A LADY OF ENGLAND.* IT is with no ungracious or
ungrateful feeling towards either the author or the subject of this biography that we begin our remarks upon it by wishing it had been less bulky. We should have liked it better if, instead of being compressed into one thick and heavy volume, the matter had been divided into two volumes, lighter in the hand and therefore easier to read, and more likely to be widely read. And better still, if Miss Giberne, who has edited the letters and written the Life, could have seen her way to reducing the story she had to tell into one volume of much smaller compass.
Charlotte Maria Tucker, the authoress known by the initials "A. L. 0.E." to a very large circle of juvenile readers and their friends, was a good and clever woman with a strong religious enthusiasm and inspiration ; and the life she lived and the work she did deserve, not only to be recorded, but to be recorded, so that they shall attract and interest a circle of readers much larger than the circle of Miss Tucker's personal friends —though that was pretty large—or even that section of the public that follows closely the chronicles of mission work in India. No stupider mistake can be made than to suppose that the lives of such women are uninteresting to the general public. Good women who carry about them the signs of an inspiration higher than that of the day of small things, in which they are yet at home and pleasantly useful, are of all people the least dull company in real life ; and if their written lives are sometimes dull, the fault must be with those who have written or compiled them. We are sorry to say it, but we fear that the life of "A. L. 0. E." will be found just a little tedious by the majority of readers not personally in- terested in her work. And yet we are quite sincere in recom- mending it most warmly just to those who do not already know anything about Miss Tucker, and who are not very cordially interested in the details of Zenana work.
There is too much—a great deal too much—detail and
• A Lady of England: the We and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker. By Agnes Gib,rne. Loudon: Hodder and Stoughton.
repetition throughout the book, both in the story of Charlotte Tucker's home-life in England, which lasted till she was fifty- four, and in the record of the remaining eighteen years which she devoted to the service of God in India. Not that these details are otherwise than intrinsically good and beautiful, or wanting in significance as the expression of a noble and unselfish character. They are in themselves all that the daily actions of a consistently good and clever and enthusiastic woman may be expected to be. But there is all the difference in the world between the impression got by continually seeing a person do acts of kindness, generosity, and unselfishness, and the effect produced upon us by reading a printed record of such acts. Our good friends who have the touch of inspiration in their goodness, add to all their other services, the supreme service of turning the prose of daily life into poetry. But they do this by reason of a charm which is part of their actual presence, and which, if it can be communicated at all in biography, is communicated most successfully by a judicious application of the three great principles of literary ark—condensation, omission, and suggestion. A much shorter book with a much more sparing use of letters and a much more sweeping re- jection of illustrative incidents, would, we feel sure, have succeeded better than the actual volume will do in conveying to a very large number of appreciative readers the impression we have ourselves somewhat toilsomely gleaned of Miss Tucker's beautiful life and character.
Charlotte Tacker was born in 1821. Her father—a retired servant of the East India Company, and afterwards one of its directors—was an excellent man, whose own career was not without romance and heroism of a quiet kind. He was described by Miss Giberne as one who was— "Always ready to help those who needed help, up to his power. and beyond his power. In his own home he was charming ; full of wit, full of fun, full of gay spirits and laughter ; full also of the tenderest affection for his wife and children, an affection which was abundantly returned. He was an intensely loving and lovable man ; his wonderful sweetness and evenness of temper, never disturbed by heavy work or pressing cares, endearing him to all with whom he came into contact. While he talked little of his own feelings, he did much for the good of others ; and his life was one long stretch of usefulness. The union in him of strength with gentleness, of a masterful intellect with a spirit of yielding courtesy, of nobility with playfulness, of generosity with self- restraint, of real religious conviction and experience with frolic- some gaiety, made a combination not more rare than beautiful."
