Page images
PDF
EPUB

Lady Vere, Lady Conway, Mrs. Winthorpe, Mrs. Baxter, Mrs. Philip Henry, Lady Lisle, and others. But time forbids. I have said enough to prove-Ist, That the spirit of persecution pervades all parties ; and to show that it does not arise from the peculiar doctrines held by any Church, or from the peculiar organisation of that Church, but from the natural tendency in human nature to persecute, when it has the power. And the moral I learn from this ism that it is dangerous, impolitic, and wrong, to place political power

in the hands of any section of professing Christians, in their corporate capacity. Secondly,—We have also seen that true greatness is to be found in all sections of the Church, and that religion has the same influence among all parties, and in all ages. It purifies, elevates, and ennobles the soul to bear any trials and persecutions it may be called to endure, and to live as “ seeing Him who is invisible.” Thirdly,-We have seen how pure and sweet is the influence of religion on the character of a woman ; how it fits her to take a more exalted place in society. I do not mean merely in social position, but a more exalted place in connection with the influence of her character, virtue, and intelligence. Oh! that God may graciously bless our country with thousands of such “noble women as those I have sketched ! Ladies,--you are not now called on to suffer as those suffered to whom I have referred. Your mission is a milder but not less important one. You are called to aid in the great movements for elevating the world. Your influence is almost omnipotent, and if you give your aid to all that is pure and of good report, you will bless the world, and glorify our Father which is in Heaven.

274

BY

MR. DAVID MORRIS, F.A.S.

[Delivered in the Warrington Mechanics Institution, and elsewhere.]

HE LECTURER said the subject he had chosen that night

was to him one of deep interest. He believed in the wisdom of every act of God,—whether they could see the wisdom of the act or not ; and as in this world of ours, He had thought fit to bestrew our path with pleasant flowers, rippling streams, bright clear sunshine, and everything to make us happy and buoyant, and to cheer us in our struggles through life ; so He had given to man peculiar flowers of oratory and literature, and had bestrewed his mental path just as he had physical flowers bestrewing his physical path. He believed one was quite as essential to their happiness as the other, and that the poets who grew for them to a very large extent the poetry of our literature, were wisely ordained. As it was desirable they should have a knowledge of everything good in life, it was desirable they should become acquainted with the good poets of our country, and especially those of Lancashire-for they might feel a pride in knowing that this county had produced more than an average number of respectable poets.

During the last century, Lancashire had produced more true poets than any other county, and he should prove the truth of that statement as he proceeded. It had been often urged against the people of Lancashire, that whilst they were very clever in constructing engines, in erecting mills, and filling them with first-class machinery, and spinning the cotton to an almost fabulous length out of ilb. weight of raw material, they were not capable of doing anything else ; in fact, that they had no souls for anything beyond cotton. To show how prevalent this idea was in the south, he would narrate a story of a quack doctor who took up his stand in the market-place, surrounded with bottles, pill boxes, &c. He addressed a gaping crowd of clod-hoppers, and drew their attention to the wonderful effect of his medicines, by pointing to specimens of huge tape-worms and similar monstrosities he had carefully preserved. In one bottle he had a large lump of cotton suspended from a wire attached to the cork, which he informed his wonder-stricken andience, had, through his medicines, been extracted from the lungs of a cotton operative. He (the lecturer) hoped to prove that evening, that they possessed souls for something more than cotton.

It had been stated by one who was in a position and well able to judge, that the three greatest orators in the British Houses of Parliament, were Lord Derby, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, and Mr. John Bright,-all of them Lancashire men. Amongst the authors, putting aside poets, he might name Miss Jewsbury, Mrs. Gaskell, Mr. Gaskell, and Thomas de Quincey,--the greatest prose writer this century had produced. He was born and educated at Greenheys, Manchester, and in his Miscellanies they would find a description of many scenes the locality of which could be fixed at Manchester. Frank Stone, one of the best painters this century had produced, was the son of a Manchester cotton spinner. John Gibson, the sculptor of the tinted Venus, a man who stood at the head of his profession as a sculptor, was a native of Liverpool. Mr. Andsell was also a painter of eminence, and of his productions, “The Hunted Slave,” said to be worth 800 guineas, possessed deep interest at this moment, inasmuch as it had been exhibited in Liverpool, Manchester, and elsewhere, for the purpose of raising money for the Lancashire Relief Fund, and it was hoped by Mr. Andsell that £2,000 would thus be realised for the benefit of the distressed operatives. Mr. Andsell was another genuine Lancashire lad. He (the lecturer) might go on telling them of the Arkwrights, Cartwrights, and Cromptons, some of the greatest mechanical geniuses the world had ever seen, all of whom were Lancashire men ; but he thought he had quoted enough to prove that they had capabițities for something more than cotton, and that whatever other men could do, they could do as well. He believed they could do things a great deal better than the majority of folk, just because of the peculiar amount of self-esteem they possessed. He never knew a man succeed in doing any great work, who had not a large amount of self-esteem, and they might depend upon it, if they wanted to rise in life, and those sitting on the back benches wished to advance rapidly in the classes connected with their institution, or in any other way wished to become wiser, nobler, or better, they must entertain an opinion that they were capable of doing it, and if they had the pluck of a genuine Lancashire lad in their hearts, they would accomplish their purpose.

