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Yesterdays with Authors by James T. Fields

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how we turned away from the door and went into the playground, where we
bowled on the green turf, until the tall maid in her spotless cap was
seen bringing the five-o'clock tea thitherward; how the dews and the
setting sun warned us at last we must prepare for dinner; and how
Dickens played longer and harder than any one of the company, scorning
the idea of going in to tea at that hour, and beating his ball instead,
quite the youngest of the company up to the last moment!--all this
returns with vivid distinctness as I write these inadequate words.

Many days and weeks passed over after those June days were ended before
we were to see Dickens again. Our meeting then was at the station in
London, on our way to Gad's Hill once more. He was always early at a
railway station, he said, if only to save himself the unnecessary and
wasteful excitement hurry commonly produces; and so he came to meet us
with a cheery manner, as if care were shut up in some desk or closet he
had left behind, and he were ready to make the day a gay one, whatever
the sun might say to it. A small roll of manuscript in his hand led him
soon to confess that a new story was already begun; but this
communication was made in the utmost confidence, as if to account for
any otherwise unexplainable absences, physically or mentally, from our
society, which might occur. But there were no gaps during that autumn
afternoon of return to Gad's Hill. He told us how summer had brought him
no vacation this year, and only two days of recreation. One of those, he
said, was spent with his family at "Rosherville Gardens," "the place,"
as a huge advertisement informed us, "to spend a happy day." His
curiosity with regard to all entertainments for the people, he said to
us, carried him thither, and he seemed to have been amused and rewarded
by his visit. The previous Sunday had found him in London; he was
anxious to reach Gad's Hill before the afternoon, but in order to
accomplish this he must walk nine miles to a way station, which he did.
Coming to the little village, he inquired where the station was, and,
being shown in the wrong direction, walked calmly down a narrow road
which did not lead there at all. "On I went," he said, "in the perfect
sunshine, over yellow leaves, without even a wandering breeze to break
the silence, when suddenly I came upon three or four antique wooden
houses standing under trees on the borders of a lovely stream, and, a
little farther, upon an ancient doorway to a grand hall, perhaps the
home of some bishop of the olden time. The road came to an end there,
and I was obliged to retrace my steps; but anything more entirely
peaceful and beautiful in its aspect on that autumnal day than this
retreat, forgotten by the world, I almost never saw." He was eager, too,
to describe for our entertainment one of the yearly cricket-matches
among the villagers at Gad's Hill which had just come off. Some of the
toasts at the supper afterward were as old as the time of Queen Anne.
For instance,--

"More pigs,
Fewer parsons";

delivered with all seriousness; a later one was, "May the walls of old
England never be covered with French polish!"

Once more we recall a morning at Gad's Hill, a soft white haze over
everything, and the yellow sun burning through. The birds were singing,
and beauty and calm pervaded the whole scene. We strayed through Cobham
Park and saw the lovely vistas through the autumnal haze; once more we
reclined in the cool chalet in the afternoon, and watched the vessels
going and coming upon the ever-moving river. Suddenly all has vanished;
and now, neither spring nor autumn, nor flowers nor birds, nor dawn nor
sunset, nor the ever-moving river, can be the same to any of us again.
We have all drifted down upon the river of Time, and one has already
sailed out into the illimitable ocean.

* * * * *

On a pleasant Sunday morning in October, 1869, as I sat looking out on
the beautiful landscape from my chamber window at Gad's Hill, a servant
tapped at my door and gave me a summons from Dickens, written in his
drollest manner on a sheet of paper, bidding me descend into his study
on business of great importance. That day I heard from the author's lips
the first chapters of "Edwin Drood" the concluding lines of which
initial pages were then scarcely dry from the pen. The story is
unfinished, and he who read that autumn morning with such vigor of voice
and dramatic power is in his grave. This private reading took place in
the little room where the great novelist for many years had been
accustomed to write, and in the house where on a pleasant evening in the
following June he died. The spot is one of the loveliest in Kent, and
must always be remembered as the last residence of Charles Dickens. He
used to declare his firm belief that Shakespeare was specially fond of
Kent, and that the poet chose Gad's Hill and Rochester for the scenery
of his plays from intimate personal knowledge of their localities. He
said he had no manner of doubt but that one of Shakespeare's haunts was
the old inn at Rochester, and that this conviction came forcibly upon
him one night as he was walking that way, and discovered Charles's Wain
over the chimney just as Shakespeare has described it, in words put into
the mouth of the carrier in King Henry IV. There is no prettier place
than Gad's Hill in all England for the earliest and latest flowers, and
Dickens chose it, when he had arrived at the fulness of his fame and
prosperity, as the home in which he most wished to spend the remainder
of his days. When a boy, he would often pass the house with his father
and frequently said to him, "If ever I have a dwelling of my own, Gad's
Hill Place is the house I mean to buy." In that beautiful retreat he had
for many years been accustomed to welcome his friends, and find
relaxation from the crowded life of London. On the lawn playing at
bowls, in the Swiss summer-house charmingly shaded by green leaves, he
always seemed the best part of summer, beautiful as the season is in the
delightful region where he lived.

There he could be most thoroughly enjoyed, for he never seemed so
cheerfully at home anywhere else. At his own table, surrounded by his
family, and a few guests, old acquaintances from town,--among them
sometimes Forster, Carlyle, Reade, Collins, Layard, Maclise, Stone,
Macready, Talfourd,--he was always the choicest and liveliest companion.
He was not what is called in society a professed talker, but he was
something far better and rarer.

In his own inimitable manner he would frequently relate to me, if
prompted, stories of his youthful days, when he was toiling on the
London Morning Chronicle, passing sleepless hours as a reporter on the
road in a post-chaise, driving day and night from point to point to take
down the speeches of Shiel or O'Connell. He liked to describe the
post-boys, who were accustomed to hurry him over the road that he might
reach London in advance of his rival reporters, while, by the aid of a
lantern, he was writing out for the press, as he flew over the ground,
the words he had taken down in short-hand. Those were his days of severe
training, when in rain and sleet and cold he dashed along, scarcely able
to keep the blinding mud out of his tired eyes; and he imputed much of
his ability for steady hard work to his practice as a reporter, kept at
his grinding business, and determined if possible to earn seven guineas
a week. A large sheet was started at this period of his life, in which
all the important speeches of Parliament were to be reported _verbatim_
for future reference. Dickens was engaged on this gigantic journal. Mr.
Stanley (afterwards Lord Derby) had spoken at great length on the
condition of Ireland. It was a long and eloquent speech, occupying many
hours in the delivery. Eight reporters were sent in to do the work. Each
one was required to report three quarters of an hour, then to retire,
write out his portion, and to be succeeded by the next. Young Dickens
was detailed to lead off with the first part. It also fell to his lot,
when the time came round, to report the closing portions of the speech.
On Saturday the whole was given to the press, and Dickens ran down to
the country for a Sunday's rest. Sunday morning had scarcely dawned,
when his father, who was a man of immense energy, made his appearance in
his son's sleeping-room. Mr. Stanley was so dissatisfied with what he
found in print, except the beginning and ending of his speech (just what
Dickens had reported) that he sent immediately to the office and
obtained the sheets of those parts of the report. He there found the
name of the reporter, which, according to custom, was written on the
margin. Then he requested that the young man bearing the name of Dickens
should be immediately sent for. Dickens's father, all aglow with the
prospect of probable promotion in the office, went immediately to his
son's stopping-place in the country and brought him back to London. In
telling the story, Dickens said: "I remember perfectly to this day the
aspect of the room I was shown into, and the two persons in it, Mr.
Stanley and his father. Both gentlemen were extremely courteous to me,
but I noted their evident surprise at the appearance of so young a man.
While we spoke together, I had taken a seat extended to me in the middle
of the room. Mr. Stanley told me he wished to go over the whole speech
and have it written out by me, and if I were ready he would begin now.
Where would I like to sit? I told him I was very well where I was, and
we could begin immediately. He tried to induce me to sit at a desk, but
at that time in the House of Commons there was nothing but one's knees
to write upon, and I had formed the habit of doing my work in that way.
Without further pause he began and went rapidly on, hour after hour, to
the end, often becoming very much excited and frequently bringing down
his hand with great violence upon the desk near which he stood."

I have before me, as I write, an unpublished autograph letter of young
Dickens, which he sent off to his employer in November, 1835, while he
was on a reporting expedition for the Morning Chronicle. At that early
stage of his career he seems to have had that unfailing accuracy of
statement so marked in after years when he became famous. The letter was
given to me several years ago by one of Dickens's brother reporters.
Thus it runs:--

George And Pelican, Newbury, Sunday Morning.

Dear Fraser: In conjunction with The Herald we have arranged for a
Horse Express from Marlborough to London on Tuesday night, to go the
whole distance at the rate of thirteen miles an hour, for six
guineas: half has been paid, but, to insure despatch, the remainder
is withheld until the boy arrives at the office, when he will
produce a paper with a copy of the agreement on one side, and an
order for three guineas (signed by myself) on the other. Will you
take care that it is duly honored? A Boy from The Herald will be in
waiting at our office for their copy; and Lyons begs me to remind
you most strongly that it is an indispensable part of our agreement
_that he should not be detained one instant_.

We go to Bristol to-day, and if we are equally fortunate in laying
the chaise-horses, I hope the packet will reach town by seven. As
all the papers have arranged to leave Bristol the moment Russell is
down, we have determined on adopting the same plan,--one of us will
go to Marlborough in the chaise with one Herald man, and the other
remain at Bristol with the second Herald man to conclude the account
for the next day. The Times has ordered a chaise and four the whole
distance, so there is every probability of our beating them hollow.
From all we hear, we think the Herald, relying on the packet
reaching town early, intends publishing the report in their first
Edition. This is however, of course, mere speculation on our parts,
as we have no direct means of ascertaining their intention.

I think I have now given you all needful information. I have only in
conclusion to impress upon you the necessity of having all the
compositors ready, at a very early hour, for if Russell be down by
half past eight, we hope to have his speech in town at six.

Believe me (for self and Beard) very truly yours,

Charles Dickens.

Nov., 1835.

Thomas Fraser, Esq., Morning Chronicle Office.

No writer ever lived whose method was more exact, whose industry was
more constant, and whose punctuality was more marked, than those of
Charles Dickens. He never shirked labor, mental or bodily. He rarely
declined, if the object were a good one, taking the chair at a public
meeting, or accepting a charitable trust. Many widows and orphans of
deceased literary men have for years been benefited by his wise
trusteeship or counsel, and he spent a great portion of his time
personally looking after the property of the poor whose interests were
under his control. He was, as has been intimated, one of the most
industrious of men, and marvellous stories are told (not by himself) of
what he has accomplished in a given time in literary and social matters.
His studies were all from nature and life, and his habits of observation
were untiring. If he contemplated writing "Hard Times," he arranged with
the master of Astley's circus to spend many hours behind the scenes with
the riders and among the horses; and if the composition of the "Tale of
Two Cities" were occupying his thoughts, he could banish himself to
France for two years to prepare for that great work. Hogarth pencilled
on his thumb-nail a striking face in a crowd that he wished to preserve;
Dickens with his transcendent memory chronicled in his mind whatever of
interest met his eye or reached his ear, any time or anywhere. Speaking
of memory one day, he said the memory of children was prodigious; it was
a mistake to fancy children ever forgot anything. When he was
delineating the character of Mrs. Pipchin, he had in his mind an old
lodging-house keeper in an English watering-place where he was living
with his father and mother when he was but two years old. After the book
was written he sent it to his sister, who wrote back at once: "Good
heavens! what does this mean? you have painted our lodging-house keeper,
and you were but two years old at that time!" Characters and incidents
crowded the chambers of his brain, all ready for use when occasion
required. No subject of human interest was ever indifferent to him, and
never a day went by that did not afford him some suggestion to be
utilized in the future.

