Corfú, December 6. 1857.

I cannot persuade myself to do anything for more than 10 minutes. Painting, drawing, looking at sketches, reading all kinds of books, German or Greek exercises, sitting still, or walking about, not a possibility of application can I make or discover. But for all that I shall try to get a letter done for you, because I shan’t be able to get on at all unless you write, & I know I can’t hear till I write first. So here goes, for a fortnight’s journal. The knock-shock-sprain which I got in that Southampton train bothered me a good deal as I left England, & it is by no means clear away yet, but I got off hook or by crook on the 20th, & had a neasy passage over to Boulogne, none the less so that there was Lady Somers to talk to & look at: ― she is certainly the handsomest living woman. It seems that she, S. & Coutts Lindsay really landed at Athos, & lived there 2 months! in tents, various mucilaginous monx coming now & then to see them. A few more such visits would bust, or go far to bust, the Greek monasticism, I think.

Well, I didn’t stay in Paris, except that night, & got on to Strasbourg on the 21st, sleeping there, and going on to Heidelberg on Sunday morning. The rest of the day I passed with the Bunsens,1  who live {63} in a house opposite the castle: I thought that evening very pleasant and quiet, talk & music & domesticity, which you know are in my way. Next afternoon, 23rd, I got to Frankfort & cut away all night long, sustaining myself by a big bag of books, which I read by lamplight till day break. Have you read C. Bronte? It is very curious & interesting. The morning & middle of Tuesday 24th, I passed at Dresden, certainly the prettiest city I ever saw, but how cold it was! Allowing time to dine, I got on to Prague by night, & without stopping, to Vienna early on the 25th. Undoubtedly the railroads in Germany are most delightful, when compared with ours ; nevertheless long continuance of railway travel plays the deuce with my irritable mind & body. I found out the hearty good Morier soon, & saw a good deal of him that day & the next. We got on very simultaneously, (none the less so because he speaks of you in a way that pleases me,) & had long talks on various subjects. Robert Morier2  seems to me a man who thinks about his business or profession, & I imagine he would be one to get on, if want of talent and want of principle were not a sure pass to prosperity. We talked too of Tennyson, Pattledom, Strawberry Hill, & all kinds of things; nor was a very good dinner and wine an item of my visit to be left unnotified. {64} Early on Friday 27th I was off to the Rail again, & certes no scenery can be more striking, beautiful, wonderful than that of the R.way between Vienna and Trieste. But I wasn’t sorry to be at my journey’s end, nor the next day, to embark in the “Jupiter” for Corfu. The first part of the voyage was Hell: ― that is a mild expression for the torture I suffered, but I can’t find any stronger at present: ― the second part was better, and anyhow the whole was short, for we were at Corfu by 8 on Monday 30th. And as my man Giorgio came down to meet me, and as my boxes went straight to my rooms, which I found all arranged just as I left them, & as I had only to unpack my things, ― you can’t tell how absolutely ridiculous the effect of the whole common placidness of matters was & is to me. Moreover, Lushington came & asked me to dine that day, & Sir James Reid the next, & the 46th mess for the next, & the Youngs for the next, & as in all these cases, plates, food, conversation, & persons were precisely the same as they all were 6 months ago, ― the ludicrous sentiment of standstill & stagnation was truly wonderful. Wonderful at first, but gnawing & shocking to me now. My dear Chichester, I do not know how I shall bear it, being an ass: ― & if you don’t write, & if others don’t write, I really can’t tell what I shall do.

Just figure to yourself the conditions of a place where you never have any breadth or extent of intellectual society, & yet cannot have any peace or quiet: Suppose yourself living in Piccadilly, we will {65} say, taking a place with a long surface, from Coventry St. to Knightsbridge say. And suppose that line your constant & only egress & ingress to & from the country, and that by little & little you come to know all & every of the persons in all the houses, & meet them always and everywhere, & were thought a brute & queer if you didn’t know everybody more or less! Wouldn’t you wish everyone of them, except a few, at the bottom of the se? Then you live in a house, one of the best here it is true, where you hear everything from top to bottom: ― a piano on each side, above and below, maddens you: ― and you can neither study nor think, nor even swear properly by reason of the proximity of the neighbours. I assure you a more rotten, dead, stupid place than this existeth not.

