Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page




Some Recollections of Hiram Powers by T. Adolphus Trollope


There are—or were—many at Florence whose recollections of Hiram Powers stretch over the best part of a quarter of a century; and there are few men of whom it could with equal truth and accuracy be said that such recollections are wholly pleasant in their character to the survivors and honorable to the subject of them. He was in truth universally respected by people of all classes, and by Americans and English, as well as Italians, in the city of his adoption, and personally liked and esteemed by all who had the good fortune to be among his friends. Recollections such as these are, I say, the property of very many at Florence. But there is no one in that city—there was during his life no one in that city, not even she who during a long life was a companion, friend, partner and helpmeet in every sense admirable for him—whose recollections went back to so early a period as mine did.

When I came to Florence with my mother in 1841, intending to make a home there for a few years, we found, with some surprise and much pleasure, Hiram Powers, with a wife and children, settled there as a sculptor. It was long since, in the course of the changes and chances of life, we had lost sight of him, but the meeting was none the less pleasurable to, I think I may say, both parties. It was at Cincinnati in 1829 that my mother and myself first knew him. My mother, who had long been an acquaintance of General La Fayette, became thus the intimate friend of his ward, Frances Wright. Fascinated by the talent, the brilliancy and the singular eloquence of that remarkable and highly-gifted woman, and at the same time anxious to find a career for one of her sons (not the well-known author of the present day, but another brother, long since dead), whose wishes and proclivities adapted him for a life of more activity and adventure than that of one of our home-abiding professions, my mother was persuaded by her to join her in a scheme which at that time was engaging all her singularly large powers of energy and enthusiasm, the object of which was to found at New Harmony—I think, though I am not sure whether Frances Wright's colony was not another, separate from that of New Harmony—an establishment which was in some way or other to contribute to the emancipation of the slaves, mainly, I imagine, by showing that under proper management they were not unfitted for freedom. The fate of that philanthropic scheme is too well known to make it necessary for me to rehearse the story of it here, imperfectly known to me as it is. The upshot was, that my mother and brother were induced to go to Cincinnati and attempt other plans, the final result of which was also a failure. I had had no share in these Transatlantic projects, being at the time a scholar at Winchester in the college of William of Wykeham. But between quitting Winchester, at the age of eighteen, and going to Oxford, I had a period of liberty of nearly a twelvemonth, the greater part of which I devoted to accompanying my father on a visit to Cincinnati. And there I became acquainted with Powers, a very few years only my senior, whom I found already the valued friend of my mother and brother.

He was at that time—I well remember the look of him—a tall, lanky, but remarkably handsome lad, somewhat awkward in person, but with a calm but at the same time intellectually expressive beauty of feature which marked him as one of Nature's noblemen. His eyes were the most noticeable point about him. They were magnificent—large, clear, well-opened, and expressive of calm thought and the working of the intellect rather than of shrewdness or passion. His manner, I remember, was marked by an exceeding simpleness, and a sort of innocent and dignified straightforwardness which much impressed me. Altogether, my acquaintance with him was a contribution of a new sort to the education of my mind. I had passed eight years in the acquisition of those things which an English "gentleman's education" is supposed to offer. These things (in the year 1829) consisted in a very fair knowledge of Latin and Greek. Unquestionably, the eight years which I had spent in learning those languages had brought with them other advantages and other teachings of an altogether priceless sort. But what they professedly had taught me, what I then considered as the net result of my eight years at school, was a competent knowledge of Latin and Greek, and nothing else. Now, here was a young man of my own age, or little more, about whose idiosyncrasy there was something especially simpatico to me, as the Italians say—who knew nothing whatever of the only things which I knew, but knew a whole world of things of which I was profoundly ignorant. I was (of course) full of prejudices also—ecclesiastical prejudices, class prejudices, political prejudices, caste prejudices—all of which were as unintelligible to my new friend as they would have been to a red Indian. He was singularly free from prejudice of any kind—a sort of original, blank-paper mind, on which nothing had been written save what he had consciously written there himself as the result of his own observations of life. I knew other young Americans, and perceived and could have pointed out characteristics which distinguished them. But Powers was not like them. He seemed to me a sort of Adam, a fresh, new and original man, unclassable and unjudgable by any of the formulas or prejudices which served me as means of appreciating men. Despite all this—perhaps because of all this—we soon became great friends. I very shortly discovered that he was wholly and entirely truthful. His "yes" was yes, his "no" was no; and not only that, but what is much rarer still, his "five" or "six" was not five and a quarter or six and a half, but five or six. I remember in him then what I recognized after many, many years in later life, and what is often so amusing a characteristic in simple, upright and truthful minds—the notion that on occasion he could be deep enough to outwit the cunning of the unscrupulous, whereas his loyal unsuspiciousness of evil was such that he might have been cheated by the first shallow rogue who chose to exercise his vulpine craft against him.

