Out so late dancing, Wednesday and Thursday nights, or rather mornings, that I had no time for journal-writing. What a life I do lead!
Friday, May 13th.—At twelve o'clock to Bridgewater House for our first rehearsal of "Hernani." Lady Francis wants us to go down to them at Oatlands. I should like of all things to see Weybridge once more; there's many a nook and path in those woods that I know better than their owners. The rehearsal lasted till three, and was a tolerably tidy specimen of amateur acting. Mr. Craven is really very good, and I shall like to act with him very much, and Mr. St. Aubin is very fair. Was introduced to Mrs. Bradshaw, whose looks rather disappointed me, because she "did contrive to make herself look so beautiful" on the stage, in Clari and Mary Copp and everything she did; I suppose her exquisite acting got into her face, somehow. Henry Greville is delightful, and I like him very much. When we left Bridgewater House we drove to my aunt Siddons's. Every time I see that magnificent ruin some fresh decay makes itself apparent in it, and one cannot but feel that it must soon totter to its fall.
What a price she has paid for her great celebrity!—weariness, vacuity, and utter deadness of spirit. The cup has been so highly flavored that life is absolutely without savor or sweetness to her now, nothing but tasteless insipidity. She has stood on a pinnacle till all things have come to look flat and dreary; mere shapeless, colorless, level monotony to her. Poor woman! what a fate to be condemned to, and yet how she has been envied, as well as admired!
After dinner had only just time to go over my part and drive to the theater. My dear, delightful Portia! The house was good, but the audience dull, and I acted dully to suit them; but I hope my last dress, which was beautiful, consoled them. What with sham business and real business, I have had a busy day.
Saturday, May 14th.—Received a note from Theodosia [Lady Monson], and a whole cargo of delicious flowers from Cassiobury. She writes me that poor old Foster [an old cottager who lived in Lord Essex's park and whom my friend and I used to visit] is dying. The last I saw of that "Old Mortality" was sitting with him one bright sunset under his cottage porch, singing to him and dressing his hat with flowers, poor old man! yet after walking this earth upward of ninety-seven years the spirit as well as the flesh must be weary. His cottage will lose half its picturesqueness without his figure at the door; I wonder who will take care now of the roses he was so fond of, and the pretty little garden I used to forage in for lilies of the valley and strawberries! I shall never see him again, which makes me sad; I was often deeply struck by the quaint wisdom of that old human relic, and his image is associated in my thoughts with evening walks and summer sunsets and lovely flowers and lordly trees, and he will haunt Cassiobury always to me. I went with my mother to buy my dresses for "Hernani," which will cost me a fortune and a half.
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, Saturday. MY DEAREST H——,
You see I have taken your advice, and, moreover, your paper, in order that, in spite of the dispersion of Parliament and the unattainability of franks, our correspondence may lose nothing in bulk, though it must in frequency. I think you are behaving very shabbily in not writing to me. Are you consulting your own pleasure, or my purse? I dedicate so much of my income to purposes which go under the head of "money thrown away;" don't you think the cost of our correspondence may be added to that without seriously troubling my conscience? What shall I say to you? "Reform" is on the tip of my pen, and great as are our private matters of anxiety, they scarcely outweigh in our minds the national interest that is engrossing almost every thinking person throughout the country. You know I am no politician, and my shallow causality and want of adequate information alike unfit me from understanding, much less discussing, public questions of great importance; but the present crisis has aroused me to intense interest and anxiety about the course events are taking. You can have no conception of the state of excitement prevailing in London at this moment. The scene in the House of Lords immediately preceding the dissolution the papers will have described to you, though if the spectators and participators in it may be believed, the tumult, the disorder, the Billingsgate uproar on that occasion would not be easy to describe. Lord Londonderry, it seems, thought that the days of faust-recht had come back again, and I fancy more than he are of that opinion.
An illumination was immediately ordered by the Lord Mayor Donkin (or key, as "t'other side" call him); but, owing to the shortness of the notice he gave, it seems the show of light was not satisfactory to the tallow chandler part of the population, so another was appointed two nights after. My mother and the two Harrys went out in the open carriage to drive through the streets. I was depressed and disinclined for sight-seeing, and did not go, which I regretted afterward, as all strong exhibitions of public feeling are curious and interesting. They say the crowd was immense in all the principal thoroughfares, and of the lowest order. They testified their approbation of the various illuminated devices by shouts and hurrahs and applause; their displeasure against the various non-illuminators was more violently manifested by assailing their houses and breaking their windows.
Sundry were the glass sacrifices offered at the shrine of consistent Tory patriotism at the West End of the town. The mottoes and sentences on some of the illuminations were noteworthy for their democratic flavor: "The king and the people," "The people of England," "The glorious dissolution," "The glorious reform," "The people and the press," "The people's triumph." A man who seemed by his dress to belong to the very lowest class (a cross apparently between a scavenger and a rag-seller), with a branch of laurel waving in his tattered hat, stopped before this last sentence and exclaimed, "No—they don't yet; but they will."
I have been having quite a number of holidays at the theater lately. They have brought out a comedy in which I do not play, and are going to bring out a sort of historical melodrama on the life of Bonaparte, so that I think I shall have easy work, if that succeeds, for the rest of the season. I have just finished correcting the proof-sheets of "Francis I.," and think it looks quite pretty in print, and have dedicated it to my mother, which I hope will please her....
Dear H——, this is Saturday, the 14th, and 'tis now exactly three weeks since I began this letter. I know not what you will think of this, but, indeed, I am almost worn out with the ceaseless occupations of one sort and another that are crowded into every day, and the impossibility of commanding one hour's quiet out of the twenty-four....
I am afraid we shall not come to Ireland this summer, after all, my dear H——. The Dublin manager and my father have not come to terms, and I hear Miss Inverarity (a popular singer) is engaged there, so that I conclude we shall not act there this season. This is so great a disappointment to me that I cannot say anything whatever about it. I have been acting Lady Teazle for Mr. Bartley and my father's benefit. It seems to have pleased the public very well. Without caring for it much myself, I find it light and amusing work, and much easier for me than Lady Townley, because it is a natural and that an entirely artificial character; the whole tone and manners, too, of Sheridan's rustic belle are much more within my scope than those of the woman of fashion of Sir John Vanbrugh's play.
On Friday we had our first rehearsal of "Hernani," at Bridgewater House, and I was greatly surprised with some of the acting, which, allowing for a little want of technical experience, was, in Mr. Craven's instance, really very good. He is the grandson of old Lady Craven, the Margravine of Anspach, and enacts the hero of the piece, which I think he will do very well. The whole play, I think, will be fairly acted for an amateur performance. Lord and Lady Francis have pressed my mother very much to go down for a little while to Oatlands, the beautiful place close to Weybridge, which belonged to the Duke of York, and of which they have taken a lease. My mother has accepted their invitation, and looks forward with great pleasure to revisiting her dear Weybridge. I know a good deal more of that lovely neighborhood and all its wild haunts than the present proprietors of Oatlands. Lady Francis is a famous horsewoman, and told me by way of inducement to go there that we would gallop all over the country together, which sounded very pleasant....
I called on my aunt Siddons the other day, and was shocked to find her looking wretchedly ill; she has not yet got rid of the erysipelas in her legs, and complained of intense headache. Poor woman! she suffers dreadfully.... Cecilia's life has been one enduring devotion and self-sacrifice. I cannot help wishing, for both their sakes, that the period of her mother's infirmity and physical decay may be shortened. I received a charming letter from Theodosia yesterday, accompanying a still more charming basketful of delicious flowers from dear Cassiobury—how much nicer they are than human beings! I don't believe I belong to man (or woman) kind, I like so many things—the whole material universe, for example—better than what one calls one's fellow-creatures. She told me that old Foster (you remember the old cottager in Cassiobury Park) was dying. The news contrasted sadly with the sweet, fresh, living blossoms that it came with. The last time that I saw that old man I sat with him under his porch on a bright sunny evening, talking, laughing, winding wreaths round his hat, and singing to him, and that is the last I shall ever see of him. He was a remarkable old man, and made a strong impression on my fancy in the course of our short acquaintance. There was a strong and vivid remnant of mind in him surviving the contest with ninety and odd years of existence; his manner was quaint and rustic without a tinge of vulgarity; he is fastened to my memory by a certain wreath of flowers and sunset light upon the brook that ran in front of his cottage, and the smell of some sweet roses that grew over it, and I shall never forget him.
I went to the opera the other night and saw Pasta's "Medea" for the first time. I shall not trouble you with any ecstasies, because, luckily for you, my admiration for her is quite indescribable; but I have seen grace and majesty as perfect as I can conceive, and so saying I close my account of my impressions. I fancied I was slightly disappointed in Taglioni, whose dancing followed Pasta's singing, but I suppose the magnificent tragical performance I had just witnessed had numbed as it were my power of appreciation of her grace and elegance, and yet she seemed to me like a dancing flower; so you see I must have like her very much.
God bless you, dear; pray write to me very soon. I want some consolation for not seeing you, nor the dear girls, nor the sea. I could think of that fresh, sparkling, fresh looking, glassy sea till I cried for disappointment.
