Philip Gilbert Hamerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al
Part 8 out of 11
"A famous artist over the sea
Promised to paint two pictures for me.
"He wrought, but his colors would not show
His pure ideal and heart's warm glow.
"And so the paintings are still unsent,
Though years ago their spirit went.
"Two pictures hang in my treasured thought--
My dream of those the artist wrought.
"They are sweet and fadeless, and soothe my sight,
When weary and sad, with a strange delight.
"But the light which shows their marvellous art
Is the generous glow of the painter's heart.
"This is the way that there came to me
The gift of pictures from over the sea."
"There's a parson out West in Chicago,
To whom I did promise--long ago--
A couple of pictures,
Not fearing strictures
Of the critical folk of Chicago.
"Time passed, and the works were not finished;
Time passed, yet with hope undiminished,
That parson he wrote,
And my conscience he smote,
And so was I greatly punished.
"For a promise is not a pie-crust,
And 'I will' is changed to 'I must'
When you say to a friend--
'Two pictures I'll send,'
And he orders the _cadres_ in trust.
"Then the parson he sighed in despair--
'Where are my two pictures?--O where?'
In regions ideal
Far, far from the real,
Like cloudscapes that melt into air.
"And then I thought--'Now it grows serious,
For deferred hope is most deleterious;
Yet how can I toil
In color and oil
In a world where the publishers weary us?'
"Ah me! for a month with the flowers,
And the sweet April sunshine and showers.
To paint with delight
From morning till night,
For my dear friend, Horatio N. Powers!"
It may be said here that the pictures were completed and packed off in
the beginning of October, 1876.
In view of a series of large etchings Mr. Hamerton went to Decize, on
the Loire, where he hoped to find material for several subjects. He made
twenty sketches of the town, river, boats, etc., and then called upon M.
Hanoteau, the painter, who had expressed a desire for his acquaintance.
There is a short note relating the visit:--
"April 21, 1876. Arrived at ten a.m., and had a pleasant day watching
him paint. I also saw the interior of his atelier, and the things in
progress. He only paints in the immediate neighborhood. Always from
nature. When we had finished _dejeuner_ we went together to a little
_etang_ in the wood, near to which were some old cottages. He painted
that bit on a small panel. After completing his sitting he showed me
part of the road to Cercy-la-Tour, and a gentleman with him showed me
"Had a deal of art talk with Hanoteau, also with a young sculptor called
This young sculptor was poor, but energetic and courageous; he rapidly
made his way to fame, but unfortunately died too soon to reap the
benefit of his remarkable talent.
The idea of an abridged "Wenderholme" had been accepted by the author,
who had written to Messrs. Blackwood about it, and who received the
satisfactory answer that, "though they had sustained a loss with the
first publication, they thought that the reputation and popularity of
the writer having considerably increased, 'Wenderholme' would sell well
in their 'Library Series of Novels.'" In consequence the revision was
begun at once, for Roberts Brothers had also written, "Whenever you feel
inclined to take up 'Wenderholme,' we shall be glad to comply with your
demand." And there followed a new proposition in the same letter:--
"Since writing you about a new novel, we have had an inspiration, and
have already acted upon it--a series of novelettes, to be published
anonymously, the secret of authorship, for a period, to rest entirely
with the author and publisher. We shall call it the 'No Name Series,'
and issue it in neat, square 18mo volumes of about 250 pages, to sell
for one dollar.
"Those to whom we have suggested the idea are mightily pleased, and we
are even tickled with the great fun we expect to have--something like a
new experience of the 'Great Unknown' days of Sir Walter Scott. We have
several promises from well-known authors, and we all agree that you must
write one of them. Take your own time to do so, and when you send us the
'copy' we will advance L50 towards the copyright. People say it will be
impossible to keep the secret, for an author's style cannot be hidden;
but though it may be easy enough to say, 'Oh! this is Hamerton; anybody
can tell his style,' _if it is not admitted_, there will be uncertainty
enough to make it exciting, and create a demand--we hope a large one."
Although my husband had not been so well in the spring (it was the worst
time of the year for him), he decided to start for England early in June
to see the Paris Salon and the English Academy. He did not ask me to go
with him, for our daughter had had quite recently a bad attack of
bronchitis--at one time we had even feared inflammation of the
lungs--and the greatest care against the possibility of colds had been
recommended. However, he thought he would be equal to the journey, and
gave me a promise to stop whenever he felt unwell. He reached Paris all
right, did his work there, and had a kind letter from Mr. Seeley, who
"I was greatly pleased to receive your card this morning, and learn that
you had had a successful journey. Now you will certainly come and see
me, won't you? Brunet-Debaines is here, and will remain till the end of
next week. If you are with us then, we will get him to Kingston, and
have a day on the Thames together, and all of us shall make sketches."
It was very tempting. But the next news was not so good, and Mr. Seeley
"If you have lost your appetite in a big town the remedy is plain. Come
to Kingston at once. You will not be much troubled with noise there, and
you can paddle about on the river and get hungry, or go flying madly
about on a bicycle, if you have kept up the practice. There is a big
bedroom empty, and waiting for you."
The journey was resumed as far as Amiens, but the enemy proved too
strong to be overcome by courage and resolution, and after resting two
days my husband came back home by easy stages, having only told me the
truth after leaving Amiens, to prevent my going to him at any cost. He
reached La Tuilerie on the first of July, and I see in the diary:
"Rested at home. Very glad to be there." The attempt was not attended by
any lasting bad effects; he immediately regained his appetite and usual
health; but his Aunt Susan was sorely disappointed. He tried to soothe
her by explaining what he believed to be the combined causes of his
breakdown: first the intense heat, which had made his stay in Paris very
trying; the fatigue he had undergone there; and lastly the weakness
supervening after the loss of appetite, also due to the abnormal heat,
which was causing several sunstrokes every day, even in England. He
announced his intention of making another attempt with me in the autumn,
when the chances would be more in his favor.
Since the beginning of the year the study of painting had become
predominant, and had necessitated rather a heavy outlay, because
Gilbert's schemes were always so elaborate and complex--drawing-boards
of different sizes, every one of them with a tin cover painted and
varnished; some for water-colors, others for charcoals; canvases for
oils and monochromes, wooden and porcelain palettes, pastilles, tubes,
portable easels, sunshades, knapsacks, stools, brushes, block-books,
papers for water-colors and chalk studies, tinted and white, numberless
portfolios to class the studies, and--a gig, to carry the paraphernalia
to greater distances and in less time than the four-wheeled carriage
required. I was against the gig, but the boys were of course delighted,
and declared with their father that it had become "absolutely
I see in the diary: "July 30, 1876. In the evening went to Autun on
Cocote; enjoyed the ride considerably. Brought back the gig. Wife
sulky." The expenses of the year had been very heavy, owing to several
causes; first some house repairs had become inevitable, and the landlord
offering us only the option of doing them at our own cost or leaving the
house, we had to order them. The roofs were in such a state that in
stormy weather we had our ceilings and wall-papers drenched with
rain-water, and indeed it had even begun to make its way _through_ the
ceilings into the inhabited rooms. The diary for March 12, 1876, says:
"A very stormy day, the wildest of the whole year. We arranged the tents
(Stephen and I) in the attic, to prevent the rain from coming into our
bedroom." Then there had been boats made for the boys (cheap boats, it
is true, made by common joiners). They were well deserved, I
acknowledge; the boys had had each an accessit at the "Concours
Academique," and both were mentioned with praise by the Sous-Prefet at
the public distribution of prizes. Besides, what was still more
important, Stephen had successfully passed his examination for the
"Baccalaureat." Lastly, there had been an expensive and unproductive
journey, and there was the prospect of another. All this in the same
year somewhat alarmed me. The gig was not an important concern, being
made, like the four-wheeled carriage, from designs of my husband's, by
ordinary wheelwrights and blacksmiths; but though admitting its
usefulness, and even desirableness, I thought we might have done without
In the beginning of August my husband told me the plan of "Marmorne"
(for the "No Name Series"), and I had been afraid that it would be too
melodramatic; however, I was charmed when he read me the beginning, and
my fears were soon dispelled by the strength and simplicity of the
On October 4 we started for England, leaving my mother in charge of the
house and children; we stopped at Fontainebleau in the morning, and
after _dejeuner_ visited the forest pretty thoroughly in a carriage.
After dinner we went on to Paris, where we stayed only four days for
fear of its effects, and proceeded to Calais by a night-train. Luckily
for Gilbert, he could sleep very well in a railway carriage, and
sea-sickness was unknown to him. We crossed in the "Castalia," in very
rough weather indeed, the waves jumping over the deck, and covering
everything there with foam; at one time there came a huge one dashing
just against my husband's block as he was sketching, and drenched him
from head to foot. However, he took a warm bath at Dover, changed his
clothes, and felt only the better for the passage.
Mr. Seeley's house was reached at midnight, and very happy was Mr.
Hamerton to meet his friend again, and to be once more in England after
an enforced absence of seven years. On the morrow our kind host and
hostess took us to Hampton Court Palace, thence to Richmond Park by
Twickenham, and altogether made us pass a most pleasant day. The
following day was reserved for the National Gallery, and I find this
note in the diary: "I was delighted to see the Turner collection again,
and greatly struck by the luminous quality of the late works. This could
not possibly have been got without the white grounds."
On the Sunday we went to Balham to dine early with Mr. and Mrs.
Macmillan, and met Mr. Ralston and Mr. Green, the historian. It was
noted as a very interesting day by my husband.
On the sixth day we took leave of Mr. and Mrs. Seeley, and took a
night-train for Peterborough, where we visited the cathedral and town to
await the dusk; then on to Doncaster and Knottingly. From Knottingly we
did not see clearly how to reach Featherstone, and were greatly
embarrassed, when a coachman, who had just driven his master to the
station, foresaw the possibility of a handsome tip, and offered to take
us--without luggage--in his trap. It was pitch dark, he had no lamps,
the road was all ruts, and the horse flew along like mad. We only held
to our seats--or rather kept resuming them, in a succession of bumps,
now on one side, now on the other, and up in the air--by grasping the
sides of the trap with all our might, till a sudden stop nearly threw us
all out; at any rate it did throw us in a heap over each other at the
bottom of the trap--unhurt. It was with a sense of immense relief that
we plodded the rest of our way to the vicarage, where we arrived at
eleven. The diary says: "October 17, 1876. Saw my Aunt Susan again for
the first time since 1869, at which time I hardly hoped ever to see her
It was a great comfort to Gilbert to witness the affectionate care taken
of his aunt by her niece, Annie Hinde, and her brother Ben, with whom
she lived. He had always entertained a great liking for these cousins,
but it was increased during his stay at the vicarage by their hospitable
and friendly ways, and by his gratitude for their having given to his
dear relative as much of peaceful satisfaction as it was in their power
to do. Miss Susan Hamerton was aged, no doubt, but she was still able to
do everything for herself, and to occupy her time usefully in
housekeeping, sewing, reading, writing, and going out. She still
retained her strong will, and manifested it in a way which nearly
destroyed all the pleasure of the meeting with her nephew--and would
have done so, had he not yielded to it by consenting to a transfer of
bank-shares (in his favor) which involved great liabilities. She would
not listen to an explanation of the risk, and considered it ungracious
to look the gift-horse in the mouth. "It had been a capital investment,"
she said, and she remained absolutely opposed to the sale of the shares.
Her nephew had to accept the gift as it was--so that instead of
relieving anxiety it created a new one. However, having come to give her
a little of the sunshine of happiness, he decided not to let it be
clouded over. We stayed a month in happy and cordial intercourse, my
husband spending the intervals of work in long talks and walks with his
aunt, and when the time for our departure arrived, the sadness of
parting was soothed by the hope of meeting again, now that Gilbert
seemed to have recovered the power of travelling.
