Fragrance in Literature of Childhood-Memories of a Girlhood by Frances Ann Kemble

Records of a Girlhood, by Frances Ann Kemble

The school was kept by ladies of the name of Guinani, sisters to the wife of Charles Young—the Julia so early lost, so long loved and lamented by him. I was a frequent and much-petted visitor to their house, which never fulfilled the austere purpose implied in its name to me, for all my days there were holidays; and I remember hours of special delight passed in a large drawing-room where two fine cedars of Lebanon threw grateful gloom into the windows, and great tall china jars of pot-pourri filled the air with a mixed fragrance of roses and (as it seemed to me) plum-pudding, and where hung a picture, the contemplation of which more than once moved me to tears, after I had [25]been given to understand that the princely personage and fair-headed baby in a boat in the midst of a hideous black sea, overhung by a hideous black sky, were Prospero, the good Duke of Milan, and his poor little princess daughter, Miranda, cast forth by wicked relations to be drowned.

To return to Craven Hill. A row of very fine elm trees was separated only by the carriage-road from the houses, whose front windows looked through their branches upon a large, quiet, green meadow, and beyond that to an extensive nursery garden of enchanting memory, where our weekly allowances were expended in pots of violets and flower-seeds and roots of future fragrance, for our small gardens: this pleasant foreground divided us from the Bayswater Road and Kensington Gardens. At the back of the houses and their grounds stretched a complete open of meadow land, with hedgerows and elm trees, and hardly any building in sight in any direction. Certainly this was better than the smoke and din of London. To my father, however, the distance was a heavy increase of his almost nightly labor at the theatre. Omnibuses were no part of London existence then; a hackney coach (there were no cabs, either four-wheelers or hansoms) was a luxury to be thought of only occasionally, and for part of the way; and so he generally wound up his hard evening's work with a five miles' walk from Covent Garden to Craven Hill.

I have said that I never returned home during my three years' school life in Paris; but portions of my holidays were spent with a French family, kind friends of my parents, who received me as an enfant de la maison among them. They belonged to the petite bourgeoisie of Paris. Mr. A—— had been in some business, I believe, but when I visited him he was living as a small rentier, in a pretty little house on the main road from Paris to Versailles.
It was just such a residence as Balzac describes with such minute finish in his scenes of Parisian and provincial life: a sunny little maisonnette, with green jalousies, a row of fine linden trees clipped into arches in front of it, and behind, the trim garden with its wonderfully productive dwarf espaliers, full of delicious pears and Reine Claudes (that queen of amber-tinted, crimson-freckled greengages), its apricots, as fragrant as flowers, and its glorious, spice-breathing carnations.

Another favorite indecorum of mine (the bread and cheese was mere mortal infirmity, not moral turpitude) was wading in the pretty river that ran through Lord Clarendon's place, the Grove; the brown, clear, shallow, rapid water was as tempting as a highland brook, and I remember its bright, flashing stream and the fine old hawthorn trees of the avenue, alternate white and rose-colored, like clouds of fragrant bloom, as one of the sunniest pictures of those sweet summer days.

My admiration and affection for her were, as I have said, unbounded; and some of the various methods I took to exhibit them were, I dare say, intolerably absurd, though she was graciously good-natured in tolerating them.
Every day, summer and winter, I made it my business to provide her with a sprig of myrtle for her sash at dinner-time; this, when she had worn it all the evening, I received again on bidding her good night, and stored in a treasure drawer, which, becoming in time choked with fragrant myrtle leaves, was emptied with due solemnity into the fire, that destruction in the most classic form might avert from them all desecration. I ought by rights to have eaten their ashes, or drunk a decoction of them, or at least treasured them in a golden urn, but contented myself with watching them shrivel and crackle with much sentimental satisfaction. I remember a most beautiful myrtle tree, which, by favor of a peculiarly sunny and sheltered [144]exposure, had reached a very unusual size in the open air in Edinburgh, and in the flowering season might have borne comparison with the finest shrubs of the warm terraces of the under cliff of the Isle of Wight. From this I procured my daily offering to my divinity.
The myrtle is the least voluptuous of flowers; the legend of Juno's myrtle-sheltered bath seems not unnaturally suggested by the vigorous, fresh, and healthy beauty of the plant, and the purity of its snowy blossoms. The exquisite quality, too, which myrtle possesses, of preserving uncorrupted the water in which it is placed, with other flowers, is a sort of moral attribute, which, combined with the peculiar character of its fragrance, seems to me to distinguish this lovely shrub from every other flower of the field or garden.

