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In 1866 Mrs. Oliphant removed to Windsor to be near her sons at Eton, and the rest of her life might have been described as slavery to the pen, if writing had not been a real enjoyment to her. She probably found relief in the visionary world of her creations from pecuniary cares and parental disappointments; assuredly she cannot have suffered herself to brood much over these. In addition to the constant stream of fiction, she took up biographical and semi-historical literature, producing such books as 'The Life of St. Francis of Assisi' (1871), 'The Makers of Florence' (1874; 2nd edit. 1877; 3rd edit. 1881), 'The Makers of Venice ' (1887), 'The Makers of Modern Rome' (1895), useful digests of information, brightened by her eye for the picturesque and her happy talent for describing scenery. She also took charge of two important undertakings in connection with her publisher, Mr. Blackwood, and his magazine. His series of monographs on foreign classics was edited by her, and for that series she wrote the volumes on Dante (1877) and Cervantes (1880). For 'Blackwood's Magazine' she long continued to review the literature of the day in monthly surveys, entitled 'Our Library Table.' Her criticisms, like most of her work, are excellent but not masterly. She is always shrewd, commonly well-informed, usually impartial, and knows how to make the review of even a dull book attractive by some bright touch of observation or scenic description. But she is rarely illuminating, never profound, and her criticism seldom does more than express the average sentiment of the most cultivated class of readers. Of her numerous later novels, while none stand quite at the height of 'Salem Chapel,' not one could be considered a failure. She gave little sign of having written herself out, and set an example, admirable but hard for voluminous authors to follow, of making no capital, either out of her own private affairs or those of her neighbours. 'The Wizard's Son' (1883) may perhaps have borne some reference to the uneasy relations between her mother and her husband. It counted among her best works; others worthy of especial mention were 'Agnes' (1866), 'Madonna Mary' (1867), 'Ombra' (1872), 'Innocent' (1873), 'Carita' (1877), 'Hester' (1883), and 'The Ladies Lindores' (1883). A remarkable class of her work was that dealing with the occult and unseen. A st rong element of mysticism found relief in such books as 'A Beleaguered City' (1880), founded on a mediaeval legend of a city invested and occupied by the dead, and 'A Little Pilgrim in the Unseen' (1882). There was quite as much sense of reality here as in her more everyday writings. The same feeling in some degree inspired her indulgent biography (1891) of her brilliant and eccentric cousin, Laurence Oliphant (1829-18 ) [q. v.], and of the poor wife who had so much
self at Edinburgh, was now living at Ealing, where she was visited by Jane Welsh Carlyle (Letters, iii. 164-5, 324-6, 334). In 1864 she went again to Rome, where she encountered one of the heaviest afflictions of her life in the death of her daughter. Returning in broken spirits she soon found, as she deemed, a new burden imposed upon her by the return of her widowed brother from Canada with three children. Without hesitation, she received them into her house, and took upon herself the entire charge of their education and maintenance a truly heroic action, which, so great were her energy and capacity for work, might not have overtaxed her if she had acted more wisely in the education of her own children. By attempting to bring them up at Eton, she involved herself in perpetual embarrassment: ever honourably redeeming obligations, and ever of necessity contracting new ones, she lived under a sense of continual distress and humiliation, all the more intolerable from the contrast between the externally bright and smooth aspect of her household, and the inner consciousness of its struggling mistress. Thus expensively and at the same time inefficiently educated, it is no wonder that the boys misunderstood their real position, formed no habits of self-help or self-reliance, and, almost obliged to enter upon university careers, where nothing but the highest talent and the most determined industry could have insured success, proved little better than broken reeds, though not absolutely bad sons. It is this disappointment, even more than their premature death, that casts so deep a gloom upon the autobiography of the successful authoress. The elder, Cyril Francis, lived to thirty-five, mainly upon his mother's resources; dying in 1890, he left nothing behind him but a 'Life of Alfred de Musset,' published in 1890 in his mother's 'Foreign Classics for English Readers.' The younger, Francis Romano, wrote a considerable part of a not very satisfactory 'Victorian Age of English Literature' (2 vols.), published under his and his mother's joint names in 1892, and shortly before his death in 1894 obtained an appointment in the British Museum, which he lost from inability to pass the medical test. Maternal anguish has seldom been more touchingly expressed than in Mrs. Oliphant's lamentations on her bereavements.