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VIII. Europe. Letters

I go to prove my soul.
     I see my way, as birds their trackless way
In some time, God's good time, I shall arrive
     He guides me and the bird. In his good time!

One, who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment, to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a lover, and attired
With sudden brightness, like a man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.

Italia! Italia! O tu cui feo la sorte
     Dono infelice di bellezza, ond‘ hai
Funesta dote d'infiniti guai,
     Che in fronte scritti per gran doglia porter.
Deh, fossi tu men bella, Ò almen piu forte!



Oh, not to guess it at the first.
     But I did guess it,—that is, I divined,
Felt by an instinct how it was;—why else
     Should I pronounce you free from all that heap
Of sins, which had been irredeemable?
     I felt they were not yours.

Nests there are many of this very year,
     Many the nests are, which the winds shall shake,
The rains run through and other birds beat down
     Yours, O Aspasia! rests against the temple
Of heavenly love, and, thence inviolate,
     It shall not fall this winter, nor the next.

Lift up your heart upon the knees of God,
Losing yourself, your smallness and your darkness
In His great light, who fills and moves the world,
Who hath alone the quiet of perfect motion.

[2171] [it has been judged best to let Margaret herself tell the story of her travels. In the spring of 1846, her valued friends, Marcus Spring and lady, of New York, had decided to make a tour in Europe, with their son, and they invited Miss Fuller to accompany them. An arrangement was soon made on such terms as she could accept, and the party sailed from Boston in the ‘Cambria,’ on the first of August. The following narrative is made up of letters addressed by her to various correspondents. Some extracts, describing distinguished persons whom she saw, have been borrowed from her letters to the New York Tribune.]

to Mrs. Margaret Fuller.
Liverpool, Aug. 16, 1846.
My dear Mother:—

The last two days at sea passed well enough, as a number of agreeable persons were introduced to me, and there were several whom I knew before. I enjoyed nothing on the sea; the excessively bracing air so affected [2172] me that I could not bear to look at it. The sight of land delighted me. The tall crags, with their breakers and circling sea-birds; then the green fields, how glad! We had a very fine day to come ashore, and made the shortest passage ever known. The stewardess said, ‘Any one who complained this time tempted the Almighty.’ I did not complain, but I could hardly have borne another day. I had no appetite; but am now making up for all deficiencies, and feel already a renovation beginning from the voyage; and, still more, from freedom and entire change of scene.

We came here Wednesday, at noon; next day we went to Manchester; the following day to Chester; returning here Saturday evening.

On Sunday we went to hear James Martineau; were introduced to him, and other leading persons. The next day and evening I passed in the society of very pleasant people, who have made every exertion to give me the means of seeing and learning; but they have used up all my strength.


to C. S.
As soon as I reached England, I found how right we were in supposing there was elsewhere a greater range of interesting character among the men, than with us. I do not find, indeed, any so valuable as three or four among the most marked we have known; but many that are strongly individual, and have a fund of hidden life.

In Westmoreland, I knew, and have since been seeing in London, a man, such as would interest you a good deal; Mr. Atkinson. He is sometimes called the [2173] ‘prince of the English mesmerisers;’ and he has the fine instinctive nature you may suppose from that. He is a man of about thirty; in the fullness of his powers; tall, and finely formed, with a head for Leonardo to paint; mild and composed, but powerful and sagacious; he does not think, but perceives and acts. He is intimate with artists, having studied architecture himself as a profession; but has some fortune on which he lives. Sometimes stationary and acting in the affairs of other men; sometimes wandering about the world and learning; he seems bound by no tie, yet looks as if he had relatives in every place.

I saw, also, a man,—an artist,—severe and antique in his spirit; he seemed burdened by the sorrows of aspiration; yet very calm, as secure in the justice of fate. What he does is bad, but full of a great desire. His name is David Scott. I saw another,—a pupil of De la Roche,—very handsome, and full of a voluptuous enjoyment of nature: him I liked a little in a different way.

By far the most beauteous person I have seen is Joseph Mazzini. If you ever see Saunders' ‘People's Journal,’ you can read articles by him that will give you some notion of his mind, especially one on his friends, headed ‘Italian Martyrs.’ He is one in whom holiness has purified, but somewhat dwarfed the man.

