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10/4/1829 - 20/8/1912





WILLIAM BOOTH: THE TIMES INTO WHICH OUR HERO WAS BORN











Chapter 1

FROM a study of the Nottingham Date Book it would seem that the unchronicled occurrence of William Booth's birth in 1829 was preceded and accompanied by events almost as horrible and alarming as any that ever intimidated the decent inhabitants of a civilized English town.

Nature at that time showed her most ferocious face to the midland capital; and man, who is said to begin where Nature ends, seems to have had no difficulty in exceeding these excesses of his environment.

It was a period of tremendous storms and of horrible brutality: of thunder, lightning, and devastating rains: of hideous crimes and outrageous destitution. Nine months before the birth of William Booth the town was swept and flooded by the most angry tempest within living memory; three days after his birth immense masses of rock gave way both in the centre of the city and in the then neighbouring hamlet of Sneinton, plunging down in many hundreds of tons upon the houses beneath. A more or less formal revival in the religious life of the city which marked the year of the great Revivalist's birth may have been due in no small part to these alarming occurrences. Many churches and chapels in 1829 were restored, repaired, or reopened for public worship, the local dignitaries taking a ceremonial part in some of the celebrations which marked these efforts either to appease the heavens or to Christianize the people.

Two years before, the town had been deeply shocked by the discovery of a gang of resurrection men in its midst who went about at night "despoiling the sanctuaries of the dead." So sharply did this disclosure agitate and excite the minds of Nottingham people that, when the murders committed by Burke and Hare in Edinburgh became known in 1829, the whole town was thrown into a condition of panic which necessitated action by the magistrates. Burke and Hare were "connected with the murder by suffocation of thirty or forty persons, for the sake of the money arising from the sale of their bodies for the purposes of dissection"; and so alarmed were the inhabitants of Nottingham by these dreadful disclosures that "timid people dared not to venture out after dark, and all sorts of alarming reports were in circulation." Little was talked of, we are told, "but rumours of pitch-plasters being placed on people's mouths, and of others being missing and burked." The magistrates of Nottingham were obliged, so general was the panic, to issue a notice declaring that there was no foundation for the alarm.

Murders, highway robberies, mysterious stabbings of women in the streets at night, crimes of every kind, public executions and a public whipping witnessed by enormous crowds of people, escapes from the County Gaol in Narrow Marsh, riots and insurrections of a most demoniacal char acter, devastating fires, destructive floods, and thunder storms fatal to man and beast - these dire and dreadful things continued to agitate the life of Nottingham throughout the boyhood of William Booth. We may allow ourselves the conjecture that the child was influenced in no small measure by the continual excitement provoked by these events, particularly when we remember the isolation of provincial cities at that time and the general narrowness of the outlook upon life. He would have heard on every side of him breathless tales of murder and garrottings, descriptions of surging drunken crowds watching the hanging of criminals; he would have seen the maddened rioters when they tore down the iron railings in front of his father's house to use them as weapons against the soldiers and special constables; he did see, and on many occasions, bodies of men and women charging through the streets to sack bakers' shops, returning with their arms full of loaves; he was the witness again and again of such misery and destitution, such haggard want and infuriating depriva tion, as filled the streets with angry mobs shouting for food, compelled the authorities to read the Riot Act, and drove thousands of people to seek the relief of the rates.

Children in the poor streets of great cities hear nothing of political events; they are uninfluenced by the philosophy of the period. But their minds, in that region which psychologists name the unconscious, are influenced, and powerfully influenced, by all the sights and all the sounds of their environment. They take a passive part in the life of their own immediate world, but their minds are unconsciously active, and their characters are permanently affected by the most transitory excitements of their time.

It is doubtful whether William Booth heard any dis cussions touching Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Bill, Newman's work at Oxford, Negro Emancipation, and the stubborn conservatism of that "unmanageable naval officer," his sovereign lord, King William the Fourth. But it is quite certain that he heard a hundred stories of the dreadful murder that was followed by the last execution on Gallows Hill; of the funeral by night, without religious ceremony, of a young butcher who had committed suicide in so deliberate a fashion that the jury was forced to bring in a verdict of felo de se; of the great riot which led among other things to the gutting of Nottingham Castle by incen diaries; of the public execution of some of the rioters; of the frightful desolation wrought in the town by Asiatic cholera; of the fight between two young men on Mapperley Plains for the love of a girl who had promised to marry the winner, one of the men being killed in the contest; of more than one execution of men for atrocious offences committed against young women; of people transported for life on trivial charges; of the last public flogging to take place in Nottingham; of many a disastrous fire that swept through the city; and of the crashing down of rock in Sneinton Hermitage, close to his own home, with a noise that seemed like the thunders of Judgment Day.

Gossip of this kind must have been general in the town, Particularly among children, and we know that it made a dark impression on the mind of William Booth. "When but a mere child," he says in his preface to In Darkest England, published in 1890, "the degradation and helpless misery of the poor stockingers of my native town, wandering gaunt and hunger-stricken through the streets, droning out their melancholy ditties, crowding the Union or toiling like galley slaves on relief works for a bare subsistence, kindled in my heart yearnings to help the poor which have continued to this day, and which have had a powerful influence on my whole life." He spoke on one occasion of his troubled childhood, saying with some bitterness, which the reader will readily understand, "From the earliest days I was thrown into close association with poverty in its lowest depths." His mind, before it was penetrated by religious illumination, must have been depressed by the gossip of Nottingham back-streets and by the sights of misery and want which confronted him at every turn.

In 1837, the year which witnessed Queen Victoria's accession to the throne, there was distress in Nottingham of a most grievous and heartbreaking description. William Booth, though only eight years of age, was powerfully impressed by the horrors of that year. A public meeting was held in the Exchange at which five thousand pounds was subscribed for "the relief of the widely-spread distress amongst the operative classes, arising from an utter pros tration of the manufacturing interest." The number of persons thrown for subsistence upon the poor rates was greater than ever before known. "The enumeration was as follows: - Within the walls of the house, 971. Two hundred men on the roads, with families of four on an average, 1,000. Fed twice a day in a temporary erection on Back Commons, 258. Children fed and educated, 20. Aged, infirm, sick, etc., receiving outdoor relief, 1,200. Total relieved from the rates weekly, 3,629; or about one in fourteen of the entire population of the union." An entry in the Nottingham Date Book shows that the local wages, although shamefully inadequate, were higher than those of the stockingers (4s. 6d. a week) mentioned in the Life of Thomas Cooper.

The year 1838 was famous for a severe winter and the freezing of the River Trent. The first stone of the new church at Sneinton, where William Booth had been baptized, was laid by Lord Manvers. Grace Darling's heroic exer tions to save the lives of people on board the wrecked Forfarshire thrilled the whole country, and in Nottingham, because a Mr. Churchill of the town was among those who had perished, made a deep impression; a monument was set up in the General Cemetery.

In 1839 the new church at Sneinton was opened by the Bishop of Lincoln, and we may take it as fully certain that William Booth was present at this elaborate ceremonial. Worse distress than ever occurred among the operatives, lasting from that autumn to the spring of 1840. Three thousand four hundred and eighty-one people received relief. A riot was anticipated, and the troops in the town were kept under arms.

In 1842 there was an attempt "to promote a general strike, or cessation from labour, until the document known as the People's Charter became the law of the land." I believe this is the first mention of a general strike, and it seems as if Nottingham gave birth to the idea. Now and again William Booth hung on the outskirts of the large crowds that gathered to hear the Chartist orators.

In 1844 the whole town was staggered by a calamity which could not fail to leave an impression on the mind of young Booth. A labourer named William Saville, aged 29, who had been married at Sneinton Church, murdered his wife and three children. He was executed on August 8, and an immense crowd gathered to witness the spectacle. "Eight was the hour of execution, but every available space was occupied long before it arrived. Occasionally, there came a cry from the surging mass that some one was fainting or being crushed to death, and if the sufferer were fortunate enough not to be entirely bereft of strength, he or she was lifted up, and permitted to walk to the extremity of the crowd on the shoulders of the people. Saville was led forth, and at three minutes past eight, the drop descended. Almost immediately after the mighty crowd broke, as it were, in the middle. The anxiety, deep and general, to witness the spectacle, was succeeded by an equally general and still deeper desire to get away from the overpowering and suffocating pressure. The result was positively awful. The greater portion of the house-doors along the Pavement were closed, and those who were crushed against the walls by the terrific resistless tide, had no means of escape. Twelve persons were killed, and more than a hundred received serious injuries; and of the latter, the deaths of five, after lingering illnesses, were clearly traceable to the same catastrophe."

William Booth had already started his life as a preacher when in 1847 the curate of his old church at Sneinton com mitted suicide in the grounds of Nottingham Castle, shooting himself on the refusal of a vicar in the town to accept him as the lover of his daughter, a girl of seventeen years of age.

These few events, however briefly related, will afford some idea to the reader, not only of certain local influences surrounding the childhood of William Booth, but of the spirit of the age in which he was born. How different was that period from our own may perhaps be better seen in one single occurrence, half grotesque and half scandalous, which is recorded in the Nottingham Date Book as late as 1852:

April 28. - About twelve o'clock, a female about 38 years of age, accompanied by her husband and two of his companions stood in the Market Place, near the sheep pens. The female was the wife of Edward Stevenson, rag merchant, Millstone Lane, and he had come to the determination, with her consent, to dispose of her by auction. A new rope, value sixpence, was round her neck. Stevenson, with his wife unabashed by his side, held the rope, and exclaimed, "Here is my wife for sale: I shall put her up for two shillings and sixpence." A man named John Burrows, apparently a navy, proffered a shilling for the lot, and after some haggling she was knocked off at that price, and they all went to The Spread Eagle to sign articles of agreement, the lady being the only party able to sign her name.

One cannot now imagine such an occurrence as this in any civilized town, and the remembrance of it, kept in mind during that part of our narrative which deals with the childhood and youth of William Booth, will enable the reader to enter more closely into the thoughts and feelings of the young evangelist. He was not only born in Notting ham at the beginning of the nineteenth century, he was shaped by the Nottingham of that period. And if he breathed the excited spirit of reform which filled the air of the town at that time, as certainly did he take into his soul the dark and squalid colour of his environment. He not only saw suffering, he experienced it. He not only witnessed the destructive force of sin, he was aware in himself of its power. From his earliest years he was thrown into close association with poverty in its lowest depths; and on the mountains he remembered the pit from which he was digged. In few instances of great and remarkable men is it more possible to trace throughout the years of their lives, up to the very last, so clear and deep a mark of the earliest influences upon their characters.

That there was some effort to reach the people of Nottingham with a more pressing sense of the claims of religion than was offered at that time by the established churches and chapels, may be gathered from the fact that an evangelist from Yorkshire visited the town, and preached the gospel of conversion with a fair measure of success. No mention is made of this John Smith in the Nottingham Date Book, but it is quite clear from other sources that his visit was memorable in the religious history of the town. 'Nottingham was dear to the heart of Wesley, and that great man has left behind him an affectionate tribute to the honesty and kindness of its generous people. He visited the town on several occasions. His preaching brought about numerous conversions and led to the establishment of a strong and enduring Methodism. But the zeal of the founder, the fire and passion which inspired his teaching as an evangelist, was cooling, and toward the middle of the nineteenth century, Methodism in Nottingham, as well as elsewhere throughout England, was becoming a somewhat formal school of religion. It was beginning to forget the poor.

The visit of John Smith wrought a change, and it is fair to regard him as a precursor of David Greenbury, James Caughey, and William Booth; although he is not to be reckoned one of the immortals among revivalists. He had neither the scholarly sweetness of Wesley, nor the deep humanity of William Booth; he believed in conversion, but people had to come to his chapel to experience it; he desired the salvation of sinners, but he did not seek them where they were to be found; whether he felt for the wrongs of the people we do not know, but he is certainly not conspicuous as a champion of their rights.

John Smith, we are told, "was exceedingly wild and wicked as a youth, but, getting converted in a revival at his native village in 1812, he became a local preacher." One who knew him tells me that he had the habit of praying at public meetings with his eyes tight squeezed, his arms outspread, his hands wide open, and with his fingers working rapidly - a fashion which was imitated by others. One of his phrases was, "God will stand to His engagements; His work must go on." Typical of his method is a "remarkable incident" which occurred at a love-feast over which Mr. Smith presided in the Halifax Place Chapel:

A local preacher rose and said that "he had once enjoyed the blessing of entire sanctification, but through unwatchfulness had in this respect suffered loss." With much feeling he added that he was now earnestly longing and waiting for the restoration of this great privilege. Mr. Smith instantly started from his seat in the pulpit, and cried, "The all-cleansing power is on you now!" For a moment he hesitated, it was but a moment, and he then exclaimed, while the whole of his body quivered with emotion, "It is; I feel it in my heart!" The congregation then united in thanksgiving and prayer; in a short time the windows of heaven were opened, and there was a rush of holy influence, such as by the majority of that vast assembly was never before experienced. It seemed like a stream of lightning passing through every spirit. At one time, twenty persons obtained the blessing of perfect love, and rose up rapidly one after another, in an ecstasy of praise, to declare that God had then cleansed their heart from all sin.

[The Love Feast was at this time a form of religious service peculiar to the Methodist communities. It was a meeting for public testimony, generally accompanied by partaking of bread and water as a sign of unity, mutual confidence, and good-will.]

David Greenbury, who exercised no small influence on William Booth, also came to Nottingham from Yorkshire. He seems to have been a different type from John Smith in many respects. He is described as looking like a country squire - a tall bearded man, not unlike the General Booth of later life. One of his favourite hymns, it is remembered, contained the lines -

THOUGH IN THE FLESH I FEEL THE THORN, I BLESS THE DAY I WAS BORN

He rejoiced in life, and found a deep pleasure in his work. It is said that he was the first man to encourage William Booth to continue his public speaking. One of his converts became the talk of Nottingham, and the story must have given an impulse to the spirit of young Booth - perhaps the first impulse of that kind. A notorious rascal called "Besom Jack," whose wife and children starved while he went from tavern to tavern - a lady is still living in Nottingham who remembers how his wife would come to her mother's backdoor begging for old tea-leaves - was converted at one of David Greenbury's meetings and became a sensible, good, honest man, a glad and cheerful Christian, who testified wherever he went to the blessings and the miracle of conversion.

But the greatest influence upon William Booth was exercised, beyond all question, by the American evangelist James Caughey, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This man attracted enormous crowds to Wesley Chapel, and brought about an undoubted revival of religion in the town. He was a tall, thin, smooth-shaven, cadaverous person, with dark hair. One who often saw him and well remembers him tells me that he wore a voluminous black cloak folded about him in a Byronic manner; his voice was subdued, he gave no sign of an excitable disposition, his preaching warmed slowly into heat and passion which communicated themselves with magnetic instantaneousness to his audiences.

It will give the reader a faithful idea of this preacher and his method, and also a general idea of the prevalent religious feeling, if I quote at this point a rather striking description of one of his religious meetings which I was fortunate enough to discover in an ancient Nottingham newspaper. The reporter, it would seem, was unlucky in being born before the advent of the sensational press:

The preaching of Mr. Caughey creates a very great sensation in the town; the chapel is crowded even in the aisles during every service, and at its conclusion numbers of penitents make their way to the communion-rails, near the pulpit, to seek, under the terrors of guilty consciences, benefit there. It was announced on Wednesday evening, that two hundred persons had given in their names as having received conversion under Mr. Caughey's ministry since he came to Nottingham, and we believe his visit will not soon be forgotten. There is nothing in the manner in which the reverend gentleman commences the service to lead the reader to expect what is to follow. He gives out the hymn in a calm, easy, unappreciating style, and in a tone so conversational, that persons sitting in a distant part of the chapel find it impossible to gather the purport of his words. It is more with the air and tone of a man reading a paragraph from a newspaper to a select party than that of a preacher proclaiming an important message to a large congregation.

In his prayer, too, very few indications are given of the astonishing power he possesses over the mind; though it is not without its peculiarities. He lifts his hands towards heaven, and keeps them in that posture during the whole of his supplication, like Moses, when Israel fought in Rephidim; and once or twice, perhaps, at some point of deeper feeling clasps his palms together, and then re-elevates them into the same poetic attitude. But, generally speaking, his prayers have rather the tone of calm disquisition than address to the Deity; and nothing at all in them expressive of power, except when a gush of deep affectionate feeling makes its way through the mild tranquillity, or at rarer intervals flashes out for an instant the lightning which has been so calmly folded in its mantle of quiet cloud.