On our return to London we lunched with Mr. Seymour Haden, who took
my husband to the room in which he kept his collections, where they
had a long talk on art matters, and where he gave him a proof of the
"Agamemnon," whilst I was having a chat over family interests, children,
and music with Mrs. Haden.
In the afternoon we called upon George Eliot and Mr. Lewes, who were
very friendly indeed. I was greatly struck by George Eliot's memory, for
she remembered everything I had told her--seven years ago--about our
rustic life, and her first question was, "Are your children well, and do
you still drive them to college in a donkey-chaise?" She was gravely
sympathetic in alluding to the cause of our long absence from London,
and when I said how great was my husband's satisfaction in being there
again, she seized both of my hands softly in hers, and asked in the low
modulations of her rich voice, "Is there no gap?" ... "Thank God!" I
answered, "there is none." Then she let go my hands, and smiling as if
relieved she said, "Let us talk over the past years since you came;" and
then she told me of the growing interest manifested by the "thinking
world" in the works of my husband. "We are all marvelling at the
_maturity_ of talent in one so young still, and look forward hopefully
for what he may achieve."
The day after we saw Mr. Calderon in his studio, painting two beautiful
decorative pictures; there was a garland of flowers in one of them--the
freshness of their coloring was admirable. We missed Mr. Woolner, who
was out, and thence went to Mr. Macmillan's place of business, and with
him to Knapdale, where we dined and stayed all night.
As soon as dessert had been put on the table, Mrs. Macmillan begged to
be excused for a short time, as she wished to see that Mr. Freeman (who
was on a visit, but not well enough to come down) had been made
comfortable. On hearing of Mr. Freeman's presence at Knapdale, my
husband expressed his regrets at not being able to see him, and these
regrets were kindly conveyed to the invalid by Mrs. Macmillan, who
brought back his request to Mr. Hamerton for a visit in his bedroom.
I heard with satisfaction that Mr. Freeman had been very cordial, and
had shown no trace of resentment at what had passed at a former meeting
at Mr. Macmillan's house. The conversation had then turned on Ireland,
and Mr. Macmillan was, like my husband, for granting autonomy. This set
Mr. Freeman growling at the use of a Greek word, and he exclaimed, "Why
can't you speak English and say Home Rule, instead of using Greek, which
you don't know!" My husband flushed with anger, and recalled the
irritable historian--not without severity--to a proper sense of the
respect due to their host, at the same time paying a tribute to Mr.
Macmillan's remarkable abilities. Later in the evening the word "gout"
was mentioned. "There again," Mr. Freeman exclaimed, "why can't we call
it toe-woe!" But this was said in a joke, and accompanied with a laugh.
Wherever we went, we heard praises of the "Portfolio." Throughout his
life Mr. Hamerton remained, not only on good terms, but on friendly
terms with every one of his publishers; and whenever he went to London
he looked forward with great pleasure to meeting them in succession.
There were, of course, different degrees of intimacy, but the
intercourse was never other than agreeable.
For many years he had wished to know Mr. Samuel Palmer personally, and
the wish was reciprocated. Now an opportunity presented itself, and one
afternoon saw us climbing Redhill in pleasant anticipation; but when
after admiring the view we rang the bell of the artist's secluded abode,
we were told that Mr. Palmer had been very ill lately, was still keeping
his bed, and could see no one. It was a great disappointment, and some
words to this effect were written on a card and sent up to the invalid.
Soon after Mrs. Palmer came down and feelingly expressed her husband's
sincere regrets; she told us of his illness, which had left him very
weak and liable to relapses, and of the pleasure he would have derived
from a long talk with Mr. Hamerton on artistic topics. We had been shown
into the dining-room, which evidently, for the present, was not used,
though it was warmed by a good fire, but darkened by the blinds being
down and the curtains drawn. The rays of a golden sunset diffused
through the apertures a strange and mysterious glow, which suddenly
seemed to surround and envelope an apparition, standing half visible on
the threshold of the noiselessly opened door. A remarkably expressive
head emerged from a bundle of shawls, which moved forward with feeble
and tottering steps--it was Mr. Palmer. His wife could not trust her
eyes, but as soon as she became convinced of the reality of his
presence, she hastened to make him comfortable in an arm-chair by the
fire, and to arrange the shawls over his head and knees with the most
touching solicitude. "I could not resist it," he pleaded; "I have looked
forward to this meeting with so much longing." His eyes sparkled, his
countenance became animated, and regardless of his wraps, he accompanied
his fluent talk with eloquent gestures--to the despair of his wife, who
had enough to do in replacing cap and rugs. He put all his soul and
energy (and now there was no lack of it) into his speech. The art-talk
kindled all the fire of enthusiasm within him, and he told us anecdotes
of Turner and Blake, and held us for a long time fascinated with the
charm of his conversation. He could listen too, and with so vivid an
interest and sympathy that his mere looks were an encouragement. My
husband was afraid of detaining him, but he declared he felt quite well
and strong--"the visiting angels had put to flight the lurking enemy;"
he had even an appetite, which he would satisfy in our company. Nothing
loath, we sat down to an excellent tea with delicious butter and
new-laid eggs, with the impression of sharing the life of elves, and of
being entertained by a genie at the head of the table and served by a
kind fairy. This feeling originated no doubt in the small stature of Mr.
and Mrs. Palmer; in the strange effect of light under which our host
first appeared to us, and lastly in the noiseless promptitude with which
the repast was spread on the table, whilst the darkness of the room gave
way to brightness, just as happens in fairytales.
It is curious that my husband and myself should have received exactly
the same impression, and a lasting one.
The journey to Paris was resumed by slow night-trains without
disturbance to his health, and the day after his arrival he had a long
talk about etching with M. Leopold Flameng, who encouraged my husband's
attempts, and even offered to correct his defective plates rather than
see them destroyed; but this was declined, though the valuable advice
was gratefully accepted. M. Flameng looked very happy; he was in full
success, very industrious, and fond of his art; married to a devoted
wife of simple tastes, and already able to discern and foster in his son
the artistic tendencies which have made him celebrated since. They were
a very cheerful and united family. Two days after we had _dejeuner_ with
M. Rajon. Of all the French etchers who, from time to time, went to
London for the "Portfolio," I believe M. Rajon was the one best known in
English society, where his liveliness and amiability, as well as his
great talent, found appreciators.
Like almost every other artist, he did not attach so much importance to
what he could do well, as to what he could never master. His ambition
was to become a celebrated painter, but his pictures gave little hope of
it; they were heavy and dull in color, and entirely devoid of the charm
he lent to his etchings. He showed himself very grateful for what Mr.
Hamerton had done for his reputation. Accidentally, as he was admiring
the design of some very simple earrings I wore, I said that I did not
care so much for jewels as for lace, on which he answered he was
extremely fond of both--on women--and invited me to go and see a
collection of old laces he was forming. I was obliged to decline, for
our time was running short; but he made us promise to pay a long visit
to his studio during our next sojourn in Paris.
We reached home safely, and found my mother and the children all well.
There had been a great step made in the possibility of travelling this
year, though it had been attended by many returns of anxiety and
nervousness; still, it was a not inconsiderable gain to know that in
case a journey became absolutely necessary it might be achieved, and our
stay in London and Paris had been of importance in allowing my husband
to study seriously in the public galleries.
Mr. Powers had been delighted to receive his long-delayed pictures, and
wrote his thanks in terms of enthusiasm; he said that many people had
been admiring them, and that a well-known painter had exclaimed, "Now I
swear by Hamerton." About the growing popularity he wrote: "As I said
before, you win the hearts of men, and your name is now a household word
in many quarters of this country." It was exactly, in almost identical
words, what Roberts Brothers had already written. And this was true not
only in America, for many English letters echoed it.
"Round my House" was very well received. There was an important and
favorable review in the "Times," and one in the "Debats" by Taine.
In the beginning of the year Gilbert had undertaken the painting and
decoration of the staircase and lobby, which occasioned a great amount
of labor and fatigue, and interfered with his other work. He gave it up
at my entreaty, and only directed the painter, being thus enabled to
devote more time to the articles on "Drawing" in preparation for Messrs.
Black's new edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," which were
finished in February.
Soon after he told me of a plan for a new book, the title of which he
meant to be "Human Intercourse," and which would require a large number
of memoranda. We all liked the idea in the family circle when it was
explained, and he began immediately to gather materials. At the same
time he continued his readings for the biographies of remarkable
Frenchmen, and he contemplated the task with deep interest and
earnestness. The year 1877, which had begun so auspiciously, had in
store for my husband one of the lasting sorrows of his life. On the
morning of March 11 he received a telegram announcing the death of his
beloved sister-in-law, Caroline Pelletier, who had died at Algiers of
meningitis, leaving three young children to the care of their desolate.
father. It was a heavy blow, an irreparable loss. She had been like both
a daughter and sister, and her affection had always been very sweet to
him. The shock was so great that his health suffered in consequence, and
the nervousness reappeared. It was of Caroline he was thinking when he
wrote in "Human Intercourse" this passage about a wife's relatives:
"They may even in course of time win such a place in one's affection
that if they are taken away by Death they will leave a great void and an
enduring sorrow. I write these lines from a sweet and sad experience.
Only a poet can write of these sorrows. In prose one cannot sing,--
"'A dirge for her the doubly dead, in that she died so young.'"
M. Pelletier still continued with his children to spend the vacations at
La Tuilerie, but the joy fulness of these holidays was now replaced by
sorrow and regrets; the evenings were particularly trying, for of late
years they had been very merry. Our children having taken a great fancy
to acting charades, we all took part in them by turns. Their Aunt
Caroline and their father were the stars of the company, and to this day
they recollect her irresistible sprightliness as a coquettish French
kitchen-maid attempting the conquest of their father, in the character
of the typical Englishman of French caricatures. She smiled, curtsied,
and whirled about him, handling her brass pans so daintily, tossing them
so dexterously, that the bewildered and dazzled islander could not
resist the enchantress, and joined enthusiastically in the chorus of the
song she had improvised,--
"La femme que l'on prefere
C'est toujours la cuisiniere,"
while she played the accompaniment with a wooden spoon upon the lids of
Her brother-in-law achieved unqualified success in the part of the
Englishman. He had kept on purpose an immense chimney-pot hat and a
tartan plaid which he used to perfection, and his "Oh's!" and "Ah's!"
were of such ludicrous prolongation, and his gait so stiff, and his
comical blunders delivered with so much of haughty assurance, that he
"brought down the house."
It was seldom that my husband consented to take an active part in games:
he generally preferred being a spectator; but whether acting or
listening, charades were one of the few pastimes for which he had a
taste,--it seems the more strange since he did not care for the theatre,
though he liked plays to be read to him. I suppose that the feeling of
being penned in a crowded place was insupportable to him.
After the death of my sister, some years had to elapse before we could
bear to see charades again.
On May 25 my husband had the pleasure of bringing home from the railway
station Mr. Appleton, editor of the "Academy," for whom he had a great
regard. His notes say:--
"We passed a very pleasant evening, and did not go to bed till after
"26th. Walked with Mr. Appleton to Pre-Charmoy in the morning. In the
afternoon took him to Autun and showed him the Roman arches, the Gothic
walls, the cathedral, the Chemin des Tours, etc., etc. A very pleasant
day. We got home in time for dinner, found the boys at home, and talked
till one in the morning.
"27th. Took Mr. Appleton to the railway in the morning, with regrets,
and a certain sadness on account of his health."
