Mary Louisa Bruce.

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lights that had illuminated it were extin-
guished, and she had the grief of seeing many
of those she had loved and honoured pass

Rev. W, H. Channing, Russell Lowell,


Tennyson, Browning, Newman, Gladstone,
all left this world within a few years of one
another, and of the last-named she wrote,
soon after his death : —

"On the 19th of May, 1898, Mr. Glad-
stone breathed his last, leaving the world
poorer by his death ! Not only is his loss
deeply deplored by all English-speaking
people, the nations of Europe also have paid
their tribute of admiration and respect to the
memory of the great statesman who has done
so much to raise the tone of international
politics, and who emphatically proclaimed the
great principle, that public as well as private
affairs must be based upon the moral laws.

" The great work which he accomplished
in this direction accounts for the widely
extended reverence of which he has been the
object since his decease, the universality or
which has surprised even his friends. At his
funeral in Westminster Abbey, his political
opponents, laying aside their antagonism,
joined his friends in doing honour to his


" Feeling the deepest sympathy with Mr.
Gladstone during his long and painful illness,
and the warmest gratitude for the kindness
which he had shown me in by-gone years, I
ventured, not long before his departure, to
write to him, giving expression to my feel-
ings, and hoping at the same time that he
would not consider that I was taking a
liberty in thus addressing him ; knowing that
he was too ill to write, I did not, of course,
expect acknowledgment of my missive.

" Shortly afterwards, however, I received a
letter from Miss Gladstone, telling me that
4 her father had been gratified by my letter,
and that he sent his love to me.'

" Such a message from ' the great statesman
and still greater man,' who was so soon to
bid us farewell, was and is very precious
to me."

Her last communication from her
honoured friend, F. W. Newman, touched
her deeply. The relationship between these
two was reversed in later life ; the teacher of
former years became the pupil and disciple


of her whose vision was clearer and whose
spirit rose to higher levels than he had been
able to attain to. Driven from the Univer-
sity of Oxford in 1830 because he could not
conscientiously sign the thirty-nine Articles
without which he could not take his degree
— alienated, later, from the Christian religion
by the anathemas of his brother the Cardinal,
and certain historical difficulties connected
with the Gospels which his logical mind
could not get over, he was drawn back at the
end of his long life by the sweet reasonable-
ness and loving sympathy of his friend Anna
Swanwick, and the teaching of Dr. Martineau.
As early as 1876 he became a subscriber to
the British and Foreign Unitarian Associa-
tion. It is touching to learn from one of
the last letters written shortly before the close
of his life, at the age of 92, that he wishes
once again definitely to take the name of

In almost illegible writing, he says : —
" If I live through this year, I hope to
effect, by aid of a friend's eyes, a third and


stereotyped edition of my * Paul of Tarsus/
with grateful acknowledgment that in spite
of a few details I more and more come round
to the substance [of the views] of my
honoured friend, James Martineau. Also
I close by my now sufficient definition of a
Christian, * one who in heart, and steadily, is
a disciple of Jesus in upholding the prayer
called the Lord's prayer, as the highest and
purest in any known national religion/ I
think J. M. will approve this."

A few days afterwards, forgetting that he
had already written, he penned with great
difficulty these lines : "I fear you will hardly
read this. . . . My new idea is perhaps with
you very old. . . . Asked what is a Christian
I reply, one who earnestly ' uses in word and
substance the traditional prayer of Jesus,
older than any Gospel — this supplants all
creeds.' " A few days later, " I can only say
I bless God for your past friendship, and
rejoice in having known you and yours. ..."

Shortly after this he passed into the silent


The following interesting extracts are
taken from letters written by Anna Swanwick
to a friend dated 1897.

"Our human relations are, in my judg-
ment, hallowed by the belief that, springing
as they do from an eternal root, they help
us to live more habitually under the influence
of divine realities."

To the same : — " Friend after friend
departs, and dark indeed would this world
become if, as one by one they pass into the
silent land, they did not add to the brightness
of the Heavenly Home which awaits us
beyond the grave."

