[From Letters of T. E. Brown, 1900]
ST. JOAN'S TERRACE, KESWICK, September 16, 1873
1 went to Scotland but not to Shetland. At St. Andrews I found the people had given P. such a dismal picture of what was likely to be in store for us in the Shetlands that he had lost all heart about it. A long course of St. Andrews' golf seemed to have made his enterprise droop rather.
However, we determined to go to the Highlands for a week or ten days.
What we wanted to do was to make for Aviemore Station on the Highland Railway (Strathspey) ; this is visible in some sort from the top of the mountain, say twelve or fifteen miles off ; but, of course, not to us. We made a dive down a steep slope. We got into a perfect pit of a corrie, a concentration of corries. But we had hit it very fairly. We were between Ben MacDhui and Cairn Toul: a little below the Wells of Dee. The deuce of this Cairngorm range is that the mountains are separated from one another by such infernal abysses. I had no idea of this. If you look at a map you would fancy it would be an easy matter passing from one to another; but each of these transitions is a veritable descensus ad inferos, and the resurrectio, oh, the weary resurrectio! Just about the Wells of Dee (sources of that jolly river) is the pass, or at least the watershed between the Dee and the Spey valleys. It is the roughest pass I was ever in; the walking, or rather hopping, skipping, and jumping, utterly ruinous to one's temper. The rain came down-well, you know how-and the track was simply no track at all. I don't know by what combination of blundering, and conjecture, and divination, and audacity, we hit it. As far as it existed at all, it was a thin line of plashy, pasty peat, through heather, cranberry, bilberry, beastliness. In fact, it did not exist.
However, we came at last to a forest road. Here the country was delicious-Rothiemurchus heather such as it would seem impudent to picture to oneself, except in dreams; rainbows, and fragments of rain bows-here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes just one ruby bit making the heather burn into an intensity as of pain; then the whole big arch spanning the valley. Very good : but here we had to ford a river, the Morlich. So behold these two venerable presbyters, with their trousers tucked up high on their poor pale thighs, stumbling over the stones of Morlich, with knapsack on back, and a rueful air of parodying our stalwart-legged breechless brethren. Here at last, yes here, in this all but indecent state, we encountered two natives-an old man and a young woman. Charming Highlanders! How good they are ! How truly polite ! Not a smile ; or, if so, so kindly, so sweetly tempered with gracious consideration for the forlorn and, I should say, apparently idiotic pair who stood before them.
The girl spoke English, and acted as interpreter for us with her Gaelic-speaking father. I spread, myself all out to look manly and brawny-it was as a glazier spreadeth the putty with his knife-as the thrifty matron spreadeth the sparse butter with her thumb on the bannock of expectant infancy.
At last I felt it would not do. I collapsed, drooped, looked feebly poetical, and asked old Donald to accept of a little well-meant tobacco. On the whole this last act had some little flavour of manliness in it, and I felt encouraged; as we moved on, I almost strode. We came on the Spey at the Boat-house, as it is called; nor is it a public-house; that is, it has no licence. But a girl of some twenty-three years keeps it, and gives you tea. She lives alone! bless her! and cursed eternally be he that would make it unsafe for her thus to live! What a tea she gave us! and what comfort and quiet and gentleness and peace altogether But this will never do! I must leave off this maundering. You may suppose us therefore to be still at the Boat-house. As God liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I wish we were for ever and ever.
My kind love to Mamma and John.
CLIFTON, October 18, 1874.
Our three weeks in Switzerland were consummate. No rain, no wind, a perpetual bath of sunshine, hot of course, but at those heights deliciously bracing and stimulating; sunshine that got into your brain and heart, and set you all aglow with a sweet radiant fire I never thought possible for my old jaded apparatus physicus. We went by Paris to Neufchatel; thence to Berne, Thun, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren: Here we stayed a week. It was the best part of our holiday; a week never, never to be forgotten.
Mürren faces the Jungfrau. This glorious creature is your one object of interest from morning to night. It seems so near that you could fancy a stone might be thrown across to it. Between you and it is a broad valley: but so deep, and with sides so precipitous, that it is entirely out of sight. So the Jungfrau vis-à-vis-es you frankly through the bright sweet intervening air. And then she has such moods; such unutterable smiles, such inscrutable sulks, such growls of rage suppressed, such thunder of avalanches, such crowns of stars. One evening our sunset was the real rose-pink you have heard of so much. It fades, you know, into a deathlike chalk-white. That is the most awful thing. A sort of spasm seems to come over her face, and in an instant she is a corpse, rigid, and oh so cold! Well, so she died, and you felt as if a great soul had ebbed away into the Heaven of Heavens: and thankful, but very sad, I went up to my room. I was reading by candle-light, for it gets dark immediately after sunset, when A. shrieked to me to come to the window. What a Resurrection-so gentle, so tender-like that sonnet of Milton's about his dead wife returning in vision! The moon had risen; and there was the Jungfrau-oh chaste, oh blessed saint in glory everlasting! Then all the elemental spirits that haunt crevasses, and hover around peaks, all the patient powers that bear up the rock buttresses, and labour to sustain great slopes, all streams, and drifts, and flowers, and vapours, made a symphony, a time most solemn and rapturous. It was there, unheard perhaps, unheard, I will not deny it; but there, nevertheless. A young Swiss felt it, and with exquisite delicacy feeling his way, as it were, to some expression, however inadequate, he played a sonata of Schumann, and one or two of the songs, such as the Frühlingsnacht. Forgive my rhapsody: but, you know, you don't get those things twice. And let me say just one word of what followed. The abyss below was a pot of boiling blackness, and on to this, and down into this, and all over this, the moonlight fell as meal falls on to porridge from nimbly sifting fingers. Moon-meal! that was it.
I climbed the Schilthorn one day before breakfast; it is about 10,000 feet; but, as a rule, I didn't like to leave A. alone; so that my climbing was of the most limited, and I scarcely got on to ice at all. At Mürren, perhaps more than anywhere else, we had the most astounding richness of pasture. But Switzerland, generally, is in this respect unique. So lush is the vegetation that it is almost impossible to get up into bare savagery of desolation.
The sweet bright Flora baffes you; she springs like a bacchante from height to height. You can't get above her. I don't mean fat, fulsome richness; but the pastures are so velvety, so parseméd with all imaginable colours. The grass seems to be all flowers, and the flowers to be all grass: the closest-grained math I ever beheld; and through it everywhere, led by careful hands, go singing, hissing rather, like sharp silver scythes, the little blessed streams. I was not prepared for this.
We got to Chamounix and went up the Flégéére, and A. was like a roe upon the mountains; and every care and every strain of anxiety and bother was wiped from off our souls, and we were both, as we once were, young and full of hope and love. Age and the love shall remain, God wot, but the other things-all right! all right No language can give you any idea how all this enjoyment acted on A.; and over and over I thought, and every day I still think, what a bain de vie this would be for you. It did far more for her than for me. In Clifton she gets more depressed, compressed, suppressed, than I do; but in Switzerland the very geist of the hills got into her, and expanded her heart, and every vital power, till she veritably bloomed; and she was so happy.
From Geneva we made a pretty straight course home. We stayed a night at Dijon, and another night in Paris; the next we slept at Charing Cross and the next at Pensarn. So fades from my view, but not from my heart, the richest page on which my poor halting life must be written....
... I hope Mamma is able to enjoy some happiness still. Will this letter amuse her, do you think? ... I do so long to cheer and comfort her: but I am sadly awkward about it. Give her my very best love; and tell her, how every highest thought with which God is pleased to bless me seems to come from Him to me through her. Not in vain am I her son; I feel sure of that. And, believe me, this is no conceit: one can't help feeling what one feels: and if I do feel a strict and native companionship with the mountains of either world, I will not deny it, and I will claim it as inherited from her.
Kind love to J., the good and ever blessed.
LIBRARY READING ROOM, CLIFTON COLLEGE, December 25, 1875.
The blessings of this fair Christmas-tide be on you and your ' gude man'! It is a most lovely morning. I am sitting in the College Library, in a deep oriel. The Close, Chapel, &c., are bathed in the sweetest sunshine, it is quite tepid, and the air is so still. Only indeed some blackbirds in the gardens are ' shoutin',' and no wonder-the ' craythurs.' This silence and solitude are to me absolute food, especially after all the row and worry at the end of Term.
The Headmasters held their Conference here immediately after our Breaking-up. And now the last rumble of their chariot-wheels has died away, Eastward, and there is not a soul about, and the sunshine is not embarrassed by having to make shadows for any strange bodies, and all is clear, luminous, delicious, universal intelligence. It floats and buoys me up all round. ' My mind to me a kingdom is,' or rather a four-post bedstead of gentlest solace. And surely this sweet blue air is the very life of the intellect. All storms, and individuals, and rapprochements, and relations, and permutations, and combinations seem to me now brutal and destructive, wasteful and deadly. That a blackbird should pipe may well be borne, and I swear to you (imagine some ethereal bird-of-paradise oath!) that there is nothing else. The sky is hung over this place by a most delicate diamond boss at the zenith, and believe me! it all swims in silent blue music. (I saw a sheep then, but never mind!) Where are the men and women? Well, now look here, you'll not mention it again. They're all in church. See how good God is! See how he has placed these leitourgic traps in which people, especially disagreeable people, get caught-and lo! the universe for me!!! me-me....
Bless you all everywhere that love me. It is 11 .45 a.m. A rook has just flown past. As he did so, he cawed. From his black wings dripped the almost clinging blue.
CLIFTON COLLEGE, March 26, 1876.
I think there is every likelihood that I shall look you up. But if not, why can't you come to us (Windermere) ? Yes-have a walk with me up Fairfield. Ha! have I found you?
The Doctor' is still in the long-clothes of MS., and most likely will never be short-coated. It is enough: he has been born: the gossips have come and looked at him, and said-What a remarkable child! how like his father! What more would you have? A joke ! . . . Bless that baby of yours. You ought to play the piano for him, too. I had so severely arranged all my spring affinities, sympathies, symphonies, or whatever they are, that this weather has completely knocked me to pieces; not in body, however, which is sufficient, and plods on steadily.
