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George Burns, His Times and Friends
Chapter XVII. Some Notable Friendships


When Mr. Burns was living at Kirn, near Dunoon, some years before liis retirement, he was introduced by the Hon. Arthur Ivinnaird to Captain Trotter and his family, who were at that time making a prolonged stay in Scotland. Captain Trotter was a remarkable man in his day, and his influence lives in the lives of many to whom he was made the means of great spiritual benefit. George Burns found in him at once a man after his own heart, and thenceforth they were fast friends till death separated them.

Captain Trotter was thirteen years younger than Mr. Burns, having been born in 1808. He was educated at Harrow, and in 1825, at the age of seventeen, entered the 2nd Life Guards, and obtained his troop in 1830. In 1833 he married the Hon. Charlotte Amelia Liddell, the daughter of the first Baron Ravensworth, and left the Guards three years afterwards.

He was a young man of great energy and activity, an adept in the art of skating, a lover of dancing and of the society in which that amusement was most cultivated; and withal a man of peculiar susceptibility and deep affection.

In a short biographical notice of him by the late Rev. William Pennefather of Mildmay, it is stated that in a memorandum-book which Captain Trotter kept there was found the following entry:

"Converted at Paris, by God’s grace. Feb. 24, 1839.”

One day Mr. Burns said to the present writer :—

Did I ever tell you the story of Captain Trotter’s conversion? it is very remarkable. His sister was married to Sir Henry Lindsey Betliune, who was Plenipotentiary to the Court of Persia at Teheran, and whose son subsequently became ninth Earl of Lindsey. Lady Bethune, during her husband’s absence, had gone to Paris, and while there was brought under very deep religious convictions. When Trotter heard of it, he said to his wife, ‘I must go to Paris to look after my sister.’ His wife replied, ‘You need not try to do anything to change her views; she is like the Methodists, you can make no impression on her in the way you wish.’ However, Trotter was not to be dissuaded, and he urged as a reason why he should endeavour to rescue her from the associations by which she was surrounded, ‘I owe it as a duty to Betliune.’ Captain Trotter went to Paris, and he was so far successful in his mission that Lady Bethune agreed to return with him to England. She only asked one favour, which was that he would remain over the ensuing Sunday, in order that she might once more hear Mr. Lovatt—the Chaplain of the English Church in the Rue Marbceuf, to whose ministrations her change of Hews was attributable. Trotter went with her, and there and then he was so much impressed with what he heard, that he said to his sister, "I stayed over the Sunday and went to church to please you, and now I have to ask that you will remain over next Sunday and take me to church this time to please me.’ They went, and Trotter was again deeply stirred in his spirit. After the sermon he went into the vestry, and introducing himself to Mr. Lovatt said, ‘I come to you as an Englishman, to tell you my feelings and to ask your advice.’ He opened his heart fully, and ended by saying, ‘Am I mad, or if not, what is the meaning of all this disturbance in my mind? ’ Lovatt dealt wisely with him, and it ended in both Captain Trotter and his wife becoming truly converted people.

When he returned home, preparations were in progress for a grand ball to be given in his house at Dyrham Park, Barnet, to which lie had made some additions, but instead of the ball a meeting was held for the advancement of home missionary work.

Dyrham Park soon became a centre of Christian influence and activity. His first systematic labours were for the poor of his own neighbourhood; that same year he became Chairman of the Board of Guardians at Barnet, an office he retained till the end of his life; and the religious institutions in which he first took an active public interest were the “Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews,” and the “Irish Church Missions.”

He soon began meetings in Soho Square for the study of the Scriptures, which were attended by many gentlemen of his acquaintance, who derived much spiritual benefit; while, in the summer months, he instituted a similar kind of meeting for the farmers on his estate.

Few men ever possessed in a greater degree the art of speaking naturally upon the deepest spiritual themes; he could talk without preaching, and being intensely in earnest, his words went as barbed arrows to the hearts of men. It did not matter whether his hearers were humble cottagers, waifs and strays of London, or persons holding high position in society; he spoke to the hearts of all, and told the simple story of the Cross of Christ with inimitable power and pathos, while every passage of Scripture seemed to be at his fingers’ ends.

Some of the brief entries in his memorandum-book, from which we have already quoted, are mul-tinn in darvo records of the great labours in which he engaged. Thus—

“£10,000 raised for Irish Church Missions” summarises years of toil and prayer and sympathy for the spiritual woes of Ireland, while the entry, “Cholera, Tarbert, Limerick, September, 1849,” is the only lecord of his faithful personal services among the people when they were stricken by the plague.

