MRS. HAWKER was a very accomplished and charming old lady, who
thoroughly understood and appreciated her husband. She was a woman of a
poetical, refined mind, with strong sense of humour, and sound judgment.
The latter quality was of great advantage, as it was an element
conspicuously absent in the composition of her husband.
She translated from the German, with great elegance, the story of Guido
Goerres, the _Manger of the Holy Night_; and it was published by Burns
in 1847. The verses in it were turned with grace and facility. Another
of her books was _Follow Me_, a Morality from the German, published by
Burns in 1844.
The author remembers this charming old lady now many years ago, then
blind, very aged, with hair white as snow, full of cheerfulness and
geniality, laughing over her husband’s jokes, and drawing him out with a
subtle skill to show himself to his best advantage. In his fits of
depression she was invaluable to him, always at his side, encouraging
him, directing his thoughts to pleasant topics, and bringing merriment
back to the eye which had dulled with despondency.
ASH WEDNESDAY, 1853. _My dear Mrs. M.——_,—Among my acts of
self-research to-day one has regarded you, the wife of one of the
very few whom I would really call my friends. Since my days of
sorrow came, and self-abasement, I have shrunk too much into myself,
and too much regarded the breath that is in the nostrils of my
fellows. But what have I not been made to suffer? But—and I have
sworn it as a vow—if my God grants me the life of poor dear
Charlotte, all shall be borne cheerfully. Beyond that horizon I have
not a hope, a thought, a prayer. And now I feel relieved at having
written this. It lifts a load to tell it to you, as I should long
ago to your guileless husband had he been here to listen. But he is
gone to be happier than we, and would wonder, if he read this, why I
grieve. And then how basely have those who vaunted themselves as my
friends dealt with me! All this I unfold to you for my relief. Do
you please not to say a word about … or anything to vex or harass
Charlotte. She is, I thank God, well and quiet. We hardly ever go
out, save for exercise, in the parish. My thoughts go down in MS.,
of which I have drawers full. But I print no more.
The friend to whose widow he thus writes died in 1846. He then wrote to
a relative this note of sympathy:—
Your letter has filled us with deep and sincere sorrow. We feared
that our friend was sincerely ill, but we were not prepared for so
immediate an accession of grief. That he was ready to be dissolved,
I doubt not, and to be with Christ I am equally satisfied. He,
already, I trust, prays for us all effectually.
There was ever a sad undertone in Mr. Hawker’s character. He felt his
isolation in mind from all around him. His best companions were the
waves and clouds. He lived “the ever alone,” as he calls himself in one
of his letters, solitary in the Morwenstow ark, with only the sound of
waters about him. “The Lord shut him in.”
With all his brightness and vivacity, there was constantly “cropping up”
a sad and serious vein, which showed itself sometimes in a curious
fashion. “This is as life seems to you,” he would say, as he bade his
visitor look at the prospect through a pane of ruby-tinted glass, “all
glowing and hopeful. And this is as I see it,” he would add, turning to
a pane of yellow, “grey and wintry and faded. But keep your ruby days as
long as you can.”
He wrote on 2nd Jan., 1868:—
Wheresoever you may be, this letter will follow you, and with it our
best and most earnest prayers for your increased welfare of earthly
and heavenly hopes in this and many succeeding New Years. How solemn
a thing it is to stand before the gate of another year, and ask the
oracles what will this ensuing cluster of the months unfold! But, if
we knew, perhaps it would make life what a Pagan Greek called it, “a
shuddering thing.” We have had, through the approach to us of the
Gulf Stream, with its atmospheric arch of warm and rarefied air, a
sad succession of cyclones, or, as our homely phrase renders it,
“shattering sou’westers,” reminding us of what was said to be the
Cornish wreckers’ toast in bygone days:—
“A billowy sea and a shattering wind,
The cliffs before, and the gale behind,”
but, thank God, no wrecks yet on our iron shore.
The following letter was written to Mrs. Mills, daughter of Sir Thomas
D. Acland, on the death of her father; a letter which will touch the
hearts of many a “West Country man” who has loved his honoured name.
MORWENSTOW, July 27, 1861. _My dear Mrs. Mills_,—The knowledge of
your great anguish at Killerton has only just reached us. How deeply
we feel it, I need not tell: although long looked for, it smote me
like a sudden blow. Yet we must not mourn “for him, but for
ourselves and our children.” “It shall come to pass, at eventide
there shall be light.” The good and faithful servant had borne the
burden and the heat of the day; and at set of sun he laid him down
and slept. My heart and my eyes are too full to write. May his God
and our God bless and sustain yours and you! My poor dear wife, who
is ill, offers you her faithful love; and I shall pray this night
for him who is gone before, and for those who tarry yet a little
while. I am, dear Mrs. Mills, yours faithfully and affectionately,
R. S. HAWKER.
During his wife’s blindness and the gentle fading away of a well-spent,
God-fearing life, nothing could be more unremitting than the attention
of Mr. Hawker. He read to her a great part of the day, brought her all
the news of the neighbourhood, strove in every way to make up to her for
the deprivation of her sight.
He had a ten-guinea subscription to Mudie’s Library, and whole boxes of
novels arrived at the vicarage; these he diligently read to her as she
sat, her arm-chair wheeled to the window out of which she could no more
see, or by the fireside where the logs flickered.
But though he read with his lips and followed with his eyes, his eager
mind was far away in that wondrous dreamland where his mental life was
spent. After he had diligently read through the three volumes of some
popular novel, he was found to be ignorant of the plot, to know nothing
of the characters, and to have no conception even of the names of hero
and heroine. These stories interested him in no way: they related to a
world of which he knew little, and cared less. Whilst he read, his mind
was following some mystic weaving of a dance, in the air, of gulls and
swallows; tracing parables in the flowers that dotted his sward; or
musing over some text of Holy Scripture. To be on the face of his cliff,
to sit hour by hour in his little hut of wreck-wood, with the boiling
Atlantic before him, sunk in dream or meditation, was his delight. Or,
kneeling in his gloomy chancel, poring over the sacred page, meditating,
he would go off into strange trances, and see sights: Morwenna, gleaming
before him with pale face, exquisitely beautiful, and golden hair, and
deep blue eyes, telling him where she lay, drawing him on to chivalrous
love, like Aslauga in Fouqué’s exquisite tale. Or, he saw angels
ascending and descending in his dark chancel, and heard “a noise of
A gentle sound, an awful light!