Mr. Appleton was on his way to Egypt by his doctor's advice. He was
singularly amiable and sympathetic. He thought, and said simply, that
very likely he had not long to live, and dared not marry on that
account, though he often felt solitary. He suffered from asthma, and
could only sleep with the windows of his bedroom wide open, and a bright
wood fire burning in the chimney.
He had promised to pay us another visit if he were spared, but alas! we
never saw him again.
As the biographies advanced, the author grew uncertain about the title
he would give them. It could not be "Celebrated Frenchmen," because some
of them would not exactly answer to the qualification. He had thought of
"Earnest Frenchmen," but Mr. Seeley objected, and said, "The word
'earnest' has got spoilt. It was used over and over again till it got to
sound like cant, and then people began to laugh at it. How would 'Modern
Frenchmen' do?" It was deemed a perfectly suitable title, and given to
At the end of the summer Mr. Seeley and his wife paid us a flying visit
on their way back from Switzerland. It was a great pleasure to see them
Shortly after them M. Brunet-Debaines came, and I could not help
directing my husband's attention to the simplicity of his arrangements
for working from nature; a small stool, upon which was fixed a canvas or
a drawing-board, and a color-box, were all he required; however, I was
told that "wants varied with individuals."
Hitherto Mr. Hamerton's plan about painting had been to begin several
pictures at once, to allow them to dry; but now he was sick of remaining
so long over the same pieces of work, and he decided to paint only two
pictures at a time, and to use drying materials.
He had succeeded in mastering the technicality of charcoal drawing, and
had made an arrangement with the Autotype Company for the reproduction
of some drawings in this medium.
"Marmorne."--Paris International Exhibition.--"Modern Frenchmen."
--Candidature to the Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Arts.--The Bishop of
Antun.--The "Life of Turner."
The important literary works undertaken by Mr. Hamerton in the year 1878
were "Modern Frenchmen" and a "Life of Turner."
The artistic work remained unsatisfactory to the severe self-criticism
of the artist, who kept destroying picture after picture,
notwithstanding his serious studies and experiments in various modes and
methods of painting. He succeeded better with charcoals and monochromes,
and sent several finished subjects to be reproduced by the Autotype
Company. Mr. S. Palmer wrote about it: "If I had twenty years before me,
I should like to spend them on monochromes and _etching_."
In the same letter he went on:--
"Life being spared, your 'Marmorne,' the fame of which had already
arrived, is the next reading treat on my list. You call it your 'little
book,' a recommendation to me, for, with few exceptions, I have found
small books and small pictures the most beautiful, and I doubt not that
you know better than myself how much almost all three-volume novels
(including Scott's) would be improved, _as works of art_, by
condensation into one.
"Both yourself and Mrs. Hamerton are often mentally present with us
here: the evening of our first, and, alas! only meeting is among the
vivid pleasures of memory, and a repetition is a cherished pleasure of
_hope_. I will only add that I fear you are killing yourself with
overwork, and that you should put yourself under a repressive domestic
Some time before, my husband had received from G. H. Lewes a letter with
this address: "Mr. Adolphus Segrave, care of P. G. Hamerton, Esq.,
Pre-Charmoy, Autun." George Eliot and Mr. Lewes had been reading
"Marmorne," and had never entertained the slightest doubt about the
authorship, though the book was published under the assumed name of
Adolphus Segrave. The story had been greatly appreciated by both of
them, and especially the style in which it was told. Such high praise
was in accordance with what Mr. Palmer had previously said to Mr.
Seeley; namely, that "he considered Mr. Hamerton as the first
prose-writer of his time."
It may be remembered that a cousin of my husband's, Mr. H. Milne, had
called upon us at Innistrynich, and had since bought his little
property. He heard of our last visit to Yorkshire, and, not aware of his
relative's trouble in regard to railway travelling, had felt hurt at his
apparent neglect. Luckily my husband heard of it through his Aunt Susan,
and immediately wrote to explain matters. Mr. H. Milne, who had known
all about the pecuniary situation, now answered:--
"I can assure you that it is very pleasing to me to know that your
career has been so successful as to enable you to give your sons an
education to fit them to grapple with the difficulties people have to
meet with nowadays to make them comfortable, and to do so is all the
more satisfactory when accomplished by their own exertions. My mother
[the lady who served as model and suggestion for Mrs. Ogden in
'Marmorne'] still retains unimpaired all her faculties, and looks much
the same as when you were here. We shall celebrate her eighty-sixth
birthday on March 15. She really is wonderful, and a marvel to every
one, and particularly so to her doctor, who on no occasion has ever
prevailed on her to take one drop of medicine, notwithstanding he
persists in coming to see her twice a week--for what reasons seems quite
past my mother's comprehension."
The pecuniary situation had certainly improved, which was a relief to my
husband, for his children were growing up, and losses due to non-
remunerative work and ill-health had to be gradually made good. There
seemed to be a fate adverse to his making money, even by his most
successful works. Here is "Marmorne" as an example, published in
America, in England, in France, both in Hachette's "Bibliotheque des
meilleurs Romans Etrangers," and as a feuilleton in the "Temps," also in
the Tauchnitz collection, unanimously well received by the press; said
to be "_le_ roman de l'annee" by the "Revue des Deux Mondes," and still
bringing considerably less than L200 to the author's purse. It was a
great disappointment to the publishers also. Roberts Brothers wrote: "Of
'Marmorne' we have only sold 2,000 copies; there ought to have been
10,000 sold;" and Mr. Blackwood said: "The sales have been rather
disappointing to us after the attention and favorable impression the
work attracted; we had looked for a larger and more remunerative
The character of the scenery in the Autunois pleased Mr. Hamerton more
and more, though it lacked the grandeur of real mountains. He was
particularly sensitive to the beauty of its color, which reminded him
sometimes of the Scotch Highlands, and was said to be very like that of
the Roman Campagna in summer-time. Such notes as the following are
frequent in his diary:--
"January 11, 1878. Went to Fontaine la Mere; beautiful drive the whole
way. Was delighted with the Titian-like quality of the landscape. Much
of the sylvan scenery reminded me of Ruysdael. Took five sketches."
Throughout this year my husband gave a great deal of his time to his
aunt's affairs, which were in a deplorable state, owing to the
dishonesty of her lawyers; accounts for several years past had to be
gone over, cleared up, and settled, and at so great a distance the
proceedings involved a heavy correspondence. However, the help given was
efficacious, and Miss Hamerton's independence was secured in the end. In
the summer Gilbert had to relinquish the river-baths that he enjoyed so
much. In the two preceding years he had remarked that he was often
unwell and agitated after a swim, but had kept hoping that the effect
might be transitory; it was, however, now renewed with growing intensity
every time he took a cold bath, so that, with much regret, he had to
give them up. He used to say with a shade of melancholy, that we must
resign ourselves to the gradual deprivation of all the little pleasures
of existence,--even of the most innocent ones,--but that the hardest for
him to renounce would be work.
Having borne the journey to England in 1877 without bad results to his
health, he now decided to attempt a visit to the Paris International
Exhibition. He was very anxious to ascertain the present state of the
fine arts all over the globe, and if possible to make the best of this
opportunity. On the day appointed for starting, and whilst he was
packing up, Mr. R. L. Stevenson just happened to call without previous
notice. What a bright, winning youth he was! what a delightful talker!
there was positively a sort of radiance about him, as if emanating from
his genius. We had never seen him before; we only knew his works, but he
seemed like a friend immediately. Listening to his fluent, felicitous
talk, his clear and energetic elocution, his original ideas and veins of
thought, was a rare treat, and his keen enjoyment of recovered health
and active life was really infectious. He could not remain seated, but
walked and smoked the whole of the afternoon he remained with us.
Knowing that he had lately been dangerously ill, I ventured to express
my fear that the smoking of endless cigarettes might prove injurious.
"Oh, I don't know," he said; "and yet I dare say it is; but you see,
Mrs. Hamerton, as there are only a very limited number of things
enjoyable to an individual in this world, _these_ must be enjoyed to the
utmost; and if I knew that smoking would kill me, still I would not give
it up, for I shall surely die of _something_, very likely not so
pleasant." Although the shutters were closed in all the rooms that were
not to be used in our absence, they were opened again to let him see the
etchings on the walls; for he had a fine taste, not only for the
beauties of nature, but also for artistic achievements. We felt it most
vexatious to be obliged to leave that very evening, but my husband
managed to remain with Mr. Stevenson till the last available minute, by
asking me to pack up his things for him. I remember that after reading
the "Inland Voyage" I had told my husband how I had been charmed by it,
and had begged to be given everything which came from the same pen; but
at that time we were afraid that such a delicate and refined talent
would not bring popularity to the author; happily we were
mistaken,--perhaps only to a certain extent, however,--as his most
successful works belong to a later and quite different genre.
At the recommendation of M. Rajon, we went to a quaint little hotel in
Paris, near La Muette, well known to artists and men of letters, and
patronized, for its quietness, by some of the most famous, being usually
let in apartments to persons who brought their own servants with them.
Its situation, close to the Bois de Boulogne, made our returns from the
exhibition easy and pleasant--so easy, indeed, that when we had to spend
the evening in Paris, and could find no carriage to take us there, we
merely went back to our headquarters, where we had the choice of
railway, tramways, and omnibuses for every part of Paris.
According to our promise we went to meet M. Rajon at his studio, and
amongst other things saw a beautiful portrait of him, which, however,
was so much flattered that for some time I hesitated about the likeness.
He was represented on horseback, with a long flowing cloak, and a
sombrero casting a strong shadow over one of his eyes, which was
afflicted with a weakness of the eyelid, which kept dropping down so
frequently that the pupil was seldom seen for any time; the horse was a
thoroughbred; two magnificent greyhounds (the originals we could admire,
at rest upon a raised platform of carved oak and red cushions) ran
alongside of him, and this tall-looking, dignified, romantic rider
was--little, spare, merry M. Rajon. Gossip whispered that he had been
somewhat intoxicated by his sudden fame, and had been, for a while,
desirous of showing off, so that he had brought back from England the
thoroughbred and the greyhounds to be noticed in the "Allee des
Cavaliers," but that not having been accustomed to sit a horse before,
his thoroughbred had flung him against a tree so severely that the taste
for equitation had gone out of him for ever. Be this as it may, M. Rajon
was far from being vainglorious; he knew his value as an artist, frankly
and openly enjoyed his success, but remained simple, urbane, and
courteous. He told us that he could only give _two hours_ a day to
original work, and that his mother (a simple woman for whom art remained
an incomprehensible mystery) could not admit this limitation. At that
time he was spending money rather lavishly--giving _fetes_ in his studio
to celebrated actors and actresses, musicians, singers, poets, and
artists, and the expenses were sometimes a cause of momentary
embarrassment; then his simple mother would say: "Why need you trouble
yourself about it? You work very little--then work twice as much, which
won't tire you, and you'll have twice as much money." She could not, he
said, be made to understand that this prolonged labor would be
worthless, because the inspiring flame would be burned out.
Mr. Woolner arrived in Paris a few days after Mr. Hamerton, and they
spent a whole day together in the sculpture galleries of the Louvre. Mr.
Woolner remembered that old Madame Mohl, having read my husband's works,
had expressed a wish to renew the acquaintance of former days, and would
be glad to see us both at tea-time--any day that might suit us.