His reading of Scripture betrays even less of power than his prayer; it is not performed without a certain subdued feeling; but there is a peculiar off-hand style with it, and a certain tone of dramatic appreciation, without any great apparent solemnity or reverence in the delivery. It is not till he prepares to name his text, that any extraordinary power is manifested; he generally prefaces it with some observation on what he has felt during the day, or since he entered the pulpit; or with an appeal to a certain character whom he prophesies to be in the congregation. Then, indeed, it becomes plain, however the prejudiced visitor may have doubted it before, that the man is in earnest - terribly in earnest; and that every word he says he both feels and believes.

On Tuesday night, when the preliminary parts of the service had been gone through, and the Bible lay open before him, instead of taking his text, as it was natural to expect he would, he startled the congregation by a searching appeal to some backslider, whom he individualized as present among them; and in his manner of doing this showed great knowledge of human nature, and an intimate acquaintance with the subtleties of the mind. Such a character, if present in the place, unless his heart were triple brass, must have been struck as with a thunderbolt. Of the heart indeed his dissections are masterly; he is evidently well versed in its anatomy. As he represented a certain character, & backslider perhaps, or a defrauder, or a profane person, many eyes seemed fraught with the anxious inquiry, "Is it I?" until at length, as the lineaments of the portrait become clearer and more distinctly defined, the shrinking look and trembling frame declared in unmistakable language, "It is I!"

In his manner of looking at a text there is something original; ingenious and unexpected terms are given to the different parts of it; and as each is illustrated, it tells with surprising power upon the congregation. This effect is heightened by a certain abruptness of delivery, which, scorning all preface and apology, rushes instantly to its point, and takes possession of his hearers by storm. His eloquence, too, is not an even uninterrupted flow of words, but his speech is forced out in jerks of great intensity, with an interval between each burst. It must be allowed that his style is highly poetical; not that he indulges in fine unusual words and strings of epithets; there is no attempt at display of this kind; simple and plain, his style is yet remarkable for its poetic effectiveness; and to this he owes a considerable portion of the influence he exerts over his hearers.

On Tuesday night, the force with which he imaged a fold of sheep, to illustrate the conduct of the newly converted mind, was singular; it was not only quite evident that every word he said, he saw visibly before him, but he made his hearers see it too; the swine prowling about the fold and leering at the flock, manifesting no desire to be numbered among the sheep, was forcibly contrasted with the lamb which went bleating around to spy an entrance, and at last, when the door was opened by the shepherd, darted in. The effect of such passages as these was very much increased by the minister's appropriate attitudes and gestures; not his mouth only but his eyes and hands, and his whole person combining to give utterance to his eloquent thought. Every scene he drew was visibly before the eyes of the congregation; where he pointed with his hand, they looked; and the vacant air in front of the pulpit which he chose as the canvass on which to paint his vivid designs, was evidently no longer a vacancy to his hearers, as was quite manifest from the fixed stare with which they gazed into it. When he spoke of angels as hovering over the people, and occupying the ring enclosed by the gallery of the chapel, and invented conversations which he said they might be then holding with respect to certain individuals in the place, the silence that prevailed among the people was profound: they scarcely dared to breathe, and seemed as if they really were hearing the rustling and flapping of the invisible wings. But as this picture was allowed to fade away, and an appeal to the feelings of the people followed; and when the solicitude of the souls of the departed after the eternal welfare of their friends below was dwelt upon, a universal sob burst from the assembly, and even the faces of the rugged and weatherbeaten men were illuminated by the reflection of the lamps in the water upon their cheeks. At times this emotion assumed a more frantic character, shouts, groans, and all manner of pious ejaculations rising from all parts of the house, until the preacher's voice became inaudible, and the whole place resounded with the wailings and cries.

The arrangements were extremely well ordered and efficient; during the prayer-meeting which succeeded the service, numbers of persons were observed in all parts of the chapel, who had been appointed to lead up to the communion-rails those who were desirous of being publicly prayed for; and as they obtained assurance of what they sought, led them out orderly at the vestry door.

The Rev. Isaac Page, who was a boy at the time of Caughey's visit, remembers seeing crowds of people clambering over the iron railings in front of Wesley Chapel an hour or more before the meeting opened. The chapel, which seated eighteen hundred people, was densely thronged in every part, and numbers were unable to enter at the crowded doors. People remember seeing the tall figure of Caughey standing up to preach in a breathless silence, and being startled by the suddenness with which he thrust out an arm, pointing upwards with a straight accusing finger, and exclaiming, "There is a young man in the gallery who had an awful dream last night; he thought the Day of Judgment had come!" A hymn introduced by James Caughey was sung all over Nottingham, as seventy or eighty years afterwards the "Glory Song," introduced by another American evangelist, was sung all over London. Caughey's hymn contained these verses:

O Thou God of my salvation,
My Redeemer from all sin,
Moved by Thy divine compassion,
Who hast died my soul to win: Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
Glory! Glory! God is Love! Glory! Glory! GloryI Glory!
Hallelujah! God is Love!

This has set my soul on fire,
Strongly glows the flame of love, Higher mounts my soul and higher,
Longing for the rest above: Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
Glory! Glory! God is Love! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
Hallelujah! God is Love!

The Wesleyan Methodist Society, in one of those years, increased, I am told, by 30,000 members.

The visit of this American evangelist, though it did nothing to associate religion with humanitarian idealism, and little to create a social conscience, nevertheless revived the flames of Wesleyan Methodism and breathed some sense of greatness into the sordid air of a much troubled manufacturing town. It exercised a profound influence upon William Booth's astonishing career, and in the shout of "Glory! Glory! Glory!" one may trace the dawn of Booth's great central preaching, that religion is not imposed as a difficult and laborious thing by an exacting God, but given as a blessing and deliverance to poor sorrowful creatures punished and afflicted by their own wrongdoing.

As regards the orthodox religious life of the town, it would seem that Nottingham did not suffer so greatly as other parts of the country from disreputable or sporting clergymen. Parson Wyatt, for instance, the vicar of Sneinton Church, was a Puseyite, and is remembered by many Nonconformists as a good, earnest, and zealous man. But, on the whole, the churches of the town seem to have been conducted on the principle that those who wanted religion would come and ask for it, and those who stayed away had deliberately elected for evil. There was no missionary spirit. Men's minds were taken up with political and industrial questions. Christianity was distinctly in shadow. It may be said with a fair degree of truth that throughout the length and breadth of the land Anglican clergymen were Tories before everything else, and dissenting ministers, as they were then called, in spite of a subdued interest in revivalism, were in large measure concerned with Liberal politics.








Chapter 2

HIS PARENTAGE, A TALE OF THE HOUSE IN WHICH HE WAS BORN, AND THE CHARACTER OF HIS ENVIRONMENTS

1828-1838

IT is an interesting coincidence that the father of Herbert Spencer came from Derby into the neighbourhood of Nottingham at about the same time that the father of William Booth migrated from Belper to a Nottingham suburb. Both men speculated with their savings, moved by the same hope of fortune from the extraordinary prosperity of lace manufacture by machinery, and both were disappointed in this ambition. The father of Herbert Spencer withdrew before he was quite ruined; the father of William Booth clung stubbornly and avariciously to his speculations, finally dragging down his wife and family into a condition of penury.

In Herbert Spencer's Autobiography an amusing anecdote is recorded which shows that his father had something of the same spirit which animated William Booth. "If he saw boys quarrelling he stopped to expostulate; and he could never pass a man who was ill-treating his horse without trying to make him behave better." This incident is recorded: "While he was travelling (between Derby and Nottingham, I think) there got on the coach a man who was half intoxicated. My father entered into conversation with him, and sought to reform his habits, by pointing out the evil resulting from it (sic). After listening good-temperedly for a time the man replied, 'Well y' see, master, 'there must be sum o' all sorts, and I'm o' that sort.'"

If heredity were an exact science one might expect William Booth to be a son of George Spencer, and Herbert Spencer to be a son of Samuel Booth.

According to Mr. Phillimore, the author of County Pedigrees, distinct evidence runs back through the local register "associating the Booths with Belper at least as early as the reign of Elizabeth." Whether the family distinguished itself in any way we do not know, but before the days of Elizabeth the fifty-first Archbishop of York was a William Booth, who had his favourite residence at Southwell, which is close to Nottingham, and where the William Booth of our present history spent a part of his childhood. A brother of this older William Booth, Lawrence, became fifty-third Archbishop of York, and also made Southwell his chief residence. He was a grievous failure as Lord Chancellor, but it is written that he took no bribes. In private life, we are told, he was "an amiable and benevolent man, expending large sums of money on educational and charitable objects."

There seems to be no doubt that the family of General Booth is connected by marriage with that family of Gregory which gave in the person of Robert Gregory, a contemporary of General Booth, a popular and picturesque Dean to St. Paul's Cathedral. A William Booth of Belper, apparently the great-grandfather of the evangelist, was married in 1742 to Elizabeth Gregory; the bondsman at the first marriage of Samuel Booth in 1797 was Robert Gregory; and the evangelist, on being told late in life of this coincidence, said that he remembered being taken as a child to see an old lady who was always spoken of as "Aunt Gregory."

Samuel Booth, father of the evangelist, was born at Belper in 1775. It was in the town of Belper that Primitive Methodists were first called Ranters; and since Samuel Booth was nominally a Churchman, and a hard, taciturn, unemotional man, it may be assumed that he shared in this local contempt for the new sect. He appears to have been a nail manufacturer, for on the occasion of his marriage in 1797 to one Sarah Lockitt he described himself in the register as a nailer. Later he added to this business the trade of builder and the profession of architect, earning a fortune which enabled him to live in a fine house at Colston Bassett and to describe himself sometimes as a "gentleman," sometimes as a "yeoman." One child was born of this first marriage, a son named William, who died of consumption at the age of twenty-four, five years after his mother's death in 1819.

Mary Moss, the second wife of Samuel Booth, and mother of the evangelist, was born in 1791, six years before the first marriage of her husband. Like Samuel Booth, she came of Derbyshire stock, probably, as the name suggests and her wonderfully handsome face corroborates, of Jewish origin. She was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer. Her mother died when she was quite young, and she went to live with relations, the second marriage of her father not being conducive to a happy family life. She encountered Samuel Booth at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, whither he had gone to drink the waters as a cure for rheumatism. On his first proposal she refused him. He left the town indignant, but returned, and renewed his proposal, leaving her no peace till she accepted him. Of this marriage there were five children. The eldest son, a boy named Henry, died in his third year; the second child was a daughter, Ann, destined to exercise some little influence on the evangelist in his early years; the third child was the evangelist himself, named William after the son of the first marriage, who had died five years previously; and the two remaining children were girls - Emma, a lifelong invalid who died unmarried, aged forty, and Mary, who became Mrs. Newell, and died at the age of sixty-nine. William Booth, therefore, grew up the only son of the family, with an elder sister and two younger sisters.

Samuel Booth did not come to Nottingham until he had more or less impoverished himself by speculation, and in leaving Colston Bassett it is quite certain that he not merely hoped to retrieve his fortunes, but was positively obliged by his altered circumstances to seek a very much humbler way of living.

In those days Nottingham was just beginning to lose its ancient charm of a beautiful and pleasant market-town distinguished by a romantic history. Deering had boasted in 1750 that the town, "adorned with many stately new buildings, the castle on the left, and Sneinton and Wolwick Hills on the right, presents the traveller coming from the south with a surprisingly grand and magnificent prospect, in the framing of which it is hard to say whether Art or Nature has the greatest share; a prospect which puts even a person the most acquainted with all parts of England, to stand, to name its equal."

But a later writer had to paint a more sombre picture. He exclaims:

Could the worthy Doctor rise from the graveyard of St. Peter's with his flowing surtout, his powdered wig, three-cornered hat, high-heeled shoes, and silver buckles, and be placed in the Meadows, his surprise would be, that so fine a view should have been so woefully damaged; and those modern architectural embellishments, the chimney-stalks, the low and dingy habitations, wharf buildings, and other graceful erections, which so greatly mar the prospect, would doubtless provoke an expression of indignant disapproval.

The extraordinary prosperity of the lace industry, which attracted thousands of workmen and speculators into the town in 1823, suffered a check in 1825, and soon afterwards spent itself, plunging a large population into poverty, distress, and ruin. But the effect of the fever, or, as Spencer called it, "the mania," was horribly and permanently to disfigure the town. Herbert Spencer's father came to Nottingham as a lace manufacturer; William Booth's father came as a builder; and an entry in the Date Book in April, 1825, will give the reader some notion of how the speculative builders, even when they lost their money, succeeded in changing the character of the town:

The only feature in connection with the fever that remains for notice was the extraordinary difficulty in finding house accommodation for the amazing influx of population. Thousands of houses were erected by greedy speculators, who studied, not the convenience and health of those obliged to take them, but how they might best secure 20 per cent per annum for their outlay. Many more would have been built had not the prices of land and materials been extravagantly enhanced. Bricks, for example, rose from 3os. to £3 per thousand; and a plot of land on Gilliflower Hill, not quite an acre in extent, was sold by auction for 14,000. No sooner was a row of dwellings roofed and glazed, than the kitchen fires began to smoke and the rentals to commence. The inquiry was not so much, "What is the rent?" as, "Will you let me a house?" In one instance, a butcher who had been exhibiting from town to town, a "wonderful pig," in a common showman's caravan, ousted the porkine tenant, and stationing the vehicle in his garden at the back of York Street, actually let it as a dwelling-place for 2s. 3d. per week.

In spite of all this, it must not be supposed that the Nottingham of the present day resembles the Nottingham of William Booth's boyhood. There were certainly in his days "chimney-stalks," low and dingy habitations, wharf buildings, and those other "modern architectural embellishments," against which the chronicler in 1850 brought his sorrowful and quite ineffectual accusation. But one who knew William Booth's family in the 'forties, and who was brought up in Sneinton, visited the town with me in I913, going over as much of the old ground as was possible, and from beginning to end of our journeys he expressed amazement at the obliterating effects of recent development and the pervasive change, infinitely for the worse, which has taken place quite lately in the town's aspect.

In the time of William Booth's boyhood the streets of Nottingham ended where the Midland Station now stands. The area between that and the River Trent was known as the Meadows, which in spring were blue with crocuses. Paths led to Witford Ferry, with Clifton Woods beyond. The whole character of the scenery was tender and endearing. To William Booth the fields, the woods, and the river were full of pleasure, and to the end of his days he never spoke of these scenes without an instant lapse into gentleness and reverie.

Mary Howitt describes the Meadows in her autobiography:

The greatest beauty in the landscape was one peculiar to our meadows - our inimitable crocus-beds. It is impossible for any who do not see them to conceive their extraordinary beauty, shining out clear and bright in many places to the extent of twenty acres, one entire bed of lilac flowers. Not a faint tint of colouring, but as bright as the young green grass, with which they so charmingly contrast. There is another charm attached to these flowers besides their beauty, and it is the pleasure they afford to children. You see them flocking down, as if to a fair, all day long, rich and poor carrying their little baskets full, and their hands and pinafores full, gathering their thousands, and leaving tens of thousands behind them; for every day brings up a fresh supply.

Sneinton, which must be pronounced Snenton, was in the days of William Booth's boyhood a suburb of Nottingham; but with its windmills, wooded hills, generous views over a gentle valley, and fields that were yet unblackened by factory smoke, it preserved something of the character of a hamlet. It was, however, a crowded place in certain parts; and the house to which Samuel Booth moved on his coming into the district was closed in at the back by houses in the occupation of stockingers. William Booth could very easily escape to the fields and the woods: but in his home, from the first years of his infancy, he was in close contact with the noise and crowding of industrialism. Nevertheless, it must be borne in mind, as we have already said, that both the Sneinton and the Nottingham of those days were very different from the vast wilderness of ugly houses and dreary streets, of enormous factories and towering workshops, of roaring markets and incessant traffic, which now characterize the bigger, uglier, although more flourishing modern town.

The house in which William Booth was born is still standing, and is still known by its former designation, 12 Nottintone Place, Sneinton. It stands in a tree-shaded cul-de-sac, one of a small terrace of red-brick villas sloping slowly up to a modest knoll crowned by a substantial house which blocks the end of the street. The houses of this terrace are built back from the road, and are guarded by tall railings rising from a low brick wall. Number 12 is one of three houses which share a single gate in these railings, the path diverging inside the wall to the three separate front doors.

The interior of this dwelling deserves description. The front door opens straight into the parlour, without passage or lobby of any kind. An inner door, directly facing the front door, admits to a small square hall in the centre of the house, which is dimly lighted by a lantern in the roof invisible from below. A door in this tiny hall, opposite to the parlour door, gives entrance to a fair-sized scullery kitchen at the back; a staircase on the left descends to a dark basement and ascends to the two floors above.

