Wednesday, 13th.—Mr. K—— called and told us that some arrangement had been made with the truculent creditor of our poor manager by which we shall not lose any more in this unlucky business. My father will be quit for about a hundred pounds. I am very sorry for Mr. Brunton, but he should not have placed us in such an uncomfortable position. My father has offered to act one night beyond our engagement for the sake, if possible, of making up to the actors the arrears of salary Mr. Brunton owes them. They are all poor, hard-working people, earning no more than the means of subsistence, and this withholding of their due falls very heavily on them.
Thursday, 14th.— ... At the theater the house was very good, and the audience very pleasant. The play was "The Provoked Husband," and I'm sure I play his provoking wife badly enough to provoke anybody; but she's not a person to my mind, which is an artistic view of the case.
[My modes of dealing with my professional duties at this very unripe stage of my career irresistibly remind me of a not very highly educated female painter who had taken it into her head to make an historical picture of Cleopatra. Sending to a friend for a few "references" upon the subject of that imperial gypsy's character and career, she sent them hastily back, saying she had relinquished her purpose, "having really no idea Cleopatra was that sort of person."]
Friday, July 15th.—Miserrima! I have broken a looking-glass! and on Friday, too! What do I think will happen to me! Had a long talk this morning with dear Dall about my dislike to the stage. I do not think it is the acting itself that is so disagreeable to me, but the public personal exhibition, the violence done (as it seems to me) to womanly dignity and decorum in thus becoming the gaze of every eye and theme of every tongue. If my audience was reduced to my intimates and associates I should not mind it so much, I think; but I am not quite sure that I should like it then.
At the theater the house was very full, and the audience particularly amiable. In the interval between the fourth and fifth acts Charles Mason made a speech to them, informing them of Mr. Brunton's distress, and our intention of acting for him on Monday. They applauded very much, and I hope they will do more, and come. My part of the charity is certainly not small; to be pulled and pushed and dragged hither and thither, and generally "knocked about," as the miserable Belvidera, for three mortal hours, is a sacrifice of self which my conscience bears me witness is laudable. I would much rather pay with my purse than my person in this case. Unfortunately, je n'ai pas de quoi.
Sunday, July 17th.—To Redcliffe Church with my father and Dall. What a beautiful old building it is!... What a sermon! Has the truth, as our Church holds it, no fitter expounders than such a preacher? Are these its stays, props, and pillars—teachers to guide, enlighten, and instruct people as cultivated and intelligent as the people of this country on the most momentous of all subjects? Are these the sort of adversaries to oppose to men like Channing? As for not going to church because of bad or foolish sermons, that is quite another matter, though I not unfrequently hear that reason assigned for staying away. One goes to church to say one's prayers, and not to hear more or less fine discourses; one goes because it is one's duty, and a delight and comfort, and a quite distinct duty and delight from that of private prayer. A good sermon, Heaven knows, is a rare blessing to be thankful for, but if one went to church only in the expectation of that blessing, one might stay away most Sundays in the year.
[My youthful scorn of "poor preaching" reminds me of what I once heard Edward Everett say, who, before becoming his country's "Minister," in the diplomatic sense of the word, had been a powerful and eloquent Unitarian preacher: "I hear a good deal of criticism upon sermons which are supposed to be religious or moral exhortations, not intellectual exercises. I dare say many sermons are not first rate, but moderate good preaching is not a bad thing, and pretty poor preaching is better than most men's practice."]
Monday, July 18th.—The theater was crowded to-night, which delighted me. It is pleasant to see malicious and evil actions produce such a result. I was very nervous and excited, and nearly went into hysterics over one small incident of the evening. At the close of the first separation scene—the play was "Venice Preserved"—when Jaffier is carried out by the nape of the neck by Pierre, and Belvidera extracted on the other side in the arms (and iron ones they were) of Bedamar, the audience of course were affected, harrowed, overcome by the poignant pathos of the situation. Charles looked woebegone. I called upon him in tones of the most piercing anguish (an agony not entirely feigned, as my bruises can bear witness). The curtain descended slowly amidst sympathetic sobs and silence—the musicians themselves, deeply moved, no doubt, with the sorrows of the scene, mournfully resumed their fiddles, and struck up "ti ti tum tiddle un ti tum ti"—the jolliest jig you ever heard. The bathos was irresistible; we behind the scenes, the principal sufferers (perhaps) in the night's performance, were instantly comforted, and all but shouted with laughter. I hope the audience were equally revived by this grotesque sudden cheering of their spirits. After the tragedy a Bristolian Paganini performed a concerto on one string. Dall declares that the whole orchestra played the whole time—but some sounds reached me in my dressing-room that were decidedly unique more ways than one, not at all unlike our favorite French fantasia—"Complainte d'un cochon au lait qui reve." But the audience were transported; they clapped and the fiddle squeaked, they shouted and the fiddle squealed, they hurrahed and the fiddle uttered three terrific screams, and it was over and Paganini is done for—here, at any rate. He need never show face or fiddle here; he hasn't a string (even one) left to his bow in Bristol. "So Orpheus fiddled," etc.
Tuesday, July 19th.—Dinner-party at the —— which ought to have been chronicled by Jane Austen. I sat by a gentleman who talked to me of the hanging gardens of Semiramis and what might have been cultivated therein (hemp perhaps), then of the derivation of languages—he still kept among roots—and finally of tea, which he told me he was endeavoring to grow on the Welsh mountains. Some of the table-talk deserved printing verbatim, only it was almost too good to be true, or at any rate believed.
Wednesday, July 20th.—Charles Mason came after breakfast, and told us that there was some chance of poor Mr. Brunton's getting out of prison (into which his creditor has thrust him), for that the latter had been so universally scouted for his harsh proceeding that he probably would be shamed into liberating him.
We shall not leave Bristol to-day. The wind is contrary and the weather quite unfavorable for a party of pleasure, which our trip by sea to Ilfracombe was to be. It's very disagreeable living half in one's trunks and traveling-bags, as this sort of uncertainty compels one to do. I studied Dante, wrote verses and sketched, and tried to be busy; but a defeated departure leaves one's mind and thoughts only half unpacked, and I felt idle and unsettled, though I worked at "The Star of Seville" till dinner-time.
After dinner I studied politics in the Examiner and read an article on Cobbett, which made me laugh, and the motto to which might have been "Malvolio, thou art sick of self-conceit." ...
Thursday, July 21st.—At dinner a discussion, suggested by Mr. D——'s conduct to Mr. Brunton, on the subject of returning evil for evil, and the difficulty of not doing so, if not deliberately and in deed, upon impulse and by thought. Nothing is easier in such matters than to say what one would do, and nothing, I suppose, more difficult than to do what one should do. So God keep us all from convenient opportunities of revenging ourselves....
[Occasionally one hears in the streets voices in which the making of a fortune lies, and when one remembers what fortunes some voices have commanded, it seems bitterly cruel to think of such a possession begging its bread for want of the chance that might have made it available by culture. A woman, some years ago, used to sing at night in the neighborhood of St. James's Street, whose voice was so exquisite, so powerful, sweet, and thrilling, a mezzo soprano of such pure tone and vibrating quality, that Lady Essex, my sister, and myself, at different times, struck by the woman's magnificent gift and miserable position, had her into our houses, to hear her sing and see if nothing could be done to give her the full use of her noble natural endowment. She was a plain young woman of about thirty, tolerably decently dressed, and with a quiet, simple manner. She said her husband was a house-paperer in a small way, and when he was out of employment she used to go out in the evening and see what her singing would bring her. Poor thing! it was impossible to do anything for her; she was too old to learn or unlearn anything. No training could have corrected the low cockney vulgarity and coarse, ignorant indistinctness and incorrectness of her enunciation. And so in after years, as I returned repeatedly to England, after longer or shorter intervals of time, and always inhabited the same neighborhood in London, I still continued to hear, on dark drizzly evenings (and never without a thrill of poignant pain and pity) this angel's voice wandering in the muddy streets, its perfect, round, smooth edge becoming by degrees blunted and broken, its tones rough and coarse and harsh, some of the notes fading into feeble indistinctness—the fine, bold, true intonation hiding its tremulous uncertainty in trills and quavers, alternating with pitiful husky coughing, while every now and then one or two lovely, rich, pathetic notes, surviving ruin, recalled the early sweetness and power of the original instrument. The idea of what that woman's voice might have been to her used to haunt me.
It was hearing Rachel singing (barefoot) in the streets of Paris that Jules Janin's attention was first excited by her. Her singing, as I heard it on the stage in the drinking song of the extraordinary piece called "Valeria," in which she played two parts, was really nothing more than a chanting in the deep contralto of her speaking voice, and could hardly pass for a musical performance at all, any more than her wonderful uttering of the "Marseillaise," with which she made the women's blood run cold, and the men's hair stand on end, and everybody's flesh creep.
My sister and I used often to plan an expedition of street-singing for the purpose of seeing how much we could collect in that way for some charity. We were to put ourselves in "poor and mean attire"—I do not know that we were to "smirch our faces" with brown paint; we thought large battered poke-bonnets would answer the purpose, and, thus disguised, we were to go the rounds of the club windows, my father walking at a discreet distance for our protection on one side of the street, and our formidable pirate friend Trelawney on the other. We never carried out this project, though I have no doubt it would have brought us a very pretty penny for any endowment we might have wished to make.]
