By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville
Author: Somerville, Mary, 1780-1872
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.






Selections from her Correspondence.




[_The Right of Translation is reserved._]


       *     *     *     *     *



PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY. _6th Edition._ Post 8vo. 9_s._ 1870.

MOLECULAR AND MICROSCOPIC SCIENCE. 2 vols. Post 8vo. 21_s._ 1869.

[Transcriber's Note: commentary by the author, with the exception of her
opening and closing words are enclosed in square brackets. In the original
text, only an open square bracket was used.]


    CHAPTER I.                                                         PAGE

    CENTURY--EARLY EDUCATION--SCHOOL                                      1


    FREEDOM--RELIGIOUS EDUCATION--JEDBURGH                               24


    THEATRES OF THE TIME                                                 41


    IN THE FLEET--BATTLE OF CAMPERDOWN                                   61




    OF SIR WALTER SCOTT                                                  83




    HERSCHELS                                                           127


    DR. SOMERVILLE                                                      140


    NAPIERS--MARIA EDGEWORTH--TOUR IN GERMANY                           152


    PROFESSOR SEDGWICK AND LAPLACE                                      161


    LAFAYETTE                                                           183


    BY HIGHWAYMEN                                                       198


    ELPHINSTONE--LIFE AT ROME--CAMPAGNA CATTLE                          230


    R.I. ACADEMY OF SCIENCE AT AREZZO                                   243


    FROM MISS COBBE                                                     286


    CAPITAL OF ITALY--AURORA BOREALIS                                   329






       *     *     *     *     *



The life of a woman entirely devoted to her family duties and to
scientific pursuits affords little scope for a biography. There are in
it neither stirring events nor brilliant deeds to record; and as my
Mother was strongly averse to gossip, and to revelations of private life
or of intimate correspondence, nothing of the kind will be found in the
following pages. It has been only after very great hesitation, and on
the recommendation of valued friends, who think that some account of so
remarkable and beautiful a character cannot fail to interest the public,
that I have resolved to publish some detached Recollections of past
times, noted down by my mother during the last years of her life,
together with a few letters from eminent men and women, referring almost
exclusively to her scientific works. A still smaller number of her own
letters have been added, either as illustrating her opinions on events
she witnessed, or else as affording some slight idea of her simple and
loving disposition.

Few thoughtful minds will read without emotion my mother's own account
of the wonderful energy and indomitable perseverance by which, in her
ardent thirst for knowledge, she overcame obstacles apparently
insurmountable, at a time when women were well-nigh totally debarred
from education; and the almost intuitive way in which she entered upon
studies of which she had scarcely heard the names, living, as she did,
among persons to whom they were utterly unknown, and who disapproved of
her devotion to pursuits so different from those of ordinary young girls
at the end of the last century, especially in Scotland, which was far
more old-fashioned and primitive than England.

Nor is her simple account of her early days without interest, when, as a
lonely child, she wandered by the seashore, and on the links of
Burntisland, collecting shells and flowers; or spent the clear, cold
nights at her window, watching the starlit heavens, whose mysteries she
was destined one day to penetrate in all their profound and sublime
laws, making clear to others that knowledge which she herself had
acquired, at the cost of so hard a struggle.

It was not only in her childhood and youth that my mother's studies
encountered disapproval. Not till she became a widow, had she perfect
freedom to pursue them. The first person--indeed the only one in her
early days--who encouraged her passion for learning was her uncle by
marriage, afterwards her father-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Somerville,
minister of Jedburgh, a man very much in advance of his century in
liberality of thought on all subjects. He was one of the first to
discern her rare qualities, and valued her as she deserved; while
through life she retained the most grateful affection for him, and
confided to him many doubts and difficulties on subjects of the highest
importance. Nothing can be more erroneous than the statement, repeated
in several obituary notices of my mother, that Mr. Greig (her first
husband) aided her in her mathematical and other pursuits. Nearly the
contrary was the case. Mr. Greig took no interest in science or
literature, and possessed in full the prejudice against learned women
which was common at that time. Only on her marriage with my father, my
mother at last met with one who entirely sympathised with her, and
warmly entered into all her ideas, encouraging her zeal for study to the
utmost, and affording her every facility for it in his power. His love
and admiration for her were unbounded; he frankly and willingly
acknowledged her superiority to himself, and many of our friends can
bear witness to the honest pride and gratification which he always
testified in the fame and honours she attained.

No one can escape sorrow, and my mother, in the course of her long life,
had her full share, but she bore it with that deep feeling of trust in
the great goodness of God which formed so marked a feature in her
character. She had a buoyant and hopeful spirit, and though her
affections were very strong, and she felt keenly, it was ever her nature
to turn from the shadows to all that is bright and beautiful in mortal
life. She had much to make life pleasant in the great honours
universally bestowed upon her; but she found far more in the devoted
affection of friends, to say nothing of those whose happy lot it has
been to live in close and loving intercourse with so noble and gentle a

She met with unbounded kindness from men of science of all countries,
and most profound was her gratitude to them. Modest and unpretending to
excess, nothing could be more generous than the unfeigned delight she
shewed in recognising the genius and discoveries of others; ever jealous
of their fame, and never of her own.

It is not uncommon to see persons who hold in youth opinions in advance
of the age in which they live, but who at a certain period seem to
crystallise, and lose the faculty of comprehending and accepting new
ideas and theories; thus remaining at last as far behind, as they were
once in advance of public opinion. Not so my mother, who was ever ready
to hail joyfully any new idea or theory, and to give it honest
attention, even if it were at variance with her former convictions. This
quality she never lost, and it enabled her to sympathise with the
younger generation of philosophers, as she had done with their
predecessors, her own contemporaries.

Although her favourite pursuit, and the one for which she had decidedly
most aptitude, was mathematics; yet there were few subjects in which she
did not take interest, whether in science or literature, philosophy or
politics. She was passionately fond of poetry, her especial favourites
being Shakespeare and Dante, and also the great Greek dramatists, whose
tragedies she read fluently in the original, being a good classical
scholar. She was very fond of music, and devoted much time to it in her
youth, and she painted from nature with considerable taste. The latter
was, perhaps, the recreation in which she most delighted, from the
opportunity it afforded her of contemplating the wonderful beauty of the
world, which was a never-failing source of intense enjoyment to her,
whether she watched the changing effects of light and shade on her
favourite Roman Campagna, or gazed, enchanted, on the gorgeous sunsets
on the bay of Naples, as she witnessed them from her much-loved
Sorrento, where she passed the last summers of her life. All things fair
were a joy to her--the flowers we brought her from our rambles, the
sea-weeds, the wild birds she saw, all interested and pleased her.
Everything in nature spoke to her of that great God who created all
things, the grand and sublimely beautiful as well as the exquisite
loveliness of minute objects. Above all, in the laws which science
unveils step by step, she found ever renewed motives for the love and
adoration of their Author and Sustainer. This fervour of religious
feeling accompanied her through life, and very early she shook off all
that was dark and narrow in the creed of her first instructors for a
purer and a happier faith.

It would be almost incredible were I to describe how much my mother
contrived to do in the course of the day. When my sister and I were
small children, although busily engaged in writing for the press, she
used to teach us for three hours every morning, besides managing her
house carefully, reading the newspapers (for she always was a keen, and,
I must add, a liberal politician), and the most important new books on
all subjects, grave and gay. In addition to all this, she freely visited
and received her friends. She was, indeed, very fond of society, and did
not look for transcendent talent in those with whom she associated,
although no one appreciated it more when she found it. Gay and cheerful
company was a pleasant relaxation after a hard day's work. My mother
never introduced scientific or learned subjects into general
conversation. When they were brought forward by others, she talked
simply and naturally about them, without the slightest pretension to
superior knowledge. Finally, to complete the list of her
accomplishments, I must add that she was a remarkably neat and skilful
needlewoman. We still possess some elaborate specimens of her embroidery
and lace-work.

Devoted and loving in all the relations of life, my mother was ever
forgetful of self. Indulgent and sympathising, she never judged others
with harshness or severity; yet she could be very angry when her
indignation was aroused by hearing of injustice or oppression, of
cruelty to man or beast, or of any attack on those she loved. Rather
timid and retiring in general society, she was otherwise fearless in her
quiet way. I well remember her cool composure on some occasions when we
were in great danger. This she inherited from her father, Admiral Sir
William Fairfax, a gallant gentleman who distinguished himself greatly
at the battle of Camperdown.[1]

My mother speaks of him as follows among her "Recollections," of which I
now proceed to place some portions before the reader.

       *     *     *     *     *

My father was very good looking, of a brave and noble nature, and a
perfect gentleman both in appearance and character. He was sent to sea
as midshipman at ten years of age, so he had very little education; but
he read a great deal, chiefly history and voyages. He was very cool, and
of instant resource in moments of danger.

One night, when his little vessel had taken refuge with many others from
an intensely violent gale and drifting snow in Yarmouth Roads, they saw
lights disappear, as vessel after vessel foundered. My father, after
having done all that was possible for the safety of the ship, went to
bed. His cabin door did not shut closely, from the rolling of the ship,
and the man who was sentry that night told my mother years afterwards,
that when he saw my father on his knees praying, he thought it would
soon be all over with them; then seeing him go to bed and fall asleep,
he felt no more fear. In the morning the coast was strewed with wrecks.
There were no life-boats in those days; now the lives of hundreds are
annually saved by the noble self-devotion of British sailors.

My mother was the daughter of Samuel Charters, Solicitor of the Customs
for Scotland, and his wife Christian Murray, of Kynynmont, whose eldest
sister married the great grandfather of the present Earl of Minto. My
grandmother was exceedingly proud and stately. She made her children
stand in her presence. My mother, on the contrary, was indulgent and
kind, so that her children were perfectly at ease with her. She seldom
read anything but the Bible, sermons, and the newspaper. She was very
sincere and devout in her religion, and was remarkable for good sense
and great strength of expression in writing and conversation. Though by
no means pretty, she was exceedingly distinguished and ladylike both in
appearance and manners.

My father was constantly employed, and twice distinguished himself by
attacking vessels of superior force. He captured the first, but was
overpowered by the second, and being taken to France, remained two years
a prisoner on parole, when he met with much kindness from the Choiseul
family. At last he was exchanged, and afterwards was appointed
lieutenant on board a frigate destined for foreign service. I think it
was the North American station, for the war of Independence was not over
till the beginning of 1783. As my mother knew that my father would be
absent for some years, she accompanied him to London, though so near her
confinement that in returning home she had just time to arrive at the
manse of Jedburgh, her sister Martha Somerville's[2] house, when I was
born, on the 26th December, 1780. My mother was dangerously ill, and my
aunt, who was about to wean her second daughter Janet, who married
General Henry Elliot, nursed me till a wetnurse could be found. So I was
born in the house of my future husband, and nursed by his mother--a
rather singular coincidence.

During my father's absence, my mother lived with great economy in a
house not far from Burntisland which belonged to my grandfather, solely
occupied with the care of her family, which consisted of her eldest son
Samuel, four or five years old, and myself. One evening while my brother
was lying at play on the floor, he called out, "O, mamma there's the
moon rinnin' awa." It was the celebrated meteor of 1783.

Some time afterwards, for what reason I do not know, my father and
mother went to live for a short time at Inveresk, and thence returned to
Burntisland, our permanent home.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [This place, in which my mother's early life was spent, exercised so
    much influence on her life and pursuits, that I am happy to be
    able to give the description of it in her own words.]

       *     *     *     *     *

Burntisland was then a small quiet seaport town with little or no
commerce, situated on the coast of Fife, immediately opposite to
Edinburgh. It is sheltered at some distance on the north by a high and
steep hill called the Bin. The harbour lies on the west, and the town
ended on the east in a plain of short grass called the Links, on which
the townspeople had the right of pasturing their cows and geese. The
Links were bounded on each side by low hills covered with gorse and
heather, and on the east by a beautiful bay with a sandy beach, which,
beginning at a low rocky point, formed a bow and then stretched for
several miles to the town of Kinghorn, the distant part skirting a range
of high precipitous crags.

Our house, which lay to the south of the town, was very long, with a
southern exposure, and its length was increased by a wall covered with
fruit-trees, which concealed a courtyard, cow-house, and other offices.
From this the garden extended southwards, and ended in a plot of short
grass covering a ledge of low black rocks washed by the sea. It was
divided into three parts by narrow, almost unfrequented, lanes. These
gardens yielded abundance of common fruit and vegetables, but the
warmest and best exposures were always devoted to flowers. The garden
next to the house was bounded on the south by an ivy-covered wall hid by
a row of old elm trees, from whence a steep mossy bank descended to a
flat plot of grass with a gravel walk and flower borders on each side,
and a broad gravel walk ran along the front of the house. My mother was
fond of flowers, and prided herself on her moss-roses, which flourished
luxuriantly on the front of the house; but my father, though a sailor,
was an excellent florist. He procured the finest bulbs and flower seeds
from Holland, and kept each kind in a separate bed.

The manners and customs of the people who inhabited this pretty spot at
that time were exceedingly primitive.

Upon the death of any of the townspeople, a man went about ringing a
bell at the doors of the friends and acquaintances of the person just
dead, and, after calling out "Oyez!" three times, he announced the death
which had occurred. This was still called by the name of the
Passing-bell, which in Catholic times invited the prayers of the living
for the spirit just passed away.

There was much sympathy and kindness shown on these occasions; friends
always paid a visit of condolence to the afflicted, dressed in black.
The gude wives in Burntisland thought it respectable to provide
dead-clothes for themselves and the "gude man," that they might have a
decent funeral. I once saw a set of grave-clothes nicely folded up,
which consisted of a long shirt and cap of white flannel, and a shroud
of fine linen made of yarn, spun by the gude wife herself. I did not
like that gude wife; she was purse-proud, and took every opportunity of
treating with scorn a poor neighbour who had had a _misfortune_, that
is, a child by her husband before marriage, but who made a very good
wife. Her husband worked in our garden, and took our cow to the Links to
graze. The wife kept a little shop, where we bought things, and she told
us her neighbour had given her "mony a sair greet"--that is, a bitter
fit of weeping.

The howdie, or midwife, was a person of much consequence. She had often
to go far into the country, by day and by night, riding a cart-horse.
The neighbours used to go and congratulate the mother, and, of course,
to admire the baby. Cake and caudle were handed round, caudle being
oatmeal gruel, with sugar, nutmeg, and white wine. In the poorest class,
hot ale and "scons" were offered.

Penny-weddings were by no means uncommon in my young days. When a very
poor couple were going to be married, the best man, and even the
bridegroom himself, went from house to house, asking for small sums to
enable them to have a wedding supper, and pay the town fiddler for a
dance; any one was admitted who paid a penny. I recollect the prisoners
in the Tolbooth letting down bags from the prison windows, begging for
charity. I do not remember any execution taking place.

Men and old women of the lower classes smoked tobacco in short pipes,
and many took snuff--even young ladies must have done so; for I have a
very pretty and quaint gold snuff-box which was given to my grandmother
as a marriage present. Licensed beggars, called "gaberlunzie men," were
still common. They wore a blue coat, with a tin badge, and wandered
about the country, knew all that was going on, and were always welcome
at the farm-houses, where the gude wife liked to have a crack (gossip)
with the blue coat, and, in return for his news, gave him dinner or
supper, as might be. Edie Ochiltree is a perfect specimen of this
extinct race. There was another species of beggar, of yet higher
antiquity. If a man were a cripple, and poor, his relations put him in a
hand-barrow, and wheeled him to their next neighbour's door, and left
him there. Some one came out, gave him oat-cake or peasemeal bannock,
and then wheeled him to the next door; and in this way, going from house
to house, he obtained a fair livelihood.

My brother Sam lived with our grandfather in Edinburgh, and attended the
High School, which was in the old town, and, like other boys, he was
given pennies to buy bread; but the boys preferred oysters, which they
bought from the fishwives, the bargain being, a dozen oysters for a
halfpenny, and a kiss for the thirteenth. These fishwives and their
husbands were industrious, hard-working people, forming a community of
their own in the village of Newhaven, close to the sea, and about two
miles from Edinburgh. The men were exposed to cold, and often to danger,
in their small boats, not always well-built nor fitted for our stormy
Firth. The women helped to land and prepare the fish when the boats came
in, carried it to town for sale in the early morning, kept the purse,
managed the house, brought up the children, and provided food and
clothing for all. Many were rich, lived well, and sometimes had dances.
Many of the young women were pretty, and all wore--and, I am told, still
wear--a bright-coloured, picturesque costume. Some young men, amongst
others a cousin of my own, who attempted to intrude into one of these
balls, got pelted with fish offal by the women. The village smelt
strongly of fish, certainly; yet the people were very clean personally.
I recollect their keeping tame gulls, which they fed with fish offal.

Although there was no individual enmity between the boys of the old and
of the new or aristocratic part of Edinburgh, there were frequent
battles, called "bickers," between them, in which they pelted each other
with stones. Sometimes they were joined by bigger lads, and then the
fight became so serious that the magistrates sent the city guard--a set
of old men with halberds and a quaint uniform--to separate them; but no
sooner did the guard appear, than both parties joined against them.

Strings of wild geese were common in autumn, and I was amused on one
occasion to see the clumsy tame fat geese which were feeding on the
Links rise in a body and try to follow the wild ones.

As the grass on the plot before our house did not form a fine even turf,
the ground was trenched and sown with good seed, but along with the
grass a vast crop of thistles and groundsel appeared, which attracted
quantities of goldfinches, and in the early mornings I have seen as many
as sixty to eighty of these beautiful birds feeding on it.

My love of birds has continued through life, for only two years ago, in
my extreme old age, I lost a pet mountain sparrow, which for eight years
was my constant companion: sitting on my shoulder, pecking at my
papers, and eating out of my mouth; and I am not ashamed to say I felt
its accidental death very much.

Before the grass came up on this plot of ground, its surface in the
evening swarmed with earthworms, which instantly shrank into their holes
on the approach of a foot. My aunt Janet, who was then with us, and
afraid even to speak of death, was horrified on seeing them, firmly
believing that she would one day be eaten by them--a very general
opinion at that time; few people being then aware that the finest mould
in our gardens and fields has passed through the entrails of the
earthworm, the vegetable juices it contains being sufficient to maintain
these harmless creatures.

My mother was very much afraid of thunder and lightning. She knew when a
storm was near from the appearance of the clouds, and prepared for it by
taking out the steel pins which fastened her cap on. She then sat on a
sofa at a distance from the fire-place, which had a very high chimney,
and read different parts of the Bible, especially the sublime
descriptions of storms in the Psalms, which made me, who sat close by
her, still more afraid. We had an excellent and beautiful pointer,
called Hero, a great favourite, who generally lived in the garden, but
at the first clap of thunder he used to rush howling indoors, and place
his face on my knee. Then my father, who laughed not a little at our
fear, would bring a glass of wine to my mother, and say, "Drink that,
Peg; it will give you courage, for we are going to have a rat-tat-too."
My mother would beg him to shut the window-shutters, and though she
could no longer see to read, she kept the Bible on her knee for

My mother taught me to read the Bible, and to say my prayers morning and
evening; otherwise she allowed me to grow up a wild creature. When I was
seven or eight years old I began to be useful, for I pulled the fruit
for preserving; shelled the peas and beans, fed the poultry, and looked
after the dairy, for we kept a cow.

On one occasion I had put green gooseberries into bottles and sent them
to the kitchen with orders to the cook to boil the bottles uncorked,
and, when the fruit was sufficiently cooked, to cork and tie up the
bottles. After a time all the house was alarmed by loud explosions and
violent screaming in the kitchen, the cook had corked the bottles before
she boiled them, and of course they exploded. For greater preservation,
the bottles were always buried in the ground; a number were once found
in our garden with the fruit in high preservation which had been buried
no one knew when. Thus experience is sometimes the antecedent of
science, for it was little suspected at that time that by shutting out
the air the invisible organic world was excluded--the cause of all
fermentation and decay.

I never cared for dolls, and had no one to play with me. I amused myself
in the garden, which was much frequented by birds. I knew most of them,
their flight and their habits. The swallows were never prevented from
building above our windows, and, when about to migrate, they used to
assemble in hundreds on the roof of our house, and prepared for their
journey by short flights. We fed the birds when the ground was covered
with snow, and opened our windows at breakfast-time to let in the
robins, who would hop on the table to pick up crumbs. The quantity of
singing birds was very great, for the farmers and gardeners were less
cruel and avaricious than they are now--though poorer. They allowed our
pretty songsters to share in the bounties of providence. The
shortsighted cruelty, which is too prevalent now, brings its own
punishment, for, owing to the reckless destruction of birds, the
equilibrium of nature is disturbed, insects increase to such an extent
as materially to affect every description of crop. This summer (1872),
when I was at Sorrento, even the olives, grapes, and oranges were
seriously injured by the caterpillars--a disaster which I entirely
attribute to the ruthless havoc made among every kind of bird.

       *     *     *     *     *

My mother set me in due time to learn the catechism of the Kirk of
Scotland, and to attend the public examinations in the kirk. This was a
severe trial for me; for, besides being timid and shy, I had a bad
memory, and did not understand one word of the catechism. These
meetings, which began with prayer, were attended by all the children of
the town and neighbourhood, with their mothers, and a great many old
women, who came to be edified. They were an acute race, and could quote
chapter and verse of Scripture as accurately as the minister himself. I
remember he said to one of them--"Peggie, what lightened the world
before the sun was made?" After thinking for a minute, she said--"'Deed,
sir, the question is mair curious than edifying."

Besides these public examinations, the minister made an annual visit to
each household in his parish. When he came to us, the servants were
called in, and we all knelt while he said a prayer; and then he examined
each individual as to the state of his soul and conduct. He asked me if
I could say my "Questions"--that is, the catechism of the Kirk of
Scotland--and asked a question at random to ascertain the fact. He did
the same to the servants.

When I was between eight and nine years old, my father came home from
sea, and was shocked to find me such a savage. I had not yet been taught
to write, and although I amused myself reading the "Arabian Nights,"
"Robinson Crusoe," and the "Pilgrim's Progress," I read very badly, and
with a strong Scotch accent; so, besides a chapter of the Bible, he made
me read a paper of the "Spectator" aloud every morning, after breakfast;
the consequence of which discipline is that I have never since opened
that book. Hume's "History of England" was also a real penance to me. I
gladly accompanied my father when he cultivated his flowers, which even
now I can say were of the best quality. The tulips and other bulbous
plants, ranunculi, anemones, carnations, as well as the annuals then
known, were all beautiful. He used to root up and throw away many plants
I thought very beautiful; he said he did so because the colours of their
petals were not sharply defined, and that they would spoil the seed of
the others. Thus I learnt to know the good and the bad--how to lay
carnations, and how to distinguish between the leaf and fruit buds in
pruning fruit trees; this kind of knowledge was of no practical use,
for, as my after-life was spent in towns, I never had a garden, to my
great regret.

George the Third was so popular, that even in Burntisland nosegays were
placed in every window on the 4th of June, his birthday; and it
occasionally happened that our garden was robbed the preceding night of
its gayest flowers.

My father at last said to my mother,--"This kind of life will never do,
Mary must at least know how to write and keep accounts." So at ten years
old I was sent to a boarding-school, kept by a Miss Primrose, at
Musselburgh, where I was utterly wretched. The change from perfect
liberty to perpetual restraint was in itself a great trial; besides,
being naturally shy and timid, I was afraid of strangers, and although
Miss Primrose was not unkind she had an habitual frown, which even the
elder girls dreaded. My future companions, who were all older than I,
came round me like a swarm of bees, and asked if my father had a title,
what was the name of our estate, if we kept a carriage, and other such
questions, which made me first feel the difference of station. However,
the girls were very kind, and often bathed my eyes to prevent our stern
mistress from seeing that I was perpetually in tears. A few days after
my arrival, although perfectly straight and well-made, I was enclosed in
stiff stays with a steel busk in front, while, above my frock, bands
drew my shoulders back till the shoulder-blades met. Then a steel rod,
with a semi-circle which went under the chin, was clasped to the steel
busk in my stays. In this constrained state I, and most of the younger
girls, had to prepare our lessons. The chief thing I had to do was to
learn by heart a page of Johnson's dictionary, not only to spell the
words, give their parts of speech and meaning, but as an exercise of
memory to remember their order of succession. Besides I had to learn the
first principles of writing, and the rudiments of French and English
grammar. The method of teaching was extremely tedious and inefficient.
Our religious duties were attended to in a remarkable way. Some of the
girls were Presbyterians, others belonged to the Church of England, so
Miss Primrose cut the matter short by taking us all to the kirk in the
morning and to church in the afternoon.

In our play-hours we amused ourselves with playing at ball, marbles, and
especially at "Scotch and English," a game which represented a raid on
the debatable land, or Border between Scotland and England, in which
each party tried to rob the other of their playthings. The little ones
were always compelled to be English, for the bigger girls thought it too

Lady Hope, a relative of my mother, frequently invited me to spend
Saturday at Pinkie. She was a very ladylike person, in delicate health,
and with cold manners. Sir Archibald was stout, loud, passionate, and
devoted to hunting. I amused myself in the grounds, a good deal afraid
of a turkey-cock, who was pugnacious and defiant.


[Footnote 1: Sir William Fairfax was the son of Joseph Fairfax, Esq., of
Bagshot, in the county of Surrey, who died in 1783, aged 77, having
served in the army previous to 1745. It is understood that his family
was descended from the Fairfaxes of Walton, in Yorkshire, the main
branch of which were created Viscounts Fairfax of Emly, in the peerage
of Ireland (now extinct), and a younger branch Barons Fairfax of
Cameron, in the peerage of Scotland. Of the last-named was the great
Lord Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the Parliament,
1645-50, whose title is now held by the eleventh Lord Fairfax, a
resident in the United States of America.]

[Footnote 2: Wife of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Somerville, minister of
Jedburgh, already mentioned (p. 2). Dr. Somerville was author of
Histories of Queen Anne and of William and Mary, and also of an



    [My mother remained at school at Musselburgh for a twelvemonth, till
    she was eleven years old. After this prolonged and elaborate
    education, she was recalled to Burntisland, and the results of the
    process she had undergone are detailed in her "Recollections" with
    much drollery.]

       *     *     *     *     *

Soon after my return home I received a note from a lady in the
neighbourhood, inquiring for my mother, who had been ill. This note
greatly distressed me, for my half-text writing was as bad as possible,
and I could neither compose an answer nor spell the words. My eldest
cousin, Miss Somerville, a grown-up young lady, then with us, got me out
of this scrape, but I soon got myself into another, by writing to my
brother in Edinburgh that I had sent him a bank-_knot_ (note) to buy
something for me. The school at Musselburgh was expensive, and I was
reproached with having cost so much money in vain. My mother said she
would have been contented if I had only learnt to write well and keep
accounts, which was all that a woman was expected to know.

This passed over, and I was like a wild animal escaped out of a cage. I
was no longer amused in the gardens, but wandered about the country.
When the tide was out I spent hours on the sands, looking at the
star-fish and sea-urchins, or watching the children digging for
sand-eels, cockles, and the spouting razor-fish. I made a collection of
shells, such as were cast ashore, some so small that they appeared like
white specks in patches of black sand. There was a small pier on the
sands for shipping limestone brought from the coal mines inland. I was
astonished to see the surface of these blocks of stone covered with
beautiful impressions of what seemed to be leaves; how they got there I
could not imagine, but I picked up the broken bits, and even large
pieces, and brought them to my repository. I knew the eggs of many
birds, and made a collection of them. I never robbed a nest, but bought
strings of eggs, which were sold by boys, besides getting sea-fowl eggs
from sailors who had been in whalers or on other northern voyages. It
was believed by these sailors that there was a gigantic flat fish in the
North Sea, called a kraken. It was so enormous that when it came to the
surface, covered with tangles and sand, it was supposed to be an island,
till, on one occasion, part of a ship's crew landed on it and found out
their mistake. However, much as they believed in it, none of the sailors
at Burntisland had ever seen it. The sea serpent was also an article of
our faith.

In the rocks at the end of our garden there was a shingly opening, in
which we used to bathe, and where at low tide I frequently waded among
masses of rock covered with sea-weeds. With the exception of dulse and
tangle I knew the names of none, though I was well acquainted with and
admired many of these beautiful plants. I also watched the crabs, live
shells, jelly-fish, and various marine animals, all of which were
objects of curiosity and amusement to me in my lonely life.

The flora on the links and hills around was very beautiful, and I soon
learnt the trivial names of all the plants. There was not a tree nor
bush higher than furze in this part of the country, but the coast to the
north-west of Burntisland was bordered by a tree and brushwood-covered
bank belonging to the Earl of Morton, which extended to Aberdour. I
could not go so far alone, but had frequent opportunities of walking
there and gathering ferns, foxgloves, and primroses, which grew on the
mossy banks of a little stream that ran into the sea. The bed of this
stream or burn was thickly covered with the freshwater mussel, which I
knew often contained pearls, but I did not like to kill the creatures to
get the pearls.

One day my father, who was a keen sportsman, having gone to fish for red
trout at the mouth of this stream, found a young whale, or grampus,
stranded in the shallow water. He immediately ran back to the town, got
boats, captured the whale, and landed it in the harbour, where I went
with the rest of the crowd to see the _muckle fish_.

There was always a good deal of shipbuilding carried on in the harbour,
generally coasting vessels or colliers. We, of course, went to see them
launched, which was a pretty sight.

       *     *     *     *     *

When the bad weather began I did not know what to do with myself.
Fortunately we had a small collection of books, among which I found
Shakespeare, and read it at every moment I could spare from my domestic
duties. These occupied a great part of my time; besides, I had to _shew_
(sew) my sampler, working the alphabet from A to Z, as well as the ten
numbers, on canvas.

My mother did not prevent me from reading, but my aunt Janet, who came
to live in Burntisland after her father's death, greatly disapproved of
my conduct. She was an old maid who could be very agreeable and witty,
but she had all the prejudices of the time with regard to women's
duties, and said to my mother, "I wonder you let Mary waste her time in
reading, she never _shews_ (sews) more than if she were a man."
Whereupon I was sent to the village school to learn plain needlework. I
do not remember how long it was after this that an old lady sent some
very fine linen to be made into shirts for her brother, and desired that
one should be made entirely by me. This shirt was so well worked that I
was relieved from attending the school, but the house linen was given
into my charge to make and to mend. We had a large stock, much of it
very beautiful, for the Scotch ladies at that time were very proud of
their napery, but they no longer sent it to Holland to be bleached, as
had once been the custom. We grew flax, and our maids spun it. The
coarser yarn was woven in Burntisland, and bleached upon the links; the
finer was sent to Dunfermline, where there was a manufactory of

I was annoyed that my turn for reading was so much disapproved of, and
thought it unjust that women should have been given a desire for
knowledge if it were wrong to acquire it. Among our books I found
Chapone's "Letters to Young Women," and resolved to follow the course of
history there recommended, the more so as we had most of the works she
mentions. One, however, which my cousin lent me was in French, and here
the little I had learnt at school was useful, for with the help of a
dictionary I made out the sense. What annoyed me was my memory not being
good--I could remember neither names nor dates. Years afterwards I
studied a "Memoria Technica," then in fashion, without success; yet in
my youth I could play long pieces of music on the piano without the
book, and I never forget mathematical formulæ. In looking over one of my
MSS., which I had not seen for forty years, I at once recognised the
formulæ for computing the secular inequalities of the moon.

We had two small globes, and my mother allowed me to learn the use of
them from Mr. Reed, the village schoolmaster, who came to teach me for a
few weeks in the winter evenings. Besides the ordinary branches, Mr.
Reed taught Latin and navigation, but these were out of the question for
me. At the village school the boys often learnt Latin, but it was
thought sufficient for the girls to be able to read the Bible; very few
even learnt writing. I recollect, however, that some men were ignorant
of book-keeping; our baker, for instance had a wooden tally, in which
he made a notch for every loaf of bread, and of course we had the
corresponding tally. They were called nick-sticks.

My bedroom had a window to the south, and a small closet near had one to
the north. At these I spent many hours, studying the stars by the aid of
the celestial globe. Although I watched and admired the magnificent
displays of the Aurora, which frequently occurred, they seemed to be so
nearly allied to lightning that I was somewhat afraid of them. At an
earlier period of my life there was a comet, which I dreaded

       *     *     *     *     *

My father was Captain of the "Repulse," a fifty-gun ship, attached to
the Northern fleet commanded by the Earl of Northesk. The winter was
extremely stormy, the fleet was driven far north, and kept there by
adverse gales, till both officers and crew were on short rations. They
ran out of candles, and had to tear up their stockings for wicks, and
dip them into the fat of the salt meat which was left. We were in great
anxiety, for it was reported that some of the ships had foundered; we
were, however, relieved by the arrival of the "Repulse" in Leith roads
for repair.

Our house on one occasion being full, I was sent to sleep in a room
quite detached from the rest and with a different staircase. There was
a closet in this room in which my father kept his fowling pieces,
fishing tackle, and golf clubs, and a long garret overhead was filled
with presses and stores of all kinds, among other things a number of
large cheeses were on a board slung by ropes to the rafters. One night I
had put out my candle and was fast asleep, when I was awakened by a
violent crash, and then a rolling noise over my head. Now the room was
said to be haunted, so that the servants would not sleep in it. I was
desperate, for there was no bell. I groped my way to the closet--lucifer
matches were unknown in those days--I seized one of the golf clubs,
which are shod with iron, and thundered on the bedroom door till I
brought my father, followed by the whole household, to my aid. It was
found that the rats had gnawed through the ropes by which the cheeses
were suspended, so that the crash and rolling were accounted for, and I
was scolded for making such an uproar.

Children suffer much misery by being left alone in the dark. When I was
very young I was sent to bed at eight or nine o'clock, and the maid who
slept in the room went away as soon as I was in bed, leaving me alone in
the dark till she came to bed herself. All that time I was in an agony
of fear of something indefinite, I could not tell what. The joy, the
relief, when the maid came back, were such that I instantly fell asleep.
Now that I am a widow and old, although I always have a night-lamp, such
is the power of early impressions that I rejoice when daylight comes.

       *     *     *     *     *

At Burntisland the sacrament was administered in summer because people
came in crowds from the neighbouring parishes to attend the preachings.
The service was long and fatiguing. A number of clergymen came to
assist, and as the minister's manse could not accommodate them all, we
entertained three of them, one of whom was always the Rev. Dr. Campbell,
father of Lord Campbell.

Thursday was a day of preparation. The morning service began by a psalm
sung by the congregation, then a prayer was said by the minister,
followed by a lecture on some chapter of the Bible, generally lasting an
hour, after that another psalm was sung, followed by a prayer, a sermon
which lasted seldom less than an hour, and the whole ended with a psalm,
a short prayer and a benediction. Every one then went home to dinner and
returned afterwards for afternoon service, which lasted more than an
hour and a half. Friday was a day of rest, but I together with many
young people went at this time to the minister to receive a stamped
piece of lead as a token that we were sufficiently instructed to be
admitted to Christ's table. This ticket was given to the Elder on the
following Sunday. On Saturday there was a morning service, and on Sunday
such multitudes came to receive the sacrament that the devotions
continued till late in the evening. The ceremony was very strikingly and
solemnly conducted. The communicants sat on each side of long narrow
tables covered with white linen, in imitation of the last supper of
Christ, and the Elders handed the bread and wine. After a short
exhortation from one of the ministers the first set retired, and were
succeeded by others. When the weather was fine a sermon, prayers, and
psalm-singing took place either in the churchyard or on a grassy bank at
the Links for such as were waiting to communicate. On the Monday morning
there was the same long service as on the Thursday. It was too much for
me; I always came home with a headache, and took a dislike to sermons.

Our minister was a rigid Calvinist. His sermons were gloomy, and so long
that he occasionally would startle the congregation by calling out to
some culprit, "Sit up there, how daur ye sleep i' the kirk." Some
saw-mills in the neighbourhood were burnt down, so the following Sunday
we had a sermon on hell-fire. The kirk was very large and quaint; a
stair led to a gallery on each side of the pulpit, which was intended
for the tradespeople, and each division was marked with a suitable
device, and text from Scripture. On the bakers' portion a sheaf of wheat
was painted; a balance and weights on the grocers', and on the weavers',
which was opposite to our pew, there was a shuttle, and below it the
motto, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent
without _hop job_." The artist was evidently no clerk.

My brother Sam, while attending the university in Edinburgh, came to us
on the Saturdays and returned to town on Monday. He of course went with
us to the kirk on Sunday morning, but we let our mother attend afternoon
service alone, as he and I were happy to be together, and we spent the
time sitting on the grassy rocks at the foot of our garden, from whence
we could see a vast extent of the Firth of Forth with Edinburgh and its
picturesque hills. It was very amusing, for we occasionally saw three or
four whales spouting, and shoals of porpoises at play. However, we did
not escape reproof, for I recollect the servant coming to tell us that
the minister had sent to inquire whether Mr. and Miss Fairfax had been
taken ill, as he had not seen them at the kirk in the afternoon. The
minister in question was Mr. Wemyss, who had married a younger sister of
my mother's.

       *     *     *     *     *

When I was about thirteen my mother took a small apartment in Edinburgh
for the winter, and I was sent to a writing school, where I soon learnt
to write a good hand, and studied the common rules of arithmetic. My
uncle William Henry Charters, lately returned from India, gave me a
pianoforte, and I had music lessons from an old lady who lived in the
top story of one of the highest houses in the old town. I slept in the
same room with my mother. One morning I called out, much alarmed, "There
is lightning!" but my mother said, after a moment, "No; it is fire!" and
on opening the window shutters I found that the flakes of fire flying
past had made the glass quite hot. The next house but one was on fire
and burning fiercely, and the people next door were throwing everything
they possessed, even china and glass, out of the windows into the
street. We dressed quickly, and my mother sent immediately to Trotter
the upholsterer for four men. We then put our family papers, our silver,
&c., &c., into trunks; then my mother said, "Now let us breakfast, it is
time enough for us to move our things when the next house takes fire."
Of its doing so there was every probability because casks of turpentine
and oil were exploding from time to time in a carriage manufactory at
the back of it. Several gentlemen of our acquaintance who came to assist
us were surprised to find us breakfasting quietly as if there were
nothing unusual going on. In fact my mother, though a coward in many
things, had, like most women, the presence of mind and the courage of
necessity. The fire was extinguished, and we had only the four men to
pay for doing nothing, nor did we sacrifice any of our property like our
neighbours who had completely lost their heads from terror. I may
mention here that on one occasion when my father was at home he had been
ill with a severe cold, and wore his nightcap. While reading in the
drawing-room one evening he called out, "I smell fire, there is no time
to be lost," so, snatching up a candle, he wandered from room to room
followed by us all still smelling fire, when one of the servants said,
"O, sir, it is the tassel of your nightcap that is on fire."

       *     *     *     *     *

On returning to Burntisland, I spent four or five hours daily at the
piano; and for the sake of having something to do, I taught myself Latin
enough from such books as we had, to read Cæsar's "Commentaries." I
went that summer on a visit to my aunt at Jedburgh, and, for the first
time in my life, I met in my uncle, Dr. Somerville, with a friend who
approved of my thirst for knowledge. During long walks with him in the
early mornings, he was so kind, that I had the courage to tell him that
I had been trying to learn Latin, but I feared it was in vain; for my
brother and other boys, superior to me in talent, and with every
assistance, spent years in learning it. He assured me, on the contrary,
that in ancient times many women--some of them of the highest rank in
England--had been very elegant scholars, and that he would read Virgil
with me if I would come to his study for an hour or two every morning
before breakfast, which I gladly did.

I never was happier in my life than during the months I spent at
Jedburgh. My aunt was a charming companion--witty, full of anecdote, and
had read more than most women of her day, especially Shakespeare, who
was her favourite author. My cousins had little turn for reading, but
they were better educated than most girls. They were taught to write by
David Brewster, son of the village schoolmaster, afterwards Sir David,
who became one of the most distinguished philosophers and discoverers of
the age, member of all the scientific societies at home and abroad, and
at last President of the University of Edinburgh. He was studying in
Edinburgh when I was at Jedburgh; so I did not make his acquaintance
then; but later in life he became my valued friend. I did not know till
after his death, that, while teaching my cousins, he fell in love with
my cousin Margaret. I do not believe she was aware of it. She was
afterwards attached to an officer in the army; but my aunt would not
allow her to go to that _outlandish_ place, Malta, where he was
quartered; so she lived and died unmarried. Steam has changed our ideas
of distance since that time.

My uncle's house--the manse--in which I was born, stands in a pretty
garden, bounded by the fine ancient abbey, which, though partially
ruined, still serves as the parish kirk. The garden produced abundance
of common flowers, vegetables, and fruit. Some of the plum and pear
trees were very old, and were said to have been planted by the monks.
Both were excellent in quality, and very productive. The view from both
garden and manse was over the beautiful narrow valley through which the
Jed flows. The precipitous banks of red sandstone are richly clothed
with vegetation, some of the trees ancient and very fine, especially the
magnificent one called the capon tree, and the lofty king of the wood,
remnants of the fine forests which at one time had covered the country.
An inland scene was new to me, and I was never tired of admiring the
tree-crowned scaurs or precipices, where the rich glow of the red
sandstone harmonized so well with the autumnal tints of the foliage.

We often bathed in the pure stream of the Jed. My aunt always went with
us, and was the merriest of the party; we bathed in a pool which was
deep under the high scaur, but sloped gradually from the grassy bank on
the other side. Quiet and transparent as the Jed was, it one day came
down with irresistible fury, red with the débris of the sandstone
scaurs. There had been a thunderstorm in the hills up-stream, and as
soon as the river began to rise, the people came out with pitchforks and
hooks to catch the hayricks, sheaves of corn, drowned pigs, and other
animals that came sweeping past. My cousins and I were standing on the
bridge, but my aunt called us off when the water rose above the arches,
for fear of the bridge giving way. We made expeditions every day;
sometimes we went nutting in the forest; at other times we gathered
mushrooms on the grass parks of Stewartfield, where there was a wood of
picturesque old Scotch firs, inhabited by a colony of rooks. I still
kept the habit of looking out for birds, and had the good fortune to
see a heron, now a rare bird in the valley of the Jed. Some of us went
every day to a spring called the Allerly well, about a quarter of a mile
from the manse, and brought a large jug of its sparkling water for
dinner. The evenings were cheerful; my aunt sang Scotch songs prettily,
and told us stories and legends about Jedburgh, which had been a royal
residence in the olden time. She had a tame white and tawny-coloured
owl, which we fed every night, and sometimes brought into the
drawing-room. The Sunday evening never was gloomy, though properly
observed. We occasionally drank tea with acquaintances, and made visits
of a few days to the Rutherfurds of Edgerton and others; but I was
always glad to return to the manse.

My uncle, like other ministers of the Scottish Kirk, was allowed a
glebe, which he farmed himself. Besides horses, a cow was kept, which
supplied the family with cream and butter, and the skimmed milk was
given to the poor; but as the milk became scarce, one woman was
deprived, for the time, of her share. Soon after, the cow was taken ill,
and my uncle's ploughman, Will, came to him and said, "Sir, gin you
would give that carline Tibby Jones her soup o' milk again, the coo
would soon be weel eneugh." Will was by no means the only believer in
witchcraft at that time.



    [My mother's next visit was to the house of her uncle, William
    Charters, in Edinburgh. From thence she was enabled to partake of
    the advantages of a dancing-school of the period.]

       *     *     *     *     *

They sent me to Strange's dancing school. Strange himself was exactly
like a figure on the stage; tall and thin, he wore a powdered wig, with
cannons at the ears, and a pigtail. Ruffles at the breast and wrists,
white waistcoat, black silk or velvet shorts, white silk stockings,
large silver buckles, and a pale blue coat completed his costume. He had
a little fiddle on which he played, called a kit. My first lesson was
how to walk and make a curtsey. "Young lady, if you visit the queen you
must make three curtsies, lower and lower and lower as you approach her.
So--o--o," leading me on and making me curtsey. "Now, if the queen were
to ask you to eat a bit of mutton with her, what would you say?" Every
Saturday afternoon all the scholars, both boys and girls, met to
practise in the public assembly rooms in George's Street. It was a
handsome large hall with benches rising like an amphitheatre. Some of
the elder girls were very pretty, and danced well, so these practisings
became a lounge for officers from the Castle, and other young men. We
used always to go in full evening dress. We learnt the _minuet de la
cour_, reels and country dances. Our partners used to give us
gingerbread and oranges. Dancing before so many people was quite an
exhibition, and I was greatly mortified one day when ready to begin a
minuet, by the dancing-master shaking me roughly and making me hold out
my frock properly.

Though kind in the main, my uncle and his wife were rather sarcastic and
severe, and kept me down a good deal, which I felt keenly, but said
nothing. I was not a favourite with my family at that period of my life,
because I was reserved and unexpansive, in consequence of the silence I
was obliged to observe on the subjects which interested me. Three Miss
Melvilles, friends, or perhaps relatives, of Mrs. Charters, were always
held up to me as models of perfection, to be imitated in everything, and
I wearied of hearing them constantly praised at my expense.

In a small society like that of Edinburgh there was a good deal of
scandal and gossip; every one's character and conduct were freely
criticised, and by none more than by my aunt and her friends. She used
to sit at a window embroidering, where she not only could see every one
that passed, but with a small telescope could look into the
dressing-room of a lady of her acquaintance, and watch all she did. A
spinster lady of good family, a cousin of ours, carried her gossip so
far, that she was tried for defamation, and condemned to a month's
imprisonment, which she actually underwent in the Tolbooth. She was let
out just before the king's birthday, to celebrate which, besides the
guns fired at the Castle, the boys let off squibs and crackers in all
the streets. As the lady in question was walking up the High Street,
some lads in a wynd, or narrow street, fired a small cannon, and one of
the slugs with which it was loaded hit her mouth and wounded her tongue.
This raised a universal laugh; and no one enjoyed it more than my uncle
William, who disliked this somewhat masculine woman.

Whilst at my uncle's house, I attended a school for writing and
arithmetic, and made considerable progress in the latter, for I liked
it, but I soon forgot it from want of practice.

My uncle and aunt generally paid a visit to the Lyells of Kinnordy, the
father and mother of my friend Sir Charles Lyell, the celebrated
geologist; but this time they accepted an invitation from Captain
Wedderburn, and took me with them. Captain Wedderburn was an old
bachelor, who had left the army and devoted himself to agriculture.
Mounted on a very tall but quiet horse, I accompanied my host every
morning when he went over his farm, which was chiefly a grass farm. The
house was infested with rats, and a masculine old maid, who was of the
party, lived in such terror of them, that she had a light in her
bedroom, and after she was in bed, made her maid tuck in the white
dimity curtains all round. One night we were awakened by violent
screams, and on going to see what was the matter, we found Miss Cowe in
the middle of the room, bare-footed, in her night-dress, screaming at
the top of her voice. Instead of tucking the rats out of the bed, the
maid had tucked one in, and Miss Cowe on waking beheld it sitting on her

       *     *     *     *     *

There was great political agitation at this time. The corruption and
tyranny of the court, nobility, and clergy in France were so great, that
when the revolution broke out, a large portion of our population thought
the French people were perfectly justified in revolting, and warmly
espoused their cause. Later many changed their opinions, shocked, as
every one was, at the death of the king and queen, and the atrocious
massacres which took place in France. Yet some not only approved of the
revolution abroad, but were so disgusted with our mal-administration at
home, to which they attributed our failure in the war in Holland and
elsewhere, that great dissatisfaction and alarm prevailed throughout the
country. The violence, on the other hand, of the opposite party was not
to be described,--the very name of Liberal was detested.

Great dissensions were caused by difference of opinion in families; and
I heard people previously much esteemed accused from this cause of all
that was evil. My uncle William and my father were as violent Tories as

The Liberals were distinguished by wearing their hair short, and when
one day I happened to say how becoming a crop was, and that I wished the
men would cut off those ugly pigtails, my father exclaimed, "By G--,
when a man cuts off his queue, the head should go with it."

The unjust and exaggerated abuse of the Liberal party made me a Liberal.
From my earliest years my mind revolted against oppression and tyranny,
and I resented the injustice of the world in denying all those
privileges of education to my sex which were so lavishly bestowed on
men. My liberal opinions, both in religion and politics, have remained
unchanged (or, rather, have advanced) throughout my life, but I have
never been a republican. I have always considered a highly-educated
aristocracy essential, not only for government, but for the refinement
of a people.

    [After her winter in Edinburgh, my mother returned to Burntisland.
    Strange to say, she found there, in an illustrated Magazine of
    Fashions, the introduction to the great study of her life.]

       *     *     *     *     *

I was often invited with my mother to the tea-parties given either by
widows or maiden ladies who resided at Burntisland. A pool of commerce
used to be keenly contested till a late hour at these parties, which
bored me exceedingly, but I there became acquainted with a Miss Ogilvie,
much younger than the rest, who asked me to go and see fancy works she
was doing, and at which she was very clever. I went next day, and after
admiring her work, and being told how it was done, she showed me a
monthly magazine with coloured plates of ladies' dresses, charades, and
puzzles. At the end of a page I read what appeared to me to be simply an
arithmetical question; but on turning the page I was surprised to see
strange looking lines mixed with letters, chiefly X'es and Y's, and
asked; "What is that?" "Oh," said Miss Ogilvie, "it is a kind of
arithmetic: they call it Algebra; but I can tell you nothing about it."
And we talked about other things; but on going home I thought I would
look if any of our books could tell me what was meant by Algebra.

In Robertson's "Navigation" I flattered myself that I had got precisely
what I wanted; but I soon found that I was mistaken. I perceived,
however, that astronomy did not consist in star-gazing,[3] and as I
persevered in studying the book for a time, I certainly got a dim view
of several subjects which were useful to me afterwards. Unfortunately
not one of our acquaintances or relations knew anything of science or
natural history; nor, had they done so, should I have had courage to ask
any of them a question, for I should have been laughed at. I was often
very sad and forlorn; not a hand held out to help me.

My uncle and aunt Charters took a house at Burntisland for the summer,
and the Miss Melville I have already mentioned came to pay them a visit.
She painted miniatures, and from seeing her at work, I took a fancy to
learn to draw, and actually wasted time in copying prints; but this
circumstance enabled me to get elementary books on Algebra and Geometry
without asking questions of any one, as will be explained afterwards.
The rest of the summer I spent in playing on the piano and learning
Greek enough to read Xenophon and part of Herodotus; then we prepared to
go to Edinburgh.

My mother was so much afraid of the sea that she never would cross the
Firth except in a boat belonging to a certain skipper who had served in
the Navy and lost a hand; he had a hook fastened on the stump to enable
him to haul ropes. My brother and I were tired of the country, and one
sunny day we persuaded my mother to embark. When we came to the shore,
the skipper said, "I wonder that the leddy boats to-day, for though it
is calm here under the lee of the land, there is a stiff breeze
outside." We made him a sign to hold his tongue, for we knew this as
well as he did. Our mother went down to the cabin and remained silent
and quiet for a time; but when we began to roll and be tossed about, she
called out to the skipper, "George! this is an awful storm, I am sure we
are in great danger. Mind how you steer; remember, I trust in you!" He
laughed, and said, "Dinna trust in me, leddy; trust in God Almighty."
Our mother, in perfect terror, called out, "Dear me! is it come to
that?" We burst out laughing, skipper and all.

