[Boston—Sunday, 1 March 1868]

Sunday March 1st What a week we have had! I feel utterly weary this morning although I did start up with exceeding bravery and walked four miles just after breakfast in order to see that the flowers were right at church and to ask some people to dinner today who could not however come. The air was very keen and exciting and I did not know I was tired until I came back and collapsed.

Our supper came off Thursday but without Dickens. His cold had increased upon him seriously and he was really ill after his long difficult reading.

But Longfellow was perfectly lovely, so easily pleased and so deeply pleased with my little efforts to make his day a festival-time. Dickens & Whittier both sent affectionate and graceful notes when they found they really could not come.

Our company stayed until two a.m. Emerson never more talkative and good. He is a noble purifier of the social atmosphere, always keeping the talk simple as possible but up to the highest pitch of thought & feeling.

Friday the Dana girls Sallie & Charlotte passed the night with us and went to the reading and shook hands with Mr. Dickens afterward. They were perfectly happy when they went away yesterday. How I do like to have such bright sweet girls alongside—especially when they are girls of experiences & character like these. Mr. Dana’s life is a hard one, with this large family and the misfortune of a law-suit on his hands which is still doubtful respecting his edition of “Wheaton’s International Law” which Lawrence (son I believe of the former editor) has declared not only an unjustifiable interference with the first edition but a careless and untrue performance. This suit together with his labors in the legislature have made it impossible for the poor man to attend to his practice and his income must be seriously reduced; added to which miseries his wife and eldest daughter are both invalids.

I had barely time yesterday after the girls left to dress and prepare some flowers and some lunch and make my way in a carriage first to the Parker House at Mr. Dickens’s kind request to see if all the table arrangements were perfect for the dinner. I found he had done everything he could think of to make the feast go off well and had really left nothing for me to suggest so I turned about and drove over the mill-dam following Messrs Dickens, Dolby, Osgood & Fields who had left just an hour before on a walking match of six miles out and six in. This agreement was made and articles drawn up several weeks ago signed and sealed in form by all the parties, to come off without regard to the weather. The wind was blowing strong from the North West very cold and the snow blowing too. They had turned and were coming back when I came up with them. Osgood was far ahead and after saluting them all and giving a cheer for America, discovering too that they had refreshed on the way, I drove back to Mr. Osgood keeping near him and administering brandy all the way in town. The walk was accomplished in precisely 2 hours 48 minutes. Of course Mr. Dickens stayed by his man who was beaten out and out. They were all exhausted for the snow made the walking extremely difficult and they all jumped into carriages and drove home with great speed to bathe & sleep before dinner.

At 6 o’clock we were assembled 18 of us for dinner looking our very best (I hope) at least we all tried for that I am sure and sat punctually down to an elegant dinner. I have never seen a dinner more beautiful. Two English crowns of violets were at the opposite ends of the table and flowers everywhere arranged in perfect taste. I sat at Mr. Dickens’s right hand & next Mr. Lowell. Mrs Norton sat the other side of our host and he divided his attention loyally between us. He talked with me about Spiritualism as it is called, the humbug of which excites his deepest ire although no one could believe more entirely than he in magnetism and the unfathomed ties between man and man. He told me many curious things about the traps which had been laid by well meaning friends to bring him into “spiritual” circles. But he said if I go to a friend’s house for the purpose of exposing a fraud in which she believes I am doing a very disagreeable thing and not what she invited me for. Forster & I were invited to Lord Dufferin’s to a little dinner with Hume. I refused but Forster went saying beforehand to Lord Dufferin that Hume would have no spirits about if he came. Lord Dufferin said “nonsense” and the dinner came off, but they were hardly seated at table when Hume announced that there was an adverse influence present and the spirits would not appear. “Ah” said Forster “my spirits in this case were clearer than yours for they told me before I came that there would be no manifestations tonight.”

Speaking of dreams he said he was convinced that no man (judging from his own experience which could not be altogether singular but must be a type of the experience of others) he believed no writer neither Shakspeare or Scott or any others who had ever invented a character, had ever been known to dream about the creature of his imagination. It would be like a man’s dreaming of meeting himself which was clearly an impossibility. Things exterior to oneself must always be the basis of our dreams.

This talk about characters led him to say how mysterious and beautiful the action of the mind was around any given subject. Suppose he said this wine-glass were a character, fancy it a man endue it with certain qualities and soon fine filmy webs of thoughts almost impalpable coming from every direction and yet we know not from where spin and weave around it until it assumes form and beauty and becomes instant with life.

I asked him if the Reverend Stephen Hughes were living who did the noble work he has described in that account of the Wreck of the Royal Charter. I had almost anticipated his reply: “no, he died four years ago.” How good he was! Surely he won his rest in the Lord. I inquired too about Carlovero’s friend the truly good truly generous and beautiful soul. It was Lord Dudley Stuart. He also is dead but his deed so exquisitely embalmed should not now be separated from the name, the two should shine together for a beacon-light to those who are in the dark. Government never did anything for that clergyman although he told me that he hoped his little paper might perhaps move somebody in power to help him on. “He should have been a bishop but nothing was ever done until by and by he died when there was a subscription raised for the widow of perhaps two thousand pounds in all.” He had hoped that she was already married again to another clergyman.

Mr Lowell asked him some questions in a low voice about the Country when I heard him say presently that “it was very much grown up,” indeed he should not know oftentimes that he was not in England, things went on so much the same and with very few exceptions (hardly worth mentioning) he was let alone precisely as he would have been there.

He loves to talk of Gad’s Hill and stopped joyfully from other talk to tell me how his daughter Mary arranged his table with flowers. He speaks continually of her great taste in combining flowers. “Sometimes she will have nothing but water-lilies” he said as if the memory were a fragrance.

Someone has said, “we cannot love and be wise.” I will gladly give away the inconsistent wisdom for Jamie and I are truly penetrated with grateful love to C.D.


National Endowment for the Humanities - Logo

Editorial work on The Brownings’ Correspondence is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This website was last updated on 5-20-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top