literary London twenty years ago
No day in an American's recollection can easily be more cheerful than that in which he first found himself within reach of London
, prepared, as Willis
said half a century ago, to see whole shelves of his library walking about in coats and gowns.
This event did not happen to me for the first time until I was forty-eight years old, and had been immersed at home in an atmosphere of tolerably cultivated men and women; but the charm of the new experience was none the less great, and I inspected my little parcel of introductory letters as if each were a key to unlock a world unknown.
Looking back, I cannot regret that I did not have this experience earlier in life.
, in the “Two gentlemen of Verona
,” says that homekeeping youth have ever homely wits; yet it is something to have wits at all, and perhaps there is more chance of this if one is not transplanted too soon.
Our young people are now apt to be sent too early to Europe
, and therefore do not approach it with their
own individualities sufficiently matured; but in those days foreign travel was much more of an enterprise than now, and no one could accuse me, on my arrival, of being unreasonably young.
I visited London
in 1872, and again in 1878, and some recollections based on the letters and diaries of those two years will be combined in this chapter.
atmosphere and dramatis personae
changed little within the interval, but the whole period was separated by a distinct literary cycle from that on which Emerson
looked back in 1843.
He then wrote that Europe
had already lost ground; that it was not “as in the golden days when the same town would show the traveler the noble heads of Scott
, of Mackintosh
, and Humboldt
Yet I scarcely missed even these heads, nearly thirty years later than the time when he wrote, in the prospect of seeing Carlyle
, Matthew Arnold
, and Froude
, with many minor yet interesting personalities.
Since the day when I met these distinguished men another cycle has passed, and they have all disappeared.
Of those whom I saw twenty-five years ago at the Athenaeum Club
, there remain only Herbert Spencer
and the delightful Irish poet Aubrey
,and though the Club
now holds on its lists the names of a newer generation, Besant
, I cannot think that what has been added quite replaces what has been lost.
Yet the younger generation itself may think otherwise; and my task at present deals with the past alone.
It has to do with the older London
group, and I may write of this the more freely inasmuch as I did not write during the lifetime of the men described; nor do I propose, even at this day, to report conversations with any persons now living.
My first duty in England
was, of course, to ascertain my proper position as an American, and to know what was thought of us. This was easier twenty-five years ago than it now is, since the English
ignorance of Americans
was then even greater than it is to-day, and was perhaps yet more frankly expressed.
One of the first houses where I spent an evening was the very hospitable home of a distinguished scholar, then the president of the Philological Society
, and the highest authority on the various dialects of the English
language; but I was led to think that his sweet and kindly wife had not fully profited by his learning.
She said to me, “Is it not rather strange that you Americans
, who seem such a friendly and cordial race, should invariably address a newcomer
as ‘stranger,’ while we English
, who are thought to be cold and distant, are more likely to say ‘my friend’ ?”
She would scarcely credit it when I told her that I had hardly ever in my life been greeted by the word she thought so universal; and then she added, “I have been told that Americans
begin every sentence with ‘Well, stranger, I guess.’
” I was compelled to plead guilty to the national use of two of these words, but still demurred as to the “stranger.”
Then she sought for more general information, and asked if it were really true, as she had been told, that railway trains in America
were often stopped for the purpose of driving cattle off the track.
I admitted to her that in some regions of the far West
, where cattle abounded and fencing material was scarce, this might still be done; and I did not think it necessary to say that I had seen it done, in my youth, within twenty miles of Boston
But I explained that we Americans
, being a very inventive race, had devised a little apparatus to be placed in front of the locomotive in order to turn aside all obstructions; and I told her that this excellent invention was called a cow-catcher.
She heard this with interest, and then her kindly face grew anxious, and she said hesitatingly, “But is n't it rather dangerous for the boy?”
I said wonderingly,
and she reiterated, “For the boy, don't you know,--the cow-catcher.”
Her motherly fancy had depicted an unfortunate youth balanced on the new contrivance, probably holding on with one arm, and dispersing dangerous herds with the other.
