Autobiography HTML version

the extraordinary energy which was required to lead the life he led, with the
disadvantages under which he laboured from the first, and with those which he brought
upon himself by his marriage. It would have been no small thing, had he done no more
than to support himself and his family during so many years by writing, without ever
being in debt, or in any pecuniary difficulty; holding, as he did, opinions, both in politics
and in religion, which were more odious to all persons of influence, and to the common
run of prosperous Englishmen, in that generation than either before or since; and being
not only a man whom nothing would have induced to write against his convictions, but
one who invariably threw into everything he wrote, as much of his convictions as he
thought the circumstances would in any way permit: being, it must also be said, one who
never did anything negligently; never undertook any task, literary or other, on which he
did not conscientiously bestow all the labour necessary for performing it adequately. But
he, with these burdens on him, planned, commenced, and completed, the History of India;
and this in the course of about ten years, a shorter time than has been occupied (even by
writers who had no other employment) in the production of almost any other historical
work of equal bulk, and of anything approaching to the same amount of reading and
research. And to this is to be added, that during the whole period, a considerable part of
almost every day was employed in the instruction of his children: in the case of one of
whom, myself, he exerted an amount of labour, care, and perseverance rarely, if ever,
employed for a similar purpose, in endeavouring to give, according to his own
conception, the highest order of intellectual education.
A man who, in his own practice, so vigorously acted up to the principle of losing no time,
was likely to adhere to the same rule in the instruction of his pupil. I have no
remembrance of the time when I began to learn Greek; I have been told that it was when I
was three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject, is that of committing to
memory what my father termed vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their
signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some
years later, I learnt no more than the inflections of the nouns and verbs, but, after a course
of vocables, proceeded at once to translation; and I faintly remember going through
Aesop's Fables, the first Greek book which I read. The Anabasis, which I remember
better, was the second. I learnt no Latin until my eighth year. At that time I had read,
under my father's tuition, a number of Greek prose authors, among whom I remember the
whole of Herodotus, and of Xenophon's Cyropaedia and Memorials of Socrates; some of
the lives of the philosophers by Diogenes Laertius; part of Lucian, and Isocrates ad
Demonicum and Ad Nicoclem. I also read, in 1813, the first six dialogues (in the
common arrangement) of Plato, from the Euthyphron to the Theoctetus inclusive: which
last dialogue, I venture to think, would have been better omitted, as it was totally
impossible I should understand it. But my father, in all his teaching, demanded of me not
only the utmost that I could do, but much that I could by no possibility have done. What
he was himself willing to undergo for the sake of my instruction, may be judged from the
fact, that I went through the whole process of preparing my Greek lessons in the same
room and at the same table at which he was writing: and as in those days Greek and
English lexicons were not, and I could make no more use of a Greek and Latin lexicon
than could be made without having yet begun to learn Latin, I was forced to have
recourse to him for the meaning of every word which I did not know. This incessant