Our Lancashire poets had ever taught the lessons of law and order; that although men were poor they should be honest ; that they should be kind, loving, and forbearing one with another. Our Lancashire poets had always striven to bring out the finer feelings of the hearts of their countrymen: and surely these were traits they ought not to pass over unnoticed. Their love of liberty had not been excelled by the poets of any land, in proof of which he might quote the “ Lancashire Hymn," written nearly fifty years ago by good old Samuel Bamford, when the people were suffering from the iniquitous Corn Laws. That glorious hymn was sung by thousands on the hillsides of Lancashire; and in the great gatherings of those times the people were taught that although suffering, they were destined to a higher and nobler future. They were to endure and suffer, but persevere ; still work, and learn to labour and wait, and success would be theirs in the end. That, they would find, was the characteristic and teaching of their Lancashire poets of the present and past centuries.

During the past three-quarters of a century progress had been made at a more rapid rate amongst their poets than at any former period of history; but he would commence with the first of whom they had any record. Thomas Preston, of Preston, was born in the year 1630. He was an excellent Latin scholar, and that he was regarded as no common poet, might be inferred from the fact that his name was quoted by his contemporary, Shakspere, who lived about the midde of the 16th century. Like Shakspere, he succeeded in gaining the good opinion of Queen Elizabeth, who was so well pleased with his performance of a written play of his, that she conferred upon him the title of Scholar, with a gratuity of £20 a-year, which at the present time would be worth something like £100. Preston's literary position might be assumed to be a good one, from the fact that Shakspere himself had referred to him. In his play of King Henry IV. he makes Falstaff say “I will do it in Cambyses' vein," referring to the hero of the tragedy, Cambyses, written by Preston.

Next in chronological order was Dr. John Byrom, of Manchester. He was born in 1691, and his “ Colin and Phæbe” was considered by Addison, of the “Spectator,” to be the finest pastoral poem of the age.

Some of his poems were at the present day—and had been so for the last 100 years-stock recitations in the hands of school-boys. Who was there amongst them that did not know the story of the “ Three Black Crows,” and the “Old Man and his Ass ? Byrom was an excellent geometrician, and whilst taking notes at college, the possibility of shortening his labours by introducing a system of arbitrary characters occurred to him. Åis inventive mind produced a number of geometrical figures, which eventually became known as “Dr. Byrom's art of Stenography,” which system of shorthand continued in vogue until the more perfect and almost universal one of Phonography, introduced by Mr. Pitman, superseded it. He had a worthy descendant still alive in Manchester (Miss Atherton), one of the finest women they had in Lancashire; a good old lady, who had given her thousands and scores of thousands of pounds for the good of the people of Manchester and its neighbourhood. After spending nearly £15,000 in the erection of a church not very long since, she had devoted £5,000 towards the addition of å wing to one of our Ragged Schools. He thought she must be accepted as a fine specimen of a genuine Lancashire witch. The lecturer next alluded to some of the poems of Collier, better known as “Tim Bobbin,” who was a schoolmaster and painter, and whose productions were given in the Lancashire dialect. The following epitaph was written by him on the death of Sam Kershaw, a blacksmith, interred in Rochdale churchyard

My hammer and my anvil's low reclin'd,
My bellows, too, have lost their wind,
My fire's extinct, my forge decay'd,
And in the dust my vice is laid,
My coal is spent, my iron's gone,

My last nail's driven, my work is done. Another epitaph was upon his own gravestone and might be seen to this day.

It referred to himself and wife, both being interred in the same grave :

Here lies Tom, and with him Meary,
Cheek by jowl, and never weary ;
No wonder they so well agree,
Tom needs no punch, and Moll no tea.

« PreviousContinue »