Ever yours, F. A. K.
The Miss Inverarity mentioned in this letter was a young Scotch singer of very remarkable talent and promise, who came out at Covent Garden just at this time. She was one of the tallest women I ever saw, and had a fine soprano voice as high as herself, and sang English music well. She was a very great favorite during the short time that I remember her on the stage.
MY DEAREST H——,
My mother has just requested me to talk with A—— about her approaching first communion, and it troubles me because I fear I cannot do so satisfactorily to her (I mean my mother) and myself. I think my feeling about the sacrament, or rather the preparation necessary for receiving it, is different from hers. It is not so much to me an awful as a merciful institution. One goes to the Lord's Table because one is weak and wicked and wretched, not because one is, or even has striven to be, otherwise. A holy reverence for the holy rite is indispensable, but not, I think, such a feeling as would chill us with fear, or cast us down in despondency. The excess of our poverty and humility is our best claim to it, and therefore, though the previous "preparations," as it is rather technically called, may be otherwise beneficial, it does not seem to me necessary, much less indispensable. Our Lord did not say, "Cleanse yourselves, amend yourselves, strip yourselves of your own burdens and come to me;" but, "Come to me and I will cleanse you, I will cure you, I will help you and give you rest." It is remembering this that I venture to take the sacrament, but I know other people, and I believe my mother among them, think a much more specific preparation necessary, and I am afraid, therefore, that I might not altogether meet my mother's views in what I might say to A—— upon the subject. I wish you would tell me what your opinion and feeling is about this.
Your affectionate F. A. K.
Sunday, May 15th.—Walked home from church with Mrs. Montagu and Emily and Mrs. Procter, discussing among various things the necessity for "preparation" before taking the sacrament. I suppose the publican in the parable had not prepared his prayer, and I suppose he would have been a worthy communicant.
They came in and sat a long time with my mother talking about Sir Thomas Lawrence, of whom she spoke as a perfect riddle. I think he was a dangerous person, because his experience and genius made him delightfully attractive, and the dexterity of his flattery amounted in itself to a fine art. The talk then fell upon the possibility of friendship existing between men and women without sooner or later degenerating, on one part or the other, into love. The French rhymster sings—
"Trop tot, helas, l'amour s'enflamme, Et je sens qu'il est mal aise; Que l'ami d'une belle dame, Ne soit un amant deguise."
My father came in while the ladies were still here, and Mrs. Procter behaved admirably well about her husband's play....
I do think it is too bad of the management to have made use of my name in rejecting that piece, when, Heaven knows, so far from rejecting, I never even object to anything I am bidden to do; that is, never visibly or audibly....
Mrs. P—— called, and the talk became political and lugubriously desponding, and I suddenly found myself inspired with a contradictory vein of hopefulness, and became vehement in its defense. In spite of all the disastrous forebodings I constantly have, I cannot but trust that the spread of enlightenment and general progress of intelligence in the people of this country—the good judgment of those who have power and the moderation of those who desire improvement—will effect a change without a crash and achieve reform without revolution.
Wednesday, May 18th.—My mother and I started at two o'clock for Oatlands. The day was very enjoyable, for the dust and mitigated east wind were in our backs; the carriage was open, and the sun was almost too powerful, though the earth has not yet lost its first spring freshness, nor the trees, though full fledged, their early vivid green. The turf has not withered with the heat, and the hawthorn lay thick and fragrant on every hedge, like snow that the winter had forgotten to melt, and the sky above was bright and clear, and I was very happy. I had taken "The Abbot" with me, which I had never read; but my mother did not sleep, so we chatted instead of my reading. She recalled all our former times at Weybridge. It was a great pleasure to retrace this well-known road, and again to see dear old Walton Bridge and the bright, broad Thames, with the noble chestnut trees on its banks, the smooth, smiling fields stretching beyond it, and the swans riding in such happy majesty on its bosom. I really think I do deserve to live in the country, it is so delightsome to me. We reached Oatlands an hour before dinner-time and found the party just returned from riding. We sauntered through part of the grounds to the cemetery of the Duchess of York's dogs.... We had some music in the evening. Lady Francis sang and I sang, and was frightened to death, as I always am when asked to do so....
Thursday, 19th.—A bright sunny morning, the trees all bowing and bending, and the water chafing and crisping under a fresh, strong, but not cold, wind. I lost my way in the park and walked toward Walton, thinking I was going to Weybridge, but, discovering my mistake, turned about, and crossing the whole park came out upon the common and our old familiar cricketing ground. I flew along the dear old paths to our little cottage, but "Desolate was the dwelling of Morna"—the house closed, the vine torn down, the grass knee-deep, the shrubs all trailing their branches and blossoms in disorderly luxuriance on the earth, the wire fence broken down between the garden and the wood, the gate gone; the lawn was sown with wheat, and the little pine wood one tangled maze, without path, entrance, or issue. I ran up the mound to where John used to stand challenging the echo with his bugle....
O tempo passato!—the absent may return and the distant be brought near, the dead be raised and in another world rejoin us, but a day that is gone is gone, and all eternity can give us back no single minute of the past! I gathered a rose and some honeysuckle from the poor disheveled shrubs for my mother, and ran back to Oatlands to breakfast. After breakfast we went over "Hernani," with Mrs. Sullivan for prompter, and when that was over everybody went out walking; but I was too tired with my morning's tramp, and sat under a tree on the lawn reading a very good little book on the sacrament, which went over the ground of my late discussion with Mrs. Montagu and Mrs. Procter on the subject of "preparation" for taking it.
After lunch there was a general preparation for riding, and just as we were all mounted it began to rain, and persevered till, in despair, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan rode off without our promised escort. Mr. C—— arrived just as we had disequipped, and the gentlemen all dispersed. Lady Francis and I sang together for some time, and suddenly the clouds withholding their tears, she and I, in one of those instants of rapid determination which sometimes make or mar a fate, tore on our habits again, jumped on our horses, and galloped off together over the park. We had an enchanting, gray, soft afternoon, with now and then a rain-drop and sigh of wind, like the last sob of a fit of crying. The earth smelt deliriously fresh, and shone one glittering, sparkling, vivid green. Our ride was delightful, and we galloped back just in time to dress for dinner.
In the evening, sauntering on the lawn and pleasant, bright talk indoors. Lord John (the present venerable Earl Russell) would be quite charming if he wasn't so afraid of the rain. I do not think he is made of sugar, but, politically, perhaps he is the salt of the earth; he certainly succeeds in keeping himself dry.
Friday, Oatlands.—Walked out before breakfast; the night's rain had refreshed the earth and revived every growing thing, the east wind had blown itself away, and a warm, delicious western breeze came fluttering fitfully over the new-mown lawn. After breakfast we rehearsed Mr. Craven's and Captain Shelley's and my scenes in "Hernani." I think they will do very well if they do not shy at the moment of action, or rather acting. We had some music, and then the gentlemen went out shooting. I took "The Abbot" and established myself on a hay-cock, leaving Lady Francis to her own indoor devices. By and by the whole party came out, and we sat on the lawn laughing and talking till the gentlemen's carriage was announced, and our rival heroes took their departure for town, cheek by jowl, in a pretty equipage of Mr. Craven's, in the most amicable mood imaginable. As soon as they were off we mounted and rode out, past our old cottage, down by Brooklands, through the second wood, and by the Fairies' Oak. O Lord King, Lord King (we were riding through the property of the Earl of Lovelace, then Lord King), if I was one of those bishops whom you do not love, I would curse, excommunicate, and anathematize you for cutting down all those splendid trees and laying bare those deep, dark, leafy nooks, the haunts of a thousand "Midsummer Night's Dreams," to the common air and the staring sun. The sight of the dear old familiar paths brought the tears to my eyes, for, stripped and thinned of their trees and robbed of their beauty, my memory restored all their former loveliness. On we went down to Byefleet to the mill, to Langton's through the sweet, turfy meadows, by hawthorn hedges musical as sweet, over the picturesque little bridge and along that deep, dark, sleepy water flowing so silently in its sullen smoothness. On we went a long way over a wide common, where the coarse-grained peaty earth and golden glory of the flowering gorse reminded me of Suffolk's motto—
"Cloth of gold, do not despise That thou art mix'd with cloth of frieze; Cloth of frieze, be not too bold That thou art mix'd with cloth of gold."
Back by St. George's Hill, snatching many a leaf and blossom as I rode to carry back to A—— mementoes of our dear Weybridge days, and so home by half-past seven, just time to dress for dinner. As we rode along, Lord Francis and I discussed poets and poetry in general—more particularly Byron, Keats, and Shelley; it was a very pretty and proper discourse for such a ride.
In the evening heard all manner of delicious ghost stories; afterward made music, Lady Francis and I trying all sorts of duets, my mother keeping up a "humming" third and Lord Francis listening and applauding with equal zeal and discretion....
Saturday, May 21st.—My brother John come home from Spain....
Sunday, 22d.—What a very odd process dreaming is! I dreamt in the night that John had come home, and flung myself out of bed in my sleep to run downstairs to him, which naturally woke me; and then I remembered that he was come home and that I had seen and welcomed him, which it seems to me I might as well have dreamed too while I was about it, and saved myself the jump out of bed. I hate dreaming; it's like being mad—having one's brain work without the control of one's will.
