"I hope this statement of my case will make my long neglect appear less unkind. It was certainly not because I ever forgot you or your unwonted kindness; and it was not because I was in any sense rioting in pleasures.
"I am glad to hear the catamaran is on her legs again; you have my warmest wishes for a good cruise down the Saone: and yet there comes some envy to that wish; for when shall I go cruising? Here a sheer hulk, alas! lies R. L. S. But I will continue to hope for a better time, canoes that will sail better to the wind, and a river grander than the Saone.
"I heard, by the way, in a letter of counsel from a well-wisher, one reason of my town's absurdity about the chair of Art: I fear it is characteristic of her manners. It was because you did not call upon the electors!
"Will you remember me to Mrs. Hamerton and your son? and believe me," etc., etc.
In September we had the pleasure of a visit from Miss Betham-Edwards, and the acquaintance ripened into friendship.
Having brought the "Graphic Arts" satisfactorily forward, my husband thought that he might indulge in the longed-for holiday on the Saone. He expected to find everything ready at Chalon, and to have only to superintend the putting together of the sections of the boat. He was, however, sorely disappointed on finding that nothing had been done, and that he must spend several days in pushing the workmen on, instead of sailing pleasantly on the river. After a week of worry and irritation the boat was launched, and the two boys having joined their father on board, they went together as far as Tournus, after spending the first night at Port d'Ouroux, where they had found a nice little inn, with simple but good accommodation. In the afternoon Stephen went back to Autun to fetch his things, for he was obliged to be at his post on the first of October. Richard proceeded with his father down the Saone to Macon. The diary says:—
"Sept. 30. A beautiful voyage it was. The loveliest weather, favorable wind, strong, delightful play of light and color on water. I had not enjoyed such boating since I left Loch Awe."
There are these notes in the diary:—
"Nov. 26. Corrected the last proof of the 'Graphic Arts,' and sent it off with a new finish, as the other seemed too abrupt. Spent a good deal of time over the finish, writing it twice."
"Nov. 27. Worked all day as hard as possible at index to 'Graphic Arts,' and got it finished at midnight."
He was in time, but Mr. Seeley wrote:—
"Now Goupil's delay [about the illustrations] threatens to become most serious. We have now orders for 1050 copies, large and small, so we have already surpassed the sale of 'Etching and Etchers,' third edition."
Alas! there was a very distressing item of news in the letter dated December 1:—
"The enclosed letter from Goupil is a complete upset. It seems that the printing of the Louvre drawings [Footnote: Two drawings by Zucchero and Watteau. The latter was in black, red, and white chalk. The reproduction was printed from one plate, the different colored inks being rubbed in by the printer. Only about ten prints could be taken in a day.] will take five or six months.
"We must decide at once what to do. This is one plan. If we can get all the other illustrations ready, then to publish as soon as we can, putting these three plates in the large paper copies only, and in the others a slip of paper explaining how tedious the printing is, and promising that these illustrations shall be delivered in the spring to any purchaser who produces the slip.
"This is one plan. If you prefer it, please telegraph Yes.
"The other plan is to postpone the publication, and bring out the complete book in the spring. If you prefer this, please telegraph No.
"I leave the matter entirely in your hands. Pray decide as you judge best."
This delay was most provoking after the hard work the author had given to the book to have it out in good time, and also because the orders were increasing; they had now reached 315 copies for the large edition, and 868 of the small one. Still, there was no help for it, and the publication must be postponed rather than give an imperfect book to the public. Both author and publisher agreed in that decision.
On December 17, 1881, Mr. Hamerton received the following letter:—
"19 WARWICK CRESCENT.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—You will do me an honor indeed by the dedication you propose, and my own little worthiness to receive it becomes of secondary importance when taken with the exceeding importance of the truth you insist upon in connection with it—a truth always plain to me, however moderately I may have been able to illustrate its value.
"Thank you very much: you will add to my obligation by the visit you so kindly promise.
"I return you the best of Christmas wishes, and am ever, dear Mr. Hamerton,
"Yours most truly,
I transcribe the dedication to explain Mr. Browning's letter.
"TO ROBERT BROWNING.
"I wish to dedicate this book to you as the representative of a class which ought to be more numerous,—the class of large-minded persons who take a lively interest in arts which are not specially their own. No one who had not carefully observed the narrowing of men's minds by specialities could believe to what a degree it goes. Instead of being open, as yours has always been, to the influences of literature, in the largest sense, as well as to the influences of the graphic arts and music, the specialized mind shuts itself up in its own pursuit so exclusively that it does not even know what is nearest to its own closed doors. We meet with scholars who take no more account of the graphic arts than if they did not exist, and with painters who never read; but what is still more surprising, is the complete indifference with which an art can be regarded by men who know and practise another not widely removed from it. One may be a painter and yet know nothing whatever about any kind of engraving; one may be a skilled engraver, and yet work in lifelong misunderstanding of the rapid arts. If the specialists who devote themselves to a single study had more of your interest in the work of others, they might find, as you have done, that the quality which may be called open-mindedness is far from being an impediment to success, even in the highest and most arduous of artistic and intellectual pursuits."
Mr. Hamerton was so adverse to puffing of any kind and to noise being made about his name, that he neglected the most honest means of having it brought forward to public notice; for instance, he had been asked in November, 1881, for notes on his life for a book to be entitled "The Victorian Era of English Literature," and had forgotten all about it. He had to be reminded in 1882 that he had promised to send the notes.
I suppose that the following letter from R. L. Stevenson must have been received about this time. It is almost impossible to ascertain, as—like the others—it bears no date.
"VILLA AM STEIN, DAVOS PLATZ, GRISONS, SWITZERLAND.
"MY DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—My conscience has long been smiting me, till it became nearly chronic. My excuses, however, are many and not pleasant. Almost immediately after I last wrote to you, I had a hemorreage (I can't spell it), was badly treated by a doctor in the country, and have been a long while picking up—still, in fact, have much to desire on that side. Next, as soon as I got here, my wife took ill; she is, I fear, seriously so; and this combination of two invalids very much depresses both.
"I have a volume of republished essays coming out with Chatto and Windus; I wish they would come, that my wife might have the reviews to divert her. Otherwise my news is nil. I am up here in a little chalet, on the borders of a pine-wood, overlooking a great part of the Davos Thai: a beautiful scene at night, with the moon upon the snowy mountains and the lights warmly shining in the village. J. A. Symonds is next door to me, just at the foot of my Hill Difficulty (this you will please regard as the House Beautiful), and his society is my great stand-by.
"Did you see I had joined the band of the rejected? 'Hardly one of us,' said my confreres at the bar.
"I was blamed by a common friend for asking you to give me a testimonial: in the circumstances he thought it was indelicate. Lest, by some calamity, you should ever have felt the same way, I must say in two words how the matter appeared to me. That silly story of the election altered in no tittle the value of your testimony: so much for that. On the other hand, it led me to take a quite particular pleasure in asking you to give it; and so much for the other. I trust even if you cannot share it, you will understand my view.
"I am in treaty with Bentley for a life of Hazlitt; I hope it will not fall through, as I love the subject, and appear to have found a publisher who loves it also. That, I think, makes things more pleasant. You know I am a fervent Hazlittite; I mean, regarding him as the English writer who has had the scantiest justice. Besides which, I am anxious to write biography; really, if I understand myself in quest of profit, I think it must be good to live with another man from birth to death. You have tried it and know.
"How has the cruising gone? Pray remember me to Mrs. Hamerton and your son, and believe me,
"Yours very sincerely,
"ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON."
Throughout this year the diary was kept in Italian, and the reading of Italian books was pretty regularly kept up; among them were Olanda, Petrarch, and Ariosto. He soon abandoned Petrarch, whom he did not value much; here is the reason: "I prefer the clear movement of Ariosto to all the conceits of the sonnet-maker."
"Human Intercourse" was begun, and to save time, two copies were written simultaneously—one for England and the other for America—by inserting a sheet of black copying paper between two sheets of thin "Field and Tuer" paper, and writing with a hard lead pencil and sufficient pressure to obtain a duplicate on the page placed underneath. Roberts Brothers were very desirous of seeing this new work, and had written: "We should like to make 'Human Intercourse' a companion volume to the 'Intellectual Life,' and the title is so suggestive of something good that we hope you will hasten the good time of its appearance."