Nasmyth, an exceedingly good landscape painter, had opened an academy
for ladies in Edinburgh, a proof of the gradual improvement which was
taking place in the education of the higher classes; my mother, very
willingly allowed me to attend it. The class was very full. I was not
taught to draw, but looked on while Nasmyth painted; then a picture was
given me to copy, the master correcting the faults. Though I spoilt
canvas, I had made some progress by the end of the season.[4] Mr.
Nasmyth, besides being a good artist, was clever, well-informed, and had
a great deal of conversation. One day I happened to be near him while he
was talking to the Ladies Douglas about perspective. He said, "You
should study Euclid's Elements of Geometry; the foundation not only of
perspective, but of astronomy and all mechanical science." Here, in the
most unexpected manner, I got the information I wanted, for I at once
saw that it would help me to understand some parts of Robertson's
"Navigation;" but as to going to a bookseller and asking for Euclid the
thing was impossible! Besides I did not yet know anything definite about
Algebra, so no more could be done at that time; but I never lost sight
of an object which had interested me from the first.

I rose early, and played four or five hours, as usual, on the piano, and
had lessons from Corri, an Italian, who taught carelessly, and did not
correct a habit I had of thumping so as to break the strings; but I
learned to tune a piano and mend the strings, as there was no tuner at
Burntisland. Afterwards I got over my bad habit and played the music
then in vogue: pieces by Pleyel, Clementi, Steibelt, Mozart, and
Beethoven, the last being my favourite to this day. I was sometimes
accompanied on the violin by Mr. Thomson, the friend of Burns; more
frequently by Stabilini; but I was always too shy to play before people,
and invariably played badly when obliged to do so, which vexed me.

       *     *     *     *     *

The prejudice against the theatre had been very great in Scotland, and
still existed among the rigid Calvinists. One day, when I was fourteen
or fifteen, on going into the drawing-room, an old man sitting beside my
mother rose and kissed me, saying, "I am one of your mother's oldest
friends." It was Home, the author of the tragedy of "Douglas." He was
obliged to resign his living in the kirk for the scandal of having had
his play acted in the theatre in Edinburgh, and some of his clerical
friends were publicly rebuked for going to see it. Our family was
perfectly liberal in all these matters. The first time I had ever been
in a theatre I went with my father to see "Cymbeline." I had never
neglected Shakespeare, and when our great tragedians, Mrs. Siddons and
her brother, John Kemble, came for a short time to act in Edinburgh, I
could think of nothing else. They were both remarkably handsome, and,
notwithstanding the Scotch prejudice, the theatre was crowded every
night. It was a misfortune to me that my mother never would go into
society during the absence of my father, nor, indeed, at any time,
except, perhaps, to a dinner party; but I had no difficulty in finding a
chaperone, as we knew many people. I used to go to the theatre in the
morning, and ask to see the plan of the house for the evening, that I
might know which ladies I could accompany to their boxes. Of course I
paid for my place. Our friends were so kind that I saw these great
artists, as well as Charles Kemble, Young, and Bannister, in "Hamlet,"
"Macbeth," "Othello," "Coriolanus," "The Gamester," &c.

It was greatly to the honour of the British stage that all the principal
actors, men and women, were of excellent moral character, and much
esteemed. Many years afterwards, when Mrs. Siddons was an old woman, I
drank tea with her, and heard her read Milton and Shakespeare. Her
daughter told us to applaud, for she had been so much accustomed to it
in the theatre that she could not read with spirit without this
expression of approbation.

My mother was pleased with my music and painting, and, although she did
not go to the theatre herself, she encouraged me to go. She was quite of
the old school with regard to the duties of women, and very particular
about her table; and, although we were obliged to live with rigid
economy, our food was of the best quality, well dressed, and neatly
served, for she could tell the cook exactly what was amiss when anything
was badly cooked. She thought besides that some of the comfort of
married life depended upon the table, so I was sent to a pastrycook for
a short time every day, to learn the art of cookery. I had for
companions Miss Moncreiff, daughter of Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, a
Scotch baronet of old family. She was older than I, pretty, pleasing,
and one of the belles of the day. We were amused at the time, and
afterwards made jellies and creams for little supper parties, then in
fashion, though, as far as economy went, we might as well have bought

On returning to Burntisland, I played on the piano as diligently as
ever, and painted several hours every day. At this time, however, a Mr.
Craw came to live with us as tutor to my youngest brother, Henry. He had
been educated for the kirk, was a fair Greek and Latin scholar, but,
unfortunately for me, was no mathematician. He was a simple,
good-natured kind of man, and I ventured to ask him about algebra and
geometry, and begged him, the first time he went to Edinburgh, to buy me
something elementary on these subjects, so he soon brought me "Euclid"
and Bonnycastle's "Algebra," which were the books used in the schools at
that time. Now I had got what I so long and earnestly desired. I asked
Mr. Craw to hear me demonstrate a few problems in the first book of
"Euclid," and then I continued the study alone with courage and
assiduity, knowing I was on the right road. Before I began to read
algebra I found it necessary to study arithmetic again, having forgotten
much of it. I never was expert at addition, for, in summing up a long
column of pounds, shillings, and pence, in the family account book, it
seldom came out twice the same way. In after life I, of course, used
logarithms for the higher branches of science.

I had to take part in the household affairs, and to make and mend my
own clothes. I rose early, played on the piano, and painted during the
time I could spare in the daylight hours, but I sat up very late reading
Euclid. The servants, however, told my mother "It was no wonder the
stock of candles was soon exhausted, for Miss Mary sat up reading till a
very late hour;" whereupon an order was given to take away my candle as
soon as I was in bed. I had, however, already gone through the first six
books of Euclid, and now I was thrown on my memory, which I exercised by
beginning at the first book, and demonstrating in my mind a certain
number of problems every night, till I could nearly go through the
whole. My father came home for a short time, and, somehow or other,
finding out what I was about, said to my mother, "Peg, we must put a
stop to this, or we shall have Mary in a strait jacket one of these
days. There was X., who went raving mad about the longitude!"

       *     *     *     *     *

In our younger days my brother Sam and I kept various festivals: we
burnt nuts, ducked for apples, and observed many other of the ceremonies
of Halloween, so well described by Burns, and we always sat up to hail
the new year on New Year's Eve. When in Edinburgh we sometimes disguised
ourselves as "guisarts," and went about with a basket full of Christmas
cakes called buns and shortbread, and a flagon of "het-pint" or posset,
to wish our friends a "Happy New Year." At Christmas time a set of men,
called the Christmas Wakes, walked slowly through the streets during the
midnight hours, playing our sweet Scotch airs on flageolets. I remember
the sound from a distance fell gently on my sleeping ear, swelled
softly, and died away in distance again, a passing breeze of sweet
sound. It was very pleasing; some thought it too sad.

My grandfather was intimate with the Boswells of Balmuto, a bleak place
a few miles to the north of Burntisland. Lord Balmuto, a Scotch judge,
who was then proprietor, had been a dancing companion of my mother's,
and had a son and two daughters, the eldest a nice girl of my age, with
whom I was intimate, so I gladly accepted an invitation to visit them at
Balmuto. Lord Balmuto was a large coarse-looking man, with black hair
and beetling eyebrows. Though not vulgar, he was passionate, and had a
boisterous manner. My mother and her sisters gave him the nickname of
the "black bull of Norr'away," in allusion to the northern position of
Balmuto. Mrs. Boswell was gentle and ladylike. The son had a turn for
chemistry, and his father took me to see what they called the
Laboratory. What a laboratory might be I knew not, as I had never heard
the word before, but somehow I did not like the look of the
curiously-shaped glass things and other apparatus, so when the son put a
substance on the table, and took a hammer, his father saying, "Now you
will hear a fine report," I ran out of the room, saying, "I don't like
reports." Sure enough there was a very loud report, followed by a
violent crash, and on going into the room again, we found that the son
had been knocked down, the father was trembling from head to foot, and
the apparatus had been smashed to pieces. They had had a narrow escape.
Miss Boswell led a dull life, often passing the winter with her mother
in that solitary place, Balmuto; and when in Edinburgh, she was much
kept down by her father, and associated little with people of her own
age and station. The consequence was that she eloped with her
drawing-master, to the inexpressible rage and mortification of her
father, who had all the Scotch pride of family and pure blood.

This year we remained longer in the country than usual, and I went to
spend Christmas with the Oswalds of Dunnikeir. The family consisted of a
son, a colonel in the army, and three daughters, the youngest about my
age, a bold horsewoman. She had talent, became a good Greek and Latin
scholar, and was afterwards married to the Earl of Elgin. More than
seventy years after this I had a visit from the Dean of Westminster and
Lady Augusta Stanley, her daughter; a very charming person, who told me
about her family, of which I had heard nothing for years. I was very
happy to see the Dean, one of the most liberal and distinguished members
of the Church of England, and son of my old friend the late Bishop of

       *     *     *     *     *

When I returned to Edinburgh Mr. Nasmyth was much pleased with the
progress I had made in painting, for, besides having copied several
landscapes he had lent me, I had taken the outline of a print and
coloured it from a storm I saw at the end of our garden. This picture I
still possess.

Dr. Blair, minister of the High Kirk of Edinburgh, the well-known author
and professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University, an
intimate friend of my grandfather's, had heard of my turn for painting,
and asked my mother to let him see some of my pictures. A few of the
best were sent to him, and were returned after a few days accompanied by
a long letter from the old gentleman, pointing out what he admired most
in each picture. I was delighted with the letter, and not a little vain
of the praise.



    This comes to return you a thousand thanks for the pleasure and
    entertainment I have had from your landscape paintings. I had them
    placed in the best light I could contrive in my drawing-room, and
    entertained myself a good while every day looking at them and
    admiring their beauties, which always grew upon me. I intend to
    return them to you to-morrow, or rather on the beginning of next
    week; and as they were taken particular care of, I hope they shall
    not appear to have suffered any injury.

    I have exhibited them to several people, some of whom were excellent
    judges, whom I brought on purpose to view them--Lady Miller, the
    Solicitor and Mrs. Blair, his lady, Dr. Hill, Miss Anne Ker of
    Nisbet, and a variety of ladies. All joined in praising them highly.
    The penserosa figure caught the highest admiration of any, from the
    gracefulness of the figure and attitude, and the boldness and
    propriety of the scenery. The two morning and evening views--one of
    Lochness, and the other of Elcho Castle--which make fine companions,
    and which I always placed together, were also highly admired. Each
    of them had their different partizans, and I myself was for a good
    while undetermined which of them to prefer. At last, I found the
    placidity of the scene in Elcho Castle, with the cottages among the
    trees, dwelt most on my imagination, though the gaiety and
    brightness of the morning sky in the other has also exquisite
    beauty. On the whole, I am persuaded that your taste and powers of
    execution in that art are uncommonly great, and that if you go on
    you must excel highly, and may go what length you please. Landscape
    painting has been always a great favourite with me; and you have
    really contributed much to my entertainment. As I thought you might
    wish to know my sentiments, after your paintings had been a little
    considered, I was led to write you these lines (in which I assure
    you there is nothing flattering), before sending back your pieces to
    you. With best compliments to Lady Fairfax, believe me,

                            Your obliged and most obedient Servant,
                                                            HUGH BLAIR.
    ARGYLL SQUARE, _11th April_ (probably) 1796.

A day or two after this a Mrs. Ramsay, a rich proud widow, a relation of
my mother's, came with her daughter, who was an heiress, to pay us a
morning visit. Looking round the room she asked who had painted the
pictures hung up on the walls. My mother, who was rather proud of them,
said they were painted by me. "I am glad," said Mrs. Ramsay, "that Miss
Fairfax has any kind of talent that may enable her to win her bread, for
everyone knows she will not have a sixpence." It was a very severe hit,
because it was true. Had it been my lot to win my bread by painting, I
fear I should have fared badly, but I never should have been ashamed of
it; on the contrary, I should have been very proud had I been
successful. I must say the idea of making money had never entered my
head in any of my pursuits, but I was intensely ambitious to excel in
something, for I felt in my own breast that women were capable of taking
a higher place in creation than that assigned to them in my early days,
which was very low.

Not long after Mrs. Ramsay's visit to my mother, Miss Ramsay went to
visit the Dons, at Newton Don, a pretty place near Kelso. Miss Ramsay
and the three Miss Dons were returning from a long walk; they had
reached the park of Newton Don, when they heard the dinner bell ring,
and fearing to be too late for dinner, instead of going round, they
attempted to cross a brook which runs through the park. One of the Miss
Dons stumbled on the stepping-stones and fell into the water. Her two
sisters and Miss Ramsay, trying to save her, fell in one after another.
The three Miss Dons were drowned, but Miss Ramsay, who wore a stiff
worsted petticoat, was buoyed up by it and carried down stream, where
she caught by the branch of a tree and was saved. She never recovered
the shock of the dreadful scene.


[Footnote 3: Many people evidently think the science of astronomy
consists entirely in observing the stars, for I have been frequently
asked if I passed my nights looking through a telescope, and I have
astonished the enquirers by saying I did not even possess one.]

[Footnote 4: Nasmyth told a lady still alive who took lessons from him
in her youth, that the cleverest young lady he ever taught was Miss Mary



    [By this time my mother was grown up, and extremely pretty. All
    those who knew her speak of her rare and delicate beauty, both of
    face and figure. They called her the "Rose of Jedwood." She kept her
    beauty to the last day of her life, and was a beautiful old woman,
    as she had been a lovely young one. She used to say, laughing, that
    "it was very hard no one ever thought of painting her portrait so
    long as she was young and pretty." After she became celebrated,
    various likenesses were taken of her, by far the best of which are a
    beautiful bust, modelled at Rome in 1844 by Mr. Lawrence Macdonald,
    and a crayon drawing by Mr. James Swinton, done in London in 1848.
    My mother always looked considerably younger than her age; even at
    ninety, she looked younger than some who were her juniors by several
    years. This was owing, no doubt, principally to her being small and
    delicate in face and figure, but also, I think, to the extreme
    youthfulness and freshness of both her heart and mind, neither of
    which ever grew old. It certainly was not due to a youthful style of
    dress, for she had perfect taste in such matters, as well as in
    other things; and although no one spent less thought or money on it
    than she, my mother was at all times both neatly and becomingly
    dressed. She never was careless; and her room, her papers, and all
    that belonged to her were invariably in the most beautiful order. My
    mother's recollections of this period of her life are as follows:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

At that time Edinburgh was really the capital of Scotland; most of the
Scotch families of distinction spent the winter there, and we had
numerous acquaintances who invited me to whatever gaiety was going on.
As my mother refused to go into society when my father was at sea, I had
to find a chaperon; but I never was at a loss, for we were somehow
related to the Erskine family, and the Countess of Buchan, an amiable
old lady, was always ready to take charge of me.

It was under Lady Buchan's care that I made my first appearance at a
ball, and my first dancing partner was the late Earl of Minto, then Mr.
Gilbert Elliot, with whom I was always on very friendly terms, as well
as with his family. Many other ladies were willing to take charge of me,
but a chaperon was only required for the theatre, and concerts, and for
balls in the public assembly rooms; at private balls the lady of the
house was thought sufficient. Still, although I was sure to know
everybody in the room, or nearly so, I liked to have some one with whom
to enter and to sit beside. Few ladies kept carriages, but went in sedan
chairs, of which there were stands in the principal streets. Ladies were
generally attended by a man-servant, but I went alone, as our household
consisted of two maid-servants only. My mother knew, however, that the
Highlanders who carried me could be trusted. I was fond of dancing, and
never without partners, and often came home in bright daylight. The
dances were reels, country dances, and sometimes Sir Roger de Coverley.

    [At this period, although busily engaged in studying painting at
    Nasmyth's academy, practising the piano five hours a day, and
    pursuing her more serious studies zealously, my mother went a good
    deal into society, for Edinburgh was a gay, sociable place, and many
    people who recollect her at that time, and some who were her dancing
    partners, have told me she was much admired, and a great favourite.
    They said she had a graceful figure, below the middle size, a small
    head, well set on her shoulders, a beautiful complexion, bright,
    intelligent eyes, and a profusion of soft brown hair. Besides the
    various occupations I have mentioned, she made all her own dresses,
    even for balls. These, however, unlike the elaborate productions of
    our day, were simply of fine India muslin, with a little Flanders
    lace. She says of her life in Edinburgh:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

Girls had perfect liberty at that time in Edinburgh; we walked together
in Princes Street, the fashionable promenade, and were joined by our
dancing partners. We occasionally gave little supper parties, and
presented these young men to our parents as they came in. At these
meetings we played at games, danced reels, or had a little music--never
cards. After supper there were toasts, sentiments, and songs. There were
always one or two hot dishes, and a variety of sweet things and fruit.
Though I was much more at ease in society now, I was always terribly put
out when asked for a toast or a sentiment. Like other girls, I did not
dislike a little quiet flirtation; but I never could speak across a
table, or take a leading part in conversation. This diffidence was
probably owing to the secluded life I led in my early youth. At this
time I gladly took part in any gaiety that was going on, and spent the
day after a ball in idleness and gossiping with my friends; but these
were rare occasions, for the balls were not numerous, and I never lost
sight of the main object of my life, which was to prosecute my studies.
So I painted at Nasmyth's, played the usual number of hours on the
piano, worked and conversed with my mother in the evening; and as we
kept early hours, I rose at day-break, and after dressing, I wrapped
myself in a blanket from my bed on account of the excessive
cold--having no fire at that hour--and read algebra or the classics till
breakfast time. I had, and still have, determined perseverance, but I
soon found that it was in vain to occupy my mind beyond a certain time.
I grew tired and did more harm than good; so, if I met with a difficult
point, for example, in algebra, instead of poring over it till I was
bewildered, I left it, took my work or some amusing book, and resumed it
when my mind was fresh. Poetry was my great resource on these occasions,
but at a later period I read novels, the "Old English Baron," the
"Mysteries of Udolpho," the "Romance of the Forest," &c. I was very fond
of ghost and witch stories, both of which were believed in by most of
the common people and many of the better educated. I heard an old naval
officer say that he never opened his eyes after he was in bed. I asked
him why? and he replied, "For fear I should see something!" Now I did
not actually believe in either ghosts or witches, but yet, when alone in
the dead of the night, I have been seized with a dread of, I know not
what. Few people will now understand me if I say I was _eerie_, a Scotch
expression for superstitious awe. I have been struck, on reading the
life of the late Sir David Brewster, with the influence the
superstitions of the age and country had on both learned and unlearned.
Sir David was one of the greatest philosophers of the day. He was only a
year younger than I; we were both born in Jedburgh, and both were
influenced by the superstitions of our age and country in a similar
manner, for he confessed that, although he did not believe in ghosts, he
was _eerie_ when sitting up to a late hour in a lone house that was
haunted. This is a totally different thing from believing in
spirit-rapping, which I scorn.

We returned as usual to Burntisland, in spring, and my father, who was
at home, took my mother and me a tour in the Highlands. I was a great
admirer of Ossian's poems, and viewed the grand and beautiful scenery
with awe; and my father, who was of a romantic disposition, smiled at my
enthusiastic admiration of the eagles as they soared above the
mountains. These noble birds are nearly extirpated; and, indeed, the
feathered tribes, which were more varied and numerous in Britain than in
any part of Europe, will soon disappear. They will certainly be avenged
by the insects.

On coming home from the journey I was quite broken-hearted to find my
beautiful goldfinch, which used to draw its water so prettily with an
ivory cup and little chain, dead in its cage. The odious wretches of
servants, to whose care I trusted it, let it die of hunger. My heart is
deeply pained as I write this, seventy years afterwards.

       *     *     *     *     *

In Fifeshire, as elsewhere, political opinions separated friends and
disturbed the peace of families; discussions on political questions were
violent and dangerous on account of the hard-drinking then so prevalent.
At this time the oppression and cruelty committed in Great Britain were
almost beyond endurance. Men and women were executed for what at the
present day would only have been held to deserve a few weeks' or months'
imprisonment.[5] Every liberal opinion was crushed, men were entrapped
into the army by promises which were never kept, and press-gangs tore
merchant seamen from their families, and forced them to serve in the
navy, where they were miserably provided for. The severity of discipline
in both services amounted to torture. Such was the treatment of the
brave men on whom the safety of the nation depended! They could bear it
no longer; a mutiny broke out in the fleet which had been cruising off
the Texel to watch the movements of a powerful Dutch squadron. The men
rose against their officers, took the command, and ship after ship
returned to England, leaving only a frigate and the "Venerable,"
commanded by Admiral Duncan, with my father as his flag-captain. To
deceive the Dutch, they continued to make signals, as if the rest of the
fleet were in the offing, till they could return to England; when,
without delay, Admiral Duncan and my father went alone on board each
ship, ordered the men to arrest the ringleaders, which was done, and the
fleet immediately returned to its station off the Texel. At last, on the
morning of the 11th October, 1797, the Dutch fleet came out in great
force, and formed in line of battle; that is, with their broadsides
towards our ships. Then Admiral Duncan said to my father, "Fairfax, what
shall we do?"--"Break their line, sir, and draw up on the other side,
where they will not be so well prepared."--"Do it, then, Fairfax." So my
father signalled accordingly. The circumstances of the battle, which was
nobly fought on both sides, are historical. Nine ships of the line and
two frigates were taken, and my father was sent home to announce the
victory to the Admiralty. The rejoicing was excessive; every town and
village was illuminated; and the Administration, relieved from the fear
of a revolution, continued more confidently its oppressive measures.

When Admiral Duncan came to London, he was made a Baron, and afterwards
Earl of Camperdown; and, by an unanimous vote of the House of Commons,
he received a pension or a sum of money, I forget which; my father was
knighted, and made Colonel of Marines. Earl Spencer was First Lord of
the Admiralty at the time, and Lady Spencer said to my father, "You ask
for the promotion of your officers, but you never have asked a reward
for yourself." He replied, "I leave that to my country." But his country
did nothing for him; and at his death my mother had nothing to live upon
but the usual pension of an Admiral's widow, of seventy-five pounds
a-year. Our friends, especially Robert Ferguson, junior, of Raith, made
various attempts to obtain an addition to it; but it was too late:
Camperdown was forgotten.

I remember one morning going to Lord Camperdown's house in Edinburgh
with my mother, to see a very large painting, representing the
quarter-deck of the "Venerable," Admiral Duncan, as large as life,
standing upright, and the Dutch Admiral, De Winter, presenting his sword
to my father. Another representation of the same scene may be seen among
the numerous pictures of naval battles which decorate the walls of the
great hall at Greenwich Hospital. Many years afterwards I was surprised
to see an engraving of this very picture in the public library at
Milan. I did not know that one existed.

At a great entertainment given to Lord Duncan by the East India Company,
then in great power, the President asked my father, who sat at his left
hand, if he had any relation in India? He replied, "My eldest son is in
the Company's military service." "Then," said the President, "he shall
be a Writer, the highest appointment in my power to bestow." I cannot
tell how thankful we were; for, instead of a separation of almost a
lifetime, it gave hopes that my brother might make a sufficient fortune
in a few years to enable him to come home. There was a great review of
the troops at Calcutta, under a burning sun; my brother returned to the
barracks, sun-struck, where he found his appointment, and died that
evening, at the age of twenty-one.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [My mother has often told us of her heart-broken parting with this
    brother on his going to India. It was then almost for a lifetime,
    and he was her favourite brother, and the companion of her
    childhood. He must have been wonderfully handsome, judging from a
    beautifully-painted miniature which we have of him.]

       *     *     *     *     *

Public events became more and more exciting every day, and difficulties
occurred at home. There had been bad harvests, and there was a great
scarcity of bread; the people were much distressed, and the
manufacturing towns in England were almost in a state of revolution; but
the fear of invasion kept them quiet. I gloried in the brilliant success
of our arms by land and by sea; and although I should have been glad if
the people had resisted oppression at home, when we were threatened with
invasion, I would have died to prevent a Frenchman from landing on our
coast. No one can imagine the intense excitement which pervaded all
ranks at that time. Every one was armed, and, notwithstanding the alarm,
we could not but laugh at the awkward, and often ridiculous, figures of
our old acquaintances, when at drill in uniform. At that time I went to
visit my relations at Jedburgh. Soon after my arrival, we were awakened
in the middle of the night by the Yeomanry entering the town at full
gallop. The beacons were burning on the top of the Cheviots and other
hills, as a signal that the French had landed. When day came, every
preparation was made; but it was a false alarm.

The rapid succession of victories by sea and land was intensely
exciting. We always illuminated our house, and went to the rocky bank in
our southern garden to see the illumination of Edinburgh, Leith, and the
shipping in the Roads, which was inexpressibly beautiful, though there
was no gas in those times. It often happened that balls were given by
the officers of the ships of war that came occasionally to Leith Roads,
and I was always invited, but never allowed to go; for my mother thought
it foolish to run the risk of crossing the Firth, a distance of seven
miles, at a late hour, in a small open boat and returning in the
morning, as the weather was always uncertain, and the sea often rough
from tide and wind. On one occasion, my father was at home, and, though
it was blowing hard, I thought he would not object to accepting the
invitation; but he said, "Were it a matter of duty, you should go, even
at the risk of your life, but for a ball, certainly not."

We were as poor as ever, even more so; for my father was led into
unavoidable expenses in London; so, after all the excitement, we
returned to our more than usually economical life. No events worth
mentioning happened for a long time. I continued my diversified pursuits
as usual; had they been more concentrated, it would have been better;
but there was no choice; for I had not the means of pursuing any one as
far as I could wish, nor had I any friend to whom I could apply for
direction or information. I was often deeply depressed at spending so
much time to so little purpose.


[Footnote 5: The late Justice Coltman told us, when he and Lady Coltman
came to see my father and mother at Siena, that he recollected when he
first went the circuit seeing more than twenty people hanged at once at
York, chiefly for horse-stealing and such offences.--EDITOR.]



    [Mr. Samuel Greig was a distant relation of the Charters family. His
    father, an officer in the British navy, had been sent by our
    government, at the request of the Empress Catharine, to organize the
    Russian navy. Mr. Greig came to the Firth of Forth on board a
    Russian frigate, and was received by the Fairfaxes at Burntisland
    with Scotch hospitality, as a cousin. He eventually married my
    mother; not, however, until he had obtained the Russian consulship,
    and settled permanently in London, for Russia was then governed in
    the most arbitrary and tyrannical manner, and was neither a safe nor
    a desirable residence, and my grandfather only gave his consent to
    the marriage on this condition. My mother says:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

My cousin, Samuel Greig, commissioner of the Russian navy, and Russian
consul for Britain, came to pay us a visit, and ultimately became my
husband. Fortune I had none, and my mother could only afford to give me
a very moderate trousseau, consisting chiefly of fine personal and
household linen. When I was going away she gave me twenty pounds to buy
a shawl or something warm for the following winter. I knew that the
President of the Academy of Painting, Sir Arthur Shee, had painted a
portrait of my father immediately after the battle of Camperdown, and I
went to see it. The likeness pleased me,--the price was twenty pounds;
so instead of a warm shawl I bought my father's picture, which I have
since given to my nephew, Sir William George Fairfax. My husband's
brother, Sir Alexis Greig, who commanded the Russian naval force in the
Black Sea for more than twenty years, came to London about this time,
and gave me some furs, which were very welcome. Long after this, I
applied to Sir Alexis, at the request of Dr. Whewell, Master of Trinity
College, Cambridge, and through his interest an order was issued by the
Russian Government for simultaneous observations to be made of the tides
on every sea-coast of the empire.


    UNIVERSITY CLUB, _Jan. 5, 1838_.


    I enclose a memorandum respecting tide observations, to which
    subject I am desirous of drawing the attention of the Russian
    Government. Nobody knows better than you do how much remains to be
    done respecting the tides, and what important results any advance in
    that subject would have. I hope, through your Russian friends, you
    may have the means of bringing this memorandum to the notice of the
    administration of their navy, so as to lead to some steps being
    taken, in the way of directing observations to be made. The Russian
    Government has shown so much zeal in promoting science, that I hope
    it will not be difficult to engage them in a kind of research so
    easy, so useful practically, and so interesting in its theoretical

                    Believe me, dear Mrs. Somerville,
                                     Very faithfully yours,
                                                     W. WHEWELL.

       *     *     *     *     *

My husband had taken me to his bachelor's house in London, which was
exceedingly small and ill ventilated. I had a key of the neighbouring
square, where I used to walk. I was alone the whole of the day, so I
continued my mathematical and other pursuits, but under great
disadvantages; for although my husband did not prevent me from studying,
I met with no sympathy whatever from him, as he had a very low opinion
of the capacity of my sex, and had neither knowledge of nor interest in
science of any kind. I took lessons in French, and learnt to speak it so
as to be understood. I had no carriage, so went to the nearest church;
but, accustomed to our Scotch Kirk, I never could sympathise with the
coldness and formality of the service of the Church of England. However,
I thought it my duty to go to church and join where I could in prayer
with the congregation.

There was no Italian Opera in Edinburgh; the first time I went to one
was in London as chaperone to Countess Catharine Woronzow, afterwards
Countess of Pembroke, who was godmother to my eldest son. I sometimes
spent the evening with her, and occasionally dined at the embassy; but
went nowhere else till we became acquainted with the family of Mr.
Thomson Bonar, a rich Russian merchant, who lived in great luxury at a
beautiful villa at Chiselhurst, in the neighbourhood of London, which
has since become the refuge of the ex-Emperor Napoleon the Third and the
Empress Eugénie. The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Bonar,--kind,
excellent people,--with two sons and a daughter, all grown up. We were
invited from time to time to spend ten days or a fortnight with them,
which I enjoyed exceedingly. I had been at a riding school in Edinburgh,
and rode tolerably, but had little practice, as we could not afford to
keep horses. On our first visit, Mrs. Bonar asked me if I would ride
with her, as there was a good lady's horse to spare, but I declined.
Next day I said, "I should like to ride with you." "Why did you not go
out with me yesterday?" she asked. "Because I had heard so much of
English ladies' riding, that I thought you would clear all the hedges
and ditches, and that I should be left behind lying on the ground." I
spent many pleasant days with these dear good people; and no words can
express the horror I felt when we heard that they had been barbarously
murdered in their bedroom. The eldest son and daughter had been at a
ball somewhere near, and on coming home they found that one of the
men-servants had dashed out the brains of both their parents with a
poker. The motive remains a mystery to this day, for it was not robbery.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [After three years of married life, my mother returned to her
    father's house in Burntisland, a widow, with two little boys. The
    youngest died in childhood. The eldest was Woronzow Greig,
    barrister-at-law, late Clerk of the Peace for Surrey. He died
    suddenly in 1865, to the unspeakable sorrow of his family, and the
    regret of all who knew him.]

       *     *     *     *     *

I was much out of health after my husband's death, and chiefly occupied
with my children, especially with the one I was nursing; but as I did
not go into society, I rose early, and, having plenty of time, I resumed
my mathematical studies. By this time I had studied plane and spherical
trigonometry, conic sections, and Fergusson's "Astronomy." I think it
was immediately after my return to Scotland that I attempted to read
Newton's "Principia." I found it extremely difficult, and certainly did
not understand it till I returned to it some time after, when I studied
that wonderful work with great assiduity, and wrote numerous notes and
observations on it. I obtained a loan of what I believe was called the
Jesuit's edition, which helped me. At this period mathematical science
was at a low ebb in Britain; reverence for Newton had prevented men from
adopting the "Calculus," which had enabled foreign mathematicians to
carry astronomical and mechanical science to the highest perfection.
Professors Ivory and de Morgan afterwards adopted the "Calculus"; but
several years elapsed before Mr. Herschel and Mr. Babbage were
joint-editors with Professor Peacock in publishing an abridged
translation of La Croix's "Treatise on the Differential and Integral
Calculus." I became acquainted with Mr. Wallace, who was, if I am not
mistaken, mathematical teacher of the Military College at Marlow, and
editor of a mathematical journal published there. I had solved some of
the problems contained in it and sent them to him, which led to a
correspondence, as Mr. Wallace sent me his own solutions in return. Mine
were sometimes right and sometimes wrong, and it occasionally happened
that we solved the same problem by different methods. At last I
succeeded in solving a prize problem! It was a diophantine problem, and
I was awarded a silver medal cast on purpose with my name, which pleased
me exceedingly.

Mr. Wallace was elected Professor of Mathematics in the University of
Edinburgh, and was very kind to me. When I told him that I earnestly
desired to go through a regular course of mathematical and astronomical
science, even including the highest branches, he gave me a list of the
requisite books, which were in French, and consisted of Francoeur's
pure "Mathematics," and his "Elements of Mechanics," La Croix's
"Algebra," and his large work on the "Differential and Integral
Calculus," together with his work on "Finite Differences and Series,"
Biot's "Analytical Geometry and Astronomy," Poisson's "Treatise on
Mechanics," La Grange's "Theory of Analytical Functions," Euler's
"Algebra," Euler's "Isoperimetrical Problems" (in Latin), Clairault's
"Figure of the Earth," Monge's "Application of Analysis to Geometry,"
Callet's "Logarithms," La Place's "Mécanique Céleste," and his
"Analytical Theory of Probabilities," &c., &c., &c.[6]

I was thirty-three years of age when I bought this excellent little
library. I could hardly believe that I possessed such a treasure when I
looked back on the day that I first saw the mysterious word "Algebra,"
and the long course of years in which I had persevered almost without
hope. It taught me never to despair. I had now the means, and pursued my
studies with increased assiduity; concealment was no longer possible,
nor was it attempted. I was considered eccentric and foolish, and my
conduct was highly disapproved of by many, especially by some members of
my own family, as will be seen hereafter. They expected me to entertain
and keep a gay house for them, and in that they were disappointed. As I
was quite independent, I did not care for their criticism. A great part
of the day I was occupied with my children; in the evening I worked,
played piquet with my father, or played on the piano, sometimes with
violin accompaniment.

       *     *     *     *     *

This was the most brilliant period of the _Edinburgh Review_; it was
planned and conducted with consummate talent by a small society of men
of the most liberal principles. Their powerful articles gave a severe
and lasting blow to the oppressive and illiberal spirit which had
hitherto prevailed. I became acquainted with some of these illustrious
men, and with many of their immediate successors. I then met Henry
Brougham, who had so remarkable an influence on my future life. His
sister had been my early companion, and while visiting her I saw her
mother--a fine, intelligent old lady, a niece of Robertson the
historian. I had seen the Rev. Sydney Smith, that celebrated wit and
able contributor to the _Review_, at Burntisland, where he and his wife
came for sea-bathing. Long afterwards we lived on the most friendly
terms till their deaths. Of that older group no one was more celebrated
than Professor Playfair. He knew that I was reading the "Mécanique
Céleste," and asked me how I got on? I told him that I was stopped short
by a difficulty now and then, but I persevered till I got over it. He
said, "You would do better to read on for a few pages and return to it
again, it will then no longer seem so difficult." I invariably followed
his advice and with much success.

Professor Playfair was a man of the most varied accomplishments and of
the highest scientific distinction. He was an elderly man when I first
became acquainted with him, by no means good-looking, but with a
benevolent expression, somewhat concealed by the large spectacles he
always wore. His manner was gravely cheerful; he was perfectly amiable,
and was both respected and loved, but he could be a severe though just
critic. He liked female society, and, philosopher as he was, marked
attention from the sex obviously flattered him.

I had now read a good deal on the higher branches of mathematics and
physical astronomy, but as I never had been taught, I was afraid that I
might imagine that I understood the subjects when I really did not; so
by Professor Wallace's advice I engaged his brother to read with me, and
the book I chose to study with him was the "Mécanique Céleste." Mr. John
Wallace was a good mathematician, but I soon found that I understood the
subject as well as he did. I was glad, however, to have taken this
resolution, as it gave me confidence in myself and consequently courage
to persevere. We had advanced but little in this work when my marriage
with my cousin, William Somerville (1812), put an end to scientific
pursuits for a time.


[Footnote 6: These books and all the other mathematical works belonging
to my mother at the time of her death have been presented to the College
for Women, at Girton, Cambridge.]



    [With regard to my father's family, I cannot do better than quote
    what my grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Somerville, says in his "Life
    and Times":--"I am a descendant of the ancient family of Somerville
    of Cambusnethan, which was a branch of the Somervilles of Drum,
    ennobled in the year 1424. Upon the death of George Somerville, of
    Corhouse, fifty years ago, I became the only male representative of
    the family." There is a quaint old chronicle, entitled "Memorie of
    the Somervilles," written by James, eleventh Lord Somerville, who
    died in 1690, which was printed for private distribution, and edited
    by Sir Walter Scott, and gives ample details of all the branches of
    our family. Although infinitely too prolix for our nineteenth
    century ideas, it contains many curious anecdotes and pictures of
    Scottish life.

    My father was the eldest son of the minister of Jedburgh, and until
    his marriage with my mother, had lived almost entirely abroad and in
    our colonies. It was always a subject of regret to my mother that my
    father never could be induced to publish an account of his important
    travels in South Africa, for which he had ample materials in the
    notes he brought home, many of which we still possess. Without being
    very deeply learned on any one special subject, he was generally
    well-informed, and very intelligent. He was an excellent classical
    scholar, and could repeat long passages from Horace and other
    authors. He had a lively interest in all branches of natural
    history, was a good botanist and mineralogist, and could take note
    of all the strange animals, plants, or minerals he saw in his
    adventurous journies in the countries, now colonized, but then the
    hunting-grounds of Caffres and other uncivilized tribes. He was the
    first white man who penetrated so far into the country, and it was
    not without great risk. Indeed, on one occasion he was sentenced to
    death by a Caffre chief, and only saved by the interposition of the
    chief's mother.

    My father's style in writing English was singularly pure and
    correct, and he was very fastidious on this topic--a severe critic,
    whether in correcting the children's lessons or in reading over the
    last proof sheets of my mother's works previous to their
    publication. These qualities would have fitted him very well to
    write the history of his travels, but he disliked the trouble of it,
    and, never having the slightest ambition on his own account, he let
    the time for publication slip by. Others travelled over the country
    he first explored, and the novelty was at an end. He was far happier
    in helping my mother in various ways, searching the libraries for
    the books she required, indefatigably copying and recopying her
    manuscripts, to save her time. No trouble seemed too great which he
    bestowed upon her; it was a labour of love. My father was most
    kindhearted, and I have often heard my mother say how many persons
    he had assisted in life, and what generous actions he had done,
    many of them requited with ingratitude, and with betrayal of
    confidence. From the way my mother speaks of their life, it can be
    seen how happy was their marriage and how much sympathy there was
    between them. Speaking of his son's marriage with my mother, the
    Rev. Dr. Somerville says, in his "Life and Times," page 390: "To
    myself this connection was on every account peculiarly gratifying.
    Miss Fairfax had been born and nursed in my house; her father being
    at that time abroad on public service. She afterwards often resided
    in my family, was occasionally my scholar, and was looked upon by me
    and my wife as if she had been one of our own children. I can truly
    say, that next to them she was the object of our most tender regard.
    Her ardent thirst for knowledge, her assiduous application to study,
    and her eminent proficiency in science and the fine arts, have
    procured her a celebrity rarely obtained by any of her sex. But she
    never displays any pretensions to superiority, while the affability
    of her temper, and the gentleness of her manners afford constant
    sources of gratification to her friends. But what, above all other
    circumstances, rendered my son's choice acceptable to me, was that
    it had been the anxious, though secret, desire of my dear wife." I
    have already said that this esteem and affection of her
    father-in-law was warmly responded to by my mother. The following
    letter from her to him shows it vividly:--]


    EDINBURGH, _1st June, 1812_.


    I have this moment been gratified and delighted with your excellent
    and affectionate letter; the intercourse we have so long enjoyed has
    always been a source of the purest pleasure to me, and the kind
    interest you have taken from my infancy in my welfare was at all
    times highly flattering, and much valued; but now that the sacred
    name of Father is added, nothing is wanting to complete my
    happiness; and you may rest assured that William is not more anxious
    to hasten our visit to Jedburgh than I am.... With the affectionate
    love of all here,

             I remain your ever most affectionate daughter,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

    P.S.--I am much flattered by the Latin quotation, and feel happy
    that your instructions have enabled me to read it.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [I will now proceed with the extracts from my mother's

       *     *     *     *     *

My husband had been present at the taking of the Cape of Good Hope, and
was sent by the authorities to make a treaty with the savage tribes on
the borders of the colony, who had attacked the boors, or Dutch farmers,
and carried off their cattle. In this journey he was furnished with a
waggon and accompanied by Mr. Daniel, a good artist, who made drawings
of the scenery, as well as of the animals and people. The savage tribes
again became troublesome, and in a second expedition my cousin was only
accompanied by a faithful Hottentot as interpreter. They were both
mounted, and each led a spare horse with such things as were absolutely
necessary, and when they bivouacked where, for fear of the natives, they
did not dare light a fire to keep off the wild beasts, one kept watch
while the other slept. After many adventures and dangers, my husband
reached the Orange River, and was the first white man who had ever been
in that part of Africa. He afterwards served in Canada and in Sicily at
the head of the medical staff, under his friend General Sir James Craig.
On returning to England he generally lived in London, so that he was
seldom with his family, with whom he was not a favourite on account of
his liberal principles, the very circumstance that was an attraction to
me. He had lived in the world, was extremely handsome, had gentlemanly
manners, spoke good English, and was emancipated from Scotch prejudices.

I had been living very quietly with my parents and children, so until I
was engaged to my cousin I was not aware of the extreme severity with
which my conduct was criticised by his family, and I have no doubt by
many others; for as soon as our engagement was known I received a most
impertinent letter from one of his sisters, who was unmarried, and
younger than I, saying, she "hoped I would give up my foolish manner of
life and studies, and make a respectable and useful wife to her
brother." I was extremely indignant. My husband was still more so, and
wrote a severe and angry letter to her; none of the family dared to
interfere again. I lived in peace with her, but there was a coldness and
reserve between us ever after. I forgot to mention that during my
widowhood I had several offers of marriage. One of the persons whilst he
was paying court to me, sent me a volume of sermons with the page
ostentatiously turned down at a sermon on the Duties of a Wife, which
were expatiated upon in the most illiberal and narrow-minded language. I
thought this as impertinent as it was premature; sent back the book and
refused the proposal.

My uncle, the Rev. Dr. Somerville, was delighted with my marriage with
his son, for he was liberal, and sincerely attached to me. We were
married by his intimate friend, Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, and set
off for the lakes in Cumberland. My husband's second sister, Janet,
resolved to go with us, and she succeeded through the influence of my
aunt, now my mother-in-law--a very agreeable, but bold, determined
person, who was always very kind and sincerely attached to me. We were
soon followed by my cousin, Samuel Somerville and his wife. We had only
been a day or two in the little inn at Lowood when he was taken ill of a
fever, which detained us there for more than a month. During his illness
he took a longing for currant jelly, and here my cookery was needed; I
made some that was excellent, and I never can forget the astonishment
expressed at my being able to be so useful.

Somerville and I proceeded to London; and we managed to obtain a good
position near Temple Bar to see the Emperor of Russia, the King of
Prussia and his sons, Blucher, Platoff, the Hetman of the Cossacks, &c.,
&c., enter the City. There was a brilliant illumination in the evening,
and great excitement. We often saw these noted persons afterwards, but
we did not stay long in London, as my husband was appointed head of the
Army Medical Department in Scotland, so we settled in Edinburgh. As he
was allowed to have a secretary, he made choice of Donald Finlayson, a
young man of great learning and merit, who was to act as tutor to my
son, Woronzow Greig, then attending the High School, of which Mr.
Pillans was master. Mr. Finlayson was a remarkably good Greek scholar,
and my husband said, "Why not take advantage of such an opportunity of
improvement?" So I read Homer for an hour every morning before
breakfast. Mr. Finlayson joined the army as surgeon, and distinguished
himself by his courage and humanity during the battle of Waterloo; but
he was lost in the march of the army to Paris, and his brother George,
after having sought for him in vain, came to live with us in his stead.
He excelled in botany, and here again, by my husband's advice, I devoted
a morning hour to that science, though I was nursing a baby at the time.
I knew the vulgar name of most of the plants that Mr. Finlayson had
gathered, but now I was taught systematically, and afterwards made a
herbarium, both of land plants and fuci. This young man's hopeful career
was early arrested by his love of science, for he died of jungle fever
in Bengal, caught while in search of plants.

Professor Playfair was now old, and resigned his chair, which Mr. Leslie
was perfectly competent to fill on account of his acknowledged
scientific acquirements; but, being suspected of heretical opinions, his
appointment was keenly opposed, especially on the part of the clergy,
and a violent contest arose, which ended in his favour. We became
acquainted with him and liked him. He was a man of original genius,
full of information on a variety of subjects, agreeable in conversation
and good natured, but with a singular vanity as to personal appearance.
Though one of the coarsest looking men I ever knew, he talked so much of
polish and refinement that it tempted Mr. William Clerk, of Eldin, to
make a very clever clay model of his ungainly figure. The professor's
hair was grey, and he dyed it with something that made it purple; and,
as at that time the art was not brought to its present perfection, the
operation was tedious and only employed at intervals, so that the
professor's hair was often white at the roots and dark purple at the
extremities. He was always falling in love, and, to Somerville's
inexpressible amusement, he made me his decoy duck, inviting me to see
some experiments, which he performed dexterously; at the same time
telling me to bring as many young ladies as I chose, especially
Miss----, for he was sure she had a turn for science. He was unfortunate
in his aspirations, and remained a bachelor to the end of his life.

       *     *     *     *     *

It was the custom in Edinburgh, especially among the clergy, to dine
between the morning and evening service on Sundays, and to sup at nine
or ten o'clock. In no family were these suppers more agreeable or
cheerful than in that of Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, minister of the
West Kirk. There were always a few of the friends of Sir Henry and Lady
Moncreiff present, and we were invited occasionally. There was a
substantial hot supper of roasted fowls, game, or lamb, and afterwards a
lively, animated conversation on a variety of subjects, without a shade
of austerity, though Sir Henry was esteemed an orthodox preacher.

There was an idiot in Edinburgh, the son of a respectable family, who
had a remarkable memory. He never failed to go to the Kirk on Sunday,
and on returning home could repeat the sermon word for word, saying,
Here the minister coughed, Here he stopped to blow his nose. During the
tour we made in the Highlands we met with another idiot who knew the
Bible so perfectly that if you asked him where such a verse was to be
found, he could tell without hesitation, and repeat the chapter. The
common people in Scotland at that time had a kind of serious compassion
for these harmless idiots, because "the hand of God was upon them."

The wise as well as the foolish are sometimes endowed with a powerful
memory. Dr. Gregory, an eminent Edinburgh physician, one of the
cleverest and most agreeable men I ever met with, was a remarkable
instance of this. He wrote and spoke Latin fluently, and Somerville,
who was a good Latinist, met with a Latin quotation in some book he was
reading, but not knowing from whence it was taken, asked his friend Dr.
Gregory. "It is forty years since I read that author," said Dr. Gregory,
"but I think you will find the passage in the middle of such a page."
Somerville went for the book, and at the place mentioned there it was.

       *     *     *     *     *

I had the grief to lose my dear father at this time. He had served
sixty-seven years in the British Navy, and must have been twice on the
North American station, for he was present at the taking of Quebec by
General Wolfe, in 1759, and afterwards during the War of Independence.
After the battle of Camperdown he was made a Colonel of Marines, and
died, in 1813, Vice-Admiral of the Red.

       *     *     *     *     *

Geology, which has now been so far advanced as a science, was still in
its infancy. Professor Playfair and Mr. Hutton had written on the
subject; and in my gay young days, when Lady Helen Hall was occasionally
my chaperone, I had heard that Sir James Hall had taken up the subject,
but I did not care about it; I am certain that at that time I had never
heard the word Geology. I think it was now, on going with Somerville to
see the Edinburgh Museum, that I recognised the fossil plants I had seen
in the coal limestone on the sands at the Links of Burntisland.
Ultimately Geology became a favourite pursuit of ours, but then minerals
were the objects of our joint study. Mineralogy had been much cultivated
on the Continent by this time, especially in Germany. It had been
established as a science by Werner, who was educated at an institution
near the silver mines of Friburg, where he afterwards lectured on the
properties of crystals, and had many pupils. In one of our tours on the
Continent, Somerville and I went to see these silver mines and bought
some specimens for our cabinet. The French took up the subject with
great zeal, and the Abbé Haüy's work became a standard book on the
science. Cabinets of minerals had been established in the principal
cities of Great Britain, professors were appointed in the Universities,
and collections of minerals were not uncommon in private houses. While
quite a girl, I went with my parents to visit the Fergusons of Raith,
near Kirkcaldy, and there I saw a magnificent collection of minerals,
made by their son while abroad. It contained gems of great value and
crystallized specimens of precious and other metals, which surprised and
interested me; but seeing that such valuable things could never be
obtained by me, I thought no more about them. In those early days I had
every difficulty to contend with; now, through the kindness and liberal
opinions of my husband, I had every encouragement. He took up the study
of mineralogy with zeal, and I heartily joined with him. We made the
acquaintance of Professor Jameson, a pupil of Werner's, whose work on
mineralogy was of great use to us. We began to form a cabinet of
minerals, which, although small, were good of their kind. We were
criticized for extravagance, and, no doubt I had the lion's share of
blame; but more of minerals hereafter.

       *     *     *     *     *

Abbotsford is only twelve miles distant from Jedburgh, and my
father-in-law, Dr. Somerville, and Sir Walter Scott had been intimate
friends for many years, indeed through life. The house at Abbotsford was
at first a mere cottage, on the banks of the Tweed; my brother-in-law,
Samuel, had a villa adjacent to it, and John, Lord Somerville, had a
house and property on the opposite bank of the river, to which he came
every spring for salmon fishing. He was a handsome, agreeable man, had
been educated in England, and as he thought he should never live in
Scotland, he sold the family estate of Drum, within five miles of
Edinburgh, which he afterwards regretted, and bought the property on the
Tweed he then inhabited.

There was great intimacy between the three families, and the society was
often enlivened by Adam Ferguson and Willie Clerk, whom we had met with
at Raith. I shall never forget the charm of this little society,
especially the supper-parties at Abbotsford, when Scott was in the
highest glee, telling amusing tales, ancient legends, ghost and witch
stories. Then Adam Ferguson would sing the "Laird of Cockpen," and other
comic songs, and Willie Clerk amused us with his dry wit. When it was
time to go away all rose, and, standing hand-in-hand round the table,
Scott taking the lead, we sang in full chorus,

    Weel may we a' be,
    Ill may we never see;
    Health to the king
    And the gude companie.

At that time no one knew who was the author of the Waverley Novels.
There was much speculation and curiosity on the subject. While talking
about one which had just been published, my son Woronzow said, "I knew
all these stories long ago, for Mr. Scott writes on the dinner-table.
When he has finished, he puts the green-cloth with the papers in a
corner of the dining-room; and when he goes out, Charlie Scott and I
read the stories." My son's tutor was the original of Dominie Sampson in
"Guy Mannering." The "Memorie of the Somervilles" was edited by Walter
Scott, from an ancient and very quaint manuscript found in the archives
of the family, and from this he takes passages which he could not have
found elsewhere. Although the work was printed it was never published,
but copies were distributed to the different members of the family. One
was of course given to my husband.