To the same : — " I am fond of the lines
in Wordsworth's lovely hymn, ' And glorify
for us the west, when we shall sink to final
rest/ and I feel truly grateful that in the
case of so many friends the prayer has been
realised : and departures may truly be
regarded as spiritual sunsets, carrying the
mind irresistibly onward to the spirit's
rising in the Better Land."

Letter from Dr. Martineau, 1897 : —


" The older I grow, the more am I drawn
to the souls who, however the outer
brilliancy of life may fade, still find * a glory
in the grass,' and whose heart is with the
Light that casts it."

Although she felt the burden of advancing
years, and was often a sufferer from ill health,
Anna Swanwick was never depressed or
desponding, and she wrote thus cheerfully
in 1898 to her friend, Madame Retzius, in
Stockholm : —

" With regard to myself, being in my
eighty-fifth year, I feel that my working
days are over ; nevertheless, I recognise with
joy that, with advancing age, my sense of
the wonderful beauty of the universe, as seen
in the infinitely great and the infinitely little,
grows more and more intense, and this joy
is heightened by the recognition that our
Heavenly Father reveals Himself to His
children's hearts, through the marvellous
beauty of His glorious works."

She retained this beautiful joyousness of
spirit to the last day of her life.


Absolutely free from all thought of self,
and possessed in a large measure of that
humility of which St. Paul speaks, the
humility born of a great soul, it was with
unfeigned surprise that she received a letter,
the last year of her life, in the spring of
1899, from the Senate of the University of
Aberdeen, saying " they had resolved to
confer upon her the Honorary Degree of
Doctor of Laws," and asking if she would
agree to accept it? She replied accepting
the honour, but saying that she felt her
health too uncertain to allow of her under-
taking the long journey to Aberdeen, and the
fatigue and excitement of the ceremony of
conferring degrees, which was fixed for
April 7th. In consequence of this commu-
nication she received a letter from the
Secretary, saying that it had been resolved
" that the Degree of LL.D. should be con-
ferred upon her ' in absentia.' "

The following interesting account of the
proceedings appeared in the Aberdeen Daily
Free Press the next day : —


" Presentation of Honorary Gradu-
ates at the Aberdeen University.
April 7, 1899.

" In accordance with the practice of recent
years the merits of each honorary graduate
were touched upon, ere the graduate was
called on to be formally ' capped.' Professor
Pirie introducing Miss Anna Swanwick, said,
' The honorary degree will be conferred, in
absence, on Miss Anna Swanwick, a dis-
tinguished authoress in two departments of
literature (applause). She was one of the
workers, of whom Thomas Carlyle is the
most famous, who about the middle of the
century, set about familiarising the people of
this country with the masterpieces of German
literature. Her chief work in this depart-
ment was a translation of c Faust ' published
in 1 85 1. She is not less distinguished as a
Greek scholar, having translated in 1865 the
iEschylean Trilogy. In 1873 appeared her
great work, a verse translation of the whole
of iEschylus, a rendering which has not yet
been surpassed in its kind. She has also


done much by her example and influence to
establish Ladies' Colleges in England, and
generally to raise the standard of female
education. In recognition of these valuable
works and of her continued services, the
Senate has resolved to confer on Miss Swan-
wick the title of Doctor of Laws (Applause)."

Professor Harrower sent her his congratu-
lations the day the degree was conferred, and
ended his letter with these words : —

" I am very glad that the University
should have been the first to publicly
recognise your great services to literature
and education by conferring a Degree. The
Scotch Universities owe to you, and to those
who worked with you, a great debt of
gratitude, for we have now a large number
of excellent lady students, and I am glad to
say they are especially distinguishing them-
selves in Classics."

Having assisted at the inauguration of the
two Colleges which were first opened to
women in 1850, she was gratified to learn in
her eighty-fifth year, that in the statutes


drawn up by the Commissioners appointed
under the University of London Act,
" Bedford College would be formally recog-
nised as a school of the University of
London." At the close of her life she also
had the pleasure of taking part in the interest-
ing ceremonies which celebrated the Jubilee
of Queen's College in 1898, and that of
Bedford College in 1899. On both these
occasions she addressed large audiences in
spite of her great age.

