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

Philip Gilbert Hamerton by Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al

Part 4 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.3 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.

Even in my latter years, the same old spirit of intolerance pursues me.
The nearest relation I have left in England said to my wife that she
hoped my books had not an extensive sale, so that their evil influence
might be as narrowly restricted as possible. As for her, she would not
even look into them. [Footnote: In writing this autobiography I often
suddenly remember some forgotten incident of past times. Here is one
that has just occurred to me. When walking out in 1853, I met a boy who
shouted after me, "You're the fellow that thinks we are all like rats!"
He had probably heard my opinions discussed in his family circle--how
justly and how intelligently his exclamation shows.]

My refuge in those days was that best of all refuges--occupation. I was
constantly at work on my different pursuits, and led a very healthy life
at Hollins. The greatest objection to it was an evil that I have had to
put up with in several different places, and that is intellectual
isolation, especially on the side of art. I had nobody to speak to on
that subject, except my old drawing-master, Mr. Henry Palmer. He had
inevitably fallen into the usual routine of futile teaching, which is
the fault of an uneducated public opinion, and of which the
drawing-masters themselves are the first victims, so I did not take
lessons from him; but he felt a warm and earnest interest in the fine
arts, and we talked about old masters and modern masters for hours
together in my study at Hollins, and in our walks. We once made a
delightful sketching excursion together into the district of Craven, and
I remember that at Bolton Abbey we met with a wonderful German who could
sit in the presence of nature and coolly make trees according to a
mechanical recipe. He might just as well have drawn the scenery of the
Wharfe in the heart of Berlin.



Publication of "The Isles of Loch Awe and other Poems."--Their sale.
--Advice to poetic aspirants.--Mistake in illustrating my book of
verse.--Its subsequent history.--Want of art in the book.--Too much
reality.--Abandonment of verse.--A critic in "Fraser."--Visit to Paris
in 1855.--Captain Turnbull.--Ball at the Hotel de Ville.--Louis
Napoleon and Victor Emmanuel.

My volume, "The Isles of Loch Awe and other Poems," appeared the day I
came of age, September 10, 1855. It was published at my own expense, in
an edition of two thousand copies, of which exactly eleven were sold in
the real literary market. The town of Burnley took thirty-six copies,
from a friendly interest in the author, and deserves my deepest
gratitude--not that the thirty-six copies quite paid the expenses of

Perhaps some poetic aspirant may read these pages, and if he does, he
may accept a word of advice.

The difficulty in publishing poems is to get them fully and fairly read
and considered by some publisher of real eminence in the trade. It is
difficult to appreciate poetry in manuscript, and there is such a
natural tendency to refuse anything in the form of metre, that it is
well to smooth the way for it as much as possible. I would, therefore,
if I had to begin again, get my poems put into type, and a private
edition of one hundred copies should be printed. A few of these being
sent to the leading publishers, I should very soon ascertain whether any
one of them was inclined to bring out the work. If they all declined, my
loss would be the smallest possible, and I should possess a few copies
of a rare book. If one publisher accepted, I should get an appeal to the
public, which is all that a young author wants. [Footnote: A single copy
clearly printed by the type-writing machine would now be almost as good
for the purpose as a small privately printed edition.]

I committed a great error in illustrating my book of verse. The
illustrations only set up a conflict of interest with the poetry, and
did no good whatever to the sale, whilst they vastly increased the cost
of publication. Poetry is an independent art, and if it cannot stand on
its own merits, the reason must be that it is destitute of vitality.

The subsequent history of this volume of poems is worth telling to those
who take an interest in books. It was published at six shillings, and as
the sale had been extremely small, I reduced the price to half-a-crown.
The reduction brought on a sale of about three hundred copies, and there
it stopped. I then disposed of the entire remainder to a wholesale buyer
of "remainders" for the modest sum of sixpence per copy. Since I have
become known as a writer of prose, many people have sought out this book
of verse, with the wonderful and unforeseen result that it has resumed
its original price. I myself have purchased copies for five shillings
each that I had sold for sixpence (not a profitable species of
commerce), and I have been told that the book is now worth six
shillings, exactly my original estimate of its possible value to an
enlightened and discriminating public.

Emerson wrote that the English had many poetical writers, but no poet,
and this at a time when Tennyson was already famous. The same spirit of
exclusion, in a minor degree, will deny the existence of all poets
except three, or perhaps four, in a generation. It would be presumptuous
to hope to be one of the three; but I do not think it was presumptuous
in me to hope for some readers for my verse. As this autobiography
approached that early publication, I read the volume over again, with a
fresh eye, after an interval of many years, exactly as if it had been
written by somebody else. There is poetry in the verse, and there is
prose also, my fault having been, at that time, that I was unable to
discriminate between the two. I had not the craft and art to make the
most of such poetical ideas as were really my own. These defects are
natural enough in a very young writer who could not possibly have much
literary skill. Amongst other marks of its absence, or deficiency, must
be reckoned the facility with which I allowed the mere matter-of-fact to
get into my verse, not being clearly aware that the matter-of-fact is
death to poetic art, and that nothing whatever is admissible into poetry
without being first idealized. Another cause of inferiority was that my
emotions were too real. The consequence of reality in emotion is very
curious, being exactly the contrary of what one would naturally expect.
Real emotion expresses itself simply and briefly, and often quite feebly
and inadequately. [Footnote: Amongst the uneducated genuine emotion is
often voluble; but poets usually belong to the educated classes.] The
result, of course, is that the reader's feelings are not played upon
sufficiently to excite them. Feigned, or artistic emotion, on the
contrary, leaves the poetic artist in the fullest possession of all his
means of influence, and he works upon the reader's feelings by slow or
by sudden effects at his own choice. [Footnote: Two diametrically
opposite opinions on this subject are held by actors, some of whom think
that in their profession emotion ought to be real, others that it ought
to be feigned. I know nothing about acting; but have always found in
literature and art, and even in the intercourse of life, that my own
real emotions expressed themselves very inadequately.]

The failure of "The Isles of Loch Awe" occasioned me rather a heavy
loss, which had the effect of making me economical for two or three
years, during which I did not even keep a horse. I also came to the
conclusion that nobody wanted my verses, and (not having either the
inspiration of Shelley and Keats, or the dogged determination of
Wordsworth) I gave up writing verse altogether, and that with a
suddenness and completeness that astonishes me now. Young men are
extreme in their hopes and in their discouragements. I had expected to
sell two thousand copies of a book of poetry by a totally unknown
writer, and because I did not immediately succeed in the hopeless
attempt I must needs break with literature altogether! It did not occur
to me to pursue the art of prose composition, which is quite as
interesting as that of verse, and ten times more rewarding in every

My book had been, on the whole, very kindly received by the reviews, and
a very odd incident occurred in connection with a well-known periodical.
At that time "Fraser's Magazine" was one of the great authorities, and a
contributor to it was so pleased with my poems that he determined to
write an important article upon them. One of his friends knew of this
intention, and told me. He revealed to the contributor, accidentally,
that he had given me this piece of information, on which the contributor
at once replied that since the author of the volume had been made aware
that it was to be reviewed, it was evident that his knowledge of the
fact had made it impossible to write the article. Does the reader
perceive the impossibility? I confess that it is invisible for me.
However, by this trifling incident my book missed a most important
review, which, at that time, might have classed it amongst the
noticeable publications of the period.

My commercial non-success in poetry threw me back more decidedly upon
painting, and this in combination with the resolution to learn French
well, of which something has been already said, made me go to Paris in
the autumn of 1855. I was at that time so utterly ignorant of modern
languages, as they are spoken, that in the train between Calais and
Paris I could not be certain, until I was told by an Englishman who was
more of a linguist than myself, which of my fellow-travellers were
speaking French and which Italian. I made such good use of my time in
Paris that when returning to England on the same railway, after the
short interval of three months, I spoke French fluently (though not
correctly) for the greater part of the way, and did not miss a syllable
that was said to me.

I had no knowledge of Paris and its hotels, so let myself be guided by a
fellow-traveller. We went to the Hotel du Louvre, then so new that it
smelt of plaster and paint. In those days, big, splendid hotels were
almost unknown in Europe. The vast dining-hall, with its palatial
decoration, impressed my inexperience very strongly. During my stay in
the Hotel du Louvre, I made the acquaintance of some English officers.
One was a splendid-looking man of about twenty-eight, physically the
finest Englishman I was ever personally acquainted with, and another was
a much older and more experienced officer on leave of absence from
India, where he ruled over a considerable territory. His name was
Turnbull, and I have been told since by another Indian officer, that
Captain Turnbull was the original of Colonel Newcome. Certainly, he was
one of the kindest, most amiable, and most unpretending gentlemen I ever
met. These two officers were invited to the ball at the Hotel de Ville
that was given by the Parisian municipality to the Emperor and King
Victor Emmanuel, and it happened that the young military Adonis had not
his uniform with him, whilst the idea of going to the ball without it,
and appearing only like a commonplace civilian, was so vexatious as to
be inadmissible. He therefore refused to go, and transferred his card to
me; so I went with Captain Turnbull, who had a cocked hat like a
general, and was taken for one. Some French people, by a stretch of
imagination, even took him for Prince Albert!

The Hotel de Ville was very splendid on a night of that kind, and when,
long afterwards, I saw it as a blackened ruin, the details of that past
splendor all came back to me. The most interesting moment was when the
crowd of guests formed in two lines in the great ball-room, and the
Emperor and King took their places for a short time on two thrones,
after which they slowly walked down the open space. I happened to be
standing near a French general, who kindly spoke a few words to me, and
just after that the Emperor came and shook hands with him, asking a
friendly question. In this way I saw Louis Napoleon very plainly; but
the more interesting of the two souvenirs for me is certainly that of
the immortal leader of men who was afterwards the first King of Italy.
As for Louis Napoleon, the sight of him in his glory called to mind an
anecdote told of him by Major Towneley in our regiment. When an exile in
London, he spoke to the major of some project that he would put into
execution _quand je serai Empereur_. "Do you really still cherish hopes
of that kind?" asked the sceptical Englishman. "They are not merely
hopes," answered Louis Napoleon, "but a certainty." He believed firmly
in the re-establishment of the Empire, but had no faith whatever in its
permanence. This uneasy apprehension of a fall was publicly betrayed
afterwards by the unnecessary plebiscitum. In a conversation with a
French supporter of the Empire, Louis Napoleon said, "So long as I am
necessary my power will remain unshakable, but when my hour comes I
shall be broken like glass!" He believed himself to be simply an
instrument in the hands of Providence that would be thrown away when no
longer of any use.

We who saw the sovereigns of France and Sardinia walking down that
ball-room together, little imagined what would be the ultimate
consequences of their alliance--the establishment of the Italian
kingdom, then of the German Empire, with the siege of Paris, the
Commune, and the total destruction of the building that dazzled us by
its splendor, and of the palace where the sovereigns slept that night.

Now they sleep far apart,--one in the Pantheon of ancient Rome, in the
midst of the Italian people, who hold his name in everlasting honor; the
other in an exile's grave in England, with a name upon it that is
execrated from Boulogne to Strasburg, and from Calais to Marseilles.



Thackeray's family in Paris.--Madame Mohl.--Her husband's encouraging
theory about learning languages.--Mr. Scholey.--His friend, William
Wyld.--An Indian in Europe.--An Italian adventuress.--Important meeting
with an American.--Its consequences.--I go to a French hotel.--People at
the _table d'hote_.--M. Victor Ouvrard.--His claim on the Emperor.--M.
Gindriez.--His family.--His eldest daughter.

