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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Chiswick resented the obligation thus laid upon him


indeed. Pynaston Hastings,

Warren Hastings's father, was, perhaps, as imbecile a man as ever yet was the means of bringing an illustrious son into the world. He seems to have been weak, foolish, shiftless, as {246} worthless as a man well could be who was not actually a criminal. He had married very young, before he was sixteen; his wife had died shortly after giving birth to Warren Hastings. Pynaston married again, entered the Church, when he was old enough to take holy orders, and drifted away into the West Indies into outer darkness and oblivion, leaving children entirely dependent upon the charity of relatives. That charity did not fail, though at first it could be but meagrely extended. Warren Hastings's grandfather was desperately poor. All he could do for his deserted grandchild was to place him at the charity school of the village. There, habited almost like a beggar, taught as a beggar, the companion of clowns and playfellow of rustics, the future peer of kings and ruler of rajahs, the coming pro-consul who was yet to make the state of England as imperial as the state of Rome, received his earliest lessons in the facts of life, and dreamed his earliest dreams. His were strange dreams. In sleep, says a Persian poet with whom young Hastings was afterwards doubtless acquainted, the beggar and the king are equal. If Warren Hastings slept as a beggar, he certainly dreamed as a king. We know, on his own statement, that when he was but a child of seven he cherished that wild ambition which
was to lead him through so many glories and so many crimes. We are familiar with the picture of the boy leaning over the stream on that summer day, and looking at the old dwelling of his race, and swearing to himself his oath of Hannibal that some day he would, if the stars were propitious, win back his inheritance.

[Sidenote: 1750--Warren Hastings's early life]

Somewhere about a year after this oath of Hannibal the fortunes of the lad took a turn for the better. An uncle, Howard Hastings, who had a place in the Customs, was willing to give a helping hand to the son of his graceless brother. He brought Warren Hastings to London. In London Warren Hastings was first sent to school at Newington, where his mind was better nourished than his body. In after life he used to declare that his meagre proportions and stunted form were due to the hard living of his Newington days. But the Newington days came to {247} an end. When he was some twelve years of age, his uncle sent him to Westminster School, where his name is still inscribed in letters of gold, and where his memory adds its lustre to the historic associations of a place that is richly blessed with historic associations. Warren Hastings distinguished himself in the great school of Westminster, as he had already distinguished himself in the little village school of Daylesford. With his oath of Hannibal burning in his mind, he seems to have determined to seek success in all that he attempted, and to gain it by his indomitable energy and will. If he was brilliant as a scholar, he was not, therefore, backward in those other arts which school-boys prize beyond scholarship. He was as famous on the river for his swimming and his boating as he was famous in the classroom for his application and his ability. His masters predicted for him a brilliant University career, and it is possible that Hastings may have seen Daylesford Manor awaiting him at the end of such a career, and have welcomed the prospect. But the life of Warren Hastings was not fated to pass in the cloistered greenness of a university or in the still air of delightful studies. Howard Hastings died and left his nephew to the care of a connection, a Mr. Chiswick, who happened to be a member of the East India Company. Perhaps Mr. Chiswick resented the obligation thus laid upon him; perhaps, as a member of the East India Company, he honestly believed that to enter its service was the proudest privilege that a young man could enjoy. Whatever were his reasons, he resolutely refused to sanction his charge's career at the university, insisted upon his being placed for a season at a commercial school to learn arithmetic and book-keeping, and then shipped him off out of hand to Bengal as an addition to the ranks of the Calcutta clerks. Thus it came to pass that Warren Hastings, like Clive, was sent to India by persons in England who were anxious to get rid of a troublesome charge. There were a good many persons in the years to come who were very ready to curse the obstinacy of the elder Clive and the asperity of Mr. Chiswick for sending two such terrible adventurers forth to {248} the great battle-field of India. The history of our Indian Empire would certainly have been a very different story if only Mr. Clive had been more attached to his ne'er-do-well son, and if only Mr. Chiswick had been better affected towards his industrious charge. In the January of 1750 Warren Hastings said farewell to his dreams of a scholar's garland in England and sailed for India. In the October of the same year he landed in Bengal and altered the history of the world.


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