Part 6 out of 11
were soon discouraged by the prevailing dirtiness and slovenliness of
the people, and by what we heard of the disastrous inundations. We were
also afraid of our children catching the horrid accent of the country.
So we thought of the Saone district, Gilbert being unable to bear the
idea of being at a remote distance from an expanse of water of some
Here again the landscape was appreciated, though for charms different
from those of the Rhone. Unluckily we could not find a suitable house in
a good situation, and we also learned that intermittent fevers were very
prevalent, on account of the periodical overflows of the Saone.
We tried after that the vine-land of Burgundy, where Gilbert told me
what he has repeated in "Round my House": "There is no water, with its
pleasant life and changefulness, here." I also agreed with him in
thinking the renowned vineyards of the Cote d'Or most monotonous, except
during a very short time indeed, when they are clothed in the splendor
of gold and purple, just before a cruel night of frost strips them bare,
and only leaves the blackened _paisceaux_ visible, for more than six
months at a time. Then we turned to the beautiful valley of the Doubs,
and discovered the very dwelling of our dreams, in which were found all
the conditions that we thought desirable. However, we were doomed to a
new disappointment, for the owner, when we offered to take it, changed
her mind and coolly declined to let.
Fortunately, some time later, a friend directed us to quite another
region, that of the Autunois, to see a very similar house, offering
about the same advantages. There were a few points of difference; for
instance, the little river encircling the garden was only a
trout-stream, instead of the broad and placid Doubs; the building was
also of more modest appearance. As compensations, however, there were
picturesque and extensive views from every window; the situation was
more private, and the solitude of the small wild park with its beautiful
trees at once enchanted Gilbert. So we decided to take Pre-Charmoy.
Canoeing on the Ternin.--Visit of relatives.--Tour in Switzerland.--
Experiments in etching.--The "Saturday Review."--Journeys to
London.--Plan of "Etching and Etchers."--New friends in London.
--Etchings exhibited at the Royal Academy.--Serious illness in
London.--George Eliot.--Professor Seeley.
NOT to waste his time in the work of removal and fitting up, Mr.
Hamerton remained behind at Sens, to finish the copying of a window by
Jean Cousin in the cathedral and some other drawings, begun to
illustrate an article on this artist. We had all gone forward to
Pre-Charmoy, and when he arrived there, everything being already in
order, he continued his work without interruption. He was delighted with
the unpretentious little house, and with its views from every window;
with the silent, shady, wild garden, and its group of tall poplars by
the clear, cool, winding river which divided it from the pastures on the
other side, and he often repeated to us with a smile, "Pre-Charmoy
charme moi." Although the house was small, there were a good many rooms
in it, and the master had for himself alone a studio (an ordinary-sized
room), a study, and a carpenter's shop--for he was fond of carpentry in
his leisure hours, and far from unskilful. He liked to make experimental
boats with his own hands, and moreover he found out that some kind of
physical exercise was necessary to him as a relief from brain-work, for
if the weather was bad and he took no exercise he began to feel liable
to a sort of uncomfortable giddiness. I wished him to consult a doctor
about it, but he believed that it would go away after a while, for it
had come on quite lately while painting on an open scaffolding inside
the cathedral at Sens, when he could see through the planks and all
round far below him, and this had produced, at times, a kind of vertigo.
The pretty little boat bought at Asnieres was all very well for the
Arroux which flows by Autun, but for the narrow, shallow, winding Ternin
and the Vesure, some other kind of craft had to be devised, and paper
boats were built upon basket-work skeletons, and tried with more or less
success. My eldest brother Charles, who had finished his classical
studies and was now preparing to become an architect, used to come from
Macon for the holidays, sometimes bringing a friend with him, and
together with Gilbert they went exploring the "Unknown Rivers." They
generally came home dripping wet, having abandoned their canoes in the
entanglement of roots and weeds after a sudden upset, and having to go
and fetch them back with a cart, unless the shipwreck was caused by an
unsuspected branch under water, or by the swift rush of a current
catching the frail concern and carrying it away altogether, whilst the
venturesome navigator was gathering his wits on the pebbles of the
Towards the end of August, Mr. Thomas Hamerton and his sister Susan came
to visit us. They liked the Autunois--at least what they saw of it--
exceedingly, but they suffered much from the heat, particularly our
uncle, who had remained true to his youthful style of dress: high shirt-
collar sawing the ears and stiffened by a white, starched choker, rolled
several times about the neck; black cloth trousers, long black
waistcoat, and ample riding-coat of the same color and material. He was
also careful never to put aside either flannel undergarments or woollen
socks. Our kind uncle was a pattern of propriety in everything, but the
fierce heat of a French August on a plain surrounded by a circle of
hills was too much even for Mr. T. Hamerton's propriety, and he had to
beg leave to remove his coat and to sit in his shirt-sleeves. There was
a stone table under a group of fine horse-chestnuts in the garden, not
far from the little river, to which we used to resort after dinner with
our work and books in search of coolness, and there even my husband did
his writing. One afternoon, when we were sitting as usual in this shady
arbor, all silent, uncle dozing behind the newspaper, and his nephew
intent on literary composition, what was our astonishment at the sight
of sedate Aunt Susan suddenly jumping upon the table and remaining like
a marble statue upon its stone pedestal, and quite as white. We all
looked up, and uncle pushed his spectacles high on his forehead to have
a better sight of so strange an attitude for his sister to take. At last
Aunt Susan pointed to something gliding away in the grass, and gasped:
"A serpent! oh, dear, oh, dear, a serpent!" Vainly did my husband try to
calm her fright by explaining that it was only an adder going to seek
the moisture of the river-bank and never intending to attack any one,
that they were plentiful and frequently to be met with, when their first
care was to pass unnoticed; our poor aunt would not be persuaded to
descend from her pedestal for some time, and not before she was provided
with a long and stout stick to beat the grass about her as she went back
to the house.
Mr. T. Hamerton's intention, as well as his sister's, was to go to
Chamouni and the Mer de Glace, and to ask their nephew to act as guide.
He was glad enough to avail himself of the opportunity for studying
mountain scenery, but felt somewhat disappointed that I declined being
one of the party, from economical motives.
The letters I received during their tour bore witness to a fervent
appreciation of the landscape, of which a memento was desired, and
Gilbert undertook to paint for his relatives a small picture of Mont
Blanc after reaching home; meanwhile, he took several sketches to help
him. As he was relating to me afterwards the incidents of the journey,
he remembered a rather amusing one. At Bourg, where they had stopped to
see the church of Brou, he came down to the dining-room of the hotel and
found his uncle and aunt seated at their frugal English breakfast of tea
and eggs, which he did not share because tea did not agree with him, but
took up a newspaper and waited for the _table d'hote_.
"My word!" exclaimed his uncle, when _dejeuner_ was over, "but you do
not stint yourself. I counted the dishes: omelette, beef-steak and
potatoes, cray-fish and trout, roasted pigeons and salad, cheese,
grapes, and biscuits, without mentioning a full bottle of wine. Excuse
my curiosity, but I should like to know how much you will have to pay
for such a repast?"
"Exactly two francs and fifty centimes," answered his nephew; "and I
dare say your tea, toast, butter, and eggs will come to pretty near the
same amount, for here tea is an out-of-the-way luxury, and also you had
a separate table to yourselves, whilst the _table d'hote_ is a
"Then let us be democrats as long as we remain in France, if the thing
does not imply being deprived of tea."
From London, on her way back, Aunt Susan wrote:--
"We went to the Bedford Hotel, Covent Garden, and bespoke beds, got
something to eat, and then set out. Our first visit was to 196
Piccadilly, where Thursday was glad to see us, and where we stayed a
long time, well pleased to look at your pictures. I like them all
exceedingly, and could not decide on a choice; they each had in them
something I liked particularly. When we had been gone away some time, we
remembered we had not paid our admission, so we went back; this afforded
us another looking at the pictures and also a pleasing return of a small
etching; our choice was 'Le four et la terrasse de Pre-Charmoy!' We were
well contented with what we got, but I did think the proofs beautiful."
Mr. Hamerton's strong love of etching had now led him to the practice of
it, and for several hours every day he struggled against its technical
difficulties. Full of hope and trust in a final success, he turned from
a spoilt plate to a fresh one without discouragement, always eager and
relentless. His main fault, as I thought, was attempting too much finish
and effect, and I used to tell him so. He acknowledged that I was right,
and when taking up a new plate he used to say playfully: "Now _this_ is
going to be a good etching; you don't believe it because you are a
little sceptic, but you'll see--I mean not to carry it far." Then before
biting he showed it me with "Look at it before it is spoilt." It was
rarely spoilt in the biting, but by subsequent work. Many charming
proofs I greatly admired. "Oh! this is only a sketch; you will see the
improvement when I have darkened this mass." Then I begged hard that it
should be left as it was, and I was met by arguments that I could not
discuss,--"the effect was not true so," "the lights were too strong," or
"the darks too heavy;" "but _very little_ retouching was necessary," and
it ended in the pretty sketch being destroyed after having been
re-varnished and re-bitten two or three times. When it was no longer
shown to me, I was aware of its fate. The amount of labor bestowed upon
etching by my husband was stupendous, as he had to seek his way without
help or advice. A plate once begun, he could not bring himself to leave
it--not even in the night, and at that time he always had one in hand.
Heedless of his self-imposed rules about the division of hours for
literary work and artistic work, he devoted himself almost entirely to
the pursuit of etching. This made me very uneasy, for it had become
imperative that he should make his work pay. The tenant of the coal-mine
had reiterated his decision not to pay rent any longer, and when
threatened with a law-suit answered that he would put it in Chancery. I
had been told that a suit in Chancery might last over twenty years, and
we had no means to carry it on. We were therefore obliged to abandon all
idea of redress, and were left _entirely_ dependent upon the earnings of
my husband, which were derived from his contributions to the "Fine Arts
Quarterly Review," and to a few periodicals of less importance. From
that period of overwork and anxiety dates the nervousness from which he
suffered so much throughout his life; though at that time he believed it
to be only temporary. He sought relief in outdoor exercise, especially
in canoeing, and this suggested the "Unknown River," published later,
but based on the excursions undertaken at that time, and on sketches and
etchings done on the way.
The picture painted in remembrance of the journey in Switzerland had
been finished and dispatched, and this is what Aunt Susan wrote about
"We are now in possession of our picture, which we received from Agnew
yesterday morning, and we are very much pleased with it; my impression
is that it is a very good, well-finished painting: we have not yet
concluded where to hang it for a proper and good light. We are very glad
to hear that _Mamzelle_ Mary Susan Marguerite (as Uncle Thomas called
her) is thriving and good; be sure and give her a kiss for each of us."
_Mamzelle_ Mary Susan Marguerite had been born early in the spring, and
to the general wonder of the household, seemed to have reconciled her
father to the inevitable cries and noises of babyhood. Brought up by two
maiden aunts in a large, solitary house in the country, and addicted
from early youth to study, my husband had a perfect horror of noises of
all kinds, and could not understand that they were unavoidable in some
circumstances; he used to call out from the top of the stairs to the
servants below "to stop their noise," or "to hold their tongues,"
whenever he overheard them singing to the babies or laughing to amuse
them, and if the children's crying became audible in the upper regions,
he declared that the house was not fit to live in, still less to work
in. One morning when the youngest boy was loudly expressing his distaste
for the ceremonies of the toilet, his father--no less loudly--was giving
vent to his irritation at the disturbance, and calling out to shut _all_
the doors; but he could not help being very much amused by the resolute
interference of the eldest brother--three years old--who, crossing his
little fat arms, and standing his ground firmly, delivered this oracle:
"Papa, babies _must_ cry." I suppose he had heard this wise sentence
from the nurse, but he gave it as solemnly as if it were the result of
his own reflections. Whether a few years' experience had rendered his
father more patient generally, or whether he had become alive to the
charm of babyhood--to which he had hitherto remained insensible--it was
a fact first noticed by the nurse that "Monsieur, quand la petite
criait, voulait savoir ce qu'elle avait, et la prenait meme dans ses
bras pour la consoler."
A very important event now occurred: Mr. Hamerton was appointed art
critic to the "Saturday Review," where he succeeded Mr. Palgrave at his
recommendation. He did not accept the post with much pleasure, but it
afforded him the opportunity of studying works of art free of expense,
and that was a weighty consideration, besides being an opening to
intellectual and artistic intercourse of which he was greatly deprived
The visits to the London exhibitions necessitated two or three journeys
every year, and we both suffered from the separations; but I could bear
them better in my own home--surrounded by my children, visited by my
mother, sister, and brothers--than my husband, who was alone amongst
strangers, and who had to live in hotels, a thing he had a great dislike
for. In order to make these separations as short as possible, he
travelled at night by the most rapid trains; saw the exhibitions in the
day, and went to his rooms to write his articles by gas-light. For some
time he only felt fatigued; afterwards he became nervous; but he found
compensation in the society of his newly made friends, and in the
increasing marks of recognition he was now meeting everywhere.
