That portrait hanging near Wordsworth’s
is next to seeing Mary Russell Mitford herself as
I first saw her, twenty-three years ago, in her geranium-planted
cottage at Three-Mile Cross. She sat to John Lucas
for the picture in her serene old age, and the likeness
is faultless. She had proposed to herself to
leave the portrait, as it was her own property, to
me in her will; but as I happened to be in England
during the latter part of her life, she altered her
determination, and gave it to me from her own hands.
Sydney Smith said of a certain quarrelsome
person, that his very face was a breach of the peace.
The face of that portrait opposite to us is a very
different one from Sydney’s fighter. Everything
that belongs to the beauty of old age one will find
recorded in that charming countenance. Serene
cheerfulness most abounds, and that is a quality as
rare as it is commendable. It will be observed
that the dress of Miss Mitford in the picture before
us is quaint and somewhat antiquated even for the time
when it was painted, but a pleasant face is never out
An observer of how old age is neglected
in America said to me the other day, “It seems
an impertinence to be alive after sixty on this side
of the globe”; and I have often thought how
much we lose by not cultivating fine old-fashioned
ladies and gentlemen. Our aged relatives and friends
seem to be tucked away, nowadays, into neglected corners,
as though it were the correct thing to give them a
long preparation for still narrower quarters.
For my own part, comely and debonair old age is most
attractive; and when I see the “thick silver-white
hair lying on a serious and weather-worn face, like
moonlight on a stout old tower,” I have a strong
tendency to lift my hat, whether I know the person
“No spring nor summer
beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in an autumnal
It was a fortunate hour for me when
kind-hearted John Kenyon said, as I was leaving his
hospitable door in London one summer midnight in 1847,
“You must know my friend, Miss Mitford.
She lives directly on the line of your route to Oxford,
and you must call with my card and make her acquaintance.”
I had lately been talking with Wordsworth and Christopher
North and old Samuel Rogers, but my hunger at that
time to stand face to face with the distinguished
persons in English literature was not satisfied.
So it was during my first “tourification”
in England that I came to know Miss Mitford.
The day selected for my call at her cottage door happened
to be a perfect one on which to begin an acquaintance
with the lady of “Our Village.” She
was then living at Three-Mile Cross, having removed
there from Bertram House in 1820. The cottage
where I found her was situated on the high road between
Basingstoke and Reading; and the village street on
which she was then living contained the public-house
and several small shops near by. There was also
close at hand the village pond full of ducks and geese,
and I noticed several young rogues on their way to
school were occupied in worrying their feathered friends.
The windows of the cottage were filled with flowers,
and cowslips and violets were plentifully scattered
about the little garden. Miss Mitford liked to
have one dog, at least, at her heels, and this day
her pet seemed to be constantly under foot. I
remember the room into which I was shown was sanded,
and a quaint old clock behind the door was marking
off the hour in small but very loud pieces. The
cheerful old lady called to me from the head of the
stairs to come up into her sitting-room. I sat
down by the open window to converse with her, and
it was pleasant to see how the village children, as
they went by, stopped to bow and curtsey. One
curly-headed urchin made bold to take off his well-worn
cap, and wait to be recognized as “little Johnny”.
“No great scholar,” said the kind-hearted
old lady to me, “but a sad rogue among our flock
of geese. Only yesterday the young marauder was
detected by my maid with a plump gosling stuffed half-way
into his pocket!” While she was thus discoursing
of Johnny’s peccadilloes, the little fellow
looked up with a knowing expression, and very soon
caught in his cap a gingerbread dog, which the old
lady threw to him from the window. “I wish
he loved his book as well as he relishes sweetcake,”
sighed she, as the boy kicked up his heels and disappeared
down the lane.
Her conversation that afternoon, full
of anecdote, ran on in a perpetual flow of good-humor,
and I was shocked, on looking at my watch, to find
I had stayed so long, and had barely time to reach
the railway-station in season to arrive at Oxford
that night. We parted with the mutual determination
and understanding to keep our friendship warm by correspondence,
and I promised never to come to England again without
finding my way to Three-Mile Cross.
During the conversation that day,
Miss Mitford had many inquiries to make concerning
her American friends, Miss Catherine Sedgwick, Daniel
Webster, and Dr. Chancing. Her voice had a peculiar
ringing sweetness in it, rippling out sometimes like
a beautiful chime of silver bells; and when she told
a comic story, hitting off some one of her acquaintances,
she joined in with the laugh at the end with great
heartiness and naïveté. When listening
to anything that interested her, she had a way of
coming into the narrative with “Dear me, dear
me, dear me,” three times repeated, which it
was very pleasant to hear.
From that summer day our friendship
continued, and during other visits to England I saw
her frequently, driving about the country with her
in her pony-chaise, and spending many happy hours
in the new cottage which she afterwards occupied at
Swallowfield. Her health had broken down years
before, from too constant attendance on her invalid
parents, and she was never certain of a well day.
When her father died, in 1842, shamefully in debt
(for he had squandered two fortunes not exactly his
own, and was always one of the most improvident of
men, belonging to that class of impecunious individuals
who seem to have been born insolvent), she said, “Everybody
shall be paid, if I sell the gown off my back or pledge
my little pension.” And putting her shoulder
to the domestic wheel, she never nagged for an instant,
or gave way to despondency.
She was always cheerful, and her talk
is delightful to remember. From girlhood she
had known and had been intimate with most of the prominent
writers of her time, and her observations and reminiscences
were so shrewd and pertinent that I have scarcely
known her equal.
Carlyle tells us “nothing so
lifts a man from all his mean imprisonments, were
it but for moments, as true admiration”; and
Miss Mitford admired to such an extent that she must
have been lifted in this way nearly all her lifetime.
Indeed she erred, if she erred at all, on this side,
and overpraised and over-admired everything and everybody
whom she regarded. When she spoke of Beranger
or Dumas or Hazlitt or Holmes, she exhausted every
term of worship and panegyric. Louis Napoleon
was one of her most potent crazes, and I fully believe,
if she had been alive during the days of his downfall,
she would have died of grief. When she talked
of Munden and Bannister and Fawcett and Emery, those
delightful old actors for whom she had had such an
exquisite relish, she said they had made comedy to
her a living art full of laughter and tears.
How often have I heard her describe John Kemble, Mrs.
Siddons, Miss O’Neil, and Edmund Kean, as they
were wont to electrify the town in her girlhood!
With what gusto she reproduced Elliston, who was one
of her prime favorites, and tried to make me, through
her representation of him, feel what a spirit there
was in the man. Although she had been prostrated
by the hard work and increasing anxieties of forty
years of authorship, when I saw her she was as fresh
and independent as a skylark. She was a good hater
as well as a good praiser, and she left nothing worth
saving in an obnoxious reputation.
I well remember, one autumn evening,
when half a dozen friends were sitting in her library
after dinner, talking with her of Tom Taylor’s
Life of Haydon, then lately published, how graphically
she described to us the eccentric painter, whose genius
she was among the foremost to recognize. The
flavor of her discourse I cannot reproduce; but I was
too much interested in what she was saying to forget
the main incidents she drew for our edification, during
those pleasant hours now far away in the past.
“I am a terrible forgetter of
dates,” she used to say, when any one asked
her of the time when; but for the manner
how she was never at a loss. “Poor
Haydon!” she began. “He was an old
friend of mine, and I am indebted to Sir William Elford,
one of my dear father’s correspondents during
my girlhood, for a suggestion which sent me to look
at a picture then on exhibition in London, and thus
was brought about my knowledge of the painter’s
existence. He, Sir William, had taken a fancy
to me, and I became his child-correspondent. Few
things contribute more to that indirect after-education,
which is worth all the formal lessons of the school-room
a thousand times told, than such good-humored condescension
from a clever man of the world to a girl almost young
enough to be his granddaughter. I owe much to
that correspondence, and, amongst other debts, the
acquaintance of Haydon. Sir William’s own
letters were most charming, full of old-fashioned
courtesy, of quaint humor, and of pleasant and genial
criticism on literature and on art. An amateur-painter
himself, painting interested him particularly, and
he often spoke much and warmly of the young man from
Plymouth, whose picture of the ‘Judgment of Solomon’
was then on exhibition in London. ‘You
must see it,’ said he, ’even if you come
to town on purpose.’” The reader
of Haydon’s Life will remember that Sir William
Elford, in conjunction with a Plymouth banker named
Tingecombe, ultimately purchased the picture.
The poor artist was overwhelmed with astonishment
and joy when he walked into the exhibition-room and
read the label, “Sold,” which had been
attached to his picture that morning before he arrived.
“My first impulse,” he says in his Autobiography,
“was gratitude to God.”
“It so happened,” continued
Miss Mitford, “that I merely passed through
London that season, and, being detained by some of
the thousand and one nothings which are so apt to
detain women in the great city, I arrived at the exhibition,
in company with a still younger friend, so near the
period of closing, that more punctual visitors were
moving out, and the doorkeeper actually turned us
and our money back. I persisted, however, assuring
him that I only wished to look at one picture, and
promising not to detain him long. Whether my
entreaties would have carried the point or not, I
cannot tell; but half a crown did; so we stood admiringly
before the ‘Judgment of Solomon.’
I am no great judge of painting; but that picture
impressed me then, as it does now, as excellent in
composition, in color, and in that great quality of
telling a story which appeals at once to every mind.
Our delight was sincerely felt, and most enthusiastically
expressed, as we kept gazing at the picture, and seemed,
unaccountably to us at first, to give much pleasure
to the only gentleman who had remained in the room, a
young and very distinguished-looking person, who had
watched with evident amusement our negotiation with
the doorkeeper. Beyond indicating the best position
to look at the picture, he had no conversation with
us; but I soon surmised that we were seeing the painter,
as well as his painting; and when, two or three years
afterwards, a friend took me by appointment to view
the ‘Entry into Jerusalem,’ Haydon’s
next great picture, then near its completion, I found
I had not been mistaken.
“Haydon was, at that period,
a remarkable person to look at and listen to.
Perhaps your American word bright expresses
better than any other his appearance and manner.
His figure, short, slight, elastic, and vigorous,
looked still more light and youthful from the little
sailor’s-jacket and snowy trousers which formed
his painting costume. His complexion was clear
and healthful. His forehead, broad and high,
out of all proportion to the lower part of his face,
gave an unmistakable character of intellect to the
finely placed head. Indeed, he liked to observe
that the gods of the Greek sculptors owed much of
their elevation to being similarly out of drawing!
The lower features were terse, succinct, and powerful, from
the bold, decided jaw, to the large, firm, ugly, good-humored
mouth. His very spectacles aided the general
expression; they had a look of the man. But how
shall I attempt to tell you of his brilliant conversation,
of his rapid, energetic manner, of his quick turns
of thought, as he flew on from topic to topic, dashing
his brush here and there upon the canvas? Slow
and quiet persons were a good deal startled by this
suddenness and mobility. He left such people
far behind, mentally and bodily. But his talk
was so rich and varied, so earnest and glowing, his
anecdotes so racy, his perception of character so
shrewd, and the whole tone so spontaneous and natural,
that the want of repose was rather recalled afterwards
than felt at the time. The alloy to this charm
was a slight coarseness of voice and accent, which
contrasted somewhat strangely with his constant courtesy
and high breeding. Perhaps this was characteristic.
A defect of some sort pervades his pictures.
Their great want is equality and congruity, that
perfect union of qualities which we call taste.
His apartment, especially at that period when he lived
in his painting-room, was in itself a study of the
most picturesque kind. Besides the great picture
itself, for which there seemed hardly space between
the walls, it was crowded with casts, lay figures,
arms, tripods, vases, draperies, and costumes of all
ages, weapons of all nations, books in all tongues.
These cumbered the floor; whilst around hung smaller
pictures, sketches, and drawings, replete with originality
and force. With chalk he could do what he chose.
I remember he once drew for me a head of hair with
nine of his sweeping, vigorous strokes! Among
the studies I remarked that day in his apartment was
one of a mother who had just lost her only child, a
most masterly rendering of an unspeakable grief.
A sonnet, which I could not help writing on this sketch,
gave rise to our long correspondence, and to a friendship
which never flagged. Everybody feels that his
life, as told by Mr. Taylor, with its terrible catastrophe,
is a stern lesson to young artists, an awful warning
that cannot be set aside. Let us not forget that
amongst his many faults are qualities which hold out
a bright example. His devotion to his noble art,
his conscientious pursuit of every study connected
with it, his unwearied industry, his love of beauty
and of excellence, his warm family affection, his
patriotism, his courage, and his piety, will not easily
be surpassed. Thinking of them, let us speak tenderly
of the ardent spirit whose violence would have been
softened by better fortune, and who, if more successful,
would have been more gentle and more humble.”
And so with her vigilant and appreciative
eye she saw, and thus in her own charming way she
talked of, the man whose name, says Taylor, as a popularizer
of art, stands without a rival among his brethren.
She loathed mere dandies, and there
were no epithets too hot for her contempts in that
direction. Old beaux she heartily despised, and,
speaking of one whom she had known, I remember she
quoted with a fine scorn this appropriate passage
from Dickens: “Ancient, dandified men,
those crippled invalides from the campaign of
vanity, where the only powder was hair-powder, and
the only bullets fancy balls.”
There was no half-way with her, and
she never could have said with M
S , when a certain visitor left
the room one day after a call, “If we did not
love our dear friend Mr.
so much, shouldn’t we hate him tremendously!”
Her neighbor, John Ruskin, she thought as eloquent
a prose-writer as Jeremy Taylor, and I have heard
her go on in her fine way, giving preferences to certain
modern poems far above the works of the great masters
of song. Pascal says that “the heart has
reasons that reason does not know”; and Miss
Mitford was a charming exemplification of this wise
Her dogs and her geraniums were her
great glories. She used to write me long letters
about Fanchon, a dog whose personal acquaintance I
had made some time before, while on a visit to her
cottage. Every virtue under heaven she attributed
to that canine individual; and I was obliged to allow
in my return letters, that, since our planet began
to spin, nothing comparable to Fanchon had ever run
on four legs. I had also known Flush, the ancestor
of Fanchon, intimately, and had been accustomed to
hear wonderful things of that dog; but Fanchon had
graces and genius unique. Miss Mitford would
have joined with Hamerton in his gratitude for canine
companionship, when he says, “I humbly thank
Divine Providence for having invented dogs, and I
regard that man with wondering pity who can lead a
Her fondness for rural life, one may
well imagine, was almost unparalleled. I have
often been with her among the wooded lanes of her
pretty country, listening for the nightingales, and
on such occasions she would discourse so eloquently
of the sights and sounds about us, that her talk seemed
to me “far above singing.” She had
fallen in love with nature when a little child, and
had studied the landscape till she knew familiarly
every flower and leaf which grows on English soil.
She delighted in rural vagabonds of every sort, especially
in gypsies; and as they flourished in her part of
the country, she knew all their ways, and had charming
stories to tell of their pranks and thievings.
She called them “the commoners of nature”;
and once I remember she pointed out to me on the road
a villanous-looking youth on whom she smiled as we
passed, as if he had been Virtue itself in footpad
disguise. She knew all the literature of rural
life, and her memory was stored with delightful eulogies
of forests and meadows. When she repeated or read
aloud the poetry she loved, her accents were
voices, if they could but speak.”
She understood how to enjoy
rural occupations and rural existence, and she had
no patience with her friend Charles Lamb, who preferred
the town. Walter Savage Landor addressed these
lines to her a few months before she died, and they
seem to me very perfect and lovely in their application:
“The hay is carried;
and the hours
Snatch, as they pass, the
And children leap to pluck
Bent earthward, and then run
Park-keeper! catch me those
About whose frocks the fragrant
Sticking and fluttering here
No false nor faltering witness
view such scenes as these
In grassy meadow girt with
But comes a thought of her
Sits with serenely patient
Amid deep sufferings:
none hath told
More pleasant tales to young
Fondest was she of Father
But rambled to Hellenic streams;
Nor even there could any tell
The country’s purer
charms so well
As Mary Mitford.
And breathe o’er gentle
breasts her worth.
Needless the task ... but
should she see
One hearty wish from you and
A moment’s pain it may
A rose-leaf on the couch of
And Harriet Martineau pays her respects
to my friend in this wise: “Miss Mitford’s
descriptions of scenery, brutes, and human beings have
such singular merit, that she may be regarded as the
founder of a new style; and if the freshness wore
off with time, there was much more than a compensation
in the fine spirit of resignation and cheerfulness
which breathed through everything she wrote, and endeared
her as a suffering friend to thousands who formerly
regarded her only as a most entertaining stranger.”
What lovely drives about England I
have enjoyed with Miss Mitford as my companion and
guide! We used to arrange with her trusty Sam
for a day now and then in the open air. He would
have everything in readiness at the appointed hour,
and be at his post with that careful, kind-hearted
little maid, the “hemmer of flounces,”
all prepared to give the old lady a fair start on
her day’s expedition. Both those excellent
servants delighted to make their mistress happy, and
she greatly rejoiced in their devotion and care.
Perhaps we had made our plans to visit Upton Court,
a charming old house where Pope’s Arabella Fermor
had passed many years of her married life. On
the way thither we would talk over “The Rape
of the Lock” and the heroine, Belinda, who was
no other than Arabella herself. Arriving on the
lawn in front of the decaying mansion, we would stop
in the shade of a gigantic oak, and gossip about the
times of Queen Elizabeth, for it was then the old
house was built, no doubt.
Once I remember Miss Mitford carried
me on a pilgrimage to a grand old village church with
a tower half covered with ivy. We came to it through
laurel hedges, and passed on the way a magnificent
cedar of Lebanon. It was a superb pile, rich
in painted glass windows and carved oak ornaments.
Here Miss Mitford ordered the man to stop, and, turning
to me with great enthusiasm, said, “This is
Shiplake Church, where Alfred Tennyson was married!”
Then we rode on a little farther, and she called my
attention to some of the finest wych-elms I had ever
Another day we drove along the valley
of the Loddon, and she pointed out the Duke of Wellington’s
seat of Strathfieldsaye. As our pony trotted
leisurely over the charming road, she told many amusing
stories of the Duke’s economical habits, and
she rated him soundly for his money-saving propensities.
The furniture in the house she said was a disgrace
to the great man, and she described a certain old
carpet that had done service so many years in the
establishment that no one could tell what the original
But the mansion most dear to her in
that neighborhood was the residence of her kind friends
the Russells of Swallowfield Park. It is indeed
a beautiful old place, full of historical and literary
associations, for there Lord Clarendon wrote his story
of the Great Rebellion. Miss Mitford never ceased
to be thankful that her declining years were passing
in the society of such neighbors as the Russells.
If she were unusually ill, they were the first to
know of it and come at once to her aid. Little
attentions, so grateful to old age, they were always
on the alert to offer; and she frequently told me
that their affectionate kindness had helped her over
the dark places of life more than once, where without
their succor she must have dropped by the way.
As a letter-writer, Miss Mitford has
rarely been surpassed. Her “Life, as told
by herself in Letters to her Friends,” is admirably
done in every particular. Few letters in the
English language are superior to hers, and I think
they, will come to be regarded as among the choicest
specimens of epistolary literature. When her friend,
the Rev. William Harness, was about to collect from
Miss Mitford’s correspondents, for publication,
the letters she had written to them, he applied to
me among others. I was obliged to withhold the
correspondence for a reason that existed then; but
I am no longer restrained from printing it now.
Miss Mitford’s first letter to me was written
in 1847, and her last one came only a few weeks before
she died, in 1855. I am inclined to think that
her correspondence, so full of point in allusions,
so full of anecdote and recollections, will be considered
among her finest writings. Her criticisms, not
always the wisest, were always piquant and readable.
She had such a charming humor, and her style was so
delightful, that her friendly notes had a relish about
them quite their own. In reading some of them
here collected one will see that she overrated my little
services as she did those of many of her personal friends.
I shall have hard work to place the dates properly,
for the good lady rarely took the trouble to put either
month or year at the head of her paper.
She began her correspondence with
me before I left England after making her acquaintance,
and, true to the instincts of her kind heart, the
object of her first letter was to press upon my notice
the poems of a young friend of hers, and she was constantly
saying good words for unfledged authors who were struggling
forward to gain recognition. No one ever lent
such a helping hand as she did to the young writers
of her country.
The recognition which America, very
early in the career of Miss Mitford, awarded her,
she never forgot, and she used to say, “It takes
ten years to make a literary reputation in England,
but America is wiser and bolder, and dares say at
once, ‘This is fine.’”
Sweetness of temper and brightness
of mind, her never-failing characteristics, accompanied
her to the last; and she passed on in her usual cheerful
and affectionate mood, her sympathies uncontracted
by age, narrow fortune, and pain.
A plain substantial cross marks the
spot in the old churchyard at Swallowfield, where,
according to her own wish, Mary Mitford lies sleeping.
It is proposed to erect a memorial in the old parish
church to her memory, and her admirers in England
have determined, if a sufficient sum can be raised,
to build what shall be known as “The Mitford
Aisle,” to afford accommodation for the poor
people who are not able to pay for seats. Several
of Miss Mitford’s American friends will join
in this beautiful object, and a tablet will be put
up in the old church commemorating the fact that England
and America united in the tribute.
Three-mile Cross, December
Dear Mr. Fields: My silence has
been caused by severe illness. For more than
a twelvemonth my health has been so impaired as to
leave me a very poor creature, almost incapable
of any exertion at all times, and frequently suffering
severe pain besides. So that I have to entreat
the friends who are good enough to care for me never
to be displeased if a long time elapses between
my letters. My correspondents being so numerous,
and I myself so utterly alone, without any one
even to fold or seal a letter, that the very physical
part of the task sometimes becomes more fatiguing than
I can bear. I am not, generally speaking,
confined to my room, or even to the house; but
the loss of power is so great that after the short
drive or shorter walk which my very skilful medical
adviser orders, I am too often compelled to retire
immediately to bed, and I have not once been well
enough to go out of an evening during the year 1848.
Before its expiration I shall have completed my sixty-first
year; but it is not age that has so prostrated
me, but the hard work and increasing anxiety of
thirty years of authorship, during which my poor
labors were all that my dear father and mother had
to look to, besides which for the greater part
of that time I was constantly called upon to attend
to the sick-bed, first of one aged parent and then
of another. Few women could stand this, and I
have only to be intensely thankful that the power
of exertion did not fail until the necessity of
such exertion was removed. Now my poor life is
(beyond mere friendly feeling) of value to no
one. I have, too, many alleviations, in
the general kindness of the neighborhood, the particular
goodness of many admirable friends, the affectionate
attention of a most attached and intelligent old
servant, and above all in my continued interest
in books and delight in reading. I love poetry
and people as well at sixty as I did at sixteen, and
can never be sufficiently grateful to God for
having permitted me to retain the two joy-giving
faculties of admiration and sympathy, by which
we are enabled to escape from the consciousness of
our own infirmities into the great works of all
ages and the joys and sorrows of our immediate
friends. Among the books which I have been reading
with the greatest interest is the Life of Dr. Channing,
and I can hardly tell you the glow of gratification
with which I found my own name mentioned, as one
of the writers in whose works that great man had
taken pleasure. The approbation of Dr. Channing
is something worth toiling for. I know no
individual suffrage that could have given me more
delight. Besides this selfish pleasure and the
intense interest with which I followed that admirable
thinker through the whole course of his pure and
blameless life, I have derived another and a different
satisfaction from that work, I mean from
its reception in England. I know nothing that
shows a greater improvement in liberality in the
least liberal part of the English public, a greater
sweeping away of prejudice whether national or sectarian,
than the manner in which even the High Church and Tory
party have spoken of Dr. Channing. They really
seem to cast aside their usual intolerance in
his case, and to look upon a Unitarian with feelings
of Christian fellowship. God grant that this spirit
may continue! Is American literature rich
in native biography? Just have the goodness
to mention to me any lives of Americans, whether illustrious
or not, that are graphic, minute, and outspoken.
