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Kingsley, Charles / Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet An Autobiography
E-text prepared by the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



An Autobiography.





















































The tract appended to this preface has been chosen to accompany this
reprint of _Alton Locke_ in order to illustrate, from another side, a
distinct period in the life of Charles Kingsley, which stands out very much
by itself. It may be taken roughly to have extended from 1848 to 1856. It
has been thought that they require a preface, and I have undertaken to
write it, as one of the few survivors of those who were most intimately
associated with the author at the time to which the works refer.

No easy task; for, look at them from what point we will, these years must
be allowed to cover an anxious and critical time in modern English history;
but, above all, in the history of the working classes. In the first of them
the Chartist agitation came to a head and burst, and was followed by the
great movement towards association, which, developing in two directions and
by two distinct methods--represented respectively by the amalgamated Trades
Unions, and Co-operative Societies--has in the intervening years entirely
changed the conditions of the labour question in England, and the relations
of the working to the upper and middle classes. It is with this, the social
and industrial side of the history of those years, that we are mainly
concerned here. Charles Kingsley has left other and more important writings
of those years. But these are beside our purpose, which is to give some
such slight sketch of him as may be possible within the limits of a
preface, in the character in which he was first widely known, as the most
outspoken and powerful of those who took the side of the labouring classes,
at a critical time--the crisis in a word, when they abandoned their old
political weapons, for the more potent one of union and association, which
has since carried them so far.

To no one of all those to whom his memory is very dear can this seem a
superfluous task, for no writer was ever more misunderstood or better
abused at the time, and after the lapse of almost a quarter of a century
the misunderstanding would seem still to hold its ground. For through all
the many notices of him which appeared after his death in last January,
there ran the same apologetic tone as to this part of his life's work.
While generally, and as a rule cordially, recognizing his merits as an
author and a man, the writers seemed to agree in passing lightly over this
ground. When it was touched it was in a tone of apology, sometimes tinged
with sarcasm, as in the curt notice in the "Times"--"He was understood, to
be the Parson Lot of those 'Politics for the People' which made no little
noise in their time, and as Parson Lot he declared in burning language
that to his mind the fault in the 'People's Charter' was that it did not
go nearly far enough." And so the writer turns away, as do most of his
brethren, leaving probably some such impression as this on the minds of
most of their readers--"Young men of power and genius are apt to start with
wild notions. He was no exception. Parson Lot's sayings and doings may well
be pardoned for what Charles Kingsley said and did in after years; so let
us drop a decent curtain over them, and pass on."

Now, as very nearly a generation has passed since that signature used to
appear at the foot of some of the most noble and vigorous writing of our
time, readers of to-day are not unlikely to accept this view, and so to
find further confirmation and encouragement in the example of Parson Lot
for the mischievous and cowardly distrust of anything like enthusiasm
amongst young men, already sadly too prevalent in England. If it were only
as a protest against this "surtout point de zle" spirit, against which it
was one of Charles Kingsley's chief tasks to fight with all his strength,
it is well that the facts should be set right. This done, readers may
safely be left to judge what need there is for the apologetic tone in
connection with the name, the sayings, and doings of Parson Lot.

My first meeting with him was in the autumn of 1848, at the house of Mr.
Maurice, who had lately been appointed Reader of Lincolns Inn. No parochial
work is attached to that post, so Mr. Maurice had undertaken the charge of
a small district in the parish in which he lived, and had set a number of
young men, chiefly students of the Inns of Court who had been attracted by
his teaching, to work in it. Once a week, on Monday evenings, they used
to meet at his house for tea, when their own work was reported upon and
talked over. Suggestions were made and plans considered; and afterwards a
chapter of the Bible was read and discussed. Friends and old pupils of Mr.
Maurice's, residing in the country, or in distant parts of London, were
in the habit of coming occasionally to these meetings, amongst whom was
Charles Kingsley. He had been recently appointed Rector of Eversley, and
was already well known as the author of _The Saint's Tragedy_, his first
work, which contained the germ of much that he did afterwards.