Friday, July 22d.—Long and edifying talk with dear Dall upon my prospects in marrying. "While you remain single," says she, "and choose to work, your fortune is an independent and ample one; as soon as you marry, there's no such thing. Your position in society," says she, "is both a pleasanter and more distinguished one than your birth or real station entitles you to; but that also is the result of your professional exertions, and might, and probably would, alter for the worse if you left the stage; for, after all, it is mere frivolous fashionable popularity." I ought to have got up and made her a courtesy for that. So that it seems I have fortune and fame (such as it is)—positive real advantages, which I cannot give with myself, and which I cease to own when I give myself away, which certainly makes my marrying any one or any one marrying me rather a solemn consideration; for I lose everything, and my marryee gains nothing in a worldly point of view—says she—and it's incontrovertible and not pleasant. So I took up Dante, and read about devils boiled in pitch, which refreshed my imagination and cheered my spirits very much.
[How far my ingenious mind was from foreseeing the days when men of high rank and social station would marry singers, dancers, and actresses, and be condescending enough to let their wives continue to earn their bread by public exhibition, and even to appropriate the proceeds of their theatrical labors! I have not yet made up my mind whether, in these cases, the gentleman ought not to take his wife's name in private, as a compensation for her not taking his in public. Poor Miss Paton's noble husband was the only Englishman, that I know of, who committed that act of self-effacement. To go much further back in dramatic and social history, the old, accomplished, mad Earl of Peterborough married the famous singer Anastasia Robinson, and refused to acknowledge the fact till her death. To be sure, this was a more cowardly, but a less dirty meanness. He withheld his name from her, but did not take her money.]
It is settled now that we go to Exeter by coach, and now that we have given up our pretty sea trip to Ilfracombe, the weather has become lovely—perverse creature!—but I am glad we are going away in every way.
Saturday, Bristol, July 23d. ... We started at eight, and taking the whole coach to ourselves as we do, I think traveling by a public conveyance the best mode of getting over the road. They run so rapidly; there is so little time lost, and so much trouble with one's luggage saved. The morning was gray and soft and promised a fine day, but broke its promise at the end of our second stage, and began to pelt with rain, which it continued to do the live-long blessed day. We could see, however, that the country we were passing through was charming. One or two of the cottages by the roadside, half-smothered in vine and honeysuckle, reminded me of Lady Juliana,[B] who, when she said she could live in a desert with her lover, thought that it was a "sort of place full of roses." ... These laborers' cottages were certainly the poor dwellings of very poor people, but there was nothing unsightly, repulsive, or squalid about them—on the contrary, a look of order, of tidy neatness about the little houses, that added the peculiarly English element of comfort and cleanliness to the picturesqueness of their fragrant festoons of flowery drapery, hung over them by the sweet season. The little plots of flower-garden one mass of rich color; the tiny strip of kitchen-garden, well stocked and trimly kept, beside it; the thriving fruitful orchard stretching round the whole; and beyond, the rich cultivated land rolling its waving corn-fields, already tawny and sunburnt, in mellow contrast with the smooth green pasturages, with their deep-shadowed trees and bordering lines of ivied hawthorn hedgerows, marking boundary-lines of division without marring the general prospect—a lovely landscape that sang aloud of plenty, industry, and thrift. I wonder if any country is more blessed of God than this precious little England? I think it is like one of its own fair, nobly blooming, vigorous women; her temper—that's the climate—not perfection, to be sure (but, after all, the old praise of it is true; it admits of more constant and regular out-of-door exercise than any other); the religion it professes, pure; the morality it practises, pure, probably by comparison with that of other powerful and wealthy nations. Oh, I trust that neither reform nor its extreme, revolution, will have power to injure this healthily, heartily constituted land....
[B] In Miss Ferrie's novel, "Marriage."
EXETER, July 24th, 1831. DEAREST H——,
We arrived here last night, or rather evening, at half-past six o'clock, and I found your letter, which, having waited for me, shall not wait for my answer....
Thank you for John's translation of the German song, the original of which I know and like very much. The thoughts it suggested to you must constantly arise in all of us. I believe that in these matters I feel all that you do, but not with the same intensity. To adore is most natural to the mind contemplating beauty, might, and majesty beyond its own powers; to implore is most natural to the heart oppressed with suffering, or agitated with hopes that it cannot accomplish, or fears from which it cannot escape. The difference between natural and revealed religion is that the one worships the loveliness and power it perceives, and the other the goodness, mercy, and truth in which it believes. The one prays for exemption from pain and enjoyment of happiness for body and mind in this present existence; the other for deliverance from spiritual evils, or the possession of spiritual graces, by which the soul is fitted for that better life toward which it tends....
I do not think "Juliet" has written to you hitherto, and I am rather affronted at your calling me so. I have little or no sympathy with, though much compassion for, that Veronese young person.... There is but one sentiment of hers that I can quote with entire self-application, and that is—
"I have no joy of this contract to-night; It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden."
In spite of which the foolish child immediately secures her lover's word, appoints the time for meeting, and makes every arrangement for following up the declaration she thought too sudden by its as sudden execution. Poor Juliet! I am very sorry for her, but do not like to be called after her, and do not think I am like her. I have been working very hard every day since you left Bristol (my belief is that Juliet was very idle). I am sorry to say I find my playing very hard work; but easy work, if there is such a thing, would not be best for me just now.
Yours ever, F. A. K.
Sunday, Exeter.—To church with Dall and my father, a blessing that I can never enjoy in London, where he is all but stared out of countenance if he shows his countenance in a church, and it requires more devotion to the deed than I fear he possesses to encounter the annoyance attendant upon it. We heard an excellent sermon, earnest, sober, simple, which I was especially grateful for on my father's account. Women don't mind bad preaching; they have a general taste for sermons, and, like children with sweeties, will swallow bad ones if they cannot get good. "We have a natural turn for religion," as A.F. said of me; but men, I think, get a not unnatural turn against it when they hear it ill advocated....
The day has been lovely, and from my perch among the clouds here I am looking down upon a lovely view. Following the irregular line of buildings of the street, the eye suddenly becomes embowered in a thick rich valley of foliage, beyond which a hill rises, whose sides are covered with ripening corn-fields, meadows of vivid green, and fields where the rich red color of the earth contrasts beautifully with the fresh hedgerows and tall, dark elm trees, whose shadows have stretched themselves for evening rest down in the low rosy sunset. It is all still and bright, and the Sabbath bells come up to me over it all with intermitting sweetness, like snatches of an interrupted angels' chorus, floating hither and thither about the earth.
Monday.—We contrived to get some saddle-horses, and rode out into the beautiful country round Exeter, but the preface to our poem was rather dry prose. We rode for about an hour between powdery hedges all smothered in dust, up the steepest of hills, and under the hottest of suns; but we had our reward when we halted at the top, and looked down upon a magnificent panorama of land and water, hill and dale, broad smiling meadows, and dark shadowy woodland—a vast expanse of various beauty, over which the eye wandered and paused in slow contentment. As we came leisurely down the opposite side of the hill, we met a gypsy woman, and I reined up my horse and listened to my fortune: "I have a friend abroad who is very fond of me." I hope so. "I have a relation far abroad who is very fond of me too." I know so. "I shall live long." More is the pity. "I shall marry and have three children." Quite enough. "I shall take easily to love, but it will not break my heart." I am glad to hear that. "I shall cross the sea before I see London again." Ah! I am afraid not. "The end of my summer will be happier than its beginning"—and that may very easily be. For that I gave my prophetess a shilling. Oh, Zingarella! my blessing on your black eyes and red-brown cheeks! May you have spoken true!...
Meantime, my companions, my father and Mr. Kean, were discussing the fortunes of Poland. If I were a man, with a hundred thousand pounds at my disposal, I would raise a regiment and join the Poles. The Russians have been beaten again, which is good hearing. Is it possible this cause should fall to the earth? On our way home, had a nice smooth, long canter by the river-side. We turned off our road to visit a pretty property of Mr. F——'s, the house half-way up a hill, prettily seated among pleasant woods. We galloped up some fields above it to the brow of the rise, and had three mouthfuls of delicious fresh breeze, and a magnificent view of Exeter and the surrounding country.... After dinner, off to the theater; it was my benefit, "The Gamester." The house was very full, and I played and looked well; but what a Stukely! I was afraid my eyes would scarcely answer my purpose, but that I should have been obliged to "employer l'effort de mon bras" to keep him at a proper distance. What ruffianly wooing! and not one of the actors knew their parts. Stukely said to me in his love-speech, "Time has not gathered the roses from your cheeks, though often washed them." I had heard of Time as the thinner of people's hair, but never as the washer of their faces.
Sunday, July 31st.—Went to church, to St. Sidwell's.... We had another good sermon; that preacher must be a good man, and I should like to know him....
Our dinner-party this evening was like nothing but a chapter out of one of Miss Austen's novels. What wonderful books those are! She must have written down the very conversations she heard verbatim, to have made them so like, which is Irish.... How many things one ought to die of and doesn't! That dinner did come to an end. In the drawing-room afterward, in spite of the dreadful heat, two fair female friends actually divided one chair between them; I expected to see them run into one every minute, and kept speculating then which they would be, till the idea fascinated me like a thing in a nightmare. As we were taking our departure, and had got half way down the stairs, a general rush was made at us, and an attempt, upon some pretext, to get us back into that dreadful drawing-room. I thought of Malebranche hooking the miserable souls that tried to escape back again into the boiling pitch. But we got away and safe home, and leave Exeter to-morrow.
EXETER, July 31, 1831. DEAREST H——,
I am content to be whatever does not militate against your affection for me.... I had a long letter from dear A——, a day ago, from Weybridge. She is quite well, and says my mother is as happy as the day is long, now she is once more in her beloved haunts. I love Weybridge too very much.... It seems to me that memory is the special organ of pain, for even when it recalls our pleasures, it recalls only the past, and half their sweetness becomes bitter in the process. I have a tenacious and acute memory, and, as the phrenologists affirm, no hope, and feel disposed to lament that, not having both, I have either. The one seems the necessary counterpoise of the other; the one is the source of most of the pain, as the other is of most of the pleasure, which we derive from the things that are not; and I feel daily more and more my deficiency in the more cheerful attribute....