When I reached Cincinnati I found him intimate with my brother, and a favorite with my mother, who had formed a high opinion both of his character and of his talents. The latter had already very markedly manifested themselves in that direction which finally decided his career in life. Yet there was little of that dreamy and enthusiastic worship for the abstract beautiful which is generally supposed to be the marking characteristic of the artistic temperament. But he had a wonderful faculty of executing with his hands whatever his mind had conceived, and a mind singularly active in invention and in devising means for the execution of a mechanical end. Had circumstances not made him a sculptor, he might have been—probably would have been—a successful inventor, mechanician or engineer. Throughout life he was an eminently and specially practical man—a man whose tendency was not to dream, but to do. That artistic temperament, as it is generally called, which so often manifests itself in exactly the opposite direction—in a tendency to dream rather than to do, and to allow the pleasures of the ideal to incapacitate those who indulge in them for real work—was so little his that I have never known a more industrious and conscientious worker with his hands. And there was nothing to which he could not turn them, and that with a degree of skill that would often put to shame the attempts of members of the craft which he might be essaying for the first time.

At that time Hiram Powers was, as the saying is, living upon his wits; and they, being such as I have described them, were not likely to fail in producing the wherewithal to do so. There was at that period a little Frenchman named Dorfeuille at Cincinnati—not a bad sort of little man, I believe, and with some amount of literary and other talent. But he also being engaged in the operation of living on his wits, or mainly so, and not finding them so abundantly sufficient for the purpose as those of my young friend, thought that he too might in part live on the wits of the latter; and during the time of my stay at Cincinnati he did so to the satisfaction of both parties. This Dorfeuille was the proprietor of a museum, the main and most attractive portion of which was a number of wax figures. But the Cincinnati public was not large enough in those days to supply a constant stream of fresh spectators, and, though there was little in the way of public amusement to compete with M. Dorfeuille's museum, the Cincinnati people soon got tired of looking at the same show; and but for the happy chance which brought him into contact with Hiram Powers, M. Dorfeuille must have packed up his museum and sought "fresh woods and pastures new." But with the advent of young Powers, and the contents of the museum given over to his creating brain and clever fingers, a period of halcyon days and new prosperity commenced for the little Frenchman and his show. With the materials at his disposition all things were possible to the young artist, to whom such a chance gave the first clear consciousness of his own powers. New combinations, new names, new costuming, alterations of figures, etc. etc. were adopted to produce fine effects and amuse the public with constant novelties. For the invention of these Powers often used to consult my mother, whose suggestions he never failed to carry into effect, to the great amusement of both parties. On one occasion an idea struck her, which, when she communicated it to him, fired the imagination of Powers and turned out a great success. This was nothing less than to give a representation of some of the more striking scenes of Dante's Divina Commedia. The idea was a sufficiently audacious one. But "audaces Fortuna juvat." Powers scouted the notion of difficulty. My mother was to draw up the programme, and he undertook, with the materials furnished him by the museum, and with the help of some of his own handiwork, to give scenic reality to her suggestions. The result, as I have said, was a brilliant success. I have a copy of the "bill" that was issued to the public inviting them to the exhibition in question, which is a curiosity in its way, and which I must give the reader. It is drawn up in high sensational style, with lines of different lengths and boldness, and printed in all the different sorts of capitals which the printer's case afforded. I cannot occupy space with any imitation of these typographical magnificences, but will simply copy the language of the bill. It must have been my mother's composition, and Powers had to work up to it, which he did to the letter:

