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the great city, after a little forced notice, which they had the grace to take of me on my first arrival in town, soon grew tired of my holyday visits. They seemed to them to recur too often, though I thought them few enough; and, one after another, they all failed me, and I felt myself alone among
six hundred playmates.
Oh the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead! 'The yearnings which I used to have towards it in those unfledged years! How in my dreams would my native town (far in the west) come back, with its church, and trees, and faces! How I would wake weeping, and in the anguish of
my heart exclaim upon sweet Calne in Wiltshire !
To this late hour of my life, I trace impressions left by the recollection of those friendless holydays. The long warm days of summer never return but they bring with them a gloom from the haunting memory of those whole day leaves when, by some strange arrangement, we were turned out, for the livelong day, upon our own hands, whether we had friends to go to, or none. I remember those bathing excursions to the New River, which L. recalls with such relish. better, I think, than he can - for he was a home-seeking lad, and did not much care for such water pastimes : how merrily we would sally forth into the fields; and strip under the first warmth of the sun; and wanton like young dace in the streams; getting us appetites for noon, which those of us that were penniless (our scanty morning crust long since exhausted) had not the means of allaying—while the cattle, and the birds, and the fishes were at feed about us, and we had nothing to satisfy our cravings; the very beauty of the day, and the exercise of the pastime, and the sense of liberty, setting a keener edge upon them! How faint and languid, finally, we would return, towards nightfall, to our desired morsel, half rejoicing, half reluctant, that the hours of our uneasy liberty had expired!
It was worse in the days of winter, to go prowling about the streets objectless-shivering at cold windows of print shops, to extract a little amusement; or haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a little novelty, to pay a fifty times repeated visit (where our individual faces should be as well known to the warden as those of his own charges) to the lions in the Tower—to whose levee, by courtesy immemorial, we had a prescriptive title to admission.
L.'s governor (so we called the patron who presented us to the foundation) lived in a manner under his paternal roof. Any complaint which he had to make was sure of being attended to. This was understood at Christ's. and was an offectual screen to him against the severity of masters, or (Do 1
worse tyranny of the monitors. The oppressions of these young brutes are heart sickening to call to recollection. I have been called out of my bed, and waked for the purpose, in the coldest winter nights—and this not once, but night after night-in my shirt to receive the discipline of a leathern thong, with eleven other sufferers, because it pleased my callow overseer, when there has been any talking heard after we were gone to bed, to make the six last beds in the dormitory, where the youngest children of us slept, answerable for an offence they neither dared to commit, nor had the power to hinder. The same execrable tyranny drove the younger part of us from the fires, when our feet were perishing with snow; and, under the cruelest penalties, forbade the indulgence of a drink of water, when we lay in sleepless summer nights, fevered with the season and the day's sports.
There was one H-, who, I learned in after days, was seen expiating some maturer offence in the hulks. flatter myself in fancying that this might be the planter of that name, who suffered-at Nevis, I think, or St. Kitts—some few years since ? My friend 'Tobin was the benevolent instrument of bringing him to the gallows.) This petty Nero actually branded a boy who had offended him, with a red-hot iron ; and nearly starved forty of us, with exacting contributions, to the one half of our bread, to pamper a young ass, which, incredible as it may seem, with the connivance of the nurse's daughter, (a young flame of his,) he had contrived to smuggle in, and keep upon the leads of the ward, as they called our dormitories. This game went on for better than a week, till the foolish beast, not able to fare well but he must cry roast meat-happier than Caligula's minion, could he have kept his own counsel—but foolisher, alas ! than any of his species in the fables—waxing fat, and kicking, in the fulness of bread, one unlucky minute would needs proclaim his good fortune to the world below; and, laying out his simple throat, blew such a ram’s-horn blast, as (toppling down the walls of his own Jericho) set concealment any longer at defiance. The client was dismissed, with certain attentions, to Smithfield; but I never understood that the patron underwent any censure on the occasion. This was in the stewardship of Li's admired Perry.
Under the same facile administration, can L. have forgotten the cool impunity with which the nurses used to carry away openly, in open platters, for their own tables, one out of two of every hot joint, which the careful matron had been seeing scrupulously weighed out for our dinners? These things were daily practised in that magnificent apartment, which L. (grown connoisseur since, we presume) praises so highly for the grand paintings, “ by Verrio, and others,” with which it is “hung round and adorned.” But the sight of sleek, well-fed, blue-coat boys in pictures was, at that time, I believe, little consolatory to him, or us, the living ones, who saw the better part of our provisions carried away before our faces by harpies, and ourselves reduced (with the Trojan in the hall of Dido)
To feed our mind with idle portraiture. L.. has recorded the repugnance of the school to gags, or the fat of fresh beef boiled ; and sets it down to some superstition. But these unctuous morsels are never grateful to young palates, (children are universal's fat haters,) and in strong, coarse, boiled meats, unsalted, are detestable. As
gageuter in oui time was equivalent to a goule, and held in equal detestation suffered under the imputation.
