Chapter X. New York.

From: The Life and Letters of Christopher Pearse Cranch (1917)
Author: Leonora Cranch Scott
Published: Houghton Mifflin Company 1917 Boston


THE following is from the Autobiography:—

  We arrived in New York August 7, 1849, after a passage of forty-seven days. I shall not forget how particularly I was struck with the American faces on landing at New York. I never before saw the national cast of features. Now I was compelled to see it, in spite of myself. It seemed as if I had arrived among a new people. Among them all there was a general likeness, as typical as on the faces of the English, Irish, or Italians. There was a certain hard, weary expression around the mouth, a quick shrewdness of eye, a solemn, care-worn, anxious look, as they hurried past each other. Every one seemed anxious and worried about something.

  I was no less struck with the want of manners in my countrymen. What a contrast to the Italians and French!

  In melancholy keeping with the people seemed the streets and houses. How did Broadway seem shorn of its glory! How houses, which I once looked upon as very large, had dwarfed and dwindled away! How ugly seemed all the buildings! But remember, this was in 1849, and the improvements in all these things have been immense.

  Going into the country, as we did after landing, the scenery at first seemed monotonous, in form and color. Italy had spoiled me. It was some time before I could discover really picturesque material in the landscape. One thing, however, we had in perfection—Sunsets—such as one never sees in Europe.

  We all went up to Fishkill to the Homestead, and to A. J. Downing’s at Newburgh. In November we returned to New York, and took rooms with some friends in MacDougal Street. My studio, if I remember, was in Broadway, comer of Houston Street. In the summer I was in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where I made a visit to our friends the Deweys. I was at work there painting out of doors. We were all much saddened this summer by the tragical death of our friend Margaret Fuller.

  In 1851 I went to Lake George and visited Jervis McEntee at Rondout, and returned with him and a party of friends to Lake Shawangunk, now called Lake Mohunk. My wife and I and our two children went to Lenox, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1852 and had not been there long when we were summoned away by the sad news of the death of Lizzie’s mother, and of her brother-in-law A. J. Downing, by drowning in the Hudson River in the disaster to the steamboat Henry Clay, on July 28.

  A party of De Windts and friends left Fishkill Landing for a day’s excursion on the beautiful Hudson. When nearly home, the boat raced another steamer, and must have burst a boiler, for Mrs. De Windt was struck and carried under, causing probably instant death. Mr. Downing was a large man and a fine swimmer, who thought nothing of swimming across the Hudson River and back again. Unfortunately a stout woman clung to him in the desperate grasp of a death-struggle, and he was helpless. His wife could not swim. She and her sister, Mary De Windt, were assisted with a chair and a board and floated safely to shore. Frank de Windt, then about sixteen years old, was in the party. When the bodies were brought ashore, Mr. De Windt was stunned by the blow. He paced up and down all day and all night, finding it difficult to realize this great affliction, coming so suddenly upon him.

  This home, my father and mother, George Curtis, and others often visited. Mr. and Mrs. Downing were ideal hosts. Mr. Downing was a man of rare taste and judgment in art, and my aunt was an excellent housekeeper, having, besides, wit and intelligence. Mr. Downing was able to carry out his own æsthetic ideas in his grounds and in his house. My mother used to tell me how he would place a bunch of flowers at each guest’s plate for breakfast. These were always selected with reference to the preferences of his friends for certain flowers, and his nice discrimination and knowledge of their characters. To the tender-hearted he offered tea-roses and honeysuckle, to the modest and shy, violets and pansies, to the brilliant and gay, crimson roses, marigolds, asters, carnations, etc.

  When the gates of his villa closed,—it was a palace and garden all in one,—all care and trouble were shut out, all joy and pleasure shut in. Instead of Dante’s motto over the gates of “Inferno,” “Leave all hope, ye who enter here!” it was, “Leave all care and tribulation, ye who enter here!” Like unto heaven it was! Enter into the fulness of joy and harmony thereof! To my mother it was a paradise where friends met congenial friends, and where the feast of reason and flow of soul mingled with delicately seasoned meats, fruits and wines.

  A monument to the talent of Mr. A. J. Downing was later erected in Newburgh by his friends and admirers. His loss was one the general public felt to be great, his talents lifting him above ordinary men.

  The Autobiography continues:—

  In 1858, at Fishkill Landing, May 7, was born our daughter Caroline Amelia; named after her grandmother Mrs. De Windt. We were then living in the little house called The Bothie. During this summer I made a visit to Niagara to my friend Peter A. Porter, of two or three weeks, and made several careful studies of the Falls.

  This year we received two letters from the Brownings. The first was addressed to me, the second to Lizzie. They were written on the same sheet of paper, both in microscopic hands, to which they were somewhat necessitated, as their letters were enclosed to me in one from Story.