A week later we called upon the wonderfully preserved old lady, who was
delighted to receive a visit from a rising celebrity--though a host of
celebrities had passed through her drawing-room. She complained of being
_delaisee_ by the young generation. Still, she remained lively and
gracious; her quick intelligence and ready memory were unimpaired by her
great age, and it was with eagerness that she seized upon another
opportunity for narrating her treasured-up stories of renowned people,
particularly of the two Amperes, whom she had known intimately. She was
still living in the same house that they had inhabited together, when
Mr. Mohl kindly gave them the benefit of his more practical sense in
household management. Madame Mohl was rather severe about Jean Jacques
Ampere, whom she called a "young coxcomb," and "an egotist." She was not
sentimental, and had no sympathy with or pity for the love so long
faithful to Madame Recamier; nay, I thought I could detect in her
strictures the unconscious feminine jealousy of a lady whose salon had
been forsaken by one of its "lions" for a more attractive one, and who
had resented it bitterly. But Andre Marie Ampere she praised
unreservedly, with the warmth of most exalted admiration.
It was very funny to see the little lady curled up on a couch, propped
by cushions, running over her strings of memories with pleased alacrity,
then jumping down in her stockings to pour out tea for her guests in
utter disregard of her shoes, which lay idly by the sofa, even when we
took leave of her; and as she accompanied us to the door, the white
stockings conspicuously displayed themselves at every step, without the
slightest attempt at concealment. (At that time black stockings would
have been thought an abomination.)
Almost every morning saw Mr. Hamerton in the exhibition before the crowd
of visitors arrived, so that he was able to study in peace and
profitably. He had had a card-case, and cards of a convenient size and
thickness, made especially to take notes upon, and he devoted a separate
card to every picture worth studying. It was a very convenient plan,
with alphabetical classification for references; every time he went he
took with him a fresh supply, and was not encumbered with those he had
already filled up.
Generally some etcher met him by appointment, and together they selected
pictures to be reproduced for the "Portfolio." His evenings were mostly
taken up by invitations; and it was well for his wife that she had been
mercifully exempted by nature from jealous tendencies, for the ladies
paid the author of "Marmorne" such a tribute of admiration that he was
sometimes abashed by their fervor, yet never intoxicated. Friends had
repeatedly told him that he could win the hearts of men, and if women
dared not say as much of themselves, they let him see that he exercised
a great and healthy influence over them too; he also enjoyed their
society, and though he did not mean it to be a flattery, they accepted
it as such.
Amongst artists and men of letters he was acknowledged as a writer of
genuine worth and extensive acquirements. There is a proof of it in a
letter addressed to him by M. Veron, editor of "L'Art," on merely
_guessing_ that Mr. Hamerton must be the writer of a criticism of his
"Esthetique" in the "Saturday Review."
"PARIS, 11 9_bre_, 1878.
"CHER MONSIEUR,--On me communique une revue tres remarquable de la
'Saturday Review' sur mon 'Esthetique.' Ce qui distingue cet article
c'est une serieuse connaissance du sujet et une puissance d'analyse des
plus rares. Cela ne ressemble en rien a ces generalites vagues et
flottantes dont se contentent la plupart des ecrivains qui font de la
critique dans la revue des journaux. Aussi ai-je eprouve a etre loue par
un pareil homme une jouissance infiniment plus vive que celle
qu'auraient pu me procurer des eloges beaucoup plus hyperboliques, mais
"Cet homme, je suppose que c'est vous. Si je ne me trompe pas,
permettez-moi de vous dire que je me sens singulierement heureux de me
rencontrer en fait d'esthetique avec un ecrivain capable de raisonner
sur ces questions comme l'a fait l'auteur de l'article de la 'Saturday
More acquaintances amongst artists were made during his stay in Paris,
including Bracquemond, Protais, Feyen-Perrin, Waltner, Lhermitte, and
Having finished his work in the exhibition, my husband went home to
write a notice of it for the "International Review." In the course of
November his eldest son Stephen passed a successful examination for the
second part of the Baccalaureat-es-Lettres, and as the boy was now to
study at home, his father frequently employed him to write letters under
his dictation. It was very good practice for Stephen, and spared his
father's time for painting and drawing.
At the beginning of 1879, Mr. R. L. Stevenson had sent a manuscript to
Mr. Hamerton, with a request that he would read it, and recommend it to
a publisher if it were thought worth the trouble. It was appreciated,
and a successful sale expected. In the interest of Mr. Stevenson, my
husband advised him to sacrifice the idea of immediate payment, and to
retain the copyright, hoping that it would prove more advantageous.
However, the young author preferred the ready cash, which he may have
been in need of; nevertheless acknowledging afterwards that it would
have been preferable to have acted according to the sound advice given
at the time.
As our daughter was fast developing a talent for music, her father felt
tempted to resume the practice of the violin regularly, and they often
played duets and sonatas together; but the difficulty--nay, the
impossibility--of finding time for the prosecution of all the studies he
had undertaken was a source of oft-recurring discouragement, because
unavoidably he had to replace one by another now and then, it being
impracticable to carry them on _de front_. Sometimes he complained,
good-humoredly, that I rather discouraged than encouraged him about
music--which was certainly true, for well knowing that to become a
violinist of any skill involves years and years of regular and steady
practice, I was adverse to this additional strain, leading to no
adequate reward. I well knew it could not be sustained, and would have
to give way to pressure from other quarters--writing, painting, etching,
or reading. The study of Italian had also been vigorously resumed, so
that in the diary I see this note regularly: "Practised Spohr and
Kreutzer, or Beethoven. Read Dante." I also find the following in April:
"Spent the greater part of the day in planning my new novel with Charles
(his brother-in-law). Worked on plan of my novel, and modified it by
talking it over with my wife," I did not like the plan, which, in my
opinion, went too much into the technicalities and details of a young
nobleman's education; I feared they might prove tedious to the reader;
in consequence there is a new entry a week later: "Improved plan of
novel with wife. Now reserve mornings exclusively for it, or it will
never be finished at all. Make this a fixed rule."
At the end of April some monochromes had been sent for reproduction, but
he was greatly disappointed with them, as may be seen by the diary:--
"May 31. Had a great deal of trouble this month about reproductions of
drawings in autotype. Dissatisfied with the reproductions of the oil
monochromes, which came coarse, with thousands of false specks of light.
The surface of a drawing should be _mate_ for autotype reproduction.
This led me to make various experiments of various kinds, and the latest
conclusion I have arrived at is something like drawing on wood; that is,
pencil or chalk, going into detail, and sustained by washes of Indian
ink, and relieved by touches of Chinese white. The whole business
hitherto has been, full of difficulties of various kinds."
"June 11. The proofs of the autotypes on white paper with brown
pigment arrived to-day. Determined to have second negatives taken
of all of them, and to repaint them on the positives."
To turn his thoughts away from his repeated disappointments in artistic
attempts, and to a greater disappointment in his novel--which he had
entirely destroyed after bestowing upon it two months of labor--Gilbert
began to scheme a boat, a river yacht. It was the best of diversions for
him, as he took as much pleasure in the planning of a boat as in the use
of it. This new one was to be a marvel of safety and speed, but
especially of convenience, for it would be made to carry several
passengers for a month's cruise, with means of taking meals on board,
and of sleeping under a tent. Of course Mr. Seeley had been informed of
the scheme, and wrote in answer: "Don't fail to send me notice when your
boat may be expected on the Thames, that I may rouse the population of
Kingston to give you an appropriate reception."
Another novel was begun, but it was still to be the story of a young
French nobleman's life, spent alternately in France and in England,
and in the manner of "Tom Jones." Meanwhile "Modern Frenchmen" was
selling pretty steadily, but slowly, the public being mostly
unacquainted with the names, though Mr. G. H. Lewes, Professor
Seeley, Mr. Lockhart, and many others, had a very high opinion
of the work. Mr. Lockhart wrote about the biography of Regnault:--
"I have by me at this moment your life of Henri Regnault. I trust you
will not consider it an impertinence if I tell you how it has delighted
me, both as a man and a painter. I have the most intense admiration for
Regnault, and in reading his biography it has rejoiced me to find the
author in such thorough sympathy with his subject. Biographies of
artists, as a rule, are the most disappointing of books to artists. This
is indeed an exception, and I most heartily congratulate you on your
very subtle and delicate picture of a noble life.
"I was in Granada with Fortuny when the news of Regnault's
death came. I shall never forget the impression it made on us all. The
fall of Paris, the surrender of Napoleon, all the misfortunes of France
were as nothing compared to this.
"When I first had the book I thought you a little unjust to Fortuny, and
was prepared to indorse Regnault's estimate of him. Since then I have
seen the thirty Fortunys at the International Exhibition, and they have
moderated my enthusiasm, and brought me back to sober orthodoxy, to
Velasquez and Rembrandt."
Mr. G. H. Lewes also wrote:--
"We left London before your book arrived, but I sent for it, and Mrs.
Lewes has been reading it aloud to me the last few evenings. It has
charmed us both, and we regret that so good a scheme, so well carried
out, should in the nature of the case be one doomed to meet with small
public response. No reader worth having can read it without interest and
profit, but _il s'agit de trouver des lecteurs_.
"My son writes in great delight with it, and I have recommended it to
the one person we have seen in our solitude; but I fear you will find the
deaf adder of a public deafer than usual to your charming. A volume of
biographies of well-known Frenchmen would have but a slender chance of
success--and a volume on the unknown would need to be spiced with
religion or politics--_et fortement epice_--to attract more than a
reader here and there.
"We are here for five weeks in our Paradise _without_ the serpent
(symbol of visitors!); but alas! without the health which would make the
long peace one filled with work. As for me, I vegetate mostly. I get up
at six to stroll out for an hour before breakfast, leaving Madonna in
bed with Dante or Homer, and quite insensible to the attractions of
before-breakfast walks. With my cigar I get a little reading done, and
sometimes write a little; but the forenoon is usually sauntered and
pottered away. When Madonna has satisfied her inexhaustible craving for
knowledge till nearly lunch-time, we play lawn-tennis. Then drive out
for two or three hours. Music and books till dinner. After cigar and nap
she reads to me till ten, and I finish by some light work till eleven.
But I hope in a week or two to get stronger and able to work again, the
more so as 'the night in which no man can work' is fast approaching."
Mr. R. Seeley agreed with Mr. Hamerton's opinion that "Modern Frenchmen"
was one of his best works, "admirably written, full of information and
Professor Seeley had also said: "I wish English people would take an
interest in such books, but I fear they won't. There ought to be many
such books written."
Mr. G. H. Lewes suggested that the other biographies in preparation
should be published separately in some popular magazine; but the author,
having been discouraged by the coolness of the reception, gave up the
idea of a sequel to what had already appeared, and the material he had
been gathering on Augustin Thierry, General Castellane, and Arago
The boat in progress had been devised in view of a voyage on the Rhone,
for Mr. Hamerton, who greatly admired the noble character of the scenery
in the Rhone Valley, had longed for the opportunity of making it known
by an important illustrated work. He submitted the plan to Mr. Seeley,
"I like your Rhone scheme; it is a grand subject, but a book on the
Rhone should begin at the Rhone glacier and end at the Mediterranean.
Have your ideas enlarged to that extent. One cannot well omit the upper
part, which the English who travel in Switzerland know so well. The
Rhone valley is very picturesque, and the exit of the Rhone from the
Lake of Geneva is a thing never to be forgotten. But don't go there to
get drowned; it is horribly dangerous."
For various reasons--amongst others, the time required and the
outlay--the idea of the book entertained by Mr. Hamerton differed
considerably from that of Mr. Seeley; it was explained at length, and
finally accepted in these words: "I think your plan of a voyage on the
navigable Rhone, with prologue and epilogue, will do well."
This plan, however, was never realized, owing to insurmountable
obstacles; it was taken up again and again, studied, modified, and
regretfully relinquished after several years for that of the Saone, much
more practicable, but still not without its difficulties.