LYNTON COTTAGE, LYNTON, April 16, 1877.
It is so cold. Can it possibly be like this with you? We have one colour: it is grey, the grey of an old man's beard, stubbly and unwashen.
But there is roaring of winds and streams.
Last night I had aramble which it would be hard to describe. I went round and round something; probably myself. One point there was upon the circumference-a spark-a ship working her way up channel against wind and tide. The ship was invisible in the gloom, but the light-what intense yearning! and what pluck and energy too!
It was like a red diamond, if there be such a thing, boring into blackness. I could almost hear the rip-rip of the severing sheets of darkness; or perhaps, rather, a delicate hum of the gritty grating stuff through which she had to pass.
But no, I return to the first idea. The borer, the red diamond piercing the black marble. Ah wellwhat matter
Write to me, and tell me about Rubinstein. Now do ! do !
I enclose some verses, which are silly enough; but I couldn't help writing them.
CLIFTON, January 6, 1878.
Politics move me not. There is nothing architectonic in this science, from my point of view. I couldn't help laughing at a passage in Sismondi I happened to be reading just when your letter arrived. ' Man is the product of laws and institutions,' and so forth. What absolute rot! The political function does not require genius, or any brilliancy even; nay, it is better to have it entirely dissociated from all such lure. Derby and Carnarvon would steer us through this strait infinitely better if that old virtuoso were not upon the bridge-blow him! We only want a certain material fence drawn round the garden of our life. We can't waste anything very precious or beautiful upon such a vallum. Pitch honest stakes, and let stout ditchers delve. The genius is wanted for other purposes.
CLIFTON, May 16, 1878.
I have to thank you for a great treat. The Autobiography is quite incomparable. What a bright old desperado! she holds her atheistic bayonet to your throat with such cheerful energy. The style is most refreshing. . . .
I confess I am very curious to see Mrs. Chapman's book. This stout-hearted woman (Martineau) lay down with a sort of grim satisfaction, to die, at the age of fifty-one; and didn't she live quite twenty years afterwards? I will hazard the observation that her longevity may have been favoured by her supreme self-complacency.
Also, is she not a little cool (coarse ? vulgar?) in the way she talks about ' Old Wordsworth' ? Mind, I can stand her contempt for parsons, and all thatit doesn't ruffle my feathers in the least. But I do feel that with Wordsworth we are upon sacred ground. I am all the more bothered because Miss Martineau was not a Philistine by any means, and she makes every now and then extraordinary good hits as to what constitutes true poetry.
CLIFTON COLLEGE, Judy 14, 1878.
Thank you for the Manse Garden. I am going right through it; though he keeps me a long time waiting at the holly hedge. It is very pleasant reading. I think I almost prefer the glimpses he gives us of possible tatterdemalionism and easy-going out-of-elbowness in a Scotch Manse. I fancy I can see those dry dust-heaps where the hens wash themselves in a kind of earth-born snuff.
We had much ado to get anything out of our garden. It was a regular fight against unfavourable circumstances, very heart-breaking at the time, I believe; but amusing enough to look back upon....
You will, I dare say, let me tarry a little longer in the precincts of the Manse. I have not yet seen inside of the holly.
PENSARN, September 16, 1878.
Many thanks for your letter. With such letters the mill-stream of our lives should be studded as with water-lilies.
It is not a letter in truth so much as a sonnet. Also it is (I for example') a little overture-most refreshing-and just what people ought to make haste to write to each other.
I would not have it transposed into the key of verse. But it makes me ponder. Do you write verse? I have, somewhere far back in my suspectorium (if there be such an organ or receptacle), an idea that you possibly meant your very sweet description as a most gentle and loving gird at my mountain truculence. I know, I know-indeed I also long for peace and ' straight-backed cows,' and swallows round the towers.' And whenever you see these things very clearly do write to me at once. Of such amours I am a greedy but safe confidant. On Thursday we shall be in Clifton. I delight in Wales more than ever. But for England there is very much to be said.
LAKE VIEW, KESWICK, September 15, 1879.
Again I receive your holiday pictures, and thank you heartily for the pleasant triptych. How shall I make return? I have been in Yorkshire-no, Durham; my first picture may be-at Appleby.
I was with Atkinson : we were climbing up from the town to the station, when suddenly far above us, on a high bank against the sky-line, was P., a solemn and almost awful figure and face, not melancholy, but stern and hard, far reach of eye, the pose of memories and back-seeking. His old school lay beneath his feet, his old church, his old river, his old self.
My second picture must be Caldron Snout, in Teesdale, seen by us in the late twilight, a joyous rush of flaming cream, sheets and volumes of that fire you get by rubbing together two pieces of quartz-a bridge (wooden, precarious) spans the fall midway. We look up to the comby crest where it first gets a notion of what is before it; under us is the straight arrowy myriad-lined thrust of the absolute energy, full of hate and insane purpose. We climb a bit of rock, and above the fall we see grey and melancholy preparations, a long dim claymore riveted into a background of hills; the hills black with a lustrous blackness as of Hamburg grapes; beyond all a blue-white sky, almost intolerably clear.
The colours grey, blue, white, cream, black. In the south, just resting on the high level of a moor, Jupiter; in the east, sinister and dim, Saturn and Mars. All the land very high, everything held up as if upon some giant's palm for heaven to look upon-a consciousness of being above everything. A perfect solitude, no roads, no paths, no trace or sign of human habitation. A half-acknowledged difficulty of ever getting away, ever getting back to the homely ways and haunts of men. On one side of me, P., quite silent and looking up; on the other, M., pale, unearthly, his face seamed with deep lines of violet, looking into mine, and asking me whether I am satisfied. His childish glee when I tell him I am, and yet the unabated hunger for sympathy, and again and again the question, and again and again the answer, until at last he looked radiant with gratitude and triumph. And then, will you not believe it, Pearson ? the rush into my eyes of tears that I suppose I succeeded in hiding.
We saw High Force next day, but, as M. had foreknown, with all its greatness, it could not be accepted by us in lieu of Caldron.
My third picture (ah, vines! apricots! sunny parsondom ! no-not you ! not you ! but) a thunderstorm in our mountains here. B. and I had gone up Hindscarth, and were now on Dale-head, a good stony hill up Newland's way confronting Honister. It came from Scawfell. I saw it there a deep blue, or rather a gunpowder black. With two clips of its broad wings it was upon us; and we ran-ran before it-ran down to get shelter among the crags, for our Dale-head was as bare as a billiard ball. We had hardly time to dispossess a poor sheep of its niche (it might have stayed, however, if it had so chosen), when it swept over us in a splendid rush of rain, hail, and lightning. It had no time to stop and search for such atomies as we, but with one great wrench and a mighty fling it rattled down into Borrowdale eastward; then sunshine and a blue sky with that blessed wistful look as who should say 'Were you frightened?' And then a descent to a quarry, where two cheerful men were cutting slates, and were so glad to see us. I dare say you know the curious numbness and pricking of the fingers when you are caught in a real thunder-cloud, and are all but breathing electricity. I fear you will be disappointed with my three pictures; but I thought I would try and give you back some portion of the pleasure you have given me.
Let us exchange these sketches every summer, as long as we adhere to this not-after-all-so-much-to-be-condemned-and-deprecated old scene of existence.
CLIFTON, October 19, 1879.
Though personally unknown to you, I feel I must write to you in your great sorrow. Such sorrow seems to cry from the depths of its unutterable intensity to all hearts that have felt and can feel what sorrow is. Such sorrow makes all true men your brothers, and I for one would fain try and comfort you a little.
And yet how hard it is to say anything that will comfort you! I can only stand by your side, and speechlessly pray for you, and sympathize with you. It is dark indeed! oh for light! for the light. Dear friend, how I have prayed for this in my own case ! that God would come into my heart, and shed, if not a bright convincing joy, at least some soft sweet soothing twilight of His love in which I could rest. May He give you this, and make you feel that all is well! For assuredly all is so. I knew your little girl I once took a number of young things (I scarcely remember any of them now but her) in a boat in Ramsey Bay. I thought her very lovable, and in every way promising and delightful. And we chatted and laughed, as you may well imagine-bright sky, merry hearts, all hope and radiance! I don't think I ever saw her again. And, indeed, this would be but a slight ground for asking to be permitted to associate myself to your grief, vividly as it remains pictured on my memory. But I knew your late husband very well, and we must have many common interests and friends. It is, however, as one who has suffered that I venture to address you now. This seems to be the strongest of all ties, or nearly so. My heart bleeds for you, for are you not my sister in the sacred bonds of sorrow ? I pray God to bless you. Some little relief may come from human comforters; but it was He that made our poor struggling hearts, and He alone can strengthen and sustain them.
[fpc: an Anne Catherine Kissack Fletcher (bp 20 Feb 1858 at Ramsey) was buried at Maughold on 16 Oct 1879, the daughter of William Mulcarter Edward Baines Fletcher who was buried age 58 on 27 Sep 1876, also at Maughold - the name Tom Baines was used by TEB as the narrator of the Fo'c'stle Yarns. In the 1881 census the widow Christian Fletcher nee Kissack was living at 8 Lezayre Rd Ramsey - they had married at Maughold 16 April 1857 - this would appear to be William's second marriage as he is found in the 1851 census as a newly arrived English born surgeon residing in Michael Street Peel, his first wife Sarah Stainsfield was buried at Lonan in 1856]
CHAPEL, December 21, 1879.
Again I see you, Pearson, like a bird
Flushed from Devonian furrows, where they lie
And front the concaves of another sky,
And scent the nearer Spring. Ah, say a word!
Say two, dear Pearson ! surely we have heard
Enough of ' moral, spiritual' powers,
' In a society like ours '
The pulpit, Pearson ! not the pew
Assume the concionatic perch
Ah, tell us how they coo
The pigeons of the Exe,
What foam-bird flecks
The channel's waste, what tridents search,
Keen-pronged, the Daulian caves,
And all the bicker of the waves
Ah, tell us, do
Do, Pearson : nor not tell
How fares the younger birch
Is Eddard Harris well
As well can be
And of his consort tell mehow is she ?