W.W. Story to Mr. Cranch

VIENNA, October 27, 1849.
  Through George Curtis I have just heard of your arrival at New York, with divers perils by sea and land. Thank Heaven that all is then well with you, and that you are among friends and kindred. Up to the moment of your departure I was fully informed of all that occurred by George C., and it was with the truest sympathy and anxiety that my thoughts accompanied you across the water. Bravo, then, old Ebony! She would not die. She had no idea of shuffling off her black mortal coil so easily. That’s what it is to have a servant of determination and character. . . .

  How then does America seem to you after Italy? Is it dull, stupid, prosaic and boastful, or does it seem to have compensations for this utter unpicturesqueness of life? Are the sunsets on the Hudson finer—I think they are—than those we saw at Sorrento last year? But the breath of orange flowers, dear Pearse, the Loggia where we used to sit,—old Vesuvius’ perturbed spirit—Capri, the dim, purple, island Sphinx. These you have not. These I have not, except in memory. And Rome, my dear friend, Rome, does not that seem to you ideal now? It does to me. Good Heavens, when I was last there, I grew to it as to a mistress! There seemed an inspiration in its air. I could not but weep to leave it.

  Pray, write, and encourage me about home—for now I begin to fear that I shall not be contented at home. Yes indeed, I begin seriously to consider whether Rome is not the true home for me. Were it not for its climate I should not hesitate. Yet home is a clinging prejudice.

  I stayed in Florence a week—it was intensely hot and filled with Austrian soldiers, and them I could not bear to see. From Florence we went to Milan. In Parma I saw Correggio in his glory. I had no idea of his magnificence before. Such color,—clear, delicate yet strong, and luminous; light and yet warm, rich and yet soft and tender, never in the least gaudy, yet full-toned and powerful,—I never saw. His frescoes are wonderful, and though injured, are worth crossing the Atlantic to see. I had expected sweetness and delicacy, but I was unprepared for the grandeur of him, the largeness of form, the breadth and power of his works. His Madonna della Scodella and St. Gerome are quite unequalled by anything I ever saw. The young Christ in the former is divine. He is one of those blossoms of truth and innocence, which in rarest moments and under happiest auspices, we see for a moment on the tree of humanity, a child angel, with a smile that realizes heaven on earth. Basta! I could write a quire on the subject!

  From Milan to Vevay and Geneva, then to Interlaken, where we fixed ourselves for the summer, and had George Curtis with us, and an agreeable company. From here Curtis, Bliss and I, went over the Oberland Bernese, on foot with our knapsacks on our backs. I will not rush into raptures,—you can imagine all better than I can tell. It was more than I had dared hope, and after the luxuries of art in Italy it was a striking change, to come at once into the wild sublimity of nature. What themes for pencil and brush are here! How many times I wished I could summon you to my side, as I looked over these Alpine heights, where beauty and grandeur live so strangely together. George was an admirable companion, always sympathizing, ready to admire, indefatigable – ever good natured, ever interesting. It was a real joy to meet him and know him, and see him three months together. At Geneva, George left me, to go with Quincy Shaw towards the East, and I returned to Interlaken. From Interlaken, when the summer was ended, E. and I and the children took our course down the Rhine to Baden-Baden and Heidelberg, then struck across to Munich, and thence down the Danube to Vienna, where we are now. . . .

  I found the Germans very polite, social and agreeable. Travelling here is wondrous easy after the toiling vettura and the cheating Italian mob. But one’s money here eats dreadful holes in the pockets. Everything is expensive. The prices are at least double what they are in Italy. Of music, we have concerts nearly every evening by Straus’s band and others. . . . Never was there a people for eating like this. The restaurateur is an essential portion of every festival meeting. Eating, smoking, drinking of beer and wine seems an absolutely necessary accompaniment of music, and oftentimes the smoke of cigars in the concert or ball rooms is suffocating. They shut up every window, heat up the room, light their cigars,—off goes the band in a whisking waltz, and the Vienner is a happy man. Here is there an immense deal to see in the way of art. The picture galleries are numerous and very rich. The finest Murillos I have ever seen are here, and some fine Correggios and Raffaelles, and some pictures by Rubens which astonished me by their magnificence of color and tremendous energy. But despite all the objects of interest, and the social gaiety, and amusements of the people, I pine for Italy. I do not like the subserviency here to the sword and gilt-lace uniform. The streets swarm with officers and soldiers, and I think often of poor, oppressed Italy. Radetsky is here,—a little red-eyed man—and Jellachich is in the same house with us. The Emperor, a youth of nineteen, we see constantly at the theatre and on the streets.

  At Munich I was delighted. It is most grateful to one’s eyes to see what the late King has done here for art. The whole city has been renewed and built in the best taste, and here is the centre of the new German School of Painting. . . . Art here is at least alive, and struggling for existence, and the patronage is enormous and unbigoted. Every artist has had his chance. . . .

  In a day or two we are off to Venice, which after so long waiting for, I shall at last see!

