Obrazy na stronie

minded people called heartless! As he thus talked to me, I thought of lines of tenderness, often quoted, which no one but he could have written:


Ah me! how quick the days are flitting!
I mind me of a time that's gone,
When here I'd sit, as now I'm sitting,
In this same place, but not alone.

A fair young form was nestled near me,
A dear, dear face looked fondly up,
And sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer me,
There's no one now to share my cup.' "2

It is no part of this little Memorial to refer to what may be called his public relations, and his success as a lecturer. I merely record my recollection of the peculiar voice and cadence; the exquisite manner of reading poetry; the elocution, matchless in its simplicity; his tranquil attitude- the only movement of his hands being when he wiped his glasses as he began and turned over the leaves of his manuscript; his gentle intonations. There was sweet music in his way of repeating the most hackneyed lines, which freshened them anew. I seem still to hear him say,

"And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth."

Or, in his lecture on Pope,

"Lo! thy dread empire, chaos, is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreating word.

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,
And universal darkness buries all !"

But to resume my personal recollections. He was too sincere a man to talk for effect, or to pay compliments; and on his first visit to America, he seemed so happy, and so much pleased with all he met, that I fancied he might be tempted to come, and for a time live amongst us. The British Consulate in Philadelphia became vacant, the incumbent, Mr. William Peter, dying suddenly; and it seems from the following note,

so to die. But has it never occurred to you, how awful the recovery of lost reason must be, without the consciousness of the loss of time? She finds the lover of her youth a gray-haired old man, and her infants young men and women. Is it not

sad to think of this?"

written at Washington, that I urged him to take the place if he could get it. I give the note exactly as it was written, venturing even to refain the names of those whom he kindly remembered; and Philadelphians of the old school will smile at the misspelling of the name of the founder of the Wistar parties of our ancient days.


"MY DEAR REED, (I withdraw the Mr. as wasteful and ridiculous excess, and gilding of refined gold), and thank you for the famous autograph and the kind letter inclosing it, and the good wishes you form for me. There are half a dozen houses I already know in Philadelphia where I could find very pleasant friends and company; and that good old library would give me plenty of acquaintances more. But, home among my parents there, and some few friends I have made in the last twenty-five years, and a tolerably fair prospect of an honest livelihood on the familiar London flagstones, and the library at the Athenæum, and the ride in the Park, and the pleasant society afterwards; and a trip to Paris now and again, and to Switzerland and Italy in the summer these are little-temptations which make me not discontented with my lot, about which I grumble only for pastime, and because it is an Englishman's privilege. Own now that all these récreations here enumerated have a pleasant sound. I hope I shall live to enjoy them yet a little while before I go to nox et domus exilis Plutonia, whither poor, kind old Peter has vanished. So that Saturday I was to have dined with him, and Mrs. Peter wrote, saying he was ill with influenza: he was in bed with his last illness, and there were to be no more Whister parties for him. Will Whister himself, hospitable, pigtailed shade, welcome him to Hades? And will they sit down no, stand up to a ghostly supper, devouring the 10μovs uxas of oysters and all sorts of birds? I never feel pity for a man dying, only for survivors, if there be such passionately deploring him. You see the pleasures the undersigned proposes to himself here in future



years a sight of the Alps, a holiday on the Rhine, a ride in the Park, a colloquy with pleasant friends of an evening. it is death to part with these delights (and pleasures they are and no mistake) sure the mind can conceive others afterwards; and I know one small philosopher who is quite ready to give up these pleasures; quite content (after a pang or two of separation from dear friends here) to put his hand into that of the summoning angel, and say, 'Lead on, O messenger of God our Father to the next place whither the divine goodness calls us!' We must be blindfolded before we can pass, I know; but I have no fear about what is to come, any more than my children need fear that the love of their father should fail them. I thought myself a dead man once, and protest the notion gave me no disquiet about myself. at least, the philosophy is more comfortable than that which is tinctured with brimstone.

