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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 5/144 -


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.'

'June 5.

'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.'


Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 5/144

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