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: From sketch-book and diary
Author: Butler, Elizabeth, 1846-1933
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 "From sketch-book and diary" ***

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

produced from images available at The Internet Archive)





“Charmingly natural and spontaneous travel impressions with sixteen
harmonious illustrations. The glow, spaciousness and atmosphere of these
Eastern scenes are preserved in a way that eloquently attests the
possibilities of the best colour process work.”--_Outlook_.

“The letters in themselves afford their own justification; the sketches
are by Lady Butler, and when we have said that we have said all.
Combined, they make a book that is at once a delight to the eye and a
pleasure to handle. The coloured illustrations, marvellously well
reproduced, provide in a panoramic display faithful representations of
the Holy Land as it is seen to-day. They make a singularly attractive
collection, worthy of the distinguished artist who painted them.”--_St.
James’s Gazette_.



America       The Macmillan Company
                64 & 66 Fifth Avenue, New York

Australasia   The Oxford University Press
                205 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Canada        The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd.
                27 Richmond Street West, Toronto

India         Macmillan & Company, Ltd.
                Macmillan Building, Bombay
                309 Bow Bazaar Street, Calcutta






[Illustration: colophon]






I have an idea of writing to you, most sympathetic Reader, of certain
days and nights of my travels that have impressed themselves with
peculiar force upon my memory, and that have mostly rolled by since you
and I set out, at the Parting of the Ways, from the paternal roof-tree,
within three months of each other.

First, I want to take you to the Wild West Land of Ireland, to a glen in
Kerry, where, so far, the tourist does not come, and then on to remote
Clew Bay, in the County Mayo.

After that, come with me up the Nile in the time that saw the close of
the Gordon Relief Expedition, when the sailing “Dahabieh,” most
fascinating of house-boats, was still the vogue for those who were not
in a hurry, and when again the tourist (of that particular year) was
away seeking safer picnic grounds elsewhere.

Then to the Cape and the voyage thither, which may not sound alluring,
but where you may find something to smile at.

I claim your indulgence, wherever I ask you to accompany me, for my
painter’s literary crudities; but nowhere do I need it more than in
Italy, for you have trodden that field with me almost foot by foot. The
veil to which I trust for softening those asperities elsewhere must fall
asunder there.

I have made my Diary, and in the case of the Egyptian chapters, my
letters to our mother, the mainsprings from which to draw these

Bansha CASTLE, _July_ 1909.



GLANARAGH                                                              3


COUNTY MAYO IN 1905                                                   15



CAIRO                                                                 31


THE UPPER NILE                                                        55


ALEXANDRIA                                                            77



TO THE CAPE                                                           91


AT ROSEBANK, CAPE COLONY                                             105



VINTAGE-TIME IN TUSCANY                                              123


Sienna, Perugia, and Vesuvius                                        143


ROME                                                                 160



1. The Hour of Prayer, A Souvenir of Wady Halfa            _Frontispiece_


                                                             FACING PAGE

2. Our Escort into Glenaragh                                           1

3. “A Chapel-of-Ease,” Co. Kerry                                       8

4. Croagh Patrick                                                     17

5. Clew Bay, Co. Mayo                                                 20

6. A Little Irish River                                               24


7. In a Cairo Bazaar                                                  33

8. The Camel Corps                                                    40

9. The English General’s Syces                                        49

10. Registering Fellaheen for the Conscription                        56

11. “No Mooring To-night!”                                            59

12. The “Fostât” becalmed                                             62

13. At Philæ                                                          67

14. A “Lament” in the Desert                                          70

15. Abu Simbel at Sunrise                                             76

16. Madame’s “At Home” Day; Servants at the Gate                      81

17. Syndioor on the Lower Nile                                        88


18. “In the Hollow of His Hand”                                       97

19. A Corner of our Garden at Rosebank                               104

20. The Inverted Crescent                                            113

21. The Cape “Flats”                                                 120


22. Bringing in the Grapes                                           123

23. A Son of the Soil, Riviera di Levante                            126

24. Ploughing in Tuscany                                             145

25. The Bersaglieri at the Fountain, Perugia                         152

26. A Meeting on the Pincian: French and German
Seminarists                                                          161

27. A Lenten Sermon in the Colosseum                                 164

28. The Start for the Horse Race, Rome                               168

Also head and tail pieces in black and white on pp. 2, 3, 15, 27,
28, 30, 31, 54, 55, 76, 77, 88, 90, 91, 104, 105, 122, 123,
142, 143, and 160.








My diary must introduce you to Glenaragh, where I saw a land whose
beauty was a revelation to me; a new delight unlike anything I had seen
in my experiences of the world’s loveliness. To one familiarized from
childhood with Italy’s peculiar charm, a sudden vision of the Wild West
of Ireland produces a sensation of freshness and surprise difficult
adequately to describe.

“--_June_ ‘77.--At Killarney we left the train and set off on one of the
most enchanting carriage journeys I have ever made, passing by the
lovely Lough Leane by a road hedged in on both sides with masses of the
richest May blossom. For some distance the scenery was wooded and soft,
almost too perfect in composition of wood, lake, river, and mountain;
but by degrees we left behind us those scenes of finished beauty, and
entered upon tracts of glorious bog-land which, in the advancing
evening, impressed me beyond even my heart’s desire by their breadth of
colour and solemn tones. I was beginning to taste the salt of the Wilds.

“The scenery grew more rugged still, and against ranges of distant
mountains jutted out the strong grey and brown rocks, the stone cairns
and cabins of the Wild West land.

“To be a figure-painter and full of interest in mankind does not mean
that one cannot enjoy, from the depths of one’s heart, such scenes as
these, where what human habitations there are, are so like the stone
heaps that lie over the face of the land that they are scarcely
distinguishable from them. When observed they only convey to the mind
the sense of the feebleness of man, overpowered as he is here by the
might of the primeval landscape. This human atom stands timidly at his
black cabin door to see the stranger pass, often half-witted through
privation; or he silently tills the little patch of land he has borrowed
from the strong and barbarous earth that yields him so little.

“The mighty ‘Carran Thual,’ one of the mountain group which rises out of
Glenaragh and dominates the whole land of Kerry, was ablaze with burning
heather, its peak sending up a glorious column of smoke which spread out
at the top for miles and miles and changed its exquisite smoke tints
every minute as the sun sank lower. As we reached the rocky pass that
took us by the wild and remote Lough Acoose that sun had gone down
behind an opposite mountain, and the blazing heather glowed brighter as
the twilight deepened, and circles of fire played fiercely and weirdly
on the mountain-side. Our Glen gave the ‘Saxon lady’ its grandest
illumination on her arrival.

“Wild strange birds rose from the bracken as we passed, and flew
strongly away over lake and mountain torrent, and the little black Kerry
cows all watched us go by with ears pricked and heads inquiringly
raised. The last stage of the journey had a brilliant _finale_. A herd
of young horses was in our way in the narrow road, and the creatures
careered before us, unable or too stupid to turn aside into the ditches
by the roadside to let us through. We could not head them, and for fully
a mile did those shaggy wild things caper and jump ahead, their manes
flying out wildly with the glow from the west shining through them. Some
imbecile cows soon joined them in the stampede, for no imaginable
reason, unless they enjoyed the fright of being pursued, and the
ungainly progress of those recruits was a sight to behold,--tails in the
air and horns in the dust. The troop led the way right into the eye of
the sunset. With this escort we entered Glenaragh.

       *       *       *       *       *

“--_June_ 1877.--We rode in to-night after a long excursion amidst the
mountains of this wild land of Kerry, rode down into the glen where our
little inn stands in a clump of birch and arbutus trees. That northern
light which in these high latitudes and at this season carries the
after-light of the sunset on into the dawn, lighted our path for the
last hour with surprising power. Were we sufficiently far north, of
course, the sun itself would not dip below the horizon at all, but here
we have only the upper portion of his aureole from his setting to his
rising. Oh! the wild freedom of these mountain paths, the scent of the
cabin turf fires, the round west wind rolling through the heather; what
cool wells of memories they fill up for the thirsty traveller in desert
places far away. That west wind! This is the first land it has swept
with its wings since it left the coasts of Labrador. For purity, for
freshness, for generosity, give me the Wild West wind of Ireland.

“‘Carran Thual’ is still on fire; it signals each night back to the
northern light across the glen in a red glare of burning heather. The
moon, now in her first quarter, looks green-gold by contrast with all
this red of sky and flame, and altogether our glen gives us, these
nights, such a display of earthly and heavenly splendour that it seems
one should be a spectator all night of so much beauty. And to this
concert of colour runs the subtle accompaniment of rushing water, for
all these mountains are laced with silvery torrents leaping down to the
lakes and rivers that reflect the glory of the sky. Glenaragh! loveliest
of wild valleys, where is the poet that should make thee the theme of
his songs?

“Coming through ‘Windy Gap’ in this illuminated gloaming we met a lonely
horseman riding fast, a rope for his bridle, his pony very shaggy. He
passed us over the rocks and rolling stones, and, looking back, we saw
his bent figure jet black against the west for a moment, ere he dipped
down through the ‘Gap’ out of sight. We knew who he was. Some peasant
was dying on the mountain-side beyond, and the priest was anxious to be
in time with the Viaticum.

“A strange little creature came out of the kitchen of the inn to see us
after supper, and I made the acquaintance of a Leprechaun. Tiny, grey,
bald little manikin; a ‘fairy,’ the people call him. I do not want to
know why they are like that. I would rather leave them mysterious and

       *       *       *       *       *

“The people speak Gaelic here, amongst themselves, and the priest
preaches in it in the little chapel with the mud floor up on the hill
over the torrent. The language and the torrent seem to speak alike,
hurrying headlong.

[Illustration: “A CHAPEL-OF-EASE,” CO. KERRY]

“But the chapel! Shall I ever forget the tub of holy water, on my first
Sunday, placed before the rickety little altar on the mud floor, where
the people, on coming in, splashed the water up into their faces? The
old women had all brought big bottles from their homes in far-away glens
to fill at the tub, and nothing could surpass the comicality of
their attitudes as they stooped over their pious business, all wearing
the hooded cloak that made them look as broad as they were long. One old
lady, in her nice white cap, monopolized the tub an unconscionably long
time, for, catching sight of her wind-tossed tresses in that
looking-glass, she finished her devout ablutions by smoothing her few
grey hairs with her moistened fingers into tidy bands, with alternate
signs of the cross. The windows were all broken, and the men and boys
stuffed the holes with their hats and caps to keep out the mountain

“Last Sunday, a very hot day, the tub happened to be placed outside the
door, and it was well my horse was not tied up within reach, or a former
catastrophe might have been repeated, and a ‘blessed baist’ have carried
me home. The heat in the rickety little gallery, where the ‘quality’
have their seats, was such that I went out into the open air and
followed the rest of the service with a rock for my hassock, and two
rosy pigs toddling about me in that friendly way I notice as
characteristic of all the animals in these parts. They seem to feel they
are members of the family, and you see calves, goats, pigs, and donkeys
sauntering in and out of the cabin doors in a free-and-easy harmony
with the human beings which takes my fancy greatly. But the beasts are
by far the happiest; their lives seem passed in perfect contentment and
satisfaction, whereas the poor human animals have a hard struggle for
existence in this stony and difficult land of Kerry.

“The other day when W. and I dismounted at a cabin door on a wild
mountain that holds, still higher up, a little dark lake which the
people declare has no bottom to it, and on the shores of which ‘worms as
big as a horse’ come out and bellow in the evenings, the gaunt pig that
seemed to act watch-dog charged at me like a wild boar and sent me home
in ‘looped and windowed raggedness.’ I never thought to find excess of
zeal in a pig! The inmates of the cabin could not do enough for us to
make up for such want of reticence.

“On one occasion at church in Tipperary, I noticed a rather satanic goat
come pattering up the church and occupy an empty pew, where he lay down
with perfect self-complacency and remained quiescent, chewing the cud,
while we knelt; but each time the congregation stood up, up jumped the
goat, his pale eyes and enormous horns just appearing over the high
front of the pew. Then as we knelt again he would subside also, till he
was startled to his feet once more by the rustle of the people rising,
and then his wild head was again visible over the top of the pew,
staring about him. Not a single person took any notice of the weird
creature or seemed to think him out of place or at all funny. And so he
continued to rise and fall with the rest to the end.

“Our chapel here is too small for the congregation that streams in from
places as far as fifteen miles away among the mountains, and on one
pouring wet Sunday I saw the strangest rendering of what is called ‘a
chapel-of-ease.’ Not much ‘ease’ there, for some dozen men and youths
who could find no place inside were kneeling about the door in running
water, with a stone placed under each knee. Every day I see some
incident or episode which has for me a surprise and all the charm of a
new and striking experience. I feel more ‘abroad’ in this country than I
do on the Continent.

“See, again, this little scene. A friend journeying to our inn and
missing the road got belated in the defiles of the ‘Reeks.’ Dismounting
at one of those mud cabins, which, at a little distance, are
indistinguishable from their rocky surroundings, to ask the way, he was
invited inside and offered a meal. The light was waning, so two little
girls stood on either side of the stranger, each holding a bit of
lighted candle as he sat at table. These wild-eyed and ragged little
creatures made a pretty pair of dining-table candlesticks! I wish I
could have seen them in the dim twilight of the black, smoke-dimmed
cabin interior, their faces lighted by the candle flame.

“The beauty of the children here is a constant pleasure to me. We are
here in the land of blue eyes and black lashes, or golden ones, when the
hair, as it so frequently is, is ruddy. The young women are quite
beautiful. I wish a painter of female beauty could have seen the girl we
passed to-day who was minding some calves in a bit of bog-land bordered
with birch-trees. It was a symphony of green; her head shawl was green
plaid, her petticoat another tone of green, the background and all her
surroundings gave every cool and delicious variation of green, and her
ruddy limbs and red-gold hair, tossed by the breeze and shone through by
the sun, looked richer in colour by the contrast. Her great blue eyes
looked shyly at us and the shawl soon covered her laughing face. What a
sweet picture, ‘In the Green Isle’!

“Every day I am more and more struck with the light-heartedness and
gaiety of the animals. Whether it is emphasized by the poverty-stricken
and quiet, saddened, demeanour of the human beings in these parts I
cannot tell, but certainly the beasts seem to have the best of it. As to
the dogs that belong to the mud cabins, never have I seen such jolly
dogs, full of comic ways, especially when in puppy-hood, and all so
valiant in confronting us as we near their strongholds. But on our near
approach that puppy who looks mighty fierce afar off usually bolts under
some door and sticks there. Then the pigs, who generally are less
valiant than our wild boar of Lough Cluen, seized with apparent panic,
rush round and round in the yard, and the flurried ducks that scuttle
from under our horses’ hoofs end by falling on their sides in the
ditches--surely all in fun? And invariably the cows and calves by the
way-side prefer to be pursued along the roads, and keep up a splendid
burst of galloping with tails in the air for miles before a tumble
happening to one of them suggests a movement to the rear. All the lower
creatures are ‘jolly dogs’ here, and only man is care-worn.”

In the autumn we came back to our well-loved glen, and I gathered
materials there for my first _married_ Academy picture--the ‘Recruits
for the Connaught Rangers.’ W. found me two splendid ‘bog-trotters’ for
models. The elder of the two had the finer physique, and it was
explained to me that this was owing to his having been reared on
herrings as well as potatoes, whereas the other, who lived up in the
mountains, away from the sea, had not known the luxury of the herring. I
wish we could get more of these men into our army. W. at that time was
developing suggestions for forming a Regiment of Irish Guards, and I was
enthusiastic in my adhesion to such a project and filling the imaginary
ranks with big men like my two models. However, he was some twenty-three
years too soon, and the honour had to be won for Ireland through yet
another big war.




I wish you would make a summer tour to Mayo. It is simple; yet what a
change of scene, of sensations, of thoughts one secures by this simple
and direct journey--Euston, Holyhead, Dublin, Mulranny. You travel right
across Ireland, getting a very informing vista of the poverty and
stagnation of those Midland counties till your eyes greet the glorious
development of natural beauty on the confines of the sea-girt Western
land. I went there tired from London and came on a scene of the most
perfect repose imaginable, with the sound of the motor buses still
buzzing in my ears.

Mulranny is supremely healthy--a place of rosy cheeks and sunburn,
bracing yet genial, clear-aired, majestic in its scenery, unspoilt. As
you near your journey’s end and enter Mayo the change in the scenery
from the emptiness of Roscommon develops rapidly. Magnificent mountains
rise on the horizon, and the grandeur of the landscape grows into
extraordinary beauty as the train rounds into Clew Bay. The great cone
of Croagh Patrick rises in striking isolation at first, and then the
surrounding mountains, one by one, join it in lovely outlines against
the fresh _clean_ sky. It was a beautiful afternoon when I was
introduced to this memorable landscape, and the waters of the Bay were
quite calm. After sunset the crescent moon gave the culminating charm to
the lovely scene in the west, while to the south the red planet Mars
flamed above Croagh Patrick, and all this beauty was mirrored in the
Bay. What an emancipation from the fret and fuss of little Piccadilly in
a hot July to find oneself before these mountain forms and colours that
have not changed since the cooling of the earth. You might travel
farther a great way and not find such a virgin land.

[Illustration: CROAGH PATRICK]

And there is Achill Island, a one-day’s excursion from Mulranny,
poignantly melancholy in its beauty and remoteness beyond anything I
have seen in the west. Achill has often been described; it holds the
traveller’s attention with a wild appeal to his heart; but I don’t know
that one little detail of that land “beyond the beyond” has ever been
described. It is Achill’s mournful little Pompeii, a village of the
dead, on a bare hillside, which we passed one day on our way to an
unfrequented part of the island. This village was deserted in the awful
famine year of ‘47, some of the inhabitants creeping away in fruitless
search of work and food to die farther afield, others simply sinking
down on the home sod that could give them nothing but the grave. In the
bright sunshine its roofless cabins and grass-grown streets looked more
heart-breaking than they might have done in dismal rain. I wish I could
have made a sketch of it as I saw it that day--a subject strongly
attracting the attention of the mind rather than the eye. Pictorial
beauty there was none.

Everywhere in this country there is that heart-piercing contrast between
natural beauty and human adversity--that companionship of sun and
sorrow. But the light and the darkness seem blended by the unquestioning
faith of these rugged Christians into a solemn unity and harmony before
which any words of mine sound only like so much dilettantism.

See here another bit of chapel interior. A rough, plain little building,
too formless to be picturesque, packed with peasant men, women, and
children. Where but in Ireland could such a scene take place as I
witnessed there? The priest, before the beginning of the service, gave a
tremendous swish of holy water to the congregation with a mop out of a
zinc pail, from the altar. He had previously heard nearly half the
congregation’s confessions, men, women, boys, and girls kneeling in turn
beside his chair at one side of the altar, without any sort of screen. I
wondered, as they pressed round him, that they did not overhear each
other, but indeed I reflected that would be “no matther whativer,” as
these people must have but little to tell!

The server ran a match along the earthen floor to light the two
guttering, unequal candles on the altar, and at the end of Mass he
produced the mop and zinc pail again. _Swish_ went the holy water once
more from the mop, wielded by the athletic sword-arm of the gigantic
young priest. For fear the nearer people should have been but poorly
sprinkled under that far-reaching arc of water, which went to the very
end wall of the chapel, he soused the mop again with a good twist and
gave everybody in the front benches a sharp whack full in their faces,
tactfully leaving us out. They received it with beaming and grateful

There are wonderful studies of old men’s and women’s heads here full of
that character which in the more “educated” parts of Ireland the School
Board seems to be rubbing out, and I was delighted to see the women and
girls wearing the head-shawls and white caps and the red petticoats that
charmed me in Kerry in ‘77. The railway is sure to bring the dreadful
“Frenchy” hat here in time, and then good-bye to the comely appearance
of these women. Their wild beauty undergoes an extraordinary change
under the absurd hat and feathers--these winsome colleens then lose all
their charm.

Yet I must thank this same railway for having brought us to this haven
of rest, right up to the doors of a charming, very modern hotel, on
quite different lines from the dear little inn that fascinated me in
the old Glenaragh days. In its way it is fascinating too, for here you
have all the up-to-date amenities in the very heart of the wildest
country you could wish for. The electric light is generated by the
mountain streams and the baths filled from the glorious bay that lies
below the hotel terraces, a never-failing delight in all its moods of
sun and shadow, wind and calm.

Sad it is to see so many cabins deserted. The strength of the country is
ebbing away. The few people that are left are nice and wholesome in mind
and manner; they have the quiet urbanity of the true peasant all the
world over. They remind me of the Tuscan in this particular, but, of
course, they have not his light-heartedness. More seriousness, I should
think, these Irish have. I was sketching sheep, for a contemplated
picture, in the evenings on the lovely marshes by the sea, and one
evening a widow, left completely lonely in her little cabin on the
heights above by the departure for America of her last child, came down
to fetch home her solitary sheep from amongst the others, and I told her
I thought these creatures were leading a very happy life. “Yes,” she
answered, pausing for a moment and looking down on the flock, “and they
are without sin.”