His poem, and the high regard and admiration which Mr. Maurice had for
him, made him a notable figure in that small society, and his presence was
always eagerly looked for. What impressed me most about him when we first
met was, his affectionate deference to Mr. Maurice, and the vigour and
incisiveness of everything he said and did. He had the power of cutting
out what he meant in a few clear words, beyond any one I have ever met.
The next thing that struck one was the ease with which he could turn from
playfulness, or even broad humour, to the deepest earnest. At first I think
this startled most persons, until they came to find out the real deep
nature of the man; and that his broadest humour had its root in a faith
which realized, with extraordinary vividness, the fact that God's Spirit
is actively abroad in the world, and that Christ is in every man, and made
him hold fast, even in his saddest moments,--and sad moments were not
infrequent with him,--the assurance that, in spite of all appearances, the
world was going right, and would go right somehow, "Not your way, or my
way, but God's way." The contrast of his humility and audacity, of his
distrust in himself and confidence in himself, was one of those puzzles
which meet us daily in this world of paradox. But both qualities gave him a
peculiar power for the work he had to do at that time, with which the name
of Parson Lot is associated.

It was at one of these gatherings, towards the end of 1847 or early in
1848, when Kingsley found himself in a minority of one, that he said
jokingly, he felt much as Lot must have felt in the Cities of the Plain,
when he seemed as one that mocked to his sons-in-law. The name Parson Lot
was then and there suggested, and adopted by him, as a familiar _nom de
plume_, He used it from 1848 up to 1856; at first constantly, latterly
much more rarely. But the name was chiefly made famous by his writings in
"Politics for the People," the "Christian Socialist," and the "Journal of
Association," three periodicals which covered the years from '48 to '52; by
"Alton Locke"; and by tracts and pamphlets, of which the best known, "Cheap
Clothes and Nasty," is now republished.

In order to understand and judge the sayings and writings of Parson Lot
fairly, it is necessary to recall the condition of the England of that
day. Through the winter of 1847-8, amidst wide-spread distress, the cloud
of discontent, of which Chartism was the most violent symptom, had been
growing darker and more menacing, while Ireland was only held down by main
force. The breaking-out of the revolution on the Continent in February
increased the danger. In March there were riots in London, Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Liverpool, and other large towns. On April 7th, "the Crown
and Government Security Bill," commonly called "the Gagging Act," was
introduced by the Government, the first reading carried by 265 to 24,
and the second a few days later by 452 to 35. On the 10th of April the
Government had to fill London with troops, and put the Duke of Wellington
in command, who barricaded the bridges and Downing Street, garrisoned the
Bank and other public buildings, and closed the Horse Guards.

When the momentary crisis had passed, the old soldier declared in the House
of Lords that "no great society had ever suffered as London had during the
preceding days," while the Home Secretary telegraphed to all the chief
magistrates of the kingdom the joyful news that the peace had been kept
in London. In April, the Lord Chancellor, in introducing the Crown and
Government Security Bill in the House of Lords, referred to the fact
that "meetings were daily held, not only in London, but in most of the
manufacturing towns, the avowed object of which was to array the people
against the constituted authority of these realms." For months afterwards
the Chartist movement, though plainly subsiding, kept the Government in
constant anxiety; and again in June, the Bank, the Mint, the Custom House,
and other public offices were filled with troops, and the Houses of
Parliament were not only garrisoned but provisioned as if for a siege.

From that time, all fear of serious danger passed away. The Chartists were
completely discouraged, and their leaders in prison; and the upper and
middle classes were recovering rapidly from the alarm which had converted
a million of them into special constables, and were beginning to doubt
whether the crisis had been so serious after all, whether the disaffection
had ever been more than skin deep. At this juncture a series of articles
appeared in the _Morning Chronicle_ on "London Labour and the London Poor,"
which startled the well-to-do classes out of their jubilant and scornful
attitude, and disclosed a state of things which made all fair minded people
wonder, not that there had been violent speaking and some rioting, but that
the metropolis had escaped the scenes which had lately been enacted in
Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and other Continental capitals.

