Perhaps it may be permitted to mention two events in her life which help one to understand how it is she has come to play this masculine and feminine part in public life.
One day, a day of torrential rain, when she was a girl living in her father’s house in Cheshire, she and her sister saw a carriage and pair coming through the park towards the house. The coachman and footman on the box were soaking wet, and kept their heads down to avoid the sting of the rain in their eyes. The horses were streaming with rain and the carriage might have been a watercart.
When the caller, a rich lady, arrived in the drawing-room, polite wonder was expressed at her boldness in coming out on such a dreadful day. She seemed surprised. “Oh, but I came in a closed carriage,” she explained.
This innocent remark opened the eyes of Miss Royden to the obliquity of vision which is wrought, all unconsciously in many cases, by the power of selfishness. The condition of her coachman and footman had never for a moment presented itself to the lady’s mind. Miss Royden made acquaintance with righteous indignation. She became a reformer, and something of a vehement reformer.
The drenched carriage coming through a splash of rain to her home will remain for ever in her mind as an image of that spirit of selfishness which in its manifold and subtle workings wrecks the beauty of human existence.
Miss Royden, it should be said, had been prepared by a long experience of pain to feel sympathy with the sufferings of other people. Her mind had been lamentably ploughed up ever since the dawn of memory to receive the divine grain of compassion.
At birth both her hips were dislocated, and lameness has been her lot through life. Such was her spirit, however, that this saddening and serious affliction, dogging her days and nights with pain, seldom prevented her from joining in the vigorous games and sports of the Royden family. She was something of a boy even in those days, and pluck was the very centre of her science of existence.
The religion of her parents suggested to her mind that this suffering had been sent by God. She accepted the perilous suggestion, but never confronted it. It neither puffed her up with spiritual pride nor created in her mind bitter thoughts of a paltry and detestable Deity. A pagan stoicism helped her to bear her lot quite as much as, if not more than, the evangelicalism of Sir Thomas and Lady Royden. Moreover, she was too much in love with life to give her mind very seriously to the difficulties of theology. Even with a body which had to wrench itself along, one could swim and row, read and think, observe and worship.
Her eldest brother went to Winchester and Magdalen College at Oxford; she to Cheltenham College and Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford. Education was an enthusiasm. Rivalry in scholarship was as greatly a part of that wholesome family life as rivalry in games. There was always a Socratic “throwing of the ball” going on, both indoors and out. Miss Royden distinguished herself in the sphere of learning and in the sphere of sports.