Captain Turnbull knew some English people in the colony at Paris, so he
introduced me to two or three houses, and if my object had been to speak
English instead of French, I might have gone into the Anglo-Parisian
society of that day. One house was interesting to me, that of
Thackeray's mother, Mrs. Carmichael Smith. Her second husband, the
major, was still living, and she was a vigorous and majestic elderly
lady. She talked to me about her son, and his pursuit of art, but I do
not remember that she told me anything that the public has not since
learned from other sources. I soon discovered that she had very decided
views on the subject of religion, and that she looked even upon
Unitarians with reprobation, especially as they might be infidels in
disguise. My own subsequent experience of the world has led me to
perceive that, when infidels wear a cloak, they generally put on a more
useful and fashionable one than that of Unitarianism--they assume the
religion that can best help them to get on in the world. However, I was
not going to argue such a point with a lady who was considerably my
senior, and I was constantly in expectation of being examined about my
own religious views, knowing that it would be impossible for me to give
satisfactory answers. I therefore decided that it would be better to
keep out of Mrs. Carmichael Smith's way, and learned afterwards that she
had a reputation for asserting the faith that was in her, and for
expressing her disapproval of everybody who believed less. For my part,
I confess to a cowardly dread of elderly religious Englishwomen. They
have examined me many a time, and I have never come out of the ordeal
with satisfaction, either to them or to myself.

Thackeray's three daughters were in Paris at that time. I remember Miss
Thackeray quite distinctly. She struck me as a young lady of uncommon
sense and penetration, and it was not at all a surprise to me when she
afterwards became distinguished in literature. Thackeray himself was in
London, so I did not meet him.

I went occasionally in the evening to see that remarkable woman, Madame
Mohl. She was the oddest-looking little figure, with her original
notions about toilette, to which she was by no means indifferent. In the
year 1855 she still considered herself a very young woman, and indeed
was so, relatively to the great age she was destined to attain. After I
had been about six weeks in Paris, her husband gave me the first bit of
really valuable encouragement about speaking French that I had received
from any one.

"Can you follow what is said by others?"

"Yes, easily."

"Very well; then you may be free from all anxiety about speaking--you
will certainly speak in due time."

An eccentric but thoroughly manly and honest Englishman, named Scholey,
was staying at the Hotel du Louvre at the same time with Captain
Turnbull. He was an old bachelor, and looked upon marriage as a snare;
but I learned afterwards that he had been in love at an earlier period
of his existence, and that the engagement had been broken off by the
friends of the young lady, because Scholey combined the two great
defects of honesty and thinking for himself in religious matters. So
long as people prefer sneaks and hypocrites to straightforward
characters like Scholey, such men are likely to be kept out of polite
society. A dishonest man will profess any opinion that you please, or
that is likely to please you, so long as it will advance his interest.
If, therefore, a lover runs the risk of breaking off a marriage rather
than turn hypocrite, it is clear that his sense of honor has borne a
crucial test.

"I had not loved thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more!"

Scholey spoke French fluently, and, as he lived on the edge of England,
he often crossed over into France. I deeply regret not to have seen much
more of him. One of his acts of kindness, in 1855, was to take me to see
his old friend William Wyld, the painter, with whom I soon became
acquainted, and who is still one of my best and most attached friends.
Wyld lived and worked at that time in the same studio, in the Rue
Blanche, where he is still living and working in this present year
(1887), an octogenarian with the health and faculties of a man of fifty.

There was, in those days, an Indian staying at the Hotel du Louvre, who
spoke English very well, but not French, so he was working at French
diligently with a master. This Indian was always called "the Prince" in
the hotel, though he was not a prince at all, and never pretended to be
one, but disclaimed the title whenever he had a chance. He lived rather
expensively, but without the least ostentation, and had very quiet
manners. He progressed well with his French studies, but did not stay
long enough to master the language. I was very much interested in him,
as a young man is in all that is strange and a little romantic. He
talked about India with great apparent frankness, saying, that naturally
the Indians desired national independence, but were too much divided
amongst themselves to be likely to attain it in our time. The Mutiny
broke out rather more than a year afterwards, and then I remembered
these conversations.

"The Prince" had some precious and curious things with him, which he
showed me; but his extreme dislike to attracting attention made him
dress quite plainly at all times, especially when he went out, which was
usually in a small brougham. Now and then an English official, from
India, or some military officer, would call upon him, and sometimes they
spoke Arabic or Hindostanee.

There was a lady at the hotel who has always remained in my memory as
one of the most extraordinary human beings I ever met. She was an
Italian, good-looking, yet neither pretty nor handsome, and, above all,
intelligent-looking. She dressed with studiously quiet taste, and used
to dine at the _table d'hote_ with the rest of us. Besides her native
Italian, she spoke French and English with surprising perfection, and
her manners were so modest, so unexceptionable in every way, that no one
not in the secret would or could have suspected her real business, which
was to secure a succession of temporary husbands in the most respectable
manner, and without leaving the hotel. Her linguistic accomplishments
gave her a wide field of choice, and representatives of various nations
succeeded each other at irregular but never very long intervals. As I
shall be dead when this is published, perhaps it may be as well to say
that I was not one of the series. The reader may believe this when he
remembers that I was very economical for the time being, in consequence
of the loss on my book of poems. After a while my French teacher
informed me that "the Prince" had been caught by the fair Italian, who
established herself quietly somewhere in his suite of rooms. People did
not think this very wrong in a Mahometan, but after his departure from
Paris I happened to be studying some old Italian religious pictures in
the Louvre, and suddenly became aware that the same lady was looking at
a Perugino near me. This time she was with the Prince's successor,--a
most respectable English gentleman, and so far as absolute correctness
of outward appearance went, there was not a more presentable couple in
the galleries. It is my opinion that she succeeded more by her good
manners and quiet way of dressing than by anything else. She must have
been a real lady, who had fallen into that way of life in consequence of
a reverse of fortune.

After a while I came to the conclusion that I was too much with English
people at the Hotel du Louvre, and an incident occurred which altered
the whole course of my future life, and is the reason why I am now
writing this book in France. I had been up late one night at the Opera,
and the next morning rose an hour later than usual. An American came
into the breakfast-room of the hotel and found me taking my chocolate.
Had I risen only half-an-hour earlier, I should have got through that
cup of chocolate and been already out in the streets before the American
came down. To have missed him would have been never to know my wife,
never even to see her face, as the reader will perceive in the sequel,
and the consequences of not marrying her would have been incalculable.
One of them is certain in my own mind. The modest degree of literary
reputation that makes this autobiography acceptable from a publisher's
point of view has been won slowly and arduously. It has been the result
of long and steadfast labor, and there is no merely personal motive that
would have ever made me persevere. Consequently, the existence of this
volume, and any meaning that now belongs to the name on its title page,
are due to my getting up late that morning in the Hotel du Louvre.

The American and I being alone in the breakfast-room, and shamefully
late, were drawn together by the sympathy created by an identical
situation, and began to talk. He gave some reasons for being in Paris,
and I gave mine, which was to learn French. We then agreed that to get
accustomed to the use of a foreign language the first thing was to
surround ourselves with it entirely, and that this could not be done in
a cosmopolitan place like the Hotel du Louvre.

"I have a French friend," the American said, "who could give you the
address of some purely French hotel where you would not hear a syllable
of English."

After breakfast he kindly took me to see this friend, who was a merchant
sitting in a pretty and tidy counting-house all in green and new oak.
The merchant spoke English (he had lived in America) and said, "I know
exactly what you want,--a quiet little French hotel in the Champs
Elysees where you can have clean rooms and a well-kept _table d'hote_."
He wrote me the address on a card, and I went to look at the place.

The hotel, which exists no longer, was in the Avenue Montaigne. It
suited my tastes precisely, being extremely quiet, as it looked upon a
retired garden, and the rooms were perfectly clean. There was only one
story above the ground-floor, and here I took a bedroom and sitting-room
looking upon the garden. The house was kept by a widow who had very good
manners, and was, in her own person, a pleasant example of the
cleanliness that characterized the house. I learned afterwards (not from
herself) that she had been a lady reduced to poor circumstances by the
loss of her husband, and that her relations being determined that she
should do something for her living, had advanced some money on condition
that she set up an establishment. Having no experience in hotel-keeping,
she soon dissipated the little capital and lived afterwards on a
pittance in the strictest retirement.

When I took my rooms the small hotel seemed modestly prosperous. There
were about a dozen people at the _table d'hote_, but they did not all
stay in the house. We had an officer in the army who had brought his
young provincial wife to Paris, a beautiful but remarkably unintelligent
person, and there were other people who might be taken as fair specimens
of the better French _bourgeoisie_. The most interesting person in the
hotel was an old white-headed gentleman whose name I may give, Victor
Ouvrard, a nephew of the famous Ouvrard who had been a great contractor
for military clothes and accoutrements under Napoleon I. Victor Ouvrard
was living on a pension given by a wealthy relation, and doing what he
could to push a hopeless claim on Napoleon III. for several millions of
francs due by the first Emperor to his uncle. I know nothing about the
great contractor except the curious fact that he remained in prison for
a long time rather than give up a large sum of money to the Government,
saying that by the mere sacrifice of his liberty he was earning a
handsome income. The nephew was what we call a gentleman, a model of
good manners and delicate sentiments. He would have made an excellent
character for a novelist, with his constantly expressed regret that he
had not a speciality.

"Si j'avais une specialite!" he would say, as he tapped his snuff-box
and looked up wistfully to the ceiling--"si j'avais seulement une
specialite!" He felt himself humiliated by the necessity for accepting
his little pension, and still entertained a chimerical hope that if the
Emperor did not restore the millions that were due, he might at least
bestow upon him enough for independence in his last years. There had
been some slight indications of a favorable turn in the Emperor's mind,
but they came to nothing. Meanwhile M. Victor Ouvrard lived on with
strict economy, brushing his old coats till they were threadbare, and
never allowing himself a vehicle in the streets of Paris. He was an
excellent walker, and we explored a great part of the town together on
foot. He kindly took patience with my imperfect French, and often gently
corrected me. The long conversations I had with M. Ouvrard on all sorts
of subjects, in addition to my daily lessons from masters, got me
forward with surprising rapidity. I observed a strict rule of abstinence
from English, never calling on any English people, with the single
exception of Mr. Wyld, the painter, nor reading any English books. When
M. Ouvrard was not with me in the streets of Paris, I got up
conversations with anybody who would talk to me, merely to get practice,
and in my own room I wrote French every day. Besides this, for physical
exercise, I became a pupil in a gymnasium, and worked there regularly.
One thing seemed strange in the way they treated us. When we were as hot
as possible with exercise, at the moment of leaving off and changing our
dress, men came to the dressing-rooms to sponge us with ice-cold water.
They said it did nothing but good, and certainly I never felt any bad
effects from the practice.

The ice-cold water reminds me of a ridiculous incident that occurred in
the garden of the Tuileries. M. Ouvrard and I were walking together in
the direction of the palace, when we saw a Frenchman going towards it
with his eyes fixed on the edifice. He was so entirely absorbed by his
architectural studies that he did not notice the basin just in front of
him. The stone lip of the basin projects a little on the land side, so
that if you catch your foot in it no recovery is possible. This he did,
and was thrown violently full length upon the thin ice, which offered
little resistance to his weight. The basin is not more than a yard deep,
so he got out and made his way along the Rue de Rivoli, his clothes
streaming on the causeway. Some spectators laughed, and others smiled,
but M. Ouvrard remained perfectly grave, saying that he could not
understand how people could be so unfeeling as to laugh at a misfortune,
for the man would probably take cold. Perhaps the reader thinks he had
no sense of humor. Yes, he had; he was very facetious and a hearty
laugher, but his delicacy of feeling was so refined that he could not
laugh at an accident that seemed to call rather for his sympathy.