"The World to come, as described by Dante, and comprising, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, will be exhibited in a room adjoining the Western Museum on the 4th of July, and days following. Admittance, twenty-five cents. In the centre is seen a grand colossal figure of Minos, the Judge of Hell. He is seated at the entrance of the INFERNAL REGIONS [enormous capitals]. His right hand is raised as in the act to pronounce sentence, his left holding a two-pronged sceptre. Above his head is a scroll on which are written the concluding words of Dante's celebrated inscription, 'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!' To the right of this figure the foreground presents a frozen lake, on the surface of which are seen the heads of those who have been doomed to this species of punishment. Among these is the head of Ugolino, whom Dante describes as eternally gnawing the head of his enemy, who, after placing him and his three sons in the upper chamber of a strong tower near Florence, threw the key of it into the moat and left them to perish with hunger. Grinning in mockery of these ice-bound sufferers, A BLACK IMP [biggest extra black capitals] is seated on a rock, dandling a young monster. On the edge of the opposite side of the frozen lake stands a spirit, who is just about to endure the frozen torment; and his attitude and countenance express the agony of extreme cold. Behind him opens the fiery gulf, the reflection of whose lurid glare is seen on his half-frozen body. At his feet a female head, fixed in the ice, looks up to the flames, as longing for their warmth; while a little way within the lake of fire another head is seen gazing with longing eyes upon the ice. A brilliant fountain of flame is in the midst of the lake, and around it crowds of condemned spirits in all varieties of suffering. In one corner a fiend is proclaiming their infamy by the aid of a trumpet through all the depths of Hell. Birds and animals of hideous form and evil omen are fluttering over the heads and tormenting the sufferers. Large icicles hang from the rocks that form the Gate of Hell, and reflect on their bright surface the red glare of the fires within. On the left of Minos is seen a Skeleton ascending a column of Icicles and holding a standard bearing these lines:
"'To this grim form our cherished limbs have come,

And thus lie mouldering in their earthly home.

In turf-bound hillock or in sculptured shrine

The worms alike their cold caresses twine.

So far we all are equal; but once left

Our mortal weeds, of vital spark bereft,

Asunder farther than the poles we're driven—

Some sunk to deepest Hell, some raised to highest Heaven.'

"Still farther on the left of Minos, and melting into distance behind him, is seen the shadowy region of Purgatory. Four bright stars—the Cardinal Virtues—give a delicate and cheering light amid the gloom. A group of figures loaded with the burthen of their sins are about to plunge into the lake of purgatorial waters, in the hope of depositing them there. A boat wafted by the wings of an Angel is bearing departed, souls toward Heaven; and near it is a column of pale light to direct its course. In the distance is the mountain that divides Purgatory from Heaven; and Beatrice, the departed mistress of Dante, is standing on its summit, encouraging him to proceed with her to Heaven, where his former guide, Virgil, cannot be admitted (being a Pagan). Groups of Pilgrims who have passed through Purgatory are ascending the mountain. Still farther to the left, and opening in unbroken splendor above the head of Beatrice, is seen the Heaven of Heavens. The golden light pours down on the heads of the Pilgrims, and angels are seen floating in the air and encouraging their efforts. The foreground of this part of the scene presents various objects to cheer the spirit of the Pilgrims in their passage through Purgatory. The entrance indeed is rocky, but shrubs and flowers adorn it, and the Dove, the bird of Hope, is bearing the olive-branch before them."

If all that was packed into "a room adjoining the Western Museum," the sight of it must, I think, be admitted to have been a cheap twenty-five cents' worth. The Cincinnati world of hard upon half a century ago judged it to be so, and flocked to the exhibition in crowds. But very soon the versatile and indefatigable artist devised new means of still further stimulating the curiosity and excitement of his public. A bar ran across the exhibition-room, dividing the space allotted to the spectators from that occupied by the scenery and objects provided for their amusement. But since the available space was, as may easily be imagined, somewhat limited, it came to pass that the foremost spectators, being often of that class of persons who see with the ends of their fingers, would stretch out their arms and audaciously touch "the Black Imp," or "the Skeleton," or Minos himself, or any other of the dramatis personæ they could reach, to the damage of those somewhat perishable properties. A notice was therefore placarded in the room, written in flame-colored letters and couched in the choicest bugaboo phraseology, warning all such indiscreet persons that the denizens of the Infernal Regions could not be touched by mortal hands with impunity, and that immediate punishment would visit transgressors. Of course it was foreseen that such threats would not avail to restrain, but would rather stimulate the curiosity of the disciples of Saint Thomas. But, sure enough, the threatened punishment, by no means "pede claudo" followed in every case—very accurately with the speed of lightning—on the transgression; for Powers had cunningly contrived, preparing it all with his own hand, that a sharp electric shock should be communicated to each audacious hand that braved the prohibition. The astonishment, the terror, and subsequently the fun, produced by this ingenious device may easily be imagined. The sufferers, like the fox who had lost his tail, brought their friends, and enjoyed the fun of leading them into the same scrape. The "room adjoining the Western Museum" was more thronged than ever, and little Dorfeuille reaped a golden harvest. How large a share of it found its way into the pockets of the ingenious artist I know not—probably a much smaller one than fair play would have assigned him.

