Philip Gilbert Hamerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton et al
Part 9 out of 11
what is still more surprising, is the complete indifference with which
an art can be regarded by men who know and practise another not widely
removed from it. One may be a painter and yet know nothing whatever
about any kind of engraving; one may be a skilled engraver, and yet work
in lifelong misunderstanding of the rapid arts. If the specialists who
devote themselves to a single study had more of your interest in the
work of others, they might find, as you have done, that the quality
which may be called open-mindedness is far from being an impediment to
success, even in the highest and most arduous of artistic and
Mr. Hamerton was so adverse to puffing of any kind and to noise being
made about his name, that he neglected the most honest means of having
it brought forward to public notice; for instance, he had been asked in
November, 1881, for notes on his life for a book to be entitled "The
Victorian Era of English Literature," and had forgotten all about it. He
had to be reminded in 1882 that he had promised to send the notes.
I suppose that the following letter from R. L. Stevenson must have been
received about this time. It is almost impossible to ascertain, as--like
the others--it bears no date.
"VILLA AM STEIN, DAVOS PLATZ, GRISONS, SWITZERLAND.
"MY DEAR MR. HAMERTON,--My conscience has long been smiting me, till it
became nearly chronic. My excuses, however, are many and not pleasant.
Almost immediately after I last wrote to you, I had a hemorreage (I
can't spell it), was badly treated by a doctor in the country, and have
been a long while picking up--still, in fact, have much to desire on
that side. Next, as soon as I got here, my wife took ill; she is, I
fear, seriously so; and this combination of two invalids very much
"I have a volume of republished essays coming out with Chatto and
Windus; I wish they would come, that my wife might have the reviews to
divert her. Otherwise my news is nil. I am up here in a little chalet,
on the borders of a pine-wood, overlooking a great part of the Davos
Thai: a beautiful scene at night, with the moon upon the snowy mountains
and the lights warmly shining in the village. J. A. Symonds is next door
to me, just at the foot of my Hill Difficulty (this you will please
regard as the House Beautiful), and his society is my great stand-by.
"Did you see I had joined the band of the rejected? 'Hardly one of us,'
said my _confreres_ at the bar.
"I was blamed by a common friend for asking you to give me a
testimonial: in the circumstances he thought it was indelicate. Lest, by
some calamity, you should ever have felt the same way, I must say in two
words how the matter appeared to me. That silly story of the election
altered in no tittle the value of your testimony: so much for that. On
the other hand, it led me to take a quite particular pleasure in asking
you to give it; and so much for the other. I trust even if you cannot
share it, you will understand my view.
"I am in treaty with Bentley for a life of Hazlitt; I hope it will not
fall through, as I love the subject, and appear to have found a
publisher who loves it also. That, I think, makes things more pleasant.
You know I am a fervent Hazlittite; I mean, regarding him as _the_
English writer who has had the scantiest justice. Besides which, I am
anxious to write biography; really, if I understand myself in quest of
profit, I think it must be good to live with another man from birth to
death. You have tried it and know.
"How has the cruising gone? Pray remember me to Mrs. Hamerton and your
son, and believe me,
"Yours very sincerely,
"ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON."
Throughout this year the diary was kept in Italian, and the reading of
Italian books was pretty regularly kept up; among them were Olanda,
Petrarch, and Ariosto. He soon abandoned Petrarch, whom he did not value
much; here is the reason: "I prefer the clear movement of Ariosto to all
the conceits of the sonnet-maker."
"Human Intercourse" was begun, and to save time, two copies were written
simultaneously--one for England and the other for America--by inserting
a sheet of black copying paper between two sheets of thin "Field and
Tuer" paper, and writing with a hard lead pencil and sufficient pressure
to obtain a duplicate on the page placed underneath. Roberts Brothers
were very desirous of seeing this new work, and had written: "We should
like to make 'Human Intercourse' a companion volume to the 'Intellectual
Life,' and the title is so suggestive of something good that we hope you
will hasten the good time of its appearance."
The publication of the "Graphic Arts" had been fixed for March 1, but a
copy having been got ready at the end of January, it was sent as a
compliment to Mr. Sagar of the Burnley Mechanics' Institution, and Mr.
Seeley said: "The Burnley people are delighted at having had the first
sight of the 'Graphic Arts.' Mr. Sagar writes that from what he saw of
it, he has no hesitation in saying that it is the best book you have
written, and does great credit to everybody concerned in its
The book was highly appreciated by those competent to judge and
understand the subjects. Mr. Haden wrote about it a letter of fourteen
pages. Though he calls it himself "an unconscionably long letter," it is
most interesting throughout, but I only quote a few passages from it.
"I have been reading the 'Graphic Arts' with great interest. It is, or
rather must have been, a formidable undertaking. I like your chapter on
'Useful and Aesthetic Drawing.' Your insistence on keeping the two
things separate, and claiming for each its value, is a great
lesson--read, too, just at the right time.
"And in your 'Drawing for Artistic Pleasure,' the great lesson there is,
that true artistic pleasure can only be excited in others by the artist
that _knows_ what he is about, though he does not express it. Did you
ever see a drawing or an etching by Victor Hugo? Hugo is a poet, and
affects to be an artist. But his knowledge of what is or should be
_organic_, in every picture, is so lamentably absent, that his poetry
(sought to be imparted in that shape) goes for nothing.
"In 'Right and Wrong in Drawing,' which is excellently written, the
concluding paragraph is admirable. The chapter on 'Etching and
Dry-Point' is charmingly written, easy and refined in diction, and set
down _con amore_."
Then came this letter from Mr. Browning:--
"19 WARWICK CRESCENT, W. _March_ 6, 1882.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,--I thought your dedication a great honor to me, and
should have counted it such had it simply prefaced a pamphlet. To
connect it with this magnificent book is indeed engraving my name on a
jewel, instead of stone or even marble.
"Your sumptuous present reached me two days ago--and will be consigned
to 'my library,' when the best jewel I boast of is disposed of on my
dressing-table among articles proper to the place: no, indeed--it shall
be encased as a jewel should, on a desk for all to see how the author
has chosen to illustrate the [painting- and] drawing-room of the
author's admirer and (dares he add?) friend,
Mr. Alfred Hunt also wrote: "I can see that the plan of the book is
admirable. I often want to know something about art processes which I
don't practise myself, and which I might be stimulated into trying if I
was only younger."
The sale of the book was rapid, and before six weeks had elapsed so few
copies remained that the prices were raised to fifteen guineas for the
large edition, and to seven and a half guineas for the small one. But
the author had overworked himself, and hurry had brought back the old
enemy--insomnia. Mr. Seeley, who had lately suffered from lumbago,
"Sleeplessness is a far worse thing than lumbago. You are right in
taking it seriously. I have little doubt, however, that by avoiding
overwork--and especially hurried work--and getting plenty of exercise,
you will overcome the tendency. If you ever do another big book, we must
take two or three years for it, and have no sort of hurry. I once
thought of the 'Landscape Painters' as a good subject for a big book."
In a subsequent letter Mr. Seeley gives a great deal of thoughtful
consideration to what might suit his friend's requirements:--
"If 'Landscape Painting' is a subject that you would thoroughly like to
take up, please tell me what travelling you would consider needful, and
as far as expense goes I will try to meet you. Perhaps for one thing we
might go to Italy together, if you are not afraid of being dragged about
in a chain.
"I thought of the Rhone book again, as likely to suit your present state
In the current year, however, it was impossible to undertake the voyage,
because "Human Intercourse" was to be the important work. As usual with
a new book, the author had had a struggle at the beginning. He
attributed the difficulty to the want of subdivisions in the chapters,
and when he had adopted a more elastic system than is usual in a
treatise, the obstacle disappeared. He has himself explained this, more
in detail, to his readers, in the preface of the book.
There is no doubt that this long struggle had increased the tendency to
sleeplessness, and a little cruise on the Saone was thought to be the
best remedy. So he left for Macon at the beginning of April, and after
putting the several parts of the boat together, and getting provisions
on board, he started with Stephen on a voyage down the Saone. On their
way they could see with a telescope all the details of Mont Blanc. At
Port d'Arciat they picked up a friend, and after a "good little repast
with a Good Friday _matelote_," a few sketches were made at Thoissey and
The change and exercise in the open air did my husband a great deal of
good, and he had regained sleep when he returned home.
There being still a good deal of leakage in the "Morvandelle," though a
thick kind of flannel had been pressed into the interstices, it was
decided to use the wooden parts to make two small boats for the pond,
one for Stephen and the other for Richard, the old ones being rotten.
There was much pleasurable planning for my husband in the scheme, and
also some manual work for rainy weather. He was exceedingly careful and
handy in doing joiner's work, and every one in the house applied to him
for delicate repairs, and--when he had time--they were done to
perfection; only, he seldom had time, and it was a standing joke that he
must have a private museum somewhere to which the objects confided to
him found their way. In reality, he had to do a good deal of manual
labor of different kinds, on account of our country life, which placed
us at an inconvenient distance from workmen. For instance, he always
framed his etchings and engravings himself; at one time he even
undertook to re-gild all the frames which the flies so rapidly spoilt in
the country. He had also to make numerous packing-cases and boxes for
the sending of plates, pictures, and books; he invented lots of
contrivances for the arrangement of his colors, brushes, portfolios,
etc. He made different portable easels with folding stools corresponding
to their size, for working from nature, desks for large books, such as
dictionaries, to be placed by the side of his arm-chair when he was
reading; others for etchings and engravings, so that they might be
examined without fear of any object coming in contact with them. So
sensitive was he to the way in which works of art were handled, that he
allowed no one to touch his prints or illustrated books; he was always
in dread about their margins being creased or crumpled, and to avoid
this possibility he used to show them himself. A well-known aqua-fortist
told me that my husband had said to him once, "I would not trust you to
handle one of your own etchings."
Mr. Seeley had suggested that some illustrated articles about Autun
might interest the readers of the "Portfolio" on account of the Roman
and mediaeval remains, the remarkable cathedral, and the picturesque
character of the surrounding country. He thought that, as a title, "An
Old Burgundian City" would do. In a former letter he had expressed a
wish that his editor should come to England--if possible--every year in
the spring, instead of the autumn, when it was too late to discuss
arrangements for the "Portfolio" for the ensuing year. Mr. Hamerton
admitted that it would be desirable, no doubt, but he could not afford
it; the expenses of our last stay had been a warning, though we had
lived as simply as possible. To these considerations Mr. Seeley had
answered: "I am sorry you do not feel more happy about your future work.
What seems to be wanting is some public post in which you would be paid
for studying." But he had had more than enough of such schemes after his
attempt at Edinburgh, and it was the only one he was ever induced to
make. He began at once the pen-drawings which were to illustrate the
articles on Autun, and he liked his work exceedingly.
"Paris."--Miss Susan Hamerton's Death.--Burnley revisited.--Hellifield
Peel.--"Landscape" planned.--Voyage to Marseilles.
In May, Richard went away to Paris to study from the antique in the
Louvre, and Mary read English to her father for an hour every afternoon.
In the summer Mr. Hamerton received the decoration and title of Officier
d'Academie, but so little did he care for public marks of distinction
that the fact is barely mentioned in the diary.
In August he received the following interesting letter from Mr.
"HOTEL VIRARD, ST. PIERRE DE CHARTREUSE ISERS.
"_August_ 17, 1882.