It is only by an effort that one can now realize the strain to which the
nation was subjected during that winter and spring, and which, of course,
tried every individual man also, according to the depth and earnestness of
his political and social convictions and sympathies. The group of men who
were working under Mr. Maurice were no exceptions to the rule. The work of
teaching and visiting was not indeed neglected, but the larger questions
which were being so strenuously mooted--the points of the people's charter,
the right of public meeting, the attitude of the labouring-class to the
other classes--absorbed more and more of their attention. Kingsley was
very deeply impressed with the gravity and danger of the crisis--more so,
I think, than almost any of his friends; probably because, as a country
parson, he was more directly in contact with one class of the poor than any
of them. How deeply he felt for the agricultural poor, how faithfully he
reflected the passionate and restless sadness of the time, may be read in
the pages of "Yeast," which was then coming out in "Fraser." As the winter
months went on this sadness increased, and seriously affected his health.

"I have a longing," he wrote to Mr. Ludlow, "to do _something_--what, God
only knows. You say, 'he that believeth will not make haste,' but I think
he that believeth must _make_ haste, or get damned with the rest. But I
will do anything that anybody likes--I have no confidence in myself or in
anything but God. I am not great enough for such times, alas! '_n pour
faire des vers_,' as Camille Desmoulins said."

This longing became so strong as the crisis in April approached, that he
came to London to see what could be done, and to get help from Mr. Maurice,
and those whom he had been used to meet at his house. He found them a
divided body. The majority were sworn in as special constables, and several
had openly sided with the Chartists; while he himself, with Mr. Maurice and
Mr. Ludlow, were unable to take active part with either side. The following
extract from a letter to his wife, written on the 9th of April, shows how
he was employed during these days, and how he found the work which he was
in search of, the first result of which was the publication of "those
'Politics for the People' which made no small noise in their times"--

"_April_ 11th, 1848.--The events of a week have been crowded into a few
hours. I was up till four this morning--writing posting placards, under
Maurice's auspices, one of which is to be got out to-morrow morning, the
rest when we can get money. Could you not beg a few sovereigns somewhere
to help these poor wretches to the truest alms?--to words, texts from the
Psalms, anything which may keep even one man from cutting his brother's
throat to-morrow or Friday? _Pray, pray, help us._ Maurice has given me
a highest proof of confidence. He has taken me to counsel, and we are to
have meetings for prayer and study, when I come up to London, and we are to
bring out a new set of real "Tracts for the Times," addressed to the higher
orders. Maurice is _ la hauteur des circonstances_--determined to make a
decisive move. He says, if the Oxford Tracts did wonders, why should not
we? Pray for us. A glorious future is opening, and both Maurice and Ludlow
seem to have driven away all my doubts and sorrow, and I see the blue sky
again, and my Father's face!"

The arrangements for the publication of "Politics for the People" were soon
made; and in one of the earliest numbers, for May, 1848, appeared the paper
which furnishes what ground there is for the statement, already quoted,
that "he declared, in burning language, that the People's Charter did not
go far enough" It was No. 1 of "Parson Lot's Letters to the Chartists." Let
us read it with its context.

