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Title: Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century
Author: Paston, George
Language: English
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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.

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_For these sketches of minor celebrities of the nineteenth century,
it has been my aim to choose subjects whose experiences seem to
illustrate the life--more especially the literary and artistic
life--of the first half of the century; and who of late years, at any
rate, have not been overwhelmed by the attentions of the minor
biographer. Having some faith in the theory that the verdict of
foreigners is equivalent to that of contemporary posterity, I have
included two aliens in the group. A visitor to our shores, whether he
be a German princeling like Pückler-Muskau, or a gilded democrat like
N. P. Willis, may be expected to observe and comment upon many traits
of national life and manners that would escape the notice of a native

Whereas certain readers of a former volume--'Little Memoirs of the
Eighteenth Century'--seem to have been distressed by the fact that the
majority of the characters died in the nineteenth century, it is
perhaps meet that I should apologise for the chronology of this
present volume, in which all the heroes and heroines, save one, were
born in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. But I would
venture to submit that a man is not, necessarily, the child of the
century in which he is born, or of that in which he dies; rather is he
the child of the century which sees the finest flower of his


















If it be true that the most important ingredient in the composition of
the self-biographer is a spirit of childlike vanity, with a blend of
unconscious egoism, few men have ever been better equipped than Haydon
for the production of a successful autobiography. In naïve simplicity
of temperament he has only been surpassed by Pepys, in fulness
of self-revelation by Rousseau, and his _Memoirs_ are not
unworthy of a place in the same category as the _Diary_ and the
_Confessions_. From the larger public, the work has hardly
attracted the attention it deserves; it is too long, too minute, too
heavily weighted with technical details and statements of financial
embarrassments, to be widely or permanently popular. But as a human
document, and as the portrait of a temperament, its value can hardly
be overestimated; while as a tragedy it is none the less tragic
because it contains elements of the grotesque. Haydon set out with the
laudable intention of writing the exact truth about himself and his
career, holding that every man who has suffered for a principle, and
who has been unjustly persecuted and oppressed, should write his own
history, and set his own case before his countrymen. It is a fortunate
accident for his readers that he should have been gifted with the
faculty of picturesque expression and an exceptionally keen power of
observation. If not a scholar, he was a man of wide reading, of deep
though desultory thinking, and a good critic where the work of others
was concerned. He seems to have desired to conceal nothing, nor to set
down aught in malice; if he fell into mistakes and misrepresentations,
these were the result of unconscious prejudice, and the exaggerative
tendency of a brain that, if not actually warped, trembled on the
border-line of sanity. He hoped that his mistakes would be a warning
to others, his successes a stimulus, and that the faithful record of
his struggles and aspirations would clear his memory from the
aspersions that his enemies had cast upon it.

Haydon was born at Plymouth on January 26, 1786. He was the lineal
descendant of an ancient Devonshire family, the Haydons of Cadbay, who
had been ruined by a Chancery suit a couple of generations earlier,
and had consequently taken a step downwards in the social scale. His
grandfather, who married Mary Baskerville, a descendant of the famous
printer, set up as a bookseller in Plymouth, and, dying in 1773,
bequeathed his business to his son Benjamin, the father of our hero.
This Benjamin, who married the daughter of a Devonshire clergyman
named Cobley, was a man of the old-fashioned, John Bull type, who
loved his Church and king, believed that England was the only great
country in the world, swore that Napoleon won all his battles by
bribery, and would have knocked down any man who dared to disagree
with him. The childhood of the future historical painter was a
picturesque and stirring period, filled with the echoes of revolution
and the rumours of wars. The Sound was crowded with fighting ships
preparing for sea, or returning battered and blackened, with wounded
soldiers on board and captured vessels in tow. Plymouth itself was
full of French prisoners, who made little models of guillotines out of
their meat-bones, and sold them to the children for the then
fashionable amusement of 'cutting off Louis XVI.'s head.'

Benjamin was sent to the local grammar-school, whose headmaster, Dr.
Bidlake, was a man of some culture, though not a deep classic. He
wrote poetry, encouraged his pupils to draw, and took them for country
excursions, with a view to fostering their love of nature. Mr. Haydon,
though he was proud of Benjamin's early attempts at drawing, had no
desire that he should be turned into an artist, and becoming alarmed
at Dr. Bidlake's dilettante methods, he transferred his son to the
Plympton Grammar-school, where Sir Joshua Reynolds had been educated,
with strict injunctions to the headmaster that the boy was on no
account to have drawing-lessons. On leaving school at sixteen,
Benjamin, after, a few months with a firm of accountants at Exeter,
was bound apprentice to his father for seven years, and it was then
that his troubles began.

'I hated day-books, ledgers, bill-books, and cashbooks,' he tells us.
'I hated standing behind the counter, and insulted the customers; I
hated the town and all the people in it.' At last, after a quarrel
with a customer who tried to drive a bargain, this proud spirit
refused to enter the shop again. In vain his father pointed out to him
the folly of letting a good business go to ruin, of refusing a
comfortable independence--all argument was vain. An illness, which
resulted in inflammation of the eyes, put a stop to the controversy
for the time being; but on recovery, with his sight permanently
injured, the boy still refused to work out his articles, but wandered
about the town in search of casts and books on art. He bought a fine
copy of Albinus at his father's expense, and in a fortnight, with his
sister to aid, learnt all the muscles of the body, their rise and
insertion, by heart. He stumbled accidentally on Reynold's
_Discourses_, and the first that he read placed so much reliance
on honest industry, and expressed so strong a conviction that all men
are equal in talent, and that application makes all the difference,
that the would-be artist, who hitherto had been held back by some
distrust of his natural powers, felt that at last his destiny was
irrevocably fixed. He announced his intention of adopting an
art-career with a determination that demolished all argument, and, in
spite of remonstrances, reproaches, tears, and scoldings, he wrung
from his father permission to go to London, and the promise of support
for the next two years.

On May 14, 1804, at the age of eighteen, young Haydon took his place
in the mail, and made his first flight into the world. Arriving at the
lodgings that had been taken for him in the Strand in the early
morning, he had no sooner breakfasted than he set off for Somerset
House, to see the Royal Academy Exhibition. Looking round for
historical pictures, he discovered that Opie's 'Gil Bias' was the
centre of attraction in one room, and Westall's 'Shipwrecked Boy' in

'I don't fear you,' he said to himself as he strode away. His next
step was to inquire for a plaster-shop, where he bought the Laocoön
and other casts, and then, having unpacked his Albinus, he was hard at
work before nine next morning drawing from the round, and breathing
aspirations for High Art, and defiance to all opposition. 'For three
months,' he tells us, 'I saw nothing but my books, my casts, and my
drawings. My enthusiasm was immense, my devotion for study that of a
martyr. I rose when I woke, at three or four, drew at anatomy till
eight, in chalks from casts from nine till one, and from half-past two
till five--then walked, dined, and to anatomy again from seven till
ten or eleven. I was resolute to be a great painter, to honour my
country, and to rescue the Art from that stigma of incapacity that was
impressed upon it.

After some months of solitary study, Haydon bethought him of a letter
of introduction that had been given him to Prince Hoare, who was
something of a critic, having himself failed as an artist. Hoare
good-naturedly encouraged the youth in his ambitions, and gave him
introductions to Northcote, Opie, and Fuseli.

To Northcote, who was a Plymouth man, Haydon went first, and he gives
a curious account of his interview with his distinguished
fellow-countryman, who also had once cherished aspirations after high
art. Northcote, a little wizened old man, with a broad Devonshire
accent, exclaimed on hearing that his young visitor intended to be a
historical painter: 'Heestorical painter! why, ye'll starve with a
bundle of straw under yeer head.' As for anatomy, he declared that it
was no use. 'Sir Joshua didn't know it; why should you want to know
what he didn't? Michael Angelo! What's he to do here? You must paint
portraits here.' 'I won't,' said young Haydon, clenching his teeth,
and he marched off to Opie. He found a coarse-looking, intellectual
man who, after reading the introductory letter, said quietly, 'You are
studying anatomy--master it--were I your age, I would do the same.'
The last visit was to Fuseli, who had a great reputation for the
terrible, both as artist and as man. The gallery into which the
visitor was ushered was so full of devils, witches, ghosts, blood and
thunder, that it was a palpable relief when nothing more alarming
appeared than a little old and lion-faced man, attired in a flannel
dressing-gown, with the bottom of Mrs. Fuseli's work-basket on his
head! Fuseli, who had just been appointed Keeper of Academy, received
the young man kindly, praised his drawings, and expressed a hope that
he would see him at the Academy School.

After the Christmas vacation of 1805, Haydon began to attend the
Academy classes, where he struck up a close friendship with John
Jackson, afterwards a popular portrait-painter and Royal Academician,
but then a student like himself. Jackson was the son of a village
tailor in Yorkshire, and the _protége_ of Lord Mulgrave and Sir
George Beaumont. The two friends told each other their plans for the
future, drew together in the evenings, and made their first
life-studies from a friendly coalheaver whom they persuaded to sit to
them. After a few months of hard work, Haydon was summoned home to
take leave of his father, who was believed to be dying. The invalid
recovered, and then followed another period of torture for the young
student--aunts, uncles, and cousins all trying to drive the stray
sheep back into the commercial fold. Exhausted by the struggle, Haydon
at last consented to relinquish his career, and enter the business.
Great was his delight and surprise when his father refused to accept
the sacrifice--which was made in anything but a cheerful spirit--and
promised to contribute to his support until he was able to provide for

In the midst of all these domestic convulsions came a letter from
Jackson, containing the announcement that there was 'a raw, tall,
pale, queer Scotchman just come up, an odd fellow, but with something
in him. He is called Wilkie.' 'Hang the fellow!' said Haydon to
himself. 'I hope with his "something" he is not going to be a
historical painter.' On his return to town, our hero made the
acquaintance of the queer young Scotchman, and was soon admitted to
his friendship and intimacy. Wilkie's 'Village Politicians' was the
sensation of the Exhibition of 1806, and brought him two important
commissions--one from Lord Mulgrave for the 'Blind Fiddler,' and the
other from Sir George Beaumont for the 'Rent-Day.' It was now
considered that Wilkie's fortune was made, his fame secure, and if his
two chief friends--Haydon and Jackson--could not help regarding him
with some natural feelings of envy, it is evident that his early
success encouraged them, and stimulated them to increased effort.

Haydon had been learning fresh secrets in his art, partly from an
anatomical 'subject' that he had obtained from a surgeon, and partly
from his introduction, through the good offices of Jackson, to the
works of Titian at Stafford House, and in other private collections,
there being as yet no National Gallery where the student could study
the old masters at his pleasure. Haydon was now panting to begin his
first picture, his natural self-confidence having been strengthened by
a letter from Wilkie, who reported that Lord Mulgrave, with whom he
was staying, was much interested in what he had heard of Haydon's
ambitions. Lord Mulgrave had suggested a heroic subject--the Death of
Dentatus--which he would like to see painted, and he wished to know if
this commended itself to Haydon's ideas. This first commission for a
great historical picture--for so he understood the suggestion--was a
triumph for the young artist, who felt himself gloriously rewarded for
two years of labour and opposition. He had, however, already decided
on the subject of his first attempt--Joseph and Mary resting on the
road to Egypt. On October 1,1806, after setting his palette, and
taking his brush in hand, he knelt down, in accordance with his
invariable custom throughout his career, and prayed fervently that God
would bless his work, grant him energy to create a new era in art, and
rouse the people to a just estimate of the moral value of historical

Then followed a happy time. The difficulties of a first attempt were
increased by his lack of systematic training, but Haydon believed,
with Sir Joshua, that application made the artist, and he certainly
spared no pains to achieve success. He painted and repainted his heads
a dozen times, and used to mix tints on a piece of paper, and carry
them down to Stafford House once a week in order to compare them with
the colouring of the Titians. While this work was in progress, Sir
George and Lady Beaumont called to see the picture, which they
declared was very poetical, and 'quite large enough for anything' (the
canvas was six feet by four), and invited the artist to dinner. This
first dinner-party, in what he regarded as 'high life,' was an
alarming ordeal for the country youth, who made prodigious
preparations, drove to the house in a state of abject terror, and in
five minutes was sitting on an ottoman, talking to Lady Beaumont, and
more at ease than he had ever been in his life. In truth, bashfulness
was never one of Haydon's foibles.

The Joseph and Mary took six months to paint, and was exhibited in
1807. It was considered a remarkable work for a young student, and was
bought the following year by Mr. Hope of Deepdene. During the season,
Haydon was introduced to Lord Mulgrave, and with his friends Wilkie
and Jackson frequently dined at the Admiralty, [Footnote: Lord
Mulgrave had recently been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.]
where they met ministers, generals, great ladies and men of genius,
and rose daily in hope and promise. Haydon now began the picture of
the 'Death of Siccius Dentatus' that his patron had suggested, but he
found the difficulties so overwhelming that, by Wilkie's advice, he
decided to go down to Plymouth for a few months, and practise
portrait-painting. At fifteen guineas a head, he got plenty of
employment among his friends and relations, though he owns that his
portraits were execrable; but as soon as he had obtained some facility
in painting heads, he was anxious to return to town to finish his
large picture. Mrs. Haydon was now in declining health, and desiring
to consult a famous surgeon in London, she decided to travel thither
with her son and daughter. Unfortunately her disease, angina pectoris,
was aggravated by the agitation of the journey, and on the road, at
Salt Hill, she was seized with an attack that proved fatal. Haydon was
obliged to return to Devonshire with his sister, but as soon as the
funeral was over he set off again for town, where his prospects seemed
to justify his exchanging his garret in the Strand for a first floor
in Great Marlborough Street.

He found the practice gained in portrait-painting a substantial
advantage, but he still felt himself incapable of composing a heroic
figure for Dentatus. 'If I copied nature my work was mean,' he
complains; 'and if I left her it was mannered. How was I to build a
heroic form like life, yet above life?' He was puzzled to find, in
painting from the living model, that the markings of the skin varied
with the action of the limbs, variations that did not appear in the
few specimens of the antique that had come under his notice. Was
nature wrong, he asked himself, or the antique? During this period of
indecision and confusion came a proposal from Wilkie that they should
go together to inspect the Elgin Marbles then newly arrived in
England, and deposited at Lord Elgin's house in Park Lane. Haydon
carelessly agreed, knowing nothing of the wonders he was to see, and
the two friends proceeded to Park Lane, where they were ushered
through a yard to a dirty shed, in which lay the world-famous Marbles.

'The first thing I fixed my eyes on,' to quote Haydon's own words,
'was the wrist of a figure in one of the female groups, in which were
visible the radius and ulna. I was astonished, for I had never seen
them hinted at in any wrist in the antique. I darted my eye to the
elbow, and saw the outer condyle visibly affecting the shape, as in
nature. That combination of nature and repose which I had felt was so
much wanting for high art was here displayed to midday conviction. My
heart beat. If I had seen nothing else, I had beheld sufficient to
help me to nature for the rest of my life. But when I turned to the
Theseus, and saw that every form was altered by action or repose-when
I saw that the two sides of his back varied as he rested on his elbow;
and again, when in the figure of the fighting metope, I saw the muscle
shown under one armpit in that instantaneous action of darting out,
and left out in the other armpits; when I saw, in short, the most
heroic style of art, combined with all the essential detail of
everyday life, the thing was done at once and for ever.... Here were
the principles which the great Greeks in their finest time
established, and here was I, the most prominent historical student,
perfectly qualified to appreciate all this by my own determined mode
of study.'

On returning to his painting-room, Haydon, feeling utterly disgusted
with his attempt at the heroic in the form and action of Dentatus,
obliterated what he calls 'the abominable mass,' and breathed as if
relieved of a nuisance. Through Lord Mulgrave he obtained an order to
draw from the Marbles, and devoted the next three months to mastering
their secrets, and bringing his hand and mind into subjection to the
principles that they displayed. 'I rose with the sun,' he writes, with
the glow of his first enthusiasm still upon him, 'and opened my eyes
to the light only to be conscious of my high pursuit. I sprang from my
bed, dressed like one possessed, and passed the day, noon, and the
night, in the same dream of abstracted enthusiasm; secluded from the
world, regardless of its feelings, impregnable to disease, insensible
to contempt.' He painted his heads, figures, and draperies over and
over again, feeling that to obliterate was the only way to improve.
His studio soon filled with fashionable folk, who came to see the
'extraordinary picture painted by a young man who had never had the
advantages of foreign travel.' Haydon believed, with the simplicity of
a child, in all these flattering prophecies of glory and fame, and
imagined that the Academy would welcome with open arms so promising a
student, one, moreover, who had been trained in its own school. He
redoubled his efforts, and in March 1809, 'Dentatus' was finished.

'The production of this picture,' he naively explains, 'must and will
be considered as an epoch in English art. The drawing in it was
correct and elevated, and the perfect forms and system of the antique
were carried into painting, united with the fleshy look of everyday
life. The colour, light and shadow, the composition and the telling of
the story were complete.' His contemporaries did not form quite so
flattering an estimate of the work. It was badly hung, a fate to which
many an artist of three-and-twenty has had to submit, before and
since; but Haydon writes as if no such injustice had been committed
since the world began, and was persuaded that the whole body of
Academicians was leagued in spite and jealousy against him. Lord
Mulgrave gave him sixty guineas in addition to the hundred he had
first promised, which seems a fair price for the second work of an
obscure artist, but poor Haydon fancied that his professional
prospects had suffered from the treatment of the Academy, that people
of fashion (on whose attentions he set great store) were neglecting
him, and that he was a marked man. A sea-trip to Plymouth with Wilkie
gave his thoughts a new and more healthy turn. Together, the friends
visited Sir Joshua's birthplace, and roamed over the moors and combes
of Devonshire. Before returning to town, they spent a delightful
fortnight with Sir George Beaumont at Coleorton, where, says Haydon,
'we dined with the Claude and Rembrandt before us, and breakfasted
with the Rubens landscape, and did nothing, morning, noon, and night,
but think of painting, talk of painting, and wake to paint again.'

During this visit, Sir George gave Haydon a commission for a picture
on a subject from _Macbeth_. After it was begun, he objected to
the size, but our artist, who, throughout his life, detested painting
cabinet pictures, refused to attempt anything on a smaller scale. He
persuaded Sir George to withhold his decision until the picture was
finished, and promised that if he still objected to the size, he would
paint him another on any scale he pleased. While engaged on 'Macbeth,'
he competed with 'Dentatus' for a hundred guinea prize offered by the
Directors of the British Gallery for the best historical picture.
'Dentatus' won the prize, but this piece of good fortune was
counterbalanced by a letter from Mr. Haydon, senior, containing the
announcement that he could no longer afford to maintain his son. This
was a heavy blow, but after turning over pros and cons in his own
mind, Haydon came to the conclusion that since he had won the hundred
guinea prize, he had a good chance of winning a three hundred guinea
prize, which the Directors now offered, with his 'Macbeth,' and
consequently that he had no occasion to dread starvation. 'Thus
reasoning,' he says, 'I borrowed, and praying God to bless my
emotions, went on more vigorously than ever. _And here began debt
and obligation, out of which I have never been, and shall never be,
extricated, as long as I live.'_

This prophecy proved only too true. But Haydon, though he afterwards
bitterly regretted his folly in exchanging independence for debt, and
his pride in refusing to paint pot-boilers in the intervals of his
great works, firmly believed that he, with his high aims and fervent
desire to serve the cause of art, was justified in continuing his
ambitious course, and depending for maintenance on the contributions
of his friends. Nothing could exceed the approbation of his own
conduct, or shake his faith in his own powers. 'I was a virtuous and
diligent youth,' he assures us; 'I never touched wine, dined at
reasonable chop-houses, lived principally in my study, and cleaned my
own brushes, like the humblest student.' He goes to see Sebastian del
Piombo's 'Lazarus' in the Angerstein collection, and, after writing a
careful criticism of the work, concludes: 'It is a grand picture; a
great acquisition to the country, and an honour to Mr. Angerstein's
taste and spirit in buying it; yet if God cut not my life permanently
short, I hope I shall leave one behind me that will do more honour to
my country than this has done to Rome. In short, if I live, I will--I
feel I shall, (God pardon me if this is presumption. June 31, 1810.)'

At this time Haydon devoted a good deal of his leisure to reading
classic authors, Homer, Æschylus, and Virgil, in order to tune his
mind to high thoughts. Nearly every day he spent a few hours in
drawing from the Elgin Marbles, and he piously thanks God that he was
in existence on their arrival. He spared no pains to ensure that his
'Macbeth' should be perfect in poetry, expression, form and colour,
making casts and studies without end. His friends related, as a
wonderful specimen of his conscientiousness, that, after having
completed the figure of Macbeth, he took it out in order to raise it
higher in the picture, believing that this would improve the effect.
'The wonder in ancient Athens would have been if I had suffered him to
remain,' he observes. 'Such is the state of art in this country!'

In 1811 Haydon entered into his first journalistic controversy, an
unfortunate departure, as it turned out, since it gave him a taste for
airing his ideas in print. Leigh Hunt, to whom he had been introduced
a year or two before, had attacked one of his theories, relative to a
standard figure, in the _Examiner_. Haydon replied, was replied
to himself, and thoroughly enjoyed the controversy which, he says,
consolidated his powers of verbal expression. Leigh Hunt he describes
as a fine specimen of a London editor, with his bushy hair, black
eyes, pale face, and 'nose of taste.' He was assuming yet moderate,
sarcastic yet genial, with a smattering of everything and mastery of
nothing; affecting the dictator, the poet, the politician, the critic,
and the sceptic, whichever would, at the moment, give him the air, to
inferior minds, of a very superior man.' Although Haydon disliked
Hunt's 'Cockney peculiarities,' and disapproved of his republican
principles, yet the fearless honesty of his opinions, the unhesitating
sacrifice of his own interests, the unselfish perseverance of his
attacks upon all abuses, whether royal or religious, noble or
democratic, made a deep impression on the young artist's mind.

Towards the end of 1811 the new picture, which represents Macbeth
stepping between the sleeping grooms to murder the king, was finished,
and sent to the British Gallery. It was well hung, and was praised by
the critics, but Sir George declined to take it, though he offered to
pay Haydon a hundred pounds for his trouble, or to give him a
commission for a picture on a smaller scale. Haydon petulantly refused
both offers, and thus after three years' work, and incurring debts to
the amount of six hundred pounds, he found himself penniless, with his
picture returned on his hands. This disappointment was only the
natural result of his own impracticable temperament, but to Haydon's
exaggerative sense the whole world seemed joined in a conspiracy
against him. 'Exasperated by the neglect of my family,' he writes,
'tormented by the consciousness of debt, cut to the heart by the
cruelty of Sir George, and enraged at the insults of the Academy, I
became furious.' His fury, unfortunately, found vent in an attack upon
the Academy and its methods, through the medium of the _Examiner_,
which was the recognised vehicle of all attacks upon authority.
The onslaught seems to have been justified, though whether
it was judicious is another question. The ideals of English artists
during the early years of the nineteenth century had sunk very low,
and the standard of public taste was several degrees lower.
Portrait-painting was the only lucrative branch of art, and the
Academy was almost entirely in the hands of the portrait-painters, who
gave little encouragement to works of imagination. The burden of the
patron, which had been removed from literature, still rested upon
painting, and the Academicians found it more to their interest to
foster the ignorance than to educate the taste of the patron.

Over the signature of 'An English Student,' Haydon not only exposed
the inefficiency of the Academy, but advocated numerous reforms, chief
among them being an improved method of election, the establishment of
schools of design, a reduction in the power of the Council, and an
annual grant of public money for purposes of art. In these days, when
the Academicians are no longer regarded as a sacred body, it is hard
to realise the commotion that these letters made in art circles,
whether professional or amateur. The identity of the 'English Student'
was soon discovered, and 'from that moment,' writes Haydon, 'the
destiny of my life was changed. My picture was caricatured, my name
detested, my peace harassed. I was looked at like a monster, abused
like a plague, and avoided like a maniac.' There is probably some
characteristic exaggeration in this statement, but considering the
power wielded at this time by the Academy and its supporters, Haydon
would undoubtedly have done better, from a worldly point of view, to
keep clear of these controversies. The prudent and sensible Wilkie was
much distressed at his friend's ebullition of temper, and earnestly
advised him to follow up the reputation his brush had gained for him,
and leave the pen alone. 'In moments of depression,' wrote Haydon,
many years later, 'I often wished I had followed Wilkie's advice, but
then I should never have acquired that grand and isolated reputation,
solitary and unsupported, which, while it encumbers the individual,
inspires him with vigour proportioned to the load.'

On April 3, 1812, Haydon records in his journal: 'My canvas came home
for Solomon, twelve feet ten inches by ten feet ten inches--a grand
size. God in heaven, grant me strength of body and vigour of mind to
cover it with excellence. Amen--on my knees.' His design was to paint
a series of great ideal works, that should stand comparison with the
productions of the old masters, and he had chosen the somewhat
stereotyped subject of the Judgment of Solomon, because Raphael and
Rubens had both tried it, and he intended to tell the story better! He
was now, at the beginning of this ambitious project, entirely without
means. His father had died, and left him nothing, and his 'Macbeth'
had not won the £300 premium at the British Gallery. His aristocratic
friends had temporarily deserted him, but the Hunts assisted him with
the ready liberality of the impecunious. John lent him small sums of
money, while Leigh offered him a plate at his table till Solomon was
finished, and initiated him into the mysteries of drawing and
discounting bills.

Haydon already owed his landlord two hundred pounds, but that seemed
to him no reason for moving into cheaper rooms. He called the man up,
and represented to him that he was about to paint a great masterpiece,
which would take him two years, during which period he would earn
nothing, and be unable to pay any rent. The landlord, surely a unique
specimen of his order, deliberated rather ruefully over the prospect
set before him, rubbed his chin, and muttered: 'I should not like ye
to go--it's hard for both of us; but what I say is, you always paid me
when you could, and why should you not again when you are able?...
Well, sir, here's my hand; I'll give you two years more, and if this
does not sell--why then, sir, we'll consider what is to be done.'

Thus a roof was provided, but there was still dinner to be thought of,
since, if a man works, he must also eat. 'I went to the house [John o'
Groat's] where I had always dined,' writes Haydon, 'intending to dine
without paying for that day. I thought the servants did not offer me
the same attention. I thought I perceived the company examine me--I
thought the meat was worse. My heart sank, as I said falteringly, "I
will pay you to-morrow." The girl smiled, and seemed interested. As I
was escaping with a sort of lurking horror, she said, "Mr. Haydon, my
master wishes to see you." "My God," thought I, "it is to tell me he
can't trust!" In I walked like a culprit. "Sir, I beg your pardon, but
I see by the papers you have been ill-used; I hope you won't be
angry--I mean no offence; but I just wish to say, as you have dined
here many years and always paid, if it would be a convenience during
your present work to dine here till it is done--so that you may not be
obliged to spend your money here when you may want it--I was going to
say that you need be under no apprehension--hem! for a dinner."' This
handsome offer was condescendingly accepted, and the good man seemed
quite relieved.

While Solomon was slowly progressing at the expense of the landlord
and the eating-house keeper, Haydon spent his leisure in literary
rather than artistic circles. At Leigh Hunt's he met, and became
intimate with Charles Lamb, Keats, Hazlitt, and John Scott. In January
1813 he writes: 'Spent the evening with Leigh Hunt at West End. His
society is always delightful. I do not know a purer, more virtuous
partner, or a more witty and enlivening man. We talked of his
approaching imprisonment. He said it would be a great pleasure if he
were certain to be sent to Newgate, because he should be in the midst
of his friends.' Hazlitt won our hero's liking by praising his
'Macbeth.' 'Thence began a friendship,' Haydon tells us, 'for that
interesting man, that singular mixture of friend and fiend, radical
and critic, metaphysician, poet, and painter, on whose word no one
could rely, on whose heart no one could calculate, and some of whose
deductions he himself would try to explain in vain.... Mortified at
his own failure [in painting] he resolved that as he had not
succeeded, no one else should, and he spent the whole of his
after-life in damping the ardour, chilling the hopes, and dimming the
prospects of patrons and painters, so that after I once admitted him,
I had nothing but forebodings of failure to bear up against, croakings
about the climate, and sneers at the taste of the public.'

By the beginning of 1814 Solomon was approaching completion, but the
artist had been reduced to living for a fortnight on potatoes. He had
now been nearly four years without a commission, and three without any
help from home, so that it is not surprising to learn that he felt
completely broken down in body and mind, or that his debts amounted to
£1100. A frame was procured on credit, and, failing any more suitable
place of exhibition, the picture was sent to the Water-colour Society.
At the private view, the Princess of Wales and other eminent critics
pronounced against the Solomon, but as soon as the public were
admitted, the tune changed, and John Bull vowed it was the finest work
of art ever produced in England. If posterity has not indorsed this
judgment, the Solomon is at least regarded, by competent critics, as
Haydon's most successful work. 'Before the doors had been open half an
hour,' writes Haydon, 'a gentleman opened his pocket-book, and showed
me a £500 note. "Will you take it?" My heart beat--my agonies of want
pressed, but it was too little. I trembled out, "I cannot." The
gentleman invited me to dine, and when we were sitting over our wine,
agreed to give me my price. His lady said, "But, my dear, where am I
to put my piano?" and the bargain was at an end!' On the third day Sir
George Beaumont and Mr. Holwell Carr came to the Exhibition, having
been deputed to buy the picture for the British Gallery. While they
were discussing its merits, one of the officials went over, and put
'sold' on the frame, whereupon the artist says he thought he should
have fainted. The work had been bought at the price asked, £700, by
two Plymouth bankers, Sir William Elford (the friend and correspondent
of Miss Mitford) and Mr. Tingecombe.

Poor Haydon now thought that his fortune was secure. He paid away £500
to landlord and tradesmen in the first week, and though this did not
settle half his debts, it restored his credit. The balance was spent
in a trip to Paris with Wilkie, Paris being then (May 1814) the most
interesting place on earth. All the nations of Europe were gathered
together there, and the Louvre was in its glory. So absorbed and
fascinated was Haydon by the actual life of the city, that he finds
little to say about the works of art there collected. Yet his first
visit was to the Louvre, and he describes with what impetuosity he
bounded up the steps, three at a time, and how he scolded Wilkie for
trotting up with his usual deliberation. 'I might just as well have
scolded the column,' he observes. 'I soon left him at some Jan Steen,
while I never stopped until I stood before the "Transfiguration." My
first feeling was disappointment. It looked small, harsh and hard.
This, of course, is always the way when you have fed your imagination
for years on a work you know only by prints. Even the "Pietro Martyre"
was smaller than I thought to find it; yet after the difference
between reality and anticipation had worn away, these great works
amply repaid the study of them, and grew up to the fancy, or rather
the fancy grew up to them.... It will hardly be believed by artists
that we often forgot the great works in the Louvre in the scenes
around us, and found Russians and Bashkirs from Tartary more
attractive than the "Transfiguration"; but so it was, and I do not
think we were very wrong either. Why stay poring over pictures when we
were on the most remarkable scene in the history of the earth.'

On his return to London, Haydon was gratified by the news that his
friend and fellow-townsman, George Eastlake, had proposed and carried
a motion that he should be presented with the freedom of his native
city, as a testimony of respect for his extraordinary merit as a
historical painter. Furthermore, the Directors of the British Gallery
sent him a hundred guineas as a token of their admiration for his
latest work. But no commission followed, either from a private patron
or public body. However, the artist, nothing daunted, ordered a larger
canvas, and set vigorously to work on a representation of 'Christ's
Entry into Jerusalem,' a picture which occupied him, with intervals of
illness and idleness, for nearly six years.

The year 1815 was too full of stir and excitement for a man like
Haydon, who was always keenly interested in public affairs, to devote
himself to steady work. The news of Waterloo almost turned his brain.
On June 23 he notes: 'I read the _Gazette_ [with the account of
Waterloo] the last thing before going to bed. I dreamt of it, and was
fighting all night; I got up in a steam of feeling, and read the
_Gazette_ again, ordered a _Courier_ for a month, and read all
the papers till I was faint.... 'Have not the efforts of the
nation,' I asked myself, 'been gigantic?' To such glories she only
wants to add the glories of my noble art to make her the grandest
nation in the world, and these she shall have if God spare my life....

'_June_ 25.--Dined with Hunt. I give myself credit for not
worrying him to death at this news. He was quiet for some time, but
knowing it must come, and putting on an air of indifference, he said,
"Terrible battle this, Haydon." "A glorious one, Hunt." "Oh yes,
certainly," and to it we went. Yet Hunt took a just and liberal view
of the situation. As for Hazlitt, it is not to be believed how the
destruction of Napoleon affected him; he seemed prostrated in mind and
body; he walked about unwashed, unshaved, hardly sober by day, and
always intoxicated by night, literally, without exaggeration, for
weeks, until at length, wakening as it were from his stupor, he at
once left off all stimulating liquors, and never touched them after.'

It is in this year that we find the first mention in the Journal of
Wordsworth, who, throughout his life, was one of Haydon's most
faithful friends and appreciative admirers. On April 13, the artist
records: 'I had a cast made yesterday of Wordsworth's face. He bore it
like a philosopher.... We afterwards called on Hunt, and as Hunt had
previously attacked him, and now has reformed his opinions, the
meeting was interesting. Hunt paid him the highest compliments, and
told him that as he grew wiser and got older, he found his respect for
his powers, and enthusiasm for his genius, increase.... I afterwards
sauntered with him to Hampstead, with great delight. Never did any man
so beguile the time as Wordsworth. His purity of heart, his kindness,
his soundness of principle, his information, his knowledge, and the
intense and eager feelings with which he pours forth all he knows,
affect, interest, and enchant one. I do not know any one I would be so
inclined to worship as a purified being.'

The new picture was not far advanced before the painter was once again
at the end of his resources, though not of his courage. Fifty guineas
were advanced to him by Sir George Beaumont, who had now commissioned
a picture at two hundred guineas, and Mr. (after Sir George) Phillips,
of Manchester, gave him a commission of £500 for a sacred work, paying
one hundred guineas down. But these advances melted rapidly away in
the expenses attendant on the painting of so ambitious a work as the
'Entry into Jerusalem.' Towards the close of the year Haydon's health
began to suffer from his excessive application, his sight weakened,
and he was often unable to paint for months at a time. Under these
afflictions, he was consoled by receiving permission to take casts of
the Elgin Marbles, the authenticity of which treasures had recently
been attacked by the art-critic, Knight Payne, who declared that they
were not Greek at all, but Roman, of the time of Hadrian. Such was the
effect of Payne Knight's opinion that the Marbles went down in the
public estimation, the Government hesitated to buy them for the
nation, and they were left neglected in a damp shed. Haydon was
furious at this insult to the objects of his idolatry, whose merits he
had been preaching in season and out of season since the day that he
first set eyes upon the Theseus and the Ilissus. At this critical
moment he found himself supported by a new and powerful champion in
the person of Canova, who had just arrived in England. Canova at once
admitted that the style of the Marbles was superior to that of all
other known marbles, and declared that they were well worth coming
from Rome to see. 'Canova's visit was a victory for me,' writes
Haydon, who had received the sculptor at his studio, and introduced
him to some of the artistic lions of London. 'What became now of all
the sneers at my senseless insanity about the Marbles? I, unknown,
with no station or rank, might have talked myself dumb; but for
Canova, the great artist of Europe, to repeat word for word what I had
been saying for seven years! His opinion could not be gainsaid.'

If our troubles are apt to come not in single file, but in 'whole
battalions,' our triumphs also occasionally arrive in squadrons, or
such at least was Haydon's experience. Hard upon Canova's departure
came a letter from Wordsworth, enclosing three sonnets, the last of
which had, he avowed, been inspired by a letter of Haydon's on the
struggles and hardships of the artist's life. This is now the familiar
sonnet beginning, 'High is our calling, Friend,' and concluding:

 'Great is the glory, for the strife is hard.'

'Now, reader,' writes the delighted recipient, 'was not this glorious?
And you, young student, when you are pressed down by want in the midst
of a great work, remember what followed Haydon's perseverance. The
freedom of his native town, the visit of Canova, and the sonnet of
Wordsworth, and if that do not cheer you up, and make you go on, you
are past all hope.... It had, indeed, been a wonderful year for me.
The Academicians were silenced. All classes were so enthusiastic and
so delighted that, though I had lost seven months with weak eyes, and
had only accomplished The Penitent Girl, The Mother, The Centurion and
the Samaritan Woman, yet they were considered so decidedly in advance
of all I had yet done, that my painting-room was crowd by rank,
beauty, and fashion, and the picture was literally taken up as an
honour to the nation.'

But, alas! neither the sonnets of poets nor the homage of the great
would pay for models and colours, or put bread into the artist's
mouth. Haydon could only live by renewed borrowing, for which method
of support he endeavours, without much success, to excuse himself.
Once in the clutches of professional money-lenders, he confesses that
'the fine edge of honour was dulled. Though my honourable discharge of
what I borrowed justified my borrowing again, yet it is a fallacious
relief, because you must stop sooner or later; if you are punctual,
and if you can pay in the long-run, why incur the debt at all? Too
proud to do small, modest things, that I might obtain fair means of
subsistence as I proceeded with my great work, I thought it no
degradation to borrow, to risk the insult of refusal, and be bated
down like the meanest dealer. Then I was liberal in my art; I spared
no expense for casts and prints, and did great things for the art by
means of them.... Ought I, after such efforts as I had made, to have
been left in this position by the Directors of the British Gallery or
the Government?'

The year 1816 was distinguished in Haydon's life as the epoch of his
first, or, more accurately, his last serious love-affair. He was of a
susceptible temperament, and seems to have been a favourite with
women, whom he inspired with his own strong belief in himself; but he
demanded much of the woman who was to be his wife, and hitherto he had
not found one who seemed worthy of that exalted position. He had long
been acquainted with Maria Foote, the actress, for whom he entertained
a qualified admiration, and by her he was taken one day to a friend's
house where, 'In one instant, the loveliest face that was ever created
since God made Eve, smiled gently at my approach. The effect of her
beauty was instantaneous. On the sofa lay a dying man and a boy about
two years old. We shortly took leave. I never spoke a word, and after
seeing M---- home, I returned to the house, and stood outside, in
hopes that she would appear at the window. I went home, and for the
first time in my life was really, heartily, thoroughly, passionately
in love. I hated my pictures. I hated the Elgin Marbles. I hated
books. I could not eat, or sleep, or think, or write, or talk. I got
up early, examined the premises and street, and gave a man
half-a-crown to let me sit concealed, and watch for her coming out.
Day after day I grew more and more enraptured, till resistance was
relinquished with a glorious defiance of restraint. Her conduct to her
dying husband, her gentle reproof of my impassioned air, riveted my
being. But I must not anticipate. Sufficient for the present, O
reader, is it to tell thee that B. R. Haydon is, and for ever will be,
in love with that woman, and that she is his wife.'

The first note that Haydon has preserved from his friend Keats is
dated November 1816, and runs:

'MY DEAR SIR,--Last evening wrought me up, and I cannot forbear
sending you the following.--Yours imperfectly,


The 'following' was nothing less than the noble sonnet,
beginning--'Great spirits now on earth are sojourning,' with an
allusion to Haydon in the lines:

  'And lo! whose steadfastness would never take
  A meaner sound than Raphael's whispering.'

Haydon wrote an enthusiastic letter of thanks, gave the young poet
some good advice, and promised to send his sonnet to Wordsworth.
'Keats,' he records, 'was the only man I ever met who seemed and
looked conscious of a high calling, except Wordsworth. Byron and
Shelley were always sophisticating about their verses; Keats
sophisticated about nothing. He had made up his mind to do great
things, and when he found that by his connection with the
_Examiner_ clique he had brought upon himself an overwhelming
outcry of unjust aversion, he shrank up into himself, his diseased
tendencies showed themselves, and he died a victim to mistakes, on the
part of friends and enemies alike.'

Haydon gives a curious account of his first meeting with Shelley,
which took place in the course of this year. The occasion was a
dinner-party at James Smith's house, when Keats and Horace Smith were
also among the guests. 'I seated myself,' writes Haydon,' right
opposite Shelley, as I was told afterwards, for I did not then know
what hectic, spare, weakly, yet intellectual-looking creature it was,
carving a bit of broccoli or cabbage in his plate, as if it had been
the substantial wing of a chicken. In a few minutes Shelley opened the
conversation by saying in the most feminine and gentle voice, "As to
that detestable religion, the Christian--" I looked astounded, but
casting a glance round the table, I easily saw that I was to be set at
that evening _vi et armis_.... I felt like a stag at bay, and
resolved to gore without mercy. Shelley said the Mosaic and Christian
dispensation were inconsistent. I swore they were not, and that the
Ten Commandments had been the foundation of all the codes of law on
the earth. Shelley denied it. I affirmed they were, neither of us
using an atom of logic.' This edifying controversy continued until all
parties grew very warm, and said unpleasant things to one another.
After this dinner, Haydon made up his mind to subject himself no more
to the chance of these discussions, but gradually to withdraw from
this freethinking circle.

The chief artistic events of the year, from our hero's point of view,
were, the final settlement of the Elgin Marbles question, and his own
attempt to found a school. The Committee appointed by Government to
examine and report upon the Marbles refused to call Haydon as a
witness on Lord Elgin's side, but the artist embodied his views on the
subject in a paper which appeared in both the _Examiner_ and the
_Champion_. This article, which was afterwards translated into
French and Italian, contained a scathing attack on Payne Knight, and
was said by Sir Thomas Lawrence to have saved the Elgin Marbles, and
ruined Haydon. However this may be, the Government, it will be
remembered, decided to buy the treasures for £35,000, a sum
considerably less than that which Lord Elgin had spent on bringing
them to England.

The School of Haydon was first instituted with three distinguished
pupils in the persons of the three Landseer brothers, to whom were
afterwards added William Bewick, Eastlake, Harvey, Lance, and
Chatfield. Haydon set his disciples to draw from the Raphael Cartoons,
two of which were brought up from Hampton Court to the British
Gallery, and, as soon as they were sufficiently advanced, he sent them
to the Museum to draw from the Elgin Marbles. 'Their cartoons,' he
writes, 'drawn full size, of the Fates, of Theseus and the Ilissus,
literally made a noise in Europe. An order came from the great Goethe
at Weimar for a set for his own house, the furniture of which having
been since bought by the Government, and the house kept up as it was
in Goethe's time, the cartoons of my pupils are thus preserved, whilst
in England the rest are lying about in cellars and corners/ The early
days of the School thus held out a promise for the future, which
unfortunately was not fulfilled. Haydon contrived to involve two or
three of his pupils in his own financial embarrassments, by inducing
them to sign accommodation bills, a proceeding which broke up the
establishment, and brought a lasting stain upon his reputation.

In 1817 Haydon was introduced to Miss Mitford, who greatly admired his
work, and a warm friendship sprang up between the pair. In May, Miss
Mitford wrote to Sir William Elford: 'The charm of the Exhibition is a
chalk-drawing by Mr. Haydon taken, _as he tells me_, from a
mother who had lost her child. It is the very triumph of expression. I
have not yet lost the impression which it made upon my mind and
senses, and which vented itself in a sonnet.' A visit to the studio
followed, and Miss Mitford was charmed with the room, the books, the
great unfinished picture, and the artist himself--with his
_bonhomie_, _naïveté_, and enthusiasm. With all her heart she
admires the noble, independent spirit of Haydon, who, she
declares, is quite one of the old heroes come to life again--one of
Shakespeare's men, full of spirit, endurance, and moral courage. She
concludes her account with an expression of regret that he should be
'such a fright.' Now Haydon is generally described by his
contemporaries as a good-looking man, though short in stature, with an
antique head, aquiline features, and fine dark eyes. His later
portraits are chiefly remarkable for the immensely wide mouth with
which he seems to be endowed, but in an early sketch by Wilkie he is
represented as a picturesque youth with an admirably modelled profile.

To Miss Mitford we owe a quaint anecdote of our hero, which, better
than pages of analysis, depicts the man. It appears that Leigh Hunt,
who was a great keeper of birthdays and other anniversaries, took it
into his head to celebrate the birthday of Papa Haydn by giving a
dinner, drinking toasts, and crowning the composer's bust with
laurels. Some malicious person told Haydon that the Hunts were
celebrating his birthday, a compliment that struck him as natural and
well deserved. Hastening to Hampstead, he broke in upon the company,
and addressed to them a formal speech, in which he thanked them for
the honour they had done him, but explained that they had made a
little mistake in the day! As a pendant to this anecdote, Miss Mitford
relates that Haydon told her he had painted the head of his Christ
seven times, and that the final head was a portrait of himself. It is
only fair to remember that he always regarded it as the least
successful part of the work.

While the picture was in progress, Haydon decided to put in a side
group with Voltaire as a sceptic, and Newton as a believer. This idea,
founded on the intentional anachronisms of some of the old masters,
was afterwards extended, Hazlitt being introduced as an investigator,
and Wordsworth bowing in reverence, with Keats in the background. The
two poets had never yet met in actual life, but in December 1817,
Wordsworth being then on a visit to London, Haydon invited Keats to
meet him. The other guests were Charles Lamb and Monkhouse.
'Wordsworth was in fine cue,' writes Haydon, 'and we had a glorious
set-to-on Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Virgil. Lamb got exceedingly
merry, and exquisitely witty, and his fun, in the midst of
Wordsworth's solemn intonations of oratory, was like the sarcasm and
wit of the fool in the intervals of Lear's passion.' Although the
specimens of wit recorded no longer seem inspired, we can well believe
Haydon's statement that it was an immortal evening, and that in all
his life he never passed a more delightful time. We have abundant
testimony to the fact that the artist-host was himself an
exceptionally fine talker. Hazlitt said that 'Haydon talked well on
most subjects that interest one; indeed, better than any painter I
ever met.' Wordsworth and Talfourd echoed this opinion, and Miss
Mitford tells us that he was a most brilliant talker--racy, bold,
original, and vigorous, 'a sort of Benvenuto Cellini, all air and

It was not until January 1820 that the 'Entry into Jerusalem' was
finished, when the artist, though absolutely penniless, engaged the
great room at the Egyptian Hall for its exhibition, at a rent of £300.
His friends helped him over the incidental expenses, and in a state of
feverish excitement he awaited the opening day. Public curiosity had
been aroused about the work, and early in the afternoon there was a
block of carriages in Piccadilly; the passage was thronged with
servants, and soon the artist was holding what he described as a
'regular rout at noonday.' While Keats and Hazlitt were rejoicing in a
corner, Mrs. Siddons swept in, and in her loud, deep, tragic tones,
declared that the head of Christ was completely successful. By her
favourable verdict, Haydon, who had his doubts, was greatly consoled,
not because Mrs. Siddons had any reputation as an art-critic, but
because he recognised that she was an expert on the subject of
dramatic expression. A thousand pounds was offered for the picture and
refused, while the net profits from the exhibition, in London alone,
amounted to £1300. Haydon has been commonly represented as an unlucky
man, who was always neglected by the public and the patrons, and never
met with his professional deserts. But up to this time, as has been
seen, he had found ready sympathy and admiration from the public,
practical aid during the time of struggle from his friends, and a fair
reward for his labours. With the exhibition of the 'Entry into
Jerusalem,' his reputation was at its zenith; a little skilful
engineering of the success thus gained might have extricated him from
his difficulties, and enabled him to keep his head above water for the
remainder of his days. But, owing chiefly to his own impracticability,
his story from this point is one of decline, gradual at first, but
increasing in velocity, until the end came in disaster and despair.


Even while Haydon was in the first flush of his success, there were
signs that he had achieved no lasting triumph. Sir George Beaumont
proposed that the British Gallery should buy the great picture, but
the Directors refused to give the price asked--£2000. An effort to
sell it by subscription fell through, only, £200 being paid into
Coutts'. When the exhibition closed in London, Haydon took his
masterpiece to Scotland, and showed it both in Edinburgh and in
Glasgow, netting another £900, which, however, was quickly eaten up by
hungry creditors. The picture was too big to tempt a private
purchaser, and in spite of the admiration it had aroused, it remained
like a white elephant upon its creator's hands.

On his return to town, after being fêted by Sir Walter Scott,
Lockhart, and 'Christopher North,' Haydon finished his commission for
Sir George Phillips, 'Christ Sleeping in the Garden,' which, he
frankly admitted, was one of the worst pictures he ever painted.
Scarcely was this off his easel than he was inspired with a tremendous
conception for the 'Raising of Lazarus.' He ordered a canvas such as
his soul loved, nineteen feet long by fifteen high, and dashed in his
first idea. He was still deeply in debt, still desperately in love
(his lady was now a widow), and the new picture would take at least
two years to paint. Nevertheless, he worked away with all his
customary energy, and prayed fervently that he might paint a great
masterpiece, never doubting but that his prayers would be heard.

With the end of this year, 1820, Haydon's Autobiography breaks off,
and the rest of his life is told in his Journals and Letters. At the
beginning of 1821, when he was fairly at work on his Lazarus, he
confides to his Journal his conviction that difficulties are to be his
lot in pecuniary matters, and adds: 'My plan must be to make up my
mind to meet them, and fag as I can--to lose no single moment, but
seize on time that is free from disturbance, and make the most of it.
If I can float, and keep alive attention to my situation through
another picture, I will reach the shore. I am now clearly in sight of
it, and I will yet land to the sound of trumpets, and the shouts of my

In spite of his absorption in his work, Haydon found time for the
society of his literary friends. On March 7, he records: 'Sir Walter
Scott, Lamb, Wilkie, and Procter have been with me all the morning,
and a delightful morning we have had. Scott operated on us like
champagne and whisky mixed.... It is singular how success and the want
of it operate on two extraordinary men, Walter Scott and Wordsworth.
Scott enters a room and sits at table with the coolness and
self-possession of conscious fame; Wordsworth with a mortified
elevation of the head, as if fearful he was not estimated as he
deserved. Scott can afford to talk of trifles, because he knows the
world will think him a great man who condescends to trifle; Wordsworth
must always be eloquent and profound, because he knows that he is
considered childish and puerile.... I think that Scott's success would
have made Wordsworth insufferable, while Wordsworth's failures would
not have rendered Scott a whit less delightful. Scott is the companion
of Nature in all her moods and freaks, while Wordsworth follows her
like an apostle, sharing her solemn moods and impressions.'

In these rough notes, unusual powers of observation and insight into
character are displayed. That Haydon also had a keen sense of humour
is proved by his account of an evening at Mrs. Siddons' where the
hostess read aloud _Macbeth_ to her guests. 'She acts Macbeth
herself much better than either Kemble or Kean,' he writes. 'It is
extraordinary the awe that this wonderful woman inspires. After her
first reading the men retired to tea. While we were all eating toast
and tinkling cups and saucers, she began again. It was like the effect
of a mass-bell at Madrid. All noise ceased; we slunk to our seats like
boors, two or three of the most distinguished men of the day, with the
very toast in their mouths, afraid to bite. It was curious to see
Lawrence in this predicament, to hear him bite by degrees, and then
stop, for fear of making too much crackle, his eyes full of water from
the constraint; and at the same time to hear Mrs. Siddons' 'eye of
newt and toe of frog,' and to see Lawrence give a sly bite, and then
look awed, and pretend to be listening.'

In the spring of 1821 Haydon lost two intimate friends, John Scott,
who was killed by Christie in the Blackwood duel, and Keats, who died
at Rome on February 23. He briefly sums up his impressions of the dead
poet in his Journal. 'In fireside conversation he was weak and
inconsistent, but he was in his glory in the fields.... He was the
most unselfish of human creatures: unadapted to this world, he cared
not for himself, and put himself to inconvenience for the sake of his
friends. He had an exquisite sense of humour, and too refined a notion
of female purity to bear the little arts of love with patience.... He
began life full of hopes, fiery, impetuous, ungovernable, expecting
the world to fall at once beneath his powers. Unable to bear the
sneers of ignorance or the attacks of envy, he began to despond, and
flew to dissipation as a relief. For six weeks he was scarcely sober,
and to show what a man does to gratify his appetites when once they
get the better of him, he once covered his tongue and throat, as far
as he could reach, with Cayenne pepper, in order to appreciate the
"delicious coldness of claret in all its glory"--his own expression.'

June 22, 1821, is entered in the Journal as 'A remarkable day in my
life. I am arrested!' This incident, unfortunately, became far too
common in after-days to be at all remarkable, but the first touch of
the bailiff's hand was naturally something of a shock, and Haydon
filled three folio pages with angry comments on the iniquity of the
laws against debtors. He was able, however, to arrange the affair
before night, and the sheriff's officer, whose duty it was to keep him
in safe custody during the day, was so profoundly impressed by the
sight of the Lazarus, that he allowed his prisoner to go free on
parole. This incident has been likened to that of the bravoes arrested
in their murderous intent by the organ-playing of Stradella; and also
to the case of the soldiers of the Constable who, when sacking Rome,
broke into Parmigiano's studio, but were so struck by the beauty of
his pictures that they protected him and his property.

In despite of debts, difficulties, and the lack of commissions,
Haydon, who had now been in love for five years, was married on
October 10, 1821, to the young widow, Mary Hyman, who was blessed with
two children, and a jointure of fifty pounds a year. His Journal for
this period is full of raptures over his blissful state, as also are
his letters to his friends. To Miss Mitford he writes from Windsor,
where the honeymoon was spent: 'Here I am, sitting by my dearest Mary
with all the complacency of a well-behaved husband, writing to you
while she is working quietly on some unintelligible part of a lady's
costume. You do not know how proud I am of saying _my wife_. I
never felt half so proud of Solomon or Macbeth, as I am of being the
husband of this tender little bit of lovely humanity.... There never
was such a creature; and although her face is perfect, and has more
feeling in it than Lady Hamilton's, her manner to me is perfectly
enchanting, and more bewitching than her beauty. I think I shall put
over my painting-room door, "Love, solitude, and painting."' On the
last day of the year, according to his wont, Haydon sums up his
feelings and impressions of the past twelve months. 'I don't know how
it is, but I get less reflective as I get older. I seem to take things
as they come without thought. Perhaps being married to my dearest
Mary, and having no longer anything to hope in love, I get more
content with my lot, which, God knows, is rapturous beyond
imagination. Here I sit sketching, with the loveliest face before me,
smiling and laughing, and "solitude is not." Marriage has increased my
happiness beyond expression. In the intervals of study, a few minutes'
conversation with a creature one loves is the greatest of all reliefs.
God bless us both! My pecuniary difficulties are great, but my love is
intense, my ambition is intense, and my hope in God's protection
cheering. Bewick, my pupil, has realised my hopes in his picture of
"Jacob and Rachel." But it is cold work talking of pupils when one's
soul is full of a beloved woman! I am really and truly in love, and
without affectation, I can talk, write, or think of nothing else.'

But if a love-match brings increased happiness, it also brings
weightier cares and responsibilities. Haydon's credit had been in a
measure restored by the success of his last picture, but his creditors
seemed to resent his marriage, and during the months that followed,
gave him little peace. He was obliged, in the intervals of painting,
to rush hither and thither to pacify this creditor, quiet the fears of
that, remove the ill-will of a third, and borrow money at usurious
interest from a fourth in order to keep his engagements with a fifth.
In spite of all his compromises and arrangements, he was arrested more
than once during this year, but so far he had been able to keep out of
prison. His favourite pupil Bewick, who sat to him for the head of
Lazarus (being appropriately pale and thin from want of food) has left
an account of the difficulties under which the picture was painted. 'I
think I see the painter before me,' he writes, 'his palette and
brushes in the left hand, returning from the sheriff's officer in the
adjoining room, pale, calm, and serious--no agitation--mounting his
high steps and continuing his arduous task, and as he looks round to
his pallid model, whispering, "Egad, Bewick, I have just been
arrested; that is the third time. If they come again, I shall not be
able to go on."'

On December 7, the Lazarus was finished, and five days later Haydon's
eldest son Frank was born. The happy father was profoundly moved by
his new responsibilities, as well as by his wife's suffering and
danger. On the last day of 1822 he thanks his Maker for the happiest
year of his life, and also 'for being permitted to finish another
great picture, which must add to my reputation, and go to strengthen
the art.... Grant it triumphant success. Grant that I may soon begin
the "Crucifixion," and persevere with that, until I bring it to a
conclusion equally positive and glorious.' Haydon's prayers, which
have been not inaptly described as 'begging letters to the Almighty,'
are invariably couched in terms that would be appropriate in an appeal
to the President of a Celestial Academy. As his biographer points out,
he prayed as though he would take heaven by storm, and although he
often asked for humility, the demands for this gift bore very little
proportion to those for glories and triumphs.

The Lazarus, though it showed signs of haste and exaggeration, natural
enough considering the conditions under which it was painted, was
acclaimed as a great work, and the receipts from its exhibition were
of a most satisfactory nature, mounting up to nearly two hundred
pounds a week. Instead of calling his creditors together, and coming
to some arrangement with them, Haydon, rendered over-confident by
success, spent his time in preparing a new and vaster canvas for his
conception of the Crucifixion. The sight of crowds of people paying
their shillings to view the Lazarus roused the cupidity of one of the
creditors, who, against his own interests, killed the goose that was
laying golden eggs. On April 13, an execution was put in, and the
picture was seized. A few days later Haydon was arrested, and carried
to the King's Bench, his house was taken possession of, and all his
property was advertised for sale.

On April 22, he dates the entry in his Journal, 'King's Bench,' and
consoles himself with the reflection that Bacon, Raleigh, and
Cervantes had also suffered imprisonment. His friends rallied round
him at this melancholy period. Lord Mulgrave, Sir George Beaumont,
Scott and Wilkie, giving not only sympathy but practical help. At his
forced sale a portion of his casts and painting materials was bought
in by his friends in order that he might be enabled to set to work
again as soon as he was released from prison. A meeting of creditors
was called, and Haydon addressed to them a characteristic letter,
begging to be spared the disgrace of 'taking the Act,' and complaining
of the hardship of his treatment in being torn from his family and his
art, after devoting the best years of his life to the honour of his
country. But as the creditors cared nothing for the honour of the
country, he was compelled to pass through the Bankruptcy Court, and on
July 25 he regained his freedom. It was now his desire to return to
his dismantled house, and, without a bed to lie upon, or a shilling in
his pocket, to finish his gigantic 'Crucifixion.' But his wife, the
long-suffering Mary, persuaded him to abandon this idea, to retire to
modest lodgings for a time, and to paint portraits and cabinet-pictures
until better fortune dawned.

Haydon yielded to her desire, but he never ceased to regret what he
considered his degradation. He would have preferred to allow his
friends and creditors to support himself and his family, while he
worked at a canvas of unsaleable size, a proceeding that most men
would regard as involving a deeper degradation than painting

Haydon began his new career by painting the 'portrait of a gentleman.'
'Ah, my poor lay-figure,' he groans, 'he, who bore the drapery of
Christ and the grave-clothes of Lazarus, the cloak of the centurion
and the gown of Newton, was to-day disgraced by a black coat and
waistcoat. I apostrophised him, and he seemed to sympathise, and bowed
his head as if ashamed to look me in the face.' Haydon's detestation
of portrait-painting probably arose from the secret consciousness that
he was not successful in this branch of his art. His taste for the
grandiose led him to depict his sitters larger than life, if not
'twice as natural.' His objection to painting small pictures was
partly justified by his weakness of sight. It was easy for him to dash
in heads on a large scale in a frenzy of inspiration, but he seemed to
lack the faculty for 'finish.' The faults of disproportion and
apparent carelessness that disfigure many of his works, are easily
accounted for by his method of painting, which is thus described by
his son Frederick, who often acted as artist's model:--

'His natural sight was of little or no use to him at any distance, and
he would wear, one over the other, two or three pairs of large round
concave spectacles, so powerful as greatly to diminish objects. He
would mount his steps, look at you through one pair of glasses, then
push them all back on his head, and paint by the naked eye close to
the canvas. After some minutes he would pull down one pair of his
glasses, look at you, then step down, walk slowly backwards to the
wall, and study the effect through one, two, or three pairs of
spectacles; then with one pair only look long and steadily in the
looking-glass at the side to examine the reflection of his work; then
mount his steps and paint again. How he ever contrived to paint a head
or limb in proportion is a mystery to me, for it is clear that he had
lost his natural sight in boyhood. He is, as he said, the first blind
man who ever successfully painted pictures.'

Unfortunately, Haydon's self-denial in painting portraits was not well
rewarded, for commissions were few, and the clouds began to gather
again. One of his sitters had to be appealed to for money for coals,
and if such appeals were frequent, the scarcity of sitters was hardly
surprising. On one occasion he pawned all his books, except a few old
favourites, for three pounds, and entries like the following are of
almost daily occurrence in the Journal:--'Obliged to go out in the
rain, I left my room with no coals in it, and no money to buy any....
Not a shilling in the world. Sold nothing, and not likely to. Baker
called, and was insolent. If he were to stop the supplies, God knows
what would become of my children! Landlord called--kind and sorry.
Butcher called, respectful, but disappointed. Tailor good--humoured,
and willing to wait.... Walked about the town. I was so full of grief,
I could not have concealed it at home.'

In the midst of all his harassing anxieties, Haydon was untiring in
his efforts to obtain employment of the heroic kind that his soul
craved. He had begun to realise that he had small chance of disposing
of huge historical pictures to private patrons, and that his only hope
rested with the Government. Even while confined in prison he had
persuaded Brougham to present a petition to the House of Commons
setting forth the desirability of appointing a Committee to inquire
into the state of national art, and by a regular distribution of a
small portion of the public funds, to give public encouragement to the
professors of historical painting. No sooner did he regain his freedom
than Haydon attacked Sir Charles Long with a plan for the decoration
of the great room of the Admiralty, to be followed by the decoration
of the House of Lords and St. Paul's Cathedral. This was but the
beginning of a long series of impassioned pleadings with public men in
favour of national employment for historical painters. Silence, snubs,
formal acknowledgments, curt refusals, all were lost upon Haydon, who
kept pouring in page after page of agonised petition on Sir Charles
Long, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Grey, Lord Melbourne, and Sir
Robert Peel, and seemed to be making no way with any of them.

Haydon thought himself ill-used, throughout his life, by statesmen and
patrons, and many of his friends were of the same opinion. But both he
and they ignored the fact that it is impossible to create an
artificial market for works of art for which there is no spontaneous
popular demand. A despotic prince may, if he chooses, give his court
painter _carte blanche_ for the decorations of national buildings,
and gain nothing but glory for his liberality, even when it
is exercised at the expense of his people. But in a country that
possesses a constitutional government, more especially when that
country has been impoverished by long and costly wars, the minister
who devotes large sums to the encouragement of national art has the
indignation of an over-taxed populace to reckon with. It is little
short of an insult to offer men historic frescoes when they are
clamouring for bread. Haydon was unfortunate in his period, which was
not favourable for a crusade on behalf of high art. The recent
pacification of the Continent, and the opening up of its treasures,
tempted English noblemen and plutocrats to invest their money in old
masters to the neglect of native artists, who were only thought worthy
to paint portraits of their patrons' wives and children. We who have
inherited the Peel, the Angerstein, and the Hertford collections, can
scarcely bring ourselves to regret the sums that were lavished on
Flemish and Italian masterpieces, sums that might have kept our Barrys
and Haydons from bankruptcy.

In January 1824 Haydon left his lodgings, and took the lease of a
house in Connaught Terrace, for which he paid, or promised to pay, a
hundred and twenty pounds a year, a heavy rent for a recently
insolvent artist. Fortunately, he acquired with the house a landlord
of amazing benevolence, who took pot-boilers in lieu of rent, and
meekly submitted to abuse when nothing else was forthcoming. As soon
as he was fairly settled, Haydon arranged the composition of a large
picture of 'Pharaoh dismissing Moses,' upon which he worked in the
intervals of portrait-painting. A curious and obviously impartial
sketch of him, as he appeared at this time, is drawn by Borrow in his
_Lavengro_. The hero's elder brother comes up to town, it may be
remembered, to commission a certain heroic artist to paint an heroic
picture of a very unheroic mayor of Norwich. The two brothers go
together to the painter of Lazarus, and have some difficulty in
obtaining admission to his studio, being mistaken by the servant for
duns. They found a man of about thirty-five, with a clever,
intelligent countenance, sharp grey eyes, and hair cut _à la_
Raphael. He possessed, moreover, a broad chest, and would have been a
very fine figure if his legs had not been too short. He was then
engaged upon his Moses, whose legs, in Lavengro's opinion, were also
too short. His eyes glistened at the mention of a hundred pounds for
the mayor's portrait, and he admitted that he was confoundedly short
of money. The painter was anxious that Lavengro should sit to him for
his Plutarch, which honour that gentleman firmly declined. Years
afterwards he saw the portrait of the mayor, a 'mighty portly man,
with a bull's head, black hair, a body like a dray horse, and legs and
thighs corresponding; a man six foot high at the least. To his bull's
head, black hair and body, the painter had done justice; there was one
point, however, in which the portrait did not correspond with the
original--the legs were disproportionately short, the painter having
substituted his own legs for those of the mayor, which, when I
perceived, I rejoiced that I had not consented to be painted as
Pharaoh, for if I had, the chances are that he would have served me in
exactly the same way as he had served Moses and the mayor.'

