A few days later the following letter was received by Mr. Hamerton:—
"H. M. S. BENBOW. November 17,1890.
"DEAR SIR,—I hope you will kindly assist us in getting the gross misstatements copied from 'Truth' as to our feelings towards the French Navy contradicted.
"You will perceive that the paper I enclose is signed by an officer representing each ship, and that most ranks in the service are also represented thereon.
"Any expense that may be incurred would you kindly let me know?
"Capt. R. N."
The protestation which accompanied the letter ran thus:—
"H. M. S. BENBOW, AT MALTA. November 15, 1890.
"DEAR SIR,—Your letter of the 1st of November, sent to the Commander-in-Chief of the British fleet in the Mediterranean, has been forwarded to us, and we have to thank you for having called our attention to the paragraph in the 'Temps,' copied from 'Truth' of the 31st of October.
"Referring to the language in 'Truth,' the editor of the 'Temps' says that he hopes it will be protested against in England. The paragraph had been seen and commented on by our officers; but as in England no one ever takes the trouble to answer or contradict any statement made in that paper ('Truth'), and as in this case its object was so palpably political, viz. to cause the present Government trouble, and prevent the cordiality and friendship that has existed so long between the two nations, no notice was taken of it; but when a paper of such importance as the 'Temps' copies the paragraph, and it is thus brought before the French nation, it at once becomes important and demands a protest and a denial.
"As you have already taken an interest in the matter, we are led to hope that you will assist us in procuring the insertion in any French papers that may have copied this paragraph, most especially the 'Temps,' the naval papers, and the local papers at Toulon, of a protest on the part of the officers of the English fleet in the Mediterranean against the language of the article, and to deny, on our part, any such feelings or ideas as are attributed to us in it.
"We beg to assure you that it gave us real and unfeigned pleasure to see the French fleet in our midst at Malta, and that what little we were able to do to make their visit agreeable and pleasant was done from no feeling of duty, or even as a mere return for the kindly reception accorded to us at Toulon, but from a sincere appreciation of the high qualities of French naval officers, and a desire to cultivate their friendship.
"We have the honor to be,
"Your obedient servants."
Three weeks later came a letter of thanks, closing the incident, which had caused no little trouble to Mr. Hamerton.
"MALTA. December 12, 1890.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—Thank you very much in the name of the English Navy for so kindly assisting us to repel the gross insinuations of 'Truth,' also for the extracts, and the trouble you have taken for us. I only regret that you should have drawn 'Truth' on you.
"I have shown your letter to the Admiral and all the officers here, who are much pleased with all that has been done.
"Again thanking you, believe me,
Mr. Hamerton considered himself well rewarded for his exertions by the tokens of warm approval he received both from England and from France.
"French and English" did not meet with the success it deserved, though it was published in England, America, and France, and in the Tauchnitz edition. The author had entertained few illusions about the fate of the work, for some reasons which he has himself explained in private letters, and in his prefaces to the book. He once wrote in answer to a letter from M. Raillard:—
"Vous lisez mes livres, un peu sans doute pour faire plaisir au vieux Papa, mais je crois reellement qu'ils vous seront utiles a cause de la simplicite du style et de la clarte que j'ai toujours cherchees. Ces qualites m'ont gagne de nombreux lecteurs, mais en meme temps m'ont prive de toute reputation de profondeur. En Angleterre on classe tous les ecrivains clairs, comme ecrivains superficiels."
But he said in the preface to the Tauchnitz edition:—
"The kind of success most gratifying to me after writing a book of this kind would be to convert some readers to my own method, or rule, in the formation of opinion, whether it concerns one side or the other.
"My method is a good one, but not so good for eloquence as the hastier methods of journalism."
And in the preface of the English edition:—
"I should like to write with complete impartiality if it were possible. I have at least written with the most sincere desire to be impartial, and that perhaps at the cost of some popularity in England, for certain English critics have told me that impartiality is not patriotic; and others have informed me of what I did not know before, namely, that I prefer the French to my own countrymen."
Though "French and English" never became what may be called a popular book, it nevertheless attracted a good deal of attention, and the author received a great number of letters expressive of admiration and gratitude for the clear discernment and impartiality with which the differences existing between the two nations had been studied and expounded.
Here is a pretty sample from a French lady:—
"MONSIEUR,—Je viens de lire avec le plus grand plaisir votre livre 'French and English.' Il est si rare qu'un ecrivain anglais ose—ou veuille, aller contre les prejuges de ses lecteurs anglais, et nous fasse justice, que j'en ai eprouve un vrai sentiment de reconnaissance. Bien des jugements portes sont ceux dont j'ai l'habitude de gratifier mes amis, et, comme il y a toujours, 'a great deal of human nature in mankind;' je n'apprecie que mieux votre livre a cause de cela. A quelques exceptions pres, par exemple, la fin du chapitre 'on Truth,' je vois les choses comme vous, mais certains prejuges sont bien inveteres dans l'esprit de vos compatriotes.
"Lorsque je protestais contre les idees fausses qu'on se faisait de nous, on m'a dit si souvent: 'Oh! mais, vous n'etes pas francais, vous!' Le mot est bien caracteristique. Un Francais qui ne repond pas a l'idee qu'on se fait de sa nation, c'est une exception.
"Je ne l'aurais peut-etre pris que comme une maniere de taquiner, une plaisanterie, si cela ne m'avait ete repete encore tout dernierement par un homme d'une vraie valeur intellectuelle, qui a toute une theorie sur les races. La conclusion a deduire etait: tout ce qui pense serieusement ne peut etre francais. Qui sait si votre livre ne vous a pas fait accuser de vous etre perverti a notre contact puisque vous nous etes assez favorable!
"Je trotte tous ces temps-ci dans la neige, avec votre livre dans mon manchon, lisant a chacun de mes amis le morceau qui lui revient, mais je voudrais qu'ils lisent tout.
"Sans me donner le temps de trop reflechir j'ai ecrit ma lettre; apres je n'aurais plus ose. J'aurai eu ainsi l'occasion de dire a un homme de talent qu'il m'a fait gouter un vrai plaisir ... peut-etre est-ce une satisfaction pour un auteur.
"Veuillez agreer, Monsieur, mes compliments bien sinceres pour votre 'fairness' a notre egard.
I also give a passage from one of Mr. Calderon's letters:—
"Last night—to my regret—I finished the last chapter of your 'French and English.' I am delighted with its truth. Remember (as an excuse for giving an opinion so freely) that I too am very fairly acquainted with both countries—their capitals and provinces."
The book, as I have said, was translated into French, and, as usual, the author took the trouble of revising the translation. Far from taking any pride in the fact that the translation of his works was desired and sought after, he dreaded it, and would even have opposed it, had the thing been in his power. The inevitable loss of his style—upon which he always bestowed such conscientious care—was to him almost unbearable.
Roberts Brothers did not appear dissatisfied with the American sale, for they said: "We have sold fifteen hundred copies, and are quite ready for another popular book."
Decision to live near Paris.—Practice in painting and etching.—Search for a house.—Clematis.
We left home on December 21, 1890, and spent a day and two nights very agreeably at Dijon with the parents of our son-in-law. Then we went on to Paris by an early morning train, which necessitated our lunching in the carriage.
We were to stay with our daughter and her husband, but Gilbert took a separate study for his work, in a quiet house in the same street.
My husband had himself made a careful drawing for Richard's monument, and now, being in Paris, we went to see it, and wished to have it completed by an inscription. Hitherto we had not agreed about any, but as we were sadly recalling his last intimate talk, it seemed that the desire for "Peace" which he had expressed should be recorded as an acquittal of the deed which brought the fulfilment of his wish. And his father caused the word eiraenae, to be engraved at the head of the tombstone.
M. Pelletier, having been promoted to the Economat of the old and famous Lycee Henri IV.,—where so many celebrated Frenchmen have been educated,—took pleasure in showing us the most ancient or curious parts of the building, such as La Tour Clovis, the vaulted kitchen, the painted cupola over the staircase, and the delicately carved panels of the old monks' library—now the Professors' billiard-room.
My husband was much interested by this visit, and repeated it shortly after in the company of M. and Mme. Manesse, M. and Mme. L. Flameng, M. Pelletier acting as cicerone.
It being the season of the Epiphany, our niece had the traditional cake served on the tea-table, and the royal honors fell to the lot of her uncle. He chose Madame Flameng for his queen, and they made us pass a merry hour under their joint rule.
The serious part of the talk had concerned the possibility of engaging L. Flameng to engrave one of his son's pictures. He had consented, and my husband called upon Francois Flameng to make a choice.
On his return he gave me a description of the studios and library, which are very curious, and offered to take me with him on his next visit, to renew my old acquaintance with the now celebrated artist. But my infirmity would have rendered awkward the introduction to his young wife, to whom the memories of previous friendship did not extend.
Writing once to Mr. Seeley about my deafness, my husband had said: "She sits surrounded by a silent world, and sees people's lips move and their gestures. How difficult it is to imagine such a state of existence! As for me, I suffer from the opposite inconvenience of hearing too well. When I am unwell my hearing is preternaturally acute, so that my watch in my waistcoat ticks as if it were held almost close to my ear."