A French gentleman who was staying at the hotel had a friend who came
occasionally to see him, and this friend was an amiable and interesting
talker. He had at the same time much natural politeness, and seeing that
I wanted to practise conversation he indulged me by patiently listening
to my bad French, and giving me his own remarkably pure and masterly
French in return. His name, I learned, was Gindriez, and he was living
in Paris by the tolerance of the Emperor. He had been Prefect of the
Doubs under the second Republic, and had resigned his prefecture as soon
as the orders emanating from the executive Government betrayed the
intention of establishing the Empire. As a member of the National
Assembly he had voted against the Bonapartists, and was one of the few
representatives who were concerting measures against Napoleon when he
forestalled them by striking first. After the _coup d'etat_ M. Gindriez
fled to Belgium, but returned to Paris for family reasons, and was
permitted to remain on condition that he did not actively set himself in
opposition to the Empire. M. Gindriez looked upon his own political
career as ended, though he could have made it prosperous enough, and
even brilliant, by serving the power of the day. A more flexible
instrument had been put into his prefecture, a new legislative body had
been elected to give a false appearance of parliamentary government, and
an autocratic system had been established which M. Gindriez believed
destined to a prolonged duration, though he felt sure that it could not
last forever. Subsequent events have proved the correctness of his
judgment. The Empire outlasted the lifetime of M. Gindriez, but it did
not establish itself permanently.

It was a peculiarity of mine in early life (which I never thought about
at the time, but which has become evident in the course of this
autobiography) to prefer the society of elderly men. In London I had
liked to be with Mackay, Robinson the engraver, and Leslie, all
gray-headed men, and in Paris I soon acquired a strong liking for M.
Ouvrard, M. Gindriez, and Mr. Wyld. They were kind and open, and had
experience, therefore they were interesting; my uncles in Lancashire
had, no doubt, been kind in their own way, that is, in welcoming me to
their houses, but they were both excessively reserved. Being at that
time deeply interested in France, I was delighted to find a man like M.
Gindriez who could give me endless information. His chief interest in
life lay in French politics; art and literature being for him subjects
of secondary concern, but by no means of indifference, and the plain
truth is that he had a better and clearer conception of art than I
myself had in those days, or for long afterwards. There was also for me
a personal magnetism in M. Gindriez, which it was not easy to account
for then, but which is now quite intelligible to me. He had in the
utmost strength and purity the genuine heroic nature. I came to
understand this in after years, and believe that it impressed me from
the first. It is unnecessary to say more about this remarkable character
in this place, because the reader will hear much of him afterwards. It
is enough to say that I was attracted by his powers of conversation and
his evident tenderness of heart.

When we had become better acquainted, M. Gindriez invited me to spend an
evening at his house after dinner, and I went. He was living at that
time on a boulevard outside the first wall, which has since been
demolished. His _appartement_ was simply furnished, and not strikingly
different in any way from the usual dwellings of the Parisian middle
class. I had now been absent for some weeks from anything like a home,
and after living in hotels it was pleasant to find myself at a domestic
fireside. M. Gindriez had several children. The eldest was a girl of
sixteen, extremely modest and retiring, as a well-bred _jeune fille_
generally is in France, and there was another daughter, very pretty and
engaging, but scarcely more than a child; there were also two boys, the
eldest a very taciturn, studious lad, who was at that time at the
well-known college of Sainte Barbe. Their mother had been a woman of
remarkable beauty, and still retained enough of it to attract the eye of
a painter. She had also at times a certain unconscious grace and dignity
of pose that the great old Italian masters valued more than it is valued
now. M. Gindriez himself had a refined face, but my interest in him was
due almost entirely to the charm and ease of his conversation.

In writing an autobiography one ought to give impressions as they were
received at the time, and not as they may have been modified afterwards.
I am still quite able to recall the impression made upon me by the
eldest daughter in the beginning of 1856. I did not think her so pretty
as her sister, though she had a healthy complexion, with bright eyes and
remarkably beautiful teeth, whilst her slight figure was graceful and
well formed; but I well remember being pleased and interested by the
little glimpses I could get of her mind and character. It was a new sort
of character to me, and even in the tones of her voice there was
something that indicated a rare union of strength and tenderness. The
tenderness, of course, was not for me, a foreign temporary guest in
those days, but I found it out by the girl's way of speaking to her
father. I perceived, too, under an exterior of cheerfulness, rising at
times to gayety, a nature that was really serious, as if saddened by a
too early experience of trouble.

The truth was, that in consequence of her father's checkered career,
this girl of sixteen had passed through a much greater variety of
experience than most women have known at thirty. Her mother, too, had
for some time suffered almost continuously from ill-health, so that the
eldest daughter had been really the active mistress of the house. Her
courage and resolution had been put to the test in various ways that I
knew nothing about then, but the effects of an uncommon experience were
that deepening of the young nature which made it especially interesting
to me. Afterwards I discovered that Eugenie Gindriez had read more and
thought more than other girls of her age. This might have been almost an
evil in a quiet life, but hers had not been a quiet life.

We soon became friends in spite of the French conventional idea that a
girl should not open her lips, but it did not occur to me that we were
likely ever to be anything more than friends. Had the idea occurred,
the obstacle of a difference in nationality would have seemed to me
absolutely insuperable. I thought of marriage at that time as a
possibility, but not of an international marriage. In fact, the
difficulties attending upon an international marriage are so
considerable, and the subsequent practical inconvenience so troublesome,
that only an ardently passionate and imprudent nature could overlook

I, for my part, left Paris without being aware that Mademoiselle
Gindriez had anything to do with my future destiny; but she, with a
woman's perspicacity, knew better. She thought it at least probable, if
not certain, that I should return after long years; she waited
patiently, and when at last I did return there was no need to tell on
what errand.

An incident occurred that might have been a partial revelation to me and
a clear one to her. Before my departure from Paris, M. Ouvrard said to
me that he had been told I was engaged to "une Francaise."

"What is her name?"--he mentioned another young lady. Now to this day I
remember that when he spoke of a French marriage as a possibility for me
I at once saw, mentally, a portrait of Eugenie Gindriez. However, as a
French marriage was _not_ a possibility, I thought no more of the



Specialities in painting.--Wyld's practice.--Projected voyage on the
Loire.--Birth of the Prince Imperial.--Scepticism about his inheritance
of the crown.--The Imperial family.--I return home.--Value of the French
language to me.

Being entirely absorbed in the study of French during my first visit to
Paris, I did little in the practice of art. My Lancashire neighbor, who
was studying in Paris, worked in Colin's atelier, and I have since
regretted that I did not at that time get myself entered there, the more
so that it was a decent and quiet place kept under the eye of the master
himself, who had long been accustomed to teaching. My friend had
certainly made good progress there. I was unfortunately influenced by
two erroneous ideas, one of them being that the studies of a
figure-painter could be of no use in landscape, [Footnote: This idea had
been strongly confirmed by Mr. Pettitt.] and the other that it was wiser
to be a specialist, and devote myself to landscape exclusively. It is
surprising that the notion of a limited speciality in painting should
have taken possession of me then, as in other matters I have never been
a narrow specialist, or had any tendency to become one.

The choice of a narrow speciality may be good in the industrial arts,
but it is not good in painting, for the reason that a painter may at any
time desire to include something in his picture which a specialist could
not deal with. To feel as if the world belonged to him a painter ought
to be able to paint everything he sees. There is another sense in which
speciality may be good: it may be good to keep to one of the graphic
arts in order to effect that intimate union between the man and his
instrument which is hardly possible on any other terms.

Wyld would have taught me landscape-painting if I had asked him, and I
did at a later period study water-color with him; but his practice in
oil did not suit me, for this reason: it was entirely tentative, he was
constantly demolishing his work, so that it was hard to see how a pupil
could possibly follow him. The advantage in working under his eye would
have been in receiving a great variety of sound artistic ideas; for few
painters know more about _art_ as distinguished from nature. However, by
mere conversation, Wyld has communicated to me a great deal of this
knowledge; and with regard to the practical advantages of painting like
him they would probably not have ensured me any better commercial
success, as his style of painting has now for a long time been
completely out of fashion.

My scheme in 1856 was to make a great slow boat voyage on the Loire,
with the purpose of collecting a quantity of sketches and studies in
illustration of that river; and my ardor in learning to speak French had
for an immediate motive the desire to make that voyage without an
interpreter. I have often regretted that this scheme was never carried
out. I have since done something of the same kind for the Saone, but my
situation is now entirely different. I am now obliged to make all my
undertakings _pay_, which limits them terribly, and almost entirely
prevents me from doing anything on a great scale. For example, these
pages are written within a few miles of Loire side; the river that flows
near my home is a tributary of the Loire; I have all the material outfit
necessary for a great boating expedition, and still keep the strength
and the will; but no publisher could prudently undertake the
illustration of a river so long as the Loire and so rich in material, on
the scale that I contemplated in 1856.

It is unnecessary to trouble the reader with my crude impressions of
European painting in the Universal Exhibition of that year. I no more
understood French art at that time than a Frenchman newly transplanted
to London can understand English art. The two schools require, in fact,
different mental adjustments. Our National Gallery had sufficiently
prepared me for the Louvre, which I visited very frequently; and there I
laid the foundations of a sort of knowledge which became of great use
many years afterwards, though for a long time there was nothing to show
for it.

No historical event of importance occurred during my stay in Paris,
except the birth of the Prince Imperial. I was awakened by the cannon at
the Invalides, and having been told that if there were more than
twenty-one guns the child would be a boy, I counted till the
twenty-second, and then fell asleep again. There existed, even then, the
most complete scepticism as to the transmission of the crown. Neither M.
Gindriez, nor any other intelligent Frenchman that I met, believed that
the newly born infant had the faintest chance of ever occupying the
throne of France. Before the child's birth I had seen his father and
mother and all his relations at the closing ceremony of the Universal
Exhibition, and thought them, with the exception of the Empress, a
common-looking set of people. They walked round the oblong arena in the
Palais de l'Industrie exactly as circus people do round the track at the
Hippodrome. The most interesting figure was old Jerome--interesting, not
for himself, as he was a nonentity, but as the brother of the most
famous conqueror since Caesar.

Being called back to England on a matter of business, I cut short my
stay in Paris, and arrived at Hollins without having advanced much as an
artist, but with an important linguistic acquirement. The value of
French to me from a professional point of view is quite incalculable.
The best French criticism on the fine arts is the most discriminating
and the most accurate in the world, at least when it is not turned aside
from truth by the national jealousy of England and the consequent
antipathy to English art. At the same time, there are qualities of
delicacy and precision in French prose which it was good for me to
appreciate, even imperfectly.



My first encampment in Lancashire.--Value of encamping as a part of
educational discipline.--Happy days in camp.--The natural and the
artificial in landscape.--Sir James Kay Shuttleworth's Exhibition
project.--I decline to take an active part in it.--His energetic and
laborious disposition.--Charlotte Bronte.--General Scarlett.

The Loire expedition having been abandoned for the year 1856, and the
Nile voyage put off indefinitely, I remained working in the north of
England, discouraged, as to literature, by the failure of the book of
verse, and without much encouragement for painting either; so the summer
of 1856 was not very fruitful in work of any kind.

Towards autumn, however, I took courage again, and determined to paint
from nature on the moors. This led to the first attempt at encamping.

It is wonderful what an influence the things we do in early life may
have on our future occupations. In 1886, exactly thirty years later, I
made the Saone expedition, for which two _absolutely essential_
qualifications were an intimate knowledge of the French language and a
practical acquaintance with encamping. The Roman who said that fifteen
years made a long space in human life would have appreciated the
importance of thirty, yet across all that space of time what I did in
1856 told just as effectually as if it had been done the year before.
_Moral_ (for any young man who may read this book): it is impossible to
say how important the deeds of twenty-one may turn out to have been when
we look back upon them in complete maturity. All we know about them is
that they are likely to be recognized in the future as far more
important than they seemed when they were in the present.