The publication of the "Graphic Arts" had been fixed for March 1, but a copy having been got ready at the end of January, it was sent as a compliment to Mr. Sagar of the Burnley Mechanics' Institution, and Mr. Seeley said: "The Burnley people are delighted at having had the first sight of the 'Graphic Arts.' Mr. Sagar writes that from what he saw of it, he has no hesitation in saying that it is the best book you have written, and does great credit to everybody concerned in its production."
The book was highly appreciated by those competent to judge and understand the subjects. Mr. Haden wrote about it a letter of fourteen pages. Though he calls it himself "an unconscionably long letter," it is most interesting throughout, but I only quote a few passages from it.
"I have been reading the 'Graphic Arts' with great interest. It is, or rather must have been, a formidable undertaking. I like your chapter on 'Useful and Aesthetic Drawing.' Your insistence on keeping the two things separate, and claiming for each its value, is a great lesson—read, too, just at the right time.
"And in your 'Drawing for Artistic Pleasure,' the great lesson there is, that true artistic pleasure can only be excited in others by the artist that knows what he is about, though he does not express it. Did you ever see a drawing or an etching by Victor Hugo? Hugo is a poet, and affects to be an artist. But his knowledge of what is or should be organic, in every picture, is so lamentably absent, that his poetry (sought to be imparted in that shape) goes for nothing.
"In 'Right and Wrong in Drawing,' which is excellently written, the concluding paragraph is admirable. The chapter on 'Etching and Dry-Point' is charmingly written, easy and refined in diction, and set down con amore."
Then came this letter from Mr. Browning:—
"19 WARWICK CRESCENT, W. March 6, 1882.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—I thought your dedication a great honor to me, and should have counted it such had it simply prefaced a pamphlet. To connect it with this magnificent book is indeed engraving my name on a jewel, instead of stone or even marble.
"Your sumptuous present reached me two days ago—and will be consigned to 'my library,' when the best jewel I boast of is disposed of on my dressing-table among articles proper to the place: no, indeed—it shall be encased as a jewel should, on a desk for all to see how the author has chosen to illustrate the [painting- and] drawing-room of the author's admirer and (dares he add?) friend,
Mr. Alfred Hunt also wrote: "I can see that the plan of the book is admirable. I often want to know something about art processes which I don't practise myself, and which I might be stimulated into trying if I was only younger."
The sale of the book was rapid, and before six weeks had elapsed so few copies remained that the prices were raised to fifteen guineas for the large edition, and to seven and a half guineas for the small one. But the author had overworked himself, and hurry had brought back the old enemy—insomnia. Mr. Seeley, who had lately suffered from lumbago, wrote:—
"Sleeplessness is a far worse thing than lumbago. You are right in taking it seriously. I have little doubt, however, that by avoiding overwork—and especially hurried work—and getting plenty of exercise, you will overcome the tendency. If you ever do another big book, we must take two or three years for it, and have no sort of hurry. I once thought of the 'Landscape Painters' as a good subject for a big book."
In a subsequent letter Mr. Seeley gives a great deal of thoughtful consideration to what might suit his friend's requirements:—
"If 'Landscape Painting' is a subject that you would thoroughly like to take up, please tell me what travelling you would consider needful, and as far as expense goes I will try to meet you. Perhaps for one thing we might go to Italy together, if you are not afraid of being dragged about in a chain.
"I thought of the Rhone book again, as likely to suit your present state of health."
In the current year, however, it was impossible to undertake the voyage, because "Human Intercourse" was to be the important work. As usual with a new book, the author had had a struggle at the beginning. He attributed the difficulty to the want of subdivisions in the chapters, and when he had adopted a more elastic system than is usual in a treatise, the obstacle disappeared. He has himself explained this, more in detail, to his readers, in the preface of the book.
There is no doubt that this long struggle had increased the tendency to sleeplessness, and a little cruise on the Saone was thought to be the best remedy. So he left for Macon at the beginning of April, and after putting the several parts of the boat together, and getting provisions on board, he started with Stephen on a voyage down the Saone. On their way they could see with a telescope all the details of Mont Blanc. At Port d'Arciat they picked up a friend, and after a "good little repast with a Good Friday matelote," a few sketches were made at Thoissey and Beauregard.
The change and exercise in the open air did my husband a great deal of good, and he had regained sleep when he returned home.
There being still a good deal of leakage in the "Morvandelle," though a thick kind of flannel had been pressed into the interstices, it was decided to use the wooden parts to make two small boats for the pond, one for Stephen and the other for Richard, the old ones being rotten. There was much pleasurable planning for my husband in the scheme, and also some manual work for rainy weather. He was exceedingly careful and handy in doing joiner's work, and every one in the house applied to him for delicate repairs, and—when he had time—they were done to perfection; only, he seldom had time, and it was a standing joke that he must have a private museum somewhere to which the objects confided to him found their way. In reality, he had to do a good deal of manual labor of different kinds, on account of our country life, which placed us at an inconvenient distance from workmen. For instance, he always framed his etchings and engravings himself; at one time he even undertook to re-gild all the frames which the flies so rapidly spoilt in the country. He had also to make numerous packing-cases and boxes for the sending of plates, pictures, and books; he invented lots of contrivances for the arrangement of his colors, brushes, portfolios, etc. He made different portable easels with folding stools corresponding to their size, for working from nature, desks for large books, such as dictionaries, to be placed by the side of his arm-chair when he was reading; others for etchings and engravings, so that they might be examined without fear of any object coming in contact with them. So sensitive was he to the way in which works of art were handled, that he allowed no one to touch his prints or illustrated books; he was always in dread about their margins being creased or crumpled, and to avoid this possibility he used to show them himself. A well-known aqua-fortist told me that my husband had said to him once, "I would not trust you to handle one of your own etchings."
Mr. Seeley had suggested that some illustrated articles about Autun might interest the readers of the "Portfolio" on account of the Roman and mediaeval remains, the remarkable cathedral, and the picturesque character of the surrounding country. He thought that, as a title, "An Old Burgundian City" would do. In a former letter he had expressed a wish that his editor should come to England—if possible—every year in the spring, instead of the autumn, when it was too late to discuss arrangements for the "Portfolio" for the ensuing year. Mr. Hamerton admitted that it would be desirable, no doubt, but he could not afford it; the expenses of our last stay had been a warning, though we had lived as simply as possible. To these considerations Mr. Seeley had answered: "I am sorry you do not feel more happy about your future work. What seems to be wanting is some public post in which you would be paid for studying." But he had had more than enough of such schemes after his attempt at Edinburgh, and it was the only one he was ever induced to make. He began at once the pen-drawings which were to illustrate the articles on Autun, and he liked his work exceedingly.
"Paris."—Miss Susan Hamerton's Death.—Burnley revisited.—Hellifield Peel.—"Landscape" planned.—Voyage to Marseilles.
In May, Richard went away to Paris to study from the antique in the Louvre, and Mary read English to her father for an hour every afternoon.
In the summer Mr. Hamerton received the decoration and title of Officier d'Academie, but so little did he care for public marks of distinction that the fact is barely mentioned in the diary.
In August he received the following interesting letter from Mr. Browning:—
"HOTEL VIRARD, ST. PIERRE DE CHARTREUSE ISERS.
"August 17, 1882.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—When I got, a month ago, your very pleasant letter, I felt that, full as it was of influences from Autun, the Saone between Chalon and Lyons, speeded by '330 square feet of canvas,' my little word of thanks in reply would never get well under weigh from the banks of our sluggish canal; so reserved launching it till I should reach this point of vantage: and now, forth with it, that, wherever it may find you, I may assure your kindness that it would indeed have gratified me to see you, had circumstances enabled you to come my way; and that the amends you promise for failing to do so will be duly counted upon; tho' whether that will happen at Warwick Crescent is unlikely rather than merely uncertain—since the Bill which is to abolish my house, among many more notable erections, has 'passed the Lords'' a fortnight ago, and I must look about for another lodging—much against my will. I dropped into it with all the indifference possible, some twenty-one years ago—meaning to slip out again soon as this happened, and that happened—and they all did happen, and yet found me with a sufficient reason for staying longer, till, only last year while abroad, the extraordinary thought occurred—'what need of removing at all?'—to which was no answer: so I took certain steps toward permanent comfort, which never before seemed worth taking—and, on my return, was saluted by a notice to the effect that a Railway Company wanted my 'House, forecourt, and garden,' and wished to know if I objected—I who, a month or two before, had painted the house and improved the garden. Go I must—but I shall endeavor to go somewhere near, and your visit, if you pay me one, will begin the good associations with the place. And this place; you may be acquainted with it, not unlikely. It is a hamlet on a hilltop, surrounded by mountains covered with fir—being the ancient Cartusia whence our neighbors the monks took their name; the Great Chartreuse lies close by, an hour's walk perhaps: this hamlet is in their district, 'the Desert,' as they call it; their walks are confined to it, and you meet on a certain day a procession of white-clothed shavelings, absolved from their vow of silence, and chattering like magpies, while vigorously engaged in butterfly-hunting. We have not a single shop in the whole handful of houses—excepting the 'tabac et timbres' establishment—where jalap and lollipops are sold likewise—and one hovel, the owner of which calls himself, on its outside, 'Cordonnier': yet there is this 'Hotel' and an auberge or two—serving to house travellers who are dismissed from the Convent at times inconvenient for reaching Grenoble; or so I suppose.
