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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
William Harness to A. G. K. L'Estrange, 5 June 1866

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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“Privy Council Office,
“June 5, 1866.
“My dear L’Estrange,

“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,
William Harness.”

“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?”