His favorite mode of exercise was walking; and when in America, scarcely
a day passed, no matter what the weather, that he did not accomplish his
eight or ten miles. It was on these expeditions that he liked to recount
to the companion of his rambles stories and incidents of his early life;
and when he was in the mood, his fun and humor knew no bounds. He would
then frequently discuss the numerous characters in his delightful books,
and would act out, on the road, dramatic situations, where Nickleby or
Copperfield or Swiveller would play distinguished parts. I remember he
said, on one of these occasions, that during the composition of his
first stories he could never entirely dismiss the characters about whom
he happened to be writing; that while the "Old Curiosity Shop" was in
process of composition Little Nell followed him about everywhere; that
while he was writing "Oliver Twist" Fagin the Jew would never let him
rest, even in his most retired moments; that at midnight and in the
morning, on the sea and on the land, Tiny Tim and Little Bob Cratchit
were ever tugging at his coat-sleeve, as if impatient for him to get
back to his desk and continue the story of their lives. But he said
after he had published several books, and saw what serious demands his
characters were accustomed to make for the constant attention of his
already overtasked brain, he resolved that the phantom individuals
should no longer intrude on his hours of recreation and rest, but that
when he closed the door of his study he would shut them all in, and only
meet them again when he came back to resume his task. That force of will
with which he was so pre-eminently endowed enabled him to ignore these
manifold existences till he chose to renew their acquaintance. He said,
also, that when the children of his brain had once been launched, free
and clear of him, into the world, they would sometimes turn up in the
most unexpected manner to look their father in the face.

Sometimes he would pull my arm while we were walking together and
whisper, "Let us avoid Mr. Pumblechook, who is crossing the street to
meet us"; or, "Mr. Micawber is coming; let us turn down this alley to
get out of his way." He always seemed to enjoy the fun of his comic
people, and had unceasing mirth over Mr. Pickwick's misadventures. In
answer one day to a question, prompted by psychological curiosity, if he
ever dreamed of any of his characters, his reply was, "Never; and I am
convinced that no writer (judging from my own experience, which cannot
be altogether singular, but must be a type of the experience of others)
has ever dreamed of the creatures of his own imagination. It would," he
went on to say, "be like a man's dreaming of meeting himself, which is
clearly an impossibility. Things exterior to one's self must always be
the basis of dreams." The growing up of characters in his mind never
lost for him a sense of the marvellous. "What an unfathomable mystery
there is in it all!" he said one day. Taking up a wineglass, he
continued: "Suppose I choose to call this a _character_, fancy it a man,
endue it with certain qualities; and soon the fine filmy webs of
thought, almost impalpable, coming from every direction, we know not
whence, spin and weave about it, until it assumes form and beauty, and
becomes instinct with life."

In society Dickens rarely referred to the traits and characteristics of
people he had known; but during a long walk in the country he delighted
to recall and describe the peculiarities, eccentric and otherwise, of
dead and gone as well as living friends. Then Sydney Smith and Jeffrey
and Christopher North and Talfourd and Hood and Rogers seemed to live
over again in his vivid reproductions, made so impressive by his
marvellous memory and imagination. As he walked rapidly along the road,
he appeared to enjoy the keen zest of his companion in the numerous
impersonations with which he was indulging him.

He always had much to say of animals as well as of men, and there were
certain dogs and horses he had met and known intimately which it was
specially interesting to him to remember and picture. There was a
particular dog in Washington which he was never tired of delineating.
The first night Dickens read in the Capital this dog attracted his
attention. "He came into the hall by himself," said he, "got a good
place before the reading began, and paid strict attention throughout. He
came the second night, and was ignominiously shown out by one of the
check-takers. On the third night he appeared again with another dog,
which he had evidently promised to pass in free; but you see," continued
Dickens, "upon the imposition being unmasked, the other dog apologized
by a howl and withdrew. His intentions, no doubt, were of the best, but
he afterwards rose to explain outside, with such inconvenient eloquence
to the reader and his audience, that they were obliged to put him down

He was such a firm believer in the mental faculties of animals, that it
would have gone hard with a companion with whom he was talking, if a
doubt were thrown, however inadvertently, on the mental intelligence of
any four-footed friend that chanced to be at the time the subject of
conversation. All animals which he took under his especial patronage
seemed to have a marked affection for him. Quite a colony of dogs has
always been a feature at Gad's Hill.

In many walks and talks with Dickens, his conversation, now, alas! so
imperfectly recalled, frequently ran on the habits of birds, the raven,
of course, interesting him particularly. He always liked to have a raven
hopping about his grounds, and whoever has read the new Preface to
"Barnaby Rudge" must remember several of his old friends in that line.
He had quite a fund of canary-bird anecdotes, and the pert ways of birds
that picked up worms for a living afforded him infinite amusement. He
would give a capital imitation of the way a robin-redbreast cocks his
head on one side preliminary to a dash forward in the direction of a
wriggling victim. There is a small grave at Gad's Hill to which Dickens
would occasionally take a friend, and it was quite a privilege to stand
with him beside the burial-place of little Dick, the family's favorite

What a treat it was to go with him to the London Zooelogical Gardens, a
place he greatly delighted in at all times! He knew the zooelogical
address of every animal, bird, and fish of any distinction; and he
could, without the slightest hesitation, on entering the grounds,
proceed straightway to the celebrities of claw or foot or fin. The
delight he took in the hippopotamus family was most exhilarating. He
entered familiarly into conversation with the huge, unwieldy creatures,
and they seemed to understand him. Indeed, he spoke to all the
unphilological inhabitants with a directness and tact which went home to
them at once. He chaffed with the monkeys, coaxed the tigers, and
bamboozled the snakes, with a dexterity unapproachable. All the keepers
knew him, he was such a loyal visitor, and I noticed they came up to him
in a friendly way, with the feeling that they had a sympathetic listener
always in Charles Dickens.

There were certain books of which Dickens liked to talk during his walks
Among his especial favorites were the writings of Cobbett, DeQuincey,
the Lectures on Moral Philosophy by Sydney Smith, and Carlyle's French
Revolution. Of this latter Dickens said it was the book of all others
which he read perpetually and of which he never tired,--the book which
always appeared more imaginative in proportion to the fresh imagination
he brought to it, a book for inexhaustibleness to be placed before every
other book. When writing the "Tale of Two Cities," he asked Carlyle if
he might see one of the works to which he referred in his history;
whereupon Carlyle packed up and sent down to Gad's Hill _all_ his
reference volumes, and Dickens read them faithfully. But the more he
read the more he was astonished to find how the facts had passed through
the alembic of Carlyle's brain and had come out and fitted themselves,
each as a part of one great whole, making a compact result,
indestructible and unrivalled; and he always found himself turning away
from the books of reference, and re-reading with increased wonder this
marvellous new growth. There were certain books particularly hateful to
him, and of which he never spoke except in terms of most ludicrous
raillery. Mr. Barlow, in "Sandford and Merton," he said was the favorite
enemy of his boyhood and his first experience of a bore. He had an
almost supernatural hatred for Barlow, "because he was so very
_instructive_, and always hinting doubts with regard to the veracity of
'Sindbad the Sailor,' and had no belief whatever in 'The Wonderful Lamp'
or 'The Enchanted Horse.'" Dickens rattling his mental cane over the
head of Mr. Barlow was as much better than any play as can be well
imagined. He gloried in many of Hood's poems, especially in that biting
Ode to Rae Wilson, and he would gesticulate with a fine fervor the

"...the hypocrites who ope Heaven's door
Obsequious to the sinful man of riches,--
But put the wicked, naked, bare-legged poor
In parish _stocks_ instead of _breeches_."

One of his favorite books was Pepys's Diary, the curious discovery of
the key to which, and the odd characteristics of its writer, were a
never-failing source of interest and amusement to him. The vision of
Pepys hanging round the door of the theatre, hoping for an invitation to
go in, not being able to keep away in spite of a promise he had made to
himself that he would spend no more money foolishly, delighted him.
Speaking one day of Gray, the author of the Elegy, he said: "No poet
ever came walking down to posterity with so _small_ a book under his
arm." He preferred Smollett to Fielding, putting "Peregrine Pickle"
above "Tom Jones." Of the best novels by his contemporaries he always
spoke with warm commendation, and "Griffith Gaunt" he thought a
production of very high merit. He was "hospitable to the thought" of all
writers who were really in earnest, but at the first exhibition of
floundering or inexactness he became an unbeliever. People with
dislocated understandings he had no tolerance for.

He was passionately fond of the theatre, loved the lights and music and
flowers, and the happy faces of the audience; he was accustomed to say
that his love of the theatre never failed, and, no matter how dull the
play, he was always careful while he sat in the box to make no sound
which could hurt the feelings of the actors, or show any lack of
attention. His genuine enthusiasm for Mr. Fechter's acting was most
interesting. He loved to describe seeing him first, quite by accident,
in Paris, having strolled into a little theatre there one night. "He was
making love to a woman," Dickens said, "and he so elevated her as well
as himself by the sentiment in which he enveloped her, that they trod in
a purer ether, and in another sphere, quite lifted out of the present.
'By heavens!' I said to myself, 'a man who can do this can do
anything.' I never saw two people more purely and instantly elevated by
the power of love. The manner, also," he continued, "in which he presses
the hem of the dress of Lucy in the Bride of Lammermoor is something
wonderful. The man has genius in him which is unmistakable."

Life behind the scenes was always a fascinating study to Dickens. "One
of the oddest sights a green-room can present," he said one day, "is
when they are collecting children for a pantomime. For this purpose the
prompter calls together all the women in the ballet, and begins giving
out their names in order, while they press about him eager for the
chance of increasing their poor pay by the extra pittance their children
will receive. 'Mrs. Johnson, how many?' 'Two, sir.' 'What ages?' 'Seven
and ten.' 'Mrs. B., how many?' and so on, until the required number is
made up. The people who go upon the stage, however poor their pay or
hard their lot, love it too well ever to adopt another vocation of their
free-will. A mother will frequently be in the wardrobe, children in the
pantomime, elder sisters in the ballet, etc."

* * * * *

Dickens's habits as a speaker differed from those of most orators. He
gave no thought to the composition of the speech he was to make till the
day before he was to deliver it. No matter whether the effort was to be
a long or a short one, he never wrote down a word of what he was going
to say; but when the proper time arrived for him to consider his
subject, he took a walk into the country and the thing was done. When he
returned he was all ready for his task.

He liked to talk about the audiences that came to hear him read, and he
gave the palm to his Parisian one, saying it was the quickest to catch
his meaning. Although he said there were many always present in his room
in Paris who did not fully understand English, yet the French eye is so
quick to detect expression that it never failed instantly to understand
what he meant by a look or an act. "Thus, for instance," he said, "when
I was impersonating Steerforth in 'David Copperfield,' and gave that
peculiar grip of the hand to Emily's lover, the French audience burst
into cheers and rounds of applause." He said with reference to the
preparation of his readings, that it was three months' hard labor to get
up one of his own stories for public recitation, and he thought he had
greatly improved his presentation of the "Christmas Carol" while in this
country. He considered the storm scene in "David Copperfield" one of the
most effective of his readings. The character of Jack Hopkins in "Bob
Sawyer's Party" he took great delight in representing, and as Jack was a
prime favorite of mine, he brought him forward whenever the occasion
prompted. He always spoke of Hopkins as my particular friend, and he was
constantly quoting him, taking on the peculiar voice and turn of the
head which he gave Jack in the public reading.

It gave him a natural pleasure when he heard quotations from his own
books introduced without effort into conversation. He did not always
remember, when his own words were quoted, that he was himself the author
of them, and appeared astounded at the memory of others in this regard.
He said Mr. Secretary Stanton had a most extraordinary knowledge of his
books and a power of taking the text up at any point, which he supposed
to belong to only one person, and that person not himself.

