hail, Prince 'mongst modern Poets! Thou whose song
So oft hath cheered
me in dull Sorrow's hour;
To grasp thy gifted hand I ofttimes long,
As few, like thee, have gained the magic power
Of charming heart and mind. It is a dower
Which Nature only on a few bestows,
For fear that she the honour due should lose
Which from her sons she
claims. For Poets are
Nature's first favourites; and their only care
Is for their mother; knowing well that she
Is no cross step-dame, but a
For ever striving to endow mankind
With Peace; and Love, and Health, and Liberty,
Whose pioneers are
Poets—such as thee!
Prince was at this time very unsettled. We have no
record of his being regularly employed anywhere. With the exception of an
occasional engagement for a few days or weeks here and there, he had
nothing to depend upon; and we fear that the frequency of his appeals for
help, and the non-fulfilment of his many promises, estranged many
sympathising friends, who would have rejoiced to have helped him still
further if they had not had too much reason to doubt that their efforts on
his behalf would have been neutralised by his unthriftiness and
irresolution. Notwithstanding his delinquencies, however, he was certainly
treated with much forbearance by those to whom he applied for temporary
assistance; and for the sake of his better qualities many were disposed
to overlook his weaknesses, and to regard them in the light of
His handicraft, too, was such that he could seldom reckon upon regular
employment, nor did it in itself afford any scope for rising to a higher
grade of labour which might have been looked forward to as a source of
increased income. It was a branch of the weaving industry which led up to
nothing else, and was as unintellectual in occupation as its condition was unstable and capricious.
At this time machinery was rapidly supplanting manual labour, and the poor
reed-makers, who had nothing else to fall back upon, were reduced to very
straitened circumstances. Prince, as we have seen, had several times
tramped over the whole of Lancashire and Yorkshire in search of
employment, but in almost every instance
without success. In this dilemma he sought to procure a living, however
precarious, by his pen, and thus we find him offering to contribute lyrics
to local newspapers, wherever he thought he had any chance of procuring
their insertion. These means being altogether inadequate to support
himself and family, he was at length driven to address notes to almost
every one he could remember as having known; in many instances enclosing
verses, and invariably entreating either for the purchase of some of his
books or for small pecuniary loans or
donations. We are compelled to add that such sums as were thus transmitted
as loans were seldom, if ever, repaid, and as Prince's importunities on
all sides were ever-recurring, it can scarcely be matter for surprise that
his friends eventually got impatient, and regarded his condition as almost
Some one says, —
The man who conceals or disguises his
merit, and yet expects to have credit for it, might as well expect to be
thought clean in his person if he chose to go covered with filthy rags.
The world will not, and cannot in great measure, judge but by appearances,
and worth must stamp itself, if it hopes to pass current even against
Appearances were undoubtedly against Prince, and he suffered in
consequence; but despite appearances, his characteristic weakness, and his
moral eccentricities, the true and unalloyed ore of his nature was ever
manifested in his works; and he was never without sympathetic friends
who, knowing and appreciating these qualities, overlooked his failings,
and seldom turned a deaf ear to his importunities.
After the death of Prince's father, which occurred in 1854, the
reed-making business which the latter had established in Hyde was carried
on in the widow's behalf by her son James, and a Mr. Hollingworth. A
workshop had been built in Brook Street, and the various members of the
family resided in two contiguous
cottages. To one of these the poet removed during the earlier half of
1856, having obtained at least temporary employment with his brother. During his leisure he was preparing a fourth volume of poems for
publication, and had made the necessary arrangements with a local
printer and publisher. This volume appeared in August 1856, under the
title of "Autumn Leaves," and bears an announcement as to its being "sold
by the Author,
Brook Street." In a brief preface Prince says:—
The Author of the
following miscellaneous poems has nothing to say in their favour.
