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SECTION VIII. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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I have referred, some pages back, to a great opening for work, of a delightful kind, which offered while I was busy about Comte. As I have explained, the whole version, except half of Comte’s first volume (that is, about a sixteenth part) was done between Christmas 1852 and the following October: and it remains to be told what else I had to do while engaged on that version. In April 1852, I received a letter from a literary friend in London, asking me, by desire of the Editor of “Daily News,” whether I would “send him a ‘leader’ occasionally.” I did not know who this editor was; had hardly seen a number of the paper, and had not the remotest idea whether I could write ‘leaders:’ and this was my reply. I saw that this might be an opening to greater usefulness than was likely to be equalled by anything else that I could undertake; so I was not sorry to be urgently invited to try. The editor, my now deeply-mourned friend, Mr. Frederick Knight Hunt, and I wrote frank and copious letters, to see how far our views and principles agreed; and his letters gave me the impression which all my subsequent knowledge of him confirmed; that he was one of the most upright and rational of men, and a thorough gentleman in mind and manners. I sent him two or three articles, the second of which (I think it was) made such a noise that I found that there would be no little amusement in my new work, if I found I could do it. It was attributed to almost every possible writer but the real one. This “hit” set me forward cheerily; and I immediately promised to do a ‘leader’ per week, while engaged on Comte. Mr. Hunt begged for two; and to this I agreed when I found that each required only two or three hours in an evening, and that topics abounded. I had sufficient misgiving and uncertainty to desire very earnestly to have some conversation with Mr. Hunt; and I offered to go to London (on my way to Scotland) for the purpose. He would not hear of this, but said he would come to me, if public affairs would allow of his leaving the office. Then parliament was dissolved; and the elections kept him at home; so that I looked for him in vain by every train for ten days before my niece and I started for Edinburgh. He came to us at Portobello; and for two half days he poured out so rich a stream of conversation that my niece could not stand the excitement. She went out upon the shore, to recover her mind’s breath, and came in to enjoy more. It was indeed an unequalled treat; and when we parted, I felt that a bright new career was indeed opened to me. He had before desired that I should write him letters from Ireland; and he now bespoke three per week during our travels there. This I accomplished; and the letters were afterwards, by his advice and the desire of Mr. Chapman, published in a volume. It was on occasion of that long journey, which extended from the Giant’s Causeway to Bantry Bay, and from the Mullet to Wexford, that I first felt the signs of failure in bodily strength which I now believe to have been a warning of my present fatal malady. My companion was an incomparable help. It was impossible to be more extensively and effectually aided than I was by her. She took upon herself all the fatigue that it was possible to avert from me; and I reposed upon her sense and spirit and watchfulness like a spoiled child. Yet I found, and said at the time, that this must be my last arduous journey. The writing those Letters was a pure pleasure, whether they were penned in a quiet chamber at a friend’s house, or amidst a host of tourists, and to the sound of the harp, in a salon at Killarney; but, in addition to the fatigue of travelling and of introductions to strangers, they were too much for me. I had some domestic griefs on my mind, it is true. During the spring, my neighbours had requested me to deliver two or three lectures on Australia; and one consequence of my doing so was that my dear servant Jane resolved to emigrate (for reasons which I thought sound) and she was to sail in November: and now at Cork, the news met me that the other servant, no less beloved, was going to marry the Master of the Ragged School at Bristol, who had been her coadjutor in the Norfolk Workhouse School before mentioned. I wrote to advise their marriage at Christmas; but it was with the sense of a heavy misfortune having befallen me. I did not believe that my little household could ever again be what it had been since I built my house: and I should have been thankful to have foreseen how well I should settle again, — to change no more. I did not fully recover my strength till our pretty wedding was over, and I was fairly settled down, in winter quiet, to Comte and my weekly work for “Daily News.” — The wedding was truly a charming one. My dear girl had the honour of having Miss Carpenter for her bridesmaid, and the Revd. Philip P. Carpenter to perform the ceremony, — the Bristol Ragged School being, as every body knows, the special care of Miss Carpenter. I told the bride, the week before the bridegroom and guests arrived, that, as I could not think of sending the former to the kitchen table, nor yet of separating them, it would be a convenience and pleasure to me if she would be my guest in the sitting-rooms for the few days before the marriage. She did it with the best possible grace. She had worked hard at her wedding clothes during my absence, that she might be free for my service after my return: and now, after instructing her young successor, she dressed herself well, and dined with us, conversing freely, and, best of all, making a good dinner, while watching that every body was