It was said of Garrick that he was the _cheerfullest_ man of his age.
This can be as truly said of Charles Dickens. In his presence there was
perpetual sunshine, and gloom was banished as having no sort of
relationship with him. No man suffered more keenly or sympathized more
fully than he did with want and misery; but his motto was, "Don't stand
and cry; press forward and help remove the difficulty." The speed with
which he was accustomed to make the deed follow his yet speedier
sympathy was seen pleasantly on the day of his visit to the School-ship
in Boston Harbor. He said, previously to going on board that ship,
nothing would tempt him to make a speech, for he should always be
obliged to do it on similar occasions, if he broke through his rule so
early in his reading tour. But Judge Russell had no sooner finished his
simple talk, to which the boys listened, as they always do, with eager
faces, than Dickens rose as if he could not help it, and with a few
words so magnetized them that they wore their hearts in their eyes as if
they meant to keep the words forever. An enthusiastic critic once said
of John Ruskin, "that he could discover the Apocalypse in a daisy." As
noble a discovery may be claimed for Dickens. He found all the fair
humanities blooming in the lowliest hovel. He never _put on_ the good
Samaritan: that character was native to him. Once while in this country,
on a bitter, freezing afternoon,--night coming down in a drifting
snow-storm,--he was returning with me from a long walk in the country.
The wind and baffling sleet were so furious that the street in which we
happened to be fighting our way was quite deserted; it was almost
impossible to see across it, the air was so thick with the tempest; all
conversation between us had ceased, for it was only possible to breast
the storm by devoting our whole energies to keeping on our feet; we
seemed to be walking in a different atmosphere from any we had ever
before encountered. All at once I missed Dickens from my side. What had
become of him? Had he gone down in the drift, utterly exhausted, and was
the snow burying him out of sight? Very soon the sound of his cheery
voice was heard on the other side of the way. With great difficulty,
over the piled-up snow, I struggled across the street, and there found
him lifting up, almost by main force, a blind old man who had got
bewildered by the storm, and had fallen down unnoticed, quite unable to
proceed. Dickens, a long distance away from him, with that tender,
sensitive, and penetrating vision, ever on the alert for suffering in
any form, had rushed at once to the rescue, comprehending at a glance
the situation of the sightless man. To help him to his feet and aid him
homeward in the most natural and simple way afforded Dickens such a
pleasure as only the benevolent by intuition can understand.

Throughout his life Dickens was continually receiving tributes from
those he had benefited, either by his books or by his friendship. There
is an odd and very pretty story (vouched for here as true) connected
with the influence he so widely exerted. In the winter of 1869, soon
after he came up to London to reside for a few months, he received a
letter from a man telling him that he had begun life in the most humble
way possible, and that he considered he owed his subsequent great
success and such education as he had given himself entirely to the
encouragement and cheering influence he had derived from Dickens's
books, of which he had been a constant reader from his childhood. He had
been made a partner in his master's business, and when the head of the
house died, the other day, it was found he had left the whole of his
large property to this man. As soon as he came into possession of this
fortune, his mind turned to Dickens, whom he looked upon as his
benefactor and teacher, and his first desire was to tender him some
testimonial of gratitude and veneration. He then begged Dickens to
accept a large sum of money. Dickens declined to receive the money, but
his unknown friend sent him instead two silver table ornaments of great
intrinsic value bearing this inscription: "To Charles Dickens, from one
who has been cheered and stimulated by his writings, and held the author
amongst his first Remembrances when he became prosperous." One of these
silver ornaments was supported by three figures, representing three
seasons. In the original design there were, of course, four, but the
donor was so averse to associating the idea of Winter in any sense with
Dickens that he caused the workman to alter the design and leave only
the _cheerful_ seasons. No event in the great author's career was ever
more gratifying and pleasant to him.

His friendly notes were exquisitely turned, and are among his most
charming compositions. They abound in felicities only like himself. In
1860 he wrote to me while I was sojourning in Italy: "I should like to
have a walk through Rome with you this bright morning (for it really
_is_ bright in London), and convey you over some favorite ground of
mine. I used to go up the street of Tombs, past the tomb of Cecilia
Metella, away out upon the wild campagna, and by the old Appian Road
(easily tracked out among the ruins and primroses), to Albano. There, at
a very dirty inn, I used to have a very dirty lunch, generally with the
family's dirty linen lying in a corner, and inveigle some very dirty
Vetturino in sheep-skin to take me back to Rome."

In a little note in answer to one I had written consulting him about the
purchase of some old furniture in London he wrote: "There is a chair
(without a bottom) at a shop near the office, which I think would suit
you. It cannot stand of itself, but will almost seat somebody, if you
put it in a corner, and prop one leg up with two wedges and cut another
leg off, The proprietor asks L20, but says he admires literature and
would take L18. He is of republican principles and I think would take
L17 19_s_. 6_d_. from a cousin; shall I secure this prize? It is very
ugly and wormy, and it is related, but without proof, that on one
occasion Washington declined to sit down in it."

Here are the last two missives I ever received from his dear, kind

5 Hyde Park Place, London, W., Friday, January 14, 1870.

My Dear Fields: We live here (opposite the Marble Arch) in a
charming house until the 1st of June, and then return to Gad's. The
Conservatory is completed, and is a brilliant success;--but an
expensive one!

I read this afternoon at three,--a beastly proceeding which I
particularly hate,--and again this day week at three. These morning
readings particularly disturb me at my book-work; nevertheless I
hope, please God, to lose no way on their account. An evening
reading once a week is nothing. By the by, I recommenced last
Tuesday evening with the greatest brilliancy.

I should be quite ashamed of not having written to you and my dear
Mrs. Fields before now, if I didn't know that you will both
understand how occupied I am, and how naturally, when I put my
papers away for the day, I get up and fly. I have a large room here,
with three fine windows, overlooking the Park,--unsurpassable for
airiness and cheerfulness.

You saw the announcement of the death of poor dear Harness. The
circumstances are curious. He wrote to his old friend the Dean of
Battle saying he would come to visit him on that day (the day of his
death). The Dean wrote back: "Come next day, instead, as we are
obliged to go out to dinner, and you will be alone." Harness told
his sister a little impatiently that he _must_ go on the first-named
day,--that he had made up his mind to go, and MUST. He had been
getting himself ready for dinner, and came to a part of the
staircase whence two doors opened,--one, upon another level passage;
one, upon a flight of stone steps. He opened the wrong door, fell
down the steps, injured himself very severely, and died in a few

You will know--_I_ don't--what Fechter's success is in America at
the time of this present writing. In his farewell performances at
the Princess's he acted very finely. I thought the three first acts
of his Hamlet very much better than I had ever thought them
before,--and I always thought very highly of them. We gave him a
foaming stirrup cup at Gad's Hill. Forster (who has been ill with
his bronchitis again) thinks No. 2 of the new book (Edwin Drood) a
clincher,--I mean that word (as his own expression) for _Clincher_.
There is a curious interest steadily working up to No. 5, which
requires a great deal of art and self-denial. I think also, apart
from character and picturesqueness, that the young people are placed
in a very novel situation. So I hope--at Nos. 5 and 6 the story will
turn upon an interest suspended until the end.

I can't believe it, and don't, and won't, but they say Harry's
twenty-first birthday is next Sunday. I have entered him at the
Temple just now; and if he don't get a fellowship at Trinity Hall
when his time comes, I shall be disappointed, if in the present
disappointed state of existence.

I hope you may have met with the little touch of Radicalism I gave
them at Birmingham in the words of Buckle? With pride I observe that
it makes the regular political traders, of all sorts, perfectly mad.
Sich was my intentions, as a grateful acknowledgment of having been

I think Mrs. ----'s prose very admirable, but I don't believe it!
No, I do _not_. My conviction is that those Islanders get
frightfully bored by the Islands, and wish they had never set eyes
upon them!

Charley Collins has done a charming cover for the monthly part of
the new book. At the very earnest representations of Millais (and
after having seen a great number of his drawings) I am going to
engage with a new man; retaining, of course, C.C.'s cover aforesaid.
K---- has made some more capital portraits, and is always improving.

My dear Mrs. Fields, if "He" (made proud by chairs and bloated by
pictures) does not give you my dear love, let us conspire against
him when you find him out, and exclude him from all future
confidences. Until then

Ever affectionately yours and his,


5 Hyde Park Place, London, W., Monday, April 18, 1870.

My dear Fields: I have been hard at work all day until post time,
and have only leisure to acknowledge the receipt, the day before
yesterday, of your note containing such good news of Fechter; and to
assure you of my undiminished regard and affection.

We have been doing wonders with No. 1 of Edwin Drood. _It has very,
very far outstripped every one of its predecessors._

Ever your affectionate friend,

Charles Dickens

Bright colors were a constant delight to him; and the gay hues of
flowers were those most welcome to his eye. When the rhododendrons were
in bloom in Cobham Park, the seat of his friend and neighbor, Lord
Darnley, he always counted on taking his guests there to enjoy the
magnificent show. He delighted to turn out for the delectation of his
Transatlantic cousins a couple of postilions in the old red jackets of
the old red royal Dover road, making the ride as much as possible like a
holiday drive in England fifty years ago.

When in the mood for humorous characterization, Dickens's hilarity was
most amazing. To hear him tell a ghost story with a very florid
imitation of a very pallid ghost, or hear him sing an old-time stage
song, such as he used to enjoy in his youth at a cheap London theatre,
to see him imitate a lion in a menagerie-cage, or the clown in a
pantomime when he flops and folds himself up like a jack-knife, or to
join with him in some mirthful game of his own composing, was to become
acquainted with one of the most delightful and original companions in
the world.

On one occasion, during a walk with me, he chose to run into the wildest
of vagaries about _conversation_. The ludicrous vein he indulged in
during that two hours' stretch can never be forgotten. Among other
things, he said he had often thought how restricted one's conversation
must become when one was visiting a man who was to be hanged in half an
hour. He went on in a most surprising manner to imagine all sorts of
difficulties in the way of becoming interesting to the poor fellow.
"Suppose," said he, "it should be a rainy morning while you are making
the call, you could not possibly indulge in the remark, 'We shall have
fine weather to-morrow, sir,' for what would that be to him? For my
part, I think," said he, "I should confine my observations to the days
of Julius Caesar or King Alfred."

At another time when speaking of what was constantly said about him in
certain newspapers, he observed: "I notice that about once in every
seven years I become the victim of a paragraph disease. It breaks out in
England, travels to India by the overland route, gets to America per
Cunard line, strikes the base of the Rocky Mountains, and, rebounding
back to Europe, mostly perishes on the steppes of Russia from inanition
and extreme cold." When he felt he was not under observation, and that
tomfoolery would not be frowned upon or gazed at with astonishment, he
gave himself up without reserve to healthy amusement and strengthening
mirth. It was his mission to make people happy. Words of good cheer were
native to his lips, and he was always doing what he could to lighten the
lot of all who came into his beautiful presence. His talk was simple,
natural, and direct, never dropping into circumlocution nor elocution.
Now that he is gone, whoever has known him intimately for any
considerable period of time will linger over his tender regard for, and
his engaging manner with, children; his cheery "Good Day" to poor people
he happened to be passing in the road; his trustful and earnest "Please
God," when he was promising himself any special pleasure, like rejoining
an old friend or returning again to scenes he loved. At such times his
voice had an irresistible pathos in it, and his smile diffused a
sensation like music. When he came into the presence of squalid or
degraded persons, such as one sometimes encounters in almshouses or
prisons, he had such soothing words to scatter here and there, that
those who had been "most hurt by the archers" listened gladly, and loved
him without knowing who it was that found it in his heart to speak so
kindly to them.

Oftentimes during long walks in the streets and by-ways of London, or
through the pleasant Kentish lanes, or among the localities he has
rendered forever famous in his books, I have recalled the sweet words
in which Shakespeare has embalmed one of the characters in Love's
Labor's Lost:--

"A merrier man,
Within the limit of becoming mirth,
I never spent an hour's talk withal:
His eye begets occasion for his wit;
For every object that the one doth catch
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest,
Which his fair tongue, conceit's expositor,
Delivers in such apt and gracious words
That aged ears play truant at his tales,
And younger hearings are quite ravished;
So sweet and voluble is his discourse."