Dear A—— took the sacrament for the first time at the Swiss church. On my return from church in the afternoon found Sir Ralph and Lady Hamilton and Don Telesforo de Trueba. I like that young Spaniard; he's a clever man. It was such fun his telling me all the story of the Star of Seville, little imagining I had just perpetrated a five-act tragedy on that identical subject.
Tuesday, May 24th.—Drove down to Clint's studio to see Cecilia's (Siddons's) portrait. It's a pretty picture of a "fine piece of a woman," as the Italians say, but it has none of the very decided character of her face....
Wednesday, May 25th.—After dinner went over my part, dressed and set off for Bridgewater House for our dressed rehearsal of "Hernani." Found the stage in a state of unfinish, the house topsy-turvy, and every body to the right and left. Sat for an hour in the drawing-room while our very specially small and select audience arrived. Then heard Lady Francis, Henry Greville, Mrs. Bradshaw, and Mr. Mitford try their glee—one of Moore's melodies arranged for four voices—which they sang at the top of their lungs in order to hear themselves, while the carpenters and joiners hammered might and main at the other end of the gallery finishing the theater.
About nine they were getting under way, and we presently began the rehearsal. The dresses were all admirable; they (not the clothes, but the clothes pegs) were all horribly frightened. I was a little nervous and rather sad, and I felt strange among all those foolish lads, taking such immense delight in that which gives me so very little, dressing themselves up and acting. To be sure, "nothing pleaseth but rare accidents." Mr. M——, our prompter, thought fit by way of prompting to keep up a rumbling bass accompaniment to our speaking by reading every word of the play aloud, as the singers are prompted at the opera house, which did not tend much to our assistance. Everything went very smoothly till an unlucky young "mountaineer" rushed on the stage and terrified me and Hernani half to death by inarticulating some horrible intelligence of the utmost importance to us, which his fright rendered quite incomprehensible. He stood with his arms wildly spread abroad, stuttering, sputtering, madly ejaculating and gesticulating, but not one articulate word could he get out. I thought I should have exploded with laughter, but as the woman said who saw the murder, "I knew I mustn't (faint), and I didn't." With this trifling exception it all went off very well. Either I was fagged with my morning's ride or the constitution of the gallery is bad for the voice; I never felt so exhausted with the mere effort of speaking, and thought I should have died prematurely and in earnest in the last scene, I was so tired. When it was over we adjourned with Lord and Lady Francis and the whole dramatis personae to Mrs. W——'s magnificent house and splendid supper....
While we were at table everybody suddenly stood up, my mother and myself reverently with the rest, when the whole company drank my health, and I collapsed down into my chair as red and as limp as a skein of scarlet wool, and my mother with some confusion expressed my obligation and her own surprise at the compliment. I talked a good deal to Captain Shelley, who is a nice lad, and, considering his beauty, and the admiration bestowed on him by all the fine ladies in London, remarkably unaffected. We are asked down to Oaklands again, and I hope my work at the theater will allow of my going. What a shocking mess those young gentlemen actors did make of their greenroom this evening, to be sure! rouge, swords, wine, mustaches, soda water, and cloaks strewed in every direction. I wonder what they would say to the drawing-room decorum of our Covent Garden greenroom.
Thursday, May 26th.—Tried on dresses with Mrs. Phillips, and talked all the while about the characteristics of Shakespeare's women with Mrs. Jameson, who had come to see me. I pity her from the bottom of my heart; she has a heavy burden to carry, poor woman.... Went in the evening to rather a dull dinner, after which, however, I had the pleasure of hearing Mrs. Frere sing, which she did very charmingly, and so as quite to justify her great society musical reputation. After our dinner at the F——s' we went to Mrs. W——'s evening party, where I sat alone, heard somebody sing a song, was introduced to a man, spoke incoherently to several people, got up, was much jostled in a crowd of human beings, and came home—and that's society. We are asked to a great supper at Chesterfield House, after a second representation which is to be given of "Hernani." My mother thinks it is too much exertion and dissipation for me, and as it is not a ball I do not care to go.
Friday, May 27th.—At eight o'clock drove with my mother to Bridgewater House. We went into the library, where there was nobody, and Lady Francis, Henry Greville, and Lady Charlotte came and sat with us. I was literally crying with fright. Lady Francis took me to my dressing-room, my mother rouged me, blessed me, and went off to join the audience assembled in the great gallery. I went over my part once and my room a hundred times in every direction. At nine they began; the audience very wisely were totally in the dark, which threw out the brilliantly illuminated stage to great advantage, and considering that they were the finest folk in England they behaved remarkably well—listened quietly and attentively, and applauded like Covent Garden galleries. It all went well except poor Mr. Craven's first speech, in which he got out. I don't know whether Lady L—— was among the spectators, and gave him des eblouissements. It all went off admirably, however, and oh, how glad I was when it was over!
Saturday, May 28th.—I was awakened by a basket of flowers from Cassiobury, and a letter from Theodosia. Old Foster is dead. I wish he might be buried near the cottage. I should like to know where to think of his resting-place, poor old man!...
In the evening Mrs. Jameson, the Fitzhughs, R—— P——, and a Mr. K——, a friend of John's, and sundry and several came.... We acted charades, and they all went away in high good humor.
Sunday, May 29th.—An "eternal, cursed, cold, and heavy rain," as Dante sings. My mother, A——, and I went to the Swiss church; the service is shorter and more unceremonious than I like; that sitting to sing God's praise, and standing to pray to Him, is displeasing to all my instincts of devotion.
After church my mother was reading Milton's treatise on Christian doctrine, and read portions of it aloud to me. I always feel afraid of theological or controversial writings, and yet the faith that shrinks from being touched lest it should totter is certainly not on the right foundation. I suppose we ought, on the contrary, to examine thoroughly the reason of the faith that is in us. Declining reading upon religious subjects may be prudent, but it may be indolence, cowardice, or lack of due interest in the matter. I think I must read that treatise of Milton's.
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, May 29th, 1831. MY DEAREST H——,
I have but little time for letter-writing, getting daily "deeper and deeper still" in the incessant occupations of one sort and another that crowd upon and almost overwhelm me; and now my care is not so much whether I shall have time to write you a long letter, as how I shall get leisure to write to you at all. You complain that, in spite of the present interest I profess in public affairs, I have given you no details of my opinion about them—my hopes or fears of the result of the Reform movement. I have other things that I care more to write to you about than politics, and am chary of my space, because, though I can cross my letter, I can only have one sheet of paper. "The Bill," modified as it now is, has my best prayers and wishes, for to say that the removal of certain abuses will not give the people bread which they expect is nothing against it; but, at the same time that I sincerely hope this measure will be carried, I cannot conceive what Government will do next, for though trade is at this moment prosperous, great poverty and discontent exist among large classes of the people, and as soon as these needy folk find out that Reform is really not immediate bread and cheese and beer, they will seek something else which they may imagine will be those desired items of existence, and that is what it may be difficult to give them. In the mean time party spirit here has reached a tremendous pitch; old friendships are broken up and old intimacies cease; former cordial acquaintances refuse to meet each other, houses are divided, and the dearest relations disturbed, if not destroyed. Society is become a sort of battle-field, for every man (and woman too) is nothing if not political. In fact, there really appears to be no middle or moderating party, which I think strange and to be deplored. It seems as if it were a mere struggle between the nobility and the mobility, and the middle-class—that vast body of good sense, education, and wealth, and efficient to hold the beam even between the scales—throws itself man by man into one or the other of them, and so only swells the adverse parties on each side.
Parliament meets again in a few days, and then comes the tug of war. Lord John Russell was at Oatlands while we were there, and as the Francis Egertons and their guests were all anti-Reformers, they led him rather a hard life. He bore all their attacks with great good humor, however, and with the well-satisfied smile of a man who thinks himself on the right, and knows himself on the safe side, and wisely forbore to reply to their sallies. Our visit there was delightful.
As the distance is but one and twenty miles, my mother and I posted down in the open carriage. The only guests we found on our arrival were Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan (she is a daughter of Lady Dacre's, and a charming person), Lord John Russell, and two of our corps dramatique, Mr. Craven and Captain Shelley, son of Sir John Shelley, a handsome, good-humored, pleasant young gentleman, who acts Charles V. in "Hernani." I got up very early the first morning I was there and went down before breakfast to our little old cottage. In the lane leading to it I met a poor woman who lived near us, and whom we used to employ. I spoke to her, but she did not know me again. I wonder if these four years can have changed me so much? The tiny house had not been inhabited since we lived there.... My aunt Siddons is better, and Cecy very well.
Your affectionate F. A. K.
