His superiority was however manifested by his compositions in prose and verse, but especially the latter. In his prose exercises there was a maturity of thought and a display of knowledge greatly beyond his years; and his verses were always spirited and original, or if any of the thoughts or expressions were borrowed, they proceeded from sources little known to ordinary readers, and certainly not to his school-fellows. Spenser was always one of his favourite authors. With his Faerie Queene in his pocket, he would sally forth on a long solitary walk, whilst his comrades were occupied with the common sports of school-boys, in which he seldom engaged. Yet he was by no means unpopular on this account. On the contrary, his invulnerable temper, his overflowing kindness of heart, his constant cheerfulness, and his inexhaustible power of entertaining his companions, secured to him the affection of all, whether older or younger than himself. In the long winter evenings, a group of boys was frequently round him, whilst he narrated some chivalrous history, or repeated ancient ballads, or told some wild tale, partly derived from books, and partly from his own invention.