Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/15

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LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL


CHAPTER I


PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD


Early in the nineteenth century Mr. James Hill was carrying on in Peterborough a business as corn merchant which his father had made very successful, and to which was added a banking business. Later on he removed to Wisbeach with his brother Thomas. James Hill showed much of his father’s business capacity, though sometimes carried away by an over-sanguine temperament. Both his ability and his hopefulness were to be put to a severe test, when in 1825 England suffered from a general banking panic, and Mr. Hill failed in company with other bankers of greater note. But he roused himself to meet the emergency, and to a great extent retrieved his fortunes, for a time.

His troubles, however, were increased in 1832 by the loss of his second wife; and, as a widower with six children, he found himself in an anxious and difficult position. He had always been a very affectionate husband and father; and he was most desirous to find some one who would help him in the care of his children. While thinking over this problem, his attention was attracted by some articles on education, which had lately appeared in The Monthly Repository; with these articles he was so much impressed that he obtained from the Editor the name and address of the writer. She proved to be Miss Caroline Southwood Smith, the daughter of Dr. Southwood Smith, the celebrated Sanitary Reformer.

Mr. Hill called on the writer at Wimbledon, and found that she was already engaged in teaching in a private family.

B