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MY father lived in an old cathedral city,
where he gained his livelihood as a carver in
wood. He brought me up to his business, as
his father had done with him; indeed, I
believe our family had been wood-carvers for
ages. He took some pride in his calling, and
did not consider that he worked for bread
only. He was a quiet, thoughtful man; fond
of antiquarian lore. He knew the history of
every corner of that solemn old city. We had
plenty of employment, and were well known
for skilful workmen. We worked, once, in
one of the antique churches, for months
together; cutting out wreaths, and heads of
angels; for which purpose an eccentric old
gentleman had bequeathed some money to
the churchwardens. While at work, my
father would talk to me of the dignity of our
art, until I was deeply convinced that mine
was the noblest calling upon earth. I
recollect, once, carving out what I thought a
sweet expressive face; and coming into the
church afterwards when the sun was lower,
and a long ray of light, purpled with the
stained glass window, fell upon it. I
remember, even now, my sensation at that
moment. It was not vanity, but a feeling
of delight, nearly of superstitious admiration.
I was almost a young idolator. I could have
knelt down and reverenced the work of my
own hands.

As I grew older, however, and found that
others were far from giving that importance
to our business, to which I had been taught
to believe that it was entitled, I became less
enthusiastic for it. I read of men who had
devoted their lives to painting, and sculpture;
and had died and left behind them immortal
names. So high had my father's discourses
raised my ambition, that I thought it was
only for want of a different sphere of action
that I spent my days in obscurity. I indulged
such dreams for a long time in silence, for
I knew it would have grieved my father
had I said a word against his art; but,
at length, I thought that I might, without
offending him, attempt to carve some images
in stone; for the sculptor's and the wood-
carver's art are near akin. So I procured
tools, and began to cut shapes in stone, without
a master or any theory to guide me. At
first, I carved wreaths and other simple
ornamentsgradually advancing, I attempted
human faces. This was a happy period of my
life. In the summer afternoons, when we
were not busy, I used to work upon these
things in the garden at the back of our house.
It was a large piece of ground, half garden,
half orchard; though it had no large trees.
It was, however, filled with fruits and flowers.
Next to us were the grounds of some ancient
almshouses, and the wall that separated us
was composed of flints and pieces of stone,
that crumbled at a touch. On our side this
was covered with peaches, ripening in the
mellow afternoon sun; and against it, on a
board with tressels, stood several large
beehives, of plaited straw. Sitting here, quietly
alone, in fine weather, was enough to make a
man idle; but I followed my new employment
with increasing industry.

In this way I carved a number of objects,
always destroying them as soon as I had done,
being satisfied with the improvement which
I had derived from the work, and not wishing
my rude, first efforts to be seen. Hour by
hour, and day by day, I strove to trace some
image that floated in my mind. Then, looking
afterwards upon my work, I saw how I had
fallen short of my ideal; and sometimes I
grew weary of my task, for awhile, till I took
my tools again; and, hoping for the time
when greater skill should crown my efforts,
I renewed my toil. I had no models. I
chiselled out, from memory, sometimes, the
faces of great men of by-gone times, whose
portraits I had seen in books or plaster casts.
When I had finished, I left my work until the
next day. Then I stole down into the garden,
and, after an attentive look and farewell of
the task that had cost me many hours of
labour, I took an iron hammer in my hand
and shattered it to pieces. For several years
I did this, and still I had not gained the
power I coveted. The long hours of toil and
the continual failure fretted my spirits. They
only knowthe patient worshippers of Art
how slow and wearisome are all the steps by
which her temples are approached! Who shall
say how many, holding in their hands divinest
gifts, have fallen and fainted by the way!

There fell no shadow across our household
in those days. Our daily life was peaceful
and secluded. Our house was situate in a