Encamping is now quite familiar to young Englishmen in connection with
boating excursions, and it has even been adopted in American pine
forests for the sake of health; but in 1856 only military men and a few
travellers knew anything about encampments. I was led into this art, or
amusement (for it is both), by a very natural transition. Here are the
three stages of it.

1. You want to paint from nature in uncertain weather, and you build a
hut for shelter.

2. The hut is at some distance from a house, and you do not like to
leave it, so you sleep in it.

3. The accommodation is found to be narrow, and it is unpleasant to have
one little room for everything, so you add a tent or two outside and
keep a man. Hence a complete little encampment.

Everybody considered me extremely eccentric in 1856 because I was led
into encamping; but it was an excellent thing for me in various ways. A
young man given up to such pursuits as literature and art needs a closer
contact with common realities than aesthetic studies can give. The
physical work attendant upon encamping, and the constant attention that
_must_ be given to such pressing necessities as shelter and food, give
exactly that contact with reality that educates us in readiness of
resource, and they have the incalculable advantage of making one learn
the difference between the necessary and the superfluous. I look back
upon early camping experiments with satisfaction as an experience of the
greatest educational value. Even now, in my sixth decade, I can sleep
under canvas and arrange all the details of a camp with indescribable
enjoyment, and (what is perhaps better still) I can put up cheerfully
with the very humblest accommodation in country inns, provided only that
they are tolerably clean.

The arrangements of my hut on the moor near Burnley have been described
in detail in "The Painter's Camp," so it is unnecessary to give a
minute account of them in this place. I was entirely alone, except
the company of a dog, and had no defence but a revolver. That month
of solitude on the wild hills was a singularly happy time, so happy
that it is not easy, without some reflection, to account for such
a degree of felicity. I was young, and the brisk mountain air
exhilarated me. I walked out every day on the heather, which I
loved as if my father and mother had been a brace of grouse.
Then there was the steady occupation of painting a big foreground study
from nature, and the necessary camp work that would have kept morbid
ideas at a distance if any such had been likely to trouble me. As for
the solitude, and the silence broken only by wind and rain, their effect
was not depressing in the least. Towns are depressing to me--even Paris
has that effect--but how is it possible to feel otherwise than cheerful
when you have leagues of fragrant heather all around you, and blue
Yorkshire hills on the high and far horizon?

A noteworthy effect of this month on the moors was that on returning to
Hollins, which was situated amongst trim green pastures and plantations,
everything seemed so astonishingly artificial. It came with the force of
a discovery. From that day to this the natural and the artificial in
landscape have been, for me, as clearly distinguished as a wild boar
from a domestic pig. My strong preference was, and still is, for wild
nature. The unfortunate effects of this preference, as regards success
in landscape-painting, will claim our attention later.

The grand scheme for an Exhibition of Art Treasures at Manchester, in
1857, suggested to Sir James Kay Shuttleworth the idea of having an
Exhibition at Burnley in the same year to illustrate the history of
Lancashire. He thought that a certain proportion of the visitors to the
Manchester Art Treasures would probably be induced to visit our
little-known but prosperous and rising town. His scheme was of a very
comprehensive character, and included a pictorial illustration of
Lancashire. There would have been pictures of Lancashire scenery as well
as portraits of men who have distinguished themselves in the history of
the county, and whose fame has, in many instances, gone far beyond its
borders. All the mechanical inventions that have enriched Lancashire
would also have been represented.

Having thought this over in his own mind, Sir James wanted an active
lieutenant to aid him in carrying his idea into execution, and as he
knew me he asked me to be the practical manager of the Exhibition. I was
to travel all over the county, see all the people of importance, and
borrow, whenever possible, such of their pictures and other relics as
might be considered illustrative of Lancashire history. Sir James had
many influential friends, I myself had a few, and it seemed to him that
by devoting my time to the scheme heartily I might make it a success. My
reward was to be simply a very interesting experience, as I should see
almost all the interesting things and people in my native county.

Sir James did his best to entice me, and as he was a very able man with
much knowledge of the world, he might possibly have succeeded had I not
been more than usually wary. Luckily, I felt the whole weight of my
inexperience, and said to myself: "Whatever we do it is _certain_ that
mistakes will be committed, and very probable that some things will be
damaged. All mistakes will be laid to my door. Then the Exhibition
itself may be a failure, and it is disagreeable to be conspicuously
connected with a failure." I next consulted one or two experienced
friends, who said, "Sir James will have the credit of any success there
may be, and you, as a young useful person, comparatively unknown, will
get very little, whilst at the same time you will be burdened with heavy
anxieties and responsibilities." I therefore firmly declined, and as Sir
James could not find any other suitable assistant, his project was never

It seems odd that the existence of this Lancashire Exhibition should
have depended on the "yes" or "no" of a lad of twenty-three; yet so it
did, for if I had consented the scheme would certainly have been carried
into execution, whether successfully or not it is impossible to say. The
enterprise would have greatly interested and occupied me, for I have a
natural turn for organizing things, being fond of order and details, and
I should have learned a great deal and seen many people and many houses;
still, the negative decision was the wiser.

Sir James Kay Shuttleworth was certainly one of the remarkable people I
have known. At that time he was unpopular in Burnley on account of his
separation from his wife, who had been the richest heiress in the
neighborhood, the owner of a fine estate and a grand old hall at
Gawthorpe. People thought she had been ill-used. Of this I really know
(of my own knowledge) absolutely nothing, and shall print no hearsays.

Sir James himself was an ambitious and very hard-working man, who passed
through life with no desire for repose. Public education, in the days
before Board Schools, was his especial subject, and he owed his
baronetcy to his efforts in that cause. The Tory aristocracy of the
neighborhood disliked him for his liberal principles in politics, and
for his brilliant marriage, which came about because the heiress of
Gawthorpe took an interest in his own subjects. Perhaps, too, they were
not quite pleased with his too active and restless intellect. He made
one or two attempts to win a position as a novelist, but in connection
with literature future generations will know him chiefly as the kind
host of Charlotte Bronte, who visited him at Gawthorpe.

I regret now that I never met Charlotte Bronte, as she was quite a near
neighbor of ours; in fact, I could have ridden or walked over to Haworth
at any time. That village is just on the northeast border of the great
Boulsworth moors, where my hut was pitched. At the time of my encampment
there Charlotte Bronte had been dead about eighteen months. She was
hardly a contemporary of mine, as she was born seventeen years before
me, and died so prematurely; still, when I think that "Jane Eyre" was
written within a very few miles of Hollins, [Footnote: I have not access
to an ordnance map, but believe that the distance was hardly more than
eight miles across the moors. Haworth is only twelve miles from Burnley
by road.] and that for several years, during which I rode or walked
every day, Charlotte Bronte was living just on the other side of the
moors visible from my home, I am vexed with myself for not having had
assurance enough to go to see her. Since those days a hundred ephemeral
reputations have risen only to be quenched forever in the great ocean of
the world's oblivion, but the fame of "Jane Eyre" is as brilliant as it
was when the book astonished all reading England forty years ago.
[Footnote: I am writing in 1888.]

Amongst the distinguished people belonging to the neighborhood of
Burnley was General Scarlett, who led the charge of the Heavy Cavalry at
Balaclava,--brilliant feat of arms much more satisfactory to military
men than the fruitless sacrifice of the Light Brigade, which, however,
is incomparably better known. I recollect General Scarlett chiefly
because he set me thinking about a very important question in political
economy. I happened to be sitting next him at dinner when the talk
turned upon wine, and the General said, "The Radicals find fault with
the economy of the Queen's household because they say that the wine
drunk there costs sixteen thousand a year. I don't know what it costs,
but that is of no consequence." I then timidly inquired if he did not
think it was a waste of money, on which, in a kind way, he explained to
me that "if the money were paid and put into circulation it did not
signify what it had been spent upon." I knew there was something
fallacious in this, but my own ideas were not clear upon the subject,
and it did not become me to set up an argument with a distinguished old
officer like the General. Of course the right answer is that there is
always a responsibility for spending money so as to be of use not only
to the tradesman who pockets it, _but to the consumers also_. If the
wine gave health and wisdom it would hardly be possible to spend too
much upon it.


I visit the homes of my forefathers at Hamerton, Wigglesworth, and
Hellifield Peel.--Attainder and execution of Sir Stephen Hamerton.--
Return of Hellifield Peel to the family.--Sir Richard.--The Hamertons
distinguished only for marrying heiresses.--Another visit to the Peel,
when I see my father's cousin.--Nearness of Hellifield Peel and Hollins.

In one of these years (the exact date is of no consequence) I visited
the old houses in Yorkshire which had belonged to our family in former
times. The place we take our name from, Hamerton, belonged to Richard de
Hamerton in 1170. I found the old hall still in existence, or a part of
it, and though the present building evidently does not date from the
twelfth century, it dates from the occupation of my forefathers. At the
time of my visit there was some very massive oak wainscot still

The situation is, to my taste, one of the pleasantest in England. The
house is On a hill, from which it looks down on the valley of Slaidburn.
Steep green pastures slope to the flat meadows in the lower ground,
which are watered by a stream. There are many places of that character
in Yorkshire, and they have never lost their old charm for me. I cannot
do without a hill, and a stream, and a green field. [Footnote: Since
this was written I have been compelled to do without them by the
necessity for living close to an art-centre, a necessity against which I
rebelled as long as I could. Even to-day, however, I would joyously give
all Paris for such a place as Hollins or Hamerton (as I knew them), with
their streams and pastures, and near or distant hills.]

My forefathers lived at Hamerton, more or less, from a time of which
there is no record down to the reign of Henry VIII., but their principal
seat in the time of their greatest prosperity was Wigglesworth Hall. I
arrived there in time to see masons demolishing the building. One or two
Gothic arched door-ways still remained, but were probably destroyed the
next week. Just enough, of the house was preserved to shelter the
occupant of the farm.

For me this unnecessary destruction is always distressing, even in
foreign countries. It is excusable in towns, where land is dear; but in
the country the site of an old hall is of such trifling value that it
might surely be permitted to fall peaceably to ruin.

The family of De Arches, to which Wigglesworth originally belonged, bore
for arms _gules, three arches argent_. The coincidence struck me
forcibly when I saw the Gothic arches still standing amongst the ruins.

The place came into the possession of our family by the marriage of Adam
de Hamerton, in the fourteenth century, with Katharine, heiress of Elias
de Knoll of Knolsmere. His father, Reginald de Knoll, had married
Beatrix de Arches, heiress of the manor of Wigglesworth. These estates,
with others too numerous to mention, remained in our family till they
were lost by the attainder of Sir Stephen Hamerton, who joined the
insurrection known as "The Pilgrimage of Grace" in the reign of Henry

During these excursions to old houses I visited Hellifield Peel, still
belonging to the chief of our little clan. The Peel is an old border
tower, embattled, and with walls of great thickness. It is large enough
to make a tolerably spacious, but not very convenient, modern house, and
my great uncle spoiled its external appearance by inserting London sash
windows in the gray old fortress wall. On this occasion I did not see
the interior, not desiring to claim a relationship that had fallen into
abeyance for half-a-century; yet I felt the most intense curiosity about
it, and for more than twenty years afterwards I dreamed from time to
time I got inside the Peel, and saw quite a museum of knightly armor
[Footnote: The first Sir Stephen Hamerton was made a knight banneret in
Scotland by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in the reign of Edward IV. He
married Isabel, daughter of Sir William Plumpton, of Plumpton, and a
letter of his is still extant in the Plumpton correspondence.] and other
memorials which, I regret to say, have not been preserved in reality.