He soon gave up hotel life, and took lodgings in St. John's Wood, where
he had many acquaintances, and from there he wrote to me:--
"I have seen Palgrave, Macmillan, Rossetti, Woolner, and Mr. Pearce
to-day. Palgrave says the 'Saturday Review' 'is most proud to have me.'
Woolner says it is not possible to succeed as an art critic more than I
have done; that Tennyson has been very much interested in my articles,
and has in consequence urged his publishers to employ Dore to illustrate
the "Idylls of the King." They have offered the job to Dore, who has
"The best news is to come.
"The 'Painter's Camp' is a success after all. It has fully cleared its
expenses, and Macmillan is willing to venture on a second edition,
revised, and I think he will let me illustrate it; he only hesitates.
"_Macmillan has positively given me a commission for a work on Etching_.
"I am to be paid whether it succeeds or not. I cannot tell you the exact
sum, but you shall know it soon.
"It is to be made up of articles in different reviews. It is to be a
guinea work of 400 pages, beautifully got up, with 50 illustrative
etchings by different masters, and is to be called 'Etching and
"Macmillan said that as to my capacity as a writer there existed no
doubt on the subject. He fully expects this work on Etching to be a
success. It is to be out for Christmas next.
"Macmillan is most favorably disposed to undertake other works, on
condition that each shall have a special character like that. One on
'Painting in France' and another on 'Painting in England' looms in the
future. He prefers this plan to the Year-book I mentioned to you.
"The great news in this letter is that I have written a book which has
paid its expenses. Is not that jolly? The idea of a second edition quite
elates me. So you see, darling, things are rather cheering. I must say,
everybody receives me pleasantly. Woodward is going to give me a whole
day at Windsor. Beresford-Hope is out of town, but called to-day at
Cook's and said 'he was most anxious to see me.'"
My husband wrote to me sometimes in French and sometimes in English;
when my mother came to keep me company during his absence, he generally
wrote in French, to enable me to read aloud some passages of his letters
that she might find interesting. The following letter was written on his
first journey to London for the "Saturday Review ":--
"CHERE PETITE FEMME,--Me voici installe dans un fort joli appartement
tout pres de chez Mr. Mackay, a une guinee par semaine; j'y suis
"Samedi dernier je suis alle d'abord chez Mr. Stephen Pearce que j'ai
trouve chez lui; c'est un homme parfaitement comme il faut; il m'a recu
bien cordialement et il m'a invite a diner demain. J'ai dine chez Mrs.
Leslie hier et j'ai passe tout le tantot d'aujourd'hui chez Lewes qui
habite une fort belle maison a cinq minutes d'ici. J'ai beaucoup cause
avec l'auteur de 'Romola;' c'est une femme de 45 ans, pas belle du tout,
mais tres distinguee, elle m'a fort bien recu. Lewes lui-meme est laid,
mais tres cordial. Voila quelque chose comme sa physionomie. [Sketch of
Lewes]. Je vais te donner George Eliot sur l'autre page. Il est tres
gentil avec elle. [Sketch of George Eliot.] Ce portrait n'est pas tres
ressemblant, mais il donne une bonne idee de l'expression--elle en a
enormement et parle fort bien. Son salon est un modele de gout et
d'elegance, et toute sa maison est aussi bien tenue que celle de
Millais, par exemple. Nous avons cause de beaucoup de choses, entre
autres precisement de cette curieuse question de priere selon Comte.
Elle soutient que c'est raisonnable dans le sens d'expression de vif
desir, de concentration de l'esprit vers son but. Son argument etait
bien fortement soutenu par sa maniere energique de raisonner, mais je
lui ai tenu tete avec beaucoup d'obstination, et nous avons eu une
veritable lutte. Elle a une singuliere puissance, quelque chose qui ne
se trouve jamais que chez les personnes d'un genie extraordinaire. Quand
elle a voulu me convaincre, elle y mettait tant de persuasion et de
volonte qu'il me fallait un certain effort pour garder la clarte de mes
propres idees. Je te dirai cela plus en detail quand nous nous
"Lewes m'a dit qu'il serait content d'avoir d'autres articles de moi
pour la 'Fortnightly Review.'"
Two days later he wrote:--
"I dined with the Mackays yesterday; Mr. Watkiss Lloyd was there, and
other friends came in the evening. I spent the day at home, writing, but
I have an engagement for every night this week--I am becoming a sort of
"I have been talking over the illustrations of the 'Painter's Camp' with
George Leslie. He has promised to do twenty etchings of figure-subjects
to illustrate it, and I shall do twenty landscapes. I have learned a
great deal from Haden here, and I feel sure now of grappling
successfully with the difficulties which plagued me before. Besides, I
am anxious to have a book with etchings in it out in time to appear with
the work on Etching. I am sure this new edition of the 'Painter's Camp'
will be something jolly. It's nice to think I shall have two beautiful
books out at Christmas. It will give my reputation a fillip. It appears
that Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, and George Eliot are amongst my
most assiduous readers. Isn't it pleasant to have readers of that
I will give here a few more extracts from his letters at that time; it
is the best way of becoming acquainted with his method of work, as well
as with the state of his mind.
"Yesterday I went to see some exhibitions and Mrs. Cameron's
photographs; they are really very fine, quite different from anything
one ever saw before. You will be very much struck with them, I am sure.
"Mr. Palgrave and I spent a delightful evening together yesterday; we
talked till midnight. I found him a pleasant companion. We had some
music; Mrs. Palgrave plays well. He has a nice collection of Greek
vases, which would delight Mariller. [A figure-painter who lived at
Autun, and who drew the figures for the 'Unknown River.']
"The more I reflect on matters, the more I rejoice to live far away from
here. Known as I am now, I am sure that if I lived in or near London I
should be exposed to frequent interruptions, and gradually our dear
little private life would be taken away from us both. Besides, this
continued excitement would kill me, I could never stand it; I really
need quiet, and I get it at Pre-Charmoy. Just now I bear up pretty well,
but I know I could not stand this for three months--out _every_ evening,
working or seeing people, or going in omnibuses. And then I need the
great refreshment of being able to talk to thee, and to hear thee talk,
and play with the children a little; all that is good for me,--in fact,
I live upon it. I want to be back again. My breakfast in the morning is
a difficulty; as you know, I never can eat an English one, and if I
don't I am not fit for much fatigue. The distances, too, are terrible.
Still, on the whole, I keep better than I expected to do. I hope the
dear little boys are both quite well, and my little daughter, who is the
apple of my eye."
About the difficulty of eating an English breakfast, it must be
explained that since Gilbert had begun to suffer from nervousness he had
given up coffee and tea; besides, he only liked a very light breakfast,
and we had tried different kinds of food for the morning meal: chocolate
he could not digest, although it was to his taste; cocoa he did not care
for; beer and dry biscuits succeeded for a time, but at last we
discovered that soup was the best breakfast for him, vegetable soup
(_soupe maigre_) especially, because it must not be too rich. At home I
always made his soup myself, for, being always the same--by his own
choice--he was particular about the flavor; it was merely onion-soup
with either cream and parsley, or onion-soup with Liebig and chervil. In
the great summer heat he took instead of it cold milk and brown bread.
It may be easily surmised that such a frugal meal could not last him far
into the day, particularly as he was a very early riser, and often had
his bowl of soup at six in the morning; then, when he felt hungry
again--at ten generally--he drank a glass of beer and ate a slice of
home-made _brioche_, which allowed him to await the twelve o'clock
_dejeuner a la fourchette_.
The following passage is extracted from a letter written a few days
after those already given:--
"J'ai dine chez Woolner hier. Quel brave garcon! Ses manieres avec moi
sont tout-a-fait affectueuses, et je me sens avec lui sur le pied de la
plus parfaite intimite. Il n'y a pas un homme a Londres qui possede un
cercle d'amis comme le sien: tout ce qu'il y a de plus distingue _en
tout_. Palgrave dit que Woolner fait un choix serieux dans ses amities.
Sa femme est jolie, delicate, gracieuse, intelligente; elle me fait
l'effet d'un lys.
"J'ai recu la visite de Haden hier, il m'a plus enseigne relativement a
l'eau-forte en une demi-heure de conversation que dix ans de pratique ne
l'auraient fait. Voici mes engagements:--
"Samedi, diner chez Leslie.
Dimanche, tantot chez Lewes.
Lundi, diner chez Pearce.
Mardi, " " Mackay.
Mercredi, " " Shaw.
Jeudi, " " Woolner.
Vendredi, toute la journee avec Woodward.
Samedi, soiree chez Marks.
Lundi, diner chez Haden.
Mardi, " " Constable fils:
"et il n'y a pas de raison pour que cela s'arrete, excepte mon depart
pour West Lodge qui sera, je crois, pour mercredi."
However, he had to postpone his departure on account of a distressing
and alarming disturbance of his nervous system. Mr. Haden recommended
him to give up all kind of work immediately, which he did, and for a few
days he only wrote short notes.
"NORTHUMBERLAND STREET. _Wednesday Morning_.
"Je suis toujours faible, mais je crois que je puis supporter le voyage
aujourd'hui. Si j'etais une fois a West Lodge je m'y reposerais bien. Si
je me sentais fatigue je m'arreterais n'importe ou. La surexcitation
cerebrale est _completement passee_, mais je n'espere pas etre remis
avant un mois."
From West Lodge he wrote, in answer to one of my letters:--
"Our present business is to look simply to the question, what will be
most economical? I have no objection to any arrangement which will save
my keeping a man, but I have a decided objection to that. [It was about
the garden, one half of which I proposed to cede on condition of having
the other half cultivated free of charge.] Any arrangement you make
_that does not involve my keeping a man_ has my approbation beforehand.
"I saw Macmillan again before leaving, and now he is for bringing out
the new edition of the 'Painter's Camp' in May. It will be a pretty
little book, but I can't get Macmillan to go to the expense about
illustrations. Colnaghi will publish etchings for me, and after all the
hints and instructions received from Haden, I feel quite sure that I
shall succeed in etching.
"I expect to be at Pre-Charmoy in a few days, when I shall be delighted
to see you all, my treasures."
Having returned to London, he writes:--
"I spent last evening with Beavington Atkinson, who was to have come to
see us in France; you remember Woodward wrote about him. He and his wife
are most agreeable people, and I like him really; there is something so
intelligent and pleasing in his manner.
"Yesterday I went through Buckingham Palace to see the pictures. There
is a fine Dutch collection. Then I went to the British Museum to see the
Rembrandt etchings, and was accompanied by a collector, Mr. Fisher. This
evening I am to spend with Haden again; he has a magnificent collection
of etchings, and will help me very much with my book. So now I am sure
of the right quantity of assistance in my work.
"I was with the editor of the 'Saturday' this afternoon; nothing could
exceed his kind, trustful way.
"Still, I wish I were back with you; but I shall hurry now and come back
Two days later:--
"Je me sens de nouveau fatigue. J'ai cause aujourd'hui avec l'aubergiste
de Walton-on-Thames, et il m'a dit qu'il nous nourrirait et nous
logerait tous les deux pour L2 par semaine. On y est tres bien, il y a
un jardin, et des etudes a faire en quantite. Mr. Haden pense que la
peinture ne fatiguerait pas autant le cerveau que la litterature.
"Si je t'avais avec moi, et si je restais plus longtemps, je n'aurais
pas besoin l'annee prochaine de revenir au mois de juillet. Voila le
reve que j'ai fait. Je viendrais a Londres une ou deux fois par semaine
seulement, et je t'aurais la-bas. Je ne pense pas vivre sans toi, je
The kind of life we led at Pre-Charmoy suited perfectly my husband's
tastes, and he was soon restored to health. He would have been entirely
happy but for pressing cares; still, thanks to his philosophical
disposition, he contrived to enjoy what was enjoyable in his life. He
was extremely fond of excursions in the country, and we often used to
set off with nurse and children in the farmer's cart, to spend the day
in some picturesque place, where he could sketch or paint. We had our
provisions with us, and both lunched and dined on the grass under the
fine chestnuts or oaks, so numerous in the Morvan, by the side of a
clear stream or rivulet; for running water had a sort of magic influence
upon Gilbert, and instinctively, when unwell from nervous exhaustion, he
sought its soothing influence. We generally rambled about the country
after each meal, and whilst he drew I read to him, leaving the children
to their play, under the charge of the nurse.
