THE COMPLETE WORKS
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OUR FATHERS HAVE TOLD US
STORM-CLOUD OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
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MESSAGES FROM THE WOOD TO THE GARDEN,
SENT IN HAPPY DAYS TO THE SISTER LADIES OF THE THWAITE, CONISTON.
WITH GRATEFUL THANKS TO MY DEAR FRIENDS
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The ladies to whom these letters were written have been, throughout their brightly tranquil lives, at once sources and loadstones of all good to the village in which they had their home, and to all loving people who cared for the village and its vale and secluded lake, and whatever remained in them or around of the former peace, beauty, and pride of English Shepherd Land.
Sources they have been of good, like one of its mountain springs, ever to be found at need. They did not travel; they did not go up to London in its season; they did not receive idle visitors to jar or waste their leisure in the waning year. The poor and the sick could find them always; or rather, they watched for and prevented all poverty and pain that care or tenderness could relieve or heal. Loadstones they were, as steadily bringing the light of gentle and wise souls about them as the crest of their guardian mountain gives pause to the morning clouds: in themselves, they were types of perfect womanhood in its constant happiness, queens alike of their own hearts and of a Paradise in which they knew the names and sympathized with the spirits of every living creature that God had made to play therein, or to blossom in its sunshine or shade.
They had lost their dearly-loved younger sister, Margaret, before I knew them. Mary and Susie, alike in benevolence, serenity, and practical judgment, were yet widely different, nay, almost contrary, in tone and impulse of intellect. Both of them capable of understanding whatever women should know, the elder was yet chiefly interested in the course of immediate English business, policy, and progressive science, while Susie lived an aerial and enchanted life, possessing all the highest joys of imagination, while she yielded to none of its deceits, sicknesses, or errors. She saw, and felt, and believed all good, as it had ever been, and was to be, in the reality and eternity of its goodness, with the acceptance and the hope of a child; the least things were treasures to her, and her moments fuller of joy than some people's days.
What she had been to me, in the days and years when other friendship has been failing, and others' "loving, mere folly," the reader will enough see from these letters, written certainly for her only, but from which she has permitted my Master of the Rural Industries at Loughrigg, Albert Fleming, to choose what he thinks, among the tendrils of clinging thought, and mossy cups for dew in the Garden of Herbs where Love is, may be trusted to the memorial sympathy of the readers of "Frondes Agrestes."
BRANTWOOD, June, 1887.
Often during those visits to the Thwaite which have grown to be the best-spent hours of my later years, I have urged my dear friend Miss Beever to open to the larger world the pleasant paths of this her Garden Inclosed. The inner circle of her friends knew that she had a goodly store of Mr. Ruskin's letters, extending over many years. She for her part had long desired to share with others the pleasure these letters had given her, but she shrank from the fatigue of selecting and arranging them. It was, therefore, with no small feeling of satisfaction that I drove home from the Thwaite one day in February last with a parcel containing nearly two thousand of these treasured letters. I was gladdened also by generous permission, both from Brantwood and the Thwaite, to choose what I liked best for publication. The letters themselves are the fruit of the most beautiful friendship I have ever been permitted to witness, a friendship so unique in some aspects of it, so sacred in all, that I may only give it the praise of silence. I count myself happy to have been allowed to throw open to all wise and quiet souls the portals of this Armida's Garden, where there are no spells save those woven by love, and no magic save that of grace and kindliness. Here my pleasant share in this little book would have ended, but Mr. Ruskin has desired me to add a few words, giving my own description of Susie, and speaking of my relationship to them both. To him I owe the guidance of my life,—all its best impulses, all its worthiest efforts; to her some of its happiest hours, and the blessings alike of incentive and reproof. In reading over Mr. Ruskin's Preface, I note that, either by grace of purpose or happy chance, he has left me one point untouched in our dear friend's character. Her letters inserted here give some evidence of it, but I should like to place on record how her intense delight in sweet and simple things has blossomed into a kind of mental frolic and dainty wit, so that even now in the calm autumn of her days, her friends are not only lessoned by her ripened wisdom, but cheered and recreated by her quaint and sprightly humor.
In the Royal Order of Gardens, as Bacon puts it, there was always a quiet resting-place called the Pleasaunce; there the daisies grew unchecked, and the grass was ever the greenest. Such a Pleasaunce do these Letters seem to me. Here and there, indeed, there are shadows on the grass, but no shadow ever falls between the two dear friends who walk together hand in hand along its pleasant paths. So may they walk in peace till they stand at the gate of another Garden, where
"Co' fiori eterni, eterno il frutto dura."
A. F. NEAUM CRAG, LOUGHRIGG, AMBLESIDE.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
Since these letters were published fourteen years ago, both Mr. Ruskin and Miss Beever have passed to the country he longed to find, "where the flowers do not fade." In this new Edition some of the earlier letters have been withdrawn, and others, of possibly wider interest, are inserted in their place. I have also added a reproduction of Mr. Ruskin's last letter to Miss Beever. It was written about the 20th October, 1893, and was read to her on her death-bed. He was then himself in broken health, and it took him three weary hours to write this little note of eight lines. I believe this to be the last complete letter that ever came from his pen. Miss Beever sent it to me with the wish "that some day I might use it," and I now fulfill that wish by inserting it here as the pathetic close to a correspondence, in which there was so much of a gay and playful nature; commending it to the "memorial sympathy" claimed by him for his earlier letters. The word "Phoca" is a signature often used by him in writing to his old friend.
I have been asked to add illustrations to this Edition; and some fresh explanatory notes and dates will also be found.
NEAUM CRAG, AMBLESIDE, 1902.
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BRANTWOOD, 16th March, 1874.
MY DEAREST SUSIE,—
In a state of great defeat and torment, this morning—having much to do with the weather and—not living on milk, I have been greatly helped by—one of my own books! It is the best I ever wrote—the last which I took thorough loving pains with—and the first which I did with full knowledge of sorrow.
Will you please read in it—first—from 65 at the bottom of page 79 as far as and not farther than, 67 in page 81. That is what helped me this morning.
Then, if you want to know precisely the state I am in, read the account of the Myth of Tantalus, beginning at 20—p. 24 and going on to 25—page 31.
It is a hard task to set you, my dear little Susie; but when you get old, you will be glad to have done it, and another day, you must look at page 94, and then you must return me my book, for it's my noted copy and I'm using it.
The life of Tantalus doesn't often admit of crying: but I had a real cry—with quite wet tears yesterday morning, over what—to me is the prettiest bit in all Shakespeare
"Pray, be content; Mother, I am going to the market-place— Chide me no more."
And almost next to it, comes (to me, always I mean in my own fancy) Virgilia, "Yes, certain; there's a letter for you; I saw it."
Ever your loving J. R.
[Footnote 1: "The Queen of the Air." See page 70.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. contemporary edition.]
[Footnote 3: "Coriolanus", Act iii. scene 2.]
[Footnote 4: "Coriolanus", Act ii. scene 1.]
* * * * *
THE SACRISTAN'S CELL.
ASSISI, 14th April, 1874.
I got to-day your lovely letter of the 6th, but I never knew my Susie could be such a naughty little girl before; to burn her pretty story instead of sending it to me. It would have come to me so exactly in the right place here, where St. Francis made the grasshopper (cicada, at least) sing to him upon his hand, and preached to the birds, and made the wolf go its rounds every day as regularly as any Franciscan friar, to ask for a little contribution to its modest dinner. The Bee and Narcissus would have delighted to talk in this enchanted air.
Yes, that is really very pretty of Dr. John Brown to inscribe your books so, and it's so like him. How these kind people understand things! And that bit of his about the child is wholly lovely; I am so glad you copied it.
I often think of you, and of Coniston and Brantwood. You will see, in the May Fors, reflections upon the temptations to the life of a Franciscan.
There are two monks here, one the sacristan who has charge of the entire church, and is responsible for its treasures; the other exercising what authority is left to the convent among the people of the town. They are both so good and innocent and sweet, one can't pity them enough. For this time in Italy is just like the Reformation in Scotland, with only the difference that the Reform movement is carried on here simply for the sake of what money can be got by Church confiscation. And these two brothers are living by indulgence, as the Abbot in the Monastery of St. Mary's in the Regent Moray's time.
The people of the village, however, are all true to their faith; it is only the governing body which is modern-infidel and radical. The population is quite charming,—a word of kindness makes them as bright as if you brought them news of a friend. All the same, it does not do to offend them; Monsieur Cavalcasella, who is expecting the Government order to take the Tabernacle from the Sanctuary of St. Francis, cannot, it is said, go out at night with safety. He decamped the day before I came, having some notion, I fancy, that I would make his life a burden to him, if he didn't, by day, as much as it was in peril by night. I promise myself a month of very happy time here (happy for me, I mean) when I return in May.
