Thursday, July 24, 2008

these Abbotsford pens

Felicia Hemans to her family

Abbotsford, [July] 26, [1829].

I believe I have embodied in these lines * my idea, not only of Rizzio's fate, but of Mary's: you, I recollect, thought the latter rather an imaginary view, and it may well be; for I have so often found a kind of relief in throwing the colouring of my own feelings over the destiny of historical characters, that it has almost become a habit of my mind. But how can I go on thus, speaking of myself, here in this faery realm of Abbotsford?--with so many relics of the chivalrous past around me, and the presiding spirit which has gathered them together still shedding out its own brightness over all! I have now had the gratification of seeing him in every point of view I could desire: we had one of the French princes here yesterday, with his suite; the Duc de Chartres, son of the Duc d' Orleans;--and there was naturally some little excitement diffused through the household by the arrival of a royal guest: Sir Walter was, however, exactly the same in his own manly simplicity; kind, courteous, unaffected; ' his foot upon his native heath' I must say a few words of the Duc, who is a very elegant young man, possessing a finished and really noble grace of manner, which conveys at once the idea of Sir Philip Sidney's high thoughts seated 'in a heart of courtesy,' and which one likes to consider as an appanage of royal blood. I was a little nervous when Sir Walter handed me to the piano, on which I was the sole performer, for the delectation of the courtly party. Son Altesse Royale made a most exemplary listener; hut my discovery that he was pleased to consider one of Count Oginski's polonaises as a variation upon that beautiful slow movement of Hummel's which you copied for me, and which is one of my especial favourites, very much neutralized the effect which his 'paroles d'or et de soie' might otherwise have had upon my dazzled intellect. To-day, Lord ______ is expected, with his eldest son, here called the 'Master of ______.' How completely that title brings back Ravenswood and Lucy Ashton to one's imagination! If the 'Master' have not something of the stately Edgar about him, I shall be rather disappointed. . . . . I am so glad you are going on so diligently with Spanish, and anticipate so much pleasure from your further acquaintance with the beautiful Letrillas and romances I have collected myself. I have never had any companion in my Spanish studies, or any person who has taken the least interest in them before,--so that you will be the only friend associated with them in my recollection. I suppose these Abbotsford pens are all spoiled by the Waverley novels. I am really 'a woman to be pitied' for the one with which I write, and your lot in reading will not be much more enviable.

* Felicia Hemans' poem, To A Remembered Picture.

-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. 50-53.

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