Old Woman's Gossip



DEAR MRS. JAMESON,—I received your third kind letter yesterday morning, and have no more time to-day than will serve to inclose my answer to your second, which reached me and was replied to at Glasgow; owing to your not having given me your address, I had kept it thus long in my desk. You surely said nothing in that letter of yours that the kindest good feeling could take exception to, and therefore need hardly, I think, have been so anxious about its possible miscarriage. However, “ Misery makes one acquainted with strange bedfellows,” and I am afraid distrust is one of them. You will be glad, I know, to hear that I have been successful here, and perhaps amused to know that when your letter reached me yesterday I was going, en lionne, to a great dinner-party at Lady Morgan’s. I am ashamed to say I know none of her works, and can therefore speak only of the impression she makes upon me personally, which is that of a clever, vain, lively, good - natured woman. But as this is the result of only a few hours’ acquaintance, it may not be a very correct estimate. You ask me for advice about your Shakespeare work, but advice is what I have no diploma for bestowing; and such suggestions as I might venture, were I sitting by your side with Shakespeare in my hand, and which might furnish pleasant matter of converse and discussion, are hardly solid enough for transmission by post.

I have been reading The Tempest all this afternoon, with eyes constantly dim with those delightful tears which are called up alike by the sublimity and harmony of nature, and the noblest creations of genius. I cannot imagine how you should ever feel discouraged in your work; it seems to me it must be its own perpetual stimulus and reward. Is not Miranda’s exclamation, O brave new world, that has such people in it!” on the first sight of the company of villainous men who ruined her and her father, with the royal old magician’s comment, “ ’T is new to thee!” exquisitely pathetic? I must go to my work; ’tis The Gamester to-night; I wish it were over. Good-by, my dear Mrs. Jameson. Thank you for your kind letters; I value them very much, and am your affectionate


P. S. I am very happy here, in the society of an admirable person who is as good as she is highly gifted, —a rare union, — and who, moreover, loves me well, which adds much, in my opinion, to her other merits. I mean my friend Miss S—.

My only reminiscence connected with this dinner at Lady Morgan’s is of her kind and comical zeal to show me an Irish jig, performed secundumartem, when she found that I had never seen her national dance. She jumped up, declaring nobody danced it as well as herself, and that I should see it immediately; and began running through the rooms, with a gauze scarf that had fallen from her shoulders fluttering and trailing after her, calling loudly for a certain young member of the viee-regal staff, who was among the guests invited to a large evening party after the dinner, to be her partner. But the gentleman had already departed (for it was late), and I might have gone to my grave unenlightened upon the subject of jigs if I had not seen one performed, to great perfection, by some gay young members of a family party, while I was staying at Worsley with my friends Lord and Lady Ellesmere, whose children and guests got up an impromptu ball on the occasion of Lady Octavia Grosvenor’s birthday, in the course of which the Irish national dance was performed with great spirit, especially by Lord Mark Kerr and Lady Blanche Egerton. It resembles a good deal the saltarello of the Italian peasants in rhythm and character; and a young Irishman, servant of some friends of mine, covered himself with glory by the manner in which he joined a party of Neapolitan tarantella dancers, merely by dint of his proficiency in his own native jig. A great many years after my first acquaintance with Lady Morgan in Dublin, she renewed our intercourse by calling on me in London, where she was spending the season, and where I was then living with my father, who had become almost entirely deaf and was suffering from a most painful complication of maladies. My relations with the lively and amusing Irish authoress consisted merely in an exchange of morning visits, during one of which, after talking to me with voluble enthusiasm of Cardinal Gonsalvi and Lord Byron, whose portraits hung in her room, and who, she assured me, were her two preeminent heroes, she plied me with a breathless series of pressing invitations to breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, evening-parties, to meet everybody in London that I did and did not know, and upon my declining all these offers of hospitable entertainment (for I had at that time withdrawn myself entirely from society, and went nowhere), she exclaimed, “ But what in the world do you do with yourself in the evening? ” “ Sit with my father, or remain alone,” said I. “Ah!” cried the society-loving little lady, with an exasperated Irish accent, “ come out of that sphare of solitary self-sufficiency ye live in, do! Come to me! ” Which objurgation certainly presented in a most ludicrous light my life of very sad seclusion, and sent us both into fits of laughter,

