This omission may however some day be repaired. Walford remarks that it was not until after her marriage that she took seriously to novel writing. Whilst yet in her teens she was wont to steal out into the shrubbery with paper and pencil and write short stories, one of which was called "Mac [Pg 31] gregor, our Chieftain," but as she burnt these early effusions as fast as they were written, nothing remains of Macgregor's adventures. In delicacy of health prevented her pursuing the active out-of-door life which she had always enjoyed; so, as the necessity arose for finding vent for her energy, the young author spent a long period of bodily rest in mental activity, its first fruits being "Mr.
Smith: A part of his Life. She sent the MS. John Blackwood, the late distinguished editor of Blackwood , who—much struck with its promise—at once accepted and published it. Brought up from her childhood in the stately homes of her own people, now in Scotland, now in England, and reared in the atmosphere of healthy country life, Mrs.
Walford has been enabled to write with the frankness and accuracy which make her books so thoroughly characteristic and enjoyable. A propos of "Mr. Smith," an amusing anecdote is told. The Queen had had the story read to her twice, and, being much interested in it, expressed a wish to see the author.
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She was presented on her marriage by the Duchess of Roxburghe, who on the occasion happened to take the place of the Mistress of the Robes, absent from indisposition. It is said that as the young novelist made her curtsey before the Royal presence, the Duchess softly breathed into Her Majesty's ear the words, "Mr. A series of short stories soon followed this first success and appeared in Blackwood , beginning with [Pg 32] "Nan, a Summer Scene," and under this name they have since been collected and published in one volume.
Smith" than any of Mrs. Walford's recent works of fiction, and proved a great success in Longman's Magazine. This is coming out as a Christmas gift or prize book. A little volume of Christmas Tales illustrated by T. Pym Mrs. Levett is shortly to appear, and will be called "For Grown-up Children," being stories about children for grown-up people. Besides this, she is a constant contributor to the St. James's Gazette.
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She also writes a weekly letter for the American Critic on literary subjects; one called an "Epidemic of Smartness" made a special sensation; and she has, in addition, stories in two Christmas numbers, The Queen and Atalanta. One great aim of this author has ever been to make herself thoroughly acquainted with all the details of her subject. So particular is she to ensure absolute accuracy, that every item of military life is submitted to one or other of her soldier brothers two of [Pg 33] these were respectively in the 4th Dragoon Guards and the 42nd Black Watch , and every detail of sport to her father; indeed, so well up was she in the latter, that a reviewer of "Mr.
Smith"—when the sex of the author was yet unknown—caustically observed, that the writer was "more up in woodcock shooting than in religion! An ardent lover of the old Scottish kirk, Mrs. Walford says that she "would go any distance to hear a good, long sermon from some of its divines.
She is extremely fond of poetry, and has a good collection of her chief favourites, whilst she keeps habitually on her own table copies of Tennyson, Jean Ingelow, and Coventry Patmore's work. In earlier days your hostess gave much of her time to water-colour drawing, but her children have claimed for the decoration of their schoolroom all her pictures, the majority of which, they proudly remark, were "exhibited and hung on the line in the R.
Walford is just saying that she was married at St. John's, Edinburgh, when the door opens and in comes the bridegroom on that occasion. He is a native of another part of Essex, in which county his forefathers have held lands for several centuries, his grandfather having been High Sheriff in the famous "Waterloo year. Looking at the noble, genial face, you secretly wonder if he can ever find it in his heart to pass severe sentences on offenders.
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He is extremely popular, has made a distinct mark for himself in his own circle, and it is his wife's pride to recognise that he will never be known as "Mrs. Walford's husband. An hour later you are taken into the dining-room, through the ante-room, in the latter, a table near the great bay windows is filled with all the newest books and magazines; these are regularly changed and brought up to date by Mrs.
Walford, and are a constant source of attraction to visitors.
On your left at dinner sits your host's elder son, "Desborough," a fine manly young fellow, just of age; he is full of intelligence, and possesses great powers of observation. He is delightfully entertaining throughout the meal, and asking him about the pictures, which literally cover the walls, he explains that they are a complete collection of Boydell's fine old Shakespearian engravings, and, he adds modestly, these, and all the many etchings and pictures in the house, were framed by his father.
It is quite apparent in this happy home that there is perfect love and sympathy between the parents and the children. The children are as proud of their good, distinguished-looking father as they are of their pretty, gifted mother; the elder ones are keenly interested in her books, and look out eagerly [Pg 35] for the new copies, each confiscating one for his or her own room. Walford have ever been in touch with each individual member of their family. The children have never been put aside for her work, and they are constantly with their mother.
They have all inherited her talent for drawing, and many of them bid fair to be no mean proficients in the art. On the following morning your hostess announces that she has "given herself a holiday," and she proposes to take you out for a turn. The season is late and, though within but a very few weeks of Christmas, the sun is shining brightly over the grounds and the air is pleasantly warm.
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What was once said of a famous lawn at Oxford may well be applied to Cranbrooke Hall. A stranger inquired of a solemn old gardener what was done to keep it so fine and smooth? After a stroll round the pleasant demesne, and a peep into the vineries, in which is the old black Hamburg vine, sister of the famous one at Hampton Court, you return through the billiard-room into the Camellia house, which, a little later on will be a mass of bloom, sometimes as many as two thousand being in flower at a time, in every variety of colour. The billiard table is decorated at the sides with [Pg 36] groops of hand-painted flowers, exquisitely designed, and the cues are arranged in a round oak niche, which you feel sure once contained the image of a saint in some old cathedral.
