MR. HAWKER in politics, as far as he had any, was a Liberal; and in 1857
he voted for Mr. Robartes, afterwards Lord Robartes.
MARCH 26, 1857. _My Dear Sir_,—Your mangold is remarkably fine. I
must, of course, visit Stratton, to vote for Robartes; and I do wish
I could be told how far a few votes would throw out Kendall by
helping Carew, then I would give the latter one. If I can contrive
to call at Flexbury, I will; but Mrs. Hawker is so worried by bad
eyes that she will not risk the roads. Last time we were annoyed by
some rascals, who came after the carriage, shouting, “Kendall and
protection!” It will be a dark infamy for Cornwall if Nick, the
traitor to every party, should get in. Tom S—— has been out to-day,
blustering for Nick, but, when asked what party he belonged to,
could not tell. How should he? A note from M—— to-night, dated Bude,
informs me that he is there. I am glad to find that, though not yet
registered as a Cornish voter, his heart and wishes are for
Robartes. It will always be to me a source of pride, that I was the
first, or well-nigh, I think, the only clergyman in this deanery who
voted for a Free-trade candidate. Yours, my dear sir, faithfully,
R. S. HAWKER.
J. CARNSEW, Esq.
… I cannot conclude without a word about the mighty theme of
elections. When Carew’s address arrived, and I read it to Mrs.
Hawker, her remark was: “It doesn’t ring well.” Nor did it. There
were sneaky symptoms about it. S—— writes that “sinister influence,
apart from political, has been brought to bear against Carew.” We
save a breakfast by this; for Mrs. Hawker had announced her
intention to give one, as she did last time, to Mr. Robartes’
voters; and I save what is to me important—a ride. When I was in
Oxford, there was a well-known old man, Dr. Crowe, public officer,
etc. He had risen from small beginnings, and therefore he was a man
of mind. Somewhat rough, and so much the better, as old wine is. Him
the young, thoughtless fellows delighted to tease after dinner in
the common-room, over their wine at New College. (N.B.—The rumour
used to run, that, when the fellows of the college retired from the
hall, the butler went before, with a warming-pan, which he passed
over the seat of every stuffed chair, that the reverend fogies might
not catch cold as they sat down.) Well, one day, said a junior to
old Crowe: “Do you know, Dr. C., what has happened to Jem
Ward?”—“No, not I. Is he hanged?”—“Oh, no! they say he is member of
Parliament.”—“Well, what of that?”—“Oh, but consider what a thing
for a fellow like that to get into the House of Commons—such a
_blackguard_!”—“And pray, young man, where should a blackguard go,
but into the House of Commons, eh?”
Good-night, dear sir, good-night. Yours faithfully,
R. S. HAWKER.
But Mr. Hawker’s sympathies were by no means bound up with one party. He
was as enthusiastic in 1873 for the return of a Conservative member for
Exeter, as he had been in 1857 for that of a Free-trade candidate for
MORWENSTOW, Dec. 11, 1873. _My dear Mr. and Mrs. Mills_,—The good
tidings of your success in Exeter has only just arrived in our
house; and I make haste to congratulate you, and to express our
hearty sympathy with Mr. Mills’ great triumph. Only yesterday Mr.
M—— was here, and we were discussing the probabilities and chances
of the majority. I had heard from Powderham Castle that the contest
would be severe, and the run close; but every good man’s wishes and
sympathies were with Mr. Mills. I hope that God will bless and
succour him, and make his election an avenue of good and usefulness
to his kind, which I am sure you both will value beyond the mere
honour and rank. Our men heard guns last night, but could not decide
whether the sound came from Bude or Lundy. But to-day I heard there
were great and natural rejoicings around your Efford home. How you
must have exulted also at your husband’s strong position in London,
and at the School Board! He must have been very deeply appreciated
there, and will, of course, succeed to the chairmanship of his
district. You will be sorry to hear that Mr. R—— has
disappointed us, and will not be back again until after Christmas.
So, although I am so weak that I can hardly stagger up to the
church, and I incur deadly risk, I must go through my duty on
Sunday. Our dutiful love to you both. I am, yours ever faithfully,
R. S. HAWKER.
It was his intense sympathy with the poor that constituted the
Radicalism in Mr. Hawker’s opinions. A thorough-going Radical he was
not, for he was filled with the most devoted veneration for the Crown
and Constitution; but his tender heart bled for the labourer, whom he
regarded as the sufferer through protection, and he fired up at what he
regarded as an injustice. When he broke forth into words, it was with
the eloquence and energy of a prophet. What can be more vigorous and
vehement than the following paper, which he wrote in 1861?
There are in Morwenstow about six thousand acres of arable land,
rented by seventy farmers; forty large, and thirty small.
There are less than sixty able-bodied labourers, and twenty-five
half-men, at roads, etc.