On each floor there are two rooms, one in front and one at the back, the whole house being of an exceedingly narrow description. The parlour is some twelve feet by ten, and the room in which it is most probable William Booth was born is of like dimensions. From the outside, the house has a somewhat dignified appearance, and not at first does one realize that only three windows, one above another, belong to the front door, which has the three similar windows of the next house on its other side, after the manner of a double fronted house.

When I visited 12 Nottintone Place in the early months of 1913, making bold to ask if I might see the interior of No. 12, I found several pictures of General Booth hanging on the parlour walls. I inquired of the occupant, who was kind enough to let me see the house, whether she belonged to the Salvation Army. "Oh, yes," she replied with some warmth; "why, we owe everything to the Army!" Later she told me her story, and I think that never was tale so extraordinarily apt told in the birthplace of a great man.

Her husband had been a cashier for some years, she related, in the house of a Newcastle firm. He fell ill, seriously ill, and was unable to work. His employer kept his place open for eight months, and then felt himself obliged to make an end of the engagement. (He died, by the way, not long ago leaving over £400,000.) The clerk, his wife, and their six little children, in order to husband their slender resources and also to get back to health as soon as possible, removed to a village. The clerk grew slowly better in health, but his efforts to find employment were unavailing. Their money became exhausted. No one in the place knew anything about them. They were too sensitive to ask for help. They began to sell their furniture. Bit by bit everything went, till the family possessed nothing on this earth and no hope of anything beyond five pillows. They starved. The eyes of the poor woman filled with tears as she told me of that awful time. "I shall never forget those days," she exclaimed; "never, never! We had just five pillows, that was all, and our little ones were crying for bread."

One day the husband happened to pick up a copy of perhaps the most impudent and unworthy journal published in London. The copy contained a violent attack upon General Booth, charging him, among other things, with gross hypocrisy, and asserting that he did not spend upon the poor and needy the money he received for their assistance. The clerk, struck by this article, spent his last two coppers on two stamps, and wrote one letter to General Booth and another to the proprietor of this paper, telling his story and asking for help.

"By return of post," said the woman, "we got a letter from General Booth - such a kind letter! - saying it was shameful that a man with references such as my husband's should be out of work, and telling him that an Officer would call and inquire into his case the next day. We never heard from the paper at all! But next day an Officer of the Army called; and the Army took charge of my children, they gave my husband work, and they carried me off to one of their nursing homes, where they wouldn't let me do a stroke of work, though I begged them to; they said that I must be nursed back to health and strength. It was wonderful. I never experienced such love in my life. Oh, how kind they were! Fancy, not letting me do any work, not a stroke! Ah, I learnt much in that Home. And, wasn't it a funny thing? - soon after they sent us to Nottingham this house fell vacant, and nothing would content my husband, who had also been converted in the Army, until we had taken it. So here we are, living by chance in the very birthplace of the dear General, all Salvationists, and my husband working heart and soul for the Army, - we who must have died of starvation but for General Booth!"

In this house, then, William Booth, the greatest religious force of modern days and one of the most picturesque and heroic figures of the nineteenth century, was born on the 10th of April, 1829 - the birthday of Grotius and William Hazlitt. Nineteen years afterwards, in connection with a Chartist insurrection, the name of this day became a phrase, "almost the only one applied in England, in the manner of our French neighbours, as a denomination for an event"; but happily, as the chronicle records, "the Tenth of April remained only a memory of an apprehended danger judiciously met and averted."

Two days after William Booth's birth, no time being lost at that period to secure either immediate regeneration or a Christian burial in case of death, the infant was baptized at Sneinton Church. The entry in the parish register reads as follows:

William, son of Samuel Booth, Nottintone Place, gentleman, and Mary his wife. Ceremony performed by George Wilkins, D.D., Perpetual Curate, Vicar of St. Mary's; baptized 12th April, 1829.

Samuel Booth is described by one who knew him as "tall and fine-looking." He was noticeable for dressing in the fashion of the Quakers, wearing a drab-cloth suit, a cut-away coat, and knee-breeches. Very little is known about him, and what is known only tends to deepen the mystery which appears to have surrounded him in life, even to his own children. On meeting a Sneinton contemporary in his extreme old age, the first greeting of General Booth was a question concerning his father. "Tell me something," he said, taking his friend's two hands in his and holding them vigorously in his own, "about my father; I want to know about him." From a paper he left behind, as we shall see, it is quite evident that he had no clear notions in this matter. He spoke often, and eloquently, of his mother; seldom of his father, and then with a note of uncertainty - sometimes with unwilling harshness, sometimes with a too evident effort to discover a virtue. "Criminal instincts?" he exclaimed to me once in a discussion on heredity; "why, we have all got them. I have got them. My father was a Grab, a Get. He had been born in poverty. He determined to grow rich; and he did. He grew very rich, because he lived without God and simply worked for money; and when he lost it all, his heart broke with it, and he died miserably. I have inherited the Grab from him. I want to get." And his arm shot forward, the hand clawing at the air, to signify that he wanted to "grab" souls and get for them the treasure of eternal life. But there were other occasions when he sought to show his father in a kinder light, though his honesty always forced him at the last to emphasize the avariciousness and worldliness which had embittered his own childhood and brought his mother to suffering and poverty.

From the papers and memoranda left behind by the son, it would be quite possible to present two entirely different portraits of this father, the one almost pleasing, the other almost forbidding; and I think it is significant of William Booth's character, an index indeed to his whole life, that there should be this perplexing contradiction in his very earliest memories, in his very latest judgments. For William Booth was always struggling against the two antithetical qualities of his nature - a loving, warm-hearted, generous sympathy, and a rigorous, unsparing, religious honesty. At one moment he hungered to see only the good in human nature; at the next, he was stung to a passionate indignation by its badness - -its deadness to God. In his generous moods he would speak with a broad and embracing charity, a large and kindly tolerance of mankind; in his moods of realism and intellectual honesty he could not find words sharp and piercing enough for the evil of the world.

It is also necessary to keep in mind, not only as touching his memories of his father and mother, but also in many other matters where his statements are under review, that William Booth belonged to a period when phrases were adopted without analysis and language was often used with an uncritical liberty. I have been over many of the religious magazines of the period, and studied numerous sermons by preachers of some standing at that time, and in numerous instances I have been struck, occasionally shocked, by the intellectual poverty, the rhetorical bombast, and the disagreeable sanctimoniousness which characterized much of the religious writing and preaching of that generation. William Booth never used a cant phraseology; he was one of the most honest, downright, and straightforward men that ever lived; but in his impatience to be at work saving the lost and rescuing the sorrowful, he did permit himself to use whatever language came quickest to his service, and seldom, I think, possibly never, set himself to acquire a nice carefulness in his terms, a judicious and a critical handling of the current phraseology.

"My father," he says in one place, "appears to have been a man of considerable force of character - of a high spirit, and a noble sense of truth and honour, combined with a strong desire to get on in the world." In another place he says that his father "knew no greater gain or end than money... used to task my patience to the utmost capacity by making me read to him . . . early part of his life spent in making money, latter part in losing it . . . a very unsatisfactory life." And speaking of his own childhood he says that he never received any help from his father, and declares that his early days were "blighted and made more or less wretched" by the ruinous condition of his father's affairs.

When he said that his father possessed "a noble sense of truth and honour," he was no doubt thinking of how Samuel Booth "became a bondsman, for a considerable amount, for a tradesman, who afterwards became bankrupt, and left him to pay the money, which he did, every farthing." "The punctual discharge of this liability," says William Booth, "precipitated the breakdown of his fortune. It was the last feather." In recalling this act, evidently at a generous moment, he seized the opportunity to speak of his father in such a manner as clouded out the sadder qualifies.

On the other hand, in moments of strict and courageous honesty, eager to impress upon men the danger of a life devoted to money-getting, he forgot the act which he could praise, and thrust forward, chiefly as a warning to others, only those miseries and deprivations which his father's avarice had inflicted upon his mother, his sisters, and himself.

One judges from these statements, when they are brought into relation with the impression made upon other people by those early days in the Booth family, that Samuel Booth was a man of business, honest where the law was concerned, just in his dealings, but with little conscience in his speculations; a man rather silent, selfish, and unfriendly; in his later years not kind to children, not interested in his family; dead to culture, indifferent to society, careless of religion.

William Booth's notes about his father suggest other qualities. I find, for instance, these disjointed memoranda:

Incident to show his enterprise. The purpose of his life to get money. Character. Perseverance. Enterprise. Schemes: Enlisting militia in the large towns. Shipping crockery to Holland. Advice to me against partnership. No scholar. His schooling very short. Expelled the school because on some occasion put his schoolmaster to shame by reckoning faster with his head than he, the schoolmaster, did with his slate. This capacity was remarkably developed. Religiously blind. Never remember him in a place of worship. Insisted on our regular attendance at church. No concern until his last illness.

Elsewhere he says:

He began his acquisitive career when but a child, and in many ways, and for many years persevered in it, until he succeeded in getting together a considerable fortune, which he invested mostly in tenement house property. By this he reckoned on having done a good thing for his family. When I was born he was looked upon as a gentleman and was spoken of by that designation by the people about him. But about the date of my birth, bad times set in, heavy losses followed one on the heels of the other, making in early days a season of mortification and misery.

There is very much the same difficulty when we come to his remembrance of his mother. At one moment he speaks of her in a manner that contradicts the memory of one who remembers her in his childhood, and would almost persuade one to think that Mary Booth had been to him the most gracious, helpful, and perfect mother. In this case, we think, the contradiction arises not only from William Booth's' natural anxiety, in his most generous moments, to dwell upon only the good and beautiful side of his mother, but from his seeing in the Mary Booth of later life the Mary Booth of his tragic childhood.

It appears to me quite evident that William Booth's childhood was unhappy. I think he got no help at all from his father, and very little encouragement from his mother. Mary Booth appears to have been absorbed during the whole of her married life in the anxieties and disasters of her husband's speculations. She seems to have felt her poverty acutely, and to have shrunk from the world in consequence. She worked for her children, she nursed her husband in his last illness, she did all she could to avert the final catastrophe of ruin; but she was a sombre, sad, silent, and tragic figure in that threatened home. William Booth says that he got no help, as regards school work, in his home. He says that no one told him anything about religion. He speaks of his early days as "a season of mortification and misery." He makes it clear that his childhood was dark and unhappy.

But when he comes, later in life, to write of his mother, it is as if he were describing an angel:

I had a good mother. So good she has ever appeared to me that I have often said that all I know of her life seemed a striking contradiction of the doctrine of human depravity. In my youth I fully accepted that doctrine, and I do not deny it now; but my patient, self-sacrificing mother always appeared to be an exception to the rule. I loved my mother. From infancy to manhood I lived in her. Home was not home to me without her. I do not remember any single act of wilful disobedience to her wishes. When my father died I was so passionately attached to my mother that I can recollect that, deeply though I felt his loss, my grief was all but forbidden by the thought that it was not my mother who had been taken from me. And yet one of the regrets that has followed me to the present hour is that I did not sufficiently value the treasure while I possessed it, and that I did not with sufficient tenderness and assiduity, at the time, attempt the impossible task of repaying the immeasurable debt I owed to that mother's love.

It is plain that the Mary Booth who overawed her daughter's only friend - as we shall see presently - who shrank from the world, who invited nobody to her house, who was silent and frightening, and "like a duchess," did not become the Mary Booth of her son's glowing tribute until after the death of her husband, when the end was reached of the long and dreadful tension wrought by impending calamity which had ruined her married life. She was, doubtless, kind to her children, but in their earliest years she was clearly not a mother who watched over their education, sought their innermost confidence, and deepened their sense of religion. "She had no time to attend to me," is one of William Booth's confessions. Afterwards, no doubt, when the crisis was over and the ruin had come, she came out from the cloud, and shone upon their lives with a beauty and a warmth and a solicitude which wakened her son's gratitude. But it is clear from the evidence, and important to remember, that William Booth's earliest years were dark and sorrowful, and that in spite of a kind mother he went hungry and thirsty for something that was never given.

Ann Booth's only girl friend was a Miss Sarah Butler, now Mrs. Osborne, who is still living at a great age - she was two years older than General Booth - and happily for herself, and this history, with all her faculties unimpaired. She tells me that there was always a mystery about Samuel Booth. Mystery, she says, pervaded the whole house. Ann was sent to the best ladies' school in Nottingham, but she made no friends there except Sarah Butler, and Sarah Butler tells me that on no occasion when she visited the family did she encounter another visitor. "They gave me the impression, even as a girl," she says, "of a very proud and very reserved family who felt their position acutely, and wished to keep to themselves. Ann sometimes spoke to me of her parents' former home near Colston Bassett, giving me to understand from her mother's description of it that it was 'a very beautiful place.' She never mentioned her father. I scarcely ever saw him, but I know that he made no friends in the town."

Mary Booth, the mother of the evangelist, is described by Ann's friend as "a tall, proud woman - very proud and austere." She was handsome, dignified, and splendid; some one describing her as "like a duchess." Her eyes are said to have been very remarkable, and her portrait even in old age confirms this memory. "She had the most wonderful eyes," says Ann's friend, "the most piercing eyes I ever saw. You could tell when she was looking at you !" But she, too, appears to have been reserved and silent. "I never remember her speaking to me all the years I knew her and called at her house," says this one remaining friend of the family. "Very often when I went to call for Ann she would open the door to me; and she would stand aside for me to enter, close the door, and then pointing to a chair in the parlour, say, 'Sit down, my dear,' quite kindly but without any friendliness or any attempt at intimacy, going out to send Ann to me, and not returning to bid me good-bye. She was not so great a mystery to me as Ann's father, but I was always in dread of her, and felt that she was different from other people. I am quite certain that Ann felt the same thing about her. She never liked to talk about either of them. There was something about the family which puzzled me, and puzzles me still."

This effect produced upon the child's mind seems to have had no other origin than in the reserve natural to many people who come down in the world. The Booths had been well off; they were now reduced to poverty; they desired that as few people as possible should know of their condition.

Ann Booth, according to the same authority, was a very sweet, amiable, and gentle creature. But she was shy and never made friends at school. She took after her mother and was good-looking. She always had a smile in her eyes, and spoke in a gentle voice, rather timorously. She adored her brother William, as did the other sisters, and in his youth exercised some control over him, but she was not in any way a favourite sister. That William Booth returned this love of his sisters, and never forgot their devotion, is attested by the fact that on calling to see Mrs. Osborne in his old age he quite begged her to go and see his married sister, Mrs. Newell, making this request almost the object of his visit, saying that it was the one favour he had to ask her. "She is lonely," he said; "she is sometimes sad; it will be a great kindness if you go and see her." It is interesting to know that at one time people in the neighbourhood thought that William Booth would marry a sister of Sarah Butler, who shared his religious enthusiasms, was sometimes consulted by him, and to whom he showed more attention than was his custom to the other devotees who attended his earliest meetings.

At the back of the house in Nottintone Place, as we have already said, and pressing close up to the back-yard, were dwellings occupied by framework knitters. These houses are standing at the present day, and throughout the modern streets of Sneinton and Nottingham similar houses are still to be seen. They are two-storied, red-brick dwelling-houses, topped by a working story which gives them their peculiar character and makes them easily recognizable. Instead of the ordinary square or oblong windows of the two lower floors, the windows of this upper story are of greater breadth than height, and are usually glazed with more or less opaque glass. Behind these windows William Booth would have seen from his earliest years the dim spectral figures of stockingers at their frames and have heard all day long the noise of the machines: hockety - hockety - shee, hockety - hockety - shee. On one side of his house were the decent, pleasant, and somewhat pretentious villas of a suburban terrace - very quiet, sleepy, uneventful; at the back, those dismal noisy tenements of the workers, who so often starved and so frequently filled the streets with the clamour of incipient revolution. It was indeed a case in this house of a "Queen Anne front, and a Mary Ann back."

When the family lost money, they moved to a broader street but a poorer neighbourhood. Opposite to the new home in Sneinton Road, the site of which is now occupied by a picture palace, was a smallware shop, kept by a remarkable old man called Grandfather Page, and on one side of this shop was a narrow entry leading to a back-yard which contained a slaughter-house. At every turn there were dingy habitations occupied by weavers; traffic passed continually to and from the market-place; numerous public houses hung their signs over the uneven pavements; in every way it was a move for the worse, another comedown in the world.

Some way up this road, and not far from Nottintone Place, was The Paul Pry Inn, which still swings its sign, bearing the legend I hope I don't intrude. A young lover, after parting from his sweetheart late one night, was in so fervorous a mood of happiness that soon after passing this inn, all shuttered and asleep, he threw his stick into the air and accidentally broke one of the upper windows in the private house next door - the noise causing a momentary panic. His apologies, however, were accepted, and his excuse was considered more than adequate; but the story spread throughout the district and caused a good deal of amusement at the cost of emotionalism. Another and more tragic incident occurred close to the second house of William Booth. A number of boys were playing in the streets with oyster shells, and one of them flinging a shell harder than he intended struck a man in the face, cutting out his right eye.