Hellifield Peel was built by Laurence Hamerton in 1440. When the second
Sir Stephen was executed for high treason and his possessions
confiscated, the manor of Hellifield was preserved by a settlement for
his mother during her life. After that it was granted by the king to one
George Browne, of whom we know nothing positively except that he lived
at Calais, and after changing hands several times it came back into the
Hamerton family by a fine levied in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The
owners then passed the manor to John Hamerton, a nephew of Sir Stephen.
The attainted knight left an only son, Henry, who is said to have been
interred in York Minster on the day when his father was beheaded in
London. Whitaker thought it "not improbable that he died of a broken
heart in consequence of the ruin of his family." Henry left no male

The career of Sir Stephen seems to have been doomed to misfortune, for
there were influences that might have saved him. He had been in the
train of the Earl of Cumberland, the same who afterwards held Skipton
Castle against the rebels. Whitaker says "he forsook his patron in the
hour of trial." This seems rather a harsh way of judging a Catholic, who
believed himself to be fighting for God and His spoliated Church against
a tyrannical king. I notice that in our own day the French Republican
Government cannot take the smallest measure against the religious
houses, cannot even require them to obey the ordinary law of the
country, but there is immediately an outcry in all the English
newspapers; yet the measures of the Third Republic have been to those of
Henry VIII. what that same Third Republic is to the First. All that can
be fairly urged against Sir Stephen Hamerton is that "after having
availed himself of the King's pardon, he revolted a second time."

There is nothing else, that I remember, in the history of our family
that is likely to have any interest for readers who do not belong to it.
Sir Richard Hamerton, of Hamerton, married in 1461 a sister of the
bloody Lord Clifford who was slain at Towton Field, and that is the
nearest connection that we have ever had with any well-known historical

Through marriages we are descended, in female lines, from many
historical personages, [Footnote: Some in the extinct Peerage, and
others belonging to royal families of England and France which have
since lost their thrones by revolution.]--a matter of no interest to the
reader, though I acknowledge enough of the ancestral sentiment to have
my own interest in them quickened by my descent from them.

Another consequence of belonging to a well-connected old family was that
I sometimes, in my youth, met with people who were related to me, and
who were aware of it, although the relationship was very distant. I
recollect, for instance, that one of the officers in our militia
regiment remembered his descent from our family, and though I had never
seen him before it was a sort of _lien_ between us.

The Hamertons do not seem to have distinguished themselves in anything
except marrying heiresses, and in that they were remarkably successful.
At first a moderately wealthy family, they became immensely wealthy
by the accumulation of heiresses' estates, and after being ruined
by confiscation they began the same process over again; but being
at the same time either imprudent or careless, or too much burdened
with children (my great-grandfather had a dozen brothers and sisters),
they have not kept their lands. One of my uncles said to me that
the Hamertons won property in no other way than by marriage, and
that they were almost incapable of retaining it; he himself had the one
talent of his race, but was an exception to their incapacity. In justice
to our family I may add that we are said to make indulgent husbands and
fathers,--two characters incompatible with avarice, and sometimes even
with prudence when the circumstances are not easy.

On a later occasion I made a little tour in Craven with a friend who had
a tandem, and we stopped at Hellifield, where I sketched the Peel.
Whilst I sat at work the then representative of the family, my father's
first cousin, came out upon the lawn; but I did not speak to him, nor
did he take any notice of me. He was a fine, hale man of about eighty.

The _nearness_ of Hellifield to Hollins was brought home to me very
strongly on that occasion. It was late afternoon when I finished my
sketch, and yet, as we had very good horses, we reached home easily the
same evening. So near and yet so far! As I have said already in the
third chapter, my grandfather's wife and children never even saw his
brother's house, and during my own youth the place had seemed as distant
and unreal as one of the old towers that I had read about in northern
poetry and romance.



Expedition to the Highlands in 1857.--Kindness of the Marquis of
Breadalbane and others.--Camp life, its strong and peculiar
attraction.--My servant.--Young Helliwell.--Scant supplies in the
camp.--Nature of the camp.--Necessity for wooden floors in a bad
climate.--Double-hulled boats.--Practice of landscape-painting.--Changes
of effect.--Influences that governed my way of study in those
days.--Attractive character of the Scottish Highlands.--Their scenery
not well adapted for beginners.--My intense love of it.

In the year 1857 I made the expedition to the Highlands which afterwards
became well known in consequence of my book about it.

The Marquis of Breadalbane (the first Marquis) granted me in the kindest
way permission to pitch my camp wherever I liked on his extensive
estate, and at the same time gave me an invitation to Taymouth Castle.
The Duke of Argyll gave me leave to encamp on an island in Loch Awe that
belonged to him, and Mr. Campbell of Monzie granted leave to encamp on
his property on the Cladich side of the lake. I ought to have gone to
Taymouth to thank Lord Breadalbane and accept the hospitality he had
offered, but it happened that he had not fixed a date, so I avoided
Taymouth. This was wrong, but young men are generally either forward or
backward. The Marquis afterwards expressed himself, to a third person,
as rather hurt that I had not been to see him.

My advice to any young man who reads this book is always to _show_ that
he appreciates kindness when it is offered. There is not very much of it
in the world, but there is some, and it is not enough merely to feel
grateful; we ought to accept kindness with visible satisfaction. One of
my regrets now is to have sometimes failed in this, usually out of mere
shyness, particularly where great people were concerned. Here is another
instance. When going to Inverary on the steamer, I made the acquaintance
of a very pleasant Scotchman, who turned out to be the Laird of Lamont,
on Loch Fyne side. He took an interest in my artistic projects, and very
kindly invited me to go and see him. Nothing would have been easier,--I
was as free as a fish, and might have sailed down Loch Fyne any day on
my own boat,--yet I never went.

The book called "A Painter's Camp" gave a sufficient account of my first
summer in the Highlands, which was not distinguished by much variety, as
I remained almost exclusively at Loch Awe; but the novelty of camp life
_by choice_ seems to have interested many readers, though they must have
been already perfectly familiar with camp life _by necessity_ in the
practice of armies and the experience of African travellers. The true
explanation of my proceedings is the intense and peculiar charm that
there is about encamping in a wild and picturesque country. I had tasted
this on the Lancashire moors, and I wanted to taste it again. Just now,
whilst writing, I have on my table a letter from an English official in
Africa, who tells me of his camp life. He says: "The wagon was generally
my sleeping quarter. I had two tents and a riding horse, and very seldom
slept in a house or put the horse in a stable. _Such a life was ever,
and is now, to me the acme of bliss. No man can be said to have really
lived who has not camped out in some such way, and I know well that you
especially will say Amen! to this sentiment._ Since 1848, I have lived
altogether for about six years in the open, and have never caught a
cold. Only, through imprudent uncovering of the head, once in 1855,
whilst drawing the topography of a mountain, I was struck down by

The reasons for this intense attraction in camp life are probably
complex. One certainly is that it brings us nearer to nature, but a
still deeper reason may be that _it revives obscure associations that
belong to the memory of the race, and not to that of the individual_.
Camping is in the same category with yachting, fishing, and the
chase,--a thing practised by civilized man for his amusement, because it
permits him to resume the habits of less civilized generations. The
delight of encamping, for a young man in vigorous health, is the
enforced activity in the open air that is inseparably connected with it.

I had only one servant, a young man from the moorland country on the
borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire, perfectly well adapted to life in
the Highlands. He had excellent health, and was physically a good
specimen of our north-English race. It was a pleasure to see his tall
straight figure going over the roughest ground with no appearance of
hurry, but in fact with such unostentatious swiftness that few sportsmen
could follow him. I was myself active enough then, and accustomed to
wild places, but he always restrained himself when we did any mountain
work together. He afterwards became well known as the "Thursday" of the
"Painter's Camp," but I may give his real name here, which was Young
Helliwell. Temperate, hardy, and extremely prudent, not to be caught by
any allurements of vulgar pleasure, he lived wisely in youth, and will
probably have fewer regrets than most people in his old age.

Young had studied the art of simple cookery at Hollins, so he was able
to keep me tolerably well when we happened to have anything to eat,
which was not always. There were no provision shops on Lochaweside;
Inverary was at some distance in one direction and Oban in the other,
and as I had never given a thought to feeding before, I was an utterly
incompetent provider. The consequence was that we fasted like monks,
except that our abstinence was not on any regular principle; in fact,
sometimes we had so little to eat for days together that we began to
feel quite weak. This gave us no anxiety, and we only laughed at it,
undereating being always more conducive to good spirits than its
opposite, provided that it is not carried too far.

The camp consisted of three structures,--my hut, which was made of
wooden panels with plate-glass windows; a tent for Young, with a wooden
floor, and wooden sides to the height of three feet; lastly, a military
bell-tent that served for storing things. My hut was both painting-room
and habitation, but it would have been better to have had a separate
painting-room on rather a larger scale. Mr. Herkomer afterwards imitated
the hut for painting from nature in Wales, and he introduced a clever
improvement by erecting his hut on a circular platform with a ring-rail,
so that it could be turned at will to any point of the compass. Young's
tent was, in fact, also a kind of hut with a square tent for a roof.

In a climate like that of the West Highlands, wooden floors at least are
almost indispensable; but a camp so arranged ceases to be a travelling
camp unless you have men and horses in your daily service like a Shah of
Persia. It may be moved two or three times in a summer.

I have always had a fancy for double-hulled boats (now generally called
catamarans), and had two of them on Loch Awe. This eccentricity was
perhaps fortunate, as my boats were extremely safe, each hull being
decked from stem to stern and divided internally into water-tight
compartments. They could therefore ship a sea with perfect impunity, and
although often exposed to sudden and violent squalls, we were never in
any real danger. One of my catamarans would beat to windward tolerably
well, but she did not tack quickly, and occasionally missed stays.
However, these defects were of slight importance in a boat not intended
for racing, and small enough to be always quite manageable with oars.
Since those days I have much improved the construction of catamarans, so
that their evolutions are now quicker and more certain. They are
absolutely the only sailing-boats that combine lightness with safety and

As to the practice of landscape-painting, I very soon found that the
West Highlands were not favorable to painting from nature on account of
the rapid changes of effect. Those changes are so revolutionary that
they often metamorphose all the oppositions in a natural picture in the
course of a single minute. I began by planting my hut on the island
called Inishail, in the middle of Loch Awe, with the intention of
painting Ben Cruachan from nature, but soon discovered that there were
fifty Cruachans a day, each effacing its predecessor, so my picture got
on badly. If I painted what was before me, the result was like playing
successfully a bar or two from each of several different musical
compositions in the vain hope of harmonizing them into one. If I tried
to paint my first impression, it became increasingly difficult to do
that when the mountain itself presented novel and striking aspects.

Every artist who reads this will now consider the above remarks no
better than a commonplace, but in the year 1857 English
landscape-painting was going through a peculiar phase. There was, in
some of the younger artists, a feeling of dissatisfaction with the
slight and superficial work too often produced from hasty water-color
sketches, and there was an honest desire for more substantial truth
coupled with the hope of attaining it by working directly from nature.
My critical master, Mr. Ruskin, saw in working from nature the only hope
for the regeneration of art, and my practical master, Mr. Pettitt,
considered it the height of artistic virtue to sit down before nature
and work on the details of a large picture for eight or ten weeks
together. I was eagerly anxious to do what was considered most right,
and quite willing to undergo any degree of inconvenience. The truth is,
perhaps, that (like other devotees) I rather enjoyed the sacrifice of
convenience for what seemed to me, at that time, the sacred cause of
veracity in art.