well served. A more graceful lady I never saw. She presented me with a pretty cap of her own making for the wedding morning; and would let nobody else dress me. The evening before, when Mr. Carpenter delivered a Temperance lecture, Miss Carpenter and I sent the entire household to the lecture; and we set out the long table for the morning, dressed the flowers (which came in from neighbouring conservatories) and put on all the cold dishes; covered up the whole, and shut up the cat. The kitchen was the only room large enough for the party; and there, after the ceremony, we had a capital breakfast, with good speaking, and all manner of good feeling. When all were gone, and my new maids had dried their sympathetic tears, and removed the tables, and given away the good things which that year served my usual Christmas day guests for dinner at home instead of here; and when I had put off my finery, and sat down, with a bursting headache, to write the story to the bride’s family, and the Carpenters’ and my own, I felt more thoroughly down-hearted than for many a year. — All went well, however. The good couple are in their right place, honoured and useful; and “our darling,” as Miss Carpenter called my good girl, is beloved by others as by me. There have been no more changes in my household; and, as for me, I soon recovered entirely from my griefs in my delectable work.
When summer was coming on, and Comte was advancing well, I agreed to do three leaders per week for Mr. Hunt. All the early attempts at secrecy were over. Within the first month, I had been taxed with almost every article by somebody or other, who “knew me by my style,” or had heard it in omnibuses, or somehow; and, after some Galway priests had pointed me out by guess, in the Irish papers, as the writer of one of the Irish Letters, and this got copied into the English papers, Mr. Hunt wrote me that all concealment was wholly out of the question, and that I need not trouble myself further about it. In the summer he came to see me; and we settled that I should send him four articles per week when Comte was out of my hands. During that visit of his, we went by the lake, one day, to pay a visit a few miles off, — he rowing me in one of the lake skiffs. A windy rain overtook us on our return. I had no serious idea of danger, or I should not have talked as I did, about drowning being an easy death, and my affairs being always settled, even to the arrangement of my papers &c. We came home to dinner without his giving me (experienced boatman as he was) any idea of our having had a serious adventure. I found afterwards that he had told his friends in London that we had been in extreme danger from the swell on the lake; and that when I was talking of the ease of drowning, in comparison with other deaths, he was thinking of his wife and children. He requested me to write an article, at the opening of the next season, on the criminal carelessness of our boatkeepers in letting those little skiffs to strangers, on a lake subject to gusts and sudden storms: and this I did. How little did he imagine that before the beginning of yet another season, he would have been months in his grave, and I standing on the verge of mine!
Immediately on the publication of my “Positive Philosophy,” I went to London and Birmingham for nearly three months. I visited so many hosts, and saw so much society that I became fully and finally satisfied that my settling myself at Ambleside was, as Wordsworth had said, the wisest step of my life. It is true, I was at work the whole time. Besides the plentiful assistance which I desired to give the “Daily News,” while on the spot, and some papers for “Household Words,” a serious piece of business required my attention. The impending war rendered desirable an earnest and well-studied article on England’s Foreign Policy, for the “Westminster Review;” and I agreed to do it. I went to the Editor’s house, for the purpose, and enjoyed both my visit and my work. — On taking possession of my room there, and finding a capital desk on my table, with a singularly convenient slope, and of an admirable height for writing without fatigue, it struck me that, during my whole course of literary labour, — of nearly five-and-thirty years, it had never once occurred to me to provide myself with a proper, business-like desk. I had always written on blotting paper, on a flat table, except when, in a lazy mood in winter, I had written as short-sighted people do (as Mrs. Somerville and “Currer Bell” always did) on a board, or something stiff, held in the left hand. I wrote a good deal of the “Political Economy” in that way, and with steel pens; and the method had the effect, advantageous or not, of making the writing more upright, and thereby increasing the quantity in a page. But it was radically uncomfortable; and I have ever since written on a table, and with quill pens. Now, on occasion of this visit at my friend’s, Mr. Chapman’s, I was to begin on a new and most luxurious method, — just, as it happens, at the close of my life’s work. Mr. Chapman obtained for me a first-rate regular Chancery-lane desk, with all manner of conveniences, and of a proper sanitary form: and, moreover, some French paper of various sizes, which has spoiled me for all other paper: ink to correspond; and a pen-maker, of French workmanship, suitable to eyes which were now feeling the effects of years and over-work. I had before me the prospect of more moderate work than for a quarter of a century past, with sure and sufficient gain from it; work pleasant in itself, and recommended by all agreeable appliances. Never was I more homesick, even in the wilds of Arabia, than I now was, amidst the high civilisation of literary society in London. — I came home very happy; and well I might.
