Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/16

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chap.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

When that engagement had ended, Mr. Hill persuaded Miss Smith to undertake the teaching of his children. How heartily they responded to her care will be shown by two letters given later on: and when, in 1835, she became the wife of Mr. Hill, she received a welcome from her step-children such as few step-mothers can have experienced. The marriage took place at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate.

She assisted her husband in every way, and entered most sympathetically into his patriotic efforts to reform public abuses. He had been most successful in reforming the corruption in the Wisbeach municipal government, and had succeeded in excluding any claim for church rates from his parish. The extraordinary physical energy which he threw into all his work is well illustrated by his riding fifty miles to secure the pardon of the last man who was condemned to death for sheep stealing. This excessive energy was facilitated by a life of great self-restraint and devotion to study. He read much and accumulated a very fine library. Nor even in this matter did he limit his aims to mere self-improvement. He wished to extend to others, as far as possible, his own advantages, and he founded in Wisbeach an Infant School, which should introduce sounder methods of education. It was one of the first Infant Schools built. With a characteristic audacity he chose for the motto of this school the words in which Wordsworth embodied the advice which he sarcastically suggests that Rob Roy would have given to Napoleon, had they been contemporaries:

"Of old things all are over-old,
 Of good things none are good enough;
We'll try if we can help to mould
 A world of better stuff."[1]

He also started a penny paper to advocate various reforms, and at one time he bought the local theatre and invited celebrated actors to perform there. Later on he co-operated most earnestly with the advocates of Free Trade.

Into this energetic life at Wisbeach three daughters were born:

  1. Wordsworth wrote "frame," but Mr. Hill altered it.