I was at a party last night where I met Lord Hill (then commander of the forces), who had himself presented to me, and who renewed in person the promise he had sent me through Sir John Macdonald (who was adjutant-general), to exert and interest himself to the utmost of his power about Henry's commission.
John has finished his Anglo-Saxon book, and Murray has undertaken to publish it for him, offering at the same time to share with him whatever profits may accrue from it. The work is of a nature which cannot give either a quick or considerable return; but the offer, like all Mr. Murray's dealings with me, is very kind and liberal, for a publisher is not easily found any more than readers for such matter. (The book was the Anglo-Saxon Poem of Beowulf.) He asked me to let him publish "Francis I.," as it is to be acted, without the fifth act, but this I would not consent to. I have rather an affection for my last scene in the Certoso at Pavia, with the monks singing the "De Profundis" while the battle was going on, and the king being brought in a prisoner and making the response to the psalm—which is all historically true....
I must bid you good-by, dear, as I am going to the Angerstein Gallery with the Fitzhughs....
Yours ever affectionately, F. A. K.
Saturday, 4th.—I was obliged to send an excuse to Turnerelli. I could not sit to him this morning, as it is now determined that "Francis I." is to be brought out, and received official notice that it was to be read in the greenroom to-day. We went to the theater at eleven, and all the actors were there. I felt very uncomfortable and awkward; but, after all, writing a play is not a sin, so I plucked up my courage and sat down with the rest. My father read it beautifully, but even cut as it is, it is of an unendurable length. They were all very kind and civil, and applauded it very much; but I do not love the sound of clapping of hands, and did not feel on this occasion as if I had done the sort of thing that deserves it....
At half-past five went to the theater; it was the first night of the opera, and rained besides, both which circumstances thinned our house; but I suspect "Katharine of Cleves" has nearly lived her life. Driving to the theater, my father told me that they had entirely altered the cast of "Francis I." from what I had appointed, and determined to finish the play with the fourth act. I felt myself get very red, but I didn't speak, though I cannot but think an author has a right to say whether he or she will have certain alterations made in their work. My position is a difficult one, for did I not feel bound to comply with my father's wishes I would have no hand in this experiment. I would forfeit fifty—nay, a hundred—pounds willingly rather than act in this play, which I am convinced ought not to be acted at all. Any other person might do this, but with me it is a question of home duty, instead of a mere matter of business between author, actress, and manager. They couldn't act the play without me, and but for my father I should from the first have refused to act in it at all. I do not think that they manage wisely; it is a mere snatch at a bit of profit by a way of catchpenny venture, to secure which they are running the risk of injuring me more ways than one, and through me their own interests. It seems to me shortsighted policy, but I cannot help myself. After the play came home to supper, and at eleven went to Lady Dacre's. Sidney Smith, Rogers. Conversation sharp. Lots of people that I knew, in spite of which, in consequence, I suppose, of my own state of spirits, I did not enjoy myself. Mrs. Norton was there; she sang "My Arab Steed," and "Yes, Aunt," and "Joe Hardy;" the latter I do not think very good. They made me sing; I was horribly frightened. Julian Young was there; his manner and appearance are not very good, but his voice is beautiful and he sang very well.
Sunday, 5th.— ... When I came back from church I found Campbell with my mother, scraping up information about Mrs. Siddons for his and her "life." I left him with her, and when I came back he was gone, and in his place, as if he had turned into her, sat Mrs. Fitzgerald in a green velvet gown trimmed with sables, which excited my admiration and envy. I should like to have been living in the days and countries where persons, as a mark of favor, took off their dress and threw it on your shoulders. How pleasant it would have been!...
Just before going to bed I spoke of writing a preface to "Francis I.," which brought on a discussion with my mother on the subject of that ill-fated piece, in the middle of which my father came in, and I summoned up courage to say something of what I felt about it, and how disagreeable it was to me to act in it, feeling as I did. I do not think I can make them understand that I do not care a straw whether the piece dies and is damned the first night, or is cut up alive the next morning, but that I do care that, in spite of my protestations, it should be acted at all, and should be cut and cast in a manner that I totally disapprove of.
Monday, 6th.— ... On our way to the theater my father told me that the whole cast of "Francis I." is again turned topsy-turvy. Patience of me! I felt very cross, so I held my tongue. Mr. and Miss Harness came home to supper with us, and had a long talk about "Francis I.," my annoyance about which culminated, I am ashamed to say, in a fit of crying.
Tuesday, 7th.—So "Francis I." is in the bills, I see....
Wednesday, 8th.— ... At eleven "The Provoked Husband" was rehearsed in the saloon, and Mr. Meadows brought Carlo to see me. [Carlo was a splendid Newfoundland dog, which my friend, Mr. Drinkwater Meadows, used to bring to the theater to see me. His solemnity, when he was desired to keep still while the rehearsal was going on, was magnificent, considering the stuff he must have thought it.] ... After dinner went to the theater. The house was bad; the play, "The Provoked Husband." I played ill in spite of my pink gauze gown, which is inestimable and as fresh as ever. After supper dressed and off to Mrs. G——'s, and had a very nice ball....
Friday, 10th.— ... I wrote to H—— to beg her to come to me directly; I wish her so much to be here when my play comes out. Went to the theater at a quarter to six. The house was bad; the play, "Katharine of Cleves." I acted pretty well, though my dresses are getting shockingly dirty, and in one of the scenes my wreath fell backward, and I was obliged to take it off in the middle of all my epistolary agony; and what was still worse, after my husband had locked me in one room and my wreath in another, it somehow found its way back upon my head for the last scene. At the end of the play, which has now been acted ten nights, some people began hissing the pinching incident. It was always considered the dangerous passage of the piece, but a reasonable public should know that a play must be damned on its first night, or not at all.
Saturday, 11th.— ... A long walk with my mother, and a long talk about Shakespeare, especially about the beauty of his songs....
Tuesday, 14th.— ... Read the family my prologue. My mother did not like it at all; my father said it would do very well. John asked why there need be any prologue to the play, which is precisely what I do not understand. However, I was told to write one and I did, and they may use it or not just as they please. I am determined to say not another word about the whole vexatious business, and so peace be with them.... In the evening a charming little dinner-party at Mr. Harness's. The G——s, Arthur K——, Procter (Barry Cornwall), who is delightful, Sir William Millman, and ourselves.... Dear Mr. Harness has spoken to Murray about John's book, and has settled it all for him. On my return home, I told John of the book being accepted, at which he was greatly pleased. [The book in question was my brother's history of the Anglo-Saxons, of which Lord Macaulay once spoke to me in terms of the highest enthusiasm, deploring that John had not followed up that line of literature to a much greater extent.]
Wednesday, 15th.— ... My father went to the opening dinner of the Garrick Club.... After tea I read Daru, and copied fair a speech I had been writing for an imaginary member of the House of Peers, on the Reform Bill. John Mason called, and they sat down to a rubber, and I came to my own room and read "King Lear." ...
Thursday, 16th.— ... While I was at the Fitzhughs' Miss Sturges Bourne came in, and she and Emily had a very interesting conversation about books for the poor. Among other things Emily said that Lady Macdonald had written up to her from the country, to say that she wanted some more books of sentiment, for that by the way in which these were thumbed it was evident that they alone would "go down." Upon inquiry, I found that these "sentimental" books were religious tracts, highly flavored with terror or pathos, and in one way or another calculated to convey the strongest excitement upon the last subject with which excitement ought to have anything to do. Pious stimulants, devout drams, this is trying to do good, but I think mistaking the way....
In the evening we went to Lady Farquhar's; this was a finer party, as it is called, than the last, but not so pleasant. All the world was there. Mrs. Norton the magnificent, and that lovely sister of hers, Mrs. Blackwood (afterwards Lady Dufferin), crowned like Bacchantes with grapes, and looking as beautiful as dreams. Heaps of acquaintance and some friends....
Sunday, 10th.— ... In the evening I read Daru. What fun that riotous old Pope Julius is! Poor Gaston de Foix! It was young to leave life and such well-begun fame. The extracts from Bayard's life enchant me. I am glad to get among my old acquaintance again. Mr. Harness came in rather late and said all manner of kind things about "The Star of Seville," but I was thinking about his play all the while; it does not seem to me that the management is treating him well. If it does not suit the interests of the theater to bring it out now, he surely should be told so, and not kept in a state of suspense, which cannot be delightful to any author, however little of an egotist he may be.
Monday, 20th.—Went to Kensington Gravel Pits to see Lady Calcott, and sat with her a long time. That dying woman, sitting in the warm spring sunlight, surrounded with early-blowing hyacinths, the youngest born of the year, was a touching object. She is a charming person, so full of talent and of goodness. She talked with her usual cheerfulness and vivacity. Presently Sir Augustus came down from the painting-room to see me.... I could hardly prevent myself from crying, and I am afraid I looked very sad. As I was going away and stooped to kiss her, she sweetly and solemnly bade "God bless me," and I thought her prayer was nearer to heaven than that of most people....