Mr. Hunt escorted me part of the way to my host’s, on our last meeting for that time, for the sake of some conversation which he, very properly, called serious. He told me that he had something to say which he begged me to consider well. He told me that he had been looking back through my connexion with “Daily News;” and he found that of nearly 300 articles that I had sent him, only eight had not been used; and that (I think) six of those eight had been sent during the first few weeks, before I had got into the ways of the paper. I had now written four or five per week for a considerable time, without one rejection. His advice was that I should henceforth do six per week, — under the liability, of course, of a few more being unused, from the enhanced chances of being intercepted by recent news, when my communications were daily. If I should agree to this, and continue my other literary connexion, he thought I ought to lay out money freely in books, and in frequent visits to London, to keep up with the times. This scheme suited me exactly; for my work, under his guidance, had become thoroughly delightful.
His recourse to me was avowedly on account of the “History of the Peace;” and now that war was beginning, my recent study of the politics of the last half-century was a fair qualification. We were precisely agreed as to the principle of the war, as to the character of the Aberdeen Ministry, as to the fallaciousness and mischievousness of the negotiations for the Austrian alliance, and as to the vicious absurdity of Prussia, and the mode and degree in which Louis Napoleon was to be regarded as the representative of the French nation. For some time past, the historical and geographical articles have been my charge; together with the descriptive and speculative ones, in relation to foreign personages and states. At home, the agricultural and educational articles were usually consigned to me; and I had the fullest liberty about the treatment of special topics, arising any where. With party contests, and the treatment of “hot and hot” news, I never had any concern, — being several hundred miles out of the way of the latest intelligence. Mr. Hunt thought my distance from London no disadvantage; and he was quite plain-spoken about the inferiority of the articles I wrote in London and Birmingham to those I sent him from home. — I followed his suggestions with great satisfaction, — his wife and family having already made a compact with me for an exchange of visits, when I wanted London news, and they needed country refreshment. So I bought books to the amount of above £100, under his guidance, and came home exceedingly happy, — little dreaming that in one year from that time, he would be in his grave, his wife a broken-spirited widow, and I myself under sentence of death, and compelled to tell her that we should never meet again.