The Highlands of Scotland were intensely attractive to me, as being a
kind of sublimation of the wild northern landscape that I had already
loved in my native Lancashire; but the Highlands were not well chosen as
a field for self-improvement in the art of painting. A student ought not
to choose the most changeful of landscapes, but the least changeful; not
the Highlands or the English Lake District, but the dullest landscape he
can find in the south or the east of England. Norfolk would have been a
better country for me, as a student, than Argyllshire. If, however, any
prudent adviser had told me to go to dull scenery in those days, it
would have been like telling a passionate lover of great capitals to go
and live in a narrow little provincial town. I hated dull, unromantic
scenery, and at the same time had the passion for mountains, lakes, wild
moorland, and everything that was rough and uncultivated,--a passion so
predominant that it resembled rather the natural instinct of an animal
for its own habitat than the choice of a reasonable being. I loved
everything in the Highlands, even the bad weather; I delighted in clouds
and storms, and have never experienced any natural influences more in
harmony with the inmost feelings of my own nature than those of a great
lake's dark waters when they dashed in spray on the rocks of some lonely
islet and my boat flew past in the gray and dreary gloaming.

"Le paysage," says a French critic, "est un etat d'ame." He meant that
_what we seek_ in nature is that which answers to the state of our own
souls. What is called dreary, wild, and melancholy scenery afforded me,
at that time, a kind of satisfaction more profound than that which is
given by any of the human arts. I loved painting, but all the
collections in Europe attracted me less than the barren northern end of
our own island, in which there are no pictures; I loved architecture,
and chose a country that is utterly destitute of it; I delighted in
music, and pitched my tent where there was no music but that of the
winds and the waves.

The Loch Awe of those days was not the Loch Awe of the present. There
was no railway; there was not a steamer on the lake, either public or
private; there was no hotel by the waterside, only one or two small
inns, imperceptible in the vastness of the almost uninhabited landscape.
The lake was therefore almost a solitude, and this, added to the
wildness of the climate and the peculiarly simple and temporary
character of my habitation, made nature much more profoundly impressive
than it ever is amidst the powerful rivalry of the works of man. The
effect on my mind was, on the whole, saddening, but not in the least
depressing. It was a kind of poetic sadness that had nothing to do with
low spirits. I have never been either merry or melancholy, but have kept
an equable cheerfulness that maintains itself serenely enough even in
solitude and amidst the desolate aspects of stony and barren lands. As
life advances, it is wise, however, to seek the more cheering influences
of the external world, and those are rather to be found in the brightest
and sunniest landscape, with abundant evidence of happy human
habitation; some southern land of the vine where the chestnut grows high
on the hills, and the peach and the pear ripen richly in innumerable



Small immediate results of the expedition to the Highlands.--Unsuitable
system of work.--Loss of time.--I rent the house and island of
Innistrynich.--My dread of marriage and the reasons for
it.--Notwithstanding this I make an offer and am refused.--Two young
ladies of my acquaintance.--Idea of a foreign marriage.--Its
inconveniences.--Decision to ask for the hand of Mdlle. Gindriez.--I go
to Paris and am accepted.--Elective affinities.

The immediate artistic results of the expedition to the Highlands were
very small. I had gone there to paint detailed work from nature, when I
ought to have gone to sketch, and so adapt my work to the peculiar
character of the climate.

The tendency then was to detail, and the merit and value of good
sketching were not properly understood. There has been a complete
revolution, both in public and in artistic opinion, since those days.
The revival of etching, which in its liveliest and most spontaneous form
is only sketching on copper, the study of sketches by the great masters,
the publication of sketches by modern artists of eminence in the
artistic magazines, have all led to a far better appreciation of
vitality in art, and consequently have tended to raise good sketching
both in popular and in professional estimation. At the Paris Exhibition
of 1889 the Grand Prizes for engraving were given to an English
sketching etcher, Haden, and to two French etchers, Boilvin and Chauvel.
In 1857, I and many others looked upon sketching as defective work,
excusable only on the plea of want of time to do better. The omissions
in a sketch, which when intelligent are merits, seemed to me, on the
contrary, so many faults. In a word, I knew nothing about sketching. My
way was to draw very carefully and accurately, and then fill in the
color and detail in the most painstaking fashion from nature. I went by
line and detail, nobody having ever taught me anything about mass and
tonic values, still less about the difference between art and nature,
and the necessity for transposing nature into the keys of art. The
consequence was a great waste of time, and of only too earnest efforts
with hardly anything to show for them.

Here I leave this subject of art for the present, as it will be
necessary to recur to it later.

My guardian, like all women, had an objection to what was not customary,
and as my camp was considered a piece of eccentricity, she wanted me to
take a house on Lochaweside. The island called Innistrynich, which is
near the shore, where the road from Inverary to Dalmally comes nearest
to the lake, had a house upon it that happened to be untenanted. There
were twelve small rooms, and the camping experience had made me very
easy to please. It was possible to have the whole island (about thirty
acres) as a home farm, so I took it on a lease. This turned out a
misfortune afterwards, as I got tied to the place, not only by the
lease, but by a binding affection which was extremely inconvenient, and
led to very unfortunate consequences.

My dear guardian had another idea. Though she had prudently avoided
marriage on her own account, she thought it very desirable for me, and
sometimes recurred to the subject. Her heart complaint made her own life
extremely precarious, and she wished me to have the stay and anchorage
of a second affection that might make the world less dreary for me after
she had left it. At the same time it may be suspected that she looked to
marriage as the best chance of converting me to her own religious
opinions, or at least of obtaining outward conformity. To confess the
plain truth, I had a great dread of marriage, and not at all from any
aversion to feminine society, or from any insensibility to love.

My two reasons were these, and all subsequent observation and experience
have confirmed them. For a person given up to intellectual and artistic
pursuits there is a special value in mental and pecuniary independence.
So far as I could observe married men in England, they enjoyed very
little mental independence, being obliged, on the most important
questions, to succumb to the opinions of their wives, because what is
called "the opinion of Society" is essentially feminine opinion. In our
class the ladies were all strong Churchwomen and Tories, and the men I
most admired for the combination of splendid talents with high
principle, were to them (so far as they knew anything about such men)
objects of reprobation and abhorrence. No mother was ever loved by a son
more devotedly than my guardian was by me, and yet her intolerance would
have been hard to bear in a wife. Kind as she always was in manner, the
theological injustice which had been instilled into her mind from
infancy made her look upon me as bad company for my friends, as a
heretic likely to contaminate their orthodoxy. I could bear that, or
anything, from her, but I determined that if I married at all it should
not be to live under perpetual theological disapprobation.

The other grave objection to marriage was the dread of losing pecuniary
independence. I cared nothing for luxury and display, having an
unaffected preference for plain living, and being easily bored by the
elaborate observances of fine society, so that comparative poverty had
no terrors for me on that account; but there was another side to the
matter. A student clings to his studies, and dreads the interference
that may take him away from them. An independent bachelor can afford to
follow unremunerative study; a married man, unless he is rich, must lay
out his time to the best pecuniary advantage. His hours are at the
disposal of the highest bidder.

There was a young lady in Burnley for whom I had had a boyish attachment
long before, and whom I saw very frequently at her father's house in the
years preceding 1858. He was a banker in very good circumstances, and a
kind friend of mine, as intimate, perhaps, as was possible considering
the difference of years. He had been a Wrangler at Cambridge, and now
employed his forcible and fully matured intellect freely on all subjects
that came in his way, without deference to the popular opinions of the
hour. These qualities, rare enough in the upper middle class of those
days, made him very interesting to me, and I liked my place in an
easy-chair opposite to his, when he was in the humor for talking. He had
three handsome daughters, and his eldest son had been my school-fellow,
and was still, occasionally at least, one of my companions. Their mother
was a remarkably handsome and amiable lady, so that the house was as
pleasant as any house could be. We had music and played quintets, and
the eldest daughter sometimes played a duet with me. She was a good
amateur musician, well educated in other ways, and with a great charm of
voice and manner. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that
the old boyish attachment revived on my side, though there was nothing
answering to it on hers.

My good friend, her father, sometimes talked to me about marriage, and
expressed the regret that in a state of civilization like ours, and in
our class, a family of children should be a cause of weakness instead of
strength. In a primitive agricultural community, sons are of great
value, they are an increase of the family force; in a highly-civilized
condition, they only weaken the father by draining away his income.
"Daughters," said my friend, "are of use in primitive societies and in
the English middle class, because they do the work of the house, and
spare servants; but our young ladies do nothing of the least use, and
require to be first expensively educated, and afterwards expensively
amused." My friend then went into details about the cost of his own
family, which was heavy without extravagance or ostentation. All this
was intended to warn me, but I asked if he had any objection to me
personally as a son-in-law. He answered, with all the kindness I
expected, that there was no objection to make (he was too intelligent to
see anything criminal in my philosophical opinions), and that in what he
had said about the costliness of marriage he had spoken merely as a
friend, thinking of the weight of the burden I might be taking upon
myself, and the inconvenience to my own life in the future.

One afternoon his daughter and I were alone together, playing a duet,
when I asked her if she would have me, and she laughingly declined. I
remember being so little hurt by the refusal that I said: "That is not
the proper way to refuse an, offer; you ought to express a little
regret--you might say, at least, that you are sorry." Then the young
lady laughed again, and said: "Very well, I will say that I am sorry, if
you wish it." And so we parted, without any further expression of
sentiment on either side.

I never could understand why men make themselves wretched after a
refusal. It only proves that the young lady does not care very much for
one, and it is infinitely better that she should let him know that
before marriage than after. It was soon quite clear to me that, in this
case, the young lady's decision had been the wise one. We were not
really suited for each other, and we should never have been happy, both
of us, in the same kind of existence. Perhaps she was rather difficult
to please, or indifferent to marriage, for she never accepted anybody,
and is living still (1889) in happy independence as an old maid, within
a short distance of Hellifield Peel. I had a little indirect evidence,
thirty years afterwards, that she had not forgotten me. Most likely she
will survive me and read this. If she does, let the page convey a
complete acknowledgment of her good sense.

This was the only offer of marriage I ever made in England. There was a
certain very wealthy heiress whose uncle was extremely kind to me, and
he pushed his kindness so far as to wish me to marry her. She was
well-bred, her manners were quite equal to her fortune, and she had a
good appearance, but the idea of marriage did not occur to either of us.
Some time afterwards, her uncle said to a friend of mine: "I cannot
understand Hamerton; I wanted him to marry my niece, and he has gone and
married a French woman." "Oh!" said the other, "that was only to
improve his French!"

There was another case that I would have passed in silence, had not
people in Lancashire persistently circulated a story of an offer and a
refusal. A young lady, also a rich heiress, though not quite so rich as
the other, had a property a few miles distant from mine. She was a very
attractive girl, very pretty, and extremely intelligent, and we were
very good friends. To say, in this case, that the idea of marriage never
occurred would he untrue; but when I first knew her she was hardly more
than a child, and afterwards it became apparent to me that to live
happily in her house I should have to stifle all my opinions on
important subjects, so I never made the offer that our friends and
perhaps she herself expected. Whether she would have accepted me or not
is quite another question. Had I made any proposal I should have
accompanied it by a very plain statement of my obnoxious opinions on
religion and politics, and these would almost certainly have produced a
rupture. After my marriage, and before hers, we met again in the old
friendly way. I was paying a call with my wife, in a country house in
Lancashire, when a carriage came up the drive--_her_ carriage--and the
lady of the house, extremely fluttered, asked me if I had no objection
to meet Miss ----. "On the contrary," I said, "I like to meet old
friends." The young lady visibly enjoyed the humor of the situation, and
the embarrassment of our hostess. We talked easily in the old way, and
afterwards my wife and I left on foot, and _her_ carriage passed us,
rather stately, with servants in livery. "There goes your most dangerous
rival," I said to my wife, and told her what story there was to tell.
"She is much prettier than I am," was the modest answer, "and evidently
a good deal richer; and she is a charming person." In due time Miss ----
married very suitably. Her husband is a good Churchman and Conservative,
who takes a proper interest in the pursuits belonging to his station.

