ENGLAND AND FRANCE REVISITED.
On arriving at Basingstoke we found awaiting us cordial letters of welcome from Miss Biggs, Miss Priestman, Mrs. Peter Taylor, Mrs. Priscilla McLaren, Miss Mueller, Mrs. Jacob Bright, and Mme. de Barrau. During the winter Mrs. Margaret Bright Lucas, Drs. Kate and Julia Mitchell, Mrs. Charles McLaren, Mrs. Saville, and Miss Balgarnie each spent a day or two with us. The full-dress costume of the ladies was a great surprise to my little granddaughter Nora. She had never seen bare shoulders in a drawing room, and at the first glance she could not believe her eyes. She slowly made the circuit of the room, coming nearer and nearer until she touched the lady’s neck to see whether or not it was covered with some peculiar shade of dress, but finding the bare skin she said: “Why, you are not dressed, are you? I see your skin!” The scene suggested to me the amusing description in Holmes’ “Elsie Venner,” of the efforts of a young lady, seated between two old gentlemen, to show off her white shoulders. The vicar would not look, but steadily prayed that he might not be led into temptation; but the physician, with greater moral hardihood, deliberately surveyed the offered charms, with spectacles on his nose.
In December Hattie and I finished Dowden’s “Life of Shelley,” which we had been reading together. Here we find a sensitive, refined nature, full of noble purposes, thrown out when too young to meet all life’s emergencies, with no loving Mentor to guard him from blunders or to help to retrieve the consequences of his false positions. Had he been surrounded with a few true friends, who could appreciate what was great in him and pity what was weak, his life would have been different. His father was hard, exacting, and unreasonable; hence he had no influence. His mother had neither the wisdom to influence him, nor the courage to rebuke her husband; and alas! poor woman, she was in such thraldom herself to conventionalisms, that she could not understand a youth who set them all at defiance.
[Illustration: THREE GENERATIONS.]
[Illustration: MY EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY.]
We also read Cotton Morrison’s “Service of Man,” which I hope will be a new inspiration to fresh labors by all for the elevation of humanity, and Carnegie’s “Triumphant Democracy,” showing the power our country is destined to wield and the vastness of our domain. This book must give every American citizen a feeling of deeper responsibility than ever before to act well his part. We read, too, Harriet Martineau’s translation of the works of Auguste Comte, and found the part on woman most unsatisfactory. He criticises Aristotle’s belief that slavery is a necessary element of social life, yet seems to think the subjection of woman in modern civilization a matter of no importance.