23rd December 1880
My dearest Mother,
This letter is not written with the least idea of troubling you to answer, and
indeed I would not write if I thought that; but I do not like to let the season
pass without writing you a line as I am not seeing you. I should find it
difficult to explain all preventives to my coming just now; but you will know it
is neither for want of love to you nor for want of regretting such result. I was
very sorry to hear that Aunt Eliza was out of health again, but hope and trust
that no such thing is the case with yourself, or I must have heard of it. My
informant on the point was Lucy who wrote unexpectedly to say that, as Wm. and
she were prevented by my Aunt's illness from dining at Torrington Square, they
would come on here instead. Perhaps William has told you that he expects another
addition to his family, though not just yet awhile.
Yesterday I had a note from poor Dr. Olivieri enclosing a little book of Italian
stories for schools with a dedicatory MS. sonnet to myself. Poor man! I felt
what this must mean at Christmas time, and responded as best I could. I have no
doubt he deserves sympathy. He spoke with much gratitude of your anonymous
I saw Mr. Graham yesterday, who is most affectionate and friendly to me, but
alas! no longer a picture buyer. His state of health is melancholy, and curious
in a man surrounded by an exceptionally loving and gracious family. Taedium
vitae appears to be the main evil.
I saw Waddington's Sonnet book, with a good many of mine and Christina's in it. I
have not a copy but Watts brought one in. I will subjoin, for your favorable
notice, a sonnet I have done on Mr. Angelo's Holy Family in the National
Gallery. In this picture the Virgin is withdrawing from the Child the book which
contains the prophecy of his sufferings - I suppose that of Isaiah. The idea is
a most beautiful one, and behind this group are angels perusing a scroll.
Shields was helpful to me in the interpretation of this. I possess another
photograph having the same intention in the actions of the Virgin and Child, by
Sandro Botticelli; but whether the motif was a usual one I do not further know.
I have finished the picture of La Pia which now really looks very fine and
Will you give my most cordial greetings to Aunt Charlotte, who I hear is to be
with you, as well as to Christina and to Aunt Eliza.
Your most loving son,
- Turn not the prophet's page, O Son! He knew
- All that thou hast to suffer, and hath writ.
- Not yet thine hour of knowledge. Infinite
- The sorrows that thy manhood's years must rue
- And dire acquaintance of thy grief. That clue
- The spirits of thy mournful ministerings
- Seek through yon scroll in silence. For these
- The angels have desired to look into.
- Still before Eden waves the fiery sword,—
10 Her Tree of Life unransomed: whose sad Tree
- Of Knowledge yet to growth of Calvary
- Must yield its Tempter,—Hell the earliest dead
- Of Earth resign,—and yet, O Son and Lord,
- The Seed o' the woman bruise the serpent's