And now what might have been a great event in the life of Mr.
Hamerton--namely, the possibility of his election to the Watson-Gordon
Chair of Fine Arts in Edinburgh, began to occupy his mind. He was
strongly urged by his friends to come forward as a candidate, but he
hesitated a good deal for several reasons, the most important being the
necessity of two places of residence, for he would not have inflicted
upon my mother and myself the pain of absolute separation. Still, there
were, as it seemed to me, in case of success, some undeniable
advantages--first of all a fixed income, and the possibility of seeing,
in the course of the necessary journeys, what might be of interest in
London and Paris, as well as the possibility of attending more
efficaciously to the "Portfolio." Mr. Seeley, who had always endeavored
to tempt his editor over to England, declared himself delighted at the
prospect. He had formerly sent such hints as these: "I wish you had a
neat flying machine and could pop over and do the business yourself." Or
at Cowes: "I thought of you, and said to myself, how much more
reasonable it would be for Hamerton to have a snug little house here,
and a snug little sailing-boat, instead of living at that preposterous
Autun. How he would enjoy dancing over these waves, which make me sick
to look at them; and how pleasant it would be to tempt him to pay
frequent visits to Kingston! There are delightful cottages and villages
to sketch in the Isle of Wight, and charming woodland scenery in the New
Forest." Again: "When our new house is dry enough then you will be
obliged to come over. It will be better than seeing the Paris
Exhibition. And when you are once in England you will take a cottage at
Cowes, and buy a boat, and never go back to Autun."
The idea of becoming a candidate was first suggested by T. Woolner after
a journey to Edinburgh, where he had heard some names put forward for
the Watson-Gordon chair, and amongst them that of Mr. Hamerton, which
had seemed to him the most popular. On his part, he had done what he
could to strengthen this favorable opinion by spreading what he knew of
his friend, not only as an artist and cultured man of letters, but also
as a sociable conversationalist, capable of enjoying intercourse with
his fellow-men in moments of leisure, and he took care to let my husband
know that this point was of importance--the new professor being expected
to exercise hospitality, so as to create a sort of centre for the
gathering of art-lovers. He said he had heard of a good income, of light
duties, and of the almost certainty of success in case Mr. Hamerton
should present himself.
Professor Masson had also suggested to Mr. Macmillan that "many persons
in Edinburgh would like to secure the best man in Mr. Hamerton," and Mr.
Craik wrote about it: "You would be an ornament to the University, and
might do useful and important work there. For many reasons the Scotch
professorships are enviable, for this particularly--that the session is
a short one, and would require short residence. It will be pleasant for
all of us, your friends, if you go to Edinburgh, for it will compel you
to come to England and be seen."
Mr. Seeley was also of opinion that "no man ought to be wholly dependent
upon literary labor. It tries the head too much."
All the friends who were consulted by my husband answered that they
considered him perfectly adapted for the situation--apart from friendly
motives. Mr. Alfred Hunt wrote: "I would be very glad to do everything
to forward your election. I am indebted to you for a large amount of
gratification and profit which I have derived from your books; I am sure
you will allow me to say that I am often very far from agreeing with
R. L. Stevenson wrote:--
"Monterey, Monterey Co., California.
"My dear Mr. Hamerton,--Your letter to my father was forwarded to me by
mistake, and by mistake I opened it. The letter to myself has not yet
reached me. This must explain my own and my father's silence. I shall
write by this or next post, to the only friends I have, who, I think,
would have an influence, as they are both professors. I regret
exceedingly that I am not in Edinburgh, as I could perhaps have done
more, and I need not tell you that what I might do for you in the matter
of the election is neither from friendship nor gratitude, but because
you are the only man (I beg your pardon) worth a damn. I shall write to
a third friend, now I think of it, whose father will have great
"I find here (of all places in the world) your 'Essays on Art,' which I
have read with signal interest. I believe I shall dig an essay of my own
out of one of them, for it set me thinking; if mine could only produce
yet another in reply we could have the marrow cut between us.
"I hope, my dear sir, you will not think badly of me for my long
silence. My head has scarce been on my shoulders. I had scarce recovered
from a prolonged fit of useless ill health than I was whirled over here
double-quick time and by cheapest conveyance.
"I have been since pretty ill, but pick up, though still somewhat of a
massy ruin. If you would view my countenance aright, Come--view it by
the pale moonlight. But that is on the mend. I believe I have now a
distant claim to tan.
"A letter will be more than welcome in this distant clime where I have
a box at the post-office--generally, I regret to say, empty. Could your
recommendation introduce me to an American publisher? My next book I
should really try to get hold of here, as its interest is international,
and the more I am in this country, the more I understand the weight of
your influence. It is pleasant to be thus most at home abroad, above all
when the prophet is still not without honor in his own land."
Mr. W. Wyld had also written: "I need not say I heartily wish you
success--and the more so that it would have the result of my seeing you
at least twice a year, a pleasure I shall anxiously look forward to; for
the older I grow the more I yearn for that sort of communion of thought
which is scarcely ever to be met with in the ordinary way of existence
... I have no one I can discuss art with ... and as for philosophy--"
Miss Susan Hamerton also pressed her nephew to offer himself for the
chair, and indulged in bright hopes of frequent meetings.
The result was that, after a long talk with me on March 21, 1880, my
husband determined to offer himself as a candidate, and although he did
it without much enthusiasm, he began immediately to prepare himself for
the new duties that would be involved. First of all, he told me that his
knowledge of the history of art was insufficient, and would require
additional researches. His plan was to go to Greece first, then to
Italy; another year he would go to Holland and Belgium, then to Spain--I
began to be afraid of this programme, as I reflected that the income
from the professorship would hardly cover our travelling expenses, and
that very little time would be left for literary work if the lectures
required so much preparation; however, I only begged him to wait for the
result of the election before he undertook anything in view of it. He
agreed, and turned his thoughts towards the "Graphic Arts," and a new
edition of "Etching and Etchers."
In the beginning of April, Mr. Hamerton attended with his family the
wedding of Charles Gindriez, his brother-in-law, and was well pleased
with the young lady, who thus became a new member in the gatherings at
Three days later, his elder son Stephen started for Algiers, where he
had an appointment at the Lycee.
For some time past, the two great political parties at Autun had been at
daggers drawn, and the proprietors of the Conservative paper,
"L'Autunois," had brought from Paris a skilful and unscrupulous
political writer to crush its opponents and to effect the ruin of the
rival paper, "La Republique du Morvan," by fair means or foul. The first
stabs dealt by the new pen were directed against notable residents, and
being a good fencer and a good shot--in fact, a sort of bravo--M.
Tremplier, the wielder of the pen, proclaimed loudly after every libel
that he was ready to maintain what he advanced at the point of the
sword, and to give a meeting to all adversaries. Unacquainted with the
real social standing of Mr. Hamerton in Autun, but knowing that he was
President Honoraire du Cercle National, a Liberal institution patronized
by the Sous-Prefet and Republican Deputies, M. Tremplier thought it
would be a master-stroke to defame his character by accusing him of
being the author of some anonymous articles against the clergy which had
appeared in "La Republique du Morvan." Though greatly irritated by this
unfair attack, my husband contrived to keep his temper, and simply
denied the accusation. This denial was indorsed by the editor of the
newspaper in which the articles had been published, and the disagreeable
incident was expected to end there. But this would not have satisfied
the truculent M. Tremplier, and in the next number of his paper he
expressed in arrogant terms an utter disbelief in Mr. Hamerton's denial,
and venomously attacked him for his nationality, literary pretensions,
etc., winding up his diatribe, as usual, by a challenge. This was too
much, and my husband resolved to start for Autun immediately, and to
horsewhip the scoundrel as he deserved. Mr. Pickering, an English
artist, and friend of ours, who happened to be at La Tuilerie, offered
to assist my husband by keeping the ground clear while he administered
the punishment--for M. Tremplier, notwithstanding his bravado, deemed it
prudent to surround himself with a bevy of officers, and was seldom to
be met alone. I was strongly opposed to this course, and at last I
prevailed upon my husband to abandon it by representing that he was
being drawn into a snare, for no doubt M. Tremplier was only waiting for
the attempt at violence he had provoked to get his victim seized and
imprisoned, so as to be able ever after to stigmatize him with the
terrible phrase, "C'est un homme qui a fait de la prison." This would be
undeniable, and as people never inquire _why_ "un homme a fait de la
prison," it is as well to avoid it altogether. We agreed upon a
different policy, and resolved to prosecute the "Autunois" for libel,
and immediately set off to retain a well-known advocate, who belonged to
the Conservative party, and was said to be one of the proprietors of the
"Autunois." He knew my husband personally, and also knew that he was
incapable of having written the anonymous articles, still less capable
of telling a lie, and as we felt sure of his own honorable character, we
boldly asked him to defend a political opponent. This was putting him in
a very delicate situation, and he complained of it at once; but my
husband insisted, and said that he could not fairly shun this duty.
Vainly did this gentleman, supported by the President du Tribunal and
other notabilities of the same party, try to dissuade Mr. Hamerton from
seeking redress, by saying that "no one attached the slightest
importance to such libels," "that he was too much above M. Tremplier to
resent anything that came from his mercenary pen," "that his character
was unimpeachable," etc. He was even warned that he had not the remotest
chance of a verdict in his favor, because he could not prove that he was
not the author of the objectionable articles. "I should have thought
that M. Tremplier would be called upon to prove that I had written
them," he answered. "Anyhow, if I can't count upon justice here, I will
appeal to the court at Dijon." Seeing that his resolution was not to be
shaken, he was asked what would satisfy him, and he answered, "An
apology from M. Tremplier in the 'Autunois.'" And M. Tremplier had to
submit to the orders of the all-powerful keepers of the purse-strings:
he did it with a bad grace--but he had to do it.
One of the articles attributed to Mr. Hamerton had been directed against
the Bishop of Autun, whom he highly esteemed, and there was much
curiosity as to the opinion of the prelate himself. That opinion was
soon publicly expressed by a visit from this dignitary of the Roman
Catholic Church to the Protestant tenant of La Tuilerie.
On receiving Monseigneur Perraud, I thanked him first for his good
opinion, of which I had never doubted, knowing him to be a reader of my
husband's works, and also because there was no fear that a man of his
culture could believe the anonymous articles to be written by the author
of the biography of l'Abbe Perreyve in "Modern Frenchmen."
Monseigneur Perraud answered that my husband's character and literary
talent were so much above question that he would never have given a
thought to this affair had it not been that the "Autunois" was often
called "Le Journal de l'Eveche," though in fact the Bishop had no more
to do with it than with its editor, M. Tremplier, whom he had never
consented to receive. But unwilling to allow the possibility of any
doubt to remain in other people's minds, he had taken this opportunity
of becoming personally acquainted with my husband, and of giving a proof
of his high regard for him.
Monseigneur Perraud had a reputation for freezing dignity which kept
many people aloof; but he talked quite freely with my husband. Dignity
he certainly possessed in an unusual degree, and the same might be said
of Mr. Hamerton, but it was no bar to interesting intercourse nor to
brotherly sympathy, as we found afterwards in sorrowful circumstances.
This first visit certainly enhanced the high opinion which each had
formed of the other, and subsequent meetings confirmed the interest they
found in each other's views and sentiments.
I mentioned Mr. Pickering in connection with the affair of the
"Autunois," and it may now be explained that after reading "Round my
House," he had fancied he should like to see the scenery described in
the book, as it would probably afford him paintable subjects. Although
the name of the neighboring town was not given, and though great changes
had been made by the construction of a railway since the publication of
the book, Mr. Pickering lighted upon Autun as the very place he was in
search of. He soon made my husband's acquaintance, and a friendship
between them was rapidly established.