As an illustration of Mr. Tucker's readiness to help those who needed help, even "beyond his power," we are told that on one occasion "he gave away about one quarter of his whole capital, a sum amounting to several thousands of pounds, to help a relative in a great emergency," and that a friend who saw him immediately afterwards "spoke of his having suddenly grown into an old man." Generosity like this was not practised without considerable sacrifice, and for many years of Charlotte Tucker's girlhood money anxieties were constantly pressing upon the family.
In the course of time, however, convenient legacies fell in, and they were able to live comfortably and lavishly, without care or strain. Mrs. Tucker was also a person of remarkable character, who justly enjoyed the love and respect of all her children. For forty-five years the Tuckers lived in Portland Place, and during the greater part of the time their house was known to a very wide circle of friends and relations as one of easy and boundless hospitality. During the girlhood of Charlotte and her sisters, it was also a home of much gaiety. We read of a great deal of party-going and party- giving, dinner-parties and theatricals and balls,—even a fancy ball at "No. 3," as the Tuckers' house was called, where the Duke of Wellington was a guest, and one of Charlotte's sisters, dressed as Queen Elizabeth, presented him with a bag containing a formal commission "to defend England," and another sister stole a fallen hair from his shoulder, which was preserved evermore as a. choice treasure in the family. Charlotte won glory on the same occasion by being "nicely dressed "—a thing her beet friends allow was not usual with her at any time of her life—as the "Star of the Morning," in clean and well-starched white muslin. As years went on, Charlotte and one other sister began to have religious scruples about some kinds of entertainment which their family were in the habit of taking part in, and on repre- senting their scruples to their parents, were allowed to with- draw from them. But, as her biographer says, it is worth remembering that though Charlotte, after this, "kept aloof
from many entertainments out of the house, she never, either then or in later years, refused to join in home-parties, or failed to do her utmost to entertain the guests." Charlotte's " utmost " in this direction was a very great deal. She was known to all visitors as the one who was most untiring and most successful in entertaining all comers,—young, old, interesting, or uninteresting. It was not till 1851, the year in which her father died, that she turned her mind to pub- lishing. She had been in the habit of writing for her own pleasure and the amusement of the home-circle ever since she was eleven,—verses, charades, farces, and even tragedies. But at no time did she experience the need of making money by her pen, and she had little or no literary ambition or vanity. But as she grew older the desire to do wider and more definite good in the world worked constantly in her. The prejudices of her parents, to whose will she at all times submitted, stood in the way of her undertaking work among the London poor such as her sympathies inclined her to, and the hope that she might do good by writing stories with a strong moral and religious purpose, helped to console her for the sacrifice she felt it her duty to make. It was in November, 1851, that she sent her first bundle of MS.—a series of stories for children called The Claremont Tales—to Messrs. Chambers, with a characteristic letter expressing her indifference to "earthly reward," and single desire that her work might do good. The letter was signed "A. L. 0. E.," the initial letters of " A Lady of England," the pseudonym she used from first to last ; but it bore no name and no address. The stories were not in the line of Messrs. Chambers's publications, so they were passed on to Messrs. Gall and Inglis, by whom they were brought out in course of time, the authoress knowing nothing of their fate till she saw them advertised as in print about eighteen months later. She gradually dropped her reserve, but to the end of her life signed everything she printed with the initials she chose at the beginning.
The family life in Portland Place broke up at the death of Mrs. Tucker in 1869, when Charlotte was very nearly fifty. But family-ties still held her. She had a dying sister to nurse ; and afterwards a married sister needed her help. At last, however, in 1871, she found herself imperatively needed nowhere, and therefore free to choose a way of life for herself. Her own mind had apparently been long made up as to the way she would choose ; but she doubted whether she would not be considered too old to begin mission work in India, and still more whether she was not really too old to learn Hindustani. And not till she had satisfied herself on both these points by practical inquiry and experiment, and until she had solemnly dedicated herself at Holy Communion to Zenana work, did she communicate her intentions to any one. Then she wrote her determination to her sister, Mrs. Hamilton, —through life her nearest and dearest friend—and im. mediate/y afterwards put it into execution.