The painting of provincial mayors was so little to Haydon's taste that
by the close of this year we find him in deep depression of spirits,
unrelieved by even a spark of his old sanguine buoyancy. 'I candidly
confess,' he writes, 'I find my glorious art a bore. I cannot with
pleasure paint any individual head for the mere purpose of domestic
gratification. I must have a great subject to excite public
feeling.... Alas! I have no object in life now but my wife and
children, and almost wish I had not them, that I might sit still and
meditate on human grandeur and human ambition till I died.... I am not
yet forty, and can tell of a destiny melancholy and rapturous, bitter
beyond all bitterness, cursed, heart-breaking, maddening. But I dare
not write now. The melancholy demon has grappled my heart, and crushed
its turbulent beatings in his black, bony, clammy, clenching fingers.'

It was just when things seemed at their darkest, when the waters
threatened to overwhelm the unfortunate artist, that a rope was thrown
to him. His legal adviser, Mr. Kearsley, a practical and prosperous
man, came forward with an offer of help. He agreed to provide £300 for
one year on certain conditions, in order that Haydon might be freed
from pressure for that period, and be in a position to ask a fair
price for his work. When not engaged on portraits, he was to paint
historical pictures of a saleable size. The advance was to be secured
on a life insurance, and to be repaid out of the sale of the pictures,
with interest at four per cent. This offer was accepted with some
reluctance, and the following year was one of comparative peace and
quiet. The Journal gives evidence of greater ease of mind, and renewed
pleasure in work. Haydon's love for his wife waxed rather than waned
with the passing of the years, and his children, of whom he too soon
had the poor man's quiverful, were an ever-present delight. 'My
domestic happiness is doubled,' he writes about this time. 'Daily and
hourly my sweet Mary proves the justice of my choice. My boy Frank
gives tokens of being gifted at two years old, God bless him! My
ambition would be to make him a public man.... I have got into my old
delightful habits of study again. The mixture of literature and
painting I really think the perfection of human happiness. I paint a
head, revel in colour, hit an expression, sit down fatigued, take up a
poet or historian, write my own thoughts, muse on the thoughts of
others, and hours, troubles, and the tortures of disappointed ambition
pass and are forgotten.'

Portraits, and one or two commissions for small pictures, kept Haydon
afloat throughout this year, but a widespread commercial distress in
the early part of 1826 affected his gains, and in February he records
that for the last five weeks he has been suffering the tortures of the
Inferno. He was persuaded, much against his will, to send his pictures
to the Academy, and he was proportionately annoyed at the adverse
criticism that greeted his attempts at portraiture. This attack he
regarded as the result of a deep-laid plot to injure him in a
lucrative branch of his art. He consoled himself by beginning a large
picture of 'Alexander taming Bucephalus,' the 'finest subject on
earth.' Through his friend and opposite neighbour, Carew the sculptor,
Haydon made an appeal to Lord Egremont, that generous patron of the
arts, for help or employment, in response to which Lord Egremont
promised to call and see the Alexander. There is a pathetic touch in
the account of this visit, on which so much depended. Lord Egremont
called at Carew's house on his way, and Haydon, who saw him go in,
relates that 'Dear Mary and I were walking on the leads, and agreed
that it would not be quite right to look too happy, being without a
sixpence; so we came in, I to the parlour to look through the blinds,
and she to the nursery.' Happily, the patron was favourably impressed
by the picture, and promised to give £600 for it when it was finished.
In order to pay his models Haydon was obliged to pawn one of his two
lay-figures, since he could not bring himself to part with any more
books. 'I may do without a lay-figure for a time,' he writes, 'but not
without old Homer. The truth is I am fonder of books than of anything
on earth. I consider myself a man of great powers, excited to an art
which limits their exercise. In politics, law, or literature they
would have had a full and glorious swing, and I should have secured a

The fact that Haydon was more at home among the literary men of his
acquaintance than among his fellow-artists was a natural result of his
intense love of books, and his keen interest in contemporary history.
And it is evident that his own character and work impressed his
poetical friends, for we find that not only Wordsworth and Keats, but
Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, Miss Mitford, and Miss Barrett addressed to
him admiring verses. For Byron, whom he never knew, Haydon cherished
an ardent admiration, and the following interesting passage, comparing
that poet with Wordsworth, occurs in one of his letters to Miss
Mitford, who had criticised Byron's taste:--

'You are unjust, depend upon it,' he writes, 'in your estimate of
Byron's poetry, and wrong in ranking Wordsworth beyond him. There are
things in Byron's poetry so exquisite that fifty or five hundred years
hence they will be read, felt, and adored throughout the world. I
grant that Wordsworth is very pure, very holy, very orthodox, and
occasionally very elevated, highly poetical, and oftener insufferably
obscure, starched, dowdy, anti-human, and anti-sympathetic, but he
never will be ranked above Byron, nor classed with Milton.... I
dislike his selfish Quakerism, his affectation of superior virtue, his
utter insensibility to the frailties, the beautiful frailties of
passion. I was walking with him once in Pall Mall; we darted into
Christie's. In the corner of the room was a beautiful copy of the
"Cupid and Psyche" (statues) kissing. Cupid is taking her lovely chin,
and turning her pouting mouth to meet his, while he archly bends down,
as if saying, "Pretty dear!"... Catching sight of the Cupid as he and
I were coming out, Wordsworth's face reddened, he showed his teeth,
and then said in a loud voice, "_The Dev-v-vils!_" There's a
mind! Ought not this exquisite group to have softened his heart as
much as his old, grey-mossed rocks, his withered thorn, and his
dribbling mountain streams? I am altered very much about Wordsworth
from finding him too hard, too elevated, to attend to the voice of
humanity. No, give me Byron with all his spite, hatred, depravity,
dandyism, vanity, frankness, passion, and idleness, rather than
Wordsworth with all his heartless communion with woods and grass.'

An attempt on Haydon's part to reconcile himself with his old enemies,
the Academicians, ended in failure. He heads his account of the
transaction, 'The disgrace of my life.' He was received with cold
civility by the majority of the artists to whom he paid conciliatory
visits, and when he put his name down for election, he received not a
single vote. A more agreeable memory of this year was a visit to
Petworth, where, as he records, with Pepysian _naiveté_, 'Lord
Egremont has placed me in one of the most magnificent bedrooms I ever
saw. It speaks more of what he thinks of my talents than anything that
ever happened to me.... What a destiny is mine! One year in the King's
Bench, the companion of gamblers and scoundrels--sleeping in
wretchedness and dirt on a flock-bed--another reposing in down and
velvet in a splendid apartment in a splendid house, the guest of rank,
fashion, and beauty.' Haydon's painting-room was now, as he loved to
see it, crowded with distinguished visitors, who were anxious to
inspect the picture of Alexander before it was sent to the Exhibition.
Among them came Charles Lamb, who afterwards set down some impressions
and suggestions in the following characteristic fashion:--


'Did the maid tell you I came to see your picture? I think the face
and bearing of the Bucephalus-tamer very noble, his flesh too
effeminate or painty.... I had small time to pick out praise or blame,
for two lord-like Bucks came in, upon whose strictures my presence
seemed to impose restraint; I plebeian'd off therefore.

'I think I have hit on a subject for you, but can't swear it was never
executed--I never heard of its being--"Chaucer beating a Franciscan
Friar in Fleet Street." Think of the old dresses, houses, etc. "It
seemeth that both these learned men (Gower and Chaucer) were of the
Inner Temple; for not many years since Master Buckley did see a record
in the same house where Geoffrey Chaucer was fined two shillings for
beating a Franciscan Friar in Fleet Street."--_Chaucer's Life, by T.
Speght_.--Yours in haste (salt fish waiting).

'C. LAMB.'

In June Haydon was again arrested, and imprisoned in the King's Bench.
Once more he appealed to Parliament by a petition presented by
Brougham, and to the public through letters to the newspapers.
Parliament and the larger public turned a deaf ear, but private
friends rallied to his support. Scott, himself a ruined man, sent a
cheque and a charming letter of sympathy, while Lockhart suggested
that a subscription should be raised to buy one or more pictures. A
public meeting of sympathisers was convened, at which it was stated
that Haydon's debts amounted to £1767, while his only available asset
was an unfinished picture of the 'Death of Eucles.' Over a hundred
pounds was subscribed in the room, and it was decided that the Eucles
should be raffled in ten-pound shares. The result of these efforts was
the release of the prisoner at the end of July.

During this last term of imprisonment Haydon witnessed the masquerade,
or mock election by his fellow-prisoners, and instantly decided that
he would paint the scene, which offered unique opportunities for both
humour and pathos. This picture, Hogarthian in type, was finished and
exhibited before the close of the year. The exhibition was moderately
successful, but the picture did not sell, and Haydon was once more
sinking into despair, when the king expressed a desire to have the
work sent down to Windsor for his inspection. Hopes were raised high
once more, and this time were not disappointed. George IV. bought the
'Mock Election,' and promptly paid the price of five hundred guineas.
Thus encouraged, Haydon set to work with renewed spirit on a companion
picture, 'Chairing the Member,' which was finished and exhibited, with
some earlier works, in the course of the summer. The king refused to
buy the new work, but it found a purchaser at £300, and the net
receipts from the two pictures and their exhibition amounted to close
upon £1400, a sum which, observes Haydon, in better circumstances and
with less expense, would have afforded a comfortable independence for
the year!

The Eucles occupied the artist during the remainder of 1828, and early
in 1829 he began a new Hogarthian subject, a Punch and Judy show. He
was still painting portraits when he could get sitters, and on April
15, he notes: 'Finished one cursed portrait--have only one more to
touch, and then I shall be free. I have an exquisite gratification in
painting portraits wretchedly. I love to see the sitters look as if
they thought, "Can this be Haydon's--the great Haydon's painting?" I
chuckle. I am rascal enough to take their money, and chuckle more.' It
must be owned that Haydon thoroughly deserved his ill-success in this
branch of his art. When 'Punch' was finished the king sent for it to
Windsor, but though he admired, he did not buy, and the picture
eventually passed into the possession of Haydon's old friend, Dr.
Darling, who had helped him out of more than one difficulty. A large
representation of 'Xenophon and the Retreat of the Ten Thousand' was
now begun, but before it was finished the painter was once more in
desperate straits. In vain he sent up urgent petitions to his Maker
that he might be enabled to go through with this great work,
explaining in a parenthesis, 'It will be my greatest,' and concluding,
'Bless its commencement, its progress, its conclusion, and its effect,
for the sake of the intellectual elevation of my great and glorious

In May 1830, Haydon was back again in the King's Bench, where he had
begun to feel quite at home. He presented yet another of his
innumerable petitions to Parliament in favour of Government
encouragement of historical painting, through Mr. Agar Ellis, but as
the ministry showed no desire to encourage this particular historical
painter, he passed through the Bankruptcy Court, and returned to his
family on the 20th of July. During his period of detention, George IV.
had died, and Haydon has the following comment on the event:--'Thus
died as thoroughbred an Englishman as ever existed in this country. He
admired her sports, gloried in her prejudices, had confidence in her
bottom and spirit, and to him alone is the destruction of Napoleon
owing. I have lost in him my sincere admirer; and had not his wishes
been continually thwarted, he would have given me ample and adequate

Although Haydon had regained his freedom, his chance of maintaining
himself and his rapidly increasing family by his art seemed as far
away as ever. By October 15th he is at his wits' end again, and writes
in his Journal: 'The harassings of a family are really dreadful. Two
of my children are ill, and Mary is nursing. All night she was
attending to the sick and hushing the suckling, with a consciousness
that our last shilling was going. I got up in the morning
bewildered--Xenophon hardly touched--no money--butcher impudent--all
tradesmen insulting. I took up my private sketch-book and two prints
of Napoleon (from a small picture of 'Napoleon musing at St. Helena')
and walked into the city. Hughes advanced me five guineas on the
sketch-book; I sold my prints, and returned home happy with £8, 4s. in
my pocket.... (25th) Out selling my prints. Sold enough for
maintenance for the week. Several people looked hard at me with my
roll of prints, but I feel more ashamed in borrowing money than in
honestly selling my labours. It is a pity the nobility drive me to
this by their neglect.'

In December came another stroke of good-luck. Sir Robert Peel called
at the studio, and gave the artist a commission to paint, on a larger
scale, a replica of his small sketch of 'Napoleon at St. Helena.'
Unluckily, there was a misunderstanding about the price. Peel asked
how much Haydon charged for a whole length figure, and was told a
hundred pounds, which was the price of an ordinary portrait. Taking
this to be the charge for the Napoleon, he paid no more. Haydon, who
considered the picture well worth £500, was bitterly disappointed, and
took no pains to conceal his feelings. Peel afterwards sent him an
extra thirty pounds, but the subject remained a grievance to Haydon
for the rest of his life, and Peel, who had intended to do the artist
a good turn, was so annoyed by his complaints, that he never gave him
another commission. The Napoleon, though its exhibition was not a
success, was one of Haydon's most popular pictures, and the engraving
is well known. Wordsworth admired it exceedingly, and on June 12, sent
the artist the 'Sonnet to B. R. Haydon, composed on seeing his picture
of Napoleon in the island of St. Helena,' beginning:

  'Haydon! let worthier judges praise the skill.'

The close of this year was a melancholy period to poor Haydon. He lost
his little daughter, Fanny, and his third son, Alfred, was gradually
fading away. Out of eight children born to this most affectionate of
fathers, no fewer than five died in infancy from suffusion of the
brain, due, it was supposed, to the terrible mental distresses of
their mother. 'I can remember,' writes Frederick Haydon, one of the
three survivors, 'the roses of her sunken cheeks fading away daily
with anxiety and grief. My father, who was passionately attached to
both wife and children, suffered the tortures of the damned at the
sight before him. His sorrow over the deaths of his children was
something more than human. I remember watching him as he hung over his
daughter Georgiana, and over his dying boy Harry, the pride and
delight of his life. Poor fellow, how he cried! and he went into the
next room, and beating his head passionately on the bed, called upon
God to take him and all of us from this dreadful world. The earliest
and most painful death was to be preferred to our life at that time.'

By dint of borrowing in every possible quarter, generally at forty per
cent. interest, and inducing his patrons to take shares in his
Xenophon, Haydon managed to get through the winter, though his
children were often without stockings. William IV. consented to place
his name at the head of the subscribers' list, and Goethe wrote a
flattering letter, expressing his desire to take a ticket for the
'very valuable painting,' and assuring the artist that 'my soul has
been elevated for many years by the contemplation of the important
pictures (the cartoons from the Elgin Marbles) formerly sent to me,
which occupy an honourable station in my house.' Xenophon was
exhibited in the spring of 1832 without attracting much attention, the
whole nation being engrossed with the subject of Reform. Haydon,
though a high Tory by birth and inclination, was an ardent champion of
the Bill, as he had been for that of Catholic Emancipation. His brush
was once more exchanged for the pen, and he not only poured out his
thoughts upon Reform in his Journal, but wrote several letters on the
subject to the _Times_, which he considered the most wonderful
compositions of the kind that had ever been penned. After the passing
of the Bill he congratulates himself upon having contributed to the
grand result, and adds: 'When my colours have faded, my canvas
decayed, and my body has mingled with the earth, these glorious
letters, the best things I ever wrote, will awaken the enthusiasm of
my countrymen. I thanked God I lived in such a time, and that he
gifted me with talent to serve the great cause.'

On reading the account of the monster meeting of the Trades Unions at
Newhall Hill, Birmingham, it occurred to Haydon that the moment when
the vast concourse joined in the sudden prayer offered up by Hugh
Hutton, would make a fine subject for a picture. Accordingly, he wrote
to Hutton, and laid the suggestion before him. The Birmingham leaders
were attracted by the idea, and the picture was begun, but support of
a material kind was not forthcoming, and the scheme had to be
abandoned. Lord Grey then suggested that Haydon should paint a picture
of the great Reform Banquet, which was to be held in the Guildhall on
July 11. The proposal was exactly to the taste of the public-spirited
artist, who saw fame and fortune beckoning to him once more, and
fancied that his future was assured. He was allowed every facility on
the great day, breakfasted and dined with the Committee at the
Guildhall, was treated with distinction by the noble guests, many of
whom sent to take wine with him as he sat at work, and in short, to
quote his own words, 'I was an object of great distinction without
five shillings in my pocket--and this is life!'

Lord Grey, on seeing Haydon's sketches of the Banquet, gave him a
commission for the picture at a price of £500, half of which he paid
down at once, and thus saved the painter from the ruin that was again
impending. Then followed a period of triumphant happiness. The leading
men of the Liberal party sat for their heads, and Haydon had the
longed-for opportunity of pressing upon them his views about the
public encouragement of art by means of grants for the decoration of
national buildings. Although it does not appear that he made a single
convert, he was quite contented for the time being with the ready
access to ministers and noblemen that the occasion afforded him, and
his Journal is filled with expressions of his satisfaction. We hear of
Lord Palmerston's good-humoured elegance, Lord Lansdowne's amiability,
Lord Jeffrey's brilliant conversation, and, most delightful of all,
Lord Melbourne's frank, unaffected cordiality. Melbourne, it appears,
enjoyed his sittings, for he asked many questions about Hazlitt, Leigh
Hunt, Keats, and Shelley, and highly appreciated Haydon's anecdotes.
Needless to add, he did not allow himself to be bored by the artist's

The sittings for the Reform picture continued through 1833, and the
early part of 1834. Haydon was kept in full employment, but domestic
sorrows marred his satisfaction in his interesting work. In less than
twelve months, he lost two sons, Alfred and Harry, the latter a child
of extraordinary promise. 'The death of this beautiful boy,' he
writes, 'has given my mind a blow I shall never effectually recover. I
saw him buried to-day, after passing four days sketching his dear head
in his coffin--his beautiful head. What a creature! With a brow like
an ancient god!' In August Haydon was arrested again, and hurried away
for a day and night of torture, during which, he confesses, he was
very near putting an end to himself; but advances from the Duke of
Cleveland and Mr. Ellice brought him release, and in a few hours he
was at home again, 'as happy and as hard at work as ever.'

In April 1834, the Reform picture was exhibited, but the public was
not interested, and Haydon lost a considerable sum over the
exhibition. The price of the commission had long since gone to quiet
the clamours of his creditors. On May 12 he writes: 'It is really
lamentable to see the effect of success and failure on people of
fashion. Last year, all was hope, exultation, and promise with me. My
door was beset, my house besieged, my room inundated. It was an
absolute fight to get in to see me paint. Well, out came the work--the
public felt no curiosity--it failed, and my door is deserted, no
horses, no carriages. Now for executions, insults, misery, and
wretchedness.' Then follows the old story. 'June 7.--Mary and I in
agony of mind. All my Italian books, and some of my best historical
designs, are gone to a pawnbroker's. She packed up her best gowns and
the children's, and I drove away with what cost me £40, and got £4.
The state of degradation, humiliation, and pain of mind in which I sat
in that dingy back-room is not to be described.'

Haydon now began a picture of 'Cassandra and Agamemnon,' and in July
he received a commission to finish it for the Duke of Sutherland, who
had more than once saved him from ruin. On this occasion the Duke's
advances barely sufficed to stave off disaster. Studies, prints,
clothes, and lay-figures were pawned to pay for the expenses of the
work, and on October comes the entry: 'Directly after the Duke's
letter came with its enclosed cheque, an execution was put in for the
taxes. I made the man sit for Cassandra's hand, and put on a Persian
bracelet. When the broker came for his money, he burst out laughing.
There was the fellow, an old soldier, pointing in the attitude of
Cassandra--up right and steady as if on guard. Lazarus' head was
painted just after an arrest; Eucles was finished from a man in
possession; the beautiful face in Xenophon, after a morning spent in
begging mercy of lawyers; and now Cassandra's head was finished in an
agony not to be described, and her hand completed from a broker's


On October 16, 1884, the Houses of Parliament were burned down. 'Good
God!' writes Haydon, 'I am just returned from the terrific burning of
the Houses of Parliament. Mary and I went in a cab, and drove over the
bridge. From the bridge it was sublime. We alighted, and went into a
public-house, which was full. The feeling among the people was
extraordinary--jokes and radicalism universal.... The comfort is that
there is now a better prospect of painting the House of Lords. Lord
Grey said there was no intention of taking the tapestry down; little
did he think how soon it would go.' Haydon's hopes now rose high. For
many years, as we have seen, he had been advocating, in season and out
of season, the desirability of decorating national buildings with
heroic paintings by native artists, and, with the need for new Houses
of Parliament, it seemed as if at last his cause might triumph. Once
more he attacked the good-humoured but unimpressionable Lord
Melbourne, and presented another petition to Parliament through Lord
Morpeth. But in any case it would be years before the new buildings
were ready for decoration, and in the meantime he would have been
entirely out of employment if his long-suffering landlord had not
allowed him to paint off a debt with a picture of 'Achilles at the
Court of Lycomedes.'

In the summer of this year Mr. Ewart obtained his Select Committee to
inquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the arts and
the principles of design among the people; and further, to inquire
into the constitution of the Royal Academy, and the effects produced
thereby. Haydon, overjoyed at such a sign of progress, determined to
aid the inquiry by giving a lecture on the subject at the London
Mechanics' Institute, under the auspices of Dr. Birkbeck. The lecture
was a success, for Haydon's natural earnestness and enthusiasm enabled
him to interest and impress an audience, and Dr. Birkbeck assured him
that he had made a 'hit.' This was the beginning of his career as a
lecturer, by which for several years he earned a small but regular
income. But meanwhile ruin was again staring him in the face. On
September 26 he writes: 'The agony of my necessities is really
dreadful. For this year I have principally supported myself by the
help of my landlord, and by pawning everything of value I have
left.... Lay awake in misery. Threatened on all sides. Doubtful
whether to apply to the Insolvent Court to protect me, or let ruin
come. Improved the picture, and not having a shilling, sent out a pair
of my spectacles, and got five shillings for the day. (29th) Sent the
tea-urn off the table, and got ten shillings for the day. Shall call
my creditors together. In God I trust.'

The meeting of the creditors took place, and Haydon persuaded them to
grant him an extension of time until June, 1836. Thus relieved from
immediate anxiety he set to work on his picture with renewed zest. The
most remarkable trait about him, observes his son Frederick, was his
sanguine buoyancy of spirits. 'Nothing ever depressed him long. He was
the most persevering, indomitable man I ever met. With us at home he
was always confident of doing better next year. But that next year
never came.... Blest as he was with that peculiar faculty of genius
for overcoming difficulties, he might have found life tame without
them. I remember his saying once, he was not sure he did not relish
ruin as a source of increased activity of mind.' But the struggle had
begun to tell upon his powers, if not upon his spirits, and he was now
painting pictures for bread; repeating himself; despatching a work in
a few days that in better times he would have spent months over; ready
to paint small things, since great ones would not sell; fighting
misery at the point of his brush, and obliged to eke out a livelihood
by begging and borrowing, in default of worse expedients such as bills
and cognovits. A less elastic temperament and a less vigorous
constitution would have broken down in one year of such a fight.
Haydon kept it up for ten.'

The first half of 1836 went by in the usual struggle, and in September
Haydon was thrown into prison for the fourth time. On November 17 he
passed through the Insolvency Court, and on the following Sunday he
records: 'Went to church, and returned thanks with all my heart and
soul for the great mercies of God to me and my family during my
imprisonment.... (29th) Set my palette to-day, the first time these
eleven weeks and three days. I relished the oil; could have tasted the
colour; rubbed my cheeks with the brushes, and kissed the palette. Ah,
could I be let loose in the House of Lords!' In the absence of
commissions, he now turned to lecturing as a means of support. He
lectured in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, as well as
in London, and did good service by agitating for the establishment of
local schools of design, and by arousing in the minds of the wealthy
middle classes some faint appreciation of the claims of art.

A valuable result of these lectures was the extension of Haydon's
acquaintance among the shrewd merchant princes of the north, who
recognised his artistic sincerity, and were inclined to hold out to
him a helping hand. Through the influence of Mr. Lowndes, a Liverpool
art-patron, Haydon received a commission to paint a picture of 'Christ
blessing Little Children,' for the Blind Asylum at Liverpool, at a
price of £400. So elated was he at this unexpected piece of good
fortune that, with characteristic sanguineness, he seems to have
thought that all his troubles were at an end for ever. Even his pious
dependence on heavenly support diminished with his freedom from care,
and he notes in a Sunday entry: 'Went to church, but prosperity,
though it makes me grateful, does not cause me such perpetual
religious musings as adversity. When on a precipice, where nothing but
God's protection can save me, I delight in religious hope, but I am
sorry to say my religion ever dwindles unless kept alive by risk of
ruin. My piety is never so intense as when in a prison, and my
gratitude never so much alive as when I have just escaped from one.'

The year 1838 passed in comparative peace and comfort. The picture for
the asylum was finished about the end of August, when Haydon
congratulated his Maker on the fact that he (Haydon) had paid his rent
and taxes, laid in his coals for the winter, and enjoyed health,
happiness, and freedom from debt--fresh debt, be it understood--ever
since this commission. Going down to Liverpool to hang his work, it
was proposed to him by Mr. Lowndes that he should paint a picture of
the Duke of Wellington on the field of Waterloo, twenty years after
the battle. This was a subject after Haydon's own heart, for the Duke
had always been his ideal hero, his king among men. Overflowing with
pride and delight, he prays that Providence will so bless this new
commission that 'the glorious city of Liverpool may possess the best
historical picture, and the grandest effort of my pencil in
portraiture. Inspired by history, I fear not making it the grandest

The Liverpool committee wrote to the Duke, to ask if he would consent
to give sittings to Haydon, and received a promise that he would sit
for his head as soon as time could be found. Meanwhile, Haydon set to
work upon the horse, which was copied from portraits of Copenhagen.
While he was thus engaged, D'Orsay called at the studio, and bestowed
advice and criticism upon the artist, which, for once, was thankfully
received. Haydon relates how D'Orsay 'took my brush in his dandy
glove, which made my heart ache, and lowered the hind-quarters by
bringing over a bit of the sky. Such a dress! white greatcoat, blue
satin cravat, hair oiled and curling, hat of the primest curve, gloves
scented with eau-de-Cologne, primrose in tint, skin in tightness. In
this prime of dandyism, he took up a nasty, oily, dirty hog-tool, and
immortalised Copenhagen by touching the sky. I thought after he was
gone, "This won't do--a Frenchman touch Copenhagen!" So out I rubbed
all he had touched, and modified his hints myself.'

As there was no chance of the Duke's being able to sit at this time,
owing to the pressure of public business, Haydon made a flying visit
to Brussels, in order to get local colour for the field of Waterloo. A
few weeks later he was overjoyed at receiving an invitation to spend a
few days at Walmer, when the Duke promised to give the desired
sittings. On October 11, 1839, he went down 'by steam' to Walmer,
where he was heartily welcomed by his host. His Journal contains a
long and minute account of his visit, from which one or two anecdotes
may be quoted. Haydon's fellow-guests were Sir Astley Cooper, Mr.
Arbuthnot, and Mr. Booth. The first evening the conversation turned,
among other topics, upon the Peninsular War. 'The Duke talked of the
want of fuel in Spain-of what the troops suffered, and how whole
houses, so many to a division, were pulled down, and paid for, to
serve as fuel. He said every Englishman who has a house goes to bed at
night. He found bivouacking was not suitable to the character of the
English soldier. He got drunk, and lay down under any hedge, and
discipline was destroyed. But when he introduced tents, every soldier
belonged to his tent, and, drunk or sober, he got to it before he went
to sleep. I said, "Your grace, the French always bivouac." "Yes," he
replied, "because French, Spanish, and all other nations lie anywhere.
It is their habit. They have no homes."'

The next morning, after his return from hunting, the Duke gave a first
sitting of an hour and a half. 'I hit his grand, manly, upright
expression,' writes Haydon. 'He looked like an eagle of the gods who
had put on human shape, and got silvery with age and service.... I
found that to imagine he could not go through any duty raised the
lion. "Does the light hurt your grace's eyes?" "Not at all," and he
stared at the light as much as to say, "I'll see if you shall make me
give in, Signor Light." 'Twas a noble head. I saw nothing of that
peculiar expression of mouth the sculptors give him, bordering on
simpering. His colour was beautiful and fleshy, his lips compressed
and energetic.' The next day, being Sunday, there was no sitting, but
Haydon was charmed at sharing a pew with his hero, and deeply moved by
the simplicity and humility with which he followed the service.
'Arthur Wellesley in the village church of Walmer,' he writes, 'was
more interesting to me than at the last charge of the Guards at
Waterloo, or in all the glory and paraphernalia of his entry into

It is probable that the Duke was afraid of being attacked by Haydon on
the burning question of a State grant for the encouragement of
historical painting, a subject about which he had received and
answered many lengthy letters, for on each evening, when there was no
party, he steadily read a newspaper, the _Standard_ on Saturday,
and the _Spectator_ on Sunday, while his guest watched him in
silent admiration. On the Monday morning, the hero came in for another
sitting, looking extremely worn, his skin drawn tight over his face,
his eyes watery and aged, his head slightly nodding. 'How altered from
the fresh old man after Saturday's hunting,' says Haydon. 'It affected
me. He looked like an aged eagle beginning to totter from its perch.'
A second sitting in the afternoon concluded the business, and early
next morning Haydon left for town. 'It is curious,' he comments, 'to
have known thus the two great heads of the two great parties, the Duke
and Lord Grey. I prefer the Duke infinitely. He is more manly, has no
vanity, is not deluded by any flattery or humbug, and is in every way
a grander character, though Lord Grey is a fine, amiable, venerable,
vain man.'

During the remainder of the year, Haydon worked steadily, and finished
his picture. On December 2 he notes: 'It is now twenty-seven years
since I ordered my Solomon canvas. I was young--twenty-six. The whole
world was against me. I had not a farthing. Yet I remember the delight
with which I mounted my deal table and dashed it in, singing and
trusting in God, as I always do. When one is once imbued with that
clear heavenly confidence, there is nothing like it. It has carried me
through everything. I think my dearest Mary has not got it; I do not
think women have in general. Two years ago I had not a farthing,
having spent it all to recover her health. She said to me, "What are
we to do, my dear?" I replied, "Trust in God." There was something
like a smile on her face. The very next day came the order for £400
from Liverpool, and ever since I have been employed.' Alas, poor Mary!
who had been chiefly occupied in bearing children and burying them,
that must have been rather a melancholy smile upon her faded face.

During the first part of 1840, Haydon seems to have been chiefly
engaged in lecturing, the only picture on the stocks being a small
replica of his Napoleon Musing for the poet Rogers. In February he was
enabled to carry out one of the dreams of his life, namely, the
delivery of a series of lectures upon art in the Ashmolean Museum at
Oxford, under the patronage of the Vice-Chancellor. The experiment was
a triumphant success, and he exclaims, with his usual pious fervour,
'O God, how grateful ought I to be at being permitted the distinction
of thus being the first to break down the barrier which has kept art
begging to be heard at the Universities.' He describes the occasion as
one of the four chief honours of his life, the other three being
Wordsworth's sonnet, 'High is our calling,' the freedom of his native
town, and a public dinner that was given in his honour at Edinburgh.
On March 14 he arrived home, 'full of enthusiasm and expecting (like
the Vicar of Wakefield) every blessing--expecting my dear Mary to hang
about my neck, and welcome me after my victory; when I found her out,
not calculating I should be home till dinner. I then walked into town,
and when I returned she was at home, and hurt that I did not wait, so
this begat mutual allusions which were anything but loving or happy.
So much for anticipations of human happiness!'

On June 12,1840, Haydon notes: 'Excessively excited and exhausted. I
attended the great Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society at
Freemasons' Hall. Last Wednesday a deputation called on me from the
Committee, saying they wished for a sketch of the scene. The meeting
was very affecting. Poor old Clarkson was present, with delegates from
America, and other parts of the world.' A few days later, Haydon
breakfasted with Clarkson, and sketched him with 'an expression of
indignant humanity.' In less than a week fifty heads were dashed in,
the picture, when finished, containing no fewer than a hundred and
thirty-eight; in fact, as the artist remarked, with a curious
disregard of natural history, it was all heads, like a peacock's tail.
Haydon took a malicious pleasure in suggesting to his sitters that he
should place them beside the negro delegate; this being his test of
their sincerity. Thus he notes on June 30: 'Scobell called. I said, "I
shall place you, Thompson, and the negro together." Now an
abolitionist, on thorough principle, would have gloried in being so
placed. He sophisticated immediately on the propriety of placing the
negro in the distance, as it would have much greater effect. Lloyd
Garrison comes to-day. I'll try him, and this shall be my method of
ascertaining the real heart.... Garrison met me directly. George
Thompson said he saw no objection. But that was not enough. A man who
wishes to place a negro on a level with himself must no longer regard
him as having been a slave, and feel annoyed at sitting by his side.'
A visit to Clarkson at Playford Hall, Ipswich, was an interesting
experience. Clarkson told the story of his vision, and the midnight
voice that said 'You have not done your work. There is America.'
Haydon had been a believer all his life in such spiritual
communications, and declares, 'I have been so acted on from seventeen
to fifty-five, for the purpose of reforming and refining my great
country in art.'

In 1841 the Fine Arts Committee appointed to consider the question of
the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament, sat to examine
witnesses, but Haydon was not summoned before them, a slight which he
deeply felt. With an anxious heart he set about making experiments in
fresco, and was astonished at what he regarded as his success in this
new line of endeavour. During the past year, the Anti-Slavery
Convention picture, and one or two small commissions, had kept his
head above water, but now the clouds were beginning to gather again,
his difficulties being greatly increased by the fact that he had two
sons to start in the world. The eldest, Frank, had been apprenticed,
at his own wish, to an engineering firm, but tiring of his chosen
profession, he desired to take orders, and, as a university career was
considered a necessary preliminary to this course, he was entered at
Caius College, Cambridge. The second son, Frederick, Haydon fitted out
for the navy, and in order to meet these heavy extra expenses, he was
compelled to part with his copyright of the 'Duke at Waterloo' for a
wholly inadequate sum.

In the spring of 1842 the Fine Arts Commission issued a notice of the
conditions for the cartoon competition, intended to test the capacity
of native artists for the decoration of the House of Lords. The joy
with which Haydon welcomed this first step towards the object which he
had been advocating throughout the whole of his working life, was
marred by the painful misgiving that he would not be allowed to share
the fruits of victory. When he had first begun his crusade, he had
felt himself without a rival in his own branch of art, not one of his
contemporaries being able to compete with him in a knowledge of
anatomy, in strength of imagination, or in the power of working on a
grand scale. But now he was fifty-six years old, there were younger
men coming on who had been trained in the principles of his own
school, and he was painfully aware that he had made many enemies in
high places. Still, in spite of all forebodings, he continued his
researches in fresco-painting, and wrote vehement letters to the
papers, protesting against the threatened employment of Cornelius and
other German artists.

During this year Haydon was working intermittently at two or three
large pictures, 'Alexander conquering the Lion,' 'Curtius leaping into
the Gulf,' and the 'Siege of Saragossa,' for the days were long past
when one grand composition occupied him for six years. That the wolf
was once again howling at the door is evidenced by the entry for
February 6. 'I got up yesterday, after lying awake for several hours
with all the old feelings of torture at want of money. A bill coming
due of £44 for my boy Frank at Caius. Three commissions for £700 put
off till next year. My dear Mary's health broken up.... I knew if my
debt to the tutor of Caius was not paid, the mind of my son Frank
would be destroyed, from his sensitiveness to honour and right. As he
is now beating third-year men, I dreaded any check.' In these straits
he hastily painted one or two small pot-boilers, borrowed, deferred,
pawned his wife's watch, and had the satisfaction of bringing his son
home 'crowned as first-prize man in mathematics.' For one who was in
the toils of the money-lenders, who was only living from hand to
mouth, and who had never made an investment in his life, to give his
son a university career, must be regarded, according to individual
feeling, either as a proof of presumptuous folly or of childlike trust
in Providence.

As soon as his pictures were off his hands, Haydon began his
competition cartoons of 'The Curse of Adam and Eve,' and 'The Entry of
Edward the Black Prince and King John into London.' He felt that it
was beneath his dignity as a painter of recognised standing to compete
with young unknown men who had nothing to lose, but in his present
necessities the chance of winning one of the money prizes was not to
be neglected. In the absence of any lucrative employment he was only
able to carry on his work by pawning his lay-figure, and borrowing off
his butterman. Small wonder that he exclaims: 'The greatest curse that
can befall a father in England is to have a son gifted with a passion
and a genius for high art. Thank God with all my soul and all my
nature, my children have witnessed the harrowing agonies under which I
have ever painted, and the very name of painting, the very thought of
a picture, gives them a hideous taste in their mouths. Thank God, not
one of my boys, nor my girl, can draw a straight line, even with a
ruler, much less without one.'

In the course of this year Haydon began a correspondence with Miss
Barrett, afterwards Mrs. Browning, with whom he was never personally
acquainted, though he knew her through her poems, and through the
allusions to her in the letters of their common friend, Miss Mitford.
The paper friendship flourished for a time, and Haydon, who was a keen
judge of character, recognised that here was a little Donna Quixote
whose chivalry could be depended on in time of trouble. More than
once, when threatened with arrest, he sent her paintings and
manuscripts, of which she took charge with sublime indifference to the
fact that by so doing she might be placing herself within reach of the
arm of the law. One of the pictures that were placed in her
guardianship was an unfinished portrait of 'Wordsworth musing upon
Helvellyn.' Miss Barrett was inspired by this work with the sonnet

   'Wordsworth upon Helvellyn! Let the cloud
   Ebb audibly along the mountain wind';

and concluding with the fine tribute:

                           'A vision free
   And noble, Haydon, hath thine art released.
   No portrait this with academic air,
   This is the poet and his poetry.'

The year 1843 brought, as Haydon's biographer points out, 'the
consummation of what he had so earnestly fought for, a competition of
native artists to prove their capability for executing great
monumental and decorative works; but with this came his own bitter
disappointment at not being among the successful competitors. In all
his struggles up to this point, Haydon had the consolation of hope
that better times were coming. But now the good time for art was at
hand, and he was passed over. The blow fell heavily--indeed, I may
say, was mortal. He tried to cheat himself into the belief that the
old hostile influences to which he attributed all his misfortunes, had
been working here also, and that he should yet rise superior to their
malice. He would not admit to himself that his powers were
impaired--that he was less fit for great achievements in his art than
he had been when he painted Solomon and Lazarus. But if he held this
opinion, he held it alone. It was apparent to all, even to his warmest
friends, that years of harass, humiliation, distraction, and conflict
had enfeebled his energies, and led him to seek in exaggeration the
effect he could no longer attain by well-measured force. His restless
desire to have a hand in all that was projected for art, had wearied
those in authority. He had shown himself too intractable to follow,
and he had not inspired that confidence which might have given him a
right to lead.'

Although Haydon loudly proclaimed his conviction that, in face of the
hostility against him, his cartoons would not be successful, even
though they were as perfect as Raphael's, yet it is obvious that he
had not altogether relinquished hope. In a letter to his old pupil,
Eastlake, who was secretary to the Fine Arts Commission, he says: 'I
appeal to the Royal Commission, to the First Lord, to you the
secretary, to Barry the architect, if I ought not to be indulged in my
hereditary right to do this, viz., that when the houses are ready,
cartoons done, colours mixed, and all at their posts, I shall be
allowed, _employed_ or _not employed_, to take the brush, and
dip into the _first_ colour, and put the _first_ touch on the
_first_ intonaco. If that is not granted, I'll haunt every noble
Lord and you, till you join my disturbed spirit on the banks of
the Styx.'

On June 1, Haydon placed his two cartoons in Westminster Hall, and
thanked his God that he had lived to see that day, adding with
unconscious blasphemy, 'Spare my life, O Lord, until I have shown thy
strength unto this generation, thy power unto that which is to come.'
The miracle for which he had secretly hoped, while declaring his
certainty of failure, did not happen. On June 27 he heard from
Eastlake that his cartoons were not among those chosen for reward.
Half stunned by the blow, anticipated though it had been, he makes but
few comments on the news in his Journal, and those are written in a
composed and reasonable tone. 'I went to bed last night in a decent
state of anxiety,' he observes. 'It has given a great shock to my
family, especially to my dear boy, Frank, and revived all the old
horrors of arrest, execution, and debt. It is exactly what I expected,
and is, I think, intentional.... I am wounded, and being ill from
confinement, it shook me. (_July 1st_) A day of great misery. I
said to my dear love, "I am not included." Her expression was a study.
She said, "We shall be ruined." I looked up my letters, papers, and
Journals, and sent them to my dear AEschylus Barrett. I burnt loads of
private letters, and prepared for executions. Seven pounds was raised
on my daughter's and Mary's dresses.'

The three money prizes were awarded to Armitage, Cope, and Watts, but
it was announced that another competition, in fresco, would be held
the following year, when the successful competitors would be intrusted
with the decoration of the House of Lords. Haydon did not enter for
this competition, but, as will presently appear, he refused to allow
that he was beaten. On September 4 he removed his cartoons from
Westminster Hall, with the comment: 'Thus ends the cartoon contest;
and as the very first inventor and beginner of this mode of rousing
the people when they were pronounced incapable of relishing refined
works of art without colour, I am deeply wounded at the insult
inflicted. These Journals witness under what trials I began them--how
I called on my Creator for His blessing--how I trusted in Him, and how
I have been degraded, insulted, and harassed. O Lord! Thou knowest
best. I submit.'

During the year Haydon had finished his picture of 'Alexander and the
Lion,' which he considered one of his finest works, though the British
Gallery declined to hang it, and no patron offered to buy it. He had
also painted for bread and cheese innumerable small replicas of
'Napoleon at St. Helena' and the 'Duke at Waterloo' for five guineas
apiece. By the beginning of 1844 his spirits had outwardly revived,
thanks to the anodyne of incessant labour, and he writes almost in the
old buoyant vein: 'Another day of work, God be thanked! Put in the sea
[in "Napoleon at St. Helena"]; a delicious tint. How exquisite is a
bare canvas, sized alone, to work on; how the slightest colour, thin
as water, tells; how it glitters in body; how the brush flies--now
here--now there; it seems as if face, hands, sky, thought, poetry, and
expression were hid in the handle, and streamed out as it touched the
canvas. What magic! what fire! what unerring hand and eye! what power!
what a gift of God! I bow, and am grateful.' On March 24 he came to
the fatal decision to paint his own original designs for the House of
Lords in a series of six large pictures, and exhibit them separately,
a decision founded, as he believed, on supernatural inspiration.
'Awoke this morning,' he writes, 'with that sort of audible whisper
Socrates, Columbus, and Tasso heard! "Why do you not paint your own
designs for the House on your own foundation, and exhibit them?" I
felt as if there was no chance of my ever being permitted to do them
else, without control also. I knelt up in my bed, and prayed heartily
to accomplish them, whatever might be the obstruction. I will begin
them as my next great works; I feel as if they will be my last, and I
think I shall then have done my duty. O God! bless the beginning,
progression, and conclusion of these six great designs to illustrate
the best government to regulate without cramping the energies of

In July the frescoes sent in for competition were exhibited in
Westminster Hall, and in the result six artists were commissioned to
decorate the House of Lords, Maclise, Redgrave, Dyce, Cope, Horsley,
and Thomas. 'I see,' writes Haydon, 'they are resolved that I, the
originator of the whole scheme, shall have nothing to do with it; so I
will (trusting in the great God who has brought me thus far) begin on
my own inventions without employment.' The first of the series was
'Aristides hooted by the Populace,' and the conditions under which it
was painted are described in his annual review of the year's work: 'I
have painted a large Napoleon in four days and a half, six smaller
different subjects, three Curtiuses, five Napoleons Musing, three
Dukes and Copenhagens, George IV., and the Duke at Waterloo--half done
Uriel--published my lectures--and settled composition of Aristides. I
gave lectures at Liverpool, sometimes twice a day, and lectured at the
Royal Institution. I have not been idle, but how much more I might
have done!'

In 1845 Haydon exhibited his picture of 'Uriel and Satan' at the
Academy, and 'after twenty-two years of abuse,' actually received a
favourable notice in the _Times_, For the Uriel he was paid £200,
but five other pictures remained upon his hands, their estimated value
amounting to nearly a thousand pounds, and he was left to work at his
_Aristides_ with barely ten shillings for current expenses, and
not a single commission in prospect. 'What a pity it is,' he observes,
'that a man of my order--sincerity, perhaps genius [in the Journal a
private note is here inserted, "not _perhaps_"], is not employed.
What honour, what distinction would I not confer on my great country!
However, it is my destiny to perform great things, not in consequence
of encouragement, but in spite of opposition, and so let it be.' In
the latter part of the year came one or two minor pieces of good
fortune for which Haydon professed the profoundest gratitude,
declaring that he was not good enough to deserve such blessings. The
King of Hanover bought a Napoleon for £200, and a pupil came, who paid
a like sum as premium. His son, Frank, who had taken his degree,
changed his mind again about his profession, and now 'shrank from the
publicity of the pulpit.' Haydon applied to Sir Robert Peel for an
appointment for the youth, and Peel, who seems to have shown the
utmost patience and kindness in his relations with the unfortunate
artist, at once offered a post in the Record Office at £80 a year, an
offer which was gladly accepted.

Thus relieved of immediate care, Haydon set to work on the second
picture of his series, 'Nero playing the Lyre while Rome was burning.'
The effect of his conception, as he foresaw it in his mind's eye, was
so terrific that he 'fluttered, trembled, and perspired like a woman,
and was obliged to sit down.' Under all the anxiety, the pressure, and
the disappointment of Haydon's life, it must be remembered that there
were enormous compensations in the shape of days and hours of absorbed
and satisfied employment, days and hours such as seldom fall to the
lot of the average good citizen and solvent householder. The following
entry alone is sufficient proof that Haydon, even in his worst
straits, was almost as much an object of envy as of compassion:
'Worked with such intense abstraction and delight for eight hours,
with five minutes only for lunch, that though living in the noisiest
quarter of all London, I never remember hearing all day a single cart,
carriage, knock, cry, bark of man, woman, dog, or child. When I came
out into the sunshine I said to myself, "Why, what is all this driving
about?" though it has always been so for the last twenty-two years, so
perfectly, delightfully, and intensely had I been abstracted. If that
be not happiness, what is?'

Haydon had now staked all his hopes upon the exhibition in the spring
of 1846 of the first two pictures in his series, 'Aristides' and
'Nero.' If the public flocked to see them, if it accorded him, as he
expected, its enthusiastic support, he hoped that the Commission would
be shamed into offering him public employment. If, on the other hand,
the exhibition failed, he must have realised that he would be
irretrievably ruined, with all his hopes for the future slain.
Everything was to be sacrificed to this last grand effort. 'If I lose
this moment for showing all my works,' he writes, 'it can never occur
again. My fate hangs on doing as I ought, and seizing moments with
energy. I shall never again have the opportunity of connecting myself
with a great public commission by opposition, and interesting the
public by the contrast. If I miss it, it will be a tide not taken at
the flood.'

By dint of begging and borrowing, the money was scraped together for
the opening expenses of the exhibition, and Haydon composed a
sensational descriptive advertisement in the hope of attracting the
public. The private view was on April 4, when it rained all day, and
only four old friends attended. On April 6, Easter Monday, the public
was admitted, but only twenty-one availed themselves of the privilege.
For a few days Haydon went on hoping against hope that matters would
improve, and that John Bull, in whose support he had trusted, would
rally round him at last. But Tom Thumb was exhibiting next door, and
the historical painter had no chance against the pigmy. The people
rushed by in their thousands to visit Tom Thumb, but few stopped to
inspect 'Aristides' or 'Nero.' 'They push, they fight, they scream,
they faint,' writes Haydon, 'they see my bills, my boards, my
caravans, and don't read them. Their eyes are open, but their sense is
shut. It is an insanity, a rabies, a madness, a furor, a dream. Tom
Thumb had 12,000 people last week, B. R. Haydon 133 1/2 (the half a
little girl). Exquisite taste of the English people!... (_May,_
18_th_) I closed my exhibition this day, and lost £111, 8s. 10d.
No man can accuse me of showing less energy, less spirit, less genius
than I did twenty-six years ago. I have not decayed, but the people
have been corrupted. I am the same, they are not; and I have suffered
in consequence.'

In defiance of this shipwreck of all his hopes, and the heavy
liabilities that hung about his neck, this indomitable spirit began
the third picture of his unappreciated series, 'Alfred and the First
British Jury.' He had large sums to pay in the coming month, and only
a few shillings in the house, with no commissions in prospect. He
sends up passionate and despairing petitions that God will help him in
his dreadful necessities, will raise him friends from sources
invisible, and enable him to finish his last and greatest works.
Appeals for help to Lord Brougham, the Duke of Beaufort, and Sir
Robert Peel brought only one response, a cheque for £50 from Peel,
which was merely a drop in the ocean. Day by day went by, and still no
commissions came in, no offers for any of the large pictures he had on
hand. Haydon began to lose confidence in his ability to finish his
series, and with him loss of self-confidence was a fatal sign. The
June weather was hot, he was out of health, and unable to sleep at
night, but he declined to send for a doctor. His brain grew confused,
and at last even the power to work, that power which for him had spelt
pride and happiness throughout his whole life, seemed to be leaving

On June 16 he writes: 'I sat from two till five staring at my picture
like an idiot, my brain pressed down by anxiety, and the anxious looks
of my dear Mary and the children.... Dearest Mary, with a woman's
passion, wishes me at once to stop payment, and close the whole thing.
I will not. I will finish my six under the blessing of God, reduce my
expenses, and hope His mercy will not desert me, but bring me through
in health and vigour, gratitude and grandeur of soul, to the end.' The
end was nearer than he thought, for even Haydon's brave spirit could
not battle for ever with adverse fate, and the collapse, when it came,
was sudden. The last two or three entries in the Journal are
melancholy reading.

'_June_ 18.--O God, bless me through the evils of this day. My
landlord, Newton, called. I said, "I see a quarter's rent in thy face,
but none from me." I appointed to-morrow night to see him, and lay
before him every iota of my position. Good-hearted Newton! I said,
"Don't put in an execution." "Nothing of the sort," he replied, half
hurt. I sent the Duke, Wordsworth, dear Fred and Mary's heads to Miss
Barrett to protect. I have the Duke's boots and hat, Lord Grey's coat,
and some more heads.

'20_th_.--O God, bless us through all the evils of this day.

'21_st,_.--Slept horribly. Prayed in sorrow, and got up in

'22_nd_.--God forgive me. Amen.


 '"Stretch me no longer on this rough world"--_Lear_.'

This last entry was made between ten and eleven o'clock on the morning
of June 22. Haydon had risen early, and gone out to a gunmaker's in
Oxford Street, where he bought a pair of pistols. After breakfast, he
asked his wife to go and spend the day with an old friend, and having
affectionately embraced her, shut himself in his painting-room. Mrs.
Haydon left the house, and an hour later Miss Haydon went down to the
studio, intending to try and console her father in his anxieties. She
found him stretched on the floor in front of his unfinished picture of
'Alfred and the First Jury,' a bullet-wound in his head, and a
frightful gash across his throat. A razor and a small pistol lay by
his side. On the table were his Journal, open at the last page,
letters to his wife and children, his will, made that morning, and a
paper headed: 'Last thoughts of B. R. Haydon; half-past ten.' These
few lines, with their allusions to Wellington and Napoleon, are
characteristic of the man who had painted the two great soldiers a
score of times, and looked up to them as his heroes and exemplars.

'No man should use certain evil for probable good, however great the
object,' so they run. 'Evil is the prerogative of the Deity.
Wellington never used evil if the good was not certain. Napoleon had
no such scruples, and I fear the glitter of his genius rather dazzled
me. But had I been encouraged, nothing but good would have come from
me, because when encouraged I paid everybody. God forgive me the evil
for the sake of the good. Amen.'

This tragic conclusion to a still more tragic career created a
profound sensation in society, and immense crowds followed the
historical painter to his grave. Among all his friends, perhaps few
were more affected by his death than one who had never looked upon his
face--his 'dear Æschylus Barrett, 'as he called her. Certain it is
that, with the intuition of genius, Elizabeth Barrett understood,
appreciated, and made allowances for the unhappy man more completely
than was possible to any other of his contemporaries. Clear-sighted to
his faults and weaknesses, her chivalrous spirit took up arms in
defence of his conduct, even against the strictures of her poet-lover.
'The dreadful death of poor Mr. Haydon the artist,' she wrote to her
friend Mrs. Martin, a few days after the event, 'has quite upset me. I
thank God that I never saw him--poor gifted Haydon.... No artist is
left behind with equal largeness of poetical conception. If the hand
had always obeyed the soul, he would have been a genius of the first
order. As it is, he lived on the slope of genius, and could not be
steadfast and calm. His life was one long agony of self-assertion.
Poor, poor Haydon! See how the world treats those who try too openly
for its gratitude. "Tom Thumb for ever" over the heads of its giants.'

'Could any one--_could my own hand even have averted what has
happened_?' she wrote to Robert Browning on June 24, 1846. 'My head
and heart have ached to-day over the inactive hand. But for the moment
it was out of my power, and then I never fancied this case to be more
than a piece of a continuous case, of a habit fixed. Two years ago he
sent me boxes and pictures precisely so, and took them back
again--poor, poor Haydon!--as he will not this time.... Also, I have
been told again and again (oh, never by _you_, my beloved) that
to give money _there_, was to drop it into a hole in the ground.
But if to have dropped it so, dust to dust, would have saved a living
man--what then?... Some day, when I have the heart to look for it, you
shall see his last note. I understand now that there are touches of
desperate pathos--but never could he have meditated self-destruction
while writing that note. He said he should write six more
lectures--six more volumes. He said he was painting a new background
to a picture which made him feel as if his soul had wings... and he
repeated an old phrase of his, which I had heard from him often
before, and which now rings hollowly to the ears of my memory--that he
_couldn't and wouldn't die_. Strange and dreadful!'

Directly after Haydon's death a public meeting of his friends and
patrons was held, at which a considerable sum was subscribed for the
benefit of his widow and daughter. Sir Robert Peel, besides sending
immediate help, recommended the Queen to bestow a small pension on
Mrs. Haydon. The dead man's debts amounted to £3000, and his assets
consisted chiefly of unsaleable pictures, on most of which his
creditors had liens. In his will was a clause to the effect that 'I
have manuscripts and memoirs in the possession of Miss Barrett, of 50
Wimpole Street, in a chest, which I wish Longman to be consulted
about. My memoirs are to 1820; my journals will supply the rest. The
style, the individuality of Richardson, which I wish not curtailed by
an editor.' Miss Mitford was asked to edit the Life, but felt herself
unequal to the task, which was finally intrusted to Mr. Tom Taylor.

Haydon's _Memoirs_, compiled from his autobiography, journals,
and correspondence, appeared in 1853, the same year that saw the
publication of Lord John Russell's _Life of Thomas Moore_. To the
great astonishment of both critics and public, Haydon's story proved
the more interesting of the two. 'Haydon's book is the work of the
year,' writes Miss Mitford. 'It has entirely stopped the sale of
Moore's, which really might have been written by a Court newspaper or
a Court milliner.' Again, the _Athenæum_, a more impartial
witness, asks, 'Who would have thought that the Life of Haydon would
turn out a more sterling and interesting addition to English biography
than the Life of Moore?' But the highest testimony to the merits of
the book as a human document comes from Mrs. Browning, who wrote to
Miss Mitford on March 19, 1854, 'Oh, I have just been reading poor
Haydon's biography. There is tragedy! The pain of it one can hardly
shake off. Surely, surely, wrong was done somewhere, when the worst is
admitted of Haydon. For himself, looking forward beyond the grave, I
seem to understand that all things, when most bitter, worked ultimate
good to him, for that sublime arrogance of his would have been fatal
perhaps to the moral nature, if further developed by success. But for
the nation we had our duties, and we should not suffer our teachers
and originators to sink thus. It is a book written in blood of the
heart. Poor Haydon!' Mr. Taylor's Life was supplemented in 1874 by
Haydon's _Correspondence and Table-talk_, together with a
_Memoir_ written in a tone of querulous complaint, by his second
son, Frederick, who, it may be noted, had been dismissed from the
public service for publishing a letter to Mr. Gladstone, entitled
_Our Officials at the Home Office_, and who died in the Bethlehem
Hospital in 1886. His elder brother, Frank, committed suicide in 1887.

On the subject of Haydon's merits as a painter the opinion of his
contemporaries swung from one extreme to another, while that of
posterity perhaps has scarcely allowed him such credit as was his due.
It is certain that he was considered a youth of extraordinary promise
by his colleagues, Wilkie, Jackson, and Sir George Beaumont, yet there
were not wanting critics who declared that his early picture,
'Dentatus,' was an absurd mass of vulgarity and distortion. Foreign
artists who visited his studio urged him to go to Rome, where he was
assured that patrons and pupils would flock round him; while, on the
other hand, he was described by a native critic (in the _Quarterly
Review_) as one of the most defective painters of the day, who had
received more pecuniary assistance, more indulgence, more liberality,
and more charity than any other artist ever heard of. But the best
criticism of his powers, though it scarcely takes into account the
gift of imagination which received so many tributes from the poets, is
that contributed to Mr. Taylor's biography by Mr. Watts, R.A.

'The characteristics of Haydon's art,' he writes, 'appear to me to be
great determination and power, knowledge, and effrontery... Haydon
appears to have succeeded as often as he displays any real anxiety to
do so; but one is struck with the extraordinary discrepancy of
different parts of the work, as though, bored by a fixed attention
that had taken him out of himself, yet highly applauding the result,
he had scrawled and daubed his brush about in a sort of intoxication
of self-glory... In Haydon's work there is not sufficient
forgetfulness of self to disarm criticism of personality. His pictures
are themselves autobiographical notes of the most interesting kind;
but their want of beauty repels, and their want of modesty
exasperates. Perhaps their principal characteristic is lack of
delicacy and refinement of execution.' While describing Haydon's touch
as woolly, his surfaces as disagreeable, and his draperies as
deficient in dignity, Mr. Watts admits that his expression of anatomy
and general perception of form are the best by far that can be found
in the English school. Haydon had looked forward in full confidence to
the favourable verdict of posterity, and to an honourable position in
the National Gallery for the big canvases that had been neglected by
his contemporaries. It is not the least of life's little ironies that
while not a single work of his now hangs in the National Gallery, his
large picture of Curtius leaping into the Gulf occupies a prominent
position in one of Gatti's restaurants. [Footnote: Three of Haydon's
pictures, however, are the property of the nation. Two, the 'Lazarus'
and 'May-day,' belong to the National Gallery, but have been lent to
provincial galleries. One, the 'Christ in the Garden,' belongs to the
South Kensington Museum, but has been stored away.]

As a lecturer, a theoriser, and a populariser of his art, Haydon has
just claims to grateful remembrance. Though driven to paint
pot-boilers for the support of his family, he never ceased to preach
the gospel of high art; he was among the first to recognise and
acclaim the transcendent merits of the Elgin Marbles; he rejoiced with
a personal joy in the purchase of the Angerstein collection as the
nucleus of a National Gallery; he scorned the ignoble fears of some of
his colleagues lest the newly-started winter exhibitions of old
masters should injure their professional prospects; he used his
interest at Court to have Raphael's cartoons brought up to London for
the benefit of students and public; he advocated the establishment of
local schools of design, and, through his lectures and writings,
helped to raise and educate the taste of his country.

Haydon has painted his own character and temperament in such vivid
colours, that scarcely a touch need be added to the portrait. He was
an original thinker, a vigorous writer, a keen observer, but from his
youth up a disproportion was evident in the structure of his mind,
that pointed only too clearly to insanity. His judgment, as Mr. Taylor
observes, was essentially unsound in all matters where he himself was
personally interested. His vanity blinded him throughout to the
quality of his own work, the amount of influence he could wield, and
the extent of the public sympathy that he excited. He was essentially
religious in temperament, though his religion was so assertive and
egotistical in type that those who hold with Rosalba that where there
is no modesty there can be no religion, [Footnote: Rosalba said of Sir
Godfrey Kneller, 'This man can have no religion, for he has no
modesty.'] might be inclined to deny its existence. From the very
outset of his career Haydon took up the attitude of a missionary of
high art in England--and therewith the expectation of being crowned
and enriched as its Priest and King. He clung to the belief that a man
who devoted himself to the practice of a high and ennobling art ought
to be supported by a grateful country, or at least by generous
patrons, and he could never be made to realise that Art is a stern and
jealous mistress, who demands material sacrifices from her votaries in
exchange for spiritual compensations. If a man desires to create a new
era in the art of his country, he must be prepared to lead a monastic
life in a garret; but if, like Haydon, he allows himself a wife and
eight children, and professes to be unable to live on five hundred a
year, he must condescend to the painting of portraits and pot-boilers.
The public cannot be forced to support what it neither understands nor
admires, and, in a democratic state, the Government is bound to
consult the taste of its masters.

Haydon's financial embarrassments were perhaps the least of his
trials. As has been seen, he had fallen into the hands of the
money-lenders in early youth, and he had never been able to extricate
himself from their clutches. But so many of his friends and
colleagues--Godwin, Leigh Hunt, and Sir Thomas Lawrence among
others--were in the same position, that Haydon must have felt he was
insolvent in excellent company. As long as he was able to keep himself
out of prison and the bailiffs out of his house, he seems to have
considered that his affairs were positively nourishing, and at their
worst his financial difficulties alone would never have driven him to
self-destruction. Mrs. Browning was surely right when she wrote:--'The
more I think the more I am inclined to conclude that the money
irritation was merely an additional irritation, and that the despair,
leading to revolt against life, had its root in disappointed ambition.
The world did not recognise his genius, and he punished the world by
withdrawing the light... All the audacity and bravery and
self-calculation, which drew on him so much ridicule, were an agony in
disguise--he could not live without reputation, and he wrestled for
it, struggled for it, _kicked_ for it, forgetting grace of
attitude in the pang. When all was vain he went mad and died... Poor
Haydon! Think what an agony life was to him, so constituted!--his own
genius a clinging curse! the fire and the clay in him seething and
quenching one another!--the man seeing maniacally in all men the
assassins of his fame! and with the whole world against him,
struggling for the thing that was his life, through day and night, in
thoughts and in dreams ... struggling, stifling, breaking the hearts
of the creatures dearest to him, in the conflict for which there was
no victory, though he could not choose but fight it. Tell me if
Laocoön's anguish was not as an infant's sleep compared to this.'

Haydon wrote his own epitaph, and this, which he, at least, believed
to be an accurate summary of his misfortunes and their cause, may
fitly close this brief outline of his troubled life:--




An English Historical Painter, who, in a struggle to make the People,
the Legislature, the Nobility, and the Sovereign of England give due
dignity and rank to the highest Art, which has ever languished, and,
until the Government interferes, ever will languish in England, fell a
Victim to his ardour and his love of country, an evidence that to seek
the benefit of your country by telling the Truth to Power, is a crime
that can only be expiated by the ruin and destruction of the Man who
is so patriotic and so imprudent.

'He was born at Plymouth, 26th of January 1786, and died on the [22nd
of June] 18[46], believing in Christ as the Mediator and Advocate of

'"What various ills the Painter's life assail, Pride, Envy, Want, the
Patron and the Jail."'