To his brother Edward

August 25, 1850.
  What has become of our promises and vows? Swallowed up in the wide sea of circumstances; swamped and foundered in the bogs of procrastination; lost in the fogs of absence, distance, separation; or stranded high and dry on the rocks of labor and occupation? The spirit of epistolary correspondence has clean died out of us, and the body must be set agoing, if not by a new soul, then by spasmodic galvanic shocks. So here goes for a small battery, dead or alive. . . .

  I intend this as simply a leaf torn from the volume of my present life. I have not really the patience to post up past accounts. It is sufficient to say that I am here, family and all, boarding in this, greatest of little Sunday go-to-meeting villages, amid very nice scenery, and here have been, over a month. I first came alone, and made a visit to the Deweys, who live here; then came Lizzie, the children, and maid, and took board in a quiet, nice family, where we shall continue till about September first. Then I shall go to Catskill Clove with Mr. Durand. I have been working out of doors, as steadily as circumstances will permit. Whenever it does not rain, I am usually out painting. I have improved, I think, in painting from nature, since I saw you. My pictures in the Academy Exhibition last spring were favorably noticed, and one of them bought by the Art Union. It was on the strength of them, most probably, that I was elected an associate of the Academy.

  I should like to hear from you, how you are getting on. Are you driven as much as ever? Do you get time for anything but work? Write me, but don’t write in the vein of your letter of last winter. I don’t like to think that your theory, or your life, should be all sacrificed, made up of nothing but duty. Or at least I want to hear some time that your duty and your inclinations both point in the same direction. O, why were you not an artist; or a literary man, or an editor, or a farmer; or anything for which God and nature fitted you, rather than a lawyer? Somewhere in those vocations lies your proper sphere. But fate has driven you from the lines of intellectual attraction, and made your life that of a mill wheel and a cart horse. Will it not be some time or other that you will burst from that chrysalis state, of court-room pen-drudgery and law books, and spread your wings, never to fold them again in the old cocoon prison? Such talents, such a nature, intellectual and moral, and affectional, and humorsome, every way rare, as yours, should find its sphere, and there should be, now, people who would so appreciate them, that they could create such a sphere for you. I, for one, hope to live to see your emancipation. I pray Heaven it may come quickly.

W. W. Story to Mr. Cranch

BOSTON, December 25, 1850.
  Your warm, kind, affectionate greeting to America ought long ago have been answered, but I had hoped, long ere this to have clasped your hand and looked into your eyes, and travelled back with you on the wings of spoken words to our dear old Italy. Fate, however,—whose American name is business—has bound me here hand and foot, and I know not that I shall be able to carry out my project of visiting your New York this winter. . . . Dear Pearse, if I thought I should never again go to the other and better world—I mean Italy,—I think life would merit Mr. Mantilini’s description and be a “demd horrid grind.” A barrel organ with a boy who smiles Italian, is all the trace of those soft skies beneath which we lived so happily together, which even now greets my eyes. The mania which possesses all here, has possessed me, despite my best effort. I am at work in the law-fearfully at work. No! My dear friend, not permanently—God forbid—temporarily is bad enough. It was in this way that I fell into the pit. Walking down Washington street a few days after my arrival, I stopped in to see how the inside of Little & Brown’s bookshop looked, little knowing that I was putting my head into a lion’s den. Mr. Brown pounced upon me, seized me, carried me into his interior den, told me that my book on Contracts and the Commentaries on the Constitution must at once be edited and that I must do it. I remonstrated. In vain! I sat me down in a little back room, and I have been his slave for two months. Now in two days I am free, having done incredible work. One has a sort of foolish pride in one’s literary offspring. My law books had succeeded, and paid well, and made me a hero—when I was n’t known—and I could not allow a new edition to go forth without improving it all in my power. And this pride has cost me two months. Now, my biography of my father awaits me, and this must be done at once. Then I shall be free for art, and art it shall be for my life.

  I examined and cross-examined Dwight about all you boys, and especially about Lizzie and you and the children. He gave good accounts of you, but all that he said only increased my appetite for you. I want to ask you truly how you get along, and whether the wheels turn easily or not, and whether I can do anything for you. You know, or ought to know, that you ought never to need when I can help you. My purse, my dear friend, is ever at your service. Let us spend together and make life as happy as we can. You will not be vexed at this suggestion, I feel. I don’t know why there should ever be any shamefacedness about such matters. H fortune has been better friends with me than you, she makes me her agent to give to those whom I love. . . .

  Lizzie’s very pleasant note reached Emelyn the other day, and we both were delighted to hear from her. I hope she still keeps us in green remembrance, which being interpreted means, that she remembers all the good and forgets all the bad. Perhaps Emelyn may go with me to New York, if the weather looks more subdued and gentle. I do not at all stand this climate. I break all to pieces, before these sharp winds. There seems to be no atmosphere, and the sunshine is so white and glittering and ghastly, that it seems as if it had lost its soul. The shadows are all so thin and weak and grey; the light so colorless; the lines of architecture so sharp and hard; all things so liney and wanting in tone, that it seems to me as if America had been bewitched during my absence. There is nothing which has come up to my recollections except the conflagrations in the clouds and sky at sunset, and the autumn hectic in the forests. Tone to a landscape, is what sentiment is to a mistress, and it is just this lack of tone that I find in our nature.