You have been to the Opera, and seen what even one's imagination does not shrug its shoulders at; I mean Madame Pasta. I admire her perfectly, and she seems to me perfect. How I wish I had been with you! And yet I cannot fancy you in the Opera House; it is a sort of atmosphere that I find it difficult to think of your breathing.... I wish you had not asked me to write verses for you upon that picture of Haydon's "Bonaparte at St. Helena." Of course, I know it familiarly through the engraving, and, in spite of its sunshine, what a shudder and chill it sends to one's heart! It is very striking, but I have neither the strength nor concentrativeness requisite for writing upon it. The simplicity of its effect is what makes it so fine; and any poetry written upon it would probably fail to be as simple, and therefore as powerful, as itself. I cannot even promise you to attempt it, but if ever I fall in with a suitable frame of mind for so bold an experiment, I will remember you and the rocks of St. Helena. "My lady" (an Italian portrait on which I had written some verses) "Mia Donna," or "Madonna," more properly to speak, was a most beautiful Italian portrait that I saw, not in Augustin's gallery, but in a small collection of pictures belonging to Mr. Day, and exhibited at the Egyptian Hall. Sir Thomas Lawrence told me when I described it to him, that he thought it was a painting of Giordano's. It was a lovely face, not youthful in its character of beauty; there is a calm seriousness about the brow and forehead, a clear, intellectual severity about the eye, and a sweet, still placidity round the mouth, that united, to my fancy, all the elements of beauty, physical, mental, and moral. What an incomparable friend that woman must have been! Why is it that we rejoice that a soul fit for heaven is constrained to tarry here, but that, in truth, the fittest for this is also the fittest for that life? For it seems to me more natural not to wish to detain the bright spirit from its brighter home, and not to sorrow at the decree which calls it hence to perfect its excellence in higher spheres of duty....
I think a blight of uncertainty must have pervaded the atmosphere when I was born, and penetrated, not certainly my nature, but my whole earthly destiny, with its influence; from my plans and projects for to-morrow on to those of next year, all is mist and indistinct indecision. I suppose it is the trial that suits my temper least, and therefore fits it best. It surely is that which "willfulness, conceit, and egotism" find hardest to endure. Yesterday I determined so far to escape from, or cheat, my destiny as to have a peep into futurity by the help of a gypsy. Riding with my father, and the whole hour, time, day, and scene, were in admirable harmony: the dark, sunburnt face, with its bright, laughing eyes and coal-black curls and flashing teeth; the old gateway against which she was leaning; the blue summer sky and sunny road skirted with golden corn-fields—the whole picture in which she was set was charming.
"I know it is a sin to be a mocker;"
and I am sure I need not tell you that I am sincerely grateful for all the kindness and civility that is bestowed upon us wherever we go.... What with riding, rehearsing, and acting, my days are completely filled. We start for Plymouth to-morrow at eight, and act "Romeo and Juliet" in the evening, which is rather laborious work. We play there every night next week. When next I write I will tell you of our further plans, which are at this moment still uncertain....
Affectionately yours, F. A. K.
[These were the days before railroads had run everything and everybody up to London. There were still to be found then, in various parts of England, life that was peculiar and provincial, and manners that had in them a character of their own and a stamp of originality that had often quite as much to attract as to repel. Men and women are, of course, still the same that sat to that enchanting painter, Jane Austen, but the whole form and color and outward framing and various countenance of their lives have merged its distinctiveness in a commonplace conformity to universal custom; and in regard to the more superficial subjects of her fine and gentle satire, if she were to return among us she would find half her occupation gone.]
Monday, August 1st.—I got some books while waiting for the coach, and we started at half-past eight. The heat was intolerable and the dust suffocating, but the country through which we passed was lovely. For a long time we drove along the brow of a steep hill. The valley was all glorious with the harvest: corn-fields with the red-gold billows yet untouched by the sickle; others full of sunburnt reapers sweeping down the ripe ears; others, again, silent and deserted, with the tawny sheaves standing, bound and dry, upon the bristling stubble, on the ground over which they rippled and nodded yesterday, a great rolling sea of burnished grain. All over the sunny landscape peace and prosperity smiled, and gray-steepled churches and red-roofed villages, embowered in thick protecting shade, seemed to beckon the eye to rest as it wandered over the charming prospect. The white-walled mansions of the lords of the land glittered from the verdant shelter of their surrounding plantations, and the thirsty cattle, beautiful in color and in grouping, stood in pools in the deeper parts of the brooks, where some giant tree threw its shadow over the water and the smooth sheltered sward round its feet. In spite of this charming prospect I was very sad, and the purple heather bordering the road, with its thick tufts, kept suggesting Weybridge and the hours I had lately spent there so happily.... To shake myself I took up "Adam Blair;" and, good gracious! what a shaking it did give me! What a horrible book! And how could D—— have recommended me to read it? It is a very fine and powerful piece of work, no doubt; but I turned from it with infinite relief to "Quentin Durward." Walter Scott is quite exciting enough for wholesome pleasure; there is no poison in anything that he has ever written: for how many hours of harmless happiness the world may bless him!
At Totnes we got out of the coach to shake ourselves, for we were absolute dust-heaps, and then resumed our powdery way, and reached Plymouth at about four o'clock. As we walked up toward our lodgings, we were met by Mr. Brunton, with the pleasing intelligence that those we had bespoken had been let, by some mistake, to another family. Dusty, dreary, and disconsolate, I sat down on the stairs which were to have been ours, while Dall upbraided the hostess of the house, and my father did what was more to the purpose—posted off to find other apartments for us; no easy matter, for the town is crammed to overflowing. In the mean time a little blue-eyed fairy, of about two years old, came and made friends with me, and I presently had her fast asleep in my lap. After carrying my prize into an empty room, and sitting by it for nearly half an hour while it slept the sleep of the blessed, I was called away from this very new interest, for my father had succeeded in finding house-room for us, and I had yet all my preparations to make for the evening.
The theater is a beautiful building for its purpose, of a perfectly discreet size, neither too large nor too small, of a very elegant shape, and capitally constructed for the voice. The house was very full; the play, "Romeo and Juliet." I played abominably ill, and did not like my audience, who must have been very good-natured if they liked me.
Tuesday, August 2d.—Rose at seven, and went off down to the sea, and that was delightful. In the evening the play was "Venice Preserved." I acted very well, notwithstanding that I had to prompt my Jaffier through every scene, not only as to words, but position on the stage, and "business," as it is called. How unprincipled and ungentlemanlike this is! The house was very fine, and a pleasanter audience than the first night. Found a letter from Mrs. Jameson after the play, with an account of Pasta's "Anna Bolena." How I wish I could see it!
Wednesday, August 3d.—Rose at seven, and went down to the sea to bathe. The tide was out, and I had to wait till the nymphs had filled my bath-tub.... At the theater in the evening, the play was "The Stranger." The house not so good as last night, and the audience were disagreeably noisy....
Thursday, August 4th.—They will not let me take my sea-bath every morning; they say it makes me too weak. Do they mean in the head, I wonder?... "Let the sanguine then take warning, and the disheartened take courage, for to every hope and every fear, to every joy and every sorrow, there comes a last day," which is but a didactic form of dear Mademoiselle Descuillier's conjuring of our impatiences: "Cela viendra, ma chere, cela viendra, car tout vient dans ce monde; cela passera, ma chere, cela passera, car tout passe dans ce monde." ... I finished my drawing, and copied some of "The Star of Seville." I wonder if it will ever be acted? I think I should like to see a play of mine acted. In the evening at the theater, the play was "Isabella." The house was very full, and I played well. The wretched manager will not afford us a green baize for our tragedies, and we faint and fall and die upon bare boards, and my unhappy elbows are bruised black and blue with their carpetless stage, barbarians that they be!
Friday, August 5th.—Down to the sea at seven o'clock; the tide was far out, the lead-colored strand, without its bright foam-fringes, looked bleak and dreary; it was not expected to be batheable till eleven, and as I had not breakfasted, I could not wait till then. Lingered on the shore, as Tom Tug says, thinking of nothing at all, but inhaling the fresh air and delicious sea-smell. I stood and watched a party of pleasure put off from the shore, consisting of a basket of fuel, two baskets of provisions, a cross-looking, thin, withered, bony woman, wrapped in a large shawl, and with boots thick enough to have kept her dry if she had walked through the sea from Plymouth to Mount Edgecombe. Her tete-a-tete companion was a short, thick, squat, stumpy, dumpy, dumpling of a man, in a round jacket, and very tight striped trousers. "Sure such a pair were never seen." The sour she, stepped into their small boat first, but as soon as her fat playfellow seated himself by her, the poor little cockle-shell dipped so with the increased weight that the tail of the cross-shawl hung deep in the water. I called after them, and they rectified the accident without sending me back a "Thank you." I love the manners of my country-folk, they are so unsophisticated with civility.