"I am not one of those who laugh at your petition of the 10th of April: I
have no patience with those who do. Suppose there were but 250,000 honest
names on that sheet--suppose the Charter itself were all stuff--yet you
have still a right to fair play, a patient hearing, an honourable and
courteous answer, whichever way it may be. But _my only quarrel with the
Charter is that it does not go far enough in reform_. I want to see you
_free_, but I do not see that what you ask for will give you what you want.
I think you have fallen into just the same mistake as the rich, of whom you
complain--the very mistake which has been our curse and our nightmare. I
mean the mistake of fancying that _legislative_ reform is _social_ reform,
or that men's hearts can be changed by Act of Parliament. If any one will
tell me of a country where a Charter made the rogues honest, or the idle
industrious, I will alter my opinion of the Charter, but not till then. It
disappointed me bitterly when I read it. It seemed a harmless cry enough,
but a poor, bald constitution-mongering cry as ever I heard. The French cry
of 'organization of labour' is worth a thousand of it, but yet that does
not go to the bottom of the matter by many a mile." And then, after telling
how he went to buy a number of the Chartist newspaper, and found it in a
shop which sold "flash songsters," "the Swell's Guide," and "dirty milksop
French novels," and that these publications, and a work called "The Devil's
Pulpit," were puffed in its columns, he goes on, "These are strange times.
I thought the devil used to befriend tyrants and oppressors, but he seems
to have profited by Burns' advice to 'tak a thought and mend.' I thought
the struggling freeman's watchword was: 'God sees my wrongs.' 'He hath
taken the matter into His own hands.' 'The poor committeth himself unto
Him, for He is the helper of the friendless.' But now the devil seems all
at once to have turned philanthropist and patriot, and to intend himself to
fight the good cause, against which he has been fighting ever since Adam's
time. I don't deny, my friends, it is much cheaper and pleasanter to be
reformed by the devil than by God; for God will only reform society on the
condition of our reforming every man his own self--while the devil is quite
ready to help us to mend the laws and the parliament, earth and heaven,
without ever starting such an impertinent and 'personal' request, as that
a man should mend himself. _That_ liberty of the subject he will always
respect."--"But I say honestly, whomsoever I may offend, the more I have
read of your convention speeches and newspaper articles, the more I am
convinced that too many of you are trying to do God's work with the devil's
tools. What is the use of brilliant language about peace, and the majesty
of order, and universal love, though it may all be printed in letters a
foot long, when it runs in the same train with ferocity, railing, mad,
one-eyed excitement, talking itself into a passion like a street woman? Do
you fancy that after a whole column spent in stirring men up to fury, a few
twaddling copybook headings about 'the sacred duty of order' will lay the
storm again? What spirit is there but the devil's spirit in bloodthirsty
threats of revenge?"--"I denounce the weapons which you have been deluded
into employing to gain you your rights, and the indecency and profligacy
which you are letting be mixed up with them! Will you strengthen and
justify your enemies? Will you disgust and cripple your friends? Will you
go out of your way to do wrong? When you can be free by fair means will you
try foul? When you might keep the name of Liberty as spotless as the Heaven
from which she comes, will you defile her with blasphemy, beastliness, and
blood? When the cause of the poor is the cause of Almighty God, will you
take it out of His hands to entrust it to the devil? These are bitter
questions, but as you answer them so will you prosper."

In Letter II. he tells them that if they have followed, a different
"Reformer's Guide" from his, it is "mainly the fault of us parsons, who
have never told you that the true 'Reformer's Guide,' the true poor man's
book, the true 'Voice of God against tyrants, idlers, and humbugs, was the
Bible.' The Bible demands for the poor as much, and more, than they demand
for themselves; it expresses the deepest yearnings of the poor man's heart
far more nobly, more searchingly, more daringly, more eloquently than any
modern orator has done. I say, it gives a ray of hope--say rather a certain
dawn of a glorious future, such as no universal suffrage, free trade,
communism, organization of labour, or any other Morrison's-pill-measure can
give--and yet of a future, which will embrace all that is good in these--a
future of conscience, of justice, of freedom, when idlers and oppressors
shall no more dare to plead parchments and Acts of Parliament for their
iniquities. I say the Bible promises this, not in a few places only, but
throughout; it is the thought which runs through the whole Bible, justice
from God to those whom men oppress, glory from God to those whom men
despise. Does that look like the invention of tyrants, and prelates? You
may sneer, but give me a fair hearing, and if I do not prove my words, then
call me the same hard name which I shall call any man, who having read
the Bible, denies that it is the poor man's comfort and the rich man's