The sacristan gives me my coffee for lunch, in his own little cell, looking out on the olive woods; then he tells me stories of conversions and miracles, and then perhaps we go into the Sacristy and have a reverent little poke out of relics. Fancy a great carved cupboard in a vaulted chamber full of most precious things (the box which the Holy Virgin's veil used to be kept in, to begin with), and leave to rummage in it at will! Things that are only shown twice in the year or so, with fumigation! all the congregation on their knees; and the sacristan and I having a great heap of them on the table at once, like a dinner service! I really looked with great respect at St. Francis's old camel-hair dress.
I am obliged to go to Rome to-morrow, however, and to Naples on Saturday. My witch of Sicily expects me this day week, and she's going to take me such lovely drives, and talks of "excursions" which I see by the map are thirty miles away. I wonder if she thinks me so horribly old that it's quite proper. It will be very nice if she does, but not flattering. I know her mother can't go with her, I suppose her maid will. If she wants any other chaperon I won't go.
She's really very beautiful, I believe, to some people's tastes, (I shall be horribly disappointed if she isn't, in her own dark style,) and she writes, next to Susie, the loveliest letters I ever get.
Now, Susie, mind, you're to be a very good child while I'm away, and never to burn any more stories; and above all, you're to write me just what comes into your head, and ever to believe me your loving
[Footnote 5: "The Bee and Narcissus."]
[Footnote 6: Miss Amy Yule. See "Praeterita", Vol. III., Chap. vii.]
* * * * *
NAPLES, 2d May, 1874.
I heard of your great sorrow from Joan six days ago, and have not been able to write since. Nothing silences me so much as sorrow, and for this of yours I have no comfort. I write only that you may know that I am thinking of you, and would help you if I could. And I write to-day because your lovely letters and your lovely old age have been forced into my thoughts often by dreadful contrast during these days in Italy. You who are so purely and brightly happy in all natural and simple things, seem now to belong to another and a younger world. And your letters have been to me like the pure air of Yewdale Crags breathed among the Pontine Marshes; but you must not think I am ungrateful for them when I can't answer. You can have no idea how impossible it is for me to do all the work necessary even for memory of the things I came here to see; how much escapes me, how much is done in a broken and weary way. I am the only author on art who does the work of illustration with his own hand; the only one therefore—and I am not insolent in saying this—who has learned his business thoroughly; but after a day's drawing I assure you one cannot sit down to write unless it be the merest nonsense to please Joanie. Believe it or not, there is no one of my friends whom I write so scrupulously to as to you. You may be vexed at this, but indeed I can't but try to write carefully in answer to all your kind words, and so sometimes I can't at all. I must tell you, however, to-day, what I saw in the Pompeian frescoes—the great characteristic of falling Rome, in her furious desire of pleasure, and brutal incapability of it. The walls of Pompeii are covered with paintings meant only to give pleasure, but nothing they represent is beautiful or delightful, and yesterday, among other calumniated and caricatured birds, I saw one of my Susie's pets, a peacock; and he had only eleven eyes in his tail. Fancy the feverish wretchedness of the humanity which in mere pursuit of pleasure or power had reduced itself to see no more than eleven eyes in a peacock's tail! What were the Cyclops to this?
I hope to get to Rome this evening, and to be there settled for some time, and to have quieter hours for my letters.
[Footnote 7: The death of Miss Margaret Beever.]
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ROME, HOTEL DE RUSSIE, 8th May, '74.
I have your sweet letter about Ulysses, the leaves, and the Robins. I have been feeling so wearily on this journey, the want of what—when I had it, I used—how often! to feel a burden—the claim of my mother for at least a word, every day. Happy, poor mother, with two lines—and I—sometimes—nay—often—thinking it hard to have to stay five minutes from what I wanted to do—to write them.
I am despising, now, in like senseless way, the privilege of being able to write to you and of knowing that it will please you to hear—even that I can't tell you anything! which I cannot, this morning—but only, it is a little peace and rest to me to write to my Susie.
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ROME, 23d May, 1874.
A number of business letters and the increasing instinct for work here as time shortens, have kept me too long from even writing a mere mamma-note to you; though not without thought of you daily.
I have your last most lovely line about your sister—and giving me that most touching fact about poor Dr. John Brown, which I am grieved and yet thankful to know, that I may better still reverence his unfailing kindness and quick sympathy. I have a quite wonderful letter from him about you; but I will not tell you what he says, only it is so very, very true, and so very, very pretty, you can't think.
I have written to my bookseller to find for you, and send a complete edition of "Modern Painters," if findable. If not, I will make my assistant send you down my own fourth and fifth volumes, which you can keep till I come for them in the autumn.
There is nothing now in the year but autumn and winter. I really begin to think there is some terrible change of climate coming upon the world for its sin, like another deluge. It will have its rainbow, I suppose, after its manner—promising not to darken the world again, and then not to drown.
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ROME, 24th May, 1874 (Whit-Sunday).
I have to-day, to make the day whiter for me, your lovely letter of the 15th, telling me your age. I am so glad it is no more; you are only thirteen years older than I, and much more able to be my sister than mamma, and I hope you will have many years of youth yet. I think I must tell you in return for this letter what Dr. John Brown said, or part of it at least. He said you had the playfulness of a lamb without its selfishness. I think that perfect as far as it goes. Of course my Susie's wise and grave gifts must be told of afterwards. There is no one I know, or have known, so well able as you are to be in a degree what my mother was to me. In this chief way (as well as many other ways) (the puzzlement I have had to force that sentence into grammar!), that I have had the same certainty of giving you pleasure by a few words and by any little account of what I am doing. But then you know I have just got out of the way of doing as I am bid, and unless you can scold me back into that, you can't give me the sense of support.
Tell me more about yourself first, and how those years came to be "lost." I am not sure that they were; though I am very far from holding the empty theory of compensation; but much of the slighter pleasure you lost then is evidently still open to you, fresh all the more from having been for a time withdrawn.
The Roman peasants are very gay to-day, with roses in their hair; legitimately and honorably decorated, and looking lovely. Oh me, if they had a few Susies to take human care of them what a glorious people they would be!
[Footnote 8: See page 99.]
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THE LOST CHURCH IN THE CAMPAGNA.
ROME, 2d June, 1874.
Ah if you were but among the marbles here, though there are none finer than that you so strangely discerned in my study; but they are as a white company innumerable, ghost after ghost. And how you would rejoice in them and in a thousand things besides, to which I am dead, from having seen too much or worked too painfully—or, worst of all, lost the hope which gives all life.
Last Sunday I was in a lost church found again,—a church of the second or third century, dug in a green hill of the Campagna, built underground;—its secret entrance like a sand-martin's nest. Such the temple of the Lord, as the King Solomon of that time had to build it; not "the mountains of the Lord's house shall be established above the hills," but the cave of the Lord's house as the fox's hole, beneath them.
And here, now lighted by the sun for the first time (for they are still digging the earth from the steps), are the marbles of those early Christian days; the first efforts of their new hope to show itself in enduring record, the new hope of a Good Shepherd:—there they carved Him, with a spring flowing at His feet, and round Him the cattle of the Campagna in which they had dug their church, the very self-same goats which this morning have been trotting past my window through the most populous streets of Rome, innocently following their shepherd, tinkling their bells, and shaking their long spiral horns and white beards; the very same dew-lapped cattle which were that Sunday morning feeding on the hillside above, carved on the tomb-marbles sixteen hundred years ago.
How you would have liked to see it, Susie!
And now to-day I am going to work in an eleventh century church of quite proud and victorious Christianity, with its grand bishops and saints lording it over Italy. The bishop's throne all marble and mosaic of precious colors and of gold, high under the vaulted roof at the end behind the altar; and line upon line of pillars of massive porphyry and marble, gathered out of the ruins of the temples of the great race who had persecuted them, till they had said to the hills, Cover us, like the wicked. And then their proud time came, and their enthronement on the seven hills; and now, what is to be their fate once more?—of pope and cardinal and dome, Peter's or Paul's by name only,—"My house, no more a house of prayer, but a den of thieves."
I can't write any more this morning. Oh me, if one could only write and draw all one wanted, and have our Susies and be young again, oneself and they! (As if there were two Susies, or could be!)
Ever my one Susie's very loving J. RUSKIN.
* * * * *
ASSISI, June 9th (1874).
