Reminiscences of Old Hastings

From Historical Hastings

Authored by Arthur Ransom for a Victorian Periodical published in October of 1899.

[ 1 ]

Reminiscences of Old Hastings.[edit]

Arthur Ransom[edit]

Temple bar, June 1898-Dec. 1901; Oct 1899; 118, 467;[edit]

The Hastings of to-day might easily be mistaken for a mere modern creation of a syndicate of railway shareholders and builders. But when I was a boy it had a character of its own. Now, it is like a score of other places, all of which have the same raw-new terraces, parades, piers, bathing-machines and banjo minstrelsy.

Then, the glamour of a long and dramatic history still hung over it. Its streets, its houses, its people and their ways and manners, not a little of its vocabulary, belonged to the past. The tide of modern life was beginning to flow into it; but the newcomers were not cordially welcomed by many of the true sons of the place. “Who are you? You are only a —— stranger!” was the vigorously expressed protest of a native in his cups to a new resident; and the expression was so characteristic of the sentiments of the hereditary ”Hastingers,” that it became among the friends of the “stranger” in question a colloquial definition of a newcomer: “One of old S——’s men, a —— stranger.” The utterance was the expression of a prophetic instinct; the stranger has conquered the place, has, it is true, given it a kind of prosperity, but has dissipated the glamour that hung over it. Goths and Vandals are now in possession. Stucco and villadom, the lodging-house keeper and the tripper, are all very well—but Hastings is not what it was. What was once an archaic almost an ideal, home has become a caravanserai.

In the early decades of the century, it was still not difficult to detect some historic continuity between the old partly legendary times and the present. The past lingered as if loth to go. A suggestion of Celtic days lingered in Minnis Rock; Tor Hill must have got its name from the Saxons. Does anyone in Hastings now know shrimps by the archaic name of “ pandle”? The men who pushed their hand-nets through the shallow water on the sands were “ pandlers”; now, if such nets are used at all,[ 2 ]the users of them are “shrimpers.” The old word is a mystery, no one knows its origin; but it was in use all along the south coast. It survives {only in the generic name given to the deep-water shrimp — Pandalus — by Dr. Leach; and it owes this form of survival to the facts that Dr. Leach was born at Plymouth and that he died more than sixty years ago. All sorts of linguistic importations were to be detected in the vocabulary of the fishermen, who were themselves evidently more Norse than Anglo-Saxon. Swain, a common name among them — was it not modern for Sweyn ?

Hastings had existed a century when Hesting the pirate ravaged both coasts of the Channel. It probably owes its origin to the Norse tribe of Hastingas; and in Anglo-Saxon times it was frequently referred to in still extant documents as distinct from Sussex. The Danish axe gave a nick-name to the people of Hastings which was frequently heard, though probably seldom understood, when I was a boy there, “Hastings chop-backs” was the opprobrious epithet applied to us by invidious neighbours; and we were told that our sailors and privateers — and I fear our pirates and smugglers—had been wont to attack their foes by chopping them down the back. There was no little of the old Viking left in our fishermen. They held themselves proudly aloof from the other inhabitants; and poor as many of them were, they were wont to despise matrimonial alliances with the artizan class. A fisher-girl would toss her head and say of even a decent suitor, “ He’s only a mechanic.” There was the pride both of race and profession among the fishermen. On a Sunday afternoon, knots of burly, handsome fishermen might be seen in their cleaned-up attire—jerseys or sleeved waistcoats — slowly parading the streets with the air of aristocrats of a much bluer blood than the shopkeepers.

Among them were still to be found traces of their ancient Christianised paganism. On my first nocturnal mackerel yoyage with an old fisherman and his crew, I noticed that the old man, when he threw out the small barrel which acts as float to the line to which the nets are attached, uttered a kind of sing-song incantation. I persuaded him to repeat it that I might take it down. It is, perhaps, altogether forgotten now — for the schoolmaster has been abroad—and even then, it was probably a corrupt fragment, It ran as follows :—

“Watch, barrel! watch,
Mackerels for to catch;
White may they be
Like blossom on the tree.

[ 3 ]

God send us hundreds,
One, two, and three !
Some by the head,
Some by the tail;
God send them, never fail !
Some by the cheek,
Some by the chin,
God send us two plarims in—Amen.”

