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Millais : Ophelia and The Huguenot
(from : The Life & Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, JG Millais, Methuen 1899)
-Holman Hunt, Charles Collins, William and John Millais paint at Worcester Park Farm-Further letters to the Combes-Millais thinks of going to the East-Commencement of diary and "The Huguenot"
-Hunt at work on "The Light of the World" and "The Hireling Shepherd"
-Collins' last picture-Millais' idea for "The Huguenot"-He argues it out with Hunt-Meets an old sweetheart-Returns to Gower Street-Miss Siddal's sufferings as model for "Ophelia"-Success of "Ophelia"-Arthur Hughes and Millais-Critics of 1852-Woman in art-General Lemprière on his sittings for "The Huguenot "-Miss Ryan-Miller, of Preston-Letters from Gower Street.
"OPHELlA" and "The Huguenot," both of which Millais painted during the autumn and winter of 1851, are so familiar in every English home that I need not attempt to describe them here. The tragic end of "Hamlet's" unhappy love had long been in his mind as a subject he should like to paint and now while the idea was strong upon him he determined to illustrate on canvas the lines in which she is presented as floating down the stream singing her last song
"There on the pendent boughs her coronet of weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Oflike a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be,
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."* * hamlet, act iv
Near Kingston, and close to the home of his friends the Lemprières, is a sweet little river called the Ewell, which flows into the Thames. Here, under sonic willows by the side of a hayfield, the artist found a spot that was in every
way suitable for tile background of his picture, in the month of July, when the river flowers and water-weeds were in full bloom. Having selected his site, the next thing was to obtain lodgings within easy distance, and these lie secured in a cottage near Kingston, with his friend Holman Hunt as a companion. They were not there very long', however, for presently came into the neighbourhood two other members of the Pre- Raphaelite fraternity, bent on working together ; and, uniting with them, the two moved into Worcester Park Farm, where an old garden wall happily served as a background for the " Huguenot," at which Millais could now work alternately with tile " Ophelia."
It was a jolly bachelor party that now assembled in the farmhouse -Holman Hunt, Charlie Collins, William and John Millais-_all determined to work ill earnest ; Holman Hunt on his famous " Light of the World" and " The Hireling Shepherd," Charlie Collins at a background, William Millais on water-colour landscapes, arid my father on the backgrounds for, the two pictures he had then in hand.
From ten in the morning till dark the artists saw little of each other, but when the evenings "brought all things home" they assembled to talk deeply on Art, drink strong tea, and discuss and criticise each other's pictures.
Fortunately a record of these interesting days is preserved to us in Millais' letters to Mr. and Mrs. Combe, and his diary-the only one he ever kept-which was written at this time, and retained by my uncle William, who has kindly placed it at my disposal. here are sonic of his letters-the first of which I would commend to the attention of Max Nordau, referring' as it does to Ruskin, whom Millais met for tile first time in the slimmer of this year. It was written from the~ cottage near Kingston before Millais and Hunt removed to Worcester Park Farm.
To Mrs.. Combe.
"SURBITON HILL, KINGSTON,
"July 2nd, 18 th.
My DEAR Mrs. Combe,I have dined and taken breakfast with Ruskin, and we are such good friends that he wishes me to accompany him to Switzerland this summer. . . We are as yet singularly at variance ill our Opinions upon Art.
One of our differences is about Turner. lie believes that h shall lie converted on further acquaintance with his works, and I that he will gradually slacken in his admiration.
You will see that 1 am writing this from Kingston, where I am stopping, it being near to a river that ~ am painting for Ophelia.' We get up (Hunt is with me) at six in tile morning, and are at work by eight, returning home at seven in the evening. The lodgings we have are somewhat better than Mistress King's at Botley, but are, of course, horribly uncomfortable. We have had for dinner chops and suite of peas, potatoes, and gooseberry tart four (hays running. We spoke not about it, believing in the certainty of some change taking place ; but in private we protest against the adage that 'you can never have too much of a good thing.' The countryfolk here are a shade more civil than those of Oxfordshire, but similarly given to that wondering stare, as though we were as strange a sight as the hippopotamus. *
My martyrdom is more trying than any I have hitherto experienced. The flies of Surrey are more muscular, and have a still greater propensity for probing human flesh. Our first difficulty was . . . to acquire rooms. Those we now have are nearly four miles from Hunt's spot and two from mine, so we arrive jaded and slightly above that temperature necessary to make a cool commencement. I sit tailor-fashion under an umbrella throwing a shadow scarcely larger than a halfpenny for eleven hours, with a child's mug within reach to satisfy- my thirst from the running stream beside me. I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay likewise by the admission of a bull in the same field after the said hay be cut ; am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that lady sank to muddy death, together with the (less likely) total disappearance, through the voracity of tile flies, There are two swans who not a little add to my misery by persisting in watching me from the exact spot I wish to paint, occasionally destroying every water-weed within their reach. My sudden perilous evolutions on the extreme bank, to persuade them to evacuate their position, have the effect of entirely deranging my temper, my picture, brushes, and palette; but, on the other hand, they cause those birds to look most benignly upon me with an expression that seems to advocate greater patience. Certainly the painting of a picture under such circumstances would be a greater punishment to a murderer than hanging."I have read the Sheepfolds, but cannot give an opinion upon it yet. I feel it very lonely here. Please write before my next.
"My love to the Early Christian and remembrances to friends. "Very affectionately yours,
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS."
* It was in this year, 1850. that the first specimen of the hippopotamus was seen in London. Millais seems to have been of the same opinion as Lord Macaulay, who says : I have seen the hippopotamus, both asleep and awake and I can assure you that, awake or asleep, he is the ugliest of the works of God."
To Mrs. Combe.
"SURBITON HILL, KINGSTON,
"My DEAR MRS. PA1',-I have taken such an aversion to sheep, from so frequently having mutton chops for dinner, that I feel my very feet revolt at the proximity of woollen socks. Your letter received to-day was so entertaining that I (reading and eating alternately) nearly forgot what I was devouring. This, statement will, I hope, induce Mr. Combe to write to me as a relish to the inevitable chops. The steaks of Surrey are tougher than Brussels carpets, so they are out of the question.
"We are getting on very soberly, but have some suspicions that the sudden decrease of our bread and butter 15 occasioned by the C---- family (under momentary aberration) mistaking our fresh butter for their briny. To ascertain the truth, we intend bringing our artistic capacity to bear upon the eatables in question by taking a careful drawing of their outline. Upon their reappearance we shall refer 'to the portraits, and thereby discover whether the steel of Sheffield has shaven their features. [This they did and made sketches of the butter. Hunt is writing beside me the description of (his) your picture. He has read Ruskin's pamphlet, and with me is anxious to read Dyce's reply, which I thank you for ordering. In the field where I am painting there is hay-making going on; so at times I am surrounded by women and men, the latter of which remark that mine is a tedious job, that theirs is very warm work, that it thundered somewhere yesterday, that it is likely we shall have rain, and that they feet thirsty, very thirsty. An uneasiness immediately comes over me; my fingers tingle to bestow a British coin upon the honest yeomen to get rid of them; but no, I shall not indulge the scoundrels after their rude and greedy applications. Finding hints move me not,~ they boldly ask for money for a drop of drink. In the attitude of Napoleon commanding his troops over the Alps, I desire them to behold the river, the which I drink. Then comes a shout of what some writers would call honest country laughter, and I, coarse brutality. Almost every morning Hunt and I give money to children; so all the mothers send their offspring (amounting by appearance to twelve each) in the line of our road; and in rank and file they stand curtsying with flattened palms ready to receive the copper donation. This I like; but men with arms larger round than my body hinting at money disgusts me so much that I shall paint some day (I hope) a picture laudatory of Free Trade.
