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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 exception-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 During the whole time
was the tragedy of Jane Shore. 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 gulf. 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
AN INTENSE ADMIRER OF NATURE.
passionately fond of the scenes of nature, and perhaps on this account God was pleased to make them the first means of enlightening and impressing my dark and careless spirit. The verdant fields, the luxuriant landscape, and the shadowing grove, have ever had charms for my mind, which I cannot better express than in the language of the poet : 'And steals with resistless witchery the soul.' Indeed I have ever been one of the most devoted worshippers in the great temple of Nature, and many a time do I remember when my feelings have been harrowed by long contact with the iron spirit of the world, I have found peace in the silent streets which surround the ancient city of York. The torrent of passion has been stemmed, the throbbings of the sensitive spirit have ceased, the irritation of wounded pride and the pang of disappointed hope have been soothed by the soft beauties of nature and the sublime serenity of an evening sky.
"It was to indulge my favourite propensities that one beautiful Sabbath evening I issued from the narrow streets and confined atmosphere of a crowded city. It was near the hour of evening worship, and multitudes were flocking to the house of God. I confess I could not but envy these people as they pressed with cheerful eagerness to their respective sanctuaries. Although the temple of God had not sufficient charms to attract my wayward feet, I felt convinced, and the conviction sunk like lead into my soul, that these people, in many instances at least, were in possession of that unknown happiness after which I had so long but vainly panted. And although my abominable pride tempted me to despise their weakness, I almost wished an exchange of circumstances. I remember, as I passed by the church of an eminent minister, to have been peculiarly attracted with the singing of the commencing hymn of evening worship."
"You will imagine perhaps," the letter proceeds,
I was suddenly rescued from this state of awful recklessness. Such, however, was not the case. If ever any one's conversion was gradual, mine was. One day, through the conversation of a pious young man, I was led to read 'Watts on the Mind.' It deeply interested me, and although it produced no religious impression I began to see that the investigation of truth must be a source of the most exalted pleasure. I had previously read history, dramas, and works of fiction: now I applied myself to philosophy. Bacon and Locke were my favourite authors, and I found myself in a new world. My study of these books produced a seriousness of disposition, and I soon made a practice of regularly attending church. My conduct was also much reformed, and by some might be thought religious. My heart, alas, was unchanged. Although my former sins had lost their charm, and the gay dreams in which my fancy had revelled were vanished, my condition was as dangerous as ever. My sin was now of a more subtle and intellectual character. My mind was often startled by doubts. I believe that what was chiefly instrumental in preserving me from scepticism, was the remembrance of counsels and principles instilled into my mind by maternal love. Whenever it was suggested that religion was a farce, a dream of enthusiasm, there rose up in memory, in opposition to this horrid thought, a mother's counsel-a mother's conduct-a mother's prayers. O that I could give you an adequate idea of the resistless energy of female influence! There was something in my mother's conduct which convinced me that religion must be a reality. Amid all my doubts that conviction haunted me. It mingled with all the operations of my judgment. I could not rid myself of it.
"I remember, one beautiful evening, taking a walk into the country. It was in the month of July, when nature had arrayed herself in her richest robe. I was sauntering