The Life of John Coleridge Patteson by Charlotte Mary Yonge - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
After the Christmas holidays of 1837-8, when Coley Patteson was nearly eleven years old, he was sent to Eton, that most beautifully situated of public schools, whose delightful playing fields, noble trees, broad river, and exquisite view of Windsor Castle give it a peculiar charm, joining the venerable grandeur of age to the freshness and life of youth, so as to rivet the affections in no common degree.
It was during the head-mastership of Dr. Hawtrey that Patteson became, in schoolboy phrase, an Eton fellow, being boarded in the house of his uncle, the Rev. Edward Coleridge, one of the most popular and successful Eton masters. Several of his cousins were also in this house, with other boys who became friends of his whole life, and he was thoroughly happy there, although in these early days he still felt each departure from home severely, and seldom failed to write a mournful letter after the holidays. There is one, quite pathetic in its simplicity, telling his mother how he could not say his prayers nor fall asleep on his first night till he had resolutely put away the handkerchief that seemed for some reason a special link with home. It illustrates what all who remember him say, how thoroughly a childlike being he still was, though a well-grown, manly, high-spirited boy, quite able to take care of himself, keep his place, and hold his own.
He was placed in the lower remove of the fourth form, which was then 'up to' the Rev. Charles Old Goodford, i.e. that was he who taught the division so called in school.
The boy was evidently well prepared, for he was often captain of his division, and his letters frequently tell of successes of this kind, while they anticipate 'Montem.'
That of 1838 was a brilliant one, for Queen Victoria, then only nineteen, and her first year of sovereignty not yet accomplished, came from the Castle to be driven in an open carriage to Salt Hill and bestow her Royal contribution.
In the throng little Patteson was pressed up so close to the Royal carriage that he became entangled in the wheel, and was on the point of being dragged under it, when the Queen, with ready presence of mind, held out her hand: he grasped it, and was able to regain his feet in safety, but did not recover his perceptions enough to make any sign of gratitude before the carriage passed on. He had all a boy's shyness about the adventure; but perhaps it served to quicken the personal loyalty which is an unfailing characteristic of 'Eton fellows.'
The Royal custom of the Sunday afternoon parade on the terrace of Windsor Castle for the benefit of the gazing public afforded a fine opportunity for cultivating this sentiment, and Coley sends an amusingly minute description of her Majesty's dress, evidently studied for his mother's benefit, even to the pink tips of her four long ostrich feathers, and calling to mind Chalon's water-colours of the Queen in her early youth. He finishes the description with a quaint little bit of moralising. 'It certainly is very beautiful with two bands playing on a calm, blessed Sunday evening, with the Queen of England and all her retinue walking about. It gives you an idea of the Majesty of God, who could in one short second turn it all into confusion. There is nothing to me more beautiful than the raising one's eyes to Heaven, and thinking with adoration who made this scene, and who could unmake it again.'
A few days later the record is of a very different scene, namely, Windsor Fair, when the Eton boys used to imagine they had a prescriptive right to make a riot and revel in the charms of misrule.
'On the second day the Eton fellows always make an immense row. So at the signal, when a thing was acting, the boys rushed in and pulled down the curtain, and commenced the row. I am happy to say I was not there. There were a great many soldiers there, and they all took our part. The alarm was given, and the police came. Then there was such a rush at the police. Some of them tumbled over, and the rest were half-knocked down. At last they took in custody three of our boys, upon which every boy that was there (amounting to about 450) was summoned. They burst open the door, knocked down the police, and rescued our boys. Meantime the boys kept on shying rotten eggs and crackers, and there was nothing but righting and rushing.'
A startling description! But this was nothing to the wild pranks that lived in the traditions of the elder generation; and in a few years more the boys were debarred from the mischievous licence of the fair.
Coley had now been nearly a year at Eton, and had proceeded through the lower and middle removes of the fourth form, when, on November 23, he achieved the success of which he thus writes:--
'Rejoice! I was sent up for good yesterday at eleven o'clock school. I do not know what copy of verses for yet, but directly I do, I will send you a copy.... Goodford, when I took my ticket to be signed (for I was obliged to get Goodford, Abraham, and my tutor to sign it), said, "I will sign it most willingly," and then kept on stroking my hand, and said, "I congratulate you most heartily, and am very glad of it." I am the only one who is sent up; which is a good thing for me, as it will give me forty or fifty good marks in trials. I am so splitting with joy you cannot think, because now I have given you some proof that I have been lately sapping and doing pretty well. Do not, think that I am praising myself, for I am pretty nearly beside myself, you may suppose.'