The Burning of the Water, so well described by Walter Scott in
"Redgauntlet," we often witnessed. The illumination of the banks of the
river, the activity of the men striking the salmon with the "leisters,"
and the shouting of the people when a fish was struck, was an animated,
and picturesque, but cruel scene.

Sophia Scott, afterwards married to Mr. Lockhart, editor of the
"Quarterly Review," was the only one of Sir Walter's family who had
talent. She was not pretty, but remarkably engaging and agreeable, and
possessed her father's joyous disposition as well as his memory and
fondness for ancient Border legends and poetry. Like him, she was
thoroughly alive to peculiarities of character, and laughed at them
good-naturedly. She was not a musician, had little voice, but she sang
Scotch songs and translations from the Gaelic with, or without, harp
accompaniment; the serious songs with so much expression, and the merry
ones with so much spirit, that she charmed everybody. The death of her
brothers and of her father, to whom she was devotedly attached, cast a
shade over the latter part of her life. Mr. Lockhart was clever and an
able writer, but he was too sarcastic to be quite agreeable; however, we
were always on the most friendly terms. He was of a Lanarkshire family
and distantly related to Somerville. After the death of his wife and
sons, Lockhart fell into bad health and lost much of his asperity.

Scott was ordered to go abroad for health and relaxation. Somerville and
I happened to be at the seaport where he embarked, and we went to take
leave of him. He kissed me, and said, "Farewell, my dear; I am going to
die abroad like other British novelists." Happy would it have been if
God had so willed it,[7] for he returned completely broken down, and his
hopes blighted. In a few years his only remaining descendant was a
grand-daughter, the only surviving child of Mrs. Lockhart, Charlotte who
married Mr. James Hope, and soon died, leaving an only daughter, now
the last descendant of Sir Walter Scott. Thus the "Merry, merry days
that I have seen," ended very sadly.

       *     *     *     *     *

When at Jedburgh, I never failed to visit James Veitch, who was Laird of
Inchbonny, a small property beautifully situated in the valley of the
Jed, at a short distance from the manse. He was a plough-wright, a
hard-working man, but of rare genius, who taught himself mathematics and
astronomy in the evenings with wonderful success, for he knew the
motions of the planets, calculated eclipses and occultations, was versed
in various scientific subjects, and made excellent telescopes, of which
I bought a very small one; it was the only one I ever possessed. Veitch
was handsome, with a singularly fine bald forehead and piercing eyes,
that quite looked through one. He was perfectly aware of his talents,
shrewd, and sarcastic. His fame had spread, and he had many visits, of
which he was impatient, as it wasted his time. He complained especially
of those from ladies not much skilled in science, saying, "What should
they do but ask silly questions, when they spend their lives in doing
naething but spatting muslin?" Veitch was strictly religious and
conscientious, observing the Sabbath day with great solemnity; and I
had the impression that he was stern to his wife, who seemed to be a
person of intelligence, for I remember seeing her come from the
washing-tub to point out the planet Venus while it was still daylight.

The return of Halley's comet, in 1835, exactly at the computed time, was
a great astronomical event, as it was the first comet of long period
clearly proved to belong to our system. I was asked by Mr. John Murray
to write an article on the subject for the "Quarterly Review." After it
was published, I received a letter from James Veitch, reproaching me for
having mentioned that a peasant in Hungary was the first to see Halley's
comet, and for having omitted to say that, "a peasant at Inchbonny was
the first to see the comet of 1811, the greatest that had appeared for a
century." I regretted, on receiving this letter, that I either had not
known, or had forgotten the circumstance. Veitch has been long dead, but
I avail myself of this opportunity of making the _amende honorable_ to a
man of great mental power and acquirements who had struggled through
difficulties, unaided, as I have done myself.


    INCHBONNY, _12th October, 1836_.


    I saw in the Quarterly review for December 1885 page 216 that the
    comet 1682 was discovered by a Peasent, George Palitzch residing in
    the neighbourhood of Dresden on the 25th of December 1758 with a
    small Telescope. But no mention is made of the Peasent at Inchbonny
    who first discovered the beautiful comet 1811. You will remember
    when Dr. Wollaston was at Inchbonny I put a difficult question to
    him that I could not solve about the focal distance of optic glasses
    when the Dr. got into a passion and said: Had he problems in his
    pocket ready to pull out in every occasion? and with an angry look
    at me said, You pretend to be the first that discovered the comet
    altho' it has been looked for by men of science for some time back.
    Now I never heard of such a thing and you will perhaps know
    something about it as the Dr. would not be mistaken. After we got
    acquainted, the Dr. was a warm friend of mine and I have often
    regretted that I had not improved the opportunity I had when he was
    here on many things he was master off. What ever others had known or
    expected I knew nothing about, But I know this, that on the 27th of
    August 1811 I first saw it in the NNW. part of the Heavens nigh the
    star marked 26 on the shoulder of the little Lion and continued
    tracing its path among the fixed stars untill it disappeared and it
    was generally admitted that I had discovered it four days before any
    other person in Britain. However Mr. Thomas Dick on the Diffusion of
    Knowledge page 101 and 102 has made the following observation 'The
    splendid comet which appeared in our hemisphere in 1811 was first
    discovered in this country by a sawer. The name of this Gentleman is
    Mr. Veitch and I believe he resides in the neighbourhood of Kelso
    who with a Reflecting telescope of his own construction and from his
    sawpit as an observatory, descried that celestial visitant before it
    had been noticed by any other astronomer in North Britain.' A
    strange story--a sawer and a gentleman; and what is stranger still
    Mr. Baily would not have any place but the sawpit for his
    observatory on the 15th May last. I am sorry to say with all the
    improvement and learning that we can boast of in the present day
    Halley's comet the predictions have not been fulfilled, either with
    respect to time or place. Thus on the 10 October, at 50 minutes past
    5 in the evening the Right ascension of the comet was 163° 37', with
    63° 38' of north declination but by the nautical almanac for the 10
    October its right ascension ought to have been 225° 2' 6, and its
    declination 29° 33'. Hence the difference is no less than 61° in
    Right ascension and 34° in declination. When you have time, write

                           Dear Madam, I remain,
                                       Yours sincerely,
                                                 JAMES VEITCH.

Sir David Brewster was many years younger than James Veitch; in his
early years he assisted his father in teaching the parish-school at
Jedburgh, and in the evenings he went to Inchbonny to study astronomy
with James Veitch, who always called him Davie. They were as much
puzzled about the meaning of the word parallax as I had been with regard
to the word algebra, and only learnt what it meant when Brewster went to
study for the kirk in Edinburgh. They were both very devout;
nevertheless, Brewster soon gave up the kirk for science, and he devoted
himself especially to optics, in which he made so many discoveries. Sir
David was of ordinary height, with fair or sandy-coloured hair and blue
eyes. He was by no means good-looking, yet with a very pleasant, amiable
expression; in conversation he was cheerful and agreeable when quite at
ease, but of a timid, nervous, and irritable temperament, often at war
with his fellow-philosophers upon disputed subjects, and extremely
jealous upon priority of discovery. I was much indebted to Sir David,
for he reviewed my book on the "Connexion of the Physical Sciences," in
the April number of the "Edinburgh Review" for 1834, and the "Physical
Geography" in the April number of the "North British Review," both


[Footnote 7: Sir Walter died Sept. 21, 1832, in the presence of his two
sons and two daughters.]



    [My father was appointed, in 1816, a member of the Army Medical
    Board, and it became necessary for him to reside in London. He and
    my mother accordingly wished farewell to Scotland, and proceeded to
    take up their residence in Hanover Square. My mother preserved the
    following recollections of this journey:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

On our way we stopped a day at Birmingham, on purpose to see Watt and
Boulton's manufactory of steam engines at Soho. Mr. Boulton showed us
everything. The engines, some in action, although beautifully smooth,
showed a power that was almost fearful. Since these early forms of the
steam engine I have lived to see this all but omnipotent instrument
change the locomotion of the whole civilized world by sea and by land.

Soon after our arrival in London we became acquainted with the
illustrious family of the Herschels, through the kindness of our friend
Professor Wallace, for it was by his arrangement that we spent a day
with Sir William and Lady Herschel, at Slough. Nothing could exceed the
kindness of Sir William. He made us examine his celebrated telescopes,
and explained their mechanism; and he showed us the manuscripts which
recorded the numerous astronomical discoveries he had made. They were
all arranged in the most perfect order, as was also his musical library,
for that great genius was an excellent musician. Unfortunately, his
sister, Miss Caroline Herschel, who shared in the talents of the family,
was abroad, but his son, afterwards Sir John, my dear friend for many
years, was at home, quite a youth. It would be difficult to name a
branch of the physical sciences which he has not enriched by important
discoveries. He has ever been a dear and valued friend to me, whose
advice and criticism I gratefully acknowledge.

       *     *     *     *     *

I took lessons twice a week from Mr. Glover, who painted landscapes very
prettily, and I liked him on account of his kindness to animals,
especially birds, which he tamed so that they flew before him when he
walked, or else sat on the trees, and returned to him when he whistled.
I regret now that I ever resumed my habit of painting in oil;
water-colours are much better suited to an amateur, but as I had never
seen any that were good, I was not aware of their beauty.

I also took lessons in mineralogy from Mrs. Lowry, a Jewess, the wife of
an eminent line engraver, who had a large collection of minerals, and in
the evening Somerville and I amused ourselves with our own, which were
not numerous.

Our house in Hanover Square was within a walking distance of many of our
friends, and of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, where I
attended the lectures, and Somerville frequently went with me. The
discoveries of Sir Humphry Davy made this a memorable epoch in the
annals of chemical science. At this time there was much talk about the
celebrated Count Rumford's steam kitchen, by which food was to be cooked
at a very small expense of fuel. It was adopted by several people, and
among others by Naldi, the opera singer, who invited some friends to
dine the first day it was to be used. Before dinner they all went to see
the new invention, but while Naldi was explaining its structure,
it exploded and killed him on the spot. By this sad accident his
daughter, a pretty girl and a good singer, was left destitute. A
numerously-attended concert was given for her benefit, at which
Somerville and I were present. She was soon after engaged to sing in
Paris, but ultimately married the Comte de Sparre, a French gentleman,
and left the stage.

When MM. Arago and Biot came to England to continue the French arc of
the meridian through Great Britain, they were warmly received by the
scientific men in London, and we were always invited to meet them by
those whom we knew. They had been told of my turn for science, and that
I had read the works of La Place. Biot expressed his surprise at my

       *     *     *     *     *

One summer Somerville proposed to make a tour in Switzerland, so we set
off, and on arriving at Chantilly we were told that we might see the
château upon giving our cards to the doorkeeper. On reading our name,
Mademoiselle de Rohan came to meet us, saying that she had been at
school in England with a sister of Lord Somerville's, and was glad to
see any of the family. She presented us to the Prince de Condé, a
fine-looking old man, who received us very courteously, and sent the
lord-in-waiting to show us the grounds, and especially the stables, the
only part of the castle left in its regal magnificence after the
Revolution. The Prince and the gentleman who accompanied us wore a gaudy
uniform like a livery, which we were told was the Chantilly uniform, and
that at each palace belonging to the Prince there was a different
uniform worn by him and his court.

At Paris we were received with the kindest hospitality by M. and Mme.
Arago. I liked her much, she was so gentle and ladylike; he was tall and
good-looking, with an animated countenance and black eyes. His character
was noble, generous, and singularly energetic; his manners lively and
even gay. He was a man of very general information, and, from his
excitable temperament, he entered as ardently into the politics and
passing events of the time as into science, in which few had more
extensive knowledge. On this account I thought his conversation more
brilliant than that of any of the French savants with whom I was
acquainted. They were living at the Observatory, and M. Arago showed me
all the instruments of that magnificent establishment in the minutest
detail, which was highly interesting at the time, and proved more useful
to me than I was aware of. M. Arago made us acquainted with the Marquis
de la Place, and the Marquise, who was quite an _élégante_. The Marquis
was not tall, but thin, upright, and rather formal. He was distinguished
in his manners, and I thought there was a little of the courtier in
them, perhaps from having been so much at the court of the Emperor
Napoleon, who had the highest regard for him. Though incomparably
superior to Arago in mathematics and astronomical science, he was
inferior to him in general acquirements, so that his conversation was
less varied and popular. We were invited to go early and spend a day
with them at Arcueil, where they had a country house. M. Arago had told
M. de la Place that I had read the "Mécanique Céleste," so we had a
great deal of conversation about astronomy and the calculus, and he gave
me a copy of his "Système du Monde," with his inscription, which pleased
me exceedingly. I spoke French very badly, but I was less at a loss on
scientific subjects, because almost all my books on science were in
French. The party at dinner consisted of MM. Biot, Arago, Bouvard, and
Poisson. I sat next M. de la Place, who was exceedingly kind and
attentive. In such an assemblage of philosophers I expected a very grave
and learned conversation. But not at all! Everyone talked in a gay,
animated, and loud key, especially M. Poisson, who had all the vivacity
of a Frenchman. Madame Biot, from whom we received the greatest
attention, made a party on purpose, as she said, to show us, "les
personnes distinguées." Madame Biot was a well-educated woman, and had
made a translation from the German of a work, which was published under
the name of her husband. The dinner was very good, and Madame Biot was
at great pains in placing every one. Those present were Monsieur and
Madame Arago, Monsieur and Madame Poisson, who had only been married the
day before, and Baron Humboldt. The conversation was lively and

The consulate and empire of the first Napoleon was the most brilliant
period of physical astronomy in France. La Grange, who proved the
stability of the solar system, Laplace, Biot, Arago, Bouvard, and
afterwards Poinsot, formed a perfect constellation of undying names; yet
the French had been for many years inferior to the English in practical
astronomy. The observations made at Greenwich by Bradley, Maskelyne, and
Pond, have been so admirably continued under the direction of the
present astronomer-royal, Mr. Airy, the first practical astronomer in
Europe, that they have furnished data for calculating the astronomical
tables both in France and England.

The theatre was at this time very brilliant in Paris. We saw Talma, who
was considered to be the first tragedian of the age in the character of
Tancrède. I admired the skill with which he overcame the disagreeable
effect which the rhyme of the French tragedies has always had on me.
Notwithstanding his personal advantages, I thought him a great artist,
though inferior to John Kemble. I am afraid my admiration of
Shakespeare, my want of sympathy with the artificial style of French
tragedy, and perhaps my youthful remembrance of our great tragedian Mrs.
Siddons, made me unjust to Mademoiselle Duchênois, who, although ugly,
was certainly an excellent actress and a favourite of the public. I was
so fond of the theatre that I enjoyed comedy quite as much as tragedy,
and was delighted with Mademoiselle Mars, whom we saw in Tartuffe. Some
years later I saw her again, when, although an old woman, she still
appeared handsome and young upon the stage, and was as graceful and
lively as ever.

Soon after our dinner party at Arcueil, we went to pay a morning visit
to Madame de la Place. It was late in the day; but she received us in
bed elegantly dressed. I think the curtains were of muslin with some
gold ornaments, and the coverlet was of rich silk and gold. It was the
first time that I had ever seen a lady receive in that manner. Madame
Laplace was lively and agreeable; I liked her very much.

We spent a most entertaining day with M. and Madame Cuvier at the Jardin
des Plantes, and saw the Museum, and everything in that celebrated
establishment. On returning to the house, we found several people had
come to spend the evening, and the conversation was carried on with a
good deal of spirit; the Countess Albrizzi, a Venetian lady, of high
acquirements, joined in it with considerable talent and animation.
Cuvier had a very remarkable countenance, not handsome, but agreeable,
and his manner was pleasing and modest, and his conversation very
interesting. Madame de Staël having died lately, was much discussed. She
was much praised for her good-nature, and for the brilliancy of her
conversation. They agreed, that the energy of her character, not old
age, had worn her out. Cuvier said, the force of her imagination misled
her judgment, and made her see things in a light different from all the
world. As a proof of this, he mentioned that she makes Corinne lean on a
marble lion which is on a tomb in St. Peter's, at Rome, more than twenty
feet high. Education was very much discussed. Cuvier said, that when he
was sent to inspect the schools at Bordeaux and Marseilles, he found
very few of the scholars who could perform a simple calculation in
arithmetic; as to science, history, or literature, they were unknown,
and the names of the most celebrated French philosophers, famed in other
countries, were utterly unknown to those who lived in the provinces. M.
Biot had written home, that he had found in Aberdeen not one alone, but
many, who perfectly understood the object of his journey, and were
competent to converse with him on the subject. Cuvier said such a
circumstance constituted one of the striking differences between France
and England; for in France science was highly cultivated, but confined
to the capital. It was at M. Cuvier's that I first met Mr. Pentland, who
made a series of physical and geological observations on the Andes of
Peru. I was residing in Italy when I published my "Physical Geography"
and Mr. Pentland[8] kindly undertook to carry the book through the press
for me. From that time he has been a steady friend, ever ready to get me
information, books, or anything I wanted. We became acquainted also with
M. Gay-Lussac, who lived in the Jardin des Plantes, and with Baron
Larrey, who had been at the head of the medical department of the army
in Egypt under the first Napoleon.

       *     *     *     *     *

At Paris I equipped myself in proper dresses, and we proceeded by
Fontainebleau to Geneva, where we found Dr. Marcet, with whom my husband
had already been acquainted in London. I, for the first time, met Mrs.
Marcet, with whom I have ever lived on terms of affectionate friendship.
So many books have now been published for young people, that no one at
this time can duly estimate the importance of Mrs. Marcet's scientific
works. To them is partly owing that higher intellectual education now
beginning to prevail among the better classes in Britain. They produced
a great sensation, and went through many editions. Her "Conversations on
Chemistry," first opened out to Faraday's mind that field of science in
which he became so illustrious, and at the height of his fame he always
mentioned Mrs. Marcet with deep reverence.

Through these kind friends we became acquainted with Professors De
Candolle, Prevost, and De la Rive. Other distinguished men were also
presented to us; among these was Mr. Sismondi, author of the "History of
the Italian Republics." Madame Sismondi was a Miss Allen, of a family
with whom we were very intimate.

    [Some time after her return to England, my mother, desirous of
    continuing the study of botany, in which she had already attained
    considerable proficiency, wrote to M. De Candolle, asking his
    advice, and he sent her the following reply:--]


    LONDRES, _5 Juin, 1819_.


    Vous avez passé les premières difficultés de l'étude des plantes et
    vous me faites l'honneur de me consulter sur les moyens d'aller en
    avant; connaissant votre goût et votre talent pour les sciences les
    plus relevées je ne craindrai point de vous engager à sortir de la
    Botanique élémentaire et à vous élever aux considérations et aux
    études qui en font une science susceptible d'idées générales,
    d'applications aux choses utiles et de liaison avec les autres
    branches des connaissances humaines. Pour cela il faut étudier non
    plus seulement la nomenclature et l'échafaudage artificiel qui la
    soutient, mais les rapports des plantes entre elles et avec les
    élémens extérieurs, ou en d'autres termes, la classification
    naturelle et la Physiologie.

    Pour l'un et l'autre de ces branches de la science il est nécessaire
    en premier lieu de se familiariser avec la structure des plantes
    considérée dans leur caractère exacte. Vous trouverez un précis
    abrégé de ces caractères dans le 1^er vol. de la Flore française;
    vous la trouverez plus développé et accompagné de planches dans les
    Elémens de Botanique de Michel. Quant à la structure du fruit qui
    est un des points les plus difficiles et les plus importans, vous
    allez avoir un bon ouvrage traduit et augmenté par un de vos jeunes
    et habiles compatriotes, Mr. Lindley--c'est l'analyse du fruit de M.
    Richard. La traduction vaudra mieux que l'original. Outre ces
    lectures, ce qui vous apprendra surtout la structure des plantes,
    c'est de les analyser et de les décrire vous-même d'après les
    termes techniques; ce travail deviendrait pénible et inutile à faire
    sur un grand nombre de plantes, et il vaut mieux ne le faire que sur
    un très petit nombre d'espèces choisies dans des classes très
    distinctes. Quelques descriptions faites aussi complètes qu'il vous
    sera possible vous apprendra plus que tous les livres.

    Dès que vous connaîtrez bien les organes et concurremment avec cette
    étude vous devrez chercher à prendre une idée de la classification
    naturelle. Je crains de vous paraître présomptueux en vous engageant
    à lire d'abord sous ce point de vue ma Théorie élémentaire. Après
    ces études ou à peu près en même temps pour profiter de la saison,
    vous ferez bien de rapporter aux ordres naturels toutes les plantes
    que vous aurez recueillies. La lecture des caractères des familles
    faites la plante à la main et l'acte de ranger vos plantes en
    familles vous feront connaître par théorie et par pratique ces
    groupes naturels. Je vous engage dans cette étude, surtout en le
    commencement, à ne donner que peu d'attention au système général qui
    lie les familles, mais beaucoup à la connaissance de la physionomie
    qui est propre à chacune d'elles. Sous ce point de vue vous pourrez
    trouver quelque intérêt à lire--1° les Tableaux de la Nature de M.
    de Humboldt; 2° mon essai sur les propriétés des plantes comparées
    avec leurs formes extérieures; 3° les remarques sur la géographie
    botanique de la Nouvelle Hollande et de l'Afrique, insérés par M.
    Robt. Brown à la fin du voyage de Finders et de l'expédition au

    Quant à l'étude de la Physiologie ou de la connaissance des
    végétaux considérés comme êtres vivans, je vous engage à lire les
    ouvrages dans l'ordre suivant: Philibert, Elémens de Bot. et de
    Phys., 3 vols.; la 2^de partie des principes élémentaires de la Bot.
    de la Flore française. Vous trouverez la partie anatomique dans
    l'ouvrage de Mirbel; la partie chimique dans les recherches
    chimiques sur la Veget. de T. de Saussure; la partie statique dans
    la statique des végétaux de Hales, &c. &c. Mais je vous engage
    surtout à voir par vous-même les plantes à tous leurs ages, à suivre
    leur végétation, à les décrire en détail, en un mot à vivre avec
    elles plus qu'avec les livres.

    Je désire, madame, que ces conseils puissent vous engager à suivre
    l'étude des plantes sous cette direction qui je crois en relève
    beaucoup l'importance et l'intérêt. Je m'estimerai heureux si en
    vous l'indiquant je puis concourir à vos succès futures et à vous
    initier dans une étude que j'ai toujours regardé comme une de celles
    qui peut le plus contribuer au bonheur journalier.

    Je vous prie d'agréer mes hommages empressés.

                                                 DE CANDOLLE.

       *     *     *     *     *

We had made the ordinary short tour through Switzerland, and had arrived
at Lausanne on our way home, when I was taken ill with a severe fever
which detained us there for many weeks. I shall never forget the
kindness I received from two Miss Barclays, Quaker ladies, and a Miss
Fotheringham, who, on hearing of my illness, came and sat up alternate
nights with me, as if I had been their sister.

The winter was now fast approaching, and Somerville thought that in my
weak state a warm climate was necessary; so we arranged with our
friends, the Miss Barclays, to pass the Simplon together. We parted
company at Milan, but we renewed our friendship in London.

We went to Monza, and saw the iron crown; and there I found the Magnolia
grandiflora, which hitherto I had only known as a greenhouse plant,
rising almost into a forest tree.

At Venice we renewed our acquaintance with the Countess Albrizzi, who
received every evening. It was at these receptions that we saw Lord
Byron, but he would not make the acquaintance of any English people at
that time. When he came into the room I did not perceive his lameness,
and thought him strikingly like my brother Henry, who was remarkably
handsome. I said to Somerville, "Is Lord Byron like anyone you know?"
"Your brother Henry, decidedly." Lord Broughton, then Sir John Cam
Hobhouse, was also present.

At Florence, I was presented to the Countess of Albany, widow of Prince
Charles Edward Stuart the Pretender. She was then supposed to be married
to Alfieri the poet, and had a kind of state reception every evening. I
did not like her, and never went again. Her manner was proud and
insolent. "So you don't speak Italian; you must have had a very bad
education, for Miss Clephane Maclane there [who was close by] speaks
both French and Italian perfectly." So saying, she turned away, and
never addressed another word to me. That evening I recognised in
Countess Moretti my old friend Agnes Bonar. Moretti was of good family;
but, having been banished from home for political opinions, he taught
the guitar in London for bread, and an attachment was formed between him
and his pupil. After the murder of her parents, they were both
persecuted with the most unrelenting cruelty by her brother. They
escaped to Milan where they were married.

I was still a young woman; but I thought myself too old to learn to
speak a foreign language, consequently I did not try. I spoke French
badly; and now, after several years' residence in Italy, although I can
carry on a conversation fluently in Italian, I do not speak it well.

    [When my mother first went abroad, she had no fluency in talking
    French, although she was well acquainted with the literature. To
    show how, at every period of her life, she missed no opportunity of
    acquiring information or improvement, I may mention that many years
    after, when we were spending a summer in Siena, where the language
    is spoken with great purity and elegance, she engaged a lady to
    converse in Italian with her for a couple of hours daily. By this
    means she very soon became perfectly familiar with the language,
    and could keep up conversation in Italian without difficulty. She
    never cared to write in any language but English. Her style has been
    reckoned particularly clear and good, and she was complimented on it
    by various competent judges, although she herself was always
    diffident about her writings, saying she was only a self-taught,
    uneducated Scotchwoman, and feared to use Scotch idioms
    inadvertently. In speaking she had a very decided but pleasant
    Scotch accent, and when aroused and excited, would often
    unconsciously use not only native idioms, but quaint old Scotch
    words. Her voice was soft and low, and her manner earnest.]

       *     *     *     *     *

On our way to Rome, where we spent the winter of 1817, it was startling
to see the fine church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, below Assisi, cut in
two; half of the church and half of the dome above it were still entire;
the rest had been thrown down by the earthquake which had destroyed the
neighbouring town of Foligno, and committed such ravages in this part of

At that time I might have been pardoned if I had described St Peter's,
the Vatican, and the innumerable treasures of art and antiquity at Rome;
but now that they are so well known it would be ridiculous and
superfluous. Here I gained a little more knowledge about pictures; but I
preferred sculpture, partly from the noble specimens of Greek art I saw
in Paris and Rome, and partly because I was such an enthusiast about the
language and everything belonging to ancient Greece. During this journey
I was highly gratified, for we made the acquaintance of Thorwaldsen and
Canova. Canova was gentle and amiable, with a beautiful countenance, and
was an artist of great reputation. Thorwaldsen had a noble and striking
appearance, and had more power and originality than Canova. His
bas-reliefs were greatly admired. I saw the one he made of Night in the
house of an English lady, who had a talent for modelling, and was said
to be attached to him. We were presented to Pope Pius the Seventh; a
handsome, gentlemanly, and amiable old man. He received us in a
summer-house in the garden of the Vatican. He was sitting on a sofa, and
made me sit beside him. His manners were simple and very gracious; he
spoke freely of what he had suffered in France. He said, "God forbid
that he should bear ill-will to any one; but the journey and the cold
were trying to an old man, and he was glad to return to a warm climate
and to his own country." When we took leave, he said to me, "Though a
Protestant, you will be none the worse for an old man's blessing." Pius
the Seventh was loved and respected; the people knelt to him as he
passed. Many years afterwards we were presented to Gregory the
Sixteenth, a very common-looking man, forming a great contrast to Pius
the Seventh.

I heard more good music during this first visit to Rome than I ever did
after; for besides that usual in St. Peter's, there was an Academia
every week, where Marcello's Psalms were sung in concert by a number of
male voices, besides other concerts, private and public. We did not make
the acquaintance of any of the Roman families at this time; but we saw
Pauline Borghese, sister of the Emperor Napoleon, so celebrated for her
beauty, walking on the Pincio every afternoon. Our great geologist, Sir
Roderick Murchison, with his wife, were among the English residents at
Rome. At that time he hardly knew one stone from another. He had been an
officer in the Dragoons, an excellent horseman, and a keen fox-hunter.
Lady Murchison,--an amiable and accomplished woman, with solid
acquirements which few ladies at that time possessed--had taken to the
study of geology; and soon after her husband began that career which has
rendered him the first geologist of our country. It was then that a
friendship began between them and us, which will only end with life.
Mrs. Fairfax, of Gilling Castle, and her two handsome daughters were
also at Rome. She was my namesake--Mary Fairfax--and my valued friend
till her death. Now, alas! many of these friends are gone.

There were such troops of brigands in the Papal States, that it was
considered unsafe to go outside the gates of Rome. They carried off
people to the mountains, and kept them till ransomed; sometimes even
mutilated them, as they do at the present day in the kingdom of Naples.
Lucien Bonaparte made a narrow escape from being carried off from his
villa, Villa Ruffinella, near Frascati. When it could be proved that
brigands had committed murder, they were confined in prisons in the
Maremma, at Campo Morto, where fever prevails, and where they were
supposed to die of malaria. I saw Gasperone, the chief of a famous band,
in a prison at Civita Vecchia; he was said to be a relative of Cardinal
Antonelli, both coming from the brigand village of Sonnino, in the
Volscian mountains. In going to Naples our friends advised us to take a
guard of soldiers; but these were suspected of being as bad, and in
league with the brigands. So we travelled post without them; and though
I foolishly insisted on going round by the ruins of ancient Capua, which
was considered very unsafe, we arrived at Naples without any encounter.
Here we met with the son and daughter of Mr. Smith, of Norwich, a
celebrated leader in the anti-slavery question. This was a bond of
interest between his family and me; for when I was a girl I took the
anti-slavery cause so warmly to heart that I would not take sugar in my
tea, or indeed taste anything with sugar in it. I was not singular in
this, for my cousins and many of my acquaintances came to the same
resolution. How long we kept it I do not remember. Patty Smith and I
became great friends, and I knew her sisters; but only remember her
niece Florence Nightingale as a very little child. My friend Patty was
liberal in her opinions, witty, original, an excellent horsewoman, and
drew cleverly; but from bad health she was peculiar in all her habits.
She was a good judge of art. Her father had a valuable collection of
pictures of the ancient masters; and I learnt much from her with regard
to paintings and style in drawing. We went to see everything in Naples
and its environs together, and she accompanied Somerville and me in an
expedition to Pæstum, where we made sketches of the temples. At Naples
we bought a beautiful cork model of the Temple of Neptune, which was
placed on our mineral cabinet on our return to London. A lady who came
to pay me a morning visit asked Somerville what it was; and when he told
her, she said, "How dreadful it is to think that all the people who
worshipped in that temple are in eternal misery, because they did not
believe in our Saviour." Somerville asked, "How could they believe in
Christ when He was not born till many centuries after?" I am sure she
thought it was all the same.

       *     *     *     *     *

There had been an eruption of Vesuvius just before our arrival at
Naples, and it was still smoking very much; however, we ascended it, and
walked round the crater, running and holding a handkerchief to our nose
an we passed through the smoke, when the wind blew it to our side. The
crater was just like an empty funnel, wide at the mouth, and narrowing
to a throat. The lava was hard enough to bear us; but there were
numerous _fumeroles_ or red-hot chasms, in it, which we could look into.
Somerville bought a number of crystals from the guides, and went
repeatedly to Portici afterwards to complete our collection of volcanic

They were excavating busily at Pompeii; at that time, and in one of our
many excursions there Somerville bought from one of the workmen a bronze
statuette of Minerva, and a very fine rosso antico Terminus, which we
contrived to smuggle into Naples; and it now forms part of a small but
excellent collection of antiques which I still possess. The excavations
at that period were conducted with little regularity or direction, and
the guides were able to carry on a contraband trade as mentioned. Since
the annexation of the Neapolitan provinces to the kingdom of Italy, the
Cavaliere Fiorelli has organized the system of excavations in the most
masterly manner, and has made many interesting discoveries. About
one-third of the town has been excavated since it was discovered till
the present day.

In passing through Bologna, we became acquainted with the celebrated
Mezzofanti, afterwards Cardinal. He was a quiet-looking priest; we could
not see anything in his countenance that indicated talent, nor was his
conversation remarkable; yet he told us that he understood fifty-two
languages. He left no memoir at his death; nor did he ever trace any
connection between these languages; it was merely an astonishing power,
which led to nothing, like that of a young American I lately heard of,
who could play eleven games at chess at the same time, without looking
at any chess-board.


[Footnote 8: Joseph Barclay Pentland, Consul-General in Bolivia
(1836-39), died in London, July, 1873. He first discovered that Illimani
and Sorata (not Chimborazo) were the highest mountains in America. (See
Humboldt's "Kosmos.")]



When we returned to Hanover Square, I devoted my morning hours, as
usual, to domestic affairs; but now my children occupied a good deal of
my time. Although still very young, I thought it advisable for them to
acquire foreign languages; so I engaged a French nursery-maid, that they
might never suffer what I had done from ignorance of modern languages. I
besides gave them instruction in such things as I was capable of
teaching, and which were suited to their age.

It was a great amusement to Somerville and myself to arrange the
minerals we had collected during our journey. Our cabinet was now very
rich. Some of our specimens we had bought; our friends had given us
duplicates of those they possessed; and George Finlayson, who was with
our troops in Ceylon, and who had devoted all his spare time to the
study of the natural productions of the country, sent us a valuable
collection of crystals of sapphire, ruby, oriental topaz, amethyst, &c.,
&c. Somerville used to analyze minerals with the blowpipe, which I never
did. One evening, when he was so occupied, I was playing the piano, when
suddenly I fainted; he was very much startled, as neither I nor any of
our family had ever done such a thing. When I recovered, I said it was
the smell of garlic that had made me ill. The truth was, the mineral
contained arsenic, and I was poisoned for the time by the fumes.

At this time we formed an acquaintance with Dr. Wollaston, which soon
became a lasting friendship. He was gentlemanly, a cheerful companion,
and a philosopher; he was also of agreeable appearance, having a
remarkably fine, intellectual head. He was essentially a chemist, and
discovered palladium; but there were few branches of science with which
he was not more or less acquainted. He made experiments to discover
imponderable matter; I believe, with regard to the ethereal medium. Mr.
Brand, of the Royal Institution, enraged him by sending so strong a
current of electricity through a machine he had made to prove
electro-magnetic rotation, as to destroy it. His characteristic was
extreme accuracy, which particularly fitted him for giving that
precision to the science of crystallography which it had not hitherto
attained. By the invention of the goniometer which bears his name, he
was enabled to measure the angle formed by the faces of a crystal by
means of the reflected images of bright objects seen in them. We bought
a goniometer, and Dr. Wollaston, who often dined with us, taught
Somerville and me how to use it, by measuring the angles of many of our
crystals during the evening. I learnt a great deal on a variety of
subjects besides crystallography from Dr. Wollaston, who, at his death,
left me a collection of models of the forms of all the natural crystals
then known.

Though still occasionally occupied with the mineral productions of the
earth, I became far more interested in the formation of the earth
itself. Geologists had excited public attention, and had shocked the
clergy and the more scrupulous of the laity by proving beyond a doubt
that the formation of the globe extended through enormous periods of
time. The contest was even more keen then than it is at the present time
about the various races of prehistoric men. It lasted very long, too;
for after I had published my work on Physical Geography, I was preached
against by name in York Cathedral. Our friend, Dr. Buckland, committed
himself by taking the clerical view in his "Bridgewater Treatise;" but
facts are such stubborn things that he was obliged to join the
geologists at last. He and Mrs. Buckland invited Somerville and me to
spend a week with them in Christchurch College, Oxford. Mr. and Mrs.
Murchison were their guests at the same time. Mr. Murchison (now Sir
Roderick) was then rising rapidly to the pre-eminence he now holds as a
geologist. We spent every day in seeing some of the numerous objects of
interest in that celebrated university, venerable for its antiquity,
historical records, and noble architecture.

Somerville and I used frequently to spend the evening with Captain and
Mrs. Kater. Dr. Wollaston, Dr. Young, and others were generally of the
party; sometimes we had music, for Captain and Mrs. Kater sang very
prettily. All kinds of scientific subjects were discussed, experiments
tried and astronomical observations made in a little garden in front of
the house. One evening we had been trying the power of a telescope in
separating double stars till about two in the morning; on our way home
we saw a light in Dr. Young's window, and when Somerville rang the bell,
down came the doctor himself in his dressing-gown, and said, "Come in; I
have something curious to show you." Astronomical signs are frequently
found on ancient Egyptian monuments, and were supposed to have been
employed by the priests to record dates. Now Dr. Young had received a
papyrus from Egypt, sent to him by Mr. Salt, who had found it in a
mummy-case; and that very evening he had proved it to be a horoscope of
the age of the Ptolemies, and had determined the date from the
configuration of the heavens at the time of its construction. Dr. Young
had already made himself famous by the interpretation of hieroglyphic
characters on a stone which had been brought to the British Museum from
Rosetta in Egypt. On that stone there is an inscription in
Hieroglyphics, the sacred symbolic language of the early Egyptians;
another in the Enchorial or spoken language of that most ancient people,
and a mutilated inscription in Greek. By the aid of some fragments of
papyri Dr. Young discovered that the Enchorial language is alphabetical,
and that nine of its letters correspond with ours; moreover, he
discovered such a relation between the Enchorial and the hieroglyphic
inscription that he interpreted the latter and published his discoveries
in the years 1815 and 1816.

M. Champollion, who had been on the same pursuit, examined the fine
collection of papyri in the museum at Turin, and afterwards went to
Egypt to pursue his studies on hieroglyphics, to our knowledge of which
he contributed greatly. It is to be regretted that one who had brought
that branch of science to such perfection should have been so
ungenerous as to ignore the assistance he had received from the
researches of Dr. Young. When the Royal Institution was first
established, Dr. Young lectured on natural philosophy. He proved the
undulatory theory of light by direct experiment, but as it depended upon
the hypothesis of an ethereal medium, it was not received in England,
the more so as it was contrary to Newton's theory. The French _savants_
afterwards did Young ample justice. The existence of the ethereal medium
is now all but proved, since part of the corona surrounding the moon
during a total solar eclipse is polarized--a phenomenon depending on
matter. Young's Lectures, which had been published, were a mine of
riches to me. He was of a Quaker family; but although he left the
Society of Friends at an early age, he retained their formal precision
of manner to the last. He was of a kindly disposition, and his wife and
her sisters, with whom I was intimate, were much attached to him. Dr.
Young was an elegant and critical scholar at a very early age; he was an
astronomer, a mathematician, and there were few branches of science in
which he was not versed. When young, his Quaker habits did not prevent
him from taking lessons in music and dancing. I have heard him accompany
his sister-in-law with the flute, while she played the piano. When not
more than sixteen years of age he was so remarkable for steadiness and
acquirements that he was engaged more as a companion than tutor to young
Hudson Gurney, who was nearly of his own age. One spring morning Young
came to breakfast in a bright green coat, and said in explanation of his
somewhat eccentric costume for one who had been a Quaker, that it was
suitable to the season. One day, on returning from their ride Gurney,
leaped his horse over the stable-yard gate. Young, trying to do the
same, was thrown; he got up, mounted, and made a second attempt with no
better success; the third time he kept his seat, then quietly
dismounting, he said, "What one man can do, another may."

       *     *     *     *     *

One bright morning Dr. Wollaston came to pay us a visit in Hanover
Square, saying, "I have discovered seven dark lines crossing the solar
spectrum, which I wish to show you;" then, closing the window-shutters
so as to leave only a narrow line of light, he put a small glass prism
into my hand, telling me how to hold it. I saw them distinctly. I was
among the first, if not the very first, to whom he showed these lines,
which were the origin of the most wonderful series of cosmical
discoveries, and have proved that many of the substances of our globe
are also constituents of the sun, the stars, and even of the nebulæ.
Dr. Wollaston gave me the little prism, which is doubly valuable, being
of glass manufactured at Munich by Fraunhofer, whose table of dark lines
has now become the standard of comparison in that marvellous science,
the work of many illustrious men, brought to perfection by Bunsen and

       *     *     *     *     *

Sir William Herschel had discovered that what appeared to be single
stars were frequently two stars in such close approximation that it
required a very high telescopic power to see them separately, and that
in many of these one star was revolving in an orbit round the other. Sir
James South established an observatory at Campden Hill, near Kensington,
where he and Sir John Herschel united in observing the double stars and
binary systems with the view of affording further data for improving our
knowledge of their movements. In each two observations are requisite,
namely, the distance between the two stars, and the angle of position,
that is, the angle which the meridian, or a parallel to the equator
makes with the lines joining the two stars. These observations were made
by adjusting a micrometer to a very powerful telescope, and were data
sufficient for the determination of the orbit of the revolving star,
should it be a binary system. I have given an account of this in the
"Connexion of the Physical Sciences," so I shall only mention here that
in one or two of the binary systems the revolving star has been seen to
make more than one revolution, and that the periodical times and the
elliptical elements of a great many other orbits have been calculated,
though they are more than 200,000 times farther from the sun than we

After Sir John Herschel was married, we paid him a visit at Slough;
fortunately, the sky was clear, and Sir John had the kindness to show me
many nebulæ and clusters of stars which I had never seen to such
advantage as in his 20 ft. telescope. I shall never forget the glorious
appearance of Jupiter as he entered the field of that instrument.

For years the British nation was kept in a state of excitement by the
Arctic voyages of our undaunted seamen in quest of a north-west passage
from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The idea was not new, for a
direct way to our Eastern possessions had been long desired. On this
occasion the impulse was given by William Scoresby, captain of a whaler,
who had sailed on the east coast of Greenland as high as the 80th
parallel of latitude, and for two successive seasons had found that the
sea between Greenland and Spitzbergen was free of ice for 18,000 square
miles--a circumstance which had not occurred before in the memory of
man. Scoresby was of rare genius, well versed in science, and of strict
probity. When he published this discovery, the Admiralty, in the year
1818, sent off two expeditions, one under the command of Captains
Franklin and Buchan to the east of Greenland, and another under Captains
Ross and Parry to Baffin's Bay. Such was the beginning of a series of
noble adventures, now the province of history.

I had an early passion for everything relating to the sea, and when my
father was at home I never tired asking him questions about his voyages
and the dangers to which he had been exposed. Now, when I knew something
of nautical science, I entered with enthusiasm into the spirit of these
Arctic voyages; nor was my husband less interested. We read Scoresby's
whaling voyages with great delight, and we made the acquaintance of all
the officers who had been on these northern expeditions.

Sir Edward Parry, who had brought us minerals and seeds of plants from
Melville Island, invited us to see the ships prepared for his third
voyage, and three years' residence in the Arctic seas. It is impossible
to describe how perfectly everything was arranged: experience had taught
them what was necessary for such an expedition. On this occasion I put
in practice my lessons in cookery by making a large quantity of orange
marmalade for the voyage. When, after three years, the ships returned,
we were informed that the name of Somerville had been given to an island
so far to the north that it was all but perpetually covered with ice and
snow. Notwithstanding the sameness which naturally prevails in the
narratives of these voyages, they are invested with a romantic interest
by the daring bravery displayed, and by the appalling difficulties
overcome. The noble endeavour of Lady Franklin to save her gallant
husband, and the solitary voyage of Sir Leopold McClintock in a small
yacht in search of his lost friend, form the touching and sad
termination to a very glorious period of maritime adventure. More than
fifty years after these events I renewed my acquaintance with Lady
Franklin. She and her niece came to see me at Spezia on their way to
Dalmatia. She had circumnavigated the globe with her husband when he was
governor in Australia. After his loss she and her niece had gone round
the world a second time, and she assured me that although they went to
Japan and China (less known at that time than they are now), they never
experienced any difficulty. Seeing ladies travelling alone, people were
always willing to help them. The French sent a Polar expedition under
Captain Gaimard in the years 1838 and 1839; and the United States of
North America took an active part in Arctic exploration. Whether Dr.
Kane's discovery of an open polar ocean will ever be verified is
problematical; at all events, the deplorable fate of Sir John Franklin
has put a stop to the chance of it for the present; yet it is a great
geographical question which we should all like to see decided.

Captain Sabine, of the Artillery (now General Sir Edward Sabine,
President of the Royal Society), was appointed to accompany the first
expedition under Captains Ross and Parry on account of his high
scientific acquirements. The observations made during the series of
Arctic voyages on the magnetism of the earth, combined with an enormous
mass of observations made by numerous observers in all parts of the
globe by sea and by land, have enabled Sir Edward Sabine, after a labour
of nearly fifty years, to complete his marvellous system of terrestrial
magnetism in both hemispheres. During that long period a friendship has
lasted between Sir Edward and me. He has uniformly sent me copies of all
his works; to them I chiefly owe what I know on the subject, and quite
recently I have received his latest and most important publication. Sir
Edward married a lady of talent and scientific acquirements. She
translated "Cosmos" from the German, and assisted and calculated for
her husband in his laborious work.

I do not remember the exact period, but I think it was subsequent to the
Arctic voyages, that the theory was discovered of those tropical
hurricanes which cause such devastation by sea and land. Observations
are now made on barometric pressure, and warnings are sent to our
principal seaports by telegraph, as well as along both sides of the
Channel; but notwithstanding numerous disastrous shipwrecks occur every
winter on our dangerous coasts. They were far more numerous in my
younger days. Life-boats were not then invented; now they are stationed
on almost every coast of Great Britain, and on many continental shores.
The readiness with which they are manned, and the formidable dangers
encountered to save life, show the gallant, noble character of the



We went frequently to see Mr. Babbage while he was making his
Calculating-machines. He had a transcendant intellect, unconquerable
perseverance, and extensive knowledge on many subjects, besides being a
first-rate mathematician. I always found him most amiable and patient in
explaining the structure and use of the engines. The first he made could
only perform arithmetical operations. Not satisfied with that, Mr.
Babbage constructed an analytical engine, which could be so arranged as
to perform all kinds of mathematical calculations, and print each

Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the unity of the Deity
as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science
which have been by slow degrees vouchsafed to man, and are still granted
in these latter times by the Differential Calculus and the Higher
Algebra, all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient
Mind from eternity.

Many of our friends had very decided and various religious opinions, but
my husband and I never entered into controversy; we had too high a
regard for liberty of conscience to interfere with any one's opinions,
so we have lived on terms of sincere friendship and love with people who
differed essentially from us in religious views, and in all the books
which I have written I have confined myself strictly and entirely to
scientific subjects, although my religious opinions are very decided.

Timidity of character, probably owing to early education, had a great
influence on my daily life; for I did not assume my place in society in
my younger days; and in argument I was instantly silenced, although I
often knew, and could have proved, that I was in the right. The only
thing in which I was determined and inflexible was in the prosecution of
my studies. They were perpetually interrupted, but always resumed at the
first opportunity. No analysis is so difficult as that of one's own
mind, but I do not think I err much in saying that perseverance is a
characteristic of mine.

       *     *     *     *     *

Somerville and I were very happy when we lived in Hanover Square. We
were always engaged in some pursuit, and had good society. General
society was at that time brilliant for wit and talent. The Rev. Sidney
Smith, Rogers, Thomas Moore, Campbell, the Hon. William Spencer,
Macaulay, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Melbourne, &c., &c., all made the
dinner-parties very agreeable. The men sat longer at table than they do
now, and, except in the families where I was intimate, the conversation
of the ladies in the drawing-room, when we came up from dinner, often
bored me. I disliked routs exceedingly, and should often have sent an
excuse if I had known what to say. After my marriage I did not dance,
for in Scotland it was thought highly indecorous for a married woman to
dance. Waltzing, when first introduced, was looked upon with horror, and
even in England it was then thought very improper.

One season I subscribed to the Concerts of Ancient Music, established by
George the Third. They seemed to be the resort of the aged; a young face
was scarcely to be seen. The music was perfect of its kind, but the
whole affair was very dull. The Philharmonic Concerts were excellent for
scientific musicians, and I sometimes went to them; but for my part I
infinitely preferred hearing Pasta, Malibran, and Grisi, who have left
the most vivid impression on my mind, although so different from each
other. Somerville enjoyed a comic opera exceedingly, and so did I; and
at that time Lablache was in the height of his fame. When Somerville and
I made the tour in Italy already mentioned, we visited Catalani (then
Madame Valabrèque) in a villa near Florence, to which she retired in her
old age. She, however, died in Paris, of cholera, some years later.

Somerville liked the theatre as much as I did; so we saw all the
greatest actors of the day, both in tragedy and comedy, and the English
theatre was then excellent. Young, who was scarcely inferior to John
Kemble, Macready, Kean, Liston, &c., and Miss O'Neill, who after a short
brilliant career entered into domestic life on her marriage with Sir
William Beecher, were all at the height of their fame. It was then I
became acquainted with Lady Beecher, who was so simple and natural that
no one could have discovered she had ever been on the stage. A very
clever company of French comedians acted in a temporary theatre in
Tottenham Court Road, where we frequently went with a party of friends,
and enjoyed very pleasant evenings. I think my fondness for the theatre
depended to a certain degree on my silent disposition; for unless among
intimate friends, or when much excited, I was startled at the sound of
my own voice in general conversation, from the shyness which has
haunted me through life, and starts up occasionally like a ghost in my
old age. At a play I was not called upon to make any exertion, but could
enjoy at my ease an intellectual pleasure for the most part far superior
to the general run of conversation.

       *     *     *     *     *

Among many others, we were intimate with Dr. and Mrs. Baillie and his
sisters. Joanna was my dear and valued friend to the end of her life.
When her tragedy of "Montfort" was to be brought on the stage,
Somerville and I, with a large party of her relations and friends, went
with her to the theatre. The play was admirably acted, for Mrs. Siddons
and her brother John Kemble performed the principal parts. It was warmly
applauded by a full house, but it was never acted again. Some time
afterwards "The Family Legend," founded on a Highland story, had better
success in Edinburgh; but Miss Baillie's plays, though highly poetical,
are not suited to the stage. Miss Mitford was more successful, for some
of her plays were repeatedly acted. She excelled also as a writer. "Our
Village" is perfect of its kind; nothing can be more animated than her
description of a game of cricket. I met with Miss Austin's novels at
this time, and thought them excellent, especially "Pride and Prejudice."
It certainly formed a curious contrast to my old favourites, the
Radcliffe novels and the ghost stories; but I had now come to years of

Among my Quaker friends I met with that amiable but eccentric person
Mrs. Opie. Though a "wet" Quakeress, she continued to wear the peculiar
dress. I was told that she was presented in it at the Tuileries, and
astonished the French ladies. We were also acquainted with Mrs. Fry, a
very different person, and heard her preach. Her voice was fine, her
delivery admirable, and her prayer sublime. We were intimate with Mr.
(now Sir Charles) Lyell, who, if I mistake not, first met with his wife
at our house, where she was extremely admired as the beautiful Miss
Horner. Until we lost all our fortune, and went to live at Chelsea, I
used to have little evening parties in Hanover Square.