CLIFTON, October 24, 1880.
If I might see what you have written, by way of memorial, I would be grateful: but I hardly know whether I ought to ask you this. You can judge; and you will judge according to the law of kindness and sympathy. Perhaps we ought to shut out no honest spirit that wants to feel with us even in our deepest sorrows.
1Concerning those loved ones-whether any communication with them now is possible, whether we shall hereafter know them, or ' have anything to do with them,' all this is to me the merest mist. I did not like to say so before, for I thought it would distress you. But as you almost ask me, I have to tell you now that I know nothing about ' a disembodied state'; that to me it is altogether removed from the sphere of practical considerations. To say I recognize the wisdom of God, and His goodness in all, is to say what may be said, but it seems useless to say it. I simply know nothing: I submit, I acquiesce even; but that is all. That we cannot have pleasure without pain, for instance, is, in a rueful sort of way, true enough; but is it not. an unhappy arrangement? and is it to go on after death ? or is that supreme pain to be final? And if Heaven, or whatever we call it, is to be free from pain, why should not earth be so? and so on, and so on, . . . but I don't mean these for arguments-no-no. I lie down on my child's grave 2 and fill my mouth with the clay, and say nothing. If I may quote my own lines
Oh ! what is there to do?
Oh! what is there to say?
' Nothing '-nothing whatever. But then, dear Mozley, do not think that I do not react under the stroke: I am not merely passive. This is my action. Death teaches me to act thus-to cling with tenfold tenacity to those that remain. A man might, indeed, argue thus. The pain of separation from those we love is so intense that I will not love, or, at least, I will withdraw myself into a delicate suspension of bias, so that when the time comes I may not feel the pang, or hardly feel it. This would be the economical view, and a sufficiently base one. But I am taught by death to run the fullest flood into my family relations.
The ground is this. He is gone: I have no certain ground whatever for expecting that that relation can be renewed. Therefore, I am thankful that I actualized it intensely, ardently, and effectually, while it existed: and now I will do the same for what is left to me: nay, I will do much more; for I did not do enough. He and I might have been more intertwined, a great deal more, and that we were not appears to me now a great loss. In this, as in everything else, I accept the words of the Ecclesiast' What thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for'-you know the rest. I accept that too. This is the very outcome: often I am otherwise, but this is . the pivot of oscillation, and it is a practical one-we trust, or, at any rate, lean too much to the mere storgé, effort is needed and intention.
Yes, it is quite true about the ' Lamb' 3 there he lay, upon the very spot the child's feet had rested on, when he tried to climb. Here, too, is another fact, but I have put it into rhyme 4.
Ah, Mozley, Mozley !
1 On this subject cf. the letter of May 23, 1888.
2 His boy Braddon died in April, 1876. How this blow shook him his poetry has told; see the poem called ' Aber Stations' in the volume entitled Old John, p. 23.
3 See old John, p. 40.
4 In ' Clevedon Verses' in Old John, p. 84, here written down
And so unto the turf her ear she laid,
To hark if still in that dark place he played.
CLIFTON, February 8, 1881.
And 'True Thomas' is gone. What has he not been to the men of my generation? And the younger men come and ask one-What was it? What did he teach? and so forth; and, of course, there is nothing to be said in that direction. And, if one mumbles something between one's teeth (impatiently, rather like a half-chewed curse)-something about a Baptism of fire-my graceful adolescents look shocked, and, for the most part, repeat the question, ' Yes, yes, but what did he teach ?' To which (I mean when repeated) there is no possible reply, but the honest outspoken 'D-.' My favourite Carlyle is The Life of John Sterling. . . .
I BEACH COTTAGE, SEATON, DEVON, April 23, 1881.
Judge of Seaton as a municipium from the fact that your letter got here on Tuesday last, and has only been delivered to-day! Shall I kick up a row? Shall I write to Bob Fawcett ? No, I think not in more vigorous days (calida juventa) I should probably have spilled some gall over it; but I feel very much propitiated, very much ' subdooed,' not unlike that dear old cook in Punch who told her mistress that she was ' of that 'appy disposition that she felt she could love any man.'
Our beach is the most sparkling one I ever saw. It is chiefly composed of fine shingle-flint is the great thing, but such flint, exquisitely coloured, and with such a dewy gleam always on it. Even the dry stuff, above high-water mark, is never dull or dim, it seems to have a radiance in itself-bless it! Country inland decidedly dull, except for primroses, but primroses, I am ashamed to say, one now begins to postulate: too bad! for after all, what is like them ? Chalk, chalk, chalk-that is the coast, and such coasts have, to me, always a blank and idiot look. The cliffs seem to have no intelligent appreciation of where they are, or what is expected of them; the very sea has got tired of buffeting their poor pasty fronts--no struggle, no defiance, no grim repose, ' no nothink.' Water very good for these parts, clear and without suspect. Still, I should not think of coming here in the long holidays: the place is crammed, I believe, in August; and interior being deficient, no outlet that way, I should be miserable.
The great ' broodin' fact' at present for me is the chance of my taking my grace-term 1 in the autumn, and going with P. I think that would set me up.
It would be a queer contrast: Dakyns eastward, I westward; Dakyns in 'Ελλας, I in Yankee doodledom ; Childe Dakyns, Squire Brown. You come too: do! The one disadvantage about our adventure would be the desperate difficulty of settling down to school-mastering again, of which-good sooth-I weary more and more, and would fain see some other outlet, some Zoar,-but not in Colorado-at least, I suppose not: it is too late for me to take to bowie knives and revolvers; the trick ought to be taught in childhood, for they are devilishly nimble with their index-finger-those gentlemen in Denver county.
1 Leave of absence for a term.
A mon ami G. H. W.
Juin 25, 1881.
Evoléne ! Evoléne !
Ah le bon
(Pas de France)
Qui me méne
À Evoléne, à Evoléne,
C'est ma faute
A moi - Pourquoi
Depuis trois Semaines,
Ne suis-j' ici,
À Evoléne, à Evoléne ?
Les eclairs Chassérent
Et mon ' oss,'
Par la pluie -
Bis wir sehen
Le Lion Britannique
Et sa clique
S cuistre ;
Cad in grain,
Tout le 'lot,'
Grand ' rot,'
Mûrent ma haine ;
Et je vins,
' Slap bang,'
À Evoléne, à Evoléne.
Evoléne ! Evoléne
Ce nest pas Hélas !
Ni pays du dollar;
C'est le pays du grand Arolla(r),
Mais le crime
D'une telle rime Fait horreur,
Je me lance
HOTEL BEL ALP, July 5, 1881.
This is the place! I have seen nothing to compare with it for a moment. It blends with all my humours, and mentally it makes me quite absolute....
One ice cave had an altar inside, and round the altar, and far away into the inner depths, was a sea of the purest water. The purity of that altar! It seemed to have inside it a fiery globule that shifted and clucked (do you understand?).
Tyndall is here: last night he sat out with a lot of us, as we took our post-prandial coffee and what not. He talked well, and seemed to enjoy it. I like what I have seen of him. He is quite unaffected, so much so as not to mind flinging out, every now and then, dashes of real Hibernian rhetoric....
The wavy look of the glacier gives one an irresistible impression of up and down motion as of the sea, and I could have sworn that F. & Co. were rising and falling on big, heavy, long rollers. I told him afterwards he looked like Moses leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea, the water being a wall on this side and on that. The comparison failed a little in the personality-that was all. Addio.
LAKE VIEW, KESWICK, September 14, 1881.
Many thanks for the Wordsworth. I have read Mat's Preface. I can't say I am satisfied with it, though
I am very much amused. I see in Crabb Robinson's Diary that he thought it necessary to recommend a certain order of reading Wordsworth ; I rather think that he deemed it advisable to postpone the reading of some of the poems till the Greek Kalends. And he was a ' Wordsworthian.' Probably, therefore, Mat is right in principle, but he is certainly arbitrary in the application thereof. He has retained some poems-such as that on Burns-evidently for the sake of a few lines or stanzas, not for the excellency of the composition as a whole. On the other hand, he has omitted entire peoms ('The Cuckoo'?) of the greatest merit.
We have just had our last row on the lake. We left it jet, and steel, and gold. How sad it is ! I can't affect to be otherwise than wretched. I do believe your autumns are the very soul of the lake year; and I am always forced to go away, just as the intensity of the sweetness begins to deepen to its acme. But-we must be patient, and thankful for what we have had.
I was at Grasmere on Tuesday, and had a row on the lake, also a long and loving dream over the grave. That church beck! the little scamp-how does it contrive to check its pace,and hush its prattle, and lean its little elbow against the wall, and creep beneath the bridge, and then hurry-scurry away for the lake? and what a colour
It was very good of you both to come and see me, especially in my dull and sodden estate.
CLIFTON, June 4, 1882.
To think that we should have a chance of getting you to Keswick, or somewhere near! Directly I got your first letter, I began seething with this notion, so did Wollaston. Our plan was that you should be at Patterdale, Wollaston at Grasmere, and I at Keswick. We set on foot inquiries. At present we stand thus: W. will be at Grasmere, I will be at Keswick, all settled, signed and sealed. But where will you be ? ' Ah ! ' say you,' it is not a question of will,' and you go on doubtless to quote Scripture, and Greek tragedians, and Evangelical hymnologists, as usual, 'Oh, where shall rest be found ?' . . . Rest shall be found. Come to the Lakes! do make up your dear old mind about that! make it up, and lock it up, and sit upon it, corded and water-tight. There will be no difficulty whatever. Just go to Keswick to-morrow. After all that's better than Patterdale. Keswick itself, the town, is a very blessed old place. There is no promenade, no regulation turn-out place at all; and really, considering the number of visitors, it is surprising how little one sees of them, whereas of genuine country folk one sees a great deal. Keswick market-day (Saturday) is a most refreshing sight. The pathos of the posies (excuse the alliteration) is perfectly thrilling -the simple old cottage garden flowers so trustfully offered you as good and sufficient. But the fact is, I love the place; and whether it is bracing or not I don't care, I'd rather die in its sweet soft arms, than live an eternity of Tithono-Strudbrug effeteness at a place like Whitby.