William Booth, from the very first, was a ringleader and a captain among his fellows. "Wilful Will" was his nickname, and a very old lady, who perfectly remembers him at this time, said to me with considerable decision, "Billy was always rather forward - not aggressive, not violent, you understand, but forward; - yes, Billy was a forward lad." He was noticeable in appearance by reason of his long legs and his long nose. His friends spoke of his nose as "the Wellington." In the game of soldiers, a game which he played in his childhood more than any other, he was usually "the captain" - an omen, perhaps, of his afterlife. In spite of physical delicacy - he was outgrowing his strength - he appears to have been a leader in games and a boy of remarkable spirit.

Grandfather Page, who kept the smallware shop in Sneinton Road, remembered Samuel Booth striding into his premises one day demanding a cane. "I'm going," he announced, "to give my son the best hiding he ever had in his life." Grandfather Page, who exercised a wonderful religious influence in the neighbourhood, and who seems to have been a most amiable and gracious person, replied to this announcement: "Mr. Booth, you must not strike your son while you are in this temper. You are in no fit mood to punish a child. You must wait till your anger is gone." Samuel Booth bridled his rage, returned to his house, and said to William, "You may go and thank old Mr. Page for saving you from a good hiding." What the offence of William had been we do not know; but one perceives that he had spirit enough to aggravate and perhaps to withstand a father who inspired almost everybody with a sense of awe and who was choleric in his bouts of rheumatism.

It is interesting to know that the old man who saved William Booth from a flogging, and whose influence on his life is nowhere recorded, had already in those days started a system of religious services in the slums. This Mr. Page had been a rich man, a racing man, and a lover of wrestling. On his conversion he surrendered his business to his sons, and lived with great simplicity, devoting all his time to religious work. But, to the surprise of every one, quite late in life he fell in love with a young girl in his Sunday School and married her. In order to support the new family that came to him, the old man took a humble smallware shop in Sneinton, and there made his home. He had a garden far away from the house, being a great lover of flowers, and in this garden was a summer-house where he made tea for himself and sat meditating on religion. Later in life one of his rich sons by the first marriage sent a carriage to the smallware shop every afternoon, and the old man would drive up to his garden. When he became blind a rope was slung beside the garden path, and he would walk to and fro among the flowers he could no longer see, singing hymns, and guiding himself by a sliding hand-support on the rope. He used to say, "I have been walking by faith for over forty years, and have not known what it is to have a gloomy hour." He worked among "the neglected, the sick, and the sorrowful," started a ragged school in the slums, and prayer meetings in the cottages of the poor. During race meetings he stood at the roadside distributing tracts.

William Booth, although he makes no mention of Grandfather Page, was perhaps influenced by that gentle and unselfish life, for the old man was regarded as a character, and lived exactly opposite the Booths' house in Sneinton Road. When William Booth crossed the road to thank this old man for saving him from chastisement, there was probably a conversation, or a few words, which may have left some impression. In any case it is certain that William Booth must often have heard in boyhood of the strange work which Grandfather Page was doing so effectually in the slums of Nottingham.

He played hockey in the streets with a wooden nog, much to the annoyance of the village constable, who was a cobbler; he entered into the fun of Plough Mondays, when men dressed up in ox-skins with horns on their heads went about the town thrusting their faces into doorways and windows demanding money - very much after the fashion of Mussalmans during the feast of Mohurrum. Later he took to reading the poetry of Kirke White, to devouring three-volume novels, and to fishing - some one remembering how he once exploded with rage at the breaking of his rod. He may have seen the prize-fighter Bendigo - who was the brother of a well-known optician in the town - walking about the streets; a son of Grandfather Page, who once spoke to Bendigo when the mighty man was fishing in the Trent, became in consequence a hero among his mates. One may be quite certain that "Wilful Will" shared in all the games and excitements of Sneinton boys, and that he spent as much time as any of them in the market, in the fields, and on the riverside, having little love for the home which was dark with misery and oppressive with the sense of ruin. His ardent, passionate, and impulsive nature made him a leader among his companions, and looking back on those days, when there was no religious influence on his character, no restraining hand upon his tendencies, and no attempt of any kind to shape him nobly, he exclaimed, "I have often wondered I did not go straight to hell."

But his faults were evidently of no very serious nature, for he was able to declare with a good conscience, "I have heard my mother say that I never caused her an hour's real anxiety in her life." It would seem that his chief deprivation lay in the absence from his childhood of any high and gracious influence, with the consequent danger that he might drift into a dull and useless manhood, if not into actual wickedness.

Here was a child of fiery temper and impetuous will growing up without definite guidance, forming his own opinions from the chaos of ideas which presented themselves without explanation to his mind, seeking adventure with the most spirited boys of his acquaintance, taking the lead in every game and every device for killing time which these companions could hit upon, and hating more than anything else on earth the black unmoving cloud that darkened the dullness of his home. What could come of such a childhood? What could the Nottingham of that epoch make of this young citizen? One does not see the necessity for going "straight to hell"; but very devious, obscure, and improbable at present is the path to glory.








Chapter 3

WHICH TELLS OF A DIFFICULT ROAD LEADING UP TO A YOUTHFUL CONVERSION

1838-1844

"CE qu'on dit de soi," says Renan, "est toujours poésie." He would have us believe that a man only writes of "such things" - his childhood and the least detail of his private life - in order to transmit to others his theory of the universe. He applauds Goethe for having chosen as the title of his memoirs, Vérité et Poésie; for, according to his thesis, autobiography, like biography, must of necessity partake of both truth and imagination.

William Booth, a less reflective and infinitely more active man than Renan, had no ambition to write the story of his life. He was entirely innocent of that miserable conceit - mesquine vanité - -of which Renan complains. He was urged by others at the extremity of his age to set his memories on paper, and with much annoyance and a great deal of grunting half-humorous disapproval, the old, worn, weary, and near-blinded prophet, bowed down by the business of the world, essayed this most difficult task - a task only possible of success, perhaps, in the case of an exact thinker, like Stuart Mill or Herbert Spencer, or a morbid and brilliant egoist, like Rousseau.

The result is deplorable, more deplorable even than "the dim disastrous details" contained in the famous Paper Bags of Professor Teufelsdröckh. Confusion is everywhere, and not only the confusion justly attributable to the fact that these attempts at autobiography had been used by other people before they came into the hands of the present writer. One encounters at the outset a scornful indifference to chronology; unbridgeable voids of silence at those very junctures where meticulous narrative is essential; a welter of propagandist eloquence and octogenarian reflection where a single incident or one clear natural phrase would be invaluable; and throughout this dismembered and amorphous scrap-book of memory there is a spirit of revolt, the writer struggling to escape from himself to the work that was more to him than life.

Unfortunately, because he could not think himself out of the language of religious fervour, he exemplifies the truth of Renan's epigram, that what a man says of himself is always poetry. In his case there was no patient stooping of the ear to catch from the deepest fathoms of his heart trembling vibrations from the sea-buried city of his childhood - the bells of those faery churches still calling to worship the faithful who could no longer hear them. Rather was he a much busied man of affairs, practical and impatient, hard-headed and beset with a thousand troubles, who in a hurried moment seized upon his past with a violence which at once scared and scattered delicate memories to the four winds of heaven, and began at once to expound his theory of the universe from the cradle to the satchel, and from the satchel to the shop-counter.

It would seem, though I can find no confirmation elsewhere, that during William Booth's infancy the family removed for a time to Bleasby, where Samuel Booth apparently attempted to make money at "fancy farming." William Booth says that he learned his letters at the village school, and was presently sent to a boarding school at Southwell, the favourite residence of his namesake the fifty-first Archbishop of York. At six years of age the family returned to Nottingham, and the boy, who was encouraged to believe that he had a gentleman's prospect before him, was sent to a good school kept by a Mr. Biddulph. Ann, it will be remembered, was learning to be a young lady at the best ladies' school in Nottingham.

William Booth has nothing good to say of Biddulph's School. "No stimulus," is his laconic judgment. But his father had determined that he should be a gentleman; Biddulph's School was the select academy of Nottingham, and to Biddulph's School therefore he had to go. He complains, "Mr. Biddulph never fairly woke up my ambition to learn until the year before leaving." He records a breakdown in his health with the explanation, "school hours too long."

He remembers signing the pledge at six or seven years of age. He kept it - "no teetotal friend near me" - until he was thirteen, when his mother, who believed, in common with nearly everybody else who passed at that time for a sensible person, in the health-giving virtue of beer, insisted upon her delicate son taking alcohol as "medicine."

During his schooldays there was a serious crisis in his father's affairs. Mrs. Booth had to make a journey to Derby and Ashbourne to see some mysterious gentleman, probably to gain assistance for her husband. She took William on this journey; and he writes of that event: "Walk to Ashbourne. Coach gone. Walk of eleven miles. Last mile an hour. Gentleman not to be moved." A dismal journey for a young child, the memory ineffaceable at eighty years.

There was no religious atmosphere in his home at this time, but the children were sent on Sunday to the parish church of Sneinton. William Booth was not attracted by the services; they gave him little notion of religion and its relation to the soul. But he remembers the clergyman, who was something of a character, and perhaps, in the social sense of the word, the only gentleman in the neighbourhood.

Parson Wyatt was a tall, dark-haired, solemn-visaged, ruminative man, who jerked his head as he walked, and moved about his parish, chin to breast, lost in remote reflection. He was thought to be a Puseyite, and there was opposition in the parish to his innovations. But a certain Wesleyan minister remembers him as a sincere and a good man, one who was friendly with the dissenters of his day, and a clergyman who truly and earnestly sought to do his duty. William Booth himself says that this Mr. Wyatt was "no doubt a good man according to his light," adding, however, the characteristic judgment:

But his rueful countenance and icy manner all seemed to say that his performances meant - "Do as I advise, or not; be what the prayers have asked that you might be, or not; do what the Scriptures have said, or not - it does not matter very much whether you comply with these requirements or not." He may have felt a great deal more than this, but it did not make any very great impression upon my boyish mind, and, so far as I can remember, I do not think that the bulk of the congregation were ever carried very much further by what he said.

It is of course extremely doubtful whether the boy felt any more need for religious instruction than the schoolboy of Anatole France who invented sins in order to satisfy his confessor: - "The first difficulty is to find them. You may perhaps believe me when I tell you that, when I was ten, I did not possess the gift of self-analysis in a sufficiently marked degree to enable me to make a thorough examination of my inner consciousness." William Booth was no doubt perfectly satisfied with the ministrations of Parson Wyatt at the time, using the church railings for thrusting his head through - the game consisting in getting it back again - playing in the churchyard, looking about him during the services, and only voting it a considerable bore that he had to attend these religious services at all. It was not, perhaps, until much later in his life that he became aware of Parson Wyatt's deficiencies.

But he did become aware, even as a child, of something lacking in his own life. His first religious impressions came from one of his cousins, a Methodist named Gregory, who was a humble shoemaker. William Booth was struck by this man's "separate and spiritual life." On one occasion Gregory said to him, "Willie Booth, do you know that religion is something that comes to you from outside of you?" This idea haunted the boy, and repeating it later on to his minister, he was told that he would soon be teaching in the Sunday School! He remembers, too, that a great impression was made upon his mind by the singing in Sunday School of the hymn, Here we suffer grief and pain; the idea oppressed him and gave a new turn to his thoughts. His cousin's persistent religiousness made him later on "a sort of teacher"; and this, he says, was "an altogether new influence." But he complains, even after this beginning, that no one ever spoke to him about the spiritual life. "I do not remember," he says, "a direct word about my soul - the necessity and possibility of my being converted - -or of encouragement being spoken to me up to the date of my conversion, and very few afterwards."

His father, he says, was "religiously blind"; his mother's moral instruction in those years was, "Be good, William, and all will be well." Parson Wyatt never spoke a direct word to him; no one, not even Cousin Gregory in the Sunday School, ever attempted to get at the innermost privacy of his soul. The first faint beginning of that revolution in his personality which was to have so wide and wonderful an effect for mankind was simply a feeling in his childish consciousness that Cousin Gregory lived a separate and spiritual life. He does not go back for his first religious impressions to a prayer learned at his mother's knee, but to an indefinable, incommunicable reverence in his mind arising from contact with a humble shoemaker who, though he said little to the boy in a personal or direct way, conveyed a feeling to the child's soul of respect for the spiritual life. "Religion is something that comes to you from outside of you."

This feeling, however, was destined to fade; and the hymn and its tune, Here we suffer grief and pain, ceased to haunt his mind. He says he grew "utterly regardless with respect to religion," that he "altogether settled down in the uttermost indifference," that thoughtlessness would be the best term to describe his state at that time. But he avers that he can remember "an inward dissatisfaction with his condition." "My heart," he says, "was a blank."

He acknowledges that he was wilful, headstrong, passionate. He was allowed to have his own way. Mischief he underlines in the disjecta membra of his reminiscences as the spirit of his boyhood. He would do anything for fun. Among his playfellows he was a lord of misrule. Nevertheless this devotion to mischief of every kind went hand in hand with a love of reading. He was affected by poetry - the Night Thoughts of Young, and the poems of Kirke White. He also read many novels, as we have already said, and he gives us a hint that his favourite authors were Walter Scott and Fenimore Cooper. He complains of that period, "There was no one to direct me." He considered on reflection that he was saved from ruin in boyhood by the financial sorrows of his family. "Doubtless the trials of my early days caused by my father's failing fortunes had a beneficial effect on my character. I felt them most keenly; it is not too much to say that they embittered the early years of my boyish life." Always there is the shadow of the father on his childhood. He might play mischievously in the churchyard, go gratefully to fish in the Trent, bury himself in poetry and novels, dream of greatness in manhood - for he was decidedly ambitious - but always his thoughts, his hopes, his headstrong audacity, and his cheerful games were darkened by the shadow of that silent and unlovable father going steadily down to ruin.

A strange incident occurred while he was still at school. A lady and gentleman passing William Booth while he played in the streets would turn so often to look at him that at last he became aware of their interest. He would look up at them as they appeared, and watch them as they passed on, wondering what it was that caused them to regard him so affectionately. One day they stopped and spoke to him, the gentleman asking how he was getting on at school. The lady then made it clear why they were interested in him. Her eyes filled with tears, as she told the boy that he greatly resembled their son whom they had lost by death.

After this a friendship sprang up between the old people and the boy. They asked him to their house, treated him with the greatest kindness, and would even have adopted him. They were Wesleyans, and, with his parents' permission, occasionally took him to chapel. This was his first introduction to Methodism. "My religious training," he says, "was nil"; and he adds that attendance at this chapel made some slight impressions upon him, but nothing more.

Then came an event that did away with every thought about religion. The calling in of a mortgage precipitated his father's ruin. The family was plunged into poverty. "The purpose of making me a gentleman," says William Booth, "was defeated." He was taken away from school and sent into business. He was thirteen years of age.

To the end of his days William Booth could seldom bring himself to speak freely of his first acquaintance with business life. There is no doubt that the memory was a sad one. He shunned it. In all his writings I can find no direct reference to the nature of this employment. He speaks always of "a business," or of "a trade," never once can he force himself to say outright that the business to which his father apprenticed him was a pawnbroker's. And yet there cannot be any doubt at all that it was the associations of this business which had a determining effect upon his after life. He became deeply acquainted with the misery of other people. There had been misery enough in his own childhood, but it was a form of misery which isolated him from the world. He felt his position, and knew that his parents endeavoured to hide their poverty from their neighbours, as though all the neighbours were respectable and prosperous, they alone poor and struggling. But now he learned that many other people were fighting against poverty, and grew to know that suffering and sorrow, deprivation and shame, positive penury and positive want, drag their net in a wide sea of human misery.

Furthermore, it is also certain that the subsequent shame which he felt for his work deepened in his soul a longing for a life more beautiful and more satisfying, embittering his bitterness still further, agitating his unrest still more violently, and driving him more and more outwards from himself, outwards from that centre of his consciousness where all was dark, unhappy, and without peace.

Why did his father choose this particular business? Because, says William Booth, "he knew no greater gain or end than money."

The boy had been trained to regard himself as a gentleman's son. He had been told that his father intended to make a gentleman of him. He was adored by his sisters. He was the leader of his playfellows. He had been sent to a good school. He was in every way something of a hero. And now, at the age of thirteen, he was told that he must go and work for his living, and learned that he was to serve in a small pawnbroker's shop situated in the poorest part of Nottingham.