Mr. Woolner, who had kept up for some months a brisk correspondence in
behalf of Mr. Hamerton's candidature, now heard that matters were not
going so smoothly as he had expected. He was told that the income would
not come up to the sum stated at first; that the formation of an art
museum was contemplated, in which case the duties of forming and keeping
it would devolve upon the professor. There was also a desire that the
students should receive technical instruction; and, lastly, it was
rumored that forty lectures a year would be required. In fact, Mr.
Hamerton began to regret that he had offered himself for the post
without knowing exactly what he would be expected to do.
Whilst in this frame of mind he was advised to go to Edinburgh in order
to call upon each of the electors. No one acquainted with his character
could have imagined for an instant that he would comply. "The electors,"
he said to me, "must be acquainted with my works; I have sent nearly
fifty testimonials given by eminent artists, men of letters, and
publishers; I consider this as sufficient to enable the electors to
judge of the capacities for which an art professor ought to be chosen.
If these are judged insufficient, my presence could not give them more
I find this simple entry in the diary: "July 20, 1880. Got news that I
was not elected;" and though he may have regretted the time wasted in
this fruitless attempt, I am convinced that he experienced a sensation
of delightful relief when no longer dreading encroachments upon his
liberty to work as he thought fit. [Footnote: It was also Mr. R.
Seeley's opinion when he wrote: "You have felt so much doubt as to the
effect of such a change of life upon your health that the decision may
come as a relief to you."] After all, there remained to him as a lasting
compensation the tokens of flattering regard for his character and of
appreciation of his talents given in the numerous testimonials by such
eminent persons as Mr. R. Browning, Sir F. Leighton, Sir J. E. Millais,
Sir John Gilbert, Mr. T. Woolner, Mr. G. F. Watts, Professor Seeley,
Professor Sidney Colvin, Professor Oliver, Mr. Mark Pattison, Mr. S.
Palmer, Mr. Orchardson, Mr. Marks, Mr. A. W. Hunt, Mr. Herkomer, Mr.
Vicat Cole, Mr. Alma Tadema, Sir G. Reid, Mr. W. E. Lockhart, Mr. J.
MacWhirter, Professor Legros, M. Paul Rajon, M. Leopold Flameng, etc.
The testimonials are too numerous to be given here, but they all agreed
in the expressed opinion that Mr. Hamerton would be "the right man in
the right place," or "the very man."
Although the "Life of Turner" had first appeared in the "Portfolio," it
was again well received by the public in book form, and greatly praised
by the press, particularly in America. The "Boston Courier" said:--
"We have found this volume thoroughly fascinating, and think that no
open-minded reader of 'Modern Painters' should neglect to read this
life. In it he will find Turner dethroned from the pinnacle of a
demi-god on which Ruskin had set him (greatly to the artist's
disadvantage); but he will also find him placed on another reasonably
high pedestal, where one may admire him intelligently and lovingly, in
spite of the defects in drawing, the occasional lapses in coloring,
and the other peculiarities which are made clear to his observation by
Mr. Hamerton's discussion."
He had found it a difficult subject to treat because of the paucity of
incidents in Turner's life; but the painter's genius had made so deep an
impression upon him in his earlier years that he had eagerly studied his
works and sought information about his personality from the friends who
had, at some time or other, been acquainted with the marvellous artist.
I believe that my husband hardly ever went to the National Gallery
without visiting the Turner Room, and that is saying much, for during
his sojourns in London he seldom missed going every day it was open, and
sometimes he went twice,--once in the morning, and again in the
afternoon. Great as was his admiration of Turner's oil pictures, I
believe it was equalled by his delight in the same master's water-colors
and drawings. When in the lower rooms, where they are exhibited, he
could hardly be prevailed upon to go upstairs again, and I had to plead
fatigue and hunger to recall him to the realities of life. Although his
appreciation of Constable was high, it could not be compared to what he
felt for Turner, because "Turner was so wide in range that he was the
opposite of Constable, whose art was the expression of intense affection
for one locality."
Third edition of "Etching and Etchers."--Kew.--"The Graphic
Once rid of the perturbation occasioned by the affair of the election,
Mr. Hamerton was free to devote himself energetically to the preparation
of a new and splendid edition of "Etching and Etchers," for which he
spared neither thought nor pains,--being generously entrusted by Messrs.
Macmillan with the necessary funds, and given _carte blanche_ for the
arrangement. Mr. Craik had said, in a letter dated Jan. 10, 1880: "We
are disposed to make it a very fine book, and not to grudge the outlay.
We must leave all the details for you to arrange." In another, of May
29, he said again: "We are particularly anxious to make it a beautiful
book; and I think the plan of making each edition completely different
from the preceding, gives it an interest and value that will make the
book always sought after. The first edition is a scarce and valuable
book. The second will rise in value."
Being allowed to do exactly as he liked, the author of "Etching and
Etchers" set to his task with delightful anticipation of the result.
At the same time he was also giving a good deal of time to the
annotation of certain engravings and etchings presented by himself and
some friends to the Manchester Museum, in which he took great interest.
When the vacation brought the boys home in August, it was decided to
have a trial trip on the Saone in the "Morvandelle;" but after behaving
well enough on the water, she filled and sank at anchor whilst her
captain was quietly enjoying dinner with his sons at the nearest inn.
The boat being made of wood, and divided into a great many compartments
to hold stores and luggage, let the water into those compartments as the
wood dried and shrank. It became, therefore, necessary to exchange the
wooden tubes for iron ones, for it was a double boat. So the crew had to
come back home, and Mr. Hamerton sent to a periodical a relation of his
impressions and adventures in this brief voyage and shipwreck.
In the summer there was an exhibition at the Glasgow Institute of Fine
Arts, and my husband was asked to send something if possible; but being
almost overwhelmed with work, he was obliged to decline the invitation.
Mr. R. Walker, the secretary of the Institute, wrote to say how sorry he
was not to have his name in the catalogue, and added:--
"Our collection of etchings is very good, and during the short time
we have been open the people of Glasgow have learned more about
etching than ever they knew before. Your book has been a source of
infinite delight to many here. A short time ago we all hoped to have
you among us. The loss is ours. Sometimes I trust we may have the
pleasure of seeing you in Glasgow. You would find us not altogether
wanting in appreciation of what is right in art, and there is an
increasing number of people here who believe that ledgers are not the
only books worth studying."
Although the "Portfolio" was now generally acknowledged to be at the
head of artistic periodicals in England, it was the desire of both its
editor and publisher to improve it still further. In one of his letters
Mr. Craik had said: "What an important part the 'Portfolio' is playing!
I believe you are affecting the public, and compelling them to recognize
the best things in a way they never did before. I think your conduct of
the monthly admirable."
It was now proposed to add to its artistic value by giving more original
etchings. Hitherto the peculiar uncertainty of the art of etching had
hindered the realization of this desire, for there being no certainty
about the quality of an etching from a picture, the risk is immensely
increased when a commission is given for an original etching. The
celebrity of an etcher and his previous achievements can only give hopes
that he _may_ be successful once more, but these hopes are far from a
certainty. Even such artists as Rajon and Jacquemart,--to mention only
two of the most eminent,--who constantly delighted the lovers of art by
masterpieces of skill and artistic feeling,--and were, moreover,
painters themselves,--were not safe against failure, and repeated
failure, even in copying.
When a commission has been given to an artist, the stipulated price has
to be paid whether the result is a success or a failure, unless the
artist himself acknowledges the failure--a very rare occurrence; at best
he admits that some retouching is desirable, and consents to undertake
it; but too often with the result that the plate loses all freshness.
Such considerations, and many more, made it necessary for the publisher
and editor of the "Portfolio" to discuss the subject at length and
without hurry. In addition to the affairs of the "Portfolio," there was
the choice of illustrations for the book on the Graphic Arts, which was
to be published by Mr. Seeley, and for which the presence of the author
in London was almost a necessity.
It was then decided that, both our boys having situations, we would take
our daughter with us and seek for lodgings somewhere on the banks of the
Thames, probably at Kew. Mr. and Mrs. Seeley, with their usual kindness,
invited us to stay with them until we had found convenient
We started in October, and as soon as we reached Paris we heard from our
younger son Richard that he was far from pleased with his present
situation. Instead of having to devote only a few hours a day to
teaching English, as he had been promised, the whole of his time was
taken up by the usual drudgery which is the lot of an under-master, so
that he could not study for himself. The first thing his father did was
to set him free from that bondage, and to devise the best means to
enable him to pursue the study of painting which the boy wished to
follow as a profession. They went together to consult Jean Paul Laurens,
who said that the most efficacious way would be--not to study under one
master, but to go to one of Juan's ateliers, where students get the
benefit of sound advice from several leading artists. In conformity with
this counsel my husband saw M. Juan, and after learning from him the
names of the artists visiting the particular atelier where Richard was
to study, he got him recommended to Jules Lefebvre and to Gerome by an
Paul Rajon, as usual, did not fail to call upon us, and we were very
sorry to notice a great change for the worse in his appearance. He said
he had been very ill lately, and was still far from well; he seemed to
have lost all his buoyancy of spirits, and to look careworn. He alluded
to pecuniary difficulties resulting from the early death of his
brother-in-law, which left his sister, and a child I believe, entirely
dependent upon him. Without reckoning on adverse fortune or ill-health,
he had built himself a house with a fine studio at Auvers-sur-Oise, to
escape from the incessant interruptions to his work when in Paris. But
of course the outlay had been heavier than he had intended it to be, and
these cares made him rather anxious. Being very good friends, we had
formerly received confidences from him about the dissatisfaction created
by the loneliness of his home and the want of a strong affection--in
spite of his success in society and the flattering smiles and speeches
of renowned beauties. In answer to my suggestion that marriage would
perhaps give him what he wanted, he had answered: "No doubt; but where
shall I find the wife? The girl I introduce into society as _my_ wife
must be very beautiful, else what would society think of my taste as an
artist?... She must also be above the average in intelligence, to meet
with the _elite_ and keep her proper place; and lastly, she must also be
wealthy, for my earnings are not sufficient for the frame I desire to
show her in." He was quite serious, but I laughed and said: "I beg to
alter my opinion of your wants. The wife you describe would be the mere
satisfaction of your vanity, and if you were fortunate enough to meet
with the gifts of beauty, intelligence, and wealth in the same person it
would be very exacting to expect that in addition to all these she
should be domestic, to minister to your home comforts, and sufficiently
devoted for your need of affection."
"I told you I thought it very difficult," he sighed.
"If you take other people's opinion about the choice of a wife," my
husband said, "you are not ripe for matrimony; no man ought to get
married unless he feels that he cannot help it,--that he could not live
happily without the companionship of a particular woman."
There had been an interval of a few years between this conversation and
our present meeting; but M. Rajon had not forgotten it, for he said with
a shade of sadness: "It is now, Mrs. Hamerton, that I feel the want of a
domestic and devoted wife, such as you advised me to choose; but
marriage is out of the question. I am an invalid."
We tried to cheer him up, and my husband's serene philosophy seemed to
do him good. He repeated to Paul Rajon his usual comparison of the
events of life to a very good cup of coffee to which a pinch of salt is
always added before we are allowed to taste it. "Your reputation and
talent," he said, "make a capital cup of coffee; but your illness has
seasoned it with rather a heavy pinch of salt."
The journey to England was got through without any serious accident to
my husband's health, but we had to be very careful in adhering to our
rules of slow trains and night travelling and frequent stoppages.
