Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century by George Paston

Part 5 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Abbey, Cashiobury, Blenheim, Stowe, Eaton, Warwick, and Kenilworth,
besides many of lesser note. At the end of the excursion, which lasted
three weeks, the prince declared that even he was beginning to feel
satiated with the charms of English parks. On his return to London he
was invited to spend a few days with Lord Darnley at Cobham, and
writes thence some further impressions of English country-house life.
He was a little perturbed at being publicly reminded by his elderly
host that they had made each other's acquaintance thirty years before.

'Now, as I was in frocks at the time he spoke of,' observes the
prince, 'I was obliged to beg for a further explanation, though I
cannot say I was much delighted at having my age so fully discussed
before all the company, for you know I claim to look not more than
thirty. However, I could not but admire Lord Darnley's memory. He
recollected every circumstance of his visit to my parents with the
Duke of Portland, and recalled to me many a little forgotten

The _vie de château_ the traveller considered the most agreeable
side of English life, by reason of its freedom, and the absence of
those wearisome ceremonies which in Germany oppressed both host and
guests. The English custom of being always _en évidence_,
however, occasioned him considerable surprise. 'Strangers,' he
observes, 'have generally only one room allotted to them, and
Englishmen seldom go into this room except to sleep, and to dress
twice a day, which, even without company, is always _de rigueur_;
for all meals are usually taken in public, and any one who wants to
write does it in the library. There, also, those who wish to converse,
give each other _rendezvous_, to avoid the rest of the society.
Here you have an opportunity of gossiping for hours with the young
ladies, who are always very literarily inclined. Many a marriage is
thus concocted or destroyed between the _corpus juris_ on the one
side, and Bouffler's works on the other, while fashionable novels, as
a sort of intermediate link, lie on the tables in the middle.

Early in February the prince paid a visit to Brighton, where he made
the acquaintance of Count D'Orsay, and was entertained by Mrs.
Fitzherbert. He gives a jaundiced account of two entertainments, a
public ball and a musical _soirée_, which he attended while at
Brighton, declaring--probably with some truth--that the latter is one
of the greatest trials to which a foreigner can be exposed in England.
'Every mother,' he explains, 'who has grown-up daughters, for whom she
has had to pay large sums to the music-master, chooses to enjoy the
satisfaction of having the youthful talent admired. There is nothing,
therefore, but quavering and strumming right and left, so that one is
really overpowered and unhappy; and even if an Englishwoman has a
natural capacity for singing, she seldom acquires either style or
science. The men are much more agreeable _dilettanti_, for they
at least give one the diversion of a comical farce. That a man should
advance to the piano with far greater confidence than a David, strike
with his forefinger the note which he thinks his song should begin
with, and then _entonner_ like a thunder-clap (generally a tone
or two lower than the pitch), and sing through a long aria without an
accompaniment of any kind, except the most wonderful distortions of
face, is a thing one must have seen to believe it possible, especially
in the presence of at least fifty people.'

By the middle of April the season had begun in town, and the prince
soon found himself up to the eyes in invitations for balls, dinners,
breakfasts, and _soirées_. We hear of him dining with the Duke of
Clarence, to meet the Duchess of Kent and her daughter; assisting at
the Lord Mayor's banquet, which lasted six hours, and at which the
chief magistrate made six-and-twenty speeches, long and short;
breakfasting with the Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick, being nearly
suffocated at the routs of Lady Cowper and Lady Jersey, and attending
his first ball at Almack's, in which famous assemblage his
expectations were woefully disappointed. 'A large, bare room,' so runs
his description, 'with a bad floor, and ropes round it, like the space
in an Arab camp parted off for horses; two or three badly-furnished
rooms at the side, in which the most wretched refreshments are served,
and a company into which, in spite of all the immense difficulty of
getting tickets, a great many nobodies had wriggled; in which the
dress was as tasteless as the _tournure_ was bad--this was all.
In a word, a sort of inn-entertainment--the music and lighting the
only good things. And yet Almack's is the culminating point of the
English world of fashion.'

Unfortunately for his readers, the prince was rather an observer than
an auditor; for he describes what he sees vividly enough, but seldom
takes the trouble to set down the conversation that he hears. Perhaps
he thought it hardly worth recording, for he complains that in England
politics had become the main ingredient in social intercourse, that
the lighter and more frivolous pleasures suffered by the change, and
that the art of conversation would soon be entirely lost. 'In this
country,' he unkindly adds, 'I should think it [the art of
conversation] never existed, unless, perhaps, in Charles II.'s time.
And, indeed, people here are too slavishly subject to established
usages, too systematic in all their enjoyments, too incredibly kneaded
up with prejudices; in a word, too little vivacious to attain to that
unfettered spring and freedom of spirit, which must ever be the sole
basis of agreeable society. I must confess that I know none more
monotonous, nor more persuaded of its own pre-eminence than the
highest society of this country. A stony, marble-cold spirit of caste
and fashion rules all classes, and makes the highest tedious, the
lowest ridiculous.'

In spite of his dislike to politics as a subject of conversation, his
Highness attended debates at the House of Lords and the House of
Commons, and was so keenly interested in what he heard that he
declared the hours passed like minutes. Canning had just been
intrusted by George IV. with the task of forming a government, but had
promptly been deserted by six members of the former Ministry,
including Wellington, Lord Eldon, and Peel, who were now accused of
having resigned in consequence of a cabal or conspiracy against the
constitutional prerogative of the king to change his ministers at his
own pleasure. In the House of Commons the prince heard Peel's attack
on Canning and the new government, which was parried by Brougham. 'In
a magnificent speech, which flowed on like a clear stream, Brougham,'
we are told, 'tried to disarm his opponent; now tortured him with
sarcasms; now wrought upon the sensibility, or convinced the reason,
of his hearers. The orator closed with the solemn declaration that he
was perfectly impartial; that he _could_ be impartial, because it
was his fixed determination never, and on no terms, to accept a place
in the administration of the kingdom.... [Footnote: In 1831 Brougham
accepted office as Lord Chancellor.] Canning, the hero of the day, now
rose. If his predecessor might be compared to a dexterous and elegant
boxer, Canning presented the image of a finished antique gladiator.
All was noble, simple, refined; then suddenly his eloquence burst
forth like lightning-grand and all-subduing. His speech was, from
every point of view, the most complete, as well as the most
irresistibly persuasive--the crown and glory of the debate.'

On the following day the prince heard some of the late ministers on
their defence in the House of Lords. 'Here,' he observes, 'I saw the
great Wellington in terrible straits. He is no orator, and was obliged
to enter upon his defence like an accused person. He was considerably
agitated; and this senate of his country, though composed of men whom
individually, perhaps, he did not care for, appeared more imposing to
him _en masse_ than Napoleon and his hundred thousands. He
stammered much, interrupted and involved himself, but at length he
brought the matter tolerably to this conclusion, that there was no
"conspiracy." He occasionally said strong things--probably stronger
than he meant, for he was evidently not master of his material. Among
other things, the following words pleased me extremely: "I am a
soldier and no orator. I am utterly deficient in the talents requisite
to play a part in this great assembly. I must be more than insane if I
ever entertained the thought, of which I am accused, of becoming Prime
Minister."... [Footnote: In January 1828 the duke became Prime
Minister.] When I question myself as to the total impression of this
day, I must confess that it was at once elevating and melancholy--the
former when I fancied myself an Englishman, the latter when I felt
myself a German. This twofold senate of the people of England, in
spite of all the defects and blemishes common to human institutions,
is yet grand in the highest degree; and in contemplating its power and
operation thus near at hand, one begins to understand why it is that
the English nation is, as yet, the first on the face of the earth.'

The traveller was by no means exclusively occupied in hearing and
seeing new things. With that strain of practicality which contrasted
so oddly with his sentimental and romantic temperament, he kept firmly
before his eyes the main object of his visit to England. He had
determined at the outset not to sell himself and his title for less
than £50,000, but he confesses that, as time passed on, his demands
became much more modest. His matrimonial ventures were all faithfully
detailed to the presumably sympathising Lucie, for whose sake, the
prince persuaded himself, he was far more anxious for success than for
his own. But he had not counted on the many obstacles with which he
found himself confronted, chief among them being his relations with
his former wife. It was known that the ex-princess was still living at
Muskau with all the rights and privileges of a _chátelaine_,
while the prince never disguised his attachment to her, and openly
kept her portrait on his table. English mothers who would have
welcomed him as a son-in-law were led to believe that the divorce was
only a blind, and that the prince's marriage would be actually, if not
legally, a bigamous union. The satirical papers represented him as a
fortune-hunter, a Bluebeard who had ill-treated his first wife, and
declared that he had proposed for the hand of the dusky Empress of
Hayti, then on a visit to Europe.

Still our hero obstinately pursued his quest, laying siege to the
heart of every presentable-looking heiress to whom he was introduced,
and if attention to the art of the toilet could have gained him a rich
bride, he would not long have been unsuccessful. In dress he took the
genuine interest and delight of the dandy of the period, and
marvellous are the descriptions of his costume that he sends to Lucie.
For morning visits, of which he sometimes paid fifty in one day, he
wore his hair dyed a beautiful black, a new hat, a green neckerchief
with gaily coloured stripes, a yellow cashmere waistcoat with metal
buttons, an olive-green frock-coat and iron-grey pantaloons. On other
occasions he is attired in a dark-brown coat, with a velvet collar, a
white neckerchief, in which a thin gold watch-chain is entwined, a
waistcoat with a collar of _cramoisie_ and gold stars, an
under-waistcoat of white satin, embroidered with gold flowers, full
black pantaloons, spun silk stockings, and short square shoes. Style
such as this could only be maintained at a vast outlay, from the
German point of view, the week's washing-bill alone amounting to an
important sum. According to the prince's calculation, a London
exquisite, during the season of 1827, required every week twenty
shirts, twenty-four pocket-handkerchiefs, nine or ten pairs of summer
trousers, thirty neckerchiefs, a dozen waistcoats and stockings _à
discértion_. 'I see your housewifely ears aghast, my good Lucie,'
he writes, 'but as a dandy cannot get on without dressing three or
four times a day, the affair is quite simple.'

However much the prince may have enjoyed the ceremony of the toilet,
he strongly objected to the process of hair-dyeing, and his letters
are full of complaints of his sufferings and humiliation while
undergoing the operation, which, he declares, is a form of slow
poison, and also an unpleasant reminder that he is really old, but
obliged to play the part of youth in order to attain an object that
may bring him more misery than happiness. As soon as he is safely
married to his heiress, he expresses his determination of looking his
full age, so that people might say 'What a well-preserved old man!'
instead of '_Voilà, le ci-devant jeune homme_!' Still, with all
this care and thought, heiresses remained coy, or more probably their
parents were 'difficult.' The prince's highly-developed personal
vanity was wounded by many a refusal, and so weary did he become of
this woman-hunt, that in one letter to Lucie, dated March 5, 1827, he
exclaims, 'Ah, my dearest, if you only had 150,000 thalers, I would
marry you again to-morrow!'


The summer months were spent in visits to Windsor and other parks near
London, and in a tour through Yorkshire. In October his Highness was
back in town, and engaged in a new matrimonial venture. He writes to
Lucie that 'the fortune in question is immense, and if I obtain it, I
shall end gloriously.' In the correspondence published after the
prince's death is the draft of a letter to Mr. Bonham of Titness Park,
containing a formal proposal for the hand of his daughter, 'Miss
Harriet,' and detailing (with considerable reservations) the position
of his financial affairs. Muskau, he explains, is worth £4,000 a year,
an income which in Germany is equivalent to three times as much in
England. 'Everything belonging to me,' he continues, 'is in the best
possible order; a noble residence at Muskau, and two smaller chateaux,
surrounded with large parks and gardens, in fact, all that make enjoy
life (sic) in the country is amply provided for, and a numerous train
of officious (sic) of my household are always ready to receive their
young princess at her own seat, or if she should prefer town, the
court of Prussia will offer her every satisfaction.' Owing to the fact
that Muskau was mortgaged for £50,000, he was forced, he confesses, to
expect an adequate fortune with his wife, a circumstance to which, if
he had been otherwise situated, he should have paid little attention.