Concerning Oxford I have not much to say: it is decidedly a good offer, and not to be sneezed at for a moment (would you like to sneeze at it just a moment? eh? what? ... tchew ! ! there! now ... all right). But my selfishness would make me an unfair judge. Against the Bodleian I would put the Great Gable, against New College Gardens those ' Fraternal four at Borrowdale,' against all the Thameses in the-universe one sparkling emerald of the Greta. Have you the furore of books strong? I am rather sorry. I am beginning to think it would have been much better for the world if no books had ever been writtenscrawling scribbles on the walls of the eternal silence ah, blast them! What sap of life have they not wrung and baked and cheese-pressed out of me Still I see a plan which is only too obvious, and which would, if you adopted it, dash all my hopes it is of course this-to go to the Lakes from June to August, while things are decidedly cheap there, and in August move to Oxford. The place is then very sweet and soothing-a long-drawn breath of ease, or even a suspension, a dear old mother sleeping while her children play in divers fields. Hold hard! I am beginning to fall in love with the notion myself. Ah, no come to Keswick, and stay there! and let us gather the Skiddaw blaeberries, and be happy.
Hitherto, we have all (except perhaps myself ?) treated Skiddaw in a somewhat flippant fashion. It is such an obvious hill, with a town and a railway station at its foot, and a regulated footpath and a drinking-fountain, and a refreshment hut, as you go up; but it has inner chambers: it is mystic, and remotis rupibus, I have heard Bacchus teaching, and the nymphas discentes, and far beyond them and the prick-ears of the Capripedes, I have seen my purple island, my Hesperid, my only true home on this earth. And if you would go there with me
Why not? I shall in any case be going. Would not that be sacramental?
LAKE VIEW, KESWICK, July 30, 1882.
Peace! that is the word-and soaking, that is the other word. Ah, well,-never mind! Friday and Saturday were glorious. To-day it rains, and such a blessed muddle of hay and cows, and sheep, and lake and mist-I was going to say you never saw, but verily you have, and often, if not too often. But does it not soothe ? Tell me that ! Is it not sweet ? Does it not fill up all the crannies of the soul as with a soft honey-cement ? Go to! no sea! and only the delicate mica-film of Mona away there in the west the darling little thing cherub-watched, and nigh inscrutable.
CLIFTON, November 4, 1882.
You are quite right about these stories 1. Keltic, that is it; the Kelt emerging if you will, but the Kelt, if I may say so, a good deal hardened and corrupted by the Saxon. That is Tom Baynes ; that is myself, in fact. I never stopped for a moment to think what Tom Baynes should be like: he simply is I, just such a crabbed text, blurred with scholia in the margent,' as is your humble servant. So when I am alone, I think and speak to myself always as he does.
Of death, my dear Mozley, I have just one thing to say. I came from Harrogate 2 with this thought Death is not after all so terrible. It is so natural, such an action, such a part of life, that I do not believe I shall ever again fear it much.' This thought was conceived under somewhat favourable conditions: for my brother was a very sweet-tempered, kindly man, with great moral strength and self-control. He could not have done anything, could not even have died, in an abject manner. That, I should say, must be very terrible. But looking on death as a thing to be done, and done well, an action which may have its own nobility, I think we can feel very happy.
1 His poems. 2 Where his brother died.
HOTEL DU PARC, LUGANO, May 18, 1888.
Gefesselt' wie antlers? you too got caught, entangled you said. One does, physically as well as morally. I have not the slightest wish ever to leave this place. I give you my word of honour on it. But even my 'word of honour' is a thing hardly worth offering from here. Honour melts, and an irresistible desire to shake off its fetters, together with all other ' considerations,' is the one thing that presses. For instance, to write some frightful lie to Wilson, showing cause why I can't leave Lugano for a month yet, were an excellent device, and surely a pious fraud, if pious fraud there be.
Here is a chaplain: he is a D.D. and an archdeacon; but I could easily represent to Wilson that this man has taken to drinking heavily, and that Béha has earnestly entreated me to take his place until a suitable evangelistic successor turns up. Morality should not hinder me, but the limits of probability as affecting cold northern natures must necessarily condition my methods of deception.
1. I have been up to San Salvatore with E.
2. 1 have been up Monte Bré alone.
3. We have all three driven round S. Bernardo.
4. We have all three been to Porlezza and back.
5. All three to Ponte Tresa and back.
6. All three to Porlezza, Menaggio, Como, and so home by rail.
To-day we intend all three going up M. Generoso. We shall go in the evening, as the heat begins to be very burning. My walk up M. Bré was terrifically hot. That was yesterday.
You will be glad to hear of these ' climms,' such as they are, for they are test ' climms 'which satisfy me that I can go up any ordinary English mountain, and make my paths straight for Keswick this summer. Moreover, on Monte Bre did not some women exclaim, Come l'uomo va ! ' God grant that this was not derisive! I don't think it was. I was nearly dead, but I did my best to affect a fine long swing, as of lithest athlete-Ay di mi ! (is that Carlyle's way of spelling it?).
I have seen a good deal of the people. A girl on the Como boat (Whitsun Monday, festa folk) was a marvel of physical beauty. With her was her lover, not handsome, and a goose. But who would not have been a goose for such a face? Still, of tenderness not one suggestion-all fire, and not celestial fire either. Ah, goose! goose! poor singed goose! onionstuffed perchance! what fate will be his with that splendid salamander?
An awful climate, isn't it?
A terrible soil that seems to throw out these human pomegranate blooms in a moment. She looked as if she had just been born-bless her-and her goose! nay, a goose must take care of himself. Very different from this fire angel, flame-winged, literally burning coal of beauty, with her pretensions, her mantilla, her ready, prompt meeting of all eyes, was an absolutely celestial creature, that I met the other day, bearing her big basket, containing manure (I think). This girl smiled at me, a distinct good sweet smile-now is it not marvellous ? At me. Just like a flower-she . saw me before her, no other man-and it was necessary to smile. Derision? Good God! no: like the flowers, Duft, pollen-you know about those things; a natural and most wholesome and lovable expansion. The eyes were of a colour which I cannot determine, and I like such eyes; the fact is, they look at you, they melt down through the whole gamut of colour and leave off with a tongue of the softer fire. Her face was not oval, but very broad; the forehead of the real tenuis Horatio-Lycoridian type. As I have not yet come upon any gentians, I accept this girl in lieu of all gentians and other Alpine glories.
CLIFTON COLLEGE, October 30, 1883.
I went up to the great 'gaudy' at Oriel. I should have liked so much to have had an introduction to your uncle, the author of the Reminiscences. He was there, but quite silent: I was separated from him, being at the general table, while he was among the Dii majores. He looked such a dear old mischievous jackdaw of a man. His book is one of the most delightful, and, I think, one of the most brilliant that has appeared since the Confessions of Jean Jacques.
The Orlando Furioso-have you read it? It is just now my constant companion. What a brilliant bird-of-paradise sort of creature it is! I think the hard enamel of this Italian reprobate pleases me better than Spenser with his soft velvet carpet, on which you walk ankle-deep in the moss of yielding allegory.
CLIFTON, October 30, 1883.
We took the Wilsons up behind Lodore 1, and so away on the heights above Troutdale, descending at last into Troutdale itself. This was in many respects a miraculous day, because it held up most marvellously; there was no sunshine at all, but an eternal grey, peaceful, ever happy, and deliciously sweet and soothing. A great sheet seemed to have been let down knit at the four corners (Skiddaw, Great Gable, Bowfell, Helvellyn), in which were -well, I can't exactly say. Wilson took to crag climbing, at which he is very good: his greatest delight was to get my youngest girl (a small person of some twelve) to climb with him. We got the Wilsons to go up Saddleback. 'Account of walks at the Lakes.
Wilson went up the sharp edge like a deer, and pronounced it absolutely ' ridiculous.'
Of sea I have to report deep indigo, with stripes of grey 1, both fretted with a fine breeze.
Of land, a patchwork of green and brown, very good and clear. Of mountains, a haystacky greenybrown, quite clear, but somewhat vulgar and obvious. Of the ' brews' (brows, slopes by sea), astonishing abundance of hawkweed, lady's bedstraw, harebell, little blue scabious, wild liquorice, wild thyme, and convolvulus (striped pink and white), all mad with the merriest sunshine, a sunshine that really tickles you.
KESWICK, September 13, 1884.
This is what Mrs. Brown calls the I spirited portrait,' an expression which, as I take it, conveys somewhat of reproach. It implies that I don't always look ' spirited'--this is to be regretted rather than remedied: let us thank God for the one ' bit o' spir't ' that owns, however casually, to have visited me in my declining years.
I have now had a long holiday, indeed nearly three months, and feel very strong in a rugged sort of way; but I never trust that sort of strength much.
Five weeks in the Isle of Man, spent very quietly, were most delightful. I lived on harebells, lady's bedstraw, green waving barley, and a crisp NW. breeze. Here we have all gone in for the activities. 1 i.e. Manx Sea. He went to the Island from the Lakes.
We have been up all the high mountains, and over most of the passes. All my children go on these expeditions.
One very melancholy thing has happened almost at our door. I mean the death of poor Mr. A. He died at Morecambe about three weeks ago, and was buried at Crosby Ravensworth (his ' ain place'):
I was at the funeral. Such a lovely spot, folded in among the moors, itself a cradle of green velvet-no railway, no tourist, God's eternal peace.
CLIFTON, October 14, 1884.
Do you know that Ennerdale Bridge is a fearful sell? Brand new church, splendid new board school, the churchyard full of-well, a good many natural graves 1, but also well stocked with headstones dating from a time earlier than Wordsworth, the dear old impostor ' for the nones.' We turned away in disgust, and walked on to the Angler's Rest. This was most soothing to our exasperated minds. The lake was a fine blue, and there was a strong breeze blowing on it. It is seldom you see one of our lakes like this. Dakyns could not get it out of his head that it was a salt-water loch. In the starlit darkness, later, we walked up and down on the little pier, and discussed the Oedipus Tyrannus in a way sufficiently exhausting, if not exhaustive. It was a night to remember.