One of his cousins adds, on the same sheet: 'I must tell you it is very difficult to be sent up in the upper fourth form, and still more so in the middle remove.'
The subject of the Latin verses which obtained this distinction was a wreath or garland, and there must have been something remarkable in them, for Mr. Abraham preserved a copy of them for many years. There was something in the sweetness and docility of the boy, and in the expression of his calm, gentle face, that always greatly interested the masters and made them rejoice in his success; and among his comrades he was a universal favourite. His brother joined him at Eton during the ensuing year, when the Queen's wedding afforded the boys another glimpse of Royal festivity. Their tumultuous loyalty and audacity appear in Coley's letter:--
'In college, stretching from Hexter's to Mother Spier's was a magnificent representation of the Parthenon: there were three pillars, and a great thing like this (a not over-successful sketch of a pediment), with the Eton and Royal arms in the middle, and "Gratulatur Etona Victoria et Alberto" It cost £150, and there were 5,000 lamps hung on it. Throughout the whole day we all of us wore large white bridal favours and white gloves. Towards evening the clods got on Long Walk Wall; and as gentle means would not do, we were under the necessity of knocking some over, when the rest soon jumped off. However, F--- and myself declared we would go right into the quadrangle of the Castle, so we went into the middle of the road and formed a line. Soon a rocket (the signal that the Queen was at Slough) was let off, and then some Life Guards came galloping along, and one of them ran almost over me, and actually trod on F---'s toe, which put him into dreadful pain for some time. Then came the Queen's carriage, and I thought college would have tumbled down with the row. The cheering was really tremendous. The whole 550 fellows all at once roared away. The Queen and Consort nodding and bowing, smiling, &c. Then F--- and I made a rush to get up behind the Queen's carriage, but a dragoon with his horse almost knocked us over. So we ran by the side as well as we could, but the crowd was so immensely thick, we could not get on as quick as the Queen. We rushed along, knocking clean over all the clods we could, and rushing against the rest, and finally F--- and myself were the only Eton fellows that got into the quadrangle. As we got there, the Queen's carriage was going away. You may fancy that we were rather hot, running the whole way up to the Castle, besides the exertion of knocking over the clods and knocking at doors as we passed; but I was so happy.'
Such is bliss at twelve years old!
The first half-year of 1839 had brought Patteson into the Remove, that large division of the school intermediate between the fourth and fifth forms. The work was harder, and his diligence somewhat relaxed. In fact, the Coley of this period and of a good while later had more heart for play than work. Cricket, bathing, and boating were his delight; and though his school-work was conscientiously accomplished, it did not interest him; and when he imagined himself to have been working hard and well, it was a thunderbolt to him to find, at the end of the half-year, that a great deal more had been expected of him by his tutor. It shows how candid and sweet his nature was, that, just as when he was a little fellow at Ottery, his penitent letter should contain the rebuke he had received, without resentment against anyone but himself:--
'Aunt has just called me down into the drawing-room and shown me my character. I am stupefied at it; it is so shocking just when I most wanted a good one on account of mamma's health. I am ashamed to say that I can offer not the slightest excuse; my conduct on this occasion has been very bad. I expect a severe reproof from you, and pray do not send me any money, nor grant me the slightest [favour?]. Whilst ....., who has very little ability (uncle says), is, by plodding on, getting credit, I, who (my tutor says) have abilities, am wickedly neglecting and offending both my heavenly and earthly Father by my bad use of them. Aunt called me into the drawing-room, and very kindly showed me the excessive foolishness of my conduct; but from this very moment I am determined that I will not lose a moment, and we will see what the next three weeks will produce.'
Poor little fellow! his language is so strong that it is almost a surprise to find that he was reproaching himself for no more heinous fault than not having worked up to the full extent of his powers! He kept his promise of diligence, and never again incurred reproof, but was sent up for good again in November. His career through the school was above the average, though not attaining to what was expected from his capabilities; but the development of his nature was slow, and therefore perhaps ultimately the more complete, and as yet study for its own sake did not interest him; indeed, his mind was singularly devoid of pleasure in classical subjects, though so alert in other directions.
He was growing into the regular tastes of the refined, fastidious Eton boy; wrote of the cut of his first tail-coat that 'this is really an important thing;' and had grown choice in the adorning of his room and the binding of his books, though he never let these tastes bring him into debt or extravagance. His turn for art and music began to show itself, and the anthems at St. George's Chapel on the Sunday afternoons gave him great delight; and in Eton Chapel, a contemporary says, 'I well remember how he used to sing the Psalms with the little turns at the end of the verses, which I envied his being able to do.' Nor was this mere love of music, but devotion. Coley had daily regular readings of the Bible in his room with his brother, cousins, and a friend or two; but the boys were so shy about it that they kept an open Shakespeare on the table, with an open drawer below, in which the Bible was placed, and which was shut at the sound of a hand on the door.