[Illustration: Sydney Owenson, afterwards Lady Morgan, From a drawing
by Sir Thomas Lawrence.]

'What,' asks Lady Morgan in her fragment of autobiography, 'what has a
woman to do with dates? Cold, false, erroneous dates! Her poetical
idiosyncrasy, calculated by epochs, would make the most natural points
of reference in a woman's autobiography.' The matter-of-fact Saxon
would hardly know how to set about calculating a poetical idiosyncrasy
by epochs, but our Celtic heroine was equal to the task; at any rate,
she abstained so carefully throughout her career from all unnecessary
allusion to what she called 'vulgar eras,' that the date of her birth
remained a secret, even from her bitterest enemies. Her untiring
persecutor, John Wilson Croker, declared that Sydney Owenson was born
in 1775, while the _Dictionary of National Biography_ more
gallantly gives the date as 1783, with a query. But as Sir Charles
Morgan was born in the latter year, and as his wife owned to a few
years' seniority, we shall probably be doing her no injustice if we
place the important event between 1778 and 1780.

Lady Morgan's detestation for dates was accompanied by a vivid
imagination, an inaccurate memory, and a constitutional inability to
deal with hard facts. Hence, her biographers have found it no easy
task to grapple with the details of her career, her own picturesque,
high-coloured narrative being not invariably in accord with the
prosaic records gathered from contemporary sources. For example,
according to the plain, unvarnished statement of a Saxon chronicler,
Lady Morgan's father was one Robert MacOwen, who was born in 1744, the
son of poor parents in Connaught. He was educated at a hedge-school,
and on coming to man's estate, obtained a situation as steward to a
neighbouring landowner. But, having been inspired with an unquenchable
passion for the theatre, he presently threw up his post, and through
the influence of Goldsmith, a 'Connaught cousin,' he obtained a
footing on the English stage.

The Celtic version of this story, as dictated by Lady Morgan in her
old age, is immeasurably superior, and at any rate deserves to be
true. Early in the eighteenth century, so runs the tale, a
hurling-match was held in Connaught, which was attended by all the
gentry of the neighbourhood. The Queen of Beauty, who gave away the
prizes, was Sydney Crofton Bell, granddaughter of Sir Malby Crofton of
Longford House. The victor of the hurling-match was Walter MacOwen, a
gentleman according to the genealogy of Connaught, but a farmer by
position. Young, strong, and handsome, MacOwen, like Orlando,
overthrew more than his enemies, with the result that presently there
was an elopement in the neighbourhood, and an unpardonable
_mésalliance_ in the Crofton family. The marriage does not appear
to have been a very happy one, since MacOwen continued to frequent all
the fairs and hurling-matches of the country-side, but his wife
consoled herself for his neglect by cultivating her musical and
poetical gifts. She composed Irish songs and melodies, and gained the
title of Clasagh-na-Vallagh, or Harp of the Valley. Her only son
Robert inherited his father's good looks and his mother's artistic
talents, and was educated by the joint efforts of the Protestant
clergyman and the Roman Catholic priest.

When the boy was about seventeen, a rich, eccentric stranger named
Blake arrived to take possession of the Castle of Ardfry. The
new-comer, who was a musical amateur, presently discovered that there
was a young genius in the neighbourhood. Struck by the beauty of
Robert MacOwen's voice, Mr. Blake offered to take the youth into his
own household, and educate him for a liberal profession, an offer that
was joyfully accepted by Clasagh-na-Vallagh. The patron soon tired of
Connaught, and carried off his _protégé_ to London, where he
placed him under Dr. Worgan, the famous blind organist of Westminster
Abbey. At home, young MacOwen's duties were to keep his employer's
accounts, to carve at table, and to sing Irish melodies to his guests.
He was taken up by his distant kinsman, Goldsmith, who introduced him
to the world behind the scenes, and encouraged him in his aspirations
after a theatrical career.

Among the young Irishman's new acquaintances was Madame
Weichsel, _prima donna_ of His Majesty's Theatre, and mother of
the more celebrated Mrs. Billington. The lady occasionally studied her
roles under Dr. Worgan, when MacOwen played the part of stage-lover,
and, being of an inflammable disposition, speedily developed into a
real one. This love-affair was the cause of a sudden reverse of
fortune. During Mr. Blake's absence from town, Robert accompanied
Madame Weichsel to Vauxhall, where she was engaged to sing a duet. Her
professional colleague failing to appear, young MacOwen was persuaded
to undertake the tenor part, which he did with pronounced success. But
unfortunately Mr. Blake, who had returned unexpectedly from Ireland,
was among the audience, and was angered beyond all forgiveness by this
premature _début_. When Robert went home, he found his trunks
ready packed, and a letter of dismissal from his patron awaiting him.
A note for £300, which accompanied the letter, was returned, and the
prodigal drove off to his cousin Goldsmith, who, with characteristic
good-nature, took him in, and promised him his interest with the
theatrical managers.

According to Lady Morgan's account, Robert Owenson, as he now called
himself in deference to the prevailing prejudice against both the
Irish and the Scotch, was at once introduced to Garrick, and
allowed to make his _début_ in the part of Tamerlane. But, from
contemporary evidence, it is clear that he had gained some experience
in the provinces before he made his first appearance on the London
boards, when his Tamerlane was a decided failure. Garrick refused to
allow him a second chance, but after further provincial touring, he
obtained another London engagement, and appeared with success in such
parts as Captain Macheath, Sir Lucius O'Trigger, and Major O'Flaherty.

Owenson had been on the stage some years when he fell in love with
Miss Jane Hill, the daughter of a respectable burgess of Shrewsbury.
The worthy Mr. Hill refused his consent to his daughter's marriage
with an actor, but the dashing _jeune premier_, like his father
before him, carried off his bride by night, and married her at
Lichfield before her irate parent could overtake them. Miss Hill was a
Methodist by persuasion, and hated the theatre, though she loved her
player. She induced her husband to renounce his profession for a time,
and to appear only at concerts and oratorios. But the stage-fever was
in his blood, and after a short retirement, we find him, in 1771,
investing a part of his wife's fortune in a share in the Crow Street
Theatre, Dublin, where he made his first appearance with great success
in his favourite part of Major O'Flaherty, one of the characters in
Cumberland's comedy, _The West Indian_. He remained one of the
pillars of this theatre until 1782, when Ryder, the patentee, became a
bankrupt. Owenson was then engaged by Richard Daly to perform at the
Smock Alley Theatre, and also to fill the post of assistant-manager.

By this time Sydney had made her appearance in the world, arriving on
Christmas Day in some unspecified year. According to one authority she
was born on ship-board during the passage from Holyhead to Dublin, but
she tells us herself that she was born at her father's house in Dublin
during a Christmas banquet, at which most of the leading wits and
literary celebrities of the capital were present. The whole party was
bidden to her christening a month later, and Edward Lysaght, equally
famous as a lawyer and an improvisatore, undertook to make the
necessary vows in her name. In spite of this brilliant send-off,
Sydney was not destined to bring good fortune to her father's house. A
few years after her birth Owenson, having quarrelled with Daly,
invested his savings in a tumble-down building known as the Old Music
Hall, which he restored, and re-named the National Theatre. The season
opened with a grand national performance, and everything promised
well, when, like a bomb-shell, came the announcement that the
Government had granted to Richard Daly an exclusive patent for the
performance of legitimate drama in Dublin. Mr. Owenson was thus
obliged to close his theatre at the end of his first season, but he
received some compensation for his losses, and was offered a
re-engagement under Daly on favourable terms, an offer which he had
the sense to accept.

A short period of comparative calm and freedom from embarrassment now
set in for the Owenson family. Mrs. Owenson was a careful mother, and
extremely anxious about the education of her two little girls, Sydney
and Olivia. There is a touch of pathos in the picture of the prim,
methodistical English lady, who hated the dirt and slovenliness of her
husband's people, was shocked at their jovial ways and free talk,
looked upon all Papists as connections of Antichrist, and hoped for
the salvation of mankind through the form of religion patronised by
Lady Huntington. She was accustomed to hold up as an example to her
little girls the career of a certain model child, the daughter of a
distant kinsman, Sir Rowland Hill of Shropshire. This appalling infant
had read the Bible twice through before she was five, and knitted all
the stockings worn by her father's coachman. The lively Sydney
detested the memory of her virtuous young kinswoman, for she had great
difficulty in mastering the art of reading, though she learned easily
by heart, and could imitate almost anything she saw. At a very early
age she could go through the whole elaborate process of hair-dressing,
from the first papillote to the last puff of the powder-machine, and
amused herself by arranging her father's old wigs in one of the
windows, under the inscription, 'Sydney Owenson, System, Tête, and
Peruke Maker.'

Mr. Owenson found his friends among all the wildest wits of Dublin,
but his wife's society was strictly limited, both at the Old Music
Hall, part of which had been utilised as a dwelling, and at the
country villa that her husband had taken for her at Drumcondra. Yet
she does not appear to have permitted her religious prejudices to
interfere with her social relaxations, since her three chief intimates
at this time were the Rev. Charles Macklin (nephew of the actor), a
great performer on the Irish pipes, who had been dismissed from his
curacy for playing out the congregation on his favourite instrument; a
Methodist preacher who had come over on one of Lady Huntingdon's
missions; and a Jesuit priest, who, his order being proscribed in
Ireland, was living in concealment, and in want, it was believed, of
the necessaries of life. These three regularly frequented the Old
Music Hall, where points of faith were freely discussed, Mrs. Owenson
holding the position of Protestant Pope in the little circle. In order
that the discussions might not be unprofitable, the Catholic servants
were sometimes permitted to stand at the door, and gather up the
crumbs of theological wisdom.

Female visitors were few, one of the most regular being a younger
sister of Oliver Goldsmith, who lived with a grocer brother in a
little shop which was afterwards occupied by the father of Thomas
Moore. Miss Goldsmith was a plain, little old lady, who always carried
a long tin case, containing a rouleaux of Dr. Goldsmith's portraits,
which she offered for sale. Sydney much preferred her father's
friends, more especially his musical associates, such as Giordani the
composer, and Fisher the violinist, who spent most of their time at
his house during their visits to Dublin. The children used to hide
under the table to hear them make music, and picked up many melodies
by ear. When Mr. Owenson was asked why he did not cultivate his
daughter's talent, he replied, 'If I were to cultivate their talent
for music, it might induce them some day to go upon the stage, and I
would rather buy them a sieve of black cockles to cry about the
streets of Dublin than see them the first _prima donnas_ of

The little Owensons possessed one remarkable playfellow in the shape
of Thomas Dermody, the 'wonderful boy,' who was regarded in Dublin as
a second Chatterton. A poor scholar, the son of a drunken country
schoolmaster, who turned him adrift at fourteen, Dermody had wandered
up to Dublin, paying his way by reciting poetry and telling stories to
his humble entertainers, with a few tattered books, one shirt, and two
shillings for all his worldly goods. He first found employment as
'librarian' at a cobbler's stall, on which a few cheap books were
exposed for sale. Later, he got employment as assistant to the
scene-painter at the Theatre Royal, and here he wrote a clever poem on
the leading performers, which found its way into the green-room.
Anxious to see the author, the company, Owenson amongst them, invaded
the painting-room, where they found the boy-poet, clad in rags, his
hair clotted with glue, his face smeared with paint, a pot of size in
one hand and a brush in the other. The sympathy of the kind-hearted
players was aroused, and it was decided that something must be done
for youthful genius in distress. Owenson invited the boy to his house,
and, by way of testing his powers, set him to write a poetical theme
on the subject of Dublin University. In less than three-quarters of an
hour the prodigy returned with a poem of fifty lines, which showed an
intimate acquaintance with the history of the university from its
foundation. A second test having been followed by equally satisfactory
results, it was decided that a sum of money should be raised by
subscriptions, and that Dermody should be assisted to enter the
university. Owenson, with his wife's cordial consent, took the young
poet into his house, and treated him like his own son. Unfortunately,
Dermody's genius was weighted by the artistic temperament; he was
lazy, irregular in his attendance at college, and not particularly
grateful to his benefactors. By his own acts he fell out of favour,
the subscriptions that had been collected were returned to the donors,
and his career would have come to an abrupt conclusion, if it had not
been that Owenson made interest for him with Lady Moira, a
distinguished patron of literature, who placed him in the charge of
Dr. Boyd, the translator of Dante. Dermody must have had his good
points, for he was a favourite with Mrs. Owenson, and the dear friend
of Sydney and Olivia, whom he succeeded in teaching to read and write,
a task in which all other preceptors had failed.

In 1788 Mrs. Owenson died rather suddenly, and the home was broken up.
Sydney and Olivia were at once placed at a famous Huguenot school,
which had originally been established at Portarlington, but was now
removed to Clontarf, near Dublin. For the next three years the
children had the benefit of the best teaching that could then be
obtained, and were subjected to a discipline which Lady Morgan always
declared was the most admirable ever introduced into a 'female
seminary' in any country. Sydney soon became popular among her
fellows, thanks to her knowledge of Irish songs and dances, and it is
evident that her schooldays were among the happiest and most healthful
of her early life. The school was an expensive one, and poor Owenson,
who, with all his faults, seems to have been a careful and
affectionate father, found it no easy matter to pay for the many

'I remember once,' writes Lady Morgan,' our music-teacher complained
to my father of our idleness as he sat beside us at the piano, and we
stumbled through the overture to _Artaxerxes_. His answer to her
complaint was simple and graphic--for, drawing up the sleeve of a
handsome surtout, he showed the threadbare sleeve of the black coat
beneath, and said, touching the whitened seams, "I should not be
driven to the subterfuge of wearing a greatcoat this hot weather to
conceal the poverty of my dress beneath, if it were not that I wish to
give you the advantage of such instruction as you are now
neglecting."' The shaft went home, and the music-mistress had no
occasion to complain again. After three years the headmistress retired
on her fortune, the school was given up, and the two girls were placed
at what they considered a very inferior establishment in Dublin. Here,
however, they had the delight of seeing their father every Sunday,
when the widower, leaving the attractions of the city behind, took his
little daughters out walking with him. To this time belong memories of
early visits to the theatre, where Sydney saw Mrs. Siddons for the
first and last time, and Miss Farren as Susan in the _Marriage of
Figaro_, just before her own marriage to Lord Derby. During the
summer seasons Mr. Owenson toured round the provinces, and generally
took his daughters with him, who seem to have been made much of by the
neighbouring county families.

In 1794 the too optimistic Owenson unfortunately took it into his head
that it would be an excellent speculation to build a summer theatre at
Kilkenny. Lord Ormond, who took an interest in the project, gave a
piece of land opposite the castle gates, money was borrowed, the
theatre quickly built, and performers brought at great expense from
Dublin. During the summer the house was filled nightly by overflowing
audiences, and everything promised well, when the attorney who held a
mortgage on the building, foreclosed, and bills to an enormous amount
were presented. Mr. Owenson suddenly departed for the south of
Ireland, having been advised to keep out of the way until after the
final meeting of his creditors. His two daughters were placed in
Dublin lodgings under the care of their faithful old servant, Molly
Atkins, until their school should reopen.

Sydney had been requested to write to her father every day, and as she
was passionately fond, to quote her own words, of writing about
anything to any one, she willingly obeyed, trusting to chance for
franks. Some of these youthful epistles were preserved by old Molly,
the packet being indorsed on the cover, 'Letters from Miss Sydney
Owenson to her father, God pity her!' But the young lady evidently did
not consider herself an object of pity, for she writes in the best of
spirits about the books she is reading, the people she is meeting, and
all the little gaieties and excitements of her life. Somebody lends
her an _Essay on the Human Understanding_, by Mr. Locke, Gent.,
whose theories she has no difficulty in understanding; and somebody
else talks to her about chemistry (a word she has never heard at
school), and declares that her questions are so _suggestive_
(another new word) that she might become a second Pauline Lavosier.
She puts her new knowledge to practical effect by writing with a piece
of phosphorus on her bedroom wall, 'Molly, beware!' with the result
that Molly is frightened out of her wits, the young experimenter burns
her hand, and the house is nearly set on fire. The eccentric Dermody
turns up again, now a smart young ensign, having temporarily forsaken
letters, and obtained a commission through the interest of Lord Moira.
He addresses a flattering poem to Sydney, and passes on to rejoin his
regiment at Cork, whence he is to sail for Flanders.

Mr. Owenson's affairs did not improve. He tried his fortune in various
provincial theatres, but the political ferment of the years
immediately preceding the Union, the disturbed state of the country,
and the persecution of the Catholics, all spelt ruin for theatrical
enterprises. As soon as Sydney realised her true position she rose to
the occasion, and the letter that she wrote to her father, proposing
to relieve him of the burden of her maintenance, is full of affection
and spirit. It will be observed that as yet she is contented to
express herself simply and naturally, without the fine language, the
incessant quotations, and the mangled French that disfigured so much
of her published work. The girl, who must now have been seventeen or
eighteen, had seen her father's name on the list of bankrupts, but it
had been explained to her that, with time and economy, he would come
out of his difficulties as much respected as ever. Having informed him
of her determination not to return to school, but to support herself
in future, she continues:--

'Now, dear papa, I have two novels nearly finished. The first is
_St. Clair_; I think I wrote it in imitation of _Werther_, which
I read last Christmas. The second is a French novel, suggested
by my reading the _Memoirs of the Duc de Sully_, and falling in
love with Henri IV. Now, if I had time and quiet to finish them, I am
sure I could sell them; and observe, sir, Miss Burney got £3000 for
_Camilla_, and brought out _Evelina_ unknown to her father;
but all this takes time.' Sydney goes on to suggest that Olivia shall
be placed at a school, where Molly could be taken as children's maid,
and that she herself should seek a situation as governess or companion
to young ladies.

Through the good offices of her old dancing-master, M. Fontaine, who
had been appointed master of ceremonies at the castle, Sydney was
introduced to Mrs. Featherstone, or Featherstonehaugh, of Bracklin
Castle, who required a governess-companion to her young daughters, and
apparently did not object to youth and inexperience. The girl's
_début_ in her employer's family would scarcely have made a
favourable impression in any country less genial and tolerant than the
Ireland of that period. On the night of her departure M. Fontaine gave
a little _bal d'adieu_ in her honour, and as the mail passed the
end of his street at midnight, it was arranged that Sydney should take
her travelling-dress with her to the ball, and change before starting
on her journey. Of course she took no count of the time, and was gaily
dancing to the tune of 'Money in Both Pockets,' with an agreeable
partner, when the horn sounded at the end of the street. Like an Irish
Cinderella, away flew Sydney in her muslin gown and pink shoes and
stockings, followed by her admirers, laden with her portmanteau and
bundle of clothes. There was just time for Molly to throw an old cloak
over her charge, and then the coach door was banged-to, and the little
governess travelled away through the winter's night. In the excitement
of an adventure with an officer _en route_, she allowed her
luggage to be carried on in the coach, and arrived at Bracklin, a
shivering little object, in her muslin frock and pink satin shoes. Her
stammered explanations were received with amusement and sympathy by
her kind-hearted hosts, and she was carried off to her own rooms, 'the
prettiest suite you ever saw,' she tells her father, 'a study,
bedroom, and bath-room, a roaring turf fire in the rooms, an open
piano, and lots of books scattered about. Betty, the old nurse,
brought me a bowl of laughing potatoes, and gave me a hearty "Much
good may it do you, miss"; and didn't I tip her a word of Irish, which
delighted her.... Our dinner-party were mamma and the two young
ladies, two itinerant preceptors, a writing and elocution master, and
a dancing-master, and Father Murphy, the P.P.--such fun!--and the Rev.
Mr. Beaufort, the curate of Castletown.'

Miss Sydney was quite at her ease with all these new acquaintances,
and so brilliant were her sallies at dinner that, according to her own
account, the men-servants were obliged to stuff their napkins down
their throats till they were nearly suffocated. The priest proposed
her health in a comic speech, and a piper having come up on purpose to
'play in Miss Owenson,' the evening wound up with the dancing of Irish
jigs, and the singing of Irish songs. One is inclined to doubt whether
Sydney's instructions were of much scientific value, but it is evident
that she enjoyed her occupation, was the very good friend of both
employers and pupils, and knew nothing of the snubs and neglect
experienced by so many of our modern Jane Eyres.

The death of Mrs. Featherstone's mother, Lady Steele, who had been one
of the belles of Lord Chesterfield's court, placed a fine old house in
Dominic Street, Dublin, at the disposal of the family. At the head of
the musical society of Dublin at that date was Sir John Stevenson, who
is now chiefly remembered for his arrangement of the airs to Moore's
Melodies. One day, while giving a lesson to the Miss Featherstones,
Sir John sung a song by Moore, of whom Sydney had then never heard.
Pleased at her evident appreciation, Stevenson asked if she would like
to meet the poet, and promised to take her and Olivia to a little
musical party at his mother's house. Moore had already made a success
in London society, which he followed up in the less exclusive circles
of Dublin, and it was only between a party at the Provost's and
another at Lady Antrim's that he could dash into the paternal shop for
a few minutes to sing a couple of songs for his mother's guests. But
the effect of his performance upon the Owenson sisters was electrical.
They went home in such a state of spiritual exaltation, that they
forgot to undress before getting into bed, and awoke to plan, the one
a new romance, the other a portrait of the poet.

Sydney had already finished her first novel, _St. Clair_, which
she determined to take secretly to a publisher. We are given to
understand that this was her first independent literary attempt,
though she tells us that her father had printed a little volume of her
poems, written between the ages of twelve and fourteen. This book
seems to have been published, however, in 1801, when the author must
have been at least one-and-twenty. It was dedicated to Lady Moira,
through whose influence it found its way into the most fashionable
boudoirs of Dublin. Be this as it may, Sydney gives a picturesque
description of her early morning's ramble in search of a publisher.
She eventually left her manuscript in the reluctant hands of a Mr.
Brown, who promised to submit it to his reader, and returned to her
employer's house before her absence had been remarked. The next day
the family left Dublin for Bracklin, and as Sydney had forgotten to
give her address to the publisher, it is not surprising that, for the
time being, she heard no more of her bantling. Some months later, when
she was in Dublin again, she picked up a novel in a friend's house,
and found that it was her own _St. Clair_. On recalling herself
to the publisher's memory, she received the handsome remuneration
of--four copies of her own work! The book, a foolish, high-flown
story, a long way after _Werther_, had some success in Dublin,
and brought its author--literary ladies being comparatively few at
that period--a certain meed of social fame.

Mr. Owenson, who had left the stage in 1798, was settled at Coleraine
at this time, and desired to have both his daughters with him.
Accordingly, Sydney gave up her employment, and tried to make herself
contented at home. But the dulness and discomfort of the life were too
much for her, and after a few months she took another situation as
governess, this time with a Mrs. Crawford at Fort William, where she
seems to have been as much petted and admired as at Bracklin. There is
no doubt that Sydney Owenson was a flirt, a sentimental flirt, who
loved playing with fire, but it has been hinted that she was inclined
to represent the polite attentions of her gallant countrymen as
serious affairs of the heart. She left behind her a packet of
love-letters (presented to her husband after her marriage), and some
of these are quoted in her _Memoirs_. The majority, however,
point to no very definite 'intentions' on the part of the writers, but
are composed in the artificially romantic vein which Rousseau had
brought into fashion. Among the letters are one or two from the
unfortunate Dermody, who had retired on half-pay, and was now living
in London, engaged in writing his Memoirs (he was in the early
twenties) and preparing his poems for the press.

'Were you a Venus I should forget you,' he writes to Sydney, 'but you
are a Laura, a Leonora, and an Eloisa, all in one delightful
assemblage.' He is evidently a little piqued by Sydney's admiration of
Moore, for in a letter to Mr. Owenson he asks, 'Who is the Mr. Moore
Sydney mentions? He is nobody here, I assure you, of eminence.' A
little later, however, he writes to Sydney: 'You are mistaken if you
imagine I have not the highest respect for your friend Moore. I have
written the review of his poems in a strain of panegyric to which I am
not frequently accustomed. I am told he is a most worthy young man,
and I am certain myself of his genius and erudition.' Dermody's own
career was nearly at an end. He died of consumption in 1802, aged only

If Sydney scandalised even the easy-going society of the period by her
audacious flirtations, she seems to have had the peculiarly Irish
faculty of keeping her head in affairs of the heart, and dancing in
perfect security on the edge of a gulf of sentiment. Her work helped
to steady her, and the love-scenes in her novels served as a
safety-valve for her ardent imagination. Her father, notoriously
happy-go-lucky about his own affairs, was a careful guardian of his
daughters' reputation, while old Molly was a dragon of propriety.
Sydney, moreover, had acquired one or two women friends, much older
than herself, such as the literary Lady Charleville, and Mrs. Lefanu,
sister of Sheridan, who were always ready with advice and sympathy.
With Mrs. Lefanu Sydney corresponded regularly for many years, and in
her letters discusses the debatable points in her books, and enlarges
upon her own character and temperament. Chief among her ambitions at
this time was that of being 'every inch a woman,' and she was a firm
believer in the fashionable theory that true womanliness was
incompatible with learning. 'I dropped the study of chemistry,' she
tells her friend, 'though urged to it by, a favourite preceptor, lest
I should be less the _woman_. Seduced by taste and a thousand
arguments to Greek and Latin, I resisted, lest I should not be a
_very woman_. And I have studied music as a sentiment rather than
as a science, and drawing as an amusement rather than as an art, lest
I should become a musical pedant, or a masculine artist.'

In 1803, the Crawfords having decided to leave Fort William and live
entirely in the country, Sydney, who had a mortal dread of boredom,
gave up her situation, and returned to her father, who was now settled
near Strabane. Here she occupied her leisure in writing a second
novel, _The Novice of St. Dominic_, in six volumes. When this was
completed, Mrs. Lefanu advised her to take it to London herself, and
arrange for its publication. Quite alone, and with very little money
in her pocket, the girl travelled to London, and presented herself
before Sir Richard Phillips, a well-known publisher, with whom she had
already had some correspondence. If we may believe her own testimony,
Sir Richard fell an easy victim to her fascinations, and there is no
doubt that he was very kind to her, introduced her to his wife, and
found her a lodging. Better still, he bought her book (we are not told
the price), and paid her for it at once. The first purchases that she
made with her own earnings were a small Irish harp, which accompanied
her thereafter wherever she went, and a black 'mode cloak.' After her
return to Ireland, Phillips corresponded with her, and gave her
literary advice, which is interesting in so far as it shows what the
reading public of that day wanted, or was supposed to want.

'The world is not informed about Ireland,' wrote the publisher, 'and I
am in a condition to command the light to shine. I am sorry you have
assumed the novel form. A series of letters addressed to a friend in
London, taking for your model the letters of Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu, would have secured you the most extensive reading. A
matter-of-fact and didactic novel is neither one thing nor the other,
and suits no class of readers. Certainly, however, _Paul and
Virginia_ would suggest a local plan; and it will be possible by
writing three or four times over in six or eight months to produce
what would _command_ attention.' Sir Richard concluded his advice
with the assurance that his correspondent had it in her to write an
immortal work, if she would only labour it sufficiently, and that her
_third_ copy was certain to be a monument of Irish genius. Miss
Owenson was the last person to act upon the above directions; her
books read as if they were dashed off in a fine frenzy of composition.
Perhaps she feared that her cherished womanliness would be endangered
by too close an attention to accuracy and style.

The _Novice_, which appeared in 1804, was better than _St.
Clair_, but such success as it enjoyed must have been due to the
prevailing scarcity of first-rate, or even second-rate novelists,
rather than to its own intrinsic merits. The public taste in fiction
was not fastidious, and could swallow long-winded discussions and
sentimental rhodomontade with an appetite that now seems almost
incredible. The _Novice_ is said to have been a favourite with
Pitt in his last illness, but if this be true, the fact points rather
to the decay of the statesman's intellect than to the literary value
of the book. Still the author was tasting all the sweets of fame. She
was much in request as a literary celebrity, and somebody had actually
written for permission to select the best passages from her two books
for publication in a work called _The Morality of English

In the same year, 1804, an anonymous attack upon the Irish stage in
six _Familiar Epistles_ was published in Dublin. So cruel and
venomous were these epistles that one actor, Edwin, is believed to
have died of chagrin at the attack upon his reputation. An answer to
the libel presently appeared, which was signed S. O., and has been
generally attributed to Sydney Owenson. The _Familiar Epistles_
were believed to be the work of John Wilson Croker, then young and
unknown, and it may be that the lifelong malignity with which that
critic pursued Lady Morgan was due to this early crossing of swords.
Sydney herself was fond of hinting that Croker, in his obscure days,
had paid her attentions which she, as a successful author, had not
cared to encourage, and that wounded vanity was at the bottom of his

The next book on which Miss Owenson engaged was, if not her best, the
one by which she is best known, namely, _The Wild Irish Girl_.
The greater part of this was written while she was staying with Sir
Malby Crofton at Longford House, from whose family, as has been seen,
she claimed to be descended. Miss Crofton sat for the portrait of the
heroine, and much of the scenery was sketched in the wild romantic
neighbourhood. About the same time she collected and translated a
number of Irish songs which were published under the title of _The
Lay of the Irish Harp_. She thus anticipated Moore, and other
explorers in this field, for which fact Moore at least gives her
credit in the preface to his own collection. She was not a poet, but
she wrote one ballad, 'Kate Kearney,' which became a popular song, and
is not yet forgotten.

The story of _The Wild Irish Girl_ is said to have been founded
upon an incident in the author's own life. A young man named Everard
had fallen in love with her, but as he was wild, idle, and penniless,
his father called upon her to beg her not to encourage him, but to use
her influence to make him stick to his work. Sydney behaved so well in
the matter that the elder Mr. Everard desired to marry her himself,
and though his offer was not accepted, he remained her staunch friend
and admirer. The 'local colour' in the book is carefully worked up;
indeed, in the present day it would probably be thought that the story
was overweighted by the account of local manners and customs.
Phillips, alarmed at the liberal principles displayed in the work,
which he thought would be distasteful to English patriots, refused at
first to give the author her price. To his horror and indignation Miss
Owenson, whom he regarded as his own particular property, instantly
sent the manuscript to a rival bookseller, Johnson, who published for
Miss Edgeworth. Johnson offered £300 for the book, while Phillips had
only offered £200 down, and £50 on the publication of the second and
third editions respectively. The latter, however, was unable to make
up his mind to lose the treasure, and after much hesitation and many
heart-burnings, he finally wrote to Miss Owenson:--

'DEAR BEWITCHING AND DELUDING SYKEN,--Not being able to part from you,
I have promised your noble and magnanimous friend, Atkinson [who was
conducting the negotiations], the £300.... It will be long before I
forgive you! At least not till I have got back the £300 and another
£100 along with it.' Then follows a passage which proves that the
literary market, in those days at any rate, was not overstocked: 'If
you know any poor bard--a real one, no pretender--I will give him a
guinea a page for his rhymes in the _Monthly Magazine_. I will
also give for prose communications at the rate of six guineas a

_The Wild Irish Girl_, whose title was suggested by Peter Pindar,
made a hit, more especially in Ireland, and the author woke to find
herself famous. She became known to all her friends as 'Glorvina,' the
name of the heroine, while the Glorvina ornament, a golden bodkin, and
the Glorvina mantle became fashionable in Dublin. The book was
bitterly attacked, probably by Croker, in the _Freeman's
Journal_, but the best bit of criticism upon it is contained in a
letter from Mr. Edgeworth to Miss Owenson. 'Maria,' he says, 'who
reads as well as she writes, has entertained us with several passages
from _The Wild Irish Girl_, which I thought superior to any parts
of the book I had read. Upon looking over her shoulder, I found she
had omitted some superfluous epithets. Dared she have done this if you
had been by? I think she would; because your good sense and good taste
would have been instantly her defenders.' It must be admitted that all
Lady Morgan's works would have gained by the like treatment.

In an article called 'My First Rout,' which appeared in _The Book of
the Boudoir_ (published in 1829), Lady Morgan describes a party at
Lady Cork's, where she was lionised by her hostess, the other guests
having been invited to meet the Wild Irish Girl. The celebrities
present were brought up and introduced to Miss Owenson with a running
comment from Lady Cork, which, though it must be taken with a grain of
salt, is worth transcribing:--

'Lord Erskine, this is the Wild Irish Girl you were so anxious to
meet. I assure you she talks quite as well as she writes. Now, my
dear, do tell Lord Erskine some of those Irish stories you told us at
Lord Charleville's. Mrs. Abington says you would make a famous
actress, she does indeed. This is the Duchess of St. Albans--she has
your _Wild Irish Girl_ by heart. Where is Sheridan? Oh, here he
is; what, you know each other already? _Tant mieux._ Mr. Lewis,
do come forward; this is Monk Lewis, of whom you have heard so
much--but you must not read his works, they are very naughty.... You
know Mr. Gell; he calls you the Irish Corinne. Your friend, Mr. Moore,
will be here by-and-by. Do see, somebody, if Mrs. Siddons and Mr.
Kemble are come yet. Now pray tell us the scene at the Irish baronet's
in the Rebellion that you told to the ladies of Llangollen; and then
give us your blue-stocking dinner at Sir Richard Phillips'; and
describe the Irish priests.'

At supper Sydney was placed between Lord Erskine and Lord Carysfort,
and was just beginning to feel at her ease when Mr. Kemble was
announced. Mr. Kemble, it soon became apparent, had been dining, and
had paid too much attention to the claret. Sitting down opposite Miss
Owenson, he fixed her with an intense and glassy stare. Unfortunately,
her hair, which she wore in the fashionable curly 'crop,' aroused his
curiosity. Stretching unsteadily across the table, he suddenly, to
quote her own words, 'struck his claws into my locks, and addressing
me in his deepest tones, asked, "Little girl, where did you buy your
wig?"' Lord Erskine hastily came to the rescue, but Kemble, rendered
peevish by his interference, took a volume of _The Wild Irish
Girl_ out of his pocket, and after reading aloud one of the most
high-flown passages, asked, 'Little girl, why did you write such
nonsense, and where did you get all those hard words?' Sydney
delighted the company by blurting out the truth: 'Sir, I wrote as well
as I could, and I got the hard words out of Johnson's Dictionary.'
That Kemble spoke the truth in his cups may be proved by the following
sentence, which is a fair sample of the general style of the book:
'With a character tinctured with the brightest colouring of romantic
eccentricity [a father is describing his son, the hero], but marked by
indelible traces of innate rectitude, and ennobled by the purest
principles of native generosity, the proudest sense of inviolable
honour, I beheld him rush eagerly on life, enamoured of its seeming
good, incredulous of its latent evils, till, fatally entangled in the
spells of the latter, he fell an early victim to their successful

_The Wild Irish Girl_ was followed by _Patriotic Sketches_
and a volume of poems, for which Sir Richard Phillips offered £100
before he read them. A little later, in 1807, an operetta called
_The First Attempt_, or the _Whim of the Moment_, the libretto
by Miss Owenson and the music by T. Cooke, was performed at
the Dublin Theatre. The Duke of Bedford, then Lord-Lieutenant,
attended in state, the Duchess wore a Glorvina bodkin, and the
entertainment was also patronised by the officers of the garrison and
all the liberal members of the Irish bar. The little piece, in which
Mr. Owenson acted an Irish character, was played for several nights,
and brought its author the handsome sum of £400. This, however, seems
to have been Sydney's first and last attempt at dramatic composition.

The family fortunes had improved somewhat at this time, for Olivia,
who had gone out as a governess, became engaged to Dr., afterwards Sir
Arthur Clarke, a plain, elderly little gentleman, who, however, made
her an excellent husband. Having a good house and a comfortable
income, he was able to offer a home to Mr. Owenson and to the faithful
Molly. For the present, Sydney, though always on excellent terms with
her brother-in-law, preferred her independence. She established
herself in lodgings in Dublin, and made the most of the position that
her works had won for her. Her flirtations and indiscretions provided
the town with plenty of occasion for scandal, and there is a tradition
that one strictly proper old lady, on being asked to chaperon Miss
Owenson to the Castle, replied that when Miss Owenson wore more
petticoats and less paint she would be happy to do so. Yet another
tradition has been handed down to the effect that Miss Owenson
appeared at one of the Viceregal balls in a dress, the bodice of which
was trimmed with the portraits of her rejected lovers!

Foremost among our heroine's admirers at this time was Sir Charles
Ormsby, K.C., then member for Munster, He was a widower, deeply in
debt, and a good deal older than Sydney, but if there was no actual
engagement, there was certainly an 'understanding' between the pair.
In May, 1808, Miss Owenson was on a visit to the Dowager Lady Stanley
of Alderley at Penrhôs (one of the new friends her celebrity had
gained for her), whence she wrote a sentimental epistle to Sir Charles
Ormsby. The Sir John Stanley mentioned in the letter was the husband
of Maria Josepha Holroyd, to whom he had been married in 1796.

'The figure and person of Lady Stanley are inimitable,' writes Sydney.
'Vandyck would have estimated her at millions. Though old, her
manners, her mind, and her conversation are all of the best school....
Sir John Stanley is a man _comme il y en a peu_. Something at
first of English reserve; but when worn off, I never met a mind more
daring, more independent in its reflections, more profound or more
refined in its ideas. He said a thousand things like you; I am
convinced he has loved as you love. We sat up till two this morning
talking of Corinne.... I have been obliged to sing "Deep in Love" so
often for my handsome host, and every time it is _as for you_ I
sing it.' The letter concludes with the words, '_Aimons toujours
comme à l'ordinaire_.' The pair may have loved, but they were
continually quarrelling, and their intimacy was finally broken a year
or two later. Lady Morgan preserved to the end of her days a packet of
love-letters indorsed, 'Sir Charles Montague Ormsby, Bart., one of the
most brilliant wits, determined _roués_, agreeable persons, and
ugliest men of his day.'

The summer of this year, 1808, Miss Owenson spent in a round of visits
to country-houses, and in working, amid many distractions, at her
Grecian novel, _Ida of Athens_. After the first volume had gone
to press, Phillips took fright at some of the opinions therein
expressed, and refused to proceed further with the work. It was then
accepted by Longmans, who, however, were somewhat alarmed at what they
considered the Deistical principles and the taint of French philosophy
that ran through the book. Ida is a houri and a woman of genius, who
dresses in a tissue of woven air, has a taste for philosophical
discussions, and a talent for getting into perilous situations, from
which her strong sense of propriety invariably delivers her. This book
was the subject of adverse criticism in the first number of the
_Quarterly Review_, the critic being, it is believed, Miss
Owenson's old enemy, Croker. As a work of art, the novel was certainly
a just object of ridicule, but the personalities by which the review
is disfigured were unworthy of a responsible critic.

'The language,' observes the reviewer, 'is an inflated jargon,
composed of terms picked up in all countries, and wholly irreducible
to any ordinary rules of grammar and sense. The sentiments are
mischievous in tendency, profligate in principle, licentious and
irreverent in the highest degree.' The first part of this accusation
was only too well founded, but the licentiousness of which Lady
Morgan's works were invariably accused in the _Quarterly Review_,
can only have existed in the mind of the reviewer. One cannot but
smile to think how many persons with a taste for highly-spiced fiction
must have been set searching through Lady Morgan's novels by these
notices, and how bitterly they must have been disappointed. The review
in question concludes with the remark that if the author would buy a
spelling-book, a pocket-dictionary, exchange her raptures for common
sense, and gather a few precepts of humility from the Bible, 'she
might hope to prove, not indeed a good writer of novels, but a useful
friend, a faithful wife, a tender mother, and a respectable and happy
mistress of a family.' This impertinence is thoroughly characteristic
of the days when the _Quarterly_ was regarded as an amusing but
frivolous, not to say flippant, publication.

_Ida of Athens_ received the honour of mention in a note to
_Childe Harold_. 'I will request Miss Owenson,' writes Byron,
'when she next chooses an Athenian heroine for her four volumes, to
have the goodness to marry her to somebody more of a gentleman than a
"Disdar Aga" (who, by the way, is not an Aga), the most impolite of
petty officers, the greatest patron of larceny Athens ever saw (except
Lord E[lgin]), and the unworthy occupant of the Acropolis, on a
handsome stipend of 150 piastres (£8 sterling), out of which he has to
pay his garrison, the most ill-regulated corps in the ill-regulated
Ottoman Empire. I speak it tenderly, seeing I was once the cause of
the husband of Ida nearly suffering the bastinado; and because the
said Disdar is a turbulent fellow who beats his wife, so that I exhort
and beseech Miss Owenson to sue for a separate maintenance on behalf
of Ida.'

In 1809 Lady Abercorn, the third wife of the first Marquis, having
taken a sudden fancy to Miss Owenson, proposed that she should come to
Stanmore Priory, and afterwards to Baron's Court, as a kind of
permanent visitor. A fine lady of the old-fashioned, languid, idle,
easily bored type, Lady Abercorn desired a lively, amusing companion,
who would deliver her from the terrors of a solitude _à deux,_
make music in the evenings, and help to entertain her guests. It was
represented to Sydney that such an invitation was not lightly to be
refused, but as acceptance involved an almost total separation from
her friends, she hesitated to enter into any actual engagement, and
went to the Abercorns for two or three months as an ordinary visitor.
Lord Abercorn, who was then between fifty and sixty, had been married
three times, and divorced once. So fastidious a fine gentleman was he
that the maids were not allowed to make his bed except in white kid
gloves, and his groom of his chambers had orders to fumigate his rooms
after liveried servants had been in them. He is described as handsome,
witty, and blasé, a _roué_ in principles and a Tory in politics.
Nothing pleased Lady Morgan better in her old age, we are told, than
to have it insinuated that there had been 'something wrong' between
herself and Lord Abercorn.

In January, 1810, Sydney writes to Mrs. Lefanu from Stanmore Priory to
the effect that she is the best-lodged, best-fed, dullest author in
his Majesty's dominions, and that the sound of a commoner's name is
refreshment to her ears. She is surrounded by ex-lord-lieutenants,
unpopular princesses (including her of Wales) deposed potentates
(including him of Sweden), half the nobility of England, and many of
the best wits and writers. She had sat to Sir Thomas Lawrence for her
portrait, and sold her Indian novel, _The Missionary,_ for a
famous price. Lord Castlereagh, while staying at Stanmore, heard
portions of the work read aloud, and admired it so much that he
offered to take the author to London, and give her a rendezvous with
her publisher in his own study. Stockdale, the publisher, was so much
impressed by his surroundings that he bid £400 for the book, and the
agreement was signed and sealed under Lord Castlereagh's eye. _The
Missionary_ was not so successful as _The Wild Irish Girl,_
and added nothing to the author's reputation.

It was not until the end of 1810 that Miss Owenson decided to become a
permanent member of the Abercorn household. About this time, or a
little later, she wrote a short description of her temperament and
feelings, from which a sentence or two may be quoted. 'Inconsiderate
and indiscreet, never saved by prudence, but often rescued by pride;
often on the verge of error, but never passing the line. Committing
myself in every way _except in my own esteem_--without any
command over my feelings, my words, or writings--yet full of
self-possession as to action and conduct.' After describing her
sufferings from nervous susceptibility and mental depression, she
continues: 'But the hand that writes this has lost nothing of the
contour of health or the symmetry of youth. I am in possession of all
the fame I ever hoped or ambitioned. I wear not the appearance of
twenty years; I am now, as I generally am, sad and miserable.'

In 1811 Dr. Morgan, a good-looking widower of about eight-and-twenty,
accepted the post of private physician to Lord Abercorn. He was a
Cambridge man, an intimate friend of Dr. Jenner's, and possessed a
small fortune of his own. When he first arrived at Baron's Court, Miss
Owenson was absent, and he heard so much of her praises that he
conceived a violent prejudice against her. On her return she set to
work systematically to fascinate him, and succeeded even better than
she had hoped or desired. In Lady Abercorn he had a warm partisan, but
it may be suspected that the ambitious Miss Owenson found it hard to
renounce all hopes of a more brilliant match. The Abercorns having
vowed that Dr. Morgan should be made Sir Charles, and that they would
push his fortunes, Sydney yielded to their importunities so far as to
write to her father, and ask his consent to her engagement.

'I dare say you will be amazingly astonished,' she observes, 'but not
half so much as I am, for Lord and Lady Abercorn have hurried on the
business in such a manner that I really don't know what I am about.
They called me in last night, and, more like parents than friends,
begged me to be guided by them--that it was their wish not to lose
sight of me ... and that if I accepted Morgan, the man upon earth they
most esteemed and approved, they would be friends to both for
life--that we should reside with them one year after our marriage, so
that we might lay up our income to begin the world. He is also to
continue their physician. He has now £500 a year, independent of his
practice. I don't myself see the thing quite in the light they do; but
they think him a man of such great abilities, such great worth and
honour, that I am the most fortunate person in the world.'

To her old friend, Mrs. Lefanu, she writes in much the same strain.
'The licence and ring have been in the house these ten days, and all
the settlements made; yet I have been battling off from day to day,
and have only ten minutes back procured a little breathing time. The
struggle is almost too great for me. On one side engaged, beyond
retrieval, to a man who has frequently declared to my friends that if
I break off he will not survive it! On the other, the dreadful
certainty of being parted for ever from a country and friends I love,
and a family I adore.'

The 'breathing time' was to consist of a fortnight's visit to her
sister, Lady Clarke, in Dublin, in order to be near her father, who
was in failing health. The fortnight, however, proved an exceedingly
elastic period. Mr. Owenson was not dangerously ill, the winter season
was just beginning, and Miss Owenson was more popular than ever. Her
unfortunate lover, as jealous as he was enamoured, being detained by
his duties at Baron's Court, could only write long letters of
complaint, reproach, and appeal to his hard-hearted lady. Sydney was
thoroughly enjoying herself, and was determined to make the most of
her last days of liberty. She admitted afterwards that she had behaved
very badly at this time, and deserved to have lost the best husband
woman ever had.

'I picture to myself,' writes poor Dr. Morgan, 'the thoughtless and
heartless Glorvina trifling with her friend, jesting at his
sufferings, and flirting with every man she meets.' He sends her some
commissions, but declares that there is only one about which he is
really anxious, 'and that is to love me _exclusively_; to prefer
me to every other good; to think of me, speak of me, write to me, and
look forward to our union as to the completion of every wish, as I do
by you. Do this, and though you grow as ugly as Sycorax, you will
never lose in me the fondest, most doating, affectionate of husbands.
Glorvina, I was born for tenderness; my business in life is _to
love_.... I read part of _The Way to Keep Him_ this morning,
and I see now you take the widow for your model; but it won't do, for
though I love you in _every_ mood, it is only when you are true
to nature, passionate and tender, that I adore you. You are never less
interesting to me than when you _brillez_ in a large party.'

The fortnight's leave of absence had been granted in September, and by
the end of November Dr. Morgan is thoroughly displeased with his
truant _fiancée_, and asks why she could not have told him when
she went away, that she intended to stay till Christmas. 'I know, he
writes, 'this is but a specimen of the roundabout policy of all your
countrywomen. How strange it is that you, who are in general
_great_ beyond every woman I know, philosophical and magnanimous,
should _in detail_ be so often ill-judging, wrong, and (shall I
say) little?' In December Sydney writes to say that she will return
directly after Christmas, and declares that the terrible struggle of
feeling, which she had tried to forget in every species of mental
dissipation, is now over; friends, relatives, country, all are
resigned, and she is his for ever! A little later she shows signs of
wavering again; she cannot make up her mind to part from her invalid
father just yet; but this time Dr. Morgan puts his foot down, and
issues his ultimatum in a stern and manly letter. He will be trifled
with no longer. Sydney must either keep her promise and return at
Christmas, or they had better part, never to meet again. 'The love I
require,' he writes, 'is no ordinary affection. The woman who marries
me must be _identified_ with me. I must have a large bank of
tenderness to draw upon. I must have frequent profession and frequent
demonstration of it. Woman's love is all in all to me; it stands in
place of honours and riches, and what is yet more, in place of
tranquillity of mind.'

This letter, backed by one from Lady Abercorn, brought Sydney to her
senses. In the first days of the new year (1812) she arrived at
Baron's Court, a little shamefaced, and more than a little doubtful of
her reception. The marquis was stiff, and the marchioness stately, but
Sir Charles, who had just been knighted by the Lord Lieutenant, was
too pleased to get his lady-love back, to harbour any resentment
against her. A few days after her return, as she was sitting over the
fire in a morning wrapper, Lady Abercorn came in and said:

'Glorvina, come upstairs directly and be married; there must be no
more trifling.'

The bride was led into her ladyship's dressing-room, where the
bridegroom was awaiting her in company with the chaplain, and the
ceremony took place. The marriage was kept a secret from the other
guests at the time, but a few nights later Lord Abercorn filled his
glass after dinner, and drank to the health of 'Sir Charles and Lady


The marriage, unpromising as it appeared at the outset, proved an
exceptionally happy one. Sir Charles was a straightforward, worthy, if
somewhat dull gentleman, with no ambition, a nervous distaste for
society, and a natural indolence of temperament. To his wife he gave
the unstinted sympathy and admiration that her restless vanity craved,
while she invariably maintained that he was the wisest, brightest, and
handsomest of his sex. She seems to have given him no occasion for
jealousy after marriage, though to the last she preserved her passion
for society, and her ambition for social recognition and success. The
first year of married life, which she described as a period of storm,
interspersed with brilliant sunshine, was spent with the Abercorns at
Baron's Court.

'Though living in a palace,' wrote Sydney to Mrs. Lefanu, early in
1812, 'we have all the comfort and independence of a home.... As to
me, I am _every inch a wife_, and so ends that brilliant thing
that was Glorvina. _N.B._--I intend to write a book to explode
the vulgar idea of matrimony being the tomb of love. Matrimony is the
real thing, and all before but leather and prunella.' In a letter to
Lady Stanley she paints Sir Charles in the romantic colours
appropriate to a novelist's husband. 'In _love_ he is Sheridan's
Falkland, and in his view of things there is a _mélange_ of
cynicism and sentiment that will never suffer him to be as happy as
the inferior million that move about him. Marriage has taken nothing
from the _romance_ of his passion for me; and by bringing a sense
of _property_ with it, has rendered him more exigent and nervous
about me than before.'

The luxury of Baron's Court was probably more than counterbalanced by
the inevitable drawbacks of married life in a patron's household,
where the husband, at least, was at that patron's beck and call.
Before the end of the year, the Morgans were contemplating a modest
establishment of their own, and Sydney had set to work upon a novel,
the price of which was to furnish the new house. Mr. Owenson had died
shortly after his daughter's marriage, and Lady Morgan persuaded her
husband to settle in Dublin, in order that she might be near her
sister and her many friends. A house was presently taken in Kildare
Street, and Sir Charles, who had obtained the post of physician to the
Marshalsea, set himself to establish a practice. Lady Morgan prided
herself upon her housewifely talents, and in a letter dated May, 1813,
she describes how she has made their old house clean and comfortable,
all that their means would permit, 'except for one little bit of a
room, four inches by three, which is fitted up in the _Gothic_,
and I have collected into it the best part of a very good cabinet of
natural history of Sir Charles's, eight or nine hundred volumes of
choice books in French, English, Italian, and German, some little
curiosities, and a few scraps of old china, so that, with muslin
draperies, etc., I have made no contemptible set-out.... With respect
to authorship, I fear it is over; I have been making chair-covers
instead of systems, and cheapening pots and pans instead of selling
sentiment and philosophy.'

In the midst of all her domestic labours, however, Lady Morgan
contrived to finish a novel, _O'Donnel_, which Colburn published
in 1814, and for which she received £550. The book was ill-reviewed,
but it was an even greater popular success than _The Wild Irish
Girl_. The heroine, like most of Lady Morgan's heroines, is
evidently meant for an idealised portrait of herself, and the great
ladies by whom she is surrounded are sketched from Lady Abercorn and
certain of the guests at Baron's Court. The Liberal, or as they would
now be called, Radical principles inculcated in the book gave bitter
offence to the author's old-fashioned friends, and increased the
rancour of her Tory reviewers. But _O'Donnel_ found numerous
admirers, among them no less a person than Sir Walter Scott, who notes
in his diary for March 14, 1826: 'I have amused myself occasionally
very pleasantly during the last few days by reading over Lady Morgan's
novel of _O'Donnel_, which has some striking and beautiful
passages of situation and description, and in the comic part is very
rich and entertaining. I do not remember being so pleased with it at
first. There is a want of story, always fatal to a book on the first
reading--and it is well if it gets the chance of a second.'

The following year, 1815, France being once again open to English
travellers, the Morgans paid a visit to Paris, Lady Morgan having
undertaken to write a book about what was then a strange people and a
strange country. The pair went a good deal into society, and made many
friends, among them Lafayette, Cuvier, the Comte de Ségur, Madame de
Genlis, and Madame Jerome Bonaparte. Sydney, whose Celtic manners were
probably more congenial to the French than Anglo-Saxon reserve, seems
to have received a great deal of attention, and her not over-strong
head was slightly turned in consequence.

'The French admire you more than any Englishwoman who has appeared
here since the Battle of Waterloo,' wrote Madame Jerome Bonaparte to
Lady Morgan, after the latter had returned to Ireland. 'France is the
country you should reside in, because you are so much admired, and
here no Englishwoman has received the same attentions since you. I am
dying to see your last publication. Public expectation is as high as
possible. How happy you must be at filling the world with your name as
you do! Madame de Staël and Madame de Genlis are forgotten; and if the
love of fame be of any weight with you, your excursion to Paris was
attended with brilliant success.'

Madame de Genlis, in her _Memoirs_, gives a more soberly-worded
account of the impression produced by Lady Morgan on Parisian society.
The author of _France_ is described as 'not beautiful, but with
something lively and agreeable in her whole person. She is very
clever, and seems to have a good heart; it is a pity that for the sake
of popularity she should have the mania of meddling in politics....
Her vivacity and rather springing carriage seemed very strange in
Parisian circles. She soon learned that good taste of itself condemned
that kind of demeanour; in fact, gesticulation and noisy manners have
never been popular in France.' The spoilt little lady was by no means
satisfied with this portrait, and Sir Charles, who was away from home
at the time the _Memoirs_ appeared, writes to console her. 'You
must not mind that lying old witch Madame de Genlis' attack upon you,'
says the admiring husband. 'I thought she would not let you off
easily; you were not only a better and younger (and _I_ may say
_prettier_) author than herself, but also a more popular one.'

Over the price to be paid for _France_, to which Sir Charles
contributed some rather heavy chapters on medical science, political
economy, and jurisprudence, there was the usual battle between the
keen little woman and her publisher. Colburn, having done well with
_O'Donnel_, felt justified in offering £750 for the new work, but
Lady Morgan demanded £1000, and got it. The sum must have been a
substantial compensation for the wounds that her vanity received at
the hands of the reviewers. _France_, which made its appearance
in 1817, in two volumes quarto, was eagerly read and loudly abused.
Croker, in the _Quarterly Review_, attacked the book, or rather
the author, in an article which has become almost historic for its
virulence. Poor Lady Morgan was accused of bad taste, bombast and
nonsense, blunders, ignorance of the French language and manners,
general ignorance, Jacobinism, falsehood, licentiousness, and impiety!
The first four or five charges might have been proved with little
difficulty, if it were worth while to break a butterfly on a wheel,
but it was necessary to distort the meaning and even the text of the
original in order to give any colour to the graver accusations.

Croker had discovered, much to his delight, that the translator of the
work (which was also published in Paris) had subjoined a note to some
of Lady Morgan's scraps of French, in which he confessed that though
the words were printed to look like French, he could not understand
them. The critic observes, _à propos_ of this fact, 'It is, we
believe, peculiar to Lady Morgan's works, that her English readers
require an English translation of her English, and her French readers
a French translation of her French.' This was a fair hit, as also was
the ridicule thrown upon such sentences as 'Cider is not held in any
estimation by the _véritables Amphitryons_ of rural _savoir
faire_.' Croker professes to be shocked at Lady Morgan's mention of
_Les Liaisons Dangereuses_, having hitherto cherished the hope
that 'no British female had ever seen this detestable book'; while his
outburst of virtuous indignation at her mention of the 'superior
effusions' of Parny, which some Frenchman had recommended to her, is
really superb. 'Parny,' he exclaims, 'is the most beastly, the most
detestably wicked and blasphemous of all the writers who have ever
disgraced literature. _Les Guerres des Dieux_ is the most
dreadful tissue of obscenity and depravity that the devil ever
inspired to the depraved heart of man, and we tremble with horror at
the guilt of having read unwittingly even so much of the work as
enables us to pronounce this character of it.'

Croker concludes with the hope that he has given such an idea of this
book as might prevent, in some degree, the circulation of trash which,
under the name of a '_Lady_ author,' might otherwise have found
its way into the hands of young persons of both sexes, for whose
perusal it was, on the score both of morals and politics, utterly
unfit. Such a notice naturally defeated its own object, and
_France_ went triumphantly through several editions. The review
attracted almost as much attention as the book, and many protests were
raised against it. 'What cruel work you make with Lady Morgan,' wrote
Byron to Murray. 'You should recollect that she is a woman; though, to
be sure, they are now and then very provoking, still as authoresses
they can do no great harm; and I think it a pity so much good
invective should have been laid out upon her, when there is such a
fine field of us Jacobin gentlemen for you to work upon.' The Regent
himself, according to Lady Charleville's report, had said of Croker:
'D----d blackguard to abuse a woman; couldn't he let her _France_
alone, if it be all lies, and read her novels, and thank her, by
Jasus, for being a good Irishwoman?'

Lady Morgan, as presently appeared, was not only quite able to defend
herself, but to give as good as she got. Peel, in a letter to Croker,
says: 'Lady Morgan vows vengeance against you as the supposed author
of the article in the _Quarterly_, in which her atheism, profanity,
indecency, and ignorance are exposed. You are to be the
hero of some novel of which she is about to be delivered. I hope she
has not heard of your predilection for angling, and that she will not
describe you as she describes one of her heroes, as "seated in his
_piscatory_ corner, intent on the destruction of the finny
tribe."' 'Lady Morgan,' it seems, replies Croker, 'is resolved to make
me read one of her novels. I hope I shall feel interested enough to
learn the language. I wrote the first part of the article in question,
but was called away to Ireland when it was in the press; and I am
sorry to say that some blunders crept in accidentally, and one or two
were premeditatedly added, which, however, I do not think Lady Morgan
knows enough of either English, French, or Latin to find out. If she
goes on, we shall have sport.'

Early in 1818 Colburn wrote to suggest that the Morgans should proceed
to Italy with a view to collaborating in a book on that country, and
offered them the handsome sum of £2000 for the copyright. By this time
Sir Charles had lost most of his practice, owing to his publication of
a scientific work, _The Outlines of the Physiology of Life_,
which was considered objectionably heterodox by the Dublin public.
There was no obstacle, therefore, to his leaving home for a lengthened
period, and joining his wife in her literary labours. In May, the pair
journeyed to London _en route_ for the South, Lady Morgan taking
with her the nearly finished manuscript of a new novel, _Florence
Macarthy_. With his first reading of this book Colburn was so
charmed, that he presented the author with a fine parure of amethysts
as a tribute of admiration.

According to the testimony of impartial witnesses, Lady Morgan made as
decided a social success in Italy as she had done a couple of years
earlier in France. Moore, who met the couple in Florence, notes in his
diary for October 1819: 'Went to see Sir Charles and Lady Morgan; her
success everywhere astonishing. Camac was last night at the Countess
of Albany's (the Pretender's wife and Alfieri's), and saw Lady Morgan
there in the seat of honour, quite the queen of the room.' In Rome the
same appreciation awaited her. 'The Duchess of Devonshire,' writes her
ladyship, 'is unceasing in her attentions. Cardinal Fesche
(Bonaparte's uncle) is quite my beau.... Madame Mère (Napoleon's
mother) sent to say she would be glad to see me; we were received
quite in an imperial style. I never saw so fine an old lady--still
quite handsome. The pictures of her sons hung round the room, all in
royal robes, and her daughters and grandchildren, and at the head of
them all, _old Mr. Bonaparte_. She is full of sense, feeling, and
spirit, and not the least what I expected--vulgar.'

_Florence Macarthy_ was published during its author's absence
abroad. The heroine, Lady Clancare, a novelist and politician, a
beauty and a wit, is obviously intended for Lady Morgan herself, while
Lady Abercorn figures again under the title of Lady Dunore. But the
most striking of all the character-portraits is Counsellor Con
Crawley, who was sketched from Lady Morgan's old enemy, John Wilson
Croker. According to Moore, Croker winced more under this caricature
than under any of the direct attacks which were made upon him. Con
Crawley, we are told, was of a bilious, saturnine constitution, even
his talent being but the result of disease. These physical
disadvantages, combined with an education 'whose object was
pretension, and whose principle was arrogance, made him at once a
thing fearful and pitiable, at war with its species and itself, ready
to crush in manhood as to sting in the cradle, and leading his
overweening ambition to pursue its object by ways dark and
hidden--safe from the penalty of crime, and exposed only to the
obloquy which he laughed to scorn. If ever there was a man formed
alike by nature and education to betray the land which gave him birth,
and to act openly as the pander of political corruption, or secretly
as the agent of defamation; who would stoop to seek his fortune by
effecting the fall of a frail woman, or would strive to advance it by
stabbing the character of an honest one; who could crush aspiring
merit behind the ambuscade of anonymous security, while he came
forward openly in defence of the vileness which rank sanctified and
influence protected--that man was Conway Crawley.'

The truth of the portraiture of the whole Crawley family--exaggerated
as it may seem in modern eyes--was at once recognised by Lady Morgan's
countrymen. Sir Jonah Barrington, an undisputed authority on Irish
manners and character, writes: 'The Crawleys are superlative, and
suffice to bring before my vision, in their full colouring, and almost
without a variation, persons and incidents whom and which I have many
a time encountered.' Again, Owen Maddyn, who was by no means
prejudiced in Lady Morgan's favour, admits that her attack on Croker
had much effect in its day, and was written on the model of the Irish
school of invective furnished by Flood and Grattan. As a novelist, he
held that she pointed the way to Lever, and adds: 'The rattling
vivacity of the Irish character, its ebullient spirit, and its
wrathful eloquence of sentiment and language, she well portrayed; one
can smell the potheen and turf smoke even in her pictures of a
boudoir.' In this sentence are summed up the leading characteristics,
not only of _Florence Macarthy_, but of all Lady Morgan's
national romances.

_Italy_ was published simultaneously in London and Paris in June,
1821, and produced an even greater sensation than the work on France,
though Croker declared that it fell dead from the press, and devoted
the greater part of his 'review' in the _Quarterly_ to an
analysis of Colburn's methods of advertisement. Criticism of a penal
kind, he explained, was not called for, because, 'in the first place,
we are convinced that this woman is wholly _incorrigible_;
secondly, we hope that her indelicacy, vanity, and malignity are
inimitable, and that, therefore, her example is very little dangerous;
and thirdly, though every page teems with errors of all kinds, from
the most disgusting to the most ludicrous, they are smothered in such
Boeotian dulness that they can do no harm.' In curious contrast to
this professional criticism is a passage in one of Byron's letters to
Moore. 'Lady Morgan,' writes the poet, 'in a _really excellent_
book, I assure you, on Italy, calls Venice an ocean Rome; I have the
very same expression in _Foscari_, and yet you know that the play
was written months ago, and sent to England; the _Italy_ I
received only on the 16th.... When you write to Lady Morgan, will you
thank her for her handsome speeches in her book about _my_ books?
Her work is fearless and excellent on the subject of Italy--pray tell
her so--and I know the country. I wish she had fallen in with
_me_; I could have told her a thing or two that would have
confirmed her positions.'

Almost simultaneously with the appearance of _Italy_, Colburn
printed in his _New Monthly Magazine_ a long, vehement, and
rather incoherent attack by Lady Morgan upon her critics. The editor,
Thomas Campbell, explained in an indignant letter to the _Times_,
that the article had been inserted by the proprietor without being
first submitted to the editorial eye, and that he was in no way
responsible for its contents. Colburn also wrote to the _Times_
to refute the _Quarterly_ reviewer's statements regarding the
sales of _Italy_, and publicly to declare his entire satisfaction
at the result of the undertaking, and his willingness to receive from
the author another work of equal interest on the same terms. In short,
never was a book worse reviewed or better advertised.

