WE know more of the early days of the Pyramids or of ancientBabylon than we do of our own. The Stone age, the dragons ofthe prime, are not more remote from us than is our earliestchildhood. It is not so long ago for any of us; and yet, ourmemories of it are but veiled spectres wandering in the mazesof some foregone existence.

  Are we really trailing clouds of glory from afar? Or are our'forgettings' of the outer Eden only? Or, setting poetryaside, are they perhaps the quickening germs of all pastheredity - an epitome1 of our race and its descent? At anyrate THEN, if ever, our lives are such stuff as dreams aremade of. There is no connected story of events, thoughts,acts, or feelings. We try in vain to re-collect; but thesecrets of the grave are not more inviolable, - for thebeginnings, like the endings, of life are lost in darkness.

  It is very difficult to affix2 a date to any relic3 of that dimpast. We may have a distinct remembrance of some pleasure,some pain, some fright, some accident, but the vivid does nothelp us to chronicle with accuracy. A year or two makes avast difference in our ability. We can remember well enoughwhen we donned the 'CAUDA VIRILIS,' but not when we left offpetticoats.

  The first remembrance to which I can correctly tack4 a date isthe death of George IV. I was between three and four yearsold. My recollection of the fact is perfectly5 distinct -distinct by its association with other facts, then far moreweighty to me than the death of a king.

  I was watching with rapture6, for the first time, the spinningof a peg-top by one of the grooms7 in the stable yard, whenthe coachman, who had just driven my mother home, announcedthe historic news. In a few minutes four or five servants -maids and men - came running to the stables to learnparticulars, and the peg-top, to my sorrow, had to beabandoned for gossip and flirtation8. We were a long way fromstreet criers - indeed, quite out of town. My father's housewas in Kensington, a little further west than the presentmuseum. It was completely surrounded by fields and hedges.

  I mention the fact merely to show to what age definite memorycan be authentically9 assigned. Doubtless we have muchearlier remembrances, though we must reckon these by days, orby months at the outside. The relativity of the reckoningwould seem to make Time indeed a 'Form of Thought.'

  Two or three reminiscences of my childhood have stuck to me;some of them on account of their comicality. I was taken toa children's ball at St. James's Palace. In my mind's eye Ihave but one distinct vision of it. I cannot see the crowd -there was nothing to distinguish that from what I have sooften seen since; nor the court dresses, nor the soldierseven, who always attract a child's attention in the streets;but I see a raised dais on which were two thrones. WilliamIV. sat on one, Queen Adelaide on the other. I cannot saywhether we were marched past in turn, or how I came there.

  But I remember the look of the king in his naval10 uniform. Iremember his white kerseymere breeches, and pink silkstockings, and buckled11 shoes. He took me between his knees,and asked, 'Well, what are you going to be, my little man?'

  'A sailor,' said I, with brazen12 simplicity13.

  'Going to avenge14 the death of Nelson - eh? Fond o' sugar-plums?'

  'Ye-es,' said I, taking a mental inventory16 of stars andanchor buttons.

  Upon this, he fetched from the depths of his waistcoat pocketa capacious gold box, and opened it with a tap, as though hewere about to offer me a pinch of snuff. 'There's for you,'

  said he.

  I helped myself, unawed by the situation, and with my smallfist clutching the bonbons17, was passed on to Queen Adelaide.

  She gave me a kiss, for form's sake, I thought; and Iscuttled back to my mother.

  But here followed the shocking part of the ENFANT TERRIBLE'Sadventure. Not quite sure of Her Majesty's identity - I hadnever heard there was a Queen - I naively18 asked my mother, ina very audible stage-whisper, 'Who is the old lady with - ?'

  My mother dragged me off the instant she had made hercurtsey. She had a quick sense of humour; and, judging fromher laughter, when she told her story to another lady in thesupper room, I fancied I had said or done something veryfunny. I was rather disconcerted at being seriouslyadmonished, and told I must never again comment upon thebreath of ladies who condescended19 to kiss, or to speak to,me.