[Illustration: CLEW BAY, CO. MAYO]

At the ringing of the Angelus the work in the fields, the bogs, the
potato patches stops till the words of St. Luke’s Gospel have been
repeated, just as we remember them said in Italy. It was a surprise--and
one of great interest to me--when I first saw peasants saying the
Angelus under a northern sky.

My studies of the wild mountain sheep on the marshes came to an abrupt
close. I was reposing under a rock (it was well on in July) with palette
and panels ready, waiting for the sunset and its after-glow, to get
final precious notes of colour upon the fleeces. One particular sheep
had been a very useful model. It ambled in a graceful way on three legs
and we called it “Pacer.” I became aware of an opaque body rising
between my closed eyes and the sun, and looking up I beheld the head of
“Pacer” peering at me over the edge of the rock over my head. But what
had happened to “Pacer’s” neck? Good gracious! I jumped up and beheld a
shorn “Pacer” and all the flock in the same lamentable condition. It had
all happened in twenty-four hours.

I want to bring before your mind two little rocky islands with green
summits off the coast of Clare, not far from here. Of all the
wind-swept little islands none could be more wind-swept. On one, the
smallest, I heard that a ferocious and unmanageable billy-goat was
deposited as a useless member of the community, and one night he was
blown out to sea--a good riddance. On the other you perceive, through
the spray, little nodules on the turf--the graves of unbaptized infants.
And the sea-gulls along the cliffs are for ever crying like legions of

       *       *       *       *       *

By returning from Mulranny by way of Tipperary and the Rosslare route to
England you can voyage down the Shannon and have an experience not
lightly to be foregone. This is the “lordly Shannon,” a great wide,
slowly-flowing and majestic river of dark, clear, bluish water--blue
shot with slate. You sit at the bows of the little steamboat which takes
you from Athlone to Killaloe, so that neither smoke nor screw interferes
with your enjoyment of the lovely scenes you are to pass through. If the
time is July (_the_ time to choose) you are at once greeted on clearing
the little grey town of Athlone with the most exquisite scent from the
level banks which form two wide belts of creamy meadow-sweet all the way
to the end, at Lough Derg. These belts are interrupted, once only, by
the lock at Shannon Bridge, that little gathering of houses and gaunt
dismantled barracks and breastworks built in the days of the threatened
French invasion. Near here lived Charlotte Brontë’s husband till his
death only the other day.

You will see in the Shannon a mighty waterway for commerce, left to the
wild things that haunt it; and it has haunted me ever since that July
day on which I saw it with a sense of regret that the condition of
Ireland makes such a river out of scale with the requirements of the
country. It flows for the wild birds, the cattle, the fishes, and for
its own pleasure; and it flowed for mine that day, for I let no phase of
it escape me and gladly added its sonorous name to the long list of
those of the great rivers of the world I have already seen.

We hardly saw a soul along the banks, but many kinds of aquatic birds,
flying, diving, and swimming, enlivened the voyage with their funny
ways, scurrying out of the track of the puffing little steamer. Along
the whole course of the great stream there stood at regular intervals,
planted in more hopeful days, navigation posts, marking the channel for
the ships that never come, and on these scarlet signs perched black
cormorants eyeing us like vultures. The herons rose slowly from the
meadow-sweet and the sedges, with their long flapping wings; the cattle
standing in the water followed us with their mild eyes. It was all
beautiful, mournful, eloquent, and when the ruins of Clonmacnoise hove
in sight I heard the spirit of Ireland speaking to me from the grave.

Clonmacnoise! A mere curious name to us in England. Perhaps nowhere,
even in depopulated Ireland, can a more desolate, abandoned plot of land
than this be seen. And yet this great monastery and university, founded
in A.D. 544, and at the height of her renown in the eighth century while
our country was in a very immature state, was a European centre to which
scholars on the Continent came to study; which was quoted and referred
to by them as a conspicuous authority, and which for long was in what I
might call brisk communication with the centres of learning abroad, if
“brisk” was not too bizarre a word in such a place to-day. A more
mournful oblivion never fell on any once flourishing centre of active
thought and teaching.

[Illustration: A LITTLE IRISH RIVER]

The slow havoc of time amongst these seven remaining little churches and
blunt round towers was one day accelerated by Cromwell’s gunpowder,
which has left the “Guest House” of the monastery a heap of ruins split
into ugly shapes quite out of keeping with the rest.

As the grey group passed away from sight I thought I had never known
more eloquent silence than that which enfolds the ruins bearing the
sounding name of Clonmacnoise.

Will the electric chain ever be linked up again that carried Ireland’s
intellect and mental energy to the Continent in those remote times, and
round again from the great sources of learning there, with fresh
material to enrich her own store?

You will have the wish to “Come back to Erin, Mavourneen,” after making
this little tour. To me Ireland is very appealing, though I owe her a
grudge for being so tantalizing and evasive for the painter. The low
clouds of her skies cause such rapid changes of sun and shadow over her
landscapes that it requires feats of technical agility to catch them on
the wing beyond my landscape powers. My only chance is to have unlimited
time and thus be able to wait a week, if necessary, for the particular
effect to come round again. An artist I heard of thought he had “bested”
the Irish weather and its wiles when he set up this clever system: six
canvasses he spread out before him on the ground in a row, each with a
given arrangement of light and shade sketched out ready. But when the
psychological moment arrived he was so flurried, that while he was
wildly running his hand up and down the row of canvasses for the right
one he could never find it in time.

A nice dance you are led, sketching in Ireland, altogether! You are, for
instance, intent on dashing down the plum-like tones of a distant
mountain, when lo! that mountain which in its purple mystery seemed some
fifteen miles away, in a moment flashes out into such vivid green that,
as the saying is here, “you might shake hands with it,” so close has it
come. Even its shape is changed, for peaks and buttresses start forth in
the sunburst where you imagined unbroken slopes a few minutes before.
Shadowed woods spring into dark prominence by the sudden illumination of
the fields behind them and as suddenly are engulfed in the golden haze
of a shaft of light that pierces the very clouds whose shadows had a
minute before given them such a startling prominence on the light
background. Unsuspected lovelinesses leap forth while those we saw
before are snatched away, and the sunlight for ever wanders up and
along the mountain sides, as some one has finely said, “like the light
from a heavenly lantern.”

What those changes from beauty to beauty do towards sunset I leave you
to imagine. I have never seen Ireland at all worthily painted. I think
we ought to leave her to her poets and to the composers of her matchless









To the East! What a thrill of pleasure those words caused me when they
meant that I was really off for Egypt. The East has always had for me an
intense fascination, and it is one of the happiest circumstances of my
life that I should have had so much enjoyment of it.

My childish sketch-books, as you remember, are full of it, and so are my
earliest scribblings. To see the reality of my fervid imaginings,
therefore, was to satisfy in an exquisite way the longing of all my

The Gordon expedition was my opportunity, and it was a bold and happy
conception of W.’s that of my going out with the two eldest little ones
to join him on the Nile when the war should be over. I may say I--and
the British Army--had the Nile pretty well to ourselves, for few
tourists went up the year I was there. But I had to wait some time at
Cairo and at Luxor before all trouble had been put an end to by the
battle of Ginniss, which closed the recrudescence of rebellion that
burst out after the great Khartoum campaign.

The emotion on seeing the East for the first time can never be felt
again. The surprise can never be repeated, and holds a type of pleasure
different from that which one feels on revisiting it, as I have so often
done since.

One knows the “gorgeous East” at first only in pictures; one takes it on
trust from Delacroix, Decamps, Gérôme, Müller, Lewis, and a host of
others. You arrive, and their pictures suddenly become breathing
realities, and in time you learn, with exquisite pleasure, that their
most brilliant effects and groups are no flights of fancy but faithful
transcripts of every-day reality.

[Illustration: IN A CAIRO BAZAAR]

But at first you ask, “Can those figures in robes and turbans be really
going about on ordinary business? Are they bringing on that string of
enormous camels to carry real hay down that crowded alley; are those
bundles in black and in white wrappers, astride of white asses
caparisoned in blue and silver, merely matter-of-fact ladies of the
harem taking their usual exercise? That Pasha’s curvetting white Arab
horse’s tail is dyed a tawny red, and what is this cinder-coloured,
bare-headed, jibbering apparition, running along, clothed in rattling
strings of sea-shells and foaming at the mouth? A _real_ fanatic? That
water-seller by Gérôme has moved; he is selling a cup of water to that
gigantic negro in the white robe and yellow slippers, and is pocketing
the money quite in an ordinary way. And there is a praying man by
Müller, not arrested in mid-prayer, but going through all the periods
with the prescribed gestures, his face to the East, and the declining
sun adding an ever-deepening flush to the back of his amber-coloured

It takes two or three days to rid oneself of the idea that the streets
are parading their colours and movement and their endless variety of
Oriental types and costumes for your diversion only, on an open-air

Cairo in ‘85, ‘86, was only at the beginning of its mutilations by
occidentalism, and the Oriental _cachet_ was dominant still. To sit on
the low shady terrace of the old Shepheard’s hotel under the acacias and
watch the pageant of the street below was to me an endless delight.

The very incongruity of the drama unrolling itself before one’s eyes had
a charm of its own. Look at that Khedivial officer in sky-blue, jerkily
riding his pretty circus Arab. There follows him a majestic and most
genuine Bedouin in camel’s hair burnoos, deigning not the turn of an
eyelash as he passes our frivolous throng on the terrace; two Greek
priests, their long hair gathered up in knots under the tall black cap
and flowing veil, equal him in quiet dignity, and a mendicant friar
rattles his little money-box, like an echo of the water-seller’s cups
over the way, as a hint to our charity. An Anglo-Indian officer of high
degree is driven up to our steps in a ‘bus under a pile of baggage. He
has just arrived from India and is impressively escorted by various
Sikhs, whose immense _puggarees_ are conceived in a totally different
spirit from that of the native turbans. A British hussar, smart as only
a British soldier can be, trots by on a wiry Syrian horse; a cab full of
Highlanders out for a spree bumps along the unpaved roadway. I confess
I was disappointed with the effect of our honoured British red. What did
it look like where the red worn by the natives was always of the most
harmonious tones!

See that string of little donkeys cheerily toddling along, all but
extinguished under their loads of sugar-canes that sweep the ground with
their long leaves; humble peasant donkeys, meeting a flashing brougham
with windows rigidly closed, through which the almond eyes of veiled
ladies of some high Pasha’s harem glance up at us and take us all in in
that devouring sweep of vision. Double syces run before such equipages.

French bugles tell us an Egyptian regiment is coming, and, meeting it,
will go by with a dull rumble a string of English baggage-waggons drawn
by mules and driven by Nubians, escorted by British soldiers in dusty
khaki uniforms; stout fellows going to the front, a good many of them to
stay there--under the sand.

About 5.30 P.M. weird music and flaring torches brings us out again on
the terrace, and we see a tumultuous crowd of pilgrims just arrived from
Mecca by the five o’clock Suez train. They gather the crowd by their
unearthly din and sweep it along with them. Beggars, flower-sellers,
snake-charmers, tourists, and touts are all rolling along in a
continuous buzz of various noises. Perhaps the full escort of cavalry
jingles past our point of observation and the native crowd salutes the
Khedive. Not so the British officers on the terrace, who keep their

But what was all this to diving into the old city, and in a ten minutes’
donkey ride to find oneself in the Middle Ages; in the real, breathing,
moving, sounding life of the Arabian Nights? Then when inclined to come
back to our time and its comforts, which I am far from despising, ten
minutes’ return ride and the glimpse into the old life of the East
became as a vision. For what I call the pageant of the street in front
of Shepheard’s was much too much mixed with modernity to allow of so
complete a transformation of ideas.

The bazaars of Cairo have been painted and written about more than those
of any other Oriental city. The idea of my having “a try” at them seems
to come a little late! But _if_ it is true that, as some croakers say,
Old Cairo is gradually dying, I feel impelled to lay one flower of
appreciation beside the grave which is ere long to close.

What a treat, to put it in that way, it was to rove about in the reality
of the true East, to meet beauty of form and colour and light and shade
and movement wherever one’s eyes turned, without being brought up with a
nasty jar by some modern hideosity or other. This was contentment. You
know what a bit of colour in sun or luminous shade does for me. Think of
my feelings when I walked through the narrow streets where the rays of
the sun slanted down through gaps in the masonry, or, as in some,
through chinks in the overhead matting--now on a white turban, now on a
rose-coloured robe relieved against the rich dark background of some
cavernous open doorway, now on a bit of brass-work. The soft tones of
the famous Carpet Bazaar in noon-day twilight, with that richness of
colour that tells you the invisible sunshine is somewhere,
fulfilled--yea, over-filled--my expectations, and close by in real
working trim were the brass-workers tinkering and tapping musically, the
while smoking their hubble-bubbles in very truth. The goldsmiths, in
their own particular alley, were sitting in the rich chiaroscuro of
their little shops waiting for me.

Added to those feasts for the eyes were the sounds which pictures could
not give me--the warning shouts of the donkey-and camel-drivers, the
“by your leave” in Arabic, followed by the shuffling sound of hoof and
foot in the soft tan; the tinkling of the water-sellers’ brass saucers;
the cries, like wild songs in the minor, of hawkers of all kinds of
things. Then the scents, also unpaintable. Incense, gums, tan, ripe
fruit, wood-smoke. And the smells? Ah, yes, well--the smells, goaty and
otherwise. They were all bound up together in that entirety which I
would not have deleted.

There was one particular angle of street in front of I forget what ripe
old mosque, before which I would have liked to establish myself all day.
The two streams of passers-by, human and animal, ceaselessly jostling
each other, came at one particular hour into a shaft of sunlight just at
the turn where I could see them in perspective. Now a splendid figure in
yellow robe and white turban, accentuating the streak of gold to
perfection, occupied the centre of the composition and I would make a
mental note: “daffodil yellow and white in intense sunlight; dull
crimson curtain in shade behind; man in half-shade in dark brown, boy in
indigo in reflected light”--when in the shaft of light now appeared a
snow-white robe and rosy turban, putting out the preceding scheme, till
a _hadji_ in a turban of soft bluey-green and pale-blue drapery came to
suggest a very delicate emphasis to the rich and subdued surroundings.

In the first fresh days how mysterious these covered streets appear,
these indoor thoroughfares, muffled with tan, where towering camels and
shuffling donkeys and curvetting horses seem so astonishingly out of

Anglo-Egyptians who have to live in Cairo smile at my enthusiasm, and
tell me they get tired of all this in time, and they are certainly
helping to attenuate the charm. A late high official, on leaving Egypt,
in his farewell speech told his audience that that day had been the
happiest in his life, for he had seen the first “sandwich man” in the
streets of Cairo. Since then another charming form of advertisement from
the go-ahead West has appeared over the minarets of the
alcohol-abhorring Moslems--a “sky sign” flashing out against the stars
the excellence of somebody’s whisky. Can they now say “the changeless
East”? And what a whirlpool of intensely Western amusements you may be
sucked into if you are not wary. You may hide in the bazaars but you
cannot live there, and teas, gymkanas, dances, and dinners will claim
you for their own as though you were at Monte Carlo or still nearer
home. In fact I have found New Cairo a little London and Monte Carlo
rolled into one.

[Illustration: THE CAMEL CORPS]

One glimpse of the vanishing Past which I got on a certain Friday at
Cairo has left a queer impression on my mind, not at all a happy one. I
am told the howling and dancing Dervishes have been lately suppressed,
and I am dubious as to the fitness of us Christians being witnesses of
those performances. However, I went, and saw what one can no longer see
in Cairo. I found it difficult to believe those men were in real
earnest, otherwise I should have felt more painfully impressed, but even
as it was it was a disagreeable sight to witness the frenzied creatures
flinging themselves backwards and forwards in time with the
ever-increasing rapidity of the tom-toms till their long hair swept the
floor at one moment and flew up straight on end towards the great
vaulted interior of the mosque the next. Gasping shouts as of dying men
escaped them rhythmically, and when the bewildering music had reached
its climax it stopped, and so did they, and the priest, with gestures of
loving commiseration and encouragement, very gracefully fell on their
necks and gave them a drink of water each in turn. All this went on
in a faint light from the hanging lamps, and the heat became
suffocating. Mrs. C. put her hand on my shoulder, and pointing upwards
asked me, “What is that?” A little white figure had appeared on a ledge
high up under the drum of the dome. Whether man, woman, monkey, or
goblin, I never saw a more impish figure, and it squatted there looking
down from under its hood. I saw many very queer beings in Egypt as time
went on, and decidedly the British occupation has not exorcised all the
old magic of the Egyptians. But I have never played with it as some do.
Not from fear, but from dislike. I am told in sober truth, people who
came to scoff have begged to be let go when spell-bound with horror at
what they have seen in a drop of enchanted ink spilled on a table.

We have sometimes played tricks on those people with imitation magic,
but never more successfully than did our friend Sir James Dormer out in
the Great Desert, when he struck the Bedouins dumb by taking out his
glass eye, which they, of course, believed to be his own, tossing it in
the air, and replacing it. He had great power over them, I should say,
for ever after. Brave man, he was killed shortly after in India by the
wild animal he had wounded and who sprang on him on his blind side. I
think a man with a single eye is doubly brave who goes out
tiger-shooting in the jungle.

A much wholesomer diversion than the Dervishes was provided by the then
General in command at Cairo a few days later, when some three hundred of
the Native Camel Corps were put through a series of splendid
manœuvres out in the great open spaces of Abassieh, beyond the Tombs
of the Mameluks. I got out of the carriage when warned that the final
charge was about to be delivered, and stood so as to see them coming
nearly “stem on.” It was a sight worth seeing, and surprising to me,
who, before I landed, had never seen a camel worthy of the name. When
the “halt!” was sounded, down fell the three hundred bellowing creatures
on their knees in mid-career, close up to us, and the panting riders
leapt off, their accoutrements in most admired disorder, and their
puttees for the most part streaming along the ground. I was in a hurry
to get back to Shepheard’s to take the impression down, for I was
greatly struck by so novel a sight. The red morocco-leather saddle
covers were most effective, and very sorry I was on my next visit to
Egypt to find they had gone the way of all “effective” bits of military
equipment, and were replaced by dull brown substitutes. Henceforth I was
an enthusiastic admirer of that most picturesque of animals, and though
I approached the camel at first with diffidence and apprehension, I soon
found him much easier to draw than the horse. What you would _like_ to
do with a horse to give him movement and action, but _mustn’t_, you
_may_ do with a camel. You can twist his neck almost indefinitely and
brandish his great coarse head as you like, and his long legs give you
_carte-blanche_ for producing speed. I found out a curious fact as time
went on and I had dogged dozens of camels about the desert and made
orderlies walk them up and down for me--namely, that the camel moves his
legs _in the walk_ precisely like the horse, but when he falls into a
trot he moves the legs of the same side forward together. He walks like
a horse and trots like a camel! As to the gallop, a more dislocating
performance I never saw. Lady ---- once told me she had, by an unlucky
chance, got on a baggage camel with a hard mouth, or rather _nose_, and
it ran away with her in the wide, wide desert. She hauled in the nose
rope with the strength of despair, till the detestable animal’s face
was twisted back taut into her lap and was _looking at her_, and still
the body galloped forward without the remotest check. She artistically
left the end of the adventure untold.

As to the camel’s noises, I don’t think I ever got to the end of them.
The snarl and the grunt I was prepared for--the horrible querulous and
sickening sound that some one has likened to the roar of a lion and the
grunt of a pig combined; but one day, as I was making a study of one of
these ungracious creatures for a big picture, I thought I heard a sweet
lark warbling somewhere, and I marvelled at its presence over the
Egyptian desert. The warblings came from the camel’s throat, and there
was a look in his eye that seemed to warn me that he considered the
sitting had lasted long enough. The length of his neck suggested that I
was within measurable distance of a bite, and I dismissed my sitter and
his lanky rider with promptitude.