With this proportion of one labourer to a hundred acres, there can
be no lack of _employ_.
The rate of wages is eight shillings a week, paid, not in money, but
by truck of corn.
A fixed agreement of a hundred and thirty-five pounds of corn, or
eighteen gallons (commonly called seven scores), is allotted to each
man in lieu of fourteen shillings, be the market price what it will.
A man with a wife and three or four children will consume the above
quantity of corn in fourteen days.
Therefore, such a man, receiving for his fortnight’s work fourteen
shillings’ worth of corn, will only leave in his master’s hand one
shilling a week, which one shilling usually is paid for house-rent.
Now, this inevitable outlay for the loaf and for the rent will
leave—for fuel, for shoes, for clothing, for groceries, for tools,
for club … _nil_: 0_l._ 0_s._ 0_d._
_But, but._ But in the year 1860-61, the fourteen shillings paid for
that corn will only yield in flour and meal ten shillings and
sixpence, the millers being judges.
“If a man have only a wife and two children to house and feed, his
surplus money above his bread and rent will be one shilling (?) a
week beyond the above example.” _But_, _but_, in the recited list of
exigencies, will that suffice?
It was from a knowledge of the state of the parish, that I assented
to the collection, of which I enclose a statement.
Two farmers only had the audacity to allege that the effort was
uncalled for; and a labourer of one of these must have gone
barefooted to his work the whole winter, had not the money for a
pair of shoes been advanced to him by the victim of the parish.
It appears to be a notion entertained by a chief patron of all our
charities, that the wages and the treatment of the labourers in
Kilkhampton are more favourable than in Morwenstow. _But, but,
What is the weekly wage?
If in corn, at what price?
And are there contracts in other respects?
These are not questions which I want to be answered, but only
questions for your own private consideration.
A letter narrating the success of this appeal is in my hands, and may
find a place here.
FEB. 21, 1861. _My dear Sir_,—I have postponed replying to your last
letter until I could acquaint you with the progress or result of the
subscriptions to the poor. Lord J. Thynne has given five pounds; Mr.
Dayman, three pounds; Messrs. Cann and Harris, churchwardens, one
pound each; other parishioners, about three or four pounds. So that
we shall divide twenty-five pounds and upwards among the really
destitute. I am much obliged to you for your readiness to allow my
influence to count with that of others in the parish; but the
reference in my letter to the churchwardens was to the past, and not
altogether to the future. Be this as it may, when Moses languishes,
manna falls, thank God!
You will be sorry to hear that Mrs. H—— is very ill. Her attack is
so full of peril, and demands such incessant medical succour, that
Capt. H—— resolved on removing her while she could be moved to
London, to the charge of her accustomed doctor; and thither they
went last Monday. Our loss is deep. It was indeed a gift from God to
have a thorough lady and gentleman in the parish to appreciate the
utterance of truth, and the effects of duty: it was indeed a
happiness, and it is now gone. Mrs. H—— had taken great trouble with
our choir. Every Thursday evening she has allowed them to come to
learn the musical scale, and they were fast learning to read and
sing the notes.
We have been visited of late by the new kind of hurricane, the
κύκλων, or whirl. It is just as fierce and strong as the old storm;
but the scene of its onslaught is rigidly local: indeed, we might
almost call them parochial. They had theirs at Kilkhampton two days
before Mr. T——’s christening. The Poughill rush was the week after
the vicar brought home his wife. A pinnacle was snapped off there,
and the wall of the church rent. At Kilkhampton the damage done was
in the immediate vicinity of the church. We had ours last night, but
the church did not suffer harm, although two-thirds of the roof are
rotten, and the pinnacles overhang. Lent is always the demon’s time,
and the strength of evil. A woman who is just come in tells me that
the new chimney in the kitchen at Tidnacombe was blown down last
night, and is now lying on the roof in fragments. Yours faithfully,
R. S. HAWKER.
The energy with which he upheld the cause of the labourer was one cause
of some unreasonable resentment against him being felt by the farmers;
and this explains his expression “the victim of the parish,” in
reference to himself in his appeal.
The same intense sympathy with the poor and the down-trodden breaks out
in his ballad, “The Poor Man and his Parish Church,” of which I insert a
The poor have hands and feet and eyes,
Flesh, and a feeling mind:
They breathe the breath of mortal sighs,
They are of human kind;
They weep such tears as others shed,
And now and then they smile;
For sweet to them is that poor bread
They win with honest toil.
The poor men have their wedding-day,
And children climb their knee:
They have not many friends, for they
Are in such misery.
They sell their youth, their skill, their pains,
For hire in hill and glen:
The very blood within their veins,
It flows for other men.
They should have roofs to call their own
When they grow old and bent—
Meek houses built of dark grey stone,
Worn labourer’s monument.
