Page images

undertaking one of the most risky of literary speculations, the starting a new illustrated magazine, devoted apparently to art, antiquities, and general literature. A few numbers were issued, and I remember, as a boy, seeing an elaborate engraving of the Portland Vase, which was one of the illustrations; and in those days before photography, when all had to be done by skilled artists and engravers, such illustrations were ruinously expensive for a periodical brought out by a totally unknown man. Another of these illustrations is now before me, and well shows the costly nature of the work. It is on large paper, } by 84 inches to the outer line of the engraving, the margins having been cut off. It is headed "Gallery of Antiquities, British Museum, Pl. I.," and contains forty distinct copper-plate engravings of parts of friezes, vases, busts, and full-length figures, of Greek or Roman art, all drawn to scale, and exquisitely engraved in the best style of the period. The plate is stated at the foot to be "Published for the Proprietor, May Ist, 1811," four years after my father's marriage. It shows that the work must have been of large quarto size, in no way of a popular character, and too costly to have any chance of commercial success.

After a very few numbers were issued the whole thing came to grief, partly, it was said, by the defalcations of a manager or bookkeeper, who appropriated the money advanced by my father to pay for work and materials, and partly, no doubt, from the affair being in the hands of persons without the necessary business experience and literary capacity to make it a success.

A few old letters are in my possession, from a Mr. E. A. Rendall to my father, written in 1812 and 1813, relating to the affair. They are dated from Bloomsbury Square, and are exceedingly long and verbose, so that it is hardly possible to extract anything definite from them. They refer chiefly to the mode of winding up the business, and urging that the engraved plates, etc., may be useful in a new undertaking. He proposes, in fact, to commence another magazine with a different name, which he says will cost only sixty guineas a number, and can be published at half a crown.

He refers

to the General Chronicle as if that were the title of the recently defunct magazine, and he admits that my father may rightly consider himself an ill-used man, though wholly denying that he, Mr. Rendall, had any part in bringing about his misfortunes.

The result was that my father had to bear almost the whole loss, and this considerably reduced his already too scanty income. Whether he made any other or what efforts to earn money I do not know, but he continued to live in Marylebone till 1816, a daughter Emma having been born there in that year; but soon after he appears to have removed to St. George's, Southwark, in which parish my brother John was born in 1818. Shortly afterwards his affairs must have been getting worse, and he determined to move with his family of six children to some place where living was as cheap as possible ; and, probably from having introductions to some residents there, fixed upon Usk, in Monmouthshire, where a sufficiently roomy cottage with a large garden was obtained, and where I was born on January 8, 1823. In such a remote district rents were no doubt very low and provisions of all kinds very cheap-probably not much more than half London prices. Here, so far as I remember, only one servant was kept, and my father did most of the garden work himself, and provided the family with all the vegetables and most of the fruit which was consumed. Poultry, meat, fish, and all kinds of dairy produce were especially cheap ; my father taught the children himself; the country around was picturesque and the situation healthy; and, notwithstanding his reverse of fortune, I am inclined to think that this was, perhaps, the happiest portion of my father's life.

In the year 1828 my mother's mother-in-law, Mrs. Rebecca Greenell, died at Hertford, and I presume it was in consequence of this event that the family left Usk in that year, and lived at Hertford for the next nine or ten years, removing to Hoddesdon in 1837 or 1838, where my father died in 1843. These last fifteen years of his life were a period of great trouble and anxiety, his affairs becoming more and more involved, till at last the family became almost wholly dependent on my mother's small marriage settlement of less than a hundred a year, supplemented by his taking a few pupils and by a small salary which he received as librarian to a subscription library. While at Hoddesdon my sister Fanny got up a small boarding-school for young ladies in a roomy, old-fashioned house with a large garden, where my father passed the last few years of his life in comparative freedom from worry about money matters, because these had reached such a pitch that nothing worse was to be expected.

