Thy element's below."
I had looked forward to this meeting with high expectations, and they were abundantly satisfied. I knew that Mr. Lowell must gather about him, wherever he might be, the choicest company, but what his selection would be I was curious to learn. I found with me at the table my own countrymen and his, Mr. Smalley and Mr. Henry James. Of the other guests, Mr. Leslie Stephen was my only old acquaintance in person; but Du Maurier and Tenniel I have met in my weekly "Punch" for many a year; Mr. Lang, Mr. Oliphant, Mr. Townsend, we all know through their writings; Mr. Burne-Jones and Mr. Alma Tadema, through the frequent reproductions of their works in engravings, as well as by their paintings. If I could report a dinner-table conversation, I might be tempted to say something of my talk with Mr. Oliphant. I like well enough conversation which floats safely over the shallows, touching bottom at intervals with a commonplace incident or truism to push it along; I like better to find a few fathoms of depth under the surface; there is a still higher pleasure in the philosophical discourse which calls for the deep sea line to reach bottom; but best of all, when one is in the right mood, is the contact of intelligences when they are off soundings in the ocean of thought. Mr. Oliphant is what many of us call a mystic, and I found a singular pleasure in listening to him. This dinner at Mr. Lowell's was a very remarkable one for the men it brought together, and I remember it with peculiar interest. My entertainer holds a master-key to London society, and he opened the gate for me into one of its choicest preserves on that evening.
We lunched that day at Lady Camperdown's, where we were happy to meet Miss Frances Power Cobbe. In the afternoon we went by invitation to a "tea and talk" at the Reverend Mr. Haweis's, at Chelsea. We found the house close packed, but managed to get through the rooms, shaking innumerable hands of the reverend gentleman's parishioners and other visitors. It was very well arranged, so as not to be too fatiguing, and we left the cordial gathering in good condition. We drove home with Bishop and Mrs. Ellicott.下载
Are we not glad that the responsibility of the decision did not rest on us?下载
I met Mr. Galton for a few moments, but I had no long conversation with him. If he should ask me to say how many faces I can visually recall, I should have to own that there are very few such. The two pictures which I have already referred to, those of Erasmus and of Dr. Johnson, come up more distinctly before my mind's eye than almost any faces of the living. My mental retina has, I fear, lost much of its sensitiveness. Long and repeated exposure of an object of any kind, in a strong light, is necessary to fix its image.
Another day we visited Stafford House, where Lord Ronald Gower, himself an artist, did the honors of the house, showing us the pictures and sculptures, his own included, in a very obliging and agreeable way. I have often taken note of the resemblances of living persons to the portraits and statues of their remote ancestors. In showing us the portrait of one of his own far-back progenitors, Lord Ronald placed a photograph of himself in the corner of the frame. The likeness was so close that the photograph might seem to have been copied from the painting, the dress only being changed. The Duke of Sutherland, who had just come back from America, complained that the dinners and lunches had used him up. I was fast learning how to sympathize with him.
It is very delightful to find one's self in one of these English country residences. The house is commonly old, and has a history. It is oftentimes itself a record, like that old farmhouse my friend John Bellows wrote to me about, which chronicled half a dozen reigns by various architectural marks as exactly as if it had been an official register. "The stately homes of England," as we see them at Wilton and Longford Castle, are not more admirable in their splendors than "the blessed homes of England" in their modest beauty. Everywhere one may see here old parsonages by the side of ivy-mantled churches, and the comfortable mansions where generations of country squires have lived in peace, while their sons have gone forth to fight England's battles, and carry her flags of war and commerce all over the world. We in America can hardly be said to have such a possession as a family home. We encamp,--not under canvas, but in fabrics of wood or more lasting materials, which are pulled down after a brief occupancy by the builders, and possibly their children, or are modernized so that the former dwellers in them would never recognize their old habitations.
The old cathedral seemed to me particularly mouldy, and in fact too high-flavored with antiquity. I could not help comparing some of the ancient cathedrals and abbey churches to so many old cheeses. They have a tough gray rind and a rich interior, which find food and lodging for numerous tenants who live and die under their shelter or their shadow,--lowly servitors some of them, portly dignitaries others, humble holy ministers of religion many, I doubt not,--larvae of angels, who will get their wings by and by. It is a shame to carry the comparison so far, but it is natural enough; for Cheshire cheeses are among the first things we think of as we enter that section of the country, and this venerable cathedral is the first that greets the eyes of great numbers of Americans.