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Chapter 19: another European trip

In 1877 I went abroad with my daughter Maud, now Mrs. Elliott, and with her revisited England, France, and Italy. In London we had the pleasure of being entertained by Lord Houghton, whom I had known, thirty or more years earlier, as a bachelor. He was now the father of two attractive daughters, and of a son who later succeeded to his title. At a breakfast at his house I met Mr. Waddington, who was at that time very prominent in French politics. At one of Lord Houghton's receptions I witnessed the entrance of a rather awkward man, and was told that this was Mr. Irving, whose performance of Hamlet was then much talked of. Here I met the widow of Barry Cornwall, who was also the mother of the lamented Adelaide Procter.

An evening at Devonshire House and a ball at Mr. Goschen's were among our gayeties. At the former place I saw Mr. Gladstone for the first time, and met Lord Rosebery, whom I had known in America. I had met Mrs. Schliemann and had received from her an invitation to attend [411] a meeting (I think) of the Royal Geographical Society, at which she was to make an address. Her theme was a plea in favor of the modem pronunciation of Greek. It was much applauded, and the discussion of the views presented by her was opened by Mr. Gladstone himself.

Lord Houghton one day asked whether I should like to go to breakfast with Mr.Gladstone and Mrs. Gladstone. One reply only to such a question was possible, and on the morning appointed we drove together to the Gladstone mansion. We were a little early, for Mrs. Gladstone complained that the flowers ordered from her country seat had but just arrived. A daughter of the house proceeded to arrange them. Breakfast was served at two round tables, exactly alike.

I was glad to find myself seated between the great man and the Greek minister, John Gennadius. The talk ran a good deal upon Hellenics, and I spoke of the influence of the Greek in the formation of the Italian language, to which Mr. Gladstone did not agree. I know that scholars differ on this point, but I still retain the opinion which I then expressed. I ventured a timid remark regarding the great number of Greek derivatives used in our common English speech. Mr. Gladstone said very abruptly, ‘How? What? English words derived from Greek?’ and almost

Frightened Miss Muffet away.

[412] He was said to be habitually disputatious, and I thought that this must certainly be the case; for he surely knew better than most people how largely and familiarly we incorporate the words of Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon in our everyday talk.

Lord Houghton also took me one evening to a reception at the house of Mr. Palgrave. At a dinner given in our honor at Greenwich, I was escorted to the table by Mr. Mallock, author of ‘The New Republic.’ I remember him as a young man of medium height and dark complexion. Of his conversation I can recall only his praise of the Church of Rome. William Black, the well-known romancer, took tea with me at my lodgings one afternoon. Here I also received Mr. Green, author of ‘A Short History of the English People,’ and Mr. Knowles, editor of the ‘Nineteenth Century.’

Mrs. Delia Stuart Parnell, whom I had known in America, had given me a letter of introduction to her son Charles, who was already conspicuous as an advocate of Home Rule for Ireland. He called upon me and appointed a day when I should go with him to the House of Commons. He came for me in his brougham, and saw me safely deposited in the ladies' gallery. He was then at the outset of his stormy career, and his younger sister told me that he had in Parliament but one [413] supporter of his views, ‘a man named Biggar.’ He certainly had admirers elsewhere, for I remember having met a disciple of his, O'Connor by name, at a ‘rout’ given by Mrs. Justin Mc-Carthy. I asked this lady if her husband agreed with Mr. Parnell. She replied with warmth, ‘Of course; we are all Home Rulers here.’

We passed some weeks in Paris, where I found many new objects of interest. I here made acquaintance with M. Charles Lemonnier, who for many years edited a radical paper named ‘Les Etats Unis d'europe.’ He was the husband of Elise Lemonnier, the founder of a set of industrial schools for women which bore her name, in grateful memory of this great service.

I had met M. Desmoulins at a Peace Congress in America, and was indebted to him for the pleasure of an evening visit to Victor Hugo at his own residence. In ‘The History of a Crime,’ which was then just published, M. Hugo mentions M. Desmoulins as one who suffered, as he did, from the coup daetat which made Louis Napoleon emperor.

A congress of gens de lettres was announced in those days, and I received a card for the opening meeting, which was held in the large Chatelet Theatre. Victor Hugo presided, and read from a manuscript an address of some length, in a clear, firm voice. The Russian novelist, Tourgenieff, [414] was also one of the speakers. He was then somewhat less than sixty years of age. Victor Hugo was at least fifteen years older, but, though his hair was silver white, the fire of his dark eyes was undimmed.