His father had a talk with him. He held forth to the boy the allurements of money. He told him it was a business that paid well, a business by which fortunes were not only easily but quickly made. He counselled his son to give all his attention to the work, and keep ever before him the prospect of setting up for himself, avoiding partnerships.

William Booth was only a boy. The business promised freedom from school. He liked the idea of earning money. "I went into it," he says, "with a will." Then he adds the characteristic notes: "My after hatred of the trade. A proper estimate of the business. The use and abuse of it." He also remarks that this work "continued my association with the poorest and lowest."

He was too honest a man not to perceive that pawnbrokery has a good side - a side, indeed, which is of distinct benefit to the poor. His full dislike of the trade came to him after his actual experience of the business. He himself had enormously developed when he perceived the deadening effect it is apt to exercise on the highest sympathies of human nature. He disliked it, there is no doubt, more in his old age than in his youth; in his youth it was an interruption of his spiritual life, a disagreeable dislikable employment, but not a thing of loathing or disgust.

At this time he made companionships whose influence, he says, was anything but beneficial. "I went downhill morally, and the consequences might have been serious, if not eternally disastrous, but that the hand of God was on me in a very remarkable manner." One must bear in mind that this memory was written many years afterwards, and one may be forgiven the doubt if the boy of thirteen had really gone very far down the hill that leads to moral disaster. It is more probable that the phrase means carelessness in ideas, frivolity in conduct, and indifference to religion.

He had not been a year in this shop when he was hurriedly summoned from his bed one night and told to come quickly, for his father was dying. This was in September, 1842. Samuel Booth had manifested spiritual concern in this last illness, chiefly through the persistent appeals of "Cousin Gregory." He was at last willing, he at last had time, to attend to religion. "Very sincerely," the son believed, "he turned his heart away from the world that he thought had used him so badly."

The Sacrament was administered. The group round the bed sang Rock of Ages. Samuel Booth committed his wife and children to the care of God, and died in peace. "So ended," wrote his son, "his career - devoted to moneygetting." It was a death-bed repentance. "Though this skin-of-the-teeth sort of business of getting to heaven is to be in no ways recommended, yet because he impressed me and all else who knew him as such a real honest-hearted man according to his light, and seeing that the transaction was in keeping with his character, and therefore a reality, it is a ground of hope concerning my meeting him again where fortunes made shall be lost no more."

He says in another place, as we recorded before, "Deeply though I felt his loss, my grief was all but forbidden by the thought that it was not my mother who had been taken from me."

No doubt the death of his father made a deeper impression upon his young mind than he remembered in his old age. One does not think that any child, but particularly a child of this temperament, could be called suddenly at night to the death-bed of his father, could witness and share in the spontaneous service at the bedside, and finally behold, in the wavering and ghostly candle-light, the solemn almost terrifying mystery of death, without thinking of his own soul and the life beyond death as it touched him in his innermost thought.

Certain it is that with no other change in his circumstances, with no help or guidance from any other creature, William Booth began from this time to be more interested in religion. He had almost parted company with the Church of England, and was now a frequent attendant at Wesley Chapel. He formed more reasonable friendships. His life began to be coloured by the religion of other people. Among these friends was one who outlived him, a Mr. Newbold, who remembers William Booth, and recalls how he met him one day, "near to Broad Street," and asked him to become a member of "Brother Carey's Class." William Booth consented, and joined this class in the Chapel, which was "led," as the Wesleyans say, by a Mr. Henry Carey - a very good and upright man of considerable position, whose wife took some share in his ministrations.

In the notes which he left behind him of this period, after remarking that he got nothing but impressions from the services in Wesley Chapel, and making two strokes after the full stop as if to indicate an emphatic termination to this part of the story, he sets down the name, Isaac Marsden. But nowhere else in these records does he again mention the name, and one would be left to conjecture whether Isaac Marsden definitely began the new chapter in his life, or was only a ghost haunting the dim horizon of his oblivious past, but for a reference to the matter in a book called Isaac Marsden of Doncaster, where the author quotes William Booth as saying:

I shall never forget the words I first heard from Mr. Isaac Marsden. I was walking out one evening with two friends at Nottingham, when I was fourteen years of age. Mr. Marsden was conducting special services at a Wesleyan Chapel, and at that time no one could hear him who had any belief in the great truths of the Bible without being deeply impressed and stimulated.

We entered the Chapel late - in the dusk. I could hardly see the speaker; but just at that moment he was saying, "A soul dies every minute."... I have little doubt that, but for my two friends, I should have stayed that very night and given my heart to God.

Inquiry leads one to surmise that Isaac Marsden gave to William Booth his great intelligent notion of a vital religion. It is credible that Isaac Marden's influence not only led to the conversion of William Booth, but sowed in the boy's mind the seed which was destined to grow into a great tree overspreading the whole world. For Isaac Marsden was half a John Wesley and half a General Booth.

He is described to me by one who remembers him as a somewhat eccentric lay preacher whose head and mouth gave him a noticeable likeness to John Bright. He was "very strong mentally, a great saver of souls. A man of originality and power from the first; rough and wild before his conversion, a very lion in courageous faith ever after." Mr. Isaac Page has written an account of Marsden:

He preached on Sunday when I heard him, and followed up the work during the week. Each night an old-fashioned revival service was held - a fervid sermon, strong appeals, a rousing prayer-meeting, many penitents, and shouts of praise to God. In those days nothing was said about closing the meetings at nine o'clock. They continued as long as there were souls seeking salvation, sometimes till a very late hour. Not unfrequently groups of happy people proceeded homewards at midnight, making the stillness lively with their songs of praise.

He used to hold an early Sunday morning prayer meeting, says Mr. Page, "and if, as he returned, he saw a servant girl washing the door-steps, he would speak a word or two, and then down on his knees in the street to pray for her salvation."

He would speak to men in his walks, or in houses or shops where he called, in such fashion that they were fain to go and hear him preach. One day, as he went along the street, he saw a woman hanging out clothes. His eyes glanced along the line of garments, and he said, "I say, missus, if your heart is not washed cleaner than those clothes, you'll never get to heaven."

He was devoted to children, and carried sweets in his pockets when he went to give a Sunday School address. He would teach them a little prayer to say daily: "Lord, make me good, and keep me good; and bless Isaac Marsden."

Such a man must have had some fascination for William Booth. Nevertheless, when he came to look back on those far-off days, William Booth could recall no penetrating word addressed to his soul, no arresting hand laid upon his throbbing pulses. He could see nothing of human agency in the new-birth which was then shaping in his soul. One thinks, however, that a more rigorous examination of his memory, with the name of Isaac Marsden as a clue, might have led at least to some modification of this opinion.

"Although the change that came over me was sudden," he says, "it was nevertheless reached by stages. There was the realised superiority of the religious life over the purely worldly form of existence which I had lived so long." (The reader will remember with a kindly smile that the worldly form of existence had extended to fourteen completed years of troubled childhood.) "Although my heart was very largely unaffected by the form of service in which I joined, my mind was nevertheless convinced of the rightness, and dignity, and profitableness of the service of God that was set before my eyes. I realised its satisfying nature, and, consequently, I gradually became convinced of its superiority, and, more than this, a hunger sprang up for its realisation. Whatever the circumstances that may have led to my conversion, that conversion was a definite and decisive event in my history. I was utterly without any experience of religion; in fact, wholly given up to a life of self-indulgence."

The reader will remember the caution I ventured to express in the last chapter concerning William Booth's memories of the past and also concerning his phraseology. It is surely misuse of language to speak of his boyhood as "a life of self-indulgence," and to say that he was living a "purely worldly form of existence." This is self-evident. And it is also very probable that his other recollections of this important period of his life are saturated with the Aberglaube of later years. One cannot think that a boy between thirteen and fourteen years of age was "convinced of the rightness, and dignity, and profitableness of the service of God," or that he "realised its satisfying nature, and consequently... became convinced of its superiority." Boys do not argue. This is the language of the old man, the old man so used to that language of his maturity that he cannot quite think himself back into the moods of his childhood, moods destitute of a vocabulary.

It is plain that nothing more took place at this time in the boy's mind than a gradual pressure of its former unhappiness. He was unhappy, and he knew that he was unhappy. In chapel and in class he heard about the religious life which is said to take away unhappiness. He desired that life, because he was unhappy. He says, and there is no doubt a profound truth in the remembrance, "I wanted to be right with God. I wanted to be right in myself. I wanted a life spent in putting other people right." Yes; but all this was cloudlike, inexpressible, and vague in the boy's soul.

Almost immediately he adds: "How I came to this notion of religion, when I saw so little of its character manifested around me, sometimes puzzles me." It was of course - save only the humanitarian impulse which probably came later - a not uncommon experience of childhood. Children, as well as adults, are "tortured by divine things." They have a consciousness of unrest, a longing for satisfaction, a feeling towards and a longing after some mysterious beautiful and rapturous embrace which they feel is coming towards them from the invisible kingdom of dreams. They are inarticulate, they cannot express what they feel, and their longing is confused by a thousand influences from fairy-tale, legend, and belief in magic and witchcraft; but it is there, torturing their souls, a disbelief in the material world, a hatred of all dullness and mechanical exercise, a longing for romance, a repetition of the miracle.

One thing is certain. Throughout his childhood William Booth was overshadowed by a feeling of the nearness of God. He never knew the isolation of even a transitory atheism. Whether he was mischievous or good, whether he was "worldly" or unselfish, he believed in God. He was by no means in love with this faith, the sense of God by no means contributed to his happiness. But he was perfectly certain of God's existence. He speaks of "that instinctive belief in God which, in common with my fellow creatures, I had brought into the world with me." Oppressed by this faith, and with no guidance from any one, the boy whose whole childhood had been darkened and embittered, the boy whose nature was passionate, headstrong, impulsive, and charged with the spirit of leadership, came at last to long for escape from himself, determined to make a fight for his own peace of mind.

While this pressure of unhappiness and this sense of God's reality were deepening in his soul, he was devoting himself with natural zeal to the interests of his employer. He was quick, he was thorough, he was energetic, he was orderly and trustworthy. There was no thought in his mind of forsaking this business. He was ambitious, and he meant to get on in the world. Side by side in his soul were these two equal forces - one driving him to religious safety, the other urging him to material prosperity. Nothing of the mystic showed in his nature. No violent change in personality was manifest in these early stirrings of his spirit.

Soon after the father's death Mary Booth was obliged to leave the humble house in Sneinton Road. She was robbed right and left, says her son, by those who had the handling of her husband's ruined estate. It became necessary not only for her to leave the house in Sneinton Road, but to earn money for her children. She took a very small shop in one of the poor quarters of Nottingham.

A strange incident, of which William Booth never heard, occurred at this time. Opposite to the house in Sneinton Road, as we have said, was the smallware shop of Grandfather Page, and one of his sons, Isaac, now a retired Wesleyan minister, was a little boy when Mrs. Booth and her children moved from the neighbourhood. He said to me, "The first knowledge I had of the Booths' removal came in an odd way. I woke up one morning, went to the window of my bedroom, and looked out. I noticed something moving against the upper window of the house opposite, and calling my brother we both saw quite distinctly that a big white bird, like a swan or a stork, was beating its wings against the glass, jumping up and down as though struggling to get out. Then we observed that the curtains of all the other windows had gone, and knew that the house was empty. This was our first knowledge that the Booths had gone. And we never solved the mystery of the white bird at the window." This is one of those weird and gratefully mysterious stories of which no wise man will ask an explanation. But Mr. Page refuses to see in it a supernatural significance. "I have no doubt," he says, "that some travelling showman had taken advantage of the empty house to place the creature there for the night." Fortunately, no child will be satisfied by this interpretation of a mystery.

William Booth's wages as an apprentice were so meagre that he could do little to help his mother. Her establishment was a smallware shop, where she sold toys, needles, tape, cotton, and similar necessaries of a good housewife - a very humble business with few customers and small profits. It is significant that even in these altered circumstances Ann Booth's friend, Sarah Butler, a young lady of some social distinction, still remained a visitor to the family, and that the first friends of William Booth were young men of position who had known him in the days of Nottintone Place. The family still remained "proud and austere," as Sarah Butler says; but there was evidently a deeper warmth and an entirely new feeling of freedom in the spirit of the household. Ruin had come; a definite poverty had fallen; but the shadow of the embittered man had lifted and the family drew closer together.

In this same year, 1842, there was great excitement in Nottingham over a Parliamentary election. Mr. John Walter, of The Times, was opposed by a Radical reformer from Birmingham, Mr. Sturge. Feargus O'Connor descended upon the town, and the scenes in the street, the oratory of the hustings, the procession of rival clubs, and the language of the newspapers were as picturesque, violent, and grotesque as the more famous election in Eatanswill. In this case there was a very serious collision between the Chartists and the soldiers in the town; hundreds of men were arrested, and in several instances offenders were sentenced to six months, four months, and two months, with hard labour. In the same year Cobden and Bright came to Nottingham, and took part in a great Free Trade demonstration which further quickened the political feeling in the town.

William Booth was affected by this storm. He sympathized with the Chartists and attended their meetings. Mr. W. T. Stead says that he "grew up in an atmosphere of unrest, in a hot-bed of quasi-revolutionary discontent." It should be borne in mind, however, that almost everything demanded by the Chartists is now a commonplace of our constitution. William Booth was never a revolutionary, and became more conservative as he grew older. "My father," says Bramwell Booth, "did not believe that you could make a man clean by washing his shirt." In his fourteenth year, however, he was a hot reformer. "The poverty," says Mr. Stead, "that he saw on every side filled him with a spirit of passionate revolt against constituted authority. He was but a boy of thirteen when Feargus O'Connor first visited Nottingham, but in all the thousands the great Chartist orator had no more enthusiastic disciple than William Booth. He was a Chartist - a physical force Chartist of course, being a boy, and therefore uncompromising. He went to their meetings, he cheered their speeches, he subscribed to the Charter, and, if need had arisen, he would have been disappointed if he could not have shouldered a pike or fired a musket .... 'The Chartists were for the poor,' so the boy reasoned, 'therefore I am for the Chartists.'"

There was now a threefold pressure on the boy's mind. He desired to succeed in business and make money for his mother and sisters; he was enthusiastic for political reform - and somewhat ambitious to play the orator; he was. vaguely but hauntingly anxious to arrive at some religious understanding with his own soul. In his home he was distressingly aware of poverty; in the streets and in his shop he saw little else but poverty; and in his spirit he was conscious of another and more insistent poverty.

One can picture the boy leaving his mother's little shop early in the morning, probably rather hungry, and posting at a great pace to the pawnbroker's shop. He was tall beyond his years, exceedingly pale, with hair as black as a raven, and dark luminous eyes that flashed at the least provocation; a thin, pinched, pallid boy, who walked quickly with a raking stride, stooping at the shoulders, the arms swinging with energy. He would be one of the multitude hasting to work, pushing his way through a multitude unwillingly out of work, the noise of the frame-knitting machines in his ears, the sight of hungry children before his eyes. And one can see him walking back through the dark streets at eight o'clock at night, fagged, hungry, and tortured by his thoughts, but eager for something to happen, willing to take part in any vigorous action, never listless or inert.

So passed two years of his "blighted childhood." Occasionally he stole away from this wretchedness and forgot the pain of the world in his favourite sport of fishing in the Trent. Occasionally he was happy in the flowering fields, which he loved with a real and poetic fervour. Occasionally he threw himself into some merry adventure with the new companions of his employment. But the three steady things in his mind were: first, the determination to get on in the world; second, the ambition to work for political change; and, third, a longing to right himself with God.

In the year 1844, with no outside human influence of any kind upon his soul, this headstrong and impulsive boy determined to make that total and mysterious surrender of personality which is a condition precedent to what we call conversion. He was unhappy, and he desired to escape from unhappiness. Without language to describe his feelings, without the faculty to analyse his sentiments, he came to the decision that he would change the whole character of his life and divert the energy of his soul into a new channel.

"I felt," he says, "that I wanted, in place of the life of self-indulgence to which I was yielding myself, a happy, conscious sense that I was pleasing God, living right, and spending all my powers to get others into such a life."

In these words William Booth justifies the definition of William James that "to be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to experience religion, to gain assurance, are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior, and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior, and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities."

From the beginning of his life to the end, in spite of much language which might seem to exhibit religion only as an escape from punishment, only as an escape from wrath, only as an escape from eternal damnation, the heart and soul of William Booth's religion was happiness - an uprush of feeling from obstruction towards the central pivotal sense of unity with God, a triumphant and penetrating blessing, a victorious and suffusing solution of all sorrow, trouble, difficulty, and spiritual confusion.

He desired in his distracted boyhood "a happy conscious sense" that he was pleasing God.

