by the bye, Cayley’s volume of Notes to Dante. And lastly, a pamphlet on Freemasonry, sent to me for poor Papa by one Mr. Taylor of Liverpool. I’ll put in with this the letter which came with it, and which I answered.
While Ruskin was at the seaside I painted and sent him a water-colour of The Nativity , done in a week, price fifteen guineas. I thought and think it one of my best, but R[uskin] disappointed me by not thinking it up to my usual mark. I shall do him another instead, and sell that to some one else. At present I am doing two for him, one from Dante, and one begun some time ago of the Preparation for the Passover in the Holy Family. An astounding event is to come off tomorrow. The Marchioness of Waterford has expressed a wish to Ruskin to see me paint in water-colour, as she says my method is inscrutable to her. She is herself an excellent artist, and would have been really great, I believe, if not born such a swell and such a stunner. I believe that, as Lady Seymour, she was Queen of Beauty at the Tournament, and is, I have often heard, gloriously beautiful, though now rather past her prime. To-morrow she has appointed to come and see me paint, but whether I shall be able to paint at all under the circumstances I have my doubts. However, I have told a little boy to come, to paint the head of Christ from. He is a very nice little fellow whom I picked out from the Saint Martin’s School the other day. He has a lovely head, and such a beautiful forehead that I thought he must be very clever, but on enquiring as to his favourite pursuit he rather threw me back by answering “buttons”. Little Owens has also been sitting to me. I asked him whether he was often ill, as he seems very delicate, and was concerned (his sister, you know, having lately died of consumption) to be answered that he often was. Enquiring further into his symptoms, their leading character appeared to be stomach-ache, and, on continued
analysis of the cause usually leading to this result, I arrived at “gooseberries.”
But the funniest boy of all was one of whom Lizzy told me, who accompanied her on a donkey-ride at Clevedon lately. He was about twelve, and after a little while opened a conversation by asking if there was any lions in the parts she comed from. Hearing no, he seemed disappointed, and asked her if she had ever ridden on an elephant there. He had last year when the beastesses was here, and, on mounting the elephant for a penny, he felt so joyful that he was obliged to give the man his other twopence, so he couldn’t see the rest of the fair. He wished to know whether boys had to work for their living there, and said a gentleman had told him that in his country the boys were so wicked that they had to be shut up in large prisons. He never knew hisself no boy what stole anything, but he supposed in that country there was nothing but fruit-trees. He pulled a little blue flower growing out of a rock, and said that he liked to let flowers grow in the fields, but he liked to “catch” one when it grew there and take it away, because it looked such a poor little thing. He had a project for leading donkeys without beating, which consisted in holding a handful of grass within an inch of their noses, and inducing them to follow it. Being asked whether that would not be the crueller plan of the two, he said he had noticed donkeys would always eat even when they were full, so he had only to fill his donkey first. All that could be got in explanation of why he thought Lizzy some outlandish native was that he was sure she comed from very far, much further than he could see.
I spent two or three very delightful days at Clevedon. Did you go near it when living at Frome? The junction of the Severn with the Bristol Channel is there, so that the water is hardly brackish, but looks like sea, and you can see across to Wales, only eight miles off, I think. Arthur Hallam, on whom Tennyson wrote In Memoriam (and who was the author of a pamphlet on Papa’s view of Dante), is buried at Clevedon, and we visited his grave. We made several longish
excursions, and saw the country for ten miles round, and many lovely things. Lizzy and I pulled up a quantity of golden water-flags, which I brought to London, and am having planted for my balcony.
Besides Clevedon, I went to Oxford some weeks ago when Guggum was there, and met some nice people, Dr. Acland and his family, who, as well as many others, were most kind to her there—too kind, for they bothered her greatly with attentions. Acland wanted her to settle at Oxford, and said he would introduce her into all the best society. All the women there are immensely fond of her— a sister of Dr. Pusey (or daughter) seems to have been the one she liked best. A great swell, who is Warden of New College . . . showed her all the finest MSS. in the Bodleian Library, and paid her all manner of attentions; winding up by an
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