I sought to obtain entrance to the subsequent sittings of this congress, but was told that no ladies could be admitted. I became acquainted at this time with Frederic Passy, the well-known writer on political economy. Through his kindness I was enabled to attend a meeting of the French Academy, and to see the Immortals in their armchairs, and in their costume, a sort of quaint long coat, faced with the traditional palms stamped or embroidered on green satin.

The entertainment was a varied one. The principal discourse eulogized several deceased members of the august body, and among them the young artist, Henri Regnault, whose death was much deplored. This was followed by an essay on Raphael's pictures of the Fornarina, and by another on the social status of the early Christians, in which it was maintained that wealth had been by no means a contraband among them, and that the holding of goods in common had been but a temporary feature of the new discipline. The exercises concluded with the performance by chorus and orchestra of a musical composition, which had for its theme the familiar Bible story [415] of ‘Rebecca at the Well.’ A noticeable French feature of this was the indignation of Laban when he found his sister ‘alone with a man,’ the same being the messenger sent by Abraham to ask the young girl's hand in marriage for his son. The prospect of an advantageous matrimonial alliance seemed to set this right, and the piece concluded with reestablished harmony.

My friend M. Frederic Passy asked me one day whether I should like to see the crowning of a rosiere in a suburban town. He explained to me that this ceremony was of annual occurrence, and that it usually had reference to some meritorious conduct on the part of a young girl who was selected to be publicly rewarded as the best girl of her town or village. This honor was accompanied by a gift of some hundreds of francs, intended to serve as the marriage portion of the young girl. I gladly accepted the ticket of admission offered me by M. Passy, the more as he was to be the orator of the occasion, fixed for a certain Sunday afternoon.

After a brief railroad journey I reached the small town, the name of which escapes my memory, and found the notables of the place assembled in a convenient hall, the mayor presiding. Soon a band of music was heard approaching, and the rosiere, with her escort, entered and took the place assigned her. She was dressed in white [416] silk, with a wreath of white roses around her head. A canopy was held over her, and at her side walked another young girl, dressed also in white, but of a less expensive material. This, they told me, was the rosiere of the year before who, according to custom, waited upon her successor to the dignity.

Upon the mayor devolved the duty of officially greeting and complimenting the rosiere. M. Passy's oration followed. His theme was religious toleration. As an instance of this he told us how, during the funeral of the great Channing in Boston, Bishop Fenwick had caused the bells of the cathedral to be tolled, in homage to the memory of his illustrious friend. It appeared to me whimsical that I should come to an obscure suburb of Paris to hear of this. At home I had never heard it mentioned. Mrs. Eustis, Dr. Channing's daughter, on being questioned, assured me that she perfectly remembered the occurrence.

M. Passy presented me with a volume of his essays on questions of political economy. Among the topics therein treated was the vexed problem, ‘Does expensive living enrich the community?’ I was glad to learn that he gave lectures upon his favorite science to classes of young women as well as of young men.

Among my pleasant recollections of Paris at this time is that of a visit to the studio of Gustave [417] Dore, which came about on this wise. An English clergyman whom we had met in London happened to be in Paris at this time, and one day informed us that he had had some correspondence with Dore, and had suggested to the latter a painting of the Resurrection from a new point of view. This should represent, not the opening grave, but the gates of heaven unclosing to receive the ascending form of the Master. The artist had promised to illustrate this subject, and our new friend invited us to accompany him to the studio, where he hoped to find the picture well advanced. Accordingly, on a day appointed, we knocked at the artist's door and were admitted. The apartment was vast, well proportioned to the unusual size of many of the works of art which hung upon the walls.

Dore received us with cordiality, and showed Mr.——the picture which he had suggested, already nearly completed. He appeared to be about forty years of age, in figure above medium height, well set up and balanced. His eyes were blue, his hair dark, his facial expression very genial. After some conversation with the English visitor, he led the way to his latest composition, which represented the van of a traveling showman, in front of which stood its proprietor, holding in his arms the body of his little child, just dead, in the middle of his performance. Beside [418] him stood his wife, in great grief, and at her feet the trick dogs, fantastically dressed, showed in their brute countenances the sympathy which those animals often evince when made aware of some misfortune befalling their master.

Here we also saw a model of the enormous vase which the artist had sent to the exposition of that year (1879), and which William W. Story contemptuously called ‘Doreas bottle.’

The artist professed himself weary of painting for the moment. He seemed to have taken much interest in his recent modeling, and called our attention to a genius cast in bronze, which he had hoped that the municipality would have purchased for the illumination of the ‘Place de l'opera.’ The head was surrounded by a coronet intended to give forth jets of flame, while the wings and body should be outlined by lights of another color.