Tuesday, 21st.— ... After tea dropped John at Mr. Murray's in Albemarle Street, and went on to the theater to see the new opera; our version of "Robert the Devil." The house was very full. Henry Greville was there, with the Mitfords and Mrs. Bradshaw. What an extraordinary piece, to be sure! I could not help looking at the full house and wondering how so many decent Englishmen and women could sit through such a spectacle.... The impression made upon me by the subject of Meyerbeer's celebrated opera appears to have entirely superseded that of the undoubtedly fine music; but I never was able to enjoy the latter because of the former, and the only shape in which I ever enjoyed "Robert the Devil" was in M. Levassor's irresistibly ludicrous account of it in the character of a young Paris badaud, who had just come from seeing it at the theater. His version of its horrors was laughable in the extreme, especially when, coming to the episode of the resurrection of the nuns, he contrived to give the most comical effect of a whole crowd—gibbering, glissading women greeting one another with the rapid music of the original scene, to which he adapted the words—
"Quoi c'est moi c'est toi, Oui c'est toi c'est moi; Comme nous voila bien degommes."
Mendelssohn's opinion of the subjects chosen for operas in his day (even such a story as that of the Sonnambula) was scornful in the extreme.
Friday, 24th.— ... Dined with the Fitzhughs, and after dinner proceeded to the Adelphi, where we went to see "Victorine," which I liked very much. Mrs. Yates acted admirably the whole of it, but more particularly that part where she is old and in distress and degradation. There was a dreary look of uncomplaining misery about her, an appearance as of habitual want and sorrow and suffering, a heavy, slow, subdued, broken deportment, and a way of speaking that was excellent and was what struck me most in her performance, for the end is sure to be so effective that she shares half her merit there with the situation. Reeve is funny beyond anything; his face is the most humorous mask I ever saw in my life. I think him much more comical than Liston. The carriage was not come at the end of the first piece, so we had to wait through part of "Robert the Devil" (given at last, such was its popularity, at every theater in London). Of course, after our own grand diablerie, it did not strike me except as being wonderfully well done, considering the size and means of their little stage. [Yates made a most capital fiend: I should not like a bit to be Mrs Yates after seeing him look that part so perfectly.]
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, February 24, 1832. DEAREST H——,
I have this moment received your letter, and though rather disappointed myself, I am glad you are to see Dorothy as well as we, so that your visit southward is to be two pleasures instead of one. The representation of "Francis I." is delayed until next Wednesday, 7th March; not on account of cholera, but of scenery and other like theatrical causes of postponement....
I am greatly worried and annoyed about my play. The more I see and hear of it the stronger my perception grows of its defects, which, I think, are rendered even more glaring by the curtailments and alterations necessary for its representation; and the whole thing distresses me as much as such a thing can. I send you the cast of the principal characters for the instruction of my Ardgillan friends, by whose interest about it I am much gratified. My father is to be De Bourbon; John Mason, the king; Mr. Warde, the monk; Mr. Bennett, Laval. These are the principal men's parts. I act the queen-mother; Miss Taylor, Margaret de Valois; and Miss Tree, Francoise de Foix.
I am reading Cooper's novel of "The Borderers." It is striking and powerful, and some of it I think very beautiful, especially all that regards poor Ruth, which, I remember, is what struck you so much. I like the book extremely. There is a soft sobriety of color over it all that pleases me, and reminds me of your constant association of religion and the simple labors of an agricultural life. It is wonderful how striking the description of this neutral-tinted existence is, in which life, love, death, and even this wild warfare with the savage tribes, by which these people were surrounded, appear divested of all their natural and usual excitements. Religion alone (and this, of course, was inevitable) is the one imaginative and enthusiastic element in their existence, and that alone becomes the source of vehement feeling and passionate excitement which ought least to admit of fanciful interpretations and exaggerated and morbid sentiment. But the picture is admirably well drawn, and I cannot help sometimes wishing I had lived in those days, and been one of that little colony of sternly simple and fervently devout Christian souls. But I should have been a furious fanatic; I should have "seen visions and dreamed dreams," and fancied myself a prophetess to a certainty.
That luckless concern, in which you are a luckless shareholder (Covent Garden), is going to the dogs faster and faster every day; and, in spite of the Garrick Club and all its noble regenerators of the drama, I think the end of it, and that no distant one, will be utter ruin. They have been bringing out a new grand opera, called "Robert the Devil," which they hope to derive much profit from, as it is beyond all precedent absurd and horrible (and, as I think, disgusting); but I am almost afraid that it has none of these good qualities in a sufficient degree to make it pay its own enormous cost. I have seen it once, and came home with such a pain in my side and confused chaos in my head that I do not think I shall ever wish to see it again. Write me a line to say when I may look for you.
Ever affectionately yours, F. A. K.
Saturday, 25th.— ... Finished Fenimore Cooper's interesting and pathetic novel, "The Borderers." ... I came down into the drawing-room with a headache, a sideache, a heartache, and swollen red eyes, and my mother greeted me with the news that the theater was finally ruined, that at Easter it must close, that we must all go different ways, and I probably to America. I was sobered from my imaginary sorrow directly; for it is astonishing what a different effect real and fictitious distress has upon one. I could not answer my mother, but I went to the window and looked up and down the streets that were getting empty and dark and silent, and my heart sank as I thought of leaving my home, my England.... After dinner Madame le Beau came to try on my Louisa of Savoy's dress; it is as ugly and unbecoming, but as correct, as possible....
Wednesday, 23d.—At eleven went to the theater to rehearse "Francis I." The actors had most of them been civil enough to learn their parts, and were tolerably perfect. Mr. Bennett will play his very well indeed, if he does not increase in energy when he comes to act. Miss Tree, too, I think, will do her part very nicely. John Mason is rather vulgar and 'prentice-like for Francis, that mirror of chivalry. After rehearsal I went to Devy, to consult about my dress. I have got a picture of the very woman, Louisa of Savoy, queen-mother of France, and, short of absolute hideousness, I will make myself as like her as I can....
Arthur Hallam dined with us. I am not sure that I do not like him the best of all John's friends. Besides being so clever, he is so gentle, charming, and winning. At half-past ten went to Mrs. Norton's. My father, who had received a summons from the Court of Chancery, did not come.... It was a very fine, and rather dull, party.... Mrs. Norton looks as if she were made of precious stones, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires; she is radiant with beauty. And so, in a different way, is that vision of a sister of hers (Georgiana Sheridan, Lady St. Maur, Duchess of Somerset, and Queen of Beauty), with her waxen, round, white arms, and eyes streaming with soft brilliancy, like fountains by moonlight. To look at two such creatures for an hour is enough to make the world brighter for several hours.
Thursday, 24th.—At eleven went to rehearsal. While we were rehearsing Mr. Bartley came and told me that the play, "Francis I.," would not be done for a fortnight, and afterward my father told me he did not think it was right, or fitting, or doing me justice to bring out my play without some little attention to scenery, decorations, etc. I entreated him to go to no expense for it, for I am sure it will not repay them. Moreover, they have given their scenery, and finery, and dressing, and decoration, and spectacle in such profusion to "Robert the Devil" that I am sure they cannot afford a heavy outlay upon anything else just now. However, I could not prevail, and probably the real reason for putting off "Francis I." is the expediency of running the new opera as long as it will draw before bringing out anything else, which, of course, is good policy....
Wednesday, 29th.—H—— has gone to York. What a disappointment! After all, it's only one more added to the budget. Yet why do I say that? One scores one's losses, and takes no reckoning of one's gains, which is neither right nor fair to one's life....
