Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

“Work—work—work! My labor never flags;

CHARLES LAMB (1775-1834) And what are its wages? A bed of straw, A crust of bread-and rags.

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL FIVE AND That shattered roof—this naked floor, 45

THIRTY YEARS AGO A table-a broken chairAnd a wall so blank, my shadow I thank In Mr. Lamb's "Works,” published a For sometimes falling there!

year or two since, I find a magnificent

eulogy on my old school, such as it “Work—work—work!

was, or now appears to him to have been, From weary chime to chime,

50

between the years 1782 and 1789. It Work-work-work,

happens, very oddly, that my own standAs prisoners work for crime!

ing at Christ's was nearly corresponding Band, and gusset, and seam,

with his; and, with all gratitude to him Seam, and gusset, and band,

for his enthusiasm for the cloisters, I Till the heart is sick, and the brain be

think he has contrived to bring to- (10 numbed,

55 gether whatever can be said in praise of As well as the

weary
hand.

them, dropping all the other side of the "Work—work—work,

argument most ingeniously. In the dull December light,

I remember L. at school; and can well And work—work—work,

recollect that he had some peculiar adWhen the weather is warm and bright- vantages, which I and others of his schoolWhile underneath the eaves

61

fellows had not. His friends lived in The brooding swallows cling

town, and were near at hand; and he had As if to show me their sunny backs

the privilege of going to see them, almost And twit me with the spring.

as often as he wished, through some (20

invidious distinction, which was denied “Oh! but to breathe the breath

65 to us. The present worthy sub-treasurer Of the cowslip and primrose sweet- to the Inner Temple can explain how that With the sky above my head,

happened. He had his tea and hot rolls And the grass beneath my feet;

in a morning, while we were battening For only one short hour

upon our quarter of a penny loaf-our To feel as I used to feel,

70 crug-moistened with attenuated small Before I knew the woes of want

beer, in wooden piggins, smacking of the And the walk that costs a meal.

pitched leathern jack it was poured from. “Oh! but for one short hour!

Our Monday's milk porritch, blue (30

and tasteless, and the pease soup of SaturA respite however brief! No blessed leisure for Love or Hope,

day, coarse and choking, were enriched

75 But only time for Grief!

for him with a slice of “extraordinary A little weeping would ease my heart,

bread and butter," from the hot-loaf of But in their briny bed

the Temple. The Wednesday's mess of My tears must stop, for every drop

millet, somewhat less repugnant-(we Hinders needle and thread!”

had three banyan to four meat days in the

week)—was endeared to his palate with With fingers weary and worn,

a lump of double-refined, and a smack With eyelids heavy and red,

of ginger (to make it go down the [40 A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,

more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. Plying her needle and thread

In lieu of our half-pickled Sundays, or Stitch! stitch! stitch!

85 quite fresh boiled beef on Thursdays In poverty, hunger, and dirt,

(strong as caro equina), with detestable And still with a voice of dolorous pitch, - marigolds floating in the pail to poison Would that its tone could reach the the broth-our scanty mutton crags on Rich!

Fridays—and rather more savory, but She sang this "Song of the Shirt!”

1 Recollections of Christ's Hospital.

80

grudging, portions of the same flesh, were turned out, for the live-long day, rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays upon our own hands, whether we had (the only dish which excited our appe- 150 friends to go to, or none. I remember tites, and disappointed our stomachs, in those bathing excursions to the New almost equal proportion)-he had his hot River, which L. recalls with such relish, plate of roast veal, or the more tempting better, I think, than he can--for he was griskin (exotics unknown to our palates), a home-seeking lad, and did not much cooked in the paternal kitchen (a great care for such water-pastimes:—How merthing), and brought him daily by his rily we would sally forth into the (110 maid or aunt! I remember the good old fields; and strip under the first warmth of relative (in whom love forbade pride) the sun; and wanton like young dace in squatting down upon some odd stone in a the streams; getting us appetites for noon, by-nook of the cloisters, disclosing the [60 which those of us that were penniless viands (of higher regale than those cates (our scanty morning crust long since exwhich the ravens ministered to the Tish- hausted) had not the means of allayingbite); and the contending passions of L. while the cattle, and the birds, and the at the unfolding. There was love for the fishes, were at feed about us, and we had bringer; shame for the thing brought, nothing to satisfy our cravings—the very and the manner of its bringing; sympathy beauty of the day, and the exercise (120 for those who were too many to share in of the pastime, and the sense of liberty, it; and, at top of all, hunger (eldest, setting a keener edge upon them!-How strongest of the passions!) predominant, faint and languid, finally, we would rebreaking down the stony fences of 70 turn, towards nightfall, to our desired shame, and awkwardness, and a troubling morsel, half-rejoicing, half-reluctant, that over-consciousness.