  The cold winds and the tense atmosphere, have been chiselling me down and channelling out the old furrows, which when I returned were somewhat blended. I grow older here in a month than in a year abroad.

To the Misses Myers

NEW YORK, June 22, 1851.
  I am such an old hardened sinner that I have long ago given up all hopes of pardon from you; at least, I should abandon all hope, did I not know you all to be angels of love and forgiveness. . . . We are the creatures of circumstance, there is no use in denying it, and yet God forbid that beggarly circumstance should have power to change the essence of the soul. That remains like the sun, moon and stars, the other is but the clouds. And I am sure that you, my dear friends of younger days, know me too well, to think that the clouds that shut us out from each other are anything but unsubstantial vapor.

  As to outward events they are unimportant. In November we were settled in the great-city, where we have remained ever since. My health and that of my wife and children has been uninterrupted by any sickness, and on the whole I have had quite a good time—grow younger, if anything, in my feelings and habits of life, work at my studio, and just scratch along, poor and economical, still surrounded with blessings innumerable. In painting I am improving, have several pictures in the Exhibition, and now and then, like angels’ visits, fall in with a purchaser. In this country Art just lives—it is far from flourishing. The artist has need of all his courage and patience to stick to his vocation. I am confident there would be better success in Italy, and had I means, I should go there again. Here, surrounded by a selfish, commercial, money making, rushing, driving, and wholly conventional community, what can an artist do? People when they do find time amid their eternal driving and hurry-scurry to come into a studio, only admire and go away to their eternal and sempiternal driving. People of fashion and so called taste are contented to do this, and go home to their palaces and sit down among their luxurious easy chairs and mirrors and curtains, with never a picture to screen the nakedness of their walls—not so much as one picture even in the way of furniture- that would be something. Or if they have a taste this way, they expend it on snuffy, dingy, old copies of mediocre old Masters. So it goes!

  No matter, they can’t magnetize us out of our proprium, our essential character. They can’t keep us from having a good time with those with whom we sympathize, and there are not a few of those here, and we can at least laugh at their ridiculous position, when their backs are turned, even if they do tie up their money bags. The sun will shine spite of all the clouds.

  And you may suppose it fares pretty much with poetry as with painting.

The world we make untunes the string
On which the poet fain would sing.
His voice is dumb, though it be spring.
  Still, verses accumulate somehow, and I hope by next winter to have out a new volume in that line, consisting of better things than I have ever published. Then, at least, my friends, if not before, you will hear from me. And if there were any way of getting a little picture to you, I should be glad. As to my ever coming on in bodily presence to be among you, I see no chance of it, “any way I can fix it.” I have not even visited Washington since my return to America. . . .

  As for music, I have but little time to practise. I do little beside “voluntaries.” As I cannot play very difficult accompaniments, I sit down and make chords, and extemporize, or sing such things as I can accompany, when the spirit moves. Neither have I much time for books. Had I entire leisure I think I should devote myself much more to verse than anything else. I have a poem on this theme, which some day you will see.

To Mrs. Stearns

NEW YORK, March 10, 1852.
  I take advantage of a little solitude and the unwonted stillness around me—Lizzie having run away from me to Newburgh with Mr. and Mrs. Downing, and taken Georgie along—to transcribe the long promised little Fir-tree poem.1 And though I have nothing especial to say, I shall add a short letter to it.

  I have been making a little visit to Washington, where I had not been for nearly six years. I went on in the Steamer Baltic and returned in her, as correspondent of the” New York Express.” The trip was a novel thing, and very pleasant. All the passengers fared sumptuously, free of expense, and the magnificent steamer was praised by all as the model steamship of the nineteenth century. In my “Express” letter, I called her one of the modern Collins’s odes. She went on to show herself, and to interest Congress in getting an appropriation, but was suddenly called back to go to England, etc. All which, is it not written in newspapers, and why should I repeat it?

  I found my father very little changed in appearance, but exceedingly feeble, and much more deaf than when I saw him last. He does not even walk from his easy chair to his bed without help, and has not left his room, I think for a year. He reads, however, all day. His mind is clear, and he is altogether in a beautiful, tranquil state. It was a great blessing to me to see him once more.

  I have been making verses somewhat of late. Have just been doing something meditative and metaphysical. Another sort of poem will appear soon in the “Tribune” called “Land Owner and Brain Owner.” I cannot say when it will come out. They have had it this month on their file. Another little thing I have just thrown off, which I will send you on another page. I have had no chance to read it to any one yet, not even Lizzie, who has gone away. It is a sort of Goethian-Emersonian sentiment perhaps, with a truth at the bottom of it.