"DEAR MR. HAMERTON,--When I got, a month ago, your very pleasant letter,
I felt that, full as it was of influences from Autun, the Saone between
Chalon and Lyons, speeded by '330 square feet of canvas,' my little word
of thanks in reply would never get well under weigh from the banks of
our sluggish canal; so reserved launching it till I should reach this
point of vantage: and now, forth with it, that, wherever it may find
you, I may assure your kindness that it would indeed have gratified me
to see you, had circumstances enabled you to come my way; and that the
amends you promise for failing to do so will be duly counted upon; tho'
whether that will happen at Warwick Crescent is unlikely rather than
merely uncertain--since the Bill which is to abolish my house, among
many more notable erections, has 'passed the Lords'' a fortnight ago,
and I must look about for another lodging--much against my will. I
dropped into it with all the indifference possible, some twenty-one
years ago--meaning to slip out again soon as this happened, and that
happened--and they all did happen, and yet found me with a sufficient
reason for staying longer, till, only last year while abroad, the
extraordinary thought occurred--'what need of removing at all?'--to
which was no answer: so I took certain steps toward permanent comfort,
which never before seemed worth taking--and, on my return, was saluted
by a notice to the effect that a Railway Company wanted my 'House,
forecourt, and garden,' and wished to know if I objected--I who, a month
or two before, had painted the house and improved the garden. Go I
must--but I shall endeavor to go somewhere near, and your visit, if you
pay me one, will begin the good associations with the place. And _this_
place; you may be acquainted with it, not unlikely. It is a hamlet on a
hilltop, surrounded by mountains covered with fir--being the ancient
Cartusia whence our neighbors the monks took their name; the Great
Chartreuse lies close by, an hour's walk perhaps: this hamlet is in
their district, 'the Desert,' as they call it; their walks are confined
to it, and you meet on a certain day a procession of white-clothed
shavelings, absolved from their vow of silence, and chattering like
magpies, while vigorously engaged in butterfly-hunting. We have not a
single shop in the whole handful of houses--excepting the 'tabac et
timbres' establishment--where jalap and lollipops are sold likewise--and
one hovel, the owner of which calls himself, on its outside,
'Cordonnier': yet there is this 'Hotel' and an auberge or two--serving
to house travellers who are dismissed from the Convent at times
inconvenient for reaching Grenoble; or so I suppose.
"The beauty and quiet of the scenery, the purity of the air, the variety
of the wild-flowers--these are incomparable in our eyes (those of my
sister and myself), and make all roughnesses smooth: we spent five weeks
here last season; will do the like now, and then are bound for Ischia,
where a friend entertains us for a month in a seaside villa he inhabits:
afterwards to London, with what appetite we may, though London has its
abundant worth too. Utterly peaceful as this country appears--and you
may walk in its main roads for hours without meeting any one but a
herdsman or wood-cutter--I shall tell you a little experience I have had
of its possibilities. On the last day of our sojourn last year, we took
a final look at and leave of a valley, a few miles off; and as I stood
thinking of the utter _innocency_ of the little spot and its
surroundings, the odd fancy entered my head, 'Suppose you discovered a
corpse in this solitude, would you think it your duty to go and apprise
the authorities, incurring all the risks and certain hindrance to to-
morrow's departure which such an act entails in France--or would you
simply hold your tongue?' And I concluded, 'I ought to run those risks.'
Well, that night a man was found murdered, just there where I had been
looking down, and the owner of the field was at once arrested and shut
up in the _Mairie_ of the village of St. Pierre d'Entremont, close by.
The victim was an Italian mason, had received seven mortal wounds, and
lay in a potato-patch with a sack containing potatoes: 'he had probably
been caught stealing these by the owner, who had killed him,'--so, the
owner was taken into custody. We heard this--and were inconvenienced
enough by it next day, for our journey was delayed by the Judge
(d'Instruction) from Grenoble possessing himself of the mule which was
to carry our luggage, in order to report on the spot; but we got away at
last. On returning, last week, I inquired about the result. 'The accused
man, who was plainly innocent, being altogether _boulverse_ by the
charge coming upon him just in his distress at losing a daughter a
fortnight before, had taken advantage of the negligence of the gendarmes
to throw himself from the window. He survived three hours, protesting
his innocence to the last, which was confirmed by good evidence: the
likelihood being that the murder had been committed by the Italian's
companions at a little distance, and the body carried thro' the woods
and laid there to divert suspicions.' Well might my genius warn me of
the danger of being a victim's neighbor. But how I have victimized
_you_, if you have borne with me! Forgive, and believe me ever,
Mr. Seeley had thought that a series of articles on Paris might be
suitable for the "Portfolio," if they were written by the editor, who
knew the beautiful city so well, and accordingly my husband had decided
to go there for a month, in order to take notes and to choose subjects
for the illustrations. He never could have been reconciled to the idea
of remaining a month in Paris alone, and I bethought myself of a plan,
which seemed both economical and pleasant, and which he readily adopted.
It was to take Mary with us, and to rent a small apartment in our quiet
Hotel de la Muette; having our meals prepared in our private kitchen
(for each apartment was complete), and the cleaning done with the help
of a _femme de menage_. It would be a sort of life-at-home on a very
The apartments were like English lodgings without attendance. Moreover,
no one belonging to the hotel, not even a servant, had a right to enter
the apartments: they were entirely private. One might order the most
costly repasts from the luxurious restaurants close at hand, or keep a
_cordon bleu_, or live on bread-and-water like an anchorite, just as one
pleased, without anybody noticing it. This liberty was exactly what my
We left home on October 9 with Richard, who was to continue his artistic
studies in England now, and Mary, whom her father wanted to become
acquainted with the different museums, beautiful buildings, and
treasures of art, under his direction, for which there could have been
no better opportunity.
We all looked forward to this change as to a _partie de plaisir_, the
young people especially, and on our arrival in Paris, M. Mas and his
wife received us with great cordiality. They had nothing in common with
the ordinary type of hotel-keepers, and welcomed their _habitues_ with a
simple, hearty friendliness--such as servants, who had been all their
lives in a family, might show to their masters--which pleased my husband
much. They showed us, with visible satisfaction, our little apartment,
saying that it had been reserved for us on account of "Mademoiselle,"
because her room would be just close to her mamma's, and the door
leading from one to the other might be left open at night. We were told
that the kitchen was particularly nice, because Monsieur Paul Baudry,
"un artiste aussi," had fitted it up "a neuf" for the three months he
had been spending in our present apartment. Early in the morning I went
out to order provisions--groceries, fuel, wine, etc., for the month we
were to remain at the hotel. We had afterwards an excellent and cheerful
_dejeuner_ prepared in our own kitchen. My husband was amused by the
contrivances of what he called "the doll's house," and said he did not
mind spending a month in that way. In the afternoon we went with the
children to see the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, and La Cour de
Cassation: in each of these buildings my husband gave us a short
explanatory lesson in architecture.
The second day he had already made rules for the division of his time,
according to which the mornings would be reserved for writing and
correspondence; dejeuner was to be ready at eleven, so as to leave the
afternoon free for the work in Paris.
As on the previous day, we were breakfasting together, talking of
Richard's prospects in London, when there came a telegram, saying that
our dear Aunt Susan thought herself to be sinking, and desired to see
us. It was a sudden and a painful blow; my husband had not a moment of
hesitation about what he would do. He told us to pack up immediately,
whilst he went to look at the railway-guide, and find the first slow
night-train for England: Richard and Mary were to go with us--it would
be a last satisfaction for their aunt if we arrived in time.
I was full of apprehension for my husband, but, of course, refrained
from mentioning my fears.
There was no slow train after four o'clock, so we had to start when it
was still daylight, but he kept his eyes closed till darkness rendered
invisible the objects we passed on our way. He bore the journey very
well on the whole, and on reaching Calais we went on board the steamer
immediately. It was midnight, the sea was splendidly phosphorescent, and
Richard and Mary took great delight in throwing things into it, to see
the sparkles flash about. I had no fear so long as we remained on the
water, for Gilbert always enjoyed it, whatever the weather might be, and
felt utterly free from nervousness.
Arrived at Dover at four in the morning, we went to bed for a little
rest, and after breakfast went out for a walk on the seashore under the
cliffs. Richard had never seen the sea before, and he received a
profound impression from it. The wind was high, and the big green,
crested waves came dashing their foam on to the very rocks at our feet.
The alternate effects of sunshine and masses of clouds, violently driven
and torn by the squalls, were magnificent; and Richard, more than ever,
was fired with the wish to become a painter. His sister, very sensitive
to natural beauty, shared his enthusiasm.
The train for London started at three, and on arriving at Charing Cross
we found a more reassuring telegram, stating that our aunt was somewhat
better. Thus cheered by the hope of seeing her again, Gilbert was able
to eat his supper with us before going to bed. I was greatly alarmed by
his decision to start early in the morning and to travel throughout the
day; but having made such a sacrifice of money in abandoning our
apartment and provisions, and in taking the children with us in the hope
of giving a last satisfaction to his aunt, I understood that he would on
no account run the risk of arriving too late.
It proved a most painful day to us all. Very soon he gave signs of
distress and nervousness in spite of all his efforts to hide them; but
this time he would not leave the train, though I besought him to do so.
We had some provisions in our bags, but, weak as he felt, he could not
swallow a morsel of anything; he could not even drink. Still, at one
time he thought that a little brandy might do him good; unfortunately we
had not any with us, and it being Sunday all the refreshment-rooms were
closed on the line. He strove desperately against the growing cerebral
excitement, now by lying down at full length on the cushions with the
curtains drawn, and his eyes closed (most mercifully we were alone in
our compartment); now by stamping his feet in the narrow space and
rubbing his hands vigorously to bring back circulation. In these
alternate fits of excitement and prostration we reached Doncaster at
five. Luckily there was a stoppage of about forty minutes before we
could proceed to Featherstone, and we turned it to the best advantage by
leaving the railway station and going in search of a quiet hotel, where
we ordered something to eat. Darkness had now set in. We had had a
little walk out of sight of the railway, in the open air, and there
seemed to be not a soul, besides ourselves and the landlord, in the
hotel; so that by the time our dinner made its appearance my husband had
so far recovered that he was able to take both food and drink, which did
him much good.
We arrived at Featherstone station after ten, and as the time of our
arrival had been uncertain, there was nobody to meet us. We left our
luggage, and only taking our handbags, we set off for the vicarage on
foot in the dark and in a deluge of rain. At eleven we were all standing
by the bed of our dear aunt, who knew us perfectly in spite of her weak
state, and whose satisfaction at the sight of Richard and Mary was as
great as unhoped for. The diary says: "Oct. 15, 1882. Our poor aunt
recognized us, but it is only too plain that she cannot live more than
three or four days." The doctor, whom we saw on the following morning,
said that Miss Hamerton was dying of no disease; it was merely the
breaking up of the constitution. She was kept up artificially by
medicine and stimulants, very frequently administered, for which she had
neither taste nor desire. Now she said to the doctor: "I have been very
submissive because I wanted to retain my flickering life until I should
see my nephew and his family; this great happiness has been granted to
me, and now I only desire to go to my final rest." After this the
doctor's prescription was to give her only what she might ask for. We
remained at her bedside throughout the day, with the exception of a
visit to the old church, now restored with care and taste, to my
We watched our aunt part of the night, and she spoke very often, with
her usual clearness of mind; towards three in the morning our cousins
Emma and Annie came to relieve us. On the morrow there was a change for
the worse with greater weakness, and we determined--my husband and
myself--to watch all night.