There should they dwell beneath the thatch,
With threshold calm and free:
No stranger’s hand should lift the latch
To mark their poverty.
Fast by the church these walls should stand,
Her aisles in youth they trod:
They have no home in all the land
Like that old house of God!
There, there, the sacrament was shed
That gave them heavenly birth,
And lifted up the poor man’s head
With princes of the earth.
There in the chancel’s voice of praise
Their simple vows were poured,
And angels looked with equal gaze
On Lazarus and his Lord.
There, too, at last, they calmly sleep,
Where hallowed blossoms bloom;
And eyes as fond and faithful weep
As o’er the rich man’s tomb.
I know not why; but when they tell
Of houses fair and wide,
Where troops of poor men go to dwell
In chambers side by side,
I dream of an old cottage door,
With garlands overgrown,
And wish the children of the poor
Had flowers to call their own.
And when they vaunt that in these walls
They have their worship-day,
Where the stern signal coldly calls
The prisoned poor to pray,
I think upon an ancient home
Beside the churchyard wall,
Where roses round the porch would roam,
And gentle jasmines fall.
I see the old man of my lay,
His grey head bowed and bare:
He kneels by our dear wall to pray,
The sunlight in his hair.
Well! they may strive, as wise men will,
To work with wit and gold:
I think my own dear Cornwall still
Was happier of old.
Oh, for the poor man’s church again,
With one roof over all,
Where the true hearts of Cornishmen
Might beat beside the wall!
The altars where, in holier days,
Our fathers were forgiven,
Who went with meek and faithful ways,
Through the old aisles, to heaven!
A letter to one of the landlords in his parish shows how vehemently Mr.
Hawker could urge the claims of one of the farmers.
MORWENSTOW, May 21, 1867. _My dear Mr. Martyn_,—Just as I was about
to write to you on other matters, your advertisement for the letting
of your lands reached me. It is not, of course, my duty to express
any opinion between landlord and tenant, or to give utterance to my
sympathy with any one candidate over another; yet there is a matter
on which I am sure you will forgive me if I venture to touch. It is
on the tenancy of your farm of Ruxmoore by Cann. He has been my
churchwarden during the whole of his last term. He and his have been
the most faithful adherents to the church of their baptism in my
whole parish; and he has been to me so sincere and attached a friend
in his station of life, that he without Ruxmoore, or Ruxmoore
without the Canns, would be to me an utterly inconceivable regret.
It was I who first introduced him to the choice of your family,
twenty-eight years agone; and throughout the whole of that time he
has been, in his humble way, entirely faithful to me and to you. I
do not imagine that you intend to exclude him from your farm, but I
venture to hope that you will put me in possession confidentially of
your wishes in regard to his future tenancy. Do you mean that he
shall tender as before? and does your valuation of his part of your
land ascend? He is not aware that I write to you hereon; and, if you
are disinclined to answer my questions, I hope you will allow me to
record my hearty hope and trust that you will give him the
preference over other new and local candidates, in or out of
Morwenstow. I have firm confidence in the justice and mercy of your
heart. But you must not infer that Cann alone of all your tenants
is, or has been, the object of my special regard…. In Wellcombe,
B——, whom you remember, no doubt, by name, is one of my regular
communicants. And now the very kind and generous sympathy which Mrs.
Martyn and yourself have shown towards my school demands a detail of
The children on the day-school books amount to sixty-three. The
inspectors (diocesan) pronounce it to be the most satisfactory
school in their district. I always visit and instruct the children
in person once a week. Mrs. Hawker has had a singing class of boys
and girls weekly at the vicarage. But this duty and the harmonium in
church are now undertaken by Mrs. T——, for a reason that will
readily suggest itself to your mind. But why should I hesitate to
avow to old friends that we expect another guest at the vicarage?
How I hope that God may grant us a boy, that I may utter the words
of the fathers of holy time, “My son, my son!”
MORWENSTOW, Jan. 22, 1857. _My dear Sir_,—It is no longer possible
to nourish the project which I have all along, every week and day,
intended to essay, _viz._, a journey down to Flexbury Hall. We have
continually talked of it, more than once fixed the day, but we have
been as singularly prevented as if some evil spirit had it at heart
to hinder our purpose. And these obstacles have very often been
occurrences full of pain, domestic or personal. You have no doubt
heard of the frightful accident to poor old George Tape, my
caretaker and very excellent servant. He lived all his early life
with old Mr. Shearm, here in the old Vicarage House; was sexton
twenty-five years; worked with me from 1835 to 1851; then visited
Australia as a gold-digger; returned about two years agone with
enough to live on, aided by a little work, and came back to be again
my hind at Michaelmas last. He was, therefore, a long-accustomed
face, almost as one of my own family. You will, therefore,
understand the shock when we heard a man rushing up stairs to our
little sitting-room with the tale of fear; and on going down, I
found poor George seated in a chair, with the hand crushed into pulp
below the wrist, and dangling by the naked sinews. I made a rude
tourniquet, in haste, of a silk handkerchief and short stick, and so
the hemorrhage was stopped. We got him home. I was with him nearly
all night, and the next day till he died; but the amputation I could
not witness. We found two fingers and other pieces of flesh among
the barley afterwards…. I remain yours, my dear sir, very
_R. S. Hawker_.