       *     *     *     *     *

I was not present at the coronation of George the Fourth; but I had a
ticket for the gallery in Westminster Hall, to see the banquet. Though I
went very early in the morning, I found a wonderful confusion. I showed
my ticket of admission to one official person after another; the answer
always was "I know nothing about it." At last I got a good place near
some ladies I knew; even at that early hour the gallery was full. Some
time after the ceremony in the Abbey was over, the door of the
magnificent hall was thrown open, and the king entered in the flowing
curls and costume of Henry the Eighth, and, imitating the jaunty manner
of that monarch, walked up the hall and sat down on the throne at its
extremity. The peeresses had already taken their seats under the
gallery, and the king was followed by the peers, and the knights of the
Garter, Bath, Thistle, and St. Patrick, all in their robes. After every
one had taken his seat, the Champion, on his horse, both in full armour,
rode up the hall, and threw down a gauntlet before the king, while the
heralds proclaimed that he was ready to do battle with any one who
denied that George the Fourth was the liege lord of these realms. Then
various persons presented offerings to the king in right of which they
held their estates. One gentleman presented a beautiful pair of falcons
in their hoods. While this pageantry and noise was at its height, Queen
Caroline demanded to be admitted. There was a sudden silence and
consternation,--it was like the "handwriting on the wall!" The sensation
was intense. At last the order was given to refuse her admittance; the
pageantry was renewed, and the banquet followed. The noise, heat, and
vivid light of the illumination of the hall gave me a racking headache;
at last I went out of the gallery and sat on a stair, where there was a
little fresh air, and was very glad when all was over. Years afterwards
I was present in Westminster Abbey at the coronation of our Queen, then
a pretty young girl of eighteen. Placed in the most trying position at
that early age, by her virtues, both public and private, she has
endeared herself to the nation beyond what any sovereign ever did

       *     *     *     *     *

I, who had so many occupations and duties at home, soon tired of the
idleness and formality of visiting in the country. I made an exception,
however, in favour of an occasional visit to Mr. Sotheby, the poet, and
his family in Epping Forest, of which, if I mistake not, he was
deputy-ranger; at all events, he had a pretty cottage there where he and
his family received their friends with kind hospitality. He spent part
of the day in his study, and afterwards I have seen him playing cricket
with his son and grandson, with as much vivacity as any of them. The
freshness of the air was quite reviving to Somerville and me; and our
two little girls played in the forest all the day.

We also gladly went for several successive years to visit Sir John
Saunders Sebright at Beechwood Park, Hertfordshire. Dr. Wollaston
generally travelled with us on these occasions, when we had much
conversation on a variety of subjects, scientific or general. He was
remarkably acute in his observations on objects as we passed them. "Look
at that ash tree; did you ever notice that the branches of the ash tree
are curves of double curvature?" There was a comet visible at the time
of one of these little journeys. Dr. Wollaston had made a drawing of the
orbit and its elements; but, having left it in town, he described the
lines so accurately without naming them, that I remarked at once, "That
is the curtate or perihelion distance," which pleased him greatly, as it
showed how accurate his description was. He was a chess-player, and,
when travelling alone, he used to carry a book with diagrams of
partially-played games, in which it is required to give checkmate in a
fixed number of moves. He would study one of them, and then, shutting
the book, play out the game mentally.

Although Sir John was a keen sportsman and ox-hunter in his youth, he
was remarkable for his kindness to animals and for the facility with
which he tamed them. He kept terriers, and his pointers were first rate,
yet he never allowed his keepers to beat a dog, nor did he ever do it
himself; he said a dog once cowed was good for nothing ever after. He
trained them by tying a string to the collar and giving it a sharp pull
when the dog did wrong, and patting him kindly when he did right. In
this manner he taught some of his non-sporting dogs to play all sorts of
tricks, such as picking out the card chosen by any spectator from a
number placed in a circle on the floor, the signal being one momentary
glance at the card, &c. &c. Sir John published a pamphlet on the
subject, and sent copies of it to the sporting gentlemen and keepers in
the county, I fear with little effect; men are so apt to vent their own
bad temper on their dogs and horses.

At one of the battues at Holkham, Chantrey killed two woodcocks at one
shot. Mr. Hudson Gurney some time after saw a brace of woodcocks carved
in marble in Chantrey's studio; Chantrey told him of his shot and the
difficulty of finding a suitable inscription, and that it had been tried
in Latin and even Greek without success. Mr. Gurney said it should be
very simple, such as:--

    Driven from the north, where winter starved them,
    Chantrey first shot, and then he carved them.

Beechwood was one of the few places in Great Britain in which hawking
was kept up. The falcons were brought from Flanders, for, except in the
Isle of Skye, they have been extirpated in Great Britain like many other
of our fine indigenous birds. Sir John kept fancy pigeons of all
breeds. He told me he could alter the colour of their plumage in three
years by cross-breeding, but that it required fully six to alter the
shape of the bird.

       *     *     *     *     *

At some house where we were dining in London, I forget with whom, Ugo
Foscolo, the poet, was one of the party. He was extremely excitable and
irritable, and when some one spoke of a translation of Dante as being
perfect, "Impossible," shouted Foscolo, starting up in great excitement,
at the same time tossing his cup full of coffee into the air, cup and
all, regardless of the china and the ladies' dresses. He died in
England, I fear in great poverty. He was a most distinguished classical
scholar as well as poet. His remains have been brought to Italy within
these few years, and interred in Sante Croce, in Florence.

       *     *     *     *     *

I had a severe attack of what appeared to be cholera, and during my
recovery Mrs. Hankey very kindly lent us her villa at Hampstead for a
few weeks. There I went with my children, Somerville with some friends
always coming to dinner on the Sundays. On one of these occasions there
was a violent thunderstorm, and a large tree was struck not far from the
house. We all went to look at the tree as soon as the storm ceased, and
found that a large mass of wood was scooped out of the trunk from top to
bottom. I had occasion in two other instances to notice the same effect.
Dr. Wollaston lent me a sextant and artificial horizon; so I amused
myself taking the altitude of the sun, the consequence of which was that
I became as brown as a mulatto, but I was too anxious to learn something
of practical astronomy to care about the matter.



Our happy and cheerful life in Hanover Square came to a sad end. The
illness and death of our eldest girl threw Somerville and me into the
deepest affliction. She was a child of intelligence and acquirements far
beyond her tender age.

    [The long illness and death of this young girl fell very heavily on
    my mother, who by this time had lost several children. The following
    letter was written by her to my grandfather on this occasion. It
    shows her steadfast faith in the mercy and goodness of God, even
    when crushed by almost the severest affliction which can wring a
    mother's heart:--]


    LONDON, _October_, 1823.


    I never was so long of writing to you, but when the heart is
    breaking it is impossible to find words adequate to its relief. We
    are in deep affliction, for though the first violence of grief has
    subsided, there has succeeded a calm sorrow not less painful, a
    feeling of hopelessness in this world which only finds comfort in
    the prospect of another, which longs for the consummation of all
    things that we may join those who have gone before. To return to the
    duties of life is irksome, even to those duties which were a delight
    when the candle of the Lord shone upon us. I do not arraign the
    decrees of Providence, but even in the bitterness of my soul I
    acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of God, and endeavour to be
    resigned to His will. It is ungrateful not to remember the many
    happy years we have enjoyed, but that very remembrance renders our
    present state more desolate and dreary--presenting a sad contrast.
    The great source of consolation is in the mercy of God and the
    virtues of those we lament; the full assurance that no good
    disposition can be lost but must be brought to perfection in a
    better world. Our business is to render ourselves fit for that
    blessed inheritance that we may again be united to those we mourn.

                   Your affectionate daughter,
                                          MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *

Somerville still held his place at the army medical board, and was now
appointed physician to Chelsea Hospital; so we left our cheerful,
comfortable house and went to reside in a government house in a very
dreary and unhealthy situation, far from all our friends, which was a
serious loss to me, as I was not a good walker, and during the whole
time I lived at Chelsea I suffered from sick headaches. Still we were
very glad of the appointment, for at this time we lost almost the whole
of our fortune, through the dishonesty of a person in whom we had the
greatest confidence.

All the time we lived at Chelsea we had constant intercourse with Lady
Noel Byron and Ada, who lived at Esher, and when I came abroad I kept up
a correspondence with both as long as they lived. Ada was much attached
to me, and often came to stay with me. It was by my advice that she
studied mathematics. She always wrote to me for an explanation when she
met with any difficulty. Among my papers I lately found many of her
notes, asking mathematical questions. Ada Byron married Lord King,
afterwards created Earl of Lovelace, a college companion and friend of
my son.

Somerville had formed a friendship with Sir Henry Bunbury when he had a
command in Sicily, and we went occasionally to visit him at Barton in
Suffolk. I liked Lady Bunbury very much; she was a niece of the
celebrated Charles Fox, and had a turn for natural history. I had made a
collection of native shells at Burntisland, but I only knew their vulgar
names; now I learnt their scientific arrangement from Lady Bunbury. Her
son, Sir Charles Bunbury, is an authority for fossil botany. The first
Pinetum I ever saw was at Barton, and in 1837 I planted a cedar in
remembrance of one of our visits.

Through Lady Bunbury we became intimate with all the members of the
illustrious family of the Napiers, as she was sister of Colonel,
afterwards General Sir William Napier, author of the "History of the
Peninsular War." One day Colonel Napier, who was then living in Sloane
Street, introduced Somerville and me to his mother, Lady Sarah Napier.
Her manners were distinguished, and though totally blind, she still had
the remains of great beauty; her hand and arm, which were exposed by the
ancient costume she wore, were most beautiful still. The most sincere
friendship existed between Richard Napier and his wife and me through
life; I shall never forget their kindness to me at a time when I was in
great sorrow. All the brothers are now gone. Richard and his wife were
long in bad health, and he was nearly blind; but his wife never knew it,
through the devoted attachment of Emily Shirriff, daughter of Admiral
Shirriff, who was the comfort and consolation of both to their dying

Maria Edgeworth came frequently to see us when she was in England. She
was one of my most intimate friends, warm-hearted and kind, a charming
companion, with all the liveliness and originality of an Irishwoman.
For seventeen years I was in constant correspondence with her. The
cleverness and animation as well as affection of her letters I cannot
express; certainly women are superior to men in letter-writing.

    [The following is an extract from a letter from Maria Edgeworth to a
    friend concerning my mother:--]


    BEECHWOOD PARK, _January 17th, 1822_.

    We have spent two days pleasantly here with Dr. Wollaston, our own
    dear friend Mrs. Marcet, and the Somervilles. Mrs. Somerville is the
    lady who, Laplace says, is the only woman who understands his works.
    She draws beautifully, and while her head is among the stars her
    feet are firm upon the earth.

    Mrs. Somerville is little, slightly made, fairish hair, pink colour,
    small, grey, round, intelligent, smiling eyes, very pleasing
    countenance, remarkably soft voice, strong, but well-bred Scotch
    accent; timid, not disqualifying timid, but naturally modest, yet
    with a degree of self-possession through it which prevents her being
    in the least awkward, and gives her all the advantage of her
    understanding, at the same time that it adds a prepossessing charm
    to her manner and takes off all dread of her superior scientific

       *     *     *     *     *

While in London I had a French maid for my daughters, and on coming to
Chelsea I taught them a little geometry and algebra, as well as Latin
and Greek, and, later, got a master for them, that they might have a
more perfect knowledge of these languages than I possessed. Keenly alive
to my own defects, I was anxious that my children should never undergo
the embarrassment and mortification I had suffered from ignorance of the
common European languages. I engaged a young German lady, daughter of
Professor Becker, of Offenbach, near Frankfort, as governess, and was
most happy in my choice; but after being with us for a couple of years,
she had a very bad attack of fever, and was obliged to return home. She
was replaced by a younger sister, who afterwards married Professor
Trendelenburg, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Berlin.
Though both these sisters were quite young, I had the most perfect
confidence in them, from their strict conscientiousness and morality.
They were well educated, ladylike, and so amiable, that they gained the
friendship of my children and the affection of us all.

As we could with perfect confidence leave the children to Miss Becker's
care, Sir James Mackintosh, Somerville and I made an excursion to the
Continent. We went to Brussels, and what lady can go there without
seeing the lace manufactory? I saw, admired,--and bought none! We were
kindly received by Professor Quetelet, whom we had previously known,
and who never failed to send me a copy of his valuable memoirs as soon
as they were published. I have uniformly met with the greatest kindness
from scientific men at home and abroad. If any of them are alive when
this record is published, I beg they will accept of my gratitude. Of
those that are no more I bear a grateful remembrance.

The weather was beautiful when we were at Brussels, and in the evening
we went to the public garden. It was crowded with people, and very gay.
We sat down, and amused ourselves by looking at them as they passed. Sir
James was a most agreeable companion, intimate with all the political
characters of the day, full of anecdote and historical knowledge. That
evening his conversation was so brilliant that we forgot the time, and
looking around found that everybody had left the garden, so we thought
we might as well return to the hotel; but on coming to the iron-barred
gate we found it locked. Sir James and Somerville begged some of those
that were passing to call the keeper of the park to let us out; but they
said it was impossible, that we must wait till morning. A crowd
assembled laughing and mocking, till at last we got out through the
house of one of the keepers of the park.

At Bonn we met with Baron Humboldt, and M. Schlegel, celebrated for his
translation of Shakespeare. On going up the Rhine, Sir James knew the
history of every place and of every battle that had been fought. A
professor of his acquaintance in one of the towns invited us to dinner,
and I was astonished to see the lady of the house going about with a
great bunch of keys dangling at her side, assisting in serving up the
dinner, and doing all the duty of carving, her husband taking no part
whatever in it. I was annoyed that we had given so much trouble by
accepting the invitation. In my younger days in Scotland, a lady might
make the pastry and jelly, or direct in the kitchen; but she took no
part in cooking or serving up the dinner, and never rose from the table
till the ladies went to the drawing-room. However, as we could not
afford to keep a regular cook, an ill-dressed dish would occasionally
appear, and then my father would say, "God sends food, but the devil
sends cooks."

In our tour through Holland, Somerville was quite at home, and amused
himself talking to the people, for he had learnt the Dutch language at
the Cape of Good Hope. We admired the pretty quaint costumes of the
women; but I was the only one who took interest in the galleries. Many
of the pictures of the Dutch school are very fine; but I never should
have made a collection exclusively of them as was often done at one time
in England. Lord Granville was British Minister at the Hague, and dining
at the Embassy one day we met with a Mrs.----, who, on hearing one of
the attachés addressed as Mr. Abercromby,[9] said, "Pray, Lord
Granville, is that a son of the great captain whom the Lord slew in the
land of Egypt?'"

I never met with Madame de Staël, but heard a great deal about her
during this journey from Sir James Mackintosh, who was very intimate
with her. At that time the men sat longer at table after dinner than
they do now; and on one occasion, at a dinner party at Sir James's
house, when Lady Mackintosh and the ladies returned to the drawing-room,
Madame de Staël, who was exceedingly impatient of women's society, would
not deign to enter into conversation with any of the ladies, but walked
about the room; then suddenly ringing the bell, she said, "Ceci est
insupportable!" and when the servant appeared, she said: "Tell your
master to come upstairs directly; they have sat long enough at their


[Footnote 9: Afterwards Sir Ralph Abercromby, later Lord Dunfermline,
minister first at Florence, then at Turin.]



    [After my mother's return home my father received the following
    letter from Lord Brougham, which very importantly influenced the
    further course of my mother's life. It is dated March 27th, 1827:--]



    I fear you will think me very daring for the design I have formed
    against Mrs. Somerville, and still more for making you my advocate
    with her; through whom I have every hope of prevailing. There will
    be sent to you a prospectus, rules, and a preliminary treatise of
    our Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge, and I assure you I speak
    without any flattery when I say that of the two subjects which I
    find it most difficult to see the chance of executing, there is
    one, which--unless Mrs. Somerville will undertake--none else can,
    and it must be left undone, though about the most interesting of the
    whole, I mean an account of the Mécanique Céleste; the other is an
    account of the Principia, which I have some hopes of at Cambridge.
    The kind of thing wanted is such a description of that divine work
    as will both explain to the unlearned the sort of thing it is--the
    plan, the vast merit, the wonderful truths unfolded or
    methodized--and the calculus by which all this is accomplished, and
    will also give a somewhat deeper insight to the uninitiated. Two
    treatises would do this. No one without trying it can conceive how
    far we may carry ignorant readers into an understanding of the
    depths of science, and our treatises have about 100 to 800 pages of
    space each, so that one might give the more popular view, and
    another the analytical abstracts and illustrations. In England there
    are now not twenty people who know this great work, except by name;
    and not a hundred who know it even by name. My firm belief is that
    Mrs. Somerville could add two cyphers to each of those figures. Will
    you be my counsel in this suit? Of course our names are concealed,
    and no one of our council but myself needs to know it.

                                         Yours ever most truly,
                                                          H. BROUGHAM.

    My mother in alluding to the above says:--

       *     *     *     *     *

This letter surprised me beyond expression. I thought Lord Brougham must
have been mistaken with regard to my acquirements, and naturally
concluded that my self-acquired knowledge was so far inferior to that
of the men who had been educated in our universities that it would be
the height of presumption to attempt to write on such a subject or
indeed on any other. A few days after this Lord Brougham came to Chelsea
himself, and Somerville joined with him in urging me at least to make
the attempt. I said, "Lord Brougham, you must be aware that the work in
question never can be popularized, since the student must at least know
something of the differential and integral calculi, and as a preliminary
step I should have to prove various problems in physical mechanics and
astronomy. Besides, La Place never gives diagrams or figures, because
they are not necessary to persons versed in the calculus, but they would
be indispensable in a work such as you wish me to write. I am afraid I
am incapable of such a task: but as you both wish it so much, I shall do
my very best upon condition of secrecy, and that if I fail the
manuscript shall be put into the fire." Thus suddenly and unexpectedly
the whole character and course of my future life was changed.

I rose early and made such arrangements with regard to my children and
family affairs that I had time to write afterwards; not, however,
without many interruptions. A man can always command his time under the
plea of business, a woman is not allowed any such excuse. At Chelsea I
was always supposed to be at home, and as my friends and acquaintances
came so far out of their way on purpose to see me, it would have been
unkind and ungenerous not to receive them. Nevertheless, I was sometimes
annoyed when in the midst of a difficult problem some one would enter
and say, "I have come to spend a few hours with you." However, I learnt
by habit to leave a subject and resume it again at once, like putting a
mark into a book I might be reading; this was the more necessary as
there was no fire-place in my little room, and I had to write in the
drawing-room in winter. Frequently I hid my papers as soon as the bell
announced a visitor, lest anyone should discover my secret.

    [My mother had a singular power of abstraction. When occupied with
    some difficult problem, or even a train of thought which deeply
    interested her, she lost all consciousness of what went on around
    her, and became so entirely absorbed that any amount of talking, or
    even practising scales and _solfeggi_, went on without in the least
    disturbing her. Sometimes a song or a strain of melody would recall
    her to a sense of the present, for she was passionately fond of
    music. A curious instance of this peculiarity of hers occurred at
    Rome, when a large party were assembled to listen to a celebrated
    improvisatrice. My mother was placed in the front row, close to the
    poetess, who, for several stanzas, adhered strictly to the subject
    which had been given to her. What it was I do not recollect, except
    that it had no connection with what followed. All at once, as if by
    a sudden inspiration, the lady turned her eyes full upon my mother,
    and with true Italian vehemence and in the full musical accents of
    Rome, poured forth stanza after stanza of the most eloquent
    panegyric upon her talents and virtues, extolling them and her to
    the skies. Throughout the whole of this scene, which lasted a
    considerable time, my mother remained calm and unmoved, never
    changing countenance, which surprised not only the persons present
    but ourselves, as we well knew how much she disliked any display or
    being brought forward in public. The truth was, that after listening
    for a while to the improvising, a thought struck her connected with
    some subject she was engaged in writing upon at the time and so
    entirely absorbed her that she heard not a word of all that had been
    declaimed in her praise, and was not a little surprised and confused
    when she was complimented on it. I call this, advisedly, a power of
    hers, for although it occasionally led her into strange positions,
    such as the one above mentioned, it rendered her entirely
    independent of outward circumstances, nor did she require to isolate
    herself from the family circle in order to pursue her studies. I
    have already mentioned that when we were very young she taught us
    herself for a few hours daily; when our lessons were over we always
    remained in the room with her, learning grammar, arithmetic, or some
    such plague of childhood. Any one who has plunged into the mazes of
    the higher branches of mathematics or other abstruse science, would
    probably feel no slight degree of irritation on being interrupted
    at a critical moment when the solution was almost within his grasp,
    by some childish question about tense or gender, or how much seven
    times seven made. My mother was never impatient, but explained our
    little difficulties quickly and kindly, and returned calmly to her
    own profound thoughts. Yet on occasion she could show both
    irritation and impatience--when we were stupid or inattentive,
    neither of which she could stand. With her clear mind she darted at
    the solution, sometimes forgetting that we had to toil after her
    laboriously step by step. I well remember her slender white hand
    pointing impatiently to the book or slate--"Don't you see it? there
    is no difficulty in it, it is quite clear." Things were so clear to
    her! I must here add some other recollections by my mother of this
    very interesting portion of her life.]

       *     *     *     *     *

I was a considerable time employed in writing this book, but I by no
means gave up society, which would neither have suited Somerville nor
me. We dined out, went to evening parties, and occasionally to the
theatre. As soon as my work was finished I sent the manuscript to Lord
Brougham, requesting that it might be thoroughly examined, criticised
and destroyed according to promise if a failure. I was very nervous
while it was under examination, and was equally surprised and gratified
that Sir John Herschel, our greatest astronomer, and perfectly versed in
the calculus, should have found so few errors. The letter he wrote on
this occasion made me so happy and proud that I have preserved it.



    I have read your manuscript with the greatest pleasure, and will not
    hesitate to add, (because I am sure you will believe it sincere,)
    with the highest admiration. Go on thus, and you will leave a
    memorial of no common kind to posterity; and, what you will value
    far more than fame, you will have accomplished a most useful work.
    What a pity that La Place has not lived to see this illustration of
    his great work! You will only, I fear, give too strong a stimulus to
    the study of abstract science by this performance.

    I have marked as somewhat obscure a part of the illustration of the
    principle of virtual velocities.... Will you look at this point
    again? I have made a trifling remark in page 6, but it is a mere
    matter of metaphysical nicety, and perhaps hardly worth pencilling
    your beautiful manuscript for.

                                      Ever yours most truly,
                                                       J. HERSCHEL.

    [In publishing the following letter, I do not consider that I am
    infringing on the rule I have followed in obedience to my mother's
    wishes, that is, to abstain from giving publicity to all letters
    which are of a private and confidential character. This one entirely
    concerns her scientific writings, and is interesting as showing the
    confidence which existed between Sir John Herschel and
    herself. This great philosopher was my mother's truest and best
    friend, one whose opinion she valued above all others, whose genius
    and consummate talents she admired, and whose beautiful character
    she loved with an intensity which is better shown by some extracts
    from her letters to be given presently than by anything I can say.
    This deep regard on her part he returned with the most chivalrous
    respect and admiration. In any doubt or difficulty it was his advice
    she sought, his criticism she submitted to; both were always frankly
    given without the slightest fear of giving offence, for Sir John
    Herschel well knew the spirit with which any remarks of his would be


    SLOUGH, _Feb. 23rd, 1830_.


    ... As you contemplate separate publication, and as the attention of
    many will be turned to a work from _your_ pen who will just possess
    quantum enough of mathematical knowledge to be able to read the
    first chapter without being able to follow you into its application,
    and as these, moreover, are the very people who will think
    themselves privileged to criticise and use their privilege with the
    least discretion, I cannot recommend too much clearness, fulness,
    and order in the _exposé_ of the principles. Were I you, I would
    devote to this first part at least double the space you have done.
    Your familiarity with the results and formulæ has led you into what
    is extremely natural in such a case--a somewhat hasty passing over
    what, to a beginner, would prove insuperable difficulties; and if I
    may so express it, a sketchiness of outline (as a painter you will
    understand my meaning, and what is of more consequence, see how it
    is to be remedied).

    You have adopted, I see, the principle of virtual velocity, and the
    principle of d'Alembert, rather as separate and independent
    principles to be used as instruments of investigation than as
    convenient theories, flowing themselves from the general law of
    force and equilibrium, to be first _proved_ and then remembered as
    compact statements in a form fit for use. The demonstration of the
    principle of virtual velocities is so easy and direct in Laplace
    that I cannot imagine anything capable of rendering it plainer than
    he has done. But a good deal more explanation of what _is_ virtual
    velocity, &c., would be advantageous--and virtual velocities should
    be kept quite distinct from the arbitrary variations represented by
    the sign [Greek: d].

    With regard to the _principle of d'Alembert_--take my advice and
    explode it altogether. It is the most awkward and involved statement
    of a plain dynamical equation that ever puzzled student. I speak
    feelingly and with a sense of irritation at the whirls and vortices
    it used to cause in my poor head when first I entered on this
    subject in my days of studentship. I know not a single case where
    its application does not create obscurity--nay _doubt_. Nor can a
    case ever occur where any such principle is called for. The general
    law that the change of motion is proportional to the moving force
    and takes place in its direction, provided we take care always to
    regard the _reaction_ of curves, surfaces, obstacles, &c., as so
    many real moving forces of (for a time) unknown magnitude, will
    always help us out of any dynamical scrape we may get into. Laplace,
    page 20, Méc. Cél. art. 7, is a little obscure here, and in deriving
    his equation (_f_) a page of explanation would be well bestowed.

    One thing let me recommend, if you use as principles either this, or
    that of virtual velocities, or any other, state them broadly and in
    general terms.... You will think me, I fear, a rough critic, but I
    think of Horace's _good critic_,

        Fiet Aristarchus: nec dicet, cur ego amicum
        Offendam in nugis? Hæ nugæ seria ducent
        In mala,

    and what we can both now laugh at, and you may, if you like, burn as
    nonsense (I mean these remarks), would come with a very different
    kind of force from some sneering reviewer in the plenitude of his
    triumph at the detection of a slip of the pen or one of those little
    inaccuracies which _humana parum cavit natura_....

                                    Very faithfully yours,
                                                      J. HERSCHEL.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [About the same time my father received a letter from Dr. Whewell,
    afterwards Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, dated 2nd November,
    1831, in which he says:--]

    "I beg you to offer my best thanks to Mrs. Somerville for her kind
    present. I shall have peculiar satisfaction in possessing it as a
    gift of the author, a book which I look upon as one of the most
    remarkable which our age has produced, which would be highly
    valuable from anyone, and which derives a peculiar interest from its
    writer. I am charged also to return the thanks of the Philosophical
    Society here for the copy presented to them. I have not thought it
    necessary to send the official letter containing the acknowledgment,
    as Mrs. Somerville will probably have a sufficient collection of
    specimens of such character. I have also to thank her on the part of
    our College for the copy sent to the library. I am glad that our
    young mathematicians in Trinity will have easy access to the book,
    which will be very good for them as soon as they can read it. When
    Mrs. Somerville shows herself in the field which we mathematicians
    have been labouring in all our lives, and puts us to shame, she
    ought not to be surprised if we move off to other ground, and betake
    ourselves to poetry. If the fashion of 'commendatory verses' were
    not gone by, I have no doubt her work might have appeared with a
    very pretty collection of well-deserved poetical praises in its
    introductory pages. As old customs linger longest in places like
    this, I hope she and you will not think it quite extravagant to send
    a single sonnet on the occasion.

                                             "Believe me,
                                                  "Faithfully yours,
                                                           "W. WHEWELL."



    Lady, it was the wont in earlier days
    When some fair volume from a valued pen,
    Long looked for, came at last, that grateful men
    Hailed its forthcoming in complacent lays:
    As if the Muse would gladly haste to praise
    That which her mother, Memory, long should keep
    Among her treasures. Shall such usage sleep
    With us, who feel too slight the common phrase
    For our pleased thoughts of you, when thus we find
    That dark to you seems bright, perplexed seems plain,
    Seen in the depths of a pellucid mind,
    Full of clear thought, pure from the ill and vain
    That cloud the inward light? An honoured name
    Be yours; and peace of heart grow with your growing fame.

    [Professor Peacock, afterwards Dean of Ely, in a letter, dated
    February 14th, 1832, thanked my mother for a copy of the "Mechanism
    of the Heavens."]


    "I consider it to be a work which will contribute greatly to the
    extension of the knowledge of physical astronomy, in this country,
    and of the great analytical processes which have been employed in
    such investigations. It is with this view that I consider it to be a
    work of the greatest value and importance. Dr. Whewell and myself
    have already taken steps to introduce it into the course of our
    studies at Cambridge, and I have little doubt that it will
    immediately become an essential work to those of our students who
    aspire to the highest places in our examinations."

    [On this my mother remarks:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

I consider this as the highest honour I ever received, at the time I was
no less sensible of it, and was most grateful. I was surprised and
pleased beyond measure to find that my book should be so much approved
of by Dr. Whewell, one of the most eminent men of the age for science
and literature; and by Professor Peacock, a profound mathematician, who
with Herschel and Babbage had, a few years before, first introduced the
calculus as an essential branch of science into the University of

In consequence of this decision the whole edition of the "Mechanism of
the Heavens," amounting to 750 copies, was sold chiefly at Cambridge,
with the exception of a very few which I gave to friends; but as the
preface was the only part of the work that was intelligible to the
general reader, I had some copies of it printed separately to give away.

I was astonished at the success of my book; all the reviews of it were
highly favourable; I received letters of congratulation from many men of
science. I was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical
Society at the same time as Miss Caroline Herschel. To be associated
with so distinguished an astronomer was in itself an honour. Mr. De
Morgan, to whom I am indebted for many excellent mathematical works, was
then secretary of the society, and announced to us the distinction
conferred. The council of the Society ordered that a copy of the
"Greenwich Observations" should be regularly sent to me.

    [The _Académie des Sciences_ elected my mother's old friend M. Biot
    to draw up a report upon her "Mechanism of the Heavens," which he
    did in the most flattering terms, and upon my mother writing to
    thank him, replied as follows:--]



    Revenu de Lyon depuis quelques jours, j'ai trouvé à Paris les deux
    lettres dont vous avez daigné m'honorer, et j'ai reçu également
    l'exemplaire de votre ouvrage que vous avez bien voulu joindre à la
    dernière. C'est être mille fois trop bonne, Madame, que de me
    remercier encore de ce qui m'a fait tant de plaisir. En rendant
    compte de cet étonnant Traité, je remplissais d'abord un devoir,
    puisque l'Académie m'avait chargé de le lire pour elle; mais ce
    devoir m'offrait un attrait que vous concevriez facilement, s'il
    vous était possible de vous rappeler l'admiration vive et profonde
    que m'inspira il y a longtemps l'union si extraordinaire de tous les
    talens et de toutes les grâces, avec les connaissances sevères que
    nous autres hommes avions la folie de croire notre partage exclusif.
    Ce qui me charma alors, Madame, je n'ai pas cessé depuis de m'en
    souvenir; et des rapports d'amitié qui me sont bien chers, ont
    encore, à votre insçu, fortifié ces sentimens. Jugez donc, Madame,
    combien j'étais heureux d'avoir à peindre ce que je comprenais si
    bien, et ce que j'avais vu avec un si vif intérêt. Le plus amusant
    pour moi de cette rencontre, c'était de voir nos plus graves
    confrères, par exemple, Lacroix et Legendre, qui certes ne sont pas
    des esprits légers, ni galans d'habitude, ni faciles à émouvoir, me
    gourmander, comme ils le faisaient à chaque séance, de ce que je
    tardais tant à faire mon rapport, de ce que j'y mettais tant
    d'insouciance et si peu de grâce; enfin, Madame, c'était une
    conquête intellectuelle complète. Je n'ai pas manqué de raconter
    cette circonstance comme un des fleurons de votre couronne. Je me
    suis ainsi acquitté envers eux; et quant à vous, Madame, d'après la
    manière dont vous parlez vous-même de votre ouvrage, j'ai quelque
    espérance de l'avoir présenté sous le point de vue où vous semblez
    l'envisager. Mais, en vous rendant ce juste et sincère hommage et en
    l'insérant au Journal des Savants, je n'ai pas eu la précaution de
    demander qu'on m'en mit à part; aujourd'hui que la collection est
    tirée je suis aux regrets d'avoir été si peu prévoyant. Au reste,
    Madame, il n'y a rien dans cet extrait que ce que pensent tous ceux
    qui vous connaissent, ou même qui ont eu une seule fois le bonheur
    de vous approcher. Vos amis trouveront que j'ai exprimé bien
    faiblement les charmes de votre esprit et de votre caractère;
    charmes qu'ils doivent apprécier d'autant mieux qu'ils en jouissent
    plus souvent; mais vous, Madame, qui êtes indulgente, vous
    pardonnerez la faiblesse d'un portrait qui n'a pu être fait que de

    J'ai l'honneur d'être, avec le plus profond respect,

                    Votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur,

       *     *     *     *     *

It was unanimously voted by the Royal Society of London, that my bust
should be placed in their great Hall, and Chantrey was chosen as the
sculptor. Soon after it was finished, Mr. Potter, a great ship-builder
at Liverpool, who had just completed a fine vessel intended for the
China and India trade, wrote to my friend, Sir Francis Beaufort,
hydrographer of the Royal Navy, asking him if I would give him
permission to call her the "Mary Somerville," and to have a copy of my
bust for her figure-head. I was much gratified with this, as might be
expected. The "Mary Somerville" sailed, but was never heard of again; it
was supposed she had foundered during a typhoon in the China sea.

I was elected an honorary member of the Royal Academy at Dublin, of the
Bristol Philosophical Institution, and of the Société de Physique et
d'Histoire Naturelle of Geneva, which was announced to me by a very
gratifying letter from Professor Prevost.

Our relations and others who had so severely criticized and ridiculed
me, astonished at my success, were now loud in my praise. The warmth
with which Somerville entered into my success deeply affected me; for
not one in ten thousand would have rejoiced at it as he did; but he was
of a generous nature, far above jealousy, and he continued through life
to take the kindest interest in all I did.

I now received the following letter from Sir Robert Peel, informing me
in the handsomest manner that he had advised the King to grant me a
pension of 200_l._ a year:--


    _March, 1835_.


    In advising the Crown in respect to the grant of civil pensions, I
    have acted equally with a sense of public duty and on the impulse of
    my own private feelings in recognising among the first claims on the
    Royal favour those which are derived from eminence in science and

    In reviewing such claims, it is impossible that I can overlook those
    which you have established by the successful prosecution of studies
    of the highest order, both from the importance of the objects to
    which they relate, and from the faculties and acquirements which
    they demand.

    As my object is a public one, to encourage others to follow the
    bright example which you have set, and to prove that great
    scientific attainments are recognised among public claims, I prefer
    making a direct communication to you, to any private inquiries into
    your pecuniary circumstances, or to any proposal through a third
    party. I am enabled to advise His Majesty to grant to you a pension
    on the civil list of two hundred pounds per annum; and if that
    provision will enable you to pursue your labours with less of
    anxiety, either as to the present or the future, I shall only be
    fulfilling a public duty, and not imposing upon you the slightest
    obligation, by availing myself of your permission to submit such a
    recommendation to the King.

                      I have the honour to be,
                              Madam, with the sincerest respect,
                                                         ROBERT PEEL.

       *     *     *     *     *

I was highly pleased, but my pleasure was of short duration, for the
very next day a letter informed us that by the treachery of persons in
whom we trusted, the last remains of our capital were lost. By the
kindness of Lord John Russell, when he was Prime Minister, a hundred
a-year was added to my pension, for which I was very grateful.

       *     *     *     *     *

After the "Mechanism of the Heavens" was published, I was thrown out of
work, and now that I had got into the habit of writing I did not know
what to make of my spare time. Fortunately the preface of my book
furnished me with the means of active occupation; for in it I saw such
mutual dependence and connection in many branches of science, that I
thought the subject might be carried to a greater extent.

There were many subjects with which I was only partially acquainted, and
others of which I had no previous knowledge, but which required to be
carefully investigated, so I had to consult a variety of authors,
British and foreign. Even the astronomical part was difficult, for I had
to translate analytical formulæ into intelligible language, and to draw
diagrams illustrative thereof, and this occupied the first seven
sections of the book. I should have been saved much trouble had I seen a
work on the subject by Mr. Airy, Astronomer-Royal, published
subsequently to my book.

My son, Woronzow Greig, had been educated at Trinity College, Cambridge,
and was travelling on the Continent, when Somerville and I received an
invitation from the Principal, Dr. Whewell, to visit the University. Mr.
Airy, then astronomer at Cambridge, now Astronomer-Royal at Greenwich,
and Mrs. Airy kindly wished us to be their guests; but as the
Observatory was at some distance from Cambridge, it was decided that we
should have an apartment in Trinity College itself; an unusual favour
where a lady is concerned. Mr. Sedgwick, the geologist, made the
arrangements, received us, and we spent the first day at dinner with
him. He is still alive[10]--one of my few coevals--either in Cambridge
or England. The week we spent in Cambridge, receiving every honour from
the heads of the University, was a period of which I have ever borne a
proud and grateful remembrance.

    [Professor Sedgwick wrote as follows to my father:--]


    TRINITY COLLEGE, _April, 1834_.


    Your letter delighted us. I have ordered dinner on Thursday at 6-1/2
    and shall have a small party to welcome you and Mrs. Somerville. In
    order that we may not have to fight for you, we have been entering
    on the best arrangements we can think of. On Tuesday you will, I
    hope, dine with Peacock; on Wednesday with Whewell; on Thursday at
    the Observatory. For Friday, Dr. Clarke, our Professor of Anatomy,
    puts in a claim. For the other days of your visit we shall, D.V.,
    find ample employment. A four-poster bed now (a thing utterly out of
    our regular monastic system) will rear its head for you and Madame
    in the chambers immediately below my own; and your handmaid may
    safely rest her bones in a small inner chamber. Should Sheepshanks
    return, we can stuff him into a lumber room of the observatory; but
    of this there is no fear as I have written to him on the subject,
    and he has no immediate intention of returning. You will of course
    drive to the great gate of Trinity College, and my servant will be
    in waiting at the Porter's lodge to show you the way to your
    academic residence. We have no cannons at Trinity College, otherwise
    we would fire a salute on your entry; we will however give you the
    warmest greeting we can. Meanwhile give my best regards to Mrs. S.

                             And believe me most truly yours,
                                                        A. SEDGWICK.

       *     *     *     *     *

La Place had a profound veneration for Newton; he sent me a copy of his
"Système du Monde," and a letter, dated 15th August, 1824, in which he
says: "Je publie successivement les divers livres du cinquième livre qui
doit terminer mon traité de 'Mécanique Céleste,' et dans cela je donne
l'analyse historique des recherches des géomètres sur cette matière,
cela m'a fait relire avec une attention particulière l'ouvrage si
incomparable des principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle de
Newton, qui contient le germe de toutes ses recherches. Plus j'ai étudié
cet ouvrage plus il m'a paru admirable, en me transportant surtout à
l'époque où il a été publié. Mais en même tems que je sens l'élégance de
la méthode synthétique suivant laquelle Newton a présenté ses
découvertes, j'ai reconnu l'indispensable nécessité de l'analyse pour
approfondir les questions très difficiles que Newton n'a pu qu'effleurer
par la synthèse. Je vois avec un grand plaisir vos mathématiciens se
livrer maintenant à l'analyse et je ne doute point qu'en suivant cette
méthode avec la sagacité propre à votre nation ils ne seront conduits à
d'importantes découvertes."

Newton himself was aware that by the law of gravitation the stability of
the solar system was endangered. The power of analysis alone enabled La
Grange to prove that all the disturbances arising from the reciprocal
attraction of the planets and satellites are periodical, whatever the
length of the periods may be, so that the stability of the solar system
is insured for unlimited ages. The perturbations are only the
oscillations of that immense pendulum of Eternity which beats centuries
as ours beats seconds.

La Place, and all the great mathematicians of that period, had scarcely
passed away when the more powerful Quaternion system began to dawn.


[Footnote 10: Professor Sedgwick died shortly after my mother.]



My health was never good at Chelsea, and as I had been working too hard,
I became so ill, that change of air and scene were thought absolutely
necessary for me. We went accordingly to Paris; partly, because it was
near home, as Somerville could not remain long with us at a time, and,
partly, because we thought it a good opportunity to give masters to the
girls, which we could not afford to do in London. When we arrived, I was
so weak, that I always remained in bed writing till one o'clock, and
then, either went to sit in the Tuileries gardens, or else received
visits. All my old friends came to see me, Arago, the first. He was more
engaged in politics than science, and as party spirit ran very high at
that time, he said he would send tickets of admission to the Chambers
every time there was likely to be an "orage." When I told him what I was
writing, he gave me some interesting memoirs, and lent me a mass of
manuscripts, with leave to make extracts, which were very useful to me.
General de La Fayette came to town on purpose to invite Somerville and
me to visit him at La Grange, where we found him living like a
patriarch, surrounded by his family to the fourth generation. He was
mild, highly distinguished, and noble in his manners; his conversation
was exceedingly interesting, as he readily spoke of the Revolution in
which he had taken so active a part. Among other anecdotes, he
mentioned, that he had sent the principal key of the Bastile to General
Washington, who kept it under a glass case. He was much interested to
hear that I could, in some degree, claim a kind of relationship with
Washington, whose mother was a Fairfax. Baron Fairfax, the head of the
family, being settled in America, had joined the independent party at
the Revolution.

The two daughters of La Fayette, who had been in prison with him at
Olmütz, were keen politicians, and discussed points with a warmth of
gesticulation which amused Somerville and me, accustomed to our cold
still manners. The grand-daughters, Mesdames de Rémusat and de
Corcelles, were kind friends to me all the time I was in Paris.

M. Bouvard, whom we had known in London, was now Astronomer-Royal of
France, and he invited us to dine with him at the Observatory. The table
was surrounded by savants, who complimented me on the "Mechanism of the
Heavens." I sat next M. Poisson, who advised me in the strongest manner
to write a second volume, so as to complete the account of La Place's
works; and he afterwards told Somerville, that there were not twenty men
in France who could read my book. M. Arago, who was of the party, said,
he had not written to thank me for my book, because he had been reading
it, and was busy preparing an account of it for the Journal of the
Institute. At this party, I made the acquaintance of the celebrated
astronomer, M. Pontécoulant, and soon after, of M. La Croix, to whose
works I was indebted for my knowledge of the highest branches of
mathematics. M. Prony, and M. Poinsot, came to visit me, the latter, an
amiable and gentlemanly person; both gave me a copy of their works.

We had a long visit from M. Biot, who seemed really glad to renew our
old friendship. He was making experiments on light, though much out of
health; but when we dined with him and Madame Biot, he forgot for the
time his bad health, and resumed his former gaiety. They made us promise
to visit them at their country-house when we returned to England, as it
lay on our road.

To my infinite regret, La Place had been dead some time; the Marquise
was still at Arcueil, and we went to see her. She received us with the
greatest warmth, and devoted herself to us the whole time we were in
Paris. As soon as she came to town, we went to make a morning visit; it
was past five o'clock; we were shown into a beautiful drawing-room, and
the man-servant, without knocking at the door, went into the room which
was adjacent, and we heard her call out, "J'irai la voir! j'irai la
voir!" and when the man-servant came out, he said, "Madame est désolée,
mais elle est en chemise." Madame de La Place was exceedingly agreeable,
the life of every party, with her cheerful gay manner. She was in great
favour with the Royal Family, and was always welcome when she went to
visit them in an evening. She received once a week, and her
grand-daughter, only nineteen, lovely and graceful, was an ornament to
her parties. She was already married to M. de Colbert, whose father fell
at Corunna.

No one was more attentive to me than Dr. Milne-Edwards, the celebrated
natural historian. He was the first Englishman who was elected a member
of the Institute. I was indebted to him for the acquaintance of MM.
Ampère and Becquerel. I believe Dr. Edwards was at that time writing on
Physiology, and, in conversation, I happened to mention that the wild
ducks in the fens, at Lincolnshire, always build their nests on high
tufts of grass, or reeds, to save them from sudden floods; and that Sir
John Sebright had raised wild ducks under a hen, which built their nests
on tufts of grass as if they had been in the fens. Dr. Edwards begged of
me to inquire for how many generations that instinct lasted.

Monsieur and Madame Gay Lussac lived in the Jardin des Plantes. Madame
was only twenty-one, exceedingly pretty, and well-educated; she read
English and German, painted prettily, and was a musician. She told me it
had been computed, that if all the property in France were equally
divided among the population, each person would have 150 francs a-year,
or four sous per day; so that if anyone should spend eight sous a-day,
some other person would starve.

The Duchesse de Broglie, Madame de Staël's daughter, called, and invited
us to her receptions, which were the most brilliant in Paris. Every
person of distinction was there, French or foreign, generally four or
five men to one woman. The Duchess was a charming woman, both handsome
and amiable, and received with much grace. The Duke was, then, Minister
for Foreign Affairs. They were remarkable for their domestic virtues,
as well as for high intellectual cultivation. The part the Duke took in
politics is so well known, that I need not allude to it here.

At some of these parties I met with Madame Charles Dupin, whom I liked
much. When I went to return her visit, she received us in her bedroom.
She was a fashionable and rather elegant woman, with perfect manners.
She invited us to dinner to meet her brother-in-law, the President of
the Chamber of Deputies. He was animated and witty, very fat, and more
ugly than his brother, but both were clever and agreeable. The President
invited me to a very brilliant ball he gave, but as it was on a Sunday I
could not accept the invitation. We went one evening with Madame Charles
Dupin to be introduced to Madame de Rumford. Her first husband,
Lavoisier, the chemist, had been guillotined at the Revolution, and she
was now a widow, but had lived long separated from her second husband.
She was enormously rich, and had a magnificent palace, garden, and
conservatory, in which she gave balls and concerts. At all the evening
parties in Paris the best bedroom was lighted up for reception like the
other rooms. Madame de Rumford was capricious and ill-tempered; however,
she received me very well, and invited me to meet a very large party at
dinner. Mr. Fenimore Cooper, the American novelist, with his wife and
daughter, were among the guests. I found him extremely amiable and
agreeable, which surprised me, for when I knew him in England he was so
touchy that it was difficult to converse with him without giving him
offence. He was introduced to Sir Walter Scott by Sir James Mackintosh,
who said, in presenting him, "Mr. Cooper, allow me to introduce you to
your great forefather in the art of fiction"; "Sir," said Cooper, with
great asperity, "I have no forefather." Now, though his manners were
rough, they were quite changed. We saw a great deal of him, and I was
frequently in his house, and found him perfectly liberal; so much so,
that he told us the faults of his country with the greatest frankness,
yet he was the champion of America, and hated England.

None were kinder to us than Lord and Lady Granville. Lady Granville
invited us to all her parties; and when Somerville was obliged to return
to England, she assured him that in case of any disturbance, we should
find a refuge in the Embassy. I went to some balls at the Tuileries with
Madame de Lafayette Lasteyrie and her sister. The Queen Amélie was tall,
thin, and very fair, not pretty, but infinitely more regal than
Adelaide, Queen of England, at that time. The Royal Family used to walk
about in the streets of Paris without any attendants.

Sir Sydney Smith was still in Paris trying to renew the order of the
Knights Templars. Somerville and I went with him one evening to a
reception at the Duchesse d'Abrantés, widow of Junot. She was short,
thick, and not in the least distinguished-looking, nor in any way
remarkable. I had met her at the Duchesse de Broglie's, where she talked
of Junot as if he had been in the next room. Sir Sydney was quite
covered with stars and crosses, and I was amused with the way he threw
his cloak back to display them as he handed me to the carriage.

I met with Prince Kosloffsky everywhere; he was the fattest man I ever
saw, a perfect Falstaff. However, his intellect was not smothered, for
he would sit an hour with me talking about mathematics, astronomy,
philosophy, and what not. He was banished from Russia, and as he had
been speaking imprudently about politics in Paris, he was ordered to go
elsewhere; still, he lingered on, and was with me one morning when Pozzo
di Borgo, the Russian Ambassador called. Pozzo di Borgo said to me, "Are
you aware that Prince Kosloffsky has left Paris?" "Oh yes," I said, "I
regret it much." He took the hint, and went away directly.

I had hitherto been entirely among the Liberal set. How it came that I
was invited to dine with M. Héricourt de Thury, I do not remember. M. de
Thury was simple in his manners, and full of information; he had been
Director of the Mines under Napoleon, and had charge of the Public
Buildings under Louis XVIII. and Charles X., but resigned his charges at
the Revolution of July. At this time the Duchesse de Berry was confined
in the citadel of Blaye. She had a strong party in Paris, who furiously
resented the treatment she met with. M. de Thury was a moderate
Legitimiste, but Madame was ultra. When I happened to mention that we
had been staying with Lafayette, at La Grange, she was horrified, and
begged of me not to talk politics, or mention where we had been, or else
some of her guests would leave the room. The ladies of that party would
not dance or go to any gay party; they had a part of the theatre
reserved for themselves; they wore high dark dresses with long sleeves,
called "Robes de Résistance," and even the Legitimiste newspapers
appeared with black edges. They criticised those who gave balls, and
Lady Granville herself did not escape their censure. The marriage of the
Duchesse de Berry to the Marchese Lucchesi Palli made an immense
sensation; it was discussed in the salons in a truly French manner; it
was talked of in the streets; the Robes de Résistance were no longer
worn, and the Legitimiste newspapers went out of mourning.

All parties criticised the British Administration in Ireland. A lady
sitting by me at a party said, "No wonder so many English prefer France
to so odious a country as England, where the people are oppressed, and
even cabbages are raised in hotbeds." I laughed, and said, "I like
England very well, for all that." An old gentleman, who was standing
near us, said, "Whatever terms two countries may be on, it behoves us
individuals to observe good manners;" and when I went away, this
gentleman handed me to the carriage, though I had never seen him before.

The Marquise de La Place was commissioned by Dr. Majendie to invite me
to meet her and Madame Gay Lussac at dinner. I was very unwilling to go;
for I detested the man for his wanton cruelties, but I found I could not
refuse on account of these ladies. There was a large party of _savants_,
agreeable and gentlemanly; but Majendie himself had the coarsest
manners; his conversation was horridly professional; many things were
said and subjects discussed not fit for women to hear. What a contrast
the refined and amiable Sir Charles Bell formed with Majendie! Majendie
and the French school of anatomy made themselves odious by their
cruelty, and failed to prove the true anatomy of the brain and nerves,
while Sir Charles Bell did succeed, and thus made one of the greatest
physiological discoveries of the age without torturing animals, which
his gentle and kindly nature abhorred. To Lady Bell I am indebted for a
copy of her husband's Life. She is one of my few dear and valued friends
who are still alive.

       *     *     *     *     *

While in Paris, I lost my dear mother. She died at the age of ninety,
attended by my brother Henry. She was still a fine old lady, with few
grey hairs. The fear of death was almost hereditary in the Charters
family, and my mother possessed it in no small degree; yet when it came,
she was perfectly composed and prepared for it. I have never had that
fear; may God grant that I may be as calm and prepared as she was.

       *     *     *     *     *

I was in better health, but still so delicate that I wrote in bed till
one o'clock. The "Connexion of the Physical Sciences" was a tedious
work, and the proof sheets had to be sent through the Embassy.