Yes, I am a little oppressed just now with overwork, nor is this avoidable. I am obliged to leave all my drawings unfinished as the last days come, and the point possible of approximate completion fatally contracts, every hour to a more ludicrous and warped mockery of the hope in which one began. It is impossible not to work against time, and that is killing. It is not labor itself, but competitive, anxious, disappointed labor that dries one's soul out.
But don't be frightened about me, you sweet Susie. I know when I must stop; forgive and pity me only, because sometimes, nay often my letter (or word) to Susie must be sacrificed to the last effort on one's drawing.
The letter to one's Susie should be a rest, do you think? It is always more or less comforting, but not rest; it means further employment of the already extremely strained sensational power. What one really wants! I believe the only true restorative is the natural one, the actual presence of one's "helpmeet." The far worse than absence of mine reverses rest, and what is more, destroys one's power of receiving from others or giving.
How much love of mine have others lost, because that poor sick child would not have the part of love that belonged to her!
I am very anxious about your eyes too. For any favor don't write more extracts just now. The books are yours forever and a day—no loan; enjoy any bits that you find enjoyable, but don't copy just now.
I left Rome yesterday, and am on my way home; but, alas! might as well be on my way home from Cochin China, for any chance I have of speedily arriving. Meantime your letters will reach me here with speed, and will be a great comfort to me, if they don't fatigue you.
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PERUGIA, 12th June (1874).
I am more and more pleased at the thought of this gathering of yours, and soon expect to tell you what the bookseller says.
Meantime I want you to think of the form the collection should take with reference to my proposed re-publication. I mean to take the botany, the geology, the Turner defense, and the general art criticism of "Modern Painters," as four separate books, cutting out nearly all the preaching, and a good deal of the sentiment. Now what you find pleasant and helpful to you of general maxim or reflection, must be of some value; and I think therefore that your selection will just do for me what no other reader could have done, least of all I myself; keep together, that is to say, what may be right and true of those youthful thoughts. I should like you to add anything that specially pleases you, of whatever kind; but to keep the notion of your book being the didactic one as opposed to the other picturesque and scientific volumes, will I think help you in choosing between passages when one or other is to be rejected.
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HOW HE FELL AMONG THIEVES.
ASSISI, 17th June (1874).
I have been having a bad time lately, and have no heart to write to you. Very difficult and melancholy work, deciphering what remains of a great painter among stains of ruin and blotches of repair, of five hundred years' gathering. It makes me sadder than idleness, which is saying much.
I was greatly flattered and petted by a saying in one of your last letters, about the difficulty I had in unpacking my mind. That is true; one of my chief troubles at present is with the quantity of things I want to say at once. But you don't know how I find things I laid by carefully in it, all moldy and moth-eaten when I take them out; and what a lot of mending and airing they need, and what a wearisome and bothering business it is compared to the early packing,—one used to be so proud to get things into the corners neatly!
I have been failing in my drawings, too, and I'm in a horrible inn kept by a Garibaldian bandit; and the various sorts of disgusting dishes sent up to look like a dinner, and to be charged for, are a daily increasing horror and amazement to me. They succeed in getting everything bad; no exertion, no invention, could produce such badness, I believe, anywhere else. The hills are covered for leagues with olive trees, and the oil's bad; there are no such lovely cattle elsewhere in the world, and the butter's bad; half the country people are shepherds, but there's no mutton; half the old women walk about with a pig tied to their waists, but there's no pork; the vine grows wild anywhere, and the wine would make my teeth drop out of my head if I took a glass of it; there are no strawberries, no oranges, no melons, the cherries are as hard as their stones, the beans only good for horses, or Jack and the beanstalk, and this is the size of the biggest asparagus—
I live here in a narrow street ten feet wide only, winding up a hill, and it was full this morning of sheep as close as they could pack, at least a thousand, as far as the eye could reach,—tinkle tinkle, bleat bleat, for a quarter of an hour.
[Footnote 9: Cimabue.]
* * * * *
ASSISI, SACRISTAN'S CELL, 25th June (1874).
This letter is all upside down, and this first page written last; for I didn't like something I had written about myself last night when I was tired, and have torn it off.
That star you saw beat like a heart must have been a dog star. A planet would not have twinkled. Far mightier, he, than any planet; burning with his own planetary host doubtless round him; and, on some speckiest of the specks of them, evangelical persons thinking our sun was made for them.
Ah, Susie, I do not pass, unthought of, the many sorrows of which you kindly tell me, to show me—for that is in your heart—how others have suffered also.
But, Susie, you expect to see your Margaret again, and you will be happy with her in heaven. I wanted my Rosie here. In heaven I mean to go and talk to Pythagoras and Socrates and Valerius Publicola. I shan't care a bit for Rosie there, she needn't think it. What will gray eyes and red cheeks be good for there?
These pious sentiments are all written in my sacristan's cell.
This extract book of yours will be most precious in its help to me, provided it is kept within somewhat narrow limits. As soon as it is done I mean to have it published in a strong and pretty but cheap form, and it must not be too bulky. Consider, therefore, not only what you like, but how far and with whom each bit is likely to find consent and service. You will have to choose perhaps, after a little while, among what you have already chosen. I mean to leave it wholly in your hands; it is to be Susie's choice of my writings.
Don't get into a flurry of responsibility, but don't at once write down all you have a mind to; I know you'll find a good deal! for you are exactly in sympathy with me in all things.
[Footnote 10: "Frondes Agrestes."]
* * * * *
ASSISI, 9th July, 1874.
Your lovely letters are always a comfort to me; and not least when you tell me you are sad. You would be far less in sympathy with me if you were not, and in the "everything right" humor of some, even of some really good and kind persons, whose own matters are to their mind, and who understand by "Providence" the power which particularly takes care of them. This favoritism which goes so sweetly and pleasantly down with so many pious people is the chief of all stumbling-blocks to me. I must pray for everybody or nobody, and can't get into any conceptions of relation between Heaven and me, if not also between Heaven and earth, (and why Heaven should allow hairs in pens I can't think).
I take great care of myself, be quite sure of that, Susie; the worst of it is, here in Assisi everybody else wants me to take care of them.
Catharine brought me up as a great treat yesterday at dinner, ham dressed with as much garlic as could be stewed into it, and a plate of raw figs, telling me I was to eat them together!
The sun is changing the entire mountains of Assisi into a hot bottle with no flannel round it; but I can't get a ripe plum, peach, or cherry. All the milk turns sour, and one has to eat one's meat at its toughest or the thunder gets into it next day.
* * * * *
FOAM OF TIBER.
PERUGIA, 17th July (1874).
I am made anxious by your sweet letter of the 6th saying you have been ill and are "not much better."
The letter is all like yours, but I suppose however ill you were you would always write prettily, so that's little comfort.
About the Narcissus, please. I want them for my fishpond stream rather than for the bee-house one. The fishpond stream is very doleful, and wants to dance with daffodils if they would come and teach it. How happy we are in our native streams. A thunder-storm swelled the Tiber yesterday, and it rolled over its mill weirs in heaps, literally, of tossed water, the size of haycocks, but black brown like coffee with the grounds in it, mixed with a very little yellow milk. In some lights the foam flew like cast handfuls of heavy gravel. The chief flowers here are only broom and bindweed, and I begin to weary for my heather and for my Susie; but oh dear, the ways are long and the days few.
* * * * *
LUCCA, 29th July (1874).
I'm not going to be devoured when I come, by anybody, unless you like to. I shall come to your window with the birds, to be fed myself.
And please at present always complain to me whenever you like. It is the over boisterous cheerfulness of common people that hurts me; your sadness is a help to me.
You shall have whatever name you like for your book provided you continue to like it after thinking over it long enough. You will not like "Gleanings," because you know one only gleans refuse—dropped ears—that other people don't care for. You go into the garden and gather with choice the flowers you like best. That is not gleaning!
* * * * *
LUCCA, 10th August (1874).
I have been grieved not to write to you; but the number of things that vex me are so great just now, that unless by false effort I could write you nothing nice. It is very dreadful to live in Italy, and more dreadful to see one's England and one's English friends, all but a field or two, and a stream or two, and a one Susie and one Dr. Brown, fast becoming like Italy and the Italians.
I have too much sympathy with your sorrow to write to you of it. What I have not sympathy with, is your hope; and how cruel it is to say this! But I am driven more and more to think there is to be no more good for a time, but a reign of terror of men and the elements alike; and yet it is so like what is foretold before the coming of the Son of man that perhaps in the extremest evil of it I may some day read the sign that our redemption draws nigh.
Now, Susie, invent a nice cluster of titles for the book and send them to me to choose from, to Hotel de l'Arno, Florence. I must get that out before the day of judgment, if I can. I'm so glad of your sweet flatteries in this note received to-day.
* * * * *
FLORENCE, 25th August (1874).
