[Boston—Monday, 19 December 1870]

Monday. Dec. 19. I have just returned from seeing Fechter in Ruy Blas. The Public has just received the news that he is to leave the Globe Theatre and Boston in four weeks. The result was an enormous house and the most fashionable house I have seen this season. He played with great fire and care, but he has a wretched cold and his pronunciation was so thick & French (as it is apt to be when he is excited) that I could often hardly catch a word. But his audience was determined to be pleased and they caught & applauded all his good points. I saw but one dissenting spirit, that was a little spoiled queen of fashion just returned from Europe, who saw nobody and nothing but herself, Mrs Gordon Dexter. She sat in a box near me and I was much amused in watching her little luxurious self-loving nature.

Last Friday Evening we passed at Mrs Putnam’s. She read us her second paper on the Coup d État of Louis Napoleon and life in Paris at that period. Her journals are an amazing sight; they are so finely written, covering portfolios full of paper and all bearing upon the political and moral condition of France. This is the material out of wh. history is made and the book she will create from these papers will be sure to be of use to the world sooner or later. It is a unique mass of facts and reflections which will eventually mould itself into something the world will need, I doubt, however, if these papers printed in the Atlantic, fine as they are will be popular.

I wish it were possible, apart from her literary work to give a picture of Mrs Putnam. This woman of ideal virtue, crowned with the pale coronet of sorrow!

Her home is the old homestead of her husband’s family where some of the old trees still stand which grew in the primeval forest before houses were planted in a locality, then remote from Boston but now smoky with the chimneys of myriad factories. The place is large enough however to keep a rural beauty of its own without regard to its surroundings. Entering the house, portraits of her dead sons meet you at every turn; beautiful faces which appear to diffuse their starry and immortal lustre from these counterfeit presentments. Her daughter Georgina keeps the house with a kind of friendly liberality common to her nature; indeed an air of high-bred elegance is diffused throughout the place and is its common air.

Mrs Putnam lived in France too long and studied the French too closely not to love them and understand them as a people,—not to love them next to her own country and her own people for whom she has laid down her heart’s blood. Richelieu would have said of her that it was her grace, a grace possessed by few, to know how to die for another.

It is recorded that when others criticised his rival in the ministry he stopped the mouths of the calumniators by saying—It is only given to the few to know how to lay down their lives for others.

It is always most difficult to define the character of a woman like this. It is like talking of the color of a crystal. I never feel nearer to heavenly estate than after talking with her, never more sure of the communion of the future. Intercourse with her is a kind of inspiration. It is what the reading of “Les Heures” was to the saints of old, or Taylor’s Living and Dying or the Imitation. A glimpse of her, Sunday Afternoons, makes it appear worth twice the labor and sacrifice in going to the School. I believe I have reflected the more upon the value of her friendship of late, because I have found her for the first time since our acquaintance & friendship seriously ill. She has low fever which is occasioned apparently solely by the troubles of France and the horrors of her war. She could bear for herself what it appears she finds it almost too much to bear for others.


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 6-15-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top