Fourscore Years: An Autobiography

Fourscore Years: An Autobiography

Fourscore Years: An Autobiography

Fourscore Years: An Autobiography

Excerpt

Looking back here and now, this early summer day in America, upon nearly eighty years of memories, I am comforted to realize how all my places of abode come out in sunshine. The garden at Lynn is wreathed in great purple Morning-Glory convolvulus, while the shadows from mulberry and pear tree lie cool upon the grass. At St-Omer, on our long and dusty afternoon walks, the little schoolboy trudges in tears amid the alien corn, but under a blue French sky. At Pentney, sunshine broods over hay field and fruit garden and our careless rustic abundance of roses; sunshine over the school playing fields at Felsted and the elms and river at Cambridge. At Malvern, where first I earned my living, Bredon Hill basks before me under the midday sun, while Tewkesbury and Gloucester, with Cheltenham and the Cotswolds, swim in the distant heat-haze. So again do the Welsh valleys and hills, beyond their cool green pastures in the foreground. Thence to the cherry orchards of Heidelberg; the great Rhine plain and the Neckar valley; Dorset pastures next. So is it even with the Sedbergh Fells, in one of the rainiest corners of England; with Dulwich, a village green set in the midst of Greater London; even with Eastbourne, where by an effort I recall the biting east winds, but remember far more naturally the 'multitudinous billows . . . in the universal sun'. Then lastly, Cambridge once more, with this present extension of University work into Canada and the United States, where everybody is at this moment acclaiming the sunniest May in living memory. Even in faroff 1879, coldest and wettest of all my life, when crops rotted as they stood, I see myself nestling warm-blooded among the sandhills at Hunstanton, and gloating over Shakespeare's 'thy eternal summer shall not fade'. Without actual optimism perhaps, but in impenitent meliorism I can quote here again from the Sonnets, with the change of only one word:

To me, fair Earth, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still . . .

-- not, indeed, in forgetfulness of what is now around me, but in effort to turn away from the irrevocable and to face only remediable . . .

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