T. CARNSEW, Esq.
The generosity of the vicar to the poor knew no bounds. It was not
always discreet, but his compassionate heart could not listen to a tale
of suffering unaffected; nay, more, the very idea that others were in
want impelled him to seek them out at all times, to relieve their need.
On cold winter nights, if he felt the frost to be very keen, the idea
would enter his head that such and such persons had not above one
blanket on their beds, or that they had gone, without anything to warm
their vitals, to the chill damp attics where they slept. Then he would
stamp about the house, collecting warm clothing and blankets, bottles of
wine, and any food he could find in the larder, and laden with them,
attended by a servant, go forth on his rambles, and knock up the
cottagers, that he might put extra blankets on their beds, or cheer them
with port wine and cold pie.
The following graphic description of one of these night missions is
given in the words of an old workman named Vinson.
It was a very cold night in the winter of 1874-75, about half-past
nine: he called me into the house, and said: “The poor folk up at
Shop will all perish this very night of cold. John Ode is ill, and
cannot go: can you get there alive?”
“If you please, sir, I will, if you’ll allow me,” I said.
“Take them these four bottles of brandy,” he says; and he brought up
four bottles with never so much as the corks drawed. “Now,” says he,
“what will you have yourself?” And I says, “Gin, if you plase, sir,”
I says. And he poured me out gin and water; and then he gi’ed me a
lemonade bottle of gin for me to put in my side-pocket. “That’ll
keep you alive,” he says, “before you come back.” So he fulled me up
before I started, and sent me off to Shop, to four old people’s
houses, with a bottle of brandy for each. And then he says: “There’s
two shillings for yourself; and you keep pulling at that bottle, and
you’ll keep yourself alive afore you come back.” So I went there,
and delivered the bottles; and I’d had enough before I started to
bring me home again, so I didn’t uncork my bottle of gin.
And it isn’t once, it’s scores o’ times, he’s looked out o’ window,
after I’ve going home at night, and shouted to me: “Here, stay! come
back, Vinson,” and he’s gone into the larder, and cut off great
pieces of meat, and sent me with them, and p’raps brandy or wine, to
some poor soul; and he always gi’ed me a shilling, either then or
next day, for myself, besides meat and drink.
“They are crushed down, my poor people,” he would say with energy,
stamping about his room—“ground down with poverty, with a wretched wage,
the hateful truck system, till they are degraded in mind and body.” It
was a common saying of his, “If I eat and drink, and see my poor hunger
and thirst, I am not a minister of Christ, but a lion that lurketh in
his den to ravish the poor.”
The monetary value of the living was £365. He wrote up over the porch of
A house, a glebe, a pound a day,
A pleasant place to watch and pray:
Be true to Church, be kind to poor,
O minister, for evermore!
Of his overflowing kindness to the shipwrecked, mention shall be made in
another chapter. The many sufferers whom he rescued from the water,
housed, fed, nursed and clothed, and sent away with liberal gifts,
always spoke of his charity with warmth and gratitude. In no one
instance would he accept compensation for the deeds of charity which he
performed. He received letters of thanks for his services to the
shipwrecked from shipowners in Norway, Denmark, France, Scotland and
Cornwall, who had lost vessels on this fatal coast, as well as from the
Consuls of the several nations.
Like his grandfather, Dr. Hawker, he was ready to give away everything
he had; and he was at times in straitened circumstances, owing to the
open house he kept, and the profusion with which he gave away to the
This inconsiderate generosity sometimes did harm to those who received
it. One instance will suffice.
The vicar of Morwenstow had, some years ago, a servant, whom we will
call Stanlake: the man may be still alive, and therefore his real name
had better not be given to the world.
One day Mr. Hawker ordered his carriage to drive to Bideford, some
twenty miles distant. The weather was raw and cold. He was likely to be
absent all day, as he was going on to Barnstaple by train to consult his
doctor. His compassion was roused by the thought of Stanlake having
forty miles of drive in the cold, and a day of lounging about in the raw
December air; and just as he stepped into the carriage he produced a
bottle of whisky, and gave it to Stanlake.
Mr. Hawker was himself a most abstemious man: he drank only water, and
never touched wine, spirits, or beer.
