"Part I." by Horatia Katharine Frances Gatty (1846- )
SECOND DAUGHTER OF THE REV. ALFRED GATTY, D.D., AND
MARGARET, HIS WIFE,
BORN AT ECCLESFIELD, YORKSHIRE, AUGUST 3, 1841,
MARRIED JUNE 1, 1867, TO ALEXANDER EWING, MAJOR, A.P.D.,
DIED AT BATH, MAY 13, 1885,
BURIED AT TRULL, SOMERSET, MAY 16, 1885.
HAVE promised the children to write something for them about their favourite story-teller, Juliana Horatia Ewing, because I am sure they will like to read it.
I well remember how eagerly I devoured the Life of my favourite author, Hans Christian Andersen; how anxious I was to send a subscription to the memorial statue of him, which was placed in the centre of the Public Garden at Copenhagen, where children yet play at his feet; and, still further, to send some flowers to his newly-filled grave by the hand of one who, more fortunate than myself, had the chance of visiting the spot.
I think that the point which children will be most anxious to know about Mrs. Ewing is how she wrote her stories. Did she evolve the plots and characters entirely out of her own mind, or were they in any way suggested by the occurrences and people around her ?
The best plan of answering such questions will be for me to give a list of her stories in succession as they were written, and to tell, as far as I can, what gave rise to them in my sister's mind; in doing this we shall find that an outline biography of her will naturally follow. Nearly all her writings first appeared in the pages of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, and [Page 4] as we realise this fact we shall see how close her connexion with it was, and cease to wonder that the Magazine should end after her death.
Those who lived with my sister have no difficulty in tracing likenesses between some of the characters in her books, and many whom she met in real life; but let me say, once for all, that she never drew "portraits" of people, and even if some of us now and then caught glimpses of ourselves under the clothing she had robed us in, we only felt ashamed to think how unlike we really were to the glorified beings whom she put before the public.
Still less did she ever do with her pen, what an artistic family of children used to threaten to do with their pencils when they were vexed with each other, namely, to "draw you ugly."
It was one of the strongest features in my sister's character that she "received but what she gave," and threw such a halo of sympathy and trust round every one she came in contact with, that she seemed to see them "with larger other eyes than ours," and treated them accordingly. On the whole, I am sure this was good in its results, though the pain occasionally of awakening to disappointment was acute; but she generally contrived to cover up the wound with some new shoot of Hope. On those in whom she trusted I think her faith acted favourably. I recollect one friend whose conscience did not allow him to rest quite easily under the rosy light through which he felt he was viewed, saying to her: "It's the trust that such women as you repose in us men, which makes us desire to become more like what you believe us to be."
If her universal sympathy sometimes led her to what we might hastily consider "waste her time" on the petty interests and troubles of people who appeared to us unworthy, what were we that we should blame her ? The value of each soul is equal in God's sight; and when the books are opened there may be more entries than we now can count of hearts comforted, self-respect restored, and souls raised by her help to fresh love and trust in God,–ay, even of old sins and deeds of shame turned into rungs on the ladder to heaven by feet that have learned to tread the evil beneath them. It was this well-spring of sympathy in her which made my sister rejoice as she did in the teaching of the now Chaplain-General, Dr. J. C. Edghill, when he was yet attached to the iron church in the South Camp, Aldershot. "He preaches the gospel of Hope," she said–hope that is in the latent power which lies hidden even in the worst of us, ready to take fire when touched by the Divine flame, and burn up its old evil into a light that will shine to God's glory before men. I still possess the [Page 5] epitome of one of these "hopeful" sermons, which she sent me in a letter after hearing the chaplain preach on the two texts: "What meanest thou, O sleeper ? arise, call upon thy God"; "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
It has been said that, in his story of "The Old Bachelor's Nightcap," Hans Andersen recorded something of his own career. I know not if this be true, but certainly in her story of "Madam Liberality" * Mrs. Ewing drew a picture of her own character that can never be surpassed. She did this quite unintentionally, I know, and believed that she was only giving her own experiences of suffering under quinsy, in combination with some record of the virtues of one whose powers of courage, uprightness, and generosity under ill-health she had always regarded with deep admiration. Possibly the virtues were hereditary,–certainly the original owner of them was a relation; but, however this may be, Madam Liberality bears a wonderfully strong likeness to my sister, and she used to be called by a great friend of ours the "little body with a mighty heart," from the quotation which appears at the head of the tale.
The same friend is now a bishop in another hemisphere from ours, but he will ever be reckoned a "great" friend. Our bonds of friendship were tied during hours of sorrow in the house of mourning, and such as these are not broken by after-divisions of space and time. Mrs. Ewing named him "Jachin," from one of the pillars of the Temple, on account of his being a pillar of strength at that time to us. Let me now quote the opening description of Madam Liberality from the story:–
It was not her real name; it was given to her by her brothers and sisters. People with very marked qualities of character do sometimes get such distinctive titles to rectify the indefiniteness of those they inherit and those they receive in baptism. The ruling peculiarity of a character is apt to show itself early in life, and it showed itself in Madam Liberality when she was a little child.
