But the victor of Clary's Grove, with his added mastery of "Kirkham's Grammar," was now ripe for public life. Moreover, his experience as a waterman gave him ideas on the question, which then agitated his neighbours, whether the Sangamon River could be made navigable.
And, he was brought up so well, and sent to Casterbridge Grammar School for years and years. Learnt all languages while he was there; and it was said he got on so far that he could take down Chinese in shorthand; but that I don't answer for, as it was only reported. However, he wasted his gifted lot, and listed a soldier; but even then he rose to be a sergeant without trying at all.
His philosophy was limited to a superficial imitation of Lord Chesterfield, whose style he pretended to affect in his familiar correspondence, though his letters show that he lacked the rudiments alike of logic and of grammar. His religious opinions might be summed up in Clough's epigram: At church on Sunday to attend Will serve to keep the world your friend.
But style is not everything, and the very best letter I ever read the letter which stands first in my opinion as a model of what written communications should be is without grammar or form or elegance. It is simply a document in which the writer suppresses himself, and conveys all the intelligence possible in a limited space.
D'Artagnan did not trouble himself about such trifles. "Very good!" said he. "You always speak the best French in the world; you shall give me a lesson in grammar and correct language, whilst I wait the return of your master." "That is impossible, monsieur," said Blaisois; "you would have to wait too long." "Will he not come back to-day, then?" "No, nor to-morrow, nor the day after to-morrow.
"That's what you're going to find out if you win the game from South Grammar to-morrow." "Then the game is as good as won already," declared Tom solemnly, "for we're in that frame of mind where we've got to know what the man on the clubhouse steps said."
But I must recover myself; the contemplation of it, even at this distance of time, has taken away my breath and my grammar, and unless I subdue my emotion, my spelling will go too. We were sitting Miss Matty and I much as usual, she in the blue chintz easy-chair, with her back to the light, and her knitting in her hand, I reading aloud the St James's Chronicle.
Anything she cared about she recollected accurately; but grammar, which had been presented to her not as a means to an end but as an end in itself, failed to interest her, and if she remembered a rule she forgot to apply it, until Aunt Victoria set her down to the old French books, when, simply because the old lady looked pleased if she knew her lesson and disturbed if she did not, she began at the beginning of her own accord, and worked with a will toilsomely at first, but by degrees with pleasure as she proceeded, and felt for the first time the joy of mastering a strange tongue.
They demand bare faith alone.... So also I call him truly learned who brings everything to bear on the truth so that, from geometry, and music, and grammar, and philosophy itself, culling what is useful, he guards the faith against assault.... How necessary is it for him who desires to be partaker of the power of God, to treat of intellectual subjects by philosophising."
It was the high life of prayer and effort that they lived that made it possible for God the God of art as truly as the God of prayer to teach them. It is not at the best a cultured place, this backwoods town. There was many a slip in grammar, many a broad uncouth accent, heard daily in Ann's drawing-room; but what mental life the town had came to centre in that room.