One had also to meet, at that time, sharp questions as to one's origin, and sometimes unexpected sympathy when this was ascertained.
A man of educated appearance was then often asked,--and indeed is still liable to be asked,--on his alluding to America
, how much time he had spent there.
This question was put to me, in 1878, by a very lively young maiden at the table of a clergyman who was my host at Reading; she went on to inform me that I spoke English differently from any Americans
she had ever seen, and she had known “heaps of them” in Florence
When I had told her that I spoke the language just as I had done for about half a century, and as my father and mother had spoken it before me, she caught at some other remark of mine, and asked with hearty surprise, “But you do not mean that you really like being an American, do you?”
When I said that I should be very sorry not to be, she replied, “I can only say that I never thought of such a thing; I supposed that you were all Americans
could n't help it;” and I assured her that we had this reason, also.
She sung, later in the evening, with a dramatic power I never heard surpassed, Kingsley
's thrilling ballad of “Lorraine
,” of which the heroine is a jockey's wife, who is compelled by her husband to ride a steeple-chase, at which she meets her death.
The young singer had set the ballad to music, and it was one of those coincidences stranger than any fiction that she herself was killed by a runaway horse but a few months later.
An American had also to accustom himself, in those days, to the surprise which might be expressed at his knowing the commonplaces of English history, and especially of English legend.
On first crossing the border into Scotland
, I was asked suddenly by my only railway companion, a thin, keen man with high cheek-bones, who had hitherto kept silence, “Did ye ever hear of Yarrow?”
I felt inclined to answer, like a young American girl of my acquaintance when asked by a young man if she liked flowers, “What a silly question!”
Restraining myself, I explained to him that every educated American was familiar with any name mentioned by Burns
, by Scott
, or in the “Border Minstrelsy.”
Set free by this, he showed me many things and places which I was glad to see,--passes by which the Highland
raiders came down, valleys where they hid the cattle they had lifted; he showed me where their fastnesses were, and where “Tintock tap” was, on which a lassie might doubtless still be wooed if she had siller enough.
By degrees we came to literature in general, and my companion proved to be the late Principal Shairp
, professor of poetry at Oxford
, and author of books well known in America
I encountered still another instance of the curious social enigma then afforded by the American
, when I was asked, soon after my arrival, to breakfast with Mr. Froude
, the historian.
As I approached the house I saw a lady speaking to some children at the door, and she went in before I reached it. Being admitted, I saw another lady glance at me from the region of the breakfast parlor, and was also dimly aware of a man who looked over the stairway.
After I had been cordially received and was seated at the breakfast-table, it gradually came out that the first lady was Mrs. Froude
's sister, the second was Mrs. Froude
herself, while it was her husband who had looked over the stairs; and I learned furthermore that they had severally decided that, whoever I was, I could not be the American
gentleman who was expected at breakfast.
What was their conception of an American,--what
tomahawk and scalping-knife were looked for, what bearskin or bareskin, or whether it was that I had omitted the customary war-whoop, -this never was explained.
Perhaps it was as in Irving
's case, who thought his kind reception in England
due to the fact that he used a goose-quill in his hand instead of sticking it in his hair,--a distinction which lost all its value, however, with the advent of steel pens.
At any rate, my reception was as kind as possible, though my interest in Froude
, being based wholly on his early book, “The Nemesis
of faith,” was somewhat impaired by the fact that he treated that work as merely an indiscretion of boyhood, and was more interested in himself as the author of a history, which, unluckily, I had not then read.
We met better upon a common interest in Carlyle
, a few days later, and he took me to see that eminent author, and to join the afternoon walk of the two in Hyde Park
Long ago, in the “Atlantic monthly,” I described this occasion, and dwelt on the peculiar quality of Carlyle
's laugh, which, whenever it burst out in its full volume, had the effect of dissolving all the clouds of his apparent cynicism and leaving clear sky behind.