I delight in French memoirs and English lives,
especially such as are either autobiography or
made out by diaries and letters; and America,
a young country with manners as picturesque and unhackneyed
as the scenery, ought to be full of such works.
We have had two volumes lately that will interest
your countrymen: Mr. Milnes’s Life of
John Keats, that wonderful youth whose early death
was, I think, the greatest loss that English poetry
ever experienced. Some of the letters are
very striking as developments on character, and the
richness of diction in the poetical fragments is
exquisite. Mrs. Browning is still at Florence
with her husband. She sees more Americans
Books here are sadly depreciated.
Mr. Dyce’s admirable edition of
Beaumont and Fletcher, brought
out two years ago at L6 12_s._ is now
offered at L2 17_s._
Adieu, dear Mr. Fields; forgive
my seeming neglect, and believe me
always most faithfully yours,
(No date, 1849.)
Dear Mr. Fields: I cannot tell
you how vexed I am at this mistake about letters,
which must have made you think me careless of your
correspondence and ungrateful for your kindness.
The same thing has happened to me before, I may
say often, with American letters, with
Professor Norton, Mrs. Sigourney, the Sedgwicks, in
short I always feel an insecurity in writing to
America which I never experience in corresponding
with friends on the Continent; France, Germany, Italy,
even Poland and Russia, are comparatively certain.
Whether it be the agents in London who lose letters,
or some fault in the post-office, I cannot tell,
but I have twenty times experienced the vexation,
and it casts a certain discouragement over one’s
communications. However, I hope that this
letter will reach you, and that you will be assured
that the fault does not lie at my door.
During the last year or two my health
has been declining much, and I am just now thinking
of taking a journey to Paris. My friend, Henry
Chorley of the Athenaeum, the first musical critic
of Europe, is going thither next month to assist
at the production of Meyerbeer’s Prophete
at the French Opera, and another friend will accompany
me and my little maid to take care of us; so that
I have just hopes that the excursion, erenow much
facilitated by railways, may do me good.
I have always been a great admirer of the great Emperor,
and to see the heir of Napoleon at the Elysee
seems to me a real piece of poetical justice.
I know many of his friends in England, who all speak
of him most highly; one of them says, “He is
the very impersonation of calm and simple honesty.”
I hope the nation will be true to him, but, as
Mirabeau says, “there are no such words as ‘jamais’
or ‘toujours’ with the French public.”
10th of June, 1849.
I have been waiting to answer your most
kind and interesting letter, dear Mr. Fields,
until I could announce to you a publication that Mr.
Colburn has been meditating and pressing me for, but
which, chiefly I believe from my own fault in
not going to town, and not liking to give him
or Mr. Shoberl the trouble of coming here, is now
probably adjourned to the autumn. The fact
is that I have been and still am very poorly.
We are stricken in our vanities, and the only things
that I recollect having ever been immoderately proud
of my garden and my personal activity have
both now turned into causes of shame and pity;
the garden, declining from one bad gardener to worse,
has become a ploughed field, and I myself,
from a severe attack of rheumatism, and since
then a terrible fright in a pony-chaise, am now
little better than a cripple. However, if there
be punishment here below, there are likewise consolations, everybody
is kind to me; I retain the vivid love of reading,
which is one of the highest pleasures of life; and
very interesting persons come to see me sometimes,
from both sides of the water, witness,
dear Mr. Fields, our present correspondence. One
such person arrived yesterday in the shape of Doctor
, who has been working musical
miracles in Scotland, (think of making singing teachers
of children of four or five years of age!) and is now
on his way to Paris, where, having been during
seven years one of the editors of the National,
he will find most of his colleagues of the newspaper
filling the highest posts in the government. What
is the American opinion of that great experiment;
or, rather, what is yours? I wish it success
from the bottom of my heart, but I am a, little
afraid, from their total want of political economy
(we have not a school-girl so ignorant of the
commonest principles of demand and supply as the
whole of the countrymen of Turgot from the executive
government downwards), and from a certain warlike tendency
which seems to me to pierce through all their declarations
of peace. We hear the flourish of trumpets
through all the fine phrases of the orators, and
indeed it is difficult to imagine what they will do
with their soi-disant ouvriers, workmen
who have lost the habit of labor, unless
they make soldiers of them. In the mean time some
friends of mine are about to accompany your countryman
Mr. Elihu Burritt as a deputation, and doubtless
M. de Lamartine will give them as eloquent an
answer as heart can desire, no doubt he
will keep peace if he can, but the
government have certainly not hitherto shown firmness
or vigor enough to make one rely upon them, if
the question becomes pressing and personal. In
Italy matters seem to be very promising.
We have here one of the Silvio Pellico exiles, Count
Carpinetta, whose story is quite a romance.
He is just returned from Turin, where he was received
with enthusiasm, might have been returned as Deputy
for two places, and did recover some of his property,
confiscated years ago by the Austrians. It does
one’s heart good to see a piece of poetical justice
transferred to real life. Apropos of public
events, all London is talking of the prediction
of an old theological writer of the name of Fleming,
who in or about the year 1700 prophesied a revolution
in France in 1794 (only one year wrong), and the
fall of papacy in 1848 at all events.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
(No date, 1849)
DEAR MR. FIELDS: I must have seemed
very ungrateful in being so long silent.
But your magnificent present of books, beautiful in
every sense of the word, has come dropping in
volume by volume, and only arrived complete (Mr.
Longfellow’s striking book being the last) about
a fortnight ago, and then it found me keeping my room,
as I am still doing, with a tremendous attack
of neuralgia on the left side of the face.
I am getting better now by dint of blisters and tonic
medicine; but I can answer for that disease well
deserving its bad eminence of “painful.”
It is however, blessed be God! more manageable
than it used to be; and my medical friend, a man of
singular skill, promises me a cure.
I have seen things of Longfellow’s
as fine as anything in Campbell or Coleridge or
Tennyson or Hood. After all, our great lyrical
poets are great only for half a volume. Look
at Gray and Collins, at your own edition of the
man whom one song immortalized, at Gerald Griffin,
whom you perhaps do not know, and at Wordsworth, who,
greatest of the great for about a hundred pages,
is drowned in the flood of his own wordiness in
his longer works. To be sure, there are giants
who are rich to overflowing through a whole shelf of
books, Shakespeare, the mutual ancestor
of Englishmen and Americans, above all, and
I think the much that they did, and did well,
will be the great hold on posterity of Scott and of
Byron. Have you happened to see Bulwer’s
King Arthur? It astonished me very much.
I had a full persuasion that, with great merit in a
certain way, he would never be a poet. Indeed,
he is beginning poetry just at the age when Scott,
Southey, and a host of others, left it off. But
he is a strange person, full of the powerful quality
called will, and has produced a work which,
although it is not at all in the fashionable vein
and has made little noise, has yet extraordinary
merit. When I say that it is more like Ariosto
than any other English poem that I know, I certainly
give it no mean praise.
Everybody is impatient for Mr. George
Ticknor’s work. The subject seems to
me full of interest. Lord Holland made a charming
book of Lope de Vega years ago, and Mr. Ticknor,
with equal qualifications and a much wider field,
will hardly fail of delighting England and America.
Will you remember me to him most gratefully and respectfully?
He is a man whom no one can forget. As to Mr.
Prescott, I know no author now, except perhaps
Mr. Macaulay, whose works command so much attention
and give so much delight. I am ashamed to
send you so little news, but I live in the country
and see few people. The day I caught my terrible
Tic I spent with the great capitalist, Mr. Goldsmidt,
and Mr. Cobden and his pretty wife. He is
a very different person from what one expects, graceful,
tasteful, playful, simple, and refined, and looking
absolutely young. I suspect that much of
his power springs from his genial character.
I heard last week from Mrs. Browning; she and her husband
are at the Baths of Lucca. Mr. Kenyon’s
graceful book is out, and I must not forget to
tell you that “Our Village” has been printed
by Mr. Bohn in two volumes, which include the
whole five. It is beautifully got up and
very cheap, that is to say, for 3 s. 6 d.
a volume. Did Mr. Whittier send his works,
or do I owe them wholly to your kindness?
If he sent them, I will write by the first opportunity.
Say everything for me to your young friend, and believe
me ever, dear Mr. F most faithfully
and gratefully yours, M.R.M.
I have to thank you very earnestly,
dear Mr. Fields, for two very interesting books.
The “Leaves from Margaret Smith’s Journal”
are, I suppose, a sort of Lady Willoughby’s
Diary, so well executed that they read like one
of the imitations of Defoe, his “Memoirs
of a Cavalier,” for instance, which always
seemed to me quite as true as if they had been
actually written seventy years before. Thank you
over and over again for these admirable books and
for your great kindness and attention. What
a perfectly American name Peabody is! And
how strange it is that there should be in the United
States so many persons of English descent whose
names have entirely disappeared from the land
of their fathers. Did you get my last unworthy
letter? I hope you did. It would at all events
show that there was on my part no intentional
neglect, that I certainly had written in reply
to the last letter that I received, although doubtless
a letter had been lost on one side or the other.
I live so entirely in the quiet country that I
have little to tell you that can be interesting.
Two things indeed, not generally known, I may mention:
that Stanfield Hall, the scene of the horrible murder
of which you have doubtless read, was the actual
birthplace of Amy Robsart, of whose
tragic end, by the way, there is at last an authentic
account, both in the new edition of Pepys and the first
volume of the “Romance of the Peerage”;
and that a friend of mine saw the other day in
the window of a London bookseller a copy of Hume,
ticketed “An Excellent Introduction to Macaulay.”
The great man was much amused at this practical
compliment, as well he might be. I have been
reading the autobiographies of Lamartine and Chateaubriand,
as well as Raphael, which, although not avowed, is
of course and most certainly a continuation of
“Les Confiances.” What
strange beings these Frenchmen are! Here is
M. de Lamartine at sixty, poet, orator, historian,
and statesman, writing the stories of two ladies one
of them married who died for love of him!
Think if Mr. Macaulay should announce himself
as a lady-killer, and put the details not merely
into a book, but into a feuilleton!
The Brownings are living quite quietly
at Florence, seeing, I suspect, more Americans
than English. Mrs. Trollope has lost her only
remaining daughter; arrived in England only time enough
to see her die.
Adieu, dear Mr. Fields; say
everything for me to Mr. and Mrs.
Ticknor, and Mr. and Mrs.
Norton. How much I should like to see you!
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
You will have thought me either dead
or dying, my dear Mr. Fields, for ungrateful I
hope you could not think me to such a friend as yourself,
but in truth I have been in too much trouble and anxiety
to write. This is the story: I live alone,
and my servants become, as they are in France,
and ought, I think, always to be, really and truly
part of my family. A most sensible young woman,
my own maid, who waits upon me and walks out with
me, (we have another to do the drudgery of our
cottage,) has a little fatherless boy who is the pet
of the house. I wonder whether you saw him
during the glimpse we had of you! He is a
fair-haired child of six years old, singularly quick
in intellect, and as bright in mind and heart and
temper as a fountain in the sun. He is at
school in Reading, and, the small-pox raging there
like a pestilence, they sent him home to us to be out
of the way. The very next week my man-servant
was seized with it, after vaccination of course.
Our medical friend advised me to send him away,
but that was, in my view of things, out of the question;
so we did the best we could, my own
maid, who is a perfect Sister of Charity in all
cases of illness, sitting up with him for seven nights
following, for one or two were requisite during the
delirium, and we could not get a nurse for love
or money, and when he became better, then, as
we had dreaded, our poor little boy was struck down.
However, it has pleased God to spare him, and, after
a long struggle, he is safe from the disorder
and almost restored to his former health.
But we are still under a sort of quarantine, for,
although people pretend to believe in vaccination,
they avoid the house as if the plague were in
it, and stop their carriages at the end of the
village and send inquiries and cards, and in my mind
they are right. To say nothing of Reading,
there have been above thirty severe cases, after
vaccination, in our immediate neighborhood, five of
them fatal. I had been inoculated after the old
style, my maid had had the small-pox the natural
way and the only one who escaped was a young girl
who had been vaccinated three times, the last two
years ago. Forgive this long story; it was
necessary to excuse my most unthankful silence,
and may serve as an illustration of the way a
disease, supposed to be all but exterminated, is making
head again in England.
Thank you a thousand and a thousand
times for your most delightful books. Mr.
Whipple’s Lectures are magnificent, and your
own Boston Book could not, I think, be beaten
by a London Book, certainly not approached by
the collected works of any other British city, Edinburgh,
Mr. Bennett is most grateful for your
kindness, and Mrs. Browning will be no less enchanted
at the honor done her husband. It is most creditable
to America that they think more of our thoughtful poets
than the English do themselves.
Two female friends of mine Mrs.
Acton Tindal, a young beauty as well as a woman
of genius, and a Miss Julia Day, whom I have never
seen, but whose verses show extraordinary purity
of thought, feeling, and expression have
been putting forth books. Julia Day’s second
series she has done me the honor to inscribe to me,
notwithstanding which I venture to say how very
much I admire it, and so I think would you.
Henry Chorley is going to be a happy man. All
his life long he has been dying to have a play acted,
and now he has one coming out at the Surrey Theatre,
over Blackfriars Bridge. He lives much among
fine people, and likes the notion of a Faubourg audience.
Perhaps he is right. I am not at all afraid of
the play, which is very beautiful, a
blank-verse comedy full of truth and feeling.
I don’t know if you know Henry Chorley.
He is the friend of Robert Browning, and the especial
favorite of John Kenyon, and has always been a
sort of adopted nephew of mine. Poor Mrs. Hemans
loved him well; so did a very different person,
Lady Blessington, so that altogether
you may fancy him a very likeable person; but he is
much more, generous, unselfish, loyal,
and as true as steel, worth all his writings a
thousand times over. If my house be in such condition
as to allow of my getting to London to see “Old
Love and New Fortune,” I shall consult with
Mr. Lucas about the time of sitting to him for
a portrait, as I have promised to do; for, although
there be several extant, not one is passably like.
John Lucas is a man of so much taste that he will
make a real old woman’s picture of it, just
with my every-day look and dress.
Will you make my most grateful thanks
to Mr. Whipple, and also to the author of “Greenwood
Leaves,” which I read with great pleasure, and
say all that is kindest and most respectful for me
to Mr. and Mrs. George Ticknor. I shall indeed
expect great delight from his book.
Ever, dear Mr. Fields, most
We have had a Mr. Richmond here, lecturing
and so forth. Do you know him? I can
fancy what Mr. Webster would be on the Hungarian question.
To hear Mr. Cobden talk of it was like the sound of
Three-mile Cross, November
I have been waiting day after day, dear
Mr. Fields, to send you two books, one
new, the other old, one by my friend, Mr.
Bennett; the other a volume [her Dramatic Poems]
long out of print in England, and never, I think,
known in America. I had great difficulty in procuring
the shabby copy which I send you, but I think you will
like it because it is mine, and comes to you from
friend to friend, and because there is more of
myself, that is, of my own inner feelings and
fancies, than one ever ventures to put into prose.
Mr. Bennett’s volume, which is from himself
as well as from me, I am sure you will like; most
thoroughly would like each other if ever you met.
He has the poet’s heart and the poet’s
mind, large, truthful, generous, and full of true
refinement, delightful as a companion, and invaluable
as a man.
After eight years’ absolute cessation
of composition, Henry Chorley, of the Athenaeum,
coaxed me last summer into writing for a Lady’s
Journal, which he was editing for Messrs. Bradbury
and Evans, certain Readings of Poetry, old and
new, which will, I suppose, form two or three
separate volumes when collected, buried as they now
are amongst all the trash and crochet-work and
millinery. They will be quite as good as
MS., and, indeed, every paper will be enlarged and
above as many again added. One pleasure will
be the doing what justice I can to certain American
poets, Mr. Whittier, for instance,
whose “Massachusetts to Virginia” is amongst
the finest things ever written. I gave one
copy to a most intelligent Quaker lady, and have
another in the house at this moment for Mrs. Walter,
widow and mother of the two John Walters, father
and son, so well known as proprietors of the Times.
I shall cause my book to be immediately forwarded
to you, but I don’t think it will be ready for
a twelvemonth. There is a good deal in it
of my own prose, and it takes a wider range than
usual of poetry, including much that has never
appeared in any of the specimen books. Of course,
dear friend, this is strictly between you and
me, because it would greatly damage the work to
have the few fragments that have appeared as yet brought
forward without revision and completion in their
present detached and crude form.
This England of ours is all alight and
aflame with Protestant indignation against popery;
the Church of England being likely to rekindle
the fires of 1780, by way of vindicating the right
of private judgment. I, who hold perfect
freedom of thought and of conscience the most
precious of all possessions, have of course my own
hatred to these things. Cardinal Wiseman has taken
advantage of the attack to put forth one of the
most brilliant appeals that has appeared in my
time; of course you will see it in America.
Professor Longfellow has won a station
in England such as no American poet ever held
before, and assuredly he deserves it. Except
Beranger and Tennyson, I do not know any living
man who has written things so beautiful.
I think I like his Nuremburg best of all. Mr.
Ticknor’s great work, too, has won golden
opinions, especially from those whose applause
is fame; and I foresee that day by day our literature
will become more mingled with rich, bright novelties
from America, not reflections of European brightness,
but gems all colored with your own skies and woods
and waters. Lord Carlisle, the most accomplished
of our ministers and the most amiable of our nobles,
is giving this very week to the Leeds Mechanics’
Institute a lecture on his travels in the United
States, and another on the poetry of Pope.
May I ask you to transmit the accompanying
letter to Mrs. H ? She has
sent to me for titles and dates, and fifty things in
which I can give her little help; but what I do
know about my works I have sent her. Only,
as, except that I believe her to live in Philadelphia,
I really am as ignorant of her address as I am
of the year which brought forth the first volume
of “Our Village,” I am compelled to go
to you for help in forwarding my reply.
Ever, my dear Mr. Fields,
most gratefully and faithfully yours,
Is not Louis Napoleon the
most graceful of our European chiefs? I
have always had a weakness
for the Emperor, and am delighted to find
the heir of his name turning
out so well.
February 10, 1851
I cannot tell you, my dear Mr. Fields,
how much I thank you for your most kind letter
and parcel, which, after sending three or four emissaries
all over London to seek, (Mr.
having ignored the matter to my first messenger,)
was at last sent to me by the Great Western Railway, I
suspect by the aforesaid Mr. ,
because, although the name of the London bookseller
was dashed out, a long-tailed letter was
left just where the “p” would come in ,
and as neither Bonn’s nor Whittaker’s
name boasts such a grace, I suspect that, in spite
of his assurance, the packet was in the Strand,
and neither in Ave Maria Lane nor in Henrietta Street,
to both houses I sent. Thank you a thousand
times for all your kindness. The orations
are very striking. But I was delighted with Dr.
Holmes’s poems for their individuality.
How charming a person he must be! And how
truly the portrait represents the mind, the lofty
brow full of thought, and the wrinkle of humor
in the eye! (Between ourselves, I always have
a little doubt of genius where there is no humor;
certainly in the very highest poetry the two go together, Scott,
Shakespeare, Fletcher, Burns.) Another charming thing
in Dr. Holmes is, that every succeeding poem is better
than the last. Is he a widower, or a bachelor,
or a married man? At all events, he is a
true poet, and I like him all the better for being
a physician, the one truly noble profession.
There are noble men in all professions, but in
medicine only are the great mass, almost the whole,
generous, liberal, self-denying, living to advance
science and to help mankind. If I had been
a man I should certainly have followed that profession.
I rejoice to hear of another Romance by the author
of “The Scarlet Letter.” That is a
real work of genius. Have you seen “Alton
Locke”? No novel has made so much noise
for a long time; but it is, like “The Saint’s
Tragedy,” inconclusive. Between ourselves,
I suspect that the latter part was written with the
fear of the Bishop before his eyes (the author, Mr.
Kingsley, is a clergyman of the Church of England),
which makes the one volume almost a contradiction
of the others. Mrs. Browning is still at Florence,
where she sees scarcely any English, a few Italians,
and many Americans.
Ever most gratefully yours.
Dear Mr. Fields: I sent you a packet
last week, but I have just received your two charming
books, and I cannot suffer a post to pass without
thanking you for them. Mr. Whittier’s volume
is quite what might have been expected from the
greatest of Quaker writers, the worthy compeer
of Longfellow, and will give me other extracts to
go with “From Massachusetts to Virginia”
and “Cassandra Southwick” in my own
book, where one of my pleasures will be trying to do
justice to American poetry, and Dr. Holmes’s
fine “Astraea.” We have nothing
like that nowadays in England. Nobody writes now
in the glorious resonant metre of Dryden, and
very few ever did write as Dr. Holmes does.
I see there is another volume of his poetry, but the
name was new to me. How much I owe to you, my
dear Mr. Fields! That great romance, “The
Scarlet Letter,” and these fine poets, for
true poetry, not at all imitative, is rare in England,
common as elegant imitative verse may be, and
that charming edition of Robert Browning.
Shall you republish his wife’s new edition?
I cannot tell you how much I thank you. I
read an extract from the Times, containing a report
of Lord Carlisle’s lecture on America, chiefly
because he and Dr. Holmes say the same thing touching
the slavish regard to opinion which prevails in
America. Lord Carlisle is by many degrees
the most accomplished of our nobles. Another
accomplished and cultivated nobleman, a friend
of my own, we have just lost, Lord
Nugent, liberal, too, against the views
of his family.
You must make my earnest and very sincere
congratulations to your friend. In publishing
Gray, he shows the refinement of taste to be expected
in your companion. I went over all his haunts
two years ago, and have commemorated them in the
book you will see by and by, the book
that is to be, and there I have put on record
the bride-cake, and the finding by you on my table
your own edition of Motherwell. You are not
angry, are you? If your father and mother in
law ever come again to England, I shall rejoice
to see them, and shall be sure to do so, if they
will drop me a line. God bless you, dear
Ever faithfully and gratefully
Three-mile Cross, July 20,
You will have thought me most ungrateful,
dear Mr. Fields, in being so long your debtor
for a most kind and charming letter; but first I waited
for the “House of the Seven Gables,” and
then when it arrived, only a week ago; I waited
to read it a second time. At sixty-four life
gets too short to allow us to read every book once
and again; but it is not so with Mr. Hawthorne’s.