In the long after years at Florence, Powers and I had many a laugh together over his reminiscences of the scenes that occurred in that exhibition-room, all of which he remembered as well as if the incidents had happened but a year before, and would chuckle over with as much enjoyment as he did at the time of their occurrence. My copy of the hand-bill which I have given above—doubtless the only one now in existence—was matter of much amusement to us, and served to recall every portion and every figure of the early work of his hands.

From the time I left America to go to Oxford, in the spring of 1829, till our meeting at Florence in 1841, I saw no more of Powers. But, as may be easily imagined, we lost no time in renewing our old friendship. He was then, and for many years afterward, living in the Via Romana, not far from the city gate of that name. The house stood back from the street, and was approached only by a passage through another tenement, from which it was divided by a little garden; a situation which, though not in all respects convenient, had at least the advantage of securing quietude. The young sculptor, with his already numerous and rapidly increasing family, occupied the first and second floors, while the ground floor was exclusively devoted to workshops and show-rooms. The premises were large and the accommodations ample. Already few Americans came to Florence without paying a visit to the "Studio Powers," but they were in those days but few in comparison to the number which, partly as residents and partly as merely passing tourists, throng every winter the fair "City of Flowers." Up to the revolution of 1848 the English at Florence were very far more numerous than the citizens of the other English-speaking nation. That unsuccessful movement drove many English, very unnecessarily, from their moorings. The English colony was very much reduced even after those who returned on the return of the grand duke had resumed their old places. And from that time forward I think that America has been more numerously represented on the banks of the Arno than England. Powers had at that time produced various successful busts, but had not as yet made himself known as an imaginative sculptor. Nevertheless, the former works had sufficed to give him an amount of reputation in the United States that ensured constant visits of his countrymen to the studio in the Via Romana.

Some twelve years had elapsed when I first saw Powers in Florence since the old days in Cincinnati. In such a space of time, especially at that period of life which turns a lad into a man, most men change much. But the change in Powers's face was but small: I should have known him if I had met him in the street anywhere. But in person he was much changed: he had become stout and what is called personable, not fat—he never was that to the end of his life—but neither was he lanky, as he had been as a youth. He had filled out, as the phrase is, and might be considered in all respects a decidedly handsome man. There was something specially, and more than commonly, upright in the carriage of his person and of his head, which seemed the expression of the uprightness of the man's moral and intellectual nature and character. He always looked straight at you with those large, placid and generally grave eyes of his under their large and bushy brows. They seemed to continue grave, or at least thoughtful, those eyes, even when there was a pleasant genial smile on the mouth. And there was this specialty about his smile—a specialty which may be often observed in subjective natures habituated to original thought and to live in the inner life: it seemed generally to be produced more by the movement of his own inward feelings and thoughts than by what was said by others. Like most dark-haired men, he began to become gray early in life, and for some few years before his death his appearance was venerable in no ordinary degree. He then wore his hair, which had become perfectly white, very long, and a shallow, very broad-brimmed white hat on the top of it. The latter, indeed, was, I think, at all times his universal wear. I do not think that I ever saw him in Florence in that detestable article of apparel called "a chimney-pot hat." But this is anticipating.

Very shortly after our arrival in Florence and the renewal of our friendship with Powers—I think not more than a year—there arrived in Florence, bringing a letter of introduction to my mother, an English gentleman of fortune, Mr. Grant. He was a noted lover and patron of art, and my mother proposed to him a visit to the Studio Powers. The sculptor had then just completed his first imaginative work, the "Greek Slave," which numerous replicas have since made so well known on both sides of the Atlantic. This work had greatly excited my mother's admiration, and it was that he might have an opportunity of seeing the "Greek Slave" that my mother was desirous of taking Mr. Grant to the sculptor's studio. But it was not altogether easy to induce Mr. Grant to accept the proposal. "If there is anything very good, that is the very reason why I must not go there. Lead me not into temptation! I have been spending all my money, and more than I meant to spend, on sculpture in Rome. Don't show me any more statues, for I cannot buy any more." But this confession of fearing temptation was calculated to produce a stronger determination to expose him to it. Mr. Grant was persuaded to visit the studio in the Via Romana: he was as much charmed with the beauty of the conception of the statue as with the conscientious perfection of its execution, and he became the purchaser of it. And it speedily acquired a reputation which led to the execution of as many, I think, as four or five replicas at the request of other lovers of art; and the sculptor's reputation was made.

