Page images
PDF
EPUB

that independence which I have spoken of, might well be expected to fail.

In affectionate recollections of the place where he was bred up, in hearty recognitions of old schoolsellows met with again after the lapse of years, or in foreign countries, the Christ's Hospital boy yields to none; I might almost say, he goes beyond most other boys. The very compass and magnitude of the school, its thousand bearings, the space it takes up in the imagination beyond the ordinary schools, impresses a remembrance, accompanied with an elevation of mind, that attends him through life. It is too big, too affecting an object to pass away quickly from his mind. The Christ's Hospital boy's friends at school are commonly his intimates through life. For me, I do not know whether a constitutional imbecility does not incline me too obstinately to cling to the remembrances of childhood ; in an inverted ratio to the usual sentiments of mankind, nothing that I have been engaged in since seems of any value or importance, compared to the colours which imagination gave to everything then. I belong to no body corporate such as I then made a part of. And here, before I close, taking leave of the general reader, and addressing myself solely to my old schoolfellows, that were contemporaries with me from the year 1782 to 1789, let me have leave to remember some of those circumstances of our school, which they will not be unwilling to have brought back to their minds.

And first, let us remember, as first in importance in our childish

the

young men (as they almost were) who, under the denomination of Grecians, were waiting the expiration of the period when they should be sent, at the charges of the Hospital, to one or other of our universities, but more frequently to Cambridge. These youth, from their superior acquirements, their superior age and stature, and the fewness of their numbers, (for seldom above two or three at a time were inaugurated into that high order,) drew the eyes of all, and especially of the younger boys, into a reverent observance and admiration. How tall they used to seen to us! how stately would they pace along the cloisters! while the play of the lesser boys was absolutely suspended, or its boisterousness at least allayed, at their presence! Not that they ever beat or struck the boys-that would have been to have demeaned themselves—the dignity of their persons alone ensured them all respect. , The task of blows, of corporeal chastisement, they left to the common monitors, or heads of wards, who, it must be confessed, in our time, had rather too much license allowed them to oppress and misuse their inferiors; and the interference of the Grecian, who may be considered as the spiritual power, was not unfrequently called for to mitigate by its mediation the heavy, unrelenting arın of this temporal power, or monitor. In fine, the Grecians were the solemn mustis of the school. Eras were computed from their time; it used to be said, such or such a thing was done when S- or T was Grecian.

eyes,

As I ventured to call the Grecians the muftis of the school, the king's boys,* as their character then was, may well pass for the jan zaries. They were the terror of all the other boys; bred up under that hardy sailor, as well as excellent mathematician, and co-navigator with Captain Cook, William Wales. All his systems were adapted to fit them for the rough element which they were destined to encounter. Frequent and severe punishments, which were expected to be borne with more than Spartan fortitude, came to be considered less as inflictions of disgrace than as trials of obstinate endurance. To make his boys hardy, and give them early sailor habits, seemed to be his only aim; to this everything was subordinate. Moral obliquiiies, indeed, were sure of receiving their full recompense, for no occasion of laying on the lash was ever let slip; but the effects expected to be produced from it were something very different from contrition or mortification. There was in William Wales a perpetual fund of humour, a constant glee about him, which, heightened by an inveterate provincialism of Northcountry dialect, absolutely took away the sting from his severities. His punishments were a game at patience, in which the master was not always worst contented when he found himself at times overcome by his pupil. What success this discipline had, or how the effects of it operated upon the after-lives of these king's boys, I cannot say ; but I am sure that, for the time, they were absolute nuisances to the rest of the school. Hardy, brutal, and often wicked, they were the most graceless lump in the whole mass; older and bigger than the other boys, (for by the system of their education they were kept longer at school by two or three years than any of the rest, except the Grecians,) they were a constant terror to the younger part of the school ; and some who may read this, I doubt not, will remember the consternation into which the juvenile fry of us were thrown, when the cry was raised in the cloisters, that the First Order was comingfor so they termed the first form or class of those boys. Still these sea-boys answered some good purposes in the school. They were the military class among the boys, foremost in athletic exercises, who extended

* The mathematical pupils, bred up to the sea, on the foundation of Charles the Second

the fame of the prowess of the school far and near; and the apprentices in the vicinage, and sometimes the butchers' boys in the neighbouring markei, had sad occasion to attest their valour.

The time would fail me if I were to attempt to enumerate all those circumstances, some pleasant, some attended with some pain, which, seen through the mist of distance, come sweetly softened to the memory. But I must crave leave to remember our transcending superiority in those invigorating sports, leap-frog and basting the bear; our delightful excur sions in the summer holydays to the New River, near Newing ton, where, like otters, we would live the long day in the water, never caring for dressing ourselves when we had once stripped ; our savoury meals afterward, when we came home almost famished, with staying out all day without our dinners ; our visits, at other times, to the Tower, where, by ancient privilege, we had free access to all the curiosities; our solemn processions through the city at Easter, with the lord mayor's largess of buns, wine, and a shilling, with the festive questions and civic pleasantries of the dispensing aldermen, which were more to us than all the rest of the banquet; our stately suppings in public, where the well-lighted hall, and the confluence of well-dressed company who came to see us, made the whole look more like a concert or assembly, than a scene of a plain bread and cheese collation ; the annual orations upon St. Matthew's day, in which the senior scholar, before he had done, seldom failed to reckon up, among those wh had one honour to our school by being educated in it, the names of those accomplished critics and Greek scholars, Joshua Barnes and Jeremiah Markland (I marvel they left out Camden while they were about it.) Let me have leave to remember our hymns and anthems, and well-toned organ; the doleful tune of the burial anthem chanted in the solemn cloisters, upon the seldomoccurring funeral of some schoolfellow, the festivities at Christmas, when the richest of us would club our stock to have a gaudy day, sitting round the fire, replenished to the height with logs, and the penniless, and he that could contribute nothing, partook in all the mirth, and in some of the substantialities of the feasting ; the carol sung hy night at that time of the year, which, when a young boy, I have so often lain awake to hear from seven (the hour of going to bed) till ten, when it was sung by the older boys and monitors, and have listened to it in their rude chanting, till I have been transported in fancy to the fields of Bethlehem, and the song which was sung at that season by angels' voices to the shepherds.

Nor would I willingly forget any of those things which administered to our vanity. The hem-stitched bands and town made shirts, which some of the most fashionable among us wore; the town-girdles, with buckles of silver, or shining stone ; the badges of the sea-boys; the cots, or superior shoestrings of the monitors; the medals of the markers, (those who were appointed to hear the Bible read in the wards on Sunday morning and evening,) which bore on their obverse in silver, as certain parts of our garments carried in meaner metal, the countenance of our founder, that godly and royal child, King Edward the Sixth, the flower of the Tudor name- —the

flower that was untimely cropped as it began to fill our land with its early odours—the boy-patron of boys—the serious and holy child who walked with Cranmer and Ridley--fit associate, in those tender years, for the bishops and future martyrs of our church, to receive or (as occasion sometimes proved) to give instruction.

young

“ But, ah! what means the silent tear?

Why, e'en mid joy, my bosom heave?
Ye long-lost scenes, enchantments dear'

Lo! now I linger o'er your grave.

“Fly, then, ye hours of rosy hue,

And bear away the bloom of years !
And quick succeed, ye sickly crew

Of doubts and sorrows, pains and fears !

“Still will I ponder Fate's unalter'd plan,
Nor, tracing back the child, forget that I am man."*

* Lines meditated in the cloisters of Christ's Hospital, in the Poetics, of Mr. George Dyer.

1

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »