Project Canterbury

A Tractarian at Work: A Memoir of Dean Randall

By J. F. Briscoe and H. F. B. Mackay

London: Mowbray, [1932]

Chapter I. Family and Early Days

DEAN Randall's family had been originally settled in Sussex. Thence they passed into Hampshire, and his great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Randall, lies in the churchyard of East Meon near Petersfield, where he was buried in 1705; of this ancestor Mr. James Randall, the Dean's father, was the sole existing descendant in the male line.

Mr. James Randall was born at St. Cross near Winchester in 1790. His father got him a nomination at Winchester, and he became a devoted and distinguished Wykehamist. Dr. Goddard, the head master, had a high opinion of Randall's abilities. When he was provoked by the slowness of boys who were construing to him he was in the habit of saying,' Randall, go on, I can't stand this fellow.'

James Randall got a scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford. He took a First in Greats and was elected a Fellow of Trinity. For some time after taking his degree he was an assistant master at Rugby under Dr. Bull, and had Thomas Vowler Short, afterwards the well-known Bishop of St. Asaph, for a colleague. He left Rugby to read for the Bar, and preparatory to being called, went into the office of Mr. Sykes, a solicitor. Here he met a group of young men who became his friends for life, among them Mr. Patteson--afterwards Mr. Justice Patteson--father of the martyred Bishop of Melanesia; Mr. Coleridge, afterwards Lord Chief Justice; and Mr. Thesiger, afterwards Lord Chelmsford and Lord Chancellor.

In 1821 Mr. James Randall married Rebe, only daughter of Mr. Richard Lowndes, who lived at Rose Hill, Dorking. Mr. Lowndes was a solicitor and also marshal to his friend, Chief Baron Mac-donald. The office of marshal was held for life in those days, and carried considerable emolument with it. The Lowndes are a Buckinghamshire family; their property was developed in Queen Anne's reign by the Secretary of the Treasury who was known by the nickname of ' Ways and Means ' Lowndes. This opulent official had three wives, and his three groups of heirs held three estates in the county, Chesham, Astwood, and Winslow, where the beautiful Jacobean Hall is now in the possession of the MacCorquodale family.

On her mother's side Mrs. James Randall was a Brougham, a second cousin of the celebrated Lord Brougham. She had two brothers; the elder, Mr. Loftus Lowndes, became a King's Counsel and was a shareholder of Covent Garden Theatre. At his house the Kendalls and other interesting people of the dramatic and literary world were to be met. The younger brother, Mr. Henry Dalston Lowndes, married and died early, and his children, Layton and Sarah, were brought up with Mr. James Randall's family.

About ten years after his marriage, Mr. James Randall gave up the Bar, where his prospects must have been excellent, and took Holy Orders. He was ordained at Farnham by Bishop Sumner of Winchester to the curacy of Wootton, the home of the Evelyns. He had been living at Dorking near his wife's parents before his ordination, and here he continued to live until in 1831 Lord Brougham presented him to the Rectory of Binfield in Berkshire. To Mr. James Randall and his children Binfield became a greatly loved home; it was the headquarters of an unusually large and very affectionate family circle.

Richard William Randall was the second of his parents' six children. He was born in London, in Bloomsbury Square, on the I3th of April, 1824. About the time that his family moved to Binfield in 1831, Richard Randall and his cousin, Layton Lowndes, became the pupils of Mr. Jones, a clergyman who kept a preparatory school at Wandsworth, where they remained for six years. Mr. Randall always spoke with affection and gratitude of his first master; and Mr. Jones, writing in 1845 to congratulate Randall on having taken his degree at Oxford, says: 'There are few in whom I take so much interest as in my present correspondent, for he was one of my first pupils and one that was never guilty of a dishonourable action while in my house.'