The first time one sketches them (to borrow Dr.
Holmes’s excellent word), and cannot put
them down for the vivid interest; the next, one lingers
over the beauty with a calmer enjoyment.
Very beautiful this book is! I thank you
for it again and again. The legendary part is
all the better for being vague and dim and shadowy,
all pervading, yet never tangible; and the living
people have a charm about them which is as lifelike
and real as the legendary folks are ghostly and
remote. Phoebe, for instance, is a creation
which, not to speak it profanely, is almost Shakespearian.
I know no modern heroine to compare with her, except
it be Eugene Sue’s Rigolette, who shines
forth amidst the iniquities of “Les
Mystères de Paris” like some rich,
bright, fresh cottage rose thrown by evil chance
upon a dunghill. Tell me, please, about Mr.
Hawthorne, as you were so good as to do about that
charming person, Dr. Holmes. Is he young?
I think he is, and I hope so for the sake of books
to come. And is he of any profession? Does
he depend altogether upon literature, as too many
writers do here? At all events, he is one
of the glories of your most glorious part of great
America. Tell me, too, what is become of Mr. Cooper,
that other great novelist? I think I heard
from you, or from some other Transatlantic friend,
that he was less genial and less beloved than so
many other of your notabilities have been. Indeed,
one sees that in many of his recent works; but
I have been reading many of his earlier books
again, with ever-increased admiration, especially I
should say “The Pioneers”; and one
cannot help hoping that the mind that has given
so much pleasure to so many readers will adjust itself
so as to admit of its own happiness, for
very clearly the discomfort was his own fault,
and he is too clever a person for one not to wish
I think that the most distinguished
of our own young writers are, the one a
dear friend of mine, John Ruskin; the other, one who
will shortly be so near a neighbor that we must
know each other. It is quite wonderful that
we don’t now, for we are only twelve miles apart,
and have scores of friends in common. This last
is the Rev. Charles Kingsley, author of “Alton
Locke” and “Yeast” and “The
Saint’s Tragedy.” All these books
are full of world-wide truths, and yet, taken
as a whole, they are unsatisfactory and inconclusive,
knocking down without building up. Perhaps
that is the fault of the social system that he
lays bare, perhaps of the organization of the man,
perhaps a little of both. You will have heard
probably that he, with other benevolent persons,
established a sort of socialist community (Christian
socialism) for journeymen tailors, he himself being
their chaplain. The evil was very great, for of
twenty-one thousand of that class in London, fifteen
thousand were ill-paid and only half-employed.
For a while, that is, as long as the subscription
lasted, all went well; but I fear this week that the
money has come to an end, and so very likely will
the experiment. Have you republished “Alton
Locke” in America? It has one character,
an old Scotchman, equal to anything in Scott.
The writer is still quite a young man, but out
of health. I have heard (but this is between
ourselves) that ’s brain
is suffering, the terrible malady by
which so many of our great mental laborers (Scott and
Southey, above all) have fallen. Dr. Buckland
is now dying of it. I am afraid
may be so lost to the world and his friends, not merely
because his health is going, but because certain peculiarities
have come to my knowledge which look like it.
A brother clergyman saw him the other day, upon
a common near his own house, spouting, singing,
and reciting verse at the top of his voice at
one o’clock in the morning. Upon inquiring
what was the matter, the poet said that he never
went to bed till two or three o’clock, and
frequently went out in that way to exercise his lungs.
My informant, an orderly person of a very different
stamp, set him down for mad at once; but he is
much beloved among his parishioners, and if the
escapade above mentioned do not indicate disease of
the brain, I can only say it would be good for
the country if we had more madmen of the same
sort. As to John Ruskin, I would not answer for
quiet people not taking him for crazy too. He
is an enthusiast in art, often right, often wrong, “in
the right very stark, in the wrong very sturdy,” bigoted,
perverse, provoking, as ever man was; but good
and kind and charming beyond the common lot of mortals.
There are some pages of his prose that seem to
me more eloquent than anything out of Jeremy Taylor,
and I should think a selection of his works would
answer to reprint. Their sale here is something
wonderful, considering their dearness, in this
age of cheap literature, and the want of attraction
in the subject, although the illustrations of
the “Stones of Venice,” executed by himself
from his own drawings, are almost as exquisite
as the writings. By the way, he does not
say what I heard the other day from another friend,
just returned from the city of the sea, that Taglioni
has purchased four of the finest palaces, and
is restoring them with great taste, by way of
investment, intending to let them to Russian and English
noblemen. She was a very graceful dancer once,
was Taglioni; but still it rather depoetizes the
place, which of all others was richest in associations.
Mrs. Browning has got as near to England
as Paris, and holds out enough of hope of coming
to London to keep me from visiting it until I
know her decision. I have not seen the great Exhibition,
and, unless she arrives, most probably shall not
see it. My lameness, which has now lasted
five months, is the reason I give to myself for not
going, chairs being only admitted for an hour or two
on Saturday mornings. But I suspect that
my curiosity has hardly reached the fever-heat
needful to encounter the crowd and the fatigue.
It is amusing to find how people are cooling down
about it. We always were a nation of idolaters,
and always had the trick of avenging ourselves
upon our poor idols for the sin of our own idolatry.
Many an overrated, and then underrated, poet can
bear witness to this. I remember when my
friend Mr. Milnes was called the poet, although
Scott and Byron were in their glory, and Wordsworth
had written all of his works that will live.
We make gods of wood and stone, and then we knock
them to pieces; and so figuratively, if not literally,
shall we do by the Exhibition. Next month
I am going to move to a cottage at Swallowfield, so
called, I suppose, because those migratory birds
meet by millions every autumn in the park there, now
belonging to some friends of mine, and still famous
as the place where Lord Clarendon wrote his history.
That place is still almost a palace; mine an humble
but very prettily placed cottage. O, how proud
and glad I should be, if ever I could receive Mr. and
Mrs. Fields within its walls for more than a poor
hour! I shall have tired you with this long
letter, but you have made me reckon you among
my friends, ay, one of the best and kindest, and
must take the consequence.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, Saturday Night.
I write you two notes at once, my dear
friend, whilst the recollection of your conversation
is still in my head and the feeling of your kindness
warm on my heart. To write, to thank you for
a visit which has given me so much pleasure, is an
impulse not to be resisted. Pray tell Mr.
and Mrs. Bennoch how delighted I am to make their
acquaintance and how earnestly I hope we may meet often.
They are charming people.
Another motive that I had for writing
at once is to tell you that the more I think of
the title of the forthcoming book, the less I like
it; and I care more for it, now that you are concerned
in the matter, than I did before. “Personal
Reminiscences” sounds like a bad title for
an autobiography. Now this is nothing of the sort.
It is literally a book made up of favorite scraps
of poetry and prose; the bits of my own writing
are partly critical, and partly have been interwoven
to please Henry Chorley and give something of novelty,
and as it were individuality, to a mere selection,
to take off the dryness and triteness of extracts,
and give the pen something to say in the work
as well as the scissors. Still, it is a book
founded on other books, and since it pleased Mr. Bentley
to object to “Readings of Poetry,”
because he said nobody in England bought poetry,
why “Recollections of Books,” as suggested
by Mr. Bennett, approved by me, and as I believed
(till this very day) adopted by Mr. Bentley, seemed
to meet exactly the truth of the case, and to
be quite concession enough to the exigencies of the
trade. By the other title we exposed ourselves,
in my mind, to all manner of danger. I shall
write this by this same post to Mr. Bennett, and
get the announcement changed, if possible; for it seems
to me a trick of the worst sort. I shall write
a list of the subjects, and I only wish that I
had duplicates, and I would send you the articles,
for I am most uncomfortable at the notion of your
being taken in to purchase a book that may, through
this misnomer, lose its reputation in England;
for of course it will be attacked as an unworthy
attempt to make it pass for what it is not....
Now if you dislike it, or if Mr. Bentley
keep that odious title, why, give it up at once.
Don’t pray, pray lose money by me. It would
grieve me far more than it would you. A good
many of these are about books quite forgotten,
as the “Pleader’s Guide” (an exquisite
pleasantry), “Holcroft’s Memoirs,”
and “Richardson’s Correspondence.”
Much on Darley and the Irish Poets, unknown in England;
and I think myself that the book will contain, as in
the last article, much exquisite poetry and curious
prose, as in the forgotten murder (of Toole, the
author’s uncle) in the State Trials. But
it should be called by its right name, as everything
should in this world. God bless you!
Ever faithfully yours,
P.S. First will come the Preface,
then the story of the book (without Henry Chorley’s
name; it is to be dedicated to him), noticing
the coincidence of “Our Village” having
first appeared in the Lady’s Magazine, and
saying something like what I wrote to you last
night. I think this will take off the danger of
provoking apprehension on one side and disappointment
on the other; because after all, although anecdote
be not the style of the book, it does contain
May I put in the story of Washington’s
ghost? without your name, of course; it would
be very interesting, and I am ten times more desirous
of making the book as good as I can, since I have reason
to believe you will be interested in it.
Pray, forgive me for having worried you last night
and now again. I am a terribly nervous person,
and hate and dread literary scrapes, or indeed disputes
of any sort. But I ought not to have worried
you. Just tell me if you think this sort
of preface will take the sting from the title, for
I dare say Mr. Bentley won’t change it.
Adieu, dear friend. All
peace and comfort to you in your journey;
amusement you are sure of.
I write also to dear Mr. Bennett, whom I
fear I have also worried.
Ever most faithfully yours,
Mr. Bennoch has just had the very great
kindness, dear Mr. Fields, to let me know of your
safe arrival at Genoa, and of your enjoyment of
your journey. Thank God for it! We heard
so much about commotions in the South of France
that I had become fidgety about you, the rather
that it is the best who go, and that I for one cannot
afford to lose you.
Now let me thank you for all your munificence, that
beautiful Longfellow with the hundred illustrations,
and that other book of Professor Longfellow’s,
beautiful in another way, the “Golden Legend.”
I hope I shall be only one among the multitude who
think this the greatest and best thing he has
done yet, so racy, so full of character, of what
the French call local color, so, in its best and
highest sense, original. Moreover, I like the
happy ending. Then those charming volumes
of De Quincey and Sprague and Grace Greenwood.
(Is that her real name?) And dear Mr. Hawthorne, and
the two new poets, who, if also young poets, will
be fresh glories for America. How can I thank
you enough for all these enjoyments? And you
must come back to England, and add to my obligations
by giving me as much as you can of your company
in the merry month of May. I have fallen
in with Mr. Kingsley, and a most charming person he
is, certainly the least like an Englishman of
letters, and the most like an accomplished, high-toned
English gentleman, that I have ever met with.
You must know Mr. Kingsley. He is very young too,
really young, for it is characteristic of our
“young poets” that they generally
turn out middle-aged and very often elderly. My
book is out at last, hurried through the press
in a fortnight, a process which half
killed me, and has left the volumes, no doubt, full
of errata, and you, I mean your house,
have not got it. I am keeping a copy for
you personally. People say that they like it.
I think you will, because it will remind you of
this pretty country, and of an old Englishwoman
who loves you well. Mrs. Browning was delighted
with your visit. She is a Bonapartiste;
so am I. I always adored the Emperor, and I think
his nephew is a great man, full of ability, energy,
and courage, who put an end to an untenable situation
and got quit of a set of unrepresenting representatives.
The Times newspaper, right as it seems to me about
Kossuth, is dangerously wrong about Louis Napoleon,
since it is trying to stimulate the nation to
a war for which France is more than prepared, is ready,
and England is not. London might be taken
with far less trouble and fewer men than it took
to accomplish the coup d’etat. Ah!
I suspect very different politics will enclose
this wee bit notie, if dear Mr. Bennoch contrives
to fold it up in a letter of his own; but to agree
to differ is part of the privileges of friendship;
besides, I think you and I generally agree.
P.S. All this time I have not said
a word of “The Wonder Book.” Thanks
again and again. Who was the Mr. Blackstone mentioned
in “The Scarlet Letter” as riding
like a myth in New England History, and what his
arms? A grandson of Judge Blackstone, a friend
of mine, wishes to know.
I can never enough thank you, dearest
Mr. Fields, for your kind recollection of me in
such a place as the Eternal City. But you never
forget any whom you make happy in your friendship,
for that is the word; and therefore here in Europe
or across the Atlantic, you will always remain....
Your anecdote of the is most
characteristic. I am very much afraid that
he is only a poet, and although I fear the last
person in the world to deny that that is much,
I think that to be a really great man needs something
more. I am sure that you would not have sympathized
with Wordsworth. I do hope that you will
see Beranger when in Paris. He is the one man
in France (always excepting Louis Napoleon, to
whom I confess the interest that all women feel
in strength and courage) whom I should earnestly
desire to know well. In the first place, I think
him by far the greatest of living poets, the one
who unites most completely those two rare things,
impulse and finish. In the next, I admire his
admirable independence and consistency, and his generous
feeling for fallen greatness. Ah, what a
truth he told, when he said that Napoleon was
the greatest poet of modern days! I should like
to have the description of Beranger from your
lips. Mrs. Browning ... has made acquaintance
with Madame Sand, of whom her account is most striking
and interesting. But George Sand is George Sand,
and Beranger is Beranger.
Thank you, dear friend, for your kind
interest in my book. It has found far more
favor than I expected, and I think, ever since the
week after its publication, I have received a dozen
of letters daily about it, from friends and strangers, mostly
strangers, some of very high accomplishments,
who will certainly be friends. This is encouragement
to write again, and we will have a talk about it when
you come. I should like your advice.
One thing is certain, that this work has succeeded,
and that the people who like it best are precisely
those whom one wishes to like it best, the lovers of
literature. Amongst other things, I have received
countless volumes of poetry and prose, one
little volume of poetry written under the name
of Mary Maynard, of the greatest beauty, with the vividness
and picturesqueness of the new school, combined
with infinite correctness and clearness, that
rarest of all merits nowadays. Her real name
I don’t know, she has only thought it right to
tell me that Mary Maynard was not the true appellation
(this is between ourselves). Her own family
know nothing of the publication, which seems to
have been suggested by her and my friend, John Ruskin.
Of course, she must have her probation, but I
know of no young writer so likely to rival your
new American school. I sent your gift-books of
Hawthorne, yesterday, to the Walters of Bearwood, who
had never heard of them! Tell him that I
have had the honor of poking him into the den
of the Times, the only civilized place in England where
they were barbarous enough not to be acquainted
with “The Scarlet Letter.” I
wonder what they’ll think of it. It will
make them stare. They come to see me, for
it is full two months since I have been in the
pony-chaise. I was low, if you remember, when
you were here, but thought myself getting better,
was getting better. About Christmas, very
damp weather came on, or rather very wet weather, and
the damp seized my knee and ankles and brought
back such an attack of rheumatism that I cannot
stand upright, walk quite double, and am often
obliged to be lifted from step to step up stairs.
My medical adviser (a very clever man) says that
I shall get much better when warm weather comes,
but for weeks and weeks we have had east-winds and
frost. No violets, no primroses, no token of spring.
A little flock of ewes and lambs, with a pretty
boy commonly holding a lamb in his arms, who drives
his flock to water at the pond opposite my window,
is the only thing that gives token of the season.
I am quite mortified at this on your account,
for April, in general a month of great beauty
here, will be as desolate as winter. Nevertheless
you must come and see me, you and Mr. and Mrs.
Bennoch, and perhaps you can continue to stay
a day or two, or to come more than once. I want
to see as much of you as I can, and I must change
much, if I be in any condition to go to London,
even upon the only condition on which I ever do
go, that is, into lodgings, for I never stay anywhere;
and if I were to go, even to one dear and warm-hearted
friend, I should affront the very many other friends
whose invitations I have refused for so many years.
I hope to get at Mr. Kingsley; but I have seen little
of him this winter. We are five miles asunder;
his wife has been ill; and my fear of an open
carriage, or rather the medical injunction not
to enter one, has been a most insuperable objection.
We are, as we both said, summer neighbors.
However, I will try that you should see him.
He is well worth knowing. Thank you about Mr.
Blackstone. He is worth knowing too, in a
different way, a very learned and very clever
man (you will find half Dr. Arnold’s letters
addressed to him), as full of crotchets as an egg
is full of meat, fond of disputing and contradicting,
a clergyman living in the house where Mrs. Trollope
was raised, and very kind after his own fashion.
One thing that I should especially like would be that
you should see your first nightingale amongst
our woody lanes. To be sure, these winds
can never last till then. Mr.
is coming here on Sunday. He always brings
rain or snow, and that will change the weather.
You are a person who ought to bring sunshine, and I
suppose you do more than metaphorically; for I
remember that both times I have had the happiness
to see you a summer day and a winter day were
glorious. Heaven bless you, dear friend!
May all the pleasure ... return upon your own
head! Even my little world is charmed at
the prospect of seeing you again. If you come
to Reading by the Great Western you could return
later and make a longer day, and yet be no longer
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, April 27, 1852.
How can I thank you half enough, dearest
Mr. Fields, for all your goodness! To write
to me the very day after reaching Paris, to think
of me so kindly! It is what I never can repay.
I write now not to trouble you for another letter,
but to remind you that, as soon as possible after
your return to England, I hope to see you and Mr. and
Mrs. Bennoch here. Heaven grant the spring
may come to meet you! At present I am writing
in an east-wind, which has continued two months and
gives no sign of cessation. Professor Airy says
it will continue five weeks longer. Not a
drop of rain has fallen in all that time. We
have frosts every night, the hedges are as bare as
at Christmas, flowers forget to blow, or if they
put forth miserable, infrequent, reluctant blossoms,
have no heart, and I have only once heard the nightingale
in this place where they abound, and not yet seen a
swallow in the spot which takes name from their
gatherings. It follows, of course, that the
rheumatism, covered by a glut of wet weather,
just upon the coming in of the new year, is fifty times
increased by the bitter season, a season
which has no parallel in my recollection.
I can hardly sit down when standing, or rise from
my chair without assistance, walk quite double,
and am lifted up stairs step by step by my man-servant.
I thought, two years ago, I could walk fifteen
or sixteen miles a day! O, I was too proud of
my activity! I am sure we are smitten in
our vanities. However, you will bring the
summer, which is, they say, to do me good; and even
if that should fail, it will do me some good to
see you, that is quite certain. Thank you
for telling me about the Galignani, and about
the kind American reception of my book; some one sent
me a New York paper (the Tribune, I think), full
of kindness, and I do assure you that to be so
heartily greeted by my kinsmen across the Atlantic
is very precious to me. From the first American
has there come nothing but good-will. However,
the general kindness here has taken me quite by
surprise. The only fault found was with the title,
which, as you know, was no doing of mine; and the
number of private letters, books, verses, (commendatory
verses, as the old poets have it), and tributes
of all sorts, and from all manner of persons, that
I receive every day is something quite astonishing.
Our great portrait-painter, John Lucas,
certainly the first painter of female portraits
now alive, has been down here to take a portrait for
engraving. He has been most successful. It
is looking better, I suppose, than I ever do look;
but not better than under certain circumstances listening
to a favorite friend, for example I perhaps
might look. The picture is to go to-morrow into
the engraver’s hands, and I hope the
print will be completed before your departure;
also they are engraving, or are about to engrave, a
miniature taken of me when I was a little girl
between three and four years old. They are
to be placed side by side, the young child and
the old withered woman, a skull
and cross-bones could hardly be a more significant
memento mori! I have lost my near neighbor
and most accomplished friend, Sir Henry Russell, and
many other friends, for Death has been very busy
this winter, and Mr. Ware is gone! He had
sent me his “Zenobia,” “from the
author,” and for that very reason, I suppose,
some one had stolen it; but I had replaced both
that and the letters from Rome, and sent them to Mr.
Kingsley as models for his “Hypatia.”
He has them still. He had never heard of
them till I named them to him. They seem to me
very fine and classical, just like the best translations
from some great Latin writer. And I have
been most struck with Edgar Poe, who has been
republished, prose and poetry, in a shilling volume
called “Readable Books.” What
a deplorable history it was! I mean his
own, the most unredeemed vice that I
have met with in the annals of genius. But
he was a very remarkable writer, and must have a niche
if I write again; so must your two poets, Stoddard
and Taylor. I am very sorry you missed Mrs.
Trollope; she is a most remarkable woman, and
you would have liked her, I am sure, for her warm heart
and her many accomplishments. I had a sure
way to Beranger, one of my dear friends being
a dear friend of his; but on inquiring for him last
week, that friend also is gone to heaven.
Do pick up for me all you can about Louis Napoleon,
my one real abiding enthusiasm, the enthusiasm
of my whole life, for it began with the
Emperor and has passed quite undiminished to the
present great, bold, and able ruler of France.
Mrs. Browning shares it, I think; only she calls herself
cool, which I don’t; and another still more
remarkable co-religionist in the L.N. faith is
old Lady Shirley (of Alderley), the writer of
that most interesting letter to Gibbon, dated 1792,
published by her father, Lord Sheffield, in his
edition of the great historian’s posthumous
works. She is eighty-two now, and as active and
vigorous in body and mind, as sixty years ago.
Make my most affectionate
love to my friend in the Avenue des Champs
Elysees, and believe me ever,
my dear Mr. Fields, most gratefully
and affectionately yours,
Ah, my dearest Mr. Fields, how inimitably
good and kind you are to me! Your account
of Rachel is most delightful, the rather that it confirms
a preconceived notion which two of my friends had taken
pains to change. Henry Chorley, not only by
his own opinion, but by that of Scribe, who told
him that there was no comparison between her and
Viardot. Now if Viardot, even in that one famous
part of Fides, excels Rachel, she must be
much the finer actress, having the horrible drawback
of the music to get over. My other friend told
me a story of her, in the modern play of Virginie;
she declared that when in her father’s arms
she pointed to the butcher’s knife, telling
him what to do, and completely reversing that loveliest
story; but I hold to your version of her genius,
even admitting that she did commit the Virginie
iniquity, which would be intensely characteristic
of her calling, all actors and actresses
having a desire to play the whole play themselves,
speaking every speech, producing every effect
in their own person. No doubt she is a great
actress, and still more assuredly is Louis Napoleon
a great man, a man of genius, which includes in
my mind both sensibility and charm. There
are little bits of his writing from Ham, one where
he speaks of “lé repos de
ma prison,” another long and most eloquent
passage on exile, which ends (I forget the exact
words) with a sentiment full of truth and sensibility.
He is speaking of the treatment shown to an exile
in a foreign land, of the mistiness and coldness of
some, of the blandness and smoothness of others,
and he goes on to say, “He must be a man
of ten thousand who behaves to an exile just as
he would behave to another person.” If I
could trust you to perform a commission for me,
and let me pay you the money you spent upon it,
I would ask you to bring me a cheap but comprehensive
life of him, with his works and speeches, and
a portrait as like him as possible. I asked
an English friend to do this for me, and fancy his
sending me a book dated on the outside 1847!!!!
Did I ever tell you a pretty story of him, when
he was in England after Strasburg and before Boulogne,
and which I know to be true? He spent a twelvemonth
at Leamington, living in the quietest manner.
