[Boston—Sunday, 3 May 1868]

Sunday Morning. It is quite true. The Steamer “Russia” reached Queenstown Thursday night and Saturday Morning came to Liverpool. This morning therefore dear C.D. is at Gad’s Hill and the good Dolby with his family at Ross. Yesterday as I felt sure C.D. was in London. What hours for him!! How can we be grateful enough for them?

Jamie last evening took down Irving’s Works to try to find a description of a summer’s thunder-storm which Dickens told him was one of the closest descriptions he knew of and one of the most vivid. Failing to find that he read me the story of the “Stout Gentleman” the scene of whose actions was laid on as wet a day as I ever experienced! We had a very wet day to compare it by, but I think Irving’s description so fine that it would bear to be laid side by side with any reality. Reading this recalled to Mr. Fields an incident told him by Leslie the painter years ago, which if it have not already leaked into print is certainly much more worthy of that questionable fortune than many things which appear & seem irrepressible in their worthlessness. He said Leslie told him he was one afternoon walking with Washington Irving in England when as they crossed a little churchyard they saw a most extraordinary stout gentleman just in front of them who presented such dorsal amplitudes and comical aspects that Irving was convulsed with laughter. Whereupon Leslie made a sketch of the same Stout Gentleman on the spot, and from this sketch which served to keep his memory green Irving afterward worked up the little paper called by that name.

A little note from Henry James tonight quite touching from its exhibition of home love and conscientious endeavor. He talked pretty squarely to dear J. yesterday about a certain critic of his son’s work, and thinking he had said too much wrote to ask forgetfulness and forgiveness.

We have all colds. The weather is still damp and cold with alternate touches of summer, the latter few enough but yet sufficient to occasion some illness.

Owen Meredith has just published two new volumes of poetry. It is an advance upon what he has done before, especially the Servian poems which have a quality which deserve the name. The volumes interest from their sincerity and true dramatic quality. He is not evolving no-end of platitudes from a fathomless consciousness which the word had just as lief, should be let alone immeasured after the sighing aspiring dissatisfied school, but he represents certain phases of history showing often real learning and always, it seems to me, an insight into the character or times he dissects. There is something, too, manly and tender and single-hearted which is most attractive in these volumes.

Today Charles Dickens is at home! Let us be grateful! Talking of dress one day on the subject coming up before C.D. I advanced the idea that English ladies were more individual in their dress and therefore dressed more beautifully than the ladies of any other nation. A New York lady disagreed and I could but yield the point that magnificence was carried further in that city then elsewhere, but with due deference to her opinion & I saw how entirely C.D. agreed with me that ideas exercised in dress as elsewhere in the end create true beauty, and this you do surely find in England. It occurred to me afterward that this was difficult ground and the very one which gives English women their reputation for bad taste, because there must be a fine reticence in the expression of the individual by externals especially when before the world. In her own house what perfect flower of womanhood can surpass an English lady? Certainly her equal can be found I believe in America or soon will be, but the specimens are rare and we have not yet a class of women, graced in womanhood, noble in wife-hood, beautiful in saint-hood. Sometimes it seems to me no woman has ever yet said or shown all it may be to be a true wife. She has testified what it is forever and wears a crown therefore, but I would say that sometimes when I reflect how true love can cause a woman to blossom and develop and bear perfect fruit not only of the body but the spirit, how from a weak unfurnished twig, green and lithe and comely but still very weak, she can grow and gather light and her lily shine perpetual like a star,—when I think of these things, I pray God to bless all women, to make them more womanly, and to elevate only those things in their eyes which shall show them most truly their heavenly mission.


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