Whatever seeming ungraciousness had preceded, his laugh revealed the genuine humorist at last, so that he almost seemed to have been
playing with himself in the fierce things he had said.
When he laughed, he appeared instantly to follow Emerson
's counsel and to write upon the lintels of his doorpost “Whim!”
I was especially impressed with this peculiar quality during our walk in the park.
Nothing could well be more curious than the look and costume of Carlyle
He had been living in London
nearly forty years, yet he had the untamed aspect of one just arrived from Ecclefechan.
He wore “an old experienced coat,” such as Thoreau
attributes to his Scotch fisherman,--one having that unreasonably high collar of other days, in which the head was sunk; his hair was coarse and stood up at its own will; his bushy whiskers were thrust into prominence by one of those stiff collars which the German students call “father-killers,” from a tradition that the sharp points once pierced the jugular vein of a parent during an affectionate embrace.
In this guise, with a fur cap and a stout walking-stick, he accompanied Froude
and myself on our walk.
I observed that near his Chelsea
home the passers-by regarded him with a sort of familiar interest, farther off with undisguised curiosity, and at Hyde Park
, again, with a sort of recognition, as of an accustomed figure.
At one point on our way some poor children were playing on a bit of rough ground
lately included in a park, and they timidly stopped their frolic as we drew near.
The oldest boy, looking from one to another of us, selected Carlyle
as the least formidable, and said, “I say, mister, may we roll on this here grass?”
stopped, leaning on his staff, and said in his homeliest accents, “Yes, my little fellow, ye may r-r-roll at discraytion;” upon which the children resumed their play, one little girl repeating his answer audibly, as if in a vain effort to take in the whole meaning of the long word.
One of my pleasantest London
dinners was at the ever hospitable house of the late Sir Frederick Pollock
; the other persons present being Lady Pollock
, with her eldest son, the present wearer of the title, and two most agreeable men,--Mr. Venable
, for many years the editor of the annual summary of events in the “London times,” and Mr. Newton
, of the British Museum.
The latter was an encyclopaedia of art and antiquities, and Mr. Venable
of all the social gossip of a century; it was like talking with Horace Walpole
Of one subject alone I knew more than they did, namely, Gilbert Stuart
's pictures, one of which, called The Skater, had just been unearthed in London
, and was much admired.
“Why don't they inquire about the artist?”
said Sir Frederick
“He might have done something else.”
They would hardly believe that his pictures were well known in America
, and that his daughter was still a conspicuous person in society.
Much of the talk fell upon lawyers and clergymen.
They told a story of Lord Chief Justice Cockburn
, that he had actually evaded payment of his tailor's bill on the ground that it had not been presented for six years, which in England
is the legal limit.
They vied with one another in tales of the eccentricities of English clergymen,--of one who was eighteen years incumbent of an important parish, and lived in France
all the time; of another who did not conduct service in the afternoon, as that was the time when it was necessary for him to take his spaniels out; of another who practiced his hawks in the church; of another who, being a layman, became master of Caius College (pronounced Keys) at Oxford
, had a church living at his disposal, and presented it to himself, taking orders for the purpose.
After officiating for the first time he said to the sexton, “Do you know, that's a very good service of your church?”
He had literally never heard it before!
But all agreed that these tales were of the past, and that the tribe of traditional fox-hunting and horse-racing parsons was almost extinct.
I can testify,
however, to having actually encountered one of the latter class within a year.
I met Matthew Arnold
one day by appointment at the Athenaeum, in 1878, and expressed some surprise that he had not been present at the meeting of the Association Litteraire Internationale
which I had just attended in Paris
He said that he had declined because such things were always managed with a sole view to the glorification of France
; yet he admitted that France
was the only nation which really held literature in honor, as was to be seen in its copyright laws,--England
caring far less for it, he thought.
He told me that his late address on “Equality” was well enough received by all the audience except the Duke
, the presiding officer, and in general better by the higher class, which well knew that it was materialized, than by the middle class, which did not know that it was vulgarized.
