[Boston—Wednesday, 9 November 1870]

Wednesday Nov. 9. We have had a reception today for Miss Nilsson today. Longfellow & Henry Ward Beecher were here, beside Perabo and many excellent & talented people nearly 60 in all. It was a curious fact to give out 70 invitations and have sixty (or nearly that) present.

Miss Nilsson, Mrs Richardson (her attendant), Alice Longfellow, Longfellow & ourselves sat down to lunch afterward, when she sang snatches of her loveliest songs and talked and laughed and was as graceful & merry—and sweet as ever a beautiful woman knew how to be. She is now 27 years old. Her light hair, deep blue eyes, full glorious eyes, are of the northern type; but her broad intellectual brow, her beautiful teeth, and strong character, belong only to the type of genius and beauty. She is not only brave but almost imperious, I fancy, at times, a manner quite necessary I dare say to protect her from vulgar curiosity & audacity. We heard her last night sing “Auld Robin Grey” not only with exquisite feeling, but the pronunciation of the Scottish dialect appeared to us very remarkable. When we spoke to her of it she said “Yes, but there is much like that too in the Swedish dialect. When I first came up a peasant to Stockholm to learn to sing, I had the dialect very bad indeed and it was long time before I lost it. Then I went to school in France and now my accent & dialect are French. When I went back home and talked with French dialect they said to me “Now Christina don’t be absurd” but I could not help it. I catch everything. I have never studied English in my life. I am learning American fast. I have learned “I guess” and I shall soon say “I reckon” by the time I come back from the West.” Vieuxtemps the violinist she appreciates and enjoys highly as an artist. Of Ole Bull she says “he is a charlatan--Ah you will excuse me, but it is true.” Of Viardot-Garcia she has the highest admiration. Nothing ever gave her higher delight than Viardot’s compliment after hearing her sing “Mignon”-- It was uncalled for, unexpected and from the heart. She rehearsed what we recall so well Viardot’s plain face, poor figure—and great genius triumphant over all. We hear poor Viardot has lost her fortune by this sad French war.

I have set down Nothing which can recall the strong sweet beauty of Nilsson. She is a power to command success—fine and strong & sweet. Her face glowed and responded and originated in a swift yet gentle way as one person after another was presented that was a study and a lesson. She neither looked nor seemed tired until the presentations were ended when she said she was hungry—“We have had no breakfast yet, nothing to eat all day.” “Ah, I shall know again what it means when Mrs Fields asks me to lunch at one o’clock”! with an arch look at me. I was extremely penitent & hurried the lunch, but the people could not go out of the dining room. However all was cleared at last & we had a quiet cosy talk and sit-down which was delightful.

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 6-14-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top