1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Bentley

Richard Cumberland, in Memoirs (1806-07; 1856) 14.



I had a sister somewhat older than myself. Had there been any of that sternness in my grandfather, which is so falsely imputed to him, it may well be supposed we should have been awed into silence in his presence, to which we were admitted every day. Nothing can be further from the truth; he was the unwearied patron and promoter of all our childish sports and sallies; at all times ready to detach himself from any topic of conversation, to take an interest and bear his part in our amusements. The eager curiosity natural to our age, and the questions it gave birth to, so teasing to many parents, he, on the contrary, attended to and encouraged, as the claims of infant reason never to be evaded or abused; strongly recommending that to all such inquiries answer should be given according to the strictest truth, and information dealt to us in the clearest terms, as a sacred duty never to be departed from. I have broken in upon him many a time in his hours of study, when he would put his book aside, ring his hand-bell for his servant, and be led to his shelves to take down a picture-book for my amusement. I do not say that his good nature always gained its object, as the pictures which his books generally supplied me with were anatomical drawings of dissected bodies, very little calculated to communicate delight; but he had nothing better to produce; and, surely, such an effort on his part, however unsuccessful, was no feature of a cynic: a cynic should be made of sterner stuff. I have had from him, at times, whilst standing at his elbow, a complete and entertaining narrative of his schoolboy days, with the characters of his different masters very humorously displayed, and the punishments described which they at times would wrongfully inflict upon him for seeming to be idle and regardless of his task, "when the dunces," he would say, "could not discover that I was pondering it in my mind, and fixing it more firmly in my memory than if I had been bawling it out amongst the rest of my school-fellows."