The next venture of the indefatigable Lady Morgan, who felt herself
capable of dealing with any subject, no matter how little she might
know of it, was a _Life of Salvator Rosa_. This, which was her
own favourite among all her books, is a rather imaginative work, which
hardly comes up to modern biographical standards. The author seems to
have been influenced in her choice of a subject rather by the
patriotic character of Salvator Rosa than by his artistic attainments.
Lady Morgan was once asked by a fellow-writer where she got her facts,
to which she replied, 'We all imagine our facts, you know--and then
happily forget them; it is to be hoped our readers do the same.'
Nevertheless, she seems to have taken a good deal of trouble to 'get
up' the material for her biography; it was in her treatment of it that
she sometimes allowed her ardent Celtic imagination to run away with
her. About this time Colburn proposed that Sir Charles and Lady Morgan
should contribute to his magazine, _The New Monthly_, and offered
them half as much again as his other writers, who were paid at the
rate of sixteen guineas a sheet. For this periodical Lady Morgan wrote
a long essay on _Absenteeism_ and other articles, some of which
were afterwards republished.

In the spring of 1824 the Morgans came to London for the season, and
went much into the literary society that was dear to both their
hearts. Lady Caroline Lamb took a violent fancy to Lady Morgan, to
whom she confided her Byronic love-troubles, while Lady Cork, who
still maintained a salon, did not neglect her old _protégée_. The
rough notes kept by Lady Morgan of her social adventures are not
usually of much interest or importance, as she had little faculty or
inclination for Boswellising, but the following entry is worth

'Lady Cork said to me this morning when I called Miss ---- a nice
person, "Don't say nice, child, 'tis a bad word." Once I said to Dr.
Johnson, "Sir, that is a very nice person." "A _nice_ person," he
replied; "what does that mean? Elegant is now the fashionable term,
but it will go out, and I see this stupid _nice_ is to succeed to
it. What does nice mean? Look in my Dictionary; you will see it means
correct, precise."'

At Lydia White's famous _soirées_ Lady Morgan met Sydney Smith,
Washington Irving, Hallam, Miss Jane Porter, Anacreon Moore, and many
other literary celebrities. Her own rooms were thronged with a band of
young Italian revolutionaries, whose country had grown too hot to hold
them, and who talked of erecting a statue to the liberty-loving
Irishwoman when Italy should be free. Dublin naturally seemed rather
dull after all the excitement and delights of a London season, but
Lady Morgan, though she loved to grumble at her native city, had not
yet thought of turning absentee herself. Her popularity with her
countrymen (those of her own way of thinking) had suffered no
diminution, and her national celebrity was proved by the following
verse from a ballad which was sung in the Dublin streets:--

   'Och, Dublin's city, there's no doubtin',
     Bates every city on the say;
   'Tis there you'll hear O'Connell spoutin',
     And Lady Morgan making tay;
   For 'tis the capital of the finest nation,
     Wid charmin' peasantry on a fruitful sod,
   Fightin' like divils for conciliation,
     An' hatin' each other for the love of God.'

Our heroine was hard at work at this time upon the last of her Irish
novels, _The O'Briens and the O'Flaherties_, which was published
early in 1827, and for the copyright of which Colburn paid her £1350.
It was the most popular of all her works, especially with her own
country-folk, and is distinguished by her favourite blend of politics,
melodrama, local colour, and rough satire on the ruling classes. The
reviews as usual accused her of blasphemy and indecency, and so severe
was the criticism in the _Literary Gazette_, then edited by
Jerdan, that Colburn was stirred up to found a new literary weekly of
his own, and, in conjunction with James Silk Buckingham, started the
_Athenaeum_. Jerdan had asserted in the course of his review that 'In
all our reading we never met with a description which tended so
thoroughly to lower the female character.... Mrs. Behn and Mrs.
Centlivre might be more unguarded; but the gauze veil cannot hide the
deformities, and Lady Morgan's taste has not been of efficient power
to filter into cleanliness the original pollution of her infected
fountain.' Lady Morgan observes in her diary that she has a right to
be judged by her peers, and threatens to summon a jury of matrons to
say if they can detect one line in her pages that would tend to make
any honest man her foe.

There were other disadvantages attendant upon celebrity than those
caused by inimical reviewers. No foreigner of distinction thought a
visit to Dublin complete without an introduction to our author, who
figures in several contemporary memoirs, not always in a flattering
light. That curious personage, Prince Pückler Muskau, was travelling
through England and Ireland in 1828, and has left a little vignette of
Lady Morgan in the published record of his journey. 'I was very
eager,' he explains, 'to make the acquaintance of a lady whom I rate
so highly as an authoress. I found her, however, very different from
what I had pictured to myself. She is a little, frivolous, lively
woman, apparently between thirty and forty, neither pretty nor ugly,
but by no means inclined to resign all claims to the former, and with
really fine expressive eyes. She has no idea of _mauvaise honte_
or embarrassment; her manners are not the most refined, and affect the
_aisance_ and levity of the fashionable world, which, however, do
not sit calmly or naturally upon her. She has the English weakness of
talking incessantly of fashionable acquaintances, and trying to pose
for very _recherché_, to a degree quite unworthy of a woman of
such distinguished talents; she is not at all aware how she thus
underrates herself.' The _Quarterly Review_ seized upon this
passage with malicious delight. The prince, as the reviewer points
out, had dropped one lump of sugar into his bowl of gall; he had
guessed Lady Morgan's age at between thirty and forty.' Miss Owenson,'
comments the writer, who was probably Croker, 'was an established
authoress six-and-twenty years ago; and if any lady, player's daughter
or not, knew what _she_ knew when she published her first work at
eight or nine years of age (which Miss Owenson must have been at that
time according to the prince's calculation), she was undoubtedly such
a juvenile prodigy as would be quite worthy to make a _case_ for
the _Gentleman's Magazine_.'

Another observer, who was present at some of the Castle festivities,
and who had long pictured Lady Morgan in imagination as a sylphlike
and romantic person, has left on record his amazement when the
celebrated lady stood before him. 'She certainly formed a strange
figure in the midst of that dazzling scene of beauty and splendour.
Every female present wore feathers and trains; but Lady Morgan scorned
both appendages. Hardly more than four feet high, with a spine not
quite straight, slightly uneven shoulders and eyes, Lady Morgan glided
about in a close-cropped wig, bound with a fillet of gold, her large
face all animation, and with a witty word for everybody. I afterwards
saw her at the theatre, where she was cheered enthusiastically. Her
dress was different from the former occasion, but not less original. A
red Celtic cloak, fastened by a rich gold fibula, or Irish Tara
brooch, imparted to her little ladyship a gorgeous and withal a
picturesque appearance, which antecedent associations considerably

In 1829 _The Book of the Boudoir_ was published, with a preface
in which Lady Morgan gives the following naïve account of its genesis:
'I was just setting off to Ireland--the horses literally
putting-to--when Mr. Colburn arrived with his flattering proposition
[for a new book]. Taking up a scrubby manuscript volume which the
servant was about to thrust into the pocket of the carriage, he asked
what was that. I said it was one of my volumes of odds and ends, and
read him my last entry. "This is the very thing," he said, and carried
it off with him.' The book was correctly described as a volume of odds
and ends, and was hardly worth preserving in a permanent shape, though
it contains one or two interesting autobiographical scraps, such as
the account of _My First Rout_, from which a quotation has
already been given. A writer in _Blackwood_ reviewed the work in
a vein of ironical admiration, professing to be much impressed by the
author's knowledge of metaphysics as exemplified in such a sentence
as: 'The idea of cause is a consequence of our consciousness of the
force we exert in subjecting externals to the changes dictated by our
volition.' Unable to keep up the laudatory strain, even in joke, the
reviewer (his style points to Christopher North) calls a literary
friend to his assistance, who takes the opposite view, and declares
that the book is 'a tawdry tissue of tedious trumpery; a tessellated
texture of threadbare thievery; a trifling transcript of trite twaddle
and trapessing tittle-tattle.... Like everything that falls from her
pen, it is pert, shallow, and conceited, a farrago of ignorance,
indecency, and blasphemy, a tag-rag and bob-tail style of
writing--like a harlequin's jacket.'

Lady Morgan bobbed up as irrepressibly as ever from under this torrent
of (so-called) criticism, made a tour in France and Belgium for the
purpose of writing more 'trapessing tittle-tattle,' and on her return
to London, such were the profits on blasphemy and indecency, bought
her first carriage. This equipage was a source of much amusement to
her friends in Dublin, 'Neither she nor Sir Charles,' we are told,
'knew the difference between a good carriage and a bad one--a carriage
was a carriage to them. It was never known where this vehicle was
bought, except that Lady Morgan declared it came from the first
carriage-builder in London. In shape it was like a grasshopper, as
well as in colour. Very high and very springy, with enormous wheels,
it was difficult to get into, and dangerous to get out of. Sir
Charles, who never in his life before had mounted a coach-box, was
persuaded by his wife to drive his own carriage. He was extremely
short-sighted, and wore large green spectacles out of doors. His
costume was a coat much trimmed with fur, and heavily braided. James
Grant, the tall Irish footman, in the brightest of red plush, sat
beside him, his office being to jump down whenever anybody was knocked
down, or run over, for Sir Charles drove as it pleased God. The horse
was mercifully a very quiet animal, and much too small for the
carriage, or the mischief would have been worse. Lady Morgan, in the
large bonnet of the period, and a cloak lined with fur hanging over
the back of the carriage, gave, as she conceived, the crowning grace
to a neat and elegant turn-out. The only drawback to her satisfaction
was the alarm caused by Sir Charles's driving; and she was incessantly
springing up to adjure him to take care, to which he would reply with
warmth, after the manner of husbands.'

In 1880 Lady Morgan published her _France_ (1829-30). This book
was not a commission, but she had told Colburn that she was writing
it, and as he made her no definite offer, she opened negotiations with
the firm of Saunders and Otley. Colburn, who looked upon her as his
special property, was furious at her desertion, and informed her that
if she did not at once break off with Saunders and Otley, it would be
no less detrimental to her literary than to her pecuniary interest.
Undismayed by this threat, Lady Morgan accepted the offer of a
thousand pounds made her by the rival firm. Colburn, who was a power
in the literary market, kept his word. He advertised in his own
periodicals 'LADY MORGAN AT HALF-PRICE,' and stated publicly that in
consequence of the losses he had sustained by her former works, he had
declined her new book, and that copies of all her publications might
be had at half-price. In consequence of these and other machinations,
the new _France_, which was at least as good a book as the old
one, fell flat, and the unfortunate publishers were only able to make
one payment of £500. They tried to get their contract cancelled in
court, and Colburn, who was called as a witness, admitted that he had
done his best to injure Lady Morgan's literary reputation. Eventually,
the matter was compromised, Saunders and Otley being allowed to
publish Lady Morgan's next book, _Dramatic Scenes and Sketches_,
as some compensation for their loss; but of this, too, they failed to
make a success.

The reviews of _France_ were few and slighting, the wickedest and
most amusing being by Theodore Hook. He quotes with glee the author's
complacent record that she was compared to Molière by the Parisians,
and that she had seen in a 'poetry-book' the following lines:--

   'Slendal (_sic_), Morgan, Schlegel-ne vous effrayez pas--
   Muses! ce sont des noms fameux dans nos climats.'

'Her ladyship,' continues Theodore, 'went to dine with one of those
spectacle and sealing-wax barons, Rothschild, at Paris; where never
was such a dinner, "no catsup and walnut pickle, but a mayonese fried
in ice, like Ninon's description of Seveigne's (_sic_) heart,"
and to all this fine show she was led out by Rothschild himself. After
the soup she took an opportunity of praising the cook, of whom she had
heard much. "Eh bien," says Rothschild, laughing, as well he might,
"he on his side has also relished your works, and here is a proof of
it." "I really blush," says Miladi, "like Sterne's accusing spirit, as
I give in the fact--but--he pointed to a column of the most ingenious
confectionery architecture, on which my name was inscribed in spun
sugar." There was a thing--Lady Morgan in spun sugar! And what does
the reader think her ladyship did? She shall tell in her own dear
words. "All I could do under my triumphant emotion I did. I begged to
be introduced to the celebrated and flattering artist." It is a
fact--to the cook; and another fact, which only shows that the Hebrew
baron is a Jew _d'esprit_, is that after coffee, the cook
actually came up, and was presented to her. "He," says her ladyship,
"was a well-bred gentleman, perfectly free from pedantry, and when we
had mutually complimented each other on our respective works, he bowed
himself out."'

In spite of her egoism and her many absurdities, it seems clear from
contemporary evidence that in London, where she usually appeared
during the season, Lady Morgan had a following. The names of most of
the literary celebrities of the day appear amid the disjointed
jottings of her diary. We hear of 'that egregious coxcomb D'Israeli,
outraging the privilege a young man has of being absurd'; and Sydney
Smith 'so natural, so _bon enfant_, so little of a wit _titré_';
and Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, handsome, insolent, and unamiable; and
Allan Cunningham, 'immense fun'; and Thomas Hood, 'a grave-looking
personage, the picture of ill-health'; and her old critical enemy,
Lord Jeffrey, with whom Lady Morgan started a violent flirtation.
'When he comes to Ireland,' she writes, 'we are to go to Donnybrook
Fair together; in short, having cut me down with his tomahawk as
a reviewer, he smothers me with roses as a man. I always say of
my enemies before we meet, "Let me at them."'

The other literary women were naturally the chief object of interest
to her. Lady Morgan seems to have been fairly free from professional
jealousy, though she hated her countrywoman, Lady Blessington, with a
deadly hatred. Mrs. Gore, then one of the most fashionable novelists,
she finds 'a pleasant little _rondelette_ of a woman, something
of my own style. We talked and laughed together, as good-natured women
do, and agreed upon many points.' The learned Mrs. Somerville is
described as 'a simple, little, middle-aged woman. Had she not been
presented to me by name and reputation, I should have said she was one
of the respectable twaddling matrons one meets at every ball, dressed
in a snug mulberry velvet gown, and a little cap with a red flower. I
asked her how she could descend from the stars to mix among us. She
said she was obliged to go out with a daughter. From the glimpse of
her last night, I should say there was no imagination, no deep moral
philosophy, though a great deal of scientific lore, and a great deal
of _bonhomie_.' For 'poor dear Jane Porter,' the author of
_Scottish Chiefs_, Lady Morgan felt the natural contempt of a
'showy woman' for one who looks like a 'shabby canoness.' 'Miss
Porter,' she records, 'told me she was taken for me the other night,
and talked to _as such_ by a party of Americans. She is tall,
lank, lean, and lackadaisical, dressed in the deepest black, with a
battered black gauze hat, and the air of a regular Melpomene. I am the
reverse of all this, and _sans vanité_, the best-dressed woman
wherever I go. Last night I wore a blue satin, trimmed fully with
magnificent point-lace, and stomacher _à la Sévigné_, light blue
velvet hat and feathers, with an aigrette of sapphires and diamonds.'
As Lady Morgan at this time was nearer sixty than fifty, rouged
liberally, and made all her own dresses, her appearance in the costume
above described must at least have been remarkable.

Lady Morgan's last novel, a Belgian story called _The Princess, or
the Béguine_, was published by Bentley in 1834, and for the first
edition she received, £350, a sad falling-off from the prices received
in former days. As her popularity waned, she grew discontented with
life in Dublin, 'the wretched capital of wretched Ireland,' as she
calls it, and in a moment of mental depression she entered the
characteristic query,'_Cui bono?_' in her diary. To the same
faithful volume she confided complaints even of her beloved Morgan,
but the fact that she could find nothing worse to reproach him with
than a disinclination for fresh air and exercise, speaks volumes for
his marital virtue. A more serious trouble came from failing eyesight,
which in 1837 threatened to develop into total blindness. It was in
this year, when things seemed at their darkest, that a pension of £300
a year was conferred on her by Lord Melbourne, 'in recognition of her
merits, literary and patriotic.' It was probably this unexpected
accession of income that decided the Morgans to leave Dublin, and
spend the remainder of their days in London. They found a pleasant
little house in William Street, Knightsbridge, a new residential
quarter which was just growing up under the fostering care of Mr.
Cubitt. Lady Morgan went 'into raptures over the pretty new quarter,'
and wrote some articles on Pimlico in the _Athenæum_. She also
got up a successful agitation for an entrance into Hyde Park at what
is now known as Albert Gate. For deserting Ireland, after receiving a
pension for patriotism, and writing against the evils of Absenteeism,
Lady Morgan was subjected to a good deal of sarcasm by her countrymen.
But, as she pointed out, her property in Ireland was personal, not
real, the tenant-farm of a drawing-room balcony, on which annual crops
of mignonette were raised for home consumption, being the only
territorial possession that she had ever enjoyed.

Lady Morgan's eyesight must have temporarily improved with her change
of dwelling, for in 1839 the first part of her last work of any
importance, _Woman and her Master_, was published by Colburn, to
whom she had at last become reconciled. This book, which was never
finished, was designed to prove, among other things, that in spite of
the subordination in which women have been kept, and in spite of all
the artificial difficulties that have been put in their way, not only
have they never been conquered in spirit, but that they have always
been the depositaries of the vital and leading ideas of the time. The
book is more soberly written than most of Lady Morgan's works, but it
would probably be regarded by the modern reader as dull and
superficial. It was generally believed that Sir Charles had assisted
in its composition, and few men have ever wielded a heavier pen. The
pair only issued one more joint work, _The Book Without a Name_,
which appeared in 1842, and consisted chiefly of articles and sketches
that had already been published in the magazines.

The Morgans now found their chief occupation and amusement in the
society which they attracted to their cheerful little house. One or
two sketches of the pair, as they appeared in their later days, have
been left by contemporaries. Chorley, an intimate friend, observes
that, like all the sceptics he ever approached, they were absurdly
prejudiced, and proof against all new impressions. 'Neither of them,
though both were literary and musical, could endure German literature
and music, had got beyond the stale sarcasms of the _Anti-Jacobin_,
or could admit that there is glory for such men as Weber, Beethoven,
and Mendelssohn, as well as for Cimarosa and Paisiello....
Her familiar conversation was a series of brilliant, egotistic,
shrewd, and genial sallies, and she could be either caressing
or impudent. In the matter of self-approbation she had no
Statute of Limitation, but boasted of having taught Taglioni to dance
an Irish jig, and declared that she had created the Irish novel,
though in the next breath she would say that she was a child when Miss
Edgeworth was a grown woman.' Her blunders were proverbial, as when
she asked in all simplicity, 'Who was Jeremy Taylor?' and on being
presented to Mrs. Sarah Austin, complimented her on having written
_Pride and Prejudice_.

Another friend, Abraham Hayward, used to say that Lady Morgan had been
transplanted to London too late, and that she was never free of the
corporation of fine ladies, though she saw a good deal of them. 'She
erroneously fancied that she was expected to entertain the company, be
it what it might, and she was fond of telling stories in which she
figured as the companion of the great, instead of confining herself to
scenes of low Irish life, which she described inimitably. Lady Cork
was accustomed to say, "I like Lady Morgan very much as an Irish
blackguard, but I can't endure her as an English fine lady."'

In 1843 Sir Charles died rather suddenly from heart disease. His wife
mourned him sincerely, but not for long in solitude. She found the
anaesthetic for her grief in society, and after a few months of
widowhood writes: 'Everybody makes a point of having me out, and I am
beginning to be familiarised with my great loss. London is the best
place in the world for the happy and the unhappy; there is a floating
capital of sympathy for every human good or evil. I am a nobody, and
yet what kindness I am daily receiving.' Again, in 1845, after her
sister's death, she notes in her diary: 'The world is my gin or opium;
I take it for a few hours _per diem_--excitement, intoxication,
absence. I return to my desolate home, and wake to all the horrors of
sobriety.... Yet I am accounted the agreeable rattle of the great
ladies' coterie, and I talk _pas mal_ to many clever men all
day.... That Park near me, of which my beloved Morgan used to say, "It
is ours more than the Queen's, we use it daily and enjoy it
nightly"--that Park that I worked so hard to get an entrance into, I
never walk in it; it seems to me covered with crape.'

Among the friends of Lady Morgan's old age were the Carter Halls,
Hepworth Dixon, Miss Jewsbury, Hayward, and Douglas Jerrold. Lord
Campbell, old Rogers, and Cardinal Wiseman frequented her
_soirées_, though with the last-named she had waged a pamphlet
war over the authenticity of St. Peter's chair at Rome. Rogers was
reported to be engaged to one of Lady Morgan's attractive nieces, the
Miss Clarkes, who often stayed with her. It was in allusion to this
rumour that he said, 'Whenever my name is coupled with that of a young
lady in this manner, I make it a point of honour to say I have been
refused.' To the last, we are told, Lady Morgan preserved the natural
vivacity and aptness of repartee that had made her the delight of
Dublin society half a century before. 'I know I am vain,' she said
once to Mrs. Hall, 'but I have a right to be. It is not put on and off
like my rouge; it is always with me.... I wrote books when your
mothers worked samplers, and demanded freedom for Ireland when Dan
O'Connell scrambled for gulls' eggs in the crags of Derrynane.... Look
at the number of books I have written. Did ever woman move in a
brighter sphere than I do? I have three invitations to dinner to-day,
one from a duchess, one from a countess, and the third from a
diplomatist, a very witty man, who keeps the best society in London.'

Lady Morgan was fond of boasting that she had supported herself since
she was fourteen (for which read seventeen or eighteen), and insisted
on the advantage of giving every girl a profession by which she could
earn her living, if the need arose. Speaking to Mrs. Hall on the
subject of some girls who had been suddenly bereft of fortune, she
exclaimed: 'They do everything that is fashionable imperfectly; their
drawing, singing, dancing, and languages amount to nothing. They were
educated to marry, and had they had time, they might have gone off
with, and hereafter _from_, husbands. I desire to give every
girl, no matter her rank, a trade or profession. Cultivate what is
necessary to the position she is born to; cultivate all things in
moderation, but one thing to perfection, no matter what it is, for
which she has a talent: give her a staff to lay hold of; let her feel,
"This will carry me through life without dependence."'

With the assistance of Miss Jewsbury Lady Morgan, in the last years of
her life, prepared a volume of reminiscences, which she called _The
Odd Volume_. This, which was published in 1859, only deals with a
short period of her career, and is of little literary interest. The
_Athenæum_, in the course of a laudatory review, observed that
'Lady Morgan had lived through the love, admiration, and malignity of
three generations of men, and was, in short, a literary Ninon, who
seemed as brisk and captivating in the year 1859 as when George was
Prince, and the author of "Kate Kearney" divided the laureateship of
society and song with Tom Moore.'

Lady Morgan, though now an octogenarian, was by no means pleased at
these remarks. She still prided herself on her fascinations, was never
tired and never bored, and looked upon any one who died under a
hundred years of age as a suicide. 'You have more strength and spirit,
as well as more genius, than any of us,' wrote Abraham Hayward to her.
'We must go back to the brilliant women of the eighteenth century to
find anything like a parallel to you and your _soirées_.' But
bronchitis was an enemy with which even her high spirit was powerless
to cope. She had an attack in 1858, but threw it off, and on Christmas
Day gave a dinner, at which she told Irish stories with all her old
vivacity, and sang 'The Night before Larry was Stretched.' On St.
Patrick's Day, 1859, she gave a musical matinée, but caught cold the
following week, and after a short illness, died on April 16th.

Thus ended the career of one of the most flattered and best abused
women of the century. Held up as the Irish Madame de Staël by her
admirers, and run down as a monster of impudence and iniquity by her
enemies, it is no wonder that her character, by no means innately
refined, became hardened, if not coarsened, by so unenviable a
notoriety. Still, to her credit be it remembered that she never lost a
friend, and that she converted more than one impersonal enmity (as in
the case of Jeffrey and Lockhart) into a personal friendship. In spite
of her passion for the society of the great, she wrote and worked
throughout her whole career for the cause of liberty, and she was ever
on the side of the oppressed. An incorrigible flirt before marriage,
she developed into an irreproachable matron, while her natural
frivolity and feather-headedness never tempted her to neglect her
work, nor interfered with her faculty for making most advantageous
business arrangements. 'With all her frank vanity,' we are told, 'she
had shrewd good sense, and she valued herself much more on her
industry than on her genius, because the one, she said, she owed to
her organisation, but the other was a virtue of her own rearing.' It
would be impossible to conclude a sketch of Lady Morgan more
appropriately than by the following lines of Leigh Hunt, which she
herself was fond of quoting, and in which her personal idiosyncrasies
are pleasantly touched off:--

     'And dear Lady Morgan, see, see, when she comes,
     With her pulses all beating for freedom like drums,
     So Irish, so modish, so mixtish, so wild;
     So committing herself as she talks--like a child.
     So trim, yet so easy--polite, yet high-hearted,
     That truth and she, try all she can, won't be parted;
     She'll put you your fashions, your latest new air,
     And then talk so frankly, she'll make you all stare.'



[Illustration: Nathaniel Parker Willis]

Any fool, said a wise man, can write an interesting book if he will
only take the trouble to set down exactly what he has seen and heard.
Unfortunately, it is only a very special kind of fool who is capable
of recording exactly what he sees and hears--a rare bird who
flourishes perhaps once in a century, and is remembered long after
wiser men are forgotten. It is not contended that the subject of this
memoir was a fool in the crude sense of the word, though he was
responsible for a good deal of folly; but he was inspired by that
impertinent curiosity, that happy lack of dignity, and that passion
for the trivial and the intimate, which, when joined to a natural
talent for observation and a picturesque narrative style, enable the
possessor to illuminate a circle and a period in a fashion never
achieved by the most learned lucubrations of the profoundest scholars.
Thanks to his Boswellising powers, 'Namby-Pamby Willis,' as he was
called by his numerous enemies, has left an admirably vivid picture of
the literary society of London in the 'thirties,' a picture that
steadily increases in value as the period at which it was painted
recedes into the past.

Willis came of a family that had contrived, not unsuccessfully, to
combine religion with journalism. His immediate forebears seem to have
been persons of marked individuality, and his pedigree was, for the
New World, of quite respectable antiquity. The founder of the family,
George Willis, was born early in the seventeenth century, and
emigrated to New England about 1730, where he worked at his trade of
brickmaking and building. Our hero's great-grandfather was a patriotic
sailmaker, who assisted at a certain historic entertainment, when tar,
feathers, and hot tea were administered gratis to his Majesty's
tax-collector at Boston. His wife, Abigail, was a lady of character
and maxims, who saved some tea for her private use when three hundred
cases were emptied into Boston Harbour, and exhorted her family never
to eat brown bread when they could get white, and never to go in at
the back door when they might go in at the front. The son of this
worthy couple conducted a Whig newspaper in Boston during the
Rebellion, and became one of the pioneer journalists of the West. His
son, Nathaniel's sire, was invited, in 1803, to start a newspaper at
Portland, Maine, where the future Penciller was born in 1806, one year
before his fellow-townsman Longfellow.

A few years later, Mr. Willis returned to Boston, where, in 1816, he
started the _Boston Recorder_, the first newspaper, he was
accustomed to say, that had ever been run on religious lines. He seems
to have been a respectable, but narrow-minded man, who loved long
devotions and many services, and looked upon dancing, card-playing and
stage-plays as works of the Evil One. His redeeming points were a
sense of humour and a keen appreciation of female beauty, which last
characteristic he certainly bequeathed to his son. It was his custom
to sit round the fire with his nine children on winter evenings, and
tell them stories about the old Dutch tiles, representing New
Testament scenes, with which the chimney-corner was lined. The success
of these informal Scripture lessons led him to establish a religious
paper for young people called _The Youth's Companion_, in which
some of our hero's early verses appeared. His wife, Hannah Parker, is
described as a charming woman, lively, impulsive, and emotional. Her
son, Nathaniel, whose devotion to her never wavered, used to say, 'My
veins are teeming with the quicksilver spirit my mother gave me.'

Willis the younger was sent to school at Boston, where he had Emerson
for a schoolfellow, and afterwards to the university of Yale, where he
wrote much poetry, and was well received in the society of the place
on account of his good looks, easy manners, and precocious literary
reputation. On leaving Yale, he was delivered of a volume of juvenile
poems, and then settled down in Boston to four years' journalistic
work. Samuel Goodrich, better known in England under his pseudonym of
'Peter Parley,' engaged him to edit some annuals and gift-books, an
employment which the young man found particularly congenial. In his
_Recollections_ Peter Parley draws a comparison between his two
contributors, Hawthorne and Willis, and records that everything Willis
wrote attracted immediate attention, while the early productions of
Hawthorne passed almost unnoticed.

In 1829 Willis started on his own account with the _American Monthly
Magazine_, which had an existence of little more than two years. He
announced that he could not afford to pay for contributions, as he
expected only a small circulation, and he wrote most of the copy
himself. Every month there were discursive, gossiping editorial
articles in that 'personal' vein which has been worked with so much
industry in our own day. He took his readers into his confidence,
prattled about his japonica and his pastilles, and described his
favourite bird, a scarlet trulian, and his dogs, Ugolino and L. E. L.,
who slept in the waste-paper basket. He professed to write with a
bottle of Rudesheimer and a plate of olives at his elbow, and it was
hinted that he ate fruit in summer with an amber-handled fork to keep
his palm cool!

These youthful affectations had a peculiarly exasperating effect upon
men of a different type; and Willis became the butt of the more
old-fashioned critics, who vied with each other in inventing
opprobrious epithets to shower upon the head of this young puppy of
journalism. However, Nathaniel was not a person who could easily
be suppressed, and he soon became one of the most popular
magazine-writers of his time, his prose being described by an admirer
as 'delicate and brief like a white jacket--transparent like a lump of
sugar in champagne--soft-tempered like the sea-breeze at night.'
Unfortunately, the magazines paid but little, even for prose of the
above description, and Willis presently found himself in financial
difficulties; while, with all his acknowledged fascinations, he was
unlucky in his first love-affair. He became engaged to a beautiful
girl called Mary Benham, but her guardian broke off the match, and the
lady, who seems to have had an inclination for literary men,
afterwards married Motley, the historian of the Dutch Republic.

In 1831 the _American Monthly Magazine_ ceased to appear, and
Willis, leaving Boston and his creditors without regret, obtained the
post of assistant-editor on the _New York Mirror_, a weekly paper
devoted to literature, light fiction, and the fine arts. It was the
property of Morris, author of the once world-famous song, 'Woodman,
spare that Tree,' and the editor-in-chief was Theodore Fay, a novelist
of some distinction. Soon after his appointment it was decided that
Willis should be sent to Europe as foreign correspondent of his paper.
A sum of about a hundred pounds was scraped together for his expenses,
and it was arranged that he should write weekly letters at the rate of
two guineas a letter. In the autumn of 1831 he sailed in a
merchant-vessel for Havre, whence he journeyed to Paris in November.
Here he spent the first five or six months of his tour, and here began
the series of 'Pencillings by the Way,' a portion of which gained him
rather an unwelcome notoriety in English society by reason of the
'personalities' it contained. When published in book form the
Pencillings were considerably toned down, and the proper names were
represented by initials, so that people who read them then for the
first time wondered what all the excitement had been about. As the
chapters which relate to England are of most interest to English
readers, Willis's continental adventures need only be briefly noticed.
The extracts here quoted are taken from the original letters as they
appeared in the _New York Mirror_, which differ in many respects
from the version that was published in London after the attack by the
_Quarterly Review_.

In Paris Willis found himself in his element, and was made much of by
the Anglo-French community, which was then under the special patronage
of Lafayette. One of the most interesting of his new acquaintances was
the Countess Guiccioli, upon whose appearance and manners he comments
with characteristic frankness.

'I met the Guiccioli yesterday in the Tuileries,' he writes shortly
after his arrival. 'She looks much younger than I anticipated, and is
a handsome blonde, apparently about thirty. I am told by a gentleman
who knows her that she has become a great flirt, and is quite spoiled
by admiration. The celebrity of Lord Byron's attachment would
certainly make her a very desirable acquaintance were she much less
pretty than she really is, and I am told her drawing-room is thronged
with lovers of all nations contending for a preference which, having
once been given, should be buried, I think, for ever.' A little later
he has himself been introduced to the Guiccioli, and he describes an
interview which he has had with her, when the conversation turned upon
her friendship with Shelley.

'She gave me one of his letters to herself as an autograph,' he
narrates. 'She says he was at times a little crazy--_fou_, as she
expressed it--but there never was a nobler or a better man. Lord
Byron, she says, loved him as a brother.... There were several
miniatures of Byron hanging up in the room; I asked her if any of them
were perfect in the resemblance. "No," she said, "that is the most
like him," taking down a miniature by an Italian artist, "_mais il
était beaucoup plus beau--beaucoup--beaucoup_." She reiterated the
word with a very touching tenderness, and continued to look at the
portrait for some time.... She went on talking of the painters who had
drawn Byron, and said the American, West's, was the best likeness. I
did not tell her that West's portrait of herself was excessively
flattered. I am sure no one would know her, from the engraving at
least. Her cheek-bones are high, her forehead is badly shaped, and
altogether the frame of her features is decidedly ugly. She dresses in
the worst taste too, and yet for all this, and poetry and celebrity
aside, the countess is both a lovely and a fascinating woman, and one
whom a man of sentiment would admire at this age very sincerely, but
not for beauty.'

The cholera frightened Willis away from Paris in April, but before he
left, the United States minister, Mr. Rives, appointed him honorary
attaché to his own embassy, a great social advantage to the young man,
who was thereby enabled to obtain the _entrée_ into court circles
in every country that he visited. At the same time the appointment
somewhat misled his numerous new acquaintances on the subject of his
social position, while the 'spurious' attachéship afterwards became a
weapon in the hands of his enemies. However, for the time being, the
young correspondent thoroughly enjoyed his novel experiences, and
contrived to communicate his enjoyment to his readers. His letters
were eagerly read by his countrymen, and are said to have been copied
into no less than five hundred newspapers. He eschewed useful
information, gave impressions rather than statistics, and was fairly
successful in avoiding the style of the guide-book. The summer and
autumn of 1832 were spent in northern Italy, Florence being the
traveller's headquarters. He had letters of introduction to half the
Italian nobility, and was made welcome in the court circles of
Tuscany. In the autumn he was flirting at the Baths of Lucca, and at
this time he had formed a project of travelling to London by way of
Switzerland. 'In London,' he writes to his sister, 'I mean to make
arrangements with the magazines, and then live abroad altogether. It
costs so little here, and one lives so luxuriously too, and there is
so much to fill one's mind and eye, that I think of returning to naked
America with ever-increasing repugnance. I love my country, but the
_ornamental_ is my vocation, and of this she has none.' This
programme was changed, and Willis spent the winter between Rome,
Florence, and Venice. Wherever he went he made friends, but his
progress was in itself a feat of diplomacy, and few people dreamt that
the dashing young attaché depended for his living upon his
contributions to a newspaper, payment for which did not always arrive
with desirable punctuality. 'I have dined,' he writes to his mother,
'with a prince one day, and alone in a cook-shop the next.' He
explains that he can live on about sixty pounds a year at Florence,
paying four or five shillings a week for his rooms, breakfasting for
fourpence, and dining quite magnificently for a shilling.

In June 1833, Willis was invited by the officers of an American
frigate to accompany them on a six months' cruise in the
Mediterranean. This was far too good an offer to be refused, since it
would have been impossible to get a peep at the East under more ideal
conditions of travel. Willis's letters from Greece and Turkey are
among the best and happiest that he wrote, for the weather was
perfect, the company was pleasant (there were ladies on board), and
the reception they met with wherever they weighed anchor was most
hospitable; while the Oriental mode of life appealed to our hero's
highly-coloured, romantic taste. In the island of Ægina he was
introduced to Byron's Maid of Athens, once the beautiful Teresa Makri,
now plain Mrs. Black, with an ugly little boy, and a Scotch terrier
that snapped at the traveller's heels. He describes the
_ci-devant_ Maid of Athens as a handsome woman, with a clear dark
skin, and a nose and forehead that formed the straight line of the
Greek model.

'Her eyes are large,' he continues, 'and of a soft, liquid hazel, and
this is her chief beauty. There is that looking out of the soul
through them which Byron always described as constituting the
loveliness that most moved him.... We met her as simple Mrs. Black,
whose husband's terrier had worried us at the door, and we left her
feeling that the poetry she called forth from the heart of Byron was
her due by every law of loveliness.'

By this time the fame of the _Pencillings_ had reached London;
and at Smyrna Willis found a letter awaiting him from the _Morning
Herald_, which contained an offer of the post of foreign
correspondent at a salary of £200 a year. But as his letters would
have to be mainly political, and as he might be expected to act as
war-correspondent, which was scarcely in his line, he decided to
refuse the offer. On leaving the frigate he loitered through Italy,
Switzerland, and France to England, arriving at Dover on June 1, 1834.
While at Florence he had made the acquaintance of Walter Savage
Landor, who had given him some valuable letters of introduction to
people in England, among them one to Lady Blessington. Landor also put
into Willis's hands a package of books, whose temporary disappearance
through some mismanagement roused the formidable wrath of the old
poet. In his _Letter to an Author_, printed at the end of
_Pericles and Aspasia_, Landor describes the transaction (which
related to an American edition of the _Imaginary Conversations_),
and continues:--

'I regret the appearance of his book (the _Pencillings by the
Way_) more than the disappearance of mine.... My letter of
presentation to Lady Blessington threw open (I am afraid) too many
folding-doors, some of which have been left rather uncomfortably ajar.
No doubt his celebrity as a poet, and his dignity as a diplomatist,
would have procured him all those distinctions in society which he
allowed so humble a person as myself the instrumentality of
conferring. Greatly as I have been flattered by the visits of American
gentlemen, I hope that for the future no penciller of similar
composition will deviate in my favour to the right hand of the road
from Florence to Fiesole.'

The end of this storm in a teacup was that the books, which had safely
arrived in New York, returned as safely to London, where they were
handed over to their rightful owner, but not in time, as Willis
complained, to keep him from going down to posterity astride the finis
to _Pericles and Aspasia_. Long afterwards he expressed his hope
that Landor's biographers would either let him slip off at Lethe's
wharf, or else do him justice in a note. Before this unfortunate
incident, Landor and Willis had corresponded on cordial terms. The old
poet wrote to say how much he envied his correspondent the evenings he
passed in the society of 'the most accomplished and graceful of all
our fashionable world, my excellent friend, Lady Blessington,' while
the American could not sufficiently express his gratitude for the
introduction to that lady, 'my lodestar and most valued friend,' as he
called her, 'for whose acquaintance I am so much indebted to you, that
you will find it difficult in your lifetime to diminish my

Willis seems to have arrived in England prepared to like everything
English, and he began by falling in love with the Ship Hotel at Dover,
'with its bells that _would_ ring, doors that _would_ shut,
blazing coal fires [on June 1], and its landlady who spoke English,
and was civil--a greater contrast to the Continent could hardly he
imagined.' The next morning he was in raptures over the coach that
took him to London, with its light harness, four beautiful bays, and
dashing coachman, who discussed the Opera, and hummed airs from the
_Puritani_. He saw a hundred charming spots on the road that he
coveted with quite a heartache, and even the little houses and gardens
in the suburbs pleased his taste--there was such an _affectionateness_
in the outside of every one of them. Regent Street he declares to be
the finest street he has ever seen, and he exclaims, 'The Toledo of
Naples, the Corso of Rome, the Rue de la Paix, and the Boulevards
of Paris are really nothing to Regent Street.'

Willis called on Lady Blessington in the afternoon of the day after
his arrival, but was informed that her ladyship was not yet down to
breakfast. An hour later, however, he received a note from her
inviting him to call the same evening at ten o'clock. She was then
living at Seamore House, while D'Orsay had lodgings in Curzon Street.
Willis tells us that he found a very beautiful woman exquisitely
dressed, who looked on the sunny side of thirty, though she frankly
owned to forty, and was, in fact, forty-five. Lady Blessington
received the young American very cordially, introduced him to the
magnificent D'Orsay, and plunged at once into literary talk. She was
curious to know the degree of popularity enjoyed by English authors in
America, more especially by Bulwer and D'Israeli, both of whom she
promised that he should meet at her house.

'D'Israeli the elder,' she said, 'came here with his son the other
night. It would have delighted you to see the old man's pride in him.
As he was going away, he patted him on the head, and said, "Take care
of him, Lady Blessington, for my sake. He is a clever lad, but wants
ballast. I am glad he has the honour to know you, for you will check
him sometimes when I am away...." D'Israeli the younger is quite his
own character of Vivian Grey, crowded with talent, but very
_soigné_ of his curls, and a bit of a coxcomb. There is no
reverse about him, however, and he is the only _joyous_ dandy I
ever saw.' Then the conversation turned upon Byron, and Willis asked
if Lady Blessington had known La Guiccioli. 'No; we were at Pisa when
they were together,' she replied. 'But though Lord Blessington had the
greatest curiosity to see her, Lord Byron would never permit it. "She
has a red head of her own," said he, "and don't like to show it."
Byron treated the poor creature dreadfully ill. She feared more than
she loved him.'

On concluding this account of his visit, Willis observes that there
can be no objection to his publishing such personal descriptions and
anecdotes in an American periodical, since 'the English just know of
our existence, and if they get an idea twice a year of our progress in
politics, they are comparatively well informed. Our periodical
literature is never even heard of. I mention this fact lest, at first
thought, I might seem to have abused the hospitality or the frankness
of those on whom letters of introduction have given me claims for
civility.' Alas, poor Willis! He little thought that one of the most
distinguished and most venomous of British critics would make a long
arm across the Atlantic, and hold up his prattlings to ridicule and

The following evening our Penciller met a distinguished company at
Seamore House, the two Bulwers, Edward and Henry; James Smith of
'Rejected Addresses' fame; Fonblanque, the editor of the
_Examiner_; and the young Duc de Richelieu. Of Fonblanque, Willis
observes: 'I never saw a worse face, sallow, seamed, and hollow, his
teeth irregular, his skin livid, his straight black hair uncombed. A
hollow, croaking voice, and a small, fiery black eye, with a smile
like a skeleton's, certainly did not improve his physiognomy.'
Fonblanque, as might have been anticipated, did not at all appreciate
this description of his personal defects, when it afterwards appeared
in print. Edward Bulwer was quite unlike what Willis had expected. 'He
is short,' he writes, 'very much bent, slightly knock-kneed, and as
ill-dressed a man for a gentleman as you will find in London.... He
has a retreating forehead, large aquiline nose, immense red whiskers,
and a mouth contradictory of all talent. A more good-natured,
habitually smiling, nerveless expression could hardly be imagined.'
Bulwer seems to have made up for his appearance by his high spirits,
lover-like voice, and delightful conversation, some of which our
Boswell has reported.

'Smith asked Bulwer if he kept an amanuensis. "No," he said, "I
scribble it all out myself, and send it to the press in a most
ungentlemanlike hand, half print, half hieroglyphics, with all its
imperfections on its head, and correct in the proof--very much to the
dissatisfaction of the publisher, who sends me in a bill of £16, 6s.
4d. for extra corrections. Then I am free to confess I don't know
grammar. Lady Blessington, do you know grammar? There never was such a
thing heard of before Lindley Murray. I wonder what they did for
grammar before his day! Oh, the delicious blunders one sees when they
are irretrievable! And the best of it is the critics never get hold of
them. Thank Heaven for second editions, that one may scratch out one's
blots, and go down clean and gentlemanlike to posterity." Smith asked
him if he had ever reviewed one of his own books. "No, but I could!
And then how I should like to recriminate, and defend myself
indignantly! I think I could be preciously severe. Depend upon it,
nobody knows a book's faults so well as its author. I have a great
idea of criticising my books for my posthumous memoirs. Shall I,
Smith? Shall I, Lady Blessington?"'

Willis fell into conversation with the good-natured, though gouty
James Smith, who talked to him of America, and declared that there
never was so delightful a fellow as Washington Irving. 'I was once,'
he said, 'taken down with him into the country by a merchant to
dinner. Our friend stopped his carriage at the gate of his park, and
asked if we would walk through the grounds to the house. Irving
refused, and held me down by the coat-tails, so that we drove on to
the house together, leaving our host to follow on foot. "I make it a
principle," said Irving, "never to walk with a man through his own
grounds. I have no idea of praising a thing whether I like it or not.
You and I will do them to-morrow by ourselves."' 'The Rejected
Addresses,' continues Willis, 'got on his crutches about three o'clock
in the morning, and I made my exit with the rest, thanking Heaven
that, though in a strange country, my mother-tongue was the language
of its men of genius.'

One of the most interesting passages in the _Pencillings_ is that
in which Willis describes a breakfast at Crabb Robinson's chambers in
the Temple, where he met Charles and Mary Lamb, a privilege which he
seems thoroughly to have appreciated. 'I never in my life,' he
declares, 'had an invitation more to my taste. The _Essays of
Elia_ are certainly the most charming things in the world, and it
has been, for the last ten years, my highest compliment to the
literary taste of a friend to present him with a copy.... I arrived
half an hour before Lamb, and had time to learn something of his
peculiarities. Some family circumstances have tended to depress him of
late years, and unless excited by convivial intercourse, he never
shows a trace of what he once was. He is excessively given to
mystifying his friends, and is never so delighted as when he has
persuaded some one into a belief in one of his grave inventions....
There was a rap at the door at last, and enter a gentleman in black
small clothes and gaiters, short and very slight in his person, his
hair just sprinkled with grey, a beautiful, deep-set, grey eye,
aquiline nose, and a very indescribable mouth. His sister, whose
literary reputation is very closely associated with her brother's,
came in after him. She is a small, bent figure, evidently a victim to
ill-health, and hears with difficulty. Her face has been, I should
think, a fine, handsome one, and her bright grey eye is still full of
intelligence and fire....

'I had set a large arm-chair for Miss Lamb. "Don't take it, Mary,"
said Lamb, pulling it away from her very gravely. "It looks as if you
were going to have a tooth drawn." The conversation was very local,
but perhaps in this way I saw more of the author, for his manner of
speaking of their mutual friends, and the quaint humour with which he
complained of one, and spoke well of another, was so completely in the
vein of his inimitable writings, that I could have fancied myself
listening to an audible composition of new Elia. Nothing could be more
delightful than the kindness and affection between the brother and
sister, though Lamb was continually taking advantage of her deafness
to mystify her on every topic that was started. "Poor Mary," he said,
"she hears all of an epigram but the point." "What are you saying of
me, Charles?" she asked. "Mr. Willis," said he, raising his voice,
"admires your _Confessions of a Drunkard_ very much, and I was
saying that it was no merit of yours that you understood the subject."

'The conversation presently turned upon literary topics, and Lamb
observed: "I don't know much of your American authors. Mary, there,
devours Cooper's novels with a ravenous appetite with which I have no
sympathy. The only American book I ever read twice was the _Journal
of Edward Woolman_, a Quaker preacher and tinker, whose character
is one of the finest I ever met. He tells a story or two about negro
slaves that brought the tears into my eyes. I can read no prose now,
though Hazlitt sometimes, to be sure--but then Hazlitt is worth all
the modern prose-writers put together." I mentioned having bought a
copy of _Elia_ the last day I was in America, to send as a
parting gift to one of the most lovely and talented women in the
country. "What did you give for it?" asked Lamb. "About
seven-and-six." "Permit me to pay you that," said he, and with the
utmost earnestness he counted the money out on the table. "I never yet
wrote anything that would sell," he continued. "I am the publisher's
ruin. My last poem won't sell a copy. Have you seen it, Mr. Willis?" I
had not. "It is only eighteenpence, and I'll give you sixpence towards
it," and he described to me where I should find it sticking up in a
shop-window in the Strand.

'Lamb ate nothing, and complained in a querulous tone of the veal pie.
There was a kind of potted fish, which he had expected that our friend
would procure for him. He inquired whether there was not a morsel left
in the bottom of the last pot. Mr. Robinson was not sure. "Send and
see," said Lamb, "and if the pot has been cleaned, bring me the lid. I
think the sight of it would do me good." The cover was brought, upon
which there was a picture of the fish. Lamb kissed it with a
reproachful look at his friend, and then left the table and began to
wander round the room with a broken, uncertain step, as if he almost
forgot to put one leg before the other. His sister rose after a while,
and commenced walking up and down in the same manner on the opposite
side of the table, and in the course of half an hour they took their
leave.' Landor, in commenting on this passage, says it is evident that
Willis 'fidgeted the Lambs,' and seems rather unaccountably annoyed at
his having alluded to Crabb Robinson simply as 'a barrister.'

In London Willis appears to have fallen upon his feet from the very
first. To the end of his life he looked back upon his first two years
in England as the happiest and most successful period in his whole
career. It was small wonder that he became a little dazzled and
intoxicated by the brilliancy of his surroundings, which spoilt him
for the homelier conditions of American life. 'What a star is mine,'
he wrote to his sister Julia, three days after landing at Dover. 'All
the best society of London exclusives is now open to me--_me!_
without a sou in my pocket beyond what my pen brings me, and with not
only no influence from friends at home, but with a world of envy and
slander at my back.... In a literary way I have already had offers
from the _Court Magazine_, the _Metropolitan_, and the _New
Monthly_, of the first price for my articles. I sent a short
tale, written in one day, to the _Court Magazine_, and they gave
me eight guineas for it at once. I lodge in Cavendish Square, the most
fashionable part of the town, paying a guinea a week for my lodgings,
and am as well off as if I had been the son of the President.'

Willis was constantly at Lady Blessington's house, where he met some
of the best masculine society of the day. At one dinner-party among
his fellow-guests were D'Israeli, Bulwer, Procter (Barry Cornwall),
Lord Durham, and Sir Martin Shee. It was his first sight of Dizzy,
whom he found looking out of the window with the last rays of sunlight
reflected on the gorgeous gold flowers of an embroidered waistcoat. A
white stick with a black cord and tassel, and a quantity of chains
about his neck and pocket, rendered him rather a conspicuous object.
'D'Israeli,' says our chronicler, 'has one of the most remarkable
faces I ever saw. He is vividly pale, and but for the energy of his
action and the strength of his lungs, would seem a victim to
consumption. His eye is as black as Erebus, and has the most mocking,
lying-in-wait expression conceivable. His mouth is alive with a kind
of impatient nervousness, and when he has burst forth with a
particularly successful cataract of expression, it assumes a curl of
triumphant scorn that would be worthy of Mephistopheles. A thick,
heavy mass of jet-black ringlets falls over his left cheek almost to
his collarless stock, while on the right temple it is parted and put
away with the smooth carefulness of a girl's, and shines most
unctuously with "thy incomparable oil, Macassar."' Willis was always
interested in dress, being himself a born dandy, and he was inclined
to judge a man by the cut of his coat and the set of his hat. On this
occasion he remarks that Bulwer was very badly dressed as usual, while
Count D'Orsay was very splendid, but quite indefinable. 'He seemed
showily dressed till you looked to particulars, and then it seemed
only a simple thing well fitted to a very magnificent person.'

The conversation ran at first on Sir Henry Taylor's new play,
_Philip van Artevelde_, which the company thought overrated, and
then passed to Beckford, of _Vathek_ fame, who had already
retired from the world, and was living at Bath in his usual eccentric
fashion. Dizzy was the only person present who had met him, and,
declares Willis, 'I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the
sea as to convey an idea of the extraordinary language in which he
clothed his description. There were at least five words in every
sentence which must have been very much astonished at the use to which
they were put, and yet no others apparently could so well have
conveyed his idea. He talked like a racehorse approaching the
winning-post, every muscle in action, and the utmost energy of
expression flowing out in every burst. It is a great pity he is not in

At midnight Lady Blessington left the table, when the conversation
took a political turn, but D'Israeli soon dashed off again with a
story of an Irish dragoon who was killed in the Peninsular. 'His arm
was shot off, and he was bleeding to death. When told he could not
live, he called for a large silver goblet, out of which he usually
drank his claret. He held it to the gushing artery, and filled it to
the brim, then poured it slowly out upon the ground, saying, "If that
had been shed for old Ireland." You can have no idea how thrillingly
this little story was told. Fonblanque, however, who is a cold
political satirist, could see nothing in a man's "decanting his
claret" that was in the least sublime, so "Vivian Grey" got into a
passion, and for a while was silent.'

Willis was now fairly launched in London society, literary and
fashionable. He went to the Opera to hear Grisi, then young and
pretty, and Lady Blessington pointed out the beautiful Mrs. Norton,
looking like a queen, and Lord Brougham flirting desperately with a
lovely woman, 'his mouth going with the convulsive twitch that so
disfigures him, and his most unsightly of pug-noses in the strongest
relief against the red lining of the box.' He breakfasted with 'Barry
Cornwall,' whose poetry he greatly admired, and was introduced to the
charming Mrs. Procter and the 'yellow-tressed Adelaide,' then only
eight or nine years old. Procter gave his visitor a volume of his own
poems, and told him anecdotes of the various authors he had known,
Hazlitt, Lamb, Keats, and Shelley. Another interesting entertainment
was an evening party at Edward Bulwer's house. Willis arrived at
eleven, and found his hostess alone, playing with a King Charles'
spaniel, while she awaited her guests.

'The author of _Pelham_,' he writes, 'is a younger son, and
depends on his writings for a livelihood; and truly, measuring works
of fancy by what they will bring, a glance round his luxurious rooms
is worth reams of puffs in the Quarterlies. He lives in the heart of
fashionable London, entertains a great deal, and is expensive in all
his habits, and for this pay Messrs. Clifford, Pelham, and Aram--most
excellent bankers. As I looked at the beautiful woman before me,
waiting to receive the rank and fashion of London, I thought that
close-fisted old literature never had better reason for his partial

Willis was astonished at the neglect with which the female portion of
the assemblage was treated, no young man ever speaking to a young lady
except to ask her to dance. 'There they sit with their mammas,' he
observes, 'their hands before them in the received attitude; and if
there happens to be no dancing, looking at a print, or eating an ice,
is for them the most entertaining circumstance of the evening. Late in
the evening a charming girl, who is the reigning belle of Naples, came
in with her mother from the Opera, and I made this same remark to her.
"I detest England for that very reason," she said frankly. "It is the
fashion in London for young men to prefer everything to the society of
women. They have their clubs, their horses, their rowing matches,
their hunting, and everything else is a _bore_! How different are
the same men at Naples! They can never get enough of one there."...
She mentioned several of the beaux of last winter who had returned to
England. "Here have I been in London a month, and these very men who
were at my side all day on the Strada Nuova, and all but fighting to
dance three times with me of an evening, have only left their cards.
Not because they care less about me, but because it is not the
fashion--it would be talked about at the clubs; it is _knowing_
to let us alone."'

There were only three men at the party, according to Willis, who could
come under the head of _beaux_, but there were many distinguished
persons. There was Byron's sister, Mrs. Leigh, a thin, plain,
middle-aged woman, of a serious countenance, but with very cordial,
pleasing manners. Sheil, the famous Irish orator, small, dark,
deceitful, and talented-looking, with a squeaky voice, was to be seen
in earnest conversation with the courtly old Lord Clarendon.
Fonblanque, with his pale, dislocated-looking face, was making the
amiable, with a ghastly smile, to Lady Stepney, author of _The Road
to Ruin_ and other fashionable novels. The bilious Lord Durham,
with his Brutus head and severe countenance, high-bred in appearance
in spite of the worst possible coat and trousers, was talking politics
with Bowring. Prince Moscowa, son of Marshal Ney, a plain,
determined-looking young man, was unconscious of everything but the
presence of the lovely Mrs. Leicester Stanhope. Her husband,
afterwards Sir Leicester, who had been Byron's companion in Greece,
was introduced to Willis, and the two soon became on intimate terms.

In the course of the season Willis made the acquaintance of Miss
Mitford, who invited him to spend a week with her at her cottage near
Reading. In a letter to her friend, Miss Jephson, Miss Mitford says:
'I also like very much Mr. Willis, an American author, who is now
understood to be here to publish his account of England. He is a very
elegant young man, more like one of the best of our peers' sons than a
rough republican.' The admiration was apparently mutual, for Willis,
in a letter to the author of _Our Village_, says: 'You are
distinguished in the world as the "gentlewoman" among authoresses, as
you are for your rank merely in literature. I have often thought you
very enviable for the universality of that opinion about you. You
share it with Sir Philip Sidney, who was in his day the
_gentleman_ among authors. I look with great interest for your
new tragedy. I think your mind is essentially dramatic; and in that,
in our time, you are alone. I know no one else who could have written
_Rienzi_, and I felt _Charles I._ to my fingers' ends, as one
feels no other modern play.'

Willis was less happy in his relations with Harriet Martineau, to whom
he was introduced just before her departure for America. 'While I was
preparing for my travels,' she writes, in her own account of the
interview, 'an acquaintance brought a buxom gentleman, whom he
introduced under the name of Willis. There was something rather
engaging in the round face, brisk air, and _enjouement_ of
the young man; but his conscious dandyism and unparalleled
self-complacency spoiled the satisfaction, though they increased the
inclination to laugh.... He whipped his bright little boot with his
bright little cane, while he ran over the names of all his
distinguished fellow-countrymen, and declared that he would send me
letters to them all.' Miss Martineau further relates that the few
letters she presented met with a very indifferent reception. Her
indignation increased when she found that in his private
correspondence Willis had given the impression that she was one of his
most intimate friends. In his own account of the interview he merely
says: 'I was taken by the clever translator of Faust to see the
celebrated Miss Martineau. She has perhaps at this moment the most
general and enviable reputation in England, and is the only one of the
literary clique whose name is mentioned without some envious

A budget of literary news sent to the _Mirror_ includes such
items as that 'D'Israeli is driving about in an open carriage with
Lady S., looking more melancholy than usual. The absent baronet, whose
place he fills, is about to bring an action against him, which will
finish his career, unless he can coin the damages in his brain. Mrs.
Hemans is dying of consumption in Ireland. I have been passing a week
at a country-house, where Miss Jane Porter [author of _Scottish
Chiefs_] and Miss Pardoe [author of _Beauties of the Bosphorus_]
were staying. Miss Porter is one of her own heroines grown old,
a still noble wreck of beauty.... Dined last week with Joanna
Baillie at Hampstead--the most charming old lady I ever saw.
To-day I dine with Longman, to meet Tom Moore, who is living
_incog._ near this Nestor of publishers, and pegging hard at his
_History of Ireland_.... Lady Blessington's new book makes a
great noise. Living as she does twelve hours out of the twenty-four in
the midst of the most brilliant and intellectually exhausting circle
in London, I only wonder how she found time to write it. Yet it was
written in six weeks! Her novels sell for a hundred pounds more than
any other author's, except Bulwer's. Bulwer gets £1400; Lady
Blessington, £400; Mrs. Norton, £250; Lady Charlotte Bury, £200;
Grattan, £300; and most other authors below this. Captain Marryat's
gross trash sells immensely about Wapping and Portsmouth, and brings
him in £500 or £600 the book--but that can scarce be called
literature. D'Israeli cannot sell a book _at all_, I hear. Is not
that odd? I would give more for one of his books than for forty of the
common saleable things about town.'

One more description of a literary dinner at Lady Blessington's may be
quoted before Willis's account of this, his first and most memorable
London season, is brought to an end. Among the company on this
occasion were Moore, D'Israeli, and Dr. Beattie, the King's physician,
who was himself a poet. Moore had been ruralising for a year at
Slopperton Cottage, and, before his arrival, D'Israeli expressed his
regret that he should have been met on his return to town with a
savage article in _Fraser_ on his supposed plagiarisms. Lady
Blessington declared that he would never see it, since he guarded
himself against the sight and knowledge of criticism as other people
guarded against the plague. Some one remarked on Moore's passion for
rank. 'He was sure to have five or six invitations to dine on the same
day,' it was said, 'and he tormented himself with the idea that he had
perhaps not accepted the most exclusive. He would get off from an
engagement with a countess to dine with a marchioness, and from a
marchioness to accept the invitation of a duchess. As he cared little
for the society of men, and would sing and be delightful only for the
applause of women, it mattered little whether one circle was more
talented than another.' At length Mr. Moore was announced, and the
poet, 'sliding his little feet up to Lady Blessington, made his
compliments with an ease and gaiety, combined with a kind of
worshipping deference, that were worthy of a prime minister at the
Court of Love.... His eyes still sparkle like a champagne bubble,
though the invader has drawn his pencillings about the corners; and
there is a kind of wintry red that seems enamelled on his cheek, the
eloquent record of the claret his wit has brightened. His mouth is the
most characteristic feature of all. The lips are delicately cut, and
as changeable as an aspen; but there is a set-up look about the lower
lip--a determination of the muscle to a particular expression, and you
fancy that you can see wit astride upon it. It is arch, confident, and
half diffident, as if he were disguising his pleasure at applause,
while another bright gleam of fancy was breaking upon him. The
slightly tossed nose confirms the fun of his expression, and
altogether it is a face that sparkles, beams, and radiates.'

The conversation at dinner that night was the most brilliant that the
American had yet heard in London. Sir Walter Scott was the first
subject of discussion, Lady Blessington having just received from Sir
William Gell the manuscript of a volume on the last days of Sir Walter
Scott, a melancholy chronicle of ruined health and weakened intellect,
which was afterwards suppressed. Moore then described a visit he had
paid to Abbotsford, when his host was in his prime. 'Scott,' he said,
'was the most manly and natural character in the world. His
hospitality was free and open as the day; he lived freely himself, and
expected his guests to do the same.... He never ate or drank to
excess, but he had no system; his constitution was Herculean, and he
denied himself nothing. I went once from a dinner-party at Sir Thomas
Lawrence's to meet Scott at another house. We had hardly entered the
room when we were set down to a hot supper of roast chicken, salmon,
punch, etc., and Sir Walter ate immensely of everything. What a
contrast between this and the last time I saw him in London! He had
come to embark for Italy, quite broken down both in mind and body. He
gave Mrs. Moore a book, and I asked him if he would make it more
valuable by writing in it. He thought I meant that he should write
some verses, and said, "I never write poetry now." I asked him to
write only his name and hers, and he attempted it, but it was quite

O'Connell next became the topic of conversation, and Moore declared
that he would be irresistible if it were not for two blots on his
character, viz. the contributions in Ireland for his support, and his
refusal to give satisfaction to the man he was willing to attack.
'They may say what they will of duelling,' he continued, 'but it is
the great preserver of the decencies of society. The old school which
made a man responsible for his words was the better.' Moore related
how O'Connell had accepted Peel's challenge, and then delayed a
meeting on the ground of his wife's illness, till the law interfered.
Another Irish patriot refused a meeting on account of the illness of
his daughter, whereupon a Dublin wit composed the following epigram
upon the two:--

   'Some men with a horror of slaughter,
      Improve on the Scripture command.
   And honour their--wife and their daughter--
      That their days may be long in the land.'

Alluding to Grattan's dying advice to his son, 'Always be ready with
the pistol,' Moore asked, 'Is it not wonderful that, with all the
agitation in Ireland, we have had no such men since his time? The
whole country in convulsion--people's lives, fortune, religion at
stake, and not a gleam of talent from one's year's end to another. It
is natural for sparks to be struck out in a time of violence like
this--but Ireland, for all that is worth living for, _is dead_!
You can scarcely reckon Sheil of the calibre of the spirits of old,
and O'Connell, with all his faults, stands alone in his glory.'

In the drawing-room, after dinner, some allusion to the later
Platonists caused D'Israeli to flare up. His wild black eyes
glistened, and his nervous lips poured out eloquence, while a whole
ottomanful of noble exquisites listened in amazement. He gave an
account of Thomas Taylor, one of the last of the Platonists, who had
worshipped Jupiter in a back-parlour in London a few years before. In
his old age he was turned out of his lodgings, for attempting, as he
said, to worship his gods according to the dictates of his conscience,
his landlady having objected to his sacrificing a bull to Jupiter in
her parlour. The company laughed at this story as a good invention,
but Dizzy assured them it was literally true, and gave his father as
his authority. Meanwhile Moore 'went glittering on' with criticisms
upon Grisi and the Opera, and the subject of music being thus
introduced, he was led, with great difficulty, to the piano. Willis
describes his singing as 'a kind of admirable recitative, in which
every shade of thought is syllabled and dwelt upon, and the sentiment
of the song goes through your blood, warming you to the very eyelids,
and starting your tears if you have a soul or sense in you. I have
heard of women fainting at a song of Moore's; and if the burden of it
answered by chance to a secret in the bosom of the listener, I should
think that the heart would break with it. After two or three songs of
Lady Blessington's choice, he rambled over the keys a while, and then
sang 'When first I met thee' with a pathos that beggars description.
When the last word had faltered out, he rose and took Lady
Blessington's hand, said Good-night, and was gone before a word was
uttered. For a full minute after he closed the door no one spoke. I
could have wished for myself to drop silently asleep where I sat, with
the tears in my eyes and the softness upon my heart.'


