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Frank Leward: Memorials

Mr. Leward to Mrs. Leward

page 70

Mr. Leward to Mrs. Leward.

The Shrubbery, near Southampton, August 2, 1840.

My dear Wife,—I have been sorely grieved, and I must confess astonished, at some of the remarks contained in your letter of the 24th ultimo. Frank may be affectionate to you; for me he seems to have but little affection. I speak not of outward protestations; those I neither expect or care for. I allude to those marks of affection evidenced by a desire to do that which he knows I wish. A more strict attendance on the ordinances of religion, a more appropriate seriousness of demeanour, especially on the Lord's Day; these would be among the evidences of real affection and regard for a parent's wish.

Besides this, there are the habits he indulges in, and which I particularly abominate—the smoking of tobacco, the familiarity with those who are dependent on us, and other such like things.

As to Frank's reading with a tutor with the prospect of going to Oxford, I must emphatically refuse to allow any such thing. In the first place, the idle life he has led for more than two years has quite unfitted him for such a career; and my wife should remember that I view the University of Oxford at the present time, whatever it may have been in the past, as the hot-bed of Popery, the very school of Antichrist. I should feel it as a sin, and a stain on my conscience, if I allowed any child of mine to enter there. That his friend Bampton does not make a show of his Popish proclivities in a Protestant page 71household is not to be wondered at; such people never do. I am still more astonished at what you say with regard to the probable not far distant succession to the Claydon property. I, as your mother's trustee, have a right to know how that property will be devised, and I shall not scruple to give a decided opinion to Mrs. Herbert on that subject. I am well aware that your father had so firm a belief in his wife's discretion, that he refused to allow the usual restrictions on a wife's disposing power to be imposed upon her by his will; but although she is legally entitled to dispose of the property as she thinks fit, she is enjoined by his will to take the opinion, and to be guided by the opinion, of her trustee in so disposing of it. I have consulted my lawyers on this point, and they advise me that this injunction in all probability creates an implied trust on behalf of any person I may point out as the proper devisee of the estate; and although they do not seem certain about this, they have no doubt, if the property were thrown into Chancery, a long course of litigation would ensue, and that a Court of Equity would certainly order the whole costs to be paid out of the estate, and a very serious loss be made in its value. They give many reasons for this opinion, and quote several high authorities, which it is unnecessary for me to recapitulate now; and were I to do it, I am sure you would not understand them.

But however the law may be, I am sure your good mother will feel herself morally bound to follow my advice in the disposition of the family estate. As to the savings of her income, which ought to be considerable, she page 72has a perfect right to do as she likes with them. She has not consulted me for some time as to their investment, and I do not know what has become of them. I shall take an early opportunity of seeing her, and enforcing on her the necessity of making a will at once, and of giving my opinion as to the appointments it ought to contain.

As to my own estate, I have long since determined which son shall inherit that. It has been so long in the family, that I am bound to be very careful lest its possessor should squander it away. Its respectable income I should indeed prefer to see in the hands of one who will spend it in a judicious maintenance of the dignity of our name, and in charitable and philanthropic undertakings; certainly not in the vagaries of a wandering vagabond, who seems, if he has any religious convictions at all, to lean to the side of that party whose extermination I consider it to be the duty of the State to secure, unless it wishes to see the evil days of the dark ages revived, and papal supremacy again paramount among us. Under all these circumstances, it will perhaps be better for you to undeceive Frank at once if you have really raised in his mind any serious expectations of succeeding to either property. I have already informed him that I am prepared to assist him in establishing himself on a farm, with the only proviso that it shall be situate at a distance of not less than one hundred miles from Southampton, and be at least equidistant from Bath; if, however, he prefers emigrating to a new country, I shall offer him the same liberal terms. I think the latter course would on every account be preferable. In a page 73new country he would have a good opportunity of recovering that character which he has lost, and something of that position he has forfeited at home.

As to any fanciful attachment to Miss Grey, I do not for a moment suppose that her mother, from what I know of her, would consent to a matrimonial alliance with Frank, especially when she discovers, as she soon will do, the way in which the Claydon property is likely to go. I shall feel it to be my duty to put this matter truthfully and faithfully before Mrs. Grey without any unnecessary delay. A mother, under any circumstance, is the last person capable of forming an accurate estimate of her son's worth; and in your case your small experience of the world and of character renders you peculiarly unfit even to attempt to do so.

I know you will readily submit yourself to your husband's will—a will you are solemnly pledged to honour and obey. And in conclusion, I must beg of you to be careful not to allow yourself to make an idol of your son. Children are given to parents to honour and respect them. If parents idolise their children, they may reasonably expect Heaven to visit them with those troubles and sorrows which your conscience seems to forebode as coming upon you. If such visitations do come, prepare yourself to receive them, and humble yourself under the chastening hand of God—He who is a jealous God, and wills not that we should make to ourselves an idol of any created thing.

—I remain, my dear wife, your very affectionate husband


Francis Leward.