Three angels bear the holy Grail.
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.
Ah, blessed vision! blood of God!
My spirit beats her mortal bars,
As down dark tides the glory slides,
And star-like mingles with the stars.
We have seen hitherto the sparkling merriment of his life; but this was
the surging of the surface of a character that rolled on its mysterious,
To him the spiritual world was intensely real: he had in him the makings
of a mystic. The outward world, the carnal flesh, he looked upon with
contempt, with almost the disgust of a Manichæan. The spiritual life was
the real life: the earthly career was a passing, troubled dream, that
teased the soul, and broke its contemplations. The true aim of man was
to disentangle his soul from the sordid cares of earth, and to raise it
on the wings of meditation and prayer to union with God. Consequently
the true self is the spiritual man: this none but the spiritual man can
understand. The vicar accommodated himself to ordinary society, but he
did not belong to it. His spirit hovered high above in the thin, clear
air, whilst his body and earthly mind laughed, and joked, and laboured,
and sorrowed below. Trouble was the anguish of the soul recalling its
prerogative. The fits of depression which came on him were the moments
when the soul was asserting its true power, pining as the captive for
its home and proper freedom.
It will be seen that nothing but his intense grasp of the doctrine of
the Incarnation saved him from drifting into the wildest vagaries of
He would never open out to any one who he thought was not spiritually
A commonplace neighbouring parson, visiting him once, asked him what
were his views and opinions.
Mr. Hawker drew him to the window. “There,” said he, “is Hennacliff,
there the Atlantic stretching to Labrador, there Morwenstow crag, here
the church and graves: these are my views. As to my opinions, I keep
them to myself.”
The flame, after long flickering in the breast of his dearly loved wife,
went out at length on 2nd Feb., 1863. She died at the age of eighty-one.
He had a grave—a double grave—made outside the chancel, beside the stone
that marks where an ancient priest of Morwenstow lies, and placed over
her a stone with this inscription:—
HERE RESTS THE BODY OF
CHARLOTTE E. HAWKER,
FOR NEARLY FORTY YEARS THE WIFE OF ONE OF THE
VICARS OF THIS CHURCH.
SHE DIED FEB. 2, 1863.
There is sprung up a light for the righteous, and joyful gladness
for such as are true-hearted.
The text had reference to her blindness.
At the bottom of the stone is a blank space left for his own name, and a
place was made by his own orders at the side of his wife for his own
MORWENSTOW, Oct. 16, 1864. _My dear Mrs. M——_,—I have intended every
day to make an effort, and go down to Bude to see you, and to thank
you for all your kindness to me in my desolate abode; but I am quite
unequal to the attempt. If you return next year, and you will come,
you will find me, if I am alive, keeping watch and ward humbly and
faithfully by the place where my dead wife still wears her ring in
our quiet church. If I am gone, I know you will come and stand by
the stone where we rest. My kindest love to Mr. M—— and your happy
After the death of Mrs. Hawker, he fell into a condition of piteous
depression. He moped about the cliffs, or in his study, and lost
interest in everything. Sciatica added to his misery; and to relieve
this he had recourse to opium.
He took it into his head that he could eat nothing but clotted cream. He
therefore made his meals, breakfast, dinner and tea, of this. He became
consequently exceedingly bilious, and his depression grew the greater.
He was sitting, crying like a child, one night over his papers, when
there shot a spark from the fire among those strewn at his feet. He did
not notice it particularly, but went to bed. After he had gone to sleep,
his papers were in a flame: the flame communicated itself to a drawer
full of MSS., which he had pulled out, and not thrust into its place
again; and the house would probably have been burnt down, had not a
Methodist minister seen the blaze through the window, as he happened to
be on the hill opposite. He gave the alarm, the inmates of the vicarage
were aroused, and the fire was arrested.
Probably much of his MS. poetry, and jottings of ideas passing through
his head, were thus lost. “Oh, dear!” was his sad cry, “if Charlotte had
been here this would never have happened.”
The vicar had brain fever shortly afterwards, and was in danger; but he
[Illustration: MORWENSTOW PARISH CHURCH.]
[Illustration: ANCIENT FONT IN MORWENSTOW CHURCH.]
[Illustration: “PARSON HAWKER,” OF MORWENSTOW.]
[Illustration: THE CHURCH AND VICARAGE, MORWENSTOW.]
A friend tells me that during the time that he was a widower, the
condition he was in was most sad. His drawing-room, which used to be his
delight, full of old oak furniture, and curiosities from every corner of
the world, was undusted and neglected. The servants, no longer
controlled by a mistress, probably did not attend properly to the
comforts of the master.
However, a new interest grew up in his heart. It was fortunate that
matters did not remain long in this condition. It was neither well nor
wise that the old man should linger on the rest of his days without a
“helpmeet for him,” to attend to his comforts, be a companion in his
solitude, and a solace in his fits of depression. The Eastern Church is
very strong against the second marriage of priests. No man who has had a
second wife is admitted by the orthodox communion to holy orders. But
Mr. Hawker was about, and very fortunately for his own comfort, in this
matter to shake off the trammels of his Orientalism.
Previous to the death of his first wife, he had some good stories to
tell of men, who, when the first wife was dead, forgot her speedily for
a second. One belongs to the Cornish moors, and may therefore be here
A traveller was on his way over the great dorsal moorland that runs the
length of Cornwall. He had lost his way. It was a time of autumn
equinoctial storm. The day declined, and nothing was to be seen save
sweeps of moor, broken only by huge masses of granite; not a church
tower broke the horizon, not a dog barked from a distant farm.