Hitherto No. 33 Bedford Square had been the only home of the Patteson family. The long vacations were spent sometimes with the Judge's relations in the Eastern counties, sometimes with Lady Patteson's in the West. Landwith Rectory, in Cornwall, was the home of her eldest brother, Dr. James Coleridge, whose daughter Sophia was always like an elder sister to her children, and the Vicarage of St. Mary Church, then a wild, beautiful seaside village, though now almost a suburb of Torquay, was held by her cousin, George May Coleridge; and here the brothers and sisters climbed the rocks, boated, fished, and ran exquisitely wild in the summer holidays. Christmas was spent with the Judge's mother at Ipswich, amongst numerous cousins, with great merriment and enjoyment such as were never forgotten.
Colonel Coleridge had died in 1836, his widow in her daughter's house in 1838, and Heath's Court had become the property of Mr. Justice Coleridge, who always came thither with his family as soon as the circuit was over. In 1841, Feniton Court, about two miles and a half from thence, was purchased by Judge Patteson, much to the delight of his children. It was a roomy, cheerful, pleasantly-situated house, with a piece of water in the grounds, the right of shooting over a couple of farms, and all that could render boy life happy.
Feniton was a thorough home, and already Coley's vision was, 'When I am vicar of Feniton, which I look forward to, but with a very distant hope, I should of all things like Fanny to keep house for me till I am married;' and again, when relating some joke with his cousins about the law-papers, of the Squire of Feniton, he adds: 'But the Squire of Feniton will be a clergyman.'
Whether this were jest or earnest, this year, 1841, brought the dawn of his future life. It was in that year that the Rev. George Augustus Selwyn was appointed to the diocese of New Zealand. Mrs. Selwyn's parents had always been intimate with the Patteson family, and the curacy which Mr. Selwyn had held up to this time was at Windsor, so that the old Etonian tie of brotherhood was drawn closer by daily intercourse. Indeed, it was from the first understood that Eton, with the wealth that her children enjoyed in such large measure, should furnish 'nerves and sinews' to the war which her son was about to wage with the darkness of heathenism, thus turning the minds of the boys to something beyond either their studies or their sports.
On October 31, the Rev. Samuel Wilberforce, then Archdeacon of Surrey, and since Bishop of Oxford and of Winchester, preached in the morning at New Windsor parish church, and the newly-made Bishop of New Zealand in the afternoon. Coley was far more affected than he then had power to express. He says: 'I heard Archdeacon Wilberforce in the morning, and the Bishop in the evening, though I was forced to stand all the time. It was beautiful when he talked of his going out to found a church, and then to die neglected and forgotten. All the people burst out crying, he was so very much beloved by his parishioners. He spoke of his perils, and putting his trust in God; and then, when, he had finished, I think I never heard anything like the sensation, a kind of feeling that if it had not been on so sacred a spot, all would have exclaimed "God bless him!"'
The text of this memorable sermon was, 'Thine heart shall be enlarged, because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces also of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.' (Is. lx. 5.) Many years later we shall find a reference to this, the watchword of the young hearer's life.
The Archdeacon's sermon was from John xvii. 20, 21: 'Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be One, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be One in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.' And here again we find one of the watchwords of Coley's life, for nothing so dwelt with him and so sustained him as the sense of unity, whether with these at home in England, or with those in the inner home of the Saints. When the sermon concluded with the words, 'As we are giving of our best, as our Church is giving of her best, in sending forth from her own bosom these cherished and chosen sons, so let there go forth from every one of us a consenting offering; let us give this day largely, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, as Christian men, to Christ our Lord, and He will graciously accept and bless the offerings that we make'--the preacher could little guess that among the lads who stood in the aisle was one in whom was forming the purpose of offering his very self also.
For at that time Coleridge Patteson was receiving impressions that became the seed of his future purpose, and the eyes of his spirit were seeing greater things than the Vicarage of Feniton. Indeed, the subject was not entirely new to him, for Edward Coleridge was always deeply interested in missions, and had done his best to spread the like feeling, often employing the willing services of his pupils in copying letters from Australia, Newfoundland, &c.
When the Bishop of New Zealand came to take leave, he said, half in earnest, half in playfulness, 'Lady Patteson, will you give me Coley?' She started, but did not say no; and when, independently of this, her son told her that it was his greatest wish to go with the Bishop, she replied that if he kept that wish when he grew up he should have her blessing and consent.
