Meredith

Meredith

Meredith

Meredith

Excerpt

GEORGE MEREDITH was born on February 12, 1828, at 73 High Street, Portsmouth. He was an only child, and his mother died when he was five years old. His father, born in 1797, was the son of Melchizidec Meredith, who died in 1814 at the age of fifty-one.

For thirty years Melchizidec had been a tailor and naval out- fitter at 73 High Street. To this business, which had become the leading one of its kind in Portsmouth, his son succeeded, capably assisted by his mother, who died in November 1828.

Such is the bare outline of a family who were by no means ordinary provincial tradespeople. It might even be claimed that Melchizidec was extraordinary; he was undoubtedly remarkable. To begin with, he was a fine figure of a man, tall, good-looking, and agreeable. He had qualities of character which enabled him to be on friendly terms with many of his customers and patrons, among whom must have been most of the distinguished naval officers of the time and many of the country squires of the locality. With some of the latter he became so popular that he was a welcome guest at their dinner- tables, and extremely well liked by their ladies. He kept horses and hunted, and was an officer in the Portsmouth Yeomanry Cavalry during the threat of Napoleonic invasion. In fact, he was a very passable imitation of a swell gentleman, and there is no need to disbelieve the story of his being mistaken for a marquis during a visit to Bath.

His social aspirations, of course, were a handicap to the business. He lived beyond his means, seldom sent in a bill, and left large debts when he died. Of his five beautiful daughters four married well: one to a brewer; one to a prosperous grocer and banker who was mayor of Portsmouth in 1833; one to a lieutenant in the Marines who subsequently rose to be General Sir S. B. Ellis, K.C.B.; and one to a purser in the Royal Navy . . .

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