Plum-cakes were not plentiful in her home when Madam Liberality was young, and, such as there were, were of the "wholesome" kind–plenty of breadstuff, and the currants and raisins at a respectful distance from each other. But, few as the plums were, she seldom ate them. She picked them out very carefully, and put them into a box, which was hidden under her pinafore.
When we grown-up people were children, and plum-cake and plum-pudding tasted very much nicer than they do now, we also picked out the plums. Some of us ate them at once, and had then to toil slowly through the cake or pudding, and some [Page 6] valiantly dispatched the plainer portion of the feast at the beginning, and kept the plums to sweeten the end. Sooner or later we ate them ourselves, but Madam Liberality kept her plums for other people.
When the vulgar meal was over–that commonplace refreshment ordained and superintended by the elders of the household–Madam Liberality would withdraw into a corner, from which she issued notes of invitation to all the dolls. They were "fancy written" on curl-papers, and folded into cocked hats.
Then began the real feast. The dolls came, and the children with them. Madam Liberality had no toy tea-sets or dinner-sets, but there were acorn-cups filled to the brim, and the water tasted deliciously, though it came out of the ewer in the night-nursery, and had not even been filtered. And before every doll was a flat oyster-shell covered with a round oyster-shell, a complete set of complete pairs which had been collected by degrees, like old family plate. And, when the upper shell was raised, on every dish lay a plum. It was then that Madam Liberality got her sweetness out of the cake. She was in her glory at the head of the inverted tea-chest, and if the raisins would not go round the empty oyster-shell was hers, and nothing offended her more than to have this noticed. That was her spirit, then and always. She could "do without" anything, if the wherewithal to be hospitable was left to her.
When one's brain is no stronger than mine is, one gets very much confused in disentangling motives and nice points of character. I have doubted whether Madam Liberality's besetting virtue were a virtue at all. Was it unselfishness or love of approbation, benevolence or fussiness, the gift of sympathy or the lust of power, or was it something else? She was a very sickly child, with much pain to bear, and many pleasures to forego. Was it, as the doctors say, "an effort of nature" to make her live outside herself, and be happy in the happiness of others?
All my earliest recollections of Julie (as I must call her) picture her as at once the projector and manager of all our nursery doings. Even if she tyrannised over us by always arranging things according to her own fancy, we did not rebel, we relied so habitually and entirely on her to originate every fresh plan and idea; and I am sure that in our turn we often tyrannised over her by reproaching her when any of what we called her "projukes" ended in "mulls," or when she paused for what seemed to us a longer five minutes than usual in the middle of some story she was telling, to think what the next incident should be!
It amazes me now to realise how unreasonable we were in our impatience, and how her powers of invention ever kept pace with our demands. These early stories were influenced to some extent by the books that she then liked best to read,–Grimm, Andersen, and Bechstein's fairy tales; to the last writer I believe we owed her story about a Wizard, which was one of our chief favourites. Not that she copied Bechstein in any way, for we read his tales too, and would not [Page 7] have submitted to anything approaching a recapitulation; but the character of the little Wizard was one which fascinated her, and even more so, perhaps, the quaint picture of him, which stood at the head of the tale; and she wove round this skeleton idea a rambling romance from her own fertile imagination.
I have specially alluded to the picture, because my sister's artistic as well as literary powers were so strong that through all her life the two ever ran side by side, each aiding and developing the other, so that it is difficult to speak of them apart.
Many of the stories she told us in childhood were inspired by some fine woodcuts in a German "A B C book," that we could none of us then read, and in later years some of her best efforts were suggested by illustrations, and written to fit them. I know, too, that in arranging the plots and wording of her stories she followed the rules that are pursued by artists in composing their pictures. She found great difficulty in preventing herself from "overcrowding her canvas" with minor characters, owing to her tendency to throw herself into complete sympathy with whatever creature she touched; and, sometimes,–particularly in tales which came out as serials, when she wrote from month to month, and had no opportunity of correcting the composition as a whole,–she was apt to give undue prominence to minor details, and throw her high lights on to obscure corners, instead of concentrating them on the central point. These artistic rules kept her humour and pathos,–like light and shade,–duly balanced, and made the lights she "left out" some of the most striking points of her work.
But to go back to the stories she told us as children. Another of our favourite ones related to a Cavalier who hid in an underground passage connected with a deserted Windmill on a lonely moor. It is needless to say that, as we were brought up on Marryat's "Children of the New Forest," and possessed an aunt who always went into mourning for King Charles on January 30, our sympathies were entirely devoted to the Stuarts' cause; and this persecuted Cavalier, with his big hat and boots, long hair and sorrows, was our best beloved hero. We would always let Julie tell us the "Windmill Story" over again, when her imagination was at a loss for a new one. Windmills, I suppose from their picturesqueness, had a very strong attraction for her. There were none near our Yorkshire home, so, perhaps, their rarity added to their value in her eyes; certain it is that [Page 8]
Post Mill, Dennington.