The practice of the greatest sculptors as regards the degree in which it has seemed desirable to them to take part in that mechanical portion of the business of producing a statue which consists in the manipulation of the marble, has always been very different. Some have subjected the marble to the touching of their own hands more, some less. The work of reproducing a copy of the clay model in marble is a purely mechanical one, and may or may not be in the artist's judgment best brought to perfection by the labor of his own hands. It will readily be believed, however, from what has been already said of the tendencies of Powers's talent and idiosyncrasy, that he was among those who have contributed most of their personal labor to the perfecting of their works. Powers was one of those men whose hands have faculty in them. He was a master in the use of them, and accordingly he loved to use them. It was his practice to go over with his own hand the surface of the marble of every work which left his studio. But he was not contented to do this in the manner and with the tools which had been used by so many generations of sculptors before him. That decided bent of his genius to mechanical invention which has been mentioned at the beginning of this paper led him to perceive that an improvement might be made in this respect. For giving the last finish to the marble, for removing from the surface a quantity so small that no chisel could be trusted to do the work, it is obvious enough to suggest the use of a file. And no doubt files are used for the purpose, but they are liable to a special and very troublesome source of inefficiency. They become clogged with the excessively fine dust of the marble in a very few minutes to such an extent as to be rendered useless, especially as the file must be of an exceedingly fine description. Powers therefore set his mind to the problem of inventing some means or some instrument by which this source of trouble could be avoided; and after considerable vexation, not so much in perfecting his own conception of the thing needed as in getting careless and not very competent workmen to execute his orders, he perfected a file of the necessary fineness upon the principle of a nutmeg-grater. His studio was at all times full of little ingenious contrivances of all sorts—contrivances for readily and conveniently modifying the light in the exact degree desirable; contrivances for the due collocation and distribution of artificial light; contrivances for the more ready moving of marbles, etc. etc.

It is the fashion in Florence and in Rome for artists to open their studios to all visitors. It is a custom which adds much to the amusement of visitors who are really lovers of art; but it must bring with it, one would think, consequences which must sometimes be not a little trying to the painter's or sculptor's temper and patience. Criticism from those who have some little pretension to the right to criticise is not always pleasant when volunteered, but criticism from such Philistines of the Philistines as often haunt the studios must be hard indeed to bear with common courtesy. Powers invariably received such with the most perfect suavity and good-temper, but I have sometimes seen him, to my great amusement, inflict a punishment on the talkers of nonsense which made them wish they had held their tongues. This consisted simply of defending his own practice by entering on a lecture upon the principles which ought to regulate the matter in question. He was, I fancy, rather fond of lecturing, and would rather have liked the work of a professor of the fine arts. I have seen people writhe under his patient and lengthy expositions, which they were as capable of understanding as so many bullocks, and which they had brought down on themselves by some absolutely absurd remark on the work before them. I have seen such delinquents use every sort of effort to put a stop to or escape from the punishment they had brought upon themselves. In vain: the lecture would continue with a placid uninterruptibility which it was amusing to witness.