All this you would understand as coming from me, but others would speak differently of the place. Lady Young for instance calls it Paradise. No drawbacks annoy her at home, and between horses, & carriages, & yachts, she is away from it as she pleases. The Reids do not dislike Corfu as they would, had they not a nice family, and themselves to care about. The Cortazzi are gone, almost all the military offices are full of new people. My drawing companion Edward3  is gone, & I miss him terribly. I vow I never felt more shockingly alone than the two or three evenings I have staid in.

Yet all this must be conquered if fighting can do it. Yet at times, I have thought of, I hardly know what. {66} The constant walking and noise overhead prevents my application to any sort of work, & it is only from 6 to 8 in the morning that I can attend really to anything: Then ὁ γέρος διδασκαλός μου ἔρχεται, κὰι ἐργαζόμεθα ομοῦ εἰς τὴν παλαιὰν Ἐλλενικὲν γλῶσσαν.4  I am beginning bits of Plutarch and of Lucian dialogues. And then, if I can’t sleep, my whole system seems to turn into pins, cayenne-pepper, & vinegar & I suffer hideously. You see I have no means of carrying off my irritation: others have horses, or boats, in short: ― I have only walking, and that is beginning to be impossible alone. I could not go to church to-day. I felt I should make faces at everybody, so I read some Greek of St. John, wishing for you to read it with ― some of Robinson’s Palestine, some Jane Eyre, some Burton’s Mecca, some Friends in Council, some Shakespeare, some Vingt ans après, some Leakes Topography, some Rabelais, some Tennyson, some Gardiner Wilkinson, some Grote, some Ruskin ― & all in half an hour O! doesn’t “he take it out of me” in a raging worry? Just this moment I think I must have a piano: that may do me good. But then I remember Miss Hendon over my head has one, & plays jocular jigs continually. Then what the devil can I do ? Buy a baboon & a parrot & let them rush about the room? Δὲν ἐξέθρω τίποτες.5  I still hold to going to Palestine if possible. {67} If I could but get myself comfortable and untwisted by the noise & general discomfort of these houses, I think I could bring myself right yet, but I cannot tell. Sometimes I think I must begin another big picture, as I want something to gnash & grind my teeth on. If Helena Cortazzi had been here, it would have been useless to think of avoiding asking her to marry me, even had I never so little trust in the wisdom of such a step.

That’s enough of me, I think for this once. If you don’t write a lot about yourself you are a spider & no Christian. Meanwhile things here are not as, by all I was led to suppose, they were represented to you as being. …

There is one thing here which cannot be grumbled at: ― at present at least. The weather, it has been simply cloudless glory, for 7 long days & nights. Anything like the splendour of olive-grove & orange-garden, the blue of sky & ivory of church & chapel, the violet of mountain, rising from peacockwing-hued sea, & tipped with lines of silver snow, can hardly be imagined. I wish to goodness gracious grasshoppers you were here. I believe the cussed people above stairs have goats or ox feet, they make such a deed row. Among the chilly mocky absurdities, opposite me on Friday, as I dined at the Palace, sat Lord Clermont’s first cousin, L.J.E. Kozziris:6  ― neither {68} Greek, Irish, nor English. As for Lady Y. she looks handsomer and younger than ever. Lord & Lady Headfort7  are expected daily. How comes it Lord Strangford8 is dead?

  1. Baron and Baroness de Bunsen. He had been German Ambassador in London 1841-54. She was the eldest daughter of Benjamin Waddington, of Hanover. []
  2. At this time unpaid attache at Vienna. He fulfilled Lear’s prophecy, and had a long and useful diplomatic career. In 1884 he became ambassador at St. Petersburg till his death in 1893. []
  3. I cannot trace this companion of the former visit. []
  4. My old master comes and we work together upon the ancient Greek language. []
  5. Perhaps I shall discover something. []
  6. His mother was a daughter of the second Earl of Clancarty, a cousin of the Fortescues, who in 1843 married Signor Giovanni Kozziris. []
  7. The second Marquis. []
  8. The seventh Viscount. He had been Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1846. He had some reputation as a political journalist, but was better known in his early career for his connection with the “Young England” party. []