WHAT I REMEMBER
THOMAS ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE
IN TWO VOLUMES
CHAPTER I. IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
CHAPTER II. JOURNEY IN BRITTANY
CHAPTER III. AT PENRITH.—AT PARIS
CHAPTER IV. IN WESTERN FRANCE.—AGAIN IN PARIS
CHAPTER V. IN IRELAND.—AT ILFRACOMBE—IN FLORENCE
CHAPTER VI. IN FLORENCE
CHAPTER VII. CHARLES DICKENS
CHAPTER VIII. AT LUCCA BATHS
CHAPTER IX. THE GARROWS.—SCIENTIFIC CONGRESSES.—MY FIRST MARRIAGE
CHAPTER X ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
CHAPTER XI. REMINISCENCES AT FLORENCE
CHAPTER XII. REMINISCENCES AT FLORENCE
CHAPTER XIII. LETTERS FROM PEARD—GARIBALDI—LETTERS FROM PULSZKY
CHAPTER XIV. WALTER S. LANDOR.—G.P. MARSH
CHAPTER XV. MR. AND MRS. LEWES
CHAPTER XVI. LETTERS FROM MR. AND MRS. LEWES
CHAPTER XVII. MY MOTHER.—LETTERS OF MARY MITFORD.—LETTERS OF T.C. GRATTAN
CHAPTER XVIII. THEODOSIA TROLLOPE
CHAPTER XIX. DEATH OF MR. GARROW—PROTESTANT CEMETERY.—ANGEL IN THE HOUSE NO MORE
CHAPTER XX. CONCLUSION
No! as I said at the end of the last chapter but one, before I was led away by the circumstances of that time to give the world the benefit of my magnetic reminiscences—valeat quantum!—I was not yet bitten, despite Colley Grattan's urgings, with any temptation to attempt fiction, and "passion, me boy!" But I am surprised on turning over my old diaries to find how much I was writing, and planning to write, in those days, and not less surprised at the amount of running about which I accomplished.
My life in those years of the thirties must have been a very busy one. I find myself writing and sending off a surprising number of "articles" on all sorts of subjects—reviews, sketches of travel, biographical notices, fragments from the byeways of history, and the like, to all kinds of periodical publications, many of them long since dead and forgotten. That the world should have forgotten all these articles "goes without saying." But what is not perhaps so common an incident in the career of a penman is, that I had in the majority of cases utterly forgotten them, and all about them, until they were recalled to mind by turning the yellow pages of my treasured but almost equally forgotten journals! I beg to observe, also, that all this pen-work was not only printed, but paid for. My motives were of a decidedly mercenary description. "Hic scribit fama ductus, at ille fame." I belonged emphatically to the latter category, and little indeed of my multifarious productions ever found its final resting place in the waste-paper basket. They were rejected often, but re-despatched a second and a third time, if necessary, to some other "organ," and eventually swallowed by some editor or other.
I am surprised, too, at the amount of locomotion which I contrived to combine with all this scribbling. I must have gone about, I think, like a tax-gatherer, with an inkstand slung to my button-hole! And in truth I was industrious; for I find myself in full swing of some journey, arriving at my inn tired at night, and finishing and sending off some article before I went to my bed. But it must have been only by means of the joint supplies contributed by all my editors that I could have found the means of paying all the stage-coaches, diligences, and steamboats which I find the record of my continually employing. "Navibus atque Quadrigis petimus bene vivere!" And I succeeded by their means in living, if not well, at least very pleasantly.
For I was born a rambler.
I heard just now a story of a little boy, who replied to the common question, "What he would like to be when he grew up?" by saying that he should like to be either a giant or a retired stockbroker! I find the qualifying adjective delicious, and admire the pronounced taste for repose indicated by either side of the alternative. But my propensities were more active, and in the days before I entered my teens I used always to reply to similar demands, that I would be a "king's messenger"! I knew no other life which approached so nearly to perpetual motion. "The road" was my paradise, and it is a true saying that the child is father to the man. The Shakespearian passage which earliest impressed my childish mind and carried with it my heartiest sympathies was the song of old Autolycus:
"Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way, And merrily hent the stile-a: Your merry heart goes all the day, Your sad tires in a mile-a."
Over how many miles of "foot-path way," under how many green hedges, has my childish treble chanted that enlivening ditty!
But that was in much earlier days to those I am now writing of.
During the years between my dreary time at Birmingham and my first departure for Italy, I find the record of many pedestrian or other rambles in England and abroad. There they are, all recorded day by day—the qualities of the inns and the charges at them (not so much less than those of the present day as might be imagined, with the exception of the demands for beds), the beauty and specialties of the views, the talk of wayfaring companions, the careful measurements of the churches, the ever-recurring ascent of the towers of them, &c. &c.
Here and there in the mountains of chaff there may be a grain worth preserving, as where I read that at Haddon Hall the old lady who showed the house, and who boasted that her ancestors had been servitors of the possessors of it for more than three hundred years, pointed out to me the portrait of one of them, who had been "forester," hanging in the hall. She also pointed out the window from which a certain heiress had eloped, and by doing so had carried the hall and lands into the family of the present owners, and told me that Mrs. Radcliffe, shortly before the publication of her Mysteries of Udolpho, had visited Haddon, and had sat at that window busily writing for a long time.
I seem to have been an amateur of sermons in those days, from the constant records I find of sermons listened to, by no means always, or indeed generally, complimentary to the preachers. Here is an entry criticising, with young presumption, a sermon by Dr. Dibdin, whose bibliophile books, however, I had much taste for.
"I heard Dr. Dibdin preach. He preached with much gesticulation, emphasis, and grimace the most utterly trashy sermon I ever heard; words—words—words—without the shadow of an idea in them."
I remember, as if it were yesterday, a shrewd sort of an old lady, the mother, I think, of the curate of the parish, who heard me, as we were leaving the church, expressing my opinion of the doctor's discourse, saying, "Well, it is a very old story, young gentleman, and it is mighty difficult to find anything new to say about it!"
The bibliomaniacal doctor, however, seems to have pleased me better out of the pulpit than in it, for I find that "he called in the afternoon and chatted amusingly for an hour. He fell tooth and nail upon the Oxford Tracts men, and told us of a Mr. Wackerbarth, a curate in Essex, a Cambridge man, who, he says, elevates the host, crosses himself, and advocates burning of heretics. It seems to me, however," continues this censorious young diarist, "that those who object to the persecution, even to extermination of heretics, admit the uncertainty and dubiousness of all theological doctrine and belief. For if it be certain that God will punish disbelief in doctrines essential to salvation, and certain that any Church possesses the knowledge what those doctrines are, does it not follow that a man who goes about persuading people to reject those doctrines should be treated as we treat a mad dog loose in the streets of a city?" Thus fools, when they are young enough, rush in where wise men fear to tread!
I had entirely forgotten, but find from my diary that it was our pleasant friend but indifferent preacher, Dr. Dibdin, who on the 11th of February, 1839, married my sister, Cecilia, to Mr., now Sir John, Tilley.
It appears that I was not incapable of appreciating a good sermon when I heard one, for I read of the impression produced upon me by an "admirable sermon preached by Mr. Smith" (it must have been Sydney, I take it) in the Temple Church. The preacher quoted largely from Jeremy Taylor, "giving the passages with an excellence of enunciation and expression which impressed them on my mind in a manner which will not allow me to forget them." Alack! I have forgotten every word of them!
I remember, however, perfectly well, without any reference to my diary, hearing—it must have been much about the same time—Sydney Smith preach a sermon at St. Paul's, which much impressed me. He took for his text, "Knowledge and wisdom shall be the stability of thy times" (I write from memory—the memory of half a century ago—but I think the words ran thus). Of course the gist of his discourse may be readily imagined. But the manner of the preacher remains more vividly present to my mind than his words. He spoke with extreme rapidity, and had the special gift of combining extreme rapidity of utterance with very perfect clearness. His manner, I remember thinking, was unlike any that I had ever witnessed in the pulpit, and appeared to me to resemble rather that of a very earnest speaker at the hustings than the usual pulpit style. His sentences seemed to run downhill, with continually increasing speed till they came to a full stop at the bottom. It was, I think, the only sermon I ever heard which I wished longer. He carried me with him completely, for the century was in those days, like me, young. But if I were to hear a similarly fervid discourse now on the same subject, I should surely desire some clearer setting forth of the difference between "knowledge" and "wisdom."
It was about this time, i.e., in the year 1839, that my mother, who had been led, by I forget what special circumstances, to take a great interest in the then hoped-for factory legislation, and in Lord Shaftesbury's efforts in that direction, determined to write a novel on the subject with the hope of doing something towards attracting the public mind to the question, and to visit Lancashire for the purpose of obtaining accurate information and local details.
The novel was written, published in the then newly-invented fashion of monthly numbers, and called Michael Armstrong. The publisher, Mr. Colburn, paid a long price for it, and did not complain of the result. But it never became one of the more popular among my mother's novels, sharing, I suppose, the fate of most novels written for some purpose other than that of amusing their readers. Novel readers are exceedingly quick to smell the rhubarb under the jam in the dose offered to them, and set themselves against the undesired preachment, as obstinately as the naughtiest little boy who ever refused to be physicked with nastiness for his good.