It was in 1854, I think, or thereabouts (for I have not at hand the means of verifying the date with accuracy, and it is of no consequence), that Mr. Hume, the since well-known medium, came to Florence. He came to my house on the pressing invitation of my mother, my then wife and myself. We had seen accounts of extraordinary things said to have taken place some months previously at the house of a Mr. Rymer, a solicitor living at Ealing near London, and our curiosity and interest had been so much excited that the hope of being able to witness some of these marvels was not the least among the motives of a journey that summer to England. We obtained an introduction to Mr. Rymer, were present at sundry séances at his house at Ealing, made acquaintance with Mr. Hume, and invited him to stay for a while in my house in Florence. He came accompanied by his friend, a son of Mr. Rymer; and both the young men were resident under my roof for about a month, leaving it to accept an invitation from Mr. Powers to make his house their home for a while. The manifestations of phenomena produced, or supposed to be produced, by what has become known to the world as "Spiritualism," were then only beginning to attract in Europe the very general attention which they have since that time attracted. The thing was then new to most people. During the month that Mr. Hume and his friend were in my house we had séances almost every evening, with the "assistance," as the French say, of a rather numerous and very varied circle. For, as may easily be supposed, all our friends were anxious to witness the new marvels, and we, desirous only of as many eyes and as many minds as might be for the better watching and discussion of the phenomena, welcomed all comers to the extent of the capacity of our room and table. I have no intention of troubling my present readers with any detailed rehearsal of the phenomena which presented themselves. The testimony which my observations during this period enabled me to offer has already more than once been given to the world in print, and the catalogue of similar and yet more extraordinary experiences has become too long, and the witnesses to them too numerous and too well known to the public, for such details to have any further interest at the present day. I feel bound, however, to state that no amount of suspicious watching which I was able to exercise in my house, and which Powers was able to exercise in his, enabled us to discover any smallest degree of imposture, or fair grounds for suspecting imposture, as regards the physical or material phenomena which were witnessed. Such is my testimony, and such was that of Powers, who, by his aptitude for inventing and understanding mechanical contrivances of all kinds, was a man specially well fitted for the task of watching the performance of such wonders. I have spoken here, it will be observed, altogether of the material and physical phenomena witnessed. As to what are called the spiritual manifestations, Powers was perhaps not an entirely unbiased estimator of these. He was an eminently sincere, earnest and zealous Swedenborgian, and several of the leading tenets and dogmas of the Swedenborgian faith are calculated to make such communications with the world of spirits as Spiritualists claim to experience much less startling, less strange to the mind and more acceptable, than they usually appear to other people. To a Swedenborgian who is perfectly convinced that the spirits of the departed are ever around him and interested in his welfare, it does not seem a very strange or extraordinary thing that these visitors should under certain circumstances be able to express the interest which they always feel. Powers regarded all the professed manifestations of spiritual communications from that stand-point, and was enabled to accept them therefore somewhat more easily than another person might have done. Yet, despite such predisposing proclivities, and though he was disposed to think a great variety of professed communications from the world of spirits to have been genuinely what they purported to be, the habitual uprightness and truthfulness of Powers's mind led him, as I believe I am justified in saying, to the conclusion that in the case which I am about to mention, at least, there was ground for very strong suspicion of the honesty of the medium. The circumstances of the case were as follows:

I had many years previously lost a brother—the same whom I have already had occasion to mention in the earlier part of this letter. Now, at an early stage of the series of sittings that took place at my house it was intimated that the spirit of this brother was present and wishful or willing to communicate with me. He did, as was proposed, communicate very freely upon subjects of all sorts by means of raps under the table and the letters of the alphabet spread upon it—on all subjects save one. To the often-repeated question, where we had last met in life, I could get no reply. It was constantly promised to me that I should be answered this question at the next sitting. Now, it so happened that my wife had conceived, reasonably or unreasonably, doubts as to the medium's honesty in the matter, and she determined to try him in the matter of this unanswered question. Talking one day with him in tête-à-tête, she turned the subject of maladies of the chest, of which they had been speaking, to the special case of her late brother-in-law, discussing the powerful influence of climate, and remarking that she feared Ostend had been a very bad place for him. And there she left the matter without any further remark, and without eliciting any answer from him. This occurred very shortly before the time when Mr. Hume left my house to accept the hospitality of Mr. Powers. The sittings continued with great frequency in the house of the latter, and my mother and myself were very frequently present at them. As before, the soi-disant spirit of my brother Henry announced his presence, and, as before, I repeated my often-asked question as to the place on earth where he and I had last met. On this occasion the answer rapped out consisted of the word "Ostend." I smilingly replied, "Spirit, you know nothing about what you are talking of: you are wrong." Mr. Hume became immediately very angry, and reproached me vehemently for "interrupting the spirit"—for not waiting for what he was probably going to say. It was likely enough, he added, that the spirit was about to say that Ostend was not the place. I said "Pshaw! In that way he might go through the whole Gazetteer." Thereupon Mr. Hume declared that I was evidently not in a fit frame of mind to be a sitter at such meetings; that my presence would be likely to mar any results to be expected from them; and, in short, if only for the sake of those who wished to continue their experiences, it was necessary that I should withdraw from them. That was the last occasion on which I took part in a séance under Mr. Hume's mediumship. My mother continued her sittings at the house of Mr. Powers, and it is fair to record that she there witnessed material phenomena—some of them closely allied to phenomena only explainable on Spiritualistic theories—of even a more extraordinary nature than any which had occurred at my house; in which neither she, nor Mr. Powers or any of his family, nor any of the others of the party, were able to detect any imposture. And I believe I may add that Mr. Powers fully believed in the genuineness of the phenomena witnessed. It is also perhaps fair to state that had the answer to my question been "On board the steamboat going from London to Ostend," the reply would have been correct. How far it is possible to suppose that the word "Ostend" may have been the first word of an answer about to be completed in that sense if it had not been interrupted, I leave to the judgment of the reader.

