His first recorded piece of mischief was putting a handsome Brussels lace veil of his mother’s into the fire; but the motive, which he was just old enough to lisp out, was also his excuse: ‘A pitty baze [pretty blaze], mamma.’ Imagination soon came to his rescue. It has often been told how he extemporized verse aloud while walking round and round the dining-room table supporting himself by his hands, when he was still so small that his head was scarcely above it. He remembered having entertained his mother in the very first walk he was considered old enough to take with her, by a fantastic account of his possessions in houses, &c., of which the topographical details elicited from her the remark, ‘Why, sir, you are quite a geographer.’ And though this kind of romancing is common enough among intelligent children, it distinguishes itself in this case by the strong impression which the incident had left on his own mind. It seems to have been a first real flight of dramatic fancy, confusing his identity for the time being.
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