It was the first visit of our daughter to England, and her father
watched her impressions with great interest. She spoke English timidly
and reluctantly; but Mrs. Seeley was so kindly encouraging that she
overcame her timidity.
Mr. Seeley received us in his pretty, newly built house at Kingston,
which, being quite in the country and very quiet, suited my husband's
tastes admirably. The proximity of a beautiful park was very tempting
for rambles, and when at leisure we much enjoyed going all together for
a stroll under its noble trees. Mr. Seeley and his friend sometimes went
off to London together in the morning, but it was more desirable for my
husband to go to town only in the afternoon, because he felt less and
less nervous as the day wore on, and was quite himself in the evening.
We left Kingston to go and stay for a few days with Mr. and Mrs.
Macmillan. The evenings after Mr. Macmillan's return from business were
very animated with conversation and music.
Sometimes Mr. Macmillan gave us some Scotch and Gaelic songs with
remarkable pathos and power; and invariably, after every one else had
retired, he remained talking intimately, often confidentially, with my
husband far into the night.
A pretty incident occurred before we left Knapdale. One afternoon we
found Mrs. Macmillan very busy putting the finishing touches to an
embroidered and be-ribboned baby's frock, intended as a present to her
husband's first grandchild, on his first visit to Knapdale, which was to
be on that very day. After dinner the little man made his appearance in
the decorated frock, and took his place upon his grandfather's
shoulders. Then we all formed a procession, headed by the still erect
form of the grandsire supporting the infant hope of the family, and
leading us--parents, relatives, and guests--to the cheerful domain of
the cook. She proudly received the company, standing ladle in hand, by
an enormous earthen vessel containing a tempting mixture, in which
candied fruits, currants, and spices seemed to predominate. We were
expected, every one, to bring this medley to greater perfection by
turning over a portion of it with the ladle. It was duly offered first
to the little stranger, whose grandsire seized and plunged it into the
savory depths, whilst the tiny baby hand was tenderly laid upon his own.
The second part of the ceremony--tasting--had likewise to be performed
by proxy, for the young scion of the house peremptorily refused to
trifle with any temptation in the form of mincemeat. We all in
succession performed the ancient rite, and my husband said to me
afterwards what a capital subject for a picture of family portraits the
scene would afford. The contrast in the attire of the cook and her maids
with the toilettes of the ladies, together with the picturesque
background of the bright kitchen utensils, made a subject in the style
of an old Dutch master, with a touch of modern sentiment.
After seeing different places on the banks of the Thames we decided
again for Kew, but this time we required larger lodgings--not only on
account of Mary, but also for Miss Susan Hamerton and our cousins, Ben
and Annie Hinde, whom we had invited to join us there. They had gladly
accepted the invitation, and our meeting was happy and cheerful. We had
been very fortunate in our lodgings, which were spacious, clean, and
with a good view of the Green. Our landlady was a very respectable and
obliging person, and she let us have, when we wished, the use of a
chaise and a fast-trotting little pony, which greatly added to Aunt
Susan's enjoyment of the country, for her nephew drove her to the
prettiest places in the neighborhood, and through Richmond Park whenever
the weather allowed it. The beautiful gardens received almost a daily
visit from us, and were a most agreeable as well as a convenient resort
for our aged aunt, as she could either walk in the open grounds when it
was mild enough, or else visit the numerous hot-houses if she found the
outside air too keen for her.
We had been fortunate in this choice of Kew for our temporary residence;
not only did we like the place in itself, but we met with so hospitable
and flattering a reception from several resident families, that they
contrived to make us feel unlike strangers among them, and ever after,
our thoughts turned back to that time with mingled feelings of regret,
pleasure, and gratitude; and whenever we came to contemplate the
possibility of moving to England, Kew was always the place named as
being preferred by both of us.
Here we again met Professor Oliver, whom my husband had known since he
came to Kew alone for the first time. Being greatly interested in
painting, and possessing a collection of fine water-colors by Mr. Alfred
Hunt, he took pleasure in showing them to Mr. Hamerton, as well as the
Herbarium, of which he was Director.
Professor Church and his wife showed themselves most friendly and
untiringly hospitable. Very interesting and distinguished people were to
be met at their house, where the master was ever willing to display
before his guests some of his valuable collections of jewels, rare
tissues, old laces, and Japanese bronzes. We often had the pleasure of
meeting at this friendly house Mr. Thiselton Dyer, now Director
of Kew Gardens, and his wife, the daughter of Sir John Hooker--a most
charming person, who reminded both of us of the lovely women
immortalized by Reynolds.
The third edition of "Etching and Etchers," now on sale, had fulfilled
all expectations, and was universally admired and praised. It was a
great satisfaction to the author, who had never before enjoyed such a
complete recognition. His reputation and popularity increased rapidly,
and if he had liked he would have been a good deal lionized; but
although far from insensible to this success, he remained true to his
studious habits--going with Mr. Seeley to the National Gallery, British
or Kensington Museums, to choose illustrations for the "Graphic Arts,"
or quietly writing at his lodgings, and only accepting invitations from
his friends and publishers.
In December Mr. Macmillan gave a dinner at the Garrick Club in honor of
the author of "Etching and Etchers," who was warmly congratulated by the
other guests invited to meet him.
I have still in my possession the menu belonging to Mr. Alma Tadenia who
said to my husband: "I dare say Mrs. Hamerton would like to have a
_souvenir_ of this evening--present her with this in my name," and he
handed his menu, on the back of which he had quickly and cleverly drawn
a little likeness of himself in caricature, and the guests had signed
their names on it. A facsimile is given on the opposite page.
As he had given us an invitation to visit his curious house we did not
fail to go, and Mary was especially attracted by the famous grand piano,
inscribed inside with the signatures of the renowned musicians who had
performed upon it. Knowing that our daughter was seriously studying
music, Mrs. Alma Tadema generously expressed the hope of seeing sometime
the signature of Miss Hamerton by the side of the other names.
My husband also took Mary to Mrs. Woolner's, and she enjoyed greatly the
society of the children, who spoke French very creditably, and who were
interested in the details she could give them about French life and
ways. They took her to their father's studios, and showed her his works.
When dinner-time came, however, she was unprepared for being waited upon
by her new friends, and in consequence felt somewhat ill at ease. It was
a fancy of Mr. Woolner's to make his children wait upon his guests. They
offered bread and wine, and directed the maids, their duty consisting
chiefly in seeing that every guest received perfect attendance. It
reminded one of the pages' service in mediaeval times, and was accepted
by people of mature age as a gracious courtesy of their host, though it
proved rather embarrassing to a girl of fifteen. I don't know how long
the custom prevailed, but I did not notice it in succeeding years.
Our cousin, Ben Hinde, had joined us only for a few days, his duties as
a clergyman not allowing of a long absence, but our meeting had been
very pleasant and cordial. He had left with us his sister Annie, to whom
my husband endeavored to show what was most worthy of attention in the
metropolis. And just as we were thus enjoying our fragrant "cup of
coffee," the "pinch of salt" was thrown into it with a heavy hand--for
we heard from Richard that he was lying so dangerously ill that he could
not move in bed. He had only written a few words in pencil to let us
know that the doctor thought our presence unnecessary, because the
danger would be past, or the illness prove fatal, before we could
Of course my first impulse was to rush to my poor boy's bedside; but
what was to become of Mary--a girl of fifteen--unused to English ways,
and speaking English still imperfectly? Perhaps our aunt, who was to
leave us in a few days, would stay a little longer, though the approach
of Christmas made it imperative for her companion to get back to the
vicarage as soon as possible. But my husband?... Could I think of
leaving him a prey to this terrible anxiety, and to all the dangers of a
return of the old nervous attacks? I saw how he dreaded the mere
possibility, though he never said a word to influence my decision, but
the threatening insomnia and restlessness had already made their
appearance, and warned me that I ought to stay near him.
I wrote to my best friend in Paris, begging her to send her own doctor
to our poor boy, and to let me know the whole truth immediately. The
answer was reassuring--the crisis was past; there was nothing to fear
now, only the patient would remain weak for some time, and would require
great care. His friends--particularly one of them, a student of
medicine--had nursed him intelligently and devotedly. As soon as he
could take a little food my friend sent him delicacies and old wines,
and when he could bear the railway he went to his grandmother's to await
our return home.
We breathed again, and Aunt Susan and Annie left us comparatively quiet
My husband now went on with his work as fast as possible, for he longed
to see his younger son again. When his notes for the "Graphic Arts" were
completed, we made a round of visits to take leave of our friends, and
after another short stay at Knapdale, where we had the pleasure of
meeting Mr. Lockyer, and another very pleasant pilgrimage to Mr. and
Mrs. Palmer's hermitage, we set off for Paris.
Mr. Seeley wrote shortly after our arrival in the French capital about
several matters connected with the "Portfolio," and added: "How will you
be able to settle down again in that little Autun? You will feel (as
Robert Montgomery said of himself in Glasgow) like an oak in a
No, the oak liked to feel the pure air of the Morvan hills blowing about
its head, and to spread its branches in unconfined space. It was in
great crowded cities that it felt the pressure of the flower-pot.
On arriving at home we found Richard well again, and gifted with an
extraordinary appetite--which was the restorative he most needed, having
grown very thin and weak through his illness.
My husband had been very desirous to present me with a _souvenir_ of the
success of "Etching and Etchers," and pressed me to choose a trinket,
either a bracelet or a brooch; but I thought what I possessed already
quite sufficient, and though very sensible of his kind thoughtfulness, I
said that if he liked to make me a present, I would choose something
useful,--a silk dress, for instance. "But that would not be a present,"
he said; "when you want a dress you buy it. I should like to offer you
some pretty object which would last."
I knew that he liked to see me--and ladies in general--wearing jewels;
not in great quantity, but simply as a touch of finish to the toilette.
When I was young, he would have liked me (had it been possible) to dress
always in white, and the fashions not being then so elaborate as they
have become, it was easy enough in summer-time and in the country to
indulge his taste. So in warm days I often wore a white muslin dress,
quite plain, relieved only by a colored sash. If the sash happened to be
green, he liked it to be matched by a set of crystal beads of the same
color, which he had brought me from Switzerland when he had gone there
with his aunt and uncle. When the ribbon was red, I was to wear corals,
and with a blue one lapis-lazuli.
At last he remembered that I had admired some plain dead-gold bracelets
of English make that we had been looking at together, not far from the
National Gallery, and said he would be glad if I would choose one of
them. I had, however, taken the same resolution about jewels as his own
about pictures, and that was, to admire what was beautiful, but never to
buy, because it was beyond our means. The resolution, once taken, left
no way open to temptation. Still, I did not mean to deny myself the
pleasure of accepting his proffered present, only I did not want it to
be expensive, and since I had a sufficiency of jewels, "would he give me
a pretty casket to put them in?" "Yes," he readily assented. And when I
opened the casket of fair olive-wood, with the delicately wrought nickel
clasps and lock, I found a folded paper laid on the dark-blue velvet
tray, and having opened it read what follows--I need not say with what
"Here in this empty casket, instead of a diamond or pearl,
Instead of a gem I leave but a little rhyme.
She remembers the brooch and the bracelet I gave her when she was a
Deep blue from beyond the sea, not paler from lapse of time.
She will put them here in the casket, the ultramarine and the gold;
And if such a thing might be, I would give them to her twice over;
Once in my youthful hope, and now again when I'm old,
But alike in youth or in age with the heart and the soul of a lover."
This note is entered in the diary:--
"January 1, 1881. Faceva i miei doni alla sposa, alla figlia, al mio
figlio Stefano. La sposa era felicissima di ricevere la sua cassetta."