Mr. F—— had a summer residence close to the picturesque town of Southampton, called Bannisters, the name of which charming place calls up the image of my friend swinging in her hammock under the fine trees of her lawn, or dexterously managing her boat on its tiny lake, and brings back delightful hours and days spent in happy intercourse with her. Mr. F—— had himself planned the house, which was as peculiar as it was comfortable and elegant. A small vestibule, full of fine casts from the antique (among others a rare original one of the glorious Neapolitan Psyche, given to his brother-in-law, Mr. William Hamilton, by the King of Naples), formed the entrance. The oval drawing-room, painted in fresco by Mr. F——, recalled by its Italian scenes their wanderings in the south of Europe. In the adjoining room were some choice pictures, among others a fine copy of one of Titian's Venuses, and in the dining-room an equally good one of his Venus and Adonis. The place of honor, however, in this room was reserved for a life-size, full-length portrait of Mrs. Siddons, which Lawrence painted for Mrs. F—— and which is now in the National Gallery,—a production so little to my taste both as picture and portrait that I used to wonder how Mrs. F—— could tolerate such a represen[272]tation of her admirable friend. The principal charm of Bannisters, however, was the garden and grounds, which, though of inconsiderable extent, were so skillfully and tastefully laid out, that their bounds were always invisible. The lawn and shrubberies were picturesquely irregular, and still retained some kindred, in their fine oaks and patches of heather, to the beautiful wild common which lay immediately beyond their precincts. A pretty piece of ornamental water was set in flowering bushes and well-contrived rockery, and in a more remote part of the grounds a little dark pond reflected wild-wood banks and fine overspreading elms and beeches. The small park had some charming clumps and single trees, and there was a twilight walk of gigantic overarching laurels, of a growth that dated back to a time of considerable antiquity, when the place had been part of an ancient monastery. Above all, I delighted in my friend E——'s favorite flower-garden, where her fine eye for color reveled in grouping the softest, gayest, and richest masses of bloom, and where in a bay of mossy turf, screened round with evergreens, the ancient vision of love and immortality, the antique Cupid and Psyche, watched over the fragrant, flowery domain.

Bryan Waller Procter, dear Barry Cornwall—beloved by all who knew him, even his fellow-poets, for his sweet, gentle disposition—had married (as I have said elsewhere) Anne Skepper, the daughter of our friend, Mrs. Basil Montague. They were among our most intimate and friendly acquaintance. Their house was the resort of all the choice spirits of the London society of their day, her pungent epigrams and brilliant sallies making the most delightful contrast imaginable to the cordial kindness of his conversation and the affectionate tenderness of his manner; she was like a fresh lemon—golden, fragrant, firm, and wholesome—and he was like the honey of Hymettus; they were an incomparable compound.

Wednesday, May 18th.—My mother and I started at two o'clock for Oatlands. The day was very enjoyable, for the dust and mitigated east wind were in our backs; the carriage was open, and the sun was almost too powerful, though the earth has not yet lost its first spring freshness, nor the trees, though full fledged, their early vivid green. The turf has not withered with the heat, and the hawthorn lay thick and fragrant on every hedge, like snow that the winter had forgotten to melt, and the sky above was bright and clear, and I was very happy. I had taken "The Abbot" with me, which I had never read; but my mother did not sleep, so we chatted instead of my reading. She recalled all our former times at Weybridge. It was a great pleasure to retrace this well-known road, and again to see dear old Walton Bridge and the bright, broad Thames, with the noble chestnut trees on its banks, the smooth, smiling fields stretching beyond it, and the swans riding in such happy majesty on its bosom. I really think I do deserve to live in the country, it is so delightsome to me. We [403]reached Oatlands an hour before dinner-time and found the party just returned from riding. We sauntered through part of the grounds to the cemetery of the Duchess of York's dogs.... We had some music in the evening. Lady Francis sang and I sang, and was frightened to death, as I always am when asked to do so....