I have not been able to write to you, or any one lately, whom I don't want to tease, except Dr. Brown, whom I write to for counsel. My time is passed in a fierce steady struggle to save all I can every day, as a fireman from a smoldering ruin, of history or aspect. To-day, for instance, I've been just in time to ascertain the form of the cross of the Emperor, representing the power of the State in the greatest political fresco of old times—fourteenth century. By next year, it may be next month, it will have dropped from the wall with the vibration of the railway outside, and be touched up with new gilding for the mob.
I am keeping well, but am in a terrible spell (literally, "spell," enchanted maze, that I can't get out of) of work.
I was a little scandalized at the idea of your calling the book "word-painting." My dearest Susie, it is the chief provocation of my life to be called a "word-painter" instead of a thinker. I hope you haven't filled your book with descriptions. I thought it was the thoughts you were looking for?
"Posie" would be pretty. If you ask Joanie she will tell you perhaps too pretty for me, and I can't think a bit to-night, for instead of robins singing I hear only blaspheming gamesters on the other side of the narrow street.
* * * * *
FLORENCE, 1st September (1874).
Don't be in despair about your book. I am sure it will be lovely. I'll see to it the moment I get home, but I've got into an entirely unexpected piece of business here, the interpretation of a large chapel full of misunderstood, or not at all understood, frescoes; and I'm terribly afraid of breaking down, so much drawing has to be done at the same time. It has stranded botany and everything.
I was kept awake half of last night by drunken blackguards howling on the bridge of the Holy Trinity in the pure half-moonlight. This is the kind of discord I have to bear, corresponding to your uncongenial company. But, alas! Susie, you ought at ten years old to have more firmness, and to resolve that you won't be bored. I think I shall try to enforce it on you as a very solemn duty not to lie to people as the vulgar public do. If they bore you, say so, and they'll go away. That is the right state of things.
How am I to know that I don't bore you, when I come, when you're so civil to people you hate?
[Footnote 11: Spanish chapel in S. Maria Novella.]
* * * * *
PASS OF BOCCHETTA, 1st October (1874).
* * * * * *
All that is lovely and wonderful in the Alps may be seen without the slightest danger, in general, and it is especially good for little girls of eleven who can't climb, to know this—all the best views of hills are at the bottom of them. I know one or two places indeed where there is a grand peeping over precipices, one or two where the mountain seclusion and strength are worth climbing to see. But all the entirely beautiful things I could show you, Susie; only for the very highest sublime of them sometimes asking you to endure half an hour of chaise a porteurs, but mostly from a post-chaise or smoothest of turnpike roads.
But, Susie, do you know, I'm greatly horrified at the penwipers of peacocks' feathers! I always use my left-hand coat-tail, indeed, and if only I were a peacock and a pet of yours, how you'd scold me!
Sun just coming out over sea (at Sestri), which is sighing in towards the window, within your drive, round before the door's breadth of it, seen between two masses of acacia copse and two orange trees at the side of the inn courtyard.
[Footnote 12: That is, within that distance of the window.—J. R.]
* * * * *
GENEVA, 19th October (1874).
How I have been neglecting you! Perhaps Joanie may have told you that just at my last gasp of hand-work, I had to write quite an unexpected number of letters. But poor Joanie will think herself neglected now, for I have been stopped among the Alps by a state of their glaciers entirely unexampled, and shall be a week after my "latest possible" day, in getting home. It is eleven years since I was here, and very sad to me to return, yet delightful with a moonlight paleness of the past, precious of its kind.
I shall be at home with Joan in ten days now, God willing. I have much to tell you, which will give you pleasure and pain; but I don't know how much it will be—to tell you—for a little while yet, so I don't begin.
* * * * *
OXFORD, 26th October (1874).
Home at last with your lovely, most lovely, letter in my breast pocket.
I am so very grateful to you for not writing on black paper.
Oh, dear Susie, why should we ever wear black for the guests of God?
* * * * *
WHARFE IN FLOOD.
BOLTON ABBEY, 24th January, 1875.
The black rain, much as I growled at it, has let me see Wharfe in flood; and I would have borne many days in prison to see that.
No one need go to the Alps to see wild water. Seldom unless in the Rhine or Rhone themselves at their rapids, have I seen anything much grander. An Alpine stream, besides, nearly always has its bed full of loose stones, and becomes a series of humps and dumps of water wherever it is shallow; while the Wharfe swept round its curves of shore like a black Damascus saber, coiled into eddies of steel. At the Strid, it had risen eight feet vertical since yesterday, sheeting the flat rocks with foam from side to side, while the treacherous mid-channel was filled with a succession of boiling domes of water, charged through and through with churning white, and rolling out into the broader stream, each like a vast sea wave bursting on a beach.
There is something in the soft and comparatively unbroken slopes of these Yorkshire shales which must give the water a peculiar sweeping power, for I have seen Tay and Tummel and Ness, and many a big stream besides, savage enough, but I don't remember anything so grim as this.
I came home to quiet tea and a black kitten called Sweep, who lapped half my cream jugful (and yet I had plenty) sitting on my shoulder,—and Life of Sir Walter Scott. I was reading his great Scottish history tour, when he was twenty-three, and got his materials for everything nearly, but especially for Waverley, though not used till long afterwards.
Do you recollect Gibbie Gellatly? I was thinking over that question of yours, "What did I think?" But, my dear Susie, you might as well ask Gibbie Gellatly what he thought. What does it matter what any of us think? We are but simpletons, the best of us, and I am a very inconsistent and wayward simpleton. I know how to roast eggs, in the ashes, perhaps—but for the next world! Why don't you ask your squirrel what he thinks too? The great point—the one for all of us—is, not to take false words in our mouths, and to crack our nuts innocently through winter and rough weather.
I shall post this to-morrow as I pass through Skipton or any post-worthy place on my way to Wakefield. Write to Warwick. Oh me, what places England had, when she was herself! Now, rail stations mostly. But I never can make out how Warwick Castle got built by that dull bit of river.
[Footnote 13: Of the things that shall be, hereafter.—J. R.]
* * * * *
WAKEFIELD, 25th January, 1875.
Here's our book in form at last, and it seems to me just a nice size, and on the whole very taking. I've put a touch or two more to the preface, and I'm sadly afraid there's a naughty note somewhere. I hope you won't find it, and that you will like the order the things are put in.
Such ill roads as we came over to-day, I never thought to see in England.
* * * * *
CASTLETON, 26th January, 1875.
Here I have your long dear letter. I am very thankful I can be so much to you. Of all the people I have yet known, you are the only one I can find complete sympathy in; you are so nice and young without the hardness of youth, and may be the best of sisters to me. I am not so sure about letting you be an elder one; I am not going to be lectured when I'm naughty.
I've been so busy at wasps all day coming along, having got a nice book about them. It tells me, too, of a delightful German doctor who kept tame hornets,—a whole nest in his study! They knew him perfectly, and would let him do anything with them, even pull bits off their nest to look in at it.
Wasps, too, my author says, are really much more amiable than bees, and never get angry without cause. All the same, they have a tiresome way of inspecting one, too closely, sometimes, I think.
I'm immensely struck with the Peak Cavern, but it was in twilight.
I'm going to stay here all to-morrow, the place is so entirely unspoiled. I've not seen such a primitive village, rock, or stream, this twenty years; Langdale is as sophisticated as Pall Mall in comparison.
* * * * *
BOLTON BRIDGE, Saturday.
I never was more thankful than for your sweet note, being stopped here by bad weather again; the worst of posting is that one has to think of one's servant outside, and so lose a day.
It was bitter wind and snow this morning, too bad to send any human creature to sit idle in. Black enough still, and I more than usual, because it is just that point of distinction from brutes which I truly say is our only one, of which I have now so little hold.
The bee Fors will be got quickly into proof, but I must add a good deal to it. I can't get into good humor for natural history in this weather.
I've got a good book on wasps which says they are our chief protectors against flies. In Cumberland the wet cold spring is so bad for the wasps that I partly think this may be so, and the terrible plague of flies in August might perhaps be checked by our teaching our little Agneses to keep wasps' nests instead of bees.
Yes, that is a pretty bit of mine about Hamlet, and I think I must surely be a little pathetic sometimes, in a doggish way.
"You're so dreadfully faithful!" said Arthur Severn to me, fretting over the way I was being ill-treated the other day by R.
Oh dear, I wish I were at Brantwood again, now, and could send you my wasp book! It is pathetic, and yet so dreadful,—the wasp bringing in the caterpillar for its young wasp, stinging each enough to paralyze but not to kill, and so laying them up in the cupboard.
