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y the land und easy fashio
Irving returned to London to find himself famous, and, in a certain degree, fashionable ; as we have seen that his American friends greatly complained. We rather doubt, however, the extent of that initiation into good society, technically so called, for which Leslie in the simplicity of his heart gave him credit. To say the truth, Irving, though among his own associates the most natural and unpresuming of men, was not more proof than others of the same easy nature against the little bits of condescending flattery from fashionable folks with which he occasionally met. We English ought certainly to be the last people to satirize others for tuft-hunting : but it is amusing to perceive how very naturally our Republican cousins take the inoculation of that truly British disease. Lady Lyttelton had been pleased with the "Sketch-Book,' and wrote to Mr. Rush, the American Minister in London, to ask whether there was any truth in the report that this work was really written by Walter Scott; or rather to apply to his Excellency for a triumphant proof of its falsehood, as it put her out of all patience to hear the surmise. The consequence was an introduction by Mr. Rush to the real author, who adroitly informed Lady Lyttelton that the article on "Rural Life,' which had particularly taken her fancy, was 'sketched in the vicinity of Hagley, just after he had been rambling about its grounds, and whilst its beautiful scenery, with that of the neighbourhood, were fresh in his recollection ;' and finally an invitation to Irving (1820) to pay her father, Lord Spencer, a visit at Althorp. This circumstance seems to have elevated the worthy author exceedingly, and is chronicled by his biographer with such solemnity as seems to indicate that he shares in a due susceptibility for such aristocratic honours. Irving, being at Paris, was forced to decline the invitation, and in doing so, through the American Minister Rush, says, “I hardly know how to express myself as to the very flattering communication from Mr. Lyttelton. It is enough to excite the vanity of a soberer man than myself. .... Will you be kind enough to convey,' &c., &c., “but, above all, my heartfelt sense of the interest evinced in my behalf by Lady Lyttelton, which, I frankly declare, is one of the most gratifying circumstances that have befallen me in the whole course of my literary errantry. His little knot of American associates were as charmed as himself. • We had heard a rumour of Earl Spencer's invitation to you,' says Leslie, and were very glad to hear it confirmed. Miller says Geoffry Crayon is the most fashionable fellow of the day!' It is almost a pity to quote, even in passing, these follies of the wise; and it is justice to add that, if Irving gave way on this occasion to the spell, such weakness was inconsistent with the general frankness of his disposition and independence of his character.
(Journals, iv. 208). But it will be found with very slight variation in old Sandys' commentary on Ovid's Metamorphoses,' published in 1640 (Book xi.). By a French gentleman I was told a strange accident which befel a brother of his, who saw on Saint German's Bridge, by the Louvre [this was the official name, afterwards superseded by the popular appellation of the Pont-Neuf], a gentle. woman of no meane beauty, sitting on the stones (there laid to finish that worke) and leaning with her elbow with a pensive aspect. According to the French freedome he began to court her, whom she intreated for that time to forbeare, yet told him “if he would bestow a visit to her lodging about eleven of the clock he should finde entertainment agreeable to his quality.” He “found her touch too colde for her yonth.” The morning “ discovered unto him a coarse by his side, forsaken by the soule the evening before.” :
The 'Sketch-Book' was followed in course of time by what may be termed its continuation, · Bracebridge Hall'(1822), and the “Tales of a Traveller'(1824), of which we have already spoken. For the former, Irving got 1000 guineas from Murray; for the latter, he asked 1500 and was offered 1200, but how the difference was settled does not appear. These sums, however, by no means represent his literary income for the year in question, which was swelled by many subsidiary operations in England, and contributions apparently from America. In fact, he was now enjoying affluence in an author's sense of the word, and laying by money for a rainy day. He was offered a hundred guineas an article, to write for the Quarterly ;' but, to his honour, even though we may deem the scruple unnecessary, he refused to be connected with a publication which he regarded as hostile to his country. He wandered about from Paris to London, and from one spot to another in England, without fixed place of residence. Perhaps the happiest little episode in his life, judging from the memorials preserved of it, was his sojourn at Dresden for six months of 1822-3; chiefly animated by his intimacy with a charming English family, that of Mrs. Foster, daughter of Lord Southampton, in which he became thoroughly domesticated. The beginning of this acquaintance was perhaps unique in its singularity.
'It appears' (says one of the ladies of the family) that some time previously my mother had written to her eldest daughter in England a full and affectionate letter; in it, as was her custom, she enlarged on the works she was then reading. These works happened to be Mr. Irving's. With all the warmth and enthusiasm of her nature she had commented on and commended them, and finished her letter by transcribing a favourite passage from the Sketch-Book, at the bottom of which she wrote the author's name in full, “ Washington Irving," not leaving room for her own signature. This letter miscarried, and the police opened it. They found no name but Washington Irving's
and not pushing their inquiries further, or not understanding English,
-if they did, they took this name as clear testimony that he was the writer of the letter,—and knowing his whereabouts, returned it to him, as they supposed, in the usual course of business. .... He told us afterwards that no praise had ever seemed to him so sweet, so genuine, as what he so unexpectedly found in those lines.'— Vol. iii., p. 337.
It was impossible not to seek the acquaintance of the lady who had thus unconsciously opened her heart to him. And it was to a daughter of Mrs. Foster that he formed that attachment to which we alluded in a former part of this article—a short-lived dream of romance, born amidst the gaieties of the little German court : nourished by poetry, and mutual flattery, and the moon, and long summer rambles amidst the hills and forests and haunted castles of old Saxony: and extinguished by “conviction of its utter hopelessness' from want of requital. But the same lady (now Mrs. Fuller, the wife of a clergyman in Northamptonshire), on being applied to by Mr. Pierre Irving for his uncle's correspondence with the family, sent him the following graceful testimonial to the memory of her former admirer.