"The beauty and quiet of the scenery, the purity of the air, the variety of the wild-flowers—these are incomparable in our eyes (those of my sister and myself), and make all roughnesses smooth: we spent five weeks here last season; will do the like now, and then are bound for Ischia, where a friend entertains us for a month in a seaside villa he inhabits: afterwards to London, with what appetite we may, though London has its abundant worth too. Utterly peaceful as this country appears—and you may walk in its main roads for hours without meeting any one but a herdsman or wood-cutter—I shall tell you a little experience I have had of its possibilities. On the last day of our sojourn last year, we took a final look at and leave of a valley, a few miles off; and as I stood thinking of the utter innocency of the little spot and its surroundings, the odd fancy entered my head, 'Suppose you discovered a corpse in this solitude, would you think it your duty to go and apprise the authorities, incurring all the risks and certain hindrance to to- morrow's departure which such an act entails in France—or would you simply hold your tongue?' And I concluded, 'I ought to run those risks.' Well, that night a man was found murdered, just there where I had been looking down, and the owner of the field was at once arrested and shut up in the Mairie of the village of St. Pierre d'Entremont, close by. The victim was an Italian mason, had received seven mortal wounds, and lay in a potato-patch with a sack containing potatoes: 'he had probably been caught stealing these by the owner, who had killed him,'—so, the owner was taken into custody. We heard this—and were inconvenienced enough by it next day, for our journey was delayed by the Judge (d'Instruction) from Grenoble possessing himself of the mule which was to carry our luggage, in order to report on the spot; but we got away at last. On returning, last week, I inquired about the result. 'The accused man, who was plainly innocent, being altogether boulverse by the charge coming upon him just in his distress at losing a daughter a fortnight before, had taken advantage of the negligence of the gendarmes to throw himself from the window. He survived three hours, protesting his innocence to the last, which was confirmed by good evidence: the likelihood being that the murder had been committed by the Italian's companions at a little distance, and the body carried thro' the woods and laid there to divert suspicions.' Well might my genius warn me of the danger of being a victim's neighbor. But how I have victimized you, if you have borne with me! Forgive, and believe me ever,
Mr. Seeley had thought that a series of articles on Paris might be suitable for the "Portfolio," if they were written by the editor, who knew the beautiful city so well, and accordingly my husband had decided to go there for a month, in order to take notes and to choose subjects for the illustrations. He never could have been reconciled to the idea of remaining a month in Paris alone, and I bethought myself of a plan, which seemed both economical and pleasant, and which he readily adopted. It was to take Mary with us, and to rent a small apartment in our quiet Hotel de la Muette; having our meals prepared in our private kitchen (for each apartment was complete), and the cleaning done with the help of a femme de menage. It would be a sort of life-at-home on a very small scale.
The apartments were like English lodgings without attendance. Moreover, no one belonging to the hotel, not even a servant, had a right to enter the apartments: they were entirely private. One might order the most costly repasts from the luxurious restaurants close at hand, or keep a cordon bleu, or live on bread-and-water like an anchorite, just as one pleased, without anybody noticing it. This liberty was exactly what my husband liked.
We left home on October 9 with Richard, who was to continue his artistic studies in England now, and Mary, whom her father wanted to become acquainted with the different museums, beautiful buildings, and treasures of art, under his direction, for which there could have been no better opportunity.
We all looked forward to this change as to a partie de plaisir, the young people especially, and on our arrival in Paris, M. Mas and his wife received us with great cordiality. They had nothing in common with the ordinary type of hotel-keepers, and welcomed their habitues with a simple, hearty friendliness—such as servants, who had been all their lives in a family, might show to their masters—which pleased my husband much. They showed us, with visible satisfaction, our little apartment, saying that it had been reserved for us on account of "Mademoiselle," because her room would be just close to her mamma's, and the door leading from one to the other might be left open at night. We were told that the kitchen was particularly nice, because Monsieur Paul Baudry, "un artiste aussi," had fitted it up "a neuf" for the three months he had been spending in our present apartment. Early in the morning I went out to order provisions—groceries, fuel, wine, etc., for the month we were to remain at the hotel. We had afterwards an excellent and cheerful dejeuner prepared in our own kitchen. My husband was amused by the contrivances of what he called "the doll's house," and said he did not mind spending a month in that way. In the afternoon we went with the children to see the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, and La Cour de Cassation: in each of these buildings my husband gave us a short explanatory lesson in architecture.
The second day he had already made rules for the division of his time, according to which the mornings would be reserved for writing and correspondence; dejeuner was to be ready at eleven, so as to leave the afternoon free for the work in Paris.
As on the previous day, we were breakfasting together, talking of Richard's prospects in London, when there came a telegram, saying that our dear Aunt Susan thought herself to be sinking, and desired to see us. It was a sudden and a painful blow; my husband had not a moment of hesitation about what he would do. He told us to pack up immediately, whilst he went to look at the railway-guide, and find the first slow night-train for England: Richard and Mary were to go with us—it would be a last satisfaction for their aunt if we arrived in time.
I was full of apprehension for my husband, but, of course, refrained from mentioning my fears.
There was no slow train after four o'clock, so we had to start when it was still daylight, but he kept his eyes closed till darkness rendered invisible the objects we passed on our way. He bore the journey very well on the whole, and on reaching Calais we went on board the steamer immediately. It was midnight, the sea was splendidly phosphorescent, and Richard and Mary took great delight in throwing things into it, to see the sparkles flash about. I had no fear so long as we remained on the water, for Gilbert always enjoyed it, whatever the weather might be, and felt utterly free from nervousness.
Arrived at Dover at four in the morning, we went to bed for a little rest, and after breakfast went out for a walk on the seashore under the cliffs. Richard had never seen the sea before, and he received a profound impression from it. The wind was high, and the big green, crested waves came dashing their foam on to the very rocks at our feet. The alternate effects of sunshine and masses of clouds, violently driven and torn by the squalls, were magnificent; and Richard, more than ever, was fired with the wish to become a painter. His sister, very sensitive to natural beauty, shared his enthusiasm.
The train for London started at three, and on arriving at Charing Cross we found a more reassuring telegram, stating that our aunt was somewhat better. Thus cheered by the hope of seeing her again, Gilbert was able to eat his supper with us before going to bed. I was greatly alarmed by his decision to start early in the morning and to travel throughout the day; but having made such a sacrifice of money in abandoning our apartment and provisions, and in taking the children with us in the hope of giving a last satisfaction to his aunt, I understood that he would on no account run the risk of arriving too late.
It proved a most painful day to us all. Very soon he gave signs of distress and nervousness in spite of all his efforts to hide them; but this time he would not leave the train, though I besought him to do so.
We had some provisions in our bags, but, weak as he felt, he could not swallow a morsel of anything; he could not even drink. Still, at one time he thought that a little brandy might do him good; unfortunately we had not any with us, and it being Sunday all the refreshment-rooms were closed on the line. He strove desperately against the growing cerebral excitement, now by lying down at full length on the cushions with the curtains drawn, and his eyes closed (most mercifully we were alone in our compartment); now by stamping his feet in the narrow space and rubbing his hands vigorously to bring back circulation. In these alternate fits of excitement and prostration we reached Doncaster at five. Luckily there was a stoppage of about forty minutes before we could proceed to Featherstone, and we turned it to the best advantage by leaving the railway station and going in search of a quiet hotel, where we ordered something to eat. Darkness had now set in. We had had a little walk out of sight of the railway, in the open air, and there seemed to be not a soul, besides ourselves and the landlord, in the hotel; so that by the time our dinner made its appearance my husband had so far recovered that he was able to take both food and drink, which did him much good.
