Letters from Mrs Elliott

Extracts from the letters incorporated into the text of Singleton’s diary for 19th December 1848

In a letter dated the 1st October Mrs Elliott writes thus:

‘It is to the wonderful influence you have gained over our dear boy that we owe his change of character. When I so earnestly entreated you to receive him at our first interview, (‘my reluctance arose from his age.’ Singleton) I knew the elements of good that were in him, but I also knew that, without the training and culture of wise discipline, the weeds must choke the flowers. From all that I heard I believed that such discipline and such culture he would receive from you, and I thank God that it is as I believed. Now you will smile, but I must guard him from idolatry, – he must not do right because he loves you, but because he loves God.’

Though the principle, which Mrs Elliott here lays down, is undoubtedly true, – yet some caution must be used in the application of it. To the very young the idea of God is scarcely more than an abstraction. Love can scarcely be elicited except through something visible; and so parents are to children, for a time, almost in the place of God. As they grow up ideas will expand, and by proper direction the affections will enlarge too, and be attracted to their true centre, and by degrees be riveted there. I am for ever pressing upon the elder boys that there is but one motive which can always keep them right, – the love of Christ, and that their Saviour is the only being who deserves their whole heart, – that in Him alone is abiding happiness.

Elliot, to be sure, is quite old enough to understand all this, and to have it impressed upon him, – but even in his case, one must not expect too much, nor too rigidly press a truth, which, by his not being quite prepared for it, might have a tendency to chill him a little. Please, God, he will come to it by and bye, but the corks must not be too abruptly removed from the swimmer, or he may struggle and sink. But to go on with the letter…

‘I will send you an extract from one of his letters, dated the 19th September. “You asked me in your letter whether I was improving in character. That is a thing which I cannot tell, but I know that I have felt happier lately than I have for some time, for I think the dear Warden is beginning to like me, (‘this is quite true; I did not like him before, for he was sulky, mischievous, and a bully.’ Singleton) and you know that I would rather gain his love than that of any other person I know, except my own family.”’

I had letters from him this vacation to say that his friends were quite willing to give up the idea of his going into the Indian Navy, since he had an elder brother who would take his place. Now, he never wished to go, and rather gave a passive consent, not liking to refuse altogether. I never liked the idea in the least, and so I was heartily rejoiced to hear this. He quite rejoices at the prospect of returning to Radley for a little time longer. They talk of a merchant’s or solicitor’s desk for him; anything better than the sea.

Gilbert Stanley Elliot left the school in 1849, the first boy to leave Radley, at the age of sixteen. He did enter the Indian Navy in 1849, and left within a year or two to attend Brasenose College, Oxford, 1851-2. He emigrated to Australia, where he became a station owner in New South Wales. He married Catherine Robinson in 1868. He was killed in a carriage accident at Young, NSW, on 10th February, 1874.