It was pleasant to find the reverence inspired by this great and pure mind warmest near home. Our landlady, in heaping praises upon him, added, constantly, "and Mrs. Wordsworth, too." "Do the people here," said I, "value Mr. Wordsworth most because he is a celebrated writer?" "Truly, madam," said she, "I think it is because he is so kind a neighbor."
"True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."
At Edinburgh we were in the wrong season, and many persons we most wished to see were absent. We had, however, the good fortune to find Dr. Andrew Combe, who received us with great kindness. I was impressed with great and affectionate respect, by the benign and even temper of his mind, his extensive and accurate knowledge, accompanied by a large and intelligent liberality. Of our country he spoke very wisely and hopefully.
* * * * *
I had the satisfaction, not easily attainable now, of seeing De Quincey for some hours, and in the mood of conversation. As one belonging to the Wordsworth and Coleridge constellation (he, too, is now seventy years of age), the thoughts and knowledge of Mr. De Quincey lie in the past, and oftentimes he spoke of matters now become trite to one of a later culture. But to all that fell from his lips, his eloquence, subtle and forcible as the wind, full and gently falling as the evening dew, lent a peculiar charm. He is an admirable narrator; not rapid, but gliding along like a rivulet through a green meadow, giving and taking a thousand little beauties not absolutely required to give his story due relief, but each, in itself, a separate boon.
I admired, too, his urbanity; so opposite to the rapid, slang, Vivian-Greyish style, current in the literary conversation of the day. "Sixty years since," men had time to do things better and more gracefully.
With Dr. Chalmers we passed a couple of hours. He is old now, but still full of vigor and fire. We had an opportunity of hearing a fine burst of indignant eloquence from him. "I shall blush to my very bones," said he, "if the Chaarrch" (sound these two rrs with as much burr as possible, and you will get an idea of his mode of pronouncing that unweariable word,) "if the Chaarrch yield to the storm." He alluded to the outcry now raised by the Abolitionists against the Free Church, whose motto is, "Send back the money;" i.e., the money taken from the American slaveholders. Dr. C. felt, that if they did not yield from conviction, they must not to assault. His manner in speaking of this gave me a hint of the nature of his eloquence. He seldom preaches now.
* * * * *
A Scottish gentleman told me the following story:—Burns, still only in the dawn of his celebrity, was invited to dine with one of the neighboring so-called gentry, unhappily quite void of true gentle blood. On arriving, he found his plate set in the servants' room. After dinner, he was invited into a room where guests were assembled, and, a chair being placed for him at the lower end of the board, a glass of wine was offered, and he was requested to sing one of his songs for the entertainment, of the company. He drank off the wine, and thundered forth in reply his grand song "For a' that and a' that," and having finished his prophecy and prayer, nature's nobleman left his churlish entertainers to hide their heads in the home they had disgraced.
A NIGHT ON BEN LOMOND.
At Inversnaid, we took a boat to go down Loch Lomond, to the little inn of Rowardennan, from which the ascent is made of Ben Lomond. We found a day of ten thousand, for our purpose; but, unhappily, a large party had come with the sun, and engaged all the horses, so that if we went, it must be on foot. This was something of an enterprise for me, as the ascent is four miles, and toward the summit quite fatiguing. However, in the pride of newly-gained health and strength, I was ready, and set forth with Mr. S. alone. We took no guide, and the people of the house did not advise us to take one, as they ought.
On reaching the peak, the sight was one of beauty and grandeur such as imagination never painted. You see around you no plain ground, but on every side constellations, or groups of hills, exquisitely dressed in the soft purple of the heather, amid which gleam the lakes, like eyes that tell the secrets of the earth, and drink in those of the heavens. Peak beyond peak caught from the shifting light all the colors of the prism, and, on the furthest, angel companies seemed hovering in glorious white robes.
About four o'clock we began our descent. Near the summit, the traces of the path are not distinct, and I said to Mr. S., after a while, that we had lost it. He said he thought that was of no consequence; we could find our way down. I said I thought it was, as the ground was full of springs that were bridged over in the pathway. He accordingly went to look for it, and I stood still, because I was so tired I did not like to waste any labor.
Soon he called to me that he had found it, and I followed in the direction where he seemed to be. But I mistook, overshot it, and saw him no more. In about ten minutes I became alarmed, and called him many times. It seems, he on his side shouted also, but the brow of some hill was between us, and we neither saw nor heard one another. I then thought I would make the best of my way down, and I should find him when I arrived. But, in doing so, I found the justice of my apprehension about the springs, so soon as I got to the foot of the hills; for I would sink up to my knees in bog, and must go up the hills again, seeking better crossing places. Thus I lost much time. Nevertheless, in the twilight, I saw, at last, the lake, and the inn of Rowardennan on its shore.
Between me and it, lay, direct, a high heathery hill, which I afterwards found is called "The Tongue," because hemmed in on three sides by a water-course. It looked as if, could I only get to the bottom of that, I should be on comparatively level ground. I then attempted to descend in the water-course, but, finding that impracticable, climbed on the hill again, and let myself down by the heather, for it was very steep, and full of deep holes. With great fatigue, I got to the bottom, but when I was about to cross the water-course there, I felt afraid, it looked so deep in the dim twilight. I got down as far as I could by the root of a tree, and threw down a stone. It sounded very hollow, and I was afraid to jump. The shepherds told me afterwards, if I had, I should probably have killed myself, it was so deep, and the bed of the torrent full of sharp stones.
I then tried to ascend the hill again, for there was no other way to get off it; but soon sank down utterly exhausted. When able to get up again, and look about me, it was completely dark. I saw, far below me, a light, that looked about as big as a pin's head, that I knew to be from the inn at Rowardennan, but heard no sound except the rush of the waterfall, and the sighing of the night wind.
For the first few minutes after I perceived I had come to my night's lodging, such as it was, the circumstance looked appalling. I was very lightly clad, my feet and dress were very wet, I had only a little shawl to throw round me, and the cold autumn wind had already come, and the night mist was to fall on me, all fevered and exhausted as I was. I thought I should not live through the night, or, if I did, I must be an invalid henceforward. I could not even keep myself warm by walking, for, now it was dark, it would be too dangerous to stir. My only chance, however, lay in motion, and my only help in myself; and so convinced was I of this, that I did keep in motion the whole of that long night, imprisoned as I was on such a little perch of that great mountain.
For about two hours, I saw the stars, and very cheery and companionable they looked; but then the mist fell, and I saw nothing more, except such apparitions as visited Ossian, on the hill-side, when he went out by night, and struck the bosky shield, and called to him the spirits of the heroes, and the white-armed maids, with their blue eyes of grief. To me, too, came those visionary shapes. Floating slowly and gracefully, their white robes would unfurl from the great body of mist in which they had been engaged, and come upon me with a kiss pervasively cold as that of death. Then the moon rose. I could not see her, but her silver light filled the mist. Now I knew it was two o'clock, and that, having weathered out so much of the night, I might the rest; and the hours hardly seemed long to me more.
It may give an idea of the extent of the mountain, that, though I called, every now and then, with all my force, in case by chance some aid might be near, and though no less than twenty men, with their dogs, were looking for me, I never heard a sound, except the rush of the waterfall and the sighing of the night wind, and once or twice the startling of the grouse in the heather. It was sublime indeed,—a never-to-be-forgotten presentation of stern, serene realities. At last came the signs of day,—the gradual clearing and breaking up; some faint sounds from I know not what; the little flies, too, arose from their bed amid the purple heather, and bit me. Truly they were very welcome to do so. But what was my disappointment to find the mist so thick, that I could see neither lake nor inn, nor anything to guide me. I had to go by guess, and, as it happened, my Yankee method served me well. I ascended the hill, crossed the torrent, in the waterfall, first drinking some of the water, which was as good at that time as ambrosia. I crossed in that place, because the waterfall made steps, as it were, to the next hill. To be sure, they were covered with water, but I was already entirely wet with the mist, so that it did not matter. I kept on scrambling, as it happened, in the right direction, till, about seven, some of the shepherds found me. The moment they came, all my feverish strength departed, and they carried me home, where my arrival relieved my friends of distress far greater than I had undergone; for I had my grand solitude, my Ossianic visions, and the pleasure of sustaining myself; while they had only doubt, amounting to anguish, and a fruitless search through the night.