In subsequent numbers (as afterwards in the "Christian Socialist," and the
"Journal of Association") he dwells in detail on the several popular cries,
such as, "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work," illustrating them from
the Bible, urging his readers to take it as the true Radical Reformer's
Guide, if they were longing for the same thing as he was longing for--to
see all humbug, idleness, injustice, swept out of England. His other
contributions to these periodicals consisted of some of his best short
poems: "The Day of the Lord;" "The Three Fishers;" "Old and New," and
others; of a series of Letters on the Frimley murder; of a short story
called "The Nun's Pool," and of some most charming articles on the pictures
in the National Gallery, and the collections in the British Museum,
intended to teach the English people how to use and enjoy their own

I think I know every line which was ever published under the signature
Parson Lot; and I take it upon myself to say, that there is in all that
"burning language" nothing more revolutionary than the extracts given above
from his letters to the Chartists.

But, it may be said, apart from his writings, did not Parson Lot declare
himself a Chartist in a public meeting in London; and did he not preach in
a London pulpit a political sermon, which brought up the incumbent, who had
invited him, to protest from the altar against the doctrine which had just
been delivered?

Yes! Both statements are true. Here are the facts as to the speech, those
as to the sermon I will give in their place. In the early summer of 1848
some of those who felt with C. Kingsley that the "People's Charter" had not
had fair play or courteous treatment, and that those who signed it had real
wrongs to complain of, put themselves into communication with the leaders,
and met and talked with them. At last it seemed that the time was come for
some more public meeting, and one was called at the Cranbourn Tavern, over
which Mr. Maurice presided. After the president's address several very
bitter speeches followed, and a vehement attack was specially directed
against the Church and the clergy. The meeting waxed warm, and seemed
likely to come to no good, when Kingsley rose, folded his arms across his
chest, threw his head back, and began--with the stammer which always came
at first when he was much moved, but which fixed every one's attention at
once--"I am a Church of England parson"--a long pause--"and a Chartist;"
and then he went on to explain how far he thought them right in their claim
for a reform of Parliament; how deeply he sympathized with their sense of
the injustice of the law as it affected them; how ready he was to help in
all ways to get these things set right; and then to denounce their methods,
in very much the same terms as I have already quoted from his letters to
the Chartists. Probably no one who was present ever heard a speech which
told more at the time. I had a singular proof that the effect did not
pass away. The most violent speaker on that occasion was one of the staff
of the leading Chartist newspaper. I lost sight of him entirely for more
than twenty years, and saw him again, a little grey shrivelled man, by
Kingsley's side, at the grave of Mr. Maurice, in the cemetery at Hampstead.

The experience of this meeting encouraged its promoters to continue the
series, which they did with a success which surprised no one more than
themselves. Kingsley's opinion of them may be gathered from the following
extract from a letter to his wife:--

"_June_ 4, 1848, Evening.--A few words before bed. I have just come home
from the meeting. No one spoke but working men, gentlemen I should call
them, in every sense of the term. Even _I_ was perfectly astonished by the
courtesy, the reverence to Maurice, who sat there like an Apollo, their
eloquence, the brilliant, nervous, well-chosen language, the deep simple
earnestness, the rightness and moderation of their thoughts. And these are
the _Chartists_, these are the men who are called fools and knaves--who are
refused the rights which are bestowed on every profligate fop.... It is
God's cause, fear not He will be with us, and if He is with us, who shall
be against us?"

But while he was rapidly winning the confidence of the working classes, he
was raising up a host of more or less hostile critics in other quarters by
his writings in "Politics for the People," which journal was in the midst
of its brief and stormy career. At the end of June, 1848, he writes to Mr.
Ludlow, one of the editors--

"I fear my utterances have had a great deal to do with the 'Politics''
unpopularity. I have got worse handled than any of you by poor and rich.
There is one comfort, that length of ears is in the donkey species always
compensated by toughness of hide. But it is a pleasing prospect for me (if
you knew all that has been said and written about Parson Lot), when I look
forward and know that my future explosions are likely to become more and
more obnoxious to the old gentlemen, who stuff their ears with cotton, and
then swear the children are not screaming."