So far we had taken upon ourselves the teaching of the boys, but for
some time past I had perceived that it was becoming inadequate to their
present requirements, and I told their father that I thought they should
be sent to college,--any rate the eldest, who was nearly eight years
old; but he demurred, not seeing the necessity for it. He had a notion
that they could be much better educated at home, according to a plan of
his own: Latin and Greek would be reserved for their teens, because it
was a clear loss of time before, and they would be taught modern
languages early, together with science and literature. To this I
objected, that, if successful, it might be a very good education for
boys who were certain of an independence, but that it did not seem a
good way towards the degrees necessary for almost every one of the
liberal professions. Besides, who was to teach the boys when he was
away? and would he always find spare time to do it, and regular hours
also? I was certain he would never be punctual as to time; only he did
not like to be told so, because, being aware of this shortcoming, he
made earnest efforts to correct it, and constantly failed. It was
difficult to him to bear any kind of interruption, or any compulsory
change of work--involving loss of time--and on that score very trying to
one who wanted always to finish what he had in hand. He hardly ever came
down at meal-times without the bell being rung twice, and often when he
did come down, he used to say: "That bell was getting angry," and he was
met with this stereotyped phrase from us: "And it made you abandon the
refractory sentence at last!"
Well, he acknowledged there was some weight in my objections to home
instruction, but "he could give tasks to be done in his absence, and
correct them afterwards." I asked, who could help the young students
when they were in a fix? and would they be always inclined to apply
themselves steadily to their tasks without supervision? That was
expecting too much, but it seemed natural to him to expect it, as study
and work had ever been both a necessity and a pleasure to him. However,
he yielded, but so strong was his disapproval of public school teaching
as it was carried on, that at first he would have nothing to do with it.
I had to go to the principal of the college, and make terms and
arrangements; the only condition he made was that the boys should come
home every Saturday night, and remain till Monday morning, and the same
from Wednesday to Friday regularly, for their English lessons and for
their health. I desired nothing better, and the principal agreed to it.
Whenever the boys complained of anything about their college life
afterwards, their father used to say good-humoredly: "I have no
responsibility in the matter; _I_ did not want you to go to college, you
know--it was your mother."
Pre-Charmoy being four kilometres distant from the town of Autun, and
five from the college, where the boys had to be in time for the eight
o'clock class, summer and winter, it became necessary to have some means
of conveying them to and fro, for they were still very young,--Stephen a
little over eight, and Richard hardly seven. The eldest boy went alone
at first, but his brother soon insisted on going too. We decided to do
like most of our country neighbors, that is, to have a little
donkey-cart, because it would have been both inconvenient and expensive
to hire the farmer's so frequently. Accordingly we bought a small,
second-hand carriage with its donkey, and I was taught to drive; my
husband would have preferred a pony, but I was nervous at the idea of
driving one, although I had been told that it was much easier to manage
than a donkey, and discovered afterwards that it was the truth.
The little cart proved a great convenience for my husband's studies, as
he could start with it at any time, and there was no trouble about the
care of the donkey, the servant-girls being accustomed to it from
infancy--almost every household in the vicinity being in possession of
this useful and inexpensive animal. There is a Morvandau song, known to
all the little shepherdesses, in illustration of the custom:--
"Mes parents s'y mariant tou
Me j'garde l'ane (_bis_).
Mes parents s'y mariant tou
Me j'garde l'ane taut mon saoul!
"Mais quand mon tour viendra
Gardera l'ane (_bis_).
Mais quand mon tour viendra
Gardera l'ane qui voudra."
At first we had a swift little animal, which could not be stopped at all
when he was behind another carriage, till that carriage stopped first.
It was an advantage in some cases,--for instance, when preceded by a
good horse; but if the horse went further than our destination, one of
us had to jump out and hold back the fiery and stubborn little brute by
sheer force, till his sense of jealous emulation was appeased.
The load upon the cart, when we were all together, was found excessive
for the animal, and my husband, who was always deeply concerned about
the welfare of dumb creatures, decided to have a bigger and stronger
donkey. He bought a very fine one, strong enough to pull us all, but he
did it in such a leisurely fashion that he received the expressive name
of "Dort-debout." This led my husband to write to me sometimes from
London, after a hard day's work: "Here is a very short note, but I am
like our donkey, je dors debout."
The editor of the "Saturday Review" asked Mr. Hamerton to be present at
the opening of the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and to write a series of
articles on the works of art exhibited; then to proceed to London for a
review of the Academy. He wished me very much to go with him, and I
being nothing loth, we started together, and received in Paris the
following letter from Aunt Susan:--
"WEST LODGE. _April_ 20, 1867.
"MY DEAR NEPHEW,--I am very glad indeed to hear from you, as I now know
where to direct my long-intended epistle to you; your uncle thought you
would not like to come to the exhibition in its very unfinished state,
and I thought you would like to be at the opening of it, and so the
matter was resting quite unacted upon. I grieve very much to tell you of
the sad tidings we have of poor Anne Gould; there has been a
consultation with her medical men, and they pronounce her case very
serious,--in fact, incurable. She grows thinner and weaker almost every
week, and one lung is said to be affected. A confinement is expected in
July, and I cannot but still hope that she may possibly come round
again; but it has been sorrowful news. We shall be very glad to see you
_both_ at West Lodge when you can make it convenient, and I do hope and
trust we shall be able to enjoy the anticipated pleasure of your
company. You will have left home with comparative comfort, the boys
being both at college, and, I expect, grandmamma with the little sister.
I was very glad when you wrote 'before _we_ can be in England,' as it
assured me the little wife was not to be sent homeward from Paris,
instead of accompanying you to West Lodge, where we shall be very glad
to see her."
Nevertheless, I had to go homewards, for about three weeks after our
arrival in Paris I heard that my little daughter Mary was ill with
bronchitis, and I hastened to her whilst my husband was leaving for
London. I was doubly sorry, because he was very reluctant to go alone;
but although he felt a sort of instinctive dread of the journey he did
not attempt to detain me. He had borne the sight-seeing very well, and
the crowds, which he disliked; but it was mainly because he had been
spared hotel life, for we had lodged with a former servant of ours, who
was married at Pre-Charmoy, and now lived at La Glaciere, in Paris. It
was by no means a fashionable quarter, and our lodgings left much to be
desired in the way of comfort, but it will be seen how much he regretted
it all when alone at Kew, where he had taken lodgings after much
suffering from fatigue, over-work, and depression. Still, the first news
from London was very gratifying:--
"Un mot seulement pour te dire que _toutes les huit eaux-fortes_ sont
recues a l'Academie et bien placees. Ces Academiciens commencent a
"Ce matin je suis alle de bonne heure a l'Academie, comme d'habitude;
j'ai maintenant ma carte d'exposant dont je suis tres fier."
But after a fortnight he wrote:--
"PETITE CHERIE,--Aujourd'hui je vais me donner le plaisir de
m'entretenir longuement avec toi. Combien je prefererais te parler de
vive voix. Je suppose que je suis tres bien ici; c'est-a-dire j'ai tout
ce que j'aime materiellement: le bon air, la belle nature, un petit
appartement d'une propriete vraiment exquise, une belle riviere tout a
cote, et des canots a ma disposition. Et cependant, malgre cela je suis
d'une tristesse mortelle, et j'ai beau me raisonner la-contre. Nous
avons ete si heureux ensemble a Paris, malgre notre sale petite rue que
je vois bien la verite de ce que tu m'as dit qu'il vaudrait mieux vivre
dans n'importe quel tandis, ensemble, que dans des palais, et separes.
Si je croyais a l'immortalite de l'ame, je regarderais avec effroi la
possibilite d'etre au ciel pendant que tu resterais sur la terre. Je
crois que ma maladie est due principalement a la tristesse et je tache
de lutter la-contre. Je vais faire quelques eaux-fortes et aquarelles
dans mes moments de loisir pour m'empecher, autant que possible, de
penser a ma solitude.
"J'ai eu un peu de fievre dans la nuit, et ce matin je suis calme, mais
fatigue. Il ne faut pas t'en alarmer cependant; le voyage et
l'exposition reclamaient une reaction, et elle arrive naturellement au
premier moment ou j'ai la possibilite du repos. Quant au repos, je m'en
donne aujourd'hui pleinement; je ne fais rien; mais je me reposerais
mieux si tu etais ici pour me dire que tu m'aimes et pour mettre tes
douces mains sur mon front. Je deviens par trop dependant de toi, je
voudrais etre plus fort--et pourtant je crois qu'on est plus heureux
etant triste a cause d'une separation d'avec la femme aimee que si l'on
etait insensible a cette separation. Allons! je ne voudrais pas vendre
ma tristesse pour beaucoup! elle s'en ira le jour ou je te verrai; en
attendant je la garde volontiers."
Then follows a minute description of his lodgings, of Kew itself--the
gardens, the river, the different boats upon it--and he concludes:--
"Tiens, voila que je redeviens un peu gai, ce qui est bon signe; peut-
etre, quand j'aurai recu une lettre de toi cela ira mieux. Ainsi, ta-ta,
good-bye; embrasse bien les chers enfants pour moi et dis a ma petite
Marie que je lui rapporterai une pepem [for _poupee_, which she could
not yet pronounce clearly] ou autre chose de beau."
A few days later:--
"Je suis alle aujourd'hui au musee Britannique continuer mes etudes. Le
systeme que j'ai adopte parait bon, et ca va bien. Je limite
rigoureusement mes travaux en choisissant seulement la creme de la creme
"Je me suis promene ce soir au jardin de Kew; ces promenades me rendent
toujours triste, parce qu'a chaque bel arbre ou jolie fleur, je me
figure combien tu en jouirais si tu etais avec moi. Quand on s'est si
bien habitue a vivre a deux il est difficile de redevenir garcon. Dans
ces moments de tristesse je pense toujours a la separation eternelle, et
au sort de celui de nous qui restera. Enfin j'apprends ici une chose qui
me servira toujours, c'est que pour moi maintenant tout est vanite sans
toi. J'ai un jardin Royal a ma disposition, des collections d'oeuvres
d'art superbes, les plus jolis canots, une belle riviere, de bons livres
a lire, du succes avec les editeurs et une reputation en bonne voie, et
pourtant cette existence ne vaut pas la peine de vivre. Il est bon de
savoir ces choses la et de se connaitre. A Paris ou notre existence
materielle etait pleine d'ennuis, j'etais pourtant heureux. Il ne faut
pas de ton cote etre triste parce que je le suis, du moins si tu peux
l'eviter. C'est une affaire de deux ou trois semaines, voila tout. De
mon cote je suis si occupe que je n'ai pas le temps de penser a moi-
meme, et je travaille avec la regularite d'un homme de bureau. C'est
lorsque je rentre chez moi que je souffre de ne point t'avoir.
"Quant a ma sante, elle va mieux. Je connais l'etat de mon systeme
nerveux et l'effet que le chemin-de-fer lui produit. Aujourd'hui je n'en
ai rien ressenti du tout. Quand je suis malade, la vibration et le
mouvement des objets me font souffrir un peu."
On the following Sunday:--
"DEAR LITTLE WIFE,--Last night I passed the evening with a set of
artists, friends of George Leslie, at the house of one of them, Mr.
Hodgson. They acted charades, and as their costumes (from their own
ateliers) were numerous and rich, it was very good. Among them were
Calderon and Frederick Walker. This morning we all set out for a walk on
Hampstead Heath; I have no doubt the walk will do me good, but I am very
well now, and feel better every day.
"I called on Rossetti the painter; he lives in a magnificent house,
furnished with very great taste, but in the most extraordinary manner.
His drawing-room is very large indeed and most curious; the general
effect is very good. He was very kind in receiving me, and I saw his
pictures, which are splendid in color, and very quaint and strange in
sentiment. His own manners are singularly soft and pleasant. I called on
Mr. Barlow the engraver, and spent some time with him about the
etchings. He will lend me some; Marks will lend me some also. The worst
of the way I go on in London now is that society absorbs too much time.
I must restrict it in future very much."
After the walk to Hampstead he wrote:--
"Yesterday, Sunday, I went on a long walk to Hampstead with
several artists who live close together, and I never met seven more
agreeable and more gentlemanly men; I enjoyed our conversation
extremely. George Leslie and I got some lunch at the inn and walked back
"Calderon's studio that I saw a few days ago is richly tapestried and
very lofty; it is quite as fine as that of Millais. It seems Leighton
has built himself a studio forty feet long. Mr. Barlow, the engraver,
has a fine studio attached to the one you saw him in, and far larger.
All these artists complain of nothing but the too great prosperity of
the profession in these days; they tell me an artist's life is a
princely one now. They live and dress like gentlemen, and their
daughters might be 'clothed in scarlet.'