This missive was accompanied by a long letter, dated Nov. 1, 1827, to
'Miss Harriet,' in which the suitor explains the circumstances of his
former marriage, and of his divorce, the knowledge of which has
rendered her uneasy. 'It is rather singular,' he proceeds, 'that in
the very first days after my arrival, you, Miss Harriet, were named to
me, together with some other young ladies, as heiresses. Now I must
confess, at the risk of the fact being doubted in our industrious
times, that I myself had a prejudice against, and even some dread of
heiresses. I may say that I proved in some way these feelings to exist
by marrying a lady with a very small fortune, and afterwards in
England by never courting any heiresses further as common civility
required. My reasons for so doing are not without foundation. In the
first instance, I am a little proud; in the second, I don't want any
more than I possess, though I should not reject it, finding it in my
way, and besides all this, rich young maidens are not always very
amiable.' The prince continues that he had gone, out of principle,
into all kinds of society, and seen many charming and handsome girls,
but had not been able to discover his affinity. At last, after
renouncing the idea of marriage, he heard again of Miss Harriet
Bonham, not of her fortune this time, but of her many excellent
qualities, and the fact that she had refused several splendid offers.
His curiosity was now at last aroused; he sought an opportunity of
being introduced to her, and--'Dearest Miss Harriet, you know the
rest. I thought--and I protest it by all that is sacred--I thought
when I left you again, that here at last I had found united all and
everything I could wish in a future companion through life. An
exterior the most pleasing, a mind and person equally fit for the
representation of a court and the delight of a cottage, and above all,
that sensibility, that goodness of heart, and that perfect absence of
conceitedness which I value more than every other accomplishment.... I
beheld you, besides all your more essential qualities, so quick as
lively, so playful as whitty (_sic_), and nothing really seemed
more bewitching to me as when a hearty, joyful laugh changed your
thoughtful, noble features to the cheerful appearance of a happy
child! And still through every change your and your friends'
conversation and behaviour always remained distinguished by that
perfect breeding and fine tact which, indeed, is to private life what
a clear sky is to a landscape....'

There is a great deal mere to the same effect, and it is sad to think
that all this trouble, all this expenditure of ink and English
grammar, was thrown away. Papa Bonham could not pay down the fortune
demanded by the prince without injuring the other members of his
family; [Footnote: Mr. Bonham's eldest daughter was the second wife of
the first Lord Garvagh.] and although Miss Harriet deplores 'the cruel
end of all our hopes,' the negotiations fell through.

The prince consoled himself for his disappointment with a fresh round
of sight-seeing. He became deeply enamoured of a steam-engine, of
which newly-invented animal he sends the following picturesque
description to Lucie: 'We must now be living in the days of
the _Arabian Nights_, for I have seen a creature to-day far
surpassing all the fantastic beings of that time. Listen to the
monster's characteristics. In the first place, its food is the
cheapest possible, for it eats nothing but wood or coals, and when not
actually at work, it requires none. It never sleeps, nor is weary; it
is subject to no diseases, if well organised at first; and never
refuses its work till worn out by great length of service. It is
equally active in all climates, and undertakes all kinds of labour
without a murmur. Here it is a miner, there a sailor, a
cotton-spinner, a weaver, or a miller; and though a small creature, it
draws ninety tons of goods, or a whole regiment of soldiers, with a
swiftness exceeding that of the fleetest mail-coaches. At the same
time, it marks its own measured steps on a tablet fixed in front of
it. It regulates, too, the degree of warmth necessary to its
well-being; it has a strange power of oiling its inmost joints when
they are stiff, and of removing at pleasure all injurious air that
might find the way into its system; but should anything become
deranged in it, it warns its master by the loud ringing of a bell.
Lastly, it is so docile, in spite of its enormous strength (nearly
equal to that of six hundred horses), that a child of four years old
is able in a moment to arrest its mighty labours by the pressure of
his little finger. Did ever a witch burnt for sorcery produce its

A few weeks later we hear of one manifestation of the new power, which
did not quite come up to the expectations of its admirers. On January
16, 1828, the prince writes: 'The new steam-carriage is completed, and
goes five miles in half an hour on trial in the Regent's Park. But
there was something to repair every moment. I was one of the first of
the curious who tried it; but found the smell of oiled iron, which
makes steamboats so unpleasant, far more insufferable here. Stranger
still is another vehicle to which I yesterday intrusted my person. It
is nothing less than a carriage drawn by a paper kite, very like those
the children fly. This is the invention of a schoolmaster, who is so
skilful in the guidance of his vehicle, that he can get on very fairly
with half a wind, but with a completely fair one, and good roads, he
goes a mile in three-quarters of a minute. The inventor proposes to
traverse the African deserts in this manner, and has contrived a place
behind, in which a pony stands like a footman, and in case of a calm,
can he harnessed to the carriage.'

In the early part of 1828 Henriette Sontag arrived in London, and the
prince at once fell a victim to her charms. The fascinating singer,
then barely three-and-twenty, was already the idol of the public, at
the very summit of her renown. Amazing prices were paid for seats when
she was announced to appear. Among his Highness's papers was found a
ticket for a box at the opera on 'Madame Sontag's night,' on which he
notes that he had sold a diamond clasp to pay the eighty guineas
demanded for the bit of cardboard. He was in love once again with all
the ardour of youth, and for the moment all thoughts of a marriage of
convenience were dismissed from his mind. He was now eager for a
love-match with the fair Henriette, whose attractions had rendered him
temporarily forgetful of those of Muskau. But Mademoiselle Sontag,
though carried away by the passionate wooing of the prince, actually
remembered that she had other ties, probably her engagement to Rossi,
to which it was her duty to remain true. She told her lover that he
must learn to forget her, and that when they parted at the conclusion
of the London season, they must never meet again. The prince was
heart-broken at the necessity for separation, and we are assured that
he never forgot Henriette Sontag (though she had many successors in
his affections), and that after his return to Germany he placed a
gilded bust of the singer in his park, in order that he might have her
image ever before his eyes.

In the hope of distracting his thoughts from his disappointment,
Prince Pückler decided to make a lengthened tour through Wales and
Ireland, and with this object in view he set out in July 1828. Before
his departure, however, he had an interesting rencontre at a
dinner-party given by the Duchess of St. Albans-the _ci-devant_
Harriet Melton. 'I arrived late,' says the prince, in his account of
the incident, 'and was placed between my hostess and a tall, very
simple, but benevolent-looking man of middle age, who spoke broad
Scotch--a dialect anything but agreeable; and would probably have
struck me by nothing else, if I had not discovered that I was sitting
next to ----, the Great Unknown! It was not long ere many a sally of
dry, poignant wit fell from his lips, and many an anecdote told in the
most unpretending manner. His eye, too, glanced whenever he was
animated, with such a clear, good-natured lustre, and such an
expression of true-hearted kindness, that it was impossible not to
conceive a sort of affection for him. Towards the end of the dinner he
and Sir Francis Burdett told ghost-stories, half terrible, half
humorous, one against the other.... A little concert concluded the
evening, in which the very pretty daughter of the great bard--a
healthy-looking Highland beauty--took part, and Miss Stephens sang
nothing but Scottish ballads.'

Before entering upon a new field of observation, the prince summed up
his general impressions of London society with a candour that cannot
have been very agreeable to his English readers. The goddess of
Fashion, he observes, reigns in England alone with a despotic and
inexorable sway; while the spirit of caste here receives a power,
consistency, and completeness of development unexampled in any other
country. 'Every class of society in England, as well as every field,
is separated from every other by a hedge of thorns. Each has its own
manners and turns of expression, and, above all, a supreme and
absolute contempt for all below it.... Now although the aristocracy
does not stand _as such_ upon the pinnacle of this strange social
edifice, it yet exercises great influence over it. It is, indeed,
difficult to become fashionable without being of good descent; but it
by no means follows that a man is so in virtue of being
well-born--still less of being rich. Ludicrous as it may sound, it is
a fact that while the present king is a very fashionable man, his
father was not so in the smallest degree, and that none of his
brothers have any pretensions to fashion; which unquestionably is
highly to their honour.' The truth of this observation is borne out by
the story of Beau Brummell, who, when offended by some action of the
Regent's, exclaimed, 'If this sort of thing goes on, I shall cut
Wales, and bring old George into fashion!'

'A London exclusive of the present day,' continues our censor, 'is
nothing more than a bad, flat, dull imitation of a French _roué_
of the Regency, Both have in common selfishness, levity, boundless
vanity, and an utter want of heart. But what a contrast if we look
further! In France the absence of all morality and honesty was in some
degree atoned for by the most refined courtesy, the poverty of soul by
agreeableness and wit. What of all this has the English dandy to
offer? His highest triumph is to appear with the most wooden manners,
as little polished as will suffice to avoid castigation; nay, to
contrive even his civilities so that they are as near as may be to
affronts--this is the style of deportment that confers on him the
greatest celebrity. Instead of a noble, high-bred ease, to have the
courage to offend against every restraint of decorum; to invert the
relation in which his sex stands to women, so that they appear the
attacking, and he the passive or defensive party; to cut his best
friends if they cease to have the strength and authority of fashion;
to delight in the ineffably _fade_ jargon and affectations of his
set, and always to know what is "the thing"--these are the
accomplishments that distinguish a young "lion" of fashion. Whoever
reads the best of the recent English novels--those by the author of
_Pelham_--may be able to abstract from them a tolerably just idea
of English fashionable society, provided he does not forget to deduct
qualities which the national self-love has erroneously claimed
--namely, grace for its _roués_, seductive manners and witty
conversation for its dandies.'

The foregoing is a summary of the prince's lengthy indictment against
London society. 'I saw in the fashionable world,' he observes in
conclusion, 'only too frequently, and with few exceptions, a profound
vulgarity of thought; an immorality little veiled or adorned; the most
undisguised arrogance; and the coarsest neglect of all kindly feelings
and attentions haughtily assumed for the sake of shining in a false
and despicable refinement; even more inane and intolerable to a
healthy mind than the awkward stiffness of the declared Nobodies. It
has been said that vice and poverty form the most revolting
combination; since I have been in England, vice and boorish rudeness
seem to me to form a still more disgusting union.'

The prince's adventures in Wales and Ireland, with the recital of
which he has filled up the best part of two volumes, must here be
dismissed in as many paragraphs. On his tour through Wales, he left
his card on the Ladies of Llangollen, who promptly invited him to
lunch. Fortunately, he had previously been warned of his hostesses'
peculiarities of dress and appearance. 'Imagine,' he writes, 'two
ladies, the elder of whom, Lady Eleanor Butler, a short, robust woman,
begins to feel her years a little, being nearly eighty-three; the
other, a tall and imposing person, esteems herself still youthful,
being only seventy-four. Both wore their still abundant hair combed
straight back and powdered, a round man's hat, a man's cravat and
waistcoat, but in the place of "inexpressibles," a short petticoat and
boots: the whole covered by a coat of blue cloth, of quite a peculiar
cut. Over this Lady Eleanor wore, first the grand cordon of the order
of St. Louis across her shoulders; secondly, the same order round her
neck; thirdly, the small cross of the same in her buttonhole; and,
_pour comble de gloire_, a golden lily of nearly the natural size
as a star. So far the effect was somewhat ludicrous. But now you must
imagine both ladies with that agreeable _aisance_, that air of
the world of the _ancien régime_, courteous, entertaining,
without the slightest affectation, speaking French as well as any
Englishwoman of my acquaintance; and, above all, with that essentially
polite, unconstrained, simply cheerful manner of the good society of
that day, which in our hard-working, business age appears to be going
to utter decay.'

Thanks to his letters of introduction and the friendships that he
struck up on the road, the prince was able occasionally to step out of
the beaten tourist tracks, and to see something of the more intimate
side of Irish social life. He has given a lively and picturesque
account of his experiences, which included an introduction to Lady
Morgan, [Footnote: See page 142.] and to her charming nieces, the Miss
Clarkes (who made a profound impression on his susceptible heart), a
sentimental journey through Wicklow, a glance at the humours of
Donnybrook Fair, a visit to O'Connell at Derrinane Abbey, a peep into
the wilds of Connaught, an Emancipation dinner at Cashel, where he
made his _début_ as an English orator, and an expedition to the
lakes of Killarney. All this, which was probably novel and interesting
to the German public, contains little that is not familiar to the
modern English reader. The sketch of O'Connell is sufficiently vivid
to bear quotation.

'Daniel O'Connell,' observes the prince, after his visit to Derrinane,
'is no common man--though the man of the commonalty. His power is so
great that at this moment it only depends on him to raise the standard
of rebellion from one end of the island to the other. He is, however,
too sharp-sighted, and much too sure of attaining his ends by safer
means, to wish to bring on any such violent crisis. He has certainly
shown great dexterity in availing himself of the temper of the country
at this moment, legally, openly, and in the face of Government, to
acquire a power scarcely inferior to that of the sovereign; indeed,
though without arms or armies, in some instances far surpassing it.
For how would it have been possible for his Majesty George IV. to
withhold 40,000 of his faithful Irishmen for three days from whisky
drinking? which O'Connell actually accomplished in the memorable Clare
election. The enthusiasm of the people rose to such a height that they
themselves decreed and inflicted a punishment for drunkenness. The
delinquent was thrown into the river, and held there for two hours,
during which time he was made to undergo frequent submersions.... On
the whole, O'Connell exceeded my expectations. His exterior is
attractive, and the expression of intelligent good-humour, united with
determination and prudence, which marks his countenance, is extremely
winning. He has perhaps more of persuasiveness than of large and lofty
eloquence; and one frequently perceives too much design and manner in
his words. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to follow his powerful
arguments with interest, to view the martial dignity of his carriage
without pleasure, or to refrain from laughing at his wit.... He has
received from Nature an invaluable gift for a party-leader, a
magnificent voice, united to good lungs and a strong constitution. His
understanding is sharp and quick, and his acquirements out of his
profession not inconsiderable. With all this his manners are, as I
have said, winning and popular, though somewhat of the actor is
noticeable in them; they do not conceal his very high opinion of
himself, and are occasionally tinged by what an Englishman would call
_vulgarity_. But where is there a picture without shade?'