It was not only in the matter of fairy tales that Julie reigned supreme in the nursery, she presided equally over our games and amusements. In matters such as garden-plots, when she and our eldest sister could each have one of the same size, they did so; but when it came to there being one bower, devised under the bending branches of a lilac bush, then the laws of seniority were disregarded, and it was "Julie's Bower." Here, on benches made of narrow boards laid on inverted flower-pots, we sat and listened to her stories; here was kept the discarded dinner-bell, used at the funerals of our pet animals, and which she introduced into "The Burial of the Linnet."* Near the Bower we had a chapel, dedicated to St. Christopher, and a sketch of it [Page 9] is still extant, which was drawn by our eldest sister, who was the chief builder and caretaker of the shrine; hence started the funeral processions, both of our pets and of the stray birds and beasts we found unburied. In "Brothers of Pity"* Julie gave her hero the same predilection for burying that we had indulged in.
She invented names for the spots that we most frequented in our walks, such as "The Mermaid's Ford," and "St. Nicholas." The latter covered a space including several fields and a clear stream, and over this locality she certainly reigned supreme, our gathering of violets and cowslips, or of hips and haws for jam, and our digging of earth-nuts were limited by her orders. I do not think she ever attempted to exercise her prerogative over the stream; I am sure that, whenever we caught sight of a dark tuft of slimy Batrachospermum in its clear depths, we plunged in to secure it for Mother, whether Julie or any other Naiad liked it or no! But "the splendor in the grass and glory in the flower" that we found in "St. Nicholas" was very deep and real, thanks to all she wove around the spot for us. Even in childhood she must have felt, and imparted to us, a great deal of what she put into the hearts of the children in "Our Field."† To me this story is one of the most beautiful of her compositions, and deeply characteristic of the strong power she possessed of drawing happiness from little things, in spite of the hindrances caused by weak health. Her fountain of hope and thankfulness never ran dry.
Madam Liberality was accustomed to disappointment.
From her earliest years it had been a family joke that poor Madam Liberality was always in ill-luck's way.
It is true that she was constantly planning; and, if one builds castles, one must expect a few loose stones about one's ears now and then. But, besides this, her little hopes were constantly being frustrated by Fate.
If the pigs or the hens got into the garden, Madam Liberality's bed was sure to be laid waste before any one came to the rescue. When a picnic or tea-party was in store, if Madam Liberality did not catch cold, so as to hinder her from going, she was pretty sure to have a quinsy from fatigue or wet feet afterwards. When she had a treat, she paid for the pleasurable excitement by a headache, just as when she ate sweet things they gave her toothache. [Page 10]
But, if her luck was less than other people's, her courage and good spirits were more than common. She could think with pleasure about the treat when she had forgotten the headache.
One side of her face would look fairly cheerful when the other was obliterated by a flannel bag of hot camomile flowers, and the whole was redolent of every possible domestic remedy for toothache, from oil of cloves and creosote to a baked onion in the ear. No sufferings abated her energy for fresh exploits, or quenched the hope that cold, and damp, and fatigue would not hurt her "this time."
In the intervals of wringing out hot flannels for her quinsy she would amuse herself by devising a desert island expedition, on a larger and possibly a damper scale than hitherto, against the time when she should be out again.
It is a very old simile, but Madam Liberality really was like a cork rising on the top of the very wave of ill-luck that had swallowed up her hopes.
Her little white face and undaunted spirit bobbed up after each mischance or malady as ready and hopeful as ever.
Some of the indoor amusements over which Julie exercised great influence were our theatricals. Her powers of imitation were strong; indeed, my mother's story of "Joachim the Mimic" was written, when Julie was very young, rather to check this habit, which had early developed in her. She always took what may be called the "walking gentleman's" part in our plays. Miss Corner's Series came first, and then Julie was usually a Prince; but after we advanced to farces, her most successful character was that of the commercial traveller, Charley Beeswing, in "Twenty Minutes with a Tiger." "Character" parts were what she liked best to take, and in later years, when aiding in private theatricals at Aldershot Camp, the piece she most enjoyed was "Helping Hands," in which she acted Tilda, with Captain F. G. Slade, R. A., as Shockey, and Major Ewing as the blind musician.
The last time she acted was at Shoeburyness, where she was the guests of her friends Colonel and Mrs. Strangways, and when Captain Goold-Adams and his wife also took part in the entertainment. The terrible news of Colonel Strangways' and Captain Goold-Adams's deaths from the explosion at Shoebury in February, 1885, reached her whilst she was very ill, and shocked her greatly; though she often alluded to the help she got from thinking of Colonel Strangways' unselfishness, courage, and submission during his last hours, and trying to bear her own sufferings in the same spirit. She was so much pleased with the description given of his grave being lined with moss and lilac crocuses, that when her own had to be dug it was lined in a similar way.