The horses having come to the door, we set off for our ride; our steeds were but indifferent hacks, but the road was charming, and the evening serene and pure, and I was with my father, a circumstance of enjoyment to me always. The characteristic feature of the scenery of this region is the vivid, deep-toned foliage of the hanging woods, through whose dense tufts of green, masses of gray rock and long scars of warm-colored red-brown earth appear every now and then with the most striking effect. The deep-sunk river wound itself drowsily to a silver thread at the base of steep cliffs, to the summit of which we climbed, reaching a fine level land of open downs carpeted with close, elastic turf. On we rode, up hill and down dale, through shady lanes full of the smell of lime-blossom, skirting meadows fragrant with the ripe mellow hay and honey-sweet clover, and then between plantations of aromatic, spicy fir and pine, all exhaling their perfumes under the influence of the warm sunset. At last we made a halt where the road, winding through Lord de Clifford's property, commanded an enchanting view. On our right, rolling ground rising gradually into hills, clothed to their summits with flourishing evergreens, firs, larches, laurel, arbutus—a charming variety in the monotony of green. On the farthest of these heights Blaise Castle, with two gray towers, well defined against the sky, looked from its bosky eminence over the whole domain, which spread on our left in sloping lawns, where single oaks and elms of noble size threw [427]their shadows on the sunlit sward, which looked as if none but fairies' feet had ever pressed it. Beyond this, through breaks and frames, and arches made by the trees, the broad Severn glittered in the wavy light. It was a beautiful landscape in every direction. We returned home by sea wall and the shore of the Severn, which seemed rather bare and bleak after the soft loveliness we had just left....

Saturday, Bristol, July 23d. ... We started at eight, and taking the whole coach to ourselves as we do, I think traveling by a public conveyance the best mode of getting over the road. They run so rapidly; there is so little time lost, and so much trouble with one's luggage saved. The morning was gray and soft and promised a fine day, but broke its promise at the end of our second stage, and began to pelt with rain, which it continued to do the live-long blessed day. We could see, however, that the country we were passing through was charming. One or two of the cottages by the roadside, half-smothered in vine and honeysuckle, reminded me of Lady Juliana,[B] who, when she said she could live in a desert with her lover, thought that it was a "sort of place full of roses." ... These laborers' cottages were certainly the poor dwellings of very poor people, but there was nothing unsightly, repulsive, or squalid about them—on the contrary, a look of order, of tidy neatness about the little houses, that added the peculiarly English element of comfort and cleanliness to the picturesqueness of their fragrant festoons of flowery drapery, hung over them [438]by the sweet season. The little plots of flower-garden one mass of rich color; the tiny strip of kitchen-garden, well stocked and trimly kept, beside it; the thriving fruitful orchard stretching round the whole; and beyond, the rich cultivated land rolling its waving corn-fields, already tawny and sunburnt, in mellow contrast with the smooth green pasturages, with their deep-shadowed trees and bordering lines of ivied hawthorn hedgerows, marking boundary-lines of division without marring the general prospect—a lovely landscape that sang aloud of plenty, industry, and thrift. I wonder if any country is more blessed of God than this precious little England? I think it is like one of its own fair, nobly blooming, vigorous women; her temper—that's the climate—not perfection, to be sure (but, after all, the old praise of it is true; it admits of more constant and regular out-of-door exercise than any other); the religion it professes, pure; the morality it practises, pure, probably by comparison with that of other powerful and wealthy nations. Oh, I trust that neither reform nor its extreme, revolution, will have power to injure this healthily, heartily constituted land....