My mother neglected no means of making the facts stated in her book authentic and accurate, and the mise en scene of her story graphic and truthful. Of course I was the companion of her journey, and was more or less useful to her in searching for and collecting facts in some places where it would have been difficult for her to look for them. We carried with us a number of introductions from Lord Shaftesbury to a rather strange assortment of persons, whom his lordship had found useful both as collectors of trustworthy information, and energetic agitators in favour of legislation.
The following letter from the Earl of Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, to my mother on the subject, is illustrative of the strong interest he took in the matter, and of the means which he thought necessary for obtaining information respecting it:
* * * * *
"MADAM,—The letters to Macclesfield and Manchester shall be sent by this evening's post. On your arrival at Macclesfield be so kind as to ask for Reuben Bullock, of Roe Street, and at Manchester for John Doherty, a small bookseller of Hyde's Cross in the town. They will show you the secrets of the place, as they showed them to me.
"Mr. Wood himself is not now resident in Bradford, he is at present in Hampshire; but his partner, Mr. Walker, carries out all his plans with the utmost energy. I will write to him to-night. The firm is known by the name of 'Wood and Walker,' Mr. Wood is a person whom you may easily see in London on your return to town. With every good wish and prayer for your success,
"I remain your very obedient servant,
"P.S.—The Quarterly Review of December, 1836, contains an article on the factory system, which would greatly assist by the references to the evidence before Committee, &c. &c."
* * * * *
It is useless here and now to say anything of the horrors of uncivilised savagery and hopeless abject misery which we witnessed. They are painted in my mother's book, and should any reader ever refer to those pages for a picture of the state of things among the factory hands at that time, he may take with him my testimony to the fact that there was no exaggeration in the outlines of the picture given. What we are there described to have seen, we saw.
And let doctrinaire economists preach as they will, and Radical socialists abuse a measure, which helps to take from them the fulcrum of the levers that are to upset the whole existing framework of society, it is impossible for one who did see those sights, and who has visited the same localities in later days, not to bless Lord Shaftesbury's memory, ay, and the memory, if they have left any, of the humble assistants whose persistent efforts helped on the work.
But the little knot of apostles to whom Lord Shaftesbury's letters introduced us, and into whose intimate conciliabules his recommendations caused our admittance, was to my mother, and yet more to me, to whom the main social part of the business naturally fell, a singularly new and strange one. They were all, or nearly all of them, men a little raised above the position of the factory hands, to the righting of whose wrongs they devoted their lives. They had been at some period of their lives, in almost every case, factory workers themselves, but had by various circumstances, native talent, industry, and energy, or favouring fortune—more likely by all together—managed to raise themselves out of the slough of despond in which their fellows were overwhelmed. One, I remember, a Mr. Doherty, a very small bookseller, to whom we were specially recommended by Lord Shaftesbury. He was an Irishman, a Roman Catholic, and a furious Radical, but a very clever man. He was thoroughly acquainted with all that had been done, all that it was hoped to do, and with all the means that were being taken for the advancement of those hopes, over the entire district.
He came and dined with us at our hotel, but it was, I remember, with much difficulty that we persuaded him to do so, and when at table his excitement in talking was so great and continuous that he could eat next to nothing.
I remember, too, a Rev. Mr. Bull, to whom he introduced us subsequently at Bradford. We passed the evening with this gentleman at the house of Mr. Wood, of the firm of Walker and Wood, to whom also we had letters from Lord Shaftesbury. He, like our host, was an ardent advocate of the ten hours' bill, but unlike him, had very little hope of legislative interference. Messrs. Walker and Wood employed three thousand hands. At a sacrifice of some thousands per annum, they worked their hands an hour less than any of their neighbours, which left the hours, as Mr. Wood strongly declared, still too long. Those gentlemen had built and endowed a church and a school for their hands, and everything was done in their mill which could humanise and improve the lot of the men, women, and children. Mr. Bull, who was to be the incumbent of the new church, then not quite finished, was far less hopeful than his patron. He told me that he looked forward to some tremendous popular outbreak, and should not be surprised any night to hear that every mill in Bradford was in flames.
But perhaps the most remarkable individual with whom this Lancashire journey brought us into contact, was a Mr. Oastler. He was the Danton of the movement. He would have been a remarkable man in any position or calling in life. He was a very large and powerfully framed man, over six feet in height, and proportionately large of limb and shoulder. He would, perhaps, hardly have been said to be a handsome man. His face was coarse, and in parts of it heavy. But he had a most commanding presence, and he was withal a picturesque—if it be not more accurate to say a statuesque—figure. Some of the features, too, were good. He had a very keen and intelligent blue eye, a mass of iron grey hair, lips, the scornful curl of which was terrible, and with all this a voice stentorian in its power, and yet flexible, with a flow of language rapid and abundant as the flow of a great river, and as unstemmable—the very beau-ideal of a mob orator.
"In the evening," says my diary, "we drove out to Stayley Bridge to hear the preaching of Stephens, the man who has become the subject of so much newspaper celebrity," (Does any one remember who he was?) "We reached a miserable little chapel, filled to suffocation, and besieged by crowds around the doors. We entered through the vestry with very great difficulty, and only so by the courtesy of sundry persons who relinquished their places, on Doherty's representing to them that we were strangers from a distance and friends to the cause. Presently Stephens arrived, and a man who had been ranting in the pulpit, merely, as it seemed, to occupy the people till he should come, immediately yielded his place to him. Stephens spoke well, and said some telling words in that place, of the cruel and relentless march of the great Juggernauth, Gold. But I did not hear anything which seemed to me to justify his great reputation. Really the most striking part of the performance, and that which I thought seemed to move the people most, was Oastler's mounting the pulpit and giving out the verses of a hymn, one by one, which the congregation sang after him." So says my diary. Him I remember well, though Stephens not at all. I remember, too, the pleasure with which I listened to his really fine delivery of the lines; his pronunciation of the words was not incorrect, and when he spoke, as I heard him on sundry subsequent occasions, his language, though emphasised rather, as it seemed, than marred by a certain roughness of Lancashire accent, was not that of an uncultivated man. Yes! Oastler, the King of Lancashire as the people liked to call him, was certainly a man of power, and an advocate whom few platform orators would have cared to meet as an adversary.
When my mother's notes for her projected novel were completed, we thought that before turning our faces southwards, we would pay a flying visit to the lake district, which was new ground to both of us. I remember well my intense delight at my first introduction to mountains worthy of the name. But I mean to mention here two only of my reminiscences of that first visit to lake-land.
The first of these concerns an excursion on Windermere with Captain Hamilton, the author of Cyril Thornton, which had at that time made its mark. He had recently received a new boat, which had been built for him in Norway. He expected great performances from her, and as there was a nice fresh wind idly curling the surface of the lake, he invited us to come out with him and try her, and in a minute or two we were speeding merrily before the breeze towards the opposite shore. But about the middle of the lake we found the water a good deal rougher, and the wind began to increase notably. Hamilton held the tiller, and not liking to make fast the haulyard of the sail, gave me the rope to hold, with instructions to hold on till further orders. He was a perfect master of the business in hand, and so was the new boat a perfect mistress of her business, but this did not prevent us from getting thoroughly ducked. My attention was sufficiently occupied in obeying my orders, and keeping my eye on him in expectation of fresh ones. The wind meanwhile increased from minute to minute, and I could not help perceiving that Hamilton, despite his cheery laughter, was becoming a little anxious. We got back, however, to the shore we had left after a good buffeting, and in the condition of drowned rats. My mother was helped out of the boat, and while she was making her way up the bank, and I was helping him to make the boat secure, I said, "Well! the new boat has done bravely!" "Between you and me, my dear fellow," said he, as he laid his hand on my shoulder with a grip, that I think must have left his thumb-mark on the skin, "if the boat had not behaved better than any boat of her class that I ever saw, there would have been a considerable probability of our being dined on by the fishes, instead of dining together, as I hope we are going to do! I have been blaming myself for taking your mother out; but the truth is that on these lakes it is really impossible to tell for half an hour what the next half hour may bring forth."
The one other incident of our visit to lake-land which I will record, was our visit to Wordsworth.
For my part I managed to incur his displeasure while yet on the threshold of his house. We were entering it together, when observing a very fine bay-tree by the door-side, I unfortunately expressed surprise at its luxuriance in such a position. "Why should you be surprised?" he asked, suddenly turning upon me with much displeasure in his manner. Not a little disconcerted, I hesitatingly answered that I had imagined the bay-tree required more and greater warmth of sunshine than it could find there. "Pooh!" said he, much offended at the slight cast on his beloved locality, "what has sunshine got to do with it?"
I had not the readiness to reply, that in truth the world had abundance of testimony that the bay could flourish in those latitudes! But I think, had I done so it might have made my peace—for the remainder of that evening's experiences led me to imagine that the great poet was not insensible to incense from very small and humble worshippers.