"Politics for the People" was discontinued for want of funds; but its
supporters, including all those who were working under Mr. Maurice--who,
however much they might differ in opinions, were of one mind as to the
danger of the time, and the duty of every man to do his utmost to meet that
danger--were bent upon making another effort. In the autumn, Mr. Ludlow,
and others of their number who spent the vacation abroad, came back with
accounts of the efforts at association which were being made by the
workpeople of Paris.

The question of starting such associations in England as the best means
of fighting the slop system--which the "Chronicle" was showing to lie at
the root of the misery and distress which bred Chartists--was anxiously
debated. It was at last resolved to make the effort, and to identify the
new journal with the cause of Association, and to publish a set of tracts
in connection with it, of which Kingsley undertook to write the first,
"Cheap Clothes and Nasty."

So "the Christian Socialist" was started, with Mr. Ludlow for editor, the
tracts on Christian Socialism begun under Mr. Maurice's supervision, and
the society for promoting working-men's associations was formed out of the
body of men who were already working with Mr. Maurice. The great majority
of these joined, though the name was too much for others. The question of
taking it had been much considered, and it was decided, on the whole, to be
best to do so boldly, even though it might cost valuable allies. Kingsley
was of course consulted on every point, though living now almost entirely
at Eversley, and his views as to the proper policy to be pursued may be
gathered best from the following extracts from letters of his to Mr.

"We must touch the workman at all his points of interest. First and
foremost at association--but also at political rights, as grounded both
on the Christian ideal of the Church, and on the historic facts of the
Anglo-Saxon race. Then national education, sanitary and dwelling-house
reform, the free sale of land, and corresponding reform of the land laws,
moral improvement of the family relation, public places of recreation (on
which point I am very earnest), and I think a set of hints from history,
and sayings of great men, of which last I have been picking up from Plato,
Demosthenes, &c."

1849.--"This is a puling, quill-driving, soft-handed age--among our
own rank, I mean. Cowardice is called meekness; to temporize is to be
charitable and reverent; to speak truth, and shame the devil, is to
offend weak brethren, who, somehow or other, never complain of their weak
consciences till you hit them hard. And yet, my dear fellow, I still remain
of my old mind--that it is better to say too much than too little, and more
merciful to knock a man down with a pick-axe than to prick him to death
with pins. The world says, No. It hates anything demonstrative, or violent
(except on its own side), or unrefined."

1849.--"The question of property is one of these cases. We must face it in
this age--simply because it faces us."--"I want to commit myself--I want
to make others commit themselves. No man can fight the devil with a long
ladle, however pleasant it may be to eat with him with one. A man never
fishes well in the morning till he has tumbled into the water."

And the counsels of Parson Lot had undoubtedly great weight in giving an
aggressive tone both to the paper and the society. But if he was largely
responsible for the fighting temper of the early movement, he, at any rate,
never shirked his share of the fighting. His name was the butt at which all
shafts were aimed. As Lot "seemed like one that mocked to his sons-in-law,"
so seemed the Parson to the most opposite sections of the British nation.
As a friend wrote of him at the time, he "had at any rate escaped the
curse of the false prophets, 'Woe unto you when all men shall speak well
of you.'" Many of the attacks and criticisms were no doubt aimed not so
much at him personally as at the body of men with whom, and for whom,
he was working; but as he was (except Mr. Maurice) the only one whose
name was known, he got the lion's share of all the abuse. The storm
broke on him from all points of the compass at once. An old friend and
fellow-contributor to "Politics for the People," led the Conservative
attack, accusing him of unsettling the minds of the poor, making them
discontented, &c. Some of the foremost Chartists wrote virulently against
him for "attempting to justify the God of the Old Testament," who, they
maintained, was unjust and cruel, and, at any rate, not the God "of the
people." The political economists fell on him for his anti-Malthusian
belief, that the undeveloped fertility of the earth need not be overtaken
by population within any time which it concerned us to think about. The
quarterlies joined in the attack on his economic heresies. The "Daily
News" opened a cross fire on him from the common-sense Liberal battery,
denouncing the "revolutionary nonsense, which is termed Christian
Socialisms"; and, after some balancing, the "Guardian," representing in
the press the side of the Church to which he leant, turned upon him in a
very cruel article on the republication of "Yeast" (originally written
for "Fraser's Magazine"), and accused him of teaching heresy in doctrine,
and in morals "that a certain amount of youthful profligacy does no real
permanent harm to the character, perhaps strengthens it for a useful and
religious life."