Lord William Russell
, whom I found talking with him as I came up, had said to him, with amusement, “There was I sitting on the very front seat, during the lecture, in the character of the Wicked Lord
fully agreed with a remark which I quoted to him from Mrs. George Bancroft
, who had been familiar with two courts, to the effect that there was far more sycophancy to rank among
literary men in London
than in Berlin
She said that she had never known an English scholar who, if he had chanced to dine with a nobleman, would not speak of it to everybody, whereas no German savant would think of mentioning such a thing.
“Very true,” replied Arnold
, “but the German would be less likely to be invited to the dinner.”
He thought that rank was far more exclusive and narrow in Germany
, as seen in the fact that men of rank did not marry out of their circle, a thing which frequently took place in England
He also pointed out that the word mesalliance
was not English
, nor was there any word in our language to take its place.
seemed to me, personally, as he had always seemed in literature, a keen but by no means judicial critic, and in no proper sense a poet.
That he is held to be such is due, in my judgment, only to the fact that he has represented the current attitude of mind in many cultivated persons.
I visited Darwin
twice in his own house at an interval of six years, once passing the night there.
On both occasions I found him the same, but with health a little impaired after the interval,--always the same simple, noble, absolutely truthful soul.
Without the fascinating and boyish eagerness of Agassiz
, he was
also utterly free from the vehement partisanship which this quality brings with it, and he showed a mind ever humble and open to new truth.
Tall and flexible, with the overhanging brow and long features best seen in Mrs. Cameron
's photograph, he either lay half reclined on the sofa or sat on high cushions, obliged continually to guard against the cruel digestive trouble which haunted his whole life.
I remember that at my first visit, in 1872, I was telling him of an address before the Philological Society
by Dr. Alexander J. Ellis
, in which he had quoted from “Through the looking-glass
” the description of what were called portmanteau words, into which various meanings were crammed.
As I spoke, Mrs. Darwin
glided quietly away, got the book, and looked up the passage.
“Read it out, my dear,” said her husband; and as she read the amusing page, he laid his head back and laughed heartily.
It was altogether delightful to see the man who had revolutionized the science of the world giving himself wholly to the enjoyment of Alice and her pretty nonsense.
Akin to this was his hearty enjoyment of Mark Twain
, who had then hardly begun to be regarded as above the Josh Billings
grade of humorist; but Darwin
was amazed that I had not read “The jumping Frog,” and said that he always kept it by
his bedside for midnight amusement.
I recall with a different kind of pleasure the interest he took in my experience with the colored race, and the faith which he expressed in the negroes.
This he afterward stated more fully in a letter to me, which may be found in his published memoirs.
It is worth recording that even the incredulous Carlyle
had asked eagerly about the colored soldiers, and had drawn the conclusion, of his own accord, that in their case the negroes should be enfranchised.
“You could do no less,” he said, “for the men who had stood by you.”
Darwin's house at Beckenham was approached from Orpington station by a delightful drive through lanes, among whose tufted hedges I saw the rare spectacle of two American elms, adding those waving and graceful lines which we their fellow countrymen are apt to miss in England
Within the grounds there were masses of American rhododendrons, which grow so rapidly in England
, and these served as a background to flower-beds more gorgeous than our drier climate can usually show.
At my second visit Darwin
was full of interest in the Peabody Museum at Yale College, and quoted with approval what Huxley
had told him, that there was more to be learned
from that one collection than from all the museums of Europe
But for his chronic sea-sickness, he said, he would visit America
to see it. He went to bed early that night, I remember, and the next morning I saw him, soon after seven, apparently returning from a walk through the grounds,--an odd figure, with white beard, and with a short cape wrapped round his shoulders, striding swiftly with his long legs.
He said that he always went out before breakfast,--besides breakfasting at the very un-English hour of half-past 7,--and that he was also watching some little experiments.
His son added reproachfully, “There it is: he pretends not to be at work, but he is always watching some of his little experiments, as he calls them, and gets up in the night to see them.”