Of all the figures that delighted me in Cairo those of the syces soon
became first favourites. The dress, the springing run, the beauty of the
movements--I don’t think the human figure could be more charmingly shown
off. The English General’s syces alone wear the scarlet jacket, and
deep indigo blue or maroon are the usual colours for the liveries of
those mercuries. Our fast-trotting horses now try them too much, and we
don’t let them run very far, but take them up after a little while. They
were intended to trot before the ambling horses or donkeys of Pashas, to
clear the way with shouts and sticks through the crowded bazaars. I saw
a lady (alas!) driving a very fast English horse past Shepheard’s in a
rakish T-cart, and the unfortunate syce was constantly on the point of
being knocked down by the high-stepper. It did _not_ add to the
smartness of this turn-out to see this panting creature looking over his
shoulder every minute in terror of the horse, and sometimes, when
flagging in his run, being overtaken and having to run alongside. I
levelled mental epithets at the thoughtless driver, and wondered how
such a thing could be. Some of us are curiously inconsiderate. I am
afraid she was but a type of many. Witness the suffering horses bitted
up with tight bearing-reins standing for hours outside shops and smart
houses where “at homes” are going on, when a word from the fair owners
to their ignorant coachmen might procure ease for their miserable
beasts. I am not enthusiastic about motors, but I am thankful for the
fact that they are greatly reducing the sufferings of our poor “gees.” I
hope by and by the motor will be made noiseless and odourless, for at
present I cannot enjoy its country driving. The scents of the country
are replaced by smell and the sounds by noise.

You are better friends with the motor than I am, and have gathered much
advantage from its audacity in taking you up, for instance, such rugged
heights as those about Tivoli, well within a morning’s outing from Rome,
which I have looked at as inaccessible, and only to be admired from a
lowly distance; those remote cones crowned with mediæval towns that
figure in the backgrounds of many an “Adoration of the Magi” and “Flight
into Egypt.”

I am, like you, of two minds about very rapid travel. There is something
to say for and against it. “For” it, the freshness with which the mind,
untrammelled with the bodily weariness of “diligence” or “vetturino”
jogging, receives impressions of points of interest; “against” it, the
hustling of venerable monuments and reverenced natural features which
should be approached with more ceremony. There is too much hustling
nowadays. I don’t know that I enjoyed my last visit to Venice quite as
much as usual, feeling apologetic and guilty in participating in the
“bumping” of the gondolas by the electric boats, whose back-wash sends
them hopping and lurching in such an undignified manner. The sedate,
gracious gondola, too well-bred ever to be in a hurry, “knocked out of
time” by a fussing little electric launch, which is always in a hurry,
with or without reason! What with the hurry, and the whistlings, and
puffings, and syren-bellowings, the powers that be are actually
succeeding in making Venice noisy. But I have got off the Egyptian track
a long way.

After a visit to Sakkara and to the Pyramids and the Sphinx I shall
launch out upon Old Nile at once. Our Sakkara day was typical of many I
was to experience in this strangest of lands--full of the delights, then
new to me, of donkey-riding through the fresh winter air of the desert,
but donkey-riding over tombs. Sakkara is the necropolis of Memphis,
itself long buried, that capital of the Pyramid Period that looms dark
far behind the nearer glories of Thebes and the Temples.

My hilarity induced by the sun, the breeze, the absurd goings-on of the
donkeys of our party was constantly damped by the weird reminders we
constantly came upon. Those Sakkara pyramids lack the majesty of _the_
Pyramids, and one looks at the amorphous heaps in an oppressed silence.
The Tomb of Ti raised one’s spirits by its vivid frescoes showing the
every-day life of that Prime Minister’s _ménage_: it was cheery to see
the poulterer in brilliant colours bringing in the goose to the cook,
but the final extinguisher fell when we were conducted along an
avenue--a sandy causeway--lined on either side with I forget how many
sarcophagi of sacred bulls. Each granite sarcophagus was, as far as my
memory could say, of exactly the same dimensions and of almost the same
shape as that of the great Napoleon at the “Invalides”! And all for

It was crushing; but well for me was the scamper back to the Cairo
train. You cannot afford to be pensive riding a donkey at that pace with
an Arab saddle to which you are not yet accustomed.


I am not going to dare to try to say anything new about the Pyramids of
Gizeh or the Sphinx; nothing new in any shape can come in contact with
these monuments. One feels overcome with hoariness oneself by their mere
proximity and silenced by the weight of ages. I am not going to ask you
to follow me into any interiors, for I did not go in myself; and
indeed, in my progress through this land of tombs, I protested more or
less successfully against burrowing into sepulchres, shuffling in thick
gloom through pungent and uncanny mummy dust, in bat-scented atmosphere,
while above-ground the blessed light of that matchless sky and the
uplifting air of the desert were being wasted. Polite compulsion on
certain social and festive (!) excursions alone forced me to forego for
a while the joy of that “to-day” above-ground for the mould of the dead
Aeons below.

I refer to a letter for my first visit to the Pyramids. That first sight
of anything one has read of and pictured in one’s child’s mind in the
course of education is a most precious occurrence, to be chronicled and
set down at the moment.

_30th November ‘85._--“A sweet gentle morning; limpid air, lovely fresh
clouds in a soft blue sky. We started at 11 in a carriage, with our
dragoman, and were soon taken at the usual hand gallop over the big iron
bridge with the colossal green lions at each end which spans the wide
Nile, into the acacia-shaded road which runs for a long distance in an
imposing straight line to almost the very base of the great Pyramid. As
we sped towards the illustrious group which we saw rising grey and
stern at the very edge of the desert where it meets the bright green of
the cultivated land we alternately looked ahead at what was awaiting us
and at the ever-interesting groups of men, women, children, and animals
which we passed, and at the mud villages with their palms and rude domes
and minarets which lay in the well-watered, low-lying land on either
side of the road. From the first moment I saw the Pyramids afar off I
knew I was not destined to be disappointed, and my apprehensions caused
by some travellers’ descriptions vanished at the outset. It is difficult
to put my feelings into words as I came nearer and nearer to these
wonders of man’s work, so pathetic in their antiquity and in the
evidence they give of their builders’ colossal failure to ensure for
their poor bodies absolute safety during the long waiting for the
Resurrection. The seals are broken, the secret places found out, the
contents gone to the winds!

“My beloved father was constantly in my mind to-day, for he it was who
with such patience taught us the value and fascinating interest of old
Egyptian history, and here were some of the scenes he used to read to us
of so often, but which he himself was not allowed to see.

“Mrs. C---- and I, on getting out of the carriage, first made the
circuit of the Great Pyramid--a space of ‘thirteen statute acres,’ I
remember Menzies telling us. I found that the most striking point from
which to feel the immensity of the Pyramids is in the centre of the
base, not the angles.

“We hear of ‘weeping stone.’ Here is stone that has wept blood and
tears! Each succeeding year of the king’s reign forced an additional
coating to his tomb, and prolonged the slave-toil under the lash--all to
safeguard a little dust that has now vanished. This age of ours is about
the time the old Egyptians looked to for the Great Awakening, for which
all their poor mummies were embalmed.

“How intolerable these three Pyramids must have looked when new and
entirely coated with white marble. Their glitter under the blinding
sunlight and the hardness of their repellent shapes make me shudder as I
realise the effect. Seen in the rough, as they now are, they do not jar,
but only oppress the mind by their ponderous immensity, and the eye
takes great pleasure in their tawny colouring.

“We next went down to the Sphinx and rested a long while in its broad
shadow. The gaze of the eyes is exceedingly impressive, and though the
face is so mutilated one would not have it restored. Strange that one
should prefer the broken nose and the hare-lip! It would not be _the_
Sphinx if it had the universal Sphinx face as originally carved.
Originally! When? It was there long before the Pyramids, and it now
appears that more than the ‘forty centuries’ looked down upon Napoleon’s
army from their summits. Sixty centuries, some say now. Time is
annihilated as one stands confronted with the Sphinx, and a feeling of
annihilation swirls around one’s own microscopic personality.

“This annihilation of Time is one of the sensations of Egypt. Look at
Rameses the Great in his glass coffin in the Cairo Museum. There, more
than ever, the intervening cycles are as though they had never been as
one stands face to face with Sesostris. More appalling than the
Sphinx--a chimera in stone--here is the Man. Not his effigy, not his
mask taken after death, but the _Man_! There is his hair, rusted by the
Ages, his teeth still in their sockets, the gash across his forehead
cleft in battle. His father lies in the next glass case, his grandfather
on the other side, and many other Pharaohs similarly enclosed in glass
and docketed lie around, all torn out of their hiding-places, stripped
of their multitudinous envelopes, and exposed to the stare of the
passers-by. Their mortuary jewels are ticketed in other glass cases, and
only a few shreds of winding-sheet adhere to their bodies. They were
religiously preserved, at infinite pains, for this.

“From the entrance to the Great Pyramid in the north face I had an
enchanting view of Cairo on the right, in sun and shadow with a sky of
most beautiful cloud-forms, and on the left the lovely pearly and rosy
desert stretching away into the golden West. How cheerily, how
consolingly the wholesome, refreshing Present receives us back after
those wanderings down the corridors of the dead Ages! Let us wash our
faces and smile again and feel young. The drive back was exhilarating
and full of living interest. We overtook shepherds guiding their flocks
along the road and carrying tired lambs on their shoulders. There were
buffaloes and oxen and ploughmen going home from work in the tender
after-glow, and then as soon as we were over the big iron bridge and in
the suburbs again it was dark, and the gas lamps were being lighted, and
‘Tommy Atkins’ was about, and British officers were riding in from
polo, and the _cafés_ of this Parisianized quarter were full and noisy,
and I felt I had leapt back into To-day by crossing an iron bridge that
spanned six thousand years. My thoughts lingered long amongst the most
ancient, most pathetic, most solemn monuments of the pre-Christian





And now for Luxor. Of all the modes of travel there is none, to my mind,
so enjoyable as that by water--fresh water, be it understood--and if you
can do this in a house-boat with your home comforts about you, what more
can you desire? We had the “Post Boat” to Luxor, and the sailing
dahabieh after that. Travelling thus on the Nile you see the life of the
people on the banks, you look into their villages, yet a few yards of
water afford you complete immunity from that nearer contact which travel
by road necessitates; and in the East, as you know, this is just as
well. Not that I really allow the drawbacks of the East to interfere
with my own enjoyment, but the isolation of the boat is best, especially
with little children on board.

I had read many books of travel on the Nile and knew what to look for.
Is there not a charm in knowing that some city, some temple, some
natural feature you have tried to realize in your mind is about to
appear in very truth just round that bend of road or river? You are
going to see in a few minutes that historic thing itself, not its
counterfeit in a book, but _it_. And so, as we neared Luxor towards
evening, I looked out for Karnac on the left, and lo! the first pylon
glided by. My first pylon! How many like it I was to see before I had
done with Old Nile. They are not beautiful in shape, nor can any
Egyptian architecture, as far as form goes, be called beautiful; the
shapes are barbaric--I had almost said brutal--stupidly powerful and
impressive by mere bulk. The beauty lies in the colouring. What a feast
these ruins afford to the eye by their colour, what a revel of blues,
greens, and low-toned reds in their unfaded paintings! Taken as bits of
colour only, without dwelling too much on the forms, all in such light,
the shadows filled with golden reflections--taken thus, or deeply tinged
with the lustrous after-glow, or the golden moonlight, they are


I will not, however, burden you with these ponderous pylons and
mammoth monoliths; they can only be enjoyed _in situ_, illuminated and
glorified by the climate of their homes. Indeed, I felt often very
oppressed and tired by them, but never did I weary of the landscape, the
people, the animals, the river.

One very saddening glimpse of fellah life was afforded Mrs. C---- and
myself at Luxor by the English Consul (a negro), who arranged that we
should see the registering of the young fellaheen for the conscription.
I think the British have changed all this lately, so we were lucky in
seeing a bit of the vanishing Past--a remnant of the Oriental Past which
no one can regret. We worked our way, led by the Consul, through the
Arab crowd in the village till we came to the entrance of the courtyard
where the drama was about to open. At the gate was a scuffling mass of
indescribably hideous old hags--the mothers and aunts and grannies of
the young fellahs inside, wailing and jerking out their lamentations
with marionette-like action of their shrivelled arms. As though by one
accord they would stop dead for a minute and look at each other, and
then all together begin again the skeleton chorus, throwing dust on
their heads. The unsavoury group came in with us pell-mell when the
gate was opened, and we found ourselves hoisted rather than conducted to
a divan prepared for us under a shed, from whence we could see all that

[Illustration: “NO MOORING TO-NIGHT!”]

Three Circassian inspectors, looking horrid in European clothes, were at
the head of a long rickety table, covered with a white cloth, in front
of us. This white cloth, in combination with the surging groups, made a
wonderfully good blank space in the composition of what I thought would
make a striking picture. The sketch I insert here is in no particular
arranged by me, but everything is exactly as I saw it. I noted
everything down in my sketch-book on the spot. The sheiks, stately men
in silken robes, who had brought each his quota of recruits from his
district, sat chatting over their coffee at the farther end of the
table, and the doctor at once set to to examine the miserable youths
that came up for registration. Fathers pleaded exemption for their sons
on one pretext or another, such as leprous heads, blindness, weak
chests, and so forth; the mothers, aunts, and grannies aforesaid went on
jibbering and clacking their jaws in the background, no one paying the
least attention to them. If a fellah was passed by the doctor a gendarme
gripped him and pummelled him all the way to the standard, where he
was measured. If satisfactory, the woe-begone creature received a
sounding box on the ear, just in fun, from the gendarme, and was shoved
into the pen where the successful (!) candidates were interned; if he
was below the mark, all the same he got his blow, and was pushed and
cuffed back to his friends and relatives. One mother had crept forward
while her son was having his lanky leg straightened by the doctor, the
father pleading the boy’s lameness (Erckmann-Chatrian’s _Conscript_
orientalised!): a gendarme sprang forward and knocked her down, then
hauled her off by her arms, which were so very thin and suggestive of a
mummy that I could not look any longer; he was so rough I really thought
he would pull them out of their sockets. My friend was crying, and if I
had not been so concentrated on my pencil notes I should have cried too.
“Surely,” she said, “that can’t be his mother, she looks a hundred at
least.” “A hundred!” I exclaimed, “she is four thousand years old--a
mummy!” I felt very sick as well as sorry. We were politely offered
coffee in jewelled cups, which we could not taste, and surreptitiously
emptied behind the divan.

The English have worked wonders since those days with the Egyptian army.
Taking the young men in the right way our officers have turned them into
remarkably smart-looking soldiers, and their terror of the service, I am
told, has vanished.

This was altogether a day which showed us the seamy side of Egyptian
life, for in the evening we and all the guests of the hotel went to see
the dancing at the _café_, a sort of mud cave full of wood smoke. It was
all very ugly and repulsive, and the music was impish and quite in
keeping. I was glad to have this experience, but once is enough. Talking
of music, I don’t know anything more appealing in its local sentiment
than the song of our crew when they were hauling and poling on calm
nights later on. Strange, unaccustomed intervals, and the key always in
the minor. In the pauses we heard the beetles and crickets on the banks
chiming in in a cheerful major.

Our sojourn at Luxor was a time of deep enjoyment, for we made almost
daily excursions on both banks of the Nile, excursions beginning in the
very early mornings, at sunrise, and ending in gallops home on our
donkeys in the after-glow, or trips on board the ferry-boat, from
Thebes, in a crowd of splendid Arabs, whose heads, figures, and blue
and white robes, or brown striped camel’s hair burnouses, added greatly
to the charm of the landscape. It was a joy merely to breathe that
desert air. All that was wholesome and not too tiring, nor risky from
the sun, was enjoyed by the children with us, but I kept them chiefly in
the paradisaical hotel garden as the safest place. One had to be very
careful. I cannot say that “black care” did not sometimes ride on my
donkey’s crupper, for I knew W. was pressing the enemy harder every day,
and that a battle was imminent. At last the great telegram came. Ginniss
was fought and won, and all the enemy’s guns and standards taken. He
sent me the message from the field. We might now come up. It took a day
or two to get the “_Fostât_” ready--the dahabieh which he had sent down
for us. Some wounded officers from the front brought news of the battle,
and, strange to relate, the only officer killed at Ginniss was son of
one of Mrs. C.’s oldest friends! What strange things happen in life. I
had met young Soltau the year before at her house on Dartmoor, and she
and I were destined to hear together of his death in battle on the Upper

We set sail in the first week of ‘86 for Assouan, where W. was to meet
us, and I witnessed the daily development of the Nile’s beauties with
the deepest pleasure, and a mind no longer over-shadowed.

I wonder how many people who have been to Egypt recognise the fact that
all its beauty is reflected? It is either the sun or the moon or the
stars that make Egypt glorious. Under thick cloudy skies it would be
nothing. But the co-operation of the illuminated objects is admirable,
and the two powers combined produce the Egypt we admire. W. and I came
to the same conclusion, that much of the glory of the moonlights is
owing to the response of the desert, especially the golden desert of

[Illustration: THE “_FOSTÂT_” BECALMED]

But I have also seen, on rare occasions, delicate effects of veiled
sunshine on river, palms, and desert too exquisite in refinement to be
easily described. I remember one memorable grey day which we spent in
turning the loveliest river reach of the whole series below Assouan, the
wind having completely dropped--a day which dwells in my memory as a
precious passage of silvery colour amidst all the gold. The palm-tree
stems towards sundown were illuminated with rosy light against the
pallid background of sand-hills facing the West, and of the delicate
pearl-grey sky. The greens were cool and vivid, the water like a liquid
opal. I wrote a whole letter to Mamma on that one grey day on the Nile.
But even that evening the after-glow made itself felt through the
clouds, lighting them from behind in an extraordinary manner, so that
the filmy screen appeared red-hot. The beautiful cloud-veil could not
shut out so fervid a rush of colour.

When a strong wind blows the desert sand into the air, obscuring the sun
and thickening the sky, what a change comes over the scene! Egypt is
then undoubtedly ugly, and all charm flies away on the wings of the

But the blast speeds the dahabieh on its way, and pleasant it was
sitting of an evening in the cosy saloon to see the hanging lamp
swinging with the motion of the bounding “_Fostât_,” and to hear the
creaking of the timbers, for the distance from Assouan, where W. was to
meet us, was being sensibly diminished. On some other evenings the fair
north wind was just enough to quicken the pace without dulling the
brilliant light of the moon, and there was to be no tying up under the
mud bank those nights. Then again a dead calm might come down upon us,
and after poling, tracking, or hauling up to the kedge anchor all day to
their monotonous sing-song, the crew would have orders to moor for the
night. I would then venture a run along the shore with the children, and
have a scamper among the palms and cotton plants, which were waving and
rustling mysteriously to imperceptible sighings of the air at the
water’s edge. One or two armed men, of course, landed also.

At Esneh I had the honour of entertaining the Pasha of that wonderful
place, whose temple I had particularly wished to see. He received us
with much ceremony, and we all went on shore escorted by his guard in
great state, walking through the bazaars accompanied by the wild and
ragged population. But for the soldiers and their whips we could not
have moved a yard. We visited the wonderful temple, the first we had
seen with the ceiling intact, which the colossal pillars were made to
support. I prefer the ruins so open to the sky that the sun may be seen
amongst them. Here, owing to the unbroken ceiling, all was gloom. At
Edfoo I was to see a _whole_ temple with pylons and all, almost in
perfect preservation, and to know the Egyptian temple in its entirety.

How funny our party looked--two English ladies, two little children, and
English maid, guarded by bashi-bazouks, slowly progressing through a
crowd of indescribable dirt and wildness. We looked into an oil mill
where the press was exactly like the wine-presses in Tuscany. You
remember the one I sketched at Signa, the picturesque _Strettojo_ of the
vintage? We poked our noses into the cavernous recesses where gigantic
negroes were dyeing the native cloth a splendid indigo, their black arms
blue to the shoulder. Oh, what colour!

On going back to the dahabieh we all, except myself, had our fortunes
told in a narrow lane where a row of Soudanese fortune-tellers were
squatting with patches of smooth sand before them on which they made the
person interested impress his or her hand. Upon the impression they made
many signs and marks. Everything was quite satisfactory. The children
were to have “pleasant paths in life and _strong loins_.” The maid was
to marry a white man, which was a comfort.

In the evening the Pasha dined on board. He spoke in French, and nothing
could surpass the florid eulogies he bestowed on “his brother, that
lion,” my husband. I saw him depart on his sleek and fat white ass,
which stood quite fourteen hands, and was equipped in Arab trappings of
indigo and dead gold. In the morning I received the Pasha’s presents of
fruit, vegetables, eggs in hundreds, two live turkeys, and a black lamb.
A gorgeous cavass in sky blue and carrying a wand of office was
installed on board for the rest of the voyage to Assouan. There had been
feasting and much thumping of tom-toms and whinings of curious fiddles
on deck during dinner the night before, where the crew were entertaining
the Pasha’s body-guard. My dragoman’s bill next day included these
items: “Trinks and trymbals for the crew”; “hay for the limp.” The poor
black “limp” with his hay was put into the little boat in tow, and I had
to deliver him up, as a matter of course, to the crew a few days later.
Then came Edfoo, whose temple is one of the most conspicuous in Egypt. I
had been on the look-out for its mighty pylons with especial eagerness,
and I was glad that we had time to spend two hours on land while some
repairs were being done on the “_Fostât_.” The Esneh cavass was useful
as well as extremely ornamental, as he kept off the wild crowd in the
village by magical waves of his wand of office, and an occasional thump
on a screaming villager.