In this one instance Parson Lot fairly lost his temper, and answered, "as
was answered to the Jesuit of old--_mentiris impudentissime_." With the
rest he seemed to enjoy the conflict and "kept the ring," like a candidate
for the wrestling championship in his own county of Devon against all
comers, one down another come on.

The fact is, that Charles Kingsley was born a fighting man, and believed
in bold attack. "No human power ever beat back a resolute forlorn hope,"
he used to say; "to be got rid of, they must be blown back with grape and
canister," because the attacking party have all the universe behind them,
the defence only that small part which is shut up in their walls. And he
felt most strongly at this time that hard fighting was needed. "It is a
pity" he writes to Mr. Ludlow, "that telling people what's right, won't
make them do it; but not a new fact, though that ass the world has quite
forgotten it; and assures you that dear sweet 'incompris' mankind only
wants to be told the way to the millennium to walk willingly into it--which
is a lie. If you want to get mankind, if not to heaven, at least out of
hell, kick them out." And again, a little later on, in urging the policy
which the "Christian Socialist" should still follow--

1851.--"It seems to me that in such a time as this the only way to fight
against the devil is to attack him. He has got it too much his own way
to meddle with us if we don't meddle with him. But the very devil has
feelings, and if you prick him will roar...whereby you, at all events, gain
the not-every-day-of-the-week-to-be-attained benefit of finding out where
he is. Unless, indeed, as I suspect, the old rascal plays ventriloquist (as
big grasshoppers do when you chase them), and puts you on a wrong scent,
by crying 'Fire!' out of saints' windows. Still, the odds are if you prick
lustily enough, you make him roar unawares."

The memorials of his many controversies lie about in the periodicals of
that time, and any one who cares to hunt them up will be well repaid, and
struck with the vigour of the defence, and still more with the complete
change in public opinion, which has brought the England of to-day clean
round to the side of Parson Lot. The most complete perhaps of his fugitive
pieces of this kind is the pamphlet, "Who are the friends of Order?"
published by J. W. Parker and Son, in answer to a very fair and moderate
article in "Fraser's Mazagine." The Parson there points out how he and
his friends were "cursed by demagogues as aristocrats, and by tories as
democrats, when in reality they were neither." And urges that the very fact
of the Continent being overrun with Communist fanatics is the best argument
for preaching association here.

But though he faced his adversaries bravely, it must not be inferred that
he did not feel the attacks and misrepresentations very keenly. In many
respects, though housed in a strong and vigorous body, his spirit was an
exceedingly tender and sensitive one. I have often thought that at this
time his very sensitiveness drove him to say things more broadly and
incisively, because he was speaking as it were somewhat against the grain,
and knew that the line he was taking would be misunderstood, and would
displease and alarm those with whom he had most sympathy. For he was by
nature and education an aristocrat in the best sense of the word, believed
that a landed aristocracy was a blessing to the country, and that no
country would gain the highest liberty without such a class, holding its
own position firmly, but in sympathy with the people. He liked their habits
and ways, and keenly enjoyed their society. Again, he was full of reverence
for science and scientific men, and specially for political economy and
economists, and desired eagerly to stand well with them. And it was a most
bitter trial to him to find himself not only in sharp antagonism with
traders and employers of labour, which he looked for, but with these
classes also.

