[London—Friday, 17 June 1859]
Jamie saw Tennyson today Friday the 17th Saw St. Paul’s with Mr Parker. We went into the Crypt where Wellington lies with lamps burning about him and a magnificent stone sarcophagus over him. Nelson, Trafalgar’s hero lies behind him. After walking through the queer old streets and looking up many strange old alleys we came to 77 Wood St. where I saw dear Mrs Bennoch for the first time. At once they told us there was to be a lunch at the Lord Mayor’s at 2 o’clk and they had obtained places for us. The occasion was made in order to present Durham’s bust of the Queen to Madame Goldschmidt and it was most interesting. I could have stood looking into the face of the sweet woman who was so modestly receiving this great honor, forever.
Calm as she was exteriorly there were unmistakable signs of the deep emotion which was agitating her particularly when Mr Smith a relative of Florence Nightingale’s spoke of the pleasure Miss Nightingale felt as she heard what Mrs Goldschmidt had done for the cause in which she herself had so deep an interest. Mr Grote, the historian, made a speech but I could hear nothing of it. I amused myself however in gazing about the splendid dining hall, filled with statues, stained glass, carvings &c. The gold plate also was superb. The host and myself had a private conference after the play and concluded there was more splendor than satisfaction and although a dinner with the Lord Mayor once or twice in one’s life is a great thing to look upon, a dinner there once a week would lead me to petition for a coat and pallet in the Blue-coat school or some reputable work-house. I returned home afterward with kind Mrs Bennoch and there was Jamie just returned from an interview with Tennyson. He found the great poet in the Temple far away in an upper room with every table buried in papers and a tea-kettle on the fire. So he was when he first found him in the morning and in the same dress and position did he find him in the afternoon. Tennyson opened the door to receive him tremulously but with a determined air as if he were not the right person he should not obtain admittance. His loose collar and large grey coat gave him a like appearance to the great Christopher North but the hand alas has none of that firm health in it but already the doubting restlessness of age. He was exceedingly kind and invites us both to Farringford. We have received a note from Mrs Tennyson to the same effect. The great Alfred is proud and shy as we supposed. A man of moods also nor, uncomfortable as it is, can it be found blameworthy in him—it is manifestly the painful inconsistency of his constitution. He reduces all things to the roughest simplicity. Even in his language roughness and inaccuracy are plainly discoverable.
While we were resting and talking over a cosy tea-table Mr Bennett was announced. I had heard much of him and had read some of his poems but was not prepared to like him so much. It is a quiet style of man but with a poet’s constitution. He invited us before going, to pass the next day with him at Sydenham and hear the Handel rehearsal.
The twilights here are immensely long and finding ourselves refreshed at ½ past 8 we took a cab and drove to see Robson. He was all we had hoped—a man of genius—and a man too of such originality that description would be impossible. He creates his part often if the play be poor. The play which struck us especially was “The Porter’s Knot” in which the exquisite combination of pathos, beauty and laughter produces the effect we know in this odd life when the eyes stream with tears, and a flickering smile like the first gleam of a rainbow through the floods, plays about the mouth.