On the way to Bideford, at Hoops, thinking the coachman looked blue with
cold, the vicar ordered him a glass of hot brandy and water. When he
reached Bideford station he said: “Now, Stanlake, I shall be back by the
half-past four train: mind you meet me with the carriage.”
“All right, sir.”
But Mr. Hawker did not arrive by the half-past four train.
Up till that hour Stanlake had kept sober, he had not touched his bottle
of whisky; but finding that his master did not arrive, and that time
hung heavily on his hands, he retired to the stable, uncorked the
bottle, and drank it off.
At six o’clock Mr. Hawker arrived at Bideford. There was no carriage at
the station to meet him. He hurried to the inn where he put up, and
ordered his conveyance. He was told that his man was incapable.
“Send him to me, send him here,” he thundered, pacing the coffee-room in
“Please, sir, he is under a heap of straw and hay in a loose box in the
stable dead drunk.”
“Make him come.”
After some delay the information was brought him, that, when Mr.
Stanlake after great efforts had been reared upon his legs he had fallen
“Put the horses to. I can drive as well as Stanlake. I will drive home
myself; and do you shove that drunken boor head and crop into the
The phaeton was brought to the door: the vicar mounted the box, the
drunken servant was tumbled inside, the door shut on him, and off they
started for a long night drive with no moon in the sky, and frosty stars
looking down on the wintry earth.
Half-way between Bideford and Morwenstow, in descending a hill the
pole-strap broke; the carriage ran forward on the horses’ heels; they
plunged, and the pole drove into the hedge; with a jerk one of the
carriage springs gave way.
Mr. Hawker, afraid to get off the box without some one being at hand to
hold the horses’ heads, shouted lustily for help. No one came.
“Stanlake, wake up! Get out!”
A snore from inside was the only answer. Mr. Hawker knocked the glasses
with his whip handle, and shouted yet louder: “You drunken scoundrel,
get out and hold the horses!”
“We won’t go home till morning, till daylight doth appear,” chanted the
tipsy man in bad tune from within.
After some time a labourer, seeing from a distance the stationary
carriage lamps, and wondering what they were, arrived on the scene. By
his assistance the carriage was brought sideways to the hill, the horses
were taken out, a piece of rope procured to mend the harness and tie up
the broken spring; and Mr. Hawker, remounting the box, drove forward,
and reached Morwenstow vicarage about one o’clock at night.
In the morning Stanlake appeared in the library, very downcast.
“Go away,” said the vicar in a voice of thunder. “I dismiss you
forthwith. Here are your wages. I will not even look at you. Let me
never see your face again. You brought me into a pretty predicament last
Two days after he met the man again. In the meantime his wrath had
abated, and he began to think that he had acted harshly with his
servant. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass
against us,” ran in his head.
“Stanlake,” said he, “you played me a hateful trick the other night. I
hope you are sorry for it.”
“I’se very sorry, your honour, but you gave me the whiskey.”
“You think you won’t do it again?”
“I’se very sure I won’t, if you give me no more.”
“Then, Stanlake, I will overlook it. You may remain in my service.”
Not many weeks after, the vicar sent Stanlake to Boscastle, and,
thinking he would be cold, gave him again a bottle of whisky. Of course,
once more the man got drunk. This time the vicar did not overlook it;
but which of the two was really to blame?
Mr. Robert Stephen Hawker was a man of the most unbounded hospitality.
Every one who visited Morwenstow met with a warm welcome: everything his
larder and dairy contained was produced in the most lavish profusion.
The best that his house could afford was freely given. On one occasion,
when about to be visited by a nephew and his wife, he sent all the way
to Tavistock, about thirty miles, for a leg and shoulder of Dartmoor
mutton. If he saw friends coming along the loop drive which descended to
his vicarage, he would run to the door, with a sunny smile of greeting,
and both hands extended in welcome, and draw them in to break his bread
and partake of his salt. Sometimes his larder was empty, he had fed so
many visitors; and he would say sorrowfully: “There is nothing but ham
and eggs: I give thee all, I can no more.” And visitors were most
numerous in summer. In one of his letters he speaks of having
entertained 150 in a summer.
His drawing-room on a summer afternoon was often so crowded with
visitors from Bude, Clovelly, Bideford, Stratton and elsewhere, come to
tea, that it was difficult to move in it.
“Look here, my dear,” he would say to a young wife, “I will tell you how
to make tea. Fill the pot with leaves to the top, and pour the water
into the cracks.” His tea was always the best Lapsing Souchong from
He was a wretched carver. He talked and laughed, and hacked the meat at
the same time, cutting here, there and anywhere, in search of the
tenderest pieces for his guests.
