Philip Gilbert Hamerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al

Part 5 out of 11

then they must be carried to the house either by man or horse. Merely to
get the indispensable quantity of fuel in such a damp climate, when
fires have to be kept up for eight or oftener nine months in the year,
was a serious matter, and my husband complained that he was constantly
deprived of Thursday's services. He then decided to take as a gardener,
out-of-door workman, and occasional boatman, a Highlander of the name of
Dugald, whom he had employed sometimes in the latter capacity, for he
knew something of boats, having been formerly a fisherman.

There were some outbuildings on the island; one of them contained two
rooms, which Dugald and his wife found sufficient for them (they had no
children), and this became the gardener's cottage. Another was used as a
stable, and the smallest as a fowl-house and carpenter's shop, for now
we had come to the conclusion that we could not possibly live all the
year round on the island without a small farm, to provide us, at least,
with milk, cream, butter, and eggs; so we bought two cows, and also a
small flock of sheep, that we might always be sure of mutton--either
fresh or salted. This did not afford a great variety of _menus_, but it
was better than starvation.

Vegetables, other than potatoes and an occasional cabbage, being
unseen--and I believe unknown--at Loch Awe, and my husband's health
having suffered in consequence of the privation, we had the ambition of
growing our own vegetables, and a great variety of them too. Dugald was
set to dig and manure a large plot of ground, though he kept mumbling
that it was utterly useless, as nothing could or would grow where oats
did not ripen once in three years, and that Highlanders, who knew so
much better than foreigners, "would not be fashed" to attempt it.
However, as he was paid to do the work, he had to do it; and it was
simple enough, for he had no pretensions to being a gardener; the choice
of seeds and the sowing of them were left to Gilbert, who had never
given a thought to it before, and to me, who knew absolutely nothing of
the subject. In this emergency we got books to guide us, bought and
sowed an enormous quantity of seeds, and to our immense gratification
some actually sprouted. Our pride was great when the doctor came to
lunch with us for the first time, and we could offer him radishes and
lettuce, which he duly wondered at and appreciated. Of course we had to
put up with many failures, but still it was worth while to persevere,
as, in addition to carrots, onions, turnips,--which grew to
perfection,--potatoes and cabbages, we had salads of different kinds,
small pumpkins, and fine cauliflowers. I soon discovered that peat was
extremely favorable to them, so we had a trench made in peaty soil,
where they grew splendidly.

Although very well satisfied on the whole with our attempt, we thought
it absorbed too much of my husband's time, and he soon requested me to
go on with it by myself, and frankly avowed that he could not take any
interest in gardening, even in ornamental gardening. This lack of
interest seemed strange to me, because he liked to study nature in all
her phenomena, but it lasted to the end of his life; he did not care in
the least for a well-kept garden, but he liked flowers for their colors
and perfumes,--not individually,--and trees for their forms, either
noble or graceful, and especially for their shade. He could not bear to
see them pruned, and when it became imperative to cut some of their
branches, he used to complain quite sadly to his daughter--who shared
his feelings about trees--and he would say: "Now, Mary, you see they are
at it again, spoiling our poor trees." And if I replied, "But it is for
their health; the branches were trailing on the ground, and now the
trees will grow taller," he slowly shook his head, unconvinced. When we
took the small house at Pre-Charmoy, he was delighted by the wildness of
the tiny park sloping gently down to the cool, narrow, shaded river,
over which the bending trees met and arched, and he begged me not to
interfere with the trailing blackberry branches which crept about the
roots and stems of the superb wild-rose trees, making sweet but
impenetrable thickets interwoven with honeysuckle, even in the midst of
the alleys and lawns.

And now to return to the domestic arrangements arrived at by mutual
consent. Upon me devolved the housekeeping, provisioning, and care of
the garden, with the help of a maid, occasionally that of Dugald's wife
as charwoman, and pretty regularly that of Dugald himself for a certain
portion of the day; that is, when he was not required by my husband to
man the boat or to help in a camping-out expedition. It was agreed that
Thursday should be considered as his master's private servant.



Money matters.--Difficulties about servants.--Expensiveness of our mode
of life.

My husband had a little fortune, sufficient for his wants as a bachelor,
which were modest; it would have been larger had his father nursed it
instead of diminishing it as he did by his reckless ways, and especially
by entrusting its management during his son's minority to a very kind
but incapable guardian in business matters, and to another competent but
dishonest trustee, who squandered, unchecked, many important sums of
money, and made agreements and leases profitable to himself, but almost
ruinous to his ward. As to the other trustee, he never troubled himself
so far as to read a deed or a document before signing it. Still, what
remained when my husband came of age was amply sufficient for the kind
of life he soon chose, that of an artist; and he hoped, moreover, to
increase it by the sale of his works.

He was, however, aware of the future risks of the situation when he
asked in marriage a girl without fortune, and he told me without reserve
what we had to expect.

An important portion of his income was to cease after fourteen
years--the end of the lease of a coal-mine; but he felt certain that he
would be able by that time to replace it by his own earnings, and
meanwhile we were to live so economically and so simply that, as we
thought, there was no need for anxiety; so we convinced my parents--with
the persuasion that love lent us--that after all we should not be badly

Soon after the completion of our household organization, however, I
began to fear that a very simple way of living might, under peculiar
conditions, become expensive. A breakfast consisting of ham and eggs is
not extravagantly luxurious, but if the ham comes to thrice the original
price when carriage and spoilage are allowed for, and if to the sixpence
paid for half-a-dozen eggs you add the wages of a man for as many hours,
you find to your dismay that though your repast was simple, it was not
particularly cheap. Whichever way we turned we met with unavoidable and
unlooked-for expenses. Perhaps an English lady, accustomed to the
possibilities of such a place, and to the habits of the servants and the
customs of the country, might have managed better--though even to-day I
don't see clearly what she could have done; as for me, though I had been
brought up in the belief that Paris was one of the most expensive places
to live in, and though I was perfectly aware of its prices,--having kept
my father's house for some years, on account of my mother's weak state
of health,--I was entirely taken by surprise, and rather afraid of the
reckoning at the end of the year. No one who has not attempted that kind
of primitive existence has any idea of its complications. A mere change
of servant was expensive--and such changes were rather frequent, on
account of their disgust at the breach of orthodox habits, and the lack
of followers; or their dismissal was rendered inevitable by their
incapacity or unwillingness, or their contempt for everything out of
their own country. We had a capital instance of this characteristic in a
nurse who came from Greenock, and who thoroughly despised everything in
the Highlands. One night, my husband and myself were out of doors
admiring a splendid full moon, by the light of which it was quite easy
to read. The nurse Katharine was standing by us, holding baby in her
arms, and she heard me express my admiration: unable to put up with
praises of a Highland moon, she exclaimed deliberately, "Sure, ma'am,
then, you should see the Greenock moon; this is nothing to it."

This change of servants was of serious moment to us, both in the way of
time and money, for we had to go to Glasgow or Greenock to fetch new
ones, besides paying for their journeys to and fro, and a month's wages
if they did not give satisfaction, which was but too often the case.

Once it happened that a steamer, bringing over a small cargo of
much-needed provisions, foundered, and we were in consequence nearly
reduced to a state of starvation.

Also, after paying princely prices for laying hens, we only found empty
shells in the hen-coop, the rats having sucked the eggs before us.
Gilbert, to save our eggs, bought a vivacious little terrier, who killed
more fowls than rats; and as to the few little chickens that were
hatched--despite the cold and damp--they gradually disappeared, devoured
by the birds of prey, falcons and eagles, which carried them off under
my eyes, even whilst I was feeding them.

Another very important item of expense lay in the different materials
required for my husband's work of various kinds, and of which he ordered
such quantities that their remnants are still to be found in his
laboratory as I write. Papers of all sorts of quality and size--for
pen-and-ink, crayons, pastel, water-color, etching, tracing; colors dry
and moist, brushes, canvases, frames, boards, panels; also the
requisites for photography. It was one of my husband's lasting
peculiarities that, in his desire to do a great quantity of work, and in
the fear of running short of something, he always gave orders far
exceeding what he could possibly use. He also invariably allowed
himself, for the completion of any given work, an insufficiency of time,
because he did not, beforehand, take into account the numerous
corrections that he was sure to make; for he was constantly trying to do

Our journeys also contributed to swell considerably the total of our
expenditure. Before we were married he promised my parents that he would
bring me over once a year, for about a month; for it was a great
sacrifice on their part to let their eldest child go so far away, and,
even as it was, to remain separated for so long at a time. My husband's
relations had also to be considered, and he decided that every time we
went to France we would stay a week at least with his maiden aunts, who
had brought him up, and a few days with the family of his kind uncle,
Thomas Hamerton of Todmorden; then a short time in London to see the
Exhibitions and his friends. The same itinerary was to be followed on
our return.

My parents living then in Paris, where even at that time rents were high
and space restricted, my husband's dislike to confinement did not allow
him to remain satisfied with the single room they could put at our
disposal; moreover, in order to work effectively, peace and perfect
quiet were absolutely indispensable to him; so he took lodgings close to
my parents', and whilst I spent as much of my time with them as I could
spare, he wrote or read in the noiseless rooms we had taken _entre cour
et jardin_. Of course the rent of the lodgings was an additional
expense. Altogether, when we summed up the accounts after the first
year, we were dismayed to see what was the cost of such an unpretentious
existence; but with youthful hope we counted upon the income that art
could not fail to bring shortly.



Painting from nature.--Project of an exhibition.--Photography.--Plan of
the "Painter's Camp."--Topographic Art.--Charm of our life in the

Mr. Hamerton has himself explained in his autobiography what were his
artistic tendencies and aims: he meant to be topographically true in his
rendering of nature, and was unluckily greatly influenced by the
Pre-Raphaelites, who were, at the time of our marriage, attracting great
attention. I was totally unprepared for that kind of art, and the most
famous specimens of it which my husband took me to see in London only
awoke an apprehension as to what I might think of his own pictures when
they were shown to me. The old masters in the Louvre, even the yearly
Salons, where, under my father's guidance, I had learned to admire
Troyon, Corot, and Millet, had given me an education which fell short of
enabling me to recognize the merits of the new school. It was in vain
that my husband pointed out the veracity of the minutest detail, in vain
that he attempted to interest me in the subjects or praised the scheme
of color; I did not understand it as art, and I received an impression,
perfectly remembered to this day, and which I hardly hope to convey to
others in words: it was for my eyes what unripe fruit is for the teeth.

It was a long time before my husband completed a picture at
Innistrynich, because he had resolved, at first, to paint only from
nature, and was constantly interrupted by changes of effect. After many
attempts, he came to the conclusion that he would only paint local color
out-of-doors, and in order to study effects rapidly, he made hasty
sketches with copious notes written in pencil. Still, he was not
satisfied, the sketch, however quickly traced, retarding the taking of
notes, so that the effect had vanished before they were completed. After
giving mature consideration to another scheme of study, he decided to
make careful pen-and-ink topographical drawings of the most striking
features of the scenery, such as Ben Cruachan, Glen Etive, Ben Vorlich,
Glencoe, etc., and to have them reproduced in large quantities, so that,
when upon the scene represented by any of them, he would only have to
note the most impressive effects, the sketch having become unnecessary.
I wished him to take these memoranda in water-colors or pastels, for it
seemed to me very difficult, when the effect was out of the memory, to
revive it in its entirety by hundreds of minute observations covering
the whole sheet of paper. I had another reason for wishing to see him
work more in colors--it was his want of dexterity with them, which I
thought practice only could give; but he said it was too slow for
out-of-door study, and should be reserved for winter-time and bad
weather. Another point upon which we could not agree was the amount of
truth to which an artist ought to bind himself; he said "nothing less
than topographic truth," and he took infinite pains in the measurement
of mountain peaks, breadth of heather-patches, and length of running
streams. To his grievous disappointment, when the conscientious and
labored study was shown to me, I could not but repeat that if it were
true it did not look so to me, since it produced none of the sensations
of the natural scene. "You would like me to exaggerate, then?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered, "if that is the way to make it _look_ true." But he
persevered in his system. He used to camp out a week, sometimes a
fortnight, wherever he made choice of a subject, and returned to the
same spot several times afterwards, with his printed studies of outlines
to take notes of effects.

