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INTRODUCTION

BY W. J. ROLFE

I. MARY COWDEN-CLARKE

ARY VICTORIA, eldest of the

MARY

eleven children of Vincent Novello, was born in London, June 22, 1809, and died at the Villa Novello in Genoa, January 12, 1898.

One might carelessly assume that she was named for Queen Victoria, but that august lady was not born until ten years later. In My Long Life (published late in 1896) Mrs. CowdenClarke tells us that she got her second

name from her godfather, the Rev. William Victor Fryer of the Portuguese Embassy Chapel, where her father was organist for twenty-six years.

Vincent Novello's house in Oxford Road was the resort of many eminent literary men and artists. The evening parties there seem to have been delightfully informal, and his daughter (in the book just mentioned, to which I am indebted for much of my material in this sketch of her life) tells us that "the supper refection was of the simplest." She adds: "Elia's 'Chapter on Ears' eloquently records. the 'friendly supper-tray' and draught of true Lutheran beer' which succeeded to the feasts of music provided by the host's playing on the small but fine-toned chamber organ which oc

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cupied one end of the graceful drawing-room."

Besides Charles and Mary Lamb, Leigh Hunt and John Keats were often present:

"My enthusiasm-child as I was [she could not have been more than ten years old]-for these distinguished visitors was curiously strong. I can remember once creeping round to where Leigh Hunt's hand rested on the back of the sofa upon which he sat, and giving it a great kiss-because I heard he was a poet. And I have even now full recollection of the reverent look with which I regarded John Keats, as he leaned against the side of the organ, listening with rapt attention to my father's music. Keats's favourite position-one foot raised on the other knee -still remains imprinted on my mem

ory, as also does the last time I saw him, half-reclining on some chairs that formed a couch for him when he was staying at Leigh Hunt's house just before leaving England for Italy. Another poet reminiscence I have-of jumping up to peer over the parlour window-blind to have a peep at Shelley, who I had heard was leaving, after a visit he had just paid to my father up-stairs. Well was I rewarded, for, as he passed before our house, he gave a glance up at it, and I beheld his seraph-like face, with its blue eyes, and aureoled by its golden hair."

Later Mary Lamb offered to give the girl lessons in Latin and in reading English verse. "Her reading of poetry," her pupil says, "was beautifully natural and unaffected; so that her mode of beginning Milton's Paradise

Lost still remains on my mind's ear." Miss Lamb appears to have had an ear for music, which her brother honestly confessed to lacking. It may

not be generally known that his Free Thoughts on Some Eminent Composers was written in Vincent Novello's album, and he alludes to his musical friends in the closing lines:

"Of Doctor Pepusch old Queen Dido
Knows just as much, God knows, as I do.
I would not go four miles to visit
Sebastian Bach-or Batch-which is it?
No more I would for Bononcini.
As for Novello, and Rossini,

I shall not say a word to grieve 'em,
Because they're living. So I leave 'em.”

Beneath, on the same page, Mary Lamb wrote these lines, which are not so familiar:

"The reason why my brother's so severe, Vincentio, is-my brother has no ear!

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