Aunt Susan concerned herself about our comfort to the last; she reminded
her nephew to keep up a good fire that I might not get cold; she
insisted upon my making some tea for myself, and upon my husband having
a glass of beer. About two in the morning she asked for a little
champagne; her mind was so clear that, after exchanging a few sentences
with her nephew in the Lancashire dialect and drinking her small glass
of champagne, she said with a smile, "It's good sleck," and lay still
for a while. At three she wanted to be turned on her side, which my
husband did with tender care, happy to be able to do something for her
better than any one else could do it, as she said. I believe she liked
to feel herself in his arms. Then she wished Ben to come up to read the
last prayers. I went to call him, also Annie and Emma, Richard and Mary,
and we all surrounded her bed whilst Ben was reading the prayers
according to her desire, and my husband holding one of her hands all the
time. She rested her eyes upon each of us in turn, closed them never to
open them again, and breathed more and more feebly till she breathed no
more. It was five o'clock in the morning. Her death had been a peaceful
one, without a struggle, without pain,--the death we may desire for all
that we love. Nevertheless, it proved a sore trial for my husband, who
was losing the oldest affection of his life. It was even more severe
than such losses are in most cases, however great may have been the
affection, for it was like complete severance from the past to which
both he and his aunt were so much attached. When they were together the
reminiscences of the old days at Hollins, of the old friends and
relations, of the quaint old customs still prevailing in the youthful
days of the Misses Hamerton, and the great change since, were frequent
topics of conversation. Aunt Susan was extremely intelligent, and her
conversation was full of humor; she also wrote capital letters, and kept
her nephew _au courant_ of all that happened to their common friends.
She shared in his great love and admiration for the beauties of nature,
and her enjoyment of them was intense. When walking out she noticed all
the changes of effect, and her interest never palled.
Great respect to her memory was manifested by the inhabitants of
Featherstone, high and low, who filled the church on the day of the
funeral and on the following Sunday, and who had put on mourning almost
On the Sunday night my husband went alone to the cemetery by moonlight,
and remained long at the grave.
Our cousins, Ben and Annie Hinde, both showed great sympathy, and were
also sorrowful on their own account; but Ben thought it bad for Mary and
Richard to be shut up in unrelieved sadness, and was so kind as to take
them to Leeds, Pontefract, Wakefield, and York in turn.
Aunt Susan had left a little legacy to each of her nephews and nieces,
and the rest of her savings to my husband (she had not the disposition
of the capital, which had been left in trust).
She had carefully prepared and addressed little parcels of _souvenirs_
to myself and to each of my children--jewels, seals, silver
pencil-cases, as well as some ancient and curious objects which had been
preserved as relics in the family, and which she knew we should value
The day came when we had to leave our dear cousins and the old vicarage,
so full of associations both pleasant and painful. We proceeded towards
Burnley, where a telegram from Mr. Handsley was handed to my husband at
the station. It said that Mr. Handsley was prevented from coming
himself, but that his carriage was in readiness to take us to Reedley
Lodge, where his wife was awaiting us.
We were made very welcome, and Gilbert was happy to see his friends
again after so long a separation. Thursday--our former servant in the
Highlands--came to see us in the evening, and our children, who had
heard a great deal about him, were glad of the meeting.
Mrs. Handsley was a distant relation of my husband, and the relationship
had always been acknowledged. She showed herself eager to divine how her
guests would like to spend the short time at their disposal, and to
fulfil their wishes. She was aware of my husband's faithful attachment
to old associations, both with persons and with places, and she drove us
to see his former friends who were still alive, and also the Hollins.
The children, who had heard so much about it, were greatly interested,
particularly in the room which had been their father's study. Note in
the diary: "October 26, 1882. Went to see the Brun, that I had not seen
since my marriage. Drank some of its water."
Mrs. Handsley said she had it on good authority that Mr. John Hamerton
of Hellifield Peel had expressed on several occasions his regret for the
division existing between the two branches of the family, and his wish
to become acquainted with my husband, whose works he knew and admired.
Now it had been a lifelong desire of his to visit Hellifield Peel--the
ancient tower with the romantic history, and the seat of the elder
branch of the Hamertons. There could be no better opportunity, Mrs.
Handsley suggested. At last he decided for the attempt, and on the
following morning we set out with the children.
It was Gilbert's intention merely to send his card, and beg leave to see
the tower without putting forward a claim of any kind, but on receipt of
the card we were immediately shown into the drawing-room and most
cordially received by Mr. John Hamerton and his sister. I was at once
struck--and so were Richard and Mary--by the likeness between the two
men, though they belonged to different branches of the family. My
husband might have been easily taken for a younger brother of Mr. John
Hamerton. They were both tall and spare, the elder man especially; both
were straight and of somewhat proud bearing; their eyes were blue, with
a straightforward and fearless expression. The lightness of the beard
and hair, together with the development of the forehead, completed the
resemblance, though the whole aspect of Mr. John Hamerton was that of a
country gentleman, whilst hard intellectual work had left its stamp on
the younger man's countenance. They got on very amicably together, and
we were invited to lunch. My husband eagerly desired to go over the
house, but alas for his dreams! it had been transformed according to
modern wants, and the absence of all relics from so many generations was
We walked in the park, where we admired the noble trees, the pond, and,
at some distance from the Peel, the beautiful Ribble valley, the subject
of one of Turner's landscapes.
It was now time to go to our train after our long and charming visit;
and when Mr. John Hamerton had given some photographs of Hellifield Peel
to my husband, and we had taken a friendly leave of his sister, he
accompanied us to the station, and invited us to the Peel whenever we
might come that way.
So the long breach in the family now belonged to the past, and was
replaced by mutual goodwill and friendliness. Gilbert wrote in his
diary: "October 27, 1882. One of the most delightful days of my life."
The day after, he went to Burnley with Mr. Handsley and saw the new
school before going to the Council Chamber, where a public reception had
been organized in his honor, and where he delivered an oration in
acknowledgment of many flattering speeches. The formal part of the
reception over, he shook hands with every one who came forward to speak
to him--among whom he still remembered a few.
The afternoon ended with a visit to the Mechanics' Institution, in which
he had never ceased to take great interest. He had been much moved and
gratified by the welcome offered him at Burnley, and never forgot it.
The journey to London was very trying on account of the cold, fog, and
snow. The train ploughed its way slowly and cautiously amidst the
explosive signals, which did not add to our comfort. We felt very sorry
for Mr. and Mrs. Seeley, who were sitting up for us so late into the
On the days following our arrival, my husband introduced Richard to his
friends, took him about London, and chose lodgings for him.
He also saw Mr. F. G. Stephens, who wished him to become a candidate for
the post of Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford; but he did not feel
He called upon Mr. Browning, who was unfortunately out; but as he was on
the point of closing the door, he felt a resistance, and saw a
lady--"the sister of Robert Browning," she explained--to whom his card
had been handed, and who, by mistake, had read the name as Hamilton. It
was only after looking at it more attentively that she had rushed down
the stairs to detain the visitor. He went up with her to the
drawing-room, where he found Mrs. Orr, the sister of Sir Frederick
Leighton, and they had a long and pleasant talk together. Some days
later he had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Browning.
It was lucky that Gilbert had good health just then, and Richard to go
about with him in London, for I was laid up with a bad cold--the result
of having walked a whole day in the snow making calls, without an
opportunity of drying my boots or of warming my feet. Mrs. Seeley was my
kind and thoughtful nurse, and thanks to her care I gradually recovered.
Richard came to say good-bye, and we left Nutfield House for France.
This time we did not go through Paris, but visited everything of
interest at Rouen, Dreux, Orleans, and Bourges. The diary says:
"November 27. In the evening we reached home, very happy to be back
On the 29th of the same month be received a letter from Mr. Sagar, from
which I quote the following passage:--
"Sufficient time has not yet elapsed, I hope, for you to forget us in
Burnley here, and the pleasure we had in seeing you in the Council
Chamber on that, to us, memorable Saturday.
"Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the
Institute, and we are going to celebrate this and the general success we
have had by a week's jubilee--the whole of New Year's week. The jubilee
will take the form of a conversazione, a banquet, and a general
exhibition, occupying every room of the place except two. South
Kensington authorities are sending us six cases of examples of fabrics,
pottery, etc., and about sixty frames of pictures, drawings, etc. Can
you use your influence for us in obtaining a representative
exhibition--say of etchings, or anything else of a suitable character
that might suggest itself to you--together, if possible (and this would
delight us all), with your presence, or in the absence of this, if you
can't be here, a short letter for me to read, as on the opening of the
The letter was sent in due time, and acknowledged with grateful thanks.
Mr. Seeley was so kind as to send us news of Richard from time to time;
he wrote in March: "Richard has shown me some of his drawings; I think
he is making progress. One of his last drawings seemed to me excellent;
very tender and subtle. He was down at Kinsgton with us the other day."
This opinion of Mr. Seeley's gave great pleasure to my husband, who had
always entertained doubts about the range of his son's artistic talent.
In the same month he was asked to send a biographical note for "Men of
the Time," a proof that his reputation was on the increase, and Mr.
Haden, who had just come back from America, said that his works were
held there in the highest esteem.
The book on Paris necessitated another journey, and my husband made the
time of it to coincide with the opening of the Salon. This time we
stopped at Auxerre, and visited the four churches, the museum, and the
room in which are exhibited the relics of Marshal Davoust.
The diary says: "April 30. Began this morning another diary in English,
to record the impressions which may serve for my literary work."
On May 1 we had a carriage accident which might have been serious. Our
horse took fright at sight of a steam tram, and ran away on the footpath
at a furious rate, dashing the carriage against the trees and lamp-posts
until he slipped and fell at full length on the asphalt. My husband had
been able to jump out, but a sudden jerk had prevented me from following
him at the moment, and then there was danger of being hurt between the
side of the carriage and the banging door. Gilbert had been running,
hatless, after the carriage to hold the door and enable me to jump out,
and he just succeeded as the horse slipped down and upset the carriage.
I was out in time to escape being hurt, but of course we were both a
good deal shaken, and went back to rest at our hotel.
We had hardly been a week in Paris when my husband began to suffer from
nervousness. A tramway had been laid in front of the hotel, and the
vibration prevented him from sleeping. Then spring was always trying to
him; and above all, he wished himself in the country. Mr. Seeley wrote:
"Nature evidently intended you for a savage; how in the world did you
come to be a literary man? What must Frenchmen think of you, in Paris
and miserable? Even Mrs. Hamerton must feel ashamed of you." He
acknowledged that he was more happy in a primitive sort of existence
than in one too perfectly civilized; still, he could not endure the
privation of books, and he would have felt keenly the absence of works
of art; but he was in deeper sympathy with the beauty of nature than
with artistic beauty--to be denied the last would have been a great
privation, but in the absence of the first he really could not live.
We had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Mr. Howard-Tripp, who
had recently married Mr. Wyld's daughter, and who, being a
picture-dealer, invited us to go and see his gallery in the Rue St.
Georges. There were a great many fine works that my husband greatly
admired, particularly those by Corot, Daubigny, and Troyon, and the
scheme for the book on "Landscape" having been settled with Mr. Seeley,
he begged Mr. Howard-Tripp to allow reproductions of some of the
pictures to appear in his future work. It was readily granted.