He ate strange flesh. He was observed, after dinner, carefully to gather up the remnants left at his table-(not many, nor very choice fragments, you may credit me)—and in an especial manner, these disreputable morsels, which he would convey away, and secretly stow in the settle that stood at his bedside. None saw when he ate them. It was rumoured that he privately devoured them in the night. He was watched, but no traces of such midnight practices were discoverable. Some reported, that, on leave days, he had been seen to carry out of the bounds a large blue check handkerchief, full of something. This, then, must be the accursed thing. Conjecture next was at work to imagine how he could dispose of it. Some said he sold it to the beggars. This belief generally prevailed. He went about moping. None spake to him. No one would play with him. He was excommunicated; put out of the pale of the school. He was too powerful a boy to be beaten, but he underwent every mode of that negative punishment, which is more grievous than many stripes. Still he persevered. At length he was observed by two of his schoolfel. lows, who were determined to get at the secret, and had traced him one leave day, for that purpose, to enter a large worn-out building, such as there exist specimens of in Chancery Lane, which are let out to various scales of pauperism, with open door and a common staircase. After hiin they silently slunk in, and followed by stealth up four flights, and saw him tap at a poor wicket, which was opened by an aged woman, meanly clad. Suspicion was now ripened into cer
tainty. The informers had secured their victim. They had him in their toils. Accusation was formally preferred, and retribution most signal was looked for. Mr. Hathaway, the then steward, (for this happened a little after my time,) with that patient sagacity which tempered all his conduct, determined to investigate the matter before he proceeded to sen. tence. The result was, that the supposed mendicants, the receivers or purchasers of the mysterious scraps, turned out to be the parents of an honest couple come to decay, whom this seasonable supply had, in all probability, saved from mendicancy; and that this young stork, at the expense of his own good name, had all this while been only feeding the old birds! The governors on this occasion, much to their honour, voted a present relief to the family of sented him with a silver medal. The lesson which the steward read upon RASH JUDGMENT, on the occasion of publicly delivering the medal to —, I believe, would not be lost upon his auditory. I had left school then, but I well remember He was a tall, shambling youth, with a cast in his eye, not at all calculated to conciliate hostile prejudices. I have since seen him carrying a baker's basket. I think I heard he did not do quite so well by himself as he had done by the old folks.
I was a hypochondriac lad ; and the sight of a boy in fetters, upon the day of my first putting on the blue clothes, was not exactly fitted to assuage the natural terrors of initiation. I was of tender years, barely turned of seven ; and had only read of such things in books, or seen them but in dreams. I was told he had run away. This was the punishment for the first offence. As a novice, I was soon after taken to see the dungeons. These were little, square, Bedlam cells, where a boy could just lie at his length upon straw and a blanket-a mattress, I think, was afterward substituted, with a peep of light, let in askance, from a prison orifice at top, barely enough to read by. Here the poor boy was locked in by himself all day, without sight of any but the porter who brought him his bread and water-who might not speak to him; or of the beadle, who came twice a week to call him out to receive his periodical chastisement, which was almost welcome, because it separated him for a brief interval from solitude : and here he was shut up by himself of nights, out of the reach of any sound, to suffer whatever horrors the weak nerves and superstition incident to his time of life might subject him to.* This was the penalty for the second offence. Wouldst thou like, reader, to see what became of him in the next degree?
* One or two instances of lunacy or attempted suicide, accordingly, at length convinced the governors of the impolicy of this part of the sentence
The culprit, who had been a third time an offender, and whose expulsion was at this time deemed irreversible, was brought forth, as at some solemn auto da fé, arrayed in un. couth and most appalling attire-all trace of his late “watchet weeds" carefully effaced, he was exposed in a jacket, resembling those which London lamplighters formerly delighted in, with a cap of the same.
The effect of this divestiture was such as the ingenious devisers of it could have anticipated. With his pale and frighted features, it was as if some of those disfigurements in Dante had seized upon him. In this disguisement he was brought into the hall, (L.'s favourite stateroom,) where awaited him the whole number of his schoolfellows, whose joint lessons and sports he was thenceforth to share no more; the awful presence of the steward, to be seen for the last time ; of the executioner beadle, clad in his state robe for the occasion ; and of two faces more, of direr import, because never but in these extremities visible. These were governors ; two of whom, by choice or charter, were always accustomed to officiate at these Ultima Supplicia ; not to mitigate, (so at least we understood it,) but to enforce the uttermost stripe. Old Bamber Gascoigne and Peter Aubert, I remember, were colleagues on one occasion, when the beadle turning rather pale, a glass of brandy was ordered to prepare him for the mysteries. The scourging was, after the old Roman fashion, long and stately. The lictor accompanied the criminal quite round the hall. We were generally too faint with attending to the previous disgusting circumstances, to make accurate report with our eyes of the degree of corporeal suffering inflicted. Report, of course, gave out the back knotty and livid. After scourging, he was made over, in his San Benito, to his friends, if he had any, (but commonly such poor runagates were friendless,) or to his parish officer, who, to enhance the effect of the scene, had his station allotted to him on the outside of the hall gate.
Thes solemn pageantries were not played off so often as to spoil the general mirth of the community. We had plenty of exercise and recreation after school hours ; and, for myself, I must confess that I was never happier than in them. The upper and the lower grammar schools were held in the same room, and an imaginary line only divided their bounds. Their
and the midnight torture to the spirits was dispensed with. This fancy of dungeons for children was a sprout of Howard's brain; for which, (saving the reverence due to Holy Paul,) methiks I could willingly spit upon his atatue.