Twenty years ago Daniel Webster said that Dickens had already done more
to ameliorate the condition of the English poor than all the statesmen
Great Britain had sent into Parliament. During the unceasing demands
upon his time and thought, he found opportunities of visiting personally
those haunts of suffering in London which needed the keen eye and
sympathetic heart to bring them before the public for relief. Whoever
has accompanied him, as I have, on his midnight walks into the cheap
lodging-houses provided for London's lowest poor, cannot have failed to
learn lessons never to be forgotten. Newgate and Smithfield were lifted
out of their abominations by his eloquent pen, and many a hospital is
to-day all the better charity for having been visited and watched by
Charles Dickens. To use his own words, through his whole life he did
what he could "to lighten the lot of those rejected ones whom the world
has too long forgotten and too often misused."

These inadequate, and, of necessity, hastily written, records must stand
for what they are worth as personal recollections of the great author
who has made so many millions happy by his inestimable genius and
sympathy. His life will no doubt be written out in full by some
competent hand in England; but however numerous the volumes of his
biography, the half can hardly be told of the good deeds he has
accomplished for his fellow-men.

And who could ever tell, if those volumes were written, of the subtle
qualities of insight and sympathy which rendered him capable of
friendship above most men,--which enabled him to reinstate its ideal,
and made his presence a perpetual joy, and separation from him an
ineffaceable sorrow?


_"His mind is, as it were, coeval with the primary forms of things; his
imagination holds immediately from nature, and 'owes no allegiance' but
'to the elements.' ....He sees all things in himself."_--Hazlitt.


That portrait looking down so calmly from the wall is an original
picture of the poet Wordsworth, drawn in crayon a few years before he
died. He went up to London on purpose to sit for it, at the request of
Moxon, his publisher, and his friends in England always considered it a
perfect likeness of the poet. After the head was engraved, the artist's
family disposed of the drawing, and through the watchful kindness of my
dear old friend, Mary Russell Mitford, the portrait came across the
Atlantic to this house. Miss Mitford said America ought to have on view
such a perfect representation of the great poet, and she used all her
successful influence in my behalf. So there the picture hangs for
anybody's inspection at any hour of the day.

I once made a pilgrimage to the small market-town of Hawkshead, in the
valley of Esthwaite, where Wordsworth went to school in his ninth year.
The thoughtful boy was lodged in the house of Dame Anne Tyson in 1788;
and I had the good fortune to meet a lady in the village street who
conducted me at once to the room which the lad occupied while he was a
scholar under the Rev. William Taylor, whom he loved and venerated so
much. I went into the chamber which he afterwards described in The
Prelude, where he

"Had lain awake on summer nights to watch
The moon in splendor couched among the leaves
Of a tall ash, that near our cottage stood";

and I visited many of the beautiful spots which tradition points out as
the favorite haunts of his childhood.

It was true Lake-country weather when I knocked at Wordsworth's cottage
door, three years before he died, and found myself shaking hands with
the poet at the threshold. His daughter Dora had been dead only a few
months, and the sorrow that had so recently fallen upon the house was
still dominant there. I thought there was something prophet-like in the
tones of his voice, as well as in his whole appearance, and there was a
noble tranquillity about him that almost awed one, at first, into
silence. As the day was cold and wet, he proposed we should sit down
together in the only room in the house where there was a fire, and he
led the way to what seemed a common sitting or dining room. It was a
plain apartment, the rafters visible, and no attempt at decoration
noticeable. Mrs. Wordsworth sat knitting at the fireside, and she rose
with a sweet expression of courtesy and welcome as we entered the
apartment. As I had just left Paris, which was in a state of commotion,
Wordsworth was eager in his inquiries about the state of things on the
other side of the Channel. As our talk ran in the direction of French
revolutions, he soon became eloquent and vehement, as one can easily
imagine, on such a theme. There was a deep and solemn meaning in all he
had to say about France, which I recall now with added interest. The
subject deeply moved him, of course, and he sat looking into the fire,
discoursing in a low monotone, sometimes quite forgetful that he was not
alone and soliloquizing. I noticed that Mrs. Wordsworth listened as if
she were hearing him speak for the first time in her life, and the work
on which she was engaged lay idle in her lap, while she watched intently
every movement of her husband's face. I also was absorbed in the man and
in his speech. I thought of the long years he had lived in communion
with nature in that lonely but lovely region. The story of his life was
familiar to me, and I sat as if under the influence of a spell. Soon he
turned and plied me with questions about the prominent men in Paris whom
I had recently seen and heard in the Chamber of Deputies. "How did
Guizot bear himself? What part was De Tocqueville taking in the fray?
Had I noticed George Lafayette especially?" America did not seem to
concern him much, and I waited for him to introduce the subject, if he
chose to do so. He seemed pleased that a youth from a far-away country
should find his way to Rydal cottage to worship at the shrine of an old

By and by we fell into talk about those who had been his friends and
neighbors among the hills in former years. "And so," he said, "you read
Charles Lamb in America?" "Yes," I replied, "and _love_ him too." "Do
you hear that, Mary?" he eagerly inquired, turning round to Mrs.
Wordsworth. "Yes, William, and no wonder, for he was one to be loved
everywhere," she quickly answered. Then we spoke of Hazlitt, whom he
ranked very high as a prose-writer; and when I quoted a fine passage
from Hazlitt's essay on Jeremy Taylor, he seemed pleased at my
remembrance of it.

He asked about Inman, the American artist, who had painted his portrait,
having been sent on a special mission to Rydal by Professor Henry Reed
of Philadelphia, to procure the likeness. The painter's daughter, who
accompanied her father, made a marked impression on Wordsworth, and both
he and his wife joined in the question, "Are all the girls in America as
pretty as she?" I thought it an honor Mary Inman might well be proud of
to be so complimented by the old bard. In speaking of Henry Reed, his
manner was affectionate and tender.

Now and then I stole a glance at the gentle lady, the poet's wife, as
she sat knitting silently by the fireside. This, then, was the Mary whom
in 1802 he had brought home to be his loving companion through so many
years. I could not help remembering too, as we all sat there together,
that when children they had "practised reading and spelling under the
same old dame at Penrith," and that they had always been lovers. There
sat the woman, now gray-haired and bent, to whom the poet had addressed
those undying poems, "She was a phantom of delight," "Let other bards of
angels sing," "Yes, thou art fair," and "O, dearer far than life and
light are dear." I recalled, too, the "Lines written after Thirty-six
Years of Wedded Life," commemorating her whose

"Morn into noon did pass, noon into eve,
And the old day was welcome as the young,
As welcome, and as beautiful,--in sooth
More beautiful, as being a thing more holy."

When she raised her eyes to his, which I noticed she did frequently,
they seemed overflowing with tenderness.

When I rose to go, for I felt that I must not intrude longer on one for
whom I had such reverence, Wordsworth said, "I must show you my library,
and some tributes that have been sent to me from the friends of my
verse." His son John now came in, and we all proceeded to a large room
in front of the house, containing his books. Seeing that I had an
interest in such things, he seemed to take a real pleasure in showing me
the presentation copies of works by distinguished authors. We read
together, from many a well-worn old volume, notes in the handwriting of
Coleridge and Charles Lamb. I thought he did not praise easily those
whose names are indissolubly connected with his own in the history of
literature. It was languid praise, at least, and I observed he hesitated
for mild terms which he could apply to names almost as great as his own.
I believe a duplicate of the portrait which Inman had painted for Reed
hung in the room; at any rate a picture of himself was there, and he
seemed to regard it with veneration as we stood before it. As we moved
about the apartment, Mrs. Wordsworth quietly followed us, and listened
as eagerly as I did to everything her husband had to say. Her spare
little figure flitted about noiselessly, pausing as we paused, and
always walking slowly behind us as we went from object to object in the
room. John Wordsworth, too, seemed deeply interested to watch and listen
to his father. "And now," said Wordsworth, "I must show you one of my
latest presents." Leading us up to a corner of the room, we all stood
before a beautiful statuette which a young sculptor had just sent to
him, illustrating a passage in "The Excursion." Turning to me,
Wordsworth asked, "Do you know the meaning of this figure?" I saw at a
glance that it was

"A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell,"

and I quoted the lines. My recollection of the words pleased the old
man; and as we stood there in front of the figure he began to recite the
whole passage from "The Excursion," and it sounded very grand from the
poet's own lips. He repeated some fifty lines, and I could not help
thinking afterwards, when I came to hear Tennyson read his own poetry,
that the younger Laureate had caught something of the strange,
mysterious tone of the elder bard. It was a sort of chant, deep and
earnest, which conveyed the impression that the reciter had the highest
opinion of the poetry.

Although it was raining still, Wordsworth proposed to show me Lady
Fleming's grounds, and some other spots of interest near his cottage.
Our walk was a wet one; but as he did not seem incommoded by it, I was
only too glad to hold the umbrella over his venerable head. As we went
on, he added now and then a sonnet to the scenery, telling me precisely
the circumstances under which it had been composed. It is many years
since my memorable walk with the author of "The Excursion," but I can
call up his figure and the very tones of his voice so vividly that I
enjoy my interview over again any time I choose. He was then nearly
eighty, but he seemed hale and quite as able to walk up and down the
hills as ever. He always led back the conversation that day to his own
writings, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world for him to
do so. All his most celebrated poems seemed to live in his memory, and
it was easy to start him off by quoting the first line of any of his
pieces. Speaking of the vastness of London, he quoted the whole of his
sonnet describing the great city, as seen in the morning from
Westminster Bridge. When I parted with him at the foot of Rydal Hill, he
gave me messages to Rogers and other friends of his whom I was to see in
London. As we were shaking hands I said, "How glad your many readers in
America would be to see you on our side of the water!" "Ah," he replied,
"I shall never see your country,--that is impossible now; but" (laying
his hand on his son's shoulder) "John shall go, please God, some day." I
watched the aged man as he went slowly up the hill, and saw him
disappear through the little gate that led to his cottage door. The ode
on "Intimations of Immortality" kept sounding in my brain as I came down
the road, long after he had left me.

Since I sat, a little child, in "a woman's school," Wordsworth's poems
had been familiar to me. Here is my first school-book, with a name
written on the cover by dear old "Marm Sloper," setting forth that the
owner thereof is "aged 5." As I went musing along in Westmoreland that
rainy morning, so many years ago, little figures seemed to accompany
me, and childish voices filled the air as I trudged through the wet
grass. My small ghostly companions seemed to carry in their little hands
quaint-looking dog's-eared books, some of them covered with cloth of
various colors. None of these phantom children looked to be over six
years old, and all were bareheaded, and some of the girls wore
old-fashioned pinafores. They were the schoolmates of my childhood, and
many of them must have come out of their graves to run by my side that
morning in Rydal. I had not thought of them for years. Little Emily
R---- read from her book with a chirping lisp:--

"O, what's the matter? what's the matter?
What is't that ails young Harry Gill?"

Mary B---- began:--

"Oft I had heard of Lucy Grey";

Nancy C---- piped up:--

"'How many are you, then,' said I,
'If there are two in heaven?'
The little maiden did reply,
'O Master! we are seven.'"

Among the group I seemed to recognize poor pale little Charley F----,
who they told me years ago was laid in St. John's Churchyard after they
took him out of the pond, near the mill-stream, that terrible Saturday
afternoon. He too read from his well-worn, green-baize-covered book,--

"The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink."

Other white-headed little urchins trotted along _very near_ me all the
way, and kept saying over and over their "spirit ditties of no tone"
till I reached the village inn, and sat down as if in a dream of
long-past years.

Two years ago I stood by Wordsworth's grave in the churchyard at
Grasmere, and my companion wove a chaplet of flowers and placed it on
the headstone. Afterwards we went into the old church and sat down in
the poet's pew. "They are all dead and gone now," sighed the gray-headed
sexton; "but I can remember when the seats used to be filled by the
family from Rydal Mount. Now they are all outside there in yon grass."


