Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It has almost been a year

hope to renew posting here at Postman's Horn on a weekly basis. A letter a week shouldn't be too burdensome.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

postman's holiday

Scroll down and find the archive from 18 months of Postman's Horn.

But here is a poem by Andrew Lang which I offer light-heartedly:

To Correspondents
My Postman, though I fear thy tread,
And tremble as thy foot draws nearer,
'Tis not the Christmas Dun I dread,
My mortal foe is much severer--
The Unknown Correspondent, who,
With undefatigable pen,
And nothing in the world to do,
Perplexes literary men.

From Pentecost and Ponder's End
They write: from Deal, and from Dacotah,
The people of the Shetlands send
No inconsiderable quota;
They write for autographs; in vain--
In vain does Phyllis write, and Flora,
They write that Allan Quatermain
Is not at all the book for Brora.

They write to say that 'they have met
This writer 'at a garden party,
And though' this writer 'may forget',
THEIR recollection's keen and hearty.
'And will you praise in your reviews
A novel by our distant cousin?'
These letters from provincial blues
Assail us daily by the dozen!

O friends with time upon your hands,
O friends with postage-stamps in plenty,
O poets out of many lands,
O youths and maidens under twenty,
Seek out some other wretch to bore,
Or wreak yourselves upon your neighbours,
And leave me to my dusty lore
And my unprofitable labours!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

graciousness and cordiality

Mrs. Oliphant to her publisher Mr Blackwood.

[Champs Elysees, [Feb.] 1865]

I send you with this the second number of 'Miss Marjoribanks,'* which I hope you will like. I am not quite sure myself that there is enough progress made, and I am afraid I am getting into a habit of over-minuteness. Thank you for your letter and the cheque. Happily the air here seems to agree very well with my boys, who can bear the cold much better than the heat, and the little one, Cecco, begins now and then to get a little hazy in his English, and finds French come handier. I was at St Germains for a few days in the end of last month, and was so impressed by it that perhaps I may send you a little paper about it one day or another. I am not in the least disposed to be a Jacobite, and Dundee and Culloden and Professor Aytoun sort of thing have very little effect upon me. But there was something wonderfully touching in that long silent terrace and the thought of all the weary days and miserable hopes and disappointments that must have passed without any record that and the other terrace at Frascati where poor Prince Charlie lies. I was sad enough myself at both places, and no one, being Scotch, could be unmoved by their associations. I got some time ago a most gracious letter from M. de Montalembert, whom I took courage to remind that I had brought a letter to him last year. He writes from La Roche en Bressy with that graceful French politeness which is quite excessive and uncalled for, and at the same time quite delightful. He is to be in Paris after March, and is coming to see me.

March 8.
Don't frighten me, please, about 'Miss Marjoribanks.' I will do the very best I can to content you, but you make me nervous when you talk about the first rank of novelists, &c.: nobody in the world cares whether I am in the first or sixth. I mean I have no one left who cares, and the world can do absolutely nothing for me except giving me a little more money, which, Heaven knows, I spend easily enough as it is. But all the same, I will do my best, only please recognise the difference a little between a man who can take the good of his reputation, if he has any, and a poor soul who is concerned about nothing except the most domestic and limited concerns.

The difference in my books is natural enough when you reflect that the first one was written when I was twenty, and the others were the work of a troubled life not much at leisure. It is only to be expected that one should do a little better when one has come to one's strength. As for your courteous critic's remarks (but it is incredible that a 'Saturday Reviewer' should write such a pretty hand), I am quite conscious of the "to be sures" and the "naturallys," but then a faultless style is like a faultless person, highly exasperating; and if one didn't leave these little things to be taken hold of, perhaps one might fare worse.

April 12.
I am quite delighted with Montalembert. There is a kind of cream of graciousness and cordiality about him which smooths one down all over. I dined there, much, I confess, to my panic, for I don't feel sufficiently sure of my French to be quite comfortable in society: however, they were all very kind. Montalembert gave me the first half-dozen sheets of his third volume, which is now going through the press, to let me see, as he said, what it was like. What do you think about it?

* Eventually published in book form: Miss Marjoribanks (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1866) - 3 vols.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 168-70.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I come back unawares

Mrs. Oliphant to Miss Blackwood.

Hotel Quisisana, Capri,
May 15, 1864.

It is not because I am careless or don't appreciate your kindness in writing to me that I have been so slow to answer your letters. There are some exercises of patience and self-denial that are possible, and some that are beyond my powers. I have managed to regain possession of myself in the presence of other people, and no longer obtrude my sorrows on the strangers I meet; but when I am by myself and begin to write I am no longer capable of keeping on the veil. When my mind is full of one subject I cannot keep from expressing it, and I know that the monotonous voice of grief grows soon tiresome even to one's dearest friends. We have been here about six weeks, and I am better than I was; if not more resigned as people say, at least more accustomed to the impossible life to which God has seen fit, He alone knows for what mysterious reason, to ordain me. The very possibility of becoming accustomed to it is one of its bitterest aggravations. One feels as if, having survived such a blow, one could survive anything and everything, and that the worthless life would still hold out although all that made it worth having was withdrawn. I sicken at it every morning when it comes back, but nevertheless I go on with how much more trembling and how much less hope, not to speak of the sharp pangs of present grief, I cannot describe to you. You will understand by this why I hated to write letters, for whatever I start from I come back unawares to the same point.

Though I am reluctant to form any plans, I don't think I will leave the Continent till after next winter. We are going to Switzerland now, and afterwards may perhaps stay in Paris; but that I make no arrangement about as yet. This island is very lovely, very quiet, and has a softening influence which I am very glad to feel. It lies just at the entrance of the bay, looking towards Vesuvius, and the white line of towns which mark the coast, Naples being the centre; on the one side the noble hills above Sorrento, and the point which rounds off into the Bay of Salerno; on the other the line of islands drawn out seaward and terminating in Ischia, which forms the other arm of the Bay of Naples. I don't suppose there is anything more lovely on earth; and we have it in all lights always varying. When we came the mountains were covered with snow; now they have dressed themselves in inexpressible colours, with the soft foreground of olives and young vines that belong to Capri itself, and a sea which is always blue, of a blueness which does not seem to be adequately described by the mere name of the colour. I doubt if you would care for Capri, however, for there is not a carriage of any description on the island, and you must either walk or ride. We go everywhere on ponies, and have got to feel at home in the place.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 165-66.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

but for the buoyancy

Mrs. Oliphant to Miss Blackwood.


was plunged into dismay by your last letter. What is to become of my small family if you demoralise their mother? Maggie is improving, and makes a nice little companion, and on the whole I find life very endurable in their society. . . . I don't yet know exactly when the book of the season, as you so flatteringly call it, is to be out; but I have been half killed with proofs, and am just about finishing. I don't expect you to like it. However, there is no use anticipating evil. I do believe I have done my best, and the issue will most likely be more critical and important to me and my bairnies than anything I have ever done. For their sakes I regard with a little awe and trembling this new step into the world. When by any chance I look gravely forward, which happily for me is a thing my temperament does not much oblige me to, the prospect sometimes appals me more than is quite consistent with all these absurd letters, laughters, &c. But I don't suppose I could have existed, much less made progress, but for the buoyancy with which I have been mercifully endowed beforehand. But in every way this Irving* publication is an important one for me. I am obliged to write in haste, and as Checchino is with me and hammering with all his might, I trust you will put down any little incoherencies in this epistle to his small score.