At the theater the play was "The Gamester," for my benefit, and the house was very fine. My father played magnificently; I "not even excellent well, but only so-so." The actors none of them knew their parts, abominable persons; and as for Stukely—well! Mdlle. Dumesnil, in her great, furious scene in Hermione, ended her imprecations against Orestes by spitting in her handkerchief and throwing it in his face. The handkerchief spoils the frenzy. I wonder if it ever occurred to Mrs. Siddons so to wind up her abuse of Austria in "King John." By the by, it was when asked to give his opinion of the comparative merits of Clairon and Dumesnil, that Garrick said, "Mdlle. Clairon was the greatest actress of the age, but that for Mdlle. Dumesnil he was not aware that he had seen her, but only Phedre, Rodogund, and Hermione, when she did them." After the play the audience clamored for my father. He thought that "l'envie leur en passerait;" and not being in a very good humor, he declined appearing. The uproar went on, the overture to the farce was inaudible, and the curtain drew up amid the deafening shouts of "Kemble! Kemble!"—they would not suffer the poor farceurs to go on, even in dumb show. I was at the side scene, and thought it really a pity not to put an end to all the fuss; so I went to my father, who was standing at the stage door in the street, and requested him to stop the disturbance by coming forward at once. He turned round, and without saying anything but "Tu me le conseilles," walked straight upon the stage, and addressed the audience as follows: "Ladies and gentlemen, I had left the theater when word was brought to me that you had done me the honor to call for me; as I conclude you have done so merely in conformity to a custom which is becoming the fashion of calling for certain performers after the play, I can only say, ladies and gentlemen, that I enter my protest against such a custom. It is a foreign fashion, and we are Englishmen; therefore I protest against it. I will take my leave of you by parodying Mercutio's words: Ladies and gentlemen, bon soir; there's a French salutation for you." So saying he walked off the stage, leaving the audience rather surprised; and so was I. I think he is laboring under an incipient bilious attack.
We had a long discussion to-day as to the possibility of women being good dramatic writers. I think it so impossible that I actually believe their physical organization is against it; and, after all, it is great nonsense saying that intellect is of no sex. The brain is, of course, of the same sex as the rest of the creature; besides, the original feminine nature, the whole of our training and education, our inevitable ignorance of common life and general human nature, and the various experience of existence, from which we are debarred with the most sedulous care, is insuperably against it. Perhaps some of the manly, wicked Queens Semiramis, Cleopatra, could have written plays; but they lived their tragedies instead of writing them.
Saturday, August 6th.—After breakfast our excellent architect came to fetch us for our expedition to the breakwater. My father complained of being dreadfully bilious, a bad preparation for the purpose. I wanted to stay at home with him, or at all events to put off the party for an hour or two; but he would not hear of either plan. So as soon as I was ready we set off. We walked first to the M——s', and then proceeded in a body to the shore, where a Government boat was waiting for us; and what a cargo we were, to be sure! My father, certainly no feather; our worthy friend, who must weigh eighteen stone, if a pound; Mr. and Mrs. W——, thinnish bodies; but her friend, Dall, and myself decidedly thickish ones; then the pilot, a gaunt, square Scotchman; and four stout sailors. The gallant little craft courtesied and courtesied as she received us, one by one, and at length, when we were all fairly and pretty closely packed, she put off, and breasted the water bravely, rising and dancing on the back of the waves like a dolphin. I should have enjoyed it but for my father's ghastly face of utter misery. The day was dull, the sky and sea lead-colored, the brown coast by degrees lost its distinctness, and became covered with a dark haze that seemed to blend everything into a still, stony, threatening iron-gray mass. The wind rose, the sea became inky black and swelled into heavy ridges, which made our little vessel dip deep and spring high, as she toiled forward; and then down came the rain—such tremendous rain! Cloaks, shawls, and umbrellas were speedily produced; but we were two miles from shore, between the rising sea and the falling clouds, sick, wet, squeezed. Oh the delights of that party of pleasure! My father looked cadaverous, Dall was portentously silent, I shut my eyes and tried to sleep, being in that state when to see, or hear, or speak, or be spoken to, is equally fatal. At length we reached the foot of the breakwater, and I sprang out of the boat, too happy to touch the stable rock. The rain literally fell in sheets from the sky, and the wind blew half a hurricane; but I was on firm ground, and taking off my bonnet, which only served the purpose of a water-spout down my back, I ran, while Mr. M——, holding my arm, strode along the mighty water-based road, while the angry sea, turning up black caldrons full of boiling foam, dashed them upon the barrier man has raised against its fury in magnificent, solemn wrath. This breakwater is a noble work; the daring of the conception, its vast size and strength, and the utility of its purpose, are alike admirable. We do these things and die; we ride upon the air and water, we guide the lightning and we bridle the sea, we borrow the swiftness of the wind and the fine subtlety of the fire; we lord it in this universe of ours for a day, and then our bodies are devoured by these material slaves we have controlled, and helplessly mingle their dust with the elements that have obeyed our will, who reabsorb the garment of our soul when that has fled—whither?
The rain continuing to fall in torrents, and my father being wretchedly unwell, we gave up our purpose of visiting Mount Edgecombe, and returned to Plymouth. The sea was horribly rough, even inside the breakwater; but I shut my eyes that I might not see how we heaved, and sang that I might not think how sick I was: and so we reached shore, and I ran up and down the steep beach while the rest were disembarking, and the wind soon dried my light muslin clothes. The other poor things continued drenched till we reached home. After a good rest, we went to our dinner at Mr. W——'s; my father was all right again, and our party, that had separated in such dismal plight, met again very pleasantly in the evening. Mr. W—— got quite tipsy with talking, an accident not uncommon with eager, excitable men, and all but overwhelmed me with an argument about dramatic writing, in which he was wrong from beginning to end.... We leave Plymouth to-morrow.
Sunday, August 7th.—Started for Exeter at seven, and slept nearly the whole way by little bits; between each nap getting glimpses of the pleasant land that blended for a moment with my hazy, dream-like thoughts, and then faded away before my closing eyes. One patch of moorland that I woke to see was lovely—all purple heather and golden gorse; nature's royal mantle thrown, it is true, over a barren soil, whose gray, cold, rifted ridges of rock contrasted beautifully with its splendid clothing. We got to Exeter at two o'clock, and I was thankful to rest the rest of the day.
Monday, August 8th.—I read old Biagio's preface to Dante, which, from its amazing classicality, is almost as difficult as the crabbed old Florentine's own writing. Worked at a rather elaborate sketch tolerably successfully, and was charmingly interrupted by having our landlady's pretty little child brought in to me. She is a beautiful baby, but will be troublesome enough by and by.... At the theater the house was very good; I played tolerably well upon the whole, but felt so fagged and faint toward the end of the play that I could hardly stand.
Tuesday, August 9th.—I sometimes wish I was a stone, a tree, some senseless, soulless, irresponsible thing; that ebbing sea rolling before me, its restlessness is obedience to the law of its nature, not striving against it, neither is it "the miserable life in it" urging it to ceaseless turmoil and agitation. We dined early, and then started for Dorchester, which we reached at half-past ten, after a most fatiguing journey. It was a still, gray day, an atmosphere and light I like; there is a clearness about it that is pleasanter sometimes than the dazzle of sunshine. Some of the country we drove through was charming, particularly the vale of Honiton.... I have an immense bedroom here; a whole army of ghosts might lodge in it. I hope, if there are any, they will be civil, well-behaved, and, above all, invisible.
Wednesday, August 10th. ... At ten o'clock we started for Weymouth, where we arrived in the course of an hour, and found it basking on the edge of a lovely summer sea, with a dozen varying zones of color streaking its rippling surface; from the deep, dark purple heaving against the horizon to the delicate pearl-edged, glassy golden-green that spreads its transparent sheets over the sparkling sand of the beach. The bold chalky cliffs of the shore send back the burning sunlight with blinding brightness, and stretch away as far as eye can follow in hazy outlines, that glimmer faintly through the shimmering mist. It is all very beautiful.... I got ready my things for the theater, ... and when I got there I was amused and amazed at its absurdly small proportions; it is a perfect doll's playhouse, and until I saw that my father really could stand upon the stage, I thought that I should fill it entirely by myself. How well I remember all the droll stories my mother used to tell about old King George III. and Queen Charlotte, who had a passion for Weymouth, and used to come to the funny little theater here constantly; and how the princesses used to dress her out in their own finery for some of her parts. [I long possessed a very perfect coral necklace of magnificent single beads given to my mother on one of these occasions by the Princess Amelia.] The play was "Romeo and Juliet," and our masquerade scene was in the height of the modern fashion, for there was literally not room to stir; and what between my nurse and my father I suffered very nearly total eclipse, besides much danger of being knocked down each time either of them moved. In the balcony, besides me, there was a cloud, which occasionally interfered with my hair, and I think must have made my face appear to the audience like a chin and mouth speaking out of the sky. To be sure, this inconvenient scenic decoration made rather more appropriate the lines which Shakespeare wrote (only unfortunately Romeo never speaks them), "Two of the stars," etc. I acted very well, but was so dreadfully tired at the end of the play that they were obliged to carry me up to my dressing-room, where I all but fainted away; in spite of which, as I got out of the carriage at the door of our lodging, hearing the dear voice of the sea calling me, I tried to persuade Dall to come down to it with me; but she, thinking I had had enough of emotion and exertion, made me go in and eat my supper and go to bed, which was detestable on her part, and so I told her, which she didn't mind in the least.