But there was no further mention of the subject. The sisters knew what had passed, but it was not spoken of to his father till long after, when the wish had become purpose. Meantime the boy's natural development put these visions into the background. He was going on with ordinary work and play, enjoying the pageantry of the christening of the Prince of Wales, and cheering himself hoarse and half-frantic when the King of Prussia came to see the school; then on his father's birthday writing with a 'hand quite trembling with delight' to announce what he knew would be the most welcome of birthday presents, namely, the news that he had been 'sent up' for a very good copy of seventy-nine verses, 'all longs, on Napoleon e Seylhia profugus, passage of Beresina, and so forth.' His Latin verses were his strong point, and from this time forward he was frequently sent up, in all twenty-five times, an almost unprecedented number.
In fact he was entering on a fresh stage of life, from the little boy to the lad, and the period was marked by his Confirmation on May 26, 1842. Here is his account both of it and of his first Communion. The soberness and old-fashioned simplicity of expression are worth remarking as tokens of the quietly dutiful tone of mind, full of reverence and sincere desire to do right, and resting in the consciousness of that desire, while steadily advancing towards higher things than he then understood. It was a life and character where advancement with each fresh imparting of spiritual grace can be traced more easily than usual.
It is observable too that the boy's own earnestness and seriousness of mind seem to have to him supplied the apparent lack of external aids to devotional feeling, though the Confirmation was conducted in the brief, formal, wholesale manner which some in afterlife have confessed to have been a disappointment and a drawback after their preparation and anticipation:--
'You will know that I have been confirmed to-day, and I dare say you all thought of me. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Lincoln, and I hope that I have truly considered the great duty and responsibility I have taken upon myself, and have prayed for strength to support me in the execution of all those duties. I shall of course receive the Sacrament the first time I have an opportunity, and I trust worthily. I think there must have been 200 confirmed. The Bishop gave us a very good charge afterwards, recommending us all to take pattern by the self-denial and true devotion of the Bishop of New Zealand, on whom he spoke for a long-while. The whole ceremony was performed with the greatest decorum, and in the retiring and coming up of the different sets there was very little noise, and not the slightest confusion. I went up with the first set, and the Bishop came round and put his hands on the heads of the whole set (about forty), and then going into the middle pronounced the prayer. The responses were all made very audibly, and everyone seemed to be impressed with a proper feeling of the holiness and seriousness of the ceremony. After all the boys had been confirmed about seven other people were confirmed, of whom two were quite as much as thirty, I should think.'
'I have just returned from receiving the Holy Sacrament in Chapel. I received it from Hawtrey and Okes, but there were three other ministers besides. There was a large attendance, seventy or eighty or more Eton boys alone. I used the little book that mamma sent me, and found the little directions and observations very useful. I do truly hope and believe that I received it worthily... It struck me more than ever (although I had often read it before) as being such a particularly impressive and beautiful service. I never saw anything conducted with greater decorum. Not a single fellow spoke except at the responses, which were well and audibly made, and really every fellow seemed to be really impressed with the awfulness of the ceremony, and the great wickedness of not piously receiving it, I do not know whether there will be another Sacrament here before the holidays, or whether I shall receive it with you at Feniton next time.'
No doubt the whole family (except the yet unconfirmed younger brother) did so receive it in the summer holidays, the last that were to be spent in the full joy of an unbroken household circle, and, as has been already said, one of unusual warmth and kindliness, binding closely into it all who were connected therewith. Each governess became a dear friend; the servants were deeply attached, and for the most part fixtures; and one, the nurse already mentioned, says she never recollects a time when Master Coley had to leave Feniton for London without his offering the servants to take charge of their messages or parcels. All dependents and poor people, in fact whatever came under Judge Patteson's genial, broad-hearted influence, were treated with the like kindness, and everything alive about the place seemed full of happiness and affection.
The centre of this bright home had always been the mother, fervently loved by all who came in contact with her, fragile in health, and only going through her duties and exertions so cheerily by the quiet fortitude of a brave woman. In the course of this year, 1842, some severe spasmodic attacks made her family anxious; and as the railway communication was still incomplete, so that the journey to London was a great fatigue to an invalid, her desire to spend Christmas in Devonshire led to her remaining there with her daughters, when her husband returned to London on the commencement of term.
