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And when thou diest-(live a thousand years !)—
In the families of the late revered Baron Hume and Mr. Alison, Mrs. Hemans formed friendships which were most affectionately maintained throughout her life, and of which a grateful remembrance was bequeathed to her children. Another name, associated with a thousand pleasant recollections of courteous services to herself, and indefatigable good-nature to her boys, was that of the late Dr. James Gregory, that “ bright-minded and most amiable being” (to use her own words), whose early death, which, only three years afterwards, removed him from a circle of which he was the delight and ornament, filled her with sorrow and sympathy.
She would often playfully boast of the great favour she had all her life enjoyed with “very old gentlemen,” to whom, indeed, her winning and filial manner was always peculiarly endearing. This was especially instanced in the case of the venerable Sir Robert Liston, who, at that time, though already an octogenarian, was yet in the fullest exercise of all his refined tastes and courtly hospitalities. Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm of his admiration for Mrs. Hemans, nor the kindliness of his interest in her children. It was at the earnest request of her chivalrous old friend, that, when on the point of returning
* Referring to certain precious lachrymatories in the possession of Mr. Sharpe.
to Wavertree, she was persuaded to adjourn for a short time to Milburn Tower, his beautiful retreat near Edinburgh, for the purpose of sitting for her bust to Mr. Angus Fletcher. “How happy I shall be," she wrote, “to breathe in the green shades of Milburn! It is a lovely place, and I delight in the thoughts of its comparative repose, for I cannot tell you how I am yearning for quiet.”
.“ Sitting for a bust,” she wrote in a subsequent letter, “awful as it may sound, is by no means an infliction so terrible as sitting for a picture: the sculptor allows much greater liberty of action, as every part of the head and form is necessary to his work. My effigy is now nearly completed, and is thought to be a performance of much talent.”
It is indeed very graceful as a work of art, and though the likeness is not satisfying at first to homely and household eyes, it wins its way by degrees into the heart, and from certain accidents of light or position, a resemblance may sometimes unexpectedly be caught, which is almost startling.
After her visit to Milburn Tower, Mrs. Hemans returned to her own little dwelling, rich in recollections, and eager, as usual, to share them with her friends. She had, soon afterwards, a cheerful visit from Miss Jewsbury, who was struck with her improved spirits, and liked her house, and gave a pleasant sketch of the evening group.—“When night comes,” she wrote, " and the darling boys are arrived from school, and candles are lighted, and the doors shut, our cabinet room would make a charming cabinet picture."
In the Edinburgh Review, for October, 1829, was an article on the poetry of Mrs. Hemans, from the master-hand of Mr. Jeffrey. The peculiar characteristics of her style are there touched upon with a delicacy and discrimination worthy of the mighty critic, who had in this instance laid aside his terrors, and may well be said to have “ done his spiriting gently." Her writings are treated throughout as a fine exemplification of “ female poetry;" and he brings into beautiful relief that fine accord she has established between the world of sense and of soul — that delicate blending of our deep inward emotions with their splendid symbols and emblems without.”
“ Almost all her poems," writes this high authority, s are rich with fine descriptions, and studded over with images of visible beauty. But these are never idle ornaments: all her pomps have a meaning; and her flowers and her gems are arranged, as they are said to be among Eastern lovers, so as to speak the language of truth and of passion. This is peculiarly remarkable in some little pieces, which seem at first sight to be purely descriptive—but are soon found to tell upon the heart, with a deep moral and pathetic impression. But it is a truth nearly as conspicuous in the greater part of her productions; where we scarcely meet with any striking sentiment that is not ushered in by some such symphony of external nature,
'? It should have been mentioned in the proper order of date, that a very favourable critique on Mrs. Hemans's earlier poems (including all her publications, from the “Restoration of the Works of Art,” to the “Stanzas to the Memory of the late King,'') appeared in the Quarterly Review, for October, 1820.
and scarcely a lovely picture that does not serve as a foreground to some deep or lofty emotion.”
Mrs. Hemans's productions, during this winter, were chiefly lyrics belonging to the series of Songs of the Affections, and other short miscellaneous pieces. The principal one of these, “ The Spirit's Return,” was at that time preferred by herself to any thing else she had written. Still it was far from satisfying her, and she was worn and excited during its composition, by what she was wont to call “ that weary striving after ideal beauty which one never can grasp,” and yet more by those awful contemplations of the visionary world, on which it led her to dwell with an interest too intense, a curiosity too disquieting.
“ Sometimes I think,” she wrote of this poem to a friend, “ that I have sacrificed too much in the apparition scene, to the idea that sweetness and beauty might be combined with supernatural effect. The character of the Greek sculpture, which has so singular a hold upon my imagination, was much in my thoughts at the time.” And, referring to the same piece two years after, she wrote:-“ If there be, as my friends say, a greater power in it than I had before evinced, I paid dearly for the discovery, and it almost made me tremble as I sounded the deep places of my soul.'”
The following extracts belong to this period :
“I have found the Spanish ballad on the death of Aliatar, since you were here, and have been surprised, notwithstanding all the proud music of the original language, by the superior beauty of Southey's translation. The refrain of
“ Tristes marchando,
Las trompas roncas," has certainly a more stately tone of sorrow, than
and yet the latter is to me a thousand times more touching. Is it that word home which makes it so, with all that it breathes of tenderness and sadness ?''
6 On calling up and reconsidering my impressions of Martin's picture, it seems to me that something more of gloomy grandeur might have been thrown about the funeral pyre; that it should have looked more like a thing apart, almost suggesting of itself the idea of an awful sacrifice. Perhaps it was not in the resources of the painter to do all this; but the imagination, mine at least, seems to require it.”
.“ Have you read Manzone's noble ode on the deathday of Napoleon, translated by Archdeacon Wrangham? It has just been sent me by Signor Grimaldi, and I know not when I have met with Italian poetry so rich in deep thought and powerful expression."
“I send you part of the conversation which so much delighted me in Tieck's Phantasien. I think you will recognise all the high tone of the thoughts, and be pleased with the glimpse - a bright though transient one-of the dreaming-land - that strange
1 The Fall of Nineveh.
? The Cinque Maggio.