I wonder how the clergymen's wives will feel after the next Fors or two! I've done a bit to-day which I think will go in with a shiver. Do you recollect the curious thrill there is—the cold tingle of the pang of a nice deep wasp sting?
Well, I'm not in a fit temper to write to Susie to-day, clearly.
[Footnote 14: I've forgotten what it was, and don't feel now as if I had 'got hold' of any one.—J. R.]
[Footnote 15: See "Fors Clavigera", Letter LI.]
* * * * *
I stopped here to see the Strid again—not seen these many years. It is curious that life is embittered to me, now, by its former pleasantness; while you have of these same places painful recollections, but you could enjoy them now with your whole heart.
Instead of the drive with the poor over-labored one horse through the long wet day, here, when I was a youth, my father and mother brought me, and let me sketch in the Abbey and ramble in the woods as I chose, only demanding promise that I should not go near the Strid. Pleasant drives, with, on the whole, well paid and pleased drivers, never with over-burdened cattle; cheerful dinner or tea waiting for me always, on my return from solitary rambles. Everything right and good for me, except only that they never put me through any trials to harden me, or give me decision of character, or make me feel how much they did for me.
But that error was a fearful one, and cost them and me, Heaven only knows how much. And now, I walk to Strid, and Abbey, and everywhere, with the ghosts of the past days haunting me, and other darker spirits of sorrow and remorse and wonder. Black spirits among the gray, all like a mist between me and the green woods. And I feel like a caterpillar,—stung just enough. Foul weather and mist enough, of quite a real kind besides. An hour's sunshine to-day, broken up speedily, and now veiled utterly.
[Footnote 16: In 1837.]
* * * * *
HERNE HILL, LONDON, 11th February, 1875.
I have your sweet letter with news of Dr. John and his brother. I have been working on the book to-day very hard, after much interruption; it is two-thirds done now. So glad people are on tiptoe.
Paddocks are frogs, not toads in that grace. And why should not people smile? Do you think that God does not like smiling graces? He only dislikes frowns. But you know when once habitual, the child would be told on a cold day to say "Cold as paddocks;" and everybody would know what was coming. Finally the deep under-meaning, that as the cold hand is lifted, so also the cold heart, and yet accepted, makes it one of the prettiest little hymns I know.
I cannot tell you how very apposite to my work these two feathers are. I am just going to dwell on the exquisite result of the division into successive leaves, by which nature obtains the glittering look to set off her color; and you just send me two feathers which have it more in perfection than any I ever saw, and I think are more vivid in color.
How those boys must tease you! but you will be rewarded in the world that good Susies go to.
[Footnote 17: Herrick's. See "Fors Clavigera", Letter XLIII.]
* * * * *
HERNE HILL, 4th October (1875).
All your letter is delicious, but chiefest the last sentence where you say you like your Chaucer so much.—And you need never fear touching that wound of mine—It is never more—never less—without its pain. I like you to lay your pure—gentle hand on it.
But I am not despondent or beaten at all, and I'm at work on your peacock's feathers—and oh me, they should be put into some great arch of crystal where one could see them like a large rainbow—I use your dear little lens deep in and in—and can't exhaust their wonderfulness.
* * * * *
HOTEL MEURICE, PARIS, 26th August, '76.
I'm so very miserable just now that I can't write to you: but I don't want you to think that I am going so far away without wishing to be near you again. A fit of intense despondency coming on the top, or under the bottom, of already far-fallen fatigue leaves me helpless to-day, my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. Oh dear, the one pleasant thing I've to say is that it will make me know the blessings of Brantwood and dearness of the Thwaite, twenty fold more, when I get back.
* * * * *
VENICE, 10th September, '76.
I am a sad long way from the pretty garden steps of the Thwaite, now, yet in a way, at home, here also—having perhaps more feeling of old days at Venice than at any other place in the world, having done so much work there, and I hope to get my new "Stones of Venice" into almost as nice a form as "Frondes." I'm going to keep all that I think Susie would like, and then to put in some little bits to my own liking, and some other little bits for the pleasure of teasing, and I think the book will come out quite fresh.
I am settled here for a month at least—and shall be very thankful for Susie notes, when they cross the Alps to me in these lovely days.
Love to Mary—I wish I could have sent both some of the dark blue small Veronica I found on the Simplon!
* * * * *
VENICE, 12th September, 1876.
I must just say how thankful it makes me to hear of this true gentleness of English gentlewomen in the midst of the vice and cruelty in which I am forced to live here, where oppression on one side and license on the other rage as two war-wolves in continual havoc.
It is very characteristic of fallen Venice, as of modern Europe, that here in the principal rooms of one of the chief palaces in the very headmost sweep of the Grand Canal there is not a room for a servant fit to keep a cat or a dog in (as Susie would keep cat or dog, at least).
* * * * *
VENICE, 18th September (1876).
I never knew such a fight as the good and wicked fairies are having over my poor body and spirit just now. The good fairies have got down the St. Ursula for me and given her to me all to myself, and sent me fine weather and nice gondoliers, and a good cook, and a pleasant waiter; and the bad fairies keep putting everything upside down, and putting black in my box when I want white, and making me forget all I want, and find all I don't, and making the hinges come off my boards, and the leaves out of my books, and driving me as wild as wild can be; but I'm getting something done in spite of them, only I never can get my letters written.
* * * * *
VENICE, September 29th.
I have woeful letters telling me you also were woeful in saying good-bye. My darling Susie, what is the use of your being so good and dear if you can't enjoy thinking of heaven, and what fine goings on we shall all have there?
All the same, even when I'm at my very piousest, it puts me out if my drawings go wrong. I'm going to draw St. Ursula's blue slippers to-day, and if I can't do them nicely shall be in great despair. I've just found a little cunning inscription on her bedpost, 'IN FANNTIA.' The double N puzzled me at first, but Carpaccio spells anyhow. My head is not good enough for a bedpost....Oh me, the sweet Grange!—Thwaite, I mean (bedpost again); to think of it in this mass of weeds and ruin!
* * * * *
VENICE, 13th November (1876).
I have to-day your dear little note, and have desired Joan to send you one just written to her in which I have given some account of myself, that may partly interest, partly win your pardon for apparent neglect. Coming here, after practically an interval of twenty-four years,—for I have not seriously looked at anything during the two hurried visits with Joan,—my old unfinished work, and the possibilities of its better completion, rise grievously and beguilingly before me, and I have been stretching my hands to the shadow of old designs and striving to fulfill shortcomings, always painful to me, but now, for the moment, intolerable.
I am also approaching the close of the sixth year of Fors, and have plans for the Sabbatical year of it, which make my thoughts active and troubled. I am drawing much, and have got a study of St. Ursula which will give you pleasure; but the pain of being separate from my friends and of knowing they miss me! I wonder if you will think you are making me too vain, Susie. Such vanity is a very painful one, for I know that you look out of the window on Sundays now, wistfully, for Joan's handkerchief. This pain seems always at my heart, with the other which is its own.
I am thankful, always, you like St. Ursula. One quite fixed plan for the last year of Fors, is that there shall be absolutely no abuse or controversy in it, but things which will either give pleasure or help; and some clear statements of principle, in language as temperate as hitherto violent; to show, for one thing, that the violence was not for want of self-command.
I'm going to have a good fling at the Bishops in next Fors to finish with, and then for January!—only I mustn't be too good, Susie, or something would happen to me. So I shall say naughty things still, but in the mildest way.
I am very grateful to you for that comparison about my mind being as crisp as a lettuce. I am so thankful you can feel that still. I was beginning to doubt, myself.
[Footnote 18: May 1870 and June 1872.]
* * * * *
ST. MARK'S DOVES.
VENICE, 2d December (1876).
I have been very dismal lately. I hope the next captain of St. George's Company will be a merrier one and happier, in being of use. I am inherently selfish, and don't enjoy being of use. And here I've no Susies nor Kathleens nor Diddies, and I'm only doing lots of good, and I'm very miserable. I've been going late to bed too. I picked myself up last night and went to bed at nine, and feel cheerful enough to ask Susie how she does, and send her love from St. Mark's doves. They're really tiresome now, among one's feet in St. Mark's Place, and I don't know what it will come to. In old times, when there were not so many idlers about, the doves were used to brisk walkers, and moved away a foot or two in front of one; but now everybody lounges, or stands talking about the Government, and the doves won't stir till one just touches them; and I who walk fast am always expecting to tread on them, and it's a nuisance.
If I only had time I would fain make friends with the sea-gulls, who would be quite like angels if they would only stop on one's balcony. If there were the least bit of truth in Darwinism, Venice would have had her own born sea-gulls by this time building their nests at her thresholds.