“One day that we went over to call on him unexpectedly,” says a friend,
“he made us stay for lunch. He was in the greatest excitement and
delight at our visit, and in the flurry decanted a bottle of brandy and
filled our wine-glasses with it, mistaking it for sherry. The joint was
a fore-quarter of lamb. It puzzled him extremely. At last, losing all
patience, he grasped the leg-bone with one hand, the shoulder with the
fork driven up to the hilt through it, and tore it by main force
Another friend describes a “high tea” at his house. A whole covey of
partridges was brought on table. He drove his fork into the breast of
each, then severed the legs by cutting through the back, and so helped
each person to the whole breast and wings. The birds had not been cooked
by an experienced hand, and properly trussed. The whole covey lay on
their backs with their legs in the air, presenting the drollest
appearance when the cover—large enough for a sirloin of beef—was removed
from the dish.
“When you steal your own cream, my dear,” was a saying of his to ladies,
“don’t take just a spoonful on a bit of bread, but clear the whole pan
with a great ladle and no bread.”
One story about a breakdown when driving has been told: another incident
of the same description shall be given in his own words:—
Nov. 4, 1856. _My dear Sir_,—When I relate the history of our recent
transit through Poughill by night, I think you will allow that I am
not nervous beyond measure when I say that I am obliged through fear
to deny myself the pleasure of joining your hospitable board on
Thursday next. Before we had crossed Summerleaze one lamp went out;
another languished. My clumsy servant John had broken both springs.
A lantern, which we borrowed at Lake Cottage of a woman called
Barrett, held aloft by our boy, just enabled us to creep along amid
a thorough flood of cold rain, until we arrived at Stowe. There we
succeeded in negotiating a loan of another piece of candle, and
moved on, a rare and rending headache meanwhile throbbing under my
hat. Half-way down Stowe hill, the drag-chain broke suddenly, and
but for extreme good behaviour on the part of the horses—shall I add
good driving on mine?—we must have gone over in a heap, to the great
delight of the Dissenters in this district. We did at last arrive
home, but it was in a very disconsolate condition. Still, good came
of our journey; for Mrs. Hawker cannot deny that I drove in a
masterly manner, and therefore is bound to travel anywhere with me
by _day_. We mean, with your leave, to come down to you early one
day soon, and depart so as to be at home before dark. Tell your son
that on Saturday night last, at eight o’clock, tidings came in that
carriage-lamps flared along our in-road. I found at the door “a
deputation from the Parent Society,” the Rev. L. H——. Three friends
had previously suggested his visit here, and all three had been
snubbed. But he put into my hand a note from Leopold Ackland, so
there was no longer any resistance. He had travelled far—Australia,
Egypt, the Crimea during the Anglican defeat. So his talk amused us.
With kindest regards to all at Flexbury, I remain, yours, my dear
sir, very faithfully,
R. S. HAWKER.
T. CARNSEW, Esq.
Mr. Hawker, as has been already intimated, was rather peculiar in his
dress. At first, soon after his induction to Morwenstow, he wore his
cassock; but in time abandoned this inconvenient garb, in which he found
it impossible to scramble about his cliffs. He then adopted a
claret-coloured coat, with long tails. He had the greatest aversion to
anything black: the only black things he would wear were his boots.
These claret-coloured coats would button over the breast, but were
generally worn open, displaying beneath a knitted blue fisherman’s
jersey. At his side, just where the Lord’s side was pierced, a little
red cross was woven into the jersey. He wore fishing-boots reaching
above his knee.
The claret-coloured cassock coats, when worn out, were given to his
servant-maids, who wore them as morning-dresses when going about their
“See there! the parson is washing potatoes!” or, “See there! the parson
is feeding the pigs!” would be exclaimed by villagers, as they saw his
servant girls engaged on their work, in their master’s coats.
At first he went about in a college cap; but this speedily made way for
a pink or plum-coloured beaver hat without a brim, the colour of which
rapidly faded to a tint of pink, the blue having disappeared. When he
put on coat, jersey or hat he wore it till it was worn out: he had no
Once he had to go to Hartland, to the funeral of a relative. On the way
he had an accident—his carriage upset, and he was thrown out. When he
arrived at Hartland, his relations condoled with him on his upset. “Do,
Hawker, let me find you a new hat: in your fall you have knocked the
brim off yours,” said one.
“My dear ——,” he answered, “priests of the Holy Eastern Church wear no
brims to their hats; and I wear none, to testify the connection of the
Cornish Church with the East, before ever Augustine set foot in Kent.”
And he attended the funeral in his brimless hat. He wore one of these
peculiar coloured hats, bleached almost white, at the funeral of his
first wife, in 1863, and could hardly be persuaded to allow the
narrowest possible band of black crape to be pinned round it.
The pink hats were, however, abandoned, partly because they would not
keep their colour; and a priest’s wide-awake, claret-coloured like the
coat, was adopted in its place.