Thursday, August 11th.—A kind and courteous and most courtly old Mr. M—— called upon us, to entreat that we would dine with him during our stay in Weymouth; but it is really impossible, with all our hard work, to do society duty too, so I begged permission to decline. After he was gone we walked down to the pier, and took boat and rowed to Portland. The sky was cloudless, and the sea without a wave, and through its dark-blue transparent roofing we saw clearly the bottom, one forest of soft, undulating weeds, which, catching the sunlight through the crystal-clear water, looked like golden woods of some enchanted world within its depths; and it looks just as weird and lovely when folks go drowning down there, only they don't see it. I sang Mrs. Hemans's "What hid'st thou in thy treasure-caves and cells?" and sang and sang till, after rowing for an hour over the hardly heaving, smooth surface, we reached the foot of the barren stone called Portland. We landed, and Dall remained on the beach while my father and I toiled up the steep ascent. The sun's rays fell perpendicularly on our heads, the short, close grass which clothed the burning, stony soil was as slippery as glass with the heat, and I have seldom had a harder piece of exercise than climbing that rock, from the summit of which one wide expanse of dazzling water and glaring white cliffs, that scorched one's eyeballs, was all we had for our reward. To be sure, exertion is a pleasure in itself, and when one's strength serves one's courage, the greater the exertion the greater the pleasure. We saw below us a railroad cut in the rock to convey the huge masses of stone from the famous quarries down to the shore. The descent looked almost vertical, and we watched two immense loads go slowly down by means of a huge cylinder and chains, which looked as if the world might hang upon them in safety. I lay down on the summit of the rock while my father went off exploring further, and the perfect stillness of the solitude was like a spell. There was not a sound of life but the low, drowsy humming of the bees in the stone-rooted tufts of fragrant thyme. On our return we had to run down the steep, slippery slopes, striking our feet hard to the earth to avoid falling; firm walking footing there was none. When we joined Dall we found, to our utter dismay, that it was five o'clock; we bundled ourselves pele-mele into the boat and bade the boatman row, row, for dear life; but while we were indulging in the picturesque he had been indulging in fourpenny, which made him very talkative, and his tongue went faster than his arms. I longed for John to make our boat fly over the smooth, burnished sea; the oars came out of the water like long bars of diamond dropping gold. We touched shore just at six, swallowed three mouthfuls of dinner, and off to the theater. The play was "Venice Preserved." I dressed as quick as lightning, and was ready in time. The house was not very good, and I am sure I should have wondered if it had been, when the moon is just rising over the fresh tide that is filling the basin, and a delicious salt breeze blows along the beach, and the stars are lighting their lamps in heaven; and surely nobody but those who cannot help it would be breathing the gas and smoke and vile atmosphere of the playhouse. I played well, and when we came home ran down and stood a few minutes by the sea; but the moon had set, and the dark palpitating water only reflected the long line of lights from the houses all along the curving shore.
Friday, August 12th, Portsmouth.— ... The hotel where we are staying is quite a fine house, and the Assembly balls used to be held here, and so there is a fine large "dancing-hall deserted" of which I avail myself as a music-room, having entire and solitary possession of it and a piano.... At the theater the house was good, and I played well....
Monday, August 15th, Southampton.—After breakfast practised till eleven, and then went to rehearsal; after which Emily Fitzhugh came for me, and we drove out to Bannisters. Poor Mrs. Fitzhugh was quite overcome at seeing my father, whom she has not seen since Mrs. Siddons's death; we left her with him to talk over Campbell's application to her for my aunt's letters. He has behaved badly about the whole business, and I hope Mrs. Fitzhugh will not let him have them.... When we came in I went and looked at Lawrence's picture of my aunt in the dining-room (now in the National Gallery; it was painted for Mrs. Fitzhugh). It is a fine rich piece of coloring, but there is a want of ease and grace in the figure, and of life in the countenance, and altogether I thought it looked like a handsome dark cow in a coral necklace. O ox-eyed Juno! forgive the thought.... At the theater the house was good; the play was "Romeo and Juliet," and I played well. While I was changing my dress for the tomb scene—putting on my grave-clothes, in fact—I had desired my door to be shut, for I hate that lugubrious funeral-dirge. How I do hate, and have always hated, that stage funeral business, which I never see without a cold shudder at its awful unfitness. I can't conceive how that death's pageant was ever tolerated in a theater. [I think Mrs. Bellamy, in her "Memoirs," mentions that it was first introduced as a piece of new sensation when she and Garrick were dividing the town with the efforts of their rival managership.] At present the pretext for it is to give the necessary time for setting the churchyard scene and for Juliet to change her dress, which she has no business to do according to the text, for it expressly says that she shall be buried in all her finest attire, according to her country's custom. In spite of which I was always arrayed in long white muslin draperies and veils, with my head bound up, corpse fashion, and lying, as my aunt had stretched me, on the black bier in the vault, with all my white folds drawn like carved stone robes along my figure and round my feet, with my hands folded and my eyes shut. I have had some bad nervous minutes, sometimes fancying, "Suppose I should really die while I am lying here, making believe to be dead!" and imagining the surprise and dismay of my Romeo when I didn't get up; and at others fighting hard against heavy drowsiness of over-fatigue, lest I should be fast asleep, if not dead, when it came to my turn to speak—though I might have depended upon the furious bursting open of the doors of the vault for my timely waking. Talking over this with Mrs. Fitzhugh one day she told me a comical incident of the stage life of her friend, the fascinating Miss Farren. The devotion of the Earl of Derby to her, which preceded for a long time the death of Lady Derby, from whom he was separated, and his marriage to Miss Farren, made him a frequent visitor behind the scenes on the nights of her performance. One evening, in the famous scene in Joseph Surface's library in "The School for Scandal," when Lady Teazle is imprisoned behind the screen, Miss Farren, fatigued with standing, and chilled with the dreadful draughts of the stage, had sent for an armchair and her furs, and when this critical moment arrived, and the screen was overturned, she was revealed, in her sable muff and tippet, entirely absorbed in an eager conversation with Lord Derby, who was leaning over the back of her chair.
Tuesday, 16th, Southampton.—After breakfast walked down to the city wall, which has remnants of great antiquity they say, as old as the Danes, one bit being still heroically called "Canute's Castle."
Wednesday, August 17th.—Went to the theater, and rehearsed "The Stranger." On my return found Emily waiting for me, and drove with her to Bannisters.... In the evening, at the theater, the house was very good, but I played only so-so, and not at all excellent well....
Thursday, August 18th.—While I was practising I came across that pretty piece of ballad pathos, "The Banks of Allan Water," and sang myself into sobbing. Luckily I was interrupted by Dall and my father, who came in with a little girl, poor unfortunate! whose father had brought her to show how well she deserved an engagement at Covent Garden. She sat down to the piano at his desire, and panted through the great cavatina in the "Gazza Ladra." Poor little thing! I never heard or saw anything that so thoroughly impressed me with the brutal ignorance of our people; for there is scarcely an Englishman of that man's condition, situated as he is, who would not have done the same thing. A child of barely ten years old made to sing her lungs away for four hours every day, when it is not possible yet to know what the character and qualities of her voice will be, or even if she will have any voice at all. Wasting her health and strength in attempting "The Soldier Tired" and "Di piacer," it really was pitiful. We gave her plenty of kind words and compliments, and sundry pieces of advice to him, which he will not take, and in a few months no doubt we shall hear of little Miss H—— singing away as a prodigy, and in a few years the voice, health, and strength will all be gone, and probably the poor little life itself have been worn out of its fragile case. Stupid barbarian! After rehearsal drove to Bannisters.... In the evening, at the theater, the play was "The Provoked Husband." The house was very full; I played fairly well. I was rather tired, and Lady Townley's bones ached, for I had been taking a rowing lesson from Emily, and supplied my want of skill, tyro fashion, with a deal of unnecessary effort.
Friday, August 19th.— ... It sometimes occurs to me that our spirits, when dwelling with the utmost intensity of longing upon those who are distant from us, must create in them some perception, some consciousness of our spiritual presence, so that not by the absent whom I love thinking of me, but by my thinking of them, they must receive some intimation of the vividness with which my soul sees and feels them. It seems to me as if my earnest desire and thought must not bring those they dwell on to me, but render me in some way perceptible, if not absolutely visible, to them.
"Though thou see me not pass by, Thou shalt feel me with thine eye."
I fancy I must create my own image to their senses by the clinging passion with which my thoughts dwell on them. And yet it would be rather fearful if one were thus subject, not only to the disordered action of one's own imagination, but to the ungoverned imaginations of others; and so, upon the whole, I don't believe people would be allowed to pester other people with their presence only by dint of thinking hard enough and long enough about them. It would be intolerable, and yet I have sometimes fancied I was thinking myself visible to some one.... In the evening, at the theater, the house was very good; the play was "The Gamester," and I played very ill. I felt fagged to death; my work tires me, and I am growing old.
Saturday, 20th.—At Bannisters all the morning. Emily gave me two charming Italian songlets, and then they drove us down to Southampton. At the theater this evening the house was all but empty, owing to some stupid blunder in the advertisement. The play was "The School for Scandal," and I played well.... To-morrow I shall be at home once more in smoky London.
SOUTHAMPTON, August 19, 1831. MY DEAREST H——,
I do not like to defer answering you any longer, though I am not very fit to write, for I am half blind with crying, and have a torturing side-ache, the results of bodily fatigue and nervous anxiety; but if I do not write to you to-night I know not when I shall be able to do so, for I shall have to rehearse every morning and to act every night, and I expect the intermediate hours will be spent on the road to and from Bannisters, the Fitzhughs' place near here. I have been traveling ever since half-past eight to-day, and, have hardly been three hours out of the coach which brought us from Weymouth, where we have been acting for the last week. Your letter followed me from Plymouth, and right glad I was to get it.... I do not know what I can write you of if not myself, and I dare say, after all, my thoughts are more amusing to you, or rather, perhaps, more useful, in your processes of observing and studying human nature in general, through my individual case, than if I wrote you word what plays we had been acting, etc., etc.... To meet pain, no matter how severe, the mind girds up its loins, and finds a sort of strength of resistance in its endurance, which is a species of activity. To endure helplessly prolonged suspense is another matter quite, and a far heavier demand upon all patient power than is in one....