Entirely contrary to my forebodings, I only suffered for this a few days, and was able to take a parting look at my prison, as I went down the lake, with feelings of complacency. It was a majestic-looking hill, that Tongue, with the deep ravines on either side, and the richest robe of heather I have anywhere seen.
Mr. S. gave all the men who were looking for me a dinner in the barn, and he and Mrs. S. ministered to them; and they talked of Burns,—really the national writer, and known by them, apparently, as none other is,—and of hair-breadth 'scapes by flood and fell. Afterwards they were all brought up to see me, and it was gratifying to note the good breeding and good feeling with which they deported themselves. Indeed, this adventure created quite an intimate feeling between us and the people there. I had been much pleased before, in attending one of their dances, at the genuine independence and politeness of their conduct. They were willing to dance their Highland flings and strathspeys, for our amusement, and did it as naturally and as freely as they would have offered the stranger the best chair.
I have mentioned with satisfaction seeing some persons who illustrated the past dynasty in the progress of thought here: Wordsworth, Dr. Chalmers, De Quincey, Andrew Combe. With a still higher pleasure, because to one of my own sex, whom I have honored almost above any, I went to pay my court to Joanna Baillie. I found on her brow, not, indeed, a coronal of gold; but a serenity and strength undimmed and unbroken by the weight of more than fourscore years, or by the scanty appreciation which her thoughts have received. We found her in her little calm retreat, at Hampstead, surrounded by marks of love and reverence from distinguished and excellent friends. Near her was the sister, older than herself, yet still sprightly and full of active kindness, whose character and their mutual relations she has, in one of her last poems, indicated with such a happy mixture of sagacity, humor, and tender pathos, and with so absolute a truth of outline.
* * * * *
Mary and William Howitt are the main support of the People's Journal. I saw them several times at their cheerful and elegant home. In Mary Howitt, I found the same engaging traits of character we are led to expect from her books for children. At their house, I became acquainted with Dr. Southwood Smith, the well-known philanthropist. He is at present engaged in the construction of good tenements, calculated to improve the condition of the working people.
Paris, Nov. 16, 1846.—I meant to write on my arrival in London, six weeks ago; but as it was not what is technically called "the season," I thought I had best send all my letters of introduction at once, that I might glean what few good people I could. But more than I expected were in town. These introduced others, and in three days I was engaged in such a crowd of acquaintance, that I had hardly time to dress, and none to sleep, during all the weeks I was in London.
I enjoyed the time extremely. I find myself much in my element in European society. It does not, indeed, come up to my ideal, but so many of the encumbrances are cleared away that used to weary me in America, that I can enjoy a freer play of faculty, and feel, if not like a bird in the air, at least as easy as a fish in water.
In Edinburgh, I met Dr. Brown. He is still quite a young man, but with a high ambition, and, I should think, commensurate powers. But all is yet in the bud with him. He has a friend, David Scott, a painter, full of imagination, and very earnest in his views of art. I had some pleasant hours with them, and the last night which they and I passed with De Quincey, a real grand conversazione, quite in the Landor style, which lasted, in full harmony, some hours.
Of the people I saw in London, you will wish me to speak first of the Carlyles. Mr. C. came to see me at once, and appointed an evening to be passed at their house. That first time, I was delighted with him. He was in a very sweet humor,—full of wit and pathos, without being overbearing or oppressive. I was quite carried away with the rich flow of his discourse; and the hearty, noble earnestness of his personal being brought back the charm which once was upon his writing, before I wearied of it. I admired his Scotch, his way of singing his great full sentences, so that each one was like the stanza of a narrative ballad. He let me talk, now and then, enough to free my lungs and change my position, so that I did not get tired. That evening, he talked of the present state of things in England, giving light, witty sketches of the men of the day, fanatics and others, and some sweet, homely stories he told of things he had known of the Scotch peasantry. Of you he spoke with hearty kindness; and he told, with beautiful feeling, a story of some poor farmer, or artisan, in the country, who on Sunday lays aside the cark and care of that dirty English world, and sits reading the Essays, and looking upon the sea.
I left him that night, intending to go out very often to their house. I assure you there never was anything so witty as Carlyle's description of —— ——. It was enough to kill one with laughing. I, on my side, contributed a story to his fund of anecdote on this subject, and it was fully appreciated. Carlyle is worth a thousand of you for that;—he is not ashamed to laugh, when he is amused, but goes on in a cordial human fashion.
The second time, Mr. C. had a dinner-party, at which was a witty, French, flippant sort of man, author of a History of Philosophy, and now writing a Life of Goethe, a task for which he must be as unfit as irreligion and sparkling shallowness can make him. But he told stories admirably, and was allowed sometimes to interrupt Carlyle a little, of which one was glad, for, that night, he was in his more acrid mood; and, though much more brilliant than on the former evening, grew wearisome to me, who disclaimed and rejected almost everything he said.
For a couple of hours, he was talking about poetry, and the whole harangue was one eloquent proclamation of the defects in his own mind. Tennyson wrote in verse because the schoolmasters had taught him that it was great to do so, and had thus, unfortunately, been turned from the true path for a man. Burns had, in like manner, been turned from his vocation. Shakspeare had not had the good sense to see that it would have been better to write straight on in prose;—and such nonsense, which, though amusing enough at first, he ran to death after a while. The most amusing part is always when he comes back to some refrain, as in the French Revolution of the sea-green. In this instance, it was Petrarch and Laura, the last word pronounced with his ineffable sarcasm of drawl. Although he said this over fifty times, I could not ever help laughing when Laura would come,—Carlyle running his chin out, when he spoke it, and his eyes glancing till they looked like the eyes and beak of a bird of prey. Poor Laura! Lucky for her that her poet had already got her safely canonized beyond the reach of this Teufelsdrockh vulture.
The worst of hearing Carlyle is that you cannot interrupt him. I understand the habit and power of haranguing have increased very much upon him, so that you are a perfect prisoner when he has once got hold of you. To interrupt him is a physical impossibility. If you get a chance to remonstrate for a moment, he raises his voice and bears you down. True, he does you no injustice, and, with his admirable penetration, sees the disclaimer in your mind, so that you are not morally delinquent; but it is not pleasant to be unable to utter it. The latter part of the evening, however, he paid us for this, by a series of sketches, in his finest style of railing and raillery, of modern French literature, not one of them, perhaps, perfectly just, but all drawn with the finest, boldest strokes, and, from his point of view, masterly. All were depreciating, except that of Beranger. Of him he spoke with perfect justice, because with hearty sympathy.
I had, afterward, some talk with Mrs. C., whom hitherto I had only seen, for who can speak while her husband is there? I like her very much;—she is full of grace, sweetness, and talent. Her eyes are sad and charming. * * *
After this, they went to stay at Lord Ashburton's, and I only saw them once more, when they came to pass an evening with us. Unluckily, Mazzini was with us, whose society, when he was there alone, I enjoyed more than any. He is a beauteous and pure music; also, he is a dear friend of Mrs. C.; but his being there gave the conversation a turn to "progress" and ideal subjects, and C. was fluent in invectives on all our "rose-water imbecilities." We all felt distant from him, and Mazzini, after some vain efforts to remonstrate, became very sad. Mrs. C. said to me, "These are but opinions to Carlyle; but to Mazzini, who has given his all, and helped bring his friends to the scaffold, in pursuit of such subjects, it is a matter of life and death."
All Carlyle's talk, that evening, was a defence of mere force,—success the test of right;—if people would not behave well, put collars round their necks;—find a hero, and let them be his slaves, &c. It was very Titanic, and anti-celestial. I wish the last evening had been more melodious. However, I bid Carlyle farewell with feelings of the warmest friendship and admiration. We cannot feel otherwise to a great and noble nature, whether it harmonize with our own or not. I never appreciated the work he has done for his age till I saw England. I could not. You must stand in the shadow of that mountain of shams, to know how hard it is to cast light across it.
Honor to Carlyle! Hoch! Although in the wine with which we drink this health, I, for one, must mingle the despised "rose-water."
And now, having to your eye shown the defects of my own mind, in the sketch of another, I will pass on more lowly,—more willing to be imperfect,—since Fate permits such noble creatures, after all, to be only this or that. It is much if one is not only a crow or magpie;—Carlyle is only a lion. Some time we may, all in full, be intelligent and humanly fair.
