Wednesday, July 23, 2008

arch good-nature

Felicia Hemans to her family

[Felicia Hemans made a visit to Scotland in the summer of 1829 with her two young sons. After Edinburgh she travelled to Roxburgshire to stay at Chiefswood, the residence of the author Cyril Thornton, which was close to Sir Walter Scott's residence, Abbotsford.]

Chiefswood, July 13. [1829]

How I wish you were within reach of a post, like our most meritorious Saturday's Messenger, my dear------Amidst all these new scenes and new people I want so much to talk to you all! At present I can only talk of Sir Walter Scott, with whom I have been just taking a long, delightful walk through the 'Rhymour's Glen.' I came home, to be sure, in rather a disastrous state after my adventure, and was greeted by my maid, with that most disconsolate visage of hers, which invariably moves my hard heart to laughter; for I had got wet above my ankles in the haunted burn, torn my gown in making my way through thickets of wild roses, stained my gloves with wood-strawberries, and even--direst misfortune of all! scratched my face with a rowan branch. But what of all this? Had I not been walking with Sir Walter Scott, and listening to tales of elves and bogles and brownies, and hearing him recite some of the Spanish ballads till they 'stirred the heart like the sound of a trumpet?' I must reserve many of these things to tell you when we meet, but one very important trait, (since it proves a sympathy between the Great Unknown and myself,) I cannot possibly defer to that period, but must record it now. You will expect something peculiarly impressive, I have no doubt. Well--we had reached a rustic seat in the wood, and were to rest there, but I, out of pure perverseness, chose to establish myself comfortably on a grass bank. ' Would it not be more prudent for you, Mrs. Hemans,' said Sir Walter, 'to take the seat?' 'I have no doubt that it would, Sir Walter, but, somehow or other, I always prefer the grass. 'And so do I,' replied the dear old gentleman, coming to sit there beside me, 'and I really believe that I do it chiefly out of a wicked wilfulness, because all my good advisers say that it will give me the rheumatism.' Now was it not delightful? I mean for the future to take exactly my own way in all matters of this kind, and to say that Sir Walter Scott particularly recommended me to do so. I was rather agreeably surprised by his appearance, after all I had heard of its homeliness; the predominant expression of countenance, is, I think, a sort of arch good-nature, conveying a mingled impression of penetration and benevolence. The portrait in the last year's Literary Souvenir is an excellent likeness. . . .

-from Memorials of Mrs. Hemans: with illustrations of her literary character, from her private correspondence by Henry F. Chorley in 2 volumes (London: Saunders and Otley, 1836) vol. 2, pp. 30-33.

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