But let us go back to her in the Nursery, and recall how, in spite [Page 11] of very limited pocket-money, she was always the presiding Genius over birthday and Christmas-tree gifts; and the true "Saint Nicholas" who filled the stockings that the "little ones" tied, in happy confidence, to their bed-posts. Here the description must be quoted of Madam Liberality's struggles between generosity and conscientiousness:–
Equally characteristic of Julie's moral courage and unselfishness is the incident of how Madam Liberality suffered the doctor's assistant to extract the tooth fang whch had been accidentally left in her jaw, because her mother's "fixed scale of reward was sixpence for a tooth without fangs, and a shilling for one with them," and she wanted the larger sum to spend on Christmas-tree presents.
It may seem strange that Madam Liberality should ever have been accused of meanness, and yet her eldest brother did once shake his head at her and say, "You're the most meanest and the generousest person I ever knew!" And Madam Liberality wept over the accusation, although her brother was then too young to form either his words or his opinions correctly.
But it was the touch of truth in it which made Madam Liberality cry. To the end of their lives Tom and she were alike, and yet different in this manner. Madam Liberality saved, and pinched, and planned, and then gave away, and Tom gave away without the pinching and the saving. This sounds much handsomer, and it was poor Tom's misfortune that he always believed it to be so; though he gave away what did not belong to him, and fell back for the supply of his own pretty numerous wants upon other people, not forgetting Madam Liberality. Painful experience convinced Madam Liberality in the end that his way was a wrong one, but she had her doubts many times in her life whether there were not something unhandsome in her own decided talent for economy. Not that economy was always pleasant to her. When people are very poor for their position in life, they can only keep out of debt by stinting on many occasions when stinting is very painful to a liberal spirit. And it requires a sterner virtue than good nature to hold fast the truth that it is nobler to be shabby and honest than to do things handsomely in debt.
But long before Tom had a bill even for bull's-eyes and Gibralter rock, Madam Liberality was pinching and plotting, and saving bits of coloured paper and ends of ribbon, with a thriftiness which seemed to justify Tom's view of her character. The object of these savings was twofold,–birthday presents and Christmas-boxes. They were the chief cares and triumphs of Madam Liberality's childhood. It was with the next birthday or approaching Christmas in view that she saved her pence instead of spending them, but she so seldom had any money that she chiefly relied on her own ingenuity. Year by year it became more difficult to make anything which would "do for a boy"; but it was easy to please Darling, and "mother's" unabated appreciation of pin-cushions, and of needle-books made out of old cards, was most satisfactory.
When the operation was over, [Page 12]
Madam Liberality staggered home, very giddy, but very happy. Moralists say a great deal about pain treading so very closely on the heels of pleasure in this life, but they are not always wise or grateful enough to speak of the pleasure which springs out of pain. And yet there is a bliss which comes just when the pain has ceased, whose rapture rivals even the high happiness of unbroken health; and there is a keen pleasure about small pleasures hardly earned, in which the full measure of those who can afford anything they want is sometimes lacking. Relief is certainly one of the most delicious sensations which poor humanity can enjoy!
If the story could be told of how Julie went alone to a London surgeon, to have an operation performed on her throat, because she did not like to give any one the trouble of being present at such an unpleasant scene, it would read very much like a chapter from Madam Liberality's biography. Happily, Julie too earned a reward in the relief which she appreciated so keenly; for, after this event, quinsies became things of the past to her, and she had them no more.
As she emerged from the nursery and began to take an interest in our village neighbours, her taste for "projects" was devoted to their interests. It was her energy that established a lending library in 1859, which still remains a flourishing institution; but all her attempts were not crowned with equal success. She often recalled, with great amusement, how, the first day on which she distributed tracts as a District Visitor, an old lady of limited ideas and crabbed disposition called in the evening to restore the tract which had been lent to her, remarking that she had brought it back and required no more as,– "My 'usband does not attend the public 'ouse, and we've no unrewly children ! "
My sister had also a Class for Young Women, which was held in the vicarage because she was so often prevented by attacks of quinsy from going to the school; indeed, at this time, as the mother of some of her ex-pupils only lately remarked, "Miss Julie were always cayling."
The first stories that she published belong to this so-to-speak "parochial" phase of her life, when her interests were chiefly divided between the nursery and the village. "A Bit of Green" came out in the Monthly Packet in July, 1861; "The Blackbird's Nest" in August, 1861; "Melchior's Dream" in December, 1861; and these three tales, with two others, which had not been previously published ("Friedrich's Ballad" and "The Viscount's Friend"), were issued in a volume called "Melchior's Dream and other Tales," * in 1862. The proceeds of the [Page 13]
South Screen, Ecclesfield Church.