The weather already begins to brighten delightfully, and I have made my own room, which is very sunny and cheerful, my study. I begin to like this little place: it is intensely tame, of course, but has a kind of village aspect and a wealth of those green lanes which do not seem practicable out of England, when one has any time to walk. . . . What preposterous thing do you imagine I am doing in the midst of my serious labours? Writing a little drawing-room play, founded upon a most ludicrous real incident, and called "The Three Miss Smiths."

Thank you very much for liking the Pugin paper. I am not badly pleased with it myself. I begin to think biography is my forte ! It is very pleasant work, at least. ... I am just about to launch into the life of Turner the painter--old beast--in which I hope I shall give you equal satisfaction. . . . I have just finished the 'Doctor's Family,' and don't at all like the termination. Sometimes one's fancies will not do what one requires of them, and when that happens it is excessively disheartening and unpleasant.

A very affectionate young lady friend is distressing. I get alarmed when I throw myself back in my chair and take a moment's rest, lest I should have sudden arms thrown round me, and be kissed and embraced without any warning. All very well, you know, when there is any occasion, but to have a caress always impending over you is highly alarming and not comfortable. I have been in the most dreadful pressure of work finishing my Irving* book, and now I am snowed up with proofs. I must say in confidence that I should be much disappointed if this book does not make some little commotion. There never was such a hero such a princely, magnanimous, simple heart.

* The Life of Edward Irving : Minister of the National Scotch Church by Mrs. Oliphant (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1862) - 2 vols.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 157-58.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

part by part

Mrs. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood.

November 4, 1861.

send you with this the third part of the 'Doctor's Family.'* One number more will conclude it. But I should like to go on with a succession of others under the main title of 'Chronicles of Carlingford,' if it so pleases you. . . . My cares, as you can easily understand, came up by express before me, and were waiting my arrival. However, they were not such as appalled me, only the certainty of having a little reserve on which I could draw would be a comfort. If you will think this over and let me know I shall be very glad. I should continue to send you the said stories part by part only; for I think it seems to succeed better that what is read bit by bit should be written in the same way. One looks more carefully to one's points, and by dint of requiring to keep up one's own interest, has a better chance of keeping up one's reader's. Your approbation lately has given me great encouragement: a person in my position feels afraid to say much on the subject of her own cares and prospects, lest it should look like an appeal for sympathy; but at the same time it was cheerless work last winter, when necessity and failure came in such forlorn conjunction. Notwithstanding, fortunately, I could not help being hopeful if I tried; and indeed I suppose the over-exuberance of that quality must have wanted all the heavy weight I have had to keep me steady. However, this has nothing to do with the matter in hand. ... I should like to send you perhaps three more stories of equal length with the 'Doctor's Family,' and fill up with shorter ones if you approve.

I enclose proof of 'Pugin.'** Just one word in reference to your note about his being sent to Bedlam. He was actually sent, as pauper lunatics are, by what extraordinary chance or device of Satan nobody knows. Ferrey in the Life admits without apparently being in the least able to explain the fact; and all the little world which knew Pugin is entirely aware of it. He was removed only when a commotion was made about it in the papers, and Lord John Russell wrote to the 'Times' offering 10 pounds to a subscription in his favour, and nobody has ever attempted to explain the mystery.

May I get Ruskin's late volumes of 'Modern Painters' from Mr Langford? I have got the 'Life of Turner,' but I believe the last of these volumes is much occupied with that strange, shabby divinity. I suppose it does not much matter in choosing a god what sort of creature it is you choose, as persistent worship seems always to gain a certain amount of credit for the object of it.

I heard something about your friend George Eliot the other day from my friend Mrs Carlyle (wife of that great Tom whom you have set your heart so entirely against). Her opinion, I am sure, will amuse you. She says "Mrs Lewes" has mistaken her role--that nature intended her to be the properest of women, and that her present equivocal position is the most extraordinary blunder and contradiction possible.

I am rather anxious at present about my youngest little boy, who has hurt the bone of his arm by a fall, and is quite crippled by it.

* Eventually published with The Chronicles of Carlingford : The Perpetual Curate (1864 Blackwood) - 3 vols.
** Mrs. Oliphant reviewed, at her request, Benjamin Ferrey's Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin, and his father, Augustus Pugin; with notices of their works (London: Edward Stanford, 1861) for Blackwood's Magazine.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 155-57.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

secondary colours

Mrs. Oliphant to Miss Isabella Blackwood.

Sunday Evening.

hough it is again Sunday evening I don't write in the perfect state of quietness which the words suggest. My circumstances are as follows: Tiddy is seated behind me, or rather on the arm of the easy-chair which I occupy, and is driving it for a cab, so if you see any sudden jerks in this letter you will know the cause. The table is heaped with picture-books, and Maggie, rather sentimental with a bad cold, is reading Mrs Jameson's Legends of the Saints, so there you have a peep of our interior.
Thank you very much for your letter. Why don't you tell me the plans you have in your mind for the termination of my story? Now that you have read a little more of it, you will see that I want to represent one of my women as a fool, which character, I think, wants elucidating, and has not received its due weight in the world of fiction. As for your question about whether I think a woman sure to dislike one of her own sex who comes out when she cannot, I answer most decidedly no. There are many women who, obliged to be inactive themselves, follow the labours of other women with such generous sympathy and admiration as makes me feel very small when I think of it. To be perfectly candid, I don't think I could do it, otherwise than very imperfectly, myself. I imagine I should find it very hard to play second for any length of time, or in the estimation of anybody I much cared for; but I do believe there are many women who can do that most magnanimous of acts, and I honour them accordingly. But recollect my secondary character in the present instance is a fool. I am charmed to have your criticism. Without being sentimental in the least on this subject, I have nobody belonging to me now to do me that good office, and you could not possibly do me a greater kindness than by pulling me up whenever you dislike my work and giving me the benefit of your freest criticism. I mean every word of what I say. Sometimes I find it totally impossible to form any opinion of what I have done, and send it off in hopeless perplexity, not knowing whether it is good or bad; so speak out, I beg of you, Isabella mia, and be quite sure that you will always do me a service by so doing. You shall have an early copy of the new novel, which I know you will cut to pieces. I have tried my hand in it at a wicked woman, and the reason why, as you say, I give softness to men rather than to women, is simply because the men of a woman's writing are always shadowy individuals, and it is only members of our own sex that we can fully bring out, bad and good. Even George Eliot is feeble in her men, and I recognise the disadvantage under which we all work in this respect. Sometimes we don't know sufficiently to make the outline sharp and clear; sometimes we know well enough, but dare not betray our knowledge one way or other: the result is that the men in a woman's book are always washed in, in secondary colours. The same want of anatomical knowledge and precision must, I imagine, preclude a woman from ever being a great painter; and if one does make the necessary study, one loses more than one gains. Here is a scientific lecture for you! Did not you call me a blue-stocking, and am I not proving my title to be called so?

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 153-55.

