[Vevey—Friday, 10 September 1869]
Friday. Sep. 10. We were very tired and awoke late to find a soft hazy light over the lovely lake of Geneva and the day far advanced. Jamie and Mabel went to see the Nortons while Lissie and I stayed and rested and basked.
In the afternoon Mr. Norton came to see me. He was looking flushed from his walk in the warm sun between hot walls, for Vevey is a hot place to live and walk about in but I thought him looking delicate in health and certainly he was not very robust in spirit. He says he reads no American paper but The Nation (poor fellow) and when I suggested he should read the Tribune he said he wished to preserve an ideal of his country which he could not if he read the papers!!!
He was very refined and warm and sincere and altogether most interesting. He has seen Ruskin lately and found him hating America more than ever. Americans have spoiled Switzerland he says and spoil every country which they over run. The lakes of Switzerland formerly so clear have been utterly ruined and made muddy and black where they were once clear and blue by the refuse of the great hotels which have been built to accommodate Americans and by the steamboats which are required to convey Americans to the hotels.
I inquired what philanthropic scheme he held chiefly at heart now. “That of uptaking the water of the Rhone where it first falls” was Mr. Norton’s reply, “and diverting its course so as to prevent the dreadful devastations of that river.” We felt the warmest sympathy with this Quixotic idea for we had just left the valley in its white and fervid desolation and are ready to help anybody to nip the glacier of the Rhone before it is converted into a river at all which is his idea. He intends giving his theory to the Alpine Club hoping they will be able to popularize it better or more fully than he can himself.
Mr. Norton joined Mr. Carlyle in his walk in Hyde Park (which appears to be a regular thing with Mr. Carlyle in the afternoon now-a-days) a short time before he left England. Mr. Carlyle told him he was about to leave a certain number of his books to his American readers which rather surprised Mr. Norton who considered him too inimical to our institutions to wish to do anything of that nature. “Oh no, said Mr. Carlyle, only I could never see clearly any difference between the North and the South with respect to slavery except simply this; the South says “God bless you! Be a slave! and the North Damn you and be free!” After more talk in this strain he said perhaps as a people we should do better if we did not count the race of Jesus Christ as of no more value than that of Judas Iscariot.
Mr. Norton imitates his manner of speaking very well and said many more things which were less striking & preposterous but almost equally amusing. Unfortunately I no longer hold them in my memory.
A Mr. Simond has been visiting them lately, a french gentleman of ability & distinction.
Vevey was a pleasant resting-place but Paris was before us and London so we pressed on and came Friday night to Geneva. The little city was sparkling as we came into it after dark. Always beautiful it looked eminently so after our long sojourn in the more dis-furnished quarters of the earth. We had a delightful little supper “in an upper chamber” overlooking the exquisite lake which was shining with reflections of numerous lamps & colored lights.