Thursday, August 11th.—A kind and courteous and most courtly old Mr. M—— called upon us, to entreat that we would dine with him during our stay in Weymouth; but it is really impossible, with all our hard work, to do society duty too, so I begged permission to decline. After he was gone we walked down to the pier, and took boat and rowed to Portland. The sky was cloudless, and the sea without a wave, and through its dark-blue transparent roofing we saw clearly the bottom, one forest of soft, undulating weeds, which, catching the sunlight through the crystal-clear water, looked like golden woods of some enchanted world within its depths; and it looks just as weird and lovely when folks go drowning down there, only they don't see it. I sang Mrs. Hemans's "What hid'st thou in thy treasure-caves and cells?" and sang and sang till, after rowing for an hour over the hardly heaving, smooth surface, we reached the foot of the barren stone called Portland. We landed, and Dall remained on the beach while my father and I toiled up the steep ascent. The sun's rays fell perpendicularly on our heads, the short, close grass which clothed the burning, stony soil was as slippery as glass with the heat, and I have seldom had a harder piece of exercise than climbing that rock, from the summit of which one wide expanse of dazzling water and glaring white cliffs, that scorched one's eyeballs, was all we had for our reward. To be sure, exertion is a pleasure in itself, and when one's strength serves one's courage, the greater the exertion the greater the pleasure. We saw below us a rail[451]road cut in the rock to convey the huge masses of stone from the famous quarries down to the shore. The descent looked almost vertical, and we watched two immense loads go slowly down by means of a huge cylinder and chains, which looked as if the world might hang upon them in safety. I lay down on the summit of the rock while my father went off exploring further, and the perfect stillness of the solitude was like a spell. There was not a sound of life but the low, drowsy humming of the bees in the stone-rooted tufts of fragrant thyme. On our return we had to run down the steep, slippery slopes, striking our feet hard to the earth to avoid falling; firm walking footing there was none. When we joined Dall we found, to our utter dismay, that it was five o'clock; we bundled ourselves pêle-mêle into the boat and bade the boatman row, row, for dear life; but while we were indulging in the picturesque he had been indulging in fourpenny, which made him very talkative, and his tongue went faster than his arms. I longed for John to make our boat fly over the smooth, burnished sea; the oars came out of the water like long bars of diamond dropping gold. We touched shore just at six, swallowed three mouthfuls of dinner, and off to the theater. The play was "Venice Preserved." I dressed as quick as lightning, and was ready in time. The house was not very good, and I am sure I should have wondered if it had been, when the moon is just rising over the fresh tide that is filling the basin, and a delicious salt breeze blows along the beach, and the stars are lighting their lamps in heaven; and surely nobody but those who cannot help it would be breathing the gas and smoke and vile atmosphere of the playhouse. I played well, and when we came home ran down and stood a few minutes by the sea; but the moon had set, and the dark palpitating water only reflected the long line of lights from the houses all along the curving shore.

I am really glad my aunt Kemble is better, though I remember having some not unpleasant ideas as to how, if she were not, you would go to Leamington to nurse her, and so come on and stay with us in London; but I cannot wish it at the price of her prolonged indisposition, poor woman!... I am sorry to say my father is pronounced worse to-day; he has a bad side-ache, and they are applying mustard poultices to overcome it. There is some apprehension of a return of fever. This is a real and terrible anxiety, dear H——. The theater, too, is going on very ill, and he is unable to give it any assistance; and for the same reason I can do nothing for it, for all my plays require him, except Isabella and Fazio, and these are worn threadbare. It is all very gloomy; but, however, time doth not stand still, and will some day come to the end of the journey with us.... You say Undine reminds you of me.... The feeling of an existence more closely allied to the elements of the material universe than even we acknowledge our dust-formed bodies to be, possesses me sometimes almost like a little bit of magnus; bright colors, fleeting lights and shadows, flowers, and above all water, the pure, sparkling, harmonious, powerful element, excite in me a feeling of intimate fellowship, of love, almost greater than any human companionship does. Perhaps, after all, I am only an animated morsel of my palace, this wonderful, beautiful world. Do you not believe in numberless, invisible existences, filling up the vast intermediate distance between God and ourselves, in the lonely and lovely haunts of nature and her more awful and gloomy recesses? It seems as if one must be surrounded by them; I do not mean to the point of merely suggesting the vague "suppose?" that, I should think, must visit every mind; but rather like a consciousness, a conviction, amounting almost to certainty, only short of seeing and hearing. How well I remember in that cedar hall at Oatlands, the sort of invisible presence I used to feel pervading the place. It was a large circle of huge cedar trees in a remote part of the grounds; the paths that led to it were wild and tangled; the fairest flower, the foxglove, grew in tall clumps among the foliage of the thickets and shrubberies that divided the lawn into undulating glades of turf [468]all round it; a sheet of water in which there was a rapid current—I am not sure that it was not the river—ran close by, and the whole place used to affect my imagination in the weirdest way, as the habitation of invisible presences of some strange supernatural order. As the evening came on, I used frequently to go there by myself, leaving our gentlemen at table, and my mother and Lady Francis in the drawing-room. How I flew along by the syringa bushes, brushing their white fragrant blossoms down in showers as I ran, till I came to that dark cedar hall, with its circle of giant trees, whose wide-sweeping branches spread, at it were, a halo of darkness all round it! Through the space at the top, like the open dome of some great circular temple, such as the Pantheon of Rome, the violet-colored sky and its starry worlds looked down. Sometimes the pure radiant moon and one fair attendant star would seem to pause above me in the dark framework of the great tree-tops. That place seemed peopled with spirits to me; and while I was there I had the intensest delight in the sort of all but conscious certainty that it was so. Curiously enough, I never remember feeling the slightest nervousness while I was there, but rather an immense excitement in the idea of such invisible companionship; but as soon as I had emerged from the magic circle of the huge black cedar trees, all my fair visions vanished, and, as though under a spell, I felt perfectly possessed with terror, and rushed home again like the wind, fancying I heard following footsteps all the way I went. The moon seemed to swing to and fro in the sky, and every twisted tree and fantastic shadow that lay in my path made me start aside like a shying horse. I could have fancied they made grimaces and gestures at me, like the rocks and roots in Retsch's etchings of the Brocken; and I used to reach the house with cheeks flaming with nervous excitement, and my heart thumping a great deal more with fear than with my wild run home; and then I walked with the utmost external composure of demure propriety into the drawing-room, as who should say, "Thy servant went no whither," to any inquiry that might be made as to my absence....

