I do not know at what date my mother began to etch on copper. It was a very favourite pursuit through many years of her life, both before and after her marriage. She never sketched much in colour, but her pencil-drawings are amongst the most valuable legacies she has left us. Trees were her favourite subjects. One of her most beautiful drawings in my possession is of a tree, marked to fall, beneath which she wrote:
“Das ist das Loos des Schoenen auf der Erde.”
Of another talent nothing now remains to us but her old music-books and memories of long evenings when she played Weber and Mozart.
But to a large circle of friends, most of whom have gone before her, she was best known as a naturalist in the special department of phycology. She has left a fine collection of British and foreign sea-weeds and zoophytes. Never permitted the privilege of foreign travel–for which she so often longed–her sea-spoils have been gathered from all shores by those who loved her; and there are sea-weeds yet in press sent by Aunt Judy friends from Tasmania, which gave pleasure to the last days of her life. She did so keenly enjoy everything at which she worked that it is difficult to say in which of her hobbies she found most happiness; but I am disposed to give her natural history pursuits the palm.
Natural history brought her some of her dearest friends. Dr. Johnston, of Berwick-on-Tweed, to whom she dedicated the first volume of the Parables from Nature, was one of these; and with Dr. Harvey (author of the Phycologia Britannica, etc.) she corresponded for ten years before they met. Like herself, he combined a playful and poetical fancy with the scientific faculty, and they had sympathy together in the distinctive character of their religious belief, and in the worship of God in His works. But these, and many others, have “gone before.”
One of her “collections” was an unusual one. Through nearly forty years she collected the mottoes on old sun-dials, and made sketches of the dials themselves. In this also she had many helpers, and the collection, which had swelled to about four hundred, was published last year. Amateur bookbinding and mowing were among the more eccentric of her hobbies. With the latter she infected Mr. Tennyson, and sent him a light Scotch scythe like her own.
The secret of her success and of her happiness in her labours was her thoroughness. It was a family joke that in the garden she was never satisfied to dabble in her flower-beds like other people, but would always clear out what she called “the Irish corners,” and attack bits of waste or neglected ground from which everybody else shrank. And amongst our neighbours in the village, those with whom, day after day, time after time, she would plead “the Lord’s controversy,” were those with whom every one else had failed. Some old village would-be sceptic, half shame-faced, half conceited, who had not prayed for half a lifetime, or been inside a church except at funerals; careworn mothers fossilized in the long neglect, of religious duties; sinners whom every one else thought hopeless, and who most-of all counted themselves so–if God indeed permits us hereafter to bless those who led us to Him here, how many of these will rise up and call her blessed!
Her strong powers of sympathy were not confined to human beings alone. A more devoted lover of “beasts” can hardly exist. The household pets were about her to the end; and she only laughed when the dogs stole the bread and butter from her helpless hands.
Her long illness, perhaps, did less to teach us to do without her, than long illnesses commonly do; because her sick-room was so little like a sick-room, and her interests never narrowed to the fretful circle of mere invalid fears and fancies. The strong sense of humour, which never left her, helped her through many a petty annoyance; and to the last she kept one of her most striking qualities, so well described by Trench–