A “plarim” is a fish-room in a boat. This is another word with a lost history; it has a classical sound about it. My old friend had inherited his incantation, and it doubtless was but the modern representative of a custom brought by the Vikings from the north.

Hastings, that prided itself upon being the leading member of the ancient Cinque Ports, had not in my young days quite lost its Cinque Ports traditions, The coast-line had long since changed, the valley to the west of the Castle had become silted up, and the place could no longer be called a “port” in the sense of having a harbour. But ship-building was still carried on; and I have seen many a brig and schooner launched from the stocks there. All our coal and most of our merchandize came to us by sea in these vessels, which were beached at high-tide, unloaded rapidly, and floated off again at the next tide. If a gale sprang up in the meantime, the vessel was often knocked to pieces on the shore. Coal was often scarce in winter when sou’-westers blew for weeks together; and there was sometimes a troublesome delay in the arrival of fruit for our Christmas puddings. The Pelican, or the Osprey, or the William Pitt — we called her the Billy Pitt — would be in the Downs, or perhaps would not have left port, when we ought to have been enjoying her cargo.

Of course, there was not a little superstition lingering among the beach hands as well as among the landsmen. A new vessel was, on a certain occasion, ready for launching. ‘The jacks were under her, and the men were in the rigging to shake her and give her the initial motion, but she would not stir. Presently, a black retriever was discovered on board. The poor creature was well tarred, and chivied away. The vessel slipped gallantly into the water at once. That afternoon, Widow ——, a reputed witch living in a house I knew well, reached her home covered with tar. The Psychical Research Society might be interested to learn that Thad this story from the son of the woman who washed the tar from the widow. But witch and witnesses have all been dead for many years; and it is possible that I alone am left to tell the tale. [ 4 ]On another occasion, the same black retriever aroused the ire of the beachmen, who pelted her with stones and broke one of her fore-logs. Poor Widow —— went home that day with a broken arm! There was superstition in the air; life seemed charged with it at times, like a thunder-cloud, among the uneducated and even persons who felt themselves bound to “know better” had their queasy hours.

Among the earliest things that I can remember is the name of “Spring-heeled Jack,” a mythical Satanic incarnation who, in other places besides Hastings, was supposed to amuse himself by leaping over houses in the night. His existence was firmly believed in by the more credulous of the Hastings natives; and T can almost identify in my memory the houses upon the roofs of which he was said to have left his footprints in the snow. The lonelier places about the hills, and the elenge [an Old English, Chaucerian word that still lingered among us with the sense of uncannily lonely] parts of the woods, had more than a natural mystery about them.

The glory of the Cinque Ports, privateering — and piracy — had faded away and ended with the Napoleonic wars; and no legitimate outlet for the old Vikinger passion for the sea was left to the men of Hastings but their fishery and a vanishing coasting trade, Hence our people readily took to smuggling, which was both profitable and congenial. It combined the elements of danger, speculation, and good cash returns. The roughest of the smuggling days were over before my time, but I heard of them from eye-and-ear witnesses; and my early years were contemporary with a “free trade” that was scarcely less in amount if it was not so recklessly carried on. Severe repressive measures compelled the smugglers to be more crafty, but by no means stopped their illicit traffic. My elders used to tell of armed gangs of smugglers tyrannising over the villagers as they carried their barrels inland, “borrowing” farmers’ horses by night while the farmers lay prudently still in their beds knowing that they should find their horses in their places in the morning with a keg or two among the straw as payment for the “loan.”

But, even in my own time, few were ashamed of being known to smuggle or of using smuggled goods. Ono of our most distinguished medical men — a lending member of “society” — was called up one night to visit a smuggler who had been badly shot in an affray with the coastguard and had been dragged by his mates into a lonely cottage among the cliffs. The medical man gave out that he had been to attend upon a woman in childbirth.Some of our leading tradesmen were openly-avowed -On another occasion, the same black retriever aroused the ire of the beachmen, who pelted her with stones and broke one of her fore-logs. Poor Widow —— went home that day with a broken arm! ‘There was superstition in the air; life seemed charged with it at times, like a thunder-cloud, among the uneducated and even persons who felt themselves bound to “know better” had their queasy hours.