We arrived at Featherstone station after ten, and as the time of our arrival had been uncertain, there was nobody to meet us. We left our luggage, and only taking our handbags, we set off for the vicarage on foot in the dark and in a deluge of rain. At eleven we were all standing by the bed of our dear aunt, who knew us perfectly in spite of her weak state, and whose satisfaction at the sight of Richard and Mary was as great as unhoped for. The diary says: "Oct. 15, 1882. Our poor aunt recognized us, but it is only too plain that she cannot live more than three or four days." The doctor, whom we saw on the following morning, said that Miss Hamerton was dying of no disease; it was merely the breaking up of the constitution. She was kept up artificially by medicine and stimulants, very frequently administered, for which she had neither taste nor desire. Now she said to the doctor: "I have been very submissive because I wanted to retain my flickering life until I should see my nephew and his family; this great happiness has been granted to me, and now I only desire to go to my final rest." After this the doctor's prescription was to give her only what she might ask for. We remained at her bedside throughout the day, with the exception of a visit to the old church, now restored with care and taste, to my husband's satisfaction.
We watched our aunt part of the night, and she spoke very often, with her usual clearness of mind; towards three in the morning our cousins Emma and Annie came to relieve us. On the morrow there was a change for the worse with greater weakness, and we determined—my husband and myself—to watch all night.
Aunt Susan concerned herself about our comfort to the last; she reminded her nephew to keep up a good fire that I might not get cold; she insisted upon my making some tea for myself, and upon my husband having a glass of beer. About two in the morning she asked for a little champagne; her mind was so clear that, after exchanging a few sentences with her nephew in the Lancashire dialect and drinking her small glass of champagne, she said with a smile, "It's good sleck," and lay still for a while. At three she wanted to be turned on her side, which my husband did with tender care, happy to be able to do something for her better than any one else could do it, as she said. I believe she liked to feel herself in his arms. Then she wished Ben to come up to read the last prayers. I went to call him, also Annie and Emma, Richard and Mary, and we all surrounded her bed whilst Ben was reading the prayers according to her desire, and my husband holding one of her hands all the time. She rested her eyes upon each of us in turn, closed them never to open them again, and breathed more and more feebly till she breathed no more. It was five o'clock in the morning. Her death had been a peaceful one, without a struggle, without pain,—the death we may desire for all that we love. Nevertheless, it proved a sore trial for my husband, who was losing the oldest affection of his life. It was even more severe than such losses are in most cases, however great may have been the affection, for it was like complete severance from the past to which both he and his aunt were so much attached. When they were together the reminiscences of the old days at Hollins, of the old friends and relations, of the quaint old customs still prevailing in the youthful days of the Misses Hamerton, and the great change since, were frequent topics of conversation. Aunt Susan was extremely intelligent, and her conversation was full of humor; she also wrote capital letters, and kept her nephew au courant of all that happened to their common friends. She shared in his great love and admiration for the beauties of nature, and her enjoyment of them was intense. When walking out she noticed all the changes of effect, and her interest never palled.
Great respect to her memory was manifested by the inhabitants of Featherstone, high and low, who filled the church on the day of the funeral and on the following Sunday, and who had put on mourning almost without exception.
On the Sunday night my husband went alone to the cemetery by moonlight, and remained long at the grave.
Our cousins, Ben and Annie Hinde, both showed great sympathy, and were also sorrowful on their own account; but Ben thought it bad for Mary and Richard to be shut up in unrelieved sadness, and was so kind as to take them to Leeds, Pontefract, Wakefield, and York in turn.
Aunt Susan had left a little legacy to each of her nephews and nieces, and the rest of her savings to my husband (she had not the disposition of the capital, which had been left in trust).
She had carefully prepared and addressed little parcels of souvenirs to myself and to each of my children—jewels, seals, silver pencil-cases, as well as some ancient and curious objects which had been preserved as relics in the family, and which she knew we should value and respect.
The day came when we had to leave our dear cousins and the old vicarage, so full of associations both pleasant and painful. We proceeded towards Burnley, where a telegram from Mr. Handsley was handed to my husband at the station. It said that Mr. Handsley was prevented from coming himself, but that his carriage was in readiness to take us to Reedley Lodge, where his wife was awaiting us.
We were made very welcome, and Gilbert was happy to see his friends again after so long a separation. Thursday—our former servant in the Highlands—came to see us in the evening, and our children, who had heard a great deal about him, were glad of the meeting.
Mrs. Handsley was a distant relation of my husband, and the relationship had always been acknowledged. She showed herself eager to divine how her guests would like to spend the short time at their disposal, and to fulfil their wishes. She was aware of my husband's faithful attachment to old associations, both with persons and with places, and she drove us to see his former friends who were still alive, and also the Hollins. The children, who had heard so much about it, were greatly interested, particularly in the room which had been their father's study. Note in the diary: "October 26, 1882. Went to see the Brun, that I had not seen since my marriage. Drank some of its water."
Mrs. Handsley said she had it on good authority that Mr. John Hamerton of Hellifield Peel had expressed on several occasions his regret for the division existing between the two branches of the family, and his wish to become acquainted with my husband, whose works he knew and admired.
Now it had been a lifelong desire of his to visit Hellifield Peel—the ancient tower with the romantic history, and the seat of the elder branch of the Hamertons. There could be no better opportunity, Mrs. Handsley suggested. At last he decided for the attempt, and on the following morning we set out with the children.
It was Gilbert's intention merely to send his card, and beg leave to see the tower without putting forward a claim of any kind, but on receipt of the card we were immediately shown into the drawing-room and most cordially received by Mr. John Hamerton and his sister. I was at once struck—and so were Richard and Mary—by the likeness between the two men, though they belonged to different branches of the family. My husband might have been easily taken for a younger brother of Mr. John Hamerton. They were both tall and spare, the elder man especially; both were straight and of somewhat proud bearing; their eyes were blue, with a straightforward and fearless expression. The lightness of the beard and hair, together with the development of the forehead, completed the resemblance, though the whole aspect of Mr. John Hamerton was that of a country gentleman, whilst hard intellectual work had left its stamp on the younger man's countenance. They got on very amicably together, and we were invited to lunch. My husband eagerly desired to go over the house, but alas for his dreams! it had been transformed according to modern wants, and the absence of all relics from so many generations was very striking.
We walked in the park, where we admired the noble trees, the pond, and, at some distance from the Peel, the beautiful Ribble valley, the subject of one of Turner's landscapes.
It was now time to go to our train after our long and charming visit; and when Mr. John Hamerton had given some photographs of Hellifield Peel to my husband, and we had taken a friendly leave of his sister, he accompanied us to the station, and invited us to the Peel whenever we might come that way.
So the long breach in the family now belonged to the past, and was replaced by mutual goodwill and friendliness. Gilbert wrote in his diary: "October 27, 1882. One of the most delightful days of my life."
The day after, he went to Burnley with Mr. Handsley and saw the new school before going to the Council Chamber, where a public reception had been organized in his honor, and where he delivered an oration in acknowledgment of many flattering speeches. The formal part of the reception over, he shook hands with every one who came forward to speak to him—among whom he still remembered a few.
The afternoon ended with a visit to the Mechanics' Institution, in which he had never ceased to take great interest. He had been much moved and gratified by the welcome offered him at Burnley, and never forgot it.
The journey to London was very trying on account of the cold, fog, and snow. The train ploughed its way slowly and cautiously amidst the explosive signals, which did not add to our comfort. We felt very sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Seeley, who were sitting up for us so late into the night.
On the days following our arrival, my husband introduced Richard to his friends, took him about London, and chose lodgings for him.
He also saw Mr. F. G. Stephens, who wished him to become a candidate for the post of Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford; but he did not feel tempted.
He called upon Mr. Browning, who was unfortunately out; but as he was on the point of closing the door, he felt a resistance, and saw a lady—"the sister of Robert Browning," she explained—to whom his card had been handed, and who, by mistake, had read the name as Hamilton. It was only after looking at it more attentively that she had rushed down the stairs to detain the visitor. He went up with her to the drawing-room, where he found Mrs. Orr, the sister of Sir Frederick Leighton, and they had a long and pleasant talk together. Some days later he had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Browning.