This selection of pictures for the book on "Landscape" gave the author
much additional labor; but it was better to do it now that he was in
Paris than have to come again on purpose. Mr. Seeley had offered to run
over and help with the arrangements, but was prevented by a slight
accident. He then proposed that photographs of the pictures chosen
should be sent to him, that he might have a vote.
We were very near the end of our stay in Paris, and Gilbert wanted to go
to the office of "L'Art," having some business there, and wishing to say
farewell to the manager. He had also invited the sons of M. Schmitt (who
were now in Paris) to meet us in the Square Richelieu and to dine
afterwards at a restaurant. He thought that he could manage both things
on the same day. However, we were hardly out of the omnibus when I
perceived he was unwell; but I had not time to propose anything before
he started off at such a rate that I was obliged to run to follow him:
the worst symptoms were betrayed by his gait, by the congestion of face
and neck, and by the hard stare of the eyes. It was too late to take a
carriage; he could not stop, and could not be spoken to. I saw that a
sure instinct was guiding him out of the crowded street to the by-ways
and least frequented places, and I strove to remain by his side. In the
course of about twenty minutes, I noticed a slackening in his pace, and
as I had been looking about for some refuge, I remarked, through the
open doors of a small cafe, an empty back-room, and motioned to him to
follow me there. It was almost dark, and there was a divan running along
three sides of the wall; I made him lie down upon it, and went to tell
the _dame-de-comptoir_ (who happened to be the mistress of the house)
that my husband had felt suddenly unwell and required a little rest. She
made no fuss, did not press me to send for a doctor or to administer
anything; she merely promised to prevent any one from going into that
back room, and said we might remain there undisturbed as long as was
needed. After half-an-hour my husband asked for a little brandy and
water, and gradually became himself again. We remained about two hours
in the little room, reading--or pretending to read--the newspapers, and
such was Gilbert's courage and resolution, that he went to keep the
appointment with the young men he had invited. I knew I was not to
breathe a word of what had happened, and I was miserably anxious about
the effect that a dinner in a restaurant _en vogue_ might have upon the
nerves of my poor patient. Strange to say, he bore it very well, and
played his part as entertainer quite merrily. But after dinner I longed
to get him away, and proposed to take an open carriage for a drive in
the Champs Elysees. This was accepted, and I believe he really enjoyed
We agreed to leave Paris the following evening, and I went to town alone
in the afternoon for a few things which had been postponed to the last
moment. We reached Autun on May 26, at which date the diary says: "I am
very happy to be in my home, which I prefer to all the finest palaces in
In the spring he had suffered repeatedly from great pain in one of his
legs, and had attributed it to rheumatism; now he began to feel the pain
again in the left foot, and it soon became so acute that the doctor was
sent for. He said it was an attack of gout, but gave hope of an ultimate
cure, because the patient's constitution was not a gouty one. The cause
of the attack was insufficient exercise in the open air. He prescribed a
severe regimen, less sedentary work, and as much walking and riding as
For twenty-one nights my husband could not go to bed, but remained
stretched on a couch or sitting in an arm-chair; when the pain was less
severe he laid himself down upon the bed for a short time, but he hardly
ever got to sleep. His fortitude and patience were incredible, and he
bore the almost intolerable sufferings with admirable resignation. He
tried to read, and even to write upon a desk placed on his knees, and
talked much about his plan for the book on "Landscape."
Mr. Seeley wrote:--
"I am heartily sorry to hear of your attack of gout. But I am relieved
to hear that it is not erysipelas, which must have been alarming.
Possibly the discomfort you suffered in Paris may have been a
premonitory symptom of this attack, and you may look forward to the
enjoyment of better health when it has passed away."
Mr. Haden declared that he felt "delighted" by this attack, as
indicative of a change for the better in the constitution; he hoped that
the tendency to nervousness and insomnia would disappear, or at any rate
We were now daily expecting Richard, and Mr. Seeley had said on June 25:
"Richard was with us on Saturday, his farewell visit. We like him more
and more every time we see him." He was coming back--at my request--to
pass an examination in English, the same that his brother had passed
successfully two years ago for the _Certificat d'aptitude_, after which
he got his post of professor at Macon. I had thought that if Richard
failed as an artist he might be glad to fall back upon a professorship,
and it turned out so. His father was pleased to notice how much better
and more fluently he spoke English on his return from London; but at the
same time, after seeing the drawings done in England, he was confirmed
in the opinion that originality and invention were lacking to make a
real artist of his younger son. What ought to be said was very
perplexing: the drawings were good enough in their way, the progress
undeniable--but they were only copies, even when done from the living
model--the creative spark, the individual artistic stamp, were absent.
My husband allowed himself some time for consideration before warning
Richard that he thought him mistaken in his choice of a career.
However, after having passed a successful examination it was Richard
who, of his own accord, told his father that he felt very doubtful about
the ultimate result of his artistic studies. He believed they were begun
too late, and that his chances against students who had several years'
start were very small--they had been drawing and painting since the age
of thirteen or fourteen, whilst he was preparing himself for his
degrees. The ease with which he had carried off the _Certificat
d'aptitude_ made him sanguine about being ready for the _Agregation_ in
the course of a year, after which he would be entitled to a post in the
University. He would not abandon art, he said, but would not follow it
as a profession.
It was a great relief that the resolution should have been his own; but
it surprised Mr. Seeley considerably, and he wrote to my husband:--
"From what you tell me of his want of enjoyment in the practice of art,
the determination seems wise. I suppose we take it for granted that a
man must take pleasure in doing whatever he can do well; but there is no
reason in the world why ability and inclination should always go
together. A man with a good eye and that general ability and power of
application which make a good student may easily be a draughtsman above
the average, but it is quite intelligible that he should take more
pleasure in other studies."
At the end of August Gilbert went with Stephen and his eldest nephew,
Maurice Pelletier, for a cruise of ten days on the Saone. They were on
the new catamaran "L'Arar," and enjoyed their voyage thoroughly.
On October 2, Richard left us to go to Paris to have the benefit of _les
Cours de la Sorbonne_, as a preparation for _L'Agregation d'Anglais_;
and in December Stephen asked for a year's leave of absence from his
post, in order to pursue his English studies in London. It is therefore
conceivable that the father's health should have been impaired by
anxiety and his brain overtaxed by the numerous works he had undertaken
to meet his responsibilities. He was at the same time writing "Human
Intercourse" for Messrs. Macmillan, "Paris" for the "Portfolio," and the
book on "Landscape" was begun.
In November he had written a very long letter to Miss Betham-Edwards,
mainly in explanation of the word "sheer" used for boats, then about our
doings, and he says:--
"We have had the house upset by workpeople, but we are settled again
after a great bother, which I dreaded before, as Montaigne used to dread
similar disturbances; but now it is over I feel myself much more
comfortable and orderly, though the reform has cost me a considerable
loss of time. The rooms look prettier and are less crammed.
"I got the other day a letter of twenty pages from a cousin in New
Zealand who had never written to me for thirty years. It was the most
interesting biography of struggle, adventure, danger, hard work, and
final success. It is a great pity that the men who go through such lives
have not the literary talent to make autobiographies that can be
published. I have another cousin whose history is _quite_ as good as
'Robinson Crusoe,' and I have engaged him to write it, but he never
will. If I lived near him I could gradually get the material out of him;
but at a distance I cannot get him even to write rough notes. On the
other hand, we literary people are quite humdrum people in our ways of
life, and our autobiographies would generally be of little interest.
"I have been reading Ariosto lately in Italian, and am struck both by
his qualities and deficiencies. He is all on the surface; but what a
wealth of inventive power, and what a well-sustained, unflagging energy
and cheerfulness! The descriptions are frequently superb, and there is a
go in the style generally that is very stimulating. It is like watching
the flow of a bright, rapid, brimming river. I don't think we have any
English poet of the same kind. Spenser is rather like, but heavier, and
just lacking that brightness in combination with movement. Spenser and
Byron together contain many of the qualities of Ariosto."
The first note in the diary for 1884 says: "I must try to economize time
in all little things where economy is possible without injury to the
quality of work. I cannot economize it very much in the work itself
without risk of lowering quality."
It was a pleasure for my husband to see that his articles on the
architecture of Paris had been so favorably noticed as to bring requests
for contributions from "The Builder" and "L'Architecte." Mr. Seeley
wrote to him: "I think it is a feather in your cap that your
architectural notes should have brought you invitations to write for
My brother-in-law, M. Pelletier, had left Algiers, and was now Econome
at the Lycee at Marseilles. He had suggested that, it being possible to
go from Chalon to Marseilles by water, we might pay him a visit and see
the course of the Rhone at the same time. My husband felt greatly
tempted to accept, for more than one reason: he would be able at the
same time to take notes and to make observations on the way for the book
on "Landscape," and to come to a conclusion about the possibility of the
Rhone scheme. We might divide the places of interest into two series,
and see one of them in going and the other in coming back, with a
pleasant time of rest at our friend's in the interval.
The itinerary was carefully prepared to miss nothing on the way, and on
April 8 we left my mother in charge of the house, whilst my husband,
myself, and Mary started from Chalon, where we went on board the steamer
for Macon. My husband having often seen the town, was left to his
writing whilst I took Mary to see the church of Brou. From Macon to
Lyons we enjoyed the landscape from the deck of the steamer,
particularly Trevoux, and L'Ile Barbe as we neared Lyons.
Note in the diary: "We passed through some lovely scenery, but I came to
the conclusion never to boat with the 'Arar' below Courzon."
So long as he remained on the water or in little out-of-the-way places,
Gilbert was well enough and enjoyed himself exceedingly, but as soon as
we were obliged to stay in large towns he began to suffer; at Lyons,
having attempted to go to the Museum when it was crowded, he had to
hurry out, and it is a miracle how he managed to reach the hotel, where
he went through one of the worst attacks of nervousness in his life. It
did not last very long, and when he was well again I took Mary to
By rail we proceeded to Vienne, then to Valence and Pierre-latte,
where it was pitch dark as we got out, and raining heavily. To our
dismay we saw no sign of either omnibus or carriage. However, a man was
coming up to us in a leisurely way with a broken lantern, and he
explained that the "'bus had not come because it was raining." He led us
to a very queer--apparently deserted--hotel, where the getting of sheets
for the narrow beds seemed to be an almost insurmountable difficulty;
and as to cases for the pillows, in sheer despair of ever getting any,
we had to use clean towels out of our bags in their stead. The
double-bedded room was adorned with a gallery of pastel portraits so wan
and faded that they looked by the faint gleam of moonlight through the
shutters like a procession of ghosts; and there were so many chairs in
Mary's room, and such an immensely long table, that it must surely have
been used by the ghosts as a dining-hall. Nevertheless, we slept
soundly, had a charming excursion in the morning, and a good, though
late, _dejeuner_ afterwards, for it chanced to be the drawing of lots
for the conscription, and the hotel was crowded by famished
officials--Mayor, _adjoints_, gendarmes, officers, etc. Of course there
was nothing for unofficial people like us but to wait and catch the
dishes as they left the important table, and appropriate what might
remain upon them. There was enough for us, and the wine was
excellent,--so good indeed that we thought of having a cask sent to La
Tuilerie. The great people having departed, we were able to talk at our
leisure with the landlady, but all of a sudden we became aware that it
was getting time to go, and asked for the bill. "Oh! there was no need
for a bill, she could reckon in her head--but there was no hurry." We
explained that there was some hurry, as the carriage we had ordered
would be at the door presently.