Love me as the flower loves the bee.
Ask no monopoly of sympathy.
I must flit by,
Nor stay to heave too deep a sigh,
Nor dive too deep into thy charms.
Untwine thy prisoning arms;
Let the truth-garnering bee
Pass ever free!

Yield all the thymy fragrance I can draw
From out thy soul’s rich sweetness. Not forever
Can lovers see one truth, obey one law,
Though they spend long endeavor.
Give me thy blossoming heart;
I can but take thereof that part
Which grand Economy
Permitteth me to see.

Friendship and love may last in name,
As lamps outlive their flame;
An earthly tie may bind our hands;
The spirit snaps the bands.
If Nature made us different,
Our compliments in vain are spent;
But if alike, ah, then I rest in thee
As in the flower’s full heart the sated bee.

W.W. Story to Mr. Cranch

ROME, March 17, 1852.
  Returning this morning at two o’clock after a long stroll, with Black and James Lowell to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, it being the regular fair-day at the latter place, I found your delightful letter, breathing warmly of you and Lizzie, and I cannot but answer it at once, any more than if you were to hold out your hand, I could refuse to take it and give it the heartiest of shakes. I would that I could transport to you in this letter in some condensed form, a portion of this “incense breathing mom,” of this peerless blue sky, of this delicious light which hangs over Rome and the Campagna, and transfigures with its tender distances and bloom the snowy amphitheatre of hills. Ma come si fa. If I had the Howadji’s pen to dip into all sorts of lexicons of language and feeling, perhaps—but with the same old pen which I have half used up in the law—and by strange chance it is one of those with which I wrote of such matter in America—how be poetical or graceful! Dear old Cranchio, come hither and breathe this atmosphere with me!

  Lent is passing gaily away; four Cardinals have been newly created and during the whole of this week are receiving at the palaces, where the Roman Princesses gleam and flash with tiaras and necklaces of diamonds that dazzle the eye with their splendor. The night before last we were at the Sciarra, the Colonna, the Santa Croce, and the display of jewels was such as I never saw before. . . . Curious enough was it to see in the ante-room the cloven foot of this splendor, in the shape of a scrivano taking down all the names as they were announced, in order to call for a buona mano to-morrow. At the Colonna Palace the French Ambassador received, a French Cardinal having been created. The scene was splendid in those towering rooms, but I experienced a revulsion of rage and disgust, when on passing to the last salon, I found displayed on the table, pictures representing the battles of the Roman Revolution; after so gratuitous an insult to the sensibilities of every true lover of liberty. and especially of every Italian, I could remain no longer. . . .

  The other evening, and without our desire or request, came a summons to the Pope, and accordingly we had an audience at the Vatican. He was very affable and pleasant, and has an attractiveness of face and manner which shows a good heart. Poor Pio Nono! He took snuff constantly, dropping it on his white dress, and after informing me that steamers could go from New York to Liverpool in fifteen days, inquired whether they stopped for coal on their passage. He also announced to me that Boston was the greatest city in America, therefore you see that that question is settled forever. . . .

  Of my own doings in art, a little will suffice. I have made my last study for the large statue of my father, and my friends like it; at all events, it is far the best thing I have done. I am now waiting to procure a fitting studio to execute it in large. I have also made a statuette of the Lorelei, for which I have a commission. Orders have been plenty in Rome this winter as I understand, and Americans particularly are purchasing works by modem artists. This is as it should be. . . .

  We are here full of theatricals, and the “Midsummer-Night’s Dream” having succeeded so perfectly, are at work in bringing out the “Merchant of Venice.” Emelyn is Jessica; Black, Bassanio; Lowell, Lorenzo; Mrs. Raikes, Portia; and I, Shylock. Black is stage struck. He eats, drinks and sleeps on theatricals. The day before yesterday we were at the Villa Borghese, which was as lovely as ever, with its lofty umbrella pines, its dark green ilexes, its fountains and shadowy woods. To-day we are planning for the Villa Albani, and what a day it is, the air all music and perfume with birds and flowers, and a cloudless sky! Boott says good-bye to us and is off to-day for Florence, which he still persists in preferring to Rome, with his cast-steel determination. We had a grand musical soirée here in our rooms the other day, with Puggi’s oboe, Ramacciotti’s violin, Wichmann on the pianoforte, and Rhienthaler’s songs, and among other things we had a stringed quartette of Boott’s admirably performed. It was certainly a triumph for him, and I am delighted to say to you, that it was full of science and freshness of fancy. The themes were original and naïve, and the condotta clear and unconfused. It quite surprised me by its merit, and its piquancy and spirit gained for it an unanimous applause. Just where young composers fail, he succeeded, in the management of its partition and the development of his theme. . . .