[Footnote 19: See "Fors Clavigera", Letter LXXXII.]
* * * * *
VENICE, 11th December (1876).
My mouth's watering so for that Thwaite currant jelly, you can't think. I haven't had the least taste of anything of the sort this three months. These wretches of Venetians live on cigars and garlic, and have no taste in their mouths for anything that God makes nice.
The little drawing (returned) is nice in color and feeling, but, which surprises me, not at all intelligent in line. It is not weakness of hand but fault of perspective instinct, which spoils so many otherwise good botanical drawings.
Bright morning. Sickle moon just hiding in a red cloud, and the morning stars just vanished in light. But we've had nearly three weeks of dark weather, so we mustn't think it poor Coniston's fault—though Coniston has faults.
* * * * *
ST. MARK'S REST.
23d January, 1877.
A great many lovely things happened to me this Christmas, but if I were to tell Susie of them I am sure she would be frightened out of her bright little wits, and think I was going to be a Roman Catholic. I'm writing such a Catholic history of Venice, and chiseling all the Protestantism off the old "Stones" as they do here the grass off steps.
All the pigeons of St. Mark's Place send you their love. St. Ursula adds hers to the eleven thousand birds' love. And the darlingest old Pope who went a pilgrimage with her, hopes you won't be too much shocked if he sends his too! (If you're not shocked, I am!)
My new Catholic history of Venice is to be called "St. Mark's Rest."
* * * * *
27th January (1877).
Joanie tells me you are writing her such sad little letters. How can it be that any one so good and true as my Susie should be sad? I am sad, bitterly enough and often, but only with sense of fault and folly and lost opportunity such as you have never fallen into or lost. It is very cruel of Fate, I think, to make us sad, who would fain see everybody cheerful, and (cruel of Fate too) to make so many cheerful who make others wretched. The little history of Venice is well on, and will be clear and interesting, I think,—more than most histories of anything. And the stories of saints and nice people will be plenty.
Such moonlight as there is to-night, but nothing to what it is at Coniston! It makes the lagoon water look brown instead of green, which I never noticed before.
* * * * *
VENICE, 4th February, 1877.
Your praise and sympathy do me double good, because you could not praise me so nicely and brightly without pleasure of your own. I'm always sure a Fors will be good if I feel it will please Susie;—but I can only write them now as they're given me; it all depends on what I'm about. But I'm doing a great deal just now which you will enjoy—I'm thankful to say, I know you will. St. Theodore's horse is delightful—and our Venetian doggie—and some birds are coming too! This is not a letter—but just a purr.
[Footnote 20: St. Theodore had a contest with a Dragon, and his horse gave considerable help, trampling it down with its four feet. The Saint spoke first to the horse as to a man—"Oh thou horse of Christ comfort thee, be strong like a man, and come that we may conquer the contrary enemy." See "Fors," vol. vii. also "St. Mark's Rest,"]
* * * * *
SAINTS AND FLOWERS.
VENICE, 17th February (1877).
It is very grievous to me to hear of your being in that woeful weather while I have two days' sunshine out of three, and starlight or moonlight always; to-day the whole chain of the Alps from Vicenza to Trieste shining cloudless all day long, and the sea-gulls floating high in the blue, like little dazzling boys' kites.
Yes, St. Francis would have been greatly pleased with you watching pussy drink your milk; so would St. Theodore, as you will see by next Fors, which I have ordered to be sent you in first proof, for I am eager that you should have it. What wonderful flowers these pinks of St. Ursula's are, for life! They seem to bloom like everlastings.
I get my first rosebud and violets of this year from St. Helena's Island to-day. How I begin to pity people who have no saints to be good to them! Who is yours at Coniston? There must have been some in the country once upon a time.
With their help I am really getting well on with my history and drawing, and hope for a sweet time at home in the heathery days, and many a nice afternoon tea at the Thwaite.
* * * * *
VENICE, 8th March, 1877.
That is entirely new and wonderful to me about the singing mouse. Douglas (was it the Douglas?) saying "he had rather hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak" needs revision. It is a marvelous fact in natural history.
The wind is singing a wild tune to-night—cannot be colder on our own heaths—and the waves dash like our Waterhead. Oh me, when I'm walking round it again how like a sad dream all this Venice will be!
[Footnote 21: A pleasant story that a friend sent me from France. The mouse often came into their sitting-room and actually sang to them, the notes being a little like a canary's.—S. B.]
* * * * *
VENICE, 15th May, 1877.
I've not tumbled into the lagoons, nor choked myself in a passion, nor gone and made a monk of myself—nor got poisoned by the Italian cooks.
I'm packing up, and coming to the Thwaite as soon as ever I can—after a little Alpine breathing of high air.
I'm pretty well—if you'll forgive me for being so naughty—else I can't be even plain well—but I'm always your loving——
[Transcriber's Note: no ending to the sentence here.]
* * * * *
OXFORD, 2d December (1877).
I write first to you this morning to tell you that I gave yesterday the twelfth and last of my course of lectures this term, to a room crowded by six hundred people, two-thirds members of the University, and with its door wedged open by those who could not get in; this interest of theirs being granted to me, I doubt not, because for the first time in Oxford, I have been able to speak to them boldly of immortal life. I intended when I began the course only to have read "Modern Painters" to them; but when I began, some of your favorite bits interested the men so much, and brought so much larger a proportion of undergraduates than usual, that I took pains to reinforce and press them home; and people say I have never given so useful a course yet. But it has taken all my time and strength, and I have not been able even to tell Susie a word about it until now. In one of my lectures I made my text your pretty peacock and the design of him. But did not venture to say what really must be true, that his voice is an example of "the Devil sowed tares," and of the angels letting both grow together. My grateful compliments to the peacock. And little (but warm) loves to all your little birds. And best of little loves to the squirrels, only you must send them in dream-words, I suppose, up to their nests.
[Footnote 22: An Oxford Lecture. Nineteenth Century, January, 1878.]
[Footnote 23: Decorative art of his plumage.—J. R.]
* * * * *
HERNE HILL, Sunday, 16th December (1877).
It is a long while since I've felt so good for nothing as I do this morning. My very wristbands curl up in a dog's-eared and disconsolate manner; my little room is all a heap of disorder. I've got a hoarseness and wheezing and sneezing and coughing and choking. I can't speak and I can't think, I'm miserable in bed and useless out of it; and it seems to me as if I could never venture to open a window or go out of a door any more. I have the dimmest sort of diabolical pleasure in thinking how miserable I shall make Susie by telling her all this; but in other respects I seem entirely devoid of all moral sentiments. I have arrived at this state of things, first by catching cold, and since by trying to "amuse myself" for three days. I tried to read "Pickwick," but found that vulgar, and, besides, I know it all by heart. I sent from town for some chivalric romances, but found them immeasurably stupid. I made Baxter read me the Daily Telegraph, and found that the Home Secretary had been making an absurd speech about art, without any consciousness that such a person as I had ever existed. I read a lot of games of chess out of Mr. Staunton's handbook, and couldn't understand any of them. I analyzed the Dock Company's bill of charges on a box from Venice, and sent them an examination paper on it. I think that did amuse me a little, but the account doesn't. L1 8s. 6d. for bringing a box two feet square from the Tower Wharf to here! But the worst of all is, that the doctor keeps me shut up here, and I can't get my business done; and now there isn't the least chance of my getting down to Brantwood for Christmas, nor, as far as I can see, for a fortnight after it. There's perhaps a little of the diabolical enjoyment again in that estimate; but really the days do go, more like dew shaken off branches than real sunrisings and settings. But I'll send you word every day now for a little while how things are going on.
[Footnote 24: "May I ask you to correct a false impression which any of your readers who still care to know my opinions would receive from the reference to Dickens in your kind notice of my letters to Miss Beever....I have not the letters here, and forget what I said about my Pickwick's not amusing me when I was ill, but it always does, to this hour, when I am well; though I have known it by heart, pretty nearly all, since it came out; and I love Dickens with every bit of my heart, and sympathize in everything he thought or tried to do, except in his effort to make more money by readings which killed him." Letter to "Daily Telegraph", Sandgate, January 4, 1888.]
* * * * *
CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE, OXFORD, 26th December, 1877.
I don't know really whether I ought to be at Brantwood or here on Christmas. Yesterday I had two lovely services in my own cathedral. You know the cathedral of Oxford is the chapel of Christ Church College, and I have my own high seat in the chancel, as an honorary student, besides being bred there, and so one is ever so proud and ever so pious all at once, which is ever so nice, you know; and my own dean, that's the Dean of Christ's Church, who is as big as any bishop, read the services, and the psalms and anthems were lovely; and then I dined with Henry Acland and his family, where I am an adopted son,—all the more wanted yesterday because the favorite son Herbert died this year in Ceylon,—the first death out of seven sons. So they were glad to have me. Then I've all my Turners here, and shall really enjoy myself a little to-day, I think; but I do wish I could be at Brantwood too.