The prince's matrimonial projects had been pursued only in
half-hearted fashion during this year, and on his return to England in
December, he seems to have thrown up the game in despair. On January
2, 1829, he turned his back on our perfidious shores, and made a short
tour in France before proceeding to Muskau. In one of his letters to
Lucie he admits that on his return journey he had plenty of material
for reflection. Two precious years had been wasted, absence from his
dearest friend had been endured, a large sum of money had been spent
in keeping up a dashing appearance--and all in vain. He consoles
himself with the amazing reflection that Parry had failed in three
attempts to reach the North Pole, and Bonaparte, after heaping victory
on victory for twenty years, had perished miserably in St. Helena!

But if the prince had not accomplished his design of carrying off a
British heiress, his sojourn in England brought him a prize of a
different kind--namely, the laurel crown of fame. His _Briefe eines
Verstorbenen_, the first volumes of which were published
anonymously in 1830, was greeted with an almost unanimous outburst of
admiration and applause. The critics vied with each other in praising
a work in which, according to their verdict, the grace and piquancy of
France were combined with the analytical methods and the profound
philosophy of Germany. In England, as was only to be expected, the
chorus of applause was not unmixed with hisses and catcalls. The
author had, however, been exceptionally fortunate in his translator,
Sarah Austin, whose version of the Letters, entitled _The Tour of a
German Prince_, was described by the _Westminster Review_ as
'the best modern translation of a prose work that has ever appeared,
and perhaps our only translation from the German. As an original work,
the ease and facility of the style would be admired; as a translation,
it is unrivalled.' Croker reviewed the book in the _Quarterly_ in
his accustomed strain of playful brutality, rejoiced savagely over the
numerous blunders, [Footnote: The most amusing of these is the
derivation of the Prince of Wales' motto 'Ich dien' from two Welsh
words, 'Eich deyn,' said to signify 'This is your man!'] and credited
the author with almost as many blasphemies as Lady Morgan herself. The
_Edinburgh_, in a more impartial notice, observed that a great
part of the work had no other merit than that of being an act of
individual treachery against the hospitalities of private life, and
commented on the fact that while the masterpieces of Goethe
and Schiller were still untranslated, the _Tour of Prince
Pückler-Muskau_ had been bought up in a month.

The prince was far too vain of his unexpected literary success to
preserve his anonymity, and the ink-craving having laid hold upon him,
he lost no time in setting to work upon another book. The semblance of
a separation between himself and Lucie had now been thrown aside.
During the summer months they lived at Muskau, where they laboured
together over plans for the embellishment of the gardens, while in the
winter they kept up a splendid establishment in Berlin. The sight of a
divorced couple living together seems to have shocked the Berliners
far more than that of a married couple living apart, but to Pückler,
as a chartered 'original,' much was forgiven. At this time he went a
good deal into literary society, and became intimate with several
women-writers, among them the Gräfin Hahn-Hahn, Rahel, and that
amazing lady, Bettine von Arnim. With the last-named he struck up an
intellectual friendship which roused the jealousy of Lucie, and was
finally wrecked by Bettine's attempts to obtain a spiritual empire
over the lord of Muskau.

In 1832 the prince's debts amounted to 500,000 thalers, and he was
obliged once again to face the fact that he could only save himself
from ruin by a wealthy marriage, or by the sale of his estate. In a
long letter he laid the state of the case before his faithful
companion, pointing out that even at forty-seven, he, with his title
and his youthful appearance, might hope to secure a bride worth
300,000 thalers, but that as long as his ex-wife remained at Muskau he
was hardly likely to be successful in his matrimonial speculations.
Lucie again consented to sacrifice herself in the good cause; but the
prince, a man of innumerable _bonnes fortunes_ according to his
own account, was curiously unfortunate as a would-be Benedick. The
German heiresses were no more propitious to his suit than the English
ones had been; and though, as he plaintively observes, he would have
liked nothing better than to be a Turkish pasha with a hundred and
fifty sultanas, he was unable to obtain a single Christian wife.

In 1834 the prince published two books, _Tutti Frutti_, a
collection of stories and sketches, and _Observations on
Landscape-Gardening_. _Tutti Frutti_ was by no means so
popular as the _Briefe eines Verstorbenen_, but the
_Observations_ took rank as a standard work. The project of a
journey to America having been abandoned, the prince now determined to
spend the winter in Algiers, leaving Lucie in charge at Muskau. This
modest programme enlarged itself into a tour in the East, which lasted
for more than five years. The travellers adventures during this period
have been described in his _Semilasso in Africa, Aus Mehemet's
Reich, Die Rückkehr_, and other works, which added to their
author's fame, and nearly sufficed to pay his expenses. We hear of him
breaking hearts at Tunis and Athens, shooting big game in the Soudan,
astonishing the Arabs by his horsemanship, and meddling in Egyptian
politics. It was not until 1838 that, moved by Lucie's complaints of
her loneliness, he reluctantly abandoned his plan of settling in the
East, and turned his face towards Europe. On the homeward journey he
made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and turned out of his course for the
visit to Lady Hester Stanhope that has already been described.

His Highness arrived at Vienna in the autumn of 1839, bringing in his
suite an Abyssinian slave-girl, Machbuba, whom he had bought a couple
of years before, and who had developed such wonderful qualities of
head and heart, that he could not bring himself to part from her. But
Lucie obstinately refused to receive Machbuba at Muskau, and declared
that the prince's reputation would be destroyed for ever, if he
brought a favourite slave under the same roof as his 'wife,' and thus
sinned against the laws of outward seemliness. So Machbuba and the
master who, like another Pygmalion, seems to have endowed this dusky
Galatea with a mind and soul, remained at Vienna, where the
Abyssinian, clad in a picturesque Mameluke's costume, accompanied the
prince to all the public spectacles, and became a nine days' wonder to
the novelty-loving Viennese. But the severity of a European winter
proved fatal to poor Machbuba, consumption laid its grip upon her, and
it was as a dying girl that at last she was taken to the Baths of
Muskau. Lucie received this once-dreaded rival kindly, but at once
carried off the prince for a visit to Berlin, and in the absence of
the master whom she worshipped with a spaniel-like devotion, Machbuba
breathed her last. The slave-girl was laid to rest amid all the pomp
and ceremony of a state funeral, the principal inhabitants of Muskau
and the neighbourhood followed her to her grave, and on the Sunday
following her death the chaplain delivered a eulogy on Machbuba's
virtues, and the fatherly benevolence of her master.

The prince was temporarily broken-hearted at the death of his
favourite, but his mercurial spirits soon reasserted themselves, and a
round of visits to the various German courts restored him to his
accustomed self-complacency. The idea of selling Muskau, and thus
ridding himself of the burden of his debts, once more occupied his
mind. A handsome offer for the estate had been refused a few years
before, in compliance with the wishes of Lucie, who loved Muskau even
better than its master, and had appealed to the king to prevent the
sale. But in 1845 came another offer from Count Hatzfeld of 1,700,000
thalers, which, in spite of Lucie's tears and entreaties, the prince
decided to accept. Although it cost him a sharp pang to give up to
another the spot of earth on which he had lavished so much time, so
much labour, and so much money, he fully appreciated the advantage of
an unembarrassed income and complete freedom of movement.

For a year or two after the sale, he led a wandering life, with Berlin
or Weimar for his headquarters. In 1846, shortly before his sixtieth
birthday, he met, so he confided to the long-suffering Lucie, the only
woman he had ever loved, or at least the only woman he had ever
desired to marry. Unfortunately, the lady, who was young, beautiful,
clever, of high rank, large fortune, and angelic disposition, had been
married for some years to a husband who is described as ugly,
ill-tempered, jealous, and incredibly selfish. The prince's letters at
this period are filled with raptures over the virtues of his new
_inamorata_, and lamentations that he had met her too late. For
though his passion was returned the lady was a strict Catholic, for
whom a divorce was out of the question, and for once this hardened
Lothario shrank from an elopement, with the resultant stain upon the
reputation of the woman he loved. In 1846 he parted from his affinity,
who survived the separation little more than a year, and retired with
a heavy heart to his paternal castle of Branitz, near Kottbus, where
he occupied himself in planting a park and laying out gardens. Branitz
was only about a tenth part the size of Muskau, and stood in the midst
of a sandy waste, but at more than sixty years of age the prince set
himself, with all the ardour of youth, to conjure a paradise out of
the wilderness. Forest trees were transplanted, lakes and canals dug,
hills appeared out of the level fields, and, in short, this
'earth-tamer,' as Rahel called him, created not only a park, but a
complete landscape.

The remainder of our hero's eventful career must be briefly
summarised. In 1851 he made a flight to England to see the Great
Exhibition. Here he renewed his acquaintance with many old friends,
among them the Duchess of Somerset, who told him that she had known
his father well twenty-five years before. The prince, who has been
described as a male Ninon de L'Enclos, was naturally delighted at
being mistaken for his own son. In 1852 the work at Branitz was so far
advanced that its lord invited Lucie to come and take up her abode at
the Schloss. But the poor lady's troubled life was nearing its close.
She had a paralytic stroke in the autumn of this year, and remained an
invalid until her death, which took place at Branitz in May, 1854.

In the loneliness that followed, the prince amused himself by keeping
up a lively correspondence with his feminine acquaintance, for whom,
even at seventy, he had not lost his fascinations. His celebrity as an
author and a traveller brought him many anonymous correspondents, and
he never wearied of reading and answering the sentimental effusions of
his unknown admirers. In 1863 he paid a visit incognito to Muskau, the
first since he had left it eighteen years before, though Branitz was
but a few leagues away. He was recognised at once, and great was the
joy in the little town over the return of its old ruler, who was
honoured with illuminations, the discharge of cannon, and torchlight
processions. The estate had passed into the hands of Prince Frederick
of the Netherlands, who had carried out all its former master's plans,
and added many improvements of his own. Pückler generously admired the
splendour that he had had so large a share in creating, and then went
contentedly back to his _kleine Branitz_, his only regret being
that he could not live to see it, like Muskau, in the fulness of its
matured beauty. In 1866, when war broke out between Prussia and
Austria, this grand old man of eighty-one volunteered for active
service, and begged to be attached to the headquarters' staff. His
request was granted, and he went gallantly through the brief campaign,
but was bitterly disappointed because he was not able to be present at
the battle of Koniggrätz, owing to the indisposition of the king, upon
whom he was in attendance.

In 1870, when France declared war against Prussia, he again
volunteered, and was deeply mortified when the king declined his
services on account of his advanced age. For the first time he seems
to have realised that he was old, and it is probable that the
disappointment preyed upon his spirits, for his strength rapidly
declined, his memory failed, and on February 4,1871, after a brief
illness, he sank peacefully to rest. He was buried in a tomb that he
had built for himself many years before, a pyramid sixty feet high,
which stood upon an acre of ground in the centre of an artificial
lake. The two inscriptions that the prince chose for his sepulchre
illustrate, appropriately enough, the sharply contrasting qualities of
his strange individuality--his romantic sentimentality, and his
callous cynicism. The first inscription was a line from the Koran:

'Graves are the mountain summits of a far-off, fairer world.'

The second, chosen presumably for the sake of the paradox, was the
French apothegm:

Pluto plutôt plus tard.'



[Illustration: Mary Howitt From a portrait by Margaret Gillies]

The names of William and Mary Howitt are inextricably associated with
the England of the early nineteenth century, with the re-discovery of
the beauty and interest of their native land, with the renaissance of
the national passion for country pleasures and country pursuits, and
with the slow, painful struggle for a wider freedom, a truer humanity,
a fuller, more gracious life. The Howitts had no genius, nor were they
pioneers, but, where the unfamiliar was concerned, they were
open-minded and receptive to a degree that is unfortunately rare in
persons of their perfect uprightness and strong natural piety. If they
flashed no new radiance upon the world, they were always among the
first to kindle their little torches at the new lamps; and they did
good service in handing back the light to those who, but for them,
would have had sat in the shadow, and flung stones at the
incomprehensible illuminations.

