Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh


The storm which I have described in the previous chapter was a sample of those that occurred daily for many years. No matter how clear the sky, it was always liable to cloud over now in one quarter now in another, and the thunder and lightning were upon the young people before they knew where they were.

"And then, you know," said Ernest to me, when I asked him not long since to give me more of his childish reminiscences for the benefit of my story, "we used to learn Mrs Barbauld's hymns; they were in prose, and there was one about the lion which began, 'Come, and I will show you what is strong. The lion is strong; when he raiseth himself from his lair, when he shaketh his mane, when the voice of his roaring is heard the cattle of the field fly, and the beasts of the desert hide themselves, for he is very terrible.' I used to say this to Joey and Charlotte about my father himself when I got a little older, but they were always didactic, and said it was naughty of me.

"One great reason why clergymen's households are generally unhappy is because the clergyman is so much at home or close about the house. The doctor is out visiting patients half his time: the lawyer and the merchant have offices away from home, but the clergyman has no official place of business which shall ensure his being away from home for many hours together at stated times. Our great days were when my father went for a day's shopping to Gildenham. We were some miles from this place, and commissions used to accumulate on my father's list till he would make a day of it and go and do the lot. As soon as his back was turned the air felt lighter; as soon as the hall door opened to let him in again, the law with its all-reaching 'touch not, taste not, handle not' was upon us again. The worst of it was that I could never trust Joey and Charlotte; they would go a good way with me and then turn back, or even the whole way and then their consciences would compel them to tell papa and mamma. They liked running with the hare up to a certain point, but their instinct was towards the hounds.

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