For some time after this Powers used to recount to me the marvels which were witnessed at his house. He was not pleased with the medium as an inmate in other respects: he did not form a favorable opinion of his moral character. I am speaking of matters now many years old, and I might not have considered it necessary to record these impressions of a very specially upright and honest man with regard to one who is still before the public were it not that they go to increase the value of Mr. Powers's testimony to the genuineness of the phenomena which he witnessed, by showing that his judgment upon the subject was at least in no degree warped by any prejudice in favor of the miracle-worker.

Meantime, the sculptor, still in the modest tenement which he occupied for so many years in the Via Romana, was growing in fame and reputation from day to day. A visit to the Studio Powers—or Pousse, as the ciceroni and valets-de-place called it—was an obligatory part of the tourist's regular work in "doing" Florence. A large family was, during those prosperous and laborious years, growing up around him—sons and daughters, most of whom he lived to see settled in life and to be justly proud of. Death did not altogether pass his threshold by, but he knocked there but once or twice in all that length of years. At last the time came when the successful artist felt that his position enabled and justified him in moving from his old quarters to more commodious and luxurious ones. He had been but a tenant in the Via Romana: he was now to inhabit a house of his own.

It was the time when Florence was for a few short years enjoying the fallacious and fatal honor of being the capital of Italy. There were some who from the first were fully convinced that that honor would be a transitory one. The greater number thought that the will of France and of her emperor, and the difficulties attending the simultaneous residence of the king of Italy and the pope within the walls of the same city, would avail to make Florence the capital of the new kingdom for at least as many years as human prudence could look forward to. The earthquake-like events which shook down the bases of all such calculations, and enabled Italy to realize her longing desire to see Rome the capital of the nation, are too well known to need even referring to. Florence suddenly ceased to be the metropolis of Italy, and the amount of financial ruin in the case of those who had invested money in building to supply the wants of the capital was very widespread indeed. And there can be no doubt that the houses built by Powers are at the present day worth much less than they were at the time he built them, and still less than they would have been worth had Florence remained the capital. Nevertheless, I do not think that he would have abstained from building from any considerations of this kind. He built solely with a view to residence, and in that respect he could hardly have done better than he did.