Being desirous of forming a sound opinion about the present state of the fine arts in France, Mr. Hamerton went to visit the New Sorbonne, the Hotel de Ville, the Lycee Janson, the new pictures in the Museum of the Luxembourg, those in the private exhibition of M. Durand-Ruel, as well as the exhibitions at Messrs. Goupil's and Petit's. He saw J. P. Laurens' "Voute d'Acier," M. Rodin's studio, and the Musee du Mobilier National, with its beautiful tapestries.
We left Paris at the end of January and returned home, my husband having got through a vast amount of work with ease and pleasure, and with a new hopeful confidence in his powers of acquisition and endurance, and also with a gratifying sense of his acknowledged standing—even in France— among celebrated artists and men of letters.
At the Easter family gathering our possible change of residence was exhaustively discussed. The state of the buildings at La Tuilerie was growing worse and worse every day, and my brother's opinion, as an architect, having been asked for, was that the time for very important repairs could no longer be postponed: new roofs would have to be built, one of the walls strengthened, the floor tiles taken up; and the woodwork of every window was so rotten that it could no longer hold the iron with which it had already been mended.
Mary and her husband represented what a heavy outlay would be required if we undertook these repairs, and also said, with great truth, that after it we should feel bound to the house on account of the money spent on it. It was an opportunity for changing a mode of life no longer adapted to our wants nor to our years. Why such a big house for two solitary beings?... And now that their father was subject to attacks of gout and not so sure of immunity from colds, was he to continue to have the care of horses and to drive in an open carriage in all weathers? Could we be so easily reconciled to the idea of never seeing them longer than the short space of five weeks every year, when there was no plausible reason for being so far apart?... Their father disliked great cities, but he would not be obliged to live inside Paris; there were plenty of comfortable and quiet villas in the neighborhood or in the suburbs, from which Paris would be accessible by the Seine, thus rendering a great part of his work so much easier.
He, on his part, objected that living would be more expensive; that he would not be so well situated for working from nature; and last of all that, if he decided for a change, he would expect to be so near to Mary and her husband as to be able to reach them on foot and in a short time, for he could not be reconciled to the loss of a whole day every time he went to see them. "The two requisites," he said—"life in the country and frequent meetings—cannot be reconciled together."
M. Raillard and his wife praised Montmorency, Meudon, Marly, and St. Germain, which they had visited on purpose, but he answered that any of these places would be too far off.
However, when Stephen, Mary, and her husband had left us, their father was not proof against melancholy thoughts, from which he did not always find refuge in work. The following note in the diary is a proof of it: "April 5. Did not feel disposed to work, on account of the children's departure."
The solitude of our lives had also been considerably increased by the deaths of five Autunois friends, and by the departure of M. Schmitt with his family. My husband wrote to him:—
"Vous me demandez des nouvelles d'Autun, mais depuis votre depart nous y allons le moins possible. Je n'ai rien a y faire, presque plus personne a y voir. Je crains meme qu'au bout d'un certain temps cet isolement ne produise un facheux etat dans mon esprit. Je me plonge dans le travail, le refuge des gens isoles."
Shortly after Easter there came an attack of gout, this time in one knee, and Gilbert was naturally disturbed by the conviction that the disease had become more threatening now that it was going up. He became more alive to the difficulties of our present conditions of existence in the country, and more willing to consider the desirability of a change. The business of the "Portfolio" would be so much more easily and promptly transacted if he were in Paris; correspondence with England so much more rapid, and the length of journeys to London diminished so appreciably that all these considerations were of great weight in the final decision, as well as others of a different nature.
I could not hope to hide from Gilbert the void left in my life by the loss of one of my sons, and the absence of a daughter who had never left me before for any length of time; nor the sorrowful recollections incessantly awakened by the surrounding scenes and objects, and he began to think that to break the chain of such painful associations might be beneficial to me. This, I believe, dictated his letter of May 8 to Mary, in which he told her that she might make serious inquiries for a house, as he had definitely decided to go and live near Paris.
Mr. Seeley was very glad to hear that the editor of the "Portfolio" would be nearer to England; he said: "I hope you will get comfortably settled in the suburbs of Paris. If I may judge by my own experience I do not think you will regret the change. I have never done so for a moment, although I was fond of Kingston."
Since he had been last at Burnley, and had seen again the pictures painted at Sens for Mr. Handsley, my husband had been dissatisfied with them. The development of knowledge, skill, and the critical faculty made him intolerant of the shortcomings of that early period, and hopeful of doing better work now. So he wrote to Mr. Handsley, and proposed to paint him two new pictures to replace the old ones. In the reply he was begged to think of no such thing, as although the pictures might not be quite satisfactory to him, the owner valued them as among the earliest productions of the artist. But Gilbert insisted on being allowed to replace at least the view of Sens by another subject—already begun and about which he felt hopeful—and finally it was left to him to do as he liked.
It is a curious thing that, feeling as he did the pressure of work, he should have been always ready to undertake some additional task. At that moment, when he had so little spare time, he had promised (for an indefinite date, it is true), a picture of Mont Beuvray for M. Bulliot, and others of Pre-Charmoy for Alice Gindriez, his sister-in-law; Mary also was to have her share. The pictures intended for Alice Gindriez had been painted several times over, and destroyed, and the one for Mr. Handsley had already passed through various changes of effect, but it looked very promising. The artist intended to send it to the Salon, and had even ordered the frame; but our removal having interrupted painting for a long time, it remained unfinished; though it was taken up again at intervals.
It is my belief that artistic work, in spite of its disappointments, proved a relief and a distraction to my husband; but it is much to be regretted that his own standard should have been so high, for it prevented him from completing and keeping many etchings and pictures which, if not perfect, still possessed great charms. It is also a subject for regret that he should have been led to undertake large pictures of mountain scenery—so difficult to render adequately. If the time spent in fighting against these difficulties had been bestowed upon smaller canvases and less ambitious subjects, he would undoubtedly have succeeded in forming quite a collection. The greater part of his studies are graceful in composition, harmonious in color, tender and true in sentiment—why should not the pictures have possessed the same qualities? The main reason for his failing to express himself in art, is that he was too much attracted by the sublime in Nature, and that the power to convey the impression of sublimity has only been granted to the greatest among artists.
In May there came a triumphant letter from Mary saying that she had discovered the very house wanted by her father, uniting in incredible perfection every one of the conditions he had laid down. Once, being hard pressed to give his consent to a change of residence, he had playfully spread a plan of Paris on the table, and had stuck a pin in it, saying at the same time: "When you find me a suitable house there, in this situation and at that distance from you, I promise to take it." It was considered as a joke, but Mary now affirmed that the Villa Clematis was at the exact distance from the Rue de la Tour (where she lived) that her father had mentioned. Moreover, the roads in the avenues leading from Clematis to Passy were excellent for a velocipede, or he could reach her in a charming walk of less than an hour—through the Bois de Boulogne—and by rail three minutes only were required from the station of Boulogne to that of Passy. The rent was moderate, and although higher than our present one, would still be within our means, if it were taken into consideration that neither horse nor carriage would be necessary.
The villa was in the Parc des Princes, which offered several advantages. No shops or factories of any kind being allowed within the park, its peacefulness was never disturbed by the noise of traffic. The houses, which varied in sizes from the simple ordinary villa to the hotel or chateau, were each surrounded by a garden, small or large; and long avenues of fine trees so encircled the park that its existence was not much known outside. Quite close to it, however, was the town of Boulogne, with its well-provided market and shops, and at a distance of a few minutes the chemin-de-fer de ceinture, a line of tramways, one of omnibuses, and the steamboats not very far off. Clematis had a very small garden—a recommendation to my husband—but was still sufficiently isolated from the neighboring villas by their own grounds on each side. There was a veranda looking over the little garden, and a large balcony over the veranda; the dining and drawing-rooms were divided by double folding doors, and both had access to the veranda by porte-fenetres; the low and wide marble chimney-pieces were surmounted by plate-glass windows affording a sight of trees and flowers, and giving a most light and cheerful effect to the rooms. There were several well-aired bedrooms, and under the house vaulted cellars to keep it healthy and dry.
Such was the description sent us, which we found perfectly accurate when we visited the house the very day of our arrival at Passy, on June 1, 1891. The diary says about it: "Went to Boulogne to see the Villa Clematis. On the whole pleased with it." As for me, I was charmed with it after all the inconveniences I had had to put up with, hitherto, in our rough country houses.
We had been told that the rents were low at Billancourt, and we went there to ascertain, but we did not like the horrid state of the roads, nor the unfinished streets, the result of house-building all over the place.