Our visit to Mr. Wordsworth was fortunate. He is seventy-six; but his is a florid, fair old age. He walked with us to all his haunts about the house. Its situation is beautiful, and the ‘Rydalian Laurels’ are magnificent. Still, I saw abodes among the hills that I should have preferred for Wordsworth; more wild and [2174] still more romantic. The fresh and lovely Rydal Mount seems merely the retirement of a gentleman, rather than the haunt of a poet. He showed his benignity of disposition in several little things, especially in his attentions to a young boy we had with us. This boy had left the circus, exhibiting its feats of horsemanship, in Ambleside, ‘for that day only,’ at his own desire to see Wordsworth; and I feared he would be dissatisfied, as I know I should have been at his age, if, when called to see a poet, I had found no Apollo flaming with youthful glory, laurel-crowned, and lyre in hand; but, instead, a reverend old man clothed in black, and walking with cautious step along the level garden-path. However, he was not disappointed; and Wordsworth, in his turn, seemed to feel and prize a congenial nature in this child.

Taking us into the house, he showed us the picture of his sister, repeating with much expression some lines of hers, and those so famous of his about her, beginning ‘Five years,’ &c.; also, his own picture, by Inman, of whom he spoke with esteem. I had asked to see a picture in that room, which has been described in one of the finest of his later poems. A hundred times had I wished to see this picture, yet when seen was not disappointed by it. The light was unfavorable, but it had a light of its own,—

whose mild gleam
     Of beauty never ceases to enrich
The common light.

Mr. Wordsworth is fond of the hollyhock; a partiality scarcely deserved by the flower, but which marks [2175] the simplicity of his tastes. He had made a long avenue of them, of all colors, from the crimson brown to rose, straw-color, and white, and pleased himself with having made proselytes to a liking for them, among his neighbors.

I never have seen such magnificent fuchsias as at Ambleside, and there was one to be seen in every cottage-yard. They are no longer here under the shelter of the green-house, as with us, and as they used to be in England. The plant, from its grace and finished elegance, being a great favorite of mine, I should like to see it as frequently and of as luxuriant growth at home, and asked their mode of culture, which I here mark down for the benefit of all who may be interested. Make a bed of bog-earth and sand; put down slips of the fuchsia, and give them a great deal of water; this is all they need. People leave them out here in winter, but perhaps they would not bear the cold of our Januaries.

Mr. Wordsworth spoke with more liberality than we expected of the recent measures about the Corn-laws, saying that ‘the principle was certainly right, though whether existing interests had been as carefully attended to as was right, he was not prepared to say,’ &c. His neighbors were pleased to hear of his speaking thus mildly, and hailed it as a sign that he was opening his mind to more light on these subjects. They lament that his habits of seclusion keep him ignorant of the real wants of England and the world. Living in this region, which is cultivated by small proprietors, where there is little poverty, vice, or misery, he hears not the voice which cries so loudly from other parts of England, and will not be stilled by sweet, poetic suasion, or [2176] philosophy, for it is the cry of men in the jaws of destruction.

It was pleasant to find the reverence inspired by this great and pure mind warmest near home. Our landlady, in heaping praises upon him, added, constantly, ‘and Mrs. Wordsworth, too.’ ‘Do the people here,’ said I, ‘value Mr. Wordsworth most because he is a celebrated writer?’ ‘Truly, madam,’ said she, ‘I think it is because he is so kind a neighbor.’

True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home.

Edinburgh.—De Quincey.

At Edinburgh we were in the wrong season, and many persons we most wished to see were absent. We had, however, the good fortune to find Dr. Andrew Combe, who received us with great kindness. I was impressed with great and affectionate respect, by the benign and even temper of his mind, his extensive and accurate knowledge, accompanied by a large and intelligent liberality. Of our country he spoke very wisely and hopefully.

I had the satisfaction, not easily attainable now, of seeing De Quincey for some hours, and in the mood of conversation. As one belonging to the Wordsworth and Coleridge constellation (he, too, is now seventy years of age), the thoughts and knowledge of Mr. De Quincey lie in the past, and oftentimes he spoke of matters now become trite to one of a later culture. But to all that fell from his lips, his eloquence, subtle and forcible as the wind, full and gently falling as the evening dew, lent a peculiar charm. He is an admirable narrator; [2177] not rapid, but gliding along like a rivulet through a green meadow, giving and taking a thousand little beauties not absolutely required to give his story due relief, but each, in itself, a separate boon.

I admired, too, his urbanity; so opposite to the rapid, slang, Vivian-Greyish style, current in the literary conversation of the day. ‘Sixty years since,’ men had time to do things better and more gracefully.


With Dr. Chalmers we passed a couple of hours. He is old now, but still full of vigor and fire. We had an opportunity of hearing a fine burst of indignant eloquence from him. ‘I shall blush to my very bones,’ said he, ‘if the

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