"The reason for my staying in London longer than I intended is the time
I have spent in society--a thing I certainly shall never do again--
because I go to bed so late, _always_ after twelve, whereas if I were
not in society I should go to bed at nine or ten, and keep my strength
up easily. Another thing I am sure of is that, _on the whole_, the
advantages of being isolated, as I am at Pre-Charmoy, counterbalance and
more than counterbalance the disadvantages. I certainly would not, if I
could, have a house in London; the loss of time is awful. The only good
in it for a painter is that the dealers are always after him for
pictures as soon as he succeeds.
"Mind you have a man from the farm to sleep in the house every night. It
would be well for him to have the gun loaded, only take care the
children don't get at it. My health is still tolerably good,
sufficiently so for me to get easily through what I have to do."
But the next news was far from being so satisfactory.
"J'ai des nouvelles de West Lodge qui sont vraiment tristes. Anne est
accouchee prematurement, et l'enfant--une fille--est morte apres avoir
vecu deux nuits et un jour. On l'a baptisee Annie Jane Hamerton Gould.
Anne est dans un etat de faiblesse tel qu'on n'espere pas la conserver
au-dela de quelques semaines, et mon pauvre oncle est dans l'ile de
Wight avec elle, ou tout cela se passe. La tante Susan, de son cote, est
malade d'une fievre gastrique--maladie bien dangereuse, comme tu sais;
elle a pu m'ecrire quelques mots au crayon; elle se trouve un peu mieux,
ce qui me fait esperer que probablement sa bonne constitution triomphera
du mal. Je voudrais aller la voir de suite, mais je suis tellement
retenu par mon travail; et puis le bon arrangement de ce travail et son
heureux succes m'avaient fait regagner un peu ma serenite d'esprit, et
maintenant je souffre de nouveau pour mon oncle et ma tante. Vraiment
c'est penible d'etre la avec son dernier enfant qui s'en va si vite. Si
encore la pauvre petite avait vecu, mon oncle aurait eu une fille peur
remplacer les siennes, car il faut bien parler d'Anne comme d'une
"Je me felicite des resultats de mon nouveau systeme: je me leve de fort
bonne heure, j'ai fini dans l'Academie a 10 h. 1/2; alors je fais une
course, et immediatement apres je me rends au Musee ou je dejeune. On y
dejeune tres bien et pas cher; tu comprends que c'est pour les gens de
lettres qui travaillent a la bibliotheque. Je rentre ici a six heures,
et le soir je me promene un peu au jardin, ou sur l'eau; apres quoi
j'ecris a la petite femme cherie et je me couche. Aujourd'hui, comme
hier, j'ai etudie et decrit dix tableaux et dix planches. Je crois que
mes notes sur les aquafortistes iront plus vite que je ne l'avais
espere. J'ai deja termine Claude, Salvator, Wilkie, Geddes, Ruysdael,
Paul Potter. J'arriverai a ma vingtaine si ma sante se maintient pendant
tout mon sejour. Je reserve le samedi et le dimanche a Kew pour ecrire
"Je m'etonne _du mauvais_ de certains aqua-fortistes celebres. Dans
toute l'oeuvre de Ruysdael je ne trouve que deux bonnes planches, et
encore si elles etaient publiees dans l'ouvrage de la Societe Francaise,
je les trouverais peut-etre mauvaises. Dans Salvator il y en a egalement
deux ou trois bonnes. L'oeuvre de Claude est belle en somme, avec
plusieurs mauvaises choses toutefois.
"Adieu, petite cherie, le temps de mon exil diminue, et alors je te
reverrai, toi et les enfants."
But he was suddenly and violently seized by a mysterious illness, which
threatened not only his life but his reason, as he told me afterwards.
He longed to have me near him, yet he was so courageous that, to spare
me, he only wrote that he was suffering from fatigue:--
"CROWN INN, WALTON-ON-THAMES.
"Ca va toujours tout doucement. Je me promene tranquillement. Je reste
encore ici deux nuits pour gagner un peu de force. Je suis toujours tres
faible, mais le cerveau va mieux, je n'ai point de surexcitation
cerebrale. Je ne dois pas beaucoup ecrire. Ainsi tata, ma bien aimee.
"Puisque je sais que tu dois etre inquiete je t'ecris une deuxieme fois
aujourd'hui pour te dire que je vais _beaucoup mieux_. La force commence
a me revenir. Je me suis bien promene, lentement, toute la journee. Je
n'ai pas ose te dire combien j'ai desire ta chere presence ces jours-ci.
Si je l'avais dit tu aurais ete capable de te mettre en route. C'est
toujours triste d'etre malade, mais c'est terrible quand on est seul
dans une auberge. [He had gone to Walton-on-Thames for quiet and rest.]
"Enfin j'espere que c'est a peu pres passe pour cette fois, et je me
promets bien de ne plus jamais travailler au-dessus de mes forces. Mr.
Haden dit que je n'ai point de maladie, mais que je suis incapable de
supporter tout travail excessif. Il va falloir regler tout cela."
"J'ai du renoncer a mon travail pendant deux jours parce que j'ai besoin
de repos, et il me semble plus sage de le prendre a temps que de me
rendre malade. Lorsque je suis malade je ne puis pas me reposer, tandis
que maintenant, je suis simplement fatigue. Je dors bien, mais comme je
suis seul dans mon logement, je deviens tout triste. Je n'ose pas penser
du tout a Pre-Charmoy parce que cela me donne une telle envie de te voir
que j'en serais malade. Ah! si la force physique voulait seulement
repondre a la force morale! Moralement, je n'ai jamais ete plus fort,
plus dispose a la lutte; et puis ces jours de fatigue arrivent et
m'accablent, et je souffre dix fois plus qu'un paresseux s'y
"Beaucoup de baisers aux enfants, et beaucoup pour toi, petite femme
trop cherie. Je n'ose penser combien ce serait gentil si tu etais ici
aupres de moi."
In answer I immediately proposed to go to him, as our little daughter
was convalescent, and her grandmother would take care of her during my
absence, but he declined.
"PETITE CHERIE DE MON COEUR,--Je viens de recevoir ta bonne lettre, il
n'est pas necessaire que tu viennes; je gagne graduellement. J'ai passe
la soiree avec Mr. Pearce qui sait que je suis malade. J'ai echappe sans
doute a un grave danger, j'ai meme eu peur de perdre la raison; mais
tout cela est passe; je suis calme et quoique faible encore--plus fort.
C'est surtout mentalement que je vais mieux, ce qui est le plus
essentiel: le corps suivra. Je n'ai pas ose entreprendre le voyage de
Todmorden aujourd'hui, mais j'ai l'espoir de pouvoir partir demain.
Quoique en etat de convalescence, je suis oblige d'etre prudent et
d'eviter les grandes fatigues. Le medecin dit qu'il faudra un changement
dans ma maniere de vivre. Le fait est que je me tue en travaillant et je
sens que je n'irais pas trois ans comme cela. Enfin je me dis que
puisque ma mort ne te ferait pas de bien, je dois tacher de me
conserver; si ma mort pouvait t'etre utile je mourrais bien volontiers.
Ta chere lettre, toute pleine d'affection, m'a fait du bien. Dis a mon
bon petit Stephen que je le remercie de toute sa tendresse pour moi et
que je vais mieux. J'ai beaucoup pense a mes chers enfants, ne sachant
pas si je les reverrais.
"Je t'ai tout dit; ca a ete seulement un etat d'abattement complet
accompagne d'excitation des centres nerveux."
"Le temps est si mauvais que je n'ai pas pu faire une seule esquisse. Ma
tante Susan t'a ecrit pour te dire que la pauvre Anne a cesse de
souffrir. J'ai recu une lettre de son mari qui me dit que les derniers
jours ont ete bien penibles. Je ne vais toujours pas bien a cause de la
tristesse et de l'inquietude que tout cela m'a cause, mais il ne faut
pas etre inquiete pour moi; ca se passera dans un jour ou deux, tu sais
que je suis tres impressionnable.
"Il me prend de temps en temps d'angoissantes envies de te voir. Dans
ces moments-la il me semble que je realise chaque metre, chaque
centimetre de l'effroyable distance qui nous separe. Je suis oblige de
lutter fortement contre ces idees qui finiraient par me rendre malade.
"Je dois maintenant aller au train; a demain donc."
"WEST LODGE. _Vendredi_.
"Je suis bien arrive chez ma tante que j'ai trouvee en bonne sante, mais
je suis toujours horriblement triste ici, et je me le reproche, car ma
tante est toujours si bonne. Elle nous avait destine la belle
chambre-a-coucher, et j'ai la chambre tout seul, ce qui ne contribue pas
a diminuer ma tristesse. Une chose au moins me console: j'ai le materiel
pour mon livre sur l'eau-forte, c'est beaucoup. Je crois la publication
de ce livre si essentielle a mon avenir, comme soutien de ma reputation,
que j'aurais ete vraiment desole de ne pas pouvoir le faire maintenant.
Ayant tout le materiel dans ma tete, je ferai l'ouvrage tres vite, et je
suis convaincu qu'il sera bon et tout-a-fait nouveau. J'ai bien besoin
maintenant d'un peu de bruit pour augmenter ma reputation, car ces
articles anonymes ne l'aident point.
"Dans ta tristesse, ma cherie, il faut toujours avoir la plus grande
confiance en la duree de mon amour pour toi. Je crois que mon amour et
ma loyaute sont au moins aussi forts que le sentiment de l'heroisme
militaire. Il me semble que si les soldats peuvent supporter toutes les
privations pour leur roi ou pour leur patrie, je dois pouvoir en faire
autant pour ma femme. Compte sur ma tendresse, meme dans les
circonstances les plus difficiles, tu l'auras toujours. Grace a ton
influence, je suis beaucoup plus capable qu'autrefois de supporter les
difficultes de la vie, et si nous avions a vivre dans une pauvre
chaumiere, je t'aiderais gaiement a faire les travaux du petit menage en
y consacrant deux ou trois heures par jour, et quand tu coudrais je te
ferais un peu la lecture, et toujours je t'aimerais. Ainsi crois que,
loin de souffrir des devoirs que je me suis imposes, j'y trouve la plus
profonde satisfaction, et que je me trouve plus respectable que si je ne
"WEST LODGE. Vendredi.
"J'avais l'intention de partir aujourd'hui mais la tante Susan parait
tellement triste quand je parle de m'en aller que j'ai du reculer mon
depart jusqu'a lundi. Du reste j'ai fait trois planches que je crois
bonnes; j'y ai bien travaille; j'ai aussi ecrit trois articles, mais mon
travail pour la Revue ne gagne pas grand'chose, et du moment ou la
peinture rapportera, je quitterai la revue; je n'aime pas ce genre de
travail, quoiqu'on dise que je le fais bien. J'aimerais autant etre
cocher de fiacre. Ce que j'ai toujours desire faire c'est de la
peinture; mes efforts dans cette direction n'ont pas abouti jusqu'a
present, mais si j'avais un peu de temps libre, je saurais mieux faire a
cause de mon experience de critique; je vois maintenant dans quel sens
il faut travailler.
"Je vis a Londres aussi simplement que possible et pourtant mes sejours
y sont tres couteux. Quant a la reputation, en comparaison du bonheur de
vivre tranquillement avec toi, elle m'est absolument indifferente. Il me
semble que lorsque le mari et la femme sont si parfaitement d'accord sur
le but de la vie, il doit etre facile d'y parvenir. Notre plus grand
desir a tous les deux c'est d'etre ensemble; eh! bien, du moment ou les
choses nous seront propices, nous realiserons notre desir, et meme par
la volonte nous forcerons les circonstances, c'est-a-dire que nous
supporterons des inconvenients pour y arriver. Deja Wallis et Colnaghi
consentent a exposer mes ouvrages; mes eaux-fortes sont appreciees.
Peut-etre dans un temps comparativement rapproche serai-je en position
de donner ma demission--non seulement a la Saturday, mais a la
litterature, et a me devouer exclusivement a l'Art. Du moment ou cela
arrivera il sera infiniment plus facile d'etre ensemble, car je tacherai
de faire un genre d'Art qui me permettra d'etudier chez nous, ou dans un
petit rayon. Enfin regardons la situation actuelle comme penible, mais
pas du tout permanente. Tu peux compter que du moment ou je le pourrai
je quitterai la Revue; j'y suis bien decide."
After this letter, my husband, feeling much better, came back to London
to resume his work, and wrote about what he thought most important or
most interesting to me. I shall quote from his letters in their order
according to dates.
WATERLOO PLACE, KEW. _Lundi soir_.
"Mr. Macmillan m'a recu parfaitement, presque affectueusement; il m'a
invite a diner. Je suis alle voir Mr. Seeley, mon nouvel editeur, que
j'ai trouve intelligent, comme il faut, jeune encore, et parfaitement
cordial. Je crois que mes relations avec lui seront tout-a-fait faciles.