One of the principal persons there is Mr. Hampden,
a descendant of John Hampden, and the elder brother
of the Bishop. Mr. Hampden, himself a very liberal
and accomplished man, made a point of showing
every attention in his power to the Prince, and
they soon became very intimate. There was in
the town an old officer of the Emperor’s Polish
Legion who, compelled to leave France after Waterloo,
had taken refuge in England, and, having the national
talent for languages, maintained himself by teaching
French, Italian, and German in different families.
The old exile and the young one found each other out,
and the language master was soon an habitual guest
at the Prince’s table, and treated by him
with the most affectionate attention. At last
Louis Napoleon wearied of a country town and repaired
to London; but before he went he called on Mr.
Hampden to take leave. After warm thanks
for all the pleasure he had experienced in his society,
he said: “I am about to prove to you my
entire reliance upon your unfailing kindness by
leaving you a legacy. I want to ask you to
transfer to my poor old friend the goodness you have
lavished upon me. His health is failing,
his means are small. Will you call upon him
sometimes? and will you see that those lodging-house
people do not neglect him? and will you, above
all, do for him what he will not do for himself,
draw upon me for what may be wanting for his needs
or for his comforts?” Mr. Hampden promised.
The prophecy proved true; the poor old man grew
worse and worse, and finally died. Mr. Hampden,
as he had promised, replaced the Prince in his kind
attentions to his old friend, and finally defrayed
the charges of his illness and of his funeral.
“I would willingly have paid them myself,”
said he, “but I knew that that would have offended
and grieved the Prince, so I honestly divided
the expenses with him, and I found that full provision
had been made at his banker’s to answer my
drafts to a much larger amount.” Now I have
full faith in such a nature. Let me add that
he never forgot Mr. Hampden’s kindness, sending
him his different brochures and the kindest messages,
both from Ham and the Elysee. If one did
not not admire Louis Napoleon, I should like to
know upon whom one could, as a public man, fix one’s
admiration! Just look at our English statesmen!
And see the state to which self-government brings
everything! Look at London with all its sanitary
questions just in the same state as ten years ago;
look at all our acts of Parliament, one half of
a session passed in amending the mismanagement
of the other. For my own part, I really believe
that there is nothing like one mind, one wise and
good ruler; and I verily believe that the President
of France is that man. My only doubt being
whether the people are worthy of him, fickle as they
are, like all great masses, the French
people, in particular. By the way, if a most
vilely translated book, called the “Prisoner
of Ham,” be extant in French, I should like
to possess it. The account of the escape
looks true, and is most interesting.
I have been exceedingly struck, since
I last wrote to you, by some extracts from Edgar
Poe’s writings; I mean a book called “The
Readable Library,” composed of selections
from his works, prose and verse. The famous
ones are, I find, The Maelstrom and The Raven; without
denying their high merits, I prefer that fine poem
on The Bells, quite as fine as Schiller’s,
and those remarkable bits of stories on circumstantial
evidence. I am lower, dear friend, than ever,
and what is worse, in supporting myself on my hand
I have strained my right side and can hardly turn
in bed. But if we cannot walk round Swallowfield,
we can drive, and the very sight of you will do
me good. If Mr. Bentley send me only one copy
of that engraving, it shall be for you. You
know I have a copy for you of the book. There
are no words to tell the letters and books I receive
about it, so I suppose it is popular. I have
lost, as you know, my most accomplished and admirable
neighbor, Sir Henry Russell, the worthy successor
of the great Lord Clarendon. His eldest daughter
is my favorite young friend, a most lovely creature,
the ideal of a poet. I hope you will see
Beranger. Heaven bless you!
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Ah, my very dear friend, how can I ever
thank you? But I don’t want to thank
you. There are some persons (very few, though)
to whom it is a happiness to be indebted, and
you are one of them. The books and the busts
are arrived. Poor dear Louis Napoleon with his
head off Heaven avert the omen!
Of course that head can be replaced, I mean
stuck on again upon its proper shoulders. Beranger
is a beautiful old man, just what one fancies
him and loves to fancy him. I hope you saw
him. To my mind, he is the very greatest poet
now alive, perhaps the greatest man, the truest
and best type of perfect independence. Thanks
a thousand and a thousand times for those charming
busts and for the books. Mrs. Browning had mentioned
to me Mr. Read. If I live to write another
book, I shall put him and Mr. Taylor and Mr. Stoddard
together, and try to do justice to Poe. I have
a good right to love America and the Americans.
My Mr. Lucas tells me to go, and says he has a
mind to go. I want you to know John Lucas,
not only the finest portrait-painter, but about the
very finest mind that I know in the world.
He might be.... for talent and manner and heart;
and, if you like, you shall, when I am dead, have
the portrait he has just taken of me. I make
the reserve, instead of giving it to you now,
because it is possible that he might wish (I know
he does) to paint one for himself, and if I be dead
before sitting to him again, the present one would
serve him to copy. Mr. Bentley wanted to
purchase it, and many have wanted it, but it shall
be for you.
Now, my very dear friend, I am afraid
that Mr. has said or done something
that would make you rather come here alone. His
last letter to me, after a month’s silence,
was odd. There was no fixing upon
line or word; still it was not like his other letters,
and I suppose the air of is
not genial, and yet dear Mr. Bennoch breathes
it often! You must know that I never could have
meant for one instant to impose him upon you as
a companion. Only in the autumn there had
been a talk of his joining your party. He knows
Mr. Bennoch.... He has been very kind and
attentive to me, and is, I verily believe, an
excellent and true-hearted person; and so I was willing
that, if all fell out well, he should have the pleasure
of your society here, the rather that
I am sometimes so poorly, and always so helpless
now, that one who knows the place might be of use.
But to think that for one moment I would make your
time or your wishes bend to his is out of the
question. Come at your own time, as soon
and as often as you can. I should say this to
any one going away three thousand miles off, much
more to you, and forgive my having even hinted
at his coming too. I only did it thinking it
might fix you and suit you. In this view I
wrote to him yesterday, to tell him that on Wednesday
next there would be a cricket-match at Bramshill,
one of the finest old mansions in England, a Tudor
Manor House, altered by Inigo Jones, and formerly
the residence of Prince Henry, the elder son of
James the First. In the grand old park belonging
to that grand old place, there will be on that afternoon
a cricket-match. I thought you would like
to see our national game in a scene so perfectly
well adapted to show it to advantage. Being in
Mr. Kingsley’s parish, and he very intimate
with the owner, it is most likely, too, that he
will be there; so that altogether it seemed to
me something that you and dear Mr. and Mrs. Bennoch
might like to see. My poor little pony could
take you from hence; but not to fetch or carry
you, and if the dear Bennochs come, it would be advisable
to let the flymen know the place of destination, because,
Sir William Cope being a new-comer, I am not sure
whether he (like his predecessor, whom I knew)
allows horses and carriages to be put up there.
I should like you to look on for half an hour at a
cricket-match in Bramshill Park, and to be with
you at a scene so English and so beautiful.
We could dine here afterwards, the Great Western
allowing till a quarter before nine in the evening.
Contrive this if you can, and let me know by return
of post, and forgive my mal addresse about
Mr. . There certainly has something
come across him, not about you, but
about me; one thing is, I think, his extreme politics.
I always find these violent Radicals very unwilling
to allow in others the unlimited freedom of thought
that they claim for themselves. He can’t
forgive my love for the President. Now I
must tell you a story I know to be true. A lady
of rank was placed next the Prince a year or two
ago. He was very gentle and courteous, but
very silent, and she wanted to make him talk.
At last she remembered that, having been in Switzerland
twenty years before, she had received some kindness
from the Queen Hortense, and had spent a day at
Arenenburg. She told him so, speaking with
warm admiration of the Queen. “Ah,
madame, vous avez connu ma mere!”
exclaimed Louis Napoleon, turning to her eagerly and
talking of the place and the people as a school-boy
talks of home. She spent some months in Paris,
receiving from the Prince every attention which
his position enabled him to show; and when she thanked
him for such kindness, his answer was always:
“Ah, madame, vous avez
connu ma mere!” Is it in woman’s heart
not to love such a man? And then look at
the purchase of the Murillo the other day, and the
thousand really great things that he is doing.
Mr. is a goose.
I send this letter to the post to-morrow,
when I send other letters, a vile,
puritanical post-office arrangement not permitting
us to send letters in the afternoon, unless we
send straight to Reading (six miles) on purpose, so
perhaps this may cross an answer from Mr.
or from you about Bramshill; perhaps, on the other
hand, I may have to write again. At all events,
you will understand that this is written on Saturday
night. God bless you, my very dear and kind
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
May 24, 1852.
Ah, dearest Mr. Fields, how much too
good and kind you are to me always! ... I
wish I were better, that I might go to town and see
more of you; but I am more lame than ever, and
having, in my weight and my shortness and my extreme
helplessness, caught at tables and chairs and
dragged myself along that fashion, I have now so strained
the upper part of the body that I cannot turn in
bed, and am full of muscular pains which are worse
than the rheumatism and more disabling, so that
I seem to cumber the earth. They say that summer,
when it comes, will do me good. How much more
sure that the sight of you will do me good, and
I trust that, when your business will let you,
you will give me that happiness. In the mean while
will you take the trouble to send the enclosed
and my answer, if it be fit and proper and properly
addressed? I give you this office, because really
the kindness seems so large and unlimited, that, if
the letter had not come enclosed in one from Mr.
Kenyon, one could hardly have believed it to be
serious, and yet I am well used to kindness, too.
I thank over and over again your glorious poets for
their kindness, and tell Mr. Hawthorne I shall
prize a letter from him beyond all the worlds
one has to give. I rejoice to hear of the new
work, and can answer for its excellence.
I trust that the English edition of
Dr. Holmes will contain the “Astraea,”
and the “Morning Visit,” and the “Cambridge
Address.” I am not sure, in my secret
soul, that I do not prefer him to any American
poet. Besides his inimitable word-painting, the
charity is so large and the scale so fine.
How kind in you to like my book, some
people do like it. I am afraid to tell you what
John Ruskin says of it from Venice, and I get
letters, from ten to twenty a day. You know
how little I dreamt of this! Mrs. Trollope has
sent me a most affectionate letter, bemoaning
her ill-fortune in missing you. I thank you
for the Galignani edition, and the presidential kindness,
and all your goodness of every sort. I have nothing
to give you but as large a share of my poor affection
as I think any human being has. You know
a copy of the book from me has been waiting for
you these three months. Adieu, my dear friend.
(July 6, 1852.) Monday Night,
or, rather, 2 o’clock Tuesday Morning.
Having just finished Mr. Hawthorne’s
book, dear Mr. Fields, I shall get K
to put it up and direct it so that it may be ready
the first time Sam has occasion to go to Reading,
at which time this letter will be put in the post;
so that when you read this, you may be assured
that the precious volumes are arrived at the Paddington
Station, whence I hope they may be immediately
transmitted to you. If not, send for them.
They will have your full direction, carriage paid.
I say this, because the much vaunted Great Western
is like all other railways, most uncertain and
irregular, and we have lost a packet of plants
this very week, sent to us, announced by letter and
never arrived. Thank you heartily for the
perusal of the book. I shall not name it
in a letter which I mean to enclose to Mr. Hawthorne,
not knowing that you mean to tell him, and having plenty
of other things to say to him besides. To
you, and only to you, I shall speak quite frankly
what I think. It is full of beauty and of power,
but I agree with that it would
not have made a reputation as the other two books
did, and I have some doubts whether it will not
be a disappointment, but one that will soon be redeemed
by a fresh and happier effort. It seems to me
too long, too slow, and the personages are to
my mind ill chosen. Zenobia puts one in mind
of Fanny Wright and Margaret Fuller and other unsexed
authorities, and Hollingsworth will, I fear, recall,
to English people at least, a most horrible man
who went about preaching peace. I heard him
lecture once, and shall never forget his presumption,
his ignorance, or his vulgarity. He is said
to know many languages. I can answer for
his not knowing his own, for I never, even upon the
platform, the native home of bad English, heard
so much in so short a time. The mesmeric
lecturer and the sickly girl are almost equally disagreeable.
In short, the only likeable person in the book is
honest Silas Foster, who alone gives one the notion
of a man of flesh and blood. In my mind,
dear Mr. Hawthorne mistakes exceedingly when he
thinks that fiction should be based upon, or rather
seen through, some ideal medium. The greatest
fictions of the world are the truest. Look
at the “Vicar of Wakefield,” look at the
“Simple Story,” look at Scott, look
at Jane Austen, greater because truer than all,
look at the best works of your own Cooper. It
is precisely the want of reality in his smaller
stories which has delayed Mr. Hawthorne’s
fame so long, and will prevent its extension if he
do not resolutely throw himself into truth, which
is as great a thing in my mind in art as in morals,
the foundation of all excellence in both.
The fine parts of this book, at least the finest, are
the truest, that magnificent search
for the body, which is as perfect as the search
for the exciseman in Guy Mannering, and the burst of
passion in Eliot’s pulpit. The plot,
too, is very finely constructed, and doubtless
I have been a too critical reader, because, from
the moment you and I parted, I have been suffering
from fever, and have never left the bed, in which
I am now writing. Don’t fancy, dear
friend, that you had anything to do with this.
The complaint had fixed itself and would have
run its course, even although your ... society
has not roused and excited the good spirits, which
will, I think, fail only with my life. I think
I am going to get better. Love to all.
Ever most affectionately yours,
Tuesday. (No date.)
My Dear Friend: Being fit for nothing
but lying in bed and reading novels, I have just
finished Mr. Field’s and Mr. Jones’s “Adrien,”
and as you certainly will not have time to look
at it, and may like to hear my opinion, I will
tell it to you. Mr. Field, from the Preface,
is of New York. The thing that has diverted me
most is the love-plot of the book. A young
gentleman, whose father came and settled in America
and made a competence there, is third or fourth cousin
to an English lord. He falls in love with a fisherman’s
daughter (the story appears to be about fifty years
back). This fisherman’s daughter is
a most ethereal personage, speaking and reading
Italian, and possessing in the fishing-cottage a pianoforte
and a collection of books; nevertheless, she one
day hears her husband say something about a person
being “well born and well bred,” and
forthwith goes away from him, in order to set him free
from the misery entailed upon him, as she supposes,
by a disproportionate marriage. Is not this
curious in your republic? We in England certainly
should not play such pranks. A man having married
a wife, his wife stays by him. This dilemma is
got over by the fisherman’s turning out
to be himself fifth or sixth cousin of another
English lord. But, having lived really as a fisherman
ever since his daughter’s birth, he knew
nothing of his aristocratic descent. I think
this is the most remarkable thing in the book.
There are certain flings at the New England character
(the scene is laid beside the waters of your Bay)
which seem to foretell a not very remote migration
on the part of Mr. Jones, though they may come from
his partner; nothing very bad, only such hits as this:
“He was simple, humble, affectionate, three
qualities rare anywhere, but perhaps more rare
in that part of the world than anywhere else.”
For the rest the book is far inferior to the best
even of Mr. James’s recent productions,
such as “Henry Smeaton.” These two
authors speak of the corpse of a drowned man as
beautified by death, and retaining all the look
of life. You remember what Mr. Hawthorne says
of the appearance of his drowned heroine, which
is right? I have had the most delightful
letter possible (you shall see it when you come) from
dear Dr. Holmes, and venture to trouble you with the
enclosed answer. Yesterday, Mr. Harness,
who had heard a bad account of me (for I have
been very ill, and, although much better now, I gather
from everybody that I am thought to be breaking
down fast), so like the dear kind old friend that
he is, came to see me. It was a great pleasure.
We talked much of you, and I think he will call upon
you. Whether he call or not, do go to see
him. He is fully prepared for you as Mr.
Dyce’s friend and Mr. Rogers’s friend,
and my very dear friend. Do go; you will
find him charming, so different from the author
people that Mr. Kenyon collects. I am sure of
your liking each other. Surely by next week
I may be well enough to see you. You and
Mrs. W would do me nothing but
good. Say everything to her, and to our dear
kind friends, the Bennochs. I ought to have written
to them, but I get as much scolded for writing
Ever yours, M.R.M.
How good and kind you are to me, dearest
Mr. Fields! kindest of all, I think, in writing
me those.... One comfort is, that if London lose
you this year I do think you will not suffer many
to elapse before revisiting it. Ah, you will
hardly find your poor old friend next time!
Not that I expect to die just now, but there is such
a want of strength, of the power that shakes off
disease, which is no good sign for the constitution.
Yesterday I got up for a little while, for the
first time since I saw you; but, having let in too
many people, the fever came on again at night,
and I am only just now shaking off the attack,
and feel that I must submit to perfect quietness
for the present. Still the attack was less violent
than the last, and unattended by sickness, so
that I am really better and hope in a week or
so to be able to get out with you under the trees,
perhaps as far as Upton.
One of my yesterday’s visitors
was a glorious old lady of seventy-six, who has
lived in Paris for the last thirty years, and I do
believe came to England very much for the purpose of
seeing me. She had known my father before
his marriage. He had taken her in his hand
(he was always fond of children) one day to see my
mother; she had been present at their wedding,
and remembered the old housekeeper and the pretty
nursery-maid and the great dog too, and had won
with great difficulty (she being then eleven years
old) the privilege of having the baby to hold.
Her descriptions of all these things and places
were most graphic, and you may imagine how much she
must have been struck with my book when it met her
eye in Paris, and how much I (knowing all about
her family) was struck on my part by all these
details, given with the spirit and fire of an enthusiastic
woman of twenty. We had certainly never met.
I left Alresford at three years old. She
made an appointment to spend a day here next year,
having with her a daughter, apparently by a first
husband. Also she had the same host of recollections
of Louis Napoleon, remembered the Emperor, as
Premier Consul, and La Reine Hortense as Mlle.
de Beauharnais. Her account of the Prince is
favorable. She says that it is a most real
popularity, and that, if anything like durability
can ever be predicated of the French, it will
prove a lasting one. I had a letter from Mrs.
Browning to-day, talking of the “Facts of
the Times,” of which she said some gentlemen
were speaking with the same supreme contempt and disbelief
that I profess for every paragraph in that collection
of falsehoods. For my own part, I hold a
wise despotism, like the Prince President’s,
the only rule to live under. Only look at the
figure our soi-disant statesmen cut, Whig
and Tory, and then glance your eye
across the Atlantic to your “own dear people,”
as Dr. Holmes says, and their doings in the Presidential
line. Apropos to Dr. Holmes you’ll
see him read and quoted when and his doings
are as dead as Henry the Eighth. has
no feeling for finish or polish or delicacy, and
doubtless dismisses Pope and Goldsmith with supreme
contempt. She never mentions that horrid trial,
to my great comfort. Did I tell you that
I had been reading Louis Napoleon’s most charming
three volumes full?
Among my visitors yesterday was Miss
Percy, the heiress of Guy’s Cliff, one of
the richest in England, and, what is odd, the translator
of “Emilie Carlen’s Birthright,”
the only Swedish novel I have ever got fairly
through, because Miss Percy really does her work
well, and I can’t read ’s
English. Miss Percy, who, besides being very
clever and agreeable, is also pretty, has refused some
scores of offers, and declares she’ll never
marry; she has a dread of being sought for her
God bless you, dearest, kindest
friend. Say everything for me to
Ever most faithfully yours,
Yes, dearest Mr. Fields, I continue
to get better and better, and shall be delighted
to see you and Mr. and Mrs. W on
Friday. I even went in to surprise Mr. May
on Saturday, so, weather permitting, we shall
get up to Upton together. I want you to see that
relique of Protestant bigotry. No doubt many of
my dear countrymen would play just the same pranks
now, if the spirit of the age would permit; the
will is not wanting, witness our courts of law.
I have been reading the “Life
of Margaret Fuller.” What a tragedy from
first to last! She must have been odious in Boston
in spite of her power and her strong sense of
duty, with which I always sympathize; but at New
York, where she dwindled from a sibyl to a “lionne,”
one begins to like her better, and in England and Paris,
where she was not even that, better still; so that
one is prepared for the deep interest of the last
half-volume. Of course her example must have
done much injury to the girls of her train. Of
course, also, she is the Zenobia of dear Mr Hawthorne.
One wonders what her book would have been like.
Mr. Bennett has sent me the “Nile
Notes.” We must talk about that, which
I have not read yet, not delighting much in Eastern
travels, or, rather, being tired of them.
Ah, how sad it will be when I cannot say “We
will talk”! Surely Mr. Webster does not
mean to get up a dispute with England! That
would be an affliction; for what nations should
be friends if ours should not? What our ministers
mean, nobody can tell, hardly, I suppose,
themselves. My hope was in Mr. Webster.
Well, this is for talking. God bless you, dear
Ever most affectionately yours,
August 7, 1852.
Hurrah! dear and kind friend, I have
found the line without any other person’s
aid or suggestion. Last night it occurred to me
that it was in some prologue or epilogue, and
my little book-room being very rich in the drama,
I have looked through many hundreds of those bits
of rhyme, and at last made a discovery which, if it
have no other good effect, will at least have
“emptied my head of Corsica,” as Johnson
said to Boswell; for never was the great biographer
more haunted by the thought of Paoli than I by
that line. It occurs in an epilogue by Garrick
on quitting the stage, June, 1776, when the performance
was for the benefit of sick and aged actors.
A veteran see! whose last act on the
stage Entreats your smiles for sickness and for
age; Their cause I plead, plead it in heart and
mind, A fellow-feeling makes one wondrous kind.
Not finding it quoted in Johnson convinced
me that it would probably have been written after
the publication of the Dictionary, and ultimately
guided me to the right place. It is singular that
epilogues were just dismissed at the first representation
of one of my plays, “Foscari,” and
prologues at another, “Rienzi.”
I have but a moment to answer your most
kind letter, because I have been engaged with
company, or rather interrupted by company, ever since
I got up, but you will pardon me. Nothing ever
did me so much good as your visit. My only
comfort is the hope of your return in the spring.
Then I hope to be well enough to show Mr Hawthorne
all the holes and corners my own self. Tell
him so. I am already about to study the State
Trials, and make myself perfect in all that can assist
the romance. It will be a labor of love to do
for him the small and humble part of collecting
facts and books, and making ready the palette
for the great painter.
Talking of artists, one was here
on Sunday who was going to Upton yesterday.
His object was to sketch every place mentioned in my
book. Many of the places (as those round Taplow)
he had taken, and K says he
took this house and the stick and Fanchon and probably
herself. I was unluckily gone to take home
the dear visitors who cheer me daily and whom
I so wish you to see.
God bless you all, dear friends.
Ever most affectionately yours,
Swallowfield, September 24,
My Very Dear Mr. Fields: I am beginning
to get very fidgety about you, and thinking rather
too often, not only of the breadth of the Atlantic,
but of its dangers. However I must hear soon,
and I write now because I am expecting a fellow-townsman
of yours, Mr. Thompson, an American artist, who
expected to find you still in England, and who
is welcomed, as I suppose all Boston would be ...
People do not love you the less, dear friend,
for missing you.
I write to you this morning, because
I have something to say and something to ask.
