How forcibly did the recitations and songs bring back former times to my memory, when in St. James’s Square, or in his own beautiful cottage at Highgate, I have so frequently been delighted by the performances of this clever and worthy man! The recollection of the past occupied me more last night than did the actual present, and caused me to return but a faint echo to the reiterated applause which every new effort of his drew forth from the party. There are moments when the present appears like a dream, and that we think the past, which is gone for ever, has more of reality in it!
I took Mr. and Mrs. Mathews to the Jardin des Plantes to-day, and was much amused by an incident that occurred there. A pretty child, with her bonne, were seated on a bench near to which we placed ourselves. She was asking questions relative to the animals she had seen, and Mr. Mathews having turned his head away from her, gave some admirable imitations of the sounds peculiar to the beasts of which she was speaking, and also of the voice and speeches of the person who had exhibited them.
Never did he exert himself more to please a crowded and admiring audience than to amuse this child, who, maintaining an immovable gravity during the imitations, quietly observed to her nurse, “Ma bonne, ce Monsieur est bien drole.”
The mortification of Mr. Mathews on this occasion was very diverting. “How!” exclaimed he, “is it possible that all my efforts to amuse that child have so wholly failed? She never moved a muscle! I suppose the French children are not so easily pleased as our English men and women are?”
He reverted to this disappointment more than once during our drive back, and seemed dispirited by it. Nevertheless, he gave us some most humorous imitations of the lower orders of the French talking loudly together, in which he spoke in so many different voices that one could have imagined that no less than half-a-dozen people, at least, were engaged in the conversation.
I think so highly of the intellectual powers of Mr. Mathews, and find his conversation so interesting that, admirable as are his imitations, I prefer the former. He has seen so much of the world in all its phases, that he has a piquant anecdote or a clever story to relate touching every place and almost every person mentioned. Yet, with all this intuitive and acquired knowledge of the world, he possesses all the simplicity of a child, and a good nature that never can resist an appeal to it.
Spent all yesterday in reading, and writing letters on business. I begin to experience the ennui of having affairs to attend to, and groan in spirit, if not aloud, at having to read and write dry details on the subject. To unbend my mind from its painful thoughts and tension, I devoted the evening to reading, which affords me the surest relief, by transporting my thoughts from the cares that oppress me.