M. Arago told me that David, the sculptor, wished to make a medallion
of me; so he came and sat an hour with me, and pleased me by his
intelligent conversation and his enthusiasm for art. A day was fixed,
and he took my profile on slate with pink wax, in a wonderfully short
time. He made me a present of a medallion in bronze, nicely framed, and
two plaster casts for my daughters.

       *     *     *     *     *

I frequently went to hear the debates in the Chambers, and occasionally
took my girls, as I thought it was an excellent lesson in French. As
party spirit ran very high, the scenes that occurred were very amusing.
A member, in the course of his speech, happening to mention the word
"liberté," the President Dupin rang the bell, called out "Stop, à propos
de liberté," ... jumped down from his seat, sprung into the tribune,
pushed out the deputy, and made a long speech himself.

The weather being fine, we made excursions in the neighbourhood. At
Sèvres I saw two pieces of china; on one of them was a gnu, on the other
a zebra. Somerville had told me that soon after his return from his
African expedition, he had given the original drawings to M. Brongniart
then director of the manufactory.

Baron Louis invited me to spend a day with him and his niece,
Mademoiselle de Rigny, at his country house, not far from Paris. I went
with Madame de la Place, and we set out early, to be in time for
breakfast. The road lay through the Forest of Vincennes. The Baron's
park, which was close to the village of Petit-Brie, was very large, and
richly wooded; there were gardens, hot-houses, and all the luxuries of
an English nobleman's residence. The house was handsome, with a
magnificent library; I remarked on the table the last numbers of the
"Edinburgh" and "Quarterly" Reviews. Both the Baron and his niece were
simple and kind. I was greatly taken with both; the Baron had all the
quiet elegance of the old school, and his niece had great learning and
the manners of a woman of fashion. She lived in perfect retirement,
having suffered much in the time of the Revolution. They had both
eventful lives; for Baron Louis, who had been in orders, and Talleyrand
officiated at the Champs de Mars when Louis the Sixteenth took the oath
to maintain the constitution. Field-Marshal Macdonald, Duc de Tarante,
and his son-in-law, the Duc de Massa; Admiral de Rigny, Minister of
Marine; M. Barthe, Garde des Sceaux; and the Bouvards, father and son,
formed the party. After spending a most delightful and interesting day,
we drove to Paris in bright moonlight.

Our friends in Paris and at La Grange had been so kind to us that we
were very sad when we went to express our gratitude and take leave of
them. We only stayed two days at La Grange, and when we returned to
Paris, Somerville went home and my son joined us, when we made a rapid
tour in Switzerland, the only remarkable event of which was a singular
atmospheric phenomenon we saw on the top of the Grimsel. On the clouds
of vapour below us we saw our shadows projected, of giant proportions,
and each person saw his own shadow surrounded by a bright circle of
prismatic colours. It is not uncommon in mountain regions.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [General Lafayette and all his family were extremely kind to my
    mother. He was her constant visitor, and we twice visited him at his
    country house, La Grange. He wished to persuade my mother to go
    there for some days, after our return from Switzerland, which we did
    not accomplish. The General wrote the following letter to my father:--]


    LA GRANGE, _31st October, 1833_.


    I waited to answer your kind letter, for the arrival of Mr.
    Coke's[11] precious gift, which nobody could higher value, on every
    account, than the grateful farmer on whom it has been bestowed. The
    heifers and bull are beautiful; they have reached La Grange in the
    best order, and shall be tenderly attended to.... It has been a
    great disappointment not to see Mrs. Somerville and the young ladies
    before their departure. Had we not depended on their kind visit, we
    should have gone to take leave of them. They have had the goodness
    to regret the impossibility to come before their departure. Be so
    kind as to receive the affectionate friendship and good wishes of a
    family who are happy in the ties of mutual attachment that bind us
    to you and them.... Public interest is now fixed upon the Peninsula,
    and while dynasties are at civil war, and despotic or _juste milieu_
    cabinets seem to agree in the fear of a genuine development of
    popular institutions, the matter for the friends of freedom is to
    know how far the great cause of Europe shall be forwarded by these
    royal squabbles.

    We shall remain at La Grange until the opening of the session,
    hoping that, notwithstanding your and the ladies' absence, your
    attention will not be quite withdrawn from our interior affairs--the
    sympathy shall be reciprocal.

                            With all my heart, I am
                                    Your affectionate friend,


[Footnote 11: Mr. Coke, of Holkham, afterwards Earl of Leicester.]



As soon as we returned to Chelsea, the "Connexion of the Physical
Sciences" was published. It was dedicated to Queen Adelaide, who thanked
me for it at a drawing-room. Some time after Somerville and I went to
Scotland; we had travelled all night in the mail coach, and when it
became light, a gentleman who was in the carriage said to Somerville,
"Is not the lady opposite to me Mrs. Somerville, whose bust I saw at
Chantrey's?" The gentleman was Mr. Sopwith, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, a
civil and mining engineer. He was distinguished for scientific
knowledge, and had been in London to give information to a
parliamentary committee. He travelled faster than we did, and when we
arrived at Newcastle he was waiting to take us to his house, where we
were hospitably received by Mrs. Sopwith. His conversation was highly
interesting, and to him I was indebted for much information on mining
generally, and on the mineral wealth of Great Britain, while writing on
Physical Geography. Many years after he and Mrs. Sopwith came and saw me
at Naples, which gave me much pleasure. He was unlike any other
traveller I ever met with, so profound and original were his
observations on all he saw.

       *     *     *     *     *

On coming home I found that I had made an error in the first edition of
the "Physical Sciences," in giving 365 days 6 hours as the length of the
civil year of the ancient Egyptians. My friend Mr. Hallam, the
historian, wrote to me, proving from history and epochs of the
chronology of the ancient Egyptians, that their civil year was only 365
days. I was grateful to that great and amiable man for copies of all his
works while he was alive, and I am obliged to his daughter for an
excellent likeness of him, now that he is no more.


    WIMPOLE STREET, _March 12th, 1835_.


    As you will probably soon be called upon for another edition of your
    excellent work on the "Connexion of the Physical Sciences," I think
    you will excuse the liberty I take in mentioning to you one passage
    which seems to have escaped your attention in so arduous a labour.
    It is in page 104, where you have this sentence:--

    "The Egyptians estimated the year at 365 d. 6 h., by which they lost
    one year in every 14,601, their Sothiac period. They determined the
    length of their year by the heliacal rising of Sirius, 2782 years
    before the Christian era, which is the earliest epoch of Egyptian

    The Egyptian civil year was of 365 days only, as we find in
    Herodotus, and I apprehend there is no dispute about it. The Sothiac
    period, or that cycle in which the heliacal rising of Sirius passed
    the whole civil year, and took place again on the same day, was of
    1461 years, not 14,601. If they had adopted a year of 365 d. 6 h.,
    this period would have been more than three times 14,601; the excess
    of the sidereal year above that being only 9' 9", which will not
    amount to a day in less than about 125 years.

    I do not see how the heliacal rising of Sirius in any one year could
    help them to determine its length. By comparing two successive years
    they could of course have got at a sidereal year; but this is what
    they did not do; hence the irregularity which produced the canicular
    cycle. The commencement of that cycle is placed by ancient
    chronologers in 1322 A.C. It seems not correct to call 2782 A.C.
    "the earliest epoch of Egyptian chronology," for we have none of
    their chronology nearly so old, and in fact no chronology, properly
    so called, has yet been made out by our Egyptian researches. It is
    indeed certain that, if the reckoning by heliacal risings of Sirius
    did not begin in 1322, we must go nearly 1460 years back for its
    origin; since it must have been adopted when that event preceded
    only for a short time the annual inundation of the Nile. But,
    according to some, the year 1322 A.C. fell during the reign of
    Sesostris, to whom Herodotus ascribes several regulations connected
    with the rising of the Nile. Certainly, 2782 A.C. is a more remote
    era than we are hitherto warranted to assume for any astronomical

                     Believe me, dear Mrs. Somerville,
                                          Very truly yours,
                                                    HENRY HALLAM.

    I refer you to Montucla, if you have any doubt about the Egyptian
    year being of 365 days without bissextile of any kind.

       *     *     *     *     *

I had sent a copy of the "Mechanism of the Heavens" to M. Poisson soon
after it was published, and I had received a letter from him dated 30th
May, 1832, advising me to complete the work by writing a volume on the
form and rotation of the earth and planets. Being again strongly advised
to do so while in Paris, I now began the work, and, in consequence, I
was led into a correspondence with Mr. Ivory, who had written on the
subject, and also with Mr. Francis Baily, on the density and compression
of the earth. My work was extensive, for it comprised the analytical
attraction of spheroids, the form and rotation of the earth, the tides
of the ocean and atmosphere, and small undulations.

When this was finished, I had nothing to do, and as I preferred analysis
to all other subjects, I wrote a work of 246 pages on curves and
surfaces of the second and higher orders. While writing this, _con
amore_, a new edition of the "Physical Sciences" was much needed, so I
put on high pressure and worked at both. Had these two manuscripts been
published at that time, they might have been of use; I do not remember
why they were laid aside, and forgotten till I found them years
afterwards among my papers. Long after the time I am writing about,
while at Naples, I amused myself by repairing the time-worn parts of
these manuscripts, and was surprised to find that in my eighty-ninth
year I still retained facility in the "Calculus."

The second edition of the "Physical Sciences" was dedicated to my dear
friend, Sir John Herschel. It went through nine editions, and has been
translated into German and Italian. The book went through various
editions in the United States, to the honour, but not to the profit, of
the author. However, the publisher obligingly sent me a copy. I must say
that profit was never an object with me: I wrote because it was
impossible for me to be idle.

I had the honour of presenting a copy of my book to the Duchess of Kent
at a private audience. The Duchess and Princess Victoria were alone, and
received me very graciously, and conversed for half an hour with me. As
I mentioned before, I saw the young Princess crowned: youthful, almost
child-like as she was, she went through the imposing ceremony with all
the dignity of a Queen.

    [A few letters from some of my mother's friends, written at this
    period, may prove of interest. They are chiefly written to thank her
    for copies of the Preliminary Dissertation or of the "Physical
    Sciences." One from Lord Brougham concerns my mother's estimate of
    the scientific merit of Dr. Young, for whom she had the sincerest
    admiration, considering him one of the first philosophers and
    discoverers of the age.]


    EDGWORTHTOWN, _May 31st, 1832_.


    There is one satisfaction at least in giving knowledge to the
    ignorant, to those who know their ignorance at least, that they are
    grateful and humble. You should have my grateful and humble thanks
    long ago for the favour--the honour--you did me by sending me that
    Preliminary Dissertation, in which there is so much knowledge, but
    that I really wished to read it over and over again at some
    intervals of time, and to have the pleasure of seeing my sister
    Harriet read it, before I should write to you. She has come to us,
    and has just been enjoying it, as I knew she would. For my part, I
    was long in the state of the boa constrictor after a full meal--and
    I am but just recovering the powers of motion. My mind was so
    distended by the magnitude, the immensity, of what you put into it!
    I am afraid that if you had been aware how ignorant I was you would
    not have sent me this dissertation, because you would have felt that
    you were throwing away much that I could not understand, and that
    could be better bestowed on scientific friends capable of judging of
    what they admire. I can only assure you that you have given me a
    great deal of pleasure; that you have enlarged my conception of the
    sublimity of the universe, beyond any ideas I had ever before been
    enabled to form.

    The great simplicity of your manner of writing, I may say of your
    _mind_, which appears in your writing, particularly suits the
    scientific sublime--which would be destroyed by what is commonly
    called fine writing. You trust sufficiently to the natural interest
    of your subject, to the importance of the facts, the beauty of the
    whole, and the adaptation of the means to the ends, in every part of
    the immense whole. This reliance upon your reader's feeling along
    with you, was to me very gratifying. The ornaments of eloquence
    dressing out a sublime subject are just so many proofs either of bad
    taste in the orator, or of distrust and contempt of the taste of
    those whom he is trying thus to captivate.

    I suppose nobody yet has completely _mastered_ the tides, therefore
    I may well content myself with my inability to comprehend what
    relates to them. But instead of plaguing you with an endless
    enumeration of my difficulties, I had better tell you some of the
    passages which gave me, ignoramus as I am, peculiar pleasure.... I
    am afraid I shall transcribe your whole book if I go on to tell you
    all that has struck me, and you would not thank me for that--you,
    who have so little vanity, and so much to do better with your time
    than to read _my_ ignorant admiration. But pray let me mention to
    you a few of the passages that amused my imagination particularly,
    viz., 1st, the inhabitant of Pallas _going round_ his world--or who
    might go--in five or six hours in one of our steam carriages; 2nd,
    the moderate-sized man who would weigh two tons at the surface of
    the sun--and who would weigh only a few pounds at the surface of the
    four new planets, and would be so light as to find it impossible to
    stand from the excess of muscular force! I think a very entertaining
    dream might be made of a man's visit to the sun and planets--these
    ideas are all like dreamy feelings when one is a little feverish. I
    forgot to mention (page 58) a passage on the propagation of sound.
    It is a beautiful sentence, as well as a sublime idea, "so that at a
    very small height above the surface of the earth, the noise of the
    tempest ceases and the thunder is heard no more in those boundless
    regions, where the heavenly bodies accomplish their periods in
    eternal and sublime silence."

    Excuse me in my trade of sentence-monger, and believe me, dear
    Mrs. Somerville, truly your obliged and truly your affectionate

                                                    MARIA EDGEWORTH.

    I have persuaded your dear curly-headed friend, Harriet, to add her
    own observations; she sends her love to you; and I know you love
    her, otherwise I would not press her to write her own _say_.

       *     *     *     *     *


    HAMPSTEAD, _February 1st, 1832_.


    I am now, thank God! recovered from a very heavy disease, but still
    very weak. I will not, however, delay any longer my grateful
    acknowledgments for your very flattering gift of your Preliminary
    Dissertation. Indeed, I feel myself greatly honoured by receiving
    such a mark of regard from one who has done more to remove the light
    estimation in which the capacity of women is too often held, than
    all that has been accomplished by the whole sisterhood of poetical
    damsels and novel-writing authors. I could say much more on this
    subject were I to follow my own feelings; but I am still so weak
    that writing is a trouble to me, and I have nearly done all that I
    am able.

                                   God bless and prosper you!
                                        Yours gratefully and truly,
                                                           J. BAILLIE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    BELLEVUE, _18th September, 1834_.


    I have just finished reading your book, which has entertained me
    extremely, and at the same time, I hope, improved my moral character
    in the Christian virtue of humility. These must appear to you such
    _odd_ results--so little like those produced on the great majority
    of your readers, that you must allow me to explain them to you.
    Humbled, I must be, by finding my own intellect unequal to
    following, beyond a first step, the explanations by which you seek
    to make easy to comprehension the marvellous phenomena of the
    universe--humbled, by feeling the intellectual difference between
    you and me, placing you as much above me in the scale of reasoning
    beings, as I am above my dog. Still I rejoice with humility at
    feeling myself, in that order of understandings which, although
    utterly incapable of following the chain of your reasonings,
    calculations, and inductions--utterly deprived of the powers
    necessary _sic itur ad astra_--am yet informed, enlightened, and
    entertained with the series of sublime truths to which you conduct

    In some foggy morning of November, I shall drive out to you at
    Chelsea and surprise you with my ignorance of science, by asking you
    to explain to me some things which you will _wonder any one_ can
    have so long existed without knowing. In the mean time, I wish you
    could read in any combination of the stars the probability of our
    often having such a season as this, of uninterrupted summer since
    April last, and when last week it was sobering into autumn, has now
    returned to enter summer again. The thermometer was at 83° in the
    shade yesterday, and to-day promises to be as much. We are delighted
    with our two months' residence at this place, which we shall see
    with regret draw towards a close the end of this month. October we
    mean to spend at Paris, before we return to the _nebulosities_ of
    London. During my residence in Paris, before we came here, I never
    had the good luck to meet with your friend M. Arago; had I not been
    reading your book, I should have begged you to give me a letter for
    him. But as it is, and as my stay at Paris will now be so short, I
    shall content myself with looking up at a respectful distance to all
    your great fixed stars of science, excepting always yourself, dear
    Mrs. Somerville. No "disturbing influence" will, I hope, ever throw
    me out of the orbit of _your_ intimacy and friendship, whose value,
    believe me, is most duly and accurately calculated by your ignorant
    but very affectionate friend,

                                                            M. BERRY.

       *     *     *     *     *




    Many thanks for the sheets, which I have read with equal pleasure
    and instruction as those I formerly had from you. One or two things
    I could have troubled you with, but they are of little moment. I
    shall note them. The only one that is at all material relates to the
    way you mention Dr. Young--not that I object to the word
    "illustrious," or as applied to him. But as you don't give it to one
    considerably more so, it looks either as if you overrated him, or
    underrated Davy, or (which I suppose to be the truth) as if you
    felt Young had not had his due share of honour, and desired to make
    it up to his memory. Observe I give him a very high place--but
    Davy's discoveries are both of more unquestioned originality and
    more undoubtedly true--perhaps I should say, more brought to a
    close. The alkalis and the principle of the safety lamp are
    concluded and fixed, the undulation is in progress, and somewhat
    uncertain as to how and where it may end. You will please to observe
    that I reckon both those capital discoveries of Davy the fruit of
    inquiry, and not at all of chance--for, as to the lamp, it is plain;
    and as to the metals, if you look at the inquiries that immediately
    preceded, you will see he was thereby led to the alkalis. Indeed, I
    well remember saying, when I read them, "He will analyse lime and
    barytes." I am quite ready to admit his extreme folly in some
    things, but that is nothing to the present purpose.

                                           (_Henry Brougham._)

       *     *     *     *     *


    GENEVA, _6th April, 1834_.


    I am desired by Professor Prevost to inform you that you were
    elected an honorary member of the Société de Physique et d'Histoire
    Naturelle de Genève on the 3rd April, and that a diploma will be
    forwarded to you by the earliest opportunity. After all the honours
    you have received, this little feather is hardly worthy of waving in
    your plume, but I am glad that Geneva should know how to appreciate
    your merit. You receive great honours, my dear friend, but that
    which you confer on our sex is still greater, for with talents and
    acquirements of masculine magnitude you unite the most sensitive and
    retiring modesty of the female sex; indeed, I know not any woman,
    perhaps I might say, any human being, who would support so much
    applause without feeling the weakness of vanity. Forgive me for
    allowing my pen to run away with this undisguised praise, it looks
    so much like compliment, but I assure you it comes straight from the
    heart, and you _must_ know that it is fully deserved.... I know not
    whether you have heard of the death of Professor de la Rive (the
    father); it was an unexpected blow, which has fallen heavily on all
    his family. It is indeed a great loss to Geneva, both as a man of
    science and a most excellent citizen.

    M. Rossi[12] has left us to occupy the chair of political economy of
    the late M. Say, at Paris; his absence is sadly felt, and it is in
    vain to look around for any one capable of replacing him....

                                          Yours affectionately,
                                                          J. MARCET.

       *     *     *     *     *


    CRESCENT, BEDFORD, _October 3rd, 1835_.


    As an opportunity offers of sending a note to town, I beg to mention
    that I have somewhat impatiently waited for some appearance of
    settled weather, in order to press your coming here to inspect
    Halley's comet, before it should have become visible to the
    unassisted eye. That unerring monitor, however, the barometer, held
    forth no hope, and the ceaseless traveller is already an object of
    conspicuous distinction without artificial aid, except, perhaps, to
    most eyes an opera-glass, magnifying three or four times, will be
    found a pleasant addition. It is now gliding along with wonderful
    celerity, and the nucleus is very bright. It is accompanied with a
    great luminosity, and the nucleus has changed its position therein;
    that is, on the 29th August, the nucleus was like a minute star near
    the centre of the nebulous envelope; on the 2nd September it
    appeared in the _n. f._ quarter, and latterly it has been in the _s.

    How remarkable that the month of August this year should rattle
    Halley's name throughout the globe, in identity with an astonishing
    scientific triumph, and that in the selfsame month the letters of
    Flamsteed should have appeared! How I wish some one would give us a
    life of Newton, with all the interesting documents that exist of his
    labours! Till such appears, Flamsteed's statements, though bearing
    strong internal evidence of truth, are _ex-parte_, and it is evident
    his anxiety made him prone to impute motives which he could not
    prove. The book is painfully interesting, but except in all that
    relates to the personal character of Flamsteed, I could almost have
    wished the documents had been destroyed. People of judgment well
    know that men without faults are monsters, but vulgar minds delight
    in seeing the standard of human excellence lowered.

                                             Dear Madam,
                                                Yours faithfully,
                                                         W.H. SMYTH.

We were deprived of the society of Sir John and Lady Herschel for four
years, because Sir John took his telescope and other instruments to the
Cape of Good Hope, where he went, accompanied by his family, for the
purpose of observing the celestial phenomena of the southern hemisphere.
There are more than 6,000 double stars in the northern hemisphere, in a
large proportion of which the angle of position and distance between the
two stars have been measured, and Sir John determined, in the same
manner, 1081 in the southern hemisphere, and I believe many additions
have been made to them since that time. In many of these one star
revolves rapidly round the other. The elliptical orbits and periodical
times of sixteen or seventeen of these stellar systems have been
determined. In Gamma Virginis the two stars are nearly of the same
magnitude, and were so far apart in the middle of the last century that
they were considered to be quite independent of each other. Since then
they have been gradually approaching one another, till, in March, 1836,
I had a letter from Admiral Smyth, informing me that he had seen one of
the stars eclipse the other, from his observatory at Bedford.


    CRESCENT, BEDFORD, _March 26th, 1836_.


    Knowing the great interest you take in sidereal astronomy, of which
    so little is yet known, I trust it will not be an intrusion to tell
    you of a new, extraordinary, and very unexpected fact, in the
    complete occultation of one "fixed" star by another, under
    circumstances which admit of no possible doubt or equivocation.

    You are aware that I have been measuring the position and distance
    of the two stars [Greek: g]^1 and [Greek: g]^2 Virginis, which are both
    nearly of similar magnitudes, and also, that they have approximated to
    each other very rapidly. They were very close last year, and I expected
    to find they had crossed each other at this apparition, but to my
    surprise I find they have become a fair round disc, which my highest
    powers will not elongate--in fact, _a single star_! I shall watch
    with no little interest for the reappearance of the second [Greek: g].

                                    My dear madam,
                                          Your truly obliged servant,
                                                            W.H. SMYTH.

       *     *     *     *     *

This eclipse was also seen by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good
Hope, as well as by many astronomers in Europe provided with instruments
of great optical power. In 1782 Sir William Herschel saw one of the
stars of Zeta Herculis eclipse the other.

In the "Connexion of the Physical Sciences" I have given an abridged
account of Sir John Herschel's most remarkable discoveries in the
southern hemisphere; but I may mention here that he determined the
position and made accurate drawings of all the nebulæ that were
distinctly visible in his 20 ft. telescope. The work he published will
be a standard for ascertaining the changes that may take place in these
mysterious objects for ages to come. Sir William Herschel had determined
the places of 2,500 nebulæ in the northern hemisphere; they were
examined by his son, and drawings made of some of the most remarkable,
but when these nebulæ were viewed through Lord Rosse's telescope, they
presented a very different appearance, showing that the apparent form of
the nebulæ depends upon the space-penetrating power of the telescope, a
circumstance of vital importance in observing the changes which time may
produce on these wonderful objects.

    [Long afterwards Lord Rosse wrote in reply to some questions which
    my mother had addressed to him on this subject:--]


    CASTLE, PARSONSTOWN, _June 12th, 1844_.


    I have very reluctantly postponed so long replying to your
    inquiries respecting the telescope, but there were some points upon
    which I was anxious to be enabled to speak more precisely. The
    instrument we are now using is 3 feet aperture, and 27 feet focus,
    and in the greater proportion of the nebulæ which have been observed
    with it some new details have been brought out. Perhaps the most
    interesting general result is that, as far as we have gone,
    increasing optical power has enlarged the list of clusters, by
    diminishing that of the nebulæ properly so-called. Such has always
    been the case since the nebulæ have been observed with telescopes,
    and although it would be unsafe to draw the inference, it is
    impossible not to feel some expectation that with sufficient optical
    power the nebulæ would all be reduced into clusters. Perhaps the two
    of the most remarkable of the resolved nebulæ are Fig. 26 and Fig.
    55. In several of the planetary nebulæ we have discovered a star or
    bright point in the centre, and a filamentous edge, which is just
    the appearance which a cluster with a highly condensed centre would
    present in a small instrument. For instance, Figs. 47 and 32. We
    have also found that many of the nebulæ have not a symmetrical form,
    as they appear to have in inferior instruments; for instance, Fig.
    81 is a cluster with long resolvable filaments from its southern
    extremity, and Fig. 85 is an oblong cluster with a bright centre.
    Fig. 45 is an annular nebula, like Herschel's drawing of the annular
    nebula in Lyra. I have sent drawings of a few of these objects to
    the Royal Society, they were forwarded a few days ago. We have upon
    the whole as yet observed but little with the telescope of 3 feet
    aperture. You recollect Herschel said that it was a good observing
    year, in which there were 100 hours fit for observing, and of the
    average of our hours I have not employed above 30. We have been for
    the last two years engaged in constructing a telescope of 6 feet
    aperture and 52 feet focus, and it would have been impossible to
    have bestowed the necessary attention upon it had we made a business
    of observing. That instrument is nearly finished, and I hope it will
    effect something for astronomy. The unequal refraction of the
    atmosphere will limit its powers, but how far remains to be
    ascertained.... Lady Rosse joins me in very kind remembrances and
    believe me to be,

                                 Dear Mrs. Somerville,
                                       Yours very truly and ever,

       *     *     *     *     *

    [Sir John Herschel wrote to my father from the Cape:--]


    FELDHAUSEN, NEAR WYNBERG, C.G.H., _July 17th, 1830_.


    Since our arrival here, I have, I know in many instances, maintained
    or established the character of a bad correspondent; and really it
    is not an inconvenient character to have established. Only, in your
    case, I should be very sorry to appear in that, or any other
    negligent or naughty light; but you, I know, will allow for the
    circumstances which have occasioned my silence. Meanwhile, I am not
    sorry that the execution of an intention I had more than once formed
    should have been deferred, till we read in the papers of the
    well-judged and highly creditable notice (creditable I mean to the
    government _pro tempore_) which His Majesty has been pleased to take
    of Mrs. Somerville's elaborate works. Although the Royal notice is
    not quite so swift as the lightning in the selection of its objects,
    it agrees with it in this, that it is attracted by the loftiest; and
    though what she has performed may seem so natural and easy to
    herself, that she may blush to find it fame; all the rest of the
    world will agree with me in rejoicing that merit of that kind is
    felt and recognised at length in the high places of the earth. This,
    and the honourable mention of Airy by men of both parties in the
    House of Commons about the same time, are things that seem to mark
    the progress of the age we live in; and I give Peel credit for his
    tact in perceiving this mode of making a favourable impression on
    the public mind.

    We are all going on very comfortably, and continue to like the
    Cape as a place of (temporary) residence as much or more than at
    first. The climate is so very delicious.... The stars are most
    propitious, and, astronomically speaking, I can now declare the
    climate to be most excellent. Night after night, for weeks and
    months, with hardly an interruption, of _perfect_ astronomical
    weather, discs of stars reduced almost to points, and tranquilly
    gliding across the field of your telescope. It is really a treat,
    such as occurs once or perhaps twice a year in England--hardly more.
    I had almost forgotten that by a recent vote of the Astronomical
    Society I can now claim Mrs. Somerville as a _colleague_. Pray make
    my compliments to her in that capacity, and tell her that I hope to
    meet her there at some future session....

                                         Yours very faithfully,
                                                      H.W. HERSCHEL.


       *     *     *     *     *

Spectrum analysis has shown that there is a vast quantity of
self-luminous gaseous matter in space, incapable of being reduced into
stars, however powerful the telescope through which it is observed.
Hence the old opinion once more prevails, that this is the matter of
which the sun and stellar systems have been formed, and that other
stellar systems are being formed by slow, continuous condensation. The
principal constituents of this matter are, the terrestrial gases,
hydrogen, and nitrogen. The yellow stars, like the sun, contain
terrestrial matter. The nebulous and stellar constituents were chiefly
discovered by Dr. Huggins.

Somerville and I were always made welcome by Sir James South, and at
Campden Hill I learnt the method of observing, and sometimes made
observations myself on the double stars and binary systems, which,
worthless as they were, enabled me to describe better what others had
done. One forenoon Somerville and I went to pay a visit to Lady South.
Sir James, who was present, said, "Come to the observatory, and measure
the distance of Mercury from the sun; for they are in close
approximation, and I wish to see what kind of observation you will
make." It was erroneous, as might have been expected; but when I took
the mean of several observations, it differed but little from that which
Sir James South had made; and here I learnt practically the importance
of taking the mean of approximate quantities.

       *     *     *     *     *

Dr. Wollaston, Dr. Young, and the Katers died before I became an author;
Lord Brougham was one of the last of my scientific contemporaries, all
the rest were younger than myself, and with this younger set, as with
their predecessors, we had most agreeable and constant intercourse.
Although we lived so much in scientific society we had all along been on
the most friendly and intimate terms with the literary society of the
day, such as Hallam, Milman, Moore, Malthus, &c., &c. The highly
intellectual conversation of these was enlivened by the brilliant wit of
my early friend, Sydney Smith, who was loved and admired by every one.
His daughter married our friend Sir Henry Holland, the distinguished
physician, well known for his eminent literary and scientific
acquirements as well as for his refined taste.

No house in London was more hospitable and agreeable than that of the
late Mr. John Murray, in Albemarle Street. His dinner parties were
brilliant, with all the poets and literary characters of the day, and
Mr. Murray himself was gentlemanly, full of information, and kept up the
conversation with spirit. He generously published the "Mechanism of the
Heavens" at his own risk, which, from its analytical character, could
only be read by mathematicians.

Besides those I have mentioned we had a numerous acquaintance who were
neither learned nor scientific; and at concerts at some of their houses
I enjoyed much hearing the great artists of the day, such as Pasta,
Malibran, Grisi, Rubini, &c., &c. We knew Lucien Buonaparte, who gave me
a copy of his poems, which were a failure.

I had become acquainted with Madame de Montalembert, who was an
Englishwoman, and was mother of the celebrated Comte; she was very
eccentric, and at that time was an Ultra-Protestant. One day she came to
ask me to go and drive in the Park with her, and afterwards dine at her
house, saying, "We shall all be in high dresses." So I accepted, and on
entering the drawing-room, found a bishop and several clergymen, Lady
Olivia Sparrow, and some other ladies, all in high black satin dresses
and white lace caps, precisely the dress I wore, and I thought it a
curious coincidence. The party was lively enough, and agreeable, but the
conversation was in a style I had never heard before--in fact, it
affected the phraseology of the Bible. We all went after dinner to a
sort of meeting at Exeter Hall, I quite forget for what purpose, but our
party was on a kind of raised platform. I mentioned this to a friend
afterwards, and the curious circumstance of our all being dressed alike.
"Do you not know," she said, "that dress is assumed as a distinctive
mark of the Evangelical party! So you were a wolf in sheep's clothing!"

I had been acquainted with the Miss Berrys at Raith, when visiting their
cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson. Mary, the eldest, was a handsome,
accomplished woman, who from her youth had lived in the most
distinguished society, both at home and abroad. She published a
"Comparative View of Social Life in France and England," which was well
received by the public. She was a Latin scholar, spoke and wrote French
fluently, yet with all these advantages, the consciousness that she
might have done something better, had female education been less
frivolous, gave her a characteristic melancholy which lasted through
life. She did not talk much herself, but she had the tact to lead
conversation. She and her sister received every evening a select society
in their small house in Curzon Street. Besides any distinguished
foreigners who happened to be in London, among their habitual guests
were my friend, Lady Charlotte Lindsay, always witty and agreeable, the
brilliant and beautiful Sheridans, Lady Theresa Lister, afterwards Lady
Theresa Lewis, who edited Miss Berry's "Memoirs," Lord Lansdowne, and
many others. Lady Davy came occasionally, and the Miss Fanshaws, who
were highly accomplished, and good artists, besides Miss Catherine
Fanshaw wrote clever _vers de société_, such as a charade on the letter
H, and, if I am not mistaken, "The Butterfly's Ball," &c. I visited
these ladies, but their manners were so cold and formal that, though I
admired their talents, I never became intimate with them. On the
contrary, like everyone else, I loved Mary Berry, she was so
warm-hearted and kind. When London began to fill, and the season was at
its height, the Miss Berrys used to retire to a pretty villa at
Twickenham, where they received their friends to luncheon, and
strawberries and cream, and very delightful these visits were in fine
spring weather. I recollect once, after dining there, to have been
fortunate enough to give a place in my carriage to Lord Macaulay, and
those who remember his charming and brilliant conversation will
understand how short the drive to London appeared.

We sometimes went to see Miss Lydia White, who received every evening;
she was clever, witty, and very free in her conversation. On one
occasion the party consisted, besides ourselves, of the Misses Berry,
Lady Davy; the three poets, Rogers, William Spencer, and Campbell; Sir
James Macintosh, and Lord Dudley. Rogers, who was a bitter satirist and
hated Lord Dudley, had written the following, epigram:--

    Ward has no heart, 'tis said; but I deny it.
    He has a heart, and gets his speeches by it.

I had never heard of this epigram, and on coming away Lord Dudley said,
"You are going home to sleep and I to work." I answered, "Oh! you are
going to prepare your speech for to-morrow." My appropriate remark
raised an universal laugh.

       *     *     *     *     *

Mr. Bowditch, of Boston, U.S., who died in 1838, left among other works
a "Commentary on La Place's Mécanique Céleste" in four volumes. While
busily occupied in bringing out an edition of the "Physical Sciences," I
received a letter from his son, Mr. H. Bowditch, requesting me to write
an elaborate review of that work, which would be published in Boston
along with the biography of his father, written by Mr. Young, who sent
me a copy of it. Though highly sensible of the honour, I declined to
undertake so formidable a work, fearing that I should not do justice to
the memory of so great a man.

I have always been in communication with some of the most distinguished
men of the United States. Washington Irving frequently came to see me
when he was in London; he was as agreeable in conversation as he was
distinguished as an author. No one could be more amiable than Admiral
Wilkes, of the U.S. navy: he had all the frankness of a sailor. We saw a
good deal of him when he was in London, and I had a long letter from
him, giving me an account of his fleet, his plan for circumnavigation,
&c.&c. I never had the good fortune to become personally acquainted with
Captain Maury, of the U.S. navy, author of that fascinating book, the
"Physical Geography of the Sea," but I am indebted to him for a copy of
that work, and of his valuable charts. Mr. Dana, who is an honour to his
country, sent me copies of his works, to which I have had occasion
frequently to refer as acknowledged authority on many branches of
natural history. I should be ungrateful if I did not acknowledge the
kindness I received from the Silliman family, who informed me of any
scientific discovery in the United States, and sent me a copy of their
Journal when it contained anything which might interest me. I was
elected an honorary member of the Geographical and Statistical Society
of New York, U.S. on the 15th May, 1857, and on the 15th October, 1869,
I was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society at
Philadelphia, for Promoting Useful Knowledge. I shall ever be most
grateful for these honours.

While living in Florence, many years after, an American friend invited
me to an evening party to meet an American authoress who wished
particularly to make my acquaintance. I accordingly went there on the
evening in question, and my friends, after receiving me with their
accustomed cordiality, presented me to the lady, and placed me beside
her to give me an opportunity of conversing with her. I addressed her
several times, and made various attempts to enter into conversation, but
only received very dry answers in reply. At last she fairly turned her
back upon me, and became engrossed with a lady who sat on her other
side, upon which I got up and left her and never saw her again. A very
different person in every respect was present that evening, as much
distinguished by her high mental qualities and poetical genius as by her
modesty and simplicity. I allude to our greatest British poetess, Mrs.
Browning, who at that time resided in Florence, except when the delicacy
of her health obliged her to go to Rome. I think there is no other
instance of husband and wife both poets, and both distinguished in their
different lines. I can imagine no happier or more fascinating life than
theirs; two kindred spirits united in the highest and noblest
aspirations. Unfortunately her life was a short one; in the full bloom
of her intellect her frail health gave way, and she died leaving a noble
record of genius to future ages, and a sweet memory to those who were
her contemporaries. The Florentines, who, like all Italians, greatly
appreciate genius, whether native or foreign, have placed a
commemorative tablet on Casa Guidi, the house Mrs. Browning inhabited.

I was extremely delighted last spring in being honoured by a visit from
Longfellow, that most genial poet. It is not always the case that the
general appearance of a distinguished person answers to one's ideal of
what he ought to be--in this respect Longfellow far surpasses
expectation. I was as much charmed with his winning manner and
conversation as by his calm, grand features and the expression of his
intellectual countenance.

The Barons Fairfax, as I mentioned already, had long been members of
the Republic of the United States, and Washington's mother belonged to
this family. During the war of Independence, while my father, then
Lieutenant Fairfax, was on board a man-of-war on the American station,
he received a letter from General Washington claiming him as a relation,
and inviting him to pay him a visit, saying, he did not think that war
should interfere with the courtesies of private life. Party spirit ran
so high at that time that my father was reprimanded for being in
correspondence with the enemy. I mentioned to my friend, the Rev. Dr.
Tuckerman, of the United States, how much I regretted that so precious a
letter had been lost, and he most kindly on going home sent me an
autograph letter of General Washington.


    BOSTON, _August 28th, 1834_.


    I have very great pleasure in sending to you an autograph letter of
    your and our glorious Washington. I obtained it from Mr. Sparks, who
    had the gratification of seeing you when he was in England, and who
    told me when I applied to him for it, that there is no one in the
    world to whom he would be so glad to give it. It is beyond
    comparison the best and almost the only remaining one at his
    disposal among the "Washington" papers.

    I am again in my family and in the field of my ministry.

    But very dear to me are my associations with scenes and friends in
    England; and most glad should I be if I could renew that intercourse
    with yourself, and with the intellect and virtue around you, to
    which I have been indebted for great happiness, and which, I hope,
    has done something to qualify me for a more efficient service. Will
    you please to present my very sincere respects to your husband, and
    to recall me to the kind remembrance of your children. With the
    highest respect and regard, allow me to call myself.

                                               Your friend,
                                                    JOSEPH TUCKERMAN.

       *     *     *     *     *

I think it must have been on returning from the American station, or may
be later in the career of my father's life, that a circumstance occurred
which distressed him exceedingly. Highway robberies were common on all
the roads in the vicinity of London, but no violence was offered. My
father was travelling alone over Blackheath when the postilion was
ordered to stop, a pistol presented at my father, and his purse
demanded. My father at once recognised the voice as that of a shipmate,
and exclaimed, "Good God! I know that voice! can it be young----? I am
dreadfully shocked; I have a hundred pounds which shall be yours--come
into the carriage, and let me take you to London, where you will be
safe." ... "No, no," the young man said, "I have associates whom I
cannot leave--it is too late." ... It was too late; he was arrested
eventually and suffered. Years afterwards when by some accident my
father mentioned this event, he was deeply affected, and never would
tell the name of the young man who had been his mess-mate.


[Footnote 12: M. Pellegrino Rossi, afterwards Minister of France at
Rome, then Prime Minister to Pius the Ninth; murdered in 1848 on the
steps of the Cancelleria, at Rome.]



    [My mother was already meditating writing a book upon Physical
    Geography, and had begun to collect materials for it, when my
    father's long and dangerous illness obliged her to lay it aside for
    a time. My father was ordered to a warmer climate for the winter,
    and as soon as he was able to travel we proceeded to Rome. We were
    hardly settled when my mother, with her usual energy, set to work
    diligently, and began this book, which was not published for some
    time later, as it required much thought and research. She never
    allowed anything to interfere with her morning's work; after that
    was over she was delighted to join in any plan which had been formed
    for the afternoon's amusement, and enjoyed herself thoroughly,
    whether in visiting antiquities and galleries, excursions in the
    neighbourhood, or else going with a friend to paint on the Campagna.
    My mother was extremely fond of Rome, and often said no place had
    ever suited her so well. Independently of the picturesque beauty of
    the place, which, to such a lover of nature, was sufficient in
    itself, there was a very pleasant society during many seasons we
    spent there. The visitors were far less numerous than they are now,
    but on that very account there was more sociability and intimacy,
    and scarcely an evening passed without our meeting. The artists
    residing at Rome, too, were a most delightful addition to society.
    Some of them became our very dear friends. My mother remarks:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

We took lodgings at Rome, and as soon as we were settled I resumed my
work and wrote every morning till two o'clock, then went to some
gallery, walked on the Pincio, dined at six, and in the evening either
went out or received visits at home--the pleasantest way of seeing
friends, as it does not interfere with one's occupations.

We once joined a party that was arranged to see the statues in the
Vatican by torchlight, at which Lord Macaulay astonished us by his
correct knowledge and learning as we passed through the gallery of
inscriptions. To me this evening was memorable; on this occasion I first
met with John Gibson, the sculptor, who afterwards became a dear and
valued friend. He must have been a pupil of Canova's or Thorwaldsen's
when Somerville and I were first at Rome. Now his fame was as great as
that of either of his predecessors.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [In spring we went to Naples for a few weeks, and returned to Rome
    by the San Germano road, now so familiar to travellers, but then
    hardly ever frequented, as it was extremely unsafe on account of the
    brigands. We met with no adventures, although we often reached our
    night quarters long after sunset, for my mother sketched a great
    deal on the road. We travelled by vetturino and continued this
    delightful journey to Como. My mother was a perfect travelling
    companion, always cheerful and contented and interested in all she
    saw. I leave her to tell of our pleasant residence at Bellaggio in
    her own words:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

We remained only a short time at Florence, and then went for a month to
Bellaggio, on the Lake of Como, at that time the most lonely village
imaginable. We had neither letters, newspapers, nor any books, except
the Bible, yet we liked it exceedingly. I did nothing but paint in the
mornings, and Somerville sat by me. My daughters wandered about, and in
the evening we went in a boat on the lake. Sometimes we made longer
excursions. One day we went early to Menaggio, at the upper end of the
lake. The day had been beautiful, but while at dinner we were startled
by a loud peal of thunder. The boatmen desired us to embark without
delay, as a storm was rising behind the mountains; it soon blew a gale,
and the lake was a sheet of foam; we took shelter for a while at some
place on the coast and set out again, thinking the storm had blown over,
but it was soon worse than ever. We were in no small danger for two
hours. The boatmen, terrified, threw themselves on their knees in prayer
to the Madonna. Somerville seized the helm and lowered the sail and
ordered them to rise, saying, the Madonna would help them if they helped
themselves, and at last they returned to their duty. For a long time we
remained perfectly silent, when one of our daughters said, "I have been
thinking what a paragraph it will be in the newspapers, 'Drowned, during
a sudden squall on the lake of Como, an English family named Somerville,
father, mother and two daughters.'" The silence thus broken made us
laugh, though our situation was serious enough, for when we landed the
shore was crowded with people who had fully expected to see the boat go
down. Twice after this we were overtaken by these squalls, which are
very dangerous. I shall never forget the magnificence of the lightning
and the grandeur of the thunder, which was echoed by the mountains
during the storms on the Lake of Como.

We saw the fishermen spear the fish by torchlight, as they did on the
Tweed. The fish were plenty and the water so clear that they were seen
at a great depth. There are very large red-fleshed trout in the lake,
and a small very delicious fish called _agoni_, caught in multitudes by
fine silk nets, to which bells are attached on floats, that keep up a
constant tinkling to let the fishermen know where to find their nets
when floated away by the wind.

    [We now crossed the Alps, by the St. Gothard, to Basle and Baden
    Baden, where we passed the summer, intending to return to England in
    autumn, but as soon as the rains began my father had so serious a
    return of his illness that my mother was much alarmed. When he was
    well enough to travel, we once more crossed the Alps, and reached
    Florence, where we remained for the winter. My mother resumed her
    work there.]

       *     *     *     *     *

Through the kindness of the Grand Duke, I was allowed to have books at
home from his private library in the Pitti Palace, a favour only granted
to the four Directors. This gave me courage to collect materials for my
long neglected Physical Geography, still in embryo. As I took an
interest in every branch of science I became acquainted with Professor
Amici, whose microscopes were unrivalled at that time, and as he had
made many remarkable microscopic discoveries in natural history, he took
us to the Museum to see them magnified and modelled in wax. I had the
honour of being elected a member of the Academy of Natural Science at

There were many agreeable people at Florence that winter and a good deal
of gaiety. The Marchese Antinori presented Somerville and me to the
Grand Duke, who had expressed a wish to know me. He received us very
graciously, and conversed with us for more than an hour on general
subjects. He afterwards wrote me a polite letter, accompanied by a work
on the drainage of the Maremma, and gave directions about our being
invited to a scientific meeting which was to be held at Pisa. We were
presented to the Grand Duchess, who was very civil. We spent the summer
at Siena, and had a cheerful airy apartment with a fine view of the
hills of Santa Fiora, and with very pretty arabesques in fresco on the
walls of all the rooms, some so very artistic that I made sketches of
them. In these old cities many of the palaces and houses are decorated
with that artistic taste which formerly prevailed to such an extent in
Italy, and, which has now yielded, here as elsewhere, to commonplace
modern furniture.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [While we were at Siena, my mother received the following letter
    from Lord Brougham, who was a frequent correspondent of hers, but
    whose letters are generally too exclusively mathematical for the
    general reader. My mother had described the curious horse-races
    which are held at Siena every three years, and other mediæval
    customs still prevalent.]


    COLE HILL, KENT, _Sept. 28th, 1840_.


    I am much obliged to you for your kind letter which let me know of
    your movements. I had not heard of them since I saw the
    Fergusons.... We have been here since parliament rose, as I am not
    yet at all equal to going to Brougham. My health is now quite
    restored; but I shall not soon--nor in all probability ever--recover
    the losses I have been afflicted with. I passed the greater part of
    last winter in Provence, expecting some relief from change of scene
    and from the fine climate; but I came back fully worse than when I
    went. In fact, I did wrong in struggling at first, which I did to be
    able to meet parliament in January last. If I had yielded at once, I
    would have been better. I hope and trust they sent you a book I
    published two years ago; I mean the "Dissertations," of which one is
    on the "Principia," and designed to try how far it may be taught to
    persons having but a very moderate stock of mathematics; also, if
    possible, to keep alive the _true taste_ (as I reckon it) in
    mathematics, which modern analysis has a little broken in upon.
    Assuming you to have got the book, I must mention that there are
    some intolerable errors of the press left, such as.... Excuse my
    troubling you with these errata, and impute it to my wish that you
    should not suppose me to have written the nonsense which these pages
    seem to prove. By the way, it is a curious proof of university
    prejudice, that though the Cambridge men admit my analysis of the
    "Principia" to be unexceptionable, and to be well calculated for
    teaching the work, yet, _not being by a Cambridge man_, it cannot be
    used! They are far more liberal at Paris, where they only are
    waiting for my analysis of the second book; but I put off finishing
    it, as I do still more my account of the "Mécanique Céleste." The
    latter I have almost abandoned in despair after nearly finishing it;
    I find so much that cannot be explained elementarily, or anything
    near it. So that my account to be complete would be nearly as hard
    reading as yours, and not 1000th part as good.... I greatly envy you
    Siena; I never was there above a day, and always desired to stay
    longer. The language is, as you say, a real charm; but I was not
    aware of the preservation in which you describe the older manners to
    be. I fear I shall not be able to visit Provence, as I should have
    wished this winter ... but my plans are not quite fixed. The
    judicial business in Parliament and the Privy Council will also make
    my going abroad after January difficult. I don't write you any news,
    nor is there any but what you see in the papers. The Tory
    restoration approaches very steadily, tho' not very rapidly; and I
    only hope that the Whigs, having contrived to destroy the Liberal
    party in the country--I fear past all hope of recovery--may not have
    a war abroad also to mourn for....

                                               Believe me,
                                                    Yours ever,
                                                         H. BROUGHAM.

On going to Rome I required a good many books for continuing my work on
"Physical Geography," and had got "Transactions of the Geographical
Society" and other works sent from London, The Hon. Mountstuart
Elphinstone who was then at Rome, was an old acquaintance of ours. He
was one of the most amiable men I ever met with, and quite won my heart
one day at table when they were talking of the number of singing-birds
that were eaten in Italy--nightingales, goldfinches, and robins--he
called out, "What! robins! our household birds! I would as soon eat a
child!" He was so kind as to write to the Directors of the East India
Company requesting that I might have the use of the library and papers
that were in the India House. This was readily granted me; and I had a
letter in consequence from Mr. Wilson, the Orientalist, giving me a list
of the works they had on the geography of Eastern Asia and the most
recent travels in the Himalaya, Thibet, and China, with much useful
information from himself. I was indebted to Sir Henry Pottinger, then at
Rome, for information relating to Scinde, for he had been for some years
British Envoy at Beloochistan. Thus provided, I went on with my work. We
lived several winters in an apartment on the second floor of Palazzo
Lepri, Via dei Condotti, where we passed many happy days. When we first
lived in Via Condotti, the waste-pipes to carry off the rain-water from
the roofs projected far into the street, and when there was a violent
thunderstorm, one might have thought a waterspout had broken over Rome,
the water poured in such cascades from the houses on each side of the
street. On one occasion the rain continued in torrents for thirty-six
hours, and the Tiber came down in heavy flood, inundating the Ghetto and
all the low parts of the city; the water was six feet deep in the
Pantheon. The people were driven out of their houses in the middle of
the night and took refuge in the churches, and boats plied in the
streets supplying the inhabitants with food, which they hauled up in
baskets let down from the windows. The Campagna for miles was under
water; it covered the Ponte Molle so that the courier could not pass;
and seen from the Pincio it looked like an extensive lake. Much anxiety
was felt for the people who lived in the farm houses now surrounded with
water. Boats were sent to rescue them, and few lives were lost; but many
animals perished. The flood did not subside till after three days, when
it left everything covered with yellow mud; the loss of property was
very great, and there was much misery for a long time.

Our house was in a very central position, and when not engaged I gladly
received anyone who liked to come to us in the evening, and we had a
most agreeable society, foreign and English, for we were not looked upon
as strangers, and the English society was much better during the years
we spent in Rome than it was afterwards.

I had an annual visit of an hour from the astronomer Padre Vico, and
Padre Pianciani, Professor of Chemistry in the Collegio Romano. I was
invited to see the Observatory; but as I had seen those of Greenwich and
Paris, I did not think it worth while accepting the invitation,
especially as it required an order from the Pope. I could easily have
obtained leave, for we were presented to Gregory XVI. by the President
of the Scotch Catholic College. The Pope received me with marked
distinction; notwithstanding I was disgusted to see the President
prostrate on the floor, kissing the Pope's foot as if he had been
divine. I think it was about this time that I was elected an honorary
associate of the Accademia Tiberiana.