1 This fragment of a letter refers to the lines of Wordsworth in ' The Brothers' :
'In our churchyard
Is neither epitaph nor monument,
Tombstone nor name-only the turf we tread
And a few natural graves.' To Jane, his wife,
Thus spake the homely Priest of Ennerdale.-J. R. M.
VENTNOR, ISLE OF WIGHT, January so, 1885.
Thank you very much for the satire. Satire is an undoubted branch of poetry; but I do not affect it much. There is a strong, healthy, noble satire, the saeva indignatio of the Latin classics. But, short of that, satire seems only an element of discontent and unhappiness.
I know the ' pip,' the ' black pigs' too, know them well; but they are quite beneath contempt; and nothing on earth would induce me to cross the bright blue of my serenity. I have a great notion of being the master of my own happiness, and not suffering it to be contingent on the manners and conduct of other people.
If a man slights me, he does me no harm; but if his conduct is detrimental to the general good, if he is unjust, a villain in high place, a seducer, a poison, a snare to the innocent, then have at him! though, constitutionally, I had rather leave him alone.
The sum of happiness in the world is not too large. I would like, if possible, to increase it by the modest contribution of my own store. If so, I must guard it from all disturbance; and poetry enables me to do this, gives me a thousand springs of joy, in none of which there is one drop of bitterness-and thank God for that
We are here in the I. of Wight, busy comparing it with the I. of Man, of course. It is really a beautiful island, not merely as regards richness of vegetation, an ornament that just now is not available, but also for its configuration. The' lay of the land,' the attitude, and gesture of the lines are admirable. The coast is dismally inferior to ours; glens are not to be seen, and streams are puny, but very clean. On the whole we give the preference to Mona, and that upon purely aesthetic, not patriotic, grounds.
I hope you are all well and thriving. Accept my best wishes for the New Year. Your satire discloses perhaps a slight biliary secretion-all satire, I fear, is bile-I hope I may impute it to Christmas festivities rather than to any permanent disorder!
PS.-I return the verses, as I think you would like to keep them.
CLIFTON, May 7, 1885.
I stayed nearly a week longer at Cadenabbia, alone. I went up to the San Martino, and continued my walk on to the Monte Crocione. Here I came upon the most perfect paradise of flowers I ever beheld anywhere, and was helped to pick them by the most exquisite of nature's gentlemen, a young Italian peasant, or perhaps I ought to say farmer. I also climbed Monte San Primo. Much of my walk that
day I had in company with a merry little shopkeeper of Bellagio. I was forced to talk some sort of Italian, and we talked and laughed, and walked and chaffed, and ate and drank with each other. I was about seven or eight hours in his company.
May 25, 1885.
Victor Hugo ! I am one of the Hugo-maniacs, absolutely certain that there has been no poet like him since Shakespeare. It is very curious, is it not? how absolutely certain we Hugonians feel about this. It seems to me quite amazing that it is not universally recognized. I know that I ought not to be amazed; but I assure you that I am, most unfeignedly. I don't want you to argue with me at all, but merely to constater it as a fact, that there are men to whom this position of Victor Hugo in the history of literature seems as axiomatically obvious as the position of the sun in the solar system.
LAKE VIEW, KESWICK, September ro, 1885.
Shortly before leaving Clifton a worthy Frenchman put into my hands Reynaud's Terre et Ciel, a mysticotheological scientific book of enormous dimensions, and considerable pretensions. That has gone a long way; I have read it! I have read, with much pleasure, I Written while laid up with a sprained ankle.
Mrs. Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, and am much in love with Molly Gibson, whose father also is very nice. But the great discovery, or rather re-discovery, has been Scott. I have read Waverley, Old Mortality, Woodstock, Reägauntlet, Bride of Lammermoor, Rob Roy, and am now reading Quentin Durward. They quite spring on me, these old darlings. What a man!! I am full of ' wonder, love, and praise'; I seem to see all manner of great and good things; but the main thing is-the joy and the glory of it all is-what I suppose the French mean by verve, at any rate what I understand by that favourite term of French criticism. The inexhaustible streaming and bubbling up of the great old heart of him, his own boundless enjoyment of it all; this is health to the navel and marrow to the bones.
CLIFTON, September 18, 1885.
Many thanks for your kind thoughtfulness. I have, however, a copy of my father's poems, which was given me lately by ' Brown of the Times,' and I do not think I want another, nor ought I, in fact, to trespass on Mrs. Gawne's goodness. Perhaps you would like to keep the copy yourself; these little rce/~Ata have value for those who remember and cherish the re membrance of old times. There is no house which could more appropriately contain this volume than the Rectory of Bride.
We should not forget either that true woman of genius, Hester Nelson. Often I think of her, and her early doom; and Bride seems to me a shrine of splendid promise and aspirations unfulfilled save in God. Is she buried there ? I suppose so. My father thought very highly of her poems. Some he thought worthy of Milton. And that was all breathed in and bred from your Bride hills, and the long stretches of the Ayre. Could you possibly get me a copy of her poems? You would be conferring on me an inestimable favour.
Yes, I am lame, a ' limiter,' as they say in Yorkshire. But I must not complain; I have had a delightful quiet time, good for the mind and soul of me, and not amiss for the body either. Our first disappointment has been my inability to get over to the Island. I feel how precious the time is ' in that particular,' knowing how unlikely it is that I shall have many more opportunities of seeing the dearest of my old friends, the Archdeacon. I had even been flattering myself with the thought that he would have let me preach before him this year, and I had been meditating some words such as might have cheered him, both as regards the bourne to which he is hastening, and the fidelity to his memory and to his principles of those whom he will, in all probability, leave behind him. To me it would have been an interesting occasion, and for myself profitable, as it would have put one upon considering how much of the old belief I still retain, a consideration the outcome of which would have been to realize that in all essentials I am heartily in agreement still with this truly wise and good man. With the eye steadily fixed on the further shore, the windings and aberrations of any course which has not been a vicious one are lost in the straightness of that single aim. And at last we shall meet there, some by a direct and simple passage, others by long tacks and beatings to windward. On the beach stands the one Christ.
CLIFTON, December 29, 1885.
I don't know how to thank you for your great kindness. It would, indeed, be most delightful if I could accept your invitation, an invitation so thoughtful, so thought out in the pleasantest alternatives and dovetailings of tempting facility. But I am quite a prisoner still.
Altogether, my holidays must be given to the pursuit of health under one of her most obvious conditions, to wit, that of locomotion. No progress that I may make in this art will lead me as far as Ireland. It is provoking, and indeed I am provoked, and disappointed, and rather weary. Such perfect kindness and goodness as yours comes like sunshine through the cloud, but what would it not be to realize the happiness of it all there, at Glenburn-the very name of the place suggestive, arrident ?
Here I had your brother-in-law, but he is gone - to Lyme with Davies. I rejoice to think that he is having this change, not, you may be sure, without due remembrance of Persuasion, and that dreadful accident on the ' Cobb'-is that the name of the bulwark there ?
Now that he is gone, I am with my books, and that is rather pleasant. I don't know whether you read Italian; but I think you do. It is a great fad of mine to try luck upon the things our forefathers liked, the books, one might perhaps say, that formed them. Of course I mean the books. Now one sees everywhere what a person Petrarch has been! what an influence ! Wherever I see this kind of thing, I set myself diligently to realize it. I will not permit the fraction of a doubt as to the justice of their admiration. I believe implicitly that our forbears were not fools, and that they knew what they were about. I begin, therefore, by defying all carpers and sneerers who would tell me that Petrarch was artificial, and so forth. There must be more in the matter than this. The results are always most satisfactory. I have succeeded by constant, patient, reverent reading of the Rime in tuning my mind to the pitch of circiter 1350. I mean, of course, to the point of reading the poems with the bona fides, sympathy, and surrender which it is quite certain the men of his own time readily granted to Petrarch, and which for centuries afterwards this noble poet obtained at the hands of the ingenuous. This is a great thing to gain, if but for a moment, a Pisgah-glimpse of retrospective vision.
But I must not presume upon my privilege of invited guest to bore you with my pleasures or my pains.
I think I do know S. well. What many people might not so readily observe is his strength. The man is the finest Damask steel; I have never conversed with a more graceful or more athletic mind.
CLIFTON, December 30, 1885.
W. tells me that you are studying mathematics with a view to the higher physics-Matte vb-tute ! That is certainly good, much better, more masculine, sane, and noble, than our eternal teaching of beggarly elements. Go on, Worthington! no treadmill for you but a scala caeli ! Meantime I also-well, no-I'm not-I'm nowhere. . . . I have a trick, a dodge, an as who would say homo sun, &c. ; but my studies are mere sympathies, caught casual from brambles by the way-a flower, sir, mayhap, a poor flower at your service-a very wretched little flower-has a smell perchance, a colour-ay di mil ' creeses ! creeses ! who'll buy my fresh creeses ? ' comes to ' creeses ' after all.
There is one trick I would fain learn, and that is the homely trick of walking upon my legs like a man-' Homo sum.' Yes, but what's the good of that, if I am only imhlumis and not bipes ? Positively the doctors have done nothing for me, and I am after all to go up and see Sir James Paget. I can't walk 200 yards, and that is crawling.
To me, thus, enter the patrons of three livings: Aberford near Leeds, Wray on Windermere, and a place in Berkshire. Of course I can't go and see these interesting ' cures,' so must forbear them. Wray is delicious; no need for me to go and see it; and Wray is t-10o a year. So jy sui's, j y reste ; and this demi-semi dip into the ecclesiastical lucky-bag has given me rather a turn, a turn which may affect my plans seriously and permanently.