We also saw Vanves and the Chateau d'Issy, in which there were two pavilions to let. Gilbert's fancy was so much taken by one of them that I began to dread he might want to live in it. He wrote in the diary: "The place seemed curious and romantic. Three very fine lofty rooms, a number of small ones. Plenty of space. Not much convenience; wife not at all pleased with it." It would have been much worse than anything I had experienced before. The house was dark, being surrounded and over-topped by a small but dense park climbing up an eminence above it; all the rainwater coming down this slope remained in stagnant pools about the lower story, the stones of which were of a dull and dirty green, being covered with moss. There was a queer circuitous kitchen round the base of the stairs, and the dishes prepared in it would have had to be carried up the stairs through an outside passage before arriving on the dining-room table. Then I wondered how the "fine, lofty rooms" (damp with moisture and cold with tiled floors) could be warmed in winter, and also lighted; for they all looked upon the tree-clad hill rising up hardly a few feet from the windows. All that was nothing to Gilbert, who only saw in perspective so many spacious studios and workrooms. At last I noticed that a paved road wound round the outside of the pavilion, and just as I was pointing it out, there came several heavily laden carts thundering along, and shaking the whole building quite perceptibly. My husband had enough of it after that, and I rejoiced inwardly at the opportune appearance of those carts. The day after, the diary says: "Went in the afternoon to Sevres. Found the place divided into two parts: the lower, which smells badly, and the upper, which is all but inaccessible, being up a steep hill. Renounced Sevres."
Besides looking about for a house, we went frequently to the Salons, there being two now, and my husband regularly continued his work. Mr. Seeley wrote: "The quickness with which your letters come gives me a pleasant feeling as regards the future."
To my inexpressible delight "Clematis" was chosen for our future abode, after other fruitless researches; indeed, in my opinion it was impossible to find anything better suited to our wants—and what sounds almost incredible, the situation of the Parc des Princes was found to be exactly where Gilbert had pricked the pin in the plan of Paris.
The little garden looked very pretty now in June, with the pillars of the veranda all blue with flowers of the climbing clematis, and the cornice loaded with the pink and white bouquets of roses. The wild clematis, Virginia creeper, and honeysuckle clothed the trunks of every tree, whilst their roots were hidden by flowers and ferns of various kinds.
Another pleasant feature of the park was the quantity of singing birds; there were larks, blackcaps, white-throats, and blackbirds, no doubt attracted by the security and peace they enjoyed all the year round—no shooting being allowed either in the park or in the Bois de Boulogne.
My husband wished to appropriate all the upper story of Clematis to his work, so as to have within easy reach everything he wanted for it, and at the same time to escape from all household noises. The large middle room with the balcony would be his study and atelier, only he required more light for painting, and a tall window was made for him. One of the small rooms was to be a laboratory, the other a sort of storeroom for papers, panels, frames, canvases, colors, etc., and one of the garrets a joiner's shop. Bookcases were to be placed against all the walls of the studio, which would serve as a library at the same time.
Removal to Paris.—Interest in the Bois de Boulogne.—M. Vierge.—"Man in Art."—Contributions to "Scribner's Magazine."—New form of "The Portfolio."—Honorary degree.—Last Journey to London.—Society of Illustrators.—Illness and death.
We were no sooner home again than the transformation of my husband's study and laboratory furniture began. He had carefully taken all the necessary measurements, and he now set two joiners to work under his direction.
Of course we had some months of discomfort and fatigue, with the packing up and the sale which preceded our departure. At one time I was almost in despair of ever getting through, Gilbert being so very exacting about the packing that we had to wrap up each single book separately, and to fold up carefully every sheet or bit of paper without creases. It was one of his characteristics, this respectful care he took of books and papers; it went so far that he could hardly bring himself to destroy waste-paper; and when he had not quite filled a page with his writing, he would cut off the white piece and lay it aside in a drawer for further use; nay more, after making use of these fragments of paper for notes which had been copied out, he drew a line of red or blue pencil across the writing, and returned the paper to another drawer to be used on the other side. And it was not for the sake of economy, for he was frequently indulging in the purchase of note-books, pocket-books, memorandum-books, etc. No; it was a sort of instinctive respect. If any one held a book carelessly, or let it fall, he was absolutely miserable, and could not refrain from remonstrating. When we unpacked, he directed a man to fold up the papers which had been used as wrappers, and when I told him that the papers were not worth the man's wages and had better be thrown into the street, he looked surprised, and reluctantly allowed them to be stuffed into the empty boxes; but be could not bring himself to remain while it was being done.
It was hard to break away from the associations of so many years, and the last meal we took tete-a-tete in the dining-room, emptied of all its furniture except a small table and two chairs, was a melancholy one. I swallowed many a tear, and Gilbert's voice was somewhat tremulous when he attempted to talk.
Roberts Brothers had inquired early in the year if Mr. Hamerton had decided about a new book, and had been answered in the affirmative. They now said: "We hasten to reply to your query. Yes, we think 'The Quest of Happiness' an admirable title for a book destined for the popular heart—so happy that it will of itself sell it. Don't meditate about doing it too long."
Messrs. A. and C. Black had also proposed that Mr. Hamerton's articles for the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" should be revised and enlarged so as to make an interesting and valuable "Hand-book to Drawing and Engraving," and the author had agreed to undertake the work. They were so considerate as to send a copy of the "Encyclopaedia" to the writer, who had long desired to possess it, and who valued it as a treasure. He had a special bookcase made for it, with many divisions, to preserve the volumes from too much rubbing, and was pleased with their handsome appearance in his library.
A letter received in the autumn may offer some interest to the reader. It tells of a rather curious occurrence. The writer had been occasionally in correspondence with the author of "Wenderholme," and, living in Lancashire, had greatly appreciated the accuracy of the descriptions and characters in that locality. Two years before he had discovered "Thursday," and under his guidance had visited the site of the first camp at Widdup, and noted the changes; now he wrote again, giving an account of his experiences during a little visit to the Bronte country, and explaining at some length that he was "driven by bad weather to the 'house' (you will remember the sense in which the word is used in the district) occupied by the wrangling drunkard. The talk turning upon a hut which had been erected by a mon through Halifax for the grouse-shooting, evoked a reminiscence from the only (relatively) sober member of the party, of another mon—a hartist—who, aboon thirty year sin', built a hut at Widdup, and hed a gurt big dog, and young Helliwell, ower at Jerusalem, wor then a lad, and used to bring him (the mon) milk, and in the end gat ta'en on as sarvant, and went wi' him to Scotland and all ower—you may imagine my delight....
"I was sorry to hear that Thursday was not in very good health. He is, however, married, and the proud father of a little girl—Mary Alice. He seems very comfortable, and has promised me a photograph of himself by way of a frontispiece to my copy of the 'Painter's Camp.'
"I trust I am not boring you; but I thought that you might like to know that you and your encampment are still remembered in the district."
It always pleased Gilbert to have news of the people and places associated in his mind and affections with his youth, and his interest in them never grew cold with years.
Our new installation at Clematis was much simplified by the fact that everything from La Tuilerie had been sent in advance.
In order not to keep Gilbert too long from his work, the study was first arranged, and he was well pleased with it; indeed, he said he had never been so conveniently or comfortably established "for his work" before; but still I saw, with pain, that he looked depressed in spite of himself.
New Year's Day saw us established in the new house, and regular habits of work resumed.
Having two spare bedrooms, our children came to use them during the Christmas holidays, and we had some pleasant meetings with M. Pelletier and his family. It was by a sort of tacit understanding that almost every Sunday we lunched, in turn, at each other's houses,—once at Clematis, then at Madame Halliard's, and afterwards at M. Pelletier's. After lunch we had a long walk either in the Bois de Boulogne, Parc de St. Cloud, Jardin du Luxembourg, or Jardin des Plantes; but although Gilbert enjoyed these strolls, they did not make up for the loss of the country; neither did the Seine replace the Saone, and Mr. Seeley said: "I am sorry the Seine is not what it ought to be. You will miss your old amusement of sailing, for which steaming will be a poor substitute."
We all tried to find something that might take his fancy, and we went to see the Marne. He said it afforded refreshing and pretty scenes; but he was not enthusiastic about its character. I plainly saw that what I had feared had come to pass—namely, that this new way of life did not suit him so well as the old, and that, despite the greater facilities, he did not seem to work to his own satisfaction, and felt dull. This lasted for some time. Mr. Seeley humorously teased him about it, and suggested that he should write for an American magazine an article on "The Dulness of Paris." He went on: "If you could only run over here to roam about our Kentish hills, you would soon be all right again. They are covered with millions of wood anemones, violets, primroses, cuckoo flowers, and blue-bells; and the low ground is gay with marsh-marigolds." Alas! the Bois offered all this in profusion, but for flowers Gilbert never really cared; he merely appreciated their valeur in the harmony of a landscape. He thus explained his feelings, in answer to Mr. Seeley:—
"My complaints about the dulness of Paris refer to the peculiar state of mind the place always induces in myself, that is, ennui. Now, the ennuye state of mind is the worst possible for a writer, because his interest in things ought always to remain keen and lively; he ought to have the intelligence of a man with the interest of a child. I believe Paris to be, on the whole, the most endurable of great cities, that in which the disagreeables of such places are most successfully palliated. For instance, I can go from here to the Louvre in magnificent avenues all the way. But, for a writer, it is not enough to find life endurable; he ought to be keenly interested. My life at Autun was pleasant and refreshing; at Loch Awe it was an enchantment. However, I did not come here for my pleasure."
And work was crowding upon him; besides "Man in Art," which had been put aside since the interruption necessitated by the removal, the editor of the "Forum," Mr. Walter H. Page, asked for an article on the "Effects on Popular Education of Great Art Collections." He said: "I am glad to be able to tell you that some of the best American newspapers have discussed your article on the 'Learning of Languages,' and that I have many evidences of the appreciation of a large number of our most cultivated people."