I rode with Henry, and after I got home told my father that his horse was quite well, and would be fit for his use on Saturday. He replied sadly that his horse must be sold, for that from the first, though he had not liked to vex me by saying so, it was an expense he could not conscientiously afford. I had expected this, and certainly, when from day to day a man may be obliged to declare himself insolvent, keeping a horse does seem rather absurd. He then went on to speak about the ruin that is falling upon us; and dismal enough it is to stand under the crumbling fabric we have spent having and living, body, substance, and all but soul, to prop, and see that it must inevitably fall and crush us presently. Yet from my earliest childhood I remember this has been hanging over us. I have heard it foretold, I have known it expected, and there is no reason why it should now take any of us by surprise, or strike us with sudden dismay. Thank God, our means of existence lie within ourselves; while health and strength are vouchsafed to us there is no need to despond. It is very hard and sad to be come so far on in life, or rather so far into age, as my father is, without any hope of support for himself and my mother but toil, and that of the severest kind; but God is merciful. He has hitherto cared for us, as He cares for all His creatures, and He will not forsake us if we do not forsake Him or ourselves.... My father and I need scarcely remain without engagements, either in London or the provinces.... If our salaries are smaller, so must our expenses be. The house must go, the carriage must go, the horses must go, and yet we may be sufficiently comfortable and very happy—unless, indeed, we have to go to America, and that will be dreadful.... We are yet all stout and strong, and we are yet altogether. It is pitiful to see how my father still clings to that theater. Is it because? the art he loves, once had its noblest dwelling there? Is it because his own name and the names of his brother and sister are graven, as it were, on its very stones? Does he think he could not act in a smaller theater? What can, in spite of his interest, make him so loth to leave that ponderous ruin? Even to-day, after summing up all the sorrow and care and toil, and waste of life and fortune which that concern has cost his brother, himself, and all of us, he exclaimed, "Oh, if I had but L10,000, I could set it all right again, even now!" My mother and I actually stared at this infatuation. If I had twenty, or a hundred thousand pounds, not one farthing would I give to the redeeming of that fatal millstone, which cannot be raised, but will infallibly drag everything tied to it down to the level of its own destruction. The past is past, and for the future we must think and act as speedily as we may. If our salaries are half what they are now we need not starve; and, as long as God keeps us in health of body and mind, nothing need signify, provided we are not obliged to separate and go off to that dreadful America.
Thursday, March 1st.— ... After dinner I read over again Knowles's play, "The Hunchback," and like it better than ever. What would I not give to have written that play! He cannot agree with Drury Lane about it, and has brought it back to us, and means to act Master Walter himself. I am so very glad. It will be the most striking dramatic exhibition that has been seen since Kean's debut. I wish "Francis I." was done, and done with, and that we were rehearsing "The Hunchback."
GREAT RUSSELL STREET, March 1, 1832.
... As for any disappointment of mine about anything, dear H——, though some things are by no means light to me, I soon make up my mind to whatever must be, and I think those who do not endure well what cannot be avoided are only less foolish than those who endure what they can avoid. "Francis I." will not, I think, interfere with your visit to us. Murray wishes it to be postponed till after the publication of the Quarterly, which will come out about the 11th or 12th. Lockhart, and not Milman, has reviewed it very favorably, I hear, and Murray expects to sell one edition immediately upon the publication of the article in the Quarterly. So that you can stay at Fulford some time yet; and should the play be given before you wish to leave it, I shall not expect you in person, but feel sure that you are with me in spirit; and the next day I will write you word of the result.
Dearest H——, I am just now much burdened with anxiety. I will tell you more of this when we meet. Thank God, though not of a sanguine, I am not of a desponding nature; and though I never look forward with any great satisfaction to the future, I seldom find it difficult to accept the present with tolerable equanimity.... I spent the evening on Wednesday with Mrs. Jameson. She is just returned to town, and came immediately, thinking you were here, to engage us for the next evening; and as you did not come I went, and spent three hours very pleasantly with her. She knows so much, and I am so very ignorant, that her conversation is delightfully instructive as well as amusing, full of interest and information. Poor woman! she left Tedsley and a very agreeable party to come up to town upon a false alarm of "Francis I.'s" coming out. I think I have told you of the work upon Shakespeare she is engaged with; she has been teaching herself to etch, and has executed some charming designs, with which she means to illustrate it. I have not an idea what our plans for this summer are to be; whether America, or the provinces, or the King's Bench; but I suppose we shall see a little more clearly into the future by the time you come to us; and if we do not, abundantly "sufficient for the day is the evil thereof" with us just now.... I have been reading nothing but Daru's "History of Venice" lately. How could you tell me to read that sad story, "The Borderers"! I half killed myself with crying over it, and did not recover from the effect it had upon me for several days.
Dearest H——, I am writing nonsense, and with an effort, for I am very low; and so I will leave off.
Your affectionate F. A. K.
Friday, March 2d.—I read Shirley's "Gentleman of Venice," and did not like it much.... While I was riding in the park with John, Mr. Willett came up to us, and told me, as great good news, that they were out of Chancery, and had obtained an order to have their money out of court. I thought this indeed good news, and we cantered up the drive in hopes of meeting my mother in the carriage; but she had gone home. On reaching home, I ran to look for her, but thought she would like better to hear the news from my father.
I told Dall of it, however; and she, who had just seen my father, said that he considered what had happened a most unfortunate thing for him; and so my bright, new joy fell to the ground, and was broken all to pieces. Upon further explanation, however, it seems that it is an advantage to the other proprietors, though not to him; no part of the recovered money returning to him, because he had borrowed his share of it from Mr. Willett; and the only difference is that he will not have to pay the interest on it any more, and so far it is a small advantage to him. But it is a great one to them, poor men! and therefore we ought to be glad, and not look only at our own share of the business, though naturally that is the most interesting to us. I sometimes doubt, after all, if we have really by any means a clear and comprehensive view of the whole state of that concern, receiving our impressions from my father, who naturally looks at it only from the side of his own personal stake in it.... After dinner John read me a letter he had just received from Richard Trench—a most beautiful letter. What a fine fellow he is, and what a noble set of young men these friends of my brother's are! After tea read Arthur Hallam's essay on the philosophical writings of Cicero. It is very excellent; I should like to have marked some of the passages, they are so admirably clear and true; but he has only lent it to me. His Latin and Greek quotations were rather a trial, but I have no doubt his English is as good as anything he quotes. Surely England twenty years hence should be in a higher state of moral and intellectual development than it is now: these young heads seem to me admirably good and strong, and some score years hence these fine spirits will be influencing the national mind and soul of England; and it pleases me much to think so. [Alas! as far as dear Arthur Hallam was concerned, my prophetic confidence was vain.] After finishing Hallam's essay, I took up "King Lear," and read the end of that, "and my poor fool is hanged!" O Lord, what an agony! In reading "Lear," one of Mr. Harness's criticisms on my "Star of Seville" recurred to me. In the scene where Estrella deplores her brother's death, I have used frequent repetition of the same words and exclamations. I wrote upon impulse, without deliberation, and simply as my conception of sorrow prompted me, such words as grew from my heart and not my understanding. But in reading "King Lear," the iteration in the expression of deep grief confirms me in the opinion that it is natural to all men, and not peculiar to myself, for Shakespeare has done it. In the scene where Gloster tells Cornwall and Regan of Edgar's supposed wickedness, the wretched old father uses frequent repetition, as, "Oh, madam, my old heart is cracked; it's cracked!" "Oh, lady, lady, shame would have it hid!" "I know not, madam: 'tis too bad, too bad!" and in the last scene, that most piteous and terrible close that story ever had, the poor old king, in his moanings over Cordelia, repeats his words over and over again. I defend my conception, not my execution of it; and true and touching as these repetitions of Shakespeare's are, mine may be "damnable iteration," and nothing else. Heart-broken sorrow has but few words; utter bereavement is not eloquent; and David, when the darling of his soul was dead, did but cry, "O Absalom, my son, my son! would God I had died for thee, my son!" A vastly different expression of a vastly different grief from that which poured itself out in the sad and noble dirge, "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!"
Saturday, 3d.—Henry has obtained his commission; one great piece of good fortune amid all the bad, for which God be thanked. [The liberal price given me by Mr. Murray for my play of "Francis I." enabled me to purchase my brother's commission, which, however, the money would not have obtained without the extremely kind interest exerted in his favor by Lord Hill, then commander, and Sir John Macdonald, adjutant-general of the forces.]
Sunday, 4th.— ... My father is in deplorable spirits, and seems bowed down with care. I believe all that befalls us is right. I know we must bear it; all I pray for is health, strength and courage to bear it well. In the evening the Harnesses drank tea with us.
Monday, 5th.—Got ready things for the theater, and went over my part.... In the afternoon, I hoped to hear the result of the meeting that had been held by the creditors of the theater; but my father had been obliged to leave it before anything was settled, and did not know what had been the termination of the consultation. At the theater the house was not good, neither was my acting. My father acted admirably, to my amazement: for he has been in a most wretched state of depression for the last week, and to-day at dinner his face looked drawn and haggard and absolutely lead-colored.
