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THIRTEEN YEARS OF A BUSY ***




Produced by MWS, Brian Wilcox and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)






Transcriber’s Notes:

The spelling, hyphenation, punctuation and accentuation are as the
original, except for apparent typographical errors which have been
corrected.

Italic text is denoted _thus_.

See further notes at the end of the book.




THIRTEEN YEARS
OF A BUSY WOMAN’S LIFE




_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


GEORGE HARLEY, F.R.S.; OR, THE LIFE OF A LONDON
PHYSICIAN

THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS. (Several Editions)

A WINTER JAUNT TO NORWAY „

DANISH VERSUS ENGLISH BUTTER-MAKING

THE OBER-AMMERGAU PASSION PLAY

WILTON, Q.C.; OR, LIFE IN A HIGHLAND SHOOTING-BOX

A GIRL’S RIDE IN ICELAND. (Several Editions)

BEHIND THE FOOTLIGHTS „

MEXICO AS I SAW IT „

SUNNY SICILY „

PORFIRIO DIAZ. THE MAKER OF MODERN MEXICO

HYDE PARK. ITS HISTORY AND ROMANCE

THIRTEEN YEARS OF A BUSY WOMAN’S LIFE

[Illustration:

_Photo by Hoppé, 1911_

WRITING]




THIRTEEN YEARS
OF A BUSY WOMAN’S LIFE
By MRS. ALEC TWEEDIE

LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
TORONTO: BELL & COCKBURN. MCMXII