“My coat,” said he, when asked by a lady why he wore one of such a cut
and colour, “my coat is that of an Armenian archimandrite.” But this he
said only from his love of hoaxing persons who asked him impertinent
When Mr. Hawker went up to London to be married the second time, he lost
his hat, which was carried away by the wind as he looked out of the
window of the train, to become, perhaps, an inmate of a provincial
museum as a curiosity. He arrived hatless in town after dark. He tied a
large crimson silk handkerchief over his head, and thus attired paced up
and down the street for two hours before his lodging, in great
excitement at the thought of the change in his prospects which would
dawn with the morrow. I must leave to the imagination of the reader the
perplexity of the policeman at the corner over the extraordinary figure
in claret-coloured clerical coat, wading-boots up to his hips, blue
knitted jersey, and red handkerchief bound round his head. His gloves
were crimson. He wore these in church as well as elsewhere.
In the dark chancel, lighted only dimly through the stained east window,
hidden behind a close-grated screen, the vicar was invisible when
performing the service, till, having shouted “Thomas,” in a voice of
thunder, two blood-red hands were thrust through the screen, with
offertory bags, in which alms were to be collected by the churchwarden
who answered the familiar call. Or, the first appearance of the vicar
took place after the Nicene Creed, when a crimson hand was seen gliding
up the banister of the pulpit, to be followed by his body, painfully
worming its way through an aperture in the screen, measuring sixteen
inches only; “the camel getting at length through the eye of the
needle,” as Mr. Hawker called the proceeding.
In church he wore a little black cap over his white hair, rendered
necessary by the cold and damp of the decaying old church.
At his side he carried a bunch of seals and medals. One of his seals
bore the fish surrounded by a serpent biting its tail, and the legend
ἰχθύς. Another bore the pentacle, with the name of Jehovah in Hebrew
characters in the centre. This was Solomon’s seal. “With this seal,” he
said, “I can command the devils.”
His command of the devil was not always successful. He built a barn on
the most exposed and elevated point of the glebe; and when a neighbour
expostulated with him, and assured him that the wind would speedily
wreck it, “No,” he answered: “I have placed the sign of the cross on it,
and so the devil cannot touch it.”
A few weeks after, a gale from the south-west tore the roof off.
“The devil,” was his explanation, “was so enraged at seeing the sign of
the cross on my barn, that he rent it and wrecked it.”
A man whom he had saved from a wreck, in gratitude sent him afterwards,
from the diggings in California, a nugget of gold he had found. This Mr.
Hawker had struck into a medal or seal, and wore always at his side with
Attached to the button-hole of his coat was invariably a pencil
suspended by a piece of string.
He was a well-built man, tall, broad, with a face full of manly beauty,
a nobly cut profile, dark, full eyes, and long, snowy hair. His
expression was rapidly changing, like the sea as seen from his cliffs;
now flashing and rippling with smiles, and anon overcast and sad,
Mr. Hawker, some short time after his induction into Morwenstow, adopted
an alb and cope which he wore throughout his ministrations at matins,
litany and communion service. But he left off wearing the cope about ten
or twelve years ago, and the reason he gave for doing so was his
disapproval of the extravagances of the Ritualist party. Till the year
before he died he had no personal knowledge of their proceedings, and
related as facts the most ridiculous and preposterous fables concerning
them which had been told him, and which he sincerely believed in.
The ceremonial he employed in his church was entirely of his own
devising. When he baptised a child he raised it in his arms, carried it
up the church in his waving purple cope, thundering forth, with his
rich, powerful voice, the words: “We receive this child into the
congregation of Christ’s flock,” etc. His administration of this
sacrament was most solemn and impressive; and I know of parents who have
gone to Morwenstow for the purpose of having their children baptised by
In celebrating marriage it was his wont to take the ring and toss it in
the air before restoring it to the bridegroom. What was symbolised by
this proceeding I have been unable to ascertain, unless it were to point
out that marriage is always more or less of a toss-up.
After abandoning the cope for the reasons stated, his appearance in
girdled alb was not a little peculiar. The alb, to any one not
accustomed to see it, has much the look of a nightgown. Over his
shoulders he wore a stole of which he was very fond. It was copied for
him from one found at Durham, which had been placed in the shrine of St.
Cuthbert, on the body. Mr. Hawker bore a special reverence for the
memory of St. Cuthbert, who, living on his islet of Farne, the haunt of
sea-mews, taming the wild birds, praying, meditating amidst the roar of
the North Sea, he thought occupied a position not unlike his own. The
week before he died, Mr. Hawker sent to Morwenstow for this stole, and
was photographed in it.