My old friend M., like the ' goodest' of creatures, went and saw the Leeds place for me: even wrote to me from the Swan Inn, Aberford, a detailed account of all and sundry the matters pertaining to the poor problem. But he finishes by saying that I ought not to take a living-voici le texte. ' I believe that God and Christ (for you know that I believe in their everliving power as in that of all good and true spirits who each in their order have passed through death) could open to you truer ways of life, and will if you trust them.' These are bracing words, and perhaps
I needed them: but we shall see.... I shall probably go, and Mrs. Brown with me, to Eastbourne. Do you know the place? Would Hastings be better? I see, by the papers, Parnell is there. I should so like to meet him: we would cheer each other about Home Rule; in fact, I would propound to him a constitution, viz. that of the Isle of Man, . . . 24 Keys, or Taxiarchi. There are 4 provinces in Ireland, are there not ? 24 is divisible by 4 . . . 4 , voski tout! What fools politicians are
Being pregnant with these imperial purposes I receive an invitation from the Crossleys, and how I should like to go! suppressing for the nonce my Fenian projects. But
The engagement of S. is in many ways very delightful; but perhaps perilously delightful! How
I shall pray for them! For, if it is precarious, so are all the loveliest things. . . . Let us pray.
Dakyns has levanted, I don't know where, but very likely to the Levant. Irwin is down at Lyme Regis smoking with Davies, and trying to ensnare that Welsh person into the charmed circle of Jane Austen and Persuasion.
For me, I read much French and Italian ; have made the acquaintance of Lamartine ; have read Petrarch (Rime) all through, the first time I ever did that. I really think I should have been a very accomplished, perhaps even delightful youth, if I had done these things thirty-five years ago. Now it seems like decorating a tomb; smothering my dismal old coffin with wreaths-conventional? no! no! don't say that! Petrarch has sap in him. How all the generations have sucked the juice! There can be no mistake about it. Hang the coffin! aprscos nevte_§ores : and let them be a garland for grey hairs, but not for death! I believe in the art of medicine rather than in that of surgery as applied to the soul. We must have faith; put into you good and gracious and salubrious things, and somehow or other they shall sweeten your blood, making it perfumed, ichorian.
I could write a prescription. Recoe Petrarchi viii. &c., &c. . . . Capiat. Fill it up as you will.
I am constantly wearying - and ' sich' with this notion of mine. But they have got so engrained in them the idea of direct and conscious imitation which their classical scholarship has made habitual and necessary to their mind's movement that I can't stir up much faith in ' those cold hearts of theirs.' For the highest uses I am confident that you must take in the influences through the skin, through the chyle, through repeated but ineffable infrications, baths, emollients, smells, tacts, drops, bedewings, expositions as of ozone paper-in short, quiet submittings of one's self to the spirit one loves and desires. My father taught me this method; vulgarly, you may call it the ' soaking' method. Now, if Hebe were to make my bath, it would be such an one.
When are you likely to come here ? Mind you stay with us when you do. From the pole opposite to yours I feel that we can meet in a congenial centre. But it is all at your expense, I must admit. I cannot follow you into your mathematico-physical cave. I don't ' do with' caves of any kind. But you seem never to have any difficulty in getting out among the flowers, and the hearts and the ' like o' yandhar.' I rather think you are to be the more envied. To come out from a keen abstract atmosphere of problem into the sunshine of vitality, emotional, conscious vitality-what a sensation! You have it, I have not. Are you something like a miner? blinded by the light, staggering heavily with laden eyes against the dawn when your night-shift is over? I don't think so. You come out and begin to play immediately. Does that mean that you have not been far in ? No, I think not. I must drop the mine: it's not a mine; it's a mountain, and you come down to the valley and the games.
Particularly remember me most kindly to Mrs. Worthington, who, I hope, is getting much stronger than I. All join in affectionate wishes for the New Year.
CLIFTON, March 1, 1886.
I begin to feel something like an old wrecker down on a lee shore after sunset, watching the big ships.
My brother has ringed me round all my life with moral strength and abettance ; I hardly knew how much. What is it ? Not direct control or suggestion, but a sort of taking each other for granted. You know something of it, and you know the blank on the other side of the leaf too.
In many ways I am well content. My brother had had a glorious life, had hit hard, and thoroughly realized his blows. In his best lectures he has said things which are contributions to the literature-hardheaded, racy, brilliant, humorous things; things most delightful, most original; things easily apprehended of and not easily forgotten by the people.
It is a great thing for his children to have had such a father: they speak of him as their 'glorious father.' He was, though I say it, of a good stock. V4 'e have a Keltic root in the Isle of Man, but of that he seemed to have little or nothing. I don't undervalue it, only he hadn't it in him. He was his mother's own child: I wish you had known her, she was a great woman. A pure borderer she was-her father a Thomson from the Scotch side, her mother a Birkett from the Cumbrian side of Cheviot. I don't suppose the earth contains a stronger race, and she had all its strength: she was typical; so was my brother Hugh. Well, he has ridden his ride and made his mark in many a foray, and now he is where Skelton is. Could it be better ?
My sister Margaret lives now at Cardiff. We are all that remain in this country. I have a brother in Queensland. We must try and pull together somehow; but how hard it is!
PLAS ISA, PENMAENMAWR, August 11, 1886.
The Carnedds are really noble mountains, and I have been tramping along the whole ridge from Tal-y-fan by Moel Fras to Carnedd David.
I delicately and carefully follow this ridge, poise myself upon a watershed I as upon a horse,' and thus escape; very few people go up there. How delicious the mosses are ! and the quartz blocks! and the singing streams ! Always new to me! the blessed things! The slope Conway-wards is quite full of streams, which, high up, come gurgling through unfathomable beds of moss: the whole mountain is one sweet golden gurgle. I never weary of them; they are never stupid, though they have been saying the same thing since I the dry land appeared.' I lie down, first by one, then by another, and I am gross enough to dip a bit of bread in their lovely green cups, and eat the sop-that is so refreshing. I also, occasionally, light a pipe, and burn incense to these little gods. Often I only stop a few moments, don't even sit down, but stoop and cower me over the clucking of the subterranean innocent, which is almost a laugh, a chuckle.
There are large streams, with falls all the way! Yes, bless ye ! and a flat stone right under the chiefest fall. And what ' suld hinder' but that a man on that stone sit stark naked ? What, indeed, but some stony-eyed idiotic sheep! So there I sit, and am a god; peculiar looking, I dare say, not exactly Olympian-no ! but, hang it! what would you have?
I intend coming to Ramsey on Monday, Aug. 3. . . . On Thursday, Aug. 23, I shall come to Braddan Churchyard about noon. I wish we could meet there. . . .
PENMAENMAWR, August 18, 1886.
I was up Tryfan the other day, that fine rock pyramid over Lake Ogwyn, and got on capitally, though it is all regular rock-climbing. Certainly on Tryfan one uses one's hands and knees as much as one's feet. There is, I think, no more beautiful creature in the world than this mountain. It will hold its own with anything in Switzerland; I don't mean for difficulty, but for beauty. This morning I examined the tombstones in Dwgrfylchy Churchyard, and am confirmed in my suspicion, which is gradually becoming a belief, that the intense Welsh national feeling, and the determination to keep their language, are matters of the nineteenth-century Romance movement. Certainly in the eighteenth I don't believe the Welsh desired anything more than to be thoroughly English. I want to know the history of these Eisteddfods, and all the rest of it; are they not a mere modern growth, or, at least, a monstrous development of an old institution ? What I seem to smell is gas, inflation, the factitious. So I think of writing to a Liverpool paper about this. It's just the time now, and I may succeed in getting up a nice little shindy-Taliessin, Eos Morlais, Mr. Lewis Morris, of Penbryn, and Rev. Ward Beecher, of New York, to the rescue!
There is the almost total ignorance of Englishcapital, in its way, but deucedly inconvenient; and, of course, just when one gets that silence one has longed for, there arises a desperate craving for talk, for colloghing' : the people seem intellectually fit, too. Those, however, who speak English, speak it so exquisitely that you carry the music of it with you for hours afterwards. The landlord of the Gemmaes Inn was an exception: I must tell you about him when we meet.
PLAS ISA, PENMAENMAWR, September 4, 1886.
Glori;a periit l nor has there been much gloria. But I have been over in the Island. . . . My Peel expedition was a happy combination of thingssea blue as heaven, crisp heather, dwarf gorse, rock black, buff, purple, barley waving! ... Of poems, or for poems, protoplasm enough, I dare say, but not many immediate suggestions. Yes, just one, a bride coming home to her house which two women had been left to clean and take care of.
I was startled rather to find that the Island is one moving ant-hill of story. I believe if I were living there permanently, I should get whole ' cart-loads' of this lore. It seemed splendid; the very ground teems and sparkles. I had no idea that such a number of silkworms were there spinning their quaint cocoons night and day. The Island seems, indeed, to do hardly anything else. The brains are always going, I almost heard them at it: I didn't sleep much, and all through the night these shuttles seemed to be flying round me-it is a darling race! In Wales the same, no doubt, but to me unknown and unknowable. The Manx life (that is unrelated to England) I find to be deeper, stronger, and richer than I had thought driven in upon itself, and curiously coloured by that fact. Hang on to the Britannic mammae, O Dakyns, and make the most of them! But I must go my own way, and my mother has not yet forgotten me. Kindest love to you all.
CLIFTON, October 18, 1886.
I note many things in your letter with great delight. Primarily the good news about Mrs. Worthington: I hope to hear even still better before long. Then your Ingleton life-how splendid! What a bath to plunge into! You are just the age to enjoy thatold enough to sanction those love passages more or less gracefully, young enough to sympathize with them; young enough to-shall I say dance? old enough to surrender yourself to a kindly violin, possibly-a rubber? I know Kirkby Lonsdale, but not well, nor is my knowledge of recent date.
I did very well in the Isle of Man; had two good solitary walks, drank deep draughts of -I don't know how to describe it-that social brewage which I get nowhere else. Very likely other people get it in their own old habitats. But it really does seem to me as if the whole Island was quivering and trembling all over with stories-they are like leaves on a tree. The people are always telling them to one another, and any morning or evening you hear, whether you like it or not, innumerable anecdotes, sayings, tragedies comedies-I wonder whether they lie fearfully. They are a marvellously narrational community. And you've not been there a day before all this closes round you with a quiet familiarity of ' use and custom' which is most fascinating. Nothing else in the universe seems of any consequence.
And warly cares, and warly men, May a' gae tapsalteerie, O !
A week more and I should have become reabsorbed into this medium past recovery and past recognition. . . .