The little boy kept a Journal during part of these early school days. It begins abruptly at the approach of Michaelmas, 1835:

Friday 25th. On this day Mr. Jones said that for a treat we should have some geese for dinner at six o'clock. We went at six o'clock and sat. It was a long time before the dinner was served up but when it was it did not remain long on ths table, but was quickly demolished. We had five geese and an apple pudding. After dinner we had many toasts which were the following: Mr. Jones', Mr. Cole's, Mr. Johnson's, Mr. Chapman's, Mr. Watney's, Mr. Sale's, and Mr. Randall's. For the last I returned thanks with the following speech. Gentlemen, I feel myself highly gratified by the kind and enthusiastic manner in which you have just now drunk my father's health, and I hope that I may many times hear it drunk with so much applause. I will finish with proposing the health of all my school fellows. Shortly after we went to bed.

I felt so so.

On Tuesday, October 27th, a more serious vein appears in Richard's diary. 'Found out that I stood a chance of being what I truly wish. Mean to perform my duty.' The following Sunday was All Saints' Day. And on All Saints' Day he writes some pathetic childish words about his prayers: 'The following thoughts came into my head on the sabbath. "This day I shall approach my God. Oh, may I pray in earnest, may I not move my lips to my God while my heart is far from him." ' His mother's birthday is near, he buys her a beautiful card case and writes some quaint, loving words about her in the Journal. Mr. Cole prepares a Latin inscription for the card case and Mr. Jones undertakes the care of it. Richard reflects upon his love for his brother and makes a resolution to be kinder to his cousins. It is no doubt a healthy fact that about the same time he did not do his French exercise and dined off bread and salt.

Letters from home in those days were worth getting, and some of the rough grey quarto sheets covered with Mr. James Randall's admirable handwriting are still preserved. The earliest of these is dated 1833.

His father gives 'my dear little Richard' all the family news, and ends as few fathers end their letters to their little sons to-day:

God bless you, my dearest little Boy. Give our love to Layton and remember both of you that it is our constant wish and Prayer that you may be good Boys; not only good in your Learning, but also good tempered and kind to one another and to all you have to do with; and that you may speak the Truth, and be honest and sincere and honourable in all your Dealings; remembering that God always sees you, and that he takes Pleasure in perceiving that little Boys think of him and mind his Commandments, and that if they do so he will bless them and make them happy both in this world and the next; which I hope he will do for you.

The next letter, dated October 25, 1834, comes from France. Mr. Randall had been suffering from an affection of the throat, and a course of shower baths at Boulogne, a curious remedy, had been prescribed.

'My dear little Richie,' the letter begins, 'I write you this letter because I think it will please you to have a letter from France; and I was so much pleased with Mr. Jones' last letter about you, that I am glad to do anything to please you in Return. He said that you had been very diligent, and that he had no Doubt but that when the Holidays came, we should find that you had made a very considerable Progress. It is some weeks since he wrote this account of you: and I hope you have gone on since in such a Way as to keep up your good Character.'

Mr. Randall then describes the evils of a stormy Channel passage in 1834 with great force and minuteness, and proceeds:

Then we had about 22 miles to travel from Calais to this Place; and as we wanted to get here before dark, we set out directly, without waiting for any Dinner; which was a severe Trial: . . . but we were not quite so badly off as you might imagine; for Mrs. Greene had packed us up a famous Box of Provisions before we left home and there was still enough of it left notwithstanding the Consumption that had taken Place during the previous Journey, to provide us with a plentiful meal, which we ate as we went along in the carriage.

After contrasting the carriage to its advantage with an English post-chaise, Mr. Randall describes the driver:

The Carriage was driven by a Man in a blue round Frock. He had a little dog with a Collar and Bells that sat by him on the coach box, and barked and jingled his Bells every Step of the Way.

Mr. Randall continues:

France, my Son Richie, is a queer sort of Place as to travelling Arrangements in general. People who travel Post in their own carriages are not at Liberty to have 2 or 4 Horses as they like, as we do in England; but they are obliged by Law to take a certain Number of Horses, according to the Number of Persons. The most usual Number of Horses to a Post Chariot such as ours at home, is three; and they are all harnessed abreast, and the Postillion rides upon the outside Horse on the left Hand; which to our English Eyes looks very droll: as do a great many other Things that we see here.

The family spent about a month at Boulogne, and while Mr. Randall pursued his cure, Richard's sister and cousin were busily improving their French and at the moment of writing had gone to the Dancing Academy.