the hours of our uneasy liberty had I was a poor friendless boy. My par- expired! ents, and those who should care for me, It was worse in the days of winter, to were far away. Those few acquaintances go prowling about the streets objectlessof theirs, which they could reckon upon shivering at cold windows of print- (130 being kind to me in the great city, after shops, to extract a little amusement; or a little forced notice, which they had the haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a grace to take of me on my first arrival little novelty, to pay a fifty-times repeated in town, soon grew tired of my holiday (80 visit (where our individual faces should visits. They seemed to them to recur too be as well known to the warden as those often, though I thought them few enough; of his own charges) to the Lions in the and, one after another, they all failed me, Tower—to whose levée, by courtesy and I felt myself alone among six hundred | immemorial, we had a prescriptive title playmates.

to admission. • the cruelty of separating a poor lad L.'s governor (so we called the pa- [140 from his early homestead! The yearnings tron who presented us to the foundation) which I used to have towards it in those lived in a manner under his paternal roof. unfledged years! How, in my dreams, Any complaint which he had to make would my native town (far in the west) (90 was sure of being attended to. This was come back, with its church, and trees, understood at Christ's, and was and faces! How I would wake weeping, effectual screen to him against the severity and in the anguish of my heart exclaim of masters, or worse tyranny of the moniupon sweet Calne in Wiltshire!

tors. The oppressions of these young To this late hour of my life, I trace im- brutes are heart-sickening to call to recolpressions left by the recollection of those lection. I have been called out of (150 friendless holidays. The long warm days my bed, and waked for the purpose, in of summer never return but they bring the coldest winter nights—and this not with them a gloom from the haunting once, but night after night-in my shirt, memory of those whole-day-leaves, (100 to receive the discipline of a leathern when, by some strange arrangement, we thong, with eleven other sufferers, because

poor lad to

an

it pleased my callow overseer, when there openly, in open platters, for their own (210 has been any talking heard after we were tables, one out of two of every hot joint, gone to bed, to make the six last beds in which the careful matron had been seeing the dormitory, where the youngest chil- scrupulously weighed out for our dinners? dren of us slept, answerable for an (160 These things were daily practised in that offence they neither dared to commit, magnificent apartment, which L. (grown nor had the power to hinder.—The same connoisseur since, we presume) praises execrable tyranny drove the younger part so highly for the grand paintings "by of us from the fires, when our feet were Verrio, and others," with which it is perishing with snow; and under the “hung round and adorned." But the cruellest penalties, forbade the indulgence sight of sleek, well-fed blue-coat boys (220 of a drink of water, when we lay in sleep- in pictures was, at that time, I believe, less summer nights, fevered with the little consolatory to him, or us, the living season, and the day's sports.

ones, who saw the better part of our proThere was one H-, who, I (170 visions carried away before oùr faces by learned, in after days, was seen expiating harpies; and ourselves reduced (with the some maturer offence in the hulks. (Do I Trojan in the hall of Dido) Aatter myself in fancying that this might “To feed our mind with idle portraiture." be the planter of that name, who suffered-at Nevis, I think, or St. Kitts,

L. has recorded the repugnance of the --some few years since? My friend

school to gags, or the fat of fresh beef Tobin was the benevolent instrument of boiled; and sets it down to some super- [230 bringing him to the gallows.) This petty stition. But these unctuous morsels are Nero actually branded a boy who had

never grateful to young palates (chiloffended him, with a red-hot iron; and [180 dren are universally fat-haters) and in nearly starved forty of us, with exacting strong, coarse, boiled meats, unsalted, are contributions, to the one half of our bread, detestable. A gag-eater in our time was to pamper a young ass, which, incredible equivalent to a goul, and held in equal as it may seem, with the connivance of detestation. suffered under the imthe nurse's daughter (a young fame of

putation. his) he had contrived to smuggle in, and

" -'Twas said, keep upon the leads of the ward, as they

He ate strange flesh."