[Illustration: AT PHILÆ]

The guard turned out and saluted our party, and altogether things went
very well, and I enjoyed my long-looked-forward-to Edfoo.

Then on board again, with a steady north breeze which, if it had filled
our eyes with sand at Edfoo, was making up for the discomfort by
carrying us in spanking style towards Assouan and the meeting.

After one of our fair-wind nights, when the “_Fostât_” was bowling along
over the lumpy water, I asked the reis if we had come to Comombos. He
made vigorous signs showing we had passed it in the night. “Silsileh?”;
again the welcome backward wave of his arm. That, too, was long passed.
We were getting very near. I noticed the people on the banks were
becoming blacker and there were fewer of them; the mountains had
vanished and were replaced by lion-coloured sand-hills, typically
African. The black rocks looked like sleeping crocodiles.

A faint whisp of smoke presently rose beyond a bend of the river, far
ahead. “What is that?” I asked the dragoman. “English steamer.” Great
excitement. The little armed steamer puffs into sight; some one is
waving a red handkerchief from the turret! “Furl the “_Fostât’s_”
mainsail!” The crew swarm up the spar. _Ding_, _ding_ goes the electric
bell on the gunboat. The meeting is an accomplished fact--we from
Plymouth, he from Wady Halfa. We are soon at Assouan, and while the
“_Fostât_” is being hauled by great gangs of negroes through the
cataract, we are guests of the General in that command on board his
charming dahabieh moored under Philæ. There the solemn rocks echo the
waltzes of the military band and the talk and laughter of our _réunions_
on board the “_Pharaon_.”

If the Egyptian desert answered back in harmonious tones the light of
the sun and moon, what a _crescendo_ of glowing response came from the
Nubian sands! Immediately we crossed the frontier my eyes were surprised
by the golden tone the desert had assumed, and the polished rocks that
studded it had suddenly put on the richest colours granite holds--deep
red and purple, and the black of basalt. It was a new scheme of
colouring. The sunset and the after-glow were still more astonishing
than those of Egypt, the colour of the shadows on the golden sands at
sundown more positive in their limpid colours. One felt looking at the
stars and planets as though one had been lifted to a world nearer to
them than before, so large and clear had they grown even from the
extraordinary clearness they had at Luxor. Oh! land of enchantment, is
it any wonder the Nile is so passionately loved, especially by the
artist, to whom the joy of the eye is supreme? As to worthily painting
the Egyptian landscape, I cannot think any one will ever do it--the
light is its charm, and this light is unattainable. There is one thing
very certain, oil paints are hopelessly “out of it,” and in
water-colours alone can one hope to suggest that light. I soon gave up
oils in Egypt, not only on account of their heaviness, but the miseries
I endured from flies and sand were heart-breaking; your skies are seamed
with the last wanderings and struggles of moribund flies, and coated
with whiffs of sand suddenly flung on them by a desert gust! I was
particularly anxious to get a _souvenir_ of the doorway in the court of
the temple on Philæ Island, where Napoleon’s soldiers engraved their
high-sounding “_Une page d’histoire ne doit pas_,” etc. Unfortunately,
on the day I chose, we had a high wind, a very exasperating ordeal, and
my attempt at oil-sketching this subject was a fiasco. After persevering
with one half-blinded eye open at a time and with sand thickly mixed
with my paints, I saw the panel I had been desperately holding on the
easel hurled to the ground on its buttered side as for a moment I turned
to answer a remark of Mrs. C.’s. She said I bore it angelically. As
since those days lovely Philæ Island is being submerged and the temple
melting away, the poor little panel has become more historically
valuable than I thought it ever would do at the time, and I insert its
replica in water-colours _minus_ the smudges.

Many pleasant hours we spent at Philæ, which, I suppose, is the
culminating point of the Nile’s beauties and marvels. One day, while W.
was gone to Assouan for provisions, I went over with Mrs. C. to the
opposite bank of the river by boat, an imp of a small boy taking upon
himself to escort us. He divested himself of his one garment, which he
carried in a bundle on his head, and swam alongside our “felucca.” Our
approach had been observed from a wild mud hamlet up on the fantastic
rocks, and a bevy of black and brown women came hopping and skipping
down to us. Little shrivelled old hags and wild little young women with
nose rings and anklets, their hair plaited in hundreds of little tails
reeking with castor oil, each little tail ending in a lump of mud.

[Illustration: A “LAMENT” IN THE DESERT]

Mrs. C. asked them to unfasten and display their locks, and in return
let down her own six-foot-long auburn tresses and stood on them to
“astonish the natives.” They danced and wailed in slow cadence, softly
clapping their hands and wagging their heads in admiration as they made
the round of the tall, rosy Englishwoman. There she stood, on her hair,
that trailed on the sand, in a golden halo of sunshine, the grim
hypæthral temple and the huge rocks as background, and surrounded by
little skinny, skipping, half-naked, barbarian women and quite-naked
little children. They turned to me and made signs that I should also let
my hair down. Because I excused myself, the little boy imp, still with
his garment on his head, came forward and took upon himself
condescendingly to explain to the little women, shouting “_Mafeesh_,
_mafeesh_!” (“Nothing, nothing!”) and dismissing me with a wave of his

From Philæ we soon glided into the Tropics. I say in a letter: “The
moonlight in Nubia also surpasses that of Egypt, and I see in it a light
I never saw before I came to this wonderful land. It is difficult to
describe this light. It is brilliant yet soft; light in darkness; not
like the day; not like the dawn: the sky at full moon is so bright that
only the larger stars are seen; and the yellow sand, the ashen bloom on
the tops of the sand-hills, the various tones of green in palm-tree,
tamarisk, and mimosa keep distinctly their local tints, yet softened and
darkened and changed into a mysterious vision of colour too subtle for
words of mine. Every night Venus and other great planets and stars shed
reflections in the still water like little moons in every part of the
Great Stream wherever one turns.”

W. could not spare the time for lotus-eating under sail, so a
“stern-wheeler” towed us from Philæ to Wady Halfa. It took very little
away from the romance, and the steady progress was very grateful. On
that glassy river, as it was now, we would have been an age getting to
our goal.

I was greatly struck with Korosko, a place which, besides its natural
desolate and most strange appearance, was sad with memories of Gordon.
This was his starting-point as he left the Nile to travel across the
desert to Khartoum, never to return. From a height one can see the black
and grey burnt-up landscape which lonely Gordon traversed. It is a most
repellent tract of desert just there, calcined and blasted. A view I had
of the Nile, southward, from the mountains of Thebes one day, though
bathed in sunshine, has remained most melancholy in my mind, because,
looking towards Khartoum, I thought of the hundreds of my countrymen who
lay buried in already obliterated graves all along those lonely banks,
away, away to the remote horizon and beyond, sacrificed to the
achievement of a great disaster. Others like them have arisen since and
will arise, eager to offer their lives for success or failure, honours
or a nameless grave.

One evening, as the “_Fostât_,” in tow, was skimming through the calm
water with a rippling sound, and we were all sitting on deck, W.
described to us so vividly a memorable night before the fight that put a
stop to hostilities, that I could see the whole scene as though I had
been there. They were out in the desert, the moon was full; the
Dervishes were “sniping” at long range, when afar off was heard a
Highland “lament.” The “sniping” ceased all along the enemy’s line and
dead silence fell upon the night but for the wail of the bagpipes. The
Dervishes seemed to be listening. The “lament” increased in sound, and
presently the Cameron Highlanders approached, bearing, under the Union
Jack, the body of an officer who had died that day of fever, to add yet
another grave to the number that lay at intervals along the shores of
the great river. You should hear the pipes in the desert, as well as on
the mountain-side, to understand them.

“Every phase of the day and night” (letter, 12th January ‘86), “appeals
to me on the Nile, not forgetting those few moments that follow the
after-glow which are like the last sigh of the dying day. The delicacy
of those pure tints is such that one scarcely dares to handle them in
writing. Evening after evening I have watched by the desert death-bed of
the day, looking eastward so as to have the light upon the hills.

“Those tender, sad, pathetic hills, and beyond them the mournful
mountains, possessing nothing,--not a blade of grass, not a lichen, not
a herb; they are absolute paupers amongst mountains, and they might be
in the moon, these derelicts, so bereft are they of all things.

“And yet the light, the atmosphere, give them a consoling beauty. What a
poem might be written to them as they look thus for a minute or two
before the dark-blue pall of night sinks down!”

Wady Sabooah, the “Valley of Lions,” was one of the most striking things
I had seen on this exquisite section of our river voyage. The abrupt
sand-hills held shadows of the most delicate amethyst at noonday which,
combined with the gold of the sunlit parts, produced a delicacy of
vibrating tones which enchanted the eye but saddened the artist’s mind,
recognising as it did the futility of trying to record such things in
paint! But I shall weary you with all this daily rapture, and I will bid
good-bye in these pages to the desert, well named by the Moslems “The
Garden of Allah.” There is no pollution there, and He may walk in His
garden unoffended.

In the first really hot days of March I and the children came home--Wady
Halfa was becoming no place for us, and W. remained with his Brigade
through the weary days of summer, unknown in their exhausted and
horrible listlessness to me who will always think of the Nile as an
earthly paradise. One halt I must make on our way down, at Abu Simbel,
that mysterious rock temple I had longed to see in the first ray of
sunrise, for it faces due east. W., who accompanied us as far as
Assouan, gave orders that our stern-wheeler (the old “_Fostât_” had been
dismissed) should tie up overnight at the temple, and before daylight I
was up and ready. I had packed my water-colours and had only a huge
canvas and oil-paints available. With these I climbed the hill and
waited for the first ray in the wild wind of dawn.

The event was all I hoped for as regards the effect of those “scarlet
shafts” on the four great figures (how many sunrises had they already
awakened to?) “A great cameo,” Miss Amelia Edwards calls that façade at
sunrise in her fascinating book, and that phrase had made me long for
years for this moment. But alas! my canvas acted as a sail before the
wind and nearly carried me into the river, the sand powdered the wet
paint more viciously than ever, and I returned very blue to breakfast.
Still, I had got my “Abu Simbel at Sunrise,” and I insert a water-colour
taken in comfort from the hard-earned but scarcely presentable original.






Our subsequent experiences of Egypt at Alexandria from ‘90 to ‘93 made
me acquainted with the Delta and that “Lower Nile” which has a very
particular charm of its own, and possesses the precious advantage of
being out of the tourist track altogether.

Not the least amongst the attractions of an Egyptian command (to
Madame!) is the yearly autumn journey to that country through Italy,
with Venice as an embarkation point. Madame knows nothing of the
horrors of the summer months endured by the “man on duty” out there, and
serenely enjoys “the best,” without the seamy side ever turning up. She
thinks that to spend one’s winters on the Nile, and one’s summers in the
“Emerald Isle,” is as near an ideal existence as this world allows us.
It is good to be a woman!

That farewell scene at Venice on board the P. & O., when friends came to
see us off with bouquets and “bon voyage”--how I should like just one
more of those gay leave-takings! I see again the dancing gondolas on the
sparkling ripples as they wait round the ship; the hat and handkerchief
wavings ashore and afloat, and Venice encircling the sprightly little
drama with her gracious arms.

Who that has plied between Italy and Egypt does not know the poetry of
that first night at sea, when the cloud-like mountains behind the
vanished Venice have also faded away, and there is nothing for it now
but to turn to the darkling Adriatic, heaving dimly beyond the ship’s
bows, and commit oneself to the mercies of the deep. “And the
dinner-bell,” some one is sure to add. Never shall it be said of me that
I chronicle the meals of my little travels.

The next morning the cessation of vibrations and throbbings wakes you.
Behold through the port-hole Ancona’s white church high up overhead,
shining in the level sunbeams of the young day.

The morning after that it is Brindisi, where they wait for the “long
sea” passengers and the the quays never stops. Here, in the course of a
stroll, you may pat the two pillars that form the winning-post of that
Appian Way whose starting-post you know in Rome.

There is very little monotony in a voyage of this kind, for you are
never for long out of sight of land. The Albanian coast, the Ionian
Islands, Crete, “Morea’s Hills”--what a series of lovely things to
beguile the six days’ passage! Yet, all the same, one has a thrill of
delight one day when an unusual stir amongst the crew begins, and the
hatches over the heavy baggage-hold are opened, and the lifting gear is
got into position. “We shall be in at daybreak.” Bless the captain for
those words! And the “man on duty” aforesaid will be standing on the

W. arranged a good studio for me at our new post, but I had
distractions. British and Foreign naval squadrons occasionally bore
down on us with thundering salutes, and had to be attended to;
distinguished and even august personages paused at Alexandria on their
way “up”; picnics on horse-back, donkey-back, camel-back, by road, rail,
and river, to Aboukir, Aboo-sir, and sundry oases all claimed my
delighted co-operation, plus my unsociable sketch-book.

Ah, the good good time, the golden Egyptian days!

But I found nothing so interesting as a holiday we managed to squeeze in
and spend on board a little dahabieh for two, on a nine days’ cruise to
Rosetta and back. I then knew the Western Delta and, superficially, the
life of its neglected and forgotten people. I am much afraid that since
the Assouan Dam and its doings, their meagre water-supply is anything
but increased, and I pray that the English authorities may remember
those poor people at last. They are like fish in a pond that is slowly
drying up.


On board the little “_Rose_,” lent us by an Armenian Bey, I tasted once
more the placid pleasure of fresh water travel under sail and oar; and I
again heard the strange intervals of the songs that kept the oarsmen in
time at their work. But I also learnt what Egyptian rain was like,
and how hideous the Mahmoudieh becomes under weeping skies. I saw in
this land the deepest and ugliest mud in the world--mud of the colour of
chocolate. The weather cleared usually towards evening, and nothing more
weird have I ever seen than the villages, cemeteries, solitary tombs,
goats, buffaloes, and wild human beings that loomed upon the sky-line on
the top of the banks against the windy clouds, reddened by the fiery
globe that had sunk below the palm-fringed horizon. These canal banks
might give many people the horrors, and I certainly thought them in that
weather the uncanniest bits of manipulated nature I had ever seen.

At Atfeh, after three days’ canal, we emerged upon the wide and glorious
Nile, and the skies smiled upon us once more. But the sadness of the
country remained to us as we contemplated the miserable villages which
occurred so frequently, with their poor graveyards at their sides, the
latter only distinguishable by the smaller size of the dwellings, and
the fact that the huts of the living had doors, and the huts of the dead
had none--that was all.

Once on the swift Nile current, with the eight sweeps flashing and
splashing to the rhythm of the strange singing (the prevailing north
wind being against sailing), we made a good run down to Rosetta, on
whose mud bank we thumped in a surprising manner, at 10 P.M. by a pale
watery moonlight.

Never have I seen anything sadder than the land we passed through that
day--dead, neglected, forlorn. Every now and then what seemed a great
city loomed mistily ahead of us, with domes and minarets, and what
seemed mighty palaces, piled one above the other on stately terraces.
These apparitions were on the sites of once magnificent centres of
wealth and luxury, and from afar they might still appear to be what once
they were. Then, as we neared them, the domes unveiled themselves into
heaps of filthy straw; the palaces were mud hovels a few feet high; the
great mosques were merely poor half-ruined tombs into which a single
person could scarcely crawl. The illusion occurred every time we came in
sight of one of these phantasms, and the effect on the mind was most
singular. City after city arose thus on one’s sight in the distance, as
though seen through the long ages that have rolled by since their prime,
and those long ages seemed like a veil that rapidly dissolved to show
us, as we approached, the wretched reality of to-day. “The pride of
life,” “pomp,” “arrogance,” “luxury,”--those epithets were their own
once, while to-day the very antitheses of such terms would best become
them. They are literally all dust now, and there survive only the poor
blunt-shaped dwellings for living and dead, that lie huddled together in
such pathetic companionship.

As the daylight fades we see the people creeping into their shelters
like their animals, to wait, like them, in the unlighted darkness, for
the coming of the morning. Their up-river fellow-workers live in a land
where the hardships of this cold and muddy winter misery are unknown.

I was glad to see the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, thus completing rather
an extended, as well as intimate, knowledge of the great river from
there to Sarras in the Soudan. Return tickets to Khartoum had not yet
taken travellers by rail up the Nile in so many dusty hours.

Still grey was the weather down to where the river merges into the
melancholy sea, between Napoleon’s two dismantled forts, and what beauty
there might have been was densely veiled. The old French “Fort St.
Julien” was interesting as being the place where the “Rosetta Stone,”
which gave the key to all the Egyptian hieroglyphics, was discovered.
There we moored for the night on our return to Rosetta, in a Napoleonic
atmosphere, and next day I sketched the once opulent commercial city,
where now nothing seems doing. A bald old pelican caused some movement
in the streets by raiding the odoriferous fish-market and scurrying
down, chased by small boys, to the water’s edge where I was sitting, in
order to float, by copious draughts, the fish that lay in his pouch down
his throat, pill-wise. The pelican always got his pill down in time, and
the race to the river was repeated more than once with the small boys.
On another evening, on our return voyage, we moored under the wild town
of Syndioor, whose minaret, the tallest, I should think, in the world,
proved to be no phantom, but a lovely and solid reality. In the pearly
light of the succeeding mornings the shining cities looked, through
their misty veils, more lovely afar off than ever. Finally we dropped
back again between the mud banks of the canal, and in due time landed
under the oleanders of our starting-place, the crew kissing hands and
paying us the prescribed compliments of farewell.

Our major-domo, Ruffo the European, was with us on board. I must tell
you of Ruffo; such an honest man in a country of much corruption! He did
all my housekeeping, and that zealously; but, desiring sometimes to
consult me about dinner, his figurative way of putting things before me
was a little trying. “Miladi, would you like cutlets?” patting his ribs;
“or a leg?” advancing that limb; “or, for a very nice entrée, brains?”
tapping his perspiring forehead. “Oh no, Ruffo, _never_ brains,
_please_!” He would rejoice in strokes of good luck in the market, and
fly through the sitting-rooms to me, perhaps bearing, like a gonfalon, a
piece of beef, where good beef was so rare; “Look, miladi, you will not
often meet such beef walking in the street.” He always smelled the
melons on presenting them to me, to invite my attention to their

After Cairo, Alexandria struck me very disagreeably at first; but when I
got over its Western pseudo-Italian garishness, I was able to console
myself with many a precious bit of orientalism, and even the bizarre
mixture of flashy European tinsel with the true native metal amused me
so much that I ended by enjoying the place and in being delighted to
return there for yet another winter, and another. Nor can I ever forget
that this appointment afforded us the most memorable journey of our
lives--the ride through Palestine!

Not even the drive on the old Shoubra Road at Cairo surpassed the
Alexandrian Rotten Row on the Mahmoudieh Canal on a Friday afternoon in
its heterogeneous comicality. Every type was on the Mahmoudieh, in
carriages, and on horseback--Levantine, Greek, Jew, Italian, Arab; up
and down they rode on the bumpy promenade, under the shade of acacias
and other flowering trees that skirted the picturesque canal. Across
this narrow strip of water you saw the Arab villages of a totally
different world; and I really felt a qualm every time I saw a _fellah_
over the way turning his back to the western sun (and to us) to pray, in
absolute oblivion of our silly goings-on. On our side was Worldiness
running up and down, helter-skelter; on the other, the repose of Kismet.

Here comes a foreign consul--you know him by his armed, picturesque
ruffian on the box--in a smart Victoria, driven by a coal-black Nubian
in spotless white necktie and gloves; the Arab horse is ambling along
with high measured action. Much admired is _Monsieur le Consul_--the
observed of all observers; he looks as though he felt himself “quite,
quite.” But “Awah, awah!” Here come at a smart leaping run two shouting
syces turbaned in the Alexandrian fashion; and behind them a barouche
and pair driven by an English coachman of irreproachable deportment.
What thrilling rivalry is here!

Exquisite horses with showy saddle-cloths there are, with _le sport_ on
their backs in the person of “young Egypt” in the inevitable _tarboosh_.
That _tarboosh_! It is the “bowler” hat of the East, and I don’t know
which I hate most--it or the “bowler.”

The ladies are overwhelming; and I rest my eyes occasionally by watching
the demure feminine figures of the “East end” who are filling their
_amphoræ_ under the oleanders over the way, or washing their clothes and
their babies in the drinking water supply of the native town.

Towards sunset there is a _sauve qui peut_ of equipages citywards, and I
never heard such a din as is set up as soon as the soft roads are passed
and the paved streets are reached. Over it all you may hear:--

    The tow-row-row and the tow-row-row
        Of the British Grenadiers.