Monday, October 6, 2008

flinty editorial bosom

Mrs. Oliphant to Mr. Blackwood*

Willowburn, Roseneath

I am very sorry to hear of your accident, which certainly, however, must have been a trick of Apollo--isn't he the patron of your trade?--in the interests of literature. I will give your message to Mr. Story, who is at present suffering all those qualms of fear and hope and suspense common to literary aspirants, and regarding you, I suppose, as I remember doing, as a mysterious fate whose decisions are as absolute as they are inscrutable. The pangs you inflict upon poor authors ought to overshadow your dreams; only I fear our sighs and sorrows awake but little emotion in the flinty editorial bosom.

* Major William Blackwood, of Blackwood's Magazine.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 153.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Leigh Hunt to Horace Smith.

Pisa, 25th July, 1822.

Dear Horace,
I trust that the first news of the dreadful calamity which has befallen us here will have been broken to you by report, otherwise I shall come upon you with a most painful abruptness; but Shelley, my divine-minded friend, your friend, the friend of the universe, he has perished at sea. He was in a boat with his friend Captain Williams, going from Leghorn to Lerici, when a storm arose, and it is supposed the boat must have foundered. It was on the 8th instant, about four or five in the evening, they guess. A fisherman says he saw the boat a few minutes before it went down: he looked again and it was gone. He saw the boy they had with them aloft furling one of the sails. We hope his story is true, as their passage from life to death will then have been short; and what adds to the hope is, that in S.'s pocket (for the bodies were both thrown on shore some days afterwards, conceive our horrible certainty, after trying all we could to hope!) a copy of Keats's last volume, which he had borrowed of me to read on his passage, was found open and doubled back as if it had been thrust in, in the hurry of a surprise. God bless him! I cannot help thinking of him as if he were alive as much as ever, so unearthly he always appeared to me, and so seraphical a thing of the elements; and this is what all his friends say. But, what we all feel, your own heart will tell you. I am only just stronger enough than Mrs. S. at present to write you this letter; but shall do very well. Our first numbers will shortly appear; though this, like everything else, however important to us, looks like an impertinence just now. God bless you. Mrs. H. sends her best remembrances to you and Mrs. Smith, and so does your obliged and sincere friend,
Leigh Hunt

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 194-95.

Friday, October 3, 2008

anticipated cognition

Leigh Hunt to Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Genoa, 21st June, 1822.

My Dearest Friend,
I got your letter late to-day, and must write you one on my own part as headlong as my wishes to be with you. How sorry we are to hear of Marina's being so ill; but if the sight of old friends can do her as much good as we believe it will do us, she will be much better shortly. We shall look out for your house; but fear that there is no chance of the captain's being able to put in, if he would. Are we not soon, however, to see you all somehow or other? If not,---but it must be so. A main part of the comfort we promise ourselves in Italy is the bringing some additional pleasure to your society; nor shall we the less succeed, I trust, because we all have need of it. Marianne's sympathy is very truly with Marina; not only because she very truly loves her, but because she is still very ill herself---much more so than you imagine; and as to myself, I have become, since you saw me, an elderly gentleman, with sunken cheeks, and temples that throb at the least touch of emotion, joy especially. But I find I can still give some pleasure to those about me---I have not lost the lucky talent of receiving more. Upon your principle of "anticipated cognition," I have a right to consider Mr. and Mrs. Williams as old friends of ours as well as yours, and hereby give them notice that I have known them for ten years to come. I shook Mr. Williams by the hand but two hours ago, gave Mrs. Williams as hearty a salute, which nobody wondered at, even though I had known her so long. You see I am already drunk with the climate. Why are we not with you even now ? . . . . Your ever affectionate
Leigh Hunt

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 182-83.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

stronger in love and faith

Leigh Hunt to Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley.

21st September, 1821.

My Dearest Friends,

e are coming. I feel the autumn so differently from the summer, and the accounts of the cheapness of living and education at Pisa are so inviting, that what with your kind persuasions, the proposal of Lord Byron, and last, be sure not least, the hope of seeing you again and trying to get my health back in your society, my brother as well as myself think I had better go. We hope to set off in a month from the date of this letter, not liking to delay our preparation till we hear from you again, on account of the approach of winter; so about the 21st of October we shall all set off, myself, Marianne, and the six children. With regard to the proposed publication of Lord B., about which you talk so modestly, he has it in his power, I believe, to set tip not only myself and family in our finances again, but one of the best-hearted men in the world, my brother and his. I allude, of course, to the work in which he proposes me to join him.* I feel with you, quite, on the other point, as I always have. I agree to his proposal with the less scruple, because I have had a good deal of experience in periodical writing, and know what the getting up of the machine requires, as well as the soul of it. You see I am not so modest as you are by a great deal, and do not mean to let you be so either. What? Are there not three of us? And ought we not to have as much strength and variety as possible? We will divide the world between us, like the Triumvirate, and you shall be the sleeping partner, if you will; only it shall be with a Cleopatra, and your dreams shall be worth the giving of kingdoms. The Gisbornes tell me of a fine new novel of Marina's, which I long to see. There is something extremely interesting in having a lady's novel in sheets, and not the less so, because there is masculine work as well as feminine; for a novel of hers will have plenty of both, I know. You may imagine how we talked with the Gisbornes, of Italy. It was nothing but a catechism about beef, salad, oil, and education, all day long. But the money, Shelley? You tell me you have "secured" it, and I need not say (sorry as I am for that "need not," knowing your necessities to be only less than mine), that I cannot do without your kindness in this respect. I fear, however, by what you say of Horace S. that your security is stronger in love and faith than matter of fact; but I must not wait to hear from you again, if I can help it. I shall do my best, with my brother's help, to raise the money, and have an impudent certainty that you will help me out with the return of it. God bless you. I could write sheets, in spite of a head burning already with writing, but I must not do it, especially as I mean to get up a good deal of matter during the month to furnish articles for the paper during the journey. The journey too! "Which is that to be, by land or water? We have not settled yet, but we are making all sorts of inquiries, and talking of nothing else but Italy, Italy, Italy; where we soon hope to grasp the hands of the best friends in the world. --Your affectionate,
Leigh Hunt.

*A proposal to create a literary journal--eventually named The Liberal--which came out in October of 1822, but only lasted for four issues, Byron withdrawing from the concern.

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 172-73.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

almost yourself

Percy Bysshe Shelley to Leigh Hunt

Livorno, 8th September, 1819.

My Dear Friend,
At length has arrived Ollier's parcel, and with it the portrait. What a delightful present! It is almost yourself, and we sat talking with it, and of it, all the evening. It is a great pleasure to us to possess it--a pleasure in time of need, coming to us when there are few others. How we wish it were you, and not your picture! How I wish we were with you!

This parcel, you know, and all its letters, are now a year old, some older. There are all kinds of dates, from March to August, and "your date," to use Shakspeare's expression, " is better in a pie or pudding than in your letter." "Virginity," Parolles says, but letters are the same thing in another shape.

With it came, too, Lamb's works. I have looked at none of the other books yet. What a lovely thing is his Rosamund Gray!* How much knowledge of the sweetest and deepest parts of our nature in it! When I think of such a mind as Lamb's--when I see how unnoticed remain things of such exquisite and complete perfection--what should I hope for myself, if I had not higher objects in view than fame!