The evening, I think I may say the entire evening, was occupied by a monologue addressed by the poet to my mother, who was of course extremely well pleased to listen to it. I was chiefly occupied in talking to my old schoolfellow, Herbert Hill, Southey's nephew, who also passed the evening there, and with whom I had a delightful walk the next day. But I did listen with much pleasure when Wordsworth recited his own lines descriptive of Little Langdale. He gave them really exquisitely. But his manner in conversation was not impressive. He sat continuously looking down with a green shade over his eyes even though it was twilight; and his mode of speech and delivery suggested to me the epithet "maundering," though I was ashamed of myself for the thought with reference to such a man. As we came away I cross-examined my mother much as to the subjects of his talk. She said it had been all about himself and his works, and that she had been interested. But I could not extract from her a word that had passed worth recording.
I do not think that he was popular with his neighbours generally. There were stories current, at Lowther among other places, which imputed to him a tendency to outstay his welcome when invited to visit in a house. I suspect there was a little bit of a feud between him and my brother-in-law, Mr. Tilley, who was the Post Office surveyor of the district. Wordsworth as receiver of taxes, or issuer of licenses or whatever it was, would have increased the profits of his place if the mail coach had paid its dues, whether for taxes or license, at his end of the journey instead of at Kendal, as had been the practice. But of course any such change would have been as much to the detriment of the man at Kendal as to Wordsworth's advantage. And my brother-in-law, thinking such a change unjust, would not permit it.
I cannot say that on the whole the impression made on me by the poet on that occasion (always with the notable exception of his recital of his own poetry) was a pleasant one. There was something in the manner in which he almost perfunctorily, as it seemed, uttered his long monologue, that suggested the idea of the performance of a part got up to order, and repeated without much modification as often as lion-hunters, duly authorised for the sport in those localities, might call upon him for it. I dare say the case is analogous to that of the hero and the valet, but such was my impression.
I had been for some time past, as has been said, trying my hand, not without success, at a great variety of articles in all sorts of reviews, magazines, and newspapers. I already considered myself a member of the guild of professional writers. I had done much business with publishers on behalf of my mother, and some for other persons, and talked glibly of copyrights, editions, and tokens.
(I fancy, by the by, that the latter term has somewhat fallen out of use in these latter days, whether from any change of the methods used by printers or publishers I do not know. But it strikes me that many youngsters, even of the scribbling tribe, may not know that the phrase "a token" had no connection whatever with signs and wonders of any sort, but simply meant two hundred and fifty copies.)
And being thus equipped, I began to think that it was time that I should attempt a book. During a previous hurried scamper in Normandy I had just a glimpse of Brittany, which greatly excited my desire to see more of it. So I pitched on a tour in Brittany as the subject of my first attempt.
Those were happy days, when all the habitable globe had not been run over by thousands of tourists, hundreds of whom are desirous of describing their doings in print—not but that the notion, whether a publisher's or writer's notion, that new ground is needed for the production of a good and amusing book of travels, is other than a great mistake. I forget what proposing author it was, who in answer to a publisher urging the fact that "a dozen writers have told us all about so and so," replied, "But I have not told you what I have seen and thought about it." But if I had been the publisher I should at once have asked to see his MS. The days when a capital book may be written on a voyage autour de ma chambre are as present as ever they were. And "A Summer Afternoon's Walk to Highgate" might be the subject of a delightful book if only the writer were the right man.
Brittany, however, really was in those days to a great extent fresh ground, and the strangely secluded circumstances of its population offered much tempting material to the book-making tourist. All this is now at an end; not so much because the country has been the subject of sundry good books of travel, as because the people and their mode of life, the country and its specialties have all been utterly changed by the pleasant, convenient, indispensable, abominable railway, which in its merciless irresistible tramp across the world crushes into a dead level of uninteresting monotony so many varieties of character, manners, and peculiarities. And thus "the individual withers, and the world is more and more!" But is the world more and more in any sense that can be admitted to be desirable, in view of the eternity of that same Individual?
As for the Bretons, the individual has withered to that extent that he now wears trousers instead of breeches, while his world has become more and more assimilated to that of the Faubourg St. Antoine, with the result of losing all those really very notable and stiff and sturdy virtues which differentiated the Breton peasant, when I first knew him, while it would be difficult indeed to say what it has gained. At all events the progress which can be stated is mainly to be stated in negatives. The Breton, as I first knew him, believed in all sorts of superstitious rubbish. He now believes in nothing at all. He was disposed to honour and respect God, and his priest, and his seigneur perhaps somewhat too indiscriminately. Now he neither honours nor respects any earthly or heavenly thing. These at least were the observations which a second, or rather third visit to the country a few years ago suggested to me, mainly, it is true, as regards the urban population. And without going into any of the deeper matters which such changes suggest to one's consideration, there can be no possible doubt as to the fact that the country and its people are infinitely less interesting than they were.
My plans were soon made, and I hastened to lay them before Mr. Colburn, who was at that time publishing for my mother. The trip was my main object, and I should have been perfectly contented with terms that paid all the expenses of it. Di auctius fecerunt, and I came home from my ramble with a good round sum in my pocket.
I was not greedy of money in those days, and had no unscriptural hankerings after laying up treasure upon earth. All I wanted was a sufficient supply for my unceasing expenditure in locomotion and inn bills—the latter, be it observed, always on a most economical scale. I was not a profitable customer; I took nothing "for the good of the house." I had a Gargantuesque appetite, and needed food of some sort in proportion to its demands. I neither took, or cared to take, any wine with my dinner, and never wanted any description of "nightcap." As for accommodation for the night, anything sufficed me that gave me a clean bed and a sufficient window-opening on fresh air, under such conditions as made it possible for me to have it open all night. To the present day I cannot sleep to my liking in a closed chamber; and before now, on the top of the Righi, have had my bed clothes blown off my bed, and snow deposited where they should have been.
But quo musa tendis? I was talking about my travels in Brittany.
I do not think my book was a bad coup d'essai. I remember old John Murray coming out to me into the front office in Albemarle Street, where I was on some business of my mother's, with a broad good-natured smile on his face, and putting into my hands the Times of that morning, with a favourable notice of the book, saying as he did so, "There, so you have waked this morning to find yourself famous!" And, what was more to the purpose, my publisher was content with the result, as was evidenced by his offering me similar terms for another book of the same description—of which, more anon.
As my volumes on Brittany, published in 1840, are little likely to come under the eye of any reader at the present day, and as the passage I am about to quote indicates accurately enough the main point of difference between what the traveller at that day saw and what the traveller of the present day may see, I think I may be pardoned for giving it.
"We had observed that at Broons a style of coiffure which was new to us prevailed; and my companion wished to add a sketch of it to his fast-increasing collection of Breton costumes. With this view, he had begun making love to the maid a little, to induce her to do so much violence to her maiden modesty, as to sit to him for a few minutes, when a far better opportunity of achieving his object presented itself.
"The landlady's daughter, a very pretty little girl about fourteen years old, was going to be confirmed, and had just come down stairs to her mother, who was sitting knitting in the salle a manger, for inspection and approval before she started. Of course, upon such an occasion, the art of the blanchisseuse was taxed to the utmost. Lace was not spared; and the most recherche coiffure was adopted, that the rigorous immutability of village modes would permit.
"It would seem that the fickleness of fashion exercises in constant local variations that mutability which is utterly denied to it in Brittany with regard to time. Every district, almost every commune has its own peculiar 'mode' (for both sexes) which changes not from generation to generation. As the mothers dress, so do their daughters, so did their grandmothers, and so will their grand-daughters." [But I reckoned when writing thus without the railroad and its consequences.] "If a woman of one parish marries, or takes service, or for any other cause resides in another, she still retains the mode of her native village; and thus carries about her a mark, which is to those, among whom she is a sojourner, a well-recognised indication of the place whence she comes, and to herself a cherished souvenir of the home which she never ceases to consider her own country.
"But though the form of the dress is invariable, and every inhabitant of the commune, from the wealthy farmer's wife to the poorest cottager who earns her black bread by labour in the fields, would as soon think of adopting male attire as of innovating on the immemorial mode du pays, yet the quality of the materials allows scope for wealth and female coquetry to show themselves. Thus the invariable mode de Broons, with its trifling difference in form, which in the eye of the inhabitants made it as different as light from darkness from the mode de St. Jouan,' was equally observable in the coarse linen coiffe of the maid, and the richly-laced and beautifully 'got up' head-dress of the daughter of the house.
"A very slight observation of human nature under a few only of its various phases may suffice to show that the instinct which prompts a woman to adorn her person to the best possible advantage is not the hot-house growth of cities, but a genuine wild flower of nature. No high-born beauty ever more repeatedly or anxiously consulted her wax-lit psyche on every faultless point of hair, face, neck, feet, and figure, before descending to the carriage for her first ball, than did our young Bretonne again and again recur to the mirror, which occupied the pier between the two windows of the salle a manger, before sallying forth on the great occasion of her confirmation.
"The dear object of girlish ambition was the same to both; but the simplicity of the little paysanne showed itself in the utter absence of any wish to conceal her anxiety upon the subject. Though delighted with our compliments on her appearance, our presence by no means prevented her from springing upon a chair every other minute to obtain fuller view of the tout ensemble of her figure. Again and again the modest kerchief was arranged and rearranged to show a hair's breadth more or a hair's breadth less of her brown but round and taper throat. Repeatedly, before it could be finally adjusted to her satisfaction, was the delicate fabric of her coiffure moved with cautious care and dainty touch a leetle backwarder or a leetle forwarder over her sun-browned brow.
