Monday, July 21, 2008

si chevaleresque

Felicia Hemans to Miss Baillie

April 12th, 1828.

My dear Madam,
It seems very long since I have had the pleasure of any communication with you; but this privation has been my own fault, or rather my misfortune; for a good deal of illness during the winter compelled me to give up all other occupation, for that particularly uninteresting one taking care of myself, or rather allowing others to take care of me. I know not how it is, but I always feel so ashamed of the apparent egotism and selfishness attendant on indisposition the muffling one's self up, taking the warmest place, shrinking from the mirthful noises of those who are full of health, &c. &c.--that I believe I am apt to fall into the contrary extreme, and so, in the end, to occasion ten times more trouble than I should have done with a little proper submission. But a truce with the remembrances of indisposition, now that the spring is really come forth with all her singing-birds and violets: it seems as if sadness had no right to a place amongst the bright and fair things of the season.

I am now expecting very soon to hear from my American friends, in reply to the packet which contained your dispatches for them, and will not fail to write as soon as I receive any communication from Professor Norton for you. Dr. Channing has lately published a very noble essay on the character of Napoleon, occasioned by Sir Walter Scott's Life of that dazzling, but most unheroic personage. I wish you may meet with it; I am sure that the lofty thoughts embodied by its writer, in his own fervid eloquence, could not fail to delight you; and his high views of moral beauty are really freshening to the heart, which longs to pour itself forth in love and admiration, and finds so little in the every-day world whereon such feelings may repose.

The little volume, 'Records of Woman,' which you kindly gave me permission to inscribe to you, is now in the press, and I hope I shall soon be able to send you a copy; and that the dedication, which is in the simplest form, will be honoured by your approval. Mr. Blackwood is its publisher. I do not know whether you may have heard of the interest which Sir Walter Scott has latterly most kindly taken in some music of my sister's composition, accompanying words of mine. One song in particular, 'The Captive Knight,' struck him as being 'si chevaleresque,' to use his own word on the occasion, that he has been quite bent on its publication, and it will in consequence be brought out and dedicated to him. I think you may, perhaps, like to see the poetry of it, which I inclose for you. I am to lose this, my only sister,--indeed I may almost say, my only companion, very shortly: she is about to change her name and home, and remove very far from me. O how many deaths there are in the world for the affections! . . . .

.-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. 1, pp. 148-151

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