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melancholy pilgrimage to the southern scenes of his former reveries. But I will take a page from a letter to his sister, Mrs. Paris, describing his voyage from Barcelona to Marseilles, which exhibits the lively susceptibility of the author and diplomat who was then in his sixty-first year : —
“While I am writing at a table in the cabin, I am sensible of the power of a pair of splendid Spanish eyes which are occasionally flashing upon me, and which almost seem to throw a light upon the paper. Since I cannot break the spell, I will describe the owner of them. She is a young married lady, about four or five and twenty, middle sized, finely modeled, a Grecian outline of face, a complexion sallow yet healthful, raven black hair, eyes dark, large, and beaming, softened by long eyelashes, lips full and rosy red, yet finely chiseled, and teeth of dazzling whiteness. She is dressed in black, as if in mourning; on one hand is a black glove; the other hand, ungloved, is small, exquisitely formed, with taper fingers and blue veins. She has just put it up to adjust her clustering black locks. I never saw female hand more exquisite. Really, if I were a young man, I should not be able to draw the portrait of this beautiful creature so calmly.
“I was interrupted in my letter writing, by an
observation of the lady whom I was describing. She had caught my eye occasionally, as it glanced from my letter toward her. “Really, Señor,' said she, at length, with a smile, “one would think you were a painter taking my likeness.’ I could not resist the impulse. ‘Indeed,” said I, ‘I am taking it; I am writing to a friend the other side of the world, discussing things that are passing before me, and I could not help noting down one of the best specimens of the country that I had met with.’ A little bantering took place between the young lady, her husband, and myself, which ended in my reading off, as well as I could into Spanish, the description I had just written down. It occasioned a world of merriment, and was taken in excellent part. The lady’s cheek, for once, mantled with the rose. She laughed, shook her head, and said I was a very fanciful portrait painter; and the husband declared that, if I would stop at St. Filian, all the ladies in the place would crowd to have their portraits taken, – my pictures were so flattering. I have just parted with them. The steamship stopped in the open sea, just in front of the little bay of St. Filian; boats came off from shore for the party. I helped the beautiful original of the portrait into the boat, and promised her and her husband if ever I should come to St. Filian I would pay them a visit. The last I noticed of her was a Spanish farewell wave of her beautiful white hand, and the gleam of her dazzling teeth as she smiled adieu. So there 's a very tolerable touch of romance for a gentleman of my years.”
When Irving announced his recall from the court of Madrid, the young Queen said to him in reply: “You may take with you into private life the intimate conviction that your frank and loyal conduct has contributed to draw closer the amicable relations which exist between North America and the Spanish nation, and that your distinguished personal merits have gained in my heart the appreciation which you merit by more than one title.” The author was anxious to return. From the midst of court life in April, 1845, he had written: “I long to be once more back at dear little Sunnyside, while I have yet strength and good spirits to enjoy the simple pleasures of the country, and to rally a happy family group once more about me. I grudge every year of absence that rolls by. To-morrow is my birthday. I shall then be sixty-two years old. The evening of life is fast drawing over me; still I hope to get back among my friends while there is a little sunshine left.”
It was the 19th of September, 1846, says his biographer, “when the impatient longing of his heart was gratified, and he found himself restored to his home for the thirteen years of happy life still remaining to him.”
THE CHARACTERISTIC WORKS.
THE Knickerbocker's “History of New York’’ and the “Sketch-Book” never would have won for Irving the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature, or the degree of D. C. L. from Oxford.
However much the world would have liked frankly to honor the writer for that which it most enjoyed and was under most obligations for, it would have been a violent shock to the constitution of things to have given such honor to the mere humorist and the writer of short sketches. The conventional literary proprieties must be observed. Only some laborious, solid, and improving work of the pen could sanction such distinction, — a book of research or an historical composition. It need not necessarily be dull, but it must be grave in tone and serious in intention, in order to give the author high recognition.