"Many were the pokings and pinchings of frock and apron, the smoothings down before and twitchings down behind of the not less anxious mother. Often did she retreat to examine more correctly the general effect of the coup d'oeil, and as often return to rectify some injudicious pin or remodel some rebellious fold. When all was at length completed, and the well-pleased parent had received from the servants, called in for the express purpose, the expected tribute of admiration, the little beauty took L'Imitation de la Vierge in her hand, and tripped across to a convent of Soeurs Grises on the other side of the way to receive their last instructions and admonitions respecting her behaviour when she should be presented to the bishop, while her mother screamed after her not to forget to pull up her frock when she kneeled down.
"All the time employed in this little revision of the toilet had not been left unimproved by my companion, who at the end of it produced and showed to the proud mother an admirable full-length sketch of her pretty darling. The delighted astonishment of the poor woman, and her accent, as she exclaimed, 'O, si c'etait pour moi!' and then blushed to the temples at what she had said, were irresistible, and the good-natured artist was fain to make her a present of the drawing."
My Breton book ("though I says it as shouldn't") is not a bad one, especially as regards the upper or northern part of the province. That which concerns Lower Brittany is very imperfect, mainly, I take it, because I had already nearly filled my destined two volumes when I reached it. I find there, however, the following notice of the sardine fishery, which has some interest at the present day. Perhaps the majority of the thousands of English people who nowadays have "sardines" on their breakfast-table every morning are not aware that the contents of a very large number of the little tin boxes which are supposed to contain the delicacy are not sardines at all. They are very excellent little fishes, but not sardines; for the enormously increased demand for them has outstripped the supply. In the days when the following sentences were written sardines might certainly be had in London (as what might not?) at such shops as Fortnum and Mason's, but they were costly, and by no means commonly met with.
On reaching Douarnenez in the summer of 1839 I wrote:—"The whole population and the existence of Douarnenez depend on the sardine fishery. This delicious little fish, which the gourmands of Paris so much delight in, when preserved in oil, and sent to their capital in those little tin boxes whose look must be familiar to all who have frequented the Parisian breakfast-houses" [but is now more familiar to all who have entered any grocers shop throughout the length and breadth of England], "is still more exquisite when eaten fresh on the shores which it frequents. They are caught in immense quantities along the whole of the southern coast of Brittany, and on the western shore of Finisterre as far to the northward as Brest, which, I believe, is the northern limit of the fishery. They come into season about the middle of June, and are then sold in great quantities in all the markets of southern Brittany at two, three, or four sous a dozen, according to the abundance of the fishery and the distance of the market from the coast. I was told that the commerce in sardines along the coast from l'Orient to Brest amounted to three millions of francs annually."
At the present day it must be enormously larger. I remember well the exceeding plentifulness of the little fishes—none of them so large as many of those which now fill the so-called sardine boxes—when I was at Douarnenez in 1839. All the men, women, and children in the place seemed to be feasting upon them all day long. Plates with heaps of them fried and piled up crosswise, like timber in a timber-yard, were to be seen outdoors and indoors, wherever three or four people could be found together. All this was a thing of the past when I revisited Douarnenez in 1866. Every fish was then needed for the tinning business. They were to be had of course by ordering and paying for them, but very few indeed were consumed by the population of the place.
And this subject reminds me of another fishery which I witnessed a few months ago—last March—at Sestri di Ponente, near Genoa. We frequently saw nearly the whole of the fisher population of the place engaged in dragging from the water on to the sands enormously long nets, which had been previously carried out by boats to a distance not more I think than three or four hundred yards from the shore. From these nets, when at last they were landed after an hour or so of continual dragging by a dozen or twenty men and women, were taken huge baskets-full of silvery little fish sparkling in the sun, exactly like whitebait. I had always supposed that whitebait was a specialty of the Thames. Whether an icthyologist would have pronounced the little Sestri fishes to be the same creatures as those which British statesmen consume at Greenwich I cannot say; but we ate them frequently at the hotel under the name of gianchetti, and could find no difference between them and the Greenwich delicacy. The season for them did not seem to last above two or three weeks. The fishermen continued to drag their net, but caught other fishes instead of giancketti. But while it lasted the plenty of them was prodigious. All Sestri was eating them, as all Douarnenez ate sardines in the old days. When the net with its sparkling cargo was dragged up on the sand and the contents were being shovelled into huge baskets to be carried up into the town, the men would take up handfuls of them, fresh, and I suppose still living, from the sea, and plunging their bearded mouths in them, eat them up by hundreds. The children too, irrepressibly thronging round the net, would pick from its meshes the fishes which adhered to them and eat them, as more inland rising generations eat blackberries. I did not try the experiment of eating them thus, as one eats oysters, but I can testify that, crisply fried, and eaten with brown bread and butter and lemon juice, they were remarkably good.
Fortified by the excellent example of Sir Francis Doyle, who in his extremely amusing volume of Reminiscences gives as a reason for disregarding the claims of chronology in the composition of it, the chances that he might forget the matter he had In his mind if he did not book it at once, I have ventured for the same reason to do the same thing here. But I have an older authority for the practice in question, which Sir Francis is hardly likely to have lighted on. That learned antiquary and portentously voluminous writer, Francesco Cancellieri, who was well known to the Roman world in the latter years of the last, and the earliest years of the present, century, used to compose his innumerable works upon a similar principle. And when attacked by the critics his cotemporaries, who Italian-like supposed academically correct form to be the most important thing in any literary work, he defended himself on the same ground. "If I don't catch it now, I may probably forget it; and is the world to be deprived of the information it is in my power to give it, for the sake of the formal correctness of my work?"
There is another passage in my book on Brittany respecting which it would be interesting to know whether recent travellers can report that the state of things there described no longer exists. I wrote in 1839—
"Very near Treguier, on a spot appropriately selected for such a worship—the barren top of a bleak unsheltered eminence—stands the chapel of Notre Dame de la Haine! Our Lady of HATRED! The most fiendish of human passions is supposed to be under the protection of Christ's religion! What is this but a fragment of pure and unmixed Paganism, unchanged except in the appellation of its idol, which has remained among these lineal descendants of the Armorican Druids for more than a thousand years after Christianity has become the professed religion of the country! Altars, professedly Christian, were raised under the protection of the Protean Virgin, to the demon Hatred; and have continued to the present day to receive an unholy worship from blinded bigots, who hope to obtain Heaven's patronage and assistance for thoughts and wishes which they would be ashamed to breathe to man. Three Aves repeated with devotion at this odious and melancholy shrine are firmly believed to have the power to cause, within the year, the certain death of the person against whom the assistance of Our Lady of Hatred has been invoked. And it is said that even yet occasionally, in the silence and obscurity of the evening, the figure of some assassin worshipper at this accursed shrine may be seen to glide rapidly from the solitary spot, where he has spoken the unhallowed prayer whose mystic might has doomed to death the enemy he hates."
I must tell one other story of my Breton recollections, which refers to a time much subsequent to the publication of the book I have been quoting. It was in 1866 that I revisited Brittany in company with my present wife; and one of the objects of our little tour was the Finisterre land's end at the extreme point of the horn-like promontory which forms the department so named. We found some difficulty in reaching the spot, not the least part of which was caused by the necessity of threading our way, when in the immediate neighbourhood of the cliffs, among enormous masses of seaweed stacked in huge heaps and left to undergo the process of decay, which turns it into very valuable manure. The odour which impregnated the whole surrounding atmosphere from these heaps was decidedly the worst and most asphyxiating I ever experienced.
We stood at last on the utmost Finis terrae and looked over the Atlantic not only from the lighthouse, which, built three hundred feet above the sea level, is often, we were told, drenched by storm-driven spray, but from various points of the tremendous rocks also. They are tremendous, in truth. The scene is a much grander one than that at our own "Land's End," which I visited a month or two ago. The cliffs are much higher, the rocks are more varied in their forms—more cruelly savage-looking, and the cleavages of them are on a larger scale. The spot was one of the most profound solitude, for we were far from the lighthouse, and the scream of the white gulls as they started from their roosting-places on the face of the rocks, or returned to them from their swirling flights, were the only indication of the presence of any creature having the breath of life.
The rock ledges, among which we were clambering, were in many places fearful spots enough—places where a stumble or a divagation of the foot but six or eight inches from the narrow path would have precipitated the blunderer to assured and inevitable destruction. "Here," said I to my wife, as we stood side by side on one such ledge, "would be the place for a husband, who wanted to get rid of his wife, to accomplish his purpose. Done in ten seconds! With absolute certainty! One push would suffice! No cry of any more avail than the screams of those gulls! And no possibility of the deed being witnessed by any mortal eye!"
I had hardly got the words out of my mouth before our ears were startled by a voice hailing us; and after some searching of the eye we espied a man engaged in seeking sea-fowls' eggs, who had placed himself in a position which I should have thought it absolutely impossible to reach, whence he had seen us, as we now saw him!
Let this then, my brethren, be a warning to you!