Of the two minds, Mary's was the finer and the more original. It was
one of those everyday miracles--the miracles that do happen--that in
spite of the severity, the narrowness, the repression of her early
training, she should have forced her way through the shell of rigid
sectarianism, repudiated her heritage of drab denials, and opened both
heart and mind to the new poetry, the new art, and the new knowledge.
In her husband she found a kindred spirit, and during the more than
fifty years of their pilgrimage together their eyes were ever turned
towards the same goal. Though not equally gifted, they were equally
disinterested, equally enlightened, and equally anxious for the
advancement of humanity. They took themselves and their vocation
seriously, and produced an immense quantity of careful, conscientious
work, the work of honest craftsmen rather than artists, with the
quality of a finished piece of cabinet-making, or a strip of fine

Mary Howitt was the daughter of Samuel Botham, a land-surveyor at
Uttoxeter. His father, the descendant of a long line of Staffordshire
yeomen, Quakers by persuasion, loved a roaming life, and having
married a maltster's widow with a talent for business management, was
left free to indulge his own propensities. He seems to have had a
talent for medical science of an empirical kind, for he dabbled in
magnetism and electricity, and wandered about the country collecting
herbs for headache--snuffs, and healing ointments. Samuel, as soon as
he had served his apprenticeship, found plenty of employment in the
neighbourhood, the country gentlemen, who had taken alarm at the
revolutionary ideas newly introduced from France, being anxious to
have their acres measured, and their boundaries accurately defined.
While at work upon Lord Talbot's Welsh estates in 1795, he became
attracted by a 'convinced' Friend, named Ann Wood. The interesting
discovery that both had a passion for nuts, together with the gentle
match-making of a Quaker patriarch, led to an engagement, and the
couple were married in December, 1796.

Ann Wood was the granddaughter of William Wood, whose contract for
supplying Ireland with copper coin (obtained by bribing the Duchess of
Kendal) was turned into a national grievance by Swift, and led to the
publication of the _Drapier Letters_. Although Wood's half-pence
were admitted to be excellent coin, and Ireland was short of copper,
the feeling against their circulation was so intense, that Ministers
were obliged to withdraw the patent, Wood being compensated for his
losses with a grant of £3000 a year for a term of years, and 'places'
for some of his fifteen children. Ann's father, Charles, when very
young, was appointed assay-master to Jamaica. After his return to
England in middle life he married a lively widow, went into business
as an iron-master near Merthyr Tydvil, and distinguished himself by
introducing platinum into Europe, having first met with the semi-metal
in Jamaica, whither it had been brought from Carthagena in New Spain.
After his death, Ann, the only serious member of a 'worldly' family,
found it impossible to remain in the frivolous atmosphere of her home,
and determined, in modern fashion, to 'live her own life.' After
spending some years as governess or companion in various families, she
became converted to Quaker doctrines, and was received into the
Society of Friends.

Samuel Botham took his bride to live in the paternal home at
Uttoxeter, where the preparation of the old quack doctor's herbal
medicines caused her a great deal of discomfort. In the course of the
next three years two daughters were born to the couple; Anna in 1797,
and Mary on March 12, 1799. At the time of Mary's birth her parents
were passing through a period of pecuniary distress, owing to a
disastrous speculation; but with the opening of the new century a
piece of great good fortune befell Samuel Botham. He was one of the
two surveyors chosen to enclose and divide the Chase of Needwood in
the county of Stafford. In the early years of the nineteenth century
there was, unfortunately for England, a mania for enclosing commons,
and felling ancient forests. Needwood, which extended for many miles,
contained great numbers of magnificent old oaks, limes, and hollies,
and no less than twenty thousand head of deer. In after years, Mary
Howitt often regretted that her family should have had a hand in the
destruction of so vast an extent of solitude and beauty, in a country
that was already thickly populated and trimly cultivated. Still, for
the nine years that the work of 'disafforesting' lasted, the two
little girls got a great deal of enjoyment out of the ruined Chase,
spending long summer days in its grassy glades, while their father
parcelled out the land and marked trees for the axe.

In her _Autobiography_ [Footnote: Edited by her daughter
Margaret, and published by Messrs. Isbister in 1889.] Mary declares
that it is impossible for her to give an adequate idea of the
stillness and isolation of her childish life. So intense was the
silence of the Quaker household, that, at four years old, Anna had to
be sent to a dame's school in order that she might learn to talk;
while even after both children had attained the use of speech, their
ignorance of the right names for the most ordinary feelings and
actions obliged them to coin words of their own. 'My childhood was
happy in many respects,' she writes. 'It was so, as far as physical
health, the enjoyment of a beautiful country, and the companionship of
a dearly loved sister could make it--but oh, there was such a cloud
over all from the extreme severity of a so-called religious education,
it almost made cowards and hypocrites of us, and made us feel that, if
this were religion, it was a thing to be feared and hated.' The family
reading consisted chiefly of the writings of Madame Guyon, Thomas à
Kempis, and St. Francis de Sales, while for light literature there
were Telemachus, Fox's _Book of Martyrs_, and a work on the
_Persecution of the Friends_. But it is impossible for even the
most pious of Quakers to guard against all the stratagems by which the
spirit of evil--or human nature--contrives to gain an entrance into a
godly household. In the case of the Botham children an early knowledge
of good and evil was learnt from an apparently respectable nurse, who
made her little charges acquainted with most of the scandals of the
neighbourhood, accustomed their infant ears to oaths, and--most
terrible of all--taught them to play whist, she herself taking dummy,
and transforming the nursery tea-tray into a card-table. In that
silent household it was easy to keep a secret, and though the little
girls often trembled at their nurse's language, they never betrayed
her confidence.

In 1806 another daughter, Emma, was born to the Bothams, and in 1808 a
son, Charles. In the midst of their joy and amazement at the news that
they had a brother, the little girls asked each other anxiously: 'Will
our parents like it?' Only a short time before a stranger had inquired
if they had any brothers, and they had replied in all seriousness: 'Oh
no, our parents do not approve of boys.' Now, much to their relief,
they found that their father and mother highly approved of their own
boy, who became the spoilt darling of the austere household. A new
nurse was engaged for the son and heir, a lady of many love-affairs,
who made Mary her confidante, and induced the child, then nine years
old, to write an imaginary love-letter. The unlucky letter was laid
between the pages of the worthy Madame Guyon, and there discovered by
Mr. Botham. Not much was said on the subject of the document, which
seems to have been considered too awful to bear discussion; but the
children were removed from the influence of the nurse, and allowed to
attend a day-school in the neighbourhood, though only on condition
that they sat apart from the other children in order to avoid
contamination with possible worldlings.

In 1809 the two elder sisters were sent to a Quaker school at Croydon,
where they found themselves the youngest, the most provincial, and the
worst dressed of the little community. Even in advanced old age, Mary
had a keen memory for the costumes of her childhood, and the
mortification that these had caused her. On their arrival at school
the little girls were attired in brown pelisses, cut plain and
straight, without plait or fold, and hooked down the front to obviate
the necessity for buttons, which, being in the nature of trimmings,
were regarded as an indulgence of the lust of the eye. On their heads
they wore little drab beaver bonnets, also destitute of trimmings, and
so plain in shape that even the Quaker hatter had to order special
blocks for their manufacture. The other girls were busy over various
kinds of fashionable fancy-work, but the little Bothams were expected,
in their leisure moments, to make half-a-dozen linen shirts for their
father, button-holes and all. They had never learnt to net, to weave
coloured paper into baskets, to plait split straw into patterns, nor
any of the other amateur handicrafts of the day. But they were clever
with their fingers, and could copy almost anything that they had seen
done. 'We could buckle flax or spin a rope,' writes Mary. 'We could
drive a nail, put in a screw or draw it out. We knew the use of a
glue-pot, and how to paper a room. We soon furnished ourselves with
coloured paper for plaiting, and straw to split and weave into net;
and I shall never forget my admiration of a pattern of diamonds woven
with strips of gold paper on a black ground. It was my first attempt
at artistic handiwork.'

After a few months at Croydon the girls were recalled to Uttoxeter on
account of their mother's illness; and as soon as she recovered they
were despatched to another Friends' school at Sheffield. In 1812, when
Mary was only thirteen and Anna fifteen, their education was supposed
to be completed, and they returned home for good. But Mr. Botham was
dissatisfied with his daughters' attainments, and engaged the master
of the boys' school to teach them Latin, mathematics, and the use of
the globes. The death of this instructor obliged them thenceforward to
rely on a system of self-education. 'We retained and perfected our
rudimentary knowledge,' Mary writes, 'by instructing others. Our
father fitted up a school-room for us in the stable-loft, where, twice
a week, we were allowed to teach poor children. In this room, also, we
instructed our dear little brother and sister. Our father, in his
beautiful handwriting, used to set them copies, texts of Scripture,
such as he no doubt had found of a consolatory nature. On one
occasion, however, I set the copies, and well remember the tribulation
I experienced in consequence. I always warred in my mind against the
enforced gloom of our home, and having for my private reading at that
time Young's _Night Thoughts_, came upon what seemed to me the
very spirit of true religion, a cheerful heart gathering up the
joyfulness of surrounding nature; on which the poet says: "'Tis
impious in a good man to be sad." How I rejoiced in this!--and
thinking it a great fact which ought to be noised abroad, wrote it
down in my best hand as a copy. It fell under our father's eye, and
sorely grieved he was at such a sentiment, and extremely angry with me
as its promulgator.'

The sisters can never have found the time hang heavy on their hands,
for in addition to their educational duties, their mother required
them to be expert in all household matters; while, in their scanty
hours of leisure, they attempted, in the face of every kind of
discouragement, to satisfy their strong natural craving for beauty and
knowledge. 'We studied poetry, botany, and flower-painting,' Mary
writes. 'These pursuits were almost out of the pale of permitted
Quaker pleasures, but we pursued them with a perfect passion, doing in
secret that which we dared not do openly, such as reading Shakespeare,
the elder novelists, and translations of the classics. We studied
French and chemistry, and enabled ourselves to read Latin, storing our
minds with a whole mass of heterogeneous knowledge. This was good as
far as it went, but I now deplore the secrecy, the subterfuge, and the
fear under which this ill-digested, ill-arranged knowledge was

The young Quakeresses picked up ideas and models for their artistic
handicraft from the most unlikely sources. A shop-window, full of
dusty plaster medallions for mantelpiece decorations, gave them their
first notions of classic design. The black Wedgwood ware was to be
seen in nearly every house in Uttoxeter, while a few of the more
prosperous inhabitants possessed vases and jugs in the pale blue ware,
ornamented with graceful figures. These precious specimens the Botham
sisters used to borrow, and contrived to reproduce the figures by
means of moulds made of paper pulp. They also etched flowers and
landscapes on panes of glass, and manufactured 'transparencies' out of
different thicknesses of cap-paper. 'I feel a sort of tender pity for
Anna and myself,' wrote Mary long afterwards, 'when I remember how we
were always seeking and struggling after the beautiful, and after
artistic production, though we knew nothing of art. I am thankful that
we made no alms-baskets, or hideous abortions of that kind. What we
did was from the innate yearnings of our souls for perfection in form
and colour; and our accomplished work, though crude and poor, was the
genuine outcome of our own individuality.'

It was one of the heaviest crosses of Mary's girlish days that she and
Anna were not permitted to exercise their clever fingers, and indulge
their taste for the beautiful, in their own dress. But they found a
faint vicarious pleasure in making pretty summer gowns, and
embroidering elaborate muslin collars for a girl-friend who was
allowed to wear fashionable clothes, and even to go to balls. Even
their ultra-plain costumes, however, could not disguise the fact that
Anna and Mary Botham were comely damsels, and they had several suitors
among the young men-Friends of Uttoxeter. But the sisters held a low
opinion of the mental endowments of the average Quaker, an opinion
that was only shaken by a report of the marvellous attainments of
young William Howitt of Heanor, who was said to be not only a scholar,
but a born genius. William's mother, Phoebe, herself a noted amateur
healer, was an old friend of Mary's grandfather, the herbal doctor,
but the young people had never met. However, in the autumn of 1818,
William paid a visit to some relations at Uttoxeter, and there made
the acquaintance of the Botham girls, who discovered that this young
man-Friend shared nearly all their interests, and was full of sympathy
with their studies and pursuits.

Before the end of the year Mary Botham was engaged to William Howitt,
he being then six-and-twenty and she nineteen. 'The tastes of my
future husband and my own were strongly similar,' she observes, 'so
also was our mental culture; but he was in every direction so far in
advance of me as to become my teacher and guide. Knowledge in the
broadest sense was the aim of our intellectual efforts; poetry and
nature were the paths that led to it. Of ballad poetry I was already
enamoured, William made me acquainted with the realistic life-pictures
of Crabbe; the bits of nature and poetry in the vignettes of Bewick;
with the earliest works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, and the
first marvellous prose productions of the author of _Waverley_.'