He was fond of elaborating schemes, and I told him sometimes that I
wished he would allow things to go on more simply, that he would paint
his pictures straightforwardly, and try for their reception in the
Academy; but he answered that most certainly they would be rejected if
painted with so little care, and that he thought the best plan was to go
on patiently during the summer as he had begun, then to paint in winter
from his studies, and produce, not an odd picture now and then, but a
series of pictures illustrating the most remarkable characteristics of
Highland scenery, which he would put before the public in a private
exhibition of his own, under the title of "Pictures from the Highlands,
by P. G. Hamerton." And before one of the pictures was begun, he had
made the model of a die bearing this inscription, to be stamped on the
frames of the pictures, as well as on the studies. Mr. Hamerton had
taken lessons from a photographer in Paris, at the time of his first
visit there, thinking it might be a help in the prosecution of his
scheme, and now he was always trying to get some photographs of the
scenes among which he camped. They were generally very poor and feeble,
the weather being so often unpropitious, and the process (paper process)
so imperfect and tedious. Still, it was the means of giving pleasure to
our relations and friends by acquainting them with our surroundings.
Here is a passage from one of my father's letters in acknowledgment of
the photograph of our house: "J'ai recu avec infiniment de plaisir votre
lettre et la photographie qui l'accompagnait. Cette petite image nous
met en communication plus directe, en nous identifiant pour ainsi dire,
a votre vie interieure. Merci donc, et de bon coeur."

Although my husband firmly believed that nature had meant him to be an
artist, and helped nature as much as he could by his own exertions, the
literary talent which was in him would not be stifled altogether, and
under pretext of preparing a way for his artistic reputation, made him
undertake the "Painter's Camp."

It may be easily realized that with his elaborate system of study, which
required journeys and camping out, the taking of photographs, painting
indoors in wet weather, together with a course of reading for culture
and pleasure, and in addition literary composition, Gilbert's time was
fully occupied; still he was dissatisfied by the meagre result, and
fretted about it. He had, at the cost of much thought and money,
organized a perfect establishment, with wagons, tents, and boats, to go
and stay wherever he pleased; but wherever he went or stopped he almost
invariably met with rain and mist, and though he could draw or paint
inside the tent, he still required to see his subject, and how could he
possibly when the heavy rain-clouds enveloped the mountains as if in a
shroud, or when the mist threw a veil over all the landscape? I remember
going with him to camp out in Glencoe in delightful weather, which
lasted (for a wonder) throughout the journey and the day following it,
after which we were shut inside the tents by pouring or drizzling rain
for six consecutive days, when the only possible occupation was reading,
so that at last we were beaten back home with a few bad photographs and
incomplete sketches as the fruits of a week's expedition.

At first we did not attach much importance to the weather, even if it
wasted time. My husband had taken the island on a lease of four years,
and it seemed to us that almost anything might be achieved in the course
of four years; we were so young, both of us--he twenty-four, and I
nineteen--that we had not yet realized how rapidly time flows--and it
flowed so delightfully with us as to make everything promising in our
eyes. The rain might be troublesome and interfere with work, but were
not the splendid colors of the landscape due to it? The lake might be
stormy, and the white foam of its waves dash even upon the panes of our
windows, but the clouds, driven wildly over the crests of the hills, and
rent by peaks and crags, cast ever-hanging shadows along their swift
course, and the shafts of the sun darting between them clothed the
spaces between in dazzling splendor. Our enjoyment of natural beauty was
not marred by considerations about the elements which produced it:
whether the rich color of the shrivelled ferns on the hillside had been
given by the fierce heat of a sun which, at the same time, had dried up
the streams and parched the meadows, we did not inquire; and if the
grandeur of the stormy lake on a dark night, with the moaning of the
breakers on the rocky shore, and the piercing shrieks of the blast,
involved the fall and ruin of many a poor man's cottage and the
destruction of hundreds of uprooted trees, we were so entranced in
admiration as to give no thought to the consequences. We derived
pleasure from everything, study or contemplation, fair weather or foul;
a twilight ramble on the island by the magnificent northern lights, or a
quiet sail on the solitary lake perfumed with the fragrance of the
honeysuckle or of the blue hyacinths growing so profusely on Inishail
and the Black Isles.

Well, we were happy; we did not stop to consider if we were _perfectly_
happy; but it was, without a doubt, the happiest time of our lives, for
we have always turned back to it with deep regret, and, as my husband
has expressed it in the "Painter's Camp"--"It is so full of
associations and memories which are so infinitely dear and sweet and
sacred, that the very word 'Highlands' will lay a sudden charm on my
heart forever."

Although we made no dissection of our happiness to know what it was made
of, there was a powerful element in it which I discern clearly now: we
were satisfied with ourselves, thinking we were fulfilling our duty to
the best of our understanding; if we erred, it was unconsciously. Since
then we have not been so positive, and sometimes have questioned the
wisdom of those days. But who can tell?... If my husband had not lived
those four years of Highland life he would not have been the man he
became, and his literary gift, though perhaps developed in some other
way, would never have acquired the charm which influenced afterwards so
many minds and hearts.



English and French manners.--My husband's relatives.--First journey to
France after our marriage.--Friends in London.--Miss Susan Hamerton.

The summer of 1858 had been unusually warm and pleasant in the
Highlands, and my husband had put many a study in his portfolios, in
spite of the interruptions to his work caused by a series of boils,
which, though of no importance, were exceedingly painful and irritating,
being accompanied by fever and sleeplessness: they were the result of a
regimen of salted meat and an insufficiency of fresh vegetables; for of
course those we succeeded in growing the first year were only fit for
the table towards the end of summer.

We had not been so solitary as I had expected, for with the warm weather
a few families had come back to their residences on the shores of the
lake, and had called upon us. I had felt rather timid and awkward, as I
could not speak English; but the ladies being kindly disposed, and
generally knowing a little French, we managed to get on friendly terms,
particularly when left to ourselves, for I was very much afraid of
Gilbert's strictures--I will explain for what reasons in particular. He
was, as I have said before, a very good and competent teacher, but very
exacting, and he had repeatedly said that he could put up better with my
faults were they the usual recognized mistakes of a foreigner, but that
unluckily mine were vulgarisms. This was very humiliating, as I must
confess I took a little pride in my French, which had been often praised
as elegant and pure, and this had fostered in me a taste for
conversation such as was still to be enjoyed in intelligent French
society at that time, and of which I had never been deprived at home, my
father being an excellent conversationalist, and receiving political
friends of great talent as orators and debaters, such as Michel de
Bourges, Baudin, Madier-de-Montjau, Boysset, and many others, as well as
literary people.

On the other hand, it must be explained that I was unknown to my
husband's relations, and aware of some prejudices against me among them,
particularly on the part of his Aunt Susan,--the younger of the two
sisters who had brought him up. She only knew that I was French, a Roman
Catholic, and without fortune; all these defects were the very opposite
of what she had dreamt of for her nephew, and her disappointment had
been so bitter when she had heard of his engagement that, to excuse it
in her own eyes, she had convinced herself that a French girl could only
be flippant, extravagantly fond of amusement, and neglectful of homely
duties; a Roman Catholic must of necessity be narrow-minded and bigoted,
and the want of fortune betrayed low birth and lack of education. These
views had been expressed at length to my betrothed, together with severe
reproaches and admonitions, and it was in vain that he had attempted to
justify his choice; his aunt persisted in attributing it solely to a
passion he had been too weak to master. At last our marriage drawing
near, Gilbert wrote to his aunt that if her next letter contained
anything disrespectful to me he would return it, and do the same for the
following ones, without opening them; and the correspondence had ceased.

It was quite different with his aunt Mary, who must also have been
disappointed by his marriage, for with her aristocratic tastes and
notions she had desired for her nephew a bride of rank, and an heiress
to put him again in the station befitting the family name, to which his
education and talents seemed to entitle him. But she had confidence in
his judgment, and loved him with so generous a love that she
congratulated him warmly when he was accepted, and wrote me an
affectionate letter of thanks, and a welcome as a new member of the

Of course my husband had often talked to me about his aunts; not much
was said of Miss Susan, but a great deal of his dear guardian, who had
been like a mother to him, and who now wrote encouragingly to me from
time to time about my English, and my new life. He praised both his
aunts for their good management of a small income, for the position they
had been able to retain in society, and particularly for their lady-like
manners and good breeding; explaining sometimes that I should probably
find it different in some respects from French _comme-il-faut_, and
mentioning in what particulars. I felt that he would be very sensitive
about the opinions his aunts would form of me, and I dreaded that of
Miss Susan Hamerton. He had put me on my guard on some points; for
instance, about the French custom of always addressing people as
Monsieur or Madame, which was hard for me to relinquish, as it seemed
rude; and I was also told not to be always thanking servants for their
services (as we do in France), if I wished to be considered well-bred.
But besides what was pointed out to me, I noticed many other things
which ought to be toned down in my nature and habits, if I meant to
acquire what I heard called lady-like manners. I was at that time very
vivacious, merry, and impulsive, and so long as I had lived in France
this natural disposition had been looked upon as a happy one, and rather
pleasant than otherwise; but I did not notice anything resembling it in
our visitors, who were said to be real ladies, or lady-like. They looked
to my French eyes somewhat indifferent and unconcerned: it is true that
they were all my seniors by at least half-a-score of years, but the fact
did not put me more at ease. However, as they showed great kindness, and
frequently renewed their visits and invitations, I was led to think that
their judgment had not gone against me, and this gave me some courage
for the day of my meeting with my Aunt Susan. And that day was drawing
near, my husband having promised his relations that we should visit them
after six months, which was the delay granted to me to learn a little
English; and although I could not and dared not speak it at the end of
the allotted time, no respite was allowed.

It was arranged that after our stay in Lancashire we should go on to
Paris. This news was received with great joy and thankfulness in my
family, where we had not been expected so soon, and where the sorrow for
my absence was still so keen that my father wrote to my husband: "Chaque
fois que je rentre je m'attends a la voir accourir au devant de moi et
chaque desillusion est suivie de tristesse. Il n'est pas jusqu'au piano
dont le mutisme me fait mal. J'ai beau me dire que ces impatiences, ces
chagrins sont de la faiblesse: je le sais, je le sens, et je n'en suis
pas plus fort."

The love of improvements, which was one of Gilbert's characteristics,
had led him to plan a road on the island, which should go from the house
to the lowest part of the shore, where the lake dried up in summer, so
as to facilitate the conveyance of goods, which could then be carted
without unloading from Inverary to the barn or kitchen-door. He gave
very minute directions to Thursday and Dugald, and set them to their
work just before we left for France, telling them that he expected to
find the road finished on our return.

We started in November, and arrived at Todmorden on a wet day; and just
before leaving the railway carriage we were much amused by a gentleman
who answered the query "Is this Todmorden?" by letting down the window
and thrusting his hand out, after which he gravely said: "It is raining;
it must be Todmorden."

My husband's uncle, Thomas Hamerton, with his two daughters, was
awaiting us at the station to welcome us and take us to his house, where
we found Mrs. Hamerton, who received us very kindly, but called me Mrs.
Philip Gilbert, because she despaired of ever pronouncing my Christian
name rightly. I begged her to call me "niece," and her husband gave the
example by calling me "my niece Eugenei." Our cousins Anne and Jane
spoke French very creditably, although they had never been in France,
and we were soon on friendly terms. When my husband was away, they
translated my answers to their mother's numerous questions about our
life in the Highlands, my occupations, tastes, French habits, and what
not. Although my powers of expression in English were very limited, I
understood the greater part of what was said, and Mrs. Hamerton and my
cousins being so encouraging, I did not feel so timid, and if I had
stayed longer I should most certainly have made rapid progress. On that
score my husband--P. G., as they called him in the family circle--was
taken to task and scolded for having been too severe with "his poor
little foreign wife." His cousins, with whom he was on brotherly terms,
were much pleased with the soft French pronunciation of the name
Gilbert, and dropped the P. G. decisively, to the great wonder of their

The following day was fixed by my husband as the day of our trial,--that
is, for our visit to his aunts, who lived on a steep eminence above
Todmorden, in a pleasant house, "The Jumps." Aunt Mary, in order to
spare me, had offered to come down to meet us at her brother's; but as
she suffered from some kind of heart complaint (the knowledge of which
kept her loving nephew in constant alarm) we were afraid of the effect
that fatigue and emotion might have, and preferred to encounter Miss
Susan Hamerton.