In the course of conversation, I remarked to him that his artistic career must have begun early in life. He replied:—

‘Indeed, madam, I was hardly twenty years of age when I produced my illustrations of the “Wandering Jew.” ’

I had more than once visited the Dore Gallery in London, and I spoke to him of a study of grasses there exhibited, which, with much else, I had found admirable. [419]

I believe that Doreas works are severely dealt with by art critics, and especially by such of them as are themselves artists. Whatever may be the defects of his work, I feel sure that he has produced some paintings which deserve to live in the public esteem. Among these I would include his picture of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, for the contrast therein shown between the popular enthusiasm and the indifference of a group of richly dressed women, seated in a balcony, and according no attention whatever to the procession passing in the street just below them.

Worthy to be mentioned with this is his painting of Francesca da Rimini and her lover, as Dante saw them in his vision of hell. Mrs. Longfellow once showed me an engraving of this work, exclaiming, as she pointed to Francesca, ‘What southern passion in that face!’

I was invited several times to speak while in Paris. I chose for the theme of my first lecture, ‘Associations of Women in the United States.’ The chairman of the committee of invitation privately requested me beforehand not to speak either of woman suffrage or of the Christian religion. He said that the first was dreaded in France because many supposed that the woman's vote, if conceded, would bring back the dominion of the Catholic priesthood; while the Christian religion, to a French audience, would mean simply [420] the Church of Rome. I spoke in French and without notes, though not without preparation. No tickets were sold for these lectures and no fee was paid. A large salver, laid on a table near the entrance of the hall, was intended to receive voluntary contributions towards the inevitable expenses of the evening. I was congratulated, after the lecture, for having spoken with ‘tant de bonne grace.’

Before leaving Paris I was invited to take part in a congress of woman's rights (congres du droit des femmes). It was deemed proper to elect two presidents for this occasion, and I had the honor of being chosen as one of them, the other being a gentleman well known in public life. My co-president addressed me throughout the meeting as ‘Madame la Presidente.’ The proceedings naturally were carried on in the French language. Colonel T. W. Higginson was present, as was Theodore Stanton, son of Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Among the lady speakers was one, of whom I was told that she possessed every advantage of wealth and social position. She was attired like a woman of fashion, and yet she proved to be an ardent suffragist. Somewhat in contrast with these sober doings was a ball given by the artist Healy at his residence. In accepting the invitation to attend this party, I told Mrs. Healy in jest that I should insist upon dancing [421] with her husband, whom I had known for many years. Soon after my entrance Mrs. Healy said to me, ‘Mrs. Howe, your quadrille is ready for you. See what company you are to have.’ I looked and beheld General Grant and M. Gambetta, who led out Mrs. Grant, while her husband had Mrs. Healy for his partner.

At this ball I met Mrs. Evans, wife of the wellknown dentist, who, in 1870, aided the escape of the Empress Eugenie. Mrs. Evans wore in her hair a diamond necklace, said to have been given to her by the Empress.

I found in Paris a number of young women, students of art and medicine, who appeared to lead very isolated lives and to have little or no acquaintance with one another. The need of a point of social union for these young people appearing to me very great, I invited a few of them to meet me at my lodgings. After some discussion we succeeded in organizing a small club which, I am told, still exists.

Marshal MacMahon was at this time President of the French republic. I attended an evening reception given by him in honor of GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant. Our host was supposed to be the head of the Bonapartist faction, and I heard some rumors of an intended coup daetat which should bring back imperialism and place Plon-Plon 1 on [422] the throne. This was not to be. The legitimist party held the Imperialists in check, and the Republicans were strong enough to hold their own.

I remember Marshal MacMahon as a man of medium height, with no very distinguishing feature. He was dressed in uniform and wore many decorations.

We passed on to Italy. Soon after my arrival in Florence I was asked to speak on suffrage at the Circolo Filologico, one of the favorite halls of the city. The attendance was very large. I made my argument in French, and when it was ended a dear old-fashioned conservative in the gallery stood up to speak, and told off all the counter pleas with which suffragists are familiar,—the loss of womanly grace, the neglect of house and family, etc. When he had finished speaking a charming Italian matron, still young and handsome, sprang forward and took me by the hand, saying, ‘I feel to take the hand of this sister from America.’ Cordial applause followed this and I was glad to hear my new friend respond with much grace to our crabbed opponent in the gallery. The sympathy of the audience was evidently with us.

