February the 13th 1855
I have got a beastly boil at the back of my head, which has put me in a state of creaking dreariness of joints and faculties,
which results sometimes in a yawn, sometimes in a grunt, and just now in this letter, which comes, if not hoping to make you
unhappy at a distance, at any rate not quite unconscious of a latent regret that you are not here, either to amuse the present
writer or to be abused by him instead.
You some time back asked me to tell you news of fellows &c. There is but little that I know. The British Institution has
just opened, and I went in for an hour with William's season ticket. It is vile of course. Nothing good except a large Hampstead Landscape by Brown hoisted up to the very top. The great Burchett has a smoke-dried Death of St. Snöox. There is a very good landscape by Anthony, but not of his best.
I saw an Edinburgh Guardian which you sent: the notice of your book is sensible and well enough. That fellow in the Westminster, after asking me all
manner of details about you, hardly drawing the line at the address of your uncle & measurements
of your lower garments, has done his spiriting in a sneaking sort of way, as I
him the other day, meeting him at the Mus. I see your book is in Mudie's last list, together with The Angel in the House, whose gifted author's mug must afford a fine rainbow study of colour I guess since that vile rot in the Athenaeum. However his book it seems is selling at the rate of a hundred a month. I remember you asked me how I like it. O it's
"done to a nicety" & really well & extra well: but I know I can't read it again, though its author is asking his friends all
round to do so & marginize on it for the new edition which he expects the public to be blubbering for this year. Now all
that is really ill-natured, besides being stupid, and the book is a first rate one in its way. Allingham is shortly to be
out with a new or demi-semi-new vol. for which I have not yet ceased to be astounded at having drawn an illustration on wood
in a moment of enthusiasm, but if it is not cut well, it shall be cut out, as I have told him & the publisher, Routledge.
Hughes has done several for the same purpose, and the great Millais has engaged for one, which perhaps may be done ere this.
I have been asked by Moxon
to do some for the Tennyson you have seen advertised, and said I would, but don't know whether I shall, as all the most practicable
subjects had been given away already—my own fault however, as Millais had asked me to do some long ago. Drawing on wood is
a beastly go, and awful for the eyes. And you really think me turned humanitarian in re People's College! Well, there are
no niggers at any rate. You should see my model class for the Model, Sir! None of your Freehand Drawing Books there. The
British mind is brought to bear on the British mug at once, & (seriously) with results which would astonish you in two or
three cases, and in
far beyond what could have been imagined. Talking of the People—I see that your friend Linton has brought out his Magazine.
How is it, and are you a sworn contributor?
I wonder what you're doing. Will you tell? I've really no news of friends scarcely. Millais, perhaps you've heard, is hard
at work on a picture apotheosising the fire-brigade. Hannay will have a novel out immediately. Did you see his Satire &
Satirists—a real book, the best he has done. He is also going to publish Nettle
Note: The closing is written vertically in the left margin.
Flowers—a collection of epigrams &c. & means I think to contract for
a few public cudgellings in a mild way, as advertisement. Here is a rough recollection of one,
meant for some one you know—
- With fraud the church, the law, the camp, are rife:
- Nothing but wickedness! O weary life!
- I must console me with my neighbour's wife.
I can remember no more news. Will you have my last sonnet, as a finish. Ecce.
Note: In line 6, “the” is crossed through and might be read as
- The gloom which breathes upon me with these airs
- Is like the drops that strike the traveller's brow
- Who knows not, hastening, if they menace now
- Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
- Ah! bodes this hour its harvest of new tares,
- Or tells again but of that day whose plough
- Sowed hunger since; the night at last when thou,
- O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my prayers?
- How prickly were the growths, which yet how smooth,
10 On cobwebbed hedgerows of this journey shed,
- Lie by God's grace, till night & sleep may soothe.
- Even as the thistle-down from pathsides dead
- Gleaned by a girl in autumns of her youth,
- Which, one new year, makes soft her marriage-bed.
(The last simile was told to me as a custom common in parts of England.)
Yours affectionately, & with remembrances at home,