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Lear in Sicily
Introduction — I
I



ANY DETAILED ACCOUNT OF PROBY would be out of place in a volume which is concerned only with his connection with Lear, but a few words may be added here about his early life and the circumstances which led up to his meeting Lear in Rome in 1847. The principal sources of information are family letters, letters from Oxford friends, a family Chronicle compiled by Lady Claud Hamilton to which I have already referred, and a Memorial of a Nobleman, contributed by the Rev. T. F. Hartford Battersby, to the Skiddaw Spring an Evangelical periodical, in 1859, a few months after Proby 's death. Battersby was an Oxford friend of Proby's and had been with him in Rome during his illness in the winter of 1846 and visited him during the last weeks of his life. The object of the Memorial is to prove that Proby only found salvation through the disappointment of all his earthly hopes and ambitions and the long, disabling and often painful illness which ended in his early death. All that is said in the Memorial about the closing days of Proby's life is fully borne out by family letters written at the time, but it seems probable that the worldliness and ambition imputed to him, before illness overtook him, have been exaggerated. Knight's Principal Shairp and his friends contains some references to Proby, who was a friend of Shairp's at Oxford.

John Joshua Proby, eldest son of Granville Leveson Proby, afterwards 3rd Earl of Carysfort, by his wife Isabella, daughter of Colonel the Hon. Hugh Howard, was born, with a twin sister Kitty, who died 4 years later, on April 3, 1823. The other children of his parents were: Frances (Fanny), b. 1819, d. unmarried 1863; Elizabeth Emma, b. 1821, married 1844 Lord Claud Hamilton, d. 1900; Granville, {13} afterwards 4th Earl of Carysfort, b. 1825, d. 1872 ; Hugh, b. 1828, d. 1852; Isabella, b. 1830, d. unmarried 1866; Theodosia Gertrude, b. 1833, married 1859 W. M. Baillie, d. 1902; and William, afterwards 5th Earl of Carysfort, b. 1836, d. 1909 Their mother died in 1836 after giving birth to William.

John Joshua, though the son of a younger son, was marked out from birth as the eventual heir to the Carysfort title and estates, for William Allen Lord Proby,(i) his father's eldest brother, had died un-married in 1804 and John,(j) the second brother, who was also unmarried, had become incurably insane in 1817.

His early years were spent almost entirely in Ireland, at Glenart, the Irish home of the family, where his father, who had been M. P. for County Wicklow since 1816, (k) had been settled for several years, and at Bushy, the home of his maternal grandfather, the Hon. Hugh Howard which was only thirty miles away.

His mother's sisters, Theodosia, (l) second wife of the 5th Viscount Powerscourt, and Frances,(m) wife of William Parnell Hayes, also lived in County Wicklow, and the Proby family paid frequent visits at Powerscourt and Avondale.

In 1832, Proby was sent to Dr. Mayo's School at Cheam, where he was joined a year later by his brother Granville, and five years later by his brother Hugh. Cheam, which has, since 1860, been a well-known preparatory school, under the Rev. S. Tabor and his son Mr. Arthur Tabor, and the present Headmaster, the Rev. H. M. S. Taylor, at that time provided education for boys from the age of 8 or 9 up to the time of their going to the University or entering a profession. According to Battersby the school was 'at that time noted for being conducted on the principles of the eccentric, but earnest-minded, Swiss educationalist Pestalozzi', and there is evidence in the letters which passed between Proby and his family that pupils were encouraged to follow their own bent and pursue subjects of study not ordinarily included {14} in the school curriculum.(n) John Proby remained there till 1841, when he went to Balliol, having matriculated in the previous November; Granville left at the same time to spend some months with Captain Chaplin, an Army coach, before receiving a Commission in the Army.