The reception was typical of the different dispositions towards us. Aunt
Mary was standing at the door, straining her eyes to see us sooner, and
came forward to embrace me and to receive the kisses of her beloved
nephew; then she whispered that "she had hoped Susan would have gone
away on a visit to her friends; but she had remained obdurate to all
hints and entreaties." So there was nothing for it but to meet her,
since she would have it so; and with a beating heart I was led to the
drawing-room by my husband. That the reader may not be misled into
believing that a life-long estrangement resulted from the following
scene, I will quote a passage from the preface to "Human Intercourse,"
which gives the unforeseen result of my acquaintance with Miss Susan

"A certain English lady, influenced by the received ideas about human
intercourse which define the conditions of it in a hard and sharp
manner, was strongly convinced that it would be impossible for her to
have friendly relations with another lady whom she had never seen, but
was likely to see frequently. All her reasons would be considered
excellent reasons by those who believe in maxims and rules. It was plain
that there could be nothing in common. The other lady was neither of the
same country, nor of the same religious and political parties, nor of
the same generation. These facts were known, and the inference deduced
from them was that intercourse would be impossible. After some time the
English lady began to perceive that the case did not bear out the
supposed rules; she discovered that the younger lady might be an
acceptable friend.

"At last the full, strange truth became apparent--that she was
singularly well adapted, better adapted than any other human being, to
take a filial relation to the elder, especially in times of sickness,
when her presence was a wonderful support. Then the warmest affection
sprang up between the two, lasting till separation by death, and still
cherished by the survivor."

But the first meeting held out no such promise. There, on the couch, was
an elderly lady, sitting stiff and straight, with a book in her hands,
from which her eyes were never raised, even when she acknowledged our
entrance by a studiously slow, chilling, and almost imperceptible bend
of the head. I saw my husband's face flush with anger as we bowed to my
new relation; but I pressed his hand entreatingly, and we sat down,
attempting to ignore the hostile presence, and to talk as if we found
ourselves in ordinary circumstances. Poor Aunt Mary, thinking it must be
unendurable to me, soon proposed that we should go to the dining-room
for refreshments, and her proposition was accepted with alacrity. We
left the dining-room with the same ceremonial which had followed our
entrance, and were rewarded by the same frigid and distant movement of
the silent figure on the sofa. We remained some time with Aunt Mary, and
took an affectionate leave of her, my husband giving a promise that on
our return journey we would stay a few days at "The Jumps," whether her
sister chose to be at home or away.

I have related this episode at some length, although it seems to concern
me more than my husband, because the influence it had on his life was so
important. It is almost certain that if Miss Susan Hamerton had behaved
towards us like her sister, my husband would never have thought of going
to live in France. At the end of our lease at Innistrynich, he would
have chosen a residence in some picturesque part of England, and would
have easily induced his aunts to settle as near as possible to us. Their
example and advice in household matters would have been invaluable to
me, whilst the affectionate intercourse would have grown closer and
dearer as we came to know each other better. However, this was not to

We soon left Todmorden after our visit to "The Jumps," and when we
reached Paris there were great rejoicings in my family, where my husband
was fully appreciated. He liked to talk of politics, literature, and art
with my father, whose experience was extensive, and whose taste was
refined and discriminating; he awoke in his son-in-law an interest in
sculpture which hitherto had not been developed, but which grew with
years. As to my mother, brothers, and sister, they loved him for his
kindness, and also because he had made a life of happiness for me.

In Paris we went to see everything of artistic interest, but especially
of architectural interest. I knew nothing of architecture myself, but
was naturally attracted by beauty, and my husband guided my opinions
with his knowledge. I noticed with surprise his indifference to most of
the pictures in the Museum of the Louvre, and he explained, later, that
he could not appreciate them at that period in the development of his
artistic taste, which was at that time retarded by the Pre-Raphaelite
influence. There was certainly a great evolution of mind between this
state of quasi-indifference and the fervid enthusiasm which made him say
to me when we came to live in Paris: "At any rate there is for me, as a
compensation for the beauty of natural scenery, an inexhaustible source
of interest and study in the Louvre."

The Museum of the Luxembourg containing several pictures by modern
artists, whose merits he recognized, was frequently visited by us--and
he admired heartily among others, Rosa Bonheur, Daubigny, Charles
Jacque, and especially Troyon, whose works went far to shake his faith
in topographic painting, and sowed the first seeds of the French
school's influence on his mind.

At the expiration of the month we returned to London, and stayed with
friends; my husband introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Mackay, to Mrs. Leslie
and her family, to the sons and daughters of Constable, of whom he
speaks in his autobiography, and they all received me very kindly, and
told me what hopeful views they entertained of his future career. We
also called upon Millais, for whose talent my husband had a great
admiration. He received us quite informally, and we had a long talk in
French, which he pronounced remarkably well; he explained it to me by
saying that he belonged to a Jersey family.

It was also during this London visit that Mr. Hamerton made the
acquaintance of Mr. Calderon, who also spoke French admirably,--an
acquaintance which was to ripen into friendship, and last to the end of
my husband's life. He also went to all the winter exhibitions, public or
private, where he stood rooted before all the works which could teach
him something of his difficult art; and when we left he was certain of
having acquired new knowledge.

Miss Susan Hamerton having said to Aunt Mary that she had no objection
to our being her sister's guests, we went straight to "The Jumps" after
leaving London. This time she received us with polite coldness,--like
perfect strangers,--but she was not insulting, only at times somewhat
ungenerously sarcastic with me, who was not armed to parry her thrusts.
I felt quite miserable, for I did not wish to widen the gap between her
and her nephew, and on the other hand I did not see how our intercourse
could be made more pleasant by any endeavors of mine, for I was ignorant
of the art of ingratiating myself with persons whom I felt adverse to
me, and I must avow that I had also a certain degree of pride which
prevented me from making advances when unfairly treated. I had always
lived in an atmosphere of confidence, love, and goodwill,--perhaps I had
been a little spoilt by the kindness of my friends, and now it seemed
hard to be a butt for ill-natured sarcasms. These shafts, however, were
seldom, if ever, let loose in the presence of my husband, who would not
have tolerated it; the want of welcome being as much as he could bear.
Still, there was no doubt that matters had slightly mended since our
first visit, and an undeniable token of this was the fact of Miss Susan
Hamerton extending her hand to each of us at parting. Had I been told
then that this reluctant hand would become a firm support for me; that
these cold eyes would he filled with warm tears of love, and that I
should be tenderly pressed to this apparently unsympathizing bosom, I
could not have believed it. Yet the day came when Aunt Susan proved my
dearest friend, and when Mr. Thomas Hamerton said to his nephew, "Susan
loves you much, no doubt, but Eugenie is A1 for her."



Visits from friends and relatives.--A Frenchman in the Highlands.--
Project of buying the island of Innistrynich.

When we arrived at Innistrynich from the Continent, all our neighbors
had left Loch Awe, and we had only as occasional visitors the doctor and
our landlord--the rare and far-between calls of the minister ceasing
with the fine days; but we were not afraid of our solitude _a deux_, and
we had the pleasant prospect of entertaining Aunt Mary and Anne Hamerton
early in the summer, as well as the husband of my godmother, M.
Souverain, a well-known Parisian publisher, whose acquaintance Mr.
Hamerton had made through my father, and who had promised to come to see
us. Meanwhile, we resumed our usual rules of work, and my husband began
several oil pictures at once, so as to lose no time in having to wait
for the drying of the colors.

As he had made great progress in his French, he proposed that we should
change our parts, and that nothing but English should be spoken, read,
or written by me, except my letters to French correspondents. I delayed
my submission a while, for it seemed that if I could not speak--even to
him--confidentially and with perfect ease, that indeed would be
solitude. At last I yielded to his entreaties, strengthened by my
father's remonstrances, and some months of constantly renewed endeavors
not always successful, and sometimes accompanied by weariness,
discouragement, and tears--began for me, my teacher never swerving from
his rule, not even when, despairing of making myself understood, I used
a French word or expression. On such occasions he invariably shook his
head and said: "I do not understand French; speak English," at the same
time helping me out of my difficulty as much as he could.

Aunt Mary and Anne Hamerton had promised to come to see us during the
summer, and we had repeated our invitation in the beginning of the
spring of 1859, but Aunt Mary wrote to her nephew: "I am looking forward
with great pleasure to my visit to you and Eugenie, but I think I had
_better_ NOT come till the little cherub has come, because anybody would
know better what to do than I should."

She wrote again on June 6, 1859: "I am very glad indeed that Eugenie and
the dear little boy are doing well; give my very best love to Eugenie,
and tell her that now Anne and I are looking forward with great pleasure
to visiting you as soon as we can."

They came in July, and Aunt Mary was delighted with the beauty of the
scenery, with the strong and healthy appearance of her little
grand-nephew, whom she held in her arms as much and as long as her
strength allowed, but especially by the recovered affectionate intimacy
with my husband, and also by the certainty of our domestic happiness.

Anne Hamerton greatly enjoyed the excursions on land and water, and so
the days passed pleasantly. When my husband was painting, either in his
studio or out-of-doors, we sat near him and read aloud by turns. Aunt
Mary was very fond of Moore's poetry, and read it well and feelingly,
though her voice was rather tremulous and weak. To Anne were given
passages of "Modern Painters" as examples of style, and Lamartine's
"Jocelyn" for French pronunciation. I fear that Aunt Mary's appreciation
of it was more imaginary than real. "The Newcomes" fell to my lot, being
easier than poetry, and gave rise to many a debate about its superiority
or inferiority to Thackeray's other works. As an author he was not
justly appreciated by Aunt Mary, who, on account of her aristocratic
loyalty, did not forgive him for "The Four Georges."

We had also a good deal of music; my husband, having been accustomed to
play duets with his cousin, soon resumed the practice, and though I had
not encouraged him as a solo-player, I liked well enough to listen to
his violin with a piano accompaniment. Anne's playing was only mediocre,
but as she did not attempt anything above her skill, it was pleasant
enough; she accompanied all the French songs I had brought with me, and
they were numerous, for at that time there was no _soiree_ in
Paris--homely or fashionable--without _romances_; the public taste was
not so fastidious as it has since become, and did not expect from a
school-girl the performance of an operatic prima donna. When out in the
boat on a peaceful and serene night, my husband rowing us slowly on the
glassy water, it seemed that the melodies which rose and spread in the
hazy atmosphere were the natural complement to these enchanted hours.
Anne often sang "Beautiful Star" or "Long Time Ago," and I was always
asked for "Le Lac" or "La Chanson de Fortunio."

The arrival of Monsieur Souverain added a new element of cheerfulness to
our little party: he was so thoroughly French--that is, so ignorant of
other habits than French ones, so naively persuaded of their superiority
to all others, so keenly alive to any point of difference, and so openly
astonished when he discovered any, always wondering at the reason for
this want of similarity--that he was a perpetual source of interest to
our lady visitors. He could not speak English, but he always addressed
Aunt Mary in his voluble and rapid Parisian French, and she was all
smiles, and appeared to enjoy extremely his run of anecdotes about
French celebrities she had never heard of. Now and then she let fall a
word or sometimes a phrase totally irrelevant to what he had been
saying, but which in his turn he politely pretended to appreciate,
although he had not understood a single syllable of it. It was most
amusing to see them walking side by side, evidently enjoying each
other's society and animated conversation; only we remarked that they
were careful to remain well out of profane hearing by keeping a good
deal in front of us, or else loitering behind.

We had been awaiting M. Souverain for some days, no date having been
fixed, when one morning our attention was aroused by loud and prolonged
shouts coming from that part of the road which affords a view of
Innistrynich, before descending to the bay. With the help of his
telescope, my husband soon discovered a small, spare human form, now
waving a pocket-handkerchief, and now making a speaking-trumpet of both
hands to carry its appeal as far as the island. "It must be M.
Souverain," Gilbert said, as he sent a shout of welcome, and ran to the
pier to loosen the boat and row it across the bay.