Having received invitations to stay with Lord Dalhousie and the Duke
of Gordon, Willis went north at the beginning of September, 1834. The
nominal attraction of Scotland he found, rather to his dismay, was the
shooting. The guest, he observes, on arriving at a country-house, is
asked whether he prefers a flint or a percussion lock, and a
double-barrelled Manton is put into his hands; while after breakfast
the ladies leave the table, wishing him good sport. 'I would rather
have gone to the library,' says the Penciller. 'An aversion to
walking, except upon smooth flag-stones, a poetical tenderness on the
subject of putting birds "out of their misery," and hands much more at
home with the goose-quill than the gun, were some of my private
objections to the order of the day.' At Dalhousie, the son of the
house, Lord Ramsay, and his American visitor were mutually astonished
at each other's appearance when they met in the park, prepared for a
morning's sport.

'From the elegant Oxonian I had seen at breakfast,' writes Willis, 'he
(Lord Ramsay) was transformed into a figure something rougher than his
Highland dependant, in a woollen shooting-jacket, pockets of any
number and capacity, trousers of the coarsest plaid, hobnailed shoes
and leather gaiters, and a habit of handling his gun that would have
been respected on the Mississippi. My own appearance in high-heeled
French boots and other corresponding gear, for a tramp over stubble
and marsh, amused him equally; but my wardrobe was exclusively
metropolitan, and there was no alternative.' It was hard and exciting
work, the novice discovered, to trudge through peas, beans, turnips,
and corn, soaked with showers, and muddied to the knees till his
Parisian boots were reduced to the consistency of brown paper. He came
home, much to his own relief, without having brought the blood of his
host's son and heir on his head, and he made a mental note never to go
to Scotland again without hobnailed boots and a shooting-jacket.

On leaving Dalhousie Willis spent a few days in Edinburgh, where he
breakfasted with Professor Wilson, _alias_ Christopher North. The
Professor, he says, talked away famously, quite oblivious of the fact
that the tea was made, and the breakfast-dishes were smoking on the
table. He spoke much of Blackwood, who then lay dying, and described
him as a man of the most refined literary taste, whose opinion of a
book he would trust before that of any one he knew. Wilson inquired if
his guest had made the acquaintance of Lockhart. 'I have not,' replied
Willis. 'He is almost the only literary man in London I have not met;
and I must say, as the editor of the _Quarterly Review_, and the
most unfair and unprincipled critic of the day, I have no wish to know
him. I never heard him well spoken of. I have probably met a hundred
of his acquaintances, but I have not yet seen one who pretended to be
his friend.' Wilson defended the absent one, who, he said, was the
mildest and most unassuming of men, and dissected a book for pleasure,
without thinking of the feelings of the author.

The breakfast had been cooling for an hour when the Professor leant
back, with his chair still towards the fire, and 'seizing the teapot
as if it were a sledge-hammer, he poured from one cup to the other
without interrupting the stream, overrunning both cup and saucer, and
partly flooding the tea-tray. He then set the cream towards me with a
carelessness that nearly overset it, and in trying to reach an egg
from the centre of the table, broke two. He took no notice of his own
awkwardness, but drank his cup of tea at a single draught, ate his egg
in the same expeditious manner, and went on talking of the "Noctes,"
and Lockhart, and Blackwood, as if eating his breakfast were rather a
troublesome parenthesis in his conversation.' Wilson offered to give
his guest letters to Wordsworth and Southey, if he intended to return
by the Lakes. 'I lived a long time in their neighbourhood,' he said,
'and know Wordsworth perhaps as well as any one. Many a day I have
walked over the hills with him, and listened to his repetition of his
own poetry, which, of course, filled my mind completely at the time,
and perhaps started the poetical vein in me, though I cannot agree
with the critics that my poetry is an imitation of Wordsworth's.'

'Did Wordsworth repeat any other poetry than his own?'

'Never in a single instance, to my knowledge. He is remarkable for the
manner in which he is wrapped up in his own poetical life. Everything
ministers to it. Everything is done with reference to it. He is all
and only a poet.'

'What is Southey's manner of life?'

'Walter Scott said of him that he lived too much with women. He is
secluded in the country, and surrounded by a circle of admiring
friends, who glorify every literary project he undertakes, and
persuade him, in spite of his natural modesty, that he can do nothing
wrong. He has great genius, and is a most estimable man.'

On the same day that he breakfasted with Wilson, this fortunate
tourist dined with Jeffrey, with whom Lord Brougham was staying.
Unluckily, Brougham was absent, at a public dinner given to Lord Grey,
who also happened to be in Edinburgh at the time. Willis was charmed
with Jeffrey, with his frank smile, hearty manner, and graceful style
of putting a guest at his ease. But he cared less for the political
conversation at table. 'It had been my lot,' he says, 'to be thrown
principally among Tories (_Conservatives_ is the new name) since
my arrival in England, and it was difficult to rid myself at once of
the impressions of a fortnight passed in the castle of a Tory earl. My
sympathies on the great and glorious occasion [the Whig dinner to Lord
Grey] were slower than those of the rest of the company, and much of
their enthusiasm seemed to me overstrained. Altogether, I entered less
into the spirit of the hour than I could have wished. Politics are
seldom witty or amusing; and though I was charmed with the good sense
and occasional eloquence of Lord Jeffrey, I was glad to get upstairs
to _chasse-café_ and the ladies.'

Willis aggravated a temporary lameness by dancing at the ball that
followed the Whig banquet, and was compelled to abandon a charming
land-route north that he had mapped out, and allow himself to be taken
'this side up' on a steamer to Aberdeen. Here he took coach for
Fochabers, and thence posted to Gordon Castle. At the castle he found
himself in the midst of a most distinguished company; the page who
showed him to his room running over the names of Lord Aberdeen and
Lord Claude Hamilton, the Duchess of Richmond and her daughter, Lady
Sophia Lennox, Lord and Lady Stormont, Lord and Lady Mandeville, Lord
and Lady Morton, Lord Aboyne, Lady Keith, and twenty other lesser
lights. The duke himself came to fetch his guest before dinner, and
presented him to the duchess and the rest of the party. In a letter to
Lady Blessington Willis says: 'I am delighted with the duke and
duchess. He is a delightful, hearty old fellow, full of fun and
conversation, and she is an uncommonly fine woman, and, without
beauty, has something agreeable in her countenance. _Pour
moi-méme_, I get on better everywhere than in your presence. I only
fear I talk too much; but all the world is particularly civil to me,
and among a score of people, no one of whom I had ever seen yesterday,
I find myself quite at home to-day.'

The ten days at Gordon Castle Willis afterwards set apart in his
memory as 'a bright ellipse in the usual procession of joys and
sorrows.' He certainly made the most of this unique opportunity of
observing the manners and customs of the great. The routine of life at
the castle was what each guest chose to make it. 'Between breakfast
and lunch,' he writes, 'the ladies were usually invisible, and the
gentlemen rode, or shot, or played billiards. At two o'clock a dish or
two of hot game and a profusion of cold meats were set on small
tables, and everybody came in for a kind of lounging half meal, which
occupied perhaps an hour. Thence all adjourned to the drawing-room,
under the windows of which were drawn up carriages of all
descriptions, with grooms, outriders, footmen, and saddle-horses for
gentlemen and ladies. Parties were then made up for driving or riding,
and from a pony-chaise to a phaeton and four, there was no class of
vehicle that was not at your disposal. In ten minutes the carriages
were all filled, and away they flew, some to the banks of the Spey or
the seaside, some to the drives in the park, and all with the
delightful consciousness that speed where you would, the horizon
scarce limited the possessions of your host, and you were everywhere
at home. The ornamental gates flying open at your approach; the herds
of red deer trooping away from the sound of your wheels; the stately
pheasants feeding tamely in the immense preserves; the stalking
gamekeepers lifting their hats in the dark recesses of the
forest--there was something in this perpetual reminder of your
privileges which, as a novelty, was far from disagreeable. I could
not, at the time, bring myself to feel, what perhaps would be more
poetical and republican, that a ride in the wild and unfenced forest
of my own country would have been more to my taste.'

Willis came to the conclusion that a North American Indian, in his
more dignified phase, closely resembled an English nobleman in manner,
since it was impossible to astonish either. All violent sensations, he
observes, are avoided in high life. 'In conversation nothing is so
"odd" (a word that in English means everything disagreeable) as
emphasis, or a startling epithet, or gesture, and in common
intercourse nothing is so vulgar as any approach to "a scene." For all
extraordinary admiration, the word "capital" suffices; for all
ordinary praise, the word "nice"; for all condemnation in morals,
manners, or religion, the word "odd.".... What is called an
overpowering person is immediately shunned, for he talks too much, and
excites too much attention. In any other country he would be
considered amusing. He is regarded here as a monopoliser of the
general interest, and his laurels, talk he never so well, overshadow
the rest of the company.'

On leaving Gordon Castle, Willis crossed Scotland by the Caledonian
Canal, and from Fort William jolted in a Highland cart through Glencoe
to Tarbet on Lomond. Thence the regulation visits were paid to Loch
Katrine, the Trossachs and Callander. Another stay at Dalhousie Castle
gave the tourist an opportunity of seeing Abbotsford, where he heard
much talk of Sir Walter Scott. Lord Dalhousie had many anecdotes to
tell of Scott's school-days, and Willis recalled some reminiscences of
the Wizard that he had heard from Moore in London. 'Scott was the soul
of honesty,' Moore had said. 'When I was on a visit to him, we were
coming up from Kelso at sunset, and as there was to be a fine moon, I
quoted to him his own rule for seeing "fair Melrose aright," and
proposed to stay an hour and enjoy it. "Bah," said Scott. "I never saw
it by moonlight." We went, however, and Scott, who seemed to be on the
most familiar terms with the cicerone, pointed to an empty niche, and
said to him: "I think I have a Virgin and Child that will just do for
your niche. I'll send it to you." "How happy you have made that man,"
I said. "Oh," said Scott, "it was always in the way, and Madam Scott
is constantly grudging it house-room. We're well rid of it." Any other
man would have allowed himself at least the credit of a kind action.'

After a stay at a Lancashire country-house, Willis arrived at
Liverpool, where he got his first sight of the newly-opened railway to
Manchester. In the letters and journals of the period, it is rather
unusual to come upon any allusion to the great revolution in
land-travelling. We often read of our grandfathers' astonishment at
the steam-packets that crossed the Atlantic in a fortnight, but they
seem to have slid into the habit of travelling by rail almost as a
matter of course, much as their descendants have taken to touring in
motor-cars. Willis the observant, however, has left on record his
sensations during his first journey by rail.

'Down we dived into the long tunnel,' he relates, 'emerging from the
darkness at a pace that made my hair sensibly tighten, and hold on
with apprehension. Thirty miles in the hour is pleasant going when one
is a little accustomed to it, it gives one such a pleasant contempt
for time and distance. The whizzing past of the return trains, going
in the opposite direction with the same degree of velocity--making you
recoil in one second, and a mile off the next--was the only thing
which, after a few minutes, I did not take to very kindly.'

Willis adds to our obligations by reporting the cries of the newsboys
at the Elephant and Castle, where all the coaches to and from the
South stopped for twenty minutes. On the occasion that our traveller
passed through, the boys were crying 'Noospipper, sir! Buy the morning
pippers, sir! _Times, Herald, Chrinnicle,_ and _Munning Post_,
sir--contains Lud Brum's entire innihalation of Lud Nummanby--Ledy
Flor 'Estings' murder by Lud Melbun and the Maids of Honour--debate
on the Croolty-Hannimals Bill, and a fatil catstrophy in conskens
of loosfer matches! Sixpence, only sixpence!'

In November Willis returned to London, and took lodgings in Vigo
Street. During the next ten months he seems to have done a good deal
of work for the magazines, and to have been made much of in society as
a literary celebrity. His stories and articles, which appeared in the
_New Monthly Magazine_ under the pseudonym of Philip Slingsby,
were eagerly read by the public of that day. He was presented at
court, admitted to the Athenacum and Travellers' Clubs, and patronised
by Lady Charlotte Bury and Lady Stepney, ladies who were in the habit
of writing bad novels, and giving excellent dinners. Madden, Lady
Blessington's biographer, who saw a good deal of Willis at this time,
says that he was an extremely agreeable young man, somewhat
over-dressed, and a little too _démonstratif_, but abounding in
good spirits. 'He was observant and communicative, lively and clever
in conversation, having the peculiar art of making himself agreeable
to ladies, old and young, _dégagé_ in his manner, and on exceedingly
good terms with himself.'

Not only had Willis the _entrée_ into fashionable Bohemia, but he
was well received in many families of unquestionable respectability.
Elderly and middle-aged ladies were especially attracted by his
flattering attentions and deferential manners, and at this time two of
his most devoted friends were Mrs. Shaw of the Manor House, Lee, a
daughter of Lord Erskine, and Mrs. Skinner of Shirley Park, the wife
of an Indian nabob. Their houses were always open to him, and he says
in a letter to his mother: 'I have two homes in England where I am
loved like a child. I had a letter from Mrs. Shaw, who thought I
looked low-spirited at the opera the other night. "Young men have but
two causes of unhappiness," she writes, "love and money. If it is
_money_, Mr. Shaw wishes me to say you shall have as much as you
want; if it is _love_, tell us the lady, and perhaps we can help
you." I spend my Sundays alternately at their splendid country-house,
and at Mrs. Skinner's, and they can never get enough of me. I am often
asked if I carry a love-philter with me.'

At Shirley Park, Willis struck up a friendship with Jane Porter, and
made the acquaintance of Lady Morgan, Praed, John Leech, and Martin
Tupper. Mrs. Skinner professed to be extremely anxious to find him a
suitable wife, and in a confidential letter to her, he writes: 'You
say if you had a daughter you would give her to me. If you _had_
one, I should certainly take you at your word, provided this
_exposé_ of my poverty did not change your fancy. I should like
to marry in England, and I feel every day that my best years and best
affections are running to waste. I am proud to _be_ an American,
but as a literary man, I would rather _live_ in England. So if
you know of any affectionate and _good_ girl who would be content
to live a quiet life, and could love your humble servant, you have
full power to dispose of me, _provided_ she has five hundred a
year, or as much more as she likes. I know enough of the world to cut
my throat, rather than bring a delicate woman down to a dependence on
my brains for support.'

In March of this year, 1835, Willis produced his _Melanie, and other
Poems_, which was 'edited' by Barry Cornwall. He received the
honour of a parody in the _Bon Gaultier Ballads_, entitled 'The
Fight with the Snapping Turtle, or the American St. George.' In this
ballad Willis and Bryant are represented as setting out to kill the
Snapping Turtle, spurred on by the offer of a hundred dollars reward.
The turtle swallows Willis, but is thereupon taken ill, and having
returned him to earth again, dies in great agony. When he claims the
reward, he is informed that:--

   'Since you dragged the tarnal crittur
    From the bottom of the ponds,
    Here's the hundred dollars due you
    _All in Pennsylvanian bonds._'

At the end of the poem is a drawing of a pair of stocks, labelled 'The
only good American securities,' Willis seems to have been too busy to
Boswellise this season, but we get a glimpse of him in his letters to
Miss Mitford, and one or two of the notes in his diary are worth
quoting. On April 22 he writes to the author of _Our Village_ in
his usual flattering style: 'I am anxious to see your play and your
next book, and I quite agree with you that the drama is your
_pied_, though I think laurels, and spreading ones, are sown for
you in every department of writing. Nobody ever wrote better prose,
and what could not the author of _Rienzi_ do in verse. For
myself, I am far from considering myself regularly embarked in
literature, and if I can live without it, or ply any other vocation,
shall vote it a thankless trade, and save my "entusymussy" for my wife
and children--when I get them. I am at present steeped to the lips in
London society, going to everything, from Devonshire House to a
publisher's dinner in Paternoster Row, and it is not a bad _olla
podrida_ of life and manners. I dote on "England and true English,"
and was never so happy, or so at a loss to find a minute for care or

In his diary for June 30, Willis notes: 'Breakfasted with Samuel
Rogers. Talked of Mrs. Butler's book, and Rogers gave us suppressed
passages. Talked critics, and said that as long as you cast a shadow,
you were sure that you possessed substance. Coleridge said of Southey,
"I never think of him but as mending a pen." Southey said of
Coleridge, "Whenever anything presents itself to him in the form of a
duty, that moment he finds himself incapable of looking at it."' On
July 9 we have the entry: 'Dined with Dr. Beattie, and met Thomas
Campbell.... He spoke of Scott's slavishness to men of rank, but said
it did not interfere with his genius. Said it sunk a man's heart to
think that he and Byron were dead, and there was nobody left to praise
or approve.... He told a story of dining with Burns and a Bozzy
friend, who, when Campbell proposed the health of _Mr_. Burns,
said, "Sir, you will always be known as _Mr_. Campbell, but
posterity will talk of _Burns_." He was playful and amusing, and
drank gin and water.'

While staying with the Skinners in August, Willis met his fate in the
person of Miss Mary Stace, daughter of a General Stace. After a week's
acquaintance he proposed to her, and was accepted. She was, we are
told, a beauty of the purest Saxon type, with a bright complexion,
blue eyes, light-brown hair, and delicate, regular features. Her
disposition was clinging and affectionate, and she had enjoyed the
religious bringing up that her lover thought of supreme importance to
a woman. General Stace agreed to allow his daughter £300 a year, which
with the £400 that Willis made by his pen, was considered a sufficient
income for the young couple to start housekeeping upon.

Willis, who had promised to pay Miss Mitford a visit in the autumn,
writes to her on September 22, to explain that all his plans were
altered. 'Just before starting with Miss Jane Porter on a tour that
was to include Reading,' he says, 'I went to a picnic, fell in love
with a blue-eyed girl, and (after running the gauntlet successfully
through France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Asia Minor, and Turkey) I
renewed my youth, and became "a suitor for love." I am to be married
(_sequitur_) on Thursday week.... The lady who is to take me, as
the Irish say, "in a present," is some six years younger than myself,
gentle, religious, relying, and unambitious. She has never been
whirled through the gay society of London, so is not giddy or vain.
She has never swum in a gondola, or written a sonnet, so has a proper
respect for those who have. She is called pretty, but is more than
that in _my_ eyes; sings as if her heart were hid in her lips,
and _loves_ me.... We are bound to Paris for a month (because I
think amusement better than reflection when a woman makes a doubtful
bargain), and by November we return to London for the winter, and in
the spring sail for America to see my mother. I have promised to live
mainly on this side of the water, and shall return in the course of a
year to try what contentment may be sown and reaped in a green lane in

While the happy pair were on their honeymoon, Lady Blessington had
undertaken to see the _Pencillings by the Way_ through the press.
For the first edition Willis received £250, but he made, from first to
last, about a thousand pounds by the book. Its appearance in volume
form had been anticipated by Lockhart's scathing review in the
_Quarterly_ for September 1835. The critic, annoyed at Willis's
strictures on himself in the interview with Professor Wilson, attacked
the _Pencillings_, as they had appeared in the _New York Mirror_,
with all proper names printed in full, and many personal
details that were left out in the English edition. Lockhart always
knew how to stab a man in the tenderest place, and he stabbed Willis
in his gentility. After pointing out that while visiting in London and
the provinces as a young American sonneteer of the most
ultra-sentimental delicacy, the Penciller was all the time the regular
paid correspondent of a New York Journal, he observes that the letters
derive their powers of entertainment chiefly from the light that they
reflect upon the manners and customs of the author's own countrymen,
since, from his sketches of English interiors, the reader may learn
what American breakfast, dinners, and table-talk are _not_; or at
all events what they were not in those circles of American society
with which the writer happened to be familiar.

'Many of _this person's_ discoveries,' continues Lockhart,
warming to his work, 'will be received with ridicule in his own
country, where the doors of the best houses were probably not opened
to him as liberally as those of the English nobility. In short, we are
apt to consider him as a just representative--not of the American mind
and manners generally--but only of the young men of fair education
among the busy, middling orders of mercantile cities. In his letters
from Gordon Castle there are bits of solid, full-grown impudence and
impertinence; while over not a few of the paragraphs is a varnish of
conceited vulgarity which is too ludicrous to be seriously
offensive.... We can well believe that Mr. Willis depicted the sort of
society that most interests his countrymen, "born to be slaves and
struggling to be lords," their servile adulation of rank and talent;
their stupid admiration of processions and levees, are leading
features of all the American books of travel.... We much doubt if all
the pretty things we have quoted will so far propitiate Lady
Blessington as to make her again admit to her table the animal who has
printed what ensues. [Here follows the report of Moore's conversation
on the subject of O'Connell.] As far as we are acquainted with English
or American literature, this is the first example of a man creeping
into your home, and forthwith, before your claret is dry on his lips,
printing _table-talk on delicate subjects, and capable of
compromising individuals_.'

The _Quarterly_ having thus given the lead, the rest of the Tory
magazines gaily followed suit. Maginn flourished his shillelagh, and
belaboured his victim with a brutality that has hardly ever been
equalled, even by the pioneer journals of the Wild West. 'This is a
goose of a book,' he begins, 'or if anybody wishes the idiom changed,
the book of a goose. There is not an idea in it beyond what might
germinate in the brain of a washerwoman.' He then proceeds to call the
author by such elegant names as 'lickspittle,' 'beggarly skittler,'
jackass, ninny, haberdasher, 'fifty-fifth rate scribbler of
gripe-visited sonnets,' and 'namby-pamby writer in twaddling albums
kept by the mustachioed widows or bony matrons of Portland Place.'

The people whose hospitality Willis was accused of violating wrote to
assure him of the pleasure his book had given them. Lord Dalhousie
writes: 'We all agree in one sentiment, that a more amusing and
delightful production was never issued by the press. The Duke and
Duchess of Gordon were here lately, and expressed themselves in
similar terms.' Lady Blessington did not withdraw her friendship, but
Willis admits, in one of his letters, that he had no deeper regret
than that his indiscretion should have checked the freedom of his
approach to her. As a result of the slashing reviews, the book sold
with the readiness of a _succés de scandale_, though it had been
so rigorously edited for the English market, that very few
indiscretions were left.

The unexpurgated version of the _Pencillings_ was, however,
copied into the English papers and eagerly read by the persons most
concerned, such as Fonblanque, who bitterly complained of the libel
upon his personal appearance, O'Connell, who broke off his lifelong
friendship with Moore, and Captain Marryat, who was furious at the
remark that his 'gross trash' sold immensely in Wapping. Like
Lockhart, he revenged himself by an article in his own magazine, the
_Metropolitan_, in which he denounced Willis as a 'spurious
attaché,' and made dark insinuations against his birth and parentage.
This attack was too personal to be ignored. Willis demanded an
apology, to which Marryat replied with a challenge, and after a long
correspondence, most of which found its way into the _Times_, a
duel was fixed to take place at Chatham. At the last moment the
seconds managed to arrange matters between their principals, and the
affair ended without bloodshed. This was fortunate for Willis, who was
little used to fire-arms, whilst Marryat was a crack shot.

In his preface to the first edition of the _Pencillings_ Willis
explains that the ephemeral nature and usual obscurity of periodical
correspondence gave a sufficient warrant to his mind that his
descriptions would die where they first saw the light, and that
therefore he had indulged himself in a freedom of detail and topic
only customary in posthumous memoirs. He expresses his astonishment
that this particular sin should have been visited upon him at a
distance of three thousand miles, when the _Quarterly_ reviewer's
own fame rested on the more aggravated instance of a book of
personalities published under the very noses of the persons described
(_Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk_). After observing that he was
little disposed to find fault, since everything in England pleased
him, he proceeds: 'In one single instance I indulged myself in
strictures upon individual character.... I but repeated what I had
said a thousand times, and never without an indignant echo to its
truth, that the editor of that Review was the most unprincipled critic
of the age. Aside from its flagrant literary injustice, we owe to the
_Quarterly_ every spark of ill-feeling that has been kept alive
between England and America for the last twenty years. The sneers, the
opprobrious epithets of this bravo of literature have been received in
a country where the machinery of reviewing was not understood, as the
voice of the English people, and animosity for which there was no
other reason has been thus periodically fed and exasperated. I
conceive it to be my duty as a literary man--I _know_ it is my
duty as an American--to lose no opportunity of setting my heel on this
reptile of criticism. He has turned and stung me. Thank God, I have
escaped the slime of his approbation.'

The winter was spent in London, and in the following March Willis
brought out his _Inklings of Adventure_, a reprint of the stories
that had appeared in various magazines over the signature of Philip
Slingsby. These were supposed to be real adventures under a thin
disguise of fiction, and the public eagerly read the tawdry little
tales in the hope of discovering the identities of the _dramatis
personæ_. The majority of the 'Inklings' deal with the romantic
adventures of a young literary man who wins the affection of high-born
ladies, and is made much of in aristrocratic circles. The author
revels in descriptions of luxurious boudoirs in which recline
voluptuous blondes or exquisite brunettes, with hearts always at the
disposal of the all-conquering Philip Slingsby. Fashionable fiction,
however, was unable to support the expense of a fashionable
establishment, and in May 1836 the couple sailed for America. Willis
hoped to obtain a diplomatic appointment, and return to Europe for
good, but all his efforts were vain, and he was obliged to rely on his
pen for a livelihood. His first undertaking was the letterpress for an
illustrated volume on American scenery; and for some months he
travelled about the country with the artist who was responsible for
the illustrations. On one of his journeys he fell in love with a
pretty spot on the banks of the Owego Creek, near the junction with
the Susquehanna, and bought a couple of hundred acres and a house,
which he named Glenmary after his wife.

Here the pair settled down happily for some five years, and here
Willis wrote his pleasant, gossiping _Letters from Under a
Bridge_ for the _New York Mirror_. In these he prattled of his
garden, his farm, his horses and dogs, and the strangers within his
gates. Unfortunately, he was unable to devote much attention to his
farm, which was said to grow nothing but flowers of speed, but was
forced to spend more and more time in the editorial office, and to
write hastily and incessantly for a livelihood. In 1839, owing to a
temporary coolness with the proprietor of the _Mirror_, Willis
accepted the proposal of his friend, Dr. Porter, that he should start
a new weekly paper called the _Corsair_, one of a whole crop of
pirate weeklies that started up with the establishment of the first
service of Atlantic liners. In May 1839 the first steam-vessel that
had crossed the ocean anchored in New York Harbour, and thenceforward
it was possible to obtain supplies from the European literary markets
within a fortnight of publication. It was arranged between Dr. Parker
and Willis that the cream of the contemporary literature of England,
France, and Germany should be conveyed to the readers of the
_Corsair_, and of course there was no question of payment to the
authors whose wares were thus appropriated.

The first number of the _Corsair_ appeared in January 1839, but
apparently piracy was not always a lucrative trade, for the paper had
an existence of little more than a year. In the course of its brief
career, however, Willis paid a flying visit to England, where he
accomplished a great deal of literary business. He had written a play
called _The Usurer Matched_, which was brought out by Wallack at
the Surrey Theatre, and is said to have been played to crowded houses
during a fairly long run, but neither this nor any of his other plays
brought the author fame or fortune. During this season he published
his _Loiterings of Travel_, a collection of stories and sketches,
a fourth edition of the _Pencillings_, an English edition of
_Letters from Under a Bridge_, and arranged with Virtue for works
on Irish and Canadian scenery. In addition to all this, he was
contributing jottings in London to the _Corsair_. As might be
supposed, he had not much time for society, but he met a few old
friends, made acquaintance with Kemble and Kean, went to a ball at
Almack's, and was present at the famous Eglinton Tournament, which
watery catastrophe he described for his paper. One of the most
interesting of his new acquaintances was Thackeray, then chiefly
renowned as a writer for the magazines. On July 26 Willis writes to
Dr. Porter:--

'I have engaged a new contributor to the _Corsair_. Who do you
think? The author of _Yellowplush_ and _Major Gahagan_. He has
gone to Paris, and will write letters from there, and afterwards
from London for a guinea a _close_ column of the _Corsair_--cheaper
than I ever did anything in my life. For myself, I think him the
very best periodical writer alive. He is a royal, daring, fine
creature too.' In his published _Jottings_, Willis told his readers
that 'Mr. Thackeray, the author, breakfasted with me yesterday,
and the _Corsair_ will be delighted to hear that I have  engaged
this cleverest and most gifted of all the magazine-writers of
London to become _a regular correspondent of the Corsair_....
Thackeray is a tall, athletic-looking man of about forty-five
[he was actually only eight-and-twenty], with a look of talent that
could never be mistaken. He is one of the most accomplished
draughtsmen in England, as well as the most brilliant of
periodical writers.' Thackeray only wrote eight letters for the
_Corsair_, which were afterwards republished in his _Paris
Sketch-book_. There is an allusion to this episode in _The
Adventures of Philip_, the hero being invited to contribute to a
New York journal called _The Upper Ten Thousand_, a phrase
invented by Willis.

When the _Corsair_ came to an untimely end, Willis had no
difficulty in finding employment on other papers. He is said to have
been the first American magazine-writer who was tolerably well paid,
and at one time he was making about a thousand a year by periodical
work. That his name was already celebrated among his own countrymen
seems to be proved by the story of a commercial gentleman at a Boston
tea-party who 'guessed that Goethe was the N.P. Willis of Germany.'
The tales written about this time were afterwards collected into a
volume called _Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil_. Thackeray made
great fun of this work in the _Edinburgh Review_ for October
1845, more especially of that portion called 'The Heart-book of Ernest
Clay.' 'Like Caesar,' observed Thackeray, 'Ernest Clay is always
writing of his own victories. Duchesses pine for him, modest virgins
go into consumption and die for him, old grandmothers of sixty forget
their families and their propriety, and fall on the neck of this "Free
Pencil."' He quotes with delight the description of a certain Lady
Mildred, one of Ernest Clay's numerous loves, who glides into the room
at a London tea-party, 'with a step as elastic as the nod of a
water-lily. A snowy turban, from which hung on either temple a cluster
of crimson camellias still wet with the night-dew; long raven curls of
undisturbed grace falling on shoulders of that indescribable and dewy
coolness which follows a morning bath.' How naively, comments the
critic, does this nobleman of nature recommend the use of this rare

In spite of his popularity, Willis's affairs were not prospering at
this time. He had received nothing from the estate of his
father-in-law, who died in 1839, his publisher failed in 1842, and he
was obliged to sell Glenmary and remove to New York, whence he had
undertaken to send a fortnightly letter to a paper at Washington. This
was the year of Dickens's visit to America, and Willis was present at
the 'Boz Ball,' where he danced with Mrs. Dickens, to whom he
afterwards did the honours of Broadway. In 1843 Willis made up his
difference with Morris, and again became joint-editor of the
_Mirror_, which, a year later, was changed from a weekly to a
daily paper. His contributions to the journal consisted of stories,
poems, letters, book-notices, answers to correspondents, and editorial
gossip of all kinds.

In March 1845 Mrs. Willis died in her confinement, leaving her
(temporarily) broken-hearted husband with one little girl. 'An angel
without fault or foible' was his epitaph upon the woman to whom, in
spite of his many fictitious _bonnes fortunes_, he is said to
have been faithfully attached. But Willis was not born to live alone,
and in the following summer he fell in love with a Miss Cornelia
Grinnell at Washington, and was married to her in October, 1846. The
second Mrs. Willis was nearly twenty years younger than her husband,
but she was a sensible, energetic young woman, who made him an
excellent wife.

The title of the _Mirror_ had been changed to that of _The Home
Journal_, and under its new name it became a prosperous paper.
Willis, who was the leading spirit of the enterprise, set himself to
portray the town, chronicling plays, dances, picture-exhibitions,
sights and entertainments of all kinds in the airy manner that was so
keenly appreciated by his countrymen. He was recognised as an
authority on fashion, and his correspondence columns were crowded with
appeals for guidance in questions of dress and etiquette. He was also
a favourite in general society, though he is said to have been, next
to Fenimore Cooper, the best-abused man of letters in America. One of
his most pleasing characteristics was his ready appreciation and
encouragement of young writers, for he was totally free from
professional jealousy. He was the literary sponsor of Aldrich, Bayard
Taylor, and Lowell, among others, and the last-named alludes to Willis
in his _Fable for Critics_ (1848) in the following flattering

   'His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on't,
   As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont;
   So his best things are done in the heat of the moment.
     *       *        *        *       *
   He'd have been just the fellow to sup at the 'Mermaid,'
   Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the barmaid,
   His wit running up as Canary ran down,--
   The topmost bright bubble on the wave of the town.'

After 1846 Willis wrote little except gossiping paragraphs and other
ephemera. In answer to remonstrances against this method of frittering
away his talents, he was accustomed to reply that the public liked
trifles, and that he was bound to go on 'buttering curiosity with the
ooze of his brains.' He read but little in later life, nor associated
with men of high intellect or serious aims, but showed an
ever-increasing preference for the frivolous and the feminine. In 1850
he published another volume of little magazine stories called
_People I have Met_. This appeared in London as well as in New
York, and Thackeray again revenged himself for that close column which
had been rewarded by an uncertain guinea, by holding up his former
editor to ridicule. With mischievous delight he describes the
amusement that is to be found in N.P. Willis's society, 'amusement at
the immensity of N.P.'s blunders; amusement at the prodigiousness of
his self-esteem; amusement always with or at Willis the poet, Willis
the man, Willis the dandy, Willis the lover--now the Broadway
Crichton--once the ruler of fashion and heart-enslaver of Bond Street,
and the Boulevard, and the Corso, and the Chiaja, and the
Constantinople Bazaars. It is well for the general peace of families
that the world does not produce many such men; there would be no
keeping our wives and daughters in their senses were such fascinators
to make frequent apparitions among us; but it is comfortable that
there should have been a Willis; and as a literary man myself, and
anxious for the honour of that profession, I am proud to think that a
man of our calling should have come, should have seen, should have
conquered as Willis has done.... There is more or less of truth, he
nobly says, in these stories--more or less truth, to be sure there
is--and it is on account of this more or less truth that I for my part
love and applaud this hero and poet. We live in our own country, and
don't know it; Willis walks into it, and dominates it at once. To know
a duchess, for instance, is given to very few of us. He sees things
that are not given to us to see. We see the duchess in her carriage,
and gaze with much reverence on the strawberry-leaves on the panels,
and her grace within; whereas the odds are that that lovely duchess
has had, one time or the other, a desperate flirtation with Willis the
Conqueror. Perhaps she is thinking of him at this very moment, as her
jewelled hand presses her perfumed handkerchief to her fair and
coroneted brow, and she languidly stops to purchase a ruby bracelet at
Gunter's, or to sip an ice at Howell and James's. He must have whole
mattresses stuffed with the blonde or raven or auburn tresses of
England's fairest daughters. When the female English aristocracy read
the title of _People I have Met_, I can fancy the whole female
peerage of Willis's time in a shudder; and the melancholy marchioness,
and the abandoned countess, and the heart-stricken baroness trembling
as each gets the volume, and asks of her guilty conscience, "Gracious
goodness, is the monster going to show up me?"'

In 1853 Willis, who had been obliged to travel for the benefit of his
declining health, took a fancy to the neighbourhood of the Hudson, and
bought fifty acres of waste land, upon which he built himself a house,
and called the place Idlewild. Here he settled down once more to a
quiet country life, took care of his health, cultivated his garden,
and wrote long weekly letters to the _Home Journal_. He had by
this time five children, middle age had stolen upon him, and now that
he could no longer pose as his own allconquering hero, his hand seems
to have lost its cunning. His editorial articles, afterwards published
under the appropriate title of _Ephemera_, grew thinner and
flatter with the passing of the years; yet slight and superficial as
the best of them are, they were the result of very hard writing. His
manuscripts were a mass of erasures and interlineations, but his copy
was so neatly prepared that even the erasures had a sort of 'wavy
elegance' which the compositors actually preferred to print. His
mannerisms and affectations grew upon him in his later years, and he
became more and more addicted to the coining of new words and phrases,
only a few of which proved effective. Besides the now well-worn term,
the 'upper ten thousand,' he is credited with the invention of
'Japonicadom,' 'come-at-able,' and 'stay-at-home-ativeness.' One or
two of his sayings may be worth quoting, such as his request for
Washington Irving's blotting-book, because it was the door-mat on
which the thoughts of his last book had wiped their sandals before
they went in; and his remark that to ask a literary man to write a
letter after his day's work was like asking a penny-postman to take a
walk in the evening for the pleasure of it.

On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Willis went to Washington as
war-correspondent of his paper. It does not appear that he saw any
harder service than the dinners and receptions of the capitol, since
an opportune fit of illness prevented his following the army to Bull's
Run. The correspondent who took his place on the march had his career
cut short by a Southern bullet. Willis, meanwhile, was driving about
with Mrs. Lincoln, with whom he became a favourite, although she
reproached him for his want of tact in speaking of her 'motherly
expression' in one of his published letters, she being at that time
only thirty-six. He met Hawthorne at Washington, and describes him as
very shy and reserved in manner, but adds, 'I found he was a lover of
mine, and we enjoyed our acquaintance very much.' One of the minor
results of the great Civil War was the extinguishing of Willis's
literary reputation; his frothy trifling suddenly became obsolete when
men had sterner things to think about than the cut of a coat, or the
etiquette of a morning call. The nation began to demand realities,
even in its fiction, the circulation of the _Home Journal_ fell
off, and Willis, who had always affected a horror of figures and
business matters generally, found himself in financial difficulties.
He was obliged to let Idlewild, and return, in spite of his rapidly
failing health, to the editorial office at New York.

The last few years of Willis's career afford a melancholy contrast to
its brilliant opening. Health, success, prosperity--all had deserted
him, and nothing remained but the editorial chair, to which he clung
even after epileptic attacks had resulted in paralysis and gradual
softening of the brain. The failure of his mental powers was kept
secret as long as possible, but in November, 1866, he yielded to the
entreaties of his wife and children, knocked off work for ever, and
went home to die. His last few months were passed in helpless
weakness, and he only occasionally recognised those around him. The
end came on January 20, 1867, his sixty-first birthday.

Selections from Willis's prose works have been published within recent
years in America, and a new edition of his poems has appeared in
England, while a carefully written Life by Mr. De Beers is included in
the series of 'American Men of Letters.' But in this country at least
his fame, such as it is, will rest upon his sketches of such
celebrities as Lamb, Moore, Bulwer, D'Orsay, and D'Israeli. As long as
we retain any interest in them and their works, we shall like to know
how they looked and dressed, and what they talked about in private
life. It is impossible altogether to approve of the Penciller--his
absurdities were too marked, and his indiscretions too many--yet it is
probable that few who have followed his meteor-like career will be
able to refrain from echoing Thackeray's dictum: 'It is comfortable
that there should have been a Willis!'



[Illustration: Lady Hester Stanhope from a drawing by R. J. Hamerton]

There are few true stories that are distinguished by a well-marked
moral. If we study human chronicles we generally find the ungodly
flourishing permanently like a green bay-tree, and the righteous
apparently forsaken and begging his bread. But it occasionally happens
that a human life illustrates some moral lesson with the triteness and
crudity of a Sunday-school book, and of such is the career of Lady
Hester Stanhope, a Pitt on the mother's side, and more of a Pitt in
temper and disposition than her grandfather, the great Commoner
himself. Her story contains the useful but conventional lesson that
pride goeth before a fall, and that all earthly glory is but vanity,
together with a warning against the ambition that o'erleaps itself,
and ends in failure and humiliation. That humanity will profit by such
a lesson, whether true or invented for didactic purposes, is doubtful,
but at least Nature has done her best for once to usurp the seat of
the preacher, 'to point a moral and adorn a tale.' Lady Hester, who
was born on March 12,1776, was the eldest daughter of Charles, third
Earl of Stanhope, by his first wife Hester, daughter of the great Lord
Chatham. Lord Stanhope seems to have been an uncomfortable person, who
combined scientific research with democratic principles, and contrived
to quarrel with most of his family. In order to live up to his
theories he laid down his carriage and horses, effaced the armorial
bearings from his plate, and removed from his walls some famous
tapestry, because it was 'so d----d aristocratical.' If one of his
daughters happened to look better than usual in a becoming hat or
frock, he had the garment laid away, and something coarse put in its
place. The children were left almost entirely to the care of
governesses and tutors, their step-mother, the second Lady Stanhope (a
Grenville by birth) being a fashionable fine lady, who devoted her
whole time to her social duties, while Lord Stanhope was absorbed by
his scientific pursuits. The home was not a happy one, either for the
three girls of the first marriage, or for the three sons of the
second. In 1796 Rachel, the youngest daughter, eloped with a Sevenoaks
apothecary named Taylor, and was cast off by her family; and in 1800
Griselda, the second daughter, married a Mr. Tekell, of Hampshire. In
this year Hester left her home, which George III used to call
Democracy Hall, and went to live with her grandmother, the Dowager
Lady Stanhope.

On the death of Lady Stanhope in 1803, Lady Hester was offered a home
by her uncle, William Pitt, with whom she remained until his death in
1806. Pitt became deeply attached to his handsome, high-spirited
niece. He believed in her sincerity and affection for himself, admired
her courage and cleverness, laughed at her temper, and encouraged her
pride. She seems to have gained a considerable influence over her
uncle, and contrived to have a finger in most of the ministerial pies.
When reproached for allowing her such unreserved liberty of action in
state affairs, Pitt was accustomed to reply, 'I let her do as she
pleases; for if she were resolved to cheat the devil himself, she
would do it.' 'And so I would,' Lady Hester used to add, when she told
the story. If we may believe her own account, Pitt told her that she
was fit to sit between Augustus and Mæcenas, and assured her that 'I
have plenty of good diplomatists, but they are none of them military
men; and I have plenty of good officers, but not one of them is worth
sixpence in the cabinet. If you were a man, Hester, I would send you
on the Continent with 60,000 men, and give you _carte blanche_,
and I am sure that not one of my plans would fail, and not one soldier
would go with his boots unblacked.' This admiration, according to the
same authority, was shared by George III, who one day on the Terrace
at Windsor informed Mr. Pitt that he had got a new and superior
minister in his room, and one, moreover, who was a good general.
'There is my new minister,' he added, pointing at Lady Hester. 'There
is not a man in my kingdom who is a better politician, and there is
not a woman who better adorns her sex. And let me say, Mr. Pitt, you
have not reason to be proud you are a minister, for there have been
many before you, and will be many after you; but you have reason to be
proud of her, who unites everything that is great in man and woman.'

All this must, of course, be taken with grains of salt, but it is
certain that Lady Hester occupied a position of almost unparalleled
supremacy for a woman, that she dispensed patronage, lectured
ministers, and snubbed princes. On one occasion Lord Mulgrave, who had
just been appointed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, found a
broken egg-spoon on the breakfast-table at Walmer, and asked, 'How can
Mr. Pitt have such a spoon as this?' 'Don't you know,' retorted Lady
Hester, 'that Mr. Pitt sometimes uses very slight and weak instruments
wherewith to effect his ends?' Again, when Mr. Addington wished to
take the title of Lord Raleigh, Lady Hester determined to prevent what
she regarded as a desecration of a great name. She professed to have
seen a caricature, which she minutely described, representing Mr.
Addington as Sir Walter Raleigh, and the King as Queen Elizabeth. Mr.
Pitt, believing the story, repeated it to Addington and others, with
the result that messengers were despatched to all the print-shops to
buy up the whole impression. Of course no such caricature was to be
found, but the prospective peer had received a fright, and chose the
inoffensive title of Lord Sidmouth. Lady Hester despised Lord
Liverpool for a well-meaning blunderer, but she hated and distrusted
Canning, whom she was accustomed to describe as a fiery, red-headed
Irish politician, who was never staunch to any person or any party;
and she declared that by her scoldings she had often made him blubber
like a schoolboy. It cannot be supposed that her ladyship was popular
with the numerous persons, high and low, who came under the ban of her
displeasure, or suffered from her pride; but she was young, handsome,
and witty, her position was unassailable, and as long as her uncle
chose to laugh at her insolence and her eccentricities, no lesser
power presumed to frown.

For her beauty in youth we must again take her own account on trust,
since she never consented to sit for her portrait, and in old age her
recollection of her vanished charms may have been coloured by some
pardonable exaggeration. 'At twenty,' she told a chronicler, 'my
complexion was like alabaster, and at five paces distant the sharpest
eyes could not discover my pearl necklace from my skin. My lips were
of such a beautiful carnation that, without vanity, I can assure you,
very few women had the like. A dark-blue shade under the eyes, and the
blue veins that were observable through the transparent skin,
heightened the brilliancy of my features. Nor were the roses wanting
in my cheeks; and to all this was added a permanency in my looks that
no sort of fatigue could impair.' She was fond of relating an anecdote
of a flattering impertinence on the part of Beau Brummell, who,
meeting her at a ball, coolly took the earrings out of her ears,
telling her that she should not wear such things, as they hid the fine
turn of her cheek, and the set of head upon her neck. Lady Hester
frankly admitted, however, that it was her brilliant colouring that
made her beauty, and once observed, in reply to a compliment on her
appearance: 'If you were to take every feature in my face, and lay
them one by one on the table, there is not a single one that would
bear examination. The only thing is that, put together and lighted up,
they look well enough. It is homogeneous ugliness, and nothing more.'

With Pitt's death in January, 1806, as by the stroke of a magic wand,
all the power, all the glory, and all the grandeur came to a sudden
end, and the great minister's favourite niece fell to the level of a
private lady, with a moderate income, no influence, and a host of
enemies. On his deathbed, Pitt had asked that an annuity of £1500
might be granted to Lady Hester, but in the end only £1200 was awarded
to her, a trifling income for one with such exalted ideas of her own
importance. A house was taken in Montagu Square, where Lady Hester
entertained her half-brothers, Charles and James Stanhope, when their
military duties allowed of their being in town. Here she led but a
melancholy life, for her means would not allow of her keeping a
carriage, and she fancied that it was incompatible with her dignity to
drive in a hackney-coach, or to walk out attended by a servant. In
1809 Charles Stanhope, like his chief, Sir John Moore, fell at
Corunna. Charles was Lady Hester's favourite brother, and tradition
says that Sir John Moore was her lover. Be that as it may, she broke
up her establishment in town at this time, and retired to a lonely
cottage in Wales, where she amused herself in superintending her dairy
and physicking the poor. But she suffered in health and spirits, the
contrast of the present with the past was too bitter to be endured in
solitude, and in 1810 she decided to go abroad, and spend a year or
two in the south. A young medical man, Dr. Meryon, [Footnote:
Afterwards Lady Hester's chronicler.] was engaged to accompany her as
her travelling physician, and the party further consisted of her
brother, James Stanhope, and a friend, Mr. Nassau Sutton, together
with two or three servants. Lady Hester was only thirty when her uncle
died, but it does not seem to have been considered that she required
any chaperonage, either at home or on her travels, nor does it appear
that Lord Stanhope (who lived till 1816) took any further interest in
her proceedings.

On February 10, 1810, the travellers sailed for the Mediterranean on
board the frigate _Jason_. It is not necessary to follow them
over the now familiar ground of the early part of their tour.
Gibraltar (whence Captain Stanhope left to join his regiment at
Cadiz), Malta, Athens, Constantinople, these were the first
stopping-places, and in each Lady Hester was treated with great
respect by the authorities, and went her own way in defiance of all
native customs and prejudices. At Athens her party was joined by Lord
Sligo, who was making some excavations in the neighbourhood, and by
Lord Byron, who had just won fresh laurels by swimming the Hellespont.
Lady Hester formed but a poor opinion of the poet, whose affectations
she used to mimic with considerable effect. 'I think Lord Byron was a
strange character,' she said, many years later. 'His generosity was
for a motive, his avarice was for a motive; one time he was mopish,
and nobody was to speak to him; another, he was for being jocular with
everybody.... At Athens I saw nothing in him but a well-bred man, like
many others: for as for poetry, it is easy enough to write verses; and
as for the thoughts, who knows where he got them? Many a one picks up
some old book that nobody knows anything about, and gets his ideas out
of it. He had a great deal of vice in his looks--his eyes set close
together, and a contracted brow. O Lord! I am sure he was not a
liberal man, whatever else he might be. The only good thing about his
looks was this part [drawing her hand under her cheek, and down the
front of her neck], and the curl on his forehead.'

The winter of 1810 was passed at Constantinople, and the early part of
1811 at the Baths of Brusa. As Lady Hester had decided to spend the
following winter in Egypt, a Greek vessel was hired for herself and
her party, which now consisted of two gentlemen, Mr. Bruce and Mr.
Pearce, besides her usual retinue, and on October 23 the travellers
set sail for Alexandria. After experiencing contrary winds for two or
three weeks, the ship sprang a leak, and the cry of 'All hands to the
pumps' showed that danger was imminent. Lady Hester took the
announcement of the misfortune with the greatest calmness, dressed
herself, and ordered her maid to pack a small box with a few
necessaries. It soon became evident that the ship could not keep
afloat much longer, and that the passengers and crew must take to the
long-boat if they wished to escape with their lives. They contrived,
in spite of the high sea that was running, to steer their boat into a
little creek on a rock off the island of Rhodes, and here, without
either food or water, they remained for thirty hours before they were
rescued, and taken ashore. Even then their state was hardly less
pitiable, for they were wet through, had no change of clothes, and
possessed hardly enough money for their immediate necessities. Lady
Hester described her adventure in the following letter, dated Rhodes,
December, 1811:--

'I write one line by a ship which came in here for a few hours, just
to tell you we are safe and well. Starving thirty hours on a bare
rock, without even fresh water, being half naked and drenched with
wet, having traversed an almost trackless country over dreadful rocks
and mountains, laid me up at a village for a few days, but I have
since crossed the island on an ass, going for six hours a day, which
proves I am pretty well, now, at least.... My locket, and the valuable
snuff-box Lord Sligo gave me, and two pelisses, are all I have
saved--all the travelling-equipage for Smyrna is gone; the servants
naked and unarmed; but the great loss of all is the medicine-chest,
which saved the lives of so many travellers in Greece.'

As they had lost nearly all their clothes, and knew that it would be
impossible to procure a European refit in these regions, the
travellers decided to adopt Turkish costumes. Dr. Meryon made a
journey to Smyrna, where he raised money, and bought necessary
articles for the shipwrecked party at Rhodes. On his return, laden
with purchases, after an absence of five weeks, 'the packing-cases
were opened [to quote his own description], and we assumed our new
dresses. Ignorant at that time of the distinctions of dress which
prevail in Turkey, every one flattered himself that he was habited
becomingly. Lady Hester and Mr. Bruce little suspected, what proved to
be the case, that their exterior was that of small gentry, and Mr.
Pearce and myself thought we were far from looking like
_Chaôoshes_ with our yatagans stuck in our girdles.' Lady Hester,
it may be noted, had determined to adopt the dress of a Turkish
gentleman, in order that she might travel unveiled, a proceeding that
would have been impossible in female costume.

The offer of a passage on a British frigate from Rhodes to Alexandria
was gladly accepted by Lady Hester and her friends, and on February
14, 1812, they got their first glimpse of the Egyptian coast. After a
fortnight spent in Alexandria, they proceeded to Cairo, where the
pasha, who had never seen an Englishwoman of rank before, desired the
honour of a visit from Lady Hester. In order to dazzle the eyes of her
host, she arrayed herself in a magnificent Tunisian costume of purple
velvet, elaborately embroidered in gold. For her turban and girdle she
bought two cashmere shawls that cost £50 each, her pantaloons cost
£40, her pelisse and waistcoat £50, her sabre £20, and her saddle £35,
while other articles necessary for the completion of the costume cost
a hundred pounds more. The pasha sent five horses to convey herself
and her friends to the palace, and much honour was shown her in the
number of silver sticks that walked before her, and in the privilege
accorded to her of dismounting at the inner gate. After the interview,
the pasha reviewed his troops before his distinguished visitor, and
presented her with a charger, magnificently caparisoned, which she
sent to England as a present to the Duke of York, her favourite among
all the royal princes.

The next move was to Jaffa, where preparations were made for the
regulation pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In her youth Lady Hester had been
told by Samuel Brothers, the Prophet, that she was to visit Jerusalem,
to pass seven years in the desert, to become the Queen of the Jews,
and to lead forth a chosen people. Now, as she journeyed towards the
Holy City with her cavalcade of eleven camels and thirteen horses, she
saw the first part of the prophecy fulfilled, and laughingly avowed
that she expected to see its final accomplishment. Lady Hester had now
replaced her gorgeous Tunisian dress by a travelling Mameluke's
costume, consisting of a satin vest, a red cloth jacket shaped like a
spencer, and trimmed with gold lace, and loose, full trousers of the
same cloth. Over this she wore a flowing white burnous, whose folds
formed a becoming drapery to her majestic figure. In this costume she
was generally mistaken by the natives for a young Bey with his
moustaches not yet grown, but we are told that her assumption of male
dress was severely criticised by the English residents in the Levant.

From Jerusalem the party made a leisurely tour through Syria, visiting
Cæsarea, Acre, Nazareth, Sayda, where Lady Hester was entertained by
her future enemy, the Emir Beshyr, prince of the Drûzes, and on
September 1, 1812, arrived at Damascus, where a lengthened stay was
made. Lady Hester had been warned that it would be dangerous for a
woman, unveiled and in man's dress, to enter Damascus, which was then
one of the most fanatical towns in all the Turkish dominions. But the
granddaughter of Pitt feared neither Turk nor Christian, and rode
through the streets daily with uncovered face, and though crowds
assembled to see her start, she received honours instead of the
expected insults. 'A grave yet pleasing look,' writes her chronicler,
'an unembarrassed yet commanding demeanour, met the ideas of the
Turks, whose manners are of this caste.... When it is considered how
fanatical the people of Damascus were, and in what great abhorrence
they held infidels; that native Christians could only inhabit a
particular quarter of the town; and that no one of these could ride on
horseback within the walls, or wear as part of his dress any coloured
cloth or showy turban, it will be a matter for surprise how completely
these prejudices were set aside in favour of Lady Hester, and of those
persons who were with her. She rode out every day, and according to
the custom of the country, coffee was poured on the ground before her
horse to do her honour. It was said that, in going through a bazaar,
all the people rose up as she passed, an honour never paid but to a
pasha, or to the mufti.'

From the moment of her arrival at Damascus, Lady Hester had busied
herself in arranging for a journey to the ruins of Palmyra. The
expedition was considered not only difficult but dangerous, and she
was assured that a large body of troops would be necessary to protect
her from the robber tribes of the desert. While the practicability of
the enterprise was still being anxiously discussed by her Turkish
advisers, Lady Hester received a visit from a certain Nasar, son of
Mahannah, Emir of the Anizys [Footnote: Dr. Meryon's somewhat erratic
spelling of Oriental names is followed throughout this memoir.] (the
collective name given to several of the Bedouin tribes ranging that
part of the desert), who told her that he had heard of her proposed
expedition, and that he came to warn her against attempting to cross
the desert under military escort, since in that case she would be
treated as an enemy by the tribes. But, he added, if she would place
herself under the protection of the Arabs, and rely upon their honour,
they would pledge themselves to conduct her from Hamah to Palmyra and
back again in safety. The result of this interview was that Lady
Hester declined the pasha's offer of troops, and leaving the doctor to
wind up affairs at Damascus she departed alone, ostensibly for Hamah,
a city on the highroad to Aleppo. But having secretly arranged a
meeting with the Emir Mahannah in the desert, she rode straight to his
camp, accompanied by Monsieur and Madame Lascaris, who were living in
the neighbourhood, and by a Bedouin guide. In a letter to General
Oakes, dated January 25, 1813, she gives the following account of her
first experiment upon the good faith of the Arabs:--

'I went with the great chief, Mahannah el Fadel (who commands 40,000
men), into the desert for a week, and marched for three days with
their camp. I was treated with the greatest respect and hospitality,
and it was the most curious sight I ever saw; horses and mares fed
upon camel's milk; Arabs living upon little else except rice; the
space around me covered with living things; 1600 camels coming to
water from one tribe only; the old poets from the banks of the
Euphrates singing the praises of the ancient heroes; women with lips
dyed bright blue, and nails red, and hands all over flowers and
different designs; a chief who is obeyed like a great king; starvation
and pride so mixed that really I could not have had an idea of it....
However, I have every reason to be perfectly contented with their
conduct towards me, and I am the Queen with them all.'

The preparations for the journey occupied nearly two months, the
cavalcade being on a magnificent scale. Twenty-two camels were to
carry the baggage, twenty-five horsemen formed the retinue, in
addition to the Bedouin escort, led by Nasar, the Emir's son. Still
the risk was great, for Lady Hester carried with her many articles of
value, and of course was wholly at the mercy of her conductors, who
got their living by plunder. But she sought the remains of Zenobia as
well as the ruins of Palmyra, and had set her heart upon seeing the
city which had been governed by one of her own sex, and owed its chief
magnificence to her genius. Mr. Bruce, writing to General Oakes just
before the start, observes: 'If Lady Hester succeeds in this
undertaking, she will at least have the merit of being the first
European female who has ever visited this once celebrated city. Who
knows but she may prove another Zenobia, and be destined to restore it
to its ancient splendour?'

The cavalcade set out on March 20, a sum of about £50 being paid over
to the Emir for his escort, with the promise of twice as much more on
the safe return of the party. The journey seems to have been
uneventful save for the occasional sulks of the Bedouin leader, and
the petty thefts of his followers. The inhabitants of Palmyra had been
warned of the approach of the 'great white queen,' who rode a mare
worth forty purses, and had in her possession a book which instructed
her where to find treasure, and a bag of herbs with which she could
transmute stones into gold. By way of welcome a body of about two
hundred men, armed with matchlocks, went out to meet her, and
displayed for her amusement a mock attack on, and defence of, a
caravan. The guides led the cavalcade up through the long colonnade,
which is terminated by a triumphal arch, the shaft of each of the
pillars having a projecting pedestal, or console, on which a statue
once stood. 'What was our surprise,' writes Dr. Meryon, 'to see, as we
rode up the avenue, that several beautiful girls had been placed on
these pedestals in the most graceful postures, and with garlands in
their hands.... On each side of the arch other girls stood by threes,
while a row of six was arranged across the gate of the arch with
thyrsi in their hands. While Lady Hester advanced, these living
statues remained immovable on their pedestals; but when she had
passed, they leaped to the ground, and joined in a dance by her side.
On reaching the triumphal arch, the whole in groups, both men and
girls, danced round her. Here some bearded elders chanted verses in
her praise, and all the spectators joined in the chorus. Lady Hester
herself seemed to partake of the emotions to which her presence in
this remote spot had given rise. Nor was the wonder of the Palmyrenes
less than our own. They beheld with amazement a woman who had ventured
thousands of miles from her own country, and crossed a waste where
hunger and thirst were the least of the perils to be dreaded.' It may
be observed that the people of Syria, excited by the achievements of
Sir Sydney Smith, had begun to imagine that their land might be
occupied by the English, and perhaps regarded Lady Hester as an
English princess who had come to prepare the way, if not to take

The travellers were only allowed a week in which to examine the ruins
of Palmyra, being hurried away by Prince Nasar on the plea that an
attack was expected from a hostile tribe. After resting for a time at
Hamah, and taking an affectionate farewell of their friendly Bedouins
(Lady Hester was enrolled as an Anizy Arab of the tribe of Melken),
they journeyed to Laodicea, which was believed to be free from the
plague that was raging in other parts of Syria, and here the summer
months were spent. In October Mr. Bruce received letters which obliged
him to return at once to England, and, as Dr. Meryon observes, 'he
therefore reluctantly prepared to quit a lady in whose society he had
so long travelled, and from whose conversation and experience of the
world so much useful knowledge was to be acquired.' Lady Hester had
now renounced the idea of returning to Europe, at any rate for the
present. She had some thoughts of taking a journey overland to
Bussora, and had also entered into a correspondence with the chief of
the Wahabys, with a view to travelling across the desert to visit him
in his capital of Deráych; but she finally decided on remaining for
some months longer in Syria. She had heard of a house, once a
monastery, at Mar Elias, near Sayda (the ancient Sidon), which could
be hired for a small rent. The house was taken, the luggage shipped to
Sayda, and Lady Hester and her doctor were preparing to follow, when
both fell ill of a malignant fever, which they believed to be a
species of plague. For some time Lady Hester's life was despaired of,
but thanks to her splendid constitution, she pulled through, though
she was not strong enough to leave Laodicea until January, 1814.

Lady Hester had now become a sojourner instead of a traveller in the
East, and, abandoning European customs altogether, she conformed
entirely to the mode of life of the Orientals. Mar Elias, which was
situated on a spur of Mount Lebanon, in a barren and rocky region,
consisted of a one-storied stone building with flat roofs, enclosing a
small paved court. 'Since her illness,' writes Dr. Meryon, 'Lady
Hester's character seemed to have changed. She became simple in her
habits, almost to cynicism. Scanning men and things with a wonderful
intelligence, she commented upon them as if the motives of human
action were laid open to her inspection.' The plague having again
broken out in the neighbourhood, the party at Mar Elias were insulated
upon their rock, and during the early days of their tenancy were in
much the same position as the crew of a well-victualled ship at sea,
having abundance of fresh provisions, but no books, no newspapers, and
no intercourse with the outer world.

In the autumn an expedition to the ruins of Baalbec was undertaken,
and at Beyrout, on the way home, a servant brought the news that a
Zâym, or Capugi Bashi, [Footnote: Nominally a door-keeper, according
to Dr. Meryon, but actually a Turkish official of high rank.] was at
that town on his road to Sayda, and was reported to be going to
capture Lady Hester, and carry her to Constantinople. Her ladyship
received the announcement with her usual composure, and it turned out
that she had long expected the Capugi Bashi, and knew the object of
his visit. Scarcely had the travellers arrived at Mar Elias than a
message came to Lady Hester, requesting her to meet the Zâym at the
house of the governor of Sayda, since it was not customary for a
Turkish official to go to a Christian's house. But in this case the
haughty Moslem had reckoned without his host. Lady Hester returned so
spirited an answer that the Zâym at once ordered his horses, and
galloped over to Mar Elias. The doctor and the secretary, knowing
nothing of the mission, felt considerable doubt of his intentions, and
put loaded pistols in their girdles, determined that if he had a
bowstring under his robes, no use should be made of it while they had
a bullet at his disposal. In the Turkish dominions, it must be
understood, a Capugi Bashi seldom comes into the provinces unless for
some affair of strangling, beheading, confiscation, or imprisonment,
and his presence is the more dreaded, as it is never known on whose
head the blow will fall.

In this case, fortunately, the Capugi's visit had no sinister motive.
The fact was now divulged that Lady Hester had been given a
manuscript, said to have been copied by a monk from the records of a
Frank monastery in Syria, which disclosed the hiding-places of immense
hoards of money buried in certain specified spots in the cities of
Ascalon and Sayda. Lady Hester, having convinced herself of the
genuineness of the manuscript, had written to the Sultan through Mr.,
afterwards Sir Robert, Liston, for permission to make the necessary
excavations, at the same time offering to forego all pecuniary benefit
that might accrue from her labours. The custom of burying money in
times of danger is so common in the East that credence was easily lent
to the story, while the fact that treasure might lie for centuries
untouched, even though the secret of its existence was known to
several persons, was possible in a country where digging among ruins
always excites dangerous suspicions in the minds of the authorities,
and where the discovery of a jar of coins almost invariably leads to
the ruin of the finder, who is supposed to keep back more than he

The Sultan evidently believed that the matter was worth examination,
for he had sent the Capugi from Constantinople to invest Lady Hester
with greater authority over the Turks than had ever been granted even
to a European ambassador. It was arranged that the first excavations
should be made at Ascalon, and though Lady Hester, having only just
returned from Baalbec, felt disinclined to set out at once on another
long journey, the Zâym urged her to lose no time, and himself went on
to Acre to make the necessary preparations. As her income barely
sufficed for her own expenditure, she resolved to ask the English
Government to pay the cost of her search, holding that the honour
which would thereby accrue to the English name was a sufficient
justification for her demand.