During the latter part of the time we lived at Hertford his troubles were great. He appears to have allowed a solicitor and friend whom he trusted to realize what remained of his property and invest it in ground-rents which would bring in a larger income, and at the same time be perfectly secure. For a few years the income from this property was duly paid him, then it was partially and afterwards wholly stopped. It appeared that the solicitor was himself engaged in a large building speculation in London, which was certain to be ultimately of great value, but which he had not capital enough to complete. He therefore had to raise money, and did so by using funds entrusted to him for other purposes, among them my father's small capital, in the absolute belief that it was quite as safe an investment as the ground-rents in which it was supposed to be invested. But, unfortunately, other creditors pressed upon him, and he was obliged to sacrifice the whole of the building estate at almost a nominal price. Out of the wreck of the solicitor's fortune my father obtained a small portion of the money due, with promises to pay all at some future time; and I recollect his having frequently to go to London by coach to interview the solicitor, and try to get some security for future payment. Among the property thus lost were some legacies from my mother's relations to her children, and the whole affair got into the hands of the lawyers, from whom small amounts were periodically received which helped to provide us with bare necessaries.

As a result of this series of misfortunes the children who

reached their majority had little or nothing to start with in earning their own living, except a very ordinary education, and a more or less efficient training. The oldest son, William, was first articled to a firm of surveyors at Kington, Herefordshire, probably during the time we resided at Usk. He then spent a year or two in the office of an architect at Hertford, and finally a year in London with a large builder named Martin then engaged in the erection of King's College, in order to become familiar with the practical details of building. He may be said, therefore, to have had a really good professional education. At first he got into general landsurveying work, which was at that time rather abundant, owing to the surveys and valuations required for carrying out the Commutation of Tithes Act of 1836, and also for the enclosures of commons which were then very frequent. During the time I was with him we were largely engaged in this kind of work in various parts of England and Wales, as will be seen later on; but the payment for such work was by

: no means liberal, and owing to the frequent periods of idleness between one job and another, it was about as much as my brother could do to earn our living and travelling expenses.

About the time I went to live with my brother my sister Fanny entered a French school at Lille to learn the language and to teach English, and I think she was a year there. On her return she started the school at Hoddesdon, but after my father's death in 1843, she obtained a position as a teacher in Columbia College, Georgia, U.S.A., then just established under the Bishop of Georgia ; and she only returned after my brother William's death in 1846, when the surviving members of the family in England were reunited, and lived together for two years in a cottage near Neath, in Glamorganshire.

My brother John, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, was apprenticed, first to Mr. Martin and then to Mr. Webster, a London builder living in Albany Street, Regent's Park, where he became a thorough joiner and carpenter. He afterwards worked for a time for Cubitt and other large builders; then, when he came to live with me at Neath, he learnt surveying and a little architecture. When I went to the Amazon, he took a small dairy-farm at too high a rent, and not making this pay, in 1849 he emigrated to California at the height of the first rush for gold, joined several mining camps, and was moderately successful.

About five years later he came home, married Miss Webster, and returning to California, settled for some years at Columbia, a small mining town in Tuolumne County. He afterwards removed to Stockton, where he practised as surveyor and water engineer till his death in 1895.

My younger brother, Herbert, was first placed with a trunk maker in Regent Street, but not liking this business, afterwards came to Neath and entered the pattern-shops of the Neath Ironworks. After his brother John went to California he came out to me at Para, and after a year spent on the Amazon as far as Barra on the Rio Negro, he returned to Para on his way home, where he caught yellow fever, and died in a few days at the early age of twenty-two. He was the only member of our family who had a considerable gift of poesy, and was probably more fitted for a literary career than for any mechanical or professional occupation.

It will thus be seen that we were all of us very much thrown on our own resources to make our way in life ; and as we all, I think, inherited from my father a certain amount of constitutional inactivity or laziness, the necessity for work that our circumstances entailed was certainly beneficial in developing whatever powers were latent in us; and this is what I implied when I remarked that our father's loss of his property was perhaps a blessing in disguise.

Of the five daughters, the first-born died when five months old; the next, Eliza, died of consumption at Hertford, aged twenty-two. Two others, Mary Anne and Emma, died at Usk at the ages of eight and six respectively; while Frances married Mr. Thomas Sims, a photographer, and died in London, aged eighty-one.

On the whole, both the Wallaces and the Greenells seem to have been rather long-lived families when they reached manhood or womanhood. The five ancestral Wallaces of

« EelmineJätka »