Oh dear, I've scribbled this dreadfully. Can you really read my scribble, Susie? Love, you may always read, however scribbled.
* * * * *
OXFORD, 27th December, 1877.
By the way, what a shame it is that we keep that word "jealous" in the second commandment, as if it meant that God was jealous of images. It means burning, zealous or full of life, visiting, etc., i.e., necessarily when leaving the father leaving the child; necessarily, when giving the father life, giving life to the child, and to thousands of the race of them that love me.
It is very comic the way people have of being so particular about the second and fourth commandments, and breaking all the rest with the greatest comfort. For me, I try to keep all the rest rather carefully, and let the second and fourth take care of themselves.
Cold quite gone; now it's your turn, Susie. I've got a love letter in Chinese, and can't read it!
* * * * *
WINDSOR CASTLE, 2d January, 1878.
I'm horribly sulky this morning, for I expected to have a room with a view, if the room was ever so little, and I've got a great big one looking into the Castle yard, and I feel exactly as if I was in a big modern county jail with beautiful turrets of modern Gothic.
I came to see Prince Leopold, who has been a prisoner to his sofa lately, but I trust he is better; he is very bright and gentle, under severe and almost continual pain. My dear little Susie, about that rheumatism of yours? If it wasn't for that, how happy we both ought to be, living in Thwaites and woods, instead of nasty castles! Well, about that Shakespeare guide? I cannot, cannot, at all fancy what it is. In and out among the stars; it sounds like a plan for stringing the stars. I am so very glad you told me of it.
"Unwritten books in my brain?" Yes, but also in how many other brains of quiet people, books unthought of, "In the Book and Volume" which will be read some day in Heaven, aloud, "When saw we thee?" Yes, and "When read we ourselves?"
My dear Susie, if I were to think really lost, what you for instance have new found in your own powers of receiving and giving pleasure, the beautiful faculties you have, scarcely venturing even to show the consciousness of them, when it awakes in you, what a woeful conception I should have of God's not caring for us. He will gather all the wheat into His garner.
* * * * *
INGLETON, 17th January (1878).
It's a charming post here, and brings me my letters the first thing in the morning; and I took care to tell nobody where I was going, except people I wanted to hear from. What a little busy bee of a Susie you've been to get all those extracts ready by this time. I've got nothing done all the while I've been away, but a few mathematical figures, and the less I do the less I find I can do it; and yesterday, for the first time these twenty years at least, I hadn't so much as a "plan" in my head all day. But I had a lot to look at in the moorland flowers and quiet little ancient Yorkshire farmhouses, not to speak of Ingleborough, who was, I think, a little depressed because he knew you were only going to send your remembrances and not your love to him. The clouds gathered on his brow occasionally in a fretful manner, but towards evening he resumed his peace of mind and sends you his "remembrances" and his "blessing." I believe he saves both you and me from a great deal of east wind.
Well, I've got a plan in my head this morning for the new extracts. Shall we call them "Lapides (or "Marmora") Portici"; and put a little preface to them about the pavement of St. Mark's porch and its symbolism of what the education of a good man's early days must be to him? I think I can write something a little true and trustworthy about it.
* * * * *
I have entirely resigned all hope of ever thanking you rightly for bread, sweet odors, roses and pearls, and must just allow myself to be fed, scented, rose-garlanded and bepearled as if I were a poor little pet dog or pet pig. But my cold is better, and I am getting on with this botany; but it is really too important a work to be pushed for a week or a fortnight. And Mary and you will be pleased at last, I am sure.
I have only to-day got my four families, Clarissa, Lychnis, Scintilla, and Mica, perfectly and simply defined. See how nicely they come.
A. Clarissa changed from Dianthus, which is bad Greek (and all my pretty flowers have names of girls). Petal jagged at the outside.
B. Lychnis. Petal divided in two at the outside, and the fringe retired to the top of the limb.
C. Scintilla. (Changed from Stellaria, because I want Stella for the house leeks.) Petal formed by the two lobes of lychnis without the retired fringe.
D. Mica. Single lobed petal.
When once these four families are well understood in typical examples, how easy it will be to attach either subordinate groups or specialities of habitat, as in America, to some kinds of them! The entire order, for their purity and wildness, are to be named, from Artemis, "Artemides", instead of Caryophyllaceae; and next them come the Vestals (mints, lavenders, etc.); and then the Cytheride Viola, Veronica, Giulietta, the last changed from Polygala.
That third Herb Robert one is just the drawing that nobody but me (never mind grammar) could have made. Nobody! because it means ever so much careful watching of the ways of the leaf, and a lot of work in cramp perspective besides. It is not quite right yet, but it is nice.
[Footnote 25: "Proserpina,"]
* * * * *
It is so nice to be able to find anything that is in the least new to you, and interesting; my rocks are quite proud of rooting that little saxifrage.
I'm scarcely able to look at one flower because of the two on each side, in my garden just now. I want to have bees' eyes, there are so many lovely things.
I must tell you, interrupting my botanical work this morning, something that has just chanced to me.
I am arranging the caryophylls, which I mass broadly into "Clarissa," the true jagged-leaved and clove-scented ones; "Lychnis," those whose leaves are essentially in two lobes; "Arenaria," which I leave untouched; and "Mica," a new name of my own for the pearlworts of which the French name is to be Miette, and the representative type (now Sagina procumbens) is to be in—
Latin—Mica amica. French—Miette l'amie. English—Pet pearlwort.
Then the next to this is to be—
Latin—Mica millegrana. French—Miette aux mille perles. English—Thousand pearls.
Now this on the whole I consider the prettiest of the group, and so look for a plate of it which I can copy. Hunting all through my botanical books, I find the best of all is Baxter's Oxford one, and determine at once to engrave that. When turning the page of his text I find: "The specimen of this curious and interesting little plant from which the accompanying drawing was made was communicated to me by Miss Susan Beever. To the kindness of this young lady, and that of her sister, Miss Mary Beever, I am indebted for the four plants figured in this number."
I have copied lest you should have trouble in looking for the book, but now, you darling Susie, please tell me whether I may not separate these lovely pearlworts wholly from the spergulas,—by the pearlworts having only two leaves like real pinks at the joints, and the spergulas, a cluster; and tell me how the spergulas scatter their seeds, I can't find any account of it.
* * * * *
I would fain have come to see that St. Bruno lily; but if I don't come to see Susie and you, be sure I am able to come to see nothing. At present I am very deeply involved in the classification of the minerals in the Sheffield Museum, important as the first practical arrangement ever yet attempted for popular teaching, and this with my other work makes me fit for nothing in the afternoon but wood-chopping. But I will call to-day on Dr. Brown's friends.
I hope you will not be too much shocked with the audacities of the new number of "Proserpina," or with its ignorances. I am going during my wood-chopping really to ascertain in my own way what simple persons ought to know about tree growth, and give it clearly in the next number. I meant to do the whole book very differently, but can only now give the fragmentary pieces as they chance to come, or it would never be done at all.
You must know before anybody else how the exogens are to be completely divided. I keep the four great useful groups, mallow, geranium, mint, and wallflower, under the head of domestic orders, that their sweet service and companionship with us may be understood; then the water-lily and the heath, both four foils, are to be studied in their solitudes (I shall throw all that are not four foils out of the Ericaceae); then finally there are to be seven orders of the dark proserpine, headed by the draconids (snapdragons), and including the anemones, hellebores, ivies, and forget-me-nots.
What plants I cannot get ranged under these 12+4+2+7==25 in all, orders, I shall give broken notices of, as I have time, leaving my pupils to arrange them as they like. I can't do it all.
The whole household was out after breakfast to-day to the top of the moor to plant cranberries; and we squeezed and splashed and spluttered in the boggiest places the lovely sunshine had left, till we found places squashy and squeezy enough to please the most particular and coolest of cranberry minds; and then each of us choosing a little special bed of bog, the tufts were deeply put in with every manner of tacit benediction, such as might befit a bog and a berry, and many an expressed thanksgiving to Susie and to the kind sender of the luxuriant plants. I have never had gift from you, dear Susie, more truly interesting and gladdening to me, and many a day I shall climb the moor to see the fate of the plants and look across to the Thwaite. I've been out most of the forenoon and am too sleepy to shape letters, but will try and get a word of thanks to the far finder of the dainty things to-morrow.
What loveliness everywhere in a duckling sort of state just now.