240 called our dormitories. This game went on for better than a week, till the foolish He was observed, after dinner, carefully beast, not able to fare well but he (190 to gather up the remnants left at his must cry roast meat-happier than Calig- table (not many, nor very choice fragula's minion, could he have kept his own ments, you may credit me)-and, in an counsel—but, foolisher, alas! than any of especial manner, these disreputable morhis species in the fables—waxing fat, and sels, which he would convey away, and kicking, in the fulness of bread, one un- secretly stow in the settle that stood at lucky minute would needs proclaim his his bed-side. None saw when he ate good fortune to the world below; and, them. It was rumored that he privately laying out his simple throat, blew such a devoured them in the night. He was [250 ram's horn blast, as (toppling down the watched, but no traces of such midnight walls of his own Jericho) set con- (200 practices were discoverable. Some recealment any longer at defiance. The ported, that, on leave-days, he had been client was dismissed, with certain atten- seen to carry out of the bounds a large tions, to Smithfield; but I never under- blue check handkerchief, full of some stood that the patron underwent any thing. This then must be the accursed censure on the occasion. This was in the thing. Conjecture next was at work to stewardship of Li's admired Perry. imagine how he could dispose of it.

Under the same facile administration, Some said he sold it to the beggars. This can L. have forgotten the cool impunity belief generally prevailed. He went (260 with which the nurses used to carry away about moping. None spake to him. No one would play with him. He was ex- I was a hypochondriac lad; and the communicated; put out of the pale of sight of a boy in fetters, upon the day of the school. He was too powerful a boy my first putting on the blue clothes, was to be beaten, but he underwent every not exactly fitted to assuage the natural mode of that negative punishment, which terrors of initiation. I was of tender (320 is more grievous than many stripes. Still years, barely turned of seven; and had he persevered. At length he was ob- only read of such things in books, or seen served by two of his school-fellows, who them but in dreams. I was told he had were determined to get at the secret, [270 run away. This was the punishment for and had traced him one leave-day for the first offence.—As a novice I was soon that purpose, to enter a large worn-out after taken to see the dungeons. These building, such as there exist specimens were little, square, Bedlam cells, where of in Chancery Lane, which are let out to a boy could just lie at his length upon various scales of pauperism, with open straw and a blanket-a mattress, I think, door, and a common staircase. After was afterwards substituted-with a (330 him they silently slunk in, and followed peep of light, let in askance, from a prisonby stealth up four flights, and saw him orifice at top, barely enough to read by. tap at a poor wicket, which was opened Here the poor boy was locked in by himby an aged woman, meanly clad. [280 self all day, without sight of any but the Suspicion was now ripened into certainty. porter who brought him his bread and The informers had secured their victim. water-who might not speak to him, or They had him in their toils. Accusation of the beadle, who came twice a week to was formally preferred, and retribution call him out to receive his periodical most signal was looked for. Mr. Hatha- chastisement, which was almost welcome, way, the then steward (for this happened because it separated him for a brief (340 a little after my time), with that patient interval from solitude:—and here he was sagacity which tempered all his conduct, shut up by himself of nights, out of the determined to investigate the matter, reach of any sound, to suffer whatever before he proceeded to sentence. [290 horrors the weak nerves, and superstiThe result was, that the supposed mendi- tion incident to his time of life, might cants, the receivers or purchasers of the subject him to. This was the penalty mysterious scraps, turned out to be the for the second offence.-Wouldst thou parents of