Two more letters of the Wandsworth period survive. They were written in May, 1836, on the occasion of the death of his school companion, Charles Johnson. Richard Randall had brought his little brother James back to school after Easter. Charles Johnson and little Jim Randall sickened almost immediately, and Johnson died. Richard was moved to the depths of his being by this, and he wrote what was evidently a very pathetic letter to his mother. It brought letters to him from his grandfather and father.

Mr. Richard Lowndes begs his grandson to take great care of the valuable letter his father has written him and to lock it up most safely, to read it frequently, to impress it on his memory and govern himself by the excellent advice it contains.

'Do that and you will obtain a great Treasure.' 'I was also permitted,' the letter continues, 'to read your very pretty letter to your Mama, and it gave me very great Pleasure. You may thank God every Day of your Life for having given you such Parents who are watching over you with the most anxious Care both for your present and your future welfare. And next to what they advise and wish you to do, mind what Mr. Jones says, for I believe him to be a sincere Friend to the Boys placed under his care.

'I have not heard whether your wish for a Lock of Hair has been complied with but I hope it will be in Mr. Johnson's Power to preserve some for you. And if he can, it will be taken Care of for you.

'Nothing gives me greater Pleasure than to know that all my dear Grand-children are proceeding in the Way they should go, for Job tells us that when they are old they will not depart from it.

I am,

My dear Richard, Your very affectionate and gratified Grand Father,


Mr. James Randall had written as follows:

6 May, 1836.


I have seen your letter to your Mamma about poor little C. Johnson's Death: and I read it with great Pleasure, as a Manifestation of warm and affectionate Feeling. This, my little Man, is the first instance that has occurred to you of the loss of a Friend of your own Age. As you grow up, you will have to suffer many such; and I pray God to give you Grace to profit by them all, as Warnings to prepare for the great Step which you must yourself, in an Hour of which you are not aware, be called upon to take. Charles has been taken away early; perhaps to remove him out of the way of some Temptation which God foresaw would be too strong for him. You, formerly, and I hope I may say our dear little Jim now, have been carried safely through the same Disorder. I gratefully accept the Deliverance, as an Earnest on God's Part, that he who has thus preserved you, will hereafter uphold you, and not suffer you to fall, if you faithfully seek to him for Help and Guidance. May he give you the Will and Mind to love Him, trust in him, pray to him, and obey him. Without him we can do nothing. Young and old alike we are frail, and by Nature prone to Evil. But his Grace is sufficient for us; and he will not withhold it from those who seek it, as I do continually for you, and hope you will continually for yourself, in the Name of and for the Sake of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The Sadness occasioned by the melancholy event which has just happened will soon pass away. Such Feelings are not, and it is not fit that they should be, very durable in the Minds of Youth: but I hope the religious impression may continue for ever in your Heart: and that Jim, as far as his tender Age will permit, may feel it too. We may almost literally apply to him and your deceased Companion the Words of our Lord, 'Two men shall be in one Bed, the one shall be taken and the other left,' and God grant that both you and he may profit by the Inference: 'Watch therefore for ye know not what Hour your Lord doth come.'

To his Blessing, my dear children, I commend you both; with my Thanks for your Preservation hitherto, and my Prayers that your Names may still be written in the Book, not of this Life only, but also of Life eternal.

Your affectionate Father,

A letter at the beginning of 1836 looks forward to the Winchester period which is approaching. Richard is advised to take pains with his Horace and to pay great attention to 'all the Ladies and Gentlemen, whether celestial, terrestrial, or infernal' who are mentioned in his lessons. The importance of Themes is insisted on, and of attention to the derivations of Greek words. Mr. Randall promises the boy that he shall enjoy his glimpse of the Winchester world when he is taken there at election-time, and relieves his letter with a concluding picture seen through his study window, of Sambo and the frisky pony who are giving ' a grand Display of Feats of Agility while the other Pony looks on as grave as a steady old gentleman at a Ball.' The letter continues: 'We have had two Sundays of catechizing the children in the church: they have answered very well hitherto.'

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