'I shall beg of you,' she said to Dr. Meryon, 'to keep a regular
account of every article, and will then send in my bill to Government
by Mr. Liston; when, if they refuse to pay me, I shall put it in the
newspapers, and expose them. And this I shall let them know very
plainly, as I consider it my right, and not as a favour; for if Sir A.
Paget put down the cost of his servants' liveries after his embassy to
Vienna, and made Mr. Pitt pay him, £70,000 for four years, I cannot
see why I should not do the same.'

On February 15, 1815, Lady Hester left Mar Elias on horseback,
followed by her usual retinue, and on arriving at Acre spent about
three weeks in preparing for the work at Ascalon. In compliance with
the firmans sent by the Porte to all the governors of Syria, she was
treated with distinctions usually paid to no one under princely rank.
'Whenever she went out,' writes Dr. Meryon, 'she was followed by a
crowd of spectators; and the curiosity and admiration which she had
very generally excited throughout Syria were now increased by her
supposed influence in the affairs of Government, in having a Capugi
Bashi at her command.... No Turk now paid her a visit without wearing
his mantle of ceremony, and every circumstance showed the ascendency
she had gained in public opinion.' In addition to her own six tents,
twenty more were furnished for her suite, besides twenty-two
tent-pitchers, twelve mules to carry the baggage, and twelve camels to
carry the tents. To Lady Hester's use was appropriated a gorgeous
tilted palanquin or litter, covered with crimson cloth, and ornamented
with gilded balls. In case she preferred riding, her mare and her
favourite black ass were led in front of the litter. A hundred men of
the Hawàry cavalry escorted the procession, which left Acre on March
18, and arrived at Jaffa ten days later. Here a short halt was made,
and on the last day of March they set off for Ascalon, their animals
laden with shovels, pickaxes, and baskets. On arriving at their
destination the tents were pitched in the midst of the ruins, while a
cottage was fitted up for Lady Hester without the walls. Orders were
at once despatched to the neighbouring villages for relays of
labourers to work at the excavations. These men received no pay, being
requisitioned by Government, but they were well fed and humanely
treated by their English employer. The excavations were carried on for
about a fortnight on the site indicated in the mysterious paper.
During the first three days nothing was found except bones, fragments
of pillars, and a few vases and bottles; but on the fourth day a fine,
though mutilated, colossal statue was discovered, which apparently
represented a deified king. Dr. Meryon made a sketch of the marble,
and pointed out to Lady Hester that her labours had at least brought
to light a treasure that would be valuable in the eyes of lovers of
art, and that the ruins would be memorable for the enterprise of a
woman who had rescued the remains of antiquity from oblivion. To his
astonishment and dismay she replied, 'It is my intention to break up
the statue, and have it thrown into the sea, precisely in order that
such a report may not get abroad, and I lose with the Porte all the
merit of my disinterestedness.' In vain Dr. Meryon represented that
such an act would be an unpardonable vandalism, and was the less
excusable since the Turks had neither claimed the statue, nor
protested against its preservation. Her only answer was: 'Malicious
people may say I came to search for antiquities for my country, and
not for treasures for the Porte. So, go this instant, take with you
half-a-dozen stout fellows, and break it into a thousand pieces.'
Michaud, in his account of the affair, says that the Turks clamoured
for the destruction of the statue, believing that the trunk was full
of gold, and that Lady Hester had it broken up in order to prove to
them their error. Be this as it may, reports were afterwards
circulated in Ascalon that the statue had actually contained treasure,
half of which was handed over to the Porte, and half kept by Lady

On the sixth day two large stone troughs were discovered, upon which
lay four granite pillars. This sight revived the hopes of the
searchers, for it was thought that the mass of granite could not have
fallen into such a position accidentally, but must have been placed
there to conceal something of value. Great was the disappointment of
all concerned when, on removing the pillars, the troughs were found to
be empty. The excavations of the next four days having produced
nothing of any value, the work was brought to an end, by Lady Hester's
desire, on April 14. She had come to the conclusion that when Gezzar
Pasha embellished the city of Acre by digging for marble among the
ruins of Ascalon, he had been fortunate enough to discover the
treasure, and she believed that his apparent mania for building was
only a cloak to conceal his real motives for excavating. The officials
and soldiers were handsomely rewarded for their trouble, and Lady
Hester set out on her homeward journey, minus her tents, palanquin,
military escort, and other emblems of grandeur, but with no loss of
dignity or serenity.

On returning to Mar Elias, she caused some excavations to be made near
Sayda, but with no better success, and after a few days the work was
abandoned. Lady Hester had been obliged to borrow a sum of money for
her expenses from Mr. Barker, the British consul at Aleppo, and now,
observes Dr. Meryon, 'as she had throughout proposed to herself no
advantage but the celebrity which success would bring on her own name
and that of the English nation, and as she had acted with the
cognisance of our minister at Constantinople, she fancied that she had
a claim upon the English Government for her expenses. Accordingly, she
sent our ambassador an account of her proceedings, and after showing
that all she had done was for the credit of her country, she asserted
her right to be reimbursed. She was unsuccessful, however, in her
application, and the expenses weighed heavily upon her means. Yet
hitherto she had never been in debt, and by great care and economy she
still contrived to keep out of it.'

Lady Hester having apparently decided to spend the remainder of her
days in Syria, Dr. Meryon informed her that he was anxious to return
to his own country, but that he would not leave her until a substitute
had been engaged. Accordingly, Giorgio, the Greek interpreter, was
despatched to England to engage the doctor's successor, and to execute
a number of commissions for his mistress. During the autumn Lady
Hester was actively employed in stirring up the authorities to avenge
the death of a French traveller, Colonel Boutin, who had been murdered
by the Ansarys on the road between Hamah and Laodicea. As the pasha of
the district had made no effort to trace or punish the murderers, she
had taken the matter into her own hands, holding that the common cause
of travellers demanded that such a crime should not go unpunished. Dr.
Meryon vainly tried to dissuade her from this course of action, urging
that the French consuls were bound to sift the affair, and that she,
in taking so active a part, was exposing herself to the vengeance of
the mountain tribes. As usual, the only effect of remonstrance was to
make her more determined to persevere in the course she had marked out
for herself. In the result, she succeeded in inducing the pasha to
send a punitive expedition into the mountains, and herself directed
the commandant, by information secretly obtained, where the criminals
were to be found. Mustafa Aga Berber, governor of the district, led
the expedition, and carried fire and sword into the Ansary country. It
was reported that he burnt the villages of the assassins, and sent
several heads to the pasha as tokens of his victories. Lady Hester
received a vote of thanks from the French Chamber of Deputies, after a
speech by Comte Delaborde, explaining the services she had rendered.

News of the great events that were taking place in France had now
reached Sayda, and Lady Hester, whose foible it was to think that the
successors of Pitt could do no right, was highly displeased at the
action of the British Government. She gave vent to her sentiments in
the following letter, dated April 1816, to her cousin the Marquis
(afterwards Duke) of Buckingham:--

'You cannot doubt that a woman of my character and (I presume to say)
understanding must have held in contempt and aversion all the
statesmen of the present day, whose unbounded ignorance and duplicity
have brought ruin on France, have spread their own shame through all
Europe, and have exposed themselves not only to ridicule, but to the
curses of present and future generations. One great mind, one single,
enlightened statesman, whose virtues had equalled his talents, was all
that was wanting to effect, at this unexampled period, the welfare of
all Europe, by taking advantage of events the most extraordinary that
have occurred in any era.... Cease therefore to torment me. I will not
live in Europe, even were I, in flying from it, compelled to beg my
bread. Once only will I go to France, to see you and James, but only
that once. I will not be a martyr for nothing. The granddaughter of
Chatham, the niece of the illustrious Pitt, feels herself blush that
she was born in England--that England who has made her accursed gold
the counterpoise to justice; that England who puts weeping humanity in
irons, who has employed the valour of her troops, destined for the
defence of her national honour, as the instrument to enslave a
freeborn people; and who has exposed to ridicule and humiliation a
monarch [Louis XVIII.] who might have gained the goodwill of his
subjects if those intriguing English had left him to stand or fall
upon his own merits.'

The announcement of the arrival of the Princess of Wales at Acre, and
the possibility that she might extend her journey to Sayda, induced
Lady Hester to embark for Antioch, where she professed to have
business with the British consul. It was considered an act of great
daring on her part to go into a district inhabited entirely by the
Ansárys, on whom she had lately wrought so signal a vengeance. But the
Ansárys had apparently no desire to bring upon themselves a second
punitive expedition, and though Lady Hester spent most of her time in
a retired cottage outside the town, in defiance of the warning that
her life was in danger, the tribes forbore to molest her. In September
she returned to Mar Elias; and, a few weeks later, Giorgio returned
from England, bringing with him an English surgeon and twenty-seven
packing-cases filled with presents, to be distributed among Lady
Hester's Turkish friends and acquaintances. On January 18, 1817, Dr.
Meryon, having initiated his successor into Eastern manners and
customs, took leave of his employer, and sailed for Europe, little
thinking that he would ever set foot in Syria again.


During the next ten or twelve years, we get but a few scanty glimpses
of the white Queen of the Desert. After Dr. Meryon's departure, Lady
Hester removed to a house in the village of Dar Jôon, or Djoun, a few
miles from Mar Elias. To this house she added considerably, laid out
some magnificent gardens, and enclosed the whole within high walls,
after the manner of a mediaeval fortress. Here she seems to have
passed her time in encouraging the Drûzes to rise against Ibrahim
Pasha, intriguing against the British consuls, and attempting to
bolster up the declining authority of the Sultan. In the intervals of
political business she occupied herself with superintending her
building and gardening operations, physicking the sick, and
tyrannising over her numerous servants. At Mar Elias, which she still
kept in her own hands, she maintained an eccentric old Frenchman,
General Loustaunau,[Footnote: Dr. Meryon's spelling.] who had formerly
been in the service of a Hindu rajah, but who, in his forlorn old age,
had wandered to Syria, and there, by dint of applying scriptural texts
to contemporary events, had earned the title of a prophet. Like Samuel
Brothers, he prophesied marvellous things of Lady Hester's future,
which she, rendered credulous by her solitary life in a mystic land,
where her own power and importance were the chief facts in her mental
horizon, came at length to believe.

In the _Memoirs of a Babylonian Princess_ by the Emira Asmar,
daughter of the Emir Abdallah Asmar, the author tells us that as a
girl she paid a long visit to the Emir Beshyr, prince of the Drûzes.
During this visit, which apparently took place in the early
'twenties,' she was sent with a present of fruit to a neighbour's
house, and there found a guest, a tall and splendid figure, arrayed in
masculine costume, and engaged in smoking a narghila. The stranger,
who talked Arabic with elegance and fluency, discoursed on the subject
of astrology, and tried to dissuade the Emira from taking a projected
journey to the west, where she declared the sun had set, and the
hearts of the people retained not a spark of the virtues of their
forefathers. 'Soon afterwards,' continues the author, 'she rose, and
took her departure, attended by a large retinue. A spirited charger
stood at the gate, champing the bit with fiery impatience. She put her
foot in the stirrup, and vaulting nimbly into the saddle, which she
bestrode like a man, started off at a rapid pace, galloping over rocks
and mountains in advance of her suite, with a fearlessness and address
that would have done honour to a Mameluke.' The stranger was, of
course, none other than Lady Hester Stanhope, who, at that time, was
on friendly terms with the Emir Beshyr, afterwards her bitterest

In 1826 Lady Hester wrote to invite Dr. Meryon to return to her
service for a time, and he, who seems all his life to have 'heard the
East a-calling,' could not resist the invitation, though his movements
were now hampered by a wife and children. He began at once to make
preparations for his departure, but was unable to start before
September 1827. Meanwhile, Lady Hester had been gulled by an English
traveller, designated as 'X.' in her letters, who had induced her to
believe that he was empowered by the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of
Bedford, and a committee of Freemasons, to offer her such sums as
would extricate her out of her embarrassments, and to settle an income
upon her for life. How a woman who professed to have an almost
supernatural insight into the characters and thoughts of men, could
have been deceived by this story, it is hard to understand; but
apparently the difficulties of her situation, occasioned by her custom
of making large presents to the pashas in order to keep up her
authority, as well as by her benevolence to the poor in her
neighbourhood, rendered her willing to catch at any straw for help.
This 'X' had promised to send her a hundred purses for her current
expenses, and to bring out from England masons and carpenters to
enlarge her dwelling, in order that she might entertain the many
distinguished people who desired to come and see her. In a letter to
Dr. Meryon on this subject, Lady Hester writes:--

'If X.'s story is true, and my debts, amounting to nearly 10,000
pounds, are to be paid, then I shall go on making sublime and
philosophical discoveries, and employing myself in deep, abstract
studies. In that case I shall want a mason, carpenter, etc., income
made out 4000 pounds a year, and 1000 pounds more for people like you,
and 500 pounds ready money that I may stand clear. In the event that
all that has been told me is a lie.... I shall give up everything for
life to my creditors, and throw myself as a beggar on Asiatic charity,
and wander far without one parra in my pocket, with the mare from the
stable of Solomon in one hand, and a sheaf of the corn of Beni-Israel
in the other. I shall meet death, or that which I believe to be
written, which no mortal can efface. On September 7, Dr. Meryon and
his family embarked at Leghorn for Cyprus, but on nearing Candia their
merchant brig, which was taking out stores to the Turks, was attacked
by a Greek vessel, whose officers took possession of the cargo, and
also of all the passengers' property, except that belonging to the
English party, which they left unmolested. The Italian captain was
obliged to put back to Leghorn, and here Dr. Meryon heard the news of
the battle of Navarino, and of the shelter afforded by Lady Hester
Stanhope to two hundred refugee Europeans from Sayda. By this time she
was at daggers-drawn with the Emir Beshyr, whose rival she had helped
and protected. The Emir revenged himself by publishing in the village
an order that all her native servants were to return to their homes,
upon pain of losing their property and their lives. 'I gave them all
their option,' she writes. 'And most of them remained firm. Since
that, he has threatened to seize and murder them here, which he shall
not do without taking my life too. Besides this, he has given orders
in all the villages that men, women, and children who render me the
smallest service shall be cut in a thousand pieces. My servants cannot
go out, and the peasants cannot approach the house. Therefore, I am in
no very pleasant situation, being deprived of the necessary supplies
of food, and what is worse, of water; for all the water here is
brought on mules' backs up a great steep.'

Dr. Meryon was unable to resume his voyage at this time, but in 1828,
the news that a malignant fever had attacked the household at Jôon,
and carried off Lady Hester's companion, Miss Williams, gave rise to
fresh plans for a visit to Syria. The doctor had, however, so much
difficulty in overcoming his wife's fears of the voyage, that it was
not until November, 1830, that he could induce her to embark at
Marseilles on a vessel bound for the East. The party arrived at
Beyrout on December 8, and found that Lady Hester had sent camels and
asses to bring them on their way, together with a characteristic note
to the effect that it would give her much pleasure to see the doctor,
but that, as for his family, they must not expect any other attentions
than such as would make them comfortable in their new home. She hoped
that Dr. Meryon would not take this ill, as she had warned him that
she did not think English ladies could make themselves happy in Syria,
and, therefore, he who had chosen to bring them must take the
consequences. This letter was but the first of a long series of
affronts put upon Mrs. Meryon, the result of Lady Hester's dislike of
her own sex, and probably also of her objection to the presence of
another Englishwoman in a spot where she had reigned so long as the
only specimen of her race.

A cottage had been provided in the village of Jôon for the travellers,
and the ladies were escorted thither by the French secretary, while
the doctor hastened to report himself to Lady Hester, who received him
with the greatest cordiality, kissing him on both cheeks, and placing
him beside her on the sofa. Remembering her overweening pride of
birth, he was astonished at his reception, more especially as, in the
early part of her travels, she had never even condescended to take his
arm, that honour being reserved exclusively for members of the
aristocracy. He found her ladyship in good health and spirits, but
barely provided with the necessaries of life, having been robbed of
nearly all her articles of value by the native servants during her
last illness. A rush-bottomed chair, a deal table, dishes of common
yellow earthenware, bone-handled knives and forks, and two or three
silver spoons, were all that remained of her former grandeur, and the
dinner was on a par with the furniture.

The house, which had been hired at a rental of £20 from a Turkish
merchant, had been greatly enlarged, and the gardens, with their
summer-houses, covered alleys, and serpentine walks, were superior to
most English gardens of the same size. Lady Hester's constant outlay
in building arose from her idea that people would fly to her for
succour and protection during the revolutions that she believed to be
impending all over the world; her camels, asses, and mules were kept
with the same view, and her servants were taught to look forward with
awe to events of a supernatural nature, when their services and
energies would be taxed to the utmost. In choosing a solitary life in
the wilderness, far removed from all the comforts and pleasures of
civilisation, Lady Hester seems to have been actuated by her craving
for absolute power, which could not be gratified in any European
community. It was her pleasure to dwell apart, surrounded by
dependants and slaves, and out of reach of that influence and
restraint which are necessarily endured by each member of a civilised
society. She had become more violent in her temper than formerly, and
treated her servants with great severity when they were negligent of
their duties. Her maids and female slaves she punished summarily, and
boasted that there was nobody who could give such a slap in the face,
when required, as she could. At Mar Elias her servants, when tired of
her tyranny, frequently absconded by night, and took refuge in Sayda,
only two miles away; but at Dar Joon their retreat was cut off by
mountain tracts, inhabited only by wolves and jackals, and they were
consequently almost helpless in the hands of their stern mistress. The
establishment at this time consisted of between thirty and forty
servants, labourers, and slaves, most of whom are described as dirty,
lazy, and dishonest. Between them they did badly the work that
half-a-dozen Europeans would have done respectably, but then the
Europeans would not have stood the slaps and scoldings that the
natives took as a matter of course.

For the last fifteen years Lady Hester had seldom left her bed till
between two and five o'clock in the afternoon, nor returned to it
before the same hour next morning; while for four years she had never
stirred beyond the precincts of her own domain, though she took some
air and exercise in the garden. Except when she was asleep, her bell
was incessantly ringing, her servants were running to and fro, and the
whole house was kept in commotion. During the greater part of the day
she sat up in bed, writing, talking, scolding, and interviewing her
work-people. Few of her _employés_ escaped from her presence
without reproof, and as no one was allowed to exercise his own
discretion in his work, her directing spirit was always in the full
flow of activity. 'On one and the same day,' says Dr. Meryon,' I have
known her to dictate papers that concerned the political welfare of a
pashalik, and descend to trivial details about the composition of a
house-paint, the making of butter, drenching a sick horse, choosing
lambs, or cutting out a maid's apron. The marked characteristic of her
mind was the necessity that she laboured under of incessantly
talking.' Her conversations, we are told, frequently lasted for seven
or eight hours at a stretch, and at least one of her visitors was kept
so long in discourse that he fainted away with fatigue. Dr. Meryon
bears witness to her marvellous colloquial powers, her fund of
anecdote, and her talent for mimicry, but observes that every one who
conversed with her retired humbled from her presence, since her
language was always calculated to bring men down to their proper
level, to strip off affectation, and to expose conceit.

At this time her political influence was on the wane, but a few years
previously, when her financial affairs were in a more flourishing
condition, and when it was observed that the pashas valued her opinion
and feared her censure, she had obtained an almost despotic power over
the neighbouring tribes. A remarkable proof of her personal courage,
and also of the supernatural awe with which she was regarded, was
shown by her open defiance of the Emir Beshyr, in whose principality
she lived, but who was unable to reduce her, either by threats or
persecution, to even a nominal submission to his rule. Not only did
she give public utterance to her contemptuous opinion of the Emir, but
she openly assisted his relation and rival, the Sheikh Beshyr; yet no
vengeance either of the bowstring or the poisoned cup rewarded her
rebellion or her intrigues.

Her religious views, at this time, were decidedly complicated in
character. She firmly believed in astrology, of which she had made a
special study, and to some extent in demonology. But more remarkable
was her faith in the early coming of a Messiah, or Mahedi, on which
occasion she expected to play a glorious part. The prophecies of
Samuel Brothers and of General Loustaunau had taken firm possession of
her mind, more especially since their words had been corroborated by a
native soothsayer, Metta by name, who brought her an Arabic book
which, he said, contained allusions to herself. Finding a credulous
listener, he read and expounded a passage relating to a European woman
who was to come and live on Mount Lebanon at a certain epoch, and
obtain power and influence greater than a sultan's. A boy without a
father was to join her there, whose destiny was to be fulfilled under
her wing; while the coming of the Mahedi, who was to ride into
Jerusalem on a horse born saddled, would be preceded by famine,
pestilence, and other calamities. For a long time Lady Hester was
persuaded that the Due de Reichstadt was the boy in question, but
after his death she fixed upon another youth. In expectation of the
coming of the Mahedi she kept two thoroughbred mares, which no one was
suffered to mount. One of these animals, named Laila, had a curious
malformation of the back, not unlike a Turkish saddle in shape, and
was destined by its mistress to bear the Mahedi into Jerusalem, while
on the other, Lulu, Lady Hester expected to ride by his side on the
great day. 'Hundreds and thousands of distressed persons,' she was
accustomed to say, 'will come to me for assistance and shelter. I
shall have to wade in blood, but it is the will of God, and I shall
not be afraid.' Borne up by these glorious expectations, she never
discussed her debts, her illnesses, and her other trials, without at
the same time picturing to herself a brighter future, when the neglect
with which she had been treated by her family would meet with its just
punishment, and her star would rise again to gladden the world, and
more especially those who had been faithful to her in the time of

As soon as Mrs. Meryon was settled in her new home, and had recovered
from the fatigue of the journey, Lady Hester appointed a day for her
reception. What happened at the momentous interview we are not told,
except that at the close Lady Hester attired her visitor in a handsome
Turkish spencer of gold brocade, and wound an embroidered muslin
turban round her head. Unfortunately, Mrs. Meryon, not understanding
the Eastern custom of robing honoured guests, took off the garments
before she went away, and laid them on a table, a grievous breach of
etiquette in her hostess's eyes. Still, matters went on fairly
smoothly until, about the end of January, a messenger came from
Damascus to ask that Dr. Meryon might be allowed to go thither to cure
a friend of the pasha's, who had an affection of the mouth. Lady
Hester was anxious that the doctor should obey the call, but, greatly
to her annoyance, he entirely declined to leave his wife and children
alone for three or four weeks in a strange land, where they could not
make themselves understood by the people about them. In vain Lady
Hester tried to frighten Mrs. Meryon into consenting to her husband's
departure by assuring her that there were Dervishes who could inflict
all sorts of evil on her by means of charms, if she persisted in her
refusal. Mrs. Meryon quietly replied that her husband could go if he
chose, but that it would not be with her goodwill. From that hour was
begun a system of hostility towards the doctor's wife, which never
ceased until her departure from the country.

Lady Hester was not above taking a leaf out of the book of her own
enemy, the Emir Beshyr, for she used her influence to prevent the
villagers from supplying the wants of the recalcitrant family, who now
began to make preparations for their departure. They were obliged,
however, to wait for remittances from England, and also for Lady
Hester's consent to their leaving Jôon, since none of the natives
would have dared lend their camels or mules for such a purpose, and
even the consular agents at Sayda would have declined to mix
themselves up in any business which might bring upon them the
vengeance of the Queen of the Desert. Meanwhile, a truce seems to have
been concluded between the principals, and Lady Hester again invited
the doctor's visits, contenting herself with sarcastic remarks about
henpecked husbands, and the caprices of foolish women. She graciously
consented to dispense with his services about the beginning of April,
and promised to engage a vessel at Sayda to convey him and his family
to Cyprus. Before his departure she produced a list of her debts,
which then amounted to £14,000. The greater part of this sum, which
had been borrowed at a high rate of interest from native usurers, had
been spent in assisting Abdallah Pasha, the family of the Sheikh
Beshyr, and many other victims of political malignity.

The unwonted luxury of an admiring and submissive listener led the
lonely woman to discourse of the glories of her youth, and the virtues
of her hero-in-chief, William Pitt. She spoke of his passion for Miss
Eden, daughter of Lord Auckland, who, she said, was the only woman she
could have wished him to marry. 'Poor Mr. Pitt almost broke his heart,
when he gave her up,' she declared. 'But he considered that she was
not a woman to be left at will when business might require it, and he
sacrificed his feelings to his sense of public duty.... "There were
also other reasons," Mr. Pitt would say; "there is her mother, such a
chatterer!--and then the family intrigues. I can't keep them out of my
house; and, for my king and country's sake, I must remain a free man."
Yet Mr. Pitt was a man just made for domestic life, who would have
enjoyed retirement, digging his own garden, and doing it cleverly
too.... He had so much urbanity too! I recollect returning late from a
ball, when he was gone to bed fatigued; there were others besides
myself, and we made a good deal of noise. I said to him next morning,
"I am afraid we disturbed you last night." "Not at all," he replied;
"I was dreaming of the masque of _Comus_, and when I heard you
all so gay, it seemed a pleasant reality...." Nobody would have
suspected how much feeling he had for people's comforts, who came to
see him. Sometimes he would say to me, "Hester, you know we have got
such a one coming down. I believe his wound is hardly well yet, and I
heard him say that he felt much relieved by fomentations of such an
herb; perhaps you will see that he finds in his chamber all that he
wants." Of another he would say, "I think he drinks asses' milk; I
should like him to have his morning draught." And I, who was born with
such sensibility that I must fidget myself about everybody, was sure
to exceed his wishes.'

After describing Mr. Pitt's kindness and consideration towards his
household, Lady Hester related a pathetic history of a faithful
servant, who, in the pecuniary distress of his master, had served him
for several years with the purest disinterestedness. 'I was so touched
by her eloquent and forcible manner of recounting the story,' writes
the soft-hearted doctor, 'and with the application I made of it to my
own tardiness in going to her in her distress, together with my
present intention of leaving her, that I burst into tears, and wept
bitterly. She soothed my feelings, endeavoured to calm my emotions,
and disclaimed all intention of conveying any allusion to me. This led
her to say how little malice she ever entertained towards any one,
even those who had done her injury, much less towards me, who had
always shown my attachment to her; and she added that, even now,
although she was going to lose me, her thoughts did not run so much on
her own situation as on what would become of me; and I firmly believed

Dr. Meryon sailed from Sayda on April 7, 1831, and for the next six
years we only hear of the strange household on Mount Lebanon through
the reports of chance visitors. After the siege of Acre by Ibrahim
Pasha in the winter of 1831-32, the remnant of the population fled to
the mountains, and Lady Hester, whose hospitality was always open to
the distressed, declares that for three years her house was like the
Tower of Babel. In 1832 Lamartine paid a visit to Jôon, which he has
described in his _Voyage en Orient_. He seems to have been
graciously received, though his hostess candidly informed him that she
had never heard his name before. He explained, rather to her
amusement, that he had written verses which were in the mouths of
thousands of his countrymen, and she having read his character and
destiny, assured him that his Arabian descent was proved by the high
arch of his instep, and that, like every Arab, he was a poet by
nature. Lamartine, in return, represents himself as profoundly
impressed by his interview with this 'Circe of the East,' denies that
he perceived in her any traces of insanity, and declares that he
should not be surprised if a part of the destiny she prophesied for
herself were realised--at least to the extent of an empire in Arabia,
or a throne in Jerusalem.

Lady Hester formed a less favourable opinion of M. Lamartine than she
allowed him to perceive, and she was greatly annoyed at the passages
referring to herself that appeared in his book. Speaking of him and
his visit some years later, she observed: 'The people of Europe are
all, or at least the greater part of them, fools, with their
ridiculous grins, their affected ways, and their senseless habits....
Look at M. Lamartine getting off his horse half-a-dozen times to kiss
his dog, and take him out of his bandbox to feed him, on the route
from Beyrout; the very muleteers thought him a fool. And then that way
of thrusting his hands into his pockets, and sticking out his legs as
far as he could--what is that like? M. Lamartine is no poet, in my
estimation, though he may be an elegant versifier; he has no sublime
ideas. Compare his ideas with Shakespeare's--that was indeed a real
poet.... M. Lamartine, with his straight body and straight fingers,
pointed his toes in my face, and then turned to his dog, and held long
conversations with him. He thought to make a great effect when he was
here, but he was grievously mistaken.' It may be noted that all Lady
Hester's male visitors 'pointed their toes in her face,' in the hope
of being accredited with the arched instep that she held to be the
most striking proof of long descent. Her own instep, she was
accustomed to boast, was so high that a little kitten could run
underneath it.

A far more lifelike and picturesque portrait of Lady Hester than that
by Lamartine has been sketched for us by Kinglake in his
_Eothen_. In a charming passage which will be familiar to most
readers, he relates how the name of Lady Hester Stanhope was as
delightful to his childish ears as that of Robinson Crusoe. Chief
among the excitements of his early days were the letters and presents
of the Queen of the Desert, who as a girl had been much with her
grandmother, Lady Chatham, at Burton Pynsent, and there had made the
acquaintance of Miss Woodforde of Taunton, afterwards Mrs. Kinglake.
The tradition of her high spirit and fine horsemanship still lingered
in Somersetshire memories, but Kinglake had heard nothing of her for
many years, when, on arriving at Beyrout in 1835, he found that her
name was in every mouth. Anxious to see this romantic vision of his
childhood, he wrote to Lady Hester, and asked if she would receive his
mother's son. A few days later, in response to a gracious letter of
invitation, Kinglake made his pilgrimage to Jôon.

The house at this time, after the storm and stress of the Egyptian
invasion, had the appearance of a deserted fortress, and
fierce-looking Albanian soldiers were hanging about the gates.
Kinglake was conducted to an inner apartment where, in the dim light,
he perceived an Oriental figure, clad in masculine costume, which
advanced to meet him with many and profound bows. The visitor began a
polite speech which he had prepared for his hostess, but presently
discovered that the stranger was only her Italian attendant, Lunardi,
who had conferred on himself a medical title and degree. Lady Hester
had given orders that her guest should rest and dine before being
introduced to her, and he tells us that, in spite of the homeliness of
her domestic arrangements, he found both the wine and the cuisine very
good. After dinner he was ushered into the presence of his hostess,
who welcomed him cordially, and had exactly the appearance of a
prophetess, 'not the divine Sibyl of Domenichino, but a good,
business-like, practical prophetess.' Her face was of astonishing
whiteness, her dress a mass of white linen loosely folded round her
like a surplice. As he gazed upon her, he recalled the stories that he
had heard of her early days, of the capable manner in which she had
arranged the political banquets and receptions of Pitt, and the awe
with which the Tory country gentlemen had regarded her. That awe had
been transferred to the sheikhs and pashas of the East, but now that,
with age and poverty, her earthly power was fading away, she had
created for herself a spiritual kingdom.

After a few inquiries about her Somersetshire friends, the prophetess
soared into loftier spheres, and discoursed of astrology and other
occult sciences. 'For hours and hours this wonderful white woman
poured forth her speech, for the most part concerning sacred and
profane mysteries.' From time to time she would swoop down to worldly
topics, 'and then,' as her auditor frankly observes, 'I was
interested.' She described her life in the Arab camps, and explained
that her influence over the tribes was partly due to her long sight, a
quality held in high esteem in the desert, and partly to a brusque,
downright manner, which is always effective with Orientals. She
professed to have fasted physically and mentally for years, living
only on milk, and reading neither books nor newspapers. Her unholy
claim to supremacy in the spiritual kingdom was based, in Kinglake's
opinion, on her fierce, inordinate pride, perilously akin to madness,
though her mind was too strong to be entirely overcome. As a proof of
Lady Hester's high courage, he notes the fact that, after the fall of
Acre, her house was the only spot in Syria and Palestine where the
will of Mehemet Ali and his fierce lieutenant was not law. Ibrahim
Pasha had demanded that the Albanian soldiers should be given up, and
their protectress had challenged him to come and take them. This
hillock of Dar Jôon always kept its freedom as long as Chatham's
granddaughter lived, and Mehemet Ali confessed that the Englishwoman
had given him more trouble than all the insurgents of Syria. Kinglake
did not see the famous sacred mares, but before his departure he was
shown the gardens by the Italian secretary, who was in great distress
of mind because he could not bring himself to believe implicitly in
his employer's divine attributes. He said that Lady Hester was
regarded with mingled respect and dislike by the neighbours, whom she
oppressed by her exactions. The few 'respected' inhabitants of Mount
Lebanon apparently claimed the right to avail themselves of their
neighbours' goods; and the White Queen's establishment was supported
by contributions from the surrounding villages. This is quite a
different account from that given by Dr. Meryon, who always represents
Lady Hester as a generous benefactress, admired and adored in all the

In 1836 Lady Hester discovered another mare's nest in the shape of a
legacy which she chose to believe was being kept from her by her
enemies. In August of this year she wrote to Dr. Meryon, who was then
living at Nice, and invited him to come and assist her in settling her
debts, and getting possession of this supposititious property. 'A
woman of high rank and good fortune,' she continues, 'who has built
herself a _palais_ in a remote part of America, has announced her
intention of passing the rest of her life with me, so much has she
been struck with my situation and conduct. [Footnote: This was the
Baroness de Feriat, who did not carry out her intention.] She is
nearly of my age, and thirty-seven years ago--I being personally
unknown to her--was so taken with my general appearance, that she
never could divest herself of the thoughts of me, which have ever
since pursued her. At last, informed by M. Lamartine's book where I
was to be found, she took this extraordinary determination, and in the
spring I expect her. She is now selling her large landed estate,
preparatory to her coming. She, as well as Leila the mare, is in the
prophecy. The beautiful boy has also written, and is wandering over
the face of the globe till destiny marks the period of our meeting....
I am reckoned here the first politician in the world, and by some a
sort of prophet. Even the Emir wonders, and is astonished, for he was
not aware of this extraordinary gift; but yet all say--I mean
enemies--that I am worse than a lion when in a passion, and that they
cannot deny I have justice on my side.'

After his former experience of Lady Hester's hospitality it is
surprising that the doctor should have been willing to accept this
invitation, and still more surprising that his wife should have
consented to accompany him to Syria. But the East was still
'a-calling,' and the almost hypnotic influence which her ladyship
exercised over her dependants seems to have lost none of its efficacy.
Accordingly, as soon as the Meryons could arrange their affairs, they
embarked at Marseilles, landing at Beyrout on July 1, 1837. Here the
doctor received a letter from Lady Hester, recommending him to leave
his family at Beyrout till he could find a house for them at Sayda.
'For your sake,' she continued, 'I should ever wish to show civility
to all who belong to you, but caprice I will never interfere with, for
from my early youth I have been taught to despise it.' Here was signal
proof that the past had not been forgotten, and that war was still to
be waged against the unfortunate Mrs. Meryon. In defiance of Lady
Hester's orders, the whole family proceeded to Sayda, whence Dr.
Meryon rode over to Dar Jôon. He received a warm personal welcome, but
his hostess persisted in her statement that there was no house in the
village fit for the reception of his womenkind, as nearly all had been
damaged by recent earthquakes. It was finally arranged that Mrs.
Meryon and her children should go for the present to Mar Elias, which
was then only occupied by the Prophet Loustaunau.

At this time Lady Hester's financial affairs were becoming desperate,
and she had even been reduced to selling some of her handsome
pelisses. Yet she still maintained between thirty and forty servants,
and when it was suggested to her that she might reduce her
establishment, she was accustomed to reply, 'But my rank!' Her
live-stock included the two sacred mares, three 'amblers,' five asses,
a flock of sheep, and a few cows. A herd of a hundred goats had
recently been slaughtered in one day, because their owner fancied that
she was being cheated by her goatherd. Now she decided to have the
three 'amblers' shot, because the grooms treated them improperly. The
under-bailiff received orders to whisper into the ear of each horse
before his execution, 'You have worked enough upon the earth; your
mistress fears you might fall, in your old age, into the hands of
cruel men, and she therefore dismisses you from her service.' This
order was carried out to the letter, with imperturbable gravity.

After a short experience of the inconvenience of riding to and fro
between Jôon and Mar Elias, Dr. Meryon persuaded his employer to allow
him to bring his family to a cottage in the village; but the nearer
the time approached for their arrival, the more she seemed to regret
having assented to the arrangement. Frequent and scathing were her
lectures upon the exigent ways of women, who, she argued, should be
simple automata, moved only by the will and guidance of their masters.
She lost no opportunity of throwing ridicule on Dr. Meryon's desire to
have his family near him, in order that he might pass his evenings
with them, pointing out that 'all sensible men take their meals with
their wives, and then retire to their own rooms to read, write, or do
what best pleases them. Nobody is such a fool as to moider away his
time in the slipslop conversation of a pack of women.' Petty
jealousies, quite inconsistent with her boasted philosophy, were
perpetually tormenting her. One of the many monopolies claimed by her
was that of the privilege of bell-ringing. The Mahometans, as is well
known, never use bells in private houses, the usual summons for
servants being three claps of the hands. But Lady Hester was a
constant and vehement bell-ringer, and as no one else in the
country-side possessed house-bells, it was generally believed that the
use of them was a special privilege granted her by the Porte. She was
therefore secretly much annoyed when the Meryons presumed to hang up
bells in their new home. She made no sign of displeasure, but one
morning it was discovered that the ropes had been cut and the bells
carried off. Cross-examination of the servants elicited the fact that
one of Lady Hester's emissaries had arrived late at night, wrenched
off the bells, and taken them away. Some weeks later the Lady of Jôon
confessed that she had instigated the act, and declared that if the
Meryons' bells had hung much longer her own would not have been
attended to.

Soon after the doctor's arrival, Lady Hester had dictated a letter to
Sir Francis Burdett, in whom she placed great confidence, informing
him of the property that she believed was being withheld from her, and
requesting him to make inquiries into the matter. When not engaged in
correspondence, discussing her debts, and scolding her servants, she
was pouring out floods of conversation, chiefly reminiscences of her
youth and diatribes against the men and manners of the present day,
into the ears of the long-suffering doctor. 'From her manner towards
other people,' he observes, 'it would have seemed that she was the
only person in creation privileged to abuse and to command; others had
nothing to do but to obey. She was haughty and overbearing, born to
rule, impatient of control, and more at her ease when she had a
hundred persons to govern than when she had only ten. Had she been a
man and a soldier, she would have been what the French call a _beau
sabreur_, for never was any one so fond of wielding weapons, and
boasting of her capacity for using them, as she was. In her bedroom
she always had a mace, which was spiked round the head, a steel
battle-axe, and a dagger, but her favourite weapon was the mace.'
Absurd as it may sound, it was probably her military vanity that led
her to belittle the Duke of Wellington, of whose reputation she seems
to have felt some personal jealousy. Yet she bears testimony to the
esteem in which 'Arthur Wellesley' was held by William Pitt.

'I recollect, one day,' she told the doctor, 'Mr. Pitt came into the
drawing-room to me, and said, "Oh, how I have been bored by Sir Sydney
Smith coming with his box full of papers, and keeping me for a couple
of hours, when I had so much to do." I observed to him that heroes
were generally vain, and that Lord Nelson was so. "So he is," replied
Mr. Pitt, "but not like Sir Sydney. And how different is Arthur
Wellesley, who has just quitted me! He has given me such clear details
upon affairs in India; and he talked of them, too, as if he had been a
surgeon of a regiment, and had nothing to do with them; so that I know
not which to admire most, his modesty or his talents, and yet the fate
of India depends upon them." Then, doctor, when I recollect the letter
he wrote to Edward Bouverie, in which he said he could not come down
to a ball because his only corbeau coat was so bad he was ashamed to
appear in it, I reflect what a rise he has had in the world. He was at
first nothing but what hundreds of others are in a country town--he
danced hard and drank hard. His star has done everything for him, for
he is not a great general. He is no tactician, nor has he any of those
great qualities that make a Caesar, a Pompey, or even a Bonaparte. As
for the battle of Waterloo, both French and English have told me that
it was a lucky battle for him, but nothing more. I don't think he
acted well at Paris, nor did the soldiers like him.'

About the end of October Lady Hester took to her bed, and did not
leave it till the following March. She had suffered from pulmonary
catarrh for several years, which disappeared in the summer, but
returned every winter with increased violence. Her practice of
frequent bleeding had brought on a state of complete emaciation, and
left very little blood in her body. If she had lived like other
people, and trusted to the balmy air of Syria, Dr. Meryon was of
opinion that nothing serious need have been apprehended from her
illness. But she seldom breathed the outer air, and took no exercise
except an occasional turn in the garden. She was always complaining
that she could get nothing to eat; yet, in spite of her profession (to
Kinglake) that she lived entirely on milk, we are told that her diet
consisted of forcemeat balls, meat-pies, and other heavy viands, and
that she seldom remained half an hour without taking nourishment of
some kind. 'I never knew a human being who took nourishment so
frequently,' writes Dr. Meryon, 'and may not this in some measure
account for her frequent ill-humour?'

During her illness the doctor read aloud Sir Nathaniel Wraxall's
_Memoirs_ and the _Memoirs of a Peeress_, edited by Lady Charlotte
Bury, both of which books dealt with persons whom Lady Hester
had known in her youth. In return she regaled him with stories
of her own glory, of Mr. Pitt's virtues, of the objectionable habits
of the Princess of Wales, and of the meanness of the Regent in
inviting himself to dinner with gentlemen who could not afford to
entertain him, the whole pleasantly flavoured by animadversions on the
social presumption of medical men, and descriptions of the methods by
which formerly they were kept in their proper place by aristocratic
patients. At this time, the beginning of 1838, Lady Hester was
anxiously expecting an answer from Sir Francis Burdett about her
property, and, hearing from the English consul at Sayda that a packet
had arrived for her from Beyrout, which was to be delivered into her
own hands, her sanguine mind was filled with the hope of coming
prosperity. But when the packet was opened, instead of the
long-expected missive from Sir Francis, it proved to be an official
statement from Colonel Campbell, Consul-General for Egypt, that in
consequence of an application made to the British Government by one of
Lady Hester's chief creditors, an order had come from Lord Palmerston
that her pension was to be stopped unless the debt was paid. When she
read the letter Dr. Meryon feared an outburst of fury, but Lady
Hester, who, for once, was beyond violence, began calmly to discuss
the enormity of the conduct both of Queen and Minister.

'My grandfather and Mr. Pitt,' she said, 'did something to keep the
Brunswick family on the throne, and yet the granddaughter of the old
king, without hearing the circumstances of my getting into debt, or
whether the story is true, sends to deprive me of my pension in a
strange land, where I may remain and starve.... I should like to ask
for a public inquiry into my debts, and for what I have contracted
them. Let them compare the good I have done in the cause of humanity
and science with the Duke of Kent's debts. I wonder if Lord Palmerston
is the man I recollect--a young man from college, who was always
hanging about waiting to be introduced to Mr. Pitt. Mr. Pitt used to
say, "Ah, very well; we will ask him to dinner some day." Perhaps it
is an old grudge that makes him vent his spite.' Colonel Campbell's
letter had given the poor lady's heart, or rather her pride, a fatal
stab, and the indignity with which she had been treated preyed upon
her health and spirits. She now determined to send an ultimatum to the
Queen, which was to be published in the newspapers if ministers
refused to lay it before her Majesty. This document, which was dated
February 12, 1838, ran as follows:--

'Your Majesty will allow me to say that few things are more
disgraceful and inimical to royalty than giving commands without
examining all their different bearings, and casting, without reason,
an aspersion upon the integrity of any branch of a family that had
faithfully served their country and the House of Hanover. As no
inquiries have been made of me of what circumstances induced me to
incur the debts alluded to, I deem it unnecessary to enter into any
details on the subject. I shall not allow the pension given by your
royal grandfather to be stopped by force; but I shall resign it for
the payment of my debts, and with it the name of British subject, and
the slavery that is at present annexed to it; and as your Majesty has
given publicity to the business by your orders to your consular
agents, I surely cannot be blamed for following your royal example.


This was accompanied by a long letter to the Duke of Wellington, in
which Lady Hester detailed her services in the East, and expressed her
indignation at the treatment she had received. She was now left with
only a few pounds upon which to maintain her house-hold until March,
when she could draw for £300, apparently the quarter's income from a
legacy left her by her brother, but of this sum £200 was due to a
Greek merchant at Beyrout. The faithful doctor collected all the money
he had in his house, about eleven pounds, and brought it to her for
her current expenses, but with her usual impracticability she gave
most of it away in charity. Still no letter came from Sir Francis
Burdett, and the unfortunate lady, old, sick, and wasted to a
skeleton, lay on her sofa and lamented over her troubles in a fierce,
inhuman fashion, like a wounded animal at bay. In the course of time a
reply came from Lord Palmerston, in which he stated that he had laid
Lady Hester's letter before the Queen, and explained to her Majesty
the circumstances that might be supposed to have led to her writing
it. The communications to which she referred were, he continued,
suggested by nothing but a desire to save her from the embarrassments
that might arise if her creditors were to call upon the Consul-General
to act according to the strict line of his duty. This letter did
nothing towards assuaging Lady Hester's wrath. In her reply she
sarcastically observed:--

'If your diplomatic despatches are all as obscure as the one that now
lies before me, it is no wonder that England should cease to have that
proud preponderance in her foreign relations which she once could
boast of.... It is but fair to make your lordship aware that, if by
the next packet there is nothing definitely settled respecting my
affairs, and I am not cleared in the eyes of the world of aspersions,
intentionally or unintentionally thrown upon me, I shall break up my
household, and build up the entrance-gate to my premises; there
remaining as if I was in a tomb till my character has been done
justice to, and a public acknowledgment put in the papers, signed and
sealed by those who have aspersed me. There is no trifling with those
who have Pitt blood in their veins upon the subject of integrity, nor
expecting that their spirit would ever yield to the impertinent
interference of consular authority, etc., etc.' It must be owned that
there is a touch of unconscious humour in Lady Hester's terrible
threat of walling herself up, a proceeding which would only make
herself uncomfortable and leave her enemies at peace. For the present
matters went on much as usual at Dar Jôon. No household expenses were
curtailed, and thirty native servants continued to cheat their
mistress and idle over their work. In March, that perambulating
princeling, his Highness of Pückler-Muskau, arrived at Sayda, whence
he wrote a letter to Lady Hester, begging to be allowed to pay his
homage to the Queen of Palmyra and the niece of the great Pitt. 'I
have the presumption to believe, madam,' he continued, 'that there
must be some affinity of character between us. For, like you, my lady,
I look for our future salvation from the East, where nations still
nearer to God and to nature can alone, some day, purify the rotten
civilisation of decrepid Europe, in which everything is artificial,
and where we are menaced with a new kind of barbarism--not that with
which states begin, but with which they end. Like you, madam, I
believe that astrology is not an empty science, but a lost one. Like
you, I am an aristocrat by birth and by principle; because I find a
marked aristocracy in nature. In a word, madam, like you, I love to
sleep by day and be stirring by night. There I stop; for in mind,
energy of character, and in the mode of life, so singular and so
dignified, which you lead, not every one who would can resemble Lady
Hester Stanhope.'

Lady Hester was flattered by this letter, and told the doctor that he
must ride into Sayda to see the prince, and tell him that she was too
ill to receive him at present, but would endeavour to do so a few
weeks later. The prince was established with his numerous suite in the
house of a merchant of Sayda. Mehemet Ali had given him a special
firman, requiring all official persons to treat him in a manner
suitable to his rank, his whole expenditure being defrayed by cheques
on the Viceroy's treasury. The prince, unlike most other distinguished
travellers who were treated with the same honour, took the firman
strictly according to the letter, and could boast of having traversed
the whole of Egypt and Syria with all the pomp of royalty, and without
having expended a single farthing. Dr. Meryon describes his Highness
as a tall man of about fifty years of age, distinguished by an
unmistakable air of birth and breeding. He wore a curious mixture of
Eastern and Western costume, and had a tame chameleon crawling about
his pipe, with which he was almost as much occupied as M. Lamartine
with his lapdog. The prince stated that he had almost made up his mind
to settle in the East, since Europe was no longer the land of liberty.
'I will build myself a house,' he said, 'get what I want from Europe,
make arrangements for newspapers, books, etc., and choose some
delightful situation; but I think it will be on Mount Lebanon.'

In his volume of travels in the East called _Die Rückkehr_,
Prince Pückler-Muksau has given an amusing account of the negotiations
that passed between himself and Lady Hester on the subject of his
visit. For once the niece of Pitt had found her match in vanity and
arrogance; and if the prince's book had appeared in her lifetime, it
is certain that she would not long have survived it. His Highness
describes how he bided his time, as though he were laying siege to a
courted beauty, and almost daily bombarded the Lady of Jôon with
letters calculated to pique her curiosity by their frank and original
style. At last, 'in order to be rid of him,' as she jokingly said,
Lady Hester consented to receive him on a certain day, which, from his
star, she deemed propitious to their meeting. Thereupon the prince,
who intended that his visit should be desired, not suffered, wrote to
say that he was setting out for an expedition into the desert, but
that on his return he would come to Jôon, not for one day, but for a
week. This impertinence was rewarded by permission to come at his own

Great preparations were made for the entertainment of this
distinguished visitor. The scanty contents of the store and china
cupboards were spread out before the lady of the house, who infused
activity into the most sluggish by smart strokes from her stick. The
epithets of beast, rascal, and the like, were dealt out with such
freedom and readiness, as to make the European part of her audience
sensible of the richness and variety of the Arabian language. On
Easter Monday, April 15, the prince, followed by a part of his suite,
and five mule-loads of baggage, rode into the courtyard. He wore an
immense Leghorn hat lined with green taffetas, a Turkish scarf over
his shoulders, and blue pantaloons of ample dimensions. From the
excellent fit of his Parisian boots, it was evident that he felt his
pretensions to a thoroughbred foot were now to be magisterially
decided. The prince has given his own impression of his hostess, whom
he describes as a thorough woman of the world, with manners of
Oriental dignity and calm. With her pale, regular features, dark,
fiery eyes, great height, and sonorous voice, she had the appearance
of an ancient Sibyl; yet no one, he declares, could have been more
natural and unaffected in manner. She told him that since she had lost
her money, she had lived like a dervish, and assimilated herself to
the ways of nature. 'My roses are my jewels,' she said, 'the sun and
moon my clocks, fruit and water my food and drink. I see in your face
that you are a thorough epicure; how will you endure to spend a week
with me?' The prince, who had already dined, replied that he found she
did not keep her guests on fruit and water, and assured her that
English poverty was equivalent to German riches. He spent six or seven
hours _tête-a-tête_ with his hostess each evening of his stay,
and declares that he was astonished at the originality and variety of
her conversation. He had the audacity to ask her if the Arab chief who
accompanied her to Palmyra had been her lover, but she, not
ill-pleased, assured him that there was no truth in the report, which
at one time had been generally believed. She said that the Arabs
regarded her neither as man or woman, but as a being apart.

Before leaving, the prince introduced his 'harem,' consisting of two
Abyssinian slaves, to Lady Hester, and was presented, in his turn, to
the sacred mares, which had lost their beauty, and grown gross and
unwieldy under their _régime_ of gentle exercise and unlimited
food. Leila licked the prince's hand when he caressed her, and Leila's
mistress was thereby convinced that her guest was a 'chosen vessel.'
She confided to him all her woes, the neglect of her relations and the
ill-treatment of the Government, and gave him copies of the
correspondence about her pension, which he promised to publish in a
German newspaper. To Dr. Meryon she waxed quite enthusiastic over his
Highness's personal attractions, the excellent cut of his coat, and
the handiness with which he performed small services. 'I could
observe,' writes the doctor, towards the end of the visit, 'that she
had already begun to obtain an ascendency over the prince, such as she
never failed to do over those who came within the sphere of her
attraction; for he was less lofty in his manner than he had been at
first, and she seemed to have gained in height, and to be more
disposed to play the queen than ever.'

This, alas, was the last time that Lady Hester had the opportunity of
playing the queen, or entertaining a distinguished guest at Dar Jôon.
In June, when the packet brought no news of her imaginary property,
and no apology from Queen or Premier, she began at last to despair.
'The die is cast,' she told Dr. Meryon, 'and the sooner you take
yourself off the better. I have no money; you can be of no use to
me--I shall write no more letters, and shall break up my
establishment, wall up my gate, and, with a boy and girl to wait upon
me, resign myself to my fate. Tell your family they may make their
preparations, and be gone in a month's time.' Early in July Sir
Francis Burdett's long-expected letter arrived, but brought with it no
consolation. He could tell nothing of the legacy, but wrote in the
soothing, evasive terms that might be supposed suitable to an elderly
lady who was not quite accountable for her ideas or actions. As there
was now no hope of any improvement in her affairs, Lady Hester decided
to execute her threat of walling up her gateway, a proceeding which,
she was unable to perceive, injured nobody but herself. She directed
the doctor to pay and dismiss her servants, with the exception of two
maids and two men, and then sent him to Beyrout to inform the French
consul of her intention. On his return to Jôon he found that Lady
Hester had already hired a vessel to take himself and his family from
Sayda to Cyprus. He was reluctant to leave her in solitude and
wretchedness, but knowing that when once her mind was made up, nothing
could shake her resolution, he employed the time that remained to him
in writing her letters, setting her house in order, and taking her
instructions for commissions in Europe. He also begged to be allowed
to lend her as much money as he could spare, and she consented to
borrow a sum of 2000 piastres (about £80), which she afterwards

On July 30, 1838, the masons arrived, and the entrance-gate was walled
up with a kind of stone screen, leaving, however, a side-opening just
large enough for an ass or cow to enter, so that this much-talked-of
act of self-immurement was more an appearance than a reality. On
August 6, the faithful doctor took an affectionate leave of the
employer, who, as Prince Pückler-Muskau bears witness, was accustomed
to treat him with icy coldness, and sailed for western climes. To the
last, he tells us, Lady Hester dwelt with apparent confidence on the
approaching advent of the Mahedi, and still regarded her mare Leila as
destined to bear him into Jerusalem, with herself upon Lulu at his
side. It is to be hoped that the poor lady was able to buoy herself up
with this belief during the last and most solitary year of her
disappointed life. About once a month, up to the date of her death,
she corresponded with Dr. Meryon, who was again settled at Nice. Her
letters were chiefly taken up with commissions, and with shrewd
comments upon the new books that were sent out to her.

'I should like to have Miss Pardoe's book on Constantinople,' she
writes in October, 1838, 'if it is come out for strangers (_i.e._
in a French translation); for I fear I should never get through with
it myself. This just puts me in mind that one of the books I should
like to have would be Graham's _Domestic Medicine_; a good Red
Book (_Peerage_, I mean); and the book about the Prince of Wales.
I have found out a person who can occasionally read French to me; so
if there was any very pleasing French book, you might send it--but no
Bonapartes or "present times"--and a little _brochure_ or two
upon baking, pastry, gardening, etc....

'_Feb._ 9, 1839.--The book you sent me (_Diary of the Times of
George IV_., by Lady Charlotte Bury) is interesting only to those
who were acquainted with the persons named: all mock taste, mock
feeling, etc., but that is the fashion. "I am this, I am that"; who
ever talked such empty stuff formerly? I was never named by a
well-bred person.... Miss Pardoe is very excellent upon many subjects;
only there is too much of what the English like--stars, winds, black
shades, soft sounds, etc....

'_May_ 6.--Some one--I suppose you--sent me the _Life of Lord
Edward Fitzgerald_. It is _I_ who could give a true and most
extraordinary history of all those transactions. The book is all
stuff. The duchess (Lord Edward's mother) was my particular friend, as
was also his aunt; I was intimate with all the family, and knew that
noted Pamela. All the books I see make me sick--only catchpenny
nonsense. A thousand thanks for the promise of my grandfather's
letters; but the book will be all spoilt by being edited by young men.
First, they are totally ignorant of the politics of my grandfather's
age; secondly, of the style of the language used at that period; and
absolutely ignorant of his secret reasons and intentions, and the
_real_ or apparent footing he was upon with many people, friends
or foes. I know all that from my grandmother, who was his secretary,
and, Coutts used to say, the cleverest _man_ of her time in
politics and business.'

This was the last letter that Dr. Meryon received from his old friend
and patroness. She slowly wasted away, and died in June 1839, no one
being aware of her approaching end except the servants about her. The
news of her death reached Beyrout in a few hours, and the English
consul, Mr. Moore, and an American missionary (Mr. Thomson, author of
_The Land and the Book_) rode over to Jôon to bury her. By her
own desire she was interred in a grave in her garden, where a son of
the Prophet Loustaunau had been buried some years before. Mr. Thomson
has described how he performed the last rites at midnight by the light
of lanterns and torches, and notes the curious resemblance between
Lady Hester's funeral service and that of the man she loved, Sir John
Moore. Together with the consul, he examined the contents of
thirty-five rooms, but found nothing but old saddles, pipes, and empty
oil-jars, everything of value having been long since plundered by the
servants. The sacred mares, now grown old and almost useless, were
sold for a small sum by public auction, and only survived for a short
time their return to an active life.

In 1845 Dr. Meryon published his so-called _Memoirs of Lady Hester
Stanhope_, which are merely an account of her later years, and a
report of her table-talk at Dar Jôon. In 1846 he brought out her
_Travels_, which were advertised as the supplement and completion
of the _Memoirs_. From these works, and from passing notices of
our heroine, we gain a general impression of wasted talents and a
disappointed life. That she was more unhappy in her solitude than, in
her unbending nature, she would avow, observes her faithful friend and
chronicler, the record of the last years of her existence too plainly
demonstrates. Although she derived consolation in retirement from the
retrospect of the part she had played in her prosperity, still there
were moments of poignant grief when her very soul groaned within her.
She was ambitious, and her ambition had been foiled; she loved
irresponsible command, but the time had come when those over whom she
ruled defied her; she was dictatorial and exacting, but she had lost
the influence which alone makes people tolerate control. She incurred
debts, and was doomed to feel the degradation consequent upon them.
She thought to defy her own nation, and they hurled the defiance back
upon her. She entertained visionary projects of aggrandisement, and
was met by the derision of the world. In a word, Lady Hester died as
she had lived, alone and miserable in a strange land, bankrupt in
affection and credit, because, in spite of her great gifts and innate
benevolence, her overbearing temper had alienated friends and kinsfolk
alike, and her pride could endure neither the society of equals, nor
the restraints and conventions of civilised life.




During the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century there
was no more original and picturesque figure among the minor
celebrities of Germany--one might almost say of Europe--than that of
his Highness, Hermann Ludwig Heinrich, Prince Pückler-Muskau.
Throughout his long career we find this princeling playing many
parts--at once an imitation Werter, a sentimental Don Juan, a dandy
who out-dressed D'Orsay, a sportsman and traveller of Münchhausen
type, a fashionable author who wrote German with a French accent and a
warrior who seems to have wandered out of the pages of mediæval
romance. Yet with all his mock-heroic notoriety, the _toller
Pückler_ was by no means destitute of those practical qualities
which tempered the Teutonic Romanticism, even in its earliest and most
extravagant developments. He was skilled in all manly exercises, a
brave soldier, an intelligent observer, and--his most substantial
claim to remembrance--the father of landscape-gardening in Germany, a
veritable magician who transformed level wastes into wooded landscapes
and made the sandy wildernesses blossom like the rose.

To English readers the prince's name was once familiar as the author
of _Briefe eines Verstorbenen_ (Letters of a Dead Man), which
contain a lively account of his Highness' sojourn in England and
Ireland between the years 1826 and 1828. These letters, which were
translated into English under the title of _The Tour of a German
Prince_, made a sensation, favourable and otherwise, in the early
'thirties,' owing to the candid fashion in which they dealt with our
customs and our countrymen. The book received the high honour of a
complimentary review from the pen of the aged Goethe. 'The writer
appears to be a perfect and experienced man of the world,' observes
this distinguished critic; 'endowed with talents and a quick
apprehension; formed by a varied social existence, by travel and
extensive connections. His journey was undertaken very recently, and
brings us the latest intelligence from the countries which he has
viewed with an acute, clear, and comprehensive eye. We see before us a
finely-constituted being, born to great external advantages and
felicities, but in whom a lively spirit of enterprise is not united to
constancy and perseverance; whence he experiences frequent failure and
disappointment.... The peculiarities of English manners and habits are
drawn vividly and distinctly, and without exaggeration. We acquire a
lively idea of that wonderful combination, that luxuriant growth--of
that insular life which is based in boundless wealth and civil
freedom, in universal monotony and manifold diversity; formal and
capricious, active and torpid, energetic and dull, comfortable and
tedious, the envy and derision of the world. Like other unprejudiced
travellers of modern times, our author is not very much enchanted with
the English form of existence: his cordial and sincere admiration is
often accompanied by unsparing censure. He is by no means inclined to
favour the faults and weaknesses of the English; and in this he has
the greatest and best among themselves upon his side.'

As these Letters were not written until the prince had passed his
fortieth year, it will be necessary, before considering them in
detail, to give a brief sketch of his previous career. Hermann Ludwig
was the only son of Graf von Pückler of Schloss Branitz, and of his
wife, Clementine, born a Gräfin von Gallenberg, and heiress to the
vast estate of Muskau in Silesia. Both families were of immense
antiquity, the Pücklers claiming to trace their descent from Rüdiger
von Bechlarn, who figures in the _Nibelungenlied_. Our hero was
born at Muskau in October 1785, and spent, according to his own
account, a wretched and neglected childhood. His father was harsh,
miserly, and suspicious; his mother, who was only fifteen when her son
was born, is described as a frivolous little flirt. The couple, after
perpetually quarrelling for ten or twelve years, were divorced, by
mutual consent, in 1797, and the Gräfin shortly afterwards married one
of her numerous admirers, Graf von Seydewitz, with whom she lived as
unhappily as with her first husband. Her little son was educated at a
Moravian school, and in the holidays was left entirely to the care of
the servants. After a couple of years at the university of Leipzig, he
entered the Saxon army, and soon became notorious for his good looks,
his fine horsemanship, his extravagance, and his mischievous pranks.
Military discipline in time of peace proved too burdensome for the
young lieutenant, who, after quarrelling with his father, getting
deeply into debt, and embroiling himself with the authorities, threw
up his commission in 1804. Muskau having become much too hot to hold
him, he spent the next years in travelling about the Continent, always
in pecuniary difficulties, and seldom free from some sentimental

In 1810 Graf Pückler died, and his son stepped into a splendid
inheritance. Like Prince Hal, the young Graf seems to have taken his
new responsibilities seriously, and to have devoted himself, with only
too much enthusiasm, to the development and improvement of his
estates. In the intervals of business he amused himself with an
endless series of love-affairs, his achievements in this respect, if
his biographer may be believed, more than equalling those of Jupiter
and Don Giovanni put together. Old and young, pretty and plain, noble
and humble, native and foreign, all were fish that came to the net of
this lady-killer, who not only vowed allegiance to nearly every
petticoat that crossed his path, but--a much more remarkable
feat--kept up an impassioned correspondence with a large selection of
his charmers. After his death, a whole library of love-letters was
discovered among his papers, all breathing forth adoration, ecstasy or
despair, and addressed to the Julies, Jeannettes, or Amalies who
succeeded one another so rapidly in his facile affections. These
documents, for the most part carefully-corrected drafts of the
originals, were indorsed, 'Old love-letters, to be used again if

In 1813 the trumpet of war sounded the call to arms, and the young
Graf entered the military service of Prussia, and was appointed
aide-de-camp to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar. He distinguished himself in
the Netherlands, was present at the taking of Cassel, and in the
course of the campaign played a part in a new species of duel. A
French colonel of Hussars, so the story goes, rode out of the enemy's
lines, and challenged any officer in the opposing army to single
combat. Pückler accepted the challenge, and the duel was fought on
horseback--presumably with sabres--between the ranks of the two
armies, the soldiers on either side applauding their chosen champion.
At length, after a fierce struggle, Germany triumphed, and the brave
Frenchman bit the dust. Whether the tale be true or apocryphal, it is
certain that numerous decorations were conferred upon the young
officer for his brilliant services, that he was promoted to the rank
of colonel, and appointed civil and military governor of Brüges.
Pückler took part in the triumphal entry of the Allies into Paris, and
afterwards accompanied the Duke of Saxe-Weimar to London, where he
shared in all the festivities of the wonderful season of 1815, studied
the English methods of landscape-gardening, and made an unsuccessful
attempt to marry a lady of rank and fortune.