I have seen too little of Italy and of pictures. Perhaps P. has shown you some of my letters to him. But at Rome I was very ill, seldom able to go out without a carriage; and though I kept horses for two months there, yet there is so much to see! Perhaps I attended more to sculpture than painting, its forms being more easily intelligible than that of the latter. Yet I saw the famous works of Raphael, whom I agree with the whole world in thinking the finest painter. With respect to Michael Angelo, I dissent, and think with astonishment and indignation of the common notion that he equals, and in some respects exceeds, Raphael. He seems to me to have no sense of moral dignity and loveliness; and the energy for which he has been so much praised, appears to me to be a certain rude, external, mechanical quality, in comparison with anything possessed by Raphael, or even much inferior artists. His famous painting in the Sistine Chapel seems to me deficient in beauty and majesty, both in the conception and the execution. He has been called the Dante of painting; but if we find some of the gross and strong outlines which are employed in the most distasteful passages of the Inferno, where shall we find your Francesca--where, the spirit coming over the sea in a boat, like Mars rising from the vapours of the horizon--where, Matilda gathering flowers, and all the exquisite tenderness and sensibility and ideal beauty in which Dante excelled all poets except Shakspeare? . . .

Mary has written to Marianne for a parcel, in which I beg you will make Oilier enclose what you know would most interest me--your Calendar (a sweet extract from which I saw in the Examiner), and the other poems belonging to you ; and, for some friends of mine, my Eclogue.** This parcel, which must be sent instantly, will reach me by October; but don't trust letters to it, except just a line or so. When you write, write by the post.
Ever your affectionate
P. B. S.

My love to Marianne and Bessy, and Thornton too, and Percy, &c. ; and if you could imagine any way in which I could be useful to them here, tell me. I will inquire about the Italian chalk. You have no idea of the pleasure this portrait gives me.

* A Tale of Rosamund Gray and Old Blind Margaret by Charles Lamb (London: Lee & Hurst, 1798).
** Rosalind and Helen : A Modern Eclogue with Other Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: C. & J. Ollier, 1819).

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 138-40.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

these green fields

Leigh Hunt to Percy B. and Mary W. Shelley.

8, York Buildings, New Road,
August, 1819.

My Dear Friends,

henever I write to you, I seem to be transported to your presence. I dart out of the window like a bird, dash into a south-western current of air, skim over the cool waters, hurry over the basking lands, rise like a lark over the mountains, fling like a swallow into the vallies, skim again, pant for breath, there's Leghorn eccomi! how d'ye do?

I wish you would encourage my epistolatory interviews by writing to me every Monday morning; I would write on the same day myself say at nine o'clock; and then we should have the additional pleasure of knowing that we were occupied on the very same thoughts, and almost chatting together. I will begin the system, at any rate; and if you do not help me to go on with it, why, I will heap Christian coals of fire on your heads by endeavouring to go on without you. There is the same continued sunshine this season as last year. Every Saturday, when I go to office, I seem to walk through vallies of burning bricks, the streets and pavement are so intensely hot; but, then, there is a perpetual fanning of fresh air in the fields, and you may imagine I am oftener there. Sometimes I ramble about in them, sometimes take my meals, sometimes lie down and read. The other day I had a delicious sleep in a haycock. These green fields and blue skies throw me into a kind of placid intoxication. Are there many moments more delicious than the one in which you feel yourself going to slumber, with the sense of green about you, of an air in your face, and of the great sky arching over your head? One feels, at such times, all the grandeur of planetary consciousness without the pain of it. You know what I mean. There is a sort of kind and beautiful sensuality in it which softens the cuts and oppressiveness of intellectual perception. Certainly, a country so green as England cannot well be equalled by any other at such a season; and did not the less pleasant causes of that green return, I should try my utmost to induce you to come back again; for, at this identical moment, I do not think you would be more comfortable anywhere than in such a place, with a book or two, a basket of fruit, and (O vain, flattered friend!) Leigh Hunt. Shelley does indeed flatter me, when he writes to me as the "best friend" he has left behind. I heartily wish he had any better, for I am sure that they would go through a dozen fires for him; and, as for that matter, so would I. In no race of friendship would I be the last, if my heart broke for it at the goal. But enough of this at present. Pray do not let Shelley be uneasy about my pecuniary affairs. It was he that enabled me to throw off the weight of them at first, and I should think it an ill return if I did not at least exert all the faculties which he set free. . . . . I guess, by Shelley's questions about the Euganean Hills, that he has not seen my criticism yet in the Examiner, for surely I spoke there of a poem which I admire beyond measure, for thought, imagination, music, everything. He has a great admirer here from the Lakes, who has come to London for his health--Lloyd, one of the earliest Lake poets. More of him in my next. God thrice bless you, Shelley mio, Marina mia. Ever most affectionately yours,
Leigh Hunt.

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 135-36.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

of a higher sphere

Leigh Hunt to Percy Bysshe Shelley in Italy

York Buildings, July, 1819.

My Dearest Friend,

y letter would have come off to you before I received yours, had I not been laid prostrate by a bilious fever, from which I am now recovering, and which, I think, has left me in a condition to get better than I was before, if I take care and take exercise, which with me are nearly the same thing. I had received the news of your misfortune, [the death of their son William from malaria in Rome] and thought of all which you and Mary must suffer. Marianne, I assure you, wept hearty tears of sympathy. He was a fine little fellow, was William; and for my part I cannot conceive that the young intellectual spirit which sat thinking out of his eye, and seemed to comprehend so much in his smile, can perish like the house it inhabited. I do not know that a soul is born with us; but we seem, to me, to attain to a soul, some later, some earlier; and when we have got that, there is a look in our eye, a sympathy in our cheerfulness, and a yearning and grave beauty in our thoughtfulness that seems to say, "Our mortal dress may fall off when it will; our trunk and our leaves may go; we have shot up our blossom into an immortal air." This is poetry, you will say, and not argument: but then there comes upon me another fancy, which would fain persuade me that poetry is the argument of a higher sphere. Do you smile at me? Do you, too, Marina, smile at me? Well, then, I have done something at any rate. My dear friends, I affront your understandings and feelings with none of the ordinary topics of consolation. We must all weep on these occasions, and it is better for the kindly fountains within us that we should. May you weep quietly, but not long; and may the calmest and most affectionate spirit that comes out of the contemplation of great things and the love of all, lay his most blessed hand upon you. I fear this looks a little like declamation; and yet I know that he would be a very mistaken critic who should tell me that it was so.