Paris, Dec, 1846.—Accustomed to the infinite wit and exuberant richness of his writings, his talk is still an amazement and a splendor scarcely to be faced with steady eyes. He does not converse;—only harangues. It is the usual misfortune of such marked men,—happily not one invariable or inevitable,—that they cannot allow other minds room to breathe, and show themselves in their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment and instruction which the greatest never cease to need from the experience of the humblest. Carlyle allows no one a chance, but bears down all opposition, not only by his wit and onset of words, resistless in their sharpness as so many bayonets, but by actual physical superiority,—raising his voice, and rushing on his opponent with a torrent of sound. This is not in the least from unwillingness to allow freedom to others. On the contrary, no man would more enjoy a manly resistance to his thought. But it is the habit of a mind accustomed to follow out its own impulse, as the hawk its prey, and which knows not how to stop in the chase. Carlyle, indeed, is arrogant and overbearing; but in his arrogance there is no littleness,—no self-love. It is the heroic arrogance of some old Scandinavian conqueror;—it is his nature, and the untamable energy that has given him power to crush the dragons. You do not love him, perhaps, nor revere; and perhaps, also, he would only laugh at you if you did; but you like him heartily, and like to see him the powerful smith, the Siegfried, melting all the old iron in his furnace till it glows to a sunset red, and burns you, if you senselessly go too near. He seems, to me, quite isolated,—lonely as the desert,—yet never was a man more fitted to prize a man, could he find one to match his mood. He finds them, but only in the past. He sings, rather than talks. He pours upon you a kind of satirical, heroical, critical poem, with regular cadences, and generally, near the beginning, hits upon some singular epithet, which serves as a refrain when his song is full, or with which, as with a knitting needle, he catches up the stitches, if he has chanced, now and then, to let fall a row. For the higher kinds of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject is delightfully and gorgeously absurd. He sometimes stops a minute to laugh at it himself, then begins anew with fresh vigor; for all the spirits he is driving before him seem to him as Fata Morgana, ugly masks, in fact, if he can but make them turn about; but he laughs that they seem to others such dainty Ariels. His talk, like his books, is full of pictures; his critical strokes masterly. Allow for his point of view, and his survey is admirable. He is a large subject. I cannot speak more or wiselier of him now, nor needs it;—his works are true, to blame and praise him,—the Siegfried of England,—great and powerful, if not quite invulnerable, and of a might rather to destroy evil, than legislate for good.
Of Dr. Wilkinson I saw a good deal, and found him a substantial person,—a sane, strong, and well-exercised mind,—but in the last degree unpoetical in its structure. He is very simple, natural, and good; excellent to see, though one cannot go far with him; and he would be worth more in writing, if he could get time to write, than in personal intercourse. He may yet find time;—he is scarcely more than thirty. Dr. W. wished to introduce me to Mr. Clissold, but I had not time; shall find it, if in London again. Tennyson was not in town.
Browning has just married Miss Barrett, and gone to Italy. I may meet them there. Bailey is helping his father with a newspaper! His wife and child (Philip Festus by name) came to see me. I am to make them a visit on my return. Marston I saw several times, and found him full of talent. That is all I want to say at present;—he is a delicate nature, that can only be known in its own way and time. I went to see his "Patrician's Daughter." It is an admirable play for the stage. At the house of W.J. Fox, I saw first himself, an eloquent man, of great practical ability, then Cooper, (of the "Purgatory of Suicides,") and others.
My poor selection of miscellanies has been courteously greeted in the London journals. Openings were made for me to write, had I but leisure; it is for that I look to a second stay in London, since several topics came before me on which I wished to write and publish there.
* * * * *
I became acquainted with a gentleman who is intimate with all the English artists, especially Stanfield and Turner, but was only able to go to his house once, at this time. Pictures I found but little time for, yet enough to feel what they are now to be to me. I was only at the Dulwich and National Galleries and Hampton Court. Also, have seen the Vandykes, at Warwick; but all the precious private collections I was obliged to leave untouched, except one of Turner's, to which I gave a day. For the British Museum, I had only one day, which I spent in the Greek and Egyptian Rooms, unable even to look at the vast collections of drawings, &c. But if I live there a few months, I shall go often. O, were life but longer, and my strength greater! Ever I am bewildered by the riches of existence, had I but more time to open the oysters, and get out the pearls. Yet some are mine, if only for a necklace or rosary.
TO HER MOTHER.
Paris, Dec. 26, 1846.—In Paris I have been obliged to give a great deal of time to French, in order to gain the power of speaking, without which I might as usefully be in a well as here. That has prevented my doing nearly as much as I would. Could I remain six months in this great focus of civilized life, the time would be all too short for my desires and needs.
My Essay on American Literature has been translated into French, and published in "La Revue Independante," one of the leading journals of Paris; only, with that delight at manufacturing names for which the French are proverbial, they put, instead of Margaret, Elizabeth. Write to ——, that aunt Elizabeth has appeared unexpectedly before the French public! She will not enjoy her honors long, as a future number, which is to contain a notice of "Woman in the Nineteenth Century," will rectify the mistake.
I have been asked, also, to remain in correspondence with La Revue Independante, after my return to the United States, which will be very pleasant and advantageous to me.
I have some French acquaintance, and begin to take pleasure in them, now that we can hold intercourse more easily. Among others, a Madame Pauline Roland I find an interesting woman. She is an intimate friend of Beranger and of Pierre Leroux.
We occupy a charming suite of apartments, Hotel Rougement, Boulevard Poissoniere. It is a new hotel, and has not the arched gateways and gloomy court-yard of the old mansions. My room, though small, is very pretty, with the thick, flowered carpet and marble slabs; the French clock, with Cupid, of course, over the fireplace, in which burns a bright little wood fire; the canopy bedstead, and inevitable large mirror; the curtains, too, are thick and rich, the closet, &c., excellent, the attendance good. But for all this, one pays dear. We do not find that one can live pleasantly at Paris for little money; and we prefer to economize by a briefer stay, if at all.
Paris, Jan. 18, 1847, and Naples, March 17, 1847.—You wished to hear of George Sand, or, as they say in Paris, "Madame Sand." I find that all we had heard of her was true in the outline; I had supposed it might be exaggerated. She had every reason to leave her husband,—a stupid, brutal man, who insulted and neglected her. He afterwards gave up their child to her for a sum of money. But the love for which she left him lasted not well, and she has had a series of lovers, and I am told has one now, with whom she lives on the footing of combined means, independent friendship! But she takes rank in society like a man, for the weight of her thoughts, and has just given her daughter in marriage. Her son is a grown-up young man, an artist. Many women visit her, and esteem it an honor. Even an American here, and with the feelings of our country on such subjects, Mrs. ——, thinks of her with high esteem. She has broken with La Mennais, of whom she was once a disciple.
I observed to Dr. Francois, who is an intimate of hers, and loves and admires her, that it did not seem a good sign that she breaks with her friends. He said it was not so with her early friends; that she has chosen to buy a chateau in the region where she passed her childhood, and that the people there love and have always loved her dearly. She is now at the chateau, and, I begin to fear, will not come to town before I go. Since I came, I have read two charming stories recently written by her. Another longer one she has just sold to La Presse for fifteen thousand francs. She does not receive nearly as much for her writings as Balzac, Dumas, or Sue. She has a much greater influence than they, but a less circulation.
She stays at the chateau, because the poor people there were suffering so much, and she could help them. She has subscribed twenty thousand francs for their relief, in the scarcity of the winter. It is a great deal to earn by one's pen: a novel of several volumes sold for only fifteen thousand francs, as I mentioned before. * * *
At last, however, she came; and I went to see her at her house, Place d'Orleans. I found it a handsome modern residence. She had not answered my letter, written about a week before, and I felt a little anxious lest she should not receive me; for she is too much the mark of impertinent curiosity, as well as too busy, to be easily accessible to strangers. I am by no means timid, but I have suffered, for the first time in France, some of the torments of mauvaise honte, enough to see what they must be to many.
It is the custom to go and call on those to whom you bring letters, and push yourself upon their notice; thus you must go quite ignorant whether they are disposed to be cordial. My name is always murdered by the foreign servants who announce me. I speak very bad French; only lately have I had sufficient command of it to infuse some of my natural spirit in my discourse. This has been a great trial to me, who am eloquent and free in my own tongue, to be forced to feel my thoughts struggling in vain for utterance.