After long and despairing wanderings in search of a road or house, the
traveller was about to proceed to a pile of granite, and bury himself
among the rocks for shelter during the night, when a sudden burst of
revelry smote his ear from the other side of the hill. He hasted with
beating heart in the direction whence came the sounds, and soon found a
solitary house, in which all the inhabitants were making merry. He asked
admission and a lodging for the night. He was invited in, and given a
hearty welcome. The owner of the house had just been married, and
brought home his bride. The house, therefore, could furnish him with
plenty of food; saffron cakes abounded: but a bed was not to be had, as
brothers and cousins had been invited, and the only place where the
traveller could be accommodated was a garret. This was better than a bed
on the moor, and the stormy sky for the roof; and he accepted the offer
After the festivities of the evening were over, he retired to his attic,
and lay down on a bed of hay, shaken for him on the floor. But he could
not sleep. The moon shone in through a pane of glass let into the roof,
and rested on a curious old chest which was thrust away in a corner.
Somehow or other, this chest engrossed his attention, and excited his
imagination. It was of carved oak, and handsome. Why was it put away in
a garret? What did it contain? He became agitated and nervous. He
thought he heard a sigh issue from it. He sat up on the hay, and
trembled. Still the moonbeam streaked the long black box.
Again his excited fancy made him believe he heard a sigh issue from it.
Unable to endure suspense any longer, he stole across the floor to the
side of the garret where stood the box, and with trembling hand he
raised the lid. The moonbeam fell on the face of a dead woman, lying in
her winding-sheet in the chest. He let the lid drop with a scream of
fear, and fainted away. When he came to himself, the bride and
bridegroom, brothers and cousins, surrounded him in the attic, in
somewhat _dégagé_ costume, as they had tumbled from their beds, in alarm
at the shriek which had awakened them.
“What is it? What have you seen?” was asked on all sides.
“In that chest,” gasped the traveller, “I saw a corpse!”
There was a pause. Slowly—for the mind of an agriculturist takes time to
act—the bridegroom arrived at a satisfactory explanation. His face
remained for three minutes clouded with thought, as he opened and
explored the various chambers of memory. At length a gleam of
satisfaction illumed his countenance, and he broke into a laugh and an
explanation at once. “Lor’, you needn’t trouble yourself: its only my
first wife as died last Christmas. You see, the moors were covered with
snow, and the land frozen, so we couldn’t take her to be buried at
Camelford, and accordingly _we salted her in_ till the thaw shu’d come;
_and I’m darned if I hadn’t forgotten all about her_, and the old gal’s
never been buried yet.”
“So, you see,” Mr. Hawker would say, when telling the story, “in
Cornwall we do things differently from elsewhere. It is on record that
the second wife is wedded before the first wife is buried.”
There is a Devonshire version of this story told of Dartmoor; but it
wants the point of the Cornish tale.
The Rev. W. Valentine, vicar of Whixley in Yorkshire, bought Chapel
House, in the parish, in the October of 1863, and, having obtained two
years’ leave of absence from the Bishop of Ripon, came there into
residence. He brought with him, as governess to his children, a young
Polish lady, Miss Kuczynski. Her father had been a Polish noble,
educated at the Jesuit University of Wilna, who, having been mixed up
with one of the periodical revolts against Russian domination, had been
obliged to fly his native country and take refuge in England. He
received a pension from the British Government, and office under the
Master of the Rolls. He married a Miss Newton, and by her had two
children, Stanislaus and Pauline.
On the death of Count Kuczynski, his widow married a Mr. Stevens, an
American merchant. He lost greatly by the war between the Northern and
Southern States, and Miss Kuczynski was obliged to enter the family of
an English clergyman as governess to his children.
Mr. Hawker, as vicar of the parish in which Chapel stands, made the
acquaintance of this lady of birth and education. A sunbeam shone into
his dark, troubled life, and lighted it with hope. He was married to her
in December, 1864, “by a concurrence of events manifestly providential,”
he wrote to a dear friend. “Her first position was in the family of Mr.
Valentine, who so recently arrived in my parish of Morwenstow. There I
saw and understood her character; but it was not her graceful person and
winning demeanour that so impressed me, as her strong intellect, high
principle and similitude of tastes with my own. She won my people before
she won me; and it was a saying among my simple-hearted parishioners:
‘Oh, if Miss Kuczynski would but be mistress at vicarage!’ Her friends,
as was natural, objected to the marriage; but I went to town, saw them,
and returned hither Pauline’s husband.”
His marriage had a good effect on him immediately. He for a time gave up
opium-eating. His spirits rose, and he seemed to be entirely, supremely
In November, 1865, he was given a daughter, to be the light and joy of
his eyes. He says in a letter dated 30th Nov., 1865:—
The kind interest you have taken in us induces me to think that you
may be glad to hear, that, just before midnight on Monday, I was
given a daughter—a fair and gentle child, who has not up to this
time uttered a single peevish sound. As is very natural, I think her
one of the loveliest infants I ever took in my arms. Both child and
mother are going on very well, and the happiness which the event has
brought to my house is indeed a blessing. The baby’s name is to be
A second daughter was afterwards given to him, Rosalind; and
then a third, who was baptised Juliot, after a sister of St.
Morwenna, who had a cell and founded a church near Boscastle.
The arrival of these heaven-given treasures, however, filled the
old man’s mind with anxiety for the future. The earth must soon
close over him; and he would leave a widow and three helpless
orphans on the world, without being able to make any provision
for them. This preyed on his mind during the last year or two of
his life. It was a cloud which hung over him, and never was
lifted off. As he walked, he moaned to himself. He saw no
possibility of securing them a future of comfort and a home. He
could not shake the thought off him: it haunted him day and
His church also was fallen into a piteous condition of
disrepair: the wooden shingle wherewith he had roofed it some
years before was rotten, and let in the water in streams. The
pillars were green with lichen, the side of the tower bulged,
and discoloured water oozed forth. A portion of the plaster of
the ceiling fell; storms tore out the glass of his windows.
In 1872 he sent forth the following appeal to all his friends:—
Jesus said: “Ye have done it unto me!”