"Good-night to yourself and Mr. Combe; and believe that I shall ever remain
Most faithfully yours,
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS."
To Mrs. Combe.
"July 28th, i8~.
My DEAR Mrs. Combe,-Many thanks for Dyce's answer, which I received yesterday, and as yet have read but little, and that little imperfectly understand.
"In answer to your botanical inquiries, the flowering rush grows most luxuriantly along the banks of the river here, and I shall paint it in the picture ['Ophelia'] The other plant named I am not sufficiently learned in flowers to know. There is the dog-rose, river-daisy, forget-me-not, and a kind of soft, straw-coloured blossom (with the word 'sweet' in its name) also growing on the bank; I think it is called meadow- sweet.
"I am nightly working my brains for a subject. Some incident to illustrate patience I have a desire to paint. When I catch one I shall write you the description.
I enclose Hunt's key to the missionary picture, with apologies from him for not having sooner prepared it. Begging you to receive his thanks for your kind invitation, believe me, with affectionate regards to Mr. Combe,
" Most truly yours,
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS.'
To Mrs. Combe.
"WORCESTER PARK FARM, NEAR CHEAM, SURREY.
"My DEAR MRS. COMBE,---YOU will see by the direction that we have changed our spot, and much for the better. Nothing can exceed the comfort of this new place. Little to write about except mishaps that have occurred to me.
"I have broken the nail of the left-hand little finger off at the root; the accident happened in catching a ball at cricket. I thought at first the bone was broken, so I moved off at once to a doctor, who cut something, and said I should lose the nail. I have been also bedridden three days from a bilious attack, from which, through many drugs, I am recovered.
"We all three live together as happily as ancient monastic brethren. Charley Collins has immensely altered, scarcely indulging in an observation. I believe he inwardly thinks that carefulness of himself is better for his soul. Outwardly it goes far to destroy his society, which now, when it happens that I am alone with him, is intolerably unsympathetic. I wish you could see this farm, situated on one of the highest hills in this county. In front of the house there is one of the finest avenues of elm trees I ever saw.
"We live almost entirely on the produce of the farm, which supplies every necessary. Collins scarcely ever eats pastry; he abstains, I fancy, on religious principles.
"Remember me affectionately to the mother who pampers him, and believe me
"Most affectionately yours,
To Mr. Combe.
"WORCESTER PARK FARM,
October 15th, 1851.
"My DEAR MR. COMBE,-You must have felt sometimes quite incapable of answering a letter. Such has been my state. 1 have made te~o fruitless attempts, and shudder for the end of this. Hunt and self are both delighted by your letter, detecting in it a serious intent to behold us plant the artistic umbrella on the sands of Asia. He has read one of the travels you sent us, The Camp and the Caravan, and considers the obstacles as trifling and easy to be overcome by three determined men, two of whom will have the aspect of ferocity, being bearded like the pard. Hunt can testify to the fertility of my upper lip, which augurs well for the under soil. It therefore (under a tropical sun) may arrive at a Druidical excellence.
"Two of the children belonging to the house have come in and will not be turned out. I play with them till dinner and resume work again afterwards. The weather to-day has prevented my painting out of doors, so I comfortably painted from some flowers in the dining-room. Hunt walked to his spot, but returned disconsolate and wet through. Collins worked in his shed and looked most miserable; he is at this moment cleaning his palette. Hunt is smoking a vulgar pipe. He will have the better of us in the Holy Land, as a hookah goes with the costume. I like not the prospect of scorpions and snakes, with which I foresee we shall get closely intimate. Painting on the river's bank (Nile or Jordan) as I have done here will be next to throwing oneself into the alligators' jaws, so all water-sketching is put aside. Forgive this nonsensible scribble. I am only capable of writing my very kindest remembrances to Mrs. Pat, in which Charley and Hunt join.
"Most faithfully yours,
"JOHN EVERETT MILI.AIS."
At this time Millais had serious thoughts of going to the East with Hunt, but eventually gave up the idea.
And now commences the diary, written closely and carefully on sheets of notepaper. The style savours somewhat of the conversation of Mr. Jingle ; but, as in that gentleman's short and pithy sentences, the substance is clear.
"I am advised by Coventry Patmore to keep a diary. Commence one forthwith.-To-day, Otlober I 6/h, 1851, worked on my picture ['The Huguenot 'j; painted nasturtiums; saw a stoat run into a hole in the garden wall; went up to it and endeavoured to lure the little beast out by mimicking a rat's or mouse's squeak--not particular which. Succeeded, to my astonishment. He came half out of the hole and looked in my face, within easy reach.
"Lavinia (little daughter of landlady) I allowed to sit behind me on the box border and watch me paint, on promise of keeping excessively quiet; she complained that her seat struck very cold. In the adjoining orchard, boy and family knocking down apples; youngest sister but one screaming. Mother'-remarked, 'I wish you were in Heaven, my child; you are always crying'; and a little voice behind me chimed in, ' Heaven! where God lives ~' and (turning to me) 'You can't see God.' Eldest sister, Fanny, came and looked on too. Told me her mother says, about a quarter to six, 'There 's Long-limbs (J. E. M.) whistling for his dinner; be quick and get it ready.' Played with children en masse in the parlour before their bedtime. Hunt just come in. . . . Sat up till past twelve and discovered first-rate story for my present picture.
"October 17th.-Beautiful morning: frost on the barn roofs and the green before the houses. Played with the children after breakfast, and began painting about nine. Baby screaming-commenced about ten o'clock. Exhibition of devilish passion, from which it more particularly occurred to me that we are born in sin. Family crying continually, with slight intermission to recover strength. Lavinia beaten and put under the garden clothes-pole for being naughty, to stay there until more composed. Perceiving that to be an uncertain period, I kissed her wet eyes and released her from her position and sat her by me. Quite dumb for some time ; suddenly tremendously talkative. These are sonic of her observations: 'We haven't killed little Betsy (the pig) yet; she means to have little pigs herself. Ann (the servant) says she is going to be our servant, and me your cook, when you get married.' Upon asking her whether she could cook, she answered, 'Not like the cooks do.' At five gave up painting. Bitter cold. Children screaming again.
