Twenty-six years old tomorrow. Only three years more and I shall be in my thirtieth year! I am getting old. The calm, passionless content I noted as possessed by me last year has been slightly impaired, chiefly by ill-health occasioned by too much work and too little sleep, ill-health which brought on a dreadful nervousness, a dread horror of great darkness with temptations of suicide and fearful despondency. I am better now, thank God, but I am not far from the border of the precipice. Wealth is less than nothing to health. Sleep I need. I am bound over to sleep on penalty of death.
Since last year much has changed. The ties that bind me to Howdon have been relaxed by the conduct of the village lads. My work with them is done for good or for bad. They are beyond my control. Already outside our own dear family circle, I have next to no person at Howdon essential to me. A new world is coming into existence at Howdon that does not know me, and for the first time in my life I can note the operation of this natural and inevitable law without bursting into a flood of passionate tears. Trying to keep up the old interest in Howdon is as if a tree were trying to grow its branches as well as its roots in the earth.
Last year I did not know but that at any moment I might be summoned to another paper or to London. I have tried to get engagements elsewhere and have failed. I had one offer to go to CornwalI at £250. I have been to London and have no wish to go again. If the Lord wishes me to go He will have to drive me thither with whips. I am ever so much more of a man now that I am familiar with farm work. I wish I could plough. A healthier spot could not be found. For children it is admirable and I myself need strong health to do my work. As to the paper, I am better satisfied with it than ever. It has the first position in the district. We now reach 13, 000; we may reach 20,000. To address 20,000 people as the sole preacher is better than to be a tenth part of the preaching power on a journal with 200,000 circulation. There is no paper now in existence which can be to me what the Echo is. I have given it its character, its existence, its circulation. It is myself. Other papers could not bear my image and superscription so distinctly. I have more power and more influence here than on almost any other paper, for I work according to my inclinations and bias. In money of course it is not much, but it is enough to keep me comfortable, and Bell has promised me a share in profit hereafter. I think I shall stop here. All signs are for it.
The great event of this year has been the rekindling of the ideal which since my marriage burnt dim. In reading Victor Hugo's Man Who Laughs a sense of my prophethood returned. I felt once more the sacredness of the power placed in my hands, to be used on behalf of the poor, the outcast and the oppressed. It was a gift of renewed faith, aided by Joshua Davidson. I clearly and decidedly grasped the idea that everything is given to one to be employed on behalf of him that has nothing, and that only by the patient laborious unselfish labour of the good can the bad be extinguished, and that my mission was to labour unceasingly, by all methods and in every season, to help on the social regeneration of the people of the world. Politics fade except as means to an end. I am less a Radical if Radicalism is adherence to Radical watchwords. I am doubtful about extension of the suffrage. I fear that we shall yet suffer evil results from the extension of the franchise to ignorant men.