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swift and cunning hunter, that before you know you are ill, you may be ready to become his prey-where death, the grave, and forgetfulness, may be the work of two days!”.
Mrs. Hemans's feelings on this occasion, will be best shown by the following fragments :
"I was indeed deeply and permanently affected by the untimely fate of one so gifted, and so affectionately loving me, as our poor lost friend. It hung the more solemnly upon my spirits, as the subject of death and the mighty future had so many, many times been that of our most confidential communion. How much deeper power seemed to lie coiled up, as it were, in the recesses of her mind, than was ever manifested to the world in her writings! Strange and sad does it seem that only the broken music of such a spirit should have been given to the earth— the full and finished harmony never drawn forth. Yet I would rather a thousand times that she should have perished thus, in the path of her chosen duties, than have seen her become the merely brilliant creature of London literary life, at once the queen and slave of some heartless coterie, living upon those poor succès de société, which I think utterly ruinous to all that is lofty, and holy, and delicate, in the nature of a highly endowed woman. I put on mourning for her with a deep feeling of sadness,- I never expected to meet her again in this life, but there was a strong chain of interest between us, that spell of mind on mind, which, once formed, can never be broken. I felt, too, that my whole nature was understood and appreciated by her, and this is a sort of happiness which I consider the most rare in all earthly affection. Those who feel and think deeply, whatever playfulness of manner may brighten the surface of their character, are fully unsealed to very few indeed.”
“ Will you tell Mr. Wordsworth this anecdote of poor Mrs. Fletcher ? I am sure it will interest him. During the time that the famine in the Deccan was raging, she heard that a poor Hindoo had been found lying dead in one of the temples at the foot of an idol, and with a female child, still living, in his arms. She and her husband immediately repaired to the spot, took the poor little orphan away with them, and conveyed it to their own home. She tended it assiduously, and one of her last cares was to have it placed at a female missionary school, to be brought up as a Christian.” 1
“I was not well when the news of our poor friend's death arrived, and was much overcome by it; and almost immediately afterwards, I was obliged to exert myself in a way altogether at variance with my feelings. All these causes have thrown me back a good deal; but I am now surmounting them, and was yesterday able to make one of a party in an excursion to a little mountain tarno about twelve miles from Dublin. The strangely deserted character of the country, long before this object is reached-indeed, at only
In The Christian Keepsake for 1838, there is an excellent likeness of Mrs. Fletcher, with a slight but pleasing Memoir, written with much feeling and appreciation.
• Lough Bray.
seven or eight miles' distance from the metropolismis quite astonishing to English eyes; a wiđe, mountain tract of country, in many parts without a sign of human life, or trace of culture or habitation as far as the sight can reach-magnificent views bursting upon you every now and then, but all deep solitude, and the whole traversed by a noble road, a military work, I was told, the only object of which seemed to be a large barrack in the heart of the hills, now untenanted, but absolutely necessary for the safety of Dublin not many years since. Then we reached a little lake, lying clear, and still, and dark, but sparkling all over to the sun, as with innumerable fire-flies ; high green hills sweeping down without shore or path, except on one side, into its very bosom, and all around the same deep silence. I was only sorry that one dwelling, and that, of all things, a cottage ornée, stood on its bank; for though it was like a scene of enchantment to enter and look upon the lonely pool and solemn mountains, through the coloured panes of a richly-carved and oak-panelled apartment, still the charm of nature was in some degree broken by the association of wealth and refinement."
Mrs. Hemans had projected another visit to Westmoreland in the course of this summer, and a delightful plan had been formed of a meeting there with her sister and brother-in-law, and of happy days to be passed together amidst the lovely scenery of the Lakes. But an attack of fever, by which she was visited in the month of July, and which reduced her to an alarming state of languor and weakness, compelled her, sadly, and reluctantly, to relinquish all idea of carry
ing this long-cherished scheme into execution. “1 know you will regret my heavy disappointment,” she wrote to one of her friends in Liverpool, “ when I tell you that I have been obliged sorrowfully to give up the hope of visiting England at present. Whether from the great exertions I had made to clear away all my wearisome correspondence, and arrange my affairs, so as to give myself a month's holiday with a free conscience, or from the intense heat of the weather, which has long greatly oppressed me, I know not; but my fever, which had not been quite subdued, returned upon me the very day I last wrote to you, and in a very few hours rose to such a height, that my strength was completely prostrated. 'I am now pronounced, and indeed feel myself, quite unfit for the possible risk of the passage, and subsequent travelling by coach, and am going this very day, or rather in the cool of the evening, a few miles into the county of Wicklow, for immediate change of air. If my health improve in a day or two, I shall travel on very quietly to get more among the mountains, the fresh, wild, native air of which is to me always an elixir vitæ ; but I am going under much depression of feeling, both from my keen sense of disappointment, and because I hate wandering about by myself.” 1
This excursion, far from producing the good effects anticipated, led, on the contrary, to very disastrous ones; for, by a most unfortunate fatality, the little country inn to which Mrs. Hemans repaired for change of air, proved to be infected with scarlet fever, and
*Her son Charles was gone with a friend into Westmoreland.
this circumstance was concealed by the people of the house, till both herself and her maid had caught the contagion. She thus became again a prisoner from illness, under circumstances of far greater discomfort than before; and so entirely were her strength and spirits subdued by these repeated attacks, that she afterwards described herself as having passed hour after hour, in the beginning of her convalescence, sitting in the little garden of the inn, with her senses absorbed in the tremulous motions of a weeping willow, and tears rolling down her cheeks from absolute weakness and weariness. Like “ Mariana in the moated grange,”
“She said, I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead !”1 As soon as her removal could be undertaken with safety, she returned to Dublin, and by degrees attained once more to a state of partial recovery. “My fever has left me," she wrote to her sister, “ with a very great susceptibility to coughs, sore throats, and all that “grisly train,” and this, I am afraid, is likely to continue my scourge for a long time. In order to surmount it, I am desired to pass as much time as possible in the open air, which I accordingly do, but with a great sense of languor clinging to me. I went for two or three days to the Archbishop's country-seat, just before Charles's return, and my spirits were cheered by the quiet and the intellectual society of the place. I am now, though often with a deep-sighing weariness (of which, I fear, your own anxieties must have given
See the poem of Mariana, by Mr. Alfred Tennyson.