Jan. 23, 1839.I see, by casting my eyes back, that I commenced the last sheet in praise of London. I feel in a mood quite the reverse to-day, and have so felt for several days. I again have a dismal cold. Give me the freezing, crystal weather of New England, rather than these murky, foggy days, freighted with disease and death. Three cruel colds in the space of two months,—the worst that have ever befallen me—admonish me to hasten nearer to the sun. I shall be off for Italy. But you will be glad to hear of the poet of this fair country. I believe I have often written you about Rogers. Of  course, I have seen him frequently in society; never did I like him till I enjoyed his kindness at breakfast. As a converser Rogers is unique. The world, or report, has not given him credit enough for his great and peculiar powers in this line. He is terse, epigrammatic, dry, infinitely to the point, full of wisdom, of sarcasm, and cold humor. He says the most ill-natured things, and does the best. He came up to me at Miss Martineau's, where there was a little party of very clever people, and said: ‘Mr. Sumner, it is a great piece of benevolence in you to come here.’ Determined not to be drawn into a slur upon my host, I replied: ‘Yes, Mr. Rogers, of benevolence to myself.’ As we were coming away, Rogers, Harness, Babbage, and myself were walking together down the narrow street in which Miss M. lives, when the poet said: ‘Who but the Martineau could have drawn us into such a hole?’ And yet I doubt not he has a sincere liking for Miss M.; for I have met her at his house, and he afterwards spoke of her with the greatest kindness. His various sayings that are reported about town, and his conversation as I had caught it at evening parties, had impressed me with a great admiration of his powers, but with a positive dislike. I love frankness and truth. But his society at breakfast has almost obliterated my first impressions. We were alone; and he showed all those wonderful paintings, and we talked till far into the afternoon. I have seldom enjoyed myself more; it was a luxury, in such rooms, to listen to such a man, before whom the society of the last quarter of a century had all passed,—he alone unchanged; to talk, with such a poet, of poetry and poets, of Wordsworth and Southey and Scott; and to hear his opinions, which were given with a childlike simplicity and frankness. I must confess his great kindness to me. He asked my acceptance of the new edition of his poems, and said: ‘I shall be happy to see any friend of yours, morning, noon, or night;’ and all his kindness was purely volunteer, for my acquaintance with him grew from simply meeting him in society. He inquired after Mrs. Newton1 with most friendly interest, and showed me a little present he had received from her, which he seemed to prize much. I shall write to her, to let her know the good friends she has left behind. Rogers is a friend of Wordsworth; but thinks he has written too much, and without sufficient limae labor. He says it takes him ten times as long to write a sentence of prose as it does Wordsworth one of poetry; and, in illustration, he showed me a thought in Wordsworth's last work,2—dedicated to Rogers,—on the saying of the monk who had sat before the beautiful pictures so long and seen so many changes, that he felt tempted to say, ‘We are the shadows, and they the substance.’3 This same story you will find in a note to the ‘Italy.’ Rogers wrote his note ten times over before he was satisfied with it; Wordsworth's verse was published almost as it first left his pen. Look at the two.  You have often heard of Rogers's house. It is not large; but the few rooms—two drawing-rooms and a dining-room only—are filled with the most costly paintings, all from some of the great galleries of Italy or elsewhere, most of which cost five or ten thousand dollars apiece. I should think there were about thirty in all: perhaps you will not see in the world another such collection in so small a space. There was a little painting by Raphael, about a foot square, of the Saviour praying in the Garden, brimful of thought and expression, which the old man said he should like to have in his chamber when dying. There were masterpieces by Titian, Correggio, Caracci, Guido, Paul Veronese, Rubens, Barochio, Giotto, and Reynolds. He pointed out the picture of an armed knight, which Walter Scott always admired. His portfolios were full of the most valuable original drawings. There were all Flaxman's illustrations of Homer and the Tragedians, as they left the pencil of the great artist. Indeed, he said that he could occupy me for a month, and invited me to come and breakfast with him any morning that I chose, sending him word the night before. From one poet I will pass to another,—Barry Cornwall. You remember Willis's sketch. He wrote for the public, and to make an interesting letter. I need not say that my object is to give you and my friends truthful notions of those in whom you feel an interest. Mr. Procter—for you know that is the real name of Barry Cornwall—is about forty-two or forty-five, and is a conveyancer by profession. His days are spent in the toilsome study of abstracts of titles; and when I saw him last Sunday, at his house, he was poring over one which press of business had compelled him to take home. He is a small, thin man, with a very dull countenance, in which, nevertheless,— knowing what he has written,—I can detect the ‘poetical frenzy.’ His manner is gentle and quiet, and his voice low. He thought if he could live life over again he would be a gardener. He spoke with bitterness of Lockhart, and concurred in Cooper's article on his ‘Life of Scott.’ He said that he himself had been soundly abused in ‘Blackwood’ and the ‘Quarterly’ for his ‘Life of Kean’ and his editing ‘Willis,’—though they had formerly administered a great deal of praise. He had not, however, read their articles; but spoke of them according to what he had heard. Airs. Procter is a sweet person; she is the daughter of my friend, Mrs. Basil Montagu, and has munch of her mother's information and intelligence. There is no place that I enjoy more than Basil Montagu's. He is simple in his habits, never dines out, or gives dinners. I step into his house, perhaps, after I have been dining out, at ten or eleven o'clock in the evening; and we talk till I am obliged to say ‘good morning,’ and not ‘good night.’ The Montagus have been intimate with more good and great people than anybody I know. Mackintosh, Coleridge, Parr, Wordsworth, Lamb, were all familiar at their fireside. Mr. Montagu is often pronounced a bore, because he perpetually quotes Bacon and the ancient English authors. But it is a pleasure to me to hear some of those noble sentences come almost mended from his beautiful flowing enunciation. Mrs. M. is one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. Dr. Parr always called Mr. Montagu by his Christian name,  Basil; and his wife, ‘Basilissa;’ and their son, who was no favorite with him, ‘Basilisk.’ Mrs. M. told me an interesting story connected with Carlyle, which somewhat explains the singular style of his ‘French Revolution.’ This was written some time ago, with great labor, and put into the hands of a friend for perusal; while with him the greater part of it was accidentally destroyed. The friend at once offered the largest sum, by way of repairing the calamity, which any bookseller could have offered. This, of course, was refused; and Carlyle was quite dejected for a while. At last he re-commenced it, but, Mrs. M. supposes, had not the patience to go through it again in the same painstaking way as before; and in this way she accounts, to a certain extent, for the abrupt character which it has. I once spoke of Mr. Montagu to Talfourd as a person whom I liked very much, when the author of ‘on’ said: ‘He is a humbug; he drinks no wine.’ Commend me to such humbugs! Miss Martineau4 I see pretty often. She has been consistently kind to me; and though circumstances have made me somewhat independent of her civilities, yet I feel grateful to her, and am glad to confess that I owe to her several attentions. She is much attached to our country and to many in it, and would be grieved to hear that her friends had fallen off from her. It was her misfortune to be so situated as to feel obliged to write a book.5 I doubt if a person who has mingled in society in any country can write a book in the spirit of truth without giving great offence. That she wrote hers influenced only by a love of truth, I am persuaded. I have seen and heard nothing in London which should shake the confidence of any of her friends in her; and I say it without making allusions to persons or things, because I have understood that some reports to the contrary have reached America. You may take my authority for what it is worth. I will only add that I have often conversed with her about America and Americans. Her novel called ‘Deerbrook’ is nearly finished. It is entirely fiction. She seems to have great confidence in it, and esteems it her best production. If it is successful, she will become a novelist. You will doubtless read the last ‘Tait's Magazine.’ It contains the first of a series of articles by De Quincey on Wordsworth. Poor De Quincey had a small fortune of eight or nine thousand pounds, which he has lost or spent; and now he lets his pen for hire. You know his article on Coleridge: Wordsworth's turn has now come. At the close of his article, he alludes to a killing neglect which he once received from the poet, and which embittered his peace. I know the facts, which are not given. De Quincey married some humble country-girl in the neighborhood of Wordsworth; she was of good character, but not of that rank in which W. moved. The family of the latter never made her acquaintance or showed her any civilities, though  living comparatively in the same neighborhood. ‘Hinc illae lacrymae.’ When you now read De Quincey's lamentations you may better understand them. A few evenings ago I dined with Hallam. He is a person of plain manners, rather robust, and wears a steel watch-guard over his waistcoat. He is neither fluent nor brilliant in conversation; but is sensible, frank, and unaffected. After dinner we discussed the merits of the different British historians,—Gibbon, Hume, and Robertson. Of course, Gibbon was placed foremost. There was a party at Hallam's after dinner; but I went from that to a ball at Hume's,—Joe Hume's.6 You doubtless imagine that this Radical, who for twenty years has been crying out ‘retrenchment,’ is an ill-dressed, slovenly fellow, without a whole coat in his wardrobe. Imagine a thick-set, broad-faced, well-dressed Scotchman, who has no fear of laughter or ridicule. I know few persons whom I have always seen dressed in better taste or looking more like a gentleman. I have already written you of Lady Morgan. Her Ladyship, you know, is a fierce Democrat. She was in the