Some idea of Proby's life at Oxford can be obtained from letters from his family and friends, among Whom may be mentioned J. C. Shairp, afterwards Principal Shairp, and Henry Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Bombay (who address him as "My dear Probitas"), T. D. Hartford Battersby, afterwards incumbent of St. John's, Keswick and Canon of Carlisle, author of the Memorial of a Nobleman, to which reference has been made, S. W. Lawley,(o) J. Horatio Fitzroy, father of the late Sir Almeric Fitzroy, and J. Warrender Dalrymple. He was on a reading party at Grasmere in the summer of 1843 which included A. H. Clough, Shairp, T. H. Walrond, Douglas, Battersby, Lawley and others. Three of them-Clough, Shairp and Walrond(p)-were members of another party, four years later, which has been immortalized by Clough in the Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich; but it is not possible to connect the Bothie definitely with the earlier party in 1843.

Later in the same year, Shairp, writing from Oxford on December 17, mentions that he has seen Proby, who is up for the Vacation, and has hunted with him and Tom. I believe 'Tom' is Thomas Arnold, second son of Arnold of Rugby; and a letter to Proby from his father dated December 1, 1840,(q) refers to a friendship with 'Arnold', whom I assume to be Matthew Arnold, who went up to Balliol at the same time as Proby, but I cannot find any further evidence of association with the Arnold brothers. Battersby refers to the Grasmere reading party in the Memorial of a Nobleman:

From this School [Cheam] he went to Oxford where the writer first made his acquaintance, which was increased by their spending three summers together during the long vacations. One of {15} these they spent at the English Lakes, and well does the writer remember the exquisite enjoyment experienced by them, when rambling together, knapsack on back, through the valleys and over the mountains of this land of Nature's beauty and magnificence. P- was the youngest of the party, the swiftest of foot, and the most capable of enduring fatigue; in the excursions up Scawfell, and other famous heights, he was ever first at the summit: at the annual gathering for athletic sports in the valley; where the party sojourned, he was an easy victor in the footrace; and when the party joined the fox-hunt over the fells at break of day, he led the van. In these exploits were seen the germ of that ambition which formed so prominent a feature in his character through life. Being heir to an Earldom, he looked forward to holding a position in the House of Commons and Lords, in some degree answering to the position he gained in these trials of physical strength; and keen was his disappointment, a year and a half later, when, on the names of the successful candidates being called over, at the University, after the examination for Mathematical honours, he found his name was not in the first class.

Proby, in fact, obtained a Second Class. The disappointment was doubtless a severe one; but had he lived, he might have reflected in later life on how many of the most brilliant contemporaries had suffered a similar fate.(r)

The family correspondence contains references to an incident in Proby's University career, which caused him great distress and anxiety, but the exact circumstances of which are not disclosed and can only be guessed at.

The incident is referred to at length in a letter from Proby's father written in the summer of 1844 (i.e. before Proby went in for the Honours Examination). {16}

'I had heard some rumours from Berkeley Square of your mishap, which is sufficiently vexatious. I am sure no man can dislike Puseyism more than I do, it is either very foolish if it intends nothing or very wicked if it intends the restoration of Popish errors, but nevertheless I have no fear of your being infected, you have from your earliest childhood lived in so different an atmosphere, that who ever may be at Oxford I consider you quite safe, of the necessity or advantage of your master's measures it would be high presumption in one like me utterly ignorant of college life and discipline to judge, but it is a good rule because drawn from an infallible law to acquiesce cheerfully in obedience to all lawful authority, however we may be damaged thereby, and as you say the matter is still under discussion I cannot but entertain some hope of a reversal of the master's resolution, regret it I certainly do; it was but a fair reward for steady application that you should have been able to fairly compete for the Prize in View, even if you did not gain it, not however that I consider your time thrown away. Knowledge is ever valuable for itself your reading will remain with you in the absence of all academical honours but beyond all other advantages in my estimation as you well know is reckoned that of having passed your time while at College so as to please God. Should the Master not reverse his decree I suppose we shall see you and you will have the best arrangements in your power to make with some other tutor. I am sure you will judge better of this than I can, but apply to me for your tutor's expences wherever you go. We shall be very anxious to hear again how this matter is arranged.'

Lady Fanny Proby, his sister, in a letter of about the same date, writes: 'I am very much grieved to hear of the disappointment of your plans-and all for such nonsence. Is there no chance of moving him by remonstrance! I suppose he will not like much to retract a second time, for the sake of his dignity, {17} but it does seem quite barbarous towards you,' and his brother Granville, who had not heard of the reversal of the Master's decision, writes from Quebec on December 8, 1844: 'How are you getting on? I hope you have overcome the difficulties you spoke about concerning your trying for honours.'