He owed a debt of gratitude to Paris; how' he sought to repay it is told in the entry, “ Paris City Mission, began 1852.” He had loved his profession, and the brave men who had been his associates, and could “ never see a red coat without his heart yearning over the soul beneath it.” Here is the record of his energy: “Army Prayer Union organised, 1851.” But the story of wdiat that mighty organisation wTouglit, extending wherever a regiment of the British Army w'as to be found, can never be told. As Mr. Pennefather said, “Many gallant officers and soldiers gave up tlieir lives ii| the Crimean War in the certain hope of a blessed immortality, whose first religious impressions may be traced to the interest which Captain Trotter took in their spiritual welfare.”

He was a sound Protestant, and in company with the Earl of Roden and the Earl of Cavan went as a deputation from England to the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany to plead for Francesco and Eosa Madiai, who were imprisoned in Florence for circulating, and assembling a few persons to read the Scriptures. On his return he was asked in all quarters (the incident being regarded with intense interest in Evangelical circles) to give an account of his journey and of his interviews in the prison with the Madiai. He did so, here, there, and everywhere, and this became the means of introducing him to the world as a public speaker. He utilised his opportunity, and became one of the most influential lay preachers of his day. One of his constant themes was the enforcement of a diligent study of the Word of God, and he was wont to say “there is no such thing as a short cut to a deep knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.”

Of the home life of Captain Trotter, Mrs. Burns wrote to her son, James Cleland Burns, on one occasion as follows :—

Dyiuiaji Park, Oct. 22, 1850.

. . . We are at present visiting Captain Trotter. Such visits are more likely to do your father good than all that the world can bestow apart from religion. "When I look at a family like this, sur rounded by all the attractions of the world, in wealth and position in society, yet counting them all as nothing in comparison with those things which belong to the life to come, I feel surprised at the small amount of self-denial I or mine have ever made for the sake of that blessed Saviour who has done so much for us.

Captain Trotter’s influence among men of education and position in society was incalculable. An illustration may be given here. One day Mr. Burns showed me a manuscript paper headed, “A Confession of Faith drawn up by Lord Lyndhurst and submitted to Captain Trotter.”

Lord Lyndhurst (formerly John Singleton Copley) was, as everybody knows, a man of brilliant abilities, who, from the time when he was called to the bar, rose in fame and honour until he became in turn Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, Master of the Bolls, Chief Baron of Exchequer, and three times Lord Chancellor—a man of whom the Bar and the Bench were alike proud.

The story of his life and labours, his marvellous ability and his far-reaching influence, has been told by Sir Theodore Martin.

An important episode in his life has not, however, been included in that admirable biography, and we therefore give it here. On asking Mr. Burns what this "confession ” by Lord Lyndhurst meant, he said:—

I will tell you the story as it was told to me by Captain Trotter. At the house of Lady Gainsborough, a series of meetings was established for the purpose of gathering together members of the higher ranks of society who could not otherwise be induced to attend any religious assemblies. Among those who were always present was Lady Lyndlmrst. Captain Trotter was in the habit of addressing the meetings, and on one occasion Lady Lyndlmrst came to him and said that she was earnestly desirous that he would come to her house and speak to Lord Lyndlmrst. Trotter replied that he could not think of doing so unless he had an invitation in the regular way from Lord Lyndlmrst, with whom he was not acquainted. It was not long before Lady Lyndlmrst had exerted her influence at home, and had contrived to get the proper invitation for Captain Trotter, who immediately responded, and went with the direct purpose of broaching religious matters. On his first visit he laid down plainly his intended plan of campaign, saying, ‘I have not come here, my lord, to argue, but simply to take the Word of God, and to found upon it whatever I may have to say to you.’ For six months Captain Trotter visited Lord Lyndlmrst at regular intervals, and lost all heart, for he fancied that he was making no impression upon him whatever. When he was there, numbers of carriages would arrive, but the visitors were informed that Lord Lyndlmrst was engaged, and some of them would say, ‘Oh, he’s with that man Trotter again! ’ In course of time a change seemed to be coming over Lord Lyndlmrst. but frequently, when Trotter was ^peaking from the Bible, he would say, ‘ Oh, you have told me all that before ! ’This was disheartening, but Trotter persevered, and some time afterward, when he was at Tunbridge Wells staying with a gentleman whose name I forget, he had a large meeting upon the lawn, and was surprised and pleased to see Lord Lyndlmrst wheeled in, and sitting amongst the audience.

I should mention that Lord Brougham, although differing from him in politics, was a sincere friend, and at a meeting of the British Association in York spoke in very warm terms of his great iutellect, and said ‘that lie reverenced the Scriptures, and constantly testified his delight in them.’