In May, 1898, Queen Victoria graciously
signified her intention of driving round to
Harley Street, to show her interest in the
Jubilee of the College that bore her name.
The students on that occasion, who were
assembled at the entrance hall and on the
door steps dressed in white, formed a pleasing
picture, and Anna Swanwick, bent with age,
but full of intellectual vigour, seated in front,
was introduced with other Members of the
Council, to the Queen, receiving a kindly
recognition from the aged Sovereign as she
sat in her carriage.


To one so full of life and interest, a long
period of forced inactivity, or any decline of
mental powers, would have been a more than
usually severe trial. This she was mercifully
spared. Working and loving, with her mind
unclouded and her eye undimmed to the last,
she passed away, dying as she had lived, in
the fullest trust and hope " that with the
Father " all was well for His children.

On November 2, 1899, after a brief
illness, Anna Swanwick fell asleep, in her
eighty-sixth year.

To pass thro' life beloved as few are loved,
To prove the joys of earth as few have proved,
And still to keep thy soul's white robe unstained,
Such is the victory which thou hast gained.

In the far North, where, over frost and gloom,
The midnight skies with rosy brightness bloom,
There comes in all the year, one day complete,
Wherein the sunset and the sunrise meet :

So, in the region of thy fearless faith,
No hour of darkness marked the approach of death ;
But, ere the evening splendour was withdrawn,
Fair flashed the light along the hills of dawn.

Eliza Scudder.


From Mrs. Russell Swanwick : —

"Ohne Hast, Ohne Ruhe.
" It was a wonderful and beautiful life, so
many-sided, a gem cut with so many facets,
that it is hardly possible to give an idea of
the whole in a short space, withal a pur-
poseful life, every day, nay, every hour lived
as though it were a trust, yet there was no
severity, no thought of exaction from any
but herself of a strict account of time, nor
indeed was that the mainspring, rather it was
the unbounded energy and zeal to learn, she
was ever learning, and to do, she was ever
doing, that which made every minute precious.
Was there a method in her life ? If so, it

16 22 5


was, like perfect art, so veiled as to be not
apparent. There was a complete absence of
self, and a most large and loving consideration
of every one else. To love your neighbour
as yourself seemed to be daily interpreted,
' Even better than yourself.'

" To say her love of poetry was intense is
to only half express her feeling for the
highest utterances of human thought. To
her it was a perpetual source of joy, for
which praise and thanksgiving were due.
She was steeped in the outpourings of the
poets of all ages. Her natural intense love
of nature, and of all things beautiful, found
in the expression of the Poets of Nature full
satisfaction, her strong and vigorous love
of Freedom and of Liberty responded to the
voice of Freedom in Milton, Wordsworth,
Coleridge and others.

" The great tragedies of iEschylus and the
* Divina Commedia ' of Dante filled her with
enthusiasm and awe, as representing the great
and imperative call of Duty, and the majesty
of the Divine Law.


" But when the greatest of all themes,
that of Worship and of God, was touched
worthily by the master poets, then she was
filled with the deepest reverence, and one felt
that the noblest hymns and the truest out-
pourings of the human soul in poetry, were
to her as the courts of the temple of the
living God. From them, stored in her heart,
she drew inspiration and love. Thus it is
easily to be understood why she so earnestly
enjoined on all, and particularly on her
younger friends in friendly talk, and in
public addresses to cultivate the early love of
poetry. Her fear was great that in the ever-
increasing mass of subjects which modern
education required, there should be found no
space for what she felt herself to be the richest
jewel of all.

"But her appreciation was not a senti-
mental one, it was virile and true, no
false sentiment, however eloquently or
beautifully expressed, ever passed her scru-
tinising judgment. Both in poetry and in
prose, in philosophy or fiction, her ear


detected a false ring and she would have
none of it.