"It was at Rotterdam," wrote her brother, "that I left her with her camp-stool and water-colours for a moment in the street, to find her, on my return, with a huge crowd round her, behind and before,–a baker's [Page 14] man holding back a blue veil that would blow before her eyes,–and she sketching down an avenue of spectators, to whom she kept motioning with her brush to stand aside. Perfectly unconscious she was of how she looked, and I had great difficulty in getting her to pack up and move on. Every quaint Dutch boat, every queer street, every peasant in gold ornaments, was a treasure for her note-book. We were very happy !"
I doubt, indeed, whether her companion has experienced greater enjoyment during any of his later and more luxurious visits to the same spots; the first sight of a foreign country must remain a unique sensation.
It was not the intrinsic value of Julie's gifts to us that made them so precious, but the wide-hearted spirit which always prompted them. Out of a moderate income she could only afford to be generous from her constant habit of thinking first for others, and denying herself. It made little difference whether the gift was elevenpence-three-farthings' worth of modern Japanese pottery, which she seized upon as just the right shape and colour to fit some niche on one of our shelves, or a copy of the édition de luxe of "Evangeline," with Frank Dicksee's magnificent illustrations, which she ordered one day to be included in the parcel of a sister, who had been judicially laying out a small sum on the purchase of cheap editions of standard works, not daring to look into the tempting volume for fear of coveting it. When the carrier brought home the unexpectedly large parcel that night, it was difficult to say whether the receiver or the giver was the happier. [Page 15]
My turn came once to be taken by Julie to the sea for rest (June, 1874), and then one of the chief enjoyments lay in the unwonted luxury of being allowed to choose my own route. Freedom of choice to a weary mind is quite as refreshing as ozone to an exhausted body. Julie had none of the petty tyranny about her which often mars the generosity of otherwise liberal souls, who insist on giving what they wish rather than what the receiver wants.
"The lady will drive!"
There was one person, however, whom Julie found less easy to deal with, and that was a relation, whose liberality even exceeded her own. When Greek met Greek over Christmas presents, then came the tug of war indeed! The Relation's ingenuity in contriving to give away whatever plums were given to her was quite amazing, and she generally managed to [Page 16] baffle the most careful restrictions which were laid upon her; but Julie conquered at last, by yielding–as often happens in this life!
"It's no use," Julie said to me, as she got out her bit of cardboard (not for a needle-book this time!)–"I must make her happy in her own way. She wants me to make her a sketch for somebody else, and I've promised to do it."
The sketch was made,–the last Julie ever drew,–but it still rests amongst the receiver's own treasures. She was so much delighted with it, she could not make up her mind to give it away, and Julie laughed many times with pleasure as she reflected on the unexpected success that had crowned her final effort.
I spoke of "Melchior's Dream," and must revert to it again, for though it was written when my sister was only nineteen, I do not think she has surpassed it in any of her later domestic tales. Some of the writing in the introduction may be rougher and less finished than she was capable of in after-years, but the originality, power, and pathos of the Dream itself are beyond doubt. In it, too, she showed the talent which gives the highest value to all her work–that of teaching deep religious lessons without disgusting her readers by any approach to cant or goody-goodyism.
During the years 1862 to 1868, we kept up a MS. magazine, and, of course, Julie was our principal contributor. Many of her poems on local events were genuinely witty, and her serial tales the backbone of the periodical. The best of these was called "The Two Abbots: a Tale of Second Sight," and in the course of it she introduced a hymn, which was afterwards set to music by Major Ewing, and published in Boosey's Royal Edition of "Sacred Songs," under the title "From Fleeting Pleasures." *
Whilst speaking of her hymns, I may mention that, on several occasions, she helped us by writing or adapting hymns to be sung by our school children at their Whitsuntide festal services, when "new hymns" had to be provided every year. Two of those that my sister wrote, in the respective years 1864 and 1866, shall be given here, as they are not published elsewhere, and I think other children besides our Ecclesfield ones may like to sing them. The first was written to the tune of Hymn 50 in the present edition of "Hymns, Ancient and Modern." [Page 17]
Come down ! come down ! O Holy Ghost !
As once of old Thou didst come down,
In fiery tongues at Pentecost,
The Apostolic heads to crown.
Come down ! though now no flame divine,
Nor heaven-sent Dove our sight amaze;
Our Church still shows the outward sign,
Thou truly givest inward grace.
Come down ! come down ! on infancy;
The babes whom JESUS deigned to love–
God give us grace by faith to see,
Above the font, the mystic Dove.
Come down ! come down ! on kneeling bands
Of those who fain would strength receive;
And in the laying on of hands
Bless us beyond what we believe.
Come down ! not only on the Saint,
Oh, struggle with the hard of heart,
With wilful sin and inborn taint,
Till lust, and wrath, and pride depart.