THIRD EDITION

WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH




CONTENTS


PAGE
PROLOGUE 3


PART I


CHILDHOOD

CHAPTER

I. THE GOLDEN AGE 11


PART II

GIRLHOOD

II. THE GIRL IS MOTHER TO THE WOMAN 25


PART III

WOMANHOOD

III. “Wooed and Married, and a’” 37

IV. “A WINTER JAUNT TO NORWAY” 49

V. “THE TENDER GRACE OF A DAY THAT IS DEAD” 58


PART IV

WIDOWHOOD AND WORK

VI. WIDOWHOOD AND WORK 65

VII. WRITERS: SIR WALTER BESANT, JOHN OLIVER
HOBBES, MRS. RIDDELL, MRS. LYNN LINTON 80

VIII. JOURNALISM 94

IX. ON THE MAKING OF BOOKS 107

X. THE END OF A CENTURY 116

XI. MEXICO AS I SAW IT 123

XII. THE CONTENTS OF A WORKING-WOMAN’S LETTER-BOX 133


PART V

THE SWEETS OF ADVERSITY

XIII. PAINTERS 145

XIV. SCULPTORS 161

XV. MORE PAINTERS, AND WHISTLER IN PARTICULAR 168

XVI. “THEY THAT GO DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS” 180

XVII. LORD LI AND A CHINESE LUNCHEON 188

XVIII. FROM STAGELAND TO SHAKESPEARE-LAND 199

XIX. WOMAN NOWADAYS 209

XX. AMERICAN NOTES 224

XXI. CANADIAN PEEPS 241

XXII. ON PUBLIC DINNERS 256

XXIII. PRIVATE DINNERS 270

XXIV. FROM GAY TO GRAVE 283

XXV. JOTTINGS 298

XXVI. MORE JOTTINGS: AND HYDE PARK 310

XXVII. BURIED IN PARCELS 319

XXVIII. WORK RELAXED: AND ORCHARDSON 333

XXIX. DIAZ—FAREWELL 349


EPILOGUE 356


INDEX 359




ILLUSTRATIONS


WRITING. HOPPÉ _Frontispiece_

TO FACE PAGE

ORIGINAL LETTER FROM BISMARCK 16

HANS BREITMANN’S BALLAD 31

AUTHOR’S HAND 33

GRAPES GROWING ON A LONDON BALCONY 42

BORKUM OF SPY FAME. (SKETCH BY AUTHOR) 47

WHEN FIRST A WIDOW 65

MRS. ALEC TWEEDIE’S WRITING-TABLE 94

THE WRITER IN DIVIDED RIDING-SKIRT IN SOUTHERN MEXICO 123

THE AUTHOR, BY HERBERT SCHMALZ 145

HALF-HOUR SKETCH OF AUTHOR, BY JOHN LAVERY 156

WATER-COLOUR SKETCH, BY PERCY ANDERSON 161

WALTER CRANE’S MOST FAMOUS BOOK-PLATE 175

CHARACTERISTIC POSTCARD, BY BERNARD SHAW _Page_ 262

CHRISTMAS CARD, BY HARRY FURNISS „ 303

CHRISTMAS CARD, DESIGNED BY JOHN HASSALL „ 316

BURIED IN PARCELS, BY HARRY FURNISS (TO FACE) „ 320

SKETCH BY “SPY” „ „ 356




THIRTEEN YEARS
OF A BUSY WOMAN’S LIFE




THIRTEEN YEARS OF A BUSY WOMAN’S LIFE




PROLOGUE


One day in the ’nineties I was quietly sitting in my library, when the
door opened and a gentleman was announced. Standing solemnly before me,
he said:

“I have come to thank you for my life.” I looked at him. Was the man
sane? Was he suffering from hallucinations, or what on earth did he
mean?

“Yes,” he repeated solemnly, “I have come to thank you for my life.”

“I am afraid I am at a loss to understand,” I replied, “perhaps you can
explain.”

“Existence became utterly unendurable,” he continued, “worries heaped
upon one another until the strain was unbearable, and then, to crown
all, a terrible disease took possession of me. I knew I could not live.
It might be a matter drawn out in all its hideousness for two or three
years, but—the germ was there.”

“We shall none of us live for ever,” I replied cheerily. “Death is
inevitable.”

“Oh yes,” he nodded, “death is inevitable; but we do not all have to
face it in this way. So unendurable was the strain that I determined
to end the matter in my own fashion, and a day or two ago I finally
decided to take my life.”

The man talked in a perfectly rational manner, though at the same time
in an extremely impressive tone.

“I did not come to the conclusion lightly,” he continued. “I weighed
all the _pros_ and _cons_; faced all the circumstances of the case, and
I could not see that my life was of any value; in fact, in many ways
my family would be better off without me. I had not much pluck left to
face the inevitable racks of pain and disease, so after hours and days
of mental torment I decided to end it all.

“Night came.

“Having determined to wait quietly until all the family were in bed, I
sat in my study and read. I read and thought, and planned and argued,
and the hours appeared to drag interminably. For some reason the
servants seemed later than usual in retiring, and I watched the hands
of the clock slowly move along. It was almost midnight. The lights
had been put out in the passages. I could no longer hear the tread of
people overhead; but for fear that it was still too early I returned
to the book I was reading. Strangely enough, my eye fell on the word
_suicide_. It seemed to rivet me with a weird and terrible fascination.
I looked again, and that word appeared to be written in letters of
blood. Was it a message, I wondered, to a man standing on the brink of
the grave, on the verge of cutting the knot of life? What did that word
_suicide_ portend? I read on....

“Gradually I became interested. Here was a strange case. A man battling
with blindness, a man whose circumstances seemed somewhat similar to
my own; and as I read, I discovered that he had thought deeply on the
same subject, he had disentangled the same problem. Yes, as I read
and re-read the words they seemed to burn into my brain. I realised
that this man decided that he was _not_ justified in taking his own
life, that even though blindness threatened he still had a mission to
fulfil; and when I had learnt those words by heart, I banged down the
book, rose from the table, clenched my fist, and determined to go on
quietly and live my life to the bitter end. That page which altered
the course of events was in the ‘Life’ you wrote of your father.[1]
Since that evening I have read the book from end to end. Clearly he was
right. He had a mission to fulfil and fulfilled it. I have, I hope, now
passed through the darkest hour of my life, but I could not rest until
I came to tell you personally that if you had not written the book,
which chance put into my hand that night, I should have been a dead man
to-day.”

Seizing both my hands, he uttered, “God bless you and thank you! God
bless you! Good-bye.”

And he was gone.

This incident set me thinking.

My father’s life had helped many men who had never seen or met him.
Well if I, a woman, could in some lesser manner help some lone,
struggling women who, like myself, after being reared in wealth,
suddenly found themselves forced to toil for those “little luxuries”
which to a refined woman are verily the necessaries of life, I too
might be of use.