midst of professions of democracy during a morning call, when the knocker resounded—as these English knockers do—over the house; and her niece, who was sitting at the window of the drawing-room, announced the cab and tiger of the Marquis of Douro,7 the eldest son of the Duke of Wellington. Lady Morgan at once straightened herself in her seat, assumed a queenly air, and, when the noble lord entered, received him with no little dignity. I was presented to his Lordship as a ‘very distinguished American,’ who had been feted by all the nobility of England! So you will see her Ladyship was determined to make the most of her visitors. We bowed,—that is, Lord Douro and myself,—and conversation went on. He is about forty, and appears to be a pleasant, good-natured, and rather clever person, looking very much like the great Duke. A far different person from Lady Morgan is Mrs. Shelley. I passed an evening with her recently. She is sensible, agreeable, and clever. There were Italians and French at her house, and she entertained us all in our respective languages. She seemed to speak both French and Italian quite gracefully. You have doubtless read some of Mrs. Marcet's8 productions. I have met her repeatedly, and received from her several kind attentions. She is the most ladylike and motherly of all the tribe of authoresses that I have met. Mrs. Austin I have seen frequently, and recently passed an evening at her house. She is a fine person,—tall, well-filled, with a bright countenance slightly inclined to be red. She has two daughters who have just entered society. She is engaged in translating the ‘History of the Popes,’ that was reviewed some time ago by Milman in the ‘Quarterly,’ which she says will be the most important and valuable of the works she has  presented to the public. She is desirous of reaping some advantage from its publication in America, and hopes to make some arrangement with a publisher to receive the sheets and reprint them. I have this very day received a letter from Sir David Brewster, expressing a similar wish. He is preparing a very valuable ‘Life of Newton,’ in two or three octavo volumes,9 which will contain most important extracts from the family papers in the possession of the Earl of Portsmouth, to all of which he has had access. This ‘Life’ will throw great light upon Newton's religious opinions, and will prove him, under his own hand, to have been a Unitarian. I hope that we shall pass a law responsive to the British International Copyright Bill. Do write me about this measure, and what its chances are. You have read the ‘Retrospective Review.’ I am indebted to it for much pleasure and instruction. What was my gratification, a short time since, while dining with Parkes, to find that it was gotten up and carried on by my friends. The nominal editor was Southern, now Secretary of Legation at Madrid; but its chief supporters were Parkes and Charles Austin and Montagu. It was established by the Radicals, to show that they were at least not ignorant of literature. Parkes wrote the articles on the prose writings of Milton. He is a subscriber to the ‘North American,’ and has been much pleased with the article in a late number (for July, I think) on Milton. He thinks it the best essay on Milton ever written, and is anxious to know who is the author. I have felt ashamed that I cannot tell. Do not fail to let me know.10
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Chapter 16 : events at home.���Letters of friends.��� December , 1837 , to March , 1839 .���Age 26 - 28 .
Chapter 17 : London again.���characters of judges.���Oxford.���Cambridge��� November and December , 1838 .���Age, 27 .
Chapter 18 : Stratford-on-avon.���Warwick.���London.���Characters of judges and lawyers.���authors.���society.��� January , 1839 , to March , 1839 .���Age, 28 .
Chapter 19 : Paris again.��� March to April , 1839 .���Age, 28 .
Chapter 20 : Italy .��� May to September , 1839 .���Age, 28 .
Chapter 21 : Germany .��� October , 1839 , to March , 1840 .���Age, 28 - 29 .
Chapter 22 : England again, and the voyage home.��� March 17 to May 3 , 1840 . ���Age 29 .
Chapter 23 : return to his profession.��� 1840 - 41 .���Age, 29 - 30 .
Chapter 24 : Slavery and the law of nations.��� 1842 .���Age, 31 .
Chapter 25 : service for Crawford .���The Somers Mutiny.���The nation's duty as to slavery.��� 1843 .���Age, 32 .
Chapter 27 : services for education.���prison discipline.���Correspondence.��� January to July , 1845 .���age, 34 .
Chapter 28 : the city Oration,��� the true grandeur of nations. ���an argument against war.��� July 4 , 1845 .���Age 34 .
1 Ante, Vol. I. p. 186.
2 Yarrow Revisited, and other Poems, 1835.Italy, note 241.
4 1802-76. Sumner visited Miss Martineau at Ambleside in 1857. She became quite impatient in later life with him and with all who maintained, as he did, the liability of England for the escape of the rebel cruisers in our civil war,—a liability which was found to exist by the award at Geneva.
7 He was born in 1807, and succeeded to the dukedom on the death of his father, in 1852.
8 Jane Haldimand Marcet, 1785-1858. She endeavored to simplify science by stating the principles of chemistry and political economy in the form of ‘Conversations.’ ‘Every girl,’ said Macaulay, ‘who has read Mrs. Marcet's little dialogues on political economy could teach Montague or Walpole many lessons in finance.’—‘Essay on Milton.’
9 Published in 1855.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.