The editor of the "Illustrated London News" also wished for a series of articles on "French Life," and was very sorry that Mr. Hamerton could not undertake them for want of time, and the publisher of the "Portfolio" would have been pleased to get reviews of the annual Salons from the editor's pen.
Early in the spring, as soon as the weather permitted it, we began to go regularly with M. and Mme. Raillard to the prettiest places in the neighborhood of Paris to spend the Thursdays and Sundays. We were frequently joined by the Pelletier family, and had picnics together in sheltered nooks. We started early in the morning, carried our provisions with the exception of beer, wine, and bread, which could always be bought anywhere, and roamed about or rested till the end of the day. In this pleasant and independent manner we saw St. Germain,—the forest and chateau,—by which my husband was much impressed; the lakes and Bois de Vincennes; the park at Marly, L'Yvette; the mills of Meaux, St. Remy: the Chateau de Chevreuse, Bougival, Ville d'Avray, La Celle St. Cloud, La Terrasse de Meudon, Le Vesinet, Nogent-sur-Marne; the ponds at Garches, L'Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay, Mareuil-Marly, Melun, and L'Etang de St. Cucufa, with its surroundings of luxuriant vegetation and noble trees.
These walks in the country—much more of the real country than my husband had ever expected to find so near Paris—began to reconcile him to his new life; but what helped most towards this reconciliation was the Bois de Boulogne, with its hidden charms and beauties, which he had the pleasure of discovering for himself, never having heard of them. For the parts of the Bois best known and always offered to admiration are the most artificial, and the resorts of fashion, equipages, and crowds; the cascade, the lakes, the Allee des Acacias, the Pre-Catelan, and La Grande Pelouse, while there are enough solitary nooks and unfrequented alleys, thick underwoods, open vistas, and groups of graceful and handsome trees to interest a lover of landscape for miles and miles, without any other disturbance than a chance meeting with a timid rabbit or a curious deer.
No sooner had Gilbert found out that there existed in the Bois real and extensive woodland scenery—almost untrodden and unexplored, than it became a pleasure to start on his tricycle, followed by his dog, for an early ride under the dewy branches, in the light and fragrant mist rising from the moist mosses and wild-flowers under the first rays of the sun. From these healthy rides he returned to his first dejeuner much exhilarated, having breathed fresh air without the sensation of confinement so painful to him. Gradually he came across various scenes which he felt attracted to paint, and then his liking for the Bois was formed. There were among others, La Mare d'Auteuil, the incomparable group of grand old oaks, a single branch of which would have made a fine tree; the ponds of Boulogne; the varied views of the Seine, with the gay and sunny slopes from the walks running parallel to the river. Then the mill and its surrounding fields, quiet at times with browsing cows knee-deep in the rich grass, or at other times alive with merry mowers and hay-makers. Several views of Mont Valerien, looming in the haze of the after-glow, or in dark contrast with the splendor of the afternoon sunshine, also caught my husband's attention; as well as numberless other places without a name, which pleased him for one sort of beauty or another. After each new discovery, he wanted me to go with him to see, and whenever it was possible, and at a walking distance from the house, I took a book with me and read to him as he sketched. By a few notes in the diary it will be seen that his explorations extended to rather long distances from the house:—
"Went to L'Alma on the tricycle. Found capital place for studying boats not far from the Pont d'Iena."
"Went round by Bois to Rothschild's, till I came to bridge of St. Cloud and to the house—lovely play of lights on the water and upon the heights."
"In afternoon rode as far as Argenteuil, and saw Texier's boat-building establishment there, and the fleet of pleasure-boats."
"Went to Asnieres on tricycle by the Rond-Point of Courbevoie. Some difficult passages on road. Return easier by riverside, right bank. Beautiful hazy distances."
"Found out boat-house of the Bilancourt boat-club. Spacious and rather nice. Keeper boat-builder. Came back by riverside, Auteuil and Bois. Charming harmony of grays in the sky—silvery, bluish, rose-tinted, and lavender."
"In afternoon rode to St. Cloud with a view to comparison with Turner. In coming back met a steam-carriage on the road, managed, I believe, by Caran d'Ache," etc., etc.
When he had regained the elasticity of his mind, his thoughts were turned again to his important work.
Note in the diary on March 3: "Tried to recover command of 'Man in Art,' putting the MS. in order. Read the chapters over again to recover materials and spirit of work."
From that date "Man in Art" was steadily resumed till its completion. There was a good deal of trouble and disappointment with the illustrations, some of which were found unworthy of insertion; but having been ordered, they would have to be paid for. The author was ready to bear the cost rather than see them inserted, but Messrs. Macmillan very kindly and generously refused to allow this, and proposed that he should send a bill for any money that he should find it necessary to expend on unsatisfactory illustrations.
My husband was now in far better spirits, and, apparently, in very good health. A friend, Mr. Oliver, who had named his son Hamerton out of admiration for the author, wrote in answer to one of his letters: "I was pleased to hear that you find the later period of life not unattended with deep satisfaction and pleasure."
Among those pleasures were the friendly or interesting visits that the remoteness of Autun from great centres would have effectually prevented. In the spring we saw Mrs. Macmillan and her son; in the autumn we had the pleasure of becoming personally acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Adam Black, who were passing through Paris, and with whom we spent an afternoon visiting the gardens and ruins of St. Cloud.
Roberts Brothers, to whom many applications for letters of introduction were addressed, and who managed to give only a few, sent some of their friends to Mr. Hamerton now and then. They said in one of their letters: "Since you will not come to America and see for yourself, we want to show you that our aborigines are as good specimens of the genus homo as they make anywhere."
In the Parc des Princes lives a great artist, Urrabieta Vierge, whose house and studio were only a few minutes distant from Clematis. Mr. Hamerton's admiration of this artist's talent was great, and his liking for him as a man became great also. He often expressed the opinion that, in his best pen-drawings, Urrabieta Vierge was—and would remain—without a rival. He used to spend hours over the original illustrations to Pablo de Segovie, and other drawings in the possession of the artist. Hardly ever did a day pass without seeing my husband in M. Vierge's studio once at least. He had opportunities of rendering him a service sometimes, as the artist had dealings with English and American publishers, but was ignorant of their language, and in token of gratitude M. Vierge painted his new friend's portrait, and also that of his mother-in-law, Madame Gindriez.
The idea of a book on the study of words, to be written in collaboration with M. Raillard, had not been abandoned by my husband, who submitted the title for Mr. Seeley's approval. It was to be: "Words on their Travels, and some Stay-at-home Words." It was pronounced lively and interesting. His own share had been delayed; but his son-in-law was working at it, and they carefully planned together the composition and form of the book, the separate parts of which were to be linked together by essays from my husband's pen.
Much time was devoted to the exhibitions in 1892. The Salons, of course, had many visits, but they did not give so much pleasure to Gilbert as "Les Cent Chefs-d'oeuvre," or the Pelouse Exhibition; he was also greatly interested by Raffet's works.
Our children spent with us a month of the long vacation, as they used to do at Pre-Charmoy, and our excursions to the most picturesque places in the neighborhood of Paris became more frequent. We had formed a project for going to Pierre-fonds and Compiegne; but my husband, being now most anxious to finish "Man in Art" before Christmas, regretfully put off the excursions to the ensuing year. Now that he had regained the buoyancy of his spirits, he was fully alive to the peculiar charms of the country about Paris, and even intended to write a series of small books on the most noteworthy and remarkable places—something in the way of exhaustive guides. He thought of beginning with those that he knew thoroughly well already, and to acquaint himself gradually with the others.
In September our son-in-law, with his wife, went to stay with his parents for the remainder of the vacation; but Mary left them a few days before her husband to see her relatives at Chalon, and in the way of consolation, her father sent the following to Raoul:—
"Blest is the man whose wife is gone away! From cares exempt, he dwells in perfect peace. His heart is light as boy's on holiday. He walks abroad and joys in his release. The cat is gone, the frisky mouse doth play. The fox remote, walk forth the wandering geese. So he, delivered, thinks his troubles past, O halcyon days!—if they could only last.
"P. G. H. to R. R.
"Sept. 11, 1892."
Ever since he had heard of Lord Tennyson's illness, my husband had been greatly concerned, and never missed going every evening to the Auteuil railway station for the latest news. After the death of the poet he wrote to Mr. Seeley:—
"One must die some time; but it is still rather saddening to know that Tennyson is no longer a living poet. I have always enjoyed his verse very much; the art is so perfect, so superior to that of Browning or Wordsworth, even to that of Byron. I know of no poet to equal Tennyson in finish except Shelley, Keats, and Horace, and those three only in gems."
In a letter to Miss Betham-Edwards he had said once: "Have you observed how very careful Tennyson has always been never to publish prose? That was capital policy in his case; he seems so much more the poet to the world outside."
Mr. Seeley was anxious to confer with the editor of the "Portfolio" about plans for the following year; but he had considerately refrained from mentioning it, so long as the large book was not announced for publication. In the beginning of October, however, he wrote: "I see that Macmillans announce your big book; so I suppose that labor is off your hands." Then he went on to propose that the editor should write a series of articles on the "Humorous Art of the Present Day," and my husband took time to think about the subject.
