MARRIAGE: ILL-HEALTH; WEST-INDIES.
Sterling's outlooks and occupations, now that his Spanish friends were
gone, must have been of a rather miscellaneous confused description.
He had the enterprise of a married life close before him; and as yet
no profession, no fixed pursuit whatever. His health was already very
threatening; often such as to disable him from present activity, and
occasion the gravest apprehensions; practically blocking up all
important courses whatsoever, and rendering the future, if even life
were lengthened and he had any future, an insolubility for him.
Parliament was shut, public life was shut: Literature,--if, alas, any
solid fruit could lie in literature!
Or perhaps one's health would mend, after all; and many things be
better than was hoped! Sterling was not of a despondent temper, or
given in any measure to lie down and indolently moan: I fancy he
walked briskly enough into this tempestuous-looking future; not
heeding too much its thunderous aspects; doing swiftly, for the day,
what his hand found to do. _Arthur Coningsby_, I suppose, lay on the
anvil at present; visits to Coleridge were now again more possible;
grand news from Torrijos might be looked for, though only small yet
came:--nay here, in the hot July, is France, at least, all thrown into
volcano again! Here are the miraculous Three Days; heralding, in
thunder, great things to Torrijos and others; filling with babblement
and vaticination the mouths and hearts of all democratic men.
So rolled along, in tumult of chaotic remembrance and uncertain hope,
in manifold emotion, and the confused struggle (for Sterling as for
the world) to extricate the New from the falling ruins of the Old, the
summer and autumn of 1830. From Gibraltar and Torrijos the tidings
were vague, unimportant and discouraging: attempt on Cadiz, attempt
on the lines of St. Roch, those attempts, or rather resolutions to
attempt, had died in the birth, or almost before it. Men blamed
Torrijos, little knowing his impediments. Boyd was still patient at
his post: others of the young English (on the strength of the
subscribed moneys) were said to be thinking of tours,--perhaps in the
Sierra Morena and neighboring Quixote regions. From that Torrijos
enterprise it did not seem that anything considerable would come.
On the edge of winter, here at home, Sterling was married: "at
Christchurch, Marylebone, 2d November, 1830," say the records. His
blooming, kindly and true-hearted Wife had not much money, nor had he
as yet any: but friends on both sides were bountiful and hopeful; had
made up, for the young couple, the foundations of a modestly effective
household; and in the future there lay more substantial prospects. On
the finance side Sterling never had anything to suffer. His Wife,
though somewhat languid, and of indolent humor, was a graceful,
pious-minded, honorable and affectionate woman; she could not much
support him in the ever-shifting struggles of his life, but she
faithfully attended him in them, and loyally marched by his side
through the changes and nomadic pilgrimings, of which many were
appointed him in his short course.
Unhappily a few weeks after his marriage, and before any household was
yet set up, he fell dangerously ill; worse in health than he had ever
yet been: so many agitations crowded into the last few months had
been too much for him. He fell into dangerous pulmonary illness, sank
ever deeper; lay for many weeks in his Father's house utterly
prostrate, his young Wife and his Mother watching over him; friends,
sparingly admitted, long despairing of his life. All prospects in
this world were now apparently shut upon him.
After a while, came hope again, and kindlier symptoms: but the
doctors intimated that there lay consumption in the question, and that
perfect recovery was not to be looked for. For weeks he had been
confined to bed; it was several months before he could leave his
sick-room, where the visits of a few friends had much cheered him.
And now when delivered, readmitted to the air of day again,--weak as
he was, and with such a liability still lurking in him,--what his
young partner and he were to do, or whitherward to turn for a good
course of life, was by no means too apparent.
One of his Mother Mrs. Edward Sterling's Uncles, a Coningham from
Derry, had, in the course of his industrious and adventurous life,
realized large property in the West Indies,--a valuable Sugar-estate,
with its equipments, in the Island of St. Vincent;--from which Mrs.
Sterling and her family were now, and had been for some years before
her Uncle's decease, deriving important benefits. I have heard, it
was then worth some ten thousand pounds a year to the parties
interested. Anthony Sterling, John, and another a cousin of theirs
were ultimately to be heirs, in equal proportions. The old gentleman,
always kind to his kindred, and a brave and solid man though somewhat
abrupt in his ways, had lately died; leaving a settlement to this
effect, not without some intricacies, and almost caprices, in the
This property, which is still a valuable one, was Sterling's chief
pecuniary outlook for the distant future. Of course it well deserved
taking care of; and if the eye of the master were upon it, of course
too (according to the adage) the cattle would fatten better. As the
warm climate was favorable to pulmonary complaints, and Sterling's
occupations were so shattered to pieces and his outlooks here so waste
and vague, why should not he undertake this duty for himself and
It was fixed upon as the eligiblest course. A visit to St. Vincent,
perhaps a permanent residence there: he went into the project with
his customary impetuosity; his young Wife cheerfully consenting, and
all manner of new hopes clustering round it. There are the rich
tropical sceneries, the romance of the torrid zone with its new skies
and seas and lands; there are Blacks, and the Slavery question to be
investigated: there are the bronzed Whites and Yellows, and their
strange new way of life: by all means let us go and
try!--Arrangements being completed, so soon as his strength had
sufficiently recovered, and the harsh spring winds had sufficiently
abated, Sterling with his small household set sail for St. Vincent;
and arrived without accident. His first child, a son Edward, now
living and grown to manhood, was born there, "at Brighton in the
Island of St. Vincent," in the fall of that year 1831.
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