  While we lived at Kensington, Lord Anglesey used often to paymy mother a visit. She had told me the story of the battleof Waterloo, in which my Uncle George - 6th Lord Albemarle -had taken part; and related how Lord Anglesey had lost a legthere, and how one of his legs was made of cork20. LordAnglesey was a great dandy. The cut of the Paget hat was anheirloom for the next generation or two, and the gallantMarquis' boots and tightly-strapped trousers were patterns ofpolish and precision. The limp was perceptible; but of whichleg, was, in spite of careful investigation21, beyond mydiagnosis. His presence provoked my curiosity, till one fineday it became too strong for resistance. While he was busilyengaged in conversation with my mother, I, watching for thechance, sidled up to his chair, and as soon as he lookedaway, rammed22 my heel on to his toes. They were his toes.

  And considering the jump and the oath which instantlyresponded to my test, I am persuaded they were abnormallytender ones. They might have been made of corns, certainlynot of cork.

  Another discovery I made about this period was, for me atleast, a 'record': it happened at Quidenham - my grandfatherthe 4th Lord Albemarle's place.

  Some excursion was afoot, which needed an early breakfast.

  When this was half over, one married couple were missing. Mygrandfather called me to him (I was playing with anothersmall boy in one of the window bays). 'Go and tell LadyMaria, with my love,' said he, 'that we shall start in halfan hour. Stop, stop a minute. Be sure you knock at thedoor.' I obeyed orders - I knocked at the door, but failedto wait for an answer. I entered without it. And what did Ibehold? Lady Maria was still in bed; and by the side of LadyM. was, very naturally, Lady M.'s husband, also in bed andfast asleep. At first I could hardly believe my senses. Itwas within the range of my experience that boys of my ageoccasionally slept in the same bed. But that a grown up manshould sleep in the same bed with his wife was quite beyondmy notion of the fitness of things. I was so staggered, solong in taking in this astounding23 novelty, that I could notat first deliver my grandfathers message. The moment I haddone so, I rushed back to the breakfast room, and in a loudvoice proclaimed to the company what I had seen. My taleproduced all the effect I had anticipated, but mainly in theshape of amusement. One wag - my uncle Henry Keppel - askedfor details, gravely declaring he could hardly credit mystatement. Every one, however, seemed convinced by thecircumstantial nature of my evidence when I positivelyasserted that their heads were not even at opposite ends ofthe bed, but side by side upon the same pillow.

  A still greater soldier than Lord Anglesey used to come toHolkham every year, a great favourite of my father's; thiswas Lord Lynedoch. My earliest recollections of him owetheir vividness to three accidents - in the logical sense ofthe term: his silky milk-white locks, his Spanish servantwho wore earrings24 - and whom, by the way, I used to confoundwith Courvoisier, often there at the same time with hismaster Lord William Russell, for the murder of whom he washanged, as all the world knows - and his fox terrier Nettle,which, as a special favour, I was allowed to feed withAbernethy biscuits.

  He was at Longford, my present home, on a visit to my fatherin 1835, when, one evening after dinner, the two oldgentlemen - no one else being present but myself - sitting inarmchairs over the fire, finishing their bottle of port, LordLynedoch told the wonderful story of his adventures duringthe siege of Mantua by the French, in 1796. For brevity'ssake, it were better perhaps to give the outline in the wordsof Alison. 'It was high time the Imperialists should advanceto the relief of this fortress25, which was now reduced to thelast extremity26 from want of provisions. At a council of warheld in the end of December, it was decided27 that it wasindispensable that instant intelligence should be sent toAlvinzi of their desperate situation. An English officer,attached to the garrison28, volunteered to perform the perilousmission, which he executed with equal courage and success.

  He set out, disguised as a peasant, from Mantua on December29, at nightfall in the midst of a deep fall of snow, eludedthe vigilance of the French patrols, and, after surmounting29 athousand hardships and dangers, arrived at the headquartersof Alvinzi, at Bassano, on January 4, the day after theconferences at Vicenza were broken up.

  'Great destinies awaited this enterprising officer. He wasColonel Graham, afterwards victor at Barrosa, and the firstBritish general who planted the English standard on the soilof France.'

  This bare skeleton of the event was endued30 'with sense andsoul' by the narrator. The 'hardships and dangers' thrilledone's young nerves. Their two salient features were iceperils, and the no less imminent31 one of being captured andshot as a spy. The crossing of the rivers stands outprominently in my recollection. All the bridges were ofcourse guarded, and he had two at least within the enemy'slines to get over - those of the Mincio and of the Adige.

