Life and Times of D. M. Stuart, D.D.
Chapter VIII. — Windsor
In 1843, Mr Stuart, under the glow of enthusiasm which the Disruption kindled in his heart, found his way to Edinburgh, where, for a brief period, he attended classes in the New College, and felt the magnetic influence of Chalmers' personality. But forced southward by res angusta domi in search of lucrative employment his footsteps were guided to Windsor, where, in 1844, he received the appointment of classical master in the chief primary school in the royal borough. Mr Thomas Robertson, the Principal, held also the office of Diocesan Inspector of Schools, and, on his decease, Mr Stuart succeeded him as head master of the school.
He felt the charm of his new surroundings—the royal Castle with its spacious park and ancient and historic trees, which in his dreamy moods carried him back to stirring times in the national life of merry England; and, just across the Thames, his eye lighted on the venerable educational establishment of Eton, with its clustering buildings, showing in picturesque beauty above the little town that had grown up around its gates.
But he met with scenes and sights that greatly depressed him, that awakened old slumbering resentments, and all the most generous sympathies page 51of his nature, and made him through all the years of his life a bold and unflinching advocate of social reform. In the immediate neighbourhood of the Castle, with all its imposing display of luxury and wealth, there were found the squalid huts of the labouring poor—families "living in homes that were in no sense human, with surroundings so demoralising that purity, morality, thrift, and temperance could hardly exist in such unfavourable conditions." The natural outcome of such a state of things was abundantly manifest in the religious indifference which prevailed among them.
He met on all sides of him shining traces and eloquent memorials of a man who was destined to leave his stamp on all that is best in New Zealand history, and who in after years was sometimes the Doctor's honoured guest in the Dunedin Manse. The Rev. George Augustus Selwyn, who was a tutor at Eton, and subsequently curate at Windsor, had laboured in many ways for the material and moral advancement of the interests of the people around him. The quality of the education given in the middle-class schools in his parish was not to his mind; teachers were appointed who had received no special training for their work, and there was no provision made for any regular system of inspection. Mr Selwyn threw himself ardently into the work of reform. He instituted public examinations, and in order to stimulate a healthy competition among the pupils, he offered substantial prizes to the successful candidates. While the National Society was in a timid and tentative manner moving in a page 52similar direction with a view to increased efficiency in the schools, he had arranged a complete scheme of inspection, and of tabulating results over a considerable area, of which Windsor was the centre.
Always accounting the Word of God of priceless value to the individual and to the nation alike, Mr Stuart interested himself in its translation into foreign languages, and in its distribution among all the tribes and kingdoms of the world. He, therefore, became a member of the Windsor and Eton Bible Society, and while he was in some measure helpful in promoting its aims, he always felt that his connection with it was fruitful of important benefits to himself.
His years at Windsor were full of work. Ever setting his heart on the holy ministry as his chosen vocation in life, he moved steadily on to that goal, and attended classes in London under Drs Lorimer, Hamilton, and McCrie. "The position which I filled there," he said, "was one in which every faculty I possessed was in constant demand. I had to work as a coach and a teacher, and at the same time carry on my special studies."
Mr Stuart was greatly surprised and grieved one day by the receipt of a letter from his youngest brother, Alexander, who had entered college and was making substantial progress in his studies, announcing without any previous warning or indication of restlessness, that in the middle of the session he had enlisted, and was on board ship bound for India. On his arrival there his force and energy of character soon brought him under notice. He received an page 53appointment on the survey, and was making rapid strides in the service, when a jungle fever cut him down in the third year of his residence in that foreign land.
There was no such rigid observance of the Sabbath at Windsor as he had been accustomed to in the land of his fathers, and with that tender regard for the religious interests of others, which so strongly marked him right through life, he determined, on assuming the management of the school, to minimise as much as possible the Sabbath work in the large establishment which was under his control. He gave instructions, among other changes which he introduced, that the Sabbath dinner should be served cold instead of hot, in order that the servants should have an opportunity of attending public worship. The chief opposition to that reform came, curiously enough, from the cook, who had been in the service for many years, but she was persuaded to give the new plan a trial, with the result that all at length contentedly acquiesced in the new arrangement.
It was one of Mr Stuart's duties, as head of the school, to attend the Church of England service with his pupils, and this experience was of great advantage to to him in giving a generous breadth to his views on denominationalism; and while he was perfectly loyal to his own Presbyterian flag, he always maintained the kindliest and most cordial relations with the bishops and clergy of the Anglican communion.
With a heart that always warmed to the tartan, he soon came into personal contact and intercourse with the only Highlander at Windsor. He held the page 54office of Queen's Piper, "and he often met and cheered me," the Doctor said, "and glad I was, under the shadow of the Castle, to meet that Highlander, who had as true and noble a heart as ever beat in man."
But in his lonely walks along the lanes and around the battlements of the royal home his heart was still haunted by the sentiment of the miller's "Jeanie of the Burn," and here it was that, in the providence of God he met, in the Rhymer's words, the "sun" that rose in splendour of light upon his "world." Miss Jessie Robertson, daughter of the former Principal of the school, won Mr Stuart's heart, and warmly reciprocated the strong affection which he lavished upon her. Her liberal education and Christian nurture, and the shining piety of her sweet and gentle life, gave abundant promise of helpfulness to him in the high field of holy service which he was about to enter.
He completed his studies for the ministry in Edinburgh, by attending classes in divinity during the sessions 1847 and 1848. Both these years marked sorrowful events in his family calendar. In 1847 his younger brother William died at Braes of Styx, and in the following year his mother, whom he held in grateful and loving remembrance, passed into her rest, at the comparatively early age of 53 years. His visit to Kenmore on that occasion brought him into contact with the Rev. Allen Sinclair, the Free Church minister, who had been recently settled there. He was a man of wide culture and broad sympathies — the wise counsellor and trusted friend of all his people—and page 55the acquaintanceship then formed ripened into a steadfast and loving friendship, which grew and deepened through a correspondence which extended over forty years. Mr Stuart having successfully passed his trials before the Free Presbytery of Kelso, received license to preach the Gospel. He then returned to Windsor, where he remained for some months preparatory to entering on the regular work of the ministry.