[The beautiful domain of Oatlands was only rented at this time by Lord Francis Egerton, who delighted so much in it that he made overtures for the purchase of it. The house was by no means a good one, though it had been the abode of royalty; but the park was charming, and the whole neighborhood, especially the wooded ranges of St. George's Hill, extremely wild and picturesque.... Lord Francis Egerton bought St. George's Hill, at the foot of which he built Hatchford, Lady Ellesmere's charming dower house and residence after his death, and the house of Oatlands became a country inn, very pleasant to those who had never known it as the house of former friends, and therefore did not meet ghosts in all its rooms and garden walks; and the park was cut up into small villa residences and rascally inclined citizen's boxes. Hatchford, the widowed home of Lady Ellesmere and burial-place of her brother, to whose memory she erected there an elaborate mausoleum, has passed out of the family possessions and become the property of strangers. One son of the house lives on St. George's Hill, and has his home where I have so often drawn rein while riding with his father and mother to look over the wild, wooded slopes to the smiling landscape stretching in sunny beauty far below us.]
Monday, May 30th. ... The Francis Egertons called, and sat a long time discussing "Hernani." ... I must record such a good pun of his, which he only, alas, dreamt. He dreamt Lord W—— came up to him, covered with gold chains and ornaments of all sorts, and that he had called him the "Chain Pier." ... In the evening to Bridgewater House. As soon as we arrived, I went to my own private room, and looked over my part. We began at nine. Our audience was larger than the last time. The play went off extremely well; we were all improved. I was very anxious to play well, for the Archbishop of York was in the front row, and he (poor gentleman!) had never had the happiness of seeing me, the play-house being forbidden ground to him. [This seems rather inconsistent, as all the lesser clergy at this time frequented the theater without fear or reproach. Dr. Hughes, the Very Reverend Prebend of St. Paul's, Milman, Harness, among our own personal friends, were there constantly, not to speak of my behind-the-scenes acquaintance, the Rev. A.F.] I should like to seduce an old Archbishop into a liking for the wickedness of my mystery, so I did my very best to edify him, according to my kind and capacity.... At the end of the play, as I lay dead on the stage, the king (Captain Shelley) was cutting three great capers, like Bayard on his field of battle, for joy his work was done, when his pretty dancing shoes attracted, in spite of my decease, my attention, and I asked, with rapidly reviving interest in existence, what they meant, on which I was informed that the supper at Mrs. Cunliffe's was indeed a ball. I jumped up from the dead, hurried off my stage robes, and hurried on my private apparel, and followed my mother into the saloon. Here I had delightful talk (though I believe I was dancing on my mind's feet all the while) with Lord John Russell, Miss Berry, Lady Charlotte Lindsay, and that charming person, James Wortley, and I got a glimpse of Lord O——'s lovely face, who is a beautiful creature. After being duly stared at by the crowds of my exalted fellow-beings who filled the room, Lady Francis said she would send them away, and we adjourned to Mrs. Cunliffe's, and had a very fine ball; that is to say, we had neither room to dance, nor space to sit, nor power to move.
"Oh, pleasure is a very pleasant thing," as Byron sings and H—— for ever says, and certainly a good ball is a pleasant thing, and in spite of the above drawbacks I was enchanted with everything. Such shoals of partners! such nice people! such perfect music! such a delightful floor! Danced till the day had one eye wide open, and then home to bed—what a good thing it is to have one under the circumstances! I hope I have not been very tipsy to-night, but it is difficult with so many stimulants to keep quite sober. Broad daylight! Six o'clock!
Tuesday, May 21st.—My feet ache so with dancing that I can hardly stand. Did not some traditional princesses of German fairyland dance their shoes and stockings to pieces?
Going into the drawing-room I found my darling Dr. Combe there, and if I had not been so tired I must have made a jump at his neck, I was so very glad to see him. He brought me a letter from Mr. Combe, whom I love only one step lower. He sat with us but a short time, and leaves town to-morrow, which I am sorry for, first, because I should like to have seen him again so very much, and next, because I should have been glad that my mother became better acquainted with the mental charms and seductions of the man whose outward appearance seems to have allayed some of her apprehensions for the safety of my heart and those of my Edinburgh cousins. Mrs. W—— called soon after. She is intent upon my acting Mlle. Mar's part in "Henri Trois." I can do nothing with any French part in Covent Garden. If they can find a theater of half that size to get it up in, well and good; but seen from a distance, which defies discrimination of objects, a thistle is as good as a rose, and in that enormous frame refinement is mere platitude, and finish of detail an unnecessary minutia.
We went to the theater to see a new piece, I believe by Mrs. Norton. The pit and galleries were very indifferent; the dress circle and private boxes full of fine folk. Lady St. Maur (Georgiana Sheridan, Mrs. Norton's youngest sister, afterward Duchess of Somerset and Queen of Beauty) and her husband, with Corinne and Mr. Norton, in a box opposite ours. What a terrible piece! what atrocious situations and ferocious circumstances! tinkering, starving, hanging—like a chapter out of the Newgate Calendar. But, after all, she's in the right; she has given the public what they desire, given them what they like. Of course it made one cry horribly; but then of course one cries when one hears of people reduced by sheer craving to eat nettles and cabbage-stalks. Destitution, absolute hunger, cold and nakedness, are no more subjects for artistic representation than sickness, disease, and the real details of idiotcy, madness, and death. All art should be an idealized; elevated representation (not imitation) of nature; and when beggary and low vice are made the themes of the dramatist, as in this piece, or of the poet, as in the works of Crabbe, they seem to me to be clothing their inspirations in wood or lead, or some base material, instead of gold or ivory. The clay of the modeler is more real, but the marble of the sculptor is the clay glorified. In Crabbe's writings one has at least the comfort and consolation of a high moral sense, charming versification, and an occasional tender, exquisite expression of the beauties of nature. Our play to-night could not boast of these alleviations.
Wednesday, June 1st.—At the riding school saw Miss C——, who wants me to get the play changed at Covent Garden for this evening—"rien que cela!" What a fine thing it is to be "one of those people!" They fancy that anybody's business of any sort can be postponed to the first whim that enters their head. My mother came with Dr. Combe in the carriage to fetch me from the riding school. At home found a note from Lady Francis and the epilogue Lord Francis has written to "Hernani," which I am certainly bound to like, for it is highly complimentary to me.
I went to the real theater in the evening to do real work. The house was good, but I played like a wretch—ranted, roared, and acted altogether infamously. The fact was I was tired to death, and of course violence always has to supply the place of strength. Unluckily all the F——s were there, and I felt sorry for them. To be sure, they had never seen "The Hunchback" before, and I should think would heartily desire never to see it again; my performance was shameful.
Thursday, June 2d.—Mr. Hayter called. Lord Francis has spoken to him about the picture he wishes him to do of me, and he came to take the position, and I gave him his choice of three or four. I dare say he will make a very pretty picture. As for my likeness, that I am not hopeful about. I have gone through the operation in vain so very often. Murray has sent me some beautiful and delightful books.... A third representation of "Hernani" is called for, it seems, and, as far as I am concerned, they are welcome to it; but Lady Francis came to say that the Duchess of Gloucester wants it to be acted on the 23d, and I am afraid that will not do for my theater arrangements; they must try and have it earlier, if possible. Lady Francis has half bribed me with a ball. They want us to go down to Oatlands for Saturday and Sunday, and I hope we may be able to manage it.... After Lady F—— was gone, my mother had a visit from Mrs. B——; her manner is bad, her matter is good. She is clever and excellent, and I have a great respect for her. She interested me immensely by her account of Mrs. Fry's visits to Newgate. What a blessed, happy woman to do so much good; to be the means of comfort and consolation, perhaps of salvation, to such desolate souls! How I did honor and love what I heard of her. Mrs. B—— said Mrs. Fry would be delighted to take me with her some day when she went to the prison. My mother laughingly said she was afraid Mrs. Fry would convert me—surely not to Quakerism. I do not think I need a new faith, but power to act up to the one I profess. I need no Quaker saint to tell me I do not do that.
[I had the great honor of accompanying Mrs. Fry in one of her visits to Newgate, but from various causes received rather a painful impression instead of the very different one I had anticipated. Her divine labor of love had become famous, and fine ladies of fashion pressed eagerly to accompany her, or be present at the Newgate exhortations. The unfortunate women she addressed were ranged opposite their less excusable sister sinners of the better class, and I hardly dared to look at them, so entirely did I feel out of my place by the side of Mrs. Fry, and so sick for their degraded attitude and position. If I had been alone with them and their noble teacher I would assuredly have gone and sat down among them. On the day I was there a poor creature sat in the midst of the congregation attired differently from all the others, who was pointed out to me as being under sentence of transportation for whatever crime she committed. Altogether I felt broken-hearted for them and ashamed for us.]
My mother has had a letter from my father (he was acting in the provinces), who says he has met and shaken hands with Mr. Harris (his co-proprietor of Covent Garden, and antagonist in our ruinous lawsuit about it). I wonder what benefit is to be expected from that operation with—such a person.
Sunday, June 5th. ... On my return from afternoon service found Mr. Walpole with my mother; they amused me extremely by a conversation in which they ran over, as far as their memories would stretch (near sixty years), the various fashions and absurd modes of dress which have prevailed during that period. Toupees, fetes, toques, bouffantes, hoops, bell hoops, sacques, polonaises, levites, and all the paraphernalia of horsehair, powder, pomatum, and pins, in the days when court beauties had their heads dressed over-night for the next day's drawing-room, and sat up in their chairs for fear of destroying the edifice by lying down. No wonder they were obliged to rouge themselves—the days when once in a fortnight was considered often enough for ridding the hair of its horrible paste of flour and grease. We are certainly cleaner than our grandmothers, and much more comfortable, though it is not so long since my own head was dressed a la giraffe, in three bows over pins half a foot high, so that I could not sit upright in the carriage without knocking against the top of it. My mother's and Mr. Walpole's recollections and descriptions were like seeing a set of historical caricatures pass before one.
