[Roslyn—Wednesday, 28 June 1871]

(Wednesday morning). Last night Mr. Bryant met us in the train. The cars were crowded and he insisted upon giving me his seat. A younger man soon rose up and gave Mr. Bryant his, so I felt relieved from the trouble I felt in taking the old man’s place. He is over 70 years now nearly 80 indeed, but he is hale and strong, his intellect as clear as ever. He showed us Long Island with pride as having a kind of ownership in the place apart from his actual possession. The farm where Cobbett lived and wrote his book upon American agriculture—(I am not sure this is the exact title). The plains where the Indians cut off all the trees and where the railroad now runs. The growth of towns—Jamaica in especial which were almost nothing when he came here 25 years ago. Mr. Bryant has not by nature much sense of humor but he has cultivated his social disposition of late years and now he is easy to talk with and kindly in his aspect toward all men. He drove me in his carriage to Mr. Godwin’s house which is opposite to his own, both on the shores of Hampstead Bay.

This morning Wednesday we walked over to pay our respects to the poet. He had walked to the village with & for the mail. This absence gave us time to go over the house. First going through the garden we observed the beauty of the trees and flowers—a magnolia in bloom, rhododendrons, annunciation lilies, and heaps of rare things—the most beautiful of all being the scene of landscape & water—framed like a picture between the glorious trees. Everything in the way of foliage here is drooping and soft, in entire contrast to our own rugged shores. Entering the house escorted by Dr & Mrs Dixon (guests) and Mr. & Mrs Godwin, we went into the dining room which we found hung with pictures presented to him on his 70th birthday by the Century Club—each one an offering from the artist and a good specimen of his work. Then we wandered into the library where we found his papers lying just as he had left them shortly before.

The Odyssey opened at the fourteenth book lay upon the table and his papers and sheets lay all about. They were in good order but evidently just as he had dropped them to go to the mail. His library is a very readable one—a complete edition of the poets (Little & Brown) all of Herder, Lessing, Schelling in German. Letters of Pline le Jeune (french) also an old edition of Montaigne in the same. The library of a student and scholar. I enjoyed sitting in the window near the poet’s chair (we would none of us sit in that) but Mrs Godwin warned us out into the drawing room because she said her father would not much like to find us in there. He soon made his appearance and I rose and went to the door to shake hands with the old man. I was a little sorry for having done so as he evidently felt a little warm and discomposed in his dress from walking in the rain and mud and he wished first to retire to his room—so I cut the ceremony short. He came down in one moment with a velvet coat on not having found time to put on his slippers however. He did not ask us to sit in the library but we remained in the drawing-room where he talked for a moment on indifferent subjects and then retired to the hall, where he stood with Mrs Godwin & Mr. Fields until it was time to go.

Returning, the gentlemen from the Steam-yacht came to lunch making a party of 20 persons so we sat or stood about the room and made a dinner of it in an informal fashion. After lunch we cruised about in the yacht seeing the lovely shores of Long Island sound, their wooded banks and fine villas, watching a storm in the distance and the light upon the sails or retiring to the cabin where Miss Annie Godwin played the banjo and sang negro songs with her sister (with Christine Nillson for audience) until time to return. Home to tea with more company and afterward more jollity than I ever saw except at Dickens’s and alas! I must say it with more real lightness of heart than I ever saw at Gad’s Hill. The shadow of sorrow had already fallen there and there were no young people, young in the sense of being innocent of all experiences as there are here. Godwin himself danced a negro “breakdown” to wind up with in wh. Christine joined him until they were both in rivers of laughter and torrents of heat. Christine sang during the evening in her most perfect way and the Godwin young ladies in turn sang to her help an hour before midnight “Johnny Smoker” and a family of negro melodies. How Dickens would have enjoyed the sight and sound. They danced until they were ready to drop, Christine’s French lover dancing better than any of them. It was one of the wildest gayest scenes I ever beheld. Mr. Bryant was not present and there appeared to be absolutely no limit to the wild spirit of the company and what can be more exciting where there is such talent. Miss Minnie appeared at tea-time where 25 people were cared for and where Jamie started a laugh about nothing just to see the result which made the house echo again. After a talk with Miss Bryant and a few friends who came in, after watching the flirtations of Miss Annie, the pride of the house, in her pretty french dress of blue silk and white muslin with a pink rose in her hair and a pearl cross at her throat, with her pretty curls and her pretty ways. Christine suddenly said she would sing and burst out with a delicious blend of melody in a Swedish song. Then she turned the piano about and sang again most dramatically, then came the wild dancing wheel—until midnight. I was too excited to sleep much and as for “J” he was out at 6 and all over Mr. Bryants place although the small hours had come in before sleep came.


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