A morning visit to the Princess Belgioiosa may deserve a passing mention. This lady was originally Princess Ghika, of a noble Roumanian family. She had married a Russian—Count Murherstsky. I never knew the origin of the Italian [423] title. My dear friend, Mrs. Ednah D. Cheney, went with me to the princess's villa, which was at some distance from the city proper. Although the winter was well begun she received us in a room without fire. She was wrapped in furs from head to foot while we shivered with cold. She appeared to be about sixty years of age, and showed no traces of the beauty which I had seen in a portrait of her taken in her youth. She spoke English fluently, but with idioms derived from other languages, in some of which I should have understood her more easily than in my own.

Our first winter abroad was passed in Rome, which I now saw for the first time as the capital of a united Italy. The king, ‘Il Re Galan- tuomo,’ was personally popular with all save the partisans of the Pope's temporal dominion. I met him more than once driving on Monte Pinciano. He was of large stature, with a countenance whose extreme plainness was redeemed by an expression of candor and of good humor.

In the course of this winter Victor Emmanuel died. The marks of public grief at this event were unmistakable. The ransomed land mourned its sovereign as with one heart.

I recall vividly the features of the king's funeral procession, which was resplendent with wreaths and banners sent from every part of Italy. The monarch's remains were borne in a [424] crimson coach of state, drawn by six horses. His own favorite war-horse followed, veiled in crape. Nobles and servants of noble houses walked before and after the coach in brilliant costumes, bareheaded, carrying in their hands lighted torches of wax. I stood to see this wonderful sight with my dear friend Sarah Clarke, at a window of her apartment opposite to the Barberini Palaces. As the cortege swept by I dropped my tribute of flowers.

I was also present when King Umberto took the oath of office before the Italian Parliament, to whose members in turn the oath of allegiance was administered. In a box, in full view, were seated a number of royalties, to wit, Queen Margherita, her sister-in-law, the Queen of Portugal, the Prince of Wales, and the then Crown Prince of Germany, loved and lamented as ‘unser Fritz.’ The little Prince of Naples sat with his royal mother, and kindly Albert Edward of England lifted him in his arms at the crowning moment in order that he might better see what was going on.

By a curious chance I had one day the pleasure of taking part with Madame Ristori in a reading which made part of an entertainment given in aid of a public charity. Madame Ristori had promised to read on this occasion the scene from the play of Maria Stuart, in which she meets and overcrows her rival, Queen Elizabeth. The friend [425] who should have read the part of this latter personage was suddenly disabled by illness, and I was pressed into the service. Our last rehearsal was held in the anteroom of the hall while the musical part of the entertainment was going on. Madame Ristori made me repeat my part several times, insisting that my manner was too reserved and would make hers appear extravagant. I did my best to conform to her wishes, and the reading was duly applauded.

Another historic death followed that of Victor Emmanuel after the interval of a month. Pope Pius IX. had reigned too long to be deeply mourned by his spiritual subjects, one of whom remarked in answer to my condolence, ‘I should think that he had lived long enough.’ This same friend, however, claimed for Pio the rare merit of having abstained from enriching his own family, and said that when the niece of the Pontiff was married her uncle bestowed on her nothing save the diamonds which had been presented to him by the Sultan of Turkey. Be it also remembered, to his eternal credit, that Pio would not allow the last sacraments to be denied to the king, who had been his political enemy. ‘He was always a sincere Catholic,’ said the Pope, ‘and he shall not die without the sacraments.’

My dear sister, Mrs. Terry, went with me to attend the consecration of the new Pope, which [426] took place in the Sistine Chapel. Leo XIII. was brought into the church with the usual pomp, robed in white silk, preceded by a brand new pair of barbaric fans, and wearing his triple crown. He was attended by a procession of high dignitaries, civil and ecclesiastic, the latter resplendent with costly silks, furs, and jewels. I think that what interested me most was the chapter of the Gospel which the Pope read in Greek, and which I found myself able to follow. After the elevation of the host, the new Pontiff retired for a brief space of time to partake, it was said, of some slight refreshment. As is well known, the celebrant and communicant at the Mass must remain in a fasting condition from the midnight preceding the ceremony until after its conclusion. For some reason which I have never heard explained, Pope Leo, in his receptions, revived some points of ceremony which his predecessors had allowed to lapse. In the time of Gregory XVI., Protestants had only been expected to make certain genuflections on approaching and on leaving the pontifical presence. Pope Leo required that all persons presented to him should kneel and kiss his hand. This, as a Protestant, I could never consent to do, and so was obliged to forego the honor of presentation. It was said in Rome that a brother of the Pope, a plain man from the country, called upon him just before or after his [427] coronation. He was very stout in person, and objected to the inconvenience of kneeling for the ceremonial kiss. The Pope, however, insisted, and his relative departed, threatening never to return.

1 The nickname for Prince Napoleon.

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