Tuesday, 6th.—After breakfast went with Henry and my father to Cox and Greenwood's, the great army agents, to pay for his commission. Oh, what a good job, to be sure! Then to the Horse Guards, to thank dear Sir John Macdonald; then to Stable Yard, to call upon Lord Fitzroy Somerset; and then home, much happier than I had been for a long time.... Madame le Beau brought my dress for Louisa of Savoy; it is very handsome, but I look hideous, and as grim as Queen Death in it. However, it is a precise copy of the woman's own picture, and I must comfort myself with that. In the evening we went to a pleasant party at the Basil Montagues', where for an hour I recovered my love of dancing, which has rather forsaken me of late. The Rajah Ramohun Roy had himself introduced to me, and we presently began a delightful nonsense conversation, which lasted a considerable time, and amused me extremely. His appearance is very striking; his picturesque dress and color make him, of course, a remarkable object in a London ball-room; his countenance, beside being very intellectual, has an expression of great sweetness and benignity and his remarks and conversation are in the highest degree interesting, when one remembers what mental energy and moral force and determination he must have exerted to break through all the trammels which have opposed his becoming what he is. I was turning away from him for a few moments, to speak to Mr. Montague, who had begun a very interesting discourse on the analysis of the causes of laughter, when the Rajah recalled my attention to himself by saying, "I am going to quote the Bible to you: you remember that passage, 'The poor ye have always with you, but Me ye have not always.' Now, Mr. Montague you have always with you, but me you have not always." So we resumed our conversation together, and kept up a brief interchange of persiflage which made us both laugh very much, and in which he showed a very ready use of English language for a stranger.
Mrs. Procter talked to me a great deal about her little Adelaide, who must be a most wonderful creature. The profound and unanswerable questions put to us by these "children of light" confound us with the sense of our own spiritual and mental darkness. I often think of Tieck's lovely and deep-meaning story of "The Elves." How little we know of the hidden mysterious springs from which these crystal cups are filled, or of the unseen companions that may have strayed with their fellow to the threshold of this earth, and walk with it while it yet retains its purity and innocence; but, as it journeys on, turn back and forsake it, and return to their home, leaving their sister-soul to wander through the world with sin and sorrow for companions.
Wednesday, 7th.—I sent "The Merchant of Venice" to Ramohun Roy, who, in our conversation last night, expressed a great desire to read it....
Thursday, 8th.— ... In the evening acted Beatrice. The house was very good, which I was delighted to see. The Harnesses supped with us. While we were at supper, the Quarterly Review came from Murray's, and I read the article on "Francis I." aloud to them. It is very "handsome," and I should think must satisfy my most unreasonable friends. It more than satisfied me, for it made me out a great deal cleverer than ever I thought I was, or ever, I am afraid, shall be.
Friday, 9th.—Rehearsed "Francis I." When I came home found a charming letter and some Indian books, from that most amiable of all the wise men of the East, Ramohun Roy. Mrs. Jameson and Mr. Harness called.
Saturday, 10th.—Rehearsed "Francis I." Tried on my dresses for "The Hunchback;" they will be beautiful. The rehearsal was over long before the carriage came for me; so I went into my father's room and read the newspaper, while he and Mr. Bartley discussed the cast of Knowles's play. It seems my father will not act in it. I am sorry for that; it is hardly fair to Knowles, for no one else can do it. My poor father seemed too bewildered to give any answer, or even heed, to anything, and Mr. Bartley went away. My father continued to walk up and down the room for nearly half an hour, without uttering a syllable; and at last flung himself into a chair, and leaned his head and arms on the table. I was horribly frightened, and turned as cold as stone, and for some minutes could not muster up courage enough to speak to him. At last I got up and went to him, and, on my touching his arm, he started up and exclaimed, "Good God, what will become of us all!" I tried to comfort him, and spoke for a long time, but much, I fear, as a blind man speaks of colors. I do not know, and I do not believe any one knows, the real state of terrible involvement in which this miserable concern is wrapped. What I dread most of all is that my father's health will break down. To-day, while he was talking to me, I saw him suddenly put his hand to his side in a way that sent a pang through my heart. He seems utterly prostrated in spirit, and I fear he will brood himself ill. God help us all! I came home with a heavy heart, and got ready my things for the theater, and went over my part. Emily called.... She brought me my aunt Siddons's sketches of Constance and Lady Macbeth. They are simply written, and though not analytically deep or powerful, are true, clear, and good, as far as their extent reaches. She thinks Constance more motherly than queenly, and I do not altogether agree with her. I do not think the scene after Arthur is taken prisoner alone establishes my aunt's position; the mother's sorrow there sweeps every other consideration away. It is before that that I think her love for her child is in some measure mixed with the feeling of the sovereign for his heir; a love of power, in fact, embodied in the boy who was to continue the dominion of a race of princes. He was her royal child, and that I do not think she ever forgot till he was, in her imagination, her dead child. She says she could endure his being thrust from all his rights if he had been a less gracious creature, and goes on—
"But thou art fair, dear boy: and at thy birth Nature and fortune joined to make thee great;"
and then bursts forth into her furious vituperation of those whose treachery has frustrated his natural claim to greatness. The woman, too, who in the utmost bitterness of disappointment, in the utter helplessness and desolation of betrayal, and the prostration of anguish and despair, calls on the earth, not for a shelter, not for a grave, or for a resting-place, but for a throne, is surely royally ambitious, a queen more than anything else. Mrs. Siddons's conception of Lady Macbeth is very beautiful, and I was particularly struck by her imagination of her outward woman: the deep blue eyes, the fair hair and fair skin of the northern woman (though, by the by, Lady Macbeth is a Highlander—I suppose a Celt; and they are a dark race); the frail feminine form and delicate character of beauty, which, united to that undaunted mettle which her husband pays homage to in her, constituted a complex spell, at once soft and strong, sweet and powerful, and seemed to me a very original idea. My aunt makes a curious suggestion, supported only by her own conviction, for which, however, she demonstrates no grounds, that in the banquet scene Lady Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost at the same time Macbeth does. It is very presumptuous in me to differ from her who has made such a wonderful study of this part, but it seems to me that this would make Lady Macbeth all but superhuman; and in the scene with her husband that precedes the banquet, Macbeth's words to her give me to understand that she is entirely innocent of the knowledge even of his crime.
Monday, 12th.—Went to the theater to rehearse "Francis I." Miss Tree and Mr. Bennett will act their parts admirably, I think.... When I got home got ready my things for the theater, and went over my part. The play was "Much Ado about Nothing," and I played as ill as usual. The house was pretty good.
[Here occurs an interruption of some weeks in my journal.]
My friend, Miss S——, came and paid me a long visit, during which my play of "Francis I." and Knowles's play of "The Hunchback" were produced, and it was finally settled that Covent Garden should be let to the French manager and entrepreneur, Laporte, and that my father and myself should leave England, and go for two years to America.
[The success of "Francis I." was one of entirely indulgent forbearance on the part of the public. An historical play, written by a girl of seventeen, and acted in it by the authoress at one and twenty, was, not unnaturally, a subject of some curiosity; and, as such, it filled the house for a few nights. Its entire want of real merit, of course, made it impossible that it should do anything more; and, after a few representations, it made way for Knowles's delightful play, which had a success as great and genuine as it was well deserved, and will not fail to be a lasting favorite, alike with audiences and actors.]
Thursday, June 14th.—A long break in my journal, and what a dismal beginning to it again! At five o'clock H—— started for Ireland.... Poor dear Dall cried bitterly at parting from her (my aunt was to accompany me to America, and it was uncertain whether we should see Miss S—— again before we sailed).... When I returned, after seeing her off, I went disconsolately to my own room. As I could not sleep, I took up the first book at hand, but it was "Tristram Shandy," and too horribly discordant with my frame of mind; besides, I don't like it at any time; it seems to me much more coarse even than witty and humorous.
Friday, 15th.— ... Almost at our very door met old Lady Cork, who was coming to see us: We stopped our carriages, and had a bawling conversation through the windows respecting my plans, past, present, and to come, highly edifying, doubtless, to the whole neighborhood, and which ended by her ladyship shrieking out to me that I was "a supernatural creature" in a tone which must have made the mummies and other strange sojourners in the adjacent British Museum jump again.... In the evening, at the theater, the play was "The Hunchback," for Knowles's benefit, and the house was not good, which I do think is a shame. I played well, though Miss Taylor disconcerted me by coming so near me in her second scene that I gave her a real slap in the face, which I was very sorry for, though she deserved it. After the play, Mr. Harness, Mrs. Clarke, and Miss James supped with us; and after supper, I dressed for a ball at the G——s', ... and much I wondered what call I had to be at a ball, except that the givers of this festival are kind and good friends of ours, and are fond of me, and I of them. But I was not very merry at their ball for all that. We came home at half past two, which is called "very early." Mr. Bacon was there (editor of the Times, who married my cousin, Fanny Twiss), but I had no chance to speak to him, which I was sorry for, as I like his looks, and I liked his books: the first are good, and the latter are clever. I cried all the way home, which is a cheerful way of returning from a ball.
Saturday, 16th.— ... Mrs. Clarke, Miss James, the Messrs. M——, and Alfred Tennyson dined with us. I am always a little disappointed with the exterior of our poet when I look at him, in spite of his eyes, which are very fine; but his head and face, striking and dignified as they are, are almost too ponderous and massive for beauty in so young a man; and every now and then there is a slightly sarcastic expression about his mouth that almost frightens me, in spite of his shy manner and habitual silence. But, after all, it is delightful to see and be with any one that one admires and loves for what he has done, as I do him. Mr. Harness came in the evening. He is excellent, and I am very fond of him. They all went away about twelve.