The servant who admitted me was in the picturesque costume of a peasant, and, as Madame Sand afterward told me, her god-daughter, whom she had brought from her province. She announced me as "Madame Salere," and returned into the ante-room to tell me. "Madame says she does not know you" I began to think I was doomed to a rebuff, among the crowd who deserve it. However, to make assurance sure, I said, "Ask if she has not received a letter from me." As I spoke, Madame S. opened the door, and stood looking at me an instant. Our eyes met. I never shall forget her look at that moment. The doorway made a frame for her figure; she is large, but well-formed. She was dressed in a robe of dark violet silk, with a black mantle on her shoulders, her beautiful hair dressed with the greatest taste, her whole appearance and attitude, in its simple and lady-like dignity, presenting an almost ludicrous contrast to the vulgar caricature idea of George Sand. Her face is a very little like the portraits, but much finer; the upper part of the forehead and eyes are beautiful, the lower, strong and masculine, expressive of a hardy temperament and strong passions, but not in the least coarse; the complexion olive, and the air of the whole head Spanish, (as, indeed, she was born at Madrid, and is only on one side of French blood.) All these details I saw at a glance; but what fixed my attention was the expression of goodness, nobleness, and power, that pervaded the whole,—the truly human heart and nature that shone in the eyes. As our eyes met, she said, "C'est vous" and held out her hand. I took it, and went into her little study; we sat down a moment, then I said, "Il me fait de bien de vous voir" and I am sure I said it with my whole heart, for it made me very happy to see such a woman, so large and so developed a character, and everything that is good in it so really good. I loved, shall always love her.
She looked away, and said, "Ah! vous m'avez ecrit une lettre charmante" This was all the preliminary of our talk, which then went on as if we had always known one another. She told me, before I went away, that she was going that very day to write to me; that when the servant announced me she did not recognize the name, but after a minute it struck her that it might be La dame Americaine, as the foreigners very commonly call me, for they find my name hard to remember. She was very much pressed for time, as she was then preparing copy for the printer, and, having just returned, there were many applications to see her, but she wanted me to stay then, saying, "It is better to throw things aside, and seize the present moment." I staid a good part of the day, and was very glad afterwards, for I did not see her again uninterrupted. Another day I was there, and saw her in her circle. Her daughter and another lady were present, and a number of gentlemen. Her position there was of an intellectual woman and good friend,—the same as my own in the circle of my acquaintance as distinguished from my intimates. Her daughter is just about to be married. It is said, there is no congeniality between her and her mother; but for her son she seems to have much love, and he loves and admires her extremely. I understand he has a good and free character, without conspicuous talent.
Her way of talking is just like her writing,—lively, picturesque, with an undertone of deep feeling, and the same skill in striking the nail on the head every now and then with a blow.
We did not talk at all of personal or private matters. I saw, as one sees in her writings, the want of an independent, interior life, but I did not feel it as a fault, there is so much in her of her kind. I heartily enjoyed the sense of so rich, so prolific, so ardent a genius. I liked the woman in her, too, very much; I never liked a woman better.
For the rest I do not care to write about it much, for I cannot, in the room and time I have to spend, express my thoughts as I would; but as near as I can express the sum total, it is this. S—— and others who admire her, are anxious to make a fancy picture of her, and represent her as a Helena (in the Seven Chords of the Lyre); all whose mistakes are the fault of the present state of society. But to me the truth seems to be this. She has that purity in her soul, for she knows well how to love and prize its beauty; but she herself is quite another sort of person. She needs no defence, but only to be understood, for she has bravely acted out her nature, and always with good intentions. She might have loved one man permanently, if she could have found one contemporary with her who could interest and command her throughout her range; but there was hardly a possibility of that, for such a person. Thus she has naturally changed the objects of her affection, and several times. Also, there may have been something of the Bacchante in her life, and of the love of night and storm, and the free raptures amid which roamed on the mountain-tops the followers of Cybele, the great goddess, the great mother. But she was never coarse, never gross, and I am sure her generous heart has not failed to draw some rich drops from every kind of wine-press. When she has done with an intimacy, she likes to break it off suddenly, and this has happened often, both with men and women. Many calumnies upon her are traceable to this cause.
I forgot to mention, that, while talking, she does smoke all the time her little cigarette. This is now a common practice among ladies abroad, but I believe originated with her.
For the rest, she holds her place in the literary and social world of France like a man, and seems full of energy and courage in it. I suppose she has suffered much, but she has also enjoyed and done much, and her expression is one of calmness and happiness. I was sorry to see her exploitant her talent so carelessly. She does too much, and this cannot last forever; but "Teverino" and the "Mare au Diable," which she has lately published, are as original, as masterly in truth, and as free in invention, as anything she has done.
Afterwards I saw Chopin, not with her, although he lives with her, and has for the last twelve years. I went to see him in his room with one of his friends. He is always ill, and as frail as a snow-drop, but an exquisite genius. He played to me, and I liked his talking scarcely less. Madame S. loved Liszt before him; she has thus been intimate with the two opposite sides of the musical world. Mickiewicz says, "Chopin talks with spirit, and gives us the Ariel view of the universe. Liszt is the eloquent tribune to the world of men, a little vulgar and showy certainly, but I like the tribune best." It is said here, that Madame S. has long had only a friendship for Chopin, who, perhaps, on his side prefers to be a lover, and a jealous lover; but she does not leave him, because he needs her care so much, when sick and suffering. About all this, I do not know; you cannot know much about anything in France, except what you see with your two eyes. Lying is ingrained in "la grande nation" as they so plainly show no less in literature than life.
In France the theatre is living; you see something really good, and good throughout. Not one touch of that stage-strut and vulgar bombast of tone, which the English actor fancies indispensable to scenic illusion, is tolerated here. For the first time in my life, I saw something represented in a style uniformly good, and should have found sufficient proof, if I had needed any, that all men will prefer what is good to what is bad, if only a fair opportunity for choice be allowed. When I came here, my first thought was to go and see Mademoiselle Rachel. I was sure that in her I should find a true genius. I went to see her seven or eight times, always in parts that required great force of soul, and purity of taste, even to conceive them, and only once had reason to find fault with her. On one single occasion, I saw her violate the harmony of the character, to produce effect at a particular moment; but, almost invariably, I found her a true artist, worthy Greece, and worthy at many moments to have her conceptions immortalized in marble.
Her range even in high tragedy is limited. She can only express the darker passions, and grief in its most desolate aspects. Nature has not gifted her with those softer and more flowery attributes, that lend to pathos its utmost tenderness. She does not melt to tears, or calm or elevate the heart by the presence of that tragic beauty that needs all the assaults of fate to make it show its immortal sweetness. Her noblest aspect is when sometimes she expresses truth in some severe shape, and rises, simple and austere, above the mixed elements around her. On the dark side, she is very great in hatred and revenge. I admired her more in Phedre than in any other part in which I saw her; the guilty love inspired by the hatred of a goddess was expressed, in all its symptoms, with a force and terrible naturalness, that almost suffocated the beholder. After she had taken the poison, the exhaustion and paralysis of the system,—the sad, cold, calm submission to Fate,—were still more grand.
I had heard so much about the power of her eye in one fixed look, and the expression she could concentrate in a single word, that the utmost results could only satisfy my expectations. It is, indeed, something magnificent to see the dark cloud give out such sparks, each one fit to deal a separate death; but it was not that I admired most in her. It was the grandeur, truth, and depth of her conception of each part, and the sustained purity with which she represented it.
The French language from her lips is a divine dialect; it is stripped of its national and personal peculiarities, and becomes what any language must, moulded by such a genius, the pure music of the heart and soul. I never could remember her tone in speaking any word; it was too perfect; you had received the thought quite direct. Yet, had I never heard her speak a word, my mind would be filled by her attitudes. Nothing more graceful can be conceived, nor could the genius of sculpture surpass her management of the antique drapery.
She has no beauty, except in the intellectual severity of her outline, and she bears marks of race, that will grow stronger every year, and make her ugly at last. Still it will be a grandiose, gypsy, or rather Sibylline ugliness, well adapted to the expression of some tragic parts. Only it seems as if she could not live long; she expends force enough upon a part to furnish out a dozen common lives.
Paris, Jan. 18, 1847.—I can hardly tell you what a fever consumes me, from sense of the brevity of my time and opportunity. Here I cannot sleep at night, because I have been able to do so little in the day. Constantly I try to calm my mind into content with small achievements, but it is difficult. You will say, it is not so mightily worth knowing, after all, this picture and natural history of Europe. Very true; but I am so constituted that it pains me to come away, having touched only the glass over the picture.
