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To profit by affliction,
Reap truths from fields of fiction, Grow wiser by conviction,
And fulfil each grand design. I live to hail that season
By gifted minds foretold, When men shall live by reason,
And not alone for gold : When man to man united,
And every wrong thing righted, The whole world shall be lighted,
As Eden was of old.
I live for those who love me,
For those who know me true;
And awaits my spirit too :
For the wrong that needs resistance, For the future in the distance,
And the good that I can do."
AT YORK. Parentage--Apprenticed to be a draper-Attends a
theatre—Abandons it, and becomes a member of the Rev. James Parsons' church-Is recommended as a candidate for the Christian Ministry.
John HESSEL was the first child of Benjamin and Hannah Hessel, then resident at Camblesforth, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was born on the 16th of August, 1814. As he quitted the parental roof in his fifteenth year,
when the next younger branch would be but six or seven, the family possess but scanty reminiscences of his youthful history. Happily the lack is largely supplied by himself. An autobiographical sketch forms part of an interesting correspondence he conducted with an intelligent and pious young lady. It is dated September 7, 1835.
“For the first eight years of my life I was the only son of two sober and industrious parents, whose constant care was to keep me from the contaminating influence of the world. My father at that time occupied a small farm in the neighbourhood of Selby, and as our house was at some distance from the town I was necessarily much alone, and found my juvenile amusements in the fields and woods. Although I attended the village school I took but little delight in the sports of my school-fellows. In general I preferred stealing to some favourite retreat with what book I could procure, and spending my leisure in the great temple of nature. I mention these things because my character has derived a peculiarity from these early associations. I acquired a deep and lasting relish for natural objects which forms one great ingredient in my happiness.
I remember in very early years holding an intercourse with inanimate objects, which none but a true lover of nature can understand. I regard it as one of my greatest earthly blessings that my mind was thus disciplined. I was not only preserved from the degrading influence which often reigns in the village school, but I read the book of nature for myself, and it has greatly assisted me in reading other books. You will smile when I tell you of what my library consisted. Perhaps I cannot mention all I read, but I remember that Baxter's Saint's Rest, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, with some Wesleyan Magazines, were amongst the number. I love to dwell upon these early scenes. They occupy a hallowed place in my remembrance, and constrain me to acknowledge the care and goodness of that Being who was the 'guide of my youth.'
“When I was about seven my father removed to the farm he now occupies (near Tadcaster,) which is considerably larger than the one he left. Through care and industry he has been enabled to rise into comfortable circumstances. Although possessing himself only the elements of education, he was anxious to have his son 'a good scholar.' Perhaps you may form some idea of what that term signified in his estimation when I tell you he designed me for a farmer. I had the misfortune, however, to fall into the hands of bad schoolmasters who knew nothing of intellectual culture. I have often smiled to think of the lofty standards by which they measured the attainments of their pupils. To commit to memory Murray's Abridgment was regarded as the very climax of grammatical learning, and to go through Walkingame's Arithmetic was a prodigious effort. The happy lad who could make these splendid acquisitions was thought to be as clever as the master. One school however was an ex. ception-Mr. Richardson's of Market-Weighton. There I am happy to say I reaped immense advantage. I shall
APPRENTICED AT YORK.
never forget the delight with which I first engaged in the studies of geography and history. A class for English composition contributed much to nerve my mental energies. After leaving this place I learnt the elements of Latin, which I have found of great use.
“My father now wished me to remain at home and assist him. But I soon grew tired of farming. A difficulty rose as to the trade or profession I should be. I had a decided preference for the pursuits of literature, but had no friend to direct me.
Sometimes I thought of one thing and then of another. Ultimately I was induced to fix upon the business of a draper, chiefly through the prospects of temporal advancement held out to me, which were very tempting. I went apprentice to Messrs. Day of York, and was now thrown into the midst of a bustling city. O, I do feel for a young man who is taken from the quiet scenes of life and exposed to the fascinating dangers of a place like York. Many an unhappy spirit has been ruined by such a change, and I regard it as almost a miracle of mercy that I did not fall a victim to the pernicious influences surrounding me. Although I sunk deep into depravity of heart I was preserved from many of the grosser forms of vice.
“I had access to the large circulating library. From this I absolutely devoured books. For weeks together I have sat up until two or three in the morning, and thus debilitated a constitution usually strong and healthy. I can now realize the reluctant feeling with which I retired to rest when the deep tones of the cathedral bell rung through the silent streets of the city, and the sickly emotion with which I arose from feverish repose when duties summoned
“For a long time my books were my only friends. You cannot, my dear C—, know what I mean when I tell you that amid the population of a crowded city I felt myself alone. Not a single being did I meet with to whom
I could confide my feelings. I have oft repeated those lines of Kirke White until the tear has started, and every fibre of my heart throbbed with indignation against a coldhearted world :
“Who were my friends in youth? The midnight fire,
The silent moonbeam, and the starry choir.” I had not been long in York when I went one evening to the theatre. But for the grace of God that would have been a fatal night in my history. The play I witnessed was the tragedy of Jane Shore. During the whole time my mind was in an ecstacy. This appeared a realization of the ideal world in which I had lived, and the visions which had flitted across my fancy now started into reality. From that time I became an attender of the theatre. In that retreat of licentiousness and vice I have squandered much money that might have been employed in furnishing the means of intellectual improvement. Those can have no idea of the strength of the dramatic mania who have never felt it. My attendance upon the theatre procured me companions who, although more intelligent than my shopmates, exercised a very unhappy influence upon my character. I was within a hair's breadth of infidelity. I have reason to bless God I never sunk into that horrid gu
I never could close my eyes against Eternity. Often did its awful image rise up before me, and shake its terrors over my soul. In this condition I remained for three years, seeking happiness but unable to find it. I grasped at the phantom, but it constantly fled from me.”
A loose scrap of paper contains a record too interesting to be omitted, and which will find an appropriate place here.
“I remember well one evening, when in this state of mind, I felt disposed to take a solitary ramble in the suburbs of the city, and indulge in the meditations which had so completely taken possession of my soul. I was