In the first place, I am better. Mr. Harness,
who, God bless him, left that Temple of Art, the
Deepdene, and Mr. Hope’s delightful conversation,
to come and take care of me, stayed at Swallowfield
three weeks. He found out a tidy lodging, which
he has retained, and he promises to come back
in November; at present he is again at the Deepdene.
Nothing could be so judicious as his way of going
on; he came at two o’clock to my cottage and
we drove out together; then he went to his lodgings
to dinner, to give me three hours of perfect quiet;
at eight he and the Russells met here to tea,
and he read Shakespeare (there is no such reader in
the world) till bedtime. Under his treatment
no wonder that I improved, but the low-fever is
not far off; doing a little too much, I fell back even
before his departure, and have been worse since.
However, on the whole, I am much better.
Now to my request. You perhaps
remember my speaking to you of a copy of my “Recollections,”
which was in course of illustration in the winter.
Mr. Holloway, a great print-seller of Bedford Street,
Covent Garden, has been engaged upon it ever since,
and brought me the first volume to look at on
Tuesday. It would have rejoiced the soul of
dear Dr. Holmes. My book is to be set into six
or seven or eight volumes, quarto, as the case
may be; and although not unfamiliar with the luxuries
of the library, I could not have believed in the number
and richness of the pearls which have been strung upon
so slender a thread. The rarest and finest
portraits, often many of one person and always
the choicest and the best, ranging from
magnificent heads of the great old poets, from
the Charleses and Cromwells, to Sprat and George
Faulkner of Dublin, of whom it was thought none
existed, until this print turned up unexpectedly in
a supplementary volume of Lord Chesterfield; nothing
is too odd for Mr. Holloway. There is a colored
print of George the Third, a full length
which really brings the old king to life again, so
striking is the resemblance, and quantities of
theatrical people, Munden and Elliston and the
Kembles. There are two portraits of “glorious
John” in Penruddock. Then the curious
old prints of old houses. They have not only
one two hundred years old of Dorrington Castle, but
the actual drawing from which that engraving was
made; and they are rich beyond anything in exquisite
drawings of scenery by modern artists sent on
purpose to the different spots mentioned. Besides
which there are all sorts of characteristic autographs
(a capital one of Pope); in short, nothing is
wanting that the most unlimited expense (Mr. Holloway
told me that his employer, a great city merchant of
unbounded riches, constantly urged him to spare
no expense to procure everything that money would
buy), added to taste, skill, and experience, could
accomplish. Of course the number of proper names
and names of places have been one motive for conferring
upon my book an honor of which I never dreamt;
but there is, besides, an enthusiasm for my writings
on the part of Mrs. Dillon, the lady of the possessor,
for whom it is destined as a birthday gift. Now
what I have to ask of you is to procure for Mr.
Holloway as many autographs and portraits as you
can of the American writers whom I have named, dear
Dr. Holmes, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Whittier, Prescott,
Ticknor. If any of them would add a line or two
of their writing to their names, it would be a
favor, and if; being about it, they would send
two other plain autographs, for I have heard of two
other copies in course of illustration, and expect
to be applied to by their proprietors every day.
Mr. Holloway wrote to some trade connection in
Philadelphia, but probably because he applied to the
wrong place and the wrong person, and because he
limited his correspondent to time, obtained no
results. If there be a print of Professor
Longfellow’s house, so much the better, or any
other autographs of Americans named in my book.
Forgive this trouble, dear friend. You will
probably see the work when you come to London in the
spring, and then you will understand the interest that
I take in it as a great book of art. Also
my dear old friend, Lady Morley (Gibbon’s
correspondent), who at the age of eighty-three is caught
by new books and is as enthusiastic as a girl,
has commissioned me to inquire about your new
authoress, the writer of , who
she is and all about her. For my part, I
have not finished the book yet, and never shall.
Besides my own utter dislike to its painfulness, its
one-sidedness, and its exaggeration, I observe that
the sort of popularity which it has obtained in
England, and probably in America, is decidedly
bad, of the sort which cannot and does not
last, a cry which is always essentially
one-sided and commonly wrong....
Ever most faithfully and affectionately
October 5, 1852.
DEAREST MR. FIELDS: You will think
that I persecute you, but I find that Mr. Dillon,
for whom Mr. Holloway is illustrating my Recollections
so splendidly, means to send the volumes to the binder
on the 1st of November. I write therefore
to beg, in case of your not having yet sent off
the American autographs and portraits, that they
may be forwarded direct to Mr. Holloway, 25 Bedford
Street, Covent Garden, London. It is very
foolish not to wait until all the materials are
collected, but it is meant as an offering to Mrs.
Dillon, and I suppose there is some anniversary
in the way. Mr. Dillon is a great lover and
preserver of fine engravings; his collection,
one of the finest private collections in the world,
is estimated at sixty thousand pounds. He
is a friend of dear Mr. Bennoch’s, who,
when I told him the compliment that had been paid to
my work by a great city man, immediately said it
could be nobody but Mr. Dillon. I have twice
seen Mr. Bennoch within the last ten days, once
with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Thompson, your own Boston
artist, whom I liked much, and who gave me the
great pleasure of talking of you and of dear Mr.
and Mrs. W , last time with his
own good and charming wife and .
Only think of ’s saying that
Shakespeare, if he had lived now, would have been
thought nothing of, and this rather as a compliment
to the age than not! But, if you remember,
he printed amended words to the air of “Drink
to me only.” Ah, dear me, I suspect
that both William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson will
survive him; don’t you? Nevertheless he
is better than might be predicated from that observation.
All my domestic news is bad enough.
My poor pretty pony keeps his bed in the stable,
with a violent attack of influenza, and Sam and Fanchon
spend three parts of their time in nursing him.
Moreover we have had such rains here that the
Lodden has overflowed its banks, and is now covering
the water meadows, and almost covering the lower parts
of the lanes. Adieu, dearest friend.
Ever most faithfully yours,
Swallowfield, October 13,
More than one letter of mine, dearest
friend, crossed yours, for which I cannot sufficiently
thank you. Nobody can better understand than
I do, how very, very glad your own people, and all
the good city, must feel to get you back again, I
trust not to keep; for in spite of sea-sickness,
that misery which during the summer I have contrived
to feel on land, I still hope that we shall have you
here again in the spring. I am impatiently
waiting the arrival of portraits and autographs,
and if they do not come in time to bind, I shall
charge Mr. Holloway to contrive that they may be pasted
with the copy of my Recollections to which Mr.
Dillon is paying so high and so costly a compliment.
Now I must tell you some news.
First let me say that there is an admirable
criticism in one of the numbers of the Nonconformist,
edited by Edward Miall, one of the new members
of Parliament, and certainly the most able of the dissenting
organs, on our favorite poet, Dr. Holmes.
Also I have a letter from Dr. Robert Dickson,
of Hertford Street, May Fair, one of the highest and
most fashionable London physicians, respecting my book,
liking Dr. Holmes better than anybody for the
very qualities for which he would himself choose
to be preferred, originality and justness of thought,
admirable fineness and propriety of diction, and a
power of painting by words, very rare in any age,
and rarest of the rare in this, when vagueness
and obscurity mar so much that is high and pure.
I shall keep this letter to show Dr. Holmes,
tell him with my affectionate love. If it
were not written on the thickest paper ever seen,
and as huge as it is thick, I would send it; but I’ll
keep it for him against he comes to claim it.
The description of spring is, Dr. Dickson says,
remarkable for originality and truth. He
thanks me for those poems of Dr. Holmes as if I had
written them. Now be free to tell him all
this. Of course you have told Mr. Hawthorne
of the highly eulogistic critique on the “Blithedale
Romance” in the Times, written, I believe,
by Mr. Willmott, to whom I lent the veritable
copy received from the author. Another thing
let me say, that I have been reading with the greatest
pleasure some letters on African trees copied
from the New York Tribune into Bentley’s
Miscellany, and no doubt by Mr. Bayard Taylor.
Our chief London news is that Mrs. Browning’s
cough came on so violently, in consequence of
the sudden setting in of cold weather, that they are
off for a week or two to Paris, then to Florence,
Rome, and Naples, and back here in the summer.
Her father still refuses to open a letter or to
hear her name. Mrs. Southey, suffering also from
chest-complaint, has shut herself up till June.
Poor Anne Hatton, who was betrothed to Thomas
Davis, and was supposed to be in a consumption,
is recovering, they say, under the advice of a clairvoyante.
Most likely a broken vessel has healed on the lungs,
or perhaps an abscess. Be what it may, the
consequence is happy, for she is a lovely creature
and the only joy of a fond mother. Alfred Tennyson’s
boy was christened the other day by the name of Hallam
Tennyson, Mr. Hallam standing to it in person.
This is just as it should be on all sides, only
that Arthur Hallam would have been a prettier
name. You know that Arthur Hallam was the lost
friend of the “In Memoriam,” and engaged
to Tennyson’s sister, and that after his
death, and even after her marrying another man, Mr.
Hallam makes her a large allowance.
We have just escaped a signal misfortune;
my dear pretty pony has been upon the point of
death with influenza. Would not you have been
sorry if that pony had died? He has, however,
recovered under Sam’s care and skill, and
the first symptom of convalescence was his neighing
to Sam through the window. You will have found
out that I too am better. I trust to be stronger
when you come again, well enough to introduce
you to Mr. Harness, whom we are expecting here next
month. God bless you, my dear and kind friend.
I send this through dear Mr Bennoch, whom I like
better and better; so I do Mrs. Bennoch, and everybody
who knows and loves you. Ever, my dear Mr. Fields,
Your faithful and affectionate
P.S. October 17. I have
kept this letter open till now, and I am glad
I did so. Acting upon the hint you gave of Mr.
De Quincey’s kind feeling, I wrote to him,
and yesterday I had a charming letter from his
daughter, saying how much her father was gratified
by mine, that he had already written an answer,
amounting to a good-sized pamphlet, but that when
it would be finished was doubtful, so she sent
hers as a precursor.
Swallowfield, November 11,
I write, dearest friend, and although
the packet which you had the infinite goodness
to send, has not reached me yet, and may not possibly
before my letter goes, so uncertain is our
railway, yet I will write because our
excellent friend, Mr. Bennoch, says that he has
sent it off.... You will understand that I am
even more obliged by your goodness about Mr. Dillon’s
book than by any of the thousand obligations to
myself only. Besides my personal interest, as
so great a compliment to my own work, Mr. Dillon
appears to be a most interesting person.
He is a friend of Mr. Bennoch’s, from whom I
had his history, one most honorable to him, and
he has written to me since I wrote to you and
proposes to come and see me. You must see him
when you come to England, and must see his collection
of engravings. Would not dear Dr. Holmes
have a sympathy with Mr. Dillon? Have you
such fancies in America? They are not common even
here; but Miss Skerrett (the Queen’s factotum)
tells me that the most remarkable book in Windsor
Castle is a De Grammont most richly and expensively
illustrated by George the Fourth, who, with all his
sins as a monarch, was the only sovereign since
the Stuarts of any literary taste.
Here is your packet! O my dear,
dear friend, how shall I thank you half enough!
I shall send the parcels to-morrow morning, the very
first thing, to Mr. Holloway. The work is
at the binder’s, but fly-leaves have been
left for the American packet of which I felt so sure,
although even I could hardly foresee its value.
One or two duplicates I have kept. Tell Mr.
Hawthorne that I shall make a dozen people rich
and happy by his autograph, and tell Dr. Holmes I could
not find it in my heart to part with the “Mary”
stanza. Never was a writer who possessed
more perfectly the art of doing great things greatly
and small things gracefully. Love to Mr. Hawthorne
and to him.
Poor Daniel Webster! or rather poor
America! Rich as she is, she cannot afford
the loss, the greatest the world has known since our
Sir Robert. But what a death-bed, and what
a funeral! How noble an end of that noble
life! I feel it the more, hearing and reading
so much about the Duke’s funeral, which
by dint of the delay will not cause the slightest
real feeling, but will be attended just like every
show, and yet as a show will be gloomy and poor.
How much better to have laid him simply here at
Strathfieldsaye, and left it as a place of pilgrimage, as
Strathfield will be, although between the
two men, in my mind, there was no comparison; the one
was a genius, the other mere soldier, pure
physical force measured with intellect the richest
and the proudest. I have twenty letters speaking
of him as one of the greatest among the statesmen of
the age. The Times only refuses to do him
justice. But when did the Times do justice
to any one? Look how it talks of our Emperor.
Your friend Bayard Taylor came to see
me a fortnight ago, just before he sailed on his
tour round the world. I told him the first of
Bentley’s reprinting his letters from the New
York Tribune; he had not heard a word of it.
He seemed an admirable person, and it is good
to have such travellers to follow with one’s
heart and one’s earnest good wishes.
Also I have had two packets, one
from Mrs. Sparks, with a nice letter, and some
fresh and glorious autumnal flowers, and a collection
of autumn leaves from your glorious forests. I
have written to thank her. She seems full
of heart, and she says that she drove into Boston
on purpose to see you, but missed you. When you
do meet, tell me about her. Also, I have
through you, dear friend, a most interesting book
from Mr. Ware. To him, also, I have written,
but tell him how much I feel and prize his kindness,
all the more welcome for coming from a kinsman
of dear Mrs. W . Tell her and
her excellent husband that they cannot think of
us oftener or more warmly than we think of them.
O, how I should like to visit you at Boston!
But I should have your malady by the way, and not your
strength to stand it....
God bless you, my dear and
excellent friend! I seem to have a
thousand things to say to
you, but the post is going, and a whole
sheet of paper would not hold
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, November 25,
My Dear Friend: Your most kind
and welcome letter arrived to-day, two days after
the papers, for which I thank you much. Still
more do I thank you for that kind and charming
letter, and for its enclosures. The anonymous
poem [it was by Dr. T.W. Parsons] is far finer
than anything that has been written on the death of
the Duke of Wellington, as indeed it was a far
finer subject. May I inquire the name of
the writer? Mr. Everett’s speech also is
superb, and how very much I prefer the Marshfield
funeral in its sublime simplicity to the tawdry
pageantry here! I have had fifty letters from
persons who saw the funeral in St. Paul’s,
and seen as many who saw that or the procession,
and it is strange that the papers have omitted alike
the great successes and the great failures.
My young neighbor, a captain in the Grenadier
Guards (the Duke’s regiment), saw the uncovering
the car which had been hidden by the drapery, and was
to have been a great effect, and he says it was
exactly what is sometimes seen in a theatre when
one scene is drawn up too soon and the other is
not ready. Carpenters and undertaker’s men
were on all parts of the car, and the draperies
and ornaments were everywhere but in their places.
Again, the procession waited upwards of an hour at
the cathedral door, because the same people had made
no provision for taking the coffin from the car;
again, the sunlight was let into St. Paul’s,
mingling most discordantly with the gas, and the naked
wood of screens and benches and board beams disfigured
the grand entrance. In three months’
interval they had not time! On the other hand,
the strong points were the music, the effect of which
is said to have been unrivalled; the actual performance
of the service, my friend Dean Milman
is renowned for his manner of reading the funeral
service, he officiated at the burial of Mrs. Lockhart
(Sir Walter’s favorite daughter), and
none who were present could speak of it without
tears; the clerical part of the procession, which was
a real and visible mourning pageant in its flowing
robes of white with black bands and sashes; the
living branches of laurel and cypress amongst
the mere finery; and, above all, the hushed silence
of the people, always most and best impressed
by anything that appeals to the imagination or
I suppose you will have seen how England
is flooded, and you will like to hear that this
tiny speck has escaped. The Lodden is over the
park, and turns the beautiful water meadows down to
Strathfieldsaye into a no less beautiful lake,
two or three times a week; but then it subsides
as quickly as it rises, so there is none of the
lying under water which results in all sorts of pestilential
exhalations, and this cottage is lifted out of
every bad influence, nay, a kind neighbor having
had my lane scraped, I walk dry-shod every afternoon
a mile and a half, which is more than I ever expected
to compass again, and for which I am most thankful.
But we have had our own troubles. K
has lost her father. He was seized with paralysis
and knew nobody, so they desired her not to come, and
Sam went alone to the funeral. After all,
this is her home, and she has pretty well
got over her affliction, and the pony is well again,
and strong enough to draw you and me in the spring, for
I am looking forward to good and happy days again
when you shall return to England.
Your magnificent present for Mr. Dillon’s
book was quite in time, dear friend. I had
warned them to leave room, and Mr. Holloway and the
binders contrived it admirably. They are most
grateful for your kindness, and most gratefully
shall I receive the promised volumes. I have
not yet got “the pamphlet,” and am much
afraid it is buried in what Miss De Quincey calls
her “father’s chaos”; but I have
charming letters from her, and am heartily glad
that I wrote. You have the way (like Mr.
Bennoch) of making friends still better friends,
and bringing together those who, without you, would
have had no intercourse. It is the very finest
of all the fine arts. Tell dear Dr. Holmes
that the more I hear of him, the more I feel how inadequate
has been all that I have said to express my own feelings;
and tell President Sparks that his charming wife
ought to have received a long letter from me at
the same moment with yourself. Mr. Hawthorne’s
new work will be a real treat. Tell me if Mr.
Bennoch has sent you some stanzas on Ireland,
which have more of the very highest qualities
of Beranger than I have ever seen in English verse.
We who love him shall have to be very proud of dear
Mr. Bennoch. Tell me, too, if our solution
of the line, “A fellow-feeling makes us
wondrous kind,” was the first; and why the new
President is at once called General and talked of as
a civilian. The other President goes on nobly,
does he not?
Say everything for me to dear
Mr. and Mrs. W and all friends.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, December 14,
O my very dear friend, how much too
kind you are to me, who have nothing to give you
in return but affection and gratitude! Mr. Bennett
brought me your beautiful book on Saturday, and you
may think how heartily we wished that you had
been here also. But you will come this spring,
will you not? I earnestly hope nothing will come
in the way of that happiness. Before leaving the
subject of our good little friend, let me say
that, talking over our own best authors and your
De Quincey (N.B. The pamphlet has not arrived
yet, I fear it is forever buried in De Quincey’s
“chaos"), talking of these things,
we both agreed that there was another author, probably
little known in America, who would be quite worthy
of a reprint, William Hazlitt. Is there any
complete edition of his Lectures and Essays?
I should think they would come out well, now that Thackeray
is giving his Lectures. I know that Charles
Lamb and Talfourd thought Hazlitt not only the
most brilliant, but the soundest of all critics.
Then his Life of Napoleon is capital, that is, capital
for an English life; the only way really to know
the great man is to read him in the mémoires
of his own ministers, lieutenants, and servants;
for he was a hero to his valet de chambre,
the greatness was so real that it would bear close
looking into. And our Emperor, I have just
had a letter from Osborne, from Marianne Skerrett,
describing the arrival of Count Walewski under a royal
salute to receive the Queen’s recognition
of Napoleon III. She, Marianne, says, “How
great a man that, is, and how like a fairy tale the
whole story!” She adds, that, seeing much of
Louis Philippe, she never could abide him, he
was so cunning and so false, not cunning enough
to hide the falseness! Were not you charmed with
the bits of sentiment and feeling that come out
all through our hero’s Southern progress?
Always one finds in him traits of a gracious and graceful
nature, far too frequent and too spontaneous to
be the effect of calculation. It is a comfort
to find, in spite of our delectable press, ministers
are wise enough to understand that our policy is peace,
and not only peace but cordiality. To quarrel
with France would be almost as great a sin as
to quarrel with America. What a set of fools
our great ladies are! I had hoped better things
of Lord Carlisle, but to find that long list at
Stafford House in female parliament assembled,
echoing the absurdities of Exeter Hall, leaving
their own duties and the reserve which is the happy
privilege of our sex to dictate to a great nation
on a point which all the world knows to be its
chief difficulty, is enough to make one ashamed
of the title of Englishwoman. I know a great many
of these committee ladies, and in most of them
I trace that desire to follow the fashion, and
concert with duchesses, which is one of the besetting
sins of the literary circles in London. One name
did surprise me, , considering
that one of her husband’s happiest bits,
in the book of his that will live, was the subscription
for sending flannel waistcoats to the negroes
in the West Indies; and that in this present book
a certain Mrs. Jellyby is doing just what his
wife is doing at Stafford House!
Even if I had not had my earnest thanks
to send you, I should have written this week to
beg you to convey a message to Mr. Hawthorne.
Mr. Chorley writes to me, “You will be interested
to hear that a Russian literary man of eminence
was so much attracted to the ’House of the
Seven Gables’ by the review in the Athenaeum,
as to have translated it into Russian and published
it feuilletonwise in a newspaper.”
I know you will have the goodness to tell Mr. Hawthorne
this, with my love. Mr. Chorley saw the entrance
of the Empereur into the Tuileries.
He looked radiant. The more I read that elegy
on the death of Daniel Webster, the more I find
to admire. It is as grand as a dirge upon
an organ. Love to the dear W s
and to Dr. Holmes.
Ever, dearest Mr. Fields,
most gratefully yours, M.R.M.
Your most welcome letter, my very dear
friend, arrived to-day, and I write not only
to acknowledge that, and your constant kindness, but
because, if, as I believe, Mr. Bennoch has told you
of my mischance, you will be glad to hear from
my own hand that I am going on well. Last
Monday fortnight I was thrown violently from my own
pony-chaise upon the hard road in Lady Russell’s
park. No bones were broken, but the nerves
of one side were so terribly bruised and lacerated,
and the shock to the system was so great, that even
at the end of ten days Mr. May could not satisfy
himself, without a most minute re-examination,
that neither fracture nor dislocation had taken
place, and I am writing to you at this moment with
my left arm bound tightly to my body and no power
whatever of raising either foot from the ground.
The only parts of me that have escaped uninjured
are my head and my right hand, and this is much.
Moreover Mr. May says that, although the cure
will be tedious, he sees no cause to doubt my
recovering altogether my former condition, so that
we may still hope to drive about together when you
come back to England....
I wrote I think, dearest friend, to
thank you heartily for the beautiful and interesting
book called “The Homes of American Authors.”
How comfortably they are housed, and how glad I am
to find that, owing to Mr. Hawthorne’s
being so near the new President, and therefore
keeping up the habit of friendship and intercourse,
the want of which habit so frequently brings college
friendship to an end, he is likely to enter into
public life. It will be an excellent thing
for his future books, the fault of all
his writings, in spite of their great beauty,
being a want of reality, of the actual, healthy,
every-day life which is a necessary element in
literature. All the great poets have it, Homer,
Shakespeare, Scott. It will be the very best school
for our pet poet.
Nobody under the sun has so much right
as you have to see Mr. Dillon’s book, which
is in six quarto volumes, not one. Our dear friend
Mr. Bennoch knows him, and tells me to-day that Mr.
Dillon has invited him to go and look at it.
He has just received it from the binders.
Of course Mr. Bennoch will introduce you. I was
so glad to read what looked like a renewed pledge
of your return to England.
Mr. Bentley has sent me three several
applications for a second series. At present
Mr. May forbids all composition, but I suppose the
thing will be done. I shall introduce some chapters
on French poetry and literature. At this
moment I am in full chase of Casimer Delavigne’s
ballads. He thought so little of them that
he published very few in his Poesies, one
in a note, and several of the very
finest not at all. They are scattered about here
and there. has reproduced
two (which I had) in his Memories; but I want
all that can be found, especially one of which the
refrain is, “Chez l’Ambassadere de
France.” I was such a fool, when I read
it six or seven years ago, as not to take a copy.
