Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 2.djvu/625

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Meredith
Meredith
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visited him occasionally, and he died there on 18 June 1870. His seoond wife (his cook), Matilda (Buckott), died in 1885, aged sixty-seven, and they are interred together in the Highland Road cemetery, Soutlisea. The four 'daughters of the shears,' as Meredith called the great Mel's daughters in 'Evan Harrington,' were all exceedingly beautiful, and they married men somewhat above their own social station. The eldest, Anne Eliza, married in April 1809 Thomas Burbey, banker, of 46 High Street, Portsmouth, who became mayor of the town in 1833. The second, Louisa, married in March 1811 John Read, consul-general for the Azores. The third, Harriet, married John Hellyer, a brewer; and the youngest, Catherine Matilda, married, also in St. Thomas's church, on 28 Oct. 1819, (Sir) Samuel Burdon Ellis [q. v.]. Three of these aunts can be identified without difficulty, mutatis mutandis, for Meredith never mimicked environment too closely, in 'Evan Harrington.'

Meredith's first ten or twelve years were spent at Portsmouth, where he enjoyed the hospitality of his aunts, their friends and relatives. He went as a day boy to St. Paul's church school, Southsea; afterwards the trustees of his mother's small estate put him to a boarding school in the town, his chief recollections of which centred round the dreariness of the Sunday services and the reading of the 'Arabian Nights.' Early in 1843 he was sent to the Moravian School at Neuwied on the Rhine, ten miles north-west of Coblentz, where Professor Henry Morley had preceded him about five years. He remained there until the close of 1844, when he returned home to be articled to a solicitor in London. He began to learn in earnest, though never very systematically, at Neuwied, and his ideas were much enlarged, but he was mainly self-educated. He studied Goethe and Richter. His sympathy with the German point of view in 'Farina,' 'Harry Richmond,' 'The Tragic Comedians,' 'One of our Conquerors,' and elsewhere is sometimes attributed to his sojourn upon the Rhine when he was fifteen; but his stay at Neuwied was brief and his allusions to it in later life were very limited and inconclusive. He read German with perfect ease, but spoke it indifferently, with less ease, indeed, than he spoke French, which he wrote with facility.

In 1845 he was articled to Richard Stephen Charnock of 10 Godliman Street, lawyer and antiquary, who is thought to have combined certain of the traita of the two uncles in 'Richard Fevere.' Charnock was a Bohemian and a 'character' who, in 1847-8, when he became accessible to Meredith, was one of the 'old boys' of the Arundel Club. George's income during this period was very small and irregular, and he frequently lived on a single bowl of porridge a day. His recreation was walking out into Surrey. His patrimony had dwindled, and seeing no definite prospect in the law he turned instinctively to journalism. At or through the Arundel Club he obtained introductions to R. H. Home, Lord John Manners, and Charles Dickens, through whom he hoped to obtain work on the 'Standard,' 'Household Words,' and other papers. Twenty-four of his earliest poems were contributed to 'Household Words,' while he acted as 'writing master' to a small circle of amateurs who sent other poems to the same periodical. In 1849 he began sending contributions, including a piece on Kossuth, to 'Chambers's Journal,' and on 7 July a poem by him on 'Chillianwallah' was printed there. He had already made the acquaintance of 'Ned' [Edward] Gryffydh, son of Thomas Love Peacock [q. v.]; had walked with him to Brighton, and afterwards met, at his rooms near the British Museum, his attractive if flighty sister, Mary Ellen, who had married, in Jan. 1844, Lieutenant Edward Nicolls (commander of H.M.S. Dwarf) and was left a widow within four months of the marriage. Extraordinarily gifted, young, poor, ambitious, Meredith was admitted into the intimacy of the Peacock circle. He played cricket with Mrs. Nicolls's little daughter, Edith, and took his place among Mrs. Nicolls's many admirers. In successive months he, young Peacock, Mrs. Nicolls, Chamock, and other friends, edited the manuscript periodical 'The Monthly Observer,' which ran from March 1848 to July 1849 (cf. Athenæum, 24 Aug. 1912). Mrs. Nicolls was at least seven years older than Meredith, but they were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, on Ang. 1848. They paid visits to Felixstowe and elsewhere, and then, depending chiefly upon a small Portsmouth legacy, spent a year or more abroad before taking up their residence at Weybridge. There they boarded at The Limes, the house of Mrs. Macirone, a highly cultured woman, where Meredith met among others, Sir Alexander Doff Gordon, his accomplished wife (Lucy), Eyre Crowe, Tom Taylor, and Samuel Lucas of 'The Times,' whose 'Mornings of the Recess' formed the literary causerie most valued by men of letters. Two miles across