Monday, June 6th.—The house was very full at the theater this evening, and Miss C—— sent me round a delicious fresh bouquet. I acted well, I think; the play was "Romeo and Juliet." It is so very pleasant to return to Shakespeare, after reciting Bianca and Isabella, etc. I reveled in the glorious poetry and the bright, throbbing reality of that Italian girl's existence; and yet Juliet is nothing like as nice as Portia—nobody is as nice as Portia. But the oftener I act Juliet the oftener I think it ought never to be acted at all, and the more absurd it seems to me to try to act it. After the play my mother sent a note with the carriage to say she would not go to the ball, so I dressed myself and drove off with my father from the theater to the Countess de S——'s. At half-past eleven the ball had not begun. Mrs. Norton was there in splendid beauty; at about half-past twelve the dancing began, and it was what is called a very fine ball. While I was dancing with Mr. C——, I saw my father talking to a handsome and very magnificent lady, who my partner told me was the Duchess of B——; after our quadrille, when I rejoined my father, he said to me, "Fanny, let me present you to ——" here he mumbled something perfectly inaudible, and I made a courtesy, and the lady smiled sweetly and said some civil things and went away. "Whose name did you mention," said I to my father, with some wickedness, "just now when you introduced me to that lady?" "Nobody's, my dear, nobody's; I haven't the remotest idea who she is." "The Duchess of B——," said I, glibly, strong in the knowledge I had just acquired from my partner. "Bless my soul!" cried the poor man, with a face of the most ludicrous dismay, "so it was! I had quite forgotten her, though she was good enough to remember me, and here I have been talking cross-questions and crooked answers to her for the last half-hour!"
Was ever any thing so terrible! I feared my poor father would go home and remain awake all night, sobbing softly to himself, like the eldest of the nine Miss Simmonses in the ridiculous novel, because in her nervous flurry at a great dinner party she had refused instead of accepting a gentleman's offer to drink wine with her. Lady G—— then came up, whom he did remember, and who was "truly gracious;" and I left him consoled, and, I hope, having forgotten his dreadful duchess again. All the world, as the saying is, was at this ball, and it certainly was a very fine assembly. We danced in a splendid room hung with tapestry—a magnificent apartment, though it seemed to me incongruous for the purpose; dim burning lights and flitting ghosts and gusts of wind and distant footfalls and sepulchral voices being the proper furniture of the "tapestried chamber," and not wax candles, to the tune of sunlight and bright eyes and dancing feet and rustling silks and gauzes and laughing voices, and all the shine and shimmer and flaunting flutter of a modern ball....
At half-past two, though the carriage had been ordered at two, my father told me he would not "spoil sport," and so angelically stayed till past four. He is the best of fathers, the most affectionate of parents, the most benevolent of men! There is a great difference between being chaperoned by one's father instead of one's mother: the latter, poor dear! never flirts, gets very sleepy and tired, and wants to go home before she comes; the former flirts and talks with all the pretty, pleasant women he meets, and does not care till what hour in the morning—a frame of mind favorable to much dancing for the youngers. After all, I had to come away in the middle of a delightful mazurka.
Tuesday, June 7th.— ... We had a very pleasant dinner at Mr. Harness's. Moore was there, but Paganini was the chief subject discussed, and we harped upon the one miraculous string he fiddles on without pauses.... After dinner I read one of Miss Mitford's hawthorny sketches out of "Our Village," which was lying on the table; they always carry one into fresh air and green fields, for which I am grateful to them.
Wednesday, June 8th.—While I was writing to H—— my mother came in and told me that Mrs. Siddons was dead. I was not surprised; she has been ill, and gradually failing for so long.... I could not be much grieved for myself, for of course I had had but little intercourse with her, though she was always very kind to me when I saw her.... She died at eight o'clock this morning—peaceably, and without suffering, and in full consciousness.... I wonder if she is gone where Milton and Shakespeare are, to whose worship she was priestess all her life—whose thoughts were her familiar thoughts, whose words were her familiar words. I wonder how much more she is allowed to know of all things now than she did while she was here. As I looked up into the bright sky to-day, while my father and mother were sadly recalling the splendor of her day of beauty and great public power, I thought of the unlimited glory she perhaps now beheld, of the greater holiness and happiness I trust she now enjoys, and said in my heart, "It must be well to be as she is." I had never thought it must be well to be as she was....
As soon as the news came my father went off to see what he could do for Cecilia, poor thing, and to bring her here, if she can be persuaded to leave Baker Street. He was not much shocked, though naturally deeply grieved by the event; my aunt has now been ill so long that any day might have brought the termination of the protracted process of her death. When he returned he said Cecilia was composed and quiet, but would not leave the house at present. I have written to Lady Francis to decline going to Oatlands, which we were to have done this week.
At dinner my father told me some of the arrangements he has made for the summer. We are to act at Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Plymouth, and Southampton. He then said, "Suppose we take steamer thence to Marseilles, and so on to Naples?" My heart jumped into my mouth at the thought; but how should I ever come back again?... Everything here is so ugly, even without comparison with that which is beautiful elsewhere; from Italy how should one come back to live in London?
Thursday, June 9th.— ... And so I am to act Lady Macbeth! I feel as if I were standing up by the great pyramid of Egypt to see how tall I am! However, it must be done; perhaps I may even do it less ill than Constance—the greater intensity of the character may perhaps render majesty less indispensable. Power (if one had enough of it) might atone for insufficient dignity. Lady Macbeth made herself a queen by dint of wickedness; Constance was royal born—a radical difference, which ought to be in my favor. But dear, dear, dear, what a frightful undertaking for a poor girl, let her be never so wicked!
And the Lady Macbeth will never be seen again! I wish just now that in honor of my aunt the play might be forbidden to be performed for the next ten years. My father and myself have a holiday at the theater—but only for the week—because of Mrs. Siddons's death, and we are to go down to Oatlands—nobody being there but ourselves, that is my brother and I—for the rest and quiet and fresh air of these few days.
Friday, June 10th.—Before three the carriage was announced, and we started for the country. We dropped Henry at Lord Waldegrave's and had a very pleasant drive, though the day was as various in its moods as if we were in April instead of June. We arrived at about six, and found Mr. C—— had been made an exception to the "positively nobody" who was to meet us....
Saturday, June 11th.—Read the French piece called "Une Faute," which half killed me with crying. It is exceedingly clever, but altogether too true, in my opinion, for real art. It is not dramatic truth, but absolute imitation of life, and instead of the mitigated emotion which a poetical representation of tragic events excites, it produces a sense of positive suffering too acutely painful for an artistic result; it is a perfectly prosaical reproduction of the familiar vice and its inseparable misery of modern everyday life; it wants elevation and imagination—aerial perspective; it is close upon one, and must be agonizing to see well acted. My studies were certainly not of the most cheerful order, for after finishing this morbid anatomy of human hearts I read an article in the Phrenological Journal on Bouilland's "Anatomy of the Brain," which made me feel as if my brain was stuck full of pins and needles.
Perhaps a certain amount of experience must be attained through experiment, and if the wits of the human species are to be better understood, governed, and preserved by the results obtained by cutting and hacking the brains of living animals, perhaps some of our more immediate mercy is to be sacrificed to our humanity in the lump; but if this is not the forbidden doing evil that good may come of it, I do not know what is. One of the effects of Mr. Bouilland's excruciating experiments on his victims was to turn me already sick and give me an agonizing pain in my brain. I hope their beneficial consequences did not end there.
I did all this reading before breakfast, and when I left my room it was still too early for any one to be up, so I set off for a run in the park. The morning was lovely, vivid, and bright, with soft shadows flitting across the sky and chasing one another over the sward, while a delicious fresh wind rustled the trees and rippled the grass; and unable to resist the temptation, bonnetless as I was, I set off at the top of my speed, running along the terrace, past the grotto, and down a path where the syringa pelted me with showers of mock-orange blossoms, till I came under some magnificent old cedars, through whose black, broad-spread wings the morning sun shone, drawing their great shadows on the sweet-smelling earth beneath them, strewed with their russet-colored shedding. I thought it looked and smelt like a Russia-leather carpet. Then I came to the brink of the water, to a little deserted fishing pavilion surrounded by a wilderness of bloom that was once a garden, and then I ran home to breakfast. After breakfast I went over the very same ground with Lady Francis, extremely demure, with my bonnet on my head and a parasol in my hand, and the utmost propriety of decorous demeanor, and said never a word of my mad morning's explorings. A girl's run and a young lady's walk are very different things, and I hold both pleasant in their way. The carriage was ordered to take my mother to Addlestone to see poor old Mrs. Whitelock, and during her absence Lady Francis and I repaired to her own private sitting-room, and we entertained each other with extracts from our respective journals. I was struck with the high esteem she expressed for Lord Carlisle; in one place in her journal she said she wished she could hope her boys would grow up as excellent men as he is, and this in spite of her party politics, for she is a Tory and he a Whig, and she is really a partisan politician.
