Page images
PDF
EPUB

The earliest record of him is given in a letter from Mr. Felix Vaughan to the elder Walker (Sept. 3rd, 1798). The lad, then in his fourteenth year, appears to have been taken on circuit by the Liberal counsellor, for a holiday.

“Had I,” he writes, “ been in possession of more time and less fatigue for the last fortnight I should have written to you without fail, principally to tell you that I am extremely happy in Tom's company, but more so in observing great excellence of disposition in all he does and says. Hitherto, indeed, the business of the Assizes has prevented my being a great deal with him ; but he seems to have the power of amusing himself more than most young people of his age. Mr. Lushington happened to buy in Yorkshire the small edition of Plutarch's ‘Lives' of which we spoke some time since, and this he lent me for Tom's use, who has read 2 vols. of them with much pleasure to himself, and I doubt not with great mental profit." Tom himself writes to his mother (August 23rd, 1798) on the same trip :

“Dear Mamma,–I dare say you have expected a letter from me before this time, but I have been in court every day both morning and afternoon till yesterday, for it is so very hot, and the town business is not so entertaining as the trials of the Crown prisoners, which are now over, that I have not been since yesterday morning. Four men are to be hanged, but I only heard sentence passed upon two ; they were both much affected, but I think they deserved their fate. The four soldiers are acquitted of the murder of that man on Shude Hill. Patterson and Cheetham are not to be tried these assizes. I heard Mr. Vaughan make only one speech, but it was a very good one, and I think saved his client.

“I wrote to you yesterday afternoon, but Mr. Vaughan received a letter at tea from Mr. Cooper, which he desired me to enclose with his best compliments; the letter has nothing in it very interesting, and is of a very late date. We did not drink tea till nearly ten o'clock, so that I was in great haste to finish my letter, as I thought the post went out last night, but as it does not set off till two o'clock to-day I have written another letter, for the other was nothing but blurs and scratchings out and postscripts. There is in Mr. Cooper's letter a little flower for Amelia and four seeds of some kind of hedge

а nettle. I have seen many sorts of flowers which we have not; yesterday I found some white campions and some toad flax as fine as that in the little garden. There are a great many nice walks about here by the river-side; I was out two hours and a half yesterday looking into the book of nature,' and watching the salmon and

[ocr errors]

trout leap out of the water : sometimes they spring above a yard high.

“Mr. Vaughan will go to Chester, but if you had rather I went to Blackpool one of the counsellors is going, and he will take care of me till Mr. Vaughan comes; I had rather go to Chester first.

“If Papa is come home give my love to him, and tell him Mr. Vaughan has borrowed Plutarch, abridged, for me; they are the most entertaining books I ever read. Tell Miss Walker to remind the gardener about the willow twigs, but he must not plant them till I come home; also tell her to take care of our garden or I will dig it all up when I return. I have sent some clothes to be washed, and an inventory with them; my cloth pantaloons were so tight that I could not get them off without ripping them open ; I sent the rascals to the tailor, and he has, I hope, mended them.

“The fare here is not of the best kind; I have my dinners from the inn: yesterday I had some st-nk-ng trout (I dare not put that word in full for fear of Miss Walker), and some salmon which was pretty good: the butter is very bad, but this morning it was worse than ever, however I managed to eat one piece with washing it down with tea. Mr. Vaughan says he never met with such doings at Longford. I am going to see the Castle this morning with John, and then I shall take a walk not with John. Give my love to all, and believe me to be your ever affectionate son,

"THOMAS WALKER, JUNR."

In this letter it is easy to perceive, in the bud, Thomas Walker, author of “ The Original.” The allusion to the condemned convicts shows the rigid mind that afterwards dealt with the poor of Stretford and Whitechapel; and the “prospecting” after flowers, and the criticism on the diet, indicate the fine discriminating taste of the author of " Aristology,” and “The Art of Attaining High Health.”

And here let me interpolate the few lines that, many years after this boyish letter was written, the man wrote of his mother.

“She was indeed in many particulars an example for her sexan example too valuable to be altogether lost. I will sketch for study one or two of the agreeable features in her character. When I was living alone with her, as already stated, I used occasionally to go out to dinner in the neighbourhood, and afterwards to walk home late, sometimes very late.

At whatever hour I arrived, I always found my mother sitting up for me alone. Not a word of reproach-not a question. If it happened to be cold or damp, I was greeted with a cheerful fire, by which she had been sitting, reading or netting,

a

as her eyes would permit, and with a colour on her cheek, at seventy, which would have done no discredit to a girl of eighteen. She had always the supper tray ready, but not brought in, so as neither to tempt me if I did not want anything, nor to disappoint me if I did. When a man throws himself into a chair, after the fatigues of the day, he generally feels for a period a strong propensity to silence, any interruption of which has rather a tendency to irritate. I observed that my mother had always great tact in discovering the first symptoms of revival, till which she would quietly go on with her own occupation, and then inquire if I had had an agreeable party, and put such questions as showed a gratifying interest, equally removed from worrying curiosity and disheartening indifference. I recommend the same course generally to female consideration and adoption. If, from any engagement, I wished to breakfast earlier than usual—however early, she was always ready, and without taking any credit for her readiness. If I was down before the hour I was almost sure to find her seated at table; or if the morning was fine, walking composedly before the windows, with breakfast prepared. If I desired to have a particular dinner it was served up just as I asked for it—no alteration-no additional dish, with the very unphilosophical remark,

You have no occasion to eat it unless you like.' She seemed to be aware that needless variety causes a distraction destructive of perfect contentment, and that temptation resisted, as well as temptation yielded to, produces, though in an inferior degree, digestive derangement. I will mention only one other trait, and that is, that though she was unremitting in her care and attention when any

of her family were ill, yet her own indispositions she always concealed as long as she could--for it seemed to give her pain to be the cause of the least interruption to the pleasure of those she loved.”