[Footnote: Mr. Seeley had asked him to write some notes on Contemporary
French Painters, to be illustrated with photographs.]
"L'exposition, en somme, est belle. Il y a plusieurs tableaux
remarquables, entre autres une Venus de Leighton que je trouve superbe.
La contribution de Landseer est importante, c'est un portrait de la
Reine, a cheval, en deuil; cheval _noir_, _trois chiens noirs_, groom
_noir_, _ciel noir_.
"C'est agreable de rentrer le soir en pleine campagne; ca me fait du
bien. Je n'ose pas penser combien ce serait gentil si ma cherie etait
avec moi, parceque cela me rend triste tout de suite; mais je t'ecrirai
_presque_ tous les jours, quelquefois brievement quand je serai trop
presse. Sois gentille toi, et ecris souvent; les bonnes nouvelles que tu
m'envoies de ta sante et de celle des enfants m'ont rendu mon courage
et--ce que je puis avoir de gaiete."
"Il parait que j'avais encore besoin de repos, car aujourd'hui je suis
tres fatigue. J'espere que lundi j'irai mieux; un ou deux jours de repos
me sont necessaires: voila tout. _Je n'ai point de surexcitation
cerebrale_; je dors bien et je me repose pleinement, ce qui ne doit pas
tarder a retablir mes forces. Je souffre d'etre seul. Mr. Gould va venir
passer huit jours ici; je trouve amiable de sa part de bien vouloir
venir s'etablir a Kew pour etre pres de moi; mon oncle viendra peut-etre
"Je vais me plaindre un peu, tout doucement, de la petite cherie de
Pre-Charmoy; elle n'ecrit pas assez souvent a son mari qui recoit
toujours ses lettres avec tant de plaisir. Il y a pourtant une de ces
lettres qui a donne tant de bonheur qu'elle peut compter pour une
douzaine. Pauvre cherie! comme je voudrais toujours reussir a rendre ta
vie douce et agreable! Depuis que je ne vis plus pour moi, mais pour toi
et les enfants, j'ai goute moi-meme un nouveau genre de bonheur mele de
nouvelles tristesses. Ces tristesses sont dues a la pensee que je fais
si peu, et que, avec plus de forces je ferais tant et si bien! Avec la
force je serais sur maintenant de reussir pleinement. Je tiens la
reputation par un petit bout, mais je la tiens, et elle augmentera. Tout
me prouve que notre avenir serait assure si j'avais autant de force que
"Je suis alle voir George Eliot et Lewes qui a ete charmant; il est venu
s'asseoir a cote de moi ou il est reste tout le temps de ma visite, et
lorsque je suis parti, il s'est beaucoup plaint de ne pas me voir
davantage. Il me traite d'une facon tres affectueuse, et en meme temps
avec un respect qui, venant de lui, me flatte beaucoup. Quant a George
Eliot elle est tres aimable, mais elle a le defaut de rester toujours
assise an meme endroit, et quand il y a du monde, la seule personne qui
puisse causer avec elle, est son voisin. Quand j'y retournerai, je
m'installerai aupres d'elle, parce que je tiens a la connaitre un peu
mieux. J'y ai rencontre Mr. Ralston qui s'etait assis modestement un peu
en dehors du cercle ou j'etais et pendant tout le temps de sa visite, il
n'a presque rien dit et c'est a peine si on lui a parle. J'ai trouve ces
arrangements mauvais. Les gens qui recoivent doivent souvent changer de
place, de facon a causer avec tous leurs visiteurs.
"Lundi dernier j'ai dine chez Mr. Craik--le mari de l'auteur de 'John
Halifax.' Il habite un charmant cottage a Beckenham, un endroit a quatre
lieues de Londres ou il vient tous les jours en chemin-de-fer. Tu sais
qu'il est l'associe de Macmillan. Nous avons passe une soiree fort
agreable; c'est un homme tres cultive, qui autrefois etait auteur, et
qui a occupe une chaire de litterature a Edimbourg. Sa femme, quoique
celebre, est simple et tres aimable; elle m'a dit que quand tu
viendrais, elle desirait te connaitre.
"Mardi j'ai dine chez le Professeur Seeley, le frere de mon editeur; il
a occupe la chaire de Latin a l'Universite de Londres. C'est l'auteur
d'_Ecce Homo_. Macmillan m'ayant donne ce livre, je l'ai trouve tres
fort comme style et d'une hardiesse etonnante. L'auteur est des plus
sympathiques; il a des manieres charmantes--si modestes et si
intelligentes, car les manieres peuvent montrer de l'intelligence.
J'aime beaucoup les deux freres, et dans le peu de temps que je les ai
vus j'en ai fait des amis.
"Mercredi j'ai dine chez moi, ayant un article a ecrire. Jeudi chez
Stephen Pearce. Vendredi chez Mr. Wallis, le marchand de tableaux. C'est
un homme tres delicat et tres fin. Il avait invite Mr. Burgess, un
artiste intelligent et agreable que j'avais deja rencontre au Salon de
l'annee derniere. J'ai rencontre Tom Taylor a l'exposition. Wallis et
nous avons cause quelque temps ensemble. J'ai rencontre Clifton et dine
avec lui a son Club."
"Je suis alle hier passer le tantot chez Lewes, on a ete enchante de mes
eaux-fortes. George Eliot s'est plainte de ne pas avoir assez cause avec
moi a ma derniere visite, et m'a invite a prendre place a cote d'elle.
Nous avons parle d'art, de litterature et d'elle meme. Elle m'a dit que
personne n'avait eu plus d'inquietudes et de souffrances dans le travail
qu'elle, et que le peu qu'elle fait lui coute enormement.
"J'ai discute avec Lewes l'idee de faire la reimpression de mes
articles, et il m'a conseille de ne pas le faire si je puis fonder un
livre sur ces articles. J'avoue que je serais assez tente de faire un
ouvrage serieux sur la peinture, pour lequel mes articles serviraient de
"J'ai dine hier soir chez Mr. Macmillan, nous etions seuls d'hommes. Il
y avait sa femme, ses enfants, et une grand'mere. Il a une famille
nombreuse, de beaux enfants. Sa femme est bonne, et si simple que j'ai
rarement vu un comme-il-faut plus acheve sans etre de la distinction. La
maison est tres spacieuse et entouree d'arbres magnifiques. Ce qu'il y a
de particulier dans cette maison, c'est un caractere intime et d'aisance
ancienne. Macmillan a su eviter avec un tact parfait, tout ce qui
pouvait rappeler le nouveau riche. On se croirait dans une grande maison
de campagne, a cinquante lieues de Londres, et dans une ancienne famille
etablie la depuis plusieurs generations.
"Nous avons passe toute la soiree ensemble. Il laisse entierement a mon
jugement tout ce qui regarde l'illustration de mon livre. Ce que j'ai
aime dans cette maison, comme dans toutes les personnes que j'y ai
trouvees, a ete l'absence complete de toute affectation. Tout est
homogene et je n'ai encore jamais vu une maison de campagne ayant cet
aspect-la. Mon respect pour Macmillan s'est considerablement augmentee
de ce qu'on ne rencontre chez lui aucune splendeur vulgaire: rien ne
parle d'argent chez lui.
"La conversation a ete tres generale. Quand je suis parti, il m'a
reconduit a travers un champ pour abreger mon chemin a la station. Il a
chante quelques vieilles chansons avec beaucoup de caractere; j'ai
chante un peu aussi--et pourtant je ne suis guere dispose a chanter.
Anne avait montre tant de contentement quand je suis alle la voir a
Sheffield--et penser que je ne la reverrai plus. Je souffre aussi pour
mon oncle, je me mets a sa place en pensant a ma petite Mary; si je la
perdais plus tard!... et puis--et puis, tu sais comment viennent les
idees noires, et combien un malheur vous en fait craindre d'autres."
"Je me sens de nouveau fatigue et cette fatigue semble persister. Il est
bien possible que l'ennui et la nostalgie y soient pour quelque chose.
"Figure-toi qu'il y a une jeune _peintresse_ qui m'a ete recommandee, et
dont la situation est bien precaire; j'ai eu la faiblesse de lui ecrire
une petite lettre gentille et encourageante et me voila en butte a des
eclats de desespoir ou de reconnaissance; de reproches et de
remerciements. Le plaisir de faire du bien a ceux qui souffrent est tel,
que l'on voudrait s'en donner, et le critique est souvent tente de
manger de ce sucre-la.
"Je ne regrette pas de m'etre etabli a Kew; il n'y a qu'une chose contre
Kew, c'est que je n'y connais personne, tandis qu'a St. John's Wood j'ai
plusieurs amis. Mais la solitude a aussi ses avantages et quand on voit
du monde tous les jours, on peut bien passer la soiree chez soi. Si la
petite femme etait seulement ici, ce serait parfait."
"Petite femme cherie qui a ete gentille puisqu'elle a ecrit deux
"Celle-ci est simplement pour te dire que mon repos a enfin produit son
effet et que je suis rentre dans mon etat ordinaire. Aujourd'hui je me
rends au Musee, et j'ai pu ecrire.
"Mon oncle est arrive hier soir, il partage mon salon, mais je lui ai
loue une chambre-a-coucher dans la maison voisine. Il ne parait pas trop
abattu; nous causons beaucoup et je tache de l'egayer autant que sa
position le permet. Il est moins reserve qu'autrefois et me laisse voir
davantage le cours de ses pensees qui vont souvent a ses filles et a sa
femme. Je l'emmene aujourd'hui a l'Academie. Il y a une chose qui doit
te rassurer quant a l'etat de ma sante, c'est que je n'ai jamais ces
sensations au cerveau dont j'ai souffert. Le cerveau n'est pas fatigue
et en me reposant a temps, je repare rapidement mes forces. Ce qui est
vraiment insupportable ce sont les separations, et j'ai bien de la peine
a m'y resigner, et je ne m'y resignerais pas du tout si la peinture
rapportait. Mais en mettant les choses au pis pour les affaires
d'argent, j'espere que tu me verras toujours courageux et affectueux
dans l'adversite; je me figure que depuis quelque temps j'ai appris a la
supporter sans qu'elle puisse m'aigrir. Si je dois vivre de
pommes-de-terre, ou meme mourir de faim, tu me verras toujours devoue
jusqu'a la mort. Celles-ci ne sont pas de vaines paroles; je suis pret a
les soutenir dans une pauvre cabane ou sur le lit d'un hopital."
"T'ai-je dit que j'avais trouve ici-meme un locataire etudiant la
botanique a 'l'herbarium' tous les jours, et qu'en nous promenant
ensemble au jardin, les soirs, il m'apprend les noms des arbres qui ne
sont pas indiques. J'ai aussi des fleurs sur ma fenetre: je t'en donne
une. Je ne connais pas le langage des fleurs, mais si celle-ci ne te dit
pas que je t'aime beaucoup--beaucoup--elle interprete bien mal mes
"J'ai lu un peu du livre de Max Mueller sur l'etude _comparative_ des
langues. C'est excessivement curieux. Tu n'as aucune idee de combien
l'etymologie est interessante quand elle est basee sur la connaissance
de tant d'idiomes; on peut tracer la parente les mots d'une maniere
etonnante; les changements dans la facon de les ecrire ont pour resultat
de les denaturer tellement que nous avons beaucoup de peine a les
reconnaitre sans _retracer_ toute leur histoire dans la litterature. Mr.
Max Mueller retrace ainsi, d'une maniere ingenieuse, mais bien
convaincante, l'usage des mots pour arriver a leurs racines primitives,
et puis il forme des theories d'apres ces comparaisons--qui sont au
moins toujours interessantes. Ce qu'il y a de remarquable c'est qu'on
retrouve les memes mots dans les endroits les plus eloignes, des mots
Anglais et Francais qui ont leur origine dans le Sanskrit; et de meme
pour d'autres idiomes. Max Mueller differe des philologues anciens en
ceci que tandis qu'ils etudiaient seulement les langues classiques, lui
trouve la lumiere et le materiel partout, meme dans le Patois: ainsi le
Provencal lui a ete indispensable et bien d'autres langues encore que
les amateurs des classiques negligent generalement."
This interest in languages grew with years. When at Sens, we studied
Italian together, but my increasing deafness made me abandon it on
account of the pronunciation, whilst my husband, on the contrary, made
it a point to read some pages of it every day, and even to write his
diary in that language. Later still, he used to send to Florence some
literary compositions to be corrected. After the marriage of his
daughter, he used occasionally to ask his son-in-law, M. Raillard, for
lessons in German, and had even undertaken to write, with his
collaboration, a work on philology which was to have been entitled,
"Words on their Travels, and Stay-at-Home Words," which his unexpected
death cut short. In the afternoon of the day on which he died, as he was
coming back home from the Louvre in a tram-car, he took out of his
pocket a volume of Virgil, and read it the whole way. "I furbish up my
Latin and Greek when on a steamer or in omnibuses," he said to me; "it
prevents my being annoyed by the loss of time."
