Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/268

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246
CHAP.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

2, Ashfield House, Harrogate, September 20th, 1868.

I came here on Wednesday to see Miss Harris, who has been seriously ill but is now rapidly gaining strength. . . .

I should like to have seen you while I am still in overflowing health and so merry ; it seems too bad to go to one's best friends always when one is broken.

(Description of Turner's Norham and Melrose.)

We are reading the Spanish Gipsy aloud. I wonder what you think of it. To me it seems full of wonderful passages expressive of fresh fact, and so exquisitely expressed that one longs to remember the exact words ; but the whole thing is disjointed ; the story improbable. I always find it impossible to believe people would have acted as she makes them. I suppose I am mistaken ; but I can never feel the things the least natural ; and yet I should find it hard to say on what ground I disbelieved them. To me the power of looking all round questions, and seeing how all view them, is not specially delightful, unless at the end there comes some deliberate or distinctive sense of reverence or sympathy with the most right. The perpetual suspense is painful to me. I feel as if I would say, " See as much, judge as mercifully, as you can ; but show just so much enthusiasm on one side or another, as would lead to action in real life." The other temperament seems always either weak and irresolute, or likely to lead to wrong action.

Now Browning, with all his dramatic power, and turning it upon such various (and often such low) people, has yet distinct love or scorn, has definite grasp of some positive good.