The health of Mr. Walker had sufficiently improved as he approached manhood, to admit of his proceeding to Trinity College, Cambridge, where in due time he took his degree. In 1812 he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple; but he appears to have practised little. His feeble health in early manhood, hindered his progress; although it did not prevent him from giving close attention to one or two public subjects, and particularly to that of the Poor Laws, the management of estates, the economy of labour, and the regulation of charity. He was a hard reasoner, evidently uninfluenced by sentiment. His dealings with the poor were on a rigid line of conduct which he had thought out. He applied his opinion to the government of the pauper as he set it in motion on his own health. "One day," he relates, “when I had shut myself up in the country,

and was reading with great attention Cicero's treatise, De Oratore, some passage, I forget what, suggested to me the expediency of making the improvement of my health my study. I rose from my book, stood bolt upright, and determined to be well. In pursuance of my resolution, I tried many extremes, was guilty of many absurdities, and committed many errors, amidst the remonstrances and ridicule of those around me. I persevered, nevertheless, and it is now (1835) I believe full sixteen years since I have had any medical advice, or taken anything by way of medicine."

In precisely the same way he set about putting the government of the poor of the township in which Longford was situated, in healthy order. But he had deeply studied the Poor Laws before he thought of making a study of himself. His experiments in the art of attaining high health were begun in 1819, when he had succeeded to the estate of Longford; and it was here that, with his first self acquired strength, he continued vigorously the plan he had laid down for the better government of the workhouse.

" In August, 1817," he says in his Treatise on the Nature, Extent, and Effects of Pauperism, "an opportunity occurred to me of com

, mencing an experiment on the subject of pauperism in the township of Stretford, in the parish of Manchester--a district partly manufacturing, but principally agricultural, and containing about 2,000 acres of land, and as many inhabitants.”

The originality and the success of the Stretford experiment were the foundation of Mr. Walker's advancement in public life. His record of his Stretford work was not published until 1826; but in 1822 the principal inhabitants of the township met and offered him a handsome silver cup, as “a tribute of gratitude” for the good work he had done. In 1823 he was in communication with Sir Robert Peel on the subject he had made his own; and at which, like President Lincoln, he “pegged away” to the time of his death. Sir Robert writes :

“I beg leave to thank you for the sensible observations with which you have been good enough to favour me, on the subject of the administration of the Poor Laws. I have long thought that many advantages would arise from leaving the powers of the select vestry more free from external control. I beg to enclose a copy of Mr. Nolan's Bill, which is very shortly about to be submitted to the consideration of the House. Should anything occur to you with respect to its provisions, and particularly with respect to the mode of keeping the accounts of the parish which it attempts to prescribe and regulate, perhaps you will favour me with your suggestions. I fear it would be expensive and very difficult to establish by law an uniform system of accounts.

To the clause relating to the Badging of the poor I object”

Four days after the date of Sir Robert Peel's letter Mr. Walker replied

I have the honour to submit to you my opinion on Mr. Nolan's Bill, which I have examined with attention. I regret to say I do not discover throughout its numerous provisions any acquaintance with practical effect, any ray of the new lights in political economy or even any attempt to bring back pauperism within the limits of the 43rd Elizabeth—on the contrary, the provisions of that injurious statute the 9 Geo. I. are adopted and enlarged, and the interference of the justices and the providing employment of the able-bodied poor are extended beyond all precedent. Mr. Nolan aims at the perpetual regulation of bad principles instead of their gradual abolition, and I ain convinced that the further recognition of such principles will produce more evil than any regulation of them can produce good. The Bill appears to me a striking illustration of the following passages from Blackstone. When the 43rd Elizabeth was neglected and departed from, we cannot but observe with concern what miserable shifts and lame expedients have from time to time been adopted, in order to patch up the flaws occasioned by this neglect.' And again, • The farther any subsequent flaws for maintaining the poor have departed from the 43rd Elizabeth, the more impracticable and even pernicious their visionary attempts have proved. As long as Poor Laws exist, the 43rd Elizabeth, so far as relates to classification and limitation of objects, seems incapable of improvement.

“To enter a little into details—the perpetual interference of the justices is making bad worse, and preventing effect from over fear of abuse. The badging, I think, is bad in principle, and would be repugnant to the national feeling, and with the proposed modification quite unavailing.

“The proposal of degrading the constitutional force of the realm by making it a place of punishment for the scum of pauperism surely needs no comment; but I will add that it would be, for more than one reason, utterly impracticable.

“With respect to the mode of keeping the accounts it appears to me much too complicated for agricultural or small parishes, and in manufacturing districts and large towns (as far as my knowledge goes) the accounts are kept and examined by persons perfectly conversant with business, and any parliamentary regulation would he unnecessary and perhaps embarrassing.

« PreviousContinue »