He did not move very far. His old lodging and studio were, as has been said, a little way within the Porta Romana, and the villa residence which he built is but two or three minutes' walk on the outside of it. Immediately outside this Porta Romana, sloping off a little to the left from the road to Rome, is a magnificent avenue of ilex and cypress conducting to a grand-ducal villa called the "Poggio Imperiale." To the left again of this avenue, which is perhaps a mile or somewhat more in length, and between it and the city wall, which in that part of its course encloses the Boboli Gardens attached to the Palazzo Pitti, is a large extent of hillside, rapidly rising to the heights crowned by the ancient and storied church of San Miniato, and by the suburban villages of Arcetri and Pian Guillari. This space was, and had been for time out of mind, occupied by fields and market-gardens. But when the new fortunes of the City of Flowers fallaciously seemed to be in the ascendant, it was at once seen that of all the spaces immediately around Florence which were available for that increase of the city which was expected to be urgently required, none was more desirable or more favorably circumstanced than this hillside. A really magnificent carriage-road, ornamented with gardens on either side of it, was led in well-arranged curves up to San Miniato, and down on the other side of the hill till it reaches the Arno at the village of Ricorboli. The entire course of this road commands a series of varied views of the city and the Vale of Arno than which nothing can be conceived more charming. It is in truth the finest city promenade and drive that I know in Europe. Rome has nothing comparable to it. The Bois de Boulogne and Hyde Park are, as far as natural beauty goes, tame and flat in comparison to it. The planning and the execution of it have been alike excellent. The whole of the space up which the road serpentines has been turned into ornamental gardens, and on either side of it, and among its lawns and shrubberies, a large number of villa-sites were reserved to be disposed of to purchasers. Of this singular opportunity Powers was one of the first to avail himself. He selected with admirable judgment three sites in the immediate neighborhood of each other—one for a residence for himself, one for that of his eldest son, a married man, established and doing well as a photographer, and one for that of his eldest daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Ibbetson. The friends of the sculptor thus patriarchally establishing himself said laughingly that the region ought to be called Powerstown. The three houses, each in its own grounds, were built, and excellently good and comfortable residences they are. Powers was almost as much in his own element in superintending them as in his studio with mallet and chisel in hand, as might be surmised. The new studio formed no part of the dwelling-house, but occupied a separate erection in the grounds. Nor did the artist's love for his art fail to show itself in the amplitude and excellent adaptation of the building to all the needs of a studio, properly so called—of work-rooms and exhibition-rooms for the reception of visitors. A more complete sculptor's residence and establishment it would be difficult to imagine. Alas for the shortness of the few years that were allowed to him for the enjoyment of it! Long after the house and the studio were completed, and the marbles all moved thither, Powers was still indulging in the delight of improving his garden; and his plans for such improvement gave striking evidence of that genius and passion for mechanical cleverness and achievements of which I have frequently spoken. He had planned and begun—I think only begun—to execute an artesian well by means of certain newly-invented systems of boring, the details of which, in the absence of all workmen who possessed any knowledge whatever on the subject, had to be wholly superintended, arranged and adapted by himself. He had satisfied himself by observations of his own that water was to be found at a given depth, and had, I believe, prosecuted the work sufficiently to be assured that his judgment in this respect was well founded. In connection with this scheme of the artesian well was a fountain in the garden, which was, I believe, also ultimately brought to perfection.

In conformity with the convenient continental fashion of ladies naming one day in the week for the reception of visitors—a plan which enables them to escape from the interruption to their domestic pursuits on all other days, and which is very generally adopted by those who have large circles of acquaintance—Mrs. Powers used to open the drawing-rooms of her new house on every Saturday, and a considerable crowd was sure to be found there from two to six. But such recent arrivals on the banks of the Arno as paid their respects to Mrs. Powers in the hope and expectation of seeing the famous sculptor were almost, if not quite, invariably disappointed. None of the Florentine colony expected to find Powers in the drawing-room on such occasions. They knew better where to look for him—in his workshop. There he might be found by those who had brought letters of introduction to him, in his usual workman's garb. Powers never made the slightest concession to the necessities of receiving "company" on such occasions. There he was, with his working cap on head, probably in a long light gray coat, not innocent of marble dust, but often in blouse and apron.

In the latter days, when, though we little thought it, the end was approaching, when the night of that long day of continuous activity and labor was at hand, he might as frequently have been found sauntering under the magnificent trees of the Poggio Imperiale avenue in the immediate vicinity of his own house. Upright in figure and in carriage as ever, and with his eye as bright as ever, it was difficult to suppose that the venerable and stalwart figure of the old sculptor was not destined still for years of life and activity. His malady was connected with the respiratory organs; and a specially painful circumstance of it for his friends was, that the loss of voice, which made the effort of talking injurious to him, rendered it a selfish and inconsiderate thing to visit him; for the activity of his mind was still such that in the contact with another mind he could not abstain from the old familiar intercourse which he had loved so well. Like the old camel of the Arabian tale, that, having been all its life accustomed to lead the caravan, died in the effort to keep his old place to the last, Powers, who had been always wont to have rather the lion's share of conversation, could not resign himself to hear another talk, in silence. He would talk, and suffered for it afterward. The result was that his friends felt that they were showing the best consideration for him by staying away.

To look at him, I say, as he would stand in the sunshine at his own gate, it was difficult to imagine that aught of a very serious nature ailed him. But in the case of a man so habitually active his sauntering there was a bad sign. He was emphatically one of those men with whom life and work are the same thing—one whose sun was at the setting when he could work no more, and who would probably have cared little to survive his capacity for working.