So you have seen the railroad; I am so glad you have seen that magnificent invention. I wish I had been on it with you. I wish you had seen Stephenson; you would have delighted in him, I am sure. The hope of meeting him again is one of the greatest pleasures Liverpool holds out to me.... With regard to what are called "fine people," and liking their society better than that of "not fine people," I suppose a good many tolerable reasons might be adduced by persons who have that preference. They do not often say very wise or very witty things, I dare say; but neither do they tread on one's feet or poke their elbows into one's side (figuratively speaking) in their conversation, or commit the numerous solecisms of manner of less well-bred people. For myself, my social position does not entitle me to mix with the superior class of human beings generally designated as "fine people." My father's indolence renders their society an irksome exertion to him, and my mother's pride always induces her to hang back rather than to make advances to anybody. We are none of us, therefore, inclined to be very keen tuft-hunters. But for these very reasons, if "fine people" seek me, it is a decided compliment, by which my vanity is flattered. A person with less of that quality might be quite indifferent to their notice, but I think their society, as far as I have had any opportunity of observing it, has certain positive merits, which attract me irrespectively of the gratification of my vanity. Genius and pre-eminent power of intellect, of course, belong to no class, and one would naturally prefer the society of any individual who possessed these to that of the King of England (who, by the by, is not, I believe, particularly brilliant). I would rather pass a day with Stephenson than with Lord Alvanley, though the one is a coal-digger by birth, who occasionally murders the king's English, and the other is the keenest wit and one of the finest gentlemen about town. But Stephenson's attributes of genius, industry, mental power, and perseverance are his individually, while Lord Alvanley's gifts and graces (his wit, indeed, excepted) are, in good measure, those of his whole social set. Moreover, in the common superficial intercourse of society, the minds and morals of those you meet are really not what you come in contact with half the time, while from their manners there is, of course, no escape; and therefore those persons may well be preferred as temporary associates whose manners are most refined, easy, and unconstrained, as I think those of so-called "fine people" are. Originality and power of intellect belong to no class, but with information, cultivation, and the mental advantages derived from education, "fine people" are perhaps rather better endowed, as a class, than others. Their lavish means for obtaining instruction, and their facilities for traveling, if they are but moderately endowed by nature and moderately inclined to profit by them, certainly enable them to see, hear, and know more of the surface of things than others. This is, no doubt, a merely superficial superiority; but I suppose that there are not many people, and certainly no class of people, high, low, or of any degree, who go much below surfaces.... If you knew how, long after I have passed it, the color of a tuft of heather, or the smell of a branch of honeysuckle by the roadside, haunts my imagination, and how many suggestions of beauty and sensations of pleasure flow from this small spring of memory, even after the lapse of weeks and months, you would understand what I am going to say, which perhaps may appear rather absurd without such a knowledge of my impressions. I think I like fine places better than "fine people;" but then one accepts, as it were, the latter for the former, and the effect of the one, to a certain degree, affects one's impressions of the other. A great ball at Devonshire House, for instance, with its splendor, its brilliancy, its beauty, and magnificence of all sorts, remains in one's mind with the enchantment of a live chapter of the "Arabian Nights;" and I think one's imagination is still more impressed with the fine residences of "fine people" in the country, where historical and poetical associations combine with all the refinements of luxurious civilization and all the most exquisitely cultivated beauties of nature to produce an effect which, to a certain degree, frames their possessors to great advantage, and invests them with a charm which is really not theirs; and if they are only tolerably in harmony with the places where they live, they appear charming too. I believe the pleasure and delight I take in the music, the lights, the wreaths, and mirrors of a splendid ball-room, and the love I have for the smooth lawns, bright waters, and lordly oaks of a fine domain, would disgracefully influence my impressions of the people I met amongst them. Still, I humbly trust I do not like any of my friends, fine or coarse, only for their belongings, though my intercourse with the first gratifies my love of luxury and excites what my Edinburgh friends call my ideality. I don't think, however. I ever could like anybody, of any kind whatever, that I could not heartily respect, let their intellectual gifts, elegance, or refinement of manners be what they might. Good-by, dearest H——.
Ever your affectionate F. A. K.
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, October 3, 1831. MY DEAREST H——,
I received your last letter on Thursday morning, and as I read it exclaimed, "We shall be able to go to her!" and passed it to Dall, who seemed to think there was no reason why we should not, when my father said he was afraid it could not be managed, as the theater, upon second arrangements, would require me before this month was over. It seems to me that, instead of one disappointment, I have had twenty about coming to you, dear H——, and the last has fairly broken the poor camel's back. My father promised to see what could be done for me, and to get me spared as long as possible; but the final arrangement is, that on the 24th I shall have to act Queen Katharine, for which, certainly, a week of daily rehearsals will be barely sufficient preparation. This, you see, will leave me hardly time enough to stay at Ardgillan to warrant the fatigue and expense of the journey. I am afraid it would be neither reasonable nor right to spend nearly a week in traveling and the money it must cost, to pass a fortnight with you.... Give my love to your sister, and tell her how willingly I would have accepted her hospitality had circumstances permitted it; but "circumstances," of which we are so apt to complain, may, perhaps, at some future time, allow me to be once more her guest. The course of events is, after all, far more impartial than, in moments of disappointment, we are apt to admit, and quite as often procures us unexpected and unthought-of pleasures as defeats those we had proposed for ourselves. Pazienza! Dear Dall, who, I see, has produced her invariable impression upon your mind, bids me thank you for the kind things you say of her, at the same time that she says, "though they are undeserved, she is thankful for the affection that dictates them." She is excellent. You bid me tell you of my father, and how his health and spirits continue to struggle against his exertions and anxieties: tolerably well, thank God! I sometimes think they have the properties of that palm tree which is said to grow under the pressure of immense weights. He looks very well, and, except the annoyances of his position in the theater, has rather less cause for depression than for some time past. Though we have not yet obtained our "decree," we understand that the Lord Chancellor says openly that we shall get it, so that uncertainty of the issue no longer aggravates the wearisome delays of this unlucky appeal.... I need not tell you what my feeling about acting Queen Katharine is; you, who know how conscious I am of my own deficiencies for such an undertaking, will easily conceive my distress at having such a task assigned me. Dall, who entirely agrees with me about it, wishes me to remonstrate upon the subject, but that I will not do. I am in that theater to earn my living by serving its interests, and if I was desired to act Harlequin, for those two purposes, should feel bound to do so. But I cannot help thinking the management short-sighted. I think their real interest, as far as I am concerned, which they overlook for some immediate tangible advantage, is not to destroy my popularity by putting me into parts which I must play ill, and not to take from my future career characters which require physical as well as mental maturity, and which would be my natural resources when I no longer become Juliet and her youthful sisters of the drama. But of course they know their own affairs, and I am not the manager of the theater. Those who have its direction, I suppose, make the best use they can of their instruments.
[My performance of Queen Katharine was not condemned as an absolute failure only because the public in general didn't care about it, and the friends and well-wishers of the theater were determined not to consider it one. But as I myself remember it, it deserved to be called nothing else; it was a school-girl's performance, tame, feeble, and ineffective, entirely wanting in the weight and dignity indispensable for the part, and must sorely have tried the patience and forbearance of such of my spectators as were fortunate and unfortunate enough to remember my aunt; one of whom, her enthusiastic admirer, and my excellent friend, Mr. Harness, said that seeing me in that dress was like looking at Mrs. Siddons through the diminishing end of an opera-glass: I should think my acting of the part must have borne much the same proportion to hers. I was dressed for the trial scene in imitation of the famous picture by Harlow, and of course must have recalled, in the most provoking and absurd manner, the great actress whom I resembled so little and so much. In truth, I could hardly sustain the weight of velvet and ermine in which I was robed, and to which my small girlish figure was as little adapted as my dramatic powers were to the matronly dignity of the character. I cannot but think that if I might have dressed the part as Queen Katharine really dressed herself, and been allowed to look as like as I could to the little dark, hard-favored woman Holbein painted, it would have been better than to challenge such a physical as well as dramatic comparison by the imitation of my aunt's costume in the part. Englishmen of her day will never believe that Katharine of Arragon could have looked otherwise than Mrs. Siddons did in Shakespeare's play of "Henry VIII.;" but nothing could in truth be more unlike the historical woman than the tall, large, bare-armed, white-necked, Juno-eyed, ermine-robed ideal of queenship of the English stage. That quintessence of religious, conscientious bigotry and royal Spanish pride is given, both in the portraits of contemporary painters and in Shakespeare's delineation of her; the splendid magnificence of my aunt's person and dress, as delineated in Harlow's picture, has no affinity whatever to the real woman's figure, or costume, or character.]
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, October 12, 1831. DEAREST H——,
I received my book and your letter very safely about a week ago, and would have written to say so sooner, but have been much occupied with one thing and another that has prevented me. So you are beaten, vieilles perukes that you are! not by one or two, but by forty-one; and your bones are all the likelier to ache, and I am not at all sorry. Think of Brougham going down on his marrow-bones (there can be none in them, though), and adjuring the Lords, con quella voce! e quel viso! to pass the Bill, like good boys, and remember the schoolmaster, who surely, when he is at home, cannot be said to be abroad. A good coup de theatre is not an easy thing, and requires a good deal of tact and skill. I cannot help thinking there must have been something grotesque in this performance of Brougham's, as when Liston turned tragedian and recited Collins's "Ode to the Passions" in a green coat and top boots. The excitement, however, was tremendous; the House thronged to suffocation; as many people crammed into impossible space as the angels in the famous Needle-point controversy. Lady Glengall declares that she sat for four hours on an iron bar. I think this universal political effervescence has got into my head. And what will you do now? You cannot create forty-one Peers; the whole Book of Genesis affords no precedent. I suppose Parliament will be prorogued, ministers will go out, a "cloth of gold" and "cloth of frieze" Government, with Brougham and Wellington brought together into it, will be cobbled, and a new Bill, which will set the teeth of the Lords so badly on edge, will be concocted, which the people will accept rather than nothing, if they are taken in the right way. That, I suppose, is what you Whigs will do; for an adverse majority of forty-one must be turned somehow or other, as it can hardly be gone straight at by folks who mean to keep on the box, or hold the reins, or carry the coach to the end of the journey....
