What made these Sundays, the observance of which was absolutely uniform, so peculiarly trying was that I was not permitted the indulgence of any secular respite. I might not open a scientific book, nor make a drawing, nor examine a specimen. I was not allowed to go into the road, except to proceed with my parents to the Room, nor to discuss worldly subjects at meals, nor to enter the little chamber where I kept my treasures. I was hotly and tightly dressed in black, all day long, as though ready at any moment to attend a funeral with decorum. Sometimes, towards evening, I used to feel the monotony and weariness of my position to be almost unendurable, but at this time I was meek, and I bowed to what I supposed to be the order of the universe.
As my mental horizon widened, my Father followed the direction of my spiritual eyes with some bewilderment, and knew not at what I gazed. Nor could I have put into words, nor can I even now define, the visions which held my vague and timid attention. As a child develops, those who regard it with tenderness or impatience are seldom even approximately correct in their analysis of its intellectual movements, largely because, if there is anything to record, it defies adult definition. One curious freak of mentality I must now mention, because it took a considerable part in the enfranchisement of my mind, or rather in the formation of my thinking habits. But neither my Father nor my stepmother knew what to make of it, and to tell the truth I hardly know what to make of it myself.
Among the books which my new mother had brought with her were certain editions of the poets, an odd assortment. Campbell was there, and Burns, and Keats, and the ‘Tales’ of Byron. Each of these might have been expected to appeal to me; but my emotion was too young, and I did not listen to them yet. Their imperative voices called me later. By the side of these romantic classics stood a small, thick volume, bound in black morocco, and comprising four reprinted works of the eighteenth century, gloomy, funereal poems of an order as wholly out of date as are the crossbones and ruffled cherubim on the gravestones in a country churchyard. The four—and in this order, as I never shall forget—were ‘The Last Day’ of Dr Young, Blair’s ‘Grave’, ‘Death’ by Bishop Beilby Porteus, and ‘The Deity’ of Samuel Boyse. These lugubrious effusions, all in blank verse or in the heroic couplet, represented, in its most redundant form, the artistic theology of the middle of the eighteenth century. They were steeped in such vengeful and hortatory sentiments as passed for elegant piety in the reign of George II.