The last sheets of "Man in Art" were sent off on October 20, and after acknowledging their receipt, Mr. F. Macmillan said:—
"With regard to the drawings on glass, I write to say that we are perfectly willing that, as you suggest, you should make a present of them to the Art School of Burnley, in Lancashire.
"The same applies to the original wood-block engraved by Pierre Gusman."
Our November journey to London was unattended with troubles to my husband's health, and it was with unalloyed pleasure that we met Mr. and Mrs. Seeley again. Our stay was to be a short one, for it had been decided that, in the future, we would come over at least once every year, and more probably twice.
Here is the first letter after our arrival:—
"LONDON. November 26, 1892.
"MY DEAR MARY,—I have some good news to tell you. My new book is not out yet, but soon will be. It is in two editions, one large paper, and dear, the other smaller paper and much lower in price. The first is exhausted before publication, and the second without being exhausted yet, is still going off well. I dined last night with Messrs. Macmillan, and they seemed quite satisfied.
"Mr. Seeley has just offered to publish my next novel.
"I was glad to get a post-card from Raoul. It will be a great pleasure to me to work with him. Perhaps, however, we shall quarrel over our book, and never speak to each other again. But his mother-in-law will love him still, whatever happens.
"Your very affectionate old father,
"P. G. HAMERTON."
The work that my husband had to do was easily gone through, and his nervous system had so much improved that he went alone about London without any forebodings, without even thinking about it, except to remark to me sometimes that he had never expected such an improvement. Had it not been for a very slight and short attack of gout, he would have been perfectly well all the time.
Mr. and Mrs. Seeley were then, living in Kensington, and it was very convenient for my husband, the situation being quiet and within easy reach of the museums. Although the season was not favorable for going to the country, our friends knew that their visitor would be pleased to escape from London—were it only for a day or two, and they were so kind as to take us to their pretty cottage at Shoreham, in Kent, and to show us the country surrounding it. Gilbert was out walking most of the time, and there being hills and water, wished he had time for sketching, though he told me he would not like to live there permanently, the country not being sufficiently open for his tastes.
The new arrangements for the "Portfolio" having been decided upon, my husband wrote to tell Mary of our near arrival. In this letter he said:—
"In spite of the great kindness we meet with here, I don't feel any desire to live in or near London, it is so gloomy and dirty, besides being so expensive, at least according to present customs of living. We are better where we are, near you.
"I am very glad that Raoul likes the idea of our book. I believe we can work out together something decidedly new and valuable."
In the course of a visit to Mrs. A. Black, she gave us good and interesting news of her cousin, R. L. Stevenson, and showed us a photograph taken inside his house at Samoa, in which he was seen surrounded by his mother, his wife, his wife's children, and his native servants. It was very pleasant to see him looking happy, and so much stronger than he used to be.
Mr. Macmillan, though very feeble, was so kind as to receive us. We were for leaving him soon, fearing that he would be fatigued; but he insisted upon our remaining, and brightened wonderfully as he talked with my husband. He ordered glasses and wine, and drank to our healths with such hearty good-will, and pressed our hands at parting so affectionately, that we were quite moved. He had been such a strong and active man, and there was still such an expression of power and will in his countenance, that to see him an invalid, unable to walk without help, was inexpressibly pitiful. He had said—not without sadness—that he had grown resigned to this trying bodily weakness, but at the same time that he had a great dread of the weakness reaching the seat of thought some day. It was the last time we saw him, though he lived some years longer, and we liked ever after to recall his last kind greeting, as warm as those of former days.
M. Raillard and his wife received us joyfully on our arrival in Paris; we were all greatly cheered by the fact that my husband could now travel like everybody else, and this feeling of security gave a great stimulus to his energies. We were often planning journeys to places of interest that it might be useful for him to visit, either for his artistic studies or for literary work. The Countess Martinengo Cesaresco, with whom he had long been in correspondence, had invited us to go to see her on the Lake of Garda, and this was a great temptation to which he hoped to yield some day.
Meanwhile, we planned for the autumn a visit to Lucerne, in which our son and daughter and her husband would join, and we often talked about it. I knew perfectly well that very few of our schemes could ever be carried out, but I encouraged the discussion of them—for even that gave pleasure to Gilbert, who had been kept sedentary so long. He told us what he would do, and what he would attempt in such and such a place; and his desire for beautiful natural scenes was so intense that he often dreamt he was flying towards them, and afterwards described his sensations. The recurrence of this sensation of flying over space caused him some slight alarm, for he explained that doctors considered it as a symptom of disturbed equilibrium in the system, which they called levitation. Still, he was now almost in perfect health, indeed he did not remember the time when he had been so well, so ready for work, or enjoying it more—he said he was almost afraid, it seemed so strange.
In a letter from Roberts Brothers, dated March 10, 1893, I read: "We are indeed pleased to hear that 'The Quest of Happiness' is likely to be ready for this autumn, and the title is so promising that we should not wonder if it made your 'cheques' larger."
This book, however, was laid aside for more pressing work. The Meissonier Exhibition was opened, and my husband, who delighted in the talent of the artist, had already gone there several times when he received a letter from Mr. Seeley asking him to notice it for the "Portfolio," and he assented.
Then Mr. Burlingame, of the house of Scribner's Sons of New York, came over from London for the special purpose of becoming personally acquainted with Mr. Hamerton, and of proposing to him to write a series of twelve articles on modern representative painters for "Scribner's Magazine." The proposal was flattering in itself, but the pleasure it gave was singularly enhanced by the visitor's friendly courtesy and cultured appreciation. After two meetings only, Mr. Burlingame had to leave Paris, and my husband spoke regretfully of the shortness of a visit he had so much enjoyed, and expressed a wish that an opportunity for more prolonged intercourse might present itself before long.
Judging from Mr. Burlingame's letter, the pleasure had been mutual. I quote a passage out of it:—
"I use my earliest opportunity to jot down a note for our better remembrance of the main points of the arrangement for 'Scribner's Magazine,' by assenting to which you gave me such pleasure in Paris.
"I sail on Saturday, and assure you I shall carry home no pleasanter recollection than that of the two days which you made very enjoyable for me at Paris and Boulogne."
The scheme did not require much literary labor, but it involved careful researches for the choice of subjects, delicate negotiations with the owners of the pictures chosen, to obtain the right of reproduction, and moreover a superintendence of these reproductions as to quality.
After giving due consideration to the subject of "Humor in Painting" for the "Portfolio," the editor did not feel inclined to undertake it. But in his frequent walks about Paris his attention had been forcibly attracted by the invention and fancy shown in the designs of modern houses, and that was a study quite congenial to his tastes, and a subject on which he was thoroughly competent to write. It was proposed to Mr. Seeley, who accepted it, and from that moment we haunted the quarters in which new buildings were rising, as if by magic, in the purity of the white stone used in Paris, and in the richness or delicacy of their carvings and mosaics.
Besides these various preparations for future work, Mr. Hamerton had been much occupied by annotating a collection of different things intended as a present to the Mechanics' Institution of Burnley. Shortly after sending it off, he received the warm thanks of the Council through its secretary.
The search after suitable subjects for "Scribner's Magazine" had only yielded an insufficient number, and my husband decided to go to London in July to complete his list. He felt so well that the idea of undertaking the journey alone did not make him apprehensive in the least. Not so with me, and my anxiety was only calmed after receiving the assurance that he had felt perfectly comfortable the whole way.
His daughter wrote to him:—
"MON CHER PAPA,—Nous avons ete bien heureux d'apprendre que tu as ete 'si grand garcon' comme dit Bonne-maman. Ta temerite nous a tous etonnes et nous a fait plaisir en meme temps. Ce changement ne pourra que te faire du bien puisque tu l'as supporte d'une facon aussi parfaite."
Here is a part of the answer:—
"ARUNDEL HOTEL, VICTORIA EMBANKMENT, LONDON,
"July 22, 1893.
"I am extremely pleased with my hotel, which is just what I wanted, both as to convenience of situation, beauty, and charges. From the window where I am writing I can see the river and a garden with trees, and some fine architecture on the Embankment (Quai), yet I am close to the busiest part of London.
"I was in the Academy yesterday, and enjoyed it very much. I feel perfectly well, and not in the least fatigued by my journey, from which I experienced no inconvenience whatever, except an increased appetite, which has remained with me ever since."
Shortly after my husband's return from London, Mr. Jaccaci, an American artist and author, and a devoted friend of M. Vierge, came to see us, and Gilbert's interest in him was quickly awakened. I was told that he had travelled much, and, though still young, could speak eight languages. There was a first bond between them in their admiration of M. Vierge's talent, and in their sympathy for his individuality. They met several times at his studio. Unfortunately Mr. Jaccaci's stay was of short duration, and he was extremely busy, so much so indeed that he could not accept an invitation, but promised to do so next time he came to Paris. His departure did not put an end to the friendly intercourse, which was carried on by correspondence.
At the first appearance of the "Portfolio" it had taken an entirely new line among English periodicals, but now there were two other art magazines similar in character and style of illustration, and both its editor and publisher were desirous of an alteration which would once more distinguish it from similar periodicals.
