Travel Letters: Again At Westminster Palace Hotel, London (1883)

DEAR WILLIAM, — You are forty-nine years old to-morrow ! Are you glad or sorry ? Almost half a century, you see, and the only bother about it is that there is so much less remaining, for life has been very good, and one wishes there were more of it. I wish we were all going to live to be five hundred. But no matter ! There are pleasant times still ahead, and we will make the most of them, so that when another forty-nine years are past, and you are ninety-eight, we shall agree that the second half has been even better than the first. I am all the more in a hurry to get home and begin the new period, now that you are forty-nine, seven times seven, which they say is the grand climacteric of life. But to-night I send you my heartiest God bless you, and congratulations upon all the past and hopes for all the future.

I am writing in Paine’s room, for he has the luxury of a parlor, and I use it as if it were my own. He arrived on Wednesday, and I was glad enough to see him ; since then we have talked over a thousand things. It is wonderfully like being at home again to hear so directly from you all.

I preached for Dr. Vaughan at the Temple, this morning. It was a noble congregation, the church packed with lawyers, and the service very beautiful. The good doctor had a long surplice made especially for the occasion, and presented it to me as a memento, so the Temple surplice will stand in Trinity pulpit for many years. Last Sunday I wrote to you from Lincoln. I came back from there on Monday, and have had a very interesting week. There was a dinner at the Bishop of Carlisle’s, with many interesting people, an evening in the House of Lords, where the bill for allowing marriage with the deceased wife’s sister got defeated, a luncheon down at Dulwich, whither I went with the Bishop of Rochester and Dr. Boyd of St. Andrew’s, who wrote the ” Recreations of a Country Parson.” At luncheon I sat between Robert Browning and Jean Ingelow, and had a delightful time. Then I went down to the Tower with a party of government people, Gladstone, and Foster, and Bright, and others. There was an evening party at Lady Stanley’s, where I saw Browning again, and yesterday afternoon Newman Hall gave me a party. These and some other things have filled the week, and it has been most enjoyable. To-morrow, I am going down with Farrar to spend a night with a friend of his in the country, to meet Matthew Arnold, who lives some-where there.

This afternoon, Paine and I drove out to Hampstead Heath and saw Holiday, who made his and Mr. Morrill’s windows. The last time I saw him was when I went to order Paine’s window, when you and I were in London together. How I wish you were here now ! Paine is deeply interested in charity organizations, dispensaries, police stations, and all that sort of thing. We shall stay here probably three, certainly two weeks longer, and then be off for the great Continent. It has grown quite hot, and in a few weeks more we shall be glad to be away. There are a great many Americans here. I watch every letter to hear what your plans are for the summer, and where you will be when I get home. Already the promise of autumn begins to appear. Allen has written to ask me to a dinner of the club on the 24th of September, and President Eliot wants me to take morning prayers at Cambridge during November. This is Commencement week. You have had Arthur and John with you, I suppose, and I hope that you talked about me. Good-by, my love to G—.

Your affectionate P.