The ancient church of Morwenstow, on the northern shore of
Cornwall, notwithstanding a large outlay of the present vicar,
has fallen into dilapidation and disrepair. A great part of the
oak shingle roof requires to be relaid. The walls must be
painted anew, and the windows, benches and floor ought to be
restored. To fulfil all these purposes, a sum amounting to at
least £500 will be required. In the existing state of the
Church-rate law, it would be inexpedient and ineffectual to rely
on the local succour of the parishioners, although there is
reason to confide that the usual levy of a penny in the pound
per annum (sixteen pounds), now granted in aid of other
resources, would never be withheld. But this church, from the
interest attached to its extreme antiquity and its striking
features of ecclesiastical attraction, is visited every year by
one or two hundred strangers from distant places, and from Bude
Haven in the immediate neighbourhood. It appears, therefore, to
the vicar and his friends, that an appeal for the sympathy and
the succour of all who value and appreciate the solemn beauty
and the sacred associations of such a scene might happily be
fraught with success. A committee, to consist of the vicar and
churchwardens, of J. Tarratt, Esq., late of Chapel House,
Morwenstow, and W. Rowe, Esq., solicitor, Stratton, will
superintend the disposal of the contributions, under the control
of a competent builder, and account to the subscribers for their
And the benediction of God the Trinity will assuredly requite
every kindly heart and generous hand that shall help to restore
this venerable sanctuary of the Tamar side.
A voluntary rate raised £32; and offertory, £2 2_s._ 10-1/2_d._; and he
had donations of about £150 from various friends.
In 1874 he went to London for his health. He was very much broken then,
suffering in his heart and from sciatica. At the same time he resolved
to preach in such churches as were open to him, for the restoration fund
of St. Morwenna’s sanctuary.
He wrote to me on the subject:—
16 HARLEY ROAD, SOUTH HAMPSTEAD, April 20, 1874. _My dear Sir_,—I am
here in quest of medical aid for my wife and myself. I am so far
better that I can preach, and I am trying to get offertories here
for the restoration of my grand old Morwenstow Church. Only one has
been granted me thus far—last night at St. Matthias, Brompton, where
I won an evening offertory “with my sword and with my bow,”
twenty-two pounds eighteen shillings, whereas the average for two
years at evensong has been under five pounds. But I find the great
clergy shy to render me the loan of their pulpits. Do you know any
one of them? Can you help me? And about St. Morwenna. Cannot I see
your proof sheets of my _Saint’s Life_, or can you in any way help
me in the delivery of her legend to London ears? At all events, do
write. I seem nearer to you here than at home. If you come up, do
find us out. I write in haste.
R. S. HAWKER.
The previous October he had written to me from his “sick-room, to which
I have been confined with eczema for full two months.” In November he
wrote: “Ten days in bed helpless.” I had been in correspondence with him
about St. Morwenna _not_ being identical with St. Modwenna; his answer
was: “I have twice received supernatural intimation of her identity, by
dream and suggestion.” Such an answer was clearly not that of a man of
16 HARLEY ROAD, HAMPSTEAD, March 10, 1874. _My dear Mrs. M——_,—You
may well be astonished at my address; but our journey hither was a
matter of life or death to both of us, and so far I am the only
gainer. Dr. Goodfellow, after a rigid scrutiny, has pronounced me
free from any perilous organic disease, and is of opinion that with
rest and a few simple remedies, “there is work in me yet”….
R. S. HAWKER.
But the grand old man was breaking. There was pain of body, and much
mental anxiety about his family. He could not sleep at night: his brain
was constantly excited by his pecuniary troubles, and the sufferings he
endured from his malady. By the advice of his doctor, I believe, it was
that he had recourse to narcotics to allay the pain, and procure him
rest at night. Mr. C. Hawker wrote to me:—
Towards the close of his life, my brother (I am grieved to state it)
renewed a habit he had contracted on the death of his first wife,
but had abandoned—of taking opium. This had a most injurious effect
on his nerves: it violently excited him for a while, and then cast
him into fits of the most profound depression. When under this
influence he wrote and spoke in the wildest and most unreasonable
manner, and said things which in moments of calmer judgment, I am
sure, he bitterly deplored. He would at times work himself into the
greatest excitement about the most trivial matters, over which he
would laugh in his more serene moments.
Whilst Mr. Hawker was in London, he called one day on some very kind
friends, who had a house in Bude, but were then in town. Mrs. M——,
thinking that the old man would be troubled at being away from his
books, very considerately offered to lend him any from her own library
which he might take a fancy to read. But he said: “All I want is a
reference Bible. If I have that I care for no other books.” And he
carried off a Bagster’s Polyglot that lay on the table.
From London Mr. Hawker returned to Morwenstow, to fresh suffering,
disappointment, and anxieties. I give a few of his last letters to one
whom he regarded as his best friend.
MORWENSTOW, Sept. 22, 1874. _My dear Valentine_,—You brought to my
house the solitary blessing of my life. My three daughters came to
me through you, as God’s instrument. I must write to you. You will
not have many more letters from me…. My mind has been so racked
and softened that I shall never be myself again. My health, too, is
gone. My legs are healed, but the long drain has enfeebled me
exceedingly. Money terrors, too, have reached a climax. I have so
many claims upon me, that I cannot regard my home as sure, nor my
roof certain to shelter my dear ones. On the school-building account
I am responsible for seventy pounds odd, more than I have collected
from subscribers…. I have to pay the master twelve pounds ten
shillings quarterly. But there is one thing more—the curate, whom I
must have, for I cannot go on serving both churches as I do now,
with daily service here. T——, and his mother, will give me one-half,
or nearly his salary. But besides Dean Lodge there is no house that
he can live in. Let him rent it until you sell it. I implore you,
grant this last kindness to me whom you once called a friend. My
heart is broken. It is a favour you will not have to grant me long,
as my pausing pulse and my shuddering heart testify. Oh, God bless
Mr. Valentine came to Chapel House, Morwenstow, in October, 1874, and
renewed his old warm friendship with the vicar. Had there been any
change in the views of Mr. Hawker, it would certainly have been made
known to his most intimate friend of many years. But Mr. Valentine found
him the same in faith, though sadly failing in mental and bodily power.
Nov. 13, 1874. _My dear Valentine_,—You will be sorry to hear that
over-anxieties and troubles are incessant. First of all, no curate.