"Je suis retourne chez Seeley ou on m'a traite d'une facon tout-a-fait
delicate; le Professeur est un des hommes les plus sympathiques que
j'aie rencontres. Je t'en parlerai plus longuement de vive voix, et
quant a son frere Richmond je n'ai jamais connu quelqu'un avec qui je
m'entende aussi facilement. Il y a une chose bien charmante en lui,
c'est que, bien qu'il soit a la tete d'une grande maison, il n'a jamais
l'air presse et vous ecoute avec une patience parfaite.
"Ce que tu me dis de 'mon courage au travail et a la lutte' me paye pour
bien des heures de besogne. Tout ce qui me decourage parfois, c'est ma
faible sante qui m'oblige souvent a paraitre paresseux sous peine d'etre
"Il me tarde tant de te revoir que je suis comme un pauvre prisonnier en
pays etranger, loin de la Dame de ses pensees. Alors, tu sais, il faut
m'ecrire et embrasser les enfants pour moi."
"J'ai ete desole de ne pas pouvoir t'ecrire aujourd'hui; il est
maintenant 1 h. du matin. Je vais _bien_, mais je suis accable de
travaux et pourtant je veux partir bientot; je finirai a la maison.
Aujourd'hui j'ai termine mon article juste a temps pour l'impression.
Comme notre ane 'Je dors debout'; aujourd'hui je tombais presque de
sommeil dans les rues de Londres.
"Les travaux sur l'eau-forte sont termines cette fois. A bientot!"
"22 RUE DE L'OUEST PARIS. _Lundi_.
"Je suis arrive hier a 5 h. du soir. _Je ne suis pas du tout fatigue_,
ce qui semble indiquer une augmentation de force, car tu sais que les
longs voyages me fatiguent generalement beaucoup. Je suis alle ce matin
des 8 h. chez Delatre ou j'ai fait tirer mes planches. On fait le tirage
de suite et les livraisons paraitront cette semaine.
"Quant a mes pauvres enfants, je suis desole de les savoir malades, mais
ta lettre m'encourage a esperer qu'ils sont en bonne voie de
convalescence. Tu as du avoir un temps difficile a passer ainsi tout
seule: chere petite femme, je crois que si j'y avais ete c'eut ete plus
facile pour toi: les enfants de mon ami Pearce sont egalement malades de
"Hier soir j'ai dine chez Froment [the artist who paints such beautiful
decorative works for Sevres]; ce matin j'ai dejeune chez Froment, ce
soir j'y dine, et ainsi de suite."
M. Froment had been most hospitable to both of us during our stay in
Paris; he had given us a day at Sevres, and had shown us the
_Manufacture_ in all its details. He was a widower, and inconsolable for
the loss of his wife, whose memory was as sacred to him as religion. His
two daughters were at home; the eldest watching maternally over the
younger sister, who, however, died a few years later. M. Froment's
feelings, perceptions, and tastes were exquisitely refined, and my
husband derived both benefit and pleasure from the friendly intercourse.
In after years Gilbert met M. Froment occasionally, and found him always
full of kindness and regard.
After nursing the children through scarlatina I caught it myself, and
when my husband knew of it, he wrote:--
"I write just to say how sorry I am not to be able to set off _at once_,
and be at your bedside. I shall certainly not be later than Saturday. I
am of course very busy, and have no time for letter-writing. I have seen
Docteur Dereims to-day, and told him of your illness. He insists on the
necessity of the greatest care during your convalescence. You must
especially avoid _cold drinks_, as highly dangerous.
"Things are going on as I wish for my book on Etching. I am getting hold
of plates which alone would make it valuable. Pray take care of
yourself. I wish I were with you."
On the following day:--
"I am very sorry to hear you had such a bad night; but from all I can
hear from Dr. Dereims you are only going through the usual course of the
illness. I will be with you on Saturday without fail. You may count upon
me as upon an attentive, though not, I fear, a very skilful nurse. But I
will try, like some other folks, to make up in talk what I lack in
professional skill. I am tolerably well, but rather upset by this news
from Pre-Charmoy. I could not sleep much last night.
"I am going to the exhibition to-day, and will be thinking of little
wife all the time. I have met with a quantity of very fine paper for
etching, of French manufacture, and have obtained Macmillan's authority
to purchase it for the _text also_. It will be a splendid publication. I
feel greater and greater hopes about that book.
"Only forty-eight hours of separation from the time I write."
The day after:--
"Enfin il y a bien peu de chose a faire a mes planches, et j'espere que
dans un jour ce sera termine.
"J'ai beaucoup de choses a te dire mais ce sera pour nos bonnes
causeries intimes. Je voyagerai toute la nuit de vendredi afin d'arriver
samedi dans la matinee. Quand je pense a toi et aux enfants, a la petite
maison, a la petite riviere et a tous les details de cette delicieuse
existence que nous passons ensemble, il me faut beaucoup de courage pour
rester ici seul a terminer mon travail."
When my husband reached home, I was still in bed, and unwilling to let
him come to me for fear of infection; but he would not hear of keeping
away. "I never catch anything," he said gayly, "don't be anxious on my
account;" and he insisted upon sleeping on a little iron bedstead in the
dressing-room close to our bedroom, to nurse me in the night.
He soon recovered his usual health, with occasional troubles of the
nervous system; but he had grown careful about the premonitory symptoms,
and used to grant himself a holiday whenever they occurred. Having been
told whilst in London that novel-writing paid better than any other
literary production, he now turned his thoughts towards the possibility
of using his past experience for the composition of a story. It would be
a pleasant change from criticism, he said, and would exercise different
mental faculties. Very soon the plan of "Wenderholme" was formed, and we
entertained good hopes of its success.
In the month of September, 1866, the wedding of my sister
Caroline took place quietly at our house, Mr. Hamerton being looked
upon as the head of the family since the death of my father. Although he
prized his privacy above everything else, he was ready to sacrifice it
as a token of his affection for his sister-in-law, and went through all
the necessary trouble and expense for her sake. She married a young man
who had formed an attachment for her ever since she was fifteen years
old,--M. Pelletier,--and they went to live at Algiers, where he was then
Commis d'Economat at the Lycee. It was agreed that they should spend the
long vacation with us every year.
There are a good many days of frost in a Morvandau winter, and the snow
often remains deep on the ground for several weeks together; there was
even more than usual in 1867, so my husband devised a new amusement for
the boys by showing them how to make a giant. Every time they came home,
they rolled up huge balls of snow which were left out to be frozen hard,
then sawn into large bricks to build up the monster. The delight of the
boys may be imagined. Every new limb was greeted with enthusiastic
shouts, they thought of nothing else; and, perched on ladders, their
little hands protected by woollen gloves, they worked like slaves, and
could hardly be got to eat their meals. But how should I describe the
final scene, when in the dark evening two night-lights shone out of the
giant's eyes, and flames came out of its monstrous mouth?... It was
nothing less than wild ecstasy. Their father also taught them skating;
there was very little danger except from falls, for they began in the
meadows about the house, where they skated over shallow pools left in
the hollows by rain-water or melted snow; but when they became
proficient, we used to go to the great pond at Varolles. As my husband
has said in one of his letters, all that was very good for him.
In January, 1868, he left again for London, and felt but little
inconvenience on the way and during his stay. Knowing that I should be
anxious, he formed the habit of sending me frequent short pencil notes,
to say how he was. I give here a few of them:--
"LONDRES. _Vendredi soir_.
"J'ai ete tres occupe aujourd'hui au musee Britannique. Demain j'irai
voir des expositions. Je compte partir dimanche pour Paris."
"J'ecris dans une boutique. Je vais bien. Je dine au Palais de Cristal
avec un Club."
"Je vais bien. Pauvre petit Richard! embrasse-le bien pour moi; tu as du
etre bien inquiete."
This was about a serious accident which had happened to our youngest
boy. Whilst at play with his brother on the terrace, and in my presence,
he ran his head against a low wall, and was felled senseless to the
ground by the force of the blow; the temple was cut open, and his blood
ran over my arm and dress when I lifted him up, apparently lifeless. The
farmer's cart drove us rapidly to Autun, where we found our doctor in
bed--it was ten at night. The wound was dressed and sewn up, and the
pain brought back some signs of life. I asked if I ought to take a room
at the hotel to secure the doctor's attendance at short intervals, but I
was told that blows of that kind were either fatal or of little
importance; the only thing to be done was to keep ice on the head and
renew it constantly. The poor child seemed to have relapsed into an
insensible state, and remained so all night. In the early morning,
however, he awoke without fever, and was quite well in about three
I had asked my husband to take the opinion of an aurist about my
increasing deafness, and he tenderly answered:--
"Serieusement je ne crois pas que ta surdite augmente. Avant de te
rendre compte combien tu etais sourde, tu ne savais pas quels bruits
restaient pour toi inapercus. Maintenant tu fais de tristes decouvertes;
moi qui suis mieux place pour t'observer, puisque j'entends ce que tu
n'entends pas, je sais que tu es tres sourde, mais je ne vois pas
d'augmentation depuis tres longtemps et je crois que tu resteras a peu
pres comme tu es. J'en ai parle aujourd'hui avec Macmillan dont une amie
ete comme toi pendant longtemps et qui eprouve maintenant une
amelioration graduelle, mais tres sensible. Tache surtout de ne pas trop
t'attrister, parce qu'il parait que le chagrin a une tendance a
augmenter la surdite. Quant a parler d'aimer mieux mourir, tu oublies
que mon affection pour toi est bien au-dessus de toute infirmite
corporelle, et que nous aurons toujours beaucoup de bonheur a etre
ensemble; du moins je parle pour moi. Et meme si ta surdite augmentait
beaucoup, nous aurions toujours le moyen de communiquer ensemble en
parlant tres haut: en France nous parlerions anglais, et en Angleterre,
He sympathized so much with my trouble that, unlike many other
husbands, who would have been annoyed at having to take a deaf
wife into society, he urged me to go with him everywhere, kindly
repeated what I had not heard, and explained what I misunderstood. He
always tried his best to keep away from me the feeling of solitude, so
common to those who are deprived of hearing.
Just as I was rejoicing over the thought that my husband had
prosperously accomplished this last journey, I had a letter from him,
dated "Hotel du Nord, Amiens," in which he said he was obliged to stop
there till he felt better, for he could eat absolutely nothing, and was
very weak. The worst was that I dared not leave my poor little Richard
yet, to go to his father: the wound on the temple was not healed, and
the doctor had forbidden all excitement, for fear of brain-fever after
the shock. I was terribly perplexed when the following letter reached
"HOTEL DE L'AIGLE NOIR, FONTAINEBLEAU. _Mercredi_.
"Tu apprendras avec plaisir que j'ai regagne un peu d'appetit hier
soir. J'ai mange un diner qui m'a fait tant de bien que ce ne serait pas
cher a une centaine de francs. Cet hotel est tres propre et la cuisine y
est faite convenablement sans melange de sauces. Toute la journee de
lundi a Amiens, j'ai vecu d'un petit morceau de pain d'epices. Le soir a
10 h. 1/2 j'ai mange une tranche de jambon. Je suis parti a minuit pour
Paris ou je suis arrive a 4 h. du matin. Pour ne pas me rendre plus
malade, je n'ai pas voulu rester dans la grande ville que j'ai traversee
d'une gare a l'autre immediatement. J'ai pris une tasse de chocolat et
ecrit quelques lettres en attendant le train pour Fontainebleau qui est
parti de la gare a 8 h. C'etait un train demi-express, mais je l'ai bien
supporte. En arrivant a Fontainebleau je n'ai pas pu dejeuner et je n'ai
rien mange jusqu'au soir quand j'ai bien dine. C'est tres economique de
ne pas pouvoir manger. J'ai saute plusieurs repas, qui par consequent ne
figurent nullement dans les notes.
"Hier soir je me suis promene un peu dans les jardins du palais qui est
lui-meme vaste, mais c'est un amas de constructions lourdes et de
mauvais gout, du moins en general. Cela me fait l'effet d'une caserne
ajoutee a une petite ville. Les jardins, les arbres sont magnifiques. Je
me trouve bien ce matin, mais un peu faible par suite du peu de
nourriture que j'ai pu prendre depuis quelques jours. Enfin, je suis en
train de me refaire. Je desire vivement etre chez moi, et j'y arriverai
aussitot que possible sans me rendre malade. Embrasse pour moi les
enfants et ta mere; a toi de tout coeur."
