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.