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sumption in the family that disease would have intervened. There were no seeds of the fatal English malady in her constitution, and she escaped. Still, however, the vessel did not heal, and after attending her for above a twelvemonth at her father's house in Wimpole Street, Dr. Chambers, on the approach of winter, ordered her to a milder cli
Her eldest brother, a brother in heart and in talent worthy of such a sister, together with other devoted relatives accompanied her to Torquay, and there occurred the fatal event which saddened her bloom of youth, and gave a deeper hue of thought and feeling, especially of devotional feeling, to her poetry. I have so often been asked what could be the shadow that had passed over that young heart, that now that time has softened the first agony it seems to me right that the world should hear the story of an accident in which there was much sorrow, but no blame.
Nearly a twelvemonth had passed, and the invalid, still attended by her affectionate companions, had derived much benefit from the mild sea-breezes of Devonshire. One fine summer morning her favourite brother, together with two other fine young men, his friends, embarked on board a small sailing-vessel for a trip of a few hours. Excellent sailors all, and familiar with the coast, they sent back the boatmen, and undertook themselves the management of the little craft. Danger was not
dreamt of by any one; after the catastrophe no one
ould divine the cause, but in a few minutes after their embarkation, and in sight of their very windows, just as they were crossing the bar, the boat went down, and all who were in her perished. Even the bodies were never found. I was told by a party who were travelling that year in Devonshire and Cornwall, that it was most affecting to see on the corner houses of every village street, on every church-door and almost on every cliff for miles and miles along the coast handbills, offering large rewards for linen cast ashore marked with the initials of the beloved dead; for it so chanced that all the three were of the dearest and the best ; one, I believe, an only son, the other the son of a widow.
This tragedy nearly killed Elizabeth Barrett. She was utterly prostrated by the horror and the grief, and by a natural but a most unjust feeling that she had been in some sort the cause of this great misery. It was not until the following year that she could be removed in an invalid carriage, and by journeys of twenty miles a day, to her afflicted family and her London home. The house that she occupied at Torquay had been chosen as one of the most sheltered in the place. It stood at the bottom of the cliffs almost close to the sea ; and she told me herself that during that whole winter the sound of the waves rang in her ears like the moans of one dying. Still she clung to literature and to Greek ;
in all probability she would have died without that wholesome diversion to her thoughts. Her medical attendant did not always understand this. То prevent the remonstrances of her friendly physician, Dr. Barry, she caused a small edition of Plato to be so bound as to resemble a novel. He did not know, skilful and kind though he were, that to her such books were not an arduous and painful study, but a consolation and a delight.
Returned to London, she began the life which she continued for so many years, confined to one large and commodious but darkened chamber, admitting only her own affectionate family and a few devoted friends (I, myself, have often joyfully travelled five-and-forty miles to see her, and returned the same evening without entering another house) ; reading almost every book worth reading in almost every language, and giving herself heart and soul to that poetry of which she seemed born to be the priestess.
Gradually her health improved. About four years ago she married Mr. Browning, and immediately accompanied him to Pisa. They then settled at Florence; and this summer I have had the exquisite pleasure of seeing her once more in London with a lovely boy at her knee, almost as well as ever, and telling tales of Italian rambles, of losing herself in chestnut forests, and scrambling on muleback up the sources of extinct volcanoes. May
Heaven continue to her such health and such happiness!
In her abundant riches it is difficult to select extracts. If I did not know her scorn of her own earlier works (for she was the most precocious of authoresses, wrote largely at ten years old, and more than well at fifteen)—if I were not aware of her fastidiousness, I should be tempted to rescuc certain exquisite stanzas which I find printed at the end of her first version of the “ Prometheus Bound”-for, dissatisfied with her girlish translation of the grand old Greek, she commenced her labour and went fairly through the drama from the first line to the last; but she has condemned the poem, and therefore I refrain.
Perhaps there is some personal preference in the selection I do make, since I first received it written in her own clear and beautiful manuscript on the fly-leaf of another volume, which she has also withdrawn from circulation. Besides being one of the earliest, it is amongst the most characteristic of her
How joyously the young seamew
Familiar with the waves, and free
And such a brightness in his eye,
We were not cruel, yet did sunder
We bore our ocean bird unto
The flowers of earth were pale to him
The green trees round him only made