I have been musing a good deal over my ' Dooiney Molla 1': he is now taking shape, and looms rather large. I believe you will like him, and his fiery little groom. These good souls do well to visit my dreams:
' dooiney-molla-man-praiser-the friend who backs the suitor.'
they are such a comfort: and do you know they positively do ' go on' in my dreams. Here are two lines which came tripping at the window of my slumbers last night
I See The Manx Witch, p. 47
1. I When the sun was jus' puttin' on his shoes' (morning),
for which I instantly seemed to discover a parallelto wit
' Sthreelin' off his golden stockings' (the sun again, evening).
a. ' Jus' rags tore off the Divil's ould shirt' (=witches' charms, or spells).
There will be a very good witch in this poem, I promise you: look out! 1 are sounding me about 'The Doctor'; ... they would try to make it a popular book. The others tried to make it a drawing-room book, with the result that the few purchasers thereof hid it somewhere behind their bookshelves, and even there trembled for the morals of the housemaids.
1 Certain publishers.
CLIFTON, October q, 1887.
I wish I could send you Bouvard et Pécuchet. I have just one number of it-isn't it tantalizing ? It began in the Nouvelle Revue of Dec. 15, 1880. But it is now published in the series of Flaubert's works, so that you can get it easily enough. It is merum
sal, the style much terser than is usual with Flaubert, downright anatomy indeed; but that yields a certain dryness of the Amontillado kind which is almost unique. Then the cynicism is so very special-an innocent, lambent brand which, again, I think men ought to apprehend with relish.
But I weary you. Poor G. Sand! I am reading her Amours de l'Age d'Or. Woe is me! what awful stuff! an echo, and a sufficiently rueful one, of the Chute d'un Ange, with reference (explicit and stated) to that sound performance, Reynaud's Terye et Ciel.
Why do you say that your star is on the decline ? Do you mean intellectually ? from the context I infer that you do. But how is that ? Let me try a remedy or rather let me ask you to try a remedy. Fling open your soul! [' gush'? No!]-throw your classics and all your ' goods and chattels' out of window, give yourself light and air [,ventilation'? Yes!]. Live, and-well, out it must come-love! For if you and some of my other friends think you are going to do anything in the world without making your bow to the lady that rules over Cyprus, I can tell you you are very much mistaken. What I want in all young men is more insanity. Therefore I would much rather hear of your writing poems than essays. It is true that at your time of life the poetic mustum might well have been raked off, and the pure and limpid prose be beautifully on tap and ready for drinking. But then, have you passed through the fever at all ? That is the point; all the better if it's over; but it must be, or else you will not be.
CLIFTON, October 16, 1887.
Pardon my saying that I don't think you will get the full succus out of the tremendous Bovary marrowbone, if you look upon it as a satire.
You yourself confess that it has knocked you out of time, and you are going to read it again. You can't read it too often. I will ask you, when you read it the second time, to think of it as a tragedy. Try that method at any rate ; I feel sure it is the right one. Then the whole terror will come out. Madame Bovary is an exceptional woman. She is not like Messalina, but fate-borne like Clytemnestra. Pity her! she is pathetic! believe me she is, and intended to be so. The men are not adequate; there is the central poignancy of it all-the hobereau-is he much more ? the comma's-dreadful creatures. But Madame Bovary staggers into their arms drunk with the most infernal philtre, her eyes blinded with a mist as fatal as that which befooled Pasiphae.
Get rid of the satire notion, and approach this awful ruin as a ruin-let it be to you a Baalbec, not a Lupanar.
Woe! woe! woe ! I can't think of her without tears. God forgive me if I do now and then laugh. But Bouvard et Péc ... ! ! ! It is true and unmixed enjoyment to read such a book. How innocent it is! And the style! Where did he get that ringing simplicity? How I should like to meet a Frenchman like that! Bless him! The honesty of the laughter! isn't it perfect?
By-the-bye, I have found my old numbers of the Revue, and am enjoying myself more than I can say. It would be most delightful to read it with you. It is pre-eminently a book for mutual recognition one naturally looks for another face. But here is no one except Dakyns, and he is buried innumerous fathoms deep under a translation of Xenophon ! God help him !
CLIFTON, November 30, 1887.
I follow you on the Flaubert trail, panting! In the holidays perhaps I may catch you up. You have, of course, read Salammbd. Do you read de Musset ?
For style (prose) he is certainly A 1. It would be hard to beat the Confessions. How good to be feeding on this fine stuff! Only remember there is Italian! By all the pipes smoked in W.'s study, by all the bristles of his mighty beard, by every quill upon the fretful N., by a thousand tender memories, I implore you to cultivate this divine field
CLIFTON, January 1, 1888.
The sorry I am! I really believe I shall not get to Town after all. Durum et, but I fear a case of corrigere est nefas. The fact is I have smashed my right hand at fives, and am under care of the surgeon! Was there ever such an old fool! I manage to write at the rate of about a line a minute, but what with splint and iodine it is a sorry business; and so I enter '88-quodfaustum sit! These very Latin quotations reveal the state I'm in-a touch of imbecility-eh ?
Mind you read Hall Caine's Deemster ; it is little short of a masterpiece. Read it, and tell me what you think. You are an excellent critic. Did you know that? Well, you are. I am so glad, so are we all, to hear what you say about Mrs. Worthington. The gods are good after all. I knew you would like G. Sand. As soon as you have finished, please return, as I shall want them soon. I am reading (for I can't say which time) Hugo's plays. Cromwell, however, I had never read before. It is an enormous congeries of circumstance. You know how I admire old Hugo, but I am not blind to his nonsense-e. g. he describes Cromwell as cherishing through life the bitterest grudge against the aristocracy, because, when at Oxford (sic), he had been ordered off the turf in the quad, ' reserved for the nobly-born alone '-Cromwell retired to his cellule furious. Shall I send you the passage-typical French, is it not? The brightest and happiest of New Years to you both, specially to the lambkin of '87. So say we all.
1 In a time of great trouble. Mrs. Brown died in July of this year. What this loss meant to him may be learnt from these four letters, and what it continued to be from that of Sept, 12, 1891, p. 152. (Cf. October 24, 1880.)-J. R. M.
CLIFTON, May 23, 1888.
. . . I try to force my poor nervous spirit to take this limitation. But oh, how hard! I try to live and think and feel just de die in diem. I try to fence in for each day a sort of cofferdam of exclusion: but the past comes from great depths which are uncontrollable by any engineering of mine, and the future spreads its enormous vacuum. . . .
One thing emerges-my absolute belief in immortality. I am not naturally a materialist; that is a plant not native to my mind ; but scales of materialism have sometimes grown upon my eyes. They now vanish utterly, and I am dazzled and confounded by the inevitable presence, the close connatural rebound ofthe belief. I have always been an idealist, subject to these dim spots of material feculence that from time to time have obscured my vision. Now I feel my body to be nothing but an integument, and the inveteracy of the material association to be a tie little more than momentary, and quite casual. Death is the key to another room, and it is the very next room. I wish words could convey to you how intensely and profoundly I feel this.
We do really owe much to the medical art, if it only smooths the passage, making it painless. For, amongst other things, it makes death so beautiful.
CLIFTON, June 26, 1888.
I know well how your brother would have sympathized with me, how he would have 'hung on' about the house. He had much of that fidelity, dog-like, dumb except through the eyes. The property is not common, nor are those eyes the heritage of every man. I don't think I must write more.
ULLESWATER, July 10, 1888.
This day week, what a morning! And to-day the dawn is beautiful, but ominous.... Yesterday I went over to Grasmere by the Grisedale Pass. It rained tremendously, and I got soaked. I then walked to Thirlspot, lunching at Wythburn : every step reminded me of last year-the place, for instance, where we picked blackberries, and, above all, the old room in the Wythburn Inn, where we so often have had tea in such joyous fashion. . . . I wanted to climb Helvellyn from Thirlspot. . . . It was dark, but clear; from the top, Ulleswater was seen in brilliant sunshine; but I was under a sort of big umbrella of cloud; no rain, however, only a fierce. wind. What could I think of, but ? I almost felt the cairn could breathe some answer to me. There was not a soul near, unless, indeed, was herself there and I often feel as if she was, and was smiling very sweetly, not without a faint tinge of humour at all my poor weary longings. I went down Striding Edge, and really, when it is blowing hard, as it was yesterday, you have to be careful. . . . The people here are very good and attentive: not having much to do, they seem to enjoy looking after me. I asked for ink in my bedroom, and behold a beautiful little writing-table-wasn't that kind?
Of visitors, very few-not gentlefolk, but wellmeaning souls enough, especially two lads from Macclesfield, who, speaking a dialect that is to me nearly unintelligible, are from their modesty, simplicity, and total absence of affectation, quite charming. What's yon?' said one of them to me, producing a piece of stag-horn moss which he had carefully treasured as a plant of a rare species. The honesty of the fellows! and they are bigger and stronger looking than most of our Clifton boys, beside being somewhat older. It is so satisfactory that they can be all I have described, and yet not a bit swell: well-dressed they are, and well-mannered; but that is all! A large all' though, is it not?
CLIFTON, July 29,1888.
Your letter is one of the few that have gone to my very heart. Only I can't conceive what you mean by attributing to yourself a lack of insight. I have heard from just a few how much they loved my wife. Those who have said this are united to me by an eternal tie.
You were at Ulleswater : I knew you were there; and, having previously determined to go there for a week, I did not suffer this knowledge to make any change in my plans. I wanted to be alone, and yet not alone. I should have gladly found you there. I got there on Saturday, July 7, and stayed at the Ulleswater Hotel till Friday, July 13. You must have left Patterdale before I came. How sweet and peaceful the place was! I climbed Helvellyn ; it was a sad, but a delicious time. I walked by the Grisedale Pass first through drenching rain to Grasmere, thence to Wythburn and Thirlspot. Here I had arranged to go up Helvellyn in the i;6sa vestigiå , as she climbed last year, and felt for the first time that her climbing days were numbered. It was indeed a via crucis ; she had to stop almost every twenty yards; and we were both amazed and beyond measure perplexed. I was now alone upon Helvellyn, except that an honest shepherd called upon his dog.
Well, you can guess what all that meant.
