Side Lights by James Runciman


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Page 1

XIV. STAGE-CHILDREN

XV. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE MORALITY: PAST AND PRESENT

XVI. "RAISING THE LEVEL OF AMUSEMENTS"

XVII. A LITTLE SERMON ON FAILURES

XVIII. "VANITY OF VANITIES"

XIX. GAMBLERS

XX. SCOUNDRELS

XXI. QUIET OLD TOWNS

XXII. THE SEA

XXIII. SORROW

XXIV. DEATH

XXV. JOURNALISM




A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR.

BY GRANT ALLEN.


I knew James Runciman but little, and that little for the most part
in the way of business. But no one could know that ardent and eager
soul at all, no matter how slightly, without admiring and respecting
much that was powerful and vigorous in his strangely-compounded
personality. His very look attracted. He had human weaknesses not
a few, but all of the more genial and humane sort; for he was
essentially and above everything a lovable man, a noble, interesting,
and unique specimen of genuine, sincere, whole-hearted manhood.

He was a Northumbrian by birth, "and knew the Northumbrian coast,"
says one of his North-Country friends, "like his mother's face." His
birthplace was at Cresswell, a little village near Morpeth, where he
was born in August, 1852, so that he was not quite thirty-nine when he
finally wore himself out with his ceaseless exertions. He had a true
North-Country education, too, among the moors and cliffs, and there
drank in to the full that love of nature, and especially of the sea,
which forms so conspicuous a note in his later writings. Heather and
wave struck the keynotes. A son of the people, he went first, in his
boyhood, to the village school at Ellington; but on his eleventh
birthday he was removed from the wild north to a new world at
Greenwich. There he spent two years in the naval school; and
straightway began his first experiences of life on his own account as
a pupil teacher at North Shields Ragged School, not far from his
native hamlet.

"A worse place of training for a youth," says a writer in _The
Schoolmaster_, "it would be hard to discover. The building was
unsuitable, the children rough, and the neighbourhood vile--and the
long tramp over the moors to Cresswell and back at week ends was,
perhaps, what enabled the young apprentice to preserve his health of
mind and body. His education was very much in his own hands. He
managed in a few weeks to study enough to pass his examinations with
credit. The rest of his time was spent in reading everything which
came in his way, so that when he entered Borough-road in January,
1871, he was not only almost at the top of the list, but he was the
best informed man of his year. His fellow candidates remember even now
his appearance during scholarship week. Like David, he was ruddy of
countenance, like Saul he towered head and shoulders above the rest,
and a mass of fair hair fell over his forehead. Whene'er he took his
walks abroad he wore a large soft hat, and a large soft scarf, and
carried a stick that was large but not soft."

To this graphic description I will add a second one. "He was a
splendid all-round athlete," says another friend, who knew him at this
time, in the British and Foreign School Society's London college. "Six
feet two or three in height, and with a fine muscular development, he
could box, wrestle, fence, or row with all comers, and beat them with
ridiculous ease. No one could have been made to believe that he would
die, physically worn out, before he was forty. His intellectual
mastery was as unquestioned as his physical superiority; he always
topped the examination lists, to the chagrin of some of the lecturers,
whom he teased sadly by protesting against injustice the moment it
peeped out, by teaching all the good young men to smoke prodigiously,
by scattering revolutionary verses about the college, and finally by
collecting and burning in one grand bonfire every copy of an obnoxious
text-book under which the students had long suffered."

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Sep 2019, 16:38