Come down ! come down, sweet Comforter !
It was the promise of the Lord.
Come down ! although we grieve Thee sore,
Not for our merits–but His Word.
Come down ! come down ! not what we would
But what we need, oh, bring with Thee.
Turn life's sore riddle to our good;
A little while, and we shall see. Amen.
The second hymn is in the same metre as "The Pilgrims of the Night," and was written to fit the flowery tune to which the latter was originally attached.
Long, long ago with vows too much forgotten,
The cross of Christ was sealed on every brow;
Ah ! slow of heart, that shun the Christian conflict,
Rise up at last! The accepted time is now.
Soldiers of JESUS! Blest who endure;
Stand in the battle ! the victory is sure.
Hark ! hark the Saviour's voice to each is calling–
"I bore the Cross of Death in pain for thee;
On thee the Cross of daily life is falling:
Children! take up the Cross and follow ME."
Soldiers of JESUS! Blest who endure, &c.
Strive as God's saints have striven in all ages;
Press those slow steps where firmer feet have trod:
For us their lives adorn the sacred pages,
For them a crown of glory is with God.
Soldiers of JESUS! Blest who endure, &c:
Peace ! peace ! sweet voices bring an ancient story,
(Such songs angelic melodies employ),
"Hard is the strife, but unconceived the glory:
Short is the pain, eternal is the joy,"
Soldiers of JESUS! Blest who endure, &c.
On! Christian souls, all base temptations spurning,
Drown coward thoughts in Faith's triumphant hymn,
Since JESUS suffered, our salvation earning,
Shall we not toil, that we may rest with him ?
Soldiers of JESUS! Blest who endure, &c. Amen.
My sister published very few of the things which she wrote to amuse us in our MS. "Gunpowder Plot Magazine," for they chiefly referred to local and family events; but "The Blue Bells on the Lea" * was an exception. The scene of this is a hill-side near our old home, and Mr. Andre's fantastic and graceful illustrations to the verses when they came out as a book, gave her full satisfaction and delight.
In June, 1865, she contributed a short parochial tale, "The Yew Lane Ghosts," † to the Monthly Packet, which will shortly be republished; and during the same year she gave a somewhat sensational story, called "The Mystery of the Bloody Hand," to London Society. Julie found no real satisfaction in writing this kind of literature, and she soon discarded it; but her first attempt showed some promise of the prolific power of her imagination, for Mr. Shirley Brooks, who read the tale impartially, not knowing who had written it, wrote the following criticism: "If the author has leisure and inclination to make a picture instead of a sketch, the [Page 19] material, judiciously treated, would make a novel, and I especially see in the character and sufferings of the Quaker, previous to his crime, matter for effective psychological treatment. The contrast between the semi-insane nature and that of the hypocrite might be powerfully worked up; but these are mere suggestions from an old craftsman, who never expects younger ones to see things as veterans do."
In May, 1866, my Mother started AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE FOR CHILDREN, and she called it by this title because "Aunt Judy" was the nickname we had given to Julie whilst she was yet our nursery story-teller, and it had been previously used in the titles of two of my Mother's most popular books, "Aunt Judy's Tales," and "Aunt Judy's Letters."
After my sister grew up, and began to publish stories of her own, many mistakes occurred as to the authorship of these books. It was supposed that the Tales and Letters were really written by Julie, and the introductory portions that strung them together by my Mother. This was a complete mistake; the only bits that Julie wrote in either of the books were three brief tales, in imitation of Anderson, called "The Smut," "The Crick," and "The Brothers," which were included in "The Black Bag" in "Aunt Judy's Letters."
Julie's first contribution to AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE was "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances," * and between May, 1866, and May, 1867, the first three portions of "Ida," "Mrs. Moss," and "The Snoring Ghosts" came out. In these stories I can trace many of the influences which surrounded my sister whilst she was still the "always cayling Miss Julie," suffering from constant attacks of quinsy, and in the intervals reviving from them with the vivacity of Madam Liberality, and frequently going away to pay visits to her friends for change of air.
We had one great friend to whom Julie often went, as she lived within a mile of our home, but on a perfectly different soil to ours. Ecclesfield is built on clay, but, Grenoside, the village where our friend lived, is on sand and much higher in altitude. From it we have often looked down at Ecclesfield lying in fog, whilst at Grenoside the air was clear and the sun shining. Here my sister loved to go, and from the home where she was so welcome and tenderly cared for, she drew (though no facts ) yet much of the colouring which is seen in Mrs. Overtheway,–a solitary life lived in [Page 20] the fear of God; enjoyment of the delights of a garden; with tender treasuring of dainty china and household goods for the sake of those to whom such relics had once belonged. Years after our friend had followed her loved ones to their better home, and had bequeathed her egg-shell brocade to my sister, Julie had another resting-place in Grenoside, to which she was as warmly welcomed as to the old one, during days of weakness and convalescence. Here, in an atmosphere of cultivated tastes and loving appreciation, she spent many happy hours, sketching some of the villagers at their picturesque occupations of carpet-weaving and clog-making, or amusing herself in other ways. This home, too, was broken up by Death, but Mrs. Ewing looked back to it with great affection, and when, at the beginning of her last illness, whilst she still expected to recover, she was planning a visit to her Yorkshire home, she sighed to think that Grenoside was no longer open to her.