In the afternoon, after a charming meandering ride, we determined to go to Monks Grove, the place Lady Charlotte Greville has taken on St. Anne's Hill.... In the evening we had terrifical ghost stories, which held, us fascinated till one o'clock in the morning.
"The stones done, to bed they creep, By whispering winds soon lull'd asleep."
Sunday, June 12th.— ... It's nearly five years since I said my prayers in that dear old little Weybridge church....
On our return, as the horses are never used on Sunday, we went down to the water and got into the boat. The day was lovely, and as we glided along the bright water my mother and Lady Francis and I murmured, half voice, all sorts of musical memories, which made a nice accompaniment to Lord Francis's occasional oar-dip that just kept the boat in motion. When we landed, my mother returned to the house, and the rest of us set off for a long delightful stroll to the farm, where I saw a monstrous and most beautiful dog whom I should like to have hugged, but that he looked so grave and wise it seemed like a liberty. We walked on through a part of the park called America, because of the magnificent rhododendrons and azaleas and the general wildness of the whole. The mass was so deep one's feet sank into it; the sun, setting, threw low, slanting rays along the earth and among the old tree trunks. It was a beautiful bit of forest scenery; how like America I do not know. Upon the racecourse we emerged into a full, still afternoon atmosphere of brilliant and soft splendor; the whole park was flooded with sunshine, and little creeks of light ran here and there into the woods we had just left, touching with golden radiance a solitary tree, and glancing into leafy nooks here and there, while the mass of woodland was one deep shadow....
Much discussion as to the possibilities and probabilities of our being able to stay here another day. When we came back from our afternoon ride at near eight, found Mr. Greville and Lady Charlotte here, and a letter from my father, saying that I could be spared from my work at the theater a little longer, and promising to come down to us.... In the evening Mr. C—— and I acted some of Racine's "Andromaque" for them; my old school part of Hermione which I have not forgotten, and then two scenes from Scribe's pretty piece of "les premieres Amours." He acts French capitally, and, moreover, bestowed upon me the two following ridiculous conundrum puns, for which I shall be forever grateful to him:
"Que font les Vaches a Paris?"
"Des Vaudevilles" (des Veaux de Ville).
"Quelle est la sainte qui n'a pas lesoin de Jarretieres?"
"Ste. Sebastienne" (ses has se tiennent).
What absurd, funny stuff!
Tuesday, June 14th.—Gardening on the lawn—hay-making in the meadow—delightful ride in the afternoon, the beginning of which, however, was rather spoiled by some very disagreeable accounts Mr. C—— was giving us of Lord and Lady ——'s menage. What might, could, would, or should a woman do in such a case? Endure and endure till her heart broke, I suppose. Somehow I don't think a man would have the heart to break one's heart; but, to be sure, I don't know....
We did not return home till near nine, and so, instead of dinner, all sat down to high tea, at which everybody was very cheerful and gay, and the talk very bright....
I wish I could have painted my host and hostess this morning as they stood together on the lawn; she with her beautiful baby in her arms, her bright, fair forehead and eyes contrasting so strikingly with his fine, dark head. I never saw a more charming picture. (Landseer has produced one version of it in his famous "Return from Hawking.") Are not all such groups "Holy Families"? They looked to me holy as well as handsome and happy.
Wednesday, June 15th.— ... The races in the park were to begin at one, and we wished, of course, to keep clear of them and all the gay company; so at twelve my mother and I got into the pony carriage, and drove to Addlestone to my aunt Whitelock's pretty cottage there. It rained spitefully all day, and the races and all the fine racing folk were drenched. At about six o'clock my father came from London, bringing me letters; the weather had brightened, and I took a long stroll with him till time to dress for dinner.... In the evening music and pleasant talk till one o'clock.
Thursday, June 16th.—At eight o'clock my mother and I walked with my father to meet the coach, on the top of which he left us for London. After breakfast took my mother down to my "Cedar Hall," and established her there with her fishing, and then walked up the hill to the great trees and amused myself with bending down the big branches, and, seating myself on them, let them spring up with me. Climbing trees, as poor Combe would say, excites one's "wonder" and one's "caution" very agreeably, and I like it. I took Lord Francis's translation of "Henri Trois" back to the "Cedar Hall," where my mother was still watching her float. I was a good deal struck with it. He has not finished the whole of the first act yet, but there is one scene between the Duchess of Guise and St. Megrin that I should think ought to be very effective on the stage; and I can imagine how charming Mdlle. Mars must have been in her sleep-walking gestures and intonations. The situation, which is highly dramatic, is, I think, quite new; I cannot recollect any similar one in any other play....
After lunch my mother, Lady Charlotte, and Mr. Greville drove off to Monks Grove, and we followed them on horse-back; it is a little paradise of a place, with its sunny, smooth sloping lawns and bright, sparkling piece of water, the masses of flowers blossoming in profuse beauty, and the high, overhanging, sheltering woods of St. Anne's Hill rising behind it. On our way home much talk of Naples. I might like to go there, no doubt; the question is how I should like to come back to London after Naples, and I think not at all. In the evening read the pretty French piece of "Michel et Christine" which my father had sent me.
Friday, June 17th.— ... My mother, Mr. C——, and I drove together back to town; so good-by, Oatlands.
Monday, June 20th.—Went to rehearsal at half-past ten for John Mason, who is to come out in Romeo to-night; he had caught a dreadful cold and could hardly speak, which was terribly provoking, poor fellow! After my theater rehearsal of "Romeo and Juliet" drove to Bridgewater House to rehearse "Hernani." In the evening the house was very good at Covent Garden; I played well. John Mason was suffering dreadfully from cold and hoarseness; the audience were very good-natured, however, and he got through uncommonly well. My mother said I played "beautifully," which was saying much indeed for her. I was delighted, especially as the Francis Levesons and —— were all there.
Tuesday, June 21st.—Went to Bridgewater House to rehearse. Charles Young was among our morning audience; I was so glad to see him, for dear old acquaintanceship. The king was going to the House of Parliament, and Palace Yard was thronged with people, and we sat round one of the Bridgewater House windows to see the show. At about one the royal carriages set out—such lovely cream-colored horses, with blue and silver trappings; such splendid, shining, coal-black ones, with coral-colored trappings. The equipages looked like some enchanted present in a fairy story. The king—God bless him!—cannot, I should think, have been much annoyed by the clamorous greetings of his people. I'm afraid that ominous, sullen silence is a bad sign of the times. We rehearsed very steadily. Lord Francis, who is taking the old duke's part because of Mr. St. Aubin going abroad, is much improved by some teaching Young has bestowed upon him; but still he is by no means so good as Mr. St. Aubin was....
Wednesday, 22d.—Read "La Chronique de Charles Neuf," which is very clever, but the history of that period in France is so revolting that works of fiction founded upon it are as disagreeable as the history itself. Hogarth's pictures and Le Sage's novels are masterpieces, and yet admirable only as excellent representations of what in itself is odious. However, they are satirical works, and so have their raison d'etre, which I do not think a serious novel about detestable times and people has. Drove to Bridgewater House, feeling so unwell that I could scarcely stand, and was obliged to lie down till I was called to go on the stage. We had a magnificent audience—all the grandeurs in England except the King. The Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland, Princess Elizabeth, Prince Leopold, the Duke of Brunswick. And lesser magnificoes the room full. Such very superior people make a dull audience, of course; the presence of royalty is always understood to bar applause, which is not etiquette when a Majesty is by. I played very ill; my voice was quite unmanageable, and broke twice, to my extreme dismay. The fact is, I am fagged half to death; but as I cannot give up my work and cannot bear to give up my play, the only wonder is that I am not fagged whole to death. Mr. Craven acted really capitally, and I wondered how he could. They put us out terribly in one scene by forgetting the bench on which I have to sit down. Hernani managed with great presence of mind and cleverness in its absence, but it spoilt our prettiest picture. After the play Lady Francis came to fetch me to be presented to the Queen; her Majesty was most gracious in her reception of me, and so were the Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Gloucester, who came and had quite a long chat with me. When I had received my dismissal from her Majesty I ran to disrobe, and returned to join the crowd in the drawing-room.... When they were all gone we adjourned to Lady Gower's—a most magnificent supper, which we enjoyed in the perfection of comfort, in a small boudoir opening into and commanding the whole length of the supper saloon. Our snuggery just held my mother, Lady Francis, myself, Charles Greville, and three of our corps dramatique, and we not only enjoyed a full view of the royal table, but what was infinitely amusing, poor Lord Francis's disconsolate countenance, which half killed us with laughing. Supper done, we all proceeded downstairs to see the Royalty depart, and looked at a fine picture of Lawrence's of that handsome creature, Lord Clanwilliam. Took leave of my friends for some months, I am sorry to say; took Mr. ——home in our carriage and set him down just at day-dawn. It was past four o'clock before I saw my bed; and the life I am leading is really enough to kill any one.