It was lucky that Gilbert had good health just then, and Richard to go about with him in London, for I was laid up with a bad cold—the result of having walked a whole day in the snow making calls, without an opportunity of drying my boots or of warming my feet. Mrs. Seeley was my kind and thoughtful nurse, and thanks to her care I gradually recovered.
Richard came to say good-bye, and we left Nutfield House for France. This time we did not go through Paris, but visited everything of interest at Rouen, Dreux, Orleans, and Bourges. The diary says: "November 27. In the evening we reached home, very happy to be back again."
On the 29th of the same month be received a letter from Mr. Sagar, from which I quote the following passage:—
"Sufficient time has not yet elapsed, I hope, for you to forget us in Burnley here, and the pleasure we had in seeing you in the Council Chamber on that, to us, memorable Saturday.
"Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Institute, and we are going to celebrate this and the general success we have had by a week's jubilee—the whole of New Year's week. The jubilee will take the form of a conversazione, a banquet, and a general exhibition, occupying every room of the place except two. South Kensington authorities are sending us six cases of examples of fabrics, pottery, etc., and about sixty frames of pictures, drawings, etc. Can you use your influence for us in obtaining a representative exhibition—say of etchings, or anything else of a suitable character that might suggest itself to you—together, if possible (and this would delight us all), with your presence, or in the absence of this, if you can't be here, a short letter for me to read, as on the opening of the Art-school?"
The letter was sent in due time, and acknowledged with grateful thanks.
Mr. Seeley was so kind as to send us news of Richard from time to time; he wrote in March: "Richard has shown me some of his drawings; I think he is making progress. One of his last drawings seemed to me excellent; very tender and subtle. He was down at Kinsgton with us the other day."
This opinion of Mr. Seeley's gave great pleasure to my husband, who had always entertained doubts about the range of his son's artistic talent.
In the same month he was asked to send a biographical note for "Men of the Time," a proof that his reputation was on the increase, and Mr. Haden, who had just come back from America, said that his works were held there in the highest esteem.
The book on Paris necessitated another journey, and my husband made the time of it to coincide with the opening of the Salon. This time we stopped at Auxerre, and visited the four churches, the museum, and the room in which are exhibited the relics of Marshal Davoust.
The diary says: "April 30. Began this morning another diary in English, to record the impressions which may serve for my literary work."
On May 1 we had a carriage accident which might have been serious. Our horse took fright at sight of a steam tram, and ran away on the footpath at a furious rate, dashing the carriage against the trees and lamp-posts until he slipped and fell at full length on the asphalt. My husband had been able to jump out, but a sudden jerk had prevented me from following him at the moment, and then there was danger of being hurt between the side of the carriage and the banging door. Gilbert had been running, hatless, after the carriage to hold the door and enable me to jump out, and he just succeeded as the horse slipped down and upset the carriage. I was out in time to escape being hurt, but of course we were both a good deal shaken, and went back to rest at our hotel.
We had hardly been a week in Paris when my husband began to suffer from nervousness. A tramway had been laid in front of the hotel, and the vibration prevented him from sleeping. Then spring was always trying to him; and above all, he wished himself in the country. Mr. Seeley wrote: "Nature evidently intended you for a savage; how in the world did you come to be a literary man? What must Frenchmen think of you, in Paris and miserable? Even Mrs. Hamerton must feel ashamed of you." He acknowledged that he was more happy in a primitive sort of existence than in one too perfectly civilized; still, he could not endure the privation of books, and he would have felt keenly the absence of works of art; but he was in deeper sympathy with the beauty of nature than with artistic beauty—to be denied the last would have been a great privation, but in the absence of the first he really could not live.
We had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Mr. Howard-Tripp, who had recently married Mr. Wyld's daughter, and who, being a picture-dealer, invited us to go and see his gallery in the Rue St. Georges. There were a great many fine works that my husband greatly admired, particularly those by Corot, Daubigny, and Troyon, and the scheme for the book on "Landscape" having been settled with Mr. Seeley, he begged Mr. Howard-Tripp to allow reproductions of some of the pictures to appear in his future work. It was readily granted.
This selection of pictures for the book on "Landscape" gave the author much additional labor; but it was better to do it now that he was in Paris than have to come again on purpose. Mr. Seeley had offered to run over and help with the arrangements, but was prevented by a slight accident. He then proposed that photographs of the pictures chosen should be sent to him, that he might have a vote.
We were very near the end of our stay in Paris, and Gilbert wanted to go to the office of "L'Art," having some business there, and wishing to say farewell to the manager. He had also invited the sons of M. Schmitt (who were now in Paris) to meet us in the Square Richelieu and to dine afterwards at a restaurant. He thought that he could manage both things on the same day. However, we were hardly out of the omnibus when I perceived he was unwell; but I had not time to propose anything before he started off at such a rate that I was obliged to run to follow him: the worst symptoms were betrayed by his gait, by the congestion of face and neck, and by the hard stare of the eyes. It was too late to take a carriage; he could not stop, and could not be spoken to. I saw that a sure instinct was guiding him out of the crowded street to the by-ways and least frequented places, and I strove to remain by his side. In the course of about twenty minutes, I noticed a slackening in his pace, and as I had been looking about for some refuge, I remarked, through the open doors of a small cafe, an empty back-room, and motioned to him to follow me there. It was almost dark, and there was a divan running along three sides of the wall; I made him lie down upon it, and went to tell the dame-de-comptoir (who happened to be the mistress of the house) that my husband had felt suddenly unwell and required a little rest. She made no fuss, did not press me to send for a doctor or to administer anything; she merely promised to prevent any one from going into that back room, and said we might remain there undisturbed as long as was needed. After half-an-hour my husband asked for a little brandy and water, and gradually became himself again. We remained about two hours in the little room, reading—or pretending to read—the newspapers, and such was Gilbert's courage and resolution, that he went to keep the appointment with the young men he had invited. I knew I was not to breathe a word of what had happened, and I was miserably anxious about the effect that a dinner in a restaurant en vogue might have upon the nerves of my poor patient. Strange to say, he bore it very well, and played his part as entertainer quite merrily. But after dinner I longed to get him away, and proposed to take an open carriage for a drive in the Champs Elysees. This was accepted, and I believe he really enjoyed it.
We agreed to leave Paris the following evening, and I went to town alone in the afternoon for a few things which had been postponed to the last moment. We reached Autun on May 26, at which date the diary says: "I am very happy to be in my home, which I prefer to all the finest palaces in Paris."
In the spring he had suffered repeatedly from great pain in one of his legs, and had attributed it to rheumatism; now he began to feel the pain again in the left foot, and it soon became so acute that the doctor was sent for. He said it was an attack of gout, but gave hope of an ultimate cure, because the patient's constitution was not a gouty one. The cause of the attack was insufficient exercise in the open air. He prescribed a severe regimen, less sedentary work, and as much walking and riding as possible.
For twenty-one nights my husband could not go to bed, but remained stretched on a couch or sitting in an arm-chair; when the pain was less severe he laid himself down upon the bed for a short time, but he hardly ever got to sleep. His fortitude and patience were incredible, and he bore the almost intolerable sufferings with admirable resignation. He tried to read, and even to write upon a desk placed on his knees, and talked much about his plan for the book on "Landscape."
Mr. Seeley wrote:—
"I am heartily sorry to hear of your attack of gout. But I am relieved to hear that it is not erysipelas, which must have been alarming. Possibly the discomfort you suffered in Paris may have been a premonitory symptom of this attack, and you may look forward to the enjoyment of better health when it has passed away."
Mr. Haden declared that he felt "delighted" by this attack, as indicative of a change for the better in the constitution; he hoped that the tendency to nervousness and insomnia would disappear, or at any rate greatly diminish.
We were now daily expecting Richard, and Mr. Seeley had said on June 25: "Richard was with us on Saturday, his farewell visit. We like him more and more every time we see him." He was coming back—at my request—to pass an examination in English, the same that his brother had passed successfully two years ago for the Certificat d'aptitude, after which he got his post of professor at Macon. I had thought that if Richard failed as an artist he might be glad to fall back upon a professorship, and it turned out so. His father was pleased to notice how much better and more fluently he spoke English on his return from London; but at the same time, after seeing the drawings done in England, he was confirmed in the opinion that originality and invention were lacking to make a real artist of his younger son. What ought to be said was very perplexing: the drawings were good enough in their way, the progress undeniable—but they were only copies, even when done from the living model—the creative spark, the individual artistic stamp, were absent. My husband allowed himself some time for consideration before warning Richard that he thought him mistaken in his choice of a career.