Among the earliest things that I can remember is the name of “Spring-heeled Jack,” a mythical Satanic incarnation who, in other places besides Hastings, was supposed to amuse himself by leaping over houses in the night. His existence was firmly believed in by the more credulous of the Hastings natives; and T can almost identify in my memory the houses upon the roofs of which he was said to have left his footprints in the snow. The lonelier places about the hills, and the elenge [an Old English, Chaucerian word that still lingered among us with the sense of uncannily lonely] parts of the woods, had more than a natural mystery about them.

The glory of the Cinque Ports, privateering — and piracy — had faded away and ended with the Napoleonic wars; and no legitimate outlet for the old Vikinger passion for the sea was left to the men of Hastings but their fishery and a vanishing coasting trade, Hence our people readily took to smuggling, which was both profitable and congenial. It combined the elements of danger, speculation, and good cash returns. The roughest of the smuggling days were over before my time, but I heard of them from eye-and-ear witnesses; and my early years were contemporary with a “free trade” that was scarcely less in amount if it was not so recklessly carried on. Severe repressive measures compelled the smugglers to be more crafty, but by no means stopped their illicit traffic. My elders used to tell of armed gangs of smugglers tyrannising over the villagers as they carried their barrels inland, “borrowing” farmers’ horses by night while the farmers lay prudently still in their beds knowing that they should find their horses in their places in the morning with a keg or two among the straw as payment for the “loan.”

But, even in my own time, few were ashamed of being known to smuggle or of using smuggled goods. Ono of our most distinguished medical men — a lending member of “society” — was called up one night to visit a smuggler who had been badly shot in an affray with the coastguard and had been dragged by his mates into a lonely cottage among the cliffs. The medical man gave out that he had been to attend upon a woman in childbirth.Some of our leading tradesmen were openly-avowed [ 5 ]smugglers. I learnt my first Latin with their sons at school. For years, when I was in my teens, there sat in the same pew with me on Sundays a respectable tradesman, whose place in the pew was once empty for months. He had fallen from the cliff and broken his leg while trying to escape from the coastguard who had caught him and his mates in the act of running a cargo of barrels. The “artful dodges” by which the smuggler, who were contemporary with my childhood, tried to evade detection would afford abundant material for many a “ winter’s tale.”

That it is no longer infra dig. for a native of Hastings to drink brandy on which the duty has been paid, or that no self-respecting Hastinger is now proud of being a smuggler, is not a matter for regret. We have, happily, changed all that. But it may be forgiven to an old man to confess that the recollection of these things has a not unpleasant piquancy about it, Other times, other manners. The “condemned hole” — a kind of high-fenced pound on the beach—in which smugglers’ boats were broken up to be sold as old timber; the jolly face of So-and-so; the sturdy frame of So-and-so; the many imprisonments of So-and-so; the tales told by my companions of an uncle shot, of another imprisoned, and of others who escaped sorely wounded — these things have the glamour of romance to me, Perhaps the latest memento of smuggling at Hastings that came under my observation was the sight, not many years ago, of a hero of the old days stumping along upon two wooden legs, he having lost his own in some of his mad adventures.

But enough about what is well got rid of. There were other sides of life in Hastings, things and persons that it is allowable to remember with a keen delight, and the passing away of which and of whom may be legitimately regretted. These things and persons doubtless have their modern representatives there now; but those representatives are not so conspicuous; they are lost in the mob, they do not give their own character to the place as their predecessors did. What are a handful of literary men and women, or of choice spirits who seldom put pen to paper or brush to canvas but are books and pictures in themselves, among fifty thousand people, nearly all of whom are either incessantly going and coming, or are continuously occupied in catering for the birds of passage? It is the birds of passage who now give a character to the place; in that earlier time they were either temporarily absorbed into the resident society—if they were fit for it—or served merely as a foil to the characteristic local community. The town was then Hastings first, and a watering-place next; now it is a watering-place first, and the name Hastings is little [ 6 ]more than a topographical ticket by which its locality can be discovered.

