Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/66

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MY LIFE AND LOVES.

any desire since to revise my judgment after reading "David Copperfield" in my student days and finding men painted by a name or phrase or gesture, women by their modesty and souls by some silly catchword; "the mere talent of the caricaturist", I said to myself, "at his best another Hogarth".

Naturally the romances and tales of adventure were all swallowed whole; but few affected me vitally: "The Chase of the White Horse" by Mayne Reid, lives with me still because of the love-scenes with the Spanish heroine, and Marryat's "Peter Simple" which I read a hundred times and could read again tomorrow; for there is better character painting in Chucks, the boatswain, than in all Dickens, in my poor opinion. I remember being astounded ten years later when Carlyle spoke of Marryat with contempt. I knew he was unfair, just as I am probably unfair to Dickens: after all, even Hogarth has one or two good pictures to his credit, and no one survives even three generations without some merit.

In my two years I read every book in the library, and half a dozen are still beloved by me.

I profited, too, from all games and exercises. I was no good at cricket; I was shortsighted and caught some nasty knocks through an unsuspected astigmatism; but I had an extraordinary knack of bowling which, as I have stated, put me in the First Eleven. I liked football and was good at it. I took the keenest delight in every form of exercise: I could jump and run better than almost any boy of my age and in wrestling and a little later in boxing, was among the best in the school. In the gymnasium, too. I practiced assiduously; I was so eager to excel that the teacher was continually advising me to go slow. At fourteen I could pull myself up with my right hand till my chin was above the bar.