After his return to Muskau the Graf continued his work on his estate,
which, in spite of a sandy soil and other disadvantages, soon became
one of the show-places of Germany. Having discovered a spring of
mineral water, he built a pump-room, a theatre, and a gaming-saloon,
and named the establishment Hermannsbad. The invalids who frequented
the Baths must have enjoyed a lively 'cure,' for besides theatrical
performances, illuminations, fireworks and steeplechases, the Graf was
always ready to oblige with some sensational achievement. On one
occasion he leapt his horse over the parapet of a bridge into the
river, and swam triumphantly ashore; while on another he galloped up
the steps of the Casino, played and won a _coup_ at the tables
without dismounting, and then galloped down again, arriving at the
bottom with a whole neck, but considerable damage to his horse's legs.

In 1816 Pückler became acquainted with Lucie, Gräfin von Pappenheim, a
daughter of Prince Hardenberg, Chancellor of Prussia. The Gräfin, a
well-preserved woman of forty, having parted from her husband, was
living at Berlin with her daughter, Adelheid, afterwards Princess
Carolath, and her adopted daughter, Herminie Lanzendorf. The Graf
divided his attentions equally between the three ladies for some time,
but on inquiring of a friend which would make the greatest sensation
in Berlin, his marriage to the mother or to one of the daughters, and
being told his marriage to the mother, at once proposed to the
middle-aged Gräfin, and was joyfully accepted. The reason for this
inappropriate match probably lay deeper than the desire to astonish
the people of Berlin, for Pückler, with all his surface romanticism,
had a keen eye to the main chance. His Lucie had only a moderate
dower, but the advantage of being son-in-law to the Chancellor of
Prussia could hardly be overestimated. Again, the Graf seems to have
imagined that in a marriage of convenience with a woman nine years
older than himself, he would be able to preserve the liberty of his
bachelor days, while presenting the appearance of domestic

As soon as the trifling formality of a divorce from Count Pappenheim
had been gone through, the marriage took place at Muskau, to the
accompaniment of the most splendid festivities. As may be supposed,
the early married life of the ill-assorted couple was a period of
anything but unbroken calm. Scarcely had the Graf surrendered his
liberty than he fell passionately in love with his wife's adopted
daughter, Helmine, a beautiful girl of eighteen, the child, it was
believed, of humble parents. Frederick William III. of Prussia was one
of her admirers, and had offered to marry her morganatically, and
create her Herzogin von Breslau. But Helmine gave her royal suitor no
encouragement, and he soon consoled himself with the Princess
Liegnitz. Lucie spared no pains to marry off the inconvenient beauty,
but Pückler frustrated all her efforts, implored her not to separate
him from Helmine, and suggested an arrangement based upon the domestic
policy of Goethe's _Wahlverwandschaften_. But Lucie was unreasonable
enough to object to a _ménage à trois_, and at length succeeded
in marrying Helmine to a Lieutenant von Blucher.

In 1822 the Graf accompanied his father-in-law to the Congress of
Aix-la-Chapelle, and shortly afterwards was raised to princely rank,
in compensation for the losses he had sustained through the annexation
of Silesia by Prussia. By this time the prince's financial affairs
were in so desperate a condition, thanks to the follies of his youth
and the building mania of his manhood, that a desperate remedy was
required to put them straight again. Only one expedient presented
itself, and this Lucie, with a woman's self-sacrifice, was the first
to propose. During a short absence from Muskau she wrote to her
husband to offer him his freedom, in order that he might be enabled to
marry a rich heiress, whose fortune could be used to clear off the
liabilities that pressed so heavily on the estate. The prince at first
refused to take advantage of this generous offer. He had become
accustomed to his elderly wife, who acted as his colleague and helper
in all that concerned his idolised Muskau, and upon whose sympathy and
advice he had learned to depend. But as time went on he grew
accustomed to the idea of an amicable divorce, and at length persuaded
himself that such a proceeding need make no real difference to Lucie's
position; in fact, that it would be an advantage to her as well as to
himself. For years past he had regarded her rather in the light of a
maternal friend than of a wife, and the close _camaraderie_ that
existed between them would remain unbroken by the advent of a young
bride whom Lucie would love as her own child. A divorce, it must be
remembered, was a common incident of everyday life in the Germany of
that epoch. As we have seen, Pückler's father and mother had dissolved
their marriage, and Lucie had been divorced from her first husband,
while her father had been married three times, and had separated from
each of his wives.

The matter remained in abeyance for a year or two, and it was not
until 1826, when the prince probably felt that he had no time to lose,
that the long-talked-of divorce actually took place. This curious
couple, who appeared to be more tenderly attached to each other now
than they had ever been before, took a touching farewell in Berlin.
The princess then returned to Muskau, where she remained during her
ex-husband's absence as his agent and representative, while the prince
set out for England, which country was supposed to offer the best
hunting-ground for heiresses. Week by week during his tour, Pückler
addressed to his faithful Lucie long, confidential letters, filled
with observations of the manners and customs of the British
barbarians, together with minute descriptions of his adventures in
love and landscape-gardening.

The prince, though at this time in his forty-first year, was still, to
all appearance, in the prime of life, still an adept in feats of skill
and strength, and not less romantic and susceptible than in the days
of his youth. With his high rank, his vast though encumbered estates,
his picturesque appearance, and his wide experience in affairs of the
heart, he anticipated little difficulty in carrying off one of the
most eligible of British heiresses; but he quite forgot to include the
hard-hearted, level-headed British parent in his reckoning. The
prince's first letter to Lucie, who figures in the published version
as Julie, is dated Dresden, September 7, 1826, and begins in right
Werterian strain:--

'My dear friend--The love you showed me at our parting made me so
happy and so miserable that I cannot yet recover from it. Your sad
image is ever before me; I still read deep sorrow in your looks and in
your tears, and my own heart tells me too well what yours suffered.
May God grant us a meeting as joyful as our parting was sorrowful! I
can only repeat what I have so often told you, that if I felt myself
without you, my dearest friend, in the world, I could enjoy none of
its pleasures without an alloy of sadness; that if you love me, you
will above all things watch over your health, and amuse yourself as
much as you can by varied occupation.' There are protestations of this
kind in nearly every letter, for the prince's pen was always tipped
with fine sentiment and vows of eternal devotion came more easily to
him than the ordinary civilities of everyday life to the average man.

A visit to Goethe at Weimar, on the traveller's leisurely journey
towards England, furnished his notebook with some interesting
specimens of the old poet's conversation. 'He received me,' writes the
prince, 'in a dimly-lighted room, whose _clair obscure_ was
arranged with some _coquetterie_; and truly the aspect of the
beautiful old man, with his Jovelike countenance, was most stately....
In the course of conversation we came to Walter Scott. Goethe was not
very enthusiastic about the Great Unknown. He said he doubted not that
he wrote his novels in the same sort of partnership as existed between
the old painters and their pupils; that he furnished the plot, the
leading thoughts, the skeleton of the scenes, that he then let his
pupils fill them up, and retouched them at the last. It seemed almost
to be his opinion that it was not worth the while of a man of Scott's
eminence to give himself up to such a number of minute and tedious
details. "Had I," he said, "been able to lend myself to the idea of
mere gain, I could formerly have sent such things anonymously into the
world, with the aid of Lenz and others--nay, I could still, as would
astonish people not a little, and make them puzzle their brains to
find out the author; but after all, they would be but manufactured

'He afterwards spoke of Lord Byron with great affection, almost as a
father would of a son, which was extremely grateful to my enthusiastic
feelings for this great poet. He contradicted the silly assertion
that _Manfred_ was only an echo of his _Faust_. He extremely
regretted that he had never become personally acquainted with Lord
Byron, and severely and justly reproached the English nation for
having judged their illustrious countryman so pettily, and understood
him so ill.' The conversation next turned on politics, and Goethe
reverted to his favourite theory that if every man laboured
faithfully, honestly, and lovingly in this sphere, were it great or
small, universal well-being and happiness would not long be wanting,
whatever the form of government. The prince urged in reply that a
constitutional government was first necessary to call such a principle
into life, and adduced the example of England in support of his
argument. 'Goethe immediately replied that the choice of the example
was not happy, for that in no country was selfishness more omnipotent;
that no people were perhaps essentially less humane in their political
or their private relations; that salvation came, not from without, by
means of forms of government, but from within, by the wise moderation
and humble activity of each man in his own circle; and that this must
ever be the chief source of human felicity, while it was the easiest
and the simplest to attain.'

The prince seems always to have played the part of Jonah on board
ship, and on the occasion of his journey to England, he had a terrible
passage of forty hours, from Rotterdam to the London Docks. As soon as
he could get his carriage, horses, and luggage clear of the customs,
he hastened to the Clarendon Hotel, where he had stayed during his
first visit to London. Unlike the American, N. P. Willis, he had come
armed with many prejudices against England and the English, few of
which he succeeded in losing during the two years of his sojourn among
us. In his first letter from London, dated October 5, 1826, he writes:
'London is now so utterly dead to elegance and fashion that one hardly
meets a single equipage, and nothing remains of the _beau monde_
but a few ambassadors. The huge city is at the same time full of fog
and dirt, and the macadamised streets are like well-worn roads. The
old pavement has been torn up, and replaced by small pieces of
granite, the interstices between which are filled up with gravel; this
renders the riding more easy, and diminishes the noise, but on the
other hand changes the town into a sort of quagmire.' The prince
comments favourably on the improvements that had recently been carried
out by Nash the architect, more especially as regards Regent Street
and Portland Place, and declares that the laying out of the Regent's
Park is 'faultless,' particularly in the disposition of the water.

The comfort and luxury of English hotels, as well as of private
houses, is a subject on which the traveller frequently enlarges, and
in this first letter he assures his Lucie that she would be delighted
with the extreme cleanliness of the interiors, the great convenience
of the furniture, and the good manners of the serving-people, though
he admits that, for all that pertains to luxury, the tourist pays
about six times as much as in Germany. 'The comfort of the inns,' he
continues, 'is unknown on the Continent; on your washing-table you
find, not one miserable water-bottle with a single earthenware jug and
basin, and a long strip of towel, but positive tubs of porcelain in
which you may plunge half your body; taps which instantly supply you
with streams of water at pleasure; half-a-dozen wide towels, a large
standing mirror, foot-baths and other conveniences of the toilet, all
of equal elegance.'

The prince took advantage of the dead season to explore the city and
other unfashionable quarters of the town. He was delighted with the
excellent side-pavements, the splendid shops, the brilliant gas-lamps,
and above all (like Miss Edgeworth's Rosamund) with 'the great glass
globes in the chemists' windows, filled with liquid of a deep red,
blue or green, the light of which is visible for miles(!)' Visits to
the Exchange, the Bank, and the Guildhall were followed by a call on
Rothschild, 'the Grand Ally of the Grand Alliance,' at his house of
business. 'On my presenting my card,' says our hero, 'he remarked
ironically that we were lucky people who could afford to travel about,
and take our pleasure, while he, poor man, had such a heavy burden to
bear. He then broke out into bitter complaints that every poor devil
who came to England had something to ask of him.... After this the
conversation took a political turn, and we of course agreed that
Europe could not subsist without him; he modestly declined our
compliments, and said, smiling, 'Oh no, you are only jesting; I am but
a servant, with whom people are pleased because he manages their
affairs well, and to whom they allow some crumbs to fall as an

On October 19 the prince went to Newmarket for the races. During his
stay he was introduced to a rich merchant of the neighbourhood, who
invited him to spend a couple of days at his country-house. He gives
Lucie a minute account of the manners and customs of an English
_ménage_, but these are only interesting to the modern reader in
so far as they have become obsolete. For example: 'When you enter the
dining-room, you find the whole of the first course on the table, as
in France. After the soup is removed, and the covers are taken off,
every man helps the dish before him, and offers some to his neighbour;
if he wishes for anything else, he must ask across the table, or send
a servant for it, a very troublesome custom.... It is not usual to
take wine without drinking to another person. If the company is small,
and a man has drunk with everybody, but happens to wish for more wine,
he must wait for the dessert, if he does not find in himself courage
to brave custom.'

On his return to town the prince, who had been elected a member of the
Travellers' Club, gives a long dissertation on English club life, not
forgetting to dwell on the luxury of all the arrangements, the
excellent service, and the methodical fashion in which the
gaming-tables were conducted. 'In no other country,' he declares, 'are
what are here emphatically called "business habits" carried so
extensively into social and domestic life; the value of time, of
order, of despatch, of routine, are nowhere so well understood. This
is the great key to the most striking, national characteristics. The
quantity of material objects produced and accomplished--_the work
done_--in England exceeds all that man ever effected. The causes
that have produced these results have as certainly given birth to the
dulness, the contracted views, the inveterate prejudices, the
unbounded desire for, and deference to wealth which characterise the
great mass of Englishmen.'

During this first winter in London the prince was a regular attendant
at the theatres, and many were the dramatic criticisms that he sent to
his 'friend' at Muskau. He saw Liston in the hundred and second
representation of Paul Pry, and at Drury Lane found, to his amazement
that Braham, whom he remembered as an elderly man in 1814, was still
first favourite. 'He is the genuine representative of the English
style of singing,' writes our critic, 'and in popular songs is the
adored idol of the public. One cannot deny him great power of voice
and rapidity of execution, but a more abominable style it is difficult
to conceive.... The most striking feature to a foreigner in English
theatres is the natural coarseness and brutality of the audiences. The
consequence is that the higher and more civilised classes go only to
the Italian Opera, and very rarely visit their national theatre.
English freedom has degenerated into the rudest licence, and it is not
uncommon in the midst of the most affecting part of a tragedy, or the
most charming cadenza of a singer, to hear some coarse expression
shouted from the gallery in a stentor voice. This is followed, either
by loud laughter and applause, or by the castigation and expulsion of
the offender.'

The poor prince saw Mozart's _Figaro_ announced for performance
at Drury Lane, and looked forward to hearing once more the sweet
harmonies of his Vaterland. 'What, then, was my astonishment,' he
exclaims, in justifiable indignation, 'at the unheard-of treatment
which the masterpiece of the immortal composer has received at English
hands! You will hardly believe me when I tell you that neither the
count, the countess, nor Figaro sang; these parts were given to mere
actors, and their principal airs were sung by other singers. To add to
this the gardener roared out some interpolated English popular songs,
which suited Mozart's music just as a pitch-plaster would suit the
face of the Venus de' Medici. The whole opera was, moreover, arranged
by a certain Mr. Bishop; that is, adapted to English ears by means of
the most tasteless and shocking alterations. The English national
music, the coarse, heavy melodies of which can never be mistaken for
an instant, has to me, at least, something singularly offensive, an
expression of brutal feeling both in pain and pleasure that smacks of
"roast-beef, plum-pudding, and porter."'

Another entertainment attended by our hero about this time was the
opening of Parliament by George IV., who had not performed this
ceremony for several years. 'The king,' we are told, 'looked pale and
bloated, and was obliged to sit on the throne for a considerable time
before he could get breath enough to read his speech. During this time
he turned friendly glances and condescending bows towards some
favoured ladies. On his right stood Lord Liverpool, with the sword of
state and the speech in his hand, and the Duke of Wellington on his
left. All three looked so miserable, so ashy-grey and worn out, that
never did human greatness appear to me so little worth.... In spite of
his feebleness, George IV. read his _banale_ speech with great
dignity and a fine voice, but with that royal nonchalance which does
not concern itself with what his Majesty promises, or whether he is
sometimes unable to decipher a word. It was very evident that the
monarch was heartily glad when the _corvée_ was over.'

In one of his early letters the traveller gives his friend the
following account of the manner in which he passes his day: 'I rise
late, read three or four newspapers at breakfast, look in my
visiting-book to see what visits I have to pay, and either drive to
pay them in my cabriolet, or ride. In the course of these excursions,
I sometimes catch the enjoyment of the picturesque; the struggle of
the blood-red sun with the winter fogs often produces wild and
singular effects of light. After my visits I ride for several hours
about the beautiful environs of London, return when it grows dark,
dress for dinner, which is at seven or eight, and spend the evening
either at the theatre or some small party. The ludicrous routs--at
which one hardly finds standing-room on the staircase--have not yet
commenced. In England, however, except in a few diplomatic houses, you
can go nowhere in the evening without a special invitation.'

The prince seems to have been bored at most of the parties he
attended; partly, perhaps, out of pique at finding himself, so long
accustomed to be the principal personage in his little kingdom of
Muskau, eclipsed in influence and wealth by many a British commoner.
Few persons that he met in the London of that day amused him more than
the great Rothschild, with whom he dined more than once at the
banker's suburban villa. Of one of these entertainments he writes:
'Mr. Rothschild was in high good-humour, amusing and talkative. It was
diverting to hear him explain to us the pictures round his room (all
portraits of the sovereigns of Europe, presented through their
ambassadors), and talk of the originals as his very good friends, and
in a certain sense his equals. "Yes," said he, "the Prince of -----
once pressed me for a loan, and in the same week on which I received
his autograph letter, his father wrote to me also from Rome, to beg
me, for Heaven's sake, not to have any concern in it, for that I could
not have to do with a more dishonest man than his son...." He
concluded by modestly calling himself the dutiful and generously paid
agent and servant of these high potentates, all of whom he honoured
equally, let the state of politics be what it might; for, said he,
laughing, "I never like to quarrel with my bread and butter." It shows
great prudence in Mr. Rothschild to have accepted neither title nor
order, and thus to have preserved a far more respectable independence.
He doubtless owes much to the good advice of his extremely amiable and
judicious wife, who excels him in tact and knowledge of the world,
though not, perhaps, in acuteness and talents for business.'

Although the prince had not as yet entered the ranks of authors, he
was always interested in meeting literary people, such as Mr. Hope,
author of _Anastasius_, Mr. Morier of _Hadji Baba_ fame, and
Lady Charlotte Bury, who had exchanged the celebrity of a beauty for
that of a fashionable novelist. 'I called on Lady Charlotte,' he says,
'the morning after meeting her, and found everything in her house
brown, in every possible shade; furniture, curtains, carpets, her own
and her children's dresses, presented no other colour. The room was
without looking-glasses or pictures, and its only ornaments were casts
from the antique.... After I had been there some time, the celebrated
publisher, Constable, entered. This man has made a fortune by Walter
Scott's novels, though, as I was told, he refused his first and best,
_Waverley_, and at last gave but a small sum for it. I hope the
charming Lady Charlotte had better cause to be satisfied with him.'
Towards the end of December, his Highness's head-gardener, Rehde, a
very important functionary at Muskau, arrived in London to be
initiated into the mysteries of English landscape-gardening. Together
the two enthusiasts, master and man, made a tour of some of the
principal show-places of England, including Stanmore Priory, Woburn
Abbey, Cashiobury, Blenheim, Stowe, Eaton, Warwick, and Kenilworth,
besides many of lesser note. At the end of the excursion, which lasted
three weeks, the prince declared that even he was beginning to feel
satiated with the charms of English parks. On his return to London he
was invited to spend a few days with Lord Darnley at Cobham, and
writes thence some further impressions of English country-house life.
He was a little perturbed at being publicly reminded by his elderly
host that they had made each other's acquaintance thirty years before.

'Now, as I was in frocks at the time he spoke of,' observes the
prince, 'I was obliged to beg for a further explanation, though I
cannot say I was much delighted at having my age so fully discussed
before all the company, for you know I claim to look not more than
thirty. However, I could not but admire Lord Darnley's memory. He
recollected every circumstance of his visit to my parents with the
Duke of Portland, and recalled to me many a little forgotten

The _vie de château_ the traveller considered the most agreeable
side of English life, by reason of its freedom, and the absence of
those wearisome ceremonies which in Germany oppressed both host and
guests. The English custom of being always _en évidence_,
however, occasioned him considerable surprise. 'Strangers,' he
observes, 'have generally only one room allotted to them, and
Englishmen seldom go into this room except to sleep, and to dress
twice a day, which, even without company, is always _de rigueur_;
for all meals are usually taken in public, and any one who wants to
write does it in the library. There, also, those who wish to converse,
give each other _rendezvous_, to avoid the rest of the society.
Here you have an opportunity of gossiping for hours with the young
ladies, who are always very literarily inclined. Many a marriage is
thus concocted or destroyed between the _corpus juris_ on the one
side, and Bouffler's works on the other, while fashionable novels, as
a sort of intermediate link, lie on the tables in the middle.

Early in February the prince paid a visit to Brighton, where he made
the acquaintance of Count D'Orsay, and was entertained by Mrs.
Fitzherbert. He gives a jaundiced account of two entertainments, a
public ball and a musical _soirée_, which he attended while at
Brighton, declaring--probably with some truth--that the latter is one
of the greatest trials to which a foreigner can be exposed in England.
'Every mother,' he explains, 'who has grown-up daughters, for whom she
has had to pay large sums to the music-master, chooses to enjoy the
satisfaction of having the youthful talent admired. There is nothing,
therefore, but quavering and strumming right and left, so that one is
really overpowered and unhappy; and even if an Englishwoman has a
natural capacity for singing, she seldom acquires either style or
science. The men are much more agreeable _dilettanti_, for they
at least give one the diversion of a comical farce. That a man should
advance to the piano with far greater confidence than a David, strike
with his forefinger the note which he thinks his song should begin
with, and then _entonner_ like a thunder-clap (generally a tone
or two lower than the pitch), and sing through a long aria without an
accompaniment of any kind, except the most wonderful distortions of
face, is a thing one must have seen to believe it possible, especially
in the presence of at least fifty people.'

By the middle of April the season had begun in town, and the prince
soon found himself up to the eyes in invitations for balls, dinners,
breakfasts, and _soirées_. We hear of him dining with the Duke of
Clarence, to meet the Duchess of Kent and her daughter; assisting at
the Lord Mayor's banquet, which lasted six hours, and at which the
chief magistrate made six-and-twenty speeches, long and short;
breakfasting with the Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick, being nearly
suffocated at the routs of Lady Cowper and Lady Jersey, and attending
his first ball at Almack's, in which famous assemblage his
expectations were woefully disappointed. 'A large, bare room,' so runs
his description, 'with a bad floor, and ropes round it, like the space
in an Arab camp parted off for horses; two or three badly-furnished
rooms at the side, in which the most wretched refreshments are served,
and a company into which, in spite of all the immense difficulty of
getting tickets, a great many nobodies had wriggled; in which the
dress was as tasteless as the _tournure_ was bad--this was all.
In a word, a sort of inn-entertainment--the music and lighting the
only good things. And yet Almack's is the culminating point of the
English world of fashion.'

Unfortunately for his readers, the prince was rather an observer than
an auditor; for he describes what he sees vividly enough, but seldom
takes the trouble to set down the conversation that he hears. Perhaps
he thought it hardly worth recording, for he complains that in England
politics had become the main ingredient in social intercourse, that
the lighter and more frivolous pleasures suffered by the change, and
that the art of conversation would soon be entirely lost. 'In this
country,' he unkindly adds, 'I should think it [the art of
conversation] never existed, unless, perhaps, in Charles II.'s time.
And, indeed, people here are too slavishly subject to established
usages, too systematic in all their enjoyments, too incredibly kneaded
up with prejudices; in a word, too little vivacious to attain to that
unfettered spring and freedom of spirit, which must ever be the sole
basis of agreeable society. I must confess that I know none more
monotonous, nor more persuaded of its own pre-eminence than the
highest society of this country. A stony, marble-cold spirit of caste
and fashion rules all classes, and makes the highest tedious, the
lowest ridiculous.'

In spite of his dislike to politics as a subject of conversation, his
Highness attended debates at the House of Lords and the House of
Commons, and was so keenly interested in what he heard that he
declared the hours passed like minutes. Canning had just been
intrusted by George IV. with the task of forming a government, but had
promptly been deserted by six members of the former Ministry,
including Wellington, Lord Eldon, and Peel, who were now accused of
having resigned in consequence of a cabal or conspiracy against the
constitutional prerogative of the king to change his ministers at his
own pleasure. In the House of Commons the prince heard Peel's attack
on Canning and the new government, which was parried by Brougham. 'In
a magnificent speech, which flowed on like a clear stream, Brougham,'
we are told, 'tried to disarm his opponent; now tortured him with
sarcasms; now wrought upon the sensibility, or convinced the reason,
of his hearers. The orator closed with the solemn declaration that he
was perfectly impartial; that he _could_ be impartial, because it
was his fixed determination never, and on no terms, to accept a place
in the administration of the kingdom.... [Footnote: In 1831 Brougham
accepted office as Lord Chancellor.] Canning, the hero of the day, now
rose. If his predecessor might be compared to a dexterous and elegant
boxer, Canning presented the image of a finished antique gladiator.
All was noble, simple, refined; then suddenly his eloquence burst
forth like lightning-grand and all-subduing. His speech was, from
every point of view, the most complete, as well as the most
irresistibly persuasive--the crown and glory of the debate.'

On the following day the prince heard some of the late ministers on
their defence in the House of Lords. 'Here,' he observes, 'I saw the
great Wellington in terrible straits. He is no orator, and was obliged
to enter upon his defence like an accused person. He was considerably
agitated; and this senate of his country, though composed of men whom
individually, perhaps, he did not care for, appeared more imposing to
him _en masse_ than Napoleon and his hundred thousands. He
stammered much, interrupted and involved himself, but at length he
brought the matter tolerably to this conclusion, that there was no
"conspiracy." He occasionally said strong things--probably stronger
than he meant, for he was evidently not master of his material. Among
other things, the following words pleased me extremely: "I am a
soldier and no orator. I am utterly deficient in the talents requisite
to play a part in this great assembly. I must be more than insane if I
ever entertained the thought, of which I am accused, of becoming Prime
Minister."... [Footnote: In January 1828 the duke became Prime
Minister.] When I question myself as to the total impression of this
day, I must confess that it was at once elevating and melancholy--the
former when I fancied myself an Englishman, the latter when I felt
myself a German. This twofold senate of the people of England, in
spite of all the defects and blemishes common to human institutions,
is yet grand in the highest degree; and in contemplating its power and
operation thus near at hand, one begins to understand why it is that
the English nation is, as yet, the first on the face of the earth.'

The traveller was by no means exclusively occupied in hearing and
seeing new things. With that strain of practicality which contrasted
so oddly with his sentimental and romantic temperament, he kept firmly
before his eyes the main object of his visit to England. He had
determined at the outset not to sell himself and his title for less
than £50,000, but he confesses that, as time passed on, his demands
became much more modest. His matrimonial ventures were all faithfully
detailed to the presumably sympathising Lucie, for whose sake, the
prince persuaded himself, he was far more anxious for success than for
his own. But he had not counted on the many obstacles with which he
found himself confronted, chief among them being his relations with
his former wife. It was known that the ex-princess was still living at
Muskau with all the rights and privileges of a _chátelaine_,
while the prince never disguised his attachment to her, and openly
kept her portrait on his table. English mothers who would have
welcomed him as a son-in-law were led to believe that the divorce was
only a blind, and that the prince's marriage would be actually, if not
legally, a bigamous union. The satirical papers represented him as a
fortune-hunter, a Bluebeard who had ill-treated his first wife, and
declared that he had proposed for the hand of the dusky Empress of
Hayti, then on a visit to Europe.

Still our hero obstinately pursued his quest, laying siege to the
heart of every presentable-looking heiress to whom he was introduced,
and if attention to the art of the toilet could have gained him a rich
bride, he would not long have been unsuccessful. In dress he took the
genuine interest and delight of the dandy of the period, and
marvellous are the descriptions of his costume that he sends to Lucie.
For morning visits, of which he sometimes paid fifty in one day, he
wore his hair dyed a beautiful black, a new hat, a green neckerchief
with gaily coloured stripes, a yellow cashmere waistcoat with metal
buttons, an olive-green frock-coat and iron-grey pantaloons. On other
occasions he is attired in a dark-brown coat, with a velvet collar, a
white neckerchief, in which a thin gold watch-chain is entwined, a
waistcoat with a collar of _cramoisie_ and gold stars, an
under-waistcoat of white satin, embroidered with gold flowers, full
black pantaloons, spun silk stockings, and short square shoes. Style
such as this could only be maintained at a vast outlay, from the
German point of view, the week's washing-bill alone amounting to an
important sum. According to the prince's calculation, a London
exquisite, during the season of 1827, required every week twenty
shirts, twenty-four pocket-handkerchiefs, nine or ten pairs of summer
trousers, thirty neckerchiefs, a dozen waistcoats and stockings _à
discértion_. 'I see your housewifely ears aghast, my good Lucie,'
he writes, 'but as a dandy cannot get on without dressing three or
four times a day, the affair is quite simple.'

However much the prince may have enjoyed the ceremony of the toilet,
he strongly objected to the process of hair-dyeing, and his letters
are full of complaints of his sufferings and humiliation while
undergoing the operation, which, he declares, is a form of slow
poison, and also an unpleasant reminder that he is really old, but
obliged to play the part of youth in order to attain an object that
may bring him more misery than happiness. As soon as he is safely
married to his heiress, he expresses his determination of looking his
full age, so that people might say 'What a well-preserved old man!'
instead of '_Voilà, le ci-devant jeune homme_!' Still, with all
this care and thought, heiresses remained coy, or more probably their
parents were 'difficult.' The prince's highly-developed personal
vanity was wounded by many a refusal, and so weary did he become of
this woman-hunt, that in one letter to Lucie, dated March 5, 1827, he
exclaims, 'Ah, my dearest, if you only had 150,000 thalers, I would
marry you again to-morrow!'


The summer months were spent in visits to Windsor and other parks near
London, and in a tour through Yorkshire. In October his Highness was
back in town, and engaged in a new matrimonial venture. He writes to
Lucie that 'the fortune in question is immense, and if I obtain it, I
shall end gloriously.' In the correspondence published after the
prince's death is the draft of a letter to Mr. Bonham of Titness Park,
containing a formal proposal for the hand of his daughter, 'Miss
Harriet,' and detailing (with considerable reservations) the position
of his financial affairs. Muskau, he explains, is worth £4,000 a year,
an income which in Germany is equivalent to three times as much in
England. 'Everything belonging to me,' he continues, 'is in the best
possible order; a noble residence at Muskau, and two smaller chateaux,
surrounded with large parks and gardens, in fact, all that make enjoy
life (sic) in the country is amply provided for, and a numerous train
of officious (sic) of my household are always ready to receive their
young princess at her own seat, or if she should prefer town, the
court of Prussia will offer her every satisfaction.' Owing to the fact
that Muskau was mortgaged for £50,000, he was forced, he confesses, to
expect an adequate fortune with his wife, a circumstance to which, if
he had been otherwise situated, he should have paid little attention.

This missive was accompanied by a long letter, dated Nov. 1, 1827, to
'Miss Harriet,' in which the suitor explains the circumstances of his
former marriage, and of his divorce, the knowledge of which has
rendered her uneasy. 'It is rather singular,' he proceeds, 'that in
the very first days after my arrival, you, Miss Harriet, were named to
me, together with some other young ladies, as heiresses. Now I must
confess, at the risk of the fact being doubted in our industrious
times, that I myself had a prejudice against, and even some dread of
heiresses. I may say that I proved in some way these feelings to exist
by marrying a lady with a very small fortune, and afterwards in
England by never courting any heiresses further as common civility
required. My reasons for so doing are not without foundation. In the
first instance, I am a little proud; in the second, I don't want any
more than I possess, though I should not reject it, finding it in my
way, and besides all this, rich young maidens are not always very
amiable.' The prince continues that he had gone, out of principle,
into all kinds of society, and seen many charming and handsome girls,
but had not been able to discover his affinity. At last, after
renouncing the idea of marriage, he heard again of Miss Harriet
Bonham, not of her fortune this time, but of her many excellent
qualities, and the fact that she had refused several splendid offers.
His curiosity was now at last aroused; he sought an opportunity of
being introduced to her, and--'Dearest Miss Harriet, you know the
rest. I thought--and I protest it by all that is sacred--I thought
when I left you again, that here at last I had found united all and
everything I could wish in a future companion through life. An
exterior the most pleasing, a mind and person equally fit for the
representation of a court and the delight of a cottage, and above all,
that sensibility, that goodness of heart, and that perfect absence of
conceitedness which I value more than every other accomplishment.... I
beheld you, besides all your more essential qualities, so quick as
lively, so playful as whitty (_sic_), and nothing really seemed
more bewitching to me as when a hearty, joyful laugh changed your
thoughtful, noble features to the cheerful appearance of a happy
child! And still through every change your and your friends'
conversation and behaviour always remained distinguished by that
perfect breeding and fine tact which, indeed, is to private life what
a clear sky is to a landscape....'

There is a great deal mere to the same effect, and it is sad to think
that all this trouble, all this expenditure of ink and English
grammar, was thrown away. Papa Bonham could not pay down the fortune
demanded by the prince without injuring the other members of his
family; [Footnote: Mr. Bonham's eldest daughter was the second wife of
the first Lord Garvagh.] and although Miss Harriet deplores 'the cruel
end of all our hopes,' the negotiations fell through.

The prince consoled himself for his disappointment with a fresh round
of sight-seeing. He became deeply enamoured of a steam-engine, of
which newly-invented animal he sends the following picturesque
description to Lucie: 'We must now be living in the days of
the _Arabian Nights_, for I have seen a creature to-day far
surpassing all the fantastic beings of that time. Listen to the
monster's characteristics. In the first place, its food is the
cheapest possible, for it eats nothing but wood or coals, and when not
actually at work, it requires none. It never sleeps, nor is weary; it
is subject to no diseases, if well organised at first; and never
refuses its work till worn out by great length of service. It is
equally active in all climates, and undertakes all kinds of labour
without a murmur. Here it is a miner, there a sailor, a
cotton-spinner, a weaver, or a miller; and though a small creature, it
draws ninety tons of goods, or a whole regiment of soldiers, with a
swiftness exceeding that of the fleetest mail-coaches. At the same
time, it marks its own measured steps on a tablet fixed in front of
it. It regulates, too, the degree of warmth necessary to its
well-being; it has a strange power of oiling its inmost joints when
they are stiff, and of removing at pleasure all injurious air that
might find the way into its system; but should anything become
deranged in it, it warns its master by the loud ringing of a bell.
Lastly, it is so docile, in spite of its enormous strength (nearly
equal to that of six hundred horses), that a child of four years old
is able in a moment to arrest its mighty labours by the pressure of
his little finger. Did ever a witch burnt for sorcery produce its

A few weeks later we hear of one manifestation of the new power, which
did not quite come up to the expectations of its admirers. On January
16, 1828, the prince writes: 'The new steam-carriage is completed, and
goes five miles in half an hour on trial in the Regent's Park. But
there was something to repair every moment. I was one of the first of
the curious who tried it; but found the smell of oiled iron, which
makes steamboats so unpleasant, far more insufferable here. Stranger
still is another vehicle to which I yesterday intrusted my person. It
is nothing less than a carriage drawn by a paper kite, very like those
the children fly. This is the invention of a schoolmaster, who is so
skilful in the guidance of his vehicle, that he can get on very fairly
with half a wind, but with a completely fair one, and good roads, he
goes a mile in three-quarters of a minute. The inventor proposes to
traverse the African deserts in this manner, and has contrived a place
behind, in which a pony stands like a footman, and in case of a calm,
can he harnessed to the carriage.'

In the early part of 1828 Henriette Sontag arrived in London, and the
prince at once fell a victim to her charms. The fascinating singer,
then barely three-and-twenty, was already the idol of the public, at
the very summit of her renown. Amazing prices were paid for seats when
she was announced to appear. Among his Highness's papers was found a
ticket for a box at the opera on 'Madame Sontag's night,' on which he
notes that he had sold a diamond clasp to pay the eighty guineas
demanded for the bit of cardboard. He was in love once again with all
the ardour of youth, and for the moment all thoughts of a marriage of
convenience were dismissed from his mind. He was now eager for a
love-match with the fair Henriette, whose attractions had rendered him
temporarily forgetful of those of Muskau. But Mademoiselle Sontag,
though carried away by the passionate wooing of the prince, actually
remembered that she had other ties, probably her engagement to Rossi,
to which it was her duty to remain true. She told her lover that he
must learn to forget her, and that when they parted at the conclusion
of the London season, they must never meet again. The prince was
heart-broken at the necessity for separation, and we are assured that
he never forgot Henriette Sontag (though she had many successors in
his affections), and that after his return to Germany he placed a
gilded bust of the singer in his park, in order that he might have her
image ever before his eyes.

In the hope of distracting his thoughts from his disappointment,
Prince Pückler decided to make a lengthened tour through Wales and
Ireland, and with this object in view he set out in July 1828. Before
his departure, however, he had an interesting rencontre at a
dinner-party given by the Duchess of St. Albans-the _ci-devant_
Harriet Melton. 'I arrived late,' says the prince, in his account of
the incident, 'and was placed between my hostess and a tall, very
simple, but benevolent-looking man of middle age, who spoke broad
Scotch--a dialect anything but agreeable; and would probably have
struck me by nothing else, if I had not discovered that I was sitting
next to ----, the Great Unknown! It was not long ere many a sally of
dry, poignant wit fell from his lips, and many an anecdote told in the
most unpretending manner. His eye, too, glanced whenever he was
animated, with such a clear, good-natured lustre, and such an
expression of true-hearted kindness, that it was impossible not to
conceive a sort of affection for him. Towards the end of the dinner he
and Sir Francis Burdett told ghost-stories, half terrible, half
humorous, one against the other.... A little concert concluded the
evening, in which the very pretty daughter of the great bard--a
healthy-looking Highland beauty--took part, and Miss Stephens sang
nothing but Scottish ballads.'

Before entering upon a new field of observation, the prince summed up
his general impressions of London society with a candour that cannot
have been very agreeable to his English readers. The goddess of
Fashion, he observes, reigns in England alone with a despotic and
inexorable sway; while the spirit of caste here receives a power,
consistency, and completeness of development unexampled in any other
country. 'Every class of society in England, as well as every field,
is separated from every other by a hedge of thorns. Each has its own
manners and turns of expression, and, above all, a supreme and
absolute contempt for all below it.... Now although the aristocracy
does not stand _as such_ upon the pinnacle of this strange social
edifice, it yet exercises great influence over it. It is, indeed,
difficult to become fashionable without being of good descent; but it
by no means follows that a man is so in virtue of being
well-born--still less of being rich. Ludicrous as it may sound, it is
a fact that while the present king is a very fashionable man, his
father was not so in the smallest degree, and that none of his
brothers have any pretensions to fashion; which unquestionably is
highly to their honour.' The truth of this observation is borne out by
the story of Beau Brummell, who, when offended by some action of the
Regent's, exclaimed, 'If this sort of thing goes on, I shall cut
Wales, and bring old George into fashion!'

'A London exclusive of the present day,' continues our censor, 'is
nothing more than a bad, flat, dull imitation of a French _roué_
of the Regency, Both have in common selfishness, levity, boundless
vanity, and an utter want of heart. But what a contrast if we look
further! In France the absence of all morality and honesty was in some
degree atoned for by the most refined courtesy, the poverty of soul by
agreeableness and wit. What of all this has the English dandy to
offer? His highest triumph is to appear with the most wooden manners,
as little polished as will suffice to avoid castigation; nay, to
contrive even his civilities so that they are as near as may be to
affronts--this is the style of deportment that confers on him the
greatest celebrity. Instead of a noble, high-bred ease, to have the
courage to offend against every restraint of decorum; to invert the
relation in which his sex stands to women, so that they appear the
attacking, and he the passive or defensive party; to cut his best
friends if they cease to have the strength and authority of fashion;
to delight in the ineffably _fade_ jargon and affectations of his
set, and always to know what is "the thing"--these are the
accomplishments that distinguish a young "lion" of fashion. Whoever
reads the best of the recent English novels--those by the author of
_Pelham_--may be able to abstract from them a tolerably just idea
of English fashionable society, provided he does not forget to deduct
qualities which the national self-love has erroneously claimed
--namely, grace for its _roués_, seductive manners and witty
conversation for its dandies.'

The foregoing is a summary of the prince's lengthy indictment against
London society. 'I saw in the fashionable world,' he observes in
conclusion, 'only too frequently, and with few exceptions, a profound
vulgarity of thought; an immorality little veiled or adorned; the most
undisguised arrogance; and the coarsest neglect of all kindly feelings
and attentions haughtily assumed for the sake of shining in a false
and despicable refinement; even more inane and intolerable to a
healthy mind than the awkward stiffness of the declared Nobodies. It
has been said that vice and poverty form the most revolting
combination; since I have been in England, vice and boorish rudeness
seem to me to form a still more disgusting union.'

The prince's adventures in Wales and Ireland, with the recital of
which he has filled up the best part of two volumes, must here be
dismissed in as many paragraphs. On his tour through Wales, he left
his card on the Ladies of Llangollen, who promptly invited him to
lunch. Fortunately, he had previously been warned of his hostesses'
peculiarities of dress and appearance. 'Imagine,' he writes, 'two
ladies, the elder of whom, Lady Eleanor Butler, a short, robust woman,
begins to feel her years a little, being nearly eighty-three; the
other, a tall and imposing person, esteems herself still youthful,
being only seventy-four. Both wore their still abundant hair combed
straight back and powdered, a round man's hat, a man's cravat and
waistcoat, but in the place of "inexpressibles," a short petticoat and
boots: the whole covered by a coat of blue cloth, of quite a peculiar
cut. Over this Lady Eleanor wore, first the grand cordon of the order
of St. Louis across her shoulders; secondly, the same order round her
neck; thirdly, the small cross of the same in her buttonhole; and,
_pour comble de gloire_, a golden lily of nearly the natural size
as a star. So far the effect was somewhat ludicrous. But now you must
imagine both ladies with that agreeable _aisance_, that air of
the world of the _ancien régime_, courteous, entertaining,
without the slightest affectation, speaking French as well as any
Englishwoman of my acquaintance; and, above all, with that essentially
polite, unconstrained, simply cheerful manner of the good society of
that day, which in our hard-working, business age appears to be going
to utter decay.'

Thanks to his letters of introduction and the friendships that he
struck up on the road, the prince was able occasionally to step out of
the beaten tourist tracks, and to see something of the more intimate
side of Irish social life. He has given a lively and picturesque
account of his experiences, which included an introduction to Lady
Morgan, [Footnote: See page 142.] and to her charming nieces, the Miss
Clarkes (who made a profound impression on his susceptible heart), a
sentimental journey through Wicklow, a glance at the humours of
Donnybrook Fair, a visit to O'Connell at Derrinane Abbey, a peep into
the wilds of Connaught, an Emancipation dinner at Cashel, where he
made his _début_ as an English orator, and an expedition to the
lakes of Killarney. All this, which was probably novel and interesting
to the German public, contains little that is not familiar to the
modern English reader. The sketch of O'Connell is sufficiently vivid
to bear quotation.

'Daniel O'Connell,' observes the prince, after his visit to Derrinane,
'is no common man--though the man of the commonalty. His power is so
great that at this moment it only depends on him to raise the standard
of rebellion from one end of the island to the other. He is, however,
too sharp-sighted, and much too sure of attaining his ends by safer
means, to wish to bring on any such violent crisis. He has certainly
shown great dexterity in availing himself of the temper of the country
at this moment, legally, openly, and in the face of Government, to
acquire a power scarcely inferior to that of the sovereign; indeed,
though without arms or armies, in some instances far surpassing it.
For how would it have been possible for his Majesty George IV. to
withhold 40,000 of his faithful Irishmen for three days from whisky
drinking? which O'Connell actually accomplished in the memorable Clare
election. The enthusiasm of the people rose to such a height that they
themselves decreed and inflicted a punishment for drunkenness. The
delinquent was thrown into the river, and held there for two hours,
during which time he was made to undergo frequent submersions.... On
the whole, O'Connell exceeded my expectations. His exterior is
attractive, and the expression of intelligent good-humour, united with
determination and prudence, which marks his countenance, is extremely
winning. He has perhaps more of persuasiveness than of large and lofty
eloquence; and one frequently perceives too much design and manner in
his words. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to follow his powerful
arguments with interest, to view the martial dignity of his carriage
without pleasure, or to refrain from laughing at his wit.... He has
received from Nature an invaluable gift for a party-leader, a
magnificent voice, united to good lungs and a strong constitution. His
understanding is sharp and quick, and his acquirements out of his
profession not inconsiderable. With all this his manners are, as I
have said, winning and popular, though somewhat of the actor is
noticeable in them; they do not conceal his very high opinion of
himself, and are occasionally tinged by what an Englishman would call
_vulgarity_. But where is there a picture without shade?'

The prince's matrimonial projects had been pursued only in
half-hearted fashion during this year, and on his return to England in
December, he seems to have thrown up the game in despair. On January
2, 1829, he turned his back on our perfidious shores, and made a short
tour in France before proceeding to Muskau. In one of his letters to
Lucie he admits that on his return journey he had plenty of material
for reflection. Two precious years had been wasted, absence from his
dearest friend had been endured, a large sum of money had been spent
in keeping up a dashing appearance--and all in vain. He consoles
himself with the amazing reflection that Parry had failed in three
attempts to reach the North Pole, and Bonaparte, after heaping victory
on victory for twenty years, had perished miserably in St. Helena!

But if the prince had not accomplished his design of carrying off a
British heiress, his sojourn in England brought him a prize of a
different kind--namely, the laurel crown of fame. His _Briefe eines
Verstorbenen_, the first volumes of which were published
anonymously in 1830, was greeted with an almost unanimous outburst of
admiration and applause. The critics vied with each other in praising
a work in which, according to their verdict, the grace and piquancy of
France were combined with the analytical methods and the profound
philosophy of Germany. In England, as was only to be expected, the
chorus of applause was not unmixed with hisses and catcalls. The
author had, however, been exceptionally fortunate in his translator,
Sarah Austin, whose version of the Letters, entitled _The Tour of a
German Prince_, was described by the _Westminster Review_ as
'the best modern translation of a prose work that has ever appeared,
and perhaps our only translation from the German. As an original work,
the ease and facility of the style would be admired; as a translation,
it is unrivalled.' Croker reviewed the book in the _Quarterly_ in
his accustomed strain of playful brutality, rejoiced savagely over the
numerous blunders, [Footnote: The most amusing of these is the
derivation of the Prince of Wales' motto 'Ich dien' from two Welsh
words, 'Eich deyn,' said to signify 'This is your man!'] and credited
the author with almost as many blasphemies as Lady Morgan herself. The
_Edinburgh_, in a more impartial notice, observed that a great
part of the work had no other merit than that of being an act of
individual treachery against the hospitalities of private life, and
commented on the fact that while the masterpieces of Goethe
and Schiller were still untranslated, the _Tour of Prince
Pückler-Muskau_ had been bought up in a month.

The prince was far too vain of his unexpected literary success to
preserve his anonymity, and the ink-craving having laid hold upon him,
he lost no time in setting to work upon another book. The semblance of
a separation between himself and Lucie had now been thrown aside.
During the summer months they lived at Muskau, where they laboured
together over plans for the embellishment of the gardens, while in the
winter they kept up a splendid establishment in Berlin. The sight of a
divorced couple living together seems to have shocked the Berliners
far more than that of a married couple living apart, but to Pückler,
as a chartered 'original,' much was forgiven. At this time he went a
good deal into literary society, and became intimate with several
women-writers, among them the Gräfin Hahn-Hahn, Rahel, and that
amazing lady, Bettine von Arnim. With the last-named he struck up an
intellectual friendship which roused the jealousy of Lucie, and was
finally wrecked by Bettine's attempts to obtain a spiritual empire
over the lord of Muskau.

In 1832 the prince's debts amounted to 500,000 thalers, and he was
obliged once again to face the fact that he could only save himself
from ruin by a wealthy marriage, or by the sale of his estate. In a
long letter he laid the state of the case before his faithful
companion, pointing out that even at forty-seven, he, with his title
and his youthful appearance, might hope to secure a bride worth
300,000 thalers, but that as long as his ex-wife remained at Muskau he
was hardly likely to be successful in his matrimonial speculations.
Lucie again consented to sacrifice herself in the good cause; but the
prince, a man of innumerable _bonnes fortunes_ according to his
own account, was curiously unfortunate as a would-be Benedick. The
German heiresses were no more propitious to his suit than the English
ones had been; and though, as he plaintively observes, he would have
liked nothing better than to be a Turkish pasha with a hundred and
fifty sultanas, he was unable to obtain a single Christian wife.

In 1834 the prince published two books, _Tutti Frutti_, a
collection of stories and sketches, and _Observations on
Landscape-Gardening_. _Tutti Frutti_ was by no means so
popular as the _Briefe eines Verstorbenen_, but the
_Observations_ took rank as a standard work. The project of a
journey to America having been abandoned, the prince now determined to
spend the winter in Algiers, leaving Lucie in charge at Muskau. This
modest programme enlarged itself into a tour in the East, which lasted
for more than five years. The travellers adventures during this period
have been described in his _Semilasso in Africa, Aus Mehemet's
Reich, Die Rückkehr_, and other works, which added to their
author's fame, and nearly sufficed to pay his expenses. We hear of him
breaking hearts at Tunis and Athens, shooting big game in the Soudan,
astonishing the Arabs by his horsemanship, and meddling in Egyptian
politics. It was not until 1838 that, moved by Lucie's complaints of
her loneliness, he reluctantly abandoned his plan of settling in the
East, and turned his face towards Europe. On the homeward journey he
made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and turned out of his course for the
visit to Lady Hester Stanhope that has already been described.

His Highness arrived at Vienna in the autumn of 1839, bringing in his
suite an Abyssinian slave-girl, Machbuba, whom he had bought a couple
of years before, and who had developed such wonderful qualities of
head and heart, that he could not bring himself to part from her. But
Lucie obstinately refused to receive Machbuba at Muskau, and declared
that the prince's reputation would be destroyed for ever, if he
brought a favourite slave under the same roof as his 'wife,' and thus
sinned against the laws of outward seemliness. So Machbuba and the
master who, like another Pygmalion, seems to have endowed this dusky
Galatea with a mind and soul, remained at Vienna, where the
Abyssinian, clad in a picturesque Mameluke's costume, accompanied the
prince to all the public spectacles, and became a nine days' wonder to
the novelty-loving Viennese. But the severity of a European winter
proved fatal to poor Machbuba, consumption laid its grip upon her, and
it was as a dying girl that at last she was taken to the Baths of
Muskau. Lucie received this once-dreaded rival kindly, but at once
carried off the prince for a visit to Berlin, and in the absence of
the master whom she worshipped with a spaniel-like devotion, Machbuba
breathed her last. The slave-girl was laid to rest amid all the pomp
and ceremony of a state funeral, the principal inhabitants of Muskau
and the neighbourhood followed her to her grave, and on the Sunday
following her death the chaplain delivered a eulogy on Machbuba's
virtues, and the fatherly benevolence of her master.

The prince was temporarily broken-hearted at the death of his
favourite, but his mercurial spirits soon reasserted themselves, and a
round of visits to the various German courts restored him to his
accustomed self-complacency. The idea of selling Muskau, and thus
ridding himself of the burden of his debts, once more occupied his
mind. A handsome offer for the estate had been refused a few years
before, in compliance with the wishes of Lucie, who loved Muskau even
better than its master, and had appealed to the king to prevent the
sale. But in 1845 came another offer from Count Hatzfeld of 1,700,000
thalers, which, in spite of Lucie's tears and entreaties, the prince
decided to accept. Although it cost him a sharp pang to give up to
another the spot of earth on which he had lavished so much time, so
much labour, and so much money, he fully appreciated the advantage of
an unembarrassed income and complete freedom of movement.

For a year or two after the sale, he led a wandering life, with Berlin
or Weimar for his headquarters. In 1846, shortly before his sixtieth
birthday, he met, so he confided to the long-suffering Lucie, the only
woman he had ever loved, or at least the only woman he had ever
desired to marry. Unfortunately, the lady, who was young, beautiful,
clever, of high rank, large fortune, and angelic disposition, had been
married for some years to a husband who is described as ugly,
ill-tempered, jealous, and incredibly selfish. The prince's letters at
this period are filled with raptures over the virtues of his new
_inamorata_, and lamentations that he had met her too late. For
though his passion was returned the lady was a strict Catholic, for
whom a divorce was out of the question, and for once this hardened
Lothario shrank from an elopement, with the resultant stain upon the
reputation of the woman he loved. In 1846 he parted from his affinity,
who survived the separation little more than a year, and retired with
a heavy heart to his paternal castle of Branitz, near Kottbus, where
he occupied himself in planting a park and laying out gardens. Branitz
was only about a tenth part the size of Muskau, and stood in the midst
of a sandy waste, but at more than sixty years of age the prince set
himself, with all the ardour of youth, to conjure a paradise out of
the wilderness. Forest trees were transplanted, lakes and canals dug,
hills appeared out of the level fields, and, in short, this
'earth-tamer,' as Rahel called him, created not only a park, but a
complete landscape.

The remainder of our hero's eventful career must be briefly
summarised. In 1851 he made a flight to England to see the Great
Exhibition. Here he renewed his acquaintance with many old friends,
among them the Duchess of Somerset, who told him that she had known
his father well twenty-five years before. The prince, who has been
described as a male Ninon de L'Enclos, was naturally delighted at
being mistaken for his own son. In 1852 the work at Branitz was so far
advanced that its lord invited Lucie to come and take up her abode at
the Schloss. But the poor lady's troubled life was nearing its close.
She had a paralytic stroke in the autumn of this year, and remained an
invalid until her death, which took place at Branitz in May, 1854.

In the loneliness that followed, the prince amused himself by keeping
up a lively correspondence with his feminine acquaintance, for whom,
even at seventy, he had not lost his fascinations. His celebrity as an
author and a traveller brought him many anonymous correspondents, and
he never wearied of reading and answering the sentimental effusions of
his unknown admirers. In 1863 he paid a visit incognito to Muskau, the
first since he had left it eighteen years before, though Branitz was
but a few leagues away. He was recognised at once, and great was the
joy in the little town over the return of its old ruler, who was
honoured with illuminations, the discharge of cannon, and torchlight
processions. The estate had passed into the hands of Prince Frederick
of the Netherlands, who had carried out all its former master's plans,
and added many improvements of his own. Pückler generously admired the
splendour that he had had so large a share in creating, and then went
contentedly back to his _kleine Branitz_, his only regret being
that he could not live to see it, like Muskau, in the fulness of its
matured beauty. In 1866, when war broke out between Prussia and
Austria, this grand old man of eighty-one volunteered for active
service, and begged to be attached to the headquarters' staff. His
request was granted, and he went gallantly through the brief campaign,
but was bitterly disappointed because he was not able to be present at
the battle of Koniggrätz, owing to the indisposition of the king, upon
whom he was in attendance.

In 1870, when France declared war against Prussia, he again
volunteered, and was deeply mortified when the king declined his
services on account of his advanced age. For the first time he seems
to have realised that he was old, and it is probable that the
disappointment preyed upon his spirits, for his strength rapidly
declined, his memory failed, and on February 4,1871, after a brief
illness, he sank peacefully to rest. He was buried in a tomb that he
had built for himself many years before, a pyramid sixty feet high,
which stood upon an acre of ground in the centre of an artificial
lake. The two inscriptions that the prince chose for his sepulchre
illustrate, appropriately enough, the sharply contrasting qualities of
his strange individuality--his romantic sentimentality, and his
callous cynicism. The first inscription was a line from the Koran:

   'Graves are the mountain summits of a far-off, fairer world.'

The second, chosen presumably for the sake of the paradox, was the
French apothegm:

   Pluto plutôt plus tard.'



[Illustration: Mary Howitt From a portrait by Margaret Gillies]

The names of William and Mary Howitt are inextricably associated with
the England of the early nineteenth century, with the re-discovery of
the beauty and interest of their native land, with the renaissance of
the national passion for country pleasures and country pursuits, and
with the slow, painful struggle for a wider freedom, a truer humanity,
a fuller, more gracious life. The Howitts had no genius, nor were they
pioneers, but, where the unfamiliar was concerned, they were
open-minded and receptive to a degree that is unfortunately rare in
persons of their perfect uprightness and strong natural piety. If they
flashed no new radiance upon the world, they were always among the
first to kindle their little torches at the new lamps; and they did
good service in handing back the light to those who, but for them,
would have had sat in the shadow, and flung stones at the
incomprehensible illuminations.

Of the two minds, Mary's was the finer and the more original. It was
one of those everyday miracles--the miracles that do happen--that in
spite of the severity, the narrowness, the repression of her early
training, she should have forced her way through the shell of rigid
sectarianism, repudiated her heritage of drab denials, and opened both
heart and mind to the new poetry, the new art, and the new knowledge.
In her husband she found a kindred spirit, and during the more than
fifty years of their pilgrimage together their eyes were ever turned
towards the same goal. Though not equally gifted, they were equally
disinterested, equally enlightened, and equally anxious for the
advancement of humanity. They took themselves and their vocation
seriously, and produced an immense quantity of careful, conscientious
work, the work of honest craftsmen rather than artists, with the
quality of a finished piece of cabinet-making, or a strip of fine

Mary Howitt was the daughter of Samuel Botham, a land-surveyor at
Uttoxeter. His father, the descendant of a long line of Staffordshire
yeomen, Quakers by persuasion, loved a roaming life, and having
married a maltster's widow with a talent for business management, was
left free to indulge his own propensities. He seems to have had a
talent for medical science of an empirical kind, for he dabbled in
magnetism and electricity, and wandered about the country collecting
herbs for headache--snuffs, and healing ointments. Samuel, as soon as
he had served his apprenticeship, found plenty of employment in the
neighbourhood, the country gentlemen, who had taken alarm at the
revolutionary ideas newly introduced from France, being anxious to
have their acres measured, and their boundaries accurately defined.
While at work upon Lord Talbot's Welsh estates in 1795, he became
attracted by a 'convinced' Friend, named Ann Wood. The interesting
discovery that both had a passion for nuts, together with the gentle
match-making of a Quaker patriarch, led to an engagement, and the
couple were married in December, 1796.

Ann Wood was the granddaughter of William Wood, whose contract for
supplying Ireland with copper coin (obtained by bribing the Duchess of
Kendal) was turned into a national grievance by Swift, and led to the
publication of the _Drapier Letters_. Although Wood's half-pence
were admitted to be excellent coin, and Ireland was short of copper,
the feeling against their circulation was so intense, that Ministers
were obliged to withdraw the patent, Wood being compensated for his
losses with a grant of £3000 a year for a term of years, and 'places'
for some of his fifteen children. Ann's father, Charles, when very
young, was appointed assay-master to Jamaica. After his return to
England in middle life he married a lively widow, went into business
as an iron-master near Merthyr Tydvil, and distinguished himself by
introducing platinum into Europe, having first met with the semi-metal
in Jamaica, whither it had been brought from Carthagena in New Spain.
After his death, Ann, the only serious member of a 'worldly' family,
found it impossible to remain in the frivolous atmosphere of her home,
and determined, in modern fashion, to 'live her own life.' After
spending some years as governess or companion in various families, she
became converted to Quaker doctrines, and was received into the
Society of Friends.

Samuel Botham took his bride to live in the paternal home at
Uttoxeter, where the preparation of the old quack doctor's herbal
medicines caused her a great deal of discomfort. In the course of the
next three years two daughters were born to the couple; Anna in 1797,
and Mary on March 12, 1799. At the time of Mary's birth her parents
were passing through a period of pecuniary distress, owing to a
disastrous speculation; but with the opening of the new century a
piece of great good fortune befell Samuel Botham. He was one of the
two surveyors chosen to enclose and divide the Chase of Needwood in
the county of Stafford. In the early years of the nineteenth century
there was, unfortunately for England, a mania for enclosing commons,
and felling ancient forests. Needwood, which extended for many miles,
contained great numbers of magnificent old oaks, limes, and hollies,
and no less than twenty thousand head of deer. In after years, Mary
Howitt often regretted that her family should have had a hand in the
destruction of so vast an extent of solitude and beauty, in a country
that was already thickly populated and trimly cultivated. Still, for
the nine years that the work of 'disafforesting' lasted, the two
little girls got a great deal of enjoyment out of the ruined Chase,
spending long summer days in its grassy glades, while their father
parcelled out the land and marked trees for the axe.

In her _Autobiography_ [Footnote: Edited by her daughter
Margaret, and published by Messrs. Isbister in 1889.] Mary declares
that it is impossible for her to give an adequate idea of the
stillness and isolation of her childish life. So intense was the
silence of the Quaker household, that, at four years old, Anna had to
be sent to a dame's school in order that she might learn to talk;
while even after both children had attained the use of speech, their
ignorance of the right names for the most ordinary feelings and
actions obliged them to coin words of their own. 'My childhood was
happy in many respects,' she writes. 'It was so, as far as physical
health, the enjoyment of a beautiful country, and the companionship of
a dearly loved sister could make it--but oh, there was such a cloud
over all from the extreme severity of a so-called religious education,
it almost made cowards and hypocrites of us, and made us feel that, if
this were religion, it was a thing to be feared and hated.' The family
reading consisted chiefly of the writings of Madame Guyon, Thomas à
Kempis, and St. Francis de Sales, while for light literature there
were Telemachus, Fox's _Book of Martyrs_, and a work on the
_Persecution of the Friends_. But it is impossible for even the
most pious of Quakers to guard against all the stratagems by which the
spirit of evil--or human nature--contrives to gain an entrance into a
godly household. In the case of the Botham children an early knowledge
of good and evil was learnt from an apparently respectable nurse, who
made her little charges acquainted with most of the scandals of the
neighbourhood, accustomed their infant ears to oaths, and--most
terrible of all--taught them to play whist, she herself taking dummy,
and transforming the nursery tea-tray into a card-table. In that
silent household it was easy to keep a secret, and though the little
girls often trembled at their nurse's language, they never betrayed
her confidence.

In 1806 another daughter, Emma, was born to the Bothams, and in 1808 a
son, Charles. In the midst of their joy and amazement at the news that
they had a brother, the little girls asked each other anxiously: 'Will
our parents like it?' Only a short time before a stranger had inquired
if they had any brothers, and they had replied in all seriousness: 'Oh
no, our parents do not approve of boys.' Now, much to their relief,
they found that their father and mother highly approved of their own
boy, who became the spoilt darling of the austere household. A new
nurse was engaged for the son and heir, a lady of many love-affairs,
who made Mary her confidante, and induced the child, then nine years
old, to write an imaginary love-letter. The unlucky letter was laid
between the pages of the worthy Madame Guyon, and there discovered by
Mr. Botham. Not much was said on the subject of the document, which
seems to have been considered too awful to bear discussion; but the
children were removed from the influence of the nurse, and allowed to
attend a day-school in the neighbourhood, though only on condition
that they sat apart from the other children in order to avoid
contamination with possible worldlings.

In 1809 the two elder sisters were sent to a Quaker school at Croydon,
where they found themselves the youngest, the most provincial, and the
worst dressed of the little community. Even in advanced old age, Mary
had a keen memory for the costumes of her childhood, and the
mortification that these had caused her. On their arrival at school
the little girls were attired in brown pelisses, cut plain and
straight, without plait or fold, and hooked down the front to obviate
the necessity for buttons, which, being in the nature of trimmings,
were regarded as an indulgence of the lust of the eye. On their heads
they wore little drab beaver bonnets, also destitute of trimmings, and
so plain in shape that even the Quaker hatter had to order special
blocks for their manufacture. The other girls were busy over various
kinds of fashionable fancy-work, but the little Bothams were expected,
in their leisure moments, to make half-a-dozen linen shirts for their
father, button-holes and all. They had never learnt to net, to weave
coloured paper into baskets, to plait split straw into patterns, nor
any of the other amateur handicrafts of the day. But they were clever
with their fingers, and could copy almost anything that they had seen
done. 'We could buckle flax or spin a rope,' writes Mary. 'We could
drive a nail, put in a screw or draw it out. We knew the use of a
glue-pot, and how to paper a room. We soon furnished ourselves with
coloured paper for plaiting, and straw to split and weave into net;
and I shall never forget my admiration of a pattern of diamonds woven
with strips of gold paper on a black ground. It was my first attempt
at artistic handiwork.'

