Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/380

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CHAPTER VIII

1878–1881

Foreign Travels—Management of Her Work at Home

I mentioned, in an earlier chapter, the way in which Octavia’s difficulties had, on more than one occasion, called out the help and sympathy of new friends. This good fortune was remarkably exemplified when she broke down in 1877. Miss Yorke, who now came forward to give her sympathy and help, became one of the most important figures in the remaining years of Octavia’s life; and, by her persistent devotion to her comfort and active help in her work, did much to encourage her to new efforts. But, for the moment, her help took the form of accompanying her in a foreign tour, which turned Octavia’s attention away from the troubles which were weighing on her mind, and gave her new sources of interest.

In the letters chosen to illustrate the tour, I have, as a rule, preferred those which show her sympathy with the people and modes of life with which she came in contact, rather than those descriptions of scenery, which often strike readers as familiar. But her strong artistic sense gave her so great a power of realising and describing natural beauty, that I have occasionally made exceptions to this rule.

As the final decision to go abroad was only accepted after considerable hesitation and delay, Octavia had to make all her provision for her time of absence in the course of a week. Under these circumstances, her sister, Mrs. Lewes, consented to undertake the guidance of the fellow workers in this emergency. As, however, Mrs. Lewes could not assume all the responsibility

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