"Mais pourquoi? pourquoi vous en aller?" exclaimed the simple woman,
with an air of consternation; "est-ce que vous n'etes pas bien ici?"
Bourg St. Andeol, where we stopped next, is a very interesting place. My
husband was particularly pleased with the little town and the Hotel
Nicolai. Our arrival created quite a stir in the sleepy, regular routine
of the little bourg, and the doors and windows it can boast of became
alive with curious eyes as we passed along the deserted streets. In an
open carriage we were driven to Pont St. Esprit, and noticed the long
lines of mulberry trees on each side of the roads; the driver explained
that they are planted to feed the silkworms, and that in two months they
would be leafless. We took the steamer again at Pont St. Esprit, late in
the following day, for Avignon. In the morning of Sunday we all went to
hear High Mass in the Cathedral, then to the Palace of the Popes, and
round the walls. In the afternoon we visited the tomb of John Stuart
Mill, and my husband left his card at the house of Miss Taylor. We then
heard music in the open air, and saw the old bridge.
It was a very pleasant fortnight that we spent at Marseilles with our
relations, the only drawback being Gilbert's uncertain health, which
prevented him from going out much; though close to the expanse of the
Mediterranean, I suppose he had the feeling expressed in the preface to
"Landscape" in these words: "The lover of wilderness always feels
confined among the evidences of a minutely careful civilization."
Towards the end of the day, when the blinding glare of sunshine was
softened, we generally went to the Vieux Port, where there was an
uninterrupted succession of picturesque scenes among sailors of all
nations and ships of every description; or to La Joliette, to watch the
arrival or departure of the Chinese vessels and other curious craft. At
other times we walked in the Pare Borelli or on the Corniche.
A novel feature in our life was the frequent visits to the theatre with
our friends. It was most remarkable that my husband should take such a
sudden fancy to the Opera; he could not account for it himself, except
by noticing that "he felt at home in it." We invariably took _fauteuils
d'orchestre_, so that he only saw the musicians, actors, and
scenery--hardly any of the occupants of the theatre, except those in the
stage-boxes. It is a curious fact that in the space of a fortnight he
heard more operas than in all the rest of his life.
He wrote the greater part of the day in a very quiet room, which M.
Pelletier, who was well acquainted with his tastes, had fitted up
accordingly at the very beginning of our visit.
On our return we stopped to see Tarascon and Beaucaire, where we had
still some friends. In the last place the director of the gas-works
obligingly showed us through the house which had been my father's. We
also visited Nimes, Orange, and Montelimart, giving a whole day to each
place. It was already very hot in the south, and the perfume of the
acacias in full bloom everywhere was almost more than we could bear,
especially at Montelimart. At Orange, after seeing the noble Roman
remains, we partly ascended the hill to see the Ventoux range of
mountains; then went on to Valence for the night. We were on board the
steamer at five in the morning, and had a delightful voyage to Lyons,
during which Gilbert took copious notes in the map-book he had prepared
on purpose. After resting a day, we went straight on to Chalon by boat,
and had a pleasant day with the captain, who invited us to _dejeuner_
with him on board.
On the whole, we were satisfied with our journey; but the information my
husband had collected on the way convinced him that the Rhone project,
as he had planned it, was utterly impracticable.
We were soon in great anxiety about our relatives at Marseilles, for we
learned that cholera had broken out there early in July. Gilbert,
without the least hesitation, immediately wrote to M. Pelletier,
inviting him and his children to La Tuilerie, where they would be safe
from the terrible scourge. Our brother-in-law readily availed himself of
the invitation for his children; but thought it his duty to remain at
his post, and set an example to the panic-stricken population.
The arrival of our nephews and niece from the very centre of
contamination did not tend to augment our popularity in the
neighborhood, and we were made to understand--very plainly--that the
house was tabooed, along with ourselves. Our milk from the farm just
opposite to our house was brought to us half-way, and deposited in the
middle of the road, where our servant had to go and fetch it--no one
amongst the inmates of the farm being sufficiently courageous either to
bring it within our walls, or to deliver it to a servant who had
approached "les Marseillais."
Ever since Richard had come home he had been steadily preparing himself
for his examination, with the help of his father. Every day they read
English poetry together, and Gilbert gave him all the necessary
information as to the meaning, rhythm, and structure.
In moments of relaxation he joined the family circle, frequently
enlivened by the presence of a young couple, M. and Mme. Pochon, who had
recently come to live at the schist-works, where the husband was
managing engineer. The lady had a charming voice, and used to sing in
the church with Mary, who played the harmonium. This led to an intimacy,
and with an additional singer and pianist in the person of my niece we
often organized private concerts, in which my husband took great
pleasure. There was nothing he enjoyed more than such private
recreation, except perhaps the satisfaction of taking trouble to make
things agreeable to others. Here is an instance among many.
On a fearfully hot day in August he overheard a _cantiniere_ who,
talking to her husband from the top of a wagon which had just stopped
near La Tuilerie, was lamenting her inability to find a shady place for
the _dejeuner_ of the officers, who would shortly arrive. He saw at once
that he might offer these hot and weary warriors the unexpected pleasure
of a cool resting-place. So he went to the _cantiniere_, and proposed to
have the officers' table set upon the lawn, under the shady elder trees.
The woman could hardly credit such a charitable offer, and warned him
that the fresh-looking grass would certainly suffer from it; but he only
smiled, saying that it could not be helped, but that he hoped to induce
the grass to grow again with copious watering.
The table was set, chairs were brought from the house, also live
charcoal for the portable stove, and we witnessed a very entertaining
scene from behind the shutters when the regiment halted.
The Colonel began to swear and scold at sight of the white, dusty,
sultry road where the _cantiniere_ had stopped, and for a few moments
refused to listen to her explanations; but when he saw Mr. Hamerton
coming out of the garden gate to invite him inside with his brother
officers, he dismounted to salute him, and stood fixed in a state of
ecstacy before the inviting white table-cloth, looking so fresh and cool
between the green grass of the lawn and the green leaves of the trees.
The other officers shared this pleasant impression, and were profuse in
their thanks. After a short talk with the master of the house--who was
called away to his own _dejeuner_ by the bell--they drank his health,
and sat down with unfeigned satisfaction to their meal.
It was not only the lawn which was thus invaded; for there being in the
courtyard a deep well of deliciously cold water, the soldiers were not
slow to find their way to it, and after quenching their thirst and
filling up their _bidons_, they stretched themselves at full length upon
the ground wherever there was shade, either from tree or wall.
This general enjoyment of an hour's delicious rest amply compensated my
husband for the havoc done in the garden.
We were rather a numerous household then, at meal-times, with the
addition of my mother, M. Pelletier and his three children, my brother,
his wife and two little girls, so that when the youngest officer entered
the dining-room--as spokesman--to reiterate the thanks of his brother
officers, he felt abashed by so many eyes fixed upon him; still, he
managed to get through his duty--somewhat hurriedly--and soon after the
regiment was marching off; the men, now rested and refreshed, singing
lustily at the top of their voices, and waving their _kepis_ towards La
Stephen arrived for the vacation towards the middle of August; but the
suspense in which we were kept about Richard's examination was most
unfavorable to the health of his father. At last there were great
rejoicings when a telegram conveyed to us his brilliant success. He came
out second on the list, the first being a lady--Miss Williams--of whom
he had often spoken to us in high terms, having been with her as a
student at the Sorbonne, and who has since become directress of that
most useful institution, the Franco-English Guild.
We were told that Richard was the youngest _agrege_ in France, and of
course we were proud of it. Mr. Seeley wrote: "I heartily congratulate
you on Richard's great success. It is not often that a young man can so
speedily justify his choice of a career."
"Human Intercourse" was published in September, and sold well, in spite
of its cold reception by the Press. Mr. Hamerton did not allow
unfavorable criticism to disturb him much. There was only one kind of
attack that he did not bear patiently, I believe, and that was being
told that he had no _genius_. "I don't pretend to have genius; I never
said I had; then why make it a reproach?" he used to say.
There was a second edition as early as December, and I give here a
fragment of one of the numerous letters the author received, which may
prove that public opinion was more favorable to the book than the
"You have given me some pleasant hours as I read and pondered over
remarks of yours in 'Human Intercourse.' It is not the first time that
you have tinted the current of my life. I hereby certify to my
gratitude, not that I am of any account in the world, but because it
seems to me a sort of duty, and because, were our positions reversed, it
would please ME to know that I was appreciated even by a stranger. What
you say about priests and women interests me deeply as a clergyman...."
The letter contained eleven pages of confidential talk, mostly about
personal experiences in the discharge of professional duty; clearly
showing that the subject had not been treated in vain in "Human
There had been a serious strike at the schist-works of La Comaille
(close to Pre-Charmoy), and the hands, now that the winter was coming
upon them, were distressed and greatly disheartened. Mr. Hamerton tried
his best to mollify the engineer and to reason with the men, and make
them see that the strike could not bring them any advantage. At last the
workmen asked to be allowed to return to their work; but the engineer
refused to take back the promoters of the strike, among whom was the
husband of one of our former servants. The poor woman came in tears to
beseech her "bon Monsieur" to obtain M. Pochon's forgiveness, for if her
husband were kept out of work much longer her three little children
would have to starve. The landlord having already threatened to turn
them out, my husband had paid the rent of their cottage for a year, and
now he pleaded so warmly the cause of the deluded workmen to Madame
Pochon,--asking for her influence in their favor,--that together they
carried their point, and so gave comfort to several poor families. With
the exception of the two ringleaders, who had used threats and violent
language, all the hands were taken back again. Our former servant's
gratitude still survives; one of her children never fails to send the
united wishes of the family for the New Year, and the letters always
begin with, "Nos chers bienfaiteurs."
The great kindness and generosity of "L'Anglais" were so well known in
our neighborhood that the people had no hesitation in applying at La
Tuilerie for clothing, medicines, or help of any kind. Even the beggars
who came regularly, lingered after pocketing their penny in the hope of
seeing him personally as he crossed the courtyard or went out on the
road, for then--as an old woman confided to one of the maids--"On est
sur d'une piece blanche." He was entirely free from false pride, and
looked down upon no one deserving respect. One girl whom we had had in
our service for five years, and who only left us to be married, begged
as a great favor that Mary should be godmother to her child. He gave his
leave at once, being the first to recall how attached and devoted she
had been to our daughter when a baby. And when she called with her
husband, he always shook hands with them both, and offered them
He showed the same ready sympathy to the class of young authors and
artists in want of help and advice, trying to get them employment, and
helping them to improve their work. He often accepted for the
"Portfolio" articles which greatly increased his labors; for he had to
correct and to rewrite parts--if he perceived some promise of talent in
their authors. He also took the trouble of criticizing minutely numbers
of etchings and drawings, pointing out possible alterations which might
make them acceptable to the public, and by so doing he helped to form
and encouraged a great number of artists.