Do you think Mr. Hector Bossange could help me
to that, or to any others not printed in the
Memories? ...Of course I shall devote one chapter to
our Emperor. Ah, how much better
is such a government as his than one which every
four years causes a sort of moral earthquake; or one
like ours, where whole sessions are passed in
squabbling! The loss of his place has saved
Disraeli’s life, for everybody said he could
not have survived three months’ badgering
in the House. A very intimate friend of
his (Mr. Henry Drummond, the very odd, very clever
member for Surrey) says that he had certainly broken
a bloodvessel. One piece of news I have
heard to-day from Miss Goldsmid, that the Jews
are certain now to gain their point and be admitted
to the House of Commons; for my part, I hold that every
one has a claim to his civil rights, were he Mahometan
or Hindoo, and I rejoice that poor old Sir Isaac,
the real author of the movement, will probably
live to see it accomplished. The thought of succeeding
at last in the pursuit to which he has devoted half
his life has quite revived him.
And now Heaven bless you, my very dear
friend. None of the poems on Wellington
are to be compared to that dirge on Webster. I
rejoice that my article should have pleased his
family. The only bit of my new book that
I have written is a paper on Taylor and Stoddard.
Say everything for me to the Ticknors and Nortons
and your own people, the W s.
Ever most faithfully
and affectionately yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, February 1,
Ah, my dear friend! ask Dr. Holmes what
these severe bruises and lacerations of the nerves
of the principal joints are, and he will tell
you that they are much more slow and difficult of cure,
as well as more painful, than half a dozen broken
bones. It is now above six weeks since that
accident, and although the shoulder is going on favorably,
there is still a total loss of muscular power in the
lower limbs. I am just lifted out of bed and
wheeled to the fireside, and then at night wheeled
back and lifted into bed, without the
power of standing for a moment, or of putting one
foot before the other, or of turning in bed.
Mr. May says that warm weather will probably do
much for me, but that till then I must be a prisoner
to my room, for that if rheumatism supervenes upon
my present inability, there will be no chance
of getting rid of it. So “patience
and shuffle the cards,” as a good man, much in
my state, the contented Marquess, says in Don
Quixote.... I assure you I am not out of
spirits; indeed, people are so kind to me that it would
be the basest of all ingratitude if I were not
cheerful as well as thankful. I think that
in a letter which you must have received by this
time, I told you how it came about, and thanked you
for the comely book which shows how cosily America
lodges my brethren of the quill. Dr. Holmes
ought to have been there, and Dr. Parsons, but their
time will come and must. Nothing gratifies me
more than to find how many strangers, writing
to me of my Recollections, mention Dr. Holmes,
classing him sometimes with Thomas Davis, sometimes
with Praed. If I write another series of
Recollections, as, when Mr. May will let me, I
suppose I must, I shall certainly include Dr. Parsons....
Has anybody told you the terrible story
of that boy, Lord Ockham, Lord Byron’s grandson?
I had it from Mr. Noel, Lady Byron’s cousin-german
and intimate friend. While his poor mother was
dying her death of martyrdom from an inward cancer, Mrs.
Sartoris (Adelaide Kemble), who went to sing to
her, saw her through the door, which was left
open, crouching on a floor covered with mattresses,
on her hands and knees, the only posture she could
bear, whilst she with the patience of
an angel was enduring her long agony, her husband,
engrossed by her, left this lad of seventeen to
his sister and the governess. It was a dull life,
and he ran away. Mr. Noel (my friend’s
brother, from whom he had the story) knew most
of the youth, who had been for a long time staying
at his house, and they begged him to undertake
the search. Lord Ockham had sent a carpet-bag
containing his gentleman’s clothes to his
father, Lord Lovelace, in London; he was therefore
disguised, and from certain things he had said
Mr. Noel suspected that he intended to go to America.
Accordingly he went first to Bristol, then to
Liverpool, leaving his description, a sort of written
portrait of him, with the police at both places.
At Liverpool he was found before long, and when
Mr. Noel, summoned by the electric telegraph,
reached that town, he found him dressed as a sailor-boy
at a low public-house, surrounded by seamen of
both nations, and enjoying, as much as possible,
their sailor yarns. He had given his money,
L36, to the landlord to keep; had desired him to inquire
for a ship where he might be received as cabin-boy;
and had entered into a shrewd bargain for his
board, stipulating that he should have over and
above his ordinary rations a pint of beer with his
Sunday dinner. The landlord did not cheat
him, but he postponed all engagements under the
expectation seeing that he was clearly a
gentleman’s son that money would
be offered for his recovery. The worst is
that he (Lord Ockham) showed no regret for the sorrow
and disgrace that he had brought upon his family
at such a time. He has two tastes not often
seen combined, the love of money and of
low company. One wonders how he will turn
out. He is now in Paris, after which he is
to re-enter in Green’s ship (he had served in
one before) for a twelvemonth, and to leave the
service or remain in it as he may decide then.
This is perfectly true; Mr. Noel had it from his
brother the very day before he wrote it to me.
He says that Lady Lovelace’s funeral was
too ostentatious. Escutcheons and silver coronals
everywhere. Lord Lovelace’s taste that,
and not Lady Byron’s, which is perfectly
simple. You know that she was buried in the
same vault with her father, whose coffin and the box
containing his heart were in perfect preservation.
Scott’s only grandson, too, is just dead
of sheer debauchery. Strange! As if one generation
paid in vice and folly for the genius of the past.
By the way, are you not charmed at the Emperor’s
marriage? To restore to princes honest love
and healthy preference, instead of the conventional
intermarriages which have brought epilepsy and
idiotism and madness into half the royal families
of Christendom! And then the beauty of that
speech, with its fine appeals to the best sympathies
of our common nature! I am proud of him.
What a sad, sad catastrophe was that of young
Pierce! I won’t call his father general,
and I hope he will leave it off. With us
it is a real offence to give any man a higher
rank than belongs to him, to say captain,
for instance, to a lieutenant, and
that is one of our usages which it would be well to
copy. But we have follies enough, God knows;
that duchess address, with all its tuft-hunting
signatures, is a thing to make Englishwomen ashamed.
Well, they caught it deservedly in an address from
American women, written probably by some very clever
American man. No, I have not seen Longfellow’s
lines on the Duke. One gets sick of the very
name. Henry is exceedingly fond of his little
sister. I remember that when he first saw
the snow fall in large flakes, he would have it
that it was a shower of white feathers. Love
to all my dear friends, the W s,
Mrs. Sparks, Dr. Holmes, Mr. Hawthorne. Ever,
dearest friend, most affectionately yours,
(1st March, 1853.)
The numbers for the election
of President of France in favor of
Louis Napoleon were for against
Look through the back of this
against the candle, or the fire, or
My Very Dear Friend: Having a note
to send to Mrs. Sparks, who has sent me, or rather
whose husband has sent me, two answers to Lord Mahon,
which, coming through a country bookseller, have, I
suspect, been some months on the way, I cannot
help sending it enclosed to you, that I may have
a chat with you en passant, the last,
I hope, before your arrival. If you have
not seen the above curious instance of figures
forming into a word, and that word into a prophecy,
I think it will amuse you, and I want besides to tell
you some of the on-dits about the Empress.
A Mr. Huddlestone, the head of one of our great
Catholic houses, is in despair at the marriage.
He had been desperately in love with her for two
years in Spain, had followed her to
Paris, was called back to England by his
father’s illness, and was on the point of crossing
the Channel, after that father’s death,
to lay himself and L30,000 or L40,000 a year at
her feet, when the Emperor stepped in and carried off
the prize. To comfort himself he has got
a portrait of her on horseback, which a friend
of mine saw the other day at his house. Mrs. Browning
writes me from Florence: “I wonder if
the Empress pleases you as well as the Emperor.
For my part, I approve altogether, and none the less
that he has offended Austria by the mode of announcement.
Every cut of the whip on the face of Austria is
an especial compliment to me, or so I feel it.
Let him heed the democracy, and do his duty to the
world, and use to the utmost his great opportunities.
Mr. Cobden and the peace societies are pleasing
me infinitely just now in making head against
the immorality that’s the word of
the English press. The tone taken up towards
France is immoral in the highest degree, and the
invasion cry would be idiotic if it were not something
worse. The Empress, I heard the other day from
high authority, is charming and good at heart.
She was brought up at a respectable school at
Clifton, and is very English, which does not prevent
her from shooting with pistols, leaping gates, driving
four in hand, and upsetting the carriage if the
frolic requires it, as brave as a lion
and as true as a dog. Her complexion is like marble,
white, pale, and pure, the hair light,
rather sandy, they say, and she powders it with
gold dust for effect; but there is less physical and
more intellectual beauty than is generally attributed
to her. She is a woman of very decided opinions.
I like all that, don’t you? and I like her
letter to the press, as everybody must.”
Besides this, I have to-day a letter from a friend
in Paris, who says that “everybody feels
her charm,” and that “the Emperor, when
presenting her at the balcony on the wedding-day,
looked radiant with happiness.” My
Parisian friend says that young Alexandre Dumas is
amongst the people arrested for libel, a
thorough mauvais sujet. Lamartine
is quite ruined, and forced to sell his estates.
He was always, I believe, expensive, like all
those French litterateurs. You don’t
happen to have in Boston have you? a
copy of “Les Mémoires de
Lally Tollendal”? I think they are different
publications in defence of his father, published,
some in London during the Emigration, some in
Paris after the Restoration. What I want
is an account of the retreat from Pondicherie.
I’ll tell you why some day here. Mrs.
Browning is most curious about your rappings, of
which I suppose you believe as much as I do of the
Cock Lane Ghost, whose doings, by the way, they
I liked Mrs. Tyler’s
letter; at least I liked it much better than
the one to which it was an
answer, although I hold it one of our
best female privileges to
have no act or part in such matters.
Now you will be sorry to have a very
bad account of me. Three weeks ago frost
and snow set in here, and ever since I have been unable
to rise or stand, or put one foot before another,
and the pain is much worse than at first.
I suppose rheumatism has supervened upon the injured
nerve. God bless you. Love to all.
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, March 17, 1853
My Dear Friend: I cannot enough
thank you for your most kind and charming letter.
Your letters, and the thoughts of you, and the hope
that you will coax your partners into the hazardous
experiment of letting you come to England, help
to console me under this long confinement; for
here I am at near Easter still a close prisoner from
the consequences of the accident that took place before
Christmas. I have only once left my room,
and that only to the opposite chamber to have
this cleaned, and I got such a chill that it brought
back all the pain and increased all the weakness.
But when fine weather warm, genial,
sunny weather comes, I will get down
in some way or other, and trust myself to that which
never hurts any one, the honest open air.
Spring, and even the approach of spring, has upon
me something the effect that England has upon you.
It sets me dreaming, I see leafy hedges
in my dreams, and flowery banks, and then I long
to make the vision a reality. I remember that
Fanchon’s father, Flush, who was a famous
sporting dog, used, at the approach of the covering
season, to quest in his sleep, doubtless by the
same instinct that works in me. So, as soon as
the sun tells the same story with the primroses
I shall make a descent after some fashion, and
no doubt, aided by Sam’s stalwart arm, successfully.
In the mean while I have one great pleasure in
store, be the weather what it may; for next Saturday
or the Saturday after I shall see dear Mr. Bennoch.
We have not met since November, although he has written
to me again and again. He will take this letter,
and I trouble you with a note to kind Mrs. Sparks,
who is about to send me, or rather who has sent
me, some American cracknels, which have not yet
arrived. To-day, too, I had a charming letter
from Lasswade, not the letter,
the pamphlet one, but one full of kindness from
father and daughter, written by Miss Margaret to ask
after me with a reality of interest which one feels
at once. It gave me pleasure in another way
too; Mr. De Quincey is of my faith and delight
in the Emperor! Is not that delightful? Also
he holds in great abomination that blackest of
iniquities , my heresy as to which
nearly cost me an idolator t’other day, a lady
from Essex, who came here to take a house in my
neighborhood to be near me. She was so shocked
that, if we had not met afterwards, when I regained
my ground a little by certain congenialities she
certainly would have abjured me forever.
Well! no offence to Mrs. . I had
rather in a literary question agree with Thomas
De Quincey than with her and Queen Victoria, who,
always fond of strong not to say coarse excitements,
is amongst ’s warm admirers.
I knew you would like the Emperor’s marriage.
I heard last week from a stiff English lady, who
had been visiting one of the Empress’s ladies
of honor, that one day at St. Cloud she shot thirteen
brace of partridges; “but,” added the
narrator, “she is so sweet and charming a creature
that any man might fall in love with her notwithstanding.”
To be sure Mr. Thackeray liked you. How could
he help it? Did not he also like Dr. Holmes?
I hope so. How glad I should be to see him in
England, and how glad I shall be to see Mr. Hawthorne!
He will find all the best judges of English writing
admiring him to his heart’s content, warmly
and discriminatingly; and a consulship in a bustling
town will give him the cheerful reality, the healthy
air of every-day life, which is his only want.
Will you tell all these dear friends, especially
Mr. and Mrs. W , how deeply I feel
their affectionate sympathy, and thank Mr. Whittier
and Professor Longfellow over and over again for
their kind condolence? Tell Mr. Whittier how much
I shall prize his book. He has an earnest
admirer in Buckingham Palace, Marianne Skerrett,
known as the Queen’s Miss Skerrett, the lady
chiefly about her, and the only one to whom she talks
of books. Miss Skerrett is herself a very
clever woman, and holds Mr. Whittier to be not
only the greatest, but the one poet of America;
which last assertion the poet himself would, I
suspect, be the very first to deny. Your
promise of Dr. Parsons’s poem is very delightful
to me. I hold firm to my admiration of those
stanzas on Webster. Nothing written on the
Duke came within miles of it, and I have no doubt
that the poem on Dante’s bust is equally fine....
Mr. Justice Talfourd has just printed a new tragedy.
He sent it to me from Oxford, not from Reading,
where he had passed four days and never gave a
copy to any mortal, and told me, in a very affectionate
letter which accompanied it, that “it was
at present a very private sin, he having only
given eight or ten copies in all.” I suppose
that it will be published, for I observe that the
“not published” is written, not printed,
and that Moxon’s name is on the title-page.
It is called “The Castilian,” is
on the story of a revolt headed by Don John de
Padilla in the early part of Charles the Fifth’s
reign, and is more like Ion than either of his
other tragedies. I have just been reading
a most interesting little book in manuscript, called
“The Heart of Montrose.” It is
a versification in three ballads of a very striking
letter in Napier’s “Life and Times of Montrose,”
by the young lady who calls herself Mary Maynard.
It is really a little book that ought to make
a noise, not too long, full of grace and of interest,
and she has adhered to the true story with excellent
taste, that story being a very remarkable union
of the romantic and the domestic. I am afraid
that my other young poet, , is
dying of consumption; those fine spirits often
fall in that way. I have just corrected my
book for a cheaper edition. Mr. Bentley is very
urgent for a second series, and I suppose I must
try. I shall get you to write for me to Mr.
Hector Bossange when you come, for come you must.
My eyes begin to feel the effects of this long confinement
to one smoky and dusty room.
So far had I written, dearest friend,
when this day (March 26) brought me your most
kind and welcome letter enclosed in another from
dear Mr. Bennoch. Am I to return Dr. Parsons’s?
or shall I keep it till you come to fetch it?
Tell the writer how very much I prize his kindness,
none the less that he likes (as I do) my tragedies,
that is, one of them, the best of my poor doings.
The lines on the Duchess are capital, and quite
what she deserves; but I think those the worst
who, in so true a spirit of what Carlyle would call
flunkeyism, consent to sign any nonsense that their
names may figure side by side with that of a duchess,
and they themselves find (for once) an admittance
to the gilded saloons of Stafford House. For
my part, I well-nigh lost an admirer the other day
by taking a common-sense view of the question.
A lady (whose name I never heard till a week ago)
came here to take a house to be near me. (N.B.
There was none to be had.) Well, she was so provoked
to find that I had stopped short of the one hundredth
page of , and never intended
to read another, that I do think, if we had not discovered
some sympathies to counterbalance that grand difference As
I live, I have told you that story before!
Ah! I am sixty-six, and I get older every
day! So does little Henry, who is at home just
now, and longing to put the clock forward that
he may go to America. He is a boy of great
promise, full of sound sense, and as good as good can
be. I suppose that he never in his life told
an untruth, or broke a promise, or disobeyed a
command. He is very fond of his little sister;
and not at all jealous either to the great
praise of that four-footed lady be it said is
Fanchon, who watches over the cradle, and is as
fond of the baby in her way as Henry in his.
So far from paying me copyright money,
all that I ever received from Mr. B
was two copies of his edition of “Our Village,”
one of which I gave away, and of the other some
chance visitor has taken one of the volumes.
I really do think I shall ask him for a copy or two.
How can I ever thank you enough for your infinite kindness
in sending me books! Thank you again and
again. Dear Mr. Bennoch has been making an
admirable speech, in moving to present the thanks of
the city to Mr. Layard. How one likes to feel
proud of one’s friends! God bless you!
Ever most faithfully yours,
Kind Mrs. Sparks’s biscuits arrived
quite safe. How droll some of the cookery
is in “The Wide, Wide World”! It would
try English stomachs by its over-richness.
I wonder you are not all dead, if such be your
Swallowfield, May 3, 1853.
How shall I thank you enough, dear and
kind friend, for the copy of
that arrived here yesterday! Very like; only it
wanted what that great painter, the sun, will
never arrive at giving, the actual look of life
which is the one great charm of the human countenance.
Strange that the very source of light should fail
in giving that light of the face, the smile.
However, all that can be given by that branch
of art has been given. I never before saw so good
a photographic portrait, and for one that gives
more I must wait until John Lucas, or some American
John Lucas, shall coax you into sitting.
I sent you, ten days ago, a batch of notes, and a most
unworthy letter of thanks for one of your parcels
of gift-books; and I write the rather now to tell
you I am better than then, and hope to be in a
still better plight before July or August, when a most
welcome letter from Mr. Tuckerman has bidden us
to expect you to officiate as Master of the Ceremonies
to Mr. Hawthorne, who, welcome for himself, will
be trebly welcome for such an introducer.
Now let me say how much I like De Quincey’s
new volumes. The “Wreck of a Household”
shows great power of narrative, if he would but take
the trouble to be right as to details; the least
and lowest part of the art, that of interesting
you in his people, he has. And those “Last
Days of Kant,” how affecting they are, and how
thoroughly in every line and in every thought,
agree with him or not, (and in all that relates
to Napoleon I differ from him, as in his overestimate
of Wordsworth and of Coleridge), one always feels
how thoroughly and completely he is a gentleman
as well as a great writer; and so much has that
to do with my admiration, that I have come to tracing
personal character in books almost as a test of
literary merit: Charles Boner’s “Chamois-Hunting,”
for instance, owes a great part of its charm to
the resolute truth of the writer, and a great drawback
from the attraction of “My Novel” seems
to me to be derived from the blase feeling,
the unclean mind from whence it springs, felt
most when trying after moralities.
Amongst your bounties I was much amused
with the New York magazines, the curious turning
up of a new claimant to the Louis-the-Seventeenth
pretension amongst the Red Indians, and the rappings
and pencil-writings of the new Spiritualists.
One should wonder most at the believers in these
two branches of faith, if that particular class
did not always seem to be provided most abundantly
whenever a demand occurs. Only think of Mrs.
Browning giving the most unlimited credence to
every “rapping” story which anybody can
tell her! Did I tell you that the work on
which she is engaged is a fictitious autobiography
in blank verse, the heroine a woman artist (I
suppose singer or actress), and the tone intensely
modern? You will see that “Colombe’s
Birthday” has been brought out at the Haymarket.
Mr. Chorley (Robert Browning’s most intimate
friend) writes me word that Mrs. Martin (Helen
Faucit, at whose persuasion it was acted) told
him that it had gone off “better than she expected.”
Have you seen Alexander Smith’s book, which is
all the rage just now? I saw some extracts
from his poems a year and a half ago, and the
whole book is like a quantity of extracts put together
without any sort of connection, a mass of powerful
metaphor with scarce any lattice-work for the
honeysuckles to climb upon. Keats was too
much like this; but then Keats was the first.
Now this book, admitting its merit in a certain
way, is but the imitation of a school, and, in
my mind, a bad school. One such poem as that on
the bust of Dante is worth a whole wilderness
of these new writers, the very best of them.
Certainly nothing better than those two pages ever
crossed the Atlantic.
God bless you, dear friend. Say
everything for me to dear Mr. and Mrs. W ,
to Dr. Holmes, to Dr. Parsons, to Mr. Whittier, (how
powerful his new volume is!) to Mr. Stoddard, to
Mrs. Sparks, to all my friends.
Ever most affectionately yours,
I am writing on the 8th of May, but
where is the May of the poets? Half the morning
yesterday it snowed, at night there was ice as thick
as a shilling, and to-day it is absolutely as cold
as Christmas. Of course the leaves refuse
to unfold, the nightingales can hardly be said
to sing, even the hateful cuckoo holds his peace.
I am hoping to see dear Mr. Bennoch soon to supply
some glow and warmth.
Swallowfield, June 4, 1853.
I write at once, dearest friend, to
acknowledge your most kind and welcome letter.
I am better than when I wrote last, and get out almost
every day for a very slow and quiet drive round our
lovely lanes; far more lovely than last year,
since the foliage is quite as thick again, and
all the flowery trees, aloes, laburnums, horse-chestnuts,
acacias, honeysuckles, azalias, rhododendrons,
hawthorns, are one mass of blossoms, literally
the leaves are hardly visible, so that the color,
whenever we come upon park, shrubbery, or plantation,
is such as should be seen to be imagined. In
my long life I never knew such a season of flowers;
so the wet winter and the cold spring have their
compensation. I get out in this way with
Sam and K and the baby, and it
gives me exquisite pleasure, and if you were here
the pleasure would be multiplied a thousand fold
by your society; but I do not gain strength in the
least. Attempting to do a little more and
take some young people to the gates of Whiteknights,
which, without my presence, would be closed, proved
too far and too rapid a movement, and for two days
I could not stir for excessive soreness all over
the body. I am still lifted down stairs step
by step, and it is an operation of such time (it
takes half an hour to get me down that one flight of
cottage stairs), such pain, such fatigue, and
such difficulty, that, unless to get out in the
pony-chaise, I do not attempt to leave my room.
I am still lifted into bed, and can neither turn
nor move in any way when there, am wheeled from
the stairs to the pony-carriage, cannot walk three
steps, can hardly stand a moment, and in rising from
my chair am sometimes ten minutes, often longer.
So you see that I am very, very feeble and infirm.
Still I feel sound at heart and clear in head,
am quite as cheerful as ever, and, except that I get
very much sooner exhausted, enjoy society as much
as ever, so you must come if only to make me well.
I do verily believe your coming would do me more
good than anything.