She joined the mission station at Amritzar in 1875, and after about a year's work volunteered to be one of two ladies to be put in charge of a new branch station at Batala, a town with a population of twenty-five thousand people, about twenty-four miles to the east of Amritzar. And there she lived and worked, with very short intervals for rest and change of air, for the remaining eighteen years of life. The story of the growing Christian Church at Batala which Charlotte Tucker helped to nurse from its infancy is told in great detail in Miss Giberne's volume, and it is exceedingly interesting ; though, as we have said already, we wish it had been condensed so as to make it more graphic. Its details are mainly given in Miss Tucker's own letters, addressed to her sister, Mrs. Hamilton, and these are unusually full, affectionate, and abundant. Miss Tucker's religious opinions were those of the old-fashioned Evangelical school, and her style is coloured by its phraseology. She held her own con- victions warmly, but not with any inclination to controversy. She was entirely free from censoriousness about those from whom she differed ; and, indeed, in the letters that are published she very rarely speaks at all of other people's views. Her own religion was eminently practical in its expression, but practical in the sense which does not exclude a deep and ardent realisation of things spiritual, and a constant aspiration after a way of life in which the spiritual element shall be weighted with the least possible amount of earthly alloy. In her missionary life she was entirely happy—though she was rather exceptionally free
from exaggerated estimates of the success of the work she engaged in—because, as she was fond of putting it, she felt that she had escaped from the nineteenth century and all its conventions and compromises into the simplicity and reality of first-century Christianity. The sacrifices and self-denials she felt it right to practise were as reasonable and necessary at the mission station as they seemed unreasonable and un- necessary in the comfortable house in Portland Place ; and in the scarcity of workers her natural impulse to spend her- self unsparingly found also a reasonable justification. Though her friends at home and her friends in India continually urged her to go to England for a holiday, she never yielded to their pressure. Conscious of having only a remainder of life to give to the work, she was determined to give at least all the remainder, and she literally died at her post, so realising at least one part of her ideal of the missionary's work. She once said to her friend :—
"I think what is wanted out here is—Missionaries' graves. Not the graves of young Missionaries, who have died here, but the graves of old Missionaries, who have given their whole lives for these people !"
As to her success in direct missionary work—that is to say, in the making of converts—there were differences of opinion among those who had the opportunity of judging ; but there was but one opinion as to the inspiring and helpful character of her influence upon her fellow-workers, native and Euro pean, and of her kindness and sympathy to all among whom she lived. The concluding chapters of the book abound in testimonies from people of all kinds and nations to her self- denying goodness and charity. And, as she herself was wont to say that she dreaded the "counting of converts," and dis- liked writing reports of meetings and services for publication, because they made her "feel like a penny-a-liner," we need hardly count it against the success of her work that it was not especially fruitful in results that can be tabulated. It was a matter of constant thankfulness with her that she was mistress of a sufficient income to pay all her own expenses (which she would never allow to exceed £155 a year) and still give largely to mission objects. This independence released her from the scruples about staying on in old age which she must have felt had she depended for support upon the mission funds. A woman of many virtues, she was also a woman of some faults. She was not always prudent, and she sometimes failed in tact. But she was absolutely free from all mean- news and littleness ; and also—which is more rare in good women—she was without pedantic over-scrupulonsneee. Asking for guidance from above, and finding it generally in the necessities of the neighbour, she trusted her nobler impulses and went boldly forward. She made mistakes, but she bad the frankness to acknowledge them, and the robustness to recover from their consequences. In old age, when her memory was beginning to fail, she apologised for her faulty Hindostani, by saying that she spoke it as the Duke of Wel-
lington used to talk French ; and on being asked how that was, she answered with a laugh, "Bravely !" The same answer might have served had she been asked how she lived her life.