October 18th. Fine sunny morning-. Ate grapes. Little Fanny worked at a doll's calico petticoat on a chair beside me. Driven in by drizzling, weather, I work in the parlour Fanny, my companion, rather troublesome. Coaxed her out. Roars of laughter outside the window F. flattening her nose against the pane. Mrs. St-~leton called, with ii~arried son and daughter, and admired my pictures ecstatically. Collins gone; went home after dinner. Sat with Hunt in the evening ; pelted at a candle outside with little white halls that grow on a shrub. Composed design of ' Repentant Sinner laying his head in Christ's bosom.' ( This sketch, now in my possession, was never transferred to canvas.)
October 19th (Sunday). Expected Rossetti, who never came. Governor [his father] spent the day with us, saw Hunt's picture and mine, and was delighted with them. Went to church. Capital sermon. Poor Mr. Lewis felt very gloomy all the clay; supposed it to be the weather, that being dull and drizzling. . . . Found two servants of Captain Shepherd both very pretty-one of whom I thought of getting to sit for my picture. Traversing the same road home, entered into conversation with them. Both perfectly willing to sit, and evidently expecting it to he an affair of a moment one suggesting a pencil-scratch from which the two heads in our pictures could be painted! Bade them good-night, feeling certain they will come to the farm to-morrow for eggs or cream. Went out to meet Collins, but found we were too early, so came home and had tea. I (too tired to go out again) sit clown and write this, whilst H tint sets out once more with a large horn-lantern. Despair of ever gaining my right position, owing to hearing this day that the Committee of Judgment of the Great Exhibition have awarded a bronze medal in approbation of the most sickening horror ever produced, 'The Greek Slave.' Collins returned with his hair cut as close as a man in a House of Correction.
"October 20th finished flowers after breakfast, after which went out to bottom of garden and commenced brick wall. Received letter from James Michael-complimentary, as containing a prediction that I shall be the greatest painter England ever produced. Felt languid all day. Finished work about five and went out to see Charlev. Walked on afterwards to meet Hunt, and waited for him. In opening the gate entering the farm, met the two girls. Spoke further with one on the matter of sitting.
"October 21st. Painted from the wall and got on a great deal. Bees' nest in the planks at the side of the house, laid open by the removal of one of them for the purpose of smoking the inmates at night and getting the honey. \Vas induced by the carpenter to go up on the ladder to see what he called a curiosity. Did so, and got stung on the chin. . . . 1 walked on to meet Hunt with Collins. Met him, with two Tuppers, who dined with us off hare. All afterwards saw the burning of the bees, and tasted the honey. . . . Read songs in the Princess. Have greater (if possible) veneration for Tennyson.
" October 22nd.-Worked in the warren opposite the wall, and got on well, though teased, while paintings by little Fanny, who Persisted in what she called 'tittling' me. .
Hunt proposed painting, 'for a lark,' the door of a cupboard beside the fireplace. Mentioned it to the landlady, who gave permission, with the assurance that if she did not approve of it she should scrub it out. Completed it jointly about two o'clock in the morning. .
October 23rd.-Our landlady's marriage anniversary. Was asked by her son-ic days back for the loan of our apartments to celebrate the event. ' If we were not too high they would be glad to see us.'
" Painted on the wall ; the clay very dull. A few trees shedding leaves behind nc, spiders determinedly spinning webs between my nose and chin. . . . Joined the farmers and their wives. Two of then- spoke about cattle and the new reaping-machine, complaining, between times, about the state of affairs. Supped with them ; derived some knowledge of carving a chicken from watching one do so. Went to bed rather late, and read In Memoriam, which produced a refining melancholy. Landlady pleased with painting on cupboard."
Of this painting, by. the way, my uncle, William Millais, has another and somewhat different tale to tell, lie says:
Our landlady, Mrs. B., held artists to be of little account, and my brother exasperated her to a degree on one occasion. The day had been a soaking wet one. None of us had gone out, and we were at our wits' end to know what to do. Jack, at Hunt's suggestion, thought it would be a good joke to paint on one of the cupboard doors. There were two-one on either side of the fireplace. Mrs. B. had one to market. On coming into the room on her return, and seeing what had been done-a picture painted on the cupboard door- she was furious ; the door had only lately been 'so beautifully grained and varnished.' Hunt in vain tried to appease her. She bounced out of the room, saying she would make them pay for it.
"It happened on the following clay that the Vicar and a lady called upon the young painters ; and on being- shown into the sitting-room, Mrs. B. apologised for the ' horrid mess ' (as she called it) on the cupboard door. They inquired who had done it, and on being told that Mr. Millais was the culprit, the lady said she would give Mrs. B. in exchange for the door the lovely Indian shawl she had on ; so when the painters came in from their work, Mrs. B. came up cringingly to my brother and said the only thing he could do was to paint the other cupboard He didn't paint the other door, but I believe Mrs. B. had the shawl."
And now, in continuation of the " Diary," we read
October 24th.-Another day, exactly similar to the previous. Felt disinclined to work. Walked with Hunt to his place, returned home about eleven, and commenced work myself but did very little. Read Tennyson and Pat-more. The spot very damp. Walked to see Charlie about four, and part of the way to meet Hunt, feeling very depressed. After dinner had a good nap, after which read Coleridge-- some horrible sonnets. In his Life they speak ironically of ' Christabel,' and highly of rubbish, calling it Pantomime.
October 25th. -Much like the preceding clay. All went to town after dinner called at Rossetti's and saw Madox Brown's picture ' Pretty Baa-lambs,' which is very beautiful. Rossetti low-spirited sat with him.
October 26th, Sunday.-Walked out with Hunt. Called upon Woolner and upon Mrs. Collins to get her to come and dine with us ; unwell, so unsuccessful. Felt very cross and disputable. Charlie called in the evening ; took tea, and then all three off to the country seat.
"October 27th .-Dry day. Rose later than the others, and had breakfast by myself. Painted on the wall, but not so well ; felt uncomfortable all day. .
October 28th.- My man, Young, brought me a rat after breakfast. Began painting it swimming. when the governor made his appearance, bringing money, and sat with me whilst at work. After four hours rat looked exactly like a drowned kitten. Felt discontented. Walked with parent out to see Collins painting on the hill, and on, afterwards, to Young's house, lie had just shot another rat and brought it up to the house. Again paintedl upon the head, and much improved. . . . My father and myself walked on to see Hunt, whose picture looks sweet beyond mention.
October 29th. Cleaned out the rat, which looked like a lion, and enlargedl picture. After breakfast began ivy on the wall very cold, and my feet wet through ; at intervals came indoors and warmed theni at the kitchen fire. Worked till half-past four brought all the traps iii and readl Iii J/cmorzam.
October 30th. Felt uneasy could not paint out of doors, so dug- up a weed in the garden path and painted it in the corner. . . . \Vent to bed early, leaving Hunt up reading 1 looker.
October 31st. Splendid morning. . . . Painted ivy on the wall, and got on a great deal. After tea, about halfpast ten, went to see powder-mill man (Young's) to commission him to fetch Hunt's pict~ire home. Sat in their watch-house with him andl his brother, who eulogiseci a cat, lying before the fire, for its uncommon predilection to fasten on dogs' backs, also great ratting qualities. Returned home about eleven andl read In J/cmoriam. Left lILint up reading Hooker.