I was much interested by your account
of the poor English stage coachman. Ah, these
are bad days for stage coachmen on both sides the
Atlantic! Do you remember his name? and do you
know whether he drove between London and Reading,
or between Reading and Basingstoke? a
most useless branch railroad between the two latter
places, constructed by the Great Western simply
out of spite to the Southwestern, which I am happy
to state has never yet paid its daily expenses,
to say nothing of the cost of construction, and has
taken everything off our road, which before abounded
in coaches, carriers, and conveyances of all sorts.
The vile railway does us no earthly good, we being
above four miles from the nearest station, and you
may imagine how much inconvenience the absence
of stated communication with a market town causes
to our small family, especially now that I can
neither spare Sam nor the pony to go twelve miles.
You must come to England and come often to see me,
just to prove that there is any good whatever in
railways, a fact I am often inclined
I shall send this letter to be forwarded
to Mr. Bennett, and desire him to write to you
himself. He is, as you say, an “excellent
youth,” although it is very generous in me
to say so, for I do believe that you came to see
me since he has been. Dear Mr. Bennoch, with
all his multifarious business, has been again and again.
God bless him! ...To return to Mr Bennett.
He has been engaged in a grand battle with the
trustees of an old charity school, principally
the vicar. His two brothers helped in the fight.
They won a notable victory. They were quite
right in the matter in dispute and the “excellent
youth” came out well in various letters.
His opponent, the vicar, was Senior Wrangler at
our Cambridge, the very highest University honor
in England, and tutor to the present Lord Grey.
By the way, Mr.
wrote to me the other day to ask that I would let
him be here when Mr. Hawthorne comes to see me.
I only answered this request by asking whether
he did not intend to come to see me before
that time, for certainly he might come to visit an
old friend, especially a sick one, for her own
sake, and not merely to meet a notability, and
I am by no means sure that Mr. Hawthorne might
not prefer to come alone or with dear Mr. Bennoch;
at all events it ought to be left to his
choice, and besides I have not lost the hope of
your being the introducer of the great romancer, and
then how little should I want anybody to come between
us. Begin as they may, all my paragraphs
slide into that refrain of Pray, pray come!
I have written to you about other kindnesses
since that note full of hopes, but I do not think
that I did write to thank you for dear Dr. Holmes’s
“Lecture on English Poétesses,” or
rather the analysis of a lecture which sins only
by over-gallantry. Ah, there is a difference
between the sexes, and the difference is the reverse
way to that in which he puts it! Tell him
I sent his charming stanzas on Moore to a leading
member of the Irish committee for raising a monument
to his memory, and that they were received with
enthusiasm by the Irish friends of the poet.
I have sent them to many persons in England worthy
to be so honored, and the very cleverest woman whom
I have ever known (Miss Goldsmid) wrote to me
only yesterday to thank me for sending her that
exquisite poem, adding, “I think the stanza ’If
on his cheek, etc.,’ contains one of
the most beautiful similes to be found in the
whole domain of poetry.” I also told Mrs.
Browning what dear Dr. Holmes said of her.
The American poets whom she prefers are Lowell
and Emerson. Now I know something of Lowell and
of Emerson, but I hold that those lines on Dante’s
bust are amongst the finest ever written in the
language, whether by American or Englishman; don’t
you? And what a grand Dead March is the poem on
Webster! ...Also Mrs. Browning believes in spirit-rapping
stories, all, and tells me
that Robert Owen has been converted by them to
a belief in a future state. Everybody everywhere
is turning tables. The young Russells, who
are surcharged with electricity, set them spinning
in ten minutes. In general, you know, it is usual
to take off all articles of metal. They,
the other night, took a fancy to remove their
rings and bracelets, and, having done so, the table,
which had paused for a moment, began whirling again
as fast as ever the contrary way. This is
a fact, and a curious one.
I have lent three volumes of your “De
Quincey” to my young friend, James Payn,
a poet of very high promise, who has verified the Green
story, and taken the books with him to the Lakes.
God grant, my dear friend, that you may not lose
by “Our Village”; that is what I care
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, June 23, 1853.
Ah, my very dear friend, we shall not
see you this summer, I am sure. For the first
time I clearly perceive the obstacle, and I feel that
unless some chance should detain Mr. Ticknor, we must
give up the great happiness of seeing you till
next year. I wonder whether your poor old
friend will be alive to greet you then! Well,
that is as God pleases; in the mean time be assured
that you have been one of the chief comforts and
blessings of these latter years of my life, not
only in your own friendship and your thousand kindnesses,
but in the kindness and friendship of dear Mr.
Bennoch, which, in the first instance, I mainly
owe to you. I am in somewhat better trim,
although the getting out of doors and into the pony-carriage,
from which Mr. May hoped such great things, has
hardly answered his expectations. I am not
stronger, and I am so nervous that I can only bear
to be driven, or more ignominiously still to be led,
at a foot’s pace through the lanes.
I am still unable to stand or walk, unless supported
by Sam’s strong hands lifting me up on each side,
still obliged to be lifted into bed, and unable
to turn or move when there, the worst grievance
of all. However, I am in as good spirits as
ever, and just at this moment most comfortably seated
under the acacia-tree at the corner of my house, the
beautiful acacia literally loaded with its snowy
chains (the flowering trees this summer, lilacs,
laburnums, rhododendrons, azalias, have been one mass
of blossoms, and none are so graceful as this waving
acacia); on one side a syringa, smelling and looking
like an orange-tree; a jar of roses on the table
before me, fresh-gathered roses, the pride
of Sam’s heart; and little Fanchon at my feet,
too idle to eat the biscuits with which I am trying
to tempt her, biscuits from Boston,
sent to me by Mrs. Sparks, whose kindness is really
indefatigable, and which Fanchon ought to like
upon that principle if upon no other, but you
know her laziness of old, and she improves in
it every day. Well that is a picture of the Swallowfield
cottage at this moment, and I wish that you and
the Bennochs and the W s and
Mr. Whipple were here to add to its life and comfort.
You must come next year and come in May, that
you and dear Mr. Bennoch may hear the nightingales
together. He has never heard them, and this
year they have been faint and feeble (as indeed they
were last) compared with their usual song.
Now they are over, and although I expect him next
week, it will be too late.
Precious fooling that has been at Stafford
House! And our who delights
in strong, not to say worse, emotions, whose chief
pleasure it was to see the lions fed in Van Amburgh’s
time, who went seven times to see the Ghost in
the “Corsican Brothers,” and has every
sort of natural curiosity (not to say wonder) brought
to her at Buckingham Palace, was in a state of
exceeding misery because she could not, consistently
with her amicable relations with the United States,
receive Mrs. there. (Ah! our dear
Emperor has better taste. Heaven bless him!)
From Lord Shaftesbury one looks for unmitigated
cant, but I did expect better things of Lord Carlisle.
How many names that both you and I know went there
merely because the owner of the house was a fashionable
Duchess, the Wilmers ("though they
are my friends"), the P s and !
For my part, I have never read beyond the first
one hundred pages, and have a certain malicious
pleasure in so saying. Let me add that almost
all the clever men whom I have seen are of the
same faction; they took up the book and laid it
down again. Do you ever reprint French books,
or ever get them translated? By very far the most
delightful work that I have read for many years
is Sainte-Beuve’s “Causeries du
Lundi,” or his weekly feuilletons in
the “Constitutionnel.” I am sure
they would sell if there be any taste for French literature.
It is so curious, so various, so healthy, so catholic
in its biography and criticism; but it must be
well done by some one who writes good English
prose and knows well the literary history of France.
Don’t trust women; they, especially the
authoresses, are as ignorant as dirt. Just
as I had got to this point, Mr. Willmot came to spend
the evening, and very singularly consulted me
about undertaking a series of English Portraits
Littéraires, like Sainte-Beuve’s former
works. He will do it well, and I commended
him to the charming “Causeries,”
and advised him to make that a weekly article,
as no doubt he could. It would only tell
the better for the wide diffusion. He does, you
know, the best criticism of The Times. I have
most charming letters from Dr. Parsons and dear
Mr. Whittier. His cordiality is delightful.
God bless you.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Never, my dear friend, did I expect
to like so well a man who came in your place,
as I do like Mr. Ticknor. He is an admirable person,
very like his cousin in mind and manners, unmistakably
good. It is delightful to hear him talk of
you, and to feel that the sort of elder brotherhood
which a senior partner must exercise in a firm is
in such hands. He was very kind to little
Harry, and Harry likes him next to you.
You know he had been stanch in resisting all the advances
of dear Mr , who had asked him
if he would not come to him, to which he had responded
by a sturdy “no!” He (Mr. Ticknor) came
here on Saturday with the dear Bennochs (N.B.
I love him better than ever), and the Kingsleys
met him. Mr. Hawthorne was to have come,
but could not leave Liverpool so soon, so that is a
pleasure to come. He will tell you that all
is arranged for printing with Colburn’s
successors, Hurst and Blackett, two separate works,
the plays and dramatic scenes forming one, the
stories to be headed by a long tale, of which
I have always had the idea in my head, to form almost
a novel. God grant me strength to do myself and
my publishers justice in that story! This
whole affair springs from the fancy which Mr.
Bennoch has taken to have the plays printed in a collected
form during my lifetime, for I had always felt
that they would be so printed after my death,
so that their coming out now seems to me a sort
of anachronism. The one certain pleasure that
I shall derive from this arrangement will be,
having my name and yours joined together in the
American edition, for we reserve the early sheets.
Nothing ever vexed me so much as the other book
not being in your hands. That was Mr. ’s
fault, for, stiff as Bentley is, Mr. Bennoch would
have managed him..... Of a certainty my first
strong interest in American poetry sprang from
dear Dr. Holmes’s exquisite little piece
of scenery painting, which he delivered where his
father had been educated. You sent me that,
and thus made the friendship between Dr. Holmes
and me; and now you are yourself you, my
dearest American friend delivering an address
at the greatest American University. It is
a great honor, and one....
I suppose Mr. Ticknor tells you the
book-news? The most striking work for years
is “Haydon’s Life.” I hope you
have reprinted it, for it is sure, not only of
a run, but of a durable success. You know that
the family wanted me to edit the book. I shrank
from a task that required so much knowledge which
could only be possessed by one living in the artist
world now, to know who was dead and who alive,
and Mr. Tom Taylor has done it admirably. I read
the book twice over, so profound was my interest
in it. In his early days, I used to be a
sort of safety-valve to that ardent spirit most like
Benvenuto Cellini both in pen and tongue and person.
Our dear Mr. Bennoch was the providence of his
later years. They tell me that that powerful
work has entirely stopped the sale of Moore’s
Life, which, all tinsel and tawdry rags, might
have been written by a court newsman or a court
milliner. I wonder whether they will print the
other six volumes; for the four out they have given
Mrs. Moore three thousand pounds. A bad account
Mr. Tupper gives of . Fancy his
conceit! When Mr. Tupper praised a passage in
one of his poems, he said, “If I had known
you liked it, I would have omitted that passage
in my new edition,” and he has done so by passages
praised by persons of taste, cut them out bodily
and left the sentences before and after to join
themselves how they could. What a bad figure
your President and Mr. cut at
the opening of your Exhibition! I am sorry
for , for, although he has quite
forgotten me since his aunt’s book came out,
he once stayed three weeks with us, and I liked
him. Well, so many of his countrymen are over-good
to me, that I may well forgive one solitary instance
of forgetfulness! Make my love to all my
dear friends at Boston and Cambridge. Tell
Mrs. Sparks how dearly I should have liked to have
been at her side on the Thursday. Tell
Dr. Holmes that his kind approbation of Rienzi
is one of my encouragements in this new edition.
I had a long talk about him with Mr. Ticknor, and rejoice
to find him so young. Thank Mr. Whipple again
and again for his kindness.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
My Very Dear Friend: Mr. Hillard
(whom I shall be delighted to see if he come to
England and will let me know when he can get here) Mr.
Hillard has just put into verse my own feelings about
you. It is the one comfort belonging to the
hard work of these two books (for besides
the Dramatic Works in two thick volumes, there are
prose stories in two also, and I have one long tale,
almost a novel, to write), it is the
one comfort of this labor that I shall
see our names together on one page. I have just
finished a long gossiping preface of thirty or
forty pages to the Dramatic Works, which is much
more an autobiography than the Recollections, and
which I have tried to make as amusing as if it were
ill-natured. That work is dedicated to
our dear Mr. Bennoch, another consolation.
I sent the dedication to dear Mr. Ticknor, but as his
letter of adieu did not reach me till two or three
days after it was written, and I am not quite
sure that I recollected the number in Paternoster
Row, I shall send it to you here. “To Francis
Bennoch, Esq., who blends in his life great public
services with the most genial private hospitality;
who, munificent patron of poet and of painter,
is the first to recognize every talent except his own,
content to be beloved where others claim to be
admired; to him, equally valued as companion and
as friend, these volumes are most respectfully
and affectionately inscribed by the author.”
I write from memory, but if this be not it, it
is very like it, (and I beg you to believe that
my preface is a little better English than this agglomeration
Mr. Kingsley says that Alfred Tennyson
says that Alexander Smith’s poems show fancy,
but not imagination; and on my repeating this to Mrs.
Browning, she said it was exactly her impression.
For my part I am struck by the extravagance and
the total want of finish and of constructive power,
and I am in hopes that ultimately good will come out
of evil, for Mr. Kingsley has written, he tells me,
a paper called “Alexander Pope and Alexander
Smith,” and Mr. Willmott, the powerful critic
of The Times, takes the same view, he tells me, and
will doubtless put it into print some day or other,
so that the carrying this bad school to excess
will work for good. By the way, Mr. ,
whose Imogen is so beautiful, sent me the other day
a terrible wild affair in that style, and I wrote
him a frank letter, which my sincere admiration
for what he does well gives me some right to do.
He has in him the making of a great poet; but, if he
once take to these obscurities, he is lost.
I hope I have not offended him, for I think it
is a real talent, and I feel the strongest interest
in him. My young friend, James Payn, went a fortnight
or three weeks ago to Lasswade and spent an evening
with Mr. De Quincey. He speaks of him just
as you do, marvellously fine in point of conversation,
looking like an old beggar, but with the manners
of a prince, “if,” adds James Payn, “we
may understand by that all that is intelligent
and courteous and charming.” (I suppose he
means such manners as our Emperor’s.) He began
by saying that his life was a mere misery to him
from nerves, and that he could only render it
endurable by a semi-inebriation with opium. (I always
thought he had not left opium off.).... On
his return, James Payn again visited Harriet Martineau,
who talked frankly about the book, exculpating
Mr. Atkinson and taking all the blame to herself.
She asked if I had read it, and on finding that
I had not, said, “It was better so.”
There are fine points about Harriet Martineau.
Mrs. Browning is positively crazy about the spirit-rappings.
She believes every story, European or American,
and says our Emperor consults the mediums, which
The above was written yesterday.
To-day has brought me a charming letter from Miss
De Quincey. She has been very ill, but is now
back at Lasswade, and longing most earnestly to
persuade her father to return to Grasmere.
Will she succeed? She sends me a charming message
from a brother Francis, a young physician settled in
India. She says that her sister told her
her father was in bad spirits when talking to
Mr. Payn, which perhaps accounts for his confessing
to the continuing the opium-eating.
Mr. brought me
some proofs of his new volume of poems. I think
that if he will take pains he will be a real poet.
But it is so difficult to get young men to believe
that correcting and re-correcting is necessary,
and he is a most charming person, and so gets
spoiled. I spoil him myself, God forgive me! although
I advise him to the best of my power. No
signs of Mr. Hawthorne yet! Heaven bless
you, my dear friend.
Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.
My Very Dear Friend: I cannot thank
you enough for the two charming books which you
have sent me. I enclose a letter for the author
of this very remarkable book of Italian travel,
and I have written to dear Mr. Hawthorne myself.
Since I wrote to you, dear Mr. Bennoch
sent to me to look out what letters I could find
of poor Haydon’s. I was half killed by the
operation, all my sins came upon me; for, lulling
my conscience by carelessness about bills and
receipts, and by answering almost every letter
the day it comes, I am in other respects utterly careless,
and my great mass of correspondence goes where
fate and K decree. We
had five great chests and boxes, two huge hampers,
fifteen or sixteen baskets, and more drawers than
you would believe the house could hold, to look
over, and at last disinterred sixty-five.
I did not dare read them for fear of the dust, but
I have no doubt they will be most valuable, for
his letters were matchless for talent and spirit.
I hope you have reprinted the Life; if so, of
course you will publish the Correspondence. By
the way, it is a curious specimen of the little
care our highest people have for poetry of the
school, that Vice-Chancellor Wood,
one of the most accomplished men whom I have ever
known, a bosom friend of Macaulay, was with me
last week, and had never heard of Alexander Smith.
I continue terribly lame, and with no
chance of amendment till the spring, when you
will come and do me good. Besides the lameness,
I am also miserably feeble, ten years older than
when you saw me last. I am working as well
as I can, but very slowly. I send you a proof
of the Preface to the Dramatic Works (not knowing
whether they have sent you the sheets, or when
they mean to bring it out). The few who have
seen this Introduction like it. It tells the truth
about myself and says no ill of other people.
God bless you, dear friend. Say everything
for me to all friends, not forgetting Mr. Ticknor.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, November 8,
My Very Dear Friend; Your letters are
always delightful to me, even when they are dated
Boston; think what they will be when they are dated
London. In my last I sent you a very rough proof
of my Preface (I think Mr. Hurst means to call
it Introduction), which you will find autobiographical
to your heart’s content; I hope you will like
it. To-day I enclose the first rough draft
of an account of my first impression of Haydon.
Don’t print it, please, because I suppose they
mean it for a part of the Correspondence when it
shall be published. I looked out for those
sixty-five long letters of Haydon’s, as
long, perhaps, each, as half a dozen of mine to
you, and doubtless I have many more,
but I was almost blinded by the dust in hunting up
those, my eyes having been very tender since I
was shut up in a smoky room for twenty-two weeks
last winter. I find now that Messrs. Longman
have postponed the publication of the Correspondence
in the fear that it would injure the sale of the
Memoirs, the book having had a great success here.
By the enclosed, which is as true and as like
as I could make it, you will see that he was a very
brilliant and charming person. I believe
that next to having been heart-broken by the committee
and the heartlessness of his pupil ,
and enraged by the passion for that miserable
little wretch, Tom Thumb, that the real cause
of his suicide was to get his family provided for.
It succeeded. By one way and another they had
L440 a year between the four; but although the
poor father never complained, you will see by
his book what a selfish wretch that was.....
My tragedies are printed, and the dramatic
scenes, forming, with the preface, two volumes
of above four hundred pages each. But I don’t
think they are to come out till the prose work,
and that is not a quarter finished. I am
always a most slow and laborious writer (that Preface
was written three times over throughout, and many parts
of it five or six), and of course my ill health
does not improve my powers of composition.
This wet summer and autumn have been terribly against
me. I am lamer even than when Mr. Ticknor saw
me, and sometimes cannot even dip the pen in the
ink without holding it in my left hand. Thank
God my head is spared, and my heart is, I think, as
young as ever.
I had a letter to-day from Mr. Chorley;
he has been staying all the autumn with Sir William
Molesworth, now a Cabinet Minister, but he complains
terribly about his own health, notwithstanding he has
a play coming out at the Olympic, which Mr. Wigan
has taken. Mrs. Kingsley, a most sweet person,
has a cough which has forced them to send her
to the sea. You shall be sure to see both him
and Mr. Willmott if I can compass it; but we live,
each of us, seven miles apart, and these country
clergymen are so tied to their parish that they
are difficult to catch. However, they both come
to see me whenever they can, and we must contrive
it. You will like both in different ways.
Mr. Willmott is one of the most agreeable men in the
world, and Mr. Kingsley is charming. I have
another dear friend, not an author, whom I prefer
to either, Hugh Pearson. He made for
himself a collection of De Quincey, when a lad
at Oxford. You would like him, I think, better
than anybody; but he too is a country clergyman,
living eight miles off. Poor Mr. Norton!
His letters were charming. He is connected
in my mind with Mrs. Hemans, too, to whom he was
so kind. You must say everything for me to dear
Mrs. Sparks. I seem most ungrateful to her,
but I really have little power of writing letters
just now. Did I tell you that Mr.
sent me a poem called , which
I am very sorry that he ever wrote. It has shocked
Mr. Bennoch even more than it did me. You must
get him to write more poems like .
A young friend of mine has brought out a little
volume in which there is striking evidence of talent;
but none of these young writers take pains.
How very pretty is that scrap on a country church!
Mrs. Browning is at Florence, but is going to
Rome. She says that your countryman, Mr. Story,
has made a charming statuette, I think of Beethoven,
or else of Mendelssohn, which ought to make his
reputation. She is crazy about mediums. She
says (but I have not heard it elsewhere) that Thackeray
and Dickens are to winter at Rome, and Alfred
Tennyson at Florence. Mrs. Trollope has quite
recovered, and receives as usual. How full of
beauty Mr. Hillard’s book is! thank him for
it again and again. Did I tell you that they
are going to engrave a portrait of me by Haydon,
now belonging to Mr. Bennoch, for the Dramatic Works?
God bless you, my very dear friend. Say everything
for me to Mr. Ticknor and Dr. Holmes and Dr. Parsons,
and all my friends in Boston. Little Henry
grows a very sensible, intelligent boy, and is a great
favorite at his school. He is getting on with
Once more, ever yours, M.R.M.
My Beloved Friend: They who correspond
with sick people must be content to receive such
letters as are sent from hospitals. For many
weeks I have been wholly shut up in my own room,
getting with exceeding difficulty from the bed
to the fireside, quite unable to stir either in
the chair or in the bed, but much less miserable up
than when in bed. The terrible cold of last
summer did not allow me to gain any strength,
so that although the fire in my room is kept up
night and day, yet a severe attack of influenza came
on and would have carried me off, had not Mr.
May been so much alarmed at the state of the pulse
and the general feebleness as to order me two tablespoonfuls
of champagne in water once a day, and a teaspoonful
of brandy also in water, at night, which undoubtedly
saved my life. It is the only good argument
for what is called teetotalism that it keeps more
admirable medicines as medicine; for undoubtedly a
wine-drinker, however moderate, would not have
been brought round by the remedy which did me
so much good. Miserably feeble I still am, and
shall continue till May or June (if it please God to
spare my life till then), when, if it be fine
weather, Sam will lift me down stairs and into
the pony-chaise, and I may get stronger. Well,
in the midst of the terrible cough, which did
not allow me to lie down in bed, and a weakness
difficult to describe, I finished “Atherton.”
I did it against orders and against warning, because
I had an impression that I should not live to
complete it, and I sent it yesterday to London
to dear Mr. Bennoch, so I suppose you will soon receive
the sheets. Almost every line has been written
three times over, and it is certainly the most
cheerful and sunshiny story that was ever composed
in such a state of helplessness, feebleness, and suffering;
for the rheumatic pain in the chest not only rendered
the cough terrible (that, thank God, is nearly
gone now), but makes the position of writing one
of misery. God grant you may like this story!