Returning from my Breton journey, I reached my mother's house in York Street on the 23rd of July, 1839, and on the 26th of the same month left London with her to visit my married sister in her new home at Penrith, where Mr. Tilley had established himself as Post Office surveyor of the northern district. His home was a pretty house situated between the town and the well-known beacon on the hill to the north of it.
The first persons I became acquainted with in this, to me, entirely new region, were Sir George Musgrave, of Edenhall, and his wife, who was a sister of Sir James Graham. My brother-in-law took me over to Edenhall, a lovely walk from Penrith, and we found both Sir George and Lady Musgrave at home. We—my mother and I—had not at that time conceived the idea of becoming residents at Penrith. But when subsequently we were led to do so, we found extremely pleasant and friendly neighbours at Edenhall, and though not in strict chronology due in this place, I may throw together my few reminiscences of Sir George.
He was the beau-ideal of a country gentleman of the old school. He rarely or never went to London—not, as was the case with some of his neighbours, because the expense of a season there was formidable, for his estate was a fine one, and he was a rich man living largely within his income, but because his idea was, that a country gentleman's proper place was on his own acres, and because London had no temptations for him. He was said to be the best landlord in the county, and really seemed to look upon all his numerous tenants, and all their labourers, as his born subjects, to whom protection, kindness, assistance, and general looking after were due, in return for their fealty and loyal attachment. I think he would have kicked off his land (and he was a man who could kick) any man who talked in his hearing of the purely commercial relationship between a landlord and his tenants. Of course he was adored by all the country side. No doubt the stout Cumberland and Westmoreland farmers and hinds were good and loyal subjects of Queen Victoria, but for all practical purposes of reverence and obedience, Musgrave was king at Edenhall.
Lady Musgrave was a particularly lady-like woman, the marked elegance of whose breeding might, with advantage, have given the tone to many a London drawing-room. I have seen her surrounded by country neighbours, and though she was velut inter ignes luna minores, I never saw the country squire's or country parson's wife, who was not perfectly happy and at ease in her drawing-room, while unconsciously all the time taking a lesson in good breeding and lady-like manners. She was thoroughly a help-meet for her husband in all his care for his people. I believe that both he and she were convinced at the bottom of their hearts that Cumberland and Westmoreland constituted the choicest, best, and most highly civilised part of England. And she was one of those of whom I was thinking, when in a former chapter I spoke of highly educated people whom I had known to affect provincialism of speech. Lady Musgrave always, or perhaps it would be more correct to say generally, called a cow a "coo," and though I suspect she would have left Westmoreland behind if evil fate had called her to London, on her own hill-sides she preferred the accents of the native speech.
Sir George had, or affected to have, considerable respect for all the little local superstitions and beliefs which are so prevalent in that "north countree." And the kindness with which he welcomed us as neighbours, when we built a house and came to live there, was shown despite a strong feeling which he had, or affected to have, with regard to an incident which fatally marked our debut in that country.
We bought a field in a very beautiful situation overlooking the ruins of Brougham Castle and the confluence of the Eden with the Lowther, and proceeded to build a house on the higher part of it. But there was a considerable drop from the lower limit of our ground to the road which skirted the property, and furnished the only access to it. There was some difficulty, therefore, in contriving a tolerable entrance from the road for wheel traffic, and it was found necessary to cause a tiny little spring that rose in the bank by the roadside to change its course in some small degree. The affair seemed to us a matter of infinitesimal importance, but Sir George was dismayed. We had moved, he said, a holy well, and the consequence would surely be that we should never succeed in establishing ourselves in that spot.
And surely enough we never did so succeed; for, after having built a very nice little house, and lived in it one winter and half a summer, we—for I cannot say that it was my mother more than I, or I more than my mother—made up our minds that "the sun yoked his horses too far from Penrith town," and that we had had enough of it. Sir George, of course, when he heard our determination, while he expressed all possible regret at losing us as neighbours, said that he knew perfectly well that it must be so, from the time that we so recklessly meddled with the holy well.
He was the most hospitable man in the world, and could never let many days pass without asking us to dine with him. But his hospitality was of quite the old world school. One day, but that was after our journey to Italy and when he had become intimate with us, being in a hurry to get back into the drawing-room to rejoin a pretty girl next whom I had sat at dinner, I tried to escape from the dining-room. "Come back!" he roared, before I could get to the door, "we won't have any of your d—d forineering habits here! Come back and stick to your wine, or by the Lord I'll have the door locked."
He was, unlike most men of his sort, not very fond of riding, but was a great walker. He used to take the men he could get to walk with him a tramp over the hill, till they were fain to cry "Hold! enough!" But there I was his match.
Most of my readers have probably heard of the "Luck of Edenhall," for besides Longfellow's well-known poem, the legend relating to it has often been told in print. I refer to it here merely to mention a curious trait of character in Sir George Musgrave in connection with it. The "Luck of Edenhall" is an ancient decorated glass goblet, which has belonged to the Musgraves time out of mind, and which bears on it the legend:—
"When this cup shall break or fall, Farewell the luck of Edenhall."
[Footnote 1: Subsequently to the publication of his poem Musgrave asked Longfellow to dine at Edenhall, and "picked a crow" with him on the conclusion of the poem, which represents the "Luck" to have been broken, which Sir George considered a flight of imagination quite transcending all permissible poetical licence.]
After what I have written of Sir George and the holy well, which we so unfortunately moved from its proper site, it will be readily imagined that he attached no small importance to the safe keeping of the "Luck;" and truly he did so. But instead of simply locking it up, where he might feel sure it could neither break nor fall, he would show it to all visitors, and not content with that, would insist on their taking it into their hands to examine and handle it. He maintained that otherwise there was no fair submission to the test of luck, which was intended by the inscription. It would have been mere cowardly prevarication to lock it away under circumstances which took the matter out of the dominion of "luck" altogether. I wonder that under such circumstances it has not fallen, for the nervous trepidation of the folks who were made to handle it may be imagined!
I made another friend at Penrith in the person of a man as strongly contrasted with Sir George Musgrave as two north-country Englishmen could well be. This was a Dr. Nicholson, who has died within the last few months, to my great regret, for I had promised myself the great pleasure of taking him by the hand yet once again before starting on the journey on which we may, or may not meet. He was my senior by a few years, but not by many. Nicholson was a man of very extensive reading and of profound Biblical learning. It may be deemed surprising by others, as it was, and is, to me, that such a man should have been an earnest and thoroughly convinced Swedenborgian—but such was the case. And I can conscientiously give this testimony to the excellence of that creed—that it produced in the person of its learned north-country disciple at least one truly good and amiable man. Dr. Nicholson was emphatically such in all the relations of life. He was the good and loving husband of a very charming wife, the unremittingly careful and affectionate father of a large family, a delightful host at his own table, an excellent and instructive companion over a cigar (hardly correctly alluded to in the singular number!) and a most jucundus comes in a tramp over the hills.
Amusing to me still is the contrast between those Cumberland walks with Sir George and my ramblings over the same or nearly the same ground with the meditative Swedenborgian doctor;—the first always pushing ahead as if shouldering along a victorious path through life, knowing the history of every foot of ground he passed over, interested in every detail of it, and with an air of continually saying "Ha! ha!" among the breezy trumpets of those hills, like the scriptural war-horse; the second with his gaze very imperfectly turned outward, but very fruitfully turned inward, frequently pausing with argumentative finger laid on his companion's breast, and smile half satirical half kindly as the flow of discourse revealed theological lacunae in my acquirements, which, I fear, irreparably and most unfairly injured the Regius professor of divinity in the mind of the German graduate. For Nicholson was a theological "doctor" by virtue of a degree from I forget what German university, and had a low estimate, perhaps more justified at that day than it would be now, of the extent and calibre of Oxford theological learning. He was himself a disciple, and an enthusiastic admirer of Ewald, a very learned Hebraist, and an unflagging student.
I was more capable of appreciating at its due value the extent and accuracy of his knowledge upon another subject—a leg of mutton! It may be a mere coincidence, but certainly the most learned Hebraist it was ever my lot to know was also the best and most satisfactory carver of a leg of mutton.
Nobody knows anything about mutton in these days, for the very sufficient reason that there is no mutton worth knowing anything about. Scientific breeding has improved it off the face of the earth. The immature meat is killed at two years old, and only we few survivors of a former generation know how little like it is to the mutton of former days. The Monmouthshire farmers told me the other day that they could not keep Welsh sheep of pure breed, because nothing under an eight-foot park paling would confine them. Just as if they did not jump in the days when I jumped too! Believe me, my young friends, that George the Third knew what he was talking about (as upon certain other occasions) when he said that very little venison was equal to a haunch of four-year-old mutton. And the gravy!—chocolate-coloured, not pink, my innocent young friends. Ichabod! Ichabod!
My uncle, too, Mr. Partington—who married my father's sister, and lived many years chairman of quarter sessions at Offham, among the South Downs, near Lewes—there was a man who understood mutton! A little silver saucepan was placed by his side when the leg of mutton, or sometimes two, about as big as fine fowls, were placed in one dish before him. Then, after the mutton had been cut, the abundantly flowing gravy was transferred to the saucepan, a couple of glasses of tawny old port, and a quantum suff. of currant jelly and cayenne were added, the whole was warmed in the dining-room, and then—we ate mutton, as I shall never eat it again in this world!