A Mr. H—— came down from Torquay. He had all but agreed to come, but
when he saw Dean Lodge he declined. He thought it too far to walk to
church. I have advertised in three papers, but only one applicant. I
have invited him to come and see for himself, but he has not yet
appeared or written. We are so remote and forlorn that unless a man
be very _sincere and honest_ there is no inducement. No sphere for
strut or grimace, or other vanity. Another trouble that we have is
scarlet and typhus fever both, in several parts of the parish….
And now I am compelled to remind you that you promised me this month
your subscriptions to our charities. I want to pay the schoolmaster,
this next week, his quarter’s salary. This will make the adverse
balance run to nearly fifty pounds against me. It is most ruinous.
Upon the school-building account I am responsible for sixty-eight
pounds beyond the subscriptions….
What a life this is to lead in the flesh! Mine has been indeed a
Nov. 17, 1874. _My dear Valentine_,…. One part of your letter
has troubled our earnest hope. If you would but fulfil your
suggestion, and come to Dean Lodge, the advantages to me would be
incalculable. You would not, I know, object to help me in the church
once a Sunday. I cannot, by any effort, obtain a curate. The
work—thrice a day on Sunday—is killing me, and your presence would
soothe the dreadful depression into which I am sinking fast. Make
any effort, I do entreat you, to come. The cry after your last
appearance in church was, that no sermon had been heard in
church for a long time equal to yours: not very complimentary to me,
but that I don’t mind. Come! anything you want at Dean, that we
have, you are most welcome to have from us. Your presence in the
parish will be ample compensation. Come, I do entreat you, and
gladden us by deciding at once, and telling us so. I shall have hope
then of getting over the winter, which now I cannot realise. My
great terror is that I have all but lost the power of sleep. I
cannot rest in bed quietly above two or three hours. Now, it would
be cruel to awaken hope, and crush it again. You shall have horses
and carriage, and anything you want.
At Christmas he was very ill, and thought that life’s last page was
being turned, and that before the daisies reappeared in Morwenstow
churchyard he would be resting in his long home.
But he got slowly better. On 28th April, 1875, he was still in trouble
about a curate, and wrote to Mr. Valentine, begging him to allow him to
take Dean Lodge, and make it a cottage for his curate. “Write to me at
once,” he said, “to relieve my poor broken mind of one of the
_pressures_ which are now dragging it down. Pray write immediately,
because my second letter must have apprised you how unable I am in my
present shattered state. And mind, I rely on you for standing by me in
these, my last trials.”
In June Mr. Hawker went for change, with his wife and children, and a
lady, the companion of Mrs. Hawker, who was staying with them, to
Boscastle, to visit his brother at Penally.
Did any prevision of what would take place pass before his mind’s eye
ere he left his beloved Morwenstow? Had he any thought that he was
taking his last look at the quiet combe, with its furze and heather
slopes, the laughing, sparkling, blue sea that lashed the giant cliffs
on which St. Morwenna had planted her foot, cross in hand? We cannot
tell. It is certain that it had been all along his wish to lay him down
to rest in his old church. The grave made for his wife was, by his
orders, made double; a space was left on the stone for his name; and he
often, at all events before his second marriage, spoke of his desire to
be laid there, and made a friend promise, that, should he by accident
die away from Morwenstow, he would fetch his body, and lay him there.
When he heard that it was illegal to be buried inside the church, he
pointed out a place under the east wall of his chancel where he wished
to be laid; but he hoped that, owing to the remoteness of Morwenstow, no
difficulty would be raised about his being laid in the grave he had
prepared for himself in the church where he had ministered so long.
However, later on, he often quoted St. Monica’s last prayer: “Lay my
body anywhere—only do not forget to remember me at the altar of God.”
Is it to be wondered at, that now there are Morwenstow people who say,
that, since his death, they have seen the old man standing at the head
of the stone that covers his wife, looking mournfully at the blank space
where he had hoped his name would be cut; and that others, who have not
seen him, aver that they have heard his familiar sighs and moans from
the same spot?
Whilst he was at Boscastle he was neither mentally nor bodily himself.
His brother, Mr. Claud Hawker, wrote to me that he was often in a state
approaching stupor. “When he came down here in August he was very ill,
and certainly broken in his mind, nearly all the time he was here: he
was often in a scarce-conscious state.”
Whilst Mr. Hawker and family were staying at Penally, Mr. Claud Hawker
fell ill, and it was necessary for them to move out of the house. Mr.
Robert Hawker would have returned to Morwenstow, had not the curate been
in the vicarage: then he wished to take lodgings at Boscastle, but was
persuaded by Mrs. Hawker to go to Plymouth.
His brother wrote to me: “Robert came down to see me ill in bed. I was
ill at the time; but I could see he was not like himself in any way, and
it was no act of his to go to Plymouth. He declined to do so for some
time, until at last, most reluctantly, and against his better judgment,
he was persuaded to do so.”
On the other hand, Miss E. Newton says that the visit to Plymouth was a
planned thing, as Mr. Hawker was desirous of medical advice there.
They left on 29th June, and took lodgings in Lockyer Street, Plymouth.
Mr. Robert S. Hawker was still very ill and failing.
The Rev. Prebendary Thynne, rector of Kilkhampton, a near and attached
friend of sixteen years, was in Plymouth not long before the end, and
saw the vicar of Morwenstow. He was then agitated because he had not
been able to be present at the Bishop of Exeter’s visitation at
Stratton, fearing lest the bishop should take it as a slight. The rector
of Kilkhampton quieted him by assuring him that the bishop knew how ill
he was, and that he was away for change of air. Then he brightened up a
little, but he was anything but himself.
The curate of Kilkhampton wrote to me: “Mr. Hawker complained that we
had not invited him to a retreat held by one of the Cowley Missioners in
the same month in which he died. Of course we knew that he could not
have come, and so did not ask him. But surely his making a kind of
grievance of it is hardly consistent with the idea that even at that
time he was in heart a Roman Catholic.”