'November 4th.-F rightfully cold mornin; snowing. Determined to build up some kind of protection against the
-weather wherein to paint. After breakfast superintendcd in person the construction of my hut-made of four hurdles, like a sentry-box, covered outside with straw. Felt a ' Robinson Crusoe ' inside it, and dlelightfully sheltered from the wind, though rather inconvenienced at first by the straw, dust, and husks flying about my picture. Landlady came down to see me, and brought some hot wine. Hunt painting obstinate sheep within call. . . . This evening walked out in the orchard (beautiful moonlight night, but fearfully cold) with a lantern for Hunt to see effect before finishing background, which he intends doing by moonlight.
"November 5th.-Painted in my shed from ivy. Hunt at the sheep again. My man Young, who brought another rat cau~ht in the gin and little disfigured, was employed by Hunt to hold down a wretched sheep, whose head was very unsatisfactorily painted, after the most tantalising exhibition of obstinacy. Evening passed off much as others. Read Browning's tragedy, Blol on Ehe Scutcheon, and was astonished at its faithfulness to Nature and Shakespearian perfectness. Mr. Lewis, the clergyman of the adjoining parish, called, and kindly gave us an invitation to his place when we liked. Had met him at dinner at our parish curate's, Mr. Stapleton.
"November 6th.-Beautiiul morning; much warmer than yesterday. Was advised by Hunt to paint the rat, but felt disinclined. After much inward argument took the large box containing Ophelia's background out beside Hunt. who again was to paint the sheep. By lunch time had nearly finished rat most successfully. Hunt employed small impudent boy to hold down sheep. Boy not being strong enough, required my assistance to make the animal lie down.
Imitated Young's manner of doing so, by raising it up off the ground and dropping it suddenly down. Pulled an awful quantity of wool out in the operation. Also painted ivy in the other picture.
"November 7th.-After breakfast examined the rat [in the painting]. From some doubtful feeling as to its perfect portraiture dete~mined to retouch it. Young made his appearance a~troj5os, with another rat, and (for Hunt) a new canvas from the carrier at Kingston. Worked very carefully at the rat, and finally succeeded to my own and everyone's taste. Hunt was painting in a cattle-shed from a sheep. Letters came for him about three. In opening one we were most surprised and delighted to find the Liverpool Academy (where his 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' picture is) sensible enough to award him the annual prize of ~o. He read the good news and painted on unruffled. The man Young, holding a most amicable sheep, expressed surprising pleasure at the fortunate circumstance. He said he had seen robins in the spring of the year fight ro fiercely that they had allowed him to take them up in his hands, hanging on to each other. During the day Hunt had a straw hut similar to mine built, to paint a moonlight background to the fresh canvas. Twelve o'clock. Have this moment left him in it, cheerfully working by a lantern from some contorted apple tree trunks, washed with the phosphor light of a perfect moon--- the shadows of the branches stained upon the sward. Steady sparks of moonstruck dew. Went to bed at two o'clock.
"November 8th.-Got up before Hunt, who never went to bed till after three. Painted in my hut, from the ivy, all day. After dinner Collins went off to town. Hunt again painting out of doors. Very little of moonshine for him. . . . Advised H. to rub out part of background, which he did.
"November 9th, Sunday.-Whilst dressing in the morning saw F. M. Brown and William Rossetti coming to us in the avenue. They spent the day with us. All disgusted with the Royal Academy election. . . . They left us for the train, fbr which they were too late, and returned to sleep here. Further chatted and went to bed.
"November 11th-Lay thinking in bed until eleven o'clock. Painted ivy. Worked well; Hunt painting in the same field; sheep held down by Young.
"November i6th, Sunday.-To church with Collins; Hunt, having sat up all night painting out of doors, in bed. After church found him still in his room; awoke him and had breakfast with him, having gone without mine almost entirely, feeling obliged to leave it for church. H unt and self went out to meet brother William, whom we expected to dinner. Met him in the park. He saw Hunt's picture for the first time, and was boundless in admiration; also equally eulogised my ivy-covered wall. All three walked out before dinner.
In what they called the Round-house saw a chicken clogged in a small tank of oil. Young extricated it, and, together with engine-driver's daughter, endeavoured (fruitlessly) to get the oil off. Left them washing fowl, and strolled home.
"November I7th.-Small stray cat found by one of the men, starved and almost frozen to death. Saw Mrs. Barnes nursing it and a consumptive chicken; feeding the cat with milk. Painted at the ivy. Evening same as usual."
Some further details are supplied in the following letter :-
To Mr.Combe. "WORCESTER PARK FARM,
"November 17th, 1851.
"My DEAR COMBE,
Doubtless you have been wondering whether it is my intention ever to let you have your own property ['The Dove' picture]. We hope to return almost immediately, when I shall touch that which requires a little addition, and directly send it on to you, a letter preceding it to let you know. Hunt has gained the prize at Liverpool for the best picture in the exhibition there. The cold has become so intense that we fear it is impossible to further paint in the open air. We have had little straw huts built, which protect us somewhat from the wind, and therein till to-day have courageously braved the weather.
"Carlo is still daily labouring at the shed, Hunt nightly working out of doors in an orchard painting moonlight (employed also in the daytime on another picture), and myself engaged in finishing another background (an ivy-covered wall). There is one consolation which strengthens our powers of endurance-necessary for the next week. It is to behold the array of cases, which are the barns of our summer harvest, standing in our entrance hall.
"Very faithfully yours, -
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS."
At this time Charles Collins was engaged on the background for a picture, the subject of which he had not yet settled upon. He got as far as placing upon the canvas an old shed with broken roof and sides, through which the sunlight streamed; with a peep outside at leaves glittering in the summer breeze; and at this he worked week after week with ever varying ideas as to the subject he should ultimately select. At last he found a beautiful one in the legend of a French peasant, who, with his family, outcast and starving, had taken refuge in the ruined hut and were ministered to by a saint. The picture, however, was never finished. Poor Collins gave up painting in despair and drifted into literature (Charles Collins was a regular contributor to Household Words, but is chiefly known by his Cruise on Wheels, a work which met with success)and when the end came, Holman Hunt, who was called in to make a sketch of his friend, was much touched to find this very canvas (then taken off the strainers) lying on the bed beside the dead man. The tragedy of vanished hopes!
But I must now return to the "Diary."
"November 18th.-Little cat died in the night, also chicken. Painted ivy. In the afternoon walked to Ewell to procure writing-paper; chopped wood for our fire, and found it warming exercise.
"November I9th.-Fearfully cold. Landscape trees upon my window-panes. After breakfast chopped wood, and after that painted ivy. . . . See symptoms of a speedy finish to my background. After lunch pelted down some remaining apples in the orchard. Read Tennyson and the Thirty-nine Articles. Discoursed on religion.
"November 20th.-Worked at the wall; weather rather warmer. . . . Evening much as usual.
"November 21st.-Change in the weather-cloudy and drizzling. All three began work after breakfast. Brother William came about one o'clock. After lunch found something for him to paint. Left him to begin, and painted till four, very satisfactorily.