The Society bride who went to Ascot on a drag; to Ranelagh, Hurlingham,
or Sandown in her husband’s buggy, or drove her own Park phaeton and
pair; the pampered, spoilt, well-dressed young wife, who only lived for
a “good time,” at one fell swoop lost all.

A hard school—more kicks than halfpence—and yet now it is passed one is
almost thankful for the experience, thankful for each link in the chain
so often welded with fire and tears.

Two things made life possible—ambition for one’s children and the
kindly hand of friendship—two most precious pearls in the diadem of
life. These, and a mother’s devotion and encouragement.

That hard time of Egyptian slavery is over; my thirteen years’ task is
ended. The widow’s cruse may run low, but need not be empty if she has
health and courage to work; yes, work, work, and still keep on working.

Only let me deplore the unfortunate circumstances that allow the
possibilities of widows and children left to battle with the world,
without sufficient means for a home and education after being born in
luxury.

* * * * *

I won’t attempt to write my memoirs, but just jot down a few odds and
ends before they slip my memory.

Memory is an excellent institution, and often assertive until one
begins to write. Then nasty little doubts have a way of creeping in,
doubts about dates, spelling of names, the actual perpetrator of a
certain cute act, or the inception of a particular thought. Each year
fills memory’s slate more full, and the older markings become gradually
obliterated as new pencillings take their place.

Poor old slate, let me see if I cannot decipher a few stray
remembrances before they are all rubbed out—and recall how I began to
write.

Thirteen years.

What does the title mean? It does not refer to a prison sentence, to
supposed ill-luck as a fateful sign which a modern club of thirteen
members is said to have put to the test, nor to anything romantic.
Like Nansen, I am not superstitious. He was the head of twelve men on
his Polar expedition, and his was the most successful one ever carried
through, for he never lost a man. They started a party of thirteen
and they returned a party of thirteen—an antidote to the superstition
originated by the treachery of Judas.

Thirteen years is a large lease of existence during which to hire one’s
self out a bond-slave. But that is what I did—perforce. Necessity is a
hard taskmaster; and necessity plied the lash.

A great deal of water runs in thirteen years; water that turns the
mill-wheel to grind us mortals to finer—perchance more useful—issues.
The various incidents in my busy life during those years of toil all
doubtless had their effect on character and my outlook on the world.
“Nobody simply sees; nobody simply meets, and doing, simply does this
and that. Inevitably in seeing, meeting, and doing there is a certain
shaping of the mind and spirit of the person principally concerned.” So
Richard Whiteing wisely remarked, speaking of this—my hardest stage of
life’s journey.

Certainly my outlook on the world has altered since the days of happy,
careless childhood, of joyous youth as girl and bride. How I resented
constraint at fifteen and appreciated it later. How the restlessness of
my teens mellowed and sobered and ripened.

Although I did not experience it myself, I am sure that adversity is a
fine up-bringing for youth. It makes children think, which youth nursed
in luxury seldom does. Adversity only came to me in my twenties.

Youth is often spent courting time,

Middle age in chasing time,

Old age, alas, in killing time.

Reared in a soil of generous sufficiency, nourished by wisdom and
kindness in the warm sunshine of love, instead of the human plant
being blighted when the winds blew and the rains fell, it grew stronger
and blossomed and bore the fruit of work.

“Oh, poor So-and-so was not brought up to work,” people often say
despondingly when bad times overtake their friends; “theirs was such a
happy home.” But surely the home should be happy. At least, let there
be something of gladness to look back on, when one is struggling uphill
under a heavy load. The influence of parents is incalculable in effect
on children. The example of my father was powerful in helping me to
take up my burden as he had done his.

If these pages, put together after thirteen years of constant work,
seem too scrappy—disconnected even—let me ask the sympathy of those who
know what it is to be interrupted again and again by illness in the
midst of a task. Illness that has laid me on my sofa, in bed, even sent
me to a “cure” in search of health, as often as six times in eighteen
months; that makes the grasshopper a burden.