Roberts Brothers had heard that a new book was in preparation, and they
wrote in January, 1881:--
"Your third edition of 'Etching and Etchers' is really a magnificent
specimen of book-making, and we understand two hundred copies have been
sold in America. At all events, whatever the number sold, it is not to
be had. We should like to have the American edition of the 'Graphic
Arts,' and should be glad to receive the novel when it is ready."
But the novel had been put aside, the author being doubtful if it
equalled "Marmorne" in quality. The whole of his time for writing was
devoted to the "Graphic Arts," and the remainder to painting from
nature, often with Mr. Pickering, and to the consideration of the
necessary alterations to the boat in view of a summer cruise on the
Saone. The reading of Italian was resumed pretty regularly, whilst the
diary was kept in that language.
Early in the spring Mr. Seeley wrote:--
"I am afraid it is indispensable that we should meet in Paris, as the
selection of engravings for reproduction is very important, though, like
you, I grudge the loss of time. But the book is an important one, and we
must do our very best to make it a success."
It was then decided that my husband should go to Paris with Richard, and
they started on May 4, stopped a day at Sens to see the cathedral again,
and to call upon Madame Challard (who had become a widow), and arrived
in Paris at night.
The entries in the note-book (kept in Italian) record his visits to the
Salon, to the Louvre, and to various public buildings. Also to the
Bibliotheque, to study the works of the Ecole de Fontainebleau, and to
an exhibition of paintings in imitation of tapestry, which much
He also went with Richard to see Munkacsy's picture of "Christ before
Pilate," and notes Richard's astonishment at it. He considered it
himself as one of the finest of existing pictures. He also expresses the
great pleasure he derived from Jacquemart's water-colors, their
brilliancy and sureness of execution.
The four following days having been very busy, received only this short
note, "In Parigi con Seeley;" then the fifth has, "Seeley e partito sta
The succeeding entries record further visits to the Salon, the Louvre,
and Bibliotheque; but on the return journey, at Chagny on the 19th, he
notes that he has received sad news of the death of M. de Saint Victor,
in a duel with M. Asselin. It was only too true, and had happened on a
day which was to have been a _fete_, for Madame de Saint Victor, whose
daughter went to the same school as ours, had invited both myself and
Mary, with a few others school-fellows and their mothers, to lunch at
the Chateau de Monjeu, of which her husband was Regisseur. The
unfortunate lady did not know what had passed between her husband and a
gentleman of the locality who was trespassing on the grounds of the
chateau. M. de Saint Victor considered himself insulted, and challenged
M. Asselin; he, moreover, insisted upon choosing the sword as a
weapon--the most dangerous of all in a serious duel--and on the morning
which should have been festive and mirthful, he fell dead in the wood
near his home, killed by a sword-thrust from his skilful adversary.
As soon as he was back home, Mr. Hamerton set to work regularly at the
"Graphic Arts." In the diary this phrase is repeated like a litany:
"Worked with great pleasure at my book, the 'Graphic Arts.'" But at
the same time there is a complaint that it prevents the mind from being
happily disposed for artistic work. I have already said how difficult it
was for him to turn from one kind of occupation to another. Here is a
confirmation of this fact:--
"I lost the whole of the day in attempting to make a drawing for an
etching. Was not in the mood. It is necessary to have a certain warmth
and interest in a subject--which I have lost, but hope to recover. For a
long time past all my thoughts have turned upon my literary work."
It is easy for readers of the "Graphic Arts" to realize what an amount
of knowledge and preparation such a book required; and to present so
much information in a palatable form was no less than a feat. Still, the
author took great delight in his work. As in the case of "Etching and
Etchers," he was encouraged by the publisher, who wrote on June, "I mean
to take a pride in the book." It was exactly the sort of work which
suited him--sufficiently important to allow the subjects to be treated
at length when necessary, and worthy of the infinite care and thought he
liked to bestow upon his studies. In this case, wonderful as it seems,
he had himself practised all the arts of which he speaks, with the
exception of fresco. As to the other branches of art, namely,
pen-and-ink, silver-point, lead-pencil, sanguine, chalk, charcoal, water
monochrome, oil monochrome, pastel, painting in oil, painting in
water-colors, wood-engraving, etching and dry-point, aquatint and
mezzotint, lithography, he had--more or less--tried every one of them.
And though he did not give sufficient practice to the burin to acquire
real skill, still he did not remain satisfied till he could use it.
The same feeling of conscientiousness led him to become acquainted with
all the different processes of reproduction so much in vogue, and he was
ever anxious to learn all their technical details.
It was hoped that the "Graphic Arts" might be published at the end of
the year, and in order to be ready, the author put aside all other work,
excepting that of the "Portfolio;" but he longed for a short holiday,
and meant to take it on the Saone. He went to Chalon to a boat-builder,
and explained the changes to be made in the "Morvandelle," set the men
to work, and returned to his book.
He had begun to suffer from insomnia, and Mr. Seeley wrote:--
"Probably you are right in saying that yachting is a necessity for you;
but for the enjoyment of it you are badly placed at Autun. You must look
after that cottage at Cowes, which I suggested some time ago; and we
must set up a yacht between us; only, unluckily, I am always seasick in
Certainly the situation of Autun was not favorable to yachting, the
streams about it being only fit for canoeing; but the broad Saone was
not far off, and as Chalon was my husband's headquarters when cruising,
he was not disinclined to the short journey which afforded an
opportunity for visiting my mother and my brother, who lived there.
My husband had thought that a river voyage would be charming with R. L.
Stevenson as a companion, and that they might, perhaps, produce a work
in collaboration, so he had made the proposal, and here is part of the
"RINNAUD COTTAGE, PITLOCHRY, PERTHSHIRE.
"MY DEAR MR. HAMMERTON,--(There goes the second M: it is a certainty.)
Thank you for your prompt and kind answer, little as I deserved it,
though I hope to show you I was less undeserving than I seemed. But just
might I delete two words in your testimonial? The two words 'and legal'
were unfortunately winged by chance against my weakest spot, and would
go far to damn me.
"It was not my bliss that I was interested in when I was married; it was
a sort of marriage _in extremis_; and if I am where I am, it is thanks
to the care of that lady who married me when I was a mere complication
of cough and bones, much fitter for an emblem of mortality than a
"I had a fair experience of that kind of illness when all the women (God
bless them I) turn round upon the streets and look after you with a look
that is only too kind not to be cruel. I have had nearly two years of
more or less prostration. I have done no work whatever since the
February before last, until quite of late. To be precise, until the
beginning of the last month, exactly two essays. All last winter I was
at Davos; and indeed I am home here just now against the doctor's
orders, and must soon be back again to that unkindly haunt 'upon the
mountains visitant--there goes no angel there, but the angel of death.'
The deaths of last winter are still sore spots to me.... So you see I am
not very likely to go on a 'wild expedition,' cis-Stygian at least. The
truth is, I am scarce justified in standing for the chair, though I hope
you will not mention this; and yet my health is one of my reasons, for
the class is in summer.
"I hope this statement of my case will make my long neglect appear less
unkind. It was certainly not because I ever forgot you or your unwonted
kindness; and it was not because I was in any sense rioting in
"I am glad to hear the catamaran is on her legs again; you have my
warmest wishes for a good cruise down the Saone: and yet there comes
some envy to that wish; for when shall I go cruising? Here a sheer hulk,
alas! lies R. L. S. But I will continue to hope for a better time,
canoes that will sail better to the wind, and a river grander than the
"I heard, by the way, in a letter of counsel from a well-wisher, one
reason of my town's absurdity about the chair of Art: I fear it is
characteristic of her manners. It was because you did not call upon the
"Will you remember me to Mrs. Hamerton and your son? and believe me,"
In September we had the pleasure of a visit from Miss Betham-Edwards,
and the acquaintance ripened into friendship.
Having brought the "Graphic Arts" satisfactorily forward, my husband
thought that he might indulge in the longed-for holiday on the Saone. He
expected to find everything ready at Chalon, and to have only to
superintend the putting together of the sections of the boat. He was,
however, sorely disappointed on finding that nothing had been done, and
that he must spend several days in pushing the workmen on, instead of
sailing pleasantly on the river. After a week of worry and irritation
the boat was launched, and the two boys having joined their father on
board, they went together as far as Tournus, after spending the first
night at Port d'Ouroux, where they had found a nice little inn, with
simple but good accommodation. In the afternoon Stephen went back to
Autun to fetch his things, for he was obliged to be at his post on the
first of October. Richard proceeded with his father down the Saone to
Macon. The diary says:--
"Sept. 30. A beautiful voyage it was. The loveliest weather, favorable
wind, strong, delightful play of light and color on water. I had not
enjoyed such boating since I left Loch Awe."
There are these notes in the diary:--
"Nov. 26. Corrected the last proof of the 'Graphic Arts,' and sent it
off with a new finish, as the other seemed too abrupt. Spent a good deal
of time over the finish, writing it twice."
"Nov. 27. Worked all day as hard as possible at index to 'Graphic Arts,'
and got it finished at midnight."
He was in time, but Mr. Seeley wrote:--
"Now Goupil's delay [about the illustrations] threatens to become most
serious. We have now orders for 1050 copies, large and small, so we have
already surpassed the sale of 'Etching and Etchers,' third edition."
Alas! there was a very distressing item of news in the letter dated
"The enclosed letter from Goupil is a complete upset. It seems that the
printing of the Louvre drawings [Footnote: Two drawings by Zucchero and
Watteau. The latter was in black, red, and white chalk. The reproduction
was printed from one plate, the different colored inks being rubbed in
by the printer. Only about ten prints could be taken in a day.] will
take five or six months.
"We must decide at once what to do. This is one plan. If we can get all
the other illustrations ready, then to publish as soon as we can,
putting these three plates in the large paper copies only, and in the
others a slip of paper explaining how tedious the printing is, and
promising that these illustrations shall be delivered in the spring to
any purchaser who produces the slip.
"This is one plan. If you prefer it, please telegraph _Yes_.
"The other plan is to postpone the publication, and bring out the
complete book in the spring. If you prefer this, please telegraph _No_.
"I leave the matter entirely in your hands. Pray decide as you judge
This delay was most provoking after the hard work the author had given
to the book to have it out in good time, and also because the orders
were increasing; they had now reached 315 copies for the large edition,
and 868 of the small one. Still, there was no help for it, and the
publication must be postponed rather than give an imperfect book to the
public. Both author and publisher agreed in that decision.
On December 17, 1881, Mr. Hamerton received the following letter:--
"19 WARWICK CRESCENT.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,--You will do me an honor indeed by the dedication
you propose, and my own little worthiness to receive it becomes of
secondary importance when taken with the exceeding importance of the
truth you insist upon in connection with it--a truth always plain to me,
however moderately I may have been able to illustrate its value.
"Thank you very much: you will add to my obligation by the visit you so
"I return you the best of Christmas wishes, and am ever, dear Mr.
"Yours most truly,
I transcribe the dedication to explain Mr. Browning's letter.
"TO ROBERT BROWNING.
"I wish to dedicate this book to you as the representative of a class
which ought to be more numerous,--the class of large-minded persons who
take a lively interest in arts which are not specially their own. No one
who had not carefully observed the narrowing of men's minds by
specialities could believe to what a degree it goes. Instead of being
open, as yours has always been, to the influences of literature, in the
largest sense, as well as to the influences of the graphic arts and
music, the specialized mind shuts itself up in its own pursuit so
exclusively that it does not even know what is nearest to its own closed
doors. We meet with scholars who take no more account of the graphic
arts than if they did not exist, and with painters who never read; but
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