On Sunday, 1st Aug., Mr. Hawker went with his wife to St. James Church,
Plymouth, for morning service. The service was choral, and he much
enjoyed it. Mrs. Hawker saw him home, and then went on to the Roman
Catholic Cathedral, to high mass; and in the evening he accompanied her
to benediction, and was pleased with the beauty of the service, which to
him had all the attractions of novelty, as he had never travelled
abroad, and so was unfamiliar with Roman Catholic ritual. The church was
very solemn, and nicely cared for; and benediction is one of the most
touching, popular and elastic of services.
He was so pleased, that he said he should be quite happy to spend a
night in the church.
During the week he began to fail rapidly, and on Friday spent the
greater part of the day on his bed. He suffered from great mental
prostration. One evening he was got out of the house as far as to the
Laira, a beautiful creek with the Saltram woods beyond, touching the
water; but he was too weak in body and depressed in mind to go out for
Feeling himself growing weaker, and, as Mrs. Hawker wrote to his niece,
“with the truth really beginning to dawn upon him,” he became nervously
impatient to get away from Plymouth as speedily as possible, and to
return to the home he loved, hallowed by the feet of St. Morwenna, and
rendered dear to him by the associations of more than forty years.
But before he left Plymouth, when all had been ordered to be in
readiness for departure, and notice had been given that the lodgings
would be left the ensuing week, a curious occurrence took place. His
beloved St. Cuthbert’s stole was sent for from Morwenstow, and a
biretta, a distinctively priest’s cap, was borrowed for him—a thing he
never wore himself—and he had himself photographed in cassock, surplice,
stole and biretta, as a priest. It was his last conscious act; and it is
certainly very inconsistent with the supposition that at the time he
disbelieved in his Orders. This photograph was taken on Saturday, 7th
Aug.: on Monday, 9th Aug., he was struck down with paralysis.
His action in this matter was the more extraordinary, as he had at one
time manifested an extreme repugnance to having his likeness taken. He
has told me himself that he would have inscribed on his tombstone: “Here
lies the man who was never photographed.” For a long time he stubbornly
refused the most earnest requests to be taken; and his repugnance was
only overcome, at last, by Mrs. Mills bringing over a photographer from
Bude, in her carriage, to Morwenstow, and insisting on having him stand
to be taken.
It was the old man’s last act, and it was a very emphatic and
significant one. The photograph was taken on the very day on which Mrs.
Hawker represented him as seeing that his end was drawing nigh. Every
preparation was made for departure, the boxes were packed, and all was
ready, on Monday; his impatience to be gone rapidly growing.
Mrs. Hawker wrote to his nephew at Whitstone, eight miles from Stratton,
to say that they would lunch with him on Tuesday, the 10th, on their way
back from Plymouth to Morwenstow, intending to drive the distance in the
He never came, nor was the reason known till it was too late for his
nephew to see him.
On Monday evening, when all was ready for departure on the morrow, about
seven o’clock, Mrs. Hawker saw her husband’s left hand turn dead, white
and cold. Perceiving that he had a paralytic stroke, she sent
immediately for a surgeon. On the morrow, Tuesday, the day on which the
old man’s face was to have been turned homewards, it became evident that
his face was set to go towards a happier and an eternal home.
It was then clear that there was no return for him to Morwenstow; and
the lodgings were taken on for another week, which would probably see
the close of the scene.
On that evening Mrs. Hawker wrote to his sister, Mrs. Kingdon, a very
aged lady at Holsworthy, to tell her that her brother had had a stroke,
and that the medical attendant had “forbid him doing any duty if he goes
back to Morwenstow…. Of course the knowledge that he can be no longer
of use at Morwenstow is a terrible blow to his mind.” She also requested
Mrs. Kingdon to keep his sickness a profound secret from every one. At
Whitstone he was in vain expected, day after day, for lunch. Nor were
his brother and niece at Boscastle aware that his illness was serious,
and that life was ebbing fast away, till all was over.
Mr. Claud Hawker informed me that even on that Tuesday, when he learned
that he must not take duty again in his loved church, he was restless to
be off, and would not have the things unpacked. On that day one of the
arteries of the left arm with the pulse had stopped. On Wednesday the
companion of Mrs. Hawker, who helped to nurse him, was satisfied that he
knew her, and seemed to be pleased with her attentions. His wife
ministered to him with the most devoted tenderness, and would allow no
hired nurse near him, nor even one of the servants of the house to
invade the room, so jealous is love of lavishing all its powers on the
object of affection. On Thursday his pulse was weaker, and consciousness
scarcely manifested itself. His solicitor from Stratton had been
telegraphed for, and arrived on that day: he was informed by Mrs. Hawker
that her husband was quite unconscious, and not fit to see any one.
Understanding that there was no chance of Mr. Hawker recovering
sufficiently to discuss final arrangements of money affairs, and that it
was therefore useless to stay in Plymouth, he returned to Stratton.
Mrs. Hawker and her friend, finding themselves unable to raise the sick
man in bed, sent for his servant-man from Morwenstow; and he arrived on
Friday. His master recognised him, and gave tokens of pleasure at seeing
him at his side. The same evening he knew the medical man who attended
him, and said a word or two to him in a faint whisper; but his brain was
in part paralysed, and he hovered between consciousness and torpor, like
a flickering flame, or the state of a man between sleeping and waking.
On Saturday morning Mrs. Hawker informed him that she was going to send
for the Roman Catholic Canon Mansfield to see him. She believed that he
seemed pleased; and, as so often happens shortly before death, a slight
rally appeared to have taken place. According to her statement she sent
for the priest at his request. Mrs. Hawker, herself, was not, however,
received into the Roman Catholic communion till after his death.
During the day he murmured familiar psalms and the “Te Deum.”
In the evening at half-past eight o’clock he was visited. He was in a
comatose condition; and, if able to recognise his visitor, it was only
that the recognition might fade away instantaneously, and he lapsed
again into a condition of torpor.
It was then clear that Mr. Hawker had not many hours to live. At ten
o’clock at night Canon Mansfield was introduced into the dying man’s
chamber; and the sacraments of baptism, penance, extreme unction and
communion, four in all, were administered in succession.