Monday, 18th.— ... At the theater, in the evening, the house was good, and I played pretty fairly.... At supper my father read us his examination before the committee of the House of Commons about this minor theater business. Of course, though every word he says upon the subject is gospel truth, it will only pass for the partial testimony of a person deeply interested in his own monopoly.
Thursday, 21st.—Called on Mrs. Norton, ... and on Lady Dacre, to bid her good-by. At the theater, in the evening, the house was good, and I played very well. How sorry I shall be to go away! The actors, too, all seem so sorry to have us go, and it will be so hard to see none of the accustomed faces, to hear none of the familiar voices, while discharging the tasks that are often so irksome to me. John Mason came home after the play and supped with us.
Friday, 22d.— ... In the afternoon I called upon the Sotherbys, to bid them good-by; afterward to the Goldsmiths', on the same cheerless errand. Stopped at dear Miss Cottin's to thank her for the beautiful bracelet she had sent me as a farewell present; and then on to Lady Callcott's, with whom I spent a few solemn moments—solemnity not without sweetness—and I scarcely felt sorrowful when she said, "I shall never see you again." She is going to what we call heaven, nearer to God (that is, in her own consciousness, nearer to God)....
In the evening to the theater. I only played pretty well, except the last scene, which was better than the rest. At the end of the play Mr. Bartley made the audience a speech, mentioning our departure, and bespeaking their good will for the new management. The audience called for Knowles, and then clamored for us till we were obliged to go out. They rose to receive us, and waved their hats and handkerchiefs, and shouted farewell to us. It made my heart ache to leave my kind, good, indulgent audience; my friends, as I feel them to be; my countrymen, my English folk, my "very worthy and approved good masters;" and as I thought of the strangers for whom I am now to work in that distant strange country to which we are going, the tears rushed into my eyes, and I hardly knew what I was doing. I scarcely think I even made the conventional courtesy of leave-taking to them, but I snatched my little nosegay of flowers from my sash, and threw it into the pit with handfuls of kisses, as a farewell token of my affection and gratitude. And so my father, who was very much affected, led me off, while the house rang with the cheering of the audience. When we came off my courage gave way utterly, and I cried most bitterly. As my father was taking me to my dressing-room Laporte ran after us, to be introduced to me, to whom I wished success very dolorously from the midst of my tears. He said he ought to cry at our going away more than any one; and perhaps he is right, but we should be better worth his while when we come back, if ever that day comes. I saw numbers of people whom I knew standing behind the scenes to take leave of us.
I took an affectionate farewell of poor dear old Rye (the property-man), and Louis, his boy, gave me two beautiful nosegays. It was all wretched, and yet it was a pleasure to feel that those who surrounded and were dependent on us cared for us. I know all the servants and workpeople of the theater were fond of me, and it was sad to say good-by to all these kind, civil, cordial, humble friends; from my good, pretty little maid, who stood sobbing by my dressing-room door, to the grim, wrinkled visage of honest old Rye....
[That was the last time I ever acted in the Covent Garden my uncle John built; where he and my aunt took leave of the stage, and I made my first entrance upon it. It was soon after altered and enlarged, and turned into an opera-house; eventually it was burnt down, and so nothing remains of it.]
The Harnesses and their friend Mr. F—— supped with us. Mr. Harness talked all sorts of things to try and cheer me; he labored hard to prove to me that the world was good and happy, but only succeeded in convincing me that he was the one, and deserved to be the other.
Friday, 29th.—On board the Scotch steamer for Edinburgh.... We passed Berwick and Dunbar, and the Douglases' ancient hold Tantallon, and the lines from "Marmion" came to my lips. Poor Walter Scott! he will never sail by this lovely coast again, every bold headland and silver creek of which lives in his song or story. He has given of his own immortality to the earth, which must ere long receive the whole of his mortality....
Saturday, 30th.—Went to rehearsal.... After dinner Mary Anne, my maid, knowing my foible, came in with her arms full of two of the most beautiful children I ever saw in my life.... [These beautiful children were the daughters of the Duc de Grammont, and were sharing with their parents the exile of the King of France, Charles X., who had found in his banishment a royal residence as ruined as his fortunes in the old Scottish palace of Holyrood. Ida de Grammont, the eldest of my angels, fulfilled the promise of her beautiful childhood as the lovely Duchesse de Guyche.] We spent a pleasant evening at Mrs. Harry Siddons's. Mr. Combe and Macdonald (the sculptor) were there.
Sunday, July 1st.— ... We dined at Mr. Combe's, and had a very pleasant dinner, but unluckily, owing to a stupid servant's mistake, my old friend Mr. McLaren, who had been invited to meet me, did not come. After dinner there was a tremendous discussion about Shakespeare, but I do not think these men knew anything about him. I talked myself into a fever, and ended, with great modesty and propriety, by disabling all their judgments, at which piece of impertinence they naturally laughed very heartily.
EDINBURGH, July 1, 1832. DEAREST H——,
We left London on Wednesday at eight o'clock. The parting between my mother and Dall (who never met again; my dear aunt died in America, in the second year of our stay there), and myself and my dear little sister, was most bitter.... John came down to Greenwich with us, but would not come on board the steamboat. He stood on the shore and I at the ship's side, looking at what I knew was him, though my eyes could distinguish none of his features from the distance. My poor mother stood crying by my side, and bade me send him away. I gave him one signal, which he returned, and then ran up the beach, and was gone!—gone for two years, perhaps more; perhaps gone from me forever in this world!...
We shall be in Liverpool on Monday morning, the 16th of July, and go to Radley's Hotel, where I hope we shall find you on our arrival. My father is pretty well, in spite of all the late anxieties and annoyances he has had to wade through. In the course of the day preceding our departure from London two arrests were served upon him by creditors of the theater, who, I suppose, think when he is gone the whole concern must collapse and fall to pieces, and I began to think some means would be devised to prevent our leaving England after all. Our parting on Wednesday morning was, as I told you, most miserable.... My poor mother was braver than I had expected; but her parting from us, poor thing, is yet to come.
I found a letter from Emily Fitzhugh here, inclosing one as an introduction to a lady in New York, who had once been her friend.... Edinburgh is lovely and dear, and peace and quiet and repose are always found by me near my dear Mrs. Harry Siddons; but my heart is, oh, so sad!... Pray answer this directly. The time is at hand when the quickest "directly" in our correspondence will be three months.
Ever your affectionate F. A. K.
Monday, 2d.—My father and I went to the theater to rehearse "Romeo and Juliet." In the evening the house was very fair, considering how much the hot weather is against us; but of all the comfortless people to act to, commend me to an Edinburgh audience. Their undemonstrativeness, too, is something more than mere critical difficulty to be pleased; there is a want of kindliness in the cold, discourteous way in which they allow a stranger to appear before them without ever affording him the slightest token of their readiness to accept the efforts made to please them. I felt quite sorry this evening for poor Mr. Didear, to whom not the faintest sign of encouragement was vouchsafed on his first coming on. This is being cold to an unamiable degree, and seems to me both a want of good feeling and good breeding. I acted as well as they would let me. As for poor John Mason, concluding, I suppose, from their frozen silence that he was flat and ineffective, he ranted and roared, and pulled me about in the last scene, till I thought I should have come to pieces in his hands, as the house-maids say of what they break. I was dreadfully exhausted at the end of the play; there is nothing so killing as an ineffectual appeal to sympathy, and, as the Italians know, "ben servire e non gradire" is one of the "tre cose da morire." ...
Tuesday, 3d.—Went to the theater to rehearse.... In the evening the house was good, and the play went off very well. I acted well, in spite of my new dresses, which stuck out all round me portentously, and almost filled the little stage. J—— L—— was like a great pink bird, hopping about hither and thither, and stopping to speak, as if it had been well tamed and taught. The audience actually laughed and applauded, and I should think must have gone home very much surprised and exhausted with the unwonted exertion.
Wednesday, 4th.—Went to the theater to rehearse "Francis I." After I got home, my mother told me she had determined to leave us on Saturday, and go back to London with Sally Siddons; and I am most thankful for this resolution.... How sad it will be in that strange land beyond the sea, among those strange people, to whom we are nothing but strangers! But this is foolish weakness; it must be; and what a world of strength lies in those two little words!... At the theater the house was very good, and I played very well....
Thursday, 5th.—After breakfast went to rehearse "The Gamester." ... In the evening the house was not good. My father acted magnificently; I never played this part well, and am now gone off in it, and play it worse than not well; besides, I cannot bully that great, big man, Mr. Didear; it is manifestly absurd.