_"I care not, Fortune, what you me deny:
You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace;
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora shows her brightening face;
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
The woods and lawns, by living streams at eve:
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
And I their toys to the great children leave:
Of fancy, reason, virtue, naught can me bereave."_



That portrait hanging near Wordsworth's is next to seeing Mary Russell
Mitford herself as I first saw her, twenty-three years ago, in her
geranium-planted cottage at Three-Mile Cross. She sat to John Lucas for
the picture in her serene old age, and the likeness is faultless. She
had proposed to herself to leave the portrait, as it was her own
property, to me in her will; but as I happened to be in England during
the latter part of her life, she altered her determination, and gave it
to me from her own hands.

Sydney Smith said of a certain quarrelsome person, that his very face
was a breach of the peace. The face of that portrait opposite to us is a
very different one from Sydney's fighter. Everything that belongs to the
beauty of old age one will find recorded in that charming countenance.
Serene cheerfulness most abounds, and that is a quality as rare as it is
commendable. It will be observed that the dress of Miss Mitford in the
picture before us is quaint and somewhat antiquated even for the time
when it was painted, but a pleasant face is never out of fashion.

An observer of how old age is neglected in America said to me the other
day, "It seems an impertinence to be alive after sixty on this side of
the globe"; and I have often thought how much we lose by not cultivating
fine old-fashioned ladies and gentlemen. Our aged relatives and friends
seem to be tucked away, nowadays, into neglected corners, as though it
were the correct thing to give them a long preparation for still
narrower quarters. For my own part, comely and debonair old age is most
attractive; and when I see the "thick silver-white hair lying on a
serious and weather-worn face, like moonlight on a stout old tower," I
have a strong tendency to lift my hat, whether I know the person or not.

"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in an autumnal face."

It was a fortunate hour for me when kind-hearted John Kenyon said, as I
was leaving his hospitable door in London one summer midnight in 1847,
"You must know my friend, Miss Mitford. She lives directly on the line
of your route to Oxford, and you must call with my card and make her
acquaintance." I had lately been talking with Wordsworth and Christopher
North and old Samuel Rogers, but my hunger at that time to stand face to
face with the distinguished persons in English literature was not
satisfied. So it was during my first "tourification" in England that I
came to know Miss Mitford. The day selected for my call at her cottage
door happened to be a perfect one on which to begin an acquaintance with
the lady of "Our Village." She was then living at Three-Mile Cross,
having removed there from Bertram House in 1820. The cottage where I
found her was situated on the high road between Basingstoke and Reading;
and the village street on which she was then living contained the
public-house and several small shops near by. There was also close at
hand the village pond full of ducks and geese, and I noticed several
young rogues on their way to school were occupied in worrying their
feathered friends. The windows of the cottage were filled with flowers,
and cowslips and violets were plentifully scattered about the little
garden. Miss Mitford liked to have one dog, at least, at her heels, and
this day her pet seemed to be constantly under foot. I remember the room
into which I was shown was sanded, and a quaint old clock behind the
door was marking off the hour in small but very loud pieces. The
cheerful old lady called to me from the head of the stairs to come up
into her sitting-room. I sat down by the open window to converse with
her, and it was pleasant to see how the village children, as they went
by, stopped to bow and curtsey. One curly-headed urchin made bold to
take off his well-worn cap, and wait to be recognized as "little
Johnny". "No great scholar," said the kind-hearted old lady to me, "but
a sad rogue among our flock of geese. Only yesterday the young marauder
was detected by my maid with a plump gosling stuffed half-way into his
pocket!" While she was thus discoursing of Johnny's peccadilloes, the
little fellow looked up with a knowing expression, and very soon caught
in his cap a gingerbread dog, which the old lady threw to him from the
window. "I wish he loved his book as well as he relishes sweetcake,"
sighed she, as the boy kicked up his heels and disappeared down the

Her conversation that afternoon, full of anecdote, ran on in a perpetual
flow of good-humor, and I was shocked, on looking at my watch, to find I
had stayed so long, and had barely time to reach the railway-station in
season to arrive at Oxford that night. We parted with the mutual
determination and understanding to keep our friendship warm by
correspondence, and I promised never to come to England again without
finding my way to Three-Mile Cross.

During the conversation that day, Miss Mitford had many inquiries to
make concerning her American friends, Miss Catherine Sedgwick, Daniel
Webster, and Dr. Chancing. Her voice had a peculiar ringing sweetness in
it, rippling out sometimes like a beautiful chime of silver bells; and
when she told a comic story, hitting off some one of her acquaintances,
she joined in with the laugh at the end with great heartiness and
_naivete_. When listening to anything that interested her, she had a way
of coming into the narrative with "Dear me, dear me, dear me," three
times repeated, which it was very pleasant to hear.

From that summer day our friendship continued, and during other visits
to England I saw her frequently, driving about the country with her in
her pony-chaise, and spending many happy hours in the new cottage which
she afterwards occupied at Swallowfield. Her health had broken down
years before, from too constant attendance on her invalid parents, and
she was never certain of a well day. When her father died, in 1842,
shamefully in debt (for he had squandered two fortunes not exactly his
own, and was always one of the most improvident of men, belonging to
that class of impecunious individuals who seem to have been born
insolvent), she said, "Everybody shall be paid, if I sell the gown off
my back or pledge my little pension." And putting her shoulder to the
domestic wheel, she never nagged for an instant, or gave way to

She was always cheerful, and her talk is delightful to remember. From
girlhood she had known and had been intimate with most of the prominent
writers of her time, and her observations and reminiscences were so
shrewd and pertinent that I have scarcely known her equal.

Carlyle tells us "nothing so lifts a man from all his mean
imprisonments, were it but for moments, as true admiration"; and Miss
Mitford admired to such an extent that she must have been lifted in this
way nearly all her lifetime. Indeed she erred, if she erred at all, on
this side, and overpraised and over-admired everything and everybody
whom she regarded. When she spoke of Beranger or Dumas or Hazlitt or
Holmes, she exhausted every term of worship and panegyric. Louis
Napoleon was one of her most potent crazes, and I fully believe, if she
had been alive during the days of his downfall, she would have died of
grief. When she talked of Munden and Bannister and Fawcett and Emery,
those delightful old actors for whom she had had such an exquisite
relish, she said they had made comedy to her a living art full of
laughter and tears. How often have I heard her describe John Kemble,
Mrs. Siddons, Miss O'Neil, and Edmund Kean, as they were wont to
electrify the town in her girlhood! With what gusto she reproduced
Elliston, who was one of her prime favorites, and tried to make me,
through her representation of him, feel what a spirit there was in the
man. Although she had been prostrated by the hard work and increasing
anxieties of forty years of authorship, when I saw her she was as fresh
and independent as a skylark. She was a good hater as well as a good
praiser, and she left nothing worth saving in an obnoxious reputation.

I well remember, one autumn evening, when half a dozen friends were
sitting in her library after dinner, talking with her of Tom Taylor's
Life of Haydon, then lately published, how graphically she described to
us the eccentric painter, whose genius she was among the foremost to
recognize. The flavor of her discourse I cannot reproduce; but I was too
much interested in what she was saying to forget the main incidents she
drew for our edification, during those pleasant hours now far away in
the past.

"I am a terrible forgetter of dates," she used to say, when any one
asked her of the _time when_; but for the _manner how_ she was never at
a loss. "Poor Haydon!" she began. "He was an old friend of mine, and I
am indebted to Sir William Elford, one of my dear father's
correspondents during my girlhood, for a suggestion which sent me to
look at a picture then on exhibition in London, and thus was brought
about my knowledge of the painter's existence. He, Sir William, had
taken a fancy to me, and I became his child-correspondent. Few things
contribute more to that indirect after-education, which is worth all the
formal lessons of the school-room a thousand times told, than such
good-humored condescension from a clever man of the world to a girl
almost young enough to be his granddaughter. I owe much to that
correspondence, and, amongst other debts, the acquaintance of Haydon.
Sir William's own letters were most charming,--full of old-fashioned
courtesy, of quaint humor, and of pleasant and genial criticism on
literature and on art. An amateur-painter himself, painting interested
him particularly, and he often spoke much and warmly of the young man
from Plymouth, whose picture of the 'Judgment of Solomon' was then on
exhibition in London. 'You must see it,' said he, 'even if you come to
town on purpose.'"--The reader of Haydon's Life will remember that Sir
William Elford, in conjunction with a Plymouth banker named Tingecombe,
ultimately purchased the picture. The poor artist was overwhelmed with
astonishment and joy when he walked into the exhibition-room and read
the label, "Sold," which had been attached to his picture that morning
before he arrived. "My first impulse," he says in his Autobiography,
"was gratitude to God."

"It so happened," continued Miss Mitford, "that I merely passed through
London that season, and, being detained by some of the thousand and one
nothings which are so apt to detain women in the great city, I arrived
at the exhibition, in company with a still younger friend, so near the
period of closing, that more punctual visitors were moving out, and the
doorkeeper actually turned us and our money back. I persisted, however,
assuring him that I only wished to look at one picture, and promising
not to detain him long. Whether my entreaties would have carried the
point or not, I cannot tell; but half a crown did; so we stood
admiringly before the 'Judgment of Solomon.' I am no great judge of
painting; but that picture impressed me then, as it does now, as
excellent in composition, in color, and in that great quality of telling
a story which appeals at once to every mind. Our delight was sincerely
felt, and most enthusiastically expressed, as we kept gazing at the
picture, and seemed, unaccountably to us at first, to give much pleasure
to the only gentleman who had remained in the room,--a young and very
distinguished-looking person, who had watched with evident amusement our
negotiation with the doorkeeper. Beyond indicating the best position to
look at the picture, he had no conversation with us; but I soon surmised
that we were seeing the painter, as well as his painting; and when, two
or three years afterwards, a friend took me by appointment to view the
'Entry into Jerusalem,' Haydon's next great picture, then near its
completion, I found I had not been mistaken.

"Haydon was, at that period, a remarkable person to look at and listen
to. Perhaps your American word _bright_ expresses better than any other
his appearance and manner. His figure, short, slight, elastic, and
vigorous, looked still more light and youthful from the little
sailor's-jacket and snowy trousers which formed his painting costume.
His complexion was clear and healthful. His forehead, broad and high,
out of all proportion to the lower part of his face, gave an
unmistakable character of intellect to the finely placed head. Indeed,
he liked to observe that the gods of the Greek sculptors owed much of
their elevation to being similarly out of drawing! The lower features
were terse, succinct, and powerful,--from the bold, decided jaw, to the
large, firm, ugly, good-humored mouth. His very spectacles aided the
general expression; they had a look of the man. But how shall I attempt
to tell you of his brilliant conversation, of his rapid, energetic
manner, of his quick turns of thought, as he flew on from topic to
topic, dashing his brush here and there upon the canvas? Slow and quiet
persons were a good deal startled by this suddenness and mobility. He
left such people far behind, mentally and bodily. But his talk was so
rich and varied, so earnest and glowing, his anecdotes so racy, his
perception of character so shrewd, and the whole tone so spontaneous and
natural, that the want of repose was rather recalled afterwards than
felt at the time. The alloy to this charm was a slight coarseness of
voice and accent, which contrasted somewhat strangely with his constant
courtesy and high breeding. Perhaps this was characteristic. A defect of
some sort pervades his pictures. Their great want is equality and
congruity,--that perfect union of qualities which we call _taste_. His
apartment, especially at that period when he lived in his painting-room,
was in itself a study of the most picturesque kind. Besides the great
picture itself, for which there seemed hardly space between the walls,
it was crowded with casts, lay figures, arms, tripods, vases, draperies,
and costumes of all ages, weapons of all nations, books in all tongues.
These cumbered the floor; whilst around hung smaller pictures, sketches,
and drawings, replete with originality and force. With chalk he could do
what he chose. I remember he once drew for me a head of hair with nine
of his sweeping, vigorous strokes! Among the studies I remarked that day
in his apartment was one of a mother who had just lost her only
child,--a most masterly rendering of an unspeakable grief. A sonnet,
which I could not help writing on this sketch, gave rise to our long
correspondence, and to a friendship which never flagged. Everybody feels
that his life, as told by Mr. Taylor, with its terrible catastrophe, is
a stern lesson to young artists, an awful warning that cannot be set
aside. Let us not forget that amongst his many faults are qualities
which hold out a bright example. His devotion to his noble art, his
conscientious pursuit of every study connected with it, his unwearied
industry, his love of beauty and of excellence, his warm family
affection, his patriotism, his courage, and his piety, will not easily
be surpassed. Thinking of them, let us speak tenderly of the ardent
spirit whose violence would have been softened by better fortune, and
who, if more successful, would have been more gentle and more humble."