They have been published in the hope that they may afford him some means
of gaining a humble livelihood. His own trade, that of reed-making,
always uncertain and fluctuating, has latterly been much depressed, and is
not at all to be depended upon. These are his chief motives for
"Autumn Leaves" is dedicated by the poet to his wife in the following
To whom shall I devote, with love and truth,
These Autumn Leaves in the
autumn of my days,
These well-intended, but imperfect lays
But unto thee, my faithful, patient Ruth!
Thy heart received me in my
And in my weakest did not cast me out,
But clung to me with sympathising power,
And fenced me with affection
'Mid poverty, and hunger, and despair,
We grieved and
suffered, but divided not;
And still we tremble 'neath oppressive care,
But to the end we'll bear one common lot.
Preserve in memory of our
These voices of my song,—perchance the last.
The volume opens with a poem entitled "A Book for the Home Fireside,"
which, we have reason to believe, was written for the initiatory number of
the "Home Companion." Several of the succeeding lyrics were written for
the "Preston Chronicle," amongst which may be mentioned "Mercy," "The
Waste of War," "Broad cast thy Seed," and three "Autumnal Sonnets," the
last of which is replete with metaphorical and imaginative thought, as
truthful as poetic:—
The varying seasons ever roll and run
Into each other, like that arc of
Born of the shower and coloured by the sun,
Which spans the heavens when April skies are bright.
green-kirtled Spring who leadeth on
Blue-mantled Summer of maturer age,
Sultana of the year. When she is gone
Gold-girdled Autumn, solemn as a
Reigns for a time, and on earth's ample page,
(Illumined by his
hand) writes 'Plenty here!'
Then white-cowled Winter steps upon the
Like aged monk, keen, gloomy, and austere,
But he whose soul
sustains no cloud nor thrall
Perceives power, beauty, good, and fitness in them all.
We pass over a
number of choice and carefully written poems illustrative of the home
affections, the curse of war, and the blessings of peace, and evincing the
strong natural piety of the poet. "The Drummer's Death-roll" is a vigorous
relation of a terrible incident that occurred
during the passage of the Splugen, by the French general Macdonald, in
December 1800, during the war with Austria; and the poem is founded on
this incident as recorded in "The Pilgrim in the Jungfrau." In crossing
that fearful region of the Alps many men and horses were swept away by
avalanches into the gulf beneath, and a drummer having struggled forth
from a snow-bank in the abyss, but out of sight and reach of his comrades,
was heard beating his drum for several hours, vainly expecting rescue. There was no reaching him, and Death with icy fingers
stilled the roll of the drum, and beat out the last pulsations of hope and
life. This pathetic incident is well wrought out in the poem, from which
we give an extract:—
Roll, roll went the drum till the sunset was past,
And scattered its
tones on the hurrying blast,
While his friends, far away on their Alpine
Caught the dolorous sound with a sorrowful ear;
For they knew that a comrade was hopelessly lost,—
Left alone to the tortures of hunger and frost,—
Cut off from the reach of humanity there,
And beating his drum with the strength of despair!
What fancy can bring back the pictures that passed
O'er the brain of the
desolate lost one at last,
Ere death came to still the last pulse in his breast,
And stretch out his
limbs in a petrified rest?
Perchance his bright childhood came back to his thought,
And his youth,
when his heart in love's meshes was caught,
And his village, embowered in
a vine-covered vale,
With peace in its aspect, and health in its gale;
The blithe peasant
maiden he learned to adore,
And his home which his shadow would darken no more.
Amongst the sights
and sounds of nature, however, Prince is happiest, and his numbers
sweetest,—sights and sounds which, as he says,
Speak a language to the favoured sense
Loud as the thunder, lofty as the
That crowd the cope of cloudless winter nights.
How acutely he observes, and how devoutly he worships nature's protean
beauties is manifested in such lines as these:—
The lapse of waters o'er a rugged stone,
A pool of reeds, a moorland weed or flower,
A dimpling spring, a thorn with moss o'ergrown,
Are symbols of her universal power.