I do not know at all how I should like to live in a palace; I am furiously fond of magnificence and splendor, and not unreasonably, seeing that I was born in a palace, with a sapphire ceiling hung with golden lamps, and velvet floors all embroidered with sweet-smelling, lovely-colored flowers, and walls of veined marble and precious, sparkling stones. I almost doubt if any mere royal palace would be good enough for me, or answer my turn. I should like all the people in the world to be as beautiful as angels, and go about crowned with glory and clothed with light (dear me, how very different they are!); but failing all that I should like in the way of enormously beautiful things, I pick up and treasure like a baby all the little broken bits of splendor and sumptuousness, and thank Heaven that their number and gradations are infinite, from the rainbow that the sun spans the heavens with, to the fine, small jewel drawn from the bowels of the earth to glitter on a lady's neck....
My dearest H——, I wish I were with you with all my heart, but, as if to diminish my regret by putting the thing still further beyond the region of possibility, I act next Monday the 17th, instead of the 24th. (They say "a miss is as good as a mile;" why does it always seem so much worse, then?) I begin with Belvidera, and have already begun my cares and woes and tribulations about lilac satins and silver tissues, etc., etc. Young is engaged with us, and plays Pierre, and my father Giaffir, which will be very dreadful for me; I do not know how I shall be able to bear all his wretchedness as well as my own. To be a good politician one ought to have, as it were, only one eye for truth; I do not at all mean to be single-eyed in the good sense of the word, but to be incapable of seeing more than one side of every question: one sees a part so much more strongly when one does not see the whole of a matter, and though a statesman may need a hundred eyes, I maintain that a party politician is the better for having only one. Restricted vision is good for work, too; people who see far and wide can seldom be very hopeful, I should think, and hope is the very essence of working courage. The matter in hand should always, if possible, be the great matter to those who have to carry it through, and though broad brains may be the best for conceiving, narrow ones are, perhaps, the best for working with.
Thank you for your quotation from Sir Humphry Davy; it did me good, and even made me better for five minutes; and your Irish letter, which interested me extremely. "Walking the world." What a sad and touching expression; and how well it describes a broken and desponding spirit! And yet what else are we all doing, in soul if not in body? Is not that solitary, wandering feeling the very essence of our existence here?
You ask if the interests of the theater and mine are not identical? No, I think not. The management seems to me like our Governments for some time past, to be actuated by mere considerations of temporary expediency; that which serves a momentary purpose is all they consider. But it stands to reason that if they make me play parts in which I must fail, my London popularity must decrease, and with it my provincial profits; and that, of course, is a serious thing. In short, dear H——, where success means bread and butter, failure means dry bread, or none; and I hate the last, I believe, less than the first, though, as I never tried starvation, perhaps dry bread is nicer....
The excitement about the Bill is rising instead of subsiding. The shops are all shut, and the people meeting in every direction; the windows of Apsley House have been smashed, and Wellington's statue (the Achilles in the Park) pelted and threatened to be pulled down. They say that Nottingham and Belvoir Castles are burnt down. All this is bad, and bodes, I fear, worse. Good-by, dear.
Your affectionate F. A. K.
Thursday, August 22d.—I read some of "Cibber's Lives." I should like to read a well-written French life of Alin Chartier, Louis XI.'s ugly secretary, whose mouth Queen Margaret kissed while he was sleeping, "parce qu'elle avait dit de si belles choses." In the life, or rather the death, of Sackville, he notes his sitting up till eleven at night as a manifest waste of human existence. It is near two in the morning as I am now writing, but people's notions change as to time as well as other things. We don't dine at twelve any more. Macdonald, the sculptor, dined with us; I like him for dear Scotland's sake, and the blessed time I passed there. After the gentlemen came up into the drawing-room, Nourrit, the great French tenor, sang delightfully for us; Adelaide sang and played, and Nourrit made her try a charming duet from the "Dame Blanche," which I accompanied, and was frightened to death for self and sister. Macdonald wants to make a statue of me in "The Grecian Daughter," at the moment of veiling the face: he is right. An interval of some time elapsed, in which I did not keep my journal regularly. I had a long visit from my friend Miss S——. The lawsuit about the theater continued, the affairs of the concern becoming more and more involved in difficulties every day; and my father, worried almost to death with anxiety, vexation, and hard work, had a serious illness.
Saturday, November 25th.—My father was not quite so well this morning. I took Dr. Wilson home in the carriage; he talked a great deal about this horrible burking business (a series of atrocious murders committed by two wretches of the names of Burk and Bishop, for the purpose of obtaining, for the corpses of their victims, the price paid by the Edinburgh surgeons for subjects for dissection; the mode of death inflicted by these men came to be designated by the name of the more hardened murderer as burking).
I called at Fozzard's for the boys, and set them down at Angelo's (a famous school for fencing, boxing, and single-stick, where my brothers took lessons in those polite exercises). In the evening, at the theater, dear Charles Young played "The Stranger" for the last time; the house was very full, and I played very ill. After the play Young was enthusiastically called for. I have finished "Tennant's Tour in Greece," which I rather liked. I have been reading "Bonaparte's Letters to Josephine;" the vague and doubting spirit which once or twice throws its wavering shadow across his thoughts, startles one in contrast with the habitual tone of the mind, which assuredly ne doubtait de rien, especially of what his own power of will could accomplish. The affection he expresses for his wife is sometimes almost poetical from its intensity, in spite of the grossness of his language. He seems to have believed in nothing but volition, and that volition is in itself, perhaps, a mere form of faith. It's a dangerous worship, for the devil in that shape does obey so long and so well before he claims his due; so much is achieved precisely by that belief in what can be achieved; the last round of the ladder, somehow or other, however, always seems to break down at last, and then I doubt if the people who fall from it can all declare, as Holcroft did when he fell from his horse, and, as his surgeon assured him, broke his ribs, that he was positive he had not, because in falling he had exerted the energy of will, and could not therefore have broken his bones.
Sunday, 29th.—The great good fortune of a good sermon at church. After church Mrs. Jameson, John Mason, and Mr. Loudham called; the latter said he had good news about that fatal theater of ours, for that Mr. Harris seemed to be inclined to come into some accommodation, and so perhaps this cancer of a Chancery suit may stop eating our lives away. Oh dear! I am afraid this is too good news to be true. I went to my father's room and sat by him for a long time, and talked about the horse I had bought for him; and there he lies in his bed, and God knows when he will even be able to walk again.
Monday, 30th.—I went to rehearsal. It seems that the managers and proprietors (of course not my poor father) had summoned a meeting of all the actors to try and induce them to accept for the present a reduced rate of salary till the theater can be in some measure relieved of its most pressing difficulties. I knew nothing of this, and, finding them all very solemnly assembled in the greenroom, asked them cheerfully why they were all there, which must have struck them strangely enough. I dare say they do not know how little I know, or wish to know, about this disastrous concern. On my return home, I heard that Dr. Watson had seen my father, and requested that Dr. Wilson might be sent for. They fear inflammation of the lungs; he has gone to the very limit of his tether, for had he continued fagging a night or two longer the effects might have been fatal. Poor, poor father!...
Lady Francis and Mrs. Sullivan called in the afternoon; I was feeling miserable, and exhausted with my rehearsal. In the evening I helped my mother to move all the furniture, which I think is nothing in the world but a restless indication of her anxiety about my father; it is the fourth time since she same back from the country.
Tuesday, December 1st.— ... It seems that in the arrangement, whatever it may be, which has taken place between the actors and the management, Mr. Harley and Mr. Egerton are the only ones who have declined the proposed accommodation. Young has behaved like an angel, offering to play for nothing till Christmas; how kind and liberal he is! Mr. Abbott, Mr. Duraset, Mr. Ward, and all the others, have been as considerate and generous as possible. But the thing is doomed, and will go to the ground, in spite of every effort that can be made to stave the ruin off.