Well! revenir a nos moutons we never, never shall! So we must, alas! do the reverse in returning to my Penrith reminiscences.
I remember specially an excellent old fellow and very friendly neighbour, Colonel Macleod, a bachelor, who having fallen in love with a very beautiful spot, in the valley of the Lowther, built an ugly brick house, three stories high, because, as he said, he was so greedy of the view, forgetful apparently that he was providing it mainly for his maid servants. Then there was the old maiden lady, with a name that might have been found in north-country annals at almost any date during the last seven hundred years, who mildly and maternally corrected my sister at table for speaking of vol-au-vent, telling her that the correct expression was voulez-vous! My sister always adopted the old lady's correction in future, at least when addressing her.
Then there were two pretty girls, Margaret and Charlotte Story, the nieces of old De Whelpdale, the lord of the manor. I think he and Mrs. De Whelpdale never left their room, for I do not remember to have ever seen either of them; nor do I remember that I at all resented their absence from the drawing-room when I used to call at the manor house. One of the girls was understood to be engaged to be married to a far distant lieutenant, of whom Penrith knew nothing, which circumstance gave rise to sundry ingenious conceits in the acrostic line, based on allusions to "his story" and "mystery!" I wonder whether Charlotte is alive! If she is, and should see this page, she will remember! It was for her sake that I deserted, or tried to desert, Sir George's port, as related above.
We left Penrith on that occasion without having formed any decided intention of establishing ourselves there, and returned to London towards the end of August, 1839. During the next two months I was hard at work completing the MS. of my volumes on Brittany. And in November of the same year, after that long fast from all journeying, my mother and I left London for a second visit to Paris. But we did not on this occasion travel together.
I left London some days earlier than she did, and travelled by Ostend, Cologne, and Mannheim, my principal object being to visit my old friend, Mrs. Fauche, who was living at the latter place. I passed three or four very pleasant days there, including, as I find by my diary, sundry agreeable jaunts to Heidelberg, Carlsruhe, &c. My mother and I had arranged to meet at Paris on the 4th of December, and at that date I punctually turned up there.
I think that I saw Paris and the Parisians much more satisfactorily on this occasion than during my first visit; and I suspect that some of the recollections recorded in these pages as connected with my first visit to Paris, belong really to this second stay there, especially I think that this must have been the case with regard to my acquaintance with Chateaubriand, though I certainly was introduced to him at the earlier period, for I find the record of much talk with him about Brittany, which was a specially welcome subject to him.
It was during this second visit that I became acquainted with Henry Bulwer, afterwards Lord Dalling, and at that time first secretary of the British legation. My visits were generally, perhaps always, paid to him when he was in bed, where he was lying confined by, if I remember rightly, a broken leg, I used to find his bed covered with papers and blue-books, and the like. And I was told that the whole, or at all events the more important part of the business of the embassy was done by him as he lay there on the bed, which must have been for many a long hour a bed of suffering.
Despite certain affectations—which were so palpably affectations, and scarcely pretended to be aught else, that there was little or nothing annoying or offensive in them—he was a very agreeable man, and was unquestionably a very brilliant one. He came to dine with me, I remember, many years afterwards at my house in Florence, when he insisted (the dining-room being on the first floor) on being carried up stairs, as we thought at the time very unnecessarily. But for aught I know such suspicion may have wronged him. At all events his disability, whatever it may have been, did not prevent him from making himself very agreeable.
One of our guests upon that same occasion (I must drag the mention of the fact in head and shoulders here, or else I shall forget it), was that extraordinary man, Baron Ward, who was, or perhaps I ought to say at that time had been, prime minister and general administrator to the Duke of Lucca. Ward had been originally brought from Yorkshire to be an assistant in the ducal stables. There, doubtless because he knew more about the business than anybody else concerned with it, he soon became chief. In that capacity he made himself so acceptable to the Duke, that he was taken from the stables to be his highness's personal attendant. His excellence in that position soon enlarged his duties to those of controller of the whole ducal household. And thence, by degrees that were more imperceptible in the case of such a government than they could have been in a larger and more regularly administered state, Ward became the recognised, and nearly all-powerful head, manager, and ruler of the little Duchy of Lucca. And I believe the strange promotion was much for the advantage of the Duke and of the Duke's subjects. Ward, I take it, never robbed him or any one else. And this eccentric specialty, the Duke, though he was no Solomon, had the wit to discover. In his cups the ex-groom, ex-valet, was not reticent about his sovereign master, and his talk was not altogether of an edifying nature. One sally sticks in my memory. "Ah, yes! He was a grand favourite with the women. But I have had the grooming of him; and it was a wuss job than ever grooming his hosses was!"
Ward got very drunk that night, I remember, and we deemed it fortunate that our diplomatist guest had departed before the outward signs of his condition became manifest.
Henry Bulwer, by mere circumstance of synchronism, has suggested the remembrance of Ward, Ward has called up the Duke of Lucca, and he brings with him a host of Baths of Lucca reminiscences respecting his Serene Highness and others. But all these must be left to find their places, if anywhere, when I come to them later on, or we shall never get back to Paris.
It was on this our second visit to Lutetia Parisiorum that my mother and I made acquaintance with a very specially charming family of the name of D'Henin. The family circle consisted of General le Vicomte D'Henin, his English wife, and their daughter. The general was a delightful old man, more like an English general officer than any other Frenchman I ever met. Madame D'Henin was like an Englishwoman not unaccustomed to courts and wholly unspoiled by them. Mademoiselle D'Henin, very pretty, united the qualities of a denizen of the inmost circles of the fashionable world with those of a really serious student, to a degree I have never seen equalled. They were great friends of the Bishop of London, and Mademoiselle D'Henin used to correspond with him. She was earnestly religious, and I remember her telling me of a demele she had had with her confessor. She had told him in confession that she was in the habit of reading the English Bible. He strongly objected, and at last told her that he could not give her absolution unless she promised to discontinue the practice. She told him that rather than do so, she would take what would be to her the painful step of declaring herself a Protestant, whereupon he undertook to obtain a special permission for her to read the English Bible. Whether he did really take any such measures I don't know, and I fancy she never knew; but the upshot was that she continued to read the heretical book, and nothing more was ever said of refusing her absolution.
I have a large bundle of letters from this highly accomplished young lady to my mother. Many passages of them would be interesting and valuable to an historian of the reign of Louis Philippe. She writes at great length, and her standpoint is the very centre of the monarchical side of the French political world of that day. But as I am not writing a history of the reign of Louis Philippe, I must content myself with extracting two or three suggestive notices.
In a letter dated from Paris, 19th July, 1840, she writes:—"You shew much hospitality towards your royal guests. But I assure you it will not in this instance be taken as an homage to superior merit—words which I have heard frequently applied here to John Bull's frenzy about Soult, and to the hospitality of the English towards the Duc de N[emours], When I told him how much I should like to be in his place (i.e., about to go to England), he protested that he would change places with no one, 'quand il s'agissait d'aller dans un aussi delicieux pays, que cette belle Angleterre, que vous avez si bonne raison d'aimer et d'admirer.'"
On the 29th of August in the same year she writes at great length of the indignation and fury produced in Paris by the announcement of the Quadruple Alliance. She is immensely impressed by the fact that "people gathered in the streets and discussed the question in the open air." "Ireland, Poland, and Italy are to rise to the cry of Liberty." But she goes on to say, "Small causes produce great effects. Much of this warlike disposition has arisen from the fact of Thiers having bought a magnificent horse to ride beside the King at the late review." She proceeds to ridicule the minister in a tone very naturally suggested by the personal appearance of the little great man under such circumstances, which no doubt furnished Paris with much fun. But she goes on to suggest that the personal vanity which made the prospect of such a public appearance alluring to him was reinforced by "certain other secondary but still important considerations of a different nature, looking to the results which might follow from the exhibition of a war policy. This desirable end being attained beyond even the most sanguine hopes, the martial fever seems on the decline."
Now all this gossip may be accepted as evidencing the tone prevailing in the very inmost circles of the citizen king's friends and surroundings, and as such is curious.
Writing on the 8th of October in the same year, after speaking at great length of Madame Laffarge, and of the extraordinary interest her trial excited, dividing all Paris into Laffargists and anti-Laffargists, and almost superseding war as a general topic of conversation, she passes to the then burning subject of the fortification of Paris, and writes as follows—curiously enough, considering the date of her letter:—
"Louis Philippe, whose favourite hobby it has ever been, from the idea that it makes him master of Paris, lays the first stone to-day. Some people consider it the first stone of the mausoleum of his dynasty. I sincerely hope not; for everything that can be called lady or gentleman runs a good chance of forming part of the funeral pile. The political madness which has taken possession of the public mind is fearful. Foreign or civil war! Such is the alternative. Thiers, who governs the masses, flatters them by promises of war and conquest. The Marsellaise, so lately a sign of rebellion, is sung openly in the theatres; the soldiers under arms sing it in chorus. The Guarde Nationale urges the King to declare war. He has resisted it with all his power, but has now, they say, given way, and has given Thiers carte blanche. He is in fact entirely under his control. The Chambers are not consulted. Thiers is our absolute sovereign. We call ourselves a free people. We have beheaded one monarch, exiled three generations of kings merely to have a dictator, 'mal ne, mal fait, et mal eleve.' There has been a rumour of a change of ministry, but no one believes it. The overthrow of Thiers would be the signal for a revolution, and the fortifications are not yet completed to master it. May not all these armaments be the precursors of some coup d'etat? A general gloom is over all around us. All the faces are long; all the conversations are sad!"