I have alluded to a friendship which I formed soon after my appearance on the stage with Miss E—F—. She was the daughter of Mr. F—, for many years member for Southampton. Miss F—and I perpetuated a close attachment already traditional between our families, her mother having been Mrs. Siddons’s dearest friend. Indeed, for many years of her life, Mrs. F—seems to me to have postponed the claims even of her husband and children upon her time and attention, to her absolute devotion to her celebrated idol. Mr. F— was a dutiful member of the House of Commons, and I suppose his boy was at school and his girl too young to demand her mother’s constant care and superintendence, at the time when she literally gave up her whole existence to Mrs. Siddons during the London season, passing her days in her society and her evenings in her dressing - room at the theatre, whenever Mrs. Siddons acted. Miss F— and myself could not dedicate ourselves with any such absolute exclusiveness to each other. Neither of our mothers would have consented to any such absorbing arrangement, for which a certain independence of family ties would have been indispensable; but within the limits which our circumstances allowed we were as devoted to each other as my aunt Siddons and Mrs. F—had been, and our intercourse was as full and frequent as possible. E— F— was not pretty, but her face was expressive of both intelligence and sensibility; her figure wanted height, but was slender and graceful; her head was too small for powerful though not for keen and sagacious intellect, or for beauty. The general impression she produced was that of well-born and well-bred refinement, and she was as eager, light, and rapid in her movements as a greyhound, of which elegant animal the whole character of her appearance constantly reminded me. Her mind, too, was of the greyhound order, one of swift perception rather than instinctive conviction or persistent pursuit of truth. Her processes of thought were vivid and clear but not deep, and the general attitude and action of her intellect had great affinity with that of her nervously rather than muscularly vigorous body. She bad been educated much as young ladies generally are; she had read and reflected a good deal, had lived and traveled much abroad, and had cultivated a natural talent for music and a fine taste for art, which she inherited from her father. She was wanting in imagination, and therefore in humor, properly so called, but she was witty and sarcastic, and an extremely lively and entertaining talker. Her sterling qualities were those of a fervently devout spirit, great uprightness and integrity of principle, and a benevolent, humane charity that was admirable in its painstaking, self-denying wisdom and activity.

Mr. F—had a summer residence close to the picturesque town of Southampton, called Bannisters, the name of which charming place calls up the image of my friend swinging in her hammock under the fine trees of her lawn, or dexterously managing her boat on its tiny lake, and brings back delightful hours and days spent in happy intercourse with her. Mr. F— had himself planned the house, which was as peculiar as it was comfortable and elegant. A small vestibule, full of fine casts from the antique (among others a rare original one of the glorious Neapolitan Psyche, given to his brother-in-law, Mr. William Hamilton, by the King of Naples), formed the entrance. The oval drawing-room, painted in fresco by Mr. F—, recalled by its Italian scenes their wanderings in the south of Europe. In the adjoining room were some choice pictures, among others a fine copy of one of Titian’s Venuses, and in the dining-room an equally good one of his Venus and Adonis. The place of honor, however, in this room was reserved for a life-size, full-length portrait of Mrs. Siddons, which Lawrence painted for Mrs. F—, and which is now in the National Gallery, — a production so little to my taste both as picture and portrait that I used to wonder how Mrs. F—could tolerate such a representation of her admired friend. The principal charm of Bannisters, however, was the garden and grounds, which, though of inconsiderable extent, were so skillfully and tastefully laid out that their bounds were always invisible. The lawn and shubberies were picturesquely irregular, and still retained some kindred, in their fine oaks and patches of heather, to the beautiful wild common which lay immediately beyond their precincts. A pretty piece of ornamental water was set in flowering bushes and well - contrived rockery, and in a more remote part of the grounds a little dark pond reflected wild-wood banks and fine overspreading elms and beeches. The small park had some charming clumps and single trees, and there was a twilight walk of gigantic overarching laurels, of a growth that dated back to a time of considerable antiquity, when the place had been part of an ancient monastery. Above all, I delighted in my friend E—’s favorite flower-garden, where her fine eye for color reveled in grouping the softest, gayest, and richest masses of bloom, and where in a bay of mossy turf, screened round with evergreens, the ancient vision of love and immortality, the antique Cupid and Psyche, watched over the fragrant, flowery domain.

Sweet Bannisters! to me forever a refuge of consolation and sympathy in seasons of trial and sorrow, of unfailing kindly welcome and devoted constant affection; haven of pleasant rest and calm repose whenever I resorted to it! How sad was my last visit to that once lovely and beloved place, now passed into the hands of strangers, deserted, divided, desecrated, where it was painful even to call up the image of her whose home it once was! The last time I saw Bannisters the grounds were parceled out and let for grazing in closures to various Southampton townspeople. The house was turned into a boys’ boarding-school, and, as I hurried away, the shouts and acclamations of a roaring game of cricket came to me from the inclosure that had been E— F—’s flower-garden; but though I was crying bitter tears the lads seemed very happy; the fashion of this world passeth away.

Before leaving Dublin for Liverpool, I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Miss S— in her home, where I returned several times, and was always welcomed with cordial kindness. My last visit there took place during the Crimean war. My friend Mrs. T— had become a widow, and her second son, now General T—, was with his regiment in the very front of the danger, and also surrounded by the first deadly outbreak of the cholera, which swooped with such fatal fury upon our troops at the opening of the campaign. I can never forget the pathetic earnestness and solemnity of the prayers read aloud by that poor mother for the safety of our army, nor the accent with which she implored God’s protection upon those exposed to such imminent peril in the noble discharge of their duty. That son was preserved to that mother, having manfully done his part in the face of the twofold death that threatened him.