The Suffolks or the Surreys are marching from Mandara Camp to the sound
of that drum which we like to remind ourselves “beats round the world.”











I don’t know whether in the Atlantic that lies between England and
America you have had calm moonlight nights such as, taking the ocean
longitudinally, one may have an impressive experience of, if timing the
voyage rightly. I don’t suppose a more favourable time for “detachment”
could be easily obtained than those night hours on board a great ship
out at sea, when one more easily realizes than in the daytime how the
huge “Liner” is but a pathetic little speck on the landless and
fathomless waters. The heart of this atom beats courageously enough
night and day, without a rest, as it carries its charge onwards to
deliver it at the goal that lies in the “Under World,” but never does
one more sensitively feel the power of those words, “In the hollow of
His hand,” than when realising the true proportion of the “vessel” that
carries us and our fortunes.

We spent--the children, Mrs. B. (wife of W.’s Military Secretary), and
I--a few hours by night at Madeira, three days out from England, the
only land we touched throughout the six thousand miles.

My diary says, 21st February ‘99: “We spent a memorable night on an
enchanted Island. Arriving at Funchal overnight instead of in the
morning of the next day, as we were timed to do, we took the place by
surprise. First we saw a blazing light on an advanced rock, which stood
out very black, well ahead of the dusky mass of the Island, which rose
high behind it, dimly crowned with spectral snow. The moon, not yet
full, was clearing her way through thin cloud veils, and the town at
first could be guessed at only by clusters of lights along the shore,
where the waves were breaking with a strange clamour on the pebbles.

“Presently balls of fire were sent up on the slopes above the town to
tell Funchal we were coming, and, as we slowly rounded into the smooth
water of the bay, we could see a little armada of boats pushing out in a
flurried line towards us, and we presently heard the Portuguese chatter
of their occupants who were soon swarming up the side to try and get all
the money out of us that they could in exchange for fruit, embroidery,
basket-work, etc. Then a streaming triton appeared at the bulwarks,
outside, his face and brawny muscles gleaming in our electric light
against the deep-blue background of moonlit sea. The triton asked for
sixpences to be thrown into the water, and he dived for them and came
up, grinning and streaming, into the light again for more. All the world
over, where the seas are clear, this game goes on to beguile the
traveller. I must say I think those sixpences are fairly earned when I
see to what depths these creatures dive for them in semi-darkness. To
what metaphorical depths less honest men descend for petty pelf! but I
haven’t time to work this out.

“Soon Mr. Payne came on board, the wine-merchant prince, whom W. had
asked to show us the Island and give us our deck chairs. To this most
kind friend we are indebted for a memorable experience. He proposed,
though it was night, to take us on shore, and I, the three children, and
Mrs. B. followed him down the ship’s side to one of the many boats that
were lurching and bumping at the foot of the ladder. The first boat
tilted over on its side and nearly spilt her two rowers, who rolled out
maledictions as the water filled her and lost them their chance of us.
We jumped into another and were rowed to the little jetty. On arriving
in the town we found little hooded sledges, drawn by small oxen,
waiting. We boarded two of these Madeira cabs and drove up to the
Casino, our cabmen running by the side and whooping to the oxen. We
entered an enchanted garden waving with palms, pines, and blue
gum-trees, and other shadowy, dark-foliaged trees, while glossy and
feathery shrubs of every type of tropical loveliness bore blossoms which
shimmered white, red, and purple in the moonlight. There was a heavy
scent of magnolia flowers. Was it all a dream to wake from in Sloane
Street? I was in that murky region only three days ago. Was it all a
dream? It might be, for things were getting mixed and incongruous. Now
cigar smoke kills the magnolia, and some electric lamplets among the
trees are jarring with the moon. We suddenly step into a pavilion where
a band is playing, and I see smart men and women, very fashionably
attired in evening dress, some of them raking in money at the roulette
table. We do not stay long there, for we did not land to see such
banalities, and, regaining the garden solitudes, make for our bullock
sledges, which are to take us up 2000 feet higher through vine-trellised
lanes all paved by those polished pebbles set edgewise for the sledges
to run smoothly on. Away we go, our cabmen now and then placing a tallow
candle enclosed in a bag under the sledge runners to lubricate them, or
there would be disagreeable friction. As soon as one runner has passed
over the emaciated candle the man on that side throws the candle across
to the man on the other, who, stooping, and always at a trot, performs
the same juggernautic process on his side. The men are handsome and
healthy fellows, wearing their coats hanging loose on their shoulders
over snowy shirts. They never speak to Mr. Payne with covered heads.

“There is a funicular railway up this mountain, but it does not work at
night, and we thus have a taste of the vanishing Past. Far more
effective, this railway, for it climbs the hill boldly and with
uncovered sides, whilst our old road is hemmed in by high vineyard
walls, and the straining of the little goaded oxen is amongst those
belongings of the Past which I will gladly see vanish with it.

[Illustration: “IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND”]

“On our way up the incline, which would be impossible to horses and to
wheels, our kind _cicerone_ invited us to see his garden and the view of
the bay and the great ocean which was swelling away in the light towards
Morocco. It was a lovely garden, and we crept about it round the little
cosy house, and looked up at the closed shutters, within which _la
famille Payne_ lay slumbering. We even went on tip-toe through the
sitting-rooms, which the owner, looking as though he was burgling his
own house, lit with a little lantern. In one there was a parrot asleep,
in another an engraving of the ‘Roll Call,’ and again I began to think I
might be dreaming and would wake, with tears, in Sloane Street. But the
‘dream’ was solid and we continued our upward progress with four
additional oxen to each sledge and double whooping, and swearing, and
prodding, for the gradient now was terrific. At the end of the
sledge track we halted, and, getting out, we climbed to the hill top on
foot and from there beheld a lovely sight--deep valleys and vine-clad
hills and the great ocean beyond, and our Castle Liner blazing with
electric light more than 2000 feet below in the profound calm of Funchal
Bay. The stars were very lustrous and the ‘Scorpion’s Heart’ aflame with
red and green. We then took a mysterious walk in brilliant moonlight and
intense black shadow to the edge of a great ravine or _coral_, from the
bottom of which rose the harsh sound of a torrent, invisible in the
shadow. Sugarcanes waved in the night breeze and banana plants rustled
and whispered, but no one was awake in all the land but our little

“Dreamlike again, on our way back to where we had got out of the
sledges, we had tea in another enchanted garden at 2 A.M. Our cabmen had
hammered at that garden gate a long time, looking like stage peasants
knocking at an operatic moonlit portal, before the waiter could be
awakened, and by the time we returned from our walk the sleepy creature
in tail coat, but minus his tie, was ready for us. When we passed that
mysterious threshold we found ourselves in a garden full of the scent
of box hedges and tinkling with fountains. We walked in the chequered
shadow cast by palms and cypresses, and, soothed by the sound of running
water, we felt we would like to stay there till the dawn. What a night
to impress the children’s minds with! Our tea was hilarious, in an
arbour facing the ocean, but our hilarity was to reach its climax when
we got into two toboggans, three people in each, and _slithered_ down
the 2000 foot declivity which our oxen had so painfully and slowly drawn
us up. The oxen had vanished with the sledges and the drivers, and a new
set of men piloted us down the tremendous incline.

“Nothing makes me laugh more than a toboggan in full flight with its
helpless load. I had the pace moderated, in spite of protests, for I
really did not care to have a variation of the too recent Bay of Biscay;
but the toboggans got out of hand sometimes or had to be given their
heads round the corners. It was vertigo then.

“Ah, good night, or rather good morning, peerless Madeira!”

Then followed days of blue weather and ever-increasing heat. A lonely
voyage--not a sail to be seen. In that long-drawn-out monotony we made
the most of trivialities.

I read in my diary one night in the Tropics:--

“There is to be a fancy-dress ball to-night, in connection with crossing
the Line the other day, I suppose; the second class passengers are to
come over and dance with the first class on the gaily decorated
promenade deck. I am pleased at the appearance of the three children. C.
has made up from some Eastern muslins a very coquettish Turkish costume
with a little cap, which becomes her to my entire satisfaction. E. looks
the typical ‘duck’ in a poke bonnet all over little pink roses, and I
have buckled up little M. in a colonial cavalry ‘rig,’ slouched hat and
all, Captain S. lending his sabre, which is somewhat longer than the
temporary owner.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I must interpolate the statement of certain facts which will enable
you more fully to sympathise with me in the catastrophe that closes this
mid-ocean episode.

You must know that white servants are impossible to find at the Cape,
and one must bring all one’s staff out with one, “for better, for
worse,” it may be for three, four, five years. If any turn out badly, it
is true you may send them home, but--who is to replace them? I could
not persuade my cook at Dover Castle to undertake this expatriation, her
courage failing her at the last moment, and I had to find an untried
substitute. She was a Dane with the blood of generations of bellicose
Vikings coursing through her veins, and I had watched her daily on the
other deck from afar with apprehensions.

       *       *       *       *       *

“The ball is over and I feel decidedly limp. I thought I was going to
have a pleasant evening. I was sitting with Lady ---- and all the others
who were not masquerading, enjoying the sight of the figures in all
kinds of extempore costumes appearing on the deck from below and
mustering prior to setting to, the band playing a spirited waltz, when
there slowly emerged from the saloon stairway, as though rising from the
waves she rules--Britannia! First a high brass helmet with scarlet
crest, then a trident held in one hand, a shield in the other, and the
folds of the Union Jack draping her commanding form. She stepped on
deck. ‘I say,’ said a voice, ‘this is _the_ success of the evening; who
is it?’ ‘Who is it?’ you heard on every side. ‘Who is it?’ asked
Lady ---- turning to me. ‘My cook,’ I faintly answered. The last speaker
knew her South Africa, and all the possibilities of the future might
have spoken in my face to judge by the choking laughter that caused her
precipitate withdrawal. Each time she ventured back within sight of my
smileless face the fit seized her again. Later on I saw Britannia
dancing in a small set of Lancers hand in hand with the Marchioness.
Shall I ever get her harnessed now?”

I went back to hang over the bulwarks and lose myself among the stars.

And so we made our way athwart the world. Each evening every one went to
scan the chart where the little “atom’s” progress was marked with, to
us, an all too short pen-stroke, showing the distance covered in the
last twenty-four hours. And in time the sad South Atlantic broke up the
exquisite blue weather of the Tropics.

The diary goes on: “To-night we saw the Pole Star set for the last time.
A profound melancholy--a sense of losing a life-companion--falls on the
mind. The child who has just seen its old nurse turn a bend in the road
and disappear looks with rueful eyes on the bright newcomer. The
Southern Cross and all the new stars will never fill the void left by
the constellations which I have watched above the beloved scenes of the
Northern World. My thoughts follow the Pole Star beyond the dark rim of
the horizon. Dear old friend! I shall not feel content, no matter how
beautiful I shall find the Southern heavens, till the joyful night when
the captain of the Homeward Bound tells us we shall see thee rise. When
will that be--in two--in three--years?”

I spoke just now of the “sad” South Atlantic. To me it will always be
the saddest part of the world. The sky above it loses the transparent
and radiant quality of blue (“less blue than radiant,” Mrs. Browning
happily says of the Florentine sky) and takes more of a cobalt quality,
and the tone of the sea follows suit. The effect of the diminishing
warmth also chills one morally and physically, and one knows that the
best is passed. The phrase, “a waste of waters,” comes constantly to the

The following extract from the diary will show how this mournful
sentiment of the South Atlantic was one day accentuated--stamped, as it
were, with the seal of sorrow, on our return voyage, four days from Cape
Town. “We had a burial at sea, the forlornest thing I have ever
witnessed. A poor consumptive governess, travelling alone, died last
night, who must have been far too ill to be put on board ship. She was
buried at eleven this morning.

“We were kneeling near the body, which lay on a bier shaped like a tray,
covered with the Union Jack, at the open gangway overhanging the dreary
tossing waters. Not a glimpse of blue sky above, the dense clouds shut
it out. As she belonged to our Church, W., in uniform, read the prayers
and Captain C. the responses. When the prayers were ended the bier was
tilted by the six sailors who had been grasping it all through the
service. The poor little body, sewn up in sacking, darted out, with a
rattle of the leaden weights, from under the covering flag and fell with
a loud splash into the black ocean; the flowers that had been placed on
it scattered on the foam, and, as the ship scarcely stopped, these were
soon left behind to sink and disappear. He who read the prayers said to
me when all was over, ‘Christ walks the waters as well as the land.’”

Two days after I read: “A concert this evening, with some comic songs. I
noticed the piano was draped with the same Union Jack that covered the
poor girl two days ago.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One can hardly realize what a sailing voyage of this magnitude must have
been in the old days. Our modern impatience can hardly endure the
thought. The announcement one evening that at dawn we should sight Table
Mountain was extremely pleasant. The arrival had the never-fading charm.
“I see papa!” sang out little M. “How are the children?” hailed papa
from the quay. “All well!” And we land on utterly new ground to begin a
new experience. A short train journey, turning the flank of Table
Mountain, brings us to our new home at Rosebank, where I find a pair of
shapely Cape ponies harnessed to the Victoria awaiting us at the




“Strange land; strange birds with startling cries; strange flowers;
strange scents! I received a bouquet of welcome on my arrival composed
of grass-green flowers with brilliant rose-coloured leaves. Where am I?
_Where_ are the points of the compass?

“I was watching the sun travelling to his setting this evening, and,
forgetting I was perforce facing North to watch him, he seemed to be
sloping down towards the East! And lo! when he was gone, the crescent
moon on the wrong side of the sunset and turned the wrong way. And a
cold south wind bringing melancholy messages from the Antarctic. ‘There
has been a storm in the south,’ some one said, and the words struck
drearily on my mind’s ear.

“My Bible, so full of imagery taken from the aspects of Nature, is
turned inside out.

     Arise (depart), north wind; and come, O south wind; blow through my
     garden, and let the aromatical spices thereof flow (Canticles iv.

“My Shakespeare is upside down.

    At Christmas I no more desire a rose
    Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth.--
             _Love’s Labour’s Lost._

“Here roses load the Christmas air with sweetness, and May ushers in the
snow upon the mountains.

    When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
    Hath put a spirit of youth in everything.--_Sonnet._

“Here April is in the ‘sear and yellow.’

“Yesterday a furnace-blast swooped down upon us from the great deserts
to the north, and I feel I shall never be myself while I continue to see
my shadow at noonday projected southward. But enough of grumbling for
the present.

“Nowhere have I seen such starlight as streams upon the earth from the
Milky Way, which belts the whole heavens here with silver. I don’t know
why I have never seen the Milky Way so distinct and splendid in the
Northern Hemisphere. It is the glory of the South African nights, and I
have the pleasure, too, of seeing the entire sweep of the ‘Scorpion’s’
tail, superb scroll of blazing stars. I knew the Southern Cross would be
disappointing, and so was not disappointed.

“It gyrates over the Pole in a way to greatly astonish the uninitiated.
The other evening, dressing for an evening function, I saw it before my
window upright, and on coming home in the small hours, behold it on its

“I cannot hope ever to convey to the mind of those who have not
experienced Cape Colony the extraordinarily powerful local feeling of
these days and nights. Melancholy they are--at least to me--but most,
most beautiful and _pungently_ poetical. The aromatic quality of the
odours that permeate the air suggests that word. Yet all is too strange
to win the heart of a newcomer, however much his eyes and mind may be

“If an artist wanted to accomplish that apparently impossible feat of
painting Fairyland direct from Nature, without one touch supplied out
of his own fancy, he would only have to come here. There are effects of
light and colour on these landscapes that I never saw elsewhere. The
ordinary laws seem set aside. For instance, you expect a palm-tree to
tell dark against the sunset. Oh, dear me no, not necessarily here. I
saw one a tender green, and the sand about it was in a haze of softest
rose-colour, through which shone the vivid orange light of the sunset
behind it. Incredible altogether are the colours at sunset, but all so
fleeting. And there is no after-glow here as in Egypt and Italy; the
instant the glory of the setting sun is gone all is over and all is

“Even the melancholy-quaint sound of the frogs through the night
suggests fairy tales. It is appealing in its own way. I thought the
Italian maremma frog noisy, but no one can imagine what an orgy of
shrill croaking fills the nights here. They are everywhere, these
irrepressibles, though invisible; near your head, far away, under your
feet, at your side, in the tree-tops, in the streams, for ever springing
their rattles with renewed zest. I shall never hear nocturnal frogs
again without being transported to these regions of strange and
melancholy nights.

“Table Mountain rises square and precipitous above our garden, far
above the simmer of the frogs, and looks like an altar in the pure white
light that falls upon it from the Milky Way. How still, how holy in its
repose of the long ages it looks, and the thought comes to one’s mind,
‘Would that all the evil brought to South Africa by the finding of the
gold could be gathered together and burnt on that altar as a peace

“On this Rosebank side there is nothing that jars with the majestic
feeling of Table Mountain, but to see what we English have done at its
base on the other side, at Cape Town, is to see what man can do in his
little way to outrage Nature’s dignity. The Dutch never jarred; their
old farm-houses with white walls, thatched roofs, green shutters, and
rounded Flemish gables look most harmonious in this landscape. Wherever
we have colonized there you will see the corrugated iron dwelling, the
barbed-wire fence, the loathsome advertisement. We talk so much of the
love of the beautiful, and yet no people do so much to spoil beauty as
we do wherever we settle down, all the world over. I respect the Dutch
saying; ‘The eye must have something’--beauty is a necessity to moral
health. A clear sky and a far horizon have more value to the national
mind than we care to recognize, and though the smoking factory that
falsifies England’s skies and blurs her horizons may fill our pockets
with gold, it makes us poorer by dulling our natures. I am sure that a
clear physical horizon induces a clear mental one.

“As you gaze, enraptured, at the rosy flush of evening on the mountains
across “False Bay” from some vantage point on the road to Simon’s Town,
your eye is caught by staring letters in blatant colours in the
foreground. “Keller’s boots are the best”; “Guinea Gold Cigarettes”; “Go
to the Little Dust Pan, Cape Town, for your Kitchen things.” I _won’t_
go to the Little Dust Pan. Of all the horrors, a dust pan at Cape Town,
where your eyes are probably full enough of dust already from the arid
streets, and your face stinging with the pebbles blown into it by a
bitter “sou’easter”? I once said in Egypt I knew nothing more trying
than paying calls in a “hamseem,” but a Cape Town “sou’easter”
disarraying you, under similar circumstances, is a great deal more

“I am told the Old Cape Town, when Johannesburg was as yet dormant, was
a simple and comely place--its white houses, so well adapted to this
intensely sunny climate, were deep set in wooded gardens, a few of
which have so far escaped the claws of the jerry builder. (O United
States, what things you send us--“jerry,” “shoddy” ----!) But now the
glaring streets, much too wide, and left unfinished, are lined with
American “Stores” with cast-iron porticoes, above which rise buildings
of most pretentious yet nondescript architecture, and the ragged
outskirts present stretches of corrugated iron shanties which positively
rattle back the clatter of a passing train or tram-car. And all around
lie the dust bins of the population, the battered tin can, the derelict
boot. No authorities seem yet to have been established to prevent the
populace, white, brown, and black, from throwing out all their old
refuse where they like. Some day things may be taken in hand, but at
present this half-baked civilization produces very dreadful results.
There is promise of what, some day, may be done in the pleasing red
Parliament House and the beautiful public gardens of the upper town.
There is such a rush for gold, you see! No one cares for poor Cape Town
_as_ a town. The adventurer is essentially a bird of passage. Man and
Nature contrast more unfavourably to the former here than elsewhere, and
the lines,

    Where every prospect pleases
    And only man is vile,

ring in my ears all day.

“Altogether our Eden here is sadly damaged, and I am sorry it should be
my compatriots who are chiefly answerable for the ugly patches on so
surpassingly beautiful a scene. Our sophisticated life, too, is out of
place in this unfinished country, and we ought to live more simply, as
the Dutch do, and not feel it necessary to carry on the same _ménage_ as
in London. Liveried servants in tall hats and cockades irritate me under
such a sun, and the butler in his white choker makes me gasp. An
extravagant London-trained cook is more than ever trying where all
provisions are so absurdly dear. The native servant in his own suitable
dress, as in India and Egypt, does not exist down here.

“One of the chief reasons, I find, as I settle down in my new
surroundings, for the feeling of incompleteness which I experience, is
the fact of this country’s having no history. We get forlorn glimpses of
the Past, when the old Dutch settlers used to hear the roar of the lions
outside Cape Town Fort of nights; and, further back, we get such peeps
as the quaint narratives of the early explorers allow us, but
beyond those there is the great dark void.