He had been gone little more than a fortnight when, on November 17, a more severe attack came on; and though she was soon relieved from it, she never entirely rallied, and was firmly convinced that this was 'the beginning of the end.' Her husband was summoned home, Judge Coleridge taking a double portion of his work to set him at liberty, and the truth began to dawn on the poor boys at Eton. 'Do you really mean that there is anything so very, very dreadful to fear?' is Coley's cry in his note one day, and the next, 'Oh, Papa, you cannot mean that we may never, unless we come down to Feniton, see mamma again. I cannot bear the thought of it. I trust most earnestly that it is not the case. Do not hide anything from me, it would make me more wretched afterwards. If it shall (which I trust in His infinite mercy it will not) please Almighty God to take our dearest mamma unto Himself, may He give us grace to bear with fortitude and resolution the dreadful loss, and may we learn to live with such holiness here that we may hereafter be united for ever in Heaven.' This letter is marked twice over 'Only for Papa,' but the precaution was needless, for Lady Patteson was accustoming all those about her to speak freely and naturally of what she felt to be approaching. Her eldest brother, Dr. Coleridge, was greatly comforting her by his ministrations, and her sons were sent for; but as she did not ask for them, it was thought best that they should remain at their Uncle Frank's, at Ottery, until, on the evening of Sunday, the 27th, a great change took place, making it evident that the end was drawing near.
The sufferer was told that the boys were come, and was asked if she would see them. She was delighted, and they came in, restraining their grief while she kissed and blessed them, and then, throwing her arms round their father, thanked him for having brought her darling boys for her to see once more. It was not long before she became unconscious; and though all the family were watching and praying round her, she showed no further sign of recognition, as she gradually and tranquilly fell asleep in the course of the night.
To his cousin, Mrs. Martyn, Coley wrote the following letter just after the funeral:--
'We only came down from our rooms to go to church, and directly the beautiful service was over we went upstairs again. I need not tell you what we then felt, and now do feel. It is a very dreadful loss to us all; but we have been taught by that dear mother, who has been now taken from us, that it is not fit to grieve for those who die in the Lord, "for they rest from their labours." She is now, we may safely trust, a blessed saint in Heaven, far removed from all cares and anxieties; and, instead of spending our time in useless tears and wicked repinings, we should rather learn to imitate her example and virtues, that, when we die, we may sleep in Him as our hope is this our sister doth, and may be finally united with her in Heaven. Yesterday was a day of great trial to us all: I felt when I was standing by the grave as if I must have burst.
'Dear Papa bears up beautifully, and is a pattern of submission to us all. We are much more happy than you could suppose, for, thank God, we are certain she is happy, far happier than she could be on earth. She said once, "I wonder I wish to leave my dearest John and the children, and this sweet place, but yet I do wish it" so lively was her faith and trust in the merits of her Saviour.'
A deep and permanent impression was left upon the boy's mind, as will be seen by his frequent references to what he had then witnessed; but for the present he was thought to be less depressed than the others, and recovered his natural tone of spirits sooner than his brother and sisters. The whole family spent their mournful Christmas at Thorverton Rectory, with Dr. and Mrs. Coleridge and their daughter Fanny, their chief comforters and fellow-sufferers; and then returned to London. The Judge's eldest daughter, Joanna, who had always been entirely one with the rest, had to take her place at the head of the household. In her own words, 'It was trying for a lad of fifteen and a half, but he was very good, and allowed me to take the command in a way that few boys would nave done.'
'It has struck me as remarkable that friends and relations have again and again spoken of different incidents as 'turning-points' in Coley's life. If he had literally turned at them all, his would have been a most revolving career; but I believe the fact to have been that he never turned at all, for his face was always set the right way, but that each of these was a point of impulse setting him more vigorously on his way, and stirring up his faithful will. Such moments were those of admission to religious ordinances, to him no dead letters but true receptions of grace; and he likewise found incitements in sorrows, in failures, in reproofs. Everything sank deeply, and his mind was already assuming the introspective character that it had throughout the period of growth and formation. One of his Eton companions, four years younger, has since spoken of the remarkable impression of inwardness Patteson made on him even at this time, saying that whenever he was taken by surprise he seemed to be only ruminating till he spoke or was spoken to, and then there was an instant return to the outer world and ready attention to whatever was in hand.
The spring found him of course in the full tide of Eton interests. The sixth and upper fifth forms, to the latter of which he had by this time attained, may contend in the public examination for the Newcastle scholarship, just before the Easter holidays, and it is a great testimony to a boy's ability and industry if his name appears among the nine select for their excellence. This time, 1843, Coley, who was scarcely sixteen, had of course but little chance, but he had the pleasure of announcing that his great friend, Edmund Bastard, a young Devonshire squire, was among the 'select,' and he says of himself: 'You will, as I said before, feel satisfied that I did my best, but it was an unlucky examination for me. It has done me a great deal of good in one way. It has enabled me to see where I am particularly deficient, viz. general knowledge of history, and a thorough acquaintance with Greek and Roman customs, law courts and expressions, and Greek and Roman writers. I do not find myself wanting in making out a stiff bit of Greek or Latin if I have time, but I must read History chiefly this year, and then I hope to be selected next time. My tutor is not at all disappointed in me.'
