A Victorian Boyhood

A Victorian Boyhood

A Victorian Boyhood

A Victorian Boyhood

Excerpt

As a child I had no reason to be ashamed of my grandfather; shame crept in only when I was old enough to have opinions of my own about architecture and theology. It is true that his portrait (he had died before I was born) was that of a man who had been unable, or disinclined, to maintain the lustre of his own father and uncles. For they had been painted in military uniforms, with red ribbons and stars and medals; one, indeed, at full length, with the castle of Scylla in the background; another (Napier's 'intrepid Jones') holding a French sword surrendered to him after the fall of San Sebastián where, at the age of sixteen, he had led the forlorn hope. For many years I believed this to mean a desperate adventure undertaken with all but no hope of success, and it was a blow to learn that it was no more than a prosaic military term, borrowed from the Dutch, for a 'detached party'.

But my grandfather had been painted in a black coat and waistcoat, and, worse still, he had, above a short square beard, a shaven upper lip, like Mr. Basham. Mr. Basham was always kind to us children, but we could not like the smell of his fustian clothes, and when he weeded, which was his life, he stuck out a behind almost as big and rounded as those of Boxer and Smart, the cart-horses at the Home Farm. We played round . . .

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