The last reference to this subject is contained in a letter written by his father on December 1844, after the examination was over. 'I very well remember that I engaged to pay the very great expence which Mr. Ward's Puseyism threw upon you and I have by this day's post desired Messrs. Coutts to answer your drafts for 70 when you draw for it on my account.' The Mr. Ward referred to is W. G. Ward ('Ideal' Ward), who was deprived of his tutorships in 1842 for his defence of Tract XC, and of his fellowship and Bursarship in 1845 on account of certain propositions contained in his book The Ideal of the Christian Church. My explanation of the passages quoted above is that Proby had been one of Ward's pupils, and had paid him fees in advance which were not recoverable, and was put to the expense of paying fees to another tutor. I have reason for supposing that the Rev. H. Wall, a mathematical and philosophical tutor, who succeeded Ward as bursar, was Proby's tutor during the latter part of his time at Oxford,(s) and the conjecture that Proby was originally Ward's pupil and became Wall's pupil after Ward's deprivation, is not in conflict with any known facts and seems plausible. It seems certain, at any rate, that the Master of Balliol (Dr. Jenkyns) had refused to allow Proby to take the Honours Examination, for some reason connected with Puseyism and the change of tutor, but that this decision was subsequently reversed. Proby took the examination and, as we have seen, was placed in the second class.

After taking his degree in December 1844, he spent rather over a year in foreign travel; but in the summer of 1846 he was at home and had hopes of entering Parliament as M. P. for County Wicklow, a con-{18}stituency which had been represented by his father from 1816 to 1829 and by his uncle, Sir Ralph Howard, from 1829 to 1840. It was a bitter disappointment to him that his father at that time had reasons for refusing to promote his candidature,(t) and being unable to realize his political ambitions, he decided to take up the study of painting seriously, and went to Rome with that object. The winter of 1846 was exceptionally severe in Rome, a period of rain during which the streets were half under water and communication even in the Corso was only possible by boat, being followed by intense cold. Proby contracted the low (Roman) fever which became prevalent, and never recovered from the effects. His father and unmarried sisters were kept in Ireland by the work of helping sufferers from the famine, his married sister, Lady Claud Hamilton, was unable to leave England; but fortunately, his friend Battersby happened to be in Rome, and with the help of Sir Robert Gordon(u) (brother of Lord Aberdeen, who was stepfather to Lord Claud Hamilton, Proby's brother-in-law) was able to make the necessary arrangements for nursing, medical attention, etc., and to keep his family informed of his condition. After more than one relapse his life was despaired of and it was then that his brother Granville having applied unsuccessfully for leave of absence from his regiment, left for Rome without leave and travelling day and night arrived on February 18, 1847. Proby's condition, in spite of another set-back, gradually improved during the next month, and after accompanying him on a sea trip to Naples, Granville returned to England in April. Less than a month later Proby and Lear started on their Sicilian Tour. Granville was dismissed from the Army for absenting himself without leave, but owing to the influence of his brother-in-law, Lord Claud Hamilton, and Lord Fitzroy Somerset, afterwards Lord Raglan (then Military Secretary to the Commander- in-Chief), was reinstated and transferred to the 74th Highlanders.

After the completion of the third Tour in October 1847, Lear and Proby spent a few weeks in {19} Rome, during which Proby was Lear's 'constant companion,' before going their separate ways, Lear to Corfu and Proby to Egypt.

During the years that followed Proby was living abroad, and Lear in England, and it is unlikely that the two friends ever saw one another again, for it can be proved, by a comparison of dates and of places visited, that they never came into contact in the course of their subsequent travels; and there is little likelihood of their having met during Proby's few short visits to England, before he came home for the last time, to die, in the summer of 1858.(v)

The format of the book is modelled on that of the Nonsense Books, and I am much indebted to Messrs. Duckworth for their advice on technical matters connected with the reproduction of the drawings.

Elton, Christmas, 1938.

GRANVILLE PROBY.

{20}


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