« PreviousContinue »
that they have been to me of the greatest value, and that if they could have been blotted out of my existence, my position in society would at the present time have been very different from what it really is.
My two elder brothers being away, and my third brother being several years younger than myself, the result was that during the two years of which I have just spoken, I was thrown more into the society of my father than at any former period. He had been a very strict disciplinarian, and the respect and affection which I had for him had been mixed up with no small portion of fear. But it was now much otherwise. I became to a considerable extent his companion. In the early part of the day I read with him some Latin and Greek works—generally the latter. In the. afternoon and evening he left me very much to pursue my studies in my own way. Between our morning occupations and dinner-time, when I was not engaged in some business relating to our volunteer corps, and he was not engaged by his duties as a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant, which at this time were considerable, I accom
panied him in his walks. Allowing for the difference of more than forty years in our ages, our tastes' were a good deal similar, so that my attentions were not paid to him merely as a matter of duty. My father, as I have already mentioned, was a man of great natural talent, and had a very cultivated mind; and the fact of my being much in his society made me feel as if I was an older person than I really was, and in part explains how it happens that, when I went forth into the world afterwards, my sympathies were much more with those who were beyond myself in years than with those of my own age. Other circumstances, however, contributed to produce the same result. I have already referred to Robert "VVray as one of my early acquaintance. He was the son of a gentleman of independent fortune at Salisbury, about five years my senior, and of a very thoughtful and reflecting turn cf mind. There was a close intimacy between us, which terminated only with his death. Thus, being thrown a good deal on my own resources, I was constrained to seek amusement for my leisure hours, not in the usual pursuit of boys, c
but in my father's library, picking up many scraps of knowledge, which T have found to be far from useless since. To those who may take the trouble of looking at these manuscripts hereafter, all this may appear very trifling and egotistical; but the truth is, that I feel an interest in looking back at these circumstances in my early life which had an influence on my tastes and habits afterwards; and it may be that something of the same kind of interest will be felt by my wife and children when I am taken from them.
As long as I canremember anything, my father always endeavoured to impress on our minds that we should have to obtain our livelihood by our own exertions ; that he would do his utmost to give us a good education, to accustom us to industrious habits, and to put us in the way of providing for ourselves, but that he could do nothing more. We supposed that he left us to choose our professions for ourselves, but the fact was, as I now believe, that, without our being aware of it, he himself directed our inclinations. My elder brother became a lawyer, and has since obtained the highest place in his profession as a conveyancing barrister, distinguished alike for his legal knowledge, his integrity, and his accuracy. My next brother, three years older than myself, as I have already mentioned, was first engaged in the woollen cloth manufactory at Salisbury. This, however, soon became a failing business, the Salisbury manufacturer, after the introduction of steam, being unable to compete with those of the coal districts. Some years afterwards, however, he succeeded on the death of one of my maternal uncles to a very lucrative business, which had been for some generations in my mother's family, and by which my grandfather had been enabled to accumulate a considerable fortune, became the proprietor of a provincial newspaper, and a banker. He married a niece of Mr. Hussey, who represented Salisbury in Parliament, with a good fortune; and was for many years a most prosperous person, living in the best society of that part of the country. In an evil hour he was persuaded to
aspire to a seat in the House of Commons. He was elected for Salisbury by a large majority; was re-elected after two pretty hard contests; and kept his seat until, after the sudden death of a managing clerk in whom he had placed a too unlimited confidence, he was led to accept the Chiltern Hundreds.
As to myself, it was determined that I should embark in some part of the medical profession. Dr. Denman* had married one of my father's sisters. Dr. Baillie and Sir Richard Croft had married my first cousins. The great reputation which they had respectively acquired perhaps led my father to give my mind this direction, and disposed me to be easily guided according to his wishes. However that may have been, in the autumn of 1801 I was sent to London, and there entered on those pursuits which have been the chief object of my life.
Others have often said to me that they supposed that I must have had, from the first, a particular taste or liking for my profession. But it was no such thing; nor does my experience lead me to have any faith in those special callings to certain ways of life which some