For some time before his death, Lord Lyndlmrst was becoming blind in both eyes from cataract. During this period the subject of religion occupied much of his thoughts, and he made an earnest study of the Evidences of Christianity. He employed much time in getting by heart the daily services of the Prayer Book, and the greater part of the Psalms.

“One morning,” lays Miss Stewart, a lady who lived as governess and companion to Lord Lyndhurst’s daughters, and whom he held in high regard, “I went into his room with some message or request, and was witness to a scene that I shall never forget. He was in his easy-chair, with a grave, almost a solemn expression on his face, so intent on his employment that my presence was unnoticed. Before him, the Church Prayer Book held open by both her small hands, stood his youngest daughter of seven or eight years of age, hearing him repeat the prayers, and now and then prompting and correcting him. The old man, the judge and statesman, and the little child, so occupied, made a picture that could not be seen without bringing tears to the eyes. He liked no one to hear him his lessons, he said, but his little girl.”

He died in the autumn of 1863, at the age of ninety-two, and his last words, in reply to a question whether he was happy, were ‘‘Happy? yes, happy!” and then with a stronger effort he added, “supremely happy!”

Lord Lyndhurst’s “Confession of Faith” submitted to Captain Trotter was as follows :—

Man, as created, was liable to sin ; our first parents committed sin, their descendants have continued sinful. God, loving man, whom He had created after His own likeness, resolved to raise him from this sad state, and so take away the sins of the world. God sent His beloved Son as a sacrifice (and who offered Himself as a willing sacrifice) for the accomplishment of this benevolent purpose. God has declared that those who sincerely believe in Jesus, and in His suffering for man’s redemption, shall inherit everlasting life. This we cannot fully effect by our own unaided efforts, but only by the grace of God, and through the influence of His Holy Spirit. Through faith so attained, we may hope to be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of God, and shall be led to the performance of good works, and to abstinence from sin. It wall give us the assurance of God’s love and the love of His blessed Son our Saviour, and as a natural consequence be followed by man’s love of his Maker and of his Redeemer. Thus, through God’s grace and favour, is opened to us the blessed hope of everlasting life in its fulness of joy and blessedness unspeakable.

A well-known and much-loved man in his day, was the Lev. John East, of Bath. He was very intimate with the Rev. W. H. ITavergal, of St. Nicholas, Worcester, and with Captain Trotter, by whom he was introduced to Lord Ashley when he was staying at Roseneath in 1850, and thus became acquainted with Mr. Bums.

Between him and Mr. East there was a warm friendship, and long after the latter had passed away, Mr. Burns used to tell interesting stories of his former friend.

One incident in his life is very striking (says Mr. Burns) ; it was told to me by himself. "When he was a young man, a candidate for ordination, he and several others met in the drawing-room of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The young men generally were chatting with the young ladies—the Bishop’s daughters. Mr. East sat apart, very silent and thoughtful. Many years afterwards, when travelling, he attended service in a church—the place and name of the incumbent I do not remember. He was so pleased and satisfied with the sermon that he went into the vestry and introduced himself to the clergyman, from whose conversation he soon perceived that he was an earnest and devoutly Christian man. Then the clergyman said to Mr. East, ‘ If I know the gospel at all, or preach it acceptably, it is to you that I am indebted for being able to do so.’ Mr. East opened his eyes in amazement. 'How is that?’ he asked. 'Well,’ answered the other, 'you may remember a time when a number of young men were assembled in the Palace of Wells, waiting to go in to the Bishop; they were all very merry, save one who sat apart, thoughtful and quiet. That made a deep impression upon me, and I said to myself, there must be something earnest and serious in the religion of that man. The impression never left me, and, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it was the means of awakening me to a knowledge of the Truth, as I now see it.’

Mr. East died in 1856, full of years and of honours, and up to within five days of his death he was actively engaged in the service of his Master.

Mr. Havergal preached his funeral sermon. They had been schoolfellows together, and, as hoys in a strange place, Havergal had said to him, “East, do you love home?” That was the bond of their friendship, tlie altar on which they first swore fidelity to one another. The last audible sound on John East’s lips was “Home, home!”

Between Mr. Burns and Mr. Havergal there was a hearty mutual friendship. They believed in each other, and each loved the other’s gifts. Mr. Havergal was a true poet of the sanctuary—his sermons were models of natural, unaffected eloquence, rich in poetic feeling. He knew nothing of the modern theologies. When he left Astley, where he had ministered for nearly twenty years, he said, in his farewell sermon, “I am not conscious of the slightest change of sentiment upon any topic of importance since the day I first came among you,” When he resigned the living of St. Nicholas, Worcester, where he laboured for fourteen years, he might, with equal truth and propriety, have uttered the same words.

