[Manchester—Friday, 7 August 1868]

Friday August 7th We have had two or three days of glorious rain. Jamie has been to town each day & the raindrops have not been too thickset for me to catch wonderful morning rambles.

He brought down strange news this afternoon! I know we do not live by chance nor do we arrange the circumstances of life but when a friend, to whom we have been devoted as we have been to Mrs Hawthorne, listens to Gail Hamilton and allows herself to be persuaded that we have treated her dishonestly, it seems as if wonders and pains were not to be prepared for in this world by the wildest achievements of imagination. But as it is, Mrs Hawthorne complains to Mr. Hillard, and when he endeavors to assure her she is in the wrong, turns upon him and declares his personal friendship has swerved him from his proper devotion to her interests. All this towards us, too, when she has ever esteemed her best and truest. She clean forgets her husband’s faith and her husband’s wish and with the first wind of doctrine is turned aside.

Of course, with a consciousness of not only right but self-sacrifice for right, especially in her case, Ticknor & Fields stand firm and unmoved—on the other hand, “it’s the little rift within the lute” and the continual talk and trouble of an angry woman with a tongue & fame like G.H.’s makes too much difficulty. It is hard to tell where it may stop.

It appears very strange to me that this trouble should come to my husband, who is of all men most generous, especially towards these friends of his, authors, who have put their cases in his hands. He would long ago have been a rich man if he had simply taken his dues instead of being more than generous towards those whose brain-work came to him as to the most liberal and appreciative market. So it is however; there is a little cloud in this form. Heaven forbid that it shall rise to darken his horizon.

Most strange of all people Mrs Hawthorne should have proved disloyal. I know she has felt discontent for a year or two because we no longer asked the children & herself to stay in our house for long periods, but they were most fatiguing and ungrateful guests, the only redeeming pleasure being Mrs Hawthorne’s real talent and apparent happiness in our friendship. I could never do anything; but was obliged to relinquish every moment while either of them was in the house to finding congenial occupation and change of occupation for them. Mrs Hawthorne is full of talent. Her expression is peculiar for exquisiteness of choice and fluency; more especially perhaps she may be distinguished by a power of transmuting the atmosphere of common things and presenting them in a new and sublimated light; her own childish earnestness always preventing this from the charge of affectation.

It seems as if a new era were opening before me and I was to learn from the old, simply, and relinquish it. What gladness I have had! What ecstasy of friendship, with Henriette Malan Fletcher, today the victim of her own lawlessness, separated from her husband and living with a lover she has adopted in defiance of God and Man; with Mrs Hawthorne who has found herself unequal to educate her children or take care of her affairs, and in her ignorance traduces his best friends; with Mary Dodge, “sauvage” always but turning suddenly in her rage at which she supposes to be too little payment made in return for her best services to literature although Mr. Fields has paid her $14,000 in round sums.

I won’t continue the list any farther, perhaps I have named all;—certainly we have been peculiarly situated. On the other hand what a dear noble name this year has added to our list of friends. It is not ingratitude it is only in sadness that I give the above list. I know as years roll on they will suffer more, much more than we, and whatever has been real in our intercourse still remains, awaiting the golden day and the wide Beyond.

We have three dear friends in the house with us. This is a bad disease Dr. Bartol has! It is a disease of the will. He has overworked his mind & nervous energy, neither of them strong enough for his rough usage, (for he has a strange rough way of using himself and of living,) a kind of sauvagerie which has almost caused his death.

Mrs Bartol, an old lady of 65, with a little white bonnet which she wears out to drive on a road where we meet all kinds of fine people, with a heart of gold set in a queer deformed nervous little body and Lissie, the jewel and support of them both, a young woman of truth, integrity, self-sacrifice and talent (she paints ably) what a change and happy exchange are these for some people we have both known. Deo Gratias.


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 5-18-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top