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Mark Rutherford's Deliverance   By: (1831-1913)

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When I had established myself in my new lodgings in Camden Town, I found I had ten pounds in my pocket, and again there was no outlook. I examined carefully every possibility. At last I remembered that a relative of mine, who held some office in the House of Commons, added to his income by writing descriptive accounts of the debates, throwing in by way of supplement any stray scraps of gossip which he was enabled to collect. The rules of the House as to the admission of strangers were not so strict then as they are now, and he assured me that if I could but secure a commission from a newspaper, he could pass me into one of the galleries, and, when there was nothing to be heard worth describing, I could remain in the lobby, where I should by degrees find many opportunities of picking up intelligence which would pay. So far, so good; but how to obtain the commission? I managed to get hold of a list of all the country papers, and I wrote to nearly every one, offering my services. I am afraid that I somewhat exaggerated them, for I had two answers, and, after a little correspondence, two engagements. This was an unexpected stroke of luck; but alas! both journals circulated in the same district. I never could get together more stuff than would fill about a column and a half, and consequently I was obliged, with infinite pains, to vary, so that it could not be recognised, the form of what, at bottom, was essentially the same matter. This was work which would have been disagreeable enough, if I had not now ceased in a great measure to demand what was agreeable. In years past I coveted a life, not of mere sensual enjoyment for that I never cared but a life which should be filled with activities of the noblest kind, and it was intolerable to me to reflect that all my waking hours were in the main passed in merest drudgery, and that only for a few moments at the beginning or end of the day could it be said that the higher sympathies were really operative. Existence to me was nothing but these few moments, and consequently flitted like a shadow. I was now, however, the better of what was half disease and half something healthy and good. In the first place, I had discovered that my appetite was far larger than my powers. Consumed by a longing for continuous intercourse with the best, I had no ability whatever to maintain it, and I had accepted as a fact, however mysterious it might be, that the human mind is created with the impulses of a seraph and the strength of a man. Furthermore, what was I that I should demand exceptional treatment? Thousands of men and women superior to myself, are condemned, if that is the proper word to use, to almost total absence from themselves. The roar of the world for them is never lulled to rest, nor can silence ever be secured in which the voice of the Divine can be heard.

My letters were written twice a week, and as each contained a column and a half, I had six columns weekly to manufacture. These I was in the habit of writing in the morning, my evenings being spent at the House. At first I was rather interested, but after a while the occupation became tedious beyond measure, and for this reason. In a discussion of any importance about fifty members perhaps would take part, and had made up their minds beforehand to speak. There could not possibly be more than three or four reasons for or against the motion, and as the knowledge that what the intending orator had to urge had been urged a dozen times before on that very night never deterred him from urging it again, the same arguments, diluted, muddled, and mispresented, recurred with the most wearisome iteration.

The public outside knew nothing or very little of the real House of Commons, and the manner in which time was squandered there, for the reports were all of them much abbreviated. In fact, I doubt whether anybody but the Speaker, and one or two other persons in the same position as myself, really felt with proper intensity what the waste was, and how profound was the vanity of members and the itch for expression; for even the reporters were relieved at stated intervals, and the impression on their minds was not continuous... Continue reading book >>

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