And so with her vigilant and appreciative eye she saw, and thus in her
own charming way she talked of, the man whose name, says Taylor, as a
popularizer of art, stands without a rival among his brethren.

She loathed mere dandies, and there were no epithets too hot for her
contempts in that direction. Old beaux she heartily despised, and,
speaking of one whom she had known, I remember she quoted with a fine
scorn this appropriate passage from Dickens: "Ancient, dandified men,
those crippled _invalides_ from the campaign of vanity, where the only
powder was hair-powder, and the only bullets fancy balls."

There was no half-way with her, and she never could have said with M----
S----, when a certain visitor left the room one day after a call, "If we
did not _love_ our dear friend Mr. ---- so much, shouldn't we hate him
tremendously!" Her neighbor, John Ruskin, she thought as eloquent a
prose-writer as Jeremy Taylor, and I have heard her go on in her fine
way, giving preferences to certain modern poems far above the works of
the great masters of song. Pascal says that "the heart has reasons that
reason does not know"; and Miss Mitford was a charming exemplification
of this wise saying.

Her dogs and her geraniums were her great glories. She used to write me
long letters about Fanchon, a dog whose personal acquaintance I had
made some time before, while on a visit to her cottage. Every virtue
under heaven she attributed to that canine individual; and I was obliged
to allow in my return letters, that, since our planet began to spin,
nothing comparable to Fanchon had ever run on four legs. I had also
known Flush, the ancestor of Fanchon, intimately, and had been
accustomed to hear wonderful things of that dog; but Fanchon had graces
and genius unique. Miss Mitford would have joined with Hamerton in his
gratitude for canine companionship, when he says, "I humbly thank Divine
Providence for having invented dogs, and I regard that man with
wondering pity who can lead a dogless life."

Her fondness for rural life, one may well imagine, was almost
unparalleled. I have often been with her among the wooded lanes of her
pretty country, listening for the nightingales, and on such occasions
she would discourse so eloquently of the sights and sounds about us,
that her talk seemed to me "far above singing." She had fallen in love
with nature when a little child, and had studied the landscape till she
knew familiarly every flower and leaf which grows on English soil. She
delighted in rural vagabonds of every sort, especially in gypsies; and
as they flourished in her part of the country, she knew all their ways,
and had charming stories to tell of their pranks and thievings. She
called them "the commoners of nature"; and once I remember she pointed
out to me on the road a villanous-looking youth on whom she smiled as we
passed, as if he had been Virtue itself in footpad disguise. She knew
all the literature of rural life, and her memory was stored with
delightful eulogies of forests and meadows. When she repeated or read
aloud the poetry she loved, her accents were

"Like flowers' voices, if they could but speak."

She _understood_ how to enjoy rural occupations and rural existence,
and she had no patience with her friend Charles Lamb, who preferred the
town. Walter Savage Landor addressed these lines to her a few months
before she died, and they seem to me very perfect and lovely in their

"The hay is carried; and the hours
Snatch, as they pass, the linden flow'rs;
And children leap to pluck a spray
Bent earthward, and then run away.
Park-keeper! catch me those grave thieves
About whose frocks the fragrant leaves,
Sticking and fluttering here and there,
No false nor faltering witness bear.

"I never view such scenes as these
In grassy meadow girt with trees,
But comes a thought of her who now
Sits with serenely patient brow
Amid deep sufferings: none hath told
More pleasant tales to young and old.
Fondest was she of Father Thames,
But rambled to Hellenic streams;
Nor even there could any tell
The country's purer charms so well
As Mary Mitford.
Verse! go forth
And breathe o'er gentle breasts her worth.
Needless the task ... but should she see
One hearty wish from you and me,
A moment's pain it may assuage,--
A rose-leaf on the couch of Age."

And Harriet Martineau pays her respects to my friend in this wise: "Miss
Mitford's descriptions of scenery, brutes, and human beings have such
singular merit, that she may be regarded as the founder of a new style;
and if the freshness wore off with time, there was much more than a
compensation in the fine spirit of resignation and cheerfulness which
breathed through everything she wrote, and endeared her as a suffering
friend to thousands who formerly regarded her only as a most
entertaining stranger."

What lovely drives about England I have enjoyed with Miss Mitford as my
companion and guide! We used to arrange with her trusty Sam for a day
now and then in the open air. He would have everything in readiness at
the appointed hour, and be at his post with that careful, kind-hearted
little maid, the "hemmer of flounces," all prepared to give the old lady
a fair start on her day's expedition. Both those excellent servants
delighted to make their mistress happy, and she greatly rejoiced in
their devotion and care. Perhaps we had made our plans to visit Upton
Court, a charming old house where Pope's Arabella Fermor had passed many
years of her married life. On the way thither we would talk over "The
Rape of the Lock" and the heroine, Belinda, who was no other than
Arabella herself. Arriving on the lawn in front of the decaying mansion,
we would stop in the shade of a gigantic oak, and gossip about the times
of Queen Elizabeth, for it was then the old house was built, no doubt.

Once I remember Miss Mitford carried me on a pilgrimage to a grand old
village church with a tower half covered with ivy. We came to it through
laurel hedges, and passed on the way a magnificent cedar of Lebanon. It
was a superb pile, rich in painted glass windows and carved oak
ornaments. Here Miss Mitford ordered the man to stop, and, turning to me
with great enthusiasm, said, "This is Shiplake Church, where Alfred
Tennyson was married!" Then we rode on a little farther, and she called
my attention to some of the finest wych-elms I had ever seen.

Another day we drove along the valley of the Loddon, and she pointed out
the Duke of Wellington's seat of Strathfieldsaye. As our pony trotted
leisurely over the charming road, she told many amusing stories of the
Duke's economical habits, and she rated him soundly for his money-saving
propensities. The furniture in the house she said was a disgrace to the
great man, and she described a certain old carpet that had done service
so many years in the establishment that no one could tell what the
original colors were.

But the mansion most dear to her in that neighborhood was the residence
of her kind friends the Russells of Swallowfield Park. It is indeed a
beautiful old place, full of historical and literary associations, for
there Lord Clarendon wrote his story of the Great Rebellion. Miss
Mitford never ceased to be thankful that her declining years were
passing in the society of such neighbors as the Russells. If she were
unusually ill, they were the first to know of it and come at once to her
aid. Little attentions, so grateful to old age, they were always on the
alert to offer; and she frequently told me that their affectionate
kindness had helped her over the dark places of life more than once,
where without their succor she must have dropped by the way.

As a letter-writer, Miss Mitford has rarely been surpassed. Her "Life,
as told by herself in Letters to her Friends," is admirably done in
every particular. Few letters in the English language are superior to
hers, and I think they, will come to be regarded as among the choicest
specimens of epistolary literature. When her friend, the Rev. William
Harness, was about to collect from Miss Mitford's correspondents, for
publication, the letters she had written to them, he applied to me among
others. I was obliged to withhold the correspondence for a reason that
existed then; but I am no longer restrained from printing it now. Miss
Mitford's first letter to me was written in 1847, and her last one came
only a few weeks before she died, in 1855. I am inclined to think that
her correspondence, so full of point in allusions, so full of anecdote
and recollections, will be considered among her finest writings. Her
criticisms, not always the wisest, were always piquant and readable. She
had such a charming humor, and her style was so delightful, that her
friendly notes had a relish about them quite their own. In reading some
of them here collected one will see that she overrated my little
services as she did those of many of her personal friends. I shall have
hard work to place the dates properly, for the good lady rarely took the
trouble to put either month or year at the head of her paper.

She began her correspondence with me before I left England after making
her acquaintance, and, true to the instincts of her kind heart, the
object of her first letter was to press upon my notice the poems of a
young friend of hers, and she was constantly saying good words for
unfledged authors who were struggling forward to gain recognition. No
one ever lent such a helping hand as she did to the young writers of her

The recognition which America, very early in the career of Miss Mitford,
awarded her, she never forgot, and she used to say, "It takes ten years
to make a literary reputation in England, but America is wiser and
bolder, and dares say at once, 'This is fine.'"

Sweetness of temper and brightness of mind, her never-failing
characteristics, accompanied her to the last; and she passed on in her
usual cheerful and affectionate mood, her sympathies uncontracted by
age, narrow fortune, and pain.

A plain substantial cross marks the spot in the old churchyard at
Swallowfield, where, according to her own wish, Mary Mitford lies
sleeping. It is proposed to erect a memorial in the old parish church to
her memory, and her admirers in England have determined, if a sufficient
sum can be raised, to build what shall be known as "The Mitford Aisle,"
to afford accommodation for the poor people who are not able to pay for
seats. Several of Miss Mitford's American friends will join in this
beautiful object, and a tablet will be put up in the old church
commemorating the fact that England and America united in the tribute.

LETTERS, 1848-1849.

Three-mile Cross, December 4, 1848.

Dear Mr. Fields: My silence has been caused by severe illness. For
more than a twelvemonth my health has been so impaired as to leave
me a very poor creature, almost incapable of any exertion at all
times, and frequently suffering severe pain besides. So that I have
to entreat the friends who are good enough to care for me never to
be displeased if a long time elapses between my letters. My
correspondents being so numerous, and I myself so utterly alone,
without any one even to fold or seal a letter, that the very
physical part of the task sometimes becomes more fatiguing than I
can bear. I am not, generally speaking, confined to my room, or even
to the house; but the loss of power is so great that after the short
drive or shorter walk which my very skilful medical adviser orders,
I am too often compelled to retire immediately to bed, and I have
not once been well enough to go out of an evening during the year
1848. Before its expiration I shall have completed my sixty-first
year; but it is not age that has so prostrated me, but the hard work
and increasing anxiety of thirty years of authorship, during which
my poor labors were all that my dear father and mother had to look
to, besides which for the greater part of that time I was constantly
called upon to attend to the sick-bed, first of one aged parent and
then of another. Few women could stand this, and I have only to be
intensely thankful that the power of exertion did not fail until the
necessity of such exertion was removed. Now my poor life is (beyond
mere friendly feeling) of value to no one. I have, too, many
alleviations,--in the general kindness of the neighborhood, the
particular goodness of many admirable friends, the affectionate
attention of a most attached and intelligent old servant, and above
all in my continued interest in books and delight in reading. I love
poetry and people as well at sixty as I did at sixteen, and can
never be sufficiently grateful to God for having permitted me to
retain the two joy-giving faculties of admiration and sympathy, by
which we are enabled to escape from the consciousness of our own
infirmities into the great works of all ages and the joys and
sorrows of our immediate friends. Among the books which I have been
reading with the greatest interest is the Life of Dr. Channing, and
I can hardly tell you the glow of gratification with which I found
my own name mentioned, as one of the writers in whose works that
great man had taken pleasure. The approbation of Dr. Channing is
something worth toiling for. I know no individual suffrage that
could have given me more delight. Besides this selfish pleasure and
the intense interest with which I followed that admirable thinker
through the whole course of his pure and blameless life, I have
derived another and a different satisfaction from that work,--I mean
from its reception in England. I know nothing that shows a greater
improvement in liberality in the least liberal part of the English
public, a greater sweeping away of prejudice whether national or
sectarian, than the manner in which even the High Church and Tory
party have spoken of Dr. Channing. They really seem to cast aside
their usual intolerance in his case, and to look upon a Unitarian
with feelings of Christian fellowship. God grant that this spirit
may continue! Is American literature rich in native biography? Just
have the goodness to mention to me any lives of Americans, whether
illustrious or not, that are graphic, minute, and outspoken. I
delight in French memoirs and English lives, especially such as are
either autobiography or made out by diaries and letters; and
America, a young country with manners as picturesque and unhackneyed
as the scenery, ought to be full of such works. We have had two
volumes lately that will interest your countrymen: Mr. Milnes's Life
of John Keats, that wonderful youth whose early death was, I think,
the greatest loss that English poetry ever experienced. Some of the
letters are very striking as developments on character, and the
richness of diction in the poetical fragments is exquisite. Mrs.
Browning is still at Florence with her husband. She sees more
Americans than English.