There was a slight circumstance attending Mrs. T—’s household devotions that charmed me greatly, and that I have never seen repeated anywhere else where I have assisted at family prayers. The servants, as they left the hall, bowed and courtesied to their mistress, who returned their salutation with a fine, old-fashioned courtesy, full of a sweet, kindly grace, that was delightful. This act of civility to her dependents was to me a perfect expression of Mrs. T—’s real antique toryism, as well as of her warm-hearted, motherly kindness of nature.

Ardgillan Castle (I think by courtesy, for it was eminently peaceful in character, in spite of the turret inhabited by my dear “moping owl,” H—) was finely situated on an eminence from which the sea, with the picturesque fishing village of Skerries stretching into it on one side, and the Morne Mountains fading in purple distance beyond its blue waters on the other, formed a beautiful prospect. A pine wood on one side of the grounds led down to the foot of the grassy hill upon which the house stood, and to a charming wilderness called the Dell: a sylvan recess behind the rocky margin of the sea, from which it was completely sheltered, whoso hollow depth, carpeted with grass and curtained with various growth of trees, was the especial domain of my dear H—. A crystal spring of water rose in this “ bosky dell ” and answered with its tiny tinkle the muffled voice of the ocean breaking on the shore beyond. The place was perfectly lovely, and here we sat together and devised, as the old word was, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things above heaven, and things below earth, and things quite beyond ourselves, till we were well-nigh beside ourselves; and it was not the fault of my metaphysical friend, but of my utter inability to keep pace with her mental processes, if our argument did not include every point of that which Milton has assigned to the forlorn disputants of his infernal regions. My departure from Dublin ended these happy hours of companionship, and I exchanged that academe and my beloved Plato in petticoats for my playhouse work at Liverpool. The following letter was in answer to one Mrs. Jameson wrote me upon the subject of a lady whom she had recommended to my mother as a governess for my sister, who was now in her sixteenth year.

LIVERPOOL, August 16, 1830.

MY DEAR MRS. JAMESON, — Were it not that I have a great opinion both of your kindness and reasonableness, I should feel rather uncomfortable at the period which has elapsed since I ought to have written to you; but I am very sorry not to have been able sooner to reply to your last kind letter. I shall begin by answering that which interested me most in it, which you will easily believe was what regarded my dear A—and the person into whose hands she is about to be committed. In proportion to the value of the gem is the dread one feels of the flaws and injuries it may receive in the process of cutting and polishing; and this of course not in this case alone, but that of every child who still is parent to the man (or woman). My mother said in one of her letters, “ I have engaged a lady to be A—’s governess.” Of course the have must make the expression of regret or anxiety undesirable, since both are unavailing. I hope it is the lady you spoke of in your letter to me, for I like very much the description you give of her, and in answer to the doubt you express as to whether I could be pleased with a person wanting in superficial brilliancy and refinement of intellect, I can reply unequivocally yes. I could be well pleased with such a person for my own companion, if the absence of such qualities were atoned for by sound judgment and sterling principle; and I am certain that such a person is best calculated to undertake the task which she is to perform in our house with good effect. The defect of our home education is that from the mental tendencies of all of us, no less than from our whole mode of life, the more imaginative and refined intellectual qualities are fostered in us in preference to our reasoning powers. We have all excitable natures, and, whether in head or heart, that is a disadvantage. The unrestrained indulgence of feeling is as injurious to moral strength as the undue excess of fancy is to mental vigor. I think young people would always be the better for the influence of persons of strong sense, rather than strong sensibility, who, by fortifying their reason, correct any tendency to that morbid excitability which is so dangerous to happiness or usefulness.

I do not, of course, mean that one can eradicate any element of the original character; that I believe to be impossible; nor is direct opposition to natural tendencies of much use, for that is really cultivating qualities by resistance; but by encouraging other faculties, and by putting aside all that has a tendency to weaken and enervate, the mind will assume a robust and healthy tone, and the real feelings will acquire strength by being under reasonable control and by the suppression of factitious ones. A—’s education in point of accomplishments and general cultivation of taste and intellect is already fairly advanced; and the lady who is, I hope, now to be her companion and directress will be none the worse for wanting the merely ornamental branches of culture, provided she holds them at their due value, and neither under nor over estimates them because she is without them. I hope she is gentle and attractive in her manners, for it is essential that one should like as well as respect one’s teachers, and should these qualities be added to the character you give of her, I am sure I should like her for a governess very much myself. You see by the room this subject has occupied in my letter how much it fills in my mind; human souls, minds, and bodies are precious and wonderful things, and to fit the whole creature for its proper aim here and hereafter, a solemn and arduous work.