an honest couple come like, reader, to see what became of him in to decay,-whom this seasonable supply the next degree? had, in all probability, saved from men- The culprit, who had been a third (350 dicancy; and that this young stork, at time an offender, and whose expulsion was the expense of his own good name, had at this time deemed irreversible, was all this while been only feeding the old brought forth, as at some solemn auto da birds!—The governors on this occa- (300 fe, arrayed in uncouth and most appalling sion, much to their honor, voted a present attire--all trace of his late "watchet relief to the family of and presented weeds" carefully effaced, he was exposed him with a silver medal. The lesson in a jacket, resembling those which Lonwhich the steward read upon RASH JUDG- don lamplighters formerly delighted in, MENT, on the occasion of publicly deliver- with a cap of the same. The effect of ing the medal to I believe, would this divestiture was such as the in- (360 not be lost upon his auditory.--I had left genious devisers of it could have anticischool then, but I well remember pated. With his pale and frighted feaHe was a tall, shambling youth, with a tures, it was as if some of those disfigurecast in his eye, not at all calculated (310 ments in Dante had seized upon him. to conciliate hostile prejudices. I have 1 One or two instances of lunacy, or attempted suicide, In this disguisement he was brought into molested us. We carried an accidence, the hall (Li's favorite state-room), where or a grammar, for form; but, for any 1420 awaited him the whole number of his trouble it gave us, we might take two years schoolfellows, whose joint lessons and in getting through the verbs deponent, and sports he was thenceforth to share no another two in forgetting all that we had more; the awful presence of the stew- [370 learned about them. There was now and ard, to be seen for the last time; of the then the formality of saying á lesson, but executioner beadle, clad in his state robe if you had not learned it, a brush across for the occasion, and of two faces more, of the shoulders (just enough to disturb a direr import, because never but in these fly) was the sole remonstrance. Field extremities visible. These were governors; never used the rod; and in truth he wielded two of whom, by choice, or charter, were the cane with no great good will — [430 always accustomed to officiate at these holding it "like a dancer.” It looked in Ultima Supplicia; not to mitigate (so at his hands rather like an emblem than an least we understood it), but to enforce instrument of authority; and an emblem, the uttermost stripe. Old Bamber (380 too, he was ashamed of. He was a good Gascoigne, and Peter Aubert, I remember, easy man, that did not care to ruffle his were colleagues on one occasion, when the own peace, nor perhaps set any great beadle turning rather pale, a glass of consideration upon the value of juvenile brandy was ordered to prepare him for time. He came among us, now and then, the mysteries. The scourging was, after but often stayed away whole days from the old Roman fashion, long and stately. us; and when he came, it made no dif- (140 The lictor accompanied the criminal ference to us-he had his private room to quite round the hall. We were generally retire to, the short time he stayed, to be too faint with attending to the previous out of the sound of our noise. Our mirth disgusting circumstances, to make ac- [390 and uproar went on. We had classics of curate report with our eyes of the degree our own, without being beholden to of corporal suffering inflicted. Report, “insolent Greece or haughty Rome," of course, gave out the back knotty and that passed current among us-Peter livid. After scourging, he was made over, Wilkins—the Adventures of the Hon. in his San Benito, to his friends, if he had Capt. Robert Boyle—the Fortunate Blue any (but commonly such poor runagates Coat Boy—and the like. Or we culti- [450 were friendless), or to his parish officer, vated a turn for mechanic or scientific who, to enhance the effect of the scene, operation; making little sun-dials of paper; had his station allotted to him on the or weaving those ingenious parentheses, outside of the hall gate.

accordingly, at length convinced the governors of the imsince seen him carrying a baker's basket.

policy of this part of the sentence, and the midnight torture I think I heard he did not do quite so

to the spirits was dispensed with.-This fancy of dungeons

for children was a sprout of Howard's brain; for which (savwell by himself, as he had done by the ing the reverence due to Holy Paul), methinks, I could wilold folks.

ingly spit upon his statue. (Howard's statue was in St. Paul's Cathedral.]

[400 called cat-cradles; or making dry peas to These solemn pageantries were not dance upon the end of a tin pipe; or studyplayed off so often as to spoil the general ing the art military over that laudable mirth of the community. We had plenty game “French and English," and a hunof exercise and recreation after school dred other such devices to pass away the hours; and, for myself, I must confess, time-mixing the useful with the agreethat I was never happier, than in them. able—as would have made the souls (460 The Upper and Lower Grammar Schools of Rousseau and John Locke chuckle to were held in the same room; and an have seen us. imaginary line only divided their bounds. Matthew Field belonged to that class Their character was as different as (410 of modest divines who affect to mix in that of the inhabitants on the two sides equal proportion the gentleman, the scholar, of the Pyrenees. The Rev. James Boyer and the Christian; but, I know not how, was the Upper Master; but the Rev. the first ingredient is generally found to Matthew Field presided over that portion be the predominating dose in the compoof the apartment, of which I had the sition. He was engaged in gay parties

, good fortune to be a member. We lived or with his courtly bow at some epis- (470 a life as careless as birds. We talked and copal levée, when he should have been did just what we pleased, and nobody attending upon us. He had for many

« AnteriorContinuar »