He had scarcely landed our visitor when enthusiastic ejaculations met
our ears: "Mais c'est le Paradis terrestre ici!" "Quel pays de reve!"
"Quel sejour enchanteur!" Then, with a change of tone habitual to him,
and a little sarcastic: "Yes, but as difficult to find as dream-land; I
thought I should have to turn back to France without meeting with you,
for no one seemed to be aware of the existence of the 'lac Ave' any more
than of 'Ineestreeneeche,' and I was beginning to suspect your
descriptions to have been purely imaginary, when _un trait de lumiere_
illuminated my brain. I bought a map of Scotland, and without troubling
myself any longer with the impossible pronunciation of impossible names,
I stuck a pin on the spot of the map that I wanted to reach and showed
it either to a railway _employe_ or to a _matelot_, and I was sure to
hear 'All right,'--I have learnt that at least. But upon my life, to
this day I can't explain why no one seemed to understand me, even at
Inverary, at the hotel. I asked: 'Quel chemin doit on prendre pour aller
chez Monsieur Amertone, dans l'ile d'Ineestreeneeche sur le lac Ave?'
That was quite plain, was not it?... Well, they only shook their heads
till I gave them the address you had written for me, then of course they
came out with 'All right,' and a good deal besides which was of no
consequence to me, and at last I am here 'all right.' But why on earth
do they spell Londres, London; Glascow, Glasgow; and Cantorbery,
Canterbury? It is exceedingly puzzling to strangers." My husband was
greatly tickled, and rather encouraged this flow of impressions; he
thought it extremely interesting in a cultivated and intelligent man who
was far from untravelled, for he had been in Spain, Belgium, Germany,
Italy, and Algeria, and who still evinced a childlike wonder at every
unfamiliar object. For instance, he would say: "Now, Mr. Hamerton, I am
sure you can't justify this queer custom in English hotels, of putting
on the table a roast of eight pounds' weight, _at least_, or a whole
cheese. I can't eat all that, then why serve it me?... And why also
those immense washing-basins? They are so cumbersome and heavy that it
is almost as much as I can achieve to empty them: I don't take a bath in
them, I take it in a _baignoire_, and I have not to empty it."

The conversation, however, often ran on serious subjects, and M.
Souverain heard with deep interest from my husband an account of his
plans, both literary and artistic, and said once: "If you intend to
devote your life to painting Highland scenery, and since your wife loves
this admirable island as much as you do, why should not you buy it and
secure the benefit of the improvements you are carrying on? It is
somewhat solitary at times, no doubt, but as you will be obliged to go
to London and Paris every year at least, you might arrange to do so in
winter and enjoy society there, and a change at the same time. You tell
me that your property yields at present but a very poor income,--why
not sell it, or part of it, since it has no attraction for you, and live
here, on your own property, free of rent?"

Gilbert himself had entertained the idea, and had developed it to me
with flattering possibilities and speculations, but I was already
beginning to fear that our present existence was too exquisite to last.
We had received bad news from Uncle Thomas about the rents; the mill was
not let, and would require a heavy outlay before it could find a tenant;
the machinery was old, out-of-date, and would have to be replaced by new
with the modern improvements, and the cottages surrounding the mill were
likely to remain tenantless so long as the mill did not work, or the
rents be but irregularly forthcoming. In fact, our income was already
insufficient, and my husband was seriously considering whether he ought
to borrow in order to set up the mill again, or whether it would be more
profitable to sell the property and draw upon the capital as we required
it, till he could sell his pictures. At last he decided to consult his
uncle, who was a prudent man of business, and had a long experience as
landed proprietor. After due consideration Mr. T. Hamerton advised him
to go to the necessary expense for repairs to the mill.

Meanwhile M. Souverain was growing more enchanted with Loch Awe day by
day, and could not bear the idea that we might be turned out of
Innistrynich some day by a new owner (for the present one was getting
old, and had said that at the end of our lease he would put it up for
sale), so he tempted my husband by the almost irresistible offer of a
third of the purchase money, in consideration of having two rooms
reserved for himself and his wife--my godmother--during two of the
summer months. But Aunt Mary's secret desire--and perhaps hope--of
seeing us established at a future time nearer to herself, suggested some
very weighty considerations against the project. "When your child or
maybe children grow up and have to attend school, will you resign
yourselves to send them so far as will be inevitable if you are still
here?" she said; "and will your healths be able to stand the severity of
the climate when you are no longer so young? The distance from a doctor
is another serious affair in case of sickness, and I myself, as well as
Eugenie's parents, am on the downward course, and may soon be deprived
of the possibility of undertaking so fatiguing a journey." All this had
been foreseen by her nephew, of course, but his attachment to the place
was such that he found ready answers to all objections. "Our children
would be educated at home--the climate, though damp, was not more
severe or unhealthy than the average--doctors were of no good, generally
speaking--and we might visit our relations more frequently in case they
were unable to come to us."

So the question remained open.

Gilbert, thinking it desirable to give his guests a more extensive
acquaintance with the surrounding country than his boats could afford,
proposed to take a carriage, which would be ferried from Port Sonachan
to the other side of the lake, after which we might drive as much as
possible along the shores till we reached Ardhonnel Castle. If we
arrived early we would visit the ruins and the island; if too late, it
would be reserved for the following morning, as we intended to spend the
night at the inn, and to resume our drive in time to be back at
Innistrynich for dinner.

We started merrily,--Aunt Mary, Anne Hamerton, M. Souverain, my
husband, myself, and baby; for our guests kindly insisted upon my being
one of the party, in spite of my small encumbrance, which I could not
leave behind. I did my best to be excused, but they were unanimous in
declaring that they would not go if I stayed.

"You need not walk unless you like," they said, "for there will always
be the carriage, the boat, or the inn for you."

It was a splendid day of bright sunshine in a tenderly blue sky, with a
pure, soft breeze hardly rippling the lake. We all took our seats inside
the roomy, open carriage, my husband leaving the management of the
horses to the driver that he might be free to enjoy the scenery. M.
Souverain remarked that if the Highlanders were a strong race, their
horses hardly deserved the same epithet; and indeed the pair harnessed
to our carriage appeared very lean and somewhat shaky, but the driver
affirmed that they were capital for hill-work, though he would not swear
to their swiftness, and as we did not want to go fast, it was again "all
right" from M. Souverain when the explanation had been translated to

Fast we certainly did not go, and, moreover, we often stopped to admire
the changing views, but the poor starved beasts did not pick up any more
spirit during their frequent rests; they painfully resumed their dull
jog-trot for a short time, which soon dwindled to slow, weary paces that
even the whip in no way hastened. However, with plenty of time before
us, we only turned it into a joke, pretending to be terrified by the
ardor of our steeds.

My husband had to tell M. Souverain all the legends of the places we
were passing, and as he himself "courtisait la Muse," he listened with
rapt attention, so as to be able to treat the subjects in French verse.
"This country is a mine for a poet!" he frequently exclaimed.

Luckily we had packed some provisions in the carriage, for the sun was
already declining,--like the pace of the horses,--and we were not yet at
the end of the drive by a good distance.

The fresh air had sharpened our appetites, and Gilbert proposed that we
should have something to eat whilst the horses were taken out of harness
and given a feed to refresh them and give them a little more vigor for
the rest of the journey.

By the time we had finished our collation the air had freshened, and it
was twilight; we agreed that now it was desirable to get within shelter
as soon as possible, although the charm of the hour was indescribable;
but the thin white mist was beginning to float over the lake, and the
last remnants of the afterglow had entirely died out. What was our
dismay when we found that all my husband's efforts, joined to those of
the driver, to make the horses get up were ineffectual; there they lay
on the grass, and neither expostulations, pulls, cracks of the whip, or
even kicks, I am sorry to say, seemed to produce the slightest effect
upon their determination to remain stretched at full length on the
ground. What were we to do? The driver vociferated in Gaelic, but the
poor brutes did not mind, and they would have been cruelly maltreated if
we had not interfered to protect them. Gilbert said to the man: "You see
well enough that they have no strength to work, therefore allow them to
rest till they are able to go back. I leave you here, and as I have
ladies with me I must try to find some sort of shelter for the night."
The man was almost frantic when he saw us go, but we all agreed with my
husband, and in the hope of finding a cottage set forth resolutely on

It was now almost dark, but our spirits were not damped yet, and, as M.
Souverain remarked, it was "une veritable aventure." Still, I was
beginning to find my baby somewhat heavy after walking for
three-quarters of an hour, when the gentlemen in front of us cheerily
encouraged our exertions by calling out, "A cottage, a cottage!" and
when we came up to them they were loudly knocking at the door, unable to
obtain a sign of life from within; however, the smell of burning peat
clearly indicated that the cottage was inhabited, and my husband shouted
our story, begging that the door might be opened and the ladies allowed
to rest. Then on the other side of the door, which remained closed, a
voice answered in Gaelic we knew not what, except that the tone of it
was unmistakably angry, and unbroken silence ensued.

There was nothing left to us but to resume our walk, enlivened by M.
Souverain singing the celebrated song, "Chez les montagnards Ecossais
l'hospitalite se donne," etc. Every one in turn offered to hold the
baby; but Aunt Mary, I knew, had enough to do for herself, Anne was not
strong, and my confidence in the fitness of the gentlemen for the
function of nurse was very limited. My husband kept up our courage by
affirming that we were not far from Ardhonnel, and consequently within a
short distance of the inn; indeed, he called us to the side of the road,
from which we could see the noble ruin with our own eyes, now that the
new moon had risen and was peeping between the clouds occasionally. It
was a welcome sight, for by this time we were really weary; but alas!
the inn was on the other side of the lake, and we had no boat; still,
Gilbert felt sure there must be one not very far off, to take the people
across, and after surveying the shore for a while he discovered a little
pier, with a rowing-boat chained to it, and a very small cottage almost
close to where we stood; so he went to knock at the door, and again
Gaelic was given in answer. But this time the door was opened by a woman
who had only taken time to put on a short petticoat, and to throw a
small shawl over her head; her feet, legs, and arms were bare, and she
looked strong and placid; her English was scanty, but she understood
pretty well what we wanted, and declared herself willing to row our
party to the other side if any one could steer, for her "man" was asleep
in bed and too tired for work; so my husband took a pair of oars, the
woman another, and I steered from indications frequently given. At last
we stood in front of the inn, and it was past midnight. Not a light was
visible, not a sound was heard, and there was no sign of life except a
faint blue wreath of peat-smoke; but it was enough to revive our
energies and hopes. In response to our united appeals a dishevelled head
of red hair cautiously looked down from a half-opened window, and our
story had to be told again. Well, this time we were let in and allowed
to sit down, whilst the ostler's wife was being roused as well as the
servant, for we were told that the tourists' season, being already over,
the inn was no longer in trim for customers. This was bad news, for the
good effects of the luncheon had passed off, and as soon as we could
rest and forget our fatigue we became sensible of ravenous hunger. The
good innkeeper and his wife were so obliging and good-hearted that they
kept deprecating the absence of all the comforts they would have liked
to give us. However, my husband had brought a large basket of dry peat,
and M. Souverain heaped it up dexterously, and blew upon what remained
of red ashes under his pile, whilst a kettle was placed upon the glowing
embers. "I am afraid I can't offer you the same cheer that you would
give me at the _maison Doree_," Gilbert said to his friend. "_Ca serait
gater la couleur locale_; oh! some bread-and-cheese, with a bottle of
beer, will do very well for me." But there was neither bread nor cheese
nor beer; and no kind of abode, however miserable, had M. Souverain ever
known to be without bread. "What do they live upon then?" he asked.
"Porridge, and they occasionally make scones," was the reply. Luckily
for us there happened to be an ample supply of them, freshly made, and
with these, boiled eggs, and fried bacon, we had one of the best
appreciated meals we ever tasted. It was followed by hot whiskey-toddy
and cigars for the gentlemen, by tea and clotted cream for the ladies,
and for a while we quite revived; but sleep would have its way, and
there being only two beds, occupied by the owners of the inn, they
charitably yielded them to us; and when the sheets had been changed,
Aunt Mary and Anne shared one, whilst I thankfully retired to the other
with baby. The gentlemen remained near the fire in the dining-room, one
of them stretched on the sofa, and the other using its cushions as a

On the following morning I learned the meaning of the word "smart" for
the first time, it being so frequently repeated by our good hostess, who
had made room for me by the kitchen fire to dress my child. "How smart
is the sweet baby!" she constantly exclaimed with honest admiration, as
she made him laugh by tickling his little feet or chucking his chin.