This spring, 1843, Patteson became one of the Eleven, a perilously engrossing position for one who, though never slurring nor neglecting his studies, did not enjoy anything so much as the cricket-field. However, there the weight of his character, backed by his popularity and proficiency in all games and exercises, began to be a telling influence.
On November 2, 1843, when the anniversary of his mother's death was coming round, he writes to his eldest sister:--
'I had not indeed forgotten this time twelvemonth, and especially that awful Sunday night when we stood round dear mamma's bed in such misery. I never supposed at that time that we could ever be happy and merry again, but yet it has been so with me; and though very often the recollection of that night has come upon me, and the whole scene in its misery has passed before me, I hope I have never forgotten, that though a loss to us, it was a gain to her, and we ought rather to be thankful than sorrowful.... By the bye, I do not really want a book-case much, and you gave me the "Irish Stories," and I have not yet been sent up. I would rather not have a present, unless the Doctor means to give me an exercise. Do not lay this down to pride; but you know I was not sent up last half, and if this passes, a blank again, I do not deserve any fresh presents.'
This piece of self-discipline was crowned by joyous notices of being 'sent up for good' and 'for play' in the next half; when also occurs a letter showing a spirit of submission to a restriction not fully understood:--
'My dearest Father,--Hearing that "Israel in Egypt" was to be performed at Exeter Hall on Friday night, I went and asked my tutor whether he had any objection to my running up that night to hear it, and coming back the next morning, quite early at six. My tutor said that, without any absurd feelings on the matter, he should not think himself of going to such a thing in Lent. "It was not," he said, "certainly like going to the play, or any of those sort of places," but he did not like the idea of going at all. Do you think that there was any harm in the wish?
'I do not ask because I wish you to write and say I may go, but because I wish to learn whether my asking at all was wrong. Even if you have no objection, I certainly shall not go, because for such a trifling thing to act in opposition to my tutor, even with your consent, would be very foolish.
'...Good-bye, my dearest Father. God bless you, says your affectionate and dutiful Son,
'J. C. P.'
This year, 1844, the name of Patteson appeared among the 'select.' 'I shall expect a jolly holiday for my reward,' he merrily says, when announcing it to his sisters. He had begun to join the Debating Society at Eton, and for a while was the president. One of the other members says, 'His speeches were singularly free from the bombast and incongruous matter with which Eton orators from fifteen to eighteen are apt to interlard their declamations. He spoke concisely, always to the point, and with great fluency and readiness. A reputation for good sense and judgment made his authority of great weight in the school, and his independent spirit led him to choose, amongst his most intimate friends and associates, two collegers, who ultimately became Newcastle scholars and medallists.
'That the most popular oppidan of his day should have utterly ignored the supposed inferiority of the less wealthy section of the school, and looked on worth and high character as none the worse for being clothed in a coarse serge gown, is a fact seemingly trivial to ordinary readers, but very noticeable to Eton men. As a rank and file collegian myself, and well remembering the Jew and Samaritan state that prevailed between oppidans and collegers, I remember with pride that Patteson did so much to level the distinctions that worked so mischievously to the school. His cheerfulness and goodness were the surest guarantee for good order amongst his schoolfellows. There was no Puritanism in him, he was up to any fun, sung his song at a cricket or foot-ball dinner as joyfully as the youngest of the party; but if mirth sank into coarseness and ribaldry, that instant Patteson's conduct was fearless and uncompromising....'
Here follows an account of an incident which occurred at the dinner annually given by the eleven of cricket and the eight of the boats at the hotel at Slough.
A custom had arisen among some of the boys of singing offensive songs on these occasions, and Coley, who, as second of the eleven, stood in the position of one of the entertainers, gave notice beforehand that he was not going to tolerate anything of the sort. One of the boys, however, began to sing something objectionable. Coley called out, 'If that does not stop, I shall leave the room;' and as no notice was taken, he actually went away with a few other brave lads. He afterwards found that, as he said, 'fellows who could not understand such feelings thought him affected;' and he felt himself obliged to send word to the captain, that unless an apology was made, he should leave the eleven-no small sacrifice, considering what cricket was to him; but the gentlemanlike and proper feeling of the better style of boys prevailed, and the eleven knew their own interests too well to part with him, so the apology was made, and he retained his position. The affair came to the knowledge of two of the masters, Mr. Dupuis and Mr. Abraham, and they gratified their warm sense of approbation by giving Patteson a bat, though he never knew the reason why, as we shall see in one of his last letters to one of the donors.