That eventful year, 1854, began most cheerily to us all. Mr. Hunt had raised the paper to a condition of high honour and prosperity. He enjoyed his work and his position, and was at ease about his affairs and his beloved family, after years of heroic struggle, and the glorious self-denial of a man of sensitive conscience and thoroughly domestic heart. He had to bear the wear and tear which a man of his order of conscience has to endure in a post of such responsibility as his; and this, we all believe, was a predisposing cause of his inability to resist an attack of disease. But at the opening of the year, he was in his usual health, and had every reason to be very happy. As for me, — my life was now like nothing that I had ever experienced. I had all the benefits of work, and of complete success, without any of the responsibility, the sense of which has always been the great drawback on my literary satisfactions, and especially in historical writing, — in which I could have no comfort but by directing my readers to my authorities, in all matters of any importance. Now, while exercising the same anxious care as to correctness, and always referring Mr. Hunt to my sources of information, I was free from the responsibility of publication altogether. My continued contributions to the “Westminster Review” and elsewhere preserved me from being engrossed in political studies; and I had more leisure for philosophical and literary pursuits than at any time since my youth. Two or three hours, after the arrival of the post (at breakfast time now) usually served me for my work; and when my correspondence was done, there was time for exercise, and the discharge of neighbourly business before dinner. Then, — I have always had some piece of fancy-work on hand, — usually for the benefit of the Abolition fund in America; and I have a thoroughly womanish love of needle-work; — yes, even (“I own the soft impeachment”) of wool-work, many a square yard of which is all invisibly embossed with thoughts of mine wrought in, under the various moods and experiences of a long series of years. It is with singular alacrity that, in winter evenings, I light the lamp, and unroll my wool-work, and meditate or dream till the arrival of the newspaper tells me that the tea has stood long enough. Before Mr. Rowland Hill gave us a second post delivery at Ambleside, Mr. Hunt had made arrangements by which I received the paper of the day at tea time. After tea, if there was news from the seat of war, I called in my maids, who brought down the great atlas, and studied the chances of the campaign with me. Then there was an hour or two for Montaigne, or Bacon, or Shakspere, or Tennyson, or some dear old biography, or last new book from London, — historical, moral or political. Then, when the house and neighbourhood were asleep, there was the half-hour on the terrace, or, if the weather was too bad for that, in the porch, — whence I seldom or never came in without a clear purpose for my next morning’s work. I believe that, but for my country life, much of the benefit and enjoyment of my travels, and also of my studies, would have been lost to me. On my terrace, there were two worlds extended bright before me, even when the midnight darkness hid from my bodily eyes all but the outlines of the solemn mountains that surround our valley on three sides, and the clear opening to the lake on the south. In the one of those worlds, I saw now the magnificent coast of Massachusetts in autumn, or the flowery swamps of Louisiana, or the forests of Georgia in spring, or the Illinois prairie in summer; or the blue Nile, or the brown Sinai, or the gorgeous Petra, or the view of Damascus from the Salahiey; or the Grand Canal under a Venetian sunset, or the Black Forest in twilight, or Malta in the glare of noon, or the broad desert stretching away under the stars, or the Red Sea tossing its superb shells on shore, in the pale dawn. That is one world, all comprehended within my terrace wall, and coming up into the light at my call. — The other and finer scenery is of that world, only beginning to be explored, of Science. The long study of Comte had deeply impressed on me the imagery of the glorious hierarchy of the sciences which he has exhibited. The time was gone by when I could look at objects as mere surface, or separate existences; and since that late labour of love, I had more than ever seen the alliance and concert of the heavenly bodies, and the mutual action and interior composition of the substances which I used to regard as one in themselves, and unconnected in respect to each other. It is truly an exquisite pleasure to dream, after the toil of study, on the sublime abstractions of mathematics; the transcendent scenery unrolled by astronomy; the mysterious, invisible forces dimly hinted to us by Physics; the new conception of the constitution of Matter originated by Chemistry; and then, the inestimable glimpses opened to us, in regard to the nature and destiny of Man, by the researches into vegetable and animal organisation, which are at length perceived to be the right path of inquiry into the highest subjects of thought. All the grandeur and all the beauty of this series of spectacles is deepened by the ever-present sense of the smallness of the amount of discovery achieved. In the scenery of our travels, it is otherwise. The forest, the steppe, the lake, the city, each filled and sufficed the sense of the observer in the old days when, instead of the Western Continents, there were dreams of far Cathay; and we of this day are occupied for the moment with any single scene, without caring whether the whole globe is explored. But it is different in the sphere of science. Wondrous beyond the comprehension of any one mind is the mass of glorious facts, and the series of mighty conceptions laid open; but the shadow of the surrounding darkness rests upon it all. The unknown always engrosses the greater part of the field of vision; and the awe of infinity sanctifies both the study and the dream. Between these worlds, and other interests, literary and political, were my evenings passed, a short year ago. Perhaps no one has had a much more vivid enjoyment than myself of London society of a very high order; and few, I believe, are of a more radically social nature than myself: yet, I may say that there has never been, since I had a home of my own, an evening spent in the most charming intercourse that I would not have exchanged (as far as the mere pleasure was concerned) for one of my ordinary evenings under the lamp within, and the lights of heaven without.