This may be accepted as a thoroughly accurate and trustworthy representation of the then state of feeling and opinion among the friends of Louis Philippe's Government, whether Parceque Bourbon or Quoique Bourbon, and as such is valuable. It is curious too, to find a staunch friend of the existing government, who may be said to have been even intimate with the younger members of the royal family, speaking of the Prime Minister with the detestation which these letters again and again express for Thiers.
In a letter of the 19th November, 1840, the writer describes at great length the recent opening of the Chamber by the King. She enlarges on the intensity of the anxiety felt for the tenor of the King's speech, which was supposed to be the announcement of war or peace; and describes the deep emotion, with which Louis Philippe, declaring his hope that peace might yet be preserved, called upon the nation to assist him in the effort to maintain it; and expresses the scorn and loathing with which she overheard one republican deputy say to another as the King spoke, "Voyez donc ce Robert Macaire, comme il fait semblant d'avoir du coeur!"
A letter of the 14th March, 1842, is written in better spirits and a lighter tone. Speaking of the prevalent hostile feeling towards England the writer wishes that her countrymen would remember Lamartine's observation that "ce patriotisme coute peu! Il suffit d'ignorer, d'injurier et de hair." She tells her correspondent that "if Lord Cowley has much to do to establish the exact line between Lord Aberdeen's observations and objections, Lady Cowley has no less difficulty in keeping a nice balance between dignity and popularity," as "the Embassy is besieged by all sets and all parties; the tag and rag, because pushing is a part of their nature; the juste milieu [how the very phrase recalls a whole forgotten world!] because they consider the English Embassy as their property; the noble Faubourg because they are tired of sulking, and would not object to treating Lady Cowley as they treated Colonel Thorn, viz., establishing their quarters at the 'Cowley Arms,' as they did at the 'Thorn's Head,' and inviting their friends on the recognised principle, 'C'est moi qui invite, et Monsieur qui paie'"
[Footnote 1: Colonel Thorn was an American of fabulous wealth, who was for a season or two very notorious in Paris. He was the hero of the often-told story of the two drives to Longchamps the same day; first with one gorgeous equipment of liveries, and a second time with other and more resplendently clothed retainers.]
Then follows an account of a fancy bal monstre at the Tuileries, which might have turned out, says the writer, to deserve that title in another sense. It was believed that a plot had been formed for the assassination of the King, at the moment, when, according to his invariable custom, he took his stand at the door of the supper-room to receive the ladies there. Four thousand five hundred tickets had been issued and a certain number of these, still blank, had disappeared. That was certain. And it was also certain that the King did not go to the door of the supper-room as usual. But the writer remarks that the tickets may have been stolen by, or for, people who could not obtain them legitimately. But the instantly conceived suspicion of a plot is illustrative of the conditions of feeling and opinions in Paris at the time.
"For my part," continues Mademoiselle D'Henin, "I never enjoyed a ball so much; perhaps because I did not expect to be amused; perhaps because all the royal family, the Jockey Club, and the fastidious Frenchwomen congratulated me upon my toilet, and voted it one of the handsomest there. They said the most becoming (but that was de l'eau benite de Cour); perhaps it was because the Dukes of Orleans, Nemours, and Aumale, who never dance, and did so very little that evening, all three honoured me with a quadrille. You see I expose to you all the very linings of my heart I dissect it and exhibit all the vanity it contains. But you will excuse me when I tell you of a compliment that might have turned a wiser head than mine. The fame of my huntress's costume (Mademoiselle D'Henin was in those days the very beau-ideal of a Diana!) was such that it reached the ears of the wife of our butcher, who sent to beg that I would lend it to her to copy, as she was going to a fancy ball!"
A letter of the 8th of August, 1842, written from Fulham Palace, contains some interesting notices of the grief and desolation caused by the sad death of the Duke of Orleans.
"Was there ever a more afflicting calamity!" she writes. "When last I wrote his name in a letter to you, it was to describe him as the admired of all beholders, the hero of the fete, the pride and honour of France, and now what remains of him is in his grave! The affliction of his family baffles all description. I receive the most touching accounts from Paris. Some ladies about the Court write to me that nothing can equal their grief. As long as the coffin remained in the chapel at Neuilly, the members of the family were incessantly kneeling by the side of it, praying and weeping. The King so far mastered his feelings, that whenever he had official duties to perform, he was sufficiently composed to perform son metier de Roi. But when the painful task was done he would rush to the chapel, and weep over the dead body of his son, till the whole palace rang with his cries and lamentations. When the body was removed from Neuilly to Notre Dame, the scene at Neuilly was truly heartrending. My father has seen the King and the Princes several times since the catastrophe, and he says it has done the work of years on their personal appearance, The Due de Nemours has neither eaten nor slept since his brother died, and looks as if walking out of his grave. Mamma wrote him a few lines of condolence, which he answered by a most affecting note. Papa was summoned to attend the King to the House, as Grand Officier, and says he never witnessed such a scene. Even the opposition shed their crocodile tears. Placed immediately near the King on the steps of the throne, he saw the struggle between kingly decorum and fatherly affliction. Nature had the victory. Three times the King attempted to speak, three times he was obliged to stop, and at last burst into a flood of tears. The contagion gained all around him. And it was only interrupted by sobs that he could proceed. And it is in the face of this despair, when the body of the prince is scarcely cold, that that horrid Thiers and his associates begin afresh their infernal manoeuvres!"
A letter of the 3rd April, 1842, contains among a quantity of the gossip of the day an odd story, which, the writer says, "is putting Rome in a ferment, and the clergy in raptures." I think I remember that it made a considerable stir in ecclesiastic circles at the time. A certain M. Ratisbonne, a Jew, it seems entered a church in Rome (the writer does not say so, but if I remember rightly, it was the "Gesu"), with a friend, a M. de Bussieres, who had some business to transact in the sacristy. The Jew, who professed complete infidelity, meantime was looking at the pictures. But M. de Bussieres, when his business was done, found him prostrate on the pavement in front of a picture of the Madonna. The Jew on coming to himself declared that the Virgin had stepped from her frame, and addressed him, with the result, as he said, that having fallen to the ground an infidel, he rose a convinced Christian! Mademoiselle D'Henin writes in a tone which indicates small belief in the miracle, but seems to accept as certain the further facts, that the convert gave all he possessed to the Church and became a monk.
I have recently—even while transcribing these extracts from her letters—heard of the death, within the last few years, of the writer of them. She died in England, I am told, and unmarried. Her sympathies and affections were always strongly turned to her mother's country, as indeed may be in some degree inferred from even those passages of her letters which have been given. And I can well conceive that the events which, each more disastrous than its predecessor, followed in France shortly after the date of the last of them, may have rendered, especially after the death of her parents, a life in France distasteful to her. But I, and, I think, my mother also, had entirely lost sight of her for very many years. Had I imagined that she was living in England, I should undoubtedly have endeavoured to see her.
I have known many women, denizens of le grand monde, who have adorned it with equally brilliant talents, equally captivating beauty, equally sparkling wit and vivacity of intelligence. And I have known many, denizens of the studious and the book world, gifted with larger powers of intellect, and more richly dowered with the results of thought and study But I do not think that I ever met with one who possessed in so large a degree the choice product resulting from conversance with both these worlds. She was in truth a very brilliant creature.
Madame D'Henin I remember made us laugh heartily one evening by telling us the following anecdote. At one of those remarkable omnium-gatherum receptions at the Tuileries, of which I have spoken in a former chapter, she heard an American lady, to whom Louis Philippe was talking of his American recollections and of various persons he had known there, say to him, "Oh, sire, they all retain the most lively recollections of your majesty's sojourn among them, and wish nothing more than that you should return among them again!" The Duke of Orleans, who was standing behind the King, fairly burst into a guffaw.
There was a story current in Rome, in the days of Pius the Ninth, which may be coupled with this as a good pendant. His Holiness, when he had occupied the papal throne for a period considerably exceeding the legendary twenty-five years of St. Peter, was one day very affably asking an Englishman, who had been presented to him, whether he had seen everything in Rome most calculated to interest a stranger, and was answered; "Yes indeed, your Holiness, I think almost everything, except one which I confess I have been particularly anxious to witness—a conclave!"
Here are a few jottings at random from my diary, which may still have some little interest.
"Madame Le Roi, a daughter of General Hoche, told me (22nd January, 1840), that as she was driving on the boulevard a day or two ago, a sou piece was thrown with great violence at the window of her carriage, smashing it to pieces. This, she said, was because her family arms were emblazoned on the panel. Most of the carriages in Paris, she said, had no arms on them for fear of similar attacks."