Our breakfast was a repetition of the supper in every detail, and our
enjoyment of it more limited. My husband soon went out to hire a boat
and a couple of men to row us back again. They took us first to
Ardhonnel, of which he has given a description in "The Isles of Loch

"A gray, tall fortress, on a wooded isle,
Not buried, but adorned by foliage."

The day was fine again, and the return home ideal; Gilbert steered and
relieved each rower in turn, while they sang their Scotch melodies with
voices strong and clear, and we all joined in the chorus. When we
reached Port Sonachan we heard that our driver had only arrived towards
mid-day, and that his horses not being strong enough to stop the
carriage on the slope to the ferry, had fallen into the lake, from which
they were rescued with great difficulty. We saw the carriage still
dripping wet, which had been left out to dry, and for the repairs of
which Gilbert later on received a bill that he indignantly refused to

This "romantic excursion," as M. Souverain called it, had so much
developed his fancy for Loch Awe that, before taking leave of us, he
offered to go halves with my husband in the purchase of Innistrynich;
but there was plenty of time for reflection, as the lease had four years
to run, so no decision was taken then.

A fortnight after the departure of our Parisian guest, Aunt Mary and
Anne left us regretfully,--the former especially, who was going back
reluctantly to the jealous remarks of her sister, and did not feel
disposed to listen patiently to criticisms on her nephew's character and
conduct or on mine. From her letters afterwards she had not a pleasant
time of it, but relieved the painfulness of it as much as possible by
accepting at intervals several invitations from her friends in the
neighborhood. This state of affairs made my husband very miserable, for
he would have done anything to secure his Aunt Mary's happiness and
tranquillity of mind; and to help him in his endeavors, I proposed that
she should come to live with us. This is part of her answer:--

"I hope to return with you in May next. Give my very best love to dear
Eugenie, and tell her that I thank her very much for proposing to
gratify your affection to me by proposing that I should live with her
and you; but Susan and I have taken each other for better and worse,
unless some deserving person of the other sex should propose, and the
one he proposes to _should_ say, Yes, if you please. But I think we
shall never separate."

It is with regret that I have to recall Miss Susan Hamerton's unamiable
temper at that time; one thing comes in mitigation, but I only knew of
it years afterwards: she was suffering much from unavowed nervousness.
Her nephew told me that when living in the same house with her he had
sometimes noticed that she ate hardly anything and looked unwell; but to
his affectionate inquiries she used to answer: "My health is good
enough, thank you; and I know what you imply when you pretend to be
anxious about it--you mean that I am cross and ill-tempered." She made
it a point never to plead guilty to any physical ailment, as if it were
a weakness unworthy of her, and also to discourage all attempts at

Another thing I learned too late was her jealous disposition, which
explained her attitude towards her nephew at the time of his marriage;
it was love turned sour, and although we tried to discover the cause of
her bitterness in her worldly disappointment, we became convinced that
she would have felt as bitter had the bride been wealthy and of noble
lineage, because her jealousy would have tortured her as much, if not
more. She became jealous of her sister when we invited her; and long
afterwards, when her brother became a widower, and she went to live with
him, he confided to his nephew that he had had to bear frequent
outbursts of jealousy. It was merely the exaggeration of a tender
sentiment which could not brook a rival.



Financial complications.--Summer visitors.--Boats and boating.--Visit to
Paris.--W. Wyld.--Project of a farm in France.--Partnership with M.

While the "Painter's Camp" was progressing, which was to be the
foundation of my husband's success, three pictures had been sent to the
Academy and rejected; but after the first feeling of disappointment he
was cheered up again by a favorable opinion from Millais about those
pictures--one of them in particular, a sailing-boat on Loch Awe in the
twilight, which was pronounced true in effect and color. Aunt Mary wrote
to him soon after: "I am so very glad of the account you give of your
pictures, and of Millais' opinion of them; it is very encouraging. I do
hope truly that they will attract gain, good-will, and success for you."

As it would have been very expensive to have the pictures sent to and
fro, with the deterioration of the frames, packing, etc., Mr. Hamerton
begged a friend who lived in London to keep them in one of his empty
rooms (he had a whole floor unfurnished) till there were a sufficient
number of them for a private exhibition, in which he intended to give
lectures on artistic subjects.

The mill, after thorough and expensive repairs, had been let, but there
was bad news from the tenant of the coal-mine, who refused to pay the
rent any longer, under pretext that the mine was exhausted. This looked
very serious, as, after referring the matter to his uncle, who was a
solicitor, my husband learned that the lease made during his minority
did not specify the quantity of coal that the tenant was allowed to
extract from the mine, and, of course, as much as possible had been
taken out of it. Still, as there was an agreement to pay the rent during
twelve more years, the tenant's right to withdraw from the signed
agreement might be contested, and the affair had to be put into the
hands of a lawyer. This was a cause of great anxiety, and it was not the
only one. The health of my father had become very unsatisfactory of
late, and his situation was no longer secure. He had been on most
excellent terms with the English gentlemen who were at the head of the
firm in which he was cashier, but they were retiring from business, and
my father did not know what was coming next. He wrote on October 9,

"Enfin je commence a respirer; depuis bientot six semaines je ne savais
pas vraiment ou donner de la tete. Nous avons eu transformation de
societe, inventaire, assemblee d'actionnaires, tout cela m'a donne un
effrayant surcroit de besogne et de fatigue, et je n'avais pas le
courage de reprendre la plume lorsque je rentrais au logis, harasse et
souffrant. Aujourd'hui nos affaires commencent a reprendre leur cours

On the 28th of the same month I find this phrase in one of his letters:
"Ma position est plus tendue que jamais et les changements survenus dans
notre administration me donnent des craintes serieuses pour l'avenir."
Then we learned that a project for lighting Bucharest with gas was on
foot, and that my father was to go there to ascertain the chances of
success. Some outlay was necessary, and my husband, who had heard of it
through a friend, generously offered to defray the preliminary expenses;
his offer, however, was declined for the time, there being as yet no
certainty of profit.

Early in 1860 Gilbert had to leave Innistrynich to visit his property
and receive the rents. He always felt reluctant to go there, because of
the painful reminiscences of his early youth, and of the dreariness of
the scenery. There was also another reason, still more powerful,--he was
not made to be a landlord, being too tender-hearted. How often did it
happen that, instead of insisting on getting his rent from a poor
operative, he left some of his own money in the hand of wife or
child?--frequently enough in hard times, I know.

He was staying at "The Jumps," and went from there to Shaw, Burnley, and
Manchester; he never missed writing to me every day, either a short note
or a long letter, according to his spare time. In one of them he says:--

"Ma tante Marie est bien bonne, mais nous ne parlons jamais de choses
serieuses--toujours des riens. Comme la vie est etrange! a quoi bon
aller loin pour voir ses amis quand ils vous disent simplement qu'il
fait froid!... ma tante Susan est assez gracieuse, mais j'ai vu des
_nuages_. Je suis alle hier a Manchester ou j'avais a faire; j'y ai vu
quelques tableaux et je suis de plus en plus convaincu que la meilleure
chose pour moi est de peindre plutot dans le genre des _vrais_ peintres
Francais que dans celui de nos Pre-Raphaelites, ces realistes
impitoyables qui ne nous epargnent pas un brin de gazon."

This letter contains a strong proof of his mind's artistic evolution.

In the course of the summer we had several unexpected visitors, among
them Mr. and Mrs. Mackay, Mr. Pettie the artist, and the gentleman
described in the "Painter's Camp" as Gordon, who frequently
called,--sometimes with his son, sometimes alone, and on such occasions
generally remained for the night. Being an early riser, and indisposed
to remain idle till breakfast time, he was found in the morning knitting
an immense woollen stocking, which he afterwards took into use, and
found most comfortable wear for grouse-shooting, as he took care to
inform me.

We had once another visitor, who had come to paint from nature, and was
staying at the Dalmally inn; his name I will not mention on account of
a little adventure which made him so miserable that he left our house
breakfastless, rather than face me after it. He had been offered a
bedroom, and had slept soundly till about five in the morning, when
his attention was attracted by a small phrenological bust on the
chimney-piece, which he took into his bed, with the intention of
studying it at leisure. As he lay back on the pillow, however,
holding up the bust and turning it sideways to read the indications,
he became aware of a black dribble rapidly staining the sheets and
counterpane. Horrified at such a sight, he sprang out of bed, and
discovered--too late--that he had totally emptied the inkstand.

About the same time we had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with
Captain Clifton and his wife, Lady Bertha Clifton, who had rented a
large house on the other side of the lake, and proved very friendly
neighbors. Lady Bertha was extremely handsome; her voice was splendid,
and she sang readily when she was asked. Our neighbors had speculated a
good deal about her probable appearance, ways, and disposition, and the
news that a _lady in her own right_ was coming had created quite a
commotion. I asked to be enlightened on so important a subject, and soon
heard all the details from very willing lips. She was very simple in
dress, and often came to call upon us in a fresh cotton-print gown and
straw hat, with only the feather of a heron or a woodcock in it. Her
husband, Captain Clifton, retired from the army, spoke French fairly
well, and although he had little in common with Gilbert--being an
enthusiastic sportsman--soon became his most constant visitor. Both of
them liked the country and were fond of boating, and they both took an
interest in politics.

A very pleasant feature had been added to the lake by the appearance of
a small steamer belonging to a proprietor beyond Port Sonachan, who came
with his wife to Loch Awe every summer. They invited us from time to
time to join a fishing party, and we had either lunch or supper on
board. There was a cabin for shelter, and the ladies, being thus
protected against the almost unavoidable showers, readily joined the

In this summer of 1860 Aunt Mary came with our cousin Jane, whose sweet
disposition and charm of manner greatly disturbed the peace of mind of a
bachelor visitor, a distant relation of my husband, who was looking
about for a shooting. Everything in his behavior seemed pointing to a
not distant offer; but Gilbert, who was already a good judge of
character, strongly doubted the final step. He said to me: "If Henry is
too sorely tempted, he will run away rather than expose his wealth to
the perils of matrimony; he does not spend his money, he is constantly
earning more and accumulating, but he has told me that no amount of
conjugal happiness could be a compensation to him if, at the end of the
year, he found out that he had spent a thousand pounds more than what he
was accustomed to spend regularly." And it happened that he left
abruptly, just as my husband had foretold, but not without promising a
future commission for two pictures when his billiard-room should be

The love of boating was very strong in Gilbert, but the love of planning
new boats _with improvements_ was still stronger; in fact, he always had
in a portfolio plans more or less advanced for some kind of boat, and he
very often made models with his own hands. I was in constant fear of the
realization of these plans, of which I heard a great deal more than I
could understand. He was well aware of it, and sometimes stopped short
to say with a smile: "Now, don't go away; I won't bother you any longer
with boats." Unable to resist the temptation of devising improvements,
even when he resisted that of testing them for his own use, he gave the
benefit of his thoughts to his friends when they seemed likely to prove
useful. In the course of the spring, however, he had been at work
planning a much larger boat than those he already possessed; one which
might, when needful, carry a cart-load of goods across the bay, or the
whole camp to any part of the lake. I offered some timid remonstrances
about the probable cost, but he met them by affirming that it would be
an economy _in the end_, by saving labor. So two carpenters were fetched
from Greenock, and began to work under his direction.

The building of the boat, which of course took more time than had been
expected, delayed our departure for France, but at last we set off to
introduce our baby-boy to his relations.