I did not at once, however, sit down in comparative leisure on my return. I had before promised, most unwillingly, and merely for neighbourly reasons, to write a Guide to Windermere and the neighbourhood; and this, and an article on the Census (requiring much care) for the “Westminster Review” for April, were pressing to be done, as soon as I could sit down on my return home. Then there was a series of articles (on Personal Infirmities, — the treatment of Blindness, Deafness, Idiotcy, &c.) promised for “Household Words.”
I must pause a moment here to relate that these papers were the last I sent to “Household Words,” except two or three which filled up previous schemes. I have observed above that Magazine writing is quite out of my way; and that I accepted Mr. Dickens’s invitation to write for his, simply because its wide circulation went far to compensate for the ordinary objections to that mode of authorship. I did not hesitate on the ground on which some of my relations and friends disapproved the connexion; on the ground of its being infra dig: for, in the first place, I have never stopped to consider my own dignity in matters of business; and, in the next, Mr. Dickens himself being a contributor disposed of the objection abundantly. But, some time before the present date, I had become uneasy about the way in which “Household Words” was going on, and more and more doubtful about allowing my name to be in any way connected with it: and I have lately finally declined Mr. Wills’s invitation to send him more papers. As there is no quarrel concerned in the case, I think it is right to explain the grounds of my secession. My disapproval of the principles, or want of principles, on which the Magazine is carried on is a part of my own history; and it may be easily understood that feelings of personal friendliness may remain unaffected by opposition of views, even in a matter so serious as this. I think the proprietors of “Household Words” grievously inadequate to their function, philosophically and morally; and they, no doubt, regard me as extravagant, presumptuous and impertinent. I have offered my objections as a reply to a direct request for a contribution; and Mr. Wills has closed the subject. But, on all other ground, we are friends.
In the autumn of 1849, my misgivings first became serious. Mr. Wills proposed my doing some articles on the Employments of Women, (especially in connexion with the Schools of Design and branches of Fine-Art manufacture;) and was quite unable to see that every contribution of the kind was necessarily excluded by Mr. Dickens’s prior articles on behalf of his view of Woman’s position; articles in which he ignored the fact that nineteen-twentieths of the women of England earn their bread, and in which he prescribes the function of Women; viz., to dress well and look pretty, as an adornment to the homes of men. I was startled by this; and at the same time, and for many weeks after, by Mr. Dickens’s treatment in his Magazine of the Preston Strike, then existing, and of the Factory and Wages controversy, in his tale of “Hard Times.” A more serious incident still occurred in the same autumn. In consequence of a request from Mr. Dickens that I would send him a tale for his Christmas Number, I looked about for material in real life; for, as I had told him, and as I have told every body else, I have a profound contempt of myself as a writer of fiction, and the strongest disinclination to attempt that order of writing. I selected a historical fact, and wrote the story which appears under the title of “The Missionary” in my volume of “Sketches from Life.” I carried it with me to Mr. Wills’s house; and he spoke in the strongest terms of approbation of it to me, but requested to have also “a tale of more domestic interest,” which I wrote on his selection of the ground-work (also fact.) Some weeks afterwards, my friends told me, with renewed praises of the story, that they mourned the impossibility of publishing it, — Mrs. Wills said, because the public would say that Mr. Dickens was turning Catholic; and Mr. Wills and Mr. Dickens, because they never would publish any thing, fact or fiction, which gave a favourable view of any one under the influence of the Catholic faith. This appeared to me so incredible that Mr. Dickens gave me his “ground” three times over, with all possible distinctness, lest there should be any mistake: — he would print nothing which could possibly dispose any mind whatever in favour of Romanism, even by the example of real good men. In vain I asked him whether he really meant to ignore all the good men who had lived from the Christian era to three centuries ago: and in vain I pointed out that Père d’Estélan was a hero as a man, and not as a Jesuit, at a date and in a region where Romanism was the only Christianity. Mr. Dickens would ignore, in any publication of his, all good catholics; and insisted that Père d’Estélan was what he was as a Jesuit and not as a man; — which was, as I told him, the greatest eulogium I had ever heard passed upon Jesuitism. I told him that his way of going to work, — suppressing facts advantageous to the Catholics, — was the very way to rouse all fair minds in their defence; and that I had never before felt so disposed to make popularly known all historical facts in their favour. — I hope I need not add that the editors never for a moment supposed that my remonstrance had any connexion with the story in question being written by me. They knew me too well to suppose that such a trifle as my personal interest in the acceptance or rejection of the story had any thing to do with my final declaration that my confidence and comfort in regard to “Household Words” were gone, and that I could never again write fiction for them, nor any thing in which principle or feeling were concerned. Mr. Dickens hoped I should “think better of it;” and this proof of utter insensibility to the nature of the difficulty, and his and his partner’s hint that the real illiberality lay in not admitting that they were doing their duty in keeping Catholic good deeds out of the sight of the public, showed me that the case was hopeless. To a descendant of Huguenots, such total darkness of conscience on the morality of opinion is difficult to believe in when it is before one’s very eyes.