On June 1, 1867, my sister was married to Alexander Ewing, A. P. D., son of the late Alexander Ewing, M. D., of Aberdeen, and a week afterwards they sailed for Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he was to be stationed.
View from the window of Reka Dom.
A gap now occurred in the continuation of "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances." The first contributions that Julie sent from her new home were "An Idyl of the Wood," * and "The Three Christmas Trees." † In these tales the experiences of her voyage and fresh surroundings became apparent; but in June, 1868, "Mrs. Overtheway " was continued by the story of "Reka Dom."
In this Julie reverted to the scenery of another English home where she had spent a good deal of time during her girlhood. The winter of 1862-63 was passed by her at Clyst St. George, near Topsham, with the family of her kind friend, Rev. H. T. Ellacombe; and she evolved Mrs. Overtheway's "River House" ‡ out of the romance roused by the sight of quaint old houses, with quainter gardens, and strange names that seemed to show traces of foreign residents in days gone by. "Reka Dom" was actually the name of a house in Topsham, where a Russian family had once lived.
For the descriptions of Father and Mother Albatross and their island home, in the last and most beautiful tale of "Kerguelen's Land," she was indebted to her husband, a wide traveller and very acute observer of nature.
To the volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1869 she only sent "The Land of Lost Toys," § a short but very brilliant domestic story, the wood described in it being the "Upper Shroggs," near Ecclesfield, which had been a very favourite haunt in her childhood. In October, 1869, she and Major Ewing returned to England, and from this time until May, 1877, he was stationed at Aldershot.
Whilst living in Fredericton my sister formed many close friendships. [Page 22]
No. I. Hut, X Lines, South Camp.
To the volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1870 she gave "Amelia and the Dwarfs," and "Christmas Crackers," * "Benjy in Beastland," † and eight "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales." ‡ "Amelia" is one of her happiest combinations of real child life and genuine fairy lore. The dwarfs inspired Mr. Cruikshank to one of his best water-colour sketches: who is the happy possessor thereof I do not know, but the woodcut illustration very inadequately represents the beauty and delicacy of the picture.
Whilst speaking of the stories in this volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, I must stop to allude to one of the strongest features in Julie's character, namely, her love for animals. She threw over them, as over everything she touched, all the warm sympathy of her loving heart, and it always seemed to me as if this enabled her almost to get inside the minds of her pets, and know how to describe their feelings. [Page 23]
Another Beast Friend whom Julie had in New Brunswick was the Bear of the 22nd Regiment, and she drew a sketch of him "with one of his pet black dogs, as I saw them, 18th September, 1868, near the Officers' Quarters, Fredericton, N. B. The Bear is at breakfast, and the dog occasionally licks his nose when it comes up out of the bucket."
The pink-nosed bull-dog in "Amelia" bears a strong likeness to a well-beloved "Hector" whom she took charge of in Fredericton whilst his master had gone on leave to be married in England. Hector, too, was "a snow-white bull-dog (who was certainly as well-bred and as amiable as any living creature in the kingdom)," with a pink nose that "became crimson with increased agitation." He was absolutely gentle with human beings, but a hopeless adept at fighting with his own kind, and many of my sister's letters and note-books were adorned with sketches of Hector as he appeared [Page 24] swollen about the head, and subdued in spirits, after some desperate encounter; or, with cards spread out in front of him playing, as she delighted to make him do, at "having his fortune told." But, instead of the four Queens standing for four ladies of different degrees of complexion, they represented his four favourite dishes of–1. Welsh rabbit. 2. Blueberry pudding. 3. Pork sausages. 4. Buckwheat pancakes and molasses; and "the fortune" decided which of these dainties he was to have for supper.