After a few months at Croydon the girls were recalled to Uttoxeter on
account of their mother's illness; and as soon as she recovered they
were despatched to another Friends' school at Sheffield. In 1812, when
Mary was only thirteen and Anna fifteen, their education was supposed
to be completed, and they returned home for good. But Mr. Botham was
dissatisfied with his daughters' attainments, and engaged the master
of the boys' school to teach them Latin, mathematics, and the use of
the globes. The death of this instructor obliged them thenceforward to
rely on a system of self-education. 'We retained and perfected our
rudimentary knowledge,' Mary writes, 'by instructing others. Our
father fitted up a school-room for us in the stable-loft, where, twice
a week, we were allowed to teach poor children. In this room, also, we
instructed our dear little brother and sister. Our father, in his
beautiful handwriting, used to set them copies, texts of Scripture,
such as he no doubt had found of a consolatory nature. On one
occasion, however, I set the copies, and well remember the tribulation
I experienced in consequence. I always warred in my mind against the
enforced gloom of our home, and having for my private reading at that
time Young's _Night Thoughts_, came upon what seemed to me the
very spirit of true religion, a cheerful heart gathering up the
joyfulness of surrounding nature; on which the poet says: "'Tis
impious in a good man to be sad." How I rejoiced in this!--and
thinking it a great fact which ought to be noised abroad, wrote it
down in my best hand as a copy. It fell under our father's eye, and
sorely grieved he was at such a sentiment, and extremely angry with me
as its promulgator.'

The sisters can never have found the time hang heavy on their hands,
for in addition to their educational duties, their mother required
them to be expert in all household matters; while, in their scanty
hours of leisure, they attempted, in the face of every kind of
discouragement, to satisfy their strong natural craving for beauty and
knowledge. 'We studied poetry, botany, and flower-painting,' Mary
writes. 'These pursuits were almost out of the pale of permitted
Quaker pleasures, but we pursued them with a perfect passion, doing in
secret that which we dared not do openly, such as reading Shakespeare,
the elder novelists, and translations of the classics. We studied
French and chemistry, and enabled ourselves to read Latin, storing our
minds with a whole mass of heterogeneous knowledge. This was good as
far as it went, but I now deplore the secrecy, the subterfuge, and the
fear under which this ill-digested, ill-arranged knowledge was

The young Quakeresses picked up ideas and models for their artistic
handicraft from the most unlikely sources. A shop-window, full of
dusty plaster medallions for mantelpiece decorations, gave them their
first notions of classic design. The black Wedgwood ware was to be
seen in nearly every house in Uttoxeter, while a few of the more
prosperous inhabitants possessed vases and jugs in the pale blue ware,
ornamented with graceful figures. These precious specimens the Botham
sisters used to borrow, and contrived to reproduce the figures by
means of moulds made of paper pulp. They also etched flowers and
landscapes on panes of glass, and manufactured 'transparencies' out of
different thicknesses of cap-paper. 'I feel a sort of tender pity for
Anna and myself,' wrote Mary long afterwards, 'when I remember how we
were always seeking and struggling after the beautiful, and after
artistic production, though we knew nothing of art. I am thankful that
we made no alms-baskets, or hideous abortions of that kind. What we
did was from the innate yearnings of our souls for perfection in form
and colour; and our accomplished work, though crude and poor, was the
genuine outcome of our own individuality.'

It was one of the heaviest crosses of Mary's girlish days that she and
Anna were not permitted to exercise their clever fingers, and indulge
their taste for the beautiful, in their own dress. But they found a
faint vicarious pleasure in making pretty summer gowns, and
embroidering elaborate muslin collars for a girl-friend who was
allowed to wear fashionable clothes, and even to go to balls. Even
their ultra-plain costumes, however, could not disguise the fact that
Anna and Mary Botham were comely damsels, and they had several suitors
among the young men-Friends of Uttoxeter. But the sisters held a low
opinion of the mental endowments of the average Quaker, an opinion
that was only shaken by a report of the marvellous attainments of
young William Howitt of Heanor, who was said to be not only a scholar,
but a born genius. William's mother, Phoebe, herself a noted amateur
healer, was an old friend of Mary's grandfather, the herbal doctor,
but the young people had never met. However, in the autumn of 1818,
William paid a visit to some relations at Uttoxeter, and there made
the acquaintance of the Botham girls, who discovered that this young
man-Friend shared nearly all their interests, and was full of sympathy
with their studies and pursuits.

Before the end of the year Mary Botham was engaged to William Howitt,
he being then six-and-twenty and she nineteen. 'The tastes of my
future husband and my own were strongly similar,' she observes, 'so
also was our mental culture; but he was in every direction so far in
advance of me as to become my teacher and guide. Knowledge in the
broadest sense was the aim of our intellectual efforts; poetry and
nature were the paths that led to it. Of ballad poetry I was already
enamoured, William made me acquainted with the realistic life-pictures
of Crabbe; the bits of nature and poetry in the vignettes of Bewick;
with the earliest works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, and the
first marvellous prose productions of the author of _Waverley_.'

After an engagement lasting a little more than two years, William and
Mary were married on April 16, 1821, the bride wearing her first silk
gown--a pretty dove-colour--and a white silk shawl, finery which
filled her soul with rapture. The couple spent the honeymoon in the
bridegroom's native Derbyshire, visiting every spot of beauty or haunt
of old tradition in that country of the romantic and the picturesque.
Incorporated in his wife's _Autobiography _is William Howitt's
narrative of his parentage and youthful days, which is supplemented by
his _Boys' Country Book_, the true story of his early adventures
and experiences. The Howitts, he tells us, were descended from a
family named Hewitt, the younger branch of which obtained Wansley
Hall, near Nottingham, through marriage with an heiress, and changed
the spelling of their name. His ancestors had been, for generations, a
rollicking set, all wofully lacking in prudence and sobriety.
About the end of the seventeenth century, one Thomas Howitt,
great-great-grandfather of William, married Catherine, heiress of the
Charltons of Chilwell. But Thomas so disgusted his father-in-law by
his drunken habits that Mr. Charlton disinherited his daughter, who
loyally refused to leave her husband, and left his property to a
stranger who chanced to bear his name. After this misfortune the
Howitts descended somewhat in the social scale, and, having no more
substance to waste, reformed their ways and forsook all riotous
living. William's father, who held a post as manager of a Derbyshire
colliery, married a Quaker lady, Phoebe Tantum of the Fall, Heanor,
and was himself received into the Society of Friends in 1783.

William received a good plain education at a Quaker school at
Ackworth, and grew up a genuine country lad, scouring the lanes on his
famous grey pony, Peter Scroggins, the acknowledged leader of the
village lads in bird-nesting and rat-hunting expeditions, and taking
his full share of the work on his father's little farm. Long
afterwards he used to say that every scene in and about Heanor was
photographed with absolute distinctness on his brain, and he loved to
recall the long days that he had spent in following the plough,
chopping turnips for the cattle, tramping over the snow-covered fields
after red-wing and fieldfare, collecting acorns for the swine, or
hunting through the barns for eggs. The Howitt family was much less
strict than that of the Bothams, for in the winter evenings the boys
were allowed to play draughts and dominoes, while at Christmas there
were games of forfeits, blind-man's buff, and fishing for the ring in
the great posset-pot.

On leaving school at fifteen, William amused himself for a couple of
years on the farm, though, curiously enough, he never thought of
becoming a farmer in good earnest; indeed, at this time he seems to
have had no distinct bias towards any profession. Mr. Howitt had
somehow become imbued with Rousseau's doctrine that every boy,
whatever his position in life, should learn a mechanical handicraft,
in order that, if all else failed, he might be able to earn his own
living by the labour of his hands. Having decided that William should
learn carpentering, the boy was apprenticed for four years to a
carpenter and builder at Mansfield, on the outskirts of Sherwood
Forest. The four precious years were practically thrown away, except
for the enjoyment obtained from long solitary rambles amid the
picturesque associations of the Forest, and the knowledge of natural
history gained from close observation of the wild life of that
romantic district.

It was not until his twenty-first birthday that William's indentures
were out, and as he was still unable to make up his mind about a
profession--it must be remembered that the law, the church, the army
and navy were all closed to a Quaker--he spent the next seven years at
home, angling in the streams like his favourite hero, Isaac Walton,
and striving, by dint of hard study, to make up the many deficiencies
in his education. He taught himself Latin, French, and Italian,
besides working at botany, chemistry, and the dispensing of medicines.
It was during these seven years of uncertainty and experiment that
William read Washington Irving's _Sketches of Geoffrey Crayon_,
which produced a strong impression on his mind. With the inspiration
of this book hot upon him, he made a tour on foot through the Peak
country, and afterwards wrote an account of his adventures in what he
fondly believed to be the style of Geoffrey Crayon. The paper was
printed in a local journal under the title of _A Pedestrian
Pilgrimage through the Peak_, by Wilfrid Wendle. This was not
William Howitt's first literary essay, some stanzas of his on Spring,
written when he was only thirteen, having been printed in the
_Monthly Magazine_, with his name and age attached.

With the prospect of marriage it was thought desirable that William
should have some regular calling. Without, so far as appears, passing
any examinations or obtaining any certificates, he bought the business
of a chemist and druggist in Hanley, and thither, though with no
intention of settling permanently in the Potteries, he took his bride
as soon as the honeymoon was over. Only seven months were spent at
Hanley, and in December, 1821, the couple were preparing to move to
Nottingham, where William had bought the good-will of another
chemist's business. But before settling down in their new home, the
Howitts undertook a long pedestrian tour through Scotland and the
north of England, in the course of which they explored the Rob Roy
country, rambled through Fife, made acquaintance with the beauties of
Edinburgh, looked in upon Robert Owen's model factories at New Lanark,
got a glimpse of Walter Scott at Melrose, were mistaken for a runaway
couple at Gretna Green, gazed reverently on Rydal Mount, and tramped
in all no less than five hundred miles. An account of the tour was
contributed to a Staffordshire paper under the title of _A Scottish
Ramble in the Spring of 1822_, by Wilfrid and Wilfreda Wendle.

It was not until August, 1822, that the pair established themselves in
a little house at Nottingham. Of the chemist's business we hear
practically nothing in Mary's narrative, but a great deal about the
literary enterprises in which husband and wife collaborated. They
began by collecting the poems, of which each had a large number ready
written, and, in fear and trembling, prepared to submit them to the
verdict of critics and public. 'It seems strange to me,' wrote Mary,
when she informed her sister of this modest venture, 'and I cannot
reconcile myself to the thought of seeing my own name staring me in
the face in every bookseller's window, or being pointed at and peeped
after as a writer of verses.' In April, 1823, _The Forest Minstrel
and other Poems_, by William and Mary Howitt, made its appearance
in a not particularly appreciative world. The verses were chiefly
descriptive of country sights and sounds, and had been produced, as
stated in the Preface, 'not for the sake of writing, but for the
indulgence of our own overflowing feelings.' The little book created
no sensation, but it was kindly noticed, and seems to have attracted a
few quiet readers who, like the writers, were lovers of nature and

During these early years at Nottingham the Howitts kept up, as far as
their opportunities allowed, with the thought and literature of their
day, and never relaxed their anxious efforts after 'mental
improvement.' William's brother, Richard, himself a budding poet, was
at this time an inmate of the little household, which was increased in
1824 by the birth of a daughter, Anna Mary. Although the couple still
remained in the Quaker fold, they were gradually discarding the
peculiar dress and speech of the 'plain' Friends. They were evidently
regarded as terribly 'advanced' young people in their own circle, and
shocked many of their old acquaintances by the catholicity of their
views, by their admiration of Byron and Shelley, and by the liberal
tone of their own productions. Like most of the lesser writers of that
day, they found their way into the popular Keepsakes and Annuals,
which Mary accurately describes as 'a chaffy, frivolous, and
unsatisfactory style of publication, that only serves to keep a young
author in the mind of the public, and to bring in a little cash.' In
1826 Mrs. Howitt was preparing for the press a new volume of poems by
herself and her husband, _The Desolation of Eyam_, and in a
letter to her sister, now transformed into Mrs. Daniel Wilson, she
describes her sensations while awaiting the ordeal of critical
judgment, and expresses her not very flattering opinion of the
contemporary reviewer.

'Nobody that has not published,' she observes, 'can tell the almost
painful excitement which the first opinions occasion. Really, for some
days I was quite nervous. William boasted of possessing his mind in
wise passivity, and truly his imperturbable patience was quite an
annoyance; I therefore got Rogers's beautiful poem on Italy to read,
and so diverted my thoughts. Everything in the literary world is done
by favour and connections. It is a miracle to me how our former
volume, when we were quite unknown, got favourably noticed. In many
cases a book is reviewed which has never been read, or even seen

By this time the young authors who, to use Mary's own phrase, hungered
and thirsted after acquaintances who were highly gifted in mind or
profound in knowledge, had acquired one or two literary friends and
correspondents, among them Mrs. Hemans, Bernard Barton, the Quaker
poet, and the Alaric Watts's of Keepsake fame. An occasional notice of
the Howitts and their little household may be found in contemporary
works by forgotten writers. For example, Sir Richard Phillips, in the
section devoted to Nottingham of his quaintly-worded _Personal Tour
through the United Kingdom _(1828), observes: 'Of Messrs. Howitt,
husband and wife, conjugal in love and poetry, it would be vain for me
to speak. Their tasteful productions belong to the nation as well as
to Nottingham. As a man of taste Mr. Howitt married a lady of taste;
and with rare amiability they have jointly cultivated the Muses, and
produced some volumes of poetry, consisting of pieces under their
separate names. The circumstance afforded a topic for ridicule to some
of those anonymous critics who abuse the press and disgrace
literature; but no one ventured to assail their productions.' Spencer
Hall, a fellow-townsman, became acquainted with the Howitts in 1829,
and in his _Reminiscences_ describes William as a bright, neat,
quick, dapper man of medium height, with a light complexion, blue
eyes, and brisk, cheery speech. Mary, he tells us; was always neatly
dressed, but with nothing prim or sectarian in her style. 'Her
expression was frank and free, yet very modest, and she was blessed
with an affectionate, sociable spirit.'

A presentation copy of _The Desolation of Eyam_ was sent to the
Howitts' favourite poet, Wordsworth, who, in acknowledging their
'elegant volume,' declared that, though he had only had time to turn
over the leaves, he had found several poems which had already afforded
him no small gratification. The harmless little book was denounced by
the _Eclectic Review_ as 'anti-Quakerish, atheistical, and
licentious in style and sentiment, 'but the authors were consoled by a
charming little notice of their contributions to the Annuals in the
_Noctes Ambrosianae_ for November, 1828. 'Who are these three
brothers and sisters, the Howitts, sir?' asks the Shepherd of
Christopher North, in the course of a discussion of the Christmas
gift-books, 'whose names I see in the adverteesements?'

_North_. I don't know, James. It runs in my head that they are
Quakers. Richard and William seem amiable and ingenious men, and
Sister Mary writes beautifully.

_Shepherd_. What do you mean by beautifully? That's vague.

_North_. Her language is chaste and simple, her feelings tender
and pure, and her observation of nature accurate and intense. Her
'Sketches from Natural History' in the _Christmas Box_ have much
of the moral--nay, rather the religious spirit--that permeates all
Wordsworth's smaller poems, however light and slight the subject, and
show that Mary Howitt is not only well-read in the book of Bewick, but
also in the book from which Bewick has borrowed all--glorious
plagiarist--and every other inspired zoologist--

_Shepherd_. The Book o' Natur'.'

The great event of 1829 for the Howitts was a visit to London, where
they were the guests of Alaric and Zillah Watts, with whom they had
long maintained a paper friendship. 'What wilt thou say, dear Anna,'
writes Mary in December, 'when I tell thee that William and I set out
for London the day after to-morrow. I half dread it. I shall wish
twenty times for our quiet fireside, where day by day we read and talk
by ourselves, and nobody looks in upon us. I keep reasoning with
myself that the people we shall see in London are but men and women,
and perhaps, after all, no better than ourselves. If we could but
divest our minds of _self_, as our dear father used to say we
should do, it would be better and more comfortable for us. Yet it is
one of the faults peculiar to us Bothams that, with all the desire
there was to make us regardless of self, we never had confidence and
proper self-respect instilled into us, and the want of this gives us a
depressing feeling, though I hope it is less seen by others than by
ourselves.... We do not intend to stay more than a week, and thou may
believe we shall have enough to do. We have to make special calls on
the Carter Halls, Dr. Bowring, and the Pringles, and are to be
introduced to their ramifications of acquaintance. Allan Cunningham,
L. E. L., and Thomas Roscoe we are sure to see.'

In Miss Landon's now forgotten novel, _Romance and Reality_,
there is a little sketch of Mary Howitt as she appeared at a literary
_soirée_, during her brief visit to London. The heroine, Miss
Arundel, is being initiated into the mysteries of the writing world by
her friend, Mrs. Sullivan, when her attention is arrested by the sight
of 'a female in a Quaker's dress--the quiet, dark silk dress--the hair
simply parted on the forehead--the small, close cap--the placid,
subdued expression of the face, were all in strong contrast to the
crimsons, yellows, and blues around. The general character of the
large, soft eyes seemed sweetness; but they were now lighted up with
an expression of intelligent observation--that clear, animated, and
comprehensive glance which shows it analyses what it observes. You
looked at her with something of the sensation with which, while
travelling along a dusty road, the eye fixes on some green field,
where the hour flings its sunshine and the tree its shadow, as if its
pure fresh beauty was a thing apart from the soil and tumult of the
highway. "You see," said Mrs. Sullivan, "one who, in a brief
interview, gave me more the idea of a poet than most of our modern
votaries of the lute.... She is as creative in her imaginary poems as
she is touching and true in her simpler ones."'

Though there were still giants upon the earth in those far-off days,
the general standard of literary taste was by no means exalted, a fact
which Mary Howitt could hardly be expected to realise. She seems to
have taken the praises lavished on her simple verses over-seriously,
and to have imagined herself in very truth a poet. She was more
clear-sighted where the work of her fellow-scribes was concerned, and
in a letter written about this time, she descants upon the dearth of
good literature in a somewhat disillusioned vein. After expressing her
desire that some mighty spirit would rise up and give an impulse to
poetry, she continues: 'I am tired of Sir Walter Scott and his
imitators, and I am sickened of Mrs. Hemans's luscious poetry, and all
her tribe of copyists. The libraries set in array one school against
another, and hurry out the trashy volumes before the ink of the
manuscript is fairly dry. Dost thou remember the days when Byron's
poems first came out, now one and then another, at sufficient
intervals to allow of digesting them? And dost thou remember our first
reading of _Lalla Rookh_? It was on a washing-day. We read and
clapped our clear-starching, read and clapped, and read again, and all
the time our souls were not on this earth.'

There was one book then in course of preparation which Mary thought
worthy to have been read, even in those literary clear-starching days.
'Thou hast no idea,' she assures her sister, 'how very interesting
William's work, now called _A Book of the Seasons_, has become.
It contains original sketches on every month, with every
characteristic of the season, and a garden department which will fill
thy heart brimful of all garden delights, greenness, and boweriness.
Mountain scenery and lake scenery, meadows and woods, hamlets, farms,
halls, storm and sunshine--all are in this most delicious book,
grouped into a most harmonious whole.' Unfortunately, publishers were
hard to convince of the merits of the new work, the first of William
Howitt's rural series, and it was declined by four houses in turn. The
author at last suggested that a stone should be tied to the unlucky
manuscript, and that it should be flung over London Bridge; but his
wife was not so easily disheartened. She was certain that the book was
a worthy book, and only needed to be made a little more 'personable'
to find favour in the eyes of a publisher. Accordingly, blotted sheets
were hastily re-copied, new articles introduced, and passages of
dubious interest omitted, husband and wife working together at this
remodelling until their fingers ached and their eyes were as dim as an
owl's in sunshine. Their labours were rewarded by the acceptance of
the work by Bentley and Colburn, and its triumphant success with both
critics and public, seven editions being called for in the first few
months of its career.

'Prig it and pocket it,' says Christopher North, alluding to the
_Book of the Seasons_ in the _Noctes_ for April, 1831. ''Tis
a jewel.'

'Is Nottingham far intil England, sir?' asks the simple Shepherd, to
whom the above advice is given. 'For I would really like to pay the
Hooits a visit this simmer. Thae Quakers are what we micht scarcely
opine frae first principles, a maist poetical Christian seck.... The
twa married Hooits I love just excessively, sir. What they write canna
fail o' being poetry, even the most middlin' o't, for it's aye wi'
them the ebullition o' their ain feeling and their ain fancy, and
whenever that's the case, a bonny word or twa will drap itself intil
ilka stanzy, and a sweet stanzy or twa intil ilka pome, and sae they
touch, and sae they win a body's heart.'

The year 1831 was rendered memorable to the Howitts, not only by their
first literary success, but also by an unexpected visit from their
poetical idol, Mr. Wordsworth. The poet, his wife and daughter, were
on their way home from London when Mrs. Wordsworth was suddenly taken
ill, and was unable to proceed farther than Nottingham. Her husband,
in great perplexity, came to ask advice of the Howitts, who insisted
that the invalid should be removed to their house, where she remained
for ten days before she was able to continue her journey. Wordsworth
himself was only able to stay one night, but in that short time he
made a very favourable impression upon his host and hostess.
'He is worthy of being the author of _The Excursion_, _Ruth_, and
those sweet poems so full of human sympathy,' writes Mary. 'He is a
kind man, full of strong feeling and sound judgment. My greatest
delight was that he seemed so pleased with William's conversation.
They seemed quite in their element, pouring out their eloquent
sentiments on the future prospects of society, and on all subjects
connected with poetry and the interests of man. Nor are we less
pleased with Mrs. Wordsworth and her lovely daughter, Dora. They are
the most grateful people; everything that we do for them is right, and
the very best it can be.'

During the next two or three years Mary produced a volume of dramatic
sketches, called _The Seven Temptations_, which she always
regarded as her best and most original work, but which was damned by
the critics and neglected by the public; a little book of natural
history for children; and a novel in three volumes, called _Wood
Leighton_, which seems to have had some success. _The Seven
Temptations_, it must be owned, is a rather lugubrious production,
probably inspired by Joanna Baillie's _Plays on the Passions_.
The scene of _Wood Leighton_ is laid at Uttoxeter, and the book
is not so much a connected tale as a series of sketches descriptive of
scenes and characters in and about the author's early home. It is
evident that Mrs. Botham and Sister Anna looked somewhat
disapprovingly upon so much literary work for the mistress of a
household, since we find Mary writing in eager defence of her chosen

'I want to make thee, and more particularly dear mother, see,' she
explains, 'that I am not out of my line of duty in devoting myself so
much to literary occupation. Just lately things were sadly against us.
Dear William could not sleep at night, and the days were dark and
gloomy. Altogether, I was at my wits' end. I turned over in my mind
what I could do next, for till William's _Rural Life_ was
finished we had nothing available. Then I bethought myself of all
those little verses and prose tales that for years I had written for
the juvenile Annuals. It seemed probable I might turn them to some
account. In about a week I had nearly all the poetry copied; and then
who should come to Nottingham but John Darton [a Quaker publisher]. He
fell into the idea immediately, took what I had copied up to London
with him, and I am to have a hundred and fifty guineas for them. Have
I not reason to feel that in thus writing I was fulfilling a duty?'

In 1833 William Hewitt's _History of Priestcraft_ appeared, a
work which was publicly denounced at the Friends' yearly meeting, all
good Quakers being cautioned not to read it. William hitherto had
lived in great retirement at Nottingham, but he was now claimed by the
Radical and Nonconformist members of the community as their spokesman
and champion. In January, 1834, he and Joseph Gilbert (husband of Ann
Gilbert of _Original Poems_ fame) were deputed to present to the
Prime Minister, Lord Grey, a petition from Nottingham for the
disestablishment of the Church of England. The Premier regretted that
he could not give his support to such a sweeping measure, which would
embarrass the Ministry, alarm both Houses of Parliament, and startle
the nation. He declared his intention of standing by the Church to the
best of his ability, believing it to be the sacred duty of Government
to maintain an establishment of religion. To which sturdy William
Howitt replied that to establish one sect in preference to another was
to establish a party and not a religion.

Civic duties, together with the excitements of local politics, proved
a sad hindrance to literary work, and in 1836 the Howitts, who had
long been yearning for a wider intellectual sphere, decided to give up
the chemist's business, and settle in the neighbourhood of London.
Their friends, the Alaric Watts's, who were living at Thames Ditton,
found them a pretty little house at Esher, where they would be able to
enjoy the woods and heaths of rural Surrey, and yet be within easy
reach of publishers and editors in town. Before settling down in their
new home, the Howitts made a three months' tour in the north, with a
view to gathering materials for William's book on _Rural
England_. They explored the Yorkshire dales, stayed with the
Wordsworths at Rydal, and made a pilgrimage to the haunts of their
favourite, Thomas Bewick, in Northumberland. Crossing the Border they
paid a delightful visit to Edinburgh, where they were made much of by
the three literary cliques of the city, the Blackwood and Wilson set,
the Tait set, and the Chambers set.

'Immediately after our arrival,' relates Mary, 'a public dinner was
given to Campbell the poet, at which the committee requested my
husband's attendance, and that he would take a share in the
proceedings of the evening by proposing as a toast, "Wordsworth,
Southey, and Moore." This was our first introduction to Professor
Wilson (Christopher North) and his family. I sat in the gallery with
Mrs. Wilson and her daughters, one of whom was engaged to Professor
Ferrier. We could not but remark the wonderful difference, not only in
the outer man, but in the whole character of mind and manner, between
Professor Wilson and Campbell--the one so hearty, outspoken, and
joyous, the other so petty and trivial.'

Robert Chambers constituted himself the Hewitts' cicerone in
Edinburgh, showing them every place of interest, and presenting them
to every person of note, including Mrs. Maclehose (the Clarinda of
Burns), and William Miller, the Quaker artist and engraver, as intense
a nature-worshipper as themselves. From Edinburgh they went to
Glasgow, where they took ship for the Western Isles. Their adventures
at Staffa and Iona, their voyage up the Caledonian Canal, and the
remainder of their experiences on this tour, were afterwards described
by William Howitt in his _Visits to Remarkable Places_.


In September, 1836, the Howitts took possession of their Surrey home,
West End Cottage, an old-fashioned dwelling, with a large garden, an
orchard, a meadow by the river Mole, and the right of boating and
fishing to the extent of seven miles. The new life opened with good
prospects of literary and journalistic employment, William Howitt's
political writings having already attracted attention from several
persons of power and influence in the newspaper world. On December 3
of this year, Mary wrote to inform her sister that, 'In consequence of
an article that William wrote on Dymond's _Christian Morality_,
Joseph Hume, the member for Middlesex, wrote to him, and has opened a
most promising connection for him with a new Radical newspaper, _The
Constitutional_. O'Connell seems determined to make him the editor
of the _Dublin Review_, and wrote him a most kind letter, which
has naturally promoted his interest with the party. I cannot but see
the hand of Providence in our leaving Nottingham. All has turned out

Unfortunately for these sanguine anticipations, the newspaper
connections on which the Howitts depended for a livelihood, now that
the despised chemist's business had been given up, proved but hollow
supports. O'Connell had overlooked the trifling fact that a Quaker
editor was hardly fitted to conduct a journal that was emphatically
and polemically Catholic; and though he considered that William Howitt
was admirably adapted to deal with literary and political topics, he
was obliged to withdraw his offer of the editorship. A more crushing
disappointment arose out of the engagement on _The Constitutional_.
Mr. Howitt, according to his wife, did more for the paper than any
other member of the staff. 'He worked and wrote like any slave,'
she tells her sister. 'In the end, after a series of the most
harassing and vexatious conduct on the part of the newspaper
company, he was swindled out of every farthing. Oh, it was a most
mortifying and humiliating thing to see men professing liberal and
honest principles act so badly. A month ago, when in the very depths
of discouragement and low spirits, I set about a little volume for
Darton, to be called _Birds and Flowers_, and have pretty nearly
finished it. William, in the mean time, has finished his _Rural
Life_, and sold the first edition to Longman's.'

The manager of the unlucky paper was Major Carmichael Smith, who, when
matters grew desperate, sent for his step-son, Thackeray, then acting
as Paris correspondent for a London daily. 'Just as I was going out of
the office one day,' writes William, 'I met on the stairs a tall, thin
young man, in a dark blue coat, and with a nose that seemed to have
had a blow that had flattened the bridge. I turned back, and had some
conversation with him, being anxious to know how he proposed to carry
on a paper which was without any funds, and already deeply in debt. He
did not seem to know any more than I did. I thought to myself that his
step-father had not done him much service in taking him from a
profitable post for the vain business of endeavouring to buoy up a
desperate speculation. How much longer _The Constitutional_
struggled on, I know not. That was the first time I ever saw or heard
of William Makepeace Thackeray.'

The Howitts were somewhat consoled for their journalistic losses by
the triumphant success of _Rural Life in England_. The reading
public which, during the previous century, had swallowed mock
pastorals, made in Fleet Street, with perfect serenity, was now,
thanks to the slowly-working influence of Wordsworth and the other
Lake poets, prepared for a renaissance of nature and simplicity in
prose. Miss Mitford's exquisite work had given them a distaste for the
'jewelled turf,' the 'silver streams,' and 'smiling valleys' which
constituted the rustic stock-in-trade of the average novelist; and
they eagerly welcomed a book that treated with accuracy and
observation of the real country. William Howitt's straightforward,
undistinguished style was acceptable enough in an age when even men of
genius seem to have written fine prose without knowing it, and tripped
up not infrequently over the subtleties of English grammar. His lack
of imagination and humour was more than atoned for, in the uncritical
eyes of the 'thirties,' by the easy loquacity of his rural gossip, and
the varied information with which he crammed his pages. The Nature of
those days was a simple, transparent creature, with but small
resemblance to the lady of moods, mystery, and passion who is so
overworked in our modern literature. No one dreamt of going into
hysterics over the veining of a leaf, or penning a rhapsody on the
outline of a rain-cloud; nor could it yet be said that, 'if everybody
must needs blab of the favours that have been done him by roadside,
and river-brink, and woodland walk, as if to kiss and tell were no
longer treachery, it will soon be a positive refreshment to meet a man
who is as superbly indifferent to Nature as she is to him.' [Footnote:

The Howitts took great delight in the pleasant Surrey country, so
different from the dreary scenery around Nottingham, and Mary's
letters contain many descriptions of the woods and commons and shady
lanes through which the family made long expeditions in a little
carriage drawn by Peg, their venerable pony. Driving one day to Hook,
they met Charles Dickens, then best known as 'Boz,' in one of his long
tramps, with Harrison Ainsworth as his companion. When Dickens's next
work, _Master Humphrey's Clock_, appeared, the Howitts were
amused to see that their stout and wilful Peg had not escaped the
novelist's keen eye, but had been pressed into service for Mr.
Garland's chaise.

On another occasion, in July 1841, William, while driving with a
friend, was attacked by two handsome, dark-eyed girls, dressed in
gipsy costume, who ran one on each side of the carriage, begging that
the kind gentleman would give them sixpence, as they were poor
strangers who had taken nothing all day. Mr. Howitt, who had made a
special study of the gipsy tribe, perceived in an instant that these
were only sham Romanys. He paid no attention to their pleading, but
observed that he hoped they would enjoy their frolic, and only wished
that he were as rich as they. Subsequently, he discovered that the
mock-gipsies, who had been unable to coax a sixpence out of him, were
none other than the beautiful Sheridan sisters, the Duchess of
Somerset, and Mrs. Blackwood (afterwards Lady Dufferin), whose husband
had lately taken Bookham Lodge.

During the four years spent at Esher, Mary seems to have been too much
occupied with the cares of a young family to use her pen to much
purpose. She produced little, except a volume of _Hymns and Fireside
Verses_, but she frequently assisted her husband in his work.
William, industrious as ever, published, besides a large number of
newspaper articles, his _Boys' Country Book_, the best work of
the kind ever written, according to the _Quarterly Review_; and
his _History of Colonisation and Christianity_, in which he took
a rapid survey of the behaviour of the Christian nations of Europe to
the inhabitants of the countries they conquered in all parts of the
world. It was the reading of this book that led Mr. Joseph Pease to
establish the British India Society, which issued, in a separate form,
the portion of the work that related to India. Mr. Howitt next set to
work upon another topographical volume, his _Visits to Remarkable
Places_, in which he turned to good account the materials collected
in his pedestrian rambles about the country.

In 1840 the question of education for the elder children became
urgent, and the Howitts, who had heard much of the advantages of a
residence in Germany from their friends, Mrs. Hemans, Mrs. Jameson,
and Henry Chorley, decided to give up their cottage at Esher, and
spend two or three years at Heidelberg. Letters of introduction from
Mrs. Jameson gave them the _entrée_ into German society, which
they found more to their taste than that of their native land. 'For
the sake of our children,' writes Mary, 'we sought German
acquaintances, we read German, we followed German customs. The life
seemed to me easier, the customs simpler and less expensive than in
England. There was not the same feverish thirst after wealth as with
us; there was more calm appreciation of nature, of music, of social
enjoyment.' In their home on the Neckar, the Howitts, most adaptable
of couples, found new pleasures and new amusements with each season of
the year. In the spring and summer they explored the surrounding
country, wandered through the deep valleys and woods, where the grass
was purple with bilberries, visited quaint, half-timbered homesteads,
standing in the midst of ancient orchards, or followed the
swift-flowing streams, on whose banks the peasant girls in their
picturesque costumes were washing and drying linen. In the autumn the
whole family turned out on the first day of the vintage, and worked
like their neighbours. 'It was like something Arcadian,' wrote Mary
when recalling the scene. 'The tubs and baskets piled up with enormous
clusters, the men and women carrying them away on their heads to the
place where they were being crushed; the laughter, the merriment, the
feasting, the firing--for they make as much noise as they can--all was
delightful, to say nothing of the masquerading and dancing in the
evening, which we saw, though we did not take part in it.' In the
winter the strangers were introduced to the Christmas Tree, which had
not yet become a British institution: while with the first snow came
the joys of sleighing, when wheel-barrows, tubs, baskets, everything
that could be put on runners, were turned into sledges, and the boys
were in their glory.

During the three years that were spent at Heidelberg, William
Howitt wrote his _Student Life in Germany_, _German Experiences_,
and _Rural and Domestic Life in Germany_, works which contain a
great deal of more or less valuable information about the country and
the people, presented in a homely, unpretentious style. Mary was no
less industrious, having struck a new literary vein, the success of
which was far to surpass her modest anticipations. 'I have been very
busy,' she writes in 1842, 'translating the first volume of a charming
work by Frederica Bremer, a Swedish writer; and if any publisher will
give me encouragement to go on with it, I will soon complete the work.
It is one of a series of stories of everyday life in Sweden--a
beautiful book, full of the noblest moral lessons for every man and
woman.' In the summer of 1841 the Howitts, accompanied by their elder
daughter, Anna, made a long tour through Germany and Austria, in the
course of which they collected materials for fresh works, and visited
the celebrities, literary and artistic, of the various cities that lay
in their route. At Stuttgart they called on Gustav Schwab, the poet,
and visited Dannecker's studio; at Tübingen they made the acquaintance
of Uhland, and at Munich that of Kaulbach, then at the height of his
fame. By way of Vienna and Prague they travelled to Dresden, where,
through the good offices of Mrs. Jameson, they were received by Moritz
Retzsch, whose _Outlines_ they had long admired. At Berlin they
made friends with Tieck, on whom the king had bestowed a pension and a
house at Potsdam; while at Weimar they were entertained by Frau von
Goethe, whose son, Wolfgang, had been one of their earliest
acquaintances at Heidelberg. This interesting tour is described at
length in the _Rural and Domestic Life of Germany_.

Another year was spent at Heidelberg, but the difficulties of
arranging the business details of their work at such a distance from
publishers and editors, brought the industrious couple back to London
in the spring of 1843. 'On our return to England,' writes Mary, 'I was
full of energy and hope. Glowing with aspiration, and in enjoyment of
great domestic happiness, I was anticipating a busy, perhaps
overburdened, but, nevertheless, congenial life. It was to be one of
darkness, perplexity, discouragement.' The Howitts had scarcely
entered into possession of a new house that they had taken at Clapton,
when news came from Heidelberg, where the elder children had been left
at school, that their second son, Claude, had developed alarming
symptoms of disease in the knee-joint. It was known that he had been
slightly injured in play a few weeks before, but no danger had been
anticipated. Mr. Howitt at once set out for Heidelberg, and returned
with the invalid, on whose case Liston was consulted. The great
surgeon counselled amputation, but to this the parents refused their
consent, except as a last resource. Various less heroic modes of
treatment were tried, but poor Claude faded away, and died in March,
1844, aged only ten years and a half. This was the heaviest trial that
the husband and wife had yet experienced, for Claude had been a boy of
brilliant promise, whom they regarded as the flower of their flock.
Only a few months before his accident his mother had written in the
pride of her heart: 'Claude is the naughtiest of all the children, and
yet the most gifted. He learns anything at a glance. Claude is born to
be fortunate; he is one that will make the family distinguished in the
next generation. He has an extraordinary faculty for telling stories,
either of his own invention or of what he reads.'

A lesser cause of trouble and anxiety arose out of the translation of
Miss Bremer's novels. 'When we first translated _The Neighbours_,'
writes Mary, 'there was not a house in London that would undertake
its publication. We published it and the other Bremer novels at our
own risk, but such became the rage for them that our translations
were seized by a publisher, altered, and reissued as new ones.'
The success of these books was said to be greater than that of
any series since the first appearance of the Waverley novels. Cheap
editions were multiplied in the United States, and even the boys who
hawked the books about the streets were to be seen deep in _The
Home_ or _The H. Family_. In a letter to her sister written
about this time, Mary expatiates on the annoyance and loss caused by
these piracies. 'It is very mortifying,' she observes, 'because no one
knew of these Swedish novels till we introduced them. It obliges us to
hurry in all we do, and we must work almost day and night to get ours
out in order that we may have some little chance.... We have embarked
a great deal of money in the publication, and the interference of the
upstart London publisher is most annoying. Mlle. Bremer, however, has
written a new novel, and sends it to us before publication. We began
its translation this week, and hope to be able to publish it about the
time it will appear in Sweden and Germany.'

In addition to her translating work, Mrs. Howitt was engaged at this
time upon a series of little books, called _Tales for the People and
their Children_, which had been commissioned by a cheap publisher.
These stories, each of which illustrated a domestic virtue, were
punctually paid for: and though they were never advertised, they
passed swiftly through innumerable editions, and have been popular
with a certain public down to quite recent times. Perhaps the most
attractive is the _Autobiography of a Child_, in which Mary told
the story of her own early days in her pretty, simple style, with the
many little quaint touches that gave all her juvenile stories an
atmosphere of truth and reality. Her quick sympathy with young people,
and her knowledge of what most appealed to the childish mind, was
probably due to her vivid remembrance of her own youthful days, and to
her affectionate study of the 'little ways' of her own children. Many
are the original traits and sayings that she reports to her sister,
more especially those of her youngest boy, Charlton, who had inherited
his parents' naturalistic tastes in a pronounced form, and preferred
the Quakers' meeting-house to any other church or chapel, because
there was a dog-kennel on the premises!

About a year after her return to England, Mrs. Howitt turned her
attention to Danish literature, finding that, with her knowledge of
Swedish and German, the language presented few difficulties. In 1845
she translated Hans Andersen's _Impromsatore_, greatly to the
satisfaction of the author, who begged that she would continue to
translate his works, till he was as well known and loved in England as
he was on the Continent. Appreciation, fame, and joy, declared the
complacent poet, followed his footsteps wherever he went, and his
whole life was full of sunshine, like a beautiful fairy-tale. Mary
translated his _Only a Fiddler_; _O. T., or Life in Denmark_;
_The True Story of My Life_; and several of the _Wonderful Stories
for Children_. The _Improvisatore_ was the only one that went
into a second edition, the other works scarcely paying the cost
of publication. Hans Andersen, however, being assured that Mrs.
Howitt was making a fortune of the translations, came to England
in 1847 to arrange for a share of the profits. Though disappointed
in his hope of gain, he begged Mrs. Howitt to translate the whole
of his fairy-tales, which had just been brought out in a
beautifully-illustrated German edition. Much to her after regret, she
was then too much engrossed by other work to be able to accede to his
proposal. The relations between Hans Andersen and his translator were
marred, we are told, by the extreme sensitiveness and egoism of the
Dane. Mrs. Howitt narrates, as an example of his childish vanity, the
following little incident which occurred during his visit to England
in the summer of 1847:--

'We had taken him, as a pleasant rural experience, to the annual
hay-making at Hillside, Highgate, thus introducing him to an English
home, full of poetry and art, sincerity, and affection. The ladies of
Hillside--Miss Mary and Margaret Gillies, the one an embodiment of
peace and an admirable writer, whose talent, like the violet, kept in
the shade; the other, the warm-hearted painter--made him welcome....
Immediately after our arrival, the assembled children, loving his
delightful fairy-tales, clustered round him in the hay-field, and
watched him make them a pretty device of flowers; then, feeling
somehow that the stiff, silent foreigner was not kindred to
themselves, stole off to an American, Henry Clarke Wright, whose
admirable little book, _A Kiss for a Blow_, some of them knew.
He, without any suggestion of condescension or difference of age,
entered heart and soul into their glee, laughed, shouted, and played
with them, thus unconsciously evincing the gift which had made him
earlier the exclusive pastor of six hundred children in Boston. Soon
poor Andersen, perceiving himself neglected, complained of headache,
and insisted on going indoors, whither Mary Gillies and I, both
anxious to efface any disagreeable impression, accompanied him; but he
remained irritable and out of sorts.'

It was in 1845 or 1846 that the Howitts made the acquaintance of
Tennyson, whose poetry they had long admired. 'The retiring and
meditative young poet, Alfred Tennyson, visited us,' relates Mary,
'and cheered our seclusion by the recitation of his exquisite poetry.
He spent a Sunday night at our house, when we sat talking together
till three in the morning. All the next day he remained with us in
constant converse. We seemed to have known him for years. So in fact
we had, for his poetry was himself. He hailed all attempts at
heralding a grander, more liberal state of public opinion, and
consequently sweeter, nobler modes of living. He wished that we
Englanders could dress up our affections in more poetical costume;
real warmth of heart would gain rather than lose by it. As it was, our
manners were as cold as the walls of our churches.' Another new friend
was gained through William Howitt's book, _Visits to Remarkable
Places_. When the work was announced as 'in preparation,' the
author received a letter, signed E. C. Gaskell, drawing his attention
to a beautiful old house, Clopton Hall, near Stratford-on-Avon. The
letter described in such admirable style the writer's visit to the
house as a schoolgirl, that William wrote to suggest that she ought to
use her pen for the public benefit. This timely encouragement led to
the production of _Mary Barton_, the first volume of which was
sent in manuscript for Mr. Howitt's verdict. A few months later Mrs.
Gaskell came as a guest to the little house at Clopton, bringing with
her the completed work.

In 1846 William Howitt took part in a new journalistic venture, his
wife, as usual, sharing his labours and anxieties. He became first
contributor, and afterwards editor and part-proprietor of the
_People's Journal_, a cheap weekly, through the medium of which
he hoped to improve the moral and intellectual condition of the
working classes. 'The bearing of its contents,' wrote Mary, in answer
to some adverse criticism of the new paper, 'is love to God and man.
There is no attempt to set the poor against the rich, but, on the
contrary, to induce them to be careful, prudent, sober and
independent; above all, to be satisfied to be workers, and to regard
labour as a privilege rather than as a penalty, which is quite our
view of the matter.' The combination of business and philanthropy
seldom answers, and the Howitts, despite the excellence of their
intentions, were unlucky in their newspaper speculations. At the end
of a few months it was discovered that the manager of the _People's
Journal_ kept no books, and that the affairs of the paper were in
hopeless confusion. William Howitt, finding himself responsible for
the losses on the venture, tried to cure the evil by a hair of the dog
that had bitten him. He withdrew from the _People's Journal_,
and, with Samuel Smiles as his assistant, started a rival paper on the
same lines, called _Howitts Journal_. But, as Ebenezer Elliott,
the shrewd old Quaker, remarked, apropos of the apathy of the
working-class public: 'Men engaged in a death struggle for bread will
pay for amusement when they will not for instruction. They woo
laughter to unscare them, that they may forget their perils, their
wrongs, and their oppressors. If you were able and willing to fill the
journal with fun, it would pay.' The failure of his paper spelt ruin
to its promoter; his copyrights, as well as those of his wife, were
sacrificed, and he was obliged to begin the world anew.

The Howitts seem to have kept up their spirits bravely under this
reverse, and never for a moment relaxed in their untiring industry.
They moved into a small house in Avenue Road, St. John's Wood, and
looked around them for new subjects upon which to exercise their
well-worn pens. Mary hoped to get employment from the Religious Tract
Society, which had invited her to send in a specimen story, but she
feared that her work would hardly be considered sufficiently orthodox,
though she had introduced one of the 'death-bed scenes,' which were
then in so much request. As she anticipated, the story was returned as
quite unsuitable, and thereupon she writes to her sister in some
depression: 'Times are so bad that publishers will not speculate in
books; and when I have finished the work I am now engaged on, I have
nothing else certain to go on with.' However, writers so popular with
the public as the Howitts were not likely to be left long without
employment. Mary seems to have been the greater favourite of the two,
and the vogue of her volume of collected _Poems and Ballads_,
which appeared in 1847, strikes the modern reader with amazement. Some
idea of the estimation in which she was then held is proved by Allan
Cunningham's dictum that 'Mary Howitt has shown herself mistress of
every string of the minstrel's lyre, save that which sounds of broil
and bloodshed. There is more of the old ballad simplicity in her
composition than can be found in the strains of any living poet
besides.' Another critic compared Mrs. Hewitt's ballads to those of
Lord Macaulay, while Mrs. Alaric Watts, in her capacity of Annual
editor, wrote to assure her old friend and contributor that, 'In thy
simplest poetry there are sometimes turns so exquisite as to bring the
tears to my eyes. Thou hast as much poetry in thee as would set up
half-a-dozen writers.' The one dissentient voice among admiring
contemporaries is that of Miss Mitford, who writes in 1852: 'I am for
my sins so fidgety respecting style that I have the bad habit of
expecting a book that pretends to be written in our language to be
English; therefore I cannot read Miss Strickland, or the Howitts, or
Carlyle, or Emerson, or the serious parts of Dickens.' It must be
owned that the Howitts are condemned in fairly good company.

The work of both husband and wife suffered from the inevitable defects
of self-education, and also from the narrowness and seclusion of their
early lives. Mary possessed more imagination and a lighter touch than
her husband, but her attempts at adult fiction were hampered by her
ignorance of the world, while her technique, both in prose and verse,
left something to be desired. It is evident that the publishers and
editors of the period were less critical than Miss Mitford, for, in
1848, we find that Mrs. Howitt was invited to write the opening volume
of Bradshaw's series of Railway novels, while in February 1850, came a
request from Charles Dickens for contributions to _Household
Words_. 'You may have seen,' he writes, 'the first dim announcements
of the new, cheap literary journal I am about to start. Frankly, I
want to say to you that if you would write for it, you would delight
me, and I should consider myself very fortunate indeed in enlisting
your services.... I hope any connection with the enterprise would
be satisfactory and agreeable to you in all respects, as I should
most earnestly endeavour to make it. If I wrote a book I could
say no more than I mean to suggest to you in these few lines.
All that I leave unsaid, I leave to your generous understanding.'

The Howitts were keenly interested in the gradual awakening of the
long-dormant, artistic instincts of the nation, the first signs of
which became faintly visible about the end of the forties. 'Down to
that time,' observes Mary, 'the taste of the English people had been
for what appealed to the mind rather than to the eye, and the general
public were almost wholly uneducated in art. By 1849 the improvement
due to the exertions of the Prince Consort, the Society of Arts, and
other powers began to be felt; while a wonderful impulse to human
taste and ingenuity was being given in the preparation of exhibits for
the World's Fair.' The gentle Quakeress who, in her youth, had
modelled Wedgwood figures in paper pulp, and clapped her
clear-starching to the rhythm of _Lalla Rookh_, was, in middle
life, one of the staunchest supporters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren,
and that at a time when the President of the Royal Academy had
announced his intention of hanging no more of their 'outrageous
productions.' Through their friend, Edward La Trobe Bateman, the
Howitts had been introduced into the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and
familiarised with the then new and startling idea that artistic
principles might be carried out in furniture and house-decoration.
Less than three-quarters of a century before, Mary's father had been
sternly rebuked by her grandfather for painting a series of lines in
black and grey above the parlour fireplace to represent a cornice.
This primitive attempt at decoration was regarded as a sinful
indulgence of the lust of the eye! With the simple charity that was
characteristic of them, William and Mary saw only the best side of
their new friends, the shadows of Bohemian life being entirely hidden
from them. 'Earnest and severe in their principles of art,' observes
Mrs. Howitt naively, 'the young reformers indulged in much jocundity
when the day's work was done. They were wont to meet at ten, cut
jokes, talk slang, smoke, read poetry, and discuss art till three

The couple had by this time renounced their membership of the Society
of Friends, but they had not joined any other religious sect, though
they seem to have been attracted by Unitarian doctrines. 'Mere
creeds,' wrote Mary to her sister, 'matter nothing to me. I could go
one Sunday to the Church of England, another to a Catholic chapel, a
third to the Unitarian, and so on; and in each of them find my heart
warmed with Christian love to my fellow-creatures, and lifted up with
gratitude and praise to God.' For many years the house in Avenue Road
was, we are told, a meeting-place for all that was best and brightest
in the world of modern thought and art. William Howitt was always
ready to lend an attentive and unbiassed ear to the newest theory, or
even the newest fad, while Mary possessed in the fullest degree the
gift of companionableness, and her inexhaustible sympathy drew from
others an instant confidence. Her arduous literary labours never
impaired her vigorous powers of mind or body, and she often wrote till
late into the night without appearing to suffer in either health or
spirits. She is described as a careful and energetic housewife;
indeed, her husband was accustomed to say that he would challenge any
woman who never wrote a line, to match his own good woman in the
management of a large household.

In 1851 came the first tidings of the discovery of gold in Australia,
and nothing was talked of but this new Eldorado and the wonderful
inducements held out to emigrants. William Howitt, who felt that he
needed a change from brain-work, suddenly resolved on a trip with his
two sons to this new world, where he would see his youngest brother,
Dr. Godfrey Howitt, who had settled at Melbourne. He was also anxious
to ascertain what openings in the country there might be for his boys,
both of whom had active, outdoor tastes, which there seemed little
chance of their being able to gratify in England. In June, 1852, the
three male members of the family, accompanied by La Trobe Bateman,
sailed for Australia, while Mary and her two daughters, the elder of
whom had just returned from a year in Kaulbach's studio at Munich,
moved into a cottage called the Hermitage, at Highgate, which belonged
to Mr. Bateman, and had formerly been occupied by Rossetti. Here they
lived quietly for upwards of two years, working at their literary or
artistic occupations, and seeing a few intimate friends. Mary kept her
husband posted up in the events that were taking place in England, and
we learn from her letters what were the chief topics of town talk in
the early fifties.

'Now, I must think over what news there is,' she writes in April,
1853. 'In the political world, the proposed new scheme of Property and
Income Tax, which would make everybody pay something; and the proposal
for paying off a portion of the National Debt with Australian gold. In
the literary world, the International Copyright, which some expect
will be in force in three months. In society in general, the strange
circumstantial rumour of the Queen's death, which, being set afloat on
Easter Monday, when no business was doing, was not the offspring of
the money market. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean, who were here the other
day, spoke of it, saying truly that for the moment it seemed to
paralyse the very heart of England.... [May 4th.] The great talk now
is Mrs. Beecher Stowe and spirit-rapping, both of which have arrived
in England. The universality of the latter phenomena renders it a
curious study. A feeling seems pervading all classes and all sects
that the world stands on the brink of some great spiritual revelation.
It meets one in books, in newspapers, on the lips of members of the
Church of England, Unitarians, and even Freethinkers. Poor old Robert
Owen, the philanthropist, has been converted, and made a confession of
faith in public. One cannot but respect a man who, in his old age, has
the boldness to declare himself as having been blinded and mistaken
through life.'

In December, 1854, William Howitt returned from his travels without
any gold in his pockets, but with the materials for his _History of
Discovery in Australia and New Zealand._ Thanks to what he used to
call his four great doctors, Temperance, Exercise, Good Air, and Good
Hours, he had displayed wonderful powers of activity and endurance
during his exploration of some almost untracked regions of the new
world. At sixty years of age he had marched twenty miles a day under a
blazing sun for weeks at a time, worked at digging gold for twelve
hours a day, waded through rivers, slept under trees, baked his own
bread, washed his own clothes, and now returned in the pink of
condition, with his passion for wandering only intensified by his
three years of an adventurous life. The family experiences were
diversified thenceforward by frequent change of scene, for William was
always ready and willing to start off at a moment's notice to the
mountains, the seaside, or the Continent. But whether the Howitts were
at home or abroad, they continued their making of many books, so that
it becomes difficult for the biographer to keep pace with their
literary output. Together or separately they produced a _History of
Scandinavian Literature, The Homes and Haunts of the Poets, a Popular
History of England_, which was published in weekly parts, a
_Year-Book of the Country_, a _Popular History of the United
States_, a _History of the Supernatural_, the _Northern Heights
of London_, and an abridged edition of _Sir Charles Grandison_,
besides several tales for young people, and contributions to
magazines and newspapers.

Even increasing age had no power to narrow their point of view, or to
blunt their sympathy with every movement that seemed to make for the
relief of the oppressed, the welfare of the nation, or the advancement
of the human race. Just as in youth they had championed the cause of
Catholic Emancipation and of political Reform, so in later years we
find them advocating the Repeal of the Corn Laws, taking part in the
Anti-Slavery agitation, working for improvement in the laws that
affected women and children, and supporting the Bill for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A more debatable subject--that of
spiritualism--was investigated by them in a friendly but impartial
spirit. 'In the spring of 1856, 'writes Mrs. Howitt, 'we had become
acquainted with several most ardent and honest spirit mediums. It
seemed right to my husband and myself to try and understand the nature
of these phenomena in which our new acquaintance so firmly believed.
In the month of April I was invited to attend a _séance_ at
Professor de Morgan's, and was much astonished and affected by
communications purporting to come to me from my dear son Claude. With
constant prayer for enlightenment and guidance, we experimented at
home. The teachings that seemed given us from the spirit-world were
often akin to those of the gospel; at other times they were more
obviously emanations of evil. I felt thankful for the assurance thus
gained of an invisible world, but resolved to neglect none of my
common duties for spiritualism.' Among the Hewitts' fellow-converts
were Robert Chambers, Robert Owen, the Carter Halls and the Alaric
Watts's; while Sir David Brewster and Lord Brougham were earnest
inquirers into these forms of psychical phenomena.

In 1865 William Howitt was granted a pension by Government, and a year
later the couple moved from Highgate to a cottage called the Orchard,
near their former residence at Esher. Of their four surviving
children, only Margaret, the youngest, was left at home. Anna, already
the author of a very interesting book, _An Art Student at
Munich_, had, as her mother observes, taken her place among the
successful artists and writers of her day, 'when, in the spring of
1856, a severe private censure of one of her oil-paintings by a king
among critics so crushed her sensitive nature, as to make her yield to
her bias for the supernatural, and withdraw from the arena of the fine
arts.' In 1857 Anna became the wife of Alfred Watts, the son of her
parents' old friends, Alaric and Zillah Watts. The two boys, Alfred
and Charlton, born explorers and naturalists, both settled in
Australia. Alfred, early in the sixties, had explored the district of
Lake Torrens, a land of parched deserts, dry-water-courses, and
soda-springs, whose waters effervesced tartaric acid; and had opened
up for the Victorian Government the mountainous district of Gippsland,
with the famous gold-field of the Crooked River. In 1861 he had been
employed to head the relief-party that went in search of the
discoverer, Robert O'Hara Burke, and his companions, and a year later
he brought back the remains of the ill-fated explorers to Melbourne
for public burial. Later in life he was successfully employed in
various Government enterprises, and published, in collaboration with a
friend, a learned work on the aborigines of Australia.

Charlton Howitt, the younger son, after five years' uncongenial work
in a London office, emigrated to Australia in 1860. His quality was
quickly recognised by the Provincial Government, which, in 1862,
appointed him to command an expedition to examine the rivers in the
province of Canterbury, with a view to ascertaining whether they
contained gold. So admirably was the work accomplished that, on his
return to Christchurch, he was intrusted with the task of opening up
communications between the Canterbury plains and the newly-discovered
gold and coal district on the west coast. 'This duty was faithfully
performed, under constant hardships and discouragement,' relates his
mother. 'But a few miles of road remained to be cut, when, at the end
of June, 1863, after personally rescuing other pioneers and wanderers
from drowning and starvation in that watery, inhospitable forest
region, Charlton, with two of his men, went down in the deep waters of
Lake Brunner; a fatal accident which deprived the Government of a
valued servant, and saddened the hearts of all who knew him.'

After four peaceful years at Esher, the _Wanderlust_, that gipsy
spirit, which not even the burden of years could tame, took possession
of William and Mary once more, and they suddenly decided that they
must see Italy before they died. In May, 1870, they let the Orchard,
and, aged seventy-seven and seventy-one respectively, set out on their
last long flight into the world. The summer was spent on the Lake of
Lucerne, where the old-world couple came across that modern of the
moderns, Richard Wagner, and his family. By way of the Italian Lakes
and Venice they travelled, in leisurely fashion, to Rome, where they
celebrated their golden wedding in April, 1871. The Eternal City threw
its glamour around these ancient pilgrims, who found both life and
climate exactly suited to the needs of old age. 'I prized in Rome,'
writes Mrs. Howitt, 'the many kind and sympathetic friends that were
given to us, the ease of social existence, the poetry, the classic
grace, the peculiar and deep pathos diffused around; above all, the
stirring and affecting historic memories.... From the period of
arrival in Rome, I may truly say that the promise in Scripture, "At
evening time there shall be light," was, in our case, fulfilled.'

The simple, homely life of the aged couple continued unbroken amid
their new surroundings. William interested himself in the planting of
Eucalyptus in the Campagna, as a preventive against malaria, and had
seeds of different varieties sent over from Australia, which he
presented to the Trappist monks of the Tre Fontani. He helped to
establish a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and
struck up a friendship with the gardeners and custodians of the
Pincio, to whom he gave expert advice on the subject of the creatures
under their charge. The summer months were always spent in the Tyrol,
where the Howitts had permanent quarters in an old mansion near
Bruneck, called Mayr-am-Hof. Here William was able to indulge in his
favourite occupation of gardening. He dug indefatigably in a field
allotment with his English spade, a unique instrument in that land of
clumsy husbandry, and was amazed at the growth of the New Zealand
spinach, the widespread rhubarb, the exuberant tomatoes, and towering
spikes of Indian corn. Thanks to the four great doctors before
mentioned, he remained hale and hearty up to December, 1878, in which
month he celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday. A few weeks later he
was attacked by bronchitis, which, owing to an unsuspected weakness of
the heart, he was unable to throw off. He died in his house on the Via
Sistina, close to his favourite Pincio, on March 3, 1879.

Mrs. Howitt now finally gave up the idea of returning to end her days
in England. Her husband and companion of more than fifty years was
buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Home, and when her time came, she
desired to be laid by his side. The grant of a small pension added to
the comfort of her last years, and was a source of much innocent pride
and gratification, for, as she tells her daughter Anna, 'It was so
readily given, so kindly, so graciously, for my literary merits, by
Lord Beaconsfield, without the solicitation or interference of any
friend or well-wisher.' In May, 1880, she writes to a friend from
Meran about 'a project, which seems to have grown up in a wonderful
way by itself, or as if invisible hands had been arranging it; that we
should have a little home of our own _im heiligen Land Tirol_.
This really is a very great mercy, seeing that the Tyrol is so
beautiful, the climate so beneficial to health, and the people, taken
as a whole, so very honest and devout. Our little nest of love, which
we shall call "Marienruhe," will be perched on a hill with beautiful
views, surrounded by a small garden.' On September 29, 1881, Mrs.
Howitt and her daughter, Margaret, slept, for the first time, in their
romantically-situated new home near Meran.

At Marienruhe, the greater portion of the last seven years of Mary
Howitt's life was spent in peace and contentment. Here she amused
herself with writing her 'Reminiscences' for _Good Words_, which
were afterwards incorporated in her _Autobiography_. Age had no
power to blunt her interest in the events of the day, political or
literary, and at eighty-seven we find her reading with keen enjoyment
Froude's _Oceana_ and Besant's _All Sorts and Conditions of
Men_, books that dealt with questions which she and her husband had
had at heart for the best part of a lifetime, and for which they had
worked with untiring zeal. Of the first she writes to a friend: 'We
much approve of his (Froude's) very strong desire that our colonies
should, like good, faithful, well-trained children, be staunch in love
and service to old Mother England. How deeply we feel on this subject
I cannot tell you; and I hope and trust that you join strongly in this
truly English sentiment.' Of the second she writes to Mrs. Leigh
Smith: 'I am more interested than I can tell you in _All Sorts and
Conditions of Men_. It affects me like the perfected fruit of some
glorious tree which my dear husband and I had a dim dream of planting
more than thirty years ago, and which we did, in our ignorance and
incapacity, attempt to plant in soil not properly prepared, and far
too early in the season. I cannot tell you how it has recalled the
hopes and dreams of a time which, by the overruling Providence of God,
was so disastrous to us. It is a beautiful essay on the dignity of

The last few years of Mary Howitt's life were saddened by the deaths
of her beloved sister, Anna, and her elder daughter, Mrs. Watts, but
such blows are softened for aged persons by the consciousness that
their own race is nearly run. Mary had, moreover, one great spiritual
consolation in her conversion, at the age of eighty-three, to the
doctrines of Roman Catholicism In spite of her oft-repeated
protestations against the likelihood of her 'going over,' in spite of
her declaration, openly expressed as late as 1871, that she firmly
believed in the anti-Christianity of the Papacy, and that she and her
husband were watching with interest the progress of events which, they
trusted, would bring about its downfall, Mrs. Howitt was baptized into
the Roman Church in May, 1882. Her new faith was a source of intense
happiness to the naturally religious woman, who had found no refuge in
any sectarian fold since her renunciation of her childish creed. In
1888, the year of the Papal Jubilee, though her strength was already
failing, she was well enough to join the deputation of English
pilgrims, who, on January 10, were presented to the Pope by the Duke
of Norfolk. In describing the scene, the last public ceremony in which
she took part, she writes: 'A serene happiness, almost joy, filled my
whole being as I found myself on my knees before the Vicar of Christ.
My wish was to kiss his foot, but it was withdrawn, and his hand given
to me. You may think with what fervour I kissed the ring. In the
meantime he had been told my age and my late conversion. His hands
were laid on my shoulders, and, again and again, his right hand in
blessing on my head, whilst he spoke to me of Paradise.'

Having thus achieved her heart's desire, it seemed as if the last tie
which bound the aged convert to earth was broken. A few days later she
was attacked by bronchitis, and, after a short illness, passed away in
her sleep on January 30, 1888, having nearly completed her
eighty-ninth year. To the last, we are told, Mary Howitt's sympathy
was as warm, her intelligence as keen as in the full vigour of life,
while her rare physical strength and pliant temper preserved her in
unabated enjoyment of existence to the verge of ninety. Although many
of her books were out of print at the time of her death, it was said
that if every copy had been destroyed, most of her ballads and minor
poems could have been collected from the memories of her admirers, who
had them--very literally--by heart.

William and Mary Howitt, it may be observed in conclusion, though not
leaders, were brave soldiers in the army of workers for humanity, and
if now they seem likely to share the common lot of the rank and
file--oblivion--it must be remembered that they were among those
favoured of the gods who are crowned with gratitude, love, and
admiration by their contemporaries. To them, asleep in their Roman
grave, the neglect of posterity brings no more pain than the homage of
modern critics brings triumph to the slighted poet who shares their
last resting-place.

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