Without friendship and sympathy courage would have failed to go on
struggling with what seemed a veritable burden, and yet when well, how
little I thought of toil and stress when writing more important books.
The offer of a friend to undertake a little of the drudgery of the task
seemed to lift tons’ weight off my head. Still, though other hands may
pull a sofa and shake pillows into place, the invalid’s direction is
needful or her own room would not have her own individuality, and would
lose the personal touch that gives the clue.

Ups and downs will come. Bolts will fall from the blue. The unexpected
is what always happens.

Then, oh, why not be prudent, both young men and maidens? Don’t be
foolish, shy, or negligent to make provision against a possible wintry
time, by settlement, or insurance, and in every sound and legal way
hedge round your home against those desolating intruders—Poverty or
Illness.

I do not intend to enter into all my ancestral chain between these
covers; and I do not mean to moralise. People don’t care a ha’penny
for other people’s philosophy, although everybody must have some kind
of working philosophy of his own after he has knocked about in the
crowd and scrimmage of life. I’ve got mine, like other folk, and I’ve
learnt there are only two things worth living for—love and friendship.
The first is not passion, but the capacity to care for the welfare
of others more than for one’s own. Passion burns itself out, love is
ceaselessly unselfish.

And friendship? Why, friendship is the handmaiden of sympathy, the art
of appreciation, the pleasant interchange of thought.

This is a jumble of facts and fancies, wherein memory and pen run riot.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] _George Harley, F.R.S., or the Life of a London Physician._




PART I

CHILDHOOD




CHAPTER I

THE GOLDEN AGE


Unless a book starts with some interest it finds no readers. The first
page is often the key to the whole.

But how is one to be interesting about such commonplace events as being
born and vaccinated, cutting one’s first tooth or having measles and
whooping-cough? They are all so uneventful, and while important to the
little “ego” are so dull to the public. Therefore I refuse to be either
“born” or even cut a wisdom tooth within these pages anent a busy
woman’s life, except to say that on the night of my birth my father and
his friend, the famous surgeon John Erichsen (later Sir John), walked
home from a meeting of the Royal Society together, and on reaching the
old house in Harley Street a servant greeted them with the announcement
that my mother was very ill.

Up the stairs my father hurried, while his colleague went off for
the nurse. I was too small to be dressed, so my early days were
spent rolled up in cotton wool—which fact did not deter my further
development, as at fourteen years of age I stood five feet eight inches
high. On my second day of existence I was introduced in my cradle to
him who for nearly thirty years was as a second father to me—him whom I
always called “dear Uncle John.”

What a horribly egotistical thing it is to write about one’s self!

Until now I have generally managed to keep _I_ out of books by using
that delightful editorial _WE_, but somehow this volume cannot be
written as WE, and the hunting of the snark never afforded more
trouble than the hunting out of _I_. There it is and there it remains.
It refuses to be removed. It glares upon the pages, and spurns all
attempts to be suppressed.

Let me humbly apologise, once and for all, for

“I.”

Some people are born smart, just as others are born good—some are
born stupid—and some are born haunted by the first personal pronoun.
People believe they are relating the honest truth when they speak ill
of themselves, and yet it is so pleasant to relate appreciative little
stories of “ego.”

Why mention my early youth in a book only meant to treat of working
years?—it may be asked. Well, for this friends are to blame. Folk have
constantly asked, “What first made you write? Was it an inherited gift?”

Did my second baptismal name predestine my career? On this subject my
father wrote in a diary:

“The next favours I received from Fortune were domestic ones—a boy
and a girl. The name of Ethel was given the little maid to please
her mother, that of Brilliana to please me. Brilliana, I called her,
out of respect for the only woman of the name of Harley who added by
her writings to the celebrity of the race. _The Letters of the Lady
Brilliana Harley_, 1625-43, wife of Sir Robert Harley, of Brampton
Bryan, Knight of the Bath, were reprinted by the Camden Society,
with introductions and notes by Thomas Taylor Lewis, M.A., Vicar of
Bridstow, Herefordshire.[2]

“Of men authors we have had abundance: of women only one. No wonder,
then, I wished our daughter to perpetuate her name.”

Thus it seems to have been my father’s wish to dedicate me to the
memory of the well-known Dame Brilliana who shone in both social and
literary circles in the seventeenth century. Did he, perhaps, remember
that the old Romans, at the birth of a child, used to choose for it the
name of some ancestor, whose career they wished to be its example, in
the belief that the deceased would protect and influence the infant to
follow in the same path?