Friday.—At eleven to the theater to rehearse "Katharine of Cleves." ... We all went to the theater to see "Rob Roy," and I was sorry that I did, for it gave me such a home-[488]sick longing for Edinburgh, and the lovely sea-shore out by Cramond, and the sunny coast of Fife. How all my delightful, girlish, solitary rambles came back to me! Why do such pleasant times ever pass? or why do they ever come? The Scotch airs set me crying with all the recollections they awakened. In spite, moreover, of my knowing every plank and pulley, and scene-shifter and carpenter behind those scenes, here was I crying at this Scotch melodrama, feeling my heart puff out my chest for "Rob Roy," though Mr Ward is, alas! my acquaintance, and I know when he leaves the stage he goes and laughs and takes snuff in the green room. How I did cry at the Coronach and Helen Macgregor, though I know Mrs. Lovell is thinking of her baby, and the chorus-singers of their suppers. How I did long to see Loch Lomond and its broad, deep, calm waters once more, and those lovely green hills, and the fir forests so fragrant in the sun, and that dark mountain well, Loch Long, with its rocky cliffs along whose dizzy edge I used to dream I was running in a whirlwind; the little bays where the sun touched the water as it soaked into cushions of thick, starry moss, and the great tufts of purple heather all vibrating with tawny bees! Beautiful wilderness! how glad I am I have once seen it, and can never forget it; nor the broad, crisping Clyde, with its blossoming bean-fields, its jagged rocks and precipices, its gray cliffs and waving woods, and the mountain streams of clear, bright, fairy water, rushing and rejoicing down between the hills to fling themselves into its bosom; and Dumbarton Castle, with its snowy roses of Stuart memory! How glad I am that I have seen it all, if I should never see it again! And "Rob Roy" brought all this and ever so much more to my mind. If I had been a mountaineer, how I should have loved my land! I wish I had some blood-right to love Scotland as I do. Unfortunately, all these associations did not reconcile me to the cockney-Scotch of our Covent Garden actors, and Mackay's Bailie Nicol Jarvie was not the least tender of my reminiscences. [It was at a public dinner in Edinburgh, at which Walter Scott and Mackay were guests, that, in referring to the admirable impersonation of the Bailie, Scott's habitual caution with regard to the authorship of the Waverley Novels for a moment lost its balance, and in his warm commendation of the great comedian's performances a sentence escaped him which appeared conclusive to many of those present, if they were still in doubt upon the subject, that he was their writer.] Miss Inveraretie was a cruel Diana, but who would not be?...

