[Boston—Thursday, 6 April 1876]

Thursday. Miss E.S. Phelps dropped in after breakfast. Brought a sketch she had just made in Phila. of the cottage (now about to be destroyed) where Evangeline found Gabriel. She has also written some delightful verses on this theme which she read to us. We then sent picture & poem to Longfellow.

Went about Centennial work after my guests left, afterward to Hans Von Bülow’s concert. He played Beethoven’s music quite alone. It was exquisite, exquisite.

Went to Porter’s studio afterward, found two masterly pictures—one I have christened “Casella and the Song Spirit.”

Jamie was at home when I arrived. He had enjoyed a most successful trip, though the road was frightfully washed away by the floods, and huge tressle-bridges [sic] quivered under the weight of the train as the carriages passed over. It was a fearful and a sad sight.

He found Mrs Clemmens quite ill. They had been in N.Y. where he had given 4 lectures hoping to get money for Dr. Brown. He had never lectured there before without making a great deal of money. This time he barely covered his expenses. He was very interesting and told J. the whole story of his life. They sat until midnight after the lecture, Mark, drinking ale to make him sleep. He says he can’t sleep as other people do; his kind of sleep is the only sort for him, 3 or 4 hours of good solid comfort—more than that makes him ill, he can’t afford to sleep all his thoughts away.

He described the hunger of his childhood for books—how the Fortunes of Nigel was one of the first stories which came to him while he was learning to be a pilot on a Mississippi boat. He hid himself with it behind a barrel where he was found by the Master who read him a lecture upon the ruinous effects of reading. “Ive seen it over and over again he said ye’re neednt tell me anythin’ about it if youre going to be a pilot on this ere river ye’re needn’t ever think of reading for it jist spils all. Ye’re can’t remember how high the tide was in Can’s Gut three trips before the last now, I’ll wager—” “Why no, said Mark, that was six months ago.” “I don’t care if t’was said the man, if ye’re hadn’t been spiling yo’re mind by readin’ ye’d have remembered.” So he was never allowed to read anymore after that. “And now says Mark not being able to have it when I was hungry for it I can only read the Encyclopedia now-a-days.” Which is not true, he reads everything.

The story of his courtship and marriage too was very strange and interesting, a portion of this has however leaked into the daily papers so I will not repeat it here. One point interested me very much, however, as showing the strength of character and rightness of vision in the man. He said he had not been married many months when his wife’s father came to him one evening and said “My son, wouldn’t you like to go to Europe with your wife? Why yes Sir he said I would if I could afford it. Well then said he if you will leave off smoking and drinking ale you shall have ten thousand dollars this next year and go to Europe beside. Thank you, Sir, said Mark, this is very good of you and I appreciate it but I can’t sell myself. I will do anything I can for you or any of your family but I can’t sell myself. The result was, said Mark, I never smoked a cigar all that year nor drank a glass of ale—but when the next year came I found I must write a book and when I sat down to write I found it wasn’t worth anything, I must have a cigar to steady my nerves. I began to smoked [sic] and I wrote my book, but then I couldnt sleep and I had to drink ale to go to sleep—now if I had sold myself I couldnt have written my book or I couldnt have gone to sleep, but now everything works perfectly well.

He and his wife have wretched health, poor things! And in spite of their beautiful house most often have rather a hard time. He is very eccentric, disturbed by every noise and it cannot be altogether easy to take care of such a man. It is a very loving household, though Mrs Clemmens’s mother Mrs Langdon hardly knows what to make of him sometimes it is quite evident.


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