[Manchester—Wednesday, 10 August 1870]

August 10. Jamie sat next a man, in the train from Boston a day or two ago, who has obtained a sudden importance in this vicinity, of which he is a native, by his speculation in land. He is a great bore but J., if anybody, can gather honey out of such thistles. J. asked “What sort of a man do you find your new neighbor Mr. C. (he is from Brooklyn N.Y.) “Oh” was the reply “he is an excellent, fine, pompous, gentleman.”

We went yesterday in spite of the excessive heat, which has continued almost without intermission since August 4, to Swampscot and Nahant. We found Swampcot the same cheap, hot, overcrowded little village with the same fishy smell and perfect sea, and we found mother and Sarah at a high perch of a house, ugly enough in itself, but a delicious haven for hot weather and one which we tried ourselves with great cooling effect many years ago. Mother was looking delicate and Sarah had a bad cough and I was sorry to have only half a day to stay with them for I thought they really wanted more time from us.

At one o’clock came the parting beach wagon in which we drove to Nahant under a scalding sun, but the air was fresh enough to keep us from actual burning. We dropped J. at Longfellow’s while I drove at once to L’s, to see the little baby only a fortnight old. As I walked through the hall of the house the venetian blinds were let down outside the piazza, either side of the front door opposite the entrance, thus when the door was shut behind us and the house otherwise shaded, a perfect picture of unsurpassed loveliness was framed in by the open side. In the foreground was a bit of gravel walk, then a plateau of bright flowers set in the lawn, then the hedge, then a rising ridge of sun-tinted rocks, then the calm incomparable sea, looking like Italy.

I caught Ida in my arms, the only one of the children thus far who has ever practiced in the least “upon the lead pencil” and tried to stimulate her to try to paint the scene; but the poor children have not much divine fire in them and though she is too gentle to scoff at my enthousiasm, she evidently felt no stimulus to the endeavor.

After playing with the baby’s pink toes which made him laugh, Jamie arrived and said Mr. Longfellow was below—I ran at once to meet him and receive his warm hearted greeting which always comes like a blessing. He was somewhat flushed by his warm walk and looked well but J. says he has not been so. He has fallen into his old Nahant life never stirring away from his broad piazza where he sits and watches the yacht Alice with her many crew come and go without him. Appleton is there as usual, painting and sailing. He has given J. one of his late sketches wh. J. enthousiastically admired. Longfellow drew out of his pocket a queer request for an autograph which he had just received saying that the writer “loved poetry in most any style.” Also, would he please copy for him “his break, break, break!” Longfellow thought he would answer the note by copying the poem and signing it

A. Tennyson.

upon some one’s asking him, “if he were interested about the war” he replied most characteristically, “O yes, but I try not to get excited about it, for I have no sympathy with the King of Prussia and none with the Emperor of France; my sympathies lie altogether with the poor suffering common people who are counted out as unworthy of consideration and upon whom the burden really falls.”

Charles Sumner has been visiting him and only left yesterday. “Oddly enough” he said “this very morning I felt that you and Fields would come and I watched the people narrowly as they came up from the boat. At last I saw a gentleman whom I fancied dressed like Fields, and a lady who, I thought, walked like you and I was sure you were here until I saw two boys appended to the party and I knew you had no such appendages to your kite.”

They are all feeling outraged at Motley’s dismissal. Longfellow was rather astonished to find that Taylor’s Faust is to have the honor of 2 large volumes!

He soon rose to go because Mr Beal arrived and the dinner-hour, not until we had heard the news of the reported death of Napoleon at Chalus. Silence fell at that communication. I think the world would feel relieved—but I hear today it is not true. Then Longfellow took his leave after urging us to come soon for a day with him.

After dinner and a drive to the train again we had an excessively warm ride to Manchester and I did not leave my room again until this morning.

After bidding dear J. adieu I went at once across the meadows to the sea. It was all divinely beautiful. Such a sky! Now after many hours of great heat it is raining gently. Thunder has been rolling about the sky for a long time but the rain falls tenderly, much more pitifully than 6 days ago.


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