Mr. Seeley was anxious that the book on "Landscape" might be out in good
time for the Christmas sale, and explained the many reasons which made
it desirable; but although the author had done his best to be ready, he
began to doubt of the possibility. Having been anxious about it and
hurried, he became subject to painful attacks of palpitation. As soon as
Mr. Seeley heard of it he wrote:--
"Pray do not run any risk of ruining your health. Tell me exactly how
you stand, how much remains to be written. Then we will face the
position like sensible people, and consider what is best to be done. You
must neither risk your health by overwork nor your reputation by hasty
work. What a pity it is that you don't enjoy games! I find tennis such a
relief from worries. I have also a double tricycle, on which I ride
every morning with my garden boy. It is a capital exercise; the steering
occupies one's thoughts almost as well as a game. One can't think much
of business while going seven or eight miles an hour with the
probability that any considerable swerve will lead to an upset."
Gilbert sometimes went on a velocipede, and liked it, but did not
possess one at that time.
In November there was good news for the boys. Richard had been told by
M. Pelletier that a post at Marseilles would soon be vacant, and that he
might apply for it. He did so, and got it, whilst Stephen replaced him
at Poitiers, so that now they were both provided with good situations.
"Landscape."--The Autobiography begun.--"Imagination in landscape
painting."--"The Saone."--"Portfolio papers."
In October, 1884, all the five hundred large-paper copies of "Landscape"
had been ordered except fifty; but the last pages of MS. were not sent
off until January 30, 1885.
The author wrote to the publisher: "At last I have the pleasure of
sending you a page of MS. with 'The End' written upon it;" and as if
relieved from his task he went on to relate the following incidents:--
"There has been a curious attempt at assassination here yesterday. A
doctor named Vala was stopped by what seemed to be a nun, who asked for
a place in his gig. He stretched out his hand to take a parcel belonging
to the nun, took it, and then offered her his hand. He touched it,
thought 'That's the hand of a man,' whipped his horse, and drove off at
full speed. When at a distance he examined the contents of the parcel,
which turned out to be a loaded revolver and a dagger. He thinks the
project was to assassinate him _en route_.
"Other curious story.
"Night before last a strange man got tipsy in our village and began to
blab and talk. He asked for a bottle without a bottom, and for some
woollen rags. He was suspected of having a dynamite project, and the
mayor was fetched at one in the morning to look after him, so he
arrested him and took him to Autun at two a.m. On the way the man
coolly confessed that he was one of a dynamite gang of ten, and
threatened the mayor and the village when he got out of prison.
"So you see we have our dangers as well as you."
"Human Intercourse" was more popular in America than in England. Roberts
Brothers wrote: "We have been selling three thousand copies of 'Human
Intercourse;' does not that speak well for your popularity here? As yet
the pirates have left it alone, although the 'Intellectual Life' has
been pirated." Still, the author continued to receive many letters
testifying to the appreciation of the book by his countrymen. Mr. Wyld
said: "I have read 'Human Intercourse' from end to end, and intend to do
so more than once, taking and considering each essay separately."
Mrs. Henry Ady (Julia Cartwright) wrote that she and her husband had
been charmed with it. The book seemed to have influenced women
powerfully, for their letters about it were very numerous.
The news of Richard's health became disquieting early in the month of
January; he suffered much from headaches, and could not work. He was
well nursed at his uncle's, M. Pelletier's, by his grandmother, who
happened to be on a visit to her son-in-law. The doctor said it was a
kind of nondescript fever with cerebral and typhoid symptoms, to which
young people not acclimatized to Marseilles were very liable on settling
there. In Richard's case there had been a predisposition on account of
the hard work he had gone through for the _Agregation_. He had looked as
if he bore it easily while it lasted; but the strain had been more
severe than he was aware of; and two years after his recovery he told me
that he had never felt the same since that illness at Marseilles.
In February, Miss Betham-Edwards having sent a volume of her poems to my
husband, he wrote in acknowledgment:--
"I have read your book in the evenings and with pleasure, especially
some pieces that I have read many times. 'The Wife's Prayer,' for
one, seems to me quite a perfect piece of work; and not less perfect
in another way, and quite a different may, is 'Don. Jose's Mule,
Jacintha.' The delicate humor of the latter, in combination with
really deep pathos and most finished workmanship, please me
immensely. Besides this, I have a fellow-feeling for Don Jose,
because I have an old pony that I attend to myself always, etc.,
"I have been vexed for some time now by the tendency to jealous
hostility between France and England. I had hoped some years ago that
the future might establish a friendly understanding between the two
nations, based upon their obvious interest in the first place, and
perhaps a little on the interchange of ideas; but I fear it was
illusory, and that at some future date, at present undeterminable, there
will be another war between them, as in the days of our fathers. I have
thought sometimes of trying to found an Anglo-French Society or League,
the members of which should simply engage themselves to do their best on
all occasions to soften the harsh feeling between the two nations. I
dare say some literary people would join such a league. Swinburne very
probably would, and so would you, I fancy, I could get adhesions in the
French University and elsewhere. Some influential political Englishmen,
such as Bright, might be counted upon. I would have begun the thing long
since; but I dread the heavy correspondence it would bring upon me. I
would have a very small subscription, as the league ought to include
working men. Peace and war hang on such trifles sometimes that a society
such as I am imagining might possibly on some occasion have influence
enough to prevent a war. It should be understood also that by a sort of
freemasonry a member of the society would endeavor to serve any member
of it belonging to the other nation.
"I don't know if you have observed how harshly Matthew Arnold writes of
France now. He accuses the whole nation of being sunk in _immorality_,
which is very unfair. There are many perfectly well-conducted people in
France; and why does not Arnold write in the same strain against Italy,
which is more immoral still? The French expose themselves very much by
their incapacity for hypocrisy--all French faults are _seen_."
The winter was very cold, and all the ponds were covered with ice,
affording good opportunity for skating. My husband undertook to teach
Mary to skate, and they often went on the ice together.
"Landscape" was published on March 12, and on the 19th all the
large-paper copies were gone, and the small ones dropping off daily.
The author wrote to Mr. Seeley:--
"I am glad 'Landscape' is moving nicely. Nothing is more disagreeable to
an author than to see an enterprising publisher paid for his trust and
confidence by anxiety and loss, especially when the publisher is a
friend. Failure with this book would have been especially painful to me,
as I should have attributed it in great part to my slowness with the
MS., and consequent want of punctuality."
Mr. P. Q. Stephens said: "The book is a superb affair, and, as far as I
have seen it, deserves all praise."
R. L. Stevenson wrote:--
"BOURNEMOUTH. _March_ 16, 1885.
"My Dear Hamerton,--Various things have been reminding me of my
misconduct; first, Swan's application for your address; second, a sight
of the sheets of your 'Landscape' book; and last, your note to Swan,
which he was so kind as to forward. I trust you will never suppose me to
be guilty of anything more serious than an idleness, partially
excusable. My ill-health makes my rate of life heavier than I can well
meet, and yet stops me from earning more. My conscience, sometimes
perhaps too easily stifled, but still (for my time of life and the
public manners of the age) fairly well alive, forces me to perpetual and
almost endless transcriptions. On the back of all this, any
correspondence hangs like a thundercloud, and just when I think I am
getting through my troubles, crack, down goes my health, I have a long,
costly sickness, and begin the world again. It is fortunate for me I
have a father, or I should long ago have died; but the opportunity of
the aid makes the necessity none the more welcome. My father has
presented me with a beautiful house here--or so I believe, for I have
not yet seen it, being a cage bird, but for nocturnal sorties in the
garden. I hope we shall soon move into it, and I tell myself that some
day perhaps we may have the pleasure of seeing you as our guest. I trust
at least that you will take me as I am, a thoroughly bad correspondent,
and a man, a hater, indeed, of rudeness in others, but too often rude in
all unconsciousness himself; and that you will never cease to believe
the sincere sympathy and admiration that I feel for you and for your
"About the 'Landscape,' which I had a glimpse of while a friend of mine
was preparing a review, I was greatly interested, and could write and
wrangle for a year on every page: one passage particularly delighted me,
the part about Ulysses--jolly. Then, you know, that is just what I fear
I have come to think landscape ought to be in literature: so there we
should be at odds. Or perhaps not so much as I suppose, as Montaigne
says it is a pot with two handles, and I own I am wedded to the
technical handle, which (I likewise own, and freely) you do well to keep
for a mistress. I should much like to talk with you about some other
points; it is only in talk that one gets to understand. Your delightful
Wordsworth trap I have tried on two hardened Wordsworthians, not that I
am not one myself. By covering up the context, and asking them to guess
what the passage was, both (and both are very clever people, one a
writer, one a painter) pronounced it a guide-book. 'Do you think it
unusually good guide-book?' I asked. And both said, 'No, not at all!'
Their grimace was a picture when I showed the original.
"I trust your health and that of Mrs. Hamerton keep better; your last
account was a poor one. I was unable to make out the visit I had hoped
as (I do not know if you heard of it) I had a very violent and dangerous
hemorrhage last spring. I am almost glad to have seen death so close
with all my wits about me, and not in the customary lassitude and
disenchantment of disease. Even thus clearly beheld, I find him not so
terrible as we suppose. But, indeed, with the passing of years, the
decay of strength, the loss of all my old active and pleasant habits,
there grows more and more upon me that belief in the kindness of this
scheme of things, and the goodness of our veiled God, which is an
excellent and pacifying compensation. I trust, if your health continues
to trouble you, you may find some of the same belief. But perhaps my
fine discovery is a piece of art, and belongs to a character cowardly,
intolerant of certain feelings, and apt to self-deception. I don't think
so, however; and when I feel what a weak and fallible vessel I was
thrust into this hurly-burly, and with what marvellous kindness the wind
has been tempered to my frailties, I think I should be a strange kind of
ass to feel anything but gratitude.
"I do not know why I should inflict this talk upon you; but when I
summon the rebellious pen, he must go his own way: I am no Michael
Scott, to rule the fiend of correspondence. Most days he will none of
me: and when he comes, it is to rape me where he will.
"Yours very sincerely,
"ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON."
Mr. Seeley wrote:--
"My brother the Professor has been staying with us and reading the
'Graphic Arts' and 'Landscape' most assiduously. He was deeply
interested, and said they seemed to him most important works, giving him
views about art which had never entered his mind before. He seems to
feel that you are doing in Art what he is doing in History."
For the present, Mr. Hamerton had no great work in hand. There was the
usual writing for the "Portfolio," and he had been asked for articles by
the editors of "Longmans' Magazine" and the "Atlantic Monthly," but he
had not yet made up his mind as to the subject of a new important book,
and was discussing various schemes both with Mr. Seeley and Mr. Craik.
In one of his letters to Mr. Seeley he said:--
"I have sometimes thoughts of writing a book (not too long) on the
Elements or Principles of Art Criticism, in the same way as G. H. Lewes
once wrote a series of papers for the 'Fortnightly' on the Principles of
Success in Literature. I think I could make such papers interesting by
giving examples both from critics and artists, and from various kinds of
art. It would add to the interest of such papers if they had a few
illustrations specially for themselves, and as I went on with the
writing I could tell you beforehand what illustrations might be useful,
though I cannot say beforehand what might be required. I should make it
my business to show in what real criticism, that is worth writing and
worth reading, differs from the hasty expression of mere personal
sensations which is so often substituted for it; and I would show in
some detail how there are different criteria, and how they may be justly
or unjustly applied, giving examples. The articles might be reprinted
afterwards in the shape of a moderate-sized book like my 'Life of
Turner,' but about half as thick, and if we kept the illustrations small
they might go into the book. Such a piece of work would have the
advantage of giving me opportunities for showing how strongly tempted we
all are to judge works of art by some special criterion instead of
applying different criteria. For example, I remember hearing a man say
before a picture that told a story that 'its color was good, and, after
all, the color was the main thing in a picture.' Another would have
criticised the drawing of the figures, a third the composition, a fourth
the handling. Lastly, it might have occurred to some one to inquire how
the story was told, and whether the artist had understood the story he
had to tell.
