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EARLY DAYS AND ETON.
1819-1837 I can boast of no illustrious lineage. The branch of the Rogers family to which I belong has been for many generations honourably associated with the professional and commercial life of London. Several of my forefathers were captains in the armed trading service with the East Indies, and one or two of them by doing business on their own account amassed ample fortunes.
Thomas Rogers distinguished himself in another direction, for which he received the following notice in the Gazette :
“ LISBON, Feb. 8, N.S., 1704. The Joseph and Thomas, a Transport ship, Thomas Rogers Commander, of about 300 Tuns, 10 Guns, and 20 Men, came in here the 5th Instant.
On the 13th of the last Month, in her return hither from Gibraltar,
she was separated by bad Weather from her Convoy. The day following a Biscay Privateer of 22 Guns and 160 Men came up with her early in the morning, with whom she fought most part of the day, being within Pistol-shot of one another: the Privateer boarded her thrice during the Fight, but met with so brave a resistance that he was obliged to sheer off and leave, having lost a great many Men. The Transport ship is much disabled; and the Commander, with divers of his Men, were wounded, but (as it is hoped) none of them mortally."
Queen Anne presented my ancestor with a service of plate, some pieces of which have come down to
The remainder has probably at one time or other passed to a relative whose crest is, not the three stags of the family, but the three balls of Lombard Street. Curiously enough there was found quite lately in the parlour of an inn near Mickleham (where we have an old family house) an oil-painting of the engagement between the Joseph and Thomas and the Biscay privateer. I bought it back, and it now hangs in my dining-room.
An ancestor on the female side whose memory I keep green is Sir Bartholomew Shower, who was Recorder of London in the reign of James II. fortunate enough to inherit the house in Fleet Street in which he lived, but Lord Macaulay says that he was a “base and hard-hearted pettifogger" and ought to have been hanged.
My father, William Lorance Rogers, was the second son of Captain John Rogers by Eleanor Mann, a niece of Sir Horace Mann. My mother, Georgiana Louisa Daniell, was a daughter of George Daniell, Q.C., a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn, who was placed by Lord Brougham on the first Charity Commission. My father was a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, but only practised for a few years, receiving when quite a young man from Lord Sidmouth, on the recommendation of Sir Thomas Plumer, Master of the Rolls, an appointment as a London police magistrate. He lived in the Bloomsbury regions, essentially in those days the lawyers' quarter-Eldon, Tindall, Denman, Coltman, Pollock, Coleridge, Richardson, all had houses thereabouts—and I was born on November 24th, 1819. On condition that I was christened plain William my aunt and god-mother, Lady Nugent, well known in the exhilarating society of Bath, presented me with £500, which, as is usual in such cases, my father immediately borrowed from his child.
My earliest recollection is of lying awake one night and listening to the sellers in the streets crying out * The Last Dying Speech of Mr. Henry Fauntleroy,' the banker, who was to be executed for forgery the next morning at Newgate. That was in 1824. At the age of about five or six I was sent to a preparatory school kept by a Frenchman, M. Debac, at Tavistock House. The education was of a most desultory kind. We could not help acquiring some smatterings of French
and Spanish, for they were Debac's specialités, but grounding in Latin and Greek grammar we got none. Henry Hucks Gibbs and the Comte de Morny were with me at Tavistock House. I hope they learned more than I did. Another preparatory school in the same neighbourhood was one in Keppel Street, which Anthony Trollope and the Merivales used to attend, and the small boys of these rival establishments were in the habit of meeting in harmless encounters after school hours.
While quite a child I saw much of law and lawyers. I remember several judges who made a point of dropping in to see my father in the morning before going to their courts. They would discuss the gossip of the day, and a never-failing resource was abuse of University College, the foundation of which they regarded as a menace to both Church and State. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was also a regular caller, and, kind and benevolent though he was, very tedious we children thought him.
I am sure that he bored my father, who suffered much from gout, to the verge of distraction. When, a few years later, we removed to Hampstead, we were, of course, more accessible, for during the last fifteen years of his life the poet lived entirely with Mr. and Mrs. Gilman at Highgate. Just before his death I rode over on my donkey to pay him a visit.
He looked very ill, and was in bed. “Kiss me, William,” he said. And though I have never cared about embracing poets, I did so, and never saw him again.
My father often entrusted me to an officer of his police court, by whom I was taken to see the sights of the town. In this way I saw the lying-in-state of the Duke of York at St. James's Palace in January 1827, and was present at the opening of the St. Katherine's Docks about a
On one occasion my custodian and I went to Sadler's Wells Theatre, the special attractions being that every boxholder would receive a pint of sherry, and that real water would be introduced as a scenic effect. The play, a melodrama of the good old type, proceeded smoothly up to the leading incident. The villain, a brigand, had escaped up a tree. The hero fired at him, and the consequent fall into the real water below elicited loud applause. But it was real death too. The poor villain had been seized with a fit, and while we were cheering he was drowning.
For Townshend, the famous Bow Street runner, I felt great admiration. He used sometimes to call in the evening at Upper Bedford Place, ostensibly to report cases to my father, but really, I believe, to have the glass of port to which he was always invited. His green coat, brass buttons, red waistcoat, knee-breeches, and top-boots made a very vivid impression on my juvenile mind.
He had a story of his adventures with the Prince Regent which he was very fond of telling. The Prince desired to go the “rounds,” and Townshend took him, among other places, to a cellar where a company of thieves and vagabonds was having supper, The communica