I need not add that my hopes from the influence of “Household Words” were pretty nearly annihilated from that time (the end of 1853) forwards: but there was worse to come. I had supposed that the editors would of course abstain from publishing any harm of catholic priests and professors, if they would admit no good; but in this I have recently found myself mistaken; and great is my concern. I had just been reading in an American advertisement a short account of the tale called “The Yellow Mask,” with its wicked priest, when I received from the Editor of “Household Words” another request for an article. I had not read “The Yellow Mask;” but a guest then with me related the story so fully as to put me in complete possession of it. I will cite the portion of my letter to Mr. Wills which contains my reply to his request. It is abundantly plain-spoken; but we were plain-spoken, throughout the controversy; and never did occasion more stringently require the utmost plainness of remonstrance on the side of the advocate of religious liberty and social justice, and any clearness of reply that might be possible on the opposite side. — Here is my letter, as far as relates to Mr. Wills’s petition.
“ ... ... ... ... Another paper from me? you ask. No — not if I were to live twenty years, — if the enclosed paragraph from an American paper be no mistake; and except, of course, in case of repentance and amendment.
“The ‘Yellow Mask,’ in Twelve Chapters: Philadelphia.
“This pamphlet is a re-print from Dickens’s ‘Household Words.’ The story is ingenious, and fraught with considerable interest. The despicable course of ‘Father Rocco’ pursued so stealthily for the pecuniary benefit of ‘holy mother church’ shows of what stuff priestcraft is made.”
“The last thing I am likely to do is to write for an anti-catholic publication; and least of all when it is anti-catholic on the sly. I have had little hope of ‘Household Words’ since the proprietors refused to print a historical fact (otherwise approved of) on the ground that the hero was a Jesuit: and now that they follow up this suppression of an honourable truth by the insertion of a dishonouring fiction (or fact, — no matter which) they can expect no support from advocates of religious liberty or lovers of fair-play: and so fond are English people of fair-play, that if they knew this fact, you would soon find your course in this matter ruinous to your publication. — As for my writing for it, — I might as well write for the ‘Record’ newspaper; and, indeed, so far better, that the ‘Record’ avows its anticatholic course. No one wants ‘Household Words’ to enter into any theological implication whatever: — but you choose to do it, and must accept accordingly the opinions you thereby excite. I do not forget that you plead duty; and I give you credit for it, — precisely as I do to the Grand Inquisitor. He consecrates his treatment of heretics by the plea of the dangers of Protestantism: and you justify your treatment of Catholics by the plea of the dangers of Romanism. The one difference that there is, is in his favour; — that he does not profess Protestant principles while pursuing the practices of Jesuitry. — No, I have no more to say to ‘Household Words;’ and you will prefer my telling you plainly why, and giving you this much light on the views your course has occasioned in one who was a hearty well-wisher to ‘Household Words,’ as long as possible.
Mr. Wills replied that he felt justified in what he had done; that we should never agree on the matter; and that, agreeing to differ, we would drop the subject. — Such are the grounds, and such was the process, of my secession from the corps of Mr. Dickens’s contributors.