After an engagement lasting a little more than two years, William and
Mary were married on April 16, 1821, the bride wearing her first silk
gown--a pretty dove-colour--and a white silk shawl, finery which
filled her soul with rapture. The couple spent the honeymoon in the
bridegroom's native Derbyshire, visiting every spot of beauty or haunt
of old tradition in that country of the romantic and the picturesque.
Incorporated in his wife's _Autobiography _is William Howitt's
narrative of his parentage and youthful days, which is supplemented by
his _Boys' Country Book_, the true story of his early adventures
and experiences. The Howitts, he tells us, were descended from a
family named Hewitt, the younger branch of which obtained Wansley
Hall, near Nottingham, through marriage with an heiress, and changed
the spelling of their name. His ancestors had been, for generations, a
rollicking set, all wofully lacking in prudence and sobriety.
About the end of the seventeenth century, one Thomas Howitt,
great-great-grandfather of William, married Catherine, heiress of the
Charltons of Chilwell. But Thomas so disgusted his father-in-law by
his drunken habits that Mr. Charlton disinherited his daughter, who
loyally refused to leave her husband, and left his property to a
stranger who chanced to bear his name. After this misfortune the
Howitts descended somewhat in the social scale, and, having no more
substance to waste, reformed their ways and forsook all riotous
living. William's father, who held a post as manager of a Derbyshire
colliery, married a Quaker lady, Phoebe Tantum of the Fall, Heanor,
and was himself received into the Society of Friends in 1783.

William received a good plain education at a Quaker school at
Ackworth, and grew up a genuine country lad, scouring the lanes on his
famous grey pony, Peter Scroggins, the acknowledged leader of the
village lads in bird-nesting and rat-hunting expeditions, and taking
his full share of the work on his father's little farm. Long
afterwards he used to say that every scene in and about Heanor was
photographed with absolute distinctness on his brain, and he loved to
recall the long days that he had spent in following the plough,
chopping turnips for the cattle, tramping over the snow-covered fields
after red-wing and fieldfare, collecting acorns for the swine, or
hunting through the barns for eggs. The Howitt family was much less
strict than that of the Bothams, for in the winter evenings the boys
were allowed to play draughts and dominoes, while at Christmas there
were games of forfeits, blind-man's buff, and fishing for the ring in
the great posset-pot.

On leaving school at fifteen, William amused himself for a couple of
years on the farm, though, curiously enough, he never thought of
becoming a farmer in good earnest; indeed, at this time he seems to
have had no distinct bias towards any profession. Mr. Howitt had
somehow become imbued with Rousseau's doctrine that every boy,
whatever his position in life, should learn a mechanical handicraft,
in order that, if all else failed, he might be able to earn his own
living by the labour of his hands. Having decided that William should
learn carpentering, the boy was apprenticed for four years to a
carpenter and builder at Mansfield, on the outskirts of Sherwood
Forest. The four precious years were practically thrown away, except
for the enjoyment obtained from long solitary rambles amid the
picturesque associations of the Forest, and the knowledge of natural
history gained from close observation of the wild life of that
romantic district.

It was not until his twenty-first birthday that William's indentures
were out, and as he was still unable to make up his mind about a
profession--it must be remembered that the law, the church, the army
and navy were all closed to a Quaker--he spent the next seven years at
home, angling in the streams like his favourite hero, Isaac Walton,
and striving, by dint of hard study, to make up the many deficiencies
in his education. He taught himself Latin, French, and Italian,
besides working at botany, chemistry, and the dispensing of medicines.
It was during these seven years of uncertainty and experiment that
William read Washington Irving's _Sketches of Geoffrey Crayon_,
which produced a strong impression on his mind. With the inspiration
of this book hot upon him, he made a tour on foot through the Peak
country, and afterwards wrote an account of his adventures in what he
fondly believed to be the style of Geoffrey Crayon. The paper was
printed in a local journal under the title of _A Pedestrian
Pilgrimage through the Peak_, by Wilfrid Wendle. This was not
William Howitt's first literary essay, some stanzas of his on Spring,
written when he was only thirteen, having been printed in the
_Monthly Magazine_, with his name and age attached.

With the prospect of marriage it was thought desirable that William
should have some regular calling. Without, so far as appears, passing
any examinations or obtaining any certificates, he bought the business
of a chemist and druggist in Hanley, and thither, though with no
intention of settling permanently in the Potteries, he took his bride
as soon as the honeymoon was over. Only seven months were spent at
Hanley, and in December, 1821, the couple were preparing to move to
Nottingham, where William had bought the good-will of another
chemist's business. But before settling down in their new home, the
Howitts undertook a long pedestrian tour through Scotland and the
north of England, in the course of which they explored the Rob Roy
country, rambled through Fife, made acquaintance with the beauties of
Edinburgh, looked in upon Robert Owen's model factories at New Lanark,
got a glimpse of Walter Scott at Melrose, were mistaken for a runaway
couple at Gretna Green, gazed reverently on Rydal Mount, and tramped
in all no less than five hundred miles. An account of the tour was
contributed to a Staffordshire paper under the title of _A Scottish
Ramble in the Spring of 1822_, by Wilfrid and Wilfreda Wendle.

It was not until August, 1822, that the pair established themselves in
a little house at Nottingham. Of the chemist's business we hear
practically nothing in Mary's narrative, but a great deal about the
literary enterprises in which husband and wife collaborated. They
began by collecting the poems, of which each had a large number ready
written, and, in fear and trembling, prepared to submit them to the
verdict of critics and public. 'It seems strange to me,' wrote Mary,
when she informed her sister of this modest venture, 'and I cannot
reconcile myself to the thought of seeing my own name staring me in
the face in every bookseller's window, or being pointed at and peeped
after as a writer of verses.' In April, 1823, _The Forest Minstrel
and other Poems_, by William and Mary Howitt, made its appearance
in a not particularly appreciative world. The verses were chiefly
descriptive of country sights and sounds, and had been produced, as
stated in the Preface, 'not for the sake of writing, but for the
indulgence of our own overflowing feelings.' The little book created
no sensation, but it was kindly noticed, and seems to have attracted a
few quiet readers who, like the writers, were lovers of nature and

During these early years at Nottingham the Howitts kept up, as far as
their opportunities allowed, with the thought and literature of their
day, and never relaxed their anxious efforts after 'mental
improvement.' William's brother, Richard, himself a budding poet, was
at this time an inmate of the little household, which was increased in
1824 by the birth of a daughter, Anna Mary. Although the couple still
remained in the Quaker fold, they were gradually discarding the
peculiar dress and speech of the 'plain' Friends. They were evidently
regarded as terribly 'advanced' young people in their own circle, and
shocked many of their old acquaintances by the catholicity of their
views, by their admiration of Byron and Shelley, and by the liberal
tone of their own productions. Like most of the lesser writers of that
day, they found their way into the popular Keepsakes and Annuals,
which Mary accurately describes as 'a chaffy, frivolous, and
unsatisfactory style of publication, that only serves to keep a young
author in the mind of the public, and to bring in a little cash.' In
1826 Mrs. Howitt was preparing for the press a new volume of poems by
herself and her husband, _The Desolation of Eyam_, and in a
letter to her sister, now transformed into Mrs. Daniel Wilson, she
describes her sensations while awaiting the ordeal of critical
judgment, and expresses her not very flattering opinion of the
contemporary reviewer.

'Nobody that has not published,' she observes, 'can tell the almost
painful excitement which the first opinions occasion. Really, for some
days I was quite nervous. William boasted of possessing his mind in
wise passivity, and truly his imperturbable patience was quite an
annoyance; I therefore got Rogers's beautiful poem on Italy to read,
and so diverted my thoughts. Everything in the literary world is done
by favour and connections. It is a miracle to me how our former
volume, when we were quite unknown, got favourably noticed. In many
cases a book is reviewed which has never been read, or even seen

By this time the young authors who, to use Mary's own phrase, hungered
and thirsted after acquaintances who were highly gifted in mind or
profound in knowledge, had acquired one or two literary friends and
correspondents, among them Mrs. Hemans, Bernard Barton, the Quaker
poet, and the Alaric Watts's of Keepsake fame. An occasional notice of
the Howitts and their little household may be found in contemporary
works by forgotten writers. For example, Sir Richard Phillips, in the
section devoted to Nottingham of his quaintly-worded _Personal Tour
through the United Kingdom _(1828), observes: 'Of Messrs. Howitt,
husband and wife, conjugal in love and poetry, it would be vain for me
to speak. Their tasteful productions belong to the nation as well as
to Nottingham. As a man of taste Mr. Howitt married a lady of taste;
and with rare amiability they have jointly cultivated the Muses, and
produced some volumes of poetry, consisting of pieces under their
separate names. The circumstance afforded a topic for ridicule to some
of those anonymous critics who abuse the press and disgrace
literature; but no one ventured to assail their productions.' Spencer
Hall, a fellow-townsman, became acquainted with the Howitts in 1829,
and in his _Reminiscences_ describes William as a bright, neat,
quick, dapper man of medium height, with a light complexion, blue
eyes, and brisk, cheery speech. Mary, he tells us; was always neatly
dressed, but with nothing prim or sectarian in her style. 'Her
expression was frank and free, yet very modest, and she was blessed
with an affectionate, sociable spirit.'

A presentation copy of _The Desolation of Eyam_ was sent to the
Howitts' favourite poet, Wordsworth, who, in acknowledging their
'elegant volume,' declared that, though he had only had time to turn
over the leaves, he had found several poems which had already afforded
him no small gratification. The harmless little book was denounced by
the _Eclectic Review_ as 'anti-Quakerish, atheistical, and
licentious in style and sentiment, 'but the authors were consoled by a
charming little notice of their contributions to the Annuals in the
_Noctes Ambrosianae_ for November, 1828. 'Who are these three
brothers and sisters, the Howitts, sir?' asks the Shepherd of
Christopher North, in the course of a discussion of the Christmas
gift-books, 'whose names I see in the adverteesements?'

_North_. I don't know, James. It runs in my head that they are
Quakers. Richard and William seem amiable and ingenious men, and
Sister Mary writes beautifully.

_Shepherd_. What do you mean by beautifully? That's vague.

_North_. Her language is chaste and simple, her feelings tender
and pure, and her observation of nature accurate and intense. Her
'Sketches from Natural History' in the _Christmas Box_ have much
of the moral--nay, rather the religious spirit--that permeates all
Wordsworth's smaller poems, however light and slight the subject, and
show that Mary Howitt is not only well-read in the book of Bewick, but
also in the book from which Bewick has borrowed all--glorious
plagiarist--and every other inspired zoologist--

_Shepherd_. The Book o' Natur'.'

The great event of 1829 for the Howitts was a visit to London, where
they were the guests of Alaric and Zillah Watts, with whom they had
long maintained a paper friendship. 'What wilt thou say, dear Anna,'
writes Mary in December, 'when I tell thee that William and I set out
for London the day after to-morrow. I half dread it. I shall wish
twenty times for our quiet fireside, where day by day we read and talk
by ourselves, and nobody looks in upon us. I keep reasoning with
myself that the people we shall see in London are but men and women,
and perhaps, after all, no better than ourselves. If we could but
divest our minds of _self_, as our dear father used to say we
should do, it would be better and more comfortable for us. Yet it is
one of the faults peculiar to us Bothams that, with all the desire
there was to make us regardless of self, we never had confidence and
proper self-respect instilled into us, and the want of this gives us a
depressing feeling, though I hope it is less seen by others than by
ourselves.... We do not intend to stay more than a week, and thou may
believe we shall have enough to do. We have to make special calls on
the Carter Halls, Dr. Bowring, and the Pringles, and are to be
introduced to their ramifications of acquaintance. Allan Cunningham,
L. E. L., and Thomas Roscoe we are sure to see.'

In Miss Landon's now forgotten novel, _Romance and Reality_,
there is a little sketch of Mary Howitt as she appeared at a literary
_soirée_, during her brief visit to London. The heroine, Miss
Arundel, is being initiated into the mysteries of the writing world by
her friend, Mrs. Sullivan, when her attention is arrested by the sight
of 'a female in a Quaker's dress--the quiet, dark silk dress--the hair
simply parted on the forehead--the small, close cap--the placid,
subdued expression of the face, were all in strong contrast to the
crimsons, yellows, and blues around. The general character of the
large, soft eyes seemed sweetness; but they were now lighted up with
an expression of intelligent observation--that clear, animated, and
comprehensive glance which shows it analyses what it observes. You
looked at her with something of the sensation with which, while
travelling along a dusty road, the eye fixes on some green field,
where the hour flings its sunshine and the tree its shadow, as if its
pure fresh beauty was a thing apart from the soil and tumult of the
highway. "You see," said Mrs. Sullivan, "one who, in a brief
interview, gave me more the idea of a poet than most of our modern
votaries of the lute.... She is as creative in her imaginary poems as
she is touching and true in her simpler ones."'