I am assiduous daily at the Academy lectures, picture galleries, Chamber of Deputies,—last week, at the court and court ball. So far as my previous preparation enabled me, I get something from all these brilliant shows,—thoughts, images, fresh impulse. But I need, to initiate me into various little secrets of the place and time,—necessary for me to look at things to my satisfaction,—some friend, such as I do not find here. My steps have not been fortunate in Paris, as they were in England. No doubt, the person exists here, whose aid I want; indeed, I feel that it is so; but we do not meet, and the time draws near for me to depart.
French people I find slippery, as they do not know exactly what to make of me, the rather as I have not the command of their language. I see them, their brilliancy, grace, and variety, the thousand slight refinements of their speech and manner, but cannot meet them in their way. My French teacher says, I speak and act like an Italian, and I hope, in Italy, I shall find myself more at home.
I had, the other day, the luck to be introduced to Beranger, who is the only person beside George Sand I cared very particularly to see here. I went to call on La Mennais, to whom I had a letter. I found him in a little study; his secretary was writing in a large room through which I passed. With him was a somewhat citizen-looking, but vivacious elderly man, whom I was, at first, sorry to see, having wished for half an hour's undisturbed visit to the Apostle of Democracy. But those feelings were quickly displaced by joy, when he named to me the great national lyrist of France, the great Beranger. I had not expected to see him at all, for he is not to be seen in any show place; he lives in the hearts of the people, and needs no homage from their eyes. I was very happy, in that little study, in the presence of these two men, whose influence has been so real and so great. Beranger has been much to me,—his wit, his pathos, and exquisite lyric grace. I have not received influence from La Mennais, but I see well what he has been, and is, to Europe.
TO LA MENNAIS.
As my visit to you was cut short before I was quite satisfied, it was my intention to seek you again immediately; although I felt some scruples at occupying your valuable time, when I express myself so imperfectly in your language. But I have been almost constantly ill since, and now am not sure of finding time to pay you my respects before leaving Paris for Italy. In case this should be impossible, I take the liberty to write, and to present you two little volumes of mine. It is only as a tribute of respect. I regret that they do not contain some pieces of mine which might be more interesting to you, as illustrative of the state of affairs in our country. Some such will find their place in subsequent numbers. These, I hope, you will, if you do not read them, accept kindly as a salutation from our hemisphere. Many there delight to know you as a great apostle of the ideas which are to be our life, if Heaven intends us a great and permanent life. I count myself happy in having seen you, and in finding with you Beranger, the genuine poet, the genuine man of France. I have felt all the enchantment of the lyre of Beranger; have paid my warmest homage to the truth and wisdom adorned with such charms, such wit and pathos. It was a great pleasure to see himself. If your leisure permits, Monsieur, I will ask a few lines in reply. I should like to keep some words from your hand, in case I should not look upon you more here below; and am always, with gratitude for the light you have shed on so many darkened spirits,
Yours, most respectfully,
* * * * *
Paris, Jan., 1847.—I missed hearing M. Guizot, (I am sorry for it,) in his speech on the Montpensier marriage. I saw the little Duchess, the innocent or ignorant topic of all this disturbance, when presented at court. She went round the circle on the arm of the queen. Though only fourteen, she looks twenty, but has something fresh, engaging, and girlish about her.
I attended not only at the presentation, but at the ball given at the Tuileries directly after. These are fine shows, as the suite of apartments is very handsome, brilliantly lighted,—the French ladies surpassing all others in the art of dress; indeed, it gave me much pleasure to see them. Certainly there are many ugly ones; but they are so well dressed, and have such an air of graceful vivacity, that the general effect was of a flower-garden. As often happens, several American women were among the most distinguished for positive beauty; one from Philadelphia, who is by many persons considered the prettiest ornament of the dress circle at the Italian opera, was especially marked by the attention of the king. However, these ladies, even if here a long time, do not attain the air and manner of French women. The magnetic fluid that envelops them is less brilliant and exhilarating in its attractions.
Among the crowd wandered Leverrier, in the costume of Academician, looking as if he had lost, not found, his planet. French savants are more generally men of the world, and even men of fashion, than those of other climates; but, in his case, he seemed not to find it easy to exchange the music of the spheres for the music of fiddles.
Speaking of Leverrier leads to another of my disappointments. I went to the Sorbonne to hear him lecture, not dreaming that the old pedantic and theological character of those halls was strictly kept up in these days of light. An old guardian of the inner temple seeing me approach, had his speech all ready, and, manning the entrance, said, with a disdainful air, before we had time to utter a word, "Monsieur may enter if he pleases, but madame must remain here" (i.e., in the court-yard). After some exclamations of surprise, I found an alternative in the Hotel de Clugny, where I passed an hour very delightfully, while waiting for my companion.
I was more fortunate in hearing Arago, and he justified all my expectations. Clear, rapid, full, and equal, his discourse is worthy its celebrity, and I felt repaid for the four hours one is obliged to spend in going, in waiting, and in hearing, for the lecture begins at half past one, and you must be there before twelve to get a seat, so constant and animated is his popularity.
I was present on one good occasion, at the Academy,—the day that M. Remusat was received there, in the place of Royer Collard. I looked down, from one of the tribunes, upon the flower of the celebrities of France; that is to say, of the celebrities which are authentic, comme il faut. Among them were many marked faces, many fine heads; but, in reading the works of poets, we always fancy them about the age of Apollo himself, and I found with pain some of my favorites quite old, and very unlike the company on Parnassus, as represented by Raphael. Some, however, were venerable, even noble to behold.
The poorer classes have suffered from hunger this winter. All signs of this are kept out of sight in Paris. A pamphlet called "The Voice of Famine," stating facts, though in a tone of vulgar and exaggerated declamation, was suppressed as soon as published. While Louis Philippe lives, the gases may not burst up to flame, but the need of radical measures of reform is strongly felt in France; and the time will come, before long, when such will be imperatively demanded.
The doctrines of Fourier are making progress, and wherever they spread, the necessity of some practical application of the precepts of Christ, in lieu of the mummeries of a worn-out ritual, cannot fail to be felt. The more I see of the terrible ills which infest the body politic of Europe, the more indignation I feel at the selfishness or stupidity of those in my own country who oppose an examination of these subjects,—such as is animated by the hope of prevention. Educated in an age of gross materialism, Fourier is tainted by its faults; in attempts to reorganize society, he commits the error of making soul the result of health of body, instead of body the clothing of soul; but his heart was that of a genuine lover of his kind, of a philanthropist in the sense of Jesus; his views are large and noble; his life was one of devout study on these subjects, and I should pity the person who, after the briefest sojourn in Manchester and Lyons, the most superficial acquaintance with the population of London and Paris, could seek to hinder a study of his thoughts, or be wanting in reverence for his purposes.
To the actually so-called Chamber of Deputies, I was indebted for a sight of the manuscripts of Rousseau treasured in their library. I saw them and touched them,—those manuscripts just as he has celebrated them, written on the fine white paper, tied with ribbon. Yellow and faded age has made them, yet at their touch I seemed to feel the fire of youth, immortally glowing, more and more expansive, with which his soul has pervaded this century. He was the precursor of all we most prize. True, his blood was mixed with madness, and the course of his actual life made some detours through villanous places; but his spirit was intimate with the fundamental truths of human nature, and fraught with prophecy. There is none who has given birth to more life for this age; his gifts are yet untold; they are too present with us; but he who thinks really must often think with Rousseau, and learn him ever more and more. Such is the method of genius,—to ripen fruit for the crowd by those rays of whose heat they complain.
Naples, March 15, 1847.—Mickiewicz, the Polish poet, first introduced the Essays to acquaintance in Paris. I did not meet him anywhere, and, as I heard a great deal of him which charmed me, I sent him your poems, and asked him to come and see me. He came, and I found in him the man I had long wished to see, with the intellect and passions in due proportion for a full and healthy human being, with a soul constantly inspiring. Unhappily, it was a very short time before I came away. How much time had I wasted on others which I might have given to this real and important relation.
After hearing music from Chopin and Neukomm, I quitted Paris on the 25th February, and came, via Chalons, Lyons, Avignon, (where I waded through melting snow to Laura's tomb,) Arles, to Marseilles; thence, by steamer, to Genoa, Leghorn, and Pisa. Seen through a cutting wind, the marble palaces, the gardens, the magnificent water-view of Genoa, failed to charm. Only at Naples have I found my Italy. Between Leghorn and Naples, our boat was run into by another, and we only just escaped being drowned.
