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Autobiography and Selected Essays

Commencement Of The Most Valuable Friendship Of My
Life
COMMENCEMENT OF THE MOST VALUABLE FRIENDSHIP OF MY LIFE.
MY FATHER'S DEATH. WRITINGS AND OTHER PROCEEDINGS UP TO
1840.
It was the period of my mental progress which I have now reached that I formed the
friendship which has been the honour and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the
source of a great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to effect hereafter, for
human improvement. My first introduction to the lady who, after a friendship of twenty
years, consented to become my wife, was in 1830, when I was in my twenty-fifth and she
in her twenty-third year. With her husband's family it was the renewal of an old
acquaintanceship. His grandfather lived in the next house to my father's in Newington
Green, and I had sometimes when a boy been invited to play in the old gentleman's
garden. He was a fine specimen of the old Scotch puritan; stern, severe, and powerful, but
very kind to children, on whom such men make a lasting impression. Although it was
years after my introduction to Mrs. Taylor before my acquaintance with her became at all
intimate or confidential, I very soon felt her to be the most admirable person I had ever
known. It is not to be supposed that she was, or that any one, at the age at which I first
saw her, could be, all that she afterwards became. Least of all could this be true of her,
with whom self-improvement, progress in the highest and in all senses, was a law of her
nature; a necessity equally from the ardour with which she sought it, and from the
spontaneous tendency of faculties which could not receive an impression or an
experience without making it the source or the occasion of an accession of wisdom. Up to
the time when I first saw her, her rich and powerful nature had chiefly unfolded itself
according to the received type of feminine genius. To her outer circle she was a beauty
and a wit, with an air of natural distinction, felt by all who approached her: to the inner, a
woman of deep and strong feeling, of penetrating and intuitive intelligence, and of an
eminently meditative and poetic nature. Married at an early age to a most upright, brave,
and honourable man, of liberal opinions and good education, but without the intellectual
or artistic tastes which would have made him a companion for her, though a steady and
affectionate friend, for whom she had true esteem and the strongest affection through life,
and whom she most deeply lamented when dead; shut out by the social disabilities of
women from any adequate exercise of her highest faculties in action on the world
without; her life was one of inward meditation, varied by familiar intercourse with a
small circle of friends, of whom one only (long since deceased) was a person of genius,
or of capacities of feeling or intellect kindred with her own, but all had more or less of
alliance with her in sentiments and opinions. Into this circle I had the good fortune to be
admitted, and I soon perceived that she possessed in combination, the qualities which in
all other persons whom I had known I had been only too happy to find singly. In her,
complete emancipation from every kind of superstition (including that which attributes a
pretended perfection to the order of nature and the universe), and an earnest protest
against many things which are still part of the established constitution of society, resulted
not from the hard intellect, but from strength of noble and elevated feeling, and co-
 
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