The following lines show that Prince was not a mere ignorant worshipper,
but a careful student of nature, and that he interpreted her mysteries in
a scientific and philosophic spirit:—
The moon has her aspects of change in the skies,
With her broad shield
of silver, her crescent of gold,
But still there remains, turned away from
A part of her orb we can never behold.
This allusion has reference to the astronomical fact that one hemisphere
of the moon is always turned away from the earth. The following lines are
rich in graceful metaphors:—
The hedgerows covered with odorous snow.
Now Autumn lords it o'er the quiet lands,
Like Joseph clad in
Flinging rich largess from his bounteous hands,
And calling upon man to be his guest.
Transmutes to priceless gold the moments as they fly.
And the avalanche stirred with a deep muffled roar,
Like the boom of the
sea on a desolate shore.
When life was love, and love was joy unworn,
And clouds turned all their silver to our gaze.
It would be an easy matter to multiply quotations; but what we have
selected will suffice to show that in this work, which must have been
compiled under exceptionally unpropitious circumstances, there is much
true, if unpretentious poetry, and much to justify the forbearance and
sympathetic interest ever manifested towards its gifted but ill-starred
author. Here and there may be found weak or careless passages,—an
inequality arising from many and obvious causes, but, on the whole, and
though touched by time, there is many a tone and tint amongst them which
will appeal to our love of the beautiful;—much music to gladden the soul
and touch the heart.
At the end of "Autumn Leaves" is an announcement to the effect that the
author was preparing another volume for publication, to be entitled "Massada; and other Poems." January 1857 was stated as the probable date of
its appearance, but in reality it was never published. It is very likely
that, in the preparation of "Autumn Leaves," he was obliged to limit the
size of the volume so as to suit the pecuniary resources at his disposal
for the purpose of defraying the expenses of printing, etc., and in this
way such an amount of available material might have been left on his hands
as would have justified him in announcing, thus early, the preparation of
a new volume. Circumstances, however, prevented this project being carried
out, and "Massada" must be added to the long category of good intentions
It is probable that Prince remained in Brook Street, Hyde, for some time
after the publication of "Autumn Leaves," but in January 1857 we find him
thus writing to Mr. D. Carruthers, one of his former employers in
BROOK STREET, HYDE, CHESHIRE,
January 29 .
Dear Sir—I hope you and your family are well. I wish you could find me
a job, if only two or three days
a week. There is nothing doing here. If you can do with my services
awhile, I will come at once, if you will kindly let me know. I wish I
could find a few in Blackburn who would purchase my new book, the price
being three shillings. You could be allowed a percentage if
you could find me a few purchasers. Hoping to hear from you, I remain,
J. C. PRINCE.
Whether this appeal for work was successful or not we have not been able
to ascertain; but it is at least certain that, if he went to Blackburn, he
could only have remained for a short time. In April 1857 he had evidently
left Brook Street, Hyde, and was living in Charles Street,
Ashton-under-Lyne, as we find from the following note, addressed to the "Ashton
138 CHARLES STREET,
April 6 .
Dear Sir.—I send you a contribution, just written for the
Will you please send to me the following and I will pay you on Saturday:—
quire letter paper
. . . 4d.
. . . 2½
. . . 1
. . . . 4
1s. 0d. (sic).
J. C. PRINCE.
How much is involved in this sad note! It was at this time, we
believe, that Sir Walter Scott's novels were being reprinted in the
"London journal," but we are told they were not nearly so popular as the
tales usually supplied by that serial. Doubtless the half quire of
paper, with envelopes and stamps, were required for staying hunger from
his door by means of poems sent to different publications. 
Amongst those ever ready to aid him was the late Mr. William M. Aitken,
 a schoolmaster in Ashton, who treated Prince with unvarying kindness,
and often helped him in his difficulties. The following lines to Aitken
are now published for the first time. Prince was in the habit of sending
pieces to Aitken when he was very hard pressed, in order that the latter
might have them inserted in some magazine, and thus raise a few shillings
for him. Under such circumstances Prince wrote:—
Poor J. C. P., who has no shoes,
Nor yet the solace of the Muse,
sadly harassed by the 'blues'
For want of 'browns,'
Doth hope that you will not refuse
Those two half-crowns—
(That is, if you can spare 'em).
