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Frank Leward: Memorials

Mr. Saunders to Frank

Mr. Saunders to Frank.

Rydal, June 17, 1860.

My Dear Frank I am indeed sorry I have not been able to join you in Italy but if the truth must be told I am getting old and I have not been much accustomed to travel on the Continent. I have only been to the ordinary places in Switzerland and the Italian lakes, and page 301though I have few greater pleasures now than reading Italian I have found when I have attempted to speak that language my efforts have not been very successful. Bampton talks both in French and Italian as he does everything else excellently well but he couldnt come. On his usual visit to me at the end of August he was worn out with work on circuit and I could see any further mental, or even physical strain would be too much for him. Sometimes I think he will have to take a prolonged holiday. To his active mind the idea is intolerable. The repugnance to it comes a good deal from the dread lest rivals in his profession should get his work, such an apprehension would spoil the enjoyment of any holiday beyond the limits of the long vacation.

As it was, after he had rested quietly here for some time in perfect repose, we managed to take a short walking tour through some of the old Midland towns, and most thoroughly enjoyed it. You get far more peaceful holidays in such old world places than in all the busy resorts where tourists most abound seeking for pleasure and often failing to find much of it. At Warwick with its old almshouses at Kenilworth where we read Sir Walter again, at Ludlow where we stayed at the Feathers the most perfect specimen of an old English hostel, at the Raven at Shrewsbury we luxuriated in old memories and quaint houses. We even saw the very tree from whose branches Owen Glendower watched the battle of Shrewsbury.

We thought much of you all the time and of the day now we hope not far off when you, after all these years page 302of wandering and adventures, will return to England, and we shall have you as the companion of our rambles. But you must be quick my boy for old Saunders is really getting old now and he would like to have you somewhere near him when the lamp burns dim and the forces of life are failing. So do be careful and do not expose yourself unnecessarily. I see by my weekly paper you must be in the very thick of it again fighting against enormous odds and I fear your ranks have been terribly cut up by mercenary troops in Sicily.

But what a glorious fight it is you are engaged in; even to end all there would be a hero's end indeed, better than "a dull stale bed." It is those you would leave behind would be the loosers, and I have a sort of presentiment you are in greater danger than ever. Sometimes when I think of what you have done in Northern Italy and are doing in the South battling tyrants and letting in the free air of liberty, the true air of Heaven, to be breathed by people who when once they enjoy it will never suffer it to be taken from them again, it seems to me there can be no work so glorious as that. How it rises above wars that are waged for vulgar conquest, as a high and noble principle of action rises above brute force. When I consider all this I feel I could almost come out myself and old as I am try to wield a musket. Only I am afraid when I was really face to face with the foe I might act like Horatius at Philippi and run away. Things are very stirring to read about and grow enthusiastic over at home at the fire side or sitting under a honeysuckle covered porch, but to have to sleep out in page 303the rain all night, with the chance of a bayonet coming through you in the morning, or a bullet between your ribs, it so alters the complexion of things.

"When I Achilles hear upon the stage

Speak honour and the greatness of his soul

Methinks I too could on a Phrygian spear

Run boldly and make tales for after times.

But when we come to act it in the deed,

Death mars this bravery, and the ugly fears

Of th' other world sit on the proudest brow

And boasting valour looseth his red cheek."

Now tell me who wrote that.

Talk about Homeric heroes beating a town to pieces because one little woman had been run away with by a man who happened to be a King's son, whats that compared to fighting for liberty and for all that enobles us and raises us from narrow minded slaves into self governing thinking acting men. Had your campaign been fought two thousand years ago and had you a bard such as Agamemnon had how would the deeds of your chief, of your friends, of yourself been handed down to all posterity.

"It seems so lovely what our fathers did

And what we do, as it was to them

Toilsome and incomplete."

Write again at once or at least on the first reasonable opportunity either to me or Bampton. It doesnt matter much which for we both see whatever you write.

I think Bampton will come to see you in the Autumn page 304if you are still in Italia would that I could come too. I must wait behind to welcome you both back to my cottage, and when I do that it will be one of my very happy days.

Farewell for the present my dear old pupil. Yours very affectionately

A. M. Saunders.