Shortly before the Ewings started from Fredericton they went into the barracks, whence a battalion of some regiment had departed two days before, and there discovered a large black retriever who had been left behind. It is needless to say that this deserted gentleman entirely overcame their feelings; he was at once adopted, named "Trouvé," and brought home to England, where he spent a very happy life, chiefly in the South Camp, Aldershot, his one danger there being that he was such a favourite with the soldiers, they overfed him terribly. Never did a more benevolent disposition exist; his broad forehead and kind eyes, set widely apart, did not belie him; there was a strong strain of Newfoundland in his breed, and a strong likeness to a bear in the way his feathered paws half crossed over each other in walking. Trouvé appears as "Nox" in "Benjy," and there is a glimpse of him in "The Sweep," who ended his days as a "soldier's dog" in "The Story of a Short Life." Trouvé did, in reality, end his days at Ecclesfield, where he is buried near "Rough," the broken-haired bull-terrier, who is the real hero in "Benjy." Amongst the various animal friends whom Julie had either of her own, or belonging to others, none is lovelier than the golden-haired collie "Rufus," who was at once the delight and distraction of the last year of her life at Taunton, by the tricks he taught himself of very gently extracting the pins from her hair, and letting it down at inconvenient moments; and of extracting, with equal gentleness, from the earth the labels that she had put to the various treasured flowers in her "Little Garden," and then tossing them in mid-air on the grass-plot.
A very amusing domestic story by my sister, called "The Snap Dragons" came out in the Christmas number of the Monthly Packet for 1870, and it has not yet been published separately.
"Timothy's Shoes" * appeared in AUNT JUDY'S volume for 1871. This [Page 25] was another story of the same type as "Amelia," and it was also illustrated by Mr. Cruikshank. I think the Marsh Julie had in her mind's eye with a "long and steep bank," is one near the canal at Aldershot, where she herself used to enjoy hunting for kingcups, bog-asphodel, sundew, and the like. The tale is a charming combination of humour and pathos, and the last clause, where "the shoes go home," is enough to bring tears to the eyes of every one who loves the patter of childish feet.
The most important work that she did this year (1871) was "A Flat-Iron for a Farthing," which ran as a serial through the volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE. It was very beautifully illustrated by Helen Paterson (now Mrs. Allingham), and the design where the "little ladies," in big beaver bonnets, are seated at a shop-counter buying flat-irons, was afterwards reproduced in water-colours by Mrs. Allingham, and exhibited at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-colours (1875), where it attracted Mr. Ruskin's attention. * Eventually, a fine steel engraving was done from it by Mr. Stodart. † It is interesting to know that the girl friend who sat as a model for "Polly" to Mrs. Allingham is now herself a well-known artist, whose pictures are hung in the Royal Academy.
The scene of the little girls in beaver bonnets was really taken from an incident of Julie's childhood, when she and her "duplicate" (my eldest sister) being the nearest in age, size, and appearance of any of the family, used to be dressed exactly alike, and were inseparable companions: their flat-irons, I think, were bought in Matlock. Shadowy glimpses of this same "duplicate" are also to be caught in Mrs. Overtheway's "Fatima," and Madam Liberality's "Darling." When "A Flat-Iron" ‡ came out in its book form it was dedicated "To my dear Father, and to his sister, my dear Aunt Mary, in memory of their good friend and nurse, E. B., obiit 3 March, 1872, æt. 83"; the loyal devotion and high integrity of Nurse Bundle having been somewhat drawn from the "E. B." alluded to. Such characters are not common, and they grow rarer year by year. We do well to hold them in everlasting remembrance.
* Reprinted in "A Great Emergency." Bell & Sons.
* AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, September, 1866. "Little Songs for Little Voices." By A. S. Gatty. Metzler & Co. "Papa Poodle, and other Pets." By J. H. Ewing. Pictured by R. André. S.P.C.K.
* AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, April, 1877. "Brothers of Pity, and other Tales of Beasts and Men." S.P.C.K. 1884.
† Ibid., September, 1876. "A Great Emergency and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
* London: Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden.
* Words reprinted in "Songs for Music by Four Friends." H. King.
* AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, May, 1874. "The Blue Bells on the Lea," by J. H. Ewing, depicted by R. André. S.P.C.K.
† "Melchior's Dream, and other Tales." New Edition. Bell & Sons.
* "Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances." By J. H. Ewing. Bell & Sons.
* AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, September, 1867.
† Ibid., December, 1867. Both reprinted in "The Brownies, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
‡ On the evening of our arrival at Fredericton, New Brunswick, which stands on the river St. John, we strolled down, out of the principal street, and wandered on the river shore. We stopped to rest opposite to a large old house, then in the hands of workmen. There was only the road between this house and the river, and on the banks, one or two old willows. We said we should like to make our first home in some such spot. Ere many weeks were over, we were established in that very house where we spent the first year, or more, of our time in Fredericton. We called it "Reka Dom," the River House.–A. E.
§ AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, March and April, 1869, included in "The Brownies, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
* Both reprinted in "The Brownies, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
† Reprinted in "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
‡ "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales," by J. H. Ewing. S.P.C.K.
* Reprinted in "Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
* The drawing, with whatever temporary purpose executed, is for ever lovely; a thing which I believe Gainsborough would have given one of his own pictures for–old-fashioned as red-tipped daisies are, and more precious than rubies.–Ruskin, "Notes on some of the Pictures at the Royal Academy." 1875.
† Published by the Fine Art Society, Bond-street.
‡ London: Bell & Sons.