His prowess at cricket must be described in the words of his cousin, Arthur Duke Coleridge, who was at this time in college: 'He was by common consent one of the best, if not the best, of the cricketers of the school. The second year of his appearance at Lord's Cricket Ground was the most memorable, as far as his actual services were concerned, of all the matches he played against Harrow and Winchester. He was sent in first in the Harrow match; the bowling was steady and straight, but Patteson's defence was admirable. He scored fifty runs, in which there was but one four, and by steady play completely broke the neck of the bowling. Eton won the match easily, Patteson making a brilliant catch at point, when the last Harrow man retired. Full of confidence, Eton began the Winchester match. Victory for a long time seemed a certainty for Eton; but Kidding, the Winchester captain, played an uphill game so fiercely that the bowling had to be repeatedly changed. Our eleven were disorganised, and the captain had so plainly lost heart, that Patteson resolved on urging him to discontinue his change of bowling, and begin afresh with the regular bowlers. The captain allowed Patteson to have his way, and the game, though closely contested, was saved. His powers of defence were indeed remarkable. I saw the famous professional cricketer Lillywhite play once at Eton in his time, and becoming almost irritated at the stubbornness and tenacity with which Coley held his wicket. After scoring twenty and odd times in the first, and forty in the second innings, (not out), Lillywhite said, 'Mr. Patteson, I should like to bowl to you on Lord's Ground, and it would be different.' 'Oh, of course,' modestly answered Coley; 'I know you would have me out directly there.'
The next cricket season this champion was disabled by a severe sprain of the wrist, needing leeches, splints, and London advice. It was when fixing a day for coming up to town on this account that he mentioned the occurrence of the previous year in a letter to his father:--
'I have a great object in shirking the oppidan dinner. I not only hate the idea of paying a sovereign for a dinner, but last year, at the cricket dinner, I had a great row, which I might possibly incur another time, and I wish very much to avoid.'
Then, after briefly stating what had passed, he adds: 'At this dinner, where the captain of the boats manages it, I should be his guest, and therefore any similar act of mine would make matters worse. You can therefore see why I wish Tuesday to be the day for my coming up.'
The sprain prevented his playing in the matches at Lord's that summer, though he was well enough to be reckoned on as a substitute in case any of the actual players had been disabled. Possibly his accident was good for his studies, for this was a year of much progress and success; and though only seventeen, he had two offers of tutorship for the holidays, from Mr. Dugdale and the Marchioness of Bath. The question where his university life was to be spent began to come forward. Studentships at Christchurch were then in the gift of the Canons, and a nomination would have been given him by Dr. Pusey if he had not been too young to begin to reside, so that it was thought better that he should wait and go up for the Balliol scholarship in the autumn.
In the October of 1844 he describes to his eldest sister the reception of King Louis Philippe at Eton, accompanied by the Queen, Prince Albert, and the Duke of Wellington:
'The King wore a white great coat, and looked a regular jolly old fellow. He has white frizzle hair and large white whiskers. The former, I suspect, is a wig. The cheering was tremendous, but behind the royal carriage the cheers were always redoubled where the old Duke, the especial favourite hero, rode. When they got off their horses in the schoolyard, the Duke being by some mistake behindhand, was regularly hustled in the crowd, with no attendant near him.
'I was the first to perceive him, and springing forward, pushed back the fellows on each side, who did not know whom they were tumbling against, and, taking off my hat, cheered with might and main. The crowd hearing the cheer, turned round, and then there was the most glorious sight I ever saw. The whole school encircled the Duke, who stood entirely alone in the middle for a minute or two, and I rather think we did cheer him. At last, giving about one touch to his hat, he began to move on, saying, "Get on, boys, get on." I never saw such enthusiasm here; the masters rushed into the crowd round him, waving their caps, and shouting like any of us. As for myself, I was half-mad and roared myself hoarse in about five minutes. The King and Prince kept their hats off the whole time, incessantly bowing, and the King speaking. He walked arm-in-arm with the Queen, who looked well and very much pleased. The Duke walked with that Grand Duchess whose name you may see in the papers, for I can't spell it.'
Very characteristic this both of Eton's enthusiasm for the hero, and of the hero's undemonstrative way of receiving it, which must have somewhat surprised his foreign companions.