They considered how it might be remodelled, so as to give it a new character of its own, and at last, taking into consideration the prejudice which had set in against big books, they decided to reduce its size and to increase the letterpress considerably. Each number was to be devoted to one subject, and written by the same author, so as to be complete in itself. The new second title, "Monographs on Artistic Subjects," was liked by many critics, and one of them said: "Monographs! I wonder whose idea that was. What an admirable plan! Strange that no one ever thought of it before!"
The editor undertook to write the first number, on "The Etchings of Rembrandt;" but in spite of his enthusiasm for the subject, and his thorough knowledge of it, he felt painfully hurried, for the decision had been taken somewhat late in the year. He told me he would have liked to devote six months to its preparation. Still, the new plan gave him much pleasant anticipation of carefully prepared work, as he disliked devoting his time to subjects of minor importance. A number of the "Portfolio" now allowed of a worthy subject being worthily treated, and that was in accordance with my husband's preferred method of work.
With the ordinary autumnal remittance Roberts Brothers wrote:—
"We have just bought a copy of 'The Isles of Loch Awe, and Other Poems,' by P. G. Hamerton, Esq. 1859. Second thousand.
"We have had a good many years a copy of the first edition, 1855, which we once loaned to Mr. Longfellow, who made from it selections for his collection of 'Poems of Places,' and in it we have placed his letter of thanks for the loan."
Some time in the spring my husband had made the acquaintance of M. Darmesteter, and had hoped that it might grow into closer intimacy, M. Darmesteter and his wife having promised to call; but we learned that they had been mistaken as to the situation of our house, and in November Mr. Hamerton received this reply to one of his letters:—
"CHER MONSIEUR,—Excusez mon retard a vous remercier de votre aimable lettre du 16 courant. Nous rentrons a peine et vous savez ce que c'est qu'une rentree en ville.
"Hafiz malheureusement n'est pas traduit que je sache en francais. Il en existe une traduction allemande en 3 vol....
"Nous avons bien regrette de ne pouvoir, avant de quitter Paris, faire un tour au Parc-des-Princes et presenter nos hommages a Madame Hamerton. Ce sera pour l'annee qui vient j'espere.
"Croyez moi, cher Monsieur,
"Votre bien devoue,
Death, alas! prevented another meeting, for M. Darmesteter, who was already in weak health, did not live very long after.
Mr. Seeley thought the monograph on Rembrandt "lively, charmingly written, and betraying no sign of hurry." This opinion was shared by the public, for the sale of the "Portfolio" increased largely. Indeed, the new scheme was generally applauded, and many letters were sent both to the editor and to the publisher in token of appreciation. Sir F. Burton, to whom my husband had applied for a monograph on Velasquez, said in his reply: "I have seen the 'Portfolio' in its new form, and I think the alterations you have made in the plan and scope of the work most happily inspired."
Sir George Reid also wrote:—
"I have seen the 'Portfolio' in its new form, and I think the change a wise one in many ways. It recalls the 'Revue des deux Mondes.' It will be a far handier shape for the book-shelves; but I feel a—well perhaps sentimental regret for the old 'Portfolio.' It seems like the disappearance of on old familiar friend—although we know he is still alive and well.
"I wish it all prosperity in its new form, and its editor many years of happy and useful labor in the service of art."
Mrs. Henry Ady was to write on Bastien Lepage for the "Portfolio," but she had not all the documents she wanted, and my husband undertook to procure them. A talented French marine-painter, M. Jobert, with whom Mr. Hamerton was acquainted, introduced him to M. Emile Bastien Lepage, brother of the artist. Note in the diary about it:—
"January 11, 1894. Was much pleased with my visit. Saw many things by the painter—many not published; portraits of father and mother, of grandfather, of brother Emile, etc., and sketches for girl's funeral which he saw; also etchings and a bust of his father. After that he showed us a fine structure in carved wood from the church of St. Mark at Venice."
My brother, his wife, and their two little girls arrived in Paris to be present at the wedding of our niece, Jeanne Pelletier. Stephen also came, and on the appointed day we all went to the Lycee Henri IV., where the ceremony took place, on January 29. We were much interested, on account of the great affection we bore to the bride.
My husband put this note in the diary: "Wedding passed off very well. Beautiful ceremony in chapel. I had a talk with L'Abbe Loyson (brother of Hyacinthe Loyson). Great numbers of people to congratulate."
Gilbert had long talks on architecture with his brother-in-law, to whom he showed several of the new buildings he had been studying for his "Parisian Houses," particularly in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Avenue Bugeaud, and Rue de Longchamp.
When M. Gindriez left, Gilbert tried to resume the "Quest of Happiness," but told me he had determined to remodel the Prologue on positive and negative happiness, because he had thought out a scheme of alteration. I was very sorry to hear of it, because the work was already so far advanced, and the alterations would require so much trouble and time. But such considerations had no weight with him when he thought his work could be improved, so I kept my disappointment to myself.
Some time in February my husband had received a letter from Sir G. Reid, from which I quote the following passage: "I have little doubt that before the month of March comes you will be P. G. Hamerton, LL.D. Your claims to such recognition have long been beyond all questioning."
This was confirmed by the Secretary of the University of Aberdeen on March 3, 1894, in these terms:—
"DEAR SIR,—I have the pleasure of informing you that the Senatus of the University at its meeting to-day conferred upon you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (LL. D.).
"Secretary of the Senatus."
Three days later Lady Reid wrote:—
"DEAR DR. HAMERTON,—We are delighted to see in this morning's newspaper the announcement of your LL.D.-ship. Though we have never had the pleasure of meeting, I feel almost as if I had known you for many years, your writings having given me such real pleasure ever since I first made your acquaintance in 'A Painter's Camp in the Highlands' in 1863.
"I hope you will kindly accept from me your Aberdeen LL.D.-hood, which is the outward visible sign of your new academic rank.
"My husband says it is 'a chromatic discord of the 1st Order,' but over the arrangements of such things the present generation has no control, their form and colors having been settled long ago.
"Sir George unites with me in kindest regards, and in the hope that you may long live to enjoy your most well-earned honors.
"Yours very truly,
Shortly after Sir George Reid wrote: "You have done so much for the literature of art that the only wonder is your services have not been acknowledged by one or other of our Universities long ago. I am very glad that the honor has come to you from the University of Aberdeen."
Although my husband cared little for honors, this recognition—freely and spontaneously conferred by the University of Aberdeen, without any solicitation on his part—gave him real pleasure. He had never expected anything in this way from Oxford or Cambridge, because he had never been a student of either, and he fancied that this would always be against him. It reminds me of what he wrote to Mr. Seeley soon after our arrival in Paris, when he suffered from dulness:—
"I never was at Oxford. I always had a boyish dread of being sent there, and put into one of the colleges. I think I was marked for Balliol. After my escape I felt towards the place much as a sound Protestant feels towards the Vatican. Here is a reflection that has sometimes occurred to me since my imprisonment here began: 'Dear me! why, if I can endure Paris, I might possibly have endured Oxford.'"
After congratulating the editor of the "Portfolio" on his new title, Mr. Seeley said: "My brother at Cambridge has been made a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George. What an extraordinary title for a Professor! And you are now a Doctor of Laws. Will you kindly allow us to consult you in any legal difficulty?"
The new Doctor [Footnote: Mr. Hamerton and Professor Seeley were born on the same day, and there was an interval of only a few weeks between their deaths.] answered:—
"I congratulate you on having a brother who is a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George too. They were both very valiant saints, dangerous to dragons and demons. The image that rose to my mind's eye when I read your letter was that of your brother in shining golden armor riding full tilt with spear in rest against a terrible dragon. I wish Lord Shaftesbury had lived to hear of it, for one reason, and your father for another.
"Thank you for your congratulations about my LL.D.-ship. In answer to your question, I beg to say that whilst the degree is but a just tribute to my legal knowledge, it does not confer the right to practise, so that you would do better to consult some professional man, such as a barrister or an attorney, even though his legal attainments might be far inferior to mine."
In the same year Mr. Hamerton was invited by the Society of Illustrators to accept a Vice-Presidency along with Sir J. E. Millais, Sir F. Seymour Haden, and Mr. Holman Hunt.
Messrs. Scribner having planned a work on American wood-cuts, wrote to ascertain if my husband would undertake it. Mr. Burlingame's letter explains the scheme.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,—In the course of the publication of the Magazine, we have printed from time to time what we believe to be some of the best American wood-engravings. We are going to make a selection of about forty of them, thoroughly representative of the best men and subjects (though we have not tried, of course, to have the representation complete), and issue it as soon as we can in the form of India proofs, in a portfolio in a very limited edition—probably of less than 100 copies, made with the utmost care and all possible accessories to render the collection a standard one. Meaning to make it represent the highest point of wood-engraving (which is now fast yielding to the mechanical processes, so that the moment is perhaps the best we shall have), we want to accompany the publication with a short essay on the subject, to go with the portfolio in a little book, and afterwards to be bound up with the popular edition should we make one."
It was just one of those schemes that my husband could set his heart upon—requiring much knowledge and condensed writing. So he gladly accepted the task, and applied himself to it as soon as the engravings reached him.
On receiving the manuscript Mr. Burlingame wrote: "The paper on the engravers so thoroughly fulfilled our expectations, that we were more than ever glad that we asked your help in this (to us) important matter."