To-morrow, I should go to Hyde,
And do some little work beside.
long since these ten fingers plied
Proud Labour's tool;
Let those who know me not deride
And call me 'fool,'
And worse words when they dare 'em.
This insane Muse,
And pity me,—
Poor J. C. P.
From many notes written by Prince to Aitken we select the following:—
20th May .
My dear Sir—This day, to my surprise, I received a note from my old
friend and patron, Mr. J. P. Brown-Westhead, M.P. for York, wanting to have
an interview with me to-morrow (Thursday), at noon, just previous to his
departure for London. He wishes to find me some kind of situation on his
establishment. Now here is a
chance! But I am utterly unprepared to go to Manchester for want of shoes
and decent clothes. I should not like to miss this opportunity. Can you
come to the rescue by 11 o'clock on Thursday morning? The loan of eight or
ten shillings would make me all right, and I should feel grateful. In all
probability I should be able to pay you on Saturday evening next.
I take this mode of applying to you as being the most private and least
troublesome. Do not take trouble if it be inconvenient to you. . . . .
Yours very faithfully,
J. C. PRINCE.
Mr. W. Aitken.
We have not been able to ascertain whether
this interview ever took place between Mr. Westhead and Prince; but, at
all events, nothing seems to have come of it, for in the following week he
thus writes to Mr. John Ross Coulthart, of Ashton, Prince's patron and
uniform friend, who had often relieved the poet's necessities, and had
been the medium through whom Lord Leigh had frequently sent sums of money
for Prince's benefit:—
138 CHARLES STREET, ASHTON,
May 27, 1857.
Sir—I forget whether I sent you a copy of my 'Autumn Leaves.' If I did
not do so, I will. It may appear presumptuous on my part to ask a favour
at your hands after your great kindness to me, but, whether you can grant
it or not, pray excuse it in consideration of the circumstances.
Owing to the depression of my handicraft, and there being no vacancy in
this town, I have been long without employment, and am so still. I and my
family are in distress, even to the want of a sufficiency of food, let
alone other necessaries. I know that I have been an imprudent man, which I
bitterly regret; but I hope, with God's help, to atone for in part my
wasted years. If, sir, you would have the kindness to look with charity on
the past, and come to my aid, I shall feel deeply grateful.
We have not a crust of bread in the house; and if you would have the
kindness to favour me with five shillings, by the girl, I will send you
two copies of 'Autumn Leaves.' I have none by me at present, and shall
have to send for them to Hyde, but you shall certainly have them by Monday
Perhaps you are not a collector of autographs. Some
men are. I have a packet of autograph letters, which the girl brings, and
if you would, for charity's sake, lend me a few shillings on them, I will
redeem them in a week, or, at farthest, a fortnight, I hope.
Pardon a poor, erring, and unfortunate scribbler thus troubling you, and
believe me, your respectful servant,
J. C. PRINCE.
J. R. Coulthart, Esquire.
Mr. Coulthart was not thus appealed to in vain; but, in November
1857, we again find the poet addressing
his benefactor from Hanover Street, Hyde, and humbly apologising for his
broken promises. He frankly confesses his indiscretions, and excuses
himself to some extent by saying that he had been "much knocked about for
some years past ; much troubled with rheumatism, out of employment, and
altogether in a very un enviable state." In no instance were the various
sums thus lent by Mr. Coulthart ever repaid. It is to be regretted that
the packet of autograph letters alluded to is not available; as, apart
from their intrinsic interest, they must have shown the estimate formed of
Prince's genius and works by those literary notabilities with whom he was
known to have corresponded; and we can easily believe that he must,
indeed, have been in direst need to have proposed to part with them.