  In the Autobiography, Mr. Cranch makes this entry:—

  It was in the summer of the year 1853, that I had the honor of writing the “Farewell to America,” for young Jenny Lind—Madame Goldschmidt—at her last appearance in this country. Bayard Taylor had written her song of greeting. When the great singer was looking for some one to write her “Farewell,” my friend Mr. Edmond Benzon mentioned to her my name, and I was asked to be her poet. I appreciated the honor, and wrote these three stanzas, which Mr. Goldschmidt set to music. By appointment I called one morning on Madame Goldschmidt, so that I might have an idea of the melody before completing the lines, and she sang them for me at the piano, sotto voce. The words seemed to please her very much.

Young land of Hope, fair Western Star,
Whose light I hailed from climes afar,
I leave thee now, but twine for thee
One parting wreath of melody.
0 take the offering of the heart
From one who feels ‘t is sad to part.

And if it be that strains of mine,
Have glided from my heart to thine,
My voice was but the breeze that swept
The spirit chords that in thee slept.
The music was not all my own,
Thou gavest back the answering tone.

Farewell f When other scenes shall rise,
To greet once more the wanderer’s eyes,
Remembrance still will tum to thee,
When throbs my heart ~ the sea.
Bright Freedom’s clime, I feel thy spell
But I must say, “Farewell, farewell!”

  That night Jenny Lind was in splendid voice, and carried the poet’s words, up on her clear tones, to great heights of melody and feeling. As usual with this great singer, there was a furor of applause. To the poet and his friends, it was a memorable evening.

To his brother Edward

FISHKILL LANDING, N.Y., July 10, 1853.
  . . . I have thought of you much and with some anxiety since your trouble with your eyes and your relinquishment of the law. I feel glad somehow to know that there is a prospect of your escape, even though it be like a man in his shirt escaping from his house on fire—from the dungeon of the Doubting-Castle, Law,—which you should never have entered, and would not, had you not, like Christian, been caught sleeping, i.e. not fully awake at the time, to what your sphere should be. . . .

  What a hard thing this is, and hard it is not to grumble at it all the time, that in nine cases out of ten a man must turn away his eyes from beholding the vanity and folly of the course for which nature fashions him, and to which all good angels seem to be urging him, if he wants to make a living, and dig at something else,—plunge into some ditch where he is muddied from top to toe. . . .

  I grow thoroughly discouraged sometimes, of late very much so, at the miserable prospects of landscape painting, among us. And yet, I don’t see anything better for me. I have strong twitches sometimes towards authorship, and even indulge occasionally in verse, but unless a man is sure of a great reputation as a writer, what stimulus is there, what reward? No, better keep on, hopefully. Painting is no worse than article writing, and does not rack the brain, but is always “attractive labor,” which is a great thing in its favor. And if a man can only live, with wife and children, why, let him have as good a time of it, I say, as he can in this brief lifetime. And in this way one keeps young.

  And so we Cranches are rejoicing in the abundance of our riches, having actually received legacies, not in dreams but good, tangible, bankable money; a thing as unlooked for by me as the Chinese or Viennese Revolution. Rest to his shade, the venerable uncle did some good to his deserving relatives, and we will not say grudgingly, that he might have done more. On these silver-tipped wings we will emerge, as long as we may, out of the brine and beyond the level of the sea of poverty, like flying fish, and say that we too have wings, though we are not birds of golden plumage. Providence surely takes care of us, for I don’t see what I should have done without this four hundred and odd dollars, any more than I know what I can do without just as much a year hence, which I see no prospect of getting, but which Providence, I dare say, will send.

  In the July number of the “Putnam’s” is an ode to Southern Italy, of mine. I shall have other poems, I presume, there from time to time. You see “Putnam’s,” I hope. I think it is the best American magazine we have, by a great deal. My friend G. W. Curtis is one of the editors and writes a great deal for it.

  I hope ere long to bring out my volume of poems. It has been ready for publication for some time, but I have been waiting till I can publish on good terms for myself, and perhaps to keep pruning at it, and perhaps omitting, and perhaps write better things. I often feel as if, give me the opportunity, and I have far better things in store to be written, than I have ever done. . . .

W. W. Story to Mr. Cranch

BAGNI DI LUCCA, August 21, 1853.
  Three minutes ago I was seized en suraaut with a desire to communicate with you, and before my enthusiasm evaporates—for it is warm weather and enthusiasm as well as everything else, such as virtue, water, etc., easily evaporates—I catch it and stick a pin through it, as one would transfix a butterfly. Once having begun, a letter is an easy and necessary consequence. But it is the beginning “which gives us pause.” Warned also by a death’s-head moth with a skull and cross bones distinctly painted on his back, which is now leading a melancholy life under a tumbler on my table, and preaching the evanescence of things, I feel some act of virtue to be demanded of me. And what better can I do than to satisfy my conscience and friendship at once by a scribble to you? Once in a while dribbles over to me a hint of you and George and Hicks. You are packed closely into a postscript and transmitted to me by mail, safe and sound, and I am forced out of such little shadings of information to build and fashion the world about you. This is not quite satisfactory. I have in my mind when I think of you all, a sort of mixed and bewildered idea of Nahant, and “Putnam’s Magazine,” and Broadway, and paint brushes and palette, and Syria, and Rome, and “Here is the lip that betrayed.”2 All my ideas are about as confused as the languages in Roman society. . . .