In the spring, before the opening of the Salons, there are always a good many minor exhibitions, and these we went to see, in order to judge of the prevailing artistic tendencies. I find this note in the diary:—
"March 17, 1894. Went with wife in the afternoon to see some pictures by the 'Eclectics' at Petit's. Most of them horribly bad, especially the Impressionists, but several by Boudot were excellent. These were landscapes, all in perfectly true tone and good color, with a great deal of sound, modest drawing. I wish I could paint like him. His work is evidently founded on painted studies from nature; indeed, much of it must have been painted directly from nature.
"Made a new plan for work, doing two tasks on alternate days: one the current book, the other some minor task—an article, for example. In this way both would get on, and the interval would not be long enough to lose hold of either."
He wrote about it to Mr. Seeley, and explained:—
"I don't know how it will answer yet, but have hopes. My great difficulty has always been (and it only increases with age) a certain want of readiness and flexibility in turning from one thing to another. When I have a book in hand (and I always have one), it is most disagreeable to me to turn from it and write an article; and when the article is finished I lose always at least a day, and often several days, before I get well into swing with the book again. My natural tendency is to take up one task, and peg away at it till it is done."
At Roberts Brothers' request, Mr. Hamerton had agreed to write a translation of Renan's notice of his sister Henriette. However, he had to give it up, not being able to get answers to his letters from M. Ary Renan.
As he greatly appreciated the spirit and usefulness of the Institution of the Franco-English Guild, founded by Miss Williams, he wrote for its "Review" an article on "Languages and Peace," and intended to write others. There are some notes in the diary at this time which prove that he could find some effects to enjoy in Paris:—
"March 13th. Went with Stephen to see Mr. Barker. We went on a walk to the terrace at Meudon, where we joined wife and daughter and Raoul. Thence to a pond in the wood. Came back in the evening. Beautiful effects on the river."
"April 1st. Went to the Mont Valerien, and greatly enjoyed the views about it over Paris on one side, and the country on the other."
The best proof that my husband's nervous system was now strong and healthy, is that for the first time in his life he proposed that we should go together to the private view of the Champ de Mars to meet the President of the Republic. We had a card of invitation, and I was so happy to see him well, and to mark the respectful greetings which met him from all quarters, that I enjoyed the day thoroughly. He was perfectly calm the whole time, in contrast with the excitement surging around him, and at night he wrote in the diary:—
"We went, wife and I, to the Champ de Mars, and saw the President of the Republic arrive, and all the artistic notabilities who received him. After the lunch, saw the exhibition well, and selected two pictures for Scribner. Was much impressed by Tissot's 'Life of Christ.'
"We were much amused by the extravagance of the toilettes, particularly the feminine."
In April he called upon MM. Louis Deschamps and Checa for notes of a biographical kind. There was an instantaneous sympathy between him and M. Checa, who was very cordial and communicative, and who soon returned his visit. After the publication of the article concerning him, M. Checa wrote: "Je vous remercie tres vivement de cet article, surement le plus exact que l'on ait fait sur moi."
In the studio of M. Checa my husband had met an American artist, Mr. R. J. Wickenden, who lived at Auvers, and who, being well acquainted with his works, wished to paint a portrait of the author. During the sittings a friendship was formed between model and painter. The portrait was exhibited in America at Mr. Keppel's.
Mr. Hamerton having been invited to preside at a meeting and dinner of the Society of Illustrators, and to deliver a lecture on the history of their art, fixed an earlier date than he had intended for his proposed visit to London, to comply with their wishes.
He started alone on May 4, going by way of Dieppe, and wrote in the diary: "Capital passage. Enjoyed sea and color very much indeed."
On the 6th he wrote to M. Raillard that he was well enough, but that on arriving at Charing Cross the trunk containing his clothes was missing. He ended by saying: "And I have to preside over a dinner to-morrow! At all events I cannot do it in a flannel shirt!... I am in a pretty mess!"
He had almost decided to buy a ready-made suit in this emergency, when he recovered the lost trunk. After the dinner he wrote me a long account of it in French. The reception given him by the Illustrators had been most cordial. His speech had been delivered without nervousness or hesitation, and with the curious illusion that he was listening to somebody else.
There had been an animated debate on the grievances of the Illustrators, who complained of the small space allotted to the exhibition of their works in the Academy. They seemed disposed to sign a protest, when he had offered to go and see Sir Frederick Leighton, and to talk the subject over with him, as president of the meeting. He ended his letter with a promise to have his photograph taken on the morrow by Messrs. Elliott and Fry.
I was very glad of this decision about his portrait, for I had not a good likeness of him, except the fine photograph taken by Mr. Palmer; and of course since that time his features had altered. They retained their expression of intellectuality and dignity, softened, as it were, by the discipline and experience of years. Hitherto he had always resisted any attempt to publish his portrait among a series of celebrities; but this time he yielded to my entreaties; and he was afterwards satisfied to have done so, for the three photographs taken on the same day were all good likenesses. From the best of them was engraved—later—through the care and sympathy of Messrs. Scribner, the fine and striking portrait which appeared in their Magazine of February, 1895.
It was, I believe, a sort of unconscious presentiment which prompted my husband to see all his friends during this last visit to England. Knowing that he had so much pressing work on hand, I had been surprised by his decision to go to London so soon after his last journey, and still more to hear that he intended to go to Holmwood to make the acquaintance of Mr. C. Gould, the son of his cousin Anne; to Dorking, to see Mrs. Hamerton, of Hellifield Peel, and her married daughter; to Alresford, to stay a couple of days with Sir Seymour Haden and his wife; and then to Southampton, to call upon Mr. R. Leslie. All these arrangements surprised me exceedingly; but I came to the conclusion that my husband's health must be excellent, since he volunteered to undertake, with evident pleasure, what he would have dreaded to do some time ago.
Indeed, his letters expressed nothing but enjoyment from all these visits, and the keen interest he took in the Academy exhibition.
He was made very welcome by Sir Frederick Leighton, to whom he explained the grievances of the Illustrators, and who gave him a promise to do his best for them; and Mr. Hamerton was glad to think he might have been of use.
A singular occurrence happened shortly after his return. Friends, more particularly those who came from abroad, were often debarred from accepting his invitations on account of the distance between Paris and the Parc des Princes, and the consequent lateness of the hour when they could reach their home or hotel after dining at Clematis. Gilbert, therefore, had adopted a plan—much in use in the French capital—which consists in inviting friends to a conveniently situated restaurant, where the goodness of the cookery and attendance may be relied upon. It occurred to my husband to try the Terminus Hotel at the Gare du Havre, from which many travellers start for England; and he invited M. Raillard to test the place with him. They were both pleased with it, and left at about ten p.m. It was most fortunate that they did not remain much longer, for at eleven an explosion, caused by a dynamite bomb, wrecked the room in which they had dined, and wounded several people.
A long-deferred meeting with Mr. Frederick Harrison took place in June, and the day was spent in visiting the Louvre, Tuileries, Notre Dame, and the Hotel de Ville.
We had also been expecting with pleasant anticipations the visit of Mr. Niles, when we received the sad news of his death at Perugia, and learned that he had been in failing health for some years, and had decided to come to Europe for rest. My husband's regrets were very sincere. From time to time we had news of R. L. Stevenson; those received in a letter from Mr. R. A.M. Stevenson, in the course of the same mouth, were very pleasing.
"I heard from R. L. Stevenson a few weeks ago. He said: 'If you saw me here you would no longer question my wisdom in staying; you would not wonder at my preferring this life to that of Bournemouth.' In England he passed half his time in bed, the whole winter in the house, and he could never walk half-a-mile. Now he is out by six in the morning, sometimes bathes, and occasionally spends the whole day in the saddle. He was always fond of the open air, and though never strong, was a good walker, and, as you know, able to do a little boating. He often spoke to me of his visit to you at Autun."
The assassination of President Carnot, which occurred in June, grieved and horrified my husband as much as if he had been a Frenchman. He had the greatest respect for the scrupulous manner in which M. Carnot discharged all his duties, and admired the simple dignity with which he held the rank of First Citizen of a great nation. Being himself a Liberal—but a Moderate one—it had given him hopes for the stability of a Moderate-Liberal Republic, to see at the head of it the personification of unsuspected honesty and wise patriotism.
On the whole, he was satisfied with the choice of his successor, and amused by this phrase about M. Casimir-Perier in one of Mr. Seeley's letters: "I saw a portrait of the new French President lately. He looks a man not to be trifled with." The remark has been curiously justified since.
Having to go out so frequently now in the afternoons in order to see artists and pictures, my husband altered his rules of work, and devoted the whole of the mornings to literary composition, and the heat being very oppressive this summer, he worked better in the cooler time of day; yet I was rather afraid of the consequences when I saw him start for Paris with the thermometer standing at 88 deg. or 90 deg. almost every afternoon, but he maintained that it did him no harm.
On July 14—the Fete Nationale—Mr. Jaccaci having called with M. Vierge, Gilbert went back to dine with him in Paris and to see the fireworks. They were both struck by the extraordinary quietness of the great town, generally so merry and noisy at that date, but now subdued by respectful sympathy for the death of its late President.