A week or two later, in November 1844, came the competition for the Balliol scholarship, but Coley was not successful. On the Saturday he writes:--
'The scholarship was decided last night; Smith, a Rugby man, got the first, and Grant, a Harrow man, the second.... I saw the Master afterwards; he said, "I cannot congratulate you on success, Mr. Patteson, but you have done yourself great credit, and passed a very respectable examination. I shall be happy to allow you to enter without a future examination, as we are all quite satisfied of your competency." He said that I had better come up to matriculate next term, but should not have another examination. We were in about nine hours a day, three hours in the evening; I thought the papers very hard; we had no Latin elegiacs or lyrics, which was rather a bore for the Eton lot. I am very glad I have been up now, but I confess it was the longest week I ever recollect. I feel quite seedy after a whole week without exercise.... The very first paper, the Latin Essay (for which we were in six hours), was the worst of all my papers, and must have given the examiners an unfavourable impression to start with. The rest of my papers, with the exception of the Greek prose and the critical paper, I did very fairly, I think.'
A greater disappointment than this was, however, in store for Coley. He failed in attaining a place among the 'select,' at his last examination for the Newcastle, in the spring of 1845. Before the list was given out he had written to his father that the Divinity papers were far too easy, with no opportunity for a pretty good scholar to show his knowledge, 'the ridicule of every one of the masters,' but the other papers very difficult.
'Altogether,' he adds, 'the scholarship has been to me unsatis-factory. I had worked hard at Greek prose, had translated and re-translated a good deal of Xenophon, Plato, and some Demosthenes, yet to my disappointment we had no paper of Greek prose, a thing that I believe never occurred before, and which is generally believed to test a boy's knowledge well. My Iambics were good, I expect, though not without two bad faults. In fact, I cannot look back upon a single paper, except my Latin prose, without a multitude of oversights and faults presenting themselves to me... I almost dread the giving out of the select. Think if my name was not there. It is some consolation that Hawtrey, yesterday, in giving me an exercise for good, asked how I liked the examination. Upon my saying, "It was not such a one as I expected, and that I had done badly," he said "That is not at all what I hear," but this cannot go for much... I want exercise very badly, and my head is very thick and stupid, as I fear this last paper must show the examiners.'
The omission of Patteson's name from among the select was a great mortification, not only to himself but his father, though the Judge kindly wrote:--
'Do not distress yourself about this unfortunate failure as to the Newcastle. We cannot always command our best exertions when we want to do so, and you were not able on this occasion to bring forward all you knew. It was not from idleness or want of attention to school business. Work on regularly, and you will do well at Oxford. I have a line from your tutor, who seems to think that it was in Juvenal, Cicero and Livy, and in Iambics, that the faults principally were. I cannot say that I am not disappointed; but I know so well the uncertainty of examinations and how much depends on the sort of papers put, and on the spirits and feeling one is in, that I am never surprised at such results, and I do not blame you at all.' Those who knew Coley best agree in thinking that this reverse took great effect in rousing his energies. This failure evidently made him take himself to task, for in the summer he writes to his father:--
There are things which have occurred during my stay at Eton which cannot but make me blame myself. I mean principally a want of continuous industry. I have perhaps for one half or two (for instance, last Easter half) worked hard, but I have not been continuously improving, and adding knowledge to knowledge, half by half. I feel it now, because I am sure that I know very little more than I did at Easter. One thing I am improved in, which is writing themes; and you will be pleased to know that Hawtrey has again given me the School Theme prize, worth 5L., which counts for another sent up exercise.'
In reply, the Judge, on July 22, wrote in the midst of the circuit, from Stafford, a letter that might well do a son's heart good:--
'I rejoice in your finale, and shall be glad to see the exercise. You have gone through Eton with great credit and reputation as a scholar, and what is of more consequence, with perfect character as to truth and conduct in every way. This can only be accounted for by the assistance of the good Spirit of God first stirred up in you by the instructions of your clear mother, than whom a more excellent human being never existed. I pray God that this assistance may continue through life, and keep you always in the same good course."
A few days more and the boy's departure from the enthusiastically loved school had taken place, together with his final exploits as captain in the cricket-field, where too he formed an acquaintance with Mr. C. S. Roundell, the captain of the Harrow eleven, which ripened into a lifelong friendship.
'You may suppose,' writes Coley, 'that I was really very miserable at leaving Eton. I did not, I assure you, without thanking God for the many advantages I have there enjoyed and praying for His forgiveness for my sin in neglecting so many. We began our match with Harrow yesterday, by going in first; we got 261 runs by tremendous hitting, Harrow 32, and followed up and got 55: Eton thus winning in one innings by 176 runs, the most decided beating ever known at cricket.'
So ended Coleridge Patteson's school life, not reaching to all he saw that it might have been; but unstained, noble, happy, honourable, and full of excellent training for the future man. No sting was left to poison the fail-memory of youth; but many a friendship had been formed on foundations of esteem, sympathy, and kindness which endured through life, standing all tests of separation and difference.