He reached home safely, but the fatigue and weakness seemed to last
longer than previously, and insomnia frequently recurred. He did his
best to insure refreshing sleep by taking more exercise in the open air,
but it became clear that he must abandon work at night, because when his
brain had been working on some particular subject, he could not quiet it
at once by going to bed, and it went on--in spite of himself--to a state
of great cerebral excitement, during which production was rapid and
felicitous--therefore tempting; but it was paid for too dearly by the
nervous exhaustion surely following it. It was a great sacrifice on his
part, because he liked nothing better than to wait till every one had
retired and the house was all quiet and silent, to sit down to his desk
under the lamp, and write undisturbed--and without fear of
disturbance--till dawn put out the stars.
He now changed his rules, and devoted the evenings to reading.
Studies of Animals.--A Strange Visitor.--Illness at Amiens.--
Resignation of post on the "Saturday Review."--Nervous seizure in
railway train.--Mrs. Craik.--Publication of "Etching and Etchers."--
Tennyson.--Growing reputation in America.
In the course of the years 1865-67 Mr. Hamerton had made the
acquaintance of several leading French artists,--Dore, Corot, Daubigny,
Courbet, Landelle, Lalanne, Rajon, Brunet-Debaines, Flameng, Jacquemart,
etc. The etchers he frequently met at Cadart's, where they came to see
proofs of their etchings; the painters he went to see for the
preparation of his "Contemporary French Painters" and "Painting in
France." Together with these works he had begun his first novel,
"Wenderholme," and had been contemplating for some time the possibility
of lecturing on aesthetics. I was adverse to this last plan on account
of his nervous state, which did not seem to allow so great an excitement
as that of appearing in public at stated times; I persuaded him at least
to delay the realization of the project till he had quite recovered his
health, despite the invitations he had received both from England and
America. He continued to paint from nature, with the intention of
resigning his post on the "Saturday Review" in case of success, but now
devoted more of his time to the study of animals, principally oxen, as
he liked to have models at hand without leaving home.
Desiring to be thoroughly acquainted with the anatomy of the ox, he
bought one which had died at the farm, and had it boiled in parts till
the flesh was separated from the bones, which were then exposed to dry
in the sunshine. When thoroughly dried they were kept in the garret, and
successively taken to the studio to serve for a series of drawings, of
which I still possess several. As we had a goat, and sometimes kids, he
also made numerous sketches from them, as well as from ducks, sheep and
lambs, hens and chickens. There was also a Waterloo veteran who came
weekly as a model, and who was painted in a monk's dress, which my
husband used afterwards, and for a long time, as a dressing-gown.
This habit of sketching animals whenever he had a chance gave rise to
some amusing incidents before our peasant neighbors knew that he
"painted portraits of dumb beasts, as well as of Christians." Some
farmers' wives, alarmed at the sight of odd pennies in the pockets of
their offspring, accused them of pilfering, but on being told that the
"gros sous" had been given them by "le pere anglais," came to our house
to ascertain how and why; for, unlike the people of the South, they
would not have tolerated begging. They were quieted by the assurance
that the money had been honestly earned by the children for holding
their goat or donkey whilst its portrait was taken; nay, they even felt
a little proud that an animal of theirs should have been thought worthy
of such an honor.
Etching in all its forms was pursued at the same time with lithography
and photography; even a new kind of transparent etching ground was
invented by Mr. Hamerton, which made it possible for etchers to see the
work already done upon a plate after having it grounded again for
correction or additional work.
A strange incident occurred during this winter. My husband's rising
reputation had, it appears, given to many people a desire for his
personal acquaintance, or for intercourse by correspondence. The first
desire brought him many unexpected visitors, the second quite an
appreciable increase of work, as he hardly ever left a letter
unanswered. To give the reader an instance of the extraordinary notions
entertained by some people, I shall relate the true history of one
visitor amongst others. Some letters at short intervals, from England,
signed--let us say--Beamish, mentioned a mysterious project which could
not possibly be explained otherwise than by word of mouth, and which
might be both profitable and agreeable to Mr. Hamerton, if realized. He
was asked to call upon the correspondent for an explanation if he should
happen to go to London soon; if not, Mr. Beamish begged leave to come
over and see him. Of course the leave was given, and the gentleman
having written that on such a day he would be at such an hotel in Autun,
Gilbert went to fetch him in the pony-carriage--for Dort-debout had
tired out our patience, and had been replaced by a beautiful and
energetic little pony called Cocote.
When we met Mr. Beamish, we found him a most prepossessing young man, of
elegant manners and refined speech; in short, a gentleman. He begged me
to allow his portmanteau to be placed in the carriage; and as I observed
that he was not expected to dress for our family dinner, he answered
that it only contained papers that he should want.
Two other friends, understanding English, joined us at dinner. The
conversation was animated, but Mr. Beamish never hinted at the
mysterious project. In the evening, engravings and etchings were shown
to our guest, but failed to excite his interest, for he soon fell asleep
on the sofa, and let our friends go without awaking. Unwilling to
disturb him, we remained till nearly one o'clock, when I decided to
retire, whatever happened afterwards; and I was so tired that after
going to bed I never awoke till morning, when I asked my husband at what
time Mr. Beamish had gone. "Gone," he answered; "why, I don't know that
he has gone at all, for I left him after three, just where he was." I
hardly dared peep into the drawing-room; however, it was empty; but when
the breakfast-bell was rung, Mr. Beamish came in unconcernedly to have
his share of the simple meal, during which he talked pleasantly and
intelligently of his experiences in India, where he had spent the
greater part of eighteen years. Nothing was said of the project, and
after vainly waiting for some mention of it, my husband returned to his
study, after letting Mr. Beamish know that he was not to be disturbed
till eleven o'clock, for it was the time of his morning work. "Very
well," answered our guest; "meanwhile I shall put my books and papers in
order." At the same time he requested me to send rather a large table
into the room where he had slept (it was the room in which his
portmanteau had been put), and to tell the servants to be careful not to
interfere in any way with what he would leave upon it, not even to dust,
_so long as he remained with us_. I then believed that Gilbert had
invited him to stay some time, but I was undeceived in the course of the
day, and told that the mysterious project had been unfolded at last, and
was a proposition that he should undertake a journey to Palestine in the
company of Mr. Beamish, to join Holman Hunt, who was painting studies in
the Holy Land. "But what made you think I was ready to undertake such a
pilgrimage?" Mr. Hamerton had asked in great astonishment. "Because I
read that you liked camping out," was the reply; "and thought also that,
being an artist, you would be glad to meet with Holman Hunt, who, like
you in the Highlands, works directly from nature. I thought, moreover,
that, as I intend to go myself, you would be agreeable and profitable
Although my husband had declined to give the slightest consideration to
this plan, Mr. Beamish still remained, and vaguely hinted that a still
more mysterious project detained him at Autun.
He went on foot, alone, to the college, on three successive afternoons,
begged to see our boys, and tipped them so generously that the principal
thought it his duty to ask their father whether he had authorized these
visits--clearly implying that he doubted the soundness of the visitor's
We had learned in the course of conversation that our guest was of a
benevolent and charitable disposition, and that he had spent much money
in India in founding hospital-beds for poor women, whose sufferings he
warmly compassionated. He was also full of sympathy for the Indian
people, and spoke of their wrongs not without a certain degree of
excitement, but still in a manner to arouse our interest. Altogether,
although he was a self-imposed guest, we had already learned to like
him, and were unwilling to remind him, with ever so little rudeness,
that he was in the way. My husband said that his conduct might be
explained by the fact that he had lived so long in India, where the
dwellings of Europeans are often at great distances from each other, and
where a visitor is always made at home and welcome; that Mr. Beamish was
only acting as he had been accustomed to do for the greater part of his
life, for he was still a young man of about thirty-six.
After about a week's stay, he began to talk of leaving us within a short
time, but did not say when--that would depend on _certain_
circumstances. However, on a bitterly cold evening, with the snow deep
on the ground, he requested to be driven to Autun, and took a friendly
leave of us all without explanation. But the principal of the college
related the following strange story to Mr. Hamerton:--
"Your friend, Mr. Beamish, whom I had met at your house, came here under
pretext of seeing your sons, but called upon me, and asked point-blank
if I would give him my help in a charitable deed of some importance.
'What is the nature of the deed?' was my first question. 'The salvation
of a soul.' 'In what form?' I did not get a direct answer, but I was
told that the idea had sprung from religious motives, and that knowing
my strong attachment to religion--though it was the Roman Catholic
religion--he hoped I should have sufficient moral courage to help him in
his deed of mercy--in fact he had resolved to reclaim a fallen woman.
Vainly did I attempt to turn him from his generous but impracticable
resolution. He threatened to act alone if I refused him the sanction of
my presence, but he hoped that the Aumonier would see his action in its
true light, and putting himself above popular suspicion, would accompany
him 'to the very den of sin to offer salvation to a lost but _repentant
sheep_.' It was useless to try to make him understand that it was
impossible for the Aumonier to risk his character, even with the hope of
doing good, and at last Mr. Beamish expressed a desire to meet him in my
presence on the morrow. Our worthy Aumonier was horrified at the idea of
the kind of sinners he would have to meet, and declined to have anything
to do with the wildly charitable scheme."
The next news was brought to Autun four days later by the woman whom
poor Mr. Beamish thought he had rescued at the cost of four hundred
francs for her liberation from debt, and about two hundred more for
decent clothing. He had taken her as far as Dijon, where he had left her
in some kind of reformatory; but after enjoying the change, and with her
purse replenished to carry her through the first difficulties of an
honest life, she hastened back to the old haunt to gibe and jeer at her
Another queer visitor was an English gentleman, past middle age, who
could never find his way back to our house, but invariably appeared at
meal-times in the dining-room of some neighbor, who had to escort him to
The opening of the Academy exhibition had come round again, and Mr.
Hamerton had to go and criticise it as usual; but after reaching Amiens,
he felt so poorly that he resolved to send his resignation to the
"Saturday Review," and to return home as quickly as he could. Here is
his letter to me:--
"HOTEL DU NORD, AMIENS. _Dimanche_.
"Bonne cherie.--Je suis arrive a Amiens samedi matin de bonne heure,
ayant l'intention de me reposer un peu a l'hotel et puis de continuer
mon voyage le tantot, mais en me levant j'ai senti que j'avais besoin
d'un repos un peu plus prolonge apres les fatigues de Paris. Le plus
ennuyeux c'est que je peux a peine manger quelque chose. Comme ce manque
d'appetit m'affaiblera inevitablement s'il continue longtemps et que
l'affaiblissement amenerait probablement un mauvais etat du systeme
nerveux, je crois que le plus sage serait de renoncer pour cette fois au
voyage en Angleterre et de revenir au Pre-Charmoy comme un faux billet
indigne de circuler. Mon intention est donc de retourner, et pour
changer je prendrai probablement la ligne de Dijon, en m'arretant un
jour a Sens pour voir Challard. [An artist who had copied some drawings
of Jean Cousin for the "Fine Arts Quarterly Review."]
"Comme je te l'ai promis, je fais ce qui me semble etre le plus sage. Je
reviendrai le plus vite que je pourrai sans hasarder ma sante.
"J'ai loue un petit bateau hier avec lequel j'ai explore la riviere
d'Amiens--la Somme--en haut de la ville. Il est impossible d'imaginer
rien de plus pittoresque. Il y a une grande quantite de petites maisons
et baraques au bord de l'eau et je vais prendre la le materiel d'une
eau-forte. J'espere que cette retraite n'est pas trop ridicule. Un bon
general, dit-on, se distingue tout autant dans la retraite que dans
l'avance; et comme par le fait il y a manque de vivres--puisque je ne
peux pas manger--il me semble que la prudence conseille ce que les
Americains appelaient 'un mouvement strategique' quand ils avaient ete
"AMIENS. _Lundi matin_.
"Comme je n'avais pas encore regagne d'appetit hier j'ai pense qu'il
serait plus sage de rester ici encore un peu et je suis alle
canoter sur la riviere.
"Mr. Cook avec une grande et charmante bonte m'a fait des remontrances:
il me dit que le ton de ma lettre l'a blesse et que mes 'menaces' lui
ont fait de la peine; qu'il n'a jamais manque de largesse envers ses
ecrivains et que l'excedent de mes depenses en livres, voyages, etc.,
sera toujours defraye par la Revue. J'ai ete reellement touche de la
maniere affectueuse dont il m'a fait ses observations auxquelles il a su
joindre des compliments, en me disant que j'avais decouvert la meilleure
facon de faire la revue des expositions et que mes articles sont
precisement ce qu'il lui faut. J'ai repondu que quant a la peine que
cela avait pu lui faire, je le regrettais sincerement, mais que les
'menaces' etaient tout simplement l'expression d'une resolution tres
decidement prise, et dans un moment ou j'etais a la fois trop malade et
trop presse pour proceder avec plus de formes.