I am not writing a guide book, but before I attempt to show that the Hastings of old had a very conspicuous flavour of letters, that it was literary without being pedantic, that its leaders were men and women of cultured originality without being eccentric, I may be permitted to note the — perhaps inevitable — fact that the extension of the inhabited area has not only substituted streets and houses for fields and woods, but has also robbed what remains of the adjacent country of its quaint and charming naturalness, The locality was almost unique along our south-eastern coast. The geological character of the hills and cliffs of the Wealden formation made it different from all our other southern points of attraction. It was as picturesque and as fascinating to the lover of nature as any locality on the coasts of Devonshire or Cornwall, while it also possessed what may be called a natural idiosyncrasy that differentiated it from all other localities. Much of this is, of course, indestructible; but modern art (?) has done its best, or worst, to obscure this idiosyncrasy as much as possible, The place is like a precious gem that has boon ruthlessly depreciated by bad cutting and tasteless pinchbeck setting. No attempt has been made — unfortunately no such attempt could have been expected from speculative builders and short-sighted lodging-house proprietors—at an artistic subordination of the development of the town to the natural features of the locality. The opportunity to make it a delight to the cultured eye is gone; and perhaps nothing could now renew that opportunity short of a destructive bombardment and a century or two of lying absolutely fallow.

Happily, the old castle stands at too great an elevation to be put out of sight by stuccoed villas; but it is cribbed and cabined on two of its three sides by buildings which obscure the natural picturesqueness of the bill, and the ruins almost appear to be perched upon the roofs of the houses. Recent generations, however, must not be held responsible for this, as the mischief was already done early in the century. It was also the carelessness of the Hastings people a hundred or more years ago that inflicted upon the town the loss of common right over the hill upon the southern point of which the castle stands, and the consequent necessity, a few years ago, of spending many thousands of public money to save the “Lady’s Parlour” and the breezy West Hill from the insatiable builder.

Is that quaint and evidently historical name of “ Lady's Parlour” still remembered in connection with the singular [ 7 ]flat-topped rocky eminence which is separated by a deep trench from the castle that it overlooks? The name must certainly have been derived from the chapel and college of St. Mary, founded in the castle in very early Norman times. The “Lady's Parlour” has a kind of rampart on two sides of its level, softly turfed area, a rampart that has every appearance of being artificial, and that pleasantly screens the “ Parlour” from cold winds, Is it too far-fetched a supposition that the canons conceived the “happy thought” of naming this pleasant resort of theirs “Our Lady's Parlour”? I fear that the name is disappearing even from the guide books; but the boys and girls who in former times made the place their favourite playground will never forget it.

In the early decades of this century, when Hastings had been only recently discovered by men of taste and genuine love of the beautiful in nature, the settlers there as well as the visitors were such as could, and did, appreciate the unspoiled features of the place. They lived there — not as many now do - because they could get there the same social life as in London plus the sea air, but because they could get there an indescribable but very tangible something which was the antithesis of town life, a something which appealed perhaps more strongly to the cultured mind of a generation or two ago than to the more artificially-cultured mind of to-day. There are such men and women living there to-day, but they are as a rule to be found in those parts of the town which retain most of the Hastings of old, and their presence — as I have already said — exercises a scarcely appreciable influence upon the general character of the place..

In giving my reminiscences of people, it behoves me to be chary of mentioning names which are not already public property. It must be understood, therefore, that the names I mention are representative of quite a little community of men and women many of whom might, had circumstances or ambition impelled them, have also made their names public property. ‘The virtues and talents which made these locally honoured were of a similar quality to those of their more famous relatives and friends. ‘The indefinite social community which I have in mind was composed in part of residents, and in part of visitors who either remained in the town a long time or frequently returned to it, and who associated with the residents much more intimately than it is now the custom for seaside visitors to do,

Among the residents were the Norths, whose name was familiar to me from my infancy as a “household word.” As descendants of the Dudley Norths they held Rougham in Norfolk; but they spent most of their time in their pleasant residence in [ 8 ]Hastings. Frederic North, head of the house, was several times member for Hastings, generally receiving the support of voters of both parties. “Take him for all in ell” one can hope seldom to see his like again. Something of what who was may be inferred from the fact that his daughter, Marianne North, declared him to have been the “one idol and friend of her life.” That daughter, whose queenly presence and sweet charm make up one of the dearest pictures of my memory, after devoting the first forty years of her life to her father, sought solace and occupation in travelling alone over the world and painting those pictures which she afterwards so generously housed in the “North” Gallery at Kew. The compulsory leisure of her last years she employed in writing those delightful “ Recollections of a Happy Life” which were published under the loving editing of her sister, the wife - now, alas, the widow - of John Addington Symons.