“The passages I have sent give an idea of his life in Dresden. Sought after by all in the best society, and mingling much in the gay life of a foreign city, and a Court where the Royal family were themselves sufficiently intellectual to appreciate genius, but really intimate with ourselves only, and to such a degree that it gives me a right to judge of some points in his character. He was thoroughly & gentleman, not merely externally in manners and look, but to the innermost fibre and core of his heart. Sweet-tempered, gentle, fastidious, sensitive, and gifted with the warmest affection; the most delightful and invariably interesting companion, gay and full of humour, even in spite of occasional fits of melancholy, which he was, however, seldom subject to when with those he liked; a gift of conversation that flowed like a full river in sunshine, bright, easy, and abundant.'- Vol. ii., p. 340.
This was, however, in his happier moments. About this time, at the age of forty, that satiety of a life without definite objects, and vague fear of a more objectless future, which is the Nemesis of a Bohemian existence, seems to have fallen on him with painful acuteness. The symptoms were complicated in his case with those of temporary loss of health. He had the nightmare feeling of overtasking his powers, and struggling against diminishing popularity and decaying friendships for a hardly won existence,
*I have, in fact, at times' (he writes in 1823) a kind of horror on me, particularly when I wake in the mornings, that incapacitates me for almost anything. It is now passing away, and in a day or two I hope I shall be quite over it. It has prevented me from pursuing anything like literary occupation. I am aware that this is all an affair of the nerves, a kind of reaction in consequence of coming to a stute of repose after so long moving about, and produced also by the anxious feeling on resuming literary pursuits. I feel like a sailor who has once more to put to sea, and is reluctant to quit the quiet security of the shore. If I can only keep the public in good humour with me until I have thrown off two or three things more, I shall be able to secure a comfortable little independence, and then bread and cheese is secure, and perhaps a seat in the pit into the bargain.'-p. 362.
From the recurrence of these ægri somnia,' Irving was effectually relieved, after a hypochondriacal year or two, by the opening of a new career of interest. It is not very clear, from Mr. Pierre Irving's narrative, at what period of the author's life he first began to turn his attention to Spanish subjects and Spanish adventure. They have always had a peculiar and somewhat romantic attraction for American literary men, who trace back the first discovery and conquest of their continent to the subjects of Ferdinand and Isabella. We find Irving in 1825 busy acquiring the Spanish language at Paris : in the following year he starts for Bordeaux with brother Peter, evidently intent on Spanish adventure, and on making a book or two thereout: and the design finally culminates in the Life of Columbus,' in four volumes, undertaken at the end of 1826, and prosecuted with his usual rapidity of execution; which, considering the correctness of his style, was excessive : Moore says that he wrote about 130 pages of the size of those of the 'Sketch-Book’in ten days, which the poet terms 'amazing rapidity.' For two years he made Spain his home: wandered over the greater part of its provinces; fixed his bachelor abode for one winter in the old pile of the Alhambra, from which sojourn he derived some of his most picturesque and agreeable recollections; and ultimately abandoned his intention of returning to his native country, and came back to London at the end of 1828, on receiving the appointment of Secretary of Legation to the United States in England.
Besides the Life of Columbus,' the fruits of his activity during these years were the Conquest of Granada,' the Tales of the Alhambra,' and so forth. Notwithstanding Irving's charm of style, and occasional excellence as a narrator, it can hardly be said that this series of works have added to his fame, or achieved a permanent popularity. Their subjects, which were then fresh, have now become hackneyed—the Spain of Irving, Lockhart, and (greatest of all) of Ford, has become somewhat wearisome to us in the pages of countless imitation ;
and and Irving's works are scarcely executed with sufficient research and depth to be of real historical value, independent of their amusing qualities. They savour too much of the bookmaker. He has been to a great extent superseded by countrymen of his own who have followed in the same track; by the more solid merits of Prescott, who has had in his turn to yield the palm to the energy of Mottley. But while falling off in substantial interest, these works were acquiring more and more of circulation and repaying their author more and more in the way of sterling retribution. It is a well-known phenomenon in the natural history of two remarkable species of men, that while the author is growing in bulk and vigour and approaching to his highest flavour, the bookseller makes prey of him: when the author is out of condition and in a declining state, he in turn feeds on the bookseller. Compare the modest earnings of Irving in his palmiest period, with the sums which he continued to extract from the publishing fraternity—until the mistake was found out-for the heavier productions of his age of exhaustion. They excited the envy of Moore to an almost unfriendly point.
Left' (he says) some of the printed sheets' (of Memoirs of Lord Byron) with Irving, to be sent off to America, he having undertaken to make a bargain for me with the publishers there. If I but make a tenth of what he has done lately for himself in that quarter, I shall be satisfied. 30001, he received from Murray for his Columbus, and 20001. for his Chronicles of Granada ; and on the same two works he has already got 30001. from the American market, with the property of the copyright there still his own. It is true that for Murray (according to his own account) they have not been so fortunate, his loss on the two publications being (as he says) near 30001.; which may not be far from the truth, as the Chronicles have not sold at all.' *
Irving soon appears to have found his new office peculiarly incompatible with his impatience of restraint; and, in 1832, at the age of forty-nine (the culminating epoch of man's intellect, according to Aristotle), on Van Buren's arrival here as minister, he resigned, and returned to enjoy in his native country the fame which he had earned in the old world.
It was a period of trial for American institutions. South Carolina had just passed her 'nullification ordinance;' President Andrew Jackson was preparing to enforce by arms, if need were, the maintenance of the Federal system ; and Irving himself soon found occasion to say, 'I confess I see so many elements of sectional prejudice, hostility, and selfishness stirring and increasing in activity and acrimony in this country, that I begin
* Journal, vi. 91.