Secretaries proved to be poor men-of-affairs, and either failed to collect
subscriptions due, or demanded subscriptions which had already been paid.
Errors of the latter kind were embarrassing, so that Larking explicitly
reserved to himself the right of dunning certain distinguished defaulters,
such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It was true that the Society had comparatively few expenses, except the publication of the volume. That, however, was a heavy expense; Volume I cost £370, and Foss got a small committee appointed to prune editorial expenditure (" Old Foss is in a most awful fidget about our Book," wrote Larking, "he is too fond of dictating—I wish he would take the Secretaryship off my hands, and then he could dictate to himself, a new game of Solitaire ").
By 1861, Larking, who had wrought nobly in the Society’s behalf, was beginning to fail. The regular entries in his Journal come to an end on 31st December, 1860, and he then procured for himself a Manifold copy book, his opinion of which was consistently unfavourable: "I am beginning the year with a new dodge of a ‘Manifold Writer.’ I am sick of it already and covered with smut . . . it is an execrable invention and I have 1000 pages to fill before I have got through with it . . . it is ‘Manifold’ devilry, but the world now is ruled by devilry. . . . Like all patent things it is a fudge—as bad as the Reform Bill, and as great a cheat" (after that remark it comes as no surprise to find that some of
bearing on the constitutional dispute of the seventeenth century had to be
submitted to impartial editing in the interests of the Parliamentarian
cause). To Beresford Hope he writes: "Did you ever find yourself in the
House between Bright and James—if so you can form an idea of my miseries—
Bronchitis and Lumbago—between the two I am demented." To several of
his friends he sends moving letters about a sense of his increasing
inadequacies, especially, as he feels, his inability to express his thoughts
on paper, although the few extracts from his letters quoted in this
paragraph show that the gift had not really deserted him. His handwriting
does, indeed, become shaky, and at times scarcely decipherable. In May,
1861, he writes: "I have been forbidden all mental exertion, and all
undertakings of exertions1 by Dr. Watson, who suspects mischief
at the heart—I have been overworked and over-worried—the fact is my
shattered system is not fitted for my undertakings . . . I believe no wise
or thoughtful man, at my age, should do more than keep his loins girded for
passing the Jordan~"
At last Larking was able to persuade another to take on the Secretaryship, and he laid down the office at the Annual General Meeting in 1861. He lived on for another seven years, still playing an invaluable, though less active, part in the Society’s affairs. It is impossible to read
1 This may not be the right reading; the word is almost indecipherable.
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