Nothing could be more delightful than the home relations of the Darwin family; and the happy father once quoted to me a prediction made by some theological authority that his sons would show the terrible effects of such unrighteous training, and added proudly, looking round at them, “I do not think I have much reason to be ashamed.”
I think it was on this same day that I passed from Darwin
, meeting the latter at the Athenaeum Club
It seemed strange to ask a page to find Mr. Browning
for me, as if
it were the easiest thing imaginable; and it reminded me of the time when the little daughter of a certain poetess quietly asked at the dinner-table, in my hearing, between two bites of an apple, “Mamma, did I ever see Mr. Shakespeare
The page spoke to a rather short and strongly built man who sat in a window-seat, and who jumped up and grasped my hand so cordially that it might have suggested the remark of Madame Navarro
) about him,--made, however, at a later day,--that he did not appear like a poet, but rather “like one of our agreeable Southern gentlemen.”
He seemed a man of every day, or like the typical poet of his own “How it Strikes a contemporary.”
In all this he was, as will be seen later, the very antipodes of Tennyson
He had a large head of German shape, broadening behind, with light and thin gray hair and whitish beard; he had blue eyes, and the most kindly heart.
It seemed wholly appropriate that he should turn aside presently to consult Anthony Trollope
about some poor author for whom they held funds.
He expressed pleasure at finding in me an early subscriber to his “Bells and Pomegranates,” and told me how he published that series in the original cheap form in order to save his father's money, and that single numbers now sold for
ten or fifteen pounds. He was amused at my wrath over some changes which he had made in later editions of those very poems, and readily admitted, on my suggesting it, that they were merely a concession to obtuse readers; he promised, indeed, to alter some of the verses back again, but — as is the wont of poets — failed to do so. I was especially struck with the way in which he spoke about his son, whose career as an artist had well begun, he said; but it was an obstacle that people expected too much of him, as having had such a remarkable mother.
It was told in the simplest way, as if there were nothing on the paternal side worth considering.
The most attractive literary headquarters in London
, in those days, was, of course, the Athenaeum Club
It used to be said that no man could have any question to ask which he could not find somebody to answer the same afternoon between five and six o'clock, at that Club.
The Savile Club and Cosmopolitan Club were also attractive.
The most agreeable private receptions of poets and artists were then to be found, I think, at the house of William Rossetti
, where one not merely had the associations and atmosphere of a brilliant family,--which had already lost, however, its most gifted member,--but also encountered
the younger set of writers, who were all preraphaelites in art, and who read Morris
, and for a time, at least, Whitman
and even Joaquin Miller
There one met Mrs. Rossetti
, who was the daughter of Madox Brown
, and herself an artist; also Alma Tadema
, just returned from his wedding journey to Italy
with his beautiful wife.
One found there men and women then coming forward into literature, but now much better known,--Edmund Gosse
, Arthur O'Shaughnessy
, the translator of Dante
, and Miss Robinson
, now Madame Darmesteter
Sometimes I went to the receptions of our fellow countrywoman, Mrs. Moulton
, then just beginning, but already promising the flattering success they have since attained.
Once I dined with Professor Tyndall
at the Royal Society, where I saw men whose names had long been familiar in the world of science, and found myself sitting next to a man of the most eccentric manners, who turned out to be Lord Lyttelton, well known to me by name as the Latin
translator of Lord Houghton's poems.
I amazed him, I remember, by repeating the opening verses of one of his translations.
I met Du Maurier
once at a dinner party, before he had added literary to artistic successes.
Some one had told me that he was
probably the most bored man in London
, dining out daily, and being tired to death of it. This I could easily believe when I glanced at him, after the ladies had retired, lounging back in his chair with his hands in his pockets, and looking as if the one favor he besought of everybody was to let him alone.
This mute defiance was rather stimulating, and as he sat next to me I was moved to disregard the implied prohibition; for after all, one does not go to a dinner party in order to achieve silence; one can do that at home.