When I fancied I was going to do what I pleased till I left home in July 1854, the proprietor of the Windermere Guide made an irresistible appeal to me to do the whole district, under the form of a “Complete Guide to the Lakes.” Still in hope that leisure would come at last, and feeling that I should enjoy it the more for having omitted no duty, I gave up my holiday evenings now. I made the tour of the district once more, with a delightful party of friends, — reviving impressions and noting facts, and then came home, resigned to work “double tides” for the remaining weeks before my summer absence, — dining early, after my morning’s work, and writing topography in the evenings. I received much aid in the collection of materials from the publisher, and from the accomplished artist, Mr. Lindsey Aspland, who illustrated the volume: and I finished my work, and went forth on a series of visits, which were to occupy the tourist season, — my house being let for that time. I little imagined, when I left my own gate, that the ease and light-hearted pleasure of my life, — I might almost say, my life itself, — were left behind me; — that I was going to meet sickness and sorrow, and should return to sorrow, sickness and death.
If I had been duly attentive to my health, I might have become aware already that there was something wrong. Long after, I remembered that, from about March, I had been kept awake for some little time at night by odd sensations at the heart, followed by hurried and difficult breathing: and once, I had been surprised, while reading, to find myself unable to see more than the upper half of the letters, or more of that than the word I was reading. I laid aside my book; and if I thought at all of the matter, it was to suppose it to be a passing fit of indigestion, — though I had no other sign of indigestion. While at Liverpool, I found myself far less strong than I had supposed; and again in Wales and at Shrewsbury; but I attributed this to the heat. Mr. Hunt met me and my maid at the Station in London, and took us over to his house at Sydenham, giving us bad news by the way of the spread of cholera. A poor carpenter had, the week before, died of cholera while at work in Mr. Hunt’s house, — the seizure being too sudden to admit of his removal to his own unhealthy home, — from whence, no doubt, he brought the disease. On our way from the Sydenham station to Mr. Hunt’s house, he pointed out to me an abominable pond, covered with slime and duckweed, which he had tried in vain to draw official attention to. During my short visit, and just after it, almost all of us were ill, — my host and hostess, some of the children, a servant, and myself: and after my removal to an airy lodging at Upper Norwood, opposite the Crystal Palace fence, I had repeated attacks of illness, and was, in fact, never well during the five weeks of my residence there. — It was a time of anxiety and sorrow. My good friend and publisher, Mr. Chapman, had just failed, — in consequence of misfortunes which came thick upon him, from the time of Mr. Lombe’s death, which was a serious blow to the “Westminster Review.” Mr. Chapman never, in all our intercourse, asked me to lend him money; yet the “Westminster Review” was by this time mortgaged to me. It was entirely my own doing; and I am anxious, for Mr. Chapman’s sake, that this should be understood. The truth of the case is that I had long felt, as many others had professed to do, that the cause of free-thought and free-speech was under great obligations to Mr. Chapman; and it naturally occurred to me that it was therefore a duty incumbent on the advocates of free-thought and speech to support and aid one by whom they had been enabled to address society. Thinking, in the preceding winter, that I saw that Mr. Chapman was hampered by certain liabilities that the review was under, I offered to assume the mortgage, — knowing the uncertain nature of that kind of investment, but regarding the danger of loss as my contribution to the cause. At first, after the failure, there was every probability, apparently, that Mr. Chapman’s affairs would be speedily settled, — so satisfied were all his creditors who were present with his conduct under examination, and the accounts he rendered. A few generous friends and creditors made all smooth, as it was hoped; but two absent discontented creditors pursued their debtor with, (as some men of business among the creditors said) “a cruelty unequalled in all their experience.” One of their endeavours was to get the review out of Mr. Chapman’s hands; and one feature of the enterprise was an attempt to upset the mortgage, and to drive Mr. Chapman to bankruptcy, in order to throw the review into the market, at the most disadvantageous season, when London was empty, and cholera prevalent, — that these personages might get it cheap. One of them made no secret of his having raised a subscription for the purpose. It was the will of the great body of the creditors, however, that Mr. Chapman should keep the review, which he had edited thus far with great and rising success; and his two foes were got rid of by the generosity of Mr. Chapman’s guaranteeing supporters. The attempt to upset the mortgage failed, of course. I had an intimation in twenty-four hours that