Books here are sadly depreciated. Mr. Dyce's admirable edition of
Beaumont and Fletcher, brought out two years ago at L6 12_s._ is now
offered at L2 17_s._

Adieu, dear Mr. Fields; forgive my seeming neglect, and believe me
always most faithfully yours,


(No date, 1849.)

Dear Mr. Fields: I cannot tell you how vexed I am at this mistake
about letters, which must have made you think me careless of your
correspondence and ungrateful for your kindness. The same thing has
happened to me before, I may say often, with American letters,--with
Professor Norton, Mrs. Sigourney, the Sedgwicks,--in short I always
feel an insecurity in writing to America which I never experience in
corresponding with friends on the Continent; France, Germany,
Italy, even Poland and Russia, are comparatively certain. Whether it
be the agents in London who lose letters, or some fault in the
post-office, I cannot tell, but I have twenty times experienced the
vexation, and it casts a certain discouragement over one's
communications. However, I hope that this letter will reach you, and
that you will be assured that the fault does not lie at my door.

During the last year or two my health has been declining much, and I
am just now thinking of taking a journey to Paris. My friend, Henry
Chorley of the Athenaeum, the first musical critic of Europe, is
going thither next month to assist at the production of Meyerbeer's
Prophete at the French Opera, and another friend will accompany me
and my little maid to take care of us; so that I have just hopes
that the excursion, erenow much facilitated by railways, may do me
good. I have always been a great admirer of the great Emperor, and
to see the heir of Napoleon at the Elysee seems to me a real piece
of poetical justice. I know many of his friends in England, who all
speak of him most highly; one of them says, "He is the very
impersonation of calm and simple honesty." I hope the nation will be
true to him, but, as Mirabeau says, "there are no such words as
'jamais' or 'toujours' with the French public."

10th of June, 1849.

I have been waiting to answer your most kind and interesting letter,
dear Mr. Fields, until I could announce to you a publication that
Mr. Colburn has been meditating and pressing me for, but which,
chiefly I believe from my own fault in not going to town, and not
liking to give him or Mr. Shoberl the trouble of coming here, is now
probably adjourned to the autumn. The fact is that I have been and
still am very poorly. We are stricken in our vanities, and the only
things that I recollect having ever been immoderately proud of--my
garden and my personal activity--have both now turned into causes of
shame and pity; the garden, declining from one bad gardener to
worse, has become a ploughed field,--and I myself, from a severe
attack of rheumatism, and since then a terrible fright in a
pony-chaise, am now little better than a cripple. However, if there
be punishment here below, there are likewise
consolations,--everybody is kind to me; I retain the vivid love of
reading, which is one of the highest pleasures of life; and very
interesting persons come to see me sometimes, from both sides of the
water,--witness, dear Mr. Fields, our present correspondence. One
such person arrived yesterday in the shape of Doctor ----, who has
been working musical miracles in Scotland, (think of making singing
teachers of children of four or five years of age!) and is now on
his way to Paris, where, having been during seven years one of the
editors of the National, he will find most of his colleagues of the
newspaper filling the highest posts in the government. What is the
American opinion of that great experiment; or, rather, what is
yours? I wish it success from the bottom of my heart, but I am a,
little afraid, from their total want of political economy (we have
not a school-girl so ignorant of the commonest principles of demand
and supply as the whole of the countrymen of Turgot from the
executive government downwards), and from a certain warlike tendency
which seems to me to pierce through all their declarations of peace.
We hear the flourish of trumpets through all the fine phrases of the
orators, and indeed it is difficult to imagine what they will do
with their _soi-disant ouvriers_,--workmen who have lost the habit
of labor,--unless they make soldiers of them. In the mean time some
friends of mine are about to accompany your countryman Mr. Elihu
Burritt as a deputation, and doubtless M. de Lamartine will give
them as eloquent an answer as heart can desire,--no doubt he will
keep peace if he can,--but the government have certainly not
hitherto shown firmness or vigor enough to make one rely upon them,
if the question becomes pressing and personal. In Italy matters seem
to be very promising. We have here one of the Silvio Pellico
exiles,--Count Carpinetta,--whose story is quite a romance. He is
just returned from Turin, where he was received with enthusiasm,
might have been returned as Deputy for two places, and did recover
some of his property, confiscated years ago by the Austrians. It
does one's heart good to see a piece of poetical justice transferred
to real life. _Apropos_ of public events, all London is talking of
the prediction of an old theological writer of the name of Fleming,
who in or about the year 1700 prophesied a revolution in France in
1794 (only one year wrong), and the fall of papacy in 1848 at all

Ever yours, M.R.M.

(No date, 1849)

DEAR MR. FIELDS: I must have seemed very ungrateful in being so long
silent. But your magnificent present of books, beautiful in every
sense of the word, has come dropping in volume by volume, and only
arrived complete (Mr. Longfellow's striking book being the last)
about a fortnight ago, and then it found me keeping my room, as I am
still doing, with a tremendous attack of neuralgia on the left side
of the face. I am getting better now by dint of blisters and tonic
medicine; but I can answer for that disease well deserving its bad
eminence of "painful." It is however, blessed be God! more
manageable than it used to be; and my medical friend, a man of
singular skill, promises me a cure.

I have seen things of Longfellow's as fine as anything in Campbell
or Coleridge or Tennyson or Hood. After all, our great lyrical poets
are great only for half a volume. Look at Gray and Collins, at your
own edition of the man whom one song immortalized, at Gerald
Griffin, whom you perhaps do not know, and at Wordsworth, who,
greatest of the great for about a hundred pages, is drowned in the
flood of his own wordiness in his longer works. To be sure, there
are giants who are rich to overflowing through a whole shelf of
books,--Shakespeare, the mutual ancestor of Englishmen and
Americans, above all,--and I think the much that they did, and did
well, will be the great hold on posterity of Scott and of Byron.
Have you happened to see Bulwer's King Arthur? It astonished me very
much. I had a full persuasion that, with great merit in a certain
way, he would never be a poet. Indeed, he is beginning poetry just
at the age when Scott, Southey, and a host of others, left it off.
But he is a strange person, full of the powerful quality called
_will_, and has produced a work which, although it is not at all in
the fashionable vein and has made little noise, has yet
extraordinary merit. When I say that it is more like Ariosto than
any other English poem that I know, I certainly give it no mean

Everybody is impatient for Mr. George Ticknor's work. The subject
seems to me full of interest. Lord Holland made a charming book of
Lope de Vega years ago, and Mr. Ticknor, with equal qualifications
and a much wider field, will hardly fail of delighting England and
America. Will you remember me to him most gratefully and
respectfully? He is a man whom no one can forget. As to Mr.
Prescott, I know no author now, except perhaps Mr. Macaulay, whose
works command so much attention and give so much delight. I am
ashamed to send you so little news, but I live in the country and
see few people. The day I caught my terrible Tic I spent with the
great capitalist, Mr. Goldsmidt, and Mr. Cobden and his pretty wife.
He is a very different person from what one expects,--graceful,
tasteful, playful, simple, and refined, and looking absolutely
young. I suspect that much of his power springs from his genial
character. I heard last week from Mrs. Browning; she and her husband
are at the Baths of Lucca. Mr. Kenyon's graceful book is out, and I
must not forget to tell you that "Our Village" has been printed by
Mr. Bohn in two volumes, which include the whole five. It is
beautifully got up and very cheap, that is to say, for 3 _s._ 6 _d._
a volume. Did Mr. Whittier send his works, or do I owe them wholly
to your kindness? If he sent them, I will write by the first
opportunity. Say everything for me to your young friend, and believe
me ever, dear Mr. F---- most faithfully and gratefully yours, M.R.M.


(No date.)

I have to thank you very earnestly, dear Mr. Fields, for two very
interesting books. The "Leaves from Margaret Smith's Journal" are, I
suppose, a sort of Lady Willoughby's Diary, so well executed that
they read like one of the imitations of Defoe,--his "Memoirs of a
Cavalier," for instance, which always seemed to me quite as true as
if they had been actually written seventy years before. Thank you
over and over again for these admirable books and for your great
kindness and attention. What a perfectly American name Peabody is!
And how strange it is that there should be in the United States so
many persons of English descent whose names have entirely
disappeared from the land of their fathers. Did you get my last
unworthy letter? I hope you did. It would at all events show that
there was on my part no intentional neglect, that I certainly had
written in reply to the last letter that I received, although
doubtless a letter had been lost on one side or the other. I live so
entirely in the quiet country that I have little to tell you that
can be interesting. Two things indeed, not generally known, I may
mention: that Stanfield Hall, the scene of the horrible murder of
which you have doubtless read, was the actual birthplace of Amy
Robsart,--of whose tragic end, by the way, there is at last an
authentic account, both in the new edition of Pepys and the first
volume of the "Romance of the Peerage"; and that a friend of mine
saw the other day in the window of a London bookseller a copy of
Hume, ticketed "An Excellent Introduction to Macaulay." The great
man was much amused at this practical compliment, as well he might
be. I have been reading the autobiographies of Lamartine and
Chateaubriand, as well as Raphael, which, although not avowed, is of
course and most certainly a continuation of "Les Confiances." What
strange beings these Frenchmen are! Here is M. de Lamartine at
sixty, poet, orator, historian, and statesman, writing the stories
of two ladies--one of them married--who died for love of him! Think
if Mr. Macaulay should announce himself as a lady-killer, and put
the details not merely into a book, but into a feuilleton!

The Brownings are living quite quietly at Florence, seeing, I
suspect, more Americans than English. Mrs. Trollope has lost her
only remaining daughter; arrived in England only time enough to see
her die.

Adieu, dear Mr. Fields; say everything for me to Mr. and Mrs.
Ticknor, and Mr. and Mrs. Norton. How much I should like to see you!

Ever faithfully yours, M.R.M.

(February, 1850.)

You will have thought me either dead or dying, my dear Mr. Fields,
for ungrateful I hope you could not think me to such a friend as
yourself, but in truth I have been in too much trouble and anxiety
to write. This is the story: I live alone, and my servants become,
as they are in France, and ought, I think, always to be, really and
truly part of my family. A most sensible young woman, my own maid,
who waits upon me and walks out with me, (we have another to do the
drudgery of our cottage,) has a little fatherless boy who is the pet
of the house. I wonder whether you saw him during the glimpse we had
of you! He is a fair-haired child of six years old, singularly quick
in intellect, and as bright in mind and heart and temper as a
fountain in the sun. He is at school in Reading, and, the small-pox
raging there like a pestilence, they sent him home to us to be out
of the way. The very next week my man-servant was seized with it,
after vaccination of course. Our medical friend advised me to send
him away, but that was, in my view of things, out of the question;
so we did the best we could,--my own maid, who is a perfect Sister
of Charity in all cases of illness, sitting up with him for seven
nights following, for one or two were requisite during the delirium,
and we could not get a nurse for love or money, and when he became
better, then, as we had dreaded, our poor little boy was struck
down. However, it has pleased God to spare him, and, after a long
struggle, he is safe from the disorder and almost restored to his
former health. But we are still under a sort of quarantine, for,
although people pretend to believe in vaccination, they avoid the
house as if the plague were in it, and stop their carriages at the
end of the village and send inquiries and cards, and in my mind they
are right. To say nothing of Reading, there have been above thirty
severe cases, after vaccination, in our immediate neighborhood, five
of them fatal. I had been inoculated after the old style, my maid
had had the small-pox the natural way and the only one who escaped
was a young girl who had been vaccinated three times, the last two
years ago. Forgive this long story; it was necessary to excuse my
most unthankful silence, and may serve as an illustration of the way
a disease, supposed to be all but exterminated, is making head again
in England.