I had very great delight in the Campagna of Rome; the fine range of
Apennines bounding the plain, over which the fleeting shadows of the
passing clouds fell, ever changing and always beautiful, whether viewed
in the early morning, or in the glory of the setting sun, I was never
tired of admiring; and whenever I drove out, preferred a country drive
to the more fashionable Villa Borghese. One day Somerville and I and our
daughters went to drive towards the Tavolata, on the road to Albano. We
got out of the carriage, and went into a field, tempted by the wild
flowers. On one side of this field ran the aqueduct, on the other a deep
and wide ditch full of water. I had gone towards the aqueduct, leaving
the others in the field. All at once we heard a loud shouting, when an
enormous drove of the beautiful Campagna grey cattle with their
wide-spreading horns came rushing wildly between us with their heads
down and their tails erect, driven by men with long spears mounted on
little spirited horses at full gallop. It was so sudden and so rapid,
that only after it was over did we perceive the danger we had run. As
there was no possible escape, there was nothing for it but standing
still, which Somerville and my girls had presence of mind to do, and the
drove dividing, rushed like a whirlwind to the right and left of them.
The danger was not so much of being gored as of being run over by the
excited and terrified animals, and round the walls of Rome places of
refuge are provided for those who may be passing when the cattle are
driven. Near where this occurred there is a house with the inscription
"_Casa Dei Spiriti_"; but I do not think the Italians believe in either
ghosts or witches; their chief superstition seems to be the
"_Jettatura_" or evil eye, which they have inherited from the early
Romans, and, I believe, Etruscans. They consider it a bad omen to meet a
monk or priest on first going out in the morning. My daughters were
engaged to ride with a large party, and the meet was at our house. A
Roman, who happened to go out first, saw a friar, and rushed in again
laughing, and waited till he was out of sight. Soon after they set off,
this gentleman was thrown from his horse and ducked in a pool; so the
"_Jettatura_" was fulfilled. But my daughters thought his bad seat on
horseback enough to account for his fall without the Evil Eye.



In spring we went to Albano, and lived in a villa, high up on the hill
in a beautiful situation not far from the lake. The view was most
extensive, commanding the whole of the Campagna as far as Terracina, &c.
In this wide expanse we could see the thunderclouds forming and rising
gradually over the sky before the storm, and I used to watch the vapour
condensing into a cloud as it rose into the cool air. I never witnessed
anything so violent as the storms we had about the equinox, when the
weather broke up. Our house being high above the plain became enveloped
in vapour till, at 3 p.m. we could scarcely see the olives which grew
below our windows, and crash followed crash with no interval between the
lightning and the thunder, so that we felt sure many places must have
been struck; and we were not mistaken--trees, houses, and even cattle
had been struck close to us. Somerville went to Florence to attend a
scientific meeting, and wrote to us that the lightning there had
stripped the gold leaf off the conductors on the powder magazine; a
proof of their utility.

The sunsets were glorious, and I, fascinated by the gorgeous colouring,
attempted to paint what Turner alone could have done justice to. I made
studies, too, which were signal failures, of the noble ilex trees
bordering the lake of Albano. Thus I wasted a great deal of time, I can
hardly say in vain, from the pleasure I had in the lovely scenery.
Somerville sat often by me with his book, while I painted from nature,
or amused himself examining the geological structure of the country. Our
life was a solitary one, except for the occasional visit from some
friends who were at Frascati; but we never found it dull; besides, we
made many expeditions on mules or donkeys to places in the
neighbourhood. I was very much delighted with the flora on the Campagna
and the Alban hills, which in spring and early summer are a perfect
garden of flowers. Many plants we cultivate in England here grow wild in
profusion, such as cyclamens, gum-cistus, both white and purple, many
rare and beautiful orchideæ, the large flowering Spanish broom,
perfuming the air all around, the tall, white-blossomed Mediterranean
heath, and the myrtle. These and many others my girls used to bring in
from their early morning walks. The flowers only lasted till the end of
June, when the heat began, and the whole country became brown and
parched; but scarcely had the autumnal rains commenced, when, like
magic, the whole country broke out once more into verdure, and myriads
of cyclamens covered the ground. Nightingales abounded in the woods,
singing both by night and by day; and one bright moonlight night my
daughters, who slept with their window open, were startled from their
sleep by the hooting of one of those beautiful birds, the great-eared
owl--"le grand duc" of Buffon--which had settled on the railing of their
balcony. We constantly came across snakes, generally harmless ones; but
there were a good many vipers, and once, when Somerville and my
daughters, with Mr. Cromek, the artist, had gone from Genzano to Nettuno
for a couple of days, a small asp which was crawling among the
bent-grass on the seashore, darted at one of the girls, who had
irritated it by touching it with her parasol. By the natives they are
much dreaded, both on this coast and in the pine forest of Ravenna,
where the cattle are said to be occasionally poisoned by their bite.

       *     *     *     *     *

We had been acquainted with the Rev. Dr., afterwards Cardinal Wiseman at
Rome. He was head of a college of young men educating for the Catholic
Church, who had their "villeggiatura" at Monte Porzio. We spent a day
with him there, and visited Tusculum; another day we went to Lariccia,
where there is a palace and park belonging to the Chigi family in a most
picturesque but dilapidated state. We went also to Ganzano, Rocca del
Papa, and occasionally to visit frends at Frascati. There was a stone
threshing-floor behind our house. During the vintage we had it nicely
swept and lighted with torches, and the grape gatherers came and danced
till long after midnight, to the great amusement of my daughters, who
joined in the dance, which was the Saltarello, a variety of the
Tarantella. They danced to the beating of tambourines. Italy is the
country of music, especially of melody, and the popular airs, especially
the Neapolitan, are extremely beautiful and melodious; yet it is a fact,
that the singing of the peasantry, particularly in the Roman and
Neapolitan provinces, is most disagreeable and discordant. It is not
melody at all, but a kind of wild chant, meandering through minor tones,
without rhythm of any sort or apparent rule, and my daughters say it is
very difficult to note down; yet there is some kind of method and
similarity in it as one hears it shouted out at the loudest pitch of the
voice, the last note dwelt upon and drawn out to an immeasurable length.
The words are frequently improvised by the singers, who answer one
another from a distance, as they work in the fields. I have been told
this style of chanting--singing it can hardly be called--has been handed
down from the most ancient times, and it is said, in the southern
provinces, to have descended from the early Greek colonists. The ancient
Greeks are supposed to have chanted their poetry to music, as do the
Italian improvisatori at the present day. In Tuscany, the words of the
songs are often extremely poetical and graceful. Frequently, these
verses, called "stornelli" and "rispetti," are composed by the peasants
themselves, women as well as men; the language is the purest and most
classical Italian, such as is spoken at the present day in the provinces
of Siena, Pistoja, &c., very much less corrupted by foreign idioms or
adaptations than what is spoken, even by cultivated persons, in Florence
itself. The picturesque costumes so universal when I first came to
Italy, in 1817, had fallen very much into disuse when, at a much later
period, we resided in Rome, and now they are rarely seen.

We hired a handsome peasant girl from Albano as housemaid, who was much
admired by our English friends in her scarlet cloth bodice, trimmed with
gold lace, and the silver spadone, or bodkin, fastening her plaits of
dark hair; but she very soon exchanged her picturesque costume for a
bonnet, etc., in which she looked clumsy and commonplace.

    [The following are extracts from letters written from Albano by my


    ALBANO, _16th June, 1841_.

    I was thankful to hear, my dearest Woronzow, from your last letter
    that Agnes is recovering so well.... We are very much pleased with
    our residence at Albano; the house, with its high sounding name of
    "Villa," is more like a farmhouse, with brick floors and no carpets,
    and a few chairs and tables, but the situation is divine. We are
    near the top of the hill, about half-a-mile above Albano, and have
    the most magnificent view in every direction, and such a variety of
    delightful walks, that we take a new one every evening. For painting
    it is perfect; every step is a picture. At present we have no one
    near, and lead the life of hermits; but our friends have loaded us
    with books, and with drawing, painting, music, and writing, we never
    have a moment idle. Almost every one has left Rome; but the English
    have all gone elsewhere, as they are not so easily pleased with a
    house as we are. The only gay thing we have done was a donkey ride
    yesterday to the top of Monte Cavo, and back by the lake of Nemi....

       *     *     *     *     *


    ALBANO, _20th August, 1841_.

    I dare say you think it very long since you have heard from me, my
    dearest Woronzow, but the truth is, I have been writing so hard,
    that after I had finished my day's work, I was fit for nothing but
    idleness. The reason of my hurry is, that the scientific meeting
    takes place at Florence on the 15th of September, and as I think it
    probable that some of our English philosophers will come to it, I
    hope to have a safe opportunity of sending home some MS. which it
    has cost me hard work to get ready, as I have undertaken a book more
    fit for the combination of a Society than for a single hand to
    accomplish. Lord Brougham was most kind when at Rome, and took so
    great an interest in it, that he has, undertaken to read it over,
    and give me his opinion and criticism, which will be very valuable,
    as I know no one who is a better judge of these matters. He will
    send it to Mr. Murray, and you had better consult with him about it,
    whether he thinks it will succeed or not. Both William and Martha
    like what I have done; but I am very nervous about it, and wish you
    would read it if you have time.... We have been extremely quiet all
    the summer; we have no neighbours, so that we amuse ourselves with
    our occupations. I get up between six and seven, breakfast at eight,
    and write till three, when we dine; after dinner, I write again till
    near six, when we go out and take a long walk; come home to tea at
    nine, and go to bed at eleven: the same thing day after day, so you
    cannot expect a very amusing letter.... I have another commission I
    wish you would do for me; it is to inquire what discoveries Captain
    Ross has made at the South Pole. I saw a very interesting account in
    "Galignani" of what they have done, but cannot trust to a newspaper
    account so as to quote it.

       *     *     *     *     *

A new edition of my "Physical Sciences" was required, so the "Physical
Geography" was laid aside for the present. On returning to Rome, we
resumed our usual life, and continued to receive our friends in the
evening without ceremony. There was generally a merry party round the
tea table in a corner of the room. I cannot omit mentioning one of the
most charming and intellectual of our friends, Don Michelangelo Gaetani,
Duke of Sermoneta, whose brilliant and witty conversation is unrivalled,
and for whom I have had a very sincere friendship for many years. I
found him lately as charming as ever, notwithstanding the cruel loss of
his sight. The last time I ever dined out was at his house at Rome, when
I was on my way to Naples in 1867.

       *     *     *     *     *

John Gibson, the sculptor, the most guileless and amiable of men, was
now a dear friend. His style was the purest Grecian, and had some of
his works been found among the ruins, multitudes would have come to Rome
to admire them. He was now in the height of his fame; yet he was so kind
and encouraging to young people that he allowed my girls to go and draw
in his studio, and one of my daughters, with a friend, modelled there
for some time. His drawings for bas-reliefs were most beautiful. He drew
very slowly, but a line once drawn was never changed. He ignored
India-rubber or bread-crumbs, so perfect was his knowledge of anatomy,
and so decided the character and expression he meant to give.

We had charades one evening in a small theatre in our house, which went
off very well There was much beauty at Rome at that time; no one who was
there can have forgotten the beautiful and brilliant Sheridans. I
recollect Lady Dufferin at the Easter ceremonies at St. Peter's, in her
widow's cap, with a large black crape veil thrown over it, creating
quite a sensation. With her exquisite features, oval face, and somewhat
fantastical head-dress, anything more lovely could not be conceived; and
the Roman people crowded round her in undisguised admiration of "la
bella monaca Inglese." Her charm of manner and her brilliant
conversation will never be forgotten by those who knew her. To my mind,
Mrs. Norton was the most beautiful of the three sisters. Hers is a
grand countenance, such as artists love to study. Gibson, whom I asked,
after his return from England, which he had revisited after twenty-seven
years' absence, what he thought of Englishwomen, replied, he had seen
many handsome women, but no such sculptural beauty as Mrs. Norton's. I
might add the Marchioness of Waterford, whose bust at Macdonald's I took
at first for an ideal head, till I recognised the likeness.

Lady Davy used to live a great deal at Rome, and took an active part in
society. She talked a great deal, and talked well when she spoke
English, but like many of us had more pretension with regard to the
things she could not do well than to those she really could. She was a
Latin scholar, and as far as reading and knowing the literature of
modern languages went she was very accomplished, but unfortunately, she
fancied she spoke them perfectly, and was never happier than when she
had people of different nations dining with her, each of whom she
addressed in his own language. Many amusing mistakes of hers in speaking
Italian were current in both Roman and English circles.

       *     *     *     *     *

A few months were very pleasantly spent one summer at Perugia, where
there is so much that is interesting to be seen. The neighbouring
country is very beautiful, and the city being on the top of a hill is
very cool during the hot weather. We had an apartment in the Casa
Oddi-Baglioni--a name well known in Italian history--and I recollect
spending some very pleasant days with the Conte Oddi-Baglioni, at a
villa called Colle del Cardinale, some ten or twelve miles from the
town. The house was large and handsomely decorated, with a profusion of
the finest Chinese vases. On our toilet tables were placed perfumes,
scented soap, and very elaborately embroidered nightdresses were laid
out for use. I remember especially admiring the basins, jugs, &c., which
were all of the finest japan enamel. There was a subterranean apartment
where we dined, which was delightfully cool and pleasant, and at a large
and profusely served dinner-table, while we and the guests with the
owner of the house dined at the upper end, at the lower end and below
the salt there were the superintendent of the Count's farms, a house
decorator and others of that rank. It is not the only instance we met
with of this very ancient custom. The first time Somerville and I came
to Italy, years before this, while dining at a very noble house, the
wetnurse took her place, as a matter of course, at the foot of the

On the morning after our arrival and at a very early hour there was a
very fine eclipse of the sun, though not total at Perugia or the
neighbourhood; the chill and unnatural gloom were very striking.

Perugia is one of the places in which the ancient athletic game of
_pallone_ is played with spirit. It is so graceful when well played that
I wonder our active young men have not adopted it. A large leather ball
filled with condensed air is struck and returned again by the opponent
with the whole force of their right arms, covered to the elbow with a
spiked wooden case. The promptness and activity required to keep up the
ball is very great, and the impetus with which it strikes is such, that
the boxes for spectators in the amphitheatres dedicated to this game are
protected by strong netting. It is a very complicated game, and, I am
told, somewhat resembles tennis.

       *     *     *     *     *

On leaving Perugia we went for a few days to Asissi, spent a day at
Chiusi, and then returned to Rome, which we found in a great state of
excitement on account of three steamers which had just arrived from
England to ply on the Tiber. The Pope and Cardinals made a solemn
procession to bless them. No doubt they would have thought our method of
dashing a bottle of wine on a vessel on naming her highly profane.

We constantly made expeditions to the country, to Tivoli, Veii, Ostia,
&c., and my daughters rode on the Campagna. One day they rode to Albano,
and on returning after dark they told me they had seen a most curious
cloud which never altered its position; it was a very long narrow stripe
reaching from the horizon till nearly over head--it was the tail of the
magnificent comet of 1843.

We met with a great temptation in an invitation from Lady Stratford
Canning, to go and visit them at Buyukdéré, near Constantinople, but
_res arcta_ prevented us from accepting what would have been so
desirable in every respect. At this time I sat to our good friend Mr.
Macdonald for my bust, which was much liked.[13]

       *     *     *     *     *

One early summer we went to Loreto and Ancona, where we embarked for
Trieste; the weather seemed fine when we set off, but a storm came on,
with thunder and lightning, very high sea and several waterspouts. The
vessel rolled and pitched, and we were carried far out of our course to
the Dalmatian coast. I was obliged to remain a couple of days at Trieste
to rest, and was very glad when we arrived at Venice. The summer passed
most delightfully at Venice, and we had ample time to see everything
without hurry. I wrote very little this summer, for the scenery was so
beautiful that I painted all day; my daughters drew in the Belle Arti,
and Somerville had plenty of books to amuse him, besides sight-seeing,
which occupied much of our time. In the Armenian convent we met with
Joseph Warten, an excellent mathematician and astronomer; he was pastor
at Neusatz, near Peterwardein in Hungary, and he was making a tour
through Europe. He asked me to give him a copy of the "Mechanism of the
Heavens," and afterwards wrote in Latin to Somerville and sent me some
errors of the press he had met with in my book, but they were of no use,
as I never published a second edition. We returned to Rome by Ravenna,
where we stayed a couple of days, then travelled slowly along the
Adriatic Coast From thence we went by Gubbio and Perugia to Orvieto, one
of the most interesting towns in Italy, and one seldom visited at that
time; now the railway will bring it into the regular track of

       *     *     *     *     *

    [A few extracts from letters, written and received during this
    summer by my mother, may not be without interest. Also parts of two
    from my mother's old and valued friend Miss Joanna Baillie. The
    second letter was written several years later, and is nearly the
    last she ever wrote to my mother.]

       *     *     *     *     *


    VENICE, _21st July, 1843_.

    I most sincerely rejoice to hear that Agnes and you have gone to the
    Rhine, as I am confident a little change of air and scene will be of
    the greatest service to you both.... We are quite enchanted with
    Venice; no one can form an idea of its infinite loveliness who has
    not seen it in summer and in moonlight. I often doubt my senses, and
    almost fear it may be a dream. We are lodged to perfection, the
    weather has been charming, no oppressive heat, though the
    thermometer ranges from 75° to 80°, accompanied by a good deal of
    scirocco; there are neither flies nor fleas, and as yet the
    mosquitoes have not molested us. We owe much of our comfort to the
    house we are in, for there are scarcely any furnished lodgings, and
    the hotels are bad and dear, besides situation is everything at this
    season, when the smaller canals become offensive at low water, for,
    though there is little tide in the Mediterranean, there are four
    feet at new and full moon here, which is a great blessing. We have
    now seen everything, and have become acquainted with everybody, and
    met with kindness and attention beyond all description. Many of the
    great ducal families still exist, and live handsomely in their
    splendid palaces; indeed, the decay of Venice, so much talked of, is
    quite a mistake; certainly it is very different from what it was in
    its palmy days, but there is a good deal of activity and trade. The
    abolition of the law of primogeniture has injured the noble
    families more than anything else. We rise early, and are busy
    indoors all morning, except the girls, who go to the Academy of the
    _Belle Arti_, and paint from ten till three. We dine at four, and
    embark in our gondola at six or seven, and row about on the glassy
    sea till nine, when we go to the Piazza of San Marco, listen to a
    very fine military band, and sit gossiping till eleven or twelve,
    and then row home by the Grand Canal, or make a visit in one of the
    various houses that are open to us. One of the most remarkable of
    these is that of the Countess Mocenigo's, who has in one of her
    drawing-rooms the portraits of six doges of the Mocenigo name. I was
    presented by her to the Duc de Bordeaux, the other evening, a fat
    good-natured looking person. I was presented also to the Archduke--I
    forget what--son of the Archduke Charles, and admiral of the fleet
    here; a nice youth, but not clever. We meet him everywhere, and
    Somerville dined with him a few days ago. The only strangers of note
    are the Prince of Tour and Taxis, and Marshal Marmont. The Venetian
    ladies are very ladylike and agreeable, and speak beautifully. We
    have received uncommon kindness from Mr. Rawdon Brown; he has made
    us acquainted with everybody, as he is quite at home here, having
    been settled in Venice for several years, and has got a most
    beautiful house fitted up, in _rococo_ style, with great taste; he
    is an adept at Venetian history. He supplies us with books, which
    are a great comfort.... The other evening we were surprised by a
    perfect fleet of gondolas stopping under our windows, from one of
    which we had the most beautiful serenade; the moonlight was like
    day, and the effect was admirable. There was a _festa_ the other
    night in a church on the water's edge; the shore was illuminated
    and hundreds of gondolas were darting along like swallows, the
    gondoliers rowing as if they had been mad, till the water was as
    much agitated as if there had been a gale of wind: nothing could be
    more animated. You will perceive from what I have said that the
    evening, till a late hour, is the time for amusement, in consequence
    of which I follow the Italian custom of sleeping after dinner, and
    am much the better for it. This place agrees particularly well with
    all of us, and is well suited for old people, who require air
    without fatigue....

                                        Most affectionately,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    VENICE, _27th August, 1843_.


    Your excellent letter, giving an account of your agreeable
    expedition up the Rhine, did not arrive till nearly a month after it
    was written.... I regret exceedingly you could not stay longer, and
    still more that you could not come on and pay us a visit, and enjoy
    the charm of summer in Venice, so totally unlike every other place
    in every respect. I wished for you last night particularly. As we
    were leaving the Piazza San Marco, about eleven, a boat came up,
    burning blue lights, with a piano, violins, flutes, and about twenty
    men on board, who sang choruses in the most delightful manner, and
    sometimes solos. They were followed by an immense number of
    gondolas, and we joined the _cortège_, and all went under the Bridge
    of Sighs, where the effect was beautiful beyond description. We then
    all turned and entered the Grand Canal, which was entirely filled
    with gondolas from one side to the other, jammed together, so that
    we moved _en masse_, and stopped every now and then to burn blue or
    red Bengal lights before the principal palaces, singing going on all
    the while. We saw numbers of our Venetian friends in their gondolas,
    enjoying the scene as much as we did, to whom it was almost new. I
    never saw people who enjoyed life more, and they have much the
    advantage of us in their delicious climate and aquatic amusements,
    so much more picturesque than what can be done on land. However, we
    have had no less than three dances lately. The Grand Duke of Modena,
    with his son and daughter-in-law, were here, and to them a _fête_
    was given by the Countess de Thurn. The palace was brilliant with
    lights; it is on the grand canal, and immediately under the balcony
    was a boat from which fireworks were let off, and then a couple of
    boats succeeded them, in which choruses were sung. The view from the
    balcony is one of the finest in Venice, and the night was charming,
    and there I was while the dancing went on.... I never saw Somerville
    so well; this place suits us to the life, constant air and no
    fatigue; I never once have had a headache.... Now, my dear W., tell
    me your tale; my tale is done.

                                        Yours affectionately,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    ROME, PALAZZO LEPRI, VIA DEI CONDOTTI, _27th October, 1848_.


    ... We had a beautiful journey to Rome, with fine weather and no
    annoyance, notwithstanding the disturbed state of the country. At
    Padua we only remained long enough to see the churches, and it was
    impossible to pass within a few miles of Arquà without paying a
    visit to the house of Petrarch. At Ferrara we had a letter to the
    Cardinal Legate, who was very civil. His palace is the ancient abode
    of the house of Este.... We had a long visit from him in the
    evening, and found him most agreeable; he regretted that there was
    no opera, as he would have been happy to offer us his box. Fourteen
    of those unfortunate men who have been making an attempt to raise an
    insurrection were arrested the day before; and the night before we
    slept at Lugo, the Carabineers had searched the inn during the
    night, entering the rooms where the people were sleeping. We should
    have been more than surprised to have been wakened by armed men at
    midnight. In travelling through Italy the _reliques_ and history of
    the early Christians and of the Middle Ages have a greater
    attraction for me than those of either the Romans or Etruscans,
    interesting though these latter be, and in this journey my taste was
    amply gratified, especially at Ravenna, where the church of San
    Vitale and the Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classis, both built
    early in the 6th century, are the most magnificent specimens
    imaginable. Here also is the tomb of Theodore, a most wonderful
    building; the remains of his palace and numberless other objects of
    interest, too tedious to mention. Every church is full of them, and
    most valuable MSS. abound in the libraries. I like the history of
    the Middle Ages, because one feels that there is something in common
    between them and us; their names still exist in their descendants,
    who often inhabit the very palaces they dwelt in, and their very
    portraits, by the great masters, still hang in their halls; whereas
    we know nothing about the Greeks and Romans except their public
    deeds--their private life is a blank to us. Our journey through the
    Apennines was most beautiful, passing for days under the shade of
    magnificent oak forests or valleys rich in wine, oil, grain, and
    silk. We deviated from the main road for a short distance to Gubbio,
    to see the celebrated Eugubian tables, which are as sharp as if they
    had been engraved yesterday, but in a lost language. We stopped to
    rest at Perugia, but all our friends were at their country seats,
    which we regretted. The country round Perugia is unrivalled for
    richness and beauty, but it rained the morning we resumed our
    journey. It signified the less as we had been previously at Città
    della Pieve and Chiusi; so we proceeded to Orvieto in fine weather,
    still through oak forests. Orvieto is situated on the top of an
    escarped hill, very like the hill forts of India, and apparently as
    inaccessible; yet, by dint of numberless turns and windings, we did
    get up, but only in time for bed. Next morning we saw the sun rise
    on the most glorious cathedral. After all we had seen we were
    completely taken by surprise, and were filled with the highest
    admiration at the extreme beauty and fine taste of this remarkable

                                        Your affectionate mother,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    HAMPSTEAD, _December 27th, 1843_.


    Besides being proud of receiving a letter from you, I was much
    pleased to know that I am, though at such a distance, sometimes in
    your thoughts. I was much pleased, too, with what you have said of
    the health and other gratifications you enjoy in Italy. I should
    gladly have thanked you at the time, had I known how to address my
    letter; and after receiving your proper direction from our friend
    Miss Montgomery, I have been prevented from using it by various
    things.... But though so long silent I have not been ungrateful, and
    thank you with all my heart. The account you give of Venice is very
    interesting. There is something affecting in still seeing the
    descendants of the former Doges holding a diminished state in their
    remaining palaces with so much courtesy. I am sure you have found
    yourself a guest in their saloons, hung with paintings of their
    ancestors, with very mixed feelings. However, Venice to the eye, as
    you describe it, is Venice still; and with its lights at night
    gleaming upon the waters makes a very vivid picture to my fancy. You
    no doubt have fixed it on canvas, and can carry it about with you
    for the delight of your friends who may never see the original.

    In return to your kind inquiries after us, I have, all things
    considered, a very good account to give. Ladies of four score and
    upwards cannot expect to be robust, and need not be gay. We sit by
    the fire-side with our books (except when those plaguy notes are to
    be written) and receive the visits of our friendly neighbours very
    contentedly, and, I ought to say, and trust I may say, very
    thankfully.... This morning brought one in whom I feel sure that you
    and your daughters take some interest, Maria Edgeworth. She has been
    dangerously ill, but is now nearly recovered, and is come from
    Ireland to pass the winter months with her sisters in London: weak
    in body, but the mind as clear and the spirits as buoyant as ever.
    You will be glad to hear that she even has it in her thoughts to
    write a new work, and has the plan of it nearly arranged. There will
    be nothing new in the story itself, but the purpose and treating of
    it will be new, which is, perhaps, a better thing. In our retired
    way of living, we know little of what goes on in the literary
    world.... I was, however, in town for a few hours the other day, and
    called upon a lady of rank who has _fashionable_ learned folks
    coming about her, and she informed me that there are new ideas
    regarding philosophy entertained in the world, and that Sir John
    Herschel was now considered as a slight, second-rate man, or person.
    Who are the first-rate she did not say, and, I suppose, you will not
    be much mortified to hear that your name was not mentioned at all.
    So much for our learning. My sister was much disappointed the other
    day when, in expectation of a ghost story from Mr. Dickens, she only
    got a grotesque moral allegory; now, as she delights in a ghost and
    hates an allegory, this was very provoking.

                             Believe me,
                                 My dear Mrs. Somerville,
                                     Yours with admiration and esteem,
                                                            J. BAILLIE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    HAMPSTEAD, _January 9th, 1851_.


    My dear Mary Somerville, whom I am proud to call my friend, and that
    she so calls me. I could say much on this point, but I dare not. I
    received your letter from Mr. Greig last night, and thank you very
    gratefully. If my head were less confused I should do it better, but
    the pride I have in thinking of you as philosopher and a woman
    cannot be exceeded. I shall read your letter many times over. My
    sister and myself at so great an age are waiting to be called away
    in mercy by an Almighty Father, and we part with our earthly friends
    as those whom we shall meet again. My great monster book is now
    published, and your copy I shall send to your son who will peep into
    it, and then forward it to yourself. I beg to be kindly and
    respectfully remembered to your husband; I offer my best wishes to
    your daughters....

                               Yours, my dear Friend,
                                          Very faithfully,
                                                     JOANNA BAILLIE.

    My sister begs of you and all your family to accept her best wishes.

       *     *     *     *     *


    _18th March, 1844._


    To have received a letter from you so long ago, and not yet to have
    thanked you for it, is what I could hardly have believed myself--if
    the rapid lapse of time in the uniform retirement in which we live
    were not pressed upon me in a variety of ways which convince me that
    as a man grows older, his sand, as the grains get low in the glass,
    slips through more glibly, and steals away with accelerated speed. I
    wish I could either send you a copy of my Cape observations, or tell
    you they are published or even in the press. Far from it--I do not
    expect to "go to press" before another year has elapsed, for though
    I have got my catalogues of Southern nebulæ and Double stars reduced
    and arranged, yet there is a great deal of other matter still to be
    worked through, and I have every description of reduction entirely
    to execute myself. These are very tedious, and I am a very slow
    computer, and have been continually taken off the subject by other
    matter, forced upon me by "pressure from without." What I am now
    engaged on is the monograph of the _principal_ Southern Nebulæ, the
    object of which is to put on record every ascertainable particular
    of their actual appearance and the stars visible in them, so as to
    satisfy future observers whether _new stars_ have appeared, or
    changes taken place in the nebulosity. To what an extent this work
    may go you may judge from the fact that the catalogue of visible
    stars actually mapped down in their places within the space of less
    than a square degree in the nebula about [Greek: ê] Argus which I have
    just completed comprises between 1300 and 1400 stars. This is indeed a
    stupendous object. It is a vastly extensive branching and looped
    nebula, in the centre of the densest part of which is [Greek: ê] Argus,
    itself a most remarkable star, seeing that from the fourth magnitude
    which it had in Ptolemy's time, it has risen (by _sudden starts_,
    and not gradually) to such a degree of brilliancy as _now_ actually
    to surpass Canopus, and to be second only to Sirius. One of these
    _leaps_ I myself witnessed when in the interval of ceasing to
    observe it in one year, and resuming its observation in two or three
    months after in the next, it had sprung over the heads of _all the
    stars of the first_ magnitude, from Fomalhaut and Regulus (the two
    least of them) to [Greek: a] Centauri, which it then just equalled, and
    which is the brightest of all but Canopus and Sirius! It has since
    made a fresh jump--and who can say it will be the last?

    One of the most beautiful objects in the southern hemisphere is a
    pretty large, perfectly round, and very well-defined planetary nebula,
    of a fine, full _independent_ blue colour--the only object I have ever
    seen in the heavens fairly entitled to be called _independently_ blue,
    _i.e._, not by contrast. Another superb and most striking object is
    Lacaille's 30 Doradus, a nebula of great size in the larger nubicula,
    of which it is impossible to give a better idea than to compare it to a
    "true lover's knot," or assemblage of nearly circular nebulous loops
    uniting in a centre, in or near which is an exactly circular round dark
    hole. Neither this nor the nebula about [Greek: ê] Argus have any, the
    slightest, resemblance to the representations given of them by
    Dunlop.... As you are so kind as to offer to obtain information on any
    points interesting to me at Rome, here is one on which I earnestly
    desire to obtain the means of forming a correct opinion, _i.e._, the
    _real_ powers and merits of De Vico's great refractor at the Collegio
    Romano. De Vico's accounts of it appear to me to have not a little of
    the extra-marvellous in them. Saturn's _two_ close satellites regularly
    observed--eight stars in the trapezium of Orion! [Greek: a] Aquilæ (as
    Schumacher inquiringly writes to me) divided into three! the
    supernumerary divisions of Saturn's ring well seen, &c., &c. And all by
    a Cauchoix refractor of eight inches? I fear me that these wonders are
    not for _female eyes_, the good monks are too well aware of the
    penetrating qualities of such optics to allow them entry within the
    seven-fold walls of their Collegio. Has Somerville ever looked through
    it? On his report I know I could quite rely. As for Lord Rosse's great
    reflector, I can only tell you what I hear, having never seen it, or
    even his three feet one. The great one is not yet completed. Of the
    other, those who _have_ looked through it speak in raptures. I met not
    long since an officer who, at Halifax in Nova Scotia, saw _the comet_
    at noon close to the sun, and very conspicuous the day after the
    perihelion passage.

    Your account of the pictures and other _deliciæ_ of Venice makes our
    mouths water; but it is of no use, so we can only congratulate those
    who are in the full enjoyment of such things.

                                             Ever yours most truly,
                                                           J. HERSCHEL.

On returning to Rome I was elected Associate of the College of
Risurgenti, and in the following April I became an honorary member of
the Imperial and Royal Academy of Science, Literature and Art at Arezzo.
I finished an edition of the Physical Sciences, at which I had been
working, and in spring Somerville hired a small house belonging to the
Duca Sforza Cesarini, at Genzano, close to and with a beautiful view of
the Lake of Nemi; but as I had not seen my son for some time, I now
availed myself of the opportunity of travelling with our friend Sir
Frederick Adam to England. We crossed the Channel at Ostend, and at the
mouth of the Thames lay the old "Venerable," in which my father was
flag-captain at the battle of Camperdown. I had a joyful meeting with
my son and his wife, and we went to see many things that were new to me.
One of our first expeditions was to the British Museum. I had already
seen the Elgin marbles, and the antiquities collected at Babylon by Mr.
Rich, when he was Consul at Bagdad, but now the Museum had been enriched
by the marbles from Halicarnassus, and by the marvellous remains
excavated by Mr. Layard from the ruins of Nineveh, the very site of
which had been for ages unknown.

I frequently went to Turner's studio, and was always welcomed. No one
could imagine that so much poetical feeling existed in so rough an
exterior. The water-colour exhibitions were very good; my countrymen
still maintained their superiority in that style of art, and the
drawings of some English ladies were scarcely inferior to those of
first-rate artists, especially those of my friend, Miss Blake, of

While in England I made several visits; the first was to my dear friends
Sir John and Lady Herschel, at Collingwood, who received me with the
warmest affection. I cannot express the pleasure it gave me to feel
myself at home in a family where not only the highest branches of
science were freely discussed, but where the accomplishments and graces
of life were cultivated. I was highly gratified and proud of being
godmother to Rosa, the daughter of Sir John and Lady Herschel. Among
other places near Collingwood I was taken to see an excellent
observatory formed by Mr. Dawes, a gentleman of independent fortune; and
here I must remark, to the honour of my countrymen, that at the time I
am writing, there are twenty-six private observatories in Great Britain
and Ireland, furnished with first-rate instruments, with which some of
the most important astronomical discoveries have been made.

    [I received the following letter from my mother while we were at
    Genzano. It is one of several which record in her natural and
    unaffected words my mother's profound admiration for Sir John


    SYDENHAM, _1st September, 1844_.
    _Sunday Night._


    ... We go to the Herschels' to-morrow, and there I shall finish this
    letter, as it is impossible to get it in time for Tuesday's post,
    but I have so much to do now that you must not expect a letter every
    post, and I had no time to begin this before, and I am too tired to
    sit up later to-night....

    COLLINGWOOD, _Monday_.

    This appears to be a remarkably beautiful place, with abundance of
    fine timber.... W. brought your dear nice letter; it makes me long
    to be with you, and, please God, I shall be so before long, as I set
    off this day fortnight.


    Yesterday I had a great deal of scientific talk with Sir John, and
    a long walk in the grounds which are extensive, and very pretty.
    Then the Airys arrived, and we had a large party at dinner.... I
    think, now, as I always have done, that Sir John is by much the
    highest and finest character I have ever met with; the most
    gentlemanly and polished mind, combined with the most exalted
    morality, and the utmost of human attainment. His view of everything
    is philosophic, and at the same time highly poetical, in short, he
    combines every quality that is admirable and excellent with the most
    charming modesty, and Lady Herschel is quite worthy of such a
    husband, which is the greatest praise I can give her. Their kindness
    and affection for me has been unbounded. Lady H. told me she heard
    such praises of you two that she is anxious to know you, and she
    hopes you will always look upon her and her family as friends. The
    christening went off as well as possible. Mr. Airy was godfather,
    and Mrs. Airy and I godmothers, but I had the naming of the
    child--Matilda Rose, after Lady Herschel's sister. I assure you I
    was quite adroit in taking the baby from the nurse and giving her to
    the clergyman. Sir John took Mrs. Airy and me a drive to see a very
    fine picturesque castle a few miles off.... I have got loads of
    things for experiments on light from Sir John with a variety of
    papers, and you may believe that I have profited not a little by his
    conversation, and have a thousand projects for study and writing, so
    I think painting will be at a standstill, only that I have promised
    to paint something for Lady Herschel. Sir John computes four or five
    hours every day, and yet his Cape observations will not be finished
    for two years. I have seen everything he is or has been doing.

                                        Your affectionate mother,
                                                     MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [My mother continues her recollections of this journey.]

My next visit was to Lord and Lady Charles Percy at Guy's Cliff, in
Warwickshire, a pretty picturesque place of historical and romantic
memory. The society was pleasant, and I was taken to Kenilworth and
Warwick Castle, on the banks of the Avon, a noble place, still bearing
marks of the Wars of the Roses. I never saw such magnificent oak-trees
as those on the Leigh estate, near Guy's Cliff.

I then visited my maiden namesake, Mrs. Fairfax, of Gilling Castle,
Yorkshire. She was a highly cultivated person, had been much abroad, and
was a warm-hearted friend. I was much interested in the principal room,
for a deep frieze surrounds the wall, on which are painted the coats of
arms of all the families with whom the Fairfaxes have intermarried,
ascending to very great antiquity; besides, every pane of glass in a
very large bay window in the same room is stained with one of these
coats of arms. Every morning after breakfast a prodigious flock of
pea-fowl came from the woods around to be fed.

I now went to the vicinity of Kelso to visit my brother and
sister-in-law, General and Mrs. Elliot, who lived on the banks of the
Tweed. We went to Jedburgh, the place of my birth. After many years I
still thought the valley of the Jed very beautiful; I fear the pretty
stream has been invaded by manufactories: there is a perpetual war
between civilization and the beauty of nature. I went to see the spot
from whence I once took a sketch of Jedburgh Abbey and the manse in
which I was born, which does not exist, I believe, now. When I was a
very young girl I made a painting from this sketch. Our next excursion
was to a lonely village called Yetholm, in the hills, some miles from
Kelso, belonging to the gipsies. The "king" and the other men were
absent, but the women were civil, and some of them very pretty. Our
principal object in going there was to see a stone in the wall of a
small and very ancient church at Linton, nearly in ruins, on which is
carved in relief the wyvern and wheel, the crest of the Somervilles.

From Kelso I went to Edinburgh to spend a few days with Lord Jeffrey and
his family. No one who had seen his gentle kindness in domestic life and
the warmth of his attachment to his friends, could have supposed he
possessed that power of ridicule and severity which made him the terror
of authors. His total ignorance of science may perhaps excuse him for
having admitted into the "Review" Brougham's intemperate article on the
undulatory theory of light, a discovery which has immortalized the name
of Dr. Young. I found Edinburgh, the city of my early recollections,
picturesque and beautiful as ever, but enormously increased both to the
north and to the south. Queen Street, which in my youth was open to the
north and commanded a view of the Forth and the mountains beyond, was
now in the middle of the new town. All those I had formerly known were
gone--a new generation had sprung up, living in all the luxury of modern
times. On returning to London I spent a pleasant time with my son and
his wife, who invited all those to meet me whom they thought I should
like to see.

    [My mother returned to Rome in autumn in company with an old friend
    and her daughter.]

       *     *     *     *     *

The winter passed without any marked event, but always agreeably; new
people came, making a pleasant variety in the society, which, though
still refined, was beginning to be very mixed, as was amusingly seen at
Torlonia's balls and tableaux, where many of the guests formed a
singular contrast with the beautiful Princess, who was of the historical
family of the Colonnas. I was often ashamed of my countrymen, who, all
the while speaking of the Italians with contempt, tried to force
themselves into their houses. Prince Borghese refused the same person an
invitation to a ball five times. I was particularly scrupulous about
invitations, and never asked for one in my life; nor did I ever seek to
make acquaintances with the view of being invited to their houses.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [The following letters give a sketch of life during the summer
    months at Rome:--]


    ROME, _3rd August, 1845_.


    ... I am glad you are so much pleased with my bust, and that it is
    so little injured after having been at the bottom of the sea. You
    will find Macdonald a very agreeable and original person. As to
    spending the summer in Rome, you may make yourself quite easy, for
    the heat is very bearable, the thermometer varying between 75° and
    80° in our rooms during the day, which are kept in darkness, and at
    night it always becomes cooler. Thank God, we are all quite well,
    and Somerville particularly so; he goes out during the day to amuse
     himself, and the girls paint in the Borghese gallery. As for
    myself I have always plenty to do till half past three, when we
    dine, and after dinner I sleep for an hour or more, and when the sun
    is set we go out to wander a little, for a long walk is too
    fatiguing at this season. We have very little society, the only
    variety we have had was a very pretty supper party given by Signore
    Rossi, the French minister, to the Prince and Princess de Broglie,
    son and daughter-in-law of the duke. The young lady is extremely
    beautiful, and as I knew the late Duchesse de Broglie (Madame de
    Staël's daughter) we soon got acquainted. They are newly married,
    and have come to spend part of the summer in Rome, so you see people
    are not so much alarmed as the English.... We went yesterday evening
    to see the Piazza Navona full of water; it is flooded every Saturday
    and Sunday at this season; there is music, and the whole population
    of Rome is collected round it, carts and carriages splashing through
    it in all directions. I think it must be about three feet deep. It
    was there the ancient Romans had their naval games; and the custom
    of filling it with water in summer has lasted ever since. The
    fountain is one of the most beautiful in Rome, which is saying a
    great deal; indeed the immense gush of the purest water from
    innumerable fountains in every street and every villa is one of the
    peculiarities of Rome. I fear from what I have heard of those in
    Trafalgar Square that the quantity of water will be very miserable.

     The papers (I mean the Times), are full of abuse of Mr. Sedgwick
    and Dr. Buckland, but their adversaries write such nonsense that it
    matters little. I do not think I have anything to add to my new
    edition. If you hear of anything of moment let me know. Perhaps
    something may have transpired at the British Association....

                                        Your affectionate mother,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    ROME, _May 28th, 1845_.


    I don't know why I have so long delayed writing to you. I rather
    think it is because we have been living so quiet a life, one day so
    precisely similar to the preceding, that there has been nothing
    worth writing about. This is our first really summer-like day, and
    splendid it is; but we are sitting in a kind of twilight. The only
    means of keeping the rooms cool is by keeping the house dark and
    shutting out the external air, and then in the evening we have a
    delightful walk; the country is splendid, the Campagna one sheet of
    deep verdure and flowers of every kind in abundance. We generally
    have six or seven large nosegays in the room; we have only to go to
    some of the neighbouring villas and gather them. Most of the English
    are gone; people make a great mistake in not remaining during the
    hot weather, this is the time for enjoyment. We are busy all the
    morning, and in the afternoon we take our book or drawing materials
    and sit on the grass in some of the lovely villas for hours; then we
    come home to tea, and are glad to see anyone who will come in for an
    hour or two. We have had a son of Mr. Babbage here. He is employed
    in making the railway that is to go from Genoa to Milan, and he was
    travelling with eight other Englishmen who came to make
    arrangements for covering Italy with a network of these iron roads,
    connecting all the great cities and also the two seas from Venice to
    Milan and Genoa and from Ancona by Rome to Civita Vecchia. However
    the Pope is opposed to the latter part, but they say the cardinals
    and people wish it so much that he will at last consent.... Many
    thanks for the _Vestiges_, &c. I think it a powerful production, and
    was highly pleased with it, but I can easily see that it will offend
    in some quarters; however it should be remembered that there has
    been as much opposition to the true system of astronomy and to
    geological facts as there can be to this. At all events free and
    open discussion of all natural and moral phenomena must lead to
    truth at last. Is Babbage the author? I rather think he would not be
    so careful in concealing his name....

    [My mother made some curious experiments upon the effect of the
    solar spectrum on juices of plants and other substances, of which
    she sent an account to Sir John Herschel, who answered telling her
    that he had communicated her account of her experiments to the Royal

       *     *     *     *     *


    COLLINGWOOD, _November 21st, 1845_.


    I cannot express to you the pleasure I experienced from the receipt
    of your letter and the perusal of the elegant experiments it
    relates, which appear to me of the highest interest and show (what I
    always suspected), that there is a world of wonders awaiting
    disclosure in the solar spectrum, and that influences widely
    differing from either light, heat or colour are transmitted to us
    from our central luminary, which are mainly instrumental in evolving
    and maturing the splendid hues of the vegetable creation and
    elaborating the juices to which they owe their beauty and their
    vitality. I think it certain that heat goes for something in
    evaporating your liquids and thereby causing some of your phenomena;
    but there is a difference of _quality_ as well as of _quantity_ of
    heat brought into view which renders it susceptible of analysis by
    the coloured juices so that in certain parts of the spectrum it is
    retained and fixed, in others reflected according as the nature of
    the tint favours the one or the other. Pray go on with these
    delightful experiments. I wish you could save yourself the fatigue
    of watching and directing your sunbeam by a clock work. If I were at
    your elbow I could rig you out a heliotrope quite sufficient with
    the aid of any common wooden clock.... Now I am going to take a
    liberty (but not till after duly consulting Mr. Greig with whose
    approbation I act, and you are not to gainsay our proceedings) and
    that is to communicate your results in the form of "an extract of a
    letter" to myself--to the Royal Society. You may be very sure that I
    would not do this if I thought that the experiments were not
    intrinsically quite deserving to be recorded in the pages of the
    Phil. Trans. and if I were not sure that they will lead to a vast
    field of curious and beautiful research; and as you have already
    once contributed to the Society, (on a subject connected with the
    spectrum and the sunbeam) this will, I trust, not appear in your
    eyes in a formidable or a repulsive light, and it will be a great
    matter of congratulation to us all to know that these subjects
    continue to engage your attention, and that you can turn your
    residence in that sunny clime to such admirable account. So do not
    call upon me to retract (for before you get this the papers will be
    in the secretary's hands).

    I am here nearly as much out of the full stream of scientific
    matters as you at Rome. We had a full and very satisfactory meeting
    at Cambridge of the British Association, with a full attendance of
    continental magnetists and meteorologists, and within these few days
    I have learned that our Government meant to grant all our requests
    and continue the magnetic and meteorological observations. Humboldt
    has sent me his Cosmos (Vol. I.), which is good, all but the first
    60 pages, which are occupied in telling his readers what his book is
    _not_ to be. Dr. Whewell has just published _another_ book on the
    Principles of Morals, and also _another_ on education, in which he
    cries up the geometrical processes in preference to analysis....

                                        Yours very faithfully,
                                                  J. HERSCHEL.

       *     *     *     *     *

The Prince and Princesse de Broglie came to Rome in 1845, and Signore
Pellegrino Rossi, at this time French Minister at the Vatican, gave them
a supper party, to which we were invited. We had met with him long
before at Geneva, where he had taken refuge after the insurrection of
1821. He was greatly esteemed there and admired for his eloquence in the
lectures he gave in the University. It was a curious circumstance, that
he, who was a Roman subject, and was exiled, and, if I am not mistaken,
condemned to death, should return to Rome as French Minister. He had a
remarkably fine countenance, resembling some ancient Roman bust. M.
Thiers had brought in a law in the French Chambers to check the audacity
of the Jesuits, and Rossi was sent to negotiate with the Pope. We had
seen much of him at Rome, and were horrified, in 1848, to hear that he
had been assassinated on the steps of the Cancelleria, at Rome, where
the Legislative Assembly met, and whither he was proceeding to attend
its first meeting. No one offered to assist him, nor to arrest the
murderers except Dr. Pantaleone, a much esteemed Roman physician, and
member of the Chamber, who did what he could to save him, but in vain;
he was a great loss to the Liberal cause.

Towards the end of summer we spent a month most agreeably at Subiaco,
receiving much civility from the Benedictine monks of the Sacro Speco,
and visiting all the neighbouring towns, each one perched on some
hill-top, and one more romantically picturesque than the other. It was
in this part of the country that Claude Lorraine and Poussin studied and
painted. I never saw more beautiful country, or one which afforded so
many exquisite subjects for a landscape painter. We went all over the
country on mules--to some of the towns, such as Cervara, up steep
flights of steps cut in the rock. The people, too, were extremely
picturesque, and the women still wore their costumes, which probably now
they have laid aside for tweeds and Manchester cottons.

I often during my winters in Rome went to paint from nature in the
Campagna, either with Somerville or with Lady Susan Percy, who drew very
prettily. Once we set out a little later than usual, when, driving
through the Piazza of the Bocca della Verità, we both called out, "Did
you see that? How horrible! "It was the guillotine; an execution had
just taken place, and had we been a quarter of an hour earlier we should
have passed at the fatal moment. Under Gregory XVI. everything was
conducted in the most profound secrecy; arrests were made almost at our
very door, of which we knew nothing; Mazzini was busily at work on one
side, the Jesuitical party actively intriguing, according to their wont,
on the other; and in the mean time society went on gaily at the surface,
ignorant of and indifferent to the course of events. We were preparing
to leave Rome when Gregory died. We put off our journey to see his
funeral, and the Conclave, which terminated, in the course of scarcely
two days, in the election of Pius IX. We also saw the new Pope's
coronation, and witnessed the beginning of that popularity which lasted
so short a time. Much was expected from him, and in the beginning of his
reign the moderate liberals fondly hoped that Italy would unite in one
great federation, with Pius IX. at the head of it; entirely forgetting
how incompatible a theocracy or government by priests ever must be with
all progress and with liberal institutions. Their hopes were soon
blighted, and after all the well-known events of 1848 and 1849, a
reaction set in all over Italy, except in gallant little Piedmont, where
the constitution was maintained, thanks to Victor Emmanuel, and
especially to that great genius, Camillo Cavour, and in spite of the
disastrous reverses at Novara. Once more in 1859 Piedmont went to war
with Austria, this time with success, and with the not disinterested
help of France. One province after another joined her, and Italy, freed
from all the little petty princes, and last, not least, from the
Bourbons, has become that one great kingdom which was the dream of some
of her greatest men in times of old.

We went to Bologna for a short time, and there the enthusiasm for the
new Pope was absolutely intolerable. "Viva Pio Nono!" was shouted night
and day. There was no repose; bands of music went about the streets,
playing airs composed for the occasion, and in the theatres it was even
worse, for the acting was interrupted, and the orchestra called upon to
play the national tunes in vogue, and repeat them again and again, amid
the deafening shouts and applause of the excited audience. We found the
Bolognese very sociable, and it was by far the most musical society I
ever was in. Rossini was living in Bologna, and received in the evening,
and there was always music, amateur and professional, at his house.
Frequently there was part-singing or choruses, and after the music was
over the evening ended with a dance. We frequently saw Rossini some
years later, when we resided at Florence. He was clever and amusing in
conversation, but satirical. He was very bitter against the modern style
of opera-singing, and considered the singers of the present day, with
some exceptions, as wanting in study and finish. He objected to much of
the modern music, as dwelling too constantly on the highest notes of the
voice, whereby it is very soon deteriorated, and the singer forced to
scream; besides which, he considered the orchestral accompaniments too
loud. I, who recollected Pasta, Malibran, Grisi, Rubini, and others of
that epoch, could not help agreeing with him when I compared them to the
singers I heard at the Pergola and elsewhere. The theatre, too, was
good at Bologna, and we frequently went to it.