Thursday, June 23d.—Quite unwell, and in bed all day. Mrs. Jameson came and sat with me some time. We talked of marriage, and a woman's chance of happiness in giving her life into another's keeping. I said I thought if one did not expect too much one might secure a reasonably fair amount of happiness, though of course the risk one ran was immense. I never shall forget the expression of her face; it was momentary, and passed away almost immediately, but it has haunted me ever since.
GREAT RUSSELL STREET. DEAR LADY DACRE,
I am commissioned by my mother to request your kind permission to bring my brother to your evening party on Saturday; she hopes you will have no scruple in refusing this request, if for any reason you would rather not comply with it.... I have been thinking much about what you said to me both viva voce and in your note upon that "obnoxious word" in my play. Let me entreat you to put aside conventional regards of age and sex, which have nothing to do with works of art or literature, and view the subject without any of those considerations, which have their own proper domain, doubtless—although I think you have in this instance admitted their jurisdiction out of it.... I hope as long as I live that I shall never write anything offensive to decency or morality, or their pure source, religion; and I hope in my own manners and conversation always to preserve the decorum prescribed by society, good taste, and good feeling; but as a dramatic writer, supposing I am ever to be one, I shall have to depict men as well as women, coarse and common men as well as refined and courtly ones, and all and each, if I fulfill my task, must speak the language that their nature under their several circumstances points out as individually appropriate. But I forget that I am addressing one far better able than I am to say what belongs to all questions of poetry and art. Forgive me, my dear Lady Dacre, and allow me to add that, as when I put my play into your hands I told you that should you find it too intolerably dull and bad I would release you from your kind promise of accepting its dedication to yourself, I can only repeat my readiness to do so if upon any other ground whatever you feel reluctant to grace my title-page with your name. Pray tell me so without hesitation, as I had rather forego that honor than owe it to your courtesy without your entire good-will.
In any event pray accept my best acknowledgments for your kindness, and believe me always
Your very truly obliged F. A. K.
This letter was written in answer to some strictures of Lady Dacre's on what appeared to her coarseness of language in my play of "The Star of Seville," which she thought unbecoming a "young lady." If I remember rightly, too, she said that the introduction of a scene in a bedchamber might be deemed objectionable. I had asked her permission to dedicate the play to her, which she had granted; and though she failed to convince me that a young-lady element had any business whatever in a play, she very kindly allowed her name to adorn the title-page of my un-young ladylike drama.
Soon after this my father and aunt and myself left London for our summer tour in the provinces, which we began at Bristol.
Monday, July 4th, Bristol.—The play was "Romeo and Juliet," and the nurse was a perfect farce in herself; she really was worth any money, and her soliloquy when she found me "up and dressed and down again," very nearly made me scream with laughter in the middle of my trance. Indeed, the whole play was probably considered an "improved version" of Shakespeare's Veronese story, both in the force and delicacy of the text. Sundry wicked words and coarse appellations were decorously dispensed with; many fine passages received judicious additions; not a few were equally judiciously omitted altogether. What a shocking hash!
Tuesday, July 5th.—After breakfast we sallied forth to the market, to my infinite delight and amusement. It is most beautifully clean; the fruit and vegetables look so pretty, and smell so sweet, and give such an idea of plentiful abundance, that it is delightful to walk about among them. Even the meat, which I am generally exceedingly averse to go near, was so beautifully and nicely arranged that it had none of its usual repulsiveness; and the sight of the whole place, and the quaint-looking rustic people, was so pleasantly envious. We stopped to gossip with a bewitching old country dame, whose market stock might have sat, with her in the middle of it, for its picture; the veal and poultry so white and delicate-looking, the bacon like striped pink and white ribbons, the butter so golden, fresh, and sweet, in a great basket trimmed round with bunches of white jasmine, the green leaves and starry blossoms and exquisite perfume making one believe that butter ought always to be served, not in a "lordly dish," but in a bower of jasmine. The good lady told us she had just come up from "the farm," and that the next time she came she would bring us some home-made bread, and that she was going back to brew and to bake. She looked so tidy and rural, and her various avocations sounded so pleasant as she spoke of them, that I felt greatly tempted to beg her to let me go with her to "the farm," which I am sure must be an enchanting place, neat and pretty, and flowery and comfortable, and full of rustic picturesqueness; and while the sun shone, I think I should like a female farmer's life amazingly. Went to the theater and rehearsed "Venice Preserved," which is an entirely different kind of thing. Charles Mason dined with us. After dinner I finished reading Miss Ferrier's novel of "Destiny," which I like very much; besides being very clever, it leaves a pleasant taste, in one's mind's mouth. Went to the theater at six; the play was "Venice Preserved," and I certainly have seldom seen a more shameful exhibition. In the first place C—— did not even know his words, and that was bad enough; but when he was out, instead of coming to a stop decently, and finishing at least with his cue, he went on extemporizing line after line, and speech after speech, of his own, by way of mending matters. I think I never saw such a performance. He stamps and bellows low down in his throat like an ill-suppressed bull; he rolls his eyes till I feel as if they were flying out of their sockets at me, and I must try and catch them. He quivers and quavers in his speech, and pulls and wrenches me so inhumanly, that what with inward laughter and extreme rage and pain, I was really all but dead in earnest at the end of the play. I acted very ill myself till the last scene, when my Jaffier having been done justice to by the Venetian Government, I was able to do justice to myself, and having gone mad, and no wonder, died rather better than I had lived through the piece.
July 6th, Bristol.—Walked out to order the horses, and afterwards went on to look at the Abbey Church. We examined one or two interesting old monuments; but were obliged to curtail our explorings, as the doors were about to be closed. We have been talking much lately of a remote possibility of going to America; and as I left this old brown pile to-day, it seemed to me curious to think of a country which has no cathedrals, no monuments of the Old Faith. How venerable, in spite of its superstitions and abuses; for its long undisputed sway over all civilized lands; for the great and good men who honored it by their lives and works—the religion of Augustine, of Bruno, Benedict, Francis d'Assisi, Francis de Sales, Fenelon, and how many more—the Christianity of Europe in its feudal, chivalrous times, those days of noble, good, as well as fierce, evil deeds and lives, the faith that kings and warriors bowed to when sovereignty was absolute and military power supreme. America has no gray abbeys, no ruined cloisters, to tell of monastic brotherhoods—the preserves of ancient historic chronicles, the guardians of the early wells and springs of classic learning and genius. In America there are no great, old, time-stained, weather-beaten, ivy-mantled churches full of tombs, such as we saw to-day, with curious carvings and quaint effigies, and where the early rulers of the land embraced the faith and received the baptism of Christ. That must be a very strange country. But they have Plymouth Rock, on the shore where the Protestant Pilgrims landed.
The horses having come to the door, we set off for our ride; our steeds were but indifferent hacks, but the road was charming, and the evening serene and pure, and I was with my father, a circumstance of enjoyment to me always. The characteristic feature of the scenery of this region is the vivid, deep-toned foliage of the hanging woods, through whose dense tufts of green, masses of gray rock and long scars of warm-colored red-brown earth appear every now and then with the most striking effect. The deep-sunk river wound itself drowsily to a silver thread at the base of steep cliffs, to the summit of which we climbed, reaching a fine level land of open downs carpeted with close, elastic turf. On we rode, up hill and down dale, through shady lanes full of the smell of lime-blossom, skirting meadows fragrant with the ripe mellow hay and honey-sweet clover, and then between plantations of aromatic, spicy fir and pine, all exhaling their perfumes under the influence of the warm sunset. At last we made a halt where the road, winding through Lord de Clifford's property, commanded an enchanting view. On our right, rolling ground rising gradually into hills, clothed to their summits with flourishing evergreens, firs, larches, laurel, arbutus—a charming variety in the monotony of green. On the farthest of these heights Blaise Castle, with two gray towers, well defined against the sky, looked from its bosky eminence over the whole domain, which spread on our left in sloping lawns, where single oaks and elms of noble size threw their shadows on the sunlit sward, which looked as if none but fairies' feet had ever pressed it. Beyond this, through breaks and frames, and arches made by the trees, the broad Severn glittered in the wavy light. It was a beautiful landscape in every direction. We returned home by sea wall and the shore of the Severn, which seemed rather bare and bleak after the soft loveliness we had just left....
Thursday, July 7th.—Went to the theater to rehearse "The Gamester." In the afternoon strolled down to the river with my father and Dall. We took boat and rowed toward the cliffs. Our time, however, was limited; and just as we reached the loveliest part of the river, we were obliged to turn home again.... At dinner, as we were talking about America, and I was expressing my disinclination ever to go thither, my father said: "If my cause (our Chancery suit) goes ill before the Lords, I think the best thing I can do will be to take ship from Liverpool and sail to the United States." I choked a little at this, but presently found voice to say, "Ebben son pronta;" but he replied, "No, that he should go alone." That you never should, my own dear father!... But I do hate the very thought of America.
Saturday, July 9th. ... In the afternoon drove out in an open carriage with Dall to Shirehampton, by the same road my father and I took in our ride the other day.