I was “not to be swindled out of the Review:” but the whole anxiety, aggravated by indignation and pain at such conduct on the part of men who had professed a sense of obligation to Mr. Chapman, extended over many weeks. The whole body of the creditors were kept waiting, and the estate was deteriorating for those weeks, during which the two persecutors were canvassing for subscriptions for the review which one of them endeavoured to drive into a bad market, at my expense, and to the ruin of its proprietor. The business extended over my residence at Sydenham. I had long before promised an article, involving no small labour, for the next number of the review (“Rajah Brooke;”) and, when I was reckoning on my return home, two misfortunes occurred which determined me to stay another week, and work. A relative of Mr. Chapman’s, his most valued friend and contributor, was struck down by cholera in the very act of writing an article of first-rate consequence for the forthcoming number: and, while my poor friend was suffering under the first anguish of this loss, another contributor, wrought on by evil influences, disappointed the editor of a promised article at the time it ought to have been at press. I could not but stay and write another; and I did so, — being bound however to be at home on the nineteenth of September, to receive the first of a series of autumn guests. On the night of my arrival at home, after a too arduous journey for one day, I was again taken ill; and next morning, the post brought the news of the death of another of my dear aunts, — one having died during my absence from home. I had left Mr. Hunt in a very poor state of health, — as indeed every body seemed to be during those melancholy months; but we hoped that a shooting excursion would restore him to business in his usual vigour. It appeared to do so; but cholera was making such ravage among the corps of the paper that those who could work were compelled to over-work; and the editor slept at the office during the most critical time. Every circumstance was against him; and we began to be uneasy, without having any serious apprehension of what was about to befal.
There was great enjoyment in that Sydenham sojourn, through all its anxieties. During the first half of the time that I was in lodgings, a dear young niece was with me; and for the other half, a beloved cousin, — my faithful friend for forty years. Some whole days, and many half holidays, I spent with them in the Crystal Palace, with great joy and delight. I dwell upon those days now with as much pleasure as ever, — the fresh beauty of the summer morning, when we were almost the first to enter, and found the floors sprinkled, and the vegetation revived, and the tables covered with cool-looking viands, and the rustics coming in, and venting their first amazement in a very interesting way: — and again, our steady duties in the Courts in the middle of the day; and again, the walk on the terrace, or the lingering in the nave when the last train was gone, and the exhibitors were shutting up for the day. There were also merry parties, and merry plans at Mr. Hunt’s. We went, a carriage-full, to the prorogation of parliament, when I had a ticket to the Peeresses’ gallery, where, however, we were met by the news (which encountered us every where) of a mournful death from cholera, — Lord Jocelyn having died that afternoon. We had a plan for going, a party of fifteen, to Paris, in the next April: — to Paris, for the opening of the Exhibition on May-day. May-day has passed without the opening of the Exhibition: Mr. Hunt has been above five months in his grave; and I have been above three months in daily expectation of death. In November, when Mr. Hunt was ill, but we knew not how ill, I wrote to him that, on consideration, it seemed to me that the party to Paris would be better without me, (for political reasons:) and Mr. Hunt’s message (the last to me) was that it would be time enough to settle that when April came. I suspect that he foresaw his fate. — In November, my correspondence was with the sub-editor, because Mr. Hunt was ill. The cashier told me next of his “alarm” about his beloved friend: but the sub-editor wrote that he was not alarmed like the rest. Then the accounts were worse; there was one almost hopeless: and then, he was dead. I did not think that such capacity for sorrow was left in me. He was so happy in life; and the happiness of so many was bound up in him! He was only forty; and he had fairly entered on a career of unsurpassed usefulness and honour, and was beginning to reap the natural reward of many years of glorious effort! But he was gone; and I had not known such a personal sorrow since the loss of Dr. Follen, in 1840, by the burning of a steamer at sea. I certainly felt very ill; and I told my family so; but I thought I could go to London, and work at the office during the interval till his place could be filled. I offered to do so; but the proprietors assured me that I could help them best by working daily at home. The cousin who had been my companion at Sydenham wrote that she was glad I had not gone; for she believed, after what she had seen in September, that it would have killed me. I believe she was right, though it seemed rather extravagant at the time.