“This is all from my own point of view, and I know there is one, an
Africander born,[1] who, with strong and vivid pen, writes with sympathy
of the charms of Italy, but only expands into heartfelt home-fervour
when returning to the red soil and atmospheric glamour of her native
veldt. This personal way of looking at things makes the value of all
art, literary and pictorial, to my mind. Set two artists of equal merit
to paint the same scene together; the two pictures will be quite unlike
each other. I am of those who believe that picture will live longest
which contains the most of the author’s own thought, provided the
author’s thought is worthy, and the technical qualities are good, well

    [1] Olive Schreiner.

I will end my South African sketch by one more page of diary, which, in
recording a day’s expedition to the Paarl, gives an impression of the
Cape landscape which may stand as typical of all its inland scenery.

“On Whitsun-eve we had a most enchanting expedition to Stellenbosch and
the Paarl, which I will describe here. W., I, the children, and the
B.’s, formed the party. We left home just at sunrise, the heavy dew
warning us of a very hot winter’s day, though it was then cold enough.
We took the train to Stellenbosch, and I was in ecstasies over the
perfect loveliness of the scenes we passed through as the train climbed
the incline towards those deeply serrated mountains which we were to
pierce by and by. Looking back as we rose I could more fully appreciate
the majestic proportions of Table Mountain, at whose base we live, and,
when a long way off it stood above the plain in solitude, disclosed in
its entirety, pale amethyst in the white morning light, I was more than
ever filled with a sense of the majesty of this land which this
dominating mountain seemed to gather up into itself and typify.

“Quite different in outline are the fantastic mountains we passed
athwart to-day, and nowhere have I seen such intense unmixed ultramarine
shadows as those that palpitate in their deep kloofs in contrast with
the rosy warmth of their sunlit buttresses and jagged peaks. And as to
the foregrounds here, when you get into the primeval wilderness, what
words can I find to give an idea of their colouring, and of the
profusion of the wild shrubs, all so spiky and aromatic, and some so
weird, so strange, that cover the sandy plains? Here are some notes. In
distance, blue mountains; middle distance, pine woods, dark; in
foreground, gold-coloured shrubs, islanded in masses of bronze foliage
full of immense thistle-shaped pink and white flowers; bright green
rushes standing eight feet high, with brown heads waving; black cattle
knee-deep in the rich herbage and a silver-grey stork slowly floating
across the blue of the still sky.

“But this most paintable and decorative vegetation is not friendly to
the intruder. These exquisitely toned shrubs with wild strong forms are
full of repellent spikes which, like bayonets, they seem to level at you
if, lured by the gentle perfume of their blossoms, you approach eye and
nose too near. Depend upon it, this country was intended for
thick-skinned blacks.

“As you get farther from town influences there appear much better human
forms in the landscape, and to-day I was greatly struck with the
appearance of an ox-waggon drawn by twelve big-horned beasts, and upon
its piled-up load stood picturesque male and female Malays in white and
gay colours--quite a triumphal car. A negro with immense whip walked by
the side, and behind rose a long avenue of old stone-pines, and at the
end of the vista the blue sky. These stone-pine avenues that border the
red-earthed highways are among the most delightful of the many local
beauties of the Cape, and such stone-pines! Old giants bigger than any I
have seen on the Riviera. There are dense forests of them here, lovely
things to look down on, with their soft, velvety masses of round tops of
a rich dark green, looking like one solid mass. The wise Dutch who
planted them had a law whereby any one felling one of these pines was
bound to plant two saplings in its stead. We are doing a great deal of
the felling without the planting.

“At Stellenbosch we got out, and, to my pleasure, I saw a long sort of
char-à-banc driven at a hand gallop into the station yard, drawn by
three mules and three horses--the vehicle ordered by W. to convey us to
the ‘Paarl.’ And why ‘Paarl’? Deep among the mountains rises a double
peak, bearing imbedded in each summit an immense smooth rock rounded
like a black titanic ‘Pearl’ that glistens in the sun as it beats on its
polished surface. Thither we blithely sped, one driver holding the
multitudinous reins of our mixed team, the other manœuvering with
both hands his immensely long whip, the gyrations of the thong being an
interesting thing to watch as he touched up now this beast and now that.
They have a way in this country of keeping up a uniform trot uphill,
downhill, and on the level, but stopping frequently to breathe the
team.” (Ah! give me road travel with horses--it is more _human_ than the
motor!) “After an enchanting stage through wild mountain gorges we came
to an oak fixed upon by W. beforehand as marking our halting place, and
there the six beasts were ‘out-spanned.’ The simple harness was just
slipped off and laid along on the road where the animals stood, and then
they were allowed to stray into the wild, tumbling bush as they liked
and have a roll, if so minded. Then we lit a fire and spread our repast
under the shade of the oak at the edge of a wood that sloped down to a
mountain stream. All round the solemn mountains, all about us fragrant
aromatic flowers and the call of wild African birds! I can well
understand the passionate love an Africander-born must feel for his
country. I know none that has such strong, saturating local sentiment.
The horses and mules, whose feet I had espied several times waving in
spurts of rolling above the undergrowth, being collected and
‘in-spanned,’ we set off for the Paarl Station and descended back into
the Plain by rail at sunset; and as we left the mountains behind us they
were flushing in the glory from the West, their shadows remaining of the
same astonishing ultramarine they had kept all day. In any other country
the blue would have changed somewhat, but here I don’t expect anything
to follow any known rules--I accept the phenomena of things around me as
time goes on, and have ceased to wonder. Oh! vision of loveliness,
strange and unique, which this day has given me, never to be forgotten.”

       *       *       *       *       *

My great regret is that I had so little time to ply my paints and try at
least to make studies which would now be very precious to me. How little
I knew the shortness of my sojourn! The two little Cape ponies (with
much of the Arab in them) were in almost daily requisition along those
great pine-bordered, red-earthed roads, to take me for my return calls,
or a portion of them. I fear I left many unreturned towards the end.
There were the Dutch as well as the English, a large circle. I had
sketching expeditions projected which never came off, with a clever
Dutch lady, who did charming water-colours of beautiful Constantia and
the striking country above Simon’s Bay, and the true “Cape of Good
Hope” beyond. She had battled with snakes in the pursuit of her art, and
in the woods had sustained the stone-throwing of the baboons, who made a
target of her as she sat at work. I was willing for the baboon
bombardment, and even would chance the snakes, as one chances
everything, to wrest but a poor little water-colour from nature.

Two events which, in that tremendous year ‘99, were of more than usual
importance loom large in my memory of the Cape--that is, the Queen’s
Birthday Review in May, and the opening of Parliament on the 14th July.
The Birthday Review on the Plain at Green Point was the ditto of others
I had seen on the sands of Egypt, on the green sward of Laffan’s Plain
at Aldershot, on the Dover Esplanade, and wherever W. had been in
command; but this time, as he rode up on his big grey to give the
Governor the Royal Salute before leading the “Three Cheers for Her
Majesty the Queen!” a prophet might have seen the War Spectre moving
through the ranks of red-coats behind the General.

At the opening of Parliament we ladies almost filled the centre of the
“House,” and I was able to study the scene from very close. The Dutch
Members, on being presented to the Speaker, took the oath by raising the
right hand, whereas the English, of course, kissed the Book. The
proceedings were all on the lines followed at Westminster, the Governor
keeping his hat on as representing the Sovereign. The opening words of
“the Speech from the Throne” sounded hollow. They proclaimed amongst
other things _urbi et orbi_, that we were at peace with the South
African Republics.

       *       *       *       *       *

“And now,” says the diary, “Good-bye, South Africa, for ever! I am glad
that in you I have had experience of one of the most enchanting portions
of this earth!”

       *       *       *       *       *

As you know that experience only lasted five months after all. We left
on the 23rd August ‘99 on a day of blinding rain, which, as the ship
moved off, drew like a curtain across that country which I felt we were
leaving to a fast-approaching trouble. The war cloud was descending. It
burst in blood and fire a few weeks later and deepened the sense of
melancholy with which I shall ever think of that far-away land.

[Illustration: THE CAPE “FLATS”]








A descent from the Apennine on a September evening into Tuscany, with
the moon nearly full--that moon which in a few days will be shining in
all its power upon the delights of the vintage week--this I want to
recall to you who have shared the pleasure of such an experience with

A descent into the Garden of Italy, spread out wide in a haze of warm
air--can custom stale the feeling which that brings to heart and mind?

Railway travel has its poetry, its sudden and emotional contrasts and
surprises. But a few hours ago we were in the foggy drizzle of an autumn
morning at Charing Cross, and, ere we have time to be fagged by a
too-long journey, our eyes and brain receive the image of the Tuscan

The train slows down for a moment on emerging from the last tunnel at
the top of the mountain barrier; the grinding brakes are still, and for
a precious instant we listen at the window for the old summer night
sounds we remember and love. Yes! there they are; there _he_ is, the
dear old chirping, drumming, droning night-beetle in myriads at his old
penetrating song, persistent as the sicala’s through the dog days, local
in its suggestiveness as the corncrake’s endless saw among the
meadow-sweet all through the Irish summer night.

But, _avanti!_ Down the winding track with flying sparks from the locked
wheels, every metre to the good; down to the red domes of Pistoja;
forward, then, on the level, to Florence and all it holds.

How we English do love Italy! Somewhere in our colder nature flows a
warm Gulf Stream of love for what is sunny and clear-skied and genial,
and I think I may say, though my compatriots little realize it, that the
evidences of a living faith which are inseparable from Italian landscape
greatly add to the charm that attracts us to this land. What would her
hills be if decapitated of the convents on their summits, with each its
cypress-lined _Via Crucis_ winding up the hillside? The time of the
after-glow would be voiceless if deprived of the ringing of the Angelus.
Dimly we perceive these things, or hardly recognise them as facts--nay,
many of us still protest, _but they draw us to Italy_.

And now the arrival at Florence. The pleasure of dwelling on that
arrival, when on the platform our friends await us with the sun of Italy
in their looks! Then away we go with them in carriages drawn by those
fast-trotting Tuscan ponies that are my wonder and admiration, with
crack of whip and jingle of bells along the white moon-lit road to the
great villa at Signa, where the vintage is about to begin.

To recall the happy labour of those precious three days of grape-picking
in the mellow heat on the hillside, and then the all-pervading fumes of
fermenting wine of the succeeding period in the courtyard of the
_Fattoria_; the dull red hue of the crushed grapes that dyes all things,
animate and inanimate, within the sphere of work, is one of the most
grateful efforts of my memory. I see again the handsome laughing
peasants, the white oxen, the flights of pigeons across the blue of the
sky. The mental relaxation amidst all this activity of wholesome and
natural labour, the complete change of scene, afford a blessed rest to
one who has worked hard through a London winter and got very tired of a
London season. It is a patriarchal life here, and the atmosphere of good
humour between landlord and tenant seems to show the land laws and
customs of Tuscany to be in need of no reformer, the master and the man
appearing to be nearer contentment than is the case anywhere else that I
know of. You and I saw a very cheery specimen of the land system at
grand old Caravaggio.


Then the evenings! I know it is trite to talk of guitars and tenor
voices under the moonlight, but Italy woos you back to many things we
call “used up” elsewhere, and there is positive refreshment in
hearing those light tenor voices, expressive of the light heart, singing
the ever-charming _stornellos_ of the country as we sit under the
pergola after dinner each evening. The neighbours drop in and the guitar
goes round with the coffee. Everybody sings who can, and, truth to say,
some who can’t. Many warm thanks to our kind friends, English and
Italian (some are gone!), who gave you and me such unforgettable
hospitality in ‘75, ‘76.

But lest all these guitarings and airy nothings of the gentle social
life here should become oversweet, we can slip away from the rose-garden
and climb up into the vineyards of the rustic _podere_ that speak of
wholesome peasant labour, of tillage--the first principle of man’s
existence on earth--and, among the practical pole-vines that bear the
true wine-making grapes (not the dessert fruit of the garden _pergola_),
have a quiet talk.

The starry sky is disclosed almost round the entire circle of the
horizon, with “_Firenze la gentile_” in the distance on our right, the
Apennine in front, and the sleeping plain trending away to the left to
be lost in mystery. I want to talk to you of our experience of Italy the
Beloved, from our earliest childhood until to-day.

What a happy chance it was that our parents should have been so taken
with the _Riviera di Levante_ as to return there winter after winter,
alternately with the summers spent in gentle Kent or Surrey, during our
childhood; not the French Riviera which has since become so
sophisticated, but that purely Italian stretch of coast to the east of
Genoa, ending in Porto Fino, that promontory which you and I will always
hold as a sacred bit of the world. Why? There are as lovely promontories
jutting out into the Mediterranean elsewhere? The child’s love for the
scenes of its early friendships with nature is a jealous love.

Our relations by marriage with the B. family admitted us into the centre
of a very typical Italian home of the old order. I suppose that life was
very like the life of eighteenth-century England--the domestic habits
were curiously alike, and I cannot say I regret that their vogue is
passing. We are thought to be so ridiculously fastidious, _noi altri
inglesi_, and our parents were certainly not exceptional in this
respect, and suffered accordingly.

The master of the house, the autocratic _padrone_, had been in the
Italian Legion in Napoleon’s Russian campaign, as you may remember, and
the retreat from Moscow had apparently left certain indelible
cicatrices on the old gentleman’s temper. I can hear his stentorian
voice even now calling to the servant (I think there was only one
“living in,” though there were about a dozen hangers-on) in the rambling
old Palazzo without bells. “O--O--O, Mariuccia!” “Padrone!” you heard in
a feminine treble from the remote regions of the kitchen upstairs,
somewhere. Mariuccia would generally get a bit of the Italian
legionary’s mind when she came tumbling down the marble stairs. Madame
la Generale appeared in the morning with a red handkerchief on her head
and remained in corsetless _déshabillé_ till the afternoon. Genoese was
the home language, French was for society. No one spoke real Italian.
They had not yet begun to “Toscaneggiare,” as it grew to be the fashion
to do when Italy became united. Don’t you dislike to hear them?

What recollections our parents carried away from those visits to the
Nervi household! How we used to love to hear mamma’s accounts, for
instance, of the night Lord Minto came to tea. Madame Gioconda had put
the whole pound of choice green tea which she had bought at the English
shop in Genoa into a large tea-pot requisitioned for this rare English
occasion. Poor mamma had the pouring of it out, and no deluges of hot
water, brought by the astonished Mariuccia, could tame that ferocious
beverage. I am sure the brave General never got more completely
“bothered” by the Russian cannon than he did by the “gun-powder” that
evening. Nowadays such a mistake could not happen when _il thè_ is quite
the fashion.

Italians still think it the right thing to visit England in November and
go to Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham for their informing little
tour. In those remote days it was the only way in which the few that
ever ventured so far saw our lovely land. Mamma was constantly sent into
a state of suppressed indignation by the stereotyped question, “Are
there any flowers in England?” But I have not done with the old General.
I remember we were so frightened of that Tartar that Papa used to have
to propel us into the Presence, when, in the evenings, every one, big
and little, sat down to dominoes or “tombola.” Syrup and water and
little cakes made of chestnut flour refreshed the company. The General’s
snuff was in the syrup, I firmly believed. We looked like two little
martyrs as we went up to salute those shaking yellow cheeks on being
sent to bed. Why are children put to these ordeals?

The living was frugal, the real “simple life” which some of us in
England are pretending to lead to-day. But on certain occasions, such as
Shrove Tuesday, for instance, ah! no effects of oriental feasting could
surpass the repletion with which each guest left the festive board.
Mariuccia had help for three days previous to such regalings, during
which one heard the tapping of the chopper in the kitchen, preparing the
force-meat for the national dish, the succulent _ravioli_, as one passed
within earshot of that remote vaulted hall.

And do you remember (you are a year my junior, and a year makes a great
difference in the child’s mind) a certain night when there was a ball at
our villa on the Albaro shore, and the shutters of the great “_sala_”
were thrown open to let in the moonlight at midnight? A small barque lay
in the offing, surrounded by little boats, and a cheer came over the sea
in answer to what the people over there, seeing the sudden illumination
from the chandeliers, took for our flashing signal of “God-speed!” They
were a detachment of Garibaldi’s Redshirts on their way to liberate
Southern Italy. The grown-ups on our side went down to supper, and our
little cropped heads remained looking at the barque in the moon’s broad
reflection long after we were supposed to be asleep. I had seen the
Liberator himself talking to the gardener at the ----’s villa, where he
was staying, at Quarto, the day before he sailed for Messina.

We were certainly an unconventional family, and we were so happy in our
rovings through the land of sun. But if you and I are inclined to bemoan
too much modernism in that Italy we so jealously love, oh! do not let us
forget the gloom of some of those old palaces which we had a mind to
inhabit a _l’Italienne_, on bad winter nights--the old three-beaked oil
lamps in the bedrooms serving, as our dear father used to say, only to
“make darkness visible”--the wind during the great storms setting some
loose shutter flapping in uninhabited upper regions of the house; the
dark places which Charles Dickens in his _Pictures from Italy_ says he
noticed in all the Italian houses he slept in on his tour, which were
not wholly innocent of scorpions. The marble floors and the paucity of
fireplaces did not give comfort for the short winters; but how glorious
those old houses became as soon as the cold was gone; shabby,
ramshackle, and splendid, we loved them “for all in all.”

In certain things modern Italy affords us an easier life. We are given
to nagging at the Italians for their dreadful want of taste in spoiling
the beauty of their cities, but in the old days we were nagging at them
for their dirt. Now Rome is the cleanest capital in the world. Some one
said it is more than clean, it is dusted. And is not the Society for the
Protection of Animals in _existence_, at least? With what derision such
an institution would have been heard of in our childhood’s days--a
suggestion of those “mad English.”

Do you call to mind what scenes used to occur whenever mamma came out
with us, between her and the muleteers? I can see her now, in the
fulness of her English beauty, flying out one day at a carter for
flogging and kicking his mules that were hardly able to drag a load up
the Albaro Hill. This was the dialogue. Mamma--“_Voi siete un cattivo!_”
Muleteer--“_E voi siete bella!_” Mamma--“_Voi siete un birbante!_”
Muleteer--“_E voi siete bella!_” Mamma--“_Voi siete uno scelerato!_”
Muleteer--“_E voi siete bella!_” And so on, till we had reached the
bottom of the cruel hill, mamma at the end of her _crescendo_ of
fulminations and the man’s voice, still calling “_E voi siete bella_”
in imitation of her un-Genoese phraseology, lost in distance at the top.
“I shall get a fit some day,” were her first English words. Poor dear
mother, the shooting of the singing-birds in spring, the dirt, the
noise, the flies, the mosquitoes--so many thorns in her Italian rose!
Yet how she loved that rose, but not more than the sweet violet of our
England that had no such thorns. The music in the churches, too, was
trying in those days, and to none more so than to that music-loving
soul. We have seen her doing her best to fix her mind on her devotions,
with her fingers in her ears, and her face puckered up into an
excruciated bunch. I hope Pius X. has enforced the plain-chant
everywhere, and stopped those raspings of secular waltzes on sour
fiddles that were supposed to aid our fervour. But I am nagging. As a
Northerner, I have no right to lecture the Italians as to what sort of
music is best for devotion, nor to tell them that the dressing of their
sacred images in gaudy finery on festival days is not the way to deepen
reverence. The Italians do what suits them best in these matters, and if
our English taste is offended let us stay at home.

Well, well, here below there is nothing bright without its shadow. When
we had the delicious national costumes we had the dirt and the cruelty.
But why, I ask, cannot we keep the national dress, the local customs,
the picturesqueness while we gain the cleanly and the kind? Every time I
revisit Italy I miss another bit of colour and pleasing form amongst the
populations. In Rome not a cloak is to be seen on the citizens, that
black cloak lined with red or green they used to throw over the left
shoulder, toga-wise--only old left-off ulsters or overcoats from Paris
or Berlin. Not a red cap on the men of Genoa; the _pezzotto_ and
_mezzero_, most feminine headgear for the women, are extinct there.
Ladies in Rome are even shy of wearing the black mantilla to go to the
Vatican, and put it on in the cloak-room of the palace, removing it
again to put on the barbarous Parisian hat for the streets. When we
foreign ladies drive in our mantillas to the Audiences we are stared at!
Even my old friends the red, blue, and green umbrellas of portly
dimensions, formerly dear to the clergy, no longer light up the sombre
clerical garb. Did I not see a flight of bare-footed Capuchins, last
time in Rome, put up, every monk of them, a black Gingham when a shower
came on, and I was expecting an efflorescence of my fondly-remembered
Gamps? Next time I go the other bit of clerical colour will have
vanished, and I shall find them using white pocket-handkerchiefs instead
of the effective red bandana.