I was greeted this morning, when I came down to breakfast, with a question that surprised and amused we very much. "Pray, Fanny," said John, "did you ever thank Mr. Bacon (one of the editors of the Times) for his book (the "Life of Francis I." which Mr. Bacon had been kind enough to send me); for here is a very abusive critique in to-day's Times of the play last night." "Well," thought I, "that's a comical sequitur, and a fine estimate of criticism;" but the conclusion was droller still. I had not forgotten to thank the friendly author for his book, nor had he written the article in question; but it seems a young gentleman, much in love with Miss Phillips (a promising and very handsome young actress at Drury Lane), had found pulling me to pieces the easiest way of showing his admiration for her. That is not a very exalted style of criticism either, but it is just as well that one should occasionally know what the praise and blame one receives may be worth. It seems that when it was determined that Miss Sheriff should come out, Mr. Welsh, whose pupil she was, made a great feast, and invited two-and-twenty gentlemen connected with the press to a private hearing of her.... In the evening, we all went to hear her, being every way much interested in her success. John and Henry went into the front of the house; my mother, Dr. Moore (the Rev. Dr. Moore, a great friend of my father and mother's), and myself, went up to our own box. The house was crammed, the pit one black, crowded mass. Poor child! I turned as cold as ice as the symphony of "Fair Aurora" (the opera was "Artaxerxes") began, and she came forward with Mr. Wilson. The bravos, the clapping, the noise, the great sound of popular excitement overpowering in all its manifestations; and the contrast between the sense of power conveyed by the acclamations of a great concourse of people, and the weakness of the individual object of that demonstration, gave me the strangest sensation when I remembered my own experience, which I had not seen. When I saw the thousands of eyes of that crowded pitful of men, and heard their stormy acclamations, and then looked at the fragile, helpless, pretty young creature standing before them trembling with terror, and all woman's fear and shame in such an unnatural position, I more than ever marveled how I, or any woman, could ever have ventured on so terrible a trial, or survived the venture. It seemed to me as if the mere gaze of all that multitude must melt the slight figure away like a wreath of vapor in the sun, or shrivel it up like a scrap of silver paper before a blazing fire. It made poor Dr. Moore and myself both cry, but there was a deal more sympathy in my tears than in his; for I had known the dizzy terror of that moment, had felt the ground slide from under my feet and the whole air become a sea of fiery rings before my swimming eyes. Besides my fellow-feeling for her actual agony, I had one for what her after trials may be, and I hoped for her that she might be able to see the truth of all things in the midst of all things false; and then, if she takes pleasure in her gilded toys, she will not have too bitter a heartache when they are broken. She sang well, and soon recovered from her fright, which, even from the first, did not affect her voice. She is rather pretty, but does not walk or move gracefully; she was well dressed, all but her hair, which was dressed in the present frizzy French fashion, and looked ridiculous for Mandane. Her singing was good, of a good style; I do not mean only that she sang "Fly, soft ideas, fly," and "Monster away!" and "The Soldier Tired," brilliantly, because they do not test the best singing, but the soave sostenuto of her "If e'er the cruel tyrant love," and "Let not rage thy bosom firing," were specimens of the best and most difficult school of singing. They were flowing, smooth, soft, and sweet, without trick or device of mere florid ornamentation, and were as intrinsically good in her execution as they are admirable in that peculiar style of composition. Her shake is not genuine, and some of her rapid descending scales want finish and accuracy; her use of her arms and her gestures were very pretty and graceful, and we were all greatly pleased with her. Braham was magnificently great, in spite of his inches. What a noble artist he is! and with what wonderful vigor he acts through his singing! being no actor at all the moment he stops singing. Wilson sang out of tune; the music is not in his voice, and he was frightened. Miss Cawse was rather a dumpy Artaxerxes, which is an impertinent remark for me to make; she has a beautiful contralto voice. The opera went off brilliantly, and after it the audience called for "God Save the King," which was performed. Paganini was in the box opposite to us; what a cadaverous-looking creature he is! Came home and saw my father, and gave him the report of Miss Sheriff's success....
Friday, December 2d.— ... I went to see Cecilia Siddons; I thought her looking aged and thin, and Mrs. Wilkinson (Mrs. Siddons's companion for many years previous to her death) looking sad and ill too. They have both lost the one idea of their whole lives.
Saturday, 3d.— ... It seems the doctors recommend my father's going to Brighton. I was urging him to do so this morning.... After tea I looked on the map for Rhodez, the scene of that horrible Fualdes tragedy (a murder the commission of which involved some singular and terribly dramatic incidents). I read Daru's "History of Venice" till bedtime.
Sunday, December 4th.— ... My father, for the first time this fortnight, was able to dine with us. After dinner I read the whole trial of Bishop and Williams, and their confession. My mother is reading aloud to us Lord Edward Fitzgerald's Life.
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, December 4, 1831. DEAR H——,
It is at the sensible hour of a quarter-past twelve at night that I begin this immense sheet of paper, and with the sensible purpose of filling it before I go to bed.... What an unsatisfactory invention letter-writing is, to be sure; and yet there is none better for the purpose. When you asked me so affectionately in your letter whether I was going to bed, I concluded naturally that you were writing to me instead of doing so yourself; but I received the letter at half-past nine in the morning, when I was getting ready to ride. This sort of epistolary cross-questions and crooked answers is sometimes droll, but oftener sad: we weep with those who did weep, when they have dried their eyes; and rejoice with those who did rejoice, but the corners of whose mouths are already drawn down for crying, while we fancy we are smiling sympathetically with them.... You ask me how the world goes with me, and I can only say round, as I suppose it does with everybody. All goes on precisely as usual with me; my life is exceedingly uniform, and it is seldom that anything occurs to disturb its monotonous routine. My dear father, thank Heaven, is better, but still very weak, and I fear it will be yet some time before he recovers his strength. He came down to dinner to-day for the first time in this fortnight; indeed, it is only since the day before yesterday that he has left his bed; but I trust that this attack will serve him for a long time, and that with rest and quiet he will regain his strength.
I am really glad my aunt Kemble is better, though I remember having some not unpleasant ideas as to how, if she were not, you would go to Leamington to nurse her, and so come on and stay with us in London; but I cannot wish it at the price of her prolonged indisposition, poor woman!... I am sorry to say my father is pronounced worse to-day; he has a bad side-ache, and they are applying mustard poultices to overcome it. There is some apprehension of a return of fever. This is a real and terrible anxiety, dear H——. The theater, too, is going on very ill, and he is unable to give it any assistance; and for the same reason I can do nothing for it, for all my plays require him, except Isabella and Fazio, and these are worn threadbare. It is all very gloomy; but, however, time doth not stand still, and will some day come to the end of the journey with us.... You say Undine reminds you of me.... The feeling of an existence more closely allied to the elements of the material universe than even we acknowledge our dust-formed bodies to be, possesses me sometimes almost like a little bit of magnus; bright colors, fleeting lights and shadows, flowers, and above all water, the pure, sparkling, harmonious, powerful element, excite in me a feeling of intimate fellowship, of love, almost greater than any human companionship does. Perhaps, after all, I am only an animated morsel of my palace, this wonderful, beautiful world. Do you not believe in numberless, invisible existences, filling up the vast intermediate distance between God and ourselves, in the lonely and lovely haunts of nature and her more awful and gloomy recesses? It seems as if one must be surrounded by them; I do not mean to the point of merely suggesting the vague "suppose?" that, I should think, must visit every mind; but rather like a consciousness, a conviction, amounting almost to certainty, only short of seeing and hearing. How well I remember in that cedar hall at Oatlands, the sort of invisible presence I used to feel pervading the place. It was a large circle of huge cedar trees in a remote part of the grounds; the paths that led to it were wild and tangled; the fairest flower, the foxglove, grew in tall clumps among the foliage of the thickets and shrubberies that divided the lawn into undulating glades of turf all round it; a sheet of water in which there was a rapid current—I am not sure that it was not the river—ran close by, and the whole place used to affect my imagination in the weirdest way, as the habitation of invisible presences of some strange supernatural order. As the evening came on, I used frequently to go there by myself, leaving our gentlemen at table, and my mother and Lady Francis in the drawing-room. How I flew along by the syringa bushes, brushing their white fragrant blossoms down in showers as I ran, till I came to that dark cedar hall, with its circle of giant trees, whose wide-sweeping branches spread, at it were, a halo of darkness all round it! Through the space at the top, like the open dome of some great circular temple, such as the Pantheon of Rome, the violet-colored sky and its starry worlds looked down. Sometimes the pure radiant moon and one fair attendant star would seem to pause above me in the dark framework of the great tree-tops. That place seemed peopled with spirits to me; and while I was there I had the intensest delight in the sort of all but conscious certainty that it was so. Curiously enough, I never remember feeling the slightest nervousness while I was there, but rather an immense excitement in the idea of such invisible companionship; but as soon as I had emerged from the magic circle of the huge black cedar trees, all my fair visions vanished, and, as though under a spell, I felt perfectly possessed with terror, and rushed home again like the wind, fancying I heard following footsteps all the way I went. The moon seemed to swing to and fro in the sky, and every twisted tree and fantastic shadow that lay in my path made me start aside like a shying horse. I could have fancied they made grimaces and gestures at me, like the rocks and roots in Retsch's etchings of the Brocken; and I used to reach the house with cheeks flaming with nervous excitement, and my heart thumping a great deal more with fear than with my wild run home; and then I walked with the utmost external composure of demure propriety into the drawing-room, as who should say, "Thy servant went no whither," to any inquiry that might be made as to my absence....
It seems to me that you would be a poet but for your analyzing, dissecting, inquiring, and doubting mental tendency. Your truth is not a matter of intuition, but of demonstration; and when you get beyond demonstrability, then nothing remains to you but doubt.... God bless you, dear!
I am yours ever affectionately, F. A. K.
Monday, December 5th.— ... My father is worse again to-day. Ohime! His state is most precarious, and this relapse very alarming. It is dreadful to see him drag himself about, and hear his feeble voice. Oh, my dear, dear Father! Heaven preserve you to us!
Tuesday, 6th.—My father is much worse. How terrible this is!... Dall met me on the stairs this morning, and gave me a miserable account of him; he had just been bled, and that had somewhat relieved him. I went and sat with him while my mother drove out in the carriage. I stayed a long while with him, and he seemed a little better.... My father's two doctors have returned again, and paid him two visits daily. I read Daru all the evening.
Wednesday, 7th.— ... So I am to play Belvidera on Monday, and Bianca on Wednesday. That will be hard work; Bianca is terrible.
Thursday, 8th.— ... My dear father is beginning to gain strength once more, thank Heaven! I received a letter from Lady Francis about the play (a translation of the French piece of "Henri Trois," by Lord Francis, the production of which at Covent Garden is being postponed in consequence of my father's illness). Poor people! I am sorry for their disappointment.... I devised and tried on a new dress for Bianca; it will be very splendid, but I am afraid I shall look like a metal woman, a golden image. [The dress in question was entirely made of gold tissue; and one evening a man in the pit exclaimed to a friend of mine sitting by him, "Oh! doesn't she look like a splendid gold pheasant?" the possibility of which comparison had not occurred to me, not being a sportsman.]