"I remember being in an exhibition with Robinson, the famous engraver,
more than twenty, or perhaps thirty, years ago, and was very much struck
by a criticism of his on a picture which seemed to me very good in many
respects, though the effect was a very quiet one. He said, 'There's no
light and shade;' and the want of good, strong oppositions of light and
dark that could be effectively engraved seemed to him quite a fatal
defect, though on looking at the work in color the absence of these
oppositions did not strike me, as other qualities predominated. Here was
the engraver's _professional_ point of view interfering with his
judgment of a picture that was good, but could not be engraved
"Then we have the interference of feelings quite outside of art, as when
Roman Catholics tolerate hideous pictures because they represent some
saint, although they have really been painted from, a hired model, and
only represent a saint because the artist, with a view to sale, has
given a saint's name to the portrait of the model.
"Also there is the judgment by the literary criterion, which is often
applied to pictures by thoughtful and learned people. They become deeply
interested in one picture because it alludes (in a manner which seems to
them intelligent) to something they know by books, and they pass with
indifference better works that have no literary association.
"Then you have the judgment of pictures which goes by the pleasure of
the eyes, and tastes a picture with the eyes as wine and good cooking
are tasted by the tongue. I believe this ocular appreciation is nearer
to the essential nature of art than the literary or intellectual
appreciation of it. _Vide_ Titian's pictures, which never have anything
to say to the intellect, but are a feast to the eyes.
"Then you have the _scientific_ criterion, which judges a landscape
favorably because strata are correctly superposed, their dip accurately
given, and 'faults' noticed. In the figure this criticism relies greatly
"I have jotted down these paragraphs roughly merely to show something of
the idea, but of course in the work itself there would be much more to
be said--other criteria to examine, and a fuller inquiry to be gone into
about these. I should rely for the interest of the papers, and for their
_raison d'etre_ in the 'Portfolio,' very much upon the examples alluded
to, both in quotations from critics and in references to works of art.
"With regard to the papers on Landscape Painters--if I wrote the
introductory chapter it would be on landscape-_painting_ as an art, not
so much on the painters. I should trace something of its history, but
should especially show how it differs from figure-painting in certain
conditions. For example, in figure-painting composition does not much
interfere with truthful drawing, as a figure can always be made to
conform to desired shapes by simply altering its attitude and putting it
at a greater or less distance from the spectator, but in landscape
composition always involves the re-shaping of the objects themselves.
Again, color is of much more sentimental importance in landscape than in
the figure. _Purple_ hills, a _yellow_ streak in the sky, and _gray_
water produce together quite a strong effect on the poetical
imagination, whereas the same colors in a lady's dress are but so much
millinery. If the landscape is engraved it loses nine-tenths of its
poetical significance; if the portrait of the lady is engraved there is
only a sacrifice of some colors.
"_October_ 8, 1885."
Meanwhile, it occurred to him that he might undertake his autobiography,
and stipulate that it should only be published after his death. He told
me that his health being so uncertain and his earnings so precarious, he
had thought the autobiography might be a resource for me in case of his
premature decease, as he saw clearly that notwithstanding the
considerable sums which his recent successes had brought him, it was not
likely that he should ever save enough to leave me independent.
As he had himself introduced the subject, I led him to consider Mary's
future prospects in life, and said that Stephen and Richard being now
provided with situations, we ought to think of their sister. Her musical
education had now reached such a point that no teaching afforded by
Autun could be of any value to her, and it was my desire that she might
have the advantage of instruction and direction in her studies from one
of the best professors at the Conservatoire of Paris. I realized that it
would be a great tax, and a no less great sacrifice for my husband to be
left alone while I should be in Paris with Mary; but I also knew that he
never shrank from what he considered a duty--and we both agreed that it
was a duty to put our daughter in a position to earn her living, if
circumstances made it necessary.
Accordingly I inquired who was thought to be the best executant on the
piano in Paris, and we had it on good authority that it was M.
Delaborde, Professor at the Conservatoire, with whom we corresponded
immediately. Although we had friendly recommendations, he would not
pledge himself to anything before examining Mary, and we started for
Paris in some uncertainty. I had engaged a little apartment at the Hotel
de la Muette, where we were known, and a pleasant room looking on the
garden had been reserved for us, not to inconvenience other people by
I knew the result of the examination would give Gilbert great pleasure,
so I gave him every detail about it. M. Delaborde, who has the
reputation of being extremely severe and somewhat blunt, was most kind
and encouraging. After making Mary play to him for an hour, he said:
"That will do; there remains a good deal to be done and acquired, but
you _may_ acquire it by hard work and good tuition in three years. I
consent to take you as one of my pupils, but I must let you know at once
that I am very exacting. Don't be afraid of me, for I see that you are
industrious, and that you really _love_ music. And now I am going to pay
you a compliment which has its value, coming from me--I find no defect
to correct in your method." After that he gave us a long list of music
to be bought for practice, and said we might come twice a week. He also
inquired what direction I wished her studies to take, and whether she
intended to give lessons. I answered that I wished her studies to be of
the most serious character, exactly as if she were preparing herself to
be a music-teacher, though it was not her parents' present intention,
but because one never was certain of the future. He perfectly understood
my wishes, and was also pleased to notice his new pupil's partiality for
classical music. Strange to say--and I did not fail to convey the
important fact to her father--Mary, who was so easily frightened, felt
perfectly at ease with M. Delaborde, and besides her sentiment of
unbounded admiration for his talent, she soon came to have a great
liking for himself. Her father was very glad--for her sake
especially--that she should have the satisfaction of seeing her efforts
taken _au serieux_, and appreciated by such an authority as M.
Delaborde. He often said that one of the greatest satisfactions in life
was to be able to do something _really well_, better than most people
could do it, and he was happy in the thought that music would give that
satisfaction to his daughter. About music he had written to Mr.
"I was always in music what so many are in painting--simply practical.
In my youth I was a pupil of Seymour of Manchester for the violin, and
thought to be a promising amateur, but I have played far more music than
I ever talked about. I don't at all know how to talk or write about
music. It seems to me that it expresses _itself_, and that nothing else
can express it."
After an absence of five weeks Gilbert was very glad to see us back, and
to hear that M. Delaborde had been very encouraging to Mary. At the end
of the last lesson he had said: "A l'annee prochaine; je suis certain
que vous reviendrez: vous avez le feu sacre."
Several projects of books had occurred to Mr. Hamerton, which he
submitted to his publishers for advice. He had thought of "Rouen," but
Mr. Craik had answered: "Your name is a popular one, and anything coming
from you is pretty sure of a sale. But we should consider whether even
your name will persuade the public to buy this book on Rouen." It was
abandoned for the consideration of a work on the "Western Islands," to
which Messrs. Macmillan were favorable.
Mr. Seeley was suggesting the "Sea" as a subject that he might treat
with authority from an artistic point of view, but he feared he had not
had sufficient opportunity of studying it, and received this answer:
"Your letter of this morning has suggested to me another scheme--a
series of articles on 'Imagination in Landscape Painting.'" The idea
pleased my husband very much, and as he reflected about it he began a
sort of skeleton scheme for its treatment.
His own imagination about landscape was truly marvellous. Since he had
been deprived of the power to travel, he was continually dreaming that
he had undertaken long and distant voyages, in which he discovered
wondrously beautiful countries and magnificent architecture. He often
gave me, on awaking, vivid descriptions of these imaginary scenes, which
he remembered in every detail of composition, effect, and color, and
which he longed, though hopelessly, to reproduce in painting.
He was now writing in French a life of Turner for the series of "Les
Artistes Celebres," published by the "Librairie de l'Art." It was not a
translation from his English "Life of Turner," but a new, original, and
much shorter work, about which he wrote to Mr. Seeley:--
"I am writing a book in French--a new life of Turner, not very long. I
find the change of language most refreshing. Composition in French is a
little slower for me, but not much, and as I am a great appreciator of
good French prose, it is fun to try to imitate (at a distance) some of
Years after, writing about this same "Life of Turner," he said to Mr.
"The insularity of the English that you speak of is not worse than the
insularity of the French. When I wrote my 'Life of Turner' for the
'Artistes Celebres' series, I was asked to reduce the MS. by one third,
for the reason that the thicker numbers were only given to great
artists. The sale was very moderate, as so few French people care
anything about English art."
When the first chapters of "Imagination in Landscape Painting" reached
Mr. Seeley, he said: "I like your opening chapters much, and I feel glad
that I have set you on a good subject."
As usual during the vacation, my husband went on the Saone with Stephen
and Maurice for a fortnight. "L'Arar" had been greatly improved, but was
still to undergo new improvements while laid up for the winter. On
coming back home Gilbert wrote to Mr. Seeley:--
"Stephen, my nephew Maurice, and myself have just returned from an
exhibition on the Saone in my boat, which turned out delightful. We had
considerable variety of wind and weather, including a very grand
thunderstorm with tremendous wind (of short duration). We were just near
enough to a port where there was an inn to be able to take refuge in
time. The boat would have ridden out the storm on the water, scudding
under bare poles of course; but I have seen so many telegraph-poles and
trees struck by lightning, that I apprehended the possibility of its
striking one of our masts. At the inn we had dinner, and during the
whole of dinner, between five and six p.m., we had a splendid view of
Mont Blanc through our open window--first with all its snows rosy, and
afterwards fading into gray. As there were no beds in the inn we went on
by night, first in total darkness and afterwards in moonlight, beating
against the wind, but the wind falling altogether and rain coming in its
place, and the nearest inn being twelve kilometres away, we slept on the
boat under a tent, and were comfortable enough though it rained all
night. Next morning we were under sail at seven, and had a delightful
day. A curious thing about that night was a swarm of ephemerae so dense
that it was like a blinding snowstorm. I could hardly see to steer for
them; they hit my face like pelting rain. They fell on the deck, till it
was covered an inch deep, and two inches deep in parts. Next morning
Stephen, on cleaning the deck, rolled them up into large balls, which he
threw into the river. The people call them _manna_.
"We exercised ourselves in all ways, going out for manoeuvers against
the wind when it was worst, rowing in dead calms, or towing the boat
from the shore, as there is a towing-path all along one side, so we need
never be quite stopped. The boat behaved capitally, and as the lads
became better drilled they did the sailing business better together. My
health kept wonderfully well in spite of (or perhaps in consequence of)
a good deal of work and some hardship. I did a lot of sketches, and
amused myself particularly with drawing the delicate distances.
Yesterday, on our return, we met by appointment a picnic party at
Norlay, and walked ten kilometres under drenching rain to see a natural
curiosity called the 'end of the world,' where limestone cliffs end in a
sort of semi-circle.
"It is believed to be a creek of an ancient lake or sea. The cliffs are
evidently undermined by waves, and hang over. The ground in the middle
is full of beautiful pastures and vineyards, with lovely groups of trees
and a stream, and two very picturesque villages."
The different methods which had been tried for producing manuscript in
duplicate had all proved distasteful and unsatisfactory. My husband was
particularly irritated by the delay caused by having to press down the
hard lead-pencil or stiletto. He could not bear any slow process for
expressing the swiftly running thoughts, and he tried another plan which
enabled him to write very nearly as fast as the ideas came. Using glazed
paper and a soft pencil he made a rough draft without attempt at polish
in style, merely fixing the thoughts. This he corrected at leisure, and
copied with a particular kind of ink which was said to yield
half-a-dozen copies upon moist paper put under a screw-press. But the
result was very imperfect, and took too much time, and finally he used
to have his corrected MS. copied by a professional typewriter. This plan
was by far the most satisfactory, as, by relieving him from the drudgery
of copying, it allowed more time for painting, and a rather important
picture of Kilchurn Castle was begun, to be hung on the staircase.
In February "French and English" was begun. My husband was particularly
qualified to give an impartial comparison of the habits, institutions,
and characteristics of the two nations, on account of his sympathies
with both, and his intimate knowledge of the French language and long
residence in France, during which his inquisitive mind had been
gathering endless information about the public institutions of the
country. He had made himself perfectly acquainted with French politics,
and followed with great interest all current events.
The system of public instruction in France had become familiar to him
through M. Pelletier (who had been a member of the University from his
youth); and he had not neglected to learn from the several ecclesiastics
with whom he was acquainted, what he wanted to know about the
constitution of the Roman Catholic Church and clergy.
In the same way his military friends told him what he cared to learn of
the army. He had for a neighbor M. de Chatillon (cousin of the poet and
painter, A. de Chatillon), a retired captain, who had been in the
Crimea, and was wounded in the Franco-Prussian War; also a friend and
visitor, another captain, M. Kornprobst, with whom he made the voyage on
the Saone. The colonel of the regiment quartered at Autun, M. Mathieu,
who had fought by the side of the English in the Crimea, came sometimes
too, to talk about past days, and recalled among other things with
gratitude and admiration the fare of which he had partaken on board an
English man-of-war. Mr. Hamerton had only to put questions to one of
these officers to obtain full information upon any point of French
military organization. As regards national characteristics in
individuals, he had a rich accumulation of notes and observations, both
in his pocket-books and in his mind. Very observant from early youth,
this tendency had been quickened by the contrasts that life in foreign
parts constantly presented.
It had been decided that the Rhone voyage should be abandoned for one on
the Saone; and Mr. Hamerton was in active correspondence with Mr. Seeley
about the choice of an artist to illustrate the book. Both of them were
great admirers of Mr. Pennell's talent, and they agreed to make him a
Mr. Pennell, having been overworked and feeling rather nervous and
unwell, thought that the contemplated voyage would be the very thing to
restore his health. He would have perfect tranquillity on the peaceful
river, and he might sketch at his leisure, without hurry; so he gladly
accepted the hospitality offered him on board the "Boussemroum."
The plan of accommodation on this boat has been explained exhaustively
by the author of "The Saone," but I think I may give a few brief
indications of the arrangements for readers unacquainted with the book.
Mr. Hamerton hired a large river-boat called the "Boussemroum," and two
men to manage it and do the cooking. A donkey, "Zoulou," was kept on
board to tow the boat when necessary, and in the course of the voyage a
boy, "Franki," was engaged to drive "Zoulou." Three tents had been
erected for the passengers, and an awning was placed over part of a
raised platform to shelter the artists at work from the too generous
heat of the June sunshine. Each tent was furnished as a simple bedroom,
with an iron bedstead and a hammock, washing utensils, chest, table for
drawing or writing, and mats on the floor.
Besides Mr. Pennell's tent and Mr. Hamerton's, another had been reserved
for Captain Kornprobst, who was to undertake the duties of the
commissariat. There was nothing so difficult for my husband as to turn
his mind from intellectual or artistic thoughts to domestic or business
affairs; he was aware of it, and dreaded interruptions--and the fear of
interruptions--as well as the responsibility of keeping his floating
home so regularly provisioned as to save its inmates from becoming,
occasionally, a prey to hunger or thirst. Humbly confessing his
shortcomings, he begged his friend, Captain Kornprobst, to join the
expedition as Purser and General Provider, feeling confident that if he
consented everything would _marcher militairement_. It was an immense
relief when the Captain declared himself ready and willing to assume
Mr. Pennell, having been suddenly obliged to go to Antwerp for a series
of drawings, could not be free at the time of starting. On the other
hand, Captain Kornprobst had been summoned, the boat hired, and the
men's wages were running, so the voyage was begun, on the understanding
that Mr. Pennell would join the party as soon as he could leave Antwerp,
probably at Corre on the Upper Saone.
On arriving at Chalon-sur-Saone, on May 31, Mr. Hamerton was met by the
Captain, and they proceeded at once to the "Boussemroum," which they put
in order as it moved away. It was only at Gray, on June 6, that Mr.
Pennell came on board.
It has been said in some notices of Mr. Hamerton's life that he read but
little; nothing could be more opposed to truth; the fact is, that he was
constantly attempting to bind himself by rules to give only a certain
proportion of his time to reading, and when he travelled he was sure to
have among his luggage a large trunk of books. Here is a list, for
instance, of the works he took with him on the Saone:--
Royau, "A travers les Mots."
No Name Series, "Signor Monaldini's Niece."
"Italian Conversation Book."
Arnold, "Light of Asia."
Auguez, "Histoire de France."
St. Simon, "Louis XIV. et sa Cour."
Paradol, "La France Nouvelle."
Caesar, "De Bello Gallico."
Palgrave, "Golden Treasury."
Milton, do. (modern edition).
Stevenson, "Inland Voyage."
Stevenson, "Travels with a Donkey."
Byron, "Poems" (4 vols.).
Helps, "Social Pressure."
Gerson, "De Imitatione."
The adventures of the voyage having been narrated in "The Saone," I
shall only mention the incident of the arrest, because it turned out to
be a lucky thing that I just then happened to be in Paris. It must be
explained that M. Pelletier, having been entrusted with the organization
of one of the great new Lycees--the Lycee Lakanal at Sceaux--had been
deprived of his usual vacation in 1885, and, as a little compensation,
he came to spend the Easter of 1886 with us, and took away Mary, who was
to stay with him for her yearly music-lessons. At the end of the month I
took advantage of my husband's absence to go and see the Paris Salon,
and to bring back our daughter.
On June 25, while we were at lunch with M. Pelletier and his children,
and making merry guesses as to the probable whereabouts of the voyagers
on the Saone, there came a telegram for my brother-in-law, who said to
me, after reading it: "What would you say if they were arrested as
spies?" We all laughed at the idea, and I answered that it would be
capital material for a chapter. "Well then, since you take it this way,
I may as well tell you that it is a fact, though your husband wishes it
to be kept from you till he is released."
I began to fear that he might be imprisoned, and that his nervousness
would return in confinement. From this point of view the consequences
seemed alarming, and I wondered what would be the best plan to set him
free as soon as possible.
My brother-in-law was for applying to the English Ambassador, but I felt
pretty sure that my husband would write to him, and that negotiations in
that quarter would take some time. So I went straight to one of our
friends who had a near relation holding an important military post at
the Elysee, and who might be of great help on this occasion. I told my
friend what had happened, and he promised to go and explain matters to
his relative, and to obtain speedily an order of release for the unlucky
travellers. The same evening I had a note to the effect that the
Minister of War had sent the desired order by telegram.
The author of "The Saone" has explained why the voyage was interrupted
at Chalon. The second part was to be made on the "Arar," and the
erections on the "Boussemroum" were to be demolished and the tents
removed before the boat was returned to its owner; but as Mary and I had
expressed a wish to see it before the demolition, we went to Chalon,
where my husband took us on board and explained all the contrivances,
which were very ingenious.
The extraordinary appearance of the "Boussemroum" with its three large
tents attracted quite a crowd on the quay where it was moored, and as we
made our way towards it we were followed by many curious eyes.
Mr. Pennell, having been discouraged and disheartened by the loss of
time and the insecurity of his situation in France, especially since he
had failed to get an official permission to sketch at Lyons, gave up all
idea of illustrating the Lower Saone. What was to be done with the book?
Could it be published in an incomplete state and called "The Upper
Saone?" In that case the work would be of small importance, after all
the preparations, time, and money spent upon it. "Would it not be better
to ask another artist to undertake the remaining part?" asked Mr.
Seeley. But he would have to encounter the same difficulties, and be
exposed to the same vexations--and, after all, the book might be wanting
At last Mr. Pennell offered to make drawings from the author's sketches,
and this was accepted. My husband had already in his possession a great
number of studies taken at Chalon, Macon, and upon the river on previous
cruises, and they might be utilized in this way, together with those he
could still make during the vacation on the "Arar."
In the interval between the two boat voyages, Mr. Hamerton devoted
himself almost exclusively to writing "French and English" for the
"Atlantic Monthly," and "The Saone." He also took some precautions in
view of the next cruise, and when he started for it, with Stephen and
Maurice, he was provided with a passport and a recommendation from the
The voyage was a pleasant one, and ended prosperously, but it soon
became evident that the book could not be published before the next
year, mainly because the stereotype plates could not have reached
America before December, and the publishers then would still have to
print and bind the book.
Roberts Brothers said about it:--
"We are very glad you have decided to postpone the publication of the
boat voyage till next year. You will see by our account that we allow
you nothing on the cheap edition of the 'Intellectual Life.' Thank the
pirates for it.
"Mrs. Hamerton's 'Golden Mediocrity' has passed through a second
edition; the first was 1,000 copies."
This last book was a novelette that I had written at the instigation of
Roberts Brothers, and which had been corrected by my husband.
The illustrations needed for the completion of "The Saone" took a great
deal of Mr. Hamerton's time in 1886. Early in January he went to Chalon
to take several sketches, which he worked out afterwards in pen-and-ink.
We took the opportunity of this journey to see a few houses which had
been recommended to us as possible future residences, La Tuilerie
requiring expensive repairs that we were not inclined to undertake,
because every time we made any our rent was raised,--no doubt because it
was thought that just after a fresh outlay we should not be disposed to
leave. But we found the house-rents much higher about Chalon than in our
neighborhood, and although Gilbert was fond of the Saone--particularly
for boating--he was far from admiring the landscape as much as that of
the Autunois, from a painter's point of view. After much consideration
we decided to go through the unavoidable repairs, and to renew our
I suppose that the Saone voyage had directed my husband's thoughts
towards boats more than ever, for his diary is full of notes about them.
I shall only give a few to show the drift of his mind.
"Made a sketch for a possible triple catamaran.
"Made an elevation of hull for the 'Morvandelle,' using an elevation of
a quickly turning steamer in 'Le Yacht,' and _improving_ upon it.
"Made a new balancer for canoe.
"Began to prepare pirogue with marine glue before putting the
"Lengthened cross-pieces; completed beam for catamaran, adding details
"Demolished old balancer log of canoe, and began to saw it to make a
"Found that boiling wood was the best plan for bending it; steaming is
"Thought much about sails.
"Wrote a letter to 'Yacht' about invention of paper-boats."
In October he began to write for "Le Yacht" a history of catamarans,
which was highly appreciated by the readers of that paper.
In the course of that year he also wrote a long and careful review of
"L'Art" for "Longmans' Magazine," "Conversations on Book Illustrations,"
and a review of Mr. Ernest George's etchings. He also worked at the
Back to Full Books