On the other hand many of the views and habits of those with whom he found
himself associated were very distasteful to him. In a new social movement,
such as that of association as it took shape in 1849-50, there is certain
to be great attraction for restless and eccentric persons, and in point
of fact many such joined it. The beard movement was then in its infancy,
and any man except a dragoon who wore hair on his face was regarded as a
dangerous character, with whom it was compromising to be seen in any public
place--a person in sympathy with _sansculottes_, and who would dispense
with trousers but for his fear of the police. Now whenever Kingsley
attended a meeting of the promoters of association in London, he was
sure to find himself in the midst of bearded men, vegetarians, and other
eccentric persons, and the contact was very grievous to him. "As if we
shall not be abused enough," he used to say, "for what we must say and do
without being saddled with mischievous nonsense of this kind." To less
sensitive men the effect of eccentricity upon him was almost comic, as
when on one occasion he was quite upset and silenced by the appearance of
a bearded member of Council at an important deputation in a straw hat and
blue plush gloves. He did not recover from the depression produced by those
gloves for days. Many of the workmen, too, who were most prominent in the
Associations were almost as little to his mind--windy inflated kind of
persons, with a lot of fine phrases in their mouths which they did not know
the meaning of.

But in spite of all that was distasteful to him in some of its
surroundings, the co-operative movement (as it is now called) entirely
approved itself to his conscience and judgment, and mastered him so that he
was ready to risk whatever had to be risked in fighting its battle. Often
in those days, seeing how loath Charles Kingsley was to take in hand, much
of the work which Parson Lot had to do, and how fearlessly and thoroughly
he did it after all, one was reminded of the old Jewish prophets, such as
Amos the herdsman of Tekoa--"I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's
son, but I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord
took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go prophesy unto my
people Israel."

The following short extracts from his correspondence with Mr. Ludlow, as to
the conduct of the "Christian Socialist," and his own contributions to it,
may perhaps serve to show how his mind was working at this time:--

_Sept., 1850_.--"I cannot abide the notion of Branch Churches or Free
(sect) Churches, and unless my whole train of thought alters, I will resist
the temptation as coming from the devil. Where I am I am doing God's work,
and when the Church is ripe for more, the Head of the Church will put the
means our way. You seem to fancy that we may have a _Deus quidam Deceptor_
over us after all. If I did I'd go and blow my dirty brains out and be rid
of the whole thing at once. I would indeed. If God, when people ask Him to
teach and guide them, does not; if when they confess themselves rogues and
fools to Him, and beg Him to make them honest and wise, He does not, but
darkens them, and deludes them into bogs and pitfalls, is he a Father? You
fall back into Judaism, friend."

_Dec., 1850_.--"Jeremiah is my favourite book now. It has taught me more
than tongue can tell. But I am much disheartened, and am minded to speak
no more words in this name (Parson Lot); and yet all these bullyings teach
one, correct one, warn one--show one that God is not leaving one to go
one's own way. 'Christ reigns,' quoth Luther."

It was at this time, in the winter of 1850, that "Alton Locke" was
published. He had been engaged on it for more than a year, working at it
in the midst of all his controversies. The following extracts from his
correspondence with Mr. Ludlow will tell readers more about it than any
criticism, if they have at all realized the time at which it was written,
or his peculiar work in that time.

_February, 1849_.--"I have hopes from the book I am writing, which has
revealed itself to me so rapidly and methodically that I feel it comes
down from above, and that only my folly can spoil it, which I pray against

1849.--"I think the notion a good one (referring to other work for the
paper which he had been asked to do), but I feel no inspiration at all
that way; and I dread being tempted to more and more bitterness, harsh
judgment, and evil speaking. I dread it. I am afraid sometimes I shall end
in universal snarling. Besides, my whole time is taken up with my book,
and _that_ I do feel inspired to write.

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