My guardian was of opinion that with my philosophical convictions, which
were at that time not only unpopular, but odious and execrated in our
own class in England, I should have to remain an old bachelor. She
herself would certainly never have married an unbeliever, and
although her great personal affection for me made her glad to
have me in the house, she must have felt that it was like sheltering
a pariah. Her sister once heard some rumor or suggestion, connecting
my name with that of a pious young lady, and looked upon it as a
sort of sacrilege. Under these circumstances I came at last to
the conclusion that, being under a ban, I would at least enjoy my
liberty, either by living my own life as a bachelor, or else by
marrying purely and simply according to inclination, without any
reference to the opinion of other people.

It was at this time that the idea of a foreign marriage first occurred
to me as a possibility. I had never thought of it before, and if such an
idea had entered my head, the clear foresight of the enormous
inconveniences would have immediately expelled it. A foreign marriage
is, in fact, quite an accumulation of inconveniences. One of the two
parties must always be living in a foreign country, and in all their
intercourse together one of the two must always be speaking a foreign
language. The families of the two parties will never know each other or
understand each other properly; there will be either estrangement or
misunderstanding. And unless there is great largeness of mind in the
parties themselves, the difference of national customs is sure to
produce quarrels.

All this was plain enough, and yet one morning, when I was writing on my
desk (a tall oak desk that I used to stand up to), the idea suddenly
came, as if somebody had uttered these words in my ear: "Why should you
remain lonely all your days? Eugenie Gindriez would be an affectionate
and faithful wife to you. She is not rich, but you would work and fight
your way."

I pushed aside the sheet of manuscript and took a sheet of note-paper
instead. I then wrote, in French, a letter to a lady in Paris who knew
the Gindriez family, and asked her if Mademoiselle Eugenie was engaged
to be married. The answer came that she was well, and that there had
been no engagement. Soon afterwards I was in Paris.

I called on M. Gindriez, but his daughter was not at home. I asked
permission to call in the evening, and she was out again. This was
repeated two or three times, and my wife told me afterwards that the
absences had not been accidental. At last we met, and there was nothing
in her manner but a certain gravity, as if serious resolutions were
impending. Her sister showed no such reserve, but greeted me gayly and
frankly. After a few days, I was accepted on the condition of an annual
visit to France.

From a worldly point of view, this engagement was what is called in
French _une folie_, on my part, and hardly less so on the part of the
young lady. We had, however, a kind of inward assurance that in spite of
the difference of nationality and other differences, we were, in truth,
nearer to each other than most people who contract matrimonial
engagements. The "elective affinities" act in spite of all appearances
and of many realities.

We have often talked over that time since, and have confessed that we
really knew hardly anything of each other, that our union was but an
instinctive choice. However, in 1858 I had neither doubt nor anxiety,
and in 1889 I have neither anxiety nor doubt.



Reception at home after engagement.--Preparations at Innistrynich.--I
arrive alone in Paris.--My marriage.--The religious ceremony.--An
uncomfortable wedding.--The sea from Dieppe.--London.--The Academy
Exhibition of 1858.--Impressions of a French woman.--The Turner
collection.--The town.--Loch Awe.--The element wanting to happiness.

On returning home after my engagement I was greeted very affectionately
at the front door by my dear guardian, who expressed many wishes for my
future happiness; but her sister sat motionless and rigid in an
arm-chair in the dining-room, and did not seem disposed to take any
notice of me. From that time until long after my marriage she treated me
with the most distant coldness, varied occasionally by a bitter

I said nothing and bore all patiently, looking forward to a speedy
deliverance. There was much in the circumstances to excuse my aunt, who
was intensely aristocratic and intensely national. She was the proudest
person I ever knew, and would have considered any marriage a misalliance
for me if my wife's family had not had as long a pedigree as ours, and
as many quarterings as the fifteen that adorned our shield. Being a
stanch Protestant, she was not disposed to look favorably on a Roman
Catholic, unless she belonged to one of the old English Catholic
families. Her ideas of the French nation were those prevalent in England
during the wars against Napoleon. She had probably counted upon me to do
something to lift up a falling house, and instead of that I was going to
marry she knew not whom. It is impossible to argue against national and
class prejudices; the fact was simply that my wife's family belonged to
the educated French middle class. Her uncle was a well-to-do attorney in
Dijon, [Footnote: Very nearly in the same social position as my own
father. His daughter afterwards married the grandson and representative
of the celebrated Count Francais de Nantes, who filled various high
offices in the State, and was grand officer of the Legion of Honor and
Peer of France. A fine portrait of him by David is amongst their family
pictures.] and her father had gone through a perfectly honorable
political career, both as deputy and prefect. My wife herself had been
better educated than most girls at that time, and both spoke and wrote
her own language not only correctly, but with more than ordinary
elegance,--a taste she inherited from her father. As to her person, she
dressed simply, but always with irreproachable neatness, and a
scrupulous cleanliness that richer women might sometimes imitate with
advantage. These were the plain facts; what my aunt imagined is beyond

Before my marriage I went to Loch Awe, to prepare the house on
Innistrynich and furnish it. Of all strange places in the world for a
young Parisienne to be brought to, surely Innistrynich was the least
suitable! My way in those days was the usual human way of thinking, that
what is good for one's self is good for everybody else. Did I not know
by experience that the solitude of Loch Awe was delightful? Must not my
Paradise be a Paradise for any daughter of Eve?

It was a charming bachelor's paradise the morning I left for Paris, a
bright May morning, the loch lying calm in its great basin, the islands
freshly green with the spring. At Cladich the people, who knew I was
going to fetch a bride, threw old shoes after the carriage for luck. It
did not rain rice at Loch Awe in those days.

I was an excellent traveller then, and did not get into a bed before
arriving in Paris. There was a day in London between two nights of
railway, a day spent in looking at pictures and making a few purchases.
At Paris I went to a quiet hotel in the Cite Bergere. I was utterly
alone; no relation or friend came with me to my marriage. Somebody told
me a best man was necessary, so I asked a French acquaintance to be best
man, and he consented. The morning of my wedding there was a _garcon_
brushing the waxed oak floor on the landing near my door. I had a
flowered white silk waistcoat, and the man said: "Monsieur est bien beau
ce matin; on dirait qu'il va a une noce." I answered: "Vous avez bien
devine; en effet, je vais a une noce." It was unnecessary to give him
further information.

The marriage was a curious little ceremony. My wife's father had friends
and acquaintances in the most various classes, who all came to the
wedding. Some men were there who were famous in the Paris of those days,
and others whom I had never heard of, but all were alike doomed to
disappointment. They expected a grand ceremony in the church, and
instead of that we got nothing but a brief benediction in the vestry, by
reason of my heresy and schism. The benediction was over in five
minutes, and we left in the pouring rain, whilst a crowd of people were
waiting for the ceremony to begin. My wife, like all French girls, would
have liked an imposing and important marriage, and lo! there was nothing
at all, not even an altar, or a censer, or a bell!

However, we had been legally married at the _mairie_ with the civil
ceremonial, and as we were certainly blessed in the vestry, nobody can
say that our union was unhallowed. I shall always remember that
benediction, for, brief as it was, it cost me a hundred francs.
[Footnote: Including what I had to pay for being called a schismatic by
the Archbishop of Paris, or his officials.] A magnificent mass on my
daughter's marriage cost me only sixty, which was a very reasonable

Words cannot express how odious to me are the fuss and expense about a
wedding. There was my father-in-law, a poor man, who thought it
necessary (indeed, he was compelled by custom) to order a grand feast
from a famous restaurant and give a brilliant ball, as if he had been
extremely happy to lose his daughter, the delight of his eyes and the
brightness of his home. Everything about our wedding was peculiarly
awkward and uncomfortable. I knew none of the guests, I spoke their
language imperfectly, and was not at ease, then, in French society; we
had to make talk and try to eat. The family was sad about our departure,
the sky was gray, the streets muddy and wet. In an interval of tolerable
weather we went for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne to get through the
interminable afternoon.

It was pleasanter when, a day or two later, my wife and I were looking
out upon the sea from Dieppe. She had never seen salt water before, and
as it happened to be a fine day the vast expanse of the Channel was all
a wonderful play of pale greens and blues, like turquoise and pale
emerald. There were white clouds floating in the blue sky, and here and
there a white sail upon the sea. My wife was enchanted with this, to her
fresh young eyes, revelation of a novel and unimaginable beauty. It was
a new world for her, and that hour was absolutely the only hour in her
life during which she thoroughly enjoyed the sea; for she is the worst
of sailors, and now cannot even endure the smell of salt water at a

The first thing we did in London was to go and see the Exhibition of the
Royal Academy. My wife, like her father, took a keen interest in art,
and had been rather well acquainted with French painting for a girl of
her age. When she got into an English Exhibition she looked round in
bewildered amazement. It was, for her, like being transported into
another planet. In 1858 the difference between French and English
painting was far more striking than it is to-day. French color, without
being generally good, was subdued; in fact, most of it was not color at
all, but only gray and brown, with a little red or blue here and there
to make people believe that there was color. The English, on the other
hand, were trying hard for real color, but the younger men were in that
crude stage which is the natural "ugly duckling" condition of the
genuine colorist. The consequence was an astounding contrast between the
painting of the two nations, and to eyes educated in France English art
looked outrageous to a degree that we realize with the greatest
difficulty now. At a later period my wife became initiated into the
principles and tendencies of English painting, and then she began to
enjoy it. I took her to see the Turner collection in 1858, and that
seemed to her like the ravings of a madman put on canvas; but a few
years later she became a perfectly sincere admirer of the noblest works
of Turner. I may add that in 1858 my wife was already, in spite of her
difficulty in understanding what to her were novelties, far more in
sympathy with art generally than I was myself. She had lived in a great
artistic centre, whilst I had lived with nature in the north, and cared,
at that time, comparatively little about the art of the past, my hopes
being concentrated on a kind of landscape-painting that was to come in
the future, and to unite the effects I saw in nature with a minute
accuracy in the drawing of natural forms. The kind of painting I was
looking forward to was, in fact, afterwards realized by Mr. John Brett.

My wife's first impressions of London generally were scarcely more
favorable than her impressions of English painting, but they were of a
very different order. If the painting had appeared too bright, the town
appeared too dingy. London is extremely dismal for all French people,
whose affection for their own country leads them to the very mistaken
belief that the skies, in France, are bright all the year round. My wife
now prefers London to any place in the world except Paris; in fact, she
has a strong affection for London, the consequence of the kindness she
has received there, and also of the enlightened interest she takes in
everything that is really worth attention.

We went straight from London to Glasgow, and thence to Loch Awe, which
happened at that time to be enveloped in a dense fog that lasted two
days, so that when I told my wife that there was a high mountain on the
opposite side of the lake she could hardly believe it. In fact, nothing
was visible but a still, gray, shoreless sea.

I was now, as it seemed, in a condition of great felicity, being in the
place I loved best on earth with the person most dear to me.
Unfortunately, the union of many different circumstances and conditions
is necessary to perfect happiness, if happiness exists in the world. The
element lacking in my case was success in work, or at least the inward
assurance of progress. There was our beautiful island home, in itself as
much a poem as a canto of "The Lady of the Lake," with its ancient oaks,
its rocky shore, its green, undulating, park-like pasture; there was the
lake for sailing and the mountain for climbing, and all around us a
country of unlimited wealth of material for the sketcher. Amidst all
this, with a too earnest and painful application, I set myself to do
what had never been done,--to unite the color and effect of nature to
the material accuracy of the photograph.







My first sight of Loch Awe.--Arrival at Innistrynich.--Our domestic
life.--Difficulties about provisions.--A kitchen garden.