Another member of this circle of mutual friends was the late Earl of Roden. Every one who knew him well, recognised at once those amiable qualities which distinguished him. He was a country gentleman and a genial friend. At the same time he was an Irish politician of the old Orange school, a staunch champion of those principles of Protestant ascendency associated with “the immortal memory of William III.” and the crowning victories of Aughrim and the Boyne. He always regarded the Irish Protestants as the bulwark of the Throne, and looked with suspicion on united Ribbonmen acting under the influence of Romish priests.

The great turning point of his life, when heart and character were changed and he stood forth as a soldier and servant of the Lord, occurred when he was in his thirty-sixth year. He was walking through the streets of Dublin on the anniversary of a Bible Society, and idle curiosity, as he supposed, led him to enter the Rotunda where the meeting was being held. He sought a quiet corner, for he was rather ashamed of the company he was in, and as he sat there he heard opinions delivered and sentiments declared which were altogether strange to him, and he said to himself, “If these opinions be true, then I am wrong; if these sentiments are founded on the Scriptures, which I profess to believe, then I am in error.”

The arrows had hit their mark. He went home and prayed for light, and light came. Henceforward he was "on the Lord’s side,” became an active supporter of all the leading religious societies in Ireland, and used his heart-stirring eloquence not only on great platform occasions, but as lay-preacher in his private chapel at Tullymore in Ireland, at Hyde Hall in Hertfordshire, and as Sunday school teacher and cottage visitor on his estates.

George Burns greatty admired the character of Lord Roden, and found infinite pleasure in his society. He had headed the deputation to Florence for the release of the Madiai; he had attended the Evangelical Alliance at Geneva, and had been brought much in contact with Malan, Gaussen, Merle d’Aubigne, Troncliin, and others. He had known sorrow, too—the death of his eldest and beloved son, Viscount Jocelyn, in 1854, and that of Lady Boden in 1801, dissolving a union of forty-nine years.

Towards the later years of his life, Lord Boden was in frequent correspondence with Mr. Burns. In one letter written in 1807, after deploring that “from the crippled state of his limbs, which would make him only a burden as a visitor,” he could not accept an invitation to Wemyss House, he adds:—

I am rejoiced to hear of tlie improvement in our dear friend Captain Trotter’s health, lie is indeed a bright and shining light, and a blessed witness for our dear Master. I trust his health will be long continued, and that there will yet be many who will, under God’s blessing, be benefited by his example and ministration. It is wonderful how our Lord blesses the most simple means to comfort and enlighten His people. 8ome years since, I had a visit from dear Dr. Marsh. He wrote four lines which I pasted up over the chimney-piece in my room; my friends coming in to visit me, were led to read it, and I had the great happiness of hearing afterwards that one of them, an elderly man and a general in the army, had been converted by this simple occurrence. The clergyman who attended him on his death-bed, wrote me word that my friend charged him to write to me and tell me that those few lines, which at the time I made him learn by heart, had opened his eyes to the Truth, and were the last words he uttered previous to his dissolution. This encouraged me to get the lines printed on a little card, which I have widely distributed, and I have heard of continued blessings which have followed it. I enclose you one of them herewith as a proof how God even by such simple means effects His purpose of mercy to naturally ignorant sinners. . . .

The card bore these words :—

“In peace let me resign my breath
And Thy salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”

| St. Luke ii. 29, 30 ; Psalm xxiii. 4 ; Psalm xxxi. 5 ;

1 Corinthians xv. 55, 5G, 57 ; St. John xiv. 2, 3.

t Psalm li. 3, 4, 5; Isaiah xliv. 6; Daniel ix. 5; Isaiah liii. 4, 5, 6; St. John I. 29; St. John iii. 14, 15,

16, 17, 18 ; Acts xiii. 38, 39 ; Galatians iii. 3-13.

Mr. Bums could not acknowledge that Lord Boden would, under any circumstances, “be a burden as a visitor,” and in September of that same year he had the pleasure of welcoming him as a guest at Wemyss House. Referring to this visit, Mr. Burns says :—

Lord Roden was very infirm in his limbs, and was carried upstairs by his own servant and my butler Walker. He was a strong Protestant, as you know, and I said to him, jokingly, ‘I have a number of Roman Catholics working for me here ; if I brought them in to carry you, they would perhaps let you fall.’ ‘No, no,’ answered Roden, ‘they would not do that; Roman Catholics have always been very kind to me.’

He had his house at Tullymore open every evening at nine o’clock for reading the Scriptures and for prayer, and all living round Dundalk and neighbourhood were welcome to attend.