Next to the Norths, the Leigh-Smiths should be mentioned, a family of remarkable boys and girls as I first remember them. When the Crimean War broke out, the sons took a leading part in the first Volunteer movement, and the daughters — fired by the example of Florence Nightingale — took lessons in sick-nursing. For ladies to take lessons in nursing was an original idea in those days; but, said Barbara Leigh-Smith, the eldest daughter (of whom more anon), “Our brothers are preparing to defend us; why should not we be prepared to nurse them?” Leigh-Smith, the eldest son, has since become one of the most ardent arctic explorers, and his name has been given to those arctic lands whence he and his comrades hardly escaped with their lives by leaving their ship, the Eira, behind them. The eldest daughter, Barbara, will long be remembered as Madame Bodichon, one of the first and most generous founders of Girton, the most intimate and the most constant friend of George Eliot, a pioneer philanthropist in many ways public and private. With the Leigh-Smiths, and particularly with Barbara, were associated more or less intimately, at different periods, Dante Rossetti, Moore (the sea-painter), and a host of other artists, besides literary men and women not a few. Among the survivors of this coterie, who are growing few, are Bessie Raynor Parkes (Madame Belloc), who began her literary career as a poet and now delights the public with her published recollections; and Miss Betham-Edwards, the interpreter of French home life and the accomplished and successful novelist.

In the society of which the men and women mentioned above were some of the most widely known representatives, conversation, [ 9 ]the art of the raconteur, racy gossip of the most brilliant kind, would naturally enliven the most accidental meetings. As a small boy I was often a delighted listener; and the intense interest with which I silently assisted at such interviews must have amused my elders. This frequent opportunity of hearing the impromptu utterances of broad-minded, unconventional, cultured, travelled, and high-toned men and women was a distinct and valuable element in my education. I consciously enjoyed it at the time; and in later years I have learned to attach to it afar higher value than it was possible for me then to ascribe to it. Literature, art, travel, the more important contemporary events at home and abroad, men of note, the latest developments of intellectual life—everything was at one time or another touched upon from the standpoint of an intimate knowledge both of the subjects and of the personal actors in the events.

Among these rare “ gossipers,” were not only permanent residents in the town, but men who were birds of passage, or whose stay among us lasted only a year or two. One of these latter was Sam Philips, the brilliant author of the not-yet-forgotten “Essays from the Times,“ the writer of the first “Guide to the Crystal Palace and Park,“ the man who dared to “slate,” in the Times, Mrs. Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin“ just when the furor of public admiration of it was at its strongest. I remember the glee with which he told of his deed; and I remember also the pain with which we heard that the genial satirist and keen critic and — which were the characteristics in him that most interested me at the time — the witty raconteur and amiable man, was dead.

As I am writing, my memory fills with the faces of many who earlier and later during the twenty years or so that these notes may be allowed to cover, formed part of the everyday life of the old town. Some I only knew as figures walking about among us, others I often listened to and, as I passed from small boy to young man, talked to, Among the former was Samuel Prout, who originated a new school of drawing sixty years ago, and who spent a part of his invalided life among us. Among the latter were several notable physicians: George Moore, best known to the public through his ‘Power of the Soul over the Body,’ and specially endeared to us by his attractive character; James Mackness, author of ‘The Moral Aspects of Medical Life,’ the highest authority half a century ago upon the pathology and treatment of clergyman’s sore throat, and one of the most active and popular of the citizens of Hastings; William Alexander Greenhill, a scholar as well as a, physician, a contemporary and [ 10 ]friend — rather on the intellectual and scholarly side than the doctrinal — of the great men of Oxford who dated from the thirties, a correspondent, as readers of their biographies may remember, of Thomas Arnold, Pusey, Samuel Wilberforce, and others of like eminence.

The names I have mentioned may not at first sight appear to belong to one and the same intellectual category. But by intermediate links the extreme personalities were more or less connected, and as a whole they appeared to mo to give the intellectual tone to the place. They were all men and women with mental force of character enough to throw into the background what dogmatic or other differences there might be between them. In fact, in the earliest years covered by these reminiscences dogmatic or sectarian influences were not very pronounced among us. The Established Church was still comparatively somnolent. There were growing, but as yet not conspicuous, undercurrents of pietism; but Nonconformity, represented principally by the oldest Congregational Church in the town, was for a long time under the guidance of a scholarly pastor — William Davis — who made a mark among the readers of divinity in his time by his thoughtful essay on ‘ The ‘True Dignity of Human Nature.’