"November 22nd.-All four began work early. William left at five, promising to come again on Monday. . . . After dinner Hunt and Collins left for London, the former about some inquiries respecting an appointment to draw for Layard, the Nineveh discoverer. After they were gone, I wrote a very long letter to Mrs. Combe."
The letter is perhaps worth insertion here, as showing the writer's attitude towards Romanism, which at that time he was supposed to favour, and as an indication of the general design of his picture, "The Huguenot." It ran thus
To Mrs. Combe.
"WORCESTER PARK FARM,
"November 22nd, i85 J.
"My DEAR Mrs. COMBE,
---My two friends have just gone to town, leaving me here all alone. I dine to-morrow (Sunday) with a very old friend of mine-Colonel Lemprière
-resident in the neighbourhood, or else should go with them. Mr. Combe's letter reached me as mine left for Oxford. Assure him our conversation as often reverts to him as his thoughts turn to us in pacing the quad. The associates he derides have but little more capacity for painting than as many policemen taken promiscuously out of a division.
"I have no Academy news to tell him, and but little for you from home. Layard, the winged-bull discoverer, requires an artist with him (salary two hundred a year) and has applied for one at the School of Design, Somerset House. Hunt is going to-night to see 'about it, as, should there be intervals of time at his disposal for painting pictures, he would not dislike the notion. One inducement to him would be that there, as at Jerusalem, he could illustrate Biblical history. Should the appointment require immediate filling, he could not take it, as the work he is now about cannot be finished till March.
"My brother was with us to-day, and told me that Dr.Hesse, of Leyton College, understood that I was a Roman Catholic (having been told so), and that my picture of 'The Return of the Dove to the Ark' was emblematical of the return of all of us to that religion-a very convenient construction to put upon it! I have no doubt that likewise they will turn the subject I am at present about to their advantage. It is a scene supposed to take place (as doubtless it did) on the eve of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day. I shall have two lovers in the act of parting, the woman a Papist and the man a Protestant. The badge worn to distinguish the former from the latter was a white -scarf on the left arm. Many were base enough to escape
murder by wearing it. The girl will be endeavouring to tie the handkerchief round the man's arm, so to save him; but holding his faith above his greatest worldly love, will be softly preventing her. I am in high spirits about the subject, as if is entirely my own, and I think contains the highest moral. It will be very quiet, and but slightly suggest the horror of a massacre. The figures will be talking against a secret-looking garden wall, which I have painted here.
"Hunt's moonlight design is from the Revelation of St. John, chapter iii., 20th verse, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.' It is entirely typical, as the above. A figure of our Saviour in an orchard abundant in fruit, holding in one hand a light (further to illustrate the passage ' I am the Light of the world '), and the other hand knocking at a door all overgrown by vine branches and briars, which will show how rarely it has been opened. I intend painting a pendant from the latter part of the same, 'And will sup with him, and he with Me.' It is quite impossible to describe the treatment I purpose, so will leave you to surmise.
"Now to other topics. We are occasionally visited by the clergyman of the adjoining parish, a Mr. Lewis. He was at One1, and knows Mr. Church, Marriot, and others that I have met. He is a most delightful man and a really sound preacher, and a great admirer and deplorer of Newman.
"I cannot accompany 'The Dove' to the 'Clarendon,' as I have un-get-off-ably promised to spend Xmas with the family I feast with to-morrow, Captain Lempriére's. He is from Jersey, and knew me when living there, and I would not offend him.
"Our avenue trees snow down leaves all day long, and begin to show plainly the branches. Collins still fags at the shed, Hunt at the orchard, and I at the wall. Right glad we shall all be when we are having our harvest home at Hanover Terrace, which we hope to do next Tuesday week.
"Yours most faithfully
"(at twelve o'clock),
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS.
"Please send me a letter, or else I shall be jealous."
Millais having in this letter stated his conception of "The Huguenot," it may be as well, perhaps, to describe here its actual genesis.
After finishing the background for "Ophelia," he began making sketches of a pair of lovers whispering by a wall, and having announced his intention of utilising them in a picture, he at once commenced painting the background, merely leaving spaces for the figures. As may be gathered from what has been already said, both he and Hunt discussed together every picture which either of them had in contemplation; and, discoursing on the new subject one evening in September, Millais showed his pencil-drawings to Hunt, who strongly objected to his choice, saying that a simple pair of lovers without any powerful story, dramatic or historical, attaching to the meeting was not sufficiently important. It was hackneyed and wanting in general interest. "Besides," he quietly added, "it has always struck me as being the lovers' own private affair, and I feel as if we were intruding on so delicate an occasion by even looking at the picture. I protest against that kind of Art." Millais, however, was unconvinc€d, and stuck to his point, saying the subject would do quite well; at any rate, he should go on working at "his wall."
In the evening, when the three friends were gathered together, poor Charlie Collins came in for more "chaff" than his sensitive nature could stand. He had refused some blackberry tart which had been served at dinner, and Millais, knowing that he was very fond of this dish, ridiculed his "mortifying the flesh" and becoming so much of an ascetic. It was bad for him, he said, and his health was suffering in consequence; to which he humorously added, that he thought Collins kept a whip upstairs and indulged in private flagellations. At last Collins retreated to his room, and Millais, -turning to Hunt, who had been quietly sketching the while, said ' Why didn t you back me up? You know these unhealthy views of religion are very bad for him. We must try and get him out of them." . "I intend to leave them alone," replied the peaceful Hunt; "there 's no necessity for us to copy him." A pause.
~Vell," said Millais, " what have you been doing all this time while I have been pitching into Charlie?"
Hunt showed him some rough sketches he had been making-some of them being the first ideas for his famous picture, "The Light of the World."
Millais was delighted with the subject. and looking at some other loose sheets on which sketches had been made, asked what they were for.
"Well," replied Hunt, producing a drawing, "you will see now what I mean with regard to the lack of interest in a picture that tells only of the meeting or parting of two lovers. This incident is supposed to have taken place during the Wars of the Roses. The lady, belonging to the Red Roses, is within her castle; the lover, from the opposite camp, has scaled the walls, and is persuading her to fly with him. She is to be represented as hesitating between love and duty.
You have then got an interesting subject, and I would paint it with an evening sky as a background."
"Oh," exclaimed Millais, delighted, "that 's the very thing for me! I have -got the wall already painted, and need only put in the figures."
"But," said Hunt, '~ this is a castle wall. Your background won't do."
"That doesn't matter," replied Millais, "I shall make one Red and the other to the White Rose faction; or one must be a supporter of King Charles and the other a Puritan."
After much discussion Millais suddenly remembered the opera of The Hug uenots, and bethought him that a most dramatic scene could be made from the parting of the two lovers. He immediately began to make small sketches for the grouping of the figures, and wrote to his mother to go at once to the British Museum to look up the costumes.
Probably more sketches were made for this - picture and for the "Black Brunswicker" than for any others of his works. I have now a number of them in - my possession, and there must have been many more. They show that his first idea
was to place other figures in the picture-two priests holding up the crucifix to the Huguenot, whose sweetheart likewise adds her peisuasions. Again, other drawings show a priest on either side of the lovers, holding up one of the great candles of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant waving them back with a gesture of disapproval. These ideas, however, were happily discarded-probably as savouring too much of the wholly obvious-and the artist wisely trusted to the simplicity of the pathos which marked the character of his final decision.
It will be-seen then that the picture was not (as has been publicly stated) the outcome of a visit to Meyerbeer's opera of The Iluguenots; though some time after Millais' decision he and Hunt went to the opera to study the pose and costumes of the figures.
And now for some final extracts from the "Diary."
"November 23rd, Sunday.-Went to morning church; felt disgusted with the world, and all longing for worldly glory going fast out of me. Walked, miserable, to Ewell to spend the day with my old friends the Lempri~res, who were at Sir John Reid's, opposite. Called there, and was received most kindly. From there went on to afternoon church. On our way met Mr. and Mrs. B---, my old flame. Wished myself anywhere but there; all seemed so horribly changed; the girl 1 knew so well calling me 'Mr. Millais' instead of 'John,' and I addressing 'Fanny' as 'Mrs. B--.' She married a man old enough to be her father; he, trying to look the young man, with a light cane in his hand. Walked over his grounds (which are very beautiful) and on to the new church, wherein the captain joined us, and shook hands most cordially with rue. A most melancholy service over, ~,all walked home. Mrs. B-- distant, and with her mother. Mr. B-- did not accompany us; found him at the captain's house-an apparently stupid man, plain and bald. Was perfectly stupefied by surprise at Mrs. B-- asking me to make a little sketch of her ugly old husband. They left, she making, at parting, a bungling expression of gladness at having met me. Walked over the house and gardens (Ewell), where I had spent so many happy months. .
Had a quiet dinner-the captain~, Mrs., Miss and Harry. In the evening drew Lifeguard on horseback ['Shaw, the Life-guardsman,' shown at the 1898 Exhibition] for little Herbert, and something for Emily. Left them with a lantern (the night being dark) to meet my companions at the station. Got there too early, and paced the platform, ruminating sorrowfully on the changes since I was there last. .
Reached home wet through. Good fire, dry shoes, and bed.
"November 24th.--Painted on brick wall. Mr. Taylor -and his son (an old acquaintance of mine at Ewell), in the army, and six feet, came to see me. Both he and his father got double barrels; pheasant in son's pocket. They saw my pictures, expressed pleasure, and in leaving presented me with cock bird. Lemprières came. The parents and Miss thought my pictures beautiful. I walked with them to the gate at the bottom of the park, and there met Emma and Mrs. B-- out of breath. They had driven after the captain, also to see my landscape. Offered to show them again, but the father would not permit the trouble. Parted, promising to spend Christmas with them. Tried to resume painting. All then took usual walk. Hunt, during day, had a letter containing offer for his picture of 'Proteus.' He wrote accepting it. .
"November 28th.-Wilham came and worked at his sketch, and Sir John Reid called to see my pictures. Were both highly pleased. Took them to see Hunt's and Collins'. Mr. B--- officious and revelling in snobbiness at having such distinguished persons at the farm.
"November 29th.-All painted after breakfast--Hunt at grass; myself, having nearly finished the wall, went on to complete stalk and lower leaves of Canterbury-bell in the corner. Young, who was with Hunt, said he heard the stag-hounds out; went to discover, and came running in in a state of frenzied excitement for us to see the hunt. Saw about fifty riders after the hounds, but missed seeing the stag, it having got some distance ahead. Moralised afterwards, thinking it a savage and uncivilised sport.
"November 30th, Sunday.-All rose early to get in time for train at Ewell, to spend the day at Waddon. Were too late, so walked into Epsom, expecting there to meet a train. Found nothing before past one. Walked towards the downs, and to church at eleven, where heard very good sermon. Collins so pious in actions that he was watched by kind-looking man opposite. Very wealthy congregation. .
Walked afterwards to Mrs. Hodgkinson's, but found she was too unwell to sit with us, so dined with her husband; capital dinner. Sat with Mrs. H- in her bedroom, leaving them smoking downstairs, and took leave about half-past nine, Mr. Hodgkinson walking with us to station.
"December 1st.--All worked ; bitter cold. William left us after dinner. Hunt read a letter from purchaser of his picture; some money in advance enclosed in the same, and an abusive fragment of a note upon our abilities. Felt stupidly ruffled and bad-tempered. . .
"December 3rd.-Hunt . .~. painted indoors, and from the window worked at some sheep driven opposite; I still at dandelions and groundsel. Kitten most playful about me; laid in my lap whilst painting, but was aroused by a little field-mouse rustling near the box. Made a pounce upon, but failed in catching it. A drizzling rain part of the day. Cut a great deal of wood, to get warm. . . . Returned, and found a clerk from Chancery Lane lawyers in waiting upon me, who came to induce me to attend chambers and swear to my own signature upon Mr. Drury's will. Told him I could not attend earlier than next week.
"December 4th-Painted the ground. Hunt expected Sir George Glynn (to see the pictures), who came, accompanied by his curate and another gentleman, about the middle of the day, and admired them much. Suggested curious alterations to both Collins' and Hunt's; that C. should make the 'Two Women Grinding at the Mill' in an Arabian tent, evidently supposing that the subject was biblical instead of in futurity. After they were gone Hunt's uncle and aunt came, both of whom understood most gratifyingly every object except my water-rat, which the male relation (when invited to guess at it) eagerly pronounced to be a hare. Perceiving by our smile that he had made a mistake, a rabbit was next hazarded, after which I have a faint recollection of a dog or cat being mentioned by the spouse, who had brought with her a sponge-cake and bottle of sherry, of which we partook at luncheon. Mutual success and unblemished happiness was whispered over the wine, soon after which they -departed in a pony-chaise. Laughed greatly over the day, H. and self. .
"December 5th.-This day hope to entirely finish my ivy background. Went down to the wall to give a last look. The day mild as summer; r~tining began about twelve. Young came with a present of a bottle of catsup. William made his appearance about the same time, and told us of the brutal murdering going on again in Paris. He did not paint. Young brought a dead mole that was ploughed up in the field I paint in. Though somewhat acquainted with the form of the animal, was much surprised at the size and strength of its fore-hands. Finished, and chopped wood. . . . In the evening Will slept, H. wrote letters, C. read the Bible, and self Shakespeare; and, later, walked out with H. in the garden, it being such a calm, warm nigl~t. Requested landlady to send in bill, intending to leave tomorrow. Had much consultation about the amount necessary for her, in consideration of the many friends entertained by us. Felt, with Collins, a desire to sink into the earth and come up with pictures in our respective London studios."
On the following clay Millais returned to Go\vor Street, his backgrounds being now completed ; set to work at once on the figures in the two pictures, Miss Sicidal (afterwards Mrs. I). C. Rossetti) posing as the model for " Ophelia.' Mr. Arthur Hughes has an interesting note about this lady in The Letters of D. G. Rossetti toWilliam Allingham. He says - Deverell accompanied his mother one day to a milliner's.
Through an open door he saw a girl working with her needle he got his mother to ask her to sit to him. She was the future Mrs. Rossetti. Millais painted her for his 'Ophelia'
-wonderfully like her. She was tall and slender, with red, coppery hair and bright consumptive complexion, though in these early years she had no striking signs of ill-health. She had read Tennyson, having first come to know something about him by finding one or two of his poems on a piece of paper which she brought home to her mother wrapped round a pat of butter. Rossetti taught her to draw; she used to be drawing while sitting to him. Her drawings were beautiful, but without force. They were feminine likenesses of his own.'
Miss Siddal had trying experience whilst acting as a model for Ophelia." In order that the artist might get the proper set of the garments in water and the right atmosphere and aqueous effects, she had to lie in a large bath filled with water, which was kept at an even temperature by lamps placed beneath. One day, just as the picture was nearly finished, the lamps went out unnoticed by the artist, who was so intensely absorb~c1 in his work that he thought of nothing else, and the poor lady was kept floating in the cold water till she was quite benumbed. She herself tiever complained of this, but the result was that she contracted a severe cold, and her father (an auctioneer at Oxford) wrote to Millais, threatening him with an action for ~ damages for his carelessness. Eventually the matter was satisfactorily compromised. Millais paid the
docts bill; and Miss Siddal, quickly recovering, was none the worse for her cold l)ath.
11). G. Rossetti had already fallen in love with her, struck with her " unworldly simplicity and purity of aspect
qualities which, as those who knew her hear witness, Millais succeeded in conveying to the canvas but it was not until 86o that they married.
About the year 1873 "Ophelia" was exhibited at South Kensington ; and Millais, going- one day to have a look at it, noticed at once that several of the colours he had used in 85 1 had gone wrong--notably the vivid green in the water-weed and the colouring of the face of the figure. He therefore had the picture back in his studio, ari~1 in a short time made it bloom again, as we see it to-day, as brilliant and fresh as when first painted. This is one of the great triumphs of his Pre-Raphaelite days. The colour, substance, and surface of his pictures have remained as perfect as the day the)- were put on. Nothing in recent Art, I venture to say, exceeds the richness, yet perfect harmony, of the colours of Nature in " Ophelia" and The Blind Girl" ; and the same thing may be said of " The Proscribed Royalist,' " The Black Brunswicker," and the women's skirts in "The Order of Release" ; whilst the man's doublet in " The Huguenot " and the womans dress in
Mariana" are perhaps the most daring things of the kind ever attempted.
Perhaps the greatest compliment ever paid to ' Ophelia," as regards its truthfulness to Nature, is the fact that a certain Professor of Botany, being unable to take his class into the country and lecture from the objects before him, took them to the Guildhall, where this work was being exhibited, and discoursed to them upon the flowers and plants before them, which were, he sail, as instructive as Nature herself.
Mr. Spielmann is enthusiastic in his praise of the picture. He speaks of it as "one of the greatest of Millais' conceptions, as well as one .of the most marvellously and completely accurate and elaborate studies of Nature ever made by the hands of man. . . . The robin whistles on the branch, while the distraught Ophelia sings her own death-dirge, just as she sinks beneath the water with eyes wide open, unconscious of the danger and all else. It is one of the proofs of the greatness of this picture that, despite all elaboration, less worthy though still superb of execution, the brilliancy of colour, diligence of microscopic research, and masterly handling, it is Ophelia's face that holds the spectator, rivets his attention, and stirs his emotion."
The picture passed successively through the hands of Mr. Farrer, Mr. B. Windus and Mr. Fuller Maitland, before it came into the possession of Mr. Henry Tate, to whose generosity the public are indebted for its addition to the National Gallery of British Art. It was exceedingly well engraved by Mr. I. Stevenson in 1866.
In the 1852 Exhibition, when both the "Ophelia" and "The Huguenot' were exhibited, there was another beautiful "Ophelia" by Millais' friend, Arthur Hughes, who is good enough to send me the following note about the two pictures :~
"One of the nicest things that I remember is connected with an 'Ophelia' I painted, that was exhibited in the Academy at the same time as his [Millais'] own most beautiful and wonderful picture of that subject. Mine met its fate high up in the little octagon room ;*( * Commonly known to artists of the period as "The Condemned Cell.") but on the morning of the varnishing, as I was going through the first room, before I knew where I was, Millais met me, saying, 'Aren't you he they call Cherry ?'(my name in the school). I said I was. Then he said he had just been up a ladder looking at my picture, and that it gave him more pleasure than any picture there, but adding also very truly that I had not painted the right kind of stream. He had just passed out of the Schools when I began in them, and I had a most enormous admiration for him, and he always looked so beautiful---tall, slender, but strong, crowned with an ideal head, and (as Rossetti said) 'with the face of an angel.' He could not have done a kinder thing, for he knew 1 should be disappointed at the place my picture had"
"The Huguenot" was exhibited with the following title and quotation in the catalogue: "A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, refusing to shield himself from danger by wearing the Roman Catholic badge. (See The Protestant Reformation in France, vol. ii., p. 352.) When the clock of the Palais de Justice shall sound upon the great bell at daybreak, then each good Catholic must bind a strip of white linen round his arm and place a fair white cross in his cap." (The Order of the Duc de Guise.)
Mr. Stephens says:-"When 'A Huguenot' was exhibited at the Royal Academy, crowds stood before it all day long. Men lingered there for hours, and went away but to return. It had clothed the old feelings of men in a new garment, and its pathos found almost universal acceptance. This was the picture which brought Millais to the height of his reputation. Nevertheless, even 'A Huguenot' did not silence all challengers. There were critics who said that the man's arm could not reach so far round the lady's neck, and there were others, knowing little of the South, who carped at the presence of nasturtiums in August. It was on the whole, however, admitted that the artist had at last conquered his public, and must henceforth educate them."
The picture is said to have been painted under a commission from a Mr. White (a dealer) for £150; but, as a fact, Millais received £250 for it, which was paid to him in instalments, and in course of time the buyer gave him £50 more, because he had profited much by the sale of the engraving. The dealers no doubt made immense sums out of the copyrights alone of "The Huguenot," "The Black Brunswicker," and "The Order of Release"; while- as to "The Huguenot" at least-the poor artist had to wait many months for his money and to listen meanwhile to a chorus of fault-finding from the pens of carping scribblers, whose criticism, as is now patent to all the world, proved only their ignorance of the subject on which they were writing. In turn, every detail of the picture was objected to on one score or another, even the lady herself being remarked upon as "very plain." No paper, except Punch and the Spectator [William Rossetti], showed the slightest glimmering of comprehension as to its pathos and beauty, or foresaw the hold that it eventually obtained on the heart of the people. But Tom Taylor, the Art critic of Punch at that time, had something more than an inkling of this, as may be seen in his boldly-expressed critique in Punch, vol. . of 1852, pp. 216, 217. The women in "Ophelia" and "The Huguenot" were essentially characteristic of Millais' Art, showing his ideal of womankind as gentle, lovable creatures; and, whatever Art critics may say to the contrary, this aim- the portrayal of woman at her best-is one distinctly of our own national school. As Millais himself once said, "It is only since Watteau and Gainsborough that woman has won her right place in Art. The Dutch had no love for women, and the Italians were as bad. The women's pictures by Titian, Raphael, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Velasquez ar~ magnificent as works of Art; but who would care to kiss
osuch women? Watteau, Gainsborough, and Reynolds were needed to show us how to do justice to woman and to reflect her sweetness."