Though there were still giants upon the earth in those far-off days,
the general standard of literary taste was by no means exalted, a fact
which Mary Howitt could hardly be expected to realise. She seems to
have taken the praises lavished on her simple verses over-seriously,
and to have imagined herself in very truth a poet. She was more
clear-sighted where the work of her fellow-scribes was concerned, and
in a letter written about this time, she descants upon the dearth of
good literature in a somewhat disillusioned vein. After expressing her
desire that some mighty spirit would rise up and give an impulse to
poetry, she continues: 'I am tired of Sir Walter Scott and his
imitators, and I am sickened of Mrs. Hemans's luscious poetry, and all
her tribe of copyists. The libraries set in array one school against
another, and hurry out the trashy volumes before the ink of the
manuscript is fairly dry. Dost thou remember the days when Byron's
poems first came out, now one and then another, at sufficient
intervals to allow of digesting them? And dost thou remember our first
reading of _Lalla Rookh_? It was on a washing-day. We read and
clapped our clear-starching, read and clapped, and read again, and all
the time our souls were not on this earth.'

There was one book then in course of preparation which Mary thought
worthy to have been read, even in those literary clear-starching days.
'Thou hast no idea,' she assures her sister, 'how very interesting
William's work, now called _A Book of the Seasons_, has become.
It contains original sketches on every month, with every
characteristic of the season, and a garden department which will fill
thy heart brimful of all garden delights, greenness, and boweriness.
Mountain scenery and lake scenery, meadows and woods, hamlets, farms,
halls, storm and sunshine--all are in this most delicious book,
grouped into a most harmonious whole.' Unfortunately, publishers were
hard to convince of the merits of the new work, the first of William
Howitt's rural series, and it was declined by four houses in turn. The
author at last suggested that a stone should be tied to the unlucky
manuscript, and that it should be flung over London Bridge; but his
wife was not so easily disheartened. She was certain that the book was
a worthy book, and only needed to be made a little more 'personable'
to find favour in the eyes of a publisher. Accordingly, blotted sheets
were hastily re-copied, new articles introduced, and passages of
dubious interest omitted, husband and wife working together at this
remodelling until their fingers ached and their eyes were as dim as an
owl's in sunshine. Their labours were rewarded by the acceptance of
the work by Bentley and Colburn, and its triumphant success with both
critics and public, seven editions being called for in the first few
months of its career.

'Prig it and pocket it,' says Christopher North, alluding to the
_Book of the Seasons_ in the _Noctes_ for April, 1831. ''Tis
a jewel.'

'Is Nottingham far intil England, sir?' asks the simple Shepherd, to
whom the above advice is given. 'For I would really like to pay the
Hooits a visit this simmer. Thae Quakers are what we micht scarcely
opine frae first principles, a maist poetical Christian seck.... The
twa married Hooits I love just excessively, sir. What they write canna
fail o' being poetry, even the most middlin' o't, for it's aye wi'
them the ebullition o' their ain feeling and their ain fancy, and
whenever that's the case, a bonny word or twa will drap itself intil
ilka stanzy, and a sweet stanzy or twa intil ilka pome, and sae they
touch, and sae they win a body's heart.'

The year 1831 was rendered memorable to the Howitts, not only by their
first literary success, but also by an unexpected visit from their
poetical idol, Mr. Wordsworth. The poet, his wife and daughter, were
on their way home from London when Mrs. Wordsworth was suddenly taken
ill, and was unable to proceed farther than Nottingham. Her husband,
in great perplexity, came to ask advice of the Howitts, who insisted
that the invalid should be removed to their house, where she remained
for ten days before she was able to continue her journey. Wordsworth
himself was only able to stay one night, but in that short time he
made a very favourable impression upon his host and hostess.
'He is worthy of being the author of _The Excursion_, _Ruth_, and
those sweet poems so full of human sympathy,' writes Mary. 'He is a
kind man, full of strong feeling and sound judgment. My greatest
delight was that he seemed so pleased with William's conversation.
They seemed quite in their element, pouring out their eloquent
sentiments on the future prospects of society, and on all subjects
connected with poetry and the interests of man. Nor are we less
pleased with Mrs. Wordsworth and her lovely daughter, Dora. They are
the most grateful people; everything that we do for them is right, and
the very best it can be.'

During the next two or three years Mary produced a volume of dramatic
sketches, called _The Seven Temptations_, which she always
regarded as her best and most original work, but which was damned by
the critics and neglected by the public; a little book of natural
history for children; and a novel in three volumes, called _Wood
Leighton_, which seems to have had some success. _The Seven
Temptations_, it must be owned, is a rather lugubrious production,
probably inspired by Joanna Baillie's _Plays on the Passions_.
The scene of _Wood Leighton_ is laid at Uttoxeter, and the book
is not so much a connected tale as a series of sketches descriptive of
scenes and characters in and about the author's early home. It is
evident that Mrs. Botham and Sister Anna looked somewhat
disapprovingly upon so much literary work for the mistress of a
household, since we find Mary writing in eager defence of her chosen

'I want to make thee, and more particularly dear mother, see,' she
explains, 'that I am not out of my line of duty in devoting myself so
much to literary occupation. Just lately things were sadly against us.
Dear William could not sleep at night, and the days were dark and
gloomy. Altogether, I was at my wits' end. I turned over in my mind
what I could do next, for till William's _Rural Life_ was
finished we had nothing available. Then I bethought myself of all
those little verses and prose tales that for years I had written for
the juvenile Annuals. It seemed probable I might turn them to some
account. In about a week I had nearly all the poetry copied; and then
who should come to Nottingham but John Darton [a Quaker publisher]. He
fell into the idea immediately, took what I had copied up to London
with him, and I am to have a hundred and fifty guineas for them. Have
I not reason to feel that in thus writing I was fulfilling a duty?'

In 1833 William Hewitt's _History of Priestcraft_ appeared, a
work which was publicly denounced at the Friends' yearly meeting, all
good Quakers being cautioned not to read it. William hitherto had
lived in great retirement at Nottingham, but he was now claimed by the
Radical and Nonconformist members of the community as their spokesman
and champion. In January, 1834, he and Joseph Gilbert (husband of Ann
Gilbert of _Original Poems_ fame) were deputed to present to the
Prime Minister, Lord Grey, a petition from Nottingham for the
disestablishment of the Church of England. The Premier regretted that
he could not give his support to such a sweeping measure, which would
embarrass the Ministry, alarm both Houses of Parliament, and startle
the nation. He declared his intention of standing by the Church to the
best of his ability, believing it to be the sacred duty of Government
to maintain an establishment of religion. To which sturdy William
Howitt replied that to establish one sect in preference to another was
to establish a party and not a religion.

Civic duties, together with the excitements of local politics, proved
a sad hindrance to literary work, and in 1836 the Howitts, who had
long been yearning for a wider intellectual sphere, decided to give up
the chemist's business, and settle in the neighbourhood of London.
Their friends, the Alaric Watts's, who were living at Thames Ditton,
found them a pretty little house at Esher, where they would be able to
enjoy the woods and heaths of rural Surrey, and yet be within easy
reach of publishers and editors in town. Before settling down in their
new home, the Howitts made a three months' tour in the north, with a
view to gathering materials for William's book on _Rural
England_. They explored the Yorkshire dales, stayed with the
Wordsworths at Rydal, and made a pilgrimage to the haunts of their
favourite, Thomas Bewick, in Northumberland. Crossing the Border they
paid a delightful visit to Edinburgh, where they were made much of by
the three literary cliques of the city, the Blackwood and Wilson set,
the Tait set, and the Chambers set.

'Immediately after our arrival,' relates Mary, 'a public dinner was
given to Campbell the poet, at which the committee requested my
husband's attendance, and that he would take a share in the
proceedings of the evening by proposing as a toast, "Wordsworth,
Southey, and Moore." This was our first introduction to Professor
Wilson (Christopher North) and his family. I sat in the gallery with
Mrs. Wilson and her daughters, one of whom was engaged to Professor
Ferrier. We could not but remark the wonderful difference, not only in
the outer man, but in the whole character of mind and manner, between
Professor Wilson and Campbell--the one so hearty, outspoken, and
joyous, the other so petty and trivial.'

Robert Chambers constituted himself the Hewitts' cicerone in
Edinburgh, showing them every place of interest, and presenting them
to every person of note, including Mrs. Maclehose (the Clarinda of
Burns), and William Miller, the Quaker artist and engraver, as intense
a nature-worshipper as themselves. From Edinburgh they went to
Glasgow, where they took ship for the Western Isles. Their adventures
at Staffa and Iona, their voyage up the Caledonian Canal, and the
remainder of their experiences on this tour, were afterwards described
by William Howitt in his _Visits to Remarkable Places_.


In September, 1836, the Howitts took possession of their Surrey home,
West End Cottage, an old-fashioned dwelling, with a large garden, an
orchard, a meadow by the river Mole, and the right of boating and
fishing to the extent of seven miles. The new life opened with good
prospects of literary and journalistic employment, William Howitt's
political writings having already attracted attention from several
persons of power and influence in the newspaper world. On December 3
of this year, Mary wrote to inform her sister that, 'In consequence of
an article that William wrote on Dymond's _Christian Morality_,
Joseph Hume, the member for Middlesex, wrote to him, and has opened a
most promising connection for him with a new Radical newspaper, _The
Constitutional_. O'Connell seems determined to make him the editor
of the _Dublin Review_, and wrote him a most kind letter, which
has naturally promoted his interest with the party. I cannot but see
the hand of Providence in our leaving Nottingham. All has turned out

Unfortunately for these sanguine anticipations, the newspaper
connections on which the Howitts depended for a livelihood, now that
the despised chemist's business had been given up, proved but hollow
supports. O'Connell had overlooked the trifling fact that a Quaker
editor was hardly fitted to conduct a journal that was emphatically
and polemically Catholic; and though he considered that William Howitt
was admirably adapted to deal with literary and political topics, he
was obliged to withdraw his offer of the editorship. A more crushing
disappointment arose out of the engagement on _The Constitutional_.
Mr. Howitt, according to his wife, did more for the paper than any
other member of the staff. 'He worked and wrote like any slave,'
she tells her sister. 'In the end, after a series of the most
harassing and vexatious conduct on the part of the newspaper
company, he was swindled out of every farthing. Oh, it was a most
mortifying and humiliating thing to see men professing liberal and
honest principles act so badly. A month ago, when in the very depths
of discouragement and low spirits, I set about a little volume for
Darton, to be called _Birds and Flowers_, and have pretty nearly
finished it. William, in the mean time, has finished his _Rural
Life_, and sold the first edition to Longman's.'

The manager of the unlucky paper was Major Carmichael Smith, who, when
matters grew desperate, sent for his step-son, Thackeray, then acting
as Paris correspondent for a London daily. 'Just as I was going out of
the office one day,' writes William, 'I met on the stairs a tall, thin
young man, in a dark blue coat, and with a nose that seemed to have
had a blow that had flattened the bridge. I turned back, and had some
conversation with him, being anxious to know how he proposed to carry
on a paper which was without any funds, and already deeply in debt. He
did not seem to know any more than I did. I thought to myself that his
step-father had not done him much service in taking him from a
profitable post for the vain business of endeavouring to buoy up a
desperate speculation. How much longer _The Constitutional_
struggled on, I know not. That was the first time I ever saw or heard
of William Makepeace Thackeray.'

The Howitts were somewhat consoled for their journalistic losses by
the triumphant success of _Rural Life in England_. The reading
public which, during the previous century, had swallowed mock
pastorals, made in Fleet Street, with perfect serenity, was now,
thanks to the slowly-working influence of Wordsworth and the other
Lake poets, prepared for a renaissance of nature and simplicity in
prose. Miss Mitford's exquisite work had given them a distaste for the
'jewelled turf,' the 'silver streams,' and 'smiling valleys' which
constituted the rustic stock-in-trade of the average novelist; and
they eagerly welcomed a book that treated with accuracy and
observation of the real country. William Howitt's straightforward,
undistinguished style was acceptable enough in an age when even men of
genius seem to have written fine prose without knowing it, and tripped
up not infrequently over the subtleties of English grammar. His lack
of imagination and humour was more than atoned for, in the uncritical
eyes of the 'thirties,' by the easy loquacity of his rural gossip, and
the varied information with which he crammed his pages. The Nature of
those days was a simple, transparent creature, with but small
resemblance to the lady of moods, mystery, and passion who is so
overworked in our modern literature. No one dreamt of going into
hysterics over the veining of a leaf, or penning a rhapsody on the
outline of a rain-cloud; nor could it yet be said that, 'if everybody
must needs blab of the favours that have been done him by roadside,
and river-brink, and woodland walk, as if to kiss and tell were no
longer treachery, it will soon be a positive refreshment to meet a man
who is as superbly indifferent to Nature as she is to him.' [Footnote:

The Howitts took great delight in the pleasant Surrey country, so
different from the dreary scenery around Nottingham, and Mary's
letters contain many descriptions of the woods and commons and shady
lanes through which the family made long expeditions in a little
carriage drawn by Peg, their venerable pony. Driving one day to Hook,
they met Charles Dickens, then best known as 'Boz,' in one of his long
tramps, with Harrison Ainsworth as his companion. When Dickens's next
work, _Master Humphrey's Clock_, appeared, the Howitts were
amused to see that their stout and wilful Peg had not escaped the
novelist's keen eye, but had been pressed into service for Mr.
Garland's chaise.