Rome, May, 1847.—Of the fragments of the great time, I have now seen nearly all that are treasured up here. I have as yet nothing of consequence to say of them. Others have often given good hints as to how they look. As to what they are, it can only be known by approximating to the state of soul out of which they grew. They are many and precious; yet is there not so much of high excellence as I looked for. They will not float the heart on a boundless sea of feeling, like the starry night on our Western Prairies. Yet I love much to see the galleries of marbles, even where there are not many separately admirable, amid the cypresses and ilexes of Roman villas; and a picture that is good at all, looks best in one of these old palaces. I have heard owls hoot in the Colosseum by moonlight, and they spoke more to the purpose than I ever heard any other voice on that subject. I have seen all the pomps of Holy Week in St. Peter's, and found them less imposing than an habitual acquaintance with the church itself, with processions of monks and nuns stealing in, now and then, or the swell of vespers from some side chapel. The ceremonies of the church have been numerous and splendid, during our stay, and they borrow unusual interest from the love and expectation inspired by the present pontiff. He is a man of noble and good aspect, who has set his heart on doing something solid for the benefit of man. A week or two ago, the Cardinal Secretary published a circular, inviting the departments to measures which would give the people a sort of representative council. Nothing could seem more limited than this improvement, but it was a great measure for Rome. At night, the Corso was illuminated, and many thousands passed through it in a torch-bearing procession, on their way to the Quirinal, to thank the Pope, upbearing a banner on which the edict was printed.
Rome, May 7, 1847.—I write not to you about these countries, of the famous people I see, of magnificent shows and places. All these things are only to me an illuminated margin on the text of my inward life. Earlier, they would have been more. Art is not important to me now. I like only what little I find that is transcendently good, and even with that feel very familiar and calm. I take interest in the state of the people, their manners, the state of the race in them. I see the future dawning; it is in important aspects Fourier's future. But I like no Fourierites; they are terribly wearisome here in Europe; the tide of things does not wash through them as violently as with us, and they have time to run in the tread-mill of system. Still, they serve this great future which I shall not live to see. I must be born again.
Florence, June 20, 1847.—I have just come hither from Rome. Every minute, day and night, there is something to be seen or done at Rome, which we cannot bear to lose. We lived on the Corso, and all night long, after the weather became fine, there was conversation or music before my window. I never seemed really to sleep while there, and now, at Florence, where there is less to excite, and I live in a more quiet quarter, I feel as if I needed to sleep all the time, and cannot rest as I ought, there is so much to do.
I now speak French fluently, though not correctly, yet well enough to make my thoughts avail in the cultivated society here, where it is much spoken. But to know the common people, and to feel truly in Italy, I ought to speak and understand the spoken Italian well, and I am now cultivating this sedulously. If I remain, I shall have, for many reasons, advantages for observation and enjoyment, such as are seldom permitted to a foreigner.
I forgot to mention one little thing rather interesting. At the Miserere of the Sistine chapel, I sat beside Goethe's favorite daughter-in-law, Ottilia, to whom I was introduced by Mrs. Jameson.
Florence, July 1, 1847.—I do not wish to go through Germany in a hurried way, and am equally unsatisfied to fly through Italy; and shall, therefore, leaving my companions in Switzerland, take a servant to accompany me, and return hither, and hence to Rome for the autumn, perhaps the winter. I should always suffer the pain of Tantalus thinking of Rome, if I could not see it more thoroughly than I have as yet even begun to; for it was all outside the two months, just finding out where objects were. I had only just begun to know them, when I was obliged to leave. The prospect of returning presents many charms, but it leaves me alone in the midst of a strange land.
I find myself happily situated here, in many respects. The Marchioness Arconati Visconti, to whom I brought a letter from a friend of hers in France, has been good to me as a sister, and introduced me to many interesting acquaintance. The sculptors, Powers and Greenough, I have seen much and well. Other acquaintance I possess, less known to fame, but not less attractive.
Florence is not like Rome. At first, I could not bear the change; yet, for the study of the fine arts, it is a still richer place. Worlds of thought have risen in my mind; some time you will have light from all.
* * * * *
Milan, Aug. 9, 1847.—Passing from Florence, I came to Bologna. A woman should love Bologna, for there has the intellect of woman been cherished. In their Certosa, they proudly show the monument to Matilda Tambreni, late Greek professor there. In their anatomical hall, is the bust of a woman, professor of anatomy. In art, they have had Properzia di Rossi, Elisabetta Sirani, Lavinia Fontana, and delight to give their works a conspicuous place. In other cities, the men alone have their Casino dei Nobili, where they give balls and conversazioni. Here, women have one, and are the soul of society. In Milan, also, I see, in the Ambrosian Library, the bust of a female mathematician.
TO HER MOTHER.
Lago di Garda, Aug. 1, 1847.—Do not let what I have written disturb you as to my health. I have rested now, and am as well as usual. This advantage I derive from being alone, that, if I feel the need of it, I can stop.
I left Venice four days ago; have seen well Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, and am reposing, for two nights and a day, in this tranquil room which overlooks the beautiful Lake of Garda. The air is sweet and pure, and I hear no noise except the waves breaking on the shore.
I think of you a great deal, especially when there are flowers. Florence was all flowers. I have many magnolias and jasmines. I always wish you could see them. The other day, on the island of San Lazaro, at the Armenian Convent, where Lord Byron used to go, I thought of you, seeing the garden full of immense oleanders in full bloom. One sees them everywhere at Venice.
TO HER TRAVELLING COMPANIONS AFTER PARTING.
Milan, Aug. 9, 1847.—I remained at Venice near a week after your departure, to get strong and tranquil again. Saw all the pictures, if not enough, yet pretty well. My journey here was very profitable. Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, I saw really well, and much there is to see. Certainly I had learned more than ever in any previous ten days of my existence, and have formed an idea of what is needed for the study of art in these regions. But, at Brescia, I was taken ill with fever. I cannot tell you how much I was alarmed when it seemed to me it was affecting my head. I had no medicine; nothing could I do except abstain entirely from food, and drink cold water. The second day, I had a bed made in a carriage, and came on here. I am now pretty well, only very weak.
Milan, Aug. 10, 1847.—Since writing you from Florence, I have passed the mountains; two full, rich days at Bologna; one at Ravenna; more than a fortnight at Venice, intoxicated with the place, and with Venetian art, only to be really felt and known in its birth-place. I have passed some hours at Vicenza, seeing mainly the Palladian structures; a day at Verona,—a week had been better; seen Mantua, with great delight; several days in Lago di Garda,—truly happy days there; then, to Brescia, where I saw the Titians, the exquisite Raphael, the Scavi, and the Brescian Hills. I could charm you by pictures, had I time.
To-day, for the first time, I have seen Manzoni. Manzoni has spiritual efficacy in his looks; his eyes glow still with delicate tenderness, as when he first saw Lucia, or felt them fill at the image of Father Cristoforo. His manners are very engaging, frank, expansive; every word betokens the habitual elevation of his thoughts; and (what you care for so much) he says distinct, good things; but you must not expect me to note them down. He lives in the house of his fathers, in the simplest manner. He has taken the liberty to marry a new wife for his own pleasure and companionship, and the people around him do not like it, because she does not, to their fancy, make a good pendant to him. But I liked her very well, and saw why he married her. They asked me to return often, if I pleased, and I mean to go once or twice, for Manzoni seems to like to talk with me.
* * * * *
Rome, Oct., 1847.—Leaving Milan, I went on the Lago Maggiore, and afterward into Switzerland. Of this tour I shall not speak here; it was a little romance by itself.
Returning from Switzerland, I passed a fortnight on the Lake of Como, and afterward visited Lugano. There is no exaggeration in the enthusiastic feeling with which artists and poets have viewed these Italian lakes. The "Titan" of Richter, the "Wanderjahre" of Goethe, the Elena of Taylor, the pictures of Turner, had not prepared me for the visions of beauty that daily entranced the eyes and heart in those regions. To our country, Nature has been most bounteous, but we have nothing in the same class that can compare with these lakes, as seen under the Italian heaven. As to those persons who have pretended to discover that the effects of light and atmosphere were no finer than they found in our own lake scenery, I can only say that they must be exceedingly obtuse in organization,—a defect not uncommon among Americans.
