RETURN TO AMERICA: SUNNYSIDE: THE MISSION TO MADRID.
In 1831 Mr. Irving was thrown, by his diplomatic position, into the thick of the political and social tumult, when the Reform Bill was pending and war was expected in Europe. It is interesting to note that for a time he laid aside his attitude of the dispassionate observer, and caught the general excitement. He writes in March, expecting that the fate of the cabinet will be determined in a week, looking daily for decisive news from Paris, and fearing dismal tidings from Poland. “However,” he goes on to say in a vague way, “the great cause of all the world will go on. What a stirring moment it is to live in! I never took such intense interest in newspapers. It seems to me as if life were breaking out anew with me, or that I were entering upon quite a new and almost unknown career of existence, and I rejoice to find my sensibilities, which were waning as to many objects of past interest, reviving with all their freshness and vivacity at the scenes and prospects opening around me.” He expects the breaking of the thralldom of falsehood woven over the human mind; and, more definitely, hopes that the Reform Bill will prevail. Yet he is oppressed by the gloom hanging over the booksellers’ trade, which he thinks will continue until reform and cholera have passed away.
During the last months of his residence in England, the author renewed his impressions of Stratford (the grateful landlady of the Red Horse Inn showed him a poker which was locked up among the treasures of her house, on which she had caused to be engraved “Geoffrey Crayon’s Sceptre"); spent some time at Newstead Abbey; and had the sorrowful pleasure in London of seeing Scott once more, and for the last time. The great novelist, in the sad eclipse of his powers, was staying in the city, on his way to Italy, and Mr. Lockhart asked Irving to dine with him. It was but a melancholy repast. “Ah,” said Scott, as Irving gave him his arm, after dinner, “the times are changed, my good fellow, since we went over the Eildon Hills together. It is all nonsense to tell a man that his mind is not affected when his body is in this state.”
Irving retired from the legation in September, 1831, to return home, the longing to see his native land having become intense; but his arrival in New York was delayed till May, 1832.