The fruit-market was beautiful; fruit-baskets half as high as I am, placed in rows of a dozen, filled with peaches, and painted of a bright vermilion color, which throws a ruddy becoming tint over the downy fruit. It looked like something in the "Arabian Nights;" heaps, literally heaps of melons, apples, pears, and wild grapes, in the greatest profusion. I was enchanted with the beautiful forms, bright colors, and fragrant smell, but I saw no flowers, and I have seen hardly any since I have been here, which is rather a grief to me....
Americans are the most extravagant people in the world, and flowers are among them objects of the most lavish expenditure. The prices paid for nosegays, wreaths, baskets, and devices of every sort of hot-house plants, are incredible to any reasonable mind. At parties and balls ladies are laden with costly nosegays which will not even survive the evening's fatigue of carrying them. Dinner and luncheon parties are adorned, not only with masses of exquisite bloom as table ornaments, but by every lady's plate a magnificent nosegay of hot-house flowers is placed; and I knew a lady who, wishing to adorn her ballroom with rather more than usual floral magnificence, had it hung round with garlands of white camellias and myosotis.

I told you in my last letter that Philadelphia was the cleanest [554]place in the world. The country along the banks of the Schuylkill (one of the rivers on which it stands; the other is the Delaware) is wild and beautiful, and the glory of the autumn woods what an eye that hath not seen can by no manner of means conceive. I have for the last week had my room full of the most delicious flowers that could only be seen with us at midsummer, and here, in these last days of autumn, they are as abundant and fragrant, and the sun is as intensely hot and brilliant, as it should be, but never is, with us, in the month of July....

To return to our Cashiobury walks: T—— B—— and I used often to go together to visit ladies, the garden round whose cottage overflowed in every direction with a particular kind of white and maroon pink, the powerful, spicy odor of which comes to me, like a warm whiff of summer sweetness, across all these intervening fifty years. Another favorite haunt of ours was a cottage (not of gentility) inhabited by an old man of the name of Foster, who, hale and hearty and cheerful in extreme old age, was always delighted to see us, used to give us choice flowers and fruit out of his tiny garden, and make me sit and sing to him by the half-hour together in his honeysuckle-covered porch.

The straggling little village lay on the edge of a wild heath and common country that stretches to Guildford and Godalming and all through that part of Surrey to Tunbridge Wells, Brighton, and the Sussex coast—a region of light, sandy soil, hiding its agricultural poverty under a royal mantle of golden gorse and purple heather, and with large tracts of blue aromatic pine wood and one or two points of really fine scenery, where the wild moorland rolls itself up into ridges and rises to crests of considerable height, which command extensive and beautiful views: such as the one from the summit of Saint George's Hill, near Weybridge, and the top of Blackdown, the noble site of Tennyson's fine house, whence, over miles of wild wood and common, the eye sweeps to the downs above the Sussex cliffs and the glint of the narrow seas.

Friday, August 5th.—Down to the sea at seven o'clock; the tide was far out, the lead-colored strand, without its bright foam-fringes, looked bleak and dreary; it was not expected to be batheable till eleven, and as I had not breakfasted, I could not wait till then. Lingered on the shore, as Tom Tug says, thinking of nothing at all, but inhaling the fresh air and delicious sea-smell. I stood and watched a party of pleasure put off from the shore, consisting of a basket of fuel, two baskets of provisions, a cross-looking, thin, withered, bony woman, wrapped in a large shawl, and with boots thick enough to have kept her dry if she had walked through the sea from Plymouth to Mount Edgecombe. Her tête-à-tête companion was a short, thick, squat, stumpy, dumpy, dumpling of a man, in a round jacket, and very tight striped trousers. "Sure such a pair were never seen." The sour she, stepped into their small boat first, but as soon as her fat playfellow seated himself by her, the poor little cockle-shell dipped so with the increased weight that the tail of the cross-shawl hung deep in the water. I called after them, and they rectified the accident without [446]sending me back a "Thank you." I love the manners of my country-folk, they are so unsophisticated with civility.