Once in Paris, Mr. Hamerton saw a great deal of his kind friend, William
Wyld, whose advice he was better able to appreciate now that his ideas
about art were no longer topographic. He began at this stage of artistic
culture to enjoy composition and harmony of color; and though he still
thought that his friend's compositions were rather too obviously
artificial, he did not remain blind to their merit. He also saw more of
Alexandre Bixio, brother of the celebrated Garibaldian general, at whose
house he met renowned artists, men of letters, and politicians.
Alexandre Bixio had been one of the founders of the "Revue des Deux
Mondes," with Bulwer Lytton. He had acted as Vice-President of the
Assemblee Nationale, and had been sent to the Court of Victor Emmanuel
as Minister Plenipotentiary, and was an intimate friend of Cavour. One
evening, after dinner at his house, he took Mr. Hamerton aside, and
pointing to a young man engaged in an animated conversation with several
other guests, he said: "I am very much mistaken if that is not a future
Minister of State." "He looks very young," answered my husband, very
much astonished. "He is young, he was born in 1827; but remember his
name, and in a few years you will see if I am right: it is Signor
Sella." Four years later Signor Sella was Minister of Finance.

As my husband has told in his autobiography, I had a sister younger than
myself by seven years, very pretty and winning, about whose future we
were very anxious, on account of the recurring interruptions in her
studies, owing to my mother's distressing state of health. When periods
of illness came on, the whole duty of attendance upon her devolved on my
sister, disastrous as such breaks in her education might prove as the
girl grew up. During the intervals of sickness my mother yielded to our
entreaties, and Caroline was sent to school; but as a day-scholar she
often missed classes for one reason or another, being so often wanted,
and after becoming a boarder she never remained in the same institution
for more than a few months at a time. My mother kept hoping that the
trouble would not return, and tried to persuade us that now Caroline's
studies would be regular, and that being very intelligent, she would
soon be on a par with girls of her own age; but this state of things had
lasted ever since I was married, and I could not foresee the end of it.
We often talked about it, my husband and myself, and he soon guessed
that I wished to have her with us, but that knowing how much he liked
having our home to ourselves I would not ask him to bring another into
it, even though it were my sister. He was, however, with his usual
generosity, the first to offer it. Aware of how much it cost him I
accepted nevertheless, for we were both of one mind, and considered it
as a duty to be done. I looked upon my sister as my child, for my
mother's illness had begun when Caroline was so young that almost all
motherly cares had devolved upon me, who was the eldest. We kept our
project secret to the last, not to disturb the family peace, and being
sure of my father's acquiescence and of Caroline's delight. When the day
came, my husband's persuasion prevailed, and my sister was entrusted to
our care.

This time, while staying at "The Jumps," we noticed a great change in
Aunt Susan's behavior towards us; it was decidedly friendly, with now
and then an almost affectionate touch, and I was told privately that she
had thrown out hints about the pleasure that an invitation to
Innistrynich would give her, so the invitation was given before we left.

My husband applied to Caroline's teaching the system which had proved
effective with me, and made her read English aloud to him whilst he was
painting; I undertook the French and musical part of her education, and
her progress was rapid. For my sake Gilbert was very glad that I had
Caroline with me, because in the course of that year he camped out a
great deal, and it had become impossible for me to accompany him,
another little boy having been born in the beginning of February, and
his delicate health requiring constant care.

Our pecuniary troubles were increasing. The American war having broken
out, the mill, which had been repaired at great cost, was stopped in
consequence, and of course we got no rent either from it or from the
cottages, whilst the expenses of the little farm were heavy--hay being
at an extravagant price, because of the persistent rains, which in the
previous summer had rotted all the cut grass, and made it necessary to
bring hay from England. Although we kept two cows, our supply of milk
and cream was insufficient, and my husband made the calculation that
each cow consumed daily seven shillings' worth of hay in this spring,
though put on short rations. In fact, the state of our affairs greatly
alarmed us, for we did not see any prospect of speedy earnings, and we
began to think of a total change in our way of living which would
materially reduce our expenses. My husband would have been inclined to
remove to the English Lake District, but remembered in time that it was
nearly as wet as the Highlands, and what he wanted as a compensation, if
we left Scotland, was a dry climate which would allow much more time for
out-of-door work.

It so happened that my father, who was now Directeur de l'Usine a Gaz at
Beaucaire, had suffered in health, catching frequent colds through
having to get out of bed to look after the puddlers, to stand before the
fires whilst they were replenished, and to cross a cold, draughty
courtyard in coming back. He had never complained, but my mother thought
it extremely dangerous, and wished that he had a more healthy

On the other hand, I had diligently applied myself to our small farm
and garden, with the help of a most valuable and simple guide,
"La Maison Rustique des Dames," by Madame Millet-Robinet, which
had been sent to me as a present by M. Bixio, and I had often thought
that if my efforts were not always thwarted by the inclemency of the
weather, I might count upon a fair return. All this led me to fancy that
if we were to buy a farm in France it might prove a profitable
investment, and I talked the project over with Gilbert. This is the
conclusion he arrived at. He would sell his property, rent a farm in
France, which I should manage with my father, himself remaining entirely
faithful to his artistic and literary studies. If my mother were strong
enough, and my sister willing, they would have a share in the direction,
and even my brothers, later on, if it were to their taste. There were
now many gentlemen-farmers who did not neglect either their work on the
land or their own culture--M. and Madame Millet-Robinet might be cited
as examples.

When the project was communicated to my father, he was very happy at the
idea of living near us, and grateful for the delicate thoughtfulness
which had devised this means of coming to his help under pretext of
asking help from him. Here is part of his answer:--

"MON CHER FUTUR ASSOCIE,--Ah ca! pensez-vous donc que j'aie tout a fait
la berlue pour n'avoir pas decouvert de prime abord tout l'insidieux de
votre proposition? Il vous faudrait, dites-vous naivement, pour associe,
un homme actif, exerce, connaissant bien les affaires, la culture, pour
exploiter votre ferme et, plus heureux que Diogene, vous braquez votre
lanterne sur un homme qui dans trois ans sera un quasi vieillard, deja
valetudinaire aujourd'hui et sachant a peine distinguer le seigle du
froment! Oh! l'admirable cultivateur modele que vous aurez la! Soyez
franc, mon cher Gendre, vous avez rumine ce pretexte avec ma fille pour
m'assurer des invalides et donner a ma vieillesse un repos et un abri
que mon labeur n'a pas voulu conquerir au prix de mon honnetete.
[Footnote: My father had been offered a very important post in the
government of Napoleon III., on condition of accepting his policy, after
the Coup d'Etat.] Je vous vois venir et j'ai beau etre un ane en
agriculture, tout ce qui reussira me sera attribue; mon incapacite sera
couverte d'un manteau de profonde habilete et vous me persuaderez que,
livres a vos propres lumieres, vous ne feriez rien de bon, tandis qu'en
me confiant le soc, c'est a moi que le sillon devra sa richesse."

My mother and my brothers also wrote warmly and gratefully, whilst all
the details of the project were discussed at length in every successive
letter. My father inclined for the purchase of a farm, but Gilbert was
afraid of a possible confiscation of property in case of a war between
England and France.

Meanwhile, Aunt Susan had entered into a regular and friendly
correspondence with me and her nephew, and she wrote on June 27, 1861;--

"MY DEAR NIECE,--My sister and myself are quite annoyed to seem so
dilatory in fixing our time for visiting you; however, we hope (D. V.)
to be with you on Saturday, the sixth of July. I hope your little olive
branches are both quite well, and also your sister; we shall be glad to
renew and make fresh acquaintance amongst the young ones. I suppose
Philip Gilbert will ere this be returned from his long camping
expedition, and I hope he has had a most satisfactory outing. Will you
all accept our united love, and believe me

"Your affectionate aunt,


My husband was at home to receive his aunts, and pleased to notice how
amicably we got on together, but he was not prepared for what took place
shortly before their departure. One morning I was gathering strawberries
in the garden, and it was slow work because they were very small, being
the wild species, which had been transplanted for their delicious
flavor. Aunt Susan came up, and offered to help me. Never shall I forget
the scene when we both rose from the strawberry-beds, with our fragrant
little baskets well filled. We turned towards the lake, whose soft, hazy
glamour matched that of the tender sky; the air was still, and there
reigned a serene silence, as if a single sound might have desecrated the
almost religious peace of earth and heaven; yet a smothered sob was
heard as I felt myself caught in a close embrace, my head laid upon a
heaving bosom, my hair moist with warm tears, a broken voice murmuring:
"My child, how I have wronged you!... and I love you so--" "Oh! Aunt
Susan," I said, "don't cry; I will love you too; my husband will be so
happy." We kissed each other, and said no more, and from that time Aunt
Susan became my most faithful friend.

The farm project having been seriously considered by my father, he at
last declared it too hazardous for him to undertake the direction of it.
From the first he had felt unequal to it, for want of the proper
knowledge and preparation; and so much would depend upon its
success--the future of two families. But having had formerly a long
experience in the wine trade, and being a particularly reliable
authority on the qualities and values of Burgundy wines (he was able to
name the _cru_--that is, the place where the grapes were cultivated--of
any wine he tasted, as well as the _cuvee_, namely the year in which it
had been made); and having been in his youth the representative of an
important wine firm in Burgundy, he was more inclined to undertake the
management of a wine business than anything else. He said so to my
husband, adding that the relatives and acquaintances we had in England
might form the beginning of a good connection, and that his own name as
head of the firm would secure a good many customers both in France and
Belgium. His son-in-law was soon convinced of the wisdom of these
reasons, and it was decided that towards the end of the year we would go
to France to choose a new residence, suited to the requirements of the
wine business, and situated in a part sufficiently picturesque to lend
itself to artistic representation. It was stipulated that the name of
Hamerton should not be used; the title of the firm was to be "Gindriez
et Cie.," my husband being sleeping partner only.



Effects of the Highland climate.--Farewell to Loch Awe.--Journey to the
South of France.--Death of Miss Mary Hamerton.--Settlement at
Sens.--Death of M. Gindriez.--Publication of the "Painter's
Camp."--Removal to Pre-Charmoy.

Very few people can stand the climate of the Highlands without suffering
from it; it is so damp and so depressing in winter-time, when the wind
howls so piteously in the twisted branches of the Scotch firs, and when
the rain imprisons one for weeks within liquid walls of unrelieved
grayness. Mr. Hamerton, since he came to Innistrynich, had repeatedly
suffered from what he believed to be toothache, although his teeth were
all perfectly sound, and the pain being always attended by insomnia, was
a cause of weakness and fatigue detrimental to his general health. The
doctor said it was congestion of the gums, due to the excess of moisture
in the climate, which had not been favorable to either of us; for I had
also discovered that my hearing was becoming impaired, and these were
weighty additional reasons for removing elsewhere. I had been somewhat
anxious at times, when I saw him fall suddenly into a state of
listlessness and prostration, but as he always recovered his energy and
resumed his usual avocations after a short sleep, I thought it must be
the result of temporary exhaustion, for which nature kindly sent the
best remedy--restoring sleep; and as he had told me he had always
experienced the greatest difficulty in getting to sleep before midnight
or at regular hours, and especially in getting a sufficiency of sleep in
the course of the night, it seemed a natural compensation for the
system, that an occasional nap should now and then become
irrepressible,--the more so on account of his customary nocturnal rides,
sails, or walks. To the end of his life the hours of the night seemed to
him quite as fit for any sort of occupation as those of the day, and it
made little difference to him whether it was dark or light; indeed at
one time, years later, when at Pre-Charmoy, he began, to the
stupefaction of his country neighbors, to call upon them at nine or ten
in the summer evenings, and then to propose a row on the pond or a walk
by moonlight; but it happened not unfrequently that he could get no
admittance, rural habits having sent the inhabitants to their early
beds; or else if they were still found in a state of wakefulness, they
did not evince the slightest desire to be out with a _noctambule_, and
even hinted that it might look objectionable and vagabondish in case
they were seen. He was greatly astonished at this new point of view; for
it was merely to spare the working hours of the day that he took his
relaxation in the night.