Nature seems to have labored to express her full heart in as many ways as possible, when she made these lakes, moulded and planted their shores. Lago Maggiore is grandiose, resplendent in its beauty; the view of the Alps gives a sort of lyric exaltation to the scene. Lago di Garda is so soft and fair on one side,—the ruins of ancient palaces rise softly with the beauties of that shore; but at the other end, amid the Tyrol, it is so sublime, so calm, so concentrated in its meaning! Como cannot be better described in generals than in the words of Taylor:—
"Softly sublime, profusely fair"
Lugano is more savage, more free in its beauty. I was on it in a high gale; there was little danger, just enough to exhilarate; its waters wild, and clouds blowing across its peaks. I like the boatmen on these lakes; they have strong and prompt character; of simple features, they are more honest and manly than Italian men are found in the thoroughfares; their talk is not so witty as that of the Venetian gondoliers, but picturesque, and what the French call incisive. Very touching were some of their histories, as they told them to me, while pausing sometimes on the lake. Grossi gives a true picture of such a man in his family relations; the story may be found in "Marco Visconti."
On this lake, I met Lady Franklin, wife of the celebrated navigator. She has been in the United States, and showed equal penetration and candor in remarks on what she had seen there. She gave me interesting particulars as to the state of things in Van Diemen's Land, where she passed seven years, when her husband was in authority there.
Lake of Como, Aug. 22, 1847.—Rome was much poisoned to me. But, after a time, its genius triumphed, and I became absorbed in its proper life. Again I suffered from parting, and have since resolved to return, and pass at least a part of the winter there. People may write and prate as they please of Rome, they cannot convey thus a portion of its spirit. The whole heart must be yielded up to it. It is something really transcendent, both spirit and body. Those last glorious nights, in which I wandered about amid the old walls and columns, or sat by the fountains in the Piazza del Popolo, or by the river, were worth an age of pain,—only one hates pain in Italy.
Tuscany I did not like as well. It is a great place to study the history of character and art. Indeed, there I did really begin to study, as well as gaze and feel. But I did not like it. Florence is more in its spirit like Boston, than like an Italian city. I knew a good many Italians, but they were busy and intellectual, not like those I had known before. But Florence is full of really good, great pictures. There first I saw some of the great masters. Andrea del Sarto, in particular, one sees only there, and he is worth much. His wife, whom he always paints, and for whom he was so infatuated, has some bad qualities, and in what is good a certain wild nature or diablerie.
Bologna is truly an Italian city, one in which I should like to live; full of hidden things, and its wonders of art are very grand. The Caracci and their friends had vast force; not much depth, but enough force to occupy one a good while,—and Domenichino, when good at all, is very great.
Venice was a dream of enchantment; there was no disappointment. Art and life are one. There is one glow of joy, one deep shade of passionate melancholy; Giorgione, as a man, I care more for now than any of the artists, though he had no ideas.
In the first week, floating about in a gondola, I seemed to find myself again.
I was not always alone in Venice, but have come through the fertile plains of Lombardy, seen the lakes Garda and Maggiore, and a part of Switzerland, alone, except for occasional episodes of companionship, sometimes romantic enough.
In Milan I stayed a while, and knew some radicals, young, and interested in ideas. Here, on the lake, I have fallen into contact with some of the higher society,—duchesses, marquises, and the like. My friend here is Madame Arconati, Marchioness Visconti. I have formed connection with a fair and brilliant Polish lady, born Princess Radzivill. It is rather pleasant to come a little on the traces of these famous histories; also, both these ladies take pleasure in telling me of spheres so unlike mine, and do it well.
The life here on the lake is precisely what we once imagined as being so pleasant. These people have charming villas and gardens on the lake, adorned with fine works of art. They go to see one another in boats. You can be all the time in a boat, if you like; if you want more excitement, or wild flowers, you climb the mountains. I have been here for some time, and shall stay a week longer. I have found soft repose here. Now, I am to return to Rome, seeing many things by the way.
Florence, Sept. 25, 1847.—I hope not to want a further remittance for a long time. I shall not, if I can settle myself at Rome so as to avoid spoliation. That is very difficult in this country. I have suffered from it already. The haste, the fatigue, the frequent illness in travelling, have tormented me. At Rome I shall settle myself for five months, and make arrangements to the best of my judgment, and with counsel of experienced friends, and have some hope of economy while there; but am not sure, as much more vigilance than I can promise is needed against the treachery of servants and the cunning of landlords.
You are disappointed by my letter from Rome. But I did not feel equal then to speaking of the things of Rome, and shall not, till better acquaintance has steadied my mind. It is a matter of conscience with me not to make use of crude impressions, and what they call here "coffee-house intelligence," as travellers generally do. I prefer skimming over the surface of things, till I feel solidly ready to write.
Milan I left with great regret, and hope to return. I knew there a circle of the aspiring youth, such as I have not in any other city. I formed many friendships, and learned a great deal. One of the young men, Guerrieri by name, (and of the famous Gonzaga family,) I really love. He has a noble soul, the quietest sensibility, and a brilliant and ardent, though not a great, mind. He is eight-and-twenty. After studying medicine for the culture, he has taken law as his profession. His mind and that of Hicks, an artist of our country now here, a little younger, are two that would interest you greatly. Guerrieri speaks no English; I speak French now as fluently as English, but incorrectly. To make use of it, I ought to have learned it earlier.
Arriving here, Mr. Mozier, an American, who from a prosperous merchant has turned sculptor, come hither to live, and promises much excellence in his profession, urged me so much to his house, that I came. At first, I was ill from fatigue, and staid several days in bed; but his wife took tender care of me, and the quiet of their house and regular simple diet have restored me. As soon as I have seen a few things here, I shall go to Rome. On my way, I stopped at Parma,—saw the works of Correggio and Parmegiano. I have now seen what Italy contains most important of the great past; I begin to hope for her also a great future,—the signs have improved so much since I came. I am most fortunate to be here at this time.
Interrupted, as always. How happy I should be if my abode at Rome would allow some chance for tranquil and continuous effort. But I dare not hope much, from the difficulty of making any domestic arrangements that can be relied on. The fruit of the moment is so precious, that I must not complain. I learn much; but to do anything with what I learn is, under such circumstances, impossible. Besides, I am in great need of repose; I am almost inert from fatigue of body and spirit.
Florence, Sept., 1847.—I cannot even begin to speak of the magnificent scenes of nature, nor the works of art, that have raised and filled my mind since I wrote from Naples. Now I begin to be in Italy! but I wish to drink deep of this cup before I speak my enamored words. Enough to say, Italy receives me as a long-lost child, and I feel myself at home here, and if I ever tell anything about it, you will hear something real and domestic. Among strangers I wish most to speak to you of my friend the Marchioness A. Visconti, a Milanese. She is a specimen of the really high-bred lady, such as I have not known. Without any physical beauty, the grace and harmony of her manners produce all the impression of beauty. She has also a mind strong, clear, precise, and much cultivated. She has a modest nobleness that you would dearly love. She is intimate with many of the first men. She seems to love me much, and to wish I should have whatever is hers. I take great pleasure in her friendship.
Rome, Oct. 28, 1847.—I am happily settled for the winter, quite by myself, in a neat, tranquil apartment in the Corso, where I see all the motions of Rome,—in a house of loving Italians, who treat me well, and do not interrupt me, except for service. I live alone, eat alone, walk alone, and enjoy unspeakably the stillness, after all the rush and excitement of the past year.
I shall make no acquaintance from whom I do not hope a good deal, as my time will be like pure gold to me this winter; and, just for happiness, Rome itself is sufficient.
To-day is the last of the October feasts of the Trasteverini. I have been, this afternoon, to see them dancing. This morning I was out, with half Rome, to see the Civic Guard manoeuvring in that great field near the tomb of Cecilia Metella, which is full of ruins. The effect was noble, as the band played the Bolognese march, and six thousand Romans passed in battle array amid these fragments of the great time.
Rome, Oct. 29, 1847.—I am trying to economize,—anxious to keep the Roman expenses for six months within the limits of four hundred dollars. Rome is not as cheap a place as Florence, but then I would not give a pin to live in Florence.
We have just had glorious times with the October feasts, when all the Roman people were out. I am now truly happy here, quiet and familiar; no longer a staring, sight-seeing stranger, riding about finely dressed in a coach to see muses and sibyls. I see these forms now in the natural manner, and am contented.
