In 1842, when the Clearing House first began, the staff, as I have said, numbered six, and the companies nine. Fifty-eight railway companies now belong to the House, and the amount of money dealt with by way of division and apportionment in the year before the war was 31,071,910 pounds. In 1842 it was 193,246 pounds.
The boy who is strong and healthy, overflowing with animal spirits, enjoys life in a way that is denied to his slighter-framed, more delicate brother. Exercise imparts to him a physical exuberance to which the other is a stranger. But Nature is kind. If she withholds her gifts in one direction she bestows them in another. She grants the enjoyment of sedentary pursuits to those to whom she has denied hardier pleasures.
During my schooldays I spent many happy hours alone with book or pen or pencil. My father was fond of reading, and for a man of his limited means, possessed a good collection of books; a considerable number of the volumes of Bohn’s Standard Library as well as Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Butler’s Hudibras, Bailey’s Festus, Gil Blas, Don Quixote, Pilgrim’s Progress, the Arabian Nights, Shakespeare, most of the poets from Chaucer down; and of novels, Bulwer Lytton’s, Scott’s, Dickens’ and Thackeray’s. These are the books I best remember, but there were others of classic fame, and I read them all; but not, I fear to much advantage, for though I have read many books it has been without much method, just as fancy led, and study, memory and judgment have been little considered. Still, unsystematic reading is better than no reading, and, as someone has said, “a phrase may fructify if it falls on receptive soil.”
I never in my boyhood or youth, except on short visits to relatives, enjoyed the advantage, by living in the country, of becoming intimate with rural life. We resided at Derby in a terrace on the outskirt of the town, much to my dislike, for monotonous rows of houses I have ever hated. One’s home should be one’s friend and possess some special feature of its own, even in its outward aspect, to love and remember. As George Eliot says: “We get the fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their own, as our friends have.”
In my schooldays, country walks, pursued as far as health and strength allowed, were my greatest pleasure, sometimes taken alone, sometimes with a companion. The quiet valley of the Trent at Repton, Anchor Church, Knoll Hills, the long bridge at Swarkestone, the charming little country town of Melbourne, the wooded beauties of Duffield and Belper, the ozier beds of Spondon; how often have I trod their fields, their woods, their lanes, their paths; and how pleasantly the memory of it all comes back to me now!