“We are much taken with the old church,” wrote a well-known public man a
few years ago to a friend, “to say nothing of the vicar thereof, who
reminds me immensely of Cardinal Wiseman. He is a sight to see, as well
as a preacher to hear, as he stands in his quaint garb and quaint
pulpit, and looks as if he belonged to the days of Morwenna Abbatissa
He was usually followed to church by nine or ten cats, which entered the
chancel with him and careered about it during service. Whilst saying
prayers Mr. Hawker would pat his cats, or scratch them under their
chins. Originally ten cats accompanied him to church; but one, having
caught, killed and eaten a mouse on a Sunday, was excommunicated, and
from that day was not allowed again within the sanctuary.
A friend tells me that on attending Morwenstow Church one Sunday
morning, nothing amazed him more than to see a little dog sitting upon
the altar step behind the celebrant, in the position which is usually
attributed to a deacon or a server. He afterwards spoke to Mr. Hawker on
the subject, and asked him why he did not turn the dog out of the
chancel and church.
“Turn the dog out of the ark!” he exclaimed: “all animals, clean and
unclean, should find there a refuge.”
His chancel, as has been already said, was strewn with wormwood, sweet
marjoram and wild thyme.
He had a garden which he called his church garden, below his house, in a
spot sheltered by dwarfed trees. In this garden he grew such flowers as
were suitable for church decoration, and were named in honour of the
Virgin Mary or the saints, such as columbine, lilies, Barnaby’s thistle,
Timothy grass, the cowslip (St. Peter’s flower), Lady’s smock, etc.
Mr. Hawker’s kindness to animals was a conspicuous feature in his
character. The birds of Morwenstow became quite tame, and fluttered
round him for food. “Ubi aves,” he said, “ibi angeli.” To the north side
of the church, above the vicarage, is a small grove of trees, oaks and
sycamores. There were nests in them of magpies: Mr. Hawker thought that
they were those of jackdaws, but these birds do not build nests among
branches. He was very anxious to get rooks to inhabit this grove; to
obtain them he went to his chancel, and, kneeling before the altar,
besought God to give him a rookery where he wanted. Having made his
prayer, full of faith, he had a ladder put to the trees, and he
carefully removed the nests to a chimney of his house which was rarely
“Jackdaws,” said he, “I make you a promise: if you will give up these
trees to rooks, you shall have the chimney of my blue room in _sæcula
The jackdaws took him at his word, and filled the chimney with their
piles of sticks which serve as nests. Somehow rooks were persuaded to
settle among the tree-tops of his grove, and there the colony subsists
to the present day.
Some years ago, when Dr. Phillpotts was Bishop of Exeter, a visit of the
bishop to Morwenstow had been planned and decided upon. Mrs. Hawker
insisted on having the blue room fitted up for his lordship. A fire
would have to be lighted in the grate: the chimney would smoke unless
cleared of nests.
Mr. Hawker stood by whilst Mrs. Hawker and the maid prepared the blue
room. He would not have the jackdaws disturbed; he had given them his
word of honour. Mrs. Hawker argued that necessity knows no law: the
bishop must have a fire, and the jackdaws must make way for the bishop.
“I wrung my hands, I protested, entreated and foretold evil,” was the
vicar’s account of the affair.
“Well, and did evil come of it?”
“Yes, the bishop never arrived, after all.”
Mr. Hawker was warmly attached to the Bishop of Exeter, and was
accustomed to send him some braces of woodcocks every October.
Not far from the church and vicarage was the Well of St. John, a spring
of exquisitely clear water, which he always employed for his font.
Sir J. Buller, afterwards Lord Churston, claimed the well, and an
expensive lawsuit was the result. The vicar carried his right to the
well, and Sir J. Buller had to pay expenses. Mr. Hawker would tell his
guests that he was about to produce them a bottle of the costliest
liquor in the county of Cornwall, and then give them water from the Well
of St. John. The right to this water had cost several thousands of
A letter dated 7th Feb., 1852, to a young friend going up to the
university, refers to his cats and dogs, and to his annual gift of
woodcocks to the bishop, and may therefore be quoted at the conclusion
of this chapter.
Our roof bends over us unchanged. Berg (his dog) is still in our
confidence, and well deserves it. The nine soft, furry friends of
ours are well, and Kit rules them with a steady claw. Peggy is well
and warm…. I never knew game so scarce since I came to Morwenstow;
except some woodcocks, which I sent to the bishop as usual in
October and November, we have had literally none.
And now for one of those waste things, a word of advice. You are in
what is called by snobs a fast college. I earnestly advise you to
eschew fast men. I am now suffering from the effects of silly and
idle outlay in Oxford. I do hope that nothing will induce you to
accept that base credit which those cormorants, the Oxford
tradesmen, always try to force on freshmen, in order to harass and
rob them afterwards. No fast undergraduate in all my remembrance
ever settled down into a respectable man. Ask God for strong angels,
and He will fulfil your prayer. Never forget Him, and He will never