  And you, who were once a Christian minister, to forget the Christian rule of forgiveness—to stand away there on your dignity and rights and never write to me because I owed you a letter. You! to keep an account current with me and put me down in your memory with “a bill to debit one letter.” I actually blush for you—I have long ceased to perform that graceful action for myself, and reserve it entirely for my friends—when your friend “Chose” (I never remember names), presented me a rascally note of only four lines, and in those four lines nothing but” introduce,”“ friend,” “Century Club,” and such kind of words. I declare I thought you worthy to be put in the stocks for such an act. . . . If you had cause of complaint against me—I don’t deny that you had—why did you not pepper me with letters—heap coals of fire and all that Christian sort of thing—instead of sulking into silence and brooding over “bill to debit—one letter.” Fye upon you, Heathen! Pagan! American! Well, nevertheless, I forgive you; it’s as well to be magnanimous. I forgive you; there’s my hand to kiss.

  Here we all are in Lucca at the Bagni Caldi, halfway up the Chestnut mountains where the breeze blows cold and fresh, and where the summer sun basks on hillsides and hanging gardens of vines, where the big hurry chestnuts do not grow and drop their green porcupine fruit upon the earth, range the vineyards in terraces and give a granulated look to the mountain. We look down upon the red-tiled tops of the villages and villas below, and see the rushing river, the only discontented, hurried American-like thing near us, bubble and dash, winding through the valley. The contadini go to and fro and up and down the mountain paths, bearing on their heads great buckets heaped sometimes with charcoal, and sometimes with strawberries, apricots, raspberries. The little gray donkeys toil to and fro laden with pears, and the women bear on their head coppers of flashing water, that never spills or loses its even poise. Parties go to picnics or make excursions up the valley, or else up to the old mill with the one arch bridge, and the brownly dropping wheel where I saw, the other day, looking through one of its dark windows, the most exquisite living Madonna and Child. We live in the Casa Lena built on the site of an old feudal castle, hut no more like a castle now than I to Hercules. On our long balcony that shelters the full length of the house, we sit in the earliest morning; all the long evenings when the moon throws the shadow of the mountain across the valley, as it rises behind its fringed outline of chestnuts, or hanging full, above in the soft upper sky, fills it with misty light.

  We leave the gossip to the Cafe below where the little world of strangers meets and sits outside in the afternoon under an awning, and discusses the nothings of the day, while it takes ices and granite. Every evening we drive out, up and down the river, and follow up through its wild rocky overshadowed bed the tumultuous Lima. For society we have the Brownings, whom we find delightful, and with whom we interchange long evenings two or three times weekly, besides making excursions with them. We often speak of you together, for they remember you both with pleasure and interest—and Browning promised to give me a note to enclose herein for you, so that this husk may have a sweet kernel. They are both writing, he a new volume of lyrics, and she a tale or novel in verse, which will probably see the light of the public square next spring. What offer will Putnam make for the proof sheets of these hooks, and the good will of the authors, or has he any proposition to make? See, and write. . . .

  I have just sent to Browning and obtained a note from him and his wife. Now if in answer to this you don’t send me a long, well-packed, closely written letter, I shall believe that there is no virtue in man. . . . I slept at the Crawfords’ four weeks under your old picture of St. Peter’s, and thought of you every morning when I woke and saw it looking down upon me. Emelyn had left me in Rome to finish my statue, and I stayed with Crawford for several weeks.

Robert Browning to Mr. Cranch

BAGNI DI LUCCA, August 25, 1853.
  My dear Cranch (for you must let me think we have grown good and better friends all this time)—I am wholly at your mercy, I know. You wrote me the kindest of letters long ago, which gave me all the feelings you intended it should, do believe; but I delayed answering it as my foolish way is, till I set off for England. Then came other engagements, and calls on time and thought,—and see the result. I hardly know if I should dare to write but that Story undertakes that you shall forgive and be your very self of old. I don’t make the excuse of having little to say or tell—you would bear with that. We went to London two years ago, then to Paris, thence returned to London, and now here we are since last autumn, that is, in Tuscany, and we shape our course for Rome this winter, and England again in the spring, if one dares look so far. On the whole we are in a somewhat livelier way than when you saw us,—go out now and then, and see a new friend from time to time. My wife’s health is much improved—or her strength, at least—and our child (do you just remember the little beginning of a creature?) is, and always has been quite strong and well, a good gracious little fell ow who makes the home ring with his laughter from mom to night. Story informs me you are well, you and yours; but you must go over all that ground again, and tell us how painting advances, and poetry, and as much about yourself as your beneficence chooses. I know I have never once made a fresh American acquaintance that I did not question, the first thing, about you, and George Curtis, Willard, and Norton. “There are no better hearts on earth,” as your and our Emerson says.