I can do nothing with my tragedy at least, not at present: I may do something when the new management at Drury Lane is settled, provided Kean likes it on perusal. He has rejected it, in a manner, at present, without perusing; for in my letter to him I unfortunately said that there were two characters in it, either of which, it was thought, would suit him; and it turned out just afterwards that he had a mortal antipathy to having any second Richard in the field. He returned me a very polite answer, in which he said that his hands were full. I then sent to Covent Garden; and here, it seems, the manager lives in the house of a bad dramatist, to whom he is under obligations, and who settles the destiny of all new comers. I had the honour to be rejected. You cannot suppose, of course, that I think my tragedy worse than those which are received. I know it to be a great deal better: but between ourselves, I think I have hurt it for publication, by keeping in mind its destination for the stage. At all events, I shall keep it myself, in hopes of future performance. What I most regret is the waste of my time, which I might have turned to more lucrative account; but I did my best, and most industrious. The two little poems (Hero and Leander, and Bacchus and Ariadne)* are out; and if Ollier does not bestir himself, I will make up a little packet next week, with these and one or two other things in it. Perhaps I had better do so at once, if Peacock does not send. Is it possible that you have never received even Ollier's first packet yet, with the portrait in it, which I thought, in my egotism, was to gratify you so? I guess as much, by your silence about it. You will see in the Examiner what I have said about your lovely poem of Rosalind and Helen, which is a great favourite of mine. I was rejoiced to find also that Charles Lamb was full of it. Your reputation is certainly rising greatly in your native country, in spite of its honest Promethean chains; and I have no doubt it will be universally recognized on its proper eminence. I long, by-the-by, to see Prometheus himself. I have no doubt you have handled his "wearied virtue" nobly. It is curious, but I had thought a little while ago of writing a poem myself, entitled Prometheus Throned; in which I intended to have described him as having lately taken possession of Jupiter's seat. But the subject, on every account, is in better hands. I am rather the son of one of Atlas's daughters, than of Atlas himself. I am glad you like the specimen of the Pocket-Book. As my old chat refreshes you, I think myself bound just now to write often; I shall despatch another letter next week addressed to Mary, which I hope will induce her to oblige me with one of those gigantic paragraphs which she entitles a letter. Won't you write to me frequently, too, if I write frequently? God bless you, my dear, dear friends, and take care of your health and spirits, if it be only for the sake of your affectionate
Leigh Hunt

*Hero and Leander, and Bacchus and Ariadne (London: C. & J. Ollier, 1819)

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 130-32

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

patience in a post-office

Leigh Hunt to. Percy B. and Mary T. Shelley

8, York Buildings, New Road,
Thursday, 12th November, 1818.

My Dear Friends,
So I find, all of a sudden, why it is you do not write to me. I sent my last letter thoughtlessly, by Mr. Ollier's box, and they tell me, to my great chagrin, that perhaps it may not have reached you yet. I had no idea of this or I should have written to you again long before; and so I should at all events, had I not been daily devoured with printers' devils, and in expectation besides of hearing from yourselves. So Shelley has been hanging his head, I fear, and saying, "Hunt is too careless," and Marina has been looking sideways, and thinking it not worth speaking about; and First Lady has consigned me over to the common character of mankind. Well, I shall sit like Patience in a post-office, and wait for one of the kindest letters in the world. What think you of my modesty as well as industry? I have been writing a Pocket-Book. The booksellers tell me it will do exceedingly well; and Shelley will be at once pleased and surprised to hear that it is my own property, and I mean to keep it so. It is entitled the Literary Pocket-Book,* or companion for the lover of art and nature, and contains a long calendar of the months, written by myself, interspersed with quotations from dead and living poets. Lists of men of original genius from the earliest times to the present, of living authors of Europe, artists and musicians, extracts from Bacon and others, and original poetry, among which I have taken the liberty ("Hunt is too ceremonious sometimes") of putting Marianne's Dream to the great delight of said Marianne, not to mention its various MS. readers. The names are not mentioned in this department of the book; but Shelley will be in good company, at least, I may speak for Keats, and Shelley will speak for some one else. I forgot, in my box letter, to allude to the criticism in the Quarterly Review upon Marina's book. Upon the whole, I congratulate her on it. They have now been abusing Keats at a furious rate ever since their abuse of Shelley, and it is pleasant, on many accounts, to see how the public disgust is increasing against them every day. I made no answer to Gifford myself, partly out of contempt, partly (I must really say) out of something bordering on a loathing kind of pity, and partly for the sake of setting an example always praised, but seldom or ever practised. I therefore instinctively paid a friend like Shelley the compliment of feeling for him, as I felt for myself; but there are limits in forbearance, especially when the task is not one of self-revenge, but of friendship; and as they have sent for his poem from Ollier's to criticise it, I mean, if they (Gifford or others) do not take warning, to buckle on my old rusty armour, and give them such a carbonado as I know I am able to give, and they most capable of feeling. I hope Ollier has told you that Shelley's book sells more and more. God bless you all, and never think angrily or doubtingly of one who is just as sensitive to the opinion of those dear to him as he despises that of the reviewers.
Most affectionately yours,

Marianne's ill but sends very best love. Bess requests to be put in by all means. Hogg, Keats, Novello, H. Robertson, and Coulson send their remembrances--Hogg especial ones. I am now resuming my drama; and am going to propose to Constable, that when I have done it I will undertake specimens of the Italian poets from Dante to Metastasio.

*The Literary Pocket Book (1819-23 C & J Ollier) - 5 vols., periodical edited by Leigh Hunt---Percy B. Shelley's poem, Marianne's Dream appeared in this periodical.
[In 1818 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus was issued (London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818) - 3 vols., and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Laon and Cythna or, The Revolution of the Golden City was issued (London: Sherwood, Neely & Jones, 1818) which was brought out in a second state with the new title The Revolt of Islam - A Poem in 12 Cantos (London: C & J Ollier, 1818).]

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 124-26.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

of a most domestic kind

Leigh Hunt to Mr. Ives.

5th February, 1813.

Mr. Leigh Hunt presents his compliments to Mr. Ives, and puts down his wishes upon paper as requested.

His first and greatest wish, then, is to be allowed to have his wife and children living with him in the prison. It is to be observed, that his is a new case within these walls; and not only so, but that his habits have always been of the most domestic kind, that he has not been accustomed to be from home a day long, and that he is subject, particularly at night-time, to violent attacks of illness, accompanied with palpitations of the heart and other nervous affections, which render a companion not only much wanted, but sometimes hardly to be dispensed with. His state of health is bad at the present moment, as everybody may see; not so bad indeed as it has been, and he wishes to make no parade of it; but quite bad enough to make him feel tenfold all the wants of his situation, and to render it absolutely necessary that his greatest comforts should not all be taken away. If it would take time, however, to consider this request, his next wish is that his wife and children be allowed to be with him in the daytime. His happiness is wound up in them, and he shall say no more on this subject except that a total separation in respect of abode would be almost as bad to him as tearing his body asunder.

His third and last request is, that his friends be allowed to come up to his room during the daytime; and if this permission be given, he will give his word that it shall not be abused. His physician has often declared that society is necessary to his health; but though he has been used to every comfort that domestic and social happiness can bestow, he is content with as little as possible, and provided his just wish be granted, could make almost any sacrifice.

This is all he has to say on the subject, and all with which he should ever trouble anybody. The hope of living in Mr. Ives's house he has given up; many privations, of course, he is prepared to endure; with the other regulations of the prison he has no wish to interfere; and from what little has already been seen of him in this place, he believes that every credit will be given him for conducting himself in a reasonable and gentlemanly manner; for as he is a stubborn enemy of what is wrong, so is he one of the quietest and most considerate friends of what is right. He has many private friends who would do their utmost for him; and his character, he believes, has procured him some public ones of the highest description, who would leave no means untaken for bettering his condition, but he would willingly leave his comforts to those about him. To conclude, he is prepared to suffer all extremities rather than do himself dishonour ; but it is no dishonour to have the feelings of a husband and a father: and till he is dead to them and to everything else, he shall not cease exerting himself in their behalf.