One evening we were sitting on the balcony of the hotel, when we saw a
man stab another in the back of the neck, and then run away. The victim
staggered along for a minute, and then fell down in a pool of blood. He
had been a spy of the police under Gregory XVI., and one of the
principal agents of his cruel government. He was so obnoxious to the
people that his assassin has never been discovered.

From Bologna we went for a few weeks to Recoaro, where I drank the
waters, after which we travelled to England by the St. Gothard pass.


[Footnote 13: The vessel on board which this bust was shipped for
England ran on a shoal and sank, but as the accident happened in shallow
water, the bust was recovered, none the worse for its immersion in salt



We spent the autumn in visiting my relations on the banks of the Tweed.
I was much out of health at the time. As winter came on I got better,
and was preparing to print my "Physical Geography" when "Cosmos"
appeared. I at once determined to put my manuscript in the fire when
Somerville said, "Do not be rash--consult some of our friends--Herschel
for instance." So I sent the MS. to Sir John Herschel, who advised me by
all means to publish it. It was very favourably reviewed by Sir Henry
Holland in the "Quarterly," which tended much to its success. I
afterwards sent a copy of a later edition to Baron Humboldt, who wrote
me a very kind letter in return.

       *     *     *     *     *


    A SANS SOUCI, _ce 12 Juillet, 1849_.


    C'est un devoir bien doux à remplir, Madame, que de vous offrir
    l'hommage renouvellé de mon dévouement et de ma respectueuse
    admiration. Ces sentimens datent de bien loin chez l'homme
    antidiluvien auquel vous avez daigné adresser des lignes si aimables
    et la nouvelle édition de ce bel ouvrage qui m'a charmé et
    _instruit_ dès qu'il avait paru pour la première fois. A cette
    grande supériorité que vous possedez et qui a si noblement illustré
    votre nom, dans les hautes régions de l'analyse mathématique, vous
    joignez, Madame, une variété de connaissances dans toutes les
    parties de la physique et de l'histoire naturelle descriptive. Après
    votre "Mechanism of the Heavens," le philosophique ouvrage
    "Connexion of the Physical Sciences" avait été l'objet de ma
    constante admiration. Je l'ai lu en entier et puis relu dans la
    septième édition qui a paru en 1846 dans les tems où nous étions
    plus calme, où l'orage politique ne grondait que de loin. L'auteur
    de l'imprudent "Cosmos" devoit saluer plus que tout autre la
    "Géographie Physique" de Mary Somerville. J'ai su me la procurer dès
    les premières semaines par les soins de notre ami commun le Chev.
    Bunsen. Je ne connais dans aucune langue un ouvrage de Géographie
    physique que l'on pourrait comparer au votre. Je l'ai de nouveau
    étudié dans la dernière édition que je dois à votre gracieuse
    bienveillance. Le sentiment de précision que vos habitudes de
    "Géomètre" vous ont si profondement imprimé, pénètre tous vos
    travaux, Madame. Aucun fait, aucune des grandes vues de la nature
    vous échappent. Vous avez profité et des livres et des conversations
    des voyageurs dans cette malheureuse Italie où passe la grande route
    de l'Orient et de l'Inde. J'ai été surpris de la justice de vos
    aperçus sur la Géographie des plantes et des animaux. Vous dominez
    dans ces régions comme en astronomie, en météorologie, en
    magnetisme. Que n'ajoutez-vous pas la sphère céleste, l'uranologie,
    votre patrimoine, à la sphère terrestre? C'est vous seule qui
    pourriez donner à votre belle litérature un ouvrage cosmologique
    original, un ouvrage écrit avec cette lucidité et ce goût que
    distingue tout ce qui est émané de votre plume. On a, je le sais,
    beaucoup de bienveillance pour mon Cosmos dans votre patrie; mais il
    en est des _formes_ de composition littéraires, comme de la variété
    des races et de la différence primitive des langues. Un ouvrage
    traduit manque de vie; ce que plait sur les bords du Rhin doit
    paraître bizarre sur les bords de la Tamise et de la Seine. Mon
    ouvrage est une production essentiellement allemande, et ce
    caractère même, j'en suis sûr, loin de m'en plaindre lui donne le
    goût du terroir. Je jouis d'une bonne fortune à laquelle (à cause de
    mon long séjour en France, de mes prédilections personnelles, de mes
    hérésies politiques) le _Léopard_ ne m'avait pas trop accoutumé. Je
    demande à l'illustre auteur du volume sur la Mécanique Céleste
    d'avoir le courage d'agrandir sa Géographie Physique. Je suis sûr
    que le grand homme que nous aimons le plus, vous et moi, Sir John
    Herschel, serait de mon opinion. Le MONDE, je me sers du titre que
    Descartes voulait donner à un livre dont nous n'avons que de pauvres
    fragmens; le _Monde_ doit être écrit pour les Anglais par un auteur
    de race pure. Il n'y a pas de sève, pas de vitalité dans les
    traductions les mieux faites. Ma santé s'est conservé
    miraculeusement à l'âge de quatre-vingts ans, de mon ardeur pour le
    travail nocturne au milieu des agitations d'une position que je n'ai
    pas besoin de vous depeindre puisque l'excellente Mademoiselle
    de ---- vous l'a fait connaître. J'ai bouleversé, changé mes deux
    volumes des "Ansichten." Il n'en est resté que 1/4. C'est comme un
    nouvel ouvrage que j'aurai bientôt le bonheur de vous adresser si M.
    Cotta pense pouvoir hasarder une publication dans ces tems où la
    force physique croit guérir un mal moral et _vacciner_ le
    contentement à l'Allemagne unitaire!! Le troisième volume de mon
    Cosmos avance, mais la sérénité manque aux âmes moins crédules.

    Agréez, je vous supplie, l'hommage de mon affectueuse et
    respectueuse reconnaissance,

                                             ALEXANDRE DE HUMBOLDT.

       *     *     *     *     *

Somerville and I spent the Christmas at Collingwood with our friends the
Herschels. The party consisted of Mr. Airy, Astronomer-Royal, and Mr.
Adams, who had taken high honours at Cambridge. This young man and M.
Leverrier, the celebrated French astronomer, had separately calculated
the orbit of Neptune and announced it so nearly at the same time, that
each country claims the honour of the discovery. Mr. Adams told
Somerville that the following sentence in the sixth edition of the
"Connexion of the Physical Sciences," published in the year 1842, put it
into his head to calculate the orbit of Neptune. "If after the lapse of
years the tables formed from a combination of numerous observations
should be still inadequate to represent the motions of Uranus, the
discrepancies may reveal the existence, nay, even the mass and orbit of
a body placed for ever beyond the sphere of vision." That prediction was
fulfilled in 1846, by the discovery of Neptune revolving at the distance
of 3,000,000,000 of miles from the sun. The mass of Neptune, the size
and position of his orbit in space, and his periodic time, were
determined from his disturbing action on Uranus before the planet itself
had been seen.

We left Collingwood as ever with regret.

    [The following is an extract from a letter written by my mother
    during this visit:--]


    COLLINGWOOD, _1st January, 1848_.

    ... You can more easily conceive than I can describe the great
    kindness and affection which we have received from both Sir John and
    Lady Herschel; I feel a pride and pleasure beyond what I can
    express in having such friends. Collingwood is a house by itself in
    the world, there certainly is nothing like it for all that is great
    and good. The charm of the conversation is only equalled by its
    variety--every subject Sir John touches turns to doubly refined
    gold; profound, brilliant, amiable, and highly poetical, I could
    never end admiring and praising him. Then the children are so nice
    and he so kind and amusing to them, making them quite his friends
    and companions.

                              Yours, my dearest Woronzow,
                                        Most affectionately,
                                                  M. SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *

We had formed such a friendship with Mr. Faraday that while we lived
abroad he sent me a copy of everything he published, and on returning to
England we renewed our friendship with that illustrious philosopher, and
attended his lectures at the Royal Institution. He had already
magnetized a ray of polarised light, but was still lecturing on the
magnetic and diamagnetic properties of matter. At the last lecture we
attended he showed the diamagnetism of flame, which had been proved by a
foreign philosopher. Mr. Faraday never would accept of any honour; he
lived in a circle of friends to whom he was deeply attached. A touching
and beautiful memoir was published of him by his friend and successor,
Professor Tyndall, an experimental philosopher of the very highest

    [The following letter was the last my mother received from Faraday:--]


    ROYAL INSTITUTION, _17th January, 1859_.


    So you have remembered me again, and I have the delight of receiving
    from you a new copy of that work which has so often instructed me;
    and I may well say, cheered me in my simple homely course through
    life in this house. It was most kind to think of me; but ah! how
    sweet it is to believe that I have your _approval_ in matters where
    kindness would be nothing, where judgment alone must rule. I almost
    doubt myself when I think I have your approbation, to some degree at
    least, in what I may have thought or said about gravitation, the
    forces of nature, their conservation, &c. As it is, I _cannot_ go
    back from these thoughts; on the contrary, I feel encouraged to go
    on by way of experiment, but am not so able as I was formerly; for
    when I try to hold the necessary group of thoughts in mind at one
    time, with the judgment suspended on almost all of them, then my
    head becomes giddy, and I am obliged to lay all aside for a while. I
    am trying for _time_ in magnetic action, and do not despair of
    reaching it, even though it may be only that of light. _Nous

    I have been putting into one volume various papers of mine on
    experimental branches in chemistry and physics. The index and
    title-page has gone to the printer, and I expect soon to receive
    copies from him. I shall ask Mr. Murray to help me in sending one to
    you which I hope you will honour by acceptance. There is nothing new
    in it, except a few additional pages about "_regelation_," and also
    "gravity." It is useful to get one's scattered papers together with
    an index, and society seems to like the collection sufficiently to
    pay the expenses.... Pray remember me most kindly to all with whom I
    may take that privilege, and believe me to be most truly,

                                   Your admirer and
                                         faithful servant,
                                             M. FARADAY.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [My mother wrote of this letter:--]

    FLORENCE, _8th February, 1859_.

... I have had the most charming and gratifying letter from Faraday; I
cannot tell you how I value such a mark of approbation and friendship
from the greatest experimental philosopher and discoverer next to

       *     *     *     *     *

We returned to the continent in autumn, so I could not superintend the
publication of my "Physical Geography," but Mr. Pentland kindly
undertook to carry it through the press. Though I never was personally
acquainted with Mr. Keith Johnston, of Edinburgh, that eminent
geographer gave me copies of both the first and second editions of his
splendid "Atlas of Physical Geography," which were of the greatest use
to me. Besides, he published some time afterwards a small "School Atlas
of Ancient, Modern, and Physical Geography," intended to accompany my
work; obligations which I gratefully acknowledge. No one has attempted
to copy my "Connexion of the Physical Sciences," the subjects are too
difficult; but soon after the publication of the "Physical Geography" a
number of cheap books appeared, just keeping within the letter of the
law, on which account it has only gone through five editions. However a
sixth is now required.

       *     *     *     *     *

The moment was unfavourable for going into Italy, as war was raging
between Charles Albert and the Austrians, so we resolved to remain at
Munich, and wait the course of events. We got a very pretty little
apartment, well furnished with stoves, and opposite the house of the
Marchese Fabio Pallavicini, formerly Sardinian minister at Munich. We
spent most of our evenings very pleasantly at their house. We attended
the concerts at the Odeon of classical music: the execution was perfect,
but the music was so refined and profound that it passed my
comprehension, and I thought it tedious. The hours at Munich were so
early that the opera ended almost at the time it began in London.

In the spring we went to Salzburg, where we remained all summer. We had
an apartment in a dilapidated old château, about an hour's walk from the
town, called Leopold's Krone. The picturesque situation of the town
reminded me of the Castle and Old Town of Edinburgh. The view from our
windows was alpine, and the trees bordering the roads were such as I
have rarely seen out of England. We made many excursions to
Berchtesgaden, where King Louis and his court were then living, and went
to the upper end of the Königsee. I have repeatedly been at sea in very
stormy weather without the smallest idea of fear; but the black, deep
water of this lake, under the shadow of the precipitous mountains, made
a disagreeable impression on me. I thought if I were to be drowned I
should prefer the blue sea to that cold, black pool. The flora was
lovely, and on returning from our expeditions in the evening, the damp,
mossy banks were luminous with glowworms: I never saw so many, either
before or since. We never fail to make acquaintances wherever we go, and
our friends at Munich had given us letters to various people who were
passing the summer there, many of whom had evening receptions once a
week. At the Countess Irene Arco's beautiful Gothic château of Anif,
which rises out of a small pellucid lake, and is reached by a bridge, we
spent many pleasant evenings, as well as at Countess Bellegarde's, and
at Aigen, which belonged to the Cardinal Schwartzenberg. We never saw
him, but went to visit his niece, with whom we were intimate.

The war being over, we went by Innsbruck and the Brenner to Colà, on the
Lago di Garda, within five miles of Peschiera, where we spent a month
with Count and Countess Erizzo Miniscalchi, who had been our intimate
friends for many years. The devastation of the country was frightful.
Peschiera and its fortifications were in ruins; the villages around had
been burnt down, and the wretched inhabitants were beginning to repair
their roofless houses. Our friends themselves had but recently returned
to Colà, which, from its commanding situation, was always the
headquarters of whatever army was in possession of the country around.
On this account, the family had to fly more than once at the approach of
the enemy. In 1848 the Countess had fled to Milan, and was confined at
the very time the Austrians under Radetsky were besieging the town,
which was defended by Charles Albert. Fearing what might occur when the
city was surrendered, the lady, together with her new-born infant and
the rest of her family, escaped the next day with considerable
difficulty, and travelled to Genoa.

Although not acquainted with quite so many languages as Mezzofanti,
Count Miniscalchi is a remarkable linguist, especially with regard to
Arabic and other oriental tongues. He has availed himself of his talent,
and published several works, the most interesting of which is a
translation of the Gospel of St. John from Syro-Chaldaic (the language
probably spoken by our Saviour) into Latin. The manuscript, from which
this translation is made, is preserved in the Vatican.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [While we were at Colà my mother received a visit from a very
    distinguished and gifted lady, the Countess Bon-Brenzoni. As an
    instance of the feelings entertained by an Italian woman towards my
    mother, I insert a letter written by the Countess some time
    afterwards, and also an extract from her poems:--]


    VERONA, _28 Maggio, 1853_.


    Fui molto contenta udendo che finalmente le sia giunto l'involto
    contenente le copie stampate del Carme, ch' ebbi l'onore di poterle
    offerire, mentre io era in gran pensiero non forse fossero insorte
    difficoltà, o ritardi, in causa della posta. Ma, ben più che per
    questo la sua graziosissima lettera mi fù di vera consolazione, per
    l'accoglienza tutta benevola e generosa ch' Ella fece a' miei versi.
    La ringrazio delle parole piene di bontà ch' Ella mi scrive, e di
    aversi preso la gentil cura di farlo in italiano; così potess' io
    ricambiarla scrivendo a Lei in inglese! Pur mi conforta la certezza
    che il linguaggio delle anime sia uno solo; mentre io non so s' io
    debba chiamar presunzione, o ispirazione questa, che mi fa credere,
    che esista fra la sua e la mia una qualche intelligenza, e
    quantunque i suoi meriti e la sua bontà me ne spieghino in gran
    parte il mistero, pure trovo essere cosa non comune questo pensiero,
    che al mio cuore parla di Lei incessantemente, da quel giorno ch' io
    l'ho veduta per la prima e l'unica volta!

    Ah se è vero che fra i sentimenti di compiacenza ch' Ella provò per
    gli elogi ottenuti de' suoi lavori, abbia saputo trovar luogo fra i
    più cari quello che le destò nell' animo l'espressione viva e
    sincera della mia ammirazione e del mio umile affetto, io raggiunsi
    un punto a cui certo non avea osato aspirare!

    Il trovarmi con Lei a Colà, od altrove che fosse, è uno de' miei più
    cari desideri, e son lieta delle sue parole che me ne danno qualche

     Voglia presentare i miei distinti doveri all' eccelente suo Sig^re
    marito ed alle amabili figlie; e mentre io le prego da Dio le più
    desiderabili benedizioni, Ella si ricordi di me siccome di una
    persona, che sebbene lontana fisicamente, le è sempre vicina coll'
    animo, nei sentimenti della più affetuosa venerazione.

           Incoraggiata dalla sua bontà, mi onoro segnarmi
                                         amica affezionatissima
                                             CATERINA BON-BRENZONI.

The "Carme" spoken of in the above letter form a long poem on modern
astronomy, entitled "I Cieli," (published by Vallardi. Milan: 1853).
The opening lines contain the following address to Mrs.
Somerville,--doubtless a genuine description of the author's feelings on
first meeting the simple-mannered lady whose intellectual greatness she
had long learned to appreciate:--

    Donna, quel giorno ch' io ti vidi in prima,
    Dimmi, hai Tu scôrto sul mio volto i segni
    Dell' anima commossa?--Hai Tu veduto
    Come trepida innanzi io ti venia,
    E come reverenza e maraviglia
    Tenean sospesa sull' indocil labbro
    La parola mal certa?--Ah! dimmi, hai scôrto
    Come fur vinte dall' affetto allora
    Che t'udii favellar soave e piana,
    Coll' angelica voce e l'umiltade,
    Che a' suoi più cari sapïenza insegna?--
    Questa, io dicea tra me, questa è Colei,
    Di che le mille volte udito ho il nome
    Venerato suonar tra i più famosi?
    Questa è Colei che negli eterei spazj
    Segue il cammin degli astri, e ne misura
    Peso, moto, distanza, orbita e luce?

       *     *     *     *     *

Another record of our visit to Colà is in a letter of my mother to my


    TURIN, _4th Dec., 1849_.


    We arrived here all well the day before yesterday, after a fair but
    bitterly cold journey, bright sunshine and keen frost, and to-day we
    have a fall of snow.... It was a great disappointment not finding
    letters here, and I fear many have been lost on both sides, though
    we took care not to touch on political events, as all letters are
    opened by the Austrian police in Lombardy. We spent five weeks with
    our friends the Miniscalchis very agreeably, and received every mark
    of kindness and hospitality. They only live at Verona during the
    winter, and we found them in their country house at Colà situated on
    a height overlooking the Lago di Garda, with the snowy Alps on the
    opposite side of the lake. The view from their grounds is so fine
    that I was tempted to paint once more. They took us to see all the
    places in the neighbourhood; often a sad sight, from having been the
    seat of war and siege. The villages are burnt and the churches in
    ruin. But the people are repairing the mischief as fast as possible,
    and the fields are already well cultivated. The Count is a man of
    great learning and is occupied in the comparison of languages,
    especially the Eastern; he knows twenty-four and speaks Arabic as
    fluently as Italian. He is in the habit of speaking both Arabic and
    Chaldee every day, as there is a most learned Chaldean priest living
    with them, whose conversation gave me great pleasure and much
    information. The Count has moreover a black servant who speaks these
    languages, having been bought by the Count during his long
    residence in the East, and is now treated like one of the family. I
    obtained much information which will be useful in my next edition of
    the Physical Geography....

                                        Your affectionate mother,
                                                   MARY SOMERVILLE.

    [After my mother's death, our old friend Count Miniscalchi made a
    beautiful and touching "éloge" on her at a meeting of the Royal
    Italian Geographical Society, to a numerous audience assembled in
    the great hall of the Collegio Romano at Rome.

    My mother was an honorary member of this Society, besides which the
    first gold medal granted by them was voted by acclamation to her.
    Her Recollections continue as follows:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

From Colà we went to Turin, where I became personally acquainted with
Baron Plana, Director of the Observatory. He had married a niece of the
illustrious mathematician La Grange, who proved the stability of the
solar system. Plana, himself, was a very great analyst; his volume on
the Lunar Perturbations is a work of enormous labour. He gave me a copy
of it and of all his works; for I continued to have friendly intercourse
with him as long as he lived. As soon as he heard of our arrival, he
came to take us out to drive. I never shall forget the beauty of the
Alps, and the broad valley of the Po and Dora, deeply covered with
snow, and sparkling in bright sunshine. Another day the Baron took us to
a church, from the cupola of which a very long pendulum was swinging,
that we might see the rotation of the earth visibly proved by its action
on the pendulum, according to M. Foucault's experiment. He devoted his
time to get us established, and we found a handsome apartment in Casa
Cavour, and became acquainted with both the brothers to whom it
belonged. Count Camillo Cavour, then Minister of the Interior, was the
only great statesman Italy ever produced in modern times. His premature
death is deplorably felt at the present day. He was a real genius, and
the most masterly act of his administration was that of sending an army
to act in concert with the French and English in the Crimean war. By it
he at once gave Italy the rank of an independent European power, which
was the first step towards Italian unity. He was delightful and cheerful
in society, and extremely beloved by his family and friends.

       *     *     *     *     *

In spring we hired a villa on the Colline above Turin. The house was in
a garden, with a terrace, whence the ground sank rapidly to the plain;
low hills, clothed with chestnut forests, abounding in lilies of the
valley, surrounded us behind. The summer had been stormy, and one
evening we walked on the terrace to look at the lightning, which was
very fine, illuminating the chain of Alps. By-and-by it ceased, and the
darkness was intense; but we continued to walk, when, to our surprise, a
pale bluish light rose in the Val di Susa, which gradually spread along
the summit of the Alps, and the tops of the hills behind our house; then
a column of the same pale blue light, actually within our reach, came
curling up from the slope close to the terrace, exactly as if wet weeds
had been burning. In about ten minutes the whole vanished; but in less
than a quarter of an hour the phenomena were repeated exactly as
described, and were followed by a dark night and torrents of rain. It
was a very unusual instance of what is known as electric glow; that is,
electricity without tension.

On our road to Genoa, we went to see some kind Piedmontese friends, who
have a château in the Monferrat, not many miles from Asti, where we left
the railroad. We had not gone many miles when the carriage we had hired
was upset, and, although nobody had broken bones, I got so severe a blow
on my forehead that I was confined to bed for nearly a month, and my
face was black and blue for a much longer time. Nothing could equal the
unwearied kindness of our friends during my illness.

When I was able to travel, we went to Genoa for the winter, and lived on
the second floor of a large house on the Acqua Sola, and overlooking the
sea. Here first began our friendship with the Marchesa Teresa Doria,
whose maiden name was Durazzo; in her youth one of the handsomest women
in Genoa, a lady distinguished for her generous character and cultivated
mind, and who fearlessly avowed her opinions at a time when it was a
kind of disgrace to be called a Liberal. Her youngest son, Giacomo, has
devoted his life to the study of natural history, and his mother used
all her influence to encourage and help him in a pursuit so unusual
amongst people of rank in this country. Later, he travelled in Persia
for two years, to make collections, and since then resided for a long
time in Borneo, and is now arranging a museum in his native city. The
Marchesa has always been a warm and devoted friend to me and mine.

It was here that we got our dear old parrot Lory, who is still alive and

       *     *     *     *     *

Our next move was to Florence, where we already knew many people. We had
a lease of a house in Via del Mandorlo, which had a small garden and a
balcony, where we often sat and received in the warm summer evenings. My
daughters had adorned it and the garden with rare creepers, shrubs, and

We had a visit from our friend Gibson, as he passed through Florence on
his way to Switzerland. He told us the history of his early life, as
given in his biography, and much that is not mentioned there. He was
devotedly attached to the Queen, and spoke of her in his simple manner
as a charming lady.

Miss Hosmer was travelling with Gibson, an American young lady, who was
his pupil, and of whose works he was very proud. He looked upon her as
if she had been his daughter, and she took care of him; for he was
careless and forgetful when travelling. I have the sincerest pleasure in
expressing my admiration for Miss Hosmer, who has proved by her works
that our sex possesses both genius and originality in the highest
branches of art.

It was at Florence that I first met my dear friend and constant
correspondent, Frances Power Cobbe. She is the cleverest and most
agreeable woman I ever met with, and one of the best. There is a distant
connection between us, as one of her ancestors married a niece of Lord
Fairfax, the Parliamentary general, many of whose letters are in the
possession of her family. A German professor of physiology at Florence
roused public indignation by his barbarous vivisections, and there was a
canvass for a Memorial against this cruel practice. Miss Cobbe took a
leading part in this movement, and I heartily joined, and wrote to all
my acquaintances, requesting their votes; among others, to a certain
Marchese, who had published something on agriculture. He refused his
vote, saying, "Perhaps I was not aware that the present state of science
was one of induction." Then he went on explaining to me what "induction"
meant, &c., &c., which amused me not a little. It made my family very
indignant, as they thought it eminently presumptuous, addressed to me by
a man who, though a good patriot and agriculturist, knew nothing
whatever about science, past or present. A good deal of political party
spirit was brought into play in this instance, as is too often the case
here. It is not complimentary to the state of civilisation in Italy,
that in Russia and Poland, both of them very far behind her in many
respects, there should exist societies for the prevention of cruelty to
animals, to which all the most distinguished people have given their

    [I rejoice to say that this stain on Italian civilisation is now
    wiped away. My mother just lived to hail the formation of the
    Società Protettrice degli Animali.--ED.]

In summer we sometimes made excursions to avoid the heat of Florence.
One year we went to Valombrosa and the convents of La Vernia, and
Camaldoli, which are now suppressed. We travelled on mules or ponies, as
the mountain paths are impracticable to carriages. I was disappointed in
Valombrosa itself, but the road to it is beautiful. La Vernia is highly
picturesque, there we remained two days, which I spent in drawing. The
trees round the convent formed a striking contrast to the arid cliffs we
had passed on the road. The monks were naturally delighted to see
strangers. They belonged to the order of St. Francis, and each in his
turn wandered over the country begging and living on the industry of
others. We did not pay for our food and lodging, but left much more than
an equivalent in the poor-box. Somerville slept in the convent, and we
ladies were lodged in the so-called _Foresteria_ outside; but even
Somerville was not admitted into the _clausura_ at Camaldoli, for the
monks make a vow of perpetual silence and solitude. Each had his little
separate hut and garden, and some distance above the convent, on the
slopes of the Apennines, they had an establishment called the _Eremo_,
for those who sought for even greater solitude. The people told us that
in winter, when deep snow covers the whole place, wolves are often seen
prowling about. Not far from the Eremo there is a place from whence
both the Mediterranean and the Adriatic can be seen.

We occasionally went for sea-bathing to Viareggio, which is built on a
flat sandy beach. The loose sand is drifted by the wind into low
hillocks, and bound together by coarse grass thickly coated with silex.
Among this and other plants a lovely white amaryllis, the _Pancratium
Maritimum_, with a sweet and powerful perfume, springs up. We often
tried to get the bulb, but it lay too deep under the sand. One evening
we had gone a long way in search of these flowers, and sat down to rest,
though it was beginning to be dark. We had not sat many minutes when we
were surrounded by a number of what we supposed to be bats trying to get
at the flowers we had gathered, but at length we discovered that they
were enormous moths, which followed us home, and actually flew into the
room to soar over the flowers and suck the honey with their long
probosces. They were beautiful creatures with large red eyes on their

       *     *     *     *     *

Our life at Florence went on pretty much as usual when all at once
cholera broke out of the most virulent kind. Multitudes fled from
Florence; often in vain, for it prevailed all through Tuscany to a great
extent. The terrified people were kneeling to the Madonna and making
processions, after which it was remarked that the number of cases was
invariably increased. The Misericordia went about in their fearful
costume, indefatigable in carrying the sick to the hospitals. The
devotion of that society was beyond all praise; the young and the old,
the artisan and the nobleman, went night and day in detachments carrying
aid to the sufferers, not in Florence only, but to Fiesole and the
villages round. We never were afraid, but we consulted Professor
Zanetti, our medical adviser, whether we should leave the town, which we
were unwilling to do, as we thought we should be far from medical
assistance, and he said, "By no means; live as usual, drive out as you
have always done, and make not the smallest change." We followed his
advice, and drove out every afternoon till near dark, and then passed
the rest of the evening with those friends who, like ourselves, had
remained in town. None of us took the disease except one of our
servants, who recovered from instant help being given.

The Marquis of Normanby was British minister at that time, and Lady
Normanby and he were always kind and hospitable to us. At her house we
became acquainted with Signora Barbieri-Nini, the celebrated
opera-singer, who had retired from the stage, and lived with her
husband, a Sienese gentleman, in a villa not far from Villa Normanby.
She gave a musical party, to which she invited us. The music, which was
entirely artistic, was excellent, the entertainment very handsome, and
it was altogether very enjoyable. As we were driving home afterwards,
late at night, going down the hill, our carriage ran against one of the
dead carts which was carrying those who had died that day to the
burying-ground at Trespiano. It was horribly ghastly--one could
distinguish the forms of the limbs under the canvas thrown over the heap
of dead. The burial of the poor and rich in Italy is in singular
contrast; the poor are thrown into the grave without a coffin, the rich
are placed in coffins, and in full dress, which, especially in the case
of youth and infancy, leaves a pleasant impression. An intimate friend
of ours lost an infant, and asked me to go and see it laid out. The
coffin, lined with white silk, was on a table, covered with a white
cloth, strewed with flowers, and with a row of wax lights on either
side. The baby was clothed in a white satin frock, leaving the neck and
arms bare; a rose-bud was in each hand, and a wreath of rose-buds
surrounded the head, which rested on a pillow. Nothing could be
prettier; it was like a sleeping angel.

       *     *     *     *     *

Pio Nono had lost his popularity before he came to visit the Grand Duke
of Tuscany. The people received him respectfully, but without
enthusiasm; nevertheless, Florence was illuminated in his honour. The
Duomo, Campanile, and the old tower in the Piazza dei Signori were very
fine, but the Lung' Arno was beautiful beyond description; the river was
full, and reflected the whole with dazzling splendour.

I made the acquaintance of Signore Donati, afterwards celebrated for the
discovery of one of the most brilliant comets of this century, whose
course and changes I watched with the greatest interest. On one occasion
I was accompanied by my valued friend Sir Henry Holland, who had come to
Florence during one of his annual journeys. I had much pleasure in
seeing him again.

Political parties ran very high in Florence; we sympathised with the
Liberals, living on intimate terms with the chief of them. As soon as
the probability of war between Piedmont and Austria became known, many
young men of every rank, some even of the highest families, hastened to
join as volunteers. The most sanguine long hoped that the Grand Duke
might remember that he was an Italian prince rather than an Austrian
archduke, and would send his troops to join the Italian cause; but his
dynasty was doomed, and he blindly chose the losing side. At last the
Austrians crossed the Mincio, and the war fairly broke out, France
coming to the assistance of Piedmont. The enthusiasm of the Tuscans
could then no longer be restrained, and on the 27th April 1859, crowds
of people assembled on the Piazza dell' Indipendenza, and raised the
tri-coloured flag. The government, who, the day before, had warning of
what was impending, had sent sealed orders to the forts of Belvedere and
del Basso, which, when opened on the eventful morning, were found to
contain orders for the bombardment of the town. This the officers
refused to do, after which the troops joined the popular cause. When
this order became generally known, as it soon did, it proved the last
blow to the dynasty, although the most eminent and respected Liberals
used their best efforts during the whole of the 27th to restore harmony
between the Grand Duke and the people. They advised his immediate
abdication in favour of his son, the Archduke Ferdinand, the
proclamation of the Constitution, and of course insisted on the
immediate alliance with Piedmont as their principal condition. It was
already too late! All was of no avail, and in the evening, whilst we
were as usual at the Cascine, the whole Imperial family, accompanied by
the Austrian minister, and escorted by several of the Corps
Diplomatique, drove round the walls from Palazzo Pitti to Porta San
Gallo unmolested amid a silent crowd, and crossing the frontier on the
Bologna road, bade farewell for ever to Tuscany. The obnoxious ministers
were also permitted to retire unnoticed to their country houses.

Thus ended this bloodless revolution; there was no disorder of any kind,
which was due to the young men belonging to the principal families of
Florence, such as Corsini, Incontri, Farinola, and others, using their
influence with the people to calm and direct them. Indeed, so quiet was
everything that my daughters walked about the streets, as did most
ladies, to see what was going on; the only visible signs of the
revolution throughout the whole day were bands of young men with
tri-coloured flags and cockades shouting national songs at the top of
their voices. As I have said already, we took our usual drive to the
Cascine after dinner, and went to the theatre in the evening; the
streets were perfectly quiet, and next morning the people were at work
as usual. Sir James Scarlett was our minister, and had a reception the
evening after these events, where we heard many predictions of evil
which never were fulfilled. The least of these was the occupation of
Florence by a victorious Austrian army. The Tuscan archdukes precluded
all chance of a restoration by joining the Austrian army, and being
present at the battle of Solferino. At Florence a provisional
government was formed with Bettino Ricasoli at its head; a parliament
assembled three times in the Sala dei Cinquecento, in the Palazzo
Vecchio, and voted with unanimity the expulsion of the House of
Lorraine, and the annexation of Tuscany to the kingdom of Italy. In the
meantime the French and Italian arms were victorious in Lombardy. As,
however, it is not my intention to give an historical account of the
revolution of 1859, but merely to jot down such circumstances as came
under my own immediate notice, I shall not enter into any particulars
regarding the well-known campaign which ended in the cession of Milan
and Lombardy to Italy.

We were keenly interested in the alliance between the Emperor Napoleon
and the King of Italy, in hopes the Quadrilateral would be taken, and
Venice added to the Italian States. We had a map of Northern Italy
spread on a table, and from day to day we marked the positions of the
different headquarters with coloured-headed pins. I can hardly describe
our indignation when all at once peace was signed at Villafranca, and
Napoleon received Nice and Savoy in recompense for his aid, which were
given up to him without regard to the will of the people. When the peace
was announced in Tuscany it caused great consternation and disgust; the
people were in the greatest excitement, fearing that those rulers so
obnoxious to them might by this treaty be again forced upon them; and it
required the firm hand of Ricasoli to calm the people, and induce the
King to accept the annexation which had been voted without one
dissentient voice.

Baron Ricasoli had naturally many enemies amongst the Codini, or
retrograde party. Hand-grenades were thrown against the door of his
house, as also at those of other ministers, but without doing harm. One
evening my daughters were dressing to go to a ball that was to take
place at the Palazzo delle Crocelle, close to us, in a street parallel
to ours, when we were startled by a loud explosion. An attempt had been
made to throw a shell into the ball-room, which had happily failed. The
streets were immediately lined with soldiers, and the ball, which was
given by the Ministers, as far as I recollect, took place.

When the war broke out, a large body of French troops, commanded by
Prince Jerôme Napoleon, came to Florence, and were bivouacked in the
Cascine. The people in the streets welcomed them as deliverers from the
Austrians, whose occupation of Tuscany, when first we came to reside in
Florence, was such a bitter mortification to them, and one of the causes
of the unpopularity of the Grand Duke, whom they never forgave for
calling in the Austrian troops after 1848. The French camp was a very
pretty sight; some of the soldiers playing at games, some mending their
clothes, or else cooking. They were not very particular as to what they
ate, for one of my daughters saw a soldier skin a rat and put it into
his soup-kettle.

We were invited by the Marchesa Lajatico, with whom we were very
intimate, to go and see the entry of Victor Emmanuel into Florence from
the balcony of the Casa Corsini in the Piazza del Prato, where she
resides. The King was received with acclamation: never was anything like
the enthusiasm. Flowers were showered down from every window, and the
streets were decorated with a taste peculiar to the Italians.

    [I think the following extracts from letters written by my mother
    during the year 1859 and the following, ever memorable in Italian
    history, may not be unwelcome to the reader. My mother took the
    keenest interest in all that occurred. Owing to the liberal opinions
    she had held from her youth, and to which she was ever constant, all
    her sympathies were with the Italian cause, and she rejoiced at
    every step which tended to unite all Italy in one kingdom. She lived
    to see this great revolution accomplished by the entry of Victor
    Emmanuel into Rome as King of Italy; a consummation believed by most
    politicians to be a wild dream of poets and hot-headed patriots, but
    now realised and accepted as a matter of course. My mother had
    always firm faith in this result, and it was with inexpressible
    pleasure she watched its completion. Our intimacy with the leading
    politicians both in Tuscany and Piedmont naturally added to our
    interest. Ricasoli, Menabrea, Peruzzi, Minghetti, &c., we knew
    intimately, as well as Camillo Cavour, the greatest statesman Italy
    ever produced. No one who did not witness it can imagine the grief
    and consternation his death occasioned, and of which my mother
    writes in a letter dated June 19th, 1861.]


    FLORENCE, _May 5th, 1859_.


    Your letter of the 28th would have made me laugh heartily were we
    not annoyed that you should have suffered such uneasiness on our
    account; the panic in England is ridiculous and most unfounded. The
    whole affair has been conducted with perfect unanimity and
    tranquillity, so that there has been no one to fight with. The
    Austrians are concentrated in Lombardy, and not in Tuscany, nor is
    there any one thing to disturb the perfect peace and quietness which
    prevail over the whole country; not a soul thinks of leaving
    Florence. You do the greatest injustice to the Tuscans. From first
    to last not a person has been insulted, not a cry raised against
    anyone; even the obnoxious ministers were allowed to go to their
    country houses without a word of insult, and troops were sent with
    the Grand Duke to escort him and his family to the frontier. Martha
    and Mary went all through the town the morning of the revolution,
    which was exactly like a common festa, and we found the
    tranquillity as great when we drove through the streets in the
    afternoon. The same quiet still prevails, the people are at their
    usual employments, the theatres and private receptions go on as
    usual, and the provisional government is excellent. Everyone knew of
    the revolution long before it took place and the quietness with
    which it was to be conducted. I am grieved at the tone of English
    politics; and trust, for the honour of the country and humanity,
    that we do not intend to make war upon France and Sardinia. It would
    be a disgrace and everlasting stigma to make a crusade against the
    oppressed, being ourselves free. The people here have behaved
    splendidly, and we rejoice that we have been here to witness such
    noble conduct. No nation ever made such progress as the Tuscans have
    done since the year '48. Not a word of republicanism, it has never
    been named. All they want is a constitutional government, and this
    they are quietly settling....

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _29th May, 1859_.

    ... Everything is perfectly quiet here; the Tuscans are giving money
    liberally for carrying on the war. We have bought quantities of old
    linen, and your sisters and I spend the day in making lint and
    bandages for the wounded soldiers; great quantities have already
    been sent to Piedmont. Hitherto the war has been favourable to the
    allied army. God grant that England may not enter into the contest
    till the Austrians are driven out of Italy! After that point has
    been gained, our honour would be safe. To take part with the
    oppressors and maintain despotism in Italy would be infamous.
    Tuscany is to be occupied by a large body of troops under the
    command of Prince Napoleon. A great many are already encamped on the
    meadows at the Cascine--fine, spirited, merry young men; many of
    them have the Victoria medal. They are a thorough protection against
    any attack by the Austrians, of which, however, there is little
    chance, as they have enough to do in Lombardy. There is to be a
    great affair this morning at nine o'clock; an altar is raised in the
    middle of the camp, and the tricolour (Italian) flag is to be
    blessed amidst salvoes of cannon. Your friend, Bettino Ricasoli, is
    thought by far the most able and statesmanlike person in Tuscany; he
    is highly respected. Martha and I dined with Mr. Scarlett, and met
    ... who said if the Grand Duke had not been the most foolish and
    obstinately weak man in the world, he might still have been on the
    throne of Tuscany; but that now he has made that impossible by going
    to Vienna and allowing his two sons to enter the Austrian army....
    We have had a visit from Dr. Falconer, his two nieces and brother.
    They had been spending the winter in Sicily, where he discovered
    rude implements formed by man mixed with the bones of prehistoric
    animals in a cave, so hermetically shut up that not a doubt is left
    of a race of men having lived at a period far anterior to that
    assigned as the origin of mankind. Similar discoveries have recently
    been made elsewhere. Dr. Falkner had travelled much in the
    Himalayas, and lived two years on the great plain of Tibet; the
    account he gave me of it was most interesting. His brother had spent
    fifteen years in Australia, so the conversation delighted me; I
    learnt so much that was new. I am glad to hear that the Queen has
    been so kind to my friend Faraday; it seems she has given him an
    apartment at Hampton Court nicely fitted up. She went to see it
    herself, and having consulted scientific men as to the instruments
    that were necessary for his pursuits, she had a laboratory fitted up
    with them, and made him a present of the whole. That is doing things
    handsomely, and no one since Newton has deserved it so much.

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _5th June, 1859_.

    ... All is perfectly quiet; a large body of French troops are now in
    Tuscany, and many more are expected probably to make a diversion on
    this side of the Austrian army through Modena; but nothing is known;
    the most profound secrecy is maintained as to all military
    movements. Success has hitherto attended the allied army, and the
    greatest bravery has been shown. The enthusiasm among the men
    engaged is excessive, the King of Sardinia himself the bravest of
    the brave, but exposes himself so much that the people are making
    petitions to him to be more careful. The Zouaves called out in the
    midst of the battle, "Le roi est un Zouave!" Prince Napoleon keeps
    very quiet, and avoids shewing himself as much as possible. The
    French troops are very fine indeed--young, gay, extremely civil and
    well bred. The secrecy is quite curious; even the colonels of the
    regiments do not know where they may be sent till the order comes:
    so all is conjecture.... The young King of Naples seems to follow
    the footsteps of his father; I hope in God that we may not protect
    and defend him. How anxious we are to know what the House of Commons
    will do! Let us hope they will take the liberal side; but the
    conservative party seems to be increasing.

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _22nd August, 1859_.

    ... Public affairs go on admirably. A few weeks ago the elections
    took place of the members of the Tuscan parliament with a calm and
    tranquillity of which you have no idea. Every proprietor who pays 15
    pauls of taxes (75 pence) has a vote. There are 180 members,
    consisting of the most ancient nobility, the richest proprietors,
    the most distinguished physicians and lawyers, and the most
    respectable merchants. They hold their meetings in the magnificent
    hall of the Palazzo Vecchio--the Sala Dei Cinquecento. The first two
    or three days were employed in choosing a president &c., &c.; then a
    day was named to determine the fate of the house of Lorraine. I
    could not go, but Martha went with a Tuscan friend. There was no
    speaking; the vote was by ballot, and each member separately went up
    to a table before the president, and silently put his ball into a
    large vase. Two members poured the balls into a tray, and on
    examination, said, "No division is necessary; they are _all_
    black,"--which was followed by long and loud cheering. They have
    been equally unanimous in the Legations in Parma and Modena; and the
    wish of the people is to form one kingdom of these four states under
    an Italian prince, excluding all Austrians for ever. The union is
    perfect, and the determination quiet but deep and unalterable. If
    the Archduke is forced upon them, it must be by armed force, which
    the French emperor will not likely permit, after the Archduke was
    fool enough to fight against him at Solferino. All the four states
    have unanimously voted union with Piedmont; but they do not expect
    it to be granted. The destinies of Europe are now dependent on the
    two emperors....

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _23rd April, 1860_.

    You would have had this letter sooner, my dearest Woronzow, if I had
    not been prevented from writing to you yesterday evening.... The
    weather has been atrocious; deluges of rain night and day, and so
    cold that I have been obliged to lay in a second supply of wood. The
    only good day, and the only one I have been out, was that on which
    the king arrived. It fortunately was fine, and the sight was
    magnificent; quite worthy of so great an historical event. No
    carriages were allowed after the guns fired announcing that the king
    had left Leghorn; so we should have been ill off, had it not been
    for the kindness of our friend the Marchesa Lajatico, who invited us
    to her balcony, which is now very large, as they have built an
    addition to their house for the eldest son and his pretty wife. We
    were there some hours before the king arrived; but as all the
    Florentine society was there, and many of our friends from Turin and
    Genoa, we found it very agreeable. The house is in the Prato, very
    near the gate the king was to enter. On each side of it stages were
    raised like steps in an amphitheatre, which were densely crowded,
    every window decorated with gaily-coloured hangings and the Italian
    flag; the streets were lined with "guardie civiche," and bands of
    music played from time to time. The people shouted "Evviva!" every
    time a gun was fired. In the midst of this joy, there appeared what
    resembled a funeral procession--about a hundred emigrants following
    the Venetian, Roman, and Neapolitan colours, all hung with black
    crape; they were warmly applauded, and many people shed tears. They
    went to the railway station just without the gate to meet the King,
    and when they hailed him as "_Rè d'Italia!_" he was much affected.
    At last he appeared riding a fine English horse, Prince Carignan on
    one hand and Baron Ricasoli on his left, followed by a numerous
    "_troupe dorée_" of generals and of his suite in gay uniforms and
    well mounted. The King rides well; so the effect was extremely
    brilliant. Then followed several carriages; in the first were Count
    Cavour, Buoncompagni, and the Marchese Bartolommei. You cannot form
    the slightest idea of the excitement; it was a burst of enthusiasm,
    and the reception of Cavour was as warm. We threw a perfect shower
    of flowers over him, which the Marchesa had provided for the
    occasion; and her youngest son Cino, a nice lad, went himself to
    present his bouquet to the King, who seemed quite pleased with the
    boy. I felt so much for Madame de Lajatico herself.... I said to her
    how kind I thought it in her to open her house; she burst into
    tears, and said, though she was in deep affliction, she could not be
    so selfish as not offer her friends the best position in Florence
    for seeing what to many of them was the most important event in
    their lives, as it was to her even in her grief. The true Italian
    taste appeared to perfection in every street through which the
    procession passed to the Duomo, and thence to the Palazzo Pitti.
    Those who saw it declare nothing could surpass the splendour of the
    cathedral when illuminated; but that we could not see, nor did we
    see the procession again; it was impossible to penetrate the crowd.
    They say there are 40,000 strangers in Florence.... I was much too
    tired to go out again to see the illuminations and the fireworks on
    the Ponte Carraja; your sisters saw it all, so I leave them to tell
    you all about it. The King and Prince are terribly early; they and
    Ricasoli are on horseback by _five_ in the morning; the King dines
    at twelve, and never touches food afterwards, though he has a dinner
    party of 60 or 80 every day at six.... Now, my dearest Woronzow, I
    must end, for I do not wish to miss another post. I am really
    wonderfully well for my age.

                                        Your devoted mother,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _19th June, 1861_.

    ... Italy has been thrown into the deepest affliction by the death
    of Cavour. In my long life I never knew any event whatever which
    caused so universal and deep sorrow. There is not a village or town
    throughout the whole peninsula which has not had a funeral service,
    and the very poorest people, who had hardly clothes on their backs,
    had black crape tied round their arm or neck. It was a state of
    consternation, and no wonder! Every one felt that the greatest and
    best man of this century has been taken away before he had
    completely emancipated his country. All the progress is due to him,
    and to him alone; the revolution has called forth men of much
    talent, yet the whole are immeasurably his inferior in every
    respect--even your friend, Ricasoli, who is most able, and the best
    successor that can be found, is, compared with Cavour, as Tuscany to
    Europe. Happily the sad loss did not occur sooner. Now things are so
    far advanced that they cannot go back, and I trust that Ricasoli,
    who is not wanting in firmness and moral courage, will complete what
    has been so happily begun. I am sorry to say he is not in very good
    health, but I trust he will not fall into the hands of the physician
    who attended Cavour, and who mistook his disease, reduced him by
    loss of blood, and then finding out his real illness, tried to
    strengthen him when too late. There was a most excellent article in
    the "Times" on the two statesmen.

    [My mother's recollections continue thus:--]

       *     *     *     *     *

One night the moon shone so bright that we sent the carriage away, and
walked home from a reception at the Marchesa Ginori's. In crossing the
Piazza San Marco, an acquaintance, who accompanied us, took us to the
Maglio, which is close by, to hear an echo. I like an echo; yet there is
something so unearthly in the aërial voice, that it never fails to raise
a superstitious chill in me, such as I have felt more than once as I
read "Ossian" while travelling among our Highland hills in my early
youth. In one of the grand passes of the Oberland, when we were in
Switzerland, we were enveloped in a mist, through which peaks were dimly
seen. We stopped to hear an echo; the response came clear and distinct
from a great distance, and I felt as if the Spirit of the Mountain had
spoken. The impression depends on accessory circumstances; for the roar
of a railway train passing over a viaduct has no such effect.

       *     *     *     *     *

I lost my husband in Florence on the 26th June, 1860.... From the
preceding narrative may be seen the sympathy, affection, and confidence,
which always existed between us....

    [After what has already been said of the happiness my mother enjoyed
    during the long years of their married life, it may be imagined what
    grief was her's at my father's death after only three days' illness.
    My mother's dear friend and correspondent, Miss F.P. Cobbe, wrote to
    her as follows on this occasion:--]

    "I have just learned from a letter from Captain Fairfax to my
    brother the great affliction which has befallen you. I cannot
    express to you how it has grieved me to think that such a sorrow
    should have fallen on you, and that the dear, kind old man, whose
    welcome so often touched and gratified me, should have passed away
    so soon after I had seen you both, as I often thought, the most
    beautiful instance of united old age. His love and pride in you,
    breaking out as it did at every instant when you happened to be
    absent, gives me the measure of what his loss must be to your warm

       *     *     *     *     *

    [The following letter from my mother, dated April, 1861, addressed to
    her sister-in-law, was written after reading my grandfather's "Life
    and Times," the publication of which my father did not live to see.]

       *     *     *     *     *


    FLORENCE, _28th April, 1861_.


    I received the precious volume[14] you have so kindly sent to me
    some days ago, but I have delayed thanking you for it till now
    because we all wished to read it first. We are highly pleased, and
    have been deeply interested in it. The whole tone of the book is
    characteristic of your dear father; the benevolence,
    warm-heartedness, and Christian charity which appeared in the whole
    course of his life and ministry. That which has struck us all most
    forcibly is the liberality of his sentiments, both religious and
    political, at a time when narrow views and bigotry made it even
    dangerous to avow them, and it required no small courage to do so.
    He was far in advance of the age in which he lived; his political
    opinions are those of the present day, his religious opinions still
    before it. There are many parts of the book which will please the
    general reader from the graphic description of the manners and
    customs of the time, as well as the narrative of his intercourse
    with many of the eminent men of his day. Your most dear father's
    affectionate remembrance of me touches me deeply. I have but one
    regret, dear Jenny, and that is that our dear William did not live
    to see the accomplishment of what was his dying wish; but God's will
    be done.... We are all much as usual: I am wonderfully well, and
    able to write, which I do for a time every day. I do not think I
    feel any difference in capacity, but I become soon tired, and then I
    read the newspapers, some amusing book, or work.... Everything is
    flourishing in Italy, and the people happy and contented, except
    those who were employed and dependent on the former sovereigns, but
    they are few in comparison; and now there is a fine army of 200,000
    men to defend the country, even if Austria should make an attack,
    but that is not likely at present. Rome is still the difficulty, but
    the Pope must and soon will lose his temporal power, for the people
    are determined it shall be so....

                           I am, dear sister,
                                Most affectionately yours,
                                            MARY SOMERVILLE.

    To MRS. ELLIOT, of Rosebank, Roxburghshire.


[Footnote 14: The Rev. P. Somerville's "Life and Times."]