My children are so good that I am always thanking God for them.... O God! how must it be with those who are left childless! Thus it is with poor B., from whom I had a mournful line the other day through a friend of his and mine.
I am so glad to hear that your babe thrives; even that little thing, you say, is a comfort to her mother; how will it be then when the deep fountains are broken up! All happiness to you all.
LAKE VIEW, KESWICK, August 7, 1888.
We sit on the same form in a very sad school. God help us to bear its doubtless wholesome discipline! To feel one's own weakness is to feel His strength. How overwhelmingly, though, does this weakness rush in upon one at times! What a giving way of everything! What a sinking beneath one of the whole universe
But then it is we feel the great arms holding us up with the strength and the tenderness of eternity.
My dear fellow sufferer, what is it after all? why this sinking of the heart, this fainting, sorrowing of the spirit? There is no separation: life is continuous.
All that was stable and good, good and therefore stable, in our union with the loved one, is unquestionably permanent, will endure for ever. It cannot be otherwise. Those who marry without love need not concern us. When love has done its full work, has wrought soul into soul so that every fibre has become part of the common life-quis sefiarabit ?
Can you conceive yourself as existing at all without her? No, you can't; well, then, it follows that you don't, and never will. The process of blending has been too complete to admit of separation. This is God's blessing on perfect unions. O Kissack, this is true! But 'the climbing mother' will rise unbidden, and what shall we do? corrigere est nefas : so said poor Horace ; there is a clenching of the teeth on those words. Resignation then, O Flaccus, try that! and indeed he does with his levius fit patientia. But resignation to what? Some dark fate with dumb lips and eyes that are inscrutable ? No, but to a kind and gracious Father. That is the sum of all. Dear, kind friend, as surely as God liveth, we shall be united again to the precious ones in a union that is already begun, and only needs the removal of a very thin barrier of partition to become the rapture of an absolute joy.
CLIFTON, June 9, 1889.
I am now reading Anna Karémna, and gradually wondering more and more, as who must not, when such a planet 'swims within his ken'? But the French translation seems poor. I must learn Russian ; and I swear I will. That's what Vaughan did.
Most of my poor leisure, though, is just now given to Tasso. He is marvellously brilliant: though not so philosophical as Spenser, he is, if possible, more poetical.
I still stick to my thesis, that Italian is the great enlightener and clarifier of wits.
ROYAL CASTLE HOTEL, LYNTON, June 29, 1889.
I came away from Commem. row yesterday. This place is most heavenly; I knew it would be. The foxgloves are astounding, whole fields embattled with them, densely, instructa acie. And the size, the real hundred-barrelled revolver kind. You know Lynton ? If you know, then, shortly, you know something about Heaven. I bow respectfully to your Milrrens, and your Grindelwalds, also, though not so respectfully to your Interlakens ; but we too! O yes! by Tam! yes. E.g. this morning at 7, slipping a sea-pillow under my neck in Wrinkle Cove Baywhat ? lying on my back with the salt water sipsopping, or fiz-foaming under my occiput, a tranquil gaze to a sky as blue as that of Schweiz, with one gull somewhere near the zenith just to hold up my nib'-ha! have I touched you? yes! yes! yes! by Tam! we too....
1 nib or neb = nose.
RAMSEY, August ao, 1889.
I should like to pay all reverence to that oracle [Delphi], and to all the other oracles ; and I see their political importance. But, subjectively, I want to know what the Greek religion did for a man in the exigencies of life and death. A Greek death-bed, other than that of Socrates; the equivalent, if any, of the clergyman, the pious friend, the whole scene with its lights and shades, the anxieties, the consolations, that is the one direction in which my mind wanders and scrutinizes. You know my conviction that Greek life was not so far removed from our life, that all human life is homogeneous, and that the Einkleidung is of much the same texture, however the colour and other accidents may differ. A dear, good old Greek dying, 'in sure and certain hope' of something; I believe in that Greek profoundly.
COBURG HOUSE, COBURG ROAD, NORTH RAMSEY, August 23, 1889.
My cold has been on me about five days. But before that, I bathed and climbed and was happy enough. Behold the wondrous tale! . . .
Braddan, twice: first, with the children; second, with my friend M., who spent four days with us. The second visit was on a Sunday, last Sunday church (new) and churchyard (old) crammed, like a fair, or a bazaar; people quiet, on the whole, but pressing steadily upwards from the lower gate, with a curious expectant look on their faces, as if about to be shown some monster-a two-headed parson, or something of that sort. We went into the church, and sat at a long service. The curate preached on Judas Iscariot ; the vicar conducted a service in the churchyard. 'Judas did this, Judas thought that'; then from the churchyard, in stentorian chorus, 'Crown Him! crown Him! crown Him! crown Him Lord of all.' Thus, you see, there was an element of the comic; but oh, how sad it was to me, how incomprehensible! Verily, I am left behind; I can't, after all these years, adjust myself to the dimensions of such a change. The people behaved better than they used to do in our time; but the numbers! the systematization! the total absence of the native population! the show atmosphere! the ' Walk up, gentlemen' style of thing! Over all this Vanity Fair the dear old bells rang out precisely as of old. Ah, but the old life is gone, is 'hid with Christ in God.' Wasn't it strange to turn up towards the Strang, rather than the Vicarage, when the service was ended? We saw old Drury's grave: I had much ado to come by it. There were none but' Cottons' in the cemetery. I thought I had got hold of a Manxman, and asked him ' where Mr. Drury's grave was.' He answered with a leer, and the accent of-say Ashton-under-Lyne! ...
Hil s above the Gob-y-volley at the mouth of Sulby Glen, twice; perfection of gorse hassocks, tufted with bell-heather, also of ling in sheets, sprinkled with the bell-heather-the sea-rim rounding all with glorious blue-the ' steamer' going round the island with an almost impudent familiarity of approach, like ' a Cotton 'throwing his arms round the neck of a pretty Manx country-girl -, smookin, too, the dirt'! These commons westward of Sulby Glen, between it and Ballaugh Glen, are most delightful; but they contain one fraud, and that is the Chibbyr inch. This purports to be a sacred well; and I dare say it has been one. The name means I the well in the rock.' My friend and I sought it with the keenest interest, but all one found was a very dirty puddle, and no appearance of rock. But the good people over here swear by these things. ' Chibbyr-inch !
Chibbyr-inch ! my gough, is it Chibbyr-inch ? I've been at it scores of times. Wasn't the ould people used to go up with bottles to get the water? Ter'ble good for sore eyes, they're sayin'.'
Quite so, but all the same, no one has any real vital memory or knowledge; and thus it is with all Manx assertions: the spirit of exaggeration, of gasconade, of total irresponsibility, of saying anything that it may be convenient or flattering to themselves or others to say.... And how the feeling haunts me that I belong to this race! that the same spirit, chastened a little, perhaps, is in me; that the very words I have just written show symptoms of this failing, a failing which may in the possession of a great master become a positive source of treasure, but as possessed and used is wholly an impediment! The whole island seems strewn with the rubbish of slatternly inaccuracies and over-statements; it would be quite refreshing to take a walk in the narrowest and least decorated lane of simple truth. I will read a few propositions of Euclid every morning.
Great excursion to the Chasms : slept at Port St. Mary. Took boat to the cave at Sugar-loaf, went through it twice, heard the deep ringing of the sea-hammers. You know it, the most awful sound in nature. I went up to Rushen Church next morning; it rained, and was dismal; but I saw the graves of the Corrins.
Yesterday there was a great picnic at the White Strand. Of course I was unable to go, and stayed at home to nurse my ear, and to finish reading The Mill on the Floss, which I did with many tears. Who can read that last scene otherwise?
LAKE VIEW, September 5, 1889.
To you I inscribe this scrawl written with a pen that must have dropped from the wing of Beelzebub himself.
Yesterday I went across the lake to Water-lily Bay. The gloomy one smiled a ruinous smile, and ' dooted what mak o' a day it was gauin to be.' However, Water-lily Bay was more delicious than I can tell. It is so marvellous with quiet morning light upon it. The water-lilies have all but disappeared some day they will be legendary, and people will inquire into the derivation of the name. I climbed Causey ; plenty of blaeberries at the top, especially upon his blessed old nose: I had a great feed. The whole country was dim but visible; the heat intense.
And so to Sale and Eel Crags and Grasmoor. Here I got into mist. Then back to the stream that ' gaes doon' between Grasmoor and Eel Crags, a bonny beck, if there be a bonny. I bathed in it; such a bath, a little fall swishing under me and over me and all about me, and seething and bubbling up like soda-water.
After tea (such a glorious apple-tart-think of that, if you please; none of your' obvious vulgar' plums, but apples rich and melting and shrined in the crust of Todd; cream too, and delights manifold!) took a ' bawt' and rowed myself to Water-lily Bay; nearly dark; let myself drift out from the bay, while I lay in the stern, and draggled my right foot through the all but warm water. Moon very sulky, and hardly perceptible.
CLIFTON, November 21, 1889.
I accept your offer eagerly. You will receive my Rabelais (first volume, you don't want the second ?) by next post. Whereupon duly forward to me the Flauberts : it will indeed be a splendid exchange. I take it this portrait must be the authentic one: it is the good old critical rule to prefer the less obvious lectio. It is disgustingly easy to imagine how that Jack-Pudding came to be accepted as Rabelais. So let us lean dans ce sens. A handsome face, if ever there was one. I still lend books: my Sand is always in great request. I can't help laughing when ladies come into my study, and stare with all their eyes, and would like to take this, and would like to take that romance of the soft-hearted old virago. They remind one of a situation in The Country Wife, which I doubt not you will recall.
Your letters are ever welcome; they serve to remind me that there is still such a thing as literature. The Faust has engaged me a good deal. Last holidays I was to meet an old Goethean friend of mine; so went over the first part several times with much care. Conceive my disgust when I found my friend absolutely declined noticing the first part, being completely absorbed in the second.
Byron turns up again on my table. What a thing that hi'saõn of judgment is! The power is stupendous. For the CorsazY, Gaåour, &c., I am sorry to find them so hard to construe! They really are. Now send round I thim ' Flauberts !