On another occasion, in July 1841, William, while driving with a
friend, was attacked by two handsome, dark-eyed girls, dressed in
gipsy costume, who ran one on each side of the carriage, begging that
the kind gentleman would give them sixpence, as they were poor
strangers who had taken nothing all day. Mr. Howitt, who had made a
special study of the gipsy tribe, perceived in an instant that these
were only sham Romanys. He paid no attention to their pleading, but
observed that he hoped they would enjoy their frolic, and only wished
that he were as rich as they. Subsequently, he discovered that the
mock-gipsies, who had been unable to coax a sixpence out of him, were
none other than the beautiful Sheridan sisters, the Duchess of
Somerset, and Mrs. Blackwood (afterwards Lady Dufferin), whose husband
had lately taken Bookham Lodge.

During the four years spent at Esher, Mary seems to have been too much
occupied with the cares of a young family to use her pen to much
purpose. She produced little, except a volume of _Hymns and Fireside
Verses_, but she frequently assisted her husband in his work.
William, industrious as ever, published, besides a large number of
newspaper articles, his _Boys' Country Book_, the best work of
the kind ever written, according to the _Quarterly Review_; and
his _History of Colonisation and Christianity_, in which he took
a rapid survey of the behaviour of the Christian nations of Europe to
the inhabitants of the countries they conquered in all parts of the
world. It was the reading of this book that led Mr. Joseph Pease to
establish the British India Society, which issued, in a separate form,
the portion of the work that related to India. Mr. Howitt next set to
work upon another topographical volume, his _Visits to Remarkable
Places_, in which he turned to good account the materials collected
in his pedestrian rambles about the country.

In 1840 the question of education for the elder children became
urgent, and the Howitts, who had heard much of the advantages of a
residence in Germany from their friends, Mrs. Hemans, Mrs. Jameson,
and Henry Chorley, decided to give up their cottage at Esher, and
spend two or three years at Heidelberg. Letters of introduction from
Mrs. Jameson gave them the _entrée_ into German society, which
they found more to their taste than that of their native land. 'For
the sake of our children,' writes Mary, 'we sought German
acquaintances, we read German, we followed German customs. The life
seemed to me easier, the customs simpler and less expensive than in
England. There was not the same feverish thirst after wealth as with
us; there was more calm appreciation of nature, of music, of social
enjoyment.' In their home on the Neckar, the Howitts, most adaptable
of couples, found new pleasures and new amusements with each season of
the year. In the spring and summer they explored the surrounding
country, wandered through the deep valleys and woods, where the grass
was purple with bilberries, visited quaint, half-timbered homesteads,
standing in the midst of ancient orchards, or followed the
swift-flowing streams, on whose banks the peasant girls in their
picturesque costumes were washing and drying linen. In the autumn the
whole family turned out on the first day of the vintage, and worked
like their neighbours. 'It was like something Arcadian,' wrote Mary
when recalling the scene. 'The tubs and baskets piled up with enormous
clusters, the men and women carrying them away on their heads to the
place where they were being crushed; the laughter, the merriment, the
feasting, the firing--for they make as much noise as they can--all was
delightful, to say nothing of the masquerading and dancing in the
evening, which we saw, though we did not take part in it.' In the
winter the strangers were introduced to the Christmas Tree, which had
not yet become a British institution: while with the first snow came
the joys of sleighing, when wheel-barrows, tubs, baskets, everything
that could be put on runners, were turned into sledges, and the boys
were in their glory.

During the three years that were spent at Heidelberg, William
Howitt wrote his _Student Life in Germany_, _German Experiences_,
and _Rural and Domestic Life in Germany_, works which contain a
great deal of more or less valuable information about the country and
the people, presented in a homely, unpretentious style. Mary was no
less industrious, having struck a new literary vein, the success of
which was far to surpass her modest anticipations. 'I have been very
busy,' she writes in 1842, 'translating the first volume of a charming
work by Frederica Bremer, a Swedish writer; and if any publisher will
give me encouragement to go on with it, I will soon complete the work.
It is one of a series of stories of everyday life in Sweden--a
beautiful book, full of the noblest moral lessons for every man and
woman.' In the summer of 1841 the Howitts, accompanied by their elder
daughter, Anna, made a long tour through Germany and Austria, in the
course of which they collected materials for fresh works, and visited
the celebrities, literary and artistic, of the various cities that lay
in their route. At Stuttgart they called on Gustav Schwab, the poet,
and visited Dannecker's studio; at Tübingen they made the acquaintance
of Uhland, and at Munich that of Kaulbach, then at the height of his
fame. By way of Vienna and Prague they travelled to Dresden, where,
through the good offices of Mrs. Jameson, they were received by Moritz
Retzsch, whose _Outlines_ they had long admired. At Berlin they
made friends with Tieck, on whom the king had bestowed a pension and a
house at Potsdam; while at Weimar they were entertained by Frau von
Goethe, whose son, Wolfgang, had been one of their earliest
acquaintances at Heidelberg. This interesting tour is described at
length in the _Rural and Domestic Life of Germany_.

Another year was spent at Heidelberg, but the difficulties of
arranging the business details of their work at such a distance from
publishers and editors, brought the industrious couple back to London
in the spring of 1843. 'On our return to England,' writes Mary, 'I was
full of energy and hope. Glowing with aspiration, and in enjoyment of
great domestic happiness, I was anticipating a busy, perhaps
overburdened, but, nevertheless, congenial life. It was to be one of
darkness, perplexity, discouragement.' The Howitts had scarcely
entered into possession of a new house that they had taken at Clapton,
when news came from Heidelberg, where the elder children had been left
at school, that their second son, Claude, had developed alarming
symptoms of disease in the knee-joint. It was known that he had been
slightly injured in play a few weeks before, but no danger had been
anticipated. Mr. Howitt at once set out for Heidelberg, and returned
with the invalid, on whose case Liston was consulted. The great
surgeon counselled amputation, but to this the parents refused their
consent, except as a last resource. Various less heroic modes of
treatment were tried, but poor Claude faded away, and died in March,
1844, aged only ten years and a half. This was the heaviest trial that
the husband and wife had yet experienced, for Claude had been a boy of
brilliant promise, whom they regarded as the flower of their flock.
Only a few months before his accident his mother had written in the
pride of her heart: 'Claude is the naughtiest of all the children, and
yet the most gifted. He learns anything at a glance. Claude is born to
be fortunate; he is one that will make the family distinguished in the
next generation. He has an extraordinary faculty for telling stories,
either of his own invention or of what he reads.'

A lesser cause of trouble and anxiety arose out of the translation of
Miss Bremer's novels. 'When we first translated _The Neighbours_,'
writes Mary, 'there was not a house in London that would undertake
its publication. We published it and the other Bremer novels at our
own risk, but such became the rage for them that our translations
were seized by a publisher, altered, and reissued as new ones.'
The success of these books was said to be greater than that of
any series since the first appearance of the Waverley novels. Cheap
editions were multiplied in the United States, and even the boys who
hawked the books about the streets were to be seen deep in _The
Home_ or _The H. Family_. In a letter to her sister written
about this time, Mary expatiates on the annoyance and loss caused by
these piracies. 'It is very mortifying,' she observes, 'because no one
knew of these Swedish novels till we introduced them. It obliges us to
hurry in all we do, and we must work almost day and night to get ours
out in order that we may have some little chance.... We have embarked
a great deal of money in the publication, and the interference of the
upstart London publisher is most annoying. Mlle. Bremer, however, has
written a new novel, and sends it to us before publication. We began
its translation this week, and hope to be able to publish it about the
time it will appear in Sweden and Germany.'

In addition to her translating work, Mrs. Howitt was engaged at this
time upon a series of little books, called _Tales for the People and
their Children_, which had been commissioned by a cheap publisher.
These stories, each of which illustrated a domestic virtue, were
punctually paid for: and though they were never advertised, they
passed swiftly through innumerable editions, and have been popular
with a certain public down to quite recent times. Perhaps the most
attractive is the _Autobiography of a Child_, in which Mary told
the story of her own early days in her pretty, simple style, with the
many little quaint touches that gave all her juvenile stories an
atmosphere of truth and reality. Her quick sympathy with young people,
and her knowledge of what most appealed to the childish mind, was
probably due to her vivid remembrance of her own youthful days, and to
her affectionate study of the 'little ways' of her own children. Many
are the original traits and sayings that she reports to her sister,
more especially those of her youngest boy, Charlton, who had inherited
his parents' naturalistic tastes in a pronounced form, and preferred
the Quakers' meeting-house to any other church or chapel, because
there was a dog-kennel on the premises!

About a year after her return to England, Mrs. Howitt turned her
attention to Danish literature, finding that, with her knowledge of
Swedish and German, the language presented few difficulties. In 1845
she translated Hans Andersen's _Impromsatore_, greatly to the
satisfaction of the author, who begged that she would continue to
translate his works, till he was as well known and loved in England as
he was on the Continent. Appreciation, fame, and joy, declared the
complacent poet, followed his footsteps wherever he went, and his
whole life was full of sunshine, like a beautiful fairy-tale. Mary
translated his _Only a Fiddler_; _O. T., or Life in Denmark_;
_The True Story of My Life_; and several of the _Wonderful Stories
for Children_. The _Improvisatore_ was the only one that went
into a second edition, the other works scarcely paying the cost
of publication. Hans Andersen, however, being assured that Mrs.
Howitt was making a fortune of the translations, came to England
in 1847 to arrange for a share of the profits. Though disappointed
in his hope of gain, he begged Mrs. Howitt to translate the whole
of his fairy-tales, which had just been brought out in a
beautifully-illustrated German edition. Much to her after regret, she
was then too much engrossed by other work to be able to accede to his
proposal. The relations between Hans Andersen and his translator were
marred, we are told, by the extreme sensitiveness and egoism of the
Dane. Mrs. Howitt narrates, as an example of his childish vanity, the
following little incident which occurred during his visit to England
in the summer of 1847:--

'We had taken him, as a pleasant rural experience, to the annual
hay-making at Hillside, Highgate, thus introducing him to an English
home, full of poetry and art, sincerity, and affection. The ladies of
Hillside--Miss Mary and Margaret Gillies, the one an embodiment of
peace and an admirable writer, whose talent, like the violet, kept in
the shade; the other, the warm-hearted painter--made him welcome....
Immediately after our arrival, the assembled children, loving his
delightful fairy-tales, clustered round him in the hay-field, and
watched him make them a pretty device of flowers; then, feeling
somehow that the stiff, silent foreigner was not kindred to
themselves, stole off to an American, Henry Clarke Wright, whose
admirable little book, _A Kiss for a Blow_, some of them knew.
He, without any suggestion of condescension or difference of age,
entered heart and soul into their glee, laughed, shouted, and played
with them, thus unconsciously evincing the gift which had made him
earlier the exclusive pastor of six hundred children in Boston. Soon
poor Andersen, perceiving himself neglected, complained of headache,
and insisted on going indoors, whither Mary Gillies and I, both
anxious to efface any disagreeable impression, accompanied him; but he
remained irritable and out of sorts.'

It was in 1845 or 1846 that the Howitts made the acquaintance of
Tennyson, whose poetry they had long admired. 'The retiring and
meditative young poet, Alfred Tennyson, visited us,' relates Mary,
'and cheered our seclusion by the recitation of his exquisite poetry.
He spent a Sunday night at our house, when we sat talking together
till three in the morning. All the next day he remained with us in
constant converse. We seemed to have known him for years. So in fact
we had, for his poetry was himself. He hailed all attempts at
heralding a grander, more liberal state of public opinion, and
consequently sweeter, nobler modes of living. He wished that we
Englanders could dress up our affections in more poetical costume;
real warmth of heart would gain rather than lose by it. As it was, our
manners were as cold as the walls of our churches.' Another new friend
was gained through William Howitt's book, _Visits to Remarkable
Places_. When the work was announced as 'in preparation,' the
author received a letter, signed E. C. Gaskell, drawing his attention
to a beautiful old house, Clopton Hall, near Stratford-on-Avon. The
letter described in such admirable style the writer's visit to the
house as a schoolgirl, that William wrote to suggest that she ought to
use her pen for the public benefit. This timely encouragement led to
the production of _Mary Barton_, the first volume of which was
sent in manuscript for Mr. Howitt's verdict. A few months later Mrs.
Gaskell came as a guest to the little house at Clopton, bringing with
her the completed work.