I shall at least say in the Preface that it will give
me one pleasure, that of having in the American
title-page the names of dear friends united with
mine. Mind I don’t know whether the story
be good or bad. I only answer for its having
the youthfulness which you liked in the preface
to the plays. Well, dearest friend, just when
I was at the worst came your letter about the ducks
and the ducks themselves. Never were birds
so welcome. My friend, Mr. May, the cleverest
and most admirable person whom I know in this neighborhood,
refuses all fees of any sort, and comes twelve miles
to see me, when torn to pieces by all the great
folk round, from pure friendship. Think how
glad I was to have such a dainty to offer him
just when he had all his family gathered about him
at Christmas. I thank you from the bottom
of my heart for giving me this great pleasure,
infinitely greater than eating it myself would have
been. They were delicious. How very,
very good you are to me!
Has Mrs. Craig written to you to tell
you of her marriage? I will run the risk
of repetition and tell you that it is the charming
Margaret De Quincey, who has married the son of
a Scotch neighbor. He has purchased land
in Ireland, and they are about to live in Tipperary, a
district which Irish people tell me is losing its
reputation for being the most disturbed in Ireland,
but keeping that for superior fertility.
They are trying to regain a reputation for literature
in Edinburgh. John Ruskin has been giving a series
of lectures on art there, and Mr. Kingsley four
lectures on the schools of Alexandria.
Nothing out of Parliament has for very
long made so strong a sensation as our dear Mr.
Bennoch’s evidence on the London Corporation.
Three leading articles in The Times paid him the highest
compliments, and you know what that implies. I
have myself had several letters congratulating
me on having such a friend. Ah! the public
qualities make but a part of that fine and genial
character, although I firmly believe that the strength
is essential to the tenderness. I always
put you and him together, and it is one of the
compensations of my old age to have acquired such friends.
Have you seen Matthew Arnold’s
poems? They have fine bits. The
author is a son of Dr. Arnold.
God bless you! Say everything
for me to my dear American friends,
Drs. Holmes and Parsons, Mr.
Longfellow, Mr. Whittier, Mrs. Sparks,
Mr. Taylor, Mr. Whipple, Mr.
and Mrs. Willard, and Mr. Ticknor.
Many, very many happy years
to them and to you.
Always most affectionately
P.S. I enclose some slips to be
pasted into books for my different American friends.
If I have sent too many, you will know which to omit.
I must add to the American preface a line expressive
of my pleasure in joining my name to yours.
I will send one line here for fear of its not
going. Mr. May says that those ducks were amongst
the few things thoroughly deserving their reputation,
holding the same place, as compared with our wild
ducks, that the finest venison does to common
mutton. I cannot tell you how much I thank you
for enabling me to send such a treat to such a
friend. You will send a copy of the prose
book or the dramas, according to your own pleasure,
only I should like the two dear doctors to have the
Swallowfield, January 23,
I have always to thank you for some
kindness, dearest Mr. Fields, generally for many.
How clever those magazines are, especially Mr. Lowell’s
article, and Mr. Bayard Taylor’s graceful stanzas!
Just now I have to ask you to forward the enclosed
to Mr. Whittier. He sent me a charming poem
on Burns, full of tenderness and humanity, and the
indulgence which the wise and good can so well afford,
and which only the wisest and best can show to
their erring brethren. I rejoice to hear
that he is getting well again. I myself am weaker
and more helpless every day, and the rheumatic
pain in the chest increases so rapidly, and makes
writing so difficult, even the writing such a
note as this, that I cannot be thankful enough for
having finished “Atherton,” for I am
sure I could not write it now. There is some
chance of my getting better in the summer, if I can
be got into the air, and that must be by being
let down in a chair through a trap-door, like
so much railway luggage, for there is not the
slightest power of helping myself left in me, nothing,
indeed, but the good spirits which Shakespeare
gave to Horatio, and Hamlet envied him. Dearest
Mr. Bennoch has made me a superb present, two
portraits of our Emperor and his fair wife.
He all intellect, never was a brow
so full of thought; she all sweetness, such
a mouth was never seen, it seems waiting to smile.
The beauty is rather of expression than of feature,
which is exactly what it ought to be....
Swallowfield, May 2, 1854.
My Dear Friend: Long before this
time, you will, I hope, have received the sheets
of “Atherton.” It has met with an
enthusiastic reception from the English press,
and certainly the friends who have written to
me on the subject seem to prefer the tale which fills
the first volume to anything that I have done.
I hope you will like it, I am sure
you will not detect in it the gloom of a sick-chamber.
Mr. May holds out hopes that the summer may do me
good. As yet the spring has been most unfavorable
to invalids, being one combined series of east-wind,
so that instead of getting better I am every day
weaker than the last, unable to see more than one
person a day, and quite exhausted by half an hour’s
conversation. I hope to be a little better
before your arrival, dearest friend, because I
must see you; but any stranger even Mr.
Hawthorne is quite out of the question.
You may imagine how kind dear
Mr. Bennoch has been all through this
long trial, next after John
Ruskin and his admirable father the
kindest of all my friends,
and that is saying much.
God bless you. Love to all my friends,
poets, prosers, and the dear ,
who are that most excellent thing, readers. I
wonder if you ever received a list of people to
whom to send one or other of my works? I
wrote such with little words in my own hand, but writing
is so painful and difficult, and I am always so
uncertain of your getting my letters, that I cannot
attempt to send another. There was one for
Mrs. Sparks. I am sure of liking Dr. Parsons’s
book, quite sure. Once again,
God bless you! Little Henry grows a nice boy.
Ever most affectionately yours,
Swallowfield, July 12, 1854.
Dearest Mr. Fields: Our excellent
friend Mr. Bennoch will have told you from how
painful a state of anxiety your most welcome letter
relieved us. You have done quite right, my
beloved friend, in returning to Boston. The
voyage, always so trying to you, would, with your
health so deranged, have been most dangerous, and next
year you will find all your friends, except one,
as happy to see and to welcome you. Even
if you had arrived now our meeting would have been
limited to minutes. Dr. Parsons will tell you
that fresh feebleness in a person so long tried
and so aged (sixty-seven) must have a speedy termination.
May Heaven prolong your valuable life, dear friend,
and grant that you may be as happy yourself as you
have always tried to render others!
I rejoice to hear what you tell me of
“Atherton.” Here the reception
has been most warm and cordial. Every page of
it was written three times over, so that I spared
no pains, but I was nearly killed by the terrible
haste in which it was finished, and I do believe
that many of the sheets were sent to me without ever
being read in the office. I have corrected
one copy for the third English edition, but I
cannot undertake such an effort again, so, if (as
I venture to believe) it be destined to be often reprinted
by you, you must correct it from that edition.
I hope you sent a copy to Mr. Whittier from me.
I had hoped you would bring one to Mr. Hawthorne
and Mr. De Quincey, but I must try what I can do with
Mr. Hurst, and must depend on you for assuring
these valued friends that it was not neglect or
ingratitude on my part.
Mr. Boner, my dear and valued friend,
wishes you and dear Mr. Ticknor to print his “Chamois-Hunting”
from a second edition which Chapman and Hall are
bringing out. I sent my copy of the work to Mr.
Bennoch when we were expecting you, that you might
see it. It is a really excellent book, full
of interest, with admirable plates, which you
could have, and, speaking in your interest, as much
as in his, I firmly believe that it would answer
to you in money as well as in credit to bring
it out in America. Also Mrs. Browning (while
in Italy) wrote to me to inquire if you would like
to bring out a new poem by her, and a new work
by her husband. I told her that I could not
doubt it, but that she had better write duplicate letters
to London and to Boston. Our poor little boy
is here for his holidays. His excellent mother
and step-father have nursed me rather as if they
had been my children than my servants. Everybody
has been most kind. The champagne, which
I believe keeps me alive, is dear Mr. Bennoch’s
present; but you will understand how ill I am when
I tell you that my breath is so much affected
by the slightest exertion that I cannot bear even
to be lifted into bed, but have spent the last
eight nights sitting up, with my feet supported on
a leg-rest. This from exhaustion, not from
disease of the lungs.
Give the enclosed to Dr. Parsons.
You know what I have always thought of his genius.
In my mind no poems ever crossed the Atlantic which
approached his stanzas on Dante and on the death of
Webster, and yet you have great poets too.
Think how glad and proud I am to hear of the honor
he has done me. I wish you had transcribed the
God bless you, my beloved friend!
Say everything for me to all my dear friends,
to Dr. Parsons, to Dr. Holmes, to Mr. Whittier, to
Professor Longfellow, to Mr. Taylor, to Mr. Stoddard,
to Mrs. Sparks, and above all to the excellent
Mr. Ticknor and the dear W s.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Swallowfield, July 28, 1854.
My Very Dear Friend: This is a
sort of postscript to my last, written instantly
on the receipt of yours and sent through Mr. .
I hope you received it, for he is so impetuous
that I always a little doubt his care; at least
it was when sent through him that the loss of
letters to and fro took place. However, I enjoined
him to be careful this time, and he assured me
that he was so.
The purport of this is to add the name
of my friend, Mr. Willmott, to the authors who
wish for the advantage of your firm as their American
publishers. I have begged him to write to you
himself, and I hope he has done so, or that he
will do so. But he is staying at Richmond
with sick relatives, and I am not sure. You know
his works, of course. They are becoming more
and more popular in England, and he is writing
better and better. The best critical articles
in The Times are by him. He is eminently
a scholar, and yet full of anecdote of the most
amusing sort, with a memory like Scott, and a charming
habit of applying his knowledge. His writings
become more and more like his talk, and I am confident
that you would find his works not only most creditable,
but most profitable. I would not recommend
you to each other if it were not for your mutual advantage,
so far as my poor judgment goes. On the 25th my
Dramatic Works are to be published here.
I hope they have sent you the sheets.
I have not heard yet from any American
friend, except your delightful letter and one
from Grace Greenwood, but I hope I shall. I
prize the good word of such persons as Drs. Parsons
and Holmes and Professor Longfellow and John Whittier
and many others. I am still very ill.
The Brownings remain this year in Italy.
If it be very hot, they will go for a month or
two to the Baths of Lucca, but their home is Florence.
She has taken a fancy to an American female sculptor, a
girl of twenty-two, a pupil of Gibson’s,
who goes with the rest of the fraternity of the
studio to breakfast and dine at a cafe, and
yet keeps her character. Also she believes
in all your rappings.
God be with you, my very dear
friend. I trust you are quite
Always affectionately yours,
Swallowfield, August 21, 1854.
My Dear Mr. Fields: Mr. Bayard
Taylor having sent me a most interesting letter,
but no address, I trouble you with my reply.
Read it, and you will perhaps understand that I
am declining day by day, and that, humanly speaking,
the end is very near. Perhaps there may yet
be time for an answer to this....
I believe that one reason for your not
quite understanding my illness is, that you, if
you have seen long and great sickness at all,
which is doubtful, have seen it with an utter prostration
of the mind and the spirits, that your
women are languid and querulous, and never dream
of bearing up against bodily evils by an effort
of the mind. Even now, when half an hour’s
visit is utterly forbidden, and half that time
leaves me panting and exhausted, I never mention
(except forced into it by your evident disbelief) my
own illness either in speaking or writing, never,
except to answer Mr. May’s questions, or
to join my beloved friend, Mr. Pearson, in thanking
God for the visitation which I humbly hope was sent
in his mercy to draw me nearer to him; may he
grant me grace to use it! for the rest,
whilst the intelligence and the sympathy are vouchsafed
to me, I will write of others, and give to my friends,
as far as in me lies, the thoughts which would
hardly be more worthily bestowed on my own miserable
You will be sorry to find that the poor
Talfourds are likely to be very poor. A Reading
attorney has run away, cheating half the town.
He has carried off L4,000 belonging to Lady Talfourd,
and she herself tells my friend, William Harness
(one of her kindest friends), that that formed
the principal part of the Judge’s small savings,
and, together with the sum for which he had insured
his life (only L5,000), was all which they had.
Now there are five young people, his
children, the widow and an adopted niece,
seven in all, accustomed to every sort of luxury
and indulgence. The only glimpse of hope
is, that the eldest son held a few briefs on circuit
and went through them creditably; but it takes
many years in England to win a barrister’s
reputation, and the poorer our young men are the
more sure they are to marry. Add the strange fact
that since the father’s death (he having
reserved his copyrights) not a single copy of
any of his books has been sold! A fortnight ago
I had a great fright respecting Miss Martineau,
which still continues. James Payn, who is
living at the Lakes, and to whom she has been most
kind, says he fears she will be a great pecuniary
sufferer by . I only hope that
it is a definite sum, and no general security or partnership, even
that will be bad enough for a woman of her age, and
so hard a worker, who intended to give herself rest;
but observe these are only fears.
I know nothing. The Brownings are detained
in Italy, she tells me, for want of money, and
cannot even get to Lucca. This is my bad
news, O, and it is very bad that sweet Mrs.
Kingsley must stay two years in Devonshire and
cannot come home. I expect to see him this
week. John Ruskin is with his father and mother
in Switzerland, constantly sending me tokens of friendship.
Everybody writes or sends or comes; never was such
kindness. The Bennochs are in Scotland.
He sends me charming letters, having, I believe,
at last discovered what every one else has known long.
Remember me to Mr. Ticknor. Say everything
to my Athenian friends all, especially to Dr.
Holmes and Dr. Parsons.
Ever, dear friend, your affectionate
September 26, 1854.
My Very Dear Friend: Your most
kind and interesting letter has just arrived,
with one from our good friend, Mr. Bennoch, announcing
the receipt of the L50 bill for “Atherton.”
More welcome even as a sign of the prosperity
of the book in a country where I have so many friends
and which I have always loved so well, than as money,
although in that way it is a far greater comfort
than you probably guess, this very long and very
severe illness obliging me to keep a third maid-servant.
I get no sleep, not on an average an hour
a night, and require perpetual change
of posture to prevent the skin giving way still
more than it does, and forming what we emphatically
call bed-sores, although I sit up night and day,
and have no other relief than the being, to a
slight extent, shifted from one position to another
in the chair that I never quit. Besides this,
there are many other expenses. I tell you
this, dear friend, that Mr. Ticknor and yourself
may have the satisfaction of knowing that, besides
all that you have done for many years for my gratification,
you have been of substantial use in this emergency.
In spite of all this illness, after being so entirely
given over that dear Mr. Pearson, leaving me a
month ago to travel with Arthur Stanley for a month,
took a final leave of me, I have yet revived greatly
during these last three weeks. I owe this,
under Providence, to my admirable friend, Mr.
May, who, instead of abandoning the stranded ship,
as is common in these cases, has continued, although
six miles off, and driving four pair of horses
a day, ay, and while himself hopeless of my case,
to visit me constantly and to watch every symptom,
and exhaust every resource of his great art, as
if his own fame and fortune depended on the result.
One kind but too sanguine friend, Mr. Bennoch,
is rather over-hopeful about this amendment, for I
am still in a state in which the slightest falling
back would carry me off, and in which I can hardly
think it possible to weather the winter.
If that incredible contingency should arise, what a
happiness it would be to see you in April!
But I must content myself with the charming little
portrait you have sent me, which is your very
self. Thank you for it over and over. Thank
you, too, for the batch of notices on “Atherton."....
Dr. Parsons’s address is very
fine, and makes me still more desire to see his
volume; and the letter from Dr. Holmes is charming,
so clear, so kind, and so good. If I had
been a boy, I would have followed their noble
profession. Three such men as Mr. May, Dr. Parsons,
and Dr. Holmes are enough to confirm the predilection
that I have always had for the art of healing.
I have no good news to tell you of dear
Mr. K . His sweet wife (Mr.
Ticknor will remember her) has been three times at
death’s door since he saw her here, and
must spend at least two winters more at Torquay.
But I don’t believe that he could stay here even
if she were well. Bramshill has fallen into
the hands of a Puseyite parson, who, besides that
craze, which is so flagrant as to have made dear Mr.
K forbid him his pulpit, is subject
to fits of raving madness, one of those
most dangerous lunatics whom an age (in which there
is a great deal of false humanity) never shuts up until
some terrible crime has been committed. (A celebrated
mad-doctor said the other day of this very man,
that he had “homicidal madness.”) You
may fancy what such a Squire, opposing him in every
way, is to the rector of the parish. Mr.
K told me last winter that he was
driving him mad, and I am fully persuaded that
he would make a large sacrifice of income to exchange
his parish. To make up for this, he is working
himself to death, and I greatly fear that his excess
of tobacco is almost equal to the opium of Mr.
De Quincey. With his temperament this is
full of danger. He was only here for two or three
days to settle a new curate, but he walked over to
see me, and I will take care that he receives
your message. His regard for me is, I really
believe, sincere and very warm. Remember that
all this is in strict confidence. The kindness
that people show to me is something surprising.
I have not deserved it, but I receive it most gratefully.
It touches one’s very heart. Will you say
everything for me to my many kind friends, too
many to name? I had a kind letter from Mrs.
Sparks the other day. The poets I cling to while
I can hold a pen. God bless you.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
Can you contrive to send a
copy of your edition of “Atherton” to Mr.
Hawthorne? Pray, dear
friend, do if you can.
October 12, 1854
My Very Dear Friend: I can hardly
give you a greater proof of affection, than in
telling you that your letter of yesterday affected
me to tears, and that I thanked God for it last night
in my prayers; so much a mercy does it seem to
me to be still beloved by one whom I have always
loved so much. I thank you a thousand times for
that letter and for the book. I enclose you my
own letter to dear Dr. Parsons. Read it before
giving it to him. I could not help being
amused at his having appended my name to a poem in
some sort derogating from the fame of the only
Frenchman who is worthy to be named after the
present great monarch. I hope I have not done
wrong in confessing my faith. Holding back
an opinion is often as much a falsehood as the
actual untruth itself, and so I think it would be
here. Now we have the book, do you remember
through whom you sent the notices? If you
do, let me know. You will see by my letter to
Dr. Parsons that dined here
yesterday, under K ’s auspices.
He invited himself for three days, luckily
I have Mr. Pearson to take care of him, and
still more luckily I told him frankly yesterday
that three days would be too much, for I had nearly
died last night of fatigue and exhaustion and
their consequences. To-night I shall leave
all to my charming friend. There is nobody like
John Ruskin for refinement and eloquence. You
will be glad to hear that he has asked me for
a letter to dear Mr. Bennoch to help him in his
schools of Art, I mean with advice.
This will, I hope, bring our dear friend out of
the set he is in, and into that where I wish to
see him, for John Ruskin must always fill the very
highest position. God bless you all, dear
Ever most affectionately yours,
Love to all my friends.
You have given me a new motive for clinging
to life by coming to England in April. Till
this pull-back yesterday, I was better, although
still afraid of being lifted into bed, and with small
hope of getting alive through the winter.
God bless you!
October 18, 1854.
My Very Dear Friend: Another copy
of dear Dr. Parsons’s book has arrived,
with a charming, most charming letter from him, and
a copy of your edition of “Atherton.”
It is very nicely got up indeed, the portrait
the best of any engraving that has been made of me,
at least, any recent engraving. May I have
a few copies of that engraving when you come to
England? And if I should be gone, will you
let poor K have one? The only
thing I lament in the American “Atherton”
is that a passage that I wrote to add to that edition
has been omitted. It was to the purport of
my having a peculiar pleasure in the prospect
of that reprint, because few things could be so gratifying
to me as to find my poor name conjoined with those
of the great and liberal publishers, for one of
whom I entertain so much respect and esteem, and
for the other so true and so lively an affection.
The little sentence was better turned much, but that
was the meaning. No doubt it was in one of
my many missing letters. I even think I sent
it twice, I should greatly have liked that
little paragraph to be there. May I ask you
to give the enclosed to dear Dr. Parsons?
There are noble lines in his book, which gains much
by being known. Dear John Ruskin was here
when it arrived, and much pleased with it on turning
over the leaves, and he is the most fastidious
of men. I must give him the copy. His praise
is indeed worth having. I am as when I wrote
last. God bless you, beloved friend.
Ever yours, M.R.M.
December 23, 1854.
Your dear affectionate letter, dearest
and kindest friend, would have given me unmingled
pleasure had it conveyed a better account of your
business prospects. Here, from what I can gather,
and from the sure sign of all works of importance
being postponed, the trade is in a similar state
of depression, caused, they say, by this war, which
but for the wretched imbecility of our ministers could
never have assumed so alarming an appearance.
Whether we shall recover from it, God only knows.
My hope is in Louis Napoleon; but that America
will rally seems certain enough. She has elbow-room,
and, moreover, she is not unused to rapid transitions
from high prosperity to temporary difficulty,
and so back again. Moreover, dear friend,
I have faith in you..... God bless you, my dear
friend! May he send to both of you health
and happiness and length of days, and so much
of this world’s goods as is needful to prevent
anxiety and insure comfort. I have known
many rich people in my time, and the result has
convinced me that with great wealth some deep black
shadow is as sure to walk, as it is to follow the
bright sunshine. So I never pray for more
than the blessed enough for those whom I love
And very dearly do I love my American
friends, you best of all, but
all very dearly, as I have cause. Say this, please,
to Dr. Parsons and Dr. Holmes (admiring their
poems is a sort of touchstone of taste with me,
and very, very many stand the test well) and dear
Bayard Taylor, a man soundest and sweetest the
nearer one gets to the kernel, and good, kind
John Whittier, who has the fervor of the poet
ingrafted into the tough old Quaker stock, and Mr.
Stoddard, and Mrs. Lippincott, and Mrs. Sparks,
and the Philadelphia Poetess, and dear Mr. and
Mrs. W , and your capital critics
and orators. Remember me to all who think
of me; but keep the choicest tenderness for yourself
and your wife.
Do you know those books which pretend
to have been written from one hundred to two hundred
years ago, “Mary Powell” (Milton’s
Courtship), “Cherry and Violet,” and
the rest? Their fault is that they are too
much alike. The authoress (a Miss Manning) sent
me some of them last winter, with some most interesting
letters. Then for many months I ceased to
hear from her, but a few weeks ago she sent me
her new Christmas book, “The Old Chelsea
Bun House,” and told me she was
dying of a frightful internal complaint. She suffers
martyrdom, but bears it like a saint, and her letters
are better than all the sermons in the world.
May God grant me the same cheerful submission!
I try for it and pray that it be granted, but I have
none of the enthusiastic glow of devotion, so real
and so beautiful in Miss Manning. My faith
is humble and lowly, not that I have
the slightest doubt, but I cannot get her
rapturous assurance of acceptance. My friend,
William Harness, got me to employ our kind little
friend, Mr. , to procure for him
Judge Edmonds’s “Spiritualism.”
What an odious book it is! there is neither respect
for the dead nor the living. Mrs. Browning
believes it all; so does Bulwer, who is surrounded
by mediums who summon his dead daughter. It
is too frightful to talk about. Mr. May and Mr.
Pearson both asked me to send it away, for fear
of its seizing upon my nerves. I get weaker
and weaker, and am become a mere skeleton. Ah,
dear friend, come when you may, you will find
only a grave at Swallowfield. Once again,
God bless you and yours!
Ever yours, M, R.M.