However, after having passed a successful examination it was Richard who, of his own accord, told his father that he felt very doubtful about the ultimate result of his artistic studies. He believed they were begun too late, and that his chances against students who had several years' start were very small—they had been drawing and painting since the age of thirteen or fourteen, whilst he was preparing himself for his degrees. The ease with which he had carried off the Certificat d'aptitude made him sanguine about being ready for the Agregation in the course of a year, after which he would be entitled to a post in the University. He would not abandon art, he said, but would not follow it as a profession.
It was a great relief that the resolution should have been his own; but it surprised Mr. Seeley considerably, and he wrote to my husband:—
"From what you tell me of his want of enjoyment in the practice of art, the determination seems wise. I suppose we take it for granted that a man must take pleasure in doing whatever he can do well; but there is no reason in the world why ability and inclination should always go together. A man with a good eye and that general ability and power of application which make a good student may easily be a draughtsman above the average, but it is quite intelligible that he should take more pleasure in other studies."
At the end of August Gilbert went with Stephen and his eldest nephew, Maurice Pelletier, for a cruise of ten days on the Saone. They were on the new catamaran "L'Arar," and enjoyed their voyage thoroughly.
On October 2, Richard left us to go to Paris to have the benefit of les Cours de la Sorbonne, as a preparation for L'Agregation d'Anglais; and in December Stephen asked for a year's leave of absence from his post, in order to pursue his English studies in London. It is therefore conceivable that the father's health should have been impaired by anxiety and his brain overtaxed by the numerous works he had undertaken to meet his responsibilities. He was at the same time writing "Human Intercourse" for Messrs. Macmillan, "Paris" for the "Portfolio," and the book on "Landscape" was begun.
In November he had written a very long letter to Miss Betham-Edwards, mainly in explanation of the word "sheer" used for boats, then about our doings, and he says:—
"We have had the house upset by workpeople, but we are settled again after a great bother, which I dreaded before, as Montaigne used to dread similar disturbances; but now it is over I feel myself much more comfortable and orderly, though the reform has cost me a considerable loss of time. The rooms look prettier and are less crammed.
"I got the other day a letter of twenty pages from a cousin in New Zealand who had never written to me for thirty years. It was the most interesting biography of struggle, adventure, danger, hard work, and final success. It is a great pity that the men who go through such lives have not the literary talent to make autobiographies that can be published. I have another cousin whose history is quite as good as 'Robinson Crusoe,' and I have engaged him to write it, but he never will. If I lived near him I could gradually get the material out of him; but at a distance I cannot get him even to write rough notes. On the other hand, we literary people are quite humdrum people in our ways of life, and our autobiographies would generally be of little interest.
"I have been reading Ariosto lately in Italian, and am struck both by his qualities and deficiencies. He is all on the surface; but what a wealth of inventive power, and what a well-sustained, unflagging energy and cheerfulness! The descriptions are frequently superb, and there is a go in the style generally that is very stimulating. It is like watching the flow of a bright, rapid, brimming river. I don't think we have any English poet of the same kind. Spenser is rather like, but heavier, and just lacking that brightness in combination with movement. Spenser and Byron together contain many of the qualities of Ariosto."
The first note in the diary for 1884 says: "I must try to economize time in all little things where economy is possible without injury to the quality of work. I cannot economize it very much in the work itself without risk of lowering quality."
It was a pleasure for my husband to see that his articles on the architecture of Paris had been so favorably noticed as to bring requests for contributions from "The Builder" and "L'Architecte." Mr. Seeley wrote to him: "I think it is a feather in your cap that your architectural notes should have brought you invitations to write for professional journals."
My brother-in-law, M. Pelletier, had left Algiers, and was now Econome at the Lycee at Marseilles. He had suggested that, it being possible to go from Chalon to Marseilles by water, we might pay him a visit and see the course of the Rhone at the same time. My husband felt greatly tempted to accept, for more than one reason: he would be able at the same time to take notes and to make observations on the way for the book on "Landscape," and to come to a conclusion about the possibility of the Rhone scheme. We might divide the places of interest into two series, and see one of them in going and the other in coming back, with a pleasant time of rest at our friend's in the interval.
The itinerary was carefully prepared to miss nothing on the way, and on April 8 we left my mother in charge of the house, whilst my husband, myself, and Mary started from Chalon, where we went on board the steamer for Macon. My husband having often seen the town, was left to his writing whilst I took Mary to see the church of Brou. From Macon to Lyons we enjoyed the landscape from the deck of the steamer, particularly Trevoux, and L'Ile Barbe as we neared Lyons.
Note in the diary: "We passed through some lovely scenery, but I came to the conclusion never to boat with the 'Arar' below Courzon."
So long as he remained on the water or in little out-of-the-way places, Gilbert was well enough and enjoyed himself exceedingly, but as soon as we were obliged to stay in large towns he began to suffer; at Lyons, having attempted to go to the Museum when it was crowded, he had to hurry out, and it is a miracle how he managed to reach the hotel, where he went through one of the worst attacks of nervousness in his life. It did not last very long, and when he was well again I took Mary to Fourvieres.
By rail we proceeded to Vienne, then to Valence and Pierre-latte, where it was pitch dark as we got out, and raining heavily. To our dismay we saw no sign of either omnibus or carriage. However, a man was coming up to us in a leisurely way with a broken lantern, and he explained that the "'bus had not come because it was raining." He led us to a very queer—apparently deserted—hotel, where the getting of sheets for the narrow beds seemed to be an almost insurmountable difficulty; and as to cases for the pillows, in sheer despair of ever getting any, we had to use clean towels out of our bags in their stead. The double-bedded room was adorned with a gallery of pastel portraits so wan and faded that they looked by the faint gleam of moonlight through the shutters like a procession of ghosts; and there were so many chairs in Mary's room, and such an immensely long table, that it must surely have been used by the ghosts as a dining-hall. Nevertheless, we slept soundly, had a charming excursion in the morning, and a good, though late, dejeuner afterwards, for it chanced to be the drawing of lots for the conscription, and the hotel was crowded by famished officials—Mayor, adjoints, gendarmes, officers, etc. Of course there was nothing for unofficial people like us but to wait and catch the dishes as they left the important table, and appropriate what might remain upon them. There was enough for us, and the wine was excellent,—so good indeed that we thought of having a cask sent to La Tuilerie. The great people having departed, we were able to talk at our leisure with the landlady, but all of a sudden we became aware that it was getting time to go, and asked for the bill. "Oh! there was no need for a bill, she could reckon in her head—but there was no hurry." We explained that there was some hurry, as the carriage we had ordered would be at the door presently.
"Mais pourquoi? pourquoi vous en aller?" exclaimed the simple woman, with an air of consternation; "est-ce que vous n'etes pas bien ici?"
Bourg St. Andeol, where we stopped next, is a very interesting place. My husband was particularly pleased with the little town and the Hotel Nicolai. Our arrival created quite a stir in the sleepy, regular routine of the little bourg, and the doors and windows it can boast of became alive with curious eyes as we passed along the deserted streets. In an open carriage we were driven to Pont St. Esprit, and noticed the long lines of mulberry trees on each side of the roads; the driver explained that they are planted to feed the silkworms, and that in two months they would be leafless. We took the steamer again at Pont St. Esprit, late in the following day, for Avignon. In the morning of Sunday we all went to hear High Mass in the Cathedral, then to the Palace of the Popes, and round the walls. In the afternoon we visited the tomb of John Stuart Mill, and my husband left his card at the house of Miss Taylor. We then heard music in the open air, and saw the old bridge.
It was a very pleasant fortnight that we spent at Marseilles with our relations, the only drawback being Gilbert's uncertain health, which prevented him from going out much; though close to the expanse of the Mediterranean, I suppose he had the feeling expressed in the preface to "Landscape" in these words: "The lover of wilderness always feels confined among the evidences of a minutely careful civilization."