Friday, 6th.—To the theater to rehearse "Francis I." On my return found Mr. Liston and his little girl waiting to ride with me.... [This was the beginning of my acquaintance with the celebrated surgeon Liston, who afterward became an intimate friend of ours, and to whose great professional skill my father was repeatedly indebted for relief under a most painful malady. He was a son of Sir Robert Liston, and cousin of the celebrated comedian, between whom and himself, however, there certainly was no family likeness, Liston, the surgeon, being one of the handsomest persons I ever saw. The last time I saw him has left a melancholy impression on my mind of his fine face and noble figure. He had been attending me professionally, but I had ceased to require his care, and had not seen him for some time, when one morning walking, according to my custom in summer, before seven o'clock, as I came to the bridge over the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens, a horseman crossing the bridge stopped by the iron railing, and, jumping off his horse, came toward me. It was Liston, who inquired kindly after my health, and, upon my not answering quite satisfactorily, he said, "Ah! well, you are better than I am." I laughed incredulously, as I looked at a magnificent figure leaning against the great black horse he rode, and looking like a model of manly vigor and beauty. But in less than a week from that day Liston died of aneurism; and I suppose that when I met him he was well aware of the death which had got him literally by the throat.]
Saturday, 7th.—Miserable day of parting! of tearing away and wrenching asunder!... At eleven we were obliged to go to rehearsal, and when we returned found my mother busy with her packing.... When she was gone, I sat down beside my father with a book in my hand, not reading, but listening to his stifled sobbing; and every now and then, in spite of my determination not to do it, looking up to see how far the ship had moved. (Our windows looked over the Forth.) But the white column of steam was rising steadily from close under Newhaven, and for upward of half an hour continued to do so. I had resolved not to raise my eyes again from my book, when a sudden exclamation from my father made me spring up, and I saw the steamer had left the shore, and was moving fast toward Inchkeith, the dark smoky wake that lingered behind it showing how far it had already gone from us, and warning us how soon it would be beyond the ken of our aching eyes.... The carriage was announced, and with a heavy heart and aching head, I drove to the theater.... The play was "Francis I.," for the first time. The house was very fine; I acted abominably, but that was not much to be wondered at. However, I always have acted this part of my own vilely; the language is not natural—mere stilted declamation from first to last, most fatiguing to the chest, and impossible for me to do anything with, as it excites no emotion in me whatever....
EDINBURGH, July 8, 1832. MY DEAREST H——,
I had just left my father at the window that overlooks the Forth, watching my poor mother's ship sailing away to England, when I received your letter; and it is impossible to imagine a sorer, sadder heart than that with which I greeted it.... Thank you for the pains you are taking about your picture for me; crammed with occupation as my time is here, I would have done the same for you, but that I think in Lawrence's print you have the best and likest thing you can have of me.... I cannot tell you at what hour we shall reach Liverpool, but it will be very early on Monday morning.... I am glad you have not deferred sitting for your picture till you came to Liverpool, for it would have encroached much upon our time together. I remember when I returned from abroad, a school-girl, I thought I had forgotten my mother's face. This copy of yours will save me from that nonsensical morbid feeling, and you will surely not forget mine.... You bid me, if anything should go ill with me, summon you across the Atlantic. Alas! dear H——, you forget that before a letter from that other world can reach this, more than a month must have elapsed, and the writer may no longer be in either. You say you hope I may return a new being; and I have no doubt my health will be benefited, and my spirits revived by change of external objects; but oh, how dreary it all is now! You bid me cheer my father when my mother shall have left us, without knowing that she is already gone. I make every exertion that duty and affection can prompt; but, you know, it is my nature rather to absorb the sorrow of others than to assist them in throwing it off; and when one's own heart is all but frozen, one knows not where to find warmth to impart to those who are shivering with misery beside one.... I have left myself scarcely any room to tell you of my present life. I work very hard, rehearsing every morning and acting every night, and spending the intervening time in long farewell rides round this most beautiful and beloved Edinburgh. Mr. Combe says I am wearing myself out, body and mind; but I am already looking better, and less thin, than when I left London; and besides, I shall presently have a longer rest—holiday I cannot call it—on board ship than I have had for the last three years. We acted "Francis I." here last night, for the first time; and I am sure that, mingled with the applause, I heard very distinct hissing; whether addressed to the acting, which was some of it execrable, or to the play itself, which I think quite deserving of such a demonstration, I know not.... You know my opinion of the piece; and as, with the exception of the two parts of De Bourbon and the Friar, and not excepting my own, it really was vilely acted, hissing did not appear to me an unnatural proceeding, though perhaps, under the circumstances, not altogether a courteous one on the part of the modern Athenians. I tell you this, because what else have I to tell you, but that I am your ever affectionate
F. A. K.
Tuesday, 10th.—At half-past twelve rode out with Liston and his daughter, Mr. Murray, and Allen (since Sir William, the celebrated artist, friend, and painter, of Walter Scott and his family).... In the evening, at the theater, the house was very full, and I acted very well, though I was so tired that I could hardly stand, and every bone in my body ached with my hard morning's ride. While I was sitting in the greenroom, Mr. Wilson came in, and it warmed my heart to see a Covent Garden face. He tells me Laporte is giving concerts in the poor old playhouse: well, good luck attend him, poor man (though I know it won't, for "there's nae luck about that house, there's nae luck at a'"). Walter Scott has reached Edinburgh, and starts for Abbotsford to-morrow: I am glad he has come back to die in his own country, in his own home, surrounded by the familiar objects his eyes have loved to look upon, and by the hearts of his countrymen, and the prayers, the blessings, the gratitude, and the love they owe him. All Europe will mourn his death; and for years to come every man born on this soil will be proud, for his sake, to call himself a Scotchman.
Wednesday, 11th.— ... At half-past twelve met Mr. Murray, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Byrne.... As we started for our ride, and were "cavalcading" leisurely along York Place, that most enchanting old sweetheart of mine, Baron Hume, came out of a house. I rode toward him, and he met me with his usual hearty, kind cordiality, and a world of old-fashioned stately courtesy, ending our conference by devoutly kissing the tip of my little finger, to the infinite edification of my party, upon whose minds I duly impressed the vast superiority of this respectful style of gallantry to the flippant, easy familiarity of the present day. These old beaux beat the young ones hollow in the theory of courtship, and it is only a pity that their time for practice is over. Commend me to this bowing and finger-kissing! it is at any rate more dignified than the nodding, bobbing, and hand-shaking of the present fashion. The be-Madaming, too, has in it something singularly pleasing to my taste; there's a hoop and six yards of brocade in each of its two syllables.... At the theater the play was "Francis I." I acted well, and the play went off very well. Mr. Allen came and sat in the greenroom, telling me all about Constantinople and the Crimea, and the beautiful countries he has seen, and where his memory and his wishes are forever wandering; a rather sad comment upon the perfect vision of content his charming home at Laurieston had suggested to me.
Thursday, 12th.— ... At the theater the play was "The Hunchback." The house was very good, and I acted very well. Dear Mr. Allen came into the greenroom, and had a long gossip with me.
Friday, 13th.— ... Went with Mr. Combe to the Phrenological Museum, and spent two hours listening to some very interesting details on the anatomy of the brain, which certainly tended to make the science more credible to my ignorance, though the general theory has never appeared to me as impossible and extravagant as some people think it. The insuperable point where I stick fast is a doubt of the practically beneficial result which its general acceptance would produce. I think they overrate the reforming power of their system, though Mr. Combe's account of the numbers who attend his lectures, and of the improvement of their bodily and mental conditions which he has himself witnessed, must, of course, make me feel diffident of my own judgment in the matter. Their own experience can alone test the utility of their system, and whether it does or does not answer their expectations. I thought of Hamlet as I sat on the ground, with my arms and lap full of skulls. It is curious enough to grasp the empty, worthless, unsightly case in which once dwelt the thinking faculty of a man. One of the best specimens of the human skull, it seems, is Raphael's; a cast of whose head I held lovingly in my hands, wishing it had been the very house where once abode that spirit of immortal beauty. [The phrenological authorities were mistaken, it seems, in attributing this skull to Raphael. I believe that it has been ascertained to be that of his friend, the engraver, Marc Antonio.] At the theater the play was "The Hunchback;" the house very good, and I played very well.