Just above the seat backs, and extending all round the room, is a perfect picture gallery of friends' photographs, placed closely side by side, and above these there is a wealth of engravings and etchings which would take days to examine. Walford has had three old-fashioned predecessors in the paths of literature in her own neighbourhood, namely, Thomas Day, who, exactly a hundred years ago, wrote "Sandford and Merton," at the little village of Aybridge, within half a dozen miles of Cranbrooke; Anne and Jane Taylor, whose "Original Poems" were, according to Sir Walter Scott, "known to four continents.
Before leaving, you ask to see your hostess's own special portrait gallery of her seven children.
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Lastly, you are shown a faded portrait of the famous author herself, taken at the age of fourteen, and called "A Yellow-haired Lassie," and, in the bright, radiant smile, you recognise the appropriateness of her childish cognomen of "The Laughing Girl. The ancient and historic village of Richmond is too well known to need much description. It is thronged with kingly memories.
Entering the old park by Kew Bridge, you drive past the large and beautiful Royal Gardens, extending along the banks of the Thames to Richmond, which were cultivated under the immediate superintendence of King George III. The old manor garden became Crown property in the reign of Edward I. Here was Philip I. On the right stands the Observatory, built by Sir William Chambers two centuries ago. When the road turns into the New Park south of Richmond, the coachman points out the massive brick wall encompassing the eight miles of its circumference, and remarks that in the reign of George II.
It is for this picturesque and attractive place Miss Rhoda Broughton has deserted her quiet little home at Oxford, where she had lived for twelve years. On the high ground overlooking the Terrace Gardens, she and her sister, Mrs. Newcome, have established themselves in the quiet and peace they both love, in a comfortable house, standing back from the road, which commands an extensive view of the river, winding serpent-like through a forest of trees.
Ushered upstairs into the drawing-room, where the author receives you with much cordiality, the first thing which strikes you is the sweet rich voice in which her welcome is uttered. Standing facing the setting sun, with its golden light reflected on her, you observe that she is above the middle height, and graceful in figure; the hair, rolled back from the low broad strong-looking forehead, is becomingly tinged with grey over the right temple, harmonizing well with the darker shades on the neat, well-shaped head.
The mouth and chin indicate firmness and resolution. In repose, the expression might almost be called sad, but as she speaks, the frankness in the grey eyes, set well apart, at once dispels the idea, and the pleasant musical laugh betrays the vein of fun and wit—entirely of an original kind—which runs through her books. She is dressed in some fabric of dark green, with velvet sleeves and bodice; the latter relieved at the upper part with a paler shade of embroidered vest. The windows open on to a broad trellised verandah, which runs the whole [Pg 39] length of the house; and, stepping out to it, Miss Broughton bids you look at the exquisite view.
It is a lovely day in latest autumn, the trees, turned to every shade of gold, copper, and brown, are shedding their leaves profusely. The sinking sun is leaving the sky deeply tinged with waves of pink and purple, and the river looks like a silver stream, with here and there a tinge of reflected colour, unbroken by a single boat. The air is pure and still, with a faint suspicion of a coming frost. For a few moments you both stand in rapt silence admiring the beautiful prospect, yet sighing to think that the winter is so near at hand; then your hostess leads the way back into the drawing-room, where tea is served, and as you settle comfortably in a luxurious couch covered with tapestry of the first Empire, and sip the fragrant beverage out of a cup of old Spode, the eye travels round the quiet restful room, and notices the many little knick-knacks that fill it.
On the right stands an antique writing table, with pigeon-hole drawers, and old blue china grouped over the top. The two ancient oak cabinets are covered with pretty "bits"; growing in a cunningly-concealed basket is an immense pyramid of ferns and palms, which are Miss Broughton's particular delight.
On the little plush-covered table by the side of a delicately wrought iron Italian stand—whereof the copper bowl is filled with autumnal flowers—lies a business-like work-bag, filled to overflowing, which gives a home-like look to the room and indicates that it is useful as well as orna [Pg 40] mental.
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On asking Miss Broughton for a peep into her sanctuary, she smiles indulgently, and begs you to descend. The white-painted fresh-looking staircase is partially covered with Persian carpet of warm colour, and, throughout, the dado is composed of Indian matting, above which hang many engravings and photographs. The large black-and-white lozenge-shape tiles give the hall an indescribably bright appearance, which here and there the long Indian rugs subdue, yet throw up into relief.
You enter the room sacred to the gifted authoress, and look round. Where are the manuscripts, the "copy," the "proofs," which might reasonably have been expected? There is no indication of her work on the old oak knee-hole writing-table beyond a single blank sheet of paper reposing on a large wooden portfolio, exquisitely painted on both sides by her friend Mrs.
Andrew Spottiswoode at Dresden.
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She half guesses your look of interrogation, and remarks that she is "resting" awhile, now that her latest book "Alas! Rhoda Broughton was born at Segrwyd Hall, Denbighshire.
Her father was a clergyman, and held the family living in Cheshire, where her childish days were passed, varied by visits to her grandfather, [Pg 41] Sir Henry Broughton, at Broughton Hall, Staffordshire. Her father was a student, and himself grounded her in Shakespeare and the English classics, and imparted also the rudiments of Latin and Greek. She was brought up strictly, and the hours of study were long, but made interesting by her scholarly instructor. Asking Miss Broughton if her father had been an author, she replies, "only of his sermons, and I do not believe any of my relations wrote a line in their lives.
Keenly interested, you ask her how then the idea of writing occurred to her. She says she remembers a certain wet Sunday afternoon when she was about twenty-two; she was distinctly bored by a stupid book which she was trying to read, when "the spirit moved her to write. Day after day, night after night, she wrote swiftly and in secret, until at the end of six weeks she found a vast heap of manuscript accumulated, to which she gave the title of "Not Wisely, but Too Well. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, then editor of the Dublin University Magazine ; she selected two chapters at random and read them aloud to him.