If you knew how, long after I have passed it, the color of a tuft of heather, or the smell of a branch of honeysuckle by the roadside, haunts my imagination, and how many suggestions of beauty and sensations of pleasure flow from this small spring of memory, even after the lapse of weeks and months, you would understand what I am going to say, which perhaps may appear rather absurd without such a knowledge of my impressions. I think I like fine places better than "fine people;" but then one accepts, as it were, the latter for the former, and the effect of the one, to a certain degree, affects one's impressions of the other.

I do not know at all how I should like to live in a palace; I am furiously fond of magnificence and splendor, and not unreasonably, seeing that I was born in a palace, with a sapphire ceiling hung with golden lamps, and velvet floors all embroidered with sweet-smelling, lovely-colored flowers, and walls of veined marble and precious, sparkling stones. I almost doubt if any mere royal palace would be good enough for me, or answer my turn. I should like all the people in the world to be as beautiful as angels, and go about crowned with glory and clothed with light (dear me, how very different they are!); but failing all that I should like in the way of enormously beautiful things, I pick up and treasure like a baby all the little broken bits of splendor and sumptuousness, and thank Heaven that their number and gradations are infinite, from the rainbow that the sun spans the heavens with, to the fine, small jewel drawn from the bowels of the earth to glitter on a lady's neck....

On one occasion I sat by Robert Chambers, and heard him relate some portion of the difficulties and distresses of his own and his brother's early boyhood (the interesting story has lately become generally known by the publication of their memoirs); and I then found it very difficult to swallow my dinner, and my tears, while listening to him, so deeply was I affected by his simple and touching account of the cruel struggle the two brave lads—destined to become such admirable and eminent men—had to make against the hardships of their position. I remember his describing the terrible longing occasioned by the smell of newly baked bread in a baker's shop near which they lived, to their poor, half-starved, craving appetites, while they were saving every farthing they could scrape together for books and that intellectual sustenance of which, in after years, they became such bountiful dispensers to all English-reading folk. Theirs is a very noble story of virtue conquering fortune and dedicating it to the highest purposes. I used to meet the Messrs. Chambers at Mr. Combe's house; they were intimate and valued friends of the phrenologist, and I remember when the book entitled "Vestiges of Creation" came out, and excited so great a sensation in the public mind, that Mr. Combe attributed the authorship of it, which was then a secret, to Robert Chambers.

I received a charming letter from Theodosia yesterday, accompanying a still more charming basketful of delicious flowers from dear Cassiobury—how much nicer they are than human beings! I don't believe I belong to man (or woman) kind, I like so many things—the whole material universe, for example—better than what one calls one's fellow-creatures. She told me that old Foster (you remember the old cottager in Cassiobury Park) was dying. The news contrasted sadly with the sweet, fresh, living blossoms that it came with. The last time that I saw that old man I sat with him under his porch on a bright sunny evening, talking, laughing, winding wreaths round his hat, and singing to him, and that is the last I shall ever see of him. He was a remarkable old man, and made a strong impression on my fancy in the course of our short acquaintance. There was a strong and vivid remnant of mind in him surviving the contest with ninety and odd years of existence; his manner was quaint and rustic without a tinge of vulgarity; he is fastened to my memory by a certain wreath of flowers and sunset light upon the brook that ran in front of his cottage, and the smell of some sweet roses that grew over it, and I shall never forget him.

I did all this reading before breakfast, and when I left my room it was still too early for any one to be up, so I set off for a run in the park. The morning was lovely, vivid, and bright, with soft shadows flitting across the sky and chasing one another over the sward, while a delicious fresh wind rustled the trees and rippled the grass; and unable to resist the temptation, bonnetless as I was, I set off at the top of my speed, running along the terrace, past the grotto, and down a path where the syringa pelted me with showers of mock-orange blossoms, till I came under some magnificent old cedars, through whose black, broad-spread wings the morning sun shone, drawing their great shadows on the sweet-smelling earth beneath them, strewed with their russet-colored shedding. I thought it looked and smelt like a Russia-leather carpet. Then I came to the brink of the water, to a little deserted fishing pavilion surrounded by a wilderness of bloom that was once a garden, and then I ran home to breakfast. After breakfast I went over the very same ground with Lady Francis, extremely demure, with my bonnet on my head and a parasol in my hand, and the utmost propriety of decorous demeanor, and said never a word of my mad morning's explorings.