-from The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt / edited by his eldest son (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862) volume 1, pp. 73-74.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

the inconveniencies of grandeur

William Shenstone to Mr. Jago

London. 1743.

Dear friend,
I shall send you but a very few lines, being so much indisposed with a cold, that I can scarce tell how to connect a sentence. . . .

London is really dangerous at this time; the pick-pockets, formerly content with mere filching, make no scruple to knock people down with bludgeons in Fleet-Street and the Strand, and that at no later hour than eight o'clock at night: but in the Piazzas, Covent-Garden, they come in large bodies, armed with couteaus, and attack whole parties, so that the danger of coming out of the play-houses is of some weight in the opposite scale, when I am disposed to go to them oftener than I ought. ----There is a poem of this season, called "The Pleasures of Imagination," worth your reading; but it is an expensive quarto; if it comes out in a less size, I will bring it home with me. Mr. Pope (as Mr. Outing, who has been with Lord Bolingbroke, informs me) is at the point of death. ----My Lord Carteret said yesterday in the house, "That the French and Spaniards had " actually said, they would attempt a second invasion." ----There is a new play acted at Drury Lane, "Mahomet," translated from the French of Voltaire; but I have no great opinion of the subject, or the original author as a poet; and my diffidence is rather improved by the testimony of those who have seen it. ----I lodge between the two coffee-houses, George's and Nando's, so that I partake of the expensiveness of both, as heretofore, I have no acquaintance in town, and but {slender inducement to stay} and yet, probably, I shall loiter here for a month.

T--- H--- was knighted against his will, and had a demand made upon him for an hundred pounds before he could get out of St. James's; so soon are felt the inconveniencies of grandeur! He came out of the court in a violent rage, "G__d! Jack, what "dost think?---I am knighted!---the devil of a "knight, e'faith !" I believe he was sincere in his disgust; for there had been two barge-masters knighted in his neighbourhood some time before.

I saw, coming up, Lady Fane's grotto, which they say, cost her five thousand pounds; about three times as much as her house is worth. It is a very beautiful disposition of the finest collection of shells I ever saw--Mr. Powis's woods, which are finer.--Mean time, if I had three hundred pounds to lay out about The Leasowes, I could bring my ambition to peaceable terms.

I am, dear Sir, with all affection, yours and Mrs. Jago's.
W. Shenstone.

Write soon. It is this moment reported that Pope is dead.

-from The Works in Verse and Prose of William Shenstone, Esq. Volume III, containing Letters to Particular Friends from the Year 1739-1763. / 2nd. Edition (London: J. Dodsley, 1769) pp. 72-74.

they are few

Voltaire to Mme. . . . .

Les Delices,
June 20, 1756.

I am only an old invalid, mademoiselle, and my not having answered your letter before, and now replying only in prose to your charming verses, prove that my condition is a serious one.

You ask me for advice: your own good taste will afford you all you need. Your study of Italian should further improve that taste which was born in you, and which nobody can give you. Tasso and Ariosto will do much more for you than I can, and reading our best poets is better than all lessons; but, since you are so good as to consult me from so far away, my advice to you is--read only such books as have long been sealed with the universal approval of the public and whose reputation is established. They are few: but you will gain much more from reading those few than from all the feeble little works with which we are inundated. Good writers are only witty in the right place, they never strive after smartness: they think sensibly, and express themselves clearly. Now, people appear to write exclusively in enigmas. Everything is affected--nothing simple: nature is ignored, and everyone tries to improve on the masterpieces of our language.

Hold fast, mademoiselle, by everything which delights you in them. The smallest affectation is a vice. The Italians, after Tasso and Ariosto, degenerated because they were always trying to be witty: and it is the same with the French. Observe how naturally Mme. de Sevigne and other ladies write: and compare their style with the confused phrases of our minor romances--I cite writers of your own sex because I am sure you can, and will, resemble them. There are passages of Mme. Deshoulieres which are equalled by no writer of the present day. If you wish examples of male authors--look how simply and clearly Racine invariably expresses himself. Every reader of his works feels sure that he could himself say in prose what Racine has said in verse. Believe me, everything that is not equally clear, chaste, and simple is worth absolutely nothing.

Your own reflections, mademoiselle, will tell you all this a hundred times better than I can say it. You will notice that our good writers--Fenelon, Bossuet, Racine, Despreaux--always use the right word. One gets oneself accustomed to talk well by constantly reading those who have written well: it becomes a habit to express our thoughts simply and nobly, without effort. It is not in the nature of a study: it is no trouble to read what is good, and to read that only: our own pleasure and taste are our only masters.

Forgive this long disquisition; you must please attribute it to my obedience to your commands.

I have the honour to be very respectfully yours.

-from Voltaire in his Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence / translated with a preface and forewords by S. G. Tallentyre (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1919] pp. 156-58.

Friday, September 19, 2008

clearly and correctly

Voltaire to M. Helvétius

June 20, 1741.

I greatly reproach myself for my laziness, my dear friend, but I have been for a whole month so unworthily occupied in prose that I hardly dare write to you of verse. My imagination is weighed down by studies which are to poetry what dark and dusty old furniture is to a gaily-lit ballroom. I must shake off the dust to reply to you.

You have written to me a letter in which I recognise your genius. You find Boileau fairly clever: I agree with you that he has neither sublimity nor a very brilliant imagination; but he has done exceedingly well what he could do, and what he set out to do. He has put good sense into melodious verse; he is clear, logical, easy, and agreeable in his transitions; he never soars high, or falls low. His subjects are not suitable for the dignified treatment yours deserve. You have realised what your talent is, just as he realised his. You are a philosopher, you see everything life-size, your brush is bold and big. So far, nature has made you (I say it in all sincerity) greatly Despreaux's superior: but your talents, fine as they are, will be nothing without his. You have so much the more need of his correctness because the breadth of your thoughts is less tolerant of circumstriction. It is no trouble to you to think, but much to write. I shall therefore never cease to preach to you that art of writing which Despreaux knew and taught so well, the respect for our language, the sequence of ideas, the easy manner in which he carries his reader with him, the naturalness which is the result of art, and the appearance of ease which involves such hard work. A word out of place spoils the finest thought. Boileau's ideas--I confess it once more--are never fine, but they are never ill set out: so, to be better than he is, it is essential to begin by writing as clearly and correctly.

No false steps can be permitted in your stately measure: in a little minuet they would not matter. You sparkle with precious stones; his dress is simple but well made. Your diamonds must be in good order lest your diadem shame you. Send me then, dear friend, something which is as well worked out as it is nobly conceived: do not disdain to be at once the owner of the mine and the gold digger. You know, by my writing to you thus, how great an interest I feel in your reputation, and that of the arts. Your last visit has doubled my regard for you. It really looks as if I should stop writing verses, and content myself with admiring yours. Mme. du Chatelet, who has written to you, sends kindest regards. Goodbye, yours for ever.

