Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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54                 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
neighbourhood of Tunbridge Wells very recently. One of the best known of his craft was a man of the name of Saunders, of Heathfield, who died about fifty years ago. He was a respectable man and at one time in easy circumstances; but he neglected all earthly concerns for astrological pursuits, and, it is said, died in a workhouse."
Of the credulity of Walter Gale we find many instances, amongst them the following:—
" May loth, 1758. Received a testimony of a death in our family within a twelvemonth, and, by the appearance of it, I suppose it to be myself."
"April roth, 1759. My mother, to my great unhappiness, died in the 83rd year of her age, agreeable to the testimony I had of a death in our family on the 10th of May last."
What strikes one in the diary of the Mayfield school­master is the almost total absence of any reference to his school or scholars. He engages in a multiplicity of tasks— from the drawing of quilts—that is, the patterns of them— to the drawing of wills; he measures land, engraves tomb­stones, paints public-house signs, designs ladies' needlework, &c, &c; but as to the 21 scholars whom he undertakes to teach to read, write, and keep accounts we hear very little; and that little is not of a very edifying character. Like Falstaff with his ragged soldiers, Walter Gale would not " march through Coventry " with them:—
" 26th. Old Kent came, and I went with him to Mr. Baker; they said they should have a ragged congregation of scholars, who should sit together in the new gallery, and that they should insist on my sitting with them; to this I did not assent."
The very first reference to school duties,—" began my school at noon," followed by, " I waited on Miss Annie Baker, of whom I received a neckerchief to draw,"—shows the " divided duties " that occupied Mr. Walter Gale's time and talent. He could not, indeed, live on the miserable stipend allotted to him as schoolmaster of the free school of Mayfield, and had to eke out a revenue by other means, one of which (and it was permitted by the Trustees of the school) was to " enter on the assistant hop business at Rotherfield."
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