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Here we reluctantly take leave of a work
which must become monumental in American


THERE is generally little to interest one in
field-preaching. When I see at a little distance
a dark patch of humanity congregated in a public
place, with one conspicuous white face in the
centre of the group and when I hear at a
distance the strained accents of a human voice,
I do not usually go out of my way to ascertain
what is going on ; but would even rather deviate
a little from my course to give the field-preacher
a wide berth. I know by this time pretty well
what I should see and hear if I joined that
group, and what I should see and hear would
give me more pain than pleasure.

After this avowal, it may seem strange when I
announce that, on a certain Sunday in the month
of April, I set off for Hyde Park, with the distinct
intention of attending the preachings which
are held there once every week, and of profiting
by the political spoutings of which that great
enclosure is the hebdomadal theatre.

The first thing I discerned on entering the
Park was what, at a considerable distance,
appeared to be a very little man standing upon
a bench and looking about him. Hastening in
the direction in which this phenomenon
presented itself, I found it to be a lad of about
sixteen or seventeen; little of his age, of a
weak and unwholesome appearance, with a scar
on his cheek that had caught his mouth up on
one side, and with an utterance so impaired that
what he said was at times scarcely intelligible.
This boywho wore spectacles, and who was
engaged in reading aloud from the Biblewas
accompanied by another lad of about his own
age, who stood beside him with a collection of
printed papers for distribution, and whose eye
worked restlessly about among the congregation;
which now began to assemble.

Of the doctrines put forth on this occasion, of
the manner in which they were illustrated and
enforced, there is no occasion to speak at length.
The usual evangelical opinions were advanced in
the usual phrases, which were repeated in
endless iteration. This young boy, too, would
speak of his experiences among sinners with the
authority of a confessor, and would repeat his
conversations with aged reprobates as if he had
been a minister of religion for a score of years.
He also alluded to the other boy who accompanied
him as "our friend, who would shortly
offer up a prayer."

Whilst I was listening to, and wondering at,
this new ministry of boys, another crowd had
assembled at a little distance round another
preacher. I left my post and set off to
this new point of attraction. Before I could
reach it, however, another man appeared on the
turf, with papers and books in his hands; and,
while I was debating whether or not to join
the crowd which was gathering round the bench
on which he had presently established himself,
another set of boys started up close by under a
tree, and began their service by singing a hymn. I
counted six or seven different boys, of ages varying
from twelve to seventeen years, employed in
this way at different times, and I must own that
there was an appearance of straining, of almost
epileptic excitement about their gestures and
bearing, which, coupled with the utterly
common-place phrases they were speaking, was
painful and distressing in the extreme. There was
nothing fresh, nothing new, no germ of ability
or promise about any one of them. All were
alike, and all, perhaps, had belonged to one
school, having been taught the same distressing
performance by the same master.

A strange scene. The place was alive with
these boy-preachers: the air as you passed along
echoed with their voices. So much so, that one
could hardly hear the vocal organ, though it was
loud enough, too, of the gentleman who drew the
greatest crowd of all, and who had chosen political
rather than religious themes to discourse upon.

This personagewho, by-the-by, had some
reason, judging by the condition of his wearing
apparel, to disapprove of the state of things in
generalwas certainly very difficult to please,
but he was, as is sometimes the case with his
fraternity, much more skilful in making objections
than in finding remedies. Blest with
an extremely powerful voice, this gentleman
began, as soon as he had mounted his bench,
to call attention to the fact that that
particular bench was not his bench, not the
rostrum from which he ordinarily delivered his
addresses. " I see," said he, " that my friend the
preacher yonder, whoever he is, has been
beforehand with me, and has got my place. Well,
you see, I don't dispute it with him, I take
another bench, and it does as well. That's
philosophy, that is. If there was more of that in
the world, there wouldn't be quite so much
fighting as there is. Now, while my audience
is getting together, I shall just read a poem or
two, and then I shall go on with my usual
course of lectures."

He was a short, thick-set man, in a very
seedy brown great-coat of the loose kind, and
cut so short that the tails of some garment
worn underneath it showed conspicuously
enough. Underneath his hat his hair
descended in immense quantities, and was twisted
into a sort of ringlet behind each ear. His
beard was reddish, and somewhat mangy; his
eyes, singularly small and dark, were sunk far
back into his head, but were full of an
excessive vitality and fire of energy. His reading
was of the mouthing order, and the poem, which,
as far as one could listen to it, seemed to be of
the old radical type, was interspersed by
remarks from the orator himself, who would say,
in the middle of some sublime denunciation of
the author against those who

"Starve the mechanic that the cur may dine,

that is to say, they'll take jolly good care of
their lapdogs, and their horses, and their poll-
parrots, and let the peoplethe masses, the
vulgar herd, as they call themwant the necessaries