It was in a new church built to the westward of the old part of the town, that the distinctive Evangelicalism of the establishment first found a voice; but that voice, when it was heard, was potent enough to win a sufficient clientéle to keep out of the town for a long time the new High Churchism of the Oxford Movement. Hastings has never had a man like Frederick Robertson of Brighton; and at present, I believe, the Establishment there is divided between Evangelicalism and several shades of Ritualism. The more pronounced literary element of Hastings life in the forties and fifties — represented by the Norths, the Leigh-Smiths, and others who belonged to the same coterie—never found adequate expression in any Hastings pulpit.

The Roman Catholic convent and church had not, in my youth, been in existence long enough to become a centre of influence. By a stroke of good luck or by prophetic instinct, the Roman Catholics had secured a large piece of what was then merely agricultural land, midway between the new township of St. Leonards and the old town of Hastings, This land now occupies a most valuable central position in the largely developed modern borough.

I cannot omit a reference to school life at Hastings in the thirties and early forties. Several old endowments, which under new schemes have since been made the germs of a fully organised [ 11 ]grammar school and of other public schools of a useful character, were then very inefficiently utilised. Hastings was far away from the universities and from any influential public school, and lacked the stimulus afforded by opportunities of pushing into good educational careers, Those who wished their sons — daughters were not so much thought of, educationally — to obtain a better education than that which was given by the parish or the scarcely better endowed schools of the place, either sent their sons away, or sent them to one of the small private day schools. It was in one of those private day-schools that my first school-years were passed.

The master — Robert Carr — deserves mention as a superior example of an extinct type. Teaching was not his original avocation, and he took to it late in life less as a source of livelihood than because he longed for some congenial occupation. His schoolroom was a loft over the kitchen at the back of his house. We approached it along an open passage leading to a ladder at the top of which a trap-door admitted us to the floor of the room. The ceiling rose into the gable, and the light came from a slanting window in one side of the roof. There could never have been more than about thirty boys. Now aend then we had, for short periods, two or three of the boys’ sisters, on a form by themselves, sent to acquire some branch of learning not then ordinarily taught in girls’ schools. During a part of my time there we had as a fellow pupil an adult Jew who had fled from Morocco for some cause which we boys only imperfectly understood. His name was Solomon Mammon, and out of school-hours he traded in knick-knacks and nutmegs. The nutmegs were pronounced to be bad and hollow by those who purchased them. Solomon made no bad school-fellow, and as I recall him now it seems to me that he must have been a man of good position at home.

Carr taught us only English subjects—probably he knew no others; but what he professed to teach he taught well. His boast was that “he well grounded his pupils.” But however much knowledge he drilled into us, to many of us it is probable that the influence of his character was more valuable than all his pedagogic drill. Few boys worth anything could have passed through his hands without being morally as well as mentally the better for it. His influence over us was all the stronger because he could not help letting us see, despite his discipline and his cane, that in many respects he was as much a boy as any of ourselves. He was absolutely innocent of cant, and he abhorred humbug of all kinds. He never preached to us, never rode the high, moral, didactic horse, never indulged in long-set addresses. But now and then, unexpectedly, prompted by some sudden impulse, or wishing to -grammar school and of other public schools of a useful character, were then very inefficiently utilised. Hastings was far away from the universities and from any influential public school, and lacked the stimulus afforded by opportunities of pushing into good educational careers, Those who wished their sons — daughters were not so much thought of, educationally — to obtain a better education than that which was given by the parish or the scarcely better endowed schools of the place, either sent their sons away, or sent them to one of the small private day schools. It was in one of those private day-schools that my first school-years were passed.

The master — Robert Carr — deserves mention as a superior example of an extinct type. Teaching was not his original avocation, and he took to it late in life less as a source of livelihood than because he longed for some congenial occupation. His schoolroom was a loft over the kitchen at the back of his house. We approached it along an open passage leading to a ladder at the top of which a trap-door admitted us to the floor of the room. The ceiling rose into the gable, and the light came from a slanting window in one side of the roof. There could never have been more than about thirty boys. Now aend then we had, for short periods, two or three of the boys’ sisters, on a form by themselves, sent to acquire some branch of learning not then ordinarily taught in girls’ schools. During a part of my time there we had as a fellow pupil an adult Jew who had fled from Morocco for some cause which we boys only imperfectly understood. His name was Solomon Mammon, and out of school-hours he traded in knick-knacks and nutmegs. The nutmegs were pronounced to be bad and hollow by those who purchased them. Solomon made no bad school-fellow, and as I recall him now it seems to me that he must have been a man of good position at home.