  Probably the lagunes surrounding the invested fortress wouldbe his worst difficulty. The Adige he described as besetwith a two-fold risk - the avoidance of the bridges, whichcourted suspicion, and the thin ice and only partially32 frozenriver, which had to be traversed in the dark. The vigour,the zest33 with which the wiry veteran 'shoulder'd his crutchand show'd how fields were won' was not a thing to beforgotten.

  Lord Lynedoch lived to a great age, and it was from his houseat Cardington, in Bedfordshire, that my brother Leicestermarried his first wife, Miss Whitbread, in 1843. That wasthe last time I saw him.

  Perhaps the following is not out of place here, although itis connected with more serious thoughts:

  Though neither my father nor my mother were more pious34 thantheir neighbours, we children were brought up religiously.

  From infancy35 we were taught to repeat night and morning theLord's Prayer, and invoke36 blessings37 on our parents. It wasinstilled into us by constant repetition that God did notlove naughty children - our naughtiness being for the mostpart the original sin of disobedience, rooted in the love offorbidden fruit in all its forms of allurement38. Moseshimself could not have believed more faithfully in the directand immediate39 intervention40 of an avenging41 God. The pain inone's stomach incident to unripe42 gooseberries, no less thanthe consequent black dose, or the personal chastisement43 of aresponsible and apprehensive44 nurse, were but the justvisitations of an offended Deity45.

  Whether my religious proclivities46 were more pronounced thanthose of other children I cannot say, but certainly, as achild, I was in the habit of appealing to Omnipotence47 togratify every ardent48 desire.

  There were peacocks in the pleasure grounds at Holkham, and Ihad an aesthetic49 love for their gorgeous plumes50. As I huntedunder and amongst the shrubs51, I secretly prayed that mysearch might be rewarded. Nor had I a doubt, whensuccessful, that my prayer had been granted by a beneficentProvidence.

  Let no one smile at this infantine credulity, for is it notthe basis of that religious trust which helps so many of usto support the sorrows to which our stoicism is unequal? Whothat might be tempted53 thoughtlessly to laugh at the childdoes not sometimes sustain the hope of finding his 'plumes'

  by appeals akin15 to those of his childhood? Which of us couldnot quote a hundred instances of such a soothing54 delusion55 -if delusion it be? I speak not of saints, but of sinners:

  of the countless56 hosts who aspire57 to this world's happiness;of the dying who would live, of the suffering who would die,of the poor who would be rich, of the aggrieved58 who seekvengeance, of the ugly who would be beautiful, of the old whowould appear young, of the guilty who would not be found out,and of the lover who would possess. Ah! the lover. Herepossibility is a negligible element. Consequences are of noconsequence. Passion must be served. When could a miraclebe more pertinent59?

  It is just fifty years ago now; it was during the IndianMutiny. A lady friend of mine did me the honour to make meher confidant. She paid the same compliment to many - mostof her friends; and the friends (as is their wont) confidedin one another. Poor thing! her case was a sad one. Whosecase is not? She was, by her own account, in the forty-second year of her virginity; and it may be added,parenthetically, an honest fourteen stone in weight.

  She was in love with a hero of Lucknow. It cannot be saidthat she knew him only by his well-earned fame. She had seenhim, had even sat by him at dinner. He was young, he washandsome. It was love at sight, accentuated60 by muchmeditation - 'obsessions61 [peradventure] des imagesgenetiques.' She told me (and her other confidants, ofcourse) that she prayed day and night that this distinguishedofficer, this handsome officer, might return her passion.

  And her letters to me (and to other confidants) invariablyended with the entreaty63 that I (and her other, &c.) wouldoffer up a similar prayer on her behalf. Alas64! poor soul,poor body! I should say, the distinguished62 officer, togetherwith the invoked65 Providence52, remained equally insensible toher supplications. The lady rests in peace. The soldier,though a veteran, still exults66 in war.

  But why do I cite this single instance? Are there notmillions of such entreaties67 addressed to Heaven on this, andon every day? What difference is there, in spirit, betweenthem and the child's prayer for his feather? Is thereanything great or small in the eye of Omniscience68? Or is itnot our thinking only that makes it so?