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- AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 2/32 -


My brothers went to the parish school, one of the best in the county. The endowment from the tiends or tithes, extorted by John Knox from the Lords of the congregations, who had seized on the church lands, was more meagre for the schoolmasters than for the clergy. I think Mr. Thomas Murray had only 33 pounds in Money, a schoolhouse, and a residence and garden. and he had to make up a livelihood from school fees, which began at 2/ a quarter for reading, 3/6 when writing was taught, and 51 for arithmetic. Latin, I think, cost 10/6 a quarter, but it included English. Mr. Murray adopted a phonic system of teaching reading, not so complete as the late Mr. Hartley formulated for our South Australian schools, and was most successful with it. He not only used maps, but he had blank maps-a great innovation. My mother was only taught geography during the years in which she was "finished" in Edinburgh, and never saw a map then. She felt interested in geography when her children were learning it. No boy in Mr. Murray's school was allowed to be idle; every spare minute was given to arithmetic. In the parish school boys of all classes were taught. Sir David Brewster's sons went to it; but there were fewer girls, partly because no needlework was taught there, and needlework was of supreme importance. Mr. Murray was session clerk, for which he received 5 pounds a year. On Saturday afternoons he might do land measuring, like Goldsmith's schoolmaster in "The Deserted Village"--

Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, And even the rumour ran that he could gauge.

My mother felt that her children were receiving a much better education than she had had. The education seemed to begin after she left school. Her father united with six other tenant farmers in buying the third edition of "The Encyclopedia Briannica," seven for the price of six. Probably it was only in East Lothian that seven such purchasers could be found, and my mother studied it well, as also the unabridged Johnson's Dictionary in two volumes. She learned the Greek letters, so that she could read the derivations, but went no further. She saw the fallacy of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund when her father believed in it. To borrow more than was needed so as to put aside part on compound interest, would make the price of money rise. And why should not private people adopt the same way of getting rid of debts? The father said it would not do for them at all--it was only practicable for a nation. The things I recollect of the life in the village of Melrose, of 700 inhabitants, have been talked over with my mother. and many embodied in a little MS. volume of reminiscences of her life. I hold more from her than from my father; but. as he was an unlucky speculator, I inherit from him Hope, which is invaluable to a social or political reformer. School holidays were only a rarity in harvest time for the parish school. At Miss Phin's we had. besides, a week at Christmas. The boys had only New Year's Day. Saturday was only a half-holiday. We all had a holiday for Queen Victoria's coronation, and I went with a number of school fellows to see Abbotsford, not for the first time in my life.

Two mail coaches--the Blucher and the Chevy Chase--ran through Melrose every day. People went to the post office for their letters, and paid for them on delivery. My two elder sisters--Agnes, who died of consumption at the age of 16, and Jessie, afterwards Mrs. Andrew Murray, of Adelaide and Melbourne, went to boarding school with their aunt, Mary Spence, lit Upper Wooden, halfway between Jedburgh and Kelso. Roxburghshire is rich in old monasteries. The border lands were more safe in the hands of the church than under feudal lords engaged in perpetual fighting, and the vassals of the abbeys had generally speaking, a more secure existence. Kelso. Jedburgh, and Dryburgh Abbeys lay in fertile districts, and I fancy that when these came into the hands of the Lords of the congregation, the vassals looked back with regret on the old times. I was not sent to Wooden, but kept at home, and I went to a dayschool called by the very popish name of St. Mary's Convent, though it was quite sufficiently Protestant. My mother had the greatest confidence in the lady who was at the head of it. She had been a governess in good situations, and had taught herself Latin, so that she might fit the boys of the family to take a good place in the Edinburgh High School. She discovered that she had an incurable disease, a form of dropsy, which compelled her to lie down for some time every day, and this she considered she could not do as a governess. So she determined to risk her savings, and start a boarding and day school in Melrose, a beautiful and healthy neighbourhood, and with the aid of a governess, impart what was then considered the education of a gentlewoman to the girls in the neighbourhood. She took with her her old mother, and a sister who managed the housekeeping, and taught the pupils all kinds of plain and fancy needlework. She succeeded, and she lived till the year 1866, although most of her teaching was done from her sofa. When my mother was asked what it was that made Phin so successful, and so esteemed, she said it was her commonsense. The governesses were well enough, but the invalid old lady was the life and soul of the school. There were about 14 boarders, and nearly as many day scholars there, so long as there was no competition. When that came there was a falling off, but my young sister Mary and I were faithful till the day when after nine years at the same school, I went with Jessie to Wooden, to Aunt Mary's, to hear there that my father was ruined, and had to leave Melrose and Scotland for ever, and that we must all go to Australia. That was in April, 1839.