During the night his groans were very distressing, and seemed to
indicate that he was in great suffering. At eight o’clock next morning
he was lifted up in his bed to take a cup of tea, with bread sopped in
it. A change passed over his face, and he was laid gently back on the
pillow, when his spirit fled.
Youth, manhood, old age, past,
Come to thy God at last!
The funeral took place on Wednesday, 18th August. The body had been
transferred to the Roman Catholic Cathedral the night before. At 10 A.M.
a solemn requiem mass was sung by the Very Rev. Canon Woollet, the
vicar-general of the titular diocese. Around the coffin were six lighted
candles, and a profusion of flowers.
During the playing of the “Dead March in Saul,” and the tolling of the
church bell, the coffin was removed to the hearse, to be conveyed to the
Plymouth cemetery. The coffin was of oak, with a plain brass cross on
it, and bore the inscription:—
ROBERT STEPHEN HAWKER.
FOR FORTY-ONE YEARS VICAR OF MORWENSTOW,
WHO DIED IN THE CATHOLIC FAITH,
ON THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR BLESSED LADY,
REQUIESCAT IN PACE. AMEN.
It is far from my intention to enter into controversy over the last sad
transaction in the life of him whose memoir I have written. The facts
are as I have stated, and might have been made clearer had I been at
liberty to use certain letters, which I have seen, but am not allowed to
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, there is no salvation for those
who die outside the Church, unless they have remained in ignorance of
Catholic verities. No such plea could be urged in the case of Mr.
Hawker; and therefore, from the point of view of a Romanist, his
damnation was assured.
A Roman Catholic priest is bound by the rules of his Church, and in
doubtful cases by the decisions of eminent canonists. The “Rituale
Romanum” for the baptism of adults provides for the baptism of those who
are unconscious, and even raving mad, on the near approach of death, if
there have appeared in them, when conscious, a desire for baptism;
and the apparent satisfaction expressed by Mr. Hawker’s face on Saturday
morning was sufficient to express acquiescence, passive if not active.
How far he was aware of what was proposed, with his brain partly
paralysed, is open to question. However, in the case of such a sickness,
the patient is regarded in the same light as an infant, and passive
acquiescence is admitted as sufficient to justify the administration of
Dens, a great authority, in his _Theologia Moralis et Dogmatica_, says
that in the case of those who are out of their mind, with no prospect of
a lucid interval—which would, of course, include the period of
unconsciousness before death—baptism may be administered, if there be
reason to conjecture that the patient desired it when of sound mind.
And, as no proofs are laid down for testing the desire, the rule is a
very elastic one.
Billuart, however, asserts that, for the sacrament of penitence, full
consciousness is necessary, as an act of penitence is an essential part
of it; so that, though a man may be baptised who is insane or
unconscious, such a man cannot be absolved. Marchantius, in his
_Candelabrum Mysticum_, lays down that a man may be baptised when drunk,
as well as when unconscious, or raving mad, if he had before shown a
disposition to receive the sacrament.
Practically, no doubt, moved by desire to assure the salvation of the
patient, Roman Catholic clergy will charitably trust to there being a
disposition, on very slight grounds. The following instance will show
this, communicated to me by a learned English divine: “Some time ago a
lady wrote to me for counsel, on this ground. Her father-in-law, a very
aged man, a Unitarian, had died whilst she was helping to nurse him, and
had been unconscious for some days before his death. A very well-known
and distinguished Roman Catholic wrote a letter to her, which she
forwarded to me to read, blaming her very severely for not having seized
the opportunity for baptising him, on the ground that he _might_ have
changed his views, and _might_ have desired baptism, and that the
sacrament, so administered, would have been his passport to heaven. She
consulted me as to her blameworthiness, and as to whether she had, in
fact, to reproach herself with a failure of duty. I replied in the
negative, and stated that the purely mechanical view of the sacrament
taken by her correspondent was, to say the least, highly untheological.
I do not give the names, but you may cite me as having supplied you with
this fact, which happened this year (1875).”
A case was brought before my notice also, of a man being baptised when
dying in a condition of delirium tremens. To the English mind such a
case is very shocking, but it is one provided for by Marchantius. In
this case it was conjectured that the man had desired baptism into the
Roman communion: he had previously been a member, though an unworthy
one, of the English Church, and had shown no desire of secession.
I cannot dismiss this part of my subject without dealing briefly with an
accusation made against Mr. Hawker by certain correspondents in the
papers. They did not shrink from charging him with having been for many
years a Roman Catholic at heart, only holding on his position of the
Church of England for the sake of the loaves and fishes it offered him.
If I had considered there were grounds for this charge, his life would
never have been written by me.
How far Mr. Hawker was a consenting party to the reception, how far he
had gone towards contemplating such a change when incapacitated by
paralysis from forming a decision, I cannot decide. The testimony is
conflicting. I hesitate to believe that it was his intention to leave
the Church of England before he died. He was swayed this way or that by
those with whom he found himself. He was vehement in one direction one
day, as impetuous in another direction on the day following.
No one who knew Mr. Hawker intimately, not one of his nearest relatives,
his closest friends to whom he opened his heart, can believe that he was
a conscious hypocrite. If there was one quality which was conspicuous in
his character it was his openness. He could not act a part, he could not
retain unspoken a thought that passed through his brain, even when
common judgment would have deemed concealment of the thought advisable.
He was transparent as a Dartmoor stream; and all his thoughts, beliefs
and prejudices lay clearly seen in his mind, as the quartz and mica and
hornblende particles on the brook’s white floor.
If there was one vice which, with his whole soul, he abhorred, it was
treachery in its every form.
Be true to Church, be kind to poor,
O minister, for evermore!
were his lines cut by him over his vicarage door.
In 1873 or 1874 the rector of Kilkhampton was about to go to Exeter to
preach an ordination service in its cathedral. The vicar of Morwenstow
said to him: “Go, and bid the young men entering the holy ministry be
honest, loyal, true.” Is that the exhortation of a man conscious in his
own heart that he is a traitor?
One day, not long ago, he was in Kilkhampton, and entered the house of
an old man, a builder, there.
The old man said to him: “You know, Mr. Hawker, what names you have been
called in your day. They have said you were a Roman Catholic.”