I ventured, therefore, to put to him the bold question how he could justify himself in representing the English
people as so much handsomer than they or any other modem race — as I considerately added-really are. This roused him, as was intended; he took my remark very goodhumoredly, and pleaded guilty at once, but said that he pursued this course because it was much pleasanter to draw beauty than ugliness, and, moreover, because it paid better.
“There is Keene
,” said he, “who is one of the greatest artists now living, but people do not like his pictures so well as mine, because he paints people as they really are.”
I then asked him where he got the situations and mottoes for his charming pictures of children in the London
He had an especial group, about
that time, who were always walking with a great dog and making delightful childish observations.
He replied that his own children provided him with clever sayings for some time; and now that they had grown too old to utter them, his friends kept him supplied from their nurseries.
I told him that he might imitate a lady I once knew in America
, who, when her children were invited to any neighboring house to play, used to send by the maid who accompanied them a notebook and pencil, with the request that the lady of the house would jot down anything remarkable which they might say during the afternoon.
He seemed amused at this; and a month or two later, when I took up a new London Punch at Zermatt
, I found my veritable tale worked up into a picture: a fat, pudgy little mother handing a notebook to a rather stately and defiant young governess; while the children clustering round, and all looking just like the mother, suggested to the observer a doubt whether their combined intellects could furnish one line for the record.
It was my scene, though with a distinct improvement; and this was my first and only appearance, even by deputy, in the pages of “Punch.”
It was in 1872, on my first visit to England
, that I saw Tennyson
That visit was a very
brief one, and it curiously happened that in the choice which often forces itself upon the hurried traveler, between meeting a great man and seeing an historic building, I was compelled to sacrifice Salisbury Cathedral to this poet, as I had previously given up York Minster for Darwin
Both sacrifices were made on the deliberate ground, which years have vindicated, that the building would probably last for my lifetime, while the man might not. I had brought no letter to Tennyson
, and indeed my friend James T. Fields
had volunteered a refusal of any, so strong was the impression that the poet disliked to be bored by Americans
; but when two ladies whom I had met in London
, Lady Pollock
and Miss Anne Thackeray
, afterwards Mrs. Ritchie
,--had kindly offered to introduce me, and to write in advance that I was coming, it was not in human nature, at least in American nature, to decline.
I spent the night at Cowes
, and was driven eight miles from the hotel to Farringford by a very intelligent young groom who had never heard of the poet; and when we reached the door of the house, the place before me seemed such a haven of peace and retirement that I actually shrank from disturbing those who dwelt therein.
I even found myself recalling a tale of Tennyson
and his wife, who were sitting beneath a
tree and talking unreservedly, when they discovered, by a rustling in the boughs overhead, that two New York reporters had taken position in the branches and were putting down the conversation.
Fortunately, I saw on the drawing-room table an open letter from one of the ladies just mentioned, announcing my approach, and it lay near a window, through which, as I had been told, the master of the house did not hesitate to climb, by way of escape from any unwelcome visitor.
I therefore sent up my name.
Presently I heard a rather heavy step in the adjoining room, and there stood in the doorway the most un-English looking man I had yet seen.
He was tall and high-shouldered, careless in dress, and while he had a high and domed forehead, yet his brilliant eyes and tangled hair and beard gave him rather the air of a partially reformed Corsican bandit, or else an imperfectly secularized Carmelite monk, than of a decorous and well-groomed Englishman.
He greeted me shyly, gave me his hand, which was in those days a good deal for an Englishman, and then sidled up to the mantelpiece, leaned on it, and said, with the air of a vexed schoolboy, “I am rather afraid of you Americans
; your countrymen do not treat me very well.
There was Bayard Taylor
” --and then
he went into a long narration of some grievance incurred through an indiscreet letter of that well-known journalist.
Strange to say, the effect of this curious attack was to put me perfectly at my ease.