"Comme ma promenade sur l'eau m'a fait du bien hier je vais la
"Ton mari, qui te reverra bientot."
I decided at once to go to him; my mother, who had come to stay with me
during his absence, approved my resolution, and undertook the management
of the house and the care of the children: so without asking for his
leave, I wrote that I was on my way to Amiens.
His joy was great when he saw me, and his progress towards recovery was
so rapid that he abandoned the idea of retracing his steps, and
encouraged by my presence, thought he could accomplish the journey to
London without danger. It was of great importance that he should keep
his post on the "Saturday Review," because it was his only _regular_
income, everything else being uncertain; and we knew that if he could
undertake the work again it would be readily entrusted to him.
We only stayed two days at Amiens, and as my husband was never seasick
or nervous on the sea, everything went on satisfactorily so far; but as
soon as we had left Dover for London, I perceived signs of uneasiness in
his behavior. He closed his eyes not to see the moving objects we
passed; he uncovered his head, which seemed burning by the flushed face;
he chafed his cold, bloodless hands, and shuffled his feet to bring back
circulation. For a long time he attempted to hide these alarming
symptoms from me, but I had detected them from the beginning; his eyes
had a far-reaching look and unusual steely brilliancy; the expression of
his countenance was hard-set, rigid, almost defiant, as if ready to
overthrow any obstacle in his way; and indeed it was the case, for
unable to control himself any longer, he got up and told me hoarsely
that he was going to jump out of the train. I took hold of his hands,
and said I would follow; only I entreated him to wait a short time, as
we were so near a station. I placed myself quite close to the door of
the railway carriage, and stood between it and him. Happily we _were_
near a station, else I don't know what might have happened; he rushed
out of carriage and station into the fields, whilst I followed like one
dazed and almost heart-broken. After half-an-hour he lessened his pace,
and turned to me to say, "I think it is going." I could not speak for
fear of bursting into tears, but I pressed his hand in mine and held it
as we continued our miserable way across the fields. We walked perhaps
two hours, at the end of which Gilbert said tenderly, in his usual
voice: "You must be terribly tired, my poor darling; I think I could
bear to rest now; we may try to sit down." We sat down upon a fallen
tree, and after some minutes he told me that if I could get him a glass
of beer somewhere it would bring him round. I went in search of an inn
and discovered a closed one, for it was Sunday and the time of afternoon
service. Nevertheless I knocked so perseveringly that a woman came
forth, incensed by my pertinacity, and peremptorily refused with
indignation any kind of drink: to obtain a bottle of beer I had to take
an oath that it was for a patient.
The glass of ale at once calmed and revived my husband, and when the
bottle had been emptied--in the course of an hour or so--he was himself
again and felt hungry.
We did not know the place,--it was Adisham; we had no luggage, and as to
resuming our journey it was out of the question, for some time at least.
So I went again to the inn, and asked the woman if she could give us a
room. "No, there was not one ready; and then it was so suspicious,
people coming like that through the fields and without luggage." I
offered to pay in advance. "But we might be runaways." My husband had
his passport, and I explained that he had been taken ill suddenly, and
that our luggage could be sent to us from London. "If the gentleman were
to die here it would be a great trouble." I had to assure her that it
was not dangerous, and that rest only was required. At last she
consented to show me into a very clean, freshly-papered room,
deprecating volubly the absence of curtains and bedstead in such an
emergency, but promising to put them up shortly if we remained some
The bedding was laid upon the carpet; the mattresses had just undergone
a thorough cleaning, and the sheets and counterpane smelt sweet. When
night came we were thankful to rest our tired limbs even on the floor,
and to hope that sleep would bury in oblivion the anguish of the day, at
least for a while.
Oh, the weary, weary time spent there, without work, without books, and
with but little hope of better days. How should we get out of it, and
when?... It was now clear that these terrible attacks were due to
railway travelling. Then how should we ever get home again?...
Our luggage had been telegraphed for and returned, and the appearance of
the trunks had evidently inspired some confidence in our landlady.
Materially we were comfortable enough: a clean bedroom, a quiet, rather
large sitting-room (it was the usual public dining-room, but it being
early in the season, there were no boarders besides ourselves); and the
cookery, though simple and unvaried, was good of its kind,--alternately
ham and eggs, beef-steak and chops with boiled potatoes, rice pudding,
or gooseberry tart.
Morning after morning my husband wondered if he would feel equal to
resuming the journey; but the necessary self-reliance was found wanting
still. We walked out slowly and aimlessly, and we chose for our long
walks the most solitary lanes. Gilbert felt that the air, impregnated by
sea-salt, was gradually invigorating him, and after three weeks of this
melancholy existence made up his mind to order a carriage to take us as
far as Canterbury. The long drive and change did him good, and he was
well enough to take me to the Cathedral, and show me the town, where we
lingered two days, and then took another carriage for Croydon. At that
stage my husband told me that we were not far from Beckenham, and
proposed that we should call upon Mr. and Mrs. Craik on the following
day. I shall never forget the kindness of the reception nor the sympathy
of our hostess. I was surprised to see my husband enjoying conversation
and society so much, because when he was unwell he shrank from meeting
with any one, and required complete solitude; he only wished to feel
that I was near him, without fretting and in silence. But the charming
simplicity of the welcome in the garden, the peacefulness, not only of
the dwelling, but still more the calm and sweet aspect of the celebrated
authoress, together with her husband's friendly manner, acted soothingly
upon the nerves of their visitor. He told without reticence what had
happened, and soon changed the subject to fall into an animated and
After lunch Mrs. Craik made me walk in the garden with her, and inquired
more closely into the particulars of this strange illness; she
encouraged and comforted me greatly. She was tall, and though
white-haired, very beautiful still, I thought. As we walked she bent her
head (covered with the Highland blue bonnet) over mine, and as she
clasped my shoulders within her arm, I could see her hand laid upon my
breast, as if to soothe it; it was the loveliest hand I ever saw; the
shape so perfect, the skin so white and soft. We spoke French together;
she was interested about France, and liked talking of its people and
customs. Before we left she asked me to write to her, and offered to
render me any service I might require.
The journey to Todmorden was not to be thought of this time, and Gilbert
had begged his uncle and aunt to meet us at Kew, if they could manage
it. They answered in the affirmative, and he found lodgings for them,
not far from ours, nearly opposite to the church.
Knowing that his book must now be ready, he longed to see a copy of it,
and feeling well enough one morning, he started with me for London; but
as soon as we were in the heart of the town, its bustle, crowd, and
noise drove my husband to the comparative peace of the nearest park.
There, as usual in such cases, we had to walk till his nerves were
calmed, and then to sit down for a long time. He did not think he would
be equal to the busy streets that day, and asked me to take a cab and
see if I could bring him back a copy of his book. Reluctantly I left
him, though he assured me the attack was over; only he was afraid of
bringing it on again if he went into the street. So I was driven to Mr.
Macmillan's house of business, and immediately received by him. He was
evidently truly sorry to hear that my husband was unwell, and "Etching
and Etchers" being upon his table, he took up a copy, and with many warm
praises insisted upon placing it himself in my cab. The book was
everything that its author had desired, and taken so much pains to
ensure; he was gratified by the result, and gratefully acknowledged the
liberality of the publishers. One of the first visits paid by Mr.
Hamerton when he felt well again was to Mr. Cook, of the "Saturday
Review," who was himself out of health through overwork. He feelingly
expressed his regret that my husband could not continue to act as
regular art critic, but trusted that he would still contribute to the
"Saturday" as much as possible, and on subjects he might himself select.
Next we saw Mr. Seymour Haden, and I begged him to try and discover what
was the nature of my husband's ailment.
It was no easy matter, as the patient refused to submit to examination
and to prescriptions of any kind. Mrs. Haden, who was full of sympathy
and kindness, apprised her husband of this peculiarity and he undertook
to _passer-outre_. So the next time we called by invitation, he looked
steadily at his guest for some time, and said to him deliberately: "You
are _very_ ill; it's no use denying it to me; you must give up all
work,--not in a month, or a week, or to-morrow, but to-day, instantly."
My husband flushed, so that I trembled in fear of another seizure, and
answered angrily: "I cannot give up work; I _must_ work for my family; I
shall try to work less." ... "I say you are to give up all mental labor
immediately; I shall see, later, what amount of intellectual work you
are able to bear, according to the state you will be in. You may break
stones on the road, but I forbid you to hold a pen for literary
composition; and once back home, you must renounce railway travelling as
long as it produces uncomfortable sensations." All this was said
imperatively, and although it drove my husband almost to desperation, I
thanked Mr. Haden in my heart for his courageous and timely
interference, and Gilbert did the same after recovering from the shock.
This time he did not feel either so sad or so despondent as formerly,
when he had suffered alone; he knew now for certain that the causes of
his trouble were overwork and railway travelling, and he took the
resolution of avoiding both dangers as much as possible. Whenever he
felt nervous we remained quietly at Kew, reading or sketching or walking
in solitary places with his uncle and aunt, and when he thought himself
well enough we went to London by boat or omnibus, to the British Museum,
the National Gallery, or South Kensington Museum, and to the public or
private art exhibitions. We also paid calls, and on one of these
occasions I was introduced to George Eliot and to Mr. Lewes; the latter
sat by us on a sofa outside of the inner circle (the room was full), and
talked with wonderful vivacity and great discrimination of the state of
French literature. He judged of it like a Frenchman; his conversation
was extremely interesting and suggestive, and he appeared to derive
great pleasure from a rapid exchange of thoughts. Undeniably he was very
plain, when you had time to think of it, but it was with him as with the
celebrated advocate, M. Cremieux,--so much caricatured,--neither of
them seemed at all plain to me as soon as they spoke; both had
expressive eyes and countenance, and the interest awakened by the
varying expression of the features did not allow one to think of their
want of symmetry and shape.
The person who sat next to George Eliot seemed determined to monopolize
her attention; but as a new-comer was announced she came forward to meet
him, and kindly taking me by the hand, made me sit in the chair she had
herself occupied, and motioned to my husband to come also. He remained
standing inside the circle, whilst the Monopolizer had, at once, to
yield his seat to the mistress of the house, as well as a share of her
conversation to others than himself.
I immediately recognized the description given of her by my husband; her
face expressed at the same time great mental power and a sort of
melancholy human sympathy; her voice was full-toned, though low, and
wonderfully modulated. We were frequently interrupted by people just
coming in, and with each and all she exchanged a few phrases appropriate
to the position, pursuit, or character of her interlocutor, immediately
to revert to the subject of our conversation with the utmost apparent
ease and pleasure.
Mr. Lewes offered tea himself, because the worshippers surrounded the
Idol so closely that they kept her a prisoner within a double circle,
and they were so eager for a few words from her lips that as soon as she
moved a step or two they crowded about her in a way to make me think
that, in a small way and in her own drawing-room, she was mobbed like a
queen at some public ceremony.
The next time we called upon George Eliot she had heard of our meeting
with Mr. Tennyson, and said,--
"So you have seen the great man--and did he talk?"
"Talk?" answered my husband; "he talked the whole time, and was in high
"Then you were most fortunate."
We understood what was implied, for Mr. Tennyson had the reputation of
not being always gracious. However, we had learned from himself that
nothing short of rudeness could keep his intrusive admirers at a
distance, so as to allow him some privacy. He told us of a man who so
dogged his steps that he was afraid of going out of his own garden
gates, for even in front of those locked gates the man would stand and
pry for hours together, till the poet's son was sent to him with a
request that he would go elsewhere.
In the case of his meeting with Mr. Hamerton it was totally different,
for he had himself expressed a wish for it to Mr. Woolner. Of course my
husband was greatly flattered when he heard of it, and readily accepted
an invitation to lunch with Mr. Woolner's family, and to meet the poet
whom he so much admired. I sat by Mr. Tennyson, and endeavored to
suppress any outward sign of the interest and admiration so distasteful
to him. Nevertheless, I was greatly impressed by the dignity of his
simple manners and by the inscrutable expression of the eyes, so keen
and yet so calm, so profound yet so serene. His was a fine and noble
face, even in merriment, and he was very merry on that day, for the
string of humorous anecdotes he told kept us all laughing, himself
included. I am sorry now not to remember them, the more so as they
generally concerned himself. Several were connected with his title of
"Lord of the Manor," but the only one I can remember in its entirety is
the following, because he was addressing himself to me--a
Frenchwoman--the scene of the story being the Hotel du Louvre, in Paris.
Mr. Tennyson began by remarking that there were a good many stories
current about him; some of them were true, but most of them apocryphal.
"And is the one you are going to relate true?" I asked.
He smiled, and answered:--