Keep free from false ties; they are the curse of life. I find myself so happy here, alone and free.
Rome, Oct. 1847.—I arrived in Rome again nearly a fortnight ago, and all mean things were forgotten in the joy that rushed over me like a flood. Now I saw the true Rome. I came with no false expectations, and I came to live in tranquil companionship, not in the restless impertinence of sight-seeing, so much more painful here than anywhere else.
I had made a good visit to Vicenza; a truly Italian town, with much to see and study. But all other places faded away, now that I again saw St. Peter's, and heard the music of the fountains.
The Italian autumn is not as beautiful as I expected, neither in the vintage of Tuscany nor here. The country is really sere and brown; but the weather is fine, and these October feasts are charming. Two days I have been at the Villa Borghese. There are races, balloons, and, above all, the private gardens open, and good music on the little lake.
Rome, morning of the 17th Nov., 1847.—It seems great folly to send the enclosed letter. I have written it in my nightly fever. All day I dissipate my thoughts on outward beauty. I have many thoughts, happiest moments, but as yet I do not have even this part in a congenial way. I go about in a coach with several people; but English and Americans are not at home here. Since I have experienced the different atmosphere of the European mind, and been allied with it, nay, mingled in the bonds of love, I suffer more than ever from that which is peculiarly American or English. I should like to cease from hearing the language for a time. Perhaps I should return to it; but at present I am in a state of unnatural divorce from what I was most allied to.
There is a Polish countess here, who likes me much. She has been very handsome, still is, in the style of the full-blown rose. She is a widow, very rich, one of the emancipated women, naturally vivacious, and with talent. This woman envies me; she says, "How happy you are; so free, so serene, so attractive, so self-possessed!" I say not a word, but I do not look on myself as particularly enviable. A little money would have made me much more so; a little money would have enabled me to come here long ago, and find those that belong to me, or at least try my experiments; then my health would never have sunk, nor the best years of my life been wasted in useless friction. Had I money now,—could I only remain, take a faithful servant, and live alone, and still see those I love when it is best, that would suit me. It seems to me, very soon I shall be calmed, and begin to enjoy.
TO HER MOTHER.
Rome, Dec. 16, 1847.—My life at Rome is thus far all I hoped. I have not been so well since I was a child, nor so happy ever, as during the last six weeks. I wrote you about my home; it continues good, perfectly clean, food wholesome, service exact. For all this I pay, but not immoderately. I think the sum total of my expenses here, for six months, will not exceed four hundred and fifty dollars.
My marchesa, of whom I rent my rooms, is the greatest liar I ever knew, and the most interested, heartless creature. But she thinks it for her interest to please me, as she sees I have a good many persons who value me; and I have been able, without offending her, to make it understood that I do not wish her society. Thus I remain undisturbed.
Every Monday evening, I receive my acquaintance. I give no refreshment, but only light the saloon, and decorate it with fresh flowers, of which I have plenty still. How I wish you could see them!
Among the frequent guests are known to you Mr. and Mrs. Cranch, Mr. and Mrs. Story. Mr. S. has finally given up law, for the artist's life. His plans are not matured, but he passes the winter at Rome.
On other evenings, I do not receive company, unless by appointment. I spend them chiefly in writing or study. I have now around me the books I need to know Italy and Rome. I study with delight, now that I can verify everything. The days are invariably fine, and each day I am out from eleven till five, exploring some new object of interest, often at a great distance.
Rome, Dec. 20, 1847.—Nothing less than two or three years, free from care and forced labor, would heal all my hurts, and renew my life-blood at its source. Since Destiny will not grant me that, I hope she will not leave me long in the world, for I am tired of keeping myself up in the water without corks, and without strength to swim. I should like to go to sleep, and be born again into a state where my young life should not be prematurely taxed.
Italy has been glorious to me, and there have been hours in which I received the full benefit of the vision. In Rome, I have known some blessed, quiet days, when I could yield myself to be soothed and instructed by the great thoughts and memories of the place. But those days are swiftly passing. Soon I must begin to exert myself, for there is this incubus of the future, and none to help me, if I am not prudent to face it. So ridiculous, too, this mortal coil,—such small things!
I find how true was the lure that always drew me towards Europe. It was no false instinct that said I might here find an atmosphere to develop me in ways I need. Had I only come ten years earlier! Now my life must be a failure, so much strength has been wasted on abstractions, which only came because I grew not in the right soil. However, it is a less failure than with most others, and not worth thinking twice about. Heaven has room enough, and good chances in store, and I can live a great deal in the years that remain.
Rome, Dec. 20, 1847.—I don't know whether you take an interest in the present state of things in Italy, but you would if you were here. It is a fine time to see the people. As to the Pope, it is as difficult here as elsewhere to put new wine into old bottles, and there is something false as well as ludicrous in the spectacle of the people first driving their princes to do a little justice, and then evviva-ing them at such a rate. This does not apply to the Pope; he is a real great heart, a generous man. The love for him is genuine, and I like to be within its influence. It was his heart that gave the impulse, and this people has shown, to the shame of English and other prejudice, how unspoiled they were at the core, how open, nay, how wondrous swift to answer a generous appeal!
They are also gaining some education by the present freedom of the press and of discussion. I should like to write a letter for England, giving my view of the present position of things here.
* * * * *
Rome, October 18, 1847.—In the spring, when I came to Rome, the people were in the intoxication of joy at the first serious measures of reform taken by the Pope. I saw with pleasure their childlike joy and trust. Still doubts were always present whether this joy was not premature. From the people themselves the help must come, and not from the princes. Rome, to resume her glory, must cease to be an ecclesiastical capital. Whilst I sympathized with the warm love of the people, the adulation of leading writers, who were willing to take all from the prince of the Church as a gift and a bounty, instead of steadily implying that it was the right of the people, was very repulsive to me. Passing into Tuscany, I found the liberty of the press just established. The Grand Duke, a well-intentioned, though dull, man, had dared to declare himself an Italian prince. I arrived in Florence too late for the great fete of the 12th September, in honor of the grant of the National Guard, but the day was made memorable by the most generous feeling on all sides. Some days before were passed by reconciling all strifes, composing all differences between cities, districts, and individuals. On that day they all embraced in sign of this; exchanged banners as a token that they would fight for one another.
AMERICANS IN ITALY.
The Americans took their share in this occasion, and Greenough,—one of the few Americans who, living in Italy, takes the pains to know whether it is alive or dead, who penetrates beyond the cheats of tradesmen, and the cunning of a mob corrupted by centuries of slavery, to know the real mind, the vital blood of Italy,—took a leading part. I am sorry to say that a large portion of my countrymen here take the same slothful and prejudiced view as the English, and, after many years' sojourn, betray entire ignorance of Italian literature and Italian life beyond what is attainable in a month's passage through the thoroughfares. However, they did show, this time, a becoming spirit, and erected the American Eagle where its cry ought to be heard from afar. Crawford, here in Rome, has had the just feeling to join the Guard, and it is a real sacrifice for an artist to spend time on the exercises; but it well becomes the sculptor of Orpheus. In reference to what I have said of many Americans in Italy, I will only add that they talk about the corrupt and degenerate state of Italy as they do about that of our slaves at home. They come ready trained to that mode of reasoning which affirms, that, because men are degraded by bad institutions, they are not fit for better. I will only add some words upon the happy augury I draw from the wise docility of the people. With what readiness they listened to wise counsel and the hopes of the Pope that they would give no advantage to his enemies at a time when they were so fevered by the knowledge that conspiracy was at work in their midst! That was a time of trial. On all these occasions of popular excitement their conduct is like music, in such order, and with such union of the melody of feeling with discretion where to stop; but what is wonderful is that they acted in the same manner on that difficult occasion. The influence of the Pope here is without bounds; he can always calm the crowd at once. But in Tuscany, where they have no such one idol, they listened in the same way on a very trying occasion. The first announcement of the regulation for the Tuscan National Guard terribly disappointed the people. They felt that the Grand Duke, after suffering them to demonstrate such trust and joy on this feast of the 12th, did not really trust, on his side; that he meant to limit them all he could; they felt baffled, cheated; hence young men in anger tore down at once the symbols of satisfaction and respect; but the leading men went among the people, begged them to be calm, and wait till a deputation had seen the Grand Duke. The people listened at once to men who, they were sure, had at heart their best good—waited; the Grand Duke became convinced, and all ended without disturbance. If the people continue to act thus, their hopes cannot be baffled.