  Since I saw you, we have known and parted with poor Margaret Fuller, so strangely and mournfully, but I won’t write of it here-and now there is poor Greenough gone. Let us hold to what we have the faster. You may think what a joy it was to have the Storys come over to us on the day after our arrival here. They are on the hill-top,—we house on the clefts of the rocks. We came in ignorance that they were in Tuscany. Now we see them daily, or nearly so, and our weeks go only too fleetly by, with them to speed them in this delightful place,—for such it is, spite of a clot of Dukes and Kings,—kinsmen who are sojourning here also. The beauty is more than they can spoil. You were never here, I think. Shall you never want to replenish your portfolio with fresh Italian studies, such as I remember to have filled it when I used to call on you in that old wrecked convent turned into the painters’ nursery,—your room with that ghastly model of a horse? I have been in it since, and missed you exceedingly.

  I shall let my wife finish this scrap,—all the limits of Story’s letter allow,—but do believe, as if I had sufficiently expressed it, or attempted to express it, my true and entire remembrance of you and Mrs. Cranch, your kindness and sympathy. Keep all you can of them, my dear Cranch,
for yours ever very faithfully,


Mrs. Browning to Mrs. Cranch

  My dear Mrs. Cranch: If ever you forgive us, which is possible though improbable on the whole, within the bounds of human nature, do tell us of the children. The sight of Mrs. Story’s reminds me that I must not any longer think of them as babies, indeed even my own boy might suggest as much. Do you remember the small creature with fluent arms and legs? Now he has grown to be an intelligence, you are to understand. Blue eyes, light, long ringlets and a tendency to run in a way most like flying!

  Try to believe that we have never forgotten any of you, nor are likely to forget you ever. The truth is, my husband is deep in the corruption of neglectful or procrastinating letter writing, and though I have cried in his ears as loud as conscience itself, he put off from one week to another, and from one month to another, writing the letter due to you, till he covered up his sin in the ashes of shame, and made up his mind never to dare to do it. Try to forgive him, for the sake of the regard to you and yours, under all offences.

  You see we are back again in Italy, after a year and a half in Paris and London. Will you come back? Do you ever think of it, dream of it, long for it? Or are you caught up in the great whirlpool of American life, and stunned deaf to the music called Italy? For my part, absent or present, the tune of it sings on in my head. I liked Paris much, but the love of my Florence would not go out.

  The Storys are looking in high force and as pleasant as ever. Indeed we grow closer, I think, and have to thank their affectionateness and agreeableness for much of our enjoyment here. Will you kiss your dear children for my child and me? And will you both remember us with the affectionate thoughts we hear you?


To Mrs. Stearns

FISHKILL LANDING, September 4, 1853.
  You will he surprised to hear that I have concluded to go to Europe with wife and children, about the first of October. We propose to spend the winter in Paris, and perhaps go to Germany, and perhaps Italy in the spring. . . . Paris, I had a mere glimpse of, on my return from Italy. There is much to be seen and many advantages which an artist must derive from a residence there. Then the ease and comfort of living there will be a great thing for Lizzie, who is worn out with the cares of housekeeping and looking after the children.

  I shall, of course, regret leaving America on many accounts, hut I presume there will be ample compensation for all loss. A kind of fate draws us to Europe which it is vain to resist, as well as unwise. I only wish there were a little more time for preparation, and that it were earlier in the season. It is uncertain how long we shall remain abroad, that will depend upon circumstances, but certainly for a year.

  I have just returned from a few weeks’ sojourn at Niagara, and have brought home some useful studies and sketches. I have not time to tell you how charmed I was with the Falls, and with all the surrounding scenery. I was there fifteen years ago, for a day and a half, so it was all nearly new to me. . . .

  I hope I may see you in New York before we sail; but I don’t know yet how we shall go, hut by steamer probably. I want, of course, to go as cheap as possible, consistently with comfort. Lizzie has the promise of an invaluable nurse to go with us, a woman who offered to go herself.

  I shall not have time to write to many of my friends before leaving. I cannot yet realize that we are going, the plan is such a sudden thing. But I shall not yet say good-bye to you.

1 Translation of Heine’s Fichtenbaum:—

In the far North the Fir tree stands,
Lonely, upon a craggy height
He sleeps. The Alpine ice and mow
Spread o’er his form a veil of white.

He sleeps, and of the Palm he dreams,
Who, far away in the Morning land,
Sorrows in silent loneliness
Upon her burning hill of sand.

2 A song by Richard Willis that Mr. Cranch used to sing.

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