Then we were active frequenters of the theatres. We go, I find, to the Francais, to see Mars, then sixty years old, in Les Dehors Trompeurs and in the Fausses Confidences; to the opera to hear Robert le Diable and Lucia di Lammermuir, with Persiani, Tamburini, and Rubini; and the following night to the Francais again, to see Rachel in Cinna.
I thought her personally, I observe, very attractive. But that, and sundry other subsequent experiences, left me with the impression that she was truly very powerful in the representation of scorn, indignation, hatred, and all the sterner and less amiable passions of the soul, but failed painfully when her role required the exhibition of tenderness or any of the gentler emotions. These were my impressions when she was young and I was comparatively so. But when, many years afterwards, I saw her repeatedly in Italy, they were not, I think, much modified.
The frequent occasions on which subsequently I saw Ristori produced an impression on me very much the reverse. I remember thinking Ristori's "Mirra" too good, so terribly true as to be almost too painful for the theatre. I thought Rachel's "Marie Stuart" upon the whole her finest performance, though "Adrienne" ran it hard.
Persiani, I note, supported by Lablache and Rubini, had a most triumphant reception in Inez de Castro, while Albertazzi was very coldly received in Blanche de Castille. Grisi in Norma was "superb." "Persiani and P. Garcia sang a duet from Tancredi; it was divine! I think I like Garcia's voice better than any of them. Nor could I think her ugly, as it is the fashion to call her, though it must be admitted that her mouth and teeth are alarming."
Then there were brilliant receptions at the English Embassy (Lord Granville) and at the Austrian Embassy (Comte d'Appony). My diary remarks that stars and gold lace and ribbons of all the Orders in Christendom were more abundant at the latter, but female beauty at the former. I remember much admiring that of Lady Honoria Cadogan, and that of a very remarkably lovely Visconti girl, a younger sister of the Princess Belgiojoso. But despite this perfect beauty, my diary notes, that it was "curious to observe the unmistakable superiority as a human being of the young English patrician." I remember that the "sit-down" suppers at the Austrian Embassy—a separate little table for every two, three, or four guests—were remarked on as a novelty (and applauded) by the Parisians.
Then at Miss Clarke's (afterwards Madame Mohl) I find Fauriel, "the first Provencal scholar in Europe," delightful, and am disgusted with Merimee, because he manifested self-sufficiency, as it seemed to my youthful criticism, by pooh-poohing the probability of the temple at Lanleff in Brittany having been aught else than a church of the Templars.
Then Arago reads an Eloge on "old Ampere," of which I only remark that it lasted two hours and a half. Then there was a dinner at Dr. Gilchrist's whose widow our old friend Pepe, who for many years had always called her "Madame Ghee-cree," subsequently married. My notes, written the same evening, remind me that "I did not much like the radical old Doctor (his wife was an old acquaintance, but I had never seen him before); he is eighty, and ought to know better. Old Nymzevitch (I am not sure of the spelling), the ex-Chancellor of Poland, dined with us. He is eighty-four. When he said that he had conversed with the Duc de Richelieu, I started as if he had announced himself as the Wandering Jew. But, in fact, he had had, when a young man, an interview with the Duc, then ninety. He was, Nymzevitch told me, dreadfully emaciated, but dressed very splendidly in a purple coat all bedizened with silver lace. He received me, said the old ex-Chancellor, with much affable dignity."'
Then comes a breakfast with Pepe, at which I met the President Thibeaudeau, "a grey old man who makes a point of saying rude, coarse, and disagreeable things, which his friends call dry humour. He found fault with everything at the breakfast table."
Then a visit to the Chamber (where I heard Soult, Dupin, and Teste speak, and thought it "a terrible bear-garden)" is followed by attendance at a sermon by Athanase Coquerel, the Protestant preacher whose reputation in the Parisian beau monde was great in those days. He was, says my diary, "exceedingly eloquent, but I did not like his sermon;" for which dislike my notes proceed to give the reasons, which I spare the, I hope grateful, reader. Then I went to hear Bishop Luscombe at the Ambassador's chapel, and listened to "a very stupid sermon." I seem, somewhat to my surprise as I read the records of it, to have had a pronounced taste for sermons in those days, which I fear I have somehow outgrown. But then I have been very deaf during my later decades.
Bishop Luscombe may perhaps however be made more amusing to the reader than he was to me in the Embassy chapel by the following fragment of his experience. The Bishop arrived one day at Paddington, and could not find his luggage. He called a porter to find it for him, telling him the name to be read on the articles. The man, very busy with other people, answered hurriedly, "You must go to hell for your luggage." Now, Luscombe, who was a somewhat pompous and very bishopy man, was dreadfully shocked, and felt, as he said, as if the porter had struck him in the face. In extreme indignation he demanded where he could speak with any of the authorities, and was told that "the Board" was then sitting up stairs. So to the boardroom the Bishop went straightway, and announcing himself, made his complaint. The chairman, professing his regret that such offence should have been given, said he feared the man must have been drunk, but that he should be immediately summoned to give an account of his conduct. So the porter in great trepidation appeared in a few minutes before the august tribunal of "the Board."
"Well, sir," said he in reply to the chairman's indignant questioning, "what could I do? I was werry busy at the time. So when the gentleman says as his name was Luscombe, I could do no better than tell him to go to h'ell for his luggage, and he'd have found it there all right!"
"Oh! I see," said the chairman, "it is a case of misplaced aspirate! We have spaces on the wall marked with the letters of the alphabet, and you would have found your luggage at the letter L. You will see that the man meant no offence. I am sorry you should have been so scandalised, but though we succeed, I hope, in making our porters civil to our customers, it would be hopeless, I fear, to attempt to make them say L correctly." Solvuntur risu tabulae.
I find chronicled a long talk with Mohl one evening at Madame Recamier's. The room was very full of notable people of all sorts, and the tide of chattering was running very strong. "How can anything last long in France?" said he, in reply to my having said (in answer to his assertion that Cousin's philosophy had gone by) that it had been somewhat short-lived. "Reputations are made and pass away. It is impossible that they should endure. It is in such places as this that they are destroyed. The friction is prodigious!"
We then began to talk of the state of religion in France. He said that among a large set, religion was now a la mode. But he did not suppose that many of the fine folks who patronised it had much belief in it. The clergy of France were, he said, almost invariably very illiterate. Guizot, I remembered, calls them in his History of Civilisation doctes et crudits, but I abstained from quoting him. Mohl went on to tell me a story of a newspaper that had been about to be established, called Le Democrat. The shareholders met, when it appeared that one party wished to make it a Roman Catholic, and the other an atheist organ. Whereupon the existence of God was put to the vote and carried by a majority of one, at which the atheist party were so disgusted that they seceded in a body.
I got to like Mohl much, and had more conversation, I think, with him than with any other of the numerous men of note with whom I became more or less acquainted. On another occasion, when I found him in his cabinet, walled up as usual among his books, our talk fell on his great work, the edition of the oriental MSS. in the Bibliotheque Royale, which was to be completed in ten folio volumes, the first of which, just out, he was showing me. He complained of the extreme slowness of the Government presses in getting on with the work. This he attributed to the absurd costliness, as he considered it, of the style in which the work was brought out. The cost of producing that first volume he told me had been over 1,600l. sterling. It was to be sold at a little less than a hundred francs. Something was said (by me, I think) of the possibility of obtaining assistance from the King, who was generally supposed to be immensely wealthy. Mohl said that he did not believe Louis Philippe to be nearly so rich a man as he was supposed to be. He had spent, he said, enormous sums on the chateaux he had restored, and was affirmed by those who had the means of knowing the fact, to be at that time twelve millions of francs in debt.
My liking for Mohl seems to have been fully justified by the estimation he was generally held in. I find in a recently published volume by Kathleen O'Meara on the life of my old friend, Miss Clarke, who afterwards became his wife, the following passage quoted from Sainte-Beuve, who describes him as "a man who was the very embodiment of learning and of inquiry, an oriental savant—more than a savant—a sage, with a mind clear, loyal, and vast; a German mind passed through an English filter, a cloudless, unruffled mirror, open and limpid; of pure and frank morality; early disenchanted with all things; with a grain of irony devoid of all bitterness, the laugh of a child under a bald head; a Goethe-like intelligence, but free from all prejudice." "A charming and spirituelle Frenchwoman," Miss O'Meara goes on to say, "said of Julius Mohl that Nature in forming his character had skimmed the cream of the three nationalities to which he belonged by birth, by adoption and by marriage, making him deep as a German, spirituel as a Frenchman, and loyal as an Englishman."
I may insert here the following short note from Madame Mohl, because the manner of it is very characteristic of her. It is, as was usual with her, undated.
* * * * *
"MY DEAR MR. TROLLOPE,—By accident I have just learned that you are in London. If I could see you and talk over my dear old friend (Madame Recamier) I should be so much obliged and so glad. I live 68 Oxford Terrace, Hyde Park. If you would write me a note to say when I should be at home for the purpose. But if you can't, I am generally, not always, found after four. But if you could come on the 10th or 12th after nine we have a party. I am living at Mrs. Schwabe's just now till 16th this month. Pray write me a note, even If you can't come.