Towards the end of the day, when the blinding glare of sunshine was softened, we generally went to the Vieux Port, where there was an uninterrupted succession of picturesque scenes among sailors of all nations and ships of every description; or to La Joliette, to watch the arrival or departure of the Chinese vessels and other curious craft. At other times we walked in the Pare Borelli or on the Corniche.
A novel feature in our life was the frequent visits to the theatre with our friends. It was most remarkable that my husband should take such a sudden fancy to the Opera; he could not account for it himself, except by noticing that "he felt at home in it." We invariably took fauteuils d'orchestre, so that he only saw the musicians, actors, and scenery—hardly any of the occupants of the theatre, except those in the stage-boxes. It is a curious fact that in the space of a fortnight he heard more operas than in all the rest of his life.
He wrote the greater part of the day in a very quiet room, which M. Pelletier, who was well acquainted with his tastes, had fitted up accordingly at the very beginning of our visit.
On our return we stopped to see Tarascon and Beaucaire, where we had still some friends. In the last place the director of the gas-works obligingly showed us through the house which had been my father's. We also visited Nimes, Orange, and Montelimart, giving a whole day to each place. It was already very hot in the south, and the perfume of the acacias in full bloom everywhere was almost more than we could bear, especially at Montelimart. At Orange, after seeing the noble Roman remains, we partly ascended the hill to see the Ventoux range of mountains; then went on to Valence for the night. We were on board the steamer at five in the morning, and had a delightful voyage to Lyons, during which Gilbert took copious notes in the map-book he had prepared on purpose. After resting a day, we went straight on to Chalon by boat, and had a pleasant day with the captain, who invited us to dejeuner with him on board.
On the whole, we were satisfied with our journey; but the information my husband had collected on the way convinced him that the Rhone project, as he had planned it, was utterly impracticable.
We were soon in great anxiety about our relatives at Marseilles, for we learned that cholera had broken out there early in July. Gilbert, without the least hesitation, immediately wrote to M. Pelletier, inviting him and his children to La Tuilerie, where they would be safe from the terrible scourge. Our brother-in-law readily availed himself of the invitation for his children; but thought it his duty to remain at his post, and set an example to the panic-stricken population.
The arrival of our nephews and niece from the very centre of contamination did not tend to augment our popularity in the neighborhood, and we were made to understand—very plainly—that the house was tabooed, along with ourselves. Our milk from the farm just opposite to our house was brought to us half-way, and deposited in the middle of the road, where our servant had to go and fetch it—no one amongst the inmates of the farm being sufficiently courageous either to bring it within our walls, or to deliver it to a servant who had approached "les Marseillais."
Ever since Richard had come home he had been steadily preparing himself for his examination, with the help of his father. Every day they read English poetry together, and Gilbert gave him all the necessary information as to the meaning, rhythm, and structure.
In moments of relaxation he joined the family circle, frequently enlivened by the presence of a young couple, M. and Mme. Pochon, who had recently come to live at the schist-works, where the husband was managing engineer. The lady had a charming voice, and used to sing in the church with Mary, who played the harmonium. This led to an intimacy, and with an additional singer and pianist in the person of my niece we often organized private concerts, in which my husband took great pleasure. There was nothing he enjoyed more than such private recreation, except perhaps the satisfaction of taking trouble to make things agreeable to others. Here is an instance among many.
On a fearfully hot day in August he overheard a cantiniere who, talking to her husband from the top of a wagon which had just stopped near La Tuilerie, was lamenting her inability to find a shady place for the dejeuner of the officers, who would shortly arrive. He saw at once that he might offer these hot and weary warriors the unexpected pleasure of a cool resting-place. So he went to the cantiniere, and proposed to have the officers' table set upon the lawn, under the shady elder trees. The woman could hardly credit such a charitable offer, and warned him that the fresh-looking grass would certainly suffer from it; but he only smiled, saying that it could not be helped, but that he hoped to induce the grass to grow again with copious watering.
The table was set, chairs were brought from the house, also live charcoal for the portable stove, and we witnessed a very entertaining scene from behind the shutters when the regiment halted.
The Colonel began to swear and scold at sight of the white, dusty, sultry road where the cantiniere had stopped, and for a few moments refused to listen to her explanations; but when he saw Mr. Hamerton coming out of the garden gate to invite him inside with his brother officers, he dismounted to salute him, and stood fixed in a state of ecstacy before the inviting white table-cloth, looking so fresh and cool between the green grass of the lawn and the green leaves of the trees. The other officers shared this pleasant impression, and were profuse in their thanks. After a short talk with the master of the house—who was called away to his own dejeuner by the bell—they drank his health, and sat down with unfeigned satisfaction to their meal.
It was not only the lawn which was thus invaded; for there being in the courtyard a deep well of deliciously cold water, the soldiers were not slow to find their way to it, and after quenching their thirst and filling up their bidons, they stretched themselves at full length upon the ground wherever there was shade, either from tree or wall.
This general enjoyment of an hour's delicious rest amply compensated my husband for the havoc done in the garden.
We were rather a numerous household then, at meal-times, with the addition of my mother, M. Pelletier and his three children, my brother, his wife and two little girls, so that when the youngest officer entered the dining-room—as spokesman—to reiterate the thanks of his brother officers, he felt abashed by so many eyes fixed upon him; still, he managed to get through his duty—somewhat hurriedly—and soon after the regiment was marching off; the men, now rested and refreshed, singing lustily at the top of their voices, and waving their kepis towards La Tuilerie.
Stephen arrived for the vacation towards the middle of August; but the suspense in which we were kept about Richard's examination was most unfavorable to the health of his father. At last there were great rejoicings when a telegram conveyed to us his brilliant success. He came out second on the list, the first being a lady—Miss Williams—of whom he had often spoken to us in high terms, having been with her as a student at the Sorbonne, and who has since become directress of that most useful institution, the Franco-English Guild.
We were told that Richard was the youngest agrege in France, and of course we were proud of it. Mr. Seeley wrote: "I heartily congratulate you on Richard's great success. It is not often that a young man can so speedily justify his choice of a career."
"Human Intercourse" was published in September, and sold well, in spite of its cold reception by the Press. Mr. Hamerton did not allow unfavorable criticism to disturb him much. There was only one kind of attack that he did not bear patiently, I believe, and that was being told that he had no genius. "I don't pretend to have genius; I never said I had; then why make it a reproach?" he used to say.
There was a second edition as early as December, and I give here a fragment of one of the numerous letters the author received, which may prove that public opinion was more favorable to the book than the critics:—
"You have given me some pleasant hours as I read and pondered over remarks of yours in 'Human Intercourse.' It is not the first time that you have tinted the current of my life. I hereby certify to my gratitude, not that I am of any account in the world, but because it seems to me a sort of duty, and because, were our positions reversed, it would please ME to know that I was appreciated even by a stranger. What you say about priests and women interests me deeply as a clergyman...."
The letter contained eleven pages of confidential talk, mostly about personal experiences in the discharge of professional duty; clearly showing that the subject had not been treated in vain in "Human Intercourse."
There had been a serious strike at the schist-works of La Comaille (close to Pre-Charmoy), and the hands, now that the winter was coming upon them, were distressed and greatly disheartened. Mr. Hamerton tried his best to mollify the engineer and to reason with the men, and make them see that the strike could not bring them any advantage. At last the workmen asked to be allowed to return to their work; but the engineer refused to take back the promoters of the strike, among whom was the husband of one of our former servants. The poor woman came in tears to beseech her "bon Monsieur" to obtain M. Pochon's forgiveness, for if her husband were kept out of work much longer her three little children would have to starve. The landlord having already threatened to turn them out, my husband had paid the rent of their cottage for a year, and now he pleaded so warmly the cause of the deluded workmen to Madame Pochon,—asking for her influence in their favor,—that together they carried their point, and so gave comfort to several poor families. With the exception of the two ringleaders, who had used threats and violent language, all the hands were taken back again. Our former servant's gratitude still survives; one of her children never fails to send the united wishes of the family for the New Year, and the letters always begin with, "Nos chers bienfaiteurs."
The great kindness and generosity of "L'Anglais" were so well known in our neighborhood that the people had no hesitation in applying at La Tuilerie for clothing, medicines, or help of any kind. Even the beggars who came regularly, lingered after pocketing their penny in the hope of seeing him personally as he crossed the courtyard or went out on the road, for then—as an old woman confided to one of the maids—"On est sur d'une piece blanche." He was entirely free from false pride, and looked down upon no one deserving respect. One girl whom we had had in our service for five years, and who only left us to be married, begged as a great favor that Mary should be godmother to her child. He gave his leave at once, being the first to recall how attached and devoted she had been to our daughter when a baby. And when she called with her husband, he always shook hands with them both, and offered them refreshments.