When Philip Gilbert Hamerton asked me to marry him, he conscientiously
attempted to explain how different my life would be in the Highlands of
Scotland from that to which I had been accustomed in Paris. He said how
solitary it was, especially in the winter-time; how entirely devoid of
what are called the pleasures of a metropolis--to which a Parisian lady
has the reputation of being such a slave (he knew, however, that it was
not my case); and already his devotion to study was such that he
requested me to promise not to interfere with his work of any kind that
he deemed necessary,--were it camping out, or sailing in stormy weather
to observe nature under all her changing aspects, either of day or

Still, the picture he drew of our future existence was by no means all
in dark colors, for with the enthusiasm of an artist he described the
glories of the Highlands, the ever-varying skies, the effects of light
and shadow on the mountains, the beauties of the lovely isles, and the
charm of sailing on the moonlit and mysterious lake. He also made me
acquainted with the numerous legends of Loch Awe (he had told them in
verse, but I was ignorant of English), which would lend a romantic
atmosphere to our island-home. He was so sensitive to the different
moods of nature that his descriptions gave to a town-bred girl like me
an intense desire to witness them with my own eyes; and when I did see
them there was no _desillusion_, and the effect was so overpowering that
it seemed like the revelation of a new sense in me. The first glimpse I
had of Loch Awe, from the top of the coach, was like the realization of
a fantastic and splendid dream; I could not believe it to be a reality,
and thought of some mirage; but my husband was delighted by this first

We reached Innistrynich shortly before nightfall, and I was taken to the
keeper's cottage to warm myself, whilst the luggage was being conveyed
across the bay to the house. Though it was the end of May, the weather
had been so cold all the way that I felt almost benumbed after the
drive; for, being accustomed to the climate of France, I had taken but
scanty precautions in the way of wraps, believing them to be superfluous
at that time of the year. My husband, having begged the keeper's wife to
take care of me, she carried her assiduities to a point that quite
confused me, for I could not remonstrate in words, and she was so
evidently prompted by kindness that I was fearful of hurting her by
opposing her well-meant but exaggerated attentions. She swathed me in a
Scotch plaid, and placed the bundle I had become in a cushioned and
canopied arm-chair by the peat-fire, the smoke and unaccustomed odor of
which stifled me; then she insisted upon removing my boots and
stockings, and chafed my feet in her hands, to bring back a little
warmth. Lastly, she hospitably brought me what she thought the best
thing she had to offer, a hot whiskey toddy. To please her, and also to
relieve my numbness, I tried my best to drink what seemed to me a horrid
mixture, but I could not manage it, and could not explain why, and the
poor woman remained lost in sorrowful bewilderment at my rejection of
the steaming tumbler. Just then my husband came back, and after thanking
the keeper's wife, rowed me over to Innistrynich.

It was then quite dark, and impossible to see the island, even the
outside of the cottage; but when the door was open, it showed the
prettiest picture imaginable: the entrance was brilliantly illuminated,
and our two servants--a maid and a young lad ("Thursday" of the
"Painter's Camp"), both healthy and cheerful-looking, were standing
ready to relieve us of our wraps. The drawing-room had an inviting glow
of comfort, with the generous fire, the lights of the elegant candelabra
playing amongst the carvings of the oak furniture, and the tones of the
dark ruddy curtains harmonizing with the lighter ones of the
claret-colored carpet; an artistic silver set of tea-things, which my
husband had secretly brought from Paris with the candelabra, had been
spread on the table ready for us, and my appreciation of the taste and
thoughtfulness displayed on my behalf gladdened and touched the donor.
I had never before partaken of tea as a meal, but it was certainly a
most delightful repast to both of us.

After a short rest, my husband showed me the arrangements of the house,
rich in surprises to my foreign notions, but none the less interesting
and pleasant.

Our drawing-room was to serve as dining-room also, for the orthodox
dining-room had been transformed into a studio and sitting-room; they
stood opposite to each other. A little further along the corridor
came the two best bedrooms, which, at first sight, gave to a Parisian
girl a sensation of bareness and emptiness, corrected later by habit.
Everything necessary was to be found there,--large brass bedsteads
with snowy coverings, all the modern contrivances for the toilet,
chests of drawers, each surmounted by a bright looking-glass;
even a number of tiny and curious gimcracks ornamented the narrow
mantelpiece; but to a French eye the absence of curtains to the bed, and
the unconcealed display of washing utensils, suggested a _cabinet de
toilette_ rather than a bedroom. This simplicity has now become quite
fashionable among wealthy French people, on account of its healthiness:
the fresh air playing more freely and remaining purer than in rooms
crowded with stuffed seats, and darkened by elaborate upholstery.

On the upper story were four other rooms, used as laboratory,
store-room, and servants' rooms; whilst on the ground-floor we had a
scullery, a large kitchen, a laundry,--that I used afterwards as a
private kitchen, when my husband provided it with a set of French brass
pans and a charcoal range,--a spare room, which was turned into a
nursery by and by, and lastly, a repository for my husband's not
inconsiderable paraphernalia.

The first days after our arrival were devoted to sailing or rowing on
the lake, to acquaint me with its topography; soon, however, we made
rules to lose no time, for we had both plenty of work before us.

My husband, at that time, knew French pretty well; he could express
everything he wished to say, and understood even the _nuances_ of the
language, but his accent betrayed him at once as an Englishman, and
there lingered in his speech a certain hesitation about the choice of
words most appropriate to his meaning. As for me, my English had
remained that of a school-girl, and my husband offered me his
congratulations on my extremely limited knowledge, for this reason--that
I should have little to unlearn. We agreed, to begin with, that one of
us ought to know the other's language thoroughly, so as to establish a
perfect understanding, and as he was so much more advanced in French
than I in English, it was decided that for a time he should become my
pupil, and that our conversations should be in my mother-tongue.

On my part I devoted two hours a day to the study of English grammar,
and to the writing of exercises, themes, and versions. This task was
fulfilled during my husband's absence, or whilst he was engaged with his
correspondence; and in the afternoon I used to read English aloud to
him, while he drew or painted either at home or out of doors. It was his
own scheme of tuition, and proved most satisfactory, but required in the
teacher--particularly at the beginning--an ever-ready attention to
correct the pronunciation of almost every word, and to give the
translation of it, together with a great store of patience to bear with
the constantly recurring errors; for not to mar my interest in the works
he gave me to read, I was exempted from the slow process of the
dictionary. He was himself the best of dictionaries--explaining the
differences of meaning, giving the life and spirit of each term, and
always impressing this truth, that rarely does the same expression
convey exactly the same idea in two languages. He frequently failed to
give word for word, because he would not give an approximate
translation; but he was always ready with a detailed explanation, and so
taught me to enter into the peculiar genius of the language; so that if
I did not become a good translator, I learned early to think and to feel
in sympathy with the authors I was studying.

If the weather allowed it, Gilbert generally took me out on the lake,
and according to the prevailing wind, chose some particular spot for a
study. These excursions lasted about half the day or more, and then some
sort of nourishment was required; but as my ignorance of the language
prevented me from giving the necessary orders, the responsibility of the
commissariat entirely devolved upon him; and I may candidly avow that
the results were a continual source of surprise to me. Being
unacquainted with English ways, I presumed that it was customary to live
in the frugal and uniform fashion prevalent at Innistrynich; namely, at
breakfast: ham or bacon; sometimes eggs, with or without butter,
according to circumstances; toast--or scones, if bread were wanting--and
coffee. At lunch: dry biscuits and milk. At tea-time, which varied
considerably _as to time_, ranging from five if we were in the house, to
eight or nine if my husband was out sketching: ham and eggs again, or a
little mutton--chop or steak, if the meat were fresh, cold boiled
shoulder or leg if it was salted; and a primitive sort of crisp, hard
cake, which Thursday always served with evident pleasure and pride,
being first pastry-cook and then partaker of the luxury. I often
wondered how Englishmen could grow so tall and so strong on such food;
for I was aware within myself of certain feelings of weakness and
sickness never experienced before, but which I was ashamed to confess so
long as men whose physical organizations required more sustenance
remained free from them. One day, however, the reason of this difference
became clear to me. My husband had proposed to show me Kilchurn Castle,
which he was going to sketch, and we started early after the first light
breakfast, with Thursday to manage the sails. On turning round
Innistrynich we met a contrary wind, and had to beat against it: it was
slow work, and at last I timidly suggested that it might perhaps be
better to turn back to get something to eat; but Gilbert triumphantly
said he was prepared for the emergency, and had provided ... a box of
figs!!!... yes, and he opened it deliberately and offered me the first
pick. I could not refrain from looking at Thursday, whose face betrayed
such a queer expression of mingled amusement and disappointed
expectation that I burst out laughing heartily, at which my husband, who
had been meditatively eating fig after fig, looked up wondering what was
the matter. I then asked if that was all our meal, and he gravely took
out of the box two bottles of beer and a flask of sherry, the look of
which seemed to revive Thursday's spirits wonderfully. As for me, who
drank at that time neither beer nor wine, and whose taste for dry figs
was very limited, I hinted that something more--bread, for
instance--would not have been superfluous. The opportunity for ridding
himself of cares so little in harmony with his tastes and artistic
pursuits was not lost by my husband, and I was then and there invested
with the powers and functions of housekeeper.

This was the plan adopted for the discharge of my new duties. In the
morning I studiously wrote, as an exercise, the orders I wished to give,
and, after correction, I learned to repeat them by word of mouth till I
could be understood by the servants. It succeeded tolerably when my
husband was accessible, if an explanation was rendered necessary on
account of my foreign accent; but there was no way out of the difficulty
if he happened to be absent.

Ever since I knew him I had noticed his anxiety to lose no time, and to
turn every minute to the best account for his improvement. Throughout
his life he made rules to bind his dreamy fancy to active study and
production; they were frequently altered, according to the state of his
health and the nature of his work at the time; but he felt the necessity
of self-imposed laws to govern and regulate his strong inclination
towards reflection and reading. He used to say that when people allowed
themselves unmeasured time for what they called "thinking," it was
generally an excuse for idle dreaming; because the brain, after a
certain time given to active exertion, felt exhausted, and could no
longer be prompted to work with intellectual profit; that, in
consequence, the effort grew weaker and weaker, till vague musings and
indistinct shadows gradually replaced the powerful grasp and clear
vision of healthy mental labor.

On the other side, it must be said that he was too much of a poet to
undervalue the state of apparent indolence which is so favorable to
inspiration, and that he often quoted in self-defence the words of
Claude Tillier,--"Le temps le mieux employe est celui que l'on perd."
Aware of his strong propensity to that particular mental state, he
attempted all his life to restrict it within limits which would leave
sufficient time for active pursuits. His love of sailing must have been
closely connected with the inclination to a restful, peaceful, dreamy
state, for although fond of all kinds of boating, he greatly preferred a
sailing-boat to any other, and never wished to possess a steamer, or
cared much to make use of one.

Still, he took great pleasure in some forms of physical exercise: he
could use an oar beautifully; he was a capital horseman, having been
used to ride from the age of six, and retained a firm seat to the last;
he readily undertook pedestrian excursions and the ascent of mountains.
He often rode from Innistrynich to Inverary or Dalmally (when our island
became a peninsula in dry weather, or in winter when the bay was frozen
over); but he found little satisfaction in riding the mare we had then,
which was mainly used as a cart-horse to fetch provisions, for the
necessaries of life were not very accessible about us. We had to get
bread, meat, and common grocery from Inverary, and the rest from
Glasgow, so that we soon discovered that the whole time of a male
servant would be required for errands of different kinds. Not
unfrequently was the half of a day lost in the attempt to get a dozen
eggs from the little scattered farms, or a skinny fowl, or such a rare
delicacy as a cabbage. Sometimes Thursday came back from the town
peevish and angry at his lost labor, having found the bread too hard or
too musty, and mutton unprocurable; as to the beef which came
occasionally from Glasgow, it was usually tainted, except in
winter-time, and veal was not to be had for love or money, except in a
condition to make one fearful of a catastrophe.

There was also the additional trouble of unloading the goods on the side
of the road, of putting them into the boat, to be rowed across the bay;

Book of the day: