CHARLES BROWN TO EDWARD J. TRELAWNY1
Laira Green. 11 Octr 1838.
The letter2 I received from you yesterday gave me an unalloyed pleasure which, be the event for Carlino what it may, will last as long as myself. There is, of course, a pleasure in perceiving a likelihood of his obtaining his wish; and a greater one in finding that you stand his friend, — for it is evident that, without you, he could hope for nothing in his object. But my particular, my super-pleasure is in hearing that he can, as you term it, make friends. That is a difficult task for any one, and very difficult for a lad of eighteen among men. Such a lad is generally regarded as a nuisance by men, and with reason. This is the first time he has been among strangers without me at his elbow. Then again, I am delighted that the old advice often given to me has been proved worthless, — the advice to educate him in the faith of his country, otherwise no one, not even the faithless, would give him a helping hand. I know how men act in this canting England; but I also know that my greatest injury has been the Christian superstition, a heavy and dead log on my mind, at a period of life, when my only chance was a free development of my faculties, whatever they might be. Besides, as a young believer, I thought too much, I was (I may say) too sincere to be happy, — and what a dreadful thing to deprive youth of its happiness! — our best energies too must evapourate with it, that is, if under the dominion of fear. Whenever I can, I try to make lads easy on this point; but, to say the truth, I usually find them easy enough. In this faith-ridden Plymouth, the young, in spite of their parents, and though they go to church, will set the faith at defiance, when they meet with such as myself. When the present boys shall come into possession, and possibly not till then, shall there be a most sweeping reform in the church and state, — the blow to disjoin them will be a hard one. On the whole, the young mechanics seem to me more hopeful members of society in this respect than the young gentlemen. You will wonder why I am running on so much on this topic; but the fact is I am again persuading myself that I have a call, and that, setting about it in the right way, I might do something. The worst is that, at present, I stand alone in this place. I made a mistake not long since in sounding Prideaux,3 — and he begged me to read a religious tract, and sent it to me! I want a clever fellow, or two, at my side; do you know any in these regions? Every one knows me to be a deist; a parson (perhaps not a believer) told me lately it was much talked of, and his conversation with me was to the effect of — "don’t inculcate your principles"; and I have also fancied that the parsons at our Institution have been lately more and more civil to me; — is it <not> to prevent my becoming an enemy? As you know this place well, tell me what you think I can do. I have never lost the idea of hiring a chapel and giving sermons, very legal but very offensive; but I stand in need, for that purpose, of four or five staunch friends to back me. I am now, in this respect, alone; yet my talk has been beating up for recruits.
Again thanking you for the kindness you have shown to Carlino, I remain,
Your’s most truly,
3 John Prideaux (1787-1859), a chemist and druggist in East Street, Plymouth, and later professor of chemistry in the Cornish Mining School. For Brown’s later troubles with Prideaux and the Institution, see Brown’s letter to Carlino, 17 May 1840 (Stillinger 400-403). Brown had a number of run-ins with the local parsons, most notably over his lecture on Keats in December 1836 (Stillinger 344). [Return to the letter]