Thank you a thousand and a thousand times for your most delightful
books. Mr. Whipple's Lectures are magnificent, and your own Boston
Book could not, I think, be beaten by a London Book, certainly not
approached by the collected works of any other British
city,--Edinburgh, for example.

Mr. Bennett is most grateful for your kindness, and Mrs. Browning
will be no less enchanted at the honor done her husband. It is most
creditable to America that they think more of our thoughtful poets
than the English do themselves.

Two female friends of mine--Mrs. Acton Tindal, a young beauty as
well as a woman of genius, and a Miss Julia Day, whom I have never
seen, but whose verses show extraordinary purity of thought,
feeling, and expression--have been putting forth books. Julia Day's
second series she has done me the honor to inscribe to me,
notwithstanding which I venture to say how very much I admire it,
and so I think would you. Henry Chorley is going to be a happy man.
All his life long he has been dying to have a play acted, and now he
has one coming out at the Surrey Theatre, over Blackfriars Bridge.
He lives much among fine people, and likes the notion of a Faubourg
audience. Perhaps he is right. I am not at all afraid of the play,
which is very beautiful,--a blank-verse comedy full of truth and
feeling. I don't know if you know Henry Chorley. He is the friend of
Robert Browning, and the especial favorite of John Kenyon, and has
always been a sort of adopted nephew of mine. Poor Mrs. Hemans loved
him well; so did a very different person, Lady Blessington,--so that
altogether you may fancy him a very likeable person; but he is much
more,--generous, unselfish, loyal, and as true as steel, worth all
his writings a thousand times over. If my house be in such condition
as to allow of my getting to London to see "Old Love and New
Fortune," I shall consult with Mr. Lucas about the time of sitting
to him for a portrait, as I have promised to do; for, although there
be several extant, not one is passably like. John Lucas is a man of
so much taste that he will make a real old woman's picture of it,
just with my every-day look and dress.

Will you make my most grateful thanks to Mr. Whipple, and also to
the author of "Greenwood Leaves," which I read with great pleasure,
and say all that is kindest and most respectful for me to Mr. and
Mrs. George Ticknor. I shall indeed expect great delight from his

Ever, dear Mr. Fields, most gratefully yours,


We have had a Mr. Richmond here, lecturing and so forth. Do you know
him? I can fancy what Mr. Webster would be on the Hungarian
question. To hear Mr. Cobden talk of it was like the sound of a

Three-mile Cross, November 25, 1850.

I have been waiting day after day, dear Mr. Fields, to send you two
books,--one new, the other old,--one by my friend, Mr. Bennett; the
other a volume [her Dramatic Poems] long out of print in England,
and never, I think, known in America. I had great difficulty in
procuring the shabby copy which I send you, but I think you will
like it because it is mine, and comes to you from friend to friend,
and because there is more of myself, that is, of my own inner
feelings and fancies, than one ever ventures to put into prose. Mr.
Bennett's volume, which is from himself as well as from me, I am
sure you will like; most thoroughly would like each other if ever
you met. He has the poet's heart and the poet's mind, large,
truthful, generous, and full of true refinement, delightful as a
companion, and invaluable as a man.

After eight years' absolute cessation of composition, Henry Chorley,
of the Athenaeum, coaxed me last summer into writing for a Lady's
Journal, which he was editing for Messrs. Bradbury and Evans,
certain Readings of Poetry, old and new, which will, I suppose, form
two or three separate volumes when collected, buried as they now are
amongst all the trash and crochet-work and millinery. They will be
quite as good as MS., and, indeed, every paper will be enlarged and
above as many again added. One pleasure will be the doing what
justice I can to certain American poets,--Mr. Whittier, for
instance, whose "Massachusetts to Virginia" is amongst the finest
things ever written. I gave one copy to a most intelligent Quaker
lady, and have another in the house at this moment for Mrs. Walter,
widow and mother of the two John Walters, father and son, so well
known as proprietors of the Times. I shall cause my book to be
immediately forwarded to you, but I don't think it will be ready for
a twelvemonth. There is a good deal in it of my own prose, and it
takes a wider range than usual of poetry, including much that has
never appeared in any of the specimen books. Of course, dear friend,
this is strictly between you and me, because it would greatly damage
the work to have the few fragments that have appeared as yet brought
forward without revision and completion in their present detached
and crude form.

This England of ours is all alight and aflame with Protestant
indignation against popery; the Church of England being likely to
rekindle the fires of 1780, by way of vindicating the right of
private judgment. I, who hold perfect freedom of thought and of
conscience the most precious of all possessions, have of course my
own hatred to these things. Cardinal Wiseman has taken advantage of
the attack to put forth one of the most brilliant appeals that has
appeared in my time; of course you will see it in America.

Professor Longfellow has won a station in England such as no
American poet ever held before, and assuredly he deserves it. Except
Beranger and Tennyson, I do not know any living man who has written
things so beautiful. I think I like his Nuremburg best of all. Mr.
Ticknor's great work, too, has won golden opinions, especially from
those whose applause is fame; and I foresee that day by day our
literature will become more mingled with rich, bright novelties from
America, not reflections of European brightness, but gems all
colored with your own skies and woods and waters. Lord Carlisle, the
most accomplished of our ministers and the most amiable of our
nobles, is giving this very week to the Leeds Mechanics' Institute a
lecture on his travels in the United States, and another on the
poetry of Pope.

May I ask you to transmit the accompanying letter to Mrs. H----? She
has sent to me for titles and dates, and fifty things in which I can
give her little help; but what I do know about my works I have sent
her. Only, as, except that I believe her to live in Philadelphia, I
really am as ignorant of her address as I am of the year which
brought forth the first volume of "Our Village," I am compelled to
go to you for help in forwarding my reply.

Ever, my dear Mr. Fields, most gratefully and faithfully yours,


Is not Louis Napoleon the most graceful of our European chiefs? I
have always had a weakness for the Emperor, and am delighted to find
the heir of his name turning out so well.


February 10, 1851

I cannot tell you, my dear Mr. Fields, how much I thank you for your
most kind letter and parcel, which, after sending three or four
emissaries all over London to seek, (Mr. ---- having ignored the
matter to my first messenger,) was at last sent to me by the Great
Western Railway,--I suspect by the aforesaid Mr. ----, because,
although the name of the London bookseller was dashed out, a
_long-tailed_ letter was left just where the "p" would come in ----,
and as neither Bonn's nor Whittaker's name boasts such a grace, I
suspect that, in spite of his assurance, the packet was in the
Strand, and neither in Ave Maria Lane nor in Henrietta Street, to
both houses I sent. Thank you a thousand times for all your
kindness. The orations are very striking. But I was delighted with
Dr. Holmes's poems for their individuality. How charming a person he
must be! And how truly the portrait represents the mind, the lofty
brow full of thought, and the wrinkle of humor in the eye! (Between
ourselves, I always have a little doubt of genius where there is no
humor; certainly in the very highest poetry the two go
together,--Scott, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Burns.) Another charming
thing in Dr. Holmes is, that every succeeding poem is better than
the last. Is he a widower, or a bachelor, or a married man? At all
events, he is a true poet, and I like him all the better for being a
physician,--the one truly noble profession. There are noble men in
all professions, but in medicine only are the great mass, almost the
whole, generous, liberal, self-denying, living to advance science
and to help mankind. If I had been a man I should certainly have
followed that profession. I rejoice to hear of another Romance by
the author of "The Scarlet Letter." That is a real work of genius.
Have you seen "Alton Locke"? No novel has made so much noise for a
long time; but it is, like "The Saint's Tragedy," inconclusive.
Between ourselves, I suspect that the latter part was written with
the fear of the Bishop before his eyes (the author, Mr. Kingsley, is
a clergyman of the Church of England), which makes the one volume
almost a contradiction of the others. Mrs. Browning is still at
Florence, where she sees scarcely any English, a few Italians, and
many Americans.

Ever most gratefully yours.


(No date.)

Dear Mr. Fields: I sent you a packet last week, but I have just
received your two charming books, and I cannot suffer a post to
pass without thanking you for them. Mr. Whittier's volume is quite
what might have been expected from the greatest of Quaker writers,
the worthy compeer of Longfellow, and will give me other extracts to
go with "From Massachusetts to Virginia" and "Cassandra Southwick"
in my own book, where one of my pleasures will be trying to do
justice to American poetry, and Dr. Holmes's fine "Astraea." We have
nothing like that nowadays in England. Nobody writes now in the
glorious resonant metre of Dryden, and very few ever did write as
Dr. Holmes does. I see there is another volume of his poetry, but
the name was new to me. How much I owe to you, my dear Mr. Fields!
That great romance, "The Scarlet Letter," and these fine poets,--for
true poetry, not at all imitative, is rare in England, common as
elegant imitative verse may be,--and that charming edition of Robert
Browning. Shall you republish his wife's new edition? I cannot tell
you how much I thank you. I read an extract from the Times,
containing a report of Lord Carlisle's lecture on America, chiefly
because he and Dr. Holmes say the same thing touching the slavish
regard to opinion which prevails in America. Lord Carlisle is by
many degrees the most accomplished of our nobles. Another
accomplished and cultivated nobleman, a friend of my own, we have
just lost,--Lord Nugent,--liberal, too, against the views of his

You must make my earnest and very sincere congratulations to your
friend. In publishing Gray, he shows the refinement of taste to be
expected in your companion. I went over all his haunts two years
ago, and have commemorated them in the book you will see by and
by,--the book that is to be,--and there I have put on record the
bride-cake, and the finding by you on my table your own edition of
Motherwell. You are not angry, are you? If your father and mother in
law ever come again to England, I shall rejoice to see them, and
shall be sure to do so, if they will drop me a line. God bless you,
dear Mr. Fields.

Ever faithfully and gratefully yours, M.R.M.

Three-mile Cross, July 20, 1851.

You will have thought me most ungrateful, dear Mr. Fields, in being
so long your debtor for a most kind and charming letter; but first I
waited for the "House of the Seven Gables," and then when it
arrived, only a week ago; I waited to read it a second time. At
sixty-four life gets too short to allow us to read every book once
and again; but it is not so with Mr. Hawthorne's. The first time one
sketches them (to borrow Dr. Holmes's excellent word), and cannot
put them down for the vivid interest; the next, one lingers over the
beauty with a calmer enjoyment. Very beautiful this book is! I thank
you for it again and again. The legendary part is all the better for
being vague and dim and shadowy, all pervading, yet never tangible;
and the living people have a charm about them which is as lifelike
and real as the legendary folks are ghostly and remote. Phoebe, for
instance, is a creation which, not to speak it profanely, is almost
Shakespearian. I know no modern heroine to compare with her, except
it be Eugene Sue's Rigolette, who shines forth amidst the iniquities
of "Les Mysteres de Paris" like some rich, bright, fresh cottage
rose thrown by evil chance upon a dunghill. Tell me, please, about
Mr. Hawthorne, as you were so good as to do about that charming
person, Dr. Holmes. Is he young? I think he is, and I hope so for
the sake of books to come. And is he of any profession? Does he
depend altogether upon literature, as too many writers do here? At

Book of the day: