Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Poetry - Charlotte Brontë

Another of Charlotte's poems this week. I'm still following Brontë trails after reading Claire Harman's biography. I'm a member of the Brontë Society & so I have online access to many of the back issues of the Brontë Society journals, Transactions & Studies. I've been trawling the archives & finding some fascinating articles, many of them listed in the bibliography of the Harman book. There are also several articles by Juliet Barker, Brontë biographer & the editor of this lovely selection of the Brontë's poetry, published in 1985.

This is Evening Solace, a gentle, melancholy poem of remembrance.

The human heart has hidden treasures,   
  In secret kept, in silence sealed;   
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,   
  Whose charms were broken if revealed.   
And days may pass in gay confusion,           
  And nights in rosy riot fly,   
While, lost in Fame’s or Wealth’s illusion,   
  The memory of the Past may die.   

But there are hours of lonely musing,   
  Such as in evening silence come,           
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,   
  The heart’s best feelings gather home.   
Then in our souls there seems to languish   
  A tender grief that is not woe,   
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish,           
  Now cause but some mild tears to flow.   

And feelings, once as strong as passions,   
  Float softly back—a faded dream;   
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,   
  The tale of others’ sufferings seem,           
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,   
  How longs it for that time to be,   
When, through the mist of years receding,   
  Its woes but live in reverie!   

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,           
  On evening shade and loneliness;   
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,   
  Feel no untold and strange distress—   
Only a deeper impulse given,   
  By lonely hour and darkened room,           
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven   
  Seeking a life and world to come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Charlotte Brontë : a life - Claire Harman

2016 is the bicentenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë. There will be many books & articles published next year about Charlotte of which this new biography by Claire Harman is just the first.I've read dozens of books about the Brontës but can never resist just one more, especially when it's written by Claire Harman, who has written so well about other writers - Fanny Burney, Sylvia Townsend Warner & Robert Louis Stevenson.

The story of the Brontë family is so well-known that, instead of retelling it here, I thought I'd focus on some of the aspects of this book that particularly struck me. The last major biography of Charlotte was published in 1994, Lyndall Gordon's wonderful book, Charlotte Brontë : a passionate life. I have a recording (taped from the TV in the olden days) of a BBC program from 1995 about Charlotte which I've watched many times. It focused on two photographs that had recently been identified as being of her. One of these was discovered in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery & the other belonged to Audrey Hall, a member of the Brontë Society & a connection of Ellen Nussey, Charlotte's friend. The program followed Audrey Hall as she tried to authenticate her photograph &, incidentally, allowed some of the odder members of the Brontë Society to discuss their psychic experiences of being contacted by Charlotte & their disapproval of Charlotte's husband, Arthur Nicholls for only being interested in Charlotte once she was famous.

Lyndall Gordon was interviewed in the program & spoke very movingly about the letters Charlotte wrote to Monsieur Heger. She also talked about the thesis of her book, which did away with the image of Charlotte as a dutiful daughter & sister with her writing coming out of nowhere which had been promoted by Elizabeth Gaskell in her biography of Charlotte. Gordon's book portrayed Charlotte as a professional writer who used the circumstances of her life in her fiction. She also used the NPG photograph of Charlotte on the cover of her book instead of the portrait by George Richmond which is a very flattering image of Charlotte if it's compared with descriptions of Charlotte by those who knew her. I was fascinated when reading Claire Harman's book to discover that the NPG photo is now thought to be of Ellen Nussey rather than Charlotte so the Richmond portrait is back on the cover of the book (there's more about Claire Harman's theory about the photographs in this TLS article).

Claire Harman is very good at exploring how Charlotte used her experiences in the fiction. Not only the major events, such as her unrequited love for her teacher in Brussels, Monsieur Heger, or the scarring experience of the Cowan Bridge school that became Lowood in Jane Eyre, but the emotional resonances of the deaths of her two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, when Charlotte was only a child.

But the griefs and fears expressed in Charlotte's dream (when she was at boarding school, that Maria and Elizabeth returned but were society ladies who dismissed her) touched a nerve that resonated painfully all her life : the understanding that there was a loss beyond loss, that bereavements might not only multiply but intensify. Such feelings torment the protagonist of Villette at the novel's crisis, the eye of suffering tin that most suffering book : "Methought the well-loved dead, who had loved me well in life, met me elsewhere, alienated: galled was my inmost spirit with an unutterable sense of despair." Time does move on for the bereaved, but alarmingly. Healing, 'recovering', from a death is also a form of estrangement, a further loss.

I also enjoyed the way that Harman sees Charlotte using the vast body of juvenilia in her later work. Charlotte & her brother, Branwell, created a world they called Angria. They wrote millions of words about the characters of Angria, stories, histories & fantasies that Charlotte came to call "the world below". She finally realised that her indulgence in her Angrian fantasies was like a drug & she famously wrote her Farewell to Angria when she decided to leave it behind. However, elements of Angria crop up in her novels, especially Jane Eyre.

With the massive literature of Angria and The Professor to her credit already, Charlotte had served as long and hard an apprenticeship as any writer could expect, but the perfection of Jane Eyre still takes one by surprise. The story itself is one of the most gripping ever written, and the telling of it effortlessly clever and assured: Adele's childish prattle as she introduces herself to Mademoiselle guilelessly exposes Rochester's chequered past; Mrs Fairfax is both friendly and secretive; ... And, although the novel is thoroughly Gothic in its use of dark stairways, mad women, mysterious laughter, fire, exile, near-starvation - the whole glorious gamut, in other words - Jane's resolute common sense, fatalism and instinct for the rational allow the enjoyment of all this "burning clime" material without degenerating into the incredible.

One phrase of Harman's that I loved was her description of Charlotte's authorial interruptions as "Another bog burst from Charlotte's seething substratum". The bog burst refers to a real incident from Charlotte's childhood when Branwell, Emily & Anne were out on the moors one day with a servant when there was a bog burst caused by a build up of gases in the peat. Although Charlotte wasn't there, she would surely have heard about it & read the poem her father, Patrick, wrote about it. The particular bog burst referred to here is in Shirley, when Charlotte suddenly breaks into a passage about Shirley's charitable plans for the neighbourhood with an extraordinary description of a scheming (non-English) woman the author has once known, obviously Mme Heger.

Charlotte (or the narrator) breaks in to all the novels with these asides to the reader - the most famous being "Reader, I married him" in Jane Eyre. What did the first readers of the novels make of it? They must have been mystified. What did the Hegers make of it & what did they make of Villette, the novel most closely associated with Charlotte's time in Brussels? Charlotte tried to prevent her novels being translated into French but was she still trying to make contact with Monsieur Heger even though he had refused to reply to her letters? Had she turned her unrequited love into rage? Claire Harman also speculates that Madame Heger retrieved & pieced together Charlotte's letters to her husband (which he'd thrown away) to use as proof that Charlotte was mad if any scandal ever touched her school. I feel as though I need to reread all the novels again as I'd never noticed that description of Madame Heger in Shirley. What else have I missed?

Claire Harman's book is a sober, low key retelling of Charlotte's story. There's very little new information, although she does identify a drawing in an atlas owned by Charlotte as a self-portrait, but I did enjoy Harman's insights into the novels & the way that Charlotte's experiences in Belgium are evident in all her fiction, not just The Professor & Villette.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Poetry - Charlotte Brontë

I've been reading Claire Harman's new biography of Charlotte Brontë & she writes that a draft of this poem was found on the back of the draft of a letter Charlotte wrote to W S Williams, who worked at her publishers, Smith, Elder. The letter was about her first novel, The Professor, which wasn't published in Charlotte's lifetime although she kept revising it in the hope that Smith, Elder would publish it. Eventually she reused some of the material based on her time in Brussels in her last novel, Villette. The circumstances of the speaker in this poem reflect Charlotte's relationship with Monsieur Heger, her tutor, & her unrequited love for him.

He saw my heart’s woe, discovered my soul’s anguish,   
  How in fever, in thirst, in atrophy it pined;   
Knew he could heal, yet looked and let it languish,   
  To its moans spirit-deaf, to its pangs spirit-blind.   

But once a year he heard a whisper low and dreary,           
  Appealing for aid, entreating some reply;   
Only when sick, soul-worn and torture-weary,   
  Breathed I that prayer—heard I that sigh.   

He was mute as is the grave, he stood stirless as a tower;   
  At last I looked up, and saw I prayed to stone:           
I asked help of that which to help had no power,   
  I sought love where love was utterly unknown.   

Idolater, I kneeled to an idol cut in rock,   
  I might have slashed my flesh and drawn my heart’s best blood,   
The Granite God had felt no tenderness, no shock;           
  My Baal had not seen nor heard nor understood.   

In dark remorse I rose. I rose in darker shame,   
  Self-condemned I withdrew to an exile from my kind;   
A solitude I sought where mortal never came,   
  Hoping in its wilds forgetfulness to find.           

Now, Heaven, heal the wound which I still deeply feel;   
  Thy glorious hosts look not in scorn on our poor race;   
Thy King eternal doth no iron judgement deal   
  On suffering worms who seek forgiveness, comfort, grace.   

He gave our hearts to love, he will not love despise,           
  E’en if the gift be lost, as mine was long ago.   
He will forgive the fault, will bid the offender rise,   
  Wash out with dews of bliss the fiery brand of woe;   

And give a sheltered place beneath the unsullied throne,   
  Whence the soul redeemed may mark Time’s fleeting course around earth;           
And know its trial overpast, its sufferings gone,   
  And feel the peril past of Death’s immortal birth.   

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jean Erskine's Secret - D E Stevenson

Jean Erskine's Secret is one of the manuscripts by D E Stevenson that was literally "found in the attic" a few years ago & published by Greyladies. I've read & enjoyed The Fair Miss Fortune & Emily Dennistoun but Jean Erskine's Secret is the earliest of the manuscripts to be written. It's thought to have been written in about 1917 & is set in the Scottish village of Crale in the years just before & during WWI.

Jean Erskine is a daughter of the manse. Her father is advised to move from his city parish to the country &, soon after their arrival, Jean meets Diana McDonald. Diana is living at Crale Castle with her uncle Ian & cousin Elsa. Her parents aren't mentioned (Diana had previously lived with an aunt in Kensington) & Jean senses a mystery. However, the girls soon become great friends. Elsa is not a sympathetic person. She's engaged to a young man, Ray Morley Brown, who Jean knew as a child. Elsa is sarcastic, petty & generally unpleasant, spending as much time as she can in Edinburgh with Ray & her other friends & looking down upon country society. Her father sees none of this & assumes that his daughter & niece are good friends. Jean also meets Fanshaw Locke, who lives nearby & works in Edinburgh. Romantic complications develop as Jean is attracted to Fan but believes that he's in love with Diana.

The real subject of the book though is the friendship between Jean & Diana. The book is in the form of a story that Jean is writing about Diana, to explain the secret in Diana's life. I won't go into that part of the plot to avoid spoilers but the friendship between the two girls is touching & very believable. Both of them had been lonely & their friendship fills a gap in their lives that helps to make up for the disappointments & mysteries they have to overcome. Because so much of the plot is about secrets, I won't say any more about the plot.

There are many things to enjoy in this book although I do wonder whether D E Stevenson would have wanted it to be published. It's a very early work & there are plot holes & frankly unbelievably melodramatic incidents, particularly towards the end, that I felt were just ridiculous. One twist of the plot near the end reminded me more of Mary Shelley or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle than the comfortably domestic fiction I associate with D E Stevenson. To me, this book shows all the signs of being a way for the author to try out different styles of writing & I do wonder what she might have toned down or changed if she'd ever revised the manuscript for publication. There are changes of personality in some of the characters that are inconsistent. For example, after being pretty despicable all through the book, Elsa suddenly has a complete change of personality when war breaks out & goes out to France as a (completely unqualified) nurse. There are too many coincidences involving friends and relations of Jean being involved with Diana & the Macdonalds to be altogether credible or necessary.

One of the aspects of Stevenson's writing that I do love is her sense of place, particularly in her Scottish novels. Even in this early work, this is evident & I especially love she writes about weather. Here, Jean & Ian are walking through a rainy Edinburgh,

Edinburgh was a black dripping place today; the castle towered up threateningly, clearly seen against the light patches of grey sky in its jagged ebony outlines. Arthur's Seat was swathed in a wet and smoky mist; here and there it was rolled back by a puff of chill wind, one caught a glimpse of black shoulder or jutting crag only half real in the gathering gloom. The trees in the gardens were sodden, the gardens themselves deserted and sloppy, the houses all dripping wet and as black as if the rain had been ink. Every street was a running river of muddy water, across which here and there a light twinkled out, making long pale yellow reflections like pointing fingers in the quickly falling gloom. On every face was written a patient yet sullen acceptance of the comfortless conditions, as their owners ploughed through the muddy water on their several businesses.

As always, she writes about the countryside beautifully,

The day fixed by Diana for her return was one of those rare days in winter when the whole world is like an old-fashioned Christmas card. Hoar frost outlined every branch of every tree and gleamed like powdered silver over the crackling ground. A pale pink mist shrouded the valley and softened the hard glare of the sun on the white-coated land.

All in all, I'm pleased to have had a chance to read this early work of one of my favourite authors &  bringing more Stevenson novels back into print has to be a good thing.

Greyladies is also starting a new venture, a magazine, The Scribbler, that will be published three times a year. My copy of the first edition arrived on Tuesday & I couldn't wait to sit down with a cup of tea & read it from cover to cover. It's subtitled A Retrospective Literary Review & the first edition has articles on the Desert Island Discs episode from 1976 featuring Noel Streatfeild (you can listen to it here, or wherever you find your podcasts), reviews of novels set in girl's schools that concentrate more on the teachers than the pupils; the book that changed editor Shirley Neilson's life (it was called Shirley, Young Bookseller by Valerie Baxter!), an author spotlight on Lorna Hill, a literary trail of the Scottish Borders & a short story by D E Stevenson. Copies of Jean Erskine's Secret & many other books by D E Stevenson are available in the US from Anglophile Books.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Who Killed Charmian Karslake? - Annie Haynes

Beautiful American actress Charmian Karslake has been a big success at the Golden Theatre in London. Unlike most famous actors, she doesn't spend her time attending parties & social events. She's something of a mystery. So, it's surprising when she agrees to attend a ball given by Sir Arthur & Lady Penn-Moreton at Hepton Abbey. She has only just met Lady Penn-Moreton who is surprised & quite gratified when Miss Karslake accepts her invitation. However, on the morning after the ball, Charmian Karslake is discovered dead, shot through the heart & flung across her bed. Nothing appears to have been stolen apart from the beautiful sapphire ball that she called her mascot & wore all the time. Was robbery the motive for the the murder or could there have been a more personal reason?

The house party at the Abbey are the main suspects for the murder. Sir Arthur's younger half-brother Richard, known as Dicky, has recently returned to England with his young American wife, Sadie, daughter of millionaire Silas P Juggs. Their return was the occasion for the ball. Barrister John Larpent, an old friend of Sir Charles, was there too with his fiancée, Paula Galbraith. It soon becomes clear that Charmian Karslake may not have been the stranger to England she seemed to be. She may not have been American at all. Several people recognized Charmian at the ball but said nothing & she may have had her own reasons for accepting the invitation that had nothing to do with dancing.

Inspector Stoddart & his assistant, Harbord, arrive at the Abbey under some pressure to clear the mystery up as quickly as possible. Charmian's French maid, Celeste, says that she saw a man creeping along the corridor & enter her mistress's room but she couldn't see his face & wouldn't have recognized him if she had. Further investigations reveal that a family called Carslake had once lived in the area so could Charmian have changed the spelling of her name & could she have connections in Hepton? Charmian was heard to address an unseen man as Peter Hailsham but the only man of that name was an old rag-and-bone man who lived by the canal & died years before. The mascot she always wore, the sapphire ball, was said to be cursed & had been owned by several unfortunate women including the Princesse de Lamballe & Queen Draga of Serbia, both murdered. Stoddart & Harbord determine that Charmian wasn't killed on the bed but moved there afterwards but what could be the reason for that when every moment that the murderer spent in that room could lead to discovery? The investigations into Charmian's past are interrupted by a vicious attack on another member of the house party & Stoddart's suspicions have to be reassessed.

I've been enjoying the Inspector Stoddart novels by Annie Haynes very much. This is the fourth I've read, all reprinted by Dean Street Press. As much as the mystery plots, I enjoy the minor characters that Haynes brings to life in just a short scene. I especially enjoyed Dr Brett who is rumoured to have been on intimate terms with at least one of his patients; Mrs Sparrow, the cleaner at a London church that proves crucial to the mystery & music hall artiste Miss Villiers, who knew Charmian Karslake before she was a star. Silas P Juggs, the canned soup magnate, reminded me a little of Silas Lapham, another self-made man.These minor characters are more interesting that the Penn-Moretons & their friends or even than Charmian herself. We never meet her alive as the discovery of her body begins the book & we only get to know her through the recollections of others.

Who Killed Charmian Karslake? is an intriguing mystery & it's reassuring to know that Stoddart & Harbord will doggedly get to the solution. The Introductions to the Haynes novels by Curt Evans are also interesting & reassuringly spoiler-free. It was Curt who rediscovered Annie Haynes & did allot of research into her life & the reasons for her novels being almost completely forgotten since her death in 1929.

Dean Street Press kindly sent me a copy of Who Killed Charmian Karslake? for review.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Poetry - Siegfried Sassoon

I receive a daily email from the website Interesting Literature. Five interesting things that happened on this day, five things you may not have known about a writer or a book. Last week, there was a post on their list of the ten war poems they think everyone should read. They limited it to WWI &, although there were several of my favourites in the list, there were also a few I didn't know, including this one, Dreamers, by Siegfried Sassoon. It's a quiet poem, with none of the rage that infuses his best-known work. I love the image of soldiers dreaming of home & normality while they're in the middle of the most horrendous, unnatural period of their lives.

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.  
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.  
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win  
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,  
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain  
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Evan Harrington - George Meredith

The great Mel - Melchisedec Harrington - is a tailor with delusions of grandeur. He was once mistaken for a Marquis &, ever since, enjoys pretending to be an upper-class member of the Harrington family when, in reality, he was a tailor in the town of Lymport-on-the-Sea. He ran up debts that he had no hope of paying & created embarrassments which his sensible, respectable wife, Henrietta Maria, had to deal with. Mel's daughters had all married well but none of them had told their suitors that their father was a tailor. Harriet married rich brewer Andrew Cogglesby; Caroline married Major Strike & Louisa married a Portuguese Count & became Countess de Saldar. Only Andrew Cogglesby discovered the truth of his wife's family & he was a good-natured man who couldn't have cared less. The only son of the family, Evan, has not been brought up to be a tailor. He's in that halfway state of being educated above his station but with no money to keep up any position at all. His father wanted him to go into the Navy, then the Army & in the end he went out to his sister, Louisa, in Portugal, where he has met the wealthy Jocelyn family of Beckley Court & fallen in love with Rose Jocelyn.

When the story begins, the Great Mel has died. His widow expects that Evan will come home, take up tailoring & pay his father's debts. Evan arrives for the funeral alone (none of his sisters are willing to be seen in Lymport) & tries to comfort his mother. When Evan hears the situation, he agrees at once that he must pay his father's debts but he's in a dilemma. He's in love with Rose, a young lady who has been heard to be scornful of tradesmen. Louisa, Countess of Saldar, is a schemer who is determined to see Evan marry either Rose or her cousin, Juliana Bonner, an invalid who is the heiress to Beckley Court, the home of the Jocelyns but the property of Rose's grandmother, Mrs Bonner. She wangles an invitation to Beckley Court for herself, Evan & Caroline (who is unhappy with her abusive husband & is being pursued by the Duke of Belfield) & is disconcerted to find Andrew Cogglesby is also a guest. This is where the intrigue & machinations really begin.

Louisa is a beautiful woman who always has admirers hanging around her, including Rose's brother, Harry, & several other members of the house party. Louisa is terrified that someone will discover the tailoring connection. Evan has promised to be apprenticed to a friend of his father's but is reluctant to begin. He loves Rose but is conscious of his poverty & his connections. Rose realises that she loves Evan despite his background & announces her engagement to him. Ferdinand Laxley is another of Rose's suitors & hearing rumours of Evan's family, is determined to make mischief. The chief schemer though is Louisa. She imposes herself on the party, bewitching the men & irritating the women. When she writes a letter imitating Laxley's handwriting to an absent husband alerting him to the affair of his wife with another guest, Lady Jocelyn dismisses Laxley from the house. When Evan discovers what Louisa has done, he confesses to writing the letter & his engagement with Rose is broken. The scene is set for tragedy mixed with quite a bit of farce.

Evan Harrington (cover from here) is a very strange book. If I hadn't been reading it with my 19th century bookgroup, I don't think I'd have read past the first few chapters. The tone is a mixture of social comedy, romance & farce & the prose is over the top & very convoluted. A whole lots of characters are introduced in the early chapters, tradesmen & creditors discussing the Great Mel, but then most of them disappear from the story & we're left confused. But suddenly, about halfway through, I suddenly found I couldn't put the book down & read the last half in just a few days. I was so irritated by the pretentious Countess at first but soon I just wanted to find out what outrageous scheme she would come up with next. Evan is a pretty colourless hero, honourable but silly. He is given money by a benefactor &, instead of paying off the debts or using it in some other useful way, he loans money to Harry Jocelyn (who has gotten a young working class woman pregnant) who is such a fool thatr he decides, on this evidence alone, that Evan must really be a gentleman after all. Anyway, now that he's in the fellow's debt, he can't expose him as a tradesman as it would be bad form.

The women are more interesting than the men in this book. Mrs Mel, Evan's mother, is a humourless but very proper woman who does the right thing no matter the consequences. I loved the scene when she's at an inn & Old Tom Cogglesby (Andrew's brother) arrives demanding his trunk taken up to his room, his chops perfectly cooked & his bed remade because it's lumpy. The landlady's in a complete flap but Mrs Mel manages Old Tom as though he were a recalcitrant child. It turns out they're both on their way to Beckley Court & he offers her a lift in his donkey-cart. Rose begins as a rather affected, spoilt girl who is attracted to Evan but snobbish about class. She realises that love is more important when he confesses his background & she is very strong-minded when it comes to family opposition to her plan to marry Evan. Juliana is not a stereotypical Victorian invalid, she's bad-tempered & resentful, prone to fits of weeping & sulking. She knows she's plain & has nothing to recommend her but her position as heiress. She knows that Evan loves Rose but she finds it very difficult to be gracious about it.

Evan Harrington was one of Meredith's first novels & he used his family background as the basis for the Harrington's tailoring business. Apparently his father (who was a naval outfitter) was horrified by the novel & embarrassed that his son had used his life in his fiction. I think the varying tone of the novel - from serious romance to farce - comes from inexperience. Some of the characters are just eccentric for the sake of it, Evan's friend John Raikes for instance, &, like many three volume novels, it's too long. However, there are scenes like the picnic & the races, which are so beautifully done. It's a real mixture of styles & tone but when it works, it's immensely readable.

George Meredith was such a well-known figure in his time but is hardly read at all now. Only The Egoist seems to be in print although his work is available as eBooks. His best-known novel is Diana of the Crossways, which was reprinted by Virago & has been sitting on my tbr shelves for a very long time. Diana was based on Caroline Norton & I was so impressed by his female characters in Evan Harrington that I really must read Diana soon. Meredith was well-connected in literary circles (he was a reader for publishers Chapman & Hall) & knew Hardy, Tennyson, & Rossetti. He advised Hardy not to publish his first novel because the satire was too savage & Meredith's career had suffered from adverse criticism of his early novels & their "low moral tone". As I've been reading Max Beerbohm's essays recently, I loved this caricature by Beerbohm of Meredith trying to get Rossetti to go for a country walk. Janey Burden languishes in the background. Meredith was known for his love of nature & he was a respected & revered figure in London literary society. Although his health declined in his old age, he continued to be visited by friends at his home at Box Hill until the end of his life.