Now to other matters. You reproach me very justly for my stupid oversight ; I forgot to tell you which name appeared to me best for your book; the fact is, I flew off into ecstasies about the work itself, and gave you, I believe, a tirade about The Tempest instead of the opinion you asked. I agree with you that there is much in the name of a work; it is almost as desirable that a book should be well called as that it should be well written; a promising title-page is like an agreeable face, an inducement to further acquaintance, and an earnest of future pleasure. For myself, I prefer “ Characters of Shakespeare’s Women; ” it is shorter, and I think will look better than the other in print.

I have been spending a few happy days, previous to my departure from Ireland, in a charming place and in the companionship of a person I love dearly. All my powers of enjoyment have been constantly occupied, and I have had a breathing-time of rest and real pleasure before I recommence my work. Such seasons are like angels’ visits, but I suppose one ought to rejoice that they are allowed us at all, rather than complain of their brevity and infrequency. I am getting weary of wandering, and long to be once more settled at home. I hope, although you have left Brutou Street, you have not abandoned London altogether; I am looking forward with much pleasure to seeing you again.

What say you to this French revolution? Have not they made good use of their time, that in so few years from their last bloody national convulsion men’s minds should so have advanced and expanded in France as to enable the people to overturn the government and change the whole course of public affairs with such comparative moderation and small loss of life? Is it not strange to think of a Bourbon taking refuge in America, — the descendant of St. Louis seeking skelter in a land where there is neither nobility nor antiquity, neither existing aristocracy nor traditions of ancient feudal or cliivalric times ? I think I had rather have gone to China. I was still in Dublin when the news of the recent events in France reached us, and I never witnessed anything so like tipsiness as Lady Morgan’s delight at it. I believe she wished herself a Frenchwoman with all her heart, and she declared she would go over as soon as ever her next work, which is in the hands of the publisher, was out. Were I a man, I should have been well pleased to have been in France some weeks ago; the rising of the nation against oppression and abuse, and the creating of a new and better state of things without any outbreak of popular excess, must have been a fine thing to see. But as a woman, incapable of mixing personally in such scenes, I would rather have the report of them at a distance than witness them as a mere inactive spectator; for though the loss of life has been comparatively small, considering the great end that has been achieved, it must be horrible to see bloodshed, even that of a single individual. I believe I am a great coward. Could my presence in Paris by any possibility have been necessary, woman as I am, I would have gone there without hesitation; but I prefer hearing of “ bloody noses and cracked crowns,” to seeing them. I shall not close this tonight but wait till to-morrow, to tell you how my first appearance here goes off.

Tuesday, August 17th.

We had a very fine house indeed last night, and everything went off remarkably well. I had every reason to be satisfied with the audience, who, though proverbially a cold one, were exceedingly enthusiastic in their applause, which, I suppose, is the best indication that they were satisfied with me. Good-by, my dear Mrs. Jameson; believe me yours ever truly, F. A. K.

The intention of engaging a governess for my sister was not carried out, and she was taken to Paris and placed under the charge of Mrs. Foster, wife of the chaplain to the British embassy, under whose care she pursued her general education, while with the tuition of the celebrated Bordogni, the first singing-master of the day, she cultivated her fine voice and developed her musical genius.

The French revolution of 1830, which placed Louis Philippe of Orleans on the throne, and sent Charles the Tenth to end his days in an obscure corner of Germany, was the first of four revolutions which I have lived to witness; and since then I have often thought of a lady who during the next political catastrophe, by which Louis Philippe was shaken out of his seat, showing Mrs. Grote the conveniences of a charming apartment in a central part of Paris, said, “ Voici mon salon, voici ma salle à. manger, et voyez comme e’est commode! De cette fenêtre je vois mes révolutions.”The younger Bourbon of the Orleans branch had learned part of the lesson of government (of which even the most intelligent of that race seem destined never to learn the whole) in democratic America and democratic Switzerland. Perhaps it was in these two essentially bourgeois countries that he learned the only virtues that distinguished him as the Roi Bourgeois, par excellence. My rejoicing over the moderation of the Parisian populace of 1830 was premature, and the inference I hastily drew of their progress in humanity and civilization has had a mournful comment in the events of the commune of 1870. They were, after all, the same Parisians as those of 1792, and all the intervening years between those two national agonies seem to have done nothing towards the real enlightenment or improvement of that unfortunate people, who, after the dreadful days when the fair, wicked city, like a scorpion ringed around with fire turned to sting itself to death, were dancing, singing, and making merry, and rushing in crowds to see all their once cherished watchwords turned into the cynical caricature of Rabagas; who, incorrigible in their levity, s'amusaient encore bien round the charred and blackened skeleton of the palace of their kings and the pillarless pedestal of their great emperor’s glory, under the rootless rafters of the Palais Royal, the eyeless sockets of the windows of the Louvre, and the broken walls of their noble Hôtel de Ville; while on these shameful monuments of their fury the amazed and afflicted stranger read, as if written with the finger of their own self-scorn, their sickening legend of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. ”

HEATON PARK, September 18, 1830.

MY DEAR MRS. JAMESON, — Were it not that I should be ashamed to look you in the face when we meet, which I hope will now be soon, I should be much tempted to defer thanking you for your last kind letter until that period, for I am at this moment in the bustle of three departures. My mother arrived in Manchester this morning, whence my aunt Dall starts to-night for Buckinghamshire, and my father to-morrow morning at seven o’clock for London, and at eight my mother and myself start for Liverpool. I am most anxious to be there for the opening of the railroad, which takes place on Wednesday. I act in Manchester on Friday, and after that we shall spend some days with Lord and

Lady W— at their seat near there;

and then I return to London to begin my winter campaign, when I hope to see you less oppressed with anxiety and vexation than you were when we parted there. And now, what shall I say to you? My life for the last three weeks has been so hurried and busy that, while I have matter for many long letters, I have hardly time for condensation; you know what Madame de Sévigné says, “ Si javais eu plus de temps, je t’aurais ecrit moins longuement.” I have been sight-seeing and acting for the last month, and the first occupation is really the more exhausting of the two. I will give you a carte, and when we meet you shall call upon me for a detail of any or all of its contents.

I have seen the fine, picturesque old town of Chester; I have seen Liverpool, its docks,'its cemetery, its railway, on which I was flown away with by a steamengine, at the rate of five - and - thirty miles an hour; I have seen Manchester, power-looms, spinning-jennies, cotton factories, etc.; I have stayed at the pleasant modern mansion of Heaton; I have visited Hopwood Hall, built in the reign of Edward the First, and still retaining its carved old oaken chimneys and paneled chambers and latticed windows, and intricate ups and downs of internal architecture, to present use apparently as purposeless and inconvenient as if one was living in a cat’s-cradle. I have seen a rush - hearing with its classical morris dance, executed in honor of some antique observance by the country-folk of Lancashire, with whom this commemoration, but no knowledge of its original significance, remains. I have seen Birmingham, its button-making, pin-making, plating, stamping, etc.; I have seen Aston Hall, an old house two miles from the town, and two hundred from everything in it, where Charles the First slept after the battle of Edge Hill, and whose fine old staircase still retains the marks of Cromwell’s cannon,—which house, moreover, possesses an oaken gallery one hundred and odd feet long, hung with old portraits, one of the most delightful apartments imaginable. How I did sin in envy, and long for that nice room to walk up and down and dream and poetize in; but as I know of no earthly way of compassing this desirable acquisition but offering myself in exchange for it to its present possessor (who might not think well of the bargain), il n'y faut plus penser. Moreover, as the grapes are sour, I conclude that upon the whole it might not be an advantageous one for me. I am at this moment writing in a drawing-room full of people, at Heaton (Lord W—’s place), taking up my pen to talk to you and laying it down to talk to others. I must now, however, close my double and divided conversation, because I have not brains enough to play at two games at once. I am ever yours, very sincerely, F. A. K.

While we were acting at Liverpool, an experimental trip was proposed upon the line of railway which was being constructed between Liverpool and Manchester, the first mesh of that amazing iron net which now covers the whole surface of England and all the civilized portions of the earth. The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted them to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson’s magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting-house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector’s sanguine hope than the Westminster committee. They were exultant and triumphant at the near completion of the work, though, of course, not without some misgivings as to the eventual success of the stupendous enterprise. My father knew several of the gentlemen most deeply interested in the undertaking, and Stephenson having proposed a trial trip as far as the fifteen-mile viaduct, they, with infinite kindness, invited him and permitted me to accompany them; allowing me, moreover, the place which I felt to be one of supreme honor, by the side of Stephenson. All that wonderful history, as much more interesting than a romance as truth is stranger than fiction, which Mr. Smiles’s biography of the projector has given in so attractive a form to the world, I then heard from his own lips. He was a rather sternfeatured man, with a dark and deeplymarked countenance; his speech was strongly inflected with his native Northumbrian accent, but the fascination of that story told by himself, while his tame dragon flew panting along his iron pathway with us, passed the first reading of the Arabian Nights, the incidents of which it almost seemed to recall. He was wonderfully condescending and kind in answering all the questions of my eager ignorance, and I listened to him with eyes brimful of warm tears of sympathy and enthusiasm, as he told me of all his alternations of hope and fear, of his many trials and disappointments, related with fine scorn how the “Parliament men ” had badgered and baffled him with their book-knowledge, and how, when at last they thought they had smothered the irrepressible prophecy of his genius in the quaking depths of Chatmoss, he had exclaimed, “ Did ye ever see a boat float on water? I will make my road float upon Chatmoss! ” The well-read Parliament men (some of whom, perhaps, wished for no railways near their parks and pleasure-grounds) could not believe the miracle, but the shrewd Liverpool merchants, helped to their faitli by a great vision of immense gain, did; and so the railroad was made, and I took this memorable ride by the side of its maker, and would not have exchanged the honor and pleasure of it for one of the shares in the speculation.

LIVERPOOL, August 26th.

MY DEAR H—: A common sheet of paper is enough for love, but a foolscap extra can alone contain a railroad and my ecstasies. There was once a man, who was born at Newcastle-uponTyne, who was a common coal-digger; this man had an immense constnietiveness, which displayed itself in pulling his watch to pieces and putting it together again; in making a pair of shoes when he happened to be some days without occupation; finally — here there is a great gap in my story — it brought him in the capacity of an engineer before a committee of the House of Commons, with his head full of plans for constructing a railroad from Liverpool to Manchester. It so happened that to the quickest and most powerful perceptions and conceptions, to the most indefatigable industry and perseverance, and the most accurate knowledge of the phenomena of nature as they affect his peculiar labors, this man joined an utter want of the “ gift of the gab; ” he could no more explain to others what he meant to do and how he meant to do it, than he could fly; and therefore the members of the House of Commons, after saying, “ There is rock to be excavated to a depth of more than sixty feet, there are

embankments to be made nearly to the same height, there is a swamp of five miles in length to be traversed, in which if you drop an iron rod it sinks and disappears: how will you do all this? ” and receiving no answer but a broad Northumbrian “ I can’t tell you how I ’ll do it, but I can tell you I will do it,” dismissed Stephenson as avisionary. Having prevailed upon a company of Liverpool gentlemen to be less incredulous, and having raised funds for his great undertaking, in December of 1826 the first spade was struck into the ground. And now I will give you an account of my yesterday’s excursion. A party of sixteen persons was ushered into a large court - yard, where, under cover, stood several carriages of a peculiar construction, one of which was prepared for our reception. It was a long-bodied vehicle with seats placed across it, back to back; the one we were in had six of these benches, and was a sort of uncovered char à banc. The wheels were placed upon two iron bands, which formed the road, and to which they are fitted, being so constructed as to slide along without any danger of hitching or becoming displaced, on the same principle as a thing sliding on a concave groove. The carriage was set in motion by a mere push, and, having received this impetus, rolled with us down an inclined plane into a tunnel, which forms the entrance to the railroad. This tunnel is four hundred yards long (I believe), and will be lighted by gas. At the end of it we emerged from darkness, and, the ground becoming level, we stopped. There is another tunnel parallel with this, only much wider and longer, for it extends from the place which we had now reached, and where the steam carriages start, and which is quite out of Liverpool, the whole way under the town, to the docks. This tunnel is for wagons and other heavy carriages; and as the engines which are to draw the trains along the railroad do not enter these tunnels, there is a large building at this entrance which is to be inhabited by steam-engines of a stationary turn of mind, and different constitution from the traveling ones, which are to propel the trains through the tuuuels to the terminus in the town, without going out of their houses themselves. The length of the tunnel parallel to the one we passed through is (I believe) two thousand two hundred yards. I wonder if you are understanding one word I am saying all this while! We were introduced to the little engine which was to drag us along the rails. She (for they make these curious little fire-horses all mares) consisted of a boiler, a stove, a small platform, a bench, and behind the bench a barrel containing enough water to prevent her being thirsty for fifteen miles, — the whole machine not bigger than a common fire - engine. She goes upon two wheels, which arc her feet, and are moved by bright steel legs called pistons; these are propelled by steam, and in proportion as more steam is applied to the upper extremities (the hipjoints, I suppose) of these pistons, the faster they move the wheels; and when it is desirable to diminish the speed, the steam, which unless suffered to escape would burst the boiler, evaporates through a safety-valve into the air. The reins, bit, and bridle of this wonderful beast is a small steel handle, which applies or withdraws the steam from its legs or pistons, so that a child might manage it. The coals, which are its oats, were under the bench, and there was a small glass tube affixed to the boiler, with water in it, which indicates by its fullness or emptiness when the creature wants water, which is immediately conveyed to it from its reservoirs. There is a chimney to the stove, but as they burn coke there is none of the dreadful black smoke which accompanies the progress of a steam - vessel. This snorting little animal, which I felt rather inclined to pat, was then harnessed to our carriage, and, Mr. Stephenson having taken me on the bench of the engine with him, we started at about ten miles an hour. The steam-horse being ill adapted for going up and down hill, the road was kept at a certain level, and appeared sometimes to sink below the surface of the earth and sometimes to rise above it. Almost at starting it was cut through the solid rock, which formed a wall on either side of it, about sixty feet high. You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses; and when I reflected that these great masses of stone had been cut asunder to allow our passage thus far below the surface of the earth, I felt as if no fairy tale was ever half so wonderful as what I saw. Bridges were thrown from side to side across the top of these cliffs, and the people looking down upon us from them seemed like pygmies standing in the sky. I must be more concise, though, or I shall want room. We were to go only fifteen miles, that distance being sufficient to show the speed of the engine, and to take us to the most beautiful and wonderful object on the road. After proceeding through this rocky defile, we presently found ourselves raised upon embankments ten or twelve feet high; we then came to a moss, or swamp, of considerable extent, on which no human foot could tread without sinking, and yet it bore the road which bore us. This had been the great stumbling-block in the minds of the committee of the House of Commons; but Mr. Stephenson has succeeded in overcoming it. A foundation of hurdles, or, as he called it, basket-work, was thrown over the morass, and the interstices were filled with moss and other elastic matter. Upon this the clay and soil were laid down, and the road does float, for we passed over it at the rate of five-and-twenty miles an hour, and saw the stagnant swamp water trembling on the surface of the soil on either side of us. I hope you understand me. The embankment had gradually been rising higher and higher, and in one place, where the soil was not settled enough to form banks, Stephenson had constructed artificial ones of woodwork, over which the mounds of earth were heaped, for he said that though the wood-work would rot, before it did so the banks of earth which covered it would have been sufficiently consolidated to support the road.

We had now come fifteen miles, and stopped where the road traversed a wide and deep valley. Stephenson made me alight and led me down to the bottom of this ravine, over which, in order to keep his road level, he has thrown a magnificent viaduct of nine arches, the middle one of which is seventy feet high, through which we saw the whole of this beautiful little valley. It was lovely and wonderful beyond all words. He here told me many curious things respecting this ravine: how he believed the Mersey had once rolled through it; how the soil had proved so unfavorable for the foundation of his bridge that it was built upon piles, which had been driven into the earth to an enormous depth; how while digging for a foundation he had come to a tree bedded in the earth fourteen feet below the surface of the ground; how tides are caused, and how another flood might be caused; all of which I have remembered and noted down at much greater length than I can enter upon it here. He explained to me the whole construction of the steam - engine, and said he could soon make a famous engineer of me, which, considering the wonderful things he has achieved, I dare not say is impossible. His way of explaining himself is peculiar, but very striking, and I understood, without difficulty, all that he said to me. We then rejoined the rest of the party, and the engine having received its supply of water, the carriage was placed behind it, for it cannot turn, and was set off at its utmost speed, thirty-five miles an hour, swifter than a bird flies (for they tried the experiment with a snipe). You cannot conceive what that sensation of cutting the air was; the motion is as smooth as possible, too. I could either have read or written; and as it was, I stood up, and with my bonnet off “ drank the air before me.” The wind, which was strong, or perhaps the force of our own thrusting against it, absolutely weighed my eyelids down. [I remember a similar experience to this, the first time I attempted to go behind the sheet of the cataract of Niagara; the wind coming from beneath the waterfall met me with such direct force that it literally bore down my eyelids, and I had to put off the attempt of penetrating behind the curtain of foam till another day, when that peculiar accident was less directly hostile to me in its conditions.] When I closed my eyes this sensation of flying was quite delightful, and strange beyond description; yet, strange as it was, I had a perfect sense of security, and not the slightest fear. At one time, to exhibit the power of the engine, having met another steam-carriage which was unsupplied with water, Mr. Stephenson caused it to be fastened in front of ours; moreover, a wagon laden with timber was also chained to us, and thus propelling the idle steam-engine, and dragging the loaded wagon which was beside it, and our own carriage full of people behind, this brave little she-dragon of ours flew on. Farther on she met three carts, which, being fastened in front of her, she pushed on before her without the slightest delay or difficulty; when I add that this pretty little creature can run with equal facility either backwards or forwards, I believe I have given you an account of all her capacities.

Now for a word or two about the master of all these marvels, with whom I am most horribly in love. He is a man of from fifty to fifty-five years of age; his face is fine, though careworn, and bears an expression of deep thoughtfulness; his mode of explaining his ideas is peculiar and very original, striking, and forcible; and although his accent indicates strongly his north-country birth, his language has not the slightest touch of vulgarity or coarseness. He has certainly turned my head.

Four years have sufficed to bring this great undertaking to an end. The railroad will be opened upon the 15th of next month. The Duke of Wellington is coming down to be present on the occasion, and, I suppose, what with the thousands of spectators and the novelty of the spectacle, there will never have been a scene of more striking interest. The whole cost of the work (including the engines and carriages) will have been eight hundred and thirty thousand pounds; and it is already worth double that sum. The directors have kindly offered us three places for the opening, which is a great favor, for people are bidding almost anything for a place, I understand ; but I fear we shall be obliged to decline them, as my father is most anxious to take Henry over to Heidelberg before our season of work in London begins, which will take place on the first of October. I think there is every probability of our having a very prosperous season. London will be particularly gay this winter, and the king and queen, it is said, are fond of dramatic entertainments, so that I hope we shall get on well. You will be glad to hear that our houses here have been very fine, and that to-night, Friday, which was my benefit, the theatre was crowded in every corner. We do not play here any more, but on Monday we open at Manchester. You will, I know, be happy to hear that,, by way of answer to the letter I told you I had written my mother, I received a very delightful one from my dear little sister, the first I have had from her since I left London. She is a little jewel, and it will he a sin if she is marred in the cutting and polishing, or if she is set in tawdry French pinchbeck, instead of fine, strong, sterling gold. I am sorry to say that the lady Mrs. Jameson recommended as her governess has not been thought sufficiently accomplished to undertake the charge. I regret this the more, as in a letter I have just received from Mrs. Jameson she speaks with more detail of this lady’s qualifications, which seem to me peculiarly adapted to have a good effect upon such a mind and character as A—’s.

I wish I had been with your girls at their ball, and come back from it and found you holding communion with the

skies. My dearest H—, sublime and

sweet and holy as are the feelings with which I look up to the star-paved heavens, or to the glorious summer sun, or listen to the music of the great waves, I do not for an instant mistake the adoration of the almighty power manifestcd in these works of God, for religion. You tell me to beware of mixing up emotional or imaginative excitement with my devotion. And I think I can truly answer that I do not do so. I told you that the cathedral service was not prayer to me; nor do I ever confound a mere emotional or imaginative enthusiasm, even when excited by the highest of all objects of contemplation, with the daily and hourly endeavor after righteousness — the humble trust, resignation, obedience, and thankfulness, which I believe constitute the vital part of religious faith. I humbly hope I keep tlie sacred ground of my religion clear from whatever does not belong to the spirit of its practice. As long as I can remember, I have endeavored to guard against mistaking emotion for religion, and have even sometimes been apprehensive lest the admiration I felt for certain passages in the Psalms and the Hebrew prophets should make me forget the more solemn and sacred purposes of the book of life, and the glad tidings of our salvation. And though, when I look up as you did at the worlds with which our midnight sky is studded, I feel inclined to break out, “ The heavens declare the glory of God,” or, when I stand upon the shore, can hardly refrain from crying aloud, “ The sea is his, and he made it,” I do not in these moments of sublime emotion forget that he is the God to whom all hearts be open; who, from the moment I rise until I lie down to rest, witnesses my every thought and feeling; to whom I look for support against the evil of my own nature and the temptations which he allots me, who bestows every blessing and inspires every good impulse, who will strengthen me for every duty and trial: my father, in whom I live and move and have my being. I do not fear that my imagination will become over - excited with thoughts such as these, but I often regret most bitterly that my heart is not more deeply touched by them. Your definition of the love of God seemed almost like a reproach to my conscience. How miserably our practice halts behind our knowledge of good, even when tried at the bar of our own lenient judgment, and by our imperfect standard of right; how poorly does our life answer to our profession ! I should speak in the singular, for I am only uttering my own self-condemnation. But as the excellence we adore surpasses our comprehension, so does the mercy, and in that lies our only trust and confidence.

I fear Miss W—either has not received my letter or does not mean to answer it, for I have received no reply, and I dare not try again. Up to a certain point I am impudent enough, but not beyond that. Why do you threaten me with dancing to me? Have I lately given you cause to think I deserve to have such a punishment hung in termrein over me? Besides, threatening me is injudicious, for it rouses a spirit of resistance in me not easy to break down. I assure you o [in allusion to my mispronunciation of that vowel] is really greatly improved. I take much pains with it, as also with my deportment ; they will, I hope, no longer annoy, you when next we meet. You must not call Mrs. J—my friend,for I do not. I like her much, and I see a great deal to esteem and admire in her, but I do not yet call her my friend. You are my friend, and Mrs. Harry Siddons is my friend, and you are the only persons I call by that name. The Diary of an Ennuyée is very clever, but there are things in it which I do not think any friend of mine would have written. I have read Paul Clifford, according to your desire, and like it very much; it is written with a good purpose, and verv powerfully. You asked me if I believed such selfishness as Brandon’s to be natural, and I said yes, not having read the book, but merely from your report of him; and, having read the book, I say so still. The character does not appear to me overcharged, though it did remind me occasionally of Sir Giles Overreach. In spite of having cried much over it, I am glad I read it, and I think it is a book calculated to do good. I have been reading Ségur’s account of the French expedition to Russia, and am amazed and horrified at the fearful squandering of human life which it records. How that wretched man was ever called great (except in the sense of monstrous), whose whole ambitious hopes, fears, wishes, centred in his own miserable self, and who to that meanest of idols sacrificed such hecatombs of human lives, is inconceivable. It appears to me so horrible that I have more than once been tempted to shut the book. The admirers of Napoleon must “ deify ” strength more than you accuse me of doing, for to see such powers of mind put forth only to such pernicious purpose is to recognize in their possessor nothing but the scourge of the earth and the exterminator of his kind. Louisa is wrong to think me prettier than Sir Thomas Lawrence’s print, for to her I cannot possibly be so; but you are just as wrong not to think so, for to you I ought to be prettier than any picture that could be made of me, or else what’s the use of your being so fond of me? or of my being ever your affectionate F. A. K.

Frances Anne Kemble.