Well, but, you are told, the beggars are cleared out, those persistent
unfortunates who used to thrust their deformities and diseases before
you wherever you turned, with the wailing refrain, “_Misericordia,
signore!_” “_Un povero zoppo!_” “_Un cieco!_” “_Ho fame!_” etc. etc. But
they sunned themselves and ate their bread and onions where they liked
(not where _we_ liked) in perfect liberty. Where are they now? In dreary
poorhouses, I suppose, out of sight, regularly fed and truly miserable.
I am afraid that much of our modern comfort is owing simply to the
covering up of unpleasantnesses. In the East, especially, life is seen
with the cover taken off, and many painful sights and many startling
bits of the reality of life spoil the sunshine for us there for a while.
But worse things are in the London streets, only “respectably” covered
up, and I am sure that more cruelty is committed by the ever-increasing
secret work of the vivisector than ever wrung the heart of the
compassionate in the old days in the open street.

And there, as we sit on the hillside above Signa, lies Florence, just
discernible in the far-off plain, where I learnt so much of my art.
Those frescoes of Masaccio, Andrea del Sarto, and all those masters of
the human face who revelled in painting every variety of human type, how
they augmented my taste that way! Nothing annoyed me so much as the
palpable use of one model in a crowded composition. Take a dinner-party
at table--will you ever see two noses alike as you run your eye along
the guests? Even in a regiment of evenly matched troops, all of one
nationality, I ask you to show me two men in the ranks sharing the same

Ah! those days I spent in the cloisters of the SS. Annuziata, making
pencil copies of Andrea’s figures in the series of frescoes illustrating
the life of St Philip. It was summer-time, and the tourists only came
bothering me towards the end. That hot summer, when I used to march into
Florence, accompanied by little Majolina, in the still-early mornings,
when the sicala was not yet in full chirp for the day! Four days a week
to my master’s studio under the shadow of the Medici Chapel, and two to
my dear cloisters; the Sunday at our villa under Fiesole. Happy girl!

I see in my diary this brilliant adaptation of Coleridge’s lines--

    “’Tis sweet to him who all the week
     Through city crowds must push his way, etc.”

     ‘Tis sweet to her who all the week
     With brush and paint must work her way
     To stroll thro’ florence vineyards cool
     And hallow thus the Sabbath Day.

I have much to thank my master Guiseppe Bellucci for, who drilled me so
severely, carrying on the instruction I had the advantage to receive
from thorough-going Richard Burchett the head-master at South
Kensington--never-to-be-forgotten South Kensington.

It seems a shame to be saying so much about Florence and not to pause a
few minutes to give the other a little hand-shake in passing. There I
began my art-student life, than which no part of an artist’s career can
be more free from care or more buoyed up with aspirations for the
future. Dear early days spent with those bright and generous comrades,
my fellow-students, so full of enthusiasm over what they called my
“promise”--I have all those days chronicled in the old diaries. There I
recall the day I was promoted to the “Life Class” from the “Antique”--a
joyful epoch; and the Sketching Club where “old D----,” the second
master, used to give “Best” nearly every time to Kate Greenaway and
“Second Best” to me. What joy when I got a “Best” one fine day. She and
I raced neck and neck with those sketches after that. The “Life Class”
was absorbingly interesting. But how nervous and excited I felt at
grappling with my first living model. He was a fine old man (but with a
bibulous eye) costumed to represent “Cranmer walking to the Tower.” I
see in the diary, “Cranmer walked rather unsteadily to the Tower to-day,
and we all did badly in consequence.” Then came one of Cromwell’s
Ironsides whose morion gave him a perpetual headache, followed by my
first full-length, a costume model in tights and slashed doublet whom we
spitefully called “Spindle-Shanks” and greatly disliked. What was my
surprise, long years afterwards, to stumble upon my “Spindle-Shanks” as
“‘Christopher Columbus,’ by the celebrated painter of etc. etc.” I then
remembered I had made a present of him, when finished, to our “char,”
much to her embarrassment, I should think. However, she seems to have
got rid of the “white elephant” with profit to herself in course of
time. But I must not let myself loose on those glorious student days, so
full of work and of play, otherwise I would wander too far away from my
subject. It was tempting to linger over that hand-shake.

I don’t think I ever felt such heat as in Florence. As the July sun was
sending every one out of the baking city, shutting up the House of
Deputies, and generally taking the pith out of things, I remember
Bellucci coming into the studio one day with his hair in wisps, and
hinting that it would be as well for me to give myself _un mesetto di
riposo_. I did take that “little month of rest” at our villa, and
sketched the people and the oxen, and mixed a great deal in peasant
society, benefitting thereby in the loss of my Genoese twang under the
influence of their most grammatical Tuscan. The peasant is the most
honourable, religious, and philosophical of mankind. I feel always safe
with peasants and like their conversation and ways. They lead the
natural life. Before daylight, in midsummer, one heard them directing
their oxen at the plough, and after the mid-day siesta they were back at
their work till the Ave Maria. It was a large family that inhabited the
peasant quarters of our villa and worked the landlord’s vineyards. How
they delighted in my sketches, in giving me sittings in the intervals of
work, in seeing me doing amateur harvesting with a sickle and helping
(?) them to bind the wheat sheaves and sift the grain. I must often
have been in the way, now I think of it, but never a hint did these
ladies and gentlemen of the horny hand allow to escape to my confusion.
Carlotta, the eldest girl, read me some of the “Jerusalem Delivered” one
full-moon night, to show me how easily one could read small print by the
Italian moonlight. Her mother invited me to dine with the family one day
as they were having a rare repast. Cencio had found two hedgehogs in a
hollow olive-tree, and the _ragout_ that ensued must be tasted by the
_signorina_. Through the door of the kitchen where we dined on that
occasion the two white oxen were seen reposing in the next apartment
after their morning’s work. After tasting the _spinoso_ stew, I begged
to be allowed to take a stool in the corner and sketch the whole family
at table, and with the perfect grace of those people I was welcomed to
do so, and I got them all in as they sucked their hedgehog bones in
concert. You were reading Keats in one of the arbours, meanwhile, I

I loved those days at Florence where I felt I was making the most of my
time and getting on towards the day when I should paint my first “real”
picture. When next I visited Florence with you for those memorable
vintages at Caravaggio in ‘75, ‘76, which I recalled just now to your
remembrance, I had painted my first “real” picture and received in
London more welcome than I deserved or hoped for.

Twice I have revisited the outside of my Florentine studio in recent
years, not daring to go in. Bellucci is long dead and I don’t know who
is there now. Standing under that tall window I have reviewed my career
since the days I worked there. I rejoice to know that my best works are
nearly all in public galleries or in the keeping of my Sovereign. To the
artist, the idea of his works changing hands is never a restful one.





A two days’ excursion to Sienna at the close of our second vintage at
Caravaggio was a fit _finale_ to the last visit you and I ever paid to
Italy _en garçon_.

From Tuscany to Etruria--deeper still into the luxury of associating
with the past. Honey-coloured Sienna! It dwells in my memory bathed in
sunshine; the little city like a golden cup overflowing with the riches
it can scarcely hold; the home of St. Catherine and the scene of her
ecstasies and superhuman endeavours: the battlefield of St. Bernardine’s
manful struggle against vice and luxury and gambling, so rampant and
unabashed in his time. Everywhere in this city you see, sculptured on
circular plaques of old white marble, let into the walls in street and
square, that monogram which all denominations of Christians know so
well, the I.H.S. with the Cross--_Jesus Hominum Salvator_. Whether the
engraved characters seen on the tombs in the Roman Catacombs were or
were not identical with those three initials and their significance,
they were so regarded by all the Churches for centuries, and the
monogram which St. Bernardine caused to be set up in this way throughout
Sienna was moulded on them in that belief. It was he who caused this
emblem to be so placed that the reluctant public eye could not wholly
avoid it, and who had it illuminated on tablets which he held up to his
congregations at the end of his rousing sermons, thus making that appeal
to the mind through the eye which he relied upon as one of his most
effectual levers. One may say he morally forced the people to recognise
and venerate that Name once more.

Upon the carved coats-of-arms of Guelph and Ghibelline, which seemed to
gird at each other from the walls, he imposed this sign of peace, and
hence the multiplicity of these lovely symbols I am trying to
recall. They are seals which his strong hand stamped upon his native


Like all the great saints, Bernardine was practical. The manufacturers
of playing-cards and dice, finding their customers leaving them in
ever-increasing numbers to follow the Franciscan with a fervour which
reached to extraordinary heights, brought their complaints to him.
Bankruptcy was upon them. “Turn your talent to painting this Name on
cards and sell them to the people.” This was done, and these little
tablets with the “I.H.S.” became endowed with a peculiar sanctity to the
purchasers and sold well, so that little fortunes flowed in to fill the
void left by the fall in playing-cards. All these we spoke of on the
spot, I remember, and I write these words to you who know it all better
than I do, to show you I have not forgotten.

Sometimes the monogram is inserted in the marble discs in gold on a blue
ground. Do you see again those circles of warm white marble, those
shining letters surrounded with golden rays on the blue centre, the
reflected light in the hollows of the carving, the Italian sky above?
These Siennese blank walls are better employed than those of modern
Rome, where we may see somebody’s soap or blacking belauded in our
mother tongue _ad nauseam_.

“A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” How high Sienna is set! A lovelier
bit of man’s workmanship was never held aloft for man to see.

“To appreciate the outside aspect of Sienna we drove out” (I see in my
diary) “to the fortress-villa of Belcaro, with an introduction to the
owner, a recluse, who, though he has been to London once, somewhere in
the ‘forties, has never been to Sienna.

“The drive to this historic villa was through a perfect Pre-Raphaelite
landscape, full of highly-cultivated hillocks, above which the grander
distant country unfolded itself. I apologized to the old Masters for
what I had said of their landscape backgrounds before I had seen the
Siennese middle distances whose type seems to have inspired so many of

“Each turn in the road gave us a new aspect of the golden-brown city
behind us, on its steep hill. Perhaps the most effective view of it is
from near Belcaro, where you get the dark stone-pines in the immediate

“And the interior of the city! Those narrow streets they call here
_rughe_ and _costarelle_ are fascinating, dipping down to some archway
through which you see, far below, the sudden misty distance of the
rolling campagna, or a peep of a piazza in dazzling sunlight contrasting
with the semi-darkness of the narrow stone lane. So narrow are these
lanes that a pair of oxen drawing a cart all but scrape the side walls
with the points of their enormous horns, and you must manage to avoid a
collision by obliterating yourself in the nearest doorway. We found the
people beautiful. There are no modern abominations in the way of
buildings here, so that one enjoys Sienna with unalloyed pleasure.” ...
At last!

I suppose nothing could be more satisfying to the lover of beauty and of
that dignity which belongs to the great works of architecture of the
past than the aspect of Sienna Cathedral in the light of a September
moon, the planets and stars watching with her over that sanctuary in the
cloudless heavens.

The silence of a little Italian city like this at night, when the full
moon dispenses with the artificial lighting, is always taking. To-night
the urban silence is broken perhaps by a burst of singing and the
thrumming of a guitar; young fellows with apparently plenty of leisure
are coming jauntily along the pavement singing, “_Oi! Oi! Oi! Tirami la
gamba se tu puoi_,” and suddenly dive down a pitch-dark alley; then a
burst of laughter from a cavernous wine-shop; then stillness again. A
dog barks in a garden over whose walls you see where the “blessed moon
tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops.” A fountain bubbles and
gushes softly as you come upon its hiding-place in the deep shadow from
a bit of loopholed wall that you scarcely recognize as the one you were
sketching this morning. Hither a few fire-flies, remnants of the summer
host, have strayed from beyond the city ramparts. Footsteps echo in the
silence more than in the day-time; not a wheel is heard, but the
campagna below is heard. It is murmuring with its invisible life of
insects all awake and full of shrill energy--goodness knows about what.
Your own energy is ebbing after the day’s enchantment and you feel that
to stroll and sit and look is all the bliss you need.

I had a revelation at Sienna about frescoes. In this extraordinarily dry
atmosphere you can see, as nowhere else, the fresco as it was originally
intended to appear. I do not know that I liked the effect as I came into
the sacristy of the cathedral and saw Pinturicchio’s apparently freshly
painted scenes. These were so true, not only in their linear, but
(strange to say) in their aërial, perspective that the effect was as if
the walls had opened to show us these crowds of figures in gorgeous
halls or airy landscapes _outside_ the building, and the eye was
deceived by a positive illusion. One wants to _feel_ the walls of an
apartment, and when its frescoes are flat and faded, and appearing more
as lovely bits of decorative colour, as we see elsewhere, the eye is
better satisfied. But, looked at as pictures, these richly coloured
works are truly masterly, full of character and natural, realistic

Much of the beauty of the Middle Ages which we delight in is owing to
the mellowing of Time. When first turned out by painter or mason this
beauty would not so charm the artist. A brandnew feudal castle must have
looked very hard and staring; a walled city like a Brobdingnagian toy
town in a round box. No lichens on those walls; no ivy, no clumps of
wallflowers, or any of those compassionate veils that Nature, if allowed
a free hand, gently lays upon our crudities, and which the modern
Italian _Sindaco_ calls “_indecenza_” and commands to be scraped away.
The mind recognises the rightness of the inevitable bare look of a new
building, but a scraped ruin offends both mind and eye.


ONE day in April ‘99 I was reading a fascinating little book by Miss
Duff Gordon on Perugia as I sat on a fallen pine-tree trunk in our wood
at Rosebank in remote Cape Colony. I read it with intenser longing than
ever to be back in the world of art, of history, of culture, of
well-known and well-loved things, and, thinking we were likely to be in
our lovely exile for at least three years (with a short flight home to
England in the interval, perhaps), I thought of several precious things
I would give to be at Perugia in reality. That very day in that very
month of the following year I was there!

Why do we fret about the future? Vain weakness! In my experience the
future has brought more than I wished for and better things, and the sad
things that have come have been those I had not feared.

It is a lovely journey from Florence to Perugia--all beautiful, and one
wants to be at both ends of the railway carriage at once so as to miss
nothing. The old brown cities along the route are as frequent as the
Rhine castles; they still have their battlemented walls and gateways to
delight the artist for a long while yet. Perugia did not frown upon us
so mediævally this time, as we drove up the long zigzag to it, as when
you and I first saw it. I think some of the frown has been demolished
since those days, and indeed I do not regret this. They are raising some
good public buildings where, I am told, the old castle stood, and in
these you see lovely pillars of rosy marble or granite quarried from
Assisi. That old castle had gloomy memories for the Italians and had no
claim to stay.

Like all Italian cities, Perugia has a strongly marked character of its
own. This local character of her cities is one of Italy’s richest
possessions. Genoa, brilliant in white, salmon-pink, and buff, the
colouring of her palaces, and scintillating in the sun as it beats upon
her pearl-grey roofs; Florence, sombre with the brown of her local
_pietra serena_ and roofed with the richer brown of her Tuscan tiles;
Verona, regal and stately, throned on the foothills of the Alps, her
rich colouring focussed in the red and tawny curtains which the Veronese
hang before their church doors; Padua, shady with trees, sedate and
academic, on the level, and uniform in tone, a city of arcades; Perugia,
a mountain fortress of brown bricks, her austerity mellowed by the
centuries--what a series they make! How carefully the “Young Nation”
should deal with these precious things that have all come into her
hands! Almost every great city in this land was once a capital. If only
the Italians would build as they used to I should rejoice in seeing
lovely things rising new and strong in the place of decay and thus
giving promise of a new lease of architectural beauty for Italy. But the
pity of it is that most of the new things are characterless and dreary.
Every cultivated Italian deplores the fact and one wonders who the Goths
in authority are that have the doing of these things.

To you and me there are certain conjunctions of words that carry a swift
sense of delight to the mind. Amongst these none are more appealing than
“the Umbrian Hills.” Here in Perugia we are seated amongst them, and
when I saw them again on that magic April day it was towards evening,
and in despairing haste I made the best sketch I could on arriving, from
the hotel window, to try and record those soft sunset tones on the
Perugino landscape. When next morning we were being shown the treasures
in the church of San Pietro, and I was particularly directed to examine
the lovely paintings on the shutters of the sacristy windows, I found it
hard to look at the shutters of windows that opened upon such a
prospect, where lay Assisi on the slopes of the “Umbrian Hills”!


In the Uffizi, in the Vatican Galleries, it is the same--one eye roving
out of the open windows at the reality that is there! A Lung’ Arno with
Bello Sguardo calling to you over the pink almond blossoms on its
slopes; a dome of St. Peter’s, silky in its grey sunlit sheen against
the Roman sky--too much, to have such things outside the gallery
windows, distracting you from your studies within. But, of course, it is
the right setting, and if you feel it gives you too much, call to mind
the prospect outside one of the British Museum windows. That, certainly,
will never inconvenience you with distractions; so be thankful for the
“too much.”


“23_rd April_ 1900.--All day ‘on the wander’ through ripe old Perugia. A
silent city, full of memories, brimming over with history, lapped in
Art! Everywhere the flowering fruit-trees showed over the brown walls,
the sunshine fell pleasantly on the masses of old unfinished brickwork
and lent them a charm which on a wet day must vanish and leave them in
a grim severity. Quiet tone everywhere; no ornament in the Roman sense,
but here and there exquisite bits of carving and detail such as one can
only find in the flat-surfaced Italian Gothic which is here seen in its
very home. How that flat surface of blank wall spaces and the horizontal
tendency of the design suit the Italian light. Architecture may well be
placed as the most important of the Arts. It adds, if beautiful, to
nature’s beauty, showing the height to which the human hand may dare to
rise so as to join hands with the Divine Architect Himself. How it can
disgrace His work we have only too many opportunities of judging!

“We visited my well-loved church of San Pietro, that treasure-house left
undespoiled by the Italian Government--safeguarded, _not_ as a place of
worship--let that be well understood--but as ‘an Art Monument.’ So its
pictures and carvings are left in the places their authors intended them
for and not nailed up stark and shivering in a cold, staring museum,
like the poor altar pieces and modest bits of delicate carving that have
been wrenched from their life-long homes in so many churches throughout
this country. True, in the museum the light is good, far better for
showing the artist’s work than the ‘dim religious light’ of a church.
But the painter knew all about the bad light, and still painted his
picture for such and such an altar, not to his own glory, but to the
glory of God.

“As we were passing once more the rich-toned Duomo and Nicola Pisano’s
lovely fountain that stands before it, we saw the fountain suddenly
surrounded by an eruption of Bersaglieri, who woke the echoes of that
erst-while silent Piazza with their songs and chaff. They were on
manœuvres and were halting here for the day. Shedding heavy hats and
knapsacks, they had run down to fill their canteens and water-barrels.
_Toujours gais_ are the Bersaglieri, and a very pretty sight it was to
see those good-looking healthy lads in their red fatigue fezes unbending
in this picturesque manner. In the evening they were off again with the
fanfaronade of their massed trumpets spurring their _pas gymnastique_ to
the farthest point of swagger, and Perugia returned to its repose.

“We strolled about the streets by the light of the moon and _felt_ the
silence of those narrow ways. Now a cat would run into the light and
disappear into blackness; a man in a cloak would emerge from a dark
alley, as it were at the back of a stage, and, coming forward into the
moonlight of an open space, look ready to begin a tenor love-song to an
overhanging balcony (the lady not yet to the fore)--the opening scene in
an opera after the overture of the Bersaglieri trumpets. Assuredly this
was old Italy. The one modern touch is a very lovely one. In place of
the old and rank olive-oil lamps of my first visit, burning at street
corners under the little holy images and in the recesses of the
wine-shops, there are drops of exquisite electric light. Thank goodness,
the hideous interval of gas is nearing its extinction in Italy and the
blessed ‘white coal’ which this country can generate so cheaply by her
abundant water-power, will e’er very long become the agent of her
machine-driven industries and illuminate with soft radiance her gracious
cities. I think the Via Nuova at Genoa, that street of palaces, glowing
in the light of those great electric globes, swung across from side to
side, is a quite splendid bit of modernity, for which I tender the
Genoese my hearty thanks. ‘_Grazie, Signori!_’”


COMMEND me to a darkening winter afternoon amidst the fires of Vesuvius
for bringing the mind down to first principles! This is what we
poetise, and paint, and dance on--this Thing that we are come to gaze
at here in silence, as it shows through certain cracks in this shell we
call the solid earth! “You are here on sufferance,” the Thing says to
us, “and you do well to come and see where I show a little bit of
myself. May it do you good. Remember, I am under your feet wherever you

Jan. ‘96--“To-day the fumes from the nether fires came in gusts through
the snorting crater, sending sulphurous smoke rolling down on the keen
north wind straight into our labouring lungs as we pounded through the
ashes on our way up the ‘cone.’ There is no getting at all near the
hideous mouth; in attempting any such thing one would very soon be over
head and ears in the yellow sulphur and lost beyond recall. I thought of
the fate of a ‘mad Englishman,’ who, in spite of the warning cries of
the native guides, made a dart for some outlying lesser crater,
declaring he saw a shoe floating in it. Trying to hook out this precious
‘shoe’ with his walking-stick, he fell in and withered away like a moth
in a candle-flame.

