Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Self-Educated Sussex Men.               137
from the middle classes, and one, like De Foe, was a draper —the other, like Stowe, a tailor; but in most other respects they were as different as men could well be whose tastes lay in the same direction—Literature—and who drew everything from their own resources.
George Richardson had an intellect that was fitted to go in harness—to be trained and cultivated up to a very high point; to submit to the severest discipline. If it had been his lot to be born in Germany he would have been a renowned Professor, and even if educated at Oxford or Cambridge he must have risen to high fame as a scholar. He had a prodigious memory and an aptitude for acquiring knowledge that has seldom, I believe, been surpassed in this country. With an education such as country tradesmen's sons received 60 or 70 years ago—that is, in the three "r's"—reading, writing and arithmetic—and by his unaided efforts, he acquired a knowledge of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and then, passing on to modern languages, he mastered French, German, and Italian, not only so as to read, but to speak them with ease and elegance. This, remember, was at a time when the Continent was closed to Englishmen—when the language of Germany was almost unknown to the English people, and when its literature was only beginning to be recognised in Europe. Richardson assisted to make its claims known by translating the poems of Korner and Schiller and other German poets. How he came to speak as well as to know the language, and also French and Italian—I think, too, Spanish—I know not—or rather I do know a little; it was by his indomitable courage and perseverance. Not a wandering native of Faderland or of Gaul or Italy came across his path —were it a Bavarian broom-girl or an organ-man or a Savoyard— but Richardson would accost him or her—and bring his book-knowledge to the test of proof. He did not know what shame-facedness was in the acquisition of a language. He " aired" his French and German on all ' occasions, in season and out of season, never forgetting a
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