"The Baltimoreans flock to the stale old lectures as numerously as you of Philadelphia. Here the audiences are more polite than numerous, but the people who do come are very well pleased with their entertainment. I have had many dinners. Mr. Everett, Mr. Fish our minister, ever so often the most hospital of envoys. I have seen no one at all in Baltimore, for it is impossible to do the two towns together; and from this I go to Richmond and Charlestown, not to New Or. leans, which is too far; and I hope you will make out your visit to Washington, and that we shall make out a meeting more satisfactory than that dinner at New York, which did not come off. The combination failed which I wanted to bring about. Have you heard Miss Furness of Philadelphia sing? She is the best ballad-singer I ever heard. And will you please remember me to Mrs. Reed and your brother, and Wharton, and Lewis and his pretty young daughter; and believe me ever faithfully yours, dear Reed,


[ocr errors]

The “famous autograph" was, if my memory does not mislead me, a letter of Washington, for which he had expressed a

wish, and which I gladly gave him; and the plan of coming to America, as will be seen, though at first rejected, seems to have taken root in his mind.

Thackeray left us in the winter of 1853, and in the summer of the year was on the Continent with his daughters. In the last chapter of "The Newcomes," published in 1855, he says: "Two years ago, walking with my children in some pleasant fields near to Berne, in Switzerland, I strayed from them into a little wood; and coming out of it presently told them how the story had been revealed to me somehow, which for threeand-twenty months the reader has been pleased to follow." It was on this Swiss tour that he wrote me the following characteristic letter, filled with kindly recollections of convivial hours in Philadelphia, of headaches which he had contributed to administer, and of friends whose society he cherished. On the back of this note is a pen-and-ink caricature of which he was not conscious when he began to write. It is what he alludes to as “the rubbishing picture which I did n't see.” The sketch is very spirited, and, as a friend to whom I have shown it reminds me, evidently is the original of one of the illustrations of his grotesque fairy tale of “The Rose and the Ring," written, so he told a member of my family years afterwards, while he was watching and nursing his children, who were ill during this vacation ramble.

Neufchatel, SwitzerlaND, July 21, 1853.

"MY DEAR REED, Though I am rather slow in paying the tailor, I always pay him: and as with tailors, so with men; I pay my debts to my friends, only at rather a long day. Thank you for writing to me so kindly, you who have so much to do. I have only begun to work ten days since, and now in consequence have a little leisure. Before, since my return from the West, it was flying from London to Paris, and vice versa, dinners right and left, parties every night. If I had been in Philadelphia, I could scarcely have been more feasted. Oh, you unhappy Reed! I see you (after that little supper with McMichael) on Sunday, at your own table, when we had

that good Sherry-Madeira, turning aside from the wine-cup with your pale face! That cup has gone down this well so often (meaning my own private cavity), that I wonder the cup is n't broken, and the well as well as it is.


"Three weeks of London were more than enough for me, and I feel as if I had had enough of it and pleasure. Then I remained a month with my parents; then I brought my girls on a little pleasuring tour, and it has really been a pleasuring We spent ten days at Baden, when I set intrepidly to work again; and have been five days in Switzerland now; not bent on going up mountains, but on taking things easily. How beautiful it is! How pleasant! How great and affable, too, the landscape is! It's delightful to be in the midst of such scenes - the ideas get generous reflections from them. I don't mean to say my thoughts grow mountainous and enormous like the Alpine chain yonder; but, in fine, it is good to be in the presence of this noble nature. It is keeping good company: keeping away mean thoughts. I see in the papers now and again accounts of fine parties in London. Bon Dieu! is it possible any one ever wanted to go to fine London parties, and are there now people sweating in Mayfair routs? The European continent swarms with your people. They are not all as polished as Chesterfield. I wish some of them spoke French a little better. I saw five of them at supper at Basle the other night with their knives down their throats. It was awful! My daughter saw it, and I was obliged to say, 'My dear, your great-great-grandmother, one of the finest ladies of the old school I ever saw, always applied cold steel to her wittles. It's no crime to eat with a knife,' which is all very well but I wish five of 'em at a time would n't.

"Will you please beg McMichael, when Mrs. Glyn, the English tragic actress, comes to read Shakespeare in your city, to call on her, do the act of kindness to her, and help her with his valuable editorial aid? I wish we were to have another night soon, and that I was going this very evening to set you up with a headache to-morrow morning. By Jove!

« PoprzedniaDalej »