This second name of mine is queer enough, and seems to have suggested
penmanship, followed by a number of strange nicknames, chosen
promiscuously by my friends, but all tending in two directions:

“Madame la Duchesse.”

“Liege Lady.”

“She who would be obeyed.”

“Grande Dame.”

“Esmeralda.”

“Carmen.”

“Vixen.”

Do these denote character?—for they apparently run from the sublime to
the ridiculous.

My parents seem to have been less careful about choosing me a nurse of
a literary turn, however otherwise excellent the woman was, for the
following quaint letter to my mother from my old attendant, who was for
nearly forty years in the family, is not exactly a model of epistolary
art:

“I am wrighting to thank you for Papers you so kindly sent Mrs.
B—— she wished me to do so i told her i would do so but there was
plenty of time for doing it but on Monday morning she very quietly
took her long departyer not being any the worse the Delusions was
to much for her and she just went off hoping you are quite well
also your four Gran children and there parents the wether is very
cold for May i remain your Obident

“S. D.”

Apart from the undoubted virtues of my illiterate old nurse, my
education proceeded on the usual infantile lines. My father taught us
children a great deal about natural history, which we loved, as most
children do, and many odds and ends of heterogeneous information picked
up from him in those early days proved a mine of “copy” in years to
come.

A sage once said the child should choose its own parents. He might have
gone farther and said that the child should choose its own school,
because if school-fellows have often had as much influence as mine did
on me, then school companions are a matter of importance. Youth is the
time of selfishness and irresponsibility. How cruel we are through
thoughtlessness! How we stab and wound by quick, unmeditated words! The
journey onwards is a stony one, but we all have to pass along if we are
to attain either worldly success or, greatest of all blessings, mastery
of self. I often wonder why people are so horrid at home. We know it,
we deprecate it, but we don’t seem to have the pluck or the courage to
change it. We suffer the loneliness of soul we all endure at times,
even more than we need, because of our own foolish pride and want of
sympathy with our surroundings. We could be so much nicer and more
considerate if we really tried. We mean to be delightful, of course;
but we signally fail.

In those far-away kindergarten days in Harley Street there were a
little boy and three grown-up gentlemen with whom I made friends. The
little boy grew up and went to Mexico, where I met him after a lapse
of twenty-five years, a merchant in a good position. He was able to do
a great deal for me during my stay there, and proved as a brother in
occasions of difficulty.

Sir Felix Semon became a great physician, and Dr. von Mühlberg a German
Ambassador. The more elderly gentleman was studying at the British
Museum, and only lodged at the house. Dr. von Rottenburg was also a
German, and he used to pat my head every morning on the stairs and
talk to me about my playthings, calling me “leetle mees.” When I grew
up this famous philosopher, diplomat, and writer never forgot the
little black-eyed girl going to school with her doll, and was one of my
dearest and best friends in Germany.

On his return to Berlin he published, in 1878, a book called _Begriff
des Staates_. It was a learned volume and created much sensation in
Germany. One day he was sitting in the Foreign Office when he received
an invitation to dine with the great Bismarck. He was amazed, but
naturally accepted. At the dinner were only two other men, the Imperial
Chancellor and his son Herbert. The former talked to von Rottenburg
about his book in most flattering terms. On his return home that night
his wife asked him how he had got on.

“Not particularly well,” he replied. “I was so awe-stricken by the
wondrous capacity, the bulk of both body and mind of Bismarck, that I
seemed paralysed of speech and said practically nothing.

“Why were you invited?” enquired his spouse.

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” was his reply. “Anyway, I am afraid I
made but a poor impression.”

A week later von Rottenburg was again sitting in his room when Count
Wilhelm Bismarck was announced.

“My father wishes to see you to-morrow,” he said.

“Indeed, and may I ask what for?”

“That is his business, not mine. Be pleased to call at such an hour.”

Perplexed as to the repetition of the invitation the young diplomat
called as desired. Bismarck was sitting at his table writing. The man
who held the destiny of Europe in his hands looked up and nodded.

“Sit down,” he said, and went on signing letters.

When he had finished blotting the last bold signature, turning to von



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