Note in the diary: "Never saw streets of Paris so quiet before. Could cross easily anywhere. In Avenue de l'Opera could count people."
We had heard from M. Raillard that the reputation of his father-in-law was penetrating into Germany. He had seen some notices and reviews of his works, and in August a professor at the Zurich University sent this flattering letter:—
"Monsieur,—Je vais publier une petite bibliotheque francaise a l'usage des ecoles allemandes, avec des notes en francais. Le premier volume contiendra une forte partie du fameux livre de Tocqueville sur l'ancien regime et la revolution. Le second sera, si vous le permettez, compose d'extraits de votre excellent livre, 'Francais et Anglais,' traduction de M. Labouchere.
"Auriez-vous la bonte de me fournir quelques dates sur votre vie et sur vos autres ouvrages, que je pourrais utiliser pour l'introduction?"
Just at the time, when my husband was making extensive plans of work, justified as it seemed by the great improvement in his health, he was suddenly attacked by a new malady, which he believed to be asthma. There were no premonitory symptoms; he was as well as usual in the daytime, and even after going to bed, where he always read before going to sleep; but directly he fell asleep, he was suddenly aroused again by suffocation. In describing his sensations to me, he said it seemed as if breathing required—while in a waking state—a slight effort, which he made unconsciously, and this being discontinued when sleep arrived, produced suffocation. I attributed this painful state to a change in the working of his nervous system, and pressed him to see a doctor; but he was convinced that he was becoming asthmatic, and that there was no help for it.
Although he told me that if he had his choice in the matter, he would rather die than be condemned to a life of impotence, with perpetual cares and precautions, he bore his sufferings, or rather forebodings, with his accustomed courage and patience, and attempted to calm my apprehensions by affirming that, though his nights were disturbed, he could still get sleep out of bed, in an arm-chair, and now and then in the day-time when overpowered by fatigue. The various means of relief used by asthmatic people and recommended by different friends proving—without exception—utterly inefficacious for him, I attempted to console him by pointing out that asthma often manifested itself at very long intervals, and that, in general, the worst attacks were hardly more painful than those of gout. He answered that he could bear the pain of these attacks, but what he dreaded most was chronic asthma, which, by lowering his general health, would reduce him to an invalid state.
However, the worst symptoms soon subsided, and about three weeks after the first disturbance he was writing to Mr. Seeley: "I am much better, though my nights are still frequently interrupted. I require a great deal of exercise, more than I can find time for; the more exercise I take the better I am." And yet when, shortly afterwards, a specialist had to be called in, he declared that his patient "was completely overworked mentally and physically," and he ordered him to give up the velocipede altogether, and to restrict his walks to short distances and a leisurely pace.
I have never been able to understand how it was that physical exercise being so hurtful to Gilbert, he should invariably have felt benefited by it, so far as his sensations went.
The vacation had come round again, and the impossibility of realizing the pleasant plans we had formed obliged our children to alter theirs. Stephen went to London, and M. Raillard took his wife through Switzerland to Germany. They had frequently written on their way, and now told of their impressions of Freiburg, where they decided to remain three weeks.
I mentioned before that my husband's knowledge of places which he had never seen was surprising. In this instance he could induce Mary and her husband to believe that he had actually stayed where they were. The attempt amused him, and he read me the following letter before posting it:—
"19 aout 1894.
"Ma Chere et bonne fille,—Je t'aurais ecrit plus tot pour te souhaiter ta fete, qui est aujourd'hui, mais je n'esperais pas que ma lettre put te parvenir, comme tu etais en route. Je n'ai jamais pu savoir ce que souhaiter une fete voulait dire, mais si c'est quelque bien,—comme la sante, par exemple,—tu sais quels sont mes voeux; enfin je voudrais te savoir aussi heureuse que possible:
"Je ne trouve pas que la couleur de la cathedrale de Freiburg soit desagreable. Il est vrai que je prefere un gris argente, mais le ton chaud de Freiburg fait bien et il a gagne une certaine patine avec les annees. On m'a dit quand j'y etais que celle de Strasbourg a la meme couleur, mais je ne l'ai jamais vue. Quel bonheur pour Freiburg d'avoir tous ces petits ruisseaux qui nettoient les rues et qui viennent de la riviere Dreisam! Je n'admire pas plus que toi la tendance polychrome qu'on voit dans certains details de la ville.
"Avez-vous vu le chateau de Zahringen? Il est au nordest de Freiburg, a trois kilometres environ; c'est une promenade tres facile.
"Je me suis demande si a Baie vous vous etiez arretes a l'hotel des Trois-Rois. Il y a la un long balcon d'ou l'on voit le fort courant du Rhin qui passe sous l'ancien pont. Je me rappelle qu'a l'extremite de ce pont, du cote oppose, il y avait une brasserie ou, en buvant son verre de biere, on pouvait regarder l'eau qui coulait toujours, et si vite.
"A Lucerne, j'ai vu egalement couler la Reuss sous l'ancien pont ou l'on voit la Danse de la Mort. Mr. Macgregor a ose descendre cette riviere (qui est un torrent tres dangereux plus bas) en perissoire. Ce n'est pas moi qui essaierai.
"Je continue a mieux aller, je puis maintenant m'endormir assez facilement, et je reste generalement dans mon lit toute la nuit, mais pas toujours. Mon sommeil est souvent interrompu, mais vite repris. En somme grand progres.
"Bonne-maman va beaucoup mieux aussi, elle prend de la Kola qui lui fait, parait-il, grand bien.
"Stephen a regagne l'appetit et part vendredi pour Londres.
"Mes meilleures amities a Raoul, et tous mes souhaits pour un bon sejour a Lucerne, cet endroit si ravissant!
To the infinite amusement of "Vieux Papa," his daughter answered immediately, "We never knew that you had been at Freiburg," etc., etc.
In the course of August my husband had the pleasure of becoming personally acquainted with Mr. Scribner, who called upon him in the company of Mr. Jaccaci.
The improvement in Gilbert's state did not last. We renewed our entreaties about having a doctor's advice, and he yielded.
The great physician whom we called in declared it was weakness of the heart—due to overwork—that his patient was suffering from, and not asthma. He promised to set him up again in four months with his prescriptions.
Strange to say, Gilbert was greatly relieved to hear that his case was hypertrophy of the heart rather than asthma—for me it was the dreaded confirmation of fears that had long haunted me; still, we both derived hope and encouragement from the doctor's assurance of an ultimate cure. I cannot say that we really believed in a total cure, but we thought it possible to recover the former state of health which had preceded the attacks of suffocation. "I have not felt old, hitherto," my husband said, "certainly not more than if I had been only fifty; but the fact is, I am now sixty, and therefore must be prepared to face the advent of old age. I will submit to any privation for the sake of health, though it seems hard to be deprived of exercise. It is singular that my mental state should be clearer and more vigorous than ever before, and that my work should be easier and more enjoyable than at any former time."
Mr. Seeley had written:—
"What a good thing you called in this Parisian doctor! It might have been serious if you had gone on taking strong exercise in your present state of health.
"I can quite understand your feeling of relief that at any rate it is not asthma. Perhaps when you take less exercise the gout may return, and the heart be relieved at once. That the doctor confidently promises a cure in a few months is a great satisfaction to us."
The good results of the prescribed regimen were soon experienced, and I hailed—not unhopefully—the return of an attack of gout, predicted by Mr. Seeley, which I feared less for Gilbert than the heart troubles. The doctor had said, after hearing that the gout had almost entirely disappeared, "You have made a bad bargain in exchanging gout for hypertrophy."
This is what my husband himself wrote to his friend:—
"The worst of me just now for making inquiries, is that on getting up this morning I found I had an attack of gout in my right knee. Hitherto it is only slight (I write at two p.m.), but I cannot bend it without considerable pain, so I must wait till to-morrow at any rate, before trying to go to Paris. It is quite possible that the attack may be very slight, but it is also possible that I may be laid up by it. However this may be, I will of course keep your letter, and do all in my power to help in the present emergency.
"Many thanks for your very kind letter about my doctor's visit. I wish I had known him ten years sooner. He is most scrupulously observant of things as they really are, and does not set off, as doctors often do, from a preconceived notion of his own. The results of the regimen are already beneficial. My nights have been gradually improving since it began. Last night I slept perfectly till about two in the morning, and then awoke without any suffocation, and soon fell asleep again, remaining quiet with good breathing till half-past six. About a week since I could not sleep at all, being immediately awakened by suffocation every time I began to drop off.
"Please thank Mrs. Seeley on my part and my wife's for her kind sympathy, which we know is most sincere. Tell her I regret to have called you her teetotal husband, as I am no better myself. Nay, it is you who have the advantage of me with your two glasses of claret, which I call downright intemperance." (He was allowed to drink nothing but milk.)
Our children feeling uneasy still, and anxious about the state of their father, cut their journey rather short to be back again with him. M. Raillard wished to see Sens in coming back, and the house we had lived in there. So his father-in-law sent him some information about the place, and added:—
"Ne manquez pas surtout de voir l'interieur de la Salle Synodale qui est peut-etre la plus belle salle gothique du monde apres celle de Westminster. Le tresor de la Cathedrale est interessant.