-from Voltaire in his Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence / translated with a preface and forewords by S. G. Tallentyre (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1919] pp. 68-70.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

she bids me

Voltaire to Mme. la Comtesse de la Neuville

[In 1734 Voltaire, in order to avoid arrest consequent on the appearance of his English Letters went to the Chateau of Cirey-sur-Blaise in Champagne, a country house of the Marquis and Marquise du Chatelet. The Marquise, one of the most brilliantly accomplished women of her generation--perhaps of any generation--was for fifteen years Voltaire's mistress, and for that fifteen years Cirey was his home.]


It seems an age since I have seen you. Mme. du Chatelet fully intended coming to call on you directly after she arrived at Cirey: but she has turned gardener and architect. She puts windows where I have put doors: she alters staircases into fireplaces, and fireplaces into staircases: she has limes planted where I had settled on elms: she has changed what I had made a vegetable plot into a flower garden. Indoors, she has done the work of a good fairy. Rags are bewitched into tapestry: she has found out the secret of furnishing Cirey out of nothing. She will be engrossed in these occupations for several days longer. I hope to have the honour of acting as her post-boy to Neuville, having been her garden-boy here. She bids me assure you and Mme. de Champbonin how anxious she is to see you. You may be sure I am not less impatient.
-from Voltaire in his Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence / translated with a preface and forewords by S. G. Tallentyre (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1919] pp. 35-38.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

only a guinea

Voltaire to Dean Swift

At the Sign of the White Peruke,
Covent Garden, London,
December 14, 1727.

You will be surprised, sir, to receive from a French traveller an Essay*, in English, on the Civil Wars of France--which form the subject of the Henriade. I beg your indulgence for one of your admirers, who, through your writings, has become so fond of the English language that he has the temerity to write in it himself.

You will see, by the Preface, that I have had certain designs on you, and have ventured there to speak of you, for the honour of your country and the good of mine: do not forbid me to adorn my work with your name.

Let me have the satisfaction of speaking of you now, as posterity most certainly will.

Might I ask you, at the same time, to use your influence in Ireland to procure me a few subscribers to the Henriade which, for want of such assistance, has not yet appeared? The subscription is only a guinea, payable in advance. I am, sir, with the profoundest esteem, your very humble and obedient servant,

*An Essay Upon the Civil Wars of France, Extracted from Various Manuscripts (London, 1727) with dedication to Jonathan Swift.

-from Voltaire in his Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence / translated with a preface and forewords by S. G. Tallentyre (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1919] pp. 21-22.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

obscurity of some retreat

Voltaire in exile in England to his friend M. Nicolas-Claude Thiériot

August 12, 1726.

My dear Thiériot,
I received your letter of May 11th very late. You know how unlucky I was in Paris. The same evil fate pursues me everywhere. If the character of the hero of my poem [Henry IV in his Henriade] is as well sustained as my own ill luck, that poem will certainly succeed better than I do. You give me such touching assurances of your friendship that it is only fair I should give you my confidence. So I will confide in you, my dear Thieriot, that, a little while ago, I paid a brief visit to Paris. As I did not see you, you will know I saw nobody. I was seeking one man, who hid, like the coward he is, as if he guessed I was on his track. My fear of being discovered made me leave more hurriedly than I came. The fact is my dear Thieriot, there is every likelihood that I shall never see you again. I am still uncertain if I shall retire to London. I know that England is a land where the arts are honoured and rewarded, where there is a difference of conditions, but no other difference between men, save merit. In this country it is possible to use one's mind freely and nobly, without fear or cringing. If I followed my own inclination, I should stay here; if only to learn how to think. But I am not sure if my small fortune--eaten into by so much travelling--my health, more precarious than ever, and my love of solitude, will make it possible for me to fling myself into the hurly-burly of Whitehall and of London.

I have many introductions in England, and much kindness awaits me there: but I cannot say positively that I shall take the plunge. There are two things I must do: first, risk my life for honour's sake as soon as I can; then, end it in the obscurity of some retreat suited to my turn of mind, my misfortunes, and my low opinion of mankind.

I can cheerfully renounce my pensions from the King and Queen: my only regret being that I have not been able to arrange that you should take advantage of them. It would be a consolation to me in my solitude if I could feel I had been useful to you for once in my life: but I am fated to be wretched in every way. . . .

Farewell, my dear Thieriot: love me, despite absence and misfortune.

-from Voltaire in his Letters: Being a Selection from His Correspondence / translated with a preface and forewords by S. G. Tallentyre (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1919] pp. 19-20.

Monday, September 15, 2008

a house of mourning

Earl Grey to Princess Lieven

No. 25.
Berkeley Square,
June 11th, 1835.

Dearest Princess,

was beginning to think the interval very long since your last letter from Berlin, when your letter of the 6th from Frankfort was brought to me this evening.

In the meantime this has been a house of mourning. Poor Captain Barrington (my son-in-law), after another attack which from the beginning left no hope of recovery, was carried off; and the next day deprived my daughter Mary [Lady Mary Wood] of her only child--a sweet little girl of two years old. . . .

I have seen few people, and have not been out at all, on account of these misfortunes, for the last few days, and have less than usual to tell you. Besides, my feeling of the insecurity of the post by your change of place is stronger than ever, and makes it impossible for me to discuss as freely as I should otherwise be inclined to do the present state of affairs here, and its probable consequences. Nothing, indeed, has occurred since my last to afford better lights as to what is likely to happen, with the exception of the new Corporation Bill brought in by the Ministers. This seems to have been well received, and may give them some popularity in the country, and is in itself, I think, a good measure. Peel has acted, for his own interests, judiciously, and for those of the public usefully, upon it; but not very agreeably, I should think, to his High Tory friends, or very consistently with his former conduct and opinions. It is, as you say, very true that there now appears to be little difference between him and me (with one exception), on the most important question of our internal policy. Why was not this agreement sooner apparent? I certainly have not changed. From the moment of the passing of the Reform Bill my object was to work out its necessary consequences on true Conservative principles. This necessity he now acknowledges, and I have only to add that if this conviction had broken upon him sooner, much difficulty, and perhaps much danger, might have been avoided.

As to foreign politics, I have so little knowledge of what has been lately passing, that I can give no satisfactory opinion upon them. The question of intervention [in Spain]--that is, direct intervention--seems to be settled for the present. Louis Philippe appears to have been decidedly adverse to it, and has been encouraged, it is said, in that opinion by Talleyrand, who on that account is in great favour. What effect our more limited intervention--by suffering troops to be raised here, and officers to enter into the service of the infant Queen [Queen Isabella]--may have, remains to be seen. The Proccs Monstre seems to me the greatest act of political folly that ever was committed. I really have not temper or patience to follow its details. As far as I can judge, I should say that it is involved in insurmountable difficulties, and that if it had been the object of the Government to destroy any little character and consequence that the Chamber of Peers may possess in public opinion, it could not have hit on any measure better calculated for that purpose.

We have now the most delightful weather, everybody complaining of the heat; but this is never a subject of complaint with me. It puts me in mind of former pleasant days at Sheen and Richmond. By the way, Pozzo has been looking at my old house and at Sudbrook, but does not seem inclined to take either.

God bless you, dearest Princess.
Ever yours most affectionately,

P.S.--Brougham has published a book on theology (!!!) which is making a great noise, and has already reached a second edition, but which I do not feel at all inclined to read.

-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 126-28.

Friday, September 12, 2008

prophetic tears

Princess Lieven to Earl Grey.