[Footnote 26: Part 5.]
* * * * *
I hope you did not get a chill in the garden. The weather is a little wrong again, but I am thankful for last night's sunset.
You know our English Bible is only of James 1st time—Stalk is a Saxon word, and gets into English I fancy as early as the Plantagenets—but I have not hunted it down.—I'm just in the same mess with "pith," but I'm finding out a great deal about the thing though not the word, for next "Deucalion," in chopping my wood.
You know, "Funckia" won't last long. I am certain I shall have strength enough to carry my system of nomenclature at least as far, as to exclude people's individual names.
I won't even have a "Susia"—stay—that's Christian—yes, I will have a Susia. But not a "Beeveria," though——
* * * * *
TO MISS BEEVER.
20th January, 1879.
You will not doubt the extreme sorrow with which I have heard of all that was ordered to be, of terrible, in your peaceful and happy household. Without for an instant supposing, but, on the contrary, utterly refusing to admit, that such calamities may be used to point a moral (all useful morality having every point that God meant it to have, perfectly sharp and bright without any burnishing of ours), still less to adorn a tale (the tales of modern days depending far too much upon Scythian decoration with Death's heads), I, yet, if I had been Mr. Chapman, would have pointed out that all concealments, even of trivial matters, on the part of young servants from kind mistresses, are dangerous no less than unkind and ungenerous, and that a great deal of preaching respecting the evil nature of man and the anger of God might be spared, if children and servants were only taught, as a religious principle, to tell their mothers and mistresses, when they go out, exactly where they are going and what they are going to do. I think both you and Miss Susan ought to use every possible means of changing, or at least checking, the current of such thoughts in your minds; and I am in hopes that you may have a little pleasure in examining the plates in the volume of Sibthorpe's "F. Graeca" which I send to-day, in comparison with those of "F. Danica." The vulgarity and lifelessness of Sibthorpe's plates are the more striking because in mere execution they are the more elaborate of the two; the chief point in the "F. Danica" being the lovely artistic skill. The drawings for Sibthorpe, by a young German, were as exquisite as the Dane's, but the English engraver and colorist spoiled all.
I will send you, if you like them, the other volumes in succession. I find immense interest in comparing the Greek and Danish forms or conditions of the same English flower.
I send the second volume, in which the Rufias are lovely, and scarcely come under my above condemnation. The first is nearly all of grass.
[Footnote 27: One of our younger servants had gone on to the frozen lake; the ice gave way, and she was drowned.—S. B.]
* * * * *
BRANTWOOD, 4th February (1879).
You know I'm getting my Oxford minerals gradually to Brantwood, and whenever a box comes, I think whether there are any that I don't want myself, which might yet have leave to live on Susie's table. And to-day I've found a very soft purple agate, that looks as if it were nearly melted away with pity for birds and flies, which is like Susie; and another piece of hard wooden agate with only a little ragged sky of blue here and there, which is like me; and a group of crystals with grass of Epidote inside, which is like what my own little cascade has been all the winter by the garden side; and so I've had them all packed up, and I hope you will let them live at the Thwaite.
Then here are some more bits, if you will be a child. Here's a green piece, long, of the stone they cut those green weedy brooches out of, and a nice mouse-colored natural agate, and a great black and white one, stained with sulphuric acid, black but very fine always, and interesting in its lines.
Oh dear, the cold; but it's worth any cold to have that delicious Robin dialogue. Please write some more of it; you hear all they say, I'm sure.
I cannot tell you how delighted I am with your lovely gift to Joanie. The perfection of the stone, its exquisite color, and superb weight, and flawless clearness, and the delicate cutting, which makes the light flash from it like a wave of the Lake, make it altogether the most perfect mineralogical and heraldic jewel that Joanie could be bedecked with, and it is as if Susie had given her a piece of Coniston Water itself.
And the setting is delicious, and positively must not be altered. I shall come on Sunday to thank you myself for it. Meantime I'm working hard at the Psalter, which I am almost sure Susie will like.
* * * * *
I am so very glad you like Sir Philip so much.
I've sent for, and hope to get him for you. He was shot before he had done half his Psalter—His sister finished it, but very meanly in comparison, you can tell the two hands on the harp at a mile off.
The photograph—please say—like all photos whatsoever, is only nature dirtied and undistanced.—If that is all one wants in trees,—they might be dead all the year round.
* * * * *
25th May (1879).
This is a most wonderful stone that Dr. Kendall has found—at least to me. I have never seen anything quite like it, the arborescent forms of the central thread of iron being hardly ever assumed by an ore of so much metallic luster. I think it would be very desirable to cut it, so as to get a perfectly smooth surface to show the arborescent forms; if Dr. Kendall would like to have it done, I can easily send it up to London with my own next parcel.
I want very much to know exactly where it was found; might I come and ask about it on Dr. Kendall's next visit to you? I could be there waiting for him any day.
What lovely pictures you would have made in the old butterfly times, of opal and felspar! What lost creatures we all are, we nice ones! The Alps and clouds that I could have done, if I had been shown how.
* * * * *
27th June (1879).
Everybody's gone! and I have all the new potatoes, and all the asparagus, and all the oranges and everything, and my Susie too, all to myself.
I wrote in my diary this morning that really on the whole I never felt better in my life. Mouth, eyes, head, feet, and fingers all fairly in trim; older than they were, yes, but if the head and heart grow wiser, they won't want feet or fingers some day.
And I'll come to be cheered and scolded myself the moment I've got things a little to rights here. I think imps get into the shelves and drawers, if they're kept long locked, and must be caught like mice. The boys have been very good, and left everything untouched; but the imps; and to hear people say there aren't any! How happy you and I should always be if it weren't for them!
How gay you were and how you cheered me up after the dark lake.
Please say "John Inglesant" is harder than real history and of no mortal use. I couldn't read four pages of it. Clever, of course.
* * * * *
HERNE HILL, 14th August, 1880.
I've just finished my Scott paper: but it has retouchings and notings yet to do. I couldn't write a word before; haven't so much as a syllable to Diddie, and only a move at chess to Macdonald, for, you know, to keep a chess player waiting for a move is like keeping St. Lawrence unturned.
[Footnote 28: "Fiction Fair and Foul", No. 3.]
* * * * *
21st August, 1880.
I'm leaving to-day for Dover, and a line from you to-morrow or Monday would find me certainly at Poste Restante, Abbeville.
I have not been working at all, but enjoying myself (only that takes up time all the same) at Crystal Palace concerts, and jugglings, and at Zoological Gardens, where I had a snake seven feet long to play with, only I hadn't much time to make friends, and it rather wanted to get away all the time. And I gave the hippopotamus whole buns, and he was delighted, and saw the cormorant catch fish thrown to him six yards off; never missed one; you would have thought the fish ran along a wire up to him and down his throat. And I saw the penguin swim under water, and the sea lions sit up, four of them on four wooden chairs, and catch fish also; but they missed sometimes and had to flop off their chairs into the water and then flop out again and flop up again.
And I lunched with Cardinal Manning, and he gave me such a plum pie. I never tasted a Protestant pie to touch it.
* * * * *
Now you're just wrong about my darling Cardinal. See what it is to be jealous! He gave me lovely soup, roast beef, hare and currant jelly, puff pastry like Papal pretensions—you had but to breathe on it and it was nowhere—raisins and almonds, and those lovely preserved cherries like kisses kept in amber. And told me delicious stories all through lunch. There!
And we really do see the sun here! And last night the sky was all a spangle and delicate glitter of stars, the glare of them and spikiness softened off by a young darling of a moon.
* * * * *
AMIENS, 29th August, 1880.
You have been made happy doubtless with us by the news from Herne Hill. I've only a telegram yet though, but write at once to congratulate you on your little goddaughter.
Also to say that I am very well, and sadly longing for Brantwood; but that I am glad to see some vestige of beloved things here, once more.
We have glorious weather, and I am getting perfect rest most of the day—mere saunter in the sunny air, taking all the good I can of it. To-morrow we get (D.V.) to Beauvais, where perhaps I may find a letter from Susie; in any case you may write to Hotel Meurice, Paris.
The oleanders are coming out and geraniums in all cottage windows, and golden corn like Etruscan jewelry over all the fields.
* * * * *
BEAUVAIS, 3d September, 1880.
We are having the most perfect weather I ever saw in France, much less anywhere else, and I'm taking a thorough rest, writing scarcely anything and sauntering about old town streets all day.
I made a little sketch of the lake from above the Waterhead which goes everywhere with me, and it is so curious when the wind blows the leaf open when I am sketching here at Beauvais, where all is so differently delightful, as if we were on the other side of the world.