“Hockeridge,” answered Mr. Hawker, standing in the midst of the floor,
and speaking with emphasis, “I am a priest of the Church, of the Church
of God, of that Church which was hundreds of years in Cornwall before a
Pope of Rome was thought of.”
A clergyman in the diocese of London, who knew him well, thus writes:—
I think I never read any announcement with greater surprise than
that the late vicar of Morwenstow had, shortly before his death,
been “received” into the Church of Rome. Mr. Hawker and I were
intimate friends for a number of years, and there were few matters
connected either with himself or those near and dear to him on which
he did not honour me with his confidence. It was just a year ago
that I spent some days with him, shortly after his visit to London,
to collect funds for the restoration of his interesting church,
among the scenes he loved so well; and I feel perfectly assured, had
he then meditated such a step, or had he so much as allowed it to
assume a form in his mind, however indefinite, it would have been
among the subjects of our converse. Nothing, however, was more
contrary to the fact. I am certain that at that time not an idea of
such a thing occurred to him. I received most confidential letters
from him down to a short period before his death; and there is not a
line in them which hints at any change in those opinions which had
not only become part of himself, but which, as opportunity offered,
he was accustomed to defend with no small amount either of logic or
of learning. My friend was a man of profound learning, of very great
knowledge of passing events, and able to estimate aright the present
aspect of the Church and her difficulties. He was also a man of
transparent honesty of purpose, of the nicest sense of honour, and
of bold and fearless determination in the discharge of his duties.
On two matters he was an enthusiast—the scenery and the early
Christian history of his beloved Cornwall, and, which is more to my
purpose, the position and rights of the Church of which he was, in
my most solemn belief, a dutiful and faithful priest. He was never
weary of asserting her claim as the Catholic Church of England,
possessed of orders as good as those of any other branch of the
Sacred Vine, and alone possessed of the mission which could make
their exercise available. His very aspect was that of the master in
Israel, conscious of his indubitable position, and whose mind was
thoroughly made up on questions about which many other men either
have no certain opinions, or at least have no such ground for
holding them as that with which his learning and acuteness at once
supplied him. Such was the late vicar of Morwenstow, one of the very
last men in England to leave the Church of which he gloried to be a
priest, of whose cause he was at all times the most unyielding
defender, and in whose communion it was his hope and prayer to die.
Nevertheless I think it possible, that during the last year or two of
his life, when failing mentally as well as bodily, and when labouring
under the excitement or subsequent depression caused by the opium he ate
to banish pain, he may have said, or written recklessly, words which are
capable of being twisted into meaning a change of views. There can be
little doubt that the taking of narcotics deadens the moral sense, the
appreciation of Truth, and possibly, towards the end, Mr. Hawker may
have had hankerings Romeward. But we must consider the man as he was
when sound in body and in mind, and not when stupified by pain, and the
medicines given to deaden the pain. I have laboured, above all
things, in this book, to give a true picture of the man I describe: I
have not painted an ideal portrait.
And now my work is done. I have written truthfully the life of this most
remarkable man: I have taken care to “nothing extenuate, nor aught set
down in malice.” I cannot more worthily conclude my task than with the
peroration of Mr. Hawker’s visitation sermon, already quoted.
‘The day is far spent, and the night is at hand: the hour cometh
wherein no man can work. A little while, and all will be over.’
‘Their love and their hatred, and their envy, will have perished;
neither will they any longer have a name under the sun.’ The
thousand thoughts that thrill our souls this day, with the usual
interests and the common sympathies of an earthly existence—of all
these there will not, by-and-by, survive in the flesh a single
throb. This, our beloved father in the Church, will have entered
into the joy of his Lord, to prefer, perchance, in another region,
affectionate supplications for us who survive and remain. We, who
are found worthy, shall be gathered to a place and people where the
strifes and the controversies of earth are unnoted and unknown.
“Violence shall no more be heard in that land, wasting nor
destruction within its borders; but they shall call the gates
Salvation and the walls Praise. There the envy of Ephraim shall
depart and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall
not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.”
Nevertheless all will not perish from the earth. That which hath
done valiantly in the host will not glide away into a land where all
things are forgotten. Although the sun may go down while it is yet
day, it shall come to pass that at evening tide there shall be
light. Moses is dead, and Aaron is dead, and Hur is gathered to his
fathers also; but, because of their righteous acts in the matter of
Rephidim, their memorial and their name live and breathe among us
for example and admonition still. So shall it be with this
generation. He, our spiritual lord, whose living hands are lifted up
in our midst to-day—he shall bequeath to his successors and to their
children’s children, the eloquent example and the kindling heritage
of his own stout-hearted name. And we, the lowlier soldiers of the
war—so that our succour hath been manifest and our zeal true—we
shall achieve a share of humble remembrance as the duteous children
of Aaron and of Hur.
They also, the faithful few, who have lapped the waters of dear old
Oxford, and who were the little company appointed to go down upon
the foe with the sword of the Lord and of Gideon, and to
prevail—honour and everlasting remembrance for their fearless names!
If, in their zeal, they have exceeded; if, in the dearth of sympathy
and the increase of desolation, they should even yet more
exceed—nay, but do Thou, O Lord God of Jeshurun, withstand them in
that path, if they should forsake the house of the mother that bare
them for the house of the stranger!
Still let it never be forgotten, that their voices and their volumes
were the signals of the dawn that stirred the heart of a slumbering
people with a shout for the mastery. Verily, they have their reward.
They live already in the presence of future generations; and they
are called, even now, by the voices yet unborn, the giants of those
days, the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown!
Whosoever shall win the war, whatsoever victories may wait hereafter
on the armies of the living God, it shall never fail from the memory
and heart of England, who and what manner of men were they that,
when the morning was yet spread upon the mountains, arose, and went
down to the host, and brake the pitcher, and waved the lamp and blew
the trumpet in the face of Midian!
God Almighty grant that they and their adversaries and we ourselves
also, may look on each other’s faces and be at rest, one day, in the
city of God, among the innumerable company of angels, and the
first-born whose names are written in heaven, and the spirits of
just men made perfect, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,
through the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than
that of Abel!