It was as if I had visited Shakespeare
, and had found him in a pet because some one of my fellow countrymen had spelled his name wrong.
I knew myself to be wholly innocent and to have no journalistic designs, nor did I ever during Tennyson
's lifetime describe the interview.
He perhaps recognized my good intentions, and took me to his study, then to his garden, where the roses were advanced beyond any I had yet seen in England
I was struck, in his conversation, with that accuracy of outdoor knowledge which one sees in his poems; he pointed out, for instance, which ferns were American, and which had been attempted in this country, but had refused to grow.
He talked freely about his own books, and it seemed to me that he must be like Wordsworth
, as we find him in the descriptions of contemporaries,--a little too isolated in his daily life, and too much absorbed in the creations of his own fancy.
Lord Houghton, his lifelong friend, said to me afterwards, “Tennyson
likes unmixed flattery.”
This I should not venture to say, but I noticed that when he was speaking of other men, he
mentioned as an important trait in their character whether they liked his poems or not,--Lowell
, he evidently thought, did not. Perhaps this is a habit of all authors, and it was only that Tennyson
spoke out, like a child, what others might have concealed.
He soon offered, to my great delight, to take me to the house of Mrs. Cameron
, the celebrated amateur photographer, who lived close by. We at once came upon Mr. Cameron
-a very picturesque figure, having fine white hair and beard, and wearing a dressing-gown of pale blue with large black velvet buttons, and a heavy gold chain.
I had heard it said that Mrs. Cameron
selected her housemaids for their profiles, that she might use them for saints and madonnas in her photographic groups; and it turned out that all these damsels were upstairs, watching round the sickbed of the youngest, who was a great favorite in the Tennyson family.
We were ushered into the chamber, where a beautiful child lay unconscious upon the bed, with weeping girls around; and I shall never forget the scene when Tennyson
bent over the pillow, with his sombre Italian
look, and laid his hand on the unconscious forehead; it was like a picture by Ribera
The child, as I afterwards heard, never recovered consciousness,
and died within a few days.
Presently Mrs. Cameron
led us downstairs again, and opened chests of photographs for me to choose among.
I chose one, The Two Angels at the Sepulchre, for which one of the maid servants had stood as a model; another of Tennyson
's Eleanore, for which Mrs. Stillman
) had posed; and three large photographs of Darwin
, and Tennyson
himself,the last of these being one which he had christened The Dirty Monk
, and of which he wrote, at Mrs. Cameron
's request, in my presence, a certificate that it was the best likeness ever taken of him. I have always felt glad to have seen Tennyson
not merely in contact with a stranger like myself, but as he appeared among these friendly people, and under the influence of a real emotion of sympathy, showing the deeper nature of the man.
No one knows better than myself how slight and fragmentary are the recollections here recorded, yet even such glimpses occasionally suggest some aspect of character which formal biographers have missed.
A clever woman once said to me that she did not know which really gave the more knowledge of a noted person,--to have read all he had written and watched all he had done, or, on the other hand,
to have taken one moment's glance at his face.
As we grow older, we rely more and more on this first glance.
I never felt for an instant that I had really encountered in England
men of greater calibre than I had met before,--for was I not the fellow countryman of Emerson
, of Webster
?yet, after all, the ocean lends a glamour to the unseen world beyond it, and I was glad to have had a sight of that world, also.
I was kindly dismissed from it, after my first brief visit, by a reception given me at the rooms of the Anglo-American Club
, where Thomas Hugheswhom
I had first known at Newport
, Rhode Island
-presided, and where Lord Houghton moved some too flattering resolutions, which were seconded by the present Sir Frederick Pollock
Returning to my American home, I read, after a few days, in the local newspaper (the Newport Mercury ), that I was reported to have enjoyed myself greatly in England
, and to have been kindly received, “especially among servants and rascals.”
An investigation by the indignant editor revealed the fact that the scrap had been copied from another newspaper; and that a felicitous misprint had substituted the offending words for the original designation of my English friends as “savants and radicals.”