A sweeping statement like this is, of course, open to exceptions - there are many notable examples in both French and Italian Art in which woman receives her due- but in the main it is undoubtedly true.
"The Huguenot" was the first of a series of four pictures embracing "The Proscribed Royalist," "The Order of Release," and "The Black Brunswicker," each of which represents a more or less unfinished story of unselfish love, in which the sweetness of woman shines conspicuous.
The figure of the Huguenot (as I have said before) was painted for the most part from Mr. Arthur (now General) Lempriére-an old friend of the family--and afterwards completed with the aid of a model.
Of his sittings to Millais during 1853, Major-General Lemprière kindly sends me the following : --"It was a short time before I got my commission in the Royal Engineers in the year 1853 (when I was about eighteen years old) that I had the honour of sitting for his famous picture of 'The Huguenot.' If I remember right, he was then living with his father and mother in Bloomsbury Square. I used to go up there pretty often and occasionally stopped there. His father and mother were always most kind.
"After several sittings I remember he was not satisfied with what he had put on the canvas, and he took a knife and scraped my head out of the picture, and did it all again. He always talked in the most cheery way all the time he was painting, and made it impossible for one to feel dull or tired. I little thought what an honour was being conferred on me, and at the time did not appreciate it, as I have always since.
"1 remember, however, so well his kindness in giving me, for having sat, a canary-bird and cage, and also a water-colour drawing from his portfolio ('Attack on Kenilworth Castle '), which, with several others of his early sketches which I have, were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts after his death.
"I was abroad, off and on, for some thirty years after I got my commission, and almost lost sight of my dear old friend. He, in the meantime, had risen so high in his profession that I felt almost afraid of calling on him. One morning, however, being near Palace Gate, I plucked up courage, and went to the house and gave my card to the butler, and asked him to take it in to Sir John, which he did; and you can imagine my delight when Sir John almost immediately came out of his studio in his shirtsleeves, straight to the front door, and greeted me most heartily.
"I was most deeply touched, about a fortnight before he died, at his asking to see me, and when I went to his bedside at his putting his arms round my neck and kissing me."
A lovely woman (Miss Ryan) sat for the lady in "The Huguenot," Mrs. George Hodgkinson, the artist's cousin, taking her place upon occasion as a model for the left arm of the figure. Alas for Miss Ryan! her beauty proved a fatal gift : she married an ostler, and her later history is a sad one. My father was always reluctant to speak of it, feeling perhaps that the publicity he had given to her beauty might in some small measure have helped (as the saying is) to turn her head.
The picture was the first of many engraved by his old friend, Mr. T. 0. Barlow, R.A., and exceedingly well it was done. It eventually became the property of Mr. Miller, of Preston, and now belongs to his son. As this gentleman bought several of my father's works, and is so frequently mentioned hereafter, the description of him by Madox Brown in D. G. Rossetti's Letters may be of interest
"This Miller is a jolly, kind old man, with streaming white hair, fine features, and a beautiful keen eye like Mulready's. A rich brogue (he was Scotch, not Irish), a pipe of Cavendish, and a smart rejoinder, with a pleasant word for every man, woman, and child he met, are characteristic of him. His house is full of pictures, even to the kitchen. Many pictures he has at all his friends' houses, and his house at Bute is also filled with his inferior ones. His hospitality is somewhat peculiar of its kind. His dinner, which is at six, is of one joint and vegetables, without pudding. Bottled beer for drink. I never saw any wine. After dinner he instantly hurries you off to tea, and then back again to smoke. He calls it meat-tea, and boasts that few people who have ever dined with him come back again." Mr. W.. M. Rossetti describes him as "one of the most cordial, large-hearted and lovable men I ever knew. He was so strong in belief as to be a sceptic as regards the absence of belief. I once heard him say, in his strong Scotch accent, 'An atheist, if such an animal ever really existed.' What the supposititious animal would do, I forget."
Amongst other work of Millais this year was the retouching of "Cymon and Iphigenia," a picture done by him in his seventeenth year, and now vastly improved by a fresh impression of colour and a further Pre-Raphaelite finish of the flowers in the foreground.
"Memory," a little head of the Marchioness of Ripon, was also painted this winter. A more important work, however, is "The Bride~maid," for the head of which Mrs. Nassau Senior sat. "The Return of the Dove" was also finished and sent to its owner along with the following letter
To Mr. Combe.
"83, GOWER STREET, BEDFORD SQUARE,
"My DEAR MR. Combe,-I have touched your picture, 'The Return of the Dove,' at last; and hope it will arrive safely.
"We came home on Saturday night. My brother brought the pictures on Monday evening, one of them not having dried completely. We have all fortunately escaped colds, which (considering the great exposure we have undergone) is something to be thankful for. My first two days of London have again occasioned that hatred for the place I had upon returning to it last year. I had a headache yesterday, and another about to come now.
"You will perceive in some lights a little dulness on the surface of 'The Dove's' background. It will all disappear when it is varnished, which must not be for some little time. It is almost impossible to paint a picture without some bloom coming on the face of it.
"You recollect it was arranged between Chancy and myself that it should hang nearest the window, beside Hunt's. Please let it be a little leaned forward.
"My mother is talking with Hunt approvingly of the works I have just had home, and I cannot write more without jumbling what they are saying in this.
"In great haste,
"Most sincerely yours,
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS.
"'The Dove' will be sent off to you to-morrow (Wednesday) by rail. The reason for hanging the picture nearer the light is that it is much darker than Collins' ' Nun.'"
Another letter addressed to Mrs. Combe, and referring to the sale of "Ophelia," carries us to the end of this year.
To Mrs. Combe.
" 83, GOWER STREET,
"December 12, 1851.
"My DEAR MRS. Combe,--I enclose a little book written by Miss Rossetti. I promised to send it to you a long while ago, but have only recollected it now. I think you will greatly admire it. My remembrance of it is but slight, not having read it for several years. I was glad to hear that 'The Dove' arrived safely, and that it gains upon acquaintance.
"Mr. Farrer bought the 'Ophelia' the day before yesterday for three hundred guineas. The day previous, a Mr. White, a purchaser, was so delighted with it that he half closed with me. I expect he will call to-morrow to say that he will have it, when he will he much disappointed to hear of its sale.
"Wilkie Collins is writing a Christmas book for which I have undertaken to make a small etching.
"Hunt's prize picture of ' Proteus' is sold to a gentleman at Belfast-which sets him (H.) up in opulence for the winter. I saw Charley last night. He is just the same as ever-so provokingly quiet. I fancy you have rather mistaken my feelings towards him; not a whit of our friendship has diminished. I was with him last night, but little or nothing he said. I played backgammon with the matron.
"Let me know what you think of the 'Rivulets.' . .
"In haste, yours sincerely,
"JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS."