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"Carlotta Grisi": A Coloured Print
by [?]

It is not among the cardboard glades of the King’s Theatre, nor, indeed, behind any footlights, but in a real and twilit garden that Grisi, gimp-waisted sylphid, here skips for posterity. To her right, the roses on the trellis are not paper roses–one guesses them quite fragrant. And that is a real lake in the distance; and those delicate pale trees around it, they too are quite real. Yes! surely this is the garden of Grisi’s villa at Uxbridge; and her guests, quoting Lord Byron’s `al fresco, nothing more delicious,’ have tempted her to a daring by-show of her genius. To her left there is a stone cross, which has been draped by one of the guests with a scarf bearing the legend GISELLE. It is Sunday evening, I fancy, after dinner. Cannot one see the guests, a group entranced by its privilege–the ladies with bandeaux and with little shawls to ward the dew from their shoulders; the gentlemen, D’Orsayesque all, forgetting to puff the cigars which the ladies, `this once,’ have suffered them to light? One sees them there; but they are only transparent phantoms between us and Grisi, not interrupting our vision. As she dances–the peerless Grisi!–one fancies that she is looking through them at us, looking across the ages to us who stand looking back at her. Her smile is but the formal Cupid’s-bow of the ballerina; but I think there is a clairvoyance of posterity in the large eyes, and, in the pose, a self-consciousness subtler than merely that of one who, dancing, leads all men by the heart-strings. A something is there which is almost shyness. Clearly, she knows it to be thus that she will be remembered; feels this to be the moment of her immortality. Her form is all but in profile, swaying far forward, but her face is full-turned to us. Her arms float upon the air. Below the stark ruff of muslin about her waist, her legs are as a tilted pair of compasses; one point in the air, the other impinging the ground. One tiptoe poised ever so lightly upon the earth, as though the muslin wings at her shoulders were not quite strong enough to bear her up into the sky! So she remains, hovering betwixt two elements; a creature exquisitely ambiguous, being neither aerial nor of the earth. She knows that she is mortal, yet is conscious of apotheosis. She knows that she, though herself must perish, is imperishable; for she sees us, her posterity, gazing fondly back at her. She is touched. And we, a little envious of those who did once see Grisi plain, always shall find solace in this pretty picture of her; holding it to be, for all the artificiality of its convention, as much more real as it is prettier than the stringent ballet-girls of Degas.