Carr taught us only English subjects—probably he knew no others; but what he professed to teach he taught well. His boast was that “he well grounded his pupils.” But however much knowledge he drilled into us, to many of us it is probable that the influence of his character was more valuable than all his pedagogic drill. Few boys worth anything could have passed through his hands without being morally as well as mentally the better for it. His influence over us was all the stronger because he could not help letting us see, despite his discipline and his cane, that in many respects he was as much a boy as any of ourselves. He was absolutely innocent of cant, and he abhorred humbug of all kinds. He never preached to us, never rode the high, moral, didactic horse, never indulged in long-set addresses. But now and then, unexpectedly, prompted by some sudden impulse, or wishing to [ 12 ]“improve” in his peculiar way some “occasion,” he would stand up in front of the top desk, and stop our work, Tapping his snuff-box, he would exclaim, “Boys!” And then he would utter, in the simplest manner possible, some half-dozen pithy sentences, perhaps giving his matter a humorous form, or more often pathetic one, What he said was too brief and too striking to be forgotten, and when he had said it work was quietly resumed.

He was a very good reader — not declamatory, but perfectly natural — and the pleasure he felt in reading aloud was frequently a temptation which he could not resist. The afternoon was the time when he read to us. To save us from disorder we were supposed to be writing our copies while he read. When our copybooks were spread upon our desks and our pens duly mended — I never saw anyone else mend a pen as he could — he would sit upon the top of the front desk facing us, and begin the reading. Except as to two occasions I forget all about what he read to us, On one of those two occasions he read ‘Rip van Winkle’ from a pirated French edition of the ‘Sketch Book,’ borrowed of a friend who kept the lending library on the Marine Parade, How the old man laughed, and how we laughed in unison! What it was he read on the other occasion I have forgotten, but it was something so genuinely pathetic that the old man’s voice broke with emotion, and tears flowed freely from his eyes, We lost all consciousness of being at school: we were for the time all boys together.

Carr's school was nearly broken up when the townspeople established a Proprietary Grammar School, and drafted into it many of their sons, myself among the rest. But Carr persevered with his diminishing number, until all the boys left but one. He taught that one for a fortnight, and then the lad’s mother, declaring she “ would have no more of that nonsense,” took her son away. Much of the old man’s subsequent leisure was spent in talking about his “old boys,” many of whom rose to positions of honour and usefulness in their native town or elsewhere. Several were mayors of Hastings. But Carr’s pet “old boy” was Isaac Todhunter. How many times in Inter years has the dear old man talked to me about Todhunter! Little Isaac was a dunce at figures, exceptionally so, until one day he was more bothered than usual with a role of three sum, But Carr put the boy on his mettle, and insisted upon his working at the sum until he conquered it. When at last Isaac succeeded, Carr gave a very unusual expression of his approval, and this — the old man asserted, and probably with correctness — was the stimulus that awoke Todhunter’s hitherto latent mathematical talent, There was in little Isaac the future mathematical light of Cambridge [ 13 ]in embryo; and at that moment the embryo began to germinate. Carr has been dead many years and most of his pupils have followed him, When he died, some of his pupils — Todhunter conspicuous among them — obtained his widow's permission to express their loving admiration of him by placing a suitable headstone on his grave.

With an old man’s garrulity, I could write much more. The name of old Hastings is to me like a spark upon the tinder in the tinder-boxes we used before lucifer matches were introduced. ‘That spark would continue to spread over the tinder with very little blowing. But I must clap on the lid of the tinder-box. I only hope that the children of to-day will find as much cause to remember the surroundings of their childhood with loving reverence as I find. With Longfellow,

“Often I think of the dear old town
That is seated by the sea;”

and with him, I find there the faces in the street are strange. But with him, too, I send back my thoughts to my “dear old town,” with pleasure that is almost pain.” Life now has more conveniences, there is more polish, there is more knowledge, and knowledge is more widely diffused; but I cannot discover that hearts are truer, motives purer, aspirations nobler, or thought more profound, now than then.