On one occasion, when Dr. Marsh was staying with him, he said one morning at breakfast-time to Lord Roden, ‘ I’m glad, so far, your coachman was not here this morning.’ ‘Why?’ asked Lord Roden. ‘Because he was so terribly out of tune last night in the singing.’ Lord Roden said to me, ‘ He did not know it was myself! ’

Lord Roden told us- that when he had Dr. Wolff of Bokhara staying with him, knowing his peculiar habits, he took him along the corridor of the bedrooms, and showed him particularly the one he was to sleep in, saying, ‘If you sit up to a late hour, as we hear you do, you will have no difficulty in finding your room.’

Wolff did sit up long after all the rest had retired to their beds. When he went upstairs he had entirely forgotten the geography of the house, and opened first the door of one bedroom, and then of another, and so on, finding each one occupied. At last he went into a room in which there was a gentleman lying in bed very soundly asleep, and as there chanced to be a large bearskin-rug on the floor, Wolff determined to take up his quarters there, wrapped the bearskin-rug about him, lay down before the fire, and fell asleep. In the morning, when the gentleman awoke, he saw a figure covered with a huge bearskin, and in surprise, not to say alarm, he gazed upon the object, totally unable to make out what it could be. The gentleman in question was the Duke of Manchester.

In 1809, Lord Roden sent a very pressing invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Burns to visit him at Tullymore, but owing to the illness of Mrs. Burns they were unable to accept it. In his letter to that effect, Mr. Bums wrote:—

It would be pleasant and profitable also, but we receive it as of (rod’s appointment that we cannot avail ourselves of your and Lady Roden’s invitation. We have lately had many visitors good and pleasant. My son John has a large steam-yacht, which was a source of great enjoyment to our friends. Now we are alone—the last of our visitors, Lord and Lady Charles Clinton and family, left us this week in the yacht, to be deposited on a visit to friends in the Highlands. They enjoyed our little chapel services and the faithful preaching of the gospel. We had also Canon Conway and his family visiting us and joining in little cruises.

My wife has never been able to go to church to hear Dean McNeile. I have been telling her he is not the McNeile we used to hear more than thirty years ago in Liverpool, but what he wants in vigour is made up in matured Christian experience. . . . Miss Trotter is at present staying with my son and his wife at the Castle. It is only during an interval of relief that she is able to be absent from the vicinity of her father. When we saw him in London he was comparatively bright, but afterwards relapsed, and was ordered to go to the Continent for a year. Mrs. Trotter and he got as far as Ostend, when they were obliged to return by an increase of his illness. He is now at Lowestoft, but none of his family can see him but Mrs. Trotter and one of his daughters; therefore Miss Trotter is better here. In spring he was wheeled about for a little at Bristol in a Bath-chair. A friend of ours met him, to whom he said, ‘I am in the same school, but now you see the Lord has put me on a higher form.’

That same year Lord Roden went to Edinburgh to have the advice of the celebrated physician, Sir James Simpson, and there, in March, 1870, he died, leaving behind him a bright example of pure religion, consistent and unsullied.

Six months later Captain Trotter, around whom so many of these associations cluster, also died. In 18G8, in the midst of abundant labours, he had been smitten down with illness. It was said of him “that the earthly house of this tabernacle in which he dwelt was taken down pin by pin.” His strength gave way, his spine became affected, and gradually he lost the power of one limb after another, until the whole frame was paralysed. It was this that brought him, as lie said, into “ a new class in God’s school;” the once active, energetic man became helpless as a little child, and to the last he retained the Christian simplicity of a little child.

While Captain Trotter was staying in Scotland in 1850, and a short time after he had become acquainted with Mr. Burns, he wrote to him the following letter:—

Tarbet, Ayr. 10, 1850.

Let me express my very hearty thanks for your great kindness to us, and for all the trouble you have taken. I have received both your letters, and look forward, please God, very much to have the pleasure of seeing you to-morrow.

We have Lord and Lady Ashley here with us for two days from Roseneatli, where they are living at the Duke of Argyll’s. I have been telling him about you, and he wants much to know you and have some conversation. I don’t know your plans, but could we not go over from Dunoon on Monday to Roseneatli direct, on to the Duke’s new pier? I have arranged with him to do this on Monday or Tuesday, and they will not be taken by surprise if the weather is line. You ought to know him. He is a devoted man of God, and just now making such a noble stand about the Lord’s Day.

Yours very truly,

And obliged greatly,

J. Trotter.

This letter dates the commencement of a friendship which lasted through life, and which demands at our hands a separate chapter.


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