"I saw," he avers, "that all this ought to be, and I decided that it should be. It is wonderful that I should have reached this decision in view of all the influences then around me." His employer, a Unitarian, "never uttered a word to indicate that he believed in anything he could not see, and many of my companions were worldly and sensual, some of them even vicious."

He speaks of his instinctive belief in God, and goes on to say, "I had no disposition to deny my instincts, which told me that if there was a God His laws ought to have my obedience and His interests my service."

Then follows a characteristic sentence: "I felt that it was better to live right than to live wrong; and as to caring for the interests of others instead of my own, the condition of the suffering people around me, people with whom I had been so long familiar, and whose agony seemed to reach its climax about this time, undoubtedly affected me very deeply."

It may puzzle some people to believe that a boy of fifteen was powerfully moved by the humanitarian spirit; and no doubt William Booth saw in the darkness of those early days, when he came to look back upon them, something of the reflected light of the great master-passion which transfigured his after existence. Indeed, this history will clearly show that he grew into humanitarianism, and that this humanitarianism was the developed fruit of his religion. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that the germ of humanitarianism was present in his soul from a very early age, and there is definite proof that he was conscious of it at the time of his conversion.

In all his papers dealing with this period of his life - and he made more than one attempt at autobiography - there is reference to the spectacle, in 1844, of children crying for bread in the streets of Nottingham. This is perhaps the most definite of all his youthful memories, transcending, of a certainty, any influence made upon his mind by the oratory of Feargus O'Connor. He could remember not a word of the fiery speeches he had cheered till he was hoarse; he could remember not a sermon he had listened to in chapel, not an address, not "an experience" he had heard in class; but the visual memory of ragged children weeping bitterly for food in the streets of the town was a picture printed on his soul with a sharpness that could not be blurred. This he remembered; and it will be seen that after his conversion he did at least one little act of humanitarian charity typical of the work which has ever since characterized and honoured the Salvation Army.

He had now reached that point when the soul determines to act with decision. He came nearer to the great step at the services in which he took part, at the occasional Class Meetings, where he answered the questions of his Leader concerning the state of his soul; but he could not bring himself to the actual deed of a public surrender. Something held him back. It was the memory of a sin. "The inward Light revealed to me," he says, "that I must not only renounce everything I knew to be sinful, but make restitution, so far as I had the ability, for any wrong I had done to others before I could find peace with God." The boy was now tormented by a guilty conscience. He carried about with him not only a guilty conscience, but a visible and tangible possession which upbraided him with the wrath of God. It was a silver pencil-case. And this silver pencil-case, going to and from his work, and all the time he was at his work, burned like fire against his flesh. Suddenly, though the approach had been gradual and, in a sense, dilatory, the struggle ceased. The moment came one night, at eleven o'clock, in the streets of Nottingham.

"It was in the open street," he says, "that this great change passed over me, and if I could only have possessed the flagstone on which I stood at that happy moment, the sight of it occasionally might have been as useful to me as the stones carried up long ago from the bed of the Jordan were to the Israelites who had passed over them dryshod."

He tells us what had hitherto held him back: "The entrance to the Heavenly Kingdom was closed against me by an evil act of the past which required restitution. In a boyish trading affair I had managed to make a profit out of my companions, whilst giving them to suppose that what I did was all in the way of a generous fellowship. As a testimonial of their gratitude they had given me a silver pencil-case. Merely to return their gift would have been comparatively easy, but to confess the deception I had practised upon them was a humiliation to which for some days I could not bring myself.

"I remember, as if it were but yesterday," he goes on, "the spot in the corner of the room under the chapel, the hour, the resolution to end the matter, the rising up and rushing forth, the finding of the young fellow I had chiefly wronged, the acknowledgment of my sin, the return of the pencil-case - the instant rolling away from my heart of the guilty burden, the peace that came in its place, and the going forth to serve my God and my generation from that hour."

He was happy, but happy in a frame of mind which may be described as one of dead earnestness. He is careful to say that he had no experience at this time of emotional religion. He looks back and envies those who have had that experience from the first. But he was happy. "I felt . . . that I could willingly and joyfully travel to the ends of the earth for Jesus Christ, and suffer anything imaginable to help the souls of other men."

There was something thorough in the effect of this conversion, and he was troubled by no disenchantment of reaction. "One reason," he says, "for the victory I daily gained from the moment of my conversion was, no doubt, my complete and immediate separation from the godless world. I turned my back on it. I gave it up, having made up my mind beforehand that if I did go in for God I would do so with all my might."

But one must be careful of this language.

There was scarcely a "complete and immediate separation from the godless world." He remained in his employment for some years, and was a very clever and industrious assistant to his Unitarian employer, as we shall see in the next chapter. He was still obliged to rub shoulders with his former companions of this shop, some of whom were "worldly and sensual, some of them even vicious." What he means is this, though the language is the language of a far later period, that, living in the same surroundings as before, and pursuing the same commercial goal as before, he now separated himself from the more questionable of his former companionships, abandoned all selfish amusement in his leisure moments, and was conscious in his soul of a solemn dedication of himself to high and lofty purposes. "Rather than yearning for the world's pleasures," he says, "books, gains, or recreations, I found my new nature leading me to come away from it all. It had lost all charm for me. What were all the novels, even those of Sir Walter Scott or Fenimore Cooper, compared with the story of my Saviour? What were the choicest orators compared with Paul? What was the hope of money-earning, even with all my desire to help my poor mother and sisters, in comparison with the imperishable wealth of ingathered souls? I soon began to despise everything the world had to offer me."

The language is not extravagant in the light of after events, but it is probably exaggerated as a contemporary expression of those first early movements of the boy's soul. There is no doubt that he relinquished the reading of novels; no doubt that he abandoned many of his former friendships; no doubt that he ceased to envy the oratory of Feargus O'Connor; and no doubt that he ceased to feel pleasure in the diversions of his former life. But one must be careful to remember that he still continued to be the cleverest and most dependable of his employer's staff, and gave no public signs of desiring a life with greater religious opportunities. The phrase, "I soon began to despise everything the world had to offer me," is somewhat too exuberant for this phase of his experience.

But the great step was taken. Nothing is more characteristic of the man than the simple, downright, blunt, almost horrisonant statement in which he declares that he had made up his mind, "if I did go in for God," to do so with all his might. To William Booth at that time, and to William Booth at the last stage of his long journey, the choice lay for all mankind between God and Devil. He believed emphatically in both. He could see no escape from belief in both. And he knew already, had known it throughout his "blighted childhood," that men definitely or indefinitely, consciously or unconsciously, by all their thoughts and by all their actions, with consequences visible here, and direr consequences unimaginable hereafter, serve the One or the other. To "go in for God," however the phrase may strike upon the ear, meant with him a rational decision for the Best, a whole-hearted loyalty to the Highest, and a life of logical self-sacrifice devoted to Righteousness. He had inherited from his father a commercial mind; the imagination of his mother's ancestry gave warmth and fervour to his disposition; the hard, vigorous, uncompromising spirit of the north inspired his soul. Such a youth could speak about going in for God without offense, and in speaking about it he would mean it with an iron logic and a fixed determination. His instincts told him "that if there were a God His laws ought to have my obedience"; and "one feeling specially forced itself upon me, and I can recollect it as distinctly as though it had transpired only yesterday, and that was the sense of the folly of spending my life in doing things for which i knew I must either repent or be punished in the days to come."

There was something of a bargain in his decision. Consciously or unconsciously, logic was at work in his soul. But chiefly he came to religion as an escape from the unhappiness, the unrest, and the dissatisfaction of his troubled heart; came to it, too, almost unhelped, unencouraged, and unbefriended. The child who had grown up with the idea that he was "to be made a gentleman"; who had seen the shadow of poverty deepening every day upon the shabbying walls of his unhappy home; who had been left to form his own friendships and find his own amusements in the playing-fields of a manufacturing town; who had been thrust into a very exacting and dispiriting employment at the age of thirteen; who had seen his father die, and helped his mother while he was yet a boy to move into a humble shop and begin life over again; who had witnessed the utmost miseries and depressions of a commercial reaction which spread ruin on every side; who had listened with enthusiasm to the oratory of so-called revolutionary politicians - this boy came of his own choice, so far as we can judge, to the religion which makes a supreme demand and confers an exclusive benefit. He came to it for release. He came to it, one may say, selfishly. And it is certain that he neither realized the demand it was to make of him, nor dreamed of the triumph to which it was destined to carry him.

In the year 1844 William Booth was a very youthful shop-assistant who had decided to live a religious life, and who was working exceedingly hard to improve his material prospects. Happiness had come to him, and he had escaped from the wretchedness of unrest by confessing to a sin that haunted his conscience, and by deciding to live henceforth in the knowledge and service of God.

No conversion could be simpler, less dramatic, and more natural; few in the long history of Christianity have brought a richer harvest to the whole world.








Chapter 4

BEGINNINGS OF THE NEW LIFE AND THE FIRST SERMON EVER PREACHED BY WILLIAM BOOTH

1845

"DIRECTLY after I was converted I had a bad attack of fever. I was brought down to the edge of the River."

This emphatic statement, occurring abruptly in the disjecta membra of autobiography, might lead the reader to suppose that conversion had been approached in a morbid and unhealthy manner, that the great submission had been made in a feverish or hysterical frame of mind. But, fortunately for the truth, the statement is typical of William Booth's indifference to chronology. The attack of fever did not come till nearly two years after his conversion, when he was seventeen years of age, and at the threshold of his extraordinary career. Conversion was followed, unfortunately for our present purpose, by about two years of autobiographical silence.

Three things alone are known with any degree of definiteness concerning these important years. We know that the chief friendship of his youth was deepened by his new religious experience; we know that the humanitarian instinct manifested itself in at least one act of touching kindness; and we know that romance for the first time knocked at the heart of this young voyager, whose chart was not yet marked for boundless adventures of quite other kind.

When the friendship of William Booth and William Sansom began is not clearly known, but it was probably as early as the days of Nottintone Place, where the two boys would have been close neighbours. Will Sansom, as he is affectionately called, was the son of a well-to-do lace manufacturer. His social circumstances were superior to William Booth's, his prospects altogether of a more enviable nature. Yet from very early days, just as Ann Booth was the chosen friend of Sarah Butler, so William Booth was the chosen friend of this fortunate young man; and in both cases, it is worthy of noticing, the friendship persisted when the Booths were reduced from a proud poverty to a staring and emphatic penury. Something there must have been in these Booths very attractive and admirable.

I asked Mrs. Osborne, the Sarah Butler of those days, if William Booth was at all violent in the first enthusiasm of his preaching. "Not in the least," she replied; adding, "if he had been, Will Sansom would have curbed him." This answer not only exhibits Sansom as a refined and gentle nature; it shows that he exercised a decided influence over William Booth.

Will Sansom is described as a very handsome young man, romantic-looking, and marked from boyhood by the intense and dreadful signs of consumption. He was one of those whom Maeterlinck calls the Pre-destined. "The men among whom they dwell become the better for the knowledge of them, and the sadder, and the more gentle." He was of the company "who look at us with an eager smile, and seem to be on the point of confessing that they know all; and then, towards their twentieth year, they leave us, hurriedly, muffling their footsteps, as though they had just discovered that they had chosen the wrong dwelling-place, and had been about to pass their lives among men whom they did not know." In this case the youth was profoundly religious. He had the deep absorbing faith of a Gratray, the fervour of a Pascal, the hastening evangelical eagerness of a Wesley. The nearer he approached his youthful death the more passionately did he seek to spread his knowledge of the truth. But always he was refined in manner, persuasive in method, winning and ingratiating by nature.

"We were like David and Jonathan," says William Booth; and Mrs. Osborne described to me how these two young men were always together, how they walked about arm-in-arm, how they both had the same stoop, the same pallor, the same brightness of the eyes. The friendship was noticed by other people. The young men were regarded by their circle as "bosom friends."

It is not often in biography that such a friendship as this is recorded, the deep and affectionate friendship of a young man prosperous and well-stationed with the apprenticed shop-assistant. Religion had much to do with it, but the first cause appears to have been the commanding character and extraordinary attraction of Wilful Will.

Some time after William Booth's conversion, these two youths were attracted by the friendless condition of a poor old withered beggar-woman who shuffled about the streets in horrid rags, endured the mockery of street boys, suffered the persecution of Nottingham "lambs," and slept in doorways or under hedges - a grotesque parody of womanhood. William Booth must have seen her a hundred times before his conversion, for she was a character of the streets; but it was not until after his conversion that her deplorable destitution, the infinite pity of her forlorn and friendless state, appealed to his compassion. He determined to rescue her from this state, and consulted Will Sansom as to the best way of ensuring her welfare. Then they went about among their friends, collected money, took a little cabin, furnished it, and installed the old woman within, making provision for her support. The most wretched creature, the most ridiculed and neglected of all Nottingham's miserables had moved the heart of William Booth to compassion, and upon such an one as this he made his first experiment in social work.

During this period in his life he imagined that his earthly happiness was bound up with the life of a girl into whose society he had been thrown for some years. She was the daughter of the old couple who had first introduced him to Methodism, the old people who loved him because he resembled their dead son. For a number of months William Booth walked about the world believing that he was in love. He probably discussed the matter with Will Sansom. He was elated by the discovery, and cherished the thought of this wonderful passion at his heart with a fervour of sentimentalism. The young lady sang well, and William Booth, who then could not sing himself, loved music very keenly. It was a great pleasure for him to sit and listen to the singing of this pretty girl, who was a little older than himself.

But before many amorous moons had waned, the young zealot made another discovery, as startling and much more liberating than the first. He discovered that he did not love this person at all, that she was not his inamorata, and certainly should never be his wife. It was a case of "calf-love," he says, and laughs it out of his memory. His only obsession was religion.

He does not seem to have suffered at this period from any healthy or unhealthy disquiet of soul. His disposition was too headlong and impulsive, his anxieties too outward and unselfish for moonings within the depths of his own consciousness. He was no mystic, and he was no prig; but he suffered, some men may say suffered all his life, from what Arnold called Hebraism. God was the supreme concernment of his life. Everything else brought into relation with this immense interest dwindled to insignificance. He had something of Carlyle's contempt for Art. Science had no vital attraction for him. The sports and amusements of mankind filled him with contemptuous impatience. So tremendous was his sense of God that he never questioned it, rarely scrutinized it, refusing to paralyse his devotion and his senses by a moment's incredulity concerning this subjective conception of the Infinite. He had one thought, to live absolutely in accordance with God's will.

In the year 1846, when he was seventeen, came the attack of fever which brought him "to the edge of the River." He had outgrown his calf-love, he was deep in the friendship of Will Sansom, he was still keen about succeeding in business, above all other things earnest in religion.

The visit of James Caughey, of whom a description is given in the first chapter, occurred at this time. William Booth caught fire from the flame of this revivalist's oratory.

He was deeply and pervasively influenced by the uncompromising realism of the American preacher. It may have been that his attack of fever was in some measure due to the excitement occasioned throughout Nottingham by this missionary. He went to all the services he could attend, he joined in the singing of some of Charles Wesley's triumphant battle-songs, he witnessed scenes of conversion which were extraordinarily exciting, and he saw in the lives of many of his neighbours the veritable miracle of new birth. Here, at last, was religion in action, the real and living religion of his dreams. He gave himself up to it, thought of scarce anything else, and presently was laid by with a raging fever.

While he tossed on his bed, over the dim, struggling, and shabby shop in which Widow Booth sold tape and cotton, a message was brought to him from Will Sansom - a message which very probably saved his life. Sansom sent word to him that he was starting an open-air mission in the slums of Nottingham, and bade him get well quickly and come and help him. Here was medicine and vocation in one! The message rallied the spirit of the sick youth; it was like a trumpet-call to his drooping soul; and he rose from his bed as soon as he had strength to stand, and went back to his work and out, for the first time, to religious activity.

More memorable in his life than 1844 was this year of grace 1846; and, fortunately, it is from this point that the stream of biography begins to flow with strength and certainty. If his souvenirs d'enfance are misted with a Lethean miasma, if his memories of boyhood are little more than a concordia discors, from his seventeenth year onward we possess almost every detail and every fact, almost every lineament and every expression, almost every thought and shade of feeling, for the composition of a faithful portrait. The life of the man begins from 1846; and it was a life lived so frankly and honestly, so far away from the morbid centre of self-introspection, so completely at that uttermost circumference of being where self is consumed in a passionate care for others, that one can be sure of a veritable likeness. No man ever lived who kept back less of himself from the gaze of the world, or who gave more of himself to the service of humanity.

Will Sansom had not long to wait for an answer to his message. "No sooner was I able to get about than I gladly joined him." But William Booth, the leader of everything, was shy and self-conscious of speaking in the open, or of speaking at all in public. He joined in the services, but would neither preach nor pray. Will Sansom sang, prayed, and preached. He was helped by a friend named Samuel Hovey, by Sarah Butler, and by one of her sisters who sang beautifully. William Booth contented himself with standing in the group, with singing in the hymns, with exclaiming Amen in the prayers, and with speaking privately to those who surrounded the company.

But the influence of David Greenbury effected a change. This evangelist from Scarborough, of whom mention has been made in the opening chapter, was the first man to realize the force and power of William Booth as a preacher. He was struck by Booth's earnestness, by the vigour of his personality, and by his remarkable appearance and emphatic manner. He urged upon the young man that it was his duty to speak, that he owed it to God to conquer his timidity, which was a form of selfishness. One of Booth's favourite hymns came to his assistance. He was haunted by the verse -

And can I yet delay
My little all to give?
To tear my soul from earth away
For Jesus to receive?
Nay, but I yield, I yield!
I can hold out no more;
I sink, by dying love compelled,
And own Thee conqueror.

With the same sudden abandon that had characterized his surrender two years before to the urgence of conscience, he now not only threw himself into the work of street preaching, but became the recognized leader of the group.

"The Meetings we held," he says, "were very remarkable for those days. We used to take out a chair into the street, and one of us mounting it would give out a hymn, which we then sang with the help of, at the most, three or four people. Then I would talk to the people, and invite them to come with us to a Meeting in one of the houses." Of Will Sansom he says, "He had a fine appearance, was a beautiful singer, and possessed a wonderful gift in prayer. After I had spoken in our Open-Air Meeting he would kneel down and wrestle with God until it seemed as though he would move the very stones on which he knelt, as well as the hearts of the people who heard him."

At this period in his life there was nothing of that humorous spirit which characterized so much of his later work. Sarah Butler says that his nature was rather "morose and melancholy." He was "tremendously in earnest."

There is still living in Nottingham a very old woman who knew the Booths in Sneinton, and remembers the first sermon preached by William Booth. She gave me an account of that sermon, and described the meetings in the cottages, her dim eyes shining with pleasure through their thick spectacles, her face illuminated by a deep joy.

"The first sermon he ever preached," she said, "was in Kid Street. I remember it very well. The Meeting was held in a small cottage. It was at eight o'clock at night, and he had come straight from his work. There was a box placed upside down on the table for a desk, with two candles burning, one each side of the Bible. The door stood open, and poor women came into the tiny parlour, bringing their own chairs with them. In the doorway was a group of men, afraid to come in lest they should be converted, but interested in this new way of preaching religion. They filled up the doorway, a dark little crowd that extended into the street. Will Booth's sermon - ah, how well I remember it! - was very gentle and tender, quite different from anything else I ever heard him say to the people, and so strange for a young man to preach that it almost made some of the women smile. He talked of little children learning to walk. He described how they toddled, and swayed, and came near to falling. He said how difficult a thing it was for little babes to learn the use of their legs, to trust their tiny feet, and to advance with courage. And then he asked if any mother, watching her child's first efforts to walk, would be cross with the infant's failure, would shout at it when it swayed, would sit still, unmoved, when it fell and hurt itself. Then he said that it was just as difficult to live a true Christian life, and that we should always be on the look-out for helping people, especially those who were only just beginning to live that life. He said it was wrong to judge them when they failed, and just as wrong to sit idle when they fell. We should run, and lift them up, and help them. Hard words would not help them; sitting still would not help them; we must go and do something to make it less hard for them to walk straight."

She told me, too, that she heard one of his earliest preachings in the open street. The scene was Red Lion Square, and he was surrounded by a crowd of poor people.

"That was a very different sermon!" she exclaimed. "He called out in his great voice that all the suffering and sorrow of the world came from sin. I remember how he said, 'Friends, I want to put a few straight questions to your souls. Have any of you got a child at home without shoes to its little feet? Are your wives sitting now in dark houses waiting for you to return, without money? Are you going away from here to the public-house to spend on drink money that your wives need for food and your children for shoes?' It was all like that. And then he read out the Wesleyan hymn which has the verse:

Misers! for you His life He paid;
Your basest crime He bore:
Drunkards! your sins on Him were laid
That you might sin no more.

I think there had never been such preaching in the open streets before. One of his other favourite hymns had the verse:

Outcasts of men, to you I call.
Harlots and publicans and thieves!
He spreads His arm to embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives:
No need of Him the righteous have,
He came the lost to seek and save.

I remember, too, how he was insulted, and how calmly he bore it. Once, while he was preaching in Pump Street, a man who had stopped to listen suddenly shouted out, shaking his fist at the preacher, 'You liar! you liar! 'And Will Booth just looked at him, and said in a very soft, kindly voice, 'Friend, it was for you He died; stop, and be saved.' He was always like that."

There is another old body living in Nottingham who remembers those early days, a very rigid, ultra-respectable, demure, and eloquent spinster. Her brother was one of William Booth's earliest friends, one of the first to join the little group of street preachers. She spoke throughout our conversation with emphatic gravity, very plainly conscious of her importance, and maintaining an aspect of preternatural solemnity. "To begin with," she said, "Billy was rather forward." So far as my researches go, this old lady is the only person in the whole world who ever referred to William Booth as "Billy." He was sometimes called by his father in childhood "Bill," and among his associates he was known as "Will"; but no one else that I can find trace of ever ventured to speak of him with the extreme familiarity of "Billy." The lady seemed to use this name with a relish, as though it increased the prestige of her venerable position and diminished the world-wide fame of the great evangelist to a humility relatively suitable.

"You must not misunderstand me," she said; "he was not overbearing; he was not violent; he was not what you would call domineering; but he was forward, distinctly forward. Yes, he was a forward lad. You could never have kept him down. You could never have held him back. He was bound to push forward and take the lead in everything."

"Can you describe him to me?" I asked.

"Describe him? Who? Billy? Oh, yes. Well, he was what you would call nice-looking. I shouldn't say he was handsome. At any rate he was not so handsome as you, not nearly."

I protested - as well I might.

"He was too pale to be handsome," she continued critically, ignoring the protest. "He was not so handsome as you, but his legs were longer. I should describe him as a nice-looking lad. He was tall, yes, decidedly tall, and thin; remarkably so. He was clean-shaven in those days; he wore his hair long, it was the fashion then, and his hair was as black as coal; he had a stoop in his shoulders, and looked as if he had outgrown himself. I should say that he was perhaps something more than nice-looking. I should call him strange-looking, romantic-looking. If you saw him once you would never forget him. Of course his nose was very striking-looking. We always called that 'the Wellington.' A strange face, very; so pale, so white, and with all that black hair, and those piercing eyes - yes, a romantic face - decidedly so."

Her insistence upon the romantic character of his appearance prompted me to ask a question to which I had long been anxious to get an answer.

I began by asking if he had been surrounded from the first days of his preaching by a number of young ladies.

"Well, it began with one or two," replied the demure spinster, "but the number increased."

"Now, I wonder if you can tell me," said I, as non-chalantly as the circumstances permitted, "whether there is any truth in the story that he was in love with one of those young ladies?"

As though I had made a most scandalous suggestion, the venerable lady straightened her back, regarded me coldly, and replied with a trenchant scorn, "As for that, I will only say, speaking from a long experience of life, that the number of young ladles who imagine that every young man they meet is in love with them is only equalled by the number of young men who go about the world fancying that every young lady that looks their way is in love with them. It is a pity it should be so, but so it is. As for Will Booth, I never heard that he was in love with anybody, though there was some talk that he might make a match of it one day with a very sweet young lady who sang at his meetings. But I should be at a standstill, my dear sir, I really should, if I was to try and tell you the number of young ladies who were in love with him. He was a favourite. He was worshipped, as you may say. And I think he was certainly a very romantic-looking, attractive, and interesting young man."

The "very sweet young lady who sang at his meetings" was a sister of Sarah Butler, and although no mention is made of her in William Booth's autobiographical notes, it is probable that he did look upon this follower with a somewhat more particular and personal interest than the others. It is certain that he never spoke to her except about religion; it is certain that he did not in any way "keep company" with her; but in one way or the other his followers came to regard it as a possibility that William Booth and the sweet singer might some day make a match of it; while, many years after, when as a very old man he was reminded of this young lady, and told of the expectation which existed among the others, he smiled and made answer, "Ah, I remember there was such a person!"

It seems that after they had conducted their open-air meetings and finished their preachings in the cottages, this body of young enthusiasts would sometimes go for a walk before returning to their homes. But there was never, I am told, any mingling of the sexes on these occasions. "The men always walked together in front, and we would follow behind," says Sarah Butler. Conversation was about religion. Schemes for spreading Christianity were discussed, Particular sinners were marked down for personal appeals and private prayer.

"I remember, however," Sarah Butler told me, "one of those walks when we more or less travelled together, and conversation turned upon other things beside religion. Some one proposed that we should go and look at the new railway line that was being laid at Colwick. It was a wonderfully quiet night. The moon was shining. And it was summer-time. Well, we were very happy and elated. We loved the stillness, the fields, the woods, and the moonlight. We sang as we walked. We rejoiced in our happiness. And I think William Booth did walk with my sister, for a little time, but I can't be certain. However, nothing came of the walk. or of any other meeting. I used to think they were in love with each other, but I see now it was only a fancy. William Booth had no other thought in his mind at that time than preaching to the people and saving sinners from their sin. He was the most earnest and enthusiastic man I ever knew - he was really burning, really on fire, to save souls. He used to say that we were saved to save. He could not stand people who said their souls were saved and who did nothing to save other people. If he thought of my sister at all, it was only a passing thought. No one could make a romance out of it. I assure you he was too much in earnest about this street-preaching to think of falling in love."

We see this group of young people, preaching and praying in the streets, holding their little services in cottages, going for walks in sexual separation, whether with moon shining or not shining, meeting in chapel on Sunday, attending classes, discussing sermons and gossip of chapel life a group of earnest young lives conscious of God, conscious of God's demand upon them, and preoccupied with business of the next world - a strange and lonely group in Nottingham, making no great stir there, incurring some local ridicule, and occasioning some distinct alarm and misgiving in the strait minds of rigid chapel orthodoxy.

It would seem that the great humanitarian spirit of the Christian religion had not yet developed in the soul of William Booth. He was a member of the Church, he attended the services of that Church, and his labours were directed to preaching his gospel of salvation in order to save people from hell and bring them into membership with his Church. The Chartist was dead in him. The Methodist was very much alive. Years were to pass before he broke free from sectarianism, before he reached Christianity as a spirit that could not be bound, and before he perceived the concurrent necessity of social betterment with spiritual welfare.

In the lives of few religious leaders is growth more evident. He was haunted now and again, as we shall see, by dogmas and theological practices which had once formed part of his religious life, but he was never deeply perturbed by these old clothes of his youth, and in his normal moods he was conscious of no need for any theology in his service to the world but that which led men to the heart of Christ. He grew wonderfully, he developed amazingly, and at the end, though a certain hard and rigorous strain endured, his spirit was one of the sweetest, tenderest, most tolerant and gentle that ever longed for spiritual perfection.

He was asked, when he was an old man, by a friend of his youth if he still insisted upon some particular doctrine of his youth. The answer is a key to the man's soul. Tapping his friend impatiently on the breast with the back of his hand, he said, "Look here, when a fellow speaks to us like that we tell him to go and do something." This may have been uttered only as the expression of a mood, for he held this doctrine himself, but such utterance shows that his emphasis was upon service, not upon speculation.

But it was years before he could give such a great and splendid answer, an answer so robust with the health of true and manful religion. He himself had to grow to that answer. For years he was interested in such speculations, for years he was plagued by theology, for years he was blind to the natural and shameful causes of human misery; but, although to the end of his days he believed in such a doctrine as that of Entire Sanctification, and although he never tore up the documents of abstract theology, he certainly grew more and more impatient of egoistic introspection, more and more insistent upon work for God.

Nevertheless, even at this epoch in his life, there are signs of the wonders that were yet to be. One catches glimmerings of an original mind, flashes of a spirit that could revolt passionately from orthodoxy, and sparks of a soul that well might burst into flame for the salvation of unhappy people.

The respectable citizens who attended Wesley Chapel - good, solid Christians of the commercial variety, the gentlemen in broadcloth, and the ladies in bombazine, or some other notable material of the period guaranteeing moral value and financial stability - these goodly and satisfied souls were one Sunday morning astonished out of their senses by such a scuffling of broken boots, such a rustle of shoddy rags, and such a stentorous breathing of congregated misery as never before had desecrated their brick-and-mortar habitation of Wesleyanism.

William Booth had made himself an apostle to the lads of Nottingham slums; he had preached to them in the open, gathered a circle about him, and was on fire to bring them within the fold of the Methodists. If he was happy kneeling in the streets at night and praying with them, he desired to be happier still by praying with them on Sunday, praying with these ragged Roughs and Toughs within the consecrated walls of Wesley Chapel. And so it came about one Sunday that he marched his first regiment of the ragged and neglected into the aisles of this most respectable Temple, conducted them into the best pews he could find, and sat among them almost quivering with satisfaction and delight. But the effect of this invasion was not what he had hoped. The young enthusiast was called before Authority, was argued with, was instructed, and was finally told that he might bring these outcasts into the chapel only if he entered by the back door (invisible behind the pulpit) and seated his converts in obscure benches reserved particularly for the impecunious and shabby.

One of the most notable Wesleyan preachers of the present time cannot think of this and other incidents connected with Nottingham Wesleyanism, presently to be described, without an angry indignation. He can see perfectly well that if Hugh Price Hughes or many another Wesleyan preacher of later times had been minister of that chapel in Nottingham, William Booth would never have been lost to the Methodists. But I think it is truer to say that Hugh Price Hughes, and men like him, both among the Methodists and the Anglican communion, owe their enthusiasm and their democratic Christianity to the Salvation Army, and that this Army was too spontaneous and original an expression of religious experience to have grown up within any of the fixed and settled Churches.

As for this particular incident, plainly enough there is much to be said for the judgment delivered by Authority. One may be indignant about it from afar off, but to sit for hours among a company of unwashed, malodorous, and possibly diseased humanity is not an experience healthful for the body nor conducive to religious concentration. It is a merit in William Booth that he saw the validity of this objection; that, young and headstrong as he was, he did not immediately abandon the work; that, hurt and chilled as surely he must have been, he yet bowed to the ruling, accepted the judgment, and obeyed his religious superiors.

But he felt more and more the call of the streets. As soon as ever his work would allow, he was preaching to the miserables and outcasts of Nottingham, seeking sinners, interesting the indifferent, thundering the wrath of God against wickedness and transgression. He won one man who was famous in the town as a "character," the drunken, wife-beating, humorous-minded rascal, known as "Besom Jack," of whom mention has been made. This man had lived an utterly abominable life. He went about the streets selling brooms, and every penny that he gained in this manner was spent upon drink. His poor wife had to beg at the doors of her neighbours for a few used tea-leaves, which she boiled up afresh, and so lived, starving and terrified. Booth won this man, won him so completely that he became a faithful follower of the street preachers, working for them, helping them, saving the old companions of his drunken days, and devoting himself in his home to making amends for his past iniquity. His conversion created something of a sensation. It was not recognized as a miracle, but it was talked about as something either amusing or interesting, something for mockery and sneers, or for discussion and timorous questioning, according to the faith or no faith of the talkers.

"The leading men in the Church to which I belonged," says Booth, "were afraid I was going too fast, and gave me plenty of caution, quaking and fearing at every new departure, but never a word of encouragement to help me on. But I went forward all the same."

He remarks that there were many indications in those early events of the organization which he was destined to bring into existence several years afterwards. Not only was there preaching in the streets, not only was there a tracking down of particular sinners, not only was there a total insistence on the absolute necessity of a changed heart, but every opportunity was seized by the young enthusiast for striking the torpid imaginations of the people with the realities of spiritual life. One of his followers, for instance, a young girl of humble parentage, was brought to her death-bed; William Booth and his friends prayed and sang at her bedside; she died with the expectation of heaven shining in her face, and her funeral was made an occasion for triumph and rejoicing. To the end of his days he never forgot that funeral. He remembers that it was snowing, and he tells how a procession was formed in the white streets, and how the body of the girl was borne to her grave through the snowfall between rows of watching people, and followed by his regiment of helpers singing hymns of victory and joy.

So consumed was he by the passion for saving souls that reticence and restraint to him were like ropes about the legs of a starving man seeking for food. He was working hard for daily bread, it must be remembered, from early in the morning until seven, often eight, o'clock at night; it was only for a few dark hours that his fiery soul had opportunity for seeking the welfare of his fellow-creatures; all the passion and tremendous sincerity of his impetuous spirit, pent up during the hours of uncongenial toil, burst their bonds in the brief evenings of his ministration and made him what men call a zealot and a fanatic.