BRISTOL, July 10th, 1831. MY DEAR MRS. JAMESON,
I can neither bid you confirm nor deny any "reports you may hear," for I am in utter ignorance, I am happy to say, of the world's surmisings on my behalf, and had indeed supposed that my time for being honored by its notice in any way was pretty well past and over.
I am glad you are having rest, as you speak of it with the enjoyment which those alone who work hard are entitled to. I trust, too, that in the instance of your eyes no news is good news, for you say nothing of them, and I therefore like to hope that they have suffered you to forget them.
I'm disappointed about your Shakespeare book. I should like to have had it by my next birthday, which is the 27th of November, and to which I look forward with unusually mingled feelings. However, it cannot be helped; and I have no doubt the booksellers are right in point of fact, for we are embarked on board too troublous times to carry mere passe temps literature with us. "We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns," I am afraid, and shall find small public taste or leisure for polite letters.
I like this place very well; it is very quiet, and my life is always a happy one with my father. He always spoils me, and that is always pleasant, you know.
The Bristol people are rather in a bad state just now for our purposes, for trade here is in a very unprosperous condition; and the recent failure of many of their great mercantile houses does no good to our theatrical ones. The audiences are very pleasant, however, and the company by no means bad. We are here another week, and then take ship for Ilfracombe, and thence by land to Exeter; after that Plymouth and Southampton.... I wish I could be in London for "Anna Bolena." I cannot adequately express my admiration for Madame Pasta; I saw her in Desdemona the Saturday night on which I scrawled those few lines to you. I think if you knew how every look and tone and gesture of hers affects me, you would be satisfied. She is almost equal to an imagination; more than that I cannot say. If you rate "imagination" as I think you must, I need say nothing more. We shall certainly be back in London by the end of September, if not before. In the mean time believe me ever yours most truly,
F. A. K.
Sunday, July 10th.—My father wickedly dawdled about till we were nearly late for church, and had to scamper along the quays and up the steep street, to poor dear Dall's infinite discomfiture, who grumbled and puffed, and shuffled and shambled along, while I plunged on, breathlessly ejaculating, "It is so hateful to be late for church!" The cathedral (which I believe it is not) was quite full, but we obtained seats in the organ gallery, where we could not hear very well, but had a very fine view of the coup d'oeil presented by the choir and church below us. The numerous and many-colored congregation, the white surpliced choristers, the charity-school children in their uniforms surrounding the altar, all framed in by the dark old oak screens with their quaint readings, and partially vividly illuminated by occasional gleams of strong sunlight which poured suddenly through the colored windows, presented a beautiful picture. The service was very well performed: the organ is a remarkably good one, and one or two of the boys' voices were exquisitely soft and clear. It is a fine service, and yet I do not like it by way of religious worship. It does not make me devout, in the proper form of the term; it appeals too much to my senses and my imagination; it is religion set to music and painting, and artistic religion does not suit me. The incessant passing of people through the church, too, disturbs one, and gives an unpleasant air of irreverence to the whole.... I think I might like to go to a cathedral for afternoon service, much as I like to spend my Sunday leisure in reading Milton, though I should not be satisfied to make my whole devotional exercises consist in reading "Paradise Lost." A wretchedly weak, poor sermon; how strange that such a theme should inspire nothing better than such a discourse! However, I suppose this sort of ministering is the inevitable result of a "ministry" embraced merely as a means of subsistence. No one could paint pictures or compose music, only because they wanted bread, so I do not see why any one should preach sermons fit to be heard, only because they want bread. If I was a despot, I would suppress hebdomadal writing of sermons, and people should be forbidden instead of bidden to talk nonsense upon sacred subjects.
Monday, 11th.—At night the theater was very full, and the audience pleasant. During supper my father, Charles Mason, and I had a long discussion about Kean. I cannot help thinking my father wrong about him. Kean is a man of decided genius, no matter how he neglects or abuses nature's good gift. He has it. He has the first element of all greatness—power. No taste, perhaps, and no industry, perhaps; but let his deficiencies be what they may, his faults however obvious, his conceptions however erroneous, and his characters, each considered as a whole, however imperfect, he has the one atoning faculty that compensates for everything else, that seizes, rivets, electrifies all who see and hear him, and stirs down to their very springs the passionate elements of our nature. Genius alone can do this.
As an actor, one whose efforts are the result of study, of mental research, reflection, and combination; as an intellectual anatomist, whose knowledge must dissect, and then re-form and reproduce again in beauty and harmony the image he has taken to pieces; as an artist, who is bound to conceal both the first and last processes, the dismembering of the parts and the reuniting them in a whole, and whose business is to make the most deliberate mental labor and the most studied personal effects appear the spontaneous result of unpremeditated passion and emotion (feigned passion and emotion, which are to appear real)—in capacity for all this Kean may be defective. He may not be an actor, he may not be an artist, but he is a man of genius, and instinctively with a word, a look, a gesture, tears away the veil from the heart of our common humanity, and lays it bare as it beats in every human heart, and as it throbs in his own. Kean speaks with his whole living frame to us, and every fiber of ours answers his appeal.
I do not know that I ever saw him in any character which impressed me as a whole work of art; he never seems to me to intend to be any one of his parts, but I think he intends that all his parts should be him. So it is not Othello who is driven frantic by doubt and jealousy, nor Shylock who is buying human flesh by its weight in gold, nor Sir Giles Overreach who is selling his child to hell for a few years of wealth and power; it is Kean, and in every one of his characters there is an intense personality of his own that, while one is under its influence, defies all criticism—moments of such overpowering passion, accents of such tremendous power, looks and gestures of such thrilling, piercing meaning, that the excellence of those parts of his performances more than atones for the want of greater unity in conception and smoothness in the entire execution of them.
The discussion about Kean led naturally to some talk about his most famous parts, particularly Shylock. My father's conception of Shylock seems to me less the right one than Kean's; but then, if my father took what I think the right view of the part, he would have to give up acting it. The real Shylock—that is, Shakespeare's—is a creature totally opposite in his whole organization, physical and mental, to my father's; and as my father cannot force his nature in any particular into uniformity with that of Shylock, he endeavors to persuade himself that the theory by which he tries to bring it into harmony with his individuality, and within the compass of his powers, is the right one; but I think him entirely mistaken about it. Kean did with the part exactly what my father wants to do—adapted his conceptions to his means of execution; but Kean's physical constitution was much better suited to express Shylock as Shylock should be expressed than my father's. My father attempts to make Shylock "poetical" (in the superficial sense), because that is the bias of his own mind in matters of art. Classical purity and refinement of taste are his specialties as an actor, and neither power nor intensity.
Shylock's master passion is not revenge, which is a savage, but avarice, which is a sordid motive. His hatred is inspired more by defeated hope of gain and positive losses and threatened ventures, than by the personal insults and contumely he has received.
Avarice is an absolutely base passion, and a grand poetical character cannot consistently be raised upon such a foundation, nor can a nature be at once groveling and majestic. Besides, Shakespeare has not made Shylock "poetical." The concentrated venom of his passion is prosaic in its vehement utterance—close, concise, vigorous, logical, but not imaginative; and in the scenes where his evil nature escapes the web of his cunning caution, and he is stung to fury by his complicated losses, there is intense passion but no elevation in his language.
There is a vein of humor in Shylock. A grim, bitter, sardonic flavor pervades the part, that blends naturally with the sordid thrift and shrewd, watchful, eager vigilance of the miser. It infuses a terrible grotesqueness into his rage, and curdles one's blood in the piercing, keen irony of his mocking humility to Antonio, and adds poignancy to the ferocity of his hideous revenge. This Kean rendered admirably, and in this my father entirely fails, but it is an important element of the character.
My father is hard upon Kean's defects because they are especially antagonistic to his artistic taste and tendency, but I think, too, there is a slight infusion of the vexation of unappreciated labor in my father's criticism of Kean. He forgets that power is universally felt and understood, and refinement seldom the one or the other, and for a thousand who applaud Kean's "What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?" probably not ten people are aware of his exquisite "nevertheless" in the reading of Antonio's letter. Most eyes can "see a church by daylight;" not many stop to look at the lights and shadows that are forever varying and adding to the beauty of its aspect. I wonder how, being as well aware as my father is of all the fine work that escapes the eyes of the public, he can care for this kind of thing as he does.
Tuesday, 12th.—We are having events at the theater, and not of a pleasant sort. Mr. Brunton, the manager, is in "difficulties" (civilized plural for debt), and it seems that last night during the play one of his creditors put an execution into the theater, and laid violent hands upon the receipts, which, as it was my father's benefit, rather dismayed us. So after breakfast this morning, having put out my dresses for my favorite Portia for to-night, I went to the theater to ascertain if there was to be a rehearsal or not. My father had gone in search of Mr. Brunton to see how matters could be arranged, and at all events to represent that we could not go on acting unless our money was secured to us. Charles Mason, Dall, and I in the mean time found the poor actors in the theater very much at a loss how to proceed, as it seemed extremely doubtful whether there would be any performance; so we returned home, where we found my father, who said that at all events there must be a rehearsal, for it was absolutely necessary if we did act to-night, and could do us no harm if we did not; so we repaired again to the theater, where the scattered and scared corps dramatique having been got together again, we proceeded to business.