Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

Childhood and Boyhood   63

Francis was the last child in a family of nine, of which two sisters, Agnes and Violetta, died as infants. The youngest of his four surviving sisters was eleven years older than Francis, and his brothers, Darwin and Erasmus, were respectively eight and six years his seniors, and thus too different in age to be very companionable. Francis had therefore all the temporary disadvantages which arise from being the late and somewhat solitary member of a large family. But these disadvantages often result in permanent advantages, if a child be of marked character. It is thrown on the one hand more. on its own resources for amusement, and on the other hand may receive special attention from parents and elders.

"On the 16th February,"-writes Mrs Wheler [Elizabeth Anne Galton] in her Reminiscences,-" my youngest brother Francis was born, he was 6 years younger than the youngest of us and never was a baby more welcomed. He was the pet of us all, and

my mother was obliged to hang up her watch, that each sister might nurse the child for a quarter of an hour and then give him up to the next. He was a great amusement to Adele and as soon as he could sit up, at five or six months old, he always preferred

sitting on her couch to be amused by her. She taught him his letters in play and he could point to them all before he could speak. Adele had a wonderful power of teaching and gaining attention without fatiguing. She taught herself Latin and Greek, that she

might teach him. She never made him learn by heart, but made him read his lesson bit by bit, eight times over, when he then could say it. He could repeat much of Scott's Marmion, and understood it well by the time he was five." [MS. Reminiscences.]

For early training and companionship-her room was his nursery -Francis depended largely on this invalid sister Adele, afterwards Mrs Bunbury. From the couch to which she was confined by weakness of the spine, she directed his early studies, and, whatever might be thought of her methods now, she undoubtedly encouraged both Francis' literary and scientific tastes.

In a little history (see Plates XXXIX and XL) of her son Francis, Violetta Galton gives numerous instances of his literary aptness. Thus at the dame's school to which he went when five years old one of his schoolfellows was writing to his mother at Madeira, as he had just heard that his father was in danger of being shot on account of Don Miguel's usurpation.   What shall I say to my mother about my

next morning, such a red little thing-and how we all loved you, and then how we used to quarrel for the honour of holding you in our arms, etc. But to return to seculars...." (Letter of Adele Bunbury, Feb. 23, 1864.) Mr Hodgson was sixteen years later the helpful friend who assisted Francis Galton at the start of his medical studies.


Previous Index Next