A good many more pictures had been painted in the course of the year,
and had suggested many "Thoughts about Art," which had been duly
consigned to the manuscript of the "Painter's Camp." Aunt Mary, who was
kept _au courant_, wrote: "How can you, dear Philip Gilbert, find time
to paint so much, and to write so much?" It was now necessary to be more
industrious than ever, in order to have a sufficient number of works to
cover the walls of the exhibition room, the project being near its
realization and matured in all its details. My husband was to take me,
our children, and Caroline to my parents at Beaucaire, and leave us
there while he went in search of a house, then back again to the
Highlands for the removal, and before joining me again he was to
organize the exhibition in London with the help of Thursday, and leave
him in charge of it.

About the middle of October, 1861, we started for our long journey
southwards, with mingled feelings of deep regret for what we left
behind,--the country we still loved so much, the associations with the
births of our children and the laborious and hopeful beginnings of an
artistic and literary career, as well as the tender memories of the
growth of our union, which solitude had tested and strengthened and made
so perfect and complete; then if we looked forward, it was with joyful
feelings for the lasting reunion of the family, for the peace and
happiness we were going to give to my father's old age, and also for
future success and easier circumstances.

We stopped at Todmorden to say farewell to our relations, and also paid
farewell visits to some friends, amongst them Mrs. Butler and her
husband--Mr. Hamerton's Burnley schoolmaster; to Mr. Handsley, for whom
he had as much esteem as affection, and to his half-cousins Abram and
Henry Milne, who had agreed to purchase his property, and had given him
a commission for the two pictures already spoken of at Loch Awe, and
destined for the billiard-room, which had been built in the meantime,
and was now used daily.

On arriving at Beaucaire, we found my mother in much better health than
formerly, but my father looked aged, we thought; however, he was much
cheered by our prospects, and entered heartily into every detail
concerning them.

My husband had not much time to spare, and he made the most of it;
together we saw Arles, Nimes, the Pont du Gard, and Montmajour, and
called upon Roumieu, the Provencal poet, to whom we were introduced by
friends. We used to roam along the shores of the Rhone in the twilight,
the noble river affording us a perpetual source of admiration, and one
evening, when we were bending over one of its bridges looking at the
swollen and tumultuous waves after a storm, we became spellbound by the
tones of a superb voice, coming as it seemed from the sky, and singing
with happy ease and unconcern, one after the other, some of the most
difficult parts in the opera of "William Tell." We dared not speak for
fear of losing a few notes, for the rich, full voice hardly paused
between two songs, never betraying the slightest effort or fatigue;
half-an-hour later it ceased altogether, and we went to my father's full
of our discovery.

"Oh! it's Villaret of the brewery; yes, a splendid tenor, but he has
long been discovered; only he has no musical education, and his
relatives won't hear of his going on the stage. Alexandre Dumas, after
listening to him, offered to pay all necessary expenses to enable him to
attend the Conservatoire, but it was of no use: they are very religious
in the family, and have an insurmountable horror of theatres. He is,
himself, a very simple, good-natured fellow, and does not require much
pressing to sing whenever he is asked. I know some of his friends, and
the lady organist of the church particularly; and if you wish to hear
him at her house, I dare say she would give a _soiree_ to that end."

Two days later we were invited by the lady to meet him, and with evident
pleasure, but without vanity, he sang several pieces, with very great
power and feeling. At last, when the company were leaving, the lady of
the house took Gilbert aside to beg him to remain a little longer with
Villaret, and when everybody else had left, she said: "Now, Monsieur
Villaret, I count upon the pleasure of listening to my favorite piece in
'La Muette de Portici.' I am going to play the accompaniment." "I would
if I could, to oblige you," he answered; "but you are aware of my
weakness. I never can do justice to it, because I can't master my
emotion." "Never mind; you must fancy we are alone together. Mr.
Hamerton and his wife will remain at the other end of the salon, behind
your back; and what then if you break down?... no one will be any the
worse for it." She sat down and began the accompaniment of that most
exquisitely tender song,--

"De ton coeur bannis les alarmes,
Qu'un songe heureux seche les larmes
Qui coulent encore de tes yeux."

The words were hardly audible; but we were so moved by the marvellous
purity of the pathetic voice that tears stood in our eyes. As for the
singer, tears rolled down his face. It was one of those rare and perfect
pleasures that are never forgotten. A few years later Villaret made his
_debut_ as first tenor at the Opera in Paris with great success. He was
very generous with tickets to his early friends and fellow-citizens;
some of his most intolerant relatives had died, and he had yielded at
last to the general wish.

Now came for my husband and myself the longest separation in our married
life. It lasted two months, and seemed at least two years, so sad and
wearied did we grow. He wrote every night succinctly what had been done
in the course of the day, and sent me his letters three times a week.

When beds had been packed up or sold, our kind neighbors, Mr. and Mrs.
Whitney, offered him hospitality, which he gratefully accepted, till
everything was cleared out of Innistrynich and on its way to Sens, in
the department of the Yonne, where our new residence was to be.

On his way to Sens, Gilbert stayed a few days with his aunts, but left
them for a short time, and concluded the sale of his property to Henry
Milne. It was but a poor bargain, the times being bad for the cotton
district on account of the American war; but he had no alternative,
having engaged to find capital for the wine business, and even needing
money for daily expenses, for as yet he earned nothing.

What he had been in dread of for so many years, on account of his Aunt
Mary's state of health, happened just as he was returning to "The
Jumps," and when he saw his uncle Thomas awaiting him at the station he
had a foreboding of the truth. "Aunt Mary is dead?" ... "Not dead yet,
but unconscious, and there is no hope. This morning when Susan was in
the breakfast-room, waiting for her sister, she heard a stamping
overhead, followed by a dull, heavy thud, and on rushing upstairs found
Mary stretched on the floor and moaning, but unconscious. She has been
put to bed and attended by doctors; but there is nothing to be done, and
they say that she does not suffer." Mournfully my husband ascended
alone, in the dark night, the steep hill up which he had so often walked
gayly to see his beloved guardian; tenderly he watched at her bedside
for forty-eight hours, till she breathed no more, and at last reverently
accompanied her remains to the chosen place, which he never omitted to
visit afterwards, every time he came to Todmorden. He wrote to say what
a satisfaction it was to think that his aunt had seen him only a few
hours before the attack, and when it came she must have felt him so near
to her.

I remember an incident which took place on the day we took leave of Aunt
Mary to go to Innistrynich; she had invited two of her nieces to lunch
with us at "The Jumps." When we left the house, some time in the
afternoon, I went first with my cousins, leaving nephew and aunt
together for more intimate communing, and when my husband reached us,
his eyes were still moist and his voice tremulous. The girls
thoughtlessly teased him about it, and twitted him with his weakness;
but he did not allow them to amuse themselves long, he cowed them with a
violence of contempt which terrified me, whilst I could not help
admiring it. "Yes," he said, "I have shed tears--not unmanly tears--and
if you are not capable of entering into the feelings of grateful love
and regret which wring these tears out of my heart, I despise you for
your heartlessness." His voice had recovered its firmness and rang loud,
his eyes shot flames, he looked more than human. These startling
outbursts of generous or honest passion were one of his most marked
characteristics; they occurred but rarely, but when they did occur
nothing could abate their terrific violence; a single word in mitigation
would have acted like oil on the flames. It must be explained that they
were always justified by the cause, and it was impossible not to admire
such genuine and high-minded resentment against meanness or dishonesty,
or in some cases against what he considered insulting to his sense of
honor. For instance, on one occasion a very important sale of works of
art was to take place abroad, and he was asked to contribute some notes
to the catalogue. It was hinted--clearly enough--that any words of
praise would be handsomely acknowledged. He resented the offer like a
blow on the face, blushed crimson with ardent indignation, and almost
staggered to the writing-table; there he seized a postcard, and in
large, clear, print-like letters threw back the insult with cutting
contempt. The sense of having cleared his honor somewhat relieved him,
and after waiting for a propitious moment I tried to persuade him,
before the card was posted, that the offence was not so heinous as it
looked, the writer not knowing him personally, and merely imagining
himself to be acting in conformity with a prevalent custom, which some
critics were far from resenting. All I could obtain, however, was an
envelope for the terrible postcard.

Now to resume the narrative. I left Beaucaire to join my husband at
Havre on his return, and after visiting the town together we hastened to
our new house at Sens, which I longed to see, for it had been chosen in
my absence, and though I had received minute descriptions of it, I was
not able to realize its appearance or surroundings. It was one of the
large, roomy _maisons bourgeoises_, so numerous in French provincial
towns at that time, built for the convenience of the owner, and not in
order to be let as an investment. It was perfectly suitable for the
double purpose Gilbert had in view--with a spacious carriage entrance,
courtyard, cellars, barns, and stable for the wine trade, and large,
commodious, well-lighted rooms for residence. But to my regret there was
no garden,--a great privation for me; however, my husband told me that
our landlord had promised to make one if I cared so much for it. I did
care very much, as the only view from the house was that of other houses
and walls on the other side of the street; but when asked to fulfil his
promise, the landlord said it was a misunderstanding, he had merely
given leave for _us_ to make a garden in the courtyard if we liked, or
else he would let us have one for a moderate rent, outside of the town,
a common habit at Sens. However, as I did not appreciate the pleasure of
an hour's walk every time I wished to smell a flower in my garden, we
declined the offer, and my husband kindly planned a narrow flower-bed
all along the base of the walls in the courtyard, which looked gay
enough when the plants were in full bloom, and the walls were hidden by
convolvulus, nasturtiums, and Virginia creepers.

Even before the house was furnished and in order, Gilbert was eager to
begin his commission pictures; but he soon found that even our large
rooms were too small for a studio, and the light was not good for
painting; but at the same time, I believe he was not _really_ sorry,
because it gave him a plausible excuse for turning one of the barns into
a capital studio.

This outbuilding offered great and tempting advantages; it was isolated
from the house, therefore silent and private; it might be lighted from
the north, and was sufficiently spacious to allow a part to be divided
off for a laboratory. Being greatly interested in architecture and
building, my husband derived great pleasure from the execution of his
own plans, even in such a small matter. I vainly attempted to reconcile
him to the idea of using one of the large rooms, standing in fear of the
expense; but I could not help admitting that with his propensity for
large canvases, which I deprecated all my life, a studio was
indispensable; and, after all, as it seemed almost certain that we
should stay there a great many years, it was not of much importance,
especially after having lived in terror of seeing him undertake the
building of a tower, or the restoration of an old castle like
Kilchurn,--a dream that he often indulged, as numerous designs bore

The first thing considered by Gilbert when he settled at Sens was the
choice of subjects for his commission pictures, which he intended to
paint directly from nature; and he soon selected panoramic landscape
views from the top of a small vine-clad hill, called St. Bon, which
commands an extensive prospect of the river Yonne, and of the plains
about it. On the summit of this eminence there is a kiosk belonging to
the archbishop, who readily granted the use of it to the artist for
sheltering his pictures, brushes, colors, etc. But the artist was not
one who could bear confinement, and the kiosk was but a tiny affair, and
not movable, so two of the tents were set up at its foot, and formed a
painter's camp, which attracted so many curious visitors that it was
thought unsafe to leave it at their mercy; and when Gilbert went back
home for the night a watchman, well armed with pistols and a gun, took
his place. Every day, when the great summer heat had abated, I used to
set off with the children to go and meet my husband at the foot of the
hill, and we returned together to the house, attempting on the way to
make the boys speak English, but without success, for the eldest, who
spoke _nothing_ but English when I had left him two months before at
Beaucaire, now chose to gabble in Provencal, which he had picked up from
his nurse, regardless of his Aunt Caroline's efforts to make him talk in
his native tongue. Subsequently, when he perceived that no one
understood him, he quickly dropped his Provencal and replaced it by
French, but would not trouble himself to speak two different languages

By the care and thoughtfulness of Gilbert, a pretty little house and
garden had been prepared for his father-in-law and family, at a short
distance from our own dwelling, where the office of the business was now
ready on the ground-floor, completely fitted up, and separated from the
private dwelling.

My mother had come first with my brothers and sister, whilst my father
remained a little longer to put his successor _au courant_. But it
seemed to me that the delay was longer than we had foreseen, and I began
to grow anxious on account of my letters remaining unanswered; then I
was told that my father was very busy, not very well, and that he could
not write. About a month later he wrote that he was now well enough to
undertake the journey, and with great rejoicings we prepared to receive
him; but when I noticed how altered he was, how thin, how weak, all my
joy forsook me, and it was almost beyond my power not to let him read it
in my face. Courageous as ever, he tried to be and to _look_ happy, and
talked of setting to work immediately. I learned now that he had been
dangerously ill, but that his malady had been kept secret to spare me.