Saturday, 14th.—My last day in Edinburgh for two years; and who can tell for how many more? At eleven o'clock, Mr. Murray, Mr. Allen, Mr. Byrne, and myself sallied forth on horseback toward the Pentlands, having obtained half an hour's grace off dinner-time, in order to get to Habbies How. We went out by the Links, and up steep rises over a white and dusty road, with a flaring stone dyke on each side, and neither tree nor bush to shelter us from the scorching sunlight till we came to Woodhouseleigh, the haunted walk of a white specter, who, it seems, was fond of the shade, for her favorite promenade was an avenue overarched with the green arms of noble old elm trees; and we blessed the welcome shelter of the Ghost's Haunt.... A cloud fell over all our spirits as we rode away from this enchanting spot, and Mr. Murray, pointing to the sprig of heather I had put in my habit, said they would establish an Order of Knighthood, of which the badge should be a heather spray, and they three the members, and I the patroness; that they would meet and drink my health on the 14th of July, and on my birthday, every year till I returned; and a solemn agreement was made by all parties that whenever I did return and summoned my worthies, we should again adjourn together to the glen in the Pentlands. When we reached home, Mr. Allen, who cannot endure a formal parting, shook hands with me and bade me good-by as I dismounted, as if we were to ride again to-morrow. [And I never saw him again. Peace be with him! He was a most amiable and charming companion, and during these days of friendly intimacy, his conversation interested and instructed me, and his poetical feeling of Nature, and placid, unruffled serenity, added much to the pleasure of those delightful rides.] ... At the theater the play was "The Provoked Husband," for my benefit; the house was very fine, and I played pretty well. After it was over, the audience shouted and clamored for my father, who came and said a few words of our sorrow to leave their beautiful city.... Mrs. Harry, Lizzie, and I were in my dressing-room, crying in sad silence, and vainly endeavoring to control our emotion. Presently my father came hurriedly in, and folding them both in his arms, just uttered in a broken voice, "Good-by! God bless you!" and I, embracing my dear friends for the last time, followed him out of the room. It is not the time only that must elapse before I can see her again, it is the terrible distance, the slowness and uncertainty of communication; it is that dreadful America.
Thursday, 19th, Liverpool.— ... At eleven went to the theater for rehearsal; it was very slovenly. I wonder what the performance will be? In the evening to the theater; the play was "Francis I.," and the house was very good, which was almost to be wondered at in this plague-stricken city. [The cholera was raging in Liverpool.] I was frightened, as I always am at a new part, even in my own play, though glad enough to resign that odious dignity, the queen-mother. [The part of Louisa of Savoy had been given to me when first the piece was brought out at Covent Garden; I was now playing the younger heroine, Francoise de Foix.] I played pretty well, though there is nothing to be done with the part. She is perfectly uninteresting and ineffective; but it is better for the cast of the play that I should act her instead of Louisa. And when one can have such a specimen of a queen as we had to-night, it would be a thousand pities the audience should be put off with my inferior views of royalty. Such bouncing, frowning, growling, and snarling might have challenged a whole zoological garden full of wild beasts to surpass. It's a comfort to see that it is possible to play that part worse than I did.
Friday, 20th.—Went to rehearsal.... Received a letter from Lizzie, giving me an account of my dear old Newhaven fish-wife, poor body! to whom I had sent a farewell present by her. I received also a long copy of anonymous verses, in which I was rather pathetically remonstrated with for seeking fame and fortune out of my own country. The author is slightly mistaken; neither the love of money nor notoriety would carry me away from England, but the love of my father constrains me.... The American Consul and Mr. Arnold called. After dinner I read Combe's "Constitution of Man," which interested me very much, though it fails to convince me that phrenology can alone bestow this insight into human nature. At the theater "The School for Scandal;" I played pretty well, though the actors were all dreadfully imperfect, and some of them so nervous and quick, and some so nervous and slow, that it was hardly possible to keep pace with them.
Saturday, 21st.—From Liverpool to Manchester. After all, this Liverpool, with all its important wealth and industry, is a dismal-looking place, a swarming world of dingy red houses and dirty streets.... How well I remember the opening of this railway!... They have placed a marble tablet in the side of the road to commemorate the spot where poor Huskisson fell; I remembered it by the pools of dark-green water that, as we passed them then, made a dismal impression on me; they looked like stony basins of verdigris. How glad I was to see Chatmoss—that villainous, treacherous, ugly, useless bog—trenched and ditched in process of draining and reclaiming, with the fair, holy, healthy grain waving in bright green patches over the brown peaty soil! Next to moral conversion, and the reclaiming to their noble uses the perverted powers of human nature, there is nothing does one's heart so much good as the sight of waste and barren land reclaimed to the uses and wants of man; to see vegetation clothe the idle space, and the cursed and profitless soil teeming with the means of life and bringing forth abundant produce to requite the toil that fertilized it; to see the wilderness crowned with bounteous increase, and the blessing of God rising from the earth to reward the labor of His creatures. It forcibly reminds one of all that is left undone, and might be done, with that far more precious waste land, those multitudes of our ignorant poor, whose minds and spirits are as dark, as profitless, as barren, as dreary, and as dangerous, as this wild bog was formerly, and who were never ordained to live and die like so many human morasses.... In the evening to the theater, which was crammed from the floor to the ceiling; they are a pleasant audience, too, and make a delightful quantity of sympathetic noise. I did not play well, which was a pity and a shame, because they really deserved that one should do so; but my coadjutors were too much for me.
Sunday, 22d, Liverpool.—I did not think there was such another day in store for me as this. I thought all was past and over, and had forgotten the last drop in the bitter cup.... The day was bitter cold, and we were obliged to have a fire.
LIVERPOOL, July 22. MY DEAR MRS. JAMESON,
I fear you are either anxious or vexed, or perhaps both, about the arrival of your books, and my non-acknowledgment of them. They reached me in all safety, and but for the many occupations which swallow up my time would have been duly receipted ere this. Thank you very much for them, for they are very elegant outside, and the dedication page, with which I should have been most ungracious to find any fault. The little sketch on that leaf differs from the design you had described to me some time ago, and I felt the full meaning of the difference. I read through your preface all in a breath; there are many parts of it which have often been matters of discussion between us, and I believe you know how cordially I coincide with most of the views expressed in it. The only point in your preliminary chapter on which I do not agree with you is the passage in which you say that humor is, of necessity and in its very essence, vulgar. I differ entirely with you here. I think humor is very often closely allied to poetry; not only a large element in highly poetic minds, which surely refutes your position, but kindred to the highest and deepest order of imagination, and frequently eminently fanciful and graceful in its peculiar manifestations. However, I cannot now make leisure to write about this, but while I read it I scored the passage as one from which I dissented. That, however, of course does not establish its fallacy; but I think, had I time, I could convince you of it. I acted Juliet on Wednesday, and read your analysis of it before doing so. Oh, could you but have seen and heard my Romeo!... I am sure it is just as well that an actress on the English stage at the present day should not have too distinct a vision of the beings Shakespeare intended to realize, or she might be induced, like the unfortunate heroine of the song, to "hang herself in her garters." To be sure there is always my expedient to resort to, of acting to a wooden vase; you know I had one put upon my balcony, in "Romeo and Juliet," at Covent Garden, to assist Mr. Abbott in drawing forth the expression of my sentiments. I have been reading over Portia to-day; she is still my dream of ladies, my pearl of womanhood.... I must close this letter, for I have many more to write to-night, and it is already late. Once more, thank you very much for your book, and believe me,
Ever yours very truly, F. A. K.
August 1st.—Sailed for America.
The book referred to in this letter was Mrs. Jameson's "Analysis of Shakespeare's Female Characters," which she very kindly dedicated to me. The etching in the title-page was changed from the one she at first intended to have put in it, and represented a female figure in an attitude of despondency, sitting by the sea, and watching a ship sailing toward the setting sun; a design which I know she meant to have reference to my departure. I believe she subsequently changed it again to the one she had first executed, and which was of a less personal significance.... I exchanged no more letters with my friend Miss S——, who joined me at Liverpool, and remained with me till I sailed for America.... "A trip," as it is now called, to Europe or America, is one of the commonest of experiences, involving, apparently, so little danger, difficulty, or delay, that the feelings with which I made my first voyage across the Atlantic must seem almost incomprehensible to the pleasure-seeking or business-absorbed crowds who throng the great watery highway between the two continents.
But when I first went to America, steam had not shortened the passage of that formidable barrier between world and world. A month, and not a week, was the shortest and most favorable voyage that could be looked for. Few men, and hardly any women, undertook it as a mere matter of pleasure or curiosity; and though affairs of importance, of course, drew people from one shore to the other, and the stream of emigration had already set steadily westward, American and European tourists had not begun to cross each other by thousands on the high seas in search of health or amusement.
I was leaving my mother, my brothers and sister, my friends and my country, for two years, and could only hear from them at monthly intervals. I was going to work very hard, in a distasteful vocation, among strangers, from whom I had no right to expect the invariable kindness and indulgence my own people had favored me with. My spirits were depressed by my father's troubled fortunes, and I had just received the first sharp, smarting strokes in the battle of life; those gashes from which poor "unbruised youth," in its infinite self-compassion, fancies its very life-blood must all pour away; little imagining under what gangrened, festering wounds brave life will still hold on its way, and urge to the hopeless end its warfare with unconquerable sorrow. There is nothing more pathetic than the terrified impatience of youth under its first experience of grief, and its vehement appeal of "Behold, and see if any sorrow be like unto my sorrow!" to the patient adepts in suffering such as it has not yet begun to conceive of. Orlando's adjuration to the exiled duke in "As You Like It," and the wise Prince's reply, seem to me one of the most exquisite illustrations of the comparative griefs of youth and age.