It is important to observe, however, that the thought of entering the ministry, of giving up everything for the preaching of religion, had not yet even occurred to his mind. He regarded himself as a layman. He considered that one of the first charges on his life was the support of his mother and sisters. He was very much in earnest about his future, terribly distressed by the extreme difficulty of earning a living. Again and again the complaint breaks out that he was stung with bitterness by the pitiful position in which he found himself placed - a position of bound apprentice to a niggardly employer, earning but a small wage, and forced to witness, he, the only son of his mother, the calamitous poverty of that shabby smallware shop in Goose Gate.

He had been sent to the best school in Nottingham; he had been encouraged to regard himself as a gentleman; the talk of his father had been all of fortune-making and fine living; until he was thirteen years of age it had never once occurred to him that he would have to work hard, and, working hard, find himself unable to support life. His mother was a proud woman, of better family than his father; his sisters were girls of strong character and impatient of poverty. He was galled by his helplessness, vexed with his destiny.

At the beginning of his religious zeal he was opposed by his family. His efforts to spiritualize the life of his home were met with impatience and counter-attacks upon his newfound theology. Presently he gained his elder sister, Ann; later he won his invalid sister, Emma; and later still Mary Booth, his mother, surrendered to his insistent appeals. But for some years he received scarcely any encouragement in his home, and at the beginning was definitely withstood and gainsaid.

Therefore we have the drama presented to us of a young man straining every nerve to support a family opposed to the divine interests of his innermost life, a young man committed to a form of employment extremely distasteful to his mind, who felt himself urged and driven by the Spirit of God to seek sinners and to save the lost, and who used every minute of his leisure in this work against the discouragement of his religious superiors and the opposition of his family. If those who later in his career did not scruple, but actually hastened, to attack this singular and pure minded man, charging him, among other sins, with hypocrisy and cant and self-seeking - if they had known of these first chapters in his religious life, had known of his courageous devotion, of his intense solitude of soul, of his manful struggle against forces which crush heroism and turn enthusiasm to bitterness and despair, surely they had laid their hands upon their mouths. He experienced in those years, and for many years afterwards, a ceaseless hindrance to the clamour of his soul; and, impulsive, masterful, and wilful as he was by nature, even while he pressed forward on the path of spiritual duty, he yet loyally bowed his back to the burden of necessity and carried his load with a stout heart. He not only helped, so far as he could, to support his mother and sisters, but he looked forward to the future with this objective always before his eyes.








Chapter 5

WHAT HE BELIEVED AT THIS TIME

1845

IT is time to examine the theology of this seventeen-year-old youth, the theology which had changed the direction of his life and laid a powerful and constraining hand upon the impulses of his passionate nature.

At its centre this theology remained the religion of his long life, without change or modification of any kind. In the radius of its circumference there were changes - changes making for a less partial outlook on human life, and producing greater tolerance and deeper kindness in the heart of the man; but the centre was constant and unshakable.

He had been guided, he tells us, largely without human intervention, almost entirely by the Spirit of God, to perceive that the very soul of the Christian Revelation - making it a religion altogether different from every other religion and every other philosophy under heaven - is the divine miracle of conversion. And by conversion he understood a totally changed attitude of soul. He himself had experienced this mystery, he himself had been the human means of producing it in other people; nothing in the world was of such certain and absolute reality to his brain and heart.

[A well-known psychologist has argued that conversions are known outside the Christian religion; but the conversion which makes Christianity different from every other religion is the conversion which results in a life of love to God and unbroken service to humanity, particularly to the humblest and the most sorrowful.]

He became at this time impatient of political agitation, abandoned altogether his sympathy with Chartism, regarded his previous pleasures and amusements as the mere follies of childhood; nothing was of moment now but the mystery of conversion. To the drunkard and the sensualist who were striving to fight against their sins, he said, "It is useless for you to struggle, the sin is stronger than you; nothing can come of your efforts except defeat and death; but, seek a change of heart, surrender yourself entirely to God, leave it to Him to overcome your temptations, and you will find victory is yours."

He saw that temptations which were overpoweringly seductive to natural man, which became invested with all the glamour and magic of a strong passion to souls conscious only of their bodies, and striving only with human strength to contend against them, became instantly reduced to the impotence of their true triviality in the eyes of a soul really and profoundly conscious of God and Eternity. Conversion with him was the divine focus revealing all thoughts and all things in their absolute perspective. If, by the power of Christ, he had been saved by this simple miracle of conversion, and if such a creature as Besom Jack had been saved by the same means, then surely here was medicine for all the ills of the whole world and the true path to everlasting salvation.

He held then, and held to the end of his days, that directly a soul is converted - that is to say, directly the spirit of a man looks upon earthly life with the sure and certain knowledge that a living God exists, and that by faith in Christ he is brought into harmony with that God - temptation loses its power and the soul is impelled towards holiness. Other theological doctrines, with which now we need not concern ourselves, flowed from this fixed centre of his life; but this centre, this immovable and absolute centre, was the heart and soul of his religious existence. How a man was to gain conversion - this carried him into the field of doctrine; but the dogma of his daily life, the conviction of his active soul, was the central and illuminating dogma of a New Birth.

In a sense this dogma was faithfully preached at Wesley Chapel, was indeed the very spirit of contemporary Methodism. But it was held formally and preached, if not coldly, at least without passion. Above all things it was preached mainly to the converted. Here was the secret of life, the Open Sesame of distracted and perishing mortality, hidden away in respectable chapels and kept as a treasure by those already rich with blessings. But, outside Wesley Chapel: far and wide under the smoke of a roaring God-scorning city, stretched the slums and warrens and rookeries of Nottingham; and there men were living in sin and infamy, women going down to hell in a legion, children perishing like flies. Was no one to tell these doomed multitudes that the way to everlasting felicity was plain and straight before them? Was no one to go out into the highways and byways? Was no one to go as a physician to those who had no physician? Clearly some one must go to them; he and his friends would go; and since time was short, since the issues were of such awful importance, he and his friends would stop at nothing to rouse these miserable poor people to the glorious news of salvation. They must be told before it was too late. And yet when he went to them, at the end of his hard day's work, he found them for the most part indifferent to his good news, largely inclined to make a mock of him, in some cases definitely disposed to obstruct and molest him.

It would seem that he did not scrutinize this apathy or examine this antagonism. He was too young in years, too impetuous in temperament, too absorbed in the truth of his doctrine for calm and dispassionate reflection. Social wrongs presented themselves to his eyes, but not pressingly to his political conscience. Many years were to pass over his head before he admitted the political question to his mind and transformed it into a religious question. For the present he was a preacher of conversion, those who heard him had the power either to decide for God or to decide for the Devil - his business was to declare the truth and leave the rest with heavenly Powers.

One perceives that if he had been more strictly, rigidly, and exactly honest with himself - the rarest virtue in the world, and among headlong and impulsive natures almost impossible - he would have realized that conversion had not solved even in his own life all its difficulties and all its heartbreaking obstructions. He was very poor, in spite of incessant toil; he was rendered irritable and impatient by the blank prospect which confronted him; he was often cast down and utterly dejected by the misery of his physical existence. Conversion had saved his soul and sent him out to save the souls of other people, but it had not eased the burden weighing on his shoulders, had not cleared the horizon of banked and minatory clouds, certainly had not as yet flooded his soul with the peace that passes understanding.

But the boy of seventeen, an age when seriousness is rare and introspection is almost unnatural, stopped on his path for none of these considerations. His soul was certain of the one mighty fact that a spiritual change of most wonderful and divine power is produced by conversion, and his burning nature, as well as an iron sense of duty, impelled him forward to declare this Gospel of God.

He believed in hell, as he believed in hell to the end of his life, but whether he deliberately and full-consciously believed that all those who heard him and rejected his message would perish everlastingly in undying flames we cannot determine. It would seem that he did not at this period of his life penetrate below the surface of dogmatic religion, or trouble himself with any of those dark and awful mysteries which his practical common sense would inform him are insoluble to human understanding. He believed in God, he believed in Satan; he believed in heaven, he believed in hell; he believed that Christ had died to save sinners, he believed that without conversion no sinner could be saved - and there his theology stopped. It was the theology of Wesley, Whitefield, and of George Fox. It was the theology of the newly-born evangelical school in the Anglican Church. It was also the theology of an impassioned boy, headstrong and wilful, who had his living to get and his soul to save from damnation. Not a whisper had found its way to his mind of a possible ascent of man through a long and blood-stained cycle of ages from a state of animalism to a condition of comparative civilization; no blinding realization of astronomical discovery had startled his soul into the conception of a universe so appallingly mechanical and so infinitely vast that the mind at first shrinks from it with physical dizziness and a kind of spiritual anguish. No discipline of literature had made him sceptical of historical records and suspicious of words too big for human experience. No large or general acquaintance with life had brought him into knowledge of disabilities of temperament, inhibitions of heredity, the fatigues of middle-age, the necessity for human happiness. No "calm and critical theology" had paralysed his soul with doubts that are a check to enthusiasm, with compromises that are death to self-sacrifice and zeal.

To this youth, slaving for a paltry wage, with the hopes of a gentleman's life abandoned, all promise of his childhood utterly dissipated from before his eyes, the problem of human existence was simple and emphatic. This earth occupied the central place in the stellar universe; man, created in perfection, had chosen sin and had rejected God; God, in His mercy. had visited and redeemed man; man had it in his power, every man, to accept or to disdain that redemption; everlasting happiness would be the lot of those who accepted, everlasting misery the lot of those who rejected, the Divine mercy. This was his theology, the theology of his particular Church, the theology of all the Churches, the absolute and indubitable theology of the whole of Christendom. But William Booth believed in it with all the honest passion of his soul, and believing it so passionately and realistically, how could he go through life hugging to his soul the certainty of his own salvation, careless of, indifferent to, the equal certainty of damnation for all those who did not believe? He was too honest a man for that, too genuine a realist for such self-deception.

But not yet had his soul seized the fulness of the faith that was in him. He was very much set upon improving his worldly prospects; he was perfectly content that the greater part of his life should be spent in earning money for his self-support; he was satisfied if he gave his brief leisure to this work for the Kingdom of God. He differed from the great majority of his fellow-believers chiefly in this respect, that so intense was his faith in the blessing and necessity of conversion, so fixed was his conviction that a man was "saved to save," that he used every moment of his leisure to extend the knowledge of this truth. And because of this "the leading men in the Church gave him plenty of caution," - afraid that he was "going too fast."








Chapter 6

OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY COUPLED WITH THE DETERMINATION TO ACHIEVE GREATNESS

1845-1848

WESLEY CHAPEL is a building typical of Victorian Methodism. A slight concession is made to architecture in the facade, which aims in stucco at a Grecian Ionic effect with fluted columns and a triangular pediment over the portico; but for the rest everything is severely ordered for useful service and downright hard work. No effort is made to lay a spell upon the senses with dim windows, branching pillars, timbered roof, and twilight aisles conducting to a holy of holies. Worshippers here are evidently expected to bring with them their own warmth and tenderness, their own passionate but invisible sense of beauty, their own mood of thanksgiving, aspiration, and worship.

Historians of the nineteenth century will probably pay some attention to this architecture of Nonconformity - this deliberate effort of the religious conscience to do without aids, this evident suspicion and dislike of beauty, this rather hard and insensible insistence on utility. What monuments exist more eloquent of the stern and pugnacious spirit which accompanied the middle classes of England from the ruins of aristocracy to the first foundations of democracy? More than a touch of the Puritan is in this early Victorian architecture of Nonconformity; one sees there, visible and proud, the firm, masterful trade-mark of a practical commercialism. Not only was a chapel intended to defy the pagan traditions of architecture, not only was there to be an entire absence of Popish ornamentation and sacramental imagery, but advantage was to be taken of every possible contrivance that bricks and mortar could give for the work of a businesslike and organized religious centre. A chapel was intended to be not only a place of worship but a place of business. It was no longer merely a humble and obscure dwellingplace for despised dissenters, but a prosperous and challenging headquarters of a conquering Church.

In some measure this spirit indicated a return to the middle ages, when churches were not kept locked and empty for six days and only dismally opened for a few lugubrious hours on the seventh, but when they were the scene of many astonishing festivities throughout the week. The Nonconformist rightfully regarded with horror the locked door of the State Church. He determined that his protesting chapel should be open from week-end to week-end, not for the wicked festivities of the dark ages, not for the vain repetition of ritual and liturgy, but for every possible function which would serve the religious life of the district.

In the case of Wesley Chapel - likely, on account of William Booth, to be a place of pilgrimage so long as it stands - one may see very perfectly this spirit of practical and business-like Nonconformity. The building is lofty and spacious, with wide galleries, a large central platform for the minister, a clear view from side to side, and no suggestion whatever of a sensuous purpose. Only behind the preacher's back are there any seats of obscurity - the free seats hidden away by the back entrance to which William Booth's ragged regiment was condemned in the late 'forties. But it is under the floor of the chapel, in the basement, that the spirit of the place most clearly communicates itself to the visitor. Here, in a rather bad light it is true, and with no very satisfactory supply of fresh air, are numerous class-rooms, vestries, offices, and minor halls for meetings, Sunday schools, and choir practices. One feels in going from room to room of this immense basement, penetrating gloomy corridors, opening endless doors, and passing up and down flights of stone stairs with iron banisters, that one is exploring some centre of local government - a town hall or a court of justice. It is all so entirely different from the crypt of a church, that one is not in the least surprised to see men with hats on their heads, or to hear loud voices and laughter. It impresses one with the sense of a spirit which is active, thorough, economical, and practical - a spirit which has no time for celebrating a victory or keeping a memorial, so eager is it to drill and marshal every soldier of religion for the battle of the present hour.

It was in this great cold barrack of a chapel that the soul of William Booth opened to religious influences. It was within these bare and chilling walls that he was first conscious of spiritual warmth, first felt his life kindled by the imagination of God. Untouched by the beauty of the Anglican liturgy, utterly unmoved by the innovations of the Puseyite clergyman of Sneinton Church, this dissatisfied and unruly youth, this excitable boy interested in Chartism, found himself quickened into new and most wonderful life under the whitewashed ceiling of a Methodist chapel, there discovered for the first time his possession of a soul. Something came to him in this chapel which had hitherto not come to him anywhere - neither in his home nor his church, neither in the crocus meadows of the Trent nor the stirring streets of Nottingham. And when the illumination came, the magic which transformed at the same moment his own inner life and the whole world surrounding him, he threw himself with a passionate ardour into the mechanic activities of this thriving chapel, became one of the workers, progressed till he was a street missionary, and finally found himself at the age of nineteen an accredited local preacher.

We have already seen in what manner he was converted; it is now our work to study the life of the eager boy as an orthodox and unquestioning Methodist. On the surface these years of his existence would seem the most dull and the least interesting, but in truth they are years of singular significance to the history of his life. For they witness, almost more than all the other changes in his career, to the principle of growth and development; they show us that William Booth grew gradually to be what he was, and that he was veritably forced into Salvationsim by the pressure of circumstances; they reveal to us that at the threshold of manhood William Booth was a disciplined and obedient member of an organized and earnest sect, a youth only different from other youths who attended this same Chapel in the capacity of his soul to grow, in the force and power of his character to increase its energies.

The minister of this chapel at that time was the Rev. Samuel Dunn, superintendent of the circuit, a man of some scholarship, autocratic, hard, obstinate, and incurably radical. He was destined to become one of the Reformers who rent the Wesleyan body in twain, one of the famous five ministers expelled from the Wesleyan Church on a question of its government. William Booth spoke always well of this man, saying that he was kind to him, encouraged him, helped him: but it was the kindness of a headmaster to a boy in the second form, the encouragement of a general to a private soldier, the help which a bishop may stoop to give to a sacristan or a Sunday School teacher; there was nothing of warmth and generosity in this kindness; it was always cold, formal, and aloof. Nevertheless, in the austerity of the minister, in his unbending rigidity, and his severe earnestness, the young William Booth saw something to honour and respect, something to which he could look up, and something of which he stood always in a little awe. And in the services of the chapel conducted by this austere minister, he got all the warmth, fire, and excitement that his soul desired.

There were Love Feasts on Sunday afternoons, when men spoke freely of their religious experiences; at night the great chapel, which held at that time eighteen hundred people, was filled chiefly with working-class members, and after this service there was a Prayer Meeting, free of all ritual and formality, at which men uttered their supplications with a fervour and a freedom unknown at the present time. Conversion was the central doctrine of the Methodists, and at the evening services sinners were invited to confess their sins, to elect then and there for God, and to prove the reality of their hunger after Divine mercy by coming inside the communion rails and there giving themselves up to Christ. The oratory of James Caughey had g