A few trying months followed, during which we passed alternately from
hope to fear, the most distressing feature of this sorrowful time being
my poor father's desperate struggle for life. "I must and I will live to
work; it is my duty to get well; I have a heavy debt and responsibility
now that you are involved in this business," he used to say to his
son-in-law. He had the greatest confidence in his friend, Alphonse
Guerin, the celebrated discoverer of the antiseptic method of dressing
wounds, and thought that if any one could cure him it was A. Guerin, who
had prescribed for him throughout his life in Paris. Accordingly to
Paris he went, and died there shortly after, notwithstanding the devoted
care of his doctor.

Everything seemed to turn against my husband's wisest plans, but nothing
daunted by this last fearful blow, he at once offered his mother-in-law
a pension sufficient to enable her children to carry on their education;
this pension would gradually be diminished as the children became able
to earn money for themselves and to take their share in the maintenance
of their mother. The fact was, that from that time he had two families
to keep.

Besides the studies at St. Bon, he had begun two pictures of large
dimensions in his studio, and worked at them steadily. As he could not
sit down, this excess of fatigue brought on a very serious illness,
which kept him in bed for nearly a fortnight, and it was the only
instance of his submission to such an order from a physician during the
whole course of our married life, but it was rendered imperative by the
nature of the disorder. He hated remaining in bed when awake, at all
times, and he could not stand it at all in the hours of day; later on he
had the measles, and still later he suffered from gout, but he would not
stay in bed in either case, and during the first attack of gout, which
was as severe as unexpected, he remained for twenty-one nights without
going to bed.

This illness prevented him from attending the marriage of his eldest
cousin Anne Hamerton, about which her sister wrote on July 22, 1862,
that it was to take place on August 6, and after giving a good many
details she observed: "You may be above such vanities, but I think
Eugenie may be a little interested; poor Eugenie, how anxious she must
have been, having you in your room so long! How are your pictures
progressing? It must decidedly be a punishment to you to be limited to
time at your easel, particularly now, when you must feel so wishful to
get on with your commissions."

After his recovery, my husband arranged his work in a manner which
divided the hours into sitting ones and standing ones, to avoid a return
of the late inflammatory symptoms; and there never was a recurrence of

The pictures were in a fairly advanced stage when Mr. William Wyld came
on a visit of a few days and gave him valuable advice about them. His
Aunt Susan said in a subsequent letter: "I am very glad Mr. Wyld has
been to see your pictures, and though you may be a little dissatisfied
that your present works will be 'dirt cheap,' still the cheering opinion
of them will give you great courage, I hope. I shall certainly go to see
them as soon as they get to Agnew's."

So much for the art department. For the literary one the "Painter's
Camp" had been accepted by Mr. Macmillan, and we were in a fever of
excitement awaiting its publication. As to the wine business, after
remaining irresolute for some time, Gilbert had accepted the proposition
of a friend to assume what should have been my father's part,--with this
alteration, however, that he would pay interest on the funds confided to
him, and share the clear profits with the sleeping partner.

This episode in my husband's life was so bitter, and involved him in
such difficulties, that I will cut it short. Suffice it to say, that
though the partnership was continued for a few years, during which the
interest of the money came but irregularly, the capital was entirely and
irremediably lost in the end.

When autumn came, the commission pictures were sent to Manchester for
exhibition, and shortly after Mr. Milne declined to accept them, on the
plea that he did not care for the subjects: the real reason being that
his sensitive heart had been again impressed--this time by a young
governess, of whom he had bought two copies after Greuze, which were now
occupying the place formerly destined for his cousin's works. However,
another friend soon became their purchaser, but for the artist the
disappointment remained.

Sadness for the loss of his aunt, Mrs. Thomas Hamerton, which happened
just at that time, and sympathy with his uncle in these trying moments,
spoilt the pleasure Gilbert had anticipated from the visit to his
relations which we made that year. We were to go back to France with
return tickets; and the time allowed being nearly over, we went to take
leave of our friends at West Lodge, when we learned that Mrs. T.
Hamerton, who had lately been suffering from an attack of gout, had
succumbed to its weakening effects. Regardless of the pecuniary loss, my
husband immediately expressed his determination to stay as long as he
could be of any help to his uncle. We therefore sacrificed our tickets,
and went back to "The Jumps," whence he came down every day to spare his
uncle all the painful formalities of a funeral. We only left when the
run of ordinary habits had been re-established at West Lodge, but even
then we felt that a new misfortune was lurking in the silent house, for
the health of Jane Hamerton, who had never been very strong, now began
to disquiet her friends, particularly my husband, whose affection for
her was very true and tender. Aunt Susan, who was her devoted but
clear-sighted nurse, wrote to us in the course of the summer that her
case was very serious, notwithstanding the short periods of improvement
occurring at intervals. The poor girl had grown very weak and lost her
appetite; almost constantly feverish, she longed for fruit to refresh
her parched mouth and quench her thirst. As soon as he became aware of
this longing, Gilbert began to plan how he might gratify it, and it
appeared easy enough, as we were in a land of plenty; but the time
required for the transport of such delicacies as grapes and peaches
threatened ominously their safe arrival. However, we would run the risk
to give a little relief to our dear invalid, and we would take the
greatest precautions in the packing. So we went to a fruit-grower,
taking with us a large box filled with dry bran and divided into
compartments: one was filled with melons, another with grapes, the last
with peaches, every one taken from the tree, vine, or plant with our own
hands, then wrapped in tissue-paper and protected all round with bran.
The result will be seen in the following letter from Jane:--

"MY DEAR EUGENIE AND P. G.--A thousand thanks for the enormous box of
fruit, which arrived here to-day about noon: it is quite a honey-fall to
the inhabitants of West Lodge, more especially to me. I am very happy to
tell you that the grapes have arrived in perfect condition, and that the
melons seem to have suffered only outwardly, as the one cut into is
quite luscious and good. The sausage (_saucisson de Lyon_) also appears
to have borne the journey well, but has not yet been tasted, so the next
letter from Todmorden must give the opinion upon it, but it certainly
looks to me a most comical affair; and to tell last the only
disagreeable thing, it is about the peaches, which were all in a
dreadful mess, and quite mixed up with the bran and scarcely fit to
touch, though Aunt Susan did take out one or two to see the extent of
the decay. How very provoking for you both when you heard of the
detention at Havre, particularly when P. G. had taken such precautions
with regard to the outside directions."

If I have given such apparently trivial details at length, it was to
show how generous of his time and thought was my husband in everything
concerning affection or pity; his sympathy was always ready and active,
and he never begrudged his exertions to give relief or comfort to those
in need of either.

It had been most fortunate for the young author of the "Painter's Camp
in the Highlands" that the MS. of the book happened to come under the
eyes of Mr. Macmillan himself, who, being in want of rest, and attracted
by the title, had taken it with him in the country and had read it with
great delight. Being a Scotchman, he was in immediate sympathy with so
fervent an admirer of the Highlands as my husband, and had at once
agreed to publish the book.

From the first it was a success: the freshness of the narrative, the
novelty of the subject, the truthfulness and charm of the descriptions
were duly appreciated, together with the earnest (if still immature)
expressions of the "Thoughts about Art." The book soon found its way to
America, where it attracted the notice of Roberts Brothers' publishing
house. They were charmed with it, and published an edition in America.
The "Painter's Camp" was well received by the Press of both nations, and
the reviews were numerous. It was compared to "Robinson Crusoe" and
called "unique." The author was very much amused to hear that "Punch"
had given an illustrated notice of it under the title of "A Painter
Scamp in the Highlands."

This success--almost unexpected--led my husband to accept proposals for
other literary productions, the most important at that time being
contributed to the "Fine Arts Quarterly Review," and beginning with an
elaborate criticism of the Salon of 1863. He also began to write for the
"Cornhill" and "Macmillan's Magazine," much against his wish, merely
because painting was a source of expense without a return.

Although, my husband had himself chosen Sens for his residence, his
choice had been dictated by necessity, to a great extent, rather than by
preference. It was a combination of conveniences for different purposes,
but the kind of scenery was so far from giving entire satisfaction to
his artistic tastes that he began to suffer seriously from mountain
nostalgia. He admired the river, and had upon it a lovely rowing-boat,
bought of the best boat-builder at Asnieres, and he used it often, but
without finding river landscape a compensation for mountain scenery. In
fear of a serious illness, we thought it better to gratify the longing,
and devised a plan for a journey to Switzerland which would greatly
reduce the expense without spoiling the pleasure. It was this: The new
line of railway from Neufchatel to Pontarlier had just been opened, and
passed through the most beautiful scenery. Gilbert offered the company
an article in an English paper in return for two travelling tickets, for
himself and his wife, and the offer was accepted.

It was a charming holiday. We stayed a few days at Neufchatel with
friends, and visited at our leisure Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Bale, and
Berne, and after feasting his eyes on Mont Pilatus, the Jungfrau, and
Mont Blanc, my husband came back cured. He had sometimes spoken of the
possibility of a removal to Geneva (before we had been there), on
account of the lake and Mont Blanc; but I objected that we did not know
the place. To this objection he had a very characteristic answer: "_You_
don't know the place, but I know it as well as if I had dwelt there,
after reading so many descriptions of it, and being aware of its
geographical situation." When I remarked that it was quite different
from what I had anticipated, he said: "It is exactly what I had
imagined." He often used to tell us that he had no need of going to
Rome, or Vienna, or to any other celebrated town, to know its general
aspect, for he had studied their monuments in detail, the prevailing
character of their architecture, that of the inhabitants with their
costumes and manners, and he was even acquainted with the names and
directions of the principal streets.

At the end of the year, our sweet cousin Jane died with great
resignation, thankful to be delivered from her long, wearying,
consumptive pains. Aunt Susan had volunteered to be her bed-fellow from
the month of June, in order to move her gently, and to support the poor
wasted frame upon her own, to relieve the bed-sores by a change of
posture; her devotion had been indefatigable and unrelieved, for her
invalid niece would accept attendance from no one else.

This loss was keenly felt by my husband, whose little playfellow she had
been; the threatening symptoms of the disease had prevented her coming
to us, together with her father and aunt, as it was proposed they should
do in the summer, and now grief did not allow her bereaved relatives to
entertain the idea of a change.

It is likely enough that the series of sorrows and disappointments we
had experienced since we came to Sens prevented our growing attached to
the place; it may be also that our roomy but thoroughly commonplace
house, being one of a row in a street devoid of interest, never answered
in the least to our need of poetry or even of privacy, particularly with
our minds and hearts still full of dear Innistrynich; but certain it is
that we did not feel the slightest regret at the idea of leaving it
forever; nay, we even longed to be away from it. This feeling was common
to both of us, yet we both refrained from mentioning it to each other
for some time, thinking it unreasonable, till we came to discuss it
together, and to agree that it would not be unreasonable to exchange a
house too large for our wants for a smaller one at a lower rent, and a
town life that neither of us enjoyed for a simpler mode of living in
some picturesque country-place more suitable for my husband's artistic

It must be explained that our partner had decided to take a house in the
very heart of Burgundy to carry on the business, on the plea that the
name of the renowned vineyards surrounding it, being on the address,
were likely to inspire confidence in the customers. He added that the
situation would also be more favorable for his purchases, sales, and
business journeys, and of course, being the only working partner, he
acted as he liked. Then what was the use now of those empty cellars,
dreary paved courtyard, and formal office? We had no pleasant
associations there, having made no friends on account of our
mourning--why should we remain against our inclination?

We decided to remove as soon as we had discovered something for which we
might form a real liking, and the result of our experience has been
given at length by Mr. Hamerton in "Round my House," to which I refer
the reader for details which could not find place in the following brief
account of our search.

It was begun on the shores of the Rhone, whose noble landscape my
husband so much admired. But although the scenery was very tempting to
an artist, _that_ was not the only condition to be considered, and we


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