OFF SANDY HOOK, Monday, September 5. MY DEAREST H——,
We are within three hours' sail of New York, having greeted the first corner of Long Island (the first land we saw) yesterday morning; but we are becalmed, and the sun shines so bright, and the air is so warm and breathless, that we seem to have every chance of lying here for the next—Heaven knows how long! In point of time, you see, our voyage has been very prosperous, and I am surprised that we have made such good progress, for the weather has been squally, with constant head-winds. I do not think we have had, in all, six days of fair wind, so that we have no reason whatever to complain of our advance, having come thus far in thirty-two days. You bade me write to you by ships passing us, but though we have encountered several bound eastward, we only hailed them without lying to; notwithstanding which, about a fortnight ago, on hearing that a vessel was about to pass us, I wrote you a scrawl, which none but you could have made out (so the fishes won't profit much by it), and a kind fellow-passenger undertook to throw it from our ship to the other as it passed us. She came alongside very rapidly, and though he flung with great force and good aim, the distance was too great, and my poor little missive fell into the black sea within twenty feet of its destination. I could not help crying to think that those words from my heart, that would have gladdened yours, should go down into that cold, inky water.... I pray to God that we may return to England, but I am possessed with a dread that I never shall....
I have been called away from this letter by one of those little incidents which Heaven in its mercy sends to break the monotony of a sea-voyage. Ever since daybreak this morning an English brig has been standing at a considerable distance behind us. About an hour ago we went on deck to watch the approach of a boat which they were sending off in our direction. The distance was about five miles, and the men had a hard pull in the broiling heat. When they came on board, you should have seen how we all clustered about them. The ship was a merchantman from Bristol, bound to New York; she had been out eleven weeks, her provisions were beginning to run short, and the crew was on allowance. Our captain, who is a gentleman, furnished them with flour, tea, sugar, porter, cold tongue, ham, eggs, etc., etc. The men remained about half an hour on board, and as they were remanning their boat we saw a whole cargo of eatables carried to it from our steerage passengers. You know that these are always poor people, who are often barely supplied themselves with necessaries for their voyage. The poor are almost invariably kind and compassionate to one another, and Gaffer Gray is half right when he says—
"The poor man alone, When he hears the poor moan, Of his morsel one morsel will give."
They (the men from the brig) gave us news from Halifax, where they had put in. The cholera had been in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York; the latter town was almost deserted, and the people flying in numbers from the others. This was rather bad news to us, who were going thither to find audiences (if possible not few, whether fit or not), but it was awful to such as were going back to their homes and families. I looked at the anxious faces gathered round our informer, and thought how the poor hearts were flying, in terrible anticipation of the worst, to the nests where they had left their dear ones, and eagerly counting every precious head in the homes over which so black a cloud of doom had gathered in their absence.... My father, though a bad sailor, and suffering occasionally a good deal, has, upon the whole, borne the voyage well. Poor dear Dall has been the greatest wretch on board; she has been perfectly miserable the whole time. It has made me very unhappy, for she has come away from those she loves very dearly on my account, and I cannot but feel sad to see that most excellent creature now, in what should be the quiet time of her life, leaving home and all its accustomed ways, habits, and comforts, and dear A——, who is her darling, to come wandering to the ends of the earth after me.... These distant and prolonged separations seem like foretastes of death.... We have seen an American sun, and an American moon, and American stars, and we think they "get up these things better than we do." We have had several fresh squalls, and one heavy gale; we have shipped sundry seas; we have had rat-hunting and harpooning of porpoises; we have caught several hake and dogfish.
NEW YORK, AMERICA, Wednesday, September 5, 1832.
Here we really are, and perhaps you, who are not here, will believe it more readily than I who am, and to whom it seems an impossible kind of dream from which I must surely presently wake. We made New York harbor Monday night at sunset, and cast anchor at twelve o'clock off Staten Island, where we lay till yesterday morning at half-past nine, when a steamboat came alongside to take the passengers to shore. A thick fog covered the shores, and the rain poured in torrents; but had the weather been more favorable, I should have seen nothing of our approach to the city, for I was crying bitterly. The town, as we drove through it from the landing, struck me as foreign in its appearance—continental, I mean; trees are mixed very prettily with the houses, which are painted of various colors, and have green blinds on the outside, giving an idea of coolness and shade.
The sunshine is glorious, and the air soft and temperate; our hotel is pleasantly situated, and our rooms are gay and large. The town, as I see it from our windows, reminds me a little of Paris. Yesterday evening the trees and lighted shop-windows and brilliant moonlight were like a suggestion of the Boulevards; it is very gay, and rather like a fair.
The cholera has been very bad, but it is subsiding, and the people are returning to town. We shall begin our work in about ten days. I have not told you half I could say, but foolscap will contain no more. God bless you, dear!
Affectionately yours, F. A. K.
The foreboding with which I left my own country was justified by the event. My dear aunt died, and I married, in America; and neither of us ever had a home again in England.
NEW YORK, September 16, 1832. MY DEAREST H——,
What shall I say to you? First of all, pray don't forget me, don't be altered when I see you again, don't die before I come back, don't die if I never come back.... You cannot imagine how strange the comparisons people here are perpetually making between this wonderful sapling of theirs and our old oak seem to me.... My father, thank God, is wonderfully improved in health, looks, and spirits; the fine, clear, warm (hot it should be called) atmosphere agrees with him, and the release from the cares and anxieties of that troublesome estate of his in St. Giles' will, I am sure, be of the greatest service to him. He begins his work to-morrow night with Hamlet, and on Tuesday I act Bianca. It is thought expedient that we should act singly the two first nights, and then make a "constellation." Dall is in despair because I am to be discovered instead of coming on (a thing actors deprecate, because they do not receive their salvo of entrance applause), and also because I am not seen at first in what she thinks a becoming dress. For my part, I am rather glad of this decision, for besides Bianca's being one of my best parts, the play, as the faculty have mangled it, is such a complete monologue that I am less at the mercy of my coadjutors than in any other piece I play in....
Dall is very well, very hot, and very mosquito-bitten. The heat seems to me almost intolerable, though it is here considered mild autumn weather: the mornings and evenings are, it is true, generally freshened with a cool delicious air, which is at this moment blowing all my pens and paper away, and compensating us for our midday's broiling. I do nothing but drink iced lemonade, and eat peaches and sliced melon, in spite of the cholera.
Baths are a much cheaper and commoner luxury (necessary) in the hotels here than with us; a great satisfaction to me, who hope in heaven, if I ever get there, to have plenty of water to wash in, and, of course, it will all be soft rainwater there. What a blessing! On board ship we were not stinted in that respect, but had as much water as we desired for external as well as internal purposes.
There are no water-pipes or cisterns in this city such as we have, but men go about as they do in Paris, with huge water-butts, supplying each house daily; for although a broad river (so called) runs on each side of this water-walled city, the one—the East River—is merely an arm of the sea; and the Hudson receives the salt tide-water, and is rendered brackish and unfit for washing or cooking purposes far beyond the city. There are fine springs, and a full fresh-water stream, at a distance of some miles; but the municipality is not very rich, and is economical and careful of the public money, and many improvements which might have been expected to have been effected here long ago are halting in their advance, leaving New York ill paved, ill lighted, and indifferently supplied with a good many necessaries and luxuries of modern civilization.
[This was fifty-six years ago. Times are altered since this letter was written. New York is neither ill paved nor ill lighted; the municipality is rich, but neither economical, careful, nor honest, in dealing with the public moneys. The rapid spread of superficial civilization and accumulation of easily-got wealth, together with incessant communication with Europe, have made of the great cities of the New World, centres of an imperfect but extreme luxury, vying with, and in some respects going beyond, all that London or Paris presents for the indulgence of tastes pampered by the oldest civilization of Europe.
One day, after the Croton water had been brought into New York, I was sitting with the venerable Chancellor Kent at the window of his house in Union Square, and, pointing to the fountain that sprang up in the midst of the inclosure, he said, "When I was a boy, much more than half a century ago, I used to go to the Croton water, and paddle, and fish, and bathe, and swim, and loiter my time away in the summer days. I cannot go out there any more for any of these pleasant purposes, but the Croton water has come here to me." What a ballad Schiller or Goethe would have made of that! That morning visit to Chancellor Kent has left that pretty picture in my mind, and the recollection of his last words as he shook hands with me: "Ay, madam, the secret of life is always to have excitement enough, and never too much." But he did not give me the secret of that secret.]