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Adventures and Recollections   By: (1836-1897)

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Transcribed by Steven Wood from the Keighley Herald (1893).




[Bill o’th Hoylus End might be termed a local Will o’th Wisp. He has been everything by turns, and nothing long. Now, a lean faced lad, “a mere anatomy, a mountebank, a thread bare juggler, a needy, hollow ey’d, sharp looking wretch;” now acting the pert, bragging youth, telling quaint stories, and up to a thousand raw tricks; now tumbling and adventuring into manhood with yet the oil and fire and force of youth too strong for reason’s sober guidance; and now—well and now—finding the checks of time have begun to grapple him, he looks back upon the past and tells his curious stories o’er again. Verily, as Shakespeare declares in All’s Well , “the web of his life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together;” and through it all there is a kind of history, just as

“There is a history in all men’s lives, Figuring the nature of the times deceased.”

This son of Mischief, Art and Guile has stooped to many things but to conquer himself and be his own best friend; that is, according to the conception of the ordinary, respectable, get on folk of the world. He has followed more or less the wild, shifting impulses of his nature—restless and reckless, if aimless and harmless; fickle and passionate, if rebelliously natural; exhausting his youth and manhood in fruitless action, and devoting the moments of reflection to the playful current of the muse’s fancy, forsooth, to the delectation of the more prosaic humanity in this his locality. A life of pleasure was ever his treasure, and he agrees, after experience of life’s fitful dream, that

E’en Pleasure acts a treacherous part, She charms the scene, but stings the heart, And while she gulls us of our wealth, Or that superior pearl, our health,

[Yet, and these are the two lines he substitutes for the melancholy truth of an old poet],

Yet she restores for all the pains, By giving Merit her exchange.

Though the poetic flame has flickered from time to time, it has never been extinguished. There is health and buoyancy still in his muse. It is the one thing essential, the one thing permanent in his nature—ever ready to impart the mystic jingle to pictures of fun and frolic, or perchance judgement and reflection. Thus, as the local Burns, he stands unrivalled. His poetic effusions speak for themselves, but there are other traits in his career which he wished to convey to the public, which might while away an occasional half hour in the reading of his stories of the tricks of his boyhood, the adventures of his early manhood, and to learn how he became—well, what he is! He has been caught in divers moods and at sundry times, and his words have been taken in shorthand, the endeavour always being to keep the transcript as faithful as circumstances would allow. No pretence is here made to evolve a dramatic story, but rather to present Bill’s career simply and faithfully for public perusal; for to use Dr. Johnson’s words, “If a man is to write a panegyric, he can keep the vices out of sight; but if he professes to write a life he must represent it really as it was.”]


It was on the 22nd day of March, 1836, in a village midway between Keighley and Haworth, in a cottage by the wayside, that I, William Wright, first saw light. The hamlet I have just alluded to was and now is known by the name of Hermit Hole: which name, by the way, is said to have been given to it owing to the fact that a once upon a timeyfied hermit abided there. At the top end of the village stood a group of houses which, also, distinguished themselves by a little individuality, and go by the name of “Hoylus End... Continue reading book >>

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