" Though she seldom spoke directly of
Religion except in most intimate converse, she
had a most deeply religious nature. Bred up
in a broad and catholic faith, religion was to
her a part of her life and of her being. In
later life, independent of outward accessories
of place or form, as extreme delicacy of health
rendered it impossible for her to attend
divine service, she worshipped the Father in
Spirit and in Truth and drew daily inspiration
and strength therefrom. To all who spoke
with her on this subject the intense spiritual
conviction and sincerity of her belief in the
Divine Fatherhood of God was apparent, and
she walked daily in the footsteps of the loved
Master. Thus secure from all the storms of
doubt and unbelief she was not afraid to face
these dread spectres, nor to probe philosophic
doubt to the bottom and to come back
triumphant, while the discoveries of Science,
which she welcomed with enthusiasm, only
seemed to reveal still more the wonder and


beauty of the Universe, and the law of love
which guides it. And so she gave strength
to others weighed down with doubt, and full
of fear and dread.

" The world of men and women has been
classified into ' Light Givers,' ' Reflectors,'
and ' Absorbers,' and it is a true classifi-
cation. The ' Light Givers ' are the rarest,
and truly among them Anna Swanwick should
take an honoured place. During all the years
of her long and strenuous life, even to the
last few days, she radiated from some inner
source, light and life, giving to all who came,
unstinted measure of her boundless store.
An unusually gifted mind, a brilliant intellect
trained through an innate desire after per-
fection by exact and ardent study, she
possessed also the power of sharing all the
delights of knowledge with others, making
them participate in her own enjoyment and
enthusiasm, taking them with her into her
treasure-house whether of Poetry, of Phi-
losophy or of History or Painting, or simply
of the love of Nature and all beautiful things,


of noble deeds, or of the c treasure of the
Humble ' of which she also knew much from
personal intercourse, all touched with the glow
of her own enthusiasm and love, so that it is
no wonder if one felt ' How beautiful is life,
how interesting, how much worth living ; '
and indeed, in this age of much questioning
as to Life, and much weariness and ennui, it
was like a refreshing fountain to realise this
unbounded joy in life. Nothing sordid, no
smallness could live in her presence. For
the time being it was transmuted. Thus she
ever saw human nature at its best, and as one
expressed it, it was an added responsibility to
life to have had the privilege of knowing her.
When she worked it was with her whole
heart, with intense application and absorption.
One felt she mastered whatever she attempted,
she got to the heart of everything and found
the gold, however overladen it might be with
other matter. This was true of everything,
she got to the heart of life and found the
gold. In spite of the absorbing nature of her
study of iEschylus and of the German classics,


she was intensely interested in every new
criticism, in every new discovery of Science,
in every movement that made for the good of
humanity. She was a talented mathematician,
and would willingly have devoted her life to
the study of the higher mathematics ; and she
showed herself, when occasion arose, to be an
eloquent and gifted public speaker. As a
hostess her social gifts were brilliant. She
gathered at her dinner-table, group after
group of names known to fame in every walk
of life, names now long since passed away,
and many still living who still remember her
small worn figure conquering age and delicate
health with indomitable will, instinct with
life, with enthusiasm, with knowledge, with
sympathy, with fun, for never was there more
brilliant fun and merriment than at the upper
end of her long dinner table, when, the work
of the day laid aside, grave and learned men
unbent, and talk and laughter, story and
repartee flowed, and those at the far end of
the room longed to be in the midst and to
catch the infection. Here were gathered


poets and statesmen, historians and travellers,
Church dignitaries and scientists, all finding
themselves in sympathy in the magnetism of
her presence."

Rev. P. H. Wicksteed's recollection of
Anna Swan wick : —

" Her social tact and genial hospitality
made her house in Cumberland Terrace a
centre of intellectual life and enjoyment,
through a length of years which seems to
cover a whole epoch of the life of

"An air of exalted joyousness and confidence
in all good influences made her society a
mental and spiritual tonic, and many an one,
known and unknown, would have felt that
his year had not been properly inaugurated
if he had not attended her New Year's
gathering. Her public and social activities
did not exhaust her amazing energy.
Though her bodily frame was feeble and for
long periods of her life she was subject to


severe illness, though she lay awake through
many a weary night and paid in nervous
exhaustion the price of her life-giving
activities, yet the spirit seemed to triumph
over all weakness and to draw life direct
from its purest sources independently of the
medium of the body. No claim, material or
spiritual, ever seemed to surprise her with an
empty hand or an irresponsive heart. She
never forgot a friend and was never forgotten
by one. Indeed, this constant, detailed,
tender, personal thought for friends in every
rank of society and every condition of life,
perhaps remains upon the mind as the most
striking characteristic of this wonderful and
beautiful life. Such scope and such intensity
of affection are rare indeed, and the high
quality infused into them by sustained and
ardent faith and habitual communion with
* the noble living and the noble dead ' made
her love a veritable well of life, finding ' in
every nook a life that it might cheer.'
Clever, good, and generous she seemed to all
who came into even slightest contact with


her, but beyond this an impression of great-
ness deepened upon those who knew her best.
To a vast circle of acquaintances she was a
marvel of intellectual versatility, philanthropic
activity, and social tact. The inner circle of
those around her (including old dependents
and servants, loved and loving) felt some-
thing akin to awe, as though in the presence
of majestic power and (as one of them has
said) of * the sweetest soul that ever looked
through mortal eyes/ In truth, those eyes,
and the features in which they were set, were
the despair of artists, and must be the despair
still more of him who would paint in words.
Her figure and her features alike bore the
impress of strain, and her voice, though
flexible, had little natural melodiousness of
tone, but through all, the living spirit so
breathed, that voice, face and figure became
the transparent garb, or rather the visible
setting forth of soul. Tenderness and grace
spoke through the whole range of the gamut
in them ; but when moral principles must be
vindicated they were capable of assuming an


impressive sternness which spoke of the
strength that underlay her tenderness, for
though she had a strong deference for assured
position, whether in the intellectual or the
social world, yet where fundamental spiritual
and moral principle was at stake she would
follow no master, bow to no authority, and
respect no position. Never was there a more
infallible power than hers of discriminating
between the humility that acknowledges
superior information and power, and the
moral and spiritual pusillanimity that allows
principles to be warped or thrust aside by
personal authority. Hence, while she opened
her mind with perfect catholicity to all
spiritual influences and was humble in her
estimate of her powers, while she fearlessly
faced philosophical doubt and questioning,
not as a foe to be fought, but as a depth to
be explored, yet where fundamental spiritual
and moral principle was concerned she stood
immovable. She had ' burned her way
through the world to this,' and no one could
make her call right wrong, rob her of the


treasure of her faith, or induce her to turn
back upon her religious traditions of freedom,
progress, and truth. All through her life
she felt the inspiration of Dr. Martineau's
teaching, and enjoyed his friendship, which
she prized as one of the choicest privileges of
her life. Her social and political aspirations,
however, were too deeply based in her own
nature to need the sanction or even the
support of any guide, and hence to the end
she was as keen and hopeful as she had ever
been in her youth. Her confidence in the
spiritual realities and in the triumph of moral
principles had not grown by the breath of
popular applause, and did not sink in
seasons of reaction or flagging faith around
her. The bright and joyous spirit which
triumphed over pain and trial was with
her to the last. She ' lived by admiration,
hope and love.'"

From the Rt. Hon. James Bryce : —

" March 1 1, 1903.

" It was only in her later years that I knew
Miss Anna Swanwick, and I did not very
frequently meet her, for London is of all
places that in which it is most difficult to
make sure of seeing even the persons whom
it is most a pleasure and a privilege to see.
But she was so frank and genial and winning
that she attracted from the first those who
had an opportunity of knowing her, so that
acquaintance soon ripened into friendship.
The first time I met her was at a dinner
party at the house of the late Dr. William
Smith, then Editor of the Quarterly Review.
We had a long conversation about history
and literature, and I remember that she took
me to my house in her carriage on her way
home, talking the whole time with the greatest
vivacity. In her simplicity and her modest
unconsciousness of her own gifts and attain-
ments she reminded me of Longfellow, from
whose conversation one would never have

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Online LibraryMary Louisa BruceAnna Swanwick ; a memoir and recollections, 1813-1899 .. → online text (page 10 of 12)