As I said, I had a very happy childhood. The death of my eldest sister at 16, and of my youngest sister at two years old, did not sink into the mind of a child as it did into that of my parents, and although they were seriously alarmed about my health when I was 12 years old, when I developed symptoms similar to those of Agnes at the same age, I was not il1 enough to get at all alarmed. I was annoyed at having to stay away from school for three months. When the collapse came Jessie had a dear friend of some years' standing, and I had one whom had known only for some months, but I had spent a month with her in Edinburgh at Christmas, 1838, and we exchanged letters weekly through the box which came from Edinburgh with my brother John's, washing. It was too expensive for us to write by the post. Well, neither of our friends wrote a word to us. With regard to mine it was not to he wondered at much--she was only 13--but the other was more surprising. It was not till 1865 that an old woman told me that when Miss F. B. came to return some books and music to her to give to my aunt in Melrose, "she just sat in the chair and cried as if her heart would break." She was not quite a free agent. Very few single women were free agents in 1839. We were hopelessly ruined, our place would know us no more.

The only long holidays I had in the year I spent at Thornton Loch, in East Lothian, 40 miles away. I did not know that my father was a heavy speculator in foreign wheat, and I thought his keen interest in the market in Mark lane was on account of the Thornton Loch crops, in which first my grandfather and afterwards the three Maiden aunts were deeply concerned. My mother's father, John Brodie, was one of the most enterprising agriculturists in the most advanced district of Great Britain. He won a prize of two silver salvers from the Highland Society for having the largest area of drilled wheat sown. He was called up twice to London to give evidence before Parliamentary committees on the corn laws, and he naturally approved of them, because, with three large farms held on 19 years' leases at war prices, the influx of cheap wheat from abroad would mean ruin. He proved that he paid 6,000 pounds a year for these three farms--two he worked himself, the third was for his eldest son; but he was liable for the rent. On his first London trip, my aunt Margaret accompanied him, and on his second he took my mother. That was in the year 1814, and both of them noted from the postchaise that farming was not up to what was done in East Lothian.

My grandfather Brodie was a speculating man, and he lost nearly all his savings through starting, along with others, an East Lothian Bank, because the local banker had been ill used by the British Linen Company. He put in only 1,000 pounds; but was liable for all, and, as many of his fellow shareholders were defaulters, it cost 15,000 pounds before all was over, and if it had not been that he left the farm in the capable hands of Aunt Margaret, there would have been little or nothing left for the family. When he had a stroke of paralysis he wanted to turn over Thornton Loch, the only farm he then had, to his eldest son, but there were three daughters, and one of them said she would like to carry it on, and she did so. She was the most successful farmer in the country for 30 years, and then she transferred it to a nephew. The capacity for business of my Aunt Margaret, the wit and charm of my brilliant Aunt Mary, and the sound judgment and accurate memory of my own dear mother, showed me early that women were fit to share in the work of this world, and that to make the world pleasant for men was not their only mission. My father's sister Mary was also a remarkable and saintly woman, though I do not think she was such a born teacher as Miss Phin. When my father was a little boy, not 12 years old, an uncle from Jamaica came home for a visit. He saw his sister Janet a dying woman, with a number of delicate-looking children, and he offered to take David with him and treat him like his own son. No objections were made. The uncle was supposed to be well-to-do, and he was unmarried, but he took fever and died, and was found to be not rich but insolvent. The boy could read and write, and he got something to do on a plantation till his father sent money to pay his passage home. He must have been supposed to be worth something, for he got a cask of rum for his wages, which was shipped home, and when the duty had been paid was drunk in the doctor's household. But the boy had been away only 21 months, and he returned to find his mother dead. and two or three little brothers and sisters dead and buried, and his father married again to his mother's cousin, Katherine Swanston, an old maid of 45, who, however, two years afterwards was the mother of a fine big daughter, so that Aunt Helen Park's scheme for getting the money for her sister's children failed. In spite of my father's strong wish to be a farmer, and not a writer or attorney, there was no capital to start a farm upon, so he was indentured to Mr. Erskine, and after some years began business in Melrose for himself, and married Lelen Brodie. His elder brother John went as a surgeon in the Royal Navy--before he was twenty-one. The demand for surgeons was great during the war time. He was made a Freemason before the set age, because in case of capture friends from the fraternity might be of great use. He did not like his original profession, especially when after the peace he must be a country practitioner like his father, at every one's beck and call, so he was articled to his brother, and lived in the house till he married and settled at Earlston, five miles off. Uncle John Spence was a scholarly man, shy but kindly, who gave to us children most of the books we possessed. They were not in such abundance as children read nowadays, but they were read and re-read.

In these early readings the Calvinistic teaching of the church and the shorter catechism was supported and exemplified. The only secular books to counteract them were the "Evenings at Home" and Miss Edgeworth's "Tales for Young and Old!" The only cloud on my young life was the gloomy religion, which made me doubt of my own salvation and despair of the salvation of any but a very small proportion of the people in the world. Thus the character of God appeared unlovely, and it was wicked not to love God; and this was my condemnation. I had learned the shorter catechism with the proofs from Scripture, and I understood the meaning of the dogmatic theology. Watts's hymns were much more easy to learn, but the doctrine was the same. There was no getting away from the feeling that the world was under a curse ever since that unlucky appleeating in the garden of Eden. Why, oh! why had not the sentence of death been carried out at once, and a new start made with more prudent people? The school in which as a day scholar I passed nine years of my life was more literary than many which were more pretentious. Needlework was of supreme importance, certainly, but during the hour and a half every day, Saturday's half-holiday not excepted, which was given to it by the whole school at once (odd


AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 2/32

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