Soon after my dear husband's death, we went to Spezia, as my health
required change, and for some time we made it our headquarters, spending
one winter at Florence, another at Genoa, where my son and his wife came
to meet us, and where I had very great delight in the beautiful singing
of our old friend Clara Novello, now Countess Gigliucci, who used to
come to my house, and sing Handel to me. It was a real pleasure, and her
voice was as pure and silvery as when I first heard her, years before.
Another winter we spent at Turin. On returning to Spezia in the summer
of 1861, the beautiful comet visible that year appeared for the first
time the very evening we arrived. On the following, and during many
evenings while it was visible, we used to row in a small boat a little
way from shore, in order to see it to greater advantage. Nothing could
be more poetical than the clear starlit heavens with this beautiful
comet reflected, nay, almost repeated, in the calm glassy water of the
gulf. The perfect silence and stillness of the scene was very

I was now unoccupied, and felt the necessity of having something to do,
desultory reading being insufficient to interest me; and as I had always
considered the section on chemistry the weakest part of the connection
of the "Physical Sciences," I resolved to write it anew. My daughters
strongly opposed this, saying, "Why not write a new book?" They were
right; it would have been lost time: so I followed their advice, though
it was a formidable undertaking at my age, considering that the general
character of science had greatly changed. By the improved state of the
microscope, an invisible creation in the air, the earth, and the water,
had been brought within the limits of human vision; the microscopic
structure of plants and animals had been minutely studied, and by
synthesis many substances had been formed of the elementary atoms
similar to those produced by nature. Dr. Tyndall's experiments had
proved the inconceivable minuteness of the atoms of matter; Mr. Gassiot
and Professor Plücher had published their experiments on the
stratification of the electric light; and that series of discoveries by
scientific men abroad, but chiefly by our own philosophers at home,
which had been in progress for a course of years, prepared the way for
Bunsen and Kirchhof's marvellous consummation.

Such was the field opened to me; but instead of being discouraged by its
magnitude, I seemed to have resumed the perseverance and energy of my
youth, and began to write with courage, though I did not think I should
live to finish even the sketch I had made, and which I intended to
publish under the name of "Molecular and Microscopic Science," and
assumed as my motto, "Deus magnus in magnis, maximus in minimis," from
Saint Augustin.

My manuscript notes on Science were now of the greatest use; and we went
for the winter to Turin (1861-1862), where I could get books from the
public libraries, and much information on subjects of natural history
from Professor De Filippi, who has recently died, much regretted, while
on a scientific mission to Japan and China, as well as from other
sources. I subscribed to various periodicals on chemical and other
branches of science; the transactions of several of our societies were
sent to me, and I began to write. I was now an old woman, very deaf and
with shaking hands; but I could still see to thread the finest needle,
and read the finest print, but I got sooner tired when writing than I
used to do. I wrote regularly every morning from eight till twelve or
one o'clock before rising. I was not alone, for I had a mountain
sparrow, a great pet, which sat, and indeed is sitting on my arm as I
write these lines.

The Marchese Doria has a large property at Spezia, and my dear friend
Teresa Doria generally spent the evening with us, when she and I chatted
and played Bézique together. Her sons also came frequently, and some of
the officers of the Italian navy. One who became our very good friend is
Captain William Acton, now Admiral, and for two years Minister of
Marine; he is very handsome, and, what is better, a most agreeable,
accomplished gentleman, who has interested himself in many branches of
natural history, besides being a good linguist. In summer the British
squadron, commanded by Admiral Smart, came for five weeks to Spezia. My
nephew, Henry Fairfax, was commander on board the ironclad "Resistance."
Notwithstanding my age, I was so curious to see an ironclad that I went
all over the "Resistance," even to the engine-room and screw-alley. I
also went to luncheon on board the flagship "Victoria," a three-decker,
which put me in mind of olden times.

    [The following extracts are from letters of my mother's, written in
    1863 and 1865:--]


    SPEZIA, _12th May, 1863_.

    How happy your last letter has made me, my dearest Woronzow, to hear
    that you are making real progress, and that you begin to feel better
    from the Bath waters.... Of your general health I had the very best
    account this morning from your friend Colonel Gordon. I was most
    agreeably surprised and gratified by a very kind and interesting
    letter from him, enclosing his photograph, and giving me an account
    of his great works at Portsmouth with reference to the defence by
    iron as well as stone....

    I wish I could show you the baskets full of flowers which Martha and
    Mary bring to me from the mountains. They are wonderfully beautiful;
    it is one of my greatest amusements putting them in water. I quite
    regret when they cannot go for them. The orchises and the gladioles
    are the chief flowers now, but such a variety and such colours! You
    see we have our quiet pleasures. I often think of more than "60
    years ago," when I used to scramble over the Bin at Burntisland
    after our tods-tails and leddies-fingers, but I fear there is hardly
    a wild spot existing now in the lowlands of Scotland....

                                    God bless you, my dearest Woronzow.


    SPEZIA, _27th Sept., 1865_.


    I fear Agnes and you must have thought your old mother had gone mad
    when you read M.'s letter. In my sober senses, however, though
    sufficiently excited to give me strength for the time, I went over
    every part of the _Resistance_,[15] and examined everything in
    detail except the _stokehole_! I was not even hoisted on board, but
    mounted the companion-ladder bravely. It was a glorious sight, the
    perfection of structure in every part astonished me. A ship like
    that is the triumph of human talent and of British talent, for all
    confess our superiority in this respect to every other nation, and I
    am happy to see that no jealousy has arisen from the meeting of the
    French and English fleets. I was proud that our "young admiral"[16]
    had the command of so fine a vessel.... I also spent a most
    agreeable day on board the _Victoria_, three-decker, and saw every
    part of the three decks, which are very different from what they
    were in my father's time; everything on a much larger scale, more
    elegant and convenient. But the greatest change is in the men; I
    never saw a finer set, so gentlemanly-looking and well-behaved;
    almost all can read and write, and they have an excellent library
    and reading-room in all the ships. No sooner was the fleet gone than
    the Italian Society of Natural History held their annual meeting
    here, Capellini[17] being president in the absence (in Borneo) of
    Giacomo Doria. There were altogether seventy members, Italian,
    French, and German. I was chosen an Associate by acclamation, and
    had to write a few lines of thanks. The weather was beautiful and
    the whole party dined every day on the terrace below our windows,
    which was very amusing to Miss Campbell and your sisters, who
    distinctly heard the speeches. I was invited to dinner and the wife
    of the celebrated Professor Vogt was asked to meet me; I declined
    dining, as it lasted so long that I should have been too tired, but
    I went down to the dessert. Capellini came for me, and all rose as I
    came in, and every attention was shown me, my health was drank, &c.
    &c. It lasted four days, and we had many evening visits, and I
    received a quantity of papers on all subjects. I am working very
    hard (for me at least), but I cannot hurry, nor do I see the need
    for it. I write so slowly on account of the shaking of my hand that
    although my head is clear I make little but steady progress....

                                        Your affectionate mother,
                                                  MARY SOMERVILLE.

       *     *     *     *     *

After the battle of Aspromonte, Garibaldi arrived a prisoner on board a
man-of-war, and was placed at Varignano under surveillance. His wound
had not been properly dressed, and he was in a state of great suffering.
Many surgeons came from all parts of Italy, and one even from England,
to attend him, but the eminent Professor Nélaton saved him from
amputation, with which he was threatened, by extracting the bullet from
his ankle. I never saw Garibaldi during his three months' residence at
Varignano and Spezia; I had no previous acquaintance with him;
consequently, as I could be of no use to him, I did not consider myself
entitled to intrude upon him merely to gratify my own curiosity,
although no one admired his noble and disinterested character more than
I did. Not so, many of my countrymen, and countrywomen too, as well as
ladies of other nations, who worried the poor man out of his life, and
made themselves eminently ridiculous. One lady went so far as to collect
the hairs from his comb,--others showered tracts upon him.

I had hitherto been very healthy; but in the beginning of winter I was
seized with a severe illness which, though not immediately dangerous,
lasted so long, that it was doubtful whether I should have stamina to
recover. It was a painful and fatiguing time to my daughters. They were
quite worn out with nursing me; our maid was ill, and our man-servant,
Luigi Lucchesi, watched me with such devotion that he sat up twenty-four
nights with me. He has been with us eighteen years, and now that I am
old and feeble, he attends me with unceasing kindness. It is but justice
to say that we never were so faithfully or well served as by Italians;
and none are more ingenious in turning their hands to anything, and in
never objecting to do this or that, as not what they were hired for,--a
great quality for people who, like ourselves, keep few servants. After a
time they identify themselves with the family they serve, as my faithful
Luigi has done with all his heart. I am sincerely attached to him.

       *     *     *     *     *

In the spring, when I had recovered, my son and his wife came to Spezia,
and we all went to Florence, where we had the pleasure of seeing many
old friends. We returned to Spezia, and my son and his wife left us to
go back to England, intending to meet us again somewhere the following
spring. I little thought we never should meet again.... My son sent his
sisters a beautiful little cutter, built by Mr. Forrest in London, which
has been a great resource to them. I always insist on their taking a
good sailor with them, although I am not in the least nervous for their
safety. Indeed, small as the "Frolic" is--and she is only about
twenty-eight feet from stem to stern--she has weathered some stiff gales
gallantly, as, for instance, when our friend, Mr. Montague Brown,
British consul at Genoa, sailed her from Genoa to Spezia in very bad
weather; and in a very dangerous squall my daughters were caught in,
coming from Amalfi to Sorrento. The "Frolic" had only just arrived at
Spezia, when we heard of the sudden death of my dear son, Oct., 1865.

    [This event, which took from my mother's last years one of her chief
    delights, she bore with her usual calm courage, looking forward
    confidently to a reunion at no distant date with one who had been
    the most dutiful of sons and beloved of friends. She never permitted
    herself, in writing her Recollections, to refer to her feelings
    under these great sorrows.]

       *     *     *     *     *

Some time after this, my widowed daughter-in-law spent a few months with
us. On her return to London, I sent the manuscript of the "Molecular and
Microscopic Science" with her for publication. In writing this book I
made a great mistake, and repent it. Mathematics are the natural bent of
my mind. If I had devoted myself exclusively to that study, I might
probably have written something useful, as a new era had begun in that
science. Although I got "Chasles on the Higher Geometry," it could be
but a secondary object while I was engaged in writing a popular book.
Subsequently, it became a source of deep interest and occupation to me.

Spezia is very much spoilt by the works in progress for the arsenal,
though nothing can change the beauty of the gulf as seen from our
windows, especially the group of the Carrara mountains, with fine peaks
and ranges of hills, becoming more and more verdant down to the water's
edge. The effect of the setting-sun on this group is varied and
brilliant beyond belief. Even I, in spite of my shaking hand, resumed
the brush, and painted a view of the ruined Castle of Ostia, at the
mouth of the Tiber, from a sketch of my own, for my dear friend Teresa

We now came to live at Naples; and on leaving Spezia, I spent a
fortnight with Count and Countess Usedom at the Villa Capponi, near
Florence, where, though unable to visit, I had the pleasure of seeing my
Florentine friends again.

We spent two days in Rome, and dined with our friends the Duca and
Duchesa di Sermoneta. We were grieved at his blindness, but found him as
agreeable as ever.

Through our friend, Admiral Acton, I became acquainted with Professor
Panceri, Professor of Comparative Anatomy; Signore de Gasparis, who has
discovered nine of the minor planets, and is an excellent mathematician,
and some others. To these gentlemen I am indebted for being elected an
honorary member of the Accademia Pontoniana.

We were much interested in Vesuvius, which, for several months, was in a
state of great activity. At first, there were only volumes of smoke and
some small streams of lava, but these were followed by the most
magnificent projections of red hot stones and rocks rising 2,000 feet
above the top of the mountain. Many fell back again into the crater, but
a large portion were thrown in fiery showers down the sides of the cone.
At length, these beautiful eruptions of _lapilli_ ceased, and the lava
flowed more abundantly, though, being intermittent and always issuing
from the summit, it was quite harmless; volumes of smoke and vapour rose
from the crater, and were carried by the wind to a great distance. In
sunshine the contrast was beautiful, between the jet-black smoke and the
silvery-white clouds of vapour. At length, the mountain returned to
apparent tranquillity, though the violent detonations occasionally heard
gave warning that the calm might not last long. At last, one evening, in
November, 1868, when one of my daughters and I were observing the
mountain through a very good telescope, lent us by a friend, we
distinctly saw a new crater burst out at the foot of the cone in the
Atrio del Cavallo, and bursts of red-hot lapilli and red smoke pouring
forth in volumes. Early next morning we saw a great stream of lava
pouring down to the north of the Observatory, and a column of black
smoke issuing from the new craters, because there were two, and assuming
the well-known appearance of a pine-tree. The trees on the northern edge
of the lava were already on fire. The stream of lava very soon reached
the plain, where it overwhelmed fields, vineyards, and houses. It was
more than a mile in width and thirty feet deep. My daughters went up the
mountain the evening after the new craters were formed; as for me, I
could not risk the fatigue of such an excursion, but I saw it admirably
from our own windows. During this year the volcanic forces in the
interior of the earth were in unusual activity, for a series of
earthquakes shook the west coast of South America for more than 2,500
miles, by which many thousands of the inhabitants perished, and many
more were rendered homeless. Slight shocks were felt in many parts of
Europe, and even in England. Vesuvius was our safety-valve. The pressure
must have been very great which opened two new craters in the Atrio del
Cavallo and forced out such a mass of matter. There is no evidence that
water had been concerned in the late eruption of Vesuvius; but during
the whole of the preceding autumn, the fall of rain had been unusually
great and continuous. There were frequent thunderstorms; and, on one
occasion, the quantity of rain that fell was so great, as to cause a
land-slip in Pizzifalcone, by which several houses were overwhelmed;
and, on another occasion, the torrent of rain was so violent, that the
Riviera di Chiaja was covered, to the depth of half a metre, with mud,
and stones brought down by the water from the heights above. This
enormous quantity of water pouring on the slopes of Vesuvius, and
percolating through the crust of the earth into the fiery caverns, where
volcanic forces are generated, being resolved into steam, and possibly
aided by the expansion of volcanic gases, may have been a partial agent
in propelling the formidable stream of lava which has caused such
destruction. We observed, that when lava abounded, the projection of
rocks and lapilli either ceased altogether, or became of small amount.
The whole eruption ended in a shower of impalpable ashes, which hid the
mountain for many days, and which were carried to a great distance by
the wind. Sometimes the ashes were pure white, giving the mountain the
appearance of being covered with snow. Vapour continued to rise from
Vesuvius in beautiful silvery clouds, which ceased and left the edge of
the crater white with sublimations. I owe to Vesuvius the great
pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Phillips, Professor of
Geology in the University of Oxford; and, afterwards, that of Sir John
Lubbock, and Professor Tyndall, who had come to Naples on purpose to see
the eruption. Unfortunately, Sir John Lubbock and Professor Tyndall were
so limited for time, that they could only spend one evening with us; but
I enjoyed a delightful evening, and had much scientific conversation.

Notwithstanding the progress meteorology has made since it became a
subject of exact observation, yet no explanation has been given of the
almost unprecedented high summer temperature of 1868 in Great Britain,
and even in the Arctic regions. In England, the grass and heather were
dried up, and extensive areas were set on fire by sparks from railway
locomotives, the conflagrations spreading so rapidly, that they could
only be arrested by cutting trenches to intercept their course. The
whalers found open water to a higher latitude than usual; but, although
the British Government did not avail themselves of this opportunity for
further Arctic discovery, Sweden, Germany, France, and especially the
United States, have taken up the subject with great energy. Eight
expeditions sailed for the North Polar region between the years 1868 and
1870; several for the express purpose of reaching the Polar Sea, which,
I have no doubt, will be attained, now that steam has given such power
to penetrate the fields of floating ice. It would be more than a dashing
exploit to make a cruise on that unknown sea; it would be a discovery of
vast scientific importance with regard to geography, magnetism,
temperature, the general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, as
well as to natural history. I cannot but regret that I shall not live to
hear the result of these voyages.

       *     *     *     *     *

The British laws are adverse to women; and we are deeply indebted to Mr.
Stuart Mill for daring to show their iniquity and injustice. The law in
the United States is in some respects even worse, insulting the sex, by
granting suffrage to the newly-emancipated slaves, and refusing it to
the most highly-educated women of the Republic.

    [For the noble character and transcendent intellect of Mr. J.S. Mill
    my mother had the greatest admiration. She had some correspondence
    with him on the subject of the petition to Parliament for the
    extension of the suffrage to women, which she signed; and she also
    wrote to thank him warmly for his book on the "Subjection of Women."
    In Mr. Mill's reply to the latter he says:--]


    BLACKHEATH PARK, _July 12th, 1869_.


    Such a letter as yours is a sufficient reward for the trouble of
    writing the little book. I could have desired no better proof that
    it was adapted to its purpose than such an encouraging opinion from
    you. I thank you heartily for taking the trouble to express, in such
    kind terms, your approbation of the book,--the approbation of one
    who has rendered such inestimable service to the cause of women by
    affording in her own person so high an example of their intellectual
    capabilities, and, finally, by giving to the protest in the great
    Petition of last year the weight and importance derived from the
    signature which headed it.

                          I am,
                            Dear Madam,
                               Most sincerely and respectfully yours,
                                                             J.S. MILL.

       *     *     *     *     *

Age has not abated my zeal for the emancipation of my sex from the
unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary
and scientific education for women. The French are more civilized in
this respect, for they have taken the lead, and have given the first
example in modern times of encouragement to the high intellectual
culture of the sex. Madame Emma Chenu, who had received the degree of
Master of Arts from the Faculty of Sciences of the University in Paris,
has more recently received the diploma of Licentiate in Mathematical
Sciences from the same illustrious Society, after a successful
examination in algebra, trigonometry, analytical geometry, the
differential and integral calculus, and astronomy. A Russian lady has
also taken a degree; and a lady of my acquaintance has received a gold
medal from the same Institution.

I joined in a petition to the Senate of London University, praying that
degrees might be granted to women; but it was rejected. I have also
frequently signed petitions to Parliament for the Female Suffrage, and
have the honour now to be a member of the General Committee for Woman
Suffrage in London.

       *     *     *     *     *

    [My mother, in alluding to the great changes in public opinion which
    she had lived to see, used to remark that a commonly well-informed
    woman of the present day would have been looked upon as a prodigy of
    learning in her youth, and that even till quite lately many
    considered that if women were to receive the solid education men
    enjoy, they would forfeit much of their feminine grace and become
    unfit to perform their domestic duties. My mother herself was one of
    the brightest examples of the fallacy of this old-world theory, for
    no one was more thoroughly and gracefully feminine than she was,
    both in manner and appearance; and, as I have already mentioned, no
    amount of scientific labour ever induced her to neglect her home
    duties. She took the liveliest interest in all that has been done of
    late years to extend high class education to women, both classical
    and scientific, and hailed the establishment of the Ladies' College
    at Girton as a great step in the true direction, and one which could
    not fail to obtain most important results. Her scientific library,
    as already stated, has been presented to this College as the best
    fulfilment of her wishes.]

       *     *     *     *     *

I have lately entered my 89th year, grateful to God for the innumerable
blessings He has bestowed on me and my children; at peace with all on
earth, and I trust that I may be at peace with my Maker when my last
hour comes, which cannot now be far distant.

Although I have been tried by many severe afflictions, my life upon the
whole has been happy. In my youth I had to contend with prejudice and
illiberality; yet I was of a quiet temper, and easy to live with, and I
never interfered with or pryed into other people's affairs. However, if
irritated by what I considered unjust criticism or interference with
myself, or any one I loved, I could resent it fiercely. I was not good
at argument; I was apt to lose my temper; but I never bore ill will to
any one, or forgot the manners of a gentlewoman, however angry I may
have been at the time. But I must say that no one ever met with such
kindness as I have done. I never had an enemy. I have never been of a
melancholy disposition; though depressed sometimes by circumstances, I
always rallied again; and although I seldom laugh, I can laugh heartily
at wit or on fit occasion. The short time I have to live naturally
occupies my thoughts. In the blessed hope of meeting again with my
beloved children, and those who were and are dear to me on earth, I
think of death with composure and perfect confidence in the mercy of
God. Yet to me, who am afraid to sleep alone on a stormy night, or even
to sleep comfortably any night unless some one is near, it is a fearful
thought, that my spirit must enter that new state of existence quite
alone. We are told of the infinite glories of that state, and I believe
in them, though it is incomprehensible to us; but as I do comprehend, in
some degree at least, the exquisite loveliness of the visible world, I
confess I shall be sorry to leave it. I shall regret the sky, the sea,
with all the changes of their beautiful colouring; the earth, with its
verdure and flowers: but far more shall I grieve to leave animals who
have followed our steps affectionately for years, without knowing for
certainty their ultimate fate, though I firmly believe that the living
principle is never extinguished. Since the atoms of matter are
indestructible, as far as we know, it is difficult to believe that the
spark which gives to their union life, memory, affection, intelligence,
and fidelity, is evanescent. Every atom in the human frame, as well as
in that of animals, undergoes a periodical change by continual waste and
renovation; the abode is changed, not its inhabitant. If animals have no
future, the existence of many is most wretched; multitudes are starved,
cruelly beaten, and loaded during life; many die under a barbarous
vivisection. I cannot believe that any creature was created for
uncompensated misery; it would be contrary to the attributes of God's
mercy and justice. I am sincerely happy to find that I am not the only
believer in the immortality of the lower animals.

       *     *     *     *     *

When I was taught geography by the village schoolmaster at Burntisland,
it seemed to me that half the world was _terra incognita_, and now that
a new edition of my "Physical Geography" is required, it will be a work
of great labour to bring it up to the present time. The discoveries in
South Africa alone would fill a volume. Japan and China have been opened
to Europeans since my last edition. The great continent of Australia was
an entirely unknown country, except part of the coast. Now telegrams
have been sent and answers received in the course of a few hours, from
our countrymen throughout that mighty empire, and even from New Zealand,
round half the globe. The inhabitants of the United States are our
offspring; so whatever may happen to Great Britain in the course of
events, it still will have the honour of colonizing, and consequently
civilizing, half the world.

In all recent geographical discoveries, our Royal Geographical Society
has borne the most important part, and none of its members have done
more than my highly-gifted friend the President, Sir Roderick Murchison,
geologist of Russia, and founder and author of the colossal "Silurian
System." To the affection of this friend, sanctioned by the unanimous
approval of the council of that illustrious Society, I owe the honour of
being awarded the Victoria Medal for my "Physical Geography." An honour
so unexpected, and so far beyond my merit, surprised and affected me
more deeply than I can find words to express.

In the events of my life it may be seen how much I have been honoured by
the scientific societies and universities of Italy, many of whom have
elected me an honorary member or associate; but the greatest honour I
have received in Italy has been the gift of the first gold medal
hitherto awarded by the Geographical Society at Florence, and which was
coined on purpose, with my name on the reverse. I received it the other
day, accompanied by the following letter from General Menabrea,
President of the Council, himself a distinguished mathematician and


    FLORENCE, _30 Juin, 1869_.


    J'ai pris connaissance avec le plus grand intérêt de la belle
    édition de votre dernier ouvrage sur la Géographie Physique, et je
    désire vous donner un témoignage d'haute estime pour vos travaux. Je
    vous prie donc, Madame, d'accepter une médaille d'or à l'effigie du
    Roi Victor Emmanuel, mon auguste souverain. C'est un souvenir de mon
    pays dans lequel vous comptez, comme chez toutes les nations où la
    science est honoré, de nombreux amis et admirateurs. Veuillez
    croire, Madame, que je ne cesserai d'être l'un et l'autre en même
    temps que je suis,

                             Votre très dévoué Serviteur,

       *     *     *     *     *

At a general assembly of the Italian Geographical Society, at Florence,
on the 14th March, 1870, I was elected by acclamation an Honorary
Associate of that distinguished society. I am indebted to the President,
the Commendatore Negri, for having proposed my name, and for a very
kind letter, informing me of the honour conferred upon me.

       *     *     *     *     *

I have still (in 1869) the habit of studying in bed from eight in the
morning till twelve or one o'clock; but, I am left solitary; for I have
lost my little bird who was my constant companion for eight years. It
had both memory and intelligence, and such confidence in me as to sleep
upon my arm while I was writing. My daughter, to whom it was much
attached, coming into my room early, was alarmed at its not flying to
meet her, as it generally did, and at last, after a long search, the
poor little creature was found drowned in the jug.

On the 4th October, while at dinner, we had a shock of earthquake. The
vibrations were nearly north and south; it lasted but a few seconds, and
was very slight; but in Calabria, &c., many villages and towns were
overthrown, and very many people perished. The shocks were repeated
again and again; only one was felt at Naples; but as it occurred in the
night, we were unconscious of it. At Naples, it was believed there would
be an eruption of Vesuvius; for the smoke was particularly dense and
black, and some of the wells were dried up.

       *     *     *     *     *

I can scarcely believe that Rome, where I have spent so many happy
years, is now the capital of united Italy. I heartily rejoice in that
glorious termination to the vicissitudes the country has undergone, and
only regret that age and infirmity prevent me from going to see Victor
Emmanuel triumphantly enter the capital of his kingdom. The Pope's
reliance on foreign troops for his safety was an unpardonable insult to
his countrymen.

       *     *     *     *     *

The month of October this year (1870), seems to have been remarkable for
displays of the Aurora Borealis. It seriously interfered with the
working of the telegraphs, particularly in the north of England and
Ireland. On the night of the 24th October, it was seen over the greater
part of Europe. At Florence, the common people were greatly alarmed, and
at Naples, the peasantry were on their knees to the Madonna to avert the
evil. Unfortunately, neither I nor any of my family saw the Aurora; for
most of our windows have a southern aspect. The frequent occurrence of
the Aurora in 1870 confirms the already known period of maximum
intensity and frequency, every ten or twelve years, since the last
maximum occurred in 1859.


[Footnote 15: The _Resistance_, ironclad, commanded by Captain
Chamberlayne, then absent on sick leave.]

[Footnote 16: Captain Henry Fairfax, my mother's nephew, then Commander
on board the _Resistance_, senior officer in the absence of the

[Footnote 17: Professor of Geology at Bologna.]



The summer of 1870 was unusually cool; but the winter has been extremely
gloomy, with torrents of rain, and occasionally such thick fogs, that I
could see neither to read nor to write. We had no storms during the hot
weather; but on the afternoon of the 21st December, there was one of the
finest thunderstorms I ever saw; the lightning was intensely vivid, and
took the strangest forms, darting in all directions through the air
before it struck, and sometimes darting from the ground or the sea to
the clouds. It ended in a deluge of rain, which lasted all night, and
made us augur ill for the solar eclipse next day; and, sure enough, when
I awoke next morning, the sky was darkened by clouds and rain.
Fortunately, it cleared up just as the eclipse began; we were all
prepared for observing it, and we followed its progress through the
opening in the clouds till at last there was only a very slender
crescent of the sun's disc left; its convexity was turned upwards, and
its horns were nearly horizontal. It was then hidden by a dense mass of
clouds; but after a time they opened, and I saw the edge of the moon
leave the limb of the sun. The appearance of the landscape was very
lurid, but by no means very dark. The common people and children had a
very good view of the eclipse, reflected by the pools of water in the

Many of the astronomers who had been in Sicily observing the eclipse
came to see me as they passed through Naples. One of their principal
objects was to ascertain the nature of the corona, or bright white rays
which surround the dark lunar disc at the time of the greatest
obscurity. The spectroscope showed that it was decidedly auroral, but as
the aurora was seen on the dark disc of the moon it must have been due
to the earth's atmosphere. Part of the corona was polarized, and
consequently must have been material; the question is, Can it be the
ethereal medium? A question of immense importance, since the whole
theory of light and colours and the resistance of Encke's comet depends
upon that hypothesis. The question is still in abeyance, but I have no
doubt that it will be decided in the affirmative, and that even the
cause of gravitation will be known eventually.

At this time I had the pleasure of a visit from Mr. Peirce, Professor of
Mathematics and Astronomy, in the Harvard University, U.S., and
Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, who had come to Europe to
observe the eclipse. On returning to America he kindly sent me a
beautiful lithographed copy of a very profound memoir on linear and
associative algebra. Although in writing my popular books I had somewhat
neglected the higher algebra, I have read a great part of the work; but
as I met with some difficulties I wrote to Mr. Spottiswoode, asking his
advice as to the books that would be of use, and he sent me Serret's
"Cours d'Algèbre Supérieure," Salmon's "Higher Algebra," and Tait on
"Quaternions;" so now I got exactly what I wanted, and I am very busy
for a few hours every morning; delighted to have an occupation so
entirely to my mind. I thank God that my intellect is still unimpaired.
I am grateful to Professor Peirce for giving me an opportunity of
exercising it so agreeably. During the rest of the day I have recourse
to Shakespeare, Dante, and more modern light reading, besides the
newspapers, which always interested me much. I have resumed my habit of
working, and can count the threads of a fine canvas without spectacles.
I receive every one who comes to see me, and often have the pleasure of
a visit from old friends very unexpectedly. In the evening I read a
novel, but my tragic days are over; I prefer a cheerful conversational
novel to the sentimental ones. I have recently been reading Walter
Scott's novels again, and enjoyed the broad Scotch in them. I play a few
games at Bézique with one of my daughters, for honour and glory, and so
our evenings pass pleasantly enough.

It is our habit to be separately occupied during the morning, and spend
the rest of the day together. We are fond of birds and have several, all
very tame. Our tame nightingales sing very beautifully, but, strange to
say, not at night. We have also some solitary sparrows, which are, in
fact, a variety of the thrush (Turdus cyaneus), and some birds which we
rescued from destruction in spring, when caught and ill-used by the boys
in the streets; besides, we have our dogs; all of which afford me
amusement and interest.

       *     *     *     *     *

Mr. Murray has kindly sent me a copy of Darwin's recent work on the
"Descent of Man." Mr. Darwin maintains his theory with great talent and
with profound research. His knowledge of the characters and habits of
animals of all kinds is very great, and his kindly feelings charming. It
is chiefly by the feathered race that he has established his law of
selection relative to sex. The males of many birds are among the most
beautiful objects in nature; but that the beauty of nature is altogether
irrelative to man's admiration or appreciation, is strikingly proved by
the admirable sculpture on Diatoms and Foraminifera; beings whose very
existence was unknown prior to the invention of the microscope. The Duke
of Argyll has illustrated this in the "Reign of Law," by the variety,
graceful forms and beautiful colouring of the humming birds in forests
which man has never entered.

In Mr. Darwin's book it is amusing to see how conscious the male birds
are of their beauty; they have reason to be so, but we scorn the vanity
of the savage who decks himself in their spoils. Many women without
remorse allow the life of a pretty bird to be extinguished in order that
they may deck themselves with its corpse. In fact, humming birds and
other foreign birds have become an article of commerce. Our kingfishers
and many of our other birds are on the eve of extinction on account of a
cruel fashion.

I have just received from Frances Power Cobbe an essay, in which she
controverts Darwin's theory,[18] so far as the origin of the moral sense
is concerned. It is written with all the energy of her vigorous
intellect as a moral philosopher, yet with a kindly tribute to Mr.
Darwin's genius. I repeat no one admires Frances Cobbe more than I do. I
have ever found her a brilliant, charming companion, and a warm,
affectionate friend. She is one of the few with whom I keep up a

To Mr. Murray I am indebted for a copy of Tylor's "Researches on the
Early History of Mankind, and the Development of Civilization"--a very
remarkable work for extent of research, original views, and happy
illustrations. The gradual progress of the prehistoric races of mankind
has laid a foundation from which Mr. Tylor proves that after the lapse
of ages the barbarous races now existing are decidedly in a state of
progress towards civilization. Yet one cannot conceive human beings in a
more degraded state than some of them are still; their women are treated
worse than their dogs. Sad to say, no savages are more gross than the
lowest ranks in England, or treat their wives with more cruelty.

       *     *     *     *     *

In the course of my life Paris has been twice occupied by foreign
troops, and still oftener has it been in a state of anarchy. I regret
to see that La Place's house at Arcueil has been broken into, and his
manuscripts thrown into the river, from which some one has fortunately
rescued that of the "Mécanique Céleste," which is in his own
handwriting. It is greatly to the honour of French men of science that
during the siege they met as usual in the hall of the Institute, and
read their papers as in the time of peace. The celebrated astronomer
Janssen even escaped in a balloon, that he might arrive in time to
observe the eclipse of the 22nd November, 1870.

       *     *     *     *     *

We had a most brilliant display of the Aurora on the evening of Sunday,
the 4th February, 1871, which lasted several hours. The whole sky from
east to west was of the most brilliant flickering white light, from
which streamers of red darted up to the zenith. There was also a lunar
rainbow. The common people were greatly alarmed, for there had been a
prediction that the world was coming to an end, and they thought the
bright part of the Aurora was a piece of the moon that had already
tumbled down! This Aurora was seen in Turkey and in Egypt.

       *     *     *     *     *

I am deeply grieved and shaken by the death of Sir John Herschel, who,
though ten years younger than I am, has gone before me. In him I have
lost a dear and affectionate friend, whose advice was invaluable, and
his society a charm. None but those who have lived in his home can
imagine the brightness and happiness of his domestic life. He never
presumed upon that superiority of intellect or the great discoveries
which made him one of the most illustrious men of the age; but conversed
cheerfully and even playfully on any subject, though ever ready to give
information on any of the various branches of science to which he so
largely contributed, and which to him were a source of constant
happiness. Few of my early friends now remain--I am nearly left alone.

       *     *     *     *     *

We went to pass the summer and autumn at Sorrento, where we led a very
quiet but happy life. The villa we lived in was at a short distance from
and above the town, quite buried in groves of oranges and lemons, beyond
which lay the sea, generally calm and blue, sometimes stormy; to our
left the islands of Ischia and Procida, the Capo Miseno, with Baia,
Pozzuoli, and Posilipo; exactly opposite to us, Naples, then Vesuvius,
and all the little towns on that coast, and lastly, to our right, this
wonderful panorama was bounded by the fine cliffs of the Monte
Santangelo. It was beautiful always, but most beautiful when the sun,
setting behind Ischia, sent a perfect glory over the rippling sea, and
tinged the Monte Santangelo and the cliffs which bound the Piano di
Sorrento literally with purple and gold. I spent the whole day on a
charming terrace sheltered from the sun, and there we dined and passed
the evening watching the lights of Naples reflected in the water and the
revolving lights of the different lighthouses. I often drove to Massa
till after sunset, for from that road I could see the island of Capri,
and I scarcely know a more lovely drive. Besides the books we took with
us we had newspapers, reviews, and other periodicals, so that we were
never dull. On one occasion my daughters and I made an expedition up the
hills to the Deserto, from whence one can see the Gulf of Salerno and
the fine mountains of Calabria. My daughters rode and I was carried in a
_portantina_. It was fine, clear, autumnal weather, and I enjoyed my
expedition immensely, nor was I fatigued.

       *     *     *     *     *

In November we returned to Naples, where I resumed my usual life. I had
received a copy of Hamilton's Lectures on Quaternions from the Rev.
Whitewell Elwin. I am not acquainted with that gentleman, and am the
more grateful to him. I have now a valuable library of scientific books
and transactions of scientific societies, the greater part gifts from
the authors.

Foreigners were so much shocked at the atrocious cruelty to animals in
Italy, that an attempt was made about eight years ago to induce the
Italian Parliament to pass a law for their protection, but it failed. As
Italy is the only civilized country in Europe in which animals are not
protected by law, another attempt is now being made; I have willingly
given my name, and I received a kind letter from the Marchioness of Ely,
from Rome, to whom I had spoken upon the subject at Naples, telling me
that the Princess Margaret, Crown Princess of Italy, had been induced to
head the petition. Unless the educated classes take up the cause one
cannot hope for much change for a long time. Our friend, Mr. Robert Hay,
who resided at Rome for many years, had an old horse of which he was
very fond, and on leaving Rome asked a Roman prince, who had very large
possessions in the Campagna, if he would allow his old horse to end his
days on his grassy meadows. "Certainly," replied the prince, "but how
can you care what becomes of an animal when he is no longer of use?" We
English cannot boast of humanity, however, as long as our sportsmen
find pleasure in shooting down tame pigeons as they fly terrified out of
a cage.

       *     *     *     *     *

I am now in my 92nd year (1872), still able to drive out for several
hours; I am extremely deaf, and my memory of ordinary events, and
especially of the names of people, is failing, but not for mathematical
and scientific subjects. I am still able to read books on the higher
algebra for four or five hours in the morning, and even to solve the
problems. Sometimes I find them difficult, but my old obstinacy remains,
for if I do not succeed to-day, I attack them again on the morrow. I
also enjoy reading about all the new discoveries and theories in the
scientific world, and on all branches of science.

Sir Roderick Murchison has passed away, honoured by all, and of undying
fame; and my amiable friend, almost my contemporary, Professor Sedgwick,
has been obliged to resign his chair of geology at Cambridge, from age,
which he had filled with honour during a long life.

    [The following letter from her valued friend Professor Sedgwick, in
    1869, is the last my mother received from him:--]


    CAMBRIDGE, _April 21st, 1869_.


    I heard, when I was in London, that you were still in good bodily
    health, and in full fruition of your great intellectual strength,
    while breathing the sweet air of Naples. I had been a close prisoner
    to my college rooms through the past winter and spring; but I broke
    from my prison-house at the beginning of this month, that I might
    consult my oculist, and meet my niece on her way to Italy.... My
    niece has for many years (ever since 1840) been my loving companion
    during my annual turn of residence as canon of Norwich; and she is,
    and from her childhood has, been to me as a dear daughter. I know
    you will forgive me for my anxiety to hear from a living witness
    that you are well and happy in the closing days of your honoured
    life; and for my longing desire that my beloved daughter (for such I
    ever regard her) should speak to you face to face, and see (for
    however short an interview) the Mrs. Somerville, of whom I have so
    often talked with her in terms of honest admiration and deep regard.
    The time for the Italian tour is, alas! far too short. But it will
    be a great gain to each of the party to be allowed, even for a short
    time, to gaze upon the earthly paradise that is round about you, and
    to cast one look over its natural wonders and historic monuments....
    Since you were here, my dear and honoured guest, Cambridge is
    greatly changed. I am left here like a vessel on its beam ends, to
    mark the distance to which the current has been drifting during a
    good many bygone years. I have outlived nearly all my early
    friends. Whewell, Master of Trinity, was the last of the old stock
    who was living here. Herschel has not been here for several years.
    Babbage was here for a day or two during the year before last. The
    Astronomer-Royal belongs to a more recent generation. For many years
    long attacks of suppressed gout have made my life very unproductive.
    I yesterday dined in Hall. It was the first time I was able to meet
    my brother Fellows since last Christmas day. A long attack of
    bronchitis, followed by a distressing inflammation of my eyes, had
    made me a close prisoner for nearly four months. But, thank God, I
    am again beginning to be cheery, and with many infirmities (the
    inevitable results of old age, for I have entered on my 85th year) I
    am still strong in general health, and capable of enjoying, I think
    as much as ever, the society of those whom I love, be they young or
    old. May God preserve and bless you; and whensoever it may be His
    will to call you away to Himself, may your mind be without a cloud
    and your heart full of joyful Christian hope!

                               I remain,
                                  My dear Friend,
                                     Faithfully and gratefully yours,
                                                        ADAM SEDGWICK.

       *     *     *     *     *

After all the violence and bloodshed of the preceding year, the
Thanksgiving of Queen Victoria and the British nation for the recovery
of the Prince of Wales will form a striking event in European history.
For it was not the congregation in St. Paul's alone, it was the
spontaneous gratitude of all ranks and all faiths throughout the three
kingdoms that were offered up to God that morning; the people
sympathized with their Queen, and no sovereign more deserves sympathy.

       *     *     *     *     *

Vesuvius has exhibited a considerable activity during the winter and
early spring, and frequent streams of lava flowed from the crater, and
especially from the small cone to the north, a little way below the
principal crater. But these streams were small and intermittent, and no
great outbreak was expected. On the 24th April a stream of lava induced
us to drive in the evening to Santa Lucia. The next night, Thursday,
25th April, my daughter Martha, who had been to the theatre, wakened me
that I might see Vesuvius in splendid eruption. This was at about 1
o'clock on Friday morning. Early in the morning I was disturbed by what
I thought loud thunder, and when my maid came at 7 a.m. I remarked that
there was a thunder storm, but she said, "No, no; it is the mountain
roaring." It must have been very loud for me to hear, considering my
deafness, and the distance Vesuvius is from Naples, yet it was nothing
compared to the noise later in the day, and for many days after. My
daughter, who had gone to Santa Lucia to see the eruption better, soon
came to fetch me with our friend Mr. James Swinton, and we passed the
whole day at windows in an hotel at Santa Lucia, immediately opposite
the mountain. Vesuvius was now in the fiercest eruption, such as has not
occurred in the memory of this generation, lava overflowing the
principal crater and running in all directions. The fiery glow of lava
is not very visible by daylight; smoke and steam is sent off which rises
white as snow, or rather as frosted silver, and the mouth of the great
crater was white with the lava pouring over it. New craters had burst
out the preceding night, at the very time I was admiring the beauty of
the eruption, little dreaming that, of many people who had gone up that
night to the Atrio del Cavallo to see the lava (as my daughters had done
repeatedly and especially during the great eruption of 1868), some forty
or fifty had been on the very spot where the new crater burst out, and
perished, scorched to death by the fiery vapours which eddied from the
fearful chasm. Some were rescued who had been less near to the chasm,
but of these none eventually recovered.

Behind the cone rose an immense column of dense black smoke to more than
four times the height of the mountain, and spread out at the summit
horizontally, like a pine tree, above the silvery stream which poured
forth in volumes. There were constant bursts of fiery projectiles,
shooting to an immense height into the black column of smoke, and
tinging it with a lurid red colour. The fearful roaring and thundering
never ceased for one moment, and the house shook with the concussion of
the air. One stream of lava flowed towards Torre del Greco, but luckily
stopped before it reached the cultivated fields; others, and the most
dangerous ones, since some of them came from the new craters, poured
down the Atrio del Cavallo, and dividing before reaching the Observatory
flowed to the right and to the left--the stream which flowed to the
north very soon reached the plain, and before night came on had
partially destroyed the small town of Massa di Somma. One of the
peculiarities of this eruption was the great fluidity of the lava;
another was the never-ceasing thundering of the mountain. During that
day we observed several violent explosions in the great stream of lava:
we thought from the enormous volumes of black smoke emitted on these
occasions that new craters had burst out--some below the level of the
Observatory; but that can hardly have been the case. My daughters at
night drove to Portici, and went up to the top of a house, where the
noise seems to have been appalling; but they told me they did not gain
anything by going to Portici, nor did they see the eruption better than
I did who remained at Santa Lucia, for you get too much below the
mountain on going near. On Sunday, 28th, I was surprised at the extreme
darkness, and on looking out of window saw men walking with umbrellas;
Vesuvius was emitting such an enormous quantity of ashes, or rather fine
black sand, that neither land, sea, nor sky was visible; the fall was a
little less dense during the day, but at night it was worse than ever.
Strangers seemed to be more alarmed at this than at the eruption, and
certainly the constant loud roaring of Vesuvius was appalling enough
amidst the darkness and gloom of the falling ashes. The railroad was
crowded with both natives and foreigners, escaping; on the other hand,
crowds came from Rome to see the eruption. We were not at all afraid,
for we considered that the danger was past when so great an eruption had
acted as a kind of safety-valve to the pent-up vapours. But a silly
report got about that an earthquake was to take place, and many persons
passed the night in driving or walking about the town, avoiding narrow
streets. The mountain was quite veiled for some days by vapour and
ashes, but I could see the black smoke and silvery mass above it. While
looking at this, a magnificent column, black as jet, darted with
inconceivable violence and velocity to an immense height; it gave a
grand idea of the power that was still in action in the fiery caverns

Immense injury has been done by this eruption, and much more would have
been done had not the lava flowed to a great extent over that of 1868.
Still the streams ran through Massa di Somma, San Sebastiano, and other
villages scattered about the country, overwhelming fields, woods,
vineyards, and houses. The ashes, too, have not only destroyed this
year's crops, but killed both vines and fruit trees, so that altogether
it has been most disastrous. Vesuvius was involved in vapour and ashes
till far on in May, and one afternoon at sunset, when all below was in
shade, and only a few silvery threads of steam were visible, a column of
the most beautiful crimson colour rose from the crater, and floated in
the air. Many of the small craters still smoked, one quite at the base
of the cone, which is a good deal changed--it is lower, the small
northern cone has disappeared, and part of the walls of the crater have
fallen in, and there is a fissure in them through which smoke or vapour
is occasionally emitted.

       *     *     *     *     *

On the 1st June we returned to Sorrento, this time to a pretty and
cheerful apartment close to the sea, where I led very much the same
pleasant life as the year before--busy in the morning with my own
studies, and passing the rest of the day on the terrace with my
daughters, who brought me beautiful wild flowers from their excursions
over the country. Many of the flowers they brought were new to me, and
it is a curious fact that some plants which did not grow in this part of
the country a few years ago are now quite common. Amongst others, the
Trachelium coeruleum, a pretty wall-plant, native of Calabria, and
formerly unknown here, now clothes many an old wall near Naples, and at
Sorrento. The ferns are extremely beautiful here. Besides those common
to England, the Pteris cretica grows luxuriantly in the damp ravines, as
well as that most beautiful of European ferns, the Woodwardia radicans,
whose fronds are often more than six feet long. The inhabitants of
Sorrento are very superior to the Neapolitans, both in looks and
character; they are cleanly, honest, less cruel to animals, and have
pleasant manners--neither too familiar nor cringing. As the road between
Sorrento and Castellamare was impassable, owing to the fall of immense
masses of rock from the cliffs above it, we crossed over in the steamer
with our servants and our pet birds, for I now have a beautiful
long-tailed parroquet called Smeraldo, who is my constant companion and
is very familiar. And here I must mention how much I was pleased to
hear that Mr. Herbert, M.P., has brought in a bill to protect land
birds, which has been passed in Parliament; but I am grieved to find
that "The lark which at Heaven's gate sings" is thought unworthy of
man's protection. Among the numerous plans for the education of the
young, let us hope that mercy may be taught us a part of religion.

       *     *     *     *     *

Though far advanced in years, I take as lively an interest as ever in
passing events. I regret that I shall not live to know the result of the
expedition to determine the currents of the ocean, the distance of the
earth from the sun determined by the transits of Venus, and the source
of the most renowned of rivers, the discovery of which will immortalise
the name of Dr. Livingstone. But I regret most of all that I shall not
see the suppression of the most atrocious system of slavery that ever
disgraced humanity--that made known to the world by Dr. Livingstone and
by Mr. Stanley, and which Sir Bartle Frere has gone to suppress by order
of the British Government.

       *     *     *     *     *

The Blue Peter has been long flying at my foremast, and now that I am in
my ninety-second year I must soon expect the signal for sailing. It is
a solemn voyage, but it does not disturb my tranquillity. Deeply
sensible of my utter unworthiness, and profoundly grateful for the
innumerable blessings I have received, I trust in the infinite mercy of
my Almighty Creator. I have every reason to be thankful that my
intellect is still unimpaired, and, although my strength is weakness, my
daughters support my tottering steps, and, by incessant care and help,
make the infirmities of age so light to me that I am perfectly happy.

       *     *     *     *     *

I have very little more to add to these last words of my Mother's
Recollections. The preceding pages will have given the reader some
idea--albeit perhaps a very imperfect one--of her character and
opinions. Only regarding her feelings on the most sacred of themes,
is it needful for me to say a few words. My mother was profoundly
and sincerely religious; hers was not a religion of mere forms and
doctrines, but a solemn deep-rooted faith which influenced every
thought, and regulated every action of her life. Great love and
reverence towards God was the foundation of this pure faith, which
accompanied her from youth to extreme old age, indeed to her last
moments, which gave her strength to endure many sorrows, and was the
mainspring of that extreme humility which was so remarkable a
feature of her character.

At a very early age she dared to think for herself, fearlessly
shaking off those doctrines of her early creed which seemed to her
incompatible with the unutterable goodness and greatness of God; and
through life she adhered to her simple faith, holding quietly and
resolutely to the ultimate truths of religion, regardless alike of
the censure of bigots or the smiles of sceptics. The theories of
modern science she welcomed as quite in accordance with her
religious opinions. She rejected the notion of occasional
interference by the Creator with His work, and believed that from
the first and invariably He has acted according to a system of
harmonious laws, some of which we are beginning faintly to
recognise, others of which will be discovered in course of time,
while many must remain a mystery to man while he inhabits this
world. It was in her early life that the controversy raged
respecting the incompatibility of the Mosaic account of Creation,
the Deluge, &c., with the revelations of geology. My mother very
soon accepted the modern theories, seeing in them nothing in any way
hostile to true religious belief. It is singular to recall that her
candid avowal of views now so common, caused her to be publicly
censured by name from the pulpit of York Cathedral. She foresaw the
great modifications in opinion which further discoveries will
inevitably produce; but she foresaw them without doubt or fear. Her
constant prayer was for light and truth, and its full accomplishment
she looked for confidently in the life beyond the grave. My mother
never discussed religious subjects in general society; she
considered them far too solemn to be talked of lightly; but with
those near and dear to her, and with very intimate friends, whose
opinion agreed with her own, she spoke freely and willingly. Her
mind was constantly occupied with thoughts on religion; and in her
last years especially she reflected much on that future world which
she expected soon to enter, and lifted her heart still more
frequently to that good Father whom she had loved so fervently all
her life, and in whose merciful care she fearlessly trusted in her
last hour.

My mother's old age was a thoroughly happy one. She often said
that not even in the joyous spring of life had she been more truly
happy. Serene and cheerful, full of life and activity, as far as her
physical strength permitted, she had none of the infirmities of age,
except difficulty in hearing, which prevented her from joining in
general conversation. She had always been near-sighted, but could
read small print with the greatest ease without glasses, even by
lamp-light. To the last her intellect remained perfectly unclouded;
her affection for those she loved, and her sympathy for all living
beings, as fervent as ever; nor did her ardent desire for and belief
in the ultimate religious and moral improvement of mankind diminish.
She always retained her habit of study, and that pursuit, in which
she had attained such excellence and which was always the most
congenial to her,--Mathematics--delighted and amused her to the end.
Her last occupations, continued to the actual day of her death, were
the revision and completion of a treatise, which she had written
years before, on the "Theory of Differences" (with diagrams
exquisitely drawn), and the study of a book on Quaternions. Though
too religious to fear death, she dreaded outliving her intellectual
powers, and it was with intense delight that she pursued her
intricate calculations after her ninetieth and ninety-first years,
and repeatedly told me how she rejoiced to find that she had the
same readiness and facility in comprehending and developing these
extremely difficult formulæ which she possessed when young. Often,
also, she said how grateful she was to the Almighty Father who had
allowed her to retain her faculties unimpaired to so great an age.
God was indeed loving and merciful to her; not only did He spare her
this calamity, but also the weary trial of long-continued illness.
In health of body and vigour of mind, having lived far beyond the
usual span of human life, He called her to Himself. For her Death
lost all its terrors. Her pure spirit passed away so gently that
those around her scarcely perceived when she left them. It was the
beautiful and painless close of a noble and a happy life.

My mother died in sleep on the morning of the 29th Nov., 1872. Her
remains rest in the English Campo Santo of Naples.


[Footnote 18: "Darwinism in Morals," &c.]



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.