[London—Wednesday, 10 August 1859]
Wednesday. Raining. Jamie took me with him as he went out. Stopped at J. W. Parker’s. Could not see him, the poor man is run down with business responsibilities. Read a little, while waiting in the new series of Friends in Council. Full of delightful things. Afterward went to the National Gallery. Not a large but a most choice collection. The figure of the old blind beggar and the lovely child with out-stretched hands half resentful half imploring we shall never forget. Nor those glorious Rembrandts, Turner’s, Murillo’s, Claude’s, Rubens and Titian’s. The original of our Father Gavacius by Vandyke is here too. No copies do it the slightest justice. The picture seems a miracle of art.
Overcome by our desire to see Watts’ picture of Tennyson we determined to make the effort today although our letter from Mrs Tennyson had not yet arrived because of her absence from home. We took a cab therefore and drove to Little Holland House and sent up our card. It seemed a new world opening before us as we stood under the exquisitely rural portico looking through the vine-leaves upon the little lawn. A moment before we were in London, now we were far away in some repose-ful and remote nook where only Nature and her worshippers might intrude. Soon a most polite message interrupted the charmed quiet of our enjoyment “Mr Watts was at home and would receive us with pleasure.” Not unregarded by us as we followed to the studio was the simple exquisite taste of everything within. The russet colored floors and carpets the lovely clearness of the blues and greens and the neatness of the white curtains were not lost; Nor the luxury of color in the drawing-room through which we passed Venetian and Oriental all combined, nor the fragrance of the conservatory, nor lest yet first the two pictures of Tennyson which greeted us as if in welcome as we entered the studio. Happy man to have the power so to understand and paint this supreme diamond in the coronet! Watts himself feels this. He is fine-looking, with the dress of an artist. He chiefly paints in fresco, wall-painting, which is his specialty, he says. No one else will allow him to say so however since he has proved himself the portrait painter of the world. As we stood talking before the picture an unseen door opened and a lady stepped into the room. At first we thought her dressed for a picture so lovely and so picturesque was her attire but when she came cordially forward to speak with us we found her only one of those rare exceptions in this world, a woman loving color and understanding as well as daring to use it. Her simple white boddice and flowing azure dress was such as one would like to see at home while the gay little slippers and gems about her white throat gave a festive air which was not displeasing to the whole. It was a figure for Millais and looked as if it grew up among the brain-beauties of the studio. The character too seemed to accord so well with the lovely face and figure that no contradiction of impressions marred the effect. We lingered and looked and talked as long as we thought would do and then tore ourselves unwillingly away from the fascinations of Little H. H.