He showed the same ready sympathy to the class of young authors and artists in want of help and advice, trying to get them employment, and helping them to improve their work. He often accepted for the "Portfolio" articles which greatly increased his labors; for he had to correct and to rewrite parts—if he perceived some promise of talent in their authors. He also took the trouble of criticizing minutely numbers of etchings and drawings, pointing out possible alterations which might make them acceptable to the public, and by so doing he helped to form and encouraged a great number of artists.
Mr. Seeley was anxious that the book on "Landscape" might be out in good time for the Christmas sale, and explained the many reasons which made it desirable; but although the author had done his best to be ready, he began to doubt of the possibility. Having been anxious about it and hurried, he became subject to painful attacks of palpitation. As soon as Mr. Seeley heard of it he wrote:—
"Pray do not run any risk of ruining your health. Tell me exactly how you stand, how much remains to be written. Then we will face the position like sensible people, and consider what is best to be done. You must neither risk your health by overwork nor your reputation by hasty work. What a pity it is that you don't enjoy games! I find tennis such a relief from worries. I have also a double tricycle, on which I ride every morning with my garden boy. It is a capital exercise; the steering occupies one's thoughts almost as well as a game. One can't think much of business while going seven or eight miles an hour with the probability that any considerable swerve will lead to an upset."
Gilbert sometimes went on a velocipede, and liked it, but did not possess one at that time.
In November there was good news for the boys. Richard had been told by M. Pelletier that a post at Marseilles would soon be vacant, and that he might apply for it. He did so, and got it, whilst Stephen replaced him at Poitiers, so that now they were both provided with good situations.
"Landscape."—The Autobiography begun.—"Imagination in landscape painting."—"The Saone."—"Portfolio papers."
In October, 1884, all the five hundred large-paper copies of "Landscape" had been ordered except fifty; but the last pages of MS. were not sent off until January 30, 1885.
The author wrote to the publisher: "At last I have the pleasure of sending you a page of MS. with 'The End' written upon it;" and as if relieved from his task he went on to relate the following incidents:—
"There has been a curious attempt at assassination here yesterday. A doctor named Vala was stopped by what seemed to be a nun, who asked for a place in his gig. He stretched out his hand to take a parcel belonging to the nun, took it, and then offered her his hand. He touched it, thought 'That's the hand of a man,' whipped his horse, and drove off at full speed. When at a distance he examined the contents of the parcel, which turned out to be a loaded revolver and a dagger. He thinks the project was to assassinate him en route.
"Other curious story.
"Night before last a strange man got tipsy in our village and began to blab and talk. He asked for a bottle without a bottom, and for some woollen rags. He was suspected of having a dynamite project, and the mayor was fetched at one in the morning to look after him, so he arrested him and took him to Autun at two a.m. On the way the man coolly confessed that he was one of a dynamite gang of ten, and threatened the mayor and the village when he got out of prison.
"So you see we have our dangers as well as you."
"Human Intercourse" was more popular in America than in England. Roberts Brothers wrote: "We have been selling three thousand copies of 'Human Intercourse;' does not that speak well for your popularity here? As yet the pirates have left it alone, although the 'Intellectual Life' has been pirated." Still, the author continued to receive many letters testifying to the appreciation of the book by his countrymen. Mr. Wyld said: "I have read 'Human Intercourse' from end to end, and intend to do so more than once, taking and considering each essay separately."
Mrs. Henry Ady (Julia Cartwright) wrote that she and her husband had been charmed with it. The book seemed to have influenced women powerfully, for their letters about it were very numerous.
The news of Richard's health became disquieting early in the month of January; he suffered much from headaches, and could not work. He was well nursed at his uncle's, M. Pelletier's, by his grandmother, who happened to be on a visit to her son-in-law. The doctor said it was a kind of nondescript fever with cerebral and typhoid symptoms, to which young people not acclimatized to Marseilles were very liable on settling there. In Richard's case there had been a predisposition on account of the hard work he had gone through for the Agregation. He had looked as if he bore it easily while it lasted; but the strain had been more severe than he was aware of; and two years after his recovery he told me that he had never felt the same since that illness at Marseilles.
In February, Miss Betham-Edwards having sent a volume of her poems to my husband, he wrote in acknowledgment:—
"I have read your book in the evenings and with pleasure, especially some pieces that I have read many times. 'The Wife's Prayer,' for one, seems to me quite a perfect piece of work; and not less perfect in another way, and quite a different may, is 'Don. Jose's Mule, Jacintha.' The delicate humor of the latter, in combination with really deep pathos and most finished workmanship, please me immensely. Besides this, I have a fellow-feeling for Don Jose, because I have an old pony that I attend to myself always, etc., etc....
"I have been vexed for some time now by the tendency to jealous hostility between France and England. I had hoped some years ago that the future might establish a friendly understanding between the two nations, based upon their obvious interest in the first place, and perhaps a little on the interchange of ideas; but I fear it was illusory, and that at some future date, at present undeterminable, there will be another war between them, as in the days of our fathers. I have thought sometimes of trying to found an Anglo-French Society or League, the members of which should simply engage themselves to do their best on all occasions to soften the harsh feeling between the two nations. I dare say some literary people would join such a league. Swinburne very probably would, and so would you, I fancy, I could get adhesions in the French University and elsewhere. Some influential political Englishmen, such as Bright, might be counted upon. I would have begun the thing long since; but I dread the heavy correspondence it would bring upon me. I would have a very small subscription, as the league ought to include working men. Peace and war hang on such trifles sometimes that a society such as I am imagining might possibly on some occasion have influence enough to prevent a war. It should be understood also that by a sort of freemasonry a member of the society would endeavor to serve any member of it belonging to the other nation.
"I don't know if you have observed how harshly Matthew Arnold writes of France now. He accuses the whole nation of being sunk in immorality, which is very unfair. There are many perfectly well-conducted people in France; and why does not Arnold write in the same strain against Italy, which is more immoral still? The French expose themselves very much by their incapacity for hypocrisy—all French faults are seen."
The winter was very cold, and all the ponds were covered with ice, affording good opportunity for skating. My husband undertook to teach Mary to skate, and they often went on the ice together.
"Landscape" was published on March 12, and on the 19th all the large-paper copies were gone, and the small ones dropping off daily.
The author wrote to Mr. Seeley:—
"I am glad 'Landscape' is moving nicely. Nothing is more disagreeable to an author than to see an enterprising publisher paid for his trust and confidence by anxiety and loss, especially when the publisher is a friend. Failure with this book would have been especially painful to me, as I should have attributed it in great part to my slowness with the MS., and consequent want of punctuality."
Mr. P. Q. Stephens said: "The book is a superb affair, and, as far as I have seen it, deserves all praise."
R. L. Stevenson wrote:—
"BOURNEMOUTH. March 16, 1885.
"My Dear Hamerton,—Various things have been reminding me of my misconduct; first, Swan's application for your address; second, a sight of the sheets of your 'Landscape' book; and last, your note to Swan, which he was so kind as to forward. I trust you will never suppose me to be guilty of anything more serious than an idleness, partially excusable. My ill-health makes my rate of life heavier than I can well meet, and yet stops me from earning more. My conscience, sometimes perhaps too easily stifled, but still (for my time of life and the public manners of the age) fairly well alive, forces me to perpetual and almost endless transcriptions. On the back of all this, any correspondence hangs like a thundercloud, and just when I think I am getting through my troubles, crack, down goes my health, I have a long, costly sickness, and begin the world again. It is fortunate for me I have a father, or I should long ago have died; but the opportunity of the aid makes the necessity none the more welcome. My father has presented me with a beautiful house here—or so I believe, for I have not yet seen it, being a cage bird, but for nocturnal sorties in the garden. I hope we shall soon move into it, and I tell myself that some day perhaps we may have the pleasure of seeing you as our guest. I trust at least that you will take me as I am, a thoroughly bad correspondent, and a man, a hater, indeed, of rudeness in others, but too often rude in all unconsciousness himself; and that you will never cease to believe the sincere sympathy and admiration that I feel for you and for your work.