Berlin, April 22nd, 1835.

My dear friend,
hat can I write? I have no words left, and what can you say to comfort me? Was ever any bereavement more complete than mine? To lose both my children, children whom I passionately adored, as perhaps few other mothers have ever adored their children. And still to live on when they are both dead, dead--under my very eyes.
Arthur told me he was dying; poor angel! he felt the hand of death upon him; and I have had to survive him. Tell me, what is to become of me? I am now nothing but a waif in the world.

My husband could only travel with me as far as Berlin; and I feel that I shall never see him again. I am waiting now for Paul [Prince Paul Lieven then living in London] to come, but he can only stay with me a few weeks.

And then, where am I to go to? What am I to do with my miserable existence? Do not you, at least, abandon me; continue to love me, and write me letters every week at furthest. Address your letters to Berlin. Send them to the Foreign Office.

Are you Prime Minister now? What has happened in England, and what is going to happen there, in that England that I still love, and where I was so happy? Ah, if you only could have kept me there! I know well you would have done it if you could, and you did do your best to prevent our going away. I, too, wanted so much to stay--and were not my tears as I left your shores prophetic of evil? Sorrow even then seemed to weigh me down; but I did not imagine I was destined for such sorrows as have now befallen me. No, it was too horrible even to be dreamt of. And even at this present moment I hardly believe it can be true--Never to see my children more; all the joy, all the occupation of my daily life gone, and nothing left for my heart to love ! . . .

I can think of nothing now. I can do nothing but weep. Here in Berlin they are very kind, and do all they can for me. The Duchess of Cumberland and all the Prussian Princes come to call, and what I ask of them is that they should talk, and make a noise, and take me out of my own sad thoughts. For I am frightful to my own self, and am crushed down by my misfortune. I often think of you, and indeed I know you would pity me.

Write to me, tell me what you are doing and how matters go with you. This is the only subject to which I can turn in order to distract my mind. I am anxious to learn all that is passing in England. Your letters are to be forwarded on to me from Petersburg, and I await them every moment. But an answer to this might reach me more directly.

Write me at length about everything, and do not cease to love your poor friend.

-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 106-07.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

not unmindful

Earl Grey to Princess Lieven

March 12th, 1835.

Dearest Princess,
We arrived here on Sunday, and your letter of February 17, No. 19, reached me yesterday. We proceed on our journey to-morrow, stop two days at Lord Dacre's, and intend to be in town on Monday.

As on my first arrival I may find it difficult to write, I send a line now, to show that I am not unmindful of my promise. How, indeed, should I be at this place, where I am so strongly reminded of you, and of the pleasant party which met here at the time of my last visit! How I wish those days could be renewed, and that I could once more have the happiness of seeing you!

Melbourne and John Russell met me here, and though I have had a good deal of conversation with them, it has not furnished me with anything that I can write. All I have heard from them has confirmed the view which I had previously taken of the present state of affairs, and has not diminished my sense of the difficulties resulting from it. I shall perhaps be able to send you something more satisfactory, when I have had time to look about me after my arrival in London. En attendant, I must refer you to the opinions I have already expressed. I will only add that Howick's conduct has given me the greatest satisfaction. It has shown great good sense and discretion, and is in perfect concurrence with my sentiments as to the necessity of preserving a straight and manly course, equally avoiding any compromise of his principles on the one hand, or any tendency to violent measures on the other. John Russell has gained great credit by his speeches, but he looks very ill, and I do not think he will be able to stand the fatigue of every description to which his new situation exposes him. [Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.]

The death of the Emperor of Austria gives a new interest to foreign politics. I regret it sincerely, fearing its effect on the Austrian Empire, and consequently on the state of Europe. Has your friend Metternich secured himself with the new Emperor, or is his power, of which he has had longer possession than most Ministers, likely to be subverted?

We have had rather a large, though chiefly a family, party here. The Duchess-Countess came for one day to state all her alarms to me. She feels, as well she may, great uneasiness at the present state of affairs, but seems very much disposed to place her confidence in me. My son George is gone to pass some months at Tours, to learn French. He had been at Rochecotte, where he had received great kindness from Madame de Dino and Talleyrand, and says nobody can look in better health than the latter. What a miserable letter! but it will at least assure you of my constant and most affectionate remembrance.
Yours ever,
-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 89-91.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

so hand in glove

Princess Lieven to Earl Grey.

St. Petersburg,
Nov. 9th/21st, 1834.

have just received your letter No. 7, my dear lord, and I realize by its date, October 20, how far separated we now are one from another. As long as the Baltic remained open, the fact was not so keenly brought home to me; but this cutting off of one of our means of communication seems like a new separation. If this acts on you as it does on me, it will turn to the profit of our correspondence, for I feel myself urged to write to you now oftener even than before. I am more anxious than ever for my English letters, and, above all, for yours. I devour all the newspapers I can get with an inconceivable avidity, and I am better pleased by a visit from Mr. Bligh than from anyone else; in short, it is English and of England that I must speak, in order to keep myself in passably good spirits.

Lord Durham's speech at Glasgow was of a strong order; we shall see if he will and can act up to the principles there expounded. The speech seems to have made much stir both in England and abroad. I see that France deems herself offended by it. I have just read the article in the Edinburgh Review which gave rise to Lord Durham's attack on the Chancellor. The latter was certainly the first offender. It all appears to me a war of words, in which the personal element has been carried much too far; and what you say on the subject entirely coincides with the conclusions I myself had already drawn.

We as yet know nothing of the result of the recent Ministerial crisis in France. It appears to be grave, and I wonder whether you will not feel the counter-shock of the contest over in England. Hitherto a certain sympathy in the matter of political crises has always been found to exist between the two countries. Further, it would seem to me likely that the present Government [Lord Melbourne's] in England will find some difficulty in getting on comfortably, what between the Chancellor and certain other of its members. No Administration can hold its ground when its members are always quarrelling, and assuredly this present Whig Government can hardly be considered as united in the bonds of amity. What is become of M. de Talleyrand? I have heard nothing of him, for, much to my annoyance, they have kept back in London a letter for me from Madame de Dino; and it would have told me everything. Lady Cowper writes to me very often, but, then, she is so hand in glove with the present Ministry that I do not learn much from her letters. I prefer hearing from outsiders, for they at least do not try to mislead. It is astounding how like bad faith this Ministerial prudence too often becomes.

Since the departure of the Emperor and his son, I have been trying to orient myself somewhat in Petersburg society. I am at home every evening. Up to the present, however, I cannot say that I have made any very notable progress. I see plenty of people, but have found no society. I am very well pleased with your Minister here, and with the two Ambassadors of Austria and France. Marechal Maison is a soldier of the school of Bonaparte, with rather too much of garrison manners and methods of speech to be quite to my taste; but he is an intelligent man and full of tact, without either exaggerated ideas or diplomatic affectations; and he is, besides, full of good sense and very amusing. See what poor letters I write you now, my dear lord, and what a fine opportunity you have of showing your generosity towards me! You have everything to give, and nothing to receive, unless it be the reiterated assurances of my constant and warm affection.

My husband desires me to give you many messages from him, and both to Lady Grey and Lady Georgiana I send my most affectionate greetings.

-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 49-51.