“I was cheered on to fresh exertions by W.’s encouraging words,
otherwise I think I would have reposed by the wayside at an early stage
of the ascent, yet too proud for a litter. Many of the party went up in
litters ignominiously carried on men’s shoulders, but I went through the
whole routine on foot, as I began; only I was inclined to halt at
retardingly frequent intervals. The growls of the mountain every now and
then warned us that a volley of rocks and stones was coming, and,
behold! the bunch of them shot up in a wide arc over our heads. The
crater is a spectacle that gives the mind such occupation as it has not
had before. Talk of the Pyramids and the Sphinx that so overpowered me
at Gizeh! That crater would think it a good joke to chuck them up in the

“But nothing impressed me into silence so heavily as the sight, later
on, of a lava stream, lower down the mountain-side, issuing in thick
ooze, and crawling slowly from out a gaping cavern. Liquid, deep scarlet
fire was this, of the density, apparently, of oil, advancing like a
fiery death to scorch and consume with slow and even flow--inexorable.
No possibility of approaching its borders; even where we stood the rocks
began to burn our feet. A guide flung a log of wood on the river, and it
spontaneously burst into vivid flame, shrivelled up, and was gone in a
puff of smoke. Turning for rest and solace from the lurid spectacle,
the factitious horrors of the congealed lava all around one only
deepened the sense of gloom. Curling and curdling as they cooled, the
lava streams of bygone times have hardened into the most weird shapes
the imagination could conceive. We seemed to be on a battlefield where
Titan warriors lay distorted in their death agony; enormous mothers
clasped their babies in the embrace of death, and the war-horses were
monsters of pre-historic stature, petrified in the last throes.

“We could see far, far down on the plain the skeleton of poor little
Pompeii like a minute raised plan delicately modelled in plaster.

“The thunders of the Bible will reverberate in my mind with more
vitality since our excursion to Vesuvius.”

I found balm in Capri, Amalfi, and all the supreme lovelinesses of the
Neapolitan Riviera to soothe the blisters of the volcano; and if I had
trembled at the thunders of the Bible I was reassured by its blessings,
which seemed embodied in those scenes of Eden.




Rome! I am almost inclined to leave out this central fact, although I
never kept a fuller diary than I did during those seven months of my
student life there that followed Florence. How can I approach it and say
anything but platitudes on the subject? Every one has tried his or her
hand upon this theme, and many dreadful banalities have come of it; many
pert assertions, ignorant statements, sentimentalities. Rome has always
impressed me as being the centre of the world--not as the Ancient Romans
boasted when they set up their Golden Milestone, but in a higher sense;
and to the artist her atmosphere is known to be exhilarating, some
say “intoxicating.” We all feel that physical delight in being there,
whatever views we may entertain in a spiritual sense. Who was the writer
who said that every morning on waking she said to herself, “I am in
Rome!” I believe many tacitly, at least, like to register that fact at
each awakening to another Roman day.


You and I have of late years seen _l’Eterna_ much changed in her
physical aspect, and have grieved over the fact; yet it is only another
of her many phases that is slowly developing before our eyes. At the
earliest period of which we know enough to imagine her aspect she was
colonnaded, porticoed and white; and the horrible time of her luxurious
decadence saw very much the same huge tenement “sky-scrapers” run up as
we are weeping over to-day. These jerry-buildings tumbled down
occasionally just as they are doing now. Then I see Rome in the Middle
Ages a city of square fortified towers--where are they all? Then comes
the florid period when the dome was dominant as we see it in our time,
and much exuberant bad taste dressed her out fantastically. Now some
very dreadful things in the way of monster houses and wide, straight,
shadeless streets are being committed; but they, too, will pass; but
Rome will remain. Eternal as to the soul the city is ever changing as
to the body. How ugly she must have been when rebuilt in a year after
one of her burnings. There was jerry-building if you like! How awful
after her sack by the Constable of Bourbon when “there was silence in
her streets for three days”! I remember, when I used to look down on the
city from a height in my very early days, wondering whether I had not
been instructed too much in Roman history to enjoy that view to the
extent I should have wished, as an art student, to do. So much cruelty
and suffering had been concentrated in that little space I saw below me.
But the joy of the eye soon banishes for me the sorrow of the mind, and
there is joy enough for the eye in Rome!

Although I have revisited the well-loved city several times since those
early days, the first visit stands out so much more fully coloured and
intense in local sentiment than the subsequent ones, which seem almost
insipid by comparison. You and I then saw her as she can never be seen
again; we were just in time to know her under the old Papal régime, and
we left three months before the Italians came in and began to rob her of
her unique character. I cannot be too thankful that we have _that_ put
safely away in the treasury of our memories. We saw the Roman citizens
kneeling in masses along the streets as the Pope’s mounted _Chasseur_,
in cocked hats and feathers, heralded the approach of Pio Nono’s
ponderous coach, in which His Holiness was taking his afternoon airing.
We saw the stately cardinals and bishops in their daily stroll on the
Pincian, receiving the salutes of soldiers and civilians. There were
such constant salutations everywhere, all day long, and such punctilious
acknowledgments from the ecclesiastics that on closing my eyes at night
I always saw shovel hats rising and sinking like flocks of crows
hovering over a harvest-field.

We saw the sentries on Good Friday mounting guard with arms reversed and
all the flags that day flying at half-mast: the Colosseum was in those
days treated as consecrated ground; more as the scene of Christian
martyrdoms than as a Pagan antiquity. There stood the stations of the
Cross, and there a friar preached every Wednesday during Lent. That
fearsome ruin was then warmly lined with rich flora and various lusty
trees and shrubs that have all been scraped and scoured away in harmony
with the spirit of modern Italy.

What luck it was for us to be in Rome that wonderful year of 1870, when
the Œcumenical Council filled her streets and churches with every
type of episcopal ecclesiastic from the four quarters of the globe, each
accompanied by his “theologian” and by secretaries in every variety of
dress, from the modern American to the pig-tailed Chinaman. Great times
for the art student, with all these types and colours as subjects for
his pencil! The characteristics and the colour of Rome were thus
multiplied and elaborated to the utmost possible point, up to the very
verge of the Great Cleavage; and we saw it all.


The open-air incidents connected with the great Church functions have
left an extraordinarily vivid impression on my mind on account of their
eminently pictorial qualities. I see again the archaic “glass coaches”
of Pope and cardinals, high-swung and seeming to bubble over with
gilding, rumbling slowly up to the Church door where the ceremony is to
take place, over the cobblestones, behind teams of fat black steeds, the
leaders’ scarlet traces sweeping the ground. The occupants of these
wonderful vehicles are glowing like rubies in their ardent robes, which
flood their faces with red reflections in the searching sunshine. A
prelate in exquisite lilac, mounted on a white mule with black
housings, bears a jewelled cross, sparkling in the sun, before the
Pope’s carriage; the postilions, coachmen, and lackeys are
eighteenth-century figures come to life again, and, truth to tell, they
might have brought their liveries over with them, furbished up for the
occasion. Not much public money seems appropriated for new liveries in
the Papal household, nor in that of the College of Cardinals. Then, the
medley of modern soldiers that take part officially and unofficially in
these scenes--the off-duty zouaves, with bare necks outstretched,
cheering frantically, “Long live the Pope-King,” in many languages; the
French Legion inclined to criticise the old liveries--it all seems to me
like the happening of yesterday! And I see the rain of flowers falling
on the kindly old Pope from the spectators in the balconies, where rich
draperies give harmonious backgrounds to all this colour.

Times are changed at home as well as in Rome. Where are the gorgeous
equipages I used to wonder at as a child on drawing-room days, that made
St. James’ Street a scene of gold and colour of surpassing richness?
Where are the bewigged coachmen stiff with bullion, throned on the
resplendent hammercloths of their boxes? Where the six-foot footmen
hanging on in bunches behind, in liveries pushed to the utmost limit of
extravagant finery? We only see these things on exceptional occasions
(certainly the six-footers are not grown nowadays), and the quiet landau
or motor harmonises better with our modern taste.

Finally, we saw the last Papal Benediction to be given from the façade
of St. Peter’s on that memorable Easter Sunday, 1870. The scene was made
especially notable in its pictorial effect by the masses of bishops, all
in snow-white copes and mitres, who completely filled the terrace above
the colonnade on the Vatican side of the Piazza. What a symphony of
white they made up there, partly in the luminous shadow of the long
awning, partly in the blazing sunshine. Some of the illuminated ones
used their mitres as parasols. Such a huge _parterre_ of prelates had
never been beheld before. It was a _parterre_ of human lilies. My diary
exclaims, “Oh! for Leighton’s genius to paint it. It was entirely in his
style--composition, colour, and sentiment. The balustrade was hung with
mellow, old, faded tapestry, and above the bishops’ heads rose those
dark old stone statues that tell so well against the sky.” I remember
the moment of intense silence that fell on the multitude a little
before Pio Nono, wearing the Triple Crown, stood up and, in a loud
voice, gave forth “to the city and to the world” the mighty words of
blessing from the little balcony far up aloft. And I remember, too, how
that sudden silence seemed to cause a strange uneasiness amongst the
cavalry and artillery horses, which all began to neigh.

On this great day the white and yellow flag, emblem of the Temporal
Power, waved upon the light spring breeze wherever one turned. How
little we dreamt that in a few months that flag was to be hauled down,
drawn under by the fall of the greatest military Empire then in

As a postscript, do not let us forget the races of the riderless horses
that took place at the end of Carnival. Those scenes are before me now,
quite fresh, revived by the little old diary. I am glad I have still my
sketch-books that give me the outlines of these and other scenes that
are gone for ever from the world.

There is the wide round Piazza del Popolo, like an amphitheatre; the
sun, near its setting, is tinging the upper portion of the great
Egyptian obelisk, which is the starting-post for the occasion, with
crimson, the base remaining in cool grey shade. Much stamping of hoofs
and champing of bits in the ranks of the Dragoons, who are preparing to
clear the Corso; French infantry forming up on either side of the
starting-place; the crowds in the stands expectant, many units in
carnival costume, and masked. Away go the Dragoons, splitting the crowd
that blocks the entrance to the darkening, narrow Corso. They return at
a gallop, having ridden to the end and back, and divide to take up their
positions. Then the barbs, painted in spots and stripes, are brought on
gingerly. The least jerk and it’s no use trying to form a line; they
must be let go; the spiked balls, now unfastened and dangling, are
beginning to prick in spite of all the care. One after the other the
maddened creatures plunge and tug at the restraining grip of the
convicts who act as grooms on this occasion, and who literally hold
their lives in their hands,--it all passes in a quarter of a minute;
down goes the rope, a gun is fired, shouts and clapping of hands ring
through the chilly air, and the eleven furious horses plunge into the
dark street, the squibs and tin-foil on their backs explode and crackle,
the spiked balls bang against their sides. Spurts of sparks fly from
their iron heels brightly in the twilight. One horse, perhaps, slips on
the cobblestones, rolls over, picks himself up, and follows the
others, straining every nerve. They are gone--engulfed in the dark
passage, some to be recovered only after several days, wandering in the
Campagna, having burst through the sheet spread to stop them at the


I often wondered which ordeal a horse would prefer, if he were given the
choice--this one, for a mile, or that of a great English race, with a
jockey on his back with thousands of pounds to win or lose, armed with a
steel whip and a pair of severe spurs! I never wholly enjoy a horse-race
in any shape because of these goads in various forms.

Anyhow, I am glad these Roman races have been abolished.

I felt greatly elated when setting up work on my own account, which I
did very soon after my arrival from Florence and Bellucci. He had told
me at parting that I could “walk by myself” now, and I very soon walked
up the steps of the Trinità to choose my first model. You remember how
those costumed loafers used to sun themselves on the steps at that time?
I had a half-frightened, half-delighted thrill when choosing my first
_Ciociaro_. It was the Judgment of Paris transposed. Three of them, in
peaked hats and goatskins, stood grinning and posing before the English
_signorina_ while the Papal zouave sentry and the whole lot of male and
female models looked on and listened. When I gave the apple to Antonio
on account of his good brown face and read waistcoat, and engaged him
for the morrow, I felt I had started.

What trouble mamma and I had had in trying to find a studio. A young
lady working by herself! A thing unknown--no one would let me a studio,
so we ended with the makeshift you remember in our apartment. “That
comes of being a woman at starting,” exclaimed mamma.

I can never pass No. 56 Via Babuino without pausing and looking up at
one of the top windows where my head hung out one morning, watching my
model in the street below for half an hour and wondering how long he
meant to saunter up and down with his eye on the Church clock opposite
instead of coming up. I had engaged him for eight o’clock for an
eight-hour day (_giornata finita_), and there he was, strolling away a
franc’s worth of sitting on purpose. “But, Signorina, one cannot always
arrive to the very instant,” was the villain’s excuse on coming in. I
said nothing of what I had seen out of the window. Dear old Francesco,
he was much prized for his laugh, which he could keep up for twenty
minutes at a time. I had already seen it in a picture in London. Of
course I had a try, too, and it brought me luck, for the picture where
it appears was the first Oil I sold.

Let me remind you of the Pope’s International Exhibition of
Ecclesiastical Art held that winter, for which I painted “The
Visitation.” The Fine Art section was shown in the Cloisters of Sa.
Maria degli Angeli in the Baths of Diocletian. I laugh even now when I
recall the way in which my poor picture was launched into the world.
After its acceptance by the committee, I had to get a pass for its
admission into the exhibition building from the Minister of Commerce,
the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinal B. Mamma and I had to wait
an age in his ante-room, conscious of being objects of extraordinary
curiosity to the crowd of men artists who were there on the same errand
as myself. Evidently artists of our sex were rarities in Italy. At last
our turn came to go in, and, after many formalities and much polite
bowing from l_’Eminentissimo_ and _riverendissimo_, I signed the several
papers, and proudly followed my mamma back through the waiting artists,
holding my roll of papers before me. We were informed that, being women,
we could not take the picture ourselves into the Cloisters, as no order
had been given to admit ladies into the monastic precincts before the
opening. So our dear father sallied forth on foot with my pass to Sa.
Maria, mamma and I following in a little hired Victoria, holding the big
picture before us (no mean handful) to keep it from tumbling out, while
hidden, ourselves, from the public eye by the carriage hood. We arrived
at the entrance to the forbidden cloisters too soon, as papa had not
arrived, and the gendarmes stopped us and told us to drive out of the
court again. We pulled up, therefore, on the threshold, with our faces
turned in the contrary direction, when the horrible hood flew back and
revealed us, holding on to the picture with straining arms and knitted
brows, to the grinning soldiers gathered about the place. Our dear
father and Mr. Severn (Keats’ friend in youth) soon came to the rescue,
and, with the aid of two _facchini_, they took my _magnum opus_ and
disappeared with it into the gloom of the _Thermæ_.

Dear, kind old Mr. Severn, he seemed so pleased to help me in my initial
struggles in Rome! When I next visited Keats’ grave there, long years
afterwards with W., I found another tombstone alongside of the Poet’s.
There was a palette sculptured on it in place of the other one’s lyre,
and one little box hedge held the two friends within its embrace. What
made Oliver Wendell Holmes (if it was he) say the scent of box was the
scent of Eternity? I do not know the context of the passage, but I think
the idea might strike a sensitive perception in some Italian cemetery,
where that most touching perfume is always on the air, and Eternity
plays about our minds on the scent of the box.

       *       *       *       *       *

_From the Diary_

_Feb._ 1906.--“And now Good-bye, Rome! I hope not a final farewell. I
have been up to the Villa Medici to see across the city, on this my last
evening, that dome which no one can ever look at unmoved, just at the
hour which at this time of year brings the setting sun behind it, so
that the crimson central ray seems to spring from the cross on the
summit. Shutting out with my hand all intervening objects I seemed to
see that purple dome floating in mid-air, a link between earth and
heaven; a living token of the intercourse between the two, poised far
above the dead ruins of the Pagan Past that lay low, in shadow, to the
eastward. Good-bye.”


_The titles of pictures are printed in italics._

Abassieh, 42

Abu Simbel, 75

Achill Island, 17

Alexandria, 77

Amalfi, 159

Ancona, 79

Assisi, 151

Assouan, 62

Atfeh, 81

Athlone, 22

Atlantic, South, 102

Belcaro, 146

Bello Sguardo, 153

Bersaglieri, 155

Brindisi, 79

Cairo, 32

Camels, 42

Cape Colony, 107

Cape, the: “Cape Flats,” 120
  _A corner of our Garden at Rosebank_, 104
  “_In the hollow of His Hand_,” 97
  _The Inverted Crescent_, 113

Capri, 159

Capuchins, 135

Caravaggio, 126

Carran Thual, 5

Clare, 21

Clew Bay, 16

Clonmacnoise, 24

Colosseum, 163

Comombos, 67

Conscription, 57

Constantia, 118

Croagh Patrick, 16

Cromwell, 25

Delta, 77
  Western, 80

Dervishes, 40

Dickens, Charles, 132

Dormer, Sir James, 41

Edfoo, 64

Edwards, Miss Amelia, 76

Egypt: _Abu Simbel at Sunrise_, 76
  _A “lament” in the Desert_, 70
  _At Philæ_, 67
  _In a Cairo Bazaar_, 33
  _Madame’s “At Home” Day_, 81
  _Registering Fellaheen for the Conscription_, 56
  _Syndioor, on the Lower Nile_, 97
  _The Camel Corps_, 40
  _The English General’s Syce_, 49
  _The Hour of Prayer_ (_Frontispiece_)
  The Nile: _The “Fostât” becalmed_, 62
  The Nile: “_No Mooring To-night_,” 59

Esneh, 64

Etruria, 143

False Bay, 110

Fiesole, 137

Florence, 125, 151

Fort St. Julien, 83

Funchal, 92

Gaelic, 8

Garibaldi, 131

Genoa, 151, 156

Ginniss, 32, 61

Glenaragh, 3

Gordon, 32, 72
  Miss Duff, 150

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 173

Ireland: _“A Chapel-of-Ease,” Co. Kerry_, 8
  _A Little Irish River_, 24
  _Clew Bay, Co. Mayo_, 20
  _Croagh Patrick_, 17
  _Our Escort into Glenaragh_, 1

Irish Guards, 14

Karnac, 56

Keats, 172

Kerry, 6

Kensington, South, 138

Khartoum, 32

Killaloe, 22

Korosko, 72

Leprechaun, 8

Lough Acoose, 5
  Derg, 22
  Leane, 4

Lung’ Arno, 153

Luxor, 32, 55

Madeira, 92

Mahmoudieh, 81
  Canal, 86

Malays, 115

Mayo, 15

Milky Way, 106

Mulranny, 16

Native Camel Corps, 42

Nervi, 129

Nile, 32
  Lower, 77

Nubia, 71

Œcumenical Council, 165

Paarl, 113

Padua, 151

Palestine, 86

Papal Benediction, 166

Payne, Mr., 93

Perugia, 150
  _The Bersaglieri at the Fountain_, 152

Philæ, 68

Piazza del Popolo, 167

Pio Nono, 163

Pius X., 134

Pole Star, 101

Pompeii, 159

Pyramids, 47

Riviera di Levante: _A Son of the Soil_, 126

Rome, 133, 160
  _A Lenten Sermon in the Colosseum_, 164
  _A Meeting on the Pincian_, 161
  _The Start for the Horse Race_, 168

Rosetta, 80
  Stone, 84

Ruffo, 85

Sakkara, 47

Sarras, 83

Schreiner, Olive, 113

Servants, 99

Severn, Mr., 172

Shannon, 22
  Bridge, 23

Sienna, 143

Signa, 65, 125, 136

Silsileh, 67

Simon’s Town, 110

Soudan, 83

Southern Cross, 107

Sphinx, 47

Stellenbosch, 113

Stone-pines, 115

Syces, 44

Syndioor, 84

Table Mountain, 104
  Thebes, 80

Tivoli, 46

Tomb of Ti, 48

Tombs of the Mameluks, 42

Tropics, 101

Tuscany, 123, 143
  _Bringing in the Grapes_, 123
  _Ploughing in_, 145

Umbrian Hills, 153

Venice, 47, 78

Verona, 151

Vesuvius, 156

Wady Halfa, 72
Sabooah, 74


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

       *       *       *       *       *

This typographical error has been corrected by the etext transcriber:

hear noctural frogs=>
hear nocturnal frogs {pg 108}

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "From sketch-book and diary" ***

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.