In 1846 William Howitt took part in a new journalistic venture, his
wife, as usual, sharing his labours and anxieties. He became first
contributor, and afterwards editor and part-proprietor of the
_People's Journal_, a cheap weekly, through the medium of which
he hoped to improve the moral and intellectual condition of the
working classes. 'The bearing of its contents,' wrote Mary, in answer
to some adverse criticism of the new paper, 'is love to God and man.
There is no attempt to set the poor against the rich, but, on the
contrary, to induce them to be careful, prudent, sober and
independent; above all, to be satisfied to be workers, and to regard
labour as a privilege rather than as a penalty, which is quite our
view of the matter.' The combination of business and philanthropy
seldom answers, and the Howitts, despite the excellence of their
intentions, were unlucky in their newspaper speculations. At the end
of a few months it was discovered that the manager of the _People's
Journal_ kept no books, and that the affairs of the paper were in
hopeless confusion. William Howitt, finding himself responsible for
the losses on the venture, tried to cure the evil by a hair of the dog
that had bitten him. He withdrew from the _People's Journal_,
and, with Samuel Smiles as his assistant, started a rival paper on the
same lines, called _Howitts Journal_. But, as Ebenezer Elliott,
the shrewd old Quaker, remarked, apropos of the apathy of the
working-class public: 'Men engaged in a death struggle for bread will
pay for amusement when they will not for instruction. They woo
laughter to unscare them, that they may forget their perils, their
wrongs, and their oppressors. If you were able and willing to fill the
journal with fun, it would pay.' The failure of his paper spelt ruin
to its promoter; his copyrights, as well as those of his wife, were
sacrificed, and he was obliged to begin the world anew.

The Howitts seem to have kept up their spirits bravely under this
reverse, and never for a moment relaxed in their untiring industry.
They moved into a small house in Avenue Road, St. John's Wood, and
looked around them for new subjects upon which to exercise their
well-worn pens. Mary hoped to get employment from the Religious Tract
Society, which had invited her to send in a specimen story, but she
feared that her work would hardly be considered sufficiently orthodox,
though she had introduced one of the 'death-bed scenes,' which were
then in so much request. As she anticipated, the story was returned as
quite unsuitable, and thereupon she writes to her sister in some
depression: 'Times are so bad that publishers will not speculate in
books; and when I have finished the work I am now engaged on, I have
nothing else certain to go on with.' However, writers so popular with
the public as the Howitts were not likely to be left long without
employment. Mary seems to have been the greater favourite of the two,
and the vogue of her volume of collected _Poems and Ballads_,
which appeared in 1847, strikes the modern reader with amazement. Some
idea of the estimation in which she was then held is proved by Allan
Cunningham's dictum that 'Mary Howitt has shown herself mistress of
every string of the minstrel's lyre, save that which sounds of broil
and bloodshed. There is more of the old ballad simplicity in her
composition than can be found in the strains of any living poet
besides.' Another critic compared Mrs. Hewitt's ballads to those of
Lord Macaulay, while Mrs. Alaric Watts, in her capacity of Annual
editor, wrote to assure her old friend and contributor that, 'In thy
simplest poetry there are sometimes turns so exquisite as to bring the
tears to my eyes. Thou hast as much poetry in thee as would set up
half-a-dozen writers.' The one dissentient voice among admiring
contemporaries is that of Miss Mitford, who writes in 1852: 'I am for
my sins so fidgety respecting style that I have the bad habit of
expecting a book that pretends to be written in our language to be
English; therefore I cannot read Miss Strickland, or the Howitts, or
Carlyle, or Emerson, or the serious parts of Dickens.' It must be
owned that the Howitts are condemned in fairly good company.

The work of both husband and wife suffered from the inevitable defects
of self-education, and also from the narrowness and seclusion of their
early lives. Mary possessed more imagination and a lighter touch than
her husband, but her attempts at adult fiction were hampered by her
ignorance of the world, while her technique, both in prose and verse,
left something to be desired. It is evident that the publishers and
editors of the period were less critical than Miss Mitford, for, in
1848, we find that Mrs. Howitt was invited to write the opening volume
of Bradshaw's series of Railway novels, while in February 1850, came a
request from Charles Dickens for contributions to _Household
Words_. 'You may have seen,' he writes, 'the first dim announcements
of the new, cheap literary journal I am about to start. Frankly, I
want to say to you that if you would write for it, you would delight
me, and I should consider myself very fortunate indeed in enlisting
your services.... I hope any connection with the enterprise would
be satisfactory and agreeable to you in all respects, as I should
most earnestly endeavour to make it. If I wrote a book I could
say no more than I mean to suggest to you in these few lines.
All that I leave unsaid, I leave to your generous understanding.'

The Howitts were keenly interested in the gradual awakening of the
long-dormant, artistic instincts of the nation, the first signs of
which became faintly visible about the end of the forties. 'Down to
that time,' observes Mary, 'the taste of the English people had been
for what appealed to the mind rather than to the eye, and the general
public were almost wholly uneducated in art. By 1849 the improvement
due to the exertions of the Prince Consort, the Society of Arts, and
other powers began to be felt; while a wonderful impulse to human
taste and ingenuity was being given in the preparation of exhibits for
the World's Fair.' The gentle Quakeress who, in her youth, had
modelled Wedgwood figures in paper pulp, and clapped her
clear-starching to the rhythm of _Lalla Rookh_, was, in middle
life, one of the staunchest supporters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren,
and that at a time when the President of the Royal Academy had
announced his intention of hanging no more of their 'outrageous
productions.' Through their friend, Edward La Trobe Bateman, the
Howitts had been introduced into the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and
familiarised with the then new and startling idea that artistic
principles might be carried out in furniture and house-decoration.
Less than three-quarters of a century before, Mary's father had been
sternly rebuked by her grandfather for painting a series of lines in
black and grey above the parlour fireplace to represent a cornice.
This primitive attempt at decoration was regarded as a sinful
indulgence of the lust of the eye! With the simple charity that was
characteristic of them, William and Mary saw only the best side of
their new friends, the shadows of Bohemian life being entirely hidden
from them. 'Earnest and severe in their principles of art,' observes
Mrs. Howitt naively, 'the young reformers indulged in much jocundity
when the day's work was done. They were wont to meet at ten, cut
jokes, talk slang, smoke, read poetry, and discuss art till three

The couple had by this time renounced their membership of the Society
of Friends, but they had not joined any other religious sect, though
they seem to have been attracted by Unitarian doctrines. 'Mere
creeds,' wrote Mary to her sister, 'matter nothing to me. I could go
one Sunday to the Church of England, another to a Catholic chapel, a
third to the Unitarian, and so on; and in each of them find my heart
warmed with Christian love to my fellow-creatures, and lifted up with
gratitude and praise to God.' For many years the house in Avenue Road
was, we are told, a meeting-place for all that was best and brightest
in the world of modern thought and art. William Howitt was always
ready to lend an attentive and unbiassed ear to the newest theory, or
even the newest fad, while Mary possessed in the fullest degree the
gift of companionableness, and her inexhaustible sympathy drew from
others an instant confidence. Her arduous literary labours never
impaired her vigorous powers of mind or body, and she often wrote till
late into the night without appearing to suffer in either health or
spirits. She is described as a careful and energetic housewife;
indeed, her husband was accustomed to say that he would challenge any
woman who never wrote a line, to match his own good woman in the
management of a large household.

In 1851 came the first tidings of the discovery of gold in Australia,
and nothing was talked of but this new Eldorado and the wonderful
inducements held out to emigrants. William Howitt, who felt that he
needed a change from brain-work, suddenly resolved on a trip with his
two sons to this new world, where he would see his youngest brother,
Dr. Godfrey Howitt, who had settled at Melbourne. He was also anxious
to ascertain what openings in the country there might be for his boys,
both of whom had active, outdoor tastes, which there seemed little
chance of their being able to gratify in England. In June, 1852, the
three male members of the family, accompanied by La Trobe Bateman,
sailed for Australia, while Mary and her two daughters, the elder of
whom had just returned from a year in Kaulbach's studio at Munich,
moved into a cottage called the Hermitage, at Highgate, which belonged
to Mr. Bateman, and had formerly been occupied by Rossetti. Here they
lived quietly for upwards of two years, working at their literary or
artistic occupations, and seeing a few intimate friends. Mary kept her
husband posted up in the events that were taking place in England, and
we learn from her letters what were the chief topics of town talk in
the early fifties.

'Now, I must think over what news there is,' she writes in April,
1853. 'In the political world, the proposed new scheme of Property and
Income Tax, which would make everybody pay something; and the proposal
for paying off a portion of the National Debt with Australian gold. In
the literary world, the International Copyright, which some expect
will be in force in three months. In society in general, the strange
circumstantial rumour of the Queen's death, which, being set afloat on
Easter Monday, when no business was doing, was not the offspring of
the money market. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean, who were here the other
day, spoke of it, saying truly that for the moment it seemed to
paralyse the very heart of England.... [May 4th.] The great talk now
is Mrs. Beecher Stowe and spirit-rapping, both of which have arrived
in England. The universality of the latter phenomena renders it a
curious study. A feeling seems pervading all classes and all sects
that the world stands on the brink of some great spiritual revelation.
It meets one in books, in newspapers, on the lips of members of the
Church of England, Unitarians, and even Freethinkers. Poor old Robert
Owen, the philanthropist, has been converted, and made a confession of
faith in public. One cannot but respect a man who, in his old age, has
the boldness to declare himself as having been blinded and mistaken
through life.'

In December, 1854, William Howitt returned from his travels without
any gold in his pockets, but with the materials for his _History of
Discovery in Australia and New Zealand._ Thanks to what he used to
call his four great doctors, Temperance, Exercise, Good Air, and Good
Hours, he had displayed wonderful powers of activity and endurance
during his exploration of some almost untracked regions of the new
world. At sixty years of age he had marched twenty miles a day under a
blazing sun for weeks at a time, worked at digging gold for twelve
hours a day, waded through rivers, slept under trees, baked his own
bread, washed his own clothes, and now returned in the pink of
condition, with his passion for wandering only intensified by his
three years of an adventurous life. The family experiences were
diversified thenceforward by frequent change of scene, for William was
always ready and willing to start off at a moment's notice to the
mountains, the seaside, or the Continent. But whether the Howitts were
at home or abroad, they continued their making of many books, so that
it becomes difficult for the biographer to keep pace with their
literary output. Together or separately they produced a _History of
Scandinavian Literature, The Homes and Haunts of the Poets, a Popular
History of England_, which was published in weekly parts, a
_Year-Book of the Country_, a _Popular History of the United
States_, a _History of the Supernatural_, the _Northern Heights
of London_, and an abridged edition of _Sir Charles Grandison_,
besides several tales for young people, and contributions to
magazines and newspapers.

Even increasing age had no power to narrow their point of view, or to
blunt their sympathy with every movement that seemed to make for the
relief of the oppressed, the welfare of the nation, or the advancement
of the human race. Just as in youth they had championed the cause of
Catholic Emancipation and of political Reform, so in later years we
find them advocating the Repeal of the Corn Laws, taking part in the
Anti-Slavery agitation, working for improvement in the laws that
affected women and children, and supporting the Bill for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A more debatable subject--that of
spiritualism--was investigated by them in a friendly but impartial
spirit. 'In the spring of 1856, 'writes Mrs. Howitt, 'we had become
acquainted with several most ardent and honest spirit mediums. It
seemed right to my husband and myself to try and understand the nature
of these phenomena in which our new acquaintance so firmly believed.
In the month of April I was invited to attend a _séance_ at
Professor de Morgan's, and was much astonished and affected by
communications purporting to come to me from my dear son Claude. With
constant prayer for enlightenment and guidance, we experimented at
home. The teachings that seemed given us from the spirit-world were
often akin to those of the gospel; at other times they were more
obviously emanations of evil. I felt thankful for the assurance thus
gained of an invisible world, but resolved to neglect none of my
common duties for spiritualism.' Among the Hewitts' fellow-converts
were Robert Chambers, Robert Owen, the Carter Halls and the Alaric
Watts's; while Sir David Brewster and Lord Brougham were earnest
inquirers into these forms of psychical phenomena.

In 1865 William Howitt was granted a pension by Government, and a year
later the couple moved from Highgate to a cottage called the Orchard,
near their former residence at Esher. Of their four surviving
children, only Margaret, the youngest, was left at home. Anna, already
the author of a very interesting book, _An Art Student at
Munich_, had, as her mother observes, taken her place among the
successful artists and writers of her day, 'when, in the spring of
1856, a severe private censure of one of her oil-paintings by a king
among critics so crushed her sensitive nature, as to make her yield to
her bias for the supernatural, and withdraw from the arena of the fine
arts.' In 1857 Anna became the wife of Alfred Watts, the son of her
parents' old friends, Alaric and Zillah Watts. The two boys, Alfred
and Charlton, born explorers and naturalists, both settled in
Australia. Alfred, early in the sixties, had explored the district of

Book of the day: