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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
Chapter XI.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
‣ Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
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The Right of Translation is reserved.

Mr. Harness’s opinion, that changes are not productive of unmixed good, proved true with regard to the Penny Postage, which effectually destroyed the art of letter-writing. Formerly, people were accustomed to send a letter from one county of England to another, such as they would now despatch to India or the Colonies. It was written upon large square sheets of paper, was carefully and leisurely composed, and filled up to the “way-bits” with a pleasant farrago of solid information and amusing gossip. The whole was finally secured and preserved from prying eyes, by an enormous seal, exhibiting all the weapons and animals that had ever made the family bearings formidable.

Neither in their cost nor in their contents had letters then been reduced to the penny stamp. They had even some little title to epistolary dignity, and letter-writing was regarded as no
unimportant branch of literature.
Mr. Harness, among those of his day, was not deficient in this elegant and social accomplishment, and he never altogether condescended to the rapid business style of the present time, but continued to the last to write at some little length, recording the thoughts passing through his mind and the incidents which occurred in his everyday life.

The following letters were written during the preparation of the Life of Miss Mitford, and are interesting from their references to it, and to some events of the time.

“Kensington Gore,
“May 28, 1866.

“Your MS. arrived duly and in safety on Saturday; but I was so occupied all the day that I had not a moment to spare even to write a line to you. I went out early to take a glimpse of the Horticultural Garden Show, and paid half-a-crown to see it in a gradual state of demolition: all that was best already gone, and the rest in a state of removal. The ‘pitcher tree’ (do you know it?) was the only thing curious that I had not seen a good specimen of before. That is eminently curious. But the con-
clusion which I drew from what remained is, that the gardeners are by force of art cultivating away all the beauty of flowers, as the music-masters are practising and straining their pupils out of all the charm of singing. A rose on its natural stem is a beautiful flower; but what can be the beauty of a large red-cabbage sort of thing growing like this (a sketch) at the top of a stiff” twig? An azalea is a beautiful thing blooming here and there amid green leaves in its own natural manner; but what is there in a pyramid (another sketch), all flowers and no leaves, superior to the same sort of thing made of pink, yellow, or white silver paper?

“After walking till I was tired, and abusing what remained of the Exhibition, because there was so little left to look at, I went to a shop in the Haymarket, next door to the theatre, to see a very beautiful landscape which had been sent over from America. It is a large view of a scene in the Rocky Mountains, and is well nigh the finest landscape I have ever seen. I wish you had been with me! It is by a man named Reinstadt. He’s a German, living and educated in America; and if he can paint more as good pictures as this is, he is the first landscape-painter of our time. My hand is swollen, but free from pain, and I still have no power of voice. So
voice. So altogether, I’m in a bad case, and am going to take advice. Write to me, and remember that I am always,

“Affectionately yours,
“W. H.

“Have you read ‘the Spanish Gipsy’—a poem by the author of ‘Adam Bede?’ If you have not, do! It is really very good; and considering that it is a nineteenth century production, almost intelligible throughout. I have read nothing so like English for many a day.”

“Privy Council Office,
“June 5, 1866.

“I’m sorry to hear that your friend is so unwell, and more sorry to hear that he has so great a fool for his doctor as to be allowed to keep his bed, or even his room, for influenza. Bed is always the worst place anybody can be in, except for the purposes of bodily rest. My father used to say (and he was the cleverest physician I ever knew), that, ‘if it was a good place to cure you of a cold, it was also the place to ensure your catching another.’ It weakens a man, body, mind, and nerves; and it’s my belief that those are healthiest, wisest, and most energetic, who contrive to keep out of it the most. Nothing but
the necessity of sleep from fatigue, or the incapacity of sitting or standing from sickness, can be an excuse for lying in bed. It is not one person in a thousand who keeps his window open, and fairly ventilates the chamber he sleeps in . . . I forget what the occasion of this tirade on bed-keeping was; but, at all events, those are my opinions, and I could fill half-a-dozen sheets of paper in further explication of them if I had time to write, or you cared to read them.

“I’ve been very ill. I’m better, and am come down to the office to-day; but I’m as weak as water, and every exertion of mind, even the writing this letter to you (‘an office I delight in,’—Shakespeare), seems to puzzle my brain. I was quite well last Friday. I dined at Captain Boyle’s, and went afterwards to Miss Coutts’ party to meet the Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Mary and her intended, and to hear Grisi and Mario sing. Enjoyed myself very much, staid till past one, and went home to bed perfectly well. But oh! in the middle of the night I awoke so ill! . . . At present I’m on my way to recovery; but I mayn’t go this evening to hear ‘David Copperfield,’ as I should like to do, and Bence Jones, who never arrived till Sunday, has forbidden my dining out for some days to come.


“Now, this is more than enough about myself—but is the Teck that is to marry the Princess Mary a Prince or a Grand Duke? I forget—however it does not signify which he is for the purpose of this letter: I’ll call him Prince. He is really very good-looking, he has—a wonderful thing in a German—good prominent features and white teeth, bright, expressive dark eyes, pleasant smile, graceful bearing, neat, straight, slim figure, and is rather tall; but he looks quite a boy. He may look younger than he is; but, making all due allowance for that (in the present instance) inconvenient advantage, he can’t bo above two and twenty. She looks charmed with him, and herself, and her situation. But, as she stood near him—or rather he near her—in the ample bloom of her person and her crinoline, she seemed completely to eclipse him. He has a deficiency, a craniological deficiency; his head wants back to it. This, to me, is unpleasant, it argues want of power. A man may be a very good monk without it in a cloister, and become a very bright saint without it in Paradise; but in this world of strife and struggle I should be afraid lest he would succumb before the slightest opposition, and be unable to maintain his own opinion.

“When well, I get on with the MSS. How you love polysyllabic words! For instance, I write
Doctor used to tell his friends that he should settle the money on his daughter.’ You write ‘inform.’ Why, my dear boy, the old brute never informed his friends of anything. To ‘inform’ implies some kind of seriousness and solemnity in relating a matter—which the Doctor never had. All that his friends ever knew of him or of his affairs—or whatever, false or true, that he intended them to believe about them—came out carelessly from him in his loose, disjointed talk.

“God bless you! Write to me fully about what you are doing.

“Yours ever,

“P.S.—I must preach at St. Paul’s on Sunday; and soon after that I shall arrange for a few days country by the sea, or on high land. Where shall you be?”

“Privy Council Office,
“June 14, 1866.

“I was so glad to receive your kind note, and to be assured by your autograph that you had not quite forgotten the exertions I had to undergo last Sunday. Considering that I’m not well, and have not preached these three months, and that the weather was very hot, I got through my work more easily
than I expected. I was called at seven, breakfasted at eight, started for the cathedral at a quarter before nine, and arrived at its door at half-past nine. So that my primary fear of not being in time was happily dissipated. The cathedral felt very cold, which was a good thing for me, as I had not the lassitude of heat, as well as the weakness of indisposition and the infirmities of old age, to fight against. So that, althogether, I did much better than I expected to do. Sultry as the day was, St. Paul’s was so much the reverse, that on coming out I was quite glad to find myself in the blaze of the sun again. I was too tired afterwards to go up to Holly Lodge, as
Miss Coutts wished me to do; but went quietly home, as soon as I had paid a little visit to the Deanery to look at Milman’s picture by Watts. It is very good indeed, like the work of an old master, and bearing a strong resemblance to the Dean, with the exception that the drooping of his left eye is strikingly exaggerated.

“I am not well; I am weak from my illness; and in spite of the iron which Bence Jones is giving me, I don’t feel stronger. I mean to see him again tomorrow. But the season is against me. I had a dinner at home last Friday, which I could not put off; and, though I have excused myself from dining out ever since, I have Charles Dickens and some other people to dinner to-day, who have been invited
since the first of the month, and whom I must enjoy—as I shall—the pleasure of receiving; though I fearfully anticipate the fatigue of it. I have a notion of going to Margate on Monday for a day or two. There is a fine jetty to walk on into the midst of the sea. The air is excellent. It is the haunt of cockneys, of whom I don’t know one; so that I may fairly hope to enjoy there a very comfortable and salubrious retirement with my
Shakespeare as sole companion: unless you would join me there on Monday evening!

“Believe me to be yours,
“Ever affectionately,
W. Harness.”
“Kensington Gore,
“June 23, 1866.

“Where did you find the authority for saying that Miss Mitford was bridesmaid at Lady Charles Aynesley’s wedding? She certainly never was in the North till the year 1806; and I take it for granted that in the North the marriage of a Northumberland heiress must have taken place.

“London at this present moment is very full, and appears to be very gay; but, except at dinners, I see mightily little of its gaiety. Strange to say, the only extreme bit of dissipation I have been tempted
into, did me considerable good. For several weeks I had been feeling as old as the hills and as weak as water; but
Miss Coutts asked me to dine in Stratton Street on Thursday ‘quite quietly, nobody to be there but the party staying in the house’—so I went. After dinner, as the ladies were leaving the room, she said, ‘Now you must not be angry; we are going to take you to the Opera. You may sit quite quiet, and go away when you like; and we don’t think it will do you any harm.’ So I went. The heat was intense: I was in a vapour bath with all my clothes on, from half-past eight till half-past eleven. It was a sultry thunderstorm outside the walls of the theatre, and a fiery furnace of gas and human beings within. I was all the time in such an overpowering heat that every inch of my coat was as wet as if I had been in a shower-bath.

“Well, I thought it would be the death of a poor wretch in my exhausted condition! Not a bit of it. I came home—went to bed—slept all night—and woke the next morning, for the first time this month, refreshed and unfatigued, and longing to sing while I was shaving myself. What an odd composition a human being is! The very thing which has set me to rights and made me feel myself, is the very thing that any doctor would have advised me against, and which
I myself on premeditation should have shrunk from!

I shall not leave town till after the eighth. I think then of going to the Deepdene to Mrs. Hope for a few days—thence to the sea, and remaining away a fortnight. I never went to Broadstairs! It was so cold, I could not make up my mind to leave home. If one was to sit shivering in-doors, I thought I had better execute the performance in my own study than in the coffee-room of a sea-side hotel. Let me hear from you.

“And believe me to be,
“Yours ever,
“W. Harness.”

“‘Rienzi’ did come out on the 9th of October, 1828. It was my mistake in looking for it in November instead of October, in my old diary; but ‘Otto’ was written in 1827. The first copy of the MS. was in my hands on the 26th of November, 1828, and the arrangement with Forrest in 1837 or 38 was merely for the reviewing of the play to suit him. What day do you dine here? Any day except Monday.”

“Holly Lodge, Highgate, London, W.
“Till the 21st of July, 1866.
“16th, to-day.

“Your letter arrived and found me here on Saturday, but I have not had any time to answer it till this morning (half-past six a.m.) in my bedroom. I had thought, from not hearing of you, that you and the vessel must have gone on a voyage of discovery, and that your next letter would be from some island in which you were illuminating the dark minds of the savages. I would not allow myself to imagine for a moment that you had disappeared from the face of the ocean by a catastrophe so sudden as that of the ‘Amazon.’ But how come you not to have got my letter? I wrote a big packet ever so long ago, of which I forget the details, but the gist of it was that I thought Miss Mitford’s letters, in the year 1810, were becoming sufficiently interesting to be published consecutively, with an occasional note here and there, and with certain omissions. I have done up to 1810, and want back the MSS. of 1811, which you have, that, with the help of your papers, I may set them in order in accordance with this plan.

“My disgust of the old father increases with every letter I read. He’s a detestable old humbug.
I wish we could get some letters from the relations in Northumberland! There was an old Mary Mitford (the sister, I think, of
Lady Charles Aynesley), with whom our Miss Mitford used to correspond; but I believe she died first. It is not at all unlikely but she may have preserved her cousin’s letters, and equally likely that her executors have burnt them. Do you happen to know any of those people or their connexions?

“I have not done as much as I ought, because I have not been well; I have been uncommonly relaxed by the heat, and I have been visiting. The doctor said that unless I went to the sea I should not recover my strength; so I went to Battle and staid with Crake, who drove me down to the sea, or up to the heights, where I could either see or smell the sea, every day from five till eight, when we dined; and all the rest of the day I sat in the garden under the shade of the house, and inhaled that mitigated saline air which to me is far more agreeable than the sea itself, for it is health and cheerfulness without any association with the terror of being drowned, or the loathsome feeling of seasickness.

“I stay here till Saturday. On Monday, the 23rd, I go to the Milmans; on Thursday, the 26th, I go to Southsea; on Saturday, the 28th, I get
home again. But Brace goes for his holiday in August, and
Majendie for his marriage in September; so (as any wise man would) I am catching all the country air I can in the intervals allowed me for mine. Take care of yourself. Don’t get drowned.

“And believe me to be
“Yours ever affectionately,
“Kensington Gore,
“August 6, 1866.

“I have been very idle; for, first, I went to stay a week at Crake’s; then I staid the best part of a fortnight at Holly Lodge; then I went to the Dean of St. Paul’s for all the working days of the week, from Sunday to Sunday, who has taken up his Summer residence at a very pretty place near Bagshot, a village which now stands in the midst of cultivated land and flowery hedgerows, but which I was wont to pass through, on the top of the Portsmouth coach, as a sort of lodge in the wilderness, surrounded by a desolate extent of heath. What changes we live to see! And to-day I am going for a fortnight to the Osbornes, (Sutgrave House, Cirencester, Gloucestershire), intending, if weather suit, to take a look at
Tintern Abbey and the Wizard Cliff before I return, which must be the 18th, for Brace goes off for his holiday of three weeks on Monday, the 13th; and as soon as he returns
Majendie is off for five Sundays on his marriage tour. So a deductive mind like yours will easily discover that I’m tied to town during all the latter part of this month, the whole of September, and the first two weeks of October. In that time I intend to work hard at the letters. I think that they, with a very few notes and a few short passages of explanation, will tell the story of an interesting literary life.

I have done, and had copied, subject to your approval, everything to the end of 1810, and should like to have the letters which are in your hands, to go on with the work after my return from the Osbornes. We must print them, for she evidently took great pains with them; but how much inferior Miss Mitford’s letters to Sir William Elford are to those which she dashed off to her father and mother! There is a great deal of life and spirit in her ordinary style, when she lets her words drop from her pen without any premeditation, at the prompting of her emotions; but in the elaborated letters there is hardly any merit but high, cold polish, and all freshness of thought is lost in care about the expression. I think we
shall have to shorten our commencement; so many long letters remain to be read and copied, and the letters improve as she grows older.

“You seem to have had a most delightful voyage. I wish I had been with you, but am very glad that you did not buy the house that you looked at on the banks of the Blackwater! What would you have done there? Besides, if you ever take up your abode in Ireland, it must be on your own property, where there are duties to fulfil which are sufficient to give an interest and business to life the moment a man sets his heart earnestly to the discharge of them. I must now end my letter as it is necessary for me to prepare for leaving home. But let me hear of you, and tell me when you are likely to be in town again. I shall send this to Clifton, as there is no guessing where you and your yacht (I hope the word is spelt right), may be; and with the kindest regards from my sister and cousin,

“Believe me to be,
“Yours ever affectionately,
“Privy Council Office,
“Sept. 1, 1866.

“I feel quite ashamed of having so long delayed acknowledging the receipt of your parcel with, the letters. I have intended to do it every morning since they arrived; but I have had so much to do here, that by post-time I have felt that unpleasant feeling in my old brain which warned me that I had done enough, and that it would be useless, if not wrong, for me to keep my head over paper, with a pen in my hand, any longer.

“This is the sole impediment to my being as good and regular a correspondent as I should wist to be. I’m getting very old, and my pericranium very weak . . . I doubt if I shall be able to do the parish work. My stay in town will be protracted to the middle of October. I’m then invited to Clumber; but I have not answered the Duchess to say whether I will go or not; for—whether it’s age or this continued damp, I know not—I really feel too weak and inapt for society to have any inclination for leaving home. Your friend Mrs. D—— has a little girl: she is doing very well, but was rather suffering from the weather when I called to inquire after her yesterday. But I had the good luck to find her
father at home and get some conversation with him, which was very much in the manner of a Greek Tragedy—not those parts in which the dialogue is kept briskly up in alternate lines, but those in which the great gun fires off a volley of several pages, and the attendant chorus exclaims Όιμοι, while he recovers his breath for another explosion.

“In London, with nothing to do, I have been reading Baker’s ‘Journey in Search of the Albert (Nyanza) Lake,’ and ‘the Source of the Nile.’ It has interested me a good deal; not but that I think him a most bumptious and self-laudatory individual, who quite as often disgusts me with his conceit as he excites my wonder by his spirit of enterprise and powers of endurance. As for his wife, who accompanied him in his troubles among savages—dragged through mud and broiling through deserts—she must have been something far stronger in mind and body than the ordinary members of her sex. It is defrauding the curiosity of the public not to lead her about the country as a show.

“On Majendie’s return I shall go to the sea, certainly, to get up strength, and be home by the beginning of December to shut myself up comfortably for the Winter. I hear that, when old Mitford was engaged to his wife, she had a
set of shirts made for him, lest it should be said that ‘she had married a man without a shirt to his back!’ Of course the story is not true; but it expressed what folk thought of his deplorable poverty and the impossibility of his making that settlement on her, for which my father was trustee, out of funds of his own, as
Miss Mitford suggests.

W. Harness.”
“Kensington Gore,
“Sept. 26, 1866.

“I was very glad to see your handwriting this morning. You don’t know what it is to be alone in London. Everybody is away; and, strange to say, though at the Athenæum there are several men wandering about, they are all military-looking men, with moustache and martial swagger, who belong to the United Service Club over the way, and are disputing over newspapers and dozing in our arm-chairs while their own house is repairing. All the Athenæum men are either on long vacation, or sketching on the Continent, or doing something sportsmanlike in Scotland. I am really pining to get away; but of course I can’t think of moving till Majendie is
fairly returned, which will not be before the 18th. or 20th. of next month! When I do get away I go first to some friends in Hampshire, then to
Crake for sea-air and strength, then to the Archdales, then to Clumber, and then home. This round will, I think, occupy me till the first week in December, when I hope to come back to London and to find you here.

“I have got on wonderfully well, I think, with our letters. They seem to make a regular record of Miss Mitford’s life and opinions—to me much more interesting than most letters. She often repeats herself, and some of her ‘dearest loves’ and overflowing affection to that humbug, her father, must be slightly mitigated; its exuberance must be a little repressed.

“My sister is wonderfully well, and desires her kindest regards to you.

“Yours ever,
“W. Harness.”
“Kensington Gore,
“Oct. 8, 1866.

“If Lady Belcher could procure Miss Mitford’s letters to Miss Goldsmid we should be very much obliged to her. Miss Goldsmid is a very clever and learned lady, and Miss M.’s letters
to her would be on good topics and in the writer’s best style.

Miss Mitford’s connection with the Mitfords of Mitford Castle was (as I always understood) this: Dr. Mitford’s father was first cousin to the father of the Bertram Mitford who was head of the family; and when she went to the North she stayed with Lady Charles Aynesley. Lady Charles and her sister stood in the same relation to him as Dr. Mitford, as the children of brothers. Miss Mitford was another generation removed.

“I think we shall have a charming book; but we must go through all the letters and complete it before we talk to any publisher about it; for my views respecting the plan of publication change as I see more and more what it is we have to publish. My present view is that the book should be called ‘Life and Opinions of M. R. M., as given in her Letters, with Notes by the Editors.’ I like all the letters I have read, except parts of the letters to Sir W. Elford, which (except when she forgets whom she is writing to and is herself again) are in conventional English and almost vulgar in their endeavour to be something particularly good. If I send you off a lot of letters without date, should you have time to read them over and exercise your
skill in trying to ascertain when they were written.

“You can have no idea of the utter dreariness and solitude which we have been experiencing since the end of July in this ‘Deserted Village.’ Till yesterday and to-day we have had nothing but rain and mist, with evenings so cold that one was obliged to have a blazing fire—not, as usual at that season of the year, for cheerfulness-sake, but for actual warmth and comfort. Adieu, with kindest regards from my sister and cousin, and my best compliments to Mr. and Mrs. L’Estrange.

“Believe me to be,
“My dear Guy,
“Your affectionate friend,
“W. Harness.”

“Of an evening I’m re-reading the first volume of Froude’s History, to prepare my memory for the enjoyment of the four last. Adieu!”

“The Deanery, Battle, Sussex.
“Nov. 2, 1866.

“Your letter I found here, after my sojourn with my old friends at my first curacy in Hampshire: and I write, almost at the first pause I have had since my arrival at Crake’s, to tell you how
much obliged I am for your thinking of me and sending me the
Shakespeare photograph. It is from the Chandos picture, which the late Lord Ellesmere purchased at the sale of the late Duke of Buckingham’s effects at Stowe, and of which a print is hanging up opposite my drawing-room door in town. You would not imagine the photo as a copy from the same original, because it is so much darker.

“The letters improve as I get on. Even those to Sir W Elford get easier and better, as she became less upon punctilio and more familiar with him; in fact, as—with all her asserted deference—she felt herself more and more his superior in intellect and information. When we meet in town we will get on swimmingly, as I have no longer any sermons to prepare: I have given up preaching altogether. The first thing to be done is to arrange in chronological order all the letters to Mrs. Browning, that they may come into their fitting places; for I find, to my surprise, that Miss Mitford was acquainted with Miss Barrett as early as 1814.

“I shall stay here, in all probability, till the end of the month, and then go home, light my fire, and pack myself up in my study for the rest of the year, and till the end of Winter.

“I’ll tell Dyce to send his Shakespeare to the
Museum at Stratford; but it is not yet finished.* There is one volume (if not a second) yet to come. With best regards,

“Believe me to be,
“Yours ever affectionately,

“Have you heard that they expect Fenian disturbances in Ireland? I hope it is not true.”

* I had mentioned to Mr. Harness that Mr. Dyce’s Edition was not in the Shakespearian Museum.