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ciergerie. I bitterly regret that my letter was intercepted, for in it I expressed all the gratitude at the interest he took in my misfortunes. I will not describe to you all I have suffered. Your poetic soul and your noble heart have guessed how cruel the position is where defence is restricted within impassable limits and reserve is placed in justification.
'In such a case the only consolation against all calumnies and strokes of fate is the voice that speaks from the bottom of your heart and absolves you, and the reception of marks of sympathy from exceptionally gifted natures, that like yours madam, are separated from the crowd by the elevation of their sentiments, by the independence of their character, and never let their affections or judgments depend on the caprices of fortune or the fatalities of destiny.
'I have been for three months in the Fort of Ham, with General Montholon and Dr Conneau. All communication from without is refused to me. Nobody has yet been able to come and see me. I will send you some day a view of the citadel that I have drawn from a little lithograph: for as you will understand, I don't know the outside of the fort.
'My thoughts often wander to the place where you live and I recall with pleasure the time I have passed in your amiable society, which the Count D'Orsay still brightens with his frank and spiritual gaiety. However I do not desire to leave the place where I am, for
here I am in my place. With the name I bear I must have the gloom of a cell or the light of power. If you should deign, madam, to give me sometimes news of London society, and of a country in which I have been too happy not to love it, you would confer a great pleasure on me.'
Friendship of Dickens for Lady Blessington-His
LADY BLESSINGTON had now passed her fiftieth year, and her tendency to stoutness had increased. The symmetrical outlines that at an earlier age had distinguished her figure, disappeared, but the old grace of movement remained. Her natural good taste led her to submit to the inevitable with becoming dignity. She sought no aid from art in order to lessen in appearance the fulness of her age. S. C. Hall said, no one more carefully studied how to grow old gracefully than did Lady Blessington. 'No one knew better that the charms of youth are not the attractions of age. She was ever admirably dressed, but affected none of the adornments that become deformities when out of harmony with time.'
He adds that there was nothing artificial in
THE MOST GORGEOUS LADY BLESSINGTON
nothing hurried or selfShe seemed perfectly
aught she said or did; distrustful about her. conscious of power, but without the slightest assumption or pretence. It was easy to believe in her fascinating influence over all with whom she came in contact: but it was as little difficult to feel assured that such influence would be exercised with generosity, consideration, and sympathy.'
From one of her own sex, Mrs Newton Crosland, who first met her in 1840, we have a personal description of Lady Blessington as she appeared at that time. Through all the years I knew her' says this writer 'she never varied her style of head-dress. What hair was visible was of a chestnut hue, braided down the cheeks, while straight across the forehead, in what I can only describe as the lady abbess fashion, was a piece of rich lace or blond, but the same material was brought down one side of the face and drawn tight as if supporting the chin, and invisibly fastened on the other. The lace set her face as if in a frame and hid many tell-tale lines of advancing years.' Mrs Newton Crosland not only gives her impressions of Lady Blessington, but also of the library where she usually received; a place the visitor thought 'sacred to kindly thoughts and kindly speech, where bright ideas had birth and angry words were never spoken.'
One of the first letters Lady Blessington received in January 1841 came from Bulwer, who in 1838 had been made a baronet. As industrious as herself he had since that time
written The Lady of Lyons, Richelieu, The Sea Captain, and Money. Nor had his wife been idle, for in 1839 she had published a novel, Cheveley or the Man of Honour, in which her husband under the thinnest disguise figured as the villain. Writing to Lady Blessington he tells her he shrinks 'from returning to London with its fever and strife. I am tired of the stone of Sisyphus, the eternal rolling up and the eternal rolling down. I continue to bask delighted in the light of Schiller. A new great poet is like a discovery of a lost paradise. It reconciles us to the gliding away of youth, when we think that, after all, the best pleasures are those which youth and age can enjoy alike—the intellectual."
About this time she became acquainted with Charles Dickens who had already written Pickwick, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge. Forster vouches for the warm regard the great author had for her and for all the inmates of Gore House: how uninterruptedly joyous and pleasurable were his associations with them; and what valued help they gave him in his preparation for Italy.'
In a letter dated June 2d 1841